Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not Quite Hollywood a.k.a. The Bill Murray Experience

Soooooooo in conjunction with the Fantastic Fest repertory series about Ozploitation, the festival screened the new documentary, “Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!,” from director Mark Hartley. Hartley was at both the “Dark Age” and “Razorback” screenings and projected an interesting awkwardness on stage with both Zack and Lars; I think perhaps this was due to his sense of humor being somewhat different than ours. Either way, he seemed like a very knowledgeable guy and pretty friendly.

The documentary covers the renaissance of Australian film-making that occurred in 70's and 80's that manifested itself as Genre and Exploitation films. Covering a wide number of films, mostly Sex-Comedies, Action, and Horror, the documentary does a wonderful job of functioning not just as a Greatest Hits compilation of Nudity and Violence, but also as a crash course in the unconventional, unsafe, renegade-style of film-making that transpired at the time. It's genuinely enjoyable to watch these guys reflect fondly on their days of amateurish, yet invigorating productions. Watching their faces light up as they relay their crazy stories from back then, I had to wonder if modern film-makers will ever experience this much fun on the set.

At this point in the review, I have to step back and make a confession: About 30 minutes into the movie, our waiter brought my girlfriend her food, but when she looked at it, she informed him that it wasn't what she ordered. He then apologized and said the kitchen was “really crazy right now because Bill Murray is in the lobby.” My girlfriend and I looked at it each other in disbelief.

As most of the Fantastic Fest attendees knew (hell, I knew and I wasn't an attendee), the closing night film was going to be “City of Ember,” and although rumor had it that some cast and crew were going to be there, no one seriously thought Bill Murray was going to show up. I mean, it's BILL MURRAY!!!!

At any rate, we quietly left the theater and went out into the lobby where Mr. Murray was standing, giving interviews in a sort of musical chairs fashion. Standing on the other side of the ropes, only 6 feet from him, I felt a warmth in my body; I don't know how to explain it. Something about seeing him in the flesh just made me so happy; perhaps it's all the nostalgia, I don't know. I snapped a bunch of photos of him being interviewed, while everyone in the lobby watched on in awe.

My girlfriend watched, paced, and somehow found time to take a smoke break!?! It was obvious that she was determined to meet him. A couple of months prior, she was in Chicago and went to a charity event where Bill Murray jumped out of a plane. She was determined to meet him then, but didn't even come close, and now she was just a mere 6 feet away.

I kept going back into the theater to check on our tab, and I would see glimpse of the film that looked absolutely great, but I would then remember that Bill Murray was outside and exit back into the lobby. After my final exit from the theater, Mr. Murray had finished the interviews and he was standing near the box office with security around him. He was looking at local publications, fliers, that sort of thing, and he asked an employee about, I believe, Austin City Limits, and after the employee answered his question, he asked Bill Murray if he could take a picture with him. After that, there seemed like there was a group of passive, quiet, vultures circling him in the lobby, all of them too afraid to be the first to speak to him. My girlfriend, brazen as ever, blurted out “I kiss your feet!! If you let me take a photo with you!?!” To which Mr. Murray, dryly responded, “Really? That seems a little excessive, and I don't really want to take my shoes off.” What resulted afterwards was this dimly lit, blurry photo of Heather, Bill Murray, & I.

I had always heard strange stories about people meeting Bill Murray, tales that verge on the edge of urban legends. I remember reading a story years ago about a guy who was waiting in a subway station, and suddenly Bill Murray showed up, gave the guy a noogie, and whispered in his ear: "No one will ever believe you." My friend Patricia once marveled me with a story about her Mom and her meeting Bill Murray on the beach in Florida. She was 7 or 8 years old and she saw a man walking along the beach that looked like "the ghostbuster." Her mother went over to the man with her and said, "My daughter thinks that you are man from the 'Ghostbusters,' is she right?" To which he replyed, "Yeah, I'm the ghostbuster," and looking down Patricia, he said, "don't worry, there's no ghosts on the beach." I've also always heard rumors that he was bit of a jerk in real life, much like you hear about every celebrity...maybe, who knows? I only met the guy for 30 seconds, but he nicer than he had to be to me.

