Nope (2022)

If you look at it, the thing'll eat you!
If you look at it, the thing’ll eat you!

Jordan Peele’s sci-fi-horror film stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott and Brandon Perea.

Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya and Steven Yeun
Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya and Steven Yeun

The story centres on the Haywood siblings (Kaluuya & Palmer), who run a ranch that hires out horses for Hollywood productions. They discover that the area around their ranch has become the hunting ground of a UFO-like predatory creature… so they decide to try and capture evidence of this aerial beast…

Poster
Poster

NOPE has received mixed reviews, some very positive and others criticising Peele’s exotic plot, which not only involves this extraterrestrial critter but also includes a grisly backstory that features a chimp actor from a television show going on a bloody rampage!

Killer chimp flashback!
Killer chimp flashback!

I, thus, went into this movie expecting it to be potentially a mess, but I actually REALLY enjoyed it!

Michael Wincott screams!
Michael Wincott screams!
Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea
Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea

Peele uses the film’s locations well, shooting the vast, cloudy sky effectively, providing teasing glimpses of the ‘flying saucer’ whooshing behind the cloud cover. He also creates some tense scenes and a few jump scares, and also makes good use of imagery like lights going off and inflatable tube man figures deflating whenever the creature is near.

The monster itself is a fine creation: a beast that can take the shape of a smooth-skinned, fast-moving ‘UFO’ with a central ‘mouth’ that it uses the vacuum-up victims. This thing can also unravel itself, to become more like a vast mass of unfurled membranes.

A victim is swallowed by the living UFO-creature!
A victim is swallowed by the living UFO-creature!

When the film reaches its climax the score is amped up, imbuing the movie with a neo-Western vibe, as the siblings confront the creature on horseback and on an electric motorbike, trying to stay alive and also still endeavouring to get an elusive shot of the hungry, floating monster.

Well worth a watch.

Here’s a bunch of shots of the lovely critter…

Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope
Nope

Finally, here’s the Dolby Cinema poster for the film…

 This poster uses the design on the jacket worn by Steven Yeun's character for inspiration
This poster uses the design on the jacket worn by Steven Yeun’s character for inspiration

Day Shift (2022)

Check your shoulder, Bud
Check your shoulder, Bud

This action-horror-comedy was directed by J.J. Perry and was written by Tyler Tice & Shay Hatten. It stars Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Snoop Dogg, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Meagon Good, Karla Souza, Steve Howey and Scott Adkins.

Poster
Poster

Bud Jablonski (Foxx) pretends to be a San Fernando Valley pool cleaner, but he is actually a vampire hunter. He earns his living by selling the teeth he extracts from the vampires he kills. Bud is currently a freelance hunter of vampires, but he really needs to make more money so that his ex-wife doesn’t move to Florida with his daughter. In order to pay for his daughter’s expensive school bills, Bud must go back to the vampire-hunting union that had kicked him out previously, because of his unorthodox hunting style that broke many of the union’s protocols.

Vampire!
Vampire!

Bud does get another chance to work with the union… but he is forced to work the day shift (which doesn’t pay as much) and he must also team-up with a strait-laced union rep called Seth (Franco).

To make matters worse, Bud has made an enemy of top vampire (and real estate entrepreneur) Audrey San Fernando (Souza), after he kills an aged female vampire that turns out to be Audrey’s daughter. Audrey swears revenge and sets her sights on Bud’s family…

The old vampire lady is actually Audrey's daughter
The old vampire lady is actually Audrey’s daughter

This sun-drenched, big & bright Netflix movie looks good, never drags, and has cool fight choreography. Some of the ways the vampires contort themselves during skirmishes are pretty novel and there are some fairly inventive kills!

A lot of these vampires are contortionists!
A lot of these vampires are contortionists!

I think the vampire-hunting union office in DAY SHIFT is an okay idea too, and I’m sure it was a world-building attempt to create a vampire-killing version of the hitmen organisation seen in the JOHN WICK films.

Snoop Dogg, playing a cool colleague of Bud’s called Big John Elliott, is not the greatest thespian ever, but he’s fun to watch when he’s on-screen. And I did really like Big Bertha: his lethal mini-gun!

Snoop Dogg is pretty tall, especially when he's wearing a stetson
Snoop Dogg is pretty tall, especially when he’s wearing a stetson
Snoop with 'Big Bertha'
Snoop with ‘Big Bertha’

Martial arts star Scott Adkins is good in a one-off action sequence, playing top vampire hunter Diran Nazarian. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I reckon I would rather have seen a movie about him and his brother Mike (Howey): they are great!

Jamie Fox, Scott Adkins, Steve Howey and Dave Franco
Jamie Fox, Scott Adkins, Steve Howey and Dave Franco

Within the mythos of DAY WATCH, there are different types of vampire, which are described and shown in the movie, but I must admit that I couldn’t really see what the differences were between most of them during the various action scenes.

Karla Souza is Audrey San Fernando
Karla Souza is Audrey San Fernando

The idea of ‘good vampires’, who choose to help out humans, is suddenly introduced later on in the story, without the concept being talked about previously, and I think this is an odd plot choice. During most of DAY SHIFT’s running time it seems that victims just become evil bloodsuckers if they are turned… and then, out of nowhere… characters can choose to be helpful to Bud!

