The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Banana Splits Movie (dir by Danishka Esterhazy)


The Banana Splits Movie takes viewers behind the scenes of a children’s television show and shows us the sordid world that nobody knows about.

The stage manager is overworked.  The new head of the network is a jerk.  The star of the show is a drunk.  The lovable Banana Splits, who play silly games and all play music instruments, are all actually robots who are looked down upon by their human coworkers.  When Stevie (Richard White), the star of the show, learns that the show is being canceled, he makes the mistake of telling the robots and, before you know it, all Hell is breaking lose.  People are getting stabbed to death with lollipops.  Network executives are getting dismembered.  One unfortunate person gets slammed in the head with a giant hammer.  You gotta be careful who you piss off, folks.  Robots are ruthless.

To me, the most shocking thing about The Banana Splits Movie was the discovery that it was based on an actual show.  Apparently, the Banana Splits were real and they had their own show in the late 60s and early 70s.  I’m going to guess that the Banana Splits were played by people in costumes as opposed to just being big robots.  At least, I hope that’s the case because, after watching The Banana Splits Movie, I’m kind of over wanting anything to do with robots.

I will say this.  If I imagine the characters from this movie not killing people, I can kinda understand why they would have their own TV show.  I mean, they’re all really cute, except for when they’re covered in blood and brain matter.  My personal favorite was Snorky, who was a big elephant and was a bit less murderous than the other three members of the Banana Splits.  In fact, I have to admit that the film kind of left me feeling a little bit depressed because all of the robots are so cute that you really don’t want to see them murder people or get damaged themselves.  The film actually does a pretty good job of contrasting the adorableness of the Banana Splits with the pain and carnage that they caused.

And make no doubt about it.  There’s a lot of blood spilled in this movie.  The Banana Splits are ruthless murderers and they don’t care how nice you are or if you paid money to see the show or if you’re just trying to make your daughter into a big star.  If they see you, they’ll kill you.  In fact, I have to admit that it sometimes got to be a bit too much for me.  I got a little bit tired of all the violence but, at the same time, I also appreciated the film’s satiric intent.  In a world gone mad, why wouldn’t the stars of a children’s TV show turn out to be a bunch of killer robots?  When you think about all of the once beloved celebrities that have fallen from grace over the past 10 years, it makes an odd sort of sense.

Anyway, The Banana Splits Movie is well made splatter film with a satiric vein running through all blood and guts.  It was a bit much for me but I respected it for sticking to its subversive premise and I do think it will be appreciated by a lot of other horror fans and pop culture fanatics.

I’m just hoping that the sequel features more Snorky.

SyFy Film Review: Zombie Tidal Wave (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


“Fire up the wood chipper!  It’s feeding time!”

So announces Hunter Shaw (Ian Ziering) towards the end of Zombie Tidal Wave, proving once again that any film, regardless of genre or tone, is automatically made a hundred times better by stuffing someone in a wood chipper.  Or, in this case, several zombies.  Needless to say, there’s soon blood and chunks of blue skin flying everywhere.  It’s messy but, when you’re being attacked by zombies, you do what you have to do.

SyFy advertised Zombie Tidal Wave as being from “some of the people behind Sharknado” and this film definitely shares the same sensibility as the first Sharknado film.  What’s often forgotten is that the first Sharknado film was not quite the all-out parody that the later films in the series eventually became.  It was definitely a comedy but, at the same time, there weren’t any celebrity cameos and David Hasselhoff didn’t end up in space.  Instead, it took a ludicrous idea — sharks in a tornado — and then presented it with just a hint of self-awareness.

Zombie Tidal Wave does the same thing.  As a result, you do get Ian Ziering delivering one-liners, like the one at the start of this review.  And the entire film is full of references to other zombie films.  For instance, there’s a band called The Fulcis and the first zombie to appears bears a distinct resemblance to the boat zombie from Zombi 2.  The many scenes of zombies rising from the ocean will remind veteran zombie fans of Shock Waves.  When the zombies invade a hospital, I was reminded of the infamous Hell of the Living Dead.  But, at the same time, Zombie Tidal Wave plays things relatively straight.  Zombies invade.  People get bitten.  Some people sacrifice themselves for the good of the other survivors.  Zombie Tidal Wave has its moments of humor but it never becomes an out-and-out parody.

Why are zombies washing up on the shores of an island community?  Well, it’s because of an earthquake, one that’s unleashed a horde of the undead.  Hunter Shaw is a fisherman and perhaps the most respected citizen of the besieged community.  Naturally, it falls upon him to not only bring everyone together but also to figure out how to defeat the zombies.  To be honest, it really is a typical SyFy movie, which a handful of characters spending most of the film looking for each other while trying to stay alive and then eventually banding together to battle the threat.  Some people, like Hunter and his wife (Cheree Cassidy) rise to the challenge.  Others, like the rich white guy in the pink shirt, don’t.  Personally, my favorite character was Taani (Angie Teodora Dick) because she grabbed a pointed stick as soon as the invasion began and spent the entire movie kicking zombie ass.  GO TAANI!

Anyway, as a lifelong fan of zombie movies, I enjoyed Zombie Tidal Wave.  It didn’t waste any time getting to the zombie action and really, that’s the important thing isn’t it?  The pace was quick and, as he did in Sharknado, Ian Ziering played the grim hero with the right mix of sincerity and horror.  I don’t know if Zombie Tidal Wave is going to launch a Sharknado-style franchise or not but it was still an entertaining SyFy film.

Here’s The Trailer For Zombie Tidal Wave


In case you were wondering what SyFY was going to do now that the Sharknado franchise has concluded …. well, here’s your answer!

Zombie Tidal Wave features underwater zombies, just like one of my favorite horror movies, Shock Waves.  Shock Waves was a rather disturbing film, the type of thing that inspires nightmares.  Zombie Tidal Wave looks like it might be a little bit more light-hearted.

Here’s the trailer!

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!

2018 In Review: The Best of SyFy


Continuing my look back at the best of 2018, it is now time to reveal my picks for the best SyFy movies and performances of the previous year!

But before I do that, a plea to the SyFy Network.  If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because I make this plea every year and it never does any good.  It probably won’t do any good this year.  But still, I’m going to make it.  SyFy, give us more original films!  From a business point of view, I can understand why SyFy shifted their focus from movies to episodic television.  But I’m not a business person!  I’m a movie lover, one who has wonderful memories of when every weekend would bring another gloriously over-the-top SyFy movie.  Those were wonderful days and it’s sad that the only time that I get to relive them is either during Shark Week or during October.

(Of course, with the Sharknado franchise ending last year, is there even going to be a Shark Week in 2019?)

Seriously, SyFy — give us more original movies!

With that in mind, allow me to say that SyFy’s 2018 films were some of the best that they’ve ever aired.  It’s unfortunate that there weren’t more of them but the ones that they did show were excellent.  It was not easy to narrow down my picks this year but I’ve done it.  And here they are:

(All credits are based on what’s listed at the imdb.  If anyone has been incorrectly credited or left out, please leave a comment and I will correct the mistake.)

Best Picture — The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (produced by Paul Bales, Jarrett Furst , David L. Garber, Andrew Golov, David Michael Latt, Bogdan Moncea, Tara Reid, David Rimawi, Justin Smith, Josh Van Houdt, Ian Ziering)

The Sharknado franchise ended with everything you could possibly want: flying sharks, bad puns, meta humor, and finally a heart-warming speech from Finn that not only saluted those who worked on the films but those of us who watched as well.  After years of defining SyFy for many people, the Sharknado franchise concluded on the perfect note.

Best Director — Anthony C. Ferrante for The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time

Anthony C. Ferrante has been with the franchise since the beginning and he brought it to an end with style.

Best Actor — Reid Miller in Santa Jaws

Playing an aspiring comic book artist who brings to life a shark that’s full of Christmas spirit, Reid Miller gave a likable performance that achieved just the right balance between comedy and terror.

Best Actress — Jearnest Corchado in Cucuy: The Boogeyman

Jeanest Corchado did a great job grounding this Halloween in film in reality (or as close to reality as you’re going to get in a SyFy film).

Best Supporting Actor — Varun Saranga in Killer High

If you’re high school reunion is ever attacked by hellish monsters, you’re going to want a friend like Varun Saranga’s Ronnie at your side.  Or maybe not….

Best Supporting Actress — Alyson Hannigan in You Might Be The Killer

If you ever find yourself surrounded by a bunch of dead bodies at a summer camp, Alyson Hannigan is exactly the friend that you want giving you advice.  Or maybe not….

