Yeah. This happened.
You know what? I’m just going to go hide now.
Unlike his previous family oriented films, Roller Gator is pure Donald Jackson production. You can feel the difference with Mark Williams not being on this project. It’s around this time that Scott Shaw’s influence is creeping in, but there’s more Jackson here than anyone else.
Roller Gator starts off with Joe Estevez yelling at people at a carnival. It may actually be the perfect metaphor for Donald Jackson films.
We cut to P.J. Smith, played by Sandra Shuker (who would go on to make no other movie ever) in a bikini at the beach being spied and by the local beach ninja. I’m not entirely certain how the ninja is supposed to blend in at the beach in broad daylight but he manages to do a pretty good job.
From afar inside a cave, a squeaky voice cries out “Hey somebody!”. Bikini girl tentatively searches, exploring the cave for the source of the voice. It simultaneously guides and taunts her – “this way! ““You’re getting warmer! “. It’s almost as if the voice belongs to the most annoying monster ever… and you know what? It does. The Roller Gator is revealed to be a small purple alligator hand puppet.
“You can talk!”
“So what, so can Barney!”
That’s right, in the first 10 minutes Rollergator has managed to out weird “Roller Blade” and all the “Hell comes to Frogtown” sequels.
The ninja is there to try and find the Rollergator – and according to Rollergator the ninja knows kung fu, tae kwon do, and Chef boy Are Dee. P.J. sneaks Rollergator away crossing overpass bridge above the 170 freeway (there’s Jackson’s stock bridge!) with her rollerblades. The ninja follows them on a skateboard.
They arrive back at the carnival which seems like an odd destination to take your talking alligator to – especially since Joe Estevez and his ponytail are complaining about how the carnival is about to go under. Beach ninja feels quite at home at the carnival.
“I don’t believe it! a talking alligator!”
“I don’t believe it, a walking Nimrod!”
Our baby gator nearly falls into the hands of the greedy carnival owner, but is able to escape with P.J. when the carnival owner suffers what appears to be a heart attack. They hide in a hidden part of the carnival and Rollergator explains that all he wants is to go back and find its owner… Swamp farmer Conrad Brooks, of Ed Wood fame.
Baby gator then launches into his best impressions of various movie stars.
Elsewhere, Conrad searches for his lost alligator. Baby gator and his girl decide they better go search too, so she tosses him a backpack and puts her rollerblades on and they head out. The carnival owner sends out the ninja, and a karate instructor after poor baby Gator.
Occasionally, Baby Gator raps.
They trick the ninja into stealing a decoy backpack full of vegetables. Ninjas hate vegetables. They then steal a baby carriage from another lady on rollerblades (did she escape from the Wheelzone of Jackson’s Roller Blade? Or was everyone in 1996 just wearing rollerblades all the time?), and make their way down because way with Roller gator now cozily riding in the carriage.
It really only gets stranger from here. There’s a karate instructor who trains P.J. in some martial arts. There’s also a slingshot skater girl (actually named “Slingshot”) who teams up with them as P.J.’s sometimes sidekick to save Baby Gator and get him back to Conrad Brooks. Baby Gator and Conrad would return in Toad Warrior (Hell Comes to Frogtown part three)
This was one of Jackson’s final attempts at hitting the family video market (and reminds me a lot of Graydon Clark would attempt with Stargames in 1998). It’s a simpler stroy than his previous outings, with a touch of zen filmmaking fluttering around it, and it shows. Believe it or not, there’s actually a Rifftrax version of this. If you’re going to watch this film, get it. It’s the absolute best way to experience this.
I made this Spidy background a while back – it’s about time I got my Doc Ock in it!
I really like this version of Krypton, very red and yet still a bit of Donner influence. And the photographer got the lighting JUST right….
Inspired by this shot from Weplcon!
The movie opens with little Billy seeing his parents murdered by a robber in a Santa suit (and man, they milk that kill for all it’s worth, rerunning that footage repeatedly). Interestingly, that opening kill is far more brutal than it was originally scripted as. The screenplay simply says Santa yanks open the car door. Ellie’s screams stop and he stands over her lifeless body. there’s no mention of him pulling her our, ripping the blouse and cutting her throat. This is curious considering ti’s the single most re-used piece of footage throughout the entire series.
