Tuesday, February 17, 2015

V/H/S: Viral (2014)

V/H/S: Viral (USA, 2014) - Color, Director(s): Justin Benson, Gregg Bishop, Aaron Moorhead, Marcel Sarmiento, and Nacho Vigalondo
MPAA Rating: R
Approx. 82 min.

Z-rating: 3 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 3 stars out of 5

So despite the VHS motif, this time we're going with a viral video theme. The last two movies tried to stick to the concept even though there was no way some of the segments could possibly be recorded on VHS (i.e. the Skype segment from the first one or the prosthetic eye segment from the second one).

The wraparound segment this time isn't about people watching VHS tapes. Instead, an ice cream truck is leading the police on a high speed chase through L.A. and everyone is trying to get their own footage of it. One guy runs out into the street in time to see the truck pass and his girlfriend disappear. How any of this actually leads into the various segments is not explained.

Regardless, our first segment is about a stage magician, Dante The Great, and his assistant. Dante was a nobody until he somehow got ahold of a magic cloak that supposedly belonged to Harry Houdini and becomes the greatest magician in the world. This is easily my favorite segment in the entire movie. I don't want to spoil too much of the story but a stage magician playing with dangerous powers he might not fully understand is a fantastic concept.

Next up, we have a Spanish-language segment is about a guy who builds a portal to a parallel dimension in his basement. After opening the door, he is greeted by an alternate version of himself and they agree to switch places for 15 minutes so they can explore each others world. The more time he spends in the alternate dimension, the more he realizes that things are not what they seem. Takes awhile for this one to get going but once it starts to ramp up, it gets really nutty before you know it. This segment does lose some points for teasing a Satanic orgy and not following through. 

A group of douchebag skaters travel to Tijuana in search of good times and a location to finish their skating video in the third and final segment. I don't have a problem with skaters in general but these guys are really obnoxious. Things get interesting when they stumble upon what appears to be a sacrificial site and they're suddenly surrounded by members of a bizarre cult. Any tension this scene might've had is completely broken by the hilariously stupid comments of the skaters. "Yo, do crackheads have fire blood?" Next thing you know, the segment turns into a first person shooter (à la Doom) as one of the skaters start shooting undead cult zombies. The beginning of this segment almost reminded me of Larry Clark's Kids.

Nudity: Pretty much none. They tease nudity on a couple occasions but nothing is explicitly shown. The beautiful girlfriend, Iris, in the wraparound segment teases flashing her breasts to the camera but it's covered up by static. There's also a bit in a taxi where a girl is taking her clothes off but she only gets down to her bra and panties before stopping. 

Gore: There's some gore in this movie, a police officer is hit by the ice cream truck and his severed arm lands on the sidewalk. There was also tons of blood during the skater vs. cult members brawl. Nothing too visceral but lots of blood spewing.

Awesome: The ending to the wraparound story didn't make a whole lot of sense but that's true of the series as whole. I just think it's funny that we see all these VHS tapes and tracking adjustments but everyone's got a smart phone and digital camcorders. I will give it credit for not wasting too much time before jumping into something interesting since found footage films tend to waste at least a half hour setting up the plot. I can't really say this movie was scary but it was interesting. The magician segment is definitely my favorite and the one about parallel dimensions was bizarre, like a live-action Japanese hentai. The skaters' segment was starting to get good but it ended before anything cool happened. Worth checking out if you're a fan of the series thus far. The Blu-ray comes out today, so click here to buy your copy. From what I understand, a segment directed by Todd Lincoln was cut from the original release but will be included as an extra for the DVD/Blu-ray release.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

10 Awesome VHS Covers

Back in the day, I used to go to the video store with my dad to check out the different movies they had on the shelves. This was obviously long before I owned a computer or was able to check the internet for reviews. Other than short blurbs on the back of the tape, all you really had to go on was the cover art.

The home video companies all knew this so they would put some of the most kick ass artwork on the boxes to make their movies as attractive as possible. Of course, some of these were a just a flat out lie and did not accurately represent the movie at all. The following are a random assortment of VHS covers that I definitely would've rented just for the kick ass box art. 

