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Night of Something Strange

For fans of gross-out gore and campy slashers
This movie is pretty bad in terms of story, plot, acting, etc. But, if you're a fan of films like John Carpenter's The Thing or any campy slasher movie, you might find some enjoyment out of this.

The practical effects in this film are truly impressive for any budget, let-alone what I am sure was ultra-low for this. Some of the stuff that happens at the end is so over-the-top stupid it actually completely works and reminded me of films like Night of the Creeps and Sleepaway Camp.

All-in-all this should get marks for being surprisingly self-aware and decently edited.

Spring Break Shark Attack

They're gonna need a bigger boat...
Apparently due to the recent success of films like: Jaws, Jaws 2 and Jaws 3, the marketing wizards at CBS decided that a great way to attract a younger viewing audience to it's Sunday night schedule was to make Spring Break Shark Attack. Somewhere along the line, an executive said "hey, that sounds like a great idea." Unfortunately, there was nobody there to stop the madness.

The made-for-TV-shark-action-drama, or 'sharactirama,' opens by introducing us to the main character, Danielle, a smart, perky college girl, whose parents have refused to let her attend the spring break festivities in Florida because as dad says: "Boys only think of one thing!" Score one for Dad, not only is he correct (boys only think with their genitals), he's what we like to call "foreshadowing." Sooner than you can say "clichéd montage," and unbeknownst to her parents, Danielle has escaped to the lovely shark infested beaches of Florida. She meets up with her friends and the sharactirama is afoot.

I must applaud the makers of Spring Break Shark Attack for their attempt to combine and repackage portions of the great shark movies. For instance, the main character Danielle's brother is a nerdy marine biologist who notices a rise in sharks around the coral reef and wants to warn the public. Sound familiar? Before any good carnage begins in this, we are forced to sit through about one and a half hours of an ABC After School Special on date-rape. Danielle and friends meet two male meat-heads, one of which is involved romantically with Danielle's buddy. The other male character, JT (Justin Baldoni), is hot for Danielle. JT attempts to swoon her but his attempts are intercepted by Shane (Riley Smith). Shane runs the local boat charter with his mom and meets Danielle when she looks for her brother Quint… err, I mean – what's his name? Oh who cares. After about an hour, JT finally slips a roofie into Danielle's drink and his date-rape is almost complete when sneaky Shane comes to check up on Danielle. Next they are all out on a charter boat and the script starts to resemble something from a bizarre version of Polanski's Knife on the Water.

Meanwhile Shane's mom, Mary (Kathy Baker), is renting charter boats to Joel Gately (Bryan Brown, a poor man's Michael Caine). Mr. Gately is somehow involved in the neighboring beach's chamber of commerce. The point is, he's renting boats at strange hours and paying with large sums of cash. Next thing you know, "we're gonna need a bigger boat!" Yes, something's rotten with Gately, and if you think that is a spoiler, you'd have to be completely lobotomized not to know it within the first ten minutes.

After a pointless hour or so of character development and romance, we finally get some shark killing. Although the gore is quite cartoonish, it's somewhat rewarding. We've been watching this steaming pile of crap, and we deserve some arms bit off or at least the date-rapist's torso bitten in two. It doesn't quite get that graphic, but thankfully the Kuleshov effect is in full swing (shot of unsuspecting character in water, cut to stock footage of shark, cut to water filled with bright red paint).

I'd be a complete liar if I said Shark Attack didn't make me laugh out loud at least four or five times. It's bad, but the producers have spent money on the things that are important to the story: lots of sun tanned and oiled up extras. The absence of shark footage from this film is mostly hilarious if not entertaining and when there is shark footage; it's either a fake dorsal fin or its 16mm stock footage.

It's probably best to describe Spring Break Shark Attack as the From Dusk Till Dawn of TV Shark movies: it starts off as a lifetime movie about date rape (that's TV for women in case you don't have cable), and midway metamorphosizes into an incoherent and badly written shark film. Worthy of a few laughs, and plenty of eye candy, it's so clichéd it's a must-see for anyone bored on a Sunday night.

The Zero Boys

If you like bad 80's films, this is a gem.
About six months ago I copied a bunch of movies I've been meaning to watch onto my laptop in hopes that while on a trip, or over my mom's doing laundry, I would find the time and effort to watch them. A few of them I have watched, but largely this group of 6 or 7 films has gone untouched. Today I finally got the will to watch a film called The Zero Boys.

I had download.. erhm, I mean rented it about 4 or 5 months ago after I re-watched the 80's Dawn of the Dead inspired slasher-flick: Chopping Mall. While browsing the IMDb, I noticed that cult actress and Night of the Comet alum Kelli Maroney was in a film described as an "action / slasher / horror" film. I had to see this.

