Syngenor (1990)

Oh, it’s another one of these. Top secret military indestructible humanoid robot weapon soldier prototype escapes the research facility where it was created, and the people at the company that created it must now go track it down and find some way to kill it before it kills too many civilians. DIdn’t I just do one like this? Oh ya, CY-Warrior with Henry Silva. Also the made-for-tv movie Assassin with Robert Conrad. They’re all basically Terminator ripoffs, but there were so many of them, that they just about were their own sub-genre. Like they were all ripoffs of each other, and didn’t bother with any Terminator similarities. I don’t want to sound like I’m disappointed or I’m not looking forward to this one, though, because some of these ripoffs are a total blast. Let’s see how this one fares.

In most of the movies, the soldier prototype resembles a regular human. But in this one, it’s a giant alien reptilian monster thing, similar to Creature from the Black Lagoon or the alligator people from Land of the Lost or even the monsters in Humanoids from the Deep.

The creature gets loose, and somehow knows exactly where the person who created it lives, so it goes to his house and kills him. No idea why. You’d think that it might wanna shake his hand and thank him for giving it life. That guy’s niece barely escapes death herself, and goes to the cops with it. The cops are sympathetic, but her story is so fantastic that her case is quickly sent to the backburner. So she knows if she’s gonna get to the bottom of this, she’s gonna have to do it without their help.

At the same time, a newspaper reporter guy has been trying to dig up some info/dirt on the company that created the creature, but not having much luck. That guy and the niece eventually meet up and team up to try and infiltrate the company, figure out what this monster is and how to kill it.

A whole lotta nothing plot to get through in the middle part. Once they deploy their ‘elite’ military force consisting of like five guys with the most laughable uniforms ever, we finally get some monster action. We get the subplot of the power struggle at the company, and the CEO who becomes increasingly paranoid, and whatever that is that he injects in himself probably isn’t helping. That’s all well and good, but I would have gladly dumped all that for some more monster action.

In the end, it’s pretty weak. Never explained what he was injecting himself with. No idea what that thing was where everybody was stripped down to their underwear and taped up. Total wtf moment. Seems like one of those movies where they all were just making it up as they went along.

With the legendary David Gale (Re-Animator, The Brain), with a truly standout performance. If you’re a fan of his, definitely check this one out. If you just want to waste an hour and a half on a silly monster movie, you could do worse than this, but you also could do much better than this.

Bliss (2017)

Our main character is a famous actress, movie star, music star, model, with legions of adoring fans. She’s in an accident one day and bonks her head, ends up bedridden in a hospital (or? seems just like a large house, but it isn’t her house) for a couple weeks. During this period of recovery, she goes kinda stir crazy. Starts hearing things, seeing things, nightmares, the nurse she hired seems like a cranky negligent weirdo, at times downright hostile.

This ramps up and ramps up to a point where she gets totally disoriented, doesn’t know what’s a dream and what’s her imagination and what’s real. Doesn’t recognize her own husband.

We get some totally unnecessary characterization in the middle. We get some back story in the middle. I hate it when movies do that. Why not put that stuff at the beginning so we know what the hell is going on? We also learn that the movie that she was shooting when she was injured, was a story about a woman who has a nervous breakdown and lands in the hospital and it seems that all forces are working against her and the house isn’t letting her leave and all the people around her are doing the opposite of what she needs and wants, like she’s fighting the entire universe and she’s all alone. Which is exactly what’s happening in her real, off-screen life.

Or are those two things the same? Or is one real and the other not? Or vice-versa?

And then we get more middle stuff about a female nurse who molested her female patients, and a little girl who was molested, and an affair that ends up in a pregnancy, and an empty box. And all the while we don’t know which timeline or how many of these subplots are real or part of some movie or part of somebody’s imagination. It’s really frustrating.

The movie ends and my brain still hurts. And I still don’t know what the empty box had to do with anything.

Watcher (2022)

This one will be yet another ‘taut, tense, suspense/thriller’, but I’ll give it a chance. Hopefully it’ll throw something unexpected at us.

A very young married couple moves to Bucharest, Romania. They seem like upwardly mobile yuppie types. He speaks Romanian, she does not. He has family ties to Romania, but has lived in America since he was a kid. She looks very much like any ol’ regular white American girl, so here in Bucharest, she sticks out like a sore thumb.

Serial killer on the loose, targeting young women, killing them in their apartments. All the while, the wife is creeped out by a man in the apartment building across the street, who every night sits at his window and watches her in her apartment for hours on end. Every night. Just sits there. Watching her.