The finale, involving main vamp Audrey kidnapping Bud’s family, is really rather weak, unfortunately. It’s the kind of ending we’ve seen in countless action movies before and it just lacks logic: why doesn’t Audrey just vampirize Bud’s daughter straight away, rather than keep her alive so that the hero dad can manage to save her? This finale is set in a large, pretty impressive, hidden Mayan-type temple, but the location isn’t really utilised in the action as much as I think it should have been. Shame.

When Audrey gets angry she gets ugly!
When Audrey gets angry she gets ugly!

Karla Souza, as villainess Audrey San Fernando, is okay, but I actually thought her main henchman Klaus, played by German actor Oliver Masucci, had a better look and old-school vampire vibe.

Oliver Masucci as Klaus
Oliver Masucci as Klaus

DAY SHIFT is colourful, forgettable fun.

Character poster - Jamie Foxx
Character poster – Jamie Foxx
Character poster - Snoop Dogg
Character poster – Snoop Dogg
Character poster - Karla Souza
Character poster – Karla Souza
Character poster - Meagon Good
Character poster – Meagon Good
Audrey sheds a vampire tear
Audrey sheds a vampire tear

Mad God (2021)

Grotesque creatures and imagery abound!
Grotesque monsters and imagery abound!
Pterosaur-like creatures
Pterosaur-like creatures

A helmeted, goggles-wearing humanoid is lowered, in a diving bell-like metal capsule, down into a nightmarish underworld, where he witnesses unexplainable events, sees strange creatures and travels through a series of harsh, terrible landscapes. He becomes the victim of a gory surgical procedure, where countless items and viscera are removed from his body, including a maggot-thing that cries like a baby… but this isn’t the end of the tale and the weird, cruel, grotesque narrative continues…

The capsule is lowered into the depths, passing many striking images, such as this giant skull
The capsule is lowered into the depths, passing many striking images, such as this giant skull
poster
Poster
The goggled dude needs a light to see where he's going
The goggled dude needs a light to see where he’s going
Travelling through a war zone
Travelling through a war zone
Passing by ruined tower blocks
Passing by ruined tower blocks

MAD GOD was written, produced, and directed by Phil Tippett and it is his malformed labour of love, which he began creating over thirty years ago, then shelved for twenty years, then recommenced work on, using Kickstarter donations and volunteers to help him complete this outlandish product of his fecund imagination.

A bipedal, beaked critter
A bipedal, beaked critter
A prolonged, gory operation
A prolonged, gory operation
Evisceration cubicles
Evisceration cubicles

The film relies less on conventional plotting, using instead a kind of dream logic (or, rather, a nightmare logic) to propel the story forward.

A deformed, lumpen stop-motion monster
A deformed, misshapen stop-motion monster
Lots of eyeballs in the movie!
Lots of eyeballs in the movie!

MAD GOD is a mix of stop-motion, miniatures, puppets, pixilation, props and live action, with an abundance of bleak, ruined vistas for the characters to roam through. Tippett doesn’t try to hide the fact that many of the landscapes are tabletop miniatures, he just steams straight ahead with the tale, drawing you into his fantastic, ghastly, intricate world.

landscape
landscape
landscape
Above: various vistas…
Two battling stop-motion monsters!
Two battling stop-motion monsters! I like this scene a lot!
A close-up of one of these creatures, which has metal mesh covering its face
A close-up of one of these creatures, which has metal mesh covering its face
Another close-up
Another close-up
These two monsters are electrocuted
The two monsters are electrocuted

Director Alex (REPO MAN) Cox plays ‘The Last Man’ and several other actors play a surgeon or nurse, etc, but the bulk of the characters are portrayed via stop-motion, puppets and models, and the majority of the locations are, as mentioned, detailed, cluttered miniatures.

Alex Cox is The Last Man
Alex Cox is The Last Man

Strangeness everywhere
Strangeness everywhere

The production is infernally surreal, with the various beings, such as the many fibrous, mummy-like humanoids, regularly killed in a multitude of offhand, cruel ways. Blood and other bodily fluids, plus ground-up flesh, are often extracted from characters and fed into tubes and receptacles. Torture is common here, suggesting this world is some form of layered, torment-filled hell.

Many of the denizens of this hellish place are faceless, fibrous humanoids
Many of the denizens of this hellish place are faceless, fibrous humanoids
One of the humanoids gets scorched to death by a fire pit
One of the humanoids gets scorched to death by a fire pit
Many characters and creatures are victims, such as this stop-motion monkey
Many characters and creatures are victims, such as this stop-motion monkey

For me, it’s as if a violent, twisted, dystopian Métal Hurlant sci-fi-horror comic strip was written by Italian poet-writer Dante and turned into a film, with the influences of Terry Gilliam, Jan Svankmajer, Ray Harryhausen, René Laloux and David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD added to the mix.

A briefly-seen Jan Svankmajer-esque doll
A briefly-seen Jan Svankmajer-esque doll
Death and decay are the order of the day
Death and decay are the order of the day

Though the film’s settings are mainly dark and forbidding, there is a brief sequence set in a brightly-coloured habitat, but even here death is always on hand, as we see a cute mushroom-person, who is happily eating maggots, devoured by an arachnid beast.

A pair of fungus folks enjoy a meal of maggots...
A pair of fungus folks enjoy a meal of maggots…
...but a multi-legged monster is allowed to enter this colourful world...
…but a multi-legged monster is allowed to enter this colourful world…
...and it eats one of the mushroom people!
…and it eats one of the mushroom people!

