Alien: Resurrection (1997) review

Alien Resurrection posterDirector: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman, Brad Dourif

RIPLEY – “There’s a monster in your chest. These guys hijacked your ship, and they sold your cryo tube to this human. And he put an alien inside of you. It’s a really nasty one. And in a few hours it’s gonna burst through your ribcage, and you’re gonna die. Any questions?

PURVIS – “Who are you?”

RIPLEY – “I’m the monster’s mother.”

There are some people who feel writer Joss Whedon can do no wrong. To those people I remove my cap, stare soberly at them and nod my head in the direction of Alien Resurrection, at which point blood streams freely from their eyes as they collapse in a heap, screaming indecipherable slogans of bile and malice.

To be fair, that would maybe be a bit of an overreaction on their behalf, because Alien Resurrection isn’t exactly the worst film ever made. It’s just the worst Alien film ever made. Continue reading “Alien: Resurrection (1997) review”

Alien 3 (1992) review

Alien 3 posterDirector: David Fincher

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Lance Henriksen, an Alien

“You’re all gonna die, the only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet, or on your fuckin’ knees, begging? I ain’t much for begging. Nobody ever gave me nothing. So I say fuck that thing, let’s fight it.” (Dillon, Alien 3)

WARNING: This article has ending spoilers, so you have been warned. It’s more than two decades old, to be fair.

Imagine you had a decent job. Let’s say you were the manager of something… a plumbing firm, for example. You make good money, and you’re happy with the knowledge that when it comes to managing plumbing firms, you know your onions.

Now imagine you’ve also got two older brothers. One brother is a leading politician – be that the Prime Minister, President, whatever it is in your country. The other brother is one of the greatest footballers in the world and has two World Cup Winner’s medals in his large trophy display room.

If you can’t tell where I’m going with this analogy you might as well close this window and go back to fumbling over Candy Crush Saga. Yes, friends, what I’m saying is that Alien 3 is the plumbing firm manager of the Alien series. Look, just go with it. Continue reading “Alien 3 (1992) review”

Dead Space: Downfall (2008) review

Director: Chuck Patton

Starring: Voices of Nika Futterman, Keith Szarabajka, Jim Cummings

DOBBS – “There’s a lot of blood in this room, but no bodies.”
SHEN – “Sounds like one of your parties.”
DOBBS – “Or your sex life.”

If you haven’t played the Dead Space series of video games you’re missing out on a bunch of petrifying, immersive survival horrors that combine the isolation of outer space with the terror of big bastard mutant alien things. Since the games start with you onboard a ship that’s already been infected with said mutants and had its crew sliced to bits however, it seems there’s a lot of story to be told about how the situation got so messy. Enter Dead Space: Downfall.

A prequel to the original game, Dead Space: Downfall is an animated movie explaining how the SS Ishimura, a mining ship, ends up being infested by the monstrous Necromorphs. After a colony on the planet Aegis VII asks for advice on an alien artifact they’ve found, the Ishimura nips down to the planet and takes it on board. Not before a ship infected with a Necromorph manages to get inside the Ishimura though, infecting the Ishimura with the mutant menace.

"This is the last time I take the bins out on curry night"

The Necromorph virus spreads throughout the Ishimura, turning the ship’s workers into mutants. Predictably, shit goes down and various poor sods end up coming face-to-face with their own spleens. It’s left to a small group of surviving workers to destroy the mutants, save the Ishimura and figure out what the alien artifact is supposed to be.

Of course, this being a prequel to the Dead Space video game, which sees you arriving at the Ishimura and finding everyone dead with Necromorphs still running riot, it should be fairly obvious to most people watching Downfall that nobody’s going to make it out alive by the end of this one. It’s harder then to care much about the well-being of the film’s main characters when you know they’re going to end up pegging it before long.  Continue reading “Dead Space: Downfall (2008) review”

Super 8 (2011) review

Director: JJ Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso

“Stop talking about production value, the Air Force is going to kill us.” (Cary, Super 8)

I’ve complained a few times on That Was A Bit Mental that they don’t make films like The Goonies or The Monster Squad any more – films where children act realistically, talk over each other, swear from time to time and are in genuine danger throughout their adventure. Super 8 is proof that, though rare, these films can still exist in modern cinema.