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) - Check out that cover! Some guy wearing a leather vest is screaming as he fires his machine gun into the air. Below him, a Mad Max-esque motorcycle gang looks like they're riding straight out of hell and charging into action.

The guy on horseback seems to be holding a flare or maybe his hand has been replaced by a flamethrower that's spewing a cloud of flames into the air. Is he a Horseman of the Apocalypse? The backdrop is New York City and everything is engulfed in fire.

The line at the bottom reads "A Heavy Metal journey into an urban hell where everything has gone wrong!" Who knows what the hell could be going on? The summary on the back of the tape makes it sounds like The Warriors meets Escape from New York. Bonus points for having Fred Williamson on the cover!

Dr. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1974) - It's no secret that I'm a fan of monster movies. I've been a huge Godzilla fan since I was a kid and I've always loved the classic Universal monsters. One of the most appealing aspects of Godzilla movies is that he usually fights another giant monster.

There isn't too much going on in this cover but Frankenstein's monster is battling another monstrous, muscle-bound beast on the edge of a cliff and that's totally awesome! The setting is a simple one, a full moon on a dark and stormy night. The tagline reads "A bloody battle between stone-age goliaths" I'm not sure who that other guy is supposed to be but this image brings to mind The Hulk battling Grey Hulk.

The back of the tape says that a Neanderthal man is killed by the townsfolk and brought back to life as a Frankenstein monster. Meanwhile one of the assistants that was banished finds another Neanderthal man(!) who eventually must battle the first monster. If I rented this as a kid, I would've expected this to be like The War of the Gargantuas

Robo Vampire (1988) - Alright, this is one of the ones I was talking about when I said the covers are sometimes a flat out lie. If the cover was to be believed, this would be the coolest movie EVER! RoboCop is fighting a horde of jianshi (Chinese hopping vampires) while cop cars are exploding in the background. I honestly can't think of anything that could possibly be cooler.

The back cover is missing in the picture above but I've actually had the misfortune of seeing this one. A narcotics agent is killed and brought back to life as a tin foil robot that fights a "jiangshi" wearing a gorilla mask. Alright, in all fairness, the "RoboCop" was wearing a silver outfit and a silver motorcycle helmet but the "jiangshi" is literally wearing a gorilla mask.

I can't even imagine what this movie would've looked like on VHS. I saw the DVD version and it looked like it was filtered through someone's asshole. I've never been more disappointed.

Chopping Mall (1986) - This is one of my favorite covers for one of my favorite cult films. A shopping bag filled with assorted body parts is held up by Doctor Claw's hand. A simple cover but it gets the point across. Although I would've assumed this would be a slasher film just going by the front cover.

The movie is about a group of teens that are partying in a mall after hours and, unbeknownst to them, the mall just got a new security system in the form of three robots designed to disable intruders by non-lethal means. A lightning storm short-circuits the robots however and turns them into killing machines!

The movie is pretty cheesy but an exploding head and a pinch of nudity makes this a great B-movie to watch with a couple of buddies. Order a pizza and crack open a few beers, it would make a great double feature with Evolver!

Invasion of the Bodysuckers [a.k.a Blue Monkey] (1987) - I just LOVE the drippy font the title is written in. I love that it's green and looks like slime but most of all, I love that the entire slip cover is one big poster. The creature is shrouded in the shadows but you can tell it's a giant insect creature and in one of the screenshots on the back, you can see a giant worm either crawling in or out of someone's mouth. There isn't a summary on the back but you can imagine the movie being a throwback to Sci-Fi flicks from the 50's.

Neon Maniacs (1986) - Here we've got the Japanese cover to Neon Maniacs. I doubt this is something I would've come across at the video store but I know I would've rented the shit out of this movie if I ever saw it sitting on a shelf. A bunch of monsters with one decked out in full samurai gear look ready for a fight. The cover doesn't really tell us what's happening and I wouldn't be able to read the summary on the back but that's just too awesome not to rent.

