Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween 2010: October 26 and 27


“Kolchak: The Night Stalker” “The Ripper”
This first episode honestly feels like it could have come at any point in the series. The only indicator that this is the premier episode is that Miss Emily appears playing a totally different character. I can’t decide wither that’s a good thing or not. Having the characters and their interactions so definitely established right from the beginning is a strong point, especially since Kolchak’s relationship with his office mates would wind up saving many weaker episodes. Once again, the story here is highly derivative of the first movie, with the way the police is defenseless to stop the monster and how Kolchak eventually faces down the threat on its own turf. The way the killer has been killing in cycles over the decades is also similar to the second film’s story. The scenes set in massage parlors are surprisingly gritty for the time period. Out of the first three monsters that directly attacked the police, the Ripper is definitely the least intimidating. However, the final scenes of Carl hiding in the closet from the killer are quite suspenseful and redeem the weaker aspects of the episode. “The Ripper” isn’t a great way to start the show, but it still a pretty good hour of television. (7/10)


Tremors 4: The Legends Begins (2004)

Probably the best sequel of the series. It’s a return to the style of the origin, in that the focus is solely on the community and the characters’ relationships. Also, the Graboids are the only monsters around, no Shriekers, Ass-Blasters, or any more silly transformations. (The movie still can’t help but introduce some new critters: Baby Graboids.) The film has kind of a slow start but, by the time the defending the town last act kicks in, it’s good stuff. The biggest problems here are the same problems I often have with distinct past prequels revolving around the established character’s ancestors. I find it hard to believe that gene pools are so consistent that Burt’s great-grandfather looked just like him and also had a thing for redheads. Or that the Chang’s store has stuck around since the 1880s.

One of the strongest aspects of the “Tremors” series is the characters. By going back in time, of course, we loose the characters. It is a weakness for the film. The monsters are portrayed pretty inconsistently here. How much sound they can hear varies and I find it hard that turn-of-the-century floorboards would give them that much trouble. Also, the awful smell is back for the first time since the initial movie. The special effects are definitely the best since the first film. The final shot is pretty funny. The movie is really relentlessly nice. It doesn’t have a mean bone anywhere in its body.

Spike (2010)
I picked this off the shelves at Blockbuster strictly because it looked like a monster movie, and how often do we get those, especially in the DTV independent horror market? Alas, never trust a DVD cover, because this is more of a “Phantom of the Opera”-style gothic romance then a traditional horror story. It’s about a guy with some bizarre birth defect that causes giant spikes to sprout all over his body and his obsessive love for his childhood girlfriend. It’s not a bad idea, and not as far removed from reality as you’d think. (If the Tree Man can exist, I’d say this is well within the realm of possibilities.)

The story is ultimately too sympathetic to the monster. His submissive, erudite tone never makes him threatening or frightening. Ultimately, he comes off like kind of a whiny hipster. The rest of the cast isn’t developed very well. The movies biggest problems is its theatrical dialogue, that never sounds like the kind of thing that would actually come out of a human mouth, much less from a person that’s being living in the woods for a long time. The characters in the movie also seem to think bonking somebody over the head is the first, best solution to any problem.

There’s also a subplot involving a pair of wacky lesbian wandering the forest that doesn’t really go anywhere. Considering the short run time and the director’s previous work mostly consisting of short films, I’d say, cut out that subplot, and this would become a pretty solid forty minute short. This is, generally, a well-made film, very nicely shot, especially considering what was probably a tiny budget, with some potentially good performances and, at the very least, the seed of a good story. While I can’t really say I liked the movie, its creative team has some definite talent. (Film Thoughts favorite Justin Paul Ritter is also thanked in the credits. So, you know, there’s that. The reviews on Netflix are also hilariously mean-spirited and acidic.)

“Kolchak: The Night Stalker” “Mr. R.I.N.G.”
Another one of my first shows, which I saw during Trio’s “Brilliant but Canceled.” It’s actually one of the weaker episodes. Mr. RING isn’t much of a threat and the extended scenes of Kolchak talking to him are a bore. How the robot is dealt with is pretty anticlimactic and disappointing. However, once again, Kolchak going out and following leads, rubbing people the wrong way, and generally making a lovable nuisance of himself are the highlights of an episode. I do like Carl’s confused opening narration. This episode strays from the formula and is one of the weakest of the series. Coincidence? (5/10)

“Kolchak: The Night Stalker” “Primal Screams”
Another weak episode. Mostly because the mystery unfolds in a really droll way and the creature itself is pretty silly. Carl confronting the creature in the red subway tunnel is an atmospheric sign that almost immediately gets silly again when Kolchak tries to make friends with the monkey. The confrontations with the police are pretty amusing. I really hope the rest of the series picks up before it ends. (5/10)

Honestly, why isn't there a "Tremors 5" yet? Is it because the TV show failed (And kind of blew?) I know those movies were pretty big hits in the video and cable market when I was a teenager. I feel those movies filled a void. Not just because there cool monster movies and we don't have enough of those, but also because they were (mostly) family friendly. There isn't a lot of quality kid-friendly horror out there today and, you know, the kids have to start somewhere. I guess if the series had continued, it only would have gotten sillier, introducing more variations on the title beasties. But I'd probably still watch. I obviously love these movies for some reason. (My idea for "Tremors 5?" Graboids vs. dinosaurs. Don't tell me that wouldn't be cool.)

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