Cloverfield (2008) review

Cloverfield posterDirector: Matt Reeves

Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Jessica Lucas, Mike Vogel, TJ Miller, Lizzy Caplan

HUD – “For all we know, it’s from another planet and it flew here.”

MARLENA – “Like Superman?”

HUD – “Yeah, exactly like… wait – you know who Superman is?”

MARLENA – “Oh. My. God. YOU know who Superman is? I’m, like, feeling something here. Are you aware of Garfield?”

For some reason despite my love of horror movies, my penchant for giant monster movies and my odd knack of stumbling upon countless found footage films (every word there linking to a different example), I’ve managed to go eight years without watching Cloverfield.

With its sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane recently released in cinemas, I figured if I was going to be late to the party I should at least do it at a relevant time.

I’m glad I did, because – and apologies if you already know this – Cloverfield is a nifty wee film. Continue reading “Cloverfield (2008) review”

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Jurassic World (2015) review

Jurassic World posterDirector: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Irrfan Khan

CLAIRE – “Think it’ll scare the kids?”

MASRANI – “The kids? This’ll give the parents nightmares.”

CLAIRE – “Is that… good?”

MASRANI – “It’s fantastic.”

“I can’t wait any more!”

This is what young Gray (Ty Simpkins, the young lad from Insidious) says near the start of Jurassic World as he whips open the curtains of his hotel room window and gets a glorious view of the park.

In a way, he’s speaking for every Jurassic Park fan crossing their fingers for 14 years for a new movie (and, some would argue, 22 years for a truly brilliant one). We couldn’t wait any more either. And now the wait is over. Continue reading “Jurassic World (2015) review”

Blood Glacier (2013) review

Blood Glacier posterDirector: Marvin Kren

Starring: Gerhard Liebmann, Edita Malovcic, Brigitte Kren

Also known as: The Station

“Maybe the legends of wolfmen and mermaids are based on biological realities. Maybe the Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis, really was a human being with a jackal’s head.” (Birte, Blood Glacier)

When the DVD cover of a film has a quote comparing it to a classic, you’d be right to feel a little suspicious. Blood Glacier’s cover, for example, suggests it’s like legendary John Carpenter sci-fi horror film The Thing. And this would have been accurate, had The Thing been deeply average.

Set in the German Alps, the film focuses on a group of researchers working in a tiny lab as they research glacial reduction and how it affects climate change. Obviously this subject matter isn’t exactly likely to pump your nads, which is why Blood Glacier then throws a curveball in the shape of, well, a blood-coloured glacier. Continue reading “Blood Glacier (2013) review”

Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973) review

Please Don't Eat My Mother posterDirector: Carl Monson

Starring: Buck Kartalian, Lynn Lundgren, a load of other people shagging

HENRY – “Well, that’s murder or something!”
EVE – “Never heard of a plant getting arrested, have you?”

Henry Fudd (which is an even more appropriate name in Scotland) is a weird bastard. He spends his lunch break spying on couples having sex, then after work he goes back home, where he lives with his possessive mother, and locks himself in his room, the walls of which are covered with pages of porno magazines. Oh, and he has a plant called Eve that eats people.

Please Don’t Eat My Mother is essentially a low-budget rip-off of Little Shop Of Horrors, only (as it’s produced by “Sexploitation King” Harry Novak) with more porn and less quality. Eve starts off as a tiny sapling that Henry feeds normal plant food, but before too long she’s grown dramatically and adopted a sexy woman’s voice. The plant asks Henry to bring him increasingly larger food, starting with flies and upgrading to frogs, dogs and eventually people, including – you guessed it – Henry’s mother.

Please Don't Eat My Mother
“C’mere baby and plant one on me. Get it?! PLANT! Because you’re a… let me just unzip these jeans”

It’s a story that might have been more interesting had it been handled better (of course, it already had), but Please Don’t Eat My Mother is a bucket of pish. Buck Kartalian is a bizarre actor to watch – it’s clear the film is supposed to be a cheesy comedy he makes some truly odd facial expressions, chewing the scenery… literally, at times.

