Thursday, February 25, 2010

Film #14: The Gate (1987)

A giant hole in Glen’s backyard has blown open and started erupting chunky demons and liquid black plumes of pure evil.
No, I’m not describing his morning bathroom visit after a night of Taco Bell, whiskey shots and ill-advised 4 a.m. ice cream.
This demon hole out-back of Glen’s house in 80s movie “The Gate” was caused not by partying but by that scourge of the 1980s parent…curiosity and heavy metal music!
(“Damn kids and their devil music! Opening up portals and summoning demons and what-not and… ahhhhh, hell, I’m taking a nap. ZZZZ.zzz.Zzzzz.)

Glen is just your typical foul-mouthed 80s era 10-year-old. He loves NASA, model rockets, and pissing off his older sister Al’s teenage friends. He even has a rockin’ tree house in his backyard (Lucky!), but one day a storm rolls through and just crushes the hell out of it (Ha-ha!).
After half-price Mexicans remove the singed tree stump on the cheap, Glen and best bud Terry discover that below the former tree lies a mysterious hole. And what else do you do with a dark hole? You explore it, and explore it deep!

The friends find radically rare rocks in the hole, but after busting one open strange happenings begin to occur. It doesn’t help when Terry begins reciting lyrics from his heavy metal albums, one of which just so happens to be based on an ancient book of evil that if read aloud can summon dark overlords to overtake the earth (isn’t that the basis for Scientology?)

Soon evil spirits and crazy stop-motion beasts are pouring out of that backyard crevasse. It’s not a hole at all, but a gateway to the hideous, power-hungry underworld! With Al and Glen’s parents out of town, it is up to the kiddies to save mankind from hell-level destruction in the 1987 kid-thriller “The Gate.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.9 out of 5.0
Chris Dimick summons:
“Satan Bless the 80s. What a magical decade for horror, and to be a child. Watching The Gate is like stepping into a Hyper-color time-machine. From the second we pressed play, I felt like I was 8-years-old again – as I was in 1987 – playing hackie sack with my brothers and getting four-inch cuts from my slap-bracelets. If anything, Gen Xers, watch this one not for the scares, but for the serenity of time gone by.
But you gotta love 1980s horror movies for more than just the nostalgia. They were just so innovative, imaginative, and willing to break a few eggs to make that dead fetus omelet.

Horror movies today are just so PC, especially “scary” movies made with a younger audience in mind. The Gate was essentially made for ‘tweens, kids really, yet the content at times is radically hardcore by today's kid-flick standards. One example: Glenn actually watches his father’s face melt off into a puddle as old Dad tries to strangle him to death. What?! This is for kids!

Of course it is for kids, kids love that stuff! Kids that age don’t need to be sheltered. In fact, most of them have seen or heard enough horrors in middle school alone that would make any adult poo their shoe. The 1980s horror movie understood this, and treated their young audience with respect. The movies didn’t pull any punches – because life doesn’t pull any punches. They showed kids how they really were (swear-word spewing a-holes) and didn’t mind if they gave you nightmares following the flick. Actually, that IS the point of a horror movie, isn’t it?! Somehow we have lost our way in the modern age.

Don’t be fooled by my 2.9 rating. It may seem low, but it is just in comparison to all of the other great movies we have watched as part of the RDHP. As a rabid fan of 1980s horror, The Gate had it all: whinny teens with gnarly period clothing; stop motion face-melting; cute yet crazy wicked demons; realistic kids; commentary that heavy metal is actually devil metal.

Best of all, The Gate had an original story that can captivate the kid inside all of us – there is nothing cooler than thinking a wild adventure lurks right in your own backyard. Actually, I believe the latter is an old Boystown pickup line. Hey, to each his own!"

N-Rating: 2.7 out of 5.0
Nick Rich summons:
“Now this movie is just good clean fun; and by 'good' I mean 80s-licious and by 'clean' I mean true to the spirit of that time period. I really enjoyed growing up as a child in the 1980's: there was action, adventure and people just seemed more chill (maybe the constant threat of nuclear annihilation is good for a society - who knew???). The Gate just screamed the 80s - seriously, there were like 15 scenes where pre-pubescent boys were screaming their confused vocal chords off... and I loved every crackling minute of it!

