To continue the subgenre of, er, classic(?) film, and without further ado…Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Martians kidnap Santa! Because…their children need to enjoy childhood more?
The Uncondensed Version:
The Martians are facing a real but probably not instantly resolved problem—their children spend too much time watching TV and not enough time enjoying childhood. These Earth TV programs are corrupting the youth, turning their minds to mush…you’ve heard it before. This is in a society in which it’s considered totally appropriate to use sleep spray to send children to sleep (that’s a euphemism for chloroform, isn’t it?!?!?!). Martians seem to be extremely open to the power of persuasion, so when they hear a news program suggesting Mars needs its own Santa, they decide to kidnap Santa. Obviously.
Throwing a wrench in this ingenious plan are (1) logic and (2) Voldar. Logical gaps come in the form of the Martians turning on their radar shields only AFTER being detected, as well as kidnapping 2 Earth children…so they won’t tell the authorities and so no one will suspect Martians kidnapped Santa Claus. WHAT.
Voldar is definitely the main antagonist here and honestly a bit of a hero. He tells the children to their faces their theories are stupid, and is against the whole concept of children having fun, playing, enjoying life, etc.
Although the children escape to warn Santa (even braving a fierce polar bear and, inexplicably, a robot Voldar tries to program to destroy them), it’s too late. The Martians use their freeze rays to kidnap Santa and bring him back to Mars. This, of course, begs the question of why the fuck you even need Santa when you have freeze rays.
Once aboard the ship, Santa comforts the children with a mix of dad jokes and rather sinister laughter. What will happen next??? You know. Believe me, you already know.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
This one regularly makes worst movie lists…with good reason. It’s like watching one of the cheesier episodes of Star Trek: TOS (like that one where the costume designer wrapped a dog in a shaggy rug and called it an alien)–complete with horrible special effects, cheesy fight scenes, awful one-liners, a lead male putting odd emphasis on the word “sabotage,” and a simplistic message about morality that hits you over the head with a mallet. Also like some of the worst Star Trek eps, this is bearable for only about half of its run time. The first half is admittedly entertaining in an utterly cheesy, campy, and cringe-worthy kind of way.
It does get darker than I expected, as Voldar tries to throw Santa and the children out of the airlock. Maybe this is just who I am, but I was totally rooting for the villain here. The children are ANNOYING, and Santa’s blind faith in humanity is grating. Was also hoping for some kind of horrible Santa vs. aliens fight scene.
Was my blog wife on board the UFO for this one, or was she tempted to throw it out of the airlock? Read her review here to find out!
I don’t know what to call March except fantastic. This month’s features brought to you by Pinhead and Ewan McGregor. My personal hope is that Christa and I throwing these ideas together and sending them out into the universe, we will bring about the next major entertainment announcement of Ewan McGregor as Pinhead. You have no idea how thoroughly that would complete my life.
But you do. If you’ve made it to this point with this blog, you most decidedly do.
BTW, if you come up with an appropriate name for this month’s theme, I will be forever in your debt. Just be aware that I am already in a lot of debt.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline
Where to Watch:
Pinhead returns (again) in past, present, and future timelines to end the bloodline that created the original demon Rubik’s cube.
The Uncondensed Version:
I Googled this one a little (a lot) and realized that (a) this film is 20 years old, and (b) this is the last of the Hellraiser franchise to get a theatrical release. Bodes well, right?
The premise is somewhat complex(?) for the 3rd sequel in a horror franchise. Our story follows the Merchant family in 18th-century France, the present (ahem, 1996), and the future.
As the film opens on a spaceship that looks like a deconstructed Rubik’s cube (believe it or not, this is a critical detail that will become vitally important later), we meet the first Merchant. He appears to be using a robot to solve a Rubik’s cube/summon Pinhead. Just as he is about to accomplish this task, he’s rudely interrupted by the military space police.
Future Merchant has pulled a big no-no in taking over the ship, hijacking it, and pursuing his personal demon-fighting agenda. But since this film is practically an extended episode of Star Trek: TOS, don’t worry—Merchant is about to explain everything.
