Saturday, April 30, 2011


I can say for certain that this movie is not a piece of shit. It’s something much worse, because even feces have a biology and purpose that make sense. Sitting through “The Children” is a lot like being present for a birthing gone bad. At first the head crowns and all the promise that comes with first sight brings you joy. Then comes the arms. You count the fingers and everything seems to add up. Then with one last big push, your heart sinks as the midsection passes to reveal a complete lack of legs and genitals. Your heart is broken. The doctor doesn’t even bother to ask if you’d like to cut the chord, because there is no honor in such ceremony. Following the delivery’s twisted, mangled end, there is only regret and a sense of loss. Fortunately, in the instance of a movie, you can always hit rewind after the disappointing finale.

I’ve met a lot of people who love "The Children," and most credit nostalgia for their affection toward it. Somehow this one slipped by me as a kid, so I went into it without the disadvantage of fond childhood memories to fog up my perception. Certainly, even if you’ve never seen it, the film’s dated presence has a pang of familiarity, but the fashion and décor are overwhelmed by its uneventfulness. People have defended “The Children” as a totally campy exploit, and I would agree. It’s campy in some parts, while other stretches are infuriatingly blank.

The beginning of the film is so promising that one can forgive some of the more absurd initial details. Lazy technicians at a local power plant near the backwater town of Ravensback half ass it through a repair, because, fuck it man, it’s the weekend. From there, we join a brood of saccharine little shits on a traditional yellow school bus, hailing their driver through traditional song. All seems bright and sunny. But just ahead, an orange haze engulfs the road, and before the driver can break, the bus plunges deep into the bizarre cloud bank.

Shortly after, Sheriff Billy Hart discovers the bus on the side of the road without any sign of the children in sight. From here, we’re introduced to the strangely unconcerned asshole parents of the missing kids, most of whom seem too sophisticated to be caught dead in some hick berg. Particularly hilarious is the topless sunbathing mom and her oiled up male companion, who are actually titillated by the prospect of their daughter’s disappearance. This is where the “The Children” drops the ball big time. We meet a bevy of compelling, if not downright bizarre characters, and they don’t do shit with them! Some of them don't even get a proper death scene. Instead, their corpses just get tripped over later on. Inexplicably, the least interesting of the parents, played by Martin Shakar, whom most will recognize as Frank the priest from “Saturday Night Fever,” takes center stage for the bulk of the flick.

Eventually, the children reappear with black fingernails and a lethal hug that sears the recipient to death. Conceptually, the story has potential, and the imagery of these kids with their arms outstretched is enjoyably creepy and effective. Once again, though, the script fails to capitalize on something that is initially very interesting. We know what caused the mutation, sure, but their compulsion to kill is never fully explained. I routinely have people telling me that I often take movies like this way too seriously. To them, I say, “go fuck yourself.” I don't take anything "too seriously." I actually respect and appreciate films of this nature. I genuinely find them to be creative and exciting. I'm not here to goof on them and I don't respect people who do. It's not that I take them too seriously, it's that most people just don't care enough. I wanted to know why the fuck these kids were killing people. That Stephen King brand "just because" bullshit doesn't cut it for me!

A lot of the people defend "The Children" by tossing the camp mantle over it. While this movie is definitely campy, it’s also pretty fucking bad. There’s a big difference. Just because something is bad does not qualify it as camp. It is a very rare occasion for me that a film gets over based on its flaws. I can only think of about four examples off the top of my head. There are different kinds of ways you can fuck up a movie. For example, I personally believe that movies where you can see the boom mic should be a legitimate genre of film. I eat that shit up. In fact, I find technical flaws to be both redeeming and endearing. Then there are various ways you can fail creatively, which are far less forgivable. Bad acting I can get into. Absurd plots are fine. "The Children" has some amusingly bad parts to it, and it’s definitely campy, but the cardinal sin which I cannot forgive a film of this nature for is being boring. “The Children” lays out a banquet of wonderful ideas and characters, but then it just turns out the light and walks out of the fucking room before we can get more than a taste. It leaves us in the dark, literally almost.

The second half of the film features the protagonists running from one poorly lit location to another, and then back again REPEATEDLY. And once the sun goes down, forget about it. The crew on this motherfucker couldn't light a Christmas tree with a can of gasoline and a flame thrower. So, everyone is running in circles doing jack shit because it's too dark to see anything. Enter composer Harry Manfredini, who ratchets up the monotony to a Waco-like assault with a horribly lazy score that lifts a few cues from his work on “Friday the 13th.” Some people insist that the selections are slightly reworked, but that's being generous. He literally sampled the "Friday the 13th" score and LOOPS what little he did take throughout the film. It's obnoxious. Listen to this clip. If you disagree with me then you are deaf. Enjoy your prime parking, asshole.

Sure, there are laughable parts, and yes, there is some stale sense of nostalgia, but the overwhelming bulk of the mix is made up of missing time. Even if the initial ideas are great, they just don’t go anywhere. Like a retard with a magnificent boner, the erection ultimately turns into a flaccid nonevent. And that's what this movie is: a big, limp dick.

Oh Vestron, I can't stay mad at you.

Despite terminal dullness, the ending is decent because it manages to tie one loose end up. SPOILER: The movie concludes with survivor Cathy Freemont giving birth to her baby. The child is seemingly healthy, but her husband’s initial look of joy shifts to that of horror when he notices the breast-feeding infant’s nails are black, indicating that it’s become one of the monster children somehow. I watched this movie in a group setting, and those around me groaned at what they dismissed as a nonsensical cliff hanger. It didn’t seem anyone understood exactly how the child in the womb turned bad, but to me it made perfect sense. At the beginning of the movie, while the children are all singing on the bus prior to their encounter with the toxic cloud, Cathy Freemont pulls AROUND the bus and waves while passing them. The driver waves back, and Cathy disappears ahead of them. Though we never see it, we should presume that Cathy encountered the same cloud that caught the bus, thus infecting her baby. This is one redeeming detail, but still not enough to excuse all the other wasted opportunities throughout the film. Alcohol and asshole friends are required to get through this one.

Friday, April 22, 2011


For those that have noticed that my output here has been slow for the last couple of months, I apologize. Time has grown scarce as a number of the projects I have undertaken are starting to take off and require a lot more focus and energy. I'm going to try to at least keep posting any new arrivals I get going forward so this thing doesn't just dry up. I figured today would be a great time to start as I received an Easter package in the mail this morning containing some pretty rad stuff.

Atmosphere and humor are in proportion to gore in this splendid horror comedy. Cannibal brothers Michael and George slice and dice their way through various women in order to reconstruct an Egyptian deity. The parts they don't use wind up on the menu at their diner. I'd been struggling to find a reasonably priced copy that didn't have much wear, so I was stoked to find this gifted tape in pristine, shrink-wrapped condition.

I was very happy to find a copy of the Warner Brothers release of this Mexican horror at the bottom of the box. Though I've never actually seen this film, I've lost plenty of bids on it in the past. The story apparently has something to do with a haunted monastery, where some monks were forced to leap to their death by a greedy land baron. Outsiders enter the town on a quest to uncover their past. The disappearance of locals seems to coincidence with their arrival, which doesn't endear them to the town's folk. Starring Russ Tamblyn, a sign of quality. Couldn't find a trailer, so here's the first few minutes of the film.

I actually already had a copy of this United Home Video clamshell release, but fuck it, I'll take another one. This is one of my most prized tapes, and it's always wonderful to have a backup. If you have not seen this film, I urge you to find a copy on any format. Two words: wolf tits.

Stoked beyond words to finally get my hands on a copy of this Embassy release. After a luxury liner collides with a phantom ship, only a handful of its guests survive. Drifting on a life boat, they once again encounter a mysterious ghost ship, and have no other option than to board. Eventually, we learn that it is a Nazi ship, haunted by a nefarious presence intent on killing those it encounters. People cheap shot this one a lot. Nevertheless, great plot, genuinely strong atmosphere, and a wonderful cast, including George Kennedy and Richard Crenna, make it a buoyant affair.

This made-for-TV movie which details the activities and apprehension of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has some outrageously creepy moments, mainly thanks to the naturally intimidating Brian Dennehy. The large and rugged Dennehy was an unlikely choice to play the curmudgeonly boy killer, but the slight revision of Gacy's stature probably makes the story FEEL more accurate. The scene in his den with the rope trick is particularly must see. At some point, Dennehy was actually contacted by Gacy regarding the film. Whether or not Gacy actually saw the film, I'm not too sure. But via letter, he wrote to Mr. Dennehy the following comment: "Sorry you would participate in this fraud [the film]. You've always been one of my favorite actors. As for the 33 bodies that were discovered, lots of people had access to that crawlspace."

Sunday, April 17, 2011


It is a sad fashion that the average slob will feign ignorance while stepping over a body near death splayed across the sidewalk. Similarly, with too brief a glance, the IMDb-empowered casual viewer tends to clod hope over movies like “One Man Force” with a groan, as if they were dehydrated dog shit. The difference between hearing and listening is a level of comprehension. It’s also what separates seeing something from watching something. Most who merely see this film write it off as b-par eighties action crap. Those who actually pay attention to it see past the shape to find a bejeweled hunk of gold that only looks like a turd. This is not by text book definition a good movie. Instead, you have a busy constellation of bizarre details that make up a compelling experience, which can be just as rewarding as a anything the critics will tell you is wonderful.

This movie falls under the Action sub-category of renegade cop, and the bare bones of the setup are painfully cliché. A detective goes on an emotionally charged crusade to avenge the death of his partner, and winds up alienating his superiors, who revoke his badge. It’s been done into the high triple digits at this point. What makes “One Man Force” unique though, is that it’s kind of like an issue of Marvel Comics “What If…?

When you first get a load of dashing Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) alongside lumbering ex-Raider John Matuszak, the roles seem fairly obvious. In any other movie, Jones would be the most likely candidate to go off the rail when his less charismatic, oafish partner gets whacked. But convention be damned as Jones gets the bullet that typically would wind up in the dopey partner's head. From here, Matuszak becomes the central character and goes into berserker revenge mode. Essentially, the creators of this film have unwittingly gouged the surface of an amazing gimmick.

Most would struggle to place John Matusazk’s name or face, but he's probably best known for playing Chunk’s disfigured sidekick Sloth in "The Goonies." In stature he is a remarkable specimen, but otherwise he’s an unkempt void of charisma trapped in a track suit; kind of like a shittier Lyle Alzado. Matuszak is the kind of guy whom you’d expect to be relegated to the supporting role of silent brute or Bond-ish henchman. But there is a certain genius in casting him as the main protagonist, mainly because no other leading men out there are physically capable of killing someone with a Pepsi machine. He takes being a capable tough guy to an almost surreal level.

At the same time Matuszak’s partner is gunned down by a South American drug cartel, terrorists abduct a rock singer, played by Stacey Q. Both of these situations entwine to create a plot that manages to be both stupid and convoluted. Meanwhile, Ronny Cox continues to be typecast as the dickhead superior officer struggling to keep Matuszak in line. The production is lined with a fantastic cast, including Charles Napier as a crooked cop, the phenomenal Robert Tessier ("The Longest Yard," "The Born Losers") as a hard hitting nemesis, and skull-faced Richard Lynch as the plot’s ultimate puppet master, but most of these names are virtually squandered due to the busy plot.

The editing kicks the pace up to break-neck speed, and I suspect a lot of stuff that would help the movie make more sense probably wound up casualties to time constraints. The order in which some sequences are cut is almost nonsensical at times. The film’s subplot, where Matuszak teaches his dead partner’s son how to defend himself against some neighborhood pot dealers, is violently shoehorned into what is already a tightly coiled mess. It’s completely pointless, but the upside is that it compounds the movie’s enjoyable strangeness. The action sequences are not only genuinely well done, but innovative as well. The brawl in the fetish bar in particular is one of the film’s many high points.

A validating entry in the Academy Entertainment catalog, this is certainly one of the best films they distributed, deserving the appreciation of over-the-top eighties action aficionados. Must see!

Thanks to Action Packed Cinema for the trailer.

A sad footnote, John Matuszak died of heart failure the year this movie was released. An autopsy revealed that he had both painkillers and cocaine in his system at the time of death, and was also suffering from pneumonia.