As for “Not Quite Hollywood,” the whole thing wasn't a loss. For starters, the Alamo is bringing it back sometime in the Winter or Spring, and I will definitely be there in full force. Plus, as a result of the bits that I did see, I ordered some films online that night, “Dead-End Drive In,” “Road Games,” and “Patrick.”

The Man from Hong Kong (1975)

"Hey! Don't give me any shit!!" - Fang Sing-Leng from "The Man from Hong Kong"

Director Brian Trenchard-Smith was in attendance for this Weird Wednesday screening of "The Man from Hong Kong," a true cinematic anomaly: an Australian set and produced Kung Fu Action movie that is also a satire of Renegade American Cop films. Would-be heir to the thrown of Bruce Lee, Jimmy Wang Yu, plays Inspector Fang Sing-Leng, a loose cannon cop from the Hong Kong Special Branch, who "learned every trick in the book, and then threw the book away." He arrives in Australia to assist a pair of local cops with the extradition of two-bit drug smuggler, Win Chan. Everything goes awry when Chan is assassinated by a killer (legendary stunt man Grant Page) hired by the extravagant crime lord, Jack Wilton (George Lazenby). Wang Yu then goes on a quest to prove Wilton is the man behind the drug smuggling ring, and destroys everything that he comes into contact with in the process, but never fear, because it's all in the name of justice.

Okay, let me just start by saying that everything about this movie is totally Badass. Even the stuff that starts out lame, like the theme song, “Sky High,” by the band, Jigsaw, is suddenly transformed into something totally Badass. Another example: Hang Gliding, usually it's really lame, but in this movie, it's totally Badass, who knew? Hell, when it combines "Sky High" and Hang Gliding, every other movie in the world should of committed suicide. I don't know how it works, but “x” plus “The Man from Hong Kong equals TOTALLY BADASS.

Other examples of Badass stuff: The opening car chase that ends with an insane car-flip and explosion that causes one of the doors to unhinge and fly towards the camera. No CGI at work, just good old fashion dangerous film-making. Hell, every car chase in this movie kicks major ass, and to me at least, it looked like Wang Yu did all of his own stunt driving. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but if am, that's even more props for the movie. There's another example of hazardous film-making later on in the film in a scene where George Lazenby is set on fire, a real fire stunt that resulted in him having to be hospitalized for burns to his hands (it also supposed resulted in Lazenby punching Trenchard-Smith). The scene looks not unlike this photo of Brian Trenchard-Smith doing a publicity stunt for the film on the rooftop of the Kerridge Odeon Building:

Another Badass thing Wang Yu definitely does his own stunt driving in the coolest fucking entrance to a date ever; he slides his car sideways, stopping just short of his rendezvous' car, which is parked on a cliff-side, she never stood a chance.

With all the great stunt driving, it surprising that the film also produces some pretty good fight scenes, the highlights being the one between and Wang Yu and Grant Page in a kitchen, and Wang Yu's climatic final fight with Lazenby, which you can watch here. I also really liked the cut effects in the movie. Even though the blood was obviously orange paint, the way cuts occurred in the film was quite convincing.

The film also sports some horribly racist, but hilarious dialogue, such as Wang Yu's love-making scene in which his mate says "This is nice," to which he responds “What did you expect, acupuncture?” Wang Yu supposedly disliked white women so much, that whenever he was preparing for his love-making scenes in the film, he would eat bugs before having to kiss them (this story was detailed in the documentary, "Not Quite Hollywood"). Lazenby also plays up the racist villain with lines like "I find Chinese make the best servants" and "I never met a Chinese yet that didn't have a yellow streak." Not to mention, one of the Australian cops off-hand remarks after Wang Yu destroys something, "Talk about the bloody yellow peril." I never thought racism was Badass until I saw "The Man from Hong Kong."

