I subscribe to the theory that if something is really good, I mean genuinely good, not “so bad it’s good” or “trashy” good, that it will receive enough of an audience that you will either come across it or feel impelled to seek it out to decide for yourself. This means that many years on there is still enough good feedback about stuff like The Blues Brothers, Clerks, Tremors and The King of New York that you really have no excuse if you haven’t checked them out, and in all of those cases I strongly recommend that you do.
Then you have the reallllll cult films, the ones that have a small band of followers, but not enough to get the word out. Put even more simply they are often not worth the time spent chasing them, let alone watching them, but if your tastes sway that specific way you might find something in them.
I read a couple articles on genuine cult films recently and made the trip across town to one of the last remaining competent video stores around, one that happily stocks thousands of weeklies, and still has international, kung-fu and cult racks. It was here that I grabbed up all I felt I could handle for a week’s viewing. Now I must admit genuine cult films are sometimes tough going, to stand out in a crowded movie market with a teeny budget you have to be different, sometimes very different, and just as watching five docos or teen comedies in a row this can be a draining viewing experience.
Nonetheless here we go on my first Cult movie marathon.
I was about 14 when Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure came out, so I thought it was funny enough that it may well have been one of my first ever purchased videos, (I can’t exactly remember). Hell I even thing Bill and Ted 2 has its moments, I caught it in Foxtel a few months back and enjoyed it once again many years on.
Now back when B&T came out I was just a kid, unaware of horror and ultra-violence, I just naively though almost all movies were cool. This is why mainstream works, some people just don’t know any better and worse, some never learn, but that is another rant for another day. Being young and hungry I started buying a movie related magazine imaginatively entitled “Movie” magazine. In one edition they interview the stars of B&T Alex Winter and Keanu “Woah” Reeves, can’t remember a thing about it except that Winter said that his next project was a film called “Hideous Mutant Freaks”.
Now some 20 years passed and I had never heard of it since, in fact I just forgot about it. Until… I saw a film called Freaked on the cult rack and absent-mindedly flipped the cover to read the back. And there it was in all its glory, slightly different name but most definitely Alex Winter’s baby, released in 1993, which meant I had so far allowed it to slip under my personal radar for almost half of my life. I wondered with my almost obsessive appetite for almost all genres how this could have passed me by, then I watched it.
A digression. (1) I really wanted to like this movie. (2) After 16 years of not knowing I wanted to say “don’t make the same mistake I did, check out Freaked today”. (3) I wanted to bring up Freaked in conversations with mates and tell people that they just have to check out this crazy film.
(1) I didn’t.
(2) I won’t.
(3) I won’t and you don’t.
Freaked is somewhat of a throwback, when a star made it big and the studio though well if that worked let’s throw some money at the star and let them make another hit. You might remember such classics as Hudson Hawk (which I actually like and will defend endlessly), Waterworld and Battlefield Earth? Well they all had far bigger budgets than Freaked, but Willis, Costner and Travolta all had far bigger profiles.
So back to Freaked, the movie starts with opening credits that strongly resemble an early Red Hot Chilli Peppers video, and in fact one of the lead characters wears a RHCP T shirt in the early going.
3 minutes in we get a Brooke Shields sighting. She is a TV presenter explaining the bizarre case of young acting superstar Ricky Coogan, who disappeared after going overseas to try to bring some credibility to a chemical manufacturer responsible for some suspect creations, notably “Vigrot 24”, which is apparently responsible for mutations in humans.
The early scenes are all nudge-nudge wink-wink stuff where Alex Winter who plays Ricky Coogan is almost leaning to camera and saying “Isn’t this wacky? Can you believe they are letting me get away with this?” The acting is terrible and hammier than Porky Pig, the dialogue is similarly awful and the sets look like they are from a cheap skit show like Mad TV.
This is unfortunately a 3 years on Bill and Ted wannabe, only without any sort of meaningful concept that might justify any shennanigans, and without the common sense to cut most of the juvenile, cheesy and peurile stuff that they thought at the time was comedy gold I guess.
