Film Review: The Poltergeist Diaries (dir by József Gallai)


“They wanted me to laugh when I wanted to cry,” Jacob Taylor (András Korcsmáros) says at one point during the upcoming horror film, The Poltergeist Diaries.

Jacob is attempting to explain why he’s recently abandoned not only his job but also the closeness of his girlfriend and his family and retreated to an isolated house in the middle of the woods.  And really, who can’t relate to what Jacob’s feeling?  We’ve all been in that situation at some point.  We’ve all felt that we were expected to conform to some arbitrary standard and that our honest emotions were not welcome.  Not all of us have chosen to go off the grid and isolate ourselves but there’s probably not a single person reading this who has not, at some point, been tempted.

We learn quite a bit about Jacob over the course of The Poltergeist Diaries.  We learn that he was always something of an outsider.  He was a seeker, a brilliant student who wrote stories and made films and who always seemed to be trying to discover some sort of hidden truth.  We learn that he was also close to his mother.  In fact, it was her worsening health that apparently led to Jacob leaving the city and heading out to the country.  He got a big house for a surprisingly cheap price.  He often filmed himself as he walked around the woods that surrounded his new home.  He saw things in the woods and he heard things in the house.

Of course, the main thing that we learn about Ben is that he’s missing.  The film opens with a statistic, telling us that thousands of people disappear every year in the United States and that only 15% of them are recovered alive.  Jacob Taylor is among the missing and whether or not he’s among that lucky 15% is anyone’s guess.

The Poltergeist Diaries is set up as a documentary, featuring interviews with the people who knew Jacob along with footage that Jacob himself shot of the woods and his house.  Among those interviewed are Jacob’s girlfriend (Kata Kuna) and his brother (Péter Inoka), along with a police detective (Dávid Fecske) who has his own reasons for taking a particular interest in Jacob’s mysterious disappearance.  Eric Roberts even makes a brief appearances, playing Jacob’s apologetic stepfather.  As I’ve said many times on this very site, any film the features Eric Roberts is automatically going to be better than any film that doesn’t.

It’s an effectively creepy film, one that makes good use of the faux-documentary format.  (Jacob being a frustrated artist helps to explain why, even with things getting increasingly strange in the house, he keeps filming.)  The first half of the film is dominated by interviews with people who knew Jacob and who are haunted by his disappearance.  By the time the film switches over to showing us the footage that Jacob filmed in the house and the woods, the audience is definitely ready to discover what happened.  András Korcsmáros plays Jacob as just being unstable enough to leave some doubt as to whether or not he’s really stumbled across something supernatural or if he’s just allowing the isolation to get to him.  He’s at his best when he’s trying to articulate what he’s feeling.  His performance captures Jacob’s desperation and makes him into an intriguing protagonist, one who is both sympathetic and enigmatic.  You’re never quite comfortable Jacob but you still hope the best for him.

Visually, director József Gallai does a good job of creating and maintaining a properly ominous and threatening atmosphere.  The woods that surround Jacob’s house are creepy because they really do appear to stretch on forever and it’s very easy to imagine that they’re could be someone (or something) hiding behind every tree.  The imagery leaves you feeling uneasy and every time that Jacob went outside, I found myself anticipating an attack.  The inside of the house is just as creepy, full of dark hallways and menacing shadows.  This is a film that keep you watching for any hint of unexpected or mysterious movement.

It makes for an effectively intense and dream-like horror film, with the final 15 minutes providing a number of effective jump scares.  It’s a film that will inspire you to take a second look at every shadow and jump at every bump in the night.  It’s a seriously creepy movie.  Don’t watch alone.

Doctor Who (1996, directed by Geoffrey Sax)


Paul McGann had the potential to be a great Doctor.

There’s a lot of negative things that can be said about the controversial 1996 attempt to reboot Doctor Who but I don’t think anyone can dispute that Paul McGann gave it his best.  Released during the period between the end of the original series and the 2005 revival, the 1996 version of Doctor Who features Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor getting gunned down by a San Francisco street gang and regenerating into Paul McGann.  McGann was a youthful Doctor, in the spirit of Peter Davison’s take on the character.  He played the role with a lot of enthusiasm and optimism.  If the 1996 film had led to the series getting revived, it’s easy to imagine Paul McGann making the role his own and becoming as identified with the Doctor as David Tennant and Matt Smith.

