Posted on Leave a comment

Fins in Funnels: The Sharknado Franchise, part 2

March 10, 2018 was one of the craziest days of my life. They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results? Not so. True insanity is watching all five Sharknado films in one day.

Sharknado 2: The Second One

Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

Number of Beers Consumed: 2

It was when I began my viewing of the second Sharknado movie that I reached for a beer. I was gonna need it.

The first movie, although flawed, was a lot of fun. If you haven’t read my review last week, go ahead. I’ll wait. I didn’t need a beer then. I had nachos.

The second one, cleverly named “The Second One”, was an inferior sequel at best but held true to the campy goodness displayed in the first film. This no doubt was encouraged by the cult following the original Sharknado had created. More celebrity cameos abounded. More outlandish premises explored. More cringe worthy dialogue expressed. Good. That’s clearly what the people want.

This one starts right off with a homage to the Twilight Zone’s Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Sharkastrophe strikes as an airplane headed toward the Big Apple is caught in a toothy storm. Our heroine, April Wexler (Tara Reid) is attacked in mid-air by a wind-swept shark with an insanely great sense of direction, and she loses her arm. ‘It’s like he knew who I was,” says she. This time it’s personal.

The film follows the sister of Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) and her family as they sightsee their way into terror. In peril, they contact our hero, Fin (oh wait…Fin! I totally just got that), and as predicted he becomes entangled in a mess of turbo leviathans. There are some fun moments as New York City icons become destroyed. The head of the Statue of Liberty takes some shit out. A sewer alligator gets eaten by a shark. B through Z-list celebrities show up in damn near every scene. I won’t really dive into the plot because there is nothing to say that you wouldn’t already guess. It ain’t that deep.

This movie goes a little into the “science” of the sharknado, and by that I mean Matt Lauer and Al Roker are seen discussing it several times on television. A southerly shark wind is heading north causing record heat in New York City. Record heat turns to July snowfall as an arctic air front converges over Manhattan. Sharks are coming down at a rate of 2” per hour! The winds are picking up whale sharks now, folks. Hey, those are big! Two nados are combining to form an EF5 finny twister over the upper east side. And god no…a third is threatening to join turning this phenomenon into a “storm of biblical proportions!” Oh the humanity!

I can say I was impressed by the variety of sea life involved in this movie’s weather. In addition to the whale shark, we get to see some airborne hammerheads, makos, and even a wacky wall-walker octopus. This pleased me for some reason. I smiled inwardly as I cracked open my second beer.

I want to take a moment now to appreciate the only player in this movie who had any acting skills whatsoever…Vivica A. Fox. A former flame of Ian Ziering’s character, she teams up with him to slay the winds with the help of a lightning rod and some feisty gumption. Vivica A. Fox is not a good actress. I am just saying she was the best one in this movie.

At some point, or maybe I was just starting to get buzzed, Fin “surfs” the sharknado. There are a variety of useful weapons flying about him amidst the ferocious maelstrom and conveniently within arms reach. Definitely a cartoony moment. I snort laughed, then realized I didn’t know who I was anymore.

The real kicker to this film is the ending. Remember April and her lost arm? Yah, that comes back into play in the most ridiculously Evil Dead kind of way. I just don’t have the heart to spoil this one for you, folks, but it involves a circular saw, the shark that ate her arm and a wedding ring.

The true testament to the brutal staying power of this franchise is that when I finished the movie and went to pee out the Lone Star, I found myself deep in thought about where they could possibly go from here. The first tendrils of dread entered my psyche. Wherever they go with the next one, I best be prepared. And possibly drunk.

With anxiety, a fresh beer and a bit of acid reflux, I popped in the third installment appropriately titled Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

See ya next time!

Posted on Leave a comment

Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘The Intruder Within’ (1981)

From the Bargain Bin: ‘Consistently inconsistent’

This is the last stop on Reed’s history or shitty creature features. While none of them were particularly good, every one was a part of my childhood growing up and shaped the horror nut whose reviews you read today.

Continue reading Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘The Intruder Within’ (1981)
Posted on Leave a comment

Milk by Evelyn Deshane Pt. 1

In honor of Pride Month, we are so happy to offer this story about a young transgender man by author Evelyn Deshane. This story was originally submitted for the Body Horror anthology, and we didn’t think it fit that theme, but we knew that it was an important story, and one we wanted to be able to tell the world. We have broken it into three parts, and one part will be offered each week of the month. Enjoy!

Editor
Continue reading Milk by Evelyn Deshane Pt. 1
Posted on 1 Comment

Horror Canon

This is a blog post on a publisher’s website, so what I’m about to say may or may not seem that shocking. The majority of kids today profess a dislike of reading. I’m an English teacher. I hear this all the time. Of course part of my job is to make students read. 

There is a set course of study that every state has put in place. In English, this includes works that need to be read. Teachers have some leeway with what they pick, but boundaries still exist. Early American literature has to be covered. World literature is on the curriculum in certain grades. British literature is usually reserved for seniors. Within those boundaries, schools oftentimes have already chosen what is to be read. This selection is usually what is in the textbook. Sometimes English departments get together and decide novels or plays to be read by certain grade levels. 

What is lacking from most of those lists? Horror. It’s because of a variety of reasons. Horror literature in education has a stench about it. The odor of festering corpses permeates any room in which the idea of using horror to bring in reluctant readers is mentioned. 

In a rather old article, but education hangs out in the world of old research, Randi Dickson, who at the time was a doctoral student in education, wrote about how kids loved reading horror fiction, but that it provided nothing to edify them (Dickson, 1998). 

The ironic thing about this article is how often Dickson discusses children’s love of the Goosebumps series. Again, this is a 20-year-old article, but there is a fundamental issue overlooked then as it is now. If you want kids/students to read, they have to like to read. 

Forcing students to read stories they find boring can damage their relationship with reading for the rest of their lives. Once we lose them; we probably aren’t getting them back. This is where horror comes into play. Kids like a good safe scare like Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Here in Alabama, kids devour “true” ghost stories recorded by the late Kathryn Tucker Windham. None of her books are under 30-years-old, but kids still love them because they have a spine tingling aspect to them. Adolescents love scary stuff too. There is a reason why slasher movies exist. It’s not because 40-somethings like me watch them. Teens like them. They buy the movie tickets. That’s why so many characters in those movies are teens, and why so many are no rated PG-13. Guess what, teens will like horror novels too.

Later in her article, Dickson mentions that reader choice, even if it’s horror, might be a way to lure kids into a love of reading that will translate into reading books that she says are edifying (1998). 

There it is. As an English teacher, I believe in letting students have some liberty in choosing what they wish to read. I still run into the kids who have no desire to read. This is when I mention graphic novels. (A blog for another day perhaps). When students have difficulty deciding what they might like to read, I suggest horror titles. 

A quick story. I had a student who was a notorious troublemaker. He was smart. He read well, but he was caught up in the whole I need to be bad to be cool mindset. It came time to select a book to read. He couldn’t come up with anything. I escorted him to the school’s library, and together, we looked through the shelves. I was not his main English teacher. I had him in a remedial course, which he didn’t need to be in. He was a fluent and thoughtful reader. His problem was motivation. I knew he didn’t like his actual English teacher very well.

On the bottom shelf in the part of the library where the horror, fantasy, and sci-fi novels were kept. I saw the perfect book for him: Lois Duncan’s Killing Mr. Griffin. I grabbed it and told him to check it out. 

“What’s it about?” he asked.

“A group of kids kidnapping their English teacher,” I replied.

“All right.”

He read the book and loved. (No English teachers were harmed in the reading of that book.)

A student engaged by using horror novels. Did this kid go on to become the model student? Of course not, this isn’t fiction, but he may very well have learned to love books. So teachers, parents, etc. should encourage students to pick books they want to read. If it’s horror, good. They will get something out of it; even if, it’s just learning they like books. 

Now some technical stuff:

Work CitedDickson, R. (1998). Horror: to gratify not edify. Language Arts, 76, (2), 115-122.