Bonus points for taking place in my hometown of San Francisco. (Even though that looks suspiciously like the Twin Towers in the skyline next to the samurai's head) The movie is apparently about a group of teens that find a nest of monsters living under the Golden Gate Bridge. I never would've guessed that by the cover.

Raw Force [a.k.a. Kung Fu Cannibals] (1982) - I love busy covers that have a lot going on and this is one of the craziest I've seen! From the top down, there's a line that reads "Raw Force! Untamed and Unleashed to Kill!" followed by a statue of a deity directly beneath it.

Below that is a spirit swinging a Katana with an exploding yacht to the left and some women in cages to the right. Those are either crazed monks or possibly witches laughing at them in the cage.

Below them is a James Bond looking fellow checking out baskets full of emeralds, or more likely, jade. In the center is a shirtless fellow throwing a dragon kick out towards the screen and on either side of him are random people armed with machine guns, including a sea captain and a blonde bombshell.

Directly above the title, we get a peek at a few gravestones while the shiny 3D font is popping out at us below. There's even a ninja star with a taijitu (yin-yang) in the middle of the "O" in "Force" with the taglines "One Blow! The Deathblow!" and "...Invaders of the Jade Tombs!" surrounding the title.

Without the back cover, I couldn't even begin to imagine what this movie could possibly be about. Seems like every type of movie from Action/Adventure to Kung Fu and even Women in Prison films are covered here.

The alternate title (Kung Fu Cannibals) makes this even more awesome and the actual summary from IMDb talks about an island of martial art ghosts, female slavery, cannibal monks, piranhas, zombies, and a Hitler lookalike! I still have no idea what's going on but this movie just got a Blu-ray release a few months back. They even kept the incredible cover art!

Mind Killer (1987) - A Sci-Fi nightmare indeed. Look that thing! It's like something out of Doom. A one-eyed, drooling, sharp-toothed, brain monster with electrodes sticking out of its face. I can also make out some clawed fingers down at the bottom. I would've rented this on the cover alone.

According to the summary on the back, a librarian reads self-help books that expand his mind to the point where he develops telekinesis and mind-control powers. (I really need to read more!) After losing control of his powers, his brain actually turns into a monster and goes after his love interest. I hope to track down a copy of this movie cause it sounds totally awesome! I'm expecting something like The Brain.

The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) - Our second cover to come from Japan is for the sequel to Swamp Thing. I've seen a couple different variations of this cover and they all feature Swamp Thing carrying the incredibly sexy Heather Locklear in her nightgown.

What I liked most about this one were the comic book-style speech bubbles with things like "BANG" "Vicious Mutants!" and "Raw Terror!" all over the front and back cover. Also, check out the awesome panels that look like they were lifted straight from the comics.

I understand this sequel is supposed to be more of a comedy but I love how the speech bubbles try to sell it as a straight up horror movie. What's funny is that the speech bubbles actually make it seem more like a comedy. I would definitely rent this if I saw it sitting on a shelf.

Deep Rising (1998) - The last poster I have for all of you is another Japanese variation. Deep Rising is about a band of hijackers trying to board an ocean liner and rob everyone on it. Unbeknownst to them, the ocean liner was attacked by giant sea monster.

Check out the wicked awesome tentacle monster on the cover! The always beautiful Famke Janssen is on the spine and the back cover has screenshots of a guy melting with a couple more of the tentacle monster looming. For comparison, here's the boring American version.

You can't even tell that it's a monster movie judging by that cover! Maybe the whole point was to push it as an Action movie instead but I would've passed this up on a shelf. In fact, I must've scrolled past this movie a dozen times on Netflix while looking for something to watch.

One day I did a search for sea monster movies because I have a MASSIVE fear of the ocean and this title came up in a list. I remember being surprised when I went looking for it and realized how many times I've scrolled past this movie.

Maybe the distributors didn't think it would sell as a monster movie but the Japanese cover makes this look awesome!  

On a related note: Tom Hodge a.k.a The Dude Designs, who designs some of the GREATEST movie posters I've ever seen in my life, has a book coming out on this exact topic. If you enjoyed this post, pre-order your copy of VHS Video Cover Art on Amazon today!