Splatterday Matinee Virtual Drive-In: The “Titans of Terror” Edition

Salutations, Students of the Macabre! Today is an eXXXtra special day for us Kinky Krees! We’re skull-ebrating the birthdays (and pure amazingness) of a peerless Triple Threat of Classic Ho-rror Greatness: the abominable Vincent Price, the vampiric Christopher Lee, and the madly scientific Peter Cushing!
Yessiree, Blob! Vinnie P. and Chris Lee were born on this day and Peter C. was born yesterday!  We’ve ho-nored the un-ho-ly heck out of these Princes of Darkness many times before, but they deserve it! These three gentle-monsters represent the very best that ho-rror cinema has to offer. Even in the goofiest, ho-kiest picture, these gentleman brought a supernatural grace and dignity. They made our collective nightmares pleasant ones and gave the Creatures of the Night a cool elegance. If there were a Mount Rushmore of Ho-rror (Mount Blood-Gushmore? Mount Rushgore?), you better believe these ghoulish gents would be on it!
For their Birthdays, we’ve put together the very first Kinky Horror Virtual Drive-In! We’re giving you a spooky-cool drive-in eXXXperience from the (dis)comfort of your tomb! There’s just no better way to ho-nor our Birthday Boils than to show off the ghoulish performances that stole our hearts and turned our hair white!.
First, a cartoon starring Mr. Price! After all, it is Saturday morning (somewhere ;)), so let us do it up right! The cartoon is an episode of 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and it features Vincent Price as… well, Dr. Strange! A legally safe knock-off, that is. Since Vinnie P. inspired Dr. Strange, I suppose we can’t get TOO mad. 🙂 Besides, anything that features Vincent Price fighting ghosts and demons with black magic (and the Scooby Gang! :)) is spooky-cool by me!

Next, a friendly word from our sponsor and Mr. Cushing. (#GushingForCushing :)) You’ll have to pardon Peter… he’s having a guest DROP in! 🙂

Now, an important educational short from Mr. Lee. If you’re going to stay in this crazy game called Life, you’re gonna have to do The Time Warp! You may even need to The Time Warp… again! Mr. Lee is here to show you how it’s done! 🙂

And now…

Hammer Films gave history the (severed) finger with Rasputin – The Mad Monk! Christopher Lee gives one of his best performances as the maniacal mystic. If you ever wanted to see the story of Rasputin done as a Dracula film, this one’s for you!

The Doctor is In… Sane! Vincent Price slays again in this Art Deco nightmare! (Not to be confused with the Kinky Ho-rror writer of the same name…That’s totally a coincidence! ;)0


And for the last of the trailers, Peter Cushing is one of eight potential werewolves in The Beast Must Die, a ho-wlin’ whodunit from the folks at Amicus. The only film with the WEREWOLF BREAK, an inserted 30-second break that asks YOU to guess the werewolf’s identity! (So. Freaking. Rad!!! :))

And now it’s time for our…

Our first film is The Satanic Rites of Dracula, the last of the Hammer Dracula films. It’s nowhere near the quality of the earlier films, but it’s an interesting mix of spy thriller and Gothic ho-rror. Dracula really thinks big in this one. Instead of biting the necks a few buXXXom maidens, he plans on destroying the world! No, Drac! It’s best place to find awesome ho-rror films!

Horror of Dracula (1958)

While it’s not their best film, Satanic Rites of Dracula features Christopher Lee’s Dracula and Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing together again for the last time. Heck, Chris Lee’s Drac even gets some decent lines in this one! It ain’t perfect, but it does showcase two greats doing their freaky thing!

For a bit o’ Lee and Cushing, check out the film below:

INTERMISSION

We’re back! Our last attraction is The Last Man on Earth with, you guessed it, Vincent Price! The film is the first adaptation of Richard Matheson and the closest to the source material. Vinnie P. goes a full-blown stake-out here, eXXXisting as the only human in a world of vampires. What’s great about this film is that it’s one of the few times Vincent Price got to be the hero in a fright film. In this film, he’s not the monster… or is he!?!!? 😉

To see that the Price is Fright, check out the film below:


Here’s to you, gents! Thanks for making the world a creepier place! 🙂

#WerewolfWednesdayTheater: Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (1961)

Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies! The moon may not be full and bright, but we got a hairy hair-raiser to fill you with fright! Our featured creature feature is Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory and it’s a real ho-wler! Now, with a title like that, you’d probably expect Animal House with a real animal, but it’s actually a monster mystery. You’ve heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now, and you’ll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle… no, their task is even harder. They’ve got to find a werewolf in a reformatory! And they don’t even have a Rod Serling to narrate!

Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory is, believe it or not, a precursor to the Giallo film! Yes indeedy, Kinky Kreeps! Before Bava gave us The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Argento started puttin’ on those ol’ black gloves of his, this gave us the mysterious killer and endless red herrings we associate with the genre. What solidifies this connection is that the script was written by Ernesto Gastaldi, the screenwriter behind Torso, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, and many other Giallo classics. Gloves off to ya!

Surprisingly, this weird wolf tale has some legitimate chills to offer. If you can get past the… questionable dubbing, there’s some decent terror to be had. The Werewolf himself is not as bestial as one would hope, but he looks decently psychotic. As for the culprit… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s a pretty decent reveal.   See it … solve it … but don’t tell!
One last thing to note is the De-Frightful tune that plays at the beginning of the film. It’s called The Ghoul in School and it’s a ’60s go-go ghoul scream! In no way does it match the film, but it’s pure voodoo magic! Any song that has a random Peter Lorre impression is a winner in my book of shadows! Far out, groovie ghoulies!

