Tag Tiny Terrors

Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)

Pinocchio's Revenge (1996)

Evil comes with strings attached

Defence Attorney Jennifer Garrick acquires a Pinocchio puppet from a condemned serial killer. Her little daughter, Zoe, finds the puppet and, believing that it is a birthday present, begins to grow attached to her new puppet friend. Suddenly, accidents begin to happen around the house and at school and Zoe blames Pinocchio. However no one will believe her. As her behaviour deteriorates and people start to go missing, Jennifer begins to wonder just what is going on with Zoe and her puppet.

 

I don’t think that Pinocchio’s Revenge could try any harder to be Child’s Play if it tried. Clearly out to ape the successful horror film that introduced the world to Chucky, Pinocchio’s Revenge tries to turn everyone’s favourite ‘wooden puppet who wanted to become a boy’ (unless you can name another wooden puppet) into a similar sort of slasher-thriller. The comparisons between the two are inevitable and being the later, lower budgeted one, Pinocchio’s Revenge suffers right from the start.

It’s impossible to shake the feeling of Child’s Play at any point. Pinocchio’s Revenge rips it off so bad it’s a wonder that the studio didn’t pursue legal proceedings. However unlike the latter, Pinocchio’s Revenge fails to deliver any consistent scares, tension or thrills though it does deliver some sporadic moments of decency. Director Kevin Tenney was the man behind classic 80s horror-comedy Night of the Demons so we know he’s got the ability to make something entertaining. Sadly, Pinocchio’s Revenge is not that something. No matter how hard Tenney tries, he just can’t make the notion of a killer wooden puppet seem scary because of the associations we have of the character from the animated Disney film. Pinocchio is just not a psycho killer, he’s a cute little wooden puppet who just wants to be a boy.

We’re given very little information as to the background to the puppet. In fact we don’t even know how the puppet came to live in the first place. Is it possessed by the spirit of the killer, Gotto? Did Zoe’s rage and anger cause the puppet to come to life? There’s no sense of ambiguity despite the film trying to mislead the audience a few times. Is the puppet alive or is it really Zoe who is doing the killing? Well the clue is in the title after all but on the few occasions when the boundaries between the two become blurred, the film tries to punch above its weight. The final twists and ending to the film make me wish that the rest of the film had been more deserving. Pinocchio’s Revenge is such a misleading title too because there’s no real need for the puppet to start killing people. He’s not out to get revenge on anyone, just killing people who get in the way of the relationship between Zoe and her mother for some reason.

It doesn’t help that Pinocchio doesn’t start his ‘revenge’ until the final act and even then it’s not that bloody or violent. The first half of the film is drawn-out to try and create some mood going in to the kills later on but it doesn’t do a great job of creating it. Once people start winding up dead, the pace picks up a little more but even then there isn’t a massive body count. So many potential victims and so little carnage. But what would you expect from an alleged killer that looks as ridiculous as the chap on the poster. The Pinocchio puppet looks awful. It’s big, crudely carved, its eyes can only roll left and right and its mouth doesn’t even move when it talks, surely the easiest of effects to achieve. What’s worse is that the puppet is a foul-mouthed little bugger but the voice is not intimidating in the slightest. You just want him to shut up.

Brittany Alyse Smith, as Zoe, delivers a mixed performance. On some occasions her overly cute, sweet little girl delivery is so adorable that you can’t help but empathise with her. But in other scenes, her delivery is loud, forced and too energetic, showing her lack of maturity in delivering the lines. Rosalind Allen is better as her mother but this is hardly an actor’s film, especially when she’s forced to talk to and deal with a killer puppet! To write any jokes about ‘wooden’ acting at this point would be pretty pointless. Also, there is a shower scene featuring some full frontal nudity and I will avoid the whole ‘Pinocchio gets wood’ jokes too.

 

Pinocchio’s Revenge is derivative and, at times, just a drag to sit through but there are a couple of good moments and Tenney does at least try to play everything as seriously as possible. Whether that was the best option or not remains to be seen. Thankfully we were spared a sequel.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Evil Bong (2006)

Evil Bong (2006)

Dude, it’s one SCARY trip!

A group of college stoner buddies come into possession of a mysterious bong that is sent to them after they respond to an ad in a paper. However, as they soon come to find out, anyone who smokes from it is pulled into the bong itself and killed.

 

But I’m sure you gathered that already. I mean, what else were you honestly expecting from a film called Evil Bong? I think I’ve reached rock bottom with this one and gone completely insane. Did I really watch this? Standards have been slipping for a while but even I’m not sure why I plumped for this one when I’ve got dozens of creature features, slashers and giant monster movies to watch.

