Dudes (1987) Review by RevTerry

Moving across state lines always comes with a little culture shock. Shit, just go from northern California to southern California and you will take some time to adjust from the difference between the two. I've been a few places, I come from a nomadic tribe of people and have no real hometown, but none of the previous experiences I have had prepared me for my return to the cultural vacuum of southern Utah as an adult. Something happens when your governing body is filled by a local cult and you are separated from the rest of civilization by seemingly endless miles of desert. Every place has its upsides, in this case beautiful unspoiled (for now, they're working on it) landscapes, but the downsides from these secluded desert civilizations are a special kind of fucked up. Most modern establishments in the area were started by religious zealots, some kind of survivalists or a scary combination of both. Minding your Ps & Qs is a very different art form from somewhere like New York or Northern California, luckily it's pretty obvious as soon as you enter. I have more than a few times been reminded of  backwoods-esque horror movies while here and have felt myself coming dangerously close to living out a western version of Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) as I enter some of the smaller towns for work. Looking at the untamed desert hills and some of the people, one could definitely see some kind of The Hills Have Eyes (1977) going down out here, in big way. In fact between inbred killer flicks and Westerns the area has brought to my mind moments in cinema frequently since the move. I couldn't help but think of one very different flick, during those first experiences when I arrived and the trip leading up to it. Penelope Spheeris’s punk road film Dudes (1987).
We start at a Vandals concert, with a fitting play through of “Urban Struggle” performed by a post Steven “Stevo” Jensen line-up. There we meet our trio of protagonists as they bounce around the mosh pit. After the show, a neon diner throwdown and a near death experience, Grant(Jon Cryer), Biscuit(Daniel Roebuck) and Milo(Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers) decide to trek out west to California from their home in NYC in a Volkswagen Bug, hoping to meet life head on. Early into the journey the group meets a jack of all trades dressed as Elvis(Pete Willcox), they help him with some car trouble and find a place to camp for the night. Unfortunately some bigoted rednecks come upon their camp, take all the groups dough, and shoot poor Milo, killing him. Biscuit wants to continue to California originally, but the tragedy awakens something in Grant and the two go on a mission of revenge instead, seeking out the murderous Missoula (Lee Ving of Fear) and his gang of killer cowboys. Along the way they meet an extremely useful auto wrecker(Catherine Mary Stewart), get in another rumble and scare a family of vacationers. There is also a loving but misguided vision quest at some point, when they get fucked up on Elvis's “snake juice”.
While it starts out in the same place as other punk classics such as Suburbia (1983), its light tone and attempt at life affirming moments help the film meld into a slightly morbid buddy road comedy. The punk aspect never leaves, but it feels a lot different sans the surroundings and nihilism. The hybrid tone achieves a unique but somehow familiar flavor that doesn't ever really stick to any one style for very long. This is my favorite aspect of the film, it never decides because it doesn't have to. The well used scenery of the Arizona-Utah desert contrasts against the Hollywood style punk rock get-ups to help build the fish out of water motif.
The story benefits from its simple structure, enhanced by somewhat random elements. It follows a familiar path set down by other road comedies, even at some times borrowing slightly from “highway horror” flicks like Road Games (1981). A big part of the films plot revolves around a death but it never quite reaches a dire tone, opting instead for mostly angst lined optimism. Unless the story calls for consequence, fights are taken lightly as the two remaining characters come out on top of fights by bouncing around like the Drunken Master in a circle pit. Characters are entertainingly odd, but definitely play off a lot of used cliches and it gets a little cringe inducing when Native Americans are brought up. Camera direction and lighting all work with a little of the late 80s fun obsession with pink glow. Dialogue is goofy but no where near the ever quotable writing of the much less polished, Suburbia (1983). It's more flushed out, in line with the comedic timing of mainstream film making of that era. It moves at an upbeat but dry pace and gets a few subtle jokes in, that work well in the long term.
