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John’s Horror Corner: Ticks (1993), the EXCELLENT gory giant bug B-movie for the entomologists out there.

April 19, 2019

MY CALL: Honestly, this is one of the better gory B-movies you could choose. Really fun with silly but still actually good creature effects, a hokey premise, and abundant gross effects. Also, best Clint Howard performance in horror ever! MORE MOVIES LIKE Ticks: For more insectoid, arachnid and invertebrate horror try The Nest (1988), Slugs (1988), The Bay (2012), Arachnophobia (1990), Mosquito (1994), The Fly (1986) and Mimic (1997). The Mist (2007) and The Thing (1982) get a bit more tentacular but have some buggy appeal, and The Thaw (2009), Blue Monkey (1987) and Things (1989) use totally made up arthropod-like creatures. And of course, one shouldn’t overlook the sci-fi action Starship Troopers (1997).

No entomologist (or acarologist) would consider a basement a likely home for ticks—unless there was a mammal den of sorts. Yet here we find presumably toxic sludge-run-off from machinery leaking through the floor boards and mutating some pulsating grub-like biological mass. We’ll assume, for the sake of the movie title, that this is supposed to be a tick. And with a little foreshadowing we learn from our resident teen scientist Tyler (Seth Green; Idle Hands, It) that ticks are the “vampires of the insect world” and are too tough to squash. But unlike real ticks, these mutated ticks are the size of rodents, scramble with impressive dexterity and leap at their prey. They also form big, brain-like cocoons that drop from the ceiling like paratrooper facehuggers. Whether discussing nature or monster movie dynamics, it’s pretty ridiculous. But in a B-movie, it’s pretty amusing.

Holly (Rosalind Allen; Children of the Corn II) runs a camp for troubled teens in the woods of California. Among the campers are Tyler, Dee Dee (Ami Dolenz; Witchboard 2, Pumpkinhead II), Melissa (Virginya Keehne; The Dentist) and Darrel (Alfonso Ribeiro; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Upon inspecting their camp cabin, Tyler finds one of those organ-like squishy cocoons and pierces it, resulting in a thick green oozy discharge. Deliciously gross!

The tone of Ticks is akin to Leprechaun (1993) or Critters (1986)—gory yet comfortably silly and completely self-aware. Approaching much less serious horror than his past venture and swooping in not long after his excellently gross 80s sequel, director Tony Randel (Hellbound: Hellraiser II) confetties this flick with messy special effects. The slimy cocoons are presented abundantly and refreshingly in several different manners, there is plenty of blood and detailed visceral guts, and I loved the animatronics and stop-motion effects.

It should come as no surprise that Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man, Evilspeak, Leprechaun 2) totally steals the show when he encounters the first tick, the first cocoon, and suffers the first infestation. And yes, he gets infested! The ticks burrow under the skin and Howard frantically shoots himself in hopes of dispatching the vermin. The latex and gore are a hot gooey mess of awesome and Howard acts the heck out of it with full-tilt madness.

Another crowd-pleasing favorite was the Ripley-Newt facehugger-like (Aliens) scene with the tick scrambling along the floor, up walls, and leaping at faces. Appropriately, it was followed by a gory facehugger dissection-like (Alien) scene and another featuring a clustered mass of egg-cocoons harkened of Gremlins (1984) as much Aliens (1986).

There’s even a gigantic tick that awesomely tears out of someone’s body, covered in entrails—perhaps playfully echoing the giant monster surprises in Ghoulies II (1988), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), The Gate (1987) or Critters (1986). Because who doesn’t want a giant version of the movie monster, right?

Of all the bad movies I love, this ranks among the very best in terms of rewatchability. Yes, it’s a B-movie and it knows it. But it swings for the fences and snags a grand slam. The pacing is energetic, you’ll enjoy recognizing some of the cast, and effects are pretty excellent, diverse and abundant (we never see the same gag twice without a different fun spin on it)… oh, and very gory! What a blast!

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The MFF Podcast #188: Cliffhanger

April 16, 2019

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the 1993 action-epic Cliffhanger. We love this Renny Harlin directed movie and couldn’t wait to talk about John Lithgow punching Sylvester Stallone in the ribs, and the actual cost of hijacking a plane in the air. In this episode, you will also hear us discuss burger restaurants, weird kicking choices, and flannels that are way too big. If you are a fan of Cliffhanger, you will love this episode.

