Alien: Covenant (2017)

After the somewhat convoluted disappointment that was Ridley Scott’s lavish A L I E N prequel ‘Prometheus’, I was never really sure how his inevitable sequel would go. After seemingly setting up even more story lines with even more questions, the main question for me was simply, how in the hell was Scott gonna rein all this crap in?? So this time I decided to go into this sequel/prequel relatively blind, not paying too much attention to all the mass debating online.

That being said, it was still hard not to get tied up in all the hype. And with that my initial disappointment came with the plot. Set 11 years after the events in ‘Prometheus’, the colonisation ship Covenant is en route to the distant planet of Origae-6. Onboard we also find Walter, a newer model of android series that resemble David from the first movie. His job is again to monitor the ships functions and crew whilst they are in cryo-chambers. A random space event damages the ship and kills some of the sleeping colonists which forces Walter to awaken the main crew. Whilst repairs are underway the ship picks up a distant transmission from an unknown, but habitable planet that is almost identical to Earth (yet the crew are not amazed by this). Despite some concerns the ships Captain decides to divert and check out the transmission. So put simply, its the same damn plot we’ve now seen twice before. Really Ridley?

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OK so I will try not to make this read like a huge list of questions regarding the massively convoluted plot, but no promises. The movie opens with the exact same title sequence as the original 1979 movie. You know what I mean, the main title slowly appearing bit by bit against a backdrop of space. Yep this is an Alien movie alright, and we’re redoing everything you fondly remember…but this definitely isn’t another soft reboot.

K so when the crew are awakened from hypersleep in an emergency, one of the pods malfunctions or something. This leads to the death of the ship’s original captain played by James Franco, who we never actually see in the movie apart from a photo. For some reason he gets incinerated inside his own hypersleep pod, really not too sure why his pod did this. Maybe as a way to contain any possible unknown dangerous space bacteria and whatnot? Also a convenient way to dispose of the body? It does seem to be a rather worrying design flaw. Its also around this time we meet the stereotypical crew consisting of many faceless alien fodder characters that you will never care about (keywords being faceless and fodder). Some strong Ripley rip-off characters, a Lambert rip-off character (you’ll find out later), and the obligatory white female with black male partner (never any other race, always black). Oh and Danny McBride plays a cool, bearded stetson wearing character called ‘Tennessee’. You know because in the origin film there was a cool bearded character called ‘Dallas’. See what he did there?

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As with the previous film we also see that the technology on-board the ship is way better than anything we saw in the original 79 movie. At the time this was crudely passed off with an explanation about how different ships would have different technology on-board. This has always bothered me simply because its bullshit. Why would anyone make a large spaceship and not fit it with the best technology going? Even if said ship was a basic mining ship and costs were taken into account, its a bloody spaceship! not a Ford Escort. It will require good technology all round surely. So with that I still find it hard to swallow the fact that these ships are so ridiculously better looking all round than anything we saw in the original movies. Lets be honest here, its because movie effects are obviously way better today and Scott and co simply couldn’t help themselves. They just wanted kewl looking spaceships.

Quick question about the ship. When they arrive at the mystery planet there is a large plasma storm over the area with the transmission. This storm prevents the Covenant from landing or going in closer when things start to get messy on the surface for the scout party. But why? OK its a storm over an alien planet but lets not forget the planet is supposedly very similar to Earth. Secondly if this ship can fly billions of light years through the universe contending with all manner of spacey things, why can’t it make it through a storm cloud? Thirdly, couldn’t they just go around the cloud? I realise that might have taken time but that leads me to ask why they didn’t just approach the transmission area from a different angle in the first place. Surely they could of descended into orbit elsewhere and gone under the cloud or slightly around it? Its not like the storm was a surprise, they knew it was there, plus they used a drop scout ship anyway so distance clearly wasn’t that much of an issue.

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Again as with the previous film we have issues surrounding the intelligence of the crew and how they operate. One main factor last time was poking and putting your face up close to an unknown alien organism. This time…yup we have that again, ugh!!! But not only that, this time the entire crew wanders off the safety of their ship onto an alien planet (the one with the mystery transmission which just happens to look like where it was filmed…New Zealand) without any form of protection! No space helmets, no real protective suits, no planetary scans or scouts to check the surface, zippo. They merely stroll onto the planet and start off on a cross-country ramble. Jesus Christ some even start talking about setting up the colony there! Yeah this unknown, unchecked mystery planet will do nicely. You can get lost or killed first? First prize…errr…you die!

This unknown planet turns out to be the Engineer homeworld which is also home to David, a now dead Shaw and the black goo. If you thought ‘Prometheus’ was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. So David supposedly wiped out all the Engineers with the black goo when he arrived. Why? presumably because he wanted to create his own lifeforms and needed a clean slate, although I don’t know for sure. All the Engineers were standing around and cheering the ship as it arrived, not sure why, was this a special ship or mission? All the Engineers also looked really different to the main chap in ‘Prometheus’, not as muscular or marble-like. Different in a bad makeup job type way that is. We are also led to believe that this entire planet only consisted of one major Engineer city?? No other cities or anything nearby or further away??