Penelope Spheeris, who originally got her “punk-cred” with the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), seems slightly more removed from the authentic than she did with that release. She would go on to make mainstream comedy classics like Wayne's World (1992) and Black Sheep (1996), and the distance from her hardcore roots could be showing in '87. The notion is doubled by the fact that one of our NY punk rockers is played by fucking Duckie from Pretty in Pink (1986) . I'm not afraid to admit I love Jon Cryer’s wholesome, goofball expressions. He is the only reason to watch most things he is in, if you can even stomach some of the crap he is a part of, outside of Hot Shots! (1991), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987 aka Terry, please don't put that movie on again) and a few others. It seems weird at first on re-watch having him as a supposed street punk from New York but it grew on me. If you do not recognize Daniel Roebuck’s name you will probably recal his face as he has been bit parts in a grip of films (>200) since the 80s. This is the version of him that comes to mind when I see him, lovable oafish jerk, it works well. Whenever I catch him playing somebody's dad or some shit, I just see the mohawk. Flea appears as the ill fated friend through the first parts of the film. Playing, as in other films, what I assume is mostly himself. He is always enjoyable and gets a lot better writing to play with than earlier bits. Catherine Mary Stewart plays the obligatory love interest, always fucking awesome and as with 90% percent of her appearances the only problem is she is just the helpful love interest. I love shit like The Last Starfighter (1984) but Night of the Comet’s (1984) deadpan protagonist leaves me thinking she was underutilized (somebody get her out of DTV comedy crap and put her in DTV action crap, oh and give her more money), but that might be just me and my love for that movie. There are a few other recognizable faces among the side characters and mother fucking Lee Ving of Fear plays Missoula, the main bad guy.
While it can be enjoyed with the same crowd that may also sit through a viewing of the first Vacation (1983) and it doesn't have the grit of Spheeris’s previous punk films, it's less likely to send your local 13 year punk elitist into a frenzy, then a film like SLC Punk! (1998). If they still give you shit, even after you show them your copy of Bedtime for Democracy on vinyl for cred, drop their ass off in a culturally stunted Southern Utah town to show them how lucky they had it. Plus it's easy to be punk-as-fuck when the church is still out here burning KISS records.
| 1987


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Kringle Will Kill!: RevTerry's List of Killer Santa Flicks

For me, men dressed as Santa fall into the same category as fucking clowns. I don't really have any fears tied to the imagery so much, but there’s something about the whole situation that doesn't sit well. Life has taught me a few things in my travels, and one of the lessons I have learned is that those who go out of their way to dress up as trustworthy, lovable characters are usually anything but. I don't want to say every clown and Santa is out to do some fucked up shit, I just can't help but feel it’s a case of trying too hard, which leaves me wondering what the motives are. That's just me, for most- Santa Claus is a monument of good feels and free shit. Somehow, the idea that we are all being watched and graded by a magic pink dude in a red sweater comforts people. Who am I to judge? Although I like my fictional characters a little less authoritative, I guess I can see the appeal. As is its nature, the general horror genre loves to prey upon the sacred safety blankets of the masses, with varying degrees of precision and success. So to my fortune, there are more than a few “Killer Santas” in film and TV to more align with my seasonal paranoia. I have listed the ones I know of (or can think of) below in no special order. It seems there is no shortage of malicious takes on the head elf, but I would be willing to make a bet that no scary Saint Nick could possibly top the fleshy mass of scar tissue and alcohol in a red cap that I just stood behind in line at the corner store. That spirit of Christmas was fucking rough. Shit... If he is reading this I'm sure you're a very nice dude, please don't come through my chimney and skull fuck me.
“…And All Through The House” segment from Tales From The Crypt (1972) Directed by Freddie Francis
The first of the five stories that make up the 1972 original Tales From The Crypt film. The granddaddy of killer Santas was adapted somewhat faithfully from a story first published in the horror comic series Vault Of Horror. Joan Collins is amazing as the ruthless victim and the Santa has some real-life creepy old man vibes going down, making it a dark holiday favorite (along with its remake). I wasn't alive at the time, but it seems to be pretty early on in the killer Santa game (Silent Night, Bloody Night took on the holiday that same year but did not feature a bloody thirsty Father Christmas).  Plus if you watch the first segment you might as well finish the whole movie it's pretty awesome.
