Sunday, March 11, 2018

'Ooga Booga' is a poorly made satire

Ooga Booga (2013)
Starring: Ciarra Carter, Chance Reardon, Gregory Neibel, Wade F. Wilson, Karen Black, and Stacey Keach
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Charles Band, Danny Dravin, and Edward Payson
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

After a clean-cut young black man (Wilson) is murdered by racist cops, his vengful spirit animates an action figure named Ooga Booga. With the help of his girlfriend (Carter) and a has-been kids show host best friend (Reardon), he metes out gory justice on his killers and those who protected them.

If you're one of that strange breed of 21st Century Humans who are walking around looking for a reason to be offended and outraged, this is a movie you need to stay far, far away from: The simplistic satire will be completely lost on you, and the racist and sexist content will cause you to have a stroke.

Even if you aren't one of the Perpetually Offended Tribe, "Ooga Booga" might be a film you should stay away from. While the aforementioned attempt at satire in this film--of 1970s exploitation films, of the modern "all cops are racist!" tropes, and Band's own affection for Killer Toys and the merchandizing tie-ins in can make--are appreciated, they are so clumsily implimented that they are almost insulting to the intelligence of viewers. There's the further issue that most of the comedic elements and jokes in the film are mostly unfunny.

There are some things to recommend the film, however. Chance Reirdon is quite funny as the over-the-top offensive kids show clown, and Ciarra Carter is featured in what has to be the weirdest shower scene in movie history. Karen Black is entertaining is one of her last roles before she passed away, but her scenes and character seem like they almost belong in a different movie. Finally, Stacy Keach is amusing as the cartoonish racist judge... but not amusing enough to earn "Oooga Booga" more than a Three Rating.

Friday, December 23, 2016

'Parasite Dolls' in an underdeveloped disappointment

Dangerous Worry Dolls (aka "Parasite Dolls") (2008)
Starring: Jessica Morris, Cheri Themer, Dilio Nunez, Deb Snyder, and Meridith McClain
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Charles Band, Joe Megna, and Dana Harrloe
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

When incarceration in a women's prison ruled by a corrupt warden (Snyder) and a violent gangleader (McClain) becomes unbearable for Eva (Morris), she wishes her troubles onto a set of "worry dolls" that her daughter gave her while visiting. The dolls, however, are more than just vessels for wishful thinking, and they swiftly begin to eliminate all of Eva's troubles.

Like so many Full Moon movies, "Dangerous Worry Dolls" is brimming with potenial and overflowing with promise... potential and promise that for the most part remains unrealized. Quite honestly, it feels like they used a partially fleshed-out outline as their shooting script and even then didn't bother completing all the scenes.

We are introduced relatively well to Eva, the main character, but no other character gets even the slightest bit of development; everyone is a cookie cutter "women in prison" stock character--and even Eva's character is paper thin in the depth department. Worse, however, is the fact that only one of the worry dolls in Eva's box gets to do anything in the film. Why only that one is magical is never explained... although one gets the feeling that they were ALL supposed to be magical if the film had been compelte.

With the overlong opening and end credits are removed, the movie barely runs more than hour... and what happens in that hour feels incomplete and there are a number of severe continuity issues, such as a confrontation that was supposed to happen at 10:30pm ends up taking place after an event that was supposed to happen at Midnight. There's also an issue with Jessica Morris' make-up once she becomes possessed by the worry dolls and goes on a rampage; the discoloration on her skin that can be seen in the still above comes and goes for no real reason other than maybe scenes are not in the order they were originally supposed to be according to what passed for the script.

The only bright spot here is Jessica Morris, and possibly Dilio Nunez. Morris gives a decent performance all around, considering what she has to work with, and Nunez does some nice foreshadowing of the "big reveal" regarding his character's secret. None of the other cast members give bad performances, but they aren't especially good either. Then again. one has to excuse them to some degree, because they are spitting out some of the most cliched dialogue imaginable while portraying characters that are woefully underdeveloped.

"Dangerous Worry Dolls" is only for people who absolutely must see every single movie in the "women in prison" subgenre of trashy films, and for those who enjoy that off-kilter, undefinable quality present in almost all of Charles Band's films--even the ones that feel as unfinished as this one. It's not his worst effort, but it is far, far from his best.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Killjoy's back... and he's brought the funny!

Killjoy's Psycho Circus (2016)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Victoria De Mare, Robin Sydney, Al Burke, Tai Chan Ngo, Victoria Levine, Stephen F. Cardwell, Lauren Nash, and Tim Chizmar
Director: John Lechago
Producers: Charles Band and John Lechago
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

After escaping from Hell, the demonic clown Killjoy (Haaga) and his fellow clown demons Batty Boop (De Mare), Punchy (Burke), and Freakshow (Ngo) have been keeping themselves busy as hosts of a late-night variety show called Psycho Circus. But life on Earth is proving tougher than expected, as the pressures of running a business starts to tear the group apart... and things go from bad to worse when the arch-demon they humiliated by escaping his grasp (Cardwell) comes to drag them back to the Netherworld.

