Silver Emulsion

Film Reviews

Uncle Jasper reviews: Chopping Mall (1986)

Chopping Mall (1986)

Starring Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Suzee Slater, Dick Miller

Directed by Jim Wynorski


As much as I’d like to tell you that Chopping Mall contains some great subtext about rabid consumerism, it really doesn’t. Search deep and you may drag out a few sketchy hints at social commentary, but apart from a short opening credit montage featuring fast food trays, bikini clad models, and other rudimentary symbols of American tawdriness and convenience-worship, it’s really just a fantastic little movie about a bunch of (mostly) unlikable young store workers being hunted down by killer robots. And by golly, that’s all you really need. A lot of potentially great films have been ruined by ambition. Chopping Mall takes ambition and shoots it in the back of the fucking neck with a mini harpoon claw.

Whereas some films come off as slaves to convention, Chopping Mall seems to revel in it. This is a veritable masterpiece of contrived cinema right here folks, and because of this it soars. Who gives a fuck if the plot is more or less directly ripped off from Dawn of the Dead? Who cares if the mall’s sporting goods store seems to only be stocked with high-powered assault rifles and tactical-edge 12 gauge shotguns? The lesson here is a simple one, people trapped in shopping malls fighting shit that wants to kill them is awesome. No need to shy away from that fact. There really is no end to the zany fun to be had here. Testosterone-addled characters spit out goofy one-liners like “Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambogram” while posturing all macho and shit. A pursued heroine has nowhere to hide except for an ill-lighted pet shop… Trying hard to remain silent, escaped snakes and hairy tarantulas climb all over her. About two-thirds of the way through, with the odds stacked against our survivors and no escape in sight, one of them conveniently gets an idea about shutting down “the main computer”. Oh man, THE MAIN COMPUTER! …of course!! Why didn’t we think about that sooner?!

Why the hell not? Allow yourself to be whisked away by convention here. This is the world of Chopping Mall. A world where a few gallons of spilled paint and a road flare can level an entire hardware store. A world where antiquated security drones vaporize a screaming woman’s head into red watermelon spray, raw hamburger, and bone splinters within the blink of an eye. I don’t even think they mention why the robots go apeshit and begin indiscriminately killing people in the first place. I don’t care. I love this movie.

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December 6, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Science Fiction, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Jasper reviews: Witchboard (1986)

Witchboard (1986)

Starring Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Clare Bristol, Burke Byrnes, Kathleen Wilhoite

Directed By Kevin S. Tenny


Before Kevin Tenny brought us Night of the Demons he gave us Witchboard, the first film of the semi-famed second-tier horror franchise. Witchboard is a surprisingly solid horror film (and unexpected homoerotic soap opera) that succeeds without resorting to much gore. I usually carry pretty high expectations in terms of gratuitous blood and guts in horror films of the era. The fact that Witchboard gets a pass in spite of its splatter deficit says a lot I think.

I think one of the most amazing things however, is that the film manages to carry itself with enough dignity and well crafted scares despite being completely riddled from top to bottom with unlikable characters. Honestly, I don’t think anybody in this film is exempt from being a front-runner for 1986’s Asshole of the Year™ award (which ultimately went to Oliver North). You have the moody drunk carpenter, the-know-it-all elitist douche, the hormonal junkie sexpot, and the obnoxious hermaphrodite psychic. I suppose the film wants you to identify with one of these characters, but to me the only one worth rooting for was the axe murdering spirit, who at least had the common decency to put the business end of a giant hatchet in a few of these miserable bastards.

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November 22, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Horror, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: Vamp (1986)

Vamp (1986)

Starring Chris Makepeace, Sandy Baron, Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe, Grace Jones, Billy Drago

Directed By Richard Wenk


 

Let me get this out of the way. Vamp is a fucking hoot. It’s a genuinely superb horror comedy in the same vein as Fright Night and Night of the Creeps, but it oozes enough style and a quirky tongue-in-cheek swagger to really set itself apart from the pack. There are a lot of vampire films out there, and a lot of those were made in the 80s, but only one of them features the 9 foot tall, Manute Bol lookalike Grace Jones as a freaky vampire stripper who partakes in jugular snacks from young frat boys and rips the hearts out from insolent servants.