“And All Through The House” episode from Tales From The Crypt (1989) Directed by Robert Zemeckis
The same comic used in the 1972 movie was later adapted for the TV show of the same name. While it stayed close to both the comic and the first adaptation it took on the campy, dark but fun-loving tone of the series, making the film version feel heavy-handed in comparison. The Santa is a whole different kind of nutbag despite doing pretty much the same stuff and is a good ringer for the psycho pictured on the final few panels of the original comic.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr.
For a lot of people this is the first flick they thought of when they heard “killer Santa” and with good reason, as it was the object of moral debate during its sordid release. This was due to the film's portrayal of antagonist in a Santa suit, despite already being done in 1972 (see above) and in 1980s Christmas Evil (see below). The film follows the unstable Billy as the world shits on him in various ways with extra doses during the holiday season. After showing highlights from his cruddy life, it culminates with him getting fully costumed and taking people out with an ax. Bonus appearance by genre favorite Linnea Quigley. GIFs and more from the film (on the Tumblr)
Christmas Evil AKA You Better Watch Out (1980) Directed by Lewis Jackson
Despite not being as well known, Christmas Evil is one of the earliest and most unique entries on the killer Santa list even though it includes a lot of the same story elements as its more known kin. For the best I can do in way of description, it is an offbeat 80s psychological thriller with the Christmas and slasher elements placed on top. We follow the Christmas-obsessed Harry on his unsettling descent to madness, jumping from awkward comedic moments to gruesome takedowns. It’s uneven and a little loose on the editing but features some fun kills from its strangely lovable main character and an entertainingly uneasy tone.
Santa’s Slay (2005) Directed by 
Featuring a second string ensemble cast including professional wrestler “Goldberg” as the rampaging Santa, the goofy dark comedy is mostly just Santa puns and loony toon kills. It's a quick seasonal watch that never really gets boring even with its confusing family-centered tone. See my full review here
Santa Claws (1996) Directed by 
Not to be confused with the 2014 Air Bud rip off of the same name from Asylum, Santa Claws is a 90s low budget horror film from John A. Russo, yup Night of the Living Dead Russo. While it’s not the most polished holiday horror flick it's pretty fun trash and features Debbie Rochon which is always good.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987) Directed by 
SNDN 2 picks up with Billy’s little brother who is locked in an insane asylum, damaged from the same terrible life events, as well as Billy’s rampage... Well kind of. A lot of the movie is large chunks of the edited version of the first movie played in their entirety. Going for the clip show on the second film is a bold, ill-fated move but the film does give us one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history.
Satan Claus (1996) Directed by 
The late 90s must be where I get my distrust of the fat man. Satan Claus is a gritty, sub-grade and basic slasher with mostly off-screen kills. Still, it's pretty spirited and when you can see what's going on, the whole film is dark (like lighting wise) as fuck, it's not a bad watch.
To All A Goodnight (1980) Directed by 
Bad news. The movie that features both a killer in a Santa costume and sorority girls at the same time is one of my least favorite of the list. I still don't really understand how that could be possible but I think the trouble lies with the bad pacing, stiff acting and bullshit twist. Worth a watch but all the best parts are better done in Black Christmas without the red suit.
Yule Die (2010) Directed by 
Low budget as fuck and heavily influenced by its predecessors. The homemade effort features a lot of love for the genre, some good blood and starts to get some real footing towards the end. If you're having a killer Santa marathon it's only fair that you bring this flawed Handycam film along (if you can find it). Everyone who leaves isn't your real friend anyway.
