Movie Review: OVERLORD

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overlordParamount Pictures
2018
R

“Three months ago, I was cutting grass on my front yard. The mailman shows up with a letter from the army. Now I’m here, and no idea where I’m going to end up.”

In-between taking over the Star Trek and Star Wars movie franchises, along with other projects, J. J. Abrams went back to making a straight-up horror movie as a kind of change of pace in the previous year. That movie was this one we’re discussing right now, Overlord. It was the movie that was originally rumored to be another one set in the Cloverfield universe that’s already three movies deep. But, Abrams squelched those rumors, stating that Overlord was going to be its own standalone horror flick, with nothing to even remotely tie it into the whole interesting-yet-convoluted anthology of films. I’m sure there were those out there that figured he was just bluffing, fully expecting another fun yet kind of ham-fisted entry in the Cover-verse.

But, no, as it turns out, Overlord is not a secret Cloverfield movie, with nothing in it that even remotely pointed to it being one in the first place. Personally, I went in not really expecting some kind of tie to that series, as I have this nasty habit of taking people by their word. It’s gotten me burned on many an occasion, yes, I realize. But I gotta be me. Anyway, what I was expecting was another zombie flick. You know, one that was set during the sequel to the War to End All Wars, World War II (Electric Nazi Boogaloo). And…well, it was, but less Night Of The Living Dead, and more Herbert West: Reanimator, if we were to compare it to previous entries in the horror genre.

So, it’s the eve of D-Day, and a platoon of America’s finest parashoot into the heart of German occupied France, with a mission to sneak into a castle being used by the Nazis as a communications base and destroy a radio tower so that the Allied troops can land in Normandy without the Krauts knowing. And before I’m bombarded with accusations of racism, I am of German ancestry, and I have to say that “Kraut” is our word, you hate-filled bigot. Anyway. after being decimated by heavy fire, the surviving troop manage to sneak into the French village where the castle is at, befriend a local member of the resistance, and holes up in the attic of her house while coming up with their plan of action. As it turns out, not only are the Nazis using the castle as a base of operations, they’ve set up a lab in the basement (do castles have basements? Wouldn’t that be more of a dungeon? Or a lower level?), where the obligatory mad Nazi scientist is conducting experiments on the local townfolk and dead soldiers to refine a serum that would turn their soldiers into long-lasting and durable Ubermensch Soldiers that would serve their Thousand-Year Reich. Planning ahead and all that. Only, there are some glitches. Ones that the Americans discover when, while trying to save the life of a dying soldier, they inject him with some of the serum, and he comes back to life really thirsty, feeling really hot…oh, yeah, and also really violent, incoherent, and hard to put down. So, due to the Resistance lady’s young brother being kidnapped by a German officer and taken to the castle, she and the remaining soldiers sneak into the stronghold to take down, not only the communications tower, but also destroy the nightmares that the mad scientist is creating.

Overlord was a rather enjoyable sci-fi horror flick, overall. I liked the way that the movie went into this as more of a period piece war action movie at first, building up not only the story and the tension, but also giving some depth to the soldier characters and even the antagonist Nazi officers who interact with the heroes. So when the David Cronenberg-level horror is introduced, it’s really effective. And that aspect is done just as well, going less for camp, and more for a gritty and chilling portrayal of the mad scientist horror, when juxtaposed with the more realistic horror of the war raging outside of the castle walls.

It’s a pity that, ultimately, Overlord kind of came and went without much fanfare. J. J. Abrams can really do a good horror movie, without having to make it an obligatory part of his mythos. I wouldn’t mind seeing more like this from him. Besides that, Overlord is recommended.

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Movie Review: R.O.T.O.R.

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rotorImperial Entertainment
1987
NR

“The only difference between a hero and a villain is the amount of compensation they take for their services. At our pay scale, I’d say we’re closer to heroes.”

