Beyond the Gates (8/10)

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Gordon and John’s father has been missing for 7 months. Gordon, with unfortunately fully-clothed girlfriend Margot in tow, returns to his hometown and reunites with John to liquidate their missing father’s old-school VHS video store. There, they discover a VHS game with the titular title of “Beyond the Gates”. Back at the old man’s old homestead, they pop in the tape and find themselves playing against a beautiful but mysterious woman, played by the legendary (and still smokin’ hot) 80s horror icon, Barbara Crampton. While the game promises to reveal the fate of their father, they find that the answer may cost them dearly.

This movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is — a throwback to the glorious days of 80s horror movies and gaming. We’ve got VHS tapes, a video store, a lovely synth soundtrack, and even the Crampton herself. What we don’t have is titties, but everything else is good enough that I can (grudgingly) give that a pass, even though cutie-pie Brea Grant as Margot is just begging to be objectified. Sigh. Anywho, this is spot-on in tone, photography, lighting, and whatnot. While things do wrap up perhaps a little too neatly, it’s still quite a nice romp through the VHS golden age. Definitely worth a watch.

Sweatshop (6/10)

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A bunch of slutty retarded goth losers are setting up for a rave in an old abandoned warehouse when a masked killer starts dispatching them in increasingly graphic and creative ways. This plot is so simple I don’t even need commas.

Lots of titties and humping. Good stuff.

Spliced (aka The Wisher) (6/10)

Mary is a high-school girl who looks like a hotter Natalie Portman and gets horny when she watches horror movies (where was this chick when I was growing up? Or now, for that matter). She also suffers from nightmares and dangerous bouts of sleep-walking, so her dad locks her in her bedroom at night and won’t let her go to horror movies. Despite the ban and after wishing her dad would “just go away”, she goes with her friends to see super-popular but cheesy horror movie “The Wisher”. This movie-within-a-movie is about some kids summoning an evil dude that grants wishes but, of course, twists them around to be horrible. During the movie she pukes and runs out. Also, her dad finds out where she is and goes to get her, managing to get into a car wreck and dying on the way. Mary blames herself and starts seeing The Wisher around the house. Then she wishes she didn’t have to go to school, and someome burns down the school. After some more fishy wishing business, she goes to the googlenets and finds reports of strange behavior by some people who saw so the movie. Is she crazy? Are the wishes coming true for supernatural reasons? Or because someone else who saw the movie is making them come true? These are truly the most important questions of our times.

So, this started well, with hottie Mary telling her guidance counselor (an increasingly puffy Ron Silver) about her horror movie turn-on. I really thought this was going to get into some fun and twisted territory, but unfortunately this plot-line got dropped really quick and apparently was only there to give her the impetus to disobey her dad and go to the creepy movie. So, this turned out to be a much more conventional story with some Scream-like sensibilities, which kind of makes sense given that this came out in 2002, when the scream series was still rolling out frequent sequels. While nothing special (other than the cuter-than-a-button Mary and some good but non-Mary titties), it was a decent straight-to-video production with a few good moments. Really though, I am now inspired to find the actress that played Mary and make the kinky masterpiece that this could have been if they’d followed through on the promise of the opening plot-line. Anybody want to give me a million or two to fund it?

Hell House LLC (7/10)

Some douche-bagel friends from NYC set up a haunted house in an abandoned hotel in small-town Abaddon, New York. Unknown to the city slickers, the hotel was the site of various murders and suicides, and they go cluelessly poking around in the dark interiors of the haunted building, blythly recording their misadventures to the aid of the soon-to-be forensic investigations of their tragic but inevitable deaths. There’s also a wrap-around story about a documentary crew trying to get to the bottom of the happenings.

So, this movie is a star of the developing sub-genre of the haunted haunted house. It’s… competent. Not much else to say, really. No boobs, which would have helped (duh).

UPDATE: Upon re-watching while paying more attention, I bumped this up a couple points. It did have some pretty good moments. Still could have used some boobs though.

