Friday, June 9, 2017

Wolf Guy (1975)

There are certain things that cannot, no matter how great, live up to the expectations they bring upon themselves. Sometimes that's because of an errant description (see: Shock Waves). And other times, those expectations are high because of the elements present, and the high bar each part has set.

Case in point, Wolf Guy. It stars Sonny Chiba (from Street Fighter, The Executioner, and Kill Bill)! The movie was directed by the guy who also directed Sister Street Fighter! And it's about the last of a clan of werewolves who uses his special powers to solve crimes!

There's a lot to be hyped about in those pieces and parts.

And the film delivers! Not exactly fulfilling your wildest imagination, but it's absolutely a FANTASTIC mix of mashed-up weirdness, Sonny Chiba at the top of his game, funky music, and a plot that keeps things moving and interesting.

Throughout its running time, Wolf Guy is teeming with strange little moments that are both delightful and unbalanced.

From excessive spurting blood...

Taking out the bad guys with tossed coins...

Re-packaging spilled intestines with the power of moonlight and strength of will...

And a heavy dose of Sonny Chiba being generally badass...

Ultimately, Wolf Guy is more than the sum of its parts. It's that rare film that has nuanced, awesome weirdness in every single scene, in a twisting plot that makes hair-pin turns without hitting the brakes for a second, and a star with a gripping presence on-screen. Highly recommended for anyone interested in a wild, entertaining ride from start to finish.

Available from Arrow Video and Amazon and worth every penny you throw at it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Night of the Demons (1988)

A handful of teenagers decide to throw a rip-roaring Halloween party at a haunted mansion. But, as it turns out, the stories people tell about the mansion are real. It is haunted, and Halloween is the worst time to hang around that house.

With its straight-forward plot, Night of the Demons is one of those movies that should be an enjoyable horror B-movie. It has all the pieces!

A stalking camera, just like in Evil Dead!

Demon possession!

Even a bit of gore! (though, honestly, it's pretty tame in this department)

But it's all been done before...and way other movies. The film isn't really bad, but it's not good either. And it certainly isn't so bad that it's good. It just kind of flatlines somewhere around the time you realize it's not going to live up to its potential (for me, that was when the first demon possession resulted in some lipstick face-painting).

After that, it just limps across the finish line.

Recommended only for 80s horror completionists. Otherwise, watch Evil Dead 2 and/or Cabin in the Woods for a better combination of campiness and high schoolers battling demons.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Manborg (2011)

With movies like Kung Fury, Turbo Kid, Wolf Cop, video games like Far Cry 3: Dragon Blood, and (most recently, as of writing) the Netflix series Stranger Things, there seems to be a revival of sorts for 80s nostalgia lately. I cannot tell you how much I love it. Especially when it's done right.

While Manborg gets a few things right, by absolutely nailing the tone, it misses the mark a bit with a story that's fueled by cliche and cultural references.

Good stuff!
But it can be overwhelming without the story to compensate.

The movie opens with a scene between two brothers in what is essentially Alternative World War Something (against the Machines). One brother is killed by the big bad guy. The other is saved and turned into Manborg. You might find some similarities between Manborg and the Mandroid (as seen in Eliminators)...that wasn't unintentional.

The references to other 80s source material don't stop there. The film includes a plethora of other wink-wink the martial artist "Number One Man" (a reference to Sonny Chiba's Street Fighter), stealing the basic story-line from Mega Man, and the anime-like knife throw seen above.

And that's the problem.

While it's interesting to toss retro-references at your audience at the approximate rate of six-per-scene, the story still has to be interesting enough to hold their attention. If this movie had, perhaps, avoided going (close to) full feature-length (like Kung Fury did, to great benefit), it might not have collapsed under its own weight.

There's some decent stop-motion, at least. Don't see enough of that these days.

Recommended only if watching with people who fondly remember this stuff and can jump in with commentary when you all get bored.