Friday, April 17, 2015

Worth Mentioning - You Are What They Eat

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 watches three part 3s.

CRITTERS 3 (1991)

On their way back home from a family road trip to the Grand Canyon, widowed father Clifford and his two young children, Annie and Johnny, have a tire blowout near Grover's Bend, Kansas, the small town setting of the first two Critters movies. While Clifford replaces the tire at a rest stop, Annie and Johnny have a run-in with town drunk turned alien hunter Charlie McFadden (Don Opper reprising the role), who's still searching the countryside for stray Crites after all these years. Charlie even gives a crystalline object to Johnny, saying it will glow green if a Crite is ever around.

The family then continues on to their apartment in Kansas City, unaware that a Crite has deposited some eggs in the undercarriage of their truck.

Critters 2 established that Bradley Brown, the young hero of the first two movies, had moved to Kansas City, but the character doesn't return for a third confrontation with the Crites. All of the horror takes place within the confines of the Iris Arms apartment building, and Brad is not a resident there.

In fact, there are very few residents left, as the unscrupulous landlord, Mr. Briggs, and his handyman lackey Frank have been purposely driving them out so the building can be demolished to make way for a mini mall. Those left are a likeable group - Annie and her family; the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Menges, who know about the incidents at Grover's Bend because Mr. Menges is an alien enthusiast; the frumpy Rosalie; and telephone line worker Marcia - and the characters are brought to life by a solid cast that includes Aimee Brooks, Geoffrey Blake, Diana Bellamy, Bill Zuckert, Frances Bay, John Calvin, William Dennis Hunt, Katherine Cortez, and most famously Leonardo DiCaprio, making his feature film debut as the landlord's stepson Josh.

Soon Iris Arms is infested with Crites, the crystal is glowing green, and everyone in the building is fighting and running for their lives, the unlucky ones becoming dinner for the ravenously hungry Crites.

Directed by Kristine Peterson (Kickboxer 5) from a screenplay by David J. Schow (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Crow), Critters 3 is a much smaller movie than its predecessors, but it's still a very enjoyable one to watch. It retains the sense of humor the other installments had, the characters are fun, and there's plenty of Crite action on display, as well as the required goofy moments with the little beasts.

The first two Critters were theatrical releases, but the series went direct-to-video as of Critters 3, and I can remember when it first came out. Eight years old and already a fan of the other entries, I was hyped for this one, and upon watching a rented copy I was not disappointed. The viewing I most clearly remember is a rewatch at my sister's house when she rented the movie soon after I had watched it at home. It might have been one of my earliest opportunities to watch someone's reaction to a horror movie that I had already seen, and she enjoyed the movie as well.

Something that was always intriguing to me was the end credits. They play out over a scene that momentarily freezes when the credits appear and then resumes when they go away. It's a scene of Charlie in the basement of Iris Arms, searching for more Crite eggs... Which he discovers. Before he can destroy them, though, a cameo by his alien bounty hunter companion Ug (again wearing the appearance of Terrence Mann/rocker Johnny Steele) sets the stage for another sequel.

Schow's script was based on a story crafted by producers Barry Opper (Don's brother) and Rupert Harvey, a story that spans two films that were shot back-to-back. Critters 3 ends with a cliffhanger that's resolved in part 4, which reached video store shelves just eight months later. You can trust that I watched that one as soon as possible, too.


After two theatrical features, the Anaconda franchise went to TV with this sequel, a Sci-Fi Channel original directed by Don E. FauntLeRoy, a man who started his show biz career as an assistant cameraman on TV shows in the '70s, worked his way up to being a cinematographer, and after twenty-five years made his directorial debut. Here FauntLeRoy was working with a script by first timers Nicholas Davidoff, who works primarily as a camera operator, and David Olson.

Davidoff and Olson's story continues on from The Hunt for the Blood Orchid and the idea that a chemical from the Blood Orchid flower could be processed into a "fountain of youth" miracle cure drug. Wexel Hall Pharmaceuticals have been working hard to develop the drug at secret labs in Eastern Europe, but so far the tests on animal subjects have been disastrous. The Blood Orchid serum is toxic to any creature other than snakes and the tests on a pair of anacondas, a male and a female, in the lab have caused the snakes to become bigger, faster, stronger, and meaner than the average. They're such killers that they'll even impale their prey with their tails... which isn't something snakes typically do.

When these vicious anacondas escape into the countryside, herpetologist Amanda Hayes (Crystal Allen) and team of professional trackers headed up by television megastar David Hasselhoff as a man named Hammett seek to find them and protect the lives of the people in the area.

A Sci-Fi original, killer animal movie with a miniscule budget and dodgy CGI, shot in Romania. This mixture of elements can often add up to disaster, and my expectations for Anaconda 3 were in a sub-basement. Luckily, the film manages to exceed expectations by being simple, fast paced, and action packed. The filmmakers provided the snakes with plenty of victims, and the movie is largely just citizens and heavily armed hunters getting picked off by the scientifically enhanced reptiles one-by-one, without too much down time.

Anaconda 3 is far from great, but there's enough blood and destruction that it delivered the right amount of mindless entertainment to carry me through its running time with no negative thoughts about anything other than the quality of the CGI, and even that is so bad that it has its charms.

LAKE PLACID 3 (2010)

Aroostook County, Maine's Black Lake still has a crocodile problem, and it's still tied in to the Bickerman family. In the first film, Betty White played Delores Bickerman, an eccentric old lady who considered the crocodiles that inhabited the lake to be her pets. In part 2, Delores's sister Sadie (Cloris Leachman) took over taking care of the crocs for her missing sibling. Almost a year after the death of Sadie in that film, her nephew Nathan, his wife Susan, and their young son Connor come to the Bickerman cabin to get it in selling condition. During their time there, Connor wanders down to the lake shore and meets the remaining crocodiles.

Nathan and Susan's change-of-heart decision to live in the cabin goes well with Connor's decision to become the third Bickerman to feed the crocodiles in secret. He's neglected by his parents, he never fits in with the other kids in town, so for two years the crocodiles are Connor's only friends. When Connor's secret finally comes to light, it coincides with the devastating revelation that his pets also have a taste for human flesh... and they are just as willing to eat their caretaker as they are anyone else.

With crocodiles once again on a rampage around Black Lake, it's up to Susan, zoologist Nathan, the local Sheriff (John Schneider's character from part 2 has been replaced by one played by Michael Ironside), and hunter Reba to handle the croc problem and keep Connor safe.

Lake Placid 3 is quite similar to the second movie - an authority figure with a troubled son, a group of camping youths getting picked off in the woods - but is a much better, more entertaining film than its predecessor. Better writing, better characters, better croc action. Whereas 2 provided almost zero enjoyment, I had fun watching 3.

Plus 3 has a scene in which characters take on a crocodile with a chainsaw, and as I've said on the blog before, any time a chainsaw is used in a movie for something other than sawing on a tree, it instantly wins the movie extra points from me.

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