1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) Review by RevTerry

It's hard not to rant about remakes. The soulless churning of tract house-like Blockbusters with another film’s name is enough to boil the most optimistic of blood. I don't really want to get into that mess of shit, plus there are few examples of remakes being great, or at least watchable. Instead, I would like to draw attention to the remakes shady ass cousin, the rip off, specifically the fact that it, many times, can be more entertaining, worthwhile or at least less offensive. Where the remake appears to be saying “I can do that better” the rip often feels like it is saying “that was cool- let me try”. Of course there are various degrees to the exploitation of a concept. I'm not trying to say Asylum is out there doing God's work by releasing mockbusters, but at least it doesn't have any official rights or canon to shit all over and therefore does not truly have the keys to some of our fragile hearts. Also, not every rip off is equal, as some have made huge impacts on Cinema on their own merits. John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was founded as a cash-in in to Black Christmas, arguably spawned an entire genre with its copycats, and tired ass Star Wars was just a sloppy mix of Valerian comics and Flash Gordon but went on to birth countless rip offs of its own(some more fun in my opinion). The Mad Max series created some of my favorite examples, along with the Escape movies and The Warriors. Their edgy, anything- goes, dystopic worlds inspired international “tributes”, carving out a large sect of trash cinema. Epic cheese equipped with impossible hairdos like 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982).
The opening text does more to confuse the plot than help. It very well could have said “Have you seen Escape From New York and The Warriors?” and I'm sure we could have caught on sooner or later. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic 80s version of 1990, where corporations openly rule the world. For whatever reason, the Bronx has been sectioned off and given to rule by gangs of wardrobe- heavy young adults, each with their own unbelievable style sense. One of the more lovingly problematic gangs is the The Riders, a group of bikers with a relatively tame theme based on the Hells Angels. Their leader is the beautiful love child of Fabio and the Karate Kid, who everyone calls “trash”. Trash, of course, has a heart of gold, and when the rebellious daughter of a powerful corporate president enters the “No Man's Land" he takes to protecting her. The girl, destined to be CEO herself, through some kind of dynasty program, has run away from the glitters of the ruling class high life out of moral standing. Shit complicates, as shit will, in post-apocalyptic penal colonies, when members of The Riders are killed in the regime's efforts to retrieve the heiress, almost starting a war between the city’s gangs. To strengthen his efforts against the government/corporation and unite the crews against a common threat, Trash attempts the trek to the zone’s raining king “Ogre” to plead his case, which means strolling through several other colorful gangs territory, including safety concerned roller hockey players, and Clockwork Orange inspired theater kids. So pretty much- Escape meets Warriors. Oh.. and I think Snake Plissken has an evil cousin, who too is kind of a badass but you know... evil.
The film was one of three films director Enzo G. Castellari made to capitalize on trends set forth by Mad Max (specifically Road Warrior), Escape From New York and The Warriors. Coming out in 1982, it was followed by Escape from the Bronx (its sequel) and Warriors of the Wasteland the next year. Castellari was notorious for his borrowed themes, having been sued by Universal the previous year for his definitely-not-Jaws shark movie, The Last Shark. Despite this reputation, Castellari always has great style and energy to his jack-moves. The best kind of trash has a soul, and Castellari would too influence others with his work. The most recent of note being the Quentin Tarantino 2009 film that not only borrowed a few elements from Castellari’s 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards but also a misspelled version of its title. The film enlisted the help of the actual Hells Angels bikers for stunt work and filmed its exterior shots in New York. Interior scenes were filmed in Italy to comply with Italian funding regulations.