Silent Night (2012) Directed by 
It's got some fucking great gore at times but this flick could frankly be a remake of most the movies on this list, just as easily, story-wise. Pretty much just crazy Papai Noel, who goes on a spree and the cop who tries to stop him. It has little to do with the film it's supposed to be re-imagining but it's a pretty good Santa-kills-people flick nonetheless plus there is a flamethrower.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991) Directed by 
The sequel in name only takes a goofy foray into the killer toy genre and features a “killer Santa” by proxy only, but I think it counts. It also has a later performance from Mickey Rooney oddly enough as the crazy person dressed as Santa. Notable because of his stark disapproval of the original films antagonistic Saint Nick.
Xmas Story” episode of Futurama (1999) Directed by ,
I fucking love Futurama but I fucking hate this episode. It has a killer Santa so it makes the list. It kind of falls on the bad Christmas special side of the fence and the deadly Santa-Bot makes a few comebacks throughout the series but just never gets good for me. Being the worst Futurama episode is hardly a bad thing really, the show had some classic moments in my opinion. This was just not one of them.
Sint AKA Saint (2010) Directed by 
Saint Nick is actually out to fuck shit up instead of giving out gifts in The Netherlands, pissed off about being burned at the stake in the 1400s. The film puts a little more focus on the fantasy elements but mostly is just crusty Santa Claus fucking people up. Good splattertastic shit. I guess in its own country it caused some controversy as well, Silent Night Deadly Night style.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) Directed by 
It could be argued that Rare Exports is more a Krampus flick and I purposely avoided others for this list, for classification reasons. The difference here is the creature is mostly referred to as Santa Claus and there is no mention of him being a separate creature from Father Christmas. Out of every movie I listed here, this is the only one I can truly call a family Christmas movie. Its got a few scares but has an almost 80s Spielberg feel about it.
Psycho Santa (2003) Directed by 
Pure shit, very low grade, and cliche slasher, you might need to bring some intoxicated homies for this one. Gifs and more thoughts on the film (Tumblr)
All Through the House (2015) Directed by 
I only watched this independent entry for the first time this year and was pleasantly surprised. Mostly an homage to the slashers of old, it doesn't feature a lot in the way of innovation but what it does bring to the table is more fun than a bag of dicks. I mean, it is a bag of dicks. Like a bag of severed male sex organs. 10/10 would recommend a watch with mom.

To me, these movies only magnify the fact that for some reason you want some judgmental dude sliding up in your house when you're asleep. That seems like a conflicting rule to have about home invasion, but whatever. Plus Kris Kringle only gets better with an ax and some bloodlust.
I'm sure I missed a few, you can let me know here, on Tumblr or below. If I haven't seen it, I'm sure I want to. Have a great holiday, remember not to trust a motherfucker just because he wears a red stocking cap, and if you see me out there wearing that shit, you can bet I lost my fucking mind. So shoot to kill, but you know, in the way that allows for a sequel.

Love RevTerry

Santa's Slay (2005) Review by RevTerry

While we portray Santa as a jolly fat man who endorses carefree capitalism, felt clothing and a very loose code of ethics, it's no secret that his origins aren't as nice or marketable. Somewhere between the telephone game and religious censorship some of Saint Nick's darker qualities were removed for the general population. Like many things of its nature the process of marketing Christmas would mean a removal of teeth and sanding of edges. In older legends it wasn't only presents getting delivered by the fat guy on Christmas Eve night, the bad kids got deity style beatdowns as well. In some Santa would take a more omniscience role, and to avoid getting his hands dirty, he brought his hairy grotesque homie Krampus along to do his heavy work. While Santa handed out gifts to the polite kiddos, the demon esqu Krampus ran around fucking up the other kids day. Lucky for me, where our asshole cultural forefathers liked to keep it PG and vanilla as fuck, the horror genre likes to focus on the good stuff in magnification. The topic of Santa's dark side, Krampus and other archaic Yuletide misery, unsurprisingly has come up once or twice in the genre. Most mentioned as of late the properly titled and funded Krampus (2015). Michael Dougherty’s Krampus does a pretty good job of making a comedic and dark but family-centered holiday film. It wasn't the first film to attempt that task and as an entertainingly less effective example, we have Santa's Slay (2006).