The presence of Sylvester McCoy was another praiseworthy aspect of the television film.  Though the TV movie is rightfully criticized for rewriting a good deal of the show’s continuity, it was still smart enough to bring back both McCoy and the TARDIS.  I wish McCoy had gotten a a more heroic death, though getting gunned down by a street gang is still more exciting than the bump on the head that led to Colin Baker turning into Sylvester McCoy in the first place.

The film features the newly regenerated Doctor trying to stop The Master (Eric Roberts) from using an artificial black hole known as the Eye of Harmony to destroy the Earth.  For some reason, the Eye of Harmony is located inside of the Doctor’s TARDIS and the Master needs to access the TARDIS so he can access the eye.  Meanwhile, the Doctor has just regenerated and doesn’t have all of his memories yet so he’s only fighting at half-strength.  Actually, the less said about the plot, the better.  The plot doesn’t make much sense.  Though Eric Roberts might seem like the perfect choice to play The Master, he doesn’t bring much to the role.  Roberts plays The Master as just being another generic villain, with none of the wit that Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainsley, or even Derek Jacobi brought to the role.

The most controversial part of the movie comes when the Master discovers that the Doctor is half-human, which is something that feels like it was forced on the production by an American television executive.  They probably thought that the audience wouldn’t be able to relate to the Doctor unless he has some human blood but it actually robs the character of the mystery that made him so popular.  Part of the Doctor’s appeal is that he’s an enigma but the television movie gives him an origin that seems like it was lifted from a comic book.  I guess we should just be happy that the people who made the film understood that Doctor Who wasn’t actually the character’s name.

Doctor Who was meant to be a pilot for a revival of the show, one that would have been an American/British co-production.  It didn’t lead to a reboot and I guess we should be happy about that because the weakest moments of the movie are the moments that were obviously designed to appeal to an American television audience, like the Doctor dealing with a very 90s street gang or sharing a kiss with an ER doctor.  It’s easy to imagine that the film would have led to a series that would have had more in common with The X-Files than the original Doctor Who.  With the film not leading to a series, Doctor Who would have to wait another 9 years before finally getting rebooted.

Still, it’s hard not to regret that Paul McGann didn’t get more opportunities to play the Doctor.  With a better script, he could have been one of the great ones.

 

What Lisa Watched Last Night #212: Her Deadly Groom (dir by Jared Cohn)


Last night, I turned over to Lifetime and I watched Her Deadly Groom!

Why Was I Watching It?

How couldn’t I watch it?  It was on Lifetime.

Last night, I realized that it had bee forever since I last watched and live tweeted a Lifetime film.  Some of that was due to some changes in my schedule.  On Saturday night, I now co-host the Scary Social live tweet, which means that I usually have to DVR and watch Saturday’s Lifetime movie at a later date.  And, admittedly, some of my absence from the Lifetime front just had to do with just pure exhaustion at the state of the world.  When you spend 7 days straight hearing about how the world is going to end, you often just want to spend Sunday meditating or sleeping or, at the very least, dancing.

But, regardless of what else may be happening, I love Lifetime movies and I always have.  Last night, I was determined to watch Her Deadly Groom and I’m glad that I did.

What Was It About?

Allison (Kate Watson) is divorced from George (Eric Roberts), an alcoholic and a serial philanderer.  She now lives with her daughter Nicky (Elyse Cantor) and Nicky’s boyfriend, Jake (Jacob Michael) and she has a nice specialty peanut butter business going with her friend Brenna (Kelly Erin Decker).  One thing that Allison says she doesn’t need in her life right now is another man.  Brenna, however, disagrees and creates an account for Allison on a dating site.

Soon, Allison has met Vincent Black (Michael DeVorzon), who is handsome, charming, and psychotic.  Fear not, that’s not a spoiler.  You know that Vincent is dangerous from the minute you first see him because 1) he pushes his previous girlfriend off a cliff and 2) this is a Lifetime movie.  Anyway, Vincent is soon dating Allison and it looks like they’ll soon be married.  What Allison doesn’t know is that Vincent has taken out a huge life insurance policy on her….

What Worked?

Eric Roberts was in this film!  Admittedly, he had a small role but still, he’s Eric Roberts and he’s always a lot of fun to watch.  Plus, in this film, there was a neat little twist involving his character and Roberts did a great job playing it.

