Larry Cohen’s horror film “It’s Alive” didn’t always get the respect it deserved. While it’s certainly a seventies shock horror film about a mutant baby, it’s also about fear of genetic and birth defects, the question of abortion, and the idea of euthanasia in children. It thrives on being a horror cult classic, but it’s also a socially relevant movie that pounces on a lot of important issues. Larry Cohen’s classic film gets a wonderful treatment from the folks at Scream Factory with all three “It’s Alive” films on one box set, and it’s a collector’s set that’s impossible to pass up.
A family expecting their second born is surprised to have a mutant child as it arrives in this world and kills all in its path when scared. As a baby, being scared is something that happens quite a bit, creating a mounting body count for this tiny tot.
Written and directed by Larry Cohen, It’s Alive is a tale inspired by pollution and environmental effects on humans’ reproductive systems, eventually leading to a damaged progeny trying to survive when it’s scared and ready to kill for survival. The film takes this and turns it into an easy to watch horror film about a newborn mutant monster that can easily be taken as just that, a monster film, but is much more once one delves into the environmental message. Here Cohen creates a tale that is deeper than it seems and works with monster film tropes to pass along its message and entertain at the same time.
Logan, the public’s beloved Wolverine, has aged and isn’t doing so great. As he holds onto life for some reason and is looking for a reason to be. His later life is not filled with action, something he seems to have settled into. That is until a woman comes asking for his help and a chain of events leads to him having to help a young girl in desperate need of guidance and assistance.
“Logan” is a terrible X-Men movie, but a very good Wolverine movie. I say that because director James Mangold holds about as much contempt for X-Men and its concept as Bryan Singer does. Mangold offers a vision of the team that is none too flattering. Set in an undetermined timeline of the movie series, we’re met with Logan in the distant future where he’s one of the only surviving mutants left on Earth. The dream has died, Professor X is now suffering from a brain disease that has turned him in to a burden, and everything the X-Men strived for has been forgotten and passed off as a joke. Now faced with nothing but a dark ending, he is confronted by a Hispanic woman who pays him to help her. Logan, at the behest of Charles Xavier, is tasked with caring for a small girl named Laura who is much more like Logan than even Charles Xavier realizes.
“Rock & Rule” is a wonky, surreal, and entertaining animated musical that feels like Ralph Bakshi, Don Bluth, and “Heavy Metal” magazine were combined in to such a frantic cult gem. The 1983 movie has gone through years of being an underground classic, and has finally been embraced for such an ahead of its time science fiction tale. The animation for “Rock & Rule” is completely out of the box, resembling rotoscoping in many aspects, and opting for character models you don’t often find anywhere else. “Rock & Rule” is a science fiction, punk rock, steam punk tale set many years in the future after world war III wiped man off the face of the Earth. The only surviving species are cats, dogs, and rats. They have evolved in to anthropomorphic mutants, all capable of thought and speech.
The character that helped build Troma in to the company we know and love it as today, is still a wonderful and fun anti-hero who finds himself dropped in to fate’s door after a mean prank pulled on him one day. In Tromaville New Jersey, Melvin is a young janitor for a local health club dominated by a pair of muscle bound bullies. By day, the bullies roam around the club taunting Melvin and hanging around with their busty girlfriends, but by night they’re vicious hit and run murderers that take joy in killing children and helpless animals. After Melvin accidentally runs afoul one of the bullies, his girlfriend invites Melvin to a private rendezvous on the condition he wear a pink tutu.
After realizing he’s been the victim of a prank, Melvin crashes through a window and falls in to a drum of toxic ooze. Disfigured and transformed in to the muscle bound Toxic Avenger, he roams the streets of Tromaville murdering criminals and rapists, and laying down the law with his handy mop. Despite the very low budget, “The Toxic Avenger” works as a simultaneous superhero action tale and monster movie. A lot like “Robocop,” Troma’s superhero gets the job done in the most violent manner possible.
Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman are never above being as splatterific as possible, showing off a ton of gruesome moments including Toxie taking off a thug’s nose, and tearing another’s arm clean off. Of course a lot of the movie doesn’t reserve the grue for the bad guys, eliciting genuine cringe inducing moment when Melvin is turned in to the Toxic Avenger. Even for an indie film in 1984, the sight of Melvin’s skin pulsing and bulging from the toxic waste is grotesque and you hate to see such a goofy protagonist be reduced to this monster. Toxie is kept in the dark for most of his introduction, as he begins feeling his way around his strengths and weaknesses, and realizing his mutation allows him a chance to fight evil.
He begins to take on the bigger nemesis when he realizes the local police force is run by a corrupt chief and his sergeant whose attitude is very Nazi like. Herz and Kaufman give Toxie some time to even fall in love with a beautiful blond girl, and do battle with the villains from the gym. “The Toxic Avenger” is still a fun and off the wall action horror movie with its own twist on the superhero sub-genre. Leave it to Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz to take typical superhero tropes and twist in to something wonderfully gruesome and absurd.
Fantasia International Film Festival is renowned for showcasing some of the best and weirdest of the film world. As someone who started going their second year and started seriously going for multiple screenings per week in 1999, some of the weird films I’ve seen cannot be unseen. So, just to bring some to attention and have a bit of fun, here are five of the most WTF films I’ve seen.
I know that this is grounds for getting my “90’s Kid” membership card stripped from my hands, but the more I see “TMNT II,” the more I dislike it. Yes, it has camp value thanks to Vanilla Ice, but nostalgia lens aside, it’s a pretty crummy follow up to the 1990 movie. It’s basically the “Batman Forever” of the original TMNT movie series, a movie that waters down the formula of the Ninja Turtles. Hell, even like “Batman Forever,” the turtles are no longer urban legends working in the shadows, and become virtual celebrities by the climax. Much to the shock of everyone involved, 1990’s “TMNT” movie was a film for all ages that took violence seriously, and depicted actual consequences to actions and decisions.