As someone who has never got the whole ‘stoner’ culture, films like Evil Bong just go right over my head. The stereotypical images of laziness, stupidity, a lack of ambition, and so on, that are associated with stoners don’t exactly set my desires racing – who wants to sit and get high all day when I could be out there in the real world realising my dreams and ambitions (or just sitting as a keyboard warrior writing reviews!)? The same principle applies to these stoner films. Why should I invest my time supporting characters who would rather sit idly around and smoke weed rather than doing something productive with our very time-sensitive lives? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to brand everyone with the same tag because I just don’t get it: everything about smoking weed seems kind of pointless. Trying to build up a film and throwing in some Macguffin which stops the main characters from partaking in this seems just as futile.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ve done enough damage to my demographic and insulted a large portion of my readers with these comments but as I’ve said, I just don’t get it because films like Evil Bong are made as a result. Films with few redeeming qualities which showcase smoking weed as if everyone does it, and those who don’t should because they’re missing out on the in-jokes. I guess Evil Bong was made for a specific audience, hence the inclusion of notable ‘stoner actor’ Tommy Chong, famous for his series of Cheech and Chong comedies which revolved around smoking copies amounts of marijuana.  Chong is actually the best bit about the film. I’ve never seen any of the Cheech and Chong films but they are pretty infamous so it was pretty easy to spot the obvious gags and references, though not necessarily getting them, and at least Chong is committed to delivering a scenery-chewing performance.

If you expect anything resembling a cohesive film then think again. It’s almost like a sketch scene with one or two ideas spread thinly over the running time. The film is shot entirely across two sets: the Friends-style front room in the real world and the ‘bong world’ strip club. And that’s it. Characters will smoke weed in the real world, are sucked into the bong and then are either killed or attempt to escape from the bong. That’s the entire film in a nutshell. Rinse and repeat. There are no scares here. No tension. No atmosphere. No freakiness (unless you count a bong with eyes and a mouth). What’s really annoying about Evil Bong is that all of the scenes inside the bong are given a hazy border to give us the impression that they’re in this bong world and are under the influence of the drugs (and no doubt expecting most of its target demographic to be under the influence as well). Even the inclusion of copious nudity from the well-endowed strippers does little to keep interest piqued.

Charles Band has produced hundreds of films in his time under the various guises of his many production companies, most famously the Puppet Master franchise. Over recent years, he’s developed something of a ‘tiny terrors’ fetish in which his horror films must include some sort of maniacal miniature monsters. Evil Bong is populated by a bunch of cameos from Band’s more famous productions including the Gingerdead Man, Jack Attack from Demonic Toys and even a cameo from Tim ‘Dollman’ Thomerson. In this respect, it’s more of an extended commercial to showcase Band’s other franchises and those who don’t know who these characters are will be none the wiser as to their inclusion. The Evil Bong of the title is another of those puppets with limited movement which just sits there, says a few things where its mouth moves slightly and that’s it. Hardly the stuff of nightmares. When you make the Gingerdead Man look like Freddy Kruger, you’ve got problems!

 

As an English teacher, even I am lost for words for how I can summarise Evil Bong. Describing it as horror is pushing it too far. Calling it a comedy is a disservice to the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin, and Keaton. Jeez, when I think of the likes of The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather and Schindler’s List, Evil Bong kind of pales into embarrassing insignificance. It’s a film which had a limited market, would have an even limited fan base and most likely thirty or so people across the entire world will rate it as their favourite film.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012)

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2013)

The Battle Is Over. The War Has Just Begun!

After the destruction of the secret German armoury, some of Andre Toulon’s puppets find themselves in the hands of the Nazis who are hoping to discover the secrets of resurrection and create an army of fallen soldiers to win the war. But Danny and his girlfriend, instrumental in stopping them the first time around, teams up with the remaining puppets in an attempt to rescue their comrades and put an end to these German schemes once and for all.

 

The killer puppets are back for the tenth instalment of the Puppet Master series (eleventh if you include Puppet Master Vs Demonic Toys which is not considered part of the series) though you’ll forgive me for greeting another sequel with apathy. Aside from the first three films, the rest of the Puppet Master has, quite frankly, blowed. Somehow, after twenty-three years since the original, the films are still being made. Though I guess that’s down the fact that people like me still watch them in the hope that they recapture their past glories.

Picking up after the events of Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, Puppet Master X: Axis Rising continues the World War II-themed plot to milk more out of its Nazi bad guys (and no doubt the same sets and props to save on coin) with the main characters being played by new actors (and no doubt cheaper than the originals – starting to see a pattern emerging?) and the puppets once again standing around watching everything like spectators. Puppet Master must surely be Full Moon’s biggest money spinner (or only money spinner for that matter) so I don’t see why these films have been shafted when it comes to budgets. They seem to get progressively smaller and smaller with each film and this is no exception. Long-time producer Charles Band stepped behind the camera for this one, no doubt the most desperate cost-cutting measure available.

