Kitties, Kaiju and KOMEDY!!â€“Reflections on T-Fest 2009
As you’ll notice from this slightly updated version of my report, I sometimes forget the details. I don’t take notes at these things, and, well…things are forgotten. If you notice something amiss, feel free to point it out; I’ll own it, although I probably won’t keep updating this thing. Not because I’d get tired of it; indeed, my background in proofreading and editing will make me very anxious to do so. Rather, I’ll refrain so as to save poor Mr. Begg any more effort than I’ve already caused him. (As it is, I fear this’ll be my first and last report on the site, and that he’ll find it easier to just write his own.) No maliciousness was meant in any oversight hereâ€“we’re all friends, right?
And with that…
It Has Begun
Ah, it’s that most horrifying time of the yearâ€“the middle of summer in Texas, when it’s ridiculously humid and unrelentingly hot. The time of year that makes me wonder why the hell I moved here. Apparently I’m very masochistic, living only to abuse myself physically and mentally at any opportunity.
On an unrelated note, T-Fest was this past Saturday. For those that’ve never had the chance to attend, T-Fest involves people spending the day planted on their asses while watching crappy movies and scarfing snacks full of fat, sugar, and chemicals most people can’t pronounce, much less identify.
At least we’re in a climate-controlled building. We may be self-abusive to a frightening degree, but we’re not insaâ€“no, wait, we sat through Funky Forest. Well, we’re self-abusive, but not suicidal.
At least not until after Chris Holland’s picks, at any rate.
We had great attendance this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a record turn-out. All the luminaries were thereâ€“Mr. Kenneth Begg, High Priest of Jabootu; Mr. Sandy Petersen, the Gamesmaster, as well as his son and the son’s wife (not girlfriend) and two other sons as wellâ€“my apologies to all involved for forgetting them the first go-round; Mr. Chris Holland, Satan’s Little Helper; and Dr. Freex, the man, myth, and legend (along with, unless I’m mistaken, Freex Jr.) The names you know and love were in attendance: Kirk and Patty, the Brangelina of T-Fest; Mary, aka GalaxyJane, our Hotlips Houlihan; Stephanie and Chad R., our Burns and Gracie; “Lawyer Ku” Chris, our Perry Mason; and others, such as Guy, the people I recognized but did not get the names of/forgot, and everyone else, who unfortunately I don’t have a comparative name for (sorry!).
And me, the Aargh the Awful.
I had been all ready to complain about it being moved from just down the street to about a half-hour away, but then I realized I may very well still have the shortest commute, so I thought better of it. There was a downside, in that I was about a half-hour late due to a commitment to drop someone off at the airport that morning. Having it still conveniently close by would’ve negated that; but again, it can’t be helped and I still had an easy time of it, so no complaints here.
And as it turns out, catching the entirety of our first movie wouldn’t have helped me figure out what the hell was going on anyway. But that’s a story for…oh, about a page or so.
Before getting to the main features, let’s check out our shorts!
Quite a few of these this year. Naturally, we had the regulars (Dr. Tran stuff, Rejected, Bambi Meets Godzilla). We also had a mixed bag of ones new to me (although not necessarily to everyone).
My favorite was called, I believe, Food for Thought. Two students are caught doing something bad by a school counselor, and taken into a classroom where the counselor explains why what they did is bad, and then shows an educational film to further explicate things. The catch is, the students are zombies, and the bad thing is eating brains, because if they keep doing it, they’ll make more zombies and leave less live humans to feast on. They really had the feel of those old educational shorts down, especially during the movie within a movie, which even had a pitch-perfect narrator talking about how they need to eat brains only on special occasions and such. I couldn’t tell you what DVD this was on, but if you get the chance, see it.
They also showed B-Fest staple The Wizard of Speed and Time. Having never attended B-Fest, I was unfamiliar with it, although I had ideas in my head what it might be like. Boy, was I wrong. There is NO WAY you can prepare yourself for this. I’m not breathing a word of what went on in it, because really, going in tabula rasa is the way to go. I could actually feel my jaw drop within five seconds, and I think my first words after it ended were, “What the HELL was that!?!” I will say that the Wizard, to me, looks like Chad R.’s evil twin. (If I end up dead in an alley in the next few weeks, you’ll know who did it.)
Following this, they played a short on Lapland. Apparently it’d been shown at the first T-Fest, and apparently caused some consternation. I understood why after watching it. I think I’ll refrain from spoiling what exactly caused all the horrified screams. However, I will say that, apparently, sexual molestation is A-OK in Lapland, and “no” does indeed mean “yes.”
