Monday, 16 November 2009

Generation X (1996)

Think Bryan Singer was the first person to bring the X-men to life in live action? Think again! This 1996 FOX TV movie was actually the first X-Men feature film to be made, adapted from the X-Men spinoff comic series created by Chris Bachalo (we're not worthy) and Scott Lobdell. Made for 4 million dollars for Fox TV, this is a curious thing indeed, and a film that is very dear to my heart.

A little history. The Generation x comic book series featured Jubilee, aka Jubilation Lee, amongst its motley group of characters. Jubilee had always been by favourite X-men character, thanks to her sense of humour and her powers being a bit crap. I always found that quite endearing, and followed the character wherever she went for a few years (her run as Wolverine's sidekick was truly great in my humble opinion. Actually, scratch that, it was great no matter what other people think. Heh).

To me, it was one of the finest major comic book series of the 1990s, that much maligned decade of comics history. Sure, the first issue had a swanky reflective cover, but it was the content that drew me in. It ran for 75 issues, and despite a couple of mediocre iossues here and there, stands up as a great body of work featuring some of the most interesting characters the X-Men universe had to offer.

When this film was announced, I was ecstatic. I didn't care that the casting was all wrong, that favourite characters like Chamber weren't in it, or that the plot had very little to do with the larger X-Men universe, but I lapped it up. I read everything I could about it in imported movie and SF mags, and cherished every glimpse of the cast in costume. It looked cheap right from the start, but damn, it was an X-Men film at last, and Jubilee would be in it, played by Heather McComb.

I was almost camping out right outside the old Metro video shop's doors the week the film arrived in the UK, and the day it went on their shelves, it had barely been there thirty seconds before I was walking out with a rental copy. I hurried home and basked in 90 minutes of tacky fun that, while it has many problems, I absolutely loved. I rushed back the next day to return the video and asked when it would arrive on sell-through.

They didn't know, but offered me the rental copy to buy after the weekend was over. I agreed, and when that Monday in 1997 arrived, I was walking happily home with a big-box copy of Generation X, all of my own. I still have the video, and the handwritten receipt from Metro is still inside the case. Funny how these things can become quite so cherished, really. Such is the geek mentality, I guess.

The basic plot of the piece follows the comic series closely- a group of young mutants are brought together under the guidance of old-school X-Men characters banshee and Emma Frost and taught to develop their abilities further, so that one day they can fight crime. A mad scientist (played with demented glee by the ever wonderful Matt Frewer) from Emma Frost's past has created a dream device that allows the user access to the dream dimension. It emerges that Tresh (Frewer) is aiming to use the machine in order to mutate and become omnipotent. Generation X get caught up in his plot, and together they must deal with him before he becomes what is essentially a god. The plot is ambitious for a TV movie, and while the effects are atrocious in some places, it is carried off well.

It's the characterization that I love about this film though. The characters from the comics, namely Banshee, Emma Frost, Jubilee, Skin, Mondo and Monet are all brought to life with persoonalities that are very close to the source material indeed. This is despite the fact that two of these characters are the wrong race (Jubilee is supposed to be Chinese, Mondo is supposed to be Samoan) and the other characters, namely Refrax and Arlee are rather pale imitations of other characters (they replaaced Generation X comic characters Chamber and Husk due to the cost of the effects those characters would have needed- although I am certain that this could have been got around quite easily, at least in the case of Chamber). They still work well together as a group of young people trying to come to terms with being very different to everyone else.

The X-mansion used in this TV movie is actually the same mansion that was used in the first Bryan Singer X-Men movie that would come a few years later. The film is full of little nods to the comic book source material it came from, such as Refrax's 'X' shirt and the Wolverine video game visible in the arcade scene. People like me love that stuff. Mind you, it is also a supremely silly film as well.

There are mad angles and garish lighting in almost every frame, apparently put there to continuously remind you you're watching a film based on a comic, and this does grate on you after a while, but the humour and the characters keep you interested. Mind you, it is definitely a flick for the diehards. As a film, it is rife with flaws and production limitations, but as an adaptation of a Marvel comic, it walks all over things like Ang Lee's Hulk, Elektra, Man Thing and Spider-Man 3. Don't expect anything other than a cheap comic adaptation if you ever get to see this, and you'll enjoy it. Probably not as much as I do, but then, I'm a bit odd really.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Genre Addict on hold... for now

Hey all, thanks for continuing to visit THE GENRE ADDICT! Here's a quick update on what's going on with the site and its future...

