Beware the B’s (low budget/Indie films that is!)
1989 VHS; re-released on DVD in 2000
Director: Joseph Kurtz, Kenneth Mader
Runtime: 80 minutes
Company: Maderfilm Productions
A secret Government experiment is housed in the middle of suburbia (and why not?) but moments before its slated to run for congress (that’s topical) it escapes much to the chagrin of a small gathering of inquisitive, drunken and not too bright teenagers. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
As if that wasn’t enough, for surely it should be, a special agent is on the way to ‘cover things up (in a magical vehicle that rapidly transforms - for no reason other than perhaps budget constraints - from a stretch limo into a modest looking Chrysler). She’s escorted by gun toting, attitude brandishing, security detail and a local Sherriff duo who may or may not know pertinent protocol in relation to anything even remotely law enforcement based.
Hampered by bad acting, a narrative that does nothing but make the premise of watching paint dry seem appealing and the occasional special effect wasted by inadequate lighting this is a film for truly only those that are fervent B movie fanatics. Although with that in mind there is one scene that perked my interest (the end credits? If only it was that easy) towards the end when the creature is hankering for stomach-of-horny-teen, a delicacy in some countries or so I’ve been told, and can’t decide on which part to taste test erstwhile tossing what he (?) doesn’t want at the frozen in terror partially dressed girlfriend looking on in absolute shock wondering if she’ll ever get paid what she’s been promised for her lack of acting abilities and a role she’ll be mercilessly teased about for eternity.
35 out of 100 rubber suit wearing monsters who forget what little in the way of lines they might have had.
Director: Jon Keeyes
Runtime: 91 minutes
Company: Loud Pictures
Based in the late 19th Century Phobia boasts lavish and quite impressive (based on a limited budget) period backdrops as well portrayals of a handful of renowned characters best known for their additions in the medical field of mental disorders and psychology. The film itself revolves around Dr. Lesley Parker an eager scholar using whatever means necessary in hopes to carve a name for herself - in the medical arena - by using hypnosis in such a way to enable patients to get over their fears. As part of a collective gathered in a mansion harboring its own dirty secrets are descendants of Count Drakul and others each with their own cross to bear.
As secrets are divulged, the body count rises and blood begins to flow Dr. Parkers own phobia begins to manifest. Is anyone safe, just who is the top hat wearing suave type terrorizing the neighborhood and why has Elizabeth (Stephanie Rhodes -Friday the 13th remake) a smirk on her face throughout the entire movie.
Perhaps we’ll never know the answer to all these questions, but more vexing still are the grotesque obviously misplaced accents that assault the senses as the movie progresses. Freud sounds especially out of place, a strange mixture of German and French. Not quite so horrid however are a pair of Transylvanian accents though still bad enough to make me ponder on what’s absent - a stereotypical hahaha in a booming voice.
The movie frequently moves in an agonizingly slow, made for television pace, with only the odd scene to lift the spirits (and keep the digit away from the STOP/EJECT button) but thankfully picks up towards the end where it sadly suffers as it transforms into a blatantly theatrical production that dips into rather silly territory.
60 out of 100 Gothic costume attired, top hat wearing, flamboyantly pasty faced wanna-be blood suckers.
(30th October -2015)
Director: Robbie Pickering
Runtime: 92 minutes
Company: Columbia, Sony Entertainment Pictures
Tagline: Get out undead or alive
This movie boasts a slew of exciting elements to get those horror loving juices flowing, namely Vampires, Zombies and Aliens. Seriously, who can resist? Do you even really need a storyline to get in the way if you have all the above mentioned, and all in one film. The answer is yes… you do! Trust me, I’ve been witness to movies that have promised more (and then some) but have only left me feeling empty, annoyed and immensely...disappointed. Comedy naturally is always a great addition to a genre film that chooses to mix ‘genres’ especially in dealing with the horror genre and if executed at least competently (unless of course you’re not in the market for such).
I’m proud to announce that you need not fret in the case of Freaks of Nature. There are those who would vehemently disagree, a multitude of reviews allude to this viewpoint, but as one who rarely places credence in anyone else’s opinion in relation to cinematic creations of the ‘oddly intriguing’ variety I could really care less.
So then what is it about this film in particular that arousing my senses so.
Freaks of Nature presents High school excellently. As the movie progresses it depicts all types within what many would consider a “normal” learning environment, the struggles and small victories associated with being a student and the annoyances that come with balancing a young adult life, uncontrollable desires and an all-important ego.
Ned, Josh Fadem, struggles with being the smartest in class, having just received an F for no reason, being the brunt of many jokes and for being mostly passed over, within even his own family, for praise directed at his ‘bigger’ brother. Chaz Jnr. is a jock stereotype incarnate and a shoe-in for the majors, that is if tragedy doesn’t befall him first. Enter Dag, Nicholas Braun, a gangly lad with a chip on his shoulder, an ‘arm’ and a penchant for a lass (the delicious tease Lorelei played by Vanessa Hudgens) who couldn’t care one iota for him in public (I can remember High School being like that too), but add pot to the mix and the story is oddly very different.
Without providing spoilers as readily as brain rations to a starving undead citizen I’ll merely comment on what made Freaks of Nature work so well.
There are plenty of instances throughout that the viewer might find themselves chuckling. A plethora of comments and references on everything from pop culture to the real ingredients of what most might consider actual meat products (a great commentary on processed foods, but in this case aimed at the Riblet) to a slew of notable films within the same genre, all tossed out readily to good effect. Raucous ‘one liners’ hit the spot, and often, with impeccable timing.
Scenes featuring Dag’s parents are hilarious and may remind some of the awkwardness of their own, suppressed until costly therapy, childhood. Joan Cusack and Bob Odenkirk stand out as parents stuck in another era where mind altering substances were readily available and children were a damn sight easier to relate to.
The creators of Freaks of Nature took certain cheeky liberties in regards to zombie lore. Rather than take note from Return of the Living Dead, where brains are devoured to quell pain, grey matter in this feature is consumed because it is simply “yummy”. Funnily enough the absence of this item, be it ration or’ free range’, brings about something truly odd, a very noticeable change and an element that to my knowledge hasn’t been utilized in the genre before now. No, I shan’t spoil it! Suffice it to say it’s another factor that helps to lift ‘Freaks’ out of the run of the mill undead feature stagnant quagmire where new ideas are few and far between and many full length affairs are instantly forgotten moments after the end credits roll.
Vampire (youth) culture is also explored. Clandestine rendezvous’ result in broken hearts (no surprises there!) leading to truly satisfying explosive consequences. Several excellent scenes that showcase only a small percentage of the amazing crimson saturated SFX on offer throughout.
One of my favorite moments of the film happens when Dag’s neighbor boasts of his readiness for the situation at hand, as he’s turning Vamps into nothing but claret pulp, only then to be caught off guard by a rabble of walking corpses. As he slowly endures evisceration and dismemberment he narrates his discontent, he loses his bowling arm and continues to give a blow-by-blow as he witnesses his own languid demise due to the unfathomably stubborn nature of his stamina.
In essence if you like your horror saturated with comedy, filled with what-the-F moments, chock full of impressive SFX and liberally sprinkled with social commentary tainted with morals give this a peek. I did and now I’m eagerly awaiting Mr. Postie to arrive so I can add the DVD to my own overflowing-about-to-spill-from-the-shelf collection.