Terribly Fun Films: The Legend of Hercules

Director Renny Harlin made Die Hard 2: Die Harder. That alone thoroughly proves that Harlin could orchestrate grand, ridiculous action, while still getting good performances and telling a solid, if goofy story in an engaging manner. Starting around 2000, after a string of bombs, the Cliffhanger director laid low for awhile. The Legend Of Hercules is probably his biggest film since then; it’s also such a colossal failure on every front, especially in the action department, that I am unsure this is the same Renny Harlin. Is an evil doppelganger to blame? Probably not, but it’s a fun thought!

The worst mistake is in the casting of Kellan Lutz as the titular demigod, especially when you already secured the amazing Scott Adkins in your film! Lutz – be he smiling serenely at his lady love, taking lashes as punishment, fighting in a gladiatorial arena, or doing anything else – perpetually looks like a complete doofus. No matter what emotion the scene calls for – love or lust = a goofy grin, showing his teeth; grief over a loved one’s death = open mouth crying, showing his teeth; determination = clenched teeth showing. As if showing his teeth was all the acting this former model knows how to do. Actually, that wouldn’t surprise me, as his line readings are worse. Effecting a monotone, which I suppose is meant to convey seriousness, only makes him sound a thousand percent disinterested in and bored by everything going on.

Just as bad, but in fewer scenes, is Liam Garrigan as older brother Iphicles. When he’s meant to sound intimidating, he nasally whines. When he’s sad, he nasally whines. This strategy fails to make him sound menacing, just goofy as hell.  Liam McIntyre, as Captain Sotris, is as bland as eating paint chips, but way worse for your health. I am not sure he’d recognize an action scene if John McClane, Rambo, and Rocky were to roll up to him in a tank. Roxanne McKee is the desperate queen to whom Hercules is born, and if McIntyre is human prozac, she’s like a caffeine injection straight to the brain- all hysterics, all the time. Seemingly incapable of playing the actual emotion of the scene, she overacts everything. This means that the actual big moments have no luster or impact.

Gaia Weiss as love interest Hebe isn’t too bad. Her scenes are the only ones that I almost felt an emotional connection to, so props to her; especially given how one dimensional her character is. But, it’s b-movie action star extraordinaire Scott Adkins who steals every scene he’s in. Adkins proved his bad assitude in such action fare as Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning, in which he has a nude fight against ten guys (or so), with long takes so we know it’s him, and Expendables 2 and 3. He doesn’t disappoint here. His action beats are the most believable, and his line deliveries make sense within their scenes’ context. Playing villainous King Amphitryon, who betrays Hercules out of spite and jealousy, he’s over-the-top, but in a psychopathic, terrifying, real world (-ish) kind of way.

Here, the goddess Hera blesses the union of  Zeus and the human queen for reasons that make no sense to me. Then Hercules is sent off to war, where he is ambushed and captured as a slave. Then he is sold into gladiatorial combat, wins his freedom, and becomes a folk hero. Please don’t ask about the latter, since I am still baffled as to how that happens. Even more confusing is Hercules’ humanity, or lack thereof. He might as well be one of the X-Men for all the superpowers that he possesses, but even they have weaknesses. Super strength makes sense and, to a certain degree, so does the imperviousness to weapons, but what about a Wolverine style healing factor? Not really. Super speed? Again, not so much. But Hercules does have these powers.

Arriving eight years after 300, and seven years after aping that style was considered a viable option, this 2014 release felt dated immediately upon arrival. Not even the sequel to 300, also released in 2014, was this much of a ripoff. Speed ramping takes place whenever, all willy-nilly like, especially at the most awkward moments. One of the first scenes between Hercules and Hebe involves them sneaking off for some alone time to a serene lagoon, replete with waterfall. Hercules shows off by climbing the cliff and diving backwards. The speed ramping here feels forced as hell, but it’s what takes the scene from stupid bad to OMG, hilarious bad! For the sake of whatever sanity I may still retain, I’m quite happy with all the ludicrous speed ramping, as it the dumbest, most amusing part of the film.

Not helping matters is the weird digitally corrected colors and awful, cringe inducing CGI. Each and every movie those low budget SyFy mainstays The Asylum have released this year have had more convincing and realistic effects. During the aforementioned waterfall scene, the green screen used on Lutz is so sloppily keyed that he appears constantly floating above the rocks and cliff. The whole film was color corrected to make only the base colors really show up – a sort of Sin City inspired look, only with a larger color wheel. Unlike that masterpiece though, here it just makes everything look drab, dreary, and dull. This is one of the ugliest films in recent memory- garish and murky should never be the nicest things I can say about any movie’s cinematography, but such is the case here.

All this would be forgivable – or at least more tolerable – if the action was competently shot and edited. But, would I be writing this if that were the case? Of course not! As mentioned the speed ramping is all over the place, but instead of doing all of the motion in one smooth take, the scenes are edited, making the transitions from slow to normal to faster speeds awkward, as it’s impossible to know where everyone is. In a close up, the grabbing of a sword is slowed, only to cut to a wide shot that’s normal speed, meaning Hercules and the slave he’s fighting (in an underground fight) are quicker than when we last saw them, essentially putting them further ahead of us in time. All the action scenes are this odd and hard to follow. But, the movie grows quite the set of balls and moves into Ferringo absurd territory near the end, where Zeus turns Hercules’ sword into a lightning whip.

I believe that bears repeating. Zeus turns Hercules’ sword into a freaking lightning whip! That is one of the coolest things I never knew I wanted to see! The film is so laughably terrible, then this happens and one can see the stamp of “camp cult classic” just magically form upon the motion picture. Despite all the (admittedly) hardcore action, the movie is fairly tame (a 300 clone with myths), so such an epic moment of coolness is not only a welcome addition, it also enlivens the movie with a whole new energy.

Laughably bad acting? Check. Bumbling direction? Check. Bad CGI? Check. Worse editing? Check. Howls of laughter? Double check. A great drunk time with friends? Triple check!

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Doll Graveyard

DollGraveyardCharles Band has been making awfully good fare since before the dawn of home video. He’s still very active, not just producing, but writing screenplays and directing. Having directed the 2005 horror film Doll Graveyard, his distinctive motifs – animatronic killer dolls, possession, and family pop up all over it.

Opening in 1911 LA, young Sophia is playing with four dolls – Ooga Booga, Samurai, Baby Girl, and German Soldier – when she accidentally knocks a vase off the table. Her father comes downstairs, and immediately tells her how worthless she is, punishing her by forcing Sophia to dig a hole in the backyard to bury her dolls. While doing this, she falls into the hole and dies. Her father just buries her and moves on with his life.

These beginning moments already have a plethora of issues. Their clothes don’t look early 1900s, but far older, which gives everything an off look. Nothing quite meshes because of that. The audience isn’t privy to how often Sophia has accidentally broken something. Has it always been that vase on that table? If she’s clumsy, let the audience know so that the level of punishment makes sense. I get that the dad is an asshole, that’s the point, but giving him more than one dimension would have been nice. This lack of characterization hurts the ending.

After the prologue, we are treated to a lengthy (*cough* padded *cough*) opening title sequence, which is fairly atmospheric – panning through a literal doll graveyard, with the full moon providing moody lighting during a thunderstorm – all accompanied by a rather kick ass song. It’s a fun introduction.

