Movie Review ~ Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time- Vol. 2 Horror and Sci-Fi


The Facts
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Synopsis: The greatest cult horror and science fiction films of all-time are studied in vivid detail in the second volume of Time Warp. Includes groundbreaking classics like Night of the Living Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and sci-fi gems such as Blade Runner, and A Clockwork Orange.

Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Sean Young, Joe Morton, Malcolm McDowell, Bruce Campbell, Roger Corman, John Sayles, Mary Woronov, Ed Neal, Rob Zombie, Joe Dante, John Waters, Ileana Douglas, Kevin Pollak

Director: Danny Wolf

Rated: NR

Running Length: 83 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: It’s fitting that horror and sci-fi are the subject of the second volume of the documentary Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time, seeing that the genre was so prone to sequel-itis over the years. Yet many of the titles featured in this shorter follow-up to Volume 1 are stand-alone entities, which surely have contributed to their unique followings over time. From the obscure but not quite forgotten Liquid Sky to the oft-mentioned importance of the original Night of the Living Dead, these were usually shoe-stringed budgeted kitchen-sink endeavors that caught on over time.

Joined again by the strange panel of moderators consisting of Joe Dante (Matinee), John Waters (Pink Flamingos), Ileana Douglas (Cape Fear), and Kevin Pollak (Indian Summer), director Danny Wolf moves away from the general ‘Midnight Madness’ theme from the preceding chapter. For his follow-up, he centers on a more specific genre that produced a bevy of cult titles throughout the last several decades. Not all the choices are obvious ones and though a number of quips and factoids presented over the 83 minutes are what you could glean from a trivia track off of a special edition DVD, it’s the delivery of said bits that make this such an enormous treat for film fans. Even if horror/sci-fi isn’t your bag, there are enough familiar faces that float by, either as stars reflecting on their earlier work or fans commenting on the importance of the title on the medium, that I think you’ll get a kick out of this.
I mean, you can hardly go wrong when you have interviews with Jeff Goldblum cheekily riffing on his experience making The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and straining to remember the illegible plot. Or an actress from The Human Centipede reflecting on the casting process and attempting to find nobility in the acting that went on while filming a movie where the mouth of her character was sewn to the business end of a companion. I thought Mary Woronov recounting her time on Death Race 2000 was a hoot, proving again she’s one of the best interview subjects for these kind of documentaries. Special mention goes to Sean Young who pulls no punches when discussing her time on the set of Blade Runner – say what you will about Young’s antics over the years but she definitely speaks up for herself.

Along with critical hot takes throughout, this is another well put together look into movies that started off the beaten path and have generally found their way into a lasting conversation. They may not have had A-list talent (well, not at the time) but they’ve garnered a name for themselves through longevity and staying power that other titles in their genre haven’t found. This covers a nice swath of tastes too, from the pomp of A Clockwork Orange to the worms and all grotesqueries found in The Evil Dead and Re-Animator.  It’s just long enough to cover more than the basics but doesn’t slog on to encapsulate additional titles that don’t quite fit the bill.  While the oeuvre might not be your completely cup of tea, there’s a little something for everyone from laughs to trivia.

Movie Review ~ The Lords of Salem

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Heidi, a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record — a “gift from the Lords.” The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town’s violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?

Stars: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davidson, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Maria Conchita Alonso, Judy Gleeson, Meg Foster, Griffin Boice

Director: Rob Zombie

Rated: R

Running Length: 101 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  In his previous four films, director Rob Zombie was in it to win it.  A fan of old-school horror films, Zombie brought back a throwback nature to films like The House of 1,000 Corpses and its superior sequel The Devil’s Rejects.  These films were low down, dirty movies not for the faint of heart and established Zombie as a talent with an eye for the twisted.  Undertaking remaking the king of the slasher films, Zombie took a reboot of Halloween to a place I didn’t care for and then slashed through a sequel that managed to be even more vile – both of those movies really scared me, not so much because of any frights provided on screen but because of the lasting impression Zombie left with his shockingly violent killings.

