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Ghosts of Mars

Precinct spaaace
Assault on Precint spaaace!

Ghosts of Mars is a film that loves flashbacks. Not content with telling the entire story in a flashback (intercut with pointless "and what happened next?" bits) there are flashbacks within the flashbacks. Sometimes the flashbacks are to things that happened mere moments before and even more annoyingly they aren't even very relevant aspects. Cue a man cutting his own throat in a transport, mere seconds later we are treated to this again as one character tells another what just happened. It defies explanation unless it was aimed at the people who were dipping into their popcorn at the time. This story borrows heavily (read steals) the plot of Assault on Precinct 13. Cops must ally with a criminal (and later his gang) to get out alive. Now lets be honest, the nickname Desolation sounds like a bad hombre to me. Imagine my amusement when Desolation turns out to be an amiable slightly chubby black guy who is indeed a criminal but it's hard to imagine how he got his nickname. It's just the start of the nonsense though. Whilst Precinct 13 had homicidal gang members the bad guys in this film are all martians. Oh no, not costly special effects requiring martians, just people possessed by the desiccated ghosts of mars. When we first see some of the victims of martian control they are indeed freaky. Give it 10 minutes though and they seem to have abandoned the convincing makeup and given them a Kiss (the band) style makeover. This is just rubbish but fair enough, money is tight. What isn't so good though is that the film degenerates into endless fight scenes with totally over the top "rawk" music over the top. This kills any kind of credibility that the film might have had in my eyes. Also rather noticeable is the way that everyone in the film fights in chop-suey kong fu moves. OK I can buy that a futuristic police force might be skilled in martial arts but miners taken over by dead aliens? It all seems rather thin at this point but it gets even sillier. Having escaped the homicidal maniacs the plot has assuredly run dry so they decide to go back to nuke them all by blowing up what must the most poorly secured power station ever. Jimmy that lock off, ah there we go - now where's that huge red flashing button..It's such a shame because the start of the film looks promising. Mars is brought to life (no pun intended) very well and looks excellent. The structures and the train that's a key part to the film look very convincing too for the most part and the acting is passable. What really irritated me was the ending. It seemed to come at the point where the budget ran out and has all the 'what happens next?' awfulness of a 70's movie. I personally hated this film after about the first half but as ever I struggled on. If you're going to steal a plot from another movie you could at least provide an ending! Precinct 13 did and it was far better for it. I give this movie two dried up maritan aliens out of five.

Jaws 2

This fish product contains traces of turkey
Jaws, the original film, was a frightening and well crafted film that had an impact on generations of film goers. Can you honestly swim in the sea without the tiniest orchestra in the world playing the theme music in your subconscious? Its a shame then that Jaws II and all the films that followed it are so bad. Its hard to criticise the plot in Jaws II as its virtually identical to the first film. You still get a chief of police trying to convince a disbelieving community that there is a great white off their coast. Now forgive me but if I had laughed off such suggestions the first time round only to have a huge shark chomp its way through some of the population a second time round I'd be more willing to listen. It seems not though. There is no mileage made of the "you were right last time but.." angle, in fact only the chief seems to ever mention that this has happened before. One of the best bits of the first film was the sinister glimpses of the shark itself. In Jaws II though you see plenty of it, and it looks as rubbber as you could want. In one scene the shark brushes against a boat and can be seen to visibly bend as rubber meets wood. This is not good, less is more sometimes. The only thing to commend Jaws II is that the obnoxious shark investigator appears only briefly. She has all the charisma of a dead whale herself and looks completely bored by the whole thing. If ever there was an actress who had no screen presence at all it's her. The rest of the cast do their best rehashing the original plot but understandably they seem a bit weary. I can't think of any reason to watch this film over the original. The original is far scarier and Jaws 3d is by far the more amusing for bad film fans.

