Check out my new review of Quick over at Far East Films.
Wednesday, 17 July 2013
WIRED TO KILL (aka BOOBY TRAP) (1986)
Directed by: Frances Shaeffer
Written: by: Frances Shaeffer
Starring: Emily Longsreth, Devin Hoelshcer, Tiny Lister & Merritt Butrick
It’s 1998. It’s the future y’all. Well it was the future back in 1986 when this flick was made. The world ain’t the place it used to be, gangs run rampant terrorizing the neighbourhood and most of the cast look like they have just stepped off the set of one of the Mad Max films. So much like the real 1998 was then! Once such gang led by the slimy but well read Reegus (Butrick) are out on the town all jacked up on drugs looking to terrorize. When the first fancy building they plan to rob and ransack proves difficult to break into the gang head to a less affluent neighbourhood looking for an easier target. They pick the abode of Steve (Hoelshcer) who lives with his mum and grandma and has invited his new girlfriend Rebecca (Longsreth) over for dinner. Reegus and his crew attack the family and leave poor Steve crippled. However, the gang didn't bank on Steve being a technical wiz who has built his own robot: a robot he quickly adapts to war mode. After a little recuperation and much crying, Steve and Rebecca devise a plan to make the gang pay for what they did: killer robot style!
Wired to Kill (or as it’s also awesomely known over here in the UK, Booby Trap) is a mixed bag. On the one hand a groovy slice of 80s low budget sci-fi action schlock with a funky killer robot, on the other it’s a little slow going and even a bit arty never reaching its robot bent-on-revenge potential. Frances Shaeffer (who also directed the equally schlockly futuristic cum arty sci-fi action flick Rising Storm) makes proceedings just a little bit too serious robbing the film of some its kids-use-a-robot-to-take-revenge fun. On second thoughts, a family being attacked in their home by a vicious gang and left scarred by it is a serious subject matter not to be made fun of and some kudos to the filmmaker for not making light of it. His teen characters seem shaken by the whole ordeal and refreshingly don’t turn into cliché action heroes instead using their brains and wits (and their robot) to outsmart the gang, and they always appear shaken by what they have experienced and are now having to do.
The gang are also genuinely threatening their grubby look, continuous drug induced state and the unpredictability of when they might attack adding requisite menace. The film has a dark, grimy, industrial look and feel differentiating it from many of post apocalyptic future action movies of the time and while there should have been way more robot killing action the little bot is put to good use come the finale. Low tech by today’s CGI obsessed tastes, it’s still kinda cool seeing an old school robot trundling around with its claw killing bad guys.
Its doesn’t quite live up to its title(s) or awesome video covers and a heap more robot action would have made it a lot better but Wired to Kill is still an interesting and mostly entertaining sci-fi action oddity worth seeking out if you can find an old VHS copy.
Thursday, 11 July 2013
JENNY RINGO AND THE CABARET FROM HELL
Directed by: Chris Regan
Written by: Geraint D’Arcy
Starring: Rosie Duncan & Lukas Habberton
Taking a brief break from the action movie mayhem Cool Target loves, I review the really rather awesome comedy horror short film Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell.
Cabaret from Hell (great title) is the follow up to Chris Regan’s earlier short Jenny Ringo and the Monkey’s Paw which catches up with best friends and flatmates Jenny and Gavin. Eternally lazy Gavin (Habberton) is still whiling away his days playing video games, making a mess of the flat and constantly wearing his favourite dressing gown. Would be witch Jenny (Duncan) returns from work to find the flat in complete disarray and Gavin completely useless at correctly taking down phone messages: mistaking their landlords notice of eviction for a request to carry out a flat inspection. To make matters worse, Gavin also lost the money he was supposed to pay the rent with in a singing competition that he figured he was a shoe in to win. He was wrong. So how will the best mates overcome this most recent disaster, avoid eviction and salvage their friendship: why with an impromptu sex change spell, a musical called Splatterface (!) and in one moment of inspired zany Meta genius show the film crew actually filming the movie we are watching. Obviously.
Witty, fast paced, always inventive and featuring two very likeable lead characters, Cabaret from Hell is a fun ride dropping one liners, f-bombs and moments of creative genius with aplomb. At the heart of the film (much like the first instalment) is the friendship between Jenny and Gavin affectionately portrayed by Duncan and Habberton. Their chemistry is infectious, their modern approach to young life relatable and the two are equally amusing as their quest takes on ever increasing absurd twists and turns. Both Duncan and Habberton are great in these roles making each new bonkers adventure the two find themselves in a pleasure to watch
Mixing horror, comedy and musical numbers Regan and his team balance all elements well meaning creativity is always flowing as the characters flit from everyday conversations, to body swap shenanigans, to battling demons in a bucket! It doesn’t stop there with some nifty animated sequences spliced in as well, an all out musical number come the end and as mentioned above the brilliant bit where the films stops to show the film crew breaking for lunch. Awesome. With its mixture of genres, ample helping of comedy and constant inventiveness, Cabaret from Hell is a little like a more horror tinged version of Spaced but with a distinctive personality all of its own.
The comedy and overall vibe may not be to everyone’s taste but Cabaret from Hell is a unique horror comedy ride made with skill, ingenuity and affection and another round with Jenny Ringo would be very much appreciated. Oh and please, please make Splatterface for real!
Look out for Cabaret from Hell soon and you can watch the first film Jenny Ringo and the Monkey’s Paw over at www.jennyringo.com
Tuesday, 9 July 2013
Friday, 5 July 2013
NIGHT OF THE WARRIOR (1991)
Directed by: Rafael Zelinski
Written by: Thomas Ian Griffith
Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Kathleen Kinmont, Anthony Geary, Ken Foree, Jeff Imada, James Lew
Miles Keane (Lamas) rides a motorcycle, can rock the denim, runs a classy club with sexy dancers and is a badass fighter to boot. Determined to pay off a debt to local drug douche Lynch (Geary), Miles competes in illegal underground fights organised by the would be crime boss. The wicked fight that opens the film sees Miles finally clear his debt with Lynch and he rides off to pursue his passion for photography and woo local art student Katherine (Kinmont). All appears swell at first, their romance developing nicely but when another crime boss puts pressure on Lynch to organize a further brawl with his former prize fighter, Lynch then puts the pressure on Miles to knuckle up once more. Non-surprisingly, Miles doesn’t want to fight meaning Lynch resorts to increasingly desperate and violent ways to convince Miles to fight.
Now this sounds like your run of the mill early 90s fight tournament actioner and in many ways it is: a reluctant hero forced to fight, shady crime bosses organising the illegal tournament and some knuckle dusting fights. But Night of the Warrior, penned by former 90s action star Thomas Ian Griffith (Excessive Force), is a little different, often stylish and a whole lot of fight tournament entertainment. Despite the low budget and dated look and fashions, Night of the Warrior is very well shot for an early 90s straight to video fight film, some excellent photography giving the film a great look. With photography being a main theme it gives the director an excuse to fill the film with stylish flourishes (photo montages, slinky dance sequences, groovy slow motion) that help accentuate the film’s noir trappings. In fact, Night of the Warrior could be best described as a noir martial arts film, making it stand out from many of the other straight to video fight films of the 90s: including many of Lamas’s own films. Always a watchable action star that had a fairly lengthy action career, Lamas is on fine form here. Kinmont (an action star herself) doesn't get to fight here but has good chemistry with Lamas and the bad guys are nicely fleshed out with former Dawn of the Dead star Ken Foree on hand as an obnoxious henchman.
For action fans, Night of the Warrior could be a sort of marmite film: you’ll either love it or hate it. The film is as much about style, character and taking its time to get to the big end fight as it is with cheap action thrills. While some of the styling looks dated and may put some off, it still adds an extra element to an otherwise routine story. In addition, there isn’t as much fight action as one may expect either: there being as many dance scenes as there are fights! Much more concerned with the noir crime aspects of the story, Night of the Warrior isn’t packed with fight action but on the other hand it doesn't really need to be. The story is well told, the characters engaging and the several fights that are featured are quality. Lamas gets to strut his stuff in the two big fights that bookend the film showing some impressive skill and even gets to fight genre stalwart James Lew (Red Sun Rising) in the final fight. However, the best fight is the one that opens the film. Sustained, well shot with some fluid camera moves, it is a nicely choreographed fight from a time when action films let fights play out so we could see what was happening. In fact, the first fight is so good the rest of the film has trouble living up to the great opening.
A good fight film and something a little different at the same time, Night of the Warrior is a pleasant discovery and one of Lamas’ best.