Anguish (1987, directed by Bigas Luna)


John Pressman (Michael Lerner) is a mentally unbalanced, middle-aged, diabetic mama’s boy who is losing his eyesight.  When his mother (Zelda Rubinstein) orders John to go out and collect healthy eyes, it leads to John going on a rampage that eventually brings him to a movie theater.  After he barricades everyone inside, he starts to pick off the patrons one-by-one, removing their eyes with a scalpel.

Meanwhile, in another theater, an audience watches John’s rampage on the big screen.  Is the story of John Pressman just a movie?  Maybe.  But in the audience, people start to react strangely.  A woman breaks down in tears.  When John Pressman starts to kill people in his movie, a man in the audience starts to kill people in the real theater.  When the mother in the movie-within-a-movie sends her son out to get eyes, is she after the eyes of the people in her movie or the people watching in the audience?  Has the madman in the audience been possessed by the movie or is he just another spree killer, an ever-present threat in both the movies and the real world?  And how will his rampage be stopped?

Anguish is a clever, multi-layered Spanish horror film.  Watching the film, it’s important to remember that it was produced in the middle of a worldwide moral panic about whether or not people could experience violent movies without becoming violent themselves.  At first, it seems like the film is saying that horror movies are a bad influence but then there’s a twist ending that turns the entire premise on its head.  As the movie peels away layer after layer of plot, you’ll find yourself wondering what’s real and what’s just a movie.

An unheralded horror classic, Anguish is two good movies in one.  Obviously, the film about John Pressman and his crazy mother is considerably more cheesy than the one about the madman in the “real” world but both films are full of atmosphere, suspense, and a some surprisingly grisly violence.  The movie-within-a-movie also features Michael Lerner and Zelda Rubinstein, two actors who just seem like they were destined to play a henpecked son and his crazy mother.  Lerner is one of the best character actors around and Anguish gives him a rare leading role.  Lerner makes the most of it, carefully cutting out eyeballs while his mother’s voice echoes in his head.

Anguish is a good head trip of a film.  It’s long been rumored that Anguish contains subliminal images and sounds that are designed to make the people watching feel nervous.  I don’t know if that’s true, though the film does open with the following classic warning:

During the film you are about to see, you will be subject to subliminal messages and mild hypnosis.

This will cause you no physical harm or lasting effect, but if for any reason you lose control or feel that your mind is leaving your body — leave the auditorium immediately.

Luckily, Anguish is available on DVD and Blu-ray so you can watch it in the safety of your own home.

A Cry For Help (1975, directed by Daryl Duke)


Harry Freeman (Robert Culp) is a radio talk show host in California who specializes in abusing his listeners.  They call in and they tell Harry their problems and their opinions and then Harry tells them that they’re stupid and whiny.  Despite (or maybe because of) his abrasive style, Harry is very popular.  Everyone on the California coast listens to him in the morning.

When a depressed teenage girl named Ingrid (Elayne Heilveil) calls his show and says that she’s going to kill herself, Harry doesn’t taker her seriously and tells her to go ahead and do it.  It’s only after he hangs up on her that he realizes that she might have actually been telling the truth.  When Harry calls the cops to tell them about the call, they treat him in much the same way that he treated Ingrid.  They refuse to take him or Ingrid seriously.

Not getting any help from the police, Harry turns to his listeners.  He asks them to help him track down Ingrid and to keep her from harming herself.  The film alternates between scenes of Ingrid meeting people throughout the day and then Harry in his studio, taking calls from those people.  Since Ingrid is no longer listening to Harry’s show, she has no idea that people are looking for her and it becomes a race against time to find her before she carries out her plans.

A Cry For Help is largely a showcase for Robert Culp, a talented actor whose career was often harmed by his own independence and reputation for being abrasive.  That reputation made him the perfect choice to play Harry and Culp gives a terrific performance as a not particularly nice man trying to do the right thing for once.  Interestingly, the film keeps it ambiguous as to whether Harry has really had an attack of conscience or if he’s just trying to save Ingrid for the publicity and the ratings.  Even at the end of the film, it’s hard to know if Harry was really worried about Ingrid ending her life or if he was just looking to promote himself.