So it’s pretty surprising that his latest effort seems so tame in comparison – it’s as if Zombie has gotten the need to shock out of his system and decided instead to focus on a more serious filmmaking exercise.  Clearly taking a page from Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick, and early Dario Argento, The Lords of Salem finds Zombie not so much holding back but moving forward.  It’s not a great movie but it shows continued growth from the filmmaker.

Zombie’s wife (with an acting style that’s passable at best, laughable at worst) is a radio DJ in Salem, MA —  a dreadlocked bohemian chick that loves her dog, has colorful tattoos, and likes to sleep in the nude no matter how chilly it is outside.  Working in a Mod-Squad type set-up on her radio show (Phillips and Foree are her fellow mic-men), they play death metal and generally roll off each other well.  It’s interesting that Sherri Moon Zombie is the most effective in these scenes…naturalistic and unguarded – it’s only when she’s working through dialogue on her own that she sounds like she’s reading the script for the first time and missed all the punctuation.

Living in the type of boarding house straight out of any number of 70’s possession flicks, Heidi gets sent a record from The Lords and when it’s played on the air it’s eerily dissonant instrumental music has a strange effect on Heidi and other women of Salem that happen to be listening at that time.  You see, Heidi is the descendant of a famous witch hunter and has opened the door for the witches to return and bring Satan back with them.

That’s the gist of the set-up and Zombie takes a good forty minutes to set his picture into true motion.  There’s something to be said for a focus on characterization before the odd manifestations start to take place…but the material and performances in this first act doesn’t rise to the occasion.  It doesn’t help matters that wild-haired Davison blusters his way through the film as an author interested in witchcraft who surprisingly knows very little about the town he’s grown up in and its storied history.

Aside from Sheri Moon Zombie and Davison, the film casts four interesting veteran actresses in memorable roles that pretty much steal the show.  As the big bad super high meanie witch, Foster (with those icy blue eyes) is buck naked for 98% of the film and seems to relish the artistic freedom that comes with it.  As three sisters that seem to be auditioning for a local production of Macbeth, Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Stone (The Howling, Cujo), and especially Geeson (To Sir, With Love) are nearly worth the  price of admission – here are three established actresses that are game to play with what Zombie has given them.

Though his previous movies have creaked toward the two hour mark, this barely cracks the 90 minute plateau and all the better.  Zombie seems to have made it to the final reel before giving in to his previous stylistic trappings and decides to cram it all into a finale that features a lot of old lady nudity, ripped out intestines, and several strangely effective demonic images.

Even with all this it’s a slow film and I found myself fighting to keep my eyes open on more than a few occasions.  Let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with Zombie tightening his reins and trying something different.  His last film, Halloween II, was way too violent for me and The Lords of Salem was overly languid to go along with.  Zombie picks and chooses his projects carefully so I’m hoping his next effort is a better balance of directorial narrative and the stylized violence and imagery he clearly is so adept at.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Lords of Salem

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Synopsis: Residents of Salem, Massachusetts are visited by a 300-year-old coven of witches

Release Date:  April 19, 2013

Thoughts: Musician Rob Zombie is a filmmaker that always keeps it interesting.  Though I’ve been up and down in my appreciation of his film work, you can’t deny that he doesn’t do anything halfway.  With a keen eye for detail and production design, Zombie has delivered very effective (and effectively depraved) films ranging from the gruesomely watchable (The Devil’s Rejects) to the unwatchably gruesome (Halloween II…where future Oscar winner Octavia Spencer gets killed horribly).

His latest film stars his wife whose acting skills seem once again up for debate.  Lords of Salem appears to be another rough around the edges Zombie feast with the witch coven angle vaguely reminiscent of Italian horror-master Dario Argento’s classic Suspiria.  With The Evil Dead remake right around the corner and this arriving in April, audiences will have their squirm factor put to the test .