Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekly Film Rec: The Exterminating Angel

I'm not really a Luis Bunuel fan. I actively enjoyed only one of his films I'd seen before The Exterminating Angel (which marks the 6th Bunuel film I've seen). That film, should you be curious, is That Obscure Object of Desire. Quite frankly, I think his films are a bit over my head. The culture he is often lampooning is foreign to me in country, era, and class. I'm a big fan of surrealism, but Bunuel's particular brand is somewhat mystifying. None of that has stopped me from watching Bunuel's other films. I'm curious about nearly anything that gets the Criterion treatment and he is considered a master of surrealist filmmaking. Since I already enjoy one of his films, it's safe to assume I'll enjoy another.

Two things struck me about title, The Exterminating Angel. The first is that it sounds like it should be a Kurosawa film (and even after seeing it, I still picture Toshiro Mifune as the eponymous angel). The second, and last, came in relation to the film being (generally) about a dinner party. The Exterminating Angel + dinner party =

Well, the title is a bit of a non sequitur. A number of upper class twits (to keep with the Monty Python references) get together for a dinner party but find that they can't leave. Some mysterious force is keeping them in and everyone else out. As the days pass, hunger and desperation sets in. These well-to-do gentle folk devolve. Tempers flare. Arguments break out. Hunger and thirst take control. Some die. Some lose reason. The most "civilized" of us turn to animals. Of course, all of this happens after the servants leave.

I wouldn't really call it a comedy, though it's very amusing. It's too absurd to be a drama. The Exterminating Angel is pitched at just the right level to be realistic and surrealistic. Bunuel (apparently) considers it a failure of sorts and wishes he'd been able to push it a bit further (I definitely expected some cannibalism, implied at the least), but I feel the film still works. Keep your ears and eyes open for the many instances of repetition (which will be much easier with the subtitles this trailer lacks, unless you speak Spanish).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Top 5 Films: Colorado

I've really been spending too much time on either coast for this series, so I thought I get right to the heart of it all. Colorado. Home of the Rockies (the mountains and baseball team) and my second cousins. I'm more than certain that I'm missing a ton of Westerns that at least dabble in the state, but I'll have to rely on you to fill in those blanks. So let's get on with this!

About Schmidt
It's kind of a road movie, but everything is building to Warren Schmidt arrives in Denver (plus, the Denver section features perhaps the films most memorable scene). Jack Nicholson at his least Jack Nicholson. A run down man trying to figure out what to do with himself now that he's retired. Much like Alexander Payne's other films (Election, Sideways, the postal woman's segment of Paris je t'aime), the comedy is very low key (Nicholson won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama) and there is a considerable amount of pathos.

Dumb and Dumber
While we're dealing with road trip movies, I may as well get Dumb and Dumber out of the way. One of the great dumb comedies of all time (and if you like this, check out The Brothers Solomon!). A particular sense of humor is required, sure, but the enthusiasm of Harry and Lloyd (Jeff Bridges and Jim Carrey, respectively) is so infectious that it's near impossible not to at least smile with this film. And Mike Starr makes an appearance (now I'm sad the TV show Ed isn't on DVD). I don't think there is a male of my generation who can't quote Dumb and Dumber ad nauseum. In fact, I'm just going to leave you with this: "That John Denver was full of shit."

I don't think Jimmy Steward has ever been as likable as he is in Harvey. Of course, with a giant invisible rabbit for a friend, who wouldn't be? Perhaps it's because I've been watching The X-Files lately (almost done with season 3!), but Harvey (the movie) feels like it could've been an episode of the aforementioned show. Most of the time Mulder has to fight for his theories and can occasionally get some tread on the non-believers (is that a stretch? I'm going with it anyway). I really like the fact that the audience identifies with a man who may be an alcoholic or insane just because he's sweet.

The Shining
Sure, it was filmed (partially) in Oregon, but Stephen King wrote the book inspired by his stay at the Stanley Hotel near Estes Park, Colorado. Really, The Shining is one of my favorite films ever. Depending on how you approach it, it's a terrifying exploration of a disturbed man's psyche or a hilarious comedy about a crazy guy. You don't believe the latter? Just watch the "Give me the bat, Wendy" scene. Or pretty much any scene with Shelley Duval (who is really the scariest thing about the film). The Shining is hypnotic and bizarre. The imagery does more to scare than anything that actually happens in the film.