The Principles of Psycho Circus: Killjoy (Trent Haaga, bottom left),
 Samantha (Victoria Levine, bottom right), Punchy (Al Burke, top left) and Freakshow (Tai Chan Ngo)

"Killjoy's Psycho Circus" brings back not only the majority of the stars from the last entry in this long-running Full Moon series, but writer/director John Lechago is once again at the helm. As with the previous two films in the series, Lechago and his cast take viewers on a wild four-color ride of insanity and hilarity. There's very little left of the Killjoy's horror roots here--except for the macabre deaths he visited upon the guests who appear on his show--but in its place is a steady stream of foul-mouthed humor and biting satire directed at the entertainment industry at large and Full Moon's own products in particular. There's a solid belly laugh every few minutes, and long-time Full Moon fans will be smiling throughout the picture.

Once again, Trent Haaga is spectacular as Killjoy, and he's hilarious playing a caricature of himself as a guest on Killjoy's TV show. Victoria De Mare is once again lots of fun as Batty Boop, even if her role is somewhat reduced... but it's not a bad thing as Full Moon mainstay Robin Sidney turns in an excellent "fake" Batty for the initial parts of the film. This "recasting" is one of many commentaries on the film and TV business scattered throughout this entry and it's one of the best. When the "fake" Batty first appeared, I was a little annoy by the obvious body suit that had replaced the body paint, but once it became clear was was going on, I loved every bit relating to the "replacement" that followed.

I also loved the references to other Full Moon properties, even to the Killjoy series itself as merchandise, as Lechago dealt with the ever-present element of product placement in blatant and hilarious ways (while still fulfilling what I assume were actual product-placement deals with companies outside Band's operation). What would probably have had me rolling my eyes instead had me wiping away tears of laughter. The emphasis on a Hell and demons centered in a world of pulp-magazine style sci-fi in place of the usual mysticism and fire-and-brimstone that was introduced in "Killjoy Goes to Hell" continues here and is ratcheted up even further, as the film's climax unfolds in space, with Killjoy and his clowns serving as the crew on their own rocket ship. It's crazy, and it works beautifully, especially the way it sets up future sequels that can either bring the series back to its horror roots, or spin it even further off into psuedo-sci-fi tomfoolery.

The only complaints I have with "Killjoy's Psycho Circus" is that some characters and their stories are left dangling at the end of the movie. I would have liked to have seen a wrap-up of some sort involving Killjoy's agent and business manager (played by Victoria Levine), not to mention a real pay-off for the running gag of her insisting that Killjoy needed to start selling ice cream on the show. I also wanted to see a better resolution to the "fake" Batty storyline, other than the confirmation that Sidney was playing her "Evil Bong" character playing Batty Boop. A publicity still for the film seemed to indicate that there would be the sort of resolution I would expect the real Batty Boop to visit upon an imposter, but such a scene is not in the film. (There is a confrontation, but it's a disappointingly mild one.)

Real and Fake Batty Boops! (Victoria De Mare, left, and Robin Sydney)

This scene does not appear in the film, but should! (Sydney, left, and De Mare)
In the final analysis, Killjoy's Psycho Circus isn't quite as good as "Killjoy Goes to Hell", but anyone who's enjoyed the previous Lechago-helmed entries in the series will still get a huge kick out of it and should consider it a must-watch release from Full Moon.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Interesting premise marred by weak execution and characters

Wow. I can't believe it's been three years since I last posted a review here. Hopefully, it won't be that long until the next one!

The Day Time Ended (1979)
Starring: Jim Davis, Dorothy Malone, Marcy Lafferty, Natasha Ryan, Chris Mitchum, and Scott Kolden
Director: John Cardos
Producers: Charles Band, Steve Neill, and Wayne Schmidt
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A strange astronomical phenomena engulfs Earth in a magnetic solar storm, and throws the Williams family (the cast listed above) and their newly constructed, isolated home into a strange dimension where all time exists simultaneously.

"The Day Time Ended" has an interesting premise as its starting point, but the idea remains halfbaked and underexplained/exploited. The film meanders from scene to scene, with very little story motivation and even less logic. The characters barely interact with one another, and even when they do, you sometimes get the feeling that they are in different movies, talking past each other and delivering responses that barely make sense.

It's actually a shame, because Jim Davis and Marcy Lafferty in particular give decent performances. If their characters were more interesting and the story a little more substantial and coherent, they might have been able to save this movie. As it is, however, all we have is a drab and dull filler that is barely worth sitting through. It's not even bad enough to be entertaining in a "bad movie" sense.

