Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012)

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012)

Fear will consume you

A group of teenage friends head off to the Mountain Man Festival on Halloween but get more than they bargained for when they almost run down a stranger on the way. Looking to help him, the stranger attacks the teenagers but they choose the wrong time to fight back as the local sheriff turns up and arrests them all. Once locked up, the stranger is revealed to have been on the run for thirty years for murder. What’s even worse is that his cannibal family know that he’s been imprisoned and are heading to the police station to free him by any means necessary.

 

Director Declan O’Brien is back to helm his third entry into the series and just when I thought he’d picked up the slack with Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, things degenerate here back to the way that Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead was headed. Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines sadly sees the series limp back a little towards the doldrums after the enjoyable antics of the previous film.

Filmed in 19 days on a studio lot in Bulgaria, it reeks of cheapness from the opening minutes. Gone is the glossy, polished look that the last one had (and which belied its actual budget) and we’re now squarely in the straight-to-DVD quality zone. You know the type of film and can tell by the grainy look of it that this wasn’t made to showcase some serious coin on the screen. Even the make-up and masks that the hillbillies wear seems to have been purchased at the local fancy dress shop.

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines is like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Meets Assault on Precinct 13, though don’t let that comparison lull you in to a false of security. The Assault on Precinct 13 idea fails to manifest itself in the way it apparently sets itself up as and as for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre comparisons – psychotic giggling hillbillies who carve up and eat American teenagers – is the only real point of similarity. Considering that the purpose of the group is to break their father-figure out of prison, they sure as hell take their time, attacking and killing everyone that goes out of their way to fall into their clutches. Every scene that the cannibals are not on the screen just serves as filler for their next appearance and assault on an unlucky victim. It’s stale writing and also stupid – the characters continue to bail on the best-defended building in the entire town to go outside for various reasons.

To say that this town is supposed to be teaming with tourists for the Mountain Man Festival, it’s a ghost town and considering all of the gunshots, car crashes and explosions going on, there’s not a soul to be seen. It’s clearly a cheap studio backlot with plywood buildings and which features one or two smaller sets such as the jail and that’s about it. You’ll wish for the return of the abandoned asylum from the last one. Budgetary reasons are obviously to blame here but then surely the script writer needed to work around this by making the plot at least reasonably believable.

One of the main issues I have with this one is how smart and cunning the cannibals have seemingly become since the earlier films. Not only content with isolating the town by cutting off the phones and then taking out the electricity in two separate incidents, they seem to have been learning a thing or two from Jigsaw from the Saw franchise as their methods of execution seem to get more complex in every films. Cooking characters alive in a flaming barrel, tying them to the back of a pick-up and then smashing their knees into a pulp, crucifying victims in mid-air with electrical cables or even digging a hole in the ground, burying one victim up to the head and then running them over with a thresher – not exactly ways to execute people quickly and they would have taken some copious planning. Whilst the kills are all creative, the gore looks to be a little on the cheaper side than previous sequels but I think that’s just how the film looks on screen.

Horror legend Doug Bradley, most famous for portraying the sadistic Cenobite Pinhead from the Hellraiser films, gets to play a human role for a change. He’s in virtual Pinhead mode here, snarling off a load of lines to his potential victims in an attempt to intimidate them. Chewing the scenery every time he opens his mouth, Bradley gets annoying rather quickly, though he does manage to back up his threats with actions. Once again, the ‘teenage’ cast does little to make themselves stand out from the crowd – I couldn’t even remember the names of most of them.  British actress Camilla Arfwedson looks far too young and way too pretty to be a sheriff and does what little she can with the one-dimensional role.

One final gripe I have with this is in the ending. Yes, if you’re a follower of the series you’ll know that they end pretty much the same way (**SPOILERS – the cannibals survive whereas the teenagers don’t END SPOILERS**)            but the finale to this one kind of left a sour taste in my mouth. There’s no major resolution. There’s no final showdown. It reminded me of an episode of Game of Thrones where all of the bad guys walk away grinning, leaving our heroes dead or dying. The set-up for another sequel is evident with the closing scenes.