Along with Culp, the film’s cast is a who’s who of 70s television actors.  Among those who Ingrid and Harry deal with during the day: Michael Lerner, Bruce Boxlietner, Ken Swofford, Chuck McCann, Julius Harris, and Gordon Jump.  Seeing Jump in the film was especially interesting since he would later star in another production about the potential power of radio, WKRP In Cincinnati.

A Cry For Help is a suspenseful made-for-TV movie from 1975.  It’s never been released on DVD but it is on YouTube.

The King of Love (1987, directed by Anthony Wilkinson)


From the depths of the 80s comes this soapy film about a publisher played by Nick Mancuso whose father issues fuel not only his rise but also his fall.  When the movie starts, Mancuso is dying because he’s been shot by an unknown assassin but he still needs someone to give him some answers before he can give up the mortal coil.  Much like Dutch Schultz deliriously babbling about his dog Biscuit after getting fatally wounded, Mancuso spends his last minutes flashing back to how he became America’s most controversial magazine publisher.

In a ruthless and methodical fashion, Mancuso rose up the ranks from being just a lowly photographer to being the publisher of Love, a magazine that may remind you of Playboy and Penthouse but which is definitely not either one because it’s called Love.  Because sex and nudity sells, Love grows to be a billion dollar empire but, along the way, Mancuso uses and alienates everyone who gets close to him.  With his outspoken views on politics and his advocacy for free love and personal freedom, he also become the number one enemy of anti-pornography crusaders everywhere.  Only his partners, Nat (Michael Lerner) and Annie (Sela Ward), are willing to stay with him, mostly because they’re both in love with him.

Mancuso is obsessed with running a rival publisher out of business.  Jack Kraft (Rip Torn) is just a ruthless as Mancuso and he also might be his father.  In fact, everything that Mancuso does is because he wants to get revenge on Jack for not being there for him as he was growing up, even though he doesn’t have any definite proof that Jack is actually his father and Jack refuses to say whether he is or isn’t.  As Mancuso lies on his death bed, Jack stops in for one last visit.  Mancuso finally asks Jack flat-out if he’s his father.  “I don’t know,” Jack answers, as the film draws to a close.  I know that’s a big spoiler but it probably does not matter because this film has never been released on video and it probably never will be.  My mom has a copy on VHS tape, which she recorded when it originally aired in 1987.  It even has the original commercials.  It’s possible my mom may have the only copy of this film in existence, I don’t know.

The King of Love‘s attempt to be daring and racy is sabotaged by its origin as a made-for-TV movie from the 80s.  There may be a lot of talk about sex but you’re not going to see or hear anything that could have gotten ABC fined by the FCC.  What’s most interesting about The King of Love is the way that the film combines the personas of the three most famous adult magazine publishes.  Mancuso dresses like Bob Guccione, spouts Hugh Hefner’s philosophy, and ultimately suffers Larry Flynt’s fate.  Otherwise, the movie’s not very interesting at all but it is also ways enjoyable to watch Rip Torn play an arrogant bad guy and Michael Lerner manages to overcome a bad script and give an effective performance as Mancuso’s conflicted second-in-command.

Film Review: Firehouse (1973, directed by Alex March)


Firefighter Shelly Forsythe (Richard Roundtree) has just been assigned to a new firehouse and, from the minute he shows up, it’s trouble.  Not only is he resented for taking the place of a popular (if now dead) firefighter but he’s also the first black to have ever been assigned to that firehouse.  Led by angry racist Skip Ryerson (Vince Edwards), the other firemen immediately distrust Forsythe and subject him to a grueling hazing.  However, Forsythe is determined to prove that he’s just as good as any white firefighter and refuses to be driven out.  While the firehouse simmers with racial tensions, a gang of arsonists is setting buildings on fire.