If there’s an overall point to this tale, then it’s not too clear – and if you require a straightforward narrative, then this film isn’t for you – but if you dive into this viewing experience to enjoy the disturbing cinematic ride, you’ll be rewarded with loads of lovingly-crafted, unsettling, eye-catching sequences that are chock-full of twisted wonder, gore and impressionistic madness, leading up to a cosmic finale, accompanied by an effective soundtrack by Dan Wool.

Look at the gnashers on this dude
Look at the gnashers on this dude
Yikes!
Yikes!
Deformity is common in the world of Mad God
Deformity is common in the world of Mad God
It all gets cosmic, man
It all gets cosmic, man

Some concept art for the movie…

Envisaging the scene where a floating monolith splats into some humanoids
Envisaging the scene where a floating monolith splats into some humanoids
Toothy strangeness
Toothy strangeness
The world of the movie begins with concepts such as this
The world of the movie begins with concepts such as this

Okay, one more look at that skirmish between the two mesh-faced monsters…

Fight!
Fight!

Warlords of Atlantis (1978)

Detail from Turkish poster
Detail from Turkish poster!

British archaeologist Professor Aitken (Donald Bisset) and his son Charles (Peter Gilmore) hire Captain Daniels (Shane Rimmer) to take them to a particular area of the ocean so that they can use a diving bell designed by beefy engineer Greg Collinson (Doug McClure) to search for proof that the fabled city of Atlantis exists.

UK quad poster
UK quad poster. Art by Josh Kirby
US one sheet
US one sheet. This is a pretty dynamic-looking poster!

Greg, Charles and several members of the ship’s mutinous crew end up deep down in a vast undersea cavern system, where they discover the lost civilisation of the Atlanteans, who are actually Martians that arrived on Earth, via a comet, back in prehistoric times.


Beast-battler supreme Doug McClure and Peter Gilmore
Beast-battler pro Doug McClure and Peter Gilmore

Written by Brian Hayles, who worked on numerous episodes of DOCTOR WHO, this period fantasy film has some quite interesting ideas hidden amongst the pulp-adventure action. The aliens, we discover, are influencing mankind, causing them to edge closer to devastating world wars in order to fast-track scientific advancement: one of the main characters (Gilmore) has visions of events that are yet to be, including marching Nazis, mass warfare, atomic bombs, and so on. A pretty cool scene.

The Atlantean elite try to persuade Charles to join them
The Atlantean elite try to persuade Charles to join them

There are some crude-but-nice matte paintings and the Atlantean warrior dudes in shiny helms that completely cover their faces look damn cool, but the main reason anyone tunes in to watch WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS is, let’s face it, to see the mutant monsters featured in the movie.

Shiny-helmeted Atlantean warriors
Shiny-helmeted Atlantean warriors
A trek through the (matte painting) caverns
A trek through the (matte painting) caverns

The swamp-dwelling mogdaan, a kind of huge, finned eel-creature, is my favourite beast, bursting up through the muddy waters to menace the heroes.

The mogdaan lurks on the other side of the standing stones
The mogdaan lurks in the swamp on the other side of the standing stones
The mogdaan seen in close-up
The mogdaan seen in close-up
Doug shoots the mogdaan in the face!
Doug shoots the mogdaan in the face!

The lumpy-skinned, club-tailed, ankylosaur-like zaargs are also fun to watch as they attack one of the Atlantean cities.

A zaarg starts climbing up the city-fortress walls
A zaarg starts to scale the city-fortress walls
Zaargs must be good at climbing because these walls are pretty damn steep!
Zaargs must be good at climbing because these walls are pretty damn steep!
A zaarg gets up close and personal with some of the city's defenders
A zaarg gets up close and personal with some of the city’s defenders

The serpentine plesiosaur-type monster that menaces our heroes in the diving bell earlier in the story works better in close-up, when a full-scale model is used, rather than in long shot, where it looks rather unimposing.

The eel-like plesiosaur creature is far less effective seen in long shot...
The eel-like plesiosaur creature is far less effective seen in long shot…
...but the plesiosaur-beast works better as a full-scale monster when it pokes its head inside the diving bell
…but the plesiosaur-beast works better as a full-scale model monster, when it pokes its head inside the diving bell

There are some snapping fish too, that blast from the water to nibble at the escaping protagonists. These piscine predators are quite rubbery-looking, unfortunately, though there’s a briefly-seen, toothy critter that is also featured during the fish sequence: and that creature, though we only see its head, is rather more effective.

Toothy critter latches onto a character's leg
Toothy critter latches onto a character’s leg

And, of course, there’s the giant octopus that makes several appearances in the film. It has a well-textured skin and ain’t half bad to look at, especially when it attacks the ship at the end of the movie, to retrieve a stolen artefact.

Massive octo-assault!
Massive octo-assault!
The octopus retrieves the gold artefact
The octopus retrieves the gold artefact…
...and trashes the ship
…and trashes the ship

John Richardson supervised the visual effects, which boast some really quite decent miniature work, and Roger Dicken created the movie’s menagerie of monsters. Actually, you can be see Roger in the movie, playing one of the men defending the city’s ramparts during the zaarg assault!

Behind the scenes shot of Roger Dicken with one of the octopus models
Behind the scenes shot of Roger Dicken with one of the octopus models
A zaarg uses its big foot to smash through the wall
A zaarg uses its big foot to smash through the city wall

Directed by Kevin Connor and produced by Connor and John Dark, WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS also stars Michael (LIFEFORCE) Gothard, Lea Brodie, Robert (ONE MILLION YEARS BC) Brown, John (WARLORDS OF THE 21ST CENTURY) Ratzenberger, Daniel (THE VAULT OF HORROR) Massey and Cyd (BRIGADOON) Charisse. This modestly budgeted flick may not be a fantasy-adventure classic, but the film is definitely one of the better examples of the 70’s series of John Dark/Kevin Connor lost world-style productions (all of which featured Doug McClure): the others were THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, AT THE EARTH’S CORE and THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT.