I don’t remember the name of the last one, but it was about a couple going for a ride and running into mimes in the forest. It goes from there. And goes, and goes, and goes. The premise is amusing but not enough to justify this thing’s 15-20 minute running length. A mime apparently dies, though, so it’s not a total loss.
ADDENDUM: As Mr. Petersen pointed out, I had forgotten one of the shorts. It was called Cup o’ Abominations. It starts out with this crazy, Heavy Metal-esque presentation of some verses from the Book of Revelation. It has a twist at the end that ends up being rather hilarious, so I won’t drop it here. It’s pretty damned whacked, I will give them that. Considering the movies I’ve seen in my life, that’s saying something.
All right, on to the first movie finally!
I’m not really sure I can explain this movie in more than vague terms, because honestly it’s so bizarre that nothing I could write would come close to portraying what was on the screen. Basically, some young and super-adorable Japanese girls head out to the home of one of the girl’s aunts. Since I missed the first part I don’t know why. (For further information on the beginning, and the rest of the film, check out Todd’s great review over at Teleport City.) Well, it turns out the aunt’s a vengeful ghost, bitter and insane after decades of waiting for her betrothed to come back from the war where, unbeknownst to her, he was killed. The ghost has turned her home into a house of horrors that must literally feed on virginal girls to sustain its malign existence. The girls must fight to stay alive and escape their ghastly fate.
I really can’t get into everything that happens, because there’s no way I’d remember it all, and really you need to see it for yourself. I’m not sure everyone would enjoy the experience, but if you could manage to be bored by it, I’d have to assume you were the most jaded person in history, because it is just one damn thing after another. There’s a waltzing ghost, a dancing and music-conducting skeleton, an evil glowing-eyed cat (well, more evil than usual), carnivorous furnishings, some of the worst green-screening ever, a half-dressed woman kung-fu fighting against flying debris and burning cicadas, giant heads, people arguing about produce, people being turned INTO produce, a mind-gratingly annoying melody that is repeated throughout the movie, naked Japanese women, paintings releasing blood floods…and it’s about as exciting as it sounds, because the insanity is non-stop. I rather liked it, and am definitely wanting to see it again.
I was shocked that this was made in 1977, because I’d have sworn it was from the mid-80s, post-Evil Dead. Special effects, style, frenetic energy…very 80s. They were ahead of their time, I guess.
The only word that really can describe it is “batshit.”
The last two years we’ve kicked off the Fest with some crazy-ass Asian movie. I heartily recommend this tradition continues, because it is an excellent way to start things off.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Advanced technology in a dystopian future leads to the future of law enforcementâ€“a robotic policeman. Unfortunately, it does not perform as its makers wish, and chaos results.
Immortalized as one of Jabootu’s chosen films, this thing is everything you want your bad movie to be. We had an absolute blast with this one. The dialogue alone makes it worthwhile; I probably only caught half of it, but that half contained perhaps the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard in a movie (and even extends to character names, like Shoeboogie, Drs. Coldyron and Steele, and Detective Mango). I think Mr. Begg hits most of it in his review, but it’s much funnier to experience it than just read about it. The acting is terrible all around, with special honors to the protagonist, who never once changes his expression, unless he’s yelling, in which case his mouth is open instead of closed. The “comic relief” robot is the best actor in the movie, and a tiny, super-cute toy robot steals the scenes it’s in with the supposed lead. Everyone is a moron in this movieâ€“the designer of the robot has to be told by the hired help what his creation’s prime directive is, is surprised that making said directive “to judge and execute” could possibly cause problems, and designs the insertion port for its override key to be almost impossible to reach; the creator of the robot’s special “unnamed” alloy (why didn’t she name the damn thing when she created/discovered it?!), knowing how powerful the robot is, decides going hand-to-hand with it is better than using its established weakness to loud, blaring noises (like car horns) to incapacitate it, and also chose to wear her hair in a curly greying mullet with a skunk stripe; and I can’t even begin to describe how stupid Shoeboogie is (the name alone…)
[*Editor Ken: To be precise, we are told Dr. Steele invented "an unknown alloy, simply given an obscure number."]
