Thursday, August 20, 2015

Project: Metalbeast (1995)

In my last review (first review?), I pointed out that sometimes watching horror movies can suck, given just how many of them are terrible nowadays. But as I started thinking about my next write-up, I realized that there is also a flip side to that coin; even though you are more likely to be subjected to watching a shitty movie, as a horror fan, you are also more likely to enjoy that shitty movie.

Which brings us to Project: Metalbeast.

P:MB is a movie that answers the age-old question that many viewers ask themselves while watching The Terminator: what if Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 was also a werewolf? The premise of a cybernetic werewolf is enough on its own to make me forgive the movie's many flaws and just appreciate the wackiness that is about to ensue.

The movie begins in the mid 70's, with a special ops team investigating a castle on a remote island. While searching the castle, naturally, they are attacked by a werewolf. After one man is mauled, they are able to kill the beast and extract some of its blood. It is then revealed that the purpose of the mission was to obtain the werewolf blood so it could...(wait for it) used to make super soldiers for the military. The attempts to make were-soldiers are not successful, with all of the test subjects going insane, so the special ops soldier who obtained the blood from the castle takes matters into his own hands by injecting himself with the last vile of were-blood. This causes him to transform into a werewolf and flip out. He is shot with silver bullets and subdued. Then our token evil CEO orders to have his body cryogenically frozen as to preserve his blood in order for it to be used sometime in the future when the technology is perfected...or something. Flash forward twenty years, and the same company is now working on a synthetic skin technology that uses metal alloy to bond skin cells. They are experimenting with this technology on dead bodies that the facility has stored away, and eventually they make their way to our frozen werewolf (now reverted back to human form), they give him the metal skin and remove the silver bullets that were lodged inside his chest. This causes him to wake up from his twenty year slumber and go on a rampage as the titular "Metalbeast".
"It's more of!"

As long as you can wrap your head around that clusterfuck of a plotline, the movie itself is pretty entertaining. As I mentioned earlier, just the idea of a half robot, half werewolf is enough to satisfy most horror fans, and it delivers pretty consistent action throughout. The effects are all practical, which is always a plus, and the design of the Metalbeast is pretty imaginative. I actually found myself laughing because of the monster's resemblance to South Park's ManBearPig, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised of the creators had seen this movie and gotten inspiration for their design.

Speaking of inspiration, another thing really jumped out at me during my last viewing; if you take all the main plot points for this movie and replace the werewolf with a masked killer, you would pretty much have the 2001 movie Jason X. They both feature a monster that is cryogenically frozen, woken up in the future, and given cybernetic upgrades to create a more badass version of it's original self. And if that isn't enough, there's also the fact that both monsters are played by the same person. Kane Hodder, best known as the man that played Jason Vorhees in several entries of the Friday The 13th franchise (including Jason X), also stars in this movie as the Metalbeast. When you consider all the similarities between the two movies, the fact that they star the same person, and that this one came out six years before Jason Vorhees would become a cyborg, you have to imagine that the writers of  Jason X probably figured that no one had ever seen this movie and they could take several of it's ideas and no one would ever notice.

I've always thought this movie deserved more attention from genre fans. It definitely has it's fair share of problems, like low production values and some painful acting in spots, but overall it is quite entertaining, and without a doubt its more fun than about 80 percent of the generic werewolf movies that have come after it. With its cool monster design and overall batshit insane premise, it has all the makings of a cult classic. It's the perfect movie to watch while sitting around drinking beers with your friends. I mean, if the idea of a seven foot tall robotic werewolf being blown up by a bazooka doesn't excite you, then I'm not sure why you even began reading this review, let alone finished it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Child's Play (1988)

Watching horror movies can be a chore nowadays. For every one that you deem awesome, there are fifteen that are utter shit. The market has become so flooded with direct-to-video garbage that, sometimes, as I sit in my room watching Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong, I find myself wondering why I still bother.

Movies like Child's Play are why I still bother.

This movie has, in my opinion, never truly been given its due respect as a horror classic. It definitely has its fans among the horror crowd, but I see it dismissed more often than not. The most common criticisms I hear from people are "a doll isn't scary lol" and "I would just kick it lol". It is very important that you totally disregard these peoples' opinions, as they have have more than likely never seen the movie, and more importantly, have missed the point of horror movies entirely. One instance in particular that sticks out in my mind is when the film was featured on the VH1 show I Love the 80's, and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider went on a tangent about how the movie is an embarrassment to the genre. While it truly is hilarious that they would choose such an uninformed moron to represent the film, it goes to show how widespread that opinion really is. The truth is, Child's Play is among one of the 80's best horror gems, with a good script, solid performances from the leads, and some of the most impressive practical effects to this day. It's what got me hooked on these types of movies.

The plot of the movie is simple enough: just before dying, a serial killer transfers his soul into a children's toy via ritualistic voodoo. The doll is then bought as a gift for a boy's eighth birthday, and the living doll then attempts to transfer his soul into the boy before his doll body turns fully human and he is trapped inside it forever. See? Simple.

What makes the movie work from the beginning is the pacing. The movie lets you know from the opening scene that the doll is possessed, but holds off from actually showing the doll moving around until the second act. Chucky's first kill in the movie, the young boy's babysitter, is done entirely without showing the doll itself. This works in the movies favor, building up tension until the reveal of the actual living doll.

Once he shows himself, the rest of the movie is carried by the awesome animatronics and puppetry work done by Kevin Yagher. Chucky seems very much alive, and its even more impressive when you consider it was done entirely without the help of CGI.  It's one of those movies where you look at something on screen and think "how the hell did they do that?", which always makes a movie more entertaining in my eyes. One of the more interesting aspects of Chucky is that his appearance gradually changes as the movie progresses, becoming more human looking and less doll-like the longer he stays in the body. His hairline recedes, he develops dark circles under his eyes, and generally just becomes more nasty looking as the film goes on. It's a level of detail that frankly you just don't see in horror movies anymore.

What compliments the great effects work is Brad Dourif's portrayal of Chucky. Everyone knows who Chucky is, and the reason for that is Dourif's classic voice work for the doll. The first time the doll comes to life and starts calling people sluts and telling them to go fuck themselves, its hard not to bust out laughing at the suddenness of it all. He's equal parts scary and hilarious, which makes the character more memorable, and almost makes you want to root for him as opposed to the heroes of the film. It's crazy that the original version of the movie had a woman voice Chucky, and it wasn't until afterward that they went back and had Brad Dourif redo the voice in post-production. It's very hard to imagine the character being voiced by anyone else.

It's also worth noting that there were several altercations behind the scenes with director Tom Holland that I always found funny. First because of his changes he made to the original script. The original idea was for the doll to have rubber skin that a child could break if they didn't take good care of it, and it would bleed, kinda like the dolls that piss themselves. This version had the boy mixing his blood with the dolls blood and that is what brought him to life. Holland, seeing that this was a fucking terrible idea, scrapped it and came up with the voodoo plotline instead. This pissed off the writer, Don Mancini, and he hates the voodoo aspect of the franchise to this day. There was also an instance where the producer, David Kirschner, actually punched the director in the face for being to hard on the young boy during filming.

Production problems aside, the movie ended up being great, and it holds up to this day. Of course, the success of this film would lead to several sequels, some good, some terrible, but I'll get into that another time, as I'm sure I will end up writing about those at some point as well.

So anyways, the point is, fuck Dee Snider.