While the film may wear the borrowed look of several sci-fi flicks that came before, its tone comes off closer to Welcome Back Kotter (1975), which is amplified by the fact that Trash and a few more of the cast could easily be members of the Sweathogs with minimal wardrobe changes. While it's hard to truly judge watching it dubbed in English and despite parts being slow and stiff, it manages to hang on during any back and forth dialog. Most responses actually make sense, sometimes even circle around witty, but don't get me wrong, everything thing they say is still silly as fuck and full of lines that would be fun to yell at your movie watching partner, then later say around people that have no idea what you are talking about.
Like a lot of the Italian rip offs, it can be beautiful and well shot. New York, I assume, just looked like that back then and is utilized well on the exterior shots, although the geography is a little confusing based off of landmarks. A funky synth track laces the bulk of the film with appropriate change ups and sampling for each situation or according to the film it's jacking at the time.
As with Castellari’s other classic The Inglorious Bastards (1978) the action is a blast to watch and really where the film excels. Fights are almost hypnotic, even while trying ape the grunt-dancing style of The Warriors. Most of the actual battles between the gangs have little to no consequence plot wise but provide well timed breaks between goofy drama and haphazard story development. Everybody has a fun weapon or style that matches their personality (even if sometimes their personality is guy who gets punched) and it seems that decapitation is the official way to truly end a fight in the post-apocalyptic east coast, which is cool. Plus, I'm pretty sure,more than 2 people are lit on fire ,and watching Fred Williamson punching nameless thugs never disappoints.
Mark Gregory plays the human action figure “Trash”. He moves as though he doesn't have as many points of articulation as the rest of us, with his chest stationary at all times and he looks like he shows up to punk shows in the 90s just to steal peoples girlfriends. He's awesome and perfect for the shallow role. If you can get a hold of it, he is also really great in a somehow cheesier way as the titular “Thunder” in Thunder (1983) . Fred Williamson plays “Ogre” and as always, steals every moment he's in with slabs of hammy confidence. He doesn't have a gun this time so it's all punches and very clean, one-slice head removals. Legend Vic Morrow plays “Hammer”. This was his last completed picture before the tragic events during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
There are plenty of trashy derivative post-apocalyptic flicks to choose from, and even some of the worst are still pretty fun, but the casserole like mash up of Road Warrior, Escape and Warriors seems extra tasty in my opinion. More importantly, while it may blatantly rip off those classics, it does not seek to erase them, as the majority of “ in name only”remakes made today appear to be attempting to do (mostly unsuccessfully). They are just as sleazy, but from the viewers standpoint the rip off is much more beneficial. The horde of Escape rip offs have brought me hours of entertainment. While I can almost guarantee the inevitable day they make due on their threats to remake the film series, I will feel nothing but soul rupturing heart ache. I don't think John Carpenter would agree and with good reason. From the filmmakers point of view, it would be a different story altogether, I guess. While I can understand why, as a poor fan that has been hurt too many times, I just can't take another streamlined abomination. Enough is enough. Fuck the remake, long live the rip-off!
1h 29min | 1982
Director: Enzo G. Castellari 
Writers: Elisa Briganti, Enzo G. Castellari, Dardano Sacchetti