One thing I liked about this film is that Vincent may have been charming and lucky but he wasn’t always the most clever con artist around.  He wasn’t one of those super villains who you occasionally come across in a film like this.  Instead, he was just a con man who knew how to manipulate people but who also understood that he would only be able to successfully fool people for a limited amount of time.  As a result, he didn’t waste any time when it came to putting his plans into action and that created some suspense.  We knew he wasn’t going to wait forever to make his move.  Vincent was a wonderfully hissable villain.

The mother-daughter relationship between Nicky and Allison felt real and both Kate Watson and Elyse Cantor did a good job of bringing their characters to life.  I appreciated the fact that, even though Allison may have been naive when it came to Vincent, she wasn’t stupid.  She was just someone who got legitimately conned by a sociopath.

Finally, this was a Lifetime film so all of the house were to die for.  Seriously, never underestimate the importance of a big house in a Lifetime film.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.  This was a fun Lifetime movie.

“Oh my God! Just Like Me” Moments

I related to Brenna, mostly because we’ve both fallen down a flight of stairs.  Of course, nobody had to push me.  I’m just a klutz when it comes to stairs.

Lessons Learned

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Oh!  And always check to see if your man has taken out a life insurance policy on you.

Most Wanted (1997, directed by David Hogan)


James Dunn (Keenan Ivory Wayans) is an army sergeant with a talent for getting framed for crimes that he didn’t commit.

During the Gulf War, Dunn’s superior officer orders Dunn to shoot a shepherd boy.  Dunn refuses and, when the two men get into a fight over a gun, his commanding officer is accidentally shot and killed.  The army refuses to listen to Dunn’s explanation.  He’s convinced of murder and sentenced to death.  However, while Dunn is on his way to Leavenworth, he is rescued by Col. Casey (Jon Voight).  Casey explains that he is giving Dunn a chance to join a super secret vigilante group that targets evil doers.  Yes, Dunn will be expected to assassinate people but they’ll all be bad.  With no other options available to him, Dunn agrees to work for Casey.

Dunn’s first target is the corrupt owner of a pharmaceutical company (played by Robert Culp) but — surprise — it turns out that the target was actually the First Lady and that the entire plan was to set up Dunn as a patsy!  Now a “most wanted” fugitive, Dunn is forced to go on the run with a doctor (Jill Hennessy) who recorded the assassination with a camcorder.  (Remember, Most Wanted was made during the days of the landline phones.)  With Casey and his second-in-command (played by Wolfgang Bodison) determined to kill him and with only Paul Sorvino (as the head of the FBI) doubting the official story, Dunn has to find a way to reveal the truth.

Though he was subsequently overshadowed by his brothers, Damon and Marlon, Keenan Ivory Wayans was a really big deal in the 90s.  As the man behind In Living Color, he proved that black comedians and writers could be just as funny (and, in many cases, funnier) than their white counterparts over at Saturday Night Live.  It can be argued Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, and Jennifer Lopez would not have the careers that they have today if not for Keenan Ivory Wayans.  (All of them first found fame as members of the In Living Color ensemble, Carrey, Foxx, and Grier as cast members and Lopez as a “fly girl.”)  Most Wanted was Wayans attempt to transform himself into an action hero (perhaps not coincidentally, a year before Most Wanted was released, Damon Wayans had a minor hit with Bulletproof).

Keenan Ivory Wayans not only starred in Most Wanted but he also wrote the script and it’s interesting just how straight the action is played.  It would be natural to expect Wayans to turn the movie into a spoof but there’s little intentional humor to be found in Most Wanted.  Most Wanted takes itself seriously and the end result is an adequate but hardly memorable action movie, with Wayans jumping off of buildings and fighting off the bad guys.  The action scenes are well-shot if not particularly imaginative but, unfortunately, Wayans doesn’t really have the screen presence necessary to be a believable action hero.  Both the character of James Dunn and Wayans’s performance are just too bland to really be compelling.  Far more interesting are Jon Voight and Paul Sorvino, who are both entertainingly hammy in their roles.

There’s one good scene in Most Wanted, where Dunn finds himself being chased by what appears to be the entire population of Los Angeles.  Otherwise, this one is adequate but forgettable.

 

Spring Breakdown: 7 Deadly Sins (dir by Glenn Plummer)


Before I really get started on this review, I think I should make clear two things:

First off, this film can be found, for free, on Amazon Prime under the title 7 Deadly Sins.  That’s also the title under which it’s listed on the imdb.  However, all of the poster art that I’ve found for this film indicates that this film was originally entitled Charlie Charlie.  It makes sense, as the whole point of the film is that 7 idiots play a game called “Charlie Charlie,” where the point is to talk to some dead guy who never went to church and was therefore never cleansed of his sins.  Apparently, playing Charlie Charlie gets you killed.  Who would have guessed contacting an evil spirit would have such dire consequences.

