Killer Nun (1979) Review by RevTerry

Nuns are fucking magic. Not that they can fly or instantly heal the sick (as far as I know), but there is just something powerful about the holy women in God's army.  A certain beauty always accompanies watching someone do something that's out of character or against the rules, like watching old people skateboard. In the case of the Catholic nuns, you get the added bonus of supposedly being married to God as well. It's not just the simple, out place comedy-- like watching nuns rock out to death metal or when Whoopi Goldberg teaches them how not to take shit from assholes while learning a valuable life lesson herself. It's more complex, the nun is a long-running, respected symbol of purity, chastity, and authority. She has been part of the world's Swiss-army knife authority forever it seems, filling in for many roles, able to act as teacher, tyrant or nurse. Images of monk-like disciples in black and white robes have been burned into the minds of a lot of the globe’s population, even those whose family never even attended a mass -God's more violent arm made sure of that. They make for entertaining contrast or juxtaposition, and because of this (and more), the trope makes the perfect target for the sects of cinema that take trade in deconstructing ideas of reverence. The entertaining result of exploitation film’s assault on the ancient order--a combination of niche movies dubbed "nunspolation", which plays off the traditional image of the nun by combining it with good old-fashioned sex and violence in the normal shocking fashions. The religious element seems to give it all an extra bite that it would take a psychiatrist and a cultural anthropologist to fully explain. For me, it can be summed simply enough--supposed blasphemy is fun shit and always has been. The sub-genre has its variations and shares common tropes with other sects of trash cinema, most commonly “women in prison” or “demonic horror” films. Catholic guilt can easily give seed to imagined bloodletting in ways that are sure to fuck with some people. And of course, there is always the martyr angle which has always been a go-to for horror.  Often times, the stories have an erotic nature, as sexy (or sexually deviant) nuns have been a classic trope in fringe media for ages. Sexy blasphemy is even better, again, a psychologist could probably give you a thorough reason why (but may also probably ruin sexy nun time for you in the process). At the moment, I'm not here to talk about sexy nuns (ok that's probably a lie). I want to talk about murderous nuns, like the one in Killer Nun (1979).
After a Texas Chainsaw style title card proclaiming the film is based on fact, a brutal confessional session (with a director cameo), and some synchronized nun activities, we are introduced to Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) the head nurse at a church-run hospital for the elderly. Gertrude apparently has had a long respected career in the establishment, but lately, she has started to become erratic and unreliable. She recently survived a successful surgery to remove a tumor, and while the doctors claim she is as cured as possible, she continues believing herself sick to the point of mania. Her relationships within the hospital begin to strain, as she butts heads with the lead doctor (Massimo Serato), demands to receive treatments for her perceived disorders, and her quality of work declines. It soon becomes unbearable when her bout of hypochondria begins to evolve itself into cruel actions towards the elderly patients and staff, and she develops a healthy morphine addiction. At one point, Gertrude destroys an old ladies dentures by stomping them into dust in front of her, and later she sneaks out at night engaging in anonymous sex with a man in a bar. Desperate, she contacts the Mother Superior (Alida Valli) and asks for help but only receives the advice that “nuns are meant to suffer”. The only person who seems sympathetic to her plight is her roommate (Paola Morra), who seems to like to watch her sleep and hates clothes. When patients start dying off in mysterious ways, everybody, including herself begins to suspect Gertrude may have something to do with it. Bodies start to pile, and she is left with visions of the murders --but is wounded Sister Gertrude truly the lunatic running around killing old people? I mean she is crazy ( and the old lady she de-toothed shortly after suffered a heart attack and died-- so yea ). But is there another more secretive crazy nun running around, or has she just tapped some kind of murderous autopilot?
As the introduction notes, the story is supposedly based on the true story of a Belgium sister who ran around a retirement home for a while killing patients and jacking their shit. From what I can tell (and I'm nowhere near an expert here), there was a nun/nurse named Cecile Bombeek who was said to have committed similar acts and had been arrested the year before the movie’s release. Cecile (also known as Sister Godfrida) had also changed drastically after having a successful brain tumor removed, went on to kill an unknown (>30) amount of people and dealt with a morphine addiction. There was also reported rumors of sordid affairs with other staff, but actual sources for the accounts seem a little scarce, mostly coming back to an article published in Time Magazine on March 13, 1978 titled CRIME: The Nun’s Story.  