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If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF Podcast #187: Willow

April 11, 2019
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You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the underrated 1988 fantasy film Willow. Writer/producer George Lucas and director Ron Howard teamed up to make a very fun film featuring a 17-year old Warwick Davis and a very game Val Kilmer battling evil wizards, two-headed dragons and gross trolls. The movie holds up really well because of the practical effects, massive sets and beautiful New Zealand locations which make everything look epic. In this podcast, you will hear us talk about brownies on eagles, wizard fistfights and Val Kilmer being a believable badass. If you are a fan of Willow, you will love this episode.

Kilmer is a badass in this movie.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF Podcast #186: George Romero’s Knightriders

April 6, 2019

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

You need to watch Knightriders.

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about a movie that features motorcycle jousting, renaissance fairs and Tom Savini in a major role. George Romero’s underappreciated 1981 movie is 145 minutes of uniqueness, and we don’t think any other director could’ve (or would’ve) made anything similar. In this podcast, you will hear us discuss lecherous knights, Ed Harris looking jacked, and the amount of money needed to keep a traveling renaissance fair featuring motorcycle jousting profitable. If you are a fan of George Romero, you will love this episode.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

Love, Death & Robots (2019), the animated Sci-Fi anthology series I’ve waited my whole life to see!

April 3, 2019

MY CALL: This series is everything that I never realized I was always waiting for in terms of feisty science fiction. Fans of Anime, fighting robots, Adult Swim and Pixar should enjoy this excellent anthology series. MORE Sci-Fi ANTHOLOGIES: The Twilight Zone (1959-64, 1985-89, 2002-2003, 2019), Outer Limits (1963-65, 1995-2002), Oats Studios Volume 1 (2017), Black Mirror (2011-17; 4 seasons) and Electric Dreams (2017-2018). The ABCs of Death (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014) and The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016) are primarily horror series, but have their share of Sci-Fi as well.

I’m a big fan of science fiction and anthology series. Black Mirror (2011-17; 4 seasons) made its allegorical mark focusing on cautionary tales intermixing morality with our potential trajectories misusing, overusing, or addicting to technology and/or social media. Subsequently Oats Studios Volume 1 (2017) and Electric Dreams (2017-2018) continued to grace Sci-Fi fans with more creative inklings within the genre. Now creator Tim Miller (Deadpool) brings a vast range of themes and tones from visceral head smashes to the hilarious banter of quirky robot tourists with an interest in mankind and a fearful respect for cats.

While I’d love to see any of these stories extended into longer stories, the brief 6 to 16-minute segments offer the very best of their creators’ visions and spare us the “general audience” pandering enforced by studios that cheapen films for big cash grabs. Animation styles vary wildly, from nearly life-like CGI (e.g., Beyond the Aquila Rift, Shape-Shifters, Helping Hand) and Pixar style (e.g., When the Yogurt Took Over, The Dump) to Saturday morning cartoons (e.g., Suits, Sucker of Souls) and Anime (e.g., The Witness, Good Hunting)… and some of them are actually mostly live-action (e.g., Lucky 13, Ice Age).

As the title suggests, content will be a bit more edgy than standard fare—including LGBTQ sexuality (e.g., Sonnie’s Edge), stylishly animated nudity (e.g., The Witness, Good Hunting), and even some graphic sex scenes (e.g., Beyond the Aquila Rift). It would be fair to note that this series is an equal opportunist regarding nudity, showing every bit as many animated penises as breasts (e.g., The Dump, Sucker of Souls, Good Hunting). Yet for all the nudity the sexuality never pushes audiences to discomfort. It’s presented more honestly and, at times, almost holistically. Yes, sexual themes abound in this series as the title implies, but the series is more concerned with its storytelling than it is with gratuitous thrills. Still some episodes are more wholesomely PG (e.g., Suits, When the Yogurt Took Over), with themes are as diverse as the effects style. Three Robots and Sucker of Souls both embrace a playful love of cats—actually as do several other episodes include glimpses of feline fondness. On the other end of the spectrum, Shape-Shifters and Sonnie’s Edge deliver the best brutal, gory action, while Beyond the Aquila Rift and Helping Hand both feature wonderful spacescape and spaceship special effects.

Now let’s discuss the short segments…

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Sonnie’s Edge opens the series with the grit and sexuality of modern videogame-adapted Anime while approaching Kaiju-esque monster-versus-monster ring-fighting themes from Arena (1989), Real Steel (2011), The Guyver (1991) and Pacific Rim (2013). The psychological motivations are dark, the villains seethe malevolence, and our hero is as dark as they come. The monster combat is outstanding and crisply animated with plenty of blood and gore, cool maneuvers, animalistic behavior and feisty surprises which rollover from the monster combat to the “players.” In fact, the scenes with the human players get every bit as dark and brutal as the monster scenes! Staying in brutal monster-fighting theme, Shape-Shifters brings us werewolf Marines in Afghanistan. The transformation scenes are just okay and the werewolves look decent. But the werewolf violence, gore and action are where this segment truly shines. The fight is full of brutal rendings.

Then we shift to the light-hearted humor of Three Robots (including Josh Brener; The Belko Experiment, Max Steel) on a walking tour of post-apocalyptic Earth. Smacking of a mature approach to Wall-E (2008), the strongly contrasting personalities of these three robots each add their own delightful flavor as they try to make sense of human’s existence—from their self-destructive nuclear weapons, to basketball, to cohabitation with cats (voiced by Chris Parnell; Archer, Rick & Morty, SNL). It’s all hilarious and features strikingly sharp writing and comedy. Likewise, Alternate Histories is a positively joyous comedic romp exploring alternate timelines of Hitler’s death. The scenarios are ridiculous and hilarious, and the animation style is a refreshing change of silly pace.

The Witness swings into full-tilt thriller as a futuristic sex worker witnesses a murder and flees the killer. The style harkens more classic Anime and is rooted in reality except for its Twilight Zone-y twist. This segment featured the least dialogue but still offered a lot. Next Good Hunting brings an abundance of animated breasts and penises to what would otherwise pass as a very PG cartoon story animated like a children’s cartoon (but with genitals LOL). This segment mixes traditional Anime swordplay with Asian folklore (shape-shifting huli jing) and steampunk.

Still some of the episodes are notably less mature in nature—ranging more PG to PG-13. Suits is yet another segment playing on the robot pilot theme of Pacific Rim (2013) and Robot Jox (1989), as an agrarian community suits up to defend their land from portals spewing Zergling-like hordes of Starship Troopers (1997) bugs like the sentinel assault on Zion in The Matrix: Revolutions (2003). While conceptually satisfying, the Saturday morning cartoon style animation and less dire tone left this among my least favorite episodes, not that it wasn’t well done or enjoyable on its own. More violent but still carrying the Saturday morning cartoon vibe with a gang of cyborgs fighting a giant robot during a high-speed heist, Blind Spot also wasn’t impressive. Sucker of Souls is a mix of Saturday morning cartoon with R-rated humor, PG-13 gore and a touch of Castlevania (2017-2019; Netflix) illustrating a more monstrously demonic iteration of Dracula accidently released during an archaeological expedition.

Another episode that failed to impress me in theme and tone, not that it didn’t add diversity to the series, was Fish Night—my least favorite of the series although conceptually interesting. Vaguely reminiscent of A Scanner Darkly (2006) and smacking of a beautiful desert peyote trip-gone-wrong in The Matrix (1999) of prehistoric natural history. But I know “cool” when I see it. And that’s exactly what I saw in Zima Blue, a unique idea backed with excellent storytelling. However, the animation style and non-action theme wasn’t what I desired. I expect many will enjoy these more arthouse-inspired segments.

When the Yogurt Took Over is a brilliantly funny apocalyptic satire in which yogurt takes over the world. Appropriately narrated by Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs, The Critic). Need I say more? The Dump tells the quirky story of a goofy old redneck living in a garbage dump, the man from the city (Gary Cole; Office Space) trying to evict him, and the old redneck’s pet garbage monster Otto. It carries an idiosyncratic charm.

Capturing the writing stylings of the Outer Limits (1995-2002), Beyond the Aquila Rift has the kind of storytelling and Sci-Fi twists that will cultivate nostalgia. A crew awakens from hyper-sleep far off course… VERY far off course. The revelation of the alien creature truly shocked me as the episode ended much like Event Horizon (1997).

Contrary to the overwhelmingly animated theme, Lucky 13 features purely live-action actors surrounded by much in the way of flight and military ship effects. As a major Star Wars fan, I enjoyed the excellent aircraft chase scene under the cavernous flats and the tactical scenes taking off while saving soldiers under fire. And get ready for an utterly wrenching visual vignette of survival as Gravity (2013) meets 127 Hours (2010) in Helping Hand.

Another live-action entry is Ice Age. This segment stars Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, Interstellar) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, The Thing, 10 Cloverfield Lane) as a couple whose refrigerator houses the evolution of modern civilization. It’s cheeky and reminds me of the God short film from Oats Studios Volume 1 (2017). Then we return to heavy action as Secret War boasts gorgeous shots of winter forests and battlescapes with Russians battling legions of infernal monsters. Great gore, action, creature effects, wardrobing and cinematography all bring this together into an excellent close to the series.

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This series is everything that I never realized I was always waiting for in terms of feisty science fiction. And while there were several episodes I didn’t like, they averaged about 10 minutes! So it’s easy to skip the segment and not feel a big loss as one advances to more preferable genre fare. Fans of Anime, fighting robots, Adult Swim and mature-themed Pixar should enjoy this excellent anthology series. I can’t wait for a second season.

John’s Horror Corner: The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), True Crime meets Zodiac (2007) in this fictionalized story of the actress’ very real death.

April 2, 2019

MY CALL: For this pseudo-haunting-turned-home invasion, I offer a soft recommendation for fans of True Crime or Hilary Duff. But truly there is nothing original here; nothing we haven’t seen before. Still it was nice seeing Duff tackle a serious role and the film was proficiently made with some brutal imagery. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Haunting of Sharon Tate: Hard to say… probably Zodiac (2007) or The Strangers (2008).

Disclaimer: Screener access was provided by a publicist. However, I was not paid or compensated to write this nor were there any conditions to my receiving viewing access other than the timing of my solicited review.

After visions of her own grisly death by the hand of Charles Manson’s cult, actress Sharon Tate (Hilary Duff; Younger, Material Girls, A Cinderella Story, Cheaper by the Dozen) believed she had experienced a psychic phenomenon. Then in 1969 she was murdered. This is the story of her last days…

Welcomed by her close friends and far from her husband (Roman Polanski) who is finishing a film in Europe, a very pregnant Sharon Tate moves into a country-style house looking forward to the birth of her child. But Sharon finds little peace as she is haunted by daily unwelcome visitors, an apparently possessed tape player, and nightmares of her own peril.

Written and directed by horror documentarian Daniel Farrands (The Amityville Murders, Crystal Lake Memories, Never Sleep Again), this fictionalization based on Tate’s 1968 account (i.e., her psychic premonition) breeds a “True Crime meets Zodiac (2007)” atmosphere. Whether by virtue of knowing that Sharon Tate will actually be murdered or the emotional uneasiness of her suspicions that her husband is having an affair, this film never allows the audience to relax. We’re ever on edge because something is always off, and that may be the film’s best quality.

Seeing Hilary Duff casting away her wholesome family-friendly and youth-targeted roles remanded me a skeptical viewer. From scene to scene her performance quality felt passable yet quite inconsistent; at times working noticeably too hard on nailing every syllable of Tate’s accent and high society cant, others she felt convincingly desperate and terrified. Put simply, she performed better when summoning vital or emotional stakes to her character.

As we wade deeper into the one-dimensional plot, visceral scenes of bloody murder and gleeful murderers provide visions of The Strangers (2008) through a more realistic and less horror-sensationalized filter. And animal lovers ought to beware imagery of brutalized pets with waves of oscillating maggots erupting from their wounds. But what really caught me off guard (or perhaps impressed me) was what I’d describe as “practical violence”—not some theatrically glammed up violent flair, but the simple desperate pragmatism in freezing scared and then scrambling for a porcelain toilet cover and breaking it over someone’s face or the awkwardly clumsy unproficiency of wielding a shovel as a weapon.

What starts as a doubtful “haunting” finds its way to the kind of home invasion we’ve seen all seen before. Yes, we’ve seen it. It’s not a special film, but it’s a decent movie. And whereas I mentioned Duff’s performance was “passable,” this very performance leaves me optimistic of her potential in future dramatic roles. Likewise, Daniel Farrands is finding his feet as a horror filmmaker (including The Amityville Murders) after his significant success as a horror documentarian. Everyone shows great promise… I just promise you won’t be overly impressed with The Haunting of Sharon Tate. Consider it popcorn fare for Hilary Duff fans.

The MFF Podcast #185: Constantine

April 1, 2019
You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the underappreciated 2005 film Constantine. We’re big fans of Francis Lawrence’s Hellblazer adaption, so we read copious articles, listened to the DVD commentaries and found some great stuff to share with you. We still can’t believe he got Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou and Keanu Reeves to appear (and look awesome) in this movie. In this episode, you will hear us talk about kicking crabs, smoking spiders and Gavin Rossdale rocking some sweet tailored suits. If you are a fan of Constantine, you will love this episode.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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