The special effects, such as they are, were dated when this movie came out and are also sub-par for that time period. (I’m always surprised that super-advanced robots have worse eyesight than I do sans eyewear.) The robot has a gay porn moustache, is skinny and not that tall, and inspires absolutely no fear at all, even when it starts trying to gun down speeders and…umm…accessories to speeding. Seriously, it’s either that or witnessing a cop committing murder that makes the robot chase its victim for the rest of the movie, and the robot doesn’t seem to care about witnesses at any other time. It also kills a total of two people, making it about as dangerous as the shark in Jaws: The Revenge, and one of those runs right up and lets it bearhug her to death.
Highlights include Dr. Steele, the bodybuilder with the aforementioned hideous coif; the robot’s “Sensor Recall,” which is a clear example of “plugging a plot hole with a bigger plot hole” and is, strictly speaking, magic rather than science (maybe Coldyron’s a technomancer); the “implacable” robot clumsily plowing through rows of plastic chairs and unclipping a velvet rope that stand in his way; and the out-of-nowhere ending that is obviously meant to threaten a sequel which, sadly, never came. Bonus fun comes for those who live in Dallas, who can enjoy recognizing buildings and streets, pining for traffic as light and gas as cheap as that shown in the movie, and also learn fun new facts about their place of residence. For example, I didn’t know Highway 191 was anywhere near here, that “hundreds” of cops are killed every year here (although, considering that nearly everyone that sees the robot cop immediately tries to murder it, it’s less surprising in the context of the movie), and that we have a Lake Dallas (not the city, an actual lake.) I could be wrong on that last one, but I don’t think I am. The weird part is that the filmmakers must’ve been from around here (why else would they film here?) and got things right at first. What happened? Did they stop caring? I could totally buy that.
The movie tries really hard to draw parallels to all things Frankenstein, mainly by constantly invoking the name “Frankenstein” and by having the supposedly emotionless robot slam its fists and growl when it’s thwarted. It made my brain angry after a while, except for the “Raaawr”ing, which was hilarious and quickly appropriated by the crowd.
This one was up there in terms of fun experiences at T-Fest; everyone was enjoying themselves and firing off funny lines (especially Kirk, who had us all rolling, especially during the first few movies) the whole time. It is a perfect movie for this sort of thing. I think you’d even have a good time alone, but it’s better with a crowd. Definitely try to see it; its obscurity is undeserved, because this belongs up there with the works of Bill Rebane and Larry Buchanan.
The Trivia Contest
We had a new feature this year, as Mr. Petersen put together 31 movie clips, which we were to identify. They were bunched into Easy, Hard, and Impossible, with each correct answer scoring 2, 3, and 4 points, respectively. You didn’t have to get the answer exactly right, just in the right area. (For example, one clip from the Hard section was from Cannibal Ferox. I actually had leaned towards that as my answer, but wasn’t sure enough, so I hedged my bets by writing down “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust.” Most people just assumed it was Cannibal Holocaust and put that, but anyone who put a cannibal movie name down was credited. I don’t think that happened in the easy section, thoughâ€“if someone had put down “Aliens” for the Alien clip, I don’t think they’d have gotten credit. OK, that’s more than enough explanation on this.) The top five scores got prizes.
Two people got scores over 80: the illustrious Dr. Freex, who I think only missed one…and to the impressed surprise of all (myself included), me. (I think Chad R. was in the top five as well, but I sadly cannot remember the other two winners.) I’d missed four in the Hard section (twoâ€“The Signal and Infernoâ€“I’d never seen, oneâ€“Houseâ€“I hadn’t seen in years, and oneâ€“Dagonâ€“I have seen twice, and even own, but somehow did not recognize), but managed to ace the other two parts. A lot of people scored similarly; it says something about us that most of us got more Impossible movies, which the vast majority of people would not even have heard of much less recognize, than we did Hard ones. Anyway, I got a DVD of Satan’s School for Girls, which I’d never even heard of. I look forward to checking it out. I almost got tossed a copy of Weasels Ripped My Flesh, but mentioned I already owned it. Mr. Petersen’s face seemed to say he was shocked anyone owned it. I was disabused of this when he then loudly proclaimed, “He actually admits he owns it!” Ah, it’s not the owning, it’s the admitting. Well…reflecting on the movie, I can’t say I would argue the point.
[*Editor Ken: Sandy couldn't very well be amazed anyone would own it, because in fact he owns a copy. He subjected me to it last year.]
I recall complaining on the B-Masters Cabal site once about how I seem to always remember trivial crap but not always more important things (see above re: can’t remember the winners). Well, this was evidence of it. It may not help much in daily life, but it actually paid off this day.
