Tag 2010s

Pegasus Vs Chimera

Pegasus Vs Chimera (2012)

Two legendary creatures. A battle for the ages.

Evil King Orthos is desperate to unite all seven realms into one nation to claim himself the emperor, killing those who oppose him. Belleros, who saw his father killed by Orthos’ men when he was a child, joins forces with Princess Philony to stand up to the tyrant. Frustrated by his men’s efforts to track them down, Orthos allows his warlock to conjure up the Chimera, a deadly monster, to find and eliminate the remaining survivors who resist his rule. Determined to find a way to combat the Chimera, Belleros and Philony seek out a witch who summons Pegasus, the winged horse, to aid them in defeating Orthos.

 

Quite possibly the cheapest-looking film that Sy Fy have ever filmed, Pegasus Vs Chimera is woefully inept in just about every department. I mean just take a look at that directionless plot! You’ve all heard of Pegasus before, the famous winged horse that was brought to life in Greek mythology and peddled in the big screen Clash of the Titans films. Less so, you may have heard of the Chimera, another monster from Greek mythology and definitely less-friendly and more prone to killing people than its equine counterpart.

The most hilarious thing about Pegasus Vs Chimera is seeing just how seriously everyone takes it. It looks like a live-action LARPing session, where the local doctor, a guy who works at McDonalds, the toned gym bunny, bitter retired teacher and a few boozed-up skinheads don rags and mini-skirts, pick up plastic swords, run off into the woods for the weekend and pretend that they’re in a Lord of the Rings flick. The dialogue is a right doozy, with some true corkers which indicate that the writers clearly have seen their fair share of films in which a wronged son/daughter seeks to get revenge on the big bad that killed their parents. It’s painful to hear the lines being delivered but comical to see just how stoic everyone is whilst doing it.

What Pegasus Vs Chimera virtually boils down to is a bunch of people in fancy dress running around the woods for an hour and a half. The story is loose, the pacing is woeful and the sequence of events is predictable and dull. Heroes encounter some soldiers. They fight. Heroes run off. They encounter someone else. There’s talking. The bad guys turn up. They fight. They run off. They do more talking and planning. The bad guys turn up again. And so on. Seeing people running around the woods isn’t exactly my idea of an exciting time but Pegasus Vs Chimera gives us plenty of that. At least the Canadian location shoot makes a nice change of scenery from the usual Eastern European locations that Sy Fy tend to stick to. Having said that, one tree looks like another no matter where you decide to film.

There are a whole load of familiar faces on show here including Rae Dawn Chong who starred opposite Arnie in 80s classic action flick Commando – time has not been so kind to her! Nazneen Contractor appeared in a number of 24 episodes alongside fellow 24 alumni Carlo Rota, who makes one of the least menacing villains ever put to one of these films. James Kidnie tries to outdo him as his scheming second-in-command but only succeeds in winning the Ben Kingsley lookalike award. It seems to be a requirement that in order to be one of the bad guys in Pegasus Vs Chimera, you need to be bald. All of the soldiers have sleek chrome domes. Actually, I don’t recall ever seeing more than about ten people on screen at any one time which kind of kills off the idea that they are fighting over seven kingdoms. Any sort of illusion that this is really a titanic struggle between armies is dead on arrival but again it’s hilarious to see how serious everyone is about it.

Pegasus is the least threatening ‘monster’ that I’ve ever seen in a Sy Fy flick. The mythical horse is one of the good guys from history and seeing the beautiful white horse they used for the real action shots hardly makes it appear like something that could best an army or even more threatening bloodthirsty monster in the form of the Chimera. Famously known for being able to fly, this version of Pegasus spends more time squarely rooted on the ground to avoid the costly CGI effects needed to glide through the air. Chimera fares little better, looking like any other generic Sy Fy CGI monster. The fights between the two are hardly riveting but as I’ve said, how is a horse with no sharp teeth, claws or other killing ability supposed to duke it out with something like the Chimera? It’s a mismatch but then it still sells the film with the ‘exciting’ title.