To find out which wolf is the werewolf, check out the full fright film below. 🙂 xoxo

#MightyMorphinMonday: Power Rangers (2017)

(Submitted by Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks, Heroic Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

“A group of high-school students, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.” (Lionsgate/Saban)

As I mentioned in my Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic book review, I loved this television series as a kid. This movie stars the same characters in the original show, with different actors in the Zord’s, turning what was essentially a campy live action Saturday morning cartoon, into a live action science fiction, action adventure superhero film. While there is a shift in tone, to something that takes it source material a little more seriously, the core essential elements of the brand are upheld and respected. The Rangers are still teenagers under the guidance of Zordon, with the help of his assistant, talking robot Alpha 5. The Power Rangers derive their power from power coins which connect them to the morphing grid. They still are the pilots of Zord’s aka mechanical dinosaurs that can join together to form a giant robot known as a Megazord. Their main goal is to protect the zeo crystal and the world from Rita Repulsa, the sworn enemy of Zordon, who is aided by her putty patrol and Goldar, her chief lieutenant. With the core retained and carried over, the filmmakers still managed to deviate and change elements within the core ideas and those decisions, I feel, make major improvements. One aspect I absolutely loved is the back story and history of the Power Rangers. The Power Rangers go back all the way to pre historic earth. These alien warriors were charged with protecting the relatively young Earth and the life forms on it. The dominant life form at this time being the dinosaurs, which explains why the Zord’s take the form of those animals. In this iteration, Zordon is the leader of that team of Rangers, the red ranger. One of his teammates was Rita Repulsa, the Green Ranger. However, a power hungry Rita Repulsa betrays them in an effort to steal their power coins, the source of their power. However, Zordon hides the power coins, instructing Alpha 5 to cause a meteor strike from their ship. This results in Zordon’s death and sends Rita to the bottom of the ocean. The fallout of all this is the extinction of the dinosaurs. What I love bout all this is that, in the show Rita created the Green Ranger, so it’s serendipitous that in this take, she is the Green Ranger. It also gives Zordon and Rita a deeper connection and fuel for their hatred. Tying the original team of Power Rangers, to the time of the dinosaurs, not only explains why the Zord’s are dinosaurs, the film also makes Zordon and by extension Alpha 5, somewhat responsible for the dinosaurs extinction. That was surprising. I like that the filmmakers actually created an alien language for Zordon and Rita to speak. It makes the events of the scenario and the story conceit more believable. Most films don’t go that extra mile and just have the aliens speak English as if it’s some intergalactic and universal language.

The TV Series boasted that the Power Rangers were “teenagers with attitude.” Yet given the nature of the show, we got the most cookie cutter Leave it to Beaver kids you could possibly have. This film actually gives us teenagers with attitude, or at least ones dealing with issues. Jason was a football star in the making, who ruined his career after a prank gone wrong led to a car accident, ending his playing days. Kimberly Hart was a bit of a cyber bully of sorts, who sent nude photos of a fellow student throughout her previous school. Now in a new environment, she is the one who is ostracised by classmates. Billy Cranston is a science nerd whose experiment caused a minor explosion on school property. The added intrigue for this character is that he has Autism. These 3 Rangers meet in Saturday after school detention. It has a very Breakfast Club feel to it, which I think is great and highly appropriate, given they are teenagers. Trini, the yellow Ranger is dealing with her sexual orientation and struggling with coming out to her family, while Zack, the Black Ranger, frequently skips school, to take care of his ailing mother. These two outsiders often skip school and hang out in the Angel Grove gold mines or mountainous regions. While they all go to the same school, they aren’t necessarily friends and don’t know each other very well. That’s great for this film because the best part is the interactions between the Power Rangers. You see their friendships grow and you watch them become a team. They need to be in tune with each other to morph and to pilot the Megazord, so when all that finally happens in the third act of the film it’s earned. For the most, I’ve got nothing but praise for the young cast. Dacre Montgomery and Ludi Lin were solid. I thought both actors were believable in conveying their character various issues but I didn’t buy them 100% as outcasts or “teens with altitude.” The two best of our young cast are Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler. I had a huge crush on the original pink ranger as a kid, so any actress who can get me to totally invest in her take on a character is doing a good job. I really believed she was remorseful for her past deeds and was trying to escape the shackles of her past. RJ Cyler highlights how intelligent and uniquely awesome people with Autism are. I find people with disabilities are highly under-represented on film and when we are, we’re all painted with the same brush. Here though, this character is given his due. Not only is he incredibly smart, but he is the audiences conduit to what it would feel like to be a Power Ranger and how cool it would be. He’s the first one to morph and is actually the glue that ultimately binds the team together, allowing them to become the heroes they’re supposed to be. As a kid I didn’t care for the Blue Ranger, but in this film he was my favorite. Part of that is how the character is written, but a lot of that comes down to the actor’s performance. The weakest of our heroes in terms of performance and character is Becky G, as the Yellow Ranger. First off, her struggle with revealing her sexual orientation to her parents is only glossed over, while every other character got more screen time. Also, the actor is a pop singer by trade, and only a select few have been able to make the transition with any success. Unfortunately for Becky G, I don’t think she will join that club!