The film was originally denounced as a Section 2 “Video Nasty” by self-appointed UK brain-cop Mary Whitehouse. It's not as visually brutal as some on the list, so I'm guessing that this had more to do with the subject matter (Whitehouse was definitely the religious type of nutbag). Killer Nun differs from the majority of its nunsploitation peers by taking place during the (modern) 70s as opposed to using the medieval era setting. Also, there is a noticeable lack of the Women in Prison cliches and/or supernatural elements that a lot of the subgenre employs. The film could easily be classified as a giallo mystery instead and puts stock in that style of an atmosphere. It's a story of psychological horror and intends to keep the viewer in doubt as to the killer's identity. As solely a giallo flick though, it would fall a little flat without featuring the truly creative kills that would rank it high within the genre. The story is heavily built around mental stability and makes several allusions to the slow but definite loss that comes with age. The references to fleeting mental states, among other things, hint at deeper meanings but never go for the critique of faith nearly as much as other sleazy nun flicks. It's not really a scary movie (unless you think about getting old too long), but mostly a fun, silly but fucked up ride. The film still takes itself very seriously at all times but moves the grim story at an engaging pace. Common nunsploitation and giallo cliches pop up throughout Killer Nun, but the blend is one of a kind.  It's possible that those looking for true examples of either may be disappointed, but in its failure, it is much more memorable than some of the more cookie cutter entries. It never really hits the terror or erotic notes it reaches for, but I find myself rooting for Sister Gertrude every time, crazy murderer or not
Most of the film is shot beautifully. The director Giulio Berruti creates almost stand-still shots worthy of paint at times, before breaking them apart for mean-spirited entertainment and contractual T and A. The film is made from shades of white and bright lighting, but it manages to hold to a consistent definition in its picture. It uses the bleached palate to create near optical illusion from hallways and rooms filled with draped sheets. The editing keeps the integrity of the shots, for the most part, and keeps the film moving at somewhat energetic speed. It brings with it a pretty snazzy soundtrack that moves from light church inspired tunes to Outer Limits-esque laser synth and even starts nearing catchy hippy jams.  Like giallo films, it uses mostly the obstructed or odd angles on the kills to keep things mysterious, and in doing so creates a dream-like feel for the violence. Despite its comparatively restrained nature, it still features a few awesomely gruesome moments, including a large needle being shoved into a closed eye. Possibly because of their sparsity, the gore effects look adequately realistic and avoid the extremely bright red blood of similar films. Voice dub on the English versions I have seen leaves little to be desired but might be magnified by the quality of acting.
Cult legend Anita Ekberg rocks the “sister” look like nobody's business and puts in a solid performance as Sister Gertrude. Ekberg, another actor of many career chapters (see Richard Harrison), broke into Hollywood in the 50s after a stint as a pinup model. She did a lot of work in cinema, evolving with the industry into the 70s. At some point, she was even up for the role of Honey Ryder in Dr. No (the role ended up going to Ursula Andress, see my Mountain of the Cannibal God review). Still beautiful as all fuck, the killer nun part is removed from her sex symbol norm for the most part. It instead comes out perfectly desperate, manic and cruel while staying in the neighboring realm of relatable. Paola Morra plays the overzealous homie/lover Sister Mathieu. She stands in for a majority of the film's eye-candy but plays a large role in the story’s progression as well. I haven't seen her in anything else to compare her performance, but she more than handles both jobs in this case. Massimo Serato (Women in Cell Block 7) and Daniele Dublino (Black Belly of the Tarantula) collectively make up the male doctor staff, each adequate but nothing that really sticks in the mind.  Alida Valli, AKA Miss Tanner from Suspiria (Am I going to have to start saying “the original Suspiria” now? shit, fuck you world), makes a quick appearance as the more often referenced “Mother Superior”. The role is brief and is pretty much Tanner dressed as a nun, but she's always awesome.
Killer Nun (aka Suor Omicidi) is blasphemous sleaze all the way, and as a bonus, it's fucking beautiful. It's not quite the blend of the giallo and nunsploitation you’d think you could get, but it's a great watch just the same. It makes an enjoyable slight break from the norm during a woman of the cloth themed movie night, while still checking all the boxes. I don't truly know why nuns make for great trashy movies, they just do. I'm sure there are some who would disagree, even passionately. If you are in fact one of these people-- write to let me know (in detail), because for whatever reason, knowing someone takes offense has a little something to do with my enjoyment. Just be warned I may not wear pants when I read it. People are strange.
 1h 25min | 1979
Director: Giulio Berruti 
Writers: Giulio Berruti, Enzo Gallo, Alberto Tarallo 

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Dropping Evil (2012) Review by RevTerry

I won't pretend to be a shining beacon of sobriety. Like most people, I like to get fucked up, have my favorite poisons and may, or may not, have an experimental past to look back fondly upon in my older (more boring) years. One thing I have always had trouble understanding was the motivations behind taking hallucinogens in an unfamiliar place, like say, while camping. Even at my most reckless, part of me knew it was a bad idea to put my mind and perception to an unpredictable state, while in an area that was not deeply known to me or designed with human safety in mind. To me, it's one thing to trip balls in a house, where not only do you instinctively function but also enjoy the protection of walls and other safeguards engineered to keep dangerous forces of the outside world at a minimum. As a species we have spent centuries designing a living quarter that makes us exempt from the outside (original) order of things. It is fucking safe behind our locked doors in comparison, enough to give even the dimmest of our kind a good chance. Outside in the real world, otherwise known as nature, dumbass living things die all the time, and I have to assume that’s what I will be when on hallucinogenic drugs, no matter what I think in the enlightened (or impaired) moment. Even at those pre-set camping areas, a good number of societies bumpers are left out, really, that's why you go in the first place. At certain points in my life, the custom was more appealing, mostly due to the fact that motivations revolved around finding places to exist as an intoxicated teenager. But even then, part of me longed for the safety of the normal garage or bedroom when the shit kicked in. To each their own, I guess. I’m definitely not judging if your actual plan is to have an LSD induced vision while you die at mother nature's hand, that sounds pretty noble, in a really fucked up way.  I'm also obviously not talking about just good old fashioned drunk (or non-dreamquest type fucked up) camping, which seems as natural as hot dogs or fold-out chairs for some reason. My only issue is with the kind of intoxicated where you might see some shit. It makes me nervous, because I feel like that could go bad. Or really, really bad--like in Dropping Evil (2012).
