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

Laserblast (1978)

Laserblast (1978)

Starring Kim Milford, Cheryl Smith, Gianni Russo, Ron Masak, Dennis Burkley, Barry Cutler, Mike Bobenko, Eddie Deezen, Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall

Directed by Michael Rae

Expectations: Low. The boring pace of End of the World leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


Laserblast reportedly had a budget of $280,000, and producer Charles Band knew just where to spend it. Virtually every penny was sunk straight into entertainment and a finale that delivers slow-motion explosion after slow-motion explosion, further proving that the worth of a movie can exist on explosions alone. Add in some killer stop-motion aliens and a giant laserblaster as cherries on top and we’ve got ourselves a movie!

Laserblast opens as a crazed freak with a giant laserblaster on his arm jumps around in the desert. An alien ship lands and two upright-walking turtles without shells get out and pull their own, smaller laser guns. A short fight ensues, but the aliens are too clever and end up singeing the dude into fine black ash. They board their ship and set out for the far-reaches of the galaxy, but they forgot one thing. The human’s giant laserblaster!

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November 30, 2010 Posted by | 1970s, Good Trash, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mini-Review: Splice (2010)

Splice (2010)

Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlett, Abigail Chu

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Expectations: Low.


Splice starts off rather well, peaks about forty minutes in, and then slowly declines until the last fifteen minutes or so. At this point it reaches the cliff of the Grand Canyon and jumps off into oblivion. Despite this bullshit final reel, Splice is actually pretty enjoyable for the most part and is surprisingly shocking at times, even to my depraved mind. Throughout the film the story hinted and teased that it might go down a certain path, but being a studio picture I thought it wouldn’t dare actually do it. They do go there and it’s shocking both visually and morally when they do. When you really think about what you’re witnessing, it’s some twisted shit and I wouldn’t have expected a major Hollywood picture to be this fucked up. It’s a shame that the script wasn’t as good as it could have been, because Splice isn’t too far away from being great, at least in the idea department. The elements are clearly here but the weak, plodding script lacks tension and genuine narrative flow. Even still, Splice is a lot better than I expected it to be.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are both adequate as the genetic research couple, but the star of the show is really Delphine Chanéac as their creation. Without revealing too much, she manages to encompass the questioning nature of her character and the mannerisms associated with her unique situation. The FX are great as well, as director Vincenzo Natali wisely has the masters at KNB providing killer practical FX that get as much screen time as their CG counterparts. The integration between the two is very well done and helps to sell the over-the-top plot to even the most jaded viewer. KNB’s work dominates the majority of close-up FX shots, allowing the intense details of the physical models to inform your mind when the less detailed CG versions take the reigns for the medium-range shots. Natali’s shot selection and framing is also excellent and adds quite a bit of intrigue and interest to the film through clever camerawork and beautiful cinematography.

The final reel is pretty piss-poor though, as it’s pretty clear that they had run out of ideas half an hour earlier. Any goodwill built up over the course of the film is quickly dissipated and the film ends with a telegraphed, bullshit moment that was only inserted so a sequel could be churned out if the film proved successful. Oh well, it was pretty fun while it lasted.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

End of the World (1977)

End of the World (1977)

Starring Christopher Lee, Sue Lyon, Kirk Scott, Dean Jagger, Lew Ayres, Macdonald Carey, Liz Ross

Directed by John Hayes

Expectations: Low, but it has Christopher Lee so that’s something.


Plainly put, End of the World is awful. Just wanted to get that out-of-the-way. It’s awful in one of the worst ways a movie can be awful too. It’s excruciatingly boring. So boring that the entire film is summed up within the Netflix summary paragraph, leaving out only minor occurrences. Next to nothing happens in this one, but surprisingly the movie ends on such a high note that I can’t help but think back fondly on the experience. This is the other 1977 film about first contact with alien lifeforms, and actually was released a few months before the more famous film.

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November 23, 2010 Posted by | 1970s, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1/2 Star, Science Fiction, Trash | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Starring Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban, J. Patrick McNamara, Warren J. Kemmerling, Roberts Blossom, Philip Dodds, Cary Guffey

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Expectations: Love it. Haven’t seen it in a while.


 

Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a masterful film, bursting at the seams with a wealth of beautifully composed shots, wonderful John Williams music and a great sense of wonder. This is the kind of film only a budding filmmaker could have made, a true love letter to the dreamer fueled on passion and heart. This is made all the more interesting by the fact that in this case, the dream itself is implanted into our hero’s mind by the extraterrestrials. Much in the same way, Spielberg has inserted his own vision of first contact into millions of minds, forever changing the way we look at aliens.

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November 13, 2010 Posted by | 1970s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Rating: 4 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Crash and Burn (1990)

Crash and Burn (1990)

Starring Paul Ganus, Megan Ward, Ralph Waite, Bill Moseley, Eva La Rue, Jack McGee, Elizabeth Maclellan, Katherine Armstrong

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: Moderate. I don’t expect the movie to be good, but at least it has giant robots.


 

Oh Crash and Burn, why did you go and pull the bait and switch on me? Why do you promise another big robot spectacle ala Robot Jox, only to provide a sub-standard Blade Runner / Terminator / Alien mashup? I should know better than to go in with distinct expectations, but they really got me this time. The clever ruse of putting a giant robot on the box art and titling the film Robot Jox 2: Crash and Burn in some markets should have clued me in, but I was coming off the high of watching Robot Jox and what can I say? I was pumped.

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November 9, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Horror, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: Robot Jox (1990)

Robot Jox (1990)

Starring Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo, Robert Sampson, Danny Kamekona, Hilary Mason, Michael Alldredge

Directed By Stuart Gordon


 

My scarce memories of Robot Jox stem more from the trailer than from my first (and only) viewing of the film way back in the early 90s. When Will and I were scheduling reviews for the remainder of 2010, I plopped Robot Jox on there as an excuse to revisit this long forgotten gem after all of these years. Imagine my surprise when Will got back to me with the news that it was an Empire film! …Doh! Being only about 11 years old at the time, I obviously had no idea. Since Will is our resident expert on all things Charles Band, I was a little wary about taking the reigns, but he has given his blessing and I’m proud to contribute my first entry into the long running Empire / Full Moon series here at Silver Emulsion!

Any movie fan who even occasionally dips their feet into the waters of Science Fiction no doubt has seen their share of dystopian futures. You have heavy-handed, big-brother police states like 1984, rain-slicked neon cyberpunk slums ala Blade Runner, and the savage survival world of Mad Max. That’s all fine and dandy, but all we really need to solve the serious problems of the future are gigantic fucking robots stomping the balls off of each other out in the arid hills of Death Valley.

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November 8, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Action, Movie Reviews, Science Fiction, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 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