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So David released the black goo and it wipes everything out, fine. When the humans go walkabout one male gets infected by a plant or fungus releasing a black goo spore. In turn this very quickly takes affect causing an alien to gestate and burst from within (his back this time because…changing it up a bit). So, if the black goo infected everything in this way, wouldn’t there be lots of little aliens running the planets surface? And clearly those spores are WAY more lethal and effective than the alien creatures. They are literally particles in the air that can enter the human body through any small orifice. The main aliens are actually less threatening! ha! Also, how fucking quickly did that new alien go through its gestation period from a mere spore??!! And speaking of gestation periods, the main alien again goes from chestburster (which looked like a children’s toy) to full grown alien in no time! What has happened to the slow build up and tension?? And how exactly did David create the original alien eggs? I still don’t get how he managed that. Did he somehow get to the eggs from experimenting on Shaw?

As for the finale its in three parts essentially, all of which are totally cheap cop outs (with dreadful CGI on the alien amazingly). The first revolves around a pitch battle and various large powerloader-esque pieces of equipment. As Tennessee tries to take off from the planet with Janet Daniels (Katherine Waterston) in tow, the alien tries to take her down. This involves Daniels outside the ship, trying to shoot or knock the alien off, whilst attached by a cable. For some reason Tennessee just flies around in circles whilst Daniels swings around aimlessly doing a bad job of defeating the alien. At no point did either just think to fly into space and fry the alien? Anyway, eventually Daniels operates a large crane claw, which the alien very conveniently jumps straight into, and they crush it.

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You think that is the end but its not, oh no. We then get the second cheap schlocky finale. Low and behold there is another alien…because of course there is! This one decides to attack some of the remaining crew members while they have sex in the shower, in true 80’s slasher flick style (just to cover all the bases). Tennessee and Daniels (who is now in full Ripley mode complete with vest) must now lure the creature into one of the ships cargo bays so they can flush it into space. Yes that’s right, flush it into space, cheap ending number three. Because Scott just wants to rehash every damn thing from his glorious original. Oh and this alien seems to mature in around five bloody minutes after hatching, certainly appears that way.

What can I say about this movie?? Really what can I say??? Its so so obvious that Scott was somewhat crushed by the reaction to ‘Prometheus’ and was literally forced into going in a new direction for this sequel. Its abundantly clear that he’s added the entire alien aspect simply to appease the fanbase that demanded more alien action. But Ridley being Ridley, was never gonna completely eject his original plans. Thus we have this complete clash of ideas, two concepts rolled into one resulting in a higgledy-piggledy mess.

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On one hand you have this epic spiritual space adventure into the unknown; focusing on life, our place in the universe, creation, Gods and monsters so to speak. Then on the other hand you have this terribly cheesy and cliched monster movie that degenerates into a tacky slasher flick with horribly obvious twists (David and Walter switcheroo and David creating the xenomorph). You can quite easily tell from reading the films title. The film should have simply been called ‘Covenant’ or ‘Prometheus II: Covenant’. The addition of ‘ALIEN’ was clearly to draw in the fanboys of the original movies in the promise of a more familiar story.

Yes Ridley provides us with top notch visuals, a masterclass in true spectacle…again. Yes the attention to detail from costumes to technology to the score, is astoundingly good. Its a sheer pleasure to simply view a Ridley Scott sci-fi movie, it really is. But the more he dabbles in this franchise the more he screws it up. From a pretty looking convoluted mess in ‘Prometheus’, to another pretty looking convoluted mess in ‘Alien: Covenant’. The real downside is this movie is not its own film, its merely a collection of highlights that we’ve all seen before in previous movies. At least ‘Prometheus’ displayed a lot of originality, it still made a mess of everything but at least it was a brave move (much like the Star Wars prequels). I do find it quite bizarre how these new Alien prequels do seem to be going down hill in the same way the Star Wars prequels did. Is the flute scene with David and Walter the new sand scene?

5.5/10

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The Mummy (2017)

I feel I must point this out just in case, for the younger generations. This movie is not entirely based upon the oddly popular Brendan Fraser trilogy that started in 1999. Believe it or not there was in fact an original horror movie from way back in 1932 starring Boris Karloff that kick started the entire idea. But lets be honest here, this new movie takes many ideas from many classic horror movies. So much so it feels more like a long trailer of highlights from other movies redone with better effects (I still can’t believe the nerve of them frankly).

So the main change in this modern reboot is the titular Mummy (Princess Ahmanet) wanting to resurrect Set, the God of war and chaos (instead of a dead lover). Initially she was inline to the throne in her native Egypt, but her fathers second wife has a baby boy which takes her place. Out of anger and frustration at losing her rightful place as Queen, Ahmanet murders her family and plans to resurrect Set using her lovers body as the vessel for the Gods spirit. She must do this using a special dagger to transfer Set’s spirit. Before this can be done she is captured and of course mummified alive.