Best Screenplay — Jesse Mittelstadt for No Escape Room

With its clever script and ominous feeling of impending doom, No Escape Room was my favorite of SyFy’s Halloween films.  Seriously, it was creepy as Hell.

Best Cinematography — 6-Headed Shark Attack (Mark Atkins)

Paradise is a paradise, even with a multi-headed shark eating everyone in sight.

Best Costumes — The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (costumes by Oana Draghici)

The best thing about time travel is getting to see what everyone’s wearing.

Best Editing — Santa Jaws (Eva K. Morgan and Misty Talley)

If the Sharkando films really are finished with, I certainly wouldn’t mind another five or so films about Santa Jaws.

Best Makeup — The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (Petcu Alina, Alexandra Barladeanu, Devin Bianchini, Jeremy Bramer, Roxana Cardas, Denise M. Chavez, Bee Cruz, George Doroftei, Brianna Farfel , Adelina Handuri, Caitlin Krenz, Andreescu Maria, Tracy Rosen, Victoria Rowe)

Again, the best thing about time travel is getting to see what everyone looked like.

Best Score — You Might Be The Killer (Andrew Morgan Smith)

Smith’s score created the perfect mood and atmosphere for this homage to the horror films of the past.

Best Production Design — No Escape Room (Shane Boucher and Garrett Dunbar)

Seriously, this film was creepy as Hell.

Best Sound — No Escape Room (Bryson Cassidy, Joseph Facciuolo, Danielle McBride, Lucas Roveda, Laszlo Szijarto, Julie Zhu)

Again, creepy as hell.

Best Visual Effects — Nightmare Shark (Adam Clark and Gretchen McNelis)

When you give your film a title like Nightmare Shark, you’re obviously making a bold statement.  Fortunately, the visual effects were able to live up to the title.

And that’s it for the best in SyFy!  I really hope that SyFy will continue to air original movies so I’ll be able to do another one of these lists next year.

(For my previous picks, click on the links: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017)

Up next: dinner!  And then, after that, I’ll post my favorite novels of 2018.

Lisa Looks Back at 2018:

  1. The 10 Worst Films of 2018
  2. The Best of Lifetime

 

 

Let’s Talk About Dead In The Water (dir by Sheldon Wilson)


One of the great things about October is that, along with Shark Week, it’s one of the few times during the year that the SyFy channel still shows original horror films.  Unfortunately, I ended up getting a little bit swamped with stuff this month so I didn’t get a chance to review this year’s collection of movies when they originally aired.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to make up for that today and tomorrow.

Dead In The Water, which aired on October 27th, is a nautical horror story that will probably remind you of a few other horror films.  (Of course, if you’ve watched enough SyFy films, you know that’s not necessarily a complaint.)  Like The Descent, it features an almost entirely female cast.  Like Ghost Ship, it takes place within the claustrophobic confines of a boat floating on the ocean and there’s literally no escape to escape to be found.  Like an Alien film, it’s essentially a siege film in which we watch the film’s cast attempts to survive an attack from a relentless enemy that keeps coming and coming.  And finally, much like John Carpenter’s The Thing, the enemy is an alien who jumps from victim to victim.  You’re never quite sure who might be real and who might be possessed.  It’s all about the paranoia.

Dead in the Water follows the crew of a boat that gets lost in a thick bank of fog.  When they come across a man floating in the ocean, they pull him out and start to examine him.  He’s still alive, though barely.  He implores them to kill him and then kill themselves.  He says that the only way to “end this.”  After they oblige the first half of his request, the crew members speculate that may have had a virus but a video on his phone reveals a far different story.  Apparently, the man was the last survivor of a group of scientists who came across an alien life form in the Arctic sea.  With an alien life form now running around the boat, the crew must attempt to survive while a terrible storms rages outside.

Both thematically and visually, Dead In The Water is one of those films where everything is really, really dark.  In fact, the film was so dark that it was sometimes difficult to see just what exactly was happening on the screen.  At times, this was effective.  After all, fear of the dark is one of the big phobias and the darkness made it easier for the alien to do its thing.  That said, I would someday like to see a horror film that takes place in an adequately lit room.  We’re so used to horror in the dark that I think horror in the daylight would probably be an interesting change of pace.