After an abrupt piece of foreshadowing, the story starts off much like a lot of low budget camp slashers, except that the music sounds like it was made around the same time as Pete and Pete was on the air. We meet a young couple, Samantha (Rachel Howell) and Mike (Thomas Alan Taylor) just as Samantha is finishing up band practice. It seems the two have been planning a trip, but much to Mike’s dismay, Samantha has invited her less “cool” friend Becky () along. She also, out of the blue, suggests that Mike invite his awkward, Jesus obsessed (mostly estranged) friend Nancy () as well, with plans to feed them drugs without their knowledge, in hopes to initiate some kind of relationship between the two outcasts. It really doesn't sound like a good idea, and Mike originally rejects the whole scam. In an unprecedented negotiating technique, they then have a handsy make out sesh to some tunes (How did you get a recording of the annoying Nirvana guy with a guitar at my high school? Amazing!), after which he agrees to her terms. Later in the locker room, Mike waits for Nancy to finish being bullied and reluctantly invites him. In return, he mostly receives an earful of rhetoric on the Bible's stance and a long look at Nancy's ass as he showers. Mike, successfully defeated, heads home for some more, almost musical, moments in the bedroom, but for whatever reason, Nancy calls to say he has changed his mind. With all of the pieces needed for Samantha's (still somewhat murky) plan in place, they load up and embark on a quest towards the campsite with Samantha’s secret LSD in tow. Unfortunately, we soon find out the acid only sets Nancy's crazed Christian warrior mode to a deadly level, and as luck would have it, the whole trip is being monitored by a mega-corporation (Valyoucorp), (in the midst of a bidding war with an immortal) through a secret cybernetic eyeball, implanted into one of the campers. From there everyone gets killed and/ or gets an anime style magical power,  shows up while taking a bath in an unrelated location, and God abandons all of mankind. I won't spoil the weird stuff.
The film’s story takes just as much from movies like Scanners (1981) and from comic books as it does the camp-slashers it initially seems to be inspired by, if not more. The unwillingly drugged up killer-zealot angle could fill a whole film, but here it's just an introduction to a convoluted plot where everyone (just fucking everybody) involved has a complicated backstory. It's all over the place and involves the likes of religious fanatics, menacing super corporations and some kind of Highlander TV show style bag guy. Things are less a "reference" to other material than similar works. The elements are unique and more random but still seem as if they were grown from a compost of 80s movies, superhero comics, and anime. I enjoy the crazed mess.  There is a lot of interesting tongue-in-cheek elements floating around its extremely goofy but robust world. The structure seems to be an effort to bring the viewer in on the “trip” using distinct offbeat chunks and connects them in strange ways. It doesn't quite hit that point where you might feel like you are on drugs, but it is weird as fuck for sure. Characters are incredibly filled out as if they are only making an appearance outside of their own long-running story arch, on their way to the next crossover. I get the feeling that every important point in history and motivation has been mapped out in each eccentric character, no matter how goofy it outwardly seems. It's a sensation like watching through a final episode of a tv show that had years to develop, connect unnecessary dots and over complicate its storyline (in a good way or at least better than that sounds). It keeps a fast pace and uses quick jumps between equally interesting subplots to keep things lively and entertaining, even if not always coherent. There is a lot to say about going for such nonstandard ideas (in mass) in a low budget horror movie like this one and even more about making the final product enjoyable.
The fact that group of unfortunate campers being monitored by a manipulative agency is somewhat akin to The Cabin in the Woods (2012) which came out the year before it, but it takes a much grimier, avant-garde approach. The similarities aren't strong enough to have been lifted. More likely, the films take influence and lampoon the same genre tropes and topics. There is a lot of Firestarter (1984) in there, but the roots are less obvious than current phenomenon Stranger Things. The unique run at ideas goes somewhere beyond tribute or acting as “send-ups” are just kind of absorbed into the throbbing cinema mutation. While the first parts mostly harken back to multiple “into the woods type slashers”, towards the end it's somewhere closer to Chronicle (2012) or the La Femme Nikita series on crack. Despite the common bloodline with other flicks, it is it's own bizarre, one of kind thing, and even it's obvious influences feel like a natural part of the madness. In its effortless lunacy it threads together some kind of unimaginable battle between mega-corporations, living gods, government officials and super mutants, then packaged it as a harmless low budget camp slasher(complete with bad dialogue and teens that look too old to be teens).
To add to its acid motif, the film utilizes several different color schemes throughout that depend upon the characters or setting. A Lot of the second half is done in that high contrast digital “indie” black and white, as it accompanies the scenes involving the corporation forces as they observe the four “subjects” from unnamed headquarters. Most of the technical blemishes could be chocked up to intentional flavoring. It wears the lower budget well and puts its strengths out front. There are a few quick moments of gore that are pretty nice, but they are reserved enough to look relatively realistic. Some shit gets forcefully implanted into people's faces sometimes, including a particularly fun scene involving a well-aimed tree branch. Most of the sound quality is on par for its budget-- dialogue gets a little far away at times. Music-wise, the out-of-time soundtrack is completely hit or miss (as in-- extremely annoying or fantastically random). There is a combination of lax, possibly consciously amateur and well thought out camera angles. Depending on what's on screen, the combination of effects and film quality change drastically. The distinct chunks of the film almost seem to have been filmed at completely separate times, under separate conditions,  and are really only tied together by tv displays and a single connecting scene. This blends together in a way that feels like part of the movie's style, and the ostensibly stochastic editing choices match the plot as its delirious (more bat-shit) qualities intensify.