Lastly, though no one mentioned it (I totally expected Lars to since he has such a fondness for Philippine shirts), the film contains a hefty amount of colorful, crazy shirts. Considering the shirts that Brian Trenchard-Smith wore for his appearances, it's not surprising.

Here is his Q & A for the film from the Fantastic Fest screening:

"The Man from Hong Kong" screened on 9/24/08 at midnight and was presented by Weird Wednesday as part of the Not Quite Hollywood series.

Razorback (1984)

Let's get this out of the way right now: A movie about a killer pig CAN be scary...if done right. Russell Mulcahy's wild-giant-boar-rampaging-through-the-outback-creature-feature, “Razorback.” isn't just done right, it's done perfectly, absolutely perfectly. Seeing it for the first time, on a big screen no less, I knew immediately that this was without a doubt one of the best Horror movies I'd ever seen.

From the opening sequence that begins with a loving grandfather (Bill Kerr) tucking his young grandson into bed and ends with that man's world crashing down around him in a ball of dust and flames as a giant savage runs riot through the child's bedroom, I knew that this was no ordinary pig movie. The epic scope of the cinematography (helmed by Dean Semler) in this sequence made my legs tense up with excitement as I watched the grandfather, Jake, stumble away from his burning house and collapse in distress over the brutal death of his grandson.

As the plot unfolds, Jake is brought to trial for the death of his grandson because no one believes his story that a giant pig stormed through the house and snatched the child up. Jake is acquitted though during the trial, due to lack of evidence, but his reputation is sullied, and he becomes hellbent on revenge against the beast that tore down his life.

Meanwhile, an animal rights activist and America television reporter, Beth Winters, travels to Australia to investigate and conduct interviews about kangaroo poaching. Naturally, she is met with hostility from the locals, especially from two ruffians, Benny and Dicko, whose entire demeanor is equal parts inbred-post-apocalyptic-hillbilly & New-Wave-chic. They are ugly folks who have nothing but ugliness on their minds. After an unfortunate run in with Benny and Dicko in the middle of nowhere, Beth escapes sexual assault, but ironically doesn't escape the wrath of the giant boar.

Beth's death is considered to be a freak accident by the locals, but when her husband, Carl, arrives in town, it becomes apparent real fast that he suspects something else caused her death. Can Carl, a stranger in a strange land, find out the truth about his wife's death? Will Jake get his revenge against the beast? Will Benny and Dicko get what's coming to them? And what is the deal with that beautiful girl in the middle of nowhere that tracks boars all day for no reason? These are all questions I let the film answer for you.

For my money, there is just no shortage of things to like about this movie. The creature design by Bob McCarron (“Dead Alive) is unique and effective. The hyperkinetic cinematography is just plain breathtaking in it's eerie use of stark imagery, wide open spaces, and outrageous lighting, especially in Carl's incredible hallucinogenic dream sequence. The tension is wrought and unbearable at times, but the action is nonstop and for lack of better word, badassss. Even the performances are great, especially from Bill Kerr as Jake.

Watching this on the heels of “Dark Age” the night before, I couldn't help but compare the two in my head. This movie was in every way everything I hoped “Dark Age” would be, a balls-to-the-wall ass-kicking, monster movie.

“Razorback” screened at midnight on 9/18/08 at the Alamo Ritz and was presented by Terror Thursday as part of the Not Quite Hollywood series.