Of course this all happens right after a visit with the most terrifying grandpa ever, who warns Billy about Santa punishing the wicked. The message is only reinforced at the catholic orphanage (They sure did know how to build ugly buildings in the 70’s an 80’s) he finds himself in as he suffers bad flashbacks. Still, when we flash forward 10 years later to his job at a toy store, everything seems to be alright. He seems well adjusted.
I got to admit, I’m digging the toy store he works at, spotting familiar boxes. Things start to go wrong right after the Christmas banner goes up though, and the flashbacks return.
And then, the store owner asks him to fill in for Santa. Because this won’t end badly at all will it? I’m not sure how the parents don’t notice their kids are terrified by the dire Santa, but the nun from the orphanage realizes just how bad a scene this is.
The killing starts around forty minuets in and it turns into an earnest slasher.Don’t let the early kills fool you, the murders get more outrageous as we go on.
It’s an odd slasher though, lacking a final girl or a defined set of victims. Our Santa killer is more of a wandering villain, popping targets of opportunity.
As Christmas thrillers go, this one has some chilling moments and a very grindhouse feel. It’s cheap but a good VHS throwback.
But does it really deserve 5 Sequels?
I never actually got to see Underground Entertainment when it was still in his incarnation as a television show, which makes me incredibly glad that Underground Entertainment : the movie exists.
This documentary chronicles the exploits of a couple of lunatic actor and filmmakers as they make a crazy B-movie based cable show, complete with clips and cameos. It shows how they managed to get exposure in the convention scene but most of all it’s just a marvelous slice of life. It captures that era of the 90s in genre and reminds me a lot of what it was like to live in that period.
Early days for Jim O’Rear, but you can tell this is someone who loves the genre and loves being a part of it and much of this show was his love letter to all things B-movie and psychotronic.
If you’re a fan of documentaries or of the underground horror scene in the 90s, this is one of those movies that you’re going to just sink right into and feel right at home. I know I did, that’s why It’s a high recommend.
I was hanging out at the Christmas party over at Carol and John’s when my buddy Jason cocked his head and asked me “Did you ever watch all five Silent Night Deadly Night movies?”. I strained to remember. I don’t think I even realized there WERE five of those things. He further blew my hair back by informing me that Mickey Rooney appears in on of the late entries.
I know I’ve seen the first one of these. It was years ago when I was trying to hit all the traditional Christmas Slashers; Christmas Evil, Black Christmas, ect. But I don’t remember exploring any further in the franchise. Moreover, since then, there’s been a remake to add to the pile. I’m intrigued now. So I hit the resale shops and collected a stack of VHS tapes. I really don’t know what to expect from this – slashers I think. 80’s gore I’m hoping.
We’ll find out together.
One of the great Spider-Man artist, and an incredibly nice guy too.
I’m assuming this is another kids comedy. You don’t always know, but Jackson IS using his real name in this film rather than his directorial pseudonym “Maximo T. Bird” and the cover art just screams Direct-to-video family film. It’s also an encouraging sign that Jackson is working off an actual script, penned by Mark Williams, a frequent collaborator of Jackson’s.
Baby Ghost starts off in a studio located inside a bland L.A. office building with Joe Estevez as a photographer trying to convince a petulant tweenie to smile for his photos. It’s weird to see Joe Estevez in a Jackson role where he is not the villain, but you can definitely tell he’s a good guy by the goofy demeanor. It’s reinforced by the fact that he wears a bow tie.
On the lookout for a vending machine, one of the kids runs afoul of the overzealous security guard played by James D. Whitworth and heads to the basement to hide. while cowering in the dark, she finds a wooden box that has been chained up and padlocked.Of course all children are natural lock picks, and she figures out the combination easily but leaves the box behind with the psycho security guard shows up again and chases her back into another part of the office building. We pan back to the abandoned box vibrating violently, about to release its contents.