There are only a handful of characters in the film, the same two or three sets are re-used and there’s hardly anything in the way of special effects. Gone is everything that made the first three films such cult classics. This is just a woeful efforts which comes off more like a poorly made fan-feature than an official entry into the Puppet Master series. I wonder whether there were any more than about twenty people involved in this from beginning to end, such is the nature of how small scale everything has become. According to Tom Devlin, one of the FX guys who talks in the behind-the-scenes feature, the budget for this was smaller than the cost of building one of the cable-controlled puppets from the original. That’s what we’re dealing with here.

I’ve said in my other reviews for this franchise that it’s the puppets and the shenanigans that they cause which are the main attractions to these films yet we’ve been getting short-changed for years and it gets worse. The classic puppets look to be in awful condition. Both Pinhead and Ms Leech look like they need a new paint job, Jester hardly does anything and Six Shooter is only seen in the finale. The new puppets look fantastic which is a shame when you see how little they have to do. Bombshell is a blonde Nazi with machine guns hidden in her breasts, Weremacht is a werewolf SS soldier, Blitzkrieg is a mini-tank with a helmet head and Kamikaze is a Japanese suicide bomber (blatantly not giving a toss about racial stereotyping). The puppets have nothing to do for the entire film save for the inevitable good versus evil showdown at the end and even here it looks like the director just pointed a camera at the crew and told them to play with the puppets. They’ve got limited movement and there are plenty of close-ups of them looking angry and making noises. Hardly edge-of-your-seat action.

I won’t bother too much looking into the human aspect of the film. No one really cares about the characters anymore – a couple of bland teens in lead roles and some hammy actors portraying ridiculous and long-dead stereotypes don’t really cut the mustard. The German characters are awful, with horrible accents and clichéd mannerisms. Stephanie Sanditz, the busty German officer, may look the part in her low-cut tops (and would look better with them!) but this is the 21st century and the Puppet Master series has long dispensed with gratuitous exploitation – the days of glamorous Charlie Spradling baring all in Puppet Master II are long over. In fact it’s long dispensed with everything – blood, boobs, action and entertainment. What’s left is a void of ideas, kept going by a studio which is desperate to remain relevant in an era where its low budget horror films just don’t make the grade anymore.

 

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising is not the film to resurrect a franchise but what it will do is keep it on life support that bit longer. It’s the best of at least the last four films but that’s not a ringing endorsement. Charles Band needs to decide whether he wants to give the franchise a final farewell and blow a load of money at a decent entry or risk losing the few fans this series has left with another bog-standard filler flick.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ghoulies II (1988)

Ghoulies II (1988)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom.

The devilish Ghoulies find themselves tagging along with a struggling carnival and proceed to turn the haunted house attraction into a real money spinner by scaring people for real. But it isn’t long before the Ghoulies just can’t resist taking everything one step too far.

 

I have to say that this sequel really took me by surprise. The original Ghoulies was a bargain basement Gremlins-wannabe featuring a bunch of moth-ridden, soiled puppets which looked to be falling apart at the seams but attempted to cause mischief nevertheless. It was awful and the title creatures were given little screen time (not surprisingly!). But from Charles Band, the man who later developed a fetish for tiny terror films (Puppet Master, Demonic Toys, Hideous!, Blood Dolls, etc), I would have expected no less than a sequel and here we are. It’s hardly in The Dark Knight levels of superior sequels but compared to the original, it’s definitely in The Godfather Part II mould.

This first sequel (of which there were three – I know, the film world amazes me) starts to put things right by actually focusing on the Ghoulies and giving them plenty of screen time. As crude and as damaged as the puppets look, at least they’re given something to do this time around. They’re not the Gremlins and they’re not even at Crites level (from the Critters films for those who may be wondering) but these little monsters can still manage to pull a chuckle or two out of the viewer and they’ve all got some individual personality. All three of the creatures from the first one are back as well as a new puppet – the bald green one from the film poster is my favourite as he looks like an overgrown Jelly Baby. Here they cause all sorts of mayhem in the carnival, with the shooting gallery scene being an amusing highlight. It’s hardly rocket science comedy and it panders to the school children in all of us. Little things hitting each other – its basic Punch ‘n’ Judy comedy but it works in a low budget horror-comedy like this. Whilst the puppets look as worn out as they did in the original, the stop motion sequences don’t work very well.

As for the premise, well it’s as fleshed out as it possibly could be. Basically an excuse for the monster hi-jinks, the film sees a standard story of a struggling business on the verge of collapse being suddenly revitalised when something extraordinary happens to it. You know the direction that the story will take but the fun here is just sitting back and allowing everything to transpire by the book. As long as there is some Ghoulie action going, it’s not too difficult. The light-hearted tone of the film and a generous helping of daft 80s comedy helps to hide over many of the cracks. This is the film we had imagined the original would be. Thankfully the producer learnt from his mistakes and made sure that Ghoulies II lived up to the expectations. Given how terrible the original was, I wonder just how many people gave this one a chance.

