Wolfen 1981: An inventive social allegory set against the backdrop of urban decay, Wolfen is a thriller that suggests terrorists disguised as Native American wolves are stalking the streets of New York City. This is a truly rare, politically correct film that follows Detective Dewey (Albert Finney), coroner Whittington (Gregory Fucking Hines), and criminal psychologist Rebecca (Diane Venora) as they investigate the murders.
The first victims are Realtor aristocrat Christopher Van Der Veer and his wife, along with their limo driver. Van Der Veer was building a new project in the South Bronx, there’s your motive. New York’s economic crisis was never mentioned in the film but the cultural message is quite clear. Wolfen is not a film about werewolves. (ERMERGERZ SPOILERS) The subject matter relies on the ideals of Native Americans shape-shifting into wolves and savagely killing those who dare take down their hunting grounds. This adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s THE WOLFEN was intelligently executed when these subject matters are often exploited. So there you have it. No serial killers. No terrorists. The murderers are pissed off Native American wolf spirits. These wolf Gods didn’t run around killing rich people for the hell of it. It’s explained by Edward James Olmos’ character, Eddie Holt, and his Indian bros that after North America was colonized, the Native Americans went underground, preying upon the sick and abandoned who would not be missed.
Director, Michael Wadleigh originally had a 4 1/2 hour cut. His agenda nearly failed and pissed Orion Pictures off royally. They considered his work to be anti-American. Wadleigh wanted to sell it as a serious political film but Orion/UA sold it as a horror film. This company was on its last legs and needed a box office hit. The Howling and An American Werewolf in London were released the same year.
The urban ghetto backdrop was finely captured with panorama shots of the church but the quality really isn’t all that impressive and the wolves’ POV shots were a nuisance with optical effects. Predator used the same effects. The special effects for the gore and decapitation scenes were excellent and the wolves actually looked pretty damn amazing. The Bronx rubble had been depicted onscreen in a variety of films from the 70s and 80s. Other fine examples include but not limited to Driller Killer, The Warriors, CHUD, and Escape From New York.
There were a few scenes that stayed with me after my first viewing at the tender age of nine. Edward James Olmos’ character Eddie Holt is a Native American guy that Dewey arrested in the past. Dewey questions him about the murders and I was intrigued about the history of shapeshifters being real or not until he took his clothes off and pranced around the beach, foaming at the mouth. Nine-year-old Rebekah was scarred for life. I still wonder, was this scene absolutely necessary? The opening sequence was beautifully and tastefully done but the best, hands down, goes to the decapitation towards the end where Dick O’Neil’s severed head is doing exactly what coroner Whittington (Gregory Hines) described after the first murder.
Pros; Great soundtrack by James Cameron regular James Horner and enjoyable police procedural scenes. The morgue scenes were compelling. The proficient performances by the actors nursed elongated dull, providing a little intensity. Tom Waits plays a drunken bar owner but it’s un-credited.
Cons; Ghost wolves enjoy watching people getting it on. Ghost wolves can eerily mimic human baby cries. There are too many scenes with Detective Dewey eating sandwiches. There’s no way in hell the character Rebecca would have slept with this schlob of a detective. There are zero wolf transformations and there’s apparently no need to put a stop to these ghost wolves in the end. Detective Dewey beats the crap out of the Van Der Veer model project and ghost wolves are all, “OH, okay. Guess we will disappear now. You’re cool, bro.”
Razorback 1984: When it comes to ozsploitation films, the list is limited to Road Games, Lady Stay Dead, Fortress, Bloodmoon, Patrick, Long Weekend, The Mad Max films, The Loved Ones, Triangle, Kill Me Three Times, and then there’s Razorback. This post-apocalyptic Aussie horror film won a few awards for the cinematography, rightfully deserved. Sitting in the director’s chair is Russell Mulcahy, the visual genius behind the Duran Duran videos and the first music video to hit MTV, Video Killed the Radio Star. Sure, I’ll watch a killer hog movie by the guy who directed the Total Eclipse of the Heart video. This was Mulcahy’s first feature film before he achieved major cult status with Highlander.
Beth Winters (Judy Morris) is a reporter and animal rights activist who travels to Australia to capture the egregious life of kangaroo hunters and slaughter houses. The two most bawdy characters chase her down and attempt to rape her until they’re rudely interrupted by hogzilla who then penetrates Beth to death. Oh, the irony. Her pansy of a husband Carl (Gregory Harrison) goes looking for her an teams up with grandpa and his much younger and hotter sidekick, played by Arkie Whiteley from The Road Warrior, with reservations to stop the razorback once and for all. Prior to the arrival of Winters, a small toddler is picked off by the monstrous porker and his grandfather is blamed for his murder because only dingos eat people’s babies so the thought of a giant pig snatching babies is just ludicrous! The charges are dropped due to lack of evidence. I mean, how do you explain the house being torn to shreds by something other than a human? The monster is strong enough to tear through the walls of people’s homes! He took half of some random couch potato’s living room and ran off with it instead of eating him. An increase in houses being torn to shreds has the entire town teaming up with the trio.
Pros: The cinematography dominates this film. Together, Mulcahy and Dean Semler (The Road Warrior) meticulously crafted some of the most gorgeous wide angled shots in cinematic history. This is a visual buffet with surreal and nightmarish landscapes. Even the night scenes – This duo managed to use fine lighting to get the job done with an incredibly hellish, transcendental look. One of the shots that remains imprinted in my memory is of the two moons. That was truly sublime and the vehicle stuck in a tree was a nice touch. The film is available on Bluray, uncut. I highly recommend catching this version to savor all its glory but the VHS transfer is still good to go. The atmosphere is chic with an atypical method omnipresence and music video style editing. The special effects for the boar were crisp with grisly death sequences including severed limbs, decapitations, and faces being gnawed off. This was heavily edited unfortunately. As the film nears to the end, budget runs short and a replacement, more practical finish didn’t disappoint. Soundtrack wise, you’ve got your typical 80s synth goodies though this particular soundtrack didn’t really stick with me.
Cons: The story is all over the place with subplots and there are no likeable characters except for maybe grandpa. The two villainous brother’s were bigger monsters than the pig! Our sissy of a protagonist isn’t even established until half-way into the film. The following is only a con for me but most of you who have been following my articles for years now are well aware of my general disliking to child death onscreen. The mother in me has a hard time sitting through these types of scenes. But we don’t see the child death on screen. We only hear the screams and cries as we imagine the poor toddler being devoured by a giant pig.
Tremors 1990: Nobody watches TV anymore and I think that’s kind of sad because USA Up All Night, Dinner and a Movie, and Joe Bob’s Drive-In aired some of the finest. Tremors being one of them. It’s rare that a low-budget monster movie impresses in every aspect. This early 90s creature feature is action packed with a well written script that delivers humorous lines such as:
“You little asswipe! You don’t knock it off you’re gonna be shittin’ this basketball… pardon my French!”
“Copy that one motherhumper down, one motherhumper down”
“They’re mutations caused by radiation. No, wait; the government made ’em. *Big* surprise for the Russians.”
“Hey – check this out! I found the ass end!”
“Earl. Here’s some swiss cheese and some bullets.”
“You guys gotta get the hell out of here! There’s a killer on the loose!”
“A murderer! Man a real psycho! He’s he’s cutting people’s heads off! I’m not kidding!”
“I did it yesterday. It was bologna and beans.”
The actors delivering those cheesy lines were surprisingly good. We already know Kevin Bacon can act. For some reason, he feels embarrassed by this movie despite its success, “I broke down and fell to the sidewalk, screaming to my pregnant wife, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing a movie about underground worms!'” It wasn’t a Box Office smash by any means but it managed to kill home video sales and TV ratings. Yet, he has agreed to make an appearance in another sequel because the world needs more Tremors sequels. Bacon and Fred Ward take the lead, with excellent chemistry, as Tremors’ hero redneck drifters in the remote dessert town of ‘Perfection.’ HA! Michael Gross and Reba Fucking McEntire join the two leading men as a survivalist couple, Burt and Heather Gummer, who really take their guns seriously and to my surprise, McEntire did a fine job. I have never been a big fan of her show or music with the exception of The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.
When the little town of Perfection realizes that “They’re under the ground!” they all hop onto their roofs as they wait it out but this plan backfires and they’re forced to climb on top of rock formations and towers with the hell of Gummer’s pipe bombs and elephant guns. Naturally, Bacon has a love interest performed by Finn Carter, as our typical hot chick who is forced to remove her pants. There’s also a performance by Ariana Richards, the child hacker in Jurassic Park, who seemed to fall from the face of the Earth and there’s Victor Wong – Grandpa from the embarrassing 3 Ninjas that I am not ashamed to admit viewing several times in my youth.
Pros; The special effects are top notch with a decent body count! The Graboid has a personality, a trait so little B-Movie monster flicks provide. Tremors also spawned a fun drinking game. Take a shot every time you hear a sexual innuendo. What’s funny about this is that the original design of the Graboid had a phallic resemblance.
“You didn’t get penetration, even with the elephant gun!”
“They only respond to vibration, right?”
“Is this a job for an intelligent man?”
“I think I found the ass end!”
“You’re gonna be sorry if you don’t give it a name. “
Cons; The soundtrack or lack there of. Then there’s the set design. You can clearly see the ground bouncing and obvious wires and boom mics but these are common mistakes. Originally, the film was suppose to have an R-Rating but they toned it down. The thought of this possibly being an R-Rated monster flick excites me. Imagine how much fun it would have been with more gore and F-Bombs!