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Showdown at Area 51 (2008)

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Showdown at Area 51 review!Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Jason London, Gigi Edgley, Christa Campbell, Lee Horsley, Coby Bell, Jahidi White, Brock Roberts

Directed by C. Roma


Remember that whole Roswell incident? All turns out to have been military misinformation to keep people off the trail of the real alien encounter that took place in Missouri where “the real Area 51” is located. That one line about “the real Area 51” is also the only time the term “Area 51” is ever used in the film and that opening sequence is the only time a showdown takes place on the base. “SHOWDOWN AT SOME RANDOM MILITARY BASE IN MISSOURI WHERE VAGUE TALK OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL RESEARCH GOES ON” was probably just too long a title for the Sci-Fi Channel brass to approve.

Showdown at Area 51 was originally saddled with the moronic title of Alien vs. Alien. Dumb as that sounds, it’s a damn shame they didn’t stick with the film’s original title because then if a sequel ever came about it could have been called Alien vs. Alien: Redundancy.

With a little more budget this Sci-Fi Channel original movie could have achieved the truly delirious heights of a gloriously campy Golan-Globus production of yore, but instead it’ll just have to settle for being a rousing sci-fi smackdown oozing with gobs of melted cheese. That’s good enough for me.

Two brothers, one is named Alex and the other is named Jake. Jake is played by Jason London of “Party of 5” fame. Who plays Alex is unimportant since he’ll be dead soon – the character, I mean. What matters is Alex is in the military and Jake loves beer. The siblings are out on the front lawn engaging in such spirited horseplay that they fail to notice the leftover special effects from a “Stargate SG-1” rerun entering Earth’s atmosphere and engaging in an aerial laser dogfight right above their heads.

Meanwhile, the alarm sounds at the nearby military wildlife refuge; everyone’s on full alert and someone yells, “Where the hell is Alex?” Not sure why Alex is so darn important. Never fear, for Alex is on the way.

One spaceship crashes and the other lands. Out pop two aliens to begin shooting at one another with their ray guns. Their shootout will take them to the heart of the military base where any soldier or MP that gets in their way will fall victim.

We’ll later come to learn that the good alien is named Jude, a Vin Diesel look-a-like with funky pupils and sci-fi tribal tattoos on his face. The actual physical appearance of the evil alien – an “Omega Centurion” named Cronin or something like that – will never be revealed to us.

Good alien Jude is adorned in a black jumpsuit with a single silvery shin guard on the right leg for extra added bad assery. It’s like he wants to send a message to all potential adversaries that he doesn’t care if his costuming has a piece that doesn’t match the color scheme of the rest of it and if he doesn’t care about being fashionably consistent then just imagine what he might be capable of when provoked.

Showdown at Area 51 reviewThe helmet Jude initially wears looks like a cross between a gas mask and a fencing mask. It almost appears as if the helmet is some sort of cybernetic fly head with an air hose attachment. He can also produce a Captain America shield that quite literally looks like a space age manhole cover.

The hulking Omega Centurion’s attire looks as if a stylist mixed and matched Tuscan Raider and Tie-Fighter pilot fashions to create a whole new look for the hostile alien lifeform on the go. Aside from its trusty laser gun, the Omega Centurion’s favorite weapon of choice is these swanky ninja star-like throwing weapons that can sever limbs. It can also shoot these rocky spikes from its forearms and its body armor can transform it into an armored rolling orb. Is it secretly a Rock Lord inside that outfit, I wonder?

Jude breaks into a base warehouse and steals a metallic rod from a laser grid containment field. The Omega Centurion tries to fight him for it until Alex arrives with more soldiers to challenge the alien intruders. Jude tosses a tiny metal ball device that can disintegrate everything within a certain radius (Someone’s clearly seen The Arrival) in an attempt to kill his rival. Alas, poor Jason London becomes an only child in the process.

Jake trades in his beer for a freshly microwaved Hot Pocket when he hears on the news that something terrible has happened at the “wildlife refuge” his brother works at. How does this concerned brother get into a top secret military base after all hell has broken loose and the place is on indefinite lockdown? He hops a fence, of course. And how does he escape from heavily armed military police escorting him from the base after he’s caught trespassing? A little elbow action to the face, some vigorous shoving, and jacking a jeep is all it takes. A car chase worthy of the finest episode of “18 Wheels of Justice” follows, culminating with Alex shooting out the pursuing jeep’s engine and laughably exclaiming, “Thank you, Playstation!”

Would this be a good time to mention that the character of Jake is himself supposed to be ex-military, someone who has worked on some of the base’s top secret projects? I only bring this up because several circumstances seemed to hinge on what a nimrod Jake is. Jake also struck me as a tad young given the character’s impressive resume. Was Costas Mandylor to busy playing “Jigsaw” to take the role or what?

And rest assured there’s much more cornball dialogue where that came from. A few other notable quotables:

Showdown at Area 51 reviewThe angry military security chief reacting to news that Jake has escaped barks, “Go find his ass, you pack of geniuses!” A bit later that same angry military chief having figured out where Jake and company is heading begins talking to himself, “Left us a little trail to follow, Little Red Riding Hood. And I am the big bad wolf.”

Now if you think those lines were mind blowers, the real humdingers come out of the mouth of Lee Horsley’s retired military UFO scientist turned Fred Sanford wannabe. I mean the first words out of his mouth will be “Holy crapsticks!” That’s shortly followed by, “Never question a man who owns a junkyard. I’m in touch with the past… like dialing a 1-800 psychic.” Think you’d ever hear Bob Lazar say something that screwy?

The clincher though comes when Alex asks him if he has any guns on the premises. His response: “I may be smart but I’m still a redneck.” I do believe the screenwriter plagiarized that line directly from Harlan Ellison’s original draft of “City on the Edge of Forever”.

The first 15-minutes of Showdown at Area 51 rank amongst the liveliest and most cheesetacular footage the Sci-Fi Channel has ever pulled off in one of their original movies. I was gobsmacked by how much fun this was. The rest of the film is more straightforward but has the schlock factor going for it that only a movie with a straight face gone this corny can achieve.

This is, after all, a movie where an alien warrior will take a woman hostage by shoving her into a very earthly muscle car and speed away.

This is, after all, a movie where Jason London’s heroic character will commit vehicular homicide and yet it’s supposed to be okay because the guy he turned into roadkill was a jerk.

This is, after all, a movie where despite having all these fancy, extraterrestrial, magically protracting weapons at their disposal, whenever these two warring aliens enter into close quarters combat it almost always comes down to the two of them punching and kicking at another as if they’re extras from Roadhouse.

This is that kind of schlocky movie.

Showdown at Area 51 reviewJake needs Alex’s help in finding an obelisk called the “Omega Seed”, a super weapon that looks like a large, glowing, Fisher-Price ring toss and when activated will bring about the extinguishing of all life on Earth allowing the Omega Centurions to waltz right in and plunder what’s left of the planet. Only that rod can be used to switch it off. Problem is Cronin is also after the rod and our heroic, English-speaking, alien protector never bothered to learn how to decipher the glyphs written on the rod revealing the location of the Omega Seed.

Thank goodness Jake happens to have an ex-girlfriend who specializes in linguistics. Truth is this is really just an excuse to introduce a female lead and give Jason London someone to kiss. I suppose they could have had London making out with Jude but that probably would have put an odd spin on things and I’m not sure the world is quite ready for “Brokeback Alien Nation”.

The biggest knock against Showdown at Area 51 in my book is that it suffers from a distinct lack of Hasselhoff. Jason London is no Hoff; the way he plays his character’s determination and moments of stupidity just lack that Hasselhoffian earnestness a b-movie like this desperately needs.

3 1/2 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 3.74 (19 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 4.14 (22 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 3.95 (20 votes)
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