What follows is (now) pretty much your bog standard action flick all because Tom Cruise was cast. Yes that’s right, probably one of the worst choices ever for this type of movie. Cruise would easily be in my top ten of actors that I would never consider for such a dark tale of mysticism and terror. Apparently Cruise had much of the control in the creation of this movie, and boy does it show. The opening sequence could quite easily be from any Mission: Impossible movie as his character Nick Morton and sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are caught by ISIS-esque insurgents as they try to pinch ancient artifacts from a small town (which the insurgents would have destroyed anyway).

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The pair are actually on reconnaissance for the US military at the time but are moonlighting as black market traders for ancient artifacts. Amidst the carnage of gunfire and airstrikes (with no apparent casualties) the tomb of Ahmanet is discovered. At the same time a sexy blonde archaeologist (Jenny) appears out of nowhere who Morton was supposedly bonking and naturally becomes his love interest for the rest of the movie. Its around this very early point when you realise this movie isn’t gonna be very good. Apart from Cruise merely playing the same character he’s played for years now, the entrance to this tomb is ridiculously vast!! and they treat these priceless ancient artifacts like spare parts from Ikea.

Lets not be too negative here, there were some good points in the movie. The horror element was actually nicely done. The movie isn’t scary or anything but the various CGI effects for people having their souls sucked out of them with their bodies being reduced to shriveled up zombies, was pretty cool. The undead themselves were also really well rendered using CGI and makeup; they did look pretty terrifying visually and the way they moved was well choreographed.

Its just a shame that’s about all I can say on the positive side of things. The fact they basically stole the whole undead guide/corpse idea with Vail from John Landis classic ‘An American Werewolf in London’ is damn near unforgivable. I can’t even say it was a homage because they just outright copied the entire concept! Then there are things that don’t really add up; why exactly does Ahmanet need to use this specific ruby encrusted dagger? What connection does that dagger have to Set? During the movie Morton is told numerous times the curse cannot be broken, then apparently it can be broken just by destroying the ruby. In one scene the undead cannot swim (they just sink), then in another they can swim. In another sequence Morton and Jenny are escaping in an ambulance at top speed when some zombies attack outta nowhere. How did they get on the ambulance?? There were clearly no zombies on the vehicle in one shot, then they’re all over it.

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Then we have the secret organisation known as Prodigium headed by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). Or call it what it is, the very very blatant and obvious attempt at copying Marvel’s cinematic universe building, Universal Pictures S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent. Aside from the fact this one idea has been used a gazillion times, ‘Van Helsing’ for example. There is no imagination here whatsoever, its literally all about setting up future movies with small easter eggs dotted around, there is no other point for it. The fact Universal don’t even really try to hide this fact, and everyone knows it, makes it worse!

Observation: So within Prodigium there are lots of little teasers as I mentioned already. One such teaser is the forearm of a creature that clearly hails from the movie ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’. But here’s the thing, there was always only one creature from the classic movie/s, but this teaser indicates there are possibly numerous creatures that have already been seen and maybe killed (unless the main creature is now missing a forearm). But seeing as its unlikely that the first new movie will have a one-handed creature (unless it grows it back?) I must assume there are more than one.

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Even then they couldn’t even do anything interesting with this; when Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde…nothing happens! Crowe simply turns a shade of grey, his eyes seem to go yellow, he adopts a cockney accent and that’s it I think. Don’t get me wrong I think its good they didn’t go with some huge CGI creation that we’ve all seen before, but the character definitely needed something else. Also Prodigium has Ahmanet all chained up for the most part, but guess what? One minute she’s all chained up and helpless, the next she simply decides to break free and escape. As already pointed out, this does seem to happen a lot in this movie, things just changing on a whim. Much like Morton being taken over by Set, only to quite easily retake control of his body seconds later (so much for Set). Oh and Vail being resurrected at the end of the movie, did Morton resurrect everyone that died in the film? He could have.

I think everyone knows the problem with this movie, it stands out like a sore thumb. And that is quite simply, the movie is torn between being a proper fully fledged horror movie and a Tom Cruise action vehicle. Clearly the entire production didn’t know what to do with the director being in limbo and the studio basically giving Cruise full control. The whole movie is a mess of ideas from start to finish with Cruise running around alongside his much younger female love interest, and grinning a lot (much awkward and unfunny comedy). The movie fails on such a large scale its embarrassing; they essentially tried to map stereotypical Tom Cruise action flick tropes onto this horror classic of the silver screen. There are some nice touches here and there yes, but ultimately it fails on almost every level.

4/10

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Resident Evil: Vendetta (JP, 2017)

So apparently Capcom said this animated feature would be a reboot of the animated series, but then it turned out to be a sequel. It was in fact the tone of the film that would be rebooted, and that is clear to see. Both the films poster and introductory sequence are clearly harking back to the very first game with the large scary mansion in the woods angle. Indeed the films opening sequence involves a team of BSAA agents (with Chris Redfield) storming a dilapidated mansion in Mexico. Their targets are the films new villain, Glenn Arias and the hostages he has taken. This whole brief intro is basically the original Resident Evil game but with one problem, its completely unnecessary.

We get to see the new villain and his sidekicks, and we get a small idea of his dastardly plans. Other than that its all a waste of time and obviously in there to lure in the fanboys with promise of some classic Resident Evil action. After this its essentially back to business with the rest of the film, and by that I mean lots of hi-tech locations and explosive action. If you were looking for a more classic, slow creeping, suspenseful horror feature set in a big mansion, look elsewhere I’m afraid.

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The story for this umpteenth incarnation in the franchise revolves around Glenn Arias, a shady arms dealer who was targeted by an unnamed government for termination. Unfortunately the bomb they dropped on his wedding (kinda ruthless) killed everyone but Arias, and now he wants revenge. His revenge comes in the form of wanting to turn everyone into zombies through a new virus that lies dormant within its host until triggered. Luckily Redfield is joined by Leon S. Kennedy and Rebecca Chambers to save the day (but no one else it seems).

The story is an unoriginal one but that is hardly much of a surprise. The real problems arise in the fact that this plot is supposedly set in between the events of Resident Evil 6 and 7. So if you don’t play the games (which I don’t) then you may have a problem knowing all the ins and outs. That was the first major issue, the next major issue was the connection to the previous animated movies (‘Resident Evil: Damnation’ and ‘Regeneration’). Is there any connection? Is this an actual sequence or what? Well truth be told I don’t know because its been so long since I saw those films I can’t recall. All the films have Leon as the main protagonist so I’m gonna assume each one is simply a chapter in Leon’s long running battle against zombies and whatnot. But no I do not believe this is a direct sequel to the previous animated movies. In all fairness this film does stand on its own well enough to get around those issues.

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But alas there are more issues. The new A-virus lies dormant within the host until triggered, but what was the trigger?? It was also mentioned that the triggering can happen by accident, how? This new virus can also be transmitted by air and water so surely that would make it almost impossible to contain. Chambers manages to whip up a vaccine against the virus which works, so then Arias just formulates another virus to beat that vaccine, whilst creating his own vaccine. This all happens pretty quickly which just seemed stupid. But the one thing I didn’t get was if the virus needs to be triggered, why do people just turn into zombies straight away when they come into contact with the virus? I think the newer virus Arias creates bypasses the trigger part but I’m not entirely sure.

But its not just the plot that is weak, the character are poor too. Arias doesn’t really have much clout if you ask me. OK an unnamed government killed all his family and wife-to-be, but why not just kill that government body? Why kill everybody in New York? He also kidnaps Chambers at one point because she looks like his dead wife. But what was his plan with her? Did he fancy her? Did he wanna use her as bait? A guinea pig for his new virus? Its also just a bit too ridiculous that one of his sidekicks just happens to be an ultra sexy female, in a shiny black skintight catsuit. His other sidekick is a massive Bane-like character with a metal mask and metal gear bolted onto his body. Sure these two characters look really cool but come on…cliched much? We do actually find out these two were at Arias’s wedding when it was hit, so I guess that’s why they are now both ùber villains. Not sure why the female has decided to dress in a skintight catsuit though. Also not sure how the man managed to become a ginormous monster but hey its Resident Evil.

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Both Leon and Redfield are invincible soldiers who simply cannot be beat. Both are martial arts and weapons masters who can run into a horde of undead zombies and beat them without breaking a sweat. Who needs backup? just send in these two and watch them defeat an army of zombies. Leon also spends much of the finale on a motorbike because…it looks cool? There is no other real reason for this, oh and neither of them ever change their clothes. Whilst on the other hand Chambers starts off as your stereotypical scientist, and ends up as your stereotypical damsel in distress with nothing much in between. We again see the return of the infamous zombie dogs as a pointless nod back to the classic original game. Were these zombie dogs always as powerful as they are here? Running as fast as a motorbike at top speed and crushing cars when they land on the roof??

In the end it all builds up to a climatic battle between Leon, Redfield and Arias/tyrant Arias (yes tyrant because…Resident Evil). This battle literally transported me back to 1992 with all its ludicrous slow motion bollocks and operatic gun gymnastics (my God the gun gymnastics!). Yeah there are slow motion snippets throughout, and they’re all terrible, but this finale took the biscuit. Lets not discuss the large rifle type weapon that when used, can actually take down an entire line of skyscrapers. How many innocent folk died in that moment??

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I guess the real problem here is, like previous Resident Evil games and films, its just not Resident Evil. I think now people are really craving a feature that recaptures the original game from back in 1996. I think people are tired of the insane gun-toting action. This film teases us with the classic approach but then U-turns and goes back to the usual shit. But the question is, have we all moved on from that original concept way back in 96? Is that concept now too dated, too cliche?

