Film Reviews

The Abominable Dr. Phibes, or: The Price of Revenge

The Film:

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Where to Watch:

Youtube or your local library

The Premise:

Vincent Price plays Dr. Phibes, a man seeking revenge on the medical staff he blames for his wife’s death.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

The beginning of this movie is a really long shot of Vincent Price in a dark cloak playing the organ rather sinisterly (can you really play the organ any other way?). His accompaniment is a wind-up band and, eventually, a woman dressed in white. They dance for an unnecessary amount of time, though perhaps I’m just biased. Extended dance scenes are a movie pet peeve of mine (I’m looking at you, Pride & Prejudice).

Since this is a Vincent Price movie, there is a murder within the first 10 minutes. Dr. Phibes lowers a cage into the room of a sleeping man and unleashes (the horror) A FRUIT BAT. The next morning, the police arrive to discover the man SURROUNDED by fruit bats, who have presumably shredded him to DEATH.

THE HORROR, THE HORROR.
GIVE ME ALL YOUR FRUIT OR I’LL EAT YOUR FACE.

Phibes, having successfully completed this murder, puts a necklace with a strange po-mo symbol on a wax effigy of the guy and burns it. This movie is rapidly becoming House of Wax.

The next murder occurs at some kind of weird masquerade ball. Phibes is, of course, wearing an eagle mask. It becomes apparent at this point that the movie is set in early 20th century London as an actual line one of the partygoers utters is “Jolly fine party, what?” Moments later, Phibes kills this man using a deadly FROG MASK.

2
I don’t even know how to caption this. I’ll let Vincent Price speak for himself.

Victim number 3 is this old guy projecting footage of belly dancers onto a screen and drinking port, the early 20th century equivalent of looking at porn on the internet. Suddenly, Dr. Phibes appears, to this oddly warm, happy music. Obviously the director knows the audience doesn’t care about this guy; we just want to see Vincent Price kill people. Phibes puts this man’s blood into little vials while the woman in white PLAYS THE VIOLIN. Unfortunately, it becomes obvious that Phibes is slipping; he drops one of his po-mo necklaces.

The police are able to use the necklace to figure out that the po-mo symbol is, in fact, a Hebrew symbol. All of the murders so far have mirrored the 10 plagues of Egypt. So THAT’S why Phibes murdered someone with a frog mask. Right now, my biggest question is if Phibes is going to make the sky rain fire or make the freaky death cloud from Prince of Egypt appear. The police also discover the connection between the victims: they all worked for Dr. Vesalius at some point.

We also discover more about Phibes’s personal motivations now; in a move that rivals Helga (from Hey Arnold) in terms of creepiness, he has built a shrine to his dead wife, who looks remarkably similar to the woman in white. After a terrible car accident in which Phibes reportedly died, doctors tried and failed to revive Phibes’s wife…which means revenge is called for. As a result of the accident, Phibes can’t talk, but he seems to somehow project his voice using bolts, wires, and a phonograph.

3
This is somehow not as creepy as it’s supposed to be, likely because it’s Vincent Price. Possibly I am just a morbid romantic. Is that a thing?

The next four deaths:

Phibes kills this rich guy by basically turning his car into a freezer, which I guess counts as the hail plague.

Plane filled with rats. Now you know Snakes on a Plane is a Dr. Phibes spin-off. The police try (and fail) to prevent this death by engaging in a very low-speed chase with the plane. Meanwhile, Vincent Price is lying in a nearby field smelling flowers. SERIOUSLY.

I need this as a poster.
I need this as a poster.

BRASS UNICORN catapulted into a guy’s chest, prompting the line “A brass unicorn has been catapulted across a London street and impaled an eminent surgeon.”  If you watch the trailer, you’ll get to see this beautiful moment.

Locusts. Phibes drips this green goo on to this lady’s face while she’s sleeping (this is pretty much exactly what happens in You Only Live Twice). He then releases locusts into the room, which stick to her and eat her face.

The last intended victim is Dr. Vesalius himself (played by Joseph Cotten!), who is supposed to suffer the death of his firstborn. Vesalius will have to operate on his son to remove a key lodged by his heart. This key will free his son from the operating table; if Vesalius fails to do this, acid will pour down and burn through his son’s face.

At this point, it is revealed that Phibes did, in fact, die in the car accident but reassembled his own body somehow. His TRUE FACE is revealed, which just kind of looks like a plaster skull. The horror, the horror.

Vesalius manages to free his son, which is somewhat disappointing as I spent most of the film with the irrational urge to punch that kid in the face. Meanwhile, Phibes gets into a coffin with his wife and embalms them both. By the time the police arrive, Phibes is nowhere to be found.

The Critique:

This movie is over-the-top and insane in the way the best Vincent Price movies are. Definitely recommended if you enjoy the films of Vincent Price and/or ‘70s B horror movies.  There’s apparently a sequel, which I will be tracking down in the near future.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther heads

I may be a teensy bit biased because I would probably give footage of Vincent Price waiting in line to buy stamps the same rating.

Deducted one Pink Panther head because FRUIT BATS were apparently responsible for a murder. Also this movie is not quite as great as The Raven, House of Wax, or The Fly.

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Film Reviews

Pontypool: Or, Quebec Rises Again

The Film:

Pontypool

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Premise:

A talk radio show host begins receiving calls as strange events (aka the zombie apocalypse) unfold in a small Canadian town.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with a Twilight Zone-esque radio broadcast. The narrator tells us ominously, “Something’s about to happen. But then, something’s always about to happen.”

This narrator turns out to be Grant Mazzy, controversial talk radio host just about to begin broadcasting on a small-town radio station after being fired from his hit show.

Grant is driving to work in a blizzard when he stops to answer his phone. (Canadians are so responsible.) As he’s pulled over, a woman suddenly appears, bangs on the passenger window, and disappears. Grant is kind of freaked out, but continues on to work anyway.

When Grant arrives at the radio station, his assistant, Laurel-Ann is already there. It’s apparently Valentine’s Day, a detail I really appreciate. He begins a rant on-air about people growing pot in their basements until his boss, Sydney, abruptly cuts him off. Grant then makes an announcement that Honey the cat is missing.

A bigger story breaks, however, when Ken in the Sunshine Chopper reveals that a large group of people have gathered downtown outside of a doctor’s office. Military vehicles are also present. A group of people suddenly explodes from the building, and chaos ensues. Then Grant loses contact with Ken.

Not the most exciting screen cap in the history of blogging, but I didn't have a whole lot of options.
Not the most exciting screen cap in the history of blogging, but I didn’t have a whole lot of options since the majority of the film takes place inside the studio.

Meanwhile, Grant is scheduled to interview a group who will put on a musical version of Lawrence of Arabia (which, coincidentally, would make an excellent bad movie). The interview goes pretty well until one kid starts babbling, “I can’t remember how it ends. It just keeps repeating.” Not good.

After the interview, Grant begins taking calls from those who are first-hand witnesses to the events. They describe masses of people repeating bizarre chants and cannibalizing other people. These calls all end with screaming and a suddenly lost connection. Some suspect it’s the Quebec separatists because, I mean, it’s always the French.

Ken in the Sunshine Chopper calls back and reports it’s not safe outside. He sees someone he knows who is just making weird alien baby sounds. Grant advises him not to approach and, of course, Ken doesn’t listen. RIP Ken.

Suddenly, a French announcement interrupts the broadcast: stay inside, avoid contact with close family members, terms of endearment, and the English language as a whole.

At this point, Grant starts losing it. He storms out of the recording studio, yelling at Laurel-Ann and Sydney as he prepares to exit the building. His yelling draws the zombies, who start repeating the words he’s said. Ultimately, he is forced to stay as the zombies trap everyone inside. Laurel-Ann becomes infected, repeating “m” words to herself. The doctor mentioned earlier breaks into the building, and they all barricade themselves in the recording studio. Well, except for Laurel-Ann, who is locked out and keeps throwing herself against the glass.

It's not good to be Laurel-Ann.  Or really any kind of assistant in a movie.
It’s not good to be Laurel-Ann. Or really any kind of assistant in a movie.

The doctor explains that the virus is transmitted by infected words in the English language (this film seriously is Quebec separatist propaganda). When the word is understood, the virus takes over and copies itself in our understanding. It’s in the language and thus has the ability to reach into reality (THIS is why we had that Twilight Zone intro earlier).

We finally get some of the blood and guts required in basically every zombie movie when Laurel-Ann EXPLODES. The other zombies also manage to break in, but are drawn back outside when Grant and Sydney broadcast a recorded message over the loudspeaker: “Sydney Briar is alive.” This message is repeated so many times that it doesn’t even sound like words after a while. Then “O Canada” suddenly blares in the room Grant and Sydney are hiding in (I’m onto you, Quebec separatists).

The doctor starts to lose it, going out into the blizzard, and later returning. He says that if the disease is in the words, the cure must be in words too. When it becomes obvious the doctor is infected, Grant and Sydney leave him and barricade themselves in another room. Then Sydney becomes infected, and both she and Grant attempt to disassociate words from their meanings in an effort to cure her. For example, “kiss” becomes “kill.” So when Grant says to Sydney, “Kill me,” they begin an end-of-the-world, linguistic experimentation make-out session. Because nothing brings people together like a zombie plague.

"I'm so turned on right now.  Kill me." Uh...what?
“I’m so turned on right now. Kill me.”
Uh…what?

Grant goes back on the air and spreads the word, telling people to stop understanding what they’re saying: “Yellow is crowded, friends are verbs.”  And he’s not even a New Age poet.

The cure may all be in vain, however, as the government begins bombing the infected.

EL FIN.

The Critique:

I think this is a really cool concept—a linguistic zombie plague. The symptoms of the disease are loss of language and repetition of certain bizarre phrases (along with the standard slow, mindless walk and craving of human flesh).  As a blogger and librarian, I believe words are perhaps the most powerful tool we possess. The failure to communicate is an under-emphasized consequence of zombification.  Probably because being a rotting corpse that kills and eats people usually takes first place on the “Reasons It Sucks to be a Zombie” list.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther heads

Nice concept, but the film suffered from some execution problems.  It’s interesting that the action occurs almost entirely in the radio station; however, I got really sick of staring at those cold, gray walls.  And there were also limited opportunities for screen capping.

Blogging 101, Film Reviews

Hellraiser, Or: The Rubik’s Cube of Doom

The Film:

Hellraiser

Where to Watch:

Netflix, Youtube

The Premise:

Clive Barker directs this horror film in which a man’s dead brother begins to resurrect himself by feeding on the corpses of his murder victims.

The Trailer (soooooooo ‘80s-tastic, guys):

The Uncondensed Version:

Clive Barker supposedly writes really creepy horror stories; the only thing I’ve read of his is Abarat, which he also illustrated. Both Abarat and Hellraiser are characterized by Barker’s terrifying nightmare monsters.

Our film opens with the man we later identify as Frank opening a puzzle box and being transported to hell (only during the ‘80s could a horror movie about what is essentially a demonic Rubik’s cube have been produced). In hell, he experiences both extreme pleasure and extreme pain. Frank’s only objection is that he also happens to be dead.

In the land of the living, Frank’s brother, Larry, and his wife, Julia, move into the historic family home. Hidden upstairs, Julia discovers evidence that Frank had been living in the house until recently, smoking cigarettes and shooting dirty pictures of himself with various female partners. As she looks through the photos, Julia uncovers one of her with Frank. EARLY PLOT TWIST: Julia had an affair with Frank!