Fender Bender (5/10)

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Teen Hilary (played by cutie-pie Makenzie Vega, aka Grace Florrick from “The Good Wife”) has just found out her boyfriend is cheating on her with a hot blonde cheerleader. Then she gets into a fender-bender while driving her mom’s new shitty Nissan Sentra. Not a good day for her. She goes home and gets grounded while her bitch-ass parents head out of town to see some stupid show or something that Hilary has been really wanting to see. Then her lame-ass friends show up and surprise her (literally) with pizza and no beer. And it turns out that the guy that rear-ended her (with his car, perv) is a serial killer who is now stalking her. Really not a good day for her.

So, this was well-made and sort of entertaining, but it’s not old-school or new-school enough to be all that interesting. At best, it’s a very bland blend of the two. Throw in some poor decision-making and you’ve got something that’s really not worth your time, unless, like me, your time really isn’t worth all that much. Oh, and one chick takes a bath and Hilary takes a shower, and no boobs in either scene. That, my friends, is unforgivable. If we’d seen some Makenzie boobies, I would have bumped it up to 6, maybe even 7. But “gratuitous nudity” (like that’s a thing) is on the outs these days, so we got nothing, not even a little side-boob. Fuckers.

The Monster (5/10)

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Super-shitty mother Kathy is driving her daughter Lizzy to see Lizzy’s dad, who she wants to live with instead of her loser alcoholic skanky-ass mom for some reason. As they are driving late that night on a desolate road through dense woods, they hit something and crash the car. They investigate and find a dead wolf, but not all of the wounds seem to be from the crash, and a huge tooth is found in one of the gashes. Once the tow-truck arrives, the driver is attacked and they realize they have bigger problems than just dysfunctional family dynamics.

So, I thought this was going to be really good. And it was, for a while. The first act did well at setting up the mother and daughter characters, and the performances were quite good. The second act was atmospheric and the monster itself was very well realized, though by this point the mother/daughter weepy flashbacks were getting a bit heavy-handed. And then the third act hits, and everyone in the movie immediately becomes a total idiot and makes the worst possible choices. Unfortunately, pathos and bathos bring down what could have been a very fine monster flick. Is it really asking too much to have a kick-ass monster wreaking havoc these days without having a heaping helping of domestic issues thrown in? Apparently, yes.

I Can See You (9/10)

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Doug, Richards, and Kimble are three scruffy young men trying to start a new ad agency in NYC. Doug’s girlfriend, Sonia, has scored them a gig with her employer, big-time cleaning product manufacturer Clara Clean, whose products may or may not be involved in ecological damage and de-forestation. Suffering from a lack of clarity in both their artistic vision and their stock photos, the three men decide that camping in the woods to get back to nature is just the ticket, so they head out of town, Sonia in tow, to the countryside where Richards grew up. Once there, Richards attempts to take some photos of nature’s grandeur, but the photos are marred by mysterious wisps of smoke, which seem to be invisible to the naked eye. That night, some old friends of Richards are invited to the camp for a barbecue, and he hooks up with his old flame, Summer Day. The next day, Doug and Summer disappear after a swim, which leads Richards to fear the worst. When Doug shows up that night without Summer and with a bad case of the crazies, things really go bonkers.

So, this movie is about as good as mini-micro-budget filmmaking can get, which, turns out, is pretty goddamn good. This thing starts out weird, and gets to be positively batshit crazy by the end. Nevertheless, it is consistently compelling, and features some genuinely creepy and jarring visuals and editing. The acting is better than one might expect at this price-point (including a great performance from indie guru and producer Larry Fessenden in a small but pivotal role), and the lack of production value really only adds to the lo-fi nuthouse vibe. The whole thing is reminiscent of something you might find in the “weird part of YouTube”, but holds up surprisingly well as a feature-length film. I really don’t want to say anything more about it, so just go watch it.

Electra Love 2000 (5/10)

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Watching Troma’s “Electra Love 2000”. I think I have uncovered a forgotten masterpiece of campy crap.

What the hell is happening?

Holy shit this is dumb.

I’m still not sure if this is good dumb or bad dumb.

I’m leaning toward bad dumb.

If we could get some titties up in here my opinion might shift.

And now it’s a musical.

Wait, is that Kim Greist?

No, it’s not.

“Dope-addicted street-stroller.” That’s a new one.

Wait, is this based on Hamlet?

I think this is based on Hamlet.

Or maybe Hamlet is based on Electra. Either way, it seems similar.

