Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Planet of Dinosaurs (1977) Review

Now here's a little gem. "Planet of the Dinosaurs" is probably one of the better b-movies I've seen so far.

Funny thing, it starts off almost exactly like Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985), except, of course, it's in space.

After their ship crash lands on a planet very similar to Earth, some unfortunate astronauts discover they're not alone...

You guessed it. Dinosaurs. And pretty good dinosaurs at that; for a low-budget 70s film, the stop motion effects were surprisingly good. If you've ever tried stop motion, you'll understand why it's impressive.

It's funny how similar Dinosaurs this is to the aforementioned film. The two films even share a berry picking scene (however, the berries are poisonous in The Dino Disco Movie.)

The rest of the plot is kind of obvious. They attempt to survive on the planet until they can be rescued, battling dinosaurs along the way. Sure, the pacing slows down near the middle, but eventually picks back up again. For a b-movie, it seemed relatively concise, with clever dialogue (at least compared to Beast Creatures) that kept it from becoming dull or tedious.

The acting was so-so. Sometimes it was better than others, but overall it was watchable. The same goes for the directing and editing.

One thing that helped this film is that, unlike many other b-movies, it actually contained a few subplots. The characters were even (somewhat) developed, making it easier to care and empathize with them.

Unfortunately it suffered a problem that many films like this face. I've been thinking about b-movies a lot lately, and have come to the conclusion that a big problem is that many of them don't have a clear protagonist.

Sure, we have our "main characters," but even in the group, it's hard to identify who's the main main character. There isn't one in this film. One minute the story leans towards one person, but then it seem like the other person is our lead, and eventually we have no idea who the protagonist is.
Still, it's an interesting film, and definitely worth a look if you can find it anywhere. As of now it's on youtube, but that's definitely subject to change due to those annoying copyright laws.

Is it a good film? Heck no. Fun? Yes, very. And that's all it tries to be.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985) Review

"We're just letting the forest get to us."
-Actual line spoken by a character after a man melts in a pool of acid and another man is devoured by beast creatures.
I never thought an 80 minute movie could last so long.

Attack of the Best Creatures is a film worse than its title. I’m almost proud of myself for having the willpower to sit through the whole thing.

This film begins with a title card— 1920, for some reason. Not only was this redundant (there was no reason for the time period), but the 80s soundtrack doesn’t fit in at all with the 20s vibe they must’ve been going for.

Anyway, it opens to some people in a lifeboat, just after their cruise sank. After a good ten or so minutes of nothing at all interesting, their lifeboat ends up on a heavily-wooded island, where they plan to make shelter. The long lifeboat scene would have been a great opportunity for character building, but unfortunately that isn't the case here.

They get out of the boat, and almost immediately notice that one of the men has been mysteriously wounded with a deep gash on his chest. After closer inspection, they find that he is still alive. No one knows who or what did this to him.

So they leave him alone on the beach while they set off to find food. And that's when the real fun begins. Or at least as close to “fun” as this film could possibly be.

Other than the brief acid pond scene (a nice touch, in my opinion) nothing very interesting happens here. We wait 20+ minutes for them to pick berries, argue, pick more berries, and then argue over who picks berries. Then, we have an excruciating 7+ minute campfire scene where none of the characters discuss anything we don’t already know (or care) about.

Here's actual line spoken by one of the characters during this scene: "I'm frightened! This place is starting to make my skin crawl." (Remember, this is after two people have been mysteriously killed off.)

That’s my main problem with b-movie horror. Your effects can be as bad as heck and I could care less. No, the thing that bothers me more than anything is the character development you see very often in films like this.

I’ve found that many decent horror films follow two different patterns. Some have a slow build up before any killing (The Shining, for instance) but the interesting characters and masterful foreshadowing make it an entertaining film.

Then you have group 2, which are films without much buildup or character development, but the gore (while not preferred) is usually entertaining enough on its own. You don't need much character development for Friday the 13th Part 30, for instance, though as long as Jason stabs a bunch of people the audience is happy.

The problem with many b-movies is that they usually suffer a long, slow build up with characters we could care less about. Not a good mix.
And that's the case with this. We have a 30+ minute build up (a large chunk of its slim 80 minute runtime) dedicated to nothing in particular. There are no subplots, and scarce character development.

The main tip off that this was going to be horrible is that the filmmakers didn't care enough to give their monsters a proper name, instead sticking with a very generic "beast creatures." Even something like "Attack of the Homicidal Demon Men" would have been better.

The monsters, by the way, are not very beast-like nor “creatures.” More like “critters.”  They're tiny red humanoid puppets with big glowing white eyes. Unfortunately, they have no real back story. One brief shot near the end shows about ten of them standing around a large beast creature idol of some sort, but no explanation for this is given.

Still, the creatures are pretty unique looking. I've never seen anything that looks like the beast creatures, so I give the filmmakers props for originality.

The remainder of the film is spent with the characters walking through the woods, hardly ever talking. They’re constantly being attacked by the beast creatures, but the attacks are so unconvincing and relentless that the film becomes repetitive and dull.

And pretty soon (about forty minutes, though it feels like hours) the film is over. There isn't really a payoff or anything— it just ends. Sure, the montage during the final chase scene was interesting. And yes, I can kind of see what the filmmakers were going for in this scene, but unfortunately it all fell flat for me.

It would have been nice to see some sort of subplot. Entertaining dialogue and likable characters would have at least made the long walks bearable.