The ‘special effects’ (and I mean special in a different way than usual) are the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a school play. The plant looks like a ridiculous papier-mâché creation and its movement is so limited (its mouth moves and that’s it) that it always eats its victims off-camera (complete with over-the-top slurping sound effects and unconvincing whimpers from the victim). Continue reading “Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973) review”

Snakes On A Train (2006) review

Snakes On A Train posterDirector: Peter Mervis

Starring: AJ Castro, Julia Ruiz, Giovanni Bejarano, Al Galvez

JULIO – “I respect the old ways and the power of your spells but she needs to see a doctor. Someone who can take an x-ray or a blood test. It could save her life.”

BRUJO – “She has snakes. There is no doctor who will see this.”

This is another film from The Global Asylum, the shameless film “studio” who quickly writes, casts and shoots a cash-in film every time a “proper” popular film is released.

They then stick their shoddy alternative in video shops up and down the country, making their money off dopey sods who think it’s either the actual big-budget film it’s aping or some kind of official spin-off or sequel. And people like me, of course, who watch them because we know they’re rip-offs and are likely to be tremendously bad. Safe to say, Snakes On A Train didn’t disappoint.

Snakes On A Train
“Sir, please put your snakes in the overhead storage compartment. Sir, you’re blocking the aisle. Don’t be an arse, sir.”

I’m going to attempt to relay the plot to you, but forgive me if a few things are lost along the way because it’s truly a bizarre story. Some guy and his girlfriend sneak their way onto a train and hide out in the cargo hold. His girlfriend is extremely ill, because a curse has been put on her, a curse that somehow led to a load of snakes hatching inside her stomach.

Once they get on the train her boyfriend starts the ritual to cure her but things go a bit tits-up and the snakes get loose on the train, meaning its cast of irritating passengers has to start working (mostly) together to sort the situation out. Continue reading “Snakes On A Train (2006) review”

Humanoids From The Deep (1980)

Director: Barbara Peeters

Starring: Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow

Also known as: Monster

“It’s my theory that these creatures are driven to mate with man now in order to further develop their incredible evolution.” (Dr Susan Drake, Humanoids From The Deep)

When all’s said and done, you can’t beat a good Roger Corman film. Corman is the godfather of B-movie cinema and has produced well over 300 low-budget films over the past 50 years, the vast majority of which have been cheesy horror films heaving with gore, titillation or both. Humanoids From The Deep falls into the “both” category and is silly fun, though there it does have one or two questionable moments.

It’s set in the small fishing resort of Noyo, where the townsfolk are in the process of celebrating the announcement of a salmon cannery which is to be built there, greatly increasing the fishermen’s productivity. Good news!

"I think your dog's got worms, mate"

Oh, except for the fact that the company building the cannery is also responsible for experiments in salmon growth hormones, which have spread into the sea and somehow led to the creation of bizarre slimy half-man half-fish monsters that like to swim out of the sea and onto land, ripping the faces off any men they find and raping the women. And, in case you hadn’t guessed, it’s here where Humanoids From The Deep gets a bit iffy.  Continue reading “Humanoids From The Deep (1980)”

Alligator (1980)

Director: Lewis Teague

Starring: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael Gazzo

“I’m gonna go out there, I’m gonna find that alligator, and I’m gonna kick its ass.” (David, Alligator)

Here’s a top tip – if your young daughter does something that annoys you, don’t flush her pet baby alligator down the toilet to punish her. Chances are, twelve years later the alligator will still be living in the sewers and will have mutated into a huge beast by eating genetically modified dogs. Oh, and according to Alligator, your daughter will also mysteriously age about 20 years and become a redhead.