 

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines still has some decent moments and delivers everything that you’d expect from a fourth horror sequel: plenty of carnage, buckets of blood, a few boobs for good measure and some cackling cannibal hillbillies. Like going to your tried and trusted pair of trainers when heading out for a run, it’s a familiar option which is well-worn now and making you want to get something new. Yeah, it’s a poor comparison but I’m running out of stuff to say when a film is this generic.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Goblin (2010)

Goblin (2010)

He wants you badly

Every Halloween, Hollowglen, a small hamlet in the deep woods, is visited by a fierce goblin, intent on capturing infants and brutally murdering anyone in its path as part of a curse put on the town in 1831. When Neil Perkins and his family move to Hollowglen, the townspeople react with concern at the arrival of a new baby so close to Halloween. Soon, the goblin returns for its annual visit and sets its sights on the Perkins baby.

 

Sy Fy conjure up another straight-to-TV creature feature with Goblin, a middling strictly by-the-numbers affair which promises little and delivers just as much. Having said that, it makes a change to watch a Sy Fy film that doesn’t involve a twenty-headed shark do battle with a three-hundred-tentacle octopus whilst an eight-foot giant robot attempts to blow them both up with laser beams!

Replace the goblin of the title with any other mythical creature horror-themed flick and you’d get pretty much the same film. Anyone could come along and direct this by picking up the traditional template notes: small rural town in the middle of nowhere; a curse which plagues them; a newcomer with a teenage son/daughter arriving in town with a connection to the curse; said son/daughter falling in with the local teenagers who then start to die; some crazy old townsperson who warns every one of the dangers but is ignored; etc. There is just no ambition right from the start to make this anything but by-the-book. No flair. No imagination. No want to create something a little bit different.

The story runs like clockwork, with predictable plot developments, characters who add nothing except extra bodies to the running count and a finale where things conveniently sort themselves out and the equilibrium is restored. Goblin plays it safe in this respect, with a bunch of haphazard scenes that could have been lifted out of another similarly-themed horror flick, though there is sometimes enjoyment with the familiarity of certain tropes. At least the cast all seem to be putting in as good a shift as possible, despite the lame script, and make the material seem more fresh and original than it is. Gil Bellows, in particular, does what he can to enliven proceedings.

The goblin remains cloaked in black for the majority of the film. Looking like some relic from a ghost train, the hooded monster is large – I always imagined goblins to small, mischievous creatures rather than gigantic ogre-like brutes. The cloak keeps the monster’s real face hidden for a large portion of the film. Conveniently this also means that the filmmakers don’t have to rely on costly make-up effects or the usual Sy Fy standard CGI to create a hideous face. We do get to see it at the end of the film and the CGI-rendered face looks every bit as silly and as daft as you’d expect.

Without any real monstrous elements on show for the bulk of the running time however, the seven-foot tall goblin plays out more like an intimidating, hooded slasher villain. In fact, save for the odd supernatural elements scattered around, the film does play out more like a slasher film, with the goblin’s claws acting pretty handily as a weapon-of-choice. Chasing teenagers through the woods wearing a black cloak…this is a goblin we’re talking about. Anyone could have been wearing that cloak and we’d be none the wiser so why go to the lengths of making it a goblin? This creature was supposed to be out baby-snatching, not teen-slashing.

Surprisingly, Goblin is set mainly during the day, which kind of renders the goblin wearing a black cloak to be something like the single worst mistake ever in horror as you can see it coming for you a mile away. The opening prologue and the ending take place at night and it’s in these scenes where the film has its strongest atmosphere. As soon as the sun comes up, the atmosphere dies off and the film has little to offer. There’s no skulking around the in the shadows, no ominous lighting or anything of the sort – broad daylight kills off any potential mood this supernatural tale had. There’s not even a selection of cheap boo scares to get you going. If this is a horror film, I’d be puzzled to see what the director would consider Halloween.

