Friday, May 9, 2014

Worth Mentioning - Out There Lurked Danger

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.

Cody compares a recent horror to a classic, gets in a little more Easter, and sees a familiar monster.


In many ways, writer/director Greg McLean's feature debut Wolf Creek feels like a spiritual successor to the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Like Chainsaw, Wolf Creek begins with text informing viewers that the film is based on true events. But while the earlier film just had some superficial ties to the case of Ed Gein, McLean had very specific Australian murder cases in mind to base his fictional story upon, with the main inspiration being the case of serial killer Ivan Milat.

As with Chainsaw, McLean's characters are a group of youths on a road trip, in this case Australia native Ben and two female friends from the UK, Liz and Kristy. But rather than cruising around Texas back roads, this trio is on a drive through the vast Outback.

A lot of time is dedicated to developing the characters of Ben, Liz, and Kristy, we get to see what they're like as people, get a glimpse into their lives, a romance begins to bloom between Ben and Liz. But as their road trip goes on, things around them seem to be getting stranger and stranger. They meet some unpleasant people, and the atmosphere out in the desert just feels odd.

They stray from the highway to do some sight-seeing at Wolf Creek National Park, site of a massive crater caused by a meteor strike thousands of years ago. People claim to have witnessed UFO activity in the area around the crater, so thoughts of the possibility of creatures visiting from another world makes the trio's time in the Outback even creepier.

While they're visiting the crater, their watches stop working at the same time. 6:30. When they get back to the used car Ben recently purchased, the engine is dead. Night falls. Is it something to do with the meteor that caused their watches and the car to die? Will they be abducted by aliens in the dark of night?

The threat Ben, Liz, and Kristy have to worry about isn't supernatural, and it isn't from another planet. It's a man named Mick Taylor, who shows up at the park and offers them help. Mick is very much a man of the country, and at first he seems very nice and likeable, making an attempt to fix Ben's car and sharing with the youngsters stories of his life, of his former career working on farms as a head shooter, picking off unwanted animals that wandered onto the farmers' property. Kangaroo, buffalo, horses, whatever needed shooting, he shot. Then, like the murderous family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre who were driven out of the slaughterhouse industry by automation, Mick was put out of a job when farmers decided poisoning the critters was better than shooting him. If Mick has a job now, he's not sharing the details on it, and he's living at an abandoned mining site, which he tows Ben's car to so the kids can spend the night at his place.

But the water he gives them has been drugged. The road tripping youths pass out, and when they wake up, they find that they're living a real world nightmare.

Mick Taylor is no friendly hick, he is a sadistic psychopath who lures tourists to the mining site so he can string them up, torture them for his own twisted amusement, and then murder them in horrendous, brutal ways. Even if you escape from him, don't get your hopes up. He is a very capable tracker, he knows the Outback very well, and he will stop at nothing to finish off his prey.

What happens to Ben, Liz, and Kristy is shockingly horrific. One of the girls is the recipient of one of the most horrible, disturbing injuries I've ever seen in a movie. The fact that McLean got this detail from the true murder cases makes it even worse.

Despite the fact that his character is one of the most evil bastards to ever grace the screen, John Jarratt is also the standout of the film in the role of Mick Taylor. His heavily accented banter when he's making nice, the glee with which he carries out his homicidal hobby, it's captivating stuff. The slow build of the movie's first half may be off-putting to some viewers, the level of violence in the second half may off-putting to others, but regardless of your feelings for the movie overall, there's no denying that Jarratt delivers a fantastic performance, one that you'll never be able to forget.

McLean also demonstrates some great skill as a director, impressively handling all of the sequences of tension, horror, action, even a climactic car chase. It's kind of a shame that the only movies he has made in the nine years since Wolf Creek are the crocodile movie Rogue and the recently released Wolf Creek 2, because this guy should be working a lot more and on bigger scale films.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre '74 is one of my all-time favorite movies, so the fact that I compare Wolf Creek to it is quite a compliment. I don't like Wolf Creek nearly as much as Tobe Hooper's classic, but it is a very well made film that is extremely effective at being unnerving.


Last spring, Dustin Mills released into the world a funny, crowd-pleasing horror-comedy called Easter Casket, a story revealing that the Easter Bunny himself (as played by a puppet voiced by Mills) is a maniacal killer, a fluffy Antichrist out to overthrow God and take over the world.