Flash forward to present day (2005, the year of the movie’s release) and a single parent family has moved into that same Los Angeles house. Ken Lyle, the terrible dad from the prologue, once again plays the father. Gabrielle Lynn is older sister Deedee, and Jared Kusnitz is Guy, the younger, dorky brother. Kusnitz makes the best impression. He’s naturally likable, and makes you really feel his character’s duality once the possession subplot kicks in. Lyle isn’t around (as either father) enough to make a great impression, but he doesn’t make a bad one, so he’s fine. Lynn is quite grating at first. In her introductory scene she’s basically whining “OMG! I have to clean and do dishes? My life sucks”. The whining is made worse by how terribly it’s delivered. However, after the party she’s throwing gets under way, she’s much more at ease and relatable.

Anna Alicia Brock plays Terri, a friend of Deedee’s who has a crush on Guy. Kusnitz and she have good chemistry and she breaks out of the “innocent one” archetype. As slut queen Olivia, Kristyn Green is strictly ho hum. Brian Lloyd, of Evil Bong infamy, is complete tool Rich. He plays a douche well, but the character is the worst written, so he has little to work with. However, the worst actor here is Scott Seymour, playing Deedee’s boyfriend Tom. He couldn’t look more bored and disinterested in everything around him. He is void of charisma, and is boring as all hell.

Once the dolls wake up due to the Samurai doll witnessing Guy being picked on by Tom and Rich, we occasionally cutaway to gathering CGI storm clouds. These clouds are so poorly rendered that it might as well have been an N-64 cut scene. The blocky CGI is made even worse due to the solid animatronic work on all four dolls. By this point, Band had been making movies with tiny creatures for over twenty years,so it should come as no surprise that the on-set puppets look and move believably. They are enhanced by a few computer generated effects, mostly with eye movements- blinking, looking around, etc. These CGI effects, while not seamless, are better than the clouds.

The dialogue ranges from the awful and unnatural — “Yeah geek, why don’t you run outside and play?” (I am still not fully sure how that is an insult, minus the geek part) — to the genuinely funny: “I do have an open mind. You should try closing your legs.” Like so much in this film, that discrepancy is part of the overall enjoyment. The same can be said about the characters’ actions.

Eventually Sophia’s ghost tries to flat out possess Guy, and make him forget who he really is. Old time dad then possesses modern day dad. This is never explained! Sophia has a need for vengeance, I get that. But what allowed the father to possess anyone? Was he just hanging around waiting to be a jerk again? Also frustrating, plot-wise, is the resolution to possession/ killer dolls problem. Our main characters know (magically) that in order to get the dolls to stop attacking, they need to be reburied. Our characters don’t try to shed light on a wrongful death- the very vengeful spirit that is causing all this havoc!- that happened almost a hundred years ago. They just need to rebury the dolls. Huh? How anticlimatic is that? The ‘twist’ ending is as frustrating as it is stupid. Guy, standing near the garden wall while the dolls are being buried, steps back into the shadow and we cut to Sophia’s ghost in the exact same spot. Dumb doesn’t even begin to describe it.

All of this wouldn’t be a huge deal if the film had more than a handful of scares. The first time Samurai blinks is creepily executed, with a long, slow zoom to him, just mounting tension and then bam! It’s not scary per se, but eerie, which is nice. The first kill, by German Soldier, is the most fun and effective, partially because of how funny it is. Tom and Deedee are in her room making out, she tells Tom to close his eyes, and gets up to go the closest. While she’s in there, German Soldier climbs up Tom’s leg and stabs him…in the dick! The rest of the kills aren’t as memorable or intentionally funny. Guy, after the possession has begun but is not complete, learns he can keep them at bay for short bursts of time, which is effectively used. This allows the characters to escape in a natural way, but it also means they aren’t always watching the dolls, who can also escape and attack from another vantage point.

The biggest crime here is just how many of the above story problems don’t have to exist. Excluding the long opening titles, and the two (yeah, two!) closing credits – one for the actors, using highlights of scenes throughout the film, and then the slowest rolling regular credits ever – there’s only about an hour’s worth of narrative material. Brevity can be nice, and nothing overstays its welcome here, but the plot is Swiss cheesed to the max! Putting a brief scene here and there could have allowed for some breathing room and explanations. There is no reason for the film to be so short, and such a brief running time only hurts the film.

This is a genre Band practically invented, and even when dumb, plot hole riddled, and too short, it’s always rewarding time to see a master do his work. This is one of my favorite modern Full Moon films.

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Double Dragon

DoubleDragonPosterRoutinely found in the bottom five of “Worst Video Game Movies” lists, Double Dragon is an effortless flop deserving of that reputation. More importantly, it’s also one of the most insanely devised adaptations I can think of. I don’t know, nor care, enough, about the original game (I played it as a kid, but remember very little about it) to gripe about every change; I’m only interested in how this works as a film. Short answer: terribly, laughably, sincerely awful. Long answer: keep reading.

Double Dragon is set in a bizarre post-apocalyptic “New” Angeles, where the authorities have implemented a curfew due to a bevy of “The Warriors” inspired gangs that rove around and have their way with everyone and thing after sundown. An insane CEO, Koga Shuko, wants to band those gangs together so he can ensure the safety of his magical medallion once he brings both halves together. Two brothers – who don’t look like brothers in any way, beyond both being humanoid in appearance and of the same gender – Billy and Jimmy Lee, fighting duo not-so-extraordinaire, are then tasked with saving the medallion from said baddie. No worries, this plot is way stupider than I just made it sound.

The world building here is nonexistent to the point of absurdity. A giant earthquake devastated Los Angeles (thus the new name) some years ago, so the city consistently appears run down, dilapidated, and inhospitable. But this never factors into the story, since it’s quite clear no one actually left the city, making the setting truly baffling. New Angeles functions just like Los Angeles, with Hollywood tour groups, reporters, cops, and everyone else going about their daily routines. This combination of lapses of logic, bad direction, and worse set design runs rampant through every aspect of this film.  Cutaways to a news program — a device that can be used very well (as in one of my all-time favorites, Starship Troopers) — are only used to gloss over several plot holes or jump from one unrelated sequence to the next. The opening text crawl is repeated, almost word for word, to our young heroes, so why not cut it and devote that extra time to glimpse this world’s machinations? This world operates without any internal consistency (even by its own movie universe standards), which is the gravest of cinema sins.

Based on just how stupid the world is thought out, one can only imagine what the dialogue is like. Inexplicably, it’s even more idiotic. Some of it is due to heartbreaking, ghastly casting. Aside from Mark Dacascos and the main villain, everyone else is miscast, terrible, or worse. The news segments have dated celebrity jokes (Madonna! Tom Arnold!), and the opening scene takes place ‘somewhere in China.’ Yes, this script is so lazily cobbled together that it couldn’t even be bothered with specific locations.

Scott Wolf portrays Billy as the dumbest person anyone will ever meet. Lines such “I saw my life flash before my eyes. Dude, I sleep a lot,” certainly don’t help. No human has ever uttered such a thing after a near-death experience, nor stated it with such an idiotic grin. Scott Wolf is 100% punchable this whole film, which is ironic because he can’t throw a punch. His fights are so chopped up — and the stunt actors so poorly hidden — that laughter is the only way to keep your sanity.