Links:


Review by
Share:

The Brain (1988) Review by RevTerry

I will never understand the appeal of reality TV doctors.From the has-been clinics, that wizard of Oz spin off, to the radio personalities like long stay Dr.Laura. In my opinion, it is all incredibly fake. Not that fake is always a bad thing, quite the opposite when it comes to TV, but pretending to be a person of authority and handing out advice on some serious subjects is just irresponsible. It's hard to imagine that these shows could offer any real help and it hurts my brain to attempt to indulge any of it. One of the worst, in my book, is Dr.Phil. Everything about that guy says “don't trust me”. He looks like he managed a Walmart and he speaks mostly in vast generalization with a southern twang, yet there he is on the TV handing out potentially damaging advice to the masses. Somebody is watching that shit. Somebody somewhere is taking that guy’s folksie garbage and applying it to how they behave, or likely how they think their child should behave. To me that's scary as fuck. Mental health seems like a fucked up thing to trust in the hands of a next wave Maury Povich. I don't care if that shiny bastard has 10 degrees, I don't think psychology and therapy are the one size fits all type problems or effectively resolved with cute generalization. As I'm not an expert myself, you probably shouldn't take my word for it either. It could be my predisposition to distrust authority figures that sound almost like Fog Horn Leghorn, or the fact that pop psychologists are nothing new and the ones being that were prominent when I was young have all been disproven or discredited. It also could be that science fiction and horror have given me plenty of food for thought when it comes to mind control through the TV screen. For a good example, with bonus tentacles, we have a 1998 Canadian film- The Brain.
The film starts with a loving mother sitting down to enjoy the new hit self help phenomenon “Independent thinking” hosted by Dr. Blake. While she watches intently her daughter goes up stars to her bedroom for a little freak out time. After some life reflection in a mirror, and some unexpected bloody teddy bear tears, tentacles appear to bust through the walls on some touchy-feely shit. The girl screams, but before it can get really hentai like ,the tentacles disappear without a trace, and her mother runs up stairs to see what the fuck is going on. Her mom takes the opportunity regurgitate some of the good doctor’s babble before the suddenly tentacles reappear. In the ordeal the mom gets stabbed up, and the girl jumps to her death, doing her best impression of Gordon the dog from Friday the 13th part 4. After the title screen,we meet our main character Jim-the misunderstood bad boy. We know he is misunderstood because the adults keep saying it,but we only see him being a jerk and somehow taking all the fun out of blowing up a toilet. Because of his behavior the school recommends the popular “Independent Thinking” program, selling his parents on the idea with a creepy advertising video and an ultimatum involving graduation. With no choice Jim reports to the Psychological Research Institute. Just like in real life- the project is a front for a giant evil alien brain thing. Dr Blake and his associates attempt to affect jim, using a tv and some boobs, but he deludes their brainwashing techniques with his 80s bad boy aversion to authority. When he leaves, strange shit starts happening and the the institute of “independent thinkers” decides he is too dangerous to leave alive. Unfortunately for Jim, the whole town has been watching the doctor’s hit show and now are poised against him. It’s up to him alone (mostly) to take on the giant brain alien and stop the show from going nationwide.
The elements that make up the film are not unique. We have the well worn pod-people like human drones, TV brainwashing/thought control and aliens out for a generic takeover, but the The Brain plays it well with angst soaked humor. Even with the familiar tropes in full full force, the corny mess throws out random satirical points of insight into education, free thought and psychology. It ends up feeling like the back alley love child of Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) and Full Moon’s Bad Channels (1992) . You can tell that under all the terrible acting and uneven camera work, lays a pretty good script that,even in its realized form, keeps an entertaining and engaging pace. At its core, it is a tribute to older sci-fi flicks,and despite featuring a uncircumcised, extendo brain monster that sometimes bites people, its attempts at horror are at bulk contained to (almost purposely) unsuccessful Invasion of the Body Snatchers- style paranoia and overshadowed by the parodied 50s drive in feel
The effects themselves are great, and even feature a memorable transformation from tentacle brain in a fish-tank to goofy monster head thing, although the creature's design is a mostly a cartoon joke with googly eyes. It doesn't take away from the entertainment value (the opposite actually) but its final form is strangely reminiscent of the dick monsters that pop up in Troma films. There is a few juicy gore moments, a little nudity (more if you count penis creatures), and spoiled teenagers, all in 80s b-movie fashion with classic cheese filled grace.
The film is adorned with terrible acting. The biggest exclusion to that being ,of course, the inclusion of David Gale as the TV personality- Dr. Anthony Blakely. Gale is one of my favorite bad guys and is a perfect fit for alien pseudo-psychologist. His best villain will forever be Re-Animator’s talking head but this role is one of my favorites. Tom Bresnahan is our wooden main character, who either by accident or on purpose was written to be kind of a unlikable douchebag but it works. George Buza, aka the motherfucking wise voice of beast from the 90s X-Men Animated series, does well enough in his role channeling some kind of late-Orson Welles/Bela Lugosi hybrid.
The Brain is great piece of cornball trash with just a (tiny) hint of insight and satire, one that can laugh at itself just enough. It might even be a good flick to introduce a more mainstream viewer to crap-cinema. Who knows you-might even turn someone off of bad reality TV shows that dabble in the dangerously stupid, like Dr.Phil or his counterparts (as opposed to the entertainingly bad like this movie). If there is even a slight chance you could make that difference, I say- you owe it to the world.
(I couldn't find an English trailer but you the gist)
| 1988
 Director: Ed Hunt (as Edward Hunt)
Writer: Barry Pearson (screenplay) 