I don’t want to sound like I’m praising it too much. The film lacks any measure of quality and has a budget about as big as some other film’s buffet carts. But as far as junk films go, there’s fun to be had and credit needs to be given where it’s due. The beauty of setting the film inside a carnival, specifically one with a haunted house, gives the production team a field day to create some fantastic sets. The haunted house looks like great Halloween fun and allowing the Ghoulies to run wild in it adds to its low grade charms. It’s the type of setting that has seen relatively few horror films utilise to good effect (Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse springs to mind) but one which can work well when required.

Diminutive actor Phil Fondacaro is the pick of the cast, playing the carnival’s resident midget who thinks he should be a Shakespearian actor instead of being stuck as one of the cheap gimmicks inside the haunted house. In many respects, this mirrors Fondacaro: he’s an actor I’ve seen many times in these low budget flicks and he’s far better than any of the material given. The rest of the cast fulfill their obligatory 80s stereotype roles. Expect lots of bright fashion, guys in vests and copious amounts of hairspray.

 

Ghoulies II is a vast improvement over the original. Whilst it’s still not a great film, it’s more than watchable in a daft 80s horror-comedy sort of way. If you’re in desperate need of a fix of little demonic creatures resorting to toilet humour to entertain, then check it out. It’s not Shakespeare but it will fill a gap.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)

Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)

Evil’s in the house

Three young rappers are looking for a big break but when a deal with a local record producer called Mack Daddy falls through, they decide to break into his apartment and steal some jewellery to get even. But one of them takes a medallion off an ugly-looking statue in which the evil leprechaun had been imprisoned. With the medallion gone, the leprechaun is free to go hunting for the magical flute that Mack Daddy stole from him years earlier and built his success around – and the leprechaun will kill anyone who gets in his way.

 

You read the title correct. Not content with surviving Las Vegas and conquering space, the little Irish bugger now has his sights set on the toughest place of them all – the hood. Come on, just who comes up with these ideas? How can a franchise destroy itself so easily with such a truly awful array of ideas for its sequels? From the vault of cringe-worthy, hysteria-inducing ideas comes Leprechaun in the Hood, the fifth instalment of a series where quality and assurance control was never part of the post-production process.

It’s Leprechaun meets Boyz n the Hood and if that combination doesn’t immediately sends shivers down your spine, I don’t know what will. It’s cheap. It’s poorly made. It’s scraping the barrel to keep the series on life support. It’s a film that only die hard lovers of truly bad films will be able to appreciate. Leprechaun in the Hood plays out as wacky as you’d expect from such a titled film and the novelty value is seeing the culture clash between the diminutive Irish fella and his hood brothers. It’s such an absurd contradiction that it actually works to a degree but a more talented set of writers would no doubt have made more of the situation than simply playing on stereotype.

The script is peppered with ridiculous dialogue which does little to change stereotypical views of black people, ghettos and such like. It paints almost every black character as some form of criminal, even the reverend at the church. The three young rappers immediately turn to violence when things don’t go their way. Talk about playing the race card. I guess it was only a matter of time before the leprechaun came up against someone who shared his ability to produce rhyme out of thin air and with the rappers, he finds such opponents. Your tolerance of rap and of the whole culture associated with it will go some way to your appreciation of the film. Most of the songs in the film are dire and although the rapping ability of the black actors is not in question, it all gets tiring rather quickly for someone like me who isn’t a big fan. To top it all off, the leprechaun busts out some moves and cuts a rap during the end credits. It’s not the film purists, that’s for sure.

I  must admit, the idea of the characters attempting to kill the leprechaun by getting him to smoke weed which had been laced with four-leaf clovers is amusing and leads to the film’s best moment. But the rest of the film involves the leprechaun, Mack Daddy and the gang all getting in each other’s way and killing off a whole host of random people in the process. Death scenes are relatively gore free and somewhat low key considering the previous films and they’re played entirely for laughs rather than have any sort of scare value. In fact, between scenes of the leprechaun getting high and the gang getting dressed in drag to go undercover, the film would have been better off posing itself as a full-on comedy – it’s certainly more unintentionally funny than some of the Wayan Brothers films have been intentionally funny.

Warwick Davis can move from the sadistic to the camp and from the evil to the comedic in a heart-beat and he has always been the best thing about the series. Though his height will always unfairly overshadow him, his acting range is top drawer and though the series was hardly one to challenge any actor, Davis always gave it his best shot. He seems to be having a blast in this one, although his character gets less screen time than before and becomes somewhat of a supporting player for a large chunk of the film. Ice-T plays, well the stock Ice-T characters he’s been playing for a while now. He’s hardly what I’d class as star power but I bet a few people were fooled into thinking that this was an Ice-T vehicle and not just some third-rate sequel to a long-flagging horror franchise.

 

Leprechaun in the Hood – what did you honestly expect I was going to say about it? It’s virtually impossible to criticise as the film was released straight-to-video and still turned a small profit, proving that the lure of enduring ever-diminishing horror franchises remains as strong as ever. Definitely not one for everyone.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College (1991)

Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College (1991)

Everybody’s favorite troublemakers are on the loose again!

A college professor unleashes the Ghoulies from their bathroom prison when he reads out an enchantment from a comic book. Using them as his servants, he orders that they put a stop to prank week at the college, where rival frats continuously play jokes on one another in an attempt to win a crown.

 

Gremlins has a lot to answer for, spawning two successive similarly-themed ‘little monster’ franchises (Ghoulies and Critters) each of which have produced four films – no mean feat for any horror franchise (come to think of it, when Puppet Master currently stands at ten films plus a crossover with Demonic Toys, then any old franchise can sequelise itself into oblivion). In comparing the Gremlins-wannabes, the Ghoulies came off a lot worse than the Crites….and I mean a lot worse. Looking like sock puppets from the Victorian era that someone had found in a moth-ridden loft, the monsters looked every inch a pathetic bunch of no-hopers that wouldn’t scare a timid, ninety-year old granny who has had a few heart attacks and is clinging on to life. Someone saw some potential in them and after their disastrous first outing, even though the monsters were virtual spectators in their own film, they were back for the first sequel. Ghoulies II was just as awful as the first one, featuring marginally more Ghoulie action but they still looked like they’d been found in the rubbish dump. Not an auspicious start to a franchise.

The good news here is that Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College is the best of the series by a long shot. That’s not too hard considering the low budget ridiculousness of the previous two films and the sheer ineptitude of the next sequel. Hardly considered scary, this one works best if you take it into consideration with the other screwball 80s horror-comedies that were being released straight-to-video at the time. Containing frat boy humour, lots of drinking, a bit of college girl nudity, some cheap gore and a general feeling of harmless fun, Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College is best described as one of those juvenile American college comedies (National Lampoon’s Animal House, Porky’s, etc.) with some rubber monsters thrown into the mix. The entire plot revolves around two frat houses which are trying to one-up each other during prank week and the Ghoulies get involved. That’s literally it for story and what ensues is a cherry picking through the scrapbook of stereotypical college situations with little monsters causing havoc in each one. Sadly, the Ghoulies are once again given the shaft and they’re more background pests than outright threats.

There’s only three Ghoulies this time around and even though they look like shoddy stick puppets, they fair better than they’ve done in the previous outings, most likely due to the fact that there are fewer of them to animate. They look bigger than they did before, which gives them the impression of being overgrown kids when they dress up in frat gear. The bonus this time is that they talk. The little demons now fire off wisecracks and talk to each other instead of growling, leading to schoolboy humour-esque situations for example which they mimic the professor word for word. It’s hardly high-brow sophisticated comedy but it is daft and you’ll hate yourself for laughing along. The fact that they now talk leads to all manner of shenanigans, with the audience now able to listen to them joke amongst themselves whilst they perve on naked chicks or drink beer. And believe me, there’s plenty of naked chicks to go around, so much in fact that I must applaud the director for coming up with creative ways in which to justify it (like hell he does, he just constantly shows chicks taking showers).

Kevin McCarthy had fallen a long way since his glory days of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and he is given the thankless task of portraying Professor Ragnar, the man who controls the Ghoulies. McCarthy doesn’t give two hoots that he’s in something as terrible as this and ploughs on ahead with a crazed zest which puts many of his contemporaries to shame. If only everyone seemed to be having as much fun as him in their roles. Matthew Lillard, more famous as one of the killers in Scream (and of course, as Shaggy in Scooby Doo) makes his film debut here.

 

Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College is hard not to like in a “I know this is total rubbish but what the hell” sort of way but it doesn’t take itself seriously, emits an innocent charm and despite the silliness and stupidity, it’s still watchable 80s junk which hopes you’ll jump along for the childish ride. You’ll probably go along with it too – I certainly did.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hideous! (1997)

Hideous! (1997)

Deformed. Devious. Depraved.

Two groups of rival collectors of severely deformed oddities are trapped inside a mansion with four of the little monsters which have come to life.