…Beginning with the first Merchant (chronologically), a French toymaker (not a euphemism, actually). This Merchant, aka LeMarchand, has created a masterfully crafted box (Rubik’s cube) on commission for a rather odd French aristocrat. When LeMarchand’s wife fails to appreciate the genius of his work, he storms off in a huff to deliver the box to the French aristocrat (also a magician because of course he fucking is).
Unfortunately, LeMarchand gets a bit more than anticipated when he witnesses the magician and his assistant (Adam Scott [sporting ‘80s rocker hair]???) performing a satanic ritual to summon a demon, Angelique. If you were wondering, the ritual involves a lot of organ removal and blood draining.
LeMarchand is, understandably, quite disturbed, and vows to steal the box back. However, things don’t go quite as planned, and Adam Scott tells LeMarchand that his bloodline will be cursed as he helped unleash demons upon the world.
Flashforward to 1990s Merchant, aka John. John is an architect prone to recurring nightmares. Matters don’t improve when he receives an award for his work, drawing the attention of Angelique.
Angelique has a lot of potential as a character, but I inevitably kept comparing her to Julia off Hellraiser I and II. No one in this franchise is as cool as Julia. No one.
Angelique tricks this sleazy business dude into summoning Pinhead. She and Pinhead have a very odd, somewhat antagonistic relationship that also borders on being sadomasochistic. Very confusing, and leads to cryptic lines like “Temptation is illusion” and “I am pain.”
Anyway, the moral of the story is that Pinhead and Angelique decide to kill John’s baby. As soon as someone threatens to kill a baby, I am out because all suspense is lost. You know that 98% of time in a Hollywood film, no one is actually going to kill a fucking baby.
Is that awful?
So there’s a showdown between Pinhead and John, which ends the way you might expect, mostly.
And finally, we return to the future.
The officer who arrested Merchant, Rimmer (one of the writers had to be a huge sci-fi fan), releases future Merchant to stop Pinhead.
How will he ever manage that?
Let’s just say it’s no accident the ship looks like a deconstructed Rubik’s cube.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Okay, I’m never going to hate a Hellraiser film, but I feel sorta bad that 1996 people paid money to see this.
I wanted the part in 18th century France to go on longer, but I will always want the historical period part to go on longer. The plot is very loosely tied together, and all 3 Merchants are so bland that it’s rather difficult to care about them. Even when their children are threatened by demons.
Missed the presence of other Cenobites, as well as Julia (of course).
Second week of romantic films or, rather, almost entirely unromantic films! Actual romance theme starting next week, probably. Possibly.
See what Christa thought of this one soon. Hell has frozen over and I’ve posted my review first (???).
The One I Love
Where to Watch:
Sophie and Ethan, a young married couple, encounter a very strange phenomenon while on a retreat to save their marriage.
The Uncondensed Version:
Sophie and Ethan do NOT have a good relationship, as their couples counseling session (with Ted Danson?!) reveals.
Though Ethan tries to recapture the magic of when they first met, Sophie is clearly not feeling it and can’t allow their relationship to start anew.
As a last resort, Ted Danson recommends a retreat where he’s had a great deal of success with other couples.
All seems to be going well at the secluded cottage, with Sophie and Ethan reconnecting almost immediately upon arrival. However, all is not as it appears. After Sophie and Ethan have sex for the first time in many moons, Ethan has no recollection of these events. Sophie is understandably upset, and the two fight about it.
At this point I’m really hoping there are clones (spoiler alert: there are no clones).
The next morning, all is forgotten, and Sophie is making Ethan’s favorite forbidden breakfast food, bacon. When he leaves the house, he sees Sophie standing outside. Apparently there is a real Sophie and an ideal Sophie, just as there is a real Ethan and an ideal version.
Both Ethan and Sophie are really freaked out and decide to leave immediately; however, upon further consideration, Sophie thinks they should explore the possibilities. They set some ground rules, which you know are going to break into tiny little pieces.
In Sophie’s ideal world, Ethan paints a portrait of her, makes her drinks, gives her massages, and doesn’t wear glasses. He is emotionally available, articulates why he cheated, and has better hair.