The whole middle part is tediously long. But appropriate for this kind of movie I think. Lots of slow developments. Lots of slow action. Slow music. It’s all supposed to be unsettling and creepy. And it is that, I guess, but as I’m getting to the end now, I’m hoping it goes bonkers somehow.

And now it’s done, and it’s nothing out of the ordinary, nothing unexpected. It’s all very well done- acting and cinematography and lighting and cameras and audio. Nice sets. Apparently apartments in Bucharest are gigantic, the size of small grocery stores. One big plot hole non sequitur (wait, so they caught the spider?). But it’s no different than a million and one Lifetime Network serial killer / stalker movies. If you like those movies, you’ll like this.

Doom Asylum (1987)

Did she just say ‘Is this painful gestalt really necessary?’ Does she even know what gestalt means? Well, she pronounced it correctly, so I guess that’s a start.

Holy crap, this is the most ridiculous movie of all time, and I’m only 15 minutes in to it. Not in a good way, not in a bad way.

So this is a slasher movie set in an abandoned hospital. A small group of twenty year olds, men and women, go to this hospital to check it out. When they get there, they find that an all-female noise band uses the hospital for band practice. Everybody has heard the rumors of some sicko who stalks the hospital, maybe even lives in the basement, and kills trespassers. Maybe there’s some truth to this rumor.

So you know how there are comedy-horror movies? This one is in the sub-sub-sub-sub-genre of comedy-slasher, the only other member of the club being The Mutilator from 1985*. People going around getting their heads cracked open or being dumped into vats of acid while everybody else throws around a barrage of unfunny one-liners. And it’s absolutely insufferable.

This one almost has a charm to it. Very late 80s. I’m surprised they didn’t have a bunch of Red Hot Chili Peppers or Oingo Boingo songs in the soundtrack. Or, who am I kidding? This thing is so amateur, shot on no budget except what the producers had in their pockets, they wouldn’t be able to afford anything like that.

Effects are bad, generally speaking. But the drill to the forehead was actually impressive. Main bad guy is a guy in a rubber Halloween trick-or-treat mask. The movie is devoid of any story.

*Well, no, now that I think about it, also Slaughter High qualifies, too. That one is worth watching. The Mutilator has some good kill shots, but the dialog is nails on chalkboard. This one doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. Well, no, the drill scene, and the toes scene towards the end. Otherwise, pass.

The Black Phone (2022)

This one has gotten a lot of hype in the past months, been out for a couple weeks now. Let’s see if it lives up to that hype.

Synopsis on the internet will serve just fine- ‘Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims, and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.’

First of all, usually when we get horror movies where the lead actor is a child, barely a teenager in this case, it generally ends up being just a spooky PG-13 movie for that same demographic. But all the hype around this one and the trailer looks like it sits well within rated R territory, so let’s see how it plays out.

Well, we have a couple foul-mouthed school kids, so that’s certainly a promising start.

Things are nice and spooky down in the basement dungeon cell. Not scary, just spooky. The rope / carpet thing / window grate thing wouldn’t have worked in a million years. Because physics. Middle part is tedious. Some predictable stuff. Massive red herring at the end. Ya fine. Effective? Sure.

Is the movie good? Yes. But it’s not a horror movie. It’s a suspense thriller with a little blood and some scary guy wearing some scary Mr. Sardonicus masks. 95% rated PG-13, 5% rated R. Very nice as a period piece, set in the late 70s, very nice lighting and camerawork. Worth watching once, but it won’t be a long-time keeper.

Woodland Grey (2022)

I’m only 10 minutes into this one, and I go, ‘uuggggh, is this gonna be another one of those movies about the monster hidden in the basement?’

A youngish man lives alone, out in the wilderness in some mountainous forest, in a dilapidated old trailer / mobile home thing, and survives by fishing or trapping rabbits or squirrels or squab or anything he can get his hands on, and he has a small garden with carrots and stuff. Looks like he’s been living this way for many months or years.

There looks to be an outhouse just a few steps away. But we see that it’s locked up tight, which seems kinda strange. Then, he prepares a small meal, we assume for himself, but then approaches the outhouse super cautiously, super hesitantly, with that meal, as if he doesn’t want to go anywhere near that outhouse, but he knows he has to, because (as I predict, having seen a million and one of these kinds of movies) he has something in there that he needs to care for- a deformed child or sibling or some humanoid thing that is so monstrous that it would ever be accepted by society, never mind survive in the wild.  Let’s see if this one has anything clever up its sleeve to set it apart from all the others. Continuing with the movie now…

And so ya, this one has all sorts of stuff up its sleeve. Definitely unconventional. And really damn good, too. Most of it is just a survival drama more or less, but it gets sorta weird leading up to the final act, and then the final act gets all disturbing and turns into more of a horror movie. And actually, I don’t wanna give too much away, and this is very much a spoiler if you’ve seen the film, but this film has some things in common with the devastatingly amazing Ozploitation film Long Weekend. But this movie is definitely its own thing.