Due to other commitments (dayjob writing, the magazine, and taking part in NaNoWriMo again), I am taking a break from The Genre Addict for the remainder of November. A number of reviews are on the list to be done, and a couple of them are underway, but due to my current workload I must cut back on the daily reviews for the time being. Reviews shall continue soon though, possibly in a new format (check out the NEMESIS movies one I did recently).

Other news?

Once the site hits 50 reviews, I will compile these into book form as The Genre Addict: Volume One, which will also include a brand new essay on genre movies. Once that is out, Volume Two will commence creation right here! The idea is to build up a Genre Addict Library, with a new book released every couple of months or so with 50 reviews and a new essay. More news on thsi soon.

Lastly, I am considering looking into the possibly of doing a Genre Addict column in a magazine or on a larger site. We shall see how this goes...

Your humble Genre Addict,

Monday, 9 November 2009

Nemesis, Nemesis 2: Nebula, Nemesis 3: Time Lapse

I am a sucker for bad films, as you probably know already from reading The Genre Addict, but I am more of a sucker for bad films with cyborgs and explosions in them. Thus, back in my teens when I discovered the Nemesis films, I was in paradise. These flicks are atrociously made, badly written, and stuffed with terrible effects. Also, after the first film (which is actually pretty good as far as B-Movies go), there were a bunch of cheap sequels that were progressively more ridiculous.

In short, they were terrible, and I lapped them up. I loved these flicks (yeah, even Nemesis 3: Time Lapse, but I'll get to that) in all their sweaty, b-movie sci-fi, cyberpunky, martial arts, cheap effects-laden glory. They are a relic of what I see as a golden age of bad flicks, when the video shop at the bottom of the hill had endless cheap SF and martial arts b-movies in the classic (to me anyway) big-box VHS format. Oh yes indeedy. To top it all, each tape came stuffed with crap trailers for other crap films. Bonus!

A few months ago I went back to that video shop in my old hometown and discovered they were selling off their old VHS stock, having moved over to DVDs long ago. I found all three Nemesis movies I rented from them as a teenager, available for two measly quid for all three of them. At long last I fulfilled a sad old teenage dream of owning those films in the big boxes. What can I say? I'm a geek. Why else do you think I spend my time riffing on old tat like the Nemesis films?!

There are actually four Nemesis movies, but I've never seen the fourth one, (Nemesis 4: Cry For Angels, aka Angel of Death, aka 'The one where the bodybuilder girl gets nekkid alot') as I'm either too broke to waste cash on a film I may well despise, or I'd rather stick with the sweat and the cheese of these first three films. Albery Pyun was a hero of mine for a while with these slabs of weird sci-fi junk, and I still love 'em, even though after that first semi-cult-classic cyberpunk film, they went off at a very odd tangent and gave us a huge female bodybuilder and a desert full of very strange cyborgs (either the one in a rubber monster suit or the cackling girls in white wigs).

Anyway, onto the films themselves.

Nemesis (1992)

Albert Pyun's Nemesis is something of a cyberpunk cult classic. Yes, the script, acting and production values are a little cheap, but as a piece of science fiction/martial arts/action mayhem, it works very well indeed. Starring the B-Movie version of Jean Claude Van Damme, namely Olivier Gruner, Nemesis plays like a mad mix of Blade Runner and Bloodsport, with bits of The Terminator in there too. For added bonus points, the movie has a few scenes featuring B-pic legend Brion James, sporting a smart suit and shades along with a comedy Germanic

The film follows Alex (Gruner), a cyborg hitman who is almost killed when a mission goes rather wrong, pitting him against an anti-cyborg militia. He is rebuilt and hides out in the desert for a long time, until a bunch of cyborgs force him to carry out one final mission to get them closer to the head of the militia. The plot ain't the important thing though. The important things here the explosions, the asskicking fight scenes, the cyborgs with guns in their heads and the fantastic locale that much of the film takes place in.

It's not rocket science, but it is a lot of fun. While most of the elements are nicked from other films (including Pyun's own hit, CYBORG), the first Nemesis film has some great moments. The opening scenes in the city are grim, and the subsequent scenes in the desert are given more impact due to their sheer contrast. It's a dirty, violent mini epic full of mayhem, gunfights and characters being vague in shades. It was also crying out for sequels, but probably not the sequels that followed it...

Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995)

Eh? Look, I love this film, I really do, but it is bloody weird as sequels go. Where the first flick took place in the future, after the first five minutes the first sequel takes place in 1980, followed by a jaunt to the present day, where a baby that is taken into the past has grown up to be a superhuman warrior in the shape of world class bodybuilder Sue Price. She has been raised by a tribe in Africa, who reveal her origins to her once a marauding cyborg arrives from the future to destroy her.

Why? because she hold the secret to the end of the human/cyborg war in her DNA, or something. This follows a prolonged battle between Alex (Price) and the cyborg, Nebula.

The Nebula character is represented by a stuntman in a rubber monster costume, who has had a cheap digital effect laid over it, and is basically a cross between the Terminator and a Predator. An hour of the film is made up of this battle, while secondary characters run around trying to avoid explosions.

Sue Price, while one of the worst actors ever to appear in a film, looks incredible as the superhuman Alex. Her dialogue is wooden in the extreme, but her presence is awesome, as is her action work. She's the star of the whole thing by a mile, and the endless fight between her and Nebula is actually quite brutal. A sequel largely in name only, Nemesis 2 saw the series go off at a weird tangent. That said, it still walks all over what followed it...

Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (1996)

Oh Christ this film is bad. Even I have limits when it comes to what I can put myself through, but there are moments where Nemesis 3 actually makes me want to weep and scream at the heavens, generally when I think about the good parts of the first two flicks. The links to the first film are wafer thin, and big chunks of this third film are made up of flashbacks to the second! The plot, what there is of it, is convoluted in the extreme.

The use of digital effects and a terrible CG robot make the production look even cheaper than the tarty cyborg women in white wigs who keep cackling at each other. Shot back to back with the second film, you can't help but wonder what was going through the cast and crew's heads while making it. Where the second film was an all-out action fest that, while a lousy idea for a sequel, was a fun slice of sci-fi tinged action, this is an insane mess of a film that ultimately goes nowhere.

Once again the Arizona desert is used to double as Africa, where six cyborgs arrive from the future in order to destroy Alex (Sue Price again) and put an end to the war in the future. Alex has amnesia due to a head wound, and spends much of the film piecing together what happened through the aforementioned copious flashbacks to the previous film.

Instead of closing off the series and answering some questions, it instead just keeps making things blow up until all of the cyborgs are dead and we are promised NEMESIS 4 as the credits roll. The thing is, the footage used to tease us for that fourth film was shot during the location work for this flick, and then the fourth film didn't take place anywhere nearby, or indeed have anything to do with these two sequels other than Sue Price being in it! Still, I only have myself to blame for sitting and watching this junk anyway I guess. It's entertaining at some points, but nowhere near the film it should have been.

The Nemesis films had a ton of potential to develop into something truly worthy of cult status, and instead we were offered one great film, one fun sequel, one atrocious sequel and one (so I'm told) half art house, half soft porn film to end the series. I am quite curious to actually sit and watch Nemesis 4, just to see what all of the derision towards it is actually about, but I'm not sure my mind can take it just yet after watching these three back to back.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Carnival of Souls is, to these eyes, one of the finest horror films that has ever been made, and certainly one of the most unsettling. It is rare that a genre film carries some genuine scares, and this film continues to deliver even now. Its atmosphere is deeply disturbing, largely down to the stark and frightening score, performed entirely on organ, along with some very creepy visuals that are more dreamlike and surreal that horrific.

This is very much a horror film in the sense of the concept rather than flying innards. Made on a low budget and originally seen as a B-movie, Carnival of Souls went on to become one of the most appreciated genre films that has ever been released.