Man! Stephen King, Kathy Bates, and road trips. That's what Colorado is all about. From now on, the only people who should be adapting Stephen King's works are Rob Reiner and Frank Darabont. They just seem to get him better than anyone else (Reiner's other King adaptation is Stand By Me). Also in it's favor, Misery was written by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride). In a world where fans have been known to attack those stars they love, Misery is a reminder that fame has a price. Finally, it references the events of The Shining mentioning "a guy who went mad in a hotel nearby." Using that as a leaping point, I'm going to go on thinking that all of the films above exist in the same world and that Harry and Lloyd went to the Overlook Hotel at the end of Dumb and Dumber to rescue Mary.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vinyl: the Wave of the Future

Recently, I went on a vinyl buying binge (binge meaning five records, which is a ton for me right now). This is aside from my Goodwill trips where I buy a pile for $12. These were honest-to-god new(-ish) releases. For the longest time, I fought with myself over whether I should be the CD or the vinyl copy of an album. The compromise wound up being that I'd eventually by both. Not very efficient (though this is coming from someone who has bought multiple versions of each of the three Evil Dead movies and will be buying a new one any day now).

However, there has been a somewhat recent development (and a bit of marketing genius) to sell records with either a downloadable mp3 copy or an actual CD. This certainly weighs heavily in the decision-making process. The biggest issue with buying records was that they weren't portable. I couldn't go running and listen to the album, let alone listen to one in the car. I don't even need to buy a special record player that has a USB port. Yes... this appeals to me greatly.

I won't get into the whole "vinyl vs. CD" argument because I've heard arguments on both side that seem valid to me. Clearly, most people don't know one way or another aside from personal preference. I just know I like the sound a record player makes. I like the feel and look of the vinyl album. I like the large record covers and fantasize about one day covering my wall with them. I really like the idea of a record as a whole unit that had a lot of thought put into the order of the songs (and not something to be picked apart for the highlights).

Each medium has their advantages (though I struggle to see what the advantage of the cassette is). CDs are portable and lendable. Mp3s offer the chance to carry your whole collection in your pocket. Vinyl is classic and durable. Now that I can easily have the best of all worlds, I'll be keeping my mp3 player and my record player side-by-side.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekly Film Rec: Alligator

After last week's foray into legitimacy and class, I return to the genre which will always own my heart. As the following still shows, Alligator spoke to me (and my girlfriend):
Not only is my last name in that shot, but the man entering the sewer is the same man who played Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Sydney Lassick). I've long desired to name a son (should I ever have one) Cheswick. Yes, this movie is for me.

There have long been urban legends about alligators being flushed down toilets and growing to enormous size in the sewers beneath and I'm not really sure which came first (though I have a hunch the urban legends came first). Well, that's precisely what happens here. Don't let the B-movie plot fool you, though. This is a fantastic movie (not unlike Them! or The Day the Earth Stood Still).

Robert Forster (nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Jackie Brown) stars as a badass (just wait for the key trick)... er, cop with a darkish past who is trying to find this giant alligator. He's accompanied by a researcher who, I believe, is responsible for the alligator being doomed to the sewer in the first place (well, her dad is). So maybe it still doesn't sound all that exceptional. Kind of like a SyFy movie. Boy, you're tough to win over.

It's written by John Sayles (who also wrote the equally awesome Piranha and The Howling, both by Joe Dante). The practical effects and miniature sets are really quite impressive. And there's at least one amazing reveal of the gator. Best of all for a film like this, it has a sense of humor. Pay attention to the graffiti in the sewer (the stuff that doesn't have anything to do with me) and the name of one of the victims. Finally, keep an eye out for the original Lolita, Sue Lyons.

You know what? You may as well just do a triple feature with Alligator, Piranha, and The Howling. An all-night creature feature-thon. Or move to Portland. The projectionist at the Hollywood Theater owns a print and has been known to show it as part of his Grindhouse Film Fest. 35mm. On the big screen. I've got chills thinking about it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top 5 Films: Florida

Continuing with the theme of picking states I have a personal connection to, I've chosen Florida as I visit there at least once a year and will be flying down at the end of the month to visit my grandparents.

As always, I'm sure I missed some great films that take place in Florida so feel free to chastise me (though some, like Some Like It Hot, have been left off on purpose and I will rebuke you appropriately if that's the case).