Of course, it also led to me having a brief, stunningly geeky discussion with Mr. Begg and Lawyer Chris about the number of toes on Godzilla’s foot during Bambi Meets Godzilla, so it giveth and it taketh away.
(And as an asideâ€“imagine thatâ€“Mr. Petersen, if you’re reading this…where’d you pick up the prizes? If there’s a place around here stocking DVDs like the ones you awarded, I’d love to know about it.)
[*Editor Ken: Actually, I picked those up on a whim when Kirk and Patty Draut took me to Half Priced Books in Houston. They had carts of crappy movies for three bucks a throw, so I grabbed some, figuring a prize always makes a contest better. Glad you liked your flick, Rev.]
Island of Lost Souls
A shipwrecked man, Edward Parker,is rescued by a passing ship, but after butting heads with the captain is dumped at the first port the ship reaches—a mysterious island ruled over by a Dr. Moreau. The man soon discovers that terrible experiments are being conducted, and desperately tries to escape before it’s too lateâ€¦ I don’t really need to describe this movie fully, do I? I think we’re all familiar with the story by now.
I have to admt, this may have been the most disturbing movie choice of the entire Fest. Namely because it’s a GOOD movie. This is generally regarded as the best adaptation of H.G. Wells’ (not Jules Verne, as I stupidly put here originally) “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” though the writer himself was not happy with it. I’d have to agree with the consensus (although I’ve not seen the one from 1977, which is also pretty well regarded), as this is a fine little movie. Sure, the effects pretty much extend to crepe fur plastered onto people, but the story and acting carry us through quite nicely. A couple of the minor characters grate, but our leads are fine. Still, the movie’s picked up and carried away by Charles Laughton’s Dr. Moreau. Soft-spoken and impish (some might say fey—and some might simply jump in with the gay jokes), with the occasional rage-fueled outburst directed towards his creations to break things up (the first instance is nicely shocking, in light of his previous behavior), the performance is a delight. Occasionally Laughton tosses in a little facial expression or action that reminds you of what a talented stage actor can bring to a part; the best example is the curious way he sprawls himself across a medical cot during a conversation with the protagonist as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Kathleen Burke, the Panther Woman’s portrayer, could indeed induce most men to consider some borderline bestiality (despite her crazy drawn-on eyebrows), and does a great job of portraying a sense of being not quite human. Bela Lugosi, buried under fake fur, would be unrecognizable as the Sayer of the Law were it not for that accent.
It was about here that Mary, who established herself last year as a master at finding themes, declared cats to be this year’s. Indeed, a cat was a major part of the first movie; one was briefly seen in the second; and the female lead of this one’s an altered panther.
The comments still flew during the movie, but generally in a sense of fun since there’s not much to truly mock in the movie itself. The truly vicious mockery would come laterâ€¦
Dai Nipponjin (aka Big Man Japan)
A man named Sato lives a rather pathetic existence, in a small, squalid house, eating cheap ramen and udon and taking care of a stray cat (keeping with the theme, sure enough). He’s separated (although his wife considers them divorved), only gets to see his daughter a couple times a year, and generally seems resigned to his lot in life. However, he leads a double life—serving as Japan’s protector against invasion by giant monsters of all kinds. When the need arises, Sato is summoned to a power plant nearest the monster’s location and is infused with tremendous amounts o f electricity, causing him to transform into a giant, purple brief-wearing, escrima stick-wielding, mushroom cloud-haired hero known as Big Man Japan.
As documented in last year’s review, this was supposed to be screened at T-Fest ’08, but we were unable to do so as Chris Holland was unable to make it in. This year we finally had the chance to watch a movie I’d been wanting to see for over a year.
I now wish we’d gotten it over with last year.
What a disappointment this movie was. The worst part is that it didn’t have to be. The scenes with Big Man Japan taking on some of the craziest kaiju yet created (rivaling some of Spectreman’s and Zone Fighter’s most insane opponents) were good, wacky fun. (Not enough buildings smashed for my taste, though.) Upon introduction to each monster we get a brief educational file explaining their attributes and habits. The monsters, as well as BMJ, are all CGI, and generally look it, but not in an overly obtrusive way. There are some great moments where BMJ’s face looks real indeed. The designs were quite fun, with the Leaping Monster and the unnamed, demonic fetus-looking monster being my favorites. (If you watch Scare Tactics, think of the midget playing the Devil’s Son, make his head as big as his body, and you’ll be pretty much there.) The last five or so minutes, featuring faux members of the Ultra family, is friggin’ hilarious and would make a great short film.
