Thursday, January 05, 2006

New on DVD this week (01/04/06)...

A slow week, as they let people recover from the Christmas bills.

Tv shows: Alien Nation Complete Series; All in the Family S5; Gunsmoke 50th Anniversary Set; Have Gun Will Travel S3; Hunter S3; Silk Stalkings S4; (Really? SILK STALKINGS?)

Movies:

Anthropophagus: Grim Reaper Truly gross and disgusting (albeit at other times pretty funny) Italian horror flick about a huge cannibal. Seriously, those, there’s just some disgusting stuff in this film. $11

Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold Like you need a ‘spoof’’ of something as funny as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. $7

Blast/Bullies I don’t know about the first film, but Bullies is an ‘80s schlockfest about psycho redneck kids tormenting the new family in town. $9

Brain Dead Horror flick notable mostly for the fact that it stars both Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman. See if you can tell them apart! If this is the one I think it is, I remember thinking it was pretty unpleasant/sleazy. $10

Caged Heat Arguably the all-time classic Women in Prison flick. An essential buy for the B-Movie buff. $10

The Cave $20 Recently released and typically stupid looking monster flick. Does anyone really want to lay out $20 or more to own this on DVD?
Apparently. Also available in a two-pack with the equally insipid Underworld (??) for $26, so you might as well that route if you’re that much of a masochist.

Decampitated Slasher flick parody, courtesy of Troma. $9

Jackson County Jail More top-line classic ‘70s schlock, starring Yvette Mimieux, Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Carradine. Mimieux is falsely arrested in a hick town, and kills the deputy who tries to rape her. From there she’s on
the run from the vengeful sheriff, along with fellow prisoner and hardass Tommy
Lee. You can’t go wrong here. Along with Caged Heat, part of a new Roger Corman collection. Features a Corman/Leonard Maltin (!) interview. $10

Mutant Man/Campfire Stories The first is another really lame sounding redo of The Hills Have Eyes, only with redneck cannibals in the forest. The other features a forest ranger played by Buster Poindexter (!)who tells a pair teens some cough, cough scary tales. $9

Mysterious Island (2005) Hallmark mini-series remake of the venerable Verne tale, with Patrick Stewart as Captain Nemo, which does sound pretty cool. The reviews, though, weren’t great. $10

It Came from Netflix: Pterodactyl

Meh.

(By the way, when was it last even remotely clever to name all the characters in your film after famous science fiction authors? Surely even the sorriest nerd doesn't take much pleasure in 'getting' such a thing anymore.)

Monday, January 02, 2006

It Came from Netflix! The Children

1980’s The Children is a jaw-droppingly meanspirited movie that is kept from being unwatchable only by its own incompetence. Indeed, its execution is so inept that it functions despite itself as a pitch black comedy. Thank Heaven for small favors.

The film opens with two workmen wandering around what is supposed to be a nuclear power plant. They yak on for some time, because few things are cheaper to film than people conversing. Eventually they take their leave, and we see that they have missed a leak of some sort. Soon a giant radioactive cloud, apparently produced by a plutonium-fueled fog machine, is let loose.

Cut to the school bus of a small community, with the handful of prepubescent tykes sings gaily and at length to an extent that had me wishing Andy Robinson would jump aboard. They soon drive through the radioactive mist. Later, the town sheriff finds the bus abandoned by the side of the road, next to the town cemetery (oooh, spooky!), and but several hundred yards from one of the kid’s homes.

The small cast of locals, including but sadly not limited to the Sheriff, his horny Deputy, the Deputy’s teenage squeeze (sister to one of the missing kids), the local shopkeeper, and two Odious Comic Relief Redneck Brothers are hunting for the kids. Sadly, they and various parents, blind piano-playing girls and other residents find them, or vice versa. Upon sighting their prey, the moronically grinning Children throw open their arms for a big hug. Sadly, however, their now radioactive physiology charbroils anyone so embraced. We can tell they are deadly, because they have black fingernails. (Yep, this film apparently had a huge budget.) As to why being radioactive means that one would take pleasure in hunting down and barbequing everyone you know is left to our imaginations.