Dark Age (1987)

This film was screened as part of the Fantastic Fest's "Not Quite Hollywood: Best of Ozsploitation" series. It was the first film of the series that I saw, and to be honest, it was little underwhelming. Basically, an Australian-set version of "Jaws," (mixed with a little "Free Willy," so to speak) "Dark Age" is about a park ranger named Steve (John Jarratt) who, along with two local guides, Oondabund & Adjaral, set out to hunt down and capture a giant man-eating crocodile, known as Numunwari, before a group of vengeful poachers (led by an actor channeling Shane-MacGowan) get to it first. The Australian government hires to Steve to put an end to the croc killing spree, but the Aboriginal guides believe that the croc harbors an old spirit that must be preserved.

There's a scene early on in the film where the croc comes face to face with a small little boy (probably 3 or 4 years old) and swallows him whole, while the little boy's family and the rest of the bystanders watch on. It's always intense when children are put in harms way in the movies, but it's a guaranteed shocker for a film to call the bluff, so to speak. After that sequence though, I felt the pacing slowed down too much for a Thriller. I felt that after it's inspired opening 20 minutes or so, the film just kind of flat-lined until the last 20 minutes kicked in.

The movie was well filmed and had a fairly strong production value, even with the big plastic crocodile (which doesn't really start to look bad until the final sequence, and even then, it looked better than the one from "Eaten Alive)." There were some decent performances, especially from the Aboriginal guides (played by Burnham Burnham & David Gulpilil) and the lead poacher. Plus, there was one excellent chase sequence near the end.

All things considered though, not bad for a one-time viewing, but certainly not the balls-to-the-wall-insanity-thrill-ride I was expecting.

"Dark Age" screened at midnight on 9/17/08 at the Alamo Ritz, and was presented by Weird Wednesday.

Streets of Fire (1984)

This Music Monday presentation of “Streets of Fire” was a special screening for several reasons. For me, it was special because it marked the first time in over 10 years of attending the Alamo Drafthouse that I was actually able to drag my older brother, Mark, along with me to something really cool. I had taken him to the Alamo Village once or twice before for some new releases, but I'd never been able to take him to the downtown location for something that was truly indicative of what the Alamo is really all about.

In the grander scheme of things though, this screening marked the homecoming of Kier-La Janisse, one of the Alamo's first official programmers, who not only organized some of the original Alamo’s most memorable events, but also hosted and programmed the Music Monday series, and made it what it is today. A few years ago, Kier-La was unceremoniously deported back to Canada, leaving not only a hole in the Alamo’s programming schedule, but also in the hearts of many of her coworkers, not to mention some of the Alamo’s faithful.

I never knew Kier-La personally, but I still remember the trailers from the old days at the original location that made her views on “Streets of Fire” quite clear: “Some people might think that ‘Citizen Kane’ is the best film ever made, but those people have obviously never seen ‘Streets of Fire.’” Back then, the Alamo would play “Streets of Fire” for Kier-La's birthday and that was also the catalyst for this screening, but it also coincided with Kier-La's return to the United States for this year's Fantastic Fest. As a result, she ended up hosting this event and was greeted with the shocking news that the film's stars, Michael Pare and Deborah Van Valkenburgh, were going to be at the screening, live and in person.

Pare was actually kind of a big deal to my family in the 80's. When I was kid, “Eddie and the Cruisers,” “The Philadelphia Experiment,” and “Streets of Fire” were all staples of my household. Once I heard that Pare was actually going to be there, I knew that I had to drag my brother downtown.

Upon arriving and shuffling into the theater, the audience was greeted by Alamo geek/stud Zack Carlson, who basically explained Kier-La's history to the audience before inviting her to the stage to receive a thunderous chorus of applause and warmth. She also received, much to her surprise, a birthday gift unlike any other, her very own 35 mm copy of “Streets of Fire.” After her introduction, the real fun began!!

The film itself, directed by Walter Hill, is an exercise in style and fast-talking. It's all about the mixing and mashing of eras, music, and styles, primarily the 50's and the 80's. It also utilizes a massive amount of fast cuts in the editing, not to mention some rather neat “paper-tearing” swipes.

