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...:::Killer Double Feature:::...

Killer Double Feature: Screamers and Runaway

November 24th, 2015 · 3 Comments

Did everybody collectively decide behind my back to downplay and willfully underrate the cinematic output of PETER WELLER? Be honest. I’m seeing a pattern here. Every movie PETER WELLER is in is approximately twice as good as its reputation would suggest. BUCKAROO BANZAI is as quirkily hilarious as it is ahead of its time, LEVIATHON is supposed to be sub-ABYSS but it’s actually better at being what people wanted THE ABYSS to be than THE ABYSS ever was, OF UNKOWN ORGIN makes every other killer rat movie that sprung from the eighties smell cheesier and NAKED LUNCH is somehow a masterpiece even though its amorphous source material did everything in its power to stand obstinately un-filmable. And hey, what about ROBOCOP? At the end of the day didn’t ROBOCOP have so much more to say than THE TERMINATOR both literally and figuratively? I’d say so and if I’m wrong well, it’s also got NANCY ALLEN and is therefore unsurpassable. Anyway, you get the point. PETER WELLER movies are always better than people act like they there are and here comes another screeching example with SCREAMERS!

Mid-budgeted science fiction films are the best because they have enough money to not embarrass themselves but not so much that fall prey to that inhuman soulless vibe that follows TOM CRUISE around like an overbred puppy. SCREAMERS surely suffers from some endearing dated-ness from time to time but for the most part its worn just enough around the edges to be the right shade of dystopian. Written by the late great DAN O’BANNON (ALIEN, DEAD & BURIED, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and based on a short story by BLADE RUNNER mastermind PHILIP K. DICK, SCREAMERS tends to be a little too detail oriented for my humble head so I’m just going to describe it as TREMORS with self upgrading robots that can sometimes pass for humans and leave it at that (also don’t watch the trailer cuz the trailer has a big mouth). Furthermore it features the criminally underrated JENNIFER RUBIN of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS fame! I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that RUBIN’s Taryn is my favorite of all the ELM STREET characters. Sorry, but Nancy gets on my nerves. I’ll close by adding that SCREAMERS only real misstep is making some of the deadly droids too adorable. I kind of want to own a few as pets and just cross my fingers that they don’t saw my arms off.

Speaking of my profound disappointment to find myself in the year 2015 without a robot to call my own, lets say we take a look at the fantastic, though sometimes shoddily designed semi-futuristic world of RUNAWAY. This 1984 production was written and directed by none other than MICHAEL CRICHTON. You may know CRICHTON as the dude behind JURASSIC PARK but I know him as the worship-worthy genius who created the stunningly insane thriller LOOKER (1981) and the esteemed gent who wed B-movie royalty ANNE-MARIE MARTIN of THE BOOGENS and PROM NIGHT (who, just when I thought I couldn’t love her more, makes an appearance in RUNAWAY as “hooker at bar”).

Swanky TOM SELLECK, at peak TOM SELLECK-ness, stars as cop Jack Ramsey who is really good at dismantling wayward rogue robots (called “runaways”) and really terrible at dealing with heights (which not surprisingly comes into heavy play during the films high altitude climax). Luckily Tom’s uniquely vulnerable (for an ‘80s movie) character has a strong support system that includes a robot maid named Louise and a new partner played by multitalented dancer extraordinaire CYNTHIA RHODES (DIRTY DANCING, STAYING ALIVE, FLASHDANCE). Oh, and he also has a sometimes trust worthy ally played by the sometimes worthy but mostly crusty KIRSTIE ALLEY.