Posted on Leave a comment

Rest in Peace, Lilly Gray

I live beside the largest municipally-operated cemetery in the United States: Salt Lake City Cemetery, a sprawling necropolis that stretches out over a square kilometer of grounds. It’s one of the most tranquil places in the city. The trees are mature and well-tended, the lawns neat, the markers often interesting and sometimes quite beautiful. It’s a place of peace and reflection, which is exactly what a cemetery should be; I don’t want to spoil the surprise ending for anyone, but the dead appear to care remarkably little about the disposition of their remains or, indeed, their legacy in a larger sense. Cemeteries, like funerals, are for the living, poor fools that we are. Continue reading Rest in Peace, Lilly Gray

Posted on Leave a comment

Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Xtro 2: The Second Encounter’ (1990)

The worst offender in a long line of ‘Alien’ (1979) ripoffs…

This movie is so forgotten I practically had to do a deep web search to find a watchable copy. Seriously, just try to type it into the regular search and see if you can come up with a watchable copy. It won’t come up. In fact even major horror fan pages don’t mention this movie in their “complete list” of Alien themed movies. I have the distinct feeling this was a straight-to-video production. It took me forever just to find a bootleg copy that wasn’t dubbed in some language I don’t speak. When I finally did find one, the quality was so poor it was almost comical. Kinda like watching scrambled porn. The recording was clearly from an old VHS and the auto tracker kept popping on the screen in Spanish. If you know what either of those things are, you probably had some pretty kick ass horror movie memories like me.

What’s the point of spending hours trying to find this movie on the internet so I could watch it after all these years? You may remember from several of my older reviews from movies like Leviathan and DeepStar Six. I watched these when I was very young and I’ve had a hard-on for monster movies and horror ever since, so it’s nice to take a stroll down nostalgia lane and see if these, honestly terrible, movies still stand up to my childhood memories.

Xtro 2 was not one of those that stood the test of time. I mean, I liked re-watching Creature and a ton of other movies from my childhood, but this one was just plain awful. It was still great in the sense that it was riff-worthy material, and you could have a lot of fun with it just like that, but by no means was it good horror or even good-bad horror.

The acting was predictably awful, but it was even bad for horror, almost porno levels bad. The plot made no fucking sense. Hell, the gestation of the creature didn’t make any fucking sense. Most of the movie is pretty boring, with fleeting moments of excitement when the monster pops up, and that’s fucking criminal for a creature feature.

Beastie was neat though. Really loved the rubber monster design here.  Just wish they could have done a little more with it in the actual fucking movie.

Riffers only, do not watch.

SPOILERS!!!

I can’t fucking believe that I didn’t know Nicholas Lea was in this movie! I guess it’s no surprise. I was like… 8… 6 when I saw this the first time and probably didn’t even know who he was? It would be almost another 16 years before I would watch it again. I guess your career had to start somewhere though, Lea. Still, he was probably the best actor in the movie even though it was a supporting role. Is that really a spoiler?… hmmm, I guess not. 

How the fuck does this ‘interdimensional alien’ work? Scientists bring over an alien from another dimension that was using a woman’s body as a host. There was a gratuitous ripoff of the chest-burster scene from Alien, and then the rest of the movie is basically one long ripoff of Alien and Aliens after the next. But the alien came out of the woman’s body almost fully formed. I could see how it might have been able to hollow out a cavity and just pop out when it was big enough, but wouldn’t she just die?

So, you figure this thing needs to stick, Idontfuckenknow, larva or something into people like a wasp, but then in just lays like… Spores? Eggs? Something like that in the one guy and he pretty much explodes into a cloud of spore/egg thingies. Now, you could have just done that from the very start with the first lady, and maybe even had a more interesting concept that wasn’t a total blatant ripoff of the chest-burster scene. I guess in those days, getting the Aliens money was more important than maybe making a halfway decent movie.I could just say “Watch Alien,” as it’s a better movie with better actors. However, if you’re a hardcore riffer, this movie may be amusing.

If you like Reed Alexander’s Horror Review, consider donating by clicking the link below then hitting the ‘Tip’ button. You can also support Reed by Sharing his reviews on Facebook and Twitter.

https://horror.media/authors/reed-alexander

New reviews posted Thursday, here on Madness Heart!