Secondly, I tend to be forgiving of low budget horror films.  Some of my favorite films are low-budget horror films.  I respect any director who can create a frightening scene or maintain an ominous atmosphere on a low budget.  If you can make the paranormal seem real even when you can’t afford CGI, I have a tremendous amount of respect for your filmmaking skills.  My point is that when I tell you that this is not a good film and that it’s actually one of the worst horror films that I’ve seen in  while, I’m not just saying that because of the low budget.  I’m saying it because the movie freaking sucks.

7 Deadly Sins takes place at a Spring Break house party being thrown by the least likable teenagers on the planet.  Most of them are celebrating because it’s their last Spring Break before college.  Jamal (Steph Santana), on the other hand, is celebrating because it’s his last weekend before he starts a five year prison sentence.  At the start of Spring Break, Jamal was pulled over by a cop who discovered a huge amount of weed in the trunk of his car.  Apparently, in the world of 7 Deadly Sins, the justice system moves a lot quicker than it does in the real world because it only takes Jamal a few days to be found guilty and sentenced to prison.

Jamal’s girlfriend, Kim (Tori Vild), was in the car as well.  However, because she’s rich and she’s white, she’s only sentenced to a few months of house arrest.  She has to wear an ankle bracelet and listen to her racist mom and her pervy stepfather complain about her boyfriend. Kim swears to Jamal that she’ll wait for him to get out of prison.  Jamal suggests a threesome to help him prepare for life behind bars.  Kim kicks him out of her room.  It’s that type of party.

Sara (Gladys Bautista) has been hired, by Kim’s stepfather, to keep an eye on Kim for the weekend.  Kim is upset because Sara is Mexican and they’re both the same age.  Sara is upset because everyone screwed up the Charlie Charlie game.  “You have to play the game,” she repeats, “You have to repent your sins.”

“Shit’s fucked up,” Jamal says at one point and he’s probably right.

Anyway, 7 Deadly Sins is one of those films that tries to be both a horror film and a comedy but it doesn’t work as either, largely because the characters aren’t sympathetic enough to care about and none of the actors are particularly comedic.  You don’t care when they die and it’s hard to be amused when someone says that Sara should be selling oranges along the freeway.

7 Deadly Sins does feature two semi-celebrity cameos.  Tom Sizemore plays a dude in an mental hospital while Eric Roberts plays the judge who sentences Jamal and Kim.  Eric Roberts has a lot of fun with his role, railing about how much he hates drug dealers and marijuana.  Unfortunately, Roberts only gets one scene and then he’s out of the film.

Anyway, 7 Deadly Sins is pretty dumb.  It takes forever to get to the “Charlie Charlie” game and it doesn’t do anything particularly creative with any of the sins.  (At one point, we see written in blood: “Envy is a sin.”  Well, no shit.)  As far as Spring Break horror films go, you could just go down to Galveston and shoot your own and the end results would probably be superior to this one.

Lisa Marie Picks The Best of The 2019 Lifetime Films


Today, I continue my look back at 2019 with the best of Lifetime!

(For my previous best of Lifetime picks, click on the links: 2014201520162017, and 2018!)

Best Picture: Escaping the NXIVM Cult

Best Director: Lisa Robinson, Escaping the NXIVM Cult

Best Actor: Eric Roberts, Stalked By My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Nightmare

Best Actress: Maira Walsh, Identity Theft Of A Cheerleader

Best Supporting Actor: Peter Facinelli, Escaping the NXIVM Cult

Best Supporting Actress: Sarah Dugdale, Death of a Cheerleader

Best Screenplay: Amish Abduction

Lifetime Film Review: The Wrong Mommy (dir by David DeCoteau)


If there’s anything that I’ve learned from my long history of watching Lifetime films, it’s that having a real job just isn’t worth the trouble.

Just consider what Melanie (Jessica Morris) goes through in The Wrong Mommy.  She’s got a real job.  She also has a handsome husband (Jason-Shane Scott), an adorable daughter (Jillian Spitz), and a mother (Dee Wallace) who enjoys going on exotic cruises.  Melanie also has a really nice and really big house, the type of house that would probably be the “slightly more than you’re willing to pay” house on an episode of House Hunters.  But can she enjoy it?  No, of course not!  It’s all because she’s got a real job.  She can’t pick up her daughter after school.  She can’t go out at night.  She can’t do anything because she’s got a real job.

