2013 In Review: The Best of SyFy


It’s been quite a year for the SyFy network, even if the network’s most widely-seen original film, Sharknado, was actually one of their weaker offerings.  As a proud member of the Snarkalecs and a Snarkies voter, I’ve certainly enjoyed watching, reviewing, and live tweeting all of the films that SyFy and the Asylum have had to offer us this year.

Below, you’ll find my personal nominees for the best SyFy films and performances of 2013.  (Winners are listed in bold.)

End of the World

Best Film

Battledogs

Blast Vegas

*End of the World

Flying Monkeys

Ghost Shark

Zombie Night

Best Actor

Neil Grayston in End of the World

*Greg Grunberg in End of the World

Anthony Michael Hall in Zombie Night

Frankie Muniz in Blast Vegas

Corin Nemec in Robocroc

Tom Everett Scott in Independence Daysaster

Best Actress

Maggie Castle in Blast Vegas

Lacey Chabert in Scarecrow

Kaitlyn Leeb in Grave Halloween

*Maika Monroe in Flying Monkeys

Ariana Richards in Battledogs

Mackenzie Rosman in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actor

Barry Bostwick in Blast Vegas

William B. Davis in Stonados

Brad Dourif in End of the World

Dennis Haysbert in Battledogs

John Heard in Sharknado

*Richard Moll in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actress

*Shirley Jones in Zombie Night

Nicole Munoz in Scarecrow

Jill Teed in Independence Daysaster

Jackie Tuttle in Flying Monkeys

Dee Wallace in Robocroc

Kate Vernon in Battledogs

Best Director

Griff Furst for Ghost Shark

Robert Grasmere for Flying Monkeys

John Gulager for Zombie Night

W.D. Hogan for Independence Daysaster

*Steven R. Monroe for End of the World

Jack Perez for Blast Vegas

Best Screenplay

Shane Van Dyke for Battledogs

Joe D’Ambrosia for Blast Vegas

*Jason C. Bourque and David Ray for End of The World

Silvero Gouris for Flying Monkeys

Paul A. Birkett for Ghost Shark

Rick Suvalle for Scarecrow

Flying Monkeys

Best Monster

*Skippy from Flying Monkeys

The Shark from Ghost Shark

Robocroc from Robocroc

The Scarecrow from Scarecrow

The Tasmanian Devils from Tasmanian Devils

The Zombies from Zombie Night

Battledogs

Tomorrow, I will continue my look back at 2013 with my picks for the 16 worst films of 2013!

What Lisa Marie and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #78: Battledogs (dir by Alexander Yellen)


On Saturday night, the Snarkalecs and I watched the SyFy original movie, Battledogs.  (Also watching was a mentally unstable moron from Buffalo, NY named Michael Conklin.  But more about him later…)

Battledogs

Why Were We Watching It?

Because we’re snarkalecs and that’s what snarkalecs do.

What Was It About?

Donna Voorhees (Ariana Richards) is a nature photographers who visits our friend to the north and gets bitten by a Canadian lycanthrope.  When she returns to New York, she ends up transforming into a werewolf  herself and manages to kill nearly everyone at JFK Airport.  Everyone that she doesn’t kill is infected with the werewolf virus.

Donna and the rest of the infected are captured by the military.  Under the watch of the sinister Lt. Gen. Monning (Dennis Haysbert), the infected are doped up with tranquilizers and left to aimlessly wander around a prison.  With the help of a sympathetic major (Craig Sheffer) and a scientist (Kate Vernon), Donna and the rest of the infected escape the prison and soon New York is overrun by werewolves.

Meanwhile, the U.S. President (Bill Duke) spends a lot of time sitting out in the middle of Central Park and looking depressed…

What Worked?

Battledogs was produced by the Asylum.  As soon as I saw the words “The Asylum Presents…” at the beginning of the opening credits, I knew that Battledogs was going to be a lot of fun.

Battledogs was surprisingly well-cast.  While Craig Sheffer made for a dull hero, Dennis Haysbert was a great villain.  Admittedly, he was one of those villains who spent the whole movie talking about his plans as opposed to actually carrying them out but, fortunately. Haysbert has a great voice.  Haysbert turned Lt. Gen. Monning into a genuinely menacing character.