Alligator is a fun creature feature that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It follows David Madison, a Chicago cop investigating a number of body parts that have mysteriously been turning up in the city’s water filtration systems. It soon emerges that there’s an alligator living in the sewers, one much bigger than any other alligator known to man.

Well, if you're going to get out of your car like a dick that's the risk you take

You see, a local pharmaceutical company has been experimenting with hormones. They’ve been illegally acquiring dogs, injecting them with a serum that makes them grow quickly, then dumping them into the sewer when they’re finished with them. The gator’s then been eating them, hence its ridiculous size. After going into the sewers and seeing the gator eat one of his partners, David has to convince his fellow cops – as well as an alligator specialist (who’s the little girl grown up) – what they’re dealing with.  Continue reading “Alligator (1980)”

Jurassic Park III (2001)

Director: Joe Johnston

Starring: Sam Neill, William H Macy, Tea Leoni

“No force on earth or heaven could get me on that island.” (Alan Grant, Jurassic Park III)

Some twat (Leoni) sends her son on holiday with her boyfriend, where they both go parasailing over Isla Sorna to try and see some dinosaurs. Clearly not bothering to pay attention to the carnage in Isla Nublar or the incident a few years prior in which a big T-Rex kicked the shit out of San Diego, they somehow seem surprised when things go wrong and they crash-land on the island.

Weeks pass and the twat and her loser ex-husband (Macy) are worried, so they pretend to be millionaires and propose an offer to the original film’s hero, Dr Alan Grant (Neill): be our tour guide as we fly over the island to see some dinosaurs, and we’ll pay you enough money to keep your archaeology gig going for years to come. Grant reluctantly agrees and is understandably pissed off when the plane instead lands on the island and the twat and loser tell him their secret – they’re actually not rich and he’s been roped into helping them find their missing son. This is no longer a research project, it’s a rescue mission… except Grant doesn’t say that because Jeff Goldblum already got to say it in the second film.

"Yes, you're right, there is some sort of mark on your back. Have you been rolling around in the grass or something?"
“Yes, you’re right, there is some sort of mark on your back. Have you been rolling around in the grass or something?”

If the original Jurassic Park was a spectacle – a unique film at the time that changed the face of big-bidget special effects cinema – and The Lost World was Spielberg’s homage to King Kong, Godzilla et al, Jurassic Park III is basically just a high-budget Lockjaw or Sharktopus. It’s goofy, it’s got some ridiculous moments in it and any thought-provoking social commentary in there (of which there’s very little) is there by complete accent.

The raptors have been given an overhaul this time around, and are so intelligent that it’s getting a bit silly. Now it seems they can talk to each other (in dino-speak, of course), something they oddly chose not to do in the first film when stalking two children through a kitchen, a scenario in which communication could have been helpful. Even more ridiculous is that Grant, by sheer chance, happened to have been given a replica of a raptor’s windpipe earlier in the film and in a key scene late in the film, just as he’s being surrounded by raptors, he blows in it and magically makes noises that not only sound like a raptor, but can actually be understood by them. How in the realm of fuck does that happen?

The prehistoric flasher strikes again
The prehistoric flasher strikes again

That aside, there are some new dinos chucked into the mix here too, which range from awesome (the Spinosaurus may actually be a little bit better than the T-Rex, as proven in the scene where they fight and it breaks the T-Rex’s neck) to disappointing – for years fans of the series wanted to see pterodactyls getting used in action scenes, but it’s all just a bit rubbish when we finally get our wish and are hit with a visually impressive but sloppy aviary scene. Not to mention the usual Jurassic Park name-fail by featuring dinosaurs that didn’t actually exist during the Jurassic period.

The strong trio of Neill, Macy and Leoni aside, the supporting cast have all the charisma of a packet of Monster Munch. Grant’s apprentice Billy is so boring and generic (just look as his name for Christ’s sake) that when he disappears, seemingly left for dead, then magically appears again at the end of the film with no explanation as to how he survived, you think “oh, I forgot about him” even though you only just saw him 20 minutes previously.