However, during the first few minutes of The Wrong Mommy, Melanie gets some good news!  She’s been promoted!  She’s now a senior executive or whatever it is that you get promoted to when you’ve got a real job.  Along with having real responsibilities, Melanie is also about to get a real assistant!

Here’s another thing that I’ve learned from my long history of watching Lifetime films, as well as from my own past experience in the administrative professional field.  Be very careful about hiring an assistant.  Especially if she only has one obscure reference on her resume.  Even if she’s willing to babysit your daughter for you, be careful.  Don’t look the other way when she flirts with your husband.  And, for the love of everything holy in this world, don’t tell her the one secret that could lead to you losing a big account!

Unfortunately, Melanie doesn’t exercise caution about any of that and, as a result, she ends up hiring Phoebe (Ashlynn Yennie).  Even before Phoebe shows up for her interview, we’ve already seen her following Melanie around town and spying on her.  In fact, even before the opening credits conclude, Phoebe is breaking into Melanie’s house and planting spy cameras.  We know better than to trust Phoebe and soon, Melanie discovers that she made a mistake hiring her.  However, it may be too late to do anything about it….

Now, to the film’s credit, Phoebe isn’t just some random psycho bitch trying to ruin someone else’s life.  It turns out that she has a backstory, one that actually does involve Melanie.  I won’t spoil anything by revealing it but it’s a pretty good backstory.  Ashley Yennie appears to be having a lot of fun in the role of Phoebe.  If you’re going to be in a Lifetime movie, you definitely want to play the villain.  They usually get all the good lines and get to wear all the pretty clothes.

Like most of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, this one was directed by David DeCoteau, who know exactly the right tone to take for a film like this.  He plays up the melodrama while never allowing the film to take itself too seriously.  (Just check out the scene where Dee Wallace shouts out the film’s title.)  As with all the “Wrong” films, Vivica A. Fox shows up as a no-nonsense authority figure.  (This time, she plays Melanie’s boss.)  The great Eric Roberts also shows up for a few minutes, playing a sleazy client.  Roberts doesn’t have much screen time but, as usual, he makes memorable use of what he gets.

The Wrong Mommy is an enjoyably silly film.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither should you.

Lifetime Film Review: Stalked By My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Nightmare (dir by Jeff Hare)


Look out everyone!  Dr. Beck is back!

Played by Eric Roberts, Albert Beck is the anti-hero at the center of the Stalked By My Doctor films.  He was once a brilliant heart surgeon, up until he grew obsessed with one of his patients and was forced to go on the run.  That happened in 2015’s Stalked By My DoctorStalked By My Doctor was so successful that it has inspired, to date, three sequels.  Each film features the same basic plot, in which Dr. Beck assumes another doctor’s identity, becomes obsessed with another patient, and ends up murdering the usual collection of dumb boyfriends and nosy coworkers.  Ever since the third film, Dr. Beck has spent a lot of time talking to himself, which the franchise usually represents literally by having two Doctor Becks appear on screen at the same time and arguing with each other.  The real Dr. Beck usually wears a suit and a lab coat and is prone to thinking that he’s finally going to find true love.  The imaginary Dr. Beck wears a Hawaiian shirt and is always holding a tropical drink.  Of course, this means that you get twice as much Eric Roberts as advertised!

And indeed, Eric Roberts is the main reason why this franchise has thrived.  Lifetime is full of movies about stalkers but only the Stalked By My Doctor franchise features Eric Roberts at his most demented.  (We make a lot of jokes about Eric Roberts on this site but the truth of the matter is that he’s actually a very good actor and he’s given some very good performances over the course of his long career.  If nothing else, he’s a more consistently interesting actor than his better-known sister, Julia.)  In the role of Dr. Beck, Eric Roberts never makes any attempt to be the least bit subtle and that’s exactly why the films work.  If you take every creepy doctor and touchy-feely male friend that you’ve ever had to deal with and combined them into one ubercreep, the end result would be Dr. Beck.  He’s arrogant.  He’s condescending.  He’s got the creepiest smile in the world.  And yet, despite his personal issues, he’s also a lot of fun to watch.  Eric Roberts always seems like he’s having fun in these movies as he discovers new ways to communicate the fact that Dr. Beck is an absolute creep.

