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Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (2005)

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Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Jeffrey Combs, William Forsythe, Hunter Tylo

Directed by Michael Oblowitz


As Jeffrey Combs mad scientist character informs us, the hammerhead shark is the pinnacle of shark evolution. Whereas the Great White Shark gets all the glory for being a mindless, voracious eating machine, the hammerhead shark is a highly intelligent animal that is one of the most superior creatures found in the ocean. If that is the case then I can safely say that a hammerhead shark did not write Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy.

To be honest, I’m of two minds when it comes to this movie. Part of me did indeed enjoy it for being the cheesy monster movie that it is. As far as low budget creature features go today, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy is a perfectly watchable B-movie. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but get aggravated, and not just for the usual clichés and plot logic mistakes that movies of this type tend to make. One of the main reasons that I enjoyed the heck out of Mansquito (review) was because they put the monster front and center in all its cheesy glory and allowed it to go berserk. That’s what makes monster movies fun. That’s also the primary component missing from Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy. Whereas Mansquito gladly embraced its B-movie nature, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy plays out in a self-conscious fashion, as if it were made by people unwilling to fully revel in its B-movie nature.

Despite being called Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, the only thing really frenzied about the Hammerhead sharkman is the rapid fire editing they used every single time it appeared. Maybe the director did that so as to convey the lightning quick nature of a shark killing frenzy, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the makers just didn’t have much faith in their title monster. It struck as if they built a monster suit, decided it just wasn’t convincing enough, created computer generated shots of the creature, realized the CGI didn’t look all that more realistic than the rubber suit, and tried editing both types of effects shots together only to do so in such a dizzying fashion that it end up sucking a lot of the fun out of watching the monster attacking people. A lot of monster movie keep the look of the monster obscured until the finale of the film. The makers of this movie seem to be trying to obscure the look of the monster even when it appears onscreen. By the end of the movie you come to realize that except for a few very brief long shots of the CGI creature swimming in the water you never ever got one solid full body view of it. I’ve seen production stills from the movie that gave you a better look at the monster than anything you actually saw in the actual film.

Mad scientist Dr. King (Jeffrey Combs, hamming it up with the kind of zeal that would make Vincent Price smile) lures his forming colleagues to the uncharted island in the Pacific where he has been conducting highly questionable genetic research involving the use of shark DNA in finding a means by which to specialize human stem cells in order to cure diseases such as cancer (sharks are seemingly immune from disease). Coincidentally, kidney cancer supposedly claimed the life of the scientist’s adult son years earlier.

When the other scientists and execs that work for the corporation that has been funding his research arrive, King reveals the true nature of his work that somewhere along the way went from being about curing disease to creating a new race of human-shark hybrids that will come to populate and dominate the oceans of the world. He then introduces them to his previously thought dead son, who he managed to save from terminal cancer only to turn him into a half-man/half-hammerhead shark creature that is more shark -physically and mentally – than man. He then informs them that he’s sick of them stealing his work and profiting from it, so he has brought them here to die at the jaws of his son. He does so in such an casually abrupt manner that I’m amazed they didn’t just have him go, “I hate you all and I hope you rot in hell,” before slamming the door and letting the monster loose on them.

By the way, just for the record, if I’m ever invited to the home of a genetic scientist and holds a luau where the main course is a roasted three-eyed pig, not only would I not eat any of it, I do believe that would be an omen telling me to get the heck out of there ASAP.

The rest of the movie has the group running, swimming, and jumping for their lives as they are hunted down by the Hammerhead sharkman, constantly shot at by the mad scientist’s private army that flies around in a helicopter with the number “666” on the side (Real subtle, huh?), and contend with the various deadly forms of genetically engineered plant life Dr. King has created for no particular reason. All the while, Dr. King watches via close circuit television, forever rambling deliriously about how having to hunt them down across the island will help grow his shark son’s intellect.

It also turns out that one potential victim, played by soap opera diva Hunter Tylo, was once engaged to Dr. King’s son turned Hammerhead sharkman; thus leaving us wondering just how old Josh was at the time seeing as how there only appears to be a ten year age difference between her and his father. Nonetheless, crazy mad scientist dad thinks his son’s former fiancé would be the perfect person for sharkboy to procreate with in order to spawn the first generation of his master race of mermen, which seems like a logical choice what with her collagen fish lips and all.

Jeffrey Combs is far and away the best part of the film and it really is a shame that the rest of the movie isn’t up to his performance. Combs knows full well he’s playing a mad scientist in a cheesy monster movie and hits all the right notes without becoming overtly cartoonish. His character is completely, utterly, totally insane but completely unaware of how far removed from reality he is. Everything he does makes perfect sense in him mind. He even has his own Igor in the form of a hapless three-fingered sidekick.

The rest of the cast does a perfectly suitable job considering what little is required of most of them, which is mainly screaming and running away, or in the case of Hunter Tylo, looking good in a wet t-shirt.

The under appreciated William Forsythe, virtually every line out of his mouth is delivered in an overly intense, matter of fact whisper, is cast as the unlikely love interest of Tylo’s character and hero of the group; a casting choice that might strike some as odd given his rather beefy physical nature at the moment. Personally, I liked the fact that the hero wasn’t the usual muscular pretty boy like Lorenzo Lamas, Dean Cain, and Casper Van Dien. Forsythe’s everyman makes for a nice change of pace but that’s all the more reason to be disappointed by the way he suddenly turns into Rambo in the third act. Some might question whether or not a woman like Tylo’s character would ever go for a big lug like Forsythe’s, but for me the thing I found hard to swallow was when his corporate executive character suddenly picks up a machine gun and turns into a better mercenary than the heavily armed soldiers after them.

Also, someone needed to remind the filmmakers that the movie’s title was Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, not Hired Goons: Shooting Spree. If it wasn’t bad enough that the sharkman scenes are filmed using those rapid fire edits, they also pretty much relegated it to being a secondary threat behind Dr. King’s seemingly endless supply of trigger-happy henchmen. The monster for which the movie is named for should always be the real star of the film. Again, take Mansquito for instance. In this case, the monster is just a plot device.

Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy has most of the usual problems movies of this type have – clichéd plot, subplots, supporting characters, and minor details that are introduced but never really followed through on, dull protagonists, illogical science, a monster that somehow manages to always be at just the right place at the right time, inconsistent special effects, etc. All of this would be easier to overlook if the movie gave us the killer landshark action we’re watching the movie for. We do get it but only in quick bursts that fail to fully satisfy.

If nothing else, at least this one’s better than Peter Benchley’s Creature. Well, at least it has a great Jeffrey Combs mad scientist performance, more gore, more cleavage, and it’s shorter.

And since I’ve managed to somehow get through an entire review of a movie about a landshark without ever making a Saturday Night Live reference, here you go: “Candygram.”


2 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.08 (13 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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