Links:

Review by
Share:

Video Violence (1987) Review by RevTerry

Life is full of disappointments- Alien sequels, long awaited Duke Nukem games etc..., but the one that left the biggest stain on my soul was the extinction of my dream job- the video store clerk. I know it was far from a career to begin with, and most likely a vocation that came with a room at your parents house far into adulthood. All the same, it seemed like a good fit and I'm not doing much better in the life game anyway. I just wanted to be that guy. You know the one. The one with the passionate recommendations and fun facts. The associate who can tell a parent why a movie has a PG13 rating or give you a friendly warning if the gore/nudity of the film doesn't quite live up to the cover. They watched everything because it was their job and their passion.You could feel the excitement even as you made your movie choices, loving jealousy of virgin eyes as you picked up a first time watch. If you were lucky, in the VHS days, you had a “mom and pop” shop staffed only with these dedicated disciples of cinema. Even in the less golden age of the young DVD and the Blockbuster/Hollywood two party system there always seemed to be one on the floor at all times. As time passed I watched my opportunities for my calling dwindle and disappear under the rise of Redbox and streaming/download capabilities. It's hard to admit, but in the grand scheme, change can be a good thing, and The Twilight Zone did try it's best to warn me. I also have the movies themselves to comfort me in my perceived obsolescence, as a video clerk without a shop, with increasing ease of access as technology moves forward (new transfers on disc, streaming, etc) and if i'm really in need of a trip down the greasy aisles of the home media revolution I can load up Video Violence (1987).
Our main character Steven Emory(Art Neill), who kind of has an art teacher meets Kenny G thing going on, has just moved with his wife (Jackie Neill) from New York to a small out of the way community. Having managed a movie theater in the city and nurturing a passion for film, he opens a movie rental store in the new area, with one single employee (Kevin Haver). The film is broken up into chapters each with a title card. The first being a prologue where we witness the taped assault on a woman by the greasy ass employees of what looks like a sporting goods store as she tries on some stylish clothes. After we start “Day 1” we see Steven engaged in a conversation with his lone employee about the strange behavior of the city’s residents. Besides the normal small town complaints and rude social interactions, the two comment that the stores customers universally seem to be only interested in gorey slasher flicks (and the occasional porn fix). The employee, Rick, while going through the returned tapes, finds an unlabeled VHS in one of the rental boxes and convinces Steven to allow him to watch it before the owners come to claim it. To both their lukewarm suprise, what displays on the tube is a home video depiction of two cackling rednecks butchering the local Postmaster gleefully atop a dirty ass mattress. After getting over their extremely calm and collected horror, the two decide that the best plan is for Steven to lock Rick in the store with the tape while he heads to speak to the police chief directly. The chief (William Toddie) appears to be skeptical but agrees to follow Steven back to the store to watch the tape. When they arrive Rick is nowhere to be found, and the tape has been switched with a harmless home movie. After a “told ya so”, the chief warns him that the now missing employee may be just fucking with him. Ol’ Steve doesn't buy it, and the strange behavior only gets worse. It starts to look like there is a local snuff film operation going down, but who’s watching this shit and why hasn't anyone done anything? It's up to Steven and his coffee shop demeanor to answer these questions, stop these killings and hopefully avoid taking a starring role in a tape himself.   
