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John’s Horror Corner: The Banana Splits Movie (2019), transforming classic children’s television programming into horror mediocrity.

March 15, 2020

MY CALL: Sorry, guys. This should have been a goofy cheesetastic gory fun-fest. Instead we got a rather boring, maybe occasionally mildly humorous movie with mediocre death scenes. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Banana Splits Movie: For better movies about robots behaving badly, I’d recommend Child’s Play (2019), Virus (1999), Screamers (1995), Nemesis (1992), Hardware (1990), Class of 1999 (1990), Moontrap (1989), Deadly Friend (1986), Chopping Mall (1986) and Demon Seed (1977).

The original source material for this movie is from a kids’ television show about a band of four anthropomorphic animal characters that host a variety hour of cartoons, live songs and skits. So it should come as no surprise that, in creating a horror-spun reimagining of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968-1970), director Danishka Esterhazy (Vagrant Queen) leads us into an at least somewhat silly premise. And silly it is… although I wish it was also more comedic to match.

Beth (Dani Kind; Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer) and Mitch (Steve Lund; Haven, Bitten) take their family to a live-recording of The Banana Splits at the TV studio. Apparently, the creations of some sort of TV studio mad scientist, the Banana Splits are actually sophisticated robots capable of surprisingly autonomous behavior and decision-making. When a programming update goes awry, they become murderous killer robots aiming to protect their show from cancellation by a villainous producer and anyone else they perceive as a threat to the show. And this basically means that parents and their children run for their lives.

Not that any of the kills were particularly good, but the first death scene (i.e., the lollipop death scene) is among the most comical and smacks of the campiness of the Leprechaun sequels. It’s kinda silly, pretty bloody, and graphic as a giant lollipop is plunged down a human co-star’s throat. Subsequent death scenes lack teeth in execution, but pack some cheeky rubber guts and bones, eyeball and burn gore, and plenty of blood. The kills aroused a few smiles, but overall the death scenes aren’t very exciting… and the scenes in between the deaths are quite boring. Although, I did enjoy the quadruple amputation—it remains yet another death scene that could have been better. To be kind, maybe there are as many “acceptable” death scenes as there are lame ones.

With the exception of the mother and her young son, the acting is pretty clunk—but no more so than the lines being delivered. Writing is not a strong suit here. I never cared about the characters or the robots, nor did I care what happened in the movie.

I definitely disagree with IMDB, which lists this as a “comedy, horror.” There’s essentially no more comedy than in any other horror movie. It’s just that the concept is silly. But anyone actually expecting a horror-comedy will probably be disappointed.

Moreover, this movie wasn’t very fun to watch. It had all the right components, but little of the execution necessary. You might enjoy laughing about this movie with good company. But on its own merits alone, I find this movie mostly boring.

The MFF Podcast #258: Alien, Space Jockeys, and Cereal Eating

March 12, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

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 1979 creature feature Alien. Directed by Ridley Scott, this classic movie features gooey aliens, chest explosions and excellent production design that still looks great today. In this episode, we discuss jerky aliens, cereal consumption and arbitrary knob turning. Enjoy!

Love this scene.

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

John’s Horror Corner: The Dark Side of the Moon (1990), a Sci-Horror linking the Bermuda Triangle to a Hell-touched spaceship.

March 10, 2020

MY CALL: If someone who loved Prince of Darkness (1987) made a progenitor film of Event Horizon (1997) but didn’t have the budget to do half of what you know they wanted—that would be this film. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Dark Side of the Moon: The best double-feature suggestion I have for this would not be Moontrap (1989)—which was released a year prior and also takes place on the dark side of the moon—but Event Horizon (1997), which actually feels like a more modern reimagining of the same story. And Prince of Darkness (1987) is a far more intellectualized and better realized, but still has a very similar feel to it.

Sharing an opening premise strikingly similar to Alien (1979), a satellite maintenance crew accompanied by an attractive android is on a routine space mission in the not too distant future (the year 2022).

The crew includes Flynn (Robert Sampson; Re-Animator, City of the Living Dead, The Arrival, Netherworld), Giles (Will Bledsoe; Alien Nation), Paxton (Joe Turkel; Blade Runner, The Shining), Philip (John Diehl; Stargate, Apartment 1303), Alex (Wendy MacDonald; Mayhem, Blood Frenzy), Dreyfuss (Alan Blumenfeld; Friday the 13th part VI, The Ring), and their android Lesli (Camilla More; Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter). Lesli functions more as MUTHUR (Mother from Alien) or HAL than an autonomous Ash/Bishop-type.

