Disturbing Behavior (1998)

Disturbing Behavior (1998) movie poster

director David Nutter
viewed: 10/18/2017

Disturbing Behavior is one of a few Nineties’ big studio teen horror films that were almost great. Studio’s wanted semi-edgy stuff, but couldn’t produce something as original, pulpy, surprising or fun as Indie horror productions of the prior decades were.

It’s possible this film could have been better. Apparently director David Nutter (who had worked on The X-Files) had the film chopped down to its 83 minutes and a certain amount of its potential removed.

It’s horror/sci-fi as social critique. Small town kids are turning into perfect preppy angels with robotic speed and mannerisms and apparently it’s the adults who are implanting devices in their brains to “fix” them. They also indoctrinate them with something akin to Fox News as was done to Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

The cast is quite solid, with James Marsden, Katie Holmes, William Saddler, Steve Railsback, and stand-out Nick Stahl. It’s all pretty primal Nineties, from the styles to the soundtrack.

Disturbing Behavior is a quick-paced and amusingly satirical but not as clever or biting as it would like to have been. But still quite enjoyable.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) movie poster

director Denis Villeneuve
viewed: 10/09/2017 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA

The film nerd world is seeing its deepest desires brought to light. A new Star Wars trilogy? Ridley Scott returning to Alien? A new Blade Runner movie?

As we have come to learn, you need to be careful what you wish for.

Unlike the others, commercial success has not overwhelmed Blade Runner 2049 yet. So we may not be awash in the franchise-ization of the beloved 1982 film. Which may well turn out to be a good thing.

First and foremost, it’s overlong, by a long shot. Its 163 minutes move slowly, steadily, intentionally. But in the end, it drags, perhaps where it most certainly shouldn’t.

Yes, it’s gorgeous. Villeneuve and Roger Deakins along with some very pretty production design absolutely craft a film worth looking at.

But what’s with all the giant naked ladies in advertising and ruined statuary? Issues of the film’s representations of women aside, I’ve cultivated a theory. When watching Alien Covenant earlier this year I began to wonder if Ridley Scott’s Alien movies and his Blade Runner movies were meant to exist in the same universe and timeline. And whether or not that is true, the statuary of Prometheus (2012) featured giant sized men. Is this somehow a feminine counterpart? Sure, this is Villeneuve’s film, but Scott is still executive producer.

I watched this with my son, who managed to sleep through the original when I showed it to him. So, he was a little confused about the story, but he wound up really liking the movie.

Still several days out I’ve not really come to a full conclusion. It’s a gorgeous spectacle, though a slow-moving performance. Still contemplating its meanings and ideas.

RoboCop 3 (1993)

RoboCop 3 (1993) movie poster

director Fred Dekker
viewed: 10/08/2017

Robocop 3 resulted in a major downgrade, not just losing Peter Weller, but toting an almost direct to video vibe. A lot of the blame has been thrown on director Fred Dekker (even by Dekker himself), but that isn’t totally fair. Dekker has his cool bona fides (House (1986), Night of the Creeps (1986), The Monster Squad (1987)) and he should keep them.

It’s a garbage pile, filled with cheap CGI (or as we called it in the Nineties: CGI). It’s not bereft of moments and elements. It swerves between (in a single scene even) from some pretty cool bits to some absurdly hilarious badness.

In this version of post-crime-ridden Detroit, it’s not just drugs and drug lords but punks. Apparently punks were very dangerous on 1993, who knew?

This film would burn writer Frank Miller on film for almost a decade. He’d return with his appreciation for fascism no longer embedded in satire and irony but embedded in right-wing politics and racism, homophobia, and sexism.

RoboCop 2 (1990)

RoboCop 2 (1990) movie poster

director Irvin Kershner
viewed: 10/07/2017

I saw Robocop 2 at a drive-in in 1990. At the time, I was kind of keened in to the role that Frank Miller had in the film, jumping from comics to screenplays.

I wasn’t aware that it was Irvin Kershner who directed it, the one man to deliver both a Star Wars film and a James Bond film, at the time. And it’s given the heft of a bigger budget project.

The film tries to be true to the Verhouven original, certainly tries to place its feet in its footprints. It’s not really surprising that it doesn’t fully achieve that, but I’d say that it still stays pretty interesting.

In 1990, I remember appreciating that continued pop culture satire. Was the original Robocop (1987) the first use of actual television personalities (Leeza Gibbons) flavoring the satire?

The highlight, I would say is Gabriel Damon as Hob (the kid), the nasty slicked-hair pre-pubescent miscreant. It’s the kind of perversity that this type of movie really needs. There are other elements about kids gone wild here, including a scene in an arcade where all the kids get pissed when told to go home and then the scene with the little league street gang. Not sure where to take all this

The thrust of the film is a take on the war on drugs, mixed in with some anti-privatization and some fascist iconography towards the end.

All in al it’s still very comic book-y. I quite enjoyed the pre-digital design and stop-motion robots, some wonderful shitty matte paintings. And Peter Weller and Nancy Allen.

Yeah, it’s not the first, but it’s pretty decent.

It Conquered the World (1954)

It Conquered the World (1954) movie poster

director Roger Corman
viewed: 09/24/2017

It Conquered the World (spoiler: It didn’t)

Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World is really a half-decent 1950’s sci-fi alien invasion picture. It’s undermined (or alternatively enhanced), however, by a classically comical schlock monster that is almost impossible to take seriously.

In the 1950’s it’s always about Communism, isn’t it?

The film starts with a nice opening shot following cool, low budget title sequence. More than anything, it features a cast of folks who perform well and would go on to bigger, better things. Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Peter Graves perform nobly.

It features some quintessential 50’s sexism, what with women not understanding stuff like science and whatnot, though also winds up having the wife take on the monster with a shotgun towards the end. So, feminism?

“The world is full of fat heads, full to overflowing.”

Charming.

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958)

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958) movie poster

directors  Tom Boutross, Robert Clarke
viewed: 09/20/2017

“Whiskey and soda mix, not whiskey and science.”

That line, uttered early in 1950’s sci-fi/horror flick, The Hideous Sun Demon, is the film’s tell as to its real significance. Alcoholism isn’t subtext so much as pretty well-woven into the film’s full text.

Many have compared The Hideous Sun Demon to a werewolf movie, probably because the monster is brought about, rather than by recognition of a full moon, but under the eye of the sun. Writer/star/director Robert Clarke thought it more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of thing, but it’s not the sun as much as the booze that brings out the beast in Dr. Gilbert McKenna (Clarke). It’s his own booziness that caused the accident that exposed him to nuclear radiation in the first place and warranted the “whiskey and science” quip.

And it’s his need for hooch that drives him continually out of the shadowy confines of his home and into dangerous situations. It’s what leads his to meeting Trudy, the lounge singer (played by the voluptuous Nan Peterson), who he leaves naked on a beach when his monstrous realization starts again. Peterson “sings” Marilyn King’s “Strange Pursuit”, a nice jazzy number, reminiscent of Chet Baker.

Some of the best parts of the film are the location shots around more desolate parts of the greater 1950’s Los Angeles, especially the oil derricks and old shacks. I also though that Suzy the little girl (Xandra Conkling) was pretty funny. She’s petulant and conniving like no other 1950’s moppet I’ve seen on film or television. She was taking those cookies and sneaking out no matter what mom said!

Oh yeah, and the monster costume is pretty cool.

For an independent production, shot on weekends with USC students, it’s really a pretty decent film. Perhaps more interesting as a cheapo The Lost Weekend meets 1950’s science fiction that any straight-up pure quality.

Dark Future (1994)

Dark Future (1994) DVD cover

director Greydon Clark
viewed: 09/13/2017

Dark Future starts bad, quite hilariously bad, stays pretty bad, and then somewhere takes a turn and gets a little better. I don’t know that it actually achieves “good” or quality by the end, but it decent’s itself up enough to not be merely and completely derided.

Of all its many shortcomings the fight sequences are remarkably crap. Director/co-writer Greydon Clark is clearly working without a budget (it might be the first film I’ve seen in which a medium-sized plasma ball is the film’s most high-tech element).

This is a world where humans have been decimated by disease and are trapped underground by cyborgs who use them for pleasure(?). They rise up and rebel finally, or at least one guy does. Humans are wonderfully apathetic save Kendall (Darby Hinton), the mustachioed one.

Somewhere towards the ending with the weird multimedia propaganda/indoctrination videos that the cyborgs are fed that I somehow warmed to this often ridiculous sci-fi yarn. A yarn from which you should definitely not pull any threads for fear of loosing its whackadoo plot holes and notice its goofy dialogue.

The Psychotronic Man (1980)

The Psychotronic Man (1980)

director  Jack M. Sell
viewed: 08/26/2017

Obscurity is a virtue. To me, in film. Those who are preserving, digging up, restoring and making available lost oddities of cult cinema I deeply admire and appreciate.

Not every obscure gem is a true and utter thing of gloriousness. And they don’t have to be to merit interest or to watch. The Psychotronic Man is a case in point.

Most notable for inspiring the title of the movie fanzine Psychotronic, it’s probably safe to say that The Psychotronic Man isn’t notable for a whole lot else. Except someone familiar with the Chicago area might find all the location shots an interesting capture of a time long gone for the Second City.

Low-budget and independently made, Jack M. Sell’s picture is about an alcoholic barber who gains “psychotronic” powers after an evening pulled off to the side of a back road and some sort of paranormal encounter. His powers result in violence and death. I actually think it’s pretty readable as the story of the psychological breakdown of a man, lashing out at his family and the world as his disappointment and mediocrity hits his mid-life in drunken crisis mode. The psychic violence could well be metaphorical.

The movie is slow, lingering on scenes that would have best been on the cutting room floor. But it features things like aerial shots and crane shots and some quite decent camerawork. It features a protracted car chase that might be the most unexciting ever filmed.

So why see it? Because it exists? To check it off a list? It’s existence is perhaps more interesting than its own experience. That end freeze-frame is pretty cool.

Also I recommend reading Bill Burke’s write-up at horrornews.net. Quite interesting.

3 Giant Men (1973)

3 Giant Men (1973) movie poster

director T. Fikret Uçak
viewed: 08/17/2017

This is the movie America needs right now.

Turkish knock-off Spider-Man, Captain America, and Santos.

‘Natch.

The Super Inframan (1975)

The Super Inframan (1975) movie poster

director Hua Shan
viewed: 07/23/2017

I wish I’d seen The Super Inframan when I was a kid. I would have loved the heck out of it.

I grew up on  Shōwa period Godzilla, loved The Space Giants and Ultraman and even sort of enjoyed Spectreman (it seemed cheaper than the others).

Super Inframan is wall-to-wall, non-stop action and monsters and fighting and hilarity.

It’s purely sublime.

All hail, Princess Dragon Mom!