Cannibal Ferox II (1985)

Cannibal Ferox II (1985)

A journey into the cannibal inferno

A small charter plane carrying a mixed group of people, including a dinosaur bone hunter, a college professor and his daughter, a Vietnam veteran and his drunk wife and a porn photographer and two of his stars, crash lands in a remote part of the Amazon jungle. Knowing that they were off course and that any rescue mission would be miles away, the group decides to trek through the jungle in the hope of reaching safety. They must battle cannibals, slave traders and all of the natural wonders of the jungle if they are to survive.

 

Nowhere near as nasty as any of it’s cannibal brothers, Cannibal Ferox II seems to be a cheap jungle adventure film with a shock-horror title thrown on to sell a few extra copies. I can’t say I had high hopes for this one simply for the fact that these cannibal films aren’t easy to watch, even for hardened veterans like myself. Cannibal Holocaust was probably the most genuinely disturbing film I’ve ever seen (in its uncut form – the butchered version released for sale in the UK is like watching Toy Story compared to the uncut version).

But like zombie films, there’s only so much you can do with cannibal and these Italian flicks share the same plot: a group of people fall foul of cannibals in the jungle and they get maimed, cooked and eaten in all manner of disturbing fashion. However Cannibal Ferox II forgets that it is supposed to feature cannibals and they make up only a small portion of the film. Those looking for a cannibal flick best turn away now because you’re going to be disappointed. If you want to watch a very cheesy but hugely entertaining schlock fest of bad acting, bad dubbing, bad special effects, absurd action scenes and lots of nudity and violence then you’ve come to the right place. But cannibals? Definitely not the focal point of the film.

Right from the start you can tell that this is going to be a little on the cheesy side. The fight between the bone hunter and two oiled-up muscle heads is hilarious – they’re the sort of guys who used to star in those equally ridiculous Italian Hercules films. He’s actually a pretty likeable character and at least there’s some attachment to the character and his lovable rogue charm. The other characters all get their own introductions and you can already sense who is going to survive and who isn’t. Apart from the two air-headed porn stars, the rest of the characters are all played with enough cartoon-like zest that it breaks the boundaries of bad acting to become absurdly silly in a good way. There’s the Vietnam vet who constantly overacts and always wants to do things the violent and aggressive way. There’s his drunken wife who you know isn’t going to make it because she’s too drunk and bitchy. There’s the sleazy porn photographer. And the good old daughter of the professor who graces us with many a naked full body shot. Suzane Carvalho is hot and the camera knows it (apparently she’s an Indy car racer now). What would a cannibal film be without the requisite ‘get the white females naked and in some native rituals’ scene?

Well the cannibals don’t really get much of a look-in to be honest. The jungle itself proves the most challenging obstacle that the group have to overcome. Crocodiles, leeches, piranhas, quick sand – you name it and the characters will be facing it. The film manages to keep a tight pace for most of its running time. There’s always one more character to kill off with each new peril faced. However towards the end of the film, there’s another sub plot thrown in about a group of slave traders who stumble upon the survivors and then enlist them into their workforce. The film was heading towards a decent climax at that point but it just tacks another fifteen minutes onto the film which wasn’t really needed. I’d rather have seen them come upon the cannibals a bit more because what you do see of the cannibals is pretty lousy to say the least.

This slave story really sucks the life out of the film and its purpose seems to be to have a few more explosions, a rape scene and then the token helicopter (a lot of these Italian cannibal/zombie films either start or end with a helicopter for some reason). And on one final note, this has absolutely nothing to do with the original Cannibal Ferox. It was simply tagged with the ‘II’ to try and get it distributed.

 

Cannibal Ferox II shouldn’t be mistaken for a true cannibal film. Yes it has got them in and yes they do get to eat the heart of one of the survivors. But this film is about sleaze and cheese and it serves both up in copious amounts. Low grade exploitation films don’t come much more entertaining than this. Unplug your brain and sit back and watch films how they were never meant to be!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

Monster from outerspace runs wild!

The first spaceship to Venus crash-lands off the coast of Sicily on its return trip but the crew have unknowingly brought an alien egg back with them that hatches and the small creature inside escapes. In no time at all it grows to enormous size and only asserts its physical presence when threatened, which naturally occurs when the military try to stop it from encroaching the city of Rome.