The film opens to a privileged but dysfunctional family during a Christmas get together. The intro acts something like an extended cameo as the family of bickering wasps is made up of various faces from the 90s and early 2000s ranging from James Caan to that guy who was only good on SNL in the 90s. At some point, while the somewhat era-topical crew uses passive aggression to slowly chip away at each other, their home is sealed by Santa Claus. Each one is then dispatched off in cartoon-like ways to part of the Home Alone soundtrack mistimed in the background. Then Santa jumps in his doom sleigh on the freeway and you figure the movie is going to be just a huge dude dressed as Santa fucking people up to bad music cues. Which would be cool, but instead, after what feels like fifteen minutes, we meet a Nicolas Yuleson (Douglas Smith, and yep, Yuleson and it’s not even just a nod either, its a plot point), at his place of work, a deli. His family, i.e. his nutty grandpa, does not celebrate the Christmas holiday, and the kid is obviously a little alienated by it. When he comes home from a day of meat slicing and humbug, he finds his grandpa has built a bunker to protect himself from Santa's wrath, which he seems to have some foresight on. Nicholas thinks he has flipped his nut for good and confronts him about the family's traditional lack of seasonal cheer. Grandpa then decides it's time to let his grandson in on the true origins of Christmas, which involve Satan, curling, and a pun on the word “slay”( which was pretty good timing, because all the while Santa is out fucking people up). Well, kind of because he seems to just Jason-Phase™ to the best places for cartoon kill setups and close calls with the kid. With his new found knowledge and God on his side, Nick, his grandpa, and a rushed romantic interest must take down Saint Nick while every contemporary Christmas song the producers could get the rights to clashes with the editing behind them.
It feels like a disgruntled straight to video or a family film on a workplace rampage. Its holiday special feel is strengthened with its b-list or tv cameos and cookie cutter edits. I have never seen the third Santa Claus movie with Tim Allen and Martin Short but from what is burned in my brain tissue from the seconds of previews I was subjected to at some point in the 2000s I have a feeling like they share a common bloodline. I mean that in the best possible way. It is as if Santas Slay could be the happy toxic byproduct of whatever dark arts or sciences that create smiling soulless cash grabs like The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). I had to spend most of the first viewing wondering how a movie that was obviously only a very thin premise, based on a joke, has so much money backing it before I was able to settle into the corny mess of awkward seasonal fun. Like Jack Frost (1997) the simple and “soft” touch of the writing helps parody a sect of holiday films. Whether or not the effect is entirely on purpose, the logicless fantasy, family bonding feels and uniform presentation feels like a good replacement for what I imagine normal people are forced to watch during this time of the year. The kills are ok despite the handling of direction and there must be a body count of 20 at least, which is fun. The story is mostly stolen from other films besides the film's twist which is more a needed explanation than a surprise. It's fun, mean-spirited, but whimsical holiday garbage masquerading as a witty dark comedy. If I owned ABC Family (or whatever the fuck they call it now) this is the kind of trash I would play.
A running joke starting with the family of familiar faces at the beginning is that the majority of the cast is made up of Jewish celebrities. This was completely lost on me for several years but is a fun easter egg, I guess the punchline being that none of them, of course, celebrate Christmas. It works also with the mains characters plight of watching others enjoy the holiday without being allowed to do so himself. I make no claims to actually knowing if this is a common feeling for people of that faith, but if it is let me be the first to tell you, it's an act. It's all bullshit, all the happy and presents and shit, a front. A facade lined with poverty and family throwdowns. So don't feel too left out, that is, if you do feel left out. Again I have no idea if that's how that works and won't pretend to. 