The bulk of the film’s acting is amateur but is still a step above the majority of low budget horror films. The would-be gang of protagonists all seem to be fittingly terrible actors in the first parts of the film, as it starts out setting itself up to be a straightforward camp slasher filled with cliches. I haven't seen any of them in anything else, as far as I know. Everybody seems to be having fun, and in the end (what would be) the main cast are all perfect for their characters. As the crazy Christian/drugged-up serial-killer Nancy, Zachary Lint plays a damaged religious nut-bag respectably and really starts feeling the role once the drugs kick in, despite rocking some tattoos that, for some reason, feel out of place for a Bible-thumper. I liked the evil Gordon Freeman meets the lead singer of a God-core band thing he had going on.  A Lot of the various (possibly more known) actor’s parts in the film could be called extended cameos. Of note, Tiffany Shepis, who, as always, is awesome. I have talked about her before, and this film is another good example of why she is one of the modern b-movie greats. Her part is little more than a few adequately confusing scenes, but “Dionysia” ends up being a highlight of the film’s many characters.  Who knows what the fuck is going on there, but she sells the shit out it and of course, looks great. The original Hitchhiker, Edwin Neal (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 19 74), makes an appearance as a corrupt US president (with an extended deleted scene). Armin Shimerman ( it took me the whole movie to remember he was the principal from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays the unnamed CEO of the evil corporation,Valyoucorp. He handles the role with his usual expertise on possibly-evil authority figures. There is even a little Fred Williamson in there somewhere and that's always a bonus. 
The film may lose some people, as it never decides what kind of film it really is. The makeshift X-Men type shit and art house(ish) moments may turn off some of the more strict horror fans. It has quite a lot of references, parody, and meta-humor but your more mainstream homies will probably be mostly confused (or angry) if they go in thinking its a “parody” horror movie, like Cabin in the Woods. It would probably only enrage--whatever an indie film kid is --as well, despite its raw artistic value, since it's really hard to tell what antics can be taken seriously. If I had to narrow it down, I would say that it is an indie horror/science fiction film that somehow fits the same number of twists and random plot threads that all eleven seasons of X-Files (minus the movies-- that would just be crazy) into less then 2 hours.
Dropping evil is a lot of things but it is never boring. The whole thing feels like a friend's retelling of his favorite comic book while he is in the middle of a good shroom trip. It's weird as fuck and my kind of random. I spend the whole flick putting parts together and trying to make sense of shit despite knowing it's all silly anyway. It's great. With its budget and cast, it could very easily, have gone for the quick cash and pumped out another fun, but otherwise overdone slasher. Instead, it takes the high road, throws in some LSD, theological violence and whatever else it had laying around to make something unconventional. If you don't even need your horror comedies to hold your hand and sometimes contemplate ways to escape your current reality, Dropping Evil can be a pretty engaging ride. At the same time, it's probably not going to be to everyone’s drug of choice. Everyone, however, should be wary of taking hallucinogens in the wild, in my opinion. Most importantly, narcotics of any kind, should only be given to consenting, aware adults and never to overly religious people. I guess it would be okay if you had some kind of prearranged deal or pact regarding surprise dosing. Really, if you have something like that going on with an intensely Christian person, I’m kind of afraid--but mostly jealous. That sounds like a fascinating way to do drugs and I have to assume you have made some colorful life choices leading up to that arrangement.
1h 22min | 2012
 Director: Adam Protextor
Writer: Louis Doerge

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Dark Angel aka I Come in Peace (1990) Review by RevTerry

Fictional cops are fun shit. They are always the last good ones left in a crime-ridden city, instilled with an unwavering sense of right or a personal quest for justice, going above (or below) the law to fuck some bad guys up and clean the streets. I wouldn't exactly say the same thing about the real ones. I mean, I laugh at douchebag campers getting their head lopped off, but I wouldn't want Jason to show up and do his thing when I was roasting some hot dogs in the forest (you feel me?). Anyway, I enjoy a good (or good bad) law and order shoot-em-up regularly. Luckily, it's a staple of Hollywood, and there is no shortage of vigilant odd couples for me to watch from several eras. Every year we get a new renegade badass who bucks against an unhelpful or corrupt system as he takes down an evil criminal circuit at the same time. I'm usually down, it's kind of hard to fuck up that kind of thing or make it unwatchable. Even better-- is when that lone-wolf maverick is forced to work with another badass, one that is the complete opposite, in some (probably stereotypical) way for the sake of hijinks. Some of the best cop films are of that “buddy” variety. The grizzled veteran gets a new young, more tanned or reckless partner, and they spend most of the movie butting heads in charming ways, in between uncovering a drug ring that goes all the way to the mayor's office (or something). Maybe the new cop is a huge nerd who plays it close to the book, a transplant from another government sector( country, species etc.), or possibly just simply a female officer. Either way, by the end they are the best of homies and finishing each other's one-liners. It comes in a few flavors, most are pretty good even at their worst. It doesn't even have to be human. Movie cops learn to love dogs and shit all the time-- its fucking heartwarming. Not only do the crusaders of these type of films smash bad guy faces but also somehow the divides between race, class or species, as they learn to trust each other within the 90 something minutes of a corny-ass action comedy. I think it's what some call a “bromance”. For many, the first “buddy cop” film to come to mind would be, of course, Lethal Weapon (1987), due to its star power and solid three and half good movie run. Depending on age, I have to also assume some would first jump to more recent popular mainstream titles like Rush Hour (1998) as the “gold standard” for this type of film. Personally, as for extreme law-folk in unlikely friendships, I’m partial to Tango and Cash (1989), for a variety of reasons ( I save that rant for later, but the cliff notes are Kurt Russell and Stallone in librarian glasses ). There have been a lot of great unlikely duos as It's a fun, easy formula, with just the right amount of grit, shootouts and feels.  Dolph Lundgren is underrated in the unlikely partner roles, despite giving us a stellar entry in Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) which paired him with Brandon Lee. It's a classic comic book-like action flick (and it's hard to top that duo), but like most things it can only get better with drug dealing extraterrestrials. That's is why I like 1990s sci-fi injected, buddy cop film- Dark Angel (AKA I Come in Peace)