 

One of special effects legend Ray Harryhausen’s earlier films, 20 Million Miles to Earth would just be any other 50s ‘monster-on-the-loose’ science fiction B-movie if it wasn’t for the presence of his magic. The plot is nothing new if you’re familiar with these 50s films and the film runs like clockwork. In fact most of these 50s sci-fi films have no hidden meanings about atomic testing or space exploration, they’re simply special effects vehicles where a film has simply been constructed around set pieces. Harryhausen’s films are no exception and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone to argue against that. I don’t know of any other artist in Hollywood who has ever dwarfed the rest of the film in such a way as Harryhausen did. Audiences didn’t care for the director or the cast or the story – they’re simply playing second fiddle in these films. They were there to see the master at work and bring to life whatever creatures he had to.

20 Million Miles to Earth is bogged down with the same sort of wobbly scripts, laughable acting and sci-fi jargon that the rest of its 50s brethren were hindered by. Take away Harryhausen’s special effects and you’ve got a rather lacklustre affair which doesn’t really get going until the final third. There’s not an awful lot of interesting plot developments to keep the audience gripped until the creature finally shows itself. There’s cheesy 1950s love plots where you know the only female character will fall in love with the male scientist. Expect token scenes of the military talking about the creature. Recycled scenes of various scientists talking about the creature. Then there are scenes with both the military and scientists talking to each other about the creature. It’s a wonder the audience ever made it to the end of some of these films because they’re dull, talky affairs.

The acting is all square-jawed heroic nonsense. Characters are almost flawless and the way they react to situations is as if they have to deal with alien monsters every day of the week. Speaking of which, the Ymir, the Venusian alien creature, is one of Harryhausen’s most interesting creations, not least because you can see elements of some of his more famous monsters in the mannerisms of the creature (I can see the cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and the Kraken from Clash of the Titans to name but two). It’s these mannerisms and the way in which Harryhausen animates the creature, which makes it more like-like and believable than any of the human actors involved. There is something unique about it which makes you root for the creature – a real sense of humanity and life. He gave all of his creations little characteristics which make them stand head and shoulders above anything else. Marvel at the sight of the small creature hatching out of from its shell and then rubbing its eyes as it struggles to adjust itself to Earth’s atmosphere. Little touches like this make all of the difference. But of course, part of the reason for sympathising with the creature is that the human cast are so dull.

Not only does the creature come alive in glorious detail but it partakes in some impressive set pieces. There’s an engrossing fight between it and an elephant in the streets of Rome and the finale inside the Coliseum is outstanding for it’s time. It’s sort of an alien version of the finale of King Kong where a frightened creature climbs atop an infamous landmark in a futile attempt to stay alive but is shot down in cold blood by the humans below.

Unfortunately all of this happens too late in the film and although the monster is fleetingly glimpsed early on, it’s only the second half of the film in which it really springs to life. Before that time, be prepared to endure a never-ending assault of clichéd characters cheesy dialogue. In one of the film’s most laughable lines, the creature is standing on top of the Coliseum and the hero of the piece looks up and simply states ‘there he is’ as if no one had noticed the gigantic creature climbing on top of one of the world’s most iconic landmarks.

Originality doesn’t seem to be the order of the day for the script, both in dialogue and plot developments. The army runs out of ideas to defeat the monster after trying to blow it away with rudimentary weapons. Will cinematic armed forces ever learn to stop wasting their time with shells and projectile weapons when going up against aliens? Fifty-five years later and you’ve still got daft generals trying to take on extraterrestrial threats with pop guns and tanks!

 

20 Million Miles to Earth is a decent film for fans of this genre but nothing more as it’s too bogged down with dull exposition. Harryhausen’s special effects deserve better and thankfully he did with his next film – the eternally superb The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1953)

Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1953)

All New ! All Wild ! All Fun !

Two Americans cops visiting London to study police tactics find themselves drawn into the hunt for the murderer of a prominent physician. Their search leads them to Dr Jekyll, who can transform himself into the murderous Mr Hyde after injecting himself with a serum he has invented.

 

When Universal had exhausted the rehashing of their classic monsters after pitting them against one another in a series of ever-diminishing horror films, the studio only had the comedy spoof option left and they allowed their popular duo of Abbott and Costello the chance to goof around with them instead. Starting with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948, the bumbling pair also crossed paths with the Mummy and the Invisible Man. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is arguably the least of their antics with the Universal monsters but features plenty of their trademark humour.

Like the other Abbott and Costello films, the plot is simply a flimsy excuse for the comedy duo to go through their usual slapstick motions. So if your tolerance for old school shenanigans isn’t high, then maybe it’s best to skip this one. But I’m a sucker for old school and some of the silly, juvenile comedy hits the right notes from a time when you didn’t have to rely on crude humour or gross-out gags to entertain an audience. The duo opt for the more physical slapstick comedy route in this one as opposed to the witty verbal exchanges of the previous films and it’s this lack of sophisticated comedy which hurts the film in the long run. There’s only so many times you can see people tripping up, falling over, bundling themselves around and running around like silly devils before it gets tiresome.