Too bad about the rest of the movie. Set up in a documentary style, the vast majority of the movie is spent in following around Sato as he speaks to the off-camera interviewer. We also get bits with his ratings-obsessed, money-skimming agent; his estranged wife; his daughter (another funny moment has her face obscured and her voice changed, as her mother doesn’t want her associated with her father); military staff involved in BMJ’s work; and random citizens who watch the televised monster battles and generally only enjoy them when BMJ gets his ass kicked. There’s a great idea here (like Watchmen and The Incredibles) about a hero being despised and abused by the people he’s trying to save, rejected even by those he loves, constantly screwed over by his agent, and carrying on his mission with resigned defeatism. Unfortunately, these segments, which make up the bulk of the nearly 2-hour movie, are DULL. The conversations are generally uninteresting, most people speak in a monotone, and we often go through 15-20 minutes of interviews just to get two minutes of monster stuff. The history of BMJ’s family (turns out he’s the sixth one to be blessed/cursed with this duty) is pretty interesting; his grandfather was beloved and celebrated by the country, and his father would’ve been too if he hadn’t accidentally fried himself in an attempt to increase his size even further. Mostly, though, it’s just Sato sitting around and talking about his life. It does manage to capture the dullness and misery of his everyday life very well, but that’s not very compelling viewing.
Several people fled the theater during this, and most of those who soldiered through no doubt delighted Chris Holland with their moanings and complaints. I suffered in silence, refusing to give him the satisfaction, the cruel bastard.
This year’s dinner spot for most of us was L&L’s Hawaiian BBQ (once again Dr. Freex and a couple others went off to do their own thing). I had recalled Mr. Petersen mentioning a Korean BBQ joint in the area a while back, but we didn’t go there, alas (unless he meant this place and I misunderstood). Still, this wasn’t too bad. The seafood was crispy not soggy, and the BBQ beef, while having an oddly earthy taste, was just about the most tender cut of meat I’d ever sunk my canines into. Gooooood. Excellent kimchi too. It was kind of fun seeing the faces of the workers as this crowd of about 30 came into their place of business; must’ve been a record crowd. I’m sure they appreciated the full tills at the end of the day, though.
Mary had apparently not gotten bored with me yet, so she sat with me and we chatted about our lives and such. I was also accosted by Mr. Begg as I waited to place my order, saying he was impressed with my score on the trivia contest. We compared notes on what we’d missed (both of us had missed Dagon, and both of us had seen it to boot), revealing that all-too-common affliction of the terminally nerdy—it wasn’t the 20-plus we’d gotten right, it was the couple we’d missed that we obsessed over. (A lot of those present suffered from the same problem.)
[*Editor Ken: As I recall, this took the form of me yelling "You bastard!! I hope you die!!" Not that I was bitter or anything.]
And with that, we returned to the screening room to continue the funâ€¦
Mystics in Bali
Before dinner, Mr. Petersen had announced three of the four upcoming movies, although he wouldn’t name the traditional “T-Rex” movie for fear of driving people away before it came on. (I briefly hoped it would be Attack of the Supermonsters, but realized it’s not THAT bad. There can only be so many movies with T-Rexes in them, though, so I anticipate the years when this and Future War get their time to shine.) He said this was next. OH MAN. I’ve been wanting to see this since Dr. Freex reviewed it. I was so excitedâ€¦
â€¦and then it turned our DVD player couldn’t play Region 2.
People briefly considered running off to get their own DVD players, but Dr. Freex had a back-up movie with him. As it turned out, it was ALSO a movie I’d been wanting to see since Dr. Freex reviewed itâ€¦
Diana “Sugar” Hill loses her fiance when he’s (unconvincingly) beaten to death by thugs at the behest of a sleazy white guy wanting to buy the club. She turns to her ancient grandmother for help, demanding revenge and wanting to use voodoo to do it. The grandmother summons up Baron Samedi, who in turn calls forth a small army of zombies to assist Sugar in her quest for vengeance. One by one, the bad guys fall to various voodoo-related shenanigans. Will they figure out what’s happening before they’re all dead? Does the Pope crap in the woods?
This is a really fun movie. Although dismemberment by zombie is the most common death for the bad guys, we also get people compelled to kill themselves, are fed to hungry hogs (although, to be fair, the zombies toss him in the pen), and…wellâ€¦death by quicksand. This seems out of place until you remember that, since the movie’s set near the bayou, someone was pretty much required by law to drown in it at some point. Not much blood or gore; most of the really nasty deaths are described to us (like the first victim being scattered in pieces all over the place). The zombies are some of the neatest ones put on film. Their bulging, metallic eyes (which look like BBs at long distance) are an odd choice, but their pale skin, liberal coating of cobwebs, and tendency to smile as they go about their bloody business are very effective. Equally frightening are the ’70s clothes on display throughout. Seriously, what was up with the ’70s?
