As Nathan Rabin might say, this film is quite poor.

But look who co-stars:

It opens, as all respectable horror films do, with a tribal ritual sacrifice. Maverick tough guy journalist Michael Moriarty (star of Q: The Winged Serpent) is called back to the States and saddled with his neglected son Jeremy. They head to the country where Mike has inherited a family home in a town full of vampires led by Judge Andrew Duggan (Merrill’s Marauders). Jeremy falls in with the vampires, is sweet on a very young Tara Reid (Bunny Lebowski). The movie’s specific vampire mythology seems unclear, especially where it concerns Jeremy and Tara, even though the Judge tries to explain it to us. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention cuz I was wondering where the blue rubber-mask demon had gone, when Sam Fuller would appear, and what was going on with Moriarty. Mostly he and the movie seem resigned to their crappiness, the straightforward genre plot, but occasionally there’s a spark of life, some Cohen attitude in the dialogue, some fire out of Mike.

Finally, Fuller arrives as a nazi hunter turned game vampire killer. The two guys pretty quickly and easily start slaughtering the townsfolk, killing bunches as they sleep before getting cornered. Fuller fakes suicide – I wouldn’t have advised laying bloody and prone in a room full of vampires, but it seems to work out for him. The kid awakens from his pre-vamp haze and stakes the judge with an American flag.

Bunny:

Shooting the judge in the head does not work:

“Maybe his head just got loose and fell off.”

Shitty scat-singing pianist turned incompetent diamond thief Jimmy Quinn stumbles across the nest of a winged monster that has been terrorizing New York, snatching up rooftop sunbathers and window washers, and tries to use this knowledge for profit. As in God Told Me To, Cohen shines in picking up crowd scenes seemingly out in public and not on a closed set. I like that Cohen casts skilled but unattractive actors – lead cop David Carradine (Kill Bill, Boxcar Bertha) and thief Michael Moriarty (The Stuff, Pick Me Up) don’t seem much like movie leading men, but they’re perfect for this story.

Moriarty is dwarfed by the city:

Murderous cultist takes a volunteer:

Moriarty is the fascinatingly doomed, black center of the movie, on the run from his partners in the jewel heist he botched, but Carradine and his partner Richard “Shaft” Roundtree kill time trying to solve a series of grotesque murders, apparently committed by a cult trying to appease the beast. I have to question the skills of the investigators when Moriarty is brought into the station for beating a security guard who works at the top of the Chrysler building, and they continue to bargain with Moriarty, offering him a million (which he never gets) to tell them which tall building hosts the monster. Besides that little plot hole, it’s a pretty great movie.

“I can’t imagine that the monster would want to kill YOU, Richard Roundtree.”

The monster, just after crushing Richard Roundtree’s spine and dropping him 200 stories:

The Addiction (1995)

A black and white (but mostly black) arthouse vampire movie. Being a big fan of talky French cinema and a moderate fan of avant-garde, non-narrative films, I always hesitate to use the word “pretentious,” but it kind of seemed pretentious. Maybe I’m just afraid of philosophy, and since the lead character is getting her PhD in philosophy, there was lots of Sartre and Heidegger and the like.

With Edie Falco, who I didn’t recognize with long hair:

It’s full of great ideas, though, and maybe it’s because I was weak and sick while watching, but I found it moving by the end. College student Lili Taylor (in that brief period between Short Cuts and I Shot Andy Warhol when she seemed like a movie star) is bitten in an alley then left alone. She get no underground vampire dance clubs or Lost Boys camraderie – she has to figure it out on her own. Clever metaphors to STD’s and drug use abound (she steals blood from homeless dudes using a syringe, ugh) along with the pondering about the nature of being. She does briefly (oh! too briefly) get a mentor in the form of Christopher Walken, second-billed for his three minutes of screen time.

With the teacher she’s about the seduce and then bite:

Lili graually infects classmates and professors, then holds a graduation party that turns into a bloodfeast. I think she dies from taking sacrament soon after, but she’s in the hospital all torn up so maybe she was dying anyway. Movie was “presented” by hip-hop/comedy producer Russell Simmons for some reason and written by Nicholas St. John, who wrote most of Ferrara’s previous movies but not Bad Lieutenant, his previous killer combo of horror and catholicism.