Professional wrestler Bill Goldberg is the bloodthirsty Santa Clause. He does well in what amounts to him just being what I assume is his wrestling persona in a red suit on a murderous trek equipped with bad Santa jokes. It's kind of a one trick pony but it's entertaining and he looks like he has fun doing it. I have said it before but even though I do not watch any professional wrestling it seems that it's stars do well in trash flicks for the most part. The main kid (Douglas Smith) is not great and borderline grinding but perfect if what we were looking for was the annoying star of a tv special, so it works. Grandpa (TV legend Robert Culp) never quite gets passed seeming creepy and nuts even when it's all explained. That could be the cold editing that plagues the entire film or by design. The cast is filled with low-level cameos including Rebecca Gayheart, Fran Drescher and Saul Rubinek (where the fuck is he now?).
So while it's not too shelf entertainment by any regard I will gladly take Goldberg’s shitty kill lines over the neutered version of the myth that stands today. It's hard to take a demi-god seriously when his worst threat is a lump of coal and no one knows an actual kid to get one. I guarantee the most piece of shit kid on your block got something on Christmas. He probably got something better than you did. He probably got what he fucking wanted. There are better Christmas flicks out there, but I'm pretty sure you could also find a more terrible one on cable if you tried during the last half of December.
| 2005
Director: David Steiman
Writer: David Steiman


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Jack Frost (1997) Review by RevTerry

I'm not like fucking Scrooge or anything but Christmas and I have never quite clicked. I always dug the days off from school as a kid, gift exchanges are always good and sometimes there was food. Otherwise, the whole motif feels really forced. I mean, the canons mythology is weak at best and full of hollow threats. The “Coca-ColaSanta Claus has got to be the most vanilla deity ever, falling between guidance counselor and cop. The whole story-line is all over the place and the overall message to it all is muddled from its history of appropriation. As if in tribute- the majority of family Christmas movies are just terrible. Cookie cutter characters in a blender of fake feels and an image is universally portrayed of snow filled magic as if no matter where you are in the world a winter wonderland is going to manifest just in time for the festivities. I have lived a lot of places, and a majority of those places had never seen snow. The poor folks in the areas that do get snow, know it's not so much a driving force for family love sometimes, as it is a deadly hazard. This year is going to be different though. I will relate to the holiday spirit one way or another. I must resist the transformation into a wrapped DVD distributing humbug. It shouldn't be too big a deal right? Corny, terrible and overdone movies are my bread and butter. That's my shit, so at least there's common ground there. I just need to add some snow and shit. That's where Jack Frost (1997) comes in.
During the opening credits, along with the almost routine tunes, we have a story being told to a child by an uncle that clearly needed to be spoken to about what is appropriate for a child. We don't learn much about them because, as far as I know, they only exist in the intro as bodiless voices. After that moment which is most likely the scariest part of the movie, we are taken to a police transport vehicle as it makes its way through the snow. The prisoner, a cartoon villain named Jack (Scott MacDonald), is a prolific killer who after a long seemingly unstoppable rain of killing was apprehended by a small town police sheriff, Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport). As movie luck would have it, the prison transport would hit a snowstorm just as it was passing through Sam’s jurisdiction and eventually wrecks into a vehicle containing an experimental substance. Jack goes to escape after the disaster but engages in a struggle with one of the guards, which leads to his being covered in special science goo. Logically this means his DNA combines with the snow to create some kind of sassy snow monster. With his new form as a living snowman and the endless list of ice-based super abilities that comes with it, Jack takes to killing the residents of the sheriff's mostly podunk town. It’s up to the Sheriff to end Jack’s reign of death and bad jokes for good. Unfortunately, he must first deal with small-town politics and two less than helpful representatives from the chemicals manufacturer.