Firehouse does not have much of a plot but what little it does have, it deals with in a brisk 72 minutes.  Forsythe shows up for his first day.  Everyone hazes him.  Forsythe gets mad.  There’s a big fire.  And then the movie ends, without resolving much.  Ryerson is still a racist and Forsythe is still mad at almost everyone in the firehouse.  The characters are all paper thin and most of the fire fighting scenes are made up of grainy stock footage.  What does make the film interesting is the way that it handles the causal racism of almost every white character.  Ryerson, for instance, comes across as being an unrepentant racist but the film suggests that this is mostly due to him being too stubborn to change his ways and that Ryerson’s not that bad once you get to know him.  When Andrew Duggan’s fire chief instructs Forsythe not to take any of the constant racial remarks personally, Firehouse portrays it as if Duggan is giving good and reasonable advice.  The mentality was typical for 1973 but wouldn’t fly today.

One reason why Firehouse ends so abruptly is because it was a pilot for a television series.  At the time Firehouse aired, it had been only two years since Roundtree starred as John Shaft and NBC hoped that to recapture that magic on a weekly basis.  However, it would take another year before the Firehouse television series went into production and, by that time, Roundtree had left the project.  In fact, with the exception of Richard Jaeckel, no one who appeared in the pilot went on to appear in the short-lived TV series.

The DVD of Firehouse is infamous for featuring a picture of Fred Williamson on the cover, in which Williamson is smoking a cigar and wearing a fireman’s helmet.  Williamson does not appear anywhere in Firehouse and I can only imagine how many people have sat through Firehouse expecting to see a Fred Williamson blaxploitation film, just to discover that it was actually a Richard Roundtree television pilot.  Firehouse probably would have been better if it had starred Fred Williamson.  Roundtree’s good but sometimes, you just need The Hammer.

An Olympic Film Review: Goldengirl (dir by Joseph Sargent)


The 1979 film Goldengirl is a film that I had wanted to see ever since I first came across this trailer on one of the 42nd Street Forever compilation DVDs:

Wow, I wondered.  What was Goldengirl’s secret and why was she ordering James Coburn to kiss her feet?  For that matter, why did James Coburn have a haircut that made him look exactly like this old lady who used to live next door to my grandma in Fort Smith?  What did it all have to do with the villain from The Spy Who Loved Me and just how drunk was Robert Culp when he shot his scenes?  Even more importantly, why did Goldengirl keep running into that wall?  That looked painful!

I did some research.  (That’s a fancy way of saying that I looked the movie up on Wikipedia.)  I discovered that Goldengirl was made in 1979.  It was originally meant to be a television miniseries that would not only air during the 1980 Summer Olympics but which would feature Goldengirl competing at those Olympics!  However, during production, it was decided to just use the material for a feature film instead. (Hmmmm, I thought, behind-the-scenes drama!  Intriguing!)  The film was released in June of ’79 and, despite one rave review from Vincent Canby in the New York Times, the film failed at the box office.  Add to that, the U.S. ultimately boycotted the 1980 summer games, which made Goldengirl‘s Olympic-set climax a bit awkward.

I also discovered that Goldengirl is nearly impossible to see.  It’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray or any digital or streaming service.  So, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably never see Goldengirl and, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really didn’t care that much.

However, for the past few days, I have been absolutely obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  Even though it was a Summer Olympic movie, I decided to go on YouTube and see if anyone had uploaded Goldengirl since I last checked.

And guess what?

They had!

Now, here’s the problem.  The two guys who uploaded Goldengirl also talked over the entire movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  The movie looked about as good as a VHS copy of a movie from 1979 is ever going to look.  And I could still follow Goldengirl‘s story, even if I sometimes had to really strain to hear the dialogue over the two guys “commenting” on it.  Still, it meant that I had to put a bit more effort into watching this movie than it perhaps deserved.  It was kinda hard not to resent that.

