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September 16, 2021

Baby Oopsie (2021) Movie review


Okay, you all know how much I love Charles Band, right? I mean, I did watch AND review the entire Puppet Master franchise. Even most of his bad films are still kind of fun, whether he wrote, directed, or produced them. I’m just not sure this flick can be included on that list.

Baby Oopsie is the story of Sybil Pittman, an unfortunate, lonely woman. She lives with an overbearing, garbage of a human being stepmother, Mitzi; two local youths constantly harass her, basically robbing her every chance they get; and works for a boss who could give Bill Lumbergh from Office Space a run for his money.

Though there are a few people who do like her (Earl, the mailman, Ray Ray her best friend, and Kristy, who’s renting a room in Sybil’s home), Sybil really only has one joy in life - her dolls. She loves to restore and collect antique ones, and runs a dedicated video channel/series to her doll work. One day she receives a mysterious package that contains the trashed head of Baby Oopsie (the little bald, nightgown wearing baby doll from Demonic Toys). Immediately, Sybil falls in love and works diligently to restore it.

Unfortunately, she can’t get the mechanical elements to work. Until, one day, she receives ANOTHER mysterious package. This one contains some kind of pentacle charm. Once she puts that in Baby Oopsie’s new body, the doll springs to life.

The next thing we know, Baby Oopsie has taken it upon herself to get revenge for her ‘momma’, Sybil. Once she realizes what’s happening, Sybil tries to warn Ray Ray and Kristy, but they write it off as part of Sybil’s stress and depression. Eventually, Sybil warms up to the idea of getting revenge on the assholes in her life and helps Baby Oopsie out. Until the doll turns its attention to the innocent.

Sybil must do what she can to stop the doll’s murderous rampage. Can she defeat the satanic muppet in time?

 

Let me just say right off the bat, this is not a good film. Honestly, the original Demonic Toys wasn’t all that great, and I’ve never watched the sequels. Just that Puppet Master mashup from 2004. Baby Oopsie (the actual doll) looks awful, its voice is annoying, and all it spouts are bad jokes and ridiculous quips. Most of the characters are just cliche stereotypes, with bad dialogue and lackluster acting. It probably goes without saying all CGI effects are just crap, and it is very obvious we are watching someone running around with a puppet on his/her hand.

Wait, you're gonna put your hand where....HEYYO!


HOWEVER…

I loved the character of Sybil Pittman, played by Libbie Higgins. Sybil is a very sympathetic character, though it does seem her misfortune reaches hyperbolic levels. Even though dolls are not my jam, I can see how much joy Sybil derives from them and how they have become her whole world. She’s written to be the underdog who you want to end up the reigning champion. Libbie did a fantastic job of fully bringing this character to life.

The story itself is well done, despite the cliche dialogue and mostly stereotypical other characters. I won’t give away the big twist at the end but honestly, I didn’t see it coming. When I thought I knew what was what, they threw in another surprise. And the ending was much bleaker than I expected.

Keep an eagle eye out for little Easter eggs from other Charles Band productions throughout the film!

Overall, like I said, not a great movie. But it does have some entertaining elements that make it worth a watch. At least once, anyway.

1.75 hatchets (out of 5)

 




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September 4, 2021

Hollywood’s New Blood (1989) Movie Review

What seems to be happening to me more and more lately is that I’ll come across a flick that I think, at first, will just be a small fluffy piece of crappy entertainment. I’ll watch it; I’ll hate myself for watching; eventually, I’ll move on. Perhaps I might even turn it off because it’s boring beyond belief.

But sometimes these flicks make me pause. I hold my thumb over that “off” button for a long time before I realize I’ve put the remote down and have become fully immersed in the shit show unfolding before me. The only time I pick that fucker back up is to pause said garbage parade when I can’t stop laughing and I’m afraid I’ll miss more terribleness that might keep me entertained.

Hollywood’s New Blood is just such a movie.

(SPOILERS AHOY)

Picture it: 1989, a small troupe of up-and-coming thespians attending an acting seminar out in the woods. A woods that comes with its own tragic backstory – of the Glouster family clan (yes, the entire clan) that was accidentally blown to smithereens on a movie set. Legend says the locals can still see the figures of three Glouster brothers as they roam the woods, looking for the body parts of their clansmen.

Or something like that.

One of the young performers, Bret, grew up nearby. He heard all the stories; he spent his summers on this very lake. And he piecemeals these gory little tidbits over the course of the seminar to his fellow actor wanna-bes and their teacher. Too bad absolutely NO ONE cares because if they did, they might have been able to save themselves from terrible fates at the hands of the vengeful Glouster family ghosts as they exact their revenge.


Sounds good on paper, right? Maybe not that new or exciting but a reasonably entertaining dive into the ghost/revenge/horror trope, right?


If they’d stuck with the ghosts out for revenge idea, that would have been fine. But halfway through the film, Bret tells us oh yeah, three of the brothers – Jeb, Luke, and Neil -  were never found but let’s just count them as dead, okay? Even before that, when we see the three Glousters, they’re hobbled and scarred and still wrapped in bandages. Okay, yes, Jacob Marley looked like that, too, but Charles Dickens this is not.

Pretty much all of the characters are fodder. They aren’t developed enough for us to care about. The viewer wants them to die so they can just STOP BEING TERRIBLE ACTORS. I will give Joe Balogh, who plays Mitch, some props because he was the best actor in the bunch, and his character was the biggest smart ass. That doesn’t mean I was sad to see him die; he just did a decent job with his character before the Glouster boys got him.

The whole movie is filmed on two locations – the cabin and the woods. So there was a lot of repeated usage of the same stills, shadowy action shots, killer cam moving through the woods. I’m sure that was a budgetary choice but it also felt like padding the run time. And I’d wager they REALLY padded the film with the extended grappling scenes between killers and victims, stalking scenarios, and shambling though the woods to their intended destinations.


What if C-A-T really does spell dog?

The sound isn’t the worst I’ve come across. There’s not a huge range of decibels between dialogue and sound effects. But the sound effects themselves…any time we got the killer cam as he moved through the woods, the sound effects were jungle noises. And I’m talking howler monkeys and shit. That was the first time I paused the video. I thought I was hearing it wrong. Noooope. Honest to gods: howler monkeys.

The second time I paused the movie was during the scene where each actor had to find an object in the woods, bring it back to the cabin, and make up a story about it. And Mitch finds some bones and a skull. A mother fucking skull. Fortunately for us, Bret is there to tell us that it’s not an animal. It’s human!

Whoever didn’t already know that is probably too young to be watching this. But thanks for clearing up any confusion none of us were having.

The third time I paused the film was during the climactic fight scene between the last Glouster brother and Bret. At a point earlier in the film, Bret instructs Liz to break up the skull and bones and sharpen them so she can have a weapon. Later, as Bret wrestler with Neil Glouster for FAR TOO LONG, Bret grabs the skull and slams it into Neil’s face, whereby it sticks as Neil screams bloody murder.

I honestly hurt myself laughing so hard at the point, though I will admit that the jawless skull stuck on Neil’s face as he screamed looked pretty fucking creepy.


Resting Bitch Face a Deux

The last bits I’ll harp on come at the end. Once the story is done, we get cut scenes of each character that probably last about 15-20 seconds each. You’d think the filmmakers would use this as a chance to put up titles such as “Bobby Johnston as Bret” or “Lynn Pirtle as Joely”. Nope, just snippets of film while the most terrible, awful, no good, very bad, unbelievably dreadful theme song plays. FOR SEVEN MINUTES AND FIVE SECONDS before we get the ending credits.

Who was in charge here? I demand to see the manager!

Look, I try not to steer people toward unmitigated crap if I can help it. There’s nothing worse than spending 90 minutes watching something that makes you want to question all your life choices leading up to this point in time. However…Hollywood’s New Blood is 77 minutes of accidental hilarity. Yes, at times it’s painful. You may even feel personally attacked. But why not pour a hefty drink, maybe have a little edible (hey – it’s legal here, shut up), and tune into Hollywood’s New Blood? Chances are you’ll hate yourself in the morning but you’ll enjoy the ride before the sun comes up.

Extra: best line of the film come from the character, Donna. “How can I feel scared? There’s nothing dangerous around here.”

You got that right, sweet cheeks. You got that right.