After a malfunction renders their spaceship drifting out of contact in the dark side of the moon, they encounter a long-lost NASA spacecraft. Connecting the two ships and boarding the abandoned vessel smacks of Event Horizon (1997). They find more questions than answers as they search the cabins but find none of the crew except for one, hanging in the rafters with her abdominal guts exposed.

This dead astronaut rises from the dead and starts monologuing infernal Prince of Darkness (1987) prattle before killing one of the crewmen with his prehensile guts (like a sloppier version of the autopsy abdominal jaws in The Thing). We don’t see a lot (it’s brief), but what we do see is very gooey and a sort of evil infection subsequently spreads from one crew member to the next. Unfortunately, this is the most exciting part of the entire movie. I kept hoping to see something new or different, or even more of the same with some extra finale flair. But that prayer was left unanswered along with the prayers of this crew.

The set design of the ship interiors is what you’d expect from a low-moderately budgeted Sci-Fi movie from 1990. But the backgrounds of outer space and the spaceship exterior designs were pretty sleek. I was impressed.

His only feature film, D.J. Webster (music video director) struck middle-of-the-road territory. Very interesting concepts and designs, but pacing that’s just not eventful enough to keep me engaged. Not only that, but when the cool stuff is happening, it’s not really as cool or exciting or interesting as you’d hope. The problem is a combination of execution and the generally light special effects. Moreover, many scenes and sets mimic Alien (1979) or Aliens (1986) but then offer none of the payoff of a typical Alien-rip B-movie (e.g., Shocking Dark, Creature).

Despite the film’s gore and action shortcomings, I’m definitely not disappointed. Sure, after that first death scene we all expected the gore and special effects to continue (if not expand)… and quite the opposite occurred. Yet the story and concepts remained enough to keep this Sci-Fi fan pleased. I’m glad I didn’t buy it, but I’m also glad I saw it.

The MFF Podcast #257: Crawl, Hurricane Parties, and Barry Pepper Punching an Alligator

March 8, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

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

The MFF podcast is back, and this week David Cross (of the Award Wieners Movie Review Podcast) joined us to talk about the A+ creature feature Crawl. We absolutely love this $13 million budgeted film, and had a great time talking about all the amazing decisions that director Alejandra Aja made. In this episode, we discuss alligator attacks, Barry Pepper punching an alligator, and the inventive production design. Enjoy! Go watch Crawl!

I love the alligators in Crawl.

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

John’s Horror Corner: Moontrap (1989), a killer robot Sci-Horror rich with gorgeous spacescapes starring Bruce Campbell.

March 7, 2020

MY CALL: Overall a fun 80s Sci-Horror flick boasting wonderful setting, spaceships and background design. The horror and gore fall quite short of our hopes and the action is laughably boring, but still a good movie for its other great qualities. MORE MOVIES LIKE Moontrap: For more robots behaving badly, maybe try Virus (1999), Screamers (1995), Nemesis (1992), Hardware (1990), Class of 1999 (1990), Deadly Friend (1986), Chopping Mall (1986) and Demon Seed (1977).

During a moon mission, astronauts Grant (Walter Koenig; Star Trek, Babylon 5) and Ray (Bruce Campbell; The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Escape from LA) stumble across a huge alien spacecraft and recover an egg-like object and a 14,000 year-old desiccated human body. Naturally, they bring them back to Earth and examine them with no measures of quarantine.

From the spaceships to the macabre space cadaver, the special effects start out strong. There’s the cute little alien egg-pod-robot which swiftly gets to work scavenging laboratory machinery to assemble a cursory but very dangerous humanoid body that results in a rather boring NASA gunfight with a rather magnificent evil robot centerpiece.

To investigate the origins of this extraterrestrial robot, Grant and Ray are sent back into space where they encounter a stronghold on the dark side of the moon and find a “human” woman (Leigh Lombardi) in some sort of cryo-stasis. Our astronauts find that the “alien woman” speaks an alien language, and there are yet more man-killing robots hunting them down on the moon’s surface.

We see a lot of the robot creatures in many scenes—which is a big plus. But the action (i.e., the robot fights) is really weak, not doing justice to the special effects. Every fight seems the same; and equally uneventful. It’s just… let those actions scenes be 10-15 seconds instead of action movie level 180 seconds (but with nothing happening). I wish this movie worked more on shock value (i.e., horror tactics) than trying to be an action movie.