B&W French ad
B&W French ad

Here are some posters…

UK 6 sheet
UK 6 sheet poster
US half sheet
US half sheet poster
Romanian poster
Romanian poster
French poster
French poster. I love how the octopus is portrayed in this composition
B2 Japanese poster
B2 Japanese poster
Turkish poster
Turkish poster
German poster... featuring Harryhausen's Beast from 20,000 fathoms!
German poster… featuring Harryhausen’s Beast from 20,000 Fathoms!
Spanish poster
Spanish poster
A nice lookin' Thai poster
A nice lookin’ Thai poster
US Benton window card-style poster
US Benton window card-style poster
UK quad poster: Arabian Adventure/Warlords of Atlantis double bill
UK quad poster: Arabian Adventure/Warlords of Atlantis double bill
Belgian poster... featuring a giant crab, a spike-backed sauropod, the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms... and an Aztec temple!
Belgian poster… featuring a giant crab, a spike-backed sauropod, the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms… and an Aztec temple!
Australian daybill poster
Australian daybill poster

Some lobby cards…

Impactful Mexican lobby card
Impactful Mexican lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
Lobby card
French lobby card
French lobby card

VHS and DVD covers…

UK VHS cover. Art by Tom Chantrell
UK VHS cover. Art by Tom Chantrell
German VHS cover, partly based on Tom Chantrell's artwork created for the UK VHS cover
German VHS cover, partly based on Tom Chantrell’s artwork created for the UK VHS cover
UK DVD cover
UK DVD cover
Spanish DVD cover
Spanish DVD cover
UK 3 DVD set cover
UK 3 DVD set cover

Some publicity shots featuring Lea Brodie and the octopus…

She's a sucker for octopi
She’s a sucker for octopi
A tentacle-tastic duo
A tentacle-tastic shot of a girl and her octopus
They make a fine couple
They make a fine couple

Finally, here’s some pre-production art created for the film…

Production designer Maurice George Carter produced watercolour concept art for WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (in 1976).

Initially, it seems, a squid was going to attack the ship, rather than an octopus. But even after the squid was replaced with an octopus in the movie, this squid imagery was used in some of the artwork for various posters and VHS covers (including Tom Chantrell’s UK VHS cover painting).

Squid attack!
Squid attack!

This watercolour concept of an Aztec-style pyramid-temple ultimately never found its way into the final film, but it did find its way onto some of the poster artwork, including the Belgian poster…

Maurice George Carter's painting of an Atlantean temple
Maurice George Carter’s painting of an Atlantean temple

Men (2022)

There's no forgetting the “rolling birth” sequence...
There’s no forgetting the “rolling birth” sequence…
The Green Man personified
The Green Man personified

Harper (Jessie Buckley) rents an isolated country house so that she can spend some time alone to process the sense of guilt she is feeling after the suicide of her husband, who she was in the middle of divorcing when he fell/jumped from a balcony to his death.

Harper goes for a walk
Harper goes for a walk
Jessie Buckley is great in the central role
Jessie Buckley is great in the central role

After meeting the nice-but-dim landlord Geoffrey, Harper finds herself encountering a series of odd males (all played well by the same actor, Rory Kinnear), who range from a menacing, naked man in the local woods, a creepy kid that wants to play hide & seek, and a weird local vicar. Events escalate, with Harper compelled to stab an intruder’s arm that pushes through the mail slot of her door, after which she helplessly watches as the intruder slowly withdraws his arm, causing the transfixed blade to gorily slice his forearm and hand in two. This distinctive wound mirrors an injury suffered by her dead husband (seen in one of many flashbacks), and soon Harper is hassled by the various male characters again, who all now have this same, unpleasant bisected arm injury. From here matters become much, much more strange and grotesque…

A naked stalker lurks at the window
A naked stalker lurks at the window
The CGI used to put Kinnear's face on a boy's body doesn't provide super-realistic results, but the overall effect is quite creepy
The CGI used to put Kinnear’s face on a boy’s body doesn’t provide super-realistic results, but the overall effect is quite creepy

MEN, written and directed by Alex Garland, would seem to be a psychological horror story, detailing the mental breakdown of the guilt-ridden protagonist, yet much of what happens is definitely not in the heroine’s mind, as there really is a naked stalker who is arrested by the local police, and Harper’s friend, at the end of the movie, does see actual blood-smears in the doorway and also walks past the wrecked Ford we saw a character crash the previous night. So, is Garland suggesting these incidents, including an outlandish body-horror tour de force sequence, can be regarded as actually having really happened?

Poster
Poster

The film is peppered with folk horror elements: there’s a Green Man sculpture on the nearby church’s font, the naked stalker starts to cut himself and insert leaves into his face, and he finally appears as a full-on Green Man. When Harper is menaced by the vicar in her home, she asks him ‘what’ he is, and he replies that he’s ‘a swan’, a reference to the Greek myth ‘Leda and the Swan’, where Zeus, in the shape of a swan, seduces/rapes Leda. So could Garland be inferring that some kind of local pagan deity has latched onto Harper and is pursuing her in a series of masculine guises, so all of the batshit-crazy stuff we witness during the finale is ‘real’?