1.5 hatchet (out of 5)


(SORRY - I could not find a trailer posted anywhere for this one) 

 


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September 2, 2021

A Binge too Far #18: Horror Garage


Haunting image from The Wretched (2020)


 

What exactly is ‘fan service’? In recent times I noticed that many film reviewers use the term ‘fan service’ quite liberally. They do so when they review new independent genre films that offer mutilated body parts (i.e. gore) and/or nudity. Usually those films have no budget, no intelligent script or talent to speak of, and they are shot on video in the director’s backyard. Here’s exactly where the term ‘fan service’ is inappropriately used. Is this really what horror movie fans want to see in 2021? Or is this simply an anachronism and a nostalgia tendency that wants to take us back to the video boom era when tits and splatter were good enough entertaining material? I believe that ‘fans’ have stirred away from such material, and now have found shelter in the works of people such as Jason Bloom and Jordan Peele, and to be honest, rightly so. The so called ‘independent’ SOV epics have become more uninteresting with the years and the majority of them quite unwatchable too, forcing ‘fans’ to more innovative ‘thinking man’s’ horror.

 

One thing that played a big role in helping me make this decision was the recent pogrom of Amazon Prime against those backyard horrors, when an infinite number of them was taken down from the website with no explanation given. Although this was unethical business-wise, especially considering that the people that made them were given no opportunity to make an appeal (the decision was final), one has to wonder what streaming service would want such material littering their catalog when they can offer so much quality material instead – and at the same price. For example, Netflix (currently the king of streaming services) rarely offers no-budget horrors and usually acquires hits. I am all about independent film – especially when it comes to my favorite filmic decades, i.e. the 1960s and 1970s – but there is a difference between independent film and amateur film, and the SOV horrors need to take their game to the next level if they desire to be taken seriously again.

 

Reviews

 

Relic

Relic (2020) poster

 

Director Natalie Erika James’ (who also co-penned the screenplay with Christian White) debut feature is about old lady Edna (Robyn Nevin, who works mostly in television), who disappears for a few days. Her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote), as well as the local police search for her. When the ‘gran’ (as they call her for short) finally comes back home she appears to slowly descent into dementia.

 

Treating the signs of early dementia and their inevitable progress to becoming lost, this film is treating the disease with the outmost respect as well as its main subject which is an aged human being that needs help. The hardest challenge in such situations is the decision that has to be made on whether the subject is better off in a home or your home; and fear not the main characters here face that as well. However, this is not their only problem, as it quickly becomes apparent that the female-centric family is cursed with personality elements that make for a dysfunctional living as well as many secrets, some of which are never revealed and even more should have been stayed buried.

 

When Edna becomes as needy as a kid, seemingly all she needs is a dance with her granddaughter. This is a very beautiful (and oftentimes cute) film, but it is also a haunting one. The plot structure is typical of the recent ghost story blockbusters, and it is the main reason that the film received favorable mentions from critics and audiences alike. It was nominated for the ‘Best Motion Picture’ Award at the 2020 Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival. Although it premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, it went on to gross a mere $1.3 million, making it a case study of a neglected movie that needs to be discovered on V.O.D. Slow burn and atmospheric, the end result is genuinely creepy.

 

Considering that this is a film about three women of different generations grounded mostly in one old dark house and directed by a woman, it was easy to become an art house study of the mannerisms that such a situation would generate, and that is indeed the case mostly in the first and second acts, but in the third act and climax, RELIC becomes an all-out horror epic that will scare your pants off.

 

The Wretched

 

The Wretched (2020) poster

Ben (John-Paul Howard) temporarily moves with his father (television actor Jamison Jones) who goes through a messy divorce. If that’s not enough for their fragile ‘father and son’ relationship, the two of them also have to deal with an old witch (living next door, no less), which we first saw making an appearance in the 1980s.

 

Written and directed by the Pierce brothers this is modern edgy horror at its best and as such it should be cherished. Sure, you’ve seen it all before somewhere (the familiar grotesque imagery that makes horror hounds like us feel at home) but it’s all so well-done here that you won’t mind its lack of originality or some annoying teenage characters that do stupid things such as binge-drinking. As a matter of fact, it’s not what you film – yes, we all have seen a monster dragging someone under the bed – but how you film it, and in that department the film under review works in spades.

 

Premiering at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival, this is not exactly neglected in terms of box-office placement, as it topped it for six consequent weeks (something that hadn’t been achieved since a small film called Avatar [2009]), but this should be seen in context as it happened due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and those were very few drive-in theaters, therefore it deserves a place here as it’s now available on V.O.D. and waiting for you to catch it.