 

Goblin isn’t a total dud but the fact is that you’ll have seen this clone a million times before, only with a different monster in the human-killing role. At least Sy Fy seem to do better with this type of horror flick than their ever-increasing array of bizarre monster movies, keeping the material on the ground and as convincing as possible to generate some atmosphere and sense of realism.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Mega Shark Vs Kolossus (2015)

Mega Shark Vs Kolossus (2015)

Nature’s deadliest creature against mankind’s deadliest weapon!

In search of a new energy source, Russia accidentally reawakens the Kolossus – a giant robot doomsday device from the Cold War – which goes on a destructive rampage. At the same time, a new Mega Shark appears, threatening global security.

 

The fourth instalment in the Mega Shark series (and that’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say) sees The Asylum return to their crazy nonsensical shenanigans, devising the most ludicrous films out of the most preposterous ideas and throwing them out there, knowing that their outlandish titles will always generate some buzz. Granted, the first Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus did garner a lot of undeserved media attention when the trailer was released, only for people to realise how truly awful it actually was when the full film hit. It wasn’t just the silly concept, it was everything about the production. Despite critical scorn, The Asylum have gone on to make an ever-increasing number of these type of films ranging from Mega Python vs. Gatoroid to the Sharknado films.

With Mega Shark Vs Kolossus, it doesn’t look like The Asylum are going to change their ways any time soon. Cue the usual cardinal sins: ridiculously fast editing where scenes literally last no more than ten seconds before another cut hits; incidental music which attempts to make the film more exciting than it is; a couple of ‘famous faces’ who have been lured in to starring in such low budget nonsense (Illeana Douglas and Patrick Bachau this time around) where you see them and say “I remember their face but not their name” before going onto IMDB to find out; lots of scenes of military types standing around talking about the shark; lots of scenes of people looking into computer screens in small rooms (presumably the only set); lots of scenes of science-type character talking a lot of science fiction gobbledegook; ropey CGI graphics which don’t even appear to be at PlayStation One level yet; and plenty of camera shaking. I could go on but if you’ve seen one Asylum film, you’ve seen them all.

The major issue, and an obvious one, with Mega Shark Vs Kolossus is that it is clearly the unification of two separate films or ideas. Kolossus was obviously designed for its own film but Mega Shark got slapped in to add some name recognition to proceedings in the faint hope of selling more copies. It’s clear to see because the two monsters exist almost in their own little films for the majority of the running time, with Kolossus being reawakened with all manner of Soviet spies and mercenaries chasing it around and Mega Shark reacquainting itself with the American navy. It’s only in the final third where the two plots begin to crossover and even then the linking material is sketchy at best.

Mega Shark doesn’t actually get to tussle with Kolossus until the end of the film, though this is nothing new as the majority of these big ‘VS’ films rarely deliver until the finale (this goes all the way back to the early Godzilla films where the Big G would spend most of the film travelling to fight the monster-of-the-moment before engaging with it at the end). The fight is as pitiful as you’d expect given that one monster is organic, the other one is a robot with a big-ass laser beam weapon.

It’s a scant consolation prize for someone who has had to sit through the mind-numbingly painful scenes of the human cast emitting what seems to be dialogue from their mouths. But I thought dialogue was meant to develop characters and add something to the story, rather than just seemingly pass the time between these inane sequences of characters talking about the shark or Kolossus. They’re not engaging characters who you want to see prevail. You’ll not remember any of their names at the end. You’ll not see any of them develop as a character from the opening to the ending. They’re literally talking clichés, designed to act as a transition between the frames of footage. It’s awful filmmaking and that’s not a criticism of just Mega Shark Vs Kolossus but of The Asylum films as a whole. I know that few people go into these films hoping for an Oscar-winning performance but isn’t it funny how the most memorable monster movies are those with decent casts, decent scripts and identifiable characters who make the monstrous threat appear more realistic and more threatening (Tremors, Jaws, The Fly, King Kong, The Thing, Aliens, An American Werewolf in London, Predator, etc. – I could go on).