The best thing that Dead In The Water had going for it was its cast.  I liked the fact that not only did this horror film feature an all female cast but that they were all portrayed as being competent professionals.  No one was there just to scream and be a victim, which is something that I always appreciate.  Though the nature of the alien isn’t a huge shock, it’s still an effective little monster.  Director Sheldon Wilson does a good job of keeping the action moving and capturing the desperation of being stranded out in the middle of nowhere.  All in all, Dead In The Water was an effective October offering.

Let’s Talk About The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


Yesterday was Sharknado Day.

What is Sharknado Day?  If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.  Sharknado Day is the day that the latest chapter in The Asylum’s Sharknado franchise premieres on SyFy.  That’s the day when people like me cause twitter to go over capacity tweeting about the film.  That’s the day good people all across America try to count the number of celebrity cameos while also trying to keep track of all of the homages and references to past movies that are always waiting to be found in every Sharknado Film.  Yesterday was the sixth Sharknado Day since 2013 and, if we’re to believe our friends at The Asylum, it was also the last Sharknado Day.

Is it true?  Was The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time truly the final Sharknado?  Perhaps.  But somehow, I have a feeling that the flying sharks will return someday.  Critics have always underestimated the production savvy of The Asylum and I wouldn’t be shocked if, after a year or two of nostalgia, we saw Sharknado 7: A New Beginning.

But if The Last Sharknado was truly the final Sharknado, then it can be said that the franchise truly went out on a high note.

The plot — well, usually, the conventional wisdom is that the plot of a Sharknado movie really doesn’t matter.  Usually, it’s assumed that all a Sharknado film needs is a lot of shark mayhem and snarky humor.  And that’s true, to an extent.  And yet, I still found myself getting caught up in The Last Sharknado‘s storyline.  It all deals with Fin (Ian Ziering), April (Tara Reid), the head of a robot version of April (again, Tara Reid), Nova (Cassandra Scerbo), and Skye (Vivica A. Fox) traveling through time, hopping from period to period.  Fin and April’s goal is to stop the first Sharknado and to save the life of their son, Gil.  Nova wants to save the life of her grandfather, even though that might change history to the extent that she would never become a great shark hunter.  As for the robot head … well, she develops an agenda of her own, one that really has to be seen to be believed.

The film has a lot of time travel and, of course, the journey from period to period allows for several celebrity cameos.  When Fin ends up in Arthurian Britain, Neil deGrasse Tyson pops up as Merlin.  During the Revolutionary War, a somewhat sarcastic General Washington is played by Darrell Hammond.  Dee Snider plays a sheriff in the old west.  Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott show on the beach in the 60s.  Touchingly, the film even finds a way to include the late John Heard in the action.  (Heard played a key supporting role in the first Sharknado.)  I’m a history nerd, so I enjoyed all of the time travel.  I especially enjoyed the film’s portrayal of Benjamin Franklin as a rather bitchy eccentric, largely because it’s often forgotten that Franklin was, in real life, a bit of a bitchy eccentric.

(Add to that, how can you resist a film the features both dinosaurs and flying sharks?)

The film takes a surprisingly dark turn during the second hour, as Fin and Skye spend some time in a dystopian future and Nova tries to change history by saving her grandfather’s life.  When Fin points out that doing so will change history and that, for Nova to become a great shark hunter, her grandfather has to die, Nova calls him out for being self-centered.  To their credit, both Cassie Scerbo and Ian Ziering play the argument totally straight and both give heartfelt performances.  Amid all of the comedy and the shark-related mayhem, the film develops a real heart.

That heart is at the center of The Last Sharknado.  To a large extent, the sharks are superfluous.  They’re carnivorous MacGuffins.  Instead, the film is about celebrating not only the bonds between Fin, April, Nova, and all of their friends but also the bond that’s been developed between the characters and those of us who have watched them over the course of six films.  Towards the end of the film, when Fin talks about what his friends and family mean to him, it’s clear that he’s also speaking for the filmmakers.  Just as Fin thanks his friends for sticking with him, the filmmakers take the time to thank the audience for sticking with them.  It was a heartfelt scene and it was the perfect way to end The Last Sharknado.

To those who do not celebrate Sharknado Day, it may seem strange to say that I got emotional while watching the final scene of The Last Sharknado on Sunday night.  Then again, is it any stranger than the idea of a franchise about a bunch of sharks flying through the air, spinning around in a funnel, becoming a major pop cultural milestone?

It’s a strange world and we’re all the better for it.