Upstairs, Joe Estevez’s character is questioning his life choices. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if Estevez himself was doing the same thing after finding himself in another one of Donald Jackson’s films. Estevez calls a psychic hotline and the feminine vice on the other end identifies herself as being from “The Master of Light Institute”. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s used frequently in Jackson’s Rollerblade movies as well (Shared universe? Oh man, I think my brain just cramped). Part of the gag here is that the psychic is looking up the meaning of the cards in a book as she reads them over the phone. In someone else’s hands this would be hilarious but with Jackson’s direction, it falls unfortunately flat. Also, I can’t help but notice that we are back to filming in Jackson’s office for this set (a pretty common method he would employ to keep costs down). Things turn dire though, as her reading seems to portend negative adventures in Estavez’s future. Apparently she works in the same building and as her own run-ins with the psycho security guard.
It’s about this time we get our first glimpse of the baby ghost. It’s a green hand puppet made somewhat transparent with a high contrast dissolve overlay effect on the screen. I almost wonder if it’s actually the same puppet used in little lost city serpent and dressed with green moss. The face looks pretty much the same. Mark Williams worked on both films and his Hollywood background was largely in FX. He was even one of the creature effects crew in Aliens.
It’s a typical Jackson film puppet with very limited articulation and awkward movement. It giggles like a demented child and floods around the building, occasionally buzzing by people just enough to freak them out. It stops by the photographers studio to cut up his pictures with scissors and cause some general mischief, before he goes and chases the psychic through the halls of the building. She runs into Estevez , and the two meet face to face for the first time, discussing the merits of telephone tarot cards. The psychic pulls out one of her books so they can learn more about ghosts. They discover that the ghost cannot leave until it is banished or someone takes it out of its boundaries. This is obviously the exposition scene, because it goes on for ever. I can’t tell if they’re trying to be scared or comical. Estevez seems frightened, but the lighting is so flat that it does nothing for mood.
Did I mention the building manager is Conrad Brooks? He start’s to have his own close encounters with the ghost, though he’s convinced that it’s an alien rather than a ghost. It’s bizarre and amusing to hear him describe the plot of Plan Nine From Outer Space to the gung-ho security guard. As the talky exposition scene continues upstairs, we get periodic cuts to Brooks and the psycho security guard running from disembodied giggles.
In the basement, Estevez and the Psychic locate the box the ghost was trapped in, complete with instructions on how to capture him. The first try to lure the ghost out with a trail of donuts that leads back to the box. It almost works. Our little ghost is falling for the bait…..right up until the security guard and the Manager blunder in at exactly the wrong time and hilariously ruin the plan (well, hilariously in theory anyhow). The group resets the trap, this time luring the ghost down with a hand held video game. Apparently ghosts live video games because this tactic works and they trap him back into the box!
In all fairness, this film isn’t quite as mind boggling crazy as a lot of Jackson’s later efforts. It benefits from having a script to work off of instead of pure zen improv. However it still manages to be fairly weird and feels like it belongs on public access cable right after the local kid’s church show. It’s an okay idea that would benefit greatly from production values, acing and a MUCH BETTER PUPPET!
I wanted to try something diffrent with Pinhead – in particular, It would be nice to reduce that three hour makeup with some shortcuts. There’s a scene in Hellbound where Pinhead and the Female are dressed as surgeons. My mother brought me home a hospital gown from one of her visits to the doctor and I took it from there.
My normal model magic pins had been broken and lost – something i didn’t discover in time and the few I put on my face were more of the Q tips I use on the head. They stayed well enough since there weren’t many of them, but the surgeon mask helped hold that bottom row in place.
Wasteland welcomed pinhead.
Did any else know that there was an Asylum rip-off of the Statham reboot of Corman’s Death Race 2000 and that said rip-off featured the Insane Clown Posse? I sure didn’t, but if I have to be burdened with this knowledge, so do you.
Over gritty and filtered stock footage, we get voice over that it’s 2033. The president declared martial law and criminals have all been exiled to a burnt out, slightly urban area in the middle of nowhere called the red zone, ala “Escape from New York”.
It just so happens that inside the prison city, terrorists are making saran gas. Word leaks (there’s a kid in the red zone filming everything with an old camcorder somehow hooked up to wifi) and the governor has to find a solution. His solution is a death race inside the red zone, complete with a Secret mission – to kill the terrorist. He breaks it down to the racers – you get points for killing inmates, but you get the most points for killing the terrorist… Maybe even enough to win your freedom.
