Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2020: Texas Gladiators (1984)

The year is 2020 and survivors grasp on to life and what little bit of organized society and humanity still exists in the shadow of an atomic holocaust. The land is barren and desolate and gangs fight for women, money and land. The Rangers are a group with a goal or restoring some sort of order to the world and that means kicking the collective ass of all these freaks and baddies.

The film opens in a nondescript run down old building where one of the gangs have captured a priest and two nuns and are forcing themselves upon the nuns and torturing the priest. The Rangers arrive and even more hell breaks loose as they clear out the building of the gang, where they find one captive woman, a beautiful blond. One of The Rangers forces himself upon her and when the others find him they kick him out for breaking the rules and their trust. Nisus (Al Cliver) bonds with the woman who tells him of a place where society still exists just 3 days from where they are.

Now in Texas at a refinery/plant where a nice organized little town has been built around and the occupants try to carry on life. Nisus and his new love, Maida (Sabrina Siani) help raise Maida's daughter who is about seven years old, until the town falls under attack by a motorcycle gang. After fending them off in a lengthy gun fight the gang calls in the reinforcements which is a uniformed militant group armed with futuristic bulletproof shields that have giant holes in the middle so they can still fire their weapons... the giant holes are still bulletproof though. The militant group's leader enslaves the town and forces them to work the mines. He sends his top bounty hunter to kill The rest of the The Rangers. Nisus is killed when he breaks free from captivity and tries to kill the man that raped his woman but is quite easily killed due to being outnumbered.

The Rangers now want to save the town to restore some peace and order to the war torn world and the rest of the movie is basically a big fight scene spanning what has to be hundreds or thousands of miles. The Rangers realize they can't kill the militant group who has the futuristic weapons so they enlist the help of a local Native American tribe after they prove they're strong enough. When the warriors reach the town to free them another big fight breaks out for control of the town and the Natives really show their worth and help take down the militants.

2020: Texas Gladiators is another Joe D'Amato ripoff that he made his living off of. The film is endlessly violent and moves at a very brisk pace which are the main strong points of the movie. It doesn't get many points for story or writing as it is very jumpy from major scene to major scene. Just when you think Nisus is the main character he's killed off with very little to-do about it and we have a new main character. There are of course some flaws in logic but none bigger than those futuristic bulletproof shields that can stop bullets even where there isn't actual shield but the Indian's arrows go right on through? That doesn't make a bit of sense to me but this is the fun nonsense we're faced with.

The acting isn't really good but gets the job done, if you're expecting award winning stuff you should just move right along. There should be plenty of boobs and blood to keep you mildly entertained for the duration, if only a better story had been put together this could have been a nice standout. Instead 2020: Texas Gladiators will forever be lumped into the middle of the pack of these Mad Max ripoffs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Gardener (a.k.a. Seeds Of Evil) (1975)

The back of the DVD cover states "The Gardener is flowery mix of 70s mod-art film, grindhouse horror and Italian giallo along the lines of horror maestros Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci." What a load of shit that turned out to be.

Ellen and her husband John are a well-off couple living in Costa Rica where Ellen spends her time lounging, and sipping cocktails with her best friend Helena. Ellen hires a mysterious gardener named Carl (frequent Warhol collaborator Joe Dallesandro) to do some gardening work and bring the place some color and life. Soon after, Ellen's cook tries to warn her that Carl is no good and evil. Strange events follow Carl including, being drawn to watch him the early hours of the morning, the sudden illness of the family's previous landscaper, deaths, and flowers blooming to life that are not in season.

Eventually Ellen becomes too obsessed with the goings of Carl and Helena offers to hire him from her. It isn't long before Helena's life is in danger, Ellen is brainwashed and Carl turns into a tree.

Practically nothing of any significance happens in the 87 minutes that THE GARDENER was on the screen. It is mostly spent sitting around watching both female leads talk about one thing or another with the conversation also holding little to no significance. The little bits and pieces of meaningful movie are so plainly stupid that it's just a total chore to sit through.

For James H. Kay this would be his only directing or writing credit and it is no wonder why. He is totally incapable of bringing any life or excitement or any quality that resembles a living, breathing organism to the weak script. To say the acting is wooden is an understatement. The story is weak, but I suppose that is where the "mod-art film" aspect comes in to play. Too bad this film falls far short of art on any level. The grand finale should have left a powerful image in the viewer's mind all it left was a palm in my face.

The artwork for this film was both original and eye-catching. The plot could have been a piece of trippy and cheesy gold. Instead I'm left with a movie I couldn't wait to be over and some neat artwork. A friend of mine saved the DVD of Murder Set Pieces until our summer vacation last year so he could punt it into the Atlantic Ocean because he hated it so much. I might have found something to send to the depths of the Atlantic right alongside of it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In A Glass Cage (1987)

That was draining.

Klaus is a former Nazi doctor who found a fetish for loving, torturing and killing young boys while serving under the Swastika. His sickness continues into his isolation until a failed suicide attempt leaves him paralyzed and dependent on an iron lung. His wife Griselda and daughter Rena live with him and care for him while a maid handles the housework. One day Angelo comes to the home offering his services as a nurse for Klaus. Griselda immediately dislikes the man and tells him to leave but Klaus insists on him staying, even after it becomes clear Angelo has no medical training.

It is soon revealed that Angelo was a boy Klaus tormented. Angelo stole the diary that deeply detailed the crimes Klaus committed, and is now reading the stories back to Klaus and recreating the events. Angelo is set on punishing Klaus for his crimes but is obsessed with becoming the same man Klaus was. Angelo slips deeper and deeper into his childhood tormentor's mind until he finally believes he is Klaus and sends Rena into his own role.

Tras el Cristal, or, In A Glass Cage is a beautifully crafted film from director Augusti Villaronga. It is filled with images that will stick in your mind long after the credits roll. Horrible images. Beautiful images. And more often than not, a bizarre mixture of the two. The cast is more than convincing in bringing the great script to life.

This is much more than a horror film. In A Glass Cage will push you and challenge your personal limits. It isn't a fun movie, and never claims to be. You won't sit down with a big bag of popcorn or some Sour Patch Kids and have a blast while watching this. If you do decide to watch it you'll find something strangely beautiful, made with great skill and artistic vision. This is a great film.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hostel 3 (2011)

Every horror franchise I can think of reaches a point where it ceases to be any good. Hostel has reached that point.

Scott is soon to be married and on his way to his bacelor party trip with his best friend Carter, only to find out that their destination isn't going to be based around the golf links, but in Las Vegas with Scott's other best friends Justin and Mike. After meeting a couple of girls in a casino who tell them about a "freaky" place off the strip to party the real bachelor party is underway. A feeding tube 40oz, plenty of naked women and more random people than you'd know what to do with are the setting inside of this sketchy warehouse. After the night of partying Mike and the escort he was with disappear and eventually they get a message from his phone to meet them at a motel where they are gassed by masked men and brought back to a dingy room and housed inside of metal cages. Carter reveals his Elite Hunting Club tattoo and they free him where he has a meeting with the bigwigs of the club. It's revealed that this is all a setup on Scott because Carter wants his woman. Scott and Carter end up fighting with swords and a mace before all hell breaks loose at the club setting up a really cliched twist ending.

Scott Spiegel, best know for directing INTRUDER and for his various roles working on Sam Raimi films, directs the first HOSTEL entry to go straight to video and to not be directed by Eli Roth. Spiegel's direction is bland and uninspired but so is the rest of the film. The editing suffers from fast jumpy music video style editing at times that plagues many independent horror films. The photography looks plain awful on more than one occasion, notably during a couple of hand to hand fight scenes. There is a ghosting lag that looks like a shitty video game connection on the internet. The effects are cheaply done and don't really hide themselves. Look for a scene with cockroaches and sparks from a cane to see exactly what I mean. Aside from all of that the cast does a nice job for the most part. They carried a rather weak script and made it believable and aside from hamming it up on occasion the acting was the bright spot of the movie. I wish we could have seen more from Thomas Kretschmann though.

Obviously this movie had more budget limitations than the previous entries of the series had (which were by no means big budget films) but there wasn't much about Hostel 3 that really worked to make the best of it. The switch in setting from Eastern Europe to Las Vegas had pros and cons. It was cool to see a bit more of the EHC, and I suppose it works as a linked international organization, with different chapters or clubhouses but the real world sketchiness that Eastern Europe has provided in the not so distant past, along with the unknowing-tourist-in-peril aspect really added to the atmosphere of the first two movies for me. A seedy hostel in a small town of Slovakia would be scarier to me than anywhere in Las Vegas.

Hostel 3 doesn't have a whole lot going for it. Love him or hate him, it really would have benefited from Eli Roth behind the camera. It probably won't be the worst movie I watch in 2012 but this isn't exactly how I wanted to start out the new year.