Monday, May 31, 2010


When someone uses the phrase "so bad it's good," this is the film I think of. In fact, almost everything about this movie is just about as bad as it could possibly be.

The acting is... well, let's just say that almost every actor here has never appeared in anything else after doing this.

In fact, the woman on the cover wasn't even in this movie.

Stage direction:
Look scared
(Bonus points if you can make your eyes asymmetrical and look like the Toxic Avenger).

The set is ridiculous. The whole movie takes place aboard a "research ship" which does have a laboratory, but seems to be mostly a discotheque.

And not just that, but one designed by a sexed up Sid and Marty Krofft. Just take the hallway clock for example. We see it, have enough time to wander why the designers opted for full red lips instead of hour or minute hands, and then suddenly it starts batting its eyelashes at us and announcing "I give good time!"

Oddly enough, the clock actually introduces itself as "Jessica." All sorts of things in the ship have a sexy female persona, including all of the bathroom fixtures (collectively known as "Suzy" I believe). What's even weirder is that the characters here and everyone else I've ever heard talk about this movie refer to the clock as "Cutie Time."

I'd like to be able to comment on the screenplay, and I have my suspicions, but I've never actually been able to find the native language version. What I can comment on is the ridiculous dubbing used for the English version. It's always seemed to be that the dubbers really had fun with this thing. Either that or someone got the contract to create the English dubbing track, took the Italian screenplay and ran it through Babelfish (from Italian, to Mandarin Chinese, to Russian, to English), and then removed half the pages and handed it off to a high school drama class to do the voice-work. The results probably would've made the movie pretty much unwatchable if it hadn't accidentally become so hilarious. The really weird thing about the dubbing is the mixture of quality. On the one hand, the dubbing is actually really good for some of the movie. The dubbing is matched to the mouth movements so well at times, you could easily go through the first 20 minutes or so without realizing that the actors are actually not speaking English. On the other hand, there are times when we hear dialog when there's obviously no one speaking on screen. At other times, we can't see the guy speaking and so the dubbing is done in a Porky Pig voice. At another time a character impersonates Elvis for a while... It's just weird, and this strange dichotomy makes it even weirder.

As for the effects, they are mercifully CGI-free, and while the practical monster effects are kind of silly looking, they at least had some fun with them rather than just lifting all of the fish designs directly out of Piranha along with the other stuff they took from there.

Ok, so they're actually all very silly looking.

The whole premise of this movie is that a radioactive contaminant has somehow mutated fish (a la Humanoids From the Deep), somehow reanimating long-extinct "carnivorous fish that live out of water" and ramping up their sex drives. We later find out that the sex drive doesn't immediately cause their aggression until they've been sexually provoked by people's "curious minds."

Just have a look at some of the fish fossils and let that last thought sink in.

Between the constant laughter and the quickness with which these lines are skimmed over, I actually didn't notice that this was actually a fish's rape-revenge story for the first several years I had this movie. Even though at one point later, someone asks the one crazed surviving scientist of the boat "How long have you been fucking fish?!" To which he answers "They were old enough!" For a long time I just thought that was yet another really weird dubbing anomaly, but as it turns out it is actually a plot point.

With the rape-revenge angle, it makes a lot more sense that the climax of this movie is one of the fish monsters taking over the most annoying male character, getting him to have sex with one of the girls, and then changing into a fish/hippo monster and raping her until she's full of fish eggs.

I've got no screenshot of that, and I doubt I could even get one that would do the scene justice. Instead I'll just say that if a fish/hippo monster raping someone until they're full of fish eggs sounds like something you'd like to see, just go pick up your copy of this movie. You'll love it.

Available on Amazon: Plankton

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mazes & Monsters

Like Reefer Madness, Mazes and Monsters is obviously meant to be a cautionary tale, but is centered on such a flawed and silly premise that its message is just laughable.

Reefer Madness is a little more interesting in most ways due to it's overwhelming jazz-era kitschiness, but Mazes and Monsters makes up for it as well as it can by starring Tom Hanks.

While I actually posted the cover image from the VHS version that I watched, as it turns out the DVD cover art is even weirder.

Contains: A hedge-maze (not in the movie), a dragon-monster (not in the movie),
and a Tom Hanks from the future (not in the movie).

The movie starts off showing us a few home-life vignettes of our characters. Actually, scratch that, the movie starts off with very long scenes of taxis set to the first song of the awful soundtrack. After that though, introductions.