Soon the father of two of the missing kids has teamed up with the Sheriff and eventually stumble across enough bodies to figure out what’s going on. Eventually, with everyone else in town pretty much dead—they barricade themselves inside the dad’s home, along with his heavily pregnant wife* and four year-old son. Here we get the inevitable Night of the Living Dead rip-offs, with the Children shambling around and trying to get at these fresh victims. Being radioactive, of course, they are invulnerable to gunfire and other violence—that’s the way it works, right?

[*Trivia fans will want to note that the actress who plays the wife voiced the character of Francesca in the ‘60s monster puppet movie Mad Monster Party. The dad, for his part, is the guy who played John Travolta’s priest brother in Saturday Night Fever. Glad to se he made so much of his big break.]

Eventually, though, trial and error reveals that one can dispose of the Kids by hacking off their hands (!). (Good thing for that surprisingly sharp decorative sword on the wall.) Once this is done, their arm stumps and shirt sleeves grow mysteriously longer, and the fingernails on their dismembered and now mysteriously rubberized hands turn back to a normal color.

So the film ends with the few remaining adults running around and whacking off the limbs of various kids, including their own. This generally all takes place off camera, although we are treated to several cheesy tableaus featuring dead Children with their various arms strewn all about. As if that weren’t offensive enough, and I could barely believe this one, one zombified kid manages to trick the giggling four-year old into letting him inside, after which we get to see the Dad discover the tyke’s roasted body (!!!).

Like I said, it’s only by dint of the filmmaker’s incredibly poor skills that you can even watch this stuff, much less laugh at it. Comic highlights include a patently telegraphed TWIST SHOCK ENDING, as well as a hilarious bit in which a search team hears a noise in a closet and carefully approaches it, only to have a big roasted Doberman that was mysterious propped against the other side of the door come tumbling out as soon as they fling it open.. How the hell did that get in there? There were already bodies strewn all over the house, so a need for stealth doesn’t explain things, and I’m not sure a kid (and the zombie ones obviously aren’t any stronger than normal pre-teens) could haul the beast into the closet anyway. Was the dog half-cooked, whereupon it escaped, hid in the closet, and pulled the door shut before it died?

The real answer, of course, is that the dog was there for a shock sting, and they quite apparently were hoping that nobody would think through how stupid the whole thing was. (Meanwhile, the Sheriff starts firing into the closet before he sees what’s in there, so it’s a good thing it wasn’t somebody hiding—and at this point in the story he doesn’t even know that the missing kids are monsters yet.)

The recent 25th Anniversary DVD, which features a lame, full framed transfer in which the film’s sides have been lopped off as cruelly as the Children’s murderous mitts, includes various extras, including a director’s commentary. The weirdest thing is the history of a local community theater camp musical version of the film (!), of which the only record is a poorly videotaped portion. Astoundingly, the play looks worse than the movie, which is saying something. Being a Troma release, it also includes one of those painful Lloyd Kaufman ‘comic’ intros.

Happy New Year!

Yes, the blog is still alive, and so too will be the Jabootu site. I actually was ready to hit the ground running on the latter this weekend, but have had no web connection at home for all of last week, and Tech Guy Paul was out of town. Sigh. In any case, I do intend to get the blog up to more active status.

As to the main Jabootu site, FoJ (Friend of Jabootu) Henry Brennan and scheduled/pre-paid site sponsor for January will get a make-up month later on, along with credit for whatever I do manage to get up. Next weekend I have a B-Masters Roundtable review due, and I will get it up even if I have to work over at Paul's place. Also, by hook or by crook Henry's Sponsor's Pick of Billy Jack Goes to Washington will appear at some point, hopefully the weekend after this, but we'll see.

That's where I'm at, and I hope everyone else is doing as well or better. Thanks everyone for their patience.