The plot revolves around young Rock N' Roll sensation, Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) who is kidnapped in the middle of her show by a biker gang led by Raven (Willem Defoe). Raven, along with his number 2, Greer (played by Fear's lead singer, Lee Ving), haul Ellen across the tracks to the wrong side of town where they tie her up in the back room of a seedy bar. Local waitress and Ellen Aim fan, Reva Cody (Van Valkenburgh), then calls her brother, Tom (Pare), back into town to help do what the cop can't, track down and bring back Ellen. Tom is willing to do it for a price, but mostly because Ellen and him have a romantic past. He is hired by Ellen's manager and new beau, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), and Tom brings on tomboy McCoy (Amy Madigan) for backup. There's a lot of a action, various styles of music, and a totally sweet turn by Bill Paxton who somehow manages to get out-acted by his hair.

The movie played well to the audience, so well that it inspired hoots, hollers, and hands-clapping-along to the music throughout. Whenever a new character would make an appearance on screen, they were welcomed with cheers from the audience. From where I was sitting it was the perfect initiation for my brother into the true Alamo experience.

Personally, I loved William Defoe and Lee Ving in the movie. Defoe in particular oozes creepy sexuality and has some of the best costumes in the film. I also really liked the fact that this movie had a scene with Michael Pare punches Diane Lane, and a scene where Lee Ving punches Rick Moranis.

The Q & A after the film was fun and informative. I was surprised to see not only how down to earth Pare was, but how humble and goofy he was. Seriously, the guy was very entertaining and kind of a goofball. His insight into the production of the film (one of Universal's most expensive at the time) and particularly Walter Hill was very interesting. Apparently, Hill had little regard for Pare's safety on the set when it came to pyrotechnics and his acting direction boiled down to the phrase “just talk fast.” By far though, the most interesting thing Pare said was in regards to Rick Moranis who he called, I believe, an “obnoxious turd.”

So you would think that with all this awesomeness going on that it would be nearly impossible to sour my brother's experience, but folks, let me just say that it happened...well, sort of. The final detail about this screening that made it “special” is the fact that it was shown in conjunction with a “rough cut” of “Road to Hell (it's rare for a film's title to so frankly describe itself,)” an unofficial sequel/tribute that stars Pare, reprising the character of Cody, and also has Van Valkenburgh in some scenes.

The director, Albert Pyun, has directed a lot of films, including “Sword of the Sorcerer” and “Cyborg.” His wife, Cynthia Curnan, has written very little else besides “Road to Hell.” The “film” spawned from a debate between the two of them about the ending of “Streets of Fire.” Albert thought it was among the most romantic ever, but Cynthia felt it was tragic and that it doomed Tom Cody to life of war and loneliness. Simply put, the film is fan-fiction on the most retarded level.

As Albert Pyun's introduction of the work finished, my brother, my girlfriend, and I looked at each other and tried to decide if we were going to stay. We agreed to and my brother got up to go to the bathroom before it started. As my girlfriend and I waded through the opening few minutes of grainy digital production, hollowed sound-mixing, and truly horrible green-screen effects, a decision had to be made. Should we wait for my brother to return and risk dashing his triumphant night at the Alamo, or should we leave before he gets back? We bailed with the quickness, and we might have been the first to leave, but we were certainly not the last. Some reports indicate that by the end of the screening, there were between 10 and 15 people remaining out of nearly 200.

From what my friends who actually managed to stay all the way through have told me, Cynthia Curnan's re-visioning follows a mentally-broken Tom Cody through a confrontation with 2 loud lesbian strippers that eventually ends with Cody torturing and killing the two of them after an hours worth of philosophizing about the nature of man and war. All of this is as a result of Cody never being able to get off the loss of Ellen. That's right, they turned Tom Cody into a serial killer!?! Anyway, you can read a full review of “Road to Hell,” written by one of the truly brave souls, here.

“Streets of Fire” screened at 9:00 on 9/22/08 and was presented by Music Monday.