The ending left me confused. It was so good up until that point, but the ending lost me. Maybe I’ll search for one of those ‘what’s the meaning of the ending of Woodland Grey’ videos on YouTube.

Wekufe (2016)

Not big on found footage films. Seems like just an excuse filmmakers use to put no budget into lighting or sets or actors or anything. And of course an excuse to give us nothing but shaky-bouncy-jerky cam for an hour and a half. Some good ones out there. Cannibal Holocaust might be the first modern day found footage film, and is a brilliant movie. I’ve seen Blair Witch Project only once, many many years ago, but I thought it was very good. Is Troll Hunter considered found footage? I’d think so. That’s a great one.

But this one, Wekufe, also has some ritual Satanic cult thing going for it, and I love that stuff, so I’ll give it a chance.

Only an hour and 5 minutes. That could mean good news or it could mean bad news. It’d be bad news if they just weren’t working with much of an idea or a story or a script so we’ll just get a bunch of nothing for an hour. Or, it’d be good news if they do have a good story and just go headfirst into the meat of it, not screwing around too much with exposition and character development and subplots and blah blah blah.

Boyfriend and girlfriend, early 20s, head to an island off the Chilean coast, not far from Santiago, where they’re from. As a project for a college class, she’s making a documentary about the mistreatment of women and girls there, as has been a historical trend on this island. He’s the cameraman. And they both have heard the rumors that this island is evil or haunted as well, at least some parts of it. The girlfriend doesn’t put any credence into those rumors, but the boyfriend sorta does, and he’s excited to go check it out, because he’s into that sorta stuff.

They go around town, interviewing a bunch of locals. Some of them believe in a troll like human called Trauco who lives somewhere in the surrounding forest, who lures young women there and impregnates them. They swear they’ve seen him, or have had relatives who have been killed by him. Others have heard of this legend, but say it’s all hogwash, just a cautionary tale invented by the European invaders many years ago to cover up their own sexual misconduct with the locals.

They end up in the the forest and it’s super predictable what happens next. The very ending bit isn’t predictable, but the reason for that is that it doesn’t make any sense. Is it at least scary or shocking or interesting? No, not really. I mean, if this is the first horror movie you’ve ever seen, then maybe it’s scary. For the rest of us, it’s ho-hum all the way home.

Lords of the Deep (1989)

Roger Corman strikes again in this low budget underwater sea monster flick. And not only that, but Roger gets some screen time! He’s an actual character in the movie, with lines. Does he show up in any other movie he produced? I don’t remember seeing him in any, at least in his movies that I’ve seen. IMDB shows he has produced more than 500 films, so ya, there are plenty of those that I haven’t seen.

Undersea research crew makes some big discovery, biological in nature I think. It’s a very exciting time for them. But then they are informed that a new crew will replace them to carry on the research. But the new crew encounters some turbulence on their way down to the bottom of the ocean, and they don’t make it to the initial team because something catastrophic happens (offscreen) which sends them to their watery graves.

This biological discovery they’ve made quickly grows into a monstrous creature. Nobody is sure what this thing is, but they’re pretty sure it’s dangerous. Except for one female scientist, which has some sort of cosmic, telepathic connection with it, much like the woman scientist in another one of Roger’s creature features, Forbidden World.

The good news is that this monster is captive, inside a big tank in their underwater laboratory. The bad news is that they have no way of returning to the surface and dry land, no way to contact anybody, and the last people to try to make it down to them were seemingly forcibly ripped from their submarine. The other bad news is that the creature escapes the tank.

So ya, that’s exactly what this is. It’s basically a Forbidden World remake, but while that one is in space, this one is underwater. This one pales in comparison, though. Forbidden World is decidedly rated R, and this one is decidedly rated PG-13. That one had two hot women who showed no hesitancy to get naked. This one has none of that. That one has some graphic moments; this one does not. That one has better actors. This one has Bradford Dillman who has been really great in many movies, but in this one, he’s just mailing it in. To be fair, he’s not working with much. The costar in this one is the blond woman who replaced Suzanne Somers in Three’s Company, and who apparently nobody gave a fair shake in that show. In this, she’s OK. The other actors in this are not good.