The film has a unique feel all of its own. It plays like a lengthy episode of The Twilight Zone, and like the classics that Rod Serling brought us, gripping the viewer by forcing them to try and work out what is real and what isn't. Directed (and produced) by Herk Harvey, Carnival Of Souls tells the story of a young church organ player who, following a car accident in which she loses all memory of the incident, begins to have disturbing visions of strange, ghoulish figures chasing her. As the film progresses, she begins to realize that she may not have actually survived the crash...

With one of the most memorable endings in horror cinema history, Carnival of Souls is nightmarish in the most real sense of the word. The fact that it is in black an white adds plenty to the dreamlike quality, but the visuals that are presented have a huge impact. The sight of the fairground at the end, filled with demented, ghoulish figures chasing our heroine as the organ soundtrack whirls ever more chaotic around us, is the basis of countless hellish dreams since the film's release.

While the 'real world' scenes are shot in something of a static manner and highlight the limitations of the production and the experience of the crew, the increasingly strange set pieces are shot with a huge amount of visceral power, and they are edited in a rapid-fire motion that enhances their scare value rather than eliminating it (as with the current crop of horror flicks). It may well have been a cheap film to make, but the atmosphere is priceless.

I have an almost unnatural love affair with this film. It scares the crap out of me, and yet I can't stop putting myself through it. You see, there is something about Carnival of Souls that is much more distressing than gore or other cheap scares. Made for a pittance by a cast and crew of essential unknowns, the film captures a delirious nightmare within its frames, and once viewed, is almost impossible to forget. An amazing film, even if you do need a hug after watching it.

(Incidentally, you can legitimately Download Carnival of Souls for free at the Internet Archive as the film is in the public domain now. It is well worth watching!)

Friday, 6 November 2009

Dark Breed (1996)

From an era when PM Entertainment were spitting out low budget action and SF b-movies left right and centre comes this ambitious but extremely derivative flick that is a big fat rip-off of Species, Alien, Predator and maybe bits of the X-Files as well. A bunch of astronauts are infected with an alien virus while in space, and upon their return to Earth they head off on a killing spree.

Starring Jack Scalia, the film follows a team of government operatives as they try to track down the infected astronauts and stop them causing chaos. Of course, the astronauts have other ideas. Their ideas tend to be 'talk in a dodgy scary voice until we turn into massive monsters', which they do.

Dark Breed is quite an achievement, as you couldn't give a toss about a single character, and you're very tempted just to skip forward until things start blowing up again. It features production values far above the usual PM Entertainment fare of the era, but this is from the era of home video, and thus on DVD the limitations of the budget and the dated CG effects are very obvious. That's not to say the effects are bad, as they're actually pretty good, and way above a lot of other b-movies of the era.

The film itself is stuffed with elements that have been taken directly from other titles (there's even an 'Alien' style chestburster scene for crying out loud), and it can actually be fun picking them all out. I recommend a Dark Breed drinking game, where you have a shot every time you spot something nicked from another movie. You'll be on the floor, unable to speak or remember your name before the middle of the flick.

The cast are pretty bad, even for this calibre of film, but they join the dots passably until things start blowing up again. Oh look, someone;s running away from an explosion in slow motion! Awesome. It's a fun film to go with a pizza and some cans, but only if you tune the volume up and enjoy things going BANG while pointing at the screen and laughing. Fun, but about as compelling as a verruca.

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly

Hi all! Thanks for visiting THE GENRE ADDICT! I was unable to post a daily review yesterday, and I'm afraid there won't be one tomorrow as I'll be away, but I'm posting today's review early for you to check out. The next column after the one that follows this post will be released on Sunday evening. Things are ultra hectic this week, but I shall endeavour to catch up, and there may well be an extra review or two for you over the coming week. There are some classic titles on the stack to come, as well as some not-so-classic ones, as ever! I hope you're enjoying the mix of genre classics and genre disasters as much as I am. Normal service will indeed resume shortly!

Andrew Hawnt
The Genre Addict

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Turkey Shoot (aka BLOOD CAMP THATCHER) (1982)

Turkey Shoot, otherwise known as Blood camp Thatcher, is an interesting addition to anyone's exploitation collection. Set in a strange, dystopian future, people who refuse to conform to a government-enforced ideal are thrown into a prison camp, where they are regularly beaten and humiliated by the fascistic staff. An odd mix of science fiction, action and horror, it stands out as one of the more unique entries in genre cinema from that most beloved of eras.

