Mediocre – Trespass, Demons of the Mind, Slumber Party Massacre

Mediocre: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance: ordinary, so-so

I watch a ton of movies and I spend a lot of time writing about the good ones, the unusual ones, and the bad ones. I usually skip writing about the mediocre ones because there isn’t much to say and they aren’t nearly as fun to riff on as the truly bad films. Unfortunately much of what I’ve watched lately has fallen into that category. In short DON’T WATCH:

Trespass (2011) – Rated R

“A husband and wife find themselves pushed to their absolute limit when they’re held for ransom by brutal thugs who invade their home. As tensions escalate and shocking revelations emerge, the couple is forced to take ever-more desperate measures.”

Ugh! I feel for Nicolas Cage sometimes. He can act but lately he has had to rush through one film after another so he doesn’t end up sharing a cell with Wesley Snipes. The bills have to be paid but his acting price will have to come down now that he has had his first (to my knowledge) direct-to-video movie. If this had a theatrical run, I missed it.

Still it was bound to happen sooner or later. Certainly his latest, Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance, should never have been released to theaters. imdb has Cage listed for five movies last year. On the other hand, what is Nicole Kidman doing in this?

Trespass is not terrible but the script makes very little sense, the villains are morons, the husband is script-clever and reality-stupid (watch the safe opening scene and see if any of it strikes you as realistic), and the few people in the film who can act phone it in. This is another in a long line of movies where the plot only moves forward because the script says so. If you watch it, which I do not recommend, you will spend the movie saying things like ‘that wouldn’t happen’, ‘he/she/they wouldn’t do that’, and other phrase with your choice special words.

Demons of the Mind (1971)

“This horror film, set in early 19th-century Bavaria, follows the deranged Baron Zorn (Robert Hardy), who locks his two grown children in a castle and drugs them to protect them from a curse he fears they might have inherited from their late mother. The baron enlists the help of a scientist to cure his son and daughter, who in his mind are not only a hazard to society, but — because of their incestuous attraction — are also a threat to the family itself.”

I was really looking forward to this movie. I love the old Hammer horror movies and, until the other night, this was the only one I had never seen. It is a period piece with some nice atmosphere but it is not terribly well acted and the script is not very coherent and it actually manages to be dull.

Slumber Party Massacre (1982) – Rated R

“Young Trish Devereaux throws a slumber party and, naturally, a gaggle of randy boys turns up. But when an escaped psycho crashes the bash, the mood turns gruesome. As the teens go down one by one, three brave girls draft a plan to stop the killer.”

Wow! Okay this one is pretty bad. When critics talk about the slasher sub-genre being misogynistic, it is because of films like this. All of the components are sub-par as well but the misogyny really runs hot and heavy here. The bizarre part is that this was written by Rita Mae Brown. Yes the same Rita Mae Brown who wrote Rubyfruit Jungle and all of those Sneaky Pie mystery novels. I’m not sure where the disconnect is such that a champion of women’s rights ends up writing this but she is the sole credited writer on the film.


Dead Calm – Don’t Get on That Boat week

Sometimes it seems too easy to do a particular week on a genre or a particular star or director. This week is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. Dead Calm is currently available on instant Netflix.

Dead Calm

WATCH: Dead Calm (1989) – Rated R.

“The Ingrams — John (Sam Neill) and Rae (Nicole Kidman) — set off for an extended sailing trip after their young son dies tragically in a car crash. When they come across another seafarer (Billy Zane) feverishly paddling away from a sinking schooner, they bring him aboard — and quickly realize he’s a murderous sociopath. Masterfully directed by Phillip Noyce, this violent, psychological thriller helped launch Kidman’s film career.”

The beginning of this movie shows a wonderful economy of storytelling. We meet John on a railroad platform presumably waiting for Rae to arrive. Within the next few minutes the tragic circumstances setting the scene have occurred and we’re on the extended sailing trip. By the ten minute mark, we have already spotted the schooner.

There are other characters in this movie but this is essentially a three-person story. Nicole Kidman’s and Billy Zane’s careers were launched with this taut thriller. They had been on other films but this one put them on the map. Sam Neill’s career was in full swing when he made this. All three give wonderful, complex performances.

There are major gaping plotholes but the story is told so well by director Phillip Noyce that we aren’t left to linger on them for more than a moment. For instance why does John take the dinghy to the schooner instead of simply piloting his boat to the schooner?

I highly recommend this fast-paced thriller.

People Watch: Lisa Collins (Billy Zane’s ex-wife) plays one of the Orpheus Cruise girls. Sam Neill met his wife, makeup artist Noriko Watanabe, on the set of this film.

Not Quite Hollywood – Ozploitation week

This week is dedicated to our filmmakers down under. Not Quite Hollywood – a documentary about Ozploitation is currently available on instant Netflix.

Not Quite Hollywood

WATCH: Not Quite Hollywood (2008) – Rated R for for graphic nudity, sexuality, violence and gore, some language and drug use

“Explore the unofficial history of Australian cult film with this provocative documentary on the “Ozploitation” flicks of the 1970s and ’80s. Filmmaker Mark Hartley explores the violence, sex and nudity rampant during this period of lax restrictions. Jam-packed with film clips, poster art and international advertisements, the film also features anecdotes from numerous celebrities about this dynamic period in Australian cinema.”

Watching this film is actually what inspired me to do Ozploitation week. This is a very fun, fast-paced chronicling of Australian genre films. There are a ton of movie clips and plenty of interviews with the applicable stars, directors and film critics as well as special guest Quentin Tarantino. There is also a lot of nudity, sex, violence, and language as befits an examination of exploitation films. By a lot of nudity I mean a LOT of nudity. I lost track of the number of nude women 10 minutes into the film and quite a lot of the nudity is full frontal, both male and female.

The first portion of the documentary is called “Ockers, Knockers, Pubes & Tubes” and covers the gross out and sex comedies. These sprang up as the censorship rules were lifted when Australia’s R-rating was established. Under the R-rating, no one from 2-18 was to be admitted. For those interested, this is where the majority of the nudity is presented.

“Comatose Killers and Outback Chillers” covers the quickly burgeoning horror genre. Horror typically costs very little to make and generally ranges from profitable to extremely profitable. It is why so many independent directors start in this genre. They even mention later in Not Quite Hollywood “…but splatter is cheap”. The new Australian R rating allowed for some over-the-top horror movies, many of which are featured here.

The third part, “High Octane Disasters and Kung Fu Masters”, covers a variety of action genres from kung fu to the post-apocalyptic.  There is a mini-focus on stuntman extraordinaire Grant Page. During the 70s there weren’t many (any?) safety restrictions on what you could do on a stunt. Some of the stunts in this third part are absolutely amazing – back before special effects took over. There are numerous car and motorcycle crashes as well as many scenes of people really being set on fire.

They also cover Australia’s biggest crossover hit, Mad Max in this section. Besides putting Mel Gibson on the map, Mad Max was the first (only?) of the Ozploitation movies to cross over to mainstream cinema. They don’t mention the sequels which is just as well as they definitely aren’t as edgy as the original.

Overall the documentary has an excellent fast-paced flow and a good balance between interviews and clips. I highly recommend it for genre fans. I especially liked how they played even more interviews as they rolled the credits. The only drawback was that there was a little too much of uber-fanboy Quentin Tarantino

Netflix has enough of these Ozploitation films available for instant play that I’ve devoted this whole week to them (although I’ll try to spare my wife from having to watch them).

People watch: While the whole film is nothing but people watching look for scream queen Jaime Lee Curtis in a brief interview and a scene from Road Games and a very young Nicole Kidman (not interviewed) in BMX Bandits.