Detective Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) doesn't play by the rules, or take orders from anybody. He is a by the gut cop, quick to kick a perp in the face and (as we hear a few times for some reason) a man who always keeps a promise. When his partner is killed in a stakeout/sting (possibly due to Caine being busy high kicking people), he, of course, is quick to take up his contractual revenge on the drug cartel responsible, with or without a badge. As these things go, this leads to a loving ass-chewing by his captain (Jim Haynie) and a possible forced vacation in the works. Unfortunately, instead of being suspended, the case attracts the attention of the FBI who, by some kind of inter-agency exchange program, stick the anything-goes Caine with a by-the-book “Special” Agent Smith (Brian Benben) to look into the case. The two waste no time in engaging in cliche, back and forth, armed with plenty of characteristic one-line quips. Unbeknownst to the both of them, the malicious drug-ring has run into a little trouble themselves, as a freshly arrived and freakishly large humanoid (Matthias Hues), with a Warlock (1989) inspired hair-doo, has been ransacking all their heroin pop-up stores on some kind of fucked-up interplanetary scavenger hunt. As Cain and Smith are just beginning their troubled road to bro-hood and quest to stop to Victor Manning’s (Sherman Howard) drug dealing “White Boys”, the hulking alien has already been out making quick work of the goons, using the dealer's heroine for some next level meth lab type shit. Apparently, on whatever doped up planet he's originally from, endorphin enriched brain juice is all the rage--and costly, so the entrepreneurial alien has been enhancing the process by forcing humans to slam heroin. This gets his victim’s happy juices to a maximum level, right before he punches a hole in their dome piece and harvests that shit with a cool Baraka straw thing. Sooner or later, between arguments about techniques and guidelines with Agent Smith, it becomes evident to Caine that there is something new on the streets, outside of his regular heroin slinging gangs with silly names, and he begins to look towards otherworldly explanations. Agent Smith is a little more skeptical, even after they get a hold of the aliens magical flying DVD-R, and shit gets really weird. Ultimately, justice is served, aliens take punches and cops become down-for-life best friends despite the fact that one wears suits and the other dresses like a blade runner.
I Come in Peace, AKA Dark Angel (Not to be confused with the 2000s TV show, or 1994 Full Moon film...or the that TV movie from 1996, etc. ), was directed by Craig R. Baxley. The work is based on a 1984 spec script by Jonathan Tydor (as Lethal Contact) and at least partially influenced by a failed project from 1986 (titled Face to Face) that both Baxley and Dolph Lundgren had previously worked on with Randy Feldman (and possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger). As a director, Baxley is also responsible for cornball classics like Action Jackson (1988) and some well-known television episodes. There is also a good chance he made an appearance on the set of one of your favorite bigger budget cult films doing one of his other various jobs. Lundgren takes the movie’s lead. He can deliver some great bad guys, but his range is surprisingly rounded, especially when compared to other action stars he famously played foil to. This flick is a good example as to why. Here, he plays the often utilized lovable, but rough around the edges, protagonist who makes his own rules. Pretty standard fare for the genre but still removed enough from the bloodthirsty juggernaut roles that really paid the bills around that time. Within five years of this film, he also portrayed the iconic Drago (Rocky IV 1985), the ruthless manborg GR13 (Universal Soldier 1992), The mutherfucking Punisher (The Punisher 1989), and He-Man (Masters of the Universe 1987). Say what you will about the films but in each role Lundgren is relatively different, and he is always at least putting forth an effort to “act” (or at least not just be himself). In this case, he also brings a level of cynicism and goofy charm that makes the part memorable. The character is written as extremely sparse even by the genre's standards, but he is able to fill the gaps with implied personality, all the while rocking some brown hair dye and contact lenses. The result is something of a cross between a Dirty Harry with a sense of humor and a less tortured Rick Deckard. It's not a super dramatic character, more comic book-like then anything, but of a different “comic” variety entirely then the Dolph that hangs out naked in sewers while mumbling angrily at God (like the title character of the underrated 80s Punisher film). I feel like this is him at a particular type of best, starring in his own vehicle and not just showing up as the unstoppable cop version of himself, like some similar (maybe more mentioned) stars. While not really topping any film duo lists, the pairing of Lundgren and Brian Benden is engaging and shows short spikes of legitimate chemistry. Benden does cocky narcissism expertly, in fact he had an entertaining (very) 90s tv show, Dream On (1990–1996) dedicated to his abilities (well that and the early experiment of throwing nudity into a sitcom setting). He's a fun actor, and a good pick for an initially annoying FBI agent. Mark Lowenthal shows up as an eccentrically over caffeinated Scientist named Bruce. I can't place him in any other films, but he is one of the highlights as the resident, over the top science expert. As if to match the stature of Lundgren, the towering Matthias Hues is cast as “Talec” the bad alien. He is full of ridiculous faces and it's a blast to watch him cause mayhem. Hues too is somewhat a legendary heal in action films, having popped up as “the big ass bad guy” in several martial arts films throughout an awesome, trashy career. His inclusion in the film leads to a well-matched and memorable final battle between Caine and Talec (one of two fights in a industrial plant, I think, because...its an action movie).
