KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

The second film in the Legendary MonsterVerse, Kong: Skull Island reboots and remakes King Kong for a new generation that would see the 70’s remake as silly, the Peter Jackson film as old and if that last statement is true, would think that the 1933 original was some kind of archaeological find like the Shroud of Turin.

In 1944* and 1973, Kong has made his presence known as war continues to intrude on Skull Island. This leads Bill Randa (John Goodman), head of the U.S. government organization Monarch, to send a team to that island to find out exactly what’s going on with the monsters that have emerged.

Once there,  Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel Jackson), former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins, playing the younger version of the character from Godzilla: King of the Monsters) begin dropping seismic explosives and mapping the island before Kong attacks.

The battle separates the scientists and soldiers, with Packard wanting to kill Kong and the others meeting the natives and discovering that the big beast is the last of his kind, protecting the island and its natives from the Skullcrawlers that wiped out its entire family.

By the end, Kong is victorious and has proved his true good nature. Monarch recruits Conrad and Weaver, while revealing that Kong is not alone, revealing cave paintings of Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah.

I’m excited to see what happens next, as the films have placed both Kong and Godzilla on the same emotional playing field. They’re both the last of their kind, dealing with the loss of their race to an enemy (the Skullcrawlers and the Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) and are absolute predators. However, Godzilla has no interest in human beings while Kong serves as their protector.

Who knew that a modern King Kong movie would reference seventies films like The Conversation and Apocalpyse Now, somehow becoming one of the best films in the series?

Here’s to being pleasantly surprised.

* I love that John C. Reilly’s character has been on the island since World War II. He also has on a jacket that references Kaneda’s in Akira: “Good for your health, bad for your education.”

The Theta Girl (2017)

Gayce (Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio) deals a drug called theta when she isn’t trying to get people in the club to see her friends’ band play. But when they’re murdered, the mind-altering substances that she’s selling turn out to be so much more than just your average LSD.

That’s because everyone in the club has been dosed with Theta as that band, Truth Foundation, hits the stage, including a group of Christian zealots that need just one fix to go completely off the rails and start killing for God. As everyone emerges from a shared trip, bodies line the flood with blood and guts spilled out occult symbols.

You know what? So often I make excuses for movies having low budgets, as do the people that make them. This thing cost $14,000 and that’s exactly what it needed to get made. If it had a huge budget, it wouldn’t be so amazingly grubby and vital and in your eyeballs.

Shane Silman is a force of nature as the obsessed Brother Marcus, the leader of the religious gang. And man, just look at that poster. Donofrio looks — and acts in the best of ways — like the spiritual heir to Christina Lindberg, which is one of the highest compliments I can give.

You can learn more at the official Facebook page. You can watch it on Amazon Prime or order the DVD from Amazon.

Check out Christopher Bickel’s other film, Bad Girls, for more greatness. And oh yeah, those Thetas were totally Lemonheads.

You’re Gonna Miss Me (2017)

No, this isn’t a docudrama about the creative, sad soul that was Roky Erickson and his band the 13th Floor Elevators (although there’s a 2007 documentary about Roky with the title). This is a dramedy written and produced by Eric Brooks (who’s eight films deep in the TV movie realms, including two Hallmark Christmas flicks*) that’s co-produced by his pops, country-legend Kix Brooks (who appears here as Uncle Elmer, Colt’s brother).

A modern-day western with motorcycles instead of horses, You’re Gonna Miss Me tells the story of the unexpected death of country music legend Colt Montana (John Schneider who, while top-billed, isn’t here much), which serves as a catalyst in reuniting his two estranged sons. Before they can claim their large family inheritance, they have to fulfill their father’s final wish: take a motorcycle-based scavenger hunt through the American Southwest. And they agree to “the ride,” as both have their own demons and motives for needing the financial windfall — but they discover so much more.

As you can see from the one-sheet, there’s a large ensemble cast headed by Leo Howard (who got his start as the “younger versions” of Snakes Eyes and Conan in G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Conan the Barbarian ’11, respectively) and Justin Deeley (Mike Trimbol from Fear of the Walking Dead). We also have the-never-ages Morgan Fairchild (Shattered Illusions) and William Shockley (a noted country music radio host who got his start in Howling V: The Rebirth and a five-year run on TV’s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), along with our beloved Eric Roberts (who, like Schneider, isn’t here much, natch). And for the wrestling fans (yeah, we’re talkin’ to you, Paul Andolina of Wrestling With Film, who also writes for B&S About Movies), there’s WWE’s John Hennigan, aka John Morrison. And for the John Doe fans (moi), there’s a helping of John Doe (sportin’ a Plissken eye patch), but he’s here about as much as Eric Roberts. (I want an Eric Roberts-John Doe marquee co-starring film . . . with them as out-of-retirement mercenaries . . . or two ex-rock stars making amends, now!)

If you haven’t also guessed from the one-sheet, there’s an Easy Rider vibe to the proceedings helped by another country-cum-western (and Christmas flicks!) TV movie stalwart, Dustin Rikert, who — despite the film’s bad reviews — made Phil Pitzer’s sequel-passion project, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, work (seriously, it’s not that bad).

Sadly, even with the name of Kix Brooks on the package, this “John Doe Week” entry couldn’t be more obscure and hard to find. There’s no online trailers, no streams, and Vudu — who had it as an exclusive — no longer offers the film in their catalog. But if you’re into The Dukes of Hazzard** ephemera, or need to complete your collection of John Doe flicks, or satisfy your watch-everything-with-Eric Roberts fetishism, you can find (pricey) DVD’s on Amazon Prime that are also currently “out of stock” at Walmart.com. So, Kix, buddy. If you’re reading this, get You’re Gonna Miss Me uploaded as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV. We, the fans of Eric Roberts and John Doe, demand it!

* Eric Roberts has made eight Christmas flicks (we’ve reviewed A Husband for Christmas), so how is it that Eric Brooks or Dustin Rikert haven’t made one with Roberts? We want an Eric Roberts X-Mas flick from each of you, stat!

** So you want more The Dukes of Hazzard ephemera, Hoke? Then check out that CBS-TV series’ theatrical precursor from 1975, Moonrunners, which we reviewed as part of our August 2019 “Redneck Week” tribute to Hickplotation cinema.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.

Derelicts (2017)

We’ve talked about Thanksgiving horror films before — see our list right here — but now there’s a new one. Directed by Mark Newton and Matt Stryker*, Derelicts is all about a dysfunctional family suffering a home invasion on the day that people eat too much, watch football and pass out.

There’s an actor in here named David Lee Hess, which might give away the home invasion inspiration for this movie. Actually, it seems to have a fair bit of Rob Zombie in it, if you like that kind of thing. But this does a fine job with a $150,000 budget, with really interesting flashbacks, flashforwards, long moments of silence and plenty of gore.

I mean, there’s a killer with a stuffed animal mask. That alone should probably give you a reason to watch this.

*IMDB lists the director as Brett Glassberg, in case you are wondering.

You can watch the entire movie on Kings of Horror’s YouTube page. To learn more, visit the movie’s official Facebook page.

Beast Mode (2017)

When they call this an 80s throwback, they mean it. Beast Mode stars C Thomas Howell (The Hitcher), Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy), Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) and James Duval (Gone in 60 Seconds).

This one’s all about a has-been Hollywood producer who accidentally kills the lead in his next movie, which means that — of course — he must use an ancient herbal elixir and ends up releasing shapeshifting beasts onto the streets of Los Angeles.

This is directed by Chris W. Freeman, who made 2012’s Sorority Party Massacre, and Spain Willingham, who also acts in this movie. The effects are pretty solid, so it has that going for it. A Hollywood insider werewolf-ish movie. The last one I saw like that was Howling 3: The Marsupials, which this would pair well with.

Beast Mode is available on demand and on DVD from Devilworks Pictures.

Sunny Side Up (2017)

Written and directed by Mike Melo, Sunny Side Up is all about Gregory Samuel, a funeral director whose never-ending internal monologue is keeping him from experiencing anything close to a normal life. Given a leave of abscense from his work to figure it all out, he locks himself in his apartment for thirty days, but ends up meeting a neighbor named Emma who may change everything.

Melo said of this movie, “It was a deeply personal film for me. Social anxiety has always been a part of my life but I felt it even more profoundly after the passing of my grandmother. It’s difficult to express what you’re going through sometimes. This was an attempt to bridge the gap between those who feel something similar and those who might not. Now with lockdowns and isolation, these feelings are seemingly becoming more relevant.”

Can Gregory figure it all out? I’m not going to spoil things, just inform you that this movie is now available on demand for your watching enjoyment.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

You know, I’ve put off writing this review for a while because I had nothing wittier to say than, “I wish I could beat up every single person in this movie.” But seriously, a few months and another watch later and I still feel the same way. Nothing upset me, nothing moved me, I just felt like my life was slowly slipping away when I could have been watching something, anything else better than this.

Maybe it’s because this movie is based on the ancient Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides and isn’t a movie where Bobby Rhodes turns into a demon at a cinema, but I could see what director Yorgos Lanthimos was doing in every frame, just like the last movie of his that I struggled through, The Lobster.

I am not made for this. I am made for screaming at Jess Franco movies, for knowing all the strange dialogue to Fulci films, for crying during Mario Bava homicides.

Colin Farrell plays a surgeon who screwed up and Nicole Kidman plays yet another wife who has a husband that she pretty much hates, a role that she seems to do in everything I see her in. She also pretends to be under anesthesia while she makes love to her husband in a car and then jerks off an anesthesiologist, so I have no idea what this movie has to say about putting people under other than it’s really hot.

