The Walking Dead is Not a Zombie Masterpiece.

Seems like everyone I know has gone all wackadoodledoo over “The Walking Dead” television show.

I occasionally watch it, I admit. Enough to keep up with most of the major plot points I suppose, but I can’t say I understand the people that are super-fans of the show.

Yes, as a lifelong horror movie fan it’s interesting and a little weird to see a normally hyper-violent subgenre of horror somehow translate into a huge hit with mainstream audiences.

There is part of me that is uncomfortable with such mainstream popularity. I can admit to myself that part of that may be snobbery, but part of it is the fear that zombie fiction will get messed up if it continues to cater to mainstream tastes. The last thing I want to see happen is zombies to become modernized like vampires have. Between Anne Rice and role playing gothtard nerds, vampire are hardly monsters anymore. Instead they’ve become vinyl clad bisexual superheroes that hang out at underground dance clubs. Shudder.

Vampires got screwed even worse when certain individuals decided that they are actual real life vampires. No, you’re not. You’re either delusional or play acting. Let’s get that straight. While the idea of some losers deciding that they’re “real” zombies and shambling around trying to eat other people is sort of a fun thought, I don’t think that’ll happen.

It seems unlikely that the rotting walking dead could get that kind of shitastic romanticization, but who knows? Anything’s possible when too many people get interested in a certain style of fiction.

I’ve been watching zombie movies of one kind or another since the late 70’s, when as a young child I was lucky enough to catch “The Night of the Living Dead” on TV one Halloween. It was a game changing moment for me. I had been watching horror films from about the time I could talk, but that movie seemed a lot more “real” than anything I’d been allowed to watch previously. Most horror movies that I’d seen featured patently unrealistic monsters or were kind of silly. Nothing wrong with that, but George Romero’s take on the reanimated dead just seemed much more grim and somehow possible than most horror made prior to the late 1960’s. I was probably only 10 when I saw the film the first time, but I could tell there was a lot more going on in NOTLD than in most monster movies I’d seen.

That experience ignited my love of horror movies even further, and to a certain extent it made me try to seek out the “harder stuff” – the films that were more intense and modern in their approach to scaring people. Fortunately for me, I was a kid during an era when horror films were going through a golden age. The late 70’s saw a lot of amazing movies that had a nihilistic realism at their core. That continued into the early 80’s, which welcomed the slasher film into the mix. Some of those being decidedly bad, but a lot were pretty intense for the time, and still are.

Somewhere during that time I was fortunate enough to see the uncut version of “Dawn of the Dead.” I knew that it was the best zombie film ever made, and one of the best horror films ever made. It still is, by the way.

While George Romero made intelligent films that used a background of a zombie apocalypse to tackle serious social issues, a lot of imitators (especially the Italians) just took this new monster and churned out film after film. Some, like Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi 2,” managed to be extremely entertaining and transgressive, even if the subject matter was mostly used to show nudity and extreme violence. I can honestly say that I still haven’t seen much that rivals the underwater scene where a guy in zombie makeup fights a huge and very alive tiger shark. It’s amazing.

So what am I getting at in regards to “The Walking Dead”?

I guess part of my problem is that I hear a lot of super-fans acting as if the series is wholly original and the quality is top notch. They’ll reference that it’s based on these really good comics (I admit, I haven’t read them), and that’s supposed to impress me as being revolutionary for some reason. It’s not. They may be well written, but they’re far from the first comics about zombies. In the late 80’s there was “Deadworld” and even earlier zombie action in comic magazines like “Creepy” and “Eerie” in the 70’s.

When I step away from the irritating fan people that try so hard to convince me that “The Walking Dead” is amazing, I have watched enough of the series to have mixed feelings about it. It IS entertaining from time to time, although I would say that like a lot of episodic television the quality varies greatly from episode to episode. I get that, it’s not rare or necessarily a bad thing.

The acting is mostly good, or at least as good as television acting gets. I can’t say anything bad about the actors involved.

The special effects are top notch. The people at KNB Effects are the best in the business, and that shows.

My main gripes are that the plots I’ve seen explored feel pretty uninspired and unoriginal. I feel like I’ve seen these stories, or ones very much like them before.

So fans? Say what you will about the show being entertaining, but please don’t tell me it’s got an original bone in it’s ravenous and decaying body, because it just doesn’t.

