Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Exterminator 2 (1984)

Cannon Films was always at their best when just going for simple, good old fashioned exploitation trash.  In 1984, they were at their most successful with a solid business model (changing it up would lead to their demise) and they decided to make a sequel to the 1980 vigilante flick The Exterminator.  The first movie starred Robert Ginty as a Vietnam vet who is out to avenge the brutal death of his friend, played, ironically enough, by future Cannon fave Steve James.  The film was a grindhouse hit with such sights as a mobster being dropped into an industrial meat grinder and a flashy poster featuring the hero wielding a huge flamethrower which he never uses in the film.

I can only imagine the pitch for this one involved the sentence "This time, he will use the goddamned flamethrower!"

A troubled production, this was taken out of the hands of original director Mark Buntzman (who helped make the first one) and due to a lack of availability, Robert Ginty only appeared in the dialogue scenes, save for one scene where he dons the mask he wears when doing his thing.  The result is that the hero goes through virtually every action scene wearing a big, clunky protective suit while wielding a big, clunky flamethrower.

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad, yet oddly amusing things in this movie.  The main bad guy is called X because the director was unsure of a good name for him.  Mario van Peebles does what he can with the role (not that much) and I'm sure there have been less believable bad guys in movies but what we see here makes me doubt it somewhat.  X is nicely insane but to be honest, the actors just doesn't have the voice for a good bad guy.  Granted, his usual outfit of a mesh t-shirt and shoulder pads from an Italian Road Warrior cash-in does a little to balance things.

Very little.

Ginty goes up against X and his gang, meeting and falling for a dancer who is  crippled and later murdered (though in the original cut, she lived) as well as befriending a friendly garbage truck driver played by Frankie Faison.  Said driver is also killed which spurs our hero to do an A-Team number on the truck, fortifying it with armor and machine guns.

Part of the problem the film has is that first time director Buntzman makes it achingly clear that this is his first shot at directing.  Pacing is off, the performances are iffy (Faison is fun though and while he's not believable, van Peebles is energetic enough), and the action has a rather static feel to it that drags things down.  The music is also rather bad with only one bit of music that doesn't fit the film its in and is used constantly.

That being said, Exterminator 2 is rather enjoyable to watch.  The film is bad, yes, but there is enough mid-80's cheese and general oddness (Cannon had a real thing for break dancing and brightly attired gangs) and to an extent, this sort of plays out like a less sadistic and mean spirited Death Wish movie (sort of).  There are also some fun logic gaps relating to just how the hell the gang not only found out where Ginty's girlfriend lived but his first name as well.  It's a bad movie, but reasonably entertaining, illogical trash as well.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

They Came From Within (1975)

Ah, nothing like a three month break to recharge the old batteries!  Finally got around to seeing this one, and it's... Well, it's pretty good.  David Cronenberg's first feature film is an interesting, fairly disgusting tale about parasites that infect the population of a Montreal apartment complex, turning them into sex/violence crazed maniacs.

Sporting a rather nicely low key atmosphere and some great set design (the apartments we see are awesomely 70's in the best way, not often I look at something from that era and it looks sort of cozy), Cronenberg makes good early use of his usual themes of transformation (in this case, he sees it as a positive though as usual, your mileage may vary) and we get some nicely gruesome moments such as a carrier of several parasites gradually breaking down and a real cross-your-legs moment as one parasite gets inside horror legend Barbara Steele while she's in the tub.  While the sex and gore seems a little tame by today's standards, I can totally see how some folks in 1975 would be horrified by it.  And in all honesty, there is one horny old lady in it that creeped me out even more than that bathtub scene and the frankly disgusting parasites.

While the film is rather light on characterization (the doctor hero and his nurse are decent enough but sort of bland) and the dialogue isn't exactly the best in film history, this is still really, really good early Cronenberg.  I like some of his more recent stuff (A History of Violence is very strong) but for me, he was at his best with those low budget Canadian tax shelter flicks.  Hell, I don't even mind the downbeat 70's ending.  At least here it serves a purpose other than just shock value.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.