The Green Man sculpture on the church font
The Green Man sculpture on the church font

It’s hard to glean exactly what message Garland is trying to get across, because he wilfully keeps things obscure and unexplained, whilst also showering the film with symbolism (apples = Garden of Eden), musings on different kinds of toxic masculinity (men blaming women for the sexual urges they are feeling, men hitting women, men trying to guilt-trip women, etc), shots of a dead, eyeless deer, and the aforementioned body-horror imagery that sees the Green Man trigger a prolonged, bizarre ‘birthing’ sequence, involving adult males manifesting distended bellies and vaginas, from which other males are born.

The naked dude starts slitting his skin and inserting leaves...
The naked dude starts slitting his skin and inserting leaves…
...and he finally appears as an 'actual' Green Man
…and he finally appears as an ‘actual’ Green Man
The multi-male-birth scene begins...
The bizarro birthing sequence begins…
...and it becomes a full-on body-horror set-piece...
…and it becomes a full-on body-horror set-piece…
...and we get to see some pretty out-there visuals
…and we get to see some pretty out-there visuals

MEN leaves too many questions unanswered: why doesn’t Harper notice that every male in the village has pretty much the same face? If her submerged guilt surrounding her husband’s death is so profound, why isn’t it his face she sees everywhere, rather than Kinnear’s visage?

Kinnear as the creepy, woman-blaming vicar
Kinnear as the creepy, woman-blaming vicar

Criticisms aside, this initially slow-burn film is unique, is well-acted, gorgeous to look at and boasts a wonderful, striking soundtrack that utilises a choir to infuse the proceedings with an unsettling vibe.

The movie’s bucolic English setting, with its shots of country churches and hints of some ancient presence, gives MEN the veneer of a M.R. James story in places, and some of Kinnear’s makeups recall the humorously grotesque visuals of the comedy-horror sitcom THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, though these influences are incidental and take a backseat to Garland’s own style of storytelling.

Harper standing amongst the symbolic apples
Harper standing amongst the symbolic apples

MEN, ultimately, is a muddled-yet-memorable combination of British folk horror and psychological drama, with musings on male toxicity added to the mix.

It does become rather deranged...
It does become rather deranged…

A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box (1995)

Spider Devil!
Spider Devil!

Directed by Jeffrey Lau, this fantasy-action-comedy stars Stephen Chow, Man-Tat Ng, Yammie Lam, Karen Mok and Kar-Ying Law.

The gang put out the fire by repeatedly stomping on their leader's groin!
The gang put out the fire by repeatedly stomping on their leader’s groin! Ouch!
The soles of Joker's feet are very hairy!
The soles of Joker’s feet are very hairy!
Karen Mok, Stephen Chow and Yammie Lam
Karen Mok, Stephen Chow and Yammie Lam

Joker (Chow), the rather inept leader of a gang of robbers, is oblivious to the fact that he is actually the Monkey King, who was punished for his bad behaviour and turned into a human 500 years earlier.

Chow appears briefly as the Monkey King at the very start of the movie
Chow appears briefly as the Monkey King at the very start of the movie

The movie begins rather abruptly, as if some of the introduction to this sequence got trimmed down too much, showing the Monkey King disobeying his master, Longevity Monk, and being swiftly chastised for his misdeeds by Guanyin, the Goddess of Happiness. The narrative briskly zips forward hundreds of years and focuses on Joker’s comedic, slapstick encounters with a couple of she-demons, who take over his motley crew of incompetent thieves as they await the arrival of Longevity Monk. You see, these monstrous (and attractive) femmes want to eat some of Longevity Monk’s flesh, which will make them eternal.

One of the she-demons can change into a spider-creature!
One of the she-demons can change into a spider-creature!

Even though the characters are taken from the classic novel ‘Journey to the West’ by Wu Cheng’en, A CHINESE ODYSSEY PART 1: PANDORA’S BOX has nothing to do with that story.

The late Yammie Lam plays Spider Devil
The late Yammie Lam plays Spider Devil

The earlier portion of the movie is crammed with Chow’s usual blend of earthy humour, pratfalls and slapstick, and is followed by loads of enjoyable fantasy-action situations. These include the woman-demon known as Spider Devil (Yammie Lam) going on a well-mounted rampage after transforming into a long-legged arachnid-monster, Joker inexplicably zooming around the place using his hands instead of his feet, and encounters with King Bull (Luk Shu-Ming), who is a huge, bull-headed dude who can also shrink down to human-size.

The woman-headed spider-demon...
The woman-headed spider-demon…
...she can spit web from her mouth!
…she can spit web from her mouth!
Joker gets trapped in a big spiderweb...
Joker gets trapped in a big spiderweb…
...and the arachnid-monster closes-in across a roof!
…and the arachnid-monster closes-in!
Joker escapes from the spiderweb, but the multi-legged demon continues to pursue him
Joker escapes from the spiderweb, but the multi-legged demon continues to pursue him
King Bull!
Spider Devil (Yammie Lam) accidentally uses her 'seductive magic' on the buffoonish Assistant Master (Man-Tat Ng)
Spider Devil (Yammie Lam) accidentally uses her ‘seductive magic’ on the buffoonish Assistant Master (Man-Tat Ng)

Once the main characters reach the Spider Web Cave, the filmmakers seem to depend too much on the opening and closing of sliding rock doors as a device to propel the plot forward but, on the plus side, we get some fun, oddball moments, such as a fight inside King Bull’s guts, a time loop sequence and an on-off romance between Joker and the demoness Pak Jing-Jing (also known as Boney M), who can turn from a human-looking female into a robed, strange-faced, white-haired being.