And also ICP is there.
The cars are largely uninspired, guns added to a sports car, a missiles added to a jeep, spikes on an average cars tires. ICP are really the only ones with a monster machine, an ice cream truck with a snowplow front, meatgrinder, guns and missiles. The cinematographer tries to make up for the cars lack of visual excitement by giving us tight frames of the more interesting areas; cockpits next to guns and details that are very visually interesting.
As the race begins, the other prisoners chase after the cars, attacking. Some get shot down, others get run over… But it’s usually a cut away with blood thrown onto the car from off screen. The budget doesn’t seem to have allowed for much in the way of stunt people and these cars are almost certainly all rented. Still, they manage some fairly ridiculous gore. Indeed, the gore level in this movie more horror film chunky as opposed to mere action movie blood. I assume that’s ICP’s influence.
The Asylum attempts to mimic the media blitz aspect of the Statham films, with their own news commentators constantly giving updates on the race it’s self. It’s not quite as slick with all the computer graphics and statistics of a big budget production. Instead of extreme sorts commentators, they come off looking more like your local evening news. As our racers fight their way through the red zone, these newscasters pop in periodically to explain a little bit of what’s going on – kind of a necessity considering the plot is a little bit more convoluted than strictly necessary (I’d have expected a little something more straightforward from this movie).
Interestingly enough, this is actually an ensemble piece. ICP gets a little more screen time than the others, much the way Captain Picard got a little more screen time then other characters when Star Trek was on TV, but there is actually something for everybody to do here. It’s a wise idea, because the clowns aren’t actors, and it shows. Then again, a lot of the people surrounding them aren’t much better, but instead of watching them struggle to carry a movie by themselves, all the actors together contribute to a pool of mediocrity. It’s a whole swirling bucket of suck where no one person stands out too much. If anything, the only reason ICP stands out at all is because they don’t quite belong in this world. The film leans far more heavily in the direction of being a Death Race movie rather than being a long ICP video and as a result, they kind of feel out of place. I realize they’re here for the star power, but it’s a strange match up. Their music is all over this film as well, and quite frankly it might of been better served with A heavier rock score.
All that said, it’s not as terrible as it sounds. Much to my surprise, it passes the watch test easily and is just loony enough to be fun instead of cringed worthy. Indeed, it’s still a better entry then Corman’s Death Race 2050 released around 2016, and is even superior to Death Race 3. If you’re a stickler for continuity like I am, I can actually fit this in, right before 2018’s Death Race : Beyond Anarchy, showing how the race got started up again and showcasing the increased governmental obsession with the “morality” of the prisons and the race. Death Racers is worth a look as a curiosity if nothing else.
For those keeping score BTW, the proper order for the Death Race films then is;
1. Death Race 2
2. Death Race 3
3. Death Race
4. Death Racers
5. Death Race : Beyond Anarchy
6. Death Race 2000
7. Death Race 2050
Wilde was giving these out as she signed my poster – trying to promote her book.
When I said wear a mask, I was thinking something less suspicious.
Dark Spirits takes place in a nice warm locale – I’m not sure exactly where, but it sure feels Eastern European. IMDB say Czech republic and Prague, and you can see they are making the most of the visual splendor of thier locale. It’s a good thing, because I recognize that font they used for thier credits and while the end logo does have a nice style to it, the familiar font and transitions make it look cheap. The locale counters that nicely. Once we’re introduced to our heroine, we are plunged into a nightmare sequence with the atmosphere heightened by surprisingly affective use of high contrast filters that desaturate. In the dream, she sees The death of her sister, and when she wakes she discovers that indeed, her sister is dead. She is called into an investigation where she finds circumstances wern’t exactly the same as in her dream, but is haunted none the less.
In the street from a distance she spots what she thinks is your sister – and in her apartment, small disturbances begin to happen, and shadowy figures abound.
The biggest problem here is that the film is paced like a European art film – a lot of talk, lots of coffee drunk out of teacups and a lot of build up. That’s fine except this isn’t a European art film, it’s a horror movie, and we need the pace to continue at a quicker clip to get us to that climactic final five minutes where everything pays off. If you catch this one…just keep your thumb on the fast forward button