Elizabeth Banks relished her role as villain Rita Repulsa. Yes, her plan was straight forward, almost “mustache twirly” at times but I felt it was written that way on purpose as homage to the source material. Yes, Ms. Banks chews scenery and goes over the top, but she’s far less ridiculous than the Enchantress (the only thing I really didn’t like about Suicide Squad). Elizabeth Banks was genuinely frightening as Rita and in those moments she was money! (See what I did there… Money in the Bank). Bryan Cranston as Zordon was stunt legacy casting, as he voiced monster roles in the original show, but it is genius casting. His Zordon is confused at the complicated inner workings of the teenage mind. He’s stern, when the teenagers aren’t grasping what they need to learn, yet he is calming and compassionate when the need arises. Having Zordon be a former Power Ranger who experienced failure, makes his bond with the team feel stronger. He’s no longer just the man behind the curtain. He’s not an all-knowing Wizard of Oz fraud. Let’s look at the visuals and action in this film. Gone are the spandex costumes and in its place is an armor with an alien look and feel to it. The updated design still honors the original concept but ultimately makes so much more sense, since the original team were in fact aliens in the film. The Power Rangers command center being Zordon’s old ship also makes sense. I also think it being buried deep underneath the Angel Grove gold mines, where the meteors strike at the beginning of the film took place is a more practical story point. While I though the exterior of the TV show’s command center looked cool, largely because it looked like an Egyptian pyramid, its location never made sense. Rita Repulsa’s wardrobe is a definite improvement over the television predecessor. Since she was once the Green Ranger, I like that her outfit is essentially a defunct, dark and twisted take on the Green Ranger armor. Her armor has morphed to fit the characters personality. Goldar’s redesign seemed a little too much for my liking. He was literally a giant liquid gold monster. He reminded me of the golden fountain in the Ferrero Rocher chocolate commercials. Just imagine that fountain could walk and you’ll get what I’m talking about. Given the success of the Planet of the Apes franchise, there’s no reason they couldn’t have gone with a talking gorilla in gold armor like the original show. The Megazord forming and fighting looked great. There’s even a nod to the original show in that it forms in the cover of fire, from the bottom of the damage from the Angel Grove goldmine. The fighting between the Megazord and Goldar was very clear and concise. I appreciated that I could actually clearly see fighting moves being performed. This isn’t always the case in some movies, like Transformers or Pacific Rim. There’s even a joke about the Transformers film in the third act fight that got a laugh out of me. While the fighting between the Megazord and Goldar was well done, the hand to hand combat between the Power Rangers and Rita’s Putty Patrol as she attempt to steal the Zeo Crystal leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not that the fighting was bad, it’s just there wasn’t enough of it to really judge. That’s a shame, especially since the cast said they worked hard at martial arts training for the film.

As a fan of the original show, I was worried that this franchise had passed its exploration date in terms of appeal with modern day film fans, who weren’t already fans of the property. I was worried the filmmakers would change the DNA of the property so much, that it wouldn’t feel like a Power Rangers. However, the film stays true to the most important part of the concept and for my money, the changes made the Power Rangers better. As is sometimes the case with origin stories, the action beats and fighting sequences are less than I expected, though the Megazord battle does satiate that need to a degree. However, the focus was clearly on the characters and the team dynamics of the Power Rangers and in that department the film succeeds. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the franchise, or totally oblivious to it, give the film a look for yourself. I think you’ll have a morphenomenal good time at the movies or watching it from the comfort of your own home when released digitally and on Blu-Ray.

Alien: Covenant Review *Spoilers*

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Phibes…Thanks, Kinky Ho-bo! ;)xoxo)

“Here at least we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built. Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice to reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”

-John Milton, Paradise Lost

 

“I’ll do the fingering.”

David, Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant is a strange beast. It’s both a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and an apology for it. Director Ridley Scott still seems to be interested in the ideas and conceits explored in that film, but also wants to satisfy the fans who were vocal in their burning hatred for it. As a result, Alien: Covenant is a hybrid of Prometheus and the original Alien: a monster mash of high-minded concepts and ghost train theatrics. If you were hoping to see the return of Prometheus‘ Shaw (Noomi Rapace) or more of the Engineers (the extraterrestrial creators of mankind) in this film, I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re hungry for atmospherics, gore, nostalgia, and tons of monsters, this is the film for you.

Set a decade after Prometheus, Alien: Covenant  concerns the crew of the colony ship Covenant and their discovery of what appears to be an uncharted paradise. It’s revealed that the planet is inhabited by hostile creatures and… well, you know the drill. The film more-or-less plays out the way you’d imagine, though that’s hardly a bad thing. What we have here is essentially a “Greatest Hits” of the Alien franchise. Eggs are hatched, distress signals are answered, creatures burst from stomachs, and faces are hugged. The film does nothing new with the series, but it’s a highly enjoyable return to basics. In that regard, it’s the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of the the Alien series.

Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Alien: Covenant  is a soft reboot masquerading as a sequel. Prometheus is essentially jettisoned in favor of a more familiar bit of sci-fi terror. Unfortunately, that means that most of the characters/creatures left alive at the end of Prometheus are disposed of. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is given a, um, less-than-happy ending, which I thought was pretty lame. After building the character up and setting up further adventures for her at the end of the previous film, Alien: Covenant gives Shaw the ol’ “Newt/Hicks” treatment. I personally believe that Dr. Shaw deserved a better send-off, but I suppose the studio wanted to distance themselves from Prometheus as much as possible. In fact, the only element from that film that is used to a significant degree in this film is also the one element that was universally praised:  Michael Fassbender.

