Moar viddies!

Splice – Two unbelievably stupid people have a bio lab to play with and create a monster. That’s never happened before. The effects were good and the relationship between the protagonists and their creation was… novel.  I imagine there was supposed to be some sort of moral here about playing with fire, but when the fire is science and the players don’t deserve to be called scientists, it kinda falls flat.

Death Race 2008 – I hate to hate on this too much, since the Corman was involved and the writer of the original movie also wrote this one, and the director claims it can be interpreted as a prequel, which does kinda work.  But it was promoted as a remake, and the original is a classic.  Comparing this against its predecessor equals disappointing.  This one is a straightforward blowing-shit-up-for-revenge action flick, in the tiny political sandbox of an island prison.  The original was on a national scale, had characters who weren’t all hardened criminals, and was about corruption on a national scale too.  It feels like they wimped out on the political aspect of the story.  Maybe I’m too eager to find Americans wimping out when it’s time to acknowledge that national leaders aren’t always the best people around, but that’s what it feels like to me.  It worked well in the original movie, and putting it in miniature here results in a vanilla villain we’ve seen too many times before: the corrupt prison warden.

Bloody Pit of Horror – A narcissistic luchador lives in the former castle of the Marquis de Sade and carries on the tradition.  A campy-bad sadist flick with really bad dubbed dialogue and unnecessarily drawn-out fight and torture scenes.  I’ve never heard such bad sound production – voices echo loudly in many scenes, and the soundtrack record literally skips over and over again.  And the “giant spider” that menaces one of the women in one scene was obviously designed by someone who has never seen a real spider.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – I wanted to see this when it was in theaters but didn’t get a chance. Gilliam, some Python-like visuals, and a sort of Baron Munchausen atmosphere make for an attractive proposition.  It was all right but not really outstanding.  I feel I missed some important plot points, like the whole bit about Tony with his whistle at the end – maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I really didn’t get what that was all about.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster – Racier and gorier than I expected from such an old B&W movie.  Also a nice, straightforward classic B-SF plot with decently done creature effects – and for once, not a humanoid monster.

The Lost World – There are at least four versions so I should clarify that this is the 1925 silent version. Same plot as the others, but it’s worth commenting that the stop-motion dinosaur animations were amazingly good – perhaps not as smooth as Harryhausen’s, but more detailed. They even put in breathing animation and the occasional lip and eye animation. Must have been a lot of work. Also, Arthur Conan Doyle himself appeared in the film, though I didn’t know that until I looked at the IMDB entry.

Resident Evil: Afterlife – I probably should have watched some of the preceding movies in order to get more familiar with the ongoing characters. Lacking that, I take it as what it is: an action movie based on a video game. The movie plot is as linear and iterative as your typical zombie video game; a sequence of trials the protagonist must endure to get to the boss fight at the end, to be followed by the setup for the next episode.  This is a 3D movie, and the 3D effects were both overblown and half-baked. There were not many scenes where the 3D worked well.  Also too many bullet-time scenes, and a lot of cases of set pieces disappearing during camera cuts.

Ba’al: The Storm God – Ba’ah! What could have been a decent action-archaeology flick was marred by poor effects, cliched characters, canned plot devices and pseudoscience.

Mutant – Interesting mashup of zombie holocaust, bumpkin terror and monster-in-the-basement thrills. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly worth watching, but it is an uncommon formula. There is not a single mutant involved, unless you count inbred hicks.

30,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Amazingly bad, in the bad kind of way. Bad acting, bad effects and a very predictable plot. Complete waste of time. The original 20,000 Leagues movie was very well done, but this one is little more than a modern B-movie and is unsatisfying in the way that most modern B-movies are – they fail to even be camp.

The Beast of Yucca Flats – This, on the other hand, was bad in the amusingly good sort of way. I’ve watched a lot of B-movies that were contemporaries of this and many of them pimp a fatalistic we’re-all-doomed nukes-are-evil sort of attitude, but none as weirdly heavy-handed as this.  The heavy-handedness comes in the form of the narrator referring to some of the characters as “victims of progress” and so forth (the events of the movie are triggered by several people getting caught in an atom bomb test blast). The weirdness comes in the narration itself – the characters have almost no dialogue in this movie; most of the speech comes from the narrator practically giving a play-by-play of what’s going on.  There’s also some amusingly bad writing, in that the film opens with a teaser scene that doesn’t fit anywhere in the plot, and there is at least one major plot point left unresolved at the end in the form of a character who is wrongfully attacked and wounded by the police, goes to get help (leaving his wife and kids behind), and does not appear on screen nor is he mentioned after that.

The She-Beast – A British couple vacationing in Transylvania fall prey to the reincarnation of a local witch, out for revenge for having been given the typical witch treatment hundreds of years earlier. Largely forgettable; this doesn’t really deserve to be called a horror, thriller, adventure, drama or comedy. It’s rather flat. No opportunities are missed to poke fun at the Communists though; the local fuzz are a bunch of Keystone cops, and the citizenry are portrayed as largely dishonest and untrustworthy.

Star Crash – Wow, for a cheesy B-movie SF that tries and fails to rip off Star Wars, the production values on this are actually pretty good. Nicely designed and well-made sets, a good assortment of space ship models, original costumes, score by a somewhat high-profile composer, and decent compositing on good-quality film stock. Also, Christopher Plummer and a young David Hasselhoff! Although some of the overlaid special effects are bad, the real cheese is in the plot and dialogue. For example, the bad guy’s capital ship is shaped like a giant hand and closes into a fist during battle. Also he left a tribe of cavemen and some holographic monsters to guard his secret weapon. Best LOL line: “Scan it with our computer waves.”

The Hideous Sun Demon – I love B-movies, but I also love this kind of movie – a serious science fiction, regardless of production values, that takes a theory and wraps a story around it. In this case it combines the now-discredited theory of recapitulation with the popular trope of radiation causing rapid mutation, and produces a man who starts devolving into a violent lizard when exposed to sunlight.  There’s no scientific validity to the idea, and the ending is the tragic “Well, what did you expect?” typical of SF/monster movies of the era, but nevertheless it was a better-told story than most modern SF movies. Good writing and acting, good sound direction, good cinematography and above all, believable characters made this worth watching for me.