Friday, June 1, 2012

I REALLY wanted to like this one....

The Dead Want Women (2012)
Starring: Jessica Morris, Ariana Madix, J. Scott, Robert Zachar, Jean Louise O'Sullivan, Circus-Szalewski, Jeannie Marie Sullivan, and Eric Roberts
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Charles Band, Dustin Hubbard, Tom Landy, and Rick Short
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A pair or young realtors (Madix and Morris) think they've finally managed to unload the supposedly haunted mansion of long-dead silent movie star Rose Pettigrew (O'Sullivan), but they instead learn that the legendary hauntings are all too real.

I'm starting to know what fans of Dario Argento feel like when they keep hoping for another "Deep Red" or "Cat o' Nine Tails" and instead get "Do You Like Hitchcock?" or worse. Because I keep hoping and hoping for Charles Band to bring me another "Trancers" or "Puppet Master" or "Head of the Family" or even "Crash and Burn" or "The Creeps", but he brings me stuff like "Gingerdead Man" and his latest effort "The Dead Want Women" instead.

And I really thought I would like "The Dead Want Women". First of all, it's a great title. Second of all, it's rooted in old-time movies, a topic I love so much I write reviews whenever I watch a old-time movie. Thirdly, it stars Jessica Morris who was one of the best things about "Haunted Casino". And, last but not least, I LOVE haunted house movies--and, again, I love them so much I write about it whenever I watch one!

And make me even more excited about the film, I loved the approach Full Moon took to marketing it. Once again, it had fabulous preview/trailer and the "who is the secret big-time movie veteran in our new movie?" teasers on the web-site were nicely done.

And the main titles sequence is also extremely well done. It is perhaps the best credits sequence for any Full Moon film... and long-time fans know how Full Moon loves its long main title sequences.

Unfortunately, once the credits run their course, this turns out to be another one of those Charles Band films that doesn't live up to my expectations. It's not the worst he's done, and it's far from the worst that's been released under the Full Moon logo, but it's a disappointment.

It's not the actors' fault. They all do the best they can with what they have to work with, but the problem is they don't have much to work with. In fact, it's a testament to the great degree of talent of everyone on the screen that the film comes across as entertaining as it dopes, because the actors are dealing with a pretty awful script here.

When I reviewed the last film Band directed--"Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt"--I complained that the script was flimsy. That complaint applies here as well. In fact, worse, "The Dead Want Women" feels like it was shot using a partially finished first draft that was missing part of Act One and all of Act Three.

This may, hands down, be the worst script that has ever been the basis for a Charles Band moviem and it's a testament to the talent of the actors that it doesn't come off worse than it does. The preview for the film has a better dramatic structure than the film itself, because the way the real movie unfolds it's hard to tell where the focal point of the story was supposed to be... and not just because the characters are universally badly defined. In fact, just as the film seems like it's finally starting to get going--after opening with one of the most listless Roaring Twenties parties you'll ever witness on film, a secret Satanic sex orgy that makes me wonder if Band is longing for the days of Surrender Cinema, and some truly dull bits with Jessica Morris and Arina Madix playing the BFF realtors getting the house ready to show to their mysterious client--with the evil ghost of Miss Pettigrew and her sidekicks doing their thing, the film ends. Like most Full Moon pictures these days, the film barely breaks the one-hour mark... and in this case the run-time is not only half of what we expect from most movies, but the MOVIE is half of what we expect from most movies.

Viewers looking for lots of female nudity will enjoy the film--there is an actress who is naked for literally 99% of her time on screen. Hardcore Full Moon fans will also be able to enjoy a few of those Charles Band touches we know and love--but they will mostly be outweighed by truly awful moments of lazy writing and lazier direction. (Ohmygod... the ghosts have our hapless realty ladies chained up and they are about to do horrible things to them. Oh wait. One of them just undid her shackles easier than I undo my belt when I need to take a dump. And now she's freeing the other chick just as easily. WTF? When did she get possessed by the spirit of Harry Houdini?! And where did the ghosts suddenly disappear to? WTF?!)