Man On Wire (2008)

I wanted to see this when it first came out over a month ago, but my friend convinced me that it was not worth seeing in a theater because it was a documentary, and that it would translate just as well to a small screen. After watching the film recently, I would respectively disagree. There are some truly awe-inspiring shots in this movie that deserve to be seen on a big screen, or even a slightly big screen like the one I saw it on at the Dobie.

The film is about what some have called “the artistic crime of century,” a feat that occurred in 1974 that was so impressive and so grandiose that it's hard to imagine that it has become merely a footnote in history. Phillippe Petit, a French performance artist and tight-rope walker, masterminded an illegal invasion of the Twin Towers and, along with his team of devoted followers, orchestrated a daring high-wire routine stretching in between the towers, 1362 ft in the air.

Early on in the film, the audience learns of Phillippe's initial interest in the Twin Towers. Living in France, he read in magazines and newspapers about the construction of the buildings and knew from the illustrations in those publications that this feat was his ultimate dream. The movie wisely never brings up or even alludes to 9/11, but it does employ archival footage of the construction crews that built the towers laboring away day in and day out until it's completion.

For me, someone who is really in no way truly patriotic, it was still sort of disheartening to watch the expressions of anguish and joy on the worker's faces and to think that there's nothing left of their accomplishment. Being born at the end of the 70's, I really had know grasp of how long the towers actually existed, they had always been there my whole life, so I guess I just assumed that they were a lot older than they actually were. They stood for mere 30 years or so.

The documentary smartly plays like a caper film, treating the key figures less as talking heads and more like characters in a tangled plot of intrigue and suspense. Through the inter-cutting of reenactments of the break-in and actual archival footage of previous high-wire coups and subsequent planning, the films seamlessly builds tension in the audience, peeking their interest to such a degree that they cannot wait for the big payoff.

Phillippe is such an interesting personality in his older age that it's easy to see why someone would become infatuated with him and his daredevil tactics in his youth. Though thoroughly fascinating throughout, the film raises some logistical questions concerning the financing of these capers, but in the course of the narrative, I imagine any digression from the plot to explain such trivial details would seem somewhat random.

At any rate, it's hard to imagine that the story in “Man on Wire” is not better known. With the modest success of the documentary I wouldn't be surprised if it got made into some big budget feature film. As far as this movie is concerned, it's a nice piece of cinematic craftsmanship with a remarkable story and some lyric imagery thrown in.

“Man on Wire” screened at the Dobie.

Burn After Reading (2008)

“Report back to me when it makes sense” - J.K. Simmons as the “CIA Superior”

When an analyst for the CIA named Osbourne Cox, (John Malkovich) is fired, it sets into motion a series of events that results in the deaths and general unhappiness of several people (including audience members). Cox, frustrated and in search of a new career, begins writing his memoirs about his life in the CIA, much to the disinterest of his cold wife, Katie, played by Tilda Swinton. When a disk containing a rough draft of his work falls into the hands of two dimwitted gym employees, Chad & Linda (Brad Pitt & Frances McDormand), they (believing that they've stumbled onto some highly sensitive material) concoct a blackmailing scheme against Cox. Linda is hoping to get enough money out of the scam to have some cosmetic surgery done, while Chad seems to be in it just for the fun of doing spy stuff.

None of this is fun and games for Cox though, who angrily takes offense to Chad's position that he's not blackmailing anyone, but rather, just being a 'good samaritan.” Once things go awry with Osbourne, Chad and Linda take to disk to the Russian embassy in hopes that they will want it, meanwhile the CIA looks on very confused by what's transpiring. There are a lot of twists and turn in plot, which also involves George Clooney's Harry, a sex-addict who is unhappy with his marriage and finds himself dating both Katie and Linda, completely clueless of the relation between the two of them. There is also a plot line involving the manager of the gym, played by Richard Jenkins, who harbors feeling for Linda.