Then there’s the weird way violence is handled. I know it’s aimed for a mainstream audience, but there’s a LOT of graphic violence. I’m cool with that. I like it, actually. But I find it kind of lame that in a series that’s gone multiple seasons and that has lots of people coupling up, sex and nudity is absent entirely, but they will show a person getting their skin torn off by dead people.

It’s not a matter of wanting to see these actors naked exactly, it just strikes me as a very American and stupid take on this subject. Almost every episode features a level of violence that would’ve resulted in an X rating a couple of decades earlier, but no one ever walks around without their incredibly grimy looking clothes. If I were one of these folks, the first thing I’d do upon stumbling into one of the safe houses they always seem to find, is to strip down and hop in a tub, preferably burning my disgusting clothes and finding some new ones.

Anyway, the comic book hyper-violence seems weirdly out of place in a show where characters can’t even say “fuck,” much less show one of the couples engaging in that activity. It makes me think that the producers of the show have no problem with the graphic violence, but still think American audiences will prudishly freak out if a set of naked breasts were to end up on film.

The only other thing I can think of is that they’re trying to market the show to people of all ages, which makes me wonder why anyone would let a kid see a violent zombie show. I mean, I watched that stuff as a kid, but it wasn’t sanctioned by any responsible adults around. It wasn’t shown on television and relentlessly marketed either.

Mostly, the problem I see in a long running zombie series that’s trying to be gritty and realistic is that we’re going to see the same basic plot setups over and over.

Our band of survivors will stumble across some shelter, then internal conflicts and scumbag outsiders will screw up the sanctuary and they’ll have to flee, probably being scattered in the process. Then they have adventures apart until they eventually find one another again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Occasionally some semi-beloved character will get killed, and that’s about the drama cycle that will be milked. In the context of a movie, this can work well. But seeing it played out over and over just doesn’t.

There’s also the problem with characters that make obviously stupid decisions. Trust “The Governor”? Sure, that seems reasonable. Go to some outpost called “Terminus”? Why not?

I’m surprised they haven’t milked “Dawn of the Dead” completely and just set up shop in a giant mall, although the boring prison season came close.

So that about covers my gripes. I support the idea of a hyper-violent TV show about the zombie apocalypse. I just don’t think “The Walking Dead” is the masterpiece that so many fans tell me it is.

20140410-131104.jpg

20140410-131111.jpg

20140410-131116.jpg

Advertisements

Sorceress – Cross Dressing Playboy Bunnies Fight Forces of Evil And Puppet Gods. Also, a Viking.

“Sorceress” has long been a favorite film of mine, for reasons almost impossible to describe to anyone else. It’s almost unbelievably shitty in every measurable way, but boy, is it an entertaining ride if you’re in the right mood (pro tip: the “right mood” might involve a twelve pack of swill beer in this case).

This was legendary B-movie director Jack Hill’s last film from what I can tell, and wow, is it terrible (but awesome). Watching “Sorceress” makes it hard to believe that the same director that brought the world classics like “Foxy Brown,” “Coffy,” and “Switchblade Sisters” somehow spat out this abomination.

But in 1982, the hugely successful “Conan the Barbarian” movie was spawning countless cheap imitators left and right, so it’s not surprising that Jack Hill somehow got roped into service to make this legendary turd of a film.

The action gets started with an army of about six or seven guys in ridiculous-looking armor hunting down a pregnant woman revealed to be the wife of evil sorcerer “Traigon,” who is bent on sacrificing his firstborn to the malevolent god “Calgara.”

After Traigon catches up to his fugitive wife, he discovers that she’s had twins. Rather than doing the prudent thing by just killing both completely helpless infants, Traigon decides to interrogate his wife. He has one of his ridiculous looking henchmen try to torture the woman to find out which baby is the first born. No sooner does the torture begin than there’s a bolt of lightening, and “Krona” appears, sort of the wise old wizard type. He kicks all the evil baddies’ asses, and as Traigon lies dying, he tells everyone how he’s got more lives and will be back in a few years. Then he disappears in a failed special effect.

His wife is also dying, and entrusts Krona with the care of her infant daughters before dying. Krona magically bonds the baby girls as the “Two who are one” with his wizard spells, and also grants them powers at fighting skills and sorcery, before handing them off to some farmer couple, instructing them to raise the twins as boys to throw off Traigon when he shows up again. Then, Krona promptly disappears to wherever guys like Krona go to hang out when they’re not being badass wizard guys.