First, there's silly hat guy. He's wearing something ridiculous in every scene. In his first scene, a man outside his building compliments him on this "hat," but it's the last time anyone even mentions the crazy nonsense he keeps on his head.

Next we meet our token girl-gamer. She has a quick scene which only serves as a setup for her to complain that she "can't be herself," to which her mother tells her to "use her imagination." Sounds like this girl's psyche is ripe for a satanic Dungeons & Dragons reprogramming.

Our next character is a wholesome generic jock type. His hidden depravity is shown by his unwillingness to enroll in the classes in "computers" that his parents suggest, and his suggestion that he'd prefer to take classes about making games... on computers... instead.
The parents are of course outraged.

We finally meet Tom Hanks, sort of. Mostly he just sits in the back while his parents argue about how drunk his mother is.

Funny-hat shows up for school wearing a cowboy hat and quickly meets up with the girl, who he apparently already knows. As an aside, although the film is shot on a college campus and in urban cityscapes, I'm pretty sure this is the only scene that contains a black person in the whole movie, so watch out for that. Anyway, these kids apparently play Dunge... er... Mazes & Monsters regularly along with jock-guy, but at the moment they're stuck looking for a fourth player. This is where Tom comes in. All of them end up at some sort of tuxedo party (with funny-hat wearing a yellow hard hat). And they quickly convince Tom to play with them.

Finally the next scene actually introduces us to the Mazes and the Monsters. The players all gather around a boardgame and light lots of candles. This game ends almost immediately. The movie says that it's because one of the characters has died, but I think it's because there's candle wax oozing all over their boardgame.

That, along with the terrible soundtrack that kicks in again here,
is enough to end any party.

We get a couple of minutes of "college life" montage, hat-guy is passingly referred to as both a college sophomore and a 16 year-old, and then we're back to their next game. This time they decide to step it up a notch, so hat-guy puts on his safari hat and they invent LARPing. They "borrow" costumes from the theater department and head to some nearby caverns. As soon as they make it down there Tom decides to go off on his own.

Since his character is a healer, this makes perfect sense.

Everyone bumbles around a bit, mostly uneventfully, but as soon as Tom gets nearly out of earshot, he runs into a "Gorvil." After a lot of screaming, he ends up killing it with his sword.

About the time of this odd little hallucination, we start to realize that Tom's actually a little bit insane. Things start falling apart for him pretty quickly after this. He almost never completely breaks from his "Bardeux" character and he pretty much spends the rest of the movie either as Bardeux or just sad/confused.

Pictured: Sad / Confused
Note the sad mouth that's so confused that it starts looking happy again...
the undecided popped/unpopped collar...
This guy's obviously had too many RPGs.

They all leave the "maze" for the night, then Tom goes home to commune with the great glowing hallway. The hallway gives him a new quest, to head to Tolkien's "Two Towers," so he breaks up with his girlfriend, and sets off for New York to go to the World Trade Center.

Once he finally gets to NY, he first decides to wander the alleys for a while. Of course, soon enough he runs into a gang member, confuses him with another one of those Gorvil monsters, and stabs him with his "sword" too.

Now that Tom has hallucinated and killed someone, the next important anti-drug-propaganda analogue is going to the top of a building and trying to fly. So he heads to the top of the World Trade Center to do that. His friends find him up there and convince him that he doesn't have enough points for his flying spells, so he comes back down instead.

Nothing seems to happen as a result of Tom having stabbed that guy, so Tom's just taken back to his parents' place, and everyone goes back to their lives. Some time later the 3 friends go back to visit Tom and find him still stuck as Bardeux, presumably forever.

It's obvious that the ending is meant to be a somber look at a sad and serious situation, but the whole premise is so ridiculous that it doesn't even come close. The moral of the movie is supposed to be that role-playing games are evil, will take over your impressionable children, and can only get them hurt or killed. Unfortunately for the movie, this idea is so silly that to even make it work in the story the character has to be given a serious preexisting mental-illness to make any of the things that happen remotely plausible... and that of course cancels out any point the movie could have hoped to make.

This thing is basically a failure all around, but Tom Hanks' trademark likability really works wonders for the film, so it ends up not being completely unwatchable. You will need to keep your mute button readied for that soundtrack though...

I didn't see a trailer on Youtube, but this is probably better: