I get the strangest feeling I’ve seen this before – or maybe that’s just some thing in the whole Crown International Pictures style? There’ve been a LOT of Satanic Cult films here…not that I’m complaining!
From IMDB : “A coven of devil-worshiping monks living in New York City search for victims for their sacrificial ceremonies.”
Like most of these movies, it’s a simple concept, drawn out to entertain a feature length. While we get some interesting kills along the way, infused with a hefty dose of Catholic iconography and mysticism, you can tell they pretty much spent the bulk of their budget at teh very beginning of the movie and the very end with glimpses of the demon they serve and some well done gore shots that close the film. It’s forgettable fun, and I can see myself revisiting this in the future.
As Maddie has grown, we’ve adjusted and adapted that Star Sapphire suit – my favorite though, was the Iron Sapphire!
Focus on Black Cobra
I spent some time last year exploring Blaxploitation cinema… While my intent was really to just catch up on the shaft films, I stumbled onto the black Cobra movies… I’m a big fan of Fred Williams in in general, and this seemed like it might be a fun series.
The point of the title is that this is supposed to be a rip-off of Sylvester Stallone’s “Cobra” I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never actually seen the film, but from what I can see it’s a standard, by the numbers action film – with Williamson as the loose cannon cop. There is nothing special here, but it’s great fun to watch Williamson chomp his cigar and blast his way through the film. The occasional martial arts seem weird, I suppose somewhere in the back of my mind I knew he had training but it feels in incongruent as his character takes out the drug ring…
Standard for the time, but I still enjoy it. I’m not sure how this thing warranted a sequel, much less two!
Maybe it’s time to check them out.
If you’ve never done it, check out McLeod’s bibliography. This man has inked a staggering number of books…and more than a few Superman ones!
This one was exciting because it was a mail request that came back quick when I really didn’t know if it was going to come back at all! She’s one of the survivors of Freddy’s Dead – the last of the main string of Nightmare on Elm Street films!
Man, what can I say about Phantasm 2 that hasn’t already been said? (in great part by myself already?) This film is unjustly lambasted I think, partially because Michael Baldwin is not back in the lead role and The plot is perhaps a bit more straightforward. They say this lacks the dream like quality that the original hand. I’m not so sure about that, I think there’s plenty of surreal imagery, though it’s ratcheted up a couple notches. This is the sequel with the most money behind it, and it shows. Every cent is on screen, with gore and very Rick Baker sensibilities. The Tall man is back as well, and he is possibly at his most imposing here. He’s always been A fascinating villain and managed to capture my imagination in the commercials I watched for this movie as a child. The balls are back as well, with a little bit of variety at it again.It’s still not as prominent as the marketing might suggest, but the creepy atmosphere of the mortuary, the dwarves and the graver and everything that comes with phantasm – it all makes up for it.
Phantasm 2 was important, because a lot of the tropes that we associate with the series come into play here – the four barrel shot gun, the road trip aspect – even the fact that Reggie is really the star of this series… It all comes into focus here and it sets us up for the rest of this run. Phantasm 2 maybe my favourite of all these movies, it’s certainly the gate way where this series got it’s hooks into me… And it shows us a glimpse of what done Coscarelli could really do if he had a budget!
Children of the Corn : Runaway
I’ve got to admit, this one feels different.
It starts off with a documentary feel, grainy black-and-white footage that catches us up on the mythology this film builds on – not necessarily the mythology of the series, just the history specific to this film.
You can tell by the cinematography the John Gulager is taking this seriously – it’s shot like a drama, without trendy flair or slick editing. We have an outcast in the middle of nowhere, the titular runaway who’s having visions, some washed out flashbacks, a few of which are walking daydreams. We get some acceptable gore in these shots, and it’s enough to make me wonder what’s going on, keeping us off-balance and freaked out, though not enough to really build up a sense of dread. This time around our small town doesn’t feel like a back lot set – it feels dusty and lived in. It’s underused though. The town is just backdrop for the story instead of giving off that sort of alien, isolated creepy factor that drives so many of these films. Our heroine brings a Sarah Connor kind of vibe, wandering as she does with her teenage son. As she starts to make good at the local garage, the Corn children begin thier murderous work.
I dig this one, and it’s safe to say that it’s one of the good entries with a reasonably original premise and solid film making. I do however miss the religious horror aspect – it’s mentioned in passing, but doesn’t really affect the film (until perhaps the last thrity seconds) and its loss is keenly felt. That said, the ending does set us up for a very religious horror kind of sequel. I wouldn’t however, count on Dimension coming through with that – there’s no continuity or guiding vision with these films, though if John Gulager were so inclined to pick up the reins and guide things in a direction, this is certainly a good place to kick that off.
All in all, it’s cleverly made, with one twist that is fairly obvious, but a second one thrown in towards the end that I completely didn’t see coming. It comes off as more a spin-off then a proper sequel, and that may be the best thing for this franchise.
Children of the Corn : Genesis
*sigh*. Dimension Extreme. The sight of that logo on the DVD for Children of the Corn : Genesis bodes poorly for this entry. Dimension extreme is basically where they dump throwaway movies that they are making just to retain a license – and within the first five minutes that certainly seems to be the case here. (note to our future filmmakers – to make a children of the corn film… You need more than just kids and some pieces of corn . After watching nine of these, it’s obvious that this is something you guys don’t understand).
After the thoughtfull remake in 2009 this one seems to snap right back to the “anything goes” slasher mode – just throw some corn or country sacks in there and it’ll be fine! I’m pretty sure if I’d been following these as they were being made (rather than just me marathoning the whole lot of them) that I would be pissed at getting this entry next. At least it’s only 80 minutes – and some of that has got to be credits!
Okay, let’s do this.
Billy Drago is looking OLD in this one. He appears to be acting either in a studio backlot or very possibly just somebody’s backyard. This frustrates me – especially when the last film reminded us just how well these films work but only when they’ve got the backdrop of a small town. Drago’s gravitas is undermined by all the beautiful young people acting around him in this film – once again, to clean and too pretty for the subject matter.
About 30 minutes in somebody mistakes this for being a Hellraiser film – which isn’t terribly surprisingly since we’ve about abandoned anything really recognizable as children of the corn already anyhow.
We have an attractive couple, straight off the set of the latest CW show, land in the middle of corn children country, and slasher hijinks ensue. Occasionally unseen supernatural forces move things and we get a few brief bad dreams.
It’s possibly the weakest of the entire series and miserable way to end it – with a whimper, not even a yawn. Skip this one, and will hope that the next one dimension (the extreme imprint is gone now) release will be better. After all, it’s almost license renewal time.
Madmen of Mandoras
I think these guys are trying to pull a fast one on me! I’ve seen this movie before haven’t I? This is obviously “They Saved Hitler’s Brain”!
Well… not exactly. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
From IMDB : “At the end of World War II, Nazi officials spirited the living head of Adolf Hitler out of Germany to a hiding place in the South American country of Mandoras, in order to revive the Third Reich at a later date. By the 1960s these men believed the time had come, so they kidnap a top scientist in order to force him to help keep Hitler alive. Several intelligence agencies find out about the plot and send agents to stop it.”
Here’s the thing, I HAVE seen They Saved hitler’s Brain…but that’s actually a longer movie. Extra footage was shot so they could release it under that name. THIS film; Madmen of Mandoras, is actually the original. There’s less to see here, and quite frankly, that’s a blessing. See, the extra footage was shot over a decade later- and it shows. Radically diffrent haristyles of the late sixties as opposed to the early 50’s, diffrent clothing fasions, diffrent cars – there’s no attempt made to hide the extra footage being fro ma diffrent era.
It’s baffling as well – this wierd detective kind of story that’s been grafted on to the movie clashes with the mad scientist intrigue. The styles are jarring against each other and it dosen’t help that the new “B” storyline is terrible. I have to say, the ending with the head melting is actually a little gorier and I do like it better, but that’s all that I like better.
Do youself a favor and stick with Madmen rather than They Saved – the shorter running time combined with the purity of the B film is far more satisfying.
The Ninth Gate
The ninth gate is really everything I love about cult films. We’ve got everything I could ask for, mystery, a Satanic order, adventure, and exotic locales, obsession and character. The film appeals to me in particular because of the bibliophile angle. I love all books, stories and if I’m at your house, you can be assured that at some point I’ve snuck away to look through your collection of books. This film understands that, and it understands exactly the sort of person I would be if I had the means these people do. Films like this, or like High Fidelity, or even the Fast and the Furious – movies that explore collections that have been obsessively accumulated and the people who curate them always fascinate me – it makes me wish I had that kind of passion and singular vision these people do
I love how intelligently written it is, and how it celebrates literacy and research. These characters are smart people, well read, you know what you’re talking about, and many are experts in their field.
The story of course is about the search for a very rare book, the nine gates – which supposedly holds the secret to immortality. It features Johnny Depp in one of his better roles. Mind you, I enjoy Captain Jack and I am a fan of his work with Tim Burton, but this is something completely different – a character with depth and smarm and purpose. It’s not a quirky character, and that in fact makes it a stretch – I love Depp in this.
It’s a film you may have overlooked because quite frankly, it’s as common as dirt – you’ll see it on every shelf in every video store and frequently on Netflix. Seriously, sit down and give this a watch.
Jim, the Worlds Greatest
That’s right. I finally found a copy.
The “teen movie” really came into its own in the 80s with the John Hughes series. Jim the worlds greatest predates that. It’s a sort of film that lays the groundwork for what the teen movie would become. Don Coscarelli’s touch really shows through in this movie with his signature dreamlike quality, tracking a non-linear path through the story. In this way you can actually tell this is from the same director that made Phantasm. Such themes are only reinforced by the fact that it’s a story of an older brother watching out for his younger brother… Indeed the entire thrust of the film is an older brother, probably a senior in high school who is already taking on the responsibilities that really should belong to the delinquent father of this piece.
Jim World’s Greatest also has a sort of meandering slice of life quality to it… There’s no real narrative or story here, there’s just life as we drift from set piece to set piece. It’s much the same technique he would employ in his next film; Kenny and Company. Just drifting, at least, until the third act – when things get serious.
I didn’t expect this to be a comedy, but I’ll admit I didn’t expect it to get as intense as it did either. Angus Scrimm gives a performance of a lifetime here, grim and depressing as the out-of-work father who occasionally gets drunk and beats his kids. We really only get to know the present-day father, the failure… and we know it wasn’t always like this. We get glimpses of him during happier days trough flashbacks – it’s an impressive juxtaposition that Scrimm delivers brilliantly.
Reggie Banister (who apparently never had hair on top) shows up as well, giving one of the most lunatic and wacky performances I’ve ever seen him do. It’s a little more than a cameo as a crashed wind rider, but man it’s always nice to see a familiar face.
In the end, it’s quite an emotional film – and it really shows Coscarelli’s skill. It almost makes me sad that he transitioned into low-budget and horror, and yet this is the kind of film that was ideally suited for the 1970s, and that era would not last forever. It genuinely makes me wonder though, what Coscarelli would do with such material today. I’m not sure that he could even get it made – the era of emotional low-budget dramas in the theater seems to have passed, and thanks to Coscarelli’s negative experiences during his brief sojourn in to the studio system, he’s been jaded enough to never venture there again.
There is a definite evolution present here, a direct line from Jim the worlds greatest, through Kenny and Company, directly leading into Phantasm. Seriously, THAT’s the trilogy. You can see Coscarelli and his sensibilities develop while staying very true to the concepts that intrigued him, and it only reinforces my belief in how underrated this filmmaker is.
Lake Effect Comic Con 2018
Lake Effect isn’t what it used to be. This was one of my favorite shows for awhile, because of the charm of having a free comic con at a movie theater, as well as the vast array of deals all over the place and marvelous programming. I’m glad the show has grown, and really needed to move – but since heading over to the hotel and transitioning into that sort of con, it’s identity has changed a great deal.
Gone are the amazing deals and cheap finds. As emphasis has moved off of programming, panels and screenings have vanished more and more until the event really has begun to resemble a Jeff Harper show… that is to say, a giant swap meet that you pay admission for.
There’s still a fun vibe here, it attracts cosplayers because of the costume contest and there’s friends to meet. My buddy Rhonda and I hung out with Dirk Manning a little bit, and chatted up several other folks we saw wondering around. Free stuff was in abundance this year too, at every door there seemed to be a person stationed with a bag of pins to handout (poor Rhonda spent all day adding buttons to my Comicon backpack) and on the flyer table full of freebies there were Green Lantern batteries for Heroclix! I was so excited to finally grab one of these! One person walked up to me and handed over a button with Barry Allen’s lightning bolt insignia on it, and informed me I’d been Flashed.
To my great delight, my buddy Jim won the costume contest for his Dr Forster (from mystery science theatre 3000) costume. There were a lot of great outfits this year and it seems like the convention is starting to fill up again. Attendance was down last couple of years but this time around there seemed to be more people walking around and that’s good… I wasn’t sure how that would pan out considering there are a lot of folks pissed about the entrance fee increasing this year to 8 dollars for such a small show.
I’ve got a lot of affection for Lake Effect, but I may be skipping it next year. There’s still fun to be had here, but I’m not a big fan of what it’s becoming. We’ll see what happens in 2019.