20 years fast forward by, and sure enough Traigon reappears and immediately begins telling his lackeys to find the “Two who are one.” A guy in a terrible ape costume scampers around while some “Princess” shows her titties, and the small army of dudes wearing ridiculous armor cheer together. This scene immediately transitions to the now-adult twins skinny dipping in a lake. This scene makes it very clear just how bad a plan it was to pass off the twins as boys was, because they’re played by real life twins and Playboy centerfolds Leigh and Lynette Harris, and there is no way anyone would ever think the two of them were males. Yet, we are to believe that somehow no one has been tipped off by their obvious Playmate attributes, because they wear matching “male” clothes. Despite being raised by a woman and having a sister neither of them seem to have ever compared their bodies to them, and noticed any similarities. OK…moving forward.

Their naked shenanigans are being secretly watched by “Pando,” possibly the ugliest and most fake looking Satyr in movie history. Seeing that the lusty manbeast has a “horn” dangling between his legs and assuming it’s some sort of weapon, the two “brothers” beat the shit out of the pathetic goat man. Pando beats a steady retreat and the twins return home to discover Traigon’s forces attacking their home. Their father and mother are both murdered by Traigon’s paltry army, while their sister is raped and then also killed, so the twins kill a bunch of the evil doers, although a handful escape to tell Traigon. The sister’s display an awkward fighting style at best, but they do glow blue at some point, so perhaps that gives them the edge they needed. Afterwards, Pando returns, this time with “Valdar” the Viking, who must be the worst looking movie Viking in history.

He has a habit of saying gems like, “By Yggdrasil, tis sorcery,” so we know this guy is legit.

Valdar totally believes the Playmates are male, and agrees to help them wreak vengeance upon Traigon, who he also hates. The Viking suggests that they seek out his bro Erlik who might also be up for some Traigon-bashing, and off they go to a nearby “city.”

The city is as sad looking as Pando and Valdar, resembling Mortville from “Desperate Living,” or maybe a really low rent renaissance fair. They find Valdar’s pal Erlik getting in bar fights and biting the ass of a scantily clad wench, basically acting like a slimy bastard.

After heading to a room, Valdar witnesses the twins undressing, and then tries to creepily explain to them the differences between men and women while they let their boobs get some screen time. In short order the twins end up captured, and one of them is revealed to be the first born, pleasing the evil team to no end. The extra twin is offered to a guy in a terrible ape suit for his amusement (shudder), but fortunately for the twins, their male buds show up and bust up the party.

Erik and one of the twins are quickly recaptured by a group of the ape men, and Erik is stripped naked and sentenced to the painful-looking “death by sliding down a greased pole as a ten foot spike is shoved up his ass.” Fortunately for our leading man, there’s a ridiculous plot development that identifies him as some sort of prince, and it’s understood that the sacrifice of the first born will be better if Erik and her get it on, so he’s spared the death by ass-kabob.

What follows is a grotesque scene where Erik and one of the twins (I can’t tell them apart, and it doesn’t matter) get it on, and the other twin who is off somewhere hanging out with Valdar, reacts as if she is the one getting nailed. So, an awkward and creepy orgasm by proxy.

The sacrifice is about to proceed when the orgasmic twin and Hagar the Horrible (“Valdar” – same difference) show up to ruin the party. Traigon waves his hand, and the ground gives way under them, and they fall into some sort of underground tomb. A bunch of corpses reanimate (as they do) and close in. So things are looking bad for all of the hero characters, when suddenly we hear the voice of ‘ol Krona commanding them to “Use the name Vitaan!” The twin does, and weird shit ensues.

Erik and the sacrificial twin suddenly shake off their drugged stupor, the zombies below give up on their prey and decide to storm Traigon’s temple instead. Then they decide to haul off and rape the temple women.

Valdar remarks on that development “It’s been a thousand years, you know?” Classy guy.

Anyway, at some point during all of this, two of the most badly-executed special effects “gods” I’ve ever seen appear.

One looks like a Hispanic woman’s head with half of her face rotting off, just floating way up in the air occasionally shooting fireballs at people. The other is even worse, looking like an extremely fake lion monster made of foam rubber. They do battle, and the evil floating head explodes.

Traigon disappears again, claiming he’ll return (probably for a sequel that never came to be for some unknown reason) and the heroes battle his remaining forces, until they’re all vanquished.