While the bad guys are for the most part a little generic, there are some real bastards amongst them, like the chief warden Ritter, played with malicious glee by Roger ward, whose imposing figure is one of the standout aspects of the film. The heroes of the film are played with equal measures of defiance and fear, and for the most part they do so admirably. Lead hero Paul Anders (Steve Railsback)and love interest Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey) are spot on as the main characters, and you do end up genuinely rooting for them once the carnage begins.

Some of the inmates are forced to take part in a 'Turkey Shoot', an ultra-violent manhunt which is instigated by the leader of the camp, Charles Thatcher (hence the title of 'Blood Camp Thatcher', which was originally taken as a sleight against the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher). Mayhem ensues, with machetes being embedded in heads, people being gunned down left right and centre and all manner of other atrocities hitting the screen.

It is a fun watch, but the social commentary aspects of it (shades of Nineteen Eighty Four are evident, for example) are a bit blunt at times. The plight of the inmates is played out nicely, with humiliation, torture and fearmongering leading to them sharing a kind of joint mania, but the film takes a little too long to get going to maintain interest in their struggles. By the time the action starts, you're getting a little sick of hearing about how hard life is in the camp.

Made in Australia, Turkey Shoot feels very different to many US and UK based genre films in terms of tone and construction, but it is also much more satisfying than many genre entries thanks to a fantastic final act and the refusal of the characters to give in, no matter what is done to them.

For the schlock fans there is plenty of action to enjoy, and red stuff is in evidence while there's never all that much of it to be seen. It has that great atmosphere that exploitation/Grindhouse style flicks of the era carried, and it is certainly an enjoyable watch if you try not to think too much about it.

One of the nicest touches to the film is the opening montage of riot footage, which sets up the film's world nicely and also gives it some scale. After that, the film takes place pretty much in one location, but you are given some nice clues as to what's going on in the rest of the world. While a long way from being perfect, Turkey Shoot is far from being a turkey.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Cat In The Brain (1990)

Lucio Fulci's demented pseudo memoir is a hell of a viewing experience. The idea is ingenious and ever so slightly cheeky, as much of the film is made up of clips of earlier works by Fulci, all tied together with original footage that tells the story of a horror film director going a bit mad. The director, called Lucio Fulci in the film, is played by, erm, Lucio Fulci himself, and is bloody and weird, as well as just bloody weird.

The fictional version of Fulci is hallucinating murderous acts inspired by the gore of his films, and as the film progresses he becomes convinced that he is responsible for a series of murders.

The English dub on the disc I watched is laughable, but the film holds the attention nonetheless. Scenes of manic ultra violence, orgies, bodies being chainsawed to pieces, people being murdered and countless other nastiness are intercut with footage of an old man losing his marbles in the name of art.

Cat In The Brain is far from your average horror film, and has been banned in several countries for years since its original release. The glorification of the gore and sleaze in this film does being to light the psychological effect that making these things must have on people after a while.

Cat In The Brain could be seen as Lucio Fulci's attack on censorship. Following so many of his films being cut to ribbons by the censors, this could be taken as a direct response to their deeds, as this film is so ludicrously obscene at times that it defies belief (and thus it couldn't really be censored as the resulting film would be about 5 minutes long). Cannibalism, flying innards, brains being chomped on, eyeballs exploding out of heads and more are fired at your from your screen, and more besides. watch this at 3am on your own with the lights off, and see how well you sleep for the weeks ahead.

Taken on another level, cat In the Brain is a cheap, relentless cash in and rush job, a 'Greatest Hits' package with some added bells and whistles. However, it is much more than that would suggest. While it does feature a ton of footage from his other films ('The Beyond' for example), it is cut together in way that is at times deeply unsettling, as well as fascinating. There are scenes from his films that are intercut with footage of Fulci 'directing' the scenes as they happen, which works really well in the context of this film.

As a film in its own right, cat In the Brain will confuse the hell out of you if you're not familiar with who Lucio Fulci was and the films he created, but for horror fans who know what to expect from a flick with his name on it, this is a thoroughly entertaining and hallucinatory experience that will probably change the way you view his films forever more.