Indeed, Vamp strikes its campy tone right off the bat and runs with it. From the clever first scene you know exactly what you’re getting into. The action follows Keith and AJ, a couple of college dregs doing what they can to enter some freaky, high-brow fraternity. With their hope almost lost, they pledge to bring in booze and strippers in a last ditch attempt to gain acceptance. With the help of uber-prep Duncan (played by Gedde Watanabe of Sixteen Candles fame) the trio embark on a trip to the big city in search of the alluring “After Hours Club”. Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking… this is no different from the goofy college boy antics I’ve seen before in Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. Can’t argue with that, but it’s during Vamp’s second act that things take a turn for the better.

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November 15, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ghost Warrior (1986)

Ghost Warrior (1986)
AKA Swordkill

Starring Hiroshi Fujioka, John Calvin, Janet Julian, Charles Lampkin, Frank Schuller, Bill Morey, Andy Wood, Robert Kino

Directed by J. Larry Carroll

Expectations: Low. The concept is great, but I don’t wanna get my hopes up.


 

Forget everything you know about physics and medical science and get ready for a pretty serious little movie about a frozen samurai. Yes, you read that right I said serious and frozen samurai in the same sentence. Admittedly, when I heard the premise for this film, I simultaneously squealed and cringed, as something this good has an ultimate potential to disappoint. Surprisingly, that’s not the case though as Ghost Warrior is one very enjoyable film.

Ghost Warrior is about an ancient samurai named Yoshimitsu who falls in battle in the 1500s, landing in an icy lake at the moment of his death. Through some simple twist of fate his body is preserved until the 1980s when two skiers happen into an ice cave and notice a hand frozen in a stalagmite. The body is rushed to the California Cryonics Institute where the scientists are tasked with performing an autopsy on this rare and important anthropological discovery. The head honcho has another plan though… to bring the ancient warrior back to life!

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November 2, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Drama, Fantasy, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Breeders (1986)

Breeders (1986)

Starring Teresa Farley, Lance Lewman, Frances Raines, Natalie O’Connell, Amy Brentano, LeeAnne Baker, Matt Mitler, Adriane Lee

Directed by Tim Kincaid

Expectations: Moderate. The poster looks awesome.


 

If I had noticed that this was a Wizard Video release prior to sitting down with it, I might have tempered my moderate expectations a bit. The only release of theirs I’ve reviewed so far was the god-awful trashfest Dreamaniac, so after the opening titles I had flashbacks to the boring mess that was that film. Thankfully, Breeders isn’t quite as bad, but it’s nowhere close to good either.

In what is probably the most impoverished story yet in our horrific October, an alien is under the city raping virgins. That’s literally it. There’s a doctor and a cop trying to figure out what is going on but they don’t have a fucking clue and neither does writer/director Tim Kincaid. After doing some research, I learned that Mr. Kincaid, in addition to directing a couple of science fiction B-Movies, is primarily a homosexual porn director. You never would have guessed it from the footage taken in Breeders though, as it features hands down some of the most gratuitous female nudity of all time. Whenever nudity comes around in any film, I always find myself questioning it and wondering if it is necessary or gratuitous. The debate only raged for about a second on this film, as it is clearly exploitative. Does every girl in the city strip nude when they arrive home? They do in this movie! The film ends with all the nude women writhing in an alien pool of white goo (symbolism?) for about the last five minutes of screen time. No shit.

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October 29, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Horror, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1/2 Star, Science Fiction, Trash | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond (1986)

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel, Ken Foree, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Bunny Summers, Bruce McGuire

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Expectations: High. I enjoyed Gordon’s first film Re-Animator a lot.


 

To get right to the point, if you enjoyed Re-Animator and you haven’t seen this, then you’ve got one more movie to add to your queue. From Beyond is a worthy follow-up to what director Stuart Gordon achieved in Re-Animator and features the same over-the-top, gross-out hilarity. It doesn’t equal the previous film, but it gets pretty close. Like Re-Animator, this is another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. I must admit that I’ve never read any of his work, so I don’t know how faithful this is to the original tale. If his original story is truly this whacked out though, then I definitely need to check out some of his work to fill my insatiable hunger for this kind of twisted filth. The story here has Jeffrey Combs in a similar role to his character from Re-Animator, Herbert West. Combs plays Crawford who is an assistant to a scientist creating a Resonator machine that stimulates the pineal gland in the human brain through sound waves, allowing those affected to see another layer of reality where eels and jellyfish swim in the air. It’s also highly dangerous, on one hand due to its addictiveness and on the other hand because this realm is inhabited by a no-bullshit monster that promptly twists the head off of Combs’ mentor. Combs is accused of the murder and taken to a mental hospital, where he intrigues a psychologist (Barbara Crampton) enough to talk the hospital into releasing him into her custody. They venture back to the house along with Ken Foree and attempt to recreate the event in order to prove that Combs is sane. Don’t question it, just enjoy it.