Then, the heroes all group laugh like the end of a bad sitcom, and that’s the end.

Seriously, find this film and watch it. It’s awesomely bad. Lots of bad special effects, gratuitous nudity, and an all around low production values.

I’d give it 7 floating lion puppets out of 10.

20140127-185943.jpg

By Yggdrasil! Ye boys have vaginas!

 

20140127-185953.jpg

The bargain basement goat man Pando.

 

20140127-185959.jpg

Two Gods… Two very crappy Gods…

 

20140127-190005.jpg

Ass Kabab!

 

20140127-190012.jpg

Totally convincing as men.

 

20140127-190019.jpg

Yep, that’s what men look like all right…

 

20140127-190025.jpg

Pretty women, scary hand puppets.

 

Hatchet 2, Blood Soaked Boogaloo

I caught “Hatchet 2” on Netflix, not knowing exactly what to expect. I knew that it was supposed to be a gory slasher film, and it looked derivative of the 80’s formula: a hideously deformed monster of a man haunts a desolate Louisiana swamp, butchering anyone stupid or unlucky enough to stumble into his killing grounds.

Frankly, I’ve seen that movie quite a few times before, but I had heard the first “Hatchet” film has fans, so I thought I’d give it a chance.

The film begins right where the first one seems to have left off, with final girl Mary Beth left as the lone survivor of murderous bogeyman Victor Crowley’s wrath.

After escaping the swamp, it’s pretty obvious she is haunted by the experience, and will soon be back battling Crowley again. The plot involves Mary Beth contacting a local Voodoo Priest and scam artist named “Reverend Zombie,” who is played by Tony Todd, recognizable to any horror fan that’s seen him in “Candyman.”

What follows is a dumb setup involving the good Reverend gathering a group of low-lives and promising them each $500 to go into the swamp and help retrieve a boat of his. His real plan is to confront Victor Crowley. Several of the men he enlists have a link to his past, and Zombie thinks that if Crowley (actually it’s Crowley’s ghost that comes back every night) anyway, he thinks that if Crowley’s ghost murders those guys, then he will cease to return, freeing the swamp up so Zombie can claim it.

It’s all completely silly and stupid, but hey, we wouldn’t have a movie if no one agreed to go into the swamp. Tagging along of course is Mary Beth, and another woman. We know the moment this disposable blonde is introduced that her sole reason for being there is to show her boobs and then get murdered later in the film. It’s sort of a tradition in these things.

The group goes into the swamp, intent on spending the night, or something like that. It doesn’t really matter. The plot is secondary to other factors in a low achieving slasher film like this one. There’s a ridiculous back story for Victor Crowley of which we get a flashback, and Zombie explains his theory that if Crowley’s head is severed his ghost will disappear forever. That’s about all the plot we need for a movie like this one.

Sure enough, Crowley shows up after the large group intelligently decide to split into pairs, and starts brutally murdering everyone. The kills are the real reason this film got made, and its main appeal. Make of that what you will.

There’s a lot of gore throughout, and it’s all pretty well executed if not realistic. Early on, Crowley tears out a guy’s entrails and after pulling him around by his intestines, he wraps then around the dude’s neck and tears his head off. Geysers of blood follow. So yes, lots of pneumatic blood spraying everywhere through this movie.

Another guy gets his face shoved into the spinning blades of a boat motor, two more simultaneously have a comically large chainsaw blade split them in two from the crotch up. The blade seems to get stuck in their groins for horrific effect, before ripping through the rest of their bodies.

Crowley’s signature weapon is his hatchet (which really looks more like a small two headed battle-axe to me) and he lops off heads left and right. People’s noggins seem to pop off of their bodies with almost no effort at all, with enough blood to fill ten people spraying out afterwards.

The most memorable kills are the doomed blonde I mentioned earlier, and one of the guys on the expedition. He’s fucking her from behind when Crowley chops his head off without the woman noticing. Her paramour’s headless body spasms wildly, which she seems to enjoy, until looking back and seeing the guy fucking her no longer has his head. She then tries to crawl away from Crowley, who buries his hatchet/axe right into her naughty bits. Can’t say I’ve ever seen this particular variation of murder in a slasher film.

Finally, Mary Beth and Reverend Zombie confront Crowley, with predictable results for all parties involved.

“Hatchet 2” doesn’t have an original bone in its body, but that’s not necessarily the kiss of death for a film like this. The acting ranges from “Second rate community theater” to “Entry level professional,” also not unexpected for an independent horror film. I found the actress playing Mary Beth to be a bit on the shrill side, which was off-putting, but I can’t bash her acting too much.

The movie appears to have been shot on video and not film, which makes sense. It doesn’t look “bad” exactly, but film, or better video filters, might have made things look a little better. A lot of the latex prosthetics ended up looking a little too much like makeup due to the harsher look of video, but it doesn’t look terrible or anything.

The design of Victor Crowley looked pretty bad to me. He’s your standard deformed and retarded killer, in the mold of Jason Voorhees or Madman Mars, but he looks lousy. Played by horror veteran Kane Hodder, he could’ve looked awesome, but instead Crowley looks like a rubber headed jack-o-lantern with fake looking crepe hair. He just doesn’t look real. Oh well.

On the positive side of things, the gore is extreme, and that’s probably what most people interested in watching “Hatchet 2” really care about anyway. It’s not realistic, but it gets points for creative and nasty death scenes, and enough blood to fill a lake. The film’s pacing is also pretty good. Even good slasher films tend to bog down during the middle, but “Hatchet 2” somehow keeps things moving at a decent pace.

I’ll also give the movie points for using “Just One Fix” by Ministry for the music during the title credits.

So, if you’re looking for a modern slasher film with no surprises, but a good pace, and unrealistic but brutal kills, “Hatchet 2” might make a good time waster.

I’d give this one 6 spurting head stumps out of 10.

20140122-052603.jpg

20140122-052619.jpg

20140122-052629.jpg

20140122-052709.jpg

20140122-052651.jpg

20140122-052722.jpg

20140122-052735.jpg

20140122-052754.jpg

The Tall Man – Horror Film or Tricky Misdirection?

“The Tall Man” is a 2012 thriller starring Jessica Biel. I caught it on Netflix, and the description sounded at least potentially promising. A down on it’s luck mining town is being menaced by a creepy bogeyman called “The Tall Man” who has been stealing young children, presumably murdering them.

However, and I will just start with the spoilers right away, this is not in any way a horror film. However, that is how it’s presented, and the direction the film seems to be going in for about the first half of the film.

In actuality, this movie is one of those mystery thrillers that directors like M. Night Shyamalan usually make. If you really like his movies, you’ll probably like “The Tall Man.”

If, however, you were hoping for a horror film dealing with something supernatural, perhaps using a legend like “The Slender Man” as a focal point, then you are shit out of luck.

I won’t get into a synopsis of the film other than to say that we are led to believe that these kids have been snatched by the local bogeyman, and that’s not the case. Jessica Biel plays a local doctor that seems like the film’s protagonist up until the plot twists start to twist away, and then she comes off like the movie’s villain, and then is vindicated again.

This movie reminds me a lot of “The Village,” and not in a good way.

Here’s my take: It isn’t automatically clever to just trick audiences with weird and unrealistic plot twists, unless that twist makes the film better.

In the case of “The Tall Man” the twists are just a form of cheap misdirection. “Oh, you thought this was that type of movie? Well it’s not! Isn’t that clever of us?”

No, it’s frustrating and lame.

What is presented as a horror film ends up being about an almost inconceivably unlikely organization of people that steal kids from abusive families, and then sort of brainwash them, and place them in loving homes. Does that sound like a fun horror film or thriller to you? Me, either.

Generally, when I feel like a movie has tricked me, that’s not a good thing.

“The Tall Man” is very well-filmed, for the most part looking great, and the acting is top notch too, so the effect is that the audience might think it’s watching a good film. It looks good doesn’t it? The acting is great, right?

Yes, but the silly multiple layers of plot twists are ridiculous, and those high production values might have been better used in a straight horror tale.

This film is also guilty of using that blue filter which seems so common these days, and I’m just tired of seeing that. It’s hard on the eyes, and overdone at this point.

If you’re a huge fan of the types of thrillers where the central idea is shown to be nothing like it’s presented, then “The Tall Man” might be worth checking out.

If you’re a horror fan that just wanted a well made horror film, then look elsewhere. This is really an adoption drama disguised as a horror thriller, and that’s a pretty cheap and unsatisfying fake-out in my book.

The first half of the film is pretty suspenseful and seems loaded with promise, but that good stuff all falls away about halfway through.

