A Movie A Day #288: Bikini Island (1991, directed by Tony Markes)

This is another one that can be best described as being dumb.  Just dumb.

With a title like Bikini Island, you might think that this movie is about the atomic bomb tests of 1946.  No such luck.  Instead, Bikini Island is about five models who are competing to be the next covergirl for Swimwear Illustrated.  They have gathered on an island off the coast of California, along with a makeup artist, a photographer, an assistant, and the publisher of SI.  The competition is fierce but it gets even fiercer once someone starts murdering the models and the magazine staff.  Since the killer forges goodbye notes, no one suspects the truth until a random arrow attack, much like the one that took out Albert Hall in Apocalypse Now, is launched towards the end of the movie.

In the 90s, Bikini Island was a staple of late night Cinemax.  No one will admit to having watched it but every male who grew up in the 90s did.  It pretends to be a slasher film but mostly it’s just concerned with getting the cast in their bikinis as quickly as possible.  The movie tries to generate suspense over who the murderer is but eventually gives up and just keeps killing people until there’s only one suspect left.  If Bikini Island is remembered for anything, it is the scene where the killer uses a toilet plunger to suffocate a victim.  That’s about as imaginative as things get.

Usually, when I don’t have much to say about a movie, I’ll find an excuse to share that picture of Burt Reynolds giving the thumbs up at the end of Shattered: If Your Kid’s On DrugsBikini Island is not worth even that much effort.

Dumb.  Just dumb.


Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures In The Internet Archive #11: Anchorhead (1998, Michael Gentry)

Continuing my adventures in the horror section of the Internet Archive, I played Michael Gentry’s Anchorhead (1998).

Anchorhead is a thoroughly immersive text adventure of Lovecraft-style horror.  Think of it as being the interactive fiction version of a movie like The Dunwich Horror.

Anchorhead is the type of isolated New England village that should be familiar to anyone who has ever read any of Lovecraft’s work.  Other than the mysterious obelisks that dot the town, the most interesting thing about Anchorhead is the small university.  The library is full of ancient texts, the type that can drive a man mad just from reading them.  You and your husband have just inherited a mansion on the outskirts of the town.  The previous owner, a distant relative of your husband, recently died under mysterious circumstances.

Anchorhead has an interesting plot, strong writing, and challenging puzzles but the best thing about it is the amount of detail that goes into creating the town, the mansion, and all the characters that you interact with over the course of the story.  Not all of the details were necessary to solving Anchorhead‘s mysteries but they did all serve to bring the story to life.  After just a few turns, I felt like I was in Anchorhead.  I could fully visualize both the town and its inhabitants.  Anchorhead also works as a horror story, capturing both the tone and style of H.P. Lovecraft.  Considerably more violent and graphic than most text adventures I’ve played, Anchorhead is definitely meant for adults.

Anchorhead is challenging but worth the effort.  Several walkthrough can be found online but exploring this story is so rewarding that you might want to take your chances without them.


A Movie A Day #287: Leviathan (1989, directed by George Pan Cosmatos)

A group of miners are sent into a dangerous environment by an evil corporation.  When they explore an abandoned ship, they unknowingly bring a hostile creature onto their own vessel.  One of the crewman is killed when the creature mutates inside of his body.  The rest of the crew includes a scientist, one strong woman, one woman who cries, and a strong, silent captain.

Sound familiar?

No, it’s not Alien.  

Instead, it’s Leviathan, which could best be described as being Alien underwater with a dash of The Thing tossed in.  The main difference between Leviathan and the films that inspired it is that people are still watching Alien and The Thing while Leviathan is one of the most forgettable films that I have ever seen.  Peter Weller is the captain.  Richard Crenna is the scientist.  Amanda Pays has the Ripley role and Ernie Hudson fills in for Yaphet Kotto.  Daniel Stern plays Sixpack, who turns into a monster after he drinks contaminated Russian vodka.  (It happens to the best of us.)  Meg Foster, with her translucent eyes, represents the corporation.

That’s a good cast and the script was written by David Peoples (who also wrote Blade Runner, Unforgiven, and 12 Monkeys) and Jeb Stuart (who wrote Die Hard and The Fugitive).  The above average special effects were designed by Stan Winston.  Why, with all of these talented people involved in the production, is Leviathan so by the numbers and forgettable?  It probably had something to do with the presence of George Pan Cosmatos in the directing chair.  Cosmatos is also credited with directing Rambo: First Blood II, Cobra, and Tombstone.  The first two films starred Sylvester Stallone, who was known for directing all of his 80s films in every way but name only and everyone knows that Kurt Russell was in charge on Tombstone.

If you want to see Alien underwater done right, watch Deepstar Six.

A Movie A Day #286: The Tomb (1986, directed by Fred Olen Ray)

 Sybil Danning is top-billed in The Tomb but she only appears at the very start of the film.  She lands an airplane on a landing strip in the middle of the Egyptian desert and then gets into a gunfight with two archeologists who have robbed a tomb and are now trying to sell off the artifacts.  When one of the archeologists aims his handgun at the plane and pulls the trigger, the plane explodes.  Though Sybil survives the gun fight, that’s it for her in this movie.  Since whatever modern-day audience The Tomb may have is largely going to be made up of nostalgic Sybil Danning fanboys, most people will probably stop watching once it becomes obvious that she is never coming back.