The city is in chaos–society’s scum are running rampant, murder and rape are on the rose. A special unit to develop R.O.T.O.R.–robotic officer of the tactical operations research unit–is set up. Its prime objective is to build the perfect cop…a law enforcement machine programmed to overcome all obstacles and make sure the streets are safe.When the completion date for R.O.T.O.R. is brought forward, a major side effect is overlooked, and R.O.T.O.R. goes berserk. The dream turns into a nightmare. Can it be stopped, or will it threaten the very existence of the society it was built to protect?

Why? Why do i punish myself like this? I mean, seriously, I may have a serious problem, here. I see a movie title that I know is going to be painful to watch, and I’m drawn to it like a moth to flame. And when I saw the late-80s sci-fi cheeseball R.O.T.O.R. on the movie streaming service I use, I knew it was going to be a painful one to watch…but something deep inside me overrode that survival instinct, and urged me to click PLAY, sitting at rapt attention and taking in every minute until the end credits rolled, and not soon enough. And boy, what a painful experience that was.

What we have with R.O.T.O.R. (and I have grown to despise having to type out that acronym) is a low-budget mashup of concepts lifted from The Terminator, Robocop, and possibly the Judge Dredd comics. Scientists are developing a kind of robot cop to make law enforcement more effective, their corrupt corporate boss pushes them to release the prototype in a month instead of allowing the several years to develop it properly because of politics, and of course the robotic cop malfunctions right out of the box and begins ganking prole for the most minor of infractions. And when the disposed scientist who was warning everyone of the fallacy of letting this thing loose too early in the first place teams up with his body-building ladyfriend to take the rogue cyborg cop down, things get wacky.

Did I mention that the cyborg cop sports a porn ‘stash and looks like a Village People cosplayer? It’s hard to strike fear and terror when you expect the thing to break into a rendition of “Y.M.C.A.” at any given moment. Although, that would have improved the movie greatly if it did.

It boggles my mind how a derivative piece of garbage like R.O.T.O.R. made it to production, let alone get released to the general public. What’s worse is that, this is the kind of bad movie that you can’t seem to stop watching, just out of morbid curiosity as to just how bad it really can get. And when the end credits roll, you have no other choice but foist this pain onto your loved ones just so someone else can share what you just went through. Proceed with extreme caution.

Movie Review: The LAST LOVECRAFT

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last lovecraft, theOutlaw Films
2009
NR

Jeff, a down on his luck office worker, finds out he is the last living relative of horror novelist H. P. Lovecraft. What he doesn’t know is that Lovecraft’s monsters are real and will soon threaten the very existence of mankind. Jeff and his best friend Charlie are forced to embark on a perilous adventure and they enlist the help of high school acquaintance Paul, a self-proclaimed Lovecraft specialist. Together the three unlikely heroes must protect an alien relic and prevent the release of an ancient evil known as Cthulhu.

I first came across The Last Lovecraft, subtitle Relic Of Cthulhu, on Netflix back in 2011. I recall watching about half before falling asleep. That had more to do with my level of exhaustion at the time than any kind of boredom with watching the movie. I didn’t wake up until the end credits were almost finished, and I didn’t really feel like going through the movie again. It was a few years after the fact that I got around to a rewatch. this time I managed ot stay awake for the entire run.

So, what we have with The Last Lovecraft is something of a dark comedy horror fantasy that has its black ichor-d heart in the right place, but kind of struggles the dismount. Being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos, I wanted to really like this movie. It does have some interesting ideas going, and the main human characters are affable enough. But, where they really go wrong is the depiction of Starspawn and the Deep Ones themselves. They’re kinda goofy. But, then again that may have been due to budgetary restraints. Still, to see a general of Cthulhu wearing a hoodie and affecting a thug stance is…well, it doesn’t lend itself to awe and terror, really. The story is your standard Adventurer’s Journey that we’ve been through before, nothing too innovative with that.

Again, I really wanted to like The Last Lovecraft. I really did. But, even though I didn’t unlike the movie, it ended up being more “meh” than I hoped it would be. I’ll admit that it at least doesn’t try to insult anyone’s intelligence by trying to be something else. It’s worth a look, at least.