Meanwhile, Larry is helping move their bed upstairs when he suffers a nasty cut on his hand. When his blood falls, the floorboards soak it up, steam and ooze bubble up, the rats are kind of freaked out and…Frank is resurrected! Sort of.

1
Not bad for an ’80s special effect, eh?

Julia goes upstairs and, upon discovering Frank, agrees to help him become completely alive again (through blood sacrifice. Duh). Basically, Julia dresses up all ‘80s glam and hangs around in bars (“I put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars!” But literally). After she lures them back to the house, Frank kills them and eats them.

No man can resist the '80s shoulder pads of doom!  She also has gigantic plastic star earrings.
No man can resist the ’80s shoulder pads of doom! She also has gigantic plastic star earrings.

Larry’s daughter, Kirsty, who has never been a fan of Julia, figures all of this out and freaks out a little (a lot). Kirsty grabs the cube and runs, but kind of has a breakdown in the middle of the street. She gets sent to a hospital, where she accidentally opens the door to HELL. The Cenobites (essentially sadomasochist punk demons) appear and tell her she must go with them. Kirsty manages to make a deal with them: she will help them catch Frank, their only victim to escape, if they allow Kirsty to go free.

THE CENOBITES.
THE CENOBITES. Pinhead in center, I presume.

Kirsty returns to the house to find Larry…or, rather Frank dressed up in Larry’s skin, who tries to kill her. Frank stabs Julia for no apparent reason, then goes after Kirsty. He is just about to kill her when the Cenobites appear and take him back to hell.

However, the Cenobites do not keep their promise to leave Kirsty alone. Each one tries to send her to hell. Luckily, Kirsty manages to get hold of the cube again. She twists the cube in different ways to solve it and make each Cenobite explode into light/return to hell.

Demonic Rubik's cube in action.
Demonic Rubik’s cube in action.

Her boyfriend shows up, and the two escape the burning/collapsing house. Kirsty throws the cube into the fire, hoping to destroy it.

Then this homeless guy who has been showing up at random intervals walks into the fire, TURNS INTO A FUCKING DEMON DRAGON SKELETON, and flies away with the cube. THE ETERNAL QUEST TO SOLVE A DAMN RUBIK’S CUBE CONTINUES…

...Yeah.  That really just happened.
…Yeah. That really just happened.

The Critique:

I unabashedly enjoyed this movie. Some of the effects were actually really disgusting, and most of the monsters were pretty creepy-looking. Although Kirsty was kind of annoying in a generic ‘80s heroine kind of way, she could have been worse. I kind of wanted Frank to successfully come back to life. Is that weird? What does it say about me as I person that I sympathize with demon-worshipping sadomasochists who kill and cannibalize other people?

Apparently there are 8 sequels involving Pinhead, the latest of which came out in 2011. I had no clue this was such a big franchise. Sorry, but there’s no way I’m watching all 8. Maybe 1 or 2.  A remake is also in the works; if this ever actually happens, you know I’ll be critiquing it.

Favorite piece of IMDb trivia about this film: It was originally entitled The Hellbound Heart after the Clive Barker novella it was based upon. The studio thought this title sounded too much like a romance and wanted to change it (I don’t know what kinds of “romances” these people read/watch). Barker’s suggestion? Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther4/5 Pink Panther heads

Blogging 101, Film Reviews

Rubber: Tired of Waiting

First Film of BLOOD Month:

Rubber

Where to Watch:

Netflix, Hoopla

The Premise:

A tire goes on a killing rampage in the desert (Is the title of this post making you cringe now?).

The Trailer:

Doing my best to include a link to the trailer for movies I critique from now on, when possible.