The highlight scene of the film involves ‘Tubby’ (Costello) accidentally injecting himself with the serum which then leads to all manner of mayhem as the main characters get the real Mr Hyde and the fake one mixed up. This leads to a sometimes-funny, sometimes-groan worthy chase through the streets and across the rooftops of London.

There’s also plenty of annoying burlesque dancing which Abbott and Costello films are unfortunately full of. It’s a bit out of place in turn-of-the-century London but when the streets are stereotypically fog-drenched and there are fish and chips shops on every corner, you could be forgiven for a few historical inaccuracies. To be fair, the Gothic sets do a good job of portraying Victorian London and there are moments when the film does strike a chord into the hearts of traditional Universal horror fans. But then the silliness starts up again and the good atmosphere and Gothic vibe is blown away with a series of childishly funny gags and routines.

Horror legend Boris Karloff stars as the sinister Dr Jekyll. Unlike other versions, Jekyll is just as dangerous as Mr Hyde. He’s a schemer who is madly in love with his young ward and is overcome with jealousy when she attracts the attentions of a dashing journalist. Jekyll actually likes turning into Hyde here – it’s not so much of a dangerous side effect to the drugs he’s experimenting with, it’s as if he turns into Hyde simply to get away with his lusts for murder. Karloff is completely wasted in the role and seems very restrained. Thankfully the character doesn’t degenerate into camp but it’s a pity Karloff’s considerable acting talents weren’t put to better use.

The transformation scenes do the convincing job that they need to do on the budget that the film has to offer and Mr Hyde looks more than a little monstrous when he’s decked out in his make-up. But this film is played strictly for laughs and any true horror elements are watered down to insignificant proportions. He might as well have been dressed as a clown for all the good it would do in the long run.

 

You’ll either love Abbott and Costello or hate them so Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is going to be a weird one for most. I’d suggest watching the far superior Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein if you want to see the duo in their crossover prime. This one is strictly for fans.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Barracuda (1978)

Barracuda (1978)

You Can Almost Hear The Screams! as the water below becomes a CHURNING DEATHBED of FLASHING TEARING TEETH!

In a top secret government experiment, the drinking water of a whole city is mixed with a chemical which makes people aggressive by depriving them of blood sugar. But the dodgy chemical plant doesn’t think straight and pumps the waste out to sea. Naturally there are still chemicals in the water and a school of barracudas are turned into man-eating killers.

 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was just another of those mainly crappy Jaws rip-offs released in that classic film’s wake, right? Wrong! Barracuda could win the award for ‘film that goes off on a tangent the most’ as its plot strafes from the creature feature cheapie to some sort of The X-Files conspiracy flick. Its Jaws meets The Crazies in a bizarre mixture of genres which may have worked had they not completely forgotten about the fish when the cover-ups begin.

This one starts off like Jaws as the barracuda swiftly take apart a few random divers and swimmers without any real purpose and significance. The barracuda themselves look very cheap and rubbery and the attacks aren’t done very well. We only get to see some bloody water instead of the barracudas actually chomping their way through their victims although there is a severed head shown in one scene. They attack in packs like the piranha from Piranha and although I’m not familiar with barracudas in real life, I’m sure they’re not anything like this. Coupled with the traditional underwater monster point-of-view shots that Jaws utilised so well, the barracuda might as well be any other fish with teeth because they’re not really the focus of the film. In fact the characters spend more time away from the water than they do near it. It’s the most obvious thing in the world to do – if there’s something killing people in the water, then don’t go near the water. But this is a film, not real life, so I expected to see more dumb people going for swims or fishing.

At about the halfway point, the film switches to it’s The X-Files mode as it turns into a government conspiracy and cover-up mystery film. Once this is given priority, the barracuda are hardly mentioned for the remainder of the film and there’s no resolution to their plot. They’re not killed off or dealt with in any way. I guess they’re still swimming around there, with their low blood sugar levels. It looks like they were just a cheap plot to attract ‘monster on the loose’ fans such as myself. You can actually see by the other title it went by, The Lucifer Project, that this has obviously been renamed to cash in on Spielberg’s masterpiece. I actually wanted there to be some form of ‘local festival taking place in which the local mayor wanted to keep the beaches open despite danger’ plot like there is in all of these Jaws rip-offs. But that was just a cheap ploy and the barracuda are only secondary to the real plot. It’s blatantly cheap, false advertising.

The conspiracy plot is a complete waste of time and you just know which townspeople are in on the cover-up from the way their characters have been portrayed throughout the rest of the film. The film also ends with a real twist which came as a bit of a shock to me but looking back I should have seen it coming. If Barracuda had focused on the title fish a lot more much like Piranha did and then had the cover-up plot as the secondary theme then its overall quality would have been greatly enhanced.

 

It’s funny that in Jaws, the mayor tells Chief Brody that “You yell barracuda, everybody says ‘huh, what?” Barracuda is a cheap cash-in which has little to do with killer fish and more to do with shady federal agents. Barracuda – “huh, what” indeed.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Monster Shark (1984)

Monster Shark (1984)

Sink your teeth into pure terror.

When boats are torn apart and chewed bodies are found off the South Florida coast, scientists are unable to match the bite marks with any known creature and they conclude that they have come across a entirely new species of predator. They come to discover that the creature is a prehistoric shark with tentacles but what they don’t know is that it hasn’t just reappeared after millions of years, it’s actually a genetically cloned bio-weapon.

 

Can you go wrong with an 80s horror flick about a shark/octopus hybrid loose in the Caribbean? Let’s look at the case: Jaws rip-off? Check. Usual Italian horror movie deficiencies? Check. Talent-less nobodies in lead roles? Check. Monster that looks appalling? Check. I could be naming any one of about five really bad cash-ins on Spielberg’s masterpiece but in this case, I’m referring to the horror that is Monster Shark. I should have had instant doubts with the cheesy 80s synth-based score, sounding more like a porno than anything, blasting out from the screen during the title credits but the cover box lured me in a little too close for my liking.

Monster Shark is just such a dire film right from the get-go and is so eye-shutting slow, that the film reel almost stops at certain points. This is really, really dull. Maybe they could market Monster Shark as a cure for insomnia? If you’ve seen Jaws (I shouldn’t even need to say if), then you’ll know how this is going to pan out. The Italians were masters at ‘paying homage’ to more successful American films (see their countless Alien and Dawn of the Dead knock-offs too) and this one is no exception, throwing in plenty of the same plot elements as Spielberg’s classic. At least Jaws had amazing pay-off to the first half – Monster Shark just keeps going at the same pace throughout the film without cranking it up a few notches for the finale.

Added to the main story about the shark killing people, there’s also a ‘cover-up’ plot where some sleazy hit-man goes around killing people trying to interfere with the genetics project. He has seemingly been added to the film for the sole purpose of stripping one of his victims naked to give us the required T&A for the film. The two plots run awkwardly side-by-side with each other as if two unfinished films were hastily edited together in the cutting room. They never work well together and harm the film in the long run. This is not just a bad film because of its content but it’s a badly made film because of the sloppy writing and editing.

At least some of the other Italian knock-offs like The Great White had some reasonably cheesy and entertaining scenes in them. This has nothing at all. I mean it opens promisingly with the shot of the mutilated corpse being winched up by the chopper but then nothing else interesting happens. Even the few attack scenes are badly handled – you don’t get to see much at all in them and the editing is shocking. When the monster does eventually appear, you’re not given a long look at it but that’s probably for the best as it looks silly and very rubbery to say the least. Watching actors writhe around with plastic tentacles is one thing I can cope with but when the monster takes a bite out of someone, it looks like it’s just stroking them with its blunt teeth. One guy even gets his head lopped off by the creature.

Unfortunately these scenes are not very gory and thus we’re robbed of one of the usually-reliable trademarks of Italian horror. I wonder whether Roger Corman got the idea for Sharktopus from here since there’s not too many films which feature half-shark, half-octopus monsters! It’s fed enough throughout the film but you’ll wish it was fed a little more as the characters are dire. The acting is non-existent as usual in such Italian hack efforts and the cast here are arguably one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen! To say the females are there to provide ‘eye candy’ would be correct if candy meant rotten apples. It’s amazing to think that Lamberto Bava would follow Monster Shark up with one of Italian horror’s cheesiest and most loved horrors – Demons. And it’s also amazing to see just how many people it took to write this mess.

 

Monster Shark is terrible. It’s hard to say which is the worst Jaws rip-off ever because 90% of them suck so badly that it’s uncanny. But this has got to rank there with the bottom three. I don’t even know why I gave it marks – perhaps for the artwork on the poster.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Alien 3000 (2004)

Alien 3000 (2004)

If you see it, you’re already dead

A group of researchers head out to a remote cavernous area where legend has it that an invisible monster guards a horde of gold. They bring along with them a survivor of a previous expedition to the caves and she seems to be the only one who knows where they are. But the monster wasn’t a figment of her imagination – it’s real and it’s still there.