The scenes in which the tranquilized infected wander about in a daze had a nicely surreal feel to them.  While watching them, I actually compared them to a similar scene from Jean Rollin’s Night of the Hunted.  That’s probably going a bit too far but still, they were handled very well.

On a final note, Bill Duke plays perhaps the most ineffectual president in the history of ineffectual presidents.  Speaking as someone who has little faith in governmental authority, I found Duke’s performance to be the most realistic part of the film.

What Did Not Work?

Oh, I suppose there are things I could complain about.  I could point out that the film may have been set in New York but it was obviously (and I do mean obviously) filmed in Canada.  (Actually, no, it was not!  As Mike Conklin so politely points out in the comments below, Battledogs was filmed in Buffalo and yes, a look at the imdb does confirm that this film — despite seeming very Canadian, was indeed filmed in New York.  I apologize for the careless error. — LMB)   There were also a few plot holes that I could talk about if I felt like being nit-picky.

But you know what?

There is nobody worse than someone who would actually get nit-picky about an Asylum film.  Asylum Films are made for audiences who have a sense of humor and their “flaws” are ultimately a very intentional part of the fun.  The Asylum makes fast-paced, unpretentious films for people who want to be entertained for 90 minutes.  You know what you’re going to get when you see “The Asylum” name and, unlike most major studio films, Asylum films can be counted on to deliver exactly what they promise.  This film promised battle dogs and it delivered.

Therefore, the entire film worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

To be honest, despite featuring not one but two female leads, Battledogs was a pretty masculine film.  The emphasis was definitely on people either shooting guns or beating each other up.  That’s not necessarily a criticism because, if New York was overrun by werewolves, I imagine there was be a certain amount of societal breakdown.  However, the fact of the matter is that I’m scared of guns and the only fights I’ve ever been in have involved a lot of hair-pulling and little else.  As a result, there really weren’t any “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments in Battledogs.

That said, Ariana Richards’ character reminded me of my sister, the Dazzling Erin, because they’re both talented photographers.

Lessons Learned

Apparently, the best way to avoid being killed in a nuclear blast is to jump into the Hudson River right when the bomb goes off.  In today’s unpredictable world, that’s a good thing to know.

Quickie Review: Tremors (dir. by Ron Underwood)


I just happened to catch one of my favorite creature-feature films on cable this morning and I had forgotten just how much fun this film was and is to still watch. I am talking about 1990’s horror-comedy Tremors by director Ron Underwood (who would follow it up with the very successful and funny City Slickers a year later) and starring the comedic duo of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward. I was still in high school when I saw this in the theaters and even then this film had me from the get-go.

Tremors is a throwback to all the Saturday matinee creature-features and monster mash films that were huge during the 50’s and through the 60’s. It’s plot was simple enough that even a little kid could keep up with what was going on. We had a small, rundown mining town in the middle of nowhere (it always happens to be one of those small desert or valley towns which dotted the landscape once the national interstate was completed) whose fortunes have seen better days, hell better decades from the looks of it. The town has its cast of characters with Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon’s roles of Earl and Val the two main leads. We even get long-time genre actor Victor Wong in a supporting role as the town’s only store owner and also it’s two-bit hustler always looking to find a new way to make a buck. One of the funniest roles goes to Michael Gross (the dad in the 80’s hit family show Family Ties) who, with Reba McEntire as his wife, play some crazy-ass survivalists who try fighting off the creatures of this feature the giant, underground worms the survivors have dubbed “Graboids” for their propensity to grab people and animals with prehensile tentacle like appendages which shoot out from their mouths.

No, Tremors wasn’t some live-action version of the ever popular hentai, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers of the film were subconsconsciously influenced by them. What the film ended up being was one of the funnier horror comedies which ended the 80’s and announced the 90’s. It was also one of the last few great non-CGI creature features to come out of Hollywood. The Graboids were definitely animatronic and rubber-suited props, but they moved and looked real that one didn’t question whether they were real or not. It would be these creatures who would end up the stars and highlight of this film (the ensemble cast a good second) and follow-up sequels would and could never live up to it. It didn’t help that the sequels ended up using too much CGI which just ruined the illusion built-up by the original.

So, if you ever feel bored and suddenly see that one of the many basic cable channels are showing this little horror-comedy gem from the 1990’s I recommend you watch it with snacks and drinks on hand. There are many ways to make one stop being bored by watching something on the “Tele” and I say Tremors is one of those ways.