The highlight of the film are the goofy claymation aliens (or dinosaurs or mutants or whatever the heck they are) that bedevil the family at roughly the halfway point of the movie. But, like everything else in the film, including some sort of evil flying robot--that can teleport through structural walls but has to use a laser in an attempt to get through a bedroom door--nothing much comes of them.

"The Day Time Ended" can be found in several different multi-movie packs; I came across it in the 50-movie Sci-Fi Invasion set. It's inoffensive filler in such a case, but it's not a film to go out of your way for and you can safely safe it for last in whatever set it's part of.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

'Killjoy Goes to Hell' is like classic Full Moon

Killjoy Goes to Hell (2012)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Victoria De Mare, Jessica Whitaker, Stephen F. Cardwell, Aqueela Zoll, John Karyus, Jason R. Moore, and Randy Mermell
Director: John Lechago
Producer: Charles Band and John Schouweiler
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After one of his victim's escapes death by his hand, the demon-clown Killjoy (Haaga) is called before Satan himself (Cardwell) to answer for his failure... and for not being evil enough. Will his ex-lover Batty Boop (De Mare) and the rest of the demonic clown posse come up with a way to save him before all his names are struck from the demonic record and he fades into oblivion?

"Killjoy Goes to Hell" is another Full Moon winner for John Lechago. In this direct sequel to "Killjoy 3" (which is being re-released by Full Moon under the new name "Killjoy's Revenge"). he builds on what was started in that previous film while taking Killjoy and related characters in a completely different and unexpected direction. The result is the sort of crazy mix of fantasy. humor, and horror present in some of the greatest Full Moon releases of years past. We also have some honest-to-God plot and character development present in this film, something which has been lacking in most recent pictures from the Band fantasy factory and which has been in short supply in the "Killjoy" films until now. To make the package even more enjoyable, the film features passable digital effects, nice sets, and great make-up jobs.

Trent Haaga, in this third outing as the demonic clown, gives his best performance yet, actually managing to give a little depth to what is basically a killer cartoon character. Similarly, Victoria De Mare, returning as the clown succubus Batty Boop, as quite a bit more to do than just be silly and look sexy and deadly--like Haaga with Killjoy, she gets to give Boop some texture and depth.

In fact, every single character in the film--from the girl who survived Killjoy and his clown posse's rampage  in the previous film (now committed to a mental hospital) to minor characters like the Demonic Bailiff--has one or two character defining moments if they utter any dialogue at all. Even the do-nothing character of Freakshow from "Killjoy 3" serves a purpose and gets to shine in this outing.

And because writer/director Lechago actually took the time and effort to write a decent script that gave the actors something to work with, there's enough material that he was able to create a full-length 90-minute movie, instead of sneaking over the finish line with 65-70 minutes that seems to have become the Full Moon norm. The strong script also makes the fairly pointless side-business of a pair of homicide detectives trying to piece together the truth about the events of Killjoy 3" tolerable even while you're wishing the film would get back to the insanity of the trial in hell.

The fact this film is as good as it is is even more remarkable when when considers the fact that it was made on an extremely small budget, was shot over 7 days in May of 2012, and that I am writing this review in late September of 2012, not from a rough edit but from the final version that will be on sale at in two weeks and showing up in Redbox rental outlets in time for Halloween.

Is it perfect? No, but most of the problems I could call attention to would amount to little more than nitpicking. This is a fun flick that is full of the spirit that old time fans loved Full Moon for back in the 1990s. It's the sort of film I hope for as I keep coming back to the House That Band Built... and it's a film that has just put John Lechago high on the list of names to watch for. He's two for two as far as Full Moon films go! (Three for three overall, if I count his non-Full Moon picture that I've seen.)

 Note: Full Moon Features provided me with a review copy of this film, free of charge.

Monday, June 25, 2012

'Decadent Evil II' improves on the original

Decadent Evil II (2007)
Starring: Jill Michelle, Daniel Lennox, John-Paul Gates, Jessica Morris, Ricardo Gil, Mike Muscat, James C. Burns, and Rory Williamson
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Dana K. Harloe, Bill Barton, and Joe Megna
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Kindhearted vampire Sugar (Michelle) and her would-be paramour Dex (Lennox) follow the trail of a master vampire to Little Rock, Arkansas, hoping to obtain the means to restore their deceased, vampire-hunting friend Ivan (Gil) to life. But identifying the master vampire turns out to be harder than they had imagined, and soon the hunters become the hunted.

Daniel Lennox and Jill Michelle reprise their roles from the original film

"Decadent Evil II" is an improvement over the original film in the series in several areas, but it is still a weak effort and a far cry from what we all know Charles Band is capable of delivering.

Like the first film, this one is a cheap and sleazy effort--more sleazy than actually decadent... and even more sleazy than the original because from the "gentleman's club" where most of the action takes place to the motel where the main characters are holed up, to the junkyard where the final confrontation takes place, the film has a rundown, cheap feel to it. Decadence is still somewhat in short supply, but there more evil present than in the previous film.

There's also a better script, with some nicely sinister bad guys and enough of them and nicely done misdirections that it's not completely obvious who the vampire lord is before the Big Reveal near the end. (That said, it turned out to be the character I thought the most probable, but dismissed because the script was by August White who has turned out some real dogs over the years. Turns out, though, that I for once was assuming sloppy randomness where some thought and honest-to-God plot was on display.)

The stronger script also results in some actual moments of horror in this film, and a general atmosphere of dread that permeates everything once the film gets going. If not for an ending that is somewhat botched story-wise, atrociously edited, and just all-around badly staged from an action point of view, this could well have earned a low Five rating instead of the Four it's getting.

The actors are all decent in their parts, even if Daniel Lennox reminds me of the bland leading men from the 1930s B-pictures I review over at Shades of Gray. Jill Michelle did a better job at playing the lead than I figured she would have based her performance in the first film, but Jessica Morris still out-shined her in the few scenes they have together; Michelle may be pretty but she doesn't have much of a screen presence. The cast and the film in general did benefit from the fact that all the characters have at least one moment of importance as the story unfolds. Even Marvin the Humonculous, who in the original was just the obligatory Band Puppet/possible toy fodder without any real purpose beyond that, serves a key role in the story. (The downside here is that he hasn't improved much as a puppet.)

This film is still a far cry from some of the great flicks during the 1990s, but if you're a fan of Charles Band, and if the preview embedded below looks at all appealing, I think you'll find the film entertaining enough, despite its terrible ending.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Charles Band-produced Frankenfilm!

Savage Island (aka "Banished Women" and "Prison Island") (1985)
Starring: Anthony Steffan, Ajita Wilson, Stelio Candelli, Christina Lai, Luciano Rossi, Linda Blair, Leon Askin, and Penn Jillette
Directors: Edoardo Mulargia and Nicholas Beardsley
Producer: Charles Band (as Roger Amante) and Mark Alabiso
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

An escapee from a hellish work camp (Blair), where enslaved women mine emeralds, holds its owner (Askin) at gunpoint while she relates the tale of how her allies (Steffan and Wilson) infiltrated the facility and destroyed it.

"Savage Island" is a Frankenfilm in the grand tradition of so many Godfrey Ho-assembled ninja pictures. It's made with pieces from a pair of commercially-failed South American women-in-jungle-hell-prison movies, "Hotel Paradise" and "Escape From Hell", sandwiched between footage featuring Linda Blair and a vengeful she-demon in a cheap fur coat, and kinda-sorta glued together with narration from Blair.

Unlike many Frankenfilm's this one benefits from the fact that three actors (Anthony Steffan, Ajita Wilson, and Christina Lay) are featuring prominently in both the original films, playing largely similar roles in each. The same is true of several of the supporting cast members. Further, both films were directed by the same man, and set in nearly identical locations, so the "meanwhile, in a different movie" sensation that so often creeps into Frankenfilms--where locations and tone and focus characters change back and forth--this one comes across as, more or less, a unified whole.

That's not to say that whole isn't a mess. To start with, the pieces from which "Savage Island" is assembled came from films with highly illogical plots that feature characters going through the motions to make sure all the standard elements of a "women in jungle prison" exploitation flick get included; character actions are dictated more by plot and genre needs than anything that even comes close to sense. Combining the two films--one about revolutionaries infiltrating a diamond mine worked by enslaved women, and one where the abused prisoner's in a women's prison convince the prison doctor to help them stage an escape-- while adding the third element of Linda Blair "masterminding" a jewel heist didn't improve matters at all.

Further, while it appears characters remain present throughout the film, they only do so with some bizarre continuity glitches. Anthony Steffan switches back and forth between outfits with no apparent rhyme or reason, and Ajita Wilson's hair gets longer and shorter and longer between scenes. I also think the same supporting actress was murdered by angry prisoners twice.

In the end, as Frankenfilms go, this isn't a bad attempt. In fact, it probably ranks among the better of its kind. However, it might not be worth going out of your way for, unless you're a big lover of cheesy jungle films, or a huge fan of Anthony Steffan or Ajita Wilson--although in the case of the latter, you'd be disappointed because her assets are nowhere near as fully on display here as in other films she's been in. Fans of Penn and Teller might also be curious to witness the first film appearance (and on-screen death) of Penn Jillette.

(Full disclosure: This review is based on a screener copy of the film given to me by Full Moon Pictures.)