Barry Keoghan is the weird kid that screws up the whole family and gets them to stop eating. He’s a laugh riot, in the way that I guffawed that anyone took any of this remotely seriously.

Reviews like this are why I’ll never make it out of the genre gutter and get to be part of Rotten Tomatoes. Their logo sucks anyway and makes me angrier when I see it on a blu ray cover than when I see the Troma logo and Lloyd Kaufman’s stupid face before my copy of Fulci’s Warriors of the Year 2072.

Sweet Parents (2017)

Gabby (Leah Rudick) and Will (David Bly) are a couple that has been living together as they work toward their dreams of being a sculptor and a chef. However, their lives and even their relationship is going nowhere until they get “sweet parents,” or rich older benefactors of the opposite sex.

Oscar (Casey Biggs) and Guylaine (Barbara Weetman) become those benefactors, yet it all happens so naturally, as Gabby leaves the country with the older man to get more opportunities for her art, while Will’s brother pushes him to find a female patron and do the exact same thing.

By the time the movie starts, you get the idea that Gabby and Will have already checked out of the relationship and by the way he acts throughout the film, it’s pretty difficult to gain a moment’s sympathy for him or to even be on his side, particularly the way he acts on the evening where they bring the benefactors in for something like a double date.

That’s a big risk for David Bly, who wrote this along with Rudick. He also directed and plays Will in the film. That doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy his character any more, but at least this feels like an honest film.

You can learn more at the official site and official Facebook page.

SLASHER MONTH: Victor Crowley (2017)

In a total surprise, the tenth anniversary of Hatchet ended up being the fourth film, bringing Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) back to Honey Island Swamp to take on a movie that is coming to be filmed in his home.

It all starts with Crowley massacre survivor Andrew Yong (Parry Shen) promoting his book on his ex-wife Sabrina’s TV show. During a book signing, a film crew tries to get him to hear their idea for a film based on the night he almost died before his agent Kathleen (Felissa Rose) takes him away. Yet before you can say sequel, a plane with everyone on it has crashed into the swamp, the agent’s phone plays Rev. Zombie’s (Tony Todd) voodoo curse and everyone ends up dying.

Everyone in this movie — even Tiffany Shepis and Brian Quinn from Practical Jokers — is cannon fodder for the nearly unstoppable Crowley. In fact, despite the grisly demise he endures by the end of the film, the credits tease that he’s coming back while answering the question of what happened to Marybeth Dunston (Danielle Harris).

Here’s a drink I mixed up that will make this movie ever better!

Honey Island Swamp Juice

  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. blue curacao
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake it up like you’re ripping a human being apart and then drink up.

Director Adam Green decided to return to this series because two of his heroes passed on. Wes Craven’s death had him thinking about coming back to another chapter in the Hatchet series, but it was George Romero who told him to make it for his fans. Green has said that Victor Crowley would not exist if not for Romero’s pep talk assuring him that what he did as a filmmaker mattered and that his work was important to the genre.

Even cooler, the band Igniter contributed the song “Hatchet (The Ballad of Victor Crowley).” Green’s favorite Craven movie is Shocker and he loves the song from the movie, “Demon Bell (The Ballad of Horace Pinker)” by Dangerous Toys. Jason McMaster, the singer for both Dangerous Toys and Ignitor, wrote this new song as a gift for Green. After Cravens’s death, Green had gone to a Dangerous Toys reunion show to escape his grief and met McMaster. They discussed what a big deal his band, the movie and the director all were to Green, so McMaster put together a new Shocker-style theme song. How cool is that?

You can watch this on Amazon Prime, Shudder with or without Joe Bob Briggs commentary and on Tubi.

Vampire War (2017)

I love the guys at Wild Eye Releasing, not just because they often send us review copies of their films — thanks as always — but because they’re real fans of horror first. So they understand that if they released a movie called Montrak under its original title and kept it all in German, the only people that would pay for it would be maniacs like me who are obsessed with the strange corners of film.

A title like Vampire War? Now that seems like something that will get noticed on streaming services and the shelves at WalMart.

In Germany, humans are getting killed by wolves. Yes, even in our modern time this is happening, but of course, they aren’t wolves at all. Nope, this is the work of the vampire Montrak and his clan who have been transformed into the living undead by Lucifer himself! Now, however, there’s a new vampire lord, which means that the American title Vampire War is much more apt.

Writer/director Stefan Schwenk released another version of this tale, Montrak – Meister der Vampire, back in 2002. This time, he had more money and experience to, one assumes, fully deliver on his vision.

I’ve read some negative reviews on the dubbing of this film, but honestly, if bad dubbing ruins a movie for you, you’ve missed tons of films from around the world.

Thanks to Wild Eye for sending this our way.

You can find Vampire War, aka Montrak, DVDs on eBay, and at the online and brick-and-mortar outlets of Target, Walmart, and Best Buy. It also streams on Amazon Prime and Vudu.