 


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August 8, 2021

The Divine Fury (2019) Movie Review

I actually didn’t plan to write up a review on this film. I wanted to spend the evening watching a Korean horror movie and just enjoy it. WELL…it’s the next day and I’m still thinking about how much I liked the film, despite its few flaws, and wanted to share, okay? STOP ASKING STUPID QUESTIONS!

Anyway…

Since this film just came out a couple of years ago, I will do my best to remain spoiler free. I don’t promise shit, but I’ll try.

The Divine Fury is, at its core, a movie about faith. It’s dressed up with MMA fighting and bare chested healthy young men (*ROWR*), kick ass fight scenes, cool special effects, and a kicking soundtrack. But if you take all that away, it’s about faith. And I think I can even stretch that to say it doesn’t necessarily have to be about faith in one God. It could apply to faith in anything or anyone.

Let me break it down a bit more.

Yong-hu has grown up (movie starts off with him around 10 years old perhaps?) without a mom. She died during childbirth. He and his dad, a local police officer, live out their days as happily as they can. Right off the bat, the issue of faith in God and the power of prayer is established in Yong-hu. He doesn’t understand that even though his dad prayed really hard, Yong-hu’s mom still died. And after his father is severely injured in a hit and run, the local priest tells Yong-hu that if he prays really hard, God will save his dad.

Well, what do you suppose happens?

From that moment on, Yong-hu has no faith, doesn’t believe in God, and every time he sees a cross or some kind of Christian religious symbolism, he flies into a rage. 20 years later that helps with his MMA career, but his soul? Not so much. By holding on to that hatred and anger, he allows demons to surround him at all times. The voice in his head, that he thinks is just his own, is the manipulation demons uses against him.

After suffering from nightmares, Yong-hu develops a stigmata in his right palm. Not sure what to do, his driver suggests a legit shaman – the driver’s niece. She tells Yong-hu he needs to go find a priest at a church not far from his home and he’ll help.

Yong-hu finds the priest during a hella exorcism and ends up helping the older priest on his missions. During all of these, we learn of the Black Bishop, someone who uses religious rights to summon demons. This BB is in town and he’s wreaking havoc. They need to stop him PDQ.

Evil never looked so sexy...

In his journey helping Father Ahn exorcise demons, Yong-hu realizes that his father’s ring, and the energy his father passed along before he crossed over to Heaven, gave Yong-hu some powerful blood that can dispel demons. Handy that he’s got stigmata, amirite? His blood and a little douse of Holy Water sets those demons aflame and back to Hell. So Yong-hu ends up battling the Black Bishop, saving everyone in town from the powers of evil.

 

Now, full disclosure for anyone new, I have a bias toward South Korean television and movies. I’m addicted to K-dramas, to put it bluntly, and Korea does a great job with horror films. So I probably liked this movie more than a ‘normal’ person would. There are flaws here, for sure, but for the most part I could overlook them because I enjoyed so many other aspects of the film.

For the bad: this movie is 2 hours and 15 minutes. No movie needs to be that long, seriously. Not just for the short attention span folks of my generation (I blame MTV) but also just the comfort level. I can’t imagine watching this in a theater. Even from my cozy couch, my back got stiff and I fidgeted a lot to remain comfortable. We didn’t need four to five examples of how the bad guy gets what he wants from the main demon. That was established with two. Didn’t need three to four exorcisms with Father Ahn to understand how taxing and difficult they are. Not exactly sure how the awkward fan interactions with Yong-hu progressed the story in any way (spoiler: they didn’t).


Bitch, I look good.

The CGI was a mixed bag. I always appreciate practical effects when they can be utilized, but I do understand some stuff just has to be done by computer. Unfortunately, some of it was not the highest quality and came off as cartoonish. But some was really cool and certainly enhanced the story. As for the story, most of it is well written and developed. Though there are quite a few trite and cliché moments throughout the film, you quickly forget about them as the action picks up or the character development progresses.

Mostly those were my issues. The story, cinematography, soundtrack, fight choreography, editing, sound, acting, and directing certainly made up for any flaws. Many of these can be subjective (any kind of artistic direction or music choice, for sure) but there’s no doubt as to the acting talent. Park Seo-jun (Yong-hu) shows us a young man consumed with anger toward God who then evolves and can finally let go of that blackness to help those in need. Ahn Sung-ki (Father Ahn) has been acting since he was 5-years old. Though Father Ahn is fighting demons throughout the film, the character is so gentle and patient with Yong-hu, despite the younger man’s vitriol aimed at him.

But I think my favorite actor was Woo Do-hwan (Ji-Sin, aka The Black Bishop). He plays this attractive, smooth, unassuming club owner. His subversive nature, though, is in service of a terrible snake demon and the way he manipulates people to do what he wants is rather unnerving. He has no qualms about removing ANY obstacle and doing what’s necessary to achieve his evil goals. And guess what? He didn’t need to kill the dog to show us. Now, what he does with the dog…I won’t tell you but (and maybe this makes me a monster) it was awesome.

Also his transformation at the end looked pretty fucking tits. From what I could tell, it was practical latex/foam or something to that effect. Looked completely real and natural, you know, as far as a snake demon would look. Even as he pulled off his wet cloak, it looked like a snake shedding its skin. So fucking cool.

So if you enjoy a good versus evil story, redemption films, or demons in general (and who doesn’t??), and you don’t mind reading subtitles (please don’t watch dubbed foreign films if you don’t have to), check out The Divine Fury. You won’t be disappointed.

3.5 Hatchets (out of 5)






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August 1, 2021

Static Age #17: Return of Ultraman (1971 – 1972) [Complete Series 04]




Return of Ultraman (1971 - 1972) BD box art

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Return of Ultraman (1971 – 1972), ‘On a mission to save Earth, Ultraman has returned’ as per the front cover tagline of Mill Creek Entertainment’s excellent Region A Blu-ray box-set [Complete Series 04], which contains of all 51 episodes in their original Japanese (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) with optional English subtitles and a stunning 1080p High-Definition 1.33:1 transfer. The set also comes with a booklet that is featuring an introductory article to the series, and several guides (hero, episode, kaiju, character, and key technology).

 

Although Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) was planning to wrap the Ultra series with its previous installment, fan demand and merchandise sales forced the studio to bring Ultraman back, this time a little different. Fans originally called this version of the hero New Ultraman, but later went with Ultraman Jack.

 

The first episode, ‘All Monsters Attack’ is epic in scope, as Weather awakens all monsters and all hell breaks loose, but it is also a fascinating episode in terms of story as we are introduced to our hero, as well as in terms of visuals especially when director Ishiro Honda opts for psychedelics and weird sci-fi. Ishiro Honda’s second chapter, ‘Takkong’s Great Counterattack’ brings more mayhem as the titular monster is unleashed again. ‘The Monster Realm of Terror’ kicks off with a mysterious monster roar and then it is all about kaiju battles. ‘Fatal Attack! Meteor Kick’ is featuring the awesome Kingsaurus III monster, that Ultraman will be able to defeat only with a special kick. The title of ‘Two Giant Monsters Attack Tokyo’ is self-explanatory, but it should also be added that they resemble nasty cockroaches. The battle continues in ‘Showdown! Monsters Vs. Mat’. The chameleon-like Gorbagos monster makes an appearance in ‘Operation Monster Rainbow’ and MAT will try to defeat it by painting it in the rainbow colors, giving an extra queer touch to the proceedings. ‘Monster Time Bomb’ is about Ghostron a monster with a time-bomb in its body, threatening to explode a dynamite factory! MAT’s New York headquarters develop a special monster detector in ‘Monster Island S.O.S.’. Biology in general and evolution in particular come up front in the eerie ‘Dinosaur Detonation Order’ episode when Stegon, a sympathetic dinosaur fossil comes to life. The Mognezun monster swallowed poison gas in Poison Gas Monster Appears’ and is now far more deadlier. In ‘Revenge of Monster Shugaron’ we’ll get to find out whether the titular monster has a connection with a famous painter or not. In ‘Terror of the Tsunami Monster: Tokyo in Peril’ the Seamons and Seagorath monsters initiate large and deadly waves; the story continues in ‘Terror of the Two Giant Monsters: The Great Tokyo Tornado’. In ‘Revenge of the Monster Boy’ the Eledortus monster gets his power by sucking up electricity! In the eerie ‘The Mystery of Big Bird Monster Terochilus’, unexpected snow and a mysterious red gas cause misery and madness; the story continues in full action mode in ‘Monster Bird Terochilus Big Air Raid of Tokyo’. The Bemstar monster that resembles a flying turtle and that is sucking up gas cannot be defeated by Ultraman, so ‘Here Comes Ultraseven!’. Ultraman returns solo to fight Sartan, a monster that resembles an elephant, in ‘The Invisible Giant Monster from Outer Space’. Ultraman has to fight the Magnedon monster that resembles an alien bull in ‘The Monster is a Shooting Star in Space’. ‘The Monster Channel’ is as eerie as it sounds. Ultraman has to face a trash-eating, web-spitting, and missile-catching monster in ‘Leave this Monster to Me’. In ‘Spit Out the Stars, Dark Monster!’ we are introduced to Zanika, the Cancer monster. In ‘Horror! Birth of the Apartment Monster’, a kid grabs a small part of an alien creature recently destroyed by MAT and nurtures it until it becomes the dangerous Kingstrom monster. ‘Leaving My Home Planet, Earth’ is less about the monster on display, but rather about a kid obsessed with guns.

