Friday, October 28, 2011

Worth Mentioning - I'm Gonna Scare the Hell Outta You

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 discusses a trio of underappreciated fright flicks, Jay checks out Red State and Scream 4.


The world is thrown into chaos while the planet passes through the tail of a comet, as every machine with an engine, battery or electrical plug turns bad. A drawbridge raises while loaded with cars, a soda machine beats a man down with propelled cans, a steamroller crushes a Little Leaguer, a man is electrocuted by an arcade game.

While we get glimpses at larger devastation, most of the film is set at the Dixie Boy truck stop, where a group of unlucky characters are trapped by sentient motor vehicles. It's like Night of the Living Dead with semi trucks in place of the zombies.


The "leader" of the pack of trucks seems to be the toy hauler with the iconic image of the Green Goblin built into its front. Our hero is a convict on parole, played by Emilio Estevez. Laura Harrington is his extremely attractive drifter love interest. Pat Hingle is the jackass Dixie Boy owner who keeps an arsenal in the basement. Yeardley Smith, who went on to provide the voice of Lisa Simpson, has a role as a newlywed bride whose honeymoon gets ruined.

Based on Stephen King's short story Trucks, this is the only cinematic King adaptation to also be directed by the author... And after directing this one, King said he would never direct again. (He has since said that he'd be interested in giving it another try.)

Maximum Overdrive isn't a widely popular film, there used to be a lot of hate for it online, but recently it seems that more and more people have come to embrace it as the very entertaining platter of cheese that it is. King described it as a "moron movie", one where you check your brain at the door before watching it. Doing so will definitely enhance your enjoyment of the film, as trying to work out the logic of it all will do you absolutely no good. Why is a gun mounted on a vehicle able to fire itself? Just because.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the mayhem, the goofy characters and moments (like my favorite, this one in which a gentleman wakes up and requests a situation update), and the soundtrack. The score was composed by the band AC/DC and nine of their songs are featured.

Maximum Overdrive also has one of the great all time trailers, set to music lifted from Halloween III: Season of the Witch, with Stephen King himself telling you about the movie... and making a promise...

SQUIRM (1976)

Squirm is the true story of the bizarre freak of nature occurrence that struck the little town of Fly Creek, Georgia at the end of September, 1975. When a storm knocked down the power lines, the hundreds of thousand of volts of electricity that surged through the muddy ground drove all of the worms in the area to the surface and sent them on a ravenous rampage.

The film centers on the Sanders family, a mother and her two daughters, Geri and Alma. Mick, Geri's city boy friend, is coming down to visit her for a while, stirring up jealousy in the Sanders' dimwitted neighbor Roger, the son of a worm farmer.

Mick doesn't have an easy time during his visit, starting out finding that the road into town has been blocked by a fallen tree, moving on to getting in trouble with the Sheriff when he finds a worm in his drink while stopping by a diner, and soon enough he's trying to solve a murder mystery as he keeps stumbling across skeletons. Mick and Geri first find the skeleton in a person's back yard, but when they bring the Sheriff back to the spot the skeleton has disappeared. They later find a skeleton in the back of Roger and dad's worm truck. Is it the same one? "They all look alike to me."

The skeleton being in the worm truck is suspicious, but the worm farmers aren't killers. We know that the killers here are the worms themselves.

And Roger may not be a killer, but he's not a good guy either. When he tries to force himself on Geri during a fishing trip, she knocks him down right onto the spilled box of bait worms. The worms burrow into Roger's flesh, but they don't kill him. He becomes a worm-faced maniac, causing trouble for the characters at the same time as the Sanders home and other places in Fly Creek become flooded with worms.

Yes, Squirm is both dumb as a stump and highly entertaining. It was written and directed by Jeff Lieberman, who went on to make a few other horror movies including the great backwoods slasher Just Before Dawn. R.A. Dow is hilarious as Roger. The worms are disgusting, as they tend to be. My friend Noah can't even stand to watch this movie because he's so disturbed and grossed out by worms.

These worms don't just squirm around, devour flesh, or drive people crazy. They also scream, a horrible sound emitted during extreme close-ups of their wormy mouths. If you see this in a theatre with the sound cranked up, as I did at a 24 hour horror marathon several years ago, these worm screams will threaten to blow out your eardrums.


16,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, the Tri Oceaniac corporation mines for silver and other precious metals. The workers in Mining Shack #7 are nearing the end of their 90 day shift when they discover the wreckage of a modern ship called Leviathan. Searching the ship, the miners find records of a disease breaking out among the Leviathan crew... and soon some of the miners are experiencing disturbing symptoms themselves. Strange experiments were being conducted on the Leviathan and the miners pay the price. Hair loss and skin problems turn out to be caused by genetic mutations, which build to bodies merging into a rampaging fish creature.

George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Cobra) directed and assembled a great cast, a group of people that you wouldn't mind hanging out with for a 90 day shift - Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Ernie Hudson, Hector Elizondo, Michael Carmine, Daniel Stern as a character called Sixpack and that's not because of his abs, with Amanda Pays and Lisa Eilbacher providing the female presence. Meg Foster appears as the frosty company rep making decisions on the surface.

The film is very much an obvious under-the-sea hybrid of Alien/Aliens and John Carpenter's The Thing. A lot, but not all, of my enjoyment of Leviathan is due to nostalgia. It's one of the movies that seemed to play on HBO in a constant loop in '89/'90 and at that time I watched it as much as I could. I've only seen it twice in the last ten years, but I think it still holds up as a pretty cool monster movie.

Jay's mentions:

RED STATE (2011)

Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Michael Parks, John Goodman, Michael Angarano, Kerry Bishe, Melissa Leo, and Kyle Gallner

I can't say I love this film, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't worth mentioning. Parts of it I thought were perfect, and it's easily the most satisfying Kevin Smith release that I've seen in a long time. I applaud him for taking a huge step outside of his safety zone and delivering a fresher dose of horror than most of the horror filmmakers themselves have been serving up.

Cody has already reviewed it here so I won't ramble on too much. The story follows three guys hoping to pay for some sex in a nearby town. Trouble is, their sure-fire sex plot ends up being more like a group suicide with the local loonies at a nearby church compound. The three guys are drugged by their prospective piece of ass (Melissa Leo) and are less than thrilled to wake up in a church run by the Fred Phelps inspired Abin Cooper (played pitch-perfectly by Michael Parks) and his devoted family of followers.

This segment, as well as the initial moves once the guys try to escape the church are near perfection, and it's refreshing for the horror genre. I really dug this part, the introduction to John Goodman's character, and the portrayal of one of the church's own, a teenager named Cheyenne who is played wonderfully by Kerry Bishe. This one is definitely recommended to those of you looking for a horror film that isn't afraid to move firmly off the beaten path.

SCREAM 4 (2011)

Directed by Wes Craven
Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox-Arquette,  David Arquette, Emma Roberts, and Hayden Panettierre

Another one that I definitely didn't love, but can't avoid writing about due to its importance in the genre. Scream is one of the better horror films of the last twenty years and I it still holds up very well. I watched it earlier this month as well and still thoroughly enjoy it. I finally got around to watching the 4th installment and I had a great time catching up with some characters that I truly love.

The 4th film finds Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning to Woodsboro for the anniversary of the original murders to promote her new self-help book. As Sidney comes, so do a new batch of murders, and it's up to Sheriff Dewey Riley to put a stop to it and keep Sid and her young cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) safe.

The film tries to outdo or at least keep pace with the sharpness of the first film, and has a ton to play around with since a lot has happened within the horror genre since the Scream franchise was first around. Some of it works and sometimes they are just trying too damn hard. Sidney has the best line of the film, "You forgot the first rule of remakes: Don't f**k with the original!" and there is one really grizzly gore setpiece after one of Jill's friends gets picked off in her bedroom. There are other memorable moments as well and my biggest complaint is a lack of substance for the character of Gale Weathers.

This is still a solid entry into the Scream franchise and is worth a rental. The cinematography was also very nicely done and I give major credit to Peter Deming for a job well done.


  1. that's some nice mentions there! Especially Maximum Overdrive! You got to remind me to review that one!

  2. "Maximum Overdrive", how do you even describe that movie? It's a terrible film; awful in every regard. I'd consider calling it complete garbage, in fact.

    And yet, I could watch it at almost literally ANY time. I love it. It's terrible, but FUN. To this day I'm not sure if King was going for that, or thought he was making an actual scary movie. I don't guess it much matters. Having fun is what matters, and I certainly have that any time I watch this movie.

    I dug "Red State," too. Michael Parks ought to have gotten an Oscar nomination; he was tremendous in that movie.