My final thought is also a cliched one. Although the CGI visuals in this feature are very impressive, very slick and shiny, you still have one age old problem. And that’s the fact it all just feels like you’re watching a very long in-game sequence from a videogame. You just can’t get away from this mainly because in-game videogame sequences are basically mini-movies these days. Obviously there was a time when a CGI movie was very special because videogames couldn’t match them. But now its all very different, thusly a film like this feels boring because you feel like you should be interacting with it. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a terrible flick, its just very average and way outta touch. I’m not sure if die hard fanboys will like this, they might be disappointed.

6/10

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Return to Horror High (1987)

No this isn’t a sequel despite it really really really really sounding like one. Much to my disappointment I must add because this movies title sounds cool and very much in the same vein as classic horror comedy franchise The Return of the Living Dead. Well that’s what I thought anyway, I thought, gee this sounds like a cool classic 80’s horror gore fest, I wonder if there’s a movie called ‘Horror High’ that came first. Little insight into the way I think there for you all, well actually my reviews kinda do that any way don’t they…moving on!

The plot is a simple horror concept. Back in 1982 the small community of Crippen, South California was rocked by a series of grisly murders within the local high school. The killer was never caught. Years later a film company comes to Crippen high school to make a movie about the horrific incident. Unfortunately the same killer is still on the loose and starts his old habits yet again on the film crew. So as you can see this is a pretty generic horror movie concept.

But this movies plot is a bit different in a few ways. Firstly almost the entire plot is told in flashbacks from the narrative of a police investigation taking place after the incident. The bulk of these flashbacks come from the police interviewing the last survivor. At the same time there is a film-within-a-film (found footage) element from the film company as they film their horror movie. The plot jumps back and forth between these plot lines making you the viewer unsure if you’re seeing a real murder or a murder for the film-within-a-film.

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But all that aside, what is the movies big selling point now? Its stars a very young, curly haired George Clooney. Yes Clooney is in this movie…for around five minutes before being unceremoniously killed off by the unknown killer. Admittedly I wasn’t entirely sure if this was a real kill or pretend for the film-within-a-film but that is made clear later on. By that I mean, when its a fake kill the sequence always ends panning away with us seeing the crew filming or the actor breaking his scene. If the kill is real that simply doesn’t happen and its more eerie.

In that sense the movie does feel more like a series of set pieces or shorts because its all so fractured. The plot is really quite incredibly jumbled and you’re never entirely sure what’s real and what’s not. Half the time everyone kinda comes across as play acting including the cops doing the investigation. One female officer leading the investigation seems to be constantly aroused and eating at the most inopportune times, its really quite odd. The film-within-a-film producer is played by the legendary Alex Rocco which does add much gravitas but at the same time he feels completely miscast. You get the impression he was simply cast for his movie star status because he does very little else except act frustrated and walk around.

The rest of the cast are completely hit and miss really, just faceless actors doing their bit that anyone could do. There isn’t really anyone pulling everything together, giving the movie any real punch, it all feels so meh. The visuals throughout are really drab and mundane, they don’t utilise the high school enough for maximum horror effect (not until they venture into the basement at least). The kills are rather boring, predictable, no sloppy 80’s gore, nothing to engage you. The actual killer reveal is a typical [i]Scooby Doo[/i]-esque turn that is so flippin’ hokey, not entirely predictable but not exactly shocking or exciting either. To top that the killers mask is a blatant rip-off of various other classic iconic horror movie killers.

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All in all it was hard to know what exactly this movie was suppose to be. It wasn’t particularly scary, it wasn’t particularly funny anywhere, its definitely not for kids but I wouldn’t say it was for fully grown adults either. Fully grown adults wouldn’t find this very engaging methinks. It felt more like an attempt at a smart horror comedy for teens and young adults, but it just fails miserably. The final twist in the tale makes no sense simply because you’d think the cops and paramedics would have sussed it right away (surely?!). That in turn then puts doubt on whether there was a killer in the school or was it all a hoax. I think the killer was there but the others simply missed it, I’m honestly not sure.

This could almost be an early forerunner to the Scream franchise, its similar in idea and tone but simply not as clever or witty. Its a shame because the movies poster and title both have that classic 80’s vibe and promise. Alas it all looks cheap and tacky, its thoroughly convoluted and thoroughly dull.

4/10

The Giant Claw (1957)

Well 1950’s cinema gave us all manner of monsters, aliens, giant bugs, mythical creatures, doll sized people, invisible people etc…In the realms of over sized animals and bugs (arachnids) there was a large array including giant man eating grasshoppers, scorpions, tarantulas, praying mantis, ants etc…So it was naturally just a matter of time before a movie came along that had a giant man eating bird, because why not? If it can be even remotely scary there’s a chance there’s a 50’s movie about it.

In this wondrous movie life is generally fine and dandy for all the characters concerned, that is until a giant bird comes out of nowhere and starts to attack planes and such. Naturally most of the main characters in this movie are military types because of course they are. Two of the protagonists aren’t military types but are in fact civil aeronautical engineers that appear to be working with military types, so its all military type stuff as usual.

Yep so this giant bird is attacking planes and causing lots of panic and alarm. The problem is no one can prove its a giant bird at first, many think its a hoax or a UFO. Thing is, this giant bird is really quite giant, its described as being as big as a battleship, sooo…how has this not been proven yet?? Cameras are apparently not in use in this movie and everybody seems to be somewhat shortsighted because I really fail to see how a battleship sized bird could go undetected. Then you gotta ask yourself where this thing came from? How did it get so big? What does it eat other than people and planes? Where does it live? Are there more of them? Oh wait it actually comes from an anti-matter galaxy, because of course it does. But how did it…ah who cares, don’t question it.

So the giant bird in question turns out to be an alien basically, from another galaxy. That doesn’t stop it from looking like a bird from Earth though (kinda like a cross between a Vulture and a Condor). Anyway I say that lightly because this giant bird is most probably the most ridiculous looking special effect ever. The main clear problem is the birds head, oh boy! This thing literally looks like a Warner Bros cartoon I kid you not. The shape of the head is all wrong, it has this comical tuft of hair sprouting from the top of its head, the beak is permanently open with no movement and the eyes are…umm…beyond farcical. The rest of the bird isn’t too bad truth be told, the body looks fine, the wing span, feathers, claws etc…all look perfectly reasonable for this type of B-movie. Its that head, that hideous, static, wide eyed, dopey looking Looney Tunes head.

Unfortunately like many of these really bad B-movies the film is padded out with lots and lots of stock footage, generally military footage. Next to that you have a load of narration to fill in all the gaps where they couldn’t afford to actually film. Much of the run time revolves around boring dialog scenes with the characters as they discuss how to stop the creature, where it came from, what it wants etc…Then numerous other scenes of people in planes (exceedingly bad plane sets) looking out of cockpits in shock and horror as a large shadow passes overhead. When we do actually see the giant creature you can even see the wires holding it up.

The weird thing is at times the effects aren’t too bad. When the giant bird attacks Manhattan the model skyline with overflying giant bird and military aircraft actually looks quite nice. Obviously the black and white helps cover any noticeable flaws but overall some scenes do look acceptable. In fact when the bird attacks the Empire State Building I can confidently say it actually looked pretty solid, the crumbling skyscraper did look pretty competent. Alas things take a nosedive when the bird eats the obvious model planes and the live action pilots who are shot against a poor rear projection sequence. Then of course there’s all that stock footage of crowds spliced with real footage of a very small group of people reacting and running in terror.

Would you be surprised if I told you this bird turns out to be impervious to all Earthly weapons? Didn’t think so, aren’t these monsters always somewhat invincible? No amount of gunfire, shells, missiles, rockets or even nukes can ever bring these fuckers down. Turns out this thing can create its own anti-matter force field that also gives it stealth from radar, handy huh.

Again its a shame really because the movies poster is so incredibly awesome, really striking. Other than that there really isn’t anything I can recommend here unless you like to see amazingly bad special effects. On that front the movie is top notch, a full riot to be sure, but I can’t give it a good score for that because the movie is terrible. I do believe this movie is only well known (or infamous) simply because of its terrible giant beastie model. Everything else is pretty much as you would expect and no different from all the other 50’s monster movies. Shout out for the epic Morris Ankrum who clearly made a mistake agreeing to be in this. He still manages to be epic though, its the hair and tash that does it.

1.5/10

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

The final chapter? Why do I somehow doubt that. Also, ‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’, not really a good sign is it. Yet you could say this present day horror franchise is the modern equivalent of the trashy slasher franchise of the 80’s, just glossier looking. I mean lets be serious here, who in their right mind thought we’d be at movie number six with this franchise. Anyway this movie starts off by giving us a complete backstory flashback right from square one. This is presumably because many folk will have forgotten everything that has come before in this fast food throwaway franchise. I’m not really surprised, there has been so many characters dying, surviving, disappearing and coming back its easy to get confused.

So what’s the new angle this time? There is no angle, its back to Raccoon City! ugh!! Yep all the way back to the hive where it all began, but why? (other than cash grabbing on nostalgia porn). Because there is in fact an antivirus to the T-virus which has been developed by Umbrella. But why would Umbrella develop an antivirus? Well because they intend to keep all the rich and important people frozen in cryogenic pods underground in the hive. Then once the T-virus has wiped out mankind (Umbrella released it on purpose), they will wake up, release the antivirus to kill off the T-virus and then start Earth over as they want. Was this the game plan all along? I dunno because I can’t remember and there’s no way in hell I’m rewatching the last five movies.

This beginning does also mean that we don’t get to see the rather epic looking mega battle that was hinted at in the finale of the last movie. You know, where the last remnants of the human race were all holed up and barricaded in the White House with a humongous army of undead creatures and mutants trying to break in. Yeah that looked awesome…but we don’t see it, just the aftermath where everyone has been killed and Wesker apparently betrayed everyone…again!

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So Alice must reach the hive and retrieve the antivirus within a set time limit. Why the time limit? well according to the Red Queen the remaining human outposts will fall when this time limit expires. Not really sure how the computer would know this, how could it tell when every last human is dead? Anyway one of the earlier things we learn is not everyone from the previous movies is actually dead. There are still numerous clones running around which all equals lots of convenient and contrived twists and reveals. And as to be expected, the movie raises many many questions concerning the plot and possible errors.

So on her way to Raccoon City Alice inevitably comes across numerous obstacles or traps, obviously these are Umbrella orchestrated. There appears to be a small band of survivors in Raccoon City and Umbrella are determined to kill them off. They aim to do this by moving towards the city in tanks very slowly (led by the thought to be dead Dr. Isaacs, same actor), leading a vast undead army behind them, no clue why. Eventually Alice winds up with the survivors, gains their trust (mainly due to the reemergence of Claire Redfield, same actress) and decide to make a stand against the incoming hordes. Low and behold Alice and co win, destroying both tanks in the process. Yet in the next scene we see Alice and co using one tank (was there more than two? only saw two).

Stage two, off to the hive with her new band of gun totting badasses (some white blokes with beards and muscles, a few sexy women, one token black guy, the usual), which is briefly interrupted by zombie dogs. Cue a sequence where most of the team somehow manage to outrun said zombie dogs accept for the obligatory odd member who gets mauled. Once inside the hive they discover it to be a giant funhouse of deadly traps being controlled by Wesker (whose face looks oddly plastic and CGI). Here most of the team get killed off at various stages by various traps. Its all highly obvious but actually highly entertaining. In fact the whole deadly funhouse angle is actually a neat way to go, shame it doesn’t last very long.

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In the meantime there are more Umbrella tanks with armies of the undead moving slowly towards Raccoon City, not really sure why though. One tank picks up Isaacs (he survived the first attack with his other tanks), he informs one soldier to head for the hive. Said foot soldier says he can’t he has other orders…but from who?? Is there someone else we don’t know about higher than Isaacs? Its at this point that Isaacs kills the foot soldier. These movies amuse me, in a world where the human race is on the brink of extinction, people still go around killing each other en mass. And apparently Isaacs can afford to kill his own Umbrella foot soldiers, surely they must be running out?

Stage three, Alice reaches hive central so to speak and confronts Wesker who has thawed out some of the rich important people. Said people turn out to be the real Isaacs (UGH!!!) and an old lady in a wheelchair. So I don’t wanna spoil anythi…ah fuck it, the old lady is actually the real original Alice. Yes the Alice we’ve all been following through all these shitty movies was in fact a clone all along…oh…my…God! We then get a whole load of spiel from Isaacs who explains his entire dastardly plan and how much he hates both Alice’s. The real Isaacs also has the antivirus which he goads clone Alice over. Thing is, if Isaacs hates old lady Alice so much, why doesn’t he just kill her? If he doesn’t want clone Alice getting the antivirus, why not lock it up in a hi-tech safe?

Stage four, the finale. Its incredible but somehow, some bloody how, that flippin’ laser beam corridor is back. You know, the one that cuts people up…well except Alice. Yes the finale sees clone Alice and the real Isaacs having a good brawl which leads them into the laser beam corridor. Alice again manages to dodge the beams, for some reason the beams don’t form the deadly diamond mesh formation which allows Alice to evade them. Alice then sticks a grenade in Isaacs pocket which doesn’t blow him up? and doesn’t kill Alice also? I guess it wasn’t a grenade? whatever.

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Stage five, the final part of the finale (oh please!). Well what do you thinks gonna happen here?? Clone Alice manages to kill everyone of course, Wesker (wasn’t he a monster at one point or something?), the real Isaacs and even all the cryogenically frozen people (geez!). The antivirus is released into the atmosphere and literally wipes out all the zombies within seconds, doesn’t even need time to spread through the air apparently. We could of at least seen some cool decomposing or melting or breakdown of the zombies as the antivirus destroys the T-virus, nope they just drop like flies. Luckily it will take years for the antivirus to spread across the globe so that leaves plenty of time for yet more undead monster killing adventures from Alice, hurrah!

OK credit where credits due, this franchise started way back in 2002 for Pete’s sake, its now 2017 and its still (apparently) going strong. Despite the fact I literally cannot understand how this is happening, I have to admit that’s impressive, come on admit it, it is. Considering almost every one of these movies is virtually the same shit but in different locations, I have to give congrats even though it pains me to do so. Yet despite all the questions, flaws and stupidity this movie is actually one of the better ones in the franchise. Its not completely ridiculously overblown nonsense as you might expect, its actually a little bit toned down, much darker, a smidgen more serious and you don’t get as many mutants, monsters or zombies. Its still a total videogame-esque rampage of blood ‘n’ gore that feels like its played out in stages with boss fights, of course (obviously nothing like the actual videogame). Its simply not as daft and thusly that little bit more engaging in a good way.

6.5/10

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Reptilicus (1961)

Well its not often you come across a mainstream Danish flick, let alone a Danish monster flick, and yet here we are. Interestingly there are actually two versions of this movie, a Danish version directed by Poul Bang and an America version directed by Sidney Pink. Apparently the same cast had to do the same scenes both in English and Danish, which seems a bizarre decision. The American version also had new scenes shot with extra gore, more dialog, removed original Danish scenes and dubbed over the Danish actors. The Danish version had more shots of the young cast in swimsuits for one scene, and more comedic relief from Danish comedic actor Dirk Passer. Overall the US version seemed to cut out more footage whilst adding weaker stuff in the process.

But what’s it all about? I hear you say, well take a guess. I think this basic idea must be the most over used idea in movie history. Some Danish miners discover an ancient fossil (part of a tail) deep underground, frozen; they quickly fly it to Copenhagen for various old scientist blokes to examine. No one knows what it is but they know to keep it frozen. Alas some dumbass allows the fossil to thaw because he leaves the door open to the cold room. When this is discovered the scientists realise the fossil is regenerating, somehow, so they just let this happen apparently. Before you can say holy Godzilla rip-off! the creature has fully regenerated, escapes and is now running amok in downtown Copenhagen. Yes it really is that simple.

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Now let me just start by saying there will be some piss taking here because this movie was pretty bad, but I do this in a loving way. So the effects, my God the effects; the monster in question is simply a marionette on strings/rods. I’ll just let that sink in there, yes that’s right its a puppet…and boy can you tell. The creature is supposed to be a cross between a large reptile and a Brontosaurus I think, but it comes out looking more like a skinny, tatty dragon. The monster lurches around some very obvious model sets and merely slams into them with its head, causing them to topple over likes models do. Another silly factor being you only ever see its head and neck at any one moment (unless you see the Danish version which has a flying monster), we never really see its body. This makes it even more obvious that its a puppet because you can almost see the marionette rods popping out from behind the models.

The film suffers from that aspect where some shots actually look OK, but others are bloody terrible. Now if you’re watching the US version you will also see extra footage specially added by the Yanks or whoever. That being green acid which the monster spits at the hordes of Danish troops. The acid in question is actually a very crudely superimposed effect that has been tacked on after the films completion. One minute you see a shot of Danish troops, the next some green goo seems to hit the camera lens and apparently the troops in question are dead. Along with that is probably one of the most horrific effects I’ve come across. The monster manages to scoop up some poor Dane and eat them, but the human in question seems to be an actual paper cut out or crayon-like drawing of a person. It clearly doesn’t even go into the monsters mouth because its clearly a tacked on horrendous effect. It happens fast but its so so bad looking it sticks out by a good country mile.

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What makes everything so stupid is the fact that the monster can’t be killed with traditional methods. The reason being if a limb is lost or a chunk of the beast comes away, apparently that piece of monster will start to regenerate itself into yet another monster…because reasons. So there is no way in hell that you could possibly try to blow it up or shoot it or whatever. Cue a shit load of stock footage and real footage of troops firing guns, machine guns, tanks, anti-aircraft guns…the whole fecking enchilada. The monster even retreats into the sea at one point but they still go after it…with depth charges! (oy vey!). Yet despite this constant (and I mean constant) bombardment from the Danes the monster never seems to get hurt or loose any body parts. Hell it doesn’t even rampage that much, merely sits behind buildings and slams its head into things as if its retarded or something. In the end the monster is poisoned but not before a limb is blown off leaving the film open ended.

So other than the hilariously bad monster sequences what else is there? Well there are a whole load of scenes inside a main HQ type room where military leaders and scientists discuss things whilst Copenhagen gets crushed. This happens often, blokes standing around in suits and uniforms; with a large map with little toy soldiers on it, talking in a gruff manner. The more serious we act, the more shit gets done. But the really good bit, the highlight of the show has to be the travelogue section. Yes midway through this extravaganza we are treated to a sequence where some of the characters enjoy Copenhagen (more specifically Tivoli) by day and night. This overly long sequence shows us various landmarks in Copenhagen and generally what a great place is it (before its ruined by a gigantic reptilian dinosaur). It all ends in a nightclub in Tivoli with a musical number that has also accompanied this visual holiday brochure the whole time.

I saw the US version here so I can only wonder at how superior the Danish version might be (ahem!). This is really one of those tight corners you tend to get forced into when reviewing these old cult sci-fi/horror/monster flicks. On one hand the movie is generally complete garbage, none of it makes any real sense, nothing adds up and it honesty looks dreadful. Yet on the other hand some of the effects are quaint and charming, the acting is so bad its enjoyable and finding gaping plot holes is fun. I can’t really give this a top score because it is legitimately poor (the modified US version anyway), but it just about makes it into the ‘so bad its good’ bracket.

6.5/10

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