Mark Dacascos as Jimmy fares better than Wolf. It helps that his character isn’t written and performed as a misshapen gremlin baby that somehow squirmed its way out into the real world. Dacascos, as he’s proven in several other (usually equally enjoyably awful) roles, is a solid martial artist, which serves him well here. There are fewer cutaways and (obvious) stunt doubles when focusing on Jimmy’s fights, which helps you remain engaged. Alyssa Milano as Marian, leader of the colorfully dressed good gang the ‘Power Corps,’ has no chemistry with either of the two leads, and seems lost in all the action. The other major supporting characters range from overacting loons to distracted dullards.

There’s a stunning saving grace here, though: Koga Shuko himself, played by freaking Robert “T-1000” Patrick! This man has appeared in some true crap (“The Marine,” anybody?) throughout his career, but he always brings the awesome. Whether it’s a great role (“T2” or “Gangster Squad”) or the worst thing ever (“Supercross”), Patrick always knows the right way to play it. Insane overacting is his bread and butter here, zealously delivering the film’s only good line:

“I just want total domination of one major American City! Is that too much to ask for? Is it? Is it? Huh?”

Every time he’s on screen, the movie is alive and pulsing with energy. Too bad his defeat is the cheesiest and dumbest thing in the entire film. Thanks to the poor world building, it’s confusing as well.

The direction by James Yukich is offensively bland and lifeless. The action scenes have no sense of geography; the Lee brothers escape a gang by stealing a speedboat to get away, and within three seconds of them doing so, they’re pursued by ninjas on jet skis (yes, they are awesome). Where did they come from? Are they part of the gang? One would think so, if they’re chasing our heroes. In that case, how did they get jet skis so fast? If not, why did they join the chase? Most of the fights are like that: the sense of timing and place is off, so they appear fake, staged, and amateurish. Which is why you’ll be chuckling throughout the entire film.

The special effects and make-up are awful. Maybe in 1994 the CGI looked better, but I doubt it, as Casper came out one year later and still holds up amazingly well in the special effects department. The glittering, mystical shine the medallion gets when it’s powering up is obvious, and makes the medallion look one dimensional. Abobo, a dimwitted gang leader-come-mutated Shuko freak has such terrible and ugly design that he’s a literal eyesore. The terrible prosthetics have an oddly shiny and oily appearance,  causing him to look a bit like a sentient, partially digested mushroom hocked back up. It’s so painful.

This version of Double Dragon has a slightly better reputation than the movie of the same name.
This version of Double Dragon has a slightly better reputation than the movie of the same name.

Weird tonal shifts prevent the film from finding a rhythm. Torture upon Abobo consists of him being force-fed spinach, which makes him fart a lot. Because in your gang-centric, world in peril action film, farts are always a much needed momentum killer! The whole film has that same messed up duality: it can’t decide what kind of movie to be, or who to appeal to, so it chose the scattershot approach. This makes viewing the film a chore and a half. The Double Dragon arcade game also exists in the film’s world, which defies comprehension.

This film has an awful reputation, and for a very good reason. It’s unrelentingly terrible, and every decision made here was the wrong one. Within this realm of suckage, though, is such an amazing unintentional comedy that I almost feel guilty for bad-mouthing the movie in the first place.

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films Book Review: Empire Of The ‘B’s

Empire Of The Bs: The Mad Movie World Of Charles Band

In bad movie-dom, just a few names reign supreme. Roger Corman, obviously; Larry Kaufman of Troma infamy; The Asylum’s David Michael Latt/Paul Bales duo; and a man who spent his life in movies, and has made thousands of them, Charles Band. Band’s contributions to film history can’t be overstated, as he’s quite the innovator. He was the first to release direct to video and now embraces streaming.

This new tome, out now in Europe, is a retrospective of the films made within Band’s first two production houses: Charles Band Productions and Empire Films. Spanning almost two decades and sixty-odd films, this exhaustively researched book provides context for the genesis of these movies and their reception at the time of release. Also featuring reviews by the authors, and interviews with scores of cast and crew, Dave Jay and his co-writers – Torsten Dewi and Nathan Shumate – have produced an immensely enjoyable read.

So why am I reviewing a bloody damned great book instead of a dimwitted film? Because within lies the poorly structured fun of Metalstorm, the meandering intrigue of Demi Moore’s first starring vehicle Parasite, and many more films that fit into our usual forte.

Starting with a broad overview of the of the two companies, from conception to dissolution, threw me off at first. But having finished the book, I’m glad it started this way. Knowing how everything winds up right off the bat frees up space to get into the nitty-gritty of the films and their players, which is where this book shines.

We then head right into an epic twelve page interview with Charles Band. Band has always been described as outgoing with his fans and here, discussing what he loves, that generosity and energy are thoroughly evident. Band does candidly lament a few films that didn’t work, and wishes some that he really loved took off more than they did. But an interview can only be as interesting as the questions being asked. In this respect, Dave Jay takes the cake. Band readily admits to not having the best memory, and there are times when Jay asks certain things, and Band can’t remember. Jay has done such meticulous research that Band tells him that he “should be interviewing himself,” since Jay knew more about a few particulars than Band could recall.

The Charles Band Productions filmography then gets the focus. As is standard throughout, a brief synopsis of the films is provided, followed by a review/history. This naturally allows that section to have ample breathing room. Even when lambasting a film for its incredibly stupid moments, Jay takes time to rejoice in the sheer existence of these ambitious, low budget, usually goofy films. Dave Jay was cordial enough to inform me that “this (book) really is an exercise in film celebration, not film criticism.” That love and respect comes across on every page, and it never feels disingenuous.

Within Charles Band Productions, I thought the two most interesting films to read about were Crash! (1977), because I knew nothing of it, and am now jonesing to see it, and Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn in light of its fascinating release history. All the films throughout this decade are given proper weight though. An interview with Richard Band, Charles’ brother, ends the section. It’s captivating to read Richard discussing how he became a movie music composer. It’s a lively interview due Richard’s openness and humor.

Empire of the B'sThis book was eleven years in the making and that time yielded quite the crop of interviewees. Aside from one very brusque person- director Tim Kincaid, who gave such short answers his statements were spliced into another interview to lengthen it- all participants are pleasant, even when discussing the heavier moments. Phil Fondacaro, an underrated actor, succinctly explains why these people have such fond memories of working with Band in this brilliant quote:

“Charlie really gave me the chance to be an actor. And yeah, they weren’t big blockbusters but they were good pieces for me. That’s why I still work with him today. He gives me opportunities to play things I would NEVER get a chance to do if I was to go the Hollywood route.”

Most folks here, some of whom had big fights (at the time of this or that movie) with Band, seem to be in agreement. Band really did give everyone a chance, which led to interesting opportunities. Jack Deth himself, Tim Thomerson, also gives a spectacularly candid and fun interview.

The book is worth the price just for all the Q&As, but the bulk is the examination of Empire’s legacy, and that’s a thing of beauty. Having been a massive fan of Empire in his teenage years (and he still is today), Jay did the majority of research for the book. His co-workers efforts shouldn’t be trivialized, though. Torsten Dewi’s discussion of Zone Troopers is definitely my favorite, non-Jay written piece. Circling in on the verve of typical WWII flicks while being able to single out how the added alien twist adds a compelling angle – excellent stuff. Jay’s descriptions of Rawhead Rex‘s old school creepfest sensibilities are outstanding. Maybe it’s my love of the film, or my fondness for dark fairytales, but the “Dolls” section deconstructing the merging of adult horror with children’s whimsy is the capstone. Unfortunately, due to time, memory lapses, and a few people unwilling to be a part of the book in any capacity, some films have gaps in knowledge and details. Nevertheless, those titles get filled in with context clues as much as possible, and everything still feels complete.

John Klyza, writer/ producer of cult faves Doll Killer and Sleepaway Camp IV discusses the history of Wizard Video, Band’s direct to video arm with the same depth and respect found throughout the rest of this book. There’s a complete Wizard filmography listed after the historic overview, as there are just too many films to go through individually. Klyza mentions the big titles (i.e. Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Equinox) and gives serious thought to the artwork for the Wizard releases. I wish more people recognized the importance of video artwork during the rental boom. Its inclusion here is just another example that all involved strived their hardest to make this book comprehensive and engaging.

The last chapter is dedicated to the “lost films” of the Empire reign. This is my overall favorite part, as reading about the hows and whys a film never made it to full release has always been of great interest to me. More importantly, two of these have had work prints recently uncovered, and are now available to buy. Cool footnote, huh?

Having read lots of movie centric-books, there are only a few I would consider this great and heartfelt. I wouldn’t change a word of “Empire Of The Bs;” this book is perfect. Book critics, film reviewers, and bad movie fans have been celebrating and singing this book’s praises since its release . You owe it to yourself to read this and rejoice with us.

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Sharks in Venice

Sharks in Venice PosterI am not completely sure where to start with Sharks in Venice. It’s so poorly written, with a convoluted plot – best described as Snakes On A Plane (but you know… sharks… in Venice) combined with National Treasure – paper thin characterizations, and terrible effects that it’s almost too easy of a target. But it’s also a gloriously fun time that hits all the right beats in the wrong ways. Plus it stars a Baldwin brother and Johansson sister! I could not ask for more crazy awesomeness.

Writer-director Danny Lerner’s goof fest stumbles right out the gate. The opening title’s score is silly and far more suited to a crazed carnival, not this overly dramatic treasure-hunting/shark-attacking romp. The font has ripple effects, which makes sense. But it also has sharks seen through the water, which elevates it to camp in a matter of seconds. The camera bobs, weaves, and bounces through the canals, making for a nauseating experience.

After his father is killed during an expedition gone awry (due to the titular beasts) Stephen Baldwin’s David Franks, teacher/oceanographer extraordinaire, heads to Venice. “The Institute” lets him leave immediately and pays for all his expenses! Best teaching job ever! In tow is his fiance/co-worker Laura, played by Vanessa Johansson. Once they touch down, the history of the treasure is told in an amusingly overwrought flashback. It seems as if it was rejected from 300 for being too broad. It’s revealed the treasure is hidden under an old canal tunnel. The bad guy is a bigwig mafioso, who’s releasing the sharks to help his own business. The plot keeps adding layers, becoming so convoluted, it’s sillytastic!

Everytime Stephen Baldwin speaks, he barely raises his voice above a whisper. I suppose it’s meant to convey intensity, but he mostly just sounds bored. His weird neck tattoo is very distracting whenever his back is to the camera: bearing the number ‘330,’ I suppose his shirt collars are hiding the rest of what it may say, but why not just cover it with make-up? It serves no purpose in terms of characterization.

Vanessa Johansson fares better, and has decent chemistry with her male co-star. However, her character is only eye candy, and later on, a damsel in distress. It’s even sadder because she’s established as an expert in medieval history and exactly nothing comes of that. She’s able to infuse her one-dimensional character with some energy, but does little to elevate the material at hand.

The worst characterizations belong to the detectives in charge of the father’s case. One is a hardass, the other can’t be bothered to care. Throughout the film they never change, even with a stupid third act twist that’s about as believable as this actually taking place in Venice. There’s no development or arc for them: yay, pointless characters!

The best character – probably due to the efforts of the actor – is head honcho Vito Clemenza (yes, that sounds like a deadly STD, but don’t tell the movie). As portrayed by Giacomo Gonnella, this is a guy that’s really into being evil for evil’s sake. He’s the only one to really get the film and have any sort of fun with it. Every scene is bolstered by his presence because he mugs and savors the chance to be so deliciously vile in such an entertaining manner.

That sure is a shark in Venice, alright. (© The Man-Cave)
That sure is a shark in Venice, alright. (© The Man-Cave)

The effects throughout the film are some of the worst I have seen in recent memory. A rear projection that’s improperly lined up causes the background to bubble out so that the edges are fat and stretched is the most egregious problem of all. How this made it past the director, the SFX leader, the producers, and the editor is well beyond me. Suffice to say, the rest of the effects aren’t much better. The sharks are so poorly rendered that the CGI used in Back To The Future II to create the holographic Jaws that eats Marty McFly looks a thousand times better. Due to blocky polygons, lack of weight, weird rubbery texture, never appearing wet, and moving/contorting their bodies in such ways as to expel the notion that sharks even have skeletal frames I can only conclude that the visual effects team had never seen a shark and were barely listening when they were being described. They’ve definitely never seen a computer before.

The underwater attacks are a mixture of stock footage and new shots of the victim thrashing about on their own accord so swiftly edited together that it’s dizzying. Each and every one has the same MO, but it never gets tiresome. Witnessing this film try so hard and fail even harder is a great joy. The few above water attacks consist of the badly CGI’d sharks and obvious pull wires to yank down victims.

My favorite attack takes place above water. A random couple are on a bridge at night, being all lovey-dovey. The male walks to the edge of the water to woo his lady with words of poetry, and a shark comes out of nowhere to eat the sucker. It’s an amazing convergence of so many blunders I am not sure which makes me the most gleeful: the bad effects, the overly dramatic score, the goofy dialogue, or the obvious “we needed another attack because it’s been so long” padding of the scene. It’s a marvel of ineptness, and I love it so much!

Since Venice is such a big tourist destination and an important Italian city, the movie was shot in Bulgaria instead; the original title, Sharks In Bulgaria, made that quite clear. Though the director eventually decided that the final title was punchier, this means that the movie only feels like it’s actually in the title location during sequences utilizing stock footage. More importantly, Venice isn’t all canals! Yes, there is a very impressive waterway system throughout the city, but it is a modern city with roads and sidewalks and even some store fronts not on said waterway. Location filming does grant the film a realistic look and atmosphere. It’s too bad the flat cinematography distracts from all that. There’s not one scene throughout that could be considered artistically impressive, or something beyond merely journeyman. Even the reveal of the treasure feels lifeless.

The two big scenes in the treasure cave are funny as hell. The treasure glints in directions that are literally impossible because there’s no light source for it to be able to do so. More importantly, it’s such a huge trove that I’m unconvinced that it could be hidden for so long without someone accidentally stumbling across it, especially given how much excavating goes on in that area for historical purposes. Finally, the treasure looks so fake – obviously wooden, painted gold, and chipping – that it would serve wonderfully as a centerpiece for a kid’s birthday party but fails to impress in a serious movie in which it’s the MacGuffin.

Sharks attack people in a clearly fake Venice to protect a mobster’s newly discovered treasure stash! There is literally nothing not awesome about that sentence. This movie really does deliver on it’s title, albeit in the goofiest way imaginable.

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Minotaur

MinotaurWhat happens when you pit Bane against an incestuous Candyman’s demonic brother? The answer is Minotaur, the worst scripted film I have ever bared witness to! Tom Hardy — yes, that Tom Hardy — stars as Theo (see Theseus) in this loosely adapted myth. The consistently awesome Rutger Hauer is his father, and Tony Todd is the bad prince (emperor? I don’t know, this screenplay is a wreck and a half), Deucalion. That’s already a fair bit going for this movie, and it’s clear a lot of heart was poured into it, but this script is a failure on almost all levels.