"No, Mister Ranger sir, I definitely wasn't starting a fire in the park. I... um... oh, this is awkward"
“No, Mister Ranger sir, I definitely wasn’t starting a fire in the park. I… um… oh, this is awkward”

Meanwhile, the series’ annoying child tradition continues when Grant finds the missing son but this time he’s even more annoying because, having survived in dino-infested jungle for so long, he’s a know-it-all kid rather than your basic screamer. Needless to say, the fact that the film doesn’t end with a raptor picking bits of him out of his teeth and speaking to the others in raptorese while a subtitle says “tastes like CHILDREN hahahaha” is nothing short of an injustice.

Any time I watch a film I consider what lessons I’ve learned from it. The lesson I learned from the original Jurassic Park is that you should never try to play God, no matter how appealing the results may seem. The sequel, meanwhile, taught me that you shouldn’t try to mess around with nature and try to take things out of their natural habitat because things will go wrong. The only thing Jurassic Park III taught me is that if you ever go to a foreign country and can’t speak the language, simply cut a native’s throat out and blow through their windpipe like some sort of obscene flute and you’ll get along fine.

None of the above is to say Jurassic Park III is a terrible film, mind you, it’s entertaining in the same way watching a fight going on outside your window is entertaining – it’s a good laugh and you’ll chuckle away for its short duration but you wouldn’t exactly film it and try to sell it to the Tate Gallery. This is a big-budget creature feature and is simply dumb fun.

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Director: Stephen Spielberg

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn, Richard Attenborough

HAMMOND – “Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again.”
MALCOLM – “No, no, you’re making all new ones.”

If the original Jurassic Park was a love letter to our childhood obsessions with dinosaurs and our desire to one day see one in real life, The Lost World instead takes its inspiration from King Kong and others of its ilk, showing what happens when large beasts are confronted in their natural habitat and how they react when placed in unfamiliar surroundings. Fear is replaced with sympathy, and by the end of the film Spielberg’s big accomplishment this time isn’t making us believe these fearsome creatures exist, but making us actually want them to overcome our own species in order to survive. That’s right, I can get deep when I want to.

"Before we camp out tonight, I have to warn you all that
“Before we camp out tonight, I have to warn you all that I’m a bed wetter”

After the incidents of the first film essentially made the Jurassic Park complex in Isla Nublar a bit of a write-off, The Lost World starts with Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) meeting up with John Hammond (Attenborough) for a little chat. Hammond tells Malcolm that Isla Nublar wasn’t really the main site, and that there was actually another island called Isla Sornar where they bred the dinosaurs and raised them in their natural habitat before moving them over to Jurassic Park. Remember that scene at the start of the first Jurassic Park where they were putting the raptor in the crate? That was at the other island, that was.

Hammond tells Malcolm that Ingen, the company he was in charge of, has punted him and put a weaselly lawyer guy in charge instead. Not dissuaded by this, Hammond wants Malcolm to head to the second island as part of a research group to study the dinosaurs. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, the sneaky old prick has also invited Malcolm’s scientist girlfriend to join the team and has already sent her there as a way of convincing him to go. Malcolm perhaps puts it best himself, in the first of many one-liners he gets in this film: “this is no longer a research project, it’s a rescue mission”. Little does Hammond know, however, that Ingen has sent its own workers to the island, in an attempt to bring the dinos back to the US and show them at a new Jurassic Park in San Diego. Because the last one worked out so well.

"That's nothing, you should see the size of my sister"
“That’s nothing, you should see the size of my sister”

The Lost World tries its best to outdo the original in every way possible. You liked the bit with the T-Rex? Well now there are two of them! You liked when they were running with the herd? Now there’s a bigger herd and people are trying to catch them! Remember the sick triceratops? There’s a healthy one this time, and it fucks shit up! You liked seeing people interact with the dinosaurs? Well now a whole army turns up at one point to hunt them all down! You wanted a stegosaurus? Job done, and while we’re at it let’s have it wreck loads of shit in the process so it looks more bad-ass.