Boney M!
Boney M!
Spider Devil shrinks down and enters King Bull's guts!
Spider Devil shrinks down and enters King Bull’s guts!
A battle amongst the huge intestines!
A battle amongst the huge intestines!
Joker's head becomes trapped under a sliding door
Joker’s head becomes trapped under a sliding door
 Water gushes from King Bull's mouth!
Water gushes from King Bull’s mouth!
Red-eyed Boney M!
Red-eyed Boney M!

The film ends just as abruptly as it starts, finishing with some action-packed footage from the second part, A CHINESE ODYSSEY 2: CINDERELLA.

DVD sleeve
DVD sleeve
When King Bull's minions are struck with a sword they discharge clouds of smoke
When King Bull’s minions are struck with a sword they discharge clouds of smoke
Assistant Master and King Bull
Assistant Master and King Bull
Hair-raising antics!
Hair-raising antics!
Monkey's servants are encountered in a cave
Monkey’s servants are encountered in a cave

Okay, let’s have one more look at the cool spider-critter…

The spider-demon is brought to the screen as a full-scale marionette
The spider-demon is brought to the screen via a full-scale marionette

Gen-Y Cops (2000)

The RSI attack robot fires a missile!
The RSI attack robot fires a missile!

Directed by Benny Chan and written by Kiu-Ying Chan, Kiu-Ying Chan and Bey Logan, this Hong Kong film stars Edison Chen, Stephen Fung, Sam Lee, Paul Rudd and Maggie Q.  It was released in the USA as a Syfy Original Film on the Syfy Channel in 2002,  under the misleading title JACKIE CHAN PRESENTS: METAL MAYHEM. (Jackie Chan did have a cameo in GEN-X COPS, which GEN-Y COPS is a sequel to, but he doesn’t appear in this movie).

Gen-Y Cops!
Gen-Y Cops!
Maggie Q is Agent Quigley
Maggie Q is Agent Quigley

Undercover cops Match (Fung), Alien (Lee) and Edison (Shen) have to deal with a group of villainous tech guys out to steal the prototype American RS1 attack robot during an international military technology exhibition in Hong Kong, but Edison is injected with a hypnosis drug by former hacker friend Kurt, which compels him to take part in the theft of the American robot. Now the Hong Kong cop trio must attempt to recover the stolen robot whilst avoiding a bunch of trigger-happy FBI agents, led by Agent Curtis (Rudd), who believe Edison is a willing participant in the heist. Fortunately for the Gen-Y Cops, Jane Quigley (Q), another FBI agent dealing with the case, starts to believe Edison is innocent.

At first Agent Curtis tends to shoot first and ask questions later
At first Agent Curtis tends to shoot first and ask questions later
Curtis tries to stop Edison from escaping... by attempting to shoot him, of course!
Curtis tries to stop Edison from escaping… by attempting to shoot him, of course!
FBI agents played by Paul Rudd, Maggie Q and Mark Hicks 
FBI agents played by Paul Rudd, Maggie Q and Mark Hicks 

This sequel to GEN-X COPS (1999) begins with a demonstration of the RS1’s powers back in the USA, where it withstands flames and heavy machine gun fire, can hit flying objects with pinpoint accuracy… and can delicately pick up a piece of tofu with its metal fingers (I’m sure that last ability will always come in useful for an attack-bot!) The RS1 does get momentarily hacked, however, though this doesn’t prevent the FBI from concluding it’s still safe to take this lethal killing machine to Hong Kong for the military tech show.  

The RS1 deploys its rocket launcher
The RS1 deploys its rocket launcher
Richard Sun hams it up a bit as villainous hacker Kurt Lee
Richard Sun hams it up a bit as villainous hacker Kurt Lee

The technology exhibition show itself is wittily handled, introducing such robots as Hong Kong’s D1010, which can predict lottery numbers and is repeatedly mistaken for a trash can, France’s Jerry L robot, which gets its head ripped off in a fight with RS1, and China’s Tung Fung robot, which loses one of its arms during a display and is mockingly referred to as a ‘One-Armed Boxer’.


The RS1's extendable hand grabs the Jerry L robot's neck and wrenches its head off!
The RS1’s extendable hand grabs the Jerry L robot’s neck and wrenches its head off!
DVD sleeve
DVD sleeve

GEN-Y COPS has its fair share of lowbrow humour, including the moment idiotic cop Alien scrapes his dandruff into the FBI’s coffee cups, and any hope the film has of being taken seriously is severely hampered by the fact the protagonists, especially Alien, come across as borderline buffoons much of the time, with scenes of them accidentally blowing up a car and giggling like schoolboys preventing them from even remotely resembling professional law enforcement officers.

Alien, played by Sam Lee, is a hyperactive, brainless fool in much of this movie
Alien brushes some of his dandruff into the coffee he's going to give the FBI...
Alien brushes some of his dandruff into the coffee he’s going to give the FBI…

The script makes an effort to use a lot of English dialogue, written by Bey Logan, though it tends to depend too much on generic terms like “hey, man” and “goddamn it’,  but the movie does finally kick into gear, proving to be a pleasing, amusing sci-fi-tinged actioner, with robot rampages, shots of the heroes diving in slow motion from explosions and a full body burn stunt during the finale.