The fact that the alien is on some kind of evil intergalactic Hunter S. Thompson shit works outstandingly with the frequent cop cliches. The movie takes a lot from previous “buddy cop” action films, sometimes unabashedly, but handles them all adequately. The pulp influence is similar to Showdown in Little Tokyo except pulling it's theme and elements from science fiction films instead of Kung fu flicks. The alien's penchant to fuck up junkies and drug dealers feels like a lighter and less sweaty precursor to Predator 2 (1990)-- which would come later that year, along with the shared cops vs drug dealers vs aliens three-way thing they both got going.  Both of the alien visitors in the film look just like humans but are rocking intergalactic hobo poncho layering, bad hair and some snazzy (but near tongue in cheek) weaponry, all which makes me think of Critters (1986). For all we know, all this shit could be happening in some fun-loving but fucked up universe where alien threats range from furry ball things with teeth to the brain juice cartel. The human gangs are pretty fucking silly and mostly act as if they walked right out of other, unmade films. They fall in a strange but entertaining place between goofy Dick Tracy (1990) mobsters and the cartoonish syndicate from Darkman (1990). The main group of human cronies is a bunch of weaponized yuppies known as “The White Boys” without an outward explanation.  It's all good, silly bullshit.  I can appreciate the fact that most of the action movie elements are well-tread ground, which allows it to be a very simple film even with its almost high concept sci-fi brain-drug plot device. The streamlined interactions and relationships held by Lundgren’s character feel as though this could possibly be a sequel to another unmade Lundgren renegade cop movie- one that just doesn't have aliens in it ( fuck now I wish that was real). It's got a few different threads to its structure, but bounces between them well enough to keep it interesting, even if it does kind of just blow one away at some point. It's got some out-there ideas, but If you’ve watched more than a few films in your lifetime, most will be pretty predictable. The shallow aspects seem intentional and play into a self aware take on a noir theme. It's not a super important example of fine cinema, but it holds its entertaining value from start to finish. Before it could lose anyone, the film jumps back from amped-up action sequences to snarky comedic moments and of course some budding manly dude-love.
The film draws understandable comparisons to Dead Heat and Alien Nation (both 1988), all three being buddy cop films that use the horror/sci-fi angle. Dark Angel sticks out a little bit by not having the fantasy element be the initial schism between the two partners. The problem Jack Caine has with his partner and the alien threat are two involved but autonomous issues, making it an alternate take on the mix of genres comparatively. Instead of partnering the protagonist with the alien for conflict, the improbable duo must instead take on the sci-fi element after handling their own problems with each other.  Like Dead Heat though, the film is very loose with the logic and glides through would-be amazing breakthroughs in science without even wincing.
The neon touched, the crime-ridden world feels almost cyberpunk before the sci-fi elements even get going. It has something of a RoboCop (1987) meets Silk Stalkings (1991–1999) thing going on. Despite the 1990 release date, it is very much a part of the 80s in style and technical quality for the most part. The practical effects are restrained enough to be convincing (enough), and even get a little a brutal with the right angles. Action and stunts are all over-the-top in some of my favorite ways, and there is plenty of actual explosions-- like a bunch (fuck you CGI fire). Gunfights are the standard currency in the fictional streets of Houston, but the film gives Dolph a few moments to show off some of his kung fu moves. It's a good mix of the silly fisticuffs from the earlier 80s action stuff and the hyper-violence that began later. It tours the buffet with the regular go-tos featuring standoffs, car chases and the aforementioned tendency for things to explode. The alien hardware includes a magic beta disc that came off a little Phantasm (1979) at times and a bazooka that doesn't come with a manual. Both are brought to life using the minimal effects of the time. There is not much nudity, although, from what I understand from the internet, anything involving tubes can be porn now-- so watch out for that, I guess.
Like most good buddy comedies, Dark Angel doesn't involve much thinking, it's only concern is entertaining, and sometimes explosions. If it was a cereal it would be a bowl of Marshmallow Mateys without any of the stale knock-off Cheerio things. It's just the good stuff, kept extremely simple, packed with gunfights and even an extraterrestrial pusherman.  Lundgren is at the top of his game at this point in his career, and I can't help but feel like, while he is well known, he doesn't quite get the credit for all the aspects he can bring to a film. I don't think anything can easily usurp Lethal Weapon as “the” buddy comedy film, but Dark Angel has a lot to love and none of Mel Gibson's baggage. Besides, isn't Dolph Lundgren like a fucking rocket scientist off-screen? Admittedly, I don't really converse with either types of people a whole lot, but if I my life was a buddy cop film, I would hope I didn't get stuck with the crazy, angry bigot as a partner. That would be lame, you can do that kind of shit in real life.