 

Like sitting and watching your best mate play a rubbish computer game for hours upon end, Mega Shark Vs Kolossus is a terrible way to pass the time. Best to hop onto Youtube, search for the best bit and watch it without having to endure the torment of the journey there. Please stop this franchise. Stop it right now!

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Food of the Gods II (1989)

Food of the Gods II (1989)

They’re hungry … there is no escape

Biologist Neil Hamilton succeeds in synthesising a growth hormone and uses it to create giant tomatoes in his university campus laboratory. However, a cage of rats is accidentally placed within reach of the plants and they soon devour the tomatoes, causing the rats to grow to the size of the dogs. When a group of animal rights activists break into the lab, they inadvertently free the rats which escape down into the tunnels beneath the campus. As they grow bigger, their appetite increases and they soon start satisfying their hunger on humans.

 

Thirteen years after The Food of the Gods and its bog-awful special effects was unleashed upon the world, H.G. Wells would be turning over in his grave with his literary material being loosely adapted for the screen once again. With no correlation to the previous film, Food of the Gods II is just another interpretation of his 1904 story and has seemingly just ‘sequelised’ itself to latch on to the bit of notoriety the original still retained. Expect lots of giant rats, not a lot of common sense and a whole heap of cheese. It’s so far removed from H. G. Wells’ original story that he doesn’t even get a writing credit!

I’m not quite sure what possessed someone to even contemplate doing a sequel but this Canadian-made production does all it can to prove that they were utter fools for doing so! Unlike the original which played it totally straight, Food of the Gods II does have a knowing campness to it. Be it through a dream sex sequence which ends with one participant suffering from a badly-timed case of gigantism, seeing a giant boy with a foul mouth enter the room and tell the good doctor where he can go forth and multiply, or just via the daft rat puppets that are used for the attack sequences, the film clearly knows it’s not going to be taken seriously so why not run with it? The film could have gone a lot further with this tone but it just doesn’t do as much with it as it can. For every dose of absurdity and silliness, the film bogs itself down with some seriousness: in an early scene, a young infant is attacked and dragged off to feed the onslaught of rats. It’s grim stuff which clashes with the helpings of cheese on display.

There is a steady stream of bodies throughout Food of the Gods II. After all, these are giant rats and have a giant hunger to satisfy! As a result, the daft special effects take centre stage. You’ll see real rats crawling over miniature sets. Furry prop rat heads and puppets used in close-up attack sequences. Images of real rats scaled up in size and superimposed on the frame in others. If it was the 50s or 60s, this could be forgiven but in 1989? You would have hoped that special effects would have become better in the thirteen years since the original but the effects department here must have either been locked up inside a bunker or they intentionally used similar effects as a homage to the original. Perhaps I’m giving them a bit too much credit as although the special effects are atrocious, they do add a lot to the goofy charm. And I’ll also add that I’ll take the cheap-looking but physically-there old school puppet effects than CGI any day.

Where Food of the Gods II does get it right is with the gore. Though the rats look daft, the carnage they cause is anything but. Throats are ripped out, backs are torn apart and other body parts are chewed off. The camera lingers on the gratuitous damage that the rats do, though from a monster flick from the 1980s, I’d expect nothing else. Throw in a random melting as one character injects himself with the serum with gooey consequences and you’ve got a film which at least knew what its target audience wanted to see – check off the nudity with Kimberly Dickson’s appearance in the aforementioned dream sequence too. Cast-wise, you’ll not recognise anyone but even jobbing actors must have a hard time swallowing the fact that starring in a film like Food of the Gods II would be a good career choice.

 

Food of the Gods II is a trashy film: a poor cash-in sequel with a ridiculous premise that was already dated and eye-wateringly absurd back in 1976 – dragged back to life thirteen years later for no good, sane reason. However, due to the nature of its content and cheesy 80s approach, it’s arguably the better film. It’s not the greatest monster movie out there, heck it’s not even the best killer rat flick out there, but it’s entertaining for what it is and will pass the time away nicely with a few beers and friends around.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