 

Charles Band continues his monopoly on ‘tiny terror’ horror films by featuring yet another low budget rehash of his successful Puppet Master films. Replace tiny puppets for tiny deformed monsters and it’s virtually the same film with Hideous! Band and his Full Moon company had fallen on hard times in the late 90s and without the distribution deal he had with Paramount Pictures, Band was forced to slash budgets, resulting in a number of films which look almost identical and were set inside the same old creaky Romanian castles which doubled up as glamorous mansions. Hideous! is one such film though such is the repetitive nature of these Puppet Master wannabes that it could have doubled up as Blood Dolls or Demonic Toys 2 and I’d have been none the wiser. All of these ‘tiny terror’ films blur into one for me because they’re so alike.

At least the killer puppets had charm and were more human-like than their acting counterparts. These freaks aren’t even worth a second glance, hardly coming to life with little movement and no distinguishing mannerisms to give them that lifelike touch. Maybe it’s because they don’t look like little people (watch the first few Puppet Master films and tell me that Blade doesn’t look like he comes to life) and so it is harder for the script to sell them as being alive.

When they do attack characters, it’s just a case of the actors grabbing hold of the puppet models and holding them to their throats or head and writhe around as if they’re being attacked. Considering how poor the selection of human characters are you’ll still be rooting for these oddities. Of course, you’ll be questioning how something small that doesn’t even come close to being knee-level with the characters can brutally murder them and with such ease.

The humans……ah yes. Never before have I seen such a dire selection of actors attempting to bring life to their strange roles. I’d never heard of anyone in this film before watching and doubt I’ll here from them again. Oh yes, Mel Johnson Jr. did star as mutated cab driver Benny in the original Total Recall but that’s not exactly a massive claim to fame. Jacqueline Lovell spends half of her screen time wearing a mini-skirt and an open black top, more than adequately providing enough token nudity for a handful of films let alone one. Another of the women gives blondes a bad name and her character got really irritating. It seems like she knew she was in a right turkey of a film and decided to ditz it up a bit.

However Hideous! is a film which seems to thrive on being oddball and weird-than-normal. Daft stuff happens (naked chicks with gorilla masks holding guns in the snow outside anyone?), no explanations are given and the story moves on as if you’re expecting to see the sights you see. Common sense, reason and logic go out of the window. These are meant to be throwaway films, devoid of any narrative structure, coherence or melodramatics and instead focus on ideas which purposely make the film seem cheesy and camp. I guess it works to a degree – it just doesn’t make for good viewing.

 

Hideous! was supposed to be a comedy horror but the only people laughing were Full Moon who actually got me to rent this piece of trash. Band’s only worthwhile ‘tiny terror’ flicks were the first couple of Puppet Master films so skip these pretenders and head to the real thing.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Puppet Master 4 (1993)

Puppet Master 4 (1993)

When Bad Puppets, turn Good

Rick is a young scientist working on an artificial intelligence project who moves into Andre Toulon’s old Bodega Bay Inn to continue his research. There he discovers a locked trunk with all of the puppets inside as well as Toulon’s life-giving formula. But underworld demon Sutek is angry that Toulon originally stole the formula from him and sends his demonic minions to retrieve it and kill those in possession. In order to defend himself, Rick animates the puppets and they become his protectors.

 

It’s a bit of an overly fantastic plot but how many times can you see a film about killer puppets before it becomes boring? Well in the answer of the Puppet Master series, the answer is three because this fourth instalment is pretty devoid of any new ideas apart from having the puppets fight other miniature monsters. Film back-to-back with the next sequel, Puppet Master 4 takes a nose dive off from the as-normal-as-films-about-killer-puppets-go style to the as-silly-as-films-about-killer-puppets-go style. Virtually rebooting the series with a new lead character taking control of the puppets and the fact that they are now the good guys, Puppet Master 4 is definitely going through the motions with the material.

The idea of turning the puppets into the good guys does give the series a tiny extra bit of life but that’s about all the energy you’re going to get for a sequel that is running on empty. Though all of this allegiance swapping throughout the series is a bit confusing, especially when you take into consideration the time periods in which they were all meant to be set. Besides which it’s much more entertaining seeing them slice up humans than tiny demons. They don’t do that here but neither do they do a whole lot of demon killing either. In fact not a lot happens for a good chunk of the running time. Just as things start to get more exciting at the finale, the film ends and it is then obvious that the rest of the decent stuff would take place in Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter. If you’ve seen that then you’ll know that’s not entirely the case but the whole double film idea just screams padding out. There was hardly enough material to fit into one film let alone make two out of it.

Once again the puppets steal the show and are more life-like and believable than the human cast. Their limited movement doesn’t really allow you to buy into them as killing machines any more but their mannerisms still make them seem more like little people than little puppets. When they finally start taking down the Totems in the finale, the novelty value of seeing them work together is quite good including a brutal three-on-one assault. Tunneller, Six Shooter, Blade, Pinhead and Jester are all back although most only get limited screen time. Annoyingly, Torch (the flame-thrower puppet and my personal favourite just because he looks so cute with his little helmet and boots) is nowhere to be found despite being on the film poster. Ms Leech is also absent but I was never a big fan so it’s not a problem. Despite this, the puppets are still animated in stop-motion in a couple of scenes which at least makes the special effects far better than any of the sequels that followed.