 

Pegasus Vs Chimera might actually be the worst Sy Fy film I’ve ever seen. Some of the horror films have been truly appalling but this one takes the prize hands down. A fantasy story like this needs a budget bigger than the tiny amount of coins you’d find in a five year old’s piggy bank! Putting the story into a contemporary setting would have avoided the embarrassment of seeing this tiny group of actors parade around in fancy dress in the woods and make fools of themselves.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Robocroc (2013)

Robocroc (2013)

The world’s most lethal weapon

When a top secret unmanned spacecraft disintegrates on re-entry, it crash-lands in the crocodile habitat of Adventure Land, a large tourist attraction with a waterpark, amusements and world-famous crocodile exhibit. The crash releases a load of nanotech-based combat drones which find a host in the rather large shape of a twenty-foot Australian saltwater crocodile called Stella. With a new found aggression and determination to kill everything in sight, Stella breaks out of her enclosure and begins hunting down anyone roaming loose in Adventure Land.

 

A film like Robocroc needs no grandiose introduction from me. If you’re a long-time reader on the site, you’ll immediately recognise it as another ridiculous creature feature movie made for Sy Fy. I just shake my head whenever I read the synopsis for any new Sy Fy flick – there’s got to be a saturation point where people will turn off and say “hang on, even this is too far-fetched” although if they haven’t by now, they most likely never will.

If you’ve seen a) any killer crocodile film over the last twenty years or b) any Sy Fy film over the last fifteen years, then you’ve already seen Robocroc. It’s just a sad attempt to put a new twist on the same formula. The Eastern European shoot, featuring a whole host of Bulgarian (I’m assuming since that’s the usual haunt for Sy Fy) bit-part actors with the token sprinkling of American and British ‘faces’ to anchor the film, just smacks of every single Sy Fy film ever made. You wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the crocodiles or snakes from Lake Place Vs Anaconda slithered onto the screen. The extras all look the same. The locations all look the same. The style looks the same.

Even though some of the film was shot in Bulgaria, it’s clear the majority was shot in a backlot in the States somewhere as a lot of the ‘action’ takes place inside a black tent. It’s the generic military HQ set-up, where the scientists and commanders stand around talking about the monster with some laptops and fancy-looking flashing lights distracting the extras in the background. Lots of exposition and talking about the crocodile takes place and for every second the film spends in here, it means less screen time for the crocodile and those costly special effects. Having said that, the CGI is awful, particularly when the crocodile loses its regular skin and becomes all-robot. Even more ridiculous is the POV shots we get from the robot’s eyes, complete with Terminator-style HUD which flashes red stating ‘prey detected’ – as if the crocodile can actually read the words.

The sad thing about Robocroc, and something problematic with a lot of these Sy Fy films over the past three years, is that they’re just spinning their wheels. They seem to be stuck in a rut, re-treading old ground over and over again because the writing teams can’t seem to find a way to make them original and fresh. Come on! You’ve got a robotic crocodile and you just throw it inside an empty waterpark and feed it a bunch of soldiers and teenagers? It’s dull, uneventful and sorely lacking any decent excitement, even when the crocodile is on the screen. Though the crocodile does things like take out helicopters, it’s not exactly pulse-racing material and you’ll never really feel that the main characters are in any danger whatsoever. There is a little CGI gore splattered around but the film backs out of showing too much carnage which is disappointing.

Regular Sy Fy mainstay Corin Nemec shows up as the hero and sleepwalks his way through proceedings. He’s already faced troglodytes, the Mosquito Man and sand sharks to name a few in these type of films so adding a T1000-like crocodile to his list isn’t going to be much of a stretch. Keith Duffy, formerly of Irish boyband Boyzone, makes an appearance as the hunter character who turns up, does a feeble Quint-like impression, and then is promptly taken out of proceedings. Thanks for coming. Dee Wallace, a big genre star back in the 80s with the likes of Cujo and The Howling, must be wondering just what her agent is getting her into these days. She looks incredibly bored with everything going on, though she’s not the only one. Even at a lean seventy-seven minutes long, Robocroc is a tough slog.

 

Robocroc is a drab, non-event of a silly premise. Why bother wasting time turning the crocodile into a killer robot if you’re just going to let it do the same things that a normal crocodile horror flick would do? A waste of a ludicrous idea but also a terrible film.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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!

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Green Inferno, The (2015)

The Green Inferno (2015)

Fear will eat you alive

College freshman Justine joins a group of conservation activists heading down to the Amazon to fight off some greedy land developers who are threatening the existence of one of the indigenous tribes. The protest goes wrong and the activists are bundled straight onto a plane out of Peru. Unfortunately, the plane develops a fault and crash-lands in the jungle. Taken captive by one of the tribes they were trying to protect, Justine and her friends realise that they are now in the clutches of cannibals – and they’re next on the menu.