The gore on show will not surprise fans of his work, but it is the sheer amount of gore in this film that will make some people balk at its content. This film is insane, and well deserves its status as one of the most curious horror films that has ever been made.


Monday, 2 November 2009

One Missed Call (2008 remake)

Why do I put myself through watching remakes? I really don't know. Occasionally they can kick all kids of backside, such as the Zack Snyder remake of Dawn Of The Dead, but for the most part they are far from satisfying as films go. This 2008 remake of the 2003 Japanese horror flick Chakushin Ari plays like a Final Destination film rip-off instead of the release it was based on. The cast, aside from Shannyn Sossamon, are woeful. There are some nice effects sequences but little else to write home about.

This by-the-numbers remake is light on scares and heavy on postmodern apathy towards telling a decent story. After the first fifteen minutes you can pretty much plan out the rest of the film in its entirety. Aside from a couple of beats, I was spot on. Blah, people getting picked off one by one, blah, refusal of other characters to believe until it's too late, blah. You get the idea.

Where the Japanese version is cut together in a much more suspenseful fashion, this remake is devoid of any of the tension of that film, instead relying on music cues and the constantly constipated expressions of the cast. From the second act onwards the film plays like a weird mix of CSI, The X-Files and Urban Legend rather than anything else, and for much of its length you're either bored of waiting things to happen or bored of following the dots.

Cinematography is pedestrian at best, the scare sequences look like music videos and between those sequences the viewer is treated to prolonged slabs of tedium. Once again, after The Ring and The Grudge etc, we are reminded that remakes are for the most part a stupid idea. I was hoping for a good watch with this movie, and was seriously let down. One missed call? One missed opportunity, more like.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (1974) (aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie etc)

Here's one of the gems of the horror genre that is much loved by the diehards and somewhat notorious. One of the benchmarks of the zombie genre that other films are generally compared to, this is one of the more intelligent entries in the pantheon of the undead, and there is actually something of an environmentalist message in there with all of the chaos and grue. It is also a strange film to watch due to its pedigree, as it was a Spanish/Italian co-production set in rural England!

Two mismatched travellers are thrown together when a girl in a car hits a guy's motorbike, meaning he has to ride with her while his bike is being fixed. A twist of weird science causes the dead to rise from the grave, and these two characters must fend off hordes of zombies who want to rip them to pieces and munch away on their flesh. Pretty standard scenario really, but it is handled with a huge amount of flair and an eye on the plot and pacing rather than just lashings of gore.

The violence is there in spades, as well as buckets of the red stuff, but more than anything this is a film that is surprisingly coherent and watchable despite the bizarre dub on some of the characters! This was one of the more notorious 'Video nasty' titles, and was banned for a while, which is a shame. The thing with this film is that the splatter is never gratuitous, and the zombies are much creepier than in many other films. The zombies themselves are rather pale and gaunt rather than the usual worm-food we have come to know in this type of flick, making them look much more frightening.

Directed by and starring Cristina Galbo as Edna and Ray Lovelock (best name ever or what?) as George, this film is one of the most important zombie flicks ever made, right up there with Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters. This is down to it being very much its own entity and not generally being like anything else in the genre. It may be ridiculous in some places and truly horrific in others, but it is one of the strongest zombie films ever committed to celluloid.

Known by over a dozen titles around the world (including 'Let Sleeping Corpses Lie', 'Don't Open the Window' and 'Breakfast With the Dead' amongst others), 'The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue' is one of the truly special horror films that were made in that spectacularly productive period for the genre. It is impressive in its setting and its execution, along with being one of the few undead films to genuinely make you feel rather uneasy. Blessed with a chilling soundtrack, a cast bordering on pretty good and some of the most memorable visuals in any zombie film ever, this is a flick you need to own and need to watch and enjoy again and again.

The Anchor Bay DVD release of the film is fantastic, packed with extras and available with a lengthy booklet containing a comprehensive essay on the film and its history. Made just five years after George A Romero's seminal Night Of The Living Dead, this is a much more violent and grotesque film with a level of plot sophistication that is really rather unexpected. Oh, and the 'regional' accents dubbed onto much of the cast are hilarious, and pretty much worth watching the film for on their own!