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Willow Creek

surprisingly effective, ultimately hurt by it's genre
Making a found footage movie in 2013 is much like making a slasher film in 1982, even if you've done a good job it's going to take a lot to transcend the fact the genre is largely played out. That's too bad because this is actually a very good film Director Goldthwait is mostly known for dark comedies but he actually creates quite a bit of tension here. He also manages to coax some really excellent performances out his actors and create a few moments of complete terror (the tent scene eg.). I will admit I missed about 15mins of the beginning so perhaps other reviewers are correct in complaining about the slow start. Overall I thought this was actually a great example of how to do make the found footage genre seem fresh by using a unique plot and bringing some real filmmaking chops. It's just a shame he didn't either make the film 10 years earlier or later, it just happened to come right as audiences were starting to become sick of found footage/faux documentary horror.

The Glitter Dome

Captures the dark humor, cynicism and general sleazyness of the novel
The glitter dome is probably Wambaugh at his most sleazy and cynical. It is hilariously funny but even jaded readers might need a shower afterwards. Given that you have a comedy involving hard drugs, pedophilia, prostitution, child murders and incompetent corrupt alcoholic cops the casting seems like a weird choice. Garner and Margolin are certainly known for comedy, but generally of the light harmless variety (Rockford Files, Maverick) where gunshots always miss and women and children always come away unharmed. Although cast against type, Garner does a decent job here as the corrupt boozehound detective Mackey. Lithgow is given a lot more to work with as his neurotic repressed partner who is in the midst of a psychological melt down due to various personal and professional problems. Lithgow actually does an excellent job and gives probably the most standout performance in the entire film. I will hand it to Margolin he didn't hold back, the movie is very faithful to the nasty sleazy source material and he manages to handle the delicate balance of revolting sleaze and wacky comedy pretty well, though I can understand why many viewers may be put off by the tone, the book also had a sort of scizophrenic feel to it. The only thing I didn't like was that it sort of mangled a few important plot points (how they discover rollerskating pornographer "Mr Wheels" makes a lot more sense in the book) and it jettisons altogether some of the novel's funnier side plots to instead focus on the mystery and also the romance plot. However that is to be expected given that the novel is relatively long and complex with many characters and different plot threads that eventually all intersect to help resolve the mystery.

Overall I was pretty impressed with this film, it's an HBO movie from the era before HBO Films was synonymous with prestige. During the 1980s they were mostly known for making somewhat seedy cheap thrillers like The Hitcher, Apology, or Cast a Deadly Spell. I dont think this film has ever been released on DVD but you can find it bootlegged online from VHS sources and maybe even a find a VHS kicking around on ebay somewhere. I say check it out!


A great sleazy little potboiler from HBO
While these days HBO tv movies are pretty much synonymous with critical acclaim back in the mid 80s they were much more into making sleazy thrillers like this or The Glitter Dome. Peter Weller does a good job given what he has to work with. Hell, everyone does a good job, a lot of fun character actors in this really elevates it above the material. Also Robert Bierman's directing really adds a lot. Bierman is most known for directing Nic Cage's loopiest performance (and thats saying a lot) in Vampire's Kiss, a film that if it didn't ruin his career, certainly couldn't have helped it much. But here he demonstrates quite a lot of talent, both in directing the actors and shooting the movie in a way that makes it visually interesting. Overall I enjoyed this film a lot when I saw it on HBO about 20 years ago and just recently found a copy online. Unfortunately it seems to have suffered the same fate of many of HBO's films of that era (Glitter Dome, Cast a deadly spell, etc..) which have somehow never made it to DVD. Obscure film but if you run across it, give it a watch. Also interesting to note this was based (loosely) on a true story of a real "apology line" that ran in NYC for about 20 years, the real story of the life and tragic death of the real life Mr. Apology is possibly even more interesting than this film.