Even more effective, though, is the guy playing Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley). Several of us proclaimed that we’d be turning to Voudon on the chance of hanging with this guy. Seriously, I don’t think anyone watching this movie can not be delighted with the performance. He’s boisterous, a little hammy, quite funny, and utterly charming. He keeps popping up in various guises to help out Sugar. For example, at one point he’s disguised as a bartender, and tells one of the victims he should try his specialty drink, on the house…”It’s a zombie!” He manages to sell this well enough that more people actually laughed than groaned. That’s some screen presence right there. I would totally have a zombie with this Baron Samedi.
Marki Bey is perfectly serviceable as the lead, but for the most part doesn’t stand out. To be fair, though, it’d be hard to hold your own against the Baron Samedi guy. I liked her all right. She looks pretty hot in her “killing bodysuit,” which she dons when it’s time to whack another goon. Oddly, every time she kills someone, her hair goes from long, wavy and copper-colored to a big black afro. I guess she’s getting in touch with her roots or something, going back to the old ways? The woman playing the bad guy’s moll is memorable, but not necessarily in a good way. Her accent and attitude are pretty annoying. Her habit of wearing ridiculously revealing tops was appreciated, though. I have a feeling Baron Samedi’s gonna be sick of her in 2 days and regret carrying her off at the end. Unless he zombiefies her so she can’t talk anymore. The character of “Fabulous” is interesting, in that he’s the only black man working for the main baddie, and is more or less treated with contempt. He obviously dislikes it but accepts it as a way to get ahead, no doubt hoping to work up the ladder (which I doubt would happen even if they didn’t all get whacked). Before he dies, he gets a massage from a couple of zombies, which I believe is a first. He’s also played by Charles Robinson, aka “Mac” from Night Court. Finally, main baddie Morgan is played by Robert Quarry, aka Count Yorga, aka BIEDERBECK~! from inferior sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again. No one else is worth much of a mention; they’re mostly there to die.
It’s nice to see this spin on zombies; it harks back to the original movie zombies, although they’re used to far more sinister purpose than usual, and seem autonomous enough to enjoy murder. As the good Baron says, “Put them to EVIL use! It is all they know or want!” (See what I mean? How bad is this cat?) I definitely recommend it.
Oh, and a black cat figures into Morgan’s death. (By this point we were eagerly anticipating the cats and cheered ridiculously loudly when one popped up.)
A military cargo transport lands at an airport without any communication to the tower, prompting those on the ground to send armed soldiers out to meet it. It lands, and from it spills a gang of men with natty sports coats, various sharp implements, and hideous brown gunk caked all over their faces. Seemingly impervious to harm, they hack down the soldiers and proceed to drink their blood. The contagion can be spread to victims, so their numbers rise, civilization is doomed, yadda yadda you know the drill.
The “zombies” in this movie are technically alive; they were hit with massive amounts of radiation, which contrary to what I know about radiation exposure resulted in damage to their blood (hence their need to replenish it with blood from others), imperviousness to pain and damage, and burnt grits coating their faces. However, the monsters in this movie are pretty much zombies: they kill and feed on the living, nothing short of massive damage to the brain can stop them, and their victims join their ranks. I can only guess the victims have to be alive when they feed, because their numbers climb very slowly in relation to the body count. Most of the time they kill their victims, then start to feed after they’re dead, so this is the only thing that makes sense. (Thank you, Ken’s Rule of Plot Holes.) Since they’re alive, that means they can run as fast as normal humans, think, make plans, ambush victims, and so on, so they’re actually precursors to the superior monsters in 28 Days Later. Which kind of makes my brain unhappy, but anyway.
The movie, for an Italian zombie movie, is surprisingly low on gore. Oh, there’s plenty of stage blood and knives drawing red lines on people’s necks, but that’s small potatoes for these sorts of movies. I guess they saved their money for the flashes of grue: an eyeball removal, some zombie heads blown apart, and the lowlight, a woman’s breast being cut off. This should be in the dictionary next to the word “gratuitous.” Speaking of which, two or three women doff their tops.