Day of the Dead
It's kind of a disappointed after the epic greatness of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. In fact, Day of the Dead kind of drives me crazy with all of the shouting and irrationality. The characters aren't particularly complex or likable... but zombies! People trapped in an underground silo! Awesome gore! Bub! I really think that most of my problems with the film are that it's not exactly what I wanted it to be (which is a balls-out zombie apocalypse), which isn't exactly fair. Also, it just doesn't seem right that it doesn't take place in Pennsylvania. Still, vital for any zombie fan.

The Birdcage
The first R-rated film I saw in theaters at the age of 13. Why? I have no idea. There is no violence or promise of nudity. It's about a gay couple trying to pose as a straight couple with one cross-dressing. There's little in it that should appeal to kids in the first place. Maybe I just really liked Robin Williams then (which would be ironic since I can barely stand him now). Certainly, I didn't put together that the mincing house keeper was the voice of Apu, Chief Wiggum, and Moe. I'm not even sure if I understood it at the time. I just know that I like it now.

Black Sunday
I watched Black Sunday (not to be confused with the Mario Bava film, which does not take place in Florida) with my dad when I was quite young. Before I started paying attention to actors and directors. All I needed to know was that a blimp was heading for the Super Bowl and there's a bomb on it! Sign me up! A blimp? Are you kidding me? That's awesome! If there's one thing I've always said, it's that there aren't enough blimps in movies these days. John "The Manchurian Candidate" directs. Thomas "The Silence of the Lambs" Harris wrote the source material. Robert "I'm a Badass" Shaw stars. Watch out for a bit of hyperbole at the end of this trailer.

The first of two cheats in that there is no specified location (other than fictional Bushwood Country Club) to Caddyshack, but the film was shot in Florida. And since so many people go to Florida to golf, it plays. There isn't too much more to say about Caddyshack. It's pedigree speaks for itself. Bill Murray. Chevy Chase. Harold Ramis (directing). Ted Knight. Rodney Dangerfield. Michael O'Keefe. OK, so many that last one (and main character) never achieved quite what the others had/have. However, my mind was significantly blown when I found out Michael O'Keefe played Jackie's accidental impregnater on Roseanne.

Edward Scissorhands
Filmed in and around Tampa, which is where I'll be heading soon, Edward Scissorhands makes the cut, though admittedly, until I looked up the filming locations, I'd always associated it with California (possibly because Tim Burton conceived it around his childhood in Burbank). This film is a great fairy tale with a stellar cast. This is Vincent Price's last feature film role and I feel the need to tell you all to go out and watch his old movies. He's a great actor and not the caricature he is portrayed as in pop culture. Also of note is Edward Scissorhands marked Anthony Michael Hall's change from put-upon nerd to bully (or at non-nerd roles, though he did eventually played notable nerd Bill Gates). It's a beautiful film.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Electric Bikes Make Me Mean

I was out for a run yesterday when I heard the sound of a tiny engine zooming up behind me. The source of the sound turned out to be a man riding an electric bicycle. It's not the first time I've encountered one of these either out and about or in the news, but my reaction is always the same: what a lazy jackass.

The nice thing about a bike is that it's a fairly simple machine and and manually operated. You can hop on and ride at anytime. The only "fuel" needed (aside from food for yourself) is batteries for lights at night and even then, there are lights that don't use batteries. If you really don't want to worry about that whole "expending energy" thing but still want to feel the wind on your face, buy a moped. A cursory glance at electric bike prices and moped prices shows that they both hover around the $1000 mark.

Advantages to having an electric bike:
-- you can make climbing a challenging hill a lot easier
-- hauling loads becomes less than a chore
-- you can go faster

Maybe there's more, and if there are, please tell me in the comments. However, the first advantage can be taken care by getting an appropriate bike. If you're just riding for style, then you're probably going to struggle on hills every now and then. It's all about gear ratio. Even a fixed gear can tackle hills if you've got the right ratio for yourself. Or you can go to the extreme that some people do and map out the paths that have the least elevation change and follow those. The last two advantages can be taken care of simply by getting a moped instead.

Let's not mince words, the only reason to get an electric bike is to give off the appearance that you are a cyclist at heart. It's a slippery slope using it just for hills to using it all of the time. The man I saw riding his yesterday? Riding on road as flat as you've ever seen.

