Directed by Jim Wynorski
If all you’re interested in when watching a movie titled Piranhaconda is seeing people getting chomped to death by a monster in relatively the same fashion over and over again, then you’ll get what you’re looking for. By God, you’ll get what you’re looking for. The average game of Pac-Man boasts less chomping than Piranhaconda. But that’s about all you’re going to get out of this latest Roger Corman-produced Syfy creature feature.
Sorry, forgot, you’ll also get cleavage – lots and lots of cleavage. Jim Wynorski directed so you better believe there will be boobage, albeit TV-PG boobage. The way this creature went after big breasted women in bikinis, I kept waiting for a scientist to explain the monster had to devour silicone in order to sustain itself. Much of the first 40 minutes of Piranhaconda was like watching a giant snake terrorize a Miss Hooters bikini contest.
I recall being a little disappointed with Sharktopus at the time because it seemed like a great monster the filmmakers didn’t fully utilize. Not only does Piranhaconda not get fully utilized, it’s not even a great monster. It’s a great gimmicky name for a monster, that’s about it. The fact that its half-piranha means nothing outside of its slightly fishy head and razor teeth; it barely spends any time in the water. Being half-anaconda means even less because it’s so big it can’t coil around anyone and squeeze them to death as an anaconda would. It’s just a giant snake with a mouthful of sharp teeth that slithers around biting people in half or making them explode into a digital red mist. There’s very little about the actual Piranhaconda that differentiates it from every other giant snake movie Syfy has aired.
The series of events that in some circles could be construed as a plot kicks off with a scientist (Michael Madsen, who sounds very sleepy much of the time) raising the ire of a Piranhaconda by stealing one if its eggs that he plans to sell for big bucks. This leads to him getting held captive by a group of never adequately explained gun-toting bandits in black t-shirts and khaki pants that intend to hold him for ransom. For some reason he never tries to escape despite being held hostage in an open-ended building that is poorly guarded.
Rachel Hunter plays the girlfriend of the head bandit/terrorist/Tom Savini Look-A-Like Contest 3rd Runner-Up. She has very little dialogue, very few scenes, does even less in those few scenes, and still gets second billing. I’m at a loss to explain why they wasted the extra money hiring a name just for a minor character whose most signifigant moment involves shaving the bad guy.
A low budget slasher flick is also shooting in the area. The prima donna b-movie starlet (Sharktopus bikini babe Shandi Finnessey, this time in a fun role that gives her more to do than just rock a bikini, which she continues to do quite well, I might add) wants to put the moves on the hunky actor/stuntman playing the masked killer (Rib Hillis), but he actually has the hots for the frequently bikini-topped script supervisor (Terri Ivens). It’s a love triangle that never gets started because they’re soon taken hostage by those bandits looking to ransom them back to their studio for big bucks. Suddenly the movie turns into Tropic Thunder, except it goes full retard.
Was it my imagination or did the film crew and the terrorists drive the exact same white SUV? Can anyone who saw the movie confirm this? I’d swear that same white SUV did double duty. Mr. Wynorski is nothing if not frugal.
I also would be remiss if I did not give special recognition to the lovely Diana Terranova for her performance as a vacationing woman who twice goes for a swim and somehow manages to come back ashore dry.
Piranhaconda chomps big breasted women. Piranhaconda chomps average breasted women. Piranhaconda chomps people making a movie. Piranhaconda chomps armed gunmen. Piranhaconda chomps scientists. Piranhaconda chomps tourists. The novelty of it all grows tedious in a hurry due to there being so very little creativity to the kills and virtually nothing else going on to chew on aside from frequent bursts of intentionally corny dialogue trying way too hard to be comically stupid with very limited success. This is a movie whose primary entertainment value boils down to how much heckling you and your friends can do, and even then you’ll probably run out of steam due to the repetitious monster antics and going nowhere everything else.
Piranhaconda is no Sharktopus, that’s for damn sure. And a damn shame.
2 out of 5
The Midnight Man Review – Don’t Hate The Game, Hate The Players
Written by Travis Zariwny
Directed by Travis Zariwny
Travis Zariwny’s The Midnight Man is largely a robotic hide-and-seek slog, yet if dissected in butchered chunks, smaller bites range from delicious destruction to utterly incompetent character work. Judging by the bloodthirsty opening sequence alone, you’d think Zariwny is about to blow our morality-siding minds. A sad misconception, I’m afraid. After our hopes skyrocket, mechanical plot devices are pinned to a storyboard with the utmost lack of exploration. The Midnight Man’s game is afoot, but these players would barely compete against an opponent crafted from brick and mortar. Can someone calculate a handicap for them, please?
Gabrielle Haugh stars as Alex Luster, a caring granddaughter to Nana Anna (Lin Shaye). One night, upon the request of her not-always-there relative, Alex rummages through attic trunks for a silver-backed hand mirror. Instead she finds a nondescript wrapped box with what appears to be a game inside. Her crush Miles (Grayson Gabriel) has arrived by now, and after an incident where Anna requires medical attention from house-call doctor Harding (Robert Englund), the two friends begin playing whatever it was that caused Anna to screech in disapproval. You know, the only rational decision.
At the risk of sounding like a smug CinemaSins video, The Midnight Man would surely bomb any horror IQ test. Zariwny’s *first* piece of introduced information after discovering Midnight Man’s altar is quite simple – DANGER. DO NOT PLAY. IT JUST CAUSED A WOMAN TO FAINT. Nevertheless, our braindead sheeple follow careful rules to summon Mr. Midnight Man into their house – because, as horror movies have proven, tempting occult fates is buckets of fun! At least the characters don’t confess romantic feelings and makeout while another friend who joins the game late – “Creepy Pasta” obsessed Kelly (Emily Haine) – could already be in the Midnight Man’s clutches, that’d be – oh, right. That happens.
Senile Anna is another story altogether – Zariwny’s grey-haired red herring in the worst way. Lin Shaye injects so much destabilized madness into this energetic, midnight-perfect role, elevating herself into a stratosphere well above The Midnight Man itself. Whether she’s screaming about Alex’s disgusting blood, or ominously whispering dreadful remarks through a housewide intercom, or beating Robert Englund to a pulp with wide-eyed psychosis – well, if you’ve seen Dead End, you *know* the kind of batshitery Shaye is capable of. Her genre vet status on display like a damn clinic here.
Shaye – and even Englund – aside, scripting is too procedural to salvage any other performances. Kelly doesn’t even deserve mention given her “bring on death!” attitude and enthusiastic late entry INTO AN URBAN LEGEND’S DEATHTRAP – a poorly conceived “twist” with less structure. This leaves Grayson Gabriel and Haugh herself, two thinly-scripted cutouts who couldn’t find a more repetitive genre path to follow. There’s little mystery to the gonigs on, and neither actor manages to wrangle tension (even when staring our Midnight friend in the face…thing).
Scares are hard to come by because Zariwny opts for a more “charismatic” villain who talks like Scarecrow and appears as a dyed-black, cloaked Jack Skellington. He can form out of clouds and is a stickler for rules (candles lit at all times, 10 seconds to re-ignite, if you fail he exploits your deepest fear). Credit is noted given this villain’s backstory and strict instructions – which does make for a rather killer game of tag – but the need to converse and expose Midnight from shadows subtracts necessary mysticism. He’s a cocky demon with masks for each emotion (think woodland death imp emojis), but never the spine-tingling beast we find ourselves hiding from.
This is all a bummer because gore goes bonkers in the very first scene – with underage victims no less. One young player gets decapitated, another explodes into a red splattery mess (against fresh snowfall), but then a vacuous lull in process takes hold. It’s not until Alex’s fear of blood and Miles’ fear of pain that we get more eye-bulging squeamishness, then again when Kelly’s bunnyman appears. A no-bullshit, bunny-headed creature wearing a suit, which plays directly into Kelly’s deepest fear. When Zariwny gets sick and surreal, he scores – but it’s a disappointing “when.”
I take no pleasure in confirming that any small victory The Midnight Man claims is negated by kids who should’ve been offed for even thinking about a quick playthrough of Anna’s old-school entertainment. Invite him in, pour your salt circles and try to survive until 3:33AM – sounds easy, right? If the demon plays fair, you bet! But why would ANYONE trust a demon’s word? Makes sense given Alex and Miles’ ignorance of more red flags than a Minesweeper game, and a thrilling chase these bad decisions do not make.
The Midnight Man begins by striking a meteoric horror high, only to plummet back down towards repetitive genre bumbling once the game’s true – and less enticing – plot begins.
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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