R.I.P. Dr. Shaw.

Michael Fassbender does double duty as the diabolical David and Walter, the unfortunate android aboard the Covenant. Mr. Fassbender is brilliant in both roles, imbuing both machines with their own distinctive identity. However, it’s David who steals the show and makes this film fantastic. David is delightfully, cartoonishly evil. He’s Michael Gough, Vincent Price, John Carradine, and a cobra fused into an unimaginably hammy chimera of urbane villainy. It truly is a shame they didn’t give him a cape and a mustache to twirl.
There’s also a weird, sexual tension between the two Fassbenders, starting with what is likely the most erotic cinematic flute lesson. The sequence does bring to mind a lot of the weird poetry Prometheus had going for it, and it is probably the most fascinating scene in the picture. At this point, the film takes turns to what could almost be described as “Fassbender porn.” And the internet has already picked up on this. Alien: Covenant isn’t even a week old, yet there’s a disturbing amount of Fassbender X Fassbender fan art. If you think I’m not going to include any of it here, you are deeply mistaken.

While the film generally plays out like a classical monster movie, some of the heavy ideas and literary references of Prometheus do pop up. Questions about the nature of creation are brought up and religious symbolism is scattered throughout. Percy Shelley. Lord Byron, and John Milton are quoted in thematically appropriate ways and Wagner’s Entry of the Gods into Valhalla plays at the end. It’s a little on-the-nose, but it’s all intriguing for what is primarily straightforward creature feature.
As for the rest the rest of the film, it’s loaded with great sci-fi gore, but nothing as intense as Alien‘s dinner scene or the surgery sequence in Prometheus. Katherine Waterston is a fine heroine, but she’s less compelling than the two before her. Is it, as one reviewer put its, a “masterpiece of fear?” No, but it’s an entertaining slice of Alien terror. I wish they had stuck to Prometheus more, but it’s loads of fun.  Alien: Covenant is mostly awesome… mostly.

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 & 2

(Submitted by our Superhero Scifi buddy, Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Super Friend! 🙂 xoxo

In Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2′ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. (Marvel Studios)

When I saw the teaser trailer for the first Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t all that into it. I fully blame the Thor franchise for this, as the forced humor in those films, seemed to be rearing its ugly head here. However, to be fair, I knew very little about the Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead of getting on the internet to bitch and moan about what I wasn’t liking, I hopped on to Amazon and bought two trade paperbacks of the newest comics. In truth, the humor was perfectly appropriate for the odd ball bunch of characters that make up the team. After finally seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, I absolutely loved it. It quickly became one of my favourite MCU films and ranks in my top 5 from Marvel Studios. Yes, there’s a lot of comedy throughout but what James Gunn does, is make you care about the characters and shows you their tragedies, so that the humor has greater effect when it finally happens. This film starts with young Peter Quill by his mother’s bedside, as she gives him one last parting gift and words of wisdom, before succumbing to brain cancer. He then runs out of the hospital, only to get abducted by an alien space ship. That is a harrowing but heartbreaking way to open a film. While the rest of the story also hinges on Peter Quill, the other Guardians have their own issues. Most of these aren’t brought to bear visually like Star Lord, however they’re all discussed. Gamora has familial issues, being the adopted daughter of Thanos and having a sibling rivalry with her sister Nebula. Not to mention, she’s acting as a double agent of sorts, in the process of double crossing Thanos. The family drama is very real world, just like Peter’s mothers death from cancer is, it just takes place on an intergalactic scale. I love that no matter how odd these character are, their emotional baggage is very relatable. Rocket Racoon and Groot are more unique from the rest of the humanoid looking group. Rocket is a creation, a genetically altered talking racoon, while Groot is the last of his kind, a talking tree, with a speech impediment, where everything he says is heard as “I am Groot.” While both characters are adorable, they are outcasts amongst a team of misfits. If you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in their own skin, or you feel misunderstood, you will gravitate towards these characters beyond their cuteness. Drax is the only character that’s hard to relate to. After all, when we first meet him, he’s in prison for going on a murderous revenge tour. However, he is trying to avenge the deaths of his family and has killed or is going after, Thanos and or those connected to him, or took part in the murder of his family. So while you might not identify with him, you will sympathize with him.