 

Why? Just why? Why does stuff like this get made? Why do I watch these films? Why do I even bother wasting my time writing about them? I’m really running short of things to say about this rubbish, not even bottom-of-the-barrel-but-more-like-underneath-the-barrel films. Pathetic. Alien 3000 looks kick ass from the front DVD cover but I have never learned lessons from previous failures – whenever the front cover promises too much, then ultimately the film delivers nothing. It’s happened time and time again but I never seem to learn. Scientific studies need to be conducted on the likes of me to find out why I keep going back to them time after time. Like moths to a light, I keep suffering but I can’t resist the lure.

Alien 3000 is a sequel to Unseen Evil, which also went by a different name in the UK under the guise of The Unbelievable – why can’t they stick with original names? Here we’ve got two films meant to be in a series together yet they get released under totally different names. Logically I see their reasoning – if I’d have seen that it was The Unbelievable 2, I’d have moved swiftly on to the next film. But then maybe that would have been Unseen Evil 3 and re-named something else. Shopping for DVDs like this can be a minefield when you don’t know the original title and any potential links to previous films.

To prove that it is a sequel, the writers bring back the only surviving character from the first film. Only she’s played by a different actress so unless you check up on IMDB, there’s no way of linking the two films together. Quite why they needed to bring her back is beyond me as apparently she’s the only person who knows where the cave is yet during the film, so many people find it that you’ll wonder where it’s one of those morbid tourist attractions in backwoods America. Her presence serves its purpose by having a few flashbacks to what happened before and thus pads out the running time with some recycled footage.

At no point do I remember the alien looking anything as remotely terrifying as the thing on the front cover. For most of the film it’s camouflaged with a Predator-like invisibility shield and when it is visible, it looks about as scary as that geeky guy who goes to Halloween parties dressed up as something from Doctor Who. The CGI is appalling and it doesn’t even look to be the same creature at times. Did they just lift footage from another film? There’s no reasoning as to why it remains guarding the treasure. Is the treasure from an alien world? Does the alien just like hording junk? Does it not have anywhere else to live apart from a cave? It doesn’t have much problem in dispatching the commando team and the scientists. The group of no-dimensional characters who spend their time drinking, having sex and swearing profusely are no match for this beast. At least the film is gory and there are a lot of people waiting to die horrible deaths. It’s a pity that the deaths are so comically over-done and so repetitive.

 

Alien 3000 is way too inept and pathetic to even try and appear like it’s a good film. Lousy acting, terrible script, some of the worst special effects I’ve seen for a long time – I could go on and on but the bottom line is that this film is utter crap. I wonder if, when I’m about to die, the Almighty will allow me to live for another eighty-one minutes out of respect for the time I wasted with this. He’s got to take pity on me for wasting that time when I could have been saving the world and making it a better place.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Malibu Shark Attack (2009)

Malibu Shark Attack (2009)

Terror Has New Teeth.

An underwater earthquake unleashes a tsunami that strikes Malibu, bringing with it a pack of ferocious and hungry goblin sharks. The beaches are evacuated in time but a group of lifeguards and construction workers are stranded in the high water and must brave the odds to make it to dry land.

 

Baywatch meets Deep Blue Sea in this absolutely feeble Sci-Fi Channel killer shark stink fest. It’s been about six months since I last saw a killer shark film so something must be going wrong in the production line somewhere. At least the great white shark, the tiger shark and the mako shark are all given the day off for a change and instead the bizarre-looking goblin shark is the creature of the day. It’s a little-known deep sea shark that I’m guessing isn’t half as aggressive or deadly as it is made out to be here. But this is a Sci-Fi Channel original after all (my spine shudders every time I mention that phrase) and it does little to make us want to know more about goblin sharks. In fact it does little of anything except prove that the Sci-Fi Channel needs its broadcasting licence revoked.

Malibu Shark Attack begins like one of those double header episodes of Baywatch where the Hoff and his team of lifeguards had some disaster to deal with but had to handle it on a TV show budget. Here the lack of budget is evident as there’s a pretty flimsy-looking wall of water and then some blatant news footage spliced in to make it look like the tsunami has caused damage along the coast. The fact that this huge tsunami doesn’t even take out a small beach hut yet destroys everything else around it is a bit hard to stomach. But prepare yourself for gravity-defying lapses in logic and ridiculous contrivances so bad you wonder whether they did have a script to begin with. Then in a really pointless twist later on, the survivors manage to make it to a flooded building where the sharks follow them inside and pursue them along semi-flooded corridors ala Deep Blue Sea.

By this time I’d grown tired of waiting for people to die, especially the three main characters who were involved in some sort of love triangle. The cast is awful and Peta Wilson both looks and sounds like a guy in here so quite why there are two men chasing her when there’s a better-looking blonde bimbo with less clothing in the cast is beyond me. The other characters are rounded off with the likes of some unnamed construction workers (i.e. shark bait) and a newly engaged lifeguard and her husband-to-be. Despite the big group of characters, as per usual it’s only the minor ones who are killed off. Why not let the fat bearded construction worker live for a change instead of the supermodel lifeguard?

The CGI goblin sharks look terrible. They don’t even remotely look realistic. What’s worse is that they use the same couple of shots over and over again so brace yourselves for constant visual harassment. Fake fins are used to try and generate tension above the water but it’s so overdone (and to be fair, most shark films since Jaws have failed to make good use of the fin to get the blood pumping). There’s no point in just rehashing these shark clichés without actually having them mean anything. The attacks themselves happen so quickly that it’s almost impossible to see what is going on. Most attacks consists of whoever is in the water looking around, looking a little worried and then suddenly the film cuts to a pair of CGI shark jaws about to chomp down on them. Cue some bloody water and then a shot of the shark swimming away. It’s terrible the first time so after about the eighth attack, it’s just boring. The sharks are made out to be super-intelligent too, smashing away at the foundations of the submerged lifeguard tower to try and get to the humans inside and also jumping up into the air and snatching people standing on the edge of a jetty.

At least the sharks in Deep Blue Sea were genetically-bred to be intelligent and given reason to hunt down their former captors – the sharks here are meant to be normal sharks so why the hell are they so angry and so persistent in trying to eat the same group of people when clearly the tsunami would have caused hundreds of other people to be stuck in the water along the coast and further inland. Quite why the film has been renamed as Mega Shark in Malibu is bewildering – surely they haven’t done that to cash in on the Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus name? There are clearly no mega sharks to be seen here, just weird goblin sharks.

 

Malibu Shark Attack is really bad. When a film makes Shark Attack 2 look like the greatest shark film ever made, you know you’re treading water. However the technical experts on this film really need to speak to Asian governments about their tsunami-proof beach huts. They’re splendid pieces of kit that will protect you from 100ft high walls of water.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Death Line (1973)

Death Line (1973)

Beneath Modern London Lives a Tribe of Once Humans. Neither Men Nor Women…They Are the Raw Meat Of The Human Race!

Over the years, numerous people have gone missing in the tube between Holborn and Russell Square. When a top civil servant is the latest to disappear, Scotland Yard take the matter seriously and begin to investigate. They find out that at the turn of the century, a group of tunnel-diggers in the London Underground were lost when it caved-in. Presumed dead, they managed to survive in an air pocket but without food, they resorted to cannibalism. Now it seems they have found a way out.

 

After watching the dismal Creep, I read a few reports stating that it was very similar in story to an earlier British horror called Death Line, which has garnered quite a cult reputation over the years. It took me ages to track it down and having finally seen it, I can report that it’s a very acquired taste. In other words, if you like slow, talky flicks with a few cheap gore scenes thrown in, then this is right down your alley. In fact I’m being a little harsh with that comment. For 1972 and for a British-made horror flick, this is pretty gruesome and boundary-pushing material.

It’s a largely American-made film which clearly tries to tap into the Hammer/Amicus horror market of the 60s and early 70s and does a reasonable job of creating a modern horror flick, back at a time when Hammer was still engrossed in setting their films in the past. The London Underground is such an ominous setting in real life and it’s a perfect place to set a horror flick (just ask John Landis when he filmed An American Werewolf in London) but unfortunately we don’t see a great deal of it. Instead we see lots of dark, empty, unfinished tunnels which lead to the cannibal’s lair. The long, unbroken pan around the cannibal’s home is superb though, seeing the rotting corpses of former friends and family and getting a general sense that this place has been untouched for years. There’s dust, slime and the air seems stagnant – you can almost smell how bad it is. Lighting and shadow is used to create a time capsule but unfortunately this is the only time we see the lair.

Most of the film is set away from any sort of railway line, including shops, police stations and pubs. It’s here where the film really, really drags. I’m not expecting the film to just show us continuous montages of the cannibal attacking people and moping around his lair. But contrast that to scenes featuring the hero and heroine in their apartment, and I know which I’d rather be watching.

At least there’s a seasoned veteran beefing things up. Donald Pleasance is a hoot in this film as the police inspector assigned to the case. His efforts to get to the bottom of this mystery take up the bulk of the screen time and whilst Pleasance is a joy to watch here, it’s just way too much exposure for one film. Christopher Lee also gets a large billing but appears in a shocking cameo for about five minutes before vanishing entirely. Also worth mentioning is Hugh Armstrong as ‘The Man’ or the cannibal in the film. He turns the monster into such a sad, lonely figure almost like Frankenstein’s monster. He’s not really scary because the film contrasts him too much. One moment we see him caring for his dying wife before we see him dispatching a few workers in grisly manner a couple of minutes later. Later in the film when he kidnaps Patricia, I guess we’re supposed to hate him for it but in reality, we want to see a happy ending for him. Unfortunately for Alex, the hero of the film, because the ‘villain’ is so sympathetic, it’s hard to root for him. Despite the cannibal committing some brutal acts of murder and being incapable of speech, he’s still way more appealing than this sponge of a man.