The Two Rating might be a little harsh... it film really is teetering between Two and Three. But in this case, I am being miserly with my rating, because this film could have been so much more with just a little more effort. Meanwhile, here's the preview for the film. If the finished product had followed its flow, it might have been a little stronger....

(By the way, is it coincidence that in the past month, I've seen two movies with Eric Roberts doing a goofy accent? He does a Texas/Oklahoma kinda accent in this film, and he did Russian in "The Tomb." Is that something he's known for, and I've just not noticed until now?)

Mars Needs Bikini Babes!

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)
Starring: Marilyn Hanold, Lou Cutell, Robert Reilly, Jim Karen, and Karen Grant
Director: Robert Gaffney
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A sexy alien queen (Hanold) and her pointy-eared second-in-command Dr. Nadir (Cutell) come to Earth to abduct bikini babes to replenish the breeding stock on their homeland. Unfortunately for them, their arrival on our world interferes with the test-flight of a cybernetic astronaut (Reilly), causing his ship to crash near the alien landing site.

Some movies derive their entertainment value from the fact that you will spend the entire time you're watching wondering if what you're watching was really that nonsensical on paper, and how one director could make so many bad decisions in the course of one movie.

Even in 1964, the "Mars needs women"-type scenario must have seemed silly, although it does provide an excuse to show attractive women in little bikinis so one can understand why the filmmakers and viewers ran with it. But one wonders what bizarre fetish the writers or director must have been trying to bring to the screen with the oddball "physical exam" that the aliens use to determine the fitness of the women for alien breeding stock.

That said, for a film that was clearly designed to show off fit birds (to borrow a phrase from Joe Bloke's excellent blog) the director made a bizarre choice in casting Playboy-Bunny-turned-actress Marilyn Hanold and yet hardly showing her body off at all. Viewers can see hints of a sexy costume, but she spends most of the movie seated, so it hardly gets shown off.

The only thing that makes the film mildly interesting, aside from the bikini babes if you're hard up, is when the heroine gets grabbed by the aliens and almost becomes chow for the Spacemonster of the film's title, and the runaway robot who stumbles his way through the movie to ultimately serve as something of a literal deus ex machina plot device. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite qualify as a "Frankenstein" in any sense, but instead serves as an illustration of the illiteracy that seems to have been a mainstay of the movie business from the get-go.

(By the way, if I had watched this movie three-four weeks ago, "ROLF: Attack of the Commies from Jupiter" may have been an unauthorized adaptation of this film given there are some similarities content-wise. Heck... there may still be one forthcoming, given its mostly designed. :) )

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Scream Queen: Jessica Morris

Jessica Morris' first professional acting job came at the age of 16... in a Japanese commercial for crackers. After a few bit parts on television and in film, she landed a major recurring role on the soap opera "One Life to Live" in 2001.

Jessica remained on the series until 2005, at which point she moved to California and became a regular face in the quirky low-budget horror films from Charles Band's revitalized Full Moon production companym usually appearing in the films he directs instead of just produces. She has so far appeared in "The Haunted Casino" (2007), "Decadent Evil II" (2008), "Dangerous Worry Dolls" (2008), and the just-released "The Dead Want Women" (2012).

She has also starred in other low-budget horror flicks along the way, including "Venom" and "The Fading of the Cries" (both in 2011), "Demons" (2007), and "Bloody Murder" (2000), a film she claims to have hated making.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Scream Queen: Lisa Zane

Lisa Zane is a successful singer/song-writer who specializes in cabaret-style performances and who in 2006 was recognized by The Songwriter's Hall of Fame recognized as one of their new songwriters of the year. Zane, however, has also maintained a steady sideline in television and film acting, with numerous horror films to her credit.