There are two things that I especially like about the Stalked By My Doctor films:

Number one, they take place in a world where someone who looks and sounds like Eric Roberts can somehow evade detection despite making absolutely no effort to disguise his appearance or change his voice.  For instance, in the franchise’s fourth film, Stalked By My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Nightmare (which aired on Lifetime this weekend), we find Dr. Beck working as a server at a roadside diner.  As in the previous films, he’s still frequently distracted by wild fantasies and elaborate schemes for revenge.  But what’s hilarious is that Dr. Beck is apparently one of the most wanted men in America but none of the customers at this seemingly busy diner ever says, “Hey, that mysterious server looks just like that murderer who was all over the news!”  To the film’s credit, it also makes it clear that the film itself is in on the joke.  We’re supposed to enjoy the rather odd sight of Eric Roberts pouring coffee and awkwardly flirting with his customers.  We’re not supposed to worry about whether or not it’s a plausible development.

Number two, I love the fact that there’s literally nothing that Dr. Beck cannot do.  Seriously, Dr. Beck has got to be the most brilliant medical mind of all time because there’s not a single field of medical care that he cannot conquer.  When we first met Dr. Beck, he was a heart surgeon.  In the fourth film, he steals the identity of a specialist in sexsomnia.  He manages to do all of this without missing a beat or giving himself away.  All you have to do is give Dr. Beck a lab coat and he can basically do anything!

This time around, Dr. Beck is obsessed with the niece (Angeline Appel) of one of his patients, Michelle (Emilie Ullerup).  Once again, Dr. Beck is breaking hearts and ending lives while, at the same time, arguing with his Hawaiian shirt-wearing alter ego.  And again, there’s murder, love, and melodrama.  It wouldn’t be a Stalked By My Doctor movie, otherwise!

And it’s all lot of fun.  Just when you think that the franchise has run out of gas, Eric Roberts adds another layer of quirkiness to his performance and you find yourself enthralled again.  As I hinted at above, the best thing about the Stalked By My Doctor films is that they know that they’re ludicrous and they make no apologies for being what they are.  Much like A Deadly Adoption, the Stalked By My Doctor films poke fun at the Lifetime format while still showing enough respect for the audience that no one watching is going to feel as if they’re being condescended to.  The film is totally over-the-top and silly but it’s Eric Roberts so who cares?  What else would you expect?  Are you not amused?

When watching Stalked By My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Revenge, keep an eye out for Felissa Rose.  Rose plays one of Beck’s colleagues.  Horror fans know her best from her starring role in the original Sleepaway Camp.  Her casting is one of those touches that sets Stalked By My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Revenge apart from other Lifetime films.

In its way, the Stalked By My Doctor franchise has the potential to be Lifetime’s equivalent of the Sharknado films.  Personally, I can’t wait to see where Dr. Beck turns up next!

 

Film Review: Blood Red (1989, directed by Peter Masterson)


The time is the 1890s.  The place is California.  Sicilian immigrant Sebastian Collogero (Giancarlo Giannini) has just been sworn in as an American citizen and owns his own vineyard.  When Irish immigrant William Bradford Berrigan (Dennis Hopper) demands that Sebastian give up his land so Berrigan run a railroad through it, Sebastian refuses.  Berrigan hires a group of thugs led by Andrews (Burt Young) to make Sebastian see the error of his ways.  When Sebastian ends up dead, his wayward son, Marco (Eric Roberts), takes up arms and seeks revenge.

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if the famously self-indulgent directors Michael Cimino and Francis Ford Coppola teamed up to make a movie about the American Dream?  The end result would probably be something like Blood Red.  Like Cimino’s The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate, Blood Red begins with a lengthy celebration (in this case, in honor of Sebastian’s naturalization ceremony) that doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the film but which is included just to make sure we know that what we’re about to see is more than just a mere genre piece.  Like many of Coppola’s films, Blood Red features a tight-knit family, flowing wine, and a score composed by Carmine Coppola.  The only difference between our hypothetical Cimino/Coppola collaboration and Blood Red is that the Cimino/Coppola film would probably be longer and more interesting than Blood Red.  Blood Red is only 80 minutes long and directed by Peter Masterson, who seems lost.  There’s a potentially interesting story here about two different immigrants fighting to determine the future of America but it gets lost in all of the shots of Eric Roberts flexing his muscles.