Ethan’s ideal Sophie is significantly more housewife-y and doesn’t mind Ethan doing whatever the fuck he wants. It becomes clear pretty quickly that Sophie is really into her ideal Ethan, while real Ethan is uncomfortable with the inauthenticity of his relationship with ideal Sophie because she’s not real.
However, the lines of reality are about to blur as ideal Ethan starts texting real Sophie and calling Ethan’s friends and family.
Ethan goes beyond Othello on the jealousy scale and schemes to catch her breaking the rules of their agreement. He tells Sophie he’s going to the store, but actually sneaks into the guest house and impersonates the other Ethan in time to get some action (this is so close to being a soap opera, you guys).
As Sophie tells Ethan she plans to stay, they return to the house and find the ideal versions of themselves sitting inside. They all have a very surreal dinner together involving aardvark metaphors and extreme passive-aggressiveness. This culminates in the revelation of real Ethan’s fake grocery store scheming, and Sophie asks him to leave.
With a bit of alone time, Ethan discovers some mysterious tapes and realizes Ted Danson trained the Ethan/Sophie counterparts. Surprisingly, ideal Sophie says she will help Ethan escape, though she and the other Ethan will remain trapped at the house. She would rather remain trapped with ideal Ethan than see him leave with real Sophie.
Thus begins the plot to trap the ideal couple at the house, which involves dramatic sweater changes, hidden force fields, and a moment right out of Star Trek featuring a fight between the two Ethans.
Okay, I am admittedly always ready to start a fight with screenwriters, but I still don’t understand why Ted Danson was doing all of this. If you’re going to go out of your way to conspire in a pretty nonsensical sci-fi scheme, you NEED to have a motive or I WILL be annoyed.
The humor was fairly dry and witty, but the pacing of the movie was very slow. Probably because, according to Netflix, this is a “cerebral” movie, but it wasn’t quite as clever as it wanted to be.
Depending on how much sci-fi (or soaps) with clones/doubles/evil twins you watch, you will probably see the ending coming.
Side note: blonde Elisabeth Moss was weird and distracting and quite Gillian Anderson-y looking.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Eh…I sort of liked it, but I probably would’ve stopped watching about halfway through if it weren’t for the blog.
(We’re just going to pretend it’s still Sunday or I have to acknowledge my role as the worst collaborator in history. Worse than the Nazi collaborators.)
Where to Watch:
Alien tentacle monsters terrorize a small Irish island until everyone realizes liquor solves all of your problems. Or at least all of your alien tentacle monster problems.
The Uncondensed Version:
In the beginning, an ominous light streaks across the sky towards Earth (presumably aliens).
Whatever THE THING is (yeah, it’s aliens), when it crashes off the coast of Ireland, it takes out the entire crew of a fishing trawler (admittedly, a very small fishing trawler).
What will happen next??? Will we discover humanity is the true monster? (No, it’s the alien tentacle monster.)
Cut to eager young policewoman arriving on a small Irish island. A hungover cop is there to greet her/grumble and generally act like a dick.
Meanwhile, shots of the gorgeous Irish coast are interrupted by a significant number of small-ish whales washed up on the beach (immediately thought this would be a Star Trek IV rip-off, and the Enterprise crew would turn back time to save the whales). At this point, we get two stories of ocean life gone wrong—the first follows the whales, which the police and a marine ecologist investigate. Marine ecologist Russell Tovey (actual actor who has been in real movies; you have now entered the Twilight Zone of bad movies) says sometimes these pilot whales just wash ashore for reasons no one understands. The power of science has failed us, just like it’s failed to bring us a reliable method of teleportation.
Other ocean life gone wrong story happens when a crusty old fisherman, Paddy, catches what he describes as a lobster. (In the words of another Irishman, “It’s no feckin’ lobster.”) Paddy VERY wisely decides to give the “lobster” a new home in his bathtub. Largely because he is in a constant state of intoxication, Paddy brags about his discovery to anyone who will listen, including that cop, O’Shea, who is not so secretly an alcoholic.
