Crawl (2019)

Sometimes it’s not about re-inventing the wheel when it comes to giving movie fans a great time at the movies. You just have to give them something entertaining and with some semblance of substance. While “Crawl” is something we’ve seen before, it has that special touch that only Alexandre Aja can inject. The same thing he did for Piranhas in his remake of “Piranha,” he does for alligators in “Crawl” offering a wonderful survival thriller that’s also a subtle commentary on global warming.

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The Meg (2018) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]

John Turtletaub’s adaptation of “The Meg” may not have been everyone’s cup of tea in 2018, but for me it was a damn good time with an eye on being about as novel as possible. While it does pander to the ever important Asian movie going audience, “The Meg” is a weird and wild action movie that feels like an eccentric amalgam of Peter Benchley, Renny Harlin, and Paul WS Anderson. It’s a comedy, a science fiction film, an action movie, a romance, a man vs. nature picture, and a tale of redemption all rolled in to one. It even squeezes in a bang up cast of character actors like Cliff Curtis, Li Bingbing, and Rainn Wilson as an eccentric billionaire thrust in to the extraordinary confrontation with a giant megalodon.

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Prey (Prooi) (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

As a lion wreaks havoc on the city of Amsterdam, a zoo veterinarian gets involved in its chase along with her boyfriend and ex.

Written and directed by Dick Maas, Prey is a horror comedy film with its comedy very dark and its horror a bit light.  The film takes the wild animal on the loose premise and moves it to the city of Amsterdam where the idea of a killer lion on the loose is particularly ludicrous.  The way the film develops this and adds hunters, both experienced and not so much, who once paired with the local police becomes a bit of a mess in terms of lion-chasing but a fun watch in terms of horror-comedy.  The film shows an ability to pit characters against each other in a way that is entertaining while they all face the lion threat.  The comedy is often situational and takes advantage of the characters’ flaws in a way that works well here.  The direction is rather on point for the comedy and fairly good on the horror.  However, as a horror film, it has just about no scare factor.

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Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (2016)

Sharknado4At this point you kind of have to accept the “Sharknado” movies will never be as good as the novels, so going in to “The 4th Awakens” means embracing it as a movie, and a media experience. It has a slew of appearances and cameos from notable internet personalities like Andre “The Black Nerd” Benjamin, to character actors like Gilbert Gottfried. Yes, even the Chippendales dancers appear to thrust against some sharks. “Sharknado” is a virtual side show of a genre offering that holds its tongue firmly in cheek, even when turning hero Fin in to a basic rip off of Ashley Williams from “Evil Dead.”

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You Have to See This! Contamination .7 (1993)

contamination7-1What if “The China Syndrome” was remade but featuring the budget of the Craft Services, three writers amounting to a horrible script, and a cast with zero skill to deliver even the most fundamental dialogue? You ultimately get the utterly awful “Contamination .7” where in a small town named Smallsville, is being terrorized by a deadly outbreak of man killing tree roots that murder anyone and everyone for reasons unexplained. They reside in a contaminated forest covered in radioactive waste. Not a single troll rears its head at any point in the movie.

You can often tell when a screenwriter is trying to take a paper thin story line and stretch it in to a movie longer than an hour. “Contamination .7” (also known as Troll 3, Creepers, The Crawlers, and Troll III: Contamination Point 7) has almost no story line for twenty minutes, and even when there’s forward motion, there’s zero tension and nothing really at stake here. Josie is coming back to her small town of Smallsville for a visit after moving to the “big city,” as everyone she meets is eager to throw in her face. While visiting and re-connecting with her meat head ex-boyfriend, she and he discover the corpse of a girl Josie was traveling with in her bus.

When they can’t find information on her, they learn the town is covering up a big plot involving a nuclear waste plant, and the local forest that’s bred sentient man killing roots. The roots don’t murder people so much as strangle them like boa constrictors, while the actors wrestle around with them in horror like Bela Lugosi in “Bride of the Monster.” For some reason writer Fabrizio Laurenti takes us through so many motions and sub-plots, all of which have zero relevance to the actual movie itself. I mean, really, if you wanted to avoid these man killing roots, you could just move to the city, and be done with it.

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Laurenti takes us through a bus ride and focuses on a female character for about fifteen minutes, when she’s really just canon fodder the whole time. I’m not sure why we have to learn about her life and learn about her back story when she’s only just a plot device. But then “Contamination .7” goes on and on providing us with monotonous moments where absolutely nothing occurs for the sake of hiding the apparent fact that there’s really nothing going on here. And when some action does happen, it’s filled with such baffling stupidity and redundancy, that you can only scratch your head or laugh along with the idiocy. In a remarkable lack of grace injecting foreshadowing, Josie gives her brother a man eating plant toy from her travels on the road.

There’s even a weird moment where Josie’s plant crazy young brother is showing her a scrap book of leaves he’s collected as she struggles to stay awake. I’m not sure what the point of that scene still is, except that his plant knowledge never comes in to play when fighting off the killer roots like the young boy in “Eight Legged Freaks.” He really just stands around complaining and literally is written out of the movie before it ends. At one point the foursome of townies go looking for a grave site to dig up the body of a local gas station owner who was killed by the roots minutes before.

As protagonist Josie is standing by the car with her brother, he moans “I want to go home, you said this would be fun!” I’d love to have been a fly on the wall as Josie tried to convince her brother digging up a corpse would be a barrel of laughs. It’s funny how a movie like this exists where there are so many characters, and yet there’s zero narrative. A local scientist is being chased by the power plant to cover up his knowledge of the contaminated forest, the local sheriff’s office may or may not know about the contaminated forest that contain the man killing roots, the grandson of the gas station owner without a name comes to town to collect his grand dad’s body and gets involved in the cover up.

Finally there’s heroine Josie and ex-boyfriend Matt, both of whom are also trying to get word out about the foul play involving the nuclear waste plant. What’s never really explained is why the local authorities would cover up the whole man killing roots. What’s in it for them? Everyone in this town (apparently populated by fifteen people total) seems to live in trailers and broken down farm houses, and the sheriff doesn’t even seem to be in on anything.

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He’s just a major asshole for a majority of the movie for no reason, and then inexplicably becomes a murderous pawn in this environmental cover up. If you have to see “Contamination .7” for any reason, watch it for the acting and the gamut of performances. Most of the cast can barely deliver one line of dialogue, and it becomes almost hysterical to see most of the actors struggling to finish their exchanges with one another. In particular, there’s the exchange between the doctor and the coroner mid-way, both of whom are trying their best to get out the convoluted dialogue about the mysterious murder.

There’s also the hilariously inept car chase where two suited men are chasing down the doctor who his incriminating information about the cover up. It’s so poorly constructed, it becomes tedious and yet so entertaining. There’s also Vince O’Neill who is so over the top and laughable, it’s a wonder if the actor ever took any of this seriously at any point. O’Neill delivers every line with a scowl and goofy chuckle, and has to be the worst officer in the history of cinema.

Thankfully director Laurenti seems to recognize his comic value and provides him with the only gory blood soaked death in the picture. I was also left wondering why if there’s a contamination of radioactive waste did any one wear any Haz Mat suits or protection. Even when inspecting the body of the first victim who is explained as being so contaminated it’s like she took a bath in a lake of radioactive waste, the doctors are not even remotely protected from infection.

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Why would anyone want to cover up the man killing roots? Were they hoping to train them to kill pan handlers and tourists? So much in the movie is included simply because director Laurenti can include it. There’s the unnecessary inclusion of a helicopter that plays no role in the narrative, and there are bulldozers that enter in the finale that will make you wonder why they didn’t think of using them in the first place. There’s also the pointless deaths of many town locals that are long and drawn out simply to fill up time and include a death or two for the sake of monster movie fans that love pointless carnage. Maybe the destruction of Smallsville opened the doors for trolls to take over and establish Nilbog?

It’s possible.

“Contamination .7,” or whatever you choose to call it, is so hilariously awful that you’ll spend time comparing the level of horrific between the direction, the writing, and the acting. The comical scene it ends on involving a domesticated Josie, and a cheap Christmas tree, is the icing on the cake.

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Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2016) [Blu-Ray]

sharkansasblurayThe consistent utterance of Dominique Swain’s character to herself of “Crap on a Cracker,” just about sums up Jim Wynorski’s latest turkey that mixes “Con Air” and “Tremor.” No doubt tailor made for airing on late night cable television, “Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre” is a goofy PG-13 crime thriller with a bunch of land roving sharks that apparently make their victims explode upon contact. This is the kind of movie cable television dreams of. It stars a host of gorgeous women, many of who scamper around in conveniently handy bikinis, and whose prison garb are short shorts and clinging tank tops. They also never actually have sex or drop F bombs.

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Night of the Wild (2015)

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“Night of the Wild” is a lot like those terrible seventies nature run amok movies. It’s badly directed, horribly edited, has terrible continuity issues, and garners some inadvertent camp. All that’s missing is an obligatory nude scene. “Night of the Wild” is brimming with potential, beginning with a premise that could have amounted to a great movie. A mysterious green meteor crash lands on a small farm town spreading its meteorites. Suddenly the local animal population begin turning on their masters, becoming violent murderous monsters. Without explanation or warning, now the humans must fight to survive and figure out a way to make it out of their town. “Night of the Wild” pretty much dips in quality after the first ten minutes, creating a story that the budget and resources couldn’t possibly afford.

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Into the Grizzly Maze (2015) (DVD)

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It’s a shame that “Into the Grizzly Maze” didn’t get a wider release, because while the cast is strong, director David Hackl delivers a very strong survival thriller. I’m not going to claim it a masterpiece, but for what it promises, it’s a damn solid action adventure that’s set against the backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness. Much like “The Edge,” it’s mainly a movie about men confronting their personal demons while battling a giant ferocious and cunning bear that has decided it’s had enough with humanity. After illegally poaching a bunch of bears, a rogue bear has decided to strike down any and all intruders, and begins slaughtering conniving hunters and officers alike.

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