I wrote about the movie back in October, and I'm mentioning it again now because, just in time for this past Easter, Mills released a new, special edition version of it on DVD and Blu-ray, limited to just fifty copies on both formats. I managed to land copy #40 of the DVD version.

In addition to some extra special features, this release contains an extended (or egg-stended) cut of the movie that runs about 4 and a half minutes longer than the original cut. This running time boost comes from the addition around the midpoint of a recently shot scene starring Haley Jay Madison of Babysitter Massacre and Kill That Bitch.

Madison plays Bunny, a jaded, disinterested, gum-chewing, phone-checking call girl who ends up interacting with the Easter Bunny after he calls her escort service in hopes that they'd send over an actual bunny for him to hump. When a human shows up, the Easter Bunny is disappointed and repulsed, but they put in an effort to make the best of the situation...

Their brief interaction is an entertaining interlude that adds even more laughs to the movie and is cut into it in such a way that doesn't disrupt the flow of things. It feels natural, despite being shot a year later, and actually establishes some things that come into play later.


Two years after producing the blatant and apparently successful Alien cash-in The Terror Within, Roger Corman decided to keep the property alive with a sequel and hired actor Andrew Stevens to come back not just to reprise his role of surviving character David Pennington, but also to write and direct.

The Terror Within films are set in a post-apocalyptic future where most of mankind has been wiped out by a plague, the world now a wasteland overrun by creatures called Gargoyles in the first movie and Lusus in this one, a Latin word that is said to mean "freaks of nature".

Since one of those mutants got loose in the underground Mojave Lab where David worked and wiped out the staff, David has been wandering the wasteland, heading toward another lab situated in the Rocky Mountains. He's been walking through the desert with his dog Butch long enough to grow a gnarly beard, but when he saves an attractive young woman from the mutants, he trims his beard down to be more presentable.

It's not long before David and the girl, whose name is Ariel, get intimate... And by the next day, Ariel is already confident that she's pregnant.

The mutants aren't the only threat the pair run into on their way to the Rocky Mountain Lab; they also encounter a strange cult who believe that the arrival of David and Ariel is an event that has been prophesied, and Ariel's pregnancy makes her the perfect subject for the cult to offer up to be raped by a mutant. David comes to Ariel's rescue, but not quickly enough to stop this horrible ritual from being carried out.

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountain Lab is dealing with its own issues. The plague has struck among the workers, and they need certain materials David is carrying with him so they can produce the vaccine that was created too late for 99% of the population. They've also been having troubles with Lusus/Gargoyle attacks, and one of these attacks leaves them with a severed mutant finger for them to study. A finger that appears to be regenerating.

When David and Ariel finally arrive at the lab, which is populated with characters played by the likes of R. Lee Ermey, Burton Gilliam (you may not know the name, but you'd know him when you see him), and Stella Stevens (Andrew Stevens cast both his dog and his mom in his movie), for some reason David is reluctant to notify anyone that Ariel was raped by a mutant, despite the fact that such an event is exactly what led to the disaster at the Mojave Lab.

Eventually, Ariel gives birth to a human/mutant hybrid creature that grows to hulking size very quickly and goes on a murderous rampage in the lab, joined in these antics by another mutant that has grown back to hulking size from the regenerating finger. And thus, in the final twenty minutes, Terror Within II gets back into Alien territory, and like Aliens this sequels features even more creatures on the loose... Except here it's only two rather than the many more the larger production had.

Although it has moments of good cinematography and pleasingly colorful lighting, The Terror Within II is indeed a very low budget production, so low budget that when a character fires a machine gun it is very clearly not firing anything, the only things that tell us this gun is being put to use are the sound effects and sparks on the mutant that it's being fired at. At least they gave Ermey some blanks to fire. The story is strange, the characters act in inexplicable ways... Still, it's an enjoyable movie. If you like creature features that are ridiculous and cheap, and especially if you liked the first movie, you'll probably have a decent 81 minutes with this flick. I much preferred its predecessor, though.

The mutant attacks are shot in such a way that it's hard to get a good, long look at the Gargoyles, but I believe the standard mutants are indeed wearing the same monster suit that was used in part 1, Crystal Force, and the 1990 Corman production Watchers II.

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