Anyway, I have finally seen Goldengirl and I can now tell you that it’s a pretty lousy movie.  Goldengirl is Goldine (Susan Anton).  Her father is a German scientist who used to work for the Nazis.  When he came to the United States, he decided to prove that his theories of eugenics were correct by adopting a daughter and breeding her to be the world’s greatest athlete.  Working with a psychiatrist named Dr. Lee (Leslie Caron, for some reason), they have not only turned Goldine into the world’s greatest athlete but they’ve also turned her into a bright, smiling media personality.  (Dr. Lee has trained Goldine, through the use of a vibrator, to always give the right answer when she’s asked a question.)  Now, they just need Goldine to win three gold medals at the Summer Olympics and for PR agent Jack Dryden (James Coburn) to make Goldine into a star.  Dryden is the only person who really cares about Goldine as something other than an experiment or a way to make money.

Goldine spends almost the entire movie running.  There’s one running montage that seems to go on forever.  Susan Anton was a model when she was cast as Goldine.  She’s got the right look to be a celebrity but she’s never convincing as an Olympic-class athlete.  Whenever Goldine competes, we either get a close-up of Anton running in slow-motion with no other runners around her or else a long-shot that’s designed to keep us from noticing that Anton isn’t really on the track.

Really, that’s entire film.  On the basis of the trailer, I was expecting that Goldengirl would turn out to be a robot or something like that.  Instead, it just turns out that her stepfather has spent years injecting her with vitamins and hormones and now, as a result, she has diabetes.  Seriously, that’s it.  She gets pretty mad when she finds out that her handlers have put her health at risk just so she could win a race.  But then she goes ahead and runs the race anyway so I guess it was all for the best.  Seriously, that’s the entire freaking movie.  It doesn’t help that Anton’s acting is amateurish and the rest of the cast seems bored.  Only Curt Jurgens really makes much of an impression, mostly because he’s too sinister not to be memorable.

The trailer is better than the movie.  That’s the secret of Goldengirl.

A Movie A Day #335: Ruby and Oswald (1978, directed by Mel Stuart)


The year is 1963.  The month is November.  The city is Dallas.  The President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, is coming to visit and two very different men have very different reactions.  An eccentric and lonely strip club owner, Jack Ruby (Michael Lerner), worries about an anti-Kennedy ad that has just appeared in the Dallas Morning News.  Another loner, a strange man named Lee Harvey Oswald (Frederic Forrest), is busy making plans of his own.  When Kennedy is assassinated, history brings Ruby and Oswald together in a way that a shattered nation will never forget.

This is a curious one.  It was made for television and, according to Wikipedia, its original running time was 180 minutes.  The version that I saw, on VHS, was barely 90 minutes long so obviously, the version I saw was heavily edited.  (In the 70s, it was common for made-for-TV movies to be reedited for both syndication and overseas theatrical release.)  Maybe that explains why Ruby and Oswald felt do disjointed.  In the version I saw, most of the emphasis was put on Jack Ruby running around Dallas and getting on people’s nerves.  Very little time was devoted to Oswald and the film was almost entirely stolen by Lerner. Michael Lerner is a familiar character actor.  You may not know his name but you will definitely recognize his face.  Lerner was convincing and sometimes even sympathetic as the weaselly Ruby.  Ruby and Oswald supported the Warren Commission’s findings, that Oswald killed Kennedy and Ruby shot Oswald out of a sense of loyalty to Jackie Kennedy.  Michael Lerner’s performance was so good that he almost made that theory plausible.

One final note, for fans of WKRP in Cincinnati: Gordon Jump and Richard Sanders, best known as Arthur Carlson and Les Nessman, were both in Ruby and Oswald, though they did not share any scenes together.

Horror Film Review: Strange Invaders (dir by Michael Laughlin)


In 1983, two years after the release of Strange Behavior, director Michael Laughlin and Bill Condon teamed up for another “strange” film.  Like their previous collaboration, this film was a combination of horror, science fiction, and satire.

The title of their latest collaboration?

Strange Invaders.

