Movie Review: The PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT 2

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philadelphia experiment 2Trimark Pictures
1993
PG-13

It’s 1943, and scientist David Herdg has volunteered to be part of an experiment examining the power of radar technology.  But a snafu hurtles him through a time portal and lands him five decades into the future.  In the meantime, a parallel trial taking place in 1993 also goes awry, transporting a military plane to Nazi Germany.  Can Herdeg find his way back home and save civilization from certain ruin?

Of all the movies to receive a sequel, I don’t think anyone was expecting one to the 1984 cult sci-fi flick The Philadelphia Experiment.  Especially this far from the original’s release.  But, low and behold, here we are, nine years after the release of the original, with the continuing adventures of everybody’s favorite time displaced World War II Navy man.  Only now, he’s a widower with a son trying to live a quiet life, only now the Philadelphia Experiment has been resurrected, and his life gets all kinds of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey when he finds himself in an alternate timeline, where the Nazis won World War II, and America is now under its iron grip.  That’s one heck of a thing to wake up to.

Honestly, I have no idea whose idea it was to green light this sequel. The early 90s was kind of a transition period for genre movies.  Well, actually one could argue that the entire decade was off when it came to horror and sci-fi.  But especially in the first few years of the ’90s, it was evident that the formulas that worked in the 80s was losing its footing, and awkwardly tried to reform with the paradigm shift.

The Philadelphia Experiment 2 was one that got stuck in that quagmire (gigity).  I’m not sure if it would have done better or not had it been released a year or two prior to 1993.  But, something about this sequel seems…flat.

I’ll give some props to PE2 not just rehashing the same plot than the original, choosing to go the alternate reality route than time travel, through the time travel’s there too, at the end.  We have speculation on what America would be like now had the Nazis won WWII, and it’s just as bleak and dystopian as you would guess.  Fans of industrial will dig on the visuals, there.

Overall, while I find the story concept of The Philadelphia Experiment 2 more interesting, the original film from 1984 was far more entertaining, despite its glaring flaws.  Still, it does have its strong points, and is not terrible by any means.  Those who enjoy quantum mechanics theory might be inclined to rant a bit at the end, but that’s to be expected.

Movie Review: The PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT

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The-Philadelphia-Experiment-1984-Movie-PosterNew World Pictures
1984
PG

“You know, I got it all figured out… Navy owes me 40 years back pay.”

A secret experiment to disguise a naval battleship from enemy radar inexplicably sends a pair of World War II sailors 40 years into the future.  They arrive in 1984 to a changed world and a bizarre electrical storm that seems linked to their arrival.

Whenever you say “time travel movie from the 1980s,” 95% of the time the response will immediately be, “Back To The Future.”  The other 5% will say, “Time Bandits.”  At no time will “Peggy Sue Got Married” be acceptable, so don’t even think it.

The Philadelphia Experiment was another time travel-based sci-fi flick from the Greatest Decade of the 20th Century Ever that, due to my being eleven, and the only sci-fi I was concerned about was animated and designed to sell toys, I wasn’t even aware of its existence until I was in college and had access to bigger geeks than I.  But once I heard of the concept – an experiment during World War II sends a couple of sailors into the “future”, and described the body fusions  to the boat itself at the end, I was intrigued.  Then I discovered the movie was kind of hard to come by in the Midwestern Land of pre-Blockbuster Video Stores.  Fortunately, we live in a wondrous era, where a wide variety of old and obscure titles are available on certain movie streaming sites for a nominal fee.  And The Philadelphia experiment was one of them.

The story behind The Philadelphia Experiment is still pretty interesting.  Kind of a “what if?” tale, involving an Urban Legend that the government denies the existence of, then throws in a heapin’ helpin’ of sci-fi, a good wormhole-time travel-science run amok spin, and we actually have a pretty entertaining movie.  Mind you, the effects didn’t age very well, and there’s t ever-present plot holes that every time travel story suffers from.  But, overall I found The Philadelphia Experiment a better than usual sci-fi flick.  Very much worth checking out.

Movie Review: VOICES

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VOICESLions Gate
2007
R

Based on the best selling comic book series. After witnessing a family member thrown of a balcony by her fiancée on her wedding day and the violent stabbing of her aunt, a young woman comes to realize she may be next in line. She desperately tries to find out why those around her turn on her and why she seems marked for death. Who can she trust – where can she turn for help when it seems everyone is out to get her. If only she can survive the murderous rage of friends and even her own family long enough to uncover the secret.

Voices is a Korean horror movie that asks the question, “What if everyone really is after you?”  In this case, everyone’s out to get you because of some kind of supernatural curse that leaps from one person to another causing them to try and kill you.  I’m sure that’ll do nothing to alleviate your anxiety.

First thing I’d like to point out: Was there a bit of a loss in translation for the American packaging?  I didn’t detect any “voices” causing the actual wackiness.  No big deal, just curious as to the choice of title, there.  And no, I’m not into Manga, which this movie is apparently based around one, so I’m not familiar with the history there, neither do I feel the need to do that kind of research.

I’m also not that big a watcher of Asian horror.  I must admit I was rather ambivalent to watching Voices, only trotting it out due to my project of watching and reviewing all of the After Dark Horror Fest titles.  And really, I rather enjoyed Voices.  There’s the usual “violent curse” aspect found in a lot of supernatural Asian horror, but there’s also topics of personal responsibility, insanity, and letting dark thoughts get ahold of you.

There’s a lot of blood shed in this flick, but also a lot of psychologically freaky moments, making Voices work much more than I was expecting.  There are some giggle-educing moments, mostly from the lighthearted scenes.  And I couldn’t help be cock an eyebrow at the choice of having the lead character – a high school girl – dating a doctor.  And the family doesn’t seem to mind.  I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing about an age discrepancy like that, or what.  Also, this has English subtitles, so those of you who can’t stand reading during a movie, you’ve been warned.

Overall, though, Voices was a good tense and suspenseful with more than enough chills and gore to keep one interested.  Recommended.

Movie Review: SPAWN

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spawn posterNew Line Cinema
1997
PG-13

“Aren’t there any normal people left on Earth?  Or is everybody back from Hell?”

Al Simons is an assassin whacked by his bosses and sent to Hades, where he gets a new lease on the afterlife as one of the Hellspawn.  But while the others of his kind do evil work, Spawn uses his power for good, though he would like nothing more than to exact revenge on his killer.

My history with the Image Comics antihero Spawn lies solely with this movie.  I was more of a Spider-Man kinda guy when it came to comic books, really.  But comic books are one thing; when it comes to movies based on comic book properties, I’m an equal opportunity geek.

I saw Spawn in the theater.  Twice.  Second time I brought along a Japanese exchange student that was staying with my parents for a couple of weeks in the summer of ’97.  Personally, I enjoyed the heck out of Spawn back then.  Sure, we can look back and wonder why, but keep in mind the other superhero big-budget extravaganza that summer was Batman And Robin a week or so before.  Spawn was just the thing to flush that abomination out of my head, there.

Of course, fifteen years after the fact, and it’s rather evident that Spawn hasn’t exactly held up over time.  This is mostly due to the CGI effects, 1997-era effects, yes, but even back then they came off as more like a Playstation One game than movie quality.  Spawn is a perfect example of over-reliance on CG effects, especially when Malebogia hits the screen.  The majority of the dialogue is groan-inducing, Martin Sheen seems out of place and it shows on his face, and the normally annoying John Leguizamo cranks the annoying factor up past eleven.  The editing is a bit ham-fisted, and…did I mention the lousy CGI?  Yeah, it’s that bad.

And you know what?  I love every minute of this.  It’s a guilty pleasure, something I’ll watch every time I see it on television and throw on for background noise for busywork.  Spawn is a great mindless action movie, heavily flawed but also heavy on things blowing up.  It’s one of those movies I have just because.

Movie Review: WAXWORK (1988)

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WAXWORKSVestron Pictures
1988
R

“Raw meat.  Do you like raw meat?”

Invited over by a mysterious magician, Mark and his college friends attend a private tour of a macabre wax statue museum near campus, where the exhibits suck them into the frightening worlds of dangerous werewolves, vampires and other monsters.  Full of satisfying suspense and gore, this inventive horror film finds Mark teaming up with unlikely allies in order to shut the waxwork down and escape with his life.

Well, I have to admit, Waxwork was different.  For as much as people harp on horror movies from the 1980s for being too cheesy and weird, at least they tried something different than the usual glut of same-old, same-old.  It was a rather magical time in horror cinema, what with the home video market opening up new doors for movies hardly seen in the theaters.  I don’t recall ever seeing Waxwork up on the marquee of any movie theater near me at the time, but I do remember seeing the video rental box at the Applause Video rental place, top covered with a thin film of dust.

Nostalgic reminiscing aside, having just watched Waxwork by way of (you guessed it) the Net Flix streaming, I gotta say I was never bored while watching this.  The film stars David Warner (fellow geeks will recognize him from the original Tron, along with several Doctor Who episodes) as an owner of a Waxwork museum that seems to have popped up overnight.  He invites a small bunch of college students to a special midnight showing – one of the students being Zach Galligan, otherwise known as “Billy” from the two Gremlins movies – only they come to find out the hard way that this particular wax museum is more than what it seems.

See, the exhibits are also portals to another dimension, where whatever was in the exhibit was for realsies there.  Meaning, if you got inside one that had a werewolf sculpture, then that trans-dimensional place would be the realm of the werewolf itself.  Or something.  I’m not asking you to understand, just to…um, just smile and nod, there.  Anyway, seems the proprietor of this wacky establishment is a warlock that needs a certain amount of human sacrifices to bring forth the eighteen most evil humans that have ever existed in history.  Well, that’s what was postulated in the dialog; what really happens is that all the wax figures come to life and do battle with a bunch of old retired British soldiers.  Then things blow up, and a zombie hand crawls away, searching for the sequel.  And there was a sequel.  Oh, the humanity.

Waxwork.  What can I say?  Low budget, yet over-the-top, cheeseball fun that really can’t be duplicated in this day and age.  And for all the wackiness, the parts that were straight creepy was played with enough seriousness to make it effective.  Have yet to check out the sequel released in 1992, but that’s also on the streaming, so it won’t be too long.  Otherwise, Waxwork must be seen by everyone.  One of those great bad movies from the Greatest Decade of the late 20th Century, throw it on with some friends and enjoy.

Movie Review: NIGHT OF THE COMET

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NightoftheCometAtlantic Releasing Corporation
1984
PG-13

“Daddy would have gotten us Uzis.”

Earth has been ripped to shreds after a run-in with a killer comet, and those who have survived are in a fight for their lives in this campy cult classic. Valley girl Reg and her sister discover they’re two of the lucky few. But scientists are after them, and now they must run. Why? Because the researchers believe they need the blood of survivors to concoct a drug that can save them all from further ruin.

Well, now.  This was a nifty little pleasant surprise.  Kind of a tongue-in-cheek post apocalyptic flick with California high school girls that only the 1980s can provide.  Think Omega Man by way of Valley Girl, and you’ll start to get t picture.  And if you’re now thinking, “those were from before I was born, so I don’t know those movies,” I swear I will find you and bite your face off.

Night Of The Comet was one of the movies that kind of came and went when it was released to the theaters, to find its niche as a cult favorite by way of home video and cable television.  The story of everyone on Earth turning into red dust when the tail of a comet passes over our planet, while a handful of survivors are made into flesh craving zombies, while the only normal people alive seem to be an 18-year-old high school student, her younger cheerleader sister, and a truck driver named Hector,is certainly offbeat enough.  And I haven’t even got to the government group bent on using the survivors to extract a cure in a rather nefarious way.

As a low budget sci-fi horror flick, the effects can get pretty silly at times, but fortunately effects aren’t relied upon too much.  The zombie makeup effects are great, actually, and lends to some good creepy moments. Otherwise, Night Of The Comet is a fun 80s flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with its strongest point being the snappy dialogue between the characters.  Especially enjoyed that New Wave punk in the mall.  Things do get a bit mucked up near the last half hour, when the shadowy government agency shows up.

Overall, watching Night Of The Comet now still entertains.  Maybe in different ways than when it first came out, but still a great time.  Grab some friends and a large bowl of popcorn and enjoy.

Movie Review: PSYCHO WARD

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psychowardr1artworkpicLionsgate
2007
R

A group of researchers are determined to uncover the dark secrets that linger in the halls of the abandoned Black Creek Detention Center.  Unbeknownst to the group, they have become the target of an unrivaled evil housed within these walls.  Now, trapped in the prison, they start disappearing one by one.  Desperate for an escape route, they are about to find…death is the only way out.

Slashers – they’re not rocket science.  Matter of fact, let’s not even bring the sciences into the analogy here.  Let’s use the tried-and-true McDonald’s analogy.  Cheaply made, quickly assembled, no surprises, comes through in a pinch: renting a slasher is like ordering a Big Mac combo in that aspect.  Not really all that healthy, but darn tasty.  Especially late at night, when the craving hits.  And you gotta have it with the fries, otherwise you’re just missing the yen to the Big Mac’s yang.  Hot, crispy…

Okay, I’m getting off track, here.  Where was I?  Oh, right.  Psycho Ward.  Crap.  Well, let’s get this over with.

Lionsgate has, over the years, had this track record of releasing rather cheaply made horror flicks, in whatever subgenre, in really good looking packaging, probably to fake out the unwary horror connoisseur into thinking they’re purchasing / renting a good, quality horror flick.  Psycho Ward is, again, another in a long line of disappointments in the company’s direct-to-video market.

All the usual suspects come in to play, here: The cringe-inducing acting, the confusing motivation, the bad pacing, the somewhat doable effects.  Every conceivable cliché seems to be ham-fisted into this movie – psycho killer in an abandoned insane asylum?  Bunch of college kids decide to investigate said asylum for whatever reason?  Yeah, we’ve all been on this ride before.  I would have been bored with the premise even if the movie was competently made.  As it stands, Psycho Ward doesn’t even hold up to 1980s standards.  But no, even in this day and age, Psycho Ward proves that going through the motions just isn’t enough.

Let me put it this way, in the interest of coming full circle: I was expecting a Big Mac combo, and instead was handed a half-frozen Hot Pocket.  Pass this one up.

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