As Coen Brother's films go, “Burn After Reading” is among the weakest, which isn't to say that it's bad, but rather, really mediocre. It is also a curious follow-up to their most financially successful film to date, “No Country for Old Men.” Essentially a Dark-Comedy/Satire of the Spy genre, “Burn After Reading” has characters that are both emotionally grounded-in-reality, similar to those in “Fargo,” and who also possess the Coen's trademark bizarre-awkwardness. The film is advertised and billed as a Comedy, but from where I was sitting, it played more like a Tragedy, with hardly a laugh in sight. The characters are not bright, which in and of itself is not funny, but can be if done right. Here though, their ignorance is more depressing than anything else. Perhaps that is because the film goes to some lengths to make the audience understand why they act the way they do. The result is that you understand them, but you don't really like them, nor do you want to root for them.

All that being said, a weak Coen Brother's film is not a complete waste of time. J.K. Simmons has two scenes in the movie, but manages to be absolutely perfect in them. Clooney is good playing a character who seems like he wandered in from a different film all together and just decided to hang around. I don't care what anybody says about him, Brad Pitt is only funny in the movie because of Brad Pitt. He has nothing to work with dialog-wise, except perhaps the line “I thought you might be worried...about the security...of your shit.” I'm kind of on the fence about McDormand in this one, which says a lot because I usually love her. I can't decide if I think she phoned it in, or if it's a truly fearless performance. And finally, Malkovich pretty much owns this movie. I kind of wanted everyone else to go away and just let the movie be about his character.

Maybe it will get better with age, but based on this one viewing, I would have to say that it was a pretty big disappointment. You know it's bad when you spend most of the movie waiting for it to get awesome.

"Burn After Reading" was screened at the Tinseltown 20 on 9/23/08.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Gate (1987)

I remembered watching this movie at my childhood-best-friend's house when I was 9 or 10. Other than that though, I didn't really remember anything else about it prior to walking into the Alamo for Terror Thursday. It's a shame too, because I probably would of grown up a lot cooler if I revisited it from time to time.

The Gate” stars a very young Stephen Dorff as Glen, a normal little boy living in suburbia who discovers a hole in his backyard that is actually the gateway to Hell. After Glen and his best friend, Terry, play a Heavy Metal record backwards, they accidentally unlock the gate and let loose a ton of little demons. With their parents out of town, Glen, his sister Al, and Terry must survive the weekend alone while the depths of Hell crawl out of the backyard.

For starters, “The Gate” is a lot of fun, but it's also a rather well-made movie. I imagine it would play just as well on a small screen in your living room by yourself as it did in a sold out theater. They simply don't make enough Horror movies nowadays that involve kids-in-peril. Too often, the potential victims in Horror movies are annoying lame-ass adults that you just want to see die. Rarely do they make the protagonists someone you can actually root for like Terry, the black-leather-jacket-wearing, back-masking-Metalhead-nerd with dead-mommy issues.

Another awesome thing about this movie is that the kids are actually smart, and have to deal with extraordinary situations in “realistic” ways. In other words, they don't have to rely on the assistance of a charming supernatural being or the use of a magical weapon (unless you count the power of Metal) to ward off the evil demons. They are also pretty realistic kids; they're resilient in the way kids tend to be (Terry deals with his Mom's death the only way he knows how), but they still frighten easily and have real childlike fears.

The scare-factor was pretty high in the film as well (especially for a PG-13 movie from 1987), and it also included quite a bit of weird-hallucinogenic-sequences that I imagine traumatized a fair amount of little kids in the 80's. By far though, the real star of this film was the stop-motion demons. I actually got shivers at times due to the uncannily life-like movements of some of the creatures.

Anyway, good 80's flick with a Metal Heart!!!

“The Gate” screened at midnight on 9/11/08 at the Alamo Ritz and was presented by Terror Thursday.