Strange Invaders opens in the 1950s, in a small, all-American town in Illinois.  Innocent children play in the street.  Clean-cut men stop off at the local diner and talk to the waitress (Fiona Lewis, the scientist from Strange Behavior).  Two teenagers (played by the stars of Strange Behavior, Dan Shor and Dey Young) sit in a car and listen to forbidden rock’n’roll music.  A lengthy title crawl informs us that, in the 1950s, Americans were happy and they were only worried about three things: communists, Elvis, and UFOs.  On schedule, a gigantic UFO suddenly appears over the town.

Twenty-five years later, mild-mannered Prof. Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) teaches at a university and wonders just what exactly is going on with his ex-wife, Margaret (Diana Scarwid).  In order to attend her mother’s funeral, Margaret returned to the small Illinois town where she grew up.  When she doesn’t return, Charles decides to go to the town himself.  However, once he arrives, he discovers that the town appears to still be stuck in the 50s.  The townspeople are all polite but strangely unemotional and secretive.  Charles immediately suspects that something strange is happening.  When the towns people suddenly start shooting laser beams from their eyes, Charles realizes that they must be aliens!

Fleeing from the town, Charles checks all the newspapers for any reports of an alien invasion.  The only story he finds is in a cheap tabloid, The National Informer.  The author of the story, Betty Walker (Nancy Allen), claims that she just made the story up but Charles is convinced that she may have accidentally told the truth.  At first, Betty dismisses Charles as being crazy.  But then she’s visited by an Avon lady who looks just like the waitress from the small town and who can shoot laser beams.

Teaming up, Charles and Betty investigate the aliens and try to figure out just what exactly they’re doing on Earth.  It’s an investigation that leads them to not only a shadowy government operative (Louise Fletcher) but also a man (Michael Lerner) who claims that, years ago, he helplessly watched as his family was destroyed by aliens.

Like Strange Behavior, Strange Invaders is a … well, a strange film.  I have to admit that I prefer Behavior to Invaders.  The satire in Strange Invaders is a bit too heavy-handed and Paul Le Mat is not as strong a lead as Michael Murphy was in the first film.  I was a lot more impressed with Nancy Allen’s performance, if just because I related to both her skepticism and her sudden excitement to discover that her fake news might actually be real news.  I also liked Micheal Lerner, so much so that I almost wish that he and Le Mat had switched roles.  Finally, I have to say that Diana Scarwid’s performance was so bizarre that I’m not sure if she was brilliant or if she was terrible.  For her character, that worked well.

Strange Invaders gets better as it goes along.  At the start of the film, there are some parts that drag but the finale is genuinely exciting and clever.  If the film starts as a parody of 1950s alien invasion films, it ends as a satire of Spielbergian positivity.  It’s an uneven film but, ultimately, worth the time to watch.

 

Film Review: Ashby (dir by Tony McNamara)


Ashby

At first glance, Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) seems like your typical nerdy high school student.  An introvert who has a hard time making friends, Ed is a talented writer but what he really wants to do is play for his school’s legendary football team.  One thing that sets Ed apart from cinematic nerds of the past is that he is not lacking in confidence.  He’s shy but he understands what he’s capable of accomplishing.  He knows he’s a good writer.  He also know that he has the potential to be a good football player.  When he crashes the team’s practice and manages to talk Coach Burton (Kevin Dunn) into giving him a shot, Ed proves that he’s the faster than anyone else on the team.  And when one of the other players starts to bully him, Ed has no trouble convincing the quarterback to stand up for him.  After all, as Ed explains it, if Ed’s not in a good mood than he’s not going to catch anything that the quarterback throws.  And if Ed doesn’t make those catches, the quarterback won’t have a good game and, if he doesn’t have a good game, he won’t get any scholarship offers.