Zane is probably best known to horror fans as the girl with a mysterious tie to Freddy Krueger in the closing chapter of the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" (1997). Among her other horror credits are "Terrified" and "Her Deadly Rival" (both from 1995), and the sci-fi chillers "The Age of Insects" (1990) and "Natural Selection" (1994)

If Zane's last name seems familiar, it's because she is the older sister of Billy Zane, who's appeared in close to 100 horror films, including five in various states of production.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Avoid 'The Killer Eye'!

It's two reviews in one... A Pretty Little Maids Special!

The Killer Eye (1998)
Starring: Jonathan Norman, Jacqueline Lovell, Costas Koromilas, Blake Bailey, Dave Oren Ward and Nanette Bianchi
Director: Richard Chasen (aka David DeCoteau)
Producer: Robert Talbot (aka Charles Band)
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

Dr. Grady (Norman) has discovered a way to look into the 8th Dimension using eye drops and a special inter-dimensional microscope. Unfortunately, a creature from that nightmarish realm has used his mehtod to cross into our world, possess the eyeball of a male prostitute and grow it to giant size, bursting free of his skull... and it is now roaming the building where Dr. Grady has his lab, seeking women to hypnotize and fondle with its tentacles.

"The Killer Eye" sounded like it might be a fun spoof a Lovecraft-style tale where scientists unleash horrors from distant dimensions. It is not. It is a film that fails on every level, and the only kind things I can say about is that the camera is never out of focus, the soundtrack is audible, and none of the actors are awful... but none are particularly good, either. (Blake Bailey, who plays an attic-dwelling weirdo, is the best of the bunch and the only player here who manages to deliver laugh lines in a way that actually manages to make viewers smile. Even Jacqueline Lovell, who plays Dr. Grady's slutty wife and the Killer Eye's favorite fondle target, gave a barely passable performance. This was surprising to me, because she was so great in "Head of the Family" and "Hideous!"... but I suppose this is just further proof that many actors are only as good as the material they have to work with.)

"The Killer Eye" fails as a comedy, because it's not funny. It fails as a horror movie, because nothing in it is scary. It even fails as a softcore-porn flick with live tentacle-monster action, because the sex and nudity scenes are shot in a timid, almost prudish fashion and are overly long and boring. It even fails completely as a movie, because, even with its scant running time of just over an hour, it's obvious that there's about 25-30 minutes of actual material here that's been stretched longer than the groping tentacle of a monster from the 8th Dimension.

If the comments above haven't warned you off "The Killer Eye", consider this: The director, David DeCoteau, is hiding behind the psuedonym of Richard Chasen; and producer Charles Band is hiding behind the pseudonym of Robert Talbot. So, if people like DeCoteau and Band, whose names have appeared on some real stinkers, didn't even want the Full Moon label associated with it, it should be clear that this film (hopefully!) marks the fetid bottom to which the quality-level of a Charles Band production can sink.

Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt (2011)
Starring: Erica Rhodes, Chelsea Leigh Edmundson, Olivia Alexander, Ariana Madix, and Lauren Furs
Producer: Charles Band
Director: Charles Band
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Jenna (Rhodes) recruits some friends (Alexander, Edmundson, Furs, and Madix) to set up the Halloween haunted house she runs with her mother. They soon trade work for getting half-naked and drinking while watching a cheesy horror movie they find in a box, "The Killer Eye". However, a magic crystal ball has a strange reaction to the movie and the half-naked girls... it brings a model of the Killer Eye from the movie to life, and the proceeds to make the movie a reality as well.

I give "Killer Eye: Halloween" haunt some credit for being a clever non-sequel to the original film. By making it just a movie within the world of the sequel, it both embraces and dismisses the suckitude it represents.

I disliked the first film so much that I fully intended to ignore this sequel--I don't seek out films that I know I'm going to hate--but the fine folks at Full Moon sent me a little care package that included it and three other films. And on the disc of one of those other films ("Necropolis," which is debuting on DVD as part of Full Moon's Grindhouse series... and which I'll review next) was the preview for "Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt".