 

Eli Roth’s love-it-or-hate-it throwback to the Italian exploitation flicks of the 70s and 80s, you’ll only really ‘get’ The Green Inferno if you’ve had the courage to sit through one of the numerous cannibal flicks such as Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox that have inspired him – The Green Inferno is actually one of Cannibal Holocaust II’s alternative titles. Generally tough to watch, even for seasoned horror veterans, these cannibal films included all manner of gruesome splatter sequences but, more disgustingly, some actual animal violence. Try watching the unedited version of Cannibal Holocaust where a real turtle is killed and ripped open without feeling queasy – it’s a difficult ask. But those films were a product of their time, where messed-up Italian directors gorged on guts and gore for a living and churned out some of the most extreme films ever made. It’s pretty ridiculous to even think that something as exploitative as The Green Inferno could make it to cinemas in 2015 when the aforementioned Italian cult films have been banned in numerous countries around the world for years. A masterful PR campaign in the build-up to release banned trailers and clips from being shared on social media and showed footage of people allegedly fainting and throwing at previews, promising a disturbing and violent experience like no other.

The Green Inferno is nowhere near as controversial as said Italian inspirations – for a start they avoid any unnecessary cruelty towards animals – and even compared to some other horror films over the last few years (or even some of the grislier episodes of The Walking Dead), it’s not the most graphic thing you’re ever going to see. As a homage to the flicks of old, The Green Inferno works very nicely. The big problem is, ironically enough, the production values that a modern day film budget brings with it. The older films were grimy, faded documentary-like productions which many believed were snuff movies (Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato was arrested in 1981 and charged with murder after people believed he had killed his actors during filming) and worked because of the raw and natural savagery that was depicted in them. The Green Inferno swaps this realism for Hollywood gloss and cleanliness where the actors look clean, washed and their make-up is pristine. It loses a lot of its magic and impact. But that wasn’t the only thing that these cannibal films played upon so let’s move on.

As is the norm with this sub-genre, the film takes a bit of time to get going as the characters start off in civilisation. We take satisfaction in seeing their daily idyllic lives with not a care in the world, knowing full well that they’re about to face a situation straight out of their darkest nightmares. The use of a cast of relative unknowns works here as we’re under no pre-conceptions about which characters will live and die or in what order. Sadly, the script gives most of them little to break free of generic stereotyping and not many of them develop a personality. It’s true that some won’t live long enough for us to care about them but it would have been nice to see a little more humanity come to the fore with the characters.

We’re treated to some lovely cinematography of the Amazon during the sequences in which the group arrive in the jungle. Roth did film in South America and having read up on the conditions that the cast and crew faced, it adds a whole new level of realism to proceedings. Check out some of the back story to production if you have a chance. Filming on location really gives the audience a sense of isolation – these people are thousands of miles away from help, in the middle of one of the most inhospitable and deadliest places on the planet. It’s the plane crash mid-way through where Roth remembers he’s directing a horror film and he pulls out all of the tricks with a startlingly realistic sequence, complete with slow-motion sickness.

Once the group encounter the cannibal tribe, things take a turn for the worse (for them) but better for the audience. The main gore set piece involves one character have their eyes removed, tongue cut out, limbs systematically hacked off and then beheaded before being slapped into the mud oven until cooked. It’s a brutal sequence, unrelenting in its assault on the senses and arguably the highlight of the film. From then on, it’s a combination of the characters attempting to escape their prison before being served up as steaks and grisly sequences of the unlucky ones falling victim to the bone cleaver. The fact that this was all passed without Roth making edits is a sign of the times, though there is little of the outright sexual violence here as was present in the originals (hooks through nipples, penises being sliced off, woman raped with big stones, etc..

Roth doesn’t know how to play the tone and there’s a constant clash between jokey moments, outright depravity and bizarreness. Between the cannibals getting stoned, a badly-timed bout of diarrhoea and a perverse sequence in which one character’s answer to the horrors he’s just witness is to start pleasuring himself, the film throws in scary moments of genital mutilation, heads-on-spikes and flesh-eating ants. This is Roth doing what he’s doing in Hostel and Cabin Fever, toying with the audience a bit during times of tension, but here it works to kill off the horror of what is happening. The cannibal films of old were as deadly serious as anything you’ll see and Roth would have been wise to stick to the same tone, rather than imbue this with some of his usual frat-boy-esque humour. It’s a minor sticking point however and one which doesn’t detract too much to the film.