Set in 1979, Super 8 tells the story of a group of 13-year-olds who meet up on occasion to shoot a low-budget zombie film using their Super 8 movie camera. While filming a scene near a railway line they manage to catch film of a train speeding past them, colliding with a truck on the line and causing the mother of all train crashes. Running over to the truck they find their biology teacher behind the wheel, who cryptically tells them that they and their families are all going to die if they tell anyone what happened. Little do they know that the train contained a huge alien life form – one who’s now free, not too chuffed at the way it’s been treated, and well up for a shitstorm.

Hull city centre had seen better days

Put bluntly, this film is superb. The first half-hour is charming as you instantly fall in love with all the kids in the group (not in that way you maniac). Their dialogue is completely believable and you completely buy into the idea that they’re a bunch of close friends, in particular the main character Joe and his chunky chum Charles (the director of the kids’ film). The introduction of Alice (the wonderful Elle Fanning) makes things even more entertaining as you see this group of young teenage boys swooning over her but still trying to act cool. It’s all just so genuine.  Continue reading “Super 8 (2011) review”

Aliens (1986)

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn

“We’d better get back, cause it’ll be dark soon and they mostly come at night. Mostly.” (Newt, Aliens)

It’s very rare that a sequel not only offers a complete change of pace from that of its predecessor but also manages to match it in terms of quality. Aliens is one such film, one that has a very different feel to Alien but is still a fantastic film regardless.

After her epic battle with the Alien at the end of the first movie, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) takes a well-deserved rest in her ship’s hypersleep chamber. Turns out she was a little too tired though, because she remains asleep in suspended animation for 57 years and by the time she’s found by a salvage ship and brought back to the company she used to work for she’s told her 10-year-old daughter has died of old age.

Safe to say, Ronaldinho's dentist had a hell of a job ahead of her

The company doesn’t believe Ripley’s stories about the parasites they found on the planet in the first film, explaining to her that there’s a colony of people living there now and they haven’t reported any problems. They suspend her from her duties for destroying their pricey mining ship in the first film, and tell her to go see a psychiatrist. That is, until a few months later, when they come crawling back and tell her that they can’t get in touch with the colonists on the planet and have the feeling something’s wrong. Hmmm, wonder what it could be, hope they’re alright.  Continue reading “Aliens (1986)”

Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright

“We’ll move in pairs. We’ll go step by step and cut off every bulkhead and every vent until we have it cornered. And then we’ll blow it the fuck out into space. Is that acceptable to you?” (Ripley, Alien)

It speaks volumes of Alien‘s masterful construction that 33 years after its initial release it’s still one of the most effective sci-fi/horror hybrids ever made. While many sci-fi films of its era look dated beyond belief these days, Alien‘s unique style and pacing ensure it still holds its own (and usually comes out on top) among today’s similar offerings.

It tells the story of the Nostromo, a mining ship that intercepts a strange SOS signal from a nearby planet. Waking from hypersleep, the crew of the Nostromo land on the planet to investigate. There they find a deadly parasite that infects a crew member and uses his body as a host to infiltrate the ship, at which point it begins systematically killing the rest of the crew.

"Come on, the dinner wasn't that bad. I used Uncle Ben's for fuck sake"

The key to Alien’s scare factor is Ridley Scott’s clever use of the “Jaws technique” – by showing as little of the monster as possible, Scott has the viewer filling in the blanks themselves, adding what personally scares them and making something much worse than could ever possibly be shown on-screen.

When the Alien is eventually revealed however, it’s to the credit of Swiss surrealist artist HR Giger that his creation is still terrifying in full view. Its long head and extending teeth are as close to a killer penis as you can get, and as the crew members are offed one by one and the film’s heroine is slowly revealed to be Ripley, you can almost hear the amateur psychologists in the audience feverishly scribbling down “inherent fear of penetration” in their mental notebooks.  Continue reading “Alien (1979)”

The Thing (2011)

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr

Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen

“So I’m going to die because I floss?” (Adam, The Thing)

Legend has it the 2011 version of The Thing was originally going to be a remake of a remake. John Carpenter’s fantastic 1982 movie was already a newer take on 1951’s The Thing From Another World, and Universal’s original intention was to remake the Carpenter version and give it a CGI update.