He everyone, Reed recently published a book with MHP. It’s for sale in the shop!

Posted on Leave a comment

Nicholas Cage: What Does He Contribute to Horror?

Nicolas Cage is slated to play the male lead in a movie adaptation of “The Color out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft. So, are we going to get a deep and thoughtful rendition of an incredibly complex story line? Or are we going to get the usual “Not the bees” hammed up acting that Nicholas Cage is well known for?

I hit the threads to ask fellow horror heads in Frightland what they thought and it broke down pretty simply.

It should be noted that the sample is about half what I consider acceptable (no less than 300 reporting) and my targeted sample group are horror fanatics who have specific biases.  However, those are the biases are what I’m after. First, the hard numbers.

When asked if they thought Nicholas Cage was an appropriate fit, those surveyed had this to say.

Stats: Sample size 144
Nicholas Cage is a fine actor and will do a great job 62 43%
Nicholas Cage’s over the top acting will fit the genre 41 28%
Nicholas Cage is not fit for this movie 20 14%
No Opinion 21 15%

Though just barely, I am immediately hit by the fact that individuals who didn’t care one way or the other, outnumber individuals who believe Cage is going to bomb.  Even if just by one. There are two primary camps for support. Those who believe Cage is actually a good actor and can handle it. Not sure how familiar these people are with his filmography but it’s their opinion.  The second camp believe that Cage’s usual over the top method acting is actually perfect for Lovecraftian setting. This may be a good point. Lovecraft delves deeply into madness and if anyone does a ‘frothing at the mouth raving lunatic’ right, it’s Cage.

For those who believe Cage is a decent actor, it is true his filmography is filled with smashing performances. Matchstick Man, Raising Arizona, and 8mm. Even films like The Rock, as campy as it was, Cage did a fine job. He’s clearly capable of amazing acting… but then we start to look at his track record in horror and it seems like his quality level takes a nosedive.  In several of my reviews, I’ve told him to please leave horror and never come back.

We don’t have to just use examples like “Not the bees” from The Wicker Man.  He hasn’t exactly had a great track-record with horror at all. The worst being Vampire’s Kiss which was so over the top, it has since become a series of memes that have launched his campy ridiculousness into legendary status.  Cage went so over the top in Vampire’s Kiss we got full blown ‘So Bad It’s Good’ with levels not seen since Troll 2.

In my review of Pay the Ghost, I was surprised to be hit by a lukewarm performance as opposed to the hammy over acting.

In my review of Mom and Dad, literally the only bad acting was Cage, and he was surrounded by a bunch of nobodies.

But with 8mm under his belt, Cage clearly shows he’s capable of the edgy subtlety necessary for Lovecraftian stories.  And that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for one of Cages full blown over the top zany moments. We all remember Bruce Campbell’s  scene from Evil Dead 2 when confronted by laughing furniture, or when actor Sam Neill completely cracks at the end of, In the Mouth of Madness.  Most recently, fans of the good ol’ fashioned Cage freak out point to Mandy, where his over the top acting filled the role almost too perfectly. It was like a natural fit.

Current director Richard Stanley, maybe keenly aware of Cages ability to deliver both and if he has the capacity to wrangle in the great ego that is Cage, it could work out perfectly.  While there is something about horror that Cage never really seems to get a handle on, using 8mm again as an example, if The Color out of Space is presented more as an ‘investigative thriller,’ maybe he won’t ham it up until eventually given clearance from the director to, so to speak, ‘go full Cage.’

Looking at the director’s filmography, nothing stands out as a particular gem and the list is depressingly short over a very long time period.  I wonder if this director has the clout to reign in an ego like Cage and rangle up appropriate acting.

In the end, there is a slight glimmer of hope that Cage can pull off Lovecraft.  It’s likely just a matter of presenting it to the actor in the correct way. If it can be done, The Color out of Space may deliver the final adaptation for the story to be taken seriously in cinema.  However, I’m not holding my breath. We literally only have 8mm to point to as the right style for Cage, that and a director I strongly doubt has the level of clout needed to direct Cage.