O’Shea is definitely really into new cop Nolan, which he makes embarrassingly clear by showing up at her door drunk and asking her out. She responds by putting him in lock-up for the night.
At the same time, the creatures kills at least 3-4 more people. The “lobster” in Paddy’s bathtub has migrated to the ceiling and attacks him (coincidentally, it looks quite a lot like the tentacle/vagina monster from Watchmen).
All of this is punctuated with some gorgeous shots of the island. Sea monster tentacle aliens or not, I want to live on this island.
Next day: Smith, the marine ecologist, is studying the grabber (as Paddy calls it). Based on the structure of its tongue, the grabber must attack its victims and drink their blood like a leech. It essentially just needs blood and water to survive. This particular specimen was pregnant and full of grabber baby eggs.
It was pregnant and full of grabber babies. Smith suspects the whales were killed and used as a food source for the spawn.
After investigating one of the grabber attacks, Nolan and O’Shea return to the lab, where they light the grabber on fire. That’s right—IN THE LAB, which triggers the sprinkler system. Remember how the grabbers just need blood and water to survive? As Smith comments, “You really are Irish” (apologies to the Irish).
The grabber attacks O’Shea’s face so he becomes difficult to distinguish from Davy Jones in POTC. It then turns to Paddy, but shows little interest in his blood. The old drunk guy is still alive, and the thing wasn’t interested in him; so they realize Paddy’s blood-alcohol level would’ve been toxic to it.
Brilliant plan: have a lock-in at the pub, stay out of the way, and drink. The only problem is that Nolan doesn’t drink and doesn’t even know if she can get drunk, which leads to an inspirational speech from O’Shea. As it turns out, Nolan CAN get drunk. Slurry, giggly, stumbly drunk. After the island doctor injects the tentacle monster with Nolan’s blood, there is one less tentacle monster to worry about.
So the cops get everyone to the pub, and the small group of people that knows about the real reason for the party discusses defense plans.
When a supersized version of the tentacle monster crashes the party along with some of the tentacle monster babies, the cops move the party upstairs. A fight breaks out because of course it does; there are many drunk Irish people in a small, enclosed space (sorry again, Ireland).
When the islanders realize the reason for the party, they start brainstorming, coming up with some GREAT drunk ideas like throwing a bomb at the monster or pushing it off a cliff. TOTALLY going to work. Finally, Nolan comes up with the least terrible idea to catch it with a crane and leave it out to dry. Unfortunately, she also inadvertently lights the pub on fire.
Will the plan succeed??? Does this movie suddenly become The Towering Inferno??? Can the poor Irish villagers ever stop drinking???
For dramatic effect, I will leave these questions unanswered. Also because this post is already 1,000 words long, and I need to cut myself off.
Seriously, I think you should watch this.
This movie has way better production values that I expected; it’s an IFC Film, and the effects/acting/film techniques are decent to good. Even if this movie were totally awful, the beautiful shots of the Irish coast would make up for it (though this movie is far from awful). It was surprisingly subtle/non-exploitative, especially for a horror-comedy. As Christa notes, most of the time I was laughing with the movie rather than at it. The entire experience was like stepping into the Twilight Zone, but in a good way—like in that episode where the grandmother comes to live with the kids and everyone is pretty much okay when she turns out to be a robot.
Biggest complaint is that there were several times I had to turn on the captions, especially to understand Paddy and other drunk characters (plus there was a character named Tadhg, for feck’s sake. So many consonants, so few vowels).
Also one of the lessons of this movie is sorta that love solves all of your problems, including and especially, alcoholism. But hey, that’s Hollywood.
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
I know; this rating is losing all meaning because I use it for EVERY film.
This hobby blog is dedicated to movie nerdom, nostalgia, and the occasional escape. In the late 90s, I worked at Blockbuster Video where they let me take home two free movies a day. I caught up on the classics and wrote movie reviews for Denver 'burbs newspapers and magazines. Currently, I am enjoying my new life as a new dad, but when there's free time, movies are standard. Comments and dialogue always encouraged. Happy Moviegoing!