The goofy mood of film mixes with the generally competent editing and lighting to make up what feels like a demented but authentic mid-budget, holiday family film. Outside of the blood and scene of implied snowman rape, there is only the kind of simple but complete characters and concepts that you would find in a straight to video kids flick or early 2000s Disney Channel original. No one thinks you are picking up the killer snowman movie for its serious aspects and the filmmakers use this as a tool to make it entertaining. Of course, every joke falls flat, some almost timed to fail, but the light mood and silly logic do a great job of parodying the Christmas film genre as a whole, even if that wasn't fully on purpose. It's a mess of seasonal references and stolen elements, with a jolly mean spirit. At times the Charles Band movie holographic VHS cover promised shines through but has none of the patented rougher edges, nor does it share the same pitfalls. Editing, lighting, and camerawork are made-for-TV grade or above, at some points even employing some creative lighting effects. The snowman FX work, something tells me we are lucky in ‘97 practical effects were still standard for the most part. Offscreen kills make up about 50% but plenty of creative setups and blood squirts, no nudity but there are some awkward snowman shower hugs. Its cheesy juvenile garbage but it's fun cheesy juvenile garbage.
A tongue in cheek film can be made or broken by its actors. Comedy isn't everyone's game and it's even harder to play it straight. Christopher Allport is a great choice as the determined but somewhat dopey sheriff. He is great in serious roles and succeeds in doing what other legendary former bit-part players have done with the straight man part. I’ll always remember him for his part in an X-Files episode but its shame he doesn't get enough love for Sheriff Sam Tiler. For the title character, we have mostly just the voice of Scott MacDonald in a well picked emotive role, who I mostly recognize from tv roles. His murderous villain is a big part of the fun the film holds and matches the cartoon flavor. There is some other faces you may recognize as suspects from Law and Order or such, as well as Shannon Elizabeth in her first acting role.
At its level of cheese and quality, it's less a horror film with Christmas as a setting than a Christmas film with a misplaced killer snowman. Turns outs that's exactly what I need to get me in spirit. It's special cases like this that help us yule-challenged interact with the outside world during this hellish month when we are out of toothpaste because we are too afraid to go to Walmart.
1h 29min | 1997
 Director: Michael Cooney
Writers: Jeremy Paige (story), Michael Cooney (story) 


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Undefeatable (1993) Review by RevTerry

I won't say I have never enjoyed a good day-long marathon of Jean-Claude Van Damme films from time to time or that I'm not a fan of some the essentials when it comes to Schwarzenegger or Stallone. That early 90s era of action trash-filled TNT marathons and gave us a ton of great shit from a wide range of budgets. That certainly includes the people that make up some of the “ensemble" super duper Expendables type, old man team-ups of late. Among a few more random issues, I have one huge gripe with the nostalgic ass-kicking all-star type flicks: Where the fuck is Cynthia Rothrock? As far as my childhood was concerned she ranked up there with the big ones. If you went back in time and asked little-ass RevTerry, he would be sure that she could have, after an epic battle and plenty of one-liners, kicked the shit out of all three of the aforementioned action stars along with the pony-tailed one I didn't mention (on purpose. He is a conversation for another day). She would certainly rock their old asses now. Even at the age of 60, she looks like the ageless Terminator compared to the overpaid melting man brigade. One of my favorite Rothrock final fight scenes recently (I don't know how recent, time means nothing to me) went viral on YouTube for its silly dialog and even cornier manly shirt ripping. While it's definitely got a few giggles out of me (and it is a Godfrey Ho film) I really don't think that's the only recognition a classic like Undefeatable (1993) deserves.
The film introduces us to Kristi (Rothrock), who when not serving tables at a diner or laying down positive vibes to her sibling, makes money on the side in illegal street fights. She attends these events, which take place in generic alleyways and parking garages, accompanied by her posse of supportive, middle-aged, Asian men. You know they are all in one gang because they all wear leather biker jackets as opposed to the other ridiculous outfits that the opposing gangs sport. She uses the extra ass-kicking dough to pay her kid sister's way through college with dreams of attending herself in the future and becoming a doctor. Because the fights are always getting busted by the fuzz she gets acquainted with an Officer DiMarco (John Miller) who develops feelings for her, most likely because of all the ass-kicking she’s out there doing. Unfortunately, another fighter (Don Niam), involved in something called death fights and with serious mommy issues, loses his shit when his wife leaves (after an awkward elevator music rape scene). This causes the angry, pale Mario Lopez knock-off,“Stingray” to begin cruising the town, killing women who remind him of his scorn wife/mom and removing their eyes. Kristi’s poor sister fits the bill and when she turns up dead, Kristie has no choice but to take up arms against the mulleted Stingray. Officer DiMarco can't really get with it because he's a cop and kind of a bitch. He warns her not to go, swoons a little, sternly warns again, helps some, removes his shirt for some reason and helps some more. Of course, mostly Rothrock runs around foot-fucking a few people's day up and there is a lot of eyeball damage. Oh yea and everyone gets to go to college (really). Except for Stingray. Fuck you Stingray.