In several trailers and promotions, the Guardians of the Galaxy were classified as criminals and outlaws and technically they are, but that’s a misrepresentation. They don’t do anything in the film to make you second guess them, or root against them. As you discover their backstories throughout the film and watch them interact with each other, they’re nothing but lovable characters. This is an ensemble film but as I said, Star Lord is the main character and the team all meet through him. That occurs when the film picks up with the adult Star Lord stealing an orb contain an infinity stone and attempting to sell it to a dealer. The dealer reneges on the arrangement when he learns Thanos is after the stone. Speaking of Thanos, not only does he send Gamora after Peter Quill, he sends out a bounty for the capture of the self-proclaimed Star Lord. This gets Groot and Rocket on his trail, as well as his old partner/father figure Yondu. Yondu is the alien who kidnapped Peter at the behest of Peter’s mysterious celestial father, who Yondu describes as an asshole. He decided not to take Peter to his father and groomed him as a Ravager. However, he feels betrayed by Peter and wants to get in on that bounty cash. As Gamora, Rocket and Groot try and apprehend Peter, they are all caught by Nova Corps officers and are thrown in the Kylm, a prison in a trading post called Knowhere. It is here where the characters truly meet. They decided to team up to not only break out of prison, as well as selling the orb/gem to Gamora’s contact, the Collector. Drax comes into the equation because he wants to kill Gamora, in his quest for revenge on Thanos. However, Peter Quill talks him down, suggesting that if he joins them, he will get his revenge on Thanos, so he acquiesces. Speaking of Thanos, displeased with Gamora’s efforts, he sends Ronan, essentially his overpowered henchmen to take them out and retrieve the infinity stone. After they escape prison, they eventually strike an accord with the Nova Corps and Yondu, to join forces and bring down Ronan, which they obviously do. As for the infinity stone, even though Star Lord promised to give it to Yondu, he double crosses him and entrusts it to the Nova Corps. I mentioned the humor throughout the film and it comes in the characters interactions. I loved all of Peter Quill’s 80’ references, including Patrick Swayze in dirty dancing, and Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss. Not to mention, Peter’s ship being named after Alyssa Milano. Gamora’s naiveté mixed in with her overall badassery made the character a good addition. As I said Groot and Rocket were the most adorable characters but having Rocket be the only one to understand Groot is hilarious. It’s like a one sided version of broken telephone, where based on Rocket’s response, we the audience can piece together what Groot says. Also, Rocket being a sarcastic jackass and asking the group to steal another inmates prosthetic leg to assist in his escape plan just to see if they’d do it, made me laugh.. Drax’s humor came from his bluntness and lack of understanding of sarcasm. For example, when Star Lord says a pun went over Drax’s head, Drax responds; “Nothing goes over my head. If it did, my reflexes are so fast, I’d reach out and catch it. “Or when he refers to Gamora as a “Green Skinned Slut”, when he admits he has gotten over his grudge against her . He’s so straight faced and honest about it, I couldn’t help but laugh at the dichotomy of calling someone a slut and your friend in the same breath.

Two aspects of the first film I didn’t like were the villain and the third act finale. Ronan is another terrible villain. He’s a glorified lackey for Thanos, and the character is so over the top. It’s mustache twirl level. The film tells us that he wants to use the infinity gem to put an end to the Kree/Xandar treaty, which he feels has wronged his people the Kree, but the story never delves further into that. His antagonism to the Guardians of the Galaxy is nothing more than them being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as being in position of the Infinity Gem. The other thing that I didn’t care for was that Star Lord challenges Ronan to a dance off to distract him, while the others get the Infinity Gem away from him. As noted, I’ve loved every bit of humor in this film up to this point, but this dance off was out of place. The fate of Xandar and potentially the universe is at stake, and that’s the first thing you come up with. Does Marvel have a “1 Joke per Script Page” rule for their films or what? Not only did this gag pull me out of the film, but it lessened the severity of the situation and the impact of Groot’s death to spare his teammates. Don’t worry, in typical Marvel fashion, Groot didn’t really die, Rocket was able to collect pieces of him and plant him in a pot, so he could regrow.

The sequel for my money is a step up from the original in my opinion. Make no mistake, in terms of story, and story structure it’s pretty much the same. Characters and situations change, but the story structure doesn’t break the mold. This time around, the Guardians of the Galaxy are hired by the leader of the Sovereign nation to retrieve special batteries from a monstrous alien. In exchange for returning the batteries, the group is granted custody of Nebula who was captured for stealing the batteries in the first place. As they are dismissed, Rocket can’t help but steal a few batteries. Upon discovery of this the Sovereign leader sends of fleet of ships to attack the group and retrieve the batteries. When that fails, she hires Yondu and his Ravagers to retrieve the batters and capture the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians of the Galaxy eventually team up with Yondu and his crew, not only to defeat the Sovereign army, but defeat the much larger threat of the film. A Guardian of the Galaxy even sacrifices themselves for another team member. Sounds a lot like the first film doesn’t it!? Despite this, there’s enough fresh elements that make this sequel better than the original.

The film does pick up on several open ended threads left open from the first film. One of which is Peter Quill’s celestial father. The character is first introduced in a flashback to his courtship and mating with Peter’s Mother. For this scene, the filmmakers used the de-aging CGI on Kurt Russell and you know what, it looks really good. I thought I was watching actual footage of 1980’s Kurt Russell. We first see him in earnest in the film, when he mysteriously provides an escape route for the Guardians as they evade the Sovereign Fleet. After a rough landing by the Milano, Star Lord finally meets his father Ego. Ego invites his son and crew to his planet. Once there, we get plenty of exposition detailing that Ego is a Celestial that manipulated matter to form a planet and placed itself at the planet’s core. After hundreds of years, he got lonely, so he formed a human body and traveled the universe, which ultimately led him to Earth and the love of his life Meredith Quill. When Peter asks why he didn’t return to Earth when she got ill and died, he intimated that a world without Meredith was a world he didn’t want to be on. He reiterates that he sent Yondu to retrieve him after Meredith’s death and blames Yondu for their delayed reunion. We get scenes of the newly acquainted father/son do bonding over shared taste in Earth music and Ego teaching Peter how to use his celestial power and manipulate energy and matter. This leads to a celestial game of catch. I got so swept up emotion of these scenes, that I didn’t see the twist coming. That twist being that this is all a ruse and Ego is the true villain of the film. He’s been looking for his son all this time, to use his son Peter’s celestial power, combined with his, to activate the seedling he planted on Earth to terraform it into an extension of himself. If that isn’t bad enough, he reveals he planted the tumor in Meredith’s brain, so she would die, allowing him to be left alone and easy for the taking. Even worse still, he’s attempted to do this on other planets he’s visited, but failed because his other progeny died when trying to harness their celestial powers. To use a wrestling term, I did not see that heel turn coming. One of the main reason I like this film a bit more than the first, is because Ego is a much better villain than Ronan. Part of that is the familial connection between Star Lord and Ego and part of it is the acting of Kurt Russell. The way both he and Chris Prat switch between being best of friends, to mortal enemies is emotional, raw and flawless. I could feel both the love and hate between the two characters through the course of the film. This plot point also gave us more info and more screen time for Yondu.