 

And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…

 

The cast of Penny Dreadful - Season 3
The 3rd season of Penny Dreadful (2014 – 2016) finds Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), and Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) separated in various far away locales around the world, as we are also introduced to Dr. Henry Jekyll (Shazad Latif) and Count Dracula. In the meanwhile Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney) acquires the help of Frankenstein’s monsters and other misfits in order to aid him with the world domination plans that he has.

 

Stunning art from Doctor Who - Season 9
The 9th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) continues with more adventures of the titular time-lord (Peter Capaldi) and his sidekick Clara (Jenna Coleman). Airplanes are stuck in the sky in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, and Clara looks for explanations as well as the Doctor. Clara does find both in ‘The Witch’s Familiar’, but the Doctor has to employ his rock star qualities in order to save the day. The U.K. cultural phenomenon keeps on getting better and better. ‘Under the Lake’ brings The Doctor and his sidekick to a secluded underwater facility, the inhabitants of which live under the terror of the local ghosts; the story continues in ‘Before the Flood’ in which we are introduced to the evil Fisher King and get to question the origin of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. In ‘The Girl Who Died’ we are introduced to Vikings (sometimes I wish today’s people would be as tough as Vikings, because due to us citizens being vanilla, we exchanged our privacy for access to social media, essentially becoming as dumb as to swallow laws that destroy many of workers’ rights and project no sense of reaction to our future being stolen by the ruling class) and Ashildr (Maisie Williams), who in the next episode, entitled ‘The Woman Who Lived’ becomes the beauty in a sort of Beauty and the Beast tale set in 1651 England. ‘The Zygon Invasion’ is about the titular aliens who have integrated well on planet Earth, until some of them betray the mutual trust between them and humans; the story continues with Clara playing a double part in ‘The Zygon Inversion’. By employing the legend of the Sandman as well as shaky video footage, ‘Sleep No More’ is one of this season’s most eerie episodes. The very original ‘Face the Raven’ episode is about a strange number tattoo initiated by a raven and is basically a countdown to the person’s death; the story continues in the excellent one man show episode ‘Heaven Sent’ in which The Doctor has to deal with loss; and the story concludes with the season’s grand finale in ‘Hell Bent’.

 

Knives Out (2019) poster
Also, please allow me to speak a word or two about some recent mainstream films…

 

Knives Out (2019) takes the whodunit genre to exciting horror comedy territory, benefiting from an unconventional, intelligent, and original script by Rian Johnson (who also directed) and a great cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It comes highly recommended and I can’t wait for the sequels.

 

And finally, I would like to let you know that I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions… Stuart MacBride’s ultra-violent police procedure thriller Flesh House (2020), Stephen King’s kinetic and frenetic Firestarter (1980) and the non-fiction opus Danse Macabre (1981), and six books by Roberto Saviano [Il Contrario della Morte (2007), Il Bellezza e L’inferno (2009), Vieni via con me (2010), ZeroZeroZero (2013), La Paranza dei Bambini (2016), and Bacio Feroce (2017)].


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July 31, 2021

The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019) Movie Review

Okay, hear me out. This is not my usual fare, here or on my own website. But to give you a quick backstory, I found a YouTuber who reviews bad films and inserts comedic material (commentary and green screen stuff – it’s pretty hilarious. Jamie French, look her up.). She does more wholesome, family friendly stuff and Hilary Duff is the subject of at least three of these reviews.

Yes, Lizzie McGuire herself (though I never watched any of the LM stuff as I was already a grown-ass woman when that came out and not the demographic target).

Anyhoo, Jamie comments multiple times that Hilary isn’t all that bad an actress. I would agree for the most part but I wanted to see her in something a little more heavy, dramatic, and serious. Amazon Prime is streaming the movie I’m reviewing and I gotta say, Hilary did not deserve the Razzie she received for her work in it.

Let’s break it down a bit, shall we? Though, in not-like-me fashion at all, I will do my best to not reveal any spoilers, though this film is based on the Manson Murders so I think most of us know what the hell happens, right?

First you have to understand that this film’s story is based on two untruths – Sharon Tate’s premonition about her death, and the five victims not being murdered at all. Keep those in mind as we discuss the film, okay?

Second, because of these liberties in storytelling, lots of people, including Sharon’s sister, have decried the film as “classless” and “exploitative”. And in a sense that’s true. It seemed a lot of folks were trying to cash in on the 50th anniversary of the murders. Perhaps writer/director Daniel Farrands could have waited to film his vision, or at least release it earlier/later, depending on when he wrote it.

I can’t disagree with any of the victims’ surviving families and friends on any of their criticisms. I have never had someone I loved viciously murdered by a gang of doped up fuckwads manipulated into action by one of the biggest megalomaniacal psychotics to ever exist. But at the same time, I can appreciate what Farrands was trying to do with his film. He wanted to take the focus away from The Family and focus on the victims, to give them the power instead.

The story veers from historical events like this: In the days leading up to her murder, Sharon is having nightmares and premonitions about her pending death. Though her friends chalk it up to the hormonal imbalances produced by pregnancy, and missing her husband, she can’t shake the feeling that her hallucinations, nightmares, and the almost intrusive musical recording of some guy, Charlie, are all linked.

When The Family does infiltrate the house, planning to murder everyone, Sharon and her friends turn the tables on the intruders. They fight back, get the jump on their would-be killers, and kill them instead. They survive the horrific night and get to continue on with their lives.




At least, until the closing scene. Alternate reality or not, there’s only so far Farrands will go before we all remember what really happened that night 52 years ago. And he brings us slamming back to reality with one of the most heartbreaking final shots I’ve seen in a film in a long time.

From what I’ve read from an interview with Farrands, and he brings this idea up in the dialog of the movie several times, he wanted to explore an alternate reality in regard to the murders.

“My version of the story is set in an alternate reality that asks questions about fate, destiny, and whether or not we have control over the ‘script’ of our lives.”

I think we all do this from time to time, playing the ‘what if’ game to determine if different choices would result in different outcomes. I don’t think he was trying to be disrespectful, or exploitative in any way. Farrands had no interest in Manson and The Family, and did not make their lifestyle or philosophies come off as sexy or interesting (which lots of filmmakers have done to the disgust of the rest of us).

It may seem like I’m defending Farrands because he created such a brilliant film. Um, not really. The film isn’t that great, to be honest. Just over 90 minutes felt too long, probably because he started with a false narrative and had to expand it will filler and slow-mo shots to get it to feature length. The pacing dragged (probably because of the aforementioned padding) which pulls you out of the story.

That said, the nightmare sequence Sharon experiences is absolutely horrifying and I found myself crying because, as we all know, those terrible things happened in real life. But I think it was the final shot, after they 'lived', that truly broke my heart. It's a scene that has stayed with me since I watched the film.




Also I have to say the acting was top notch. Hilary and Jonathan Bennet, who played Jay Sebring, were the best parts of the movie. It's nice to see Hilary broaden her acting experience. I'm not saying she's Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren, but she has definitely stretched her tween rom-com wings into adulthood.

If you have the chance to watch this movie, do it. It probably won't end up on your list of classic films or something you can watch over and over. But the idea explored in the film are worth looking at and Farrands does a good job of showing us what might have been.


3 Hatchets (out of 5)







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July 2, 2021

Frankenstein vs Dracula (aka Assignment Terror) 1970 - Movie Review

There’s no way in hell I’m going to enjoy this movie to the point of singing its praises, or commending its production value, acting, makeup, f/x, plot, etc. There’s…just no fucking way.

Spoiler Alert I: I was right.

SPOILER ALERT II: I’m probably going to spoil plot lines and twists so if you haven’t seen it, stop reading, go watch the film, then come back.

Frankenstein vsDracula (aka Assignment Terror) is the most convoluted, ridiculous film I’ve watched in a while. Plot description on IMDB: After an alien convinces a werewolf, Dracula, Mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster (at least they got that right) to help him destroy the earth, all hell breaks loose.

And this is absolutely NOT the plot.

Well, it is and it isn’t. The basics are kinda there. What’s going on is a superior (in their minds) alien race is dying. They need to find a new planet. They decide on Earth but wouldn’t you know it, it’s filled with earthlings. So they plan to exploit mankind’s foolish superstitions and fears (you know, monsters and shit) in order to dominate them or destroy them completely.

Sure, they could blow up the entire human race with nukes, but they need the planet intact. Otherwise, they’ll have no place to colonize. Duh. And despite the fact they’ve already got a shit ton of agents and spies in place on Earth, the success of this particular mission will decide if they end up calling Earth home or they die out completely.

And you’re going with this whole scary monster thing, huh? Okay then…

The three main aliens working on this RIDICULOUS plan are Dr. Odo Warnoff (the most condescending of the trio), Dr. Maleva Kerstein, and Dr. Kerian. Because the aliens are soooo superior to humans, they don’t have to worry about becoming influenced by their puny fears and emotions. So the aliens are incarnated into existing human bodies. And since they know that beautiful women are like powerful magnets, they’ll use the buxom beauties to attract statesmen, scientists, and generals, then steal all their vital secrets.

I’m sure that’ll work out just great for you.

OMG! BTS is coming in concert next summer!

They find an actual vampire, werewolf, mummy, and Farancksalan’s monster (no, I’m not kidding). Their big plan is to use a mind control device on each one, turning them into willing slaves to the aliens, while the aliens use the monsters’ blood to create clones that will destroy mankind.

Fortunately for us Earthlings, the cops figure out what the hell is going on and thwart the alien takeover, after a few epic monster battles, of course. HUMANS: 1; ALIENS: 0

 

Normally I would delve into further details of the film, scene by scene. But honestly, I can’t be bothered. It’s not really worth anyone’s time to stare into the abysmal nature of this movie. But I can discuss a few elements.


  1. I really enjoyed Paul Naschy, who played – you guessed it – his iconic role as the werewolf, Waldemar Daninsky. He was the only monster given a fully developed backstory, and the years of Naschy playing this exact character backs it up. He’s really one of the few characters that the viewer can get behind and root for. Any completist Naschy fans out there will probably want to watch this, just for Waldemar.
  2. The makeup for the mummy is the best of all the monsters. Looks very realistic, and not just a bunch of latex and toilet paper mushed together to create the appearance of a desiccated corpse.
  3. There was slight character development with Inspector Tobermann. He takes on the brunt of the investigation, falls in love, starts to get overstressed with monster hallucinations, and gets to have all the human-on-monster fights in the film. He also had some fun banter with his boss. I’m not saying I gave a shit about anything he did, but at least the writer tried. Guess who the writer was? Paul Naschy. Hmmm, that could explain why the werewolf got so much play…

 

Beyond these few things, the movie was a pile of nonsensical idiocy. We never come back to the idea of beautiful women stealing secrets from powerful men; aliens hammer on the idea of how superior they are but become susceptible to human emotion and fuck up their mission, in a completely surprising and not predictable in any way turn of events; the high mucky mucks in the police force immediately believe the story of aliens using monsters to destroy the world. Naschy missed a huge opportunity to explore that aspect to create tension.

The music never fit any scene it was used in. The editing was choppy at best, migraine inducing at worst, and made transitions so muddled that I couldn’t be sure we had moved on to a brand-new scene until 30 seconds after the cut. Most of the special effect makeup was terrible, particularly for Fetasalad’s monster. It looks like someone put a hat box on his head and painted over it.

Here, watch me do my Dirty Harry impression.

I did like that Waldemar’s character had the most backstory, but some of it seems rather convenient just to be able to give credence to monsterkind in general by explaining how a high-ranking judge crossed paths with the werewolf years earlier. With that, and more intricate coincidences, made the rest of the monsters shallow and unimportant. But again, Naschy wrote the story and the screenplay.

By the time we reach the conclusion, complete with alien lab explosion, and our cop hero philosophizing out loud for the benefit of us all, the story has become so convoluted and overflowing with minutia, the viewer feels dissatisfied, empty, and probably pissed at losing 90 minutes of their life they can never get back.

1 hatchet (out of 5)

P.S. I don’t know why this was ever titled Frankenstein vs Dracula because 1) Dracula isn’t the vampire in this movie; and 2) the werewolf and Frank keep duking it out, for reasons unexplained.

 

 


 


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