The new puppet, Decapitron, is little too far fetched to be in this film and is one of the things that make the entire film seem rather silly and cheesy. He has inter-changeable heads, laser beams and machine guns? Where did this puppet come from? Surely Toulon wasn’t a scientific genius capable of producing laser beams in WW2 Nazi Germany? Whatever the reason for its creation, the puppet has blatantly only been put in this as a way for the writers to abruptly solve a problem with a totally unexpected twist. Plus who in the world gave it the name Decapitron? That just sums up the film for me – a little too goofy and over-the-top considering how fairly well grounded the previous films were.

 

Puppet Master 4 is strictly for die-hard fans of the series and even some of those, like me, will struggle to sit through this yawn-fest with the promise of a small amount of cheesy puppet action at the end. If you aren’t a fan, then you’re best off checking the first three films for the best of the series.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Troll 2 (1990)

Troll 2 (1990)

One was not enough!

A young child is horrified at bedtime stories of goblins by his Grandpa Seth. His worst nightmares come true though when his family takes a trip to the remote town of Nilbog, a place filled with strange humans and even stranger food. It turns out that the entire population are actually goblins who are trying to feed the family food which will turn them into goblin food!

 

To kick off this review, I’ll quote the tagline for this infamous sequel – “one was not enough!” It certainly wasn’t and thus we are presented with one of the most universally-recognised worst films of all time. It’s currently sat in the bottom 100 on IMDB (number 17 at time of writing – I can’t believe there are another 16 worse films out there!) with a brilliant score of 1.9 out of 10. It’s reputation has begun to precede it and there’s a good reason for that – it is one of the most horrific, mind-numbingly, eye-destroying wastes of ninety-five minutes I’ve had the misfortune of subjecting myself to. But with its reputation as a shocking piece of entertainment, it’s also turned into one of the more sought after films – everyone just has to get a copy to see how bad it is. Believe me, no one in their right mind would want to even sit and watch just to say they’d seen it. I am sure in years to come there will be some sort of medical condition given to people suffering from the after effects of enduring this.

As if the first Troll wasn’t bad enough, some Italian hacks come along, make a totally unrelated film about GOBLINS and then seems to have tagged the Troll title along for release in foreign markets. Apart from a few moments where people turn into blobs of green goo or become plants, there’s nothing lifted from the original at all. Well there are the pitiful creature effects, the awful dialogue, the laughable acting and the ridiculousness of the first film all rolled up into one here. I can’t really write a comprehensive review of the film because I’ll just ramble on about how awful it is. So let me give you a few snippets from the film to get you into the mood.

Realising the goblins turn their victims into food by getting them to eat food, the young boy tries to stop his family from eating a meal the locals have laid on for them. He stands up on the table and pees on the food. In another moment of randomness, the goblin queen turns into a blonde chick to seduce a guy in a camper van. In the midst of seduction she pulls out a corn cob, which they then share between their mouths. He says he prefers popcorn so the next moment the bed explodes all around him with loads of popcorn.

Also in the film, a group of goblins chases a woman through the woods wielding weapons. A teenager rescues her and proceeds to walk up to the goblins and starts trying it on. Even if they’re only small, you still don’t pick fights with weird creatures you’ve never seen before and that wield spears. In another scene, one of the transformed teenagers is now a plant and is punished for trying to help a friend escape by having parts of his body (or stem, I’m not sure what he was at this point) cut off with a chainsaw. The young boy constantly gets advice by his dead grandpa, who then appears later in the film and is able to stop time and restart it at will. The film ends with a sandwich being the ultimate weapon of choice for the young boy which banishes the goblins.

Ah sack it: let’s hammer the film a little more. I’m sure no one will mind. The acting is an abomination and its chumps like this that give other actors a bad name. The whiny brat boy is the most annoying little twerp I’ve ever seen. All he seems to do is misbehave and shout “grandpa.” His sister is no better, seemingly smiling blankly at the camera in some scenes as if she’s forgotten her lines. The dad sounds like he’s just escaped from having a lobotomy and the locals are just that – local people in the village that it was filmed in.

The special effects look to have been lifted from a kid’s TV show. You can see the presenter now asking the kids to bring in green paint, some sticky-back plastic and some toilet rolls and then letting the youngsters run wild. The goblins wear potato sacks and their masks are those cheap and nasty Halloween masks that rip when you put them on or sting your face because there are so cheap, they’ve thrown any old skin-blistering paint on them.