 

The Green Inferno is a great throwback to the Italian films of old but that’s just about all it works as. Roth clearly has a love and affection for the sub-genre (Cannibal Holocaust is apparently his favourite film) and this comes out in droves during the graphic sequences in the second half of the film. However, it treads no new ground as far as the sub-genre goes, simply repeating what always was a very basic formula and story but for the 21st century. If you’ve ever wanted to get into those older films, The Green Inferno would be a great way to start but for a genre veteran like myself, its ability to shock and scare was greatly diminished.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)

Screaming only makes them hungrier

Whilst looking for a cabin where they intend to spend a weekend partying, a group of teenagers become lost in a blizzard. Seeking shelter in an abandoned sanatorium, they soon realise that they are not alone. Still living there are a trio of inbred cannibals, former inmates from the sanatorium who had broken out over thirty years earlier, and now look to the new arrivals as an essential source of food.

 

After the previous sequel, Wrong Turn 3: Dead End, seemed to send the cannibal horror series in an irreversible downturn, it’s refreshing to see that the series still has some life in it yet. I’m not sure whether any fourth entry into a franchise has any right to be as entertaining as Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, especially one which pretends to go down the prequel route to show you how the main antagonists came into being (in a prologue) before fast forwarding back to the present day. Director Declan O’Brien returns from the previous sequel and seems to have learnt his lessons here, offering up a far more traditional blood-soaked affair which requires limited brain power to understand.

Don’t expect the wheel to be reinvented here. Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is purely standard issue horror sequel filmmaking – minimum set-up and maximum carnage. You won’t see anything remotely unique. You’ll have seen everything before. You’ll have seen it done better too. Plot holes litter the narrative. Characters are barely existent. But there’s a certain level of brutality and a clear love for the genre that prevails through all of this.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings clearly panders to a certain demographic and, from the opening minutes featuring inbred cannibals feasting on fresh human throats, people getting ripped apart from with barbed wire, electroshock therapy being used more violently than normal and then some token sex and lesbian scenes, you’ll be able to see how all of the boxes are going to be ticked off. The quick set-up allows for the characters to get to their eventual destination and run across the cannibals with two-thirds of the running time still in the bank. Being able to film in a real abandoned mental institution really allows Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings to look like a big budget horror film. The polished look that it has certainly lends it a nice air of credibility which the following sequels sadly lacked.

It’s rare for a horror film to feature a full cast of characters who are all utterly odious – usually there is at least one likeable character to get behind – but this group of friends has to be one of the most annoying, bitchy groups of friends going. Even the girl who appears to be set up as the likeable ‘Final Girl’ in the opening scenes has her fair share of bitchiness and unpleasantness. It’s difficult to even partition them off into the usual stereotypes. Whether horror writers are blurring the lines between stock characters or it is just lazy writing (my guess is the latter), it is getting hard to distinguish between who is who. They are walking targets and now instead of thinly-sketched characters, they’re literally bodies waiting to be smashed into oblivion. On the positive side, there are ten of them so expect the kills to be constant. The pace of the film is pretty solid meaning you won’t go too long before the cannibals dispatch another victim.

Like so many of its contemporary counterparts, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is rife with copious CGI gore but that’s not to say that there isn’t any of the old school stuff. In fact there are some excellent practical effects on display here and it’s like a slasher fan’s dream. With limbs being severed, heads decapitated and all manner of barbed wire and power tools being used, the film doesn’t skimp on the blood for one minute – clearly all of the creativity went into the death scenes rather than the script, a trait so common from the 1980s slasher craze. The film has a downright nasty mean streak a mile long running through – look no further than the gruesome scene in which the three cannibals slowly strip the flesh off one unlucky victim who keeps crying out “God kill me please.” It’s an unsettling scene, one which doesn’t really sit well within the rather jovial nature of the rest of the film.

The other great staple of horror is T&A, so often neglected in today’s more prudish genre offerings, but Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings delivers the goods, providing some extreme titillation on a number of occasions. It helps that the girls are all smoking hot but they not great actresses so acting with their bodies is about the best you’ll get. The script is truly terrible as well so the naked girls aren’t the only ones struggling with their tongues. Literally all of the dialogue is as basic as you can get and when it’s delivered by a bunch of actors and actresses who clearly sound like they need a few lessons in drama, it’s almost torture to the ears. Doing stupid things to further the plot isn’t the only crime that these people are guilty of.

 

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is a marked step up in quality from the previous film and puts this franchise firmly back on track. It’s clichéd as hell and features stuff that only the hardened horror fanatics will really lap up with enthusiasm. However what is not to love about a group of inbred cannibals chasing a bunch of horny and hot teenagers around in an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere? It’snot fine art, but it’s fine junk food horror for a rainy night.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda (2014)

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda (2014)

A love story

Scientist Rico Symes has crafted the latest predatory super-weapon for the military by splicing together DNA strands from a pterodactyl and a barracuda, creating a creature known as Pteracuda. During a routine test mission, the creature goes rogue after a terrorist hijacks the computer controls. Capable of flight or swimming, Symes knows that Pteracuda poses a massive problem and so tracks down the surviving offspring of the original Sharktopus, now in a sanctuary in a local aquarium. Fitting it with a transmitter, Symes gives Sharktopus a simple command: to find and destroy Pteracuda.

 

I was a little generous in my review for Sharktopus, stating it was ‘everything a cheap, goofy and enjoyable monster movie should be about’ but I could clearly see where the enjoyment was coming from and with such a ridiculous premise, it ran with it as best as it had any right to do. A few years later and Roger Corman is back with even more bizarreness but far less originality. A sequel to both Sharktopus and Piranhaconda (though I don’t get the connection with the latter film), Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda continues the trend of combing the names of two random creatures to make a new monster. Pteracuda was the dumbest name I’d ever heard – well until the sequel Sharktopus Vs Whalewolf went into production! Apparently, a bunch of combi-names was tossed around on Twitter with fans voting for the one they wanted. At least Corman is giving in to people power.

Do you expect anything remotely resembling a plot? No? Good, didn’t think so. You won’t find that here. Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda gives us the bare minimum story of military experiments, terrorists, innocent civilians who get wound up in the mayhem and plenty of unnecessary characters to throw into the way of the monsters every few minutes. Honestly, Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda doesn’t even run like clockwork – the clock has well and truly stopped here and the nonsensical plot developments would only be surprising to an unborn baby and that’s about it. Top secret government weapon that goes haywire and the people responsible attempt to bring it back and cover it up. That’s it. Let’s see what else the film has to offer.

Unlike many other giant monster showdowns of late, particularly the awful Mega Shark Vs … films, Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda does feature a lot of lengthy tussles between the titular creatures, so much so that it actually gets boring watching them. I know, I know, it appears I’m far too hard to please when I complain that there wasn’t enough in Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus and now there is too much in this one. Usually the creatures fight off in a titanic battle at the end of the film akin to the old Godzilla films but Sharktopus and Pteracuda cross paths a lot throughout the film, which was pleasantly surprising as it meant a lot more CGI effects which would have driven up the cost of this film significantly.

Like pretty much all of these CGI slugfests from Sy Fy or The Asylum, the eventual fight scenes fail to connect with the audience. You know that what you’re watching is just two computer-generated monsters fighting off because there’s literally no sense of gravity or weight to them. Don’t get me wrong, the fights do go on for a few minutes a piece but whilst they’re scrapping, the motions and movement are just too fast: tentacles flying across the screen, wings flapping all over the place, teeth gnashing and so on. Real creatures wouldn’t be able to react like that and so in trying to crank up the excitement of the film, the fights just become frenzied free-for-alls in which your eyes and ears are bombarded with as much as possible within the time frame.

Continuing on another irritating trend, both Sharktopus and Pteracuda have a tendency to kill humans by biting their heads off. Most likely because it’s a cheap and easy special effect to pull off in post-production, literally every giant monster of the past few years has killed its human prey like that. Since when did carnivores become so picky and just go for the human head? It’s so annoying, especially when I think of some classic monsters movies and the memorable ways in which people were killed and eaten alive (Quint’s graphic swallowing in Jaws always springs to mind). Having said that, the bulk of the kills are for non-characters who may say a handful of words at best before they’re fed to the fish. People die all too often in this and it becomes a chore. So when someone with a meatier role falls victim to the monsters, there’s no shock value.

That would assume you’d give a toss about any of the characters in this film. Robert Carradine has a bit of a blast as the sort-of-slimy scientist, only he doesn’t really do anything truly evil. Rib Hillis is the stock mercenary tasked with leading the mission to stop the weapon. Hillis doesn’t really get much chance to shine in the role until the end but comes off little better than your generic hero. If there is one saving grace from Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda, it’s in the form of the lovely Katie Savoy. Though her weakly-written marine biologist role is an awful character who serves little to no purpose, she’s one of the most naturally attractive women I’ve ever seen in a film like this. I’m smitten! There’s also a really random cameo from TV talk show host Conan O’Brian, who I’m sure owed Corman a favour to appear in this. Maybe he was a big fan of the original Sharktopus?

 

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda is a cheap sequel to a cheap film, where special effects seem to revert back in time and all sense of what a film should be has been thrown out of the window. Though I guess when you see two giant hybrid monsters pummeling each other in the air and underwater every ten minutes or so, it’s kind of irrelevant how bad everything else is.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Harbinger Down (2015)

Harbinger Down (2015)

Terror is just beneath the surface.

A group of college researchers tracking whale migrations on board a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea discover a frozen Russian spacecraft in the Arctic ice. Storing the retrieved spacecraft and its frozen cosmonaut corpse inside the ship’s hold, the researchers argue over what the best course of action is: to claim it as salvage or contact the authorities to hand it over. Whilst they bicker, the corpse thaws and dormant alien bacteria is released

 

The back story to Harbinger Down is far more interesting than the resulting film: Special effects company ADI had been commissioned to provide the practical creature effects for the failed The Thing prequel and designed and built some superb monsters much more in line with Rob Bottin’s legendary creations for John Carpenter’s 1982 film. However, for whatever silly reasons, Universal decided to replace all of this fantastic work with CGI during post production. With thousands of fans across the world questioning what happened to the original effects (me included), ADI released a Youtube video showcasing the work which had been discarded. With such an overwhelmingly positive reaction, ADI decided to go ahead with their own film to prove to Hollywood big-wigs than there was still a place for practical effects. Using Kickstarter to get the project off the ground, Harbinger Down was thus born. With a reliance on animatronics, prosthetic makeup, stop motion and miniature effects rather than CGI, the film has been on my radar for a long time and I was waiting with baited breath to see the final outcome.

Advertised as being in ‘the spirit of two of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all time, Alien and The Thing,’ it’s sad to see that Harbinger Down isn’t quite the revolutionary middle finger to CGI that I had really hoped it would be. Clearly hoping to trade on the attraction of the special effects and the monster, almost everything else regarding the film seems to have been cobbled together with barely a creative thought. Whether this is the fault of the writers or the director, Harbinger Down should have been a modern day cult classic but instead turns out to be a rather horrible mess where they focused so hard on developing the creature, they ran out of time to deal with anything else.

However, I did not watch this for a multi-layered, complex story featuring fully-fleshed out characters. I knew what to expect from that side of the film and Harbinger Down did not let me down. The plot is flimsy, the characters barely more than one-note stereotypes and the narrative brings up predictable plot twists and routine set pieces. If you’ve seen one The Thing/Alien-style sci-fi horror knock-off, you’ve seen pretty much all of them and Harbinger Down is no exception. There are rather weak attempts to generate tension or suspense and whilst the cinematography is decent enough, with the crabbing ship being a dark, damp place to have something sinister lurking around, it’s just not enough to keep the film from floundering at every opportunity. It takes ages to get going and even when it does, it’s held back by clichés.

Sadly, it’s the creature effects, trumpeted as the main selling point, which are a massive let down. This isn’t because they’re not fairly impressive but because you hardly get to see them due to the awful way in which they’re shot. Between some appalling lighting choices (i.e. it’s very dark in most of the monster shots) and even more appalling camera tricks (constant shaky, blurry or quick zooms to obscure the frame), it’s virtually impossible to get a good, solid look at the creature. On the ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ occasions when the creature can be seen for more than a micro-second, it looks half-decent and one could only imagine how successful ADI’s special effects for the much larger-budgeted The Thing prequel would have turned out in the final edit. At least some of the gore effects are reasonably presented, with plenty of slime and splatter thrown in for good measure.

I’ve been comically critical of Lance Henriksen’s role choices over the last decade or so. Far from the glory days of the 1980s, Henriksen has been reduced to starring in a ridiculous number of low grade shockers and phoning in his performances. In Harbinger Down, Henriksen is far better than he has been for years, giving his role as the grizzled captain some spark and energy. That’s compared to the rest of the cast who fail to generate much excitement or chemistry between them, save for the attractive Camille Balsamo who is the best of a bad bunch.

 

Harbinger Down is such a disappointing missed opportunity that it’s really hard to see practical effects ever coming back into fashion any time soon. Whilst I admire the passion and desire of all those involved, and I personally hoped to see this succeed due to my loathing of CGI, the bottom line is that too much focus went into the special effects that everything else was barely given a second thought. It works as a half-baked throwback to the 80s monster movies but even the likes of Leviathan did it with more conviction than this.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Crocs on the dock. Snakes on the lake.

Wexel Pharmaceuticals enlists the help of local poacher Jim Bickerman in obtaining a giant crocodile from the famous Lake Placid nature reserve. During a procedure to extract blood, the crocodile awakens in the lab and causes havoc, unleashing a special variety of giant anaconda snake. With both the crocodile and snake on the loose in the wild, it poses further problems for the previously-besieged community.

 

The fifth film in the Anaconda series, and the first to be made since 2008, as well as the fifth film in the Lake Placid series, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is just about the sort of film you’d expect to get when you combine two fading franchises whose attraction faded long ago. Did anyone really care about either series after the originals? I’m amazed that either series lasted as long as it did, though in reality they’ve been on life-support on the Sy Fy Channel for so long that it’s hard to remember they were originally both big hits in the late 90s.

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is exactly the same sort of nonsense that both respective franchises have been churning out for a few years – only now that they’ve merged into one crossover universe, I’d hope that we are saved from individual sequels from now on. It’s virtually a Lake Placid film with a giant snake added into the mix as the narrative runs almost like the previous few films in that specific franchise. The plot is flimsy at best and I’m not even sure I got why the pharmaceutical company was desperate to obtain a giant crocodile when their snakes were gigantic. I’m not daft and realise it was just an excuse to allow the snake to get loose but I’d rather see writers attempt to give me a convincing reason for all of the carnage.

This isn’t well-written, if written at all – it almost runs like someone just slapped together a load of deleted scenes from the aforementioned franchises and I struggled to really care about anything on show. Predictable death scenes are set-up a mile away. The creatures do damage that they shouldn’t physically be able to do. Apart from a few main characters, the rest are just non-characters who show up only to die in the same scene. Even the main characters have very little to do and rely almost solely on your knowledge of their characters from the previous Lake Placid films. Again, the film is so heavily one-sided with the Lake Placid stuff that you forget there is supposed to be a giant anaconda in there somewhere. Sy Fy has been churning out almost the same film for the last ten years or so across various ‘monster of the week’ guises and it’s all so, so, so, stale now.

Featuring an all-star line-up of Sy Fy regulars including Corin Nemec, Yancy Butler and Robert Englund, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda delivers the expected star power and a sense that at least some effort went into the film. In a rare bit of continuity with Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, both Butler and Englund reprise their roles. Englund’s character is a particular delight to welcome back, with a few less body parts after his last ordeal with the crocodiles, and he hams up proceedings with a typically enjoyable performance. The three of them have clearly been cast to add some names to the front cover, Englund especially trading on his past glories as Freddy. The other members of the cast, particularly the sorority girls, are awful actresses designed to provide mild titillation to the male audience before being eaten (and mild titillation just means they parade around in bikinis).

The film isn’t even that gory. Yes, there is some blood on show but the vast majority is the cheap CGI variety. It’s pretty rare to get anything as nasty as a leftover limb as the crocs and the snake swallow everything they see up. The CGI for both the snake and crocodiles is a marked step down in quality from their previous outings, which isn’t saying much as they were awful then and are even worse now. The crocs fair a little better, presumably because it’s easier to give the skin and scales some form and shape, rather than the long, slender and smooth snake skin that is on show. The creatures are well-fed, though as previously stated, the death scenes are set-up from a mile away and far too predictable. The worst problem is that they’re dull – you’ll not find any excitement or cheap thrills from the attack scenes.

 

Just because two franchises are owned by the same company doesn’t mean to say that a crossover film should happen. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm character from Jurassic Park, the studio was “so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is a painful attempt to milk the last few drops of money out of the respective franchises before both animals are finally sent to that big pet shop in the sky. One can only hope.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