I Don't Want to Be Born

I don't want to see this again!
Well now, this really is a sad effort falling between the enviable status of an honest-to-god bad movie watchable for laughs and a passable horror flick. Joan Collins is an ex-stripper who is cursed by a horny dwalf (little people are in league with the devil presumably) and goes on to have a baby with her Italian husband. Now there are rare treats to be had in this film to give it its due. First of them is seeing Joan Collins performing an erotic dance at her strip club. I've never actually been to such a club and its fairly obvious to the viewer that Joan hasn't either. Her dance is so entirely unerotic and daft as to serve as a warning that what is to follow will be of the lowest possible quality. Of course no strip club is complete without a sweaty dwalf dressed as a jester or in a top hat. The dwalf in question rants about her having a baby by the devil and lo and behold she does have a freaky child. The only problem is that the baby shown is entirely normal looking. All devilish action happening off screen and then cutting back to the decidedly unmenacing kid. Rosemarys baby and The Omen both showed that kids can be quite scary. This film though decides not to give the child ungodly mental powers, or spiritual domination as its forte instead relying on it having immense physical strength. That's right, this little tyke will push you into lakes, scratch your face etc. All of this is incredibly silly to start with but cutting from Collins leaning into the crib to her with a scratch on her face doesn't exactly create fear. The means by which the baby inflicts its reign of chubby terror on the cast is daft, nonsensical and entirely unscary. Except perhaps for the workman who gets a mouse put in his cup of tea because that was about the only act of terror that the child could conceivably achieve on its own. Especially silly is the suggestion that it keeps clawing people, since its tiny fingers are shown several times and its quite clear it has normal little fingers with no claws just tiny baby fingernails. There are more treats though, especially for anyone who lives in London where it is set. The curiosity value of seeing police on the streets, working telephone boxes, parking spaces and other symbols of the past might just be enough to keep you watching. I was also fascinated by Joans non-acting friend who seems unable to utter a single line without gesturing wildly and adding "darling" to it. In the finale an exorcism is performed by the husbands sister who happens to be a penguin (nun) however she seems to have forgotten several ingredients. A book, bell, candle, feasible latin and a priest would surely have helped. Luckily this doesn't seem to be a problem, even Satan seems keen to be out of the film, and all ends well. Unfortunately you may be thinking that this is a watchable if naff horror film but I've neglected to mention the bits that will put any sane viewer off. A good portion of the film has the same loud sound effect of a baby screaming and crying through it, rendering it extremely irritating. I personally ended up with a thumping headache after forcing myself to watch it to the bitter end. Added to this every sound effect, especially telephones, make twice as much noise as they should causing you to constantly adjust the sound. To cap it all the title doesn't even make sense and has no relevance to the story presented. Unless seeing Joan Collins groped by a dwalf is high on your must-see list then this film offers nothing other than a headache and a laugh at some totally inept scripting and a nun with all the Italian authenticity of the Mario brothers.

Eyes Wide Shut

Style over substance
Eyes wide shut..

Sex thimble Tom Cruise plays opposite the lovely Nicolle Kidman who was at the time his wife, ironically in a film about sharing your wife. If ever there was a film that was more style than substance this must be it. I won't spoil the paper thin plot for you, suffice to say its about near infidelity and its effects on the couple. Although the visual effects of this film, namely the sinister masked orgy costumes, work rather well the musical score really detracts from the film. Nerve jangling piano was the intention, headache inducing annoyance was the actual result. Every time anything happens someone starts plonking the piano keys like mad. Kidman is watchable as ever but rarely engages you with a lackluster performance. Its Tom Cruise though that steals the show with bad acting. Ask Tom to show concern, uncertainty or fear and he'll clutch his face. I lost count of the times he did this during this movie in an attempt to convey some emotion. He is supposed to be ultra-desirable to virtually everyone in the film and the rest of the cast drool over him while he gives his patent 'eyes too close together' look and inane grin. Vast swathes of the film are pointless and have nothing going on and the last half hour or so are aimless and boring in the extreme. Stanley Kubrick is a talented director but this ones barely worth watching. The final word of the film is utterred by Kidman and it's "F*CK" I can only add "Off" to this pretentious and dull effort.

The Legend of Hell House

Comedy ending mars moderately watchable tripe (spoiler)
Be warned, this review contains a spoiler of the plot.

A scientist and his wife join two entirely unconvincing psychics to investigate a haunted house. Cue lots of bumps in the night and various spooky goings on. This is all fairly good, somehow keeping your attention despite the really shoddy acting. Roddy McDowall is especially good in this, giving his speeches (including the fantastic "I bet you weren't even five foot tall" one) with all the enthusiasm of a railway platform announcer. I like a spooky movie and it doesn't have to have much by way of special effects to interest me. Unfortunately I do like my movies to have some grounding in reality. Therefore I feel the following points must be made;

1) If you find a body in the house it is not cool to just dump it in the garden in a shallow grave. This kind of thing doesn't go down well with the authorities. If one of your party happens to a be a doctor he should probably know better than to do this.