The picture was directed by (infamous) Godfrey Ho , using one of his 40-something pseudonyms. Depending on who you are that bit of knowledge may give you certain “expectations” about the film, although I can testify that it is one of his more polished efforts. For those who don't know the name, he has given us such classics as Robo Vampire (1988), Ninja Terminator (1985) and the smoldering ball of confusion Thunder Ninja Kids: The Hunt for the Devil Boxer (1991) as well as 140+ other titles mostly involving the word “ninja”. He has a reputation for unintentional laughs and “borrowed” elements. Although filmed in the United States, featuring English speaking actors, the movie was a Hong Kong production and was released for the overseas market re-cut as Bloody Mary Killer. The alternative version features a subplot involving Robin Shou, aka motherfucking Liu Kang.
Like the other greats in the bare-knuckle dance fighting corner of cinema, you don't really show up for Rothrock's performance range, though she has a certain positive charm in most of her characters to keep you more than happy when she is not kicking people in the face. Above all, it's her fucking fight scenes. Even with jarring, random cuts and just bad film editing her moves look raw and precise. Rothrock doesn't do much in the way of flash and even refrains from using an extreme example of her signature kick-dude-in-face-behind-me move (it's there just not as prominent) but as always brings her brand of wholesome mudhole stomping. It's hard to pinpoint the element that makes it special, nothing like the hyper movement in most of today's fight films. Somewhere between Sonny Chiba and Billie Jean King lives Rothrock’s majesty. 
My biggest beef with the film would be the overuse of the Officer Nick DiMarco character. While he would have been fine as backup or a supporting, maybe romantic, role, instead the writing team opts to shoehorn him into critical parts of the film to serve as a team-up of sorts. Not only does his help in the fight scenes seem unnecessary but he is often the one to push the scene into more silly areas when it's trying to be serious punch people time. 
Even with the goofy ass dialog the fights are all pretty solid and get better as they go. Camerawork and pacing are hands down Godfrey Ho's best work, in my opinion, and despite the fact that somehow he still at that point did not know how to film a fight, Rothrock makes up for it. His films are always entertaining but I get the feeling more work went into Undefeatable. Whether it was his own, I don't know. Little to no gore, save for the last fights, there might be nudity but it is covered by awkward elevator music and weird mom flashbacks so I didn't notice. In general the soundtrack is terrible but I couldn't pick out any stolen pieces so it could be worse(that doesn't mean they weren't there). All together as a film, Ho’s best in several regards, but a lot of that is the basic enough plot and the addition of Rothrock.
It's a good, silly 90s action flick and it can hold it's own against many that could hold that title.  Some of the dialogue is laughable (ok, all) but that was the standard for The Expendable crew’s films from that time as well and it hasn't improved much. For why Cynthia Rothrock’s legacy seems to be forgotten among the wave of cornball action nostalgia, the unfortunate reasons and their discussion could fill a college course. Not broke people college either-- like real expensive, fancy-ass college. And hopefully, it would be taught by someone other than a movie blogger who lists Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers as one of his favorite films.
1h 30min | 1993
 Director: Godfrey Ho (as Godfrey Hall)
Writers: Robert Vassar (screenplay), Steve Harper (screenplay), Tai Yim (story), Timothy Lee (script advisor)


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