Les lèvres rouges

fangs, but no fangs
This movie might be the epitome of "mixed bag". Lush production, beautifully photographed, sexy girls, adequate acting,, creepy locations, a decent premise. All the elements for a really fantastic vampire film are here but somehow the film fails to hang together. I put the blame on the script which introduces some really interesting elements but never really does anything with them. At one point the film looks like its going to introduce a sort of murder mystery or suspense type plot when the character of a retired detective is introduced, but he is quickly forgotten. There are hints of John Karlen's strange sexual proclivities but they never amount to anything. The movie does not try to be scary, but never really manages to be atmospheric or creepy either. Despite the perfect setting (the newlyweds are trapped in a deserted hotel in a deserted resort town) you never feel an air of menace or claustrophobia. Seyrig does a passable job, but never really feels menacing or threatening at all. There are some sex scenes which never quite cross the line into erotica but are not really exploitation either. I think the director was trying to go for a "Martin" vibe where you are never quite sure if something supernatural is going on or not. The problem is its so poorly executed it just comes off as boring and nonsensical.

I feel this film actually could be a great candidate for a remake, although a lot of what charm it does have comes from early 70s nostalgia. I would really love to see what a better screenwriter and director would be able to do with the same premise.

Fans of Giallo may enjoy this simply for the lush productions, locations, and a few weird sleazy scenes, but it is probably not lurid or sleazy enough to satisfy hardcore giallo fans either.

Beyond the Gates

attack of the terrible script
Sadly great atmosphere, score, fx and some good ideas simply cant save this movie from the weak writing. the movie is slow and then when it finally kicks in it tends to underwhelm. what could have been an interest mash up of 80s nostalgia, family angst and HP lovecraft turned into a giant mess. The relationship with the father is never really resolved in a satisfying way,despite being the entire catalyst for the film. The subplot with the curio shop owner never goes anywhere. The "beyond" scenes have a lot of promise but really fail to deliver, all they find "beyond the gates" is a eerily lit version of the same living room set we've seen for half the movie. The sound fx hint at lovecraftian horrors just off screen but sadly we never see them.

Shame because the filmmakers clearly have a good handle on fx, and lightning and the movie had some interesting ideas its just a shame so much time was wasted settting up the plot ultimately for a weak and seemingly rushed payoff

Mil gritos tiene la noche

A film that revels in its own trashyness
In the introduction to the reissue of Salem's Lot, Stephen King claims his mother had a classification system for the type of books he liked to read as a child, "trash" and "bad trash". King claims Tales From The Crypt was in the "bad trash" camp.

While Pieces very well might be the epitome of "bad trash", as Mr King points out, sometimes that's exactly what hits the spot! I wont bother summarizing the plot because honestly if the producers didn't care about it why should you?

The movie contains everything this type of movie calls for in spades, naked women , body parts being chainsawed off, buckets of blood, character actors slumming it. What more can you ask for! The best part is the film has absolutely no pretensions. It is a pure exploitation movie through and through.

While the film clearly takes some inspiration from the Italian Giallo genre (the murders are committed by a killer in black gloves, a big fedora and a raincoat), it dispenses with pretentions so completely it makes even the sleaziest Giallo look like an art house film by comparison.

Like the best bad films, this one also delivers many unintentional laughs, or maybe they are intentional, who knows, its impossible to tell.

Let's be honest, if you even had to read this review beyond "naked women , body parts being chainsawed off" before slamming the "PLAY" button this movie is probably not for you!

God Told Me To

Likeable movie, despite itself.
I find Larry Cohen movies are difficult to hate, but also difficult to love. This one is a prime example. Cohen has a knack for big and clever ideas, and for somehow convincing some of the best New York character actors to be in his films. Despite this his films never seem to gel quite as well as his premises suggest they should. Maybe it is his uneven directing style, or the one-take ultra low budgets. Whatever it is they always seem to me like I'm watching a first draft screenplay, lots of promise and no polish.

This film is a prime example. Certainly what hollywood wheelers and dealers used to call a "high concept" picture.

The premise, as I'm sure you are aware, involves a police detective (Lo Bianco) investigating a series of senseless murders in the big apple. The first of which evokes (likely intentional) echoes of Charles Whitman's infamous rampage from the U of Texas clock tower. When the detective asks the killer the inevitable question "why'd you do it", all he can answer is "God told me to". As the body counts mount, (and Lo Bianco becomes more unhinged) the titular refrain is repeated by perpetrators of various atrocities across the city.

As we delve deeper into the mystery, the film takes an extremely unexpected though not wholly unpleasant turn into science fiction, as the cop finds an unearthly explanation for the killings-- just not the one the title might suggest.

Unfortunately this is where the film completely falls apart. What should be the climax of the movie comes about 1/3 of the way in. The plot quickly degenerates into a quagmire of nonsensical sub-plots from which it never really recovers. Ebert famously opined that he thought for sure the reels were being shown out of order. I felt more like watching someone flip the channels on a tv through several different movies as the various subplots unfolded. First you get a scene of a police procedural, then a science fiction scene, then a scene out of a blaxploitation/gangster film, then back to the police subplot. Genre bending can often be a benefit of b-movies in this case its a determent. It left me consistently saying "who is that again? Whats going on here". The subplots sort-of come together but the story is told so incoherently I could not help zoning out. When the twist ending came (was it a twist? Im not exactly sure), I was too confused to be surprised. I even rewound the last 10 minutes a few times and still could not figure out exactly what the hell i had just seen.

Many seem to consider this Cohen's best film, I would say its actually one of his worst. The shame is the concept is actually very good and the first third is really well done. It is just a shame he seemingly ran out of ideas before he ran out of film. I'd certainly rank this as much inferior film to "Q" , "The Stuff", or even his Blaxploitation pictures.

Overall I recommend this to Larry Cohen fans or b-movie completists. I doubt many others will bother sitting through the entire thing.

Tom Arnold: The Naked Truth 2

Very funny, shame it's never been re-released
To be fair, it may not have aged well, I haven't seen this special since it was released around 1992-1993. Comedy was a lot different then, Andrew Dice Clay was the biggest standup in the world, Eddie Murphy had a platnium record where the first track is called "faggots". I don't know if Tom Arnold playing a giant penis as a guitar would play as amusing today as it did then but I recall this special being surprisingly funny. Perhaps its just because the bar for tom arnold was set pretty low,even then. A lot of guest stars also helped make this special entertaining. It is not stand up per- se but a series of short vignettes loosely connected by a pretty thin plot about Tom pissing off Roseanne (they were married at the time) and trying to make amends. As I alluded to earlier one of the skits involves Tom Arnold playing a giant phallus as a guitar and singing "Suck my penis" to the tune of "My Sharona" . Like many things with comedy it doesn't sound as funny explained as it actually played on screen, or perhaps I have a case of nostalgia bias. Either way I think these specials (there were two others ) deserve a re-release by HBO, or at least to be released into the HBO Go online service. I really don't know why they have been buried for almost 30 years.


plodding borefest
I was really excited to see this film. Being both a fan of Verhoven and the rape- revenge thriller genre, I had very high expectations. I thought this could be the perfect vehicle for his unique sensibilities and the result would be a wonderfully controversial movie. While the film certainly flirts with controversy it ultimately falls flat. It also fails to work as a thriller, while numerous scenes could have been played for high tension the movie never really makes the viewer feel any level of fear for the protagonist. The script sacrafices trying to develop the main plot by including a large number of side plots and ancillary characters that neither add to the mystery nor help us understand the motivations of the main character. We spend an enormous amount of time discussing her serial killer father, however nothing ever comes of it. It simply never really becomes important to the plot at all. While I will commend the filmmakers for bothering to wrap up every loose thread and side-plot none of them seem particularly worth following up on and it only seems like padding out an anemic plot.

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