In the first film, you saw that Yondu and Peter Quill had an admiration for each other but the relationship was fractured. From Peter’s perspective, he believed that the only reason Yondu took him and kept him around, was because he was someone who could help him steal, getting into places where Yondu and his team couldn’t fit into. In this film, Yondu reveals that the main reason he kept him around, was because he didn’t want Ego to get his hands on Peter. Yondu taught Peter how to be self-sufficient and fend for himself. In a revealing dialogue with Rocket, Yondu reveals that he grew to love Peter and considers him his son. His action of taking Peter as a child got him in trouble with The Ravagers higher up personnel. Child trafficking is a no-no amongst The Ravagers. This plot point gives a cameo by Sylvester Stallone, who plays Stakar Ogord, and Michael Rosembaum as his right hand man, who exile Yondu and his crew from the Ravagers. Yay to James Gunn for including a cameo from Sly and Rosembaum. Boo to James Gunn for not putting Stallone and Russell in a scene together, for a mini Tango and Cash reunion. Anyways, back to Yondu. The moment where he sacrifices his life, to save Peter from dying in an explosion in a fight with Ego, was epically tragic. The moment before his death, where he says; “He may be your father, but I’m your daddy”, brought me to tears. This death does have a finality to it as well. Earlier in the film, Yondu makes a Marry Poppins reference that is quite funny. I won’t spoil it but keep an eye out for it. Michael Rooker is known as a character actor but he steals the film. By far my favourite character in the film, with Ego coming in second.

Three of my favourite characters from the first film left me with a mixed reaction. Groot was even better than last time, while Rocket and Drax left me wishing they would just shut up and had me rolling my eyes. Groot had only one way to go and that was up. As much as I loved Groot the first time around, how can you not love Baby Groot? The cutest part was how at every chance he got, he cuddled every member of his Guardians teammates. You will “aww” every time you see it. The funny part is when Rocket tries to explain to him about not touching the button to set off the bomb. He understands the words coming out of Rocket’s mouth, but he can’t truly comprehend them, which is why he wanted to push the button that set off the bomb. Essentially he has the mind of a two year old. Every time he appeared in a scene, that dynamic when mixed with what the rest of the group was going through, added the perfect amount of levity and fun to the situation. Rocket’s attitude in the first film was bold, brash and justified given his characters circumstances. However in this film, his attitude was amplified, to the point where he actively tried to push his crew members away. I understand that he felt that getting close to people hasn’t worked out in the past, so why go through that again, however, he got through those issues by the end of the first film. So this behaviour felt like retreading old ground from volume one. Speaking of retreading, Drax was a huge step backwards in volume 2. In the first film, his bluntness and naïveté was a driving force of humor. So James Gunn decided to ratchet that up ten notches, to where it became forced. This resulted in Drax becoming a cackling misogynistic brute, who besmirched and insulted Ego’s assistant Mantis, just to deflect his apparent growing feelings for her throughout the film. He flat out calls her ugly, I believe the word he uses is hideous. Then there’s the barrage of dick jokes he makes. He literally stops Ego in a piece of important, character building dialogue, to ask Ego if he created a dick for himself and how big it is. Then he and Star Lord make suggestive comments about the sizes of their package, I’m good with a raunchy penis joke now and again, but I think the four or five in this film were a bit excessive. Also, seeing as the Guardians of the Galaxy is the most kid friendly franchise to date in the MCU, you should be mindful that there are youngsters in the audience. There may have been more dick jokes in this film then Deadpool and for me, that’s problematic.