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October 19, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Horror, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

TerrorVision (1986)

TerrorVision (1986)

Starring Chad Allen, Diane Franklin, Mary Woronov, Gerrit Graham, Bert Remsen, Jon Gries, Jennifer Richards, Alejandro Rey, Randi Brooks, Frank Welker

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Moderate.


 

If you’re looking for a serious injection of the 1980s into your life, then look no further than this morally questionable little film, Terrorvision. Everything in this movie is dripping with the kind of Velveeta that only the 1980s could produce. The thing is, this only goes so far and unfortunately it ends up working against itself. After the initial laughs have passed, it all gets really tiring because at the heart of the matter, this really would have worked a lot better as a short.

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October 15, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dreamaniac (1986)

Dreamaniac (1986)

Starring Thomas Bern, Ashlyn Gere (as Kim McKamy), Sylvia Summers, Brent Black, Cynthia Crass, Lisa Emery, Brad Laughlin, Linda Denise Martin, Bob Pelham, Lauren Peterson, Matthew Phelps, Michael Warren

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low. I have a bad feeling about this one.

(NO STARS)


 

Now this is what I’m talking about when I talk about a piece-of-shit movie. Dreamaniac makes Troll 2 look like a Lawrence of Arabia style epic in comparison. Where Troll 2 backs up its poor execution with tons of fun, Dreamanic is an absolute chore to sit through whilst retaining your sanity. One of the worst knocks against a low-level horror movie is boredom and let me tell you, Snoremaniac would be a more apt title. Having to recall and write about this film may end up being more painful than actually viewing it.

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October 12, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Horror, Movie Reviews, Rating: 0 Stars, Trash | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Troll (1986)

Troll (1986)

Starring Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Jenny Beck, June Lockhart, Sonny Bono, Shelley Hack, Phil Fondacaro, Anne Lockhart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Sandy

Directed by John Carl Buechler

Expectations: Moderate.


There’s a lot of films that are just plain bad. There are a few though that can transcend the steamy birthing pit of awful and become something truly enjoyable. Troll is one such film and it was a distinct pleasure to watch. I felt like the stars had aligned, the tides had synchronized, the rubber band at the crux of the universe had been perfectly tightened. I locked into the Troll mythos and never looked back. This is truly one of the crowning gems of the Empire International catalog.

Troll tells the story of a family moving into a new apartment building. Upon their arrival the young daughter of the clan explores the downstairs laundry room and is accosted by a troll! The troll assumes control of her body and takes her place amongst the family. Immediately it is obvious that she has changed, as she ravenously tears into an open-faced hamburger and then wigs out with the thrill of consuming meat and runs around the entire building screaming, “Ratburgers!” The troll continues its rampage throughout the film, slowly taking over the entire building, one apartment at a time.

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October 5, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Fantasy, Horror, Kids, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: Combat Shock (1986)

Combat Shock (1986)

Starring Rick Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio, Asaph Livni, Nick Nasta, Michael Tierno, Leo Lunney

Directed By Buddy Giovinazzo


Wow. Now this is just some dismal shit. I have just made it through Buddy Giovinazzo’s low budget gritfest, Combat Shock and I feel very fortunate that I am not on Prozac or prone to manic bouts of depression. The results could be devastating. Pound for pound you will be hard pressed to find a film more unflinchingly brutal and uncompromising in its depiction of a troubled mind teetering precariously on the brink of madness than you will here. If you thought your life was bad, just wait until you walk a mile in the shoes of Frankie Dunlan. This poor man has more shit on his plate than a tapeworm-infected bulimic at Hometown Buffet.

The obvious inspiration here is Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The film doesn’t even pretend to disguise this fact. Certain situations and even wardrobe choices are lifted directly from that film. But after one viewing of this film Travis Bickle himself would have had an epiphany and realized he didn’t have it so bad. He probably would have turned himself right around and started a flower garden while huddling down with some chamomile tea and season 1 of Dora the Explorer. Not to downplay Taxi Driver, it’s one of my all-time favorite films. But if I had seen Combat Shock at the same time as Scorsese’s film there is no question which one would have had the greater lasting impact.

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August 9, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews, War | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment