Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring David Carradine, Cory Landis, John Callahan, Amy Rasimas, Rib Hillis, Delia Sheppard
Directed by Jay Andrews AKA Jim Wynorski
Could it really be that Mega Piranha has raised the bar for this sort of over-the-top nature gone amok creature feature lunacy? I’m actually thinking the answer might very well be ‘yes’ after watching Dinocroc vs. Supergator. A mildly amusing bit of cheeseball Syfy monster nonsense courtesy producer of Roger Corman and director Jim Wynorski; still not as much as fun as I had hoped, and certainly nowhere near as frenetically paced or inventively insane as Mega Piranha was a few weeks back. Who’d have thunk the day would come that The Asylum could raise the bar for cinema in a positive manner?
David Carradine runs a genetics lab experimenting with a growth forum that creates giant-sized mushrooms, perhaps to feed mankind, or possibly at the behest of the makers of next year’s Smurfs movie wanting a life-size Smurf Village for promotional purposes. I was disappointed there wasn’t more to the movie involving these gardens of giant mushrooms. It has been nearly half a century since Attack of the Mushroom People and I would love another mutant monster mushroom movie again. We’re always getting giant killer fish or giant mutant reptiles; why so little love for giant killer vegetables?
David Carradine’s unscrupulous mogul wants to test the growth forum on an animal – I understand this. The animals he insists they use the serum on are an alligator and a crocodile – this I do not understand. Nobody on the scientific team has the guts to stand up to their boss by asking, “Can’t we start with an animal less likely to eat us? How about an aardvark? Who’s afraid of a giant aardvark?” But when your genetics lab is run by Kill Bill and your top geneticist was previously seen aardvarking others in such erotic thrillers as Mirror Images and Sins of Desire, mistakes are bound to be made.
Having written that last paragraph, don’t be surprised to hear Syfy announce production has begun on “Mega Aardvark”. Former cast members of “Stargate SG-1” got to eat.
When the giant reptile rampage begins in the opening 10 seconds of the movie (Wynorski wisely wastes no time getting to the chomping, though the way he occasionally pads out the running time by dragging out minor shots and tossing in a needless lengthy flashback messes with the pacing), crafty Carradine sends his sexy henchwoman to silence non-devoured whistleblowers and calls in a skilled gator hunter from Louisiana known simply as “The Cajun” to deal with the matter with his special brand of explosive crossbow hunting.
I have a bone to pick with casting of “The Cajun”. This guy should have been some older, sleazy, swamp rat type. Instead they cast a young stud that looks like what I imagine the lead in a gay porn spoof of Crocodile Dundee would look like. This sleeveless “Cajun” never even attempts so much as the faintest Cajun accent either; something I’m not sure I should be disappointed by or thankful for. Still, this guy should have looked less like a male model and more like Tim Sizemore on a particularly bad day.
A federal agent in a Hawaiian shirt that isn’t nearly so ugly as to warrant the number of lame jokes about his ugly shirt is also in Hawaii looking for evidence to bring down Carradine’s illegal enterprise. His investigation pairs him up with a cute conservationist whose sweaty daddy is the local sheriff. Something about this agent’s hair and manner of speak brought to mind Robert Reed as Mike Brady. Something about the conservationist chick reminded me of an adult Cindy Brady. Their romance amused me greatly because I kept getting this twisted vision of “Brady Bunch” incest. Never really bought into their relationship anyway, not that it will matter, since the third act tosses their romance aside in lieu of a blooming bromance between the agent and the Cajun.
In between all the stuff that actually constitutes a plot are scenes designed to introduce random deaf, dumb, and blind characters, many a brainless bikini babe, for a minute or two before getting chomped into the next life. The second these people enter the fray you know their life expectancy will be short, making it all the more obvious when the inevitable happens.
The actors chew the scenery. The reptiles chew the actors. Its bold filmmaking to make the last line of dialogue in a movie like this be, “Glad that’s over with.” Bold indeed. Almost as bold as the rousing score that sounded more appropriate to a western than a creature feature.
As is always the case with these “versus” films, the title battle doesn’t actually occur until the final five minutes. That will disappoint some, especially considering disappointing what a one-sided affair the fight is. One giant reptile snout slaps the other all over the place before unleashing the fatal chomp. Kind of a letdown and yet still a vast improvement over Wynorksi’s last trip down reptile vs. reptile lane: Komodo vs. Kobra, a film I still to this day revile with every fiber of my being.
The bipedal Dinocroc looks roughly the same as it did in 2004’s Dinocroc, though for some reason they’ve changed its roar to one identical to the Jurassic Park T-Rex. The Supergator of 2007’s Supergator was nothing more than the Dinocroc with a greener paint job. Since having two nearly identical monsters fighting would have been too confusing, Supergator has been reverted back to being an ordinary, giant-sized, four-legged alligator, but with unusual back spines to make it appear more mutated.
Personally, I preferred the Supergator with its superior CGI much more than Dinocroc that looks to have just escaped from a Playstation cut scene. I think another reason I preferred Supergator was because he was far more proactive throughout the film; Dinocroc just loiters about a sugar mill most of the second half waiting for the action to come to him. Dinocroc is such a primadonna.
There’s definitely some fun to be had with Dinocroc vs. Supergator. Seeing one of these behemoths magically pop out of a foot of water and swallow someone whole in the blink of an eye is laughable. Watching the Dinocroc and Supergator chase after moving vehicles in such a way as to bring to mind a dog chasing a speeding car is funny. Counting the gunshots being fired from a revolver that never get reloaded is comical. Witnessing a character make the single most unnecessary noble sacrifice, as if they were suicidal to begin with and decided that since the chance to commit suicide by gator was upon them they shouldn’t let this opportunity slip by, makes for an absurd turn of events. Gawking at the silly death face the late David Carradine makes as his character perishes and knowing this is one of the last images of him ever put to film, that certainly brings a stupid smile to your face. But overall, yeah, I’m definitely thinking Mega Piranha has raised the bar for this particular breed of b-movie. Balls in your court, Sharktopus.
2 1/2 out of 5
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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston
Directed by Johnny Martin
When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.
Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.
Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.
Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility
Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita
Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita
The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.
The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.
The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.
From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.
The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.
Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.”
The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.
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