With some girl she just bit:


Body Snatchers (1993)

Watched this on a whim since it was on netflix streaming, not expecting much from Ferrara’s studio horror remake (the movie he forgot about when criticizing Werner Herzog for remaking Bad Lieutenant), but it was great – excellently creepy and so stylishly shot – one of the few times throwing a big-budget thriller remake at an artistic filmmaker has paid off (sorry, The Departed). Paid off for me anyway – if IMDB is to be believed, it was a royal bomb in theaters. In competition at Cannes though, beaten unfairly by The Piano (and fairly by Farewell My Concubine). Third of four Body Snatchers movies. I knew about the Kevin McCarthy and the Nicole Kidman, but not about the one with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy.

All Things Horror points out: “Sure, it’s not perfect. There’s a bit of annoying narration that seems completely unnecessary, some unfortunate blue screen, a goofy big explosion-filled ending,” all valid points. I’d like to add that the scene where suspicious doctor Forest Whitaker is driven to suicide by approaching aliens was pretty over the top, and if I didn’t already know Whitaker is a great actor, I would not have guessed it from this scene.

Awesome move setting the story on an army base, a location where everybody is trained to act like a pod person anyhow. R. Lee Ermey is looking good with his little mustache as the local general. Young Marti (Gabrielle Anwar of Flying Virus and iMurders) reluctantly moves onto the base with her boring dad (he’s so boring) Terry Kinney (founding member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater), evil stepmother Meg Tilly (Psycho II) and observant little stepbrother. Marti immediately stars hanging out with a couple bad influences: hot, emotionless chopper pilot Tim (Billy Wirth of The Lost Boys) and general’s daughter Jen (Christine Elise of Child’s Play 2). Once the snatching starts, Tim’s post-traumatic stress disorder proves extremely useful in blending in with the aliens. Particularly creepy was the wide-mouthed pointing scream the baddies used as an alarm once the base had been mostly snatched.

Soon after that starts, Marti’s dad goes in search of help. And suddenly Guy Pearce is on an airplane? Then some Lebanese guys welcome Don Cheadle to Toronto?? Oh man, netflix has started playing the movie Traitor instead, probably to make a funny movie-snatchers joke. It’s hilarious, but I had to go rent a proper DVD of Body Snatchers and watch the last half hour a few nights later.

Writing assistance by both Stuart Gordon and Larry Cohen – along with Ferrara that’s an entire unholy trinity of 80’s cult filmmakers. No wonder I liked it.

Oh, man. I was really expecting a classic, great horror film, something at least as awesome as God Told Me To. After all, this had sequels and a remake. That adds up to horror classic, right? But I guess even Maniac Cop had sequels and a (sorta) remake, so no guarantees. Not that It’s Alive sucked – it’s got that 70’s low-budget 16mm look which I always mistake for gritty realism, and an interesting central dilemma: a couple’s child turns out to be a murderous monster, so they help in the manhunt for the creature, but parental emotions win out and they end up trying to protect it.

Glimpse of the creature:
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Dad: John Ryan of the Wachowskis’ Bound, Class of 1999:
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Mom: Sharon Farrell of Out of the Blue, The Stunt Man:
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Ultimately more exciting than the plot were the 70’s fashions on display.
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This one brings back memories:
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My favorite shot, by far:
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Stinger: “Another one’s been born in Seattle.”

Fifth movie by writer-turned-director Cohen, and it’s surprisingly good – better and less campy than The Stuff. Tightly written (gets a lot done in 90 minutes) and fun to watch, kinda the opposite of Cohen-penned-but-not-directed Maniac Cop. Has that dull 70’s color, with get-the-job-done cinematography, but some odd creative shots keep things lively.

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A sniper starts shooting citizens with fake-blood paintballs, causing them to boogie wildly in the streets. Pained-looking detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco of The Honeymoon Killers) goes up to talk to the killer. Asks his motivation, and we have our title. In a TV montage, the killer’s mom provides a sweet JFK-conspiracy reference and an announcer with a washcloth in his mouth gives us exposition.

Our freaked-out hero:
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Our cop Tony goes home to his girl Casey (Deborah Raffin of Scanners II, who wears giant joke glasses throughout the film for some reason) and fakes like he’s going to finally divorce his separated wife Martha (doomed-looking Sandy Dennis of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 976-EVIL)… but Tony is super-Catholic, which means lying to his live-in much-younger girlfriend is okay, but divorce is absolutely not.

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More crazed killers take out more innocents, and obsessed Tony makes it his job to confront them all and ask “why did you do it” right before they commit suicide. He seems to be the only cop working on the biggest case in town. In middle of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, cop Andy Kaufman (!!!!!!!) shoots some people. Mesmerizing scene, both because I’m wondering what Kaufman (a year after his mighty-mouse SNL debut) is doing in this movie, and because the crowd is so well-integrated into the scene that it looks like the parade was staged for the film, unlike the crappy parade shootout in Maniac Cop.