Much like the rest of both films, I am overall extremely satisfied with the visual effects in the films. The entire VFX team should be commended for making two entirely CGI characters Rocket Racoon and Groot look so real. Not going to lie, there were so many times in the first film, I wanted to reach out and pet Rocket or swing from Groot. Yes the performances are what connect you to characters, however, the first visual impressions makes you believe these characters exist, and these visuals succeed in that aspect in spades. Considering his background in smaller, low budget films I was impressed with several action scenes he crafted. Both films feature a space battle, between The Milano and Ronan’s warship in the first film, and the Sovereign fleet in the sequel. The space battles are epic in these particular scenes, almost Star Wars level worthy. Notice I said almost, so no one freak out. During the fight with the Sovereign fleet battle, when looking at the space battle from a POV shot of inside the Sovereign’s ships is a visual nod to an 80’s video game, which is in keeping with the fun tone of these films. The opening scenes of both films, are some of the most enjoyably interactive I’ve ever seen. Seeing Star Lord dance his way through an alien landscape, using dead fish like creatures as a microphone, dancing his way to stealing the orb, is like a hilarious absurd melding of So You Think You Can Dance and Indiana Jones. That shouldn’t work, but it does, making for an incredibly fun opening montage. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 starts with The Guardians fighting an alien monster, while Groot has music blaring in a stereo and is dancing, oblivious to the fight in the foreground. I love this opening because as a viewer, you’re totally transfixed, wanting to watch the battle, but at the same time, hooting and hollering over Groot’s adorably hilarious dancing. The third act featured Ego the living planet being destroyed. We almost got a firsthand look at a planet crumbling to its extinction. I’ve never seen it done quite like this. Ego transforms into a disembodied head at one point, which normally I don’t like, but it forces Peter to manipulating matter into Pac Man. Any time I can get Pac-Man references in a film is a positive. There were two instances where the CGI looked terrible. In the first film, when the Guardians join hands, trying to grab the infinity stone, the scene is engulfed in purple, as the team is literally being torn apart. This had to be one of the lamest looking third act finales in a comic book film. A clear sign that the filmmaker had exhausted his budget. In the second film, during the aforementioned fight with the alien monster, said monster looks rather rubbery and obviously CGI. Not as rubbery as the shark in Batman ’66 but considering we’re in 2017, this shouldn’t be an issue.

As I mentioned, when this film franchise first began, I had no idea who The Guardians of the Galaxy even were. As I said, the first trailer for the film didn’t even get me excited for the film. Yet, here we are two films into the franchise and their two of the best of the Marvel brand. One of the best things about these movies is, while they’re part of the MCU, they are standalone films in their own right. While I seem to have more issues with the second film, there was enough positive elements in Volume 2, that I still put it ahead of the first film. No matter which film you enjoy more, you’re guaranteed a sci-fi space opera full of emotion, humor and action featuring instantaneously lovable characters. Revisit the first one and most definitely see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, if you haven’t already.

Scary Shorties: Mickey’s Mechanical Man (1933)

Before Richard Matheson brought a robot into the ring and Toho had one rough up an ape, Disney gave us both of those wonderful things in 1933’s Mickey’s Mechanical Man, a knockabout cartoon caper that pits machine against beast. The short is about Mickey Mouse training a robot to fight an ape in a boxing match and… do I need to say anything else!? I mean, that’s pure monster movie magic as it is! Disney has produced more sophisticated shorts, but who needs sophistication when you have beastly brutes monster-mashing each other in glorious black-and-white?!

Mickey’s Mechanical Man is a fairly one-note short, but it plays that note so magnificently! There are gags aplenty and enough machine-on-monster action to satisfy  all you creature-craving crazies out there. Mickey and Minnie are always welcome, and the ape is as perfectly monstrous as one could hope for. As for the animation, it’s fluid, lively, and… well, Disney!
While there’s much to love about this ‘toon, the highlight is the tit-ular Mechanical Man. I’m a sucker for vintage/retro robots, and this affable automaton certainly fits the bill. Every bit of animation for the ro-boxer is brilliantly herky-jerky. The spasmodic, robotic pugilist moves like a wind-up toy with very little use for physics. It’s this kind of character and animation that make these cartoons such a blast to watch! Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!

Check out the Battle of the Century below:


#FrankensteinFridayTheater: Dr. Hackenstein (1988)

\Happy Frankenstein Friday, students of mad science! We got some swift lippin’, ego trippin’, and body snatchin’ to make you feel…ALIVE!!!!

Today’s eXXXperiment is a full-length film from the mad monsters at Troma. The feature in question is itself a creature made from old parts. Take the skeleton of Curse of Frankenstein, inject it with the blood of Re-Animator, add the funny bone of Young Frankenstein, and you have the terror that is 1988’s Dr. Hackenstein!

Dr. Hackenstein  is not a particularly funny or horrific horror comedy, but it is a very “Frankenstein” one…  and that’s spooky cool to me! There’s whole lotta weird science going on, with oddly colored vials of substances that look vaguely science-y and sets that seem like they’ve been ripped out of Hammer film. Dr. Hackenstein doesn’t break new ground (unless you count digging up a grave). but it’s the kind of corny splatstick treat that’s charms you with its classically spooky atmospherics  and its corn-on-the-macabre humor. This film ain’t Young Frankenstein, but get the feeling the filmmakers knew that. Heck, there’s even a reference to the Mel Brooks film that’s, well… on the nosey.

Besides being a fun dose of Frankenstein madness, this film is also worth watch for its cast. Everyone does their darndest and David Muir is actually quite delightful as the bad doctor. It’s all over-the-top, but weirdly likable. Logan and Anne Ramsey (in her final film role) are fun as a pair of bumbling grave robbers. To add some more Frankenstein cred, Mad Monster Party’s Phyllis Diller has a small part in the film, but she’s a little less animated in this one! Aha ha ha!

Straight from Troma’s official Youtube channel, here’s Dr. Hackenstein for your Frankenstein Friday. 🙂

 

#TerrorTuesday: The Manster (1959)

It’s often said that two heads are better than one (hehe ;)), but I’d wager that the unfortunate victim in The Manster would strongly disagree.