Finally, the advantage to riding a regular bicycle:
-- you don't end up a fat-ass.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Top Films from Each Year of My Life: 2003

28 Days Later...

All the death. All the shit. It doesn't really mean anything to Frank and Hannah because... Well, she's got a Dad and he's got his daughter. So, I was wrong when I said that staying alive is as good as it gets. "

I promised them women. "

And we're back. After an aborted attempt to return to this recurring subject that some of you may have caught (I accidentally rewrote a 2001 entry for Wet Hot American Summer only much poorer the second time around), I'm back on target. While 2003 may not be the best year for films in terms of high quality, "important" films, it was a pretty fun year. Elf, Bubba Ho-Tep, A Mighty Wind, and Finding Nemo were all released. But the film the must rule this year is 28 Days Later...

At first, I didn't love this film. The third act shifted dramatically from the first two and it felt tonally off. Up to that point, the film was great. Lots of action. Nice character development. Harrowing images of an empty metroplis. Brendan Gleeson. Then the military comes in everything gets wacky. Or that's how I felt the first to times I saw it (both in the theater, so there must have been something calling me back). However, I came around to the ending on my third viewing. I really dug that there was no where left to go. Those who you trust to save you are also the enemy. You don't need to be infected by the virus to become a monster. I can't imagine third act as satisfying as it exists (I want the same thing to happen to Boyle's Sunshine, too, but I fear the third act of that film, which I still find incredible, may be a little too out there to be salvaged).

Perhaps the most impressive thing about 28 Days Later is that it was shot on a Canon SL-X1 (with some special lenses). It shows that just because one is shooting digital, it doesn't mean the film has to look like crap and be hand-held the entire time. With a little thought, you can create a film with its own unique beauty. Danny Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle did amazing things with a consumer grade camera that no one has been able to do since.

This is also the film that introduced much of the world to Cillian Murphy, who aside from me having a man-crush on, has pretty impeccable taste in projects. Certainly a bigger part in The Dark Knight would have made that film more enjoyable for myself.

28 Days Later benefits from two things Boyle does really well: filming foot chases and picking music for his films. I may not have cared much for Slumdog Millionaire, but that opening scene is incredible (as is the opening to Trainspotting, for that matter). Along with the striking minimalist score, Boyle places post-rock titans Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Grandaddy (AM 180 doesn't seem like it would fit in the film, but, just like Dawn of the Dead has some scenes of fun, so must 28 Days Later).

Finally, and it just wouldn't be me writing if I didn't mention this, 28 Days Later is not a zombie movie. There are no zombies. The people aren't dead (as evidenced by the fact that they can starve to death). This is an infection/epidemic movie, of which zombie films are a sub-genre (sort of like the whole square-rectangle relationship). In fact, if there is one bad thing I can say about this film, it's that it gave rise to the fast zombie trend, a concept so ridiculous it makes me want to laugh and chortle (and yes, I know there were fast zombies before this, the idea just hadn't, if you'll excuse the pun, gained momentum).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Netflix Draws My Ire Once Again/IMDB Better Watch It

I'd slowly been amassing Friends on Netflix (who happen to be my friends in real life). I don't think many people really knew that was an option on the site. Emphasis on "was." About two days after logging my eleventh Friend, Netflix took the service away! This had been coming for quite a while, it turns out, but I was no less distraught. I loved the Friend feature. There were user reviews to read (which can easily kill 10-15 minutes. Why would you rate a movie 1-star just because it has subtitles?). You could check out user submitted lists. You could see how your Friends' tastes reflect against your own. Best of all, you could check out your Friends' queues to judge them silently to yourself or to get ideas for films you'd like to put on your queue. I loved checking out to see what new movies people had rated.

But no more.

Netflix gave some BS about not enough people using it to warrant wasting engineers on the upkeep. My thinking is, if the system is already in place, couldn't they just leave it as is most of the time? They claim only about 2% of Netflix users used the feature, but it's not like they really pushed it. Once, it was a link at the top of the page, but before it was taken away, one had to scroll to the very bottom of the page and click on nearly the last word, "Friends."

Also, did they expect Facebook-type success? It's a pay service. Netflix has over 10 million subscribers. That's still 200,000 people using the service. Not an insignificant number.

I'm not going to be canceling my subscription because I love movies and Netflix is the best, most convenient way for me to get them. But I have friends all over the country that are watching movies and I want to know what they think (and I don't want my Facebook feed filled with that information).

I tell you what, Netflix... add a "Scramble" button the the queue so I can randomly and easily mix up all of my movies and we'll call it even. For now.
And while I'm attacking my favorite things, IMDB better be careful. At work last night, I accessed the site only to find that it was different. But not in a good way. Pictures were taking over the page, the links on the side were moved to the bottom, the page was endless. The entire interface was terrible. It hasn't hit my home computer yet, but I fear it will. I hope IMDB designers think better of this change or at least gives us the option to return to the "classic" look, because if it doesn't, well god help us all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly Film Rec: McCabe and Mrs. Miller

I've finally decided to class this place up. There's another film I had in mind for this spot, but it shall wait for another day. This week, I'm going with Robert Altman's revisionist (if there is such a thing) western, McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Before I get started, I feel like I'm in the minority of people who neither loves nor loathes the works of Altman. I've been on all points of the spectrum, but it seems most fall on one side or the other. He's done films I'll never see (A Prairie Home Companion, mainly because I don't like the radio show), films I hate (Nashville. I know, it's a crime) and films I love (MASH).

McCabe and Mrs. Miller started out in the Nashville category, rambling and rather dull. The only thing of note was the excellent use of Leonard Cohen's music. At about the halfway point, the McCabe started hooking me in. A plot began to form and a started noticing the performances, particularly Warren Beatty's. I kind of admire him for taking his fair share of leading man roles where he has a fairly large and emasculating character trait. His "I've got poetry in me" soliloquy is pretty fantastic, too.

Altman does little to make the West look appealing. I put a sweatshirt on while watching looking at all of those people bundled up in giant fur coats walking around 3 foot high drifts of snow (OK, my house was pretty chilly, too). The mud practically cakes on the screen and one wonders why anyone bothered dressing nicely back then. And, of course, you've got the crazy people just itching to shoot you for any reason (there's one particularly gut-wrenching moment in mind, both for it's cruelty and I was sad to see the actor go).

The ending is perfect. Emotions run high and low. Altman's old West isn't about good guys and bad guys. It's about a town that goes on regardless of anyone's big plans. He hints at a hundred different stories that could've been told in this same town (OK, maybe a bit less than a hundred), but he told about McCabe and Mrs. Miller. And it's a bittersweet tale.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Top 5 Films: Massachusetts

Since I've been hitting the states in which I've lived first, there was only one choice left for the Top 5. I'm not sure how I'll choose next time, but I'll find a way. Perhaps I'm way to picky about the movies I like, but I really thought that Massachusetts was going to be easy compared to Oregon. Boy was I wrong. I haven't enjoyed any of the Dennis Lehane adaptations and late-stage Scorsese doesn't cut it for me. Good Will Hunting? No. Legally Blonde? Not really my thing. The Boondock Saints? Forget it. Fever Pitch? I'm still mad at them for tainting the 2004 World Series Celebration. I don't need to see Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore running around the field in my moment of elation.

Field of Dreams
Look at this. The first one and I already picked a movie indelibly linked to Iowa. It'll get more appropriate later, I promise. I sacrifice Little Children for Field of Dreams for the simple reason that a huge plot point send Ray Kinsella on a road trip that culminates at Fenway Park with Terrance Mann. It just doesn't get more Boston (hell, even more Massachusetts-ian) that Fenway Park.

PS -- I reserve the right to reuse this film at a later date.

The Verdict
Sidney Lumet, David Mamet, Paul Newman. And let's not forget James Mason and Jack Warden. Newman plays an alcoholic Boston attorney (I think that's a requirement of attorneys in Boston) in need of redemption. Not much more to say other than this is a great film. Also, I have a man-crush on Paul Newman.

The Last Detail
Another pseudo-cheat because it's a road trip movie that travels through several cities on the east coast. The Boston set piece is an effort to deflower the tragic sad sack Meadows (Randy Quaid) before he gets placed behind bars for 8 years. Jack Nicholson leads the trip up the east coast and Carol Kane, Nancy Allen, and Gilda Radner all pop up. Underrated 70's director Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There) wrangles everything together. What's most remarkable about the film is that it hearkens back to a time when Randy Quaid wasn't a joke, but a talented character actor (he picked up and Oscar nod for his role here). Poor guy got stuck as Cousin Eddy.