At first, Ed’s determination to play football horrifies both his mother, June (Sarah Silverman), and his best (and only) friend, Eloise (Emma Roberts).  June is a single mother who terrifies Ed by openly discussing her sex life with him.  Eloise, meanwhile, is a self-styled misfit who is nicknamed “weird girl” by Ed’s fellow jocks.  It’s only after they see Ed playing on the field (and, not coincidentally, making the winning catch), that June and Eloise start to support Ed’s athletic dreams…

Meanwhile, Ed is getting to know his neighbor, Ashby (Mickey Rourke).  Ashby is a former CIA agent who has just been informed that he has only a few months to live.  Ed needs to talk to an old person for a class assignment.  Ashby needs someone to drive him around town.  At first, Ashby refuses to open up to Ed but slowly, Ashby starts to lower his defenses.  Ashby is soon coming to Ed’s football games, flirting with June, and serving as a substitute father figure.

Of course, Asby is also murdering people.  Though Ed doesn’t know it, the reason that Ashby keeps asking him for a ride is because Ashby is determined to track down and kill three men who he feels betrayed him.  Ashby does this with the full knowledge that eventually, the CIA is going to send somebody to take him out…

Ashby is a mix of genres that don’t really go together.  It’s a gentle coming-of-age comedy that’s also a violent revenge thriller.  The end result is an extremely messy film that never finds a consistent tone.  And yet, at the same time, that inconsistency is a part of the film’s strange charm.  The film is so determined to make its oddball mix of genres work that you actually do find yourself rooting for it, even if it doesn’t quite succeed.  Ashby is one of those films that shouldn’t work and yet, somehow, it does.

Some credit for that has to go to director Tony McNamara.  He directs with a good eyes for detail (the satiric portrayal of both high school and suburbia feels totally authentic) and he keeps the action moving at such a quick pace that you really don’t have time to obsess over the film’s mishmash of themes and tones.

Even more credit, however, I think has to be given to the cast, all of whom show an admirable commitment to bringing their eccentric characters to life.  Mickey Rourke’s plays Ashby as if he might be a distant relation to his character from The Wrestler while Sarah Silverman is so perfectly cast as June that you occasionally find yourself wishing that the entire film could be just about her.  I’ve lost track of how many times Emma Roberts has been cast as a quirky high school girlfriend but she still brings as much depth as she can to her underwritten character.

Ultimately, though, the film belongs to Nat Wolff, who was so good (as was Emma Roberts) in last year’s Palo Alto.  Wolff’s character in Ashby may not have much in common with the sociopath that he played in Palo Alto or the blind friend he played in The Fault In Our Stars, but Wolff brings a sly charm to all three roles and that charm convince the audience to not only accept but even embrace some of the film’s inconsistencies.  Nat Wolff truly holds Asbhy together, helping the film to survive some of its more uneven moments.

Ashby has been given a limited theatrical release and is available through VOD.  It’s definitely an uneven film but it’s worth seeing.

Shattered Politics #30: The Candidate (dir by Michael Ritchie)


Candidateposter

“What do we do now?” — Democratic senate candidate Bill McKay (Robert Redford) in The Candidate (1972)

When I reviewed Advise & Consent, I mentioned that if anyone could prevent billionaire Tom Steyer from winning the Democratic nomination to run in the 2016 California U.S. Senate election, it would be Betty White.  Well, earlier today, Tom Steyer announced that he would NOT be a candidate.  You can guess what that means.  Betty White has obviously already started to set up her campaign organization in California and, realizing that there was no way that he could possibly beat her, Tom Steyer obviously decided to step aside.

So, congratulations to Betty White!  (I would probably never vote for her but I don’t live in California so it doesn’t matter.)  As future U.S. Senator Betty White prepares for the next phase of her career, it would probably be a good idea for her to watch a few movies about what it takes to win political office in the United States.

For example: 1972’s The Candidate.

The Candidate would especially be a good pick for the nascent Betty White senate campaign because the film is actually about a senate election in California!  California’s  U.S. Sen. Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter) is a Republican who everyone assumes cannot be defeated for reelection.  Democratic strategist Marvin Lucas (a heavily bearded Peter Boyle) is tasked with finding a sacrificial candidate.