1h 31min | 1990
Director: Craig R. Baxley
Writers: Jonathan Tydor, David Koepp (as Leonard Maas Jr.)

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Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) Review by RevTerry

Who doesn't love a good sleazy jungle cannibal flick? Well actually, lots of people. Probably more people do not, then do. Zombies are ok and maybe the occasional family of hungry hillbillies, but the living, breathing, remote variety of flesh eaters depicted in things like Cannibal Holocaust (1980) or  Cannibal Ferox (1981) may come with too much baggage for some people.. Even Eli Roth's attempt to Tarantino’ up the genre with The Green Inferno (2013) didn't garner the infamous horror subgenre many new fans. In fact, out of all the trashy, offensive or out of time media I consume, a good old-fashioned cannibal movie is among the hard sales for the “regular” viewer, and it’s even harder to get them to sit through the whole thing. The category has gained a strong seedy notoriety for its grizzly effects and controversial subject matter. It took center stage in Britain's video nasty scare, sometimes based solely on the over-extended artistic license of those in charge of advertising.  The mean-spirited nature of the films, people's fear of outside cultures and the overall grimy feel even famously lead some to believe that they had watched snuff films. Of course It didn't help that the filmmakers played into the mondo “real” footage angle for sales . I struggle to explain my own love for the off-putting shock-fest of murder, sensitive subjects, and human-based diets. Without  a discussion of motives, speculation on public awareness or (much needed) discourse on the depictions used, it can be said that I enjoy the cannibal film as horrors trashy answer to the the jungle explorer adventure trope. Much In the same way a high school slasher film spends a good amount of its time playing a teen sex comedy, the Italian cannibal film takes cues from classics like White Witch Doctor (1953), The Naked Prey (1965) or even Tarzan films. Sensationalist media depicting “civilized man's” seemingly heroic interactions with untouched lands and peoples is one of fictions oldest go-to cliches.  The Jungle explorer elements were used commonly as a setting for formulaic serials, alongside things like medieval swordplay, space battles, and fucking good old fashion cowboy shit.  Fictional hordes of “savages” made easy targets for carbon copy protagonists as a substitute for evil aliens or pillaging Indians.  Some of the early cinema’s most popular films depicted explorers taking a break from discovering shit to save some chick from grunting, violent jungle natives. The genre used public anxieties and ignorance to provide thrill to the same old recycled princess rescue tales, to varied success. Horror films then, of course, doubled down on the fear aspect, pushing the antiquated idea culture clash to a more gruesome (but still mostly uninformed) level . Like the privileged highschool scream-queen's prom night, the valiant explorer is not guaranteed the happy resolution that its counterpart enjoyed in more traditional tales. I like that.  Personally, I can get down with a good, culturally stunted cinematic romp through the rainforest with some heroic invader now and then, but it sure can be a lot more fun if there is a chance Mr. Manifest-destiny will get his ball sack roasted over an open fire at some point. A good example, that I think showcases the seemingly natural transition from ignorant adventure classics into offensively gruesome cult favorites, is Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978).
The rich scientist husband of Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) has gone missing in the jungle of New Guinea. When her and her brother’s (Antonio Marsina) pleas of “Don't you know who I am?” are unable to sway the local authorities to extend their fruitless search, the two decide to mount an expedition independently (and against police orders). Because neither one of them is really a jungle person, they enlist the help of one her husband’s colleagues, Professor Edward Foster (Stacy Keach), whose own rich-scientist adventures had taken him deep into the same jungle, as well as obviously scarred him emotionally in the process. He signs up with little struggle, and the affluent crew enters the dense jungle, in search of the wayward hubby. Right off the bat, shit gets rough, as Susan picks a fight with both a tree and a big-ass spider, moments after leaving the chopper. Their local guides begin to skin a large, unlucky lizard and eat his raw guts to calm the jungle gods down a little bit, but this too leads to an unnecessary brawl-- because religion is confusing and some rough looking cops fly by in a helicopter. It quickly dawns on the un-initiated and over-privileged of the group that the wild jungle is a harsh, unforgiving place, but the rescue crew presses on. The numbers begin to dwindle when one random dude goes missing in the night and another is lost to a mostly peaceful (makeshift) riverboat trip with an unexpected visitor. The hike is a strenuous one, so everyone gets a little grumpy and it starts to become obvious that the wildlife isn't the only thing hindering their ascent up the mountain when cartoon style traps kill off a few nameless party members. At some point, they run into some old homies of Foster that call the death jungle home. During the much-needed rest at their colony, we learn of a legendary tribe known as the Puca. It had been a violent tribe, known throughout the area for its ruthless cuisine styles and cool headwear, believed to have been safely extinct for a long time. Although he failed to mention it before, Foster is pretty sure the tribe of man-eaters is still out there and kicking and, in fact, may have just come along just to exact revenge on the entire tribe (for a dinner party gone bad in a previous expedition).  It's not long before (what's left of) the search party finds the fabled tribe who, sure enough, starts eating everyone. They also must have been Dr. No (1962) fans, because they capture and begin worshipping Susan instead of eating her. The Puca share some of their skin care secrets and show off a little by torturing some people, but mostly she is too freaked out by their lack of food prep standards to care. 