Jack’s going to need all the help he can get because he’s facing off against an equally hirsute but way smarter madman named Luther (GENE SIMMONS of KISS sans make-up). Lethal Luther creates killer spider, jumping bean robots that inject acid into your neck before catching your ass on fire and is fond of a gun that shoots miniature heat seeking smart bullets and he really, really wants some kind of plans or floppy discs or circuits that he can use to make even more deadly devices. RUNAWAY is one of those movies that can just basically coast on how awesomely eighties it all is. There is some super sloppy editing here and there (one character’s death scene comes off as a footnote when it should have been a headline) but mostly its non-stop joy with a synth-tastic JERRY GOLDSMITH score. The shrugging humdrum future offered in RUNWAY that left audiences wanting more in 1984 ironically lends it a little extra credibility today. Do yourself a favor and grab some SCREAMERS, pair them up with them RUNWAY spider-bots and create a perfect homemade army of murderous albeit slightly clunky late night double feature entertainment.

Special Bonus: ROCKY IV’s Happy Birthday Paulie-bot

Since tomorrow sees the opening of CREED, the latest film in the ROCKY franchise which just happens to take place in Philly, the same beloved city that Kindertrauma Kastle calls home, lets take a moment to appreciate the peaceful robot that appeared in ROCKY IV, killed absolutely nobody and ultimately stole the hearts of millions…

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Tags: General Horror · Killer Double Feature

Killer Double Feature: Breakdown and Dying Room Only

November 19th, 2015 · 3 Comments

I can’t imagine a horror fan not enjoying 1997’s BREAKDOWN. Sure it’s more likely to be thrown into the action/thriller pile but it skillfully drives well past suspenseful and crashes into something scarier than your average fright flick. Not to mention this baby also stars two of horror fandom’s favorite folks, frequent JOHN CARPENTER cohort KURT RUSSELL and resplendent KATHLEEN QUINLAN of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, WARNING SIGN, EVENT HORIZON and THE HILL HAVE EYES (remake) fame. If you are not a KATHLEEN QUINLAN supporter then I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave these premises…shoo! I said good day sir!

What I can tell you without ruining the point of watching the movie is this: our chums KURT and KATHLEEN portray likable married couple Jeff and Amy Taylor who are relocating themselves to California and have to drive through that gross part of America where all the crazies live. Their car breaks down and Amy gets a lift from a trucker (the always dependable, exceptionally good and surprising menacing J.T. WALSH) to get to a nearby diner to call for assistance and maybe get an iced tea. Later when Jeff gets to the diner to meet up with his wife, she’s nowhere to be found and the trucker acts like he’s never seen him or her before! Yep, it’s a total nightmare and things just get worse and worse from there as justifiably paranoid Jeff does everything possible to find his wife while uncovering the evilest of peoples and the shadiest of happenings.

After you watch BREAKDOWN you must watch DYING ROOM ONLY or wait, maybe you should watch DYING ROOM ONLY first. Yeah, do that instead. It’s only fair because DYING is from 1973 and it came out first and it’s one of the best TV movies ever made and why wouldn’t it be when it was written by genre legend and a half RICHARD (too many stone cold classics to list) MATHESON? DYING ROOM ONLY concerns the slightly less affable married couple Bob and Jean Mitchell (my dream parents DABNEY COLEMAN and CLORIS LEACHMAN) who stop off at an out of the way diner in the middle of nowhere and live to fully regret it. When Jean returns from using the ladies room her husband is nowhere to be found and every creepy person in the diner starts acting like a cat that swallowed a DABNEY COLEMAN-flavored canary. Again, I’m not going to ruin anything but the more Jean investigates the more horrific and widespread the conspiracy appears to be and there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the evil those involved are capable of.

If you haven’t noticed yet BREAKDOWN and DYING ROOM ONLY mirror each other and are two peas in a pod especially if one of those peas has gone missing and the other has to search for it. Both flicks expertly rake similar fears involving mistrust of strangers (particularly in areas far from home) and the anxieties and frustrations that orbit our inability to fully insure the safety of our loved ones. I say get on these! Both are nail-biting essentials especially if you have control issues, chronic ruraphobia and a healthy and well-warranted mistrust of greasy spoons.

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Tags: General Horror · Killer Double Feature