Monday, July 30, 2012

Summerfest 4 Recap

 I know, you're thinking "Wait, what Summer Fest? How did I not hear about this?" Well, the truth is that Summer Fest 4's gestation has been long in the conceptual phase and sudden in its transition to reality. The Cap'n didn't really know when (or if) Summer Fest was going to happen this year. After last year's abortive attempt to get things off the ground, this year's marathon of all things schlocky and horror came together so quickly I barely had time to contact friends in town, let alone ones from further away.

 Also unlike previous Fests, I limited Summer Fest 4 to one day, which had its pros and cons. The downside is that, as usual, I programmed more movies than we had time to watch, but the upside is that we ended up with all killer, no filler. I'll get into a breakdown of what we watched shortly, but as Summer Fest 4 was a consensus "hit," I may have finally landed on the formula five years in to its existence.

 Horror Fest was always designed to showcase classic horror films, creepy flicks, and generally crowd rousing flicks throughout horror history. Summer Fest was designed, in concept, to be a looser affair - we would watch horror comedies, B-movies, ridiculous failures, and "what the hell were they thinking?" movies. Summer Fest introduced us to Blood Car, Terrorvision, Hillbillys in a Haunted House, ThanksKilling, and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, as well as noble failures like The Descent Part 2, Uncle Sam, The Navy vs. the Night Monsters, My Bloody Valentine 3D, and Alien Apocalypse.

 For a while, I tried to mix in more recognizable horror and slasher fare into summer programming, with mixed results. The Friday the 13th films are a natural fit (summer camp), but The Prowler didn't work so well, the legendary Troll 2 fell flat, and while Creepshow and Shaun of the Dead were fun, they felt out of place. This year, by hook or by crook, I decided to just go crazy with the picks, and as you'll see, they epitomized what's great about Summer Fest.

 The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 - Just to clear things up immediately, this is the sequel to the original The Hills Have Eyes and not the sequel to the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Made in 1984, right after the surprise success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven apparently decided to cash in on his horror clout by writing and directing a sequel nobody was asking for.

 Where do I start with The Hills Have Eyes Part 2? Should I mention fact that Bobby and Ruby, two characters from the first film, return for no real reason. Bobby doesn't even go back to the desert, so the scene where his psychiatrist tries to convince him to is just an excuse for a flashback to the end of The Hills Have Eyes. Meanwhile, we DO follow the rest of the Yamaha Dirt Bike Racing team (with their "Super Formula" racing fuel) into the desert and down the same unmarked road because they forgot about daylight savings time!

 Ruby (the member of the cannibal family who did escape) is all grown up and Beast (the dog who attacked Michael Berryman's Pluto) join the team for no apparent reason, although it does mean we get a DOG FLASHBACK once the team's bus runs out of gas and they find an abandoned (?) mine. Of course, it's not abandoned, because Pluto is joined by Papa Jupiter's brother, The Reaper. They promptly steal a dirt bike to separate the team and then start killing them. But NOT eating them. No, Reaper likes to kill people and then dump them down a mine shaft (Pluto tells Ruby that before her character just disappears).

 Look, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is a terrible movie. There's a major character that is blind and while we may not have been the most attentive audience members, we didn't realize she was supposed to be blind until halfway through the movie, just before she says it. Honestly, it seemed like Craven forgot he needed to make it clear she couldn't see, so suddenly a character who was walking around a moving bus with no problem is groping around the mysterious cabin late in the movie (but climbing down a ladder and up a rope despite not knowing where they go). Oh, and she's also psychic. Sometimes. This is as unnecessary a sequel as they come, but we had a blast trying to make sense of the mess.

 Carpool - A short film I first saw at the Nevermore Film Festival, a young woman is harassed by her boss until he accidentally dies and she tries to sneak the body out. Things compound as witnesses get in the way and her lust for murder grows. I think it's a little bumpy but overall pretty enjoyable.

 The Galaxy Invader - I first heard about this from Red Letter Media, who holds it up as a great "bad" movie, and I have to concur. Don Dohler's ridiculous movie about an alien who lands in the woods near the most dysfunctional hillbillies and yokels Maryland can produce. The alien isn't even that hostile, as he happily leads a college student and his professor into the woods after they rescue him. For a "Galaxy Invader," he (it?) only behaves with hostility when a gang of backwoods psychos try to capture / kill him.

 In truth, the "Galaxy Invader" isn't the most interesting part of the movie, as the perpetually dysfunctional Montague family provides most of the entertainment. Joe, the father with a t-shirt that has three of four large holes in it, chases his oldest daughter into the woods with a shotgun after she accuses him of ripping off her boyfriend's father. And it's not the first time he's tried to KILL his daughter after an argument at the breakfast table. It's a good thing that Joe and his 40-50 year old son JJ find the "Invader," shoot him, and steals the power source for his ray gun.

 Joe decides to sell it to Frank Custor, a dubious guy with a habit of smoking a magic cigar (the size constantly changes), drinking a can of Busch (unsolicited product placement), and wearing a hat that doesn't really fit. Instead of buying it, Custor talks Joe into putting on a flannel shirt (holes still showing) and going to the local watering hole to find more yokels to hunt the alien, who steals the power source from JJ (but doesn't kill him). In all honesty, the nonsensical domestic drama is more of the focus in The Galaxy Invader than, well, a Galaxy Invader, but the cheapness, bad acting, shoddy direction and cheesy special effects make it worth watching after kicking back a few.

 Tub - I don't want to say too much about Tub because it's better that you find this short film online and see what happens when a guy accidentally knocks up his... bath tub.

 Rise of the Animals - I must admit that I'm a little surprised that Rise of the Animals is regarded so poorly on IMDB and by user reviews on Rotten Tomatoes*. After watching the pre-credit sequence, I had hopes that it would be the low budget splatterfest of the Fest like Blood Car and ThanksKilling before it. It's not quite on the level of those two, but Rise of the Animals has a "can-do" attitude, a healthy sense of humor, some amusing puppet work, and sparingly bizarre CGI to keep moving things along. I'd put it up with last fall's The Puppet Monster Massacre as a no-budget wonder that uses the cheapness to its advantage. It has some memorable characters, decent gore, and we had a good chuckle as it continued to tell a story of animals deciding to start killing people, often in horribly violent ways.

 Blarghaaahrgarg - From the makers of Banana Motherfucker, a short I was unable to catch at Nevermore (but Neil has been raving about) comes the story of an exterminator who ends up facing down a, uh, booger monster. A booger monster with a ravenous appetite, terrible digestion, and a propensity for murder. It's a fast paced, gross, and funny, even for people who hate reading subtitles.

 Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies - Ah, The Asylum. They specialize in releasing knock-offs of movies playing in theaters (like Transmorphers and American Battleship) designed to trick people too lazy to pay attention. I call it "Grandparent / Uncle" syndrome, where family member who vaguely remember you wanting to see Transformers and see a movie that looks kind of like what they heard, so they buy it for you. They also were responsible for Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, a former Summer Fest movie.

 To be honest, I don't plan on seeing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter but when it was suggested we watch this instead of Demons, the consensus was "well, why not?" I mean, if it sucked, we could turn it off. We didn't turn it off, but that doesn't mean it didn't suck.

 Sure, I could nitpick the anachronisms (the concrete in Fort Pulaski and corrugated steel in Savannah where the zombie outbreak happens) or make fun of the misuse of the Secret Service or the idea that Lincoln mentors both Pat Garrett and a young Teddy Roosevelt while secretly fighting zombies in Georgia - much to the chagrin of Stonewall Jackson (I am not making this up) while John Wilkes Booth is a double agent in the Secret Service as "John Wilkins." And Porkins, I can't forget Porkins. I could mention the single shot rifles that don't need to be reloaded, or the secret prostitute that Lincoln has a history with (but her daughter isn't Lincolns, never fear, they wouldn't go THAT far).

 But instead, let's talk about the fact that early on it's established that Abraham Lincoln kills zombies with a collapsible scythe he keeps in his jacket. He repeatedly tells his Secret Service that shooting zombies in the head makes too much noise and they should find ways to sever the head, but he seems to forget about the only cool weapon in the entire movie for most of the movie. Lincoln is even shooting at the undead during the climactic battle when they blow up Fort Pulaski to wipe out all the zombies in Georgia and save the union. Then he makes the Gettysburg address, is bitten by a zombie, and sends Booth a letter asking him to assassinate him. That is why we continued watching, because writer / director Richard Schenkman clearly spent fifteen minutes on Wikipedia researching history before making this film. Kudos to him, because it's probably better than most Asylum films.

 But really, what is that saying? It's saying that fake beards go a long way. Yup.

 The Beach Girls and the Monster - No short film in between this time, we went straight for the money! And by money, I mean a sixty-six minute movie with so much padding I think it could have been an episode of Scooby Doo. See, the gyrating beach girls who hang out with surfers and beatniks and at least on ventriloquist are being attacked by a monster who strangles them, slashes them, and then leaves their breathing corpses in the sand.

  Well, one beach girl. There is a lot of jiggling and gyrating, in the tame way a 1965 movie can be, but most of the plot is about Richard Lindsay (Arnold Lessing), the son of Dr. Otto Lindsay (Jon Hall), who also lives with his stepmother Vicky (Sue Casey) and Richard's sculptor friend Mark (Walker Edmiston), who injured his leg in some kind of accident before the movie begins. Richard abandoned his plans to follow Dr. Lindsay as a Marine Biologist and instead bums around on the beach with Mark, and his girlfriend Jane (Elaine DuPont), who is probably much younger than he is.

 Vicky tries hitting on Richard even though he's probably also older than her (but younger than the even older Mark, who looks like he's pushing a midlife crisis) but is spurned. Dr. Otto doesn't like those beach girl "tramps," but mostly stays in the background. In a beach monster suit. SPOILER.

 Anyway, with all of that dramatic tension, we still have time for an extended opening credit sequence of dancing bikini girls (set to the music of Frank Sinatra, Jr.), a gratuitous surfing montage (from a projector Mark shows Richard), another dance sequence, a song and dance sequence complete with bad ventriloquism (he has a fake beard on) and baby-voiced singing, that climaxes with the beach monster killing a guy who looks like Roy Scheider, Mark getting blamed, and then Mark stealing a police car.

 It all climaxes with some of the worst rear-projected driving I've ever seen but is pretty damn funny in a "what were they thinking?" way. Again, not a good movie, but one that was fun to watch.

 A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master - So the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street movie was by far the highest quality film we watched on Saturday night. What does that say? Well, that The Dream Master is actually pretty good anyway, and director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Deep Blue Sea) took what could have been just a generic sequel opportunity and used his mad Finnish powers to make an inventive, visually interesting, sometimes clever expansion of the Freddy-verse.

 Also, it has a karate montage early in the movie, and the guy who does it loses to an invisible Freddy in his dream (budget shortfall).

 So yeah, Nightmare 4 is no A Nightmare on Elm Street, or even Nightmare 3, but I feel like The Dream Master has a lot going for it. After Freddy kills off Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), Joey (Rodney Eastman), and Fake Kristen (Tuesday Knight filling in for Patricia Arquette), he then sets his sights on Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and her friends, but what he doesn't know is that the shy girl is going to be tougher to kill than he expected. Definitely tougher than the girl he turns into a cockroach, the girl with asthma he sucks the air out of ("want to suck face?"), or the guy he invisible karate's to death.

 But seriously, Harlin brings some energy to the film and comes up with some interesting visuals, like the kaleidoscope tunnel, the chest of souls (including naked Linnea Quigley in her only Elm Street appearance), and the dream loop that Alice and hunky Dan find themselves in as Freddy goes roach motel on Debbie (Brooke Theiss). He may even foreshadow Deep Blue Sea by turning Freddy's hand into a shark fin (Deepest Bluest) during an unconventional beach assault dream. It's definitely the most MTV-friendly of the Elm Street movies, but by the time you get to a third sequel I'm impressed that The Dream Master is as enjoyable as it is.

 Also, Nightmare 4 is notable for the soundtrack collaboration between Sinead O'Connor and MC Lyte. I did not see that one coming. Oh, and the Fat Boys with rapping Freddy. I saw that coming.

 So that was Summer Fest 4, which does not have a poster. Maybe I'll come up with one, but in the meantime it was a good time had by all. The cheese factor was exactly what it needed to be, and there wasn't an outright stinker in the whole bunch. Mission accomplished!

* To be fair, Rise of the Animals 3.3 on IMDB is rated higher than The Beach Girls and the Monster and Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.

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