I would give “The Tall Man” 5 bogus plot twists out of 10.

20140119-183704.jpg

20140119-183710.jpg

There are a lot of scenes like this. The whole film feels like you’re chasing a plot twist.

 

20140119-183719.jpg

20140119-183731.jpg

Sadly, there is no Tall Man in this film. It could use one.

 

Beach Balls – Or Chaka Discovers Hair Metal and Boobs.

“Beach Balls” is a strange 1988 oddity of a film which seems to be a teen beach movie that’s also exploiting the then popular California Hair Metal scene. It stars Philip Paley as protagonist Charlie, a sort of clean cut all American boy that wants to join a band and hook up with beautiful blonde beach bunny Wendy (who doesn’t seem to notice him). Philip Paley played Chaka on the original “Land of The Lost” television show, so that kind of added to the hilarity anytime I saw his face on screen. Other than this movie and a role on the “Airwolf” TV show, he seems to have stopped acting. Pity, he’s not bad at it.

Charlie and his spazzy friend Scully hang out on the beach a lot, which I guess gives the movie its beach theme, but not much real beach related action takes place. Most of the plot involves Charlie trying to get together with Wendy, who seems obsessed with the goofy lead singer in an up-and-coming Hair Metal band that Charlie is acquainted with. He used this connection to the band to befriend Wendy, and the rest of the film’s plot has him and his crew interacting with various locals, including a trio of thugs and a group of evil 80’s-style jocks.

The plot all culminates when Charlie sets up a band showcase for the rockers while his parents are out of town. A record industry guy is coming to check out the band, and they need a place to play.

That’s the film in a nutshell. There’s no really involved plot, which is not surprising for a movie like this one. I’m sure the target audience for “Beach Balls” was more interested in beach-related shenanigans involving sex than anything resembling major plot development.

This is a pretty lighthearted film, and is nowhere as sleazy as the subject matter or film genre could have dictated. For the most part the villains are funny and not sinister or threatening, and the film is competently made. There’s very little nudity, which is puzzling for a rated R heavy metal beach movie. A couple of brief and distant topless shots were all I counted, but maybe I missed something. Generally I don’t think of a few scattered topless scenes as even being nudity anymore. Guess I’m jaded or something.

That and some mildly sexual situations and profanity are about all that marks “Beach Balls” as a rated R film, it could easily have been on broadcast television with about 20 seconds of edits.

The film does capture a lot of the late 80’s goofy rock trends. The horrible rock band does a pretty authentic take on the second or third level Sunset Strip bands that were beginning to dominate MTV at the time. One of the band members is even wearing a old “Rip Magazine” t-shirt, and that seems about right somehow. There’s an early scene in the film that takes place at one of the band’s shows, and they’re playing at Gazzarri’s, a famous Sunset Strip nightclub that catered to the hair metal scene of the time. In any case, it’s hard to buy the band as being up-and-coming based on the sparse audience on display, but whatever, we’ll let that pass.

Near the film’s end, Charlie ends up joining the band to perform at his house for the record industry guy, and it all looks completely silly. The clash between clean-cut Charlie, who has obviously never actually played a guitar in his life, and the rest of the band just looks ridiculous. But films like this aren’t known for their gritty realism, so that’s to be expected.

The soundtrack is full of hair metal songs, mostly by bands that never made it very big, so that also helps to establish the goofy rock and roll vibe of this movie. Without that now-vintage rock goofiness, this film wouldn’t be worth watching at all, but it’s fun enough for anyone that remembers that scene, or just likes watching attractive women in the weirdly dated but still sexy bikinis that seemed to have been standard beach attire back then. Other than a lag in pacing during the middle of the film, “Beach Balls” ambles on quickly enough, and is a fun ride. If you’re expecting a lot of nudity or really sleazy content, this film will disappoint. Please feel free to read some of my other reviews for more intensely sleazy viewing.

I’d give “Beach Balls” 6 high-waisted bikinis out of 10, and would especially recommend it for anyone that has forgotten how strange the late 80’s looked.

20140118-175104.jpg

20140118-175124.jpg

People really DID dress like this in the 80’s

 

20140118-175138.jpg

The Beach Referenced By The Movie Title

 

20140118-175151.jpg

The Record Company Guy. I don’t doubt that dudes who looked like this were responsible for the late 80’s rock scene. It all makes perfect sense now.

 

20140118-175220.jpg

One of the movie’s asshole jock characters. I was a teenager back in the 80’s, and guys like this were really around.

 

20140118-175234.jpg

I think this might capture the spirit of the late 80’s better than anything I can say.

 

20140118-175246.jpg

Are you ready to rock?!
Too bad.

 

20140118-175256.jpg

20140118-175307.jpg

The film’s evil burnout thug gang.

 

20140118-175314.jpg

Homoerotic right wing jock guys.

 

Permissive – The Ultimate Bad Trip Rock Groupie Bummer Movie?

IMG_2940One of the nice things about Netflix streaming is that I’m catching a lot of obscure European horror and exploitation films that I either never knew existed, or had heard about but never had the chance to see.

I stumbled on “Permissive,” a 1970 British film that falls into the first category. The brief description detailed that it was about groupies and a band. I figured it might be dated, and probably really stupid. But dated and stupid can be a lot of fun, so I took the plunge.

“Permissive” begins with female protagonist Suzy arriving in London. There’s no back story or anything, she just seems like a lost girl that probably doesn’t have any other option. She has one friend in London, a woman named Fiona, that is a groupie for bearded, hairy folk rockers Forever More.

The rest of the story is a relatively simple one, where Suzy evolves from a shy and naive girl into a scene queen groupie that basically fucks her way up the Rock and Roll Fuck Ladder. In the end, there is betrayal and death, and lots of mediocre rock music and beardy rock shenanigans.

In the end, the plot of “Permissive” isn’t really the important thing. I’m sure that the film’s producers probably wanted a straight up sexploitation film set around rock bands and groupies, but “Permissive” is a decidedly bummer of a bad trip. 1970 London looks ugly and grey, and the rock scene looks awful. Forever More was a real touring band at the time, and were signed to RCA. We’re treated to several scenes of them playing live shows, and the music is mediocre at best. It reminded me of a really lame version of Jethro Tull, and there is probably a reason they never exactly rocketed to stardom. 

If Forever More was an indication of the London rock scene in 1970, it’s no wonder David Bowie ushered in glam rock shortly after, and that punk rock was just around the bend. Scenes of Forever More and other bands playing shows in basement clubs to forty bored-looking hippies sure doesn’t make me think that things were really happening at the time. The singer/bass player for Forever More is one of the more central love interests in the film, if such a title can be applied to the guys that hopeless groupies choose to sleep with in this movie. His real name is Allan Gorrie, and he went on to greater success in The Average White Band and other ventures, but in 1970 the dude looks like a creepy Neanderthal. Seeing the groupie women trying to seduce him is horrifying to watch.

No one in this film looks like they’re having much fun, and it feels like we’re seeing the idealism of the 1960’s die on the screen.  Even the somewhat graphic sexual trysts look like the bored  participants are just balling to stave off total existential dread. The groupies themselves seem like hopeless women, and it’s difficult to fathom what their motivations are. Surely if having sex with all of those hairy ape-men is your best option, then your options must suck.

The whole film is dour in tone, and nothing fun or sexy seems to creep in, despite a fair amount of nudity, and lots of rock culture excess on display. In many scenes, people are casually smoking joints that have to be six inches long, so maybe that was the best thing going for London’s local music scene in 1970. In any case, while this film could have been a sensationalized sexploitation treatment of the music scene, the sex scenes are uniformly unsexy, compounding the feeling of hopelessness. “Permissive” is a definite bummer, and so are the “erotic” scenes. Most films covering the subject matter that “Permissive” does, tend to show a celebratory fantasy version of rock and roll, and sex and drugs. Not so with “Permissive” – I have the feeling that this film accidentally catches the depressing side of this stuff, even though the film makers were probably trying to turn a buck with what could have been standard sexploitation fare.

One thing I couldn’t figure out is how the groupies supported themselves. Forever More look like poor musicians to me, traveling in a beat up van and staying at motels. Not exactly Led Zeppelin, and not exactly equipped to pay for a bunch of groupies to get by. No one in the film seems to like each other very much either. It’s a weird downer to watch.