I’m not kidding – you can ask anyone. That’s Andy Kaufman.
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This time Tony was warned beforehand of the killings by a beardy cultist (Sam Levene of Sweet Smell of Success and some 40’s noirs). Tony sleuths out that each of the killers had talked to a blurry-faced young man named Bernard (who later turns out to be Full Moon Pictures regular Richard Lynch). Movie now goes wacky… Tony finds the suspect’s mom, who reveals (via a sepia-toned nudity-filled flashback) that she was impregnated by God, a virgin when her hermaphroditic “son” was born – but due to some visual details in the flashback, the audience suspects not God but aliens. Tony talks a War of the Worlds-referencing polka-dot-hatted science editor at the newspaper into printing the story, which refers to Tony as a “suspended lieutenant” (we didn’t get a scene of his suspension, but if we were wondering why he never spends time at the station with other cops, now we know – that’s some script efficiency!). Meanwhile, seemingly undoing that script efficiency, a velvet-jacketed pimp stabs a cop on a stairwell with no connection to anything else.

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Tony tracks down God, who turns out to be a glowing, nightie-wearing hippie basement-dweller who makes our cop see fires everywhere but seems to be unable to control his mind like he can control others. Why is this? Well, in the next scene, Tony visits a woman in a derelict nursing-home with a similar story (alien abduction, virgin birth, this time shot with greens and oranges with a disturbing closeup on a rubber vagina) played by Sylvia Sidney (of Fury and You Only Live Once in the 30’s, and recognizably the Slim Whitman-loving grandma in Mars Attacks!) and finds out he is her son, therefore the half-alien kin of God.

God:
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Back to Tony’s personal life, Martha (who now looks like she has a cold) meets Casey for the first time, and the third line Casey ever speaks to the wife of her boyfriend is “why weren’t there any children?” Tacky, but there’s that efficiency again! Tony catches up with the cop-killer pimp and practices his God-powers by making the guy kills his friends then himself, then confronts Bernard-God, who has a vaginal Jesus-wound in his side (a born counterpart to Marilyn Chambers in Rabid) and strangles him (willowy, psychic Bernard-God doesn’t have much practice with physical activity).

I was hoping for another inventive cult-classic a la Brain Damage or writer Larry Cohen’s The Stuff, but I got your standard, straightforward, low-budget horror-thriller with no invention or visual flair whatsoever.

There’s even nothing special about the performances, which is a real crime considering it stars Bruce Campbell (between Evil Deads 2 and 3), Tom Atkins (the cop in Night of the Creeps!), Richard Roundtree (Shaft!) and, um, Laurene Landon (It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive). Robert (“oh, z’no!”) Z’Dar is the titular cop and Sheree North (starred in Frank Tashlin’s The Lieutenant Wore Skirts 30 years earlier) is his crazy caretaker.

A maniac cop is terrorizing the city! Cop Bruce Campbell is cheating on his wife with a fellow cop, but surprisingly this is okay with the movie and Bruce’s wife is killed instead, the killer (actually his smarter mother-figure who works at police headquarters and tells him what to do) attempting to pin the murders on Bruce. There’s a making-of-the-monster backstory, lots more people are killed, then Bruce busts out of jail and chases the maniac cop, who accidentally kills himself… but is he really dead??? Spoiler alert: no.

Bruce Campbell didn’t do it, nobody saw him do it, you can’t prove anything
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Tom Atkins’ gun is a tiny film projector
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Sam Raimi, reporter
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The only novelty death: man’s face shoved in wet concrete
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This was huge-faced Z’Dar’s big break, landing him the highly desirable role of Joe Estevez’s sidekick in Soultaker two years later
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Katy would not have liked it. An open-road hitchhiking serial killer movie. The trucker (“wheeler”) and the cowboy (“walker”) vie for the same victim. Mean, violent fun. No eye gouging that I can remember, but it has the MOH trademark naked woman (being tortured to death).

Interesting thing about it, really the only thing that sets it apart from your standard trucker serial killer movie is that every single character is either killer or victim. No bystanders here… if we see someone, they’re kill-or-be-killed. A familiar-looking Fairuza Balk stars (ed norton’s excitable gf in American History X) with Michael Moriarty, a Cohen regular.

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