 

Death Line is seemingly caught between a rock and a hard place. It wants to be an intelligent horror film dealing with one man’s struggle to retain the way of life he has grown used to and the realisation that he’s the only one left. But the inclusion of some highly gory moments suggests that they opted for a quicker profit margin with shock tactics. It’s highly talky but definitely one film all horror fans should scope at some point simply because it’s so hard to find in the UK (at time of writing).

 

Killing Birds (1987)

Killing Birds (1987)

After a soldier arrives home at his remote Louisiana house to find his wife in bed with another man, he promptly kills them both before he has his eyes pecked out by some birds-of-prey which were kept in cages on the porch. Years later a team of students arrive at the house of the blind soldier, now a bird specialist, to study a species of woodpecker in the nearby swamps. But the house is now haunted and strange things begin to happen.

 

This film, dubbed Zombie 5 in some quarters, is an appalling mess of a horror flick and features a distinct lack of both zombies and erm, well ‘killing birds’ too. I hate it when films that are clearly stand alone efforts are simply tagged with the name of a popular film series in a feeble attempt to cash in. They’ve done in with the later Hellraiser films which clearly had nothing to do with the original films so they simply inserted a few minutes of Pinhead to pretend they are part of the franchise. Some of the later Anaconda films seem like rubbish third-rate snake films which were slapped with the more famous title in an attempt to trick audiences into thinking Ice Cube or Jennifer Lopez were in it. But no evidence is more damning than that of the Italian Zombi films (usually referred to as Zombie Flesh Eaters in the UK) – five films that have about as much in common with each other as the Pope and myself. However all are billed as sequels to Fulci’s classic in a futile attempt to fool the audience and cash-in. Well anyone expecting Killing Birds to fool the audience must be in clear need of help – those looking for a zombie film will be grossly disappointed and those looking at the front cover and thinking “oh look, an Italian version of The Birds” will be in for even more of a shock.

Ripping off everything from Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond to Hitchcock’s previously mentioned classic and even John Carpenter’s The Fog, Killing Birds is just a loosely connected series of gore set pieces with a poor framing device. It’s just a nothing film in all honestly. There are no long explanations of what is going on. Things just seem to happen because they can. The film shifts from different sub-genres with abandon, going from zombie film to haunted house flick in an instant and then switching back whenever the need for another set piece arises. The deadly birds that feature so prominently on the front cover aren’t the main focus of the film and do very little except kill one person (and not as graphically as the front cover, I might add). And there’s only two zombies lurking around the house so they can’t be the main focus either. In fact I don’t even think they are zombies – more like horrible-looking ghosts.

Robert Vaughan’s blind character seemed to be a bit of a menace and perhaps the big instigator of the film at first but then he turns out OK in the end. I mean just what the hell is going on? What was Robert Vaughan doing when he signed on to this – he must have been playing his blind character in real life when he signed the contract! And think about it for a moment – his character is a BLIND BIRD WATCHER! How does he know whether he’s looking at a pigeon or a crow? Actually he’s not that bad in his role and it’s a pity that he isn’t in the film for longer than his five minutes of fame. The rest of the cast are absolutely atrocious and it’s never a good sign to be chalking off people you want to see die quickly. These teenagers act like complete morons for the bulk of the time and, given that not a lot else happens for around fifty minutes, you’re going to be looking at the clock with angst and waiting for the zombies or birds or just some random runaway car to take them all out.

Even the gore, usually the sole positive from Italian horror, is pretty bad. The same neck-slash effect is used too often and it seems like the only way these ghosts know how to kill people. The film itself looks pretty bad too, with a lot of scenes being too dark, too fuzzy or simply just not framed correctly. But then in some other scenes, the cinematography is excellent and the lighting is spot on – including a great scene in which an approaching zombie is back-lit. I think the copy I watched may have been victim of the BBFC and its unnecessary butchering but I doubt it. Killing Birds looks like two very poor films edited together in a nonsensical way to create an even worse mess. There’s not even a decent pay off at the end of the film and it all ends just so abruptly. Either they ran out of money by hiring Robert Vaughan or they simply gave up and called it a day. Maybe it was the wisest choice they ever made. Euro-horror and especially these Italian-made ones hold a very special place in my heart because at least they try their hardest, usually with the same disappointing results.

 

Killing Birds is a sorry mix of The Birds, The Beyond and The Fog. Surely with ripping off those films, then this film should at least have some half-decent moments? Nope. Don’t even waste ninety minutes of your life trying to prove me wrong.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sasquatch (2002)

Sasquatch (2002)

They found the missing link….. and it’s not friendly.

Billionaire Harlan Knowles leads a rescue mission into the mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest to look for his daughter who went down in a plane crash, along with a top secret project known only as the Huxley Project. As the team heads into the mountains, they come to realise that they are not alone and that something is watching them. Something intelligent and which doesn’t want the top secret project being found.

 

Bigfoot – one of the big mysteries of the unexplained which man has yet to really answer and one which Hollywood has seemingly done little with over the years. You could probably count the number of Bigfoot films on one hand, there have been that few of them. And even fewer are the amount of Bigfoot films which have actually been any good. Off the top of my head I can only think of another two films which involve Bigfoot and even one of them isn’t about Bigfoot, it’s about the Abominable Snowman. It’s a great idea for a horror film just waiting to break free. The possibility that they do exist in the world and the possibility that they may be pissed and hungry for human flesh is too good for a horror buff to think about! It’s an idea which has seen a sudden emergence thanks to a spate of Bigfoot-themed horror films. Sasquatch is the first one I’ve watched and I’ve got Abominable and Sasquatch Hunters to come!

The first thing that I should tell you about this is another director-studio feud which has resulted in the original vision of the film being skewered by the studio’s desire for cheap shocks. The re-titling to Sasquatch (it was previously named The Untold) for the video market and the addition of more shots of the creature were not what Jonas Quastel had in mind. It’s unfortunate because no matter how bad a film may be, I always prefer to see the director’s cut because that is usually the vision that was intended from the start, not one that has been tailored for money-making purposes. The director is the man calling the shots throughout filming and he should be the one calling the shots on how the film turns out. When studios start messing with the films they make, they might as well have directors done away with and get some second unit directors to film loads of random scenes to be put together. I was one of those lured by the title Sasquatch – I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance with the named of The Untold. So I guess the studio has won after all.

However the flip side to this is that the film blows and I can’t really see anything that Quastel could have removed or changed that would make me change my mind. The thing that really strikes you when you sit and watch this is how hard Jonas Quastel has tried to stamp his own mark on the film. He has tried to mark his own directing style with his use of editing and fades to black. He probably knew that the material sucked so he had to get people to take more notice of him than the material. After all, even if the film sucks, at least producers can see the talents of the director shining through and then offer them better budgets for future films. However here you know there’s a scene change coming because it fades to black. Time and time again. It gets so annoying after the first ten times. Fade to black is usually a device to indicate that a longer period of time has taken place between scenes but here characters only have to step outside their tents for the fades to black to hit.

The constant fades to black are probably the least of the film’s worries though. There’s a distinct lack of anything happening apart from a group of characters trawling through the woods. Bigfoot is out there but you wouldn’t guess it. The creature doesn’t have a whole lot to during the film other than rustle trees and ogle the gorgeous Andrea Roth taking a naked dip into a hot water spring in the middle of the woods (how else we were going to get our T & A quota?). It’s also got some Predator-style vision (not the only Bigfoot film to do this I might add) and when it is finally revealed, it’s bald! I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing but it just looks downright silly and looks nothing like the scary mother on the cover box. The creature probably tore it’ own hair out when it just kept waiting to do something.

At a slim eighty-two minutes, the film has no right to be a slow and uneventful as it is. But the wafer-thin plot doesn’t even keep us going for sixty minutes let alone eighty-two. Not only do you have the mystery of Bigfoot to toy with, you’ve also got the mystery as to why Lance Henriksen has starred in more terrible films than he gets good roles. As usual, Henriksen turns up, pulls his performance out of his ass and then walks off with another payday which should last him another month until his next low budget feature. Does this guy have an addiction to crap films or what? He’s a great actor and deserves so much better. Andrea Roth looks hot as hell when she gives us the teasing moment in the jaccuzzi but does little else barring that. I guess her character serves her purpose and hey, I’m not complaining. I guess the guy in the gorilla suit did a good job too, simply because he was the only guy who wouldn’t see how ridiculous he looked in the costume.

 

Watching Sasquatch is about as enjoyable as having piles. There’s a good horror film waiting to pop out about a killer sasquatch and thankfully another film took the bull by the horns and did it (see Abominable). It’s no wonder the creatures are so reclusive. If they know how bad their images were being tarnished in crap like this, I bet they’d extinct themselves!

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