Also known as The Split, The Manster is a peculiar tale of DEAD & shoulders.  It concerns an American foreign news correspondent who has been working out of Japan for the last few years. His final ass-ignment in Japan is to interview a reclusive scientist who, like all great scientists, lives atop a volcanic mountain. Needing a guinea pig for his unholy experiments, the bad doctor drugs the hapless reporter and injects him with a serum that causes a second head to sprout from his shoulder. I suppose that’s one way to grow on someone. 😉

What’s truly impressive about The Manster is that it’s one of those rare films that manages to be both unintentionally goofy and genuinely creepy at the same time. The film was shot in Black-and-White and makes excellent use of shadows to heighten the lurid atmosphere. While The Manster himself is a wonderfully silly thing, the sequence in which the reporter rips off his shirt to reveal an eye growing out of his shoulder is honestly nightmarish. It’s a gloriously gut-wrenching effect, especially for a low-budget fright fest from the late ’50s.
The Manster was the first film to play around with the theme of the two-headed man-made monster. Other examples of this heady trope include The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972).  The Simpsons parodied this idea in their second Treehouse of Horror special and again in the 2013 edition, making two segments for two heads. Sam Raimi directly referenced The Manster in an infamous scene in Army of Darkness, even going as far as to include the “shoulder eye” gag. I guess you could say that The Manster was a-HEAD of its time. (*insert Cryptkeeper cackle here* :))
For two heads of terror, check out The Manster below:

A Very El Santo Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo to all you Cool Ghouls and Groovie Ghoulies out there! The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla, but it has also become day to celebrate MeXXXican culture. In that spirit, I would like to take a moment to ho-nor El Santo, one of history’s greatest masked men.

Santo was born Rodolfo Guzman Huerta in 1917 and went on to become a real-life superhero. Santo’s wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, and he appeared in dozens of movies and comic books. Through his many appearances, he became a modern folk hero and, as Google put it, “a cultural icon, representing justice and the fight against evil.” The veiled victor went to great lengths to keep his face hidden away, even going as far as to have a special “mealtime” mask made for eating. The only time he removed his mask was in 1984 as a final goodbye to his fans. He died just a week later and was buried in his legendary mask.

To ho-rror fans, El Santo will always be known for his numerous monster films. The wrestling wonder went hand-to-claw with vampires, aliens, wolfmen, The Phantom of the Opera (El Estrangulador), zombies, cyclopes, and just about every fiend imaginable. Best of all, he bested every one of them with his fantastic wrestling skills! El Santo is Batman and Van Helsing rolled into one unstoppable monster-punching machine. No creature of the night stands a chance against the camel clutch of Santo!

In ho-nor of Cinco de Mayo and The Silver Maskman, we have Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro for your viewing pleasure! This is the definitive El Santo adventure, with its blend of whacked-out wrestling weirdness and deliciously Gothic atmosphere. While this version refers to El Santo as “Samson,” there’s no doubt this is the same butt-kicking luchador we all know and love. El Santo, by any other name, is still hard to beat.

Click on the box below to see El Santo in action:

Happy Cinco de Mayo, Fright Fans! 🙂 xoxo

#TerrorTuesday: The Terror (1963)

Salutations from the Other Side, Ho-rror Ho-unds! It’s a Terror-ific Tuesday here in Karloffornia, so why not take a look at The Terror with Boris Karloff?
What a tit-le! How intriguing! How vague! “The Terror” is like calling a film “Horror Movie.” And it sums up the appeal of this film pretty neatly! The plot concerns Andre Duvalier, a lost Napoleonic soldier (a very young Jack Nicholson) who is rescued by Helene (Sandra Knight), an enigmatic woman who is revealed to be a ghost possessed by a witch. Eventually, after being attacked by a large bird and being separated from Helene, he finds himself at the castle of Baron Victor Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), The Baron’s wife passed away some time ago, but Helene bears a strong resemblance to her. What dark secrets does the Baron keep, and what ghastly horrors await poor Andre?

If that synopsis reads like a game of Gothic Mad Libs, that’s because the film largely was. Director Roger Corman was working on The Raven and finished the picture a few days early.  Realizing he had a pretty groovy set going unused until its demolition, the pragmatic Corman decided to crank out another film in those last few days. Along with the sets, Corman recycled Karloff and Nicholson from The Raven. Karloff later said:

“Corman had the sketchiest outline of a story. I read it and begged him not to do it. He said ‘That’s alright Boris, I know what I’m going to do. I want you for two days on this.’ I was in every shot, of course. Sometimes I was just walking through and then I would change my jacket and walk back. He nearly killed me on the last day. He had me in a tank of cold water for about two hours. After he got me in the can he suspended operations and went off and directed two or three operations to get the money, I suppose… [The sets] were so magnificent… As they were being pulled down around our ears, Roger was dashing around with me and a camera, two steps ahead of the wreckers. It was very funny.”

All the scenes that required the castle and Karloff were filmed in three days. After that, the film was passed on to Francis Ford Coppola (yes… THAT Francis Ford Coppola ) for a couple of days, then it was handed over to Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, and perhaps others who will forever go nameless. Rumor has it that Jack Nicholson even took over for a day. Each new director was tasked with making some sense of the original footage and adding new plot points and twists to this Frankenstein.
Despite its slapped-together nature, The Terror is actually worth the watch. While its backstory is more fascinating than the film itself, The Terror is decent fright flick with a few fairly creepy moments. It’s not be a genre masterpiece, but it’s got atmosphere and thrills aplenty. For a dose of Gothic nonsense, this one will hit the spot. It ain’t The Masque of the Red Death (1964), but it’s got skeletons, ghosts, witches, and King Karloff. That’s good enough for me.

For some thrills ‘n’ chills with Jack and Boris, check out the film below: