Oftentimes I find myself distracted while wandering the aisles of ‘big box’ stores. The fact that I have a shopping list in hand and a family waiting at home for my arrival doesn’t deter me, in the slightest (I’m an asshole like that!), from spending more than a few moments perusing the depths of cavernous plastic bins overflowing with shrink wrapped films that society often chooses to forget. Why might I do this you might ask. Well. Everyone has their vices, mine just so happens to be collecting. Be it films, tee-shirts or my newest addiction Funko Pops! Those chunks of plastic are just so damn adorable. Wait wha-!
Damn. I got distracted and veered wildly from my train of thought. Ah, my love of low budget movies. Where to begin? I’ll leave you in suspense and instead introduce you to a few features from a couple of my newest acquisitions oddly named pretty much the same as every other collection out there that contains ten movies of one kind or another.
For my first view…
Netherworld (USA) 1992
Director – David Schmoeller
Writer – David Schmoeller/Charles Band
Full Moon Entertainment
Runtime – 87 minutes
From the creative mind of B movie maestro Charles Band (producer of close to 300 movies including Troll, From Beyond, Dolls and Puppet Master) and the brainchild of the cult hit Tourist Trap (Mark Schmoeller) comes yet another slab of Full Moon celluloid silliness.
A flying hand, a voodoo priestess, a backswamp brothel displaying many a pair of delicous infant feeders, reincarnation and mythology regarding ‘bird people’ (that deserves a lot more explaining) drive this feature into barely entertaining territory.
Shot entirely in New Orleans Netherworld boasts lush scenery, historic landscapes and a Gothic aura that helps to give this film it’s atmosphere. Unfortunately it fails at much everything else. The plot is largely Swiss cheese, many of the characters are paper thin although very easy to gaze upon and much of the dialogue could be clipped with much the same result. Various cameos may warrant the viewer, depending upon their age, to sparodically hit the pause button in order to reminiscence. Edgar Winter makes an appearance as part of the jazz ensemble, whomever he might be. My apologies, I’m largely without class so I have little to zero idea.
In conclusion Netherworld is great to watch if you’re bored and it’s on ‘the box’ but only if you’re too lazy to find a moment to pop something ‘reliable’ into the VHS or DVD player. Netherworld is sadly lacking and hardly in my opinion a feature to take time out or splash out any hard earned cash in order to witness.
Feeding Grounds (USA) 2006
Director – Junior Bonner
Writer – Alex Bannar, Jaime Gannon
Grizzly Peak Films
Runtime – 83 minutes
Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before…Following a promising introduction that leaves the audience with a feeling that A) Cops are lazy fucks, B) What the hell was in that water that she drank anyway and finally 3) Did not one of those two girls know what a razor is used for, (takes a breath) eight hormone rampant youths head off into (perhaps) the same stretch of desert. When the miles start to pile up on their tires they begin to notice that scheduled exits are missing and everything else appears oddly out of synch. As water becomes a scarce resource so too does sanity as the collective paranoia of another watching over their every move grows increasingly less ignorable. As madness becomes the norm the group divides and friendships are pushed to the limit, silly decisions are made and the small group transforms into something smaller still. Apart from a premise that’s been abused more than a proverbial red headed stepchild the movie actually has a number of notable elements to keep the viewers digit away from the EJECT button. Sprinklings of brilliant dialogue hint at a promising future for the writing team.
– Mary, why aren’t you sick?
– Because they know I won’t eat them.
The occasional stunning desert landscape shot bodes well for the cinematography team adding the juxtaposition of beauty against the protagonists plight. Inventive camera techniques are utilized effectively but not nearly often enough. The FX, though sparse, are surprisingly decent hinting at a climactic showdown, an applaudable creature reveal and perhaps an epic ‘drag down knock out’ finale.
Alas, I was left disappointed even though the film does bear several stunnong moments that warrant an eye being kept vigilant on its creative team in the near future.
The Dark (1993) Canada
Director – Craig Pryce
Writer – Robert C. Cooper
Alliance Atlantis/Norstar Entertainment/Pryceless Motion Picture Enterprises
Runtime – 87 minutes
When a mourning innocent is disturbed by a pair of cops shooting at ‘nothing’ in a cemetary he finds himself drawn into a enigmatic web of mystery that’s strangely entangled in his own field of study. In the following scene the same guy finds himself the champion of a waitress in distress, and the film finds its pace. What appears to seem like an action film with more than its fair share of nefarious goings on, especially with the inclusion of notorious hardass Brion James (Blade Runner, Tango and Cash, Steel Dawn and another 48 Hours) and Stephen McHattie (Pontypool, Watchmen, TV’s The Strain series and Shoot em Up) also has its fair share of ‘light’ comedic moments (courtesy of a bumbling duo of cemetary laborers), nods to Caddyshack, and a slew of memerable one-liners …”Gotta love the smell of death in the morning” being one of my favorite moments.
Though not overladen with effects, bloodshed or carnage the film still delivers with its (someight deem it ‘retro’) atmosphere and charm. Largely misunderstood, the monster is impressive appearing to be a mash up of both Rawhead Rex and Jaberwocky (an obscure title plucked from the depths of British folklore and the creative team often associated with the Monty Python trope) showcasing Henson-esque sensabilities, that are thankfully far enough removed from both Fraggle Rock and The Muppets to keep the feature clear from Kaufman and Troma’s interests. Although Craig Pryce’s debut, Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter (which I’m sure to find time for based on its title alone) is sure to spark their collective interests.
As it nears its finale The Dark transpires into quite the intriguing utterly watchable creature feature, silly in places, cheesy in others but altogether an enjoyable (albeit at times lighthearted) waste of close to ninety minutes.
I highly recommend seeking this film out!
And, because I like these collections (probably more than I should), here’s a pair of selections from a boxed set that offers ‘Action’ as opposed to ‘Horror’.
This dvd by way of Mill Creek Entertainment (2017)
Night Drive (2010) South Africa
Director/Writer – Justin Head
Runtime – 103 minutes
Voodoo sacrifice and black market dealings abound in this shocker set, and shot, in the African bush. A group of excitable tourists become stranded and all too quickly realize the exotic locale is all they wished it to be and so much more.
Unexpectedly well executed atmosphere, inventive and effective camera techniques a slew of brutal killings, applaudable lighting in locations that couldn’t have been easy to work in and an assortment of characters who are all too utterly human make for a unexpectedly decent viewing experience. But that’s not all folks, flesh eating beasts, terrorists and an ex cop with a nightmarish past (that continues to haunt him) add to the fun in a feature that had me glued from start to finish.
A true gem of a film that isn’t at all deserved of its placement in a bargain bin collective.
Keep an eye out for this underrated treat.
Death Grip (USA) 2012
Director – Eric Jacobus
Writer – Eric Jacobus and Pete Lee
Runtime – 96 minutes
Kenny, Eric Jacobus, is somehow allowed to be given guadianship rights for his mentally challenged brother, Mark, taken into account his criminally checked past. The pair soon find themselves embroiled in an artifact heist and subsequently the inner workings of the city’s criminal underworld.
Death Grip starts out with a great pace and boasts stunning action sequences, sans wire work, very early on. The budding relationship between estranged brothers Kenny and Mark is showcased exquisitely with attention to the minutest of characteristic foible that lends empathy and an early comedic slant to the film.
A standout scene with a tempermental automatic toilet (“Kenny broke the toilet”) is remarkable, inventive and may well make the viewer think upon their annoying experiences with the same. A strong, too inquizative for her own good, female lead raises the film to another level past its more wildly predictable genre stablemates.
Other elements that help the film attain an ultra watchable level are intriguing dialogue exchanges which flesh out many of the films characters, an adventurous, intriguing storyline that rolls along at a great pace and ‘day dream’ sequences/scenarios that hardly ever work out the way they were initially intended to. This factor alone pulls the film from the more fantastical arena to the everyday more relatable one in which the hero actually does bleed and gets hurt in a fight.
Overall a film that’s inventive, action packed, unpredictable, well directed and wholly enjoyable. Recommended especially for those with an open mind who enjoy martial arts films that refuse to follow the traditional parameters within the genre. Keep an eye out for future works from the creator and the ActionPact team as you’re sure to be entertained.
Well, that’s about it for now folks. I hope I’ve helped in someway to dispell the possible myth that bargain movie collection are to be avoided. There’s gems to be found if you don’t mind the ‘digging’.
Your slave to the obscure, often strange and altogether unusual world of low budget, often forgotten, celluloid.
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