The Uncondensed Version:

With this movie, the prologue is essential. Through the bizarre sequence of non-sequiturs that occur, we learn that, like many other things in both art and life, there is no reason. To begin with, a car drives up to a man standing in the desert holding a dozen or so pairs of binoculars. The car hits a series of chairs in the middle of the road, breaking them all; when it stops, a police officer steps out of the trunk of the car and begins his monologue to the camera about the lack of reason in a few films: ET, Love Story, JFK, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Pianist. He then empties a glass of water onto the sand and gets back in the trunk. After all of this, it is revealed there is a small group of people, who receive binoculars to watch the events about to unfold.

Probably not the wisest move in a desert.
Probably not the wisest move in a desert.

First, there is life. Or at least animation. The tire gets up and starts rolling (by the way, my cat did NOT appreciate these sound effects).

The tire starts small, rolling over and crushing a water bottle, then a scorpion. It approaches a glass bottle that is not so easily destroyed. Not to worry—at this point, the tire discovers its telekinetic powers. Or, rather it discovers the ability to blow things up with its mind. So 2 important questions: 1. Is this a form of telekinesis? 2. Do tires have minds?

As the sun sets, the tire decides to rest. The audience goes to sleep as well. In the morning, the guy with the binoculars wakes them up and they continue to observe the tire blowing things up. It blows up a bunny, which is kind of sad.

The tire’s rampage is interrupted when a young woman in a convertible drives by. It’s kind of difficult to tell if the tire has a crush on her or wants to kill her. After the tire makes her car break down, it’s just about to catch up to her when a man in a pick-up truck drives by, hitting the tire. Now the tire is really enraged.

When it catches up to the pick-up truck guy, the tire makes his head explode.

BLOOOOOOOOD.  EXPLOSIONS.  I know this is what you've been suffering through this post for.
BLOOOOOOOOD. EXPLOSIONS. I know this is what you’ve been suffering through this post for.

The tire then follows the girl in the convertible to a shady motel. Also in the motel is the binoculars guy, who is slaughtering a turkey in his room. What. He then brings the turkey to the audience members, who fight over their first meal in days (with the exception of this middle-aged guy in a wheelchair).

The tire is taking a shower when the maid comes in and throws it out. This is not wise.

We also meet the owner of the motel and his emo son. The emo kid puts 2 and 2 together, figuring out the tire is the murderer. Of course, no one listens to the emo kid.

Nobody understands me!  The world is indifferent to my suffering!  I wear this camo because I'm fighting a secret war against ALL of you!
Nobody understands me! The world is indifferent to my suffering! I wear this camo because I’m fighting a secret war against ALL of you!

As the police attempt to solve the murders, the policeman from earlier interrupts the scene and informs them the audience is dead; therefore, they can all go home now. Minutes later, he receives word that one spectator is still alive, so they have to continue with the production. The binoculars guy renews his efforts to get the guy in the wheelchair to eat something; instead, the binoculars guy eats the poisoned food and dies.

After the tire kills the emo kid’s dad, it’s on the run from the police. There is an extremely high speed chase with the tire that ends poorly for the police. The tire continues its rampage.

Later, the police locate the tire camped out in someone’s house and set up a trap for it. They attach a bomb to a mannequin, which they leave outside of the house. After they ring the doorbell, the girl in the convertible reads from a truly terrible script, encouraging the tire to blow up the mannequin. At this point, the guy in the wheelchair intervenes, telling the actors that this scene makes no sense.

Finally, the policeman goes into the house and shoots the tire. Then, in a shocking plot twist, the tire is reincarnated as a tricycle. The tricycle kills the guy in the wheelchair and rallies its fellow tires to take down Hollywood.

75% of these tires will be getting implants.
75% of these tires will be getting implants.

The Critique:

I don’t even know where to begin. This is a pretty funny movie, but it’s also so strange. I liked it, but it also endlessly confuses me.

The Rating:

I honestly have no clue if this is the smartest or the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen.

I’m going to have to break out half Pink Panther heads for this.

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherHalf Pink Panther head 3.5/5 Pink Panther heads