Some stuff happens. It goes in some weird directions in the second half. At least it shows a little imagination. And the execution isn’t all that bad. But, it’s still a low budget Roger Corman creature feature, and it can’t escape that. Actors are bad, pacing is atrocious, music is the worst. Then it goes for some over the top, environmental, ‘you’re poisoning the planet and you’d better knock it off before you ruin it for yourself and any future generations’ message at the end. Their heart was obviously in the right place, but totally unnecessary and totally preachy in this movie.

Meh. Nothing worth watching in this one. Hell, this one might lean more PG than PG-13.

City on Fire (1979)

Canadian disaster flick.

Large, metropolitan city with a bunch of skyscrapers downtown and suburbs in all directions. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is held to christen a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital. The mayor is there and a bunch of people in suits, and they all seem to know each other fairly well, and nobody seems to like anybody. Lots of back-handed compliments and sniping.

Meanwhile, a young man, maybe 30 years old, works at an oil refinery petrol factory thing. At least, up until the point where he’s fired. It doesn’t seem like he’s the sharpest tool in the shed, and he proves this by sabotaging a bunch of the systems at the refinery as he’s on his way out the door. Some harmless, childish stuff like trashing all the worker’s clock-in clock-out punch cards. But also some super boneheaded stuff like releasing a bunch of gasoline into the city’s water system which quickly spreads to all the city’s rivers and streams and sewers.

Of course, it doesn’t take but a single spark to basically set the entire city on fire.

It feels very much like a made-for-tv movie. Although there are some decidedly rated R parts- people engulfed in flames, lots of pretty good stunt work of people falling from buildings which at the time was probably pretty shocking, the one tv news anchor who says ‘what the fuck is going on?’ on live tv, graphic burn victims being brought in to the hospital. One totally kick ass stunt about halfway through.

It’s a little bit long at an hour 45, but I was entertained the whole way. No slow parts. The whole photograph thing wasn’t fleshed out enough. I mean, obviously he was gonna use it for some sort of blackmail thing. Or maybe not so obviously. I didn’t know what the hell he was gonna do with it. But it sure was important to him, that photo. He had big plans for that photo. What plans? Who knows.

Some big names in this- Shelley Winters, Leslie Nielsen, Henry Fonda, Ava Gardner, James Franciscus.

Dumbass fu, cigarette fu, bed pan fu, third trimester fu, canary in a coal mine fu, water tunnel fu.

Hollow (2022)

Current day. We’re in a city in England. Not London, maybe Birmingham or Brighton, something like that. There seems to be a serial killer on the loose, and people are anxious and edgy. Then we have a whole second plotline with an older woman with dementia or Alzheimer’s just going about her daily life. And the two plotlines go back and forth and back and forth and we assume something about them will intersect at some point.

Some talk of puppet shows and dragons. Nothing happens in the whole middle part of the film. Just people doing normal stuff, talking about normal stuff. A couple people meet their ends, but at this point, it’s just random murders. Nothing ties anything together.

So the movie goes on and on. Still nothing makes much sense. Then towards the end, I think I’ve figured out that this is just an updated, rated R version of one of the best made-for-tv movies ever, Bad Ronald. Then once we get towards the end bit, I think we’re supposed to question if any of this is real or just the woman’s imagination. But, we already have a couple of dead people, so all of this has to be real.

Then the end bit is supposed be shocking and gruesome, although it isn’t. Some cool lighting and some cool camera lens effects, but it’s not that big of a deal. Probably more for fans of torture porn than slashers. Either way, they should probably just remove the middle 45 minutes of the movie and maybe they’d have something we can watch. Still wouldn’t make any sense, but at least we wouldn’t have to sit through an hour 45 minutes of random shit with some blood at the end. And then a random flashback/dream sequence at the very end.

Yet another film where the script made sense to the writer, and made sense to the director, and made sense to the actors, but when it came time to convey the meaning behind the scenes, behind the words, behind the actions of the actors, they failed. None of this shit makes sense. None of the pieces fit together. Who was the blond woman? What did that dragon have to do with anything? Who was the main puppeteer guy with the beard? Did he know the old woman? Did he have some grudge against the old woman? Did he know all of these people who were part of her life? Did he make the morning tea? If not, who did? What did the barbecue/picnic have to do with anything? Who was the accomplice guy with the paper maché mask? Where was this giant basement room? Was it in the new house? If so, how did they not know about it?

Seriously, there are more plot holes in this movie than there is plot. Pass on this.

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