15 minutes in enter Randy Quaid and I officially lose hope for this as entertainment. Similar to Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, the man has become famous for being there, in the dopey sluts case this is nightclubs and police cells, in Quaid’s case he has been in so many cheesy, crappy, overacting movies that for some reason he has become the King of Crap. Good luck to him, but I cannot remember any movie outside of Quick Change that he was in that I liked, and Quick Change was allll about Bill Murray. A quick imdb shows that he has over 100 things that he has appeared in and I forgot about Kingpin, which was again Bill’s movie, even when he was only a bit part.
Enough about Randy Quaid, I just hope his latest film “Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach” (seriously!), changes my opinion of him being a gross out lowest common denominator comedian.
Back to Freaked, Ricky Coogan, some chick he is chasing after and his bonehead best mate are lured by the Dr Moreau style guy played by Randy Quaid and mutated into…. Hideous Mutant Freaks, never saw that coming did ya?
The remainder shows how the three, and a cavalcade of allegedly hilarious fellow freaks manage to escape their situation.
What I learned:
– Again make up and FX can be done well without CGI, I must say that Alex Winter’s face in particular looks cool, even though his lips don’t move when he talks and he still managed to enunciate beautifully.
– There is more of a debt to R Crumb and even Kenny Everett than any other moster movie here.
– When you are making a “small” film, having multiple cameos from a bunch of similarly small celebrities doesn’t help people decades later who wonder “Who the hell is that?”
– Mr T didn’t have much to do in the early 90s. Snickers should have snapped him up sooner, he couldn’t have been cheaper than when this first came out.
– When you make a no-budget, quirky, self aware “comedy”, where the jokes are more about “look who’s in it” and “gee aren’t we crazy”. Anyone remember Monkeybone, Nothing But Trouble or Idiocracy? Didn’t think so.
A parting gift from the big bad company in the film EES (Everything Except Shoes) “Those who oppose us will stand knee deep in the blood of their children”. Seemed weird to me when I watched it, seems weird typing it now, but they actually said it and I think it was supposed to be funny.
When I realised how Freaked was going to roll I made specific note of how many times I was amused, not how many times I laughed mind you, (zero), but when I sorta smirked a little.
Times I was amused – 5
Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. Another less than pointless vanity project. Perhaps Keanu actually was the smart one! At least he knew his limitations.
I had to go to the cinema for this one, but when you read down you’ll see why I thought this would be perfect for a cult following. Entitled Dod Sno in its native Norway, with some of those cross-outs and inflections to make it appear cosmopolitan, Dead Snow is a paint by numbers version of a million better films, only with one significant variance…
You heard me. Nazi. Zombies.
How could they mess that up right? Well they did and they didn’t, it’s all just a bit Meh really.
I’ll do the summary Trailer-Voiceover Guy style. Please try to read in a deep raspy voice in your head.
“2 cars. 4 guys. 3 chicks. On a trip that they will never forget.” (Young people happily talking and joshing in cars.)
“A camping trip goes wrong when they venture into the snow…. Dead Snow.” (Cue a spray of red blood on white snow.)
“A warning from an old man goes unheeded. Nazi treasure is discovered… Only the owners want it back.” (Loud noise followed by a glimpse of something (someone?) in the distance.)
(Various screams, glimpses, noise and blood.) “No-one can be safe when you venture into… (Voice gets deeper and raspier) Dead Snow.”
And that’s what happens. A bunch of med-students head to the hills for some frivolity and random horniness, a creepy old guy shows up just to spook them a little and explain what the next 60 minutes holds for them and the viewers, they discover something and are then set upon by… Nazi Zombies.
What I learned:
– It doesn’t matter how long you look around, or how often you turn, if someone is lurking just below camera shot they can apparently jump up and scare you, even if they were just crouching two feet in front of you.
– Teenagers and young people still shouldn’t go into cabins in the woods to drink and have sex. The universe is coming up with new ways to punish you all the time.
– Never open the door, go outside. Look. Turn around and say “There’s nobody there.” THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEBODY THERE!!
– If there is an old guy or woman (especially a psychic or a blind person), a tape, or a book lying around, there’s your cheapie horror movie plot right there Mister! See Jeepers-Creepers, Darkness Falls, Evil Dead, etc.
– If you are the old guy in question, don’t warn people of the danger then go camp out in a tent in the middle of nowhere.
– Fat Norweigan guys simply quote Homer Simpson, South Park, Arnie and Indiana Jones to get into a hottie’s pants. (Whaaaaaattttt???)
– An in-use outhouse is the perfect place for said hottie to bang said fat guy. (Too gross to contemplate further.)
– Why does no-one wash the zombie blood off their faces over say a 12 hour period? If folklore says that you “catch zombie” by fluids you’d think basic hygiene could save you from a nasty surprise brought about by licking your lips.
– You don’t need to say “I’ve yelled several times, she doesn’t reply.” when the friends you are telling are standing right behind you.
Right, we all know we only watch this for the Nazi Zombies, not the snappy Norweigan dialogue or the Schwarzenegger quotes, how do they hold up?
The makeup effects are OK, especially for the close up guys, you can see in shots where there are multiple zombies that some of the lesser featured zombies might not appear too scary close up. These zombies are not only frozen most of the time, but they are all at least 80 if my maths is correct and can still run around and fight quite well. Their guns are still well maintain although they very rarely use them and they still maintain an army heirachy and follow orders.
One the zombies are introduced to us the next hour or so is: See zombie-run-get caught-die somewhat graphically. Cut. Next victim. There are set ups that simply justify getting to the next decapitaton or all your arms just got ripped off gags, the more they build towards it the cheesier it seems, though I think the filmmakers thought the cooler it was (sadly).
There ARE some cool gore effects or at least scenes involving gore effects, one in particular has a character hanging from a cliff by his own intestines. But I felt that there wasn’t enough originality or humour to separate this from many other films, and though there will be films notorious for the basic concept more than how good they are (Lesbian Vampire Killers anyone?) you should aim to be a bit more than one catchy idea. This is expecially true when you also consider that during the film you directly rip classics like The Descent, Evil Dead 2 and even Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I recently praised The Gate for not being “too much” of anything, and finding a healthy balance between scares, gore and laughs, it now seems hypocritical to be bagging Dead Snow for essentially the same thing, though I would argue that aside from gore Dead Snow doesn’t offer enough of anything.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. You’d think a film featuring the Nazi Undead might have something worth discussing. Sadly, not really.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
At least 3 of my points below are for truth in advertising. The title promises that we will see killer klowns, and that they are not from Earth, and by jingo it delivers, there is even a trashy theme song with the same name playing over the credits just to ram the point home!
It’s not a good sign though when the title also neatly encapsulates the entire 80 minutes of plot, again this is the case here. A bunch of kids at make out point see a UFO zip over them and check it out, only to find it is a circus tent full of the aforementioned that trudge into town cocooning everyone in sight, all with weapons and traps that somewhat cleverly utilise the hook that they are all clown related. Popcorn, cotton candy, balloon animals and most effectively shadow puppets are all given wacky alterior uses and integrated loosely into the threadbare plot.
there’s not much more to go on about, the clowns arrive, people get killed, some escape, the clowns leave. I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare or even Hitchcock, but here was a brainstorming session that started and finished with only one point on the board, “make them clowns”.
What I learned:
– 80s SFX and makeup doesn’t get the credit it deserves, this week The Gate, Freaked and even KKFOS all go to show that.
– If you thought clowns were creepy after The Thing, watch this, though I don’t think they are meant to be this tame.
– Want atmosphere? Whack a couple of fog machines at the back of the stage and let ’em rip.
That’s it really, when a movie is called Killer Klowns you should hope you don’t learn much from it.
Killer Klowns has gotten a reputation as a cult classic due to the subject matter and the shoestring budget, and while it is admirable that they produced a movie with precious little cash idea don’t cost money, and there are precious little on display here. Killer Cream pies and heat-seeking popcorn might sound amusing, but they don’t make a quality film on their own.
Final Rating – 5 / 10. Again the title earns most of the points, but if nothing else this proves that some cult films earn a following without any real merit.