A typical piece of Hong Kong-style car stunt action
A typical piece of Hong Kong-style car stunt action

Mainly brought to life via practical effects, the RS1 has a Transformers-like head and looks really rather good onscreen, using a rocket launcher, machine guns, a flamethrower and even an extendable fist to wreak havoc wherever it goes. It’s a shame, then, that a showdown with the Tung Fung robot at the end uses low grade CGI to create the Chinese automaton.

The Tung Fung robot and the D1010, which is better at predicting lottery numbers than fighting!
The Tung Fung robot and the D1010, which is better at predicting lottery numbers than fighting!
Tung Fung faces-off against RS1
Tung Fung faces-off against RS1

GEN-Y COPS gets an unduly bad rap from many reviewers, but it’s a mindlessly enjoyable, throwaway flick that boasts gunfights, flashbacks involving a man dressed as a lobster, kung fu skirmishes, a fun cameo by Anthony Wong as a mainland Chinese scientist, and a decent robot antagonist. Plus, there’s the added pleasure of seeing a youthful Paul Rudd go from potential adversary to good guy, take part in some Hong Kong-style fighting and even speak a little Cantonese!

Rudd takes part in a kung fu fight on some shipping containers
Rudd takes part in a kung fu fight on some shipping containers
One of the flashbacks in which Edison recalls a fight with a man-sized lobster!?
One of the flashbacks in which Edison recalls a fight with a man-sized lobster!?

My advice is to put your brain on hold and revel in the colourful nonsense.

The RS1
The RS1
Also known as Jackie Chan Presents Metal Mayhem
Also known as Jackie Chan Presents Metal Mayhem

The RS1 robot was made by Global Effects (Chris Gilman, Brian Bero, Jeff Jingle and Skip Wilder), who created one puppeteered robot, plus a costume. This suit was then repurposed/ remade for use as Chris Gilman’s ‘Protocop’ costume in KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005).

Nice lookin' robot
Nice lookin’ robot

Ghost Busting (1989)

Zap!
Zap!

This Hong Kong horror-comedy was directed by Lau Sze-Yue,  stars Sandra Ng, Sharon Kwok and Danny Chan, and features a school for learning magic that is threatened by a bunch of evil beings.

Thai poster for the movie
Thai poster for the movie
It's rude to dribble blood out of your mouth
It’s rude to dribble blood out of your mouth

Together with lots of (quite puerile and dated) gags and pratfalls, there are some novel fantasy elements. For instance, a group of the students attempt to beat the supernatural foes by reincarnating into various ‘foreign gods’. So, one by one, they turn into Chinese versions of Elvis, Charlie Chaplin and Jesus… with the tune ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ playing in the background! The hero also transforms into ‘Bruce Lee’, complete with GAME OF DEATH orange tracksuit. The most imaginative reincarnation occurs when four of the students merge into one being… a multi-faced Hindu god. Neat idea!

She's angry!
She’s angry!
A vampire locks the office door, then swallows the key!
A vampire locks the office door, then swallows the key!

One of the villains bares his torso to reveal a chest covered with screaming visages à la Freddy Krueger and another antagonist turns into a particularly nice cell-animated bat/ghost.

Hong Kong poster
Hong Kong poster

In one scene guaranteed to make you grimace, a guy in a bunk bed dreams of branding a chained up girl whilst dressed up like Hitler… and as he enjoys his dream he begins to dribble pints of spittle, which drips down into the mouth of the man sleeping in the bunk below him. Subtle humour at its best!

Poster

The Day of the Triffids (1963)

Detail from US poster
Detail from US poster

This film was directed by Steve (REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES) Sekely and stars Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette (PARANOIAC) Scott and Kieron (DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN) Moore. 

A flowering triffid
A flowering triffid

Though it is not very faithful to the John Wyndham novel, I do like this movie, with its perambulating killer plants and scenes of a world where almost everyone has gone blind after watching a dazzling meteor shower. These type of apocalyptic survival tales are always of interest, I think, as they offer us the opportunity to see what the few ‘lucky’ survivors choose to do in a situation devoid of the old rules and certainties.

UK quad poster
UK quad poster

I love all the shots of a desolate London filled with wrecked double decker buses and abandoned cars, etc, which definitely influenced the beginning of 28 DAYS LATER, and I also enjoy watching the creepy sequence set in one of the large glasshouses in Kew Gardens (which is not far from where I live!)

Crashed double decker
Crashed double decker
A nightwatchman in Kew Gardens falls victim to one of the killer plants
A nightwatchman in Kew Gardens falls victim to one of the killer plants

The triffids themselves are often criticised for being pretty sub-par, but I think they work well individually, and their mobile, stubby roots and clicking stalk-heads look fine in close-up. The triffids work less well when required to be seen in larger numbers, where it’s obvious many of them are guys in plant costumes. Even then, there are some good moments, such as when Howard Keel turns a fuel truck into a DIY flamethrower to torch rows of triffids.

The hero burns some triffids real good
The hero burns some triffids real good!
Triffids attack a home for the blind
Triffids attack a home for the blind
Triffids on the rampage!
Triffids on the rampage!

There wasn’t enough footage of the main story to make a full length film, so extra scenes were shot, by an uncredited Freddie Francis, of Kieron Moore and Janette Scott in a lighthouse, which provides the movie with the memorable sequence of a dismembered triffid piecing itself back together. These scenes in the lighthouse definitely have more tension than some of the other portions of the movie.

