Friday, January 22, 2016

031. Horror High and 032. Future Hunters

Jump to Future Hunters (1988)

031. Horror High (1974)
Director: Larry N. Stouffer
Writer: J. D. Feigelson
From: Cult Cinema and Sci-Fi Invasion

Vernon is a nerdy high schooler bullied by everyone—teacher and student alike. When his tormentors force him to drink his own experimental serum, they find they may have pushed him too far and now have to face the fatal consequences.

Fun mid-70's monster/slasher flick. The movie establishes its connection to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde right from the start with an English class watching an adaptation of the story. Vernon is working on a serum to make people stronger, but is testing it on his guinea pig first.

The villains, and thus the roster of victims, is lined up pretty quickly. Vernon's English teacher tells him he turned in his bio paper to her instead of his English one and then proceeds to give him an F on the English paper and shred the bio one. In the lab, the janitor's cat is trying to eat Vernon's guinea pig and the janitor threatens Vernon for chasing the cat away. Then the gym teacher gives Vernon grief for asking to spend the period working on his experiment instead of going to gym. Finally, in the locker room, Roger, the star of the football team, steals Vernon's bio notes and tears them apart in front of him.

If you read horror movies as morality plays, the set-up can't be much clearer: these people have sinned and thus will be punished by Vernon, but having become a monster himself, Vernon will ultimately have to die.

Which is how it plays out and is not unsatisfying for doing so. In fact, the one disappointment I had is how low the body count is. The movie goes to laughable lengths to make the people tormenting Vernon monstrous that they border on being cartoons. The promise, though, is that they'll each receive their deserved comeuppance. That's the odd promise of monster/slasher movies like this: yes, the monster nerd will be defeated at the end so that the moral order is restored, but there's the promise of catharsis throughout for the nerds since all their enemies are the ones getting the chop. When you've set up that kind of narrative, especially with these kinds of villains, you expect full catharsis.

A fun flick, though. Not too grisly, no nudity. It's officially PG, but I'd say it's more PG-13 (the rating didn't exist in 1974). A definite recommend for a bad movie night or for teenagers having a slumber party. This is solid midnight movie/USA Up All Night fare. There is another movie called Return to Horror High that has nothing to do with this one. It's an interesting enough piece, though not as fun as this.


032. Future Hunters (1986)
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Writers: J. Lee Thompson from a story by Anthony Maharaj
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A couple given part of the Spear of Longinus by a traveler from the future have to find the shaft before Neo-Nazis can steal the artifact and unleash a global holocaust.

Future Hunters feels like a compendium of every bad 80's direct-to-video action trope. It rips off Mad Max, Indiana Jones, and Rambo. It has a kung-fu fight, secret Nazis, armed militias in jungle villages, and Amazonian tribes. It has bad canned music, terrible dubbing, and comically bad ADR. In short, this film is a cultural treasure and should be required viewing for anyone who has eyes to see.

In the post-apocalyptic future of 2025, Matthew, humanity's last hope, is searching for the Spear of Longinus, the spear the pierced Christ's flesh and will allow whoever wields it to travel back in time.

You all remember that story, right? About time-traveling Jesus? Yeah. This is just another one of those.

Matthew, driving in his car armored with found material a la Mad Max, is being chased by evil forces who don't want him going back and undoing the apocalypse because reasons? He does find the spearhead, though, is sent back to 1986, which brings an end to Mad Matt: Quest for the Jesus Stick.

And then I stop caring about the plot. I mean, stuff happens—Matthew wakes up in 1986, saves our heroes Michelle and Slade from some bikers, gets shot and dies. Michelle decides to fulfill Matthew's dying wish and protect the spear. Somehow Neo-Nazis find out she has it and come looking for her. And then set piece action scene, set piece action scene, set piece action scene. Blah blah blah.

And it doesn't matter. This is fun, if a little poorly paced. It plays out as a series of tropes and rip-offs of other movies. I mean, there's even a part where they rip off the theme to Indiana Jones. Ripping off other movies isn't necessarily bad—I had great fun watching the Italian rip-off of Predator, Robowar, which is almost a shot-for-shot remake—it's that the movie rips off several movies that don't fit together.

Because the elements are so different, it makes the movie feel longer than it is. It's an unequivocal recommend, though. This is hilariously bad and, if you're a fan of bad movies, has a lot of connections to other genre pictures. Robert Patrick, the T-1000 himself, is the star and the primary henchman of the head Nazi is Bob Schott from Gymkata and Flop House favorite Head of the Family.

More interesting, and probably more important to discussions of the role of independent/grindhouse/genre culture is the director Cirio H. Santiago. His Wikipedia page has more details, but he was an early figure in creating the blaxploitation genre, worked with Roger Corman to give several major directors their start, and became the president of the Philippines Film Development Fund. He was in charge of helping Filipino filmmakers realize their vision while also trying to get foreign filmmakers to come to the Philippines. Genre is at the center of culture and this guy's an example of that.

This isn't PD and it doesn't look like it's currently available for legal streaming, but a little light Googling should set you right. In fact, the Google directed me to the transcript of Job Bob Brigg's Monstervision episode featuring this movie. His style is way better than mine. I don't have a style yet. I'm working on that.

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