After watching the film and while doing my dishes, I was trying to concoct a clever and hip metaphor for this film: "it's what a teen slasher film would be like if Polanski directed it." No, Polanski would make it more confusing. "It's like a Golan-Globus produced slasher film." Maybe, but a film produced by those great Greek gods of Chuck Norris would've put more than only one explosion in it, and surely there'd be boobies. As I continued these ridiculous metaphors in my head, the more I realized that as much as The Zero Boys failed as a film, it was strikingly entertaining.

The film opens during a "weekend warrior" game between two groups of college-aged kids. The clever director of this film, Nico Mastorakis, has cut this opening scene with such disguise -- it FEELS as though something quite real is going on here, but we soon realize it's just a game of paint ball (and a dull one at that). This is where we are introduced to our main character: Steve. Steve is a strong, leader type pretty boy with a patented 80s haircut. His two friends Rip and Larry are apparently the kings of paint ball, as they have just defeated some kid in a Nazi uniform.

The plot really thickens up when we learn that the Nazi kid has wagered his own girlfriend on his paint ball skills. Not only has Steve won $20, he has now earned the right to court the buxom, catty, blond Jamie (played by the aforementioned Kelli Marony).

Soon the group are somehow on a picnic in the woods, and sooner then you can say "Sam Raimi," they've found a creepy looking deserted cabin. For one reason or another, the group decides to stay here even though strange things continue to happen during their stay.

What follows is for the most part standard slasher fare. Lots of POV shots looking at the cabin from outside, lots of screaming. One thing that was completely out of the ordinary was the order in which characters were killed. As a standard: characters having sex in slasher films are usually offed during, or quickly after the act of coitus (or as Rip says: "coitus interuptus"). When watching this film, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of non-conformity when it came to typical slasher style.

The film doesn't quite deliver on it's interesting middle section. Even the subtle references to Argento's Suspiria can't quite save it. When it comes down to it, the best film to compare this to would have to be Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. For one thing: the villains in that film are never really explained. They live in the desert, they inbreed, they eat humans. These things we can take for granted, we can understand this because of how these characters look and talk; they're complete freaks. In a slight contrast, we never really see too much of the villains in this film. Not until the end, and I was quite confused by the costume designer's choice. One of the killers in the film is wearing a sweater and polo shirt. And quite strangely, once we see his face, he looks, somewhat normal. It's not clear why the director never introduces or develops the villains, not that it was needed, but in light of their strange weapon choices and dressing styles, I would've been interested.

The Zero Boys isn't a typical 80's teen horror film, and for that it's a relatively fun, yet somewhat dull film. Recommended viewing with: Night of the Comet, The Hills Have Eyes, Friday the 13th Part III, Chopping Mall.


Crappy made-for-TV MELTDOWN
If you thought NBC's 10.5 was stupid, you'll be happy to hear that FX reached into the bowels of made-for-TV hell and squished it's fingers into this pseudo post-9/11 poop. Not only was the plot stupid, it was a complete ripoff of 24 and a bad ripoff at that. The filming style was the now overused "docu-action" look, complete with cuts to grainy B&W "rawcore" footage. I'm not quite sure what that means, but it sure sounds like something the DP said to the director before filming. I don't know what they were going for here but it reminded me of the guy at the office who thinks Powerpoint presentations with "fly-ins" and "animations" are "cool."

The story is that 6 "terrorists" take over a nuclear power plant in southern CA. That's right, nuclear power plants, where hundreds of people work, where there's security precautions up the ying-yang. For the sake of reality, they put 2 off-duty CHiPpies in the mix. Because, they'd be able to stop 6 people, right? Six. I mean, even Bruce Willis had to deal with more terrorists over at that stupid Nakatomi building.

Leslie Hope (TV's Teri Bauer) plays a CHP officer who has problems talking on the phone after she's shot in her bullet-proof vest. Her voice sounds like a Sally Struther's TV ad, whiny and monotonous. Her character is only a plot device, and after she performs her one small duty, she is promptly disposed of. Yes, Teri Bauer is died!

Bruce Greenwood stars as FBI S.A.C. Tom Shea, who continually points out how he punches foreign diplomats in the face. His boss is out, so nobody over at the Dept. of Homeland Security believes his prognosis of the situation. He's the sensible one out of a group of paranoid public officials afraid of taking blame for any type of catastrophe. He's calm, he's strong, he's BORING.

There is absolutely nothing redeeming or entertaining about Meltdown - OK, well maybe Teri Bauer getting died was pretty unnecessary and funny - other than that, nothing redeeming.

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