Blast From The Past Movie Reviews

Reviews of old and classic movies

Blast from the Past Movie Review: Tales from the Darkside (1990)

image

As a kid, it took very little to get under my skin. It took even less for stuff to seem memorable to me to the point I have nostalgia for things I have no justifiable reason to have nostalgia for. That being said here is a prime example of the darkside to childhood nostalgia in the form of a horror anthology- a genre I’ve been wishing would come back. Had I watched this to prepare myself for the reappearance of anthologies I probably would have felt a lot different. The movie in question is TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, a collection of horror shorts that have a few cool things about them, but looking back, this is really silly stuff.

The film begins with a woman preparing too cook a child that is locked behind bars while she prepares the meal. The child finds a way to distract her by reading stories from a book that include subjects such as a mummy (reasonable enough), a gargoyle (heck yeah, sounds awesome so far) and a killer black cat (ummmm, what?). If that were the lineup of the stories it would seem odd to end on the clearly out of place cat story, but if you think about it, leading off with that might lose people from the get go and ending on it would leave an even worse taste in your mouth. In the film itself the cat comes second, which is probably best to surround it with the two “strongest” segments and hide the really dumb one in the middle. Well, they are all pretty dumb so don’t breath that sigh of relief too early.

The mummy story is okay enough, just really boring and it stars Christian Slater and Steve Buscemi so at least there are some recognizable faces to guide us through. The gargoyle segment has some pretty cool gore moments and as a kid I remember feeling that the romance within the story was kind of sexy, but again I was a kid what the hell did I know? Then of course there’s the cat- a cat that SPOILER ALERT: overpowers a grown man who I assume is of reasonable strength. Granted the moment that this adorably feeble looking animal gets the best of said grown man it is a pretty awesome, if ridiculous moment- one that might actually save how stupid the whole thing is. The footage of the cat is shot so hilarious bad that not for a second should this cat ever be considered a threat except that they show it looking sternly at the camera and hissing a few times. I will say though having a cat mercilessly claw at my junk is a great fear of mine.

Naturally, since everything seems so schlocky the script isn’t very strong and each story has moments where I basically checked out and new from then on whatever happened was going to be hilariously cheesy or surprisingly effective. Suffice to say as the only surprisingly effective elements are based entirely in the violent and gorey moments and essentially only effective in the sense that at least there was something cool to watch. Although I do have to say that the creature design for the gargoyle was also pretty sweet.

Yes indeed nostalgia is not always a good thing and when it comes to TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE I have to question rather it was nostalgia at all and was instead childhood/adolescent ignorance. The film isn’t a total waste of time, but it is most certainly not something having now rewatched it would ever make the mistake of watching from beginning to end ever again. It may be irresponsible of me to condone fast-forward only to see the more violent parts of the film, but at the same time that is about the only way to get enjoyment from an otherwise extremely mediocre effort.

Rating: C-

Advertisements

Blast From The Past Movie Review: Alien (1979)

image

Ridley Scott has had his fair share of trouble gaining the approval of critics these recent years with titles such as ROBIN HOOD or BODY OF LIES, but one thing remains the unchanged- everyone still loves his sci fi epic, ALIEN. Now, it has been an ungodly long time since I last sat down to reexamine my personal feelings toward the film, until now. Does ALIEN still have what it takes to send chills down my spine? In short, hell yes and having recently purchased the Anthology Blu-Ray set I have to say the film looks phenomenal.

Ridley Scott’s original ALIEN follows a crew aboard a cargo vessel that awakes from sleep to find the ship’s artificial intelligence has routed them to a distress signal coming from a nearby planet. The crew go down to explore the area and one of them is attacked by an unkown being (the face hugger) that has wrapped around his face and is keeping him alive. Once back on the ship the entire crew comes onto jeopardy as the threat is now in the form of a alien that adapts to its surroundings remarkably, bleeds acid and can blend perfectly with the ships interior.

After watching the progression of the series it is unfathomable that somehow the last appearance of the Xenomorph came in the form of the critically maligned ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM. The series began with ALIEN as a super moody and patient sci fi film that plays out almost like a ghost story. The scares and tension in the film come out of wondering what lies in the shadows and where the threat will appear from next. Given the popularity of the Xenomorph as a creature it is no wonder that subsequent sequels felt the need to up the amount you see on screen, but the original succeeds as is now just as much as it did then with just the one.

The creature design is still spectacular- instantly recognizable and evokes an intense sense of dread the second you see it on screen. The design by H.R. Giger is something I find brilliant and one of my favorite creature designs to this day. Even further the appearance of the eggs discovered by the crew has always made me feel uncomfortable because I know exactly what happens when the thing opens. What happens is it gives way for the face hugger to do its dirty deeds- the design evoking that of a spider, but with a long tale that wraps around the victim’s neck. These aspects of the series is something that I instantly think of when the films enter conversation and it all stems from the work here in ALIEN to which I will always be grateful for and disturbed by at the same time.

Are there problems? I guess now if you look at it the visual effects such as explosions and overall look of the technology obviously appear dated. You can’t realistically hold time period restrictions against a film that made the most of what they had. Given the practical effects of the aliens I think exceptions can be made for sakes of appreciating what the film accomplished. The film is paced perfectly as a film that plays on tension rather than throwing everything at the screen seconds at a time. The scenes play out at a gradual pace so you can take in the surroundings and wait nervously for the scare to pop onto the screen. Once the characters are on the run things tend to move much quicker, although I am so entranced in the direction and skill at which the visuals and story play out that the time always flies by when I watch this.

Not surprising to me that my reintroduction to ALIEN results in a total lovefest. The film opened the gates to a series that has become one of the most iconic series of all time even if the latest incarnations have left a bad taste in our mouths. It also gave birth to one of the strongest female heroins in movies, in the form of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and a creature that to this day creeps me out. ALIEN is a film impossible not to love in some way shape form and one that deserve its place as one of the best sci fi horror movies of all time.

Rating: A

Blast From The Past Movie Review: The Thing (1982)

image

John Carpenter’s THE THING even in this day and age is widely considered one of the best science fiction horror movies ever made of not just one of the best all around horror movies of all time. It is a film that is so well made that a remake is inconceivable however we have 2011’s “don’t call it a remake” THE THING which acts as a prequel to the events in John Carpenter’s version. Upon rewatching the 1982 version I am absolutely certain THE THING is one of my undisputed favorites within the horror genre.

THE THING is centered around a group of scientists in the Antarctic that are suddenly confronted with an alien lifeform that infects and replicated its victims. Paranoia sets in among the group at the camp as they try to find a way to exterminate the threat before no one is left and the “thing” escapes to the worldwide population.

John Carpenter’s vision of THE THING is a film that impresses on almost every level of filmmaking. The movie is well paced and well acted- but aside from that the effects work is amazing. Even for a film from the 80’s I would put the practical effects work on display here up higher than some of the more technologically advanced work in more recent films. CGI works on as a spectacle but for movies that demand realism a lot of times the integration with real actors and environments can be off putting. THE THING uses practical effects to perfection sometimes to a disturbing level. The practical effects lend to the sense of tension more than most CGI effects ever could- at least to this point.

The acting is also top notch and headlines by none other than Kurt Russell. The ensemble piece at times relies on the chemistry of the actors and they all play off each other extremely well here. One of the highlights being the scene where Russell has everyone tied down next to each other as he takes blood samples to test to see if anyone amongst them is infected. That scene is one of the best examples of tension in the film and how well the cast meshes together.

Not enough can be said about the effects work though- the film is just a highlight of imaginative gore effects, alien transformation and overall alien design as the creature constantly takes on new forms even when it attacks. As a horror film it just oozes with excellent moments of gruesome kills and creepy looking creature shots.
As someone that loves horror movies I would refuse to believe that John Carpenter’s THE THING isn’t somewhere near the top of someone’s top horror films of all time. The effects, direction and acting still have stood the test of time if not still surpassing many modern horror titles including the 2011 prequel/remake of the same name (even though I have not had a chance to see it). If you’ve not yet had a chance to check out this horror classic then I highly suggest just buying it for your collection sight unseen and not wait another 20 plus years to do so.

Blast From The Past Movie Review: Porky’s

image

Raunchy teen comedies are not quite what they used to be- they also are not as dramatically different as I would have expected. What never changes ate teenagers obsession with talking and pursuing radical sex escapades and the sexually charged jokes. However, nowadays rather than a teen being caught peeking through the women’s shower pipes during shower time they’d be more apt to be caught rigging a spy cam somewhere in the locker room. For me PORKY’S was the more apt source for a young generation of kids being exposed to sexually related topics and starting point for teens obsession with sex.

The basic premise of PORKY’S is almost identical to most modern teen comedies- a group of high school students that really want to get laid. There has never been a need for a more complicated plot when it cones to teen comedies because when it comes down to it, that’s what more than half of high school students are out to accomplish. The guys in PORKY’S exhaust a couple different avenues- one leaves them running naked through the woods thinking they’re about to be killed and the other leads them to an eventual revenge scheme against the despicable club owner Porky.

Upon rewatching PORKY’S I was reminded of the simple fact that while the film ages it remains a very funny and beloved in my eyes. The movie never fails to make me laugh no matter how many times I see Pee Wee screaming through the shower pipes or Ballbricker yanking Tommy’s no-no parts through the pipe and the resulting mole search conversation between Ballbricker, the coaches and the principal. Many of the actual gags in the film remain very funny while other aspects have not aged quite as well.

While I still find a lot of PORKY’S entertaining, I cannot look past how much most of the aspects have aged. Visually the film is very dated and that goes for sound as well- this could all be fixed with a Blu-Ray conversion possibly but on DVD it remains grainy and the sound suffers at time. This however has little effect on the comedy and the overall enjoyment as it is a comedy after all and it is an 80’s movie so slick overproduced visuals are not a must in this case.

Overall I feel like PORKY’S is still a very worthwhile R rated raunchy teen comedy. I remember rumblings about a remake a long way back but I don’t know if one would improve much on the premise since just about every teen comedy these days has a been there done that feel. The jokes remain just as funny to me as they were when I was younger and it still holds strong as one of my favorite comedies.