The problem is, in adding all this extra action there’s less focus on the story, and while most people don’t exactly watch Jurassic Park films for the character development, there’s still something missing this time around in terms of that human element. You still care about Malcolm because he’s familiar to you after the first film, but the other main characters – his annoying daughter, his headstrong girlfriend (Julianne Moore), their photographer (Vince Vaughn), the veteran hunter who wants to bag a T-Rex (Pete Postlethwaite) – are all lacking that certain something and, ultimately, you couldn’t care less whether they survive or end up as part of a T-Rex’s next shite.

"I'll have a cone and a packet of salt & vinegar please"
“I’ll have a cone and a packet of salt & vinegar please”

Speaking of big Rexy, it’s once again the tyrannosaurs who steal the show despite the obligatory raptor scenes. The scene in which two T-Rexes push the team’s trailer off a cliff is impressive stuff, and when a solitary Rex discovers a large group of Ingen workers camping out chaos ensues.

By far the most memorable (and opinion-dividing) moment however is the film’s last fifteen minutes, in which Ingen manage to get a T-Rex back to the US and it starts running riot through the streets of San Diego. This is clearly Spielberg’s attempt at Godzilla and while it’s fun, it’s a bit of a jarring change of tone that doesn’t really sit well with the rest of the film.

The Lost World was never going to better the sheer novelty and innovation offered by the original Jurassic Park, but as sheer spectacle it’s still up there. It loses a little personality and while it’s still good fun to watch it does start to feel more like a generic monster movie by the end… but hey, you haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until I review the third one.

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Gremlins (1984)

Director: Joe Dante

Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Corey Feldman

“I warned you. With mogwai comes much responsibility. But you didn’t listen.” (Old man, Gremlins)

When it comes to Christmas presents, some people like to keep it simple. A few DVDs, a book or two, maybe some flowers or the ever-reliable box of Quality Street. Not so with Randall Peltzer’s dad. A dodgy inventor by trade, Randall decides that this Christmas he’s going to surprise his son Billy with something he’s never seen before in his life. While on a trip through Chinatown selling his wares, he comes across just the thing – a mogwai.

After naming it Gizmo, Randall gives Billy the mogwai while also passing along three very important instructions given to him by the shop owner – keep it away from bright lights, don’t get it wet and, above all else, don’t feed it after midnight. It’s like taking care of a fat goth, basically. Anyway, guess what happens next?

"I thought you said you were going to install seat belts in this bastard"

That’s right. After getting Gizmo wet and discovering it makes him multiply and spawn loads more mogwai, Billy’s clock dies and he accidentally feeds these new mogwai after midnight, causing them to turn into evil monsters called Gremlins.

At the time, Gremlins was a revelation. The creature effects were incredible, its sense of humour was the exception rather than the rule and it gained a large following, and for good reason. These days, sacrilegious though it may be to say it, Gremlins suffers from the same problem as Child’s Play in that it spends too long revealing what we already know. Whereas the sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, kicks off the action fairly early into the film, the original spends a lot of time faffing around with the rules, letting us get to know Gizmo and only revealing the monsters at the end of the second act.

Chainsaw versus baseball bat. Hmm

What’s more, moments that would have been hilarious at the time are merely smile-inducing these days, with the exception of the fun bar scene in which the Gremlins smoke a lot of cigarettes and generally take over the place.

If you’ve never seen it and have somehow managed to avoid the whole integration of its ‘three rules’ in popular culture then Gremlins is worth a watch because it’s still a fun movie, albeit one whose structure has been mimicked and refined many times by other films over the years. Otherwise, if you already know the deal with the Gremlins and you don’t want to spend the first 50 minutes waiting for the other characters to catch up with you, it might be worth skipping straight to the sequel first.