Video Violence gets a quiet head start on a few trends. It feels like a 90s low budget callback to late 80s genre flicks despite being filmed in ‘87. The film makes nods to its own shot-on-tape medium and the horror genre in general, and with its video store back drop, at times, hits a level of meta humor that years later will become trendy with Scream (1996). At a very early point in the camcorder horror game, this movie uses its low-rent production to its advantage and seems to have foreknowledge of the fun and fuckery the straight to home video market will produce in the following decade. It makes several references to studio gore flicks, as well as the early shot on VHS favorite Blood Cult (1985, sometimes incorrectly considered the first SOV horror movie).
A lot of Video Violence is pretty standard for your shot on tape movie. We have the washed out lighting, the blank, dry expressions on the actors faces and analog artifacts on the screen at times that would become the uniform for this horror section. Even with its obvious budget constraints, the film makes due by using its camera well, moving between attempts at classic fixed framing, while the focus is on our unlucky protagonist, and a grimy hand held snuff movement for the gruesome segments. Some of the gore gets a little goofy but mostly uses angles well to hide its limitations, and the unnerving giggling of the two creepy ass rednecks helps a lot. It’s one and a half hour runtime is padded with the main character's quest for the truth, which equals a lot of dialog as he tries to convince others or figure out what the fuck is going in general. Even with all the talking the film somehow stays engaging. The story and dialog, while cheesy and undeveloped, has just enough well plotted points to keep me giving a shit despite it spending a lot of time following a dude jogging around in a ponytail, talking to people and watching VHS tapes. The soundtrack can make you think you may have slipped into a 90s drivers ed video and has a few “musical patterns” that arrive early and overstay their welcome, but it seems fitting, especially now when neo-trash films attempt to replicate the style so frequently.
The actors are obviously having fun, and in a lot of cases the amateur talent is fitting of the role. Especially well placed are the bloodthirsty “yokels” who mimic the personalities of public broadcast television. Steven (Art Neill) and his wife (Jackie Neill) give dry but spirited performances, and the police chief (William Toddie) pulls off some pretty great Naked Gun (1988) facial expressions.
What makes Video Violence stand out can only be described as spirit. Gary Cohen’s love for the genre shows through the home video camera. It’s corny, bleak and demented but somehow endearing in its own blood soaked way. For me it's a great, perfectly trashy snapshot of a blossoming medium for independent flicks and a silly look at the cultural impact. One we can show future babies for years to come, who never got a chance to see a Video Rental store. That way- the future babies know what im talking about, when my old decrepit ass complains again about wanting to be a career video-store clerk but being born too late, as the Disney™ Brand Super-Streaming-Service© beams its newest Star Wars™ film directly into our brains.
1h 30min | 1987
Director: Gary P. Cohen (as Gary R. Cohen)
Writers: Gary P. Cohen (as Gary Cohen), Paul Kaye

