Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Monsters (TV Series) Season 1 (1988) Part 1



Horror anthologies used to be all the rage. Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside, and Friday the 13th The Series were just a few. My favorite was always Monsters, which aired on USA Network on Saturday nights just before USA Up All Night's comedian-hosted B-Movie. As a kid, it didn't get much better, or rather worse...as you'll see in my reviews. This series was enjoyable, but not "good" television. So it felt perfect here! A couple of years ago (2014), the series was released on DVD for the first time. Below, you'll find a brief review of each episode of the first season.


Episode 1 - The Feverman



The first episode of the series is about a father who brings his feverish, dying daughter to a "Feverman." Fevermen apparently attack a physical manifestation of the fever. The father's skeptical doctor comes along and ends up taking over the mantle of the Feverman.

Guest Starring: That guy who was in The Man from UNCLE (David McCallum)



Monster: The Fever



A pretty good episode with a nice twist and an ugly monster. Simple and straight-forward outside of the bit about Fevermen.


Episode 2 - Holly's House



An animatronic puppet (Holly) is the star of a kiddie show. When her creator/puppeteer gets pregnant by the show's co-star, Holly seeks to regain her status as the center of attention, even if it means murder.

Guest Starring: Some weird, duck-looking mascot creature



Monster: Holly



A decent episode that is fairly predictable and stars a Monster in name only. Your level of fright will probably be dependent on weirded out you are by animatronic puppets.


Episode 3 - New York Honey



A couple in a New York high-rise discover that their upstairs neighbor is breeding a special kind of honeybee. The honey turns the couple on, but the Queen Bee eventually snuff them both out.

Guest Starring: This guy chewing every bit of scenery



Monster: The Queen Bee



A mediocre episode that relies too heavily on a split-second reveal of the Queen. Her status as "monster" in any real capacity happens completely off-screen. Even her murder of the "guy chewing every bit of scenery" at the end of the episode.

Episode 4 - The Vampire Hunter



A young woman approaches a Vampire Hunter and his apprentice to help with her brother, whom she suspects of being a vampire. Turns out, she tricks the apprentice into his doom. Later, the Vampire Hunter shows up and the young woman must save him.

Guest Starring: Robert "Assignment: Earth" Lansing



Monster: The Vampire



Dipping into the "classic monsters" does nothing for this episode. It doesn't give the Vampire Hunter enough of a personality, and the actor playing the Vampire isn't convincingly frightening nor charismatic.

Episode 5 - My Zombie Lover



On the night of the yearly zombie-hunt, a suburban family plans to go out and join the fun. Their daughter, however, stays home to study but is interrupted by an old flame. A dead, old flame. The two bond, but eventually his true nature comes out.

Guest Starring: Vanessa Huxtable! (Tempestt Bledsoe)



Monster: Zombie (Brian?)/The Family (because they suggest the zombies can eat their kid)




A fantastic episode that plays as a suburban family sitcom while non-chalantly mixing in zombies and a zombie-hunt. This is an episode where Monsters knows what it is and what it's doing.

Episode 6 - Where's the Rest of Me?



A transplant doctor (that's a thing, right?) invites his former patients to his home. It's at this home where he keeps the guy that gave them their "donated" body parts in the basement barely alive using some super-special serum stuff. The victim awakens and begins taking back the body parts he unwillingly donated.

Guest Starting: Meatloaf!



Monster: Adam the Donor


A hammy episode with a monster who "slurps" his knees, eyes, and vocal chords back into his body. Mostly tries to be a "creature in the house" tension-builder, but since all the people killed are terrible and they all die in rather bland ways, it's not even enjoyable on that level.

Episode 7 - The Legacy



A writer takes up residence in the former house of a legendary, dead actor. When he discovers the actor's make-up kit, he must struggle with its power to draw out the madness within him.

Guest Starring: This writer who we're supposed to believe could get this girl



Monster: Fulton Pierce (the previously mentioned actor)



Another episode that attempts some leverage on the concept of classic monsters. The actor here (Fulton Pierce) is clearly meant to be a fictional stand-in for a Vincent Price or Boris Karloff. It's a hard sell since he doesn't speak. The person with the most lines in the episode (the writer) is pretty insufferable throughout.

Episode 8 - Sleeping Dragon



An archaeologist brings a find that he believes to be alien in nature to a professor and his daughter to examine in their lab. A Dino-alien emerges and the three must fight it with only a laser-pointer (sorry, "laser drill") and a broken window.

Guest Starring: A poor man's Linda Hamilton (Beth Toussaint)



Monster: Dino-alien

They kept the light on him low for a reason.

Another attempt at the "creature in the house" trope, but with a lot more exposition as the professor's daughter and the archaeologist attempt to explain why a Dino-alien thing exists. This episode tries to steal some ideas from The Thing, but only makes itself worse by the comparison.

Episode 9 - Pool Sharks



A pool shark plays a vampiress for the highest stakes possible, his life. Turns out, she killed his brother, so she's playing for a pretty high "stake" herself.

Guest Starring: Crocodile Dundee's doorman (Irving Metzman)



Monster: The Vampiress



This second attempt at including a vampire in the series is a much better story than the first with a bit of a twist to it. Another example of the Monsters series keeping things small and relying on the writing to do most of the heavy lifting. This episode doesn't even have much in the way of creature effects, and after that last episode that went heavy on the "Dino-alien," it is much better for it.