And what a great preview it was. It got me very excited to watch this film. In fact, it got my hopes up to the point where I thought THIS might be the film that would mark the return of the Charles Band who gave me "The Creeps" and "Blood Dolls". Or at least "Doll Graveyard".

But, as I settled in to watch the film, I quickly realized that I was not in for an old-time Full Moon experience, but something closer to the generally lackluster offerings that Band has delivered since the turn of the millennium.

The two biggest problems this time out is that what passes for the razor-thin story in the film is so flimsy that it barely manages to hold the scenes together, resulting in a sense that the film consists of vignettes rather than a coherent whole. Secondly, the characters are even flimsier than the plot, only qualifying as such in the most general sense as they barely rise above the level of stereotypes... and when you have a cast of actresses who seem to have been hired more for their bodies than their acting talents, giving them and the audience a little more meat on the movie's bones is a necessity.

The comedy in this horror comedy is virtually non-existent and the horror is in short supply as well--with the exception of the final 15-20 minutes. As the film is building to its conclusion, we finally get some of the Charles Band Magic that we loved so much. If the rest of the film had been this focused and driven, this could have been a classic that lived up to the promise of the preview.

In fairness, as disappointed as I was in this film, it was a great improvement over "The Killer Eye"; it is as the sequel to "Gingerdead Man" was to the film it followed. I also appreciate the fact that more effort seems to have been put into the sets than in other recent offerings, such as "Gingerdead Man 3" and "Evil Bong 3D". Finally, the use of computer-generated special effects is more artfully applied here than in films with budgets ten times what Band and his crew work with... the computer generated gore splatter in one instance was very well done. However, those improvements just wasn't quite enough to make it a worthwhile picture.

That said... if you're a fan of Charles Band and Full Moon, the final bits of the film might be worth watching for. And even before it gets good, you can always enjoy the pretty young girls in very little clothing.

And you can silently weep at what could have been, especially in the light of this killer preview:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Scream Queen: Amanda Righetti

Amanda Righetti has become a familiar face to television viewers as Detective Grace Van Pelt, who must play the adult to the antics of conman-turned-police-consultant on "The Mentalist", but she landed her first major recurring role on "The O.C." and she has been working steadily in episodic television ever since.

Along the way, Righetti has also appeared in numerous horror films. Her first film role was in the low-budget chiller "Angel Blade" (2002), but her successful television carer led her to starring roles in "Return to House on Haunted Hill" (2007) and the 2009 remake of "Friday the 13th" and the recently released "Shadow of Fear".

Righetti continues to star in "The Mentalist", but she is also working on "Deconstruction Red", a thriller slated for a 2013 release date.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Scream Queen: Salma Hayek

It's Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday that is, apparently, a bigger deal in the United States than in Mexico, but I figured I should profile a Mexican actress anyway.

Unfortunately, the only Mexican actresses I could think of with any horror credits were Salma Hayek and Julissa. And since I couldn't find a good picture of Julissa, and attempts at doing screen captures from the movies I have she's been in were blurry at best, Salma Hayek won the honor of being today's Scream Queen.

Born in 1966 to a wealthy Lebanese business man and a famous Mexican opera singer, Salma Hayek decided at a young age that she wanted to be an actress, and she directed all her efforts toward achieving that dream. (Well, aside from playing pranks on the nuns at the convent school she attended as a child... pranks that eventually got her expelled.)

In 1989, Hayek acheived star status in her home country of Mexico when she landed the title role on the hugely successful soap opera "Therea". She had her sights set on a movie career, however, and by 1991, she left the show and Mexico behind with the intent of making it in Hollywood.

After a string of bit parts on television shows, she finally reached Hollywood stardom when she played opposite Antonio Banderas in "Desperado" (1995) and as the vampire stripper that most horror fans know her as in "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), where she appeared with George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and Cheech Martin.

