Archive for August, 2011

31 Monsters in 31 Days: Revenge of Billy the Kid

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by Scott Emerson

Director Jim Groom’s 1992 cult oddity REVENGE OF BILLY THE KID remains criminally underappreciated. A shame, really, because it’s a bracingly demented film bursting with the same black humor and feverish glee that marks the early works of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson.

On an isolated British farm drunken farmer Old MacDonald lives with his comedically filthy, ignorant (and possibly inbred) family. After a whiskey-enabled dalliance with a goat–an act mercifully depicted off-camera–Old MacDonald finds himself a father once again, when the goat gives birth to a freakshly cute goat-boy. Billy, as he’s dubbed, doesn’t get along well with much of his new clan–good for us, as this sets up a grisly killing spree once he grows up into a towering hulk of horned vengeance.

REVENGE OF BILLY THE KID’s humor is crude and broad but effective, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The creature effects by Neill Gorton and Steve Painter (who’d go on to handle the gore for the Omaha Beach sequence in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) are raw and unpolished but still compliment the scruffy nature of the film, and Billy’s a sight to behold. The cast, featuring no one I’ve seen before or since, take their roles lauably over-the-top–even when one of the actors is replaced near the film’s midsection with little notice.

Like a lot of deliriously inspired films BILLY flounders a bit in its second act, padding out the running time to feature length, but it’s bracketed by such gleeful depravity that it’s more than worth checking out. Fans of both Britcoms and splatter flicks should check it out.

31 Monsters in 31 Days: Creepshow

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2011 by Scott Emerson

I’ve written about George Romero and Stephen King’s 1982 ode to EC Comics during 365 Days of the Dead (which you can read here), focusing obviously on the zombie segments. But as mentioned in that earlier post “The Crate” remains my favorite story of the bunch. The black humor is bracing, Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau are fantastic (kudos to Romero for getting his name actors to take this material seriously), and it also happens to be pretty damn scary. For which, of course, we have Fluffy to thank.

Thanks to his well-deserved reputation as a master of splatter, it’s easy to overlook Tom Savini’s accomplishments with other effects. Yet Fluffy’s an amazing creation, and coupled with the creature from his TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE episode “Inside the Closet” makes for a pair of unforgettable ’80s monsters.

31 Monsters in 31 Days: The Green Slime

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2011 by Scott Emerson

Astronauts unwittingly infect their space station with a slimy green substance from a recently destroyed asteroid in this 1968 American/Japanese co-production. Said goo quickly transforms into an army of one-eyed tentacled creatures–hmm, subtext? Given the film’s Japanese origin it’s not much of a stretch–that threaten to overtake the crew.

Gleefully wacky, director Kinji Fukusaku’s THE GREEN SLIME is a staple of so-bad-it’s-good movie lists, thanks to its cut-rate special effects, wonky science, and hilariously inappropriate monsters. The creatures, played by children in cumbersome rubber suits, are intended to be menacing, but more often than not resemble a pint-sized SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS cosplay party. This of course is what makes the film so damned entertaining.

Plus, it’s got a groovy theme song.

The Big Book of Bizarro Book Trailer #1

Posted in Books, Writing with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2011 by Scott Emerson

New book trailer for THE BIG BOOK OF BIZARRO (which, by the way, is still on sale at Amazon).

31 Monsters in 31 Days: The Thing (1982)

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , on August 28, 2011 by Scott Emerson

John Carpenter’s 1982 update of Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby’s sci-fi classic is often cited among the decade’s best movies, and for my money it rivals HALLOWEEN as Carpenter’s best work. The admiration, though, was hard-fought, withstanding a withering critical and audience reception upon its initial release; the film’s downbeat tone and abundance of violent graphic effects were apparently not what movie-goers wanted at the time. (It should be noted that the film came out in the touchy-feely wake of E.T.) Yet a film as well-made as this does not go unloved for long.

The first time I saw a man’s head sever itself, sprout legs, and scurry around was the closest I’ve ever come to a religious experience.

31 Monsters in 31 Days: The Hideous Sun Demon

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , , , on August 27, 2011 by Scott Emerson

1959’s THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON was one of my first ventures into the realm of vintage B movies. And despite its inherent silliness–it’s a $60,000 movie in which a radiation-stricken scientist transforms into a lizard when in sunlight–DEMON is a lot of fun, mostly due to its patently ridiculous premise. Director and star Robert Clarke ups the campy ante by wringing out melodrama by the bucketload, whether it’s his tortured monologues about his newfound condition, or the romantic subplot in which he woos a gangster’s moll. It’s a dizzying balancing act–overwrought enough to elciit sardonic laughter, with a healthy dose of earnestness to invest in the story–and probably an unintentional one, too.

The monster makeup, while not iconic, is still a treat, once again riding the edge of goofy and effective. Pair him up with Paul Blaisdell’s She Creature and you’d have one swingin’ ’50s couple.

Reputed to be a favorite of Tom Selleck’s.

31 Monsters in 31 Days: The Fly (1986)

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2011 by Scott Emerson

My issue with the current wave of remakes isn’t so much their ubiquity as their approach. Instead of taking a flawed but promising movie, infusing it with updated effects and invigorated direction to make something special, modern remakes take an established classic and reduce it to pre-packaged pap with no greater ambition than a decent opening weekend. It’d be nice if today’s filmmakers took a page from the 1980’s, when movies like THE THING, THE BLOB, and today’s entry made their remakes genuinely great movies.

I’m not sure I’m willing to call David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of THE FLY his best film (only because his resume contains so many contenders), but I can confidently put it at the top of the decade’s releases. That THE FLY turned out as well as it did is no real surprise; Cronenberg, working with a studio budget, Academy Award-bound effects work headed by Chris Walas and a star turn from Jeff Goldblum (himself giving an Oscar-caliber performance) was almost destined to be great. What’s shocking is that Cronenberg used his body-horror sensibilities to create a poignant, oozing tale about relationships in the face of death and made it–transformed it, if you will–into a crowd-pleasing summer movie. Good luck attempting that feat today.