This film was by no means great (I did give it a 2.7 after all). It didn't pioneer any special effects or thrill us with a story that was entirely original, but it did rock the full arsenal of effects available at the time and what the story lacked in basic originality it more than made up for in creative execution. I found myself marveling at the level of effects employed in such a low-key film; it had it all: stop motion, Claymation, animation and latex creature moldings! Say what you will about non-CGI effects, but what they lack in clarity they make up for in texture (you could feel the skin of the big daddy demon at the end of the film - he was amazing!).

I found myself knowing exactly where the story was going but surprised that I was surprised by how I was led there (confusing right?). This film had a magic captured so well by the majority of 80s horror/fantasy films: it felt realistic in spite of its own absurdity. The Gate transported me back to a simpler time and I felt all the richer for it!

The Skinny: If you have a soft spot in your heart for the 80s (i.e. neon apparel, nonsensically styled hair, disturbingly trusting parents) then you owe it to yourself to go digging around the ol' back yard for this gem of a flick."

Things the RDHP Learned from “The Gate”:
-All heavy metal records end with satanic sermons
-Torturing moths is not cruel, it’s “neat”
-“Parents-out-of-town” teen parties always involve telling scary stories
-The Lee sisters make male children puke
-Kids should always know where Dad keeps his gun. They may need it to shoot a demon.
-The Bible can double as a high powered explosive
-Dancing with the family dog can kill it
-Special Edition DVD covers are so special they have characters on it that weren't in the movie:

Treasures buried in the RDHP’s Backyard:
-Golden nuggets
-Fidos 1-4
-"Killed in battle" G.I. Joes (Duke, your dying screams were pathetic)
-Pirate booty
-Stella's "Groove"
-XFL “He Hate Me” Jersey
-Jimmy Hoffa
-Unmailed love letters to Chelsea Clinton
-Radio Shack Tandy 1000 PC
-Two dozen hobo skulls

(Special note: Nick was feet away from meeting Chelsea Clinton as a wee lad in London, circa 1995, but he didn't have the guts to profess his love. Now his nights are filled with salty tears. Just kidding, Mel! (No, he's not kidding)

From Cuddly to Fugly:
Actor Stephen Dorff looked so cute in “The Gate,” portraying Glen as a pudgy sweetie pie. One look at his drug-rattled face today makes one cry for the ravages of time. That boy went from Cuddly to Fugly! In Stephen Dorff’s unfortunate honor, a list of other child stars who stopped being cute when their body hair began to sprout...

Stephen Dorff:
Cuddly :)

Fugly :(

The Olsen Twins:
Cuddly :)

 Fugly :(

Macaulay Culkin:
Cuddly :)

Fugly :(

Cuddly :)

Fugly :(

Zack and Cody:
Cuddly :)

Fugly :(

Haley Joel Osment:
Cuddly :)

Fugly :(

Danny Bonaduce:
Cuddly :)

Fugly :(

Rainbow Bright:
Cuddly :)

Fugly :(

Quote of the Viewing:
[Glen and Terry harass big sister Al’s friends, saying how gross girls are.]
Nick and Chris in pre-teen squeak voice:
“Ohhh man. Teen girls just have cooties falling out the ying-yang, Terry!”

Cliché Quote of the Viewing:
Chris: “Damn, that is a lot of evil coming out of that hole.”
Nick: “That’s what she said.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Film #13: The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

Rejoice for the miracles of science!
Octomom’s octuplets?! They would just be a twinkle in Nayda Suleman’s eye -- without science.
Processed meat?! Beef, turkey and rat steak would cry with loneliness, condemned to hug a plate in solitude… without science.
Don’t even get us started on the horrors of a world without Press-on nails!

Sure, our lives are better because of these scientific accomplishments. But all marvels of the modern age could never compare to the truly fantastic invention showcased in the 1930s film “The Man They Could Not Hang.”
Title character Dr. Henryk Savaard is a brilliant sawbones who created a machine that could somehow – gasp! – keep a person’s heart and bodily functions operating by machine alone! Yeah, we’re with you, disbelievers. Mechanical life support systems? Pssst! Leave it to the movies to come up with such absurd ideas.

Okay, maybe a mechanical heart would be more enthralling to folks in 1939. After all, back then they were curing heart disease with leaches, a pint of buttermilk, and a back shave. Dr. Savaard spent years creating his machine, but he needs to test it on a human subject. Enter the completely inconsiderate medical student, who forgos his fiancé's cries and agrees to let Savaard stop all his bodily functions in order to test the machine. Boy, the things men do to get out of a wedding!

Midway through the experiment, the med student’s fiancé goes all Andy Dick and calls the police, stating Savaard murdered her lover! Stupid dames!
The police storm Savaard’s house, find the chillin’ student, and place the doctor under arrest. Savaard tries to explain, saying if they would only let him go he could revive the unresponsive test subject. The coppers don’t buy it, and off to the iron bar hotel he goes.

At the lead of a crusading district attorney, a jury pool of backwoods yokels take a horse whiz on scientific nobility and convict Savaard of murder. His sentence, a Texas necktie party. Before he is led to jail, Dr. Savaard flips a verbal bird to each person who convicted him, vowing his revenge from beyond the gallows!
Months later, one by one the jury members are found strung up by their necks in what police first believe are suicides. Soon an awesomely old-school newspaper man who covered the Savaard trial connects the dots. Could Dr. Savaard have returned from the grave to enact his revenge? Find out, in the 1939 popcorn thriller “The Man They Could Not Hang.”

RDHP Review and Ratings:

C-Rating: 3.1
Chris Dimick orates:
"Movies are more fun when you get to root for the bad guy. Most of us try to be good and follow the rules of society. Yet all that goodness can be so lame. It is cathartic to cheer for a character, even the unsavory ones, as they exact revenge on those who done them wrong. No actor can illicit this sympathy for the villain better than Boris Karloff, the star of “The Man They Could Not Hang.”
Maybe it is his insanely interesting voice, deliberate acting or dark, evil eyes. But when Boris takes to the screen, all a person can do is side with him -- right or wrong. He is just so entertaining to root for.

This movie tore ass through the plot. It had to with a run time of just 64 minutes. Really, it could have been longer. Things didn’t start to get interesting until the last 15 minutes, when the remaining jurors and prosecutors unknowingly enter a horrific trap inside Dr. Savaard’s home. Each is told they will die at a specific time, and then accidentally contributes to their own demise – with a little nudging from a dead man. The third movement of this film is the most exciting, but also the most rushed. When the characteristic-1930s abrupt ending came, I was left wanting more killing of those stupid-ass jurors! Dr. Savaard deserved more revenge, yet both he and the audience are constrained from satisfaction by the short run time.

The Whats-What: TMTCNH is a great movie to watch when in a hurry to catch the latest episode of LOST, but don’t arrive to the movie wanting a lot of substance. You’ll leave wanting more, and feeling guilty for siding with evil."

N-Rating: 3.0
Nick Rich orates:
"Talk about a film with heart! It didn't originally have one so they made the main invention of the film a glass one! Now that I have my requisite horrible pun out of the way I can actually tell you that The Man They Could Not Hang was rather enjoyable.
Good ol' Boris is hard-pressed to disappoint in my experience with him, and his performance in this film further solidified that impression! There's just something about Karloff that makes you want to listen to him for hours on end... which actually worked against his favor in this film considering its run time. You really have nothing to lose checking out this film - and just may gain an enjoyable hour!

The kitschy plot is nostalgically endearing, especially paired with the scenes dripping with stereotypical 1930's fair (i.e. the newspaper man culture, gruff coppers, slimy lawyers, ignorant/scared townsfolk and "delicate" women). This film felt crisp, clean and oddly wholesome - like biting into a freshly picked apple. Of course there were a few worms... the occasional poor line delivery (even by Boris), plot holes (in the end we still weren't sure what the machine physically did) and annoying suspension of disbelief (some characters were unnecessarily dim). However, the ignorance and poor choices the characters made in this film ending up making me more passionate about it - Chris and I both yelled (multiple times) at the hapless nurse who indirectly killed her fiancé because of her own fear and inability to follow instructions.