 

If you thought Schindler’s List was a life-changing film, then you ain’t lived! Troll 2 is where it’s at. Traumatic and coma-inducing experiences don’t get any worse than this. I feel like the urge to die.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

One small step for man. One giant leap of terror!

A space marine rescue squad is on it’s way to a distant planet to save a princes from the evil leprechaun, who wants her to be his bride so that he can marry into royalty and get his hands on the king’s gold. The marines rescue the princess and take her back to their ship. However, the leprechaun manages to stowaway on board and proceeds to kill the marines one-by-one so that he can be reunited with his bride-to-be.

 

I honestly can’t imagine anyone walking into a producer’s office to put forward their script idea about a third sequel to Leprechaun but this time set in space. It either takes some real balls or the person has been clinically proven to be insane. It seems to be an unwritten rule for struggling franchises to send their anti-hero into space. Friday the 13th did it with Jason X. Pinhead and his cronies turned up on a space station in Hellraiser: Bloodline. Even the Gremlins wannabes, the Crites, ended up there with Critters 4. And now the annoying little Irish git with the shiny shoes and hankering for gold is blasted off into space. I’m guessing that someone had a script for some Aliens-style sci-fi flick ready to go and the leprechaun was thrown in there as the monster. You might as well give him acid blood and a weird second jaw because Leprechaun 4: In Space runs like your typical monster-on-the-loose-in-confined-place horror.

There are no limericks, no four-leaf clovers or medallions and strangely enough, no pots of gold.  Leprechaun 4: In Space has absolutely nothing to do with any of the series preceding or following it. It’s just an anomaly. How he even gets onto an alien planet in the first place is never explained. Are we to take this as a standalone film where the leprechaun is actually an alien? If so, why is it billed as a sequel? Its best not to really try and comprehend things like this – leaving them unanswered is for the best. What needs answering though is a personal question which will depend on your position towards bad films. Do you believe that a film can be truly horrendous yet superbly entertaining at the same time? Or are you in the boat that says that truly horrendous = total waste of time?

Usually I’d go with the latter but in this case, I’ll make an exception. It’s mind-blowingly bad but at the same time, there’s a perverse entertainment to be had from watching it. There’s so much wrong with it that it becomes car-crash cinema – you honestly have no idea where the film is going to go next. From one of horror’s greatest ever resurrection sequences (it doesn’t pay one to wee on the remains of a leprechaun!), to the no-budget spaceship effects (which would look at home on an early 80s home computer) to a scene in which you see the leprechaun wielding a lightsabre, you never really know what is coming to poke fun at.

We’ve got a Dr Evil/Blofeld-style scientist bad guy complete with bald head who rants and raves a lot before turning into a giant spider/scorpion creature (as if a killer leprechaun wasn’t enough for the marines to face). There’s a marine who has an identity crisis halfway through the film and comes out dressed in drag. There’s the token hot doctor who gets her pants ripped off for no reason whatsoever to provide mild titillation. Not least the giant leprechaun at the end of the film (courtesy of a run-in with a laser beam) and a finale right out of Aliens. It takes as many sci-fi clichés as it possibly can and crams them all into what is essentially a slasher-in-space.

I feel sorry for Warwick Davis because he’s actually very good in his leprechaun role and has a lot of fun with it. In fact he’s been the sole consistent throughout the series, always turning out decent performances but unfortunately in one of cinema’s daftest roles, filled with comedic one-liners which will either have you groaning for the mute button or laughing in mad hysteria. Guy Siner really overacts badly as Dr Mittenhand, the German-esque scientist who looks like an old school Doctor Who baddie at first but then turns into some form of Roger Corman-esque schlocky monster. The role of the meddling scientist has long been a staple of this genre but there’s too much focus on him – this is a film about a killer leprechaun after all. Mittenhand just takes up a lot of screen time when the script would have been best served with lots more leprechaun action (and the audience too, knowing that at least the leprechaun is funny).

The rest of the cast are there to fill out the stereotype roles of the various marines so don’t bother getting acquainted with any first names. With the really dull and sparse sets hurting the eyes after a while, no doubt courtesy of the low budget, it’s down to Rebekah Carlton, as the princess, to at least makes a welcome distraction with a bit of eye candy. The low budget means that the majority of the cash has been channelled into the sci-fi elements of the film, meaning that the horror elements are overlooked. Leprechaun 4: In Space features arguably the worst selection of death scenes in the entire series which is a pity as some of the previous ones were highly memorable for the wrong reasons.

 

Leprechaun 4: In Space is a true classic of bad filmmaking. It’s horrendously entertaining for all of the wrong reasons but provides so many hilariously terrible moments, than one can’t help but wonder if it was all done on purpose. I can’t recommend watching Leprechaun 4: In Space enough – by far the most inspired of the sequels and potentially one of the most inspired sequels to horror franchises of all time! See it to believe it!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