Occasionally we get flashes of insane genius. The protagonist, who’s a television journalist, twice throws an empty gun at a zombie, and it actually works once, knocking the zombie to the ground. I can’t recall seeing that work before, even briefly. The comedy highlight is where he wraps a towel or blanket around a zombie’s head and uses it to toss them aside so he can get to his car. It’s like he’s some kind of crazy matador. My favorite part is when a few zombies bust into an operating room during surgery, and without batting an eye the head surgeon flips his grip on his scalpel and whips it at a zombie. Sadly, it hits the zombie in the shoulder, so he’s quite able to pull it out and use it on the surgeon. If this surgeon/ninja had been the hero of the movie, it would have been one of the greatest things produced by man; right up there with the kung-fu priest from Brain Dead aka Dead Alive. Can’t you just seem him–tossing scalpels into heads, garroting zombies with IV tubes, jumping off rooftops and driving his clipboard into their spinesâ€¦
OK, I need to lay off the Tenchu: Shadow Assassins.
And that’s about it for the good stuff. Oh, there was a briefly-seen cat at one point in someone’s yard. NOW that’s it for the good stuff.
The plot’s been done before, the cinematography’s nice but not particularly noticeable, and the dialogue’s pretty weak tea. The acting’s pretty much bad all around (might’ve been better if Mel Ferrer had had more to do). Worse, the characters, especially the lead, are morons. People wander around alone in the dark after the invasion has begun. A woman finds a bloody knife in a clay bust she’s working on. Her reaction is to basically shrug and get back to work! I’d have been in another country as soon as possible after that, but then that’s why I’m not an actor in Italian zombie movies. Even after the characters figure out they have to aim for the head, no one does until the very end, where the freakin’ journalist outdoes the trained soldiers and starts poppin’ zombie heads like zits in a Stridex commercial.
Despite this display of intelligence, the protagonist’s mostly as stupid as everyone else. This is highlighted when he decides to immolate a few zombies with a Molotov cocktailâ€¦even though they’re standing right by his car. The car that can carry them away from the zombies. Brilliant work, Holmes. None of this would have happened if he’d just pumped the gas they needed and left, instead of wandering around the gas station for minutes on end and getting trapped in a little work shed. (At least we get a nice, ridiculously big explosion from this—Atomic Molotov cocktail!—although it’s hampered by the obvious mannequins placed around it as it goes up.) And heâ€¦
Well, I actually don’t know if I should spoil his biggest idiocy, which comes during the final moments. The end of this movie, see, is one of the most atrocious things you will EVER witness. It is truly a horror of Lovecraftian proportions, tearing at the sanity and blasting all reason; and I would hate to rob you of experiencing it. Mostly because misery loves company. I can say that the main character apparently has zero recall. This would substantiate the “He’s a moron” theory, admittedly.
Having seen this movie before, I had already dealt with the blows the ending deals to your mind and spirit. Many in attendance had not. It was in these moments, listening to my fellows crying out in agony and rage, and for once not joining with them, that I finally understood Chris Holland’s constant attempts to hurt us. For a moment, I followed in his sulfurous footsteps, and I felt the wicked joy that comes when people are suffering something you yourself had once suffered. It is, indeed, like dining upon the finest of confections, and I fear I’ve acquired a taste for it…
Cat Women on the Moon
This was to be next, but a look at the clock revealed we were already running pretty late. With little regret we abandoned this movie (although it obviously would’ve kept up with the theme). I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard it’s pretty bad. I imagine I’ll find out how bad next T-Fest.
In an alternate world/future/some damn thing, dinosaurs have been brought back to life as rubbery, anthropomorphic critters that crack bad jokes. Yet another billionaire with a god complex (or maybe this is a Noah complex) wants to recreate the Earth as he sees fit, by launching a missile that will usher in a new ice age; after this ends, he and his chosen associates and animals will come out of cryogenic hibernation and repopulate. No, really. A cyborg and a fast-talking T-Rex must put aside their differences to stop him. I swear. (Actually, we all swore. A lot.)
Well, no wonder Mr. Petersen wouldn’t name it beforehand. I caught a small part of this once and decided I didn’t have the energy to deal with it. Luckily I drew strength from my assembled brethren, and prepared myself.
Sadly, it didn’t help much.
It’s been said by many that a bad comedy is just about the worst thing in the movie world. This certainly didn’t do anything to assuage that notion. The cyborg cop’s played by Whoopi Goldberg. She can be funny, but as it turns out she wasn’t trying too hard here.* Not that I blame her. The dinosaurs were all done by the guys who did them for the Dinosaurs sitcom years ago, so they don’t look too bad. I like that they had various species of them running around, including some that not everyone would recognize. That’s really the only compliment I can give this movie. Well, Martin Landau’s kid Juliet looks damn good in her little red power dress. OK, I’m done being nice now.