The Skinny: If you're in the mood for greased hair, fast talking, smoking in any situation and the days when newspapers were relevant, then by golly, TMTCNH may be just up your alley, mister!
P.S. Chris, don't think I didn't notice your cloned copy of The Skinny ("The What's-What")! Remember, cloning never turns out well..."

Things We Learned From Watching The Man They Could Not Hang:
-Standard rates for freaks: 50 cents to look, $1 to touch
-Bike chains work great for motorized hearts
-Ground breaking surgery should be performed in your personal home
-Heart transplants with perfectly healthy people is totally cool if they volunteer
-Mechanical heart pumps look like glass breast implants
-Every gift science gives to man gets twisted it into a thing of hatred

RDHP Salutes Miracles of Science:
(For when you're just too high to give a sh*t)

(We still can’t figure out how they get so much flavor into one tiny square!)

Air Freshener
(What did we do with those Jurassic smells before?)

The Wheel
(Not just for travel)

(Soooo many uses!)

(How else could we handle life?)

(They are half ice and half pop! WTF? This must be an instrument of the devil!
Burn the witch, burn the witch!)

Fanny Banks
(How did we save our money before this came along?
I’ve heard of coin slots, but this is ridiculous!)

Air travel
(Terrorist free since December 2009!)

(How did people get around before science came up with these little wonders?)

Hot dogs
(Causing delicious cancer since 1893!)

(There is no better way to unwind after a long day at the office)

Printing Press
(Three wonderful words. Tiger Beat magazine)

The Internets
(What did people do to waste time at work before this invention?)

Mobile homes
(For centuries the trash of society had to just sleep in the streets)

(Each year these little lady robots get more and more realistic looking!)

Body Parts the RDHP Would Replace If We Could
-Eyebrows (if only we had the full shields of Jason Schwartzman!)
-Hair (so it would be affordable to be Powder for Halloween)
-Appendix (it would be nice not have a ticking-time-bomb-deathtrap in us)
-Our inner thighs (curse our mothers for giving them to us!)
-Our tiny boobies (All those racy men’s magazines make us feel so inadequate)

Things That Sound like Boris Karloff:
Karloff has one of the most mesmerizing voices (you've heard him narrating the animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas). Here, things that remind us of his mouth-sounds...
A British frog
Chris when romancing himself in the bathroom mirror
Soft lullabies
Corpses choking
Auto GPS systems (we wish!)
Grandpa mumbling in his sleep
That man who lives at the bus stop

Welcome to the Random Corner:

Random Song:
This little ditty has been in Chris' head since watching The Man They Could Not Hang. All that science talk must have done it:

Random Thing Scarier than this Movie:
While a “horror movie” per say, The Man They Could Not Hang was quite tame even by 1930s standards. For true terror, turn your head to the seas and behold the puke-inducing sight of
Read the hilarious story (thanks, Michelle) by Chicago Tribune columinist John Kass at,0,7154335.column?page=1

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Film #12: Ravenous (1999)

Crackled intercom voice: “Hello and welcome to Fort Spencer, can I take your order?
Drive-thru customer: "Yeahhhhhhhh, I’ve got a couple orders here. Ummm, I’d like ten deep-fried Kristen fingers with honey mustard, two racks of extra bloody Baby Ben ribs, a basket of your King Crab Fishman’s legs, and the Kardashian rump-roast special. Oh! And I’m on a diet, so on the drink I want half Diet Mountain Dew and half regular Dew. Capiche?”
Intercom voice: “Yes sir. Do you want eyes with that?”

This is probably a common conversation at the Fort Spencer drive-thru, the cannibalistic campsite featured in the late '90s movie “Ravenous.” They pack more people in their stomachs at that place than a 5:05 p.m. Red Line train.

But Soylent Green wasn’t always a main staple at the mid-1800s fort, located in the secluded Western Sierra Nevada Mountains. One winter day the fort’s solider skeleton crew found a bearded, feral man passed out outside their cabins. When they revived the man, named F.W. Colqhoun, he told a horrific story of how his covered wagon company got snow-bound in the mountains on their way to California. Unable to pass the mountains, they camped out inside a nearby cave. After running out of food and animals to eat, the starving pioneers resorted to muching the flesh of their dead. But for some reason the more they ate, the hungrier they got. People weren’t croaking fast enough, so the US Army Colonel leading the expedition decided to start eating the living members of the pitiful party. Colqhoun said he narrowly escaped the jaws of death, leaving behind a lone frightened woman with the rabid Colonel.

A lady is in trouble! With that, the soldiers got all heroic and vowed to return to the cave to rescue the lass before she became lunch-meat. But their Indian fort residents didn't like that plan. Seems ancient legend says that when a man eats another person’s flesh, he consumes both their soul and energy, making them more powerful -- and hungry -- than one could imagine. It's like Lay’s potato chips, you can’t eat just one human, and once you've got that sweet sweet meat on your lips you become RAVENOUS with a serious case of food screams!

Arriving at the cave, the rescue party soon realizes Colqhoun’s story doesn’t quite flesh out – and that’s when the true body buffet begins. Cannibals quickly abound at Fort Spencer, and much like a depressed Biggest Loser contestant with a box of hidden sweets, the more the cannibals eat, the more addicted they become. Will anyone put down their second helping of Fred and stop the insanity in the 1999 film “Ravenous”?

The Low Down:
This movie has guts…a string of them, dangling from its mountain man beard. And frankly, that is why we like it so. A viewer goes into this flick expecting the obvious. A film set in the 1850s mountains with pioneers who turn to cannibalism. Okay, it is going to be your standard Donner party meets Alive fare, right? Wrong. Ravenous veers from everything that is cliché in cannibalism, and focuses on the ideology of man-munching itself. It asks, “Would you consume another person if it would not only save your life, but make you powerful beyond imagination?”

Eating humans is such a taboo, it just makes for a great horror movie. Pair that with an original story, and a cast of familiar faces that can actually act, and you have a meaty movie dinner.
But this meal is far from something you’d find at the Stephen Spielberg Chop House. More fittingly, this should appear on the menu at the William White Castle.

The story and plot itself was like a well cooked steak, charred on the surface by violent flames, but with a nice bloody center. However, the entire movie was so coated in cheese that it made this meal hard to swallow. The musical score was thick as Velveeta, with bango-ey backwoods licks inappropriately scoring what should have been serious scenes. Parts of the dialog were overcooked as well, with death scenes being filled with stupid lines like “what you just did there, that was pretty sneaky.”

Then again, there were some unique bursts of flavor from under the cheese blanket. “Funny thing about escape though, chances are you might end up some place worse” says fort leader Col. Hart, delightfully played by the underrated Jeffrey Jones. Jones actually sprinkles in his unique brand of spice throughout this little known role, playing a cannibalistic Colonel with sensitivity, humor and just a dash of sarcasm. Then there is the whole funny commentary about how Manifest Destiny and cannibalism are similar. Sure, it was kooky, but it was also smart.

Don’t go to McDonalds expecting a steak dinner. And don’t go to a cannibal movie expecting a timeless classic. Ravenous delivers what it promises, a satisfying cinematic meal with just enough bite.

RDHP Ratings:
C-Rating: 3.8
Chris Dimick burps: “Oh, you may think Ravenous is just a story. But cannibals do exist, and I’m married to one. One cold winter day me and the little wife, who was the little girlfriend at the time, decided to visit Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and take in the controversial Body Worlds exhibit. Body Worlds is one of the most insanely creepy, fascinating exhibits in the history of man-- it displays actual human cadavers in various positions and degrees of body deconstruction. All skin has been stripped from the human bodies in order to show how human muscles and organs operate. The exhibit is horrifying, but you can’t seem to look away. It is just something you have never seen before, but yet were so curious about.

We had to buy tickets in advance for this sold out exhibit, and didn’t have time to grab lunch before heading into the death hall. I was hungry walking into the museum, but upon seeing a skinned man literally pulled apart, each body part suspended and free standing by wires hung from the ceiling, my hunger had suddenly packed its bags and headed to Kenya.

I turned to my girlfriend to exclaim how disturbing yet enthralling the exhibit was only to find her intensely starring at one of the cadavers mid-sections. Without blinking an eye, she turned to me and whispered, “This exhibit is making me hungry for ribs.”
Nervously laughing, I responded that this exhibit would probably put me off ribs for awhile too. In a serious voice, my hungry future bride said “No, seriously, this place is making me really hungry. Do you want to get barbeque tonight?”

Now married, I know never to let my wife skip dinner before going to bed. I’d surely wake up – like the poor souls in Ravenous – missing a few fingers, toes and probably even a few ribs. This flick gets a 3.8 just for being so accurate on cannibalism. Once you get a taste, you can't stop!”

N-Rating: 3.3
Nick Rich burps: “They say hunger is the best spice, and if that is true then Ravenous has plenty of flavor to spare! I won’t lie: this movie wasn’t amazing, nevertheless I found myself thoroughly enjoying it for the unexpected journey it led me on. Some parts were a tad predictable, but for a good portion of the film I was blissfully unaware of what was coming next (which to me is invaluable in a film). This film was unique in the fact that it was made in such a way that I wasn’t constantly attempting to figure out where it was going… I was content to just let it live, er, or die as it were.

Sure there was cheese, but it was that cheese that put me at ease and gave me license to simply enjoy the feast that was laid before me. Sure the tone of the film sat uneasy in your gut like a pinky bone that just won’t digest… but once embraced, the oddities of the film became endearing. The scenery was great, the gore surprisingly sufficient and super-sweet facial hair abounded! My own mountain man beard stirred frequently with excitement at the sight of such luscious follicle facial features (i.e. beards)! This movie was a treat to enjoy… so don’t think, just watch.

The Skinny: Watch this flick if you feel like watching the guy from Stargate Universe eat the guy from Lost, a red shirt from TNG Star Trek and Ferris Buller’s nemesis… or if you’re hungry but on a diet (unless you’re Chris’s wife).”

Quote of the Viewing:
[Scene: On their way back to the cave where the mysterious Colqhoun says a woman waits to be rescued from cannibalism, fort preacher Pvt. Toffler falls down a cliff and is cut on his abdomen. That night in the men’s shared tent, Toffler awakes to find Colqhoun licking his bloody stomach.]
Chris: That is not a good way to make friends, Colqhoun.
Nick: Yeah, usually you need an invitation to lick someone.

Things the RDHP Learned from Watching Ravenous:
-Even in the 1800s mountains, David Arquette can still find a way to get stoned
-If you vomit in the Army, you get sent to California
-When in a pinch, belts make a great dinner
-The more flesh you eat, the hungrier you become
-Don’t send a high-on into town to get a winters worth of food supplies
-The only thing better than bloody finger sniffin’, is bloody finger lickin’

People the RDHP Want to Eat:
Mayor McCheese
(Look at all that cheesy goodness. Plus, we are so sick of his preachy anti-late term abortion platform)

Wisconsin Cheeseheads
(They need to be good for something and have been asking to be put out of their misery since Favre left)

(If it’s good enough for Gargamel, it’s good enough for us!)

Jimmy John
(If he is half as tasty as his subs, we are in business. Plus if we eat him, maybe we will inherit the sub chain)

7-UP Cool Spots
(They just look tasty)

Poppin' Fresh
(We just like to stick our fingers in that little bastard)

 Domino’s The Noid
(If anyone were to give us otherworldly power from consumption, it would be him)

Mr. Peanut
(Insert nuts in mouth joke here)

Geico Gecko
(Exotic meat, and we can save big on our meal cost)

Hurley from Lost
(His pores are just oozing with Dharma ranch dressing)

Shirley Temple
(For dessert. She is just so sweet!)

Worst Place To Be Caught Eating A Corpse:
-On the toilet
-At a funeral
-In the Middle East (can you say stoning?!?!)
-Job Interview
- Inauguration as US President
-DMV (just being here is true horror, but throw in a corpse and ohhhh brother!)
-In a zombie movie (because that would mean you are a corpse)