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Alien Express (2005)

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Starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Amy Locane, Barry Corbin, Todd Bridges

Directed by Turi Meyer


Must resist urge to call Alien Express a trainwreck.

Must resist urge to call Alien Express a trainwreck.

It would be an understatement to call Alien Express a cinematic trainwreck…DAMMIT!

La Bamba is a cop haunted by a tragic event he still blames himself for and he’s still in love with his ex-wife, the young blonde hotty that left “Melrose Place” after the very first season because she wanted to move on to more “edgier” roles like this; I guess. She works as a staff member for Maurice from “Northern Exposure”, a US Senator from Texas running for President who goes around wearing William Shatner’s toupee. He and his unrealistically small entourage that includes Willis from “Diff’rent Strokes” as a member of his security team are aboard a new bullet train speeding towards Las Vegas on the last leg in his Presidential campaign.

A car waiting next to a deserted train crossing gets slammed by a flaming meteor right as the train approaches. Despite being a 100 mph bullet train, it still stops on a dime so they can survey the wreckage and call the cops. The star of Bats shows up so he can recite lines like, “We’ve got a meteor that hit a car and a dead guy covered in slime; I don’t think this train should leave.” But leave it does, along with a stowaway alien creature that hatched from the meteorite.

Kiefer Sutherland’s former frequent co-star is convinced there’s a killer onboard the train that needs to be caught, but mainly he’s just worried that something bad might happen to the ex-wife he still longs for. That’s especially bad because he’s a cop that doesn’t play by the rules. We know he’s a cop that doesn’t play by the rules because his fellow cops take turns saying different versions of this phrase to him. So after punching out his superior officer that dared to call him on his insubordination and reminding him that it was his fault the marriage dissolved in the first place, our hero that doesn’t play by the rules commandeers his helicopter pilot buddy to chopper him to the speeding train. In reality, if a helicopter was zeroing in on a train containing a Presidential candidate it would get shot down in a heartbeat.

Meanwhile, aboard the train, his ex, the blonde girlfriend from Airheads, still pines for her ex that doesn’t play by the rules, but is currently getting hit on by another member of the Senator’s staff, who has a European accent so you know right away he’s going to prove to be no good. Unbeknownst to everyone, the alien creature’s point-of-view vision has made mince meat out of Mr. Conductor, turning the campaign train into a runaway train. And they’ve begun multiplying too.

Making matters even worse, an eco-terrorist has also gotten aboard the train, taken the Senator hostage, and is threatening to blow himself and everyone else up unless the Senator drops out of the race and apologizes for supporting Alaskan oil drilling. While it’s a nice to see a movie terrorist that isn’t a right wing extremist for a change, the ultimate fate of this eco-terrorist character proved to be a pathetic plot contrivance of biblical proportions.

Mr. “Doesn’t Play by the Rules” jumps onto the out of control train just in time for the alien to multiply and truly begin its killing spree. As if things weren’t complicated enough, they get a call notifying them that the train is on a collision course with another train leading to a conversation that sounded more like a word problem I once had to solve in math class back in the second grade. Instead of trying to get the survivors off the train, Lou Diamond Phillips strips down to his undershirt and declares that they have to deal with the aliens before escaping because if the creatures get off the train they might “spread like a plague”. The survivors band together. Double crosses occur. I consider switching the channel.

Among the scant highlights of the film is hearing Todd Bridges yell things when battling the beasties like, “Die, you alien freaks!” and “How about a cocktail, you ugly suckers!” As you can tell from such dialogue like that, the people responsible for the film knew they were making a schlocky B-movie. Unfortunately, the film can’t overcome its budgetary shortcomings and the material isn’t strong enough to compensate for it. It also doesn’t help when one of the only characters with any discernible personality and who’s inclusion in the passengers fight for survival might have made things more interesting is among the first to die.

Alien Express is a trainwreck of a movie, and yes, trainwreck is the opportune word here. The movie wants to be “Critters on a train” but the campy aspects of the movie aren’t amusing enough, the characters are almost all one-dimensional, and the story is too clichéd; all of which could be overlooked if the monsters at least delivered. They don’t. Alien Express is a monster movie. When the monsters in a monster movie fail to capture the imagination then you don’t have a movie. It sadly seemed like less of a case of the filmmakers lacking imagination as it did them not being able to afford one. Like the majority of the special effects, the budget just isn’t there to make the creatures seem like anything more than cheap props capable of only a handful of repetitive movements.

The Alien Express aliens look like a toothy hybrid of Alien and a small dog. They spew some green acid/venom goo that incapacitates victims long enough for a pack of them of them to swarm the prey and feast on them like piranhas and can also move at super speeds, leading to much sped up footage and blurry computer effects. The film would have been much better off if they remained blurry CGI since most of the time they’re puppets; painfully obvious ones too boot. Even being brought to life with puppetry wouldn’t be so bad if the puppets displayed any signs of personality. Opening and closing its mouth and swaying its head are its only personality traits. There are also far too many scenes where they look like stationary props set up and posed for that particular shot. Aside from the goo spitting and the super speed (both of which aren’t used with much flare or imagination), the creatures could just as easily been called mutated, hairless rats and the audience would have never been the wiser.

And what proves to be the aliens weakness? They’re methane based, meaning a simple flame is all it takes to make them burst into a flashing blue light. Not only is this rather lame and makes the monsters seem especially wimpy, logically speaking, how could the original alien have even survived the flaming descent into our atmosphere or the fiery explosion from slamming into the automobile in the first place?

If Alien Express had a bigger budget for its creature and other effects then it might have been entertaining, even if only in a derivative B-movie fashion. As it is, Alien Express looks and feels like a more polished version of the kind of creature feature Fred Olen Ray would make. That’s not a good thing.


1 out of 5

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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 4.43 (7 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 4.14 (14 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.41 (17 votes)
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