The rest of the movie is about the archeologists selling off the artifacts to greedy collectors like Cameron Mitchell (who spend the entire movie sitting in his office).  This ticks off the ancient Egyptian princess, Nefratis (Michelle Bauer), and she sets off to kill all of the collectors, one-by-one.

Like The Awakening and Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb, The Tomb claims to be based on Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars.   Actually, The Tomb is just an early Fred Olen Ray film, complete with Ray regulars like John Carradine, who gets even less screen time that Danning and Mitchell.  Like most early Ray films, it suffers due to a low budget but Ray’s enthusiastic, never-say-die spirit keeps things moving right along.  With most of the top-billed actors only appearing in a scene or two, the movie belongs to Bauer and she does the most that she can with her role, tearing apart hearts and swearing vengeance with real gusto.

One final note: during the opening credits, The Pharohs, a band that performed while wearing headresses and wrapped in banadages, performs Tutti Frutti.  That almost makes up for Sybil Danning only appearing in 3 minutes of the movie.

Jedadiah Leland’s Horrorific Adventures In The Internet Archive #10: Vampire’s Castle Adventure (1984, Aardvark Software)

For my latest adventure in the horror section of the Internet Archive, I played Vampire’s Castle Adventure (1984, Aardvark Software).

Vampire’s Castle Adventure is an early and extremely basic text adventure game.  You are in a castle.  You have four hours before the vampire awakes.  You have to discover a way to get out of the castle and stake the vampire.

Vampire’s Castle Adventure is simple but addictive.  Part of the challenge came from the fact that is such a basic adventure.  The parser accepts only two-word commands and the game only has a vocabulary of 70 words.  The game’s descriptions are terse and to the point.  There are no fancy graphics.  You will have to depend on your imagination.

For those who want to cheat, there is a walkthrough available.  The best advice that I can give is to be careful around the fireplace.

A Movie A Day #285: Bless The Child (2000, directed by Chuck Russell)

Kim Basinger is Maggie, a nurse who has adopted her autistic niece, Cody.  Her sister, Jenna (Angela Bettis), used to be a junkie but now she has cleaned up her act and married a former-child star-turned-cult leader, Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell).  Because Jenna’s daughter has supernatural powers and Eric is a Satanist, they want the little girl back.  Christina Ricci is Cheri, a junkie goth who used to be a member of the cult and who tries to warn Maggie before getting her head chopped off.  Jimmy Smits is John Travis, the FBI agent who helps Maggie out when Jenna and Eric kidnap Cody.  Mostly, though, he’s just Jimmy Smits, a TV actor who looks out of place whenever he appears in a movie.

Bless the Child was one of two movies that Kim Basinger made after winning an Oscar for L.A. Confidential.  She also made I Dreamed Of Africa, which probably did the most damage to her career but the box office and critical failure of Bless The Child probably did not help either.  Bless The Child was an overlong rip-off of The Omen films.  The only suspense is whether Cody is the antichrist or the reborn messiah.  Basinger and Jimmy Smits both look lost amid all the theological chaos raging around them.  Even Christina Ricci is wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone willing to dye her hair black.

One final note: Rufus Sewell is not terrible in Bless The Child, even if the majority of his lines sound more appropriate for Darth Vader than a former child actor.  (He even tells Maggie to feel the hate growing inside of her, like Vader trying to draw Luke over to the dark side.)  Sewell is still a busy actor but it seems like he has never really gotten his due in Hollywood.  Most of the good Rufus Sewell roles now seem to go to Jude Law.

A Movie A Day #284: Brainscan (1994, directed by John Flynn)

Michael Bower (Edward Furlong) is a 15 year-old loser who walks with a limp and still has nightmares about the night his mother was killed in a car wreck.  Brainscan is the new PC game that Michael makes the mistake of playing.  In the game, Michael is encouraged by The Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) to kill both his friends and complete strangers.  When Michael starts finding body parts around his house, he realizes that whenever he kills someone in the game, he kills them in real life too.

Though it may be forgotten now, Brainscan was heavily promoted when it was first released.  I think the producers were hoping to turn The Trickster into the new Freddy and get a new horror franchise out of it.  Like most films from the 90s that dealt with computers and gamers, Brainscan is now as dated as dial-up internet.  T. Ryder Smith does ok as the Trickster but it is difficult to take him seriously because he has a big red mohawk skullet and he dresses like the keyboard player in every new wave band that has ever synthesized.  As for Furlong, he had apparently already entered the I-no-longer-give-a-shit phase of his career when he made Brainscan.  Add to that one of the worst endings that I have ever seen in a horror movie and Brainscan is one film that is easy to forget.

It is easy to say what Brainscan is lacking: suspense, gore, and horror.  It is less easy to say what would have made it better.  Considering its suburban setting, I think Brainscan would have been improved by cameos from the stars of Shattered If Your Kid’s On Drugs.

With Burt Reynolds and Judd Nelson around to serve as mentors, Eddie Furlong never would have gotten addicted to playing video games in the first place.

Right, Burt?