Publicity shot
Lobby card
Italian fotobusta-style lobby card
Italian fotobusta-style lobby card

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS doesn’t effectively deal with the catastrophe-induced collapse of law and order like the novel, but it is a colourful, watchable, relatively big-scale killer plant flick!

Another publicity shot with Janette Scott
Another publicity shot with Janette Scott

Some newspaper ads…

Ad sheet
Ad sheet
Reynold Brown's artwork for this particular ad for the movie is awesome
Reynold Brown’s artwork for this particular ad for the movie is awesome
Artist Reynold Brown makes the triffids in his newspaper ad look more ferociously animal-like
Artist Reynold Brown makes the triffids in his newspaper ad look more ferociously animal-like

Here are some great posters for the movie…

Swedish poster
Swedish poster
US poster
US poster
Italian poster
Italian poster
German poster
German poster
US poster
US poster
UK double bill poster: The Day of the Triffids/The Legion’s Last Patrol
Italian poster
Italian poster
Spanish poster
Spanish poster
This colourful Italian poster makes it look like triffids are vegetable-like tentacles lowering down from the sky!
This colourful Italian poster makes it look like triffids are vegetable-like tentacles lowering down from the sky!
Danish poster (based on Reynold Brown's newspaper ad artwork)
Danish poster (based on Reynold Brown’s newspaper ad artwork)
This Italian poster suggests that triffids resemble the Creature from the Black Lagoon!
This Italian poster suggests that triffids resemble the Creature from the Black Lagoon!
Japanese poster
Japanese poster

Finally, here’s the luridly wonderful art for THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS American posters, by illustrator Joseph Smith, who also painted posters for GORGO, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and THE GIANT BEHEMOTH…


Illustration by Joseph Smith
Illustration by Joseph Smith

Haunted Mansion (1998)

Ghost girl prepares to stick her hand through the heroine's body!
Ghost girl prepares to stick her hand through the heroine’s body!

This Hong Kong horror flick was directed (and written) by Dickson To, stars Gigi Lai, Anthony Wong, Shirley Cheung and Law Lan, and was produced by Wong Jing.

Ghost girl!
Spirit child!

Journalist Gigi (Lai) goes back to her family home in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long District with her cop husband Fai (Wong), to help her mom (Lan) and sister (Cheung) deal with various problems, including hauntings and several attempted acts of sabotage perpetrated by lowlifes working for Mr Chin, a shady businessman.

What is the origin of this wraith-child?
What is the origin of this wraith-child?

Starting out promisingly with a dead dog being strung up outside the mom’s home and a guy getting transfixed by a television aerial, the movie unfortunately soon becomes a rather pedestrian, underachieving affair, lacking suspense or any sense of dread. The plot seems content to plod along with scenes of Gigi and Fai’s easy-going, unexceptional marital life, interspersed with the occasional glimpse of a creepy kid or similar underwhelming incident.

One of Mr Chin's hired goons gets skewered on a TV aerial
One of Mr Chin’s hired goons gets skewered on a TV aerial
Gigi Lai plays Gigi
Gigi Lai plays Gigi

Gigi becomes increasingly concerned about what is happening at the family home and is given various snippets of advice and pearls of occult wisdom by one of her work colleagues, Uncle Ming, which includes his theory that the weird phone calls she’s been getting in the middle of the night are from ghosts that are ‘on the same frequency’ as Gigi.

Pimple-faced spirit-dude
Blue-lit, pimple-faced spirit-dude

Events become stranger when Fai’s soul is trapped in an endless Mahjong game and the ghostly young girl becomes more of an ongoing presence at the property. Gigi, with the help of Uncle Ming, eventually gets to the bottom of what is happening, after her mute mom’s soul is released from her body (thanks to the application of electricity!) so that she can explain everything. The mother’s soul reminds Gigi that she’d had an abortion several years earlier… and the spectral girl is actually her unborn daughter’s spirit, which is causing Fai and Gigi’s sister Fen to become possessed by other ghosts.

DVD cover
DVD cover

Gigi allows the ghostly girl to stick her hand right through her body, but this doesn’t happen in reality, and Gigi’s willingness to sacrifice herself placates her aborted daughter’s angry spirit. Now Gigi teams-up with her wraith daughter in an attempt to extricate Fai’s soul from the ongoing ghostly Mahjong game…

Gigi allows the ghost of her unborn daughter to shove her hand into her belly…
…and the girl spirit’s hand splats out of Gigi’s back!

HAUNTED MANSION does improve towards the end, but it suffers overall from poor plotting choices, including sidelining Anthony Wong’s interesting, slightly loutish & clumsy character for a large chunk of the second half of the movie, and never explaining the reason why Mr Chin, the businessman villain, is so desperate to get hold of the property that he’s willing to kill for it. There’s a jarring shift in tone, too, when the film momentarily veers into Cat III territory, as Mr Chin’s wife gets stripped and assaulted in their office by an unseen entity. Chin is then attacked and strangled by the possessed wife, leaving his whole subplot hanging.

A couple of the paper cut-out figures from the mansion's shrine move about somehow...
A couple of the paper cut-out figures from the mansion’s shrine move about somehow…

A decent moment involves the blue-lit, long-nailed ghost girl jumping onto the back of one of Mr Chin’s minions when he attempts to burn down the house, plus there are a couple of scenes featuring cut-out figurines from the mansion’s elaborate shrine that seem to move around of their own volition, though this cool concept is soon forgotten, which is a shame, as they added a novel visual aspect to the story.

The girl-spectre rides on the back of the would-be arsonist!
The girl-spectre rides on the back of the would-be arsonist!