2) When one of your party dies crushed to death by a falling cross the audience will be more convinced if it has some kind of impact on the remaining people. The rest of the party treat this shock, and a subsequent death, with all the emotion they would show were they to find themselves low on margarine.

3) Patent anti-ghost machines that look like they are made out of cardboard and a coke vending machine don't penetrate lead it seems. If you are going to use such a machine be careful to open all the doors fully and perhaps also throw in some special effects more dramatic than a bit of smoke from a poorly concealed smoke machine. The audience are unlikely to buy that this machine has done anything to the house as, quite honestly, nothing can be seen to happen.

Anyway, leaving aside this - and the patently silly cat attack which ends with a shot of a cat about as convincing as bagpuss and with at least half the menace - the ending of this film is absolutely absurd.

You see, this unquiet spirit is hanging around because he is decidedly unhappy about the fact that he is a short-arse. Yes, as Fischer yells "He isn't even 5ft tall". No indeed. This 'roaring giant' was so short he cut off his own legs and had them replaced with long ones. Before of course lining a room full of lead so that the patent ghost buster machine can't get rid of his spirit.

You will laugh, but for the wrong reasons. All in all this movie is a turkey with fully formed legs with only Peter Bowles leaving with any dignity intact by doing a runner in the first few minutes of the film.


Surprisingly good!
Ventriloquist "Corky" is about to hit the big time when he starts to realize fame and fortune isn't all it's cracked up to be. He retreats to a lakeside cabin owned by the woman he fell in love with as a teenager but things turn nasty. He is suffering from schizophrenia and uses the dummy to voice the things he can't bring himself to say. This is done superbly and Anthony Hopkins plays it all extremely convincingly. Ann-Margret puts in a mostly believable performance too although at times she seems a little unlikely. It doesn't detract though, her screen presence adds a lot to the movie and she looks radiant as ever. For a while when watching this film I had a horrible feeling that the dummy would turn out to have an intelligence of its own and would start walking around with a knife in its little wooden hands. Thankfully this doesn't happen and it's a much more sinister and impressive film for it. Overall this was surprisingly watchable, well made and at times genuinely scary. The violence is filmed well and doesn't resort to bloodfests to get the message across. One of the few 70's horror flicks I've seen with good acting and a credible plot, well worth watching!


Gripping from start to finish
Take a man on a road trip through the desert and a psychotic truck driver with a vendetta playing a cat and mouse game with him, how long could you make that last? If you've got the talent of Spielberg in his early days then the answer is over 80 minutes of excellent film. This really is a classic and really shows that you don't need a huge budget and lots of special effects to make a great film. There's pretty much only one actor but the trucks the real star, exuding menace from the start. A cack handed director (M. Night Shyamalan for example) would surely have ended the film in a huge fireball or similar grand and empty gesture but the understated ending just adds to the appeal for me. The groaning, almost primeval, moans of the truck in the final scene tie in nicely with the monstrous nature of the vehicle. A brilliant film from start to finish, untarnished by time and a lasting proof that you can take a simple story and make it into something brilliant with some good direction and good acting.

The People Under the Stairs

Watchable horror
The People Under the Stairs is a strange film concerning some ghetto burglars and a house full of freaks. The ghetto folk break in and are quickly dispatched, all except for the kid, who is unfortunately the most irritating aspect of the film. Clearly they have picked the wrong house to turn over as this one is quite freaky. The setting is good, the gimp suit man and his sister are excellently cast and very disturbing. Even their daughter puts in a good turn and is well cast. Unfortunately the 'whatchatalkinboutwillis' jive talking kid is less fun to watch. What follows is mildly diverting but the repetitive crawling around in the attic and basement scenes quickly get boring. The people under the stairs themselves are freakish and alarming until you actually see them in full daylight when they look so unconvincing that you wish they'd stayed under the stairs and retained an element of menace. It's hard to sympathies with 'fool' the main character who is after all a little robber, personally I was cheering for the dog. Excellent casting (except for fool) and initially tense atmosphere gives way to an overly long film with very little substance and a silly ending. Not bad though, certainly worth watching.


Absolute tripe
I can't help it, there is a spoiler here but the concept of 'spoiling' this film is hard to grasp, I could barely do a better job than the script.This is without doubt the worst film I have ever seen in my life, bar none. Having read the other review of it I felt obliged to set the record straight. It's hard to know where to start plunging the knife into this bloated turkey but suffice to say when the credits rolled at the end the reaction of most of the cinema audience was laughter and a few groans. Not quite what you'd hope for with a sci-fi horror film. The story concerns a preacher (Gibson) who has lost his wife to an improbable car accident and who starts to notice some strange UFO activity around his farm. What follows shortly after is tense, well shot and edgy. Then it takes a turn for the absurd. After a fleeting glimpse of an alien you are expecting the film to be quite entertaining but it swiftly becomes silly. Gibsons house comes under siege by aliens and we are told that this is occurring worldwide. Yes, homes of bad actors are under siege, but not just them it seems the aliens are after ruining birthday parties and hanging out above Mexico (they just love that, don't they?). The budget must have been about $5 for special effects because we are treated to five lightbulbs in a dark room to represent a terrifying UFO appearance above cities. Never mind, the plot will carry the film through won't it? Unfortunately not. We are mysteriously told that 'an ancient form of warfare' is winning out against the aliens. The newsreader presumably not revealing what this is in the hope Gibson will be killed off before he can make any further rubbish flicks. Sadly, Mel and his little brother suss it out for themselves. You see, the aliens have invaded a planet covered in water where it rains a fair bit but alas are killed by water. It seems they sunk all their scientific know-how into building UFOs but didn't stop to plow any thinking into rainwear technology. A simple glass of water in the face is enough to kill them, hooray! It is a shame that someone didn't throw a glass of water into the face of whoever first proposed this script otherwise it might have been a watchable movie. As it stands it is without doubt a total joke. The confused and pointless attempt to bring Mels flagging religious faith into the plot is also misguided and adds nothing to this unpalatable mess of a film.


Absolute tosh
I'm easily pleased, a late night horror film doesn't have to make a lot of sense to keep me watching but Terror(1979) was a film I genuinely struggled to watch to the end. It opens with a home made horror film being screened and its makers tittering over it. What follows is no better and certainly no more convincing. Excruciating acting abounds as an ancient curse returns..yawn. It sums up everything that is truly awful about 70s horror films. The women in it are 'naice' girls who have clearly had little experience acting and emote their every line and show uncertainty by starting to talk, pausing and then starting again. The awful bonhomie and hipness of the male characters is equally awful. It really does make little sense either. I especially liked the part where the girl returns home and is seen washing copious amounts of blood from her hands but her flatmate, who she barely knows, doesn't think to mention this to the police. There's clearly a rational explanation of course. Another outstanding part is when a woman is chased through the woods by a man with a knife. She takes refuge in a shed which he briefly attacks. Less than a minute later she decides it is probably safe to go outside (as you would of course) and is stabbed to death in perhaps the least enthusiastic attacking scene ever put to film. In short there isn't even any comedy value to be gained from this as a bad movie, it is just dire and is one of the least interesting films I have ever seen.

Last Man Standing

Inane nonsense
This film is desperately weak with virtually no plot and Bruce Willis looking as constipated as ever. His voice-overs reminding you that he is a tough guy and grate after the first five minutes. Willis wanders aimlessly around a town which seems to have a population of twenty people first working for one gang, then the other. Why they don't just shoot each other as they are sworn enemies we aren't told. Presumably they are waiting for a hard man like Willis to turn up and do it for them. Perhaps most offensive is Willis slamming a prostitute against a wall for no apparent reason though it jostles with him shooting a man for damaging his car. Throughout the film any viewer with any sense will find it hard to engage with the pointlessly violent and unlikeable character Willis portrays. It is amazing that some people actually see this as a significant film. A crass prohibition era version of a western with little to recommend it. As the sheriff points out late in the film 'It makes no sense me helping you' - indeed it doesn't, but why worry now when the entire film makes no sense? A dismal film only likely to appeal to those excited by seeing a man blown ten feet backwards by a pistol shot.

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