Tom Hardy is damned good. His intensity brings a vulnerability that isn’t found in the script. Hauer adds a quiet nobility to his role as leader of the village. Really most of the cast is quite capable.

Yes, it's that Tom Hardy.
Yes, it’s that Tom Hardy.

The set design is remarkable: a thing of pure beauty. To properly sell a fantasy setting, the movie’s world should look and feel real. The sets have a lived-in look that helps one get engrossed in this world, and an expansiveness that boosts its scope; too bad the script has no world building to support this.

Minotaur was made on a budget of only $7 million, but this movie looks as though it could have cost ten times that. I am unsure how cinematographer Nic Morris pulled this off, but he’s a master at his craft, and deserves high praise. The lensing in this film is to die for, with amazing shot compositions and cool camera moves that help properly sell the epicness of this adventure.

The special effects are also excellent. The animatronics for the minotaur look fantastic. The CGI seamlessly blends in with the environment, and is anchored by a true sense of weight.

This may seem more like a review for a good movie with flaws — not something that is so bad it’s good — but hear me out. The plotting and dialogue have no internal consistency, believable rhythms, or anything even remotely resembling logic, sense, or coherent writing. To properly sum up in a way that won’t take all the words ever, it’s bullet (points) time! In chronological order:

  • The Minotaur is born from the “dark empire” wanting to bring their god to Earth. A) how this empire took power isn’t explained, and given that they aren’t menacing, that’s a big oversight. B) the resulting bastard kills their queen and prince, and the empire blames a small village for no discernible reason. Two minutes in, and my head already hurts!

  • The village has been dealing with the punishment — being forced to give seven of their children for sacrifice once every three years — for fifteen years, without any attempt to stop it. Blind loyalty to something so unjust! Our heroes, everybody!

  • Since when does mistletoe have magical powers? Because that’s totally a thing here.

  • Either a sorceress failed to save herself from getting leprosy (some sorceress, huh?) or the illness gave her magical abilities. Yes, magical leprosy.

  • On their voyage to the labyrinth, one of the captive females hisses at her former neighbors and friends: maybe because she’s scared, but the script couldn’t bother with a real reason. Face palm!

  • Theo may have slept through the entirety of the lengthy trip to the island. Then again, the editing is piss poor, so maybe he didn’t.

  • Two of the captives are to be thrown in the pit right away, to whet the beast’s appetite. Theo attacks Deucalion during this ceremony, which causes the victims to not be thrown into the pit. Our supposed fear-inducing villains can’t throw some kids down a hole, even though that’d be pretty good punishment for the attack. Why in the hell are we to fear these idiots?

  • Deucalion keeps huffing toxic gas that causes everyone else to hallucinate, but it never affects him. Words don’t exist to properly express such stupidity.

  • Fire makes a “woosh” noise. No, it does not.

  • If the Minotaur killed the prince, how are Princess Raphaella and Deucalion brother and sister?

  • Deucalion wants to have a child with his sister, because eww, gross.

  • Deucalion fancies himself a god, which makes no sense with the rest of story as the bull and Minotaur are the gods of the people. This has no impact on the plot.

  • Raphaella flings herself into the labyrinth (because of her brother’s lust), and we see blood splatter on the cave walls; meanwhile, she’s perfectly fine! Hello, random blood.

  • Our main characters meet a sacrifice named Turag, approximately the same age as Theo. No one knows this fellow. How? It’s just their village giving up children and the empire doesn’t take newborns, so how does no one know this guy?

  • Tying back into the magic mistletoe: the villagers pray to the “spirit of the tree.” Why they do this, how the tree became sacred to them, or any other attempt at world building is nonexistent.

  • Raphaella told the leper to send someone to kill the Minotaur. How she got this plea to the witch isn’t explained, nor is why she allowed the sacrifices to go on for so long before making it.

  • The Minotaur kills a guard, during which we see wooden splinters spray through the air. The only door in and out of the labyrinth is left intact, so I am forced to presume the guard was Pinocchio.

The plot is utter nonsense and it’s best not to dwell on it. Even worse, this list doesn’t address the technical issues. During several action scenes the wires used to hold the actors up are entirely visible. This transforms the intensity of those sequences into unintentional hilarity.

The editing during all but one of the action scenes is too quick and jumpy to be coherent. The attempts at creating atmosphere by constantly cutting to a bull god statue fail miserably. After Theo voluntarily goes into the labyrinth, there’s an extreme close-up of Hauer’s face. I have no idea what that’s meant to signify.

The score is too overbearing. It fails to elicit emotional responses because it’s constantly hitting you in the head with the emotions it wants you to feel. The dialogue is so bad it hurts. To save the others, a villager distracts the Minotaur by yelling “I don’t believe in you.” The need for a defiant statement there makes sense, but it has already killed several of your friends and is standing in front of you, so that’s a stupid ass thing to yell.

Fire doesn’t go “woosh.”

Two of the actors are terrible because they don’t mesh with the serious tone of the movie, making their acting choices and direction baffling. Tony Todd chews all the scenery and never comes across as menacing or scary, just laughably idiotic. The atrocious characterization doesn’t help, but still he’s awful. The worst actress here is the hissing villager, Vena. Fiona Macclaine acts snivelingly angry then snivelingly stupid, and isn’t convincing at either. Nothing about her portrayal registers as a natural human reaction.

Minotaur had the potential to be a solid, engrossing monster flick. Unfortunately, due to the gigantic plot holes and inconsistencies embedded in the moronic script, bullshit dialogue, and spastic editing, it’s a bone-headed misfire that’s 100% cheese.

And fire still doesn’t go “woosh.”

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Snow White (1987)

snowwhiteposterThis 1987 musical adaptation of Snow White was released as part of Golan/Globus’ “Canon Movie Tales.” The Canon Group made about ten of these films within a three year period, each one a musical, starring one big name (or someone just on the cusp of becoming such) based on public domain fairy tales. I saw most (maybe all) of them while growing up, but I am not its target demographic at all. So to figure out if this movie properly succeeds I decided to bring in some help: my adorably awesome six year old niece, Holly!

The kickass Billy Barty narrates over the opening title sequence (which employs “pretty fonts,” according to Holly) setting the stage for everything to follow. This framework is somewhat muddled and confused as another introductory section kicks off in slightly similar fashion:

The Prince (not the infamous music artist, but how cool would that have been?) is searching for a great treasure when he and his men stumble upon strange tracks. He follows them and happens upon Snow White’s glass casket. He’s then told her story by the seven dwarves. Which means the audience is being told the story of the Prince being told the actual story. Huh? Why have framing devices like this? This makes no sense!

Everyone knows the general plot, so I am not going to dwell on it. However, we do meet Snow’s real mom during the worst number in the film. Titled “Let It Snow”, it is tedious, boring, and not especially memorable. The choreography works within the confined space of a one-room set, but that’s the faintest possible praise.

 During the film’s best shot sequence, Snow’s mother dies in childbirth. The sheer drapes behind her bed bathe everything in red, and the low lighting levels give the scene a somber and respectful tone. Kudos to you movie! Unfortunately, this level of artistry isn’t found elsewhere (save for the ending).

