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Abominable, The… (2007)

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Abominable... reviewReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Heather DeVan, Nick Orefice, Jason DeVan, William Joyner, Jason McNeil, Paul Delea

Directed by Patrick Donahue


A costume shop Yeti suit, wretched actors often performing in front of obvious green screen backdrops, Photoshop-quality computer effects, mismatched editing that often smacks you over the head like a hammer blow, continuity errors all over the place, and all manner of real-life stock footage (of different film quality, no less) spliced in with the actual movie footage to substitute for stuff they couldn’t afford to shoot (helicopters and various San Francisco scenery in particular), I really do believe The Abominable… is the sort of movie Ed Wood would be making if he was around today.

Like Cine Excel’s long-on-the-shelf giant ant flick GiAnts (review) that I reviewed a few months back, The Abominable… somehow found its way onto Japanese DVD, albeit under the alternate title of Ice Kong. Initially designed to ride the coattails of Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake, The Abominable… is one I’d been anticipating like a giddy schoolgirl ever since getting a glimpse of its trailer. That such a film boasting production values along these lines could exist in this day and age, it’s impossible to even watch so much as the trailer and not find yourself thinking that this has got to be some sort of a joke. I suppose you have to admire the ambition of a company to make a King Kong knock-off for pennies on a dollar. Then again, when the Abominable Snowman sends a guy flying and we’re treated to the sight of an action figure being tossed through the air… Honestly, at what point does a filmmaker concede that they’re in way over their head?

Abominable... reviewDino De Laurenitiis had a famous quote in regards to his 1976 remake of King Kong: “When monkey dies, everybody cry.” I’ve got my own version in regards to The Abominable…: “When ‘Snowy’ appears, everyone cries tears – of laughter.” The film’s heroine who the giant Yeti takes a shine to actually nicknames it “Snowy”, and why not? It looks to be about on par with a college football mascot costume based on the Abominable Snowman from Rankin-Bass’ “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Every second it’s on screen I was looking for the zipper; I think I even saw it a few times. They even digitally animated eyes for it during certain close-ups; eyes that don’t always match up and seem to be floating around inside its head. If Kong was “The 8th Wonder of the World” then Snowy is “The 9th Wonder of the World”, as in you wonder how they could expect anybody to take it seriously.

Quite a sight to behold; too bad it’s a sight we don’t get to behold until almost an hour in and aside from very briefly skulking about the San Francisco skyline and climbing up and down a building, it doesn’t have much to do and its interaction with people, places, or things is at the bare minimum. You know what you call a giant monster movie where the giant monster doesn’t really do anything? Supercroc. And let me assure you that you do not want your giant monster movie ever compared to Supercroc.

So you got this cute blonde chick named Ally who like most cute blonde chicks in California is big into animal rights. The PETA-esque group she’s involved with break into this research facility run by scientists that have been conducting illegal and inhumane experiments on monkeys. She’s out to stop them and bust Jacko, a heartless poacher of primates who sells his simians on the black market. When the animal activists burst in the scientist guys start doing away with any incriminating evidence, while Jacko, right in front of Ally and the other protesters, bludgeons a monkey to death still in its travel crate and heaves it all into a nearby incinerator. This makes Ally very sad.

Abominable... reviewKnow what else makes Ally sad? When cops show up and since there’s no evidence supporting the animal rights group’s cause, what was supposed to be an exposing of animal cruelty now ends up looking like a bunch of militant animal activists breaking and entering. Since Ally was the one who organized the raid, the other members of the animal rights group make a deal with the cops to not have any charges pressed against them in exchange for kicking Ally out of their little group. This makes Ally so sad she goes home, flops down on the couch, and begins pouting like a pre-teen girl upset because she didn’t get invited to a party the popular kids were throwing. She’ll do a lot of immature pouting along these lines before the movie is over.

That’s the thing about Ally; you got this pretty twenty-something blonde playing this character who seems to be mentally and emotionally on the level of an adolescent. Ally seems to be not just emotionally stunted, but has the naiveté of a small child.

There’s a scene later on where Ally will be in a tent up in Alaska with Jacko and his small posse of poachers all crowded into this little tent where they keep leering and sneering at her with these looks of sinister bemusement yet instead of being like any other intelligent woman thinking she might be moments away from getting gang raped and murdered, instead Ally smiles and takes a sip of the cup of hot chocolate they gave her, seemingly oblivious that she’s surrounded by men of evil intent.

How evil are their intentions? Fortunately for Ally, rape doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Murder, however, is a definite possibility. They’re practically up around the Arctic and as a joke they’ll lock her out of the tent, forcing her to sleep outside for the night in what should be sub-freezing temperatures. One would think this would lead to her freezing to death. One would think wrong.

But immunity to sub-freezing temperatures aside, something is definitely wired wrong in this girl’s head. If it had been explained at some point that this girl was supposed to suffer from some form of mental retardation that rendered her child-like then this would have been a potentially Oscar caliber performance. Instead, if you’re like me, you’ll be watching this and wondering what’s wrong with this girl; she can’t possibly be this dumb. Well, yeah, she can.

Abominable... reviewAnd speaking of award-worthy performances, if I were Joe Bob Briggs I’d be nominating the guy playing the poacher Jacko for a Drive-In Movie Award. This guy is awesome! Are you familiar with the character of Shane on “The Shield” played by Walt Goggins? This Jacko dude, played by the wonderfully named Nick Orefice, is like the Shane character reinvented as Lex Luthor. Take Walt Goggins, shave his head, and just to make it all the more awesome, give him a feral quality. Sometimes the rat-faced sneer on his face makes you wonder if he’s going to begin sniffing the air like a rodent too. The character of Jacko is supposed to be vermin and Orefice plays him as such. Always sneering with his teeth in a rat-like manner, plus this crazed gleam in his eye that makes you wonder if he’s going to go completely insane at any second, often sounding antsy and hyped up on something; it’s simply awesome to behold. Screw the Yeti; Jacko is the best thing about the movie.

Ally’s daddy is a salty sea captain who likes to tell tall tales of the giant Abominable Snowman creature he’s seen up near Alaska. Jacko overhears him telling someone about this giant Yeti creature and decides that if this story is true and he captures it, he’d be set for life. In coercing out of him the necessary information for finding it, daddy suffers a fatal fall. Right on cue, in walks Ally to see this evil poacher she cannot stand and his goon squad looking down on her dead daddy’s corpse. Jacko starts feeding her some B.S. about how it was an accident and the two were going to work together to catch the Abominable Snowman, and because Ally is a friggin’ idiot, the girl actually believes him. She even agrees to tag along on the trip in search of the giant monster as a tribute to her dead daddy.

So dumb is Ally she doesn’t even bother to tell her reporter boyfriend that she’s setting sail to god knows where with the criminal who killed her father but she’s too stupid to realize it. Seriously, even in a fictional film, how can anyone be this dumb?

That reporter boyfriend will spend a good chunk of the movie running around the docks of San Francisco looking for leads as to his dimwitted girlfriend’s whereabouts and, eventually, who killed his dimwitted girlfriend’s daddy and where did his dimwitted girlfriend’s daddy’s boat go. Fortunately, his role is rather insignificant until it finally comes time for his climactic street brawl with Jacko.

Depending on the green-screened landscape the actors are shown in front of, this off-shore area near Alaska is either a jagged glacier, a frozen tundra, or a snowy mountainscape. The only natural set during this entire sequence is the inside of a tent.

Exactly how Jacko plans to capture this gigantic Yeti is never actually explained in so many terms, but from what we were left to gather it seemed to involve large ropes and a bazooka that fires a really big dart that looks as if it might be filled with Reanimator serum. Amazingly, the plan works and the next step is to transport it to San Francisco in what looks like a really big jail cell inside the bowels of a freighter. Now the Yeti’s sad.

It’s here that Ally befriends the beast and dubs him “Snowy”, fitting given what a simpleton she is. Their relationship is less of a King Kong/Ann Darrow “beauty & the beast” and more along the lines of a retarded girl who befriends a bewildered behemoth that is just happy to have a little person around that doesn’t constantly scream or shoot at it. She’s more a calming force than an object of affection.

Upon docking at Alcatraz, Snowy abruptly decides it’s time to breakout. Like Kong, Snowy climbs a building: a Bay City skyscraper in this case. But before it can get gunned down and fall to its death, Ally will jump out of a helicopter hovering above the building without a parachute (I told you this girl doesn’t have an ounce of common sense!) and slides down the building’s steeple right into the waiting hands of the monster. Snowy then calmly climbs down the building and the two take refuge in a giant cave across the Bay where she’ll tend to the minor wounds it has received. Snowy’s climbing of the building is pretty much the film’s highpoint (No pun intended) and even it’s pretty uneventful outside of idiot Ally’s inexplicably near suicidal behavior.

Abominable... reviewAfter entirely too much third act down time, Jacko plots to recapture his giant-sized jackpot, Ally’s boyfriend looks to save her and stop him, and the military prepare to bring down the beast the moment it rears its hairy head again with little regard given to the safety of the woman it’s carrying around. Kong’s mea culpa came atop the Empire State Building; Snowy makes his last stand along the Golden Gate Bridge. Between the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me effects work, numerous continuity errors, and positively jarring editing decisions, both Snowy and Jacko will meet fates that left me bewildered as to what I’d just watched happen. Given everything that preceded it, a “WTF?!” finale seems rather appropriate.

But outside of a few fleeting moments of Plan 9 From Outer Space-level fun, a ham-tastic performance by the film’s villain, and an overall sense of I-cannot-believe-this-movie-actually-exists, Cine Excel’s homegrown Kong wannabe is, sadly, pretty much a talky, inactive bore lacking even the wacky on-the-cheap imagination of GiAnts. People watch giant monster movies for the giant monster and expect to see the giant monster actually do monstrous things. There’s just not enough of the Abominable doing abominable things in The Abominable… to make The Abominable… anything other than abominable.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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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
4.0

Summary

Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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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.

 

  • Film
2.0

Summary

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!

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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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
2.0

Summary

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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