Friday, June 24, 2011

Worth Mentioning - A Nice Stay in Nilbog

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Cody watches Super 8 while Jay talks Troll 2 and deals with the Monster in the Closet.

SUPER 8 (2011)

Joe Lamb is a young Ohio kid with a troubled home life. He recently lost his mother in a tragic accident, and his police officer father isn't used to having to handle the parental duties. But Joe does have something fun to occupy his time during summer break.

It's the summer of 1979 and Joe's friend Charles is shooting a short film with a Super 8 camera, intending to enter the short in the upcoming Cleveland film festival. Inspired by the previous year's releases of Dawn of the Dead and Halloween, whose posters adorn his bedroom walls, Charles is making a horror movie, a story about a detective investigating a zombie outbreak that may be connected to the Romero Chemical company. Joe is handling the movie's special effects makeup. A few other friends are helping out, and for the female lead Charles has somehow managed to cast Alice Dainard, a girl whose beauty makes Joe gawk and whose natural acting ability amazes the boys.

A secret late night shoot is interrupted when the teenage cast and crew witnesses their biology teacher drive his pickup truck onto the train tracks and collide head-on with a train, causing a massive derailment that, unbeknownst to the kids, releases a mysterious creature into their town.

The creature stalks the town by night, affecting metal and electrical devices with its strange powers, snatching people and stealing equipment, scaring the town dogs away en masse. The kids know that something weird is going on around them, but it's largely peripheral to them. They can't do anything about it, they're just kids. Kids with a movie to finish, and things like train wreckage and the military forces that invade their town make for better production value! It isn't until circumstances force them into it that they truly take matters into their own hands and go on a dangerous adventure.

I loved this movie. The kid actors are great, their interaction fantastic and very entertaining. I enjoyed the drama and the story of complicated first love that develops between Joe and Alice. And, of course, I really liked the amateur filmmaking aspect. I wish my friends had been as willing to help me make movies when I was a teenager as the kids in this movie. That time of life would've been so much better and more fun for me. As has been talked about a lot, this movie is a throwback to the '70s/'80s Spielberg films, and I felt that director JJ Abrams captured that tone and style perfectly.

I'm big on the communal experience of watching movies theatrically with a crowd, and my viewing of Super 8 in a nearly packed screening was one of those times when I felt very sappy about it - I was glad to be there with that group of strangers, watching and experiencing this film together.

Some things about the creature itself didn't totally work for me on first viewing, but the creature facts were really the least of my concerns. I was engrossed by the characters and their drama, and I enjoyed taking the retro ride with them.

I need to go back to the theatre and watch this movie again soon.

Jay's mentions:

TROLL 2 (1990)
Directed by Claudio Fragasso
Starring Robert Ormsby, George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Connie Young, Jason Wright and Margo Prey

Troll 2, in many circles, was once known as the worst movie ever made. I get that. I finally caught it on Netflix (where it is now streaming on instant view) and had a blast watching it. It definitely earned its reputation as the worst movie ever, but it also deserves the cult following and underground praise that it has garnered throughout the last few years as well.

Troll 2 has no connection to the first Troll film and features zero trolls. It is, on the other hand, high on goblins. In fact the film was intended to be titled Goblins but after American distribution companies got involved the film wound up being called Troll 2 in an effort to possibly boost the marketing.

The film is a mess, but it's a beautiful and enjoyable mess. It starts out with a dead grandfather reading his grandson a story about goblins. Only little Joshua Waits (Michael Stephenson) can still see his grandfather. This is alarming to his mother but the family expects that a month long trip to the small town of Nilbog (if only they noticed sooner that it's Goblin spelled backwards!) will solve all of the boy's troubles. They've pretty much signed up for the family version of Wife Swap in which a family from Nilbog will stay at the Waits house while the Waits stay at their farm. Why? No one knows and it doesn't really matter. These are the type of things that families do.

The teenage daughter of the Waits, Holly (Connie Young) invites her boyfriend along and he drags a group of his buddies to Nilbog as well. Dead Grandpa Seth (Robert Ormsby) shows up to warn little Joshua that Nilbog is a terrible place full of goblins. The goblins make you eat their food which turns you into a mixture of human/plant. That's when they eat you. It's a nasty cycle!

The dialogue is terrible, so bad in parts that you'd think the filmmakers knew what kind of movie they were making. The best part about the film is Robert Ormsby as Grandpa Seth. Apparently he didn't do any other acting outside of this film, but he is awesome in Troll 2. He really captures the spirit of Grandpa Seth and is definitely a character that I will never forget.

Another highlight of the film for me is the acting of George Hardy as father Waits. He's pretty funny in most of the film and has a good look on camera. Hardy is actually a dentist about three hours from me here in Alabama. It's very interesting because I can totally see him as a dentist, and an Alabamian. He has that familiar face and friendly demeanor that reminds me of so many people I know here in this fine state.

Troll 2 isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, but it is up there as far as films that actually had some type of budget. It's on the level of The Room though, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I watched it alone, which probably isn't recommended for a movie like this, so if you haven't seen it then I suggest gathering a group of friends and turning your brains off before pressing play.

Directed by Bob Dahlin
Stars Donald Grant, Denise DuBarry, Paul Walker, Henry Gibson, and Howard Duff

After watching Troll 2, I decided to watch something else in the B-horror genre and went with Monster in the Closet. I'd seen the opening ten minutes of this a few years ago and thought they were priceless. Now I know that the rest of the film is just as priceless.

Monster in the Closet is about, well, a monster in the closet. A few grizzly closet murders lead a down-and-out reporter (Donald Grant as Richard Clark) to a small town to investigate. What he unearths is a real life monster in the closet, which could possibly destroy the entire world as we know it!

This film is a beautiful piece of satire with some really endearing characters who are portrayed flawlessly by the respective actors. Where Troll 2 is fun and has some good camp acting, Monster in the Closet actually has some wonderful acting for the type of material that is on screen. Donald Grant as Richard Clark (who looks a lot like Clark Kent) is very endearing and the relationship that blooms between his character and Denise DuBarry as Professor Diane Bennett is sweet and charming. The film has the type of characters and likeability that I strive for in my own work.

We also get a young Paul Walker in the form of Diane Bennett's son, Professor, and he does a great job. Usually child actors get on my nerves pretty easily but Professor is easy to love and fits in well with the rest of the group, the rest of the group being Howard Duff as Father Finnegan and Henry Gibson as an Einstein-looking know-it-all named Dr. Pennyworth.

Bob Dahlin is really on top of his game here as writer/director and delivers the type of humor that I like to see in a B movie. In one scene we see a showering woman approached by a shadowy figure, only to find out it's the woman's husband. He leaves and another shadowy figure approaches, but it's the husband again, and then again. To top it off, it isn't the wife who's murdered at all, but instead the husband, as he goes to get her purse from the closet. It's silly but it works and the film is full of lighthearted satire such as that. My favorite scenes are any in which the monster meticulously smashes his way through a door. It's also noteworthy that the man in the monster suit is the late Kevin Peter Hall, who was also the Predator in both Predator 1 & 2.

A special nod here to Lloyd Kaufman and Troma Entertainment for releasing Monster. Apparently the film was shot in the early '80s but didn't get released until 1987. Without Troma, who knows where this little gem would be. If you're a fan of Troma then check it out, though don't expect Toxic Avenger as this is only rated PG.

1 comment:

  1. I worked on the office crew on this film. Jeeze, what a glowing review! I'm a little surprised. It was, however, one of the most enjoyable working experiences of my life & I loved my co-workers & made one life-long friend among them. : )