The King remarries Dianna Rigg’s evil Queen. She’s obviously evil, given such stock traits as being snippy and hating young Snow White for no reason. But this is ostensibly a children’s film, so I won’t be too harsh there. It manages to drop its own unique story threads often enough to be annoying. After Snow gets away from the Huntsman, she befriends some forest animals, which provides exactly zilch to the proceedings. Her newfound animal buddies don’t help her accomplish anything, and they are never seen again. Ah, random disappearing subplots, how you’ve been missed!

Guest reviewer Holly was not fooled by the evil queen's disguises.
Guest reviewer Holly was not fooled by the evil queen’s disguises.

In order to kill the adult Snow, the Queen dons disguises three times, and Snow falls for them each time. This despite the dwarves warning her after the first encounter, in which a corset was tightened so tightly that Snow couldn’t breathe. How does she still fall for them? The first disguise is so bad that it couldn’t even fool a six-year-old: Holly immediately quipped that “she’s a rude old queen.” First disguise, people! First one! But let’s be fair, for the character of Snow, it’s been at least a decade since she was seen the Queen; a quick disguise would probably work just fine, the first time. The second costume is meant to call back to Snow’s favorite doll as a child, but it ended up unintentionally racist- a geisha selling combs, with the offensive accent that implies. The third is the most believable as she’s dressed in a haggard cloak to be an old, poor farmer.

Rigg hams it up nicely, being one of two actors here to get what a production like this really needs: to not take itself so seriously! Rigg does this ably and effectively, as Holly found her to be “very mean and nasty.”

Billy Barty plays lead dwarf Iddy, and he’s awesome because he’s freaking Billy Barty! The “Willow” star is always great fun to watch, and he doesn’t disappoint. The other dwarves can all sing fairly well, but unfortunately, Biddy, Kiddy, Diddy, Fiddy, Giddy, and Liddy are just as interchangeable as their names suggest. However, Holly found their “being scared and looking crazy” (big bug eyes, etc. whilst they are trying to find their home’s invader) to be funny, so I guess they have that going for them.

Nicola Stapleton portrays the younger Snow White, and while she has a great singing voice (showcased wonderfully during “Bed Song”), her acting leaves a lot to be desired. When the Huntsman is about to kill her, Stapleton whines like a brat rather than act as though she is in mortal peril. I realize it’s not 100% her fault, but this also represents the lazy direction of the actors in a nutshell. Writer/director Michael Berz was more preoccupied with how to stage the songs than with trying to create the best movie possible.

Sarah Patterson as adult Snow isn’t as fun as Rigg or intense like Barty, but she does exude a certain innocent charm that is required for the character. Plus, she has the best singing voice of the cast.

Tony Sheldon is the King. He’s fine, forgettable, and swiftly killed off-screen in the worst decision this movie makes. The King gets a few numbers and we get to know him decently well, so to just unceremoniously write him out like that without any real closure or reaction from Snow White is a complete cop out.

The sets are obviously cheap plywood, rubber molding, and such. The Queen’s magic mirror room is decked out in Styrofoam “marble” candle holders. The mirror itself wobbles on the rods that make it spin, but it’s solid overall — surrounded by, according to Holly “ugly faces” that come to life to answer the questions it is asked. The top center face is the main speaker, with a deep, menacing voice. The side faces occasionally chime in, but mostly they off nightmarish, taunting laughs.

The costumes are bright, shiny, and too new looking to be convincing. The dwarves’ costumes fare best, as they have a mushroom-esque look, providing a visual depiction of their closeness to nature. Snow’s costume is simple, but nice. The Queen has roughly a gazillion costumes that range from patently impractical to “Zardoz” reject outlandish.

What pushes this beyond your typical run of the mill bad fairy tale retelling into fun bad times is the surprisingly dark turn at the end. When the Queen discovers whom the Prince will marry, she freaks out so much that the magic mirror breaks. With each shard that falls off the mirror, the Queen slowly loses a bit of her clothing. The cross cutting and music cues here are outstanding. By the time she reaches the wedding, the whole mirror has fallen and the Queen is an old hag in tattered clothing. Then the faces around the mirror explode, and the Queen turns to dust. That’s some dark stuff for a fairly innocuous children’s musical.

With bad acting throughout, a disinterested director, and bland songs, this movie is very enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. How did its intended demographic react to the final product? Well, Holly had so much fun watching it, she now owns the film. So this is truly terrible fun for all ages!

 

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Bloodstone

BloodstoneThis 1988 adventure flick, set in India, hits all the clichés and plot points one expects to find in an action-adventure romp. However, it does so with such ineptitude and clumsiness, that it really is like watching a train wreck unfolding before your eyes. The fact that Bloodstone got made is improbable, but when the writer is also the producer, I guess trivial things like bad acting, unconvincing dialogue, and bizarre characterizations get overlooked.

The movie starts with a funeral procession through a castle, mourning the killing of the beloved Princess Lafla. During this, a gigantic ruby (the titular bloodstone) which had powers for good has switched to evil thanks to her (unjustified?) death. It’s not clear from the get go what power this gem possesses, nor why or how these powers were granted. How the princess’ death affects it is also curiously absent an explanation. Don’t worry: after the ending credits, you still won’t have any of these answers.

Fast forward to modern day India! While on their honeymoon, former cop Sandy and his well-off bride, Stephanie, meet a nervous, sweaty man named Paul Lorre. They then proceed to make the worst small talk ever put to celluloid. Awkward, stilted, simply unbelievable: acting-wise, dialogue-wise, everything-wise, the back and forth fails to be convincing.

“How are you?” Lorre asks.

“We’re in textiles,” answers Sandy.

How is that what you answer with? Is your work also your state of being?

Through this barrage of stupidity we discover that the bloodstone has been stolen from right underneath “Scotland Yard’s nose”…huh?

Movie, is my copy of you faulty?

Nope.

Are you sure?

Yes. I just don’t have the power to show, only tell. ONLY. TELL!

During the first half anything that isn’t a full on action sequence won’t be shown to us. It’s all clumsy exposition and bland set up. Mix it all with every adventure cliché imaginable. Water rapids and waterfalls? Kidnapping? Incompetent cops who think they know it all? Check. Creepy tomb and/ or cult lair? Double check! Creaky, wooden, old, unsafe bridge that nearly kills the heroes? Triple check!

Centuries after Princess Lafla’s death, the British Empire stole the ruby. Now, a crafty thief has stolen it from them, and is attempting to bring the sacred relic back to India. One guess as to who that thief is? To the movie’s credit, Lorre being said thief is never a secret, but rather the plot point that sets up the main narrative action. Police, gangsters, and a psychotic, jack-of-all-trades cabbie sidekick all want to get their grubby paws on the ruby. Lorre hides the bloodstone in our heroes’ bags, and we follow along as they bungle everything.

DerpFace
Behold: the Cabbie Derp!

The psychotic sidekick Sabu is played by famed Indian mega-superstar Rajinikanth. He handily demonstrates the charisma and skill that has allowed him to star in hundreds of films. As good as he is, he finds time during an insane chase sequence to make the dumbest face any human could possibly produce: the “Cabbie Derp.” This heretofore unknown facial expression is impossible to describe, and makes it even more difficult to keep a straight face upon viewing.

Jack Kehler brings a lot of mannerisms, tics, and the like to the role of Lorre. He is also given some of the best lines, such as his response to a question on why the bloodstone theft simply couldn’t have been done by an amateur:

“Titanic was built by professionals. Noah was an amateur.”

The chief inspector Ramesh is an odd duck. Written with clever dialogue, he’s also a bumbling nimrod, with slapstick humor punctuating every appearance by the character. This incongruity creates demented characterization. I am not sure if Charlie Brill is bad here, or simply playing up the two opposing factors. Ramesh’s best lines are with Lorre. An amazing “Who are you?”/ “who am I?” bit between the two is funny as hell. When they are both onscreen, the movie has smart dialogue firing off at a dizzying speed. I am at a loss as to why the rest is so amateurish.

Our heroes mar each and every scene. Brett Stimely and Anna Nicholas almost have an anti-chemistry. They’d barely seem believable as estranged siblings, much less as a happily married couple. Stimely is so bad that I’m amazed everyone didn’t get sucked into his black hole of a personality. His action scenes are so piss poorly edited that I am certain it was a conscious decision to hide how often the stunt double was used. He probably should have just acted the whole part – it would have been more memorable.

Nicholas fairs a bit better as Stephanie, but that’s not high praise. She sounds more convincing and human-like, but gets some of the worst lines in the film. When walking through an outdoor market, they’re being sold on some items, and this exchange happens:

“Looks like an antique,” says Sandy.

“Well, so do I,” Stephanie replies.

Nicholas and Stimely, despite having the charisma of tree bark, are both quite attractive, so I don’t get it. There is an age gap between the two, but at a glance, nobody would guess that.

The sets are all excellent: massive, extremely detailed, and quite opulent. They lend this film an amazing sense of scale and scope. The money spent is up on the screen which elevates the whole production.

This concludes the merits for the movie, which leads to the worst sin this movie commits…that of awful editing! It’s so choppy that it’s impossible to follow all the action. During the climactic final battle, a vase gets thrown – but I couldn’t tell you where or at whom. In the “cabbie derp” car chase, a bale of hay seems to materialize out of thin air. Combine all that with the repetitive choreography, and one gets fight scenes that are an amazing spectacle of failure.

While the editing is the biggest issue, it’s not the most deranged bad thing “Bloodstone” has going on. That distinction belongs to the synth-heavy, catchy, and undeniably stupid theme song of the same title. Written and performed by Thomas Marolda, this bloody song so perfectly encapsulates the movie, it’s eerie. The song, like the movie, isn’t good in any traditional sense of the word, but it’s just too damned catchy and fun to not enjoy. The lyrics are asinine, much like the movie’s dialogue. The song doesn’t relate in way to the plot of the film, much like how the movie’s opening has no bearing on anything else. Both endeavors feel like they are trying too hard to be cool, which only enhances the enjoyment. Seriously, this song is a modern masterpiece of crazy bad but awesome!

The story is barely comprehensible and clichéd, the dialogue is stilted, the acting is awful, and the editing is horrendous on a Lovecraftian scale. The enjoyment of watching is incalculable and the theme song is a triumph in all the wrong ways. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend it!

 

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Attack Of The Sabretooth

Attack of the SabretoothHave you ever imagined what Jurassic Park would have been like if it were filmed on a $10 budget and had no dinosaurs? Well, very specific, imaginary person, your dream materialized in 2005, and Attack of the Sabretooth is as bad as it sounds! Don’t let the lack of dinosaurs discourage you: there are sabretooths running rampant, and as per the title, they do attack folks. Often in surprisingly bloody ways.

It’s a disservice to Spielberg’s action opus to simply claim that this movie’s plot is a slightly rearranged copy. No, no, no. Attack Of The Sabretooth is all too happy being dumber than that. The opening title scene uses a cheap looking font. That’s not a phrase I ever thought I’d use, because I am still unsure as to how one creates such a thing. But make no mistake, this movie found a way. Over the hobo of fonts comes blood spray — presumably to entice the audience — with the consistency of rubberized ketchup. The special effects don’t improve later on!

After some stock footage of a generic island plays during the opening credits, we arrive on Valalola Resort, home to Primal Park and it’s stunning/ ludicrous, entirely CGI golden sabretooth monument. The sign sports this beautiful tagline: “Genetic miracles. Reasonably priced.” Bless the deluded souls who thought that constituted snappy, clever writing.

We are then introduced to our stock characters fairly quickly: the inefficient, bored security guard, the takes-no-shit head of security, the owner (he’s evil, because money/genetic experiments/etc.), the dumb jock, the diva, the shy but nice one, the goth, and the nerd. The greedy owner needs to sell his idea to investors while a group of college kids are there as part of a scavenger hunt to join a fraternity/ sorority. Predictably, the sabretooths get out and attack. Now, put all those stereotypes with that cliched story onto an island compound eerily reminiscent of the Jurassic Park‘s main building, and I’m positive you can already guess how this movie ends.

I am not joking about the whole resort being almost the exact same (on a smaller scale) as its more famous counterpart. The facility is laid out in a gridlock, with electronically locked gates and electric fences that look virtually identical to those used to pen in Jurassic Park’s dionsaurs. So identical, in fact, that this may as well have been shot on the same sets. But, it’s that ridiculous entrance that gets me giddy: the damned monument is too fake not to love. The interior sets are fine, but the lack of budget really shows in the absence of any personnel anywhere. This does hamper the stakes a bit.

The attacks — which visually utilize a ‘Predator’-style heat signature POV, some quick CGI flashes, and a practical animatronic for the claws and lower jaw themselves — have an extreme amount of blood and gore, which keeps things exciting. But it’s the insane way it all comes together that gives this movie such a great MST bent. The editing is slapdash, making all the clashing elements that much more obvious as the various styles never mesh together. If one were to turn this into a drinking game and take shots every time the disparate elements were so blatantly in your face, you’d probably be blitzed within the first 30 minutes.

The computer effects are early 90’s bad. The very brief full glimpses of the sabretooth tigers are jerky, poorly rendered, and have no detail. Their fur appears smooth — with a patch here or there because of a software glitch — as opposed to the dirty or mangy hair you’d expect from a wild animal. But that’s not all, folks: there’s more appalling CGI to be had! The monument never appears to be resting on the overhang as it should be, so it seems as if it’s hovering. It also has terrible lighting effects, never matching the rest of the surroundings, further destroying the illusion of this movie’s universe being real.

An actual saber-toothed cat skeleton, looking slightly more alive than the sabretooth in this film.
An actual saber-toothed cat skeleton, looking slightly more alive than the sabretooth in this film.

The security monitors have these weird rising/falling bars on the side of each panel that defy explanation. They aren’t what’s registering a security threat, as a colored bar will enshrine the correct panel (colored based on level of severity), nor do they offer an indication of intruders or anything else I can imagine. Every time the monitors were onscreen, I just howled with laughter…and they’re shown a fair amount.

Penned by Tom Woosley, the writer of such non-classics as Army Of The Dead and Sabretooth (no, I don’t know why he has a thing for the large death cats, nor why he spells their name like the comic book character rather than the animal), this movie wastes no time in getting to the hilarity. Each characterization and arc is so lazily set up the only true surprise was who the head of security is dating (SPOILER: it’s the maintenance guy, Brian). That’s the only surprise. The evil owner of the resort is named Grant, and this is a “Jurassic Park” ripoff…coincidence? Yeah, probably, but it’s fun to think otherwise.