It’s said, however, that the film’s producers managed to convince Universal to make a prequel instead, because in their eyes Carpenter’s version was already perfect and remaking it would be like “painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa”. This refreshing moral stance (if the story’s true, mind) led to what we have here, a film that instead focuses on the unknown events that led up to the Carpenter film, one based on the Norwegian research camp that discovers the Thing before it gets to Kurt Russell’s team in the ’82 film.

Mary couldn't believe it when she heard her own family in the next room refer to her as "her from Scott Pilgrim"

Kate Lloyd (Winstead) is a graduate palaeontologist who specialises in ice-based excavations. When an Antarctica research site uncovers a huge alien spaceship hidden under the ice, Kate is asked to join the team to help them study it. Oh, and the big alien monster they find trapped in the ice. Guess what happens next.

As in the ’82 film the “Thing” has the ability to change its shape and imitate any living organism it makes contact with, so once it inevitably escapes from its icy prison the film, like its predecessor, becomes as much about the crew’s lack of trust for each other as it does the monster itself.  Continue reading “The Thing (2011)”

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Director: Stephen Chiodo

Starring: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Nelson, John Vernon

“Killer clowns? From outer space? Holy shit.” (Mooney, Killer Klowns From Outer Space)

Sometimes a film is so clearly ridiculous it doesn’t pretend otherwise and instead proclaims through its title: “if you buy this film, you’re in for some weird shit”. As you can no doubt imagine, Killer Klowns From Outer Space falls directly into this category.

It was created by the Chido brothers, a trio of siblings with a love for the weird and wonderful and an admirable passion for film-making, in particular puppetry and special effects.

In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve seen their work before, because in recent times the Chiodos have made occasional contributions to The Simpsons (like the Gravey & Jobriath cartoon), and more notably created all the puppets in Team America. It’s fairly clear, then, what sort of sense of humour they have.

Yes, because that clown definitely looks 100% trustworthy

Killer Klowns From Outer Space, however, was the only time the Chiodos worked together to create the story, do the special effects and direct a whole movie, and while many these days regard it as a “good bad” movie among the ranks of Troll 2 and Howard The Duck in reality it’s actually pretty well made for its budget, hammy acting and ridiculous plot aside.

It’s set in a small country town, where one night a couple on a date see a flaming meteorite enter the atmosphere in the distance and land with a crash. When they go to investigate they find a circus big top in its place. They enter the big top and discover that it’s actually an alien spaceship, where aliens who look like clowns are abducting the townsfolk, placing them in big cotton candy cocoons and draining their blood to drink it.

This year's X Factor auditions were without a doubt the worst yet

While the acting is by-and-large horrible throughout the film (with the exception of Dirty Harry and Animal House star John Vernon as the police chief), there’s no denying that Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a labour of love, not just by the Chiodos but by the entire cast as well. They may not be great actors but by God you can tell they’re giving it their all.

Somewhat more impressive is the excellent clown costumes. While it would have been perfectly acceptable to just say “well, they’re from space, so let’s just say all the clowns look the same”, the Chiodos made all sorts of weird and wonderful clowns so that each looks completely unique. It’s a pleasant attention to detail that really gives the film a sense of character.

You’ll see a lot of things in Killer Klowns that you’ve never seen in any other film. Popcorn that comes to life and eats people, for example. Or custard pies that actually contain acid. And, of course, the classic scene where a group of people are eaten alive by a shadow puppet.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is silly fun, and fantastic proof that a low budget doesn’t necessarily mean a film should be lacking in originality and great ideas. Get some mates around, get some (non-killer) popcorn and enjoy some proper low-budget ’80s comedy cheese. Oh, and the music is awesome too, as you can see by the trailer below.