Movies + Beer: HELLBOY 2019

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MOVIES + BEERhellboy 2019

James is joined by Brian and Andrea at Sean O’ Casey’s, and discuss the new Hellboy reboot…among other things…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: SUMMER OF ’84

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summer of 84Gunpowder & Sky
2018
NR

“Even serial killers live next door to somebody. Tough pill to swallow, I know, but it’s true.”

Summer, 1984: The perfect time to be 15 years old and free. But when neighborhood conspiracy theorist Davey Armstrong begins to suspect his police officer neighbor might be the serial killer all over the local news, he and his three best friends begin an investigation that soon turns dangerous.

Nostalgia-based movies are, admittedly, rather fun to watch. Especially movies based on a year in a specific decade I remember living through. Which is to say, the 1980s. There have been horror movies that have been set in the 1980s that I’ve watched with varying degrees of success. The better ones happen to be the ones where the actual year they’re set in is merely a backdrop to the story, and not bogging down the movie with hamfisted nostalgia references. I seem to hold these kind of movies to a higher standard, mainly because of ties to my own childhood. I know when I’m being pandered to.

That was one of the concerns I had when going into watching the recently released Canadian mystery / horror flick Summer Of ’84. Was this going ot be gimmicky, or is this going to be a rather good mystery thriller with a good story that I can get lost in, with the year itself being merely the backdrop? All indications were to the later, as the various horror movie blogs and sites were giving Summer Of ’84 an enthusiastically positive thumbs up. So, I went ahead and took a gander at this little movie. Kinda glad I did.

Right off the bat, I’ll say that the story behind Summer Of ’84 borrows heavily from the Hitchcock classic Rear Window, with elements of Fright Night (without the vampires) and pretty much any 80s movie that involves a bunch of young teenagers banding together to solve a mystery in their small town. There are several nods to other horror movies, as well as to the classic Hardy Boys Mystery books that I recall devouring in my own youth.

As far as the year that it’s set in, Summer Of ’84 manages to not over-saturate the nostalgia factor, avoiding the temptation to go the “Hey, this is a thing that happened! Isn’t that NEAT?!?” Instead, 1984 is really the backdrop to the overall story, which is one that could have been set in any time period and still would have worked as a movie.

All of the actors were really good in their rolls, and the characters were written in a way that were spot-on, and made you care about their situations. There’s some actual depth to this movie, and not just your run-of-the-mill mystery thriller horror flick. Of course, for the majority of the run time you seem to think that you’ve got everything figured out, and expecting the upbeat type ending. But then, the final 20 minutes bucks the usual conventions and ends the movie with a chilling twist that, even if you did see it coming, will leave you with a hollow bleak feeling. The movie jukes us into a very unconventional ending, and I like that.

Overall, though this movie’s very limited release before being released on VOD came nowhere near Omaha, I would have like to check it out on the big screen, had I been given the chance. Regardless, The Summer Of ’84 was a rather enjoyable and engaging throwback of a movie with a resolution that will stick in your head long after the end credits. Recommended.

Movie Review: The BERMUDA TRIANGLE

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bermuda triangle, theSunn Classic Pictures
1978
NR

The passengers and crew of a boat on a summer cruise in the Caribbean stray near the famed Bermuda Triangle, and mysterious things start happening.

Ah, the Bermuda Triangle. A classic in the pantheon of supposedly haunted mystery spots on this big world of ours. You’ve heard the legends, of ships and aircraft disappearing mysteriously in this stretch of ocean between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the southern-most tip of Florida. Paranormal enthusiasts have tried to explain things as supernatural something-or-other, alien abductions, or Atlantians annoyed with us surface dwellers. Of course, pop culture has been rather helpful in spreading the mythology and pseudoscience; one of which is the topic of discussion in today’s review, the 1978 Italian/Mexican joint flick The Bermuda Triangle.