Ho’s got hooked up with a new, scrupulous pimp.

This is getting very Shakespearean.

Definitely good dumb. Maybe not even dumb at all. Still no titties though.

Pimp Shakespeare: “Life is a hell for me. I don’t even have sex any more. Do you know who washes dishes every night around here? I do. And you call me scum.”

Ho: “If you leave us, baby, the one dry candle in our dark lives will dematerialize into the infinity of non-being.” Whoa. Deep.

Ho: “We hate men, and men hate us. That’s why we get along so well.” Oh hey, titties!

Ho, with titties out: “I knew this guy once, and he believed in the concept of enemies. And he was going to be married. And then one night he listened to the president speak on television. ‘The Enemy is Evil. The Enemy commits atrocities against his peaceful neighbor. We must rush to the aid of the peaceful neighbor. Defend peace, defend freedom, defend your God, your home, your kitty cats, your trash cans.’ And he believed him. And now he’s dead, and his fiancee is a whore. That’s the joke.” Nice titties.

Ho: “Revenge for the past isn’t good.”

Boom mike.

“The promises you make as a child are the ones you must keep.”

“Vengeance is a fire that burns inside her.”

“This is a matter for doing, not for thinking.”

This is definitely a masterpiece of something.

“How can an idiot like you beat a genius like me?”

“Divide, and conquer.”

“When we find we’ve been going in the wrong direction, we must stop, and reverse ourselves.”

Oh, weird erotic poetry!

“Between the opening of of mother’s birth and the closing casket of death. And those that do not see me, do not know the happiness they have missed.”

“I sometimes think that all of us are artists that never were.”

“Political economy is an exciting field for many.”

“Oh, ménage à cinq!”

“Are you such a civilized man, your soul can’t be touched?”

“You would be surprised at the number of things that seem wicked from the outside, but are actually quite nice from within.”

Boom mike.

“I’ve always tried to seek being from nothingness.”

Fuck, I’m out of wine.

“That is my curse. I have found too much truth. People talk a lot about truth, but they won’t pay a penny for it. Lies, they’ll pay millions for.”

“In plain English, why don’t you have the guts to murder the man that killed your father.”

“I’m a free man and I determine the meaning of this game, and it means nothing to me.”

“Cops don’t protect you, Insurance agents don’t protect you. Your deodorant doesn’t protect you. And your magic charms really don’t protect you.”

“The gods destroyed us long ago.”

“She has no tricks, she is as simple and clear as the water.”

“Fuck fate, we’re free!”

“Those of us who declare ourselves free, we’re just fools.”

I wish I had more wine.

“The men from the hunger charity are still waiting.”

“Send them in, and send in the lunch.”

“I’m as busy as a call girl on Valentine’s Day.”

There seems to be a lot of crosstalk on the audio track.

“Let me tell you, it is heaven and hell, it is sublime and terrible.”

Golf club scissors fight!

“A toast to justice! For one day, she was not blind.”

“The fighting has ended, but the echoes of bombs keep screaming inside my head.”

“Because you’re beautiful even the lies that fly out of your mouth sound pretty, like the truth. But I know better.”

Well that was different.

The Mad (6/10)

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Billy Zane, with his obnoxious daughter, her boyfriend, and Billy’s annoying new girlfriend, go to a horrible country-themed bed and breakfast where they’re all having a lousy time, when people start turning into zombies from eating bad burgers and their lousy time gets even worse. Billy’s girlfriend gets killed and Billy, being a doctor, autopsies her. The daughter’s boyfriend gets his foot eaten, then he gets shot, then attacked by a CGI mutant burger patty, and then decapitated (spoiler alert). The restaurant’s cook and waitress team up with Billy and daughter to try to escape by distracting the burger-fed zombies with swag, which proves not entirely successful.

So, you as you might have guessed, this is aiming for horror-comedy territory. And it succeeds, for the most part. Billy Zane is very good with deadpan humor, and the scenes of him and his daughter working through their family issues while fighting off burgered zombies are pretty amusing. I mean, we’re not talking Shaun of the Dead here, but it’s a fun watch. Sadly no boobs, which sucks because the daughter is a hottie.

Best line: “Has your beef been acting strangely?”