Despite my strong criticism, this movie’s good qualities struck way above expectations for the best thanks to director Robert Dyke (Moontrap: Target Earth) and crew. Sets, ships, artistic design, story, basic visual concepts… all were either great for the budget, or good for Sci-Horror in general. The moonscapes and structures were especially innovative. Also redeeming the lousy action are all the spaceship interior scenes—they were awesome. A lot of Sci-Fi vision crafted this film, with imagery and plot devices that may remind viewers of Planet of the Vampires (1965), Alien (1979) and Lifeforce (1985).

Overall a fun 80s Sci-Horror flick that finds its greatest success in setting, spaceships and background design. It doesn’t quite hit the desired mark for horror or gore, but it remains a satisfying watch.

John’s Horror Corner: Rabid (2019), the Soska sisters’ more monstrous remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 classic.

March 4, 2020

MY CALL: A perfectly enjoyable and gory remake serving as a monstrous update of Cronenberg’s 1977 original. MORE MOVIES LIKE Rabid: For more movies about women unknowingly slowly becoming monsters, try Contracted (2013) and Bite (2015).

After a serious traffic accident, young fashion designer Rose (Laura Vandervoort; Jigsaw, V, Bitten, Smallville) is left gruesomely disfigured with her jaw wired shut, much of her upper lip torn off, and her lacerated gums and teeth partially bare. Right away I’m pleased with the brazen special effects. Rose looks monstrous, feels unsightly and credibly horrified by herself, and we see her wounds quite a bit.

With her medical leave rendering Rose temporarily jobless and homeless, her childhood foster sister and former co-worker Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot; Ready or Not) moves her in for her long recovery from her injuries. Utilizing an experimental technique in regenerative medicine called stem cell manipulation, Dr. Burroughs (Ted Atherton; Max Payne, The Expanse, V-Wars) treats Rose and literally erases her scars. Additionally she is more beautiful than even before the procedure… and suspiciously no longer needs her glasses. Little does Rose know, her procedure comes with abnormal side effects and leaves her with an infectious condition.

After a night out, Rose’s “infection” spreads like an outbreak virus carried by an Ebola monkey! Among those who came in contact with her, a man goes ballistic and zombie-bites a colleague’s face, tearing chunks of flesh from his cheek. Apparently, those infected by Rose ultimately become blood-craving rage zombies; mindless and rabid. To such end, many scenes play out like 28 Days Later (2002).

Overall, I enjoyed this remake (a lot). But it definitely had its weak points. This film’s weakest suit is the depiction of widespread panic of the rabies’ spread. The editing, the clip montage, the delivery of the imagery… the assembly of the scene felt weak. Similarly unengaging was the chaos at the local hospital as rabid patients convulse tied down to their beds and one gets shot by security growling down the halls. But this criticism is limited to about 5-10 minutes of an otherwise solid movie which finds itself belabored with scenes attempting to capture grand scope. This film otherwise plays well when focusing on Rose and her immediate victims.

REMAKE/REIMAGINING SIDEBAR: For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017), Suspiria (2018) and Child’s Play (2019). Those to avoid include Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), War of the Worlds (2005), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), Prom Night (2008), Night of the Demons (2009), Sorority Row (2009), Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), Poltergeist (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), Unhinged (2017) and The Mummy (2017). I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), The Grudge (2004), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Fright Night (2011), The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Maniac (2012) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so (as remakes) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

Rolling into the finale we find some satisfying monstrous creature effects. They seem a bit over-the-top when compared to the 1977 original, but they also seem waaaay more fun! If anything, I expected directors Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary, ABCs of Death 2) to have more gore and monstrosity and shock value—strong suits for these filmmakers. But there was plenty to please fans of monstrosities.

The acting, writing, photography, production and effects all served us well. Because this was a remake of Cronenberg’s lower tier 1977 film, I feel it managed to contemporize and even revitalize the story. Whereas a “great film” this is not; a very good horror movie in general it is and a really fun contemporary monster movie! As a fan of remakes (yes, I just said that) and Cronenberg, I enjoyed it.

THE MFF Podcast #256: King Arthur, Double Decapitations, and Crossbows

March 4, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

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 Antoine Fuqua directed King Arthur. Originally filmed as an R-rated film full of violence and decapitations, the movie was dropped down to a PG-13 rating by nervous Touchstone executives (owned by Disney) before it’s release in 2004. The end result is still a lot of fun, because of the massive action scenes, and the cast made up of Clive Owen, Joel Edgerton, Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Ray Stevenson, Til Schweiger and Stellan Skarsgard. In this episode, we discuss double decapitations, great eyebrows and gigantic movie sets.

Love the cast.

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

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