*Someone with a handy laptop did a little research and said she’d actually tried to get out of this movie, but had her pay increased to $2 million, after which she decided to grin and bear it. We discussed who’d made the better choice: Whoopi, for taking a nice payday to star in a career-killer (this), or Kim Basinger, who broke a contract to avoid a career-killer (Boxing Helena). I go with Whoopi; at least she got paid.
The humor is juvenile and terrible. It’s a PG kiddie movie, and we know how Hollywood tends to handle thoseâ€“bad breath jokes, blatant pratfalls, etc. The plot is stupid and completely unbelievable; the acting is nothing special; and the bad guys aren’t threatening at all. Between the billionaire who looks like Top Dollar’s wussier brother, the mad scientist whose costume would be really good if an 8-year-old put it together for Hallowe’en, and the henchmen that look like the result of some Jawas and Swamp Thing (or Man-Thing) falling into the Brundlefly machineâ€¦it just leaves you empty inside. Where’s Darth Vader or Cruella de Ville when you need them? Hell, the Queen of Hearts and her deck o’ jokers could take these punks. I suppose it looks nice enough, but it’s totally a “dead rat in Lucite” type of thing.
We spent the first part of the movie mocking the running jokes (“Gee, I hope he hits something with his tail again! I can’t get enough of that!”) and the second detailing which movies were better than this one, as it became obvious that they were putting little nods to much better movies in it. ALWAYS a good idea. For example, a scene reminds you of, say, Alien, so you remark, “You know, Alien was a better movie than this.” Then someone else would reply, “Inseminoid was a better movie than this.” Simple! Anyway, this carried on until the very end, where they rip off Casablanca. Chad R. commented that Casablanca was better than this movie. He then shot from his chair and screamed, “FUCK YOU MOVIE!!!” The movie totally broke him, man. It was intense. And hilarious. (Don’t worry, he’s lovely now.)
To top it off, the movie DID NOT GIVE US A CAT. However, there was a tiger at one point, which I guess technically counts. I’m inclined not to count it though ’cause this movie sucks hard and I hate it.
And on that note, the 2009 T-Fest extravaganza came to a close. We filed out to the parking lot, chatting all the while. I made my good-byes to those I could (some, like Mary, having lit out like a cat with a burning tail chasing a catnip delivery truck) and made the drive home.
As always, tips of the imaginary hat to Mr. Petersen, Mr. Begg, Dr.Freex, Mr. Holland, and everyone else who made this possible. It’s one of my most anticipated events each year, even knowing Mr. Holland’s going to bring the pain.
Speaking of which, there’s actually two strong contenders for this year’s Agonizer. Theodore Rex is straight-up bad, through and through; just unrelentingly terrible. I could see an argument for Big Man Japan being more painful, as it would briefly give us entertainment before again smashing our hopes and laughter with drudgery. However, a little bit of good trumps no good, so I have to give it to Theodore and Whoopi. I’m sure the debate will rage for, oh, minutes on this. They’re both pretty evenly matched with last year’s Samurai Cop in terms of hurting, but Funky Forest is still the king of the hill. I’m sure there’ll be no debate on this.
My special thanks to Lawyer Chris and GalaxyJane, for being my movie buddies this year (aka being forced to sit next to me). Chris, I hope you get to a point where you’re yelling jokes with the rest of us, because you are damn funny, and everyone should have a chance to appreciate it. Mary, you were a delightful partner in crime, and I hope you’re able to make it this way again in the future.
Stephanieâ€“I hope we can get you to hang with us more next time! Missed ya!
Chad R., Guy, Kirk, Patty, and everyone elseâ€“you’re all what makes it such a blast. I hope to see you all next year, and if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll finally see some of you at next year’s B-Fest.
Sweet Jesus Does it Ever End?
OK, this is reaching Oscar acceptance speech proportions here. I need to bring this to a close.
If you made it this far, congratulations, thank you, and SUCKERS!!!
Seriously, I hope you didn’t find yourself too disappointed if you read this whole damn thing. And don’t worry if you didn’t read it allâ€“hell, I wrote it and I don’t know half of what it says.
Excelsior, auf wiedersehen, good-night, and all that jazz.
The Rev. D.D.
July 27, 2009