First a quick admission and warning: I love watching some fucked up shit in a movie. I cheer when people explode, and I can appreciate some offensive, vile actions for entertainment purposes... that is as long as all the pain and suffering is all fictional. Like a lot of films in this category (and era), the film uses intercut, real footage of animal cruelty, and as always-- it's hard as fuck to watch. Even with my interests where they lie, I will never understand the appeal of true life horror footage. It never enhances the viewing, it's really fucked up and only serves to make the practical effects on the human gore look fake. Unfortunately, the tactic was common at certain points in cult cinema and is just part of history, especially in “cannibal” films. In this particular film, it's relatively light, depending on the cut. Of special note--it features an excessively stupid staged moment between a python and a spider monkey. Again, the addition of the footage does nothing for the film and very well could have been left out with no negative effect on any of the entertainment value. Sadly, It's just one of many cases in which a filmmaker has regrettably tarnished a great work with an act of real-life cruelty. I get over it to watch a flick, but that is my humble take on the subject as just another random hunk of living meat myself.
It is an incredibly polished effort from one of the Italian greats of exploitation cinema, Sergio Martino, with the majority of the film shot in truly wonderful form by multiple standards. Quixotically there is a hint at of admirations in the images of floral density and untouched land, as it tries to make us fear the beautiful wild area it depicts. The editing is clean (even with the regulatory scary wildlife shots), feeling like a high end (70s) nature documentary at its worst. There is an out of character lack of technical blemishing, but in this unique instance, it can be both a blessing and a curse. The end result is an entertaining deadly adventure flick, but it may lack the snuff film like cruelty that we sometimes look for in a “cannibal” film. Ultimately, being one of the more tame Italian cannibal horror flicks isn't really a difficult maneuver, and the film still contains ample practical gore effects depicting some pretty nasty shit (I feel like every week I mention testicle mutilation so I'm not going to here….fuck), as well as Ursula Andress wearing nothing but blood-sauce at some point. The soundtrack, provided by The De Angelis Brothers, is pretty reliant on that cool wub-wub sound and some woodblocks but has some great atmosphere and gets really good later in the film when the flesh-munching starts.
The drama is handled pretty effectively, and there is a consistent build to the plot. The story has a simple structure and accompanying dialog but with more depth to its characters then the majority of its peers. It moves at a quick pace that is reminiscent of the exciting pulp matinee films of the previous era but with dramatic weight. Scenes seem to be written with intent, not heavily relying on makeshift red-herrings for filler. It takes some time to develop the structure of the plot and successfully makes with a few little twists along the way.  The well maintained build up of drama, before even reaching the tribe, creates a more calculated type of horror element as opposed to the Jason-like main event you showed up for and have spent the film waiting on. Not nearly the type of shock fueled tension that is found in something like Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Depending on the viewer, this could label it a welcomed slight-break from the angry norm on your cannibal marathon night or quite possibly a near-dud.   It's still strictly trashy fun and full of imperialist ignorance, so all involved are better off numbing most of their brain for a viewing.
The film is unique for its kind but makes a somewhat accessible entry point into the hard to swallow sect of cannibal horror. The 1978 production predates the more notorious moments in the subgenre, and the influence of classic jungle adventure flicks is more prevalent. It is still very much a part of the family of exploitation cannibal films from the late 70s and 80s, but the thoughtful story structure and high production values might make it more palatable for some.  It's padded with beautiful scenery shots (as opposed to just animals eating other animals), and the explicit scenes are for the most part woven into the story. Its attention to detail (etc.) makes it kind of an outlier in the mass of Italian cannibal films and could possibly be a little light in the shock department for those looking for the blood-drenched, grimy moments, like the hardcore films that would come later. It still packs quite a bit of Italian sleaze and exploitation-style fucked up moments but may more accurately be described as a dramatic jungle action film with a sprinkle of grotesque carnage.
The great Stacy Keach plays the damaged Professor Edward Foster. Keach has been to the credit of everything I can remember him in popping up in, which includes cult classics (Road Games, The Ninth Configuration),  numerous mainstream roles and timeless stoner comedies (Nice Dreams, Up in Smoke). Persistent wasp Susan Stevenson is played by "Bond" favorite Ursula Andress. She will forever come to my mind first as Aphrodite from the 1981s Clash of the Titans. By the late 70s, she had plenty of on-screen experience beyond her bond girl roots and puts in some solid work.
The Mountain of the Cannibal God (AKA Slave of the Cannibal God AKA Primitive Desires etc...) is one of the 70s earlier prototypes for the Jungle Adventure/horror chimera. The mix isn't quite what we have come to expect from later versions, but has got its own kind of dire charm. Plus, it stars Honey Ryder and Mike Hammer, which is a huge bonus. Hardcore cannibal fans may be a little disappointed, but it makes a great introduction to films of its type. It's pretty as fuck and slightly less depraved, so it might make an easier sell for the (sacrificial) virgin viewer. It's kind of got a depressed Indiana Jones thing going on-- but with more gore. So if you have a friend who has always complained about the Indiana Jones films being too flattering of foreign cultures, this might be the one for them. Wait, on second thought, just stop hanging out with that person.
1h 39min | 1978
 Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Cesare Frugoni, Sergio Martino

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