Category Archives: Horror

The Happening

NOTE: An unfinished version of this review was put up because of some weird glitch with WordPress. Below is the complete review.

Title: The Happening

Year: 2008

Got It For: $5.00

Thanks to this DVD, I have resolved never again to watch behind-the-scenes special features before writing these reviews. The Happening is a hilariously bad movie. But like all movies, a colossal amount of work went into it and everyone involved was trying hard to make it good. Watching the “making of” featurettes on the DVD was a somewhat depressing exercise and it got me thinking about where it all went wrong. Ludicrous plot? Terrible acting? Poor direction? Well, let’s dig in and find out what makes The Happening so cringe worthy.

Hint: This is part of it!

The first scene  takes place in Central Park, where a woman observes everyone around her stop what they’re doing and begin searching for ways to kill themselves. This is a somewhat creepy moment, but it’s ruined by plot holes when we discover what’s causing such things to happen; but we’ll get to that in minute. We’re then introduced to our hero, a schoolteacher played by a vegetative Mark Whalberg. He and his wife; the horribly miscast Zooey Daeschanel (who seems to play the exact same character in everything she’s ever been in) have a relationship that’s been on the rocks lately. Can they salvage their love in the midst of this mass disaster? Why do perfectly healthy people suddenly want to kill themselves?

With proper writing and many, many better decisions, this may have turned out to be a good movie. But there are so many problems here; the only way to properly describe them all is in a classic bullet point list.

  • Terrible performances from normally talented actors. It seriously feels like everyone is reading the script for the first time.
  • Ridiculous twist. Spoiler alert here just in case you haven’t seen the movie. It turns out that the trees (not any specific species mind you, just “the trees”) are releasing chemicals that erase the human instinct for self preservation. While it is true that many plants use toxic or pungeant chemicals to defend against predators or claim an area of soil; the idea that they can just create new poisons and release them at will against a single species is ludicrous. Also, how was that one woman at the beginning not affected?
  • Apparently the movie takes place over a period of one or two days. In this time, scientists figure out what the chemical does, where it’s coming from, and have already organised press conferenes and TV interviews. Not to mention entire cities are evacuated.
  • Characters appear and disappear as needed. A random couple who know a lot about plants, a displaced Army private, and two random teenage boys (who are both shot about 10 minutes after they are introduced) and a psychotic old lady (the best and honestly scareist part of this movie) are amoung the cast of characters we get to “know” and “love.”
  • The kid in this movie (oh yeah, I forgot to mention the whole depressing John Leguizamo and his daughter subplot that ends with his death before the halfway point) has an Avatar: The Last Airbender backpack, foreshadowing another Shyamalan bomb.

I’m just scratching the surface here. There are SO many things wrong with this movie, that you have to experience it to truly understand. And it proves that just because you work really hard on something; it doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good.

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The Capture of Bigfoot

Title: The Capture of Bigfoot

Year: 1979

Got It For: $3.33

 When Bill Rebane made a movie, he made it a family affair, as evidenced by the credits for 1979’s “the Capture of Bigfoot.” The end scroll hardly had a line go by without a crew member‘s surname being  Rebane, and if it wasn’t Rebane then the person likely shared their name with at least one other person responsible for bringing us this snow covered gem. It seems that in the late ‘70’s there was a big Sasquatch/Yeti/Arak (the native name given to the legendary creature in this feature) fad going on, as this is one of long line of low-budget Bigfoot movies that hit the silver screen in that time period.

Whatcha gonna do, brother, when Arakamania and these 24 inch pythons run wild on you!

And oh boy, what a movie this is. We get our first full shot of Arak in the opening scene, foregoing any attempt to build atmosphere or tension through the wait to see what our monster looks like. See, some business man operating out of some backwoods ski resort in…uh…Place, USA, is obsessed with hunting down the legendary creature, and has hired a number of trappers to help him in his quest for surefire fame and fortune. Unfortunately for the trappers, the Arak they capture is merely a youngin’ and soon a full grown ape man appears to take them out. With a mighty sound that is not at all similar to some guy just yelling “BLLLEEEEUUGHGHGHGHGH!!!!” as he jumps out from behind a tree, Bigfoot grabs one trapper, turns him into floppy dummy, and tosses him face first into the snowbank before sending his partner home with fatal face wounds. As the park ranger and local Sherriff start to figure out what’s going on, the business man spirals into a blind murderous fury as everyone races to get their hands on Arak.

 

The first thirty minutes of this picture will have you laughing until your eyes bulge out of their sockets. The monster costumes, while not horrible in a technical sense (honestly the Bigfoot masks look pretty good) are still dopey looking and make it awkward for the actor to walk around in the snow. However, it starts to lose steam about halfway through. We’ve been given the payoff reveal of the monster in the first scene, so watching people traipse through the wood – often falling flat on their face in the snow- and arguing over the creature’s legitimacy starts to get boring pretty quickly. Still, this movie contains so many hilarious shots and sounds that a couple of screenshots can’t possibly hope to capture the magic. Highlights of the film include:

  •  A kid who sounds like Rocky the flying squirrel
  • High flying snowmobile accidents
  • Rodeo clowns at a ski racing event
  • A terrible band playing terrible music with terrible lyrics at a terrible dance party at the lodge
  • Boxes labeled “Explosives” left near burning welding torches
  • A car chase with one jump onto another car’s roof, one rollover, one explosion, and one hit-and-run

If you’re a fan of Bigfoot or poorly acted monster films in general, I say give this one a shot if you find it lying around somewhere.

 

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Day of the Animals

Title: Day of the Animals

Year: 1977

Got It For: $3.33

 

You know, I can’t help thinking that for the rest of my life; I will have to compare every movie I ever see to Day of the Animals. This film has become my measuring stick for motion pictures. Oh, not because it’s such an excellent movie, but because it has perhaps the most amazing minute or so of footage I’ve ever seen: Leslie Nielson fighting a bear.

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Oh yes indeed. You see, this picture is a vision of the future. Of what COULD happen IF the human population continues to deplete the ozone layer with dangerous flourocarbons. What happens if the ozone layer is depleted? Are people burned to death under intense heat? Do the harsh UV rays cause food supplies to wither and die, leaving us in a fight for survival against the elements and our very neighbors? Of course not stupid! It causes all the animals around to go crazy go nuts and start attacking all the humans. Birds sit beside children! Snakes attempt to drive trucks! Rats use cat-a-pults (or should I say rat-a-pults) to attack police!

We experience this horror alongside our intrepid protagonists, a group of hikers on a two week excursion into the woods who are just unlucky enough to get caught in the middle of it all during the Day (should be days, as the movie takes place over at least five) of the Animals!

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The movie itself is hit and miss. The animals are real, well-trained creatures in wide shots, but the close-ups allow us to see the hilariously bad puppets used for the attack scenes. However, if you enjoy cheesiness as much as I do and want to see Leslie Nielson (pre-comedy work) play a bigot who goes Ultimate Warrior on a grizzly bear, this is the movie for you!

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Creature From the Haunted Sea

Title: Creature from the Haunted Sea

Year: 1961

Got It For: About $1 ($5 DVD with 5 movies)

The original poster for Creature from the Haunted Sea begs me “PLEASE DO NOT GIVE AWAY THE ANSWER TO THE SECRET.” That secret apparently being that this film is actually a comedy. Going in, I had no idea that this was going to be an intentionally funny movie, as most advertising for the movie played it up as a straight up creature feature. The plot is that an American criminal and his crew (one of whom is actually an American spy) assist a number of Cuban loyalists in stealing a large amount of gold from the Cuban treasury. They then proceed to bump off each of the Cubans on the way to Puerto Rico, blaming it on a made up monster that, of course, turns out to be real. And made of sentient seaweed and ping pong balls apparently.

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According to IMDB, the original runtime for this movie was 61 minutes. The version on my disc is about 75 minutes long; evidence that it’s actually the TV cut that had a number of scenes added later on. While the main plot is straightforward and has some pretty funny writing, there are a number of subplots in this version that are convoluted, don’t make much sense, and take away from the movie overall. The production values are obviously quite low, this being an early-ish Roger Corman film. Props and costumes look cheap and somewhat silly, and one scence near the beginning is so poorly lit you can hardly tell what’s going on until a random car chase breaks out…and even then it’s pretty fuzzy.

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This movie is certainly an odd one. Part spy spoof, part monster movie spoof, part crime spoof, it’s an aqueous solution of funny, weird, and low, low budget. If you’re like me and have a taste for aged cheese, I say try it out. Otherwise you’ll probably be left scratching your head wondering where the last hour and fifteen minutes of your life went.

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