The one that Marvin comes up with is Bill McKay (Robert Redford, before his face got all leathery), a 34 year-old lawyer who also happens to be the estranged son of former Governor John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas, whose wife Helen ran for one of California’s senate seats in 1950).  As opposed to his pragmatic and ruthless father, Bill is idealistic and the only reason that he agrees to run for the Senate is because Marvin promises him that he’ll be able to say whatever he wants.  Marvin assures Bill that Jarmon cannot be beaten but if Bill runs a credible campaign, he’ll be able to run for another office in the future.

However, Jarmon turns out to be a weaker candidate than everyone assumed.  As the charismatic Bill starts to close the gap between himself and Jarmon, he also starts to lose control of his campaign.  He soon finds himself moderating his positions and worrying more about alienating potential voters than stating his true opinions.  (In one of the film’s best scenes, Bill scornfully mutters his standard and generic campaign speech to himself, obviously disgusted with the vapid words that he has to utter in order to be elected.)  The film ends on a properly downbeat note, one that reminds you that the film was made in the 70s but also remains just as relevant and thought-provoking in 2015.

Written by a former political speech writer and directed, in a semi-documentary style, by Michael Ritchie, The Candidate is an excellent film that answer the question as to why all political campaigns and politicians seem to be the same.  The Candidate is full of small details that give the film an air of authenticity even when a familiar face like Robert Redford is on screen.

Whenever I watch The Candidate, I find myself wondering what happened to Bill McKay after the film’s iconic final scene.  Did he ever regain his idealism or did he continue on the path to just becoming another politician.  As much as we’d all like to think that the former is true, it’s actually probably the latter.

That just seems to be the way that things go.

Hopefully, Betty White will learn from Bill McKay’s example.

Horror Film Review: Omen IV: The Awakening (dir by Jorge Montesi and Dominique Othenin-Girard)


Omen_IV_DVD_cover

“Why am I watching this crap?”

That was the question that I asked myself many times last night as I watched Omen IV: The Awakening.

Seriously, it is just the WORST* and, if not for my own need to be a completist, I probably would have stopped watching after the first ten minutes.  But you know what?  I love movies, I love this site, and even more importantly — I LOVE YOU!  And I would do anything for you so I watched Omen IV: The Awakening so you wouldn’t have to.

Of course, when would you ever have to?  I probably should have considered that before I sat down to watch the film.

ANYWAY — let’s keep this quick.  The Omen IV: The Awakening was made for television and was originally broadcast way back in 1991.  It tells the story of Virginia Congressman Gene York (Michael Woods) and his wife, Karen (Faye Grant, who is currently in the news because of a tape that’s surfaced of her ex-husband Stephen Collins confessing to being a child molester).  Gene and Karen cannot have children so they adopt a baby from a bunch of nuns.  What they don’t suspect is that some of the nuns are actually in league with Satan and that their new daughter is actually the child of Damien Thorn!

Seven years later, they’ve named their daughter Delia and Delia has grown up to be something of a sociopath.  A bunch of new age hippie types suspect the truth about Delia but, whenever they get close to revealing that truth, they end up getting killed in freak accidents.  Meanwhile, Gene insists nothing is wrong while Karen…

Oh, forget it.  This movie is so bad that it’s painful to even try to describe the plot.

Let’s just say that this is an amazingly bad movie that has none of the power of the first Omen.  Nor is it as unintentionally fun as Damien: Omen II.  And none of the actors do as good as job as Sam Neill did in The Final Conflict.  Instead, it’s just a rather dull film where the tedium is only occasionally interrupted by somebody dying a terrible death.  There are two effective sequences — one in which a private detective (Michael Lerner) is chased by demonic spirits and another where a snake handler gets distracted just long enough to get bitten a few thousand times.  Otherwise, Omen IV: The Awakening deserves its terrible reputation.

AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS!

(Which probably won’t be hard since I imagine that the only way you could be tricked into watching it would be if you’re one of those film bloggers who insists on being a completist…)

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* Yes, it’s so bad that it gets the all caps treatment.