Links:


Review by
Share:

Chop (2011) Review by RevTerry

Chances are you have done some fucked up shit at some point in your life, something you regret. What's more, it's likely that you have played the villain in someone else's story, even if just for a moment. Maybe you cut off a slow-ass motherfucker in traffic,you were an asshole in highschool, or you got a promotion someone else deserved. You might not even know what the fuck you did or when you did it, but have a place on someone's shit list all the same. I guess we all take turns. In real life all people exist in an ugly, unmeasurable area somewhere between complete fuck-wad and golden paladin. When someone pisses you off, from your point of view, it is clear they are the villain. In that moment, for that story they are the antagonist. Yet, people are complicated,so then ten minutes later you go do some evil shit to someone else, and the cycle of the living asshole continues on. This is not to say there aren’t some real pieces of shit out there that deserve an asskicking, or worse, for the truly fucked up shit they’ve done. In the end, all you can do is try to outweigh your bad with some good and live through the repercussions, if any ,of your deeds. Movies are different. People can be clear cut straight up bad guys, pure good guys or even one dimensional cannon fodder. It's as complex as the writers make it. It’s common for a film to follow a protagonist on the search for vengeance, and because it is told from one person's view, with no details to the contrary, we can relish in the lack of grey tones, knowing that justice was served. In fact this is the direct plot of several of my favorite films. Someone fucks someone else over, fucked goes after fucker, then penance is taken and usually in blood. It's a tried and true template, but the 2011 dark comedy Chop takes things a little bit differently in way of perspective.
Our main character is Lance Reed who, along with being a recovering addict, has been a human bag of dicks his whole life. We meet Lance (Will Keenan), as he falls into some car trouble and pulls to the side of the road. He isn't stuck long, as soon -what appears to be a helpful citizen (Timothy Muskatell)-comes along and offers him a ride in his truck. Shortly into the trip the driver asks him some awkward, personal questions and knocks Lance out using a chemical injection to the neck. When Lance awakens, now a captive of the driver, he is tricked into killing his half brother, shown pictures of his wife fucking said brother and it is implied that he has wronged his captor at some point. He is then sent home with instructions that he is not to confront his wife (Tanishaa Mukerji) about the affair and is told he will be under surveillance. Without giving away too much of the films nuances and effect, things only get worse from there, including more murder, goofy dumb cops, hookers, disabled drug-dealing pedophile hillbillies and the old standby, confined torture.
The film is directed by Trent Haaga, who is all over the place in modern trash. As an actor he played the lead in Troma’s Terror Firmer (1999) and is the title clown in the watchable entries (2 on) in the Killjoy series from Full Moon. Fellow Troma alumni Will Keenan plays the lead character, shit-stain Lance. He plays a lot into the films success for me. He does” unlikable douche” pretty fucking well, and his comedy goes well with the timing this time around. Timothy Muskatell plays “The Stranger” and is a fun addition, but I spent the whole film trying to figure where I had seen him, only to find out later on his IMDB the answer was” a lot of random shit I have watched in the last 13 years.” Both the cops were great (Adam Minarovich, Tamil T. Rhee) , but the wife (Tanishaa Mukerji) seemed to be out of place as far as acting style. From what I understand she has her own following in Indian films.
While several moments in the film may have a “tromaesque” feel, its cartoon tone is much it's own brand. It is a more confined and darker flavor, but still one that doesn't take itself seriously. The characters are less then likable, this includes Lance. You never really feel bad for him and the film doesn't try to make you. The movie could have easily followed the morbid stranger in his misguided quest for vengeance, as many films have before it. Everyone in the film is only relatable for the fact that they are all pieces of shit. For me this was one of the films strengths. It's not the first film to follow a less than golden protagonist, but provides a great low budget example of the experiment, taking the well worn revenge trope and using off perspective to skew it.
The plot works in its dijnonted fashion. There are a few turns that come at strange times, that other films might have used as twists but instead are here used as off ramps in the loosely structured story. There are a few holes and illogical actions, but the cartoon tone helps smooth it over. Dialog is quick ramblings but entertaining and engaging. A Lot of DTV flicks seem to stumble on the speedy back and forths but Chop feels pretty natural for the most part and seems to utilize people based on their ability. It is goofy and maybe a little rushed but it wears that well. There is a lot of blood spilled but little gore, despite some really grim actions depicted. Because of its comedic tone, nothing really holds any serious weight once we are one dead brother and some removed fingers into the film.
The film uses some quick cuts for effect. Some of them work better than others. There are angles that add a lot to the comedy’s effectiveness and linger just long enough for some great body humor. Lighting and sound quality are on par with a modern Full Moon flick, that is to say- passing indoors quality with saturated outside shots. In the beginning the soundtrack was bugging the fuck out of me but it grew on me and really starts to work later on at points. For the most part it uses its resources well and does a lot with very little.
So while it's not going to turn the often stale revenge trope on its head-  has made a fun, mean spirited run at it. Even though it's mostly a blood soaked live action cartoon, it brings a level of realism to the subgenre. That is, it portrays humans in similar fashion to the real world, a bunch of narcissistic fucknuts who make a lot of bad decisions, and then hope they don't come back to bite us in the ass.
 1h 38min | 2011
Director: Trent Haaga
Writer: Adam Minarovich 

Links:
On Amazon


Review by



Share:
VIDEORELIGON

tumblr

Facebook

New Shit!

The Boneyard (1991) Review by RevTerry

News and Quick Reviews on Tumblr

All Time Favorites

Search This Blog