Hayek fame and career have been on a steady upward trajectory ever since, but she has focused mostly on dramas and comedies. Beyond "From Dusk Till Dawk", the only other horror film she has appeared in was "The Hunchback" in 1997... although if one really reaches, one can include 2009's "Cirque de Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" as a horror credit.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Scream Queen: Diana Terranova

Diana Terranova is best known for her role as a super-powered cheerleader on the sci-fi television series "Heroes", but her resume is full of appearances in low-budget thrillers, sci-fi films and horror flicks where her presense in the cast was, to a large extent, dictated by her two most obvious talents.

Recent horror credits for Terranova include "Gacy House", "The Butcher" and the soft-core porn horror spoof "The Hills Have Thighs".

Saturday Scream Queen: Amy Acker

Born in 1976 in Dallas, Texas, Amy Acker was destined for show-business from a young age. She spent her childhood studying ballet, modern dance and jazz dance, but knee surgery in high school forced her to abandon that path and turn to acting.

While still in college, Acker landed her first television roles on the children's series "Wishbone", and soon after graduation she landed the role of Fred on the "Buffy the Vampire Splayer" spin-off series "Angel" om 2001. Acker's character that was put not though one but several wringers... and ultimately transformed into a demon.

Acker's career has thus far been mostly focused around television, with one-shot appearances on numerous seriem and recurring roles on shows such as "Alias", "Dollhouse", and "Happy Town", but she has managed to fit in a few movies along the way, some of them in the horror genre. In 2008, Acker starred in "A Near Death Experience" and she can currently be seen in movie theatres in "The Cabin in the Woods".

Friday, April 13, 2012

'Ghost Whisperer' got off to a strong start

I was gifted with Seasons 1 and 2 of "Ghost Whisperer" some time ago, and I recently got around to start watching them. So, I will be reviewing the episodes in this space. I only watched the show once in a blue moon during its five year run on CBS, but every time I did, I was impressed by Jennifer Love Hewitts two great talents. She's also quite an actress.

Ghost Whisperer (Untitled Pilot Episode) (2005)
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, David Conrad, Aisha Tyler, and Wentworth Miller
Director: John Gray
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Her entire life, Melinda (Hewitt) has been able to see and communicate with ghosts. As she grew up, she began to pass messages from them to the living, so the restless spirits would feel relieved of their earthly duties and finally be able to move onto the afterlife. Even on her wedding night, she spends time with both the living and the dead... when for the first time one of the dead (Miller) invade her very home in search of help.

"Ghost Whisperer" got off to a strong start with its 2005 pilot episode. A deftly written script that introduces us to likable newly-weds Melinda and Jim--she sees dead people and tries to help them move onto the next life, he is a paramedic and tries to help people stay in this one, which is an interesting arrangement that I'm sure will get play as the show unfolds--and Melinda's sassy employee at the antique store she runs. I expect Melinda's doting and supportive husband will give rise to nearly as many plots as the ghosts he will help as I watch this series... and I expect her employee will come in at a close second, probably not directly but rather through antiques that she brings into the shop that Melinda owns and operates.

The pilot also presents what I know to be the show's formula from what few I've already seen: Melinda encounters a ghosts here and there, but one or two become her focus. After some initial sleuthing and plot complications, she finds the key to helping them resolve the issues that are keeping them in this world. After a tearful goodbye with family members and loved ones, the ghost moves on, and Melinda returns to the arms of her loving husband.

But the pilot also features a near-perfect mix of sappy and creepy that made the best episodes of the show that I've seen so much fun. Just when you think the schmaltz might be going on just a little too thick, scary ghost stuff starts happening.

What I found most entertaining about the pilot episode was the way it time and again made me wonder what it would be like to go through life never knowing if the person sitting across from you is alive or dead... until you realize that you're the only person who can see him. If the show keeps that aspect alive, I think this is going to be lots of fun.

Things Learned About Ghosts and The Afterlife in This Episode: Major life-changes for those the departed care about may "awaken" their slumbering, lingering spirits and draw them to the location, even if they don't know why. Ghosts somehow communicate even with the ghosts who are stuck in this world... and sometimes they tell those who are stuck to seek out Melinda for help.