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Eyes of the Werewolf (1999)

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Starring Mark Sawyer, Stephanie Beaton, Jason Clark, Kurt Levi, Tim Sullivan

Written & Directed by Tim Sullivan


Eyes of the Werewolf is the tale of a man blinded in a laboratory accident that receives an eye transplant from an unethical doctor that employs a gang of hunters to kill people so that he can harvest their body parts for his experimental transplant surgeries, unaware that the eyes have come from a murdered werewolf. He too becomes a werewolf and his monstrous side begins taking out its wrath on his cheating wife, conniving best friend, the diabolical doctor, and every other poor soul that crosses his path when big and hairy. With a lesbian policewoman in pursuit, his only help in dealing with his situation comes from his occult writer neighbor, a crippled dwarf who is an expert of werewolf lore, and the big breasted redheaded nurse he loves. What’s not to love?

Well, one thing that doesn’t deserve any love is the production values. Look, I’m used to watching no budget movies that were shot on digital, but Eyes of the Werewolf looks inexcusably grainy. If you can afford a werewolf costume and gore f/x then you have no excuse for having a picture quality that’s often looks like it’s being transmitted from a UHF station a hundred miles away. Some scenes that are supposed to be set at night were clearly filmed during the day but shot through a filter that’s supposed to make things seem darker, which really only make it look like the scene was being filmed during an eclipse. Because of this, numerous scenes appear to change from day to night to day in Plan 9 from Outer Space fashion.

Even the audio suffers as dialogue occasionally sounds blown out, tinny like its coming out of an old drive-in movie speaker, which does seem somewhat appropriate given the nature of the film.

The acting… well, the acting is exactly what you’d expect from a movie like this. Actually some of the actors fare a little better than others. I still wouldn’t call it good acting but most are perfectly acceptable for a bargain basement B-movie like this.

Eyes of the Werewolf opens with a gang of redneck hunters chasing a werewolf, although they are unaware that they’re chasing werewolf and think they’re just hunting down an ordinary unlucky fellow. Even after their potential unseen quarry savagely slaughters two of them, they continue after him, eventually gunning him down from a distance. It seems this werewolf can be killed with traditional ammo because when they come upon the corpse he’s human again. The lead hunter chops off the dead guy’s head because, “The doc only wants eyes this week.”

Scientist Rich Stephens awakens in a hospital bed, his eyes bandaged from lab accident involving exploding beakers that splashed acid directly in his eyes. A ludicrously staged flashback sequence recreates this moment complete with laughable voiceover dialogue like, “I could smell my eyes melting.” Buxom Nurse Sondra (scream queen Stephanie Beaton) tells Rich he has received an eye transplant. Dr. Atwell requests nurse Sondra take extra care of Mr. Stephens given the extremely difficult experimental nature of his surgery. Apparently extra care means letting him squeeze her massive mammaries while they have sex right there in his hospital bed. Where was Nurse Sondra when I had gall bladder surgery last year? All I got were freakin’ Jell-o cups!

Immediately after sex, the still blind and bandaged Rich informs Nurse Sondra that he’s a married man. She knew because he was wearing a wedding ring. Neither could help themself because they’re in love, but Rich has a wife who has yet to visit him in the hospital and wants to try and make the marriage work once he gets discharged.

The very day Rich gets the bandages removed, his eye sight restored, and released from the hospital, he learns that his friend Craig has been sleeping with his miserable fishwife Rita. Something’s not quite right about Rich being angry about this affair seeing as how he already got it on with Nurse Humps-A-Lot right after his surgery.

Uh oh! A really cheap matte painting of a full moon that looks like it was drawn in a junior high art class causes Rich to transform into a werewolf that first night out of the hospital. Wanna take a wild guess whose jugulars he rips out?

Rich the werewolf looks like a guy with big hairy arms and claws and elongated, expanded furry torso that almost gives him the appearence of being a hunchback in certain scenes, and a big werewolf head mask. It’s not a bad costume but looks ridiculous nonetheless because his top half is noticeably larger than his lower torso. From the waist down he just looks like a guy in jeans and sneakers.

After waking up in a forest wearing tattered blood-stained clothes unaware of what has happened, Rich wanders to the home of a crippled dwarf named Andros who befriends him and just happens to be an expert in werewolf lore. Rich’s neighbor Mr. Siodmak (named after the screenwriter of Universal’s The Wolfman – BOO!) also happens to be an author that specializes in books on the occult and he saw Rich in werewolf form the night before. Rich initially doesn’t believe them but after a few more transformations (A full moon several nights straight?) he seeks their knowledge and confronts Dr. Atwell. The doc doesn’t believe his werewolf tale but sends his head headhunter to deal with him since Rich’s status as the prime suspect in multiple murders could lead the police to eventually find out the truth about how he obtains his transplant organs.

Pursued by both the police and the doc’s thugs, Rich seeks refuge at the home of Nurse Sondra. Despite being wanted for multiple murders and rambling about being a werewolf, claiming to be terrified of transforming again at sunset, they still find time for a little mid-afternoon nookie. Can’t say I blame him. Afterwards, he transforms and runs off in another day-to-night-to-day continuity error.

The rest of the movie has werewolf Rich killing people, human Rich seeking help from Andros and Siodmak, all of whom eventually find themselves on the run from the psychotic lead hunter, and the lesbian policewoman investigating the murders in hot pursuit of him and Sondra, although for entirely different reasons if you catch my drift.

Ultra cheap, uber cheesy to an almost Ed Wood degree at times, and even just a tad sleazy at times, Eyes of the Werewolf is just imaginative enough, with enough oddball characters to be a passable way to waste 70-minutes if you have a tolerance for this sort of schlock. Heck, just scroll back up and take a good look at that box art and take that comical caricature of Stephanie Beaton. I think that’s supposed to be her looking scared. It’s probably the facial expression she made after getting her first look at the finished film. I know it’s definitely the facial expression I made.

2 ½ out of 5

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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

  • Film
4.5

Summary

Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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User Rating 3.5 (6 votes)
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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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User Rating 3.1 (10 votes)
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The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

Directed by Guillermo del Toro


“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

  • Film
4.5

Summary

The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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User Rating 4.57 (7 votes)
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