I don’t want to ruin everything, as watching the ridiculousness play out is the fun of any bad movie viewing experience, but my favorite moment is part of the climactic ending, so be warned, there are spoilers ahead.

Grant stubbornly refuses to get his guests to safety at first, because he suffers from a debilitating case of Jaws syndrome. Thus, when it all hits the fan, he flees and tries to save himself first (see evil, above). This is played throughout most of the final 20 minutes. Just when he thinks he’s finally made it, a giant, golden sabre tooth (as in the actual elongated, spear-esque tooth) snaps off of my favorite monument ever and spears him through the head. The way it happens is funny, but it’s the awful effects that make this such a joy to behold. The poor actor has to stand there with his mouth agape while it’s crystal clear that the tooth is CGIed in (yeah, not even a practical effect) around him. With that obvious dead space between the top and bottom, it’s a great laugh out loud moment. Just the…well, the absolutely everything about this scene is so bad; it is my favorite moment in the entire movie.

All of these crazy shenanigans were directed by Australian George Miller. No, not the George Miller of Mad Max, Babe, and Happy Feet fame (I don’t have time to discuss the insanity that is the more famous Miller’s career trajectory). Still, this George Miller has actually done some big time stuff including The Man From Snowy River. I could have never fathomed that a seasoned pro would have been capable of making something like this in such an endearingly idiotic manner.

If you like goofy island pictures, and a creature feature that hardly show any creatures, here you go! The editing and bad effects make this quite enjoyable, but it’s the ineptitude and brazen theft of the script that truly make this shine. Grab some friends, grab some drinks, and go to town.

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".

Terribly Fun Films: Hercules

Hercules (1983)
Hercules (1983)

Sometimes a movie has one scene, or sequence, that completely justifies the movie’s entire existence due to sheer awesomeness. This film has a scene of such magnitude: the Incredible Hulk throws a bear into space. He throws a bear…into space! Why are you still reading this review? Buy this movie and watch that scene right now! It’s gloriously stupid, impressively fun, and one of the best scenes in all of bad movie-dom. Yeah, it’s that kind of a film.

After the great success of “Conan The Barbarian,” hack director Luigi Cozzi (best known for “Starcrash”) continued that most noble of Italian film industry traditions: the cheap, quick knockoff. Before Lou Ferringo signed on to play the titular role, this was intended to outdo “Conan” on all fronts: more gore, sex, and carnage. But Ferringo wanted to preserve his family friendly image as much as possible, so the final product is very watered down. It most assuredly feels clumsily restrained, and on top of that, there’s a weird magical/sci-fi hybrid vibe throughout which all add up to quite an odd tone. Combine that with terrible, bargain basement special effects and costumes, and you have a bad movie that’s easy to love.

Ferringo, as Hercules, certainly looks the part. There’s a reason his most famous role is that of a gargantuan monster. But his acting here is Uwe Boll movie bad. When his dad is killed, the best Ferringo can come up with is sounding winded. It just makes him sound goofy, not grief stricken or angry. When he’s telling Princess Cassiopeia he loves her, he might as well be a dissatisfied gym teacher explaining how to jump rope for the thousandth time. He rarely has any inflections, but his enthusiasm during the climactic battle yields some decent results.

Cassiopeia (Ingrid Anderson) looks nice enough, even beneath the Burger King crown the costume designer gave her. She’s bland, though: never lively enough to make the audience understand what Hercules sees in her, nor make them care. Mirella D’Angelo plays the good sorceress Circe. To say her chemistry with Ferringo is akin to a plastic bag resting on top of a chair would be doing a disservice to the materials those fine items are made from. Neither sexy enough (presumably due to the newly restrained project) nor a believable romantic lead, she’s the worst actor here.

I’m not entirely sure what it is about bad movies that allow them to attract such crazily gleeful actors for their villains, like moths to a flame. But I am stoked that they do, because these crazy villains enhance their scenes at every turn. William Berger as King Minos is funny as hell. “Science! For the sake of science!” is uttered with the joyous exuberance of a school child telling their friends about the best Christmas present they received over the holiday break. While I would normally consider this an indication that he’s in on the silly nature of this venture, but I don’t buy that here. It appears Berger is only capable of expressing himself through crazy Nic Cage eyes and over enunciations of each and every syllable. It is dazzling!

Eva Robbins plays Daedelus, and she seems continually on the cusp of breaking character and laughing hysterically. Her contempt for the script is palpable and understandable. With such clunkers as “Soon, you (King Minos) will have to choose between science and the gods,” it’s not that surprising.

Movie, I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but Minos knows 100% that the gods exist, and performs rituals to curry favor from them. He also believes that knowledge is the ultimate power, so why must he choose between either? They co-exist throughout this entire movie, thus the endgame makes no practical sense. The script’s weirdometer doesn’t end there:

  • Super Weird Thing #1: There are only three gods, and they live on the moon. Zeus, who creates Hercules out of star matter to balance out the sides of good and evil for the upcoming battle. Hera, whom is evil in this version because… because Hera never liked Hercules in the original myths. Her motivations are never clear. And Athena, looking like she stepped right off a Georges Méliès set, is just there; her characterization is weak to the point of being nonexistent.
  • Super Weird Thing #2: One of the very few heroic deeds from the classical myths the movie kept is Hercules having to clean special stables. Because that’s the one deed everyone remembers Hercules performing. Not the killing of a lion with his bare hands, or his trek to the underworld to kidnap its guardian, Cerberus: the freaking cleaning of the stables.
  • Super Weird Thing #3: The whole “throwing things into space” is a recurring theme throughout the film. Not only does a bear get thrown into the vast emptiness, but a chariot, a sword, and a rock also get tossed into the vacuum of the stars, in which humans can breathe just fine.

And the weird just keeps getting weirder. Daedalus dresses as if she’s an alien from a particularly cheesy 1950s sci-fi b-movie – which, granted, she kind of is. Her inventions are now robots, used to attack Hercules: there’s the bumble-bot, the hydra-bot, with only three heads which never grow back, and my favorite, the centaur-bot!

As briefly mentioned earlier, the special effects aren’t good. The space-thrown bear is just a guy in a terrible, ratty suit; it truly only enhances the glorious MST-ing that must happen while viewing this movie. The stop motion for the robots is clunky, and they’re plainly matted in via green screen. Pandora’s Jar (not a box!) from the opening is probably the worst effect of all. Obviously cheap molded plastic with holes cut out for lights, and it’s clearly sitting atop a glass pane in front of the space backdrop.

The craziest part of all is the pacing. The movie jumps from one set piece to another with little regard for filling the audience in on the story. It’s not until ten minutes or so from the end that we are brought up to speed. Thanks to a massive exposition dump, in what is easily my favorite set – the volcano temple on the planet of Atlantis (yes, you read that correctly, Atlantis is a planet in this movie) – things finally make some sort of sense. Upon repeated viewings, a few scenes are improved by having knowledge of the overall arc. Unfortunately, it’s organized in such a way that even then it’s too little, too late.

With bad special effects, worse acting, and a story that couldn’t be bothered to explain itself, this movie is bad. On the other hand: it has a centaur-bot, a minor deity dressed like she’s from a bad sci-fi movie, and most importantly, Hercules throws a bear into space to form the Big Dipper. I love this movie, and spreading its terribly fun, awfully good, so awesomely bad wonders!

Bobby Lepire

About Bobby Lepire

Bobby LePire will watch anything once, much to his chagrin. He also hosts an annual "Bad Movie Party".