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.