For an actor known for his demented energy, Eric Roberts is surprisingly dull as the lead but Blood Red is a film that even manages to make veteran scenery chewers like Dennis Hopper and Burt Young seem boring.  (Hopper’s bizarre attempt at an Irish brogue does occasionally liven things up.)  The cast is full of familiar faces like Michael Madsen, Aldo Ray, Marc Lawrence, and Elias Koteas but none of them get to do much.  Of course, the most familiar face of all belongs to Eric’s sister, Julia.  Julia Roberts made her film debut playing Marco’s sister, Maria.  (Because the film sat on the shelf for three years after production was completed, Blood Red wasn’t released until after Julia has subsequently appeared in Mystic Pizza and Satisfaction.)  She gets three lines and less than five minutes of screen time but she does get to briefly show off the smile that would later make her famous.  Today, of course, that smile is the only reason anyone remembers Blood Red.

Let’s Talk About Monster Island (dir by Mark Atkins)


Oh hell yeah, the Asylum strikes again!  And this time, it’s all about Kaiju, helicopters, and Eric Roberts!

Listen, folks, if you don’t get automatically excited when you see the words “Kaiju,” “helicopters,” and “Eric Roberts” all in the same sentence, I don’t know what to tell.  Obviously, you’re not the audience that this film was made for.  This is a film for people who enjoy monster mayhem, things exploding, and helicopters.  Seriously, it’s not an Asylum film without a helicopter.

Admittedly, Eric Roberts’s role is actually pretty small.  He plays Admiral Butler and he’s got an entire fleet of warships at his disposal.  You’d think that would be just what you would want when dealing with a bunch of recently awakened ancient monsters but it turns out that  the Admiral is pretty stubborn.  He’s better at shouting into telephones than understanding the logic behind Kaiju.  And if you’re saying to yourself, “Would we really want Eric Roberts to be in charge of the U.S. Navy?,” you are again missing the point.  Asylum films, like this one, create their own parallel universe.  It’s a universe where monsters live, sea creatures can take down helicopters, and, of course, Eric Roberts is going to be in charge of a battleship.

The main character is Billy Ford (Adrian Bouchet, giving a cheerfully flamboyant performance), a billionaire who operates out of a beach house and whose underwater sea mining operation may be responsible for awakening the fearsome Tengu.  (Tengu looks kind of like a giant starfish and has molten magma for blood.)  Billy has two people working in the basement of his beach house.  Cherise (Donna Cormack Thompson) has been working with him forever.  Riley (Chris Fisher, giving a nicely neurotic performance) is such a recent hire that Billy still calls him “James.”  When it becomes apparent that something has awakened at the bottom of the ocean, Billy, Cherise, and Riley head underwater to investigate.

Coming along with them is Sarah Murray (Natalie Robbie), who works for the government and who is an expert in geomythology.  Geomythology is the study of alleged references to actual geological events in mythology.  Geomythology is a real thing and, after having watched this movie, I kind of wish that I had at least minored in it.  At one point, Sarah has to go to her former Geomythology professor (Margot Wood) for advice on how to stop Tengu from destroying the world and it turns out the professor lives in this huge cabin.  There’s money to made in keeping track of the world’s Kaiju.

Anyway, needless to say, once Tengu is awakened, it’s pretty much determined to end the world.  This movie, as you can probably guess from the title, pays homage to the Japanese monster movies of old.  When flying, fire-breathing monsters start hatching from eggs and attacking the world, their battle shrieks will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a movie featuring Godzilla, Mothra, or Rodan.  When the film reaches the point of two giant monsters fighting each other while a bunch of human beings watch on, it’s impossible not to be reminded of Godzilla fighting King Kong.  It’s all in good fun, a monster movie made by people who loves monster movies for people who love monster movies.

Monster Island is a film to watch and to enjoy for the mayhem and the destruction.  Watch it to enjoy Eric Roberts bragging about the Navy’s new “sonar weapon.”  Watch it for the scene where one person makes the mistake of taunting one of the monsters.  (Piece of advice: Don’t ever yell “Come on!” at a create that can breathe fire.)  Watch it for giant starfish rising out of the ocean and the crashing helicopters.  Get a group of your friends together and enjoy the movie because the Asylum is back and so are the monsters and the helicopters!

Monster Island aired on the SyFy Network last night and it’ll probably air again.  Keep an eye out!