Episode 10 - Pillow Talk



A famous writer brings women home to his bed - so the bed can eat them. The bed is actually an ancient creature that communicates with the writer through his dreams. When the writer brings a romance author home she steals one of his manuscripts before he can feed her to the bed. He goes to her place to retrieve the manuscript and discovers his situation might not be so unique after all.

Guest Starring: John Diehl ("Stripes")



Monster: The bed and the fridge




Another off-the-wall episode that shows what this series can be when it doesn't try to be something else. It's a silly premise, but the show fully commits. Definitely one of the more interesting episodes.

Episode 11 - Rouse Him Not



A painter rents a house in the country where a demon is sealed in the basement floor. Legend has it, he was killed years earlier for practicing witchcraft, and a stranger appears to help the painter with this problem she's unaware of.

Guest Starring: (Saturday Night Live's) Lorraine Newman!


Co-Guest Starring: That one guy with the eye-patch from Airwolf!



Monster: The Demon



The only decent thing about this episode is the ten seconds you get of the Geraldo Rivera lookalike fence with a demon in a dark basement. Another attempt to keep the mediocre monster in the dark to hide its flaws. I'm sensing a trend...

Episode 12 - Fools' Gold



Construction workers stumble on a Troll's stash of gold. Trolls don't like it when people mess with their gold. And just like on the internet, only one thing can kill a troll...sunlight.

Guest Starring: Construction workers?



Monster: The Troll

How we all feel when watching this episode.

This episode keeps up the trend from a few others where lore or legend attempt to add weight to the monsters on display. Ultimately, it doesn't work very well since we don't know about the characters the Troll is trying to kill, so we don't really care if he succeeds or not. The monster itself is a concept that's been done in other movies (offhand, um...Troll and Troll 2); put a little person in a costume and have them chase people around. Not the strongest finish for the first half of Season 1.

We'll see how the second half of Monsters (TV Series) Season 1 goes in Part 2...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Plan 9 (2015)



Nope, not Plan 9 From Outer Space. This 2015 film is a re-imagining of that one. Not a remake, really. More of an attempt to start from scratch with the ideas of the original and make a decent film while still paying homage to the affection that many viewers (and clearly the filmmakers) feel towards one of the Worst Films Ever Made.

Original.

Homage!

The premise of Plan 9 is very similar to the film it's based on. A meteor lands in the small town of Nilbog (if you get that reference, this movie is probably for you) and brings the recently dead back to life. The townsfolk have to figure out what's happening and come up with a plan to survive as the dead (and worse) attack the town.

The film is a low-budget affair, but in this case it actually serves as a selling point rather than a red flag. The actors and script give the characters a lot more magnetism and energy than your normal low-budget movie. Of peculiar note are the moments of levity and wit that are mostly provided by Mr. Lobo.



If you're not familiar with Mr. Lobo, he's a Horror Movie Host (among his many other talents/occupations). I first became aware of him as the host of a great documentary, Virginia Creepers. It's a fantastic doc about Virginia's Horror Movie Hosts throughout the years and is highly recommended for anyone interested in that tradition.




And while it's not splattered all over the film willy-nilly, there are some great moments of budget-conscious gore tossed in for decent effect.



Basically, if you like B-Movies and/or have enjoyed Plan 9 From Outer Space, this movie has some great directing, appropriate (but not cringe-worthy) performances that have fantastic timing and comedic delivery, and a bit of gore to scratch that itch as well.

You can find Plan 9 on Amazon, like I did.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Neon Maniacs (1986)



"When the world is ruled by violence,
And the soul of mankind fades,
the children's path shall be darkened
by the shadows of the Neon Maniacs."

Does that intro voice-over make any sense to you? Good, then it sets up this movie perfectly.

The first few moments establish that there are killers living under the San Francisco Bridge that murder. Oh, they also have trading cards for some reason...

Don't worry, these are never explained nor seen again after this point in the movie.

Each member of this group of murdering killers has his own theme/preferred murdering method. It's kind of like someone said, "That Village People thing was pretty cool. Let's mix that with a bunch of deadly killing murderers who all dress in costume. But they're not 'People' so we'll call them 'Maniacs.' And everyone is going wild about neon because it's 1986, so we'll toss that word in too."

Neon blood, because...well, the word is in the title so...

So, after their random killing of the fisherman (to establish that they are, in fact, murdering killers) the Neon Maniacs venture out to do some good old-fashioned murdering of teenagers. Unfortunately, one of their would-be victims doesn't get murder-killed. She gives a statement to the police and then goes back to high school, where no one believes her story.

EXCEPT...for one plucky, young pseudo-Punky Brewster type who is really into horror films.

So plucky, her hat couldn't possibly stay on straight.

Plucky Brewster decides to investigate on her own and (accidentally) discovers that the monsters have a weakness. As she's doing some digging, one of them trips into a water puddle right in front of her. That's right, these creatures have their own garlic/silver bullet. And it is...WATER!



Yes. These scary slashing-hackers disintegrate when they come into contact with the most common substance on earth. You could literally defeat them with a spray bottle.

Or a water gun...

...water bucket...

...shower combo.


It's clear that this movie doesn't care about logic. It's got a central conceit that no one thought through (i.e. Does the fog they're walking through also harm these monsters?). The film pours everything into the idea of 12 themed killers, but dries up otherwise. There's no gory deaths to wash over the viewer, and barely more than a spritzing of story. Recommended only for 80s horror buffs.