Also released under the titles The Secrets Of The Bermuda Triangle and Devil’s Triangle Of Bermuda, The Bermuda Triangle stars writer/director/actor John Huston, a man known throughout his career as the writer and director of genre classics, including the likes of The Maltese Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle, and The African Queen. The rest of the cast is…inconsequential, really.

The plot of The Bermuda Triangle itself, well…if you know your Twilight Zone, you can probably guess the plot, as well as the big twist ending. That part, I don’t mind. No, what makes this movie a chore to get through, it’s the bloody annoying and unlikable characters. Not the choppy editing, not the really bad English dubbing, not even the way it seems to take forever to get to the point. That’s all just rancid icing on this already rancid cake. No, from the get-go, the characters and their interactions and mannerisms make you want to punch them individually, every single time they come on screen. Especially that brat of a kid. To say nothing of the blatant misogyny of the lead character, always verbally ripping apart his wife in front of everybody at the drop of a hat. Then your intelligence is insulted by suggesting that the doll they find floating on the ocean is somehow causing all the weirdness and murder, which leads you to be rather glad that they’re all stuck in a hell of their own making, reliving their doomed voyage in a continuous loop with no hope of respite for all eternity.

What do you mean, “Spoilers”? I just saved you the pain of having to watch this yourself. From here on out, if you do watch The Bermuda Triangle, it’s on you. You’ve been warned. Stay away. Stay away.

Movie Review: The EVANGELIST

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the evangelistITN Distribution
2017
NR

At seven years old, Bill Horton watched in horror as a serial killer murdered his mother. Known as The Evangelist, he places a bible next to her body and quotes scripture as he leaves Bill alone and destroyed. Thirty years later, Bill has grown up and appears to be a model citizen, spending his days cleaning his house and baking. He has, however, picked up the mantle of The Evangelist, killing those who he finds wicked and evil and leaving a bible by their bodies. Bill only opens up to Dr. Laura Cooper, a psychiatrist, who discovers Bill’s dark secret. She contacts young Detective Edward Legros who is working on the case with his cynical, veteran partner, Detective John Vance. But what Vance knows about the original Evangelist will lead to a bloody showdown.

Here we are with another low-budget horror move from the stream, this one featuring the tried and true serial killer who uses Christian religious imagry. Eh, the whole “crazy killer spouting randomly eisageted scripture” thing is an easy type.

The description blurb and cover art looked promising, so I popped The Evangelist on, to see how bad this could get.

You wanna wager a guess at just how bad this movie is? Well, lemme tell you…

As it turns out, The Evangelist is one of those low-budget independent movies that is barely over an hour long, but feels much, much longer when watching it. That’s right, folks. The Evangelist has the ability to bend space and time. Scientists need to get on this to see about harnessing this power for good instead of evil.

But, I digress.

The acting in this movie is of the kind that will cause you to face palm multiple times and groan. At least, that’s what I did, I don’t know what kind of involuntary reactions anybody else gets when viewing movies of this caliber. As an example, early on in the movie, the Red Herring Bad Guy is shown taking a pan of cookies that were obviously store-bought, then proclaim, “Good enough to eat.” Well…yeah, I hope so. Otherwise, you just baked a bunch of chocolate chip coasters, there. The characters are more over-the-top stereotypes than characters, the acting is sub-par, and it’s obvious that this was all filmed in one guy’s house, which is made all the more apparent in the scenes that are supposed to be located at a police station, but is clearly a redressed living room. The hallways still had family pictures hanging in there, for crying out loud. The ending…well, I’m not really all that surprised at how hackneyed the “twist” at the end was. If anything, it’s the appropriate amount of predictable the rest of the plot was.

Speaking of predictable, you could probably see my “Overall” summary of The Evangelist coming from a mile away. And if you guessed “The only thing good about The Evangelist is the movie poster artwork”, then you’re right on the money. Good on you, mate.Yeah, not even the short running time could lessen the pain of watching this movie. Pass this thing up…or, as the young people like to say, left-swipe this. That’s what young people say nowadays, right?

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