Altered States
Altered States is a mindfuck. I can't even begin to describe it. I'd imagine it's as close one can get to being on drugs without having actually taken any (and I'd hate to think what might happen if one did while watching this movie. Would a wormhole open? Would it be like John Malkovich entering his own mind?). Ken Russell directs and it's based on a book by Paddy Chayefsky, but I care mostly because Bob Balaban is in it and Bob Balaban rocks!

Not officially indicated as Massachusetts but filmed on Martha's Vineyard with Massachusetts residents as extras, I'm going to allow it. Easily the best Spielberg movie, it's endlessly entertaining. Funny, scary, whimsical, not afraid to kill children or dogs, and rated PG. And then there's the epic USS Indianapolis speech before all hell breaks loose. Jaws is one of those films you can't help but watch if it's on TV. I'll still take a man-eating shark over jellyfish any day, though.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why I Won't Be Seeing Playground and I Feel Like a Bad Person For It

I was looking at the upcoming events for the Hollywood Theatre because, well, I work there and try to maintain the blog, and I clicked on a link for a special event this week called Playground. Here's the trailer:

Pretty harrowing. It looks like it's going to be well done and informative, but I knew even before my girlfriend asked if I'd like to go that I would not be seeing that movie. I'm generally not one to avoid movies based on subject matter or content, but Playground strikes me as particularly unpleasant and, more than that, makes one feel pretty helpless. Maybe it's in light of the Kyron Horman case out here that still isn't solved, but children will always be vulnerable to something and people are pretty twisted.

I saw The Cove and Lake of Fire. I've seen countless horror films with rapes, mutilations, gore, and torture (hell, one of them had a woman cut a baby out of another woman's stomach with scissors), and while I understand that these horror films are fake, that doesn't mean we can write them off saying "stuff like that doesn't happen in real life" because it does (just generally with less supernatural forces). The Cove is about animals, so it's easy to distance one's self. Lake of Fire is more of a discussion on a controversial subject. Horror movies are spectacle and also distancing from realities. But Playground is right there.

It seems a little like I'd rather just not think about it, which is probably partially true, but I think it's really great that people are trying to expose it. However, since I'm already on the side of, "this is a horrible thing," I don't need to see the movie to be further convinced. It's kind of like how I don't need to see An Inconvenient Truth to know we should try to stop global warming. Playground is probably an attempt at a call to action, but I'm sad to say, like most Americans, I'd see it, be sad, and do nothing. Judging by how I felt/feel after watching the trailer, I don't think I could handle the full film.

If you want to see it, though, head to the Hollywood Theatre on Thursday. It starts at 6 PM.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weekly Film Rec: From Beyond

I was going to apologize for yet another horror film, but A) one should never have to apologize for recommending horror films and B) I haven't really recommended that many. So while The Bad Sleep Well would have looked good for diversity and done much for my film geek street cred, I'm going to go with Stuart Gordon's From Beyond (though The Bad Sleep Well is pretty awesome).

Taken from a story by H.P. Lovecraft (much like Gordon's Re-Animator), From Beyond is about scientists who unlock access to a sixth sense by using a machine to stimulate the pineal gland thereby gaining access to a new plane of existence (and allowing those things within this plane access to you). I'm not entirely sure about the science of all of this (or the existence of a "pineal gland"), but if this is what it takes to play with some fantastic practical effects, then I'm more than willing to go for the ride.

Mainstay of Gordon's films, Jeffrey Combs, is the lead and even though he can sometimes be a bit too over-the-top (I'm looking at you, The Frighteners), I always love watching him. He's got this great manic energy that's perfect for a mad scientist type. Of course, he's not the mad scientist in this one, or at least not the maddest. There's at least two other that are more insane than he. One who gets to turn into a wicked beasty and Barbara Crampton, most notable because she was in Chopping Mall the same year.

I'd be completely remiss if I didn't mention genre all-star Ken Foree. He plays the comic relief here and does it quite well. It does feel a bit cliched having the sole black person being the funny one, but dammit, it's Ken Foree! Dawn of the Dead!

The film is by no means great, but it's a bit of fun with some disturbing effects. Great for a night of high quality cheese.