There is something kind of fascinating about “Permissive” though, and I’m not exactly sure what it is. I guess it’s just the unpleasant portrayal of being in a rock band, or being a woman whose best option is being sexually available to a bunch of going-nowhere band members. The editing is also kind of interesting. There are frequent quick edits of what a character’s future holds for them, and the future shown is never a nice one
IMG_2936. It reminds me stylistically of “Easy Rider” or maybe “Performance,” but this film is not nearly as good as either of those. Still, the film is interesting in its way, and of I had to give it a rating, I’d give it 5 bearded bass players out of 10.

Rock & Rule – Sex, Drugs, and Demons.

rock_and_rule2

Mick… Er… I mean “Mok”.

rock_and_rule5

Angel About to Sing a Demon into Existence.

“Rock & Rule” is a 1983 animated feature created by the Canadian company Nelvana. Although it never got a proper theatrical release, and was mainly shown on Canadian television and early American cable channels, it has developed a large cult following in the decades since it came out. For a long time, it was available at comic conventions as a bootleg, and it didn’t get a decent authorized release until fairly recently when it was released on DVD and Blu-ray. Even those releases look like they may have been limited in scope. 

Also mucking up the film’s history is the fact that there are two versions of it floating around. The original Canadian version used a different voice actor to play Omar, the film’s male protagonist, and he gives the character a more abrasive and cocky feel than the replacement actor did. There’s also a slightly different ending where a character we think is dead is revealed to have survived. So what’s the deal with “Rock & Rule” anyway?

It takes place in some blighted dystopian future where cats, dogs, and rats have mutated into humanoids. In the small city of Ohmtown, a small band plays to an empty club. The band members are the film’s protagonists – Omar, Angel, Dizzy and Stretch. There is a power struggle going on between Omar, who seems bent on being the band’s leader and singer, and Angel, who wants to be able to perform one of her songs.

Decadent rock star “Mok” has been searching the planet for the right voice, which he needs to open a dimensional portal to summon a demon. Apparently his popularity has waned slightly, and he wants to show everyone he’s still top dog by bringing on the Apocalypse. Sounds sort of short sighted, as dead people can’t buy records or go to concerts, but Mok is more than slightly crazy. He has a ring that his Satanic computer designed that will light up when it senses the correct voice, and guess what? Angel’s voice is the one Mok needs.

Mok, being the suave rock star that he is, invites Angel and the rest of the band to his palatial mansion conveniently located in Ohmtown. They go, but Mok is only interested in Angel, so he zonks out the other members of her band with hypnotic devices called “Edison Balls” and promptly kidnaps Angel. His mansion transforms into a high tech Zeppelin and flies off to Nuke York, where he plans to summon his demon at a concert to end all concerts.

The rest of Angel’s band pursue them, and after the Nuke York concert fails because of a power failure, Mok heads back to Ohmtown which conveniently has a power plant that can create an endless amount of energy.

At the concert, the demon is summoned, but Omar joins Angel in singing it back into the abyss, while one of Mok’s henchmen throws the demented rock star in after it.

The film ends with Angel, Omar, and the rest of the band being hailed as the next big band.

That’s the story in a nutshell. A lot happens, but not a lot happens, if you know what I mean. The story is a simple one, but “Rock & Rule” has a lot going for it. The story has just enough twists to keep things moving briskly, the animation is pretty good, and the dark environments all look pretty nice. Some of it reminds me of the Moebius comics from “Heavy Metal.”

There’s also a definite dark tone to the whole film, with plenty of Satanic and drug references sprinkled throughout, and mild sexual content. It’s hard to believe that this was originally shown on Canadian television. It’s not Caligula by any means, but it’s still pretty edgy. The soundtrack for the film is pretty good too. Mok’s music was done by Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, while Omar and Angel’s material was recorded by Cheap Trick and Blondie. The music fits the film well, with the one exception of a Earth Wind and Fire song used in a scene taking place in a disco.

The characters aren’t developed as deeply as maybe they could have been, but Mok in particular is adequately sinister, and Angel and the rest of her band mates are fun enough to watch. It’s a shame that “Rock & Rule” had such a troubled distribution and never found a larger audience, because it’s a uniquely strange animated film.

The whole thing is currently uploaded on YouTube if you have a hard time tracking down the limited DVD release. Sadly, Nelvana Studios never followed up with anything as cool as “Rock & Rule”, instead finding greater success with “The Care Bears Movie” and other kiddie cartoons. For anyone interested in strange animated films with a decidedly dark and weird tone, this one is worth finding.

If I gave out ratings, I’d give “Rock & Rule” 7 summoned demons out of 10.