Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Terror Squad (Japan) - band review

"Fuckin Pozerz are dancin' in our site! No frills! Gonna' fight tonight!"
-Terror Squad, "Disco, Bloody Disco"

In case you don't know this band...

Japan's Terror Squad fucking flat out RULE. If you haven't ever had the pleasure do yourself a favor and search out their stuff. Along with Aura Noir, they are in the elite class of modern bands playing MODERN thrash that actually create their own sound and move the genre forward. I'm the biggest thrash/speed metal fan you're going to come across, but it's a tall order for me to find a band who does something new and original or crafts their own sound and still can be considered operating strictly in that genre. There's a lot acts around these days playing straight up thrash metal, doing it well, and putting on great live shows, but as far as coming up with memorable speed metal and thrash SONGS that make me want to play them more than once or twice when I could be listening to Destruction, Holy Terror or Voivod? That is a fucking feat right there my friends. Terror Squad succeeds at those tricky tasks with an unholy, inhuman ease.

Ever since I first heard them (on the amazing and much beloved (by me) Swedish made "Headbangers Against Disco" 7 inch compilation) I just can't get enough of these guys. The catchy hooks, the raging riffs, the insane solos, the wild bass playing, the crazed drums, the red lined vocals and insane metal-head by way of Japan lyrics? It all works out into a super charged juggernaut of aggro hi-tech thrash metal band who's songs will get stuck in your head in spite of their futuristic, non traditional arrangements and the crazy, rabid, nontraditional sound Terror Squad so perfectly pull off.

Both "Chaosdragon Rising" and 1999's ultra-classic and ultra-underrated debut "The Wild Stream of Eternal Sin" are, imho, the best stuff to come out of Japan as far as metal and hc go in the last ten years, as well as flat out two of the best metal albums of the last decade.
It's a crime more people haven't heard this band! These guys rage and push thrash to the next level with a frenzied skill and a mature level of class like it's nothing. You hear, me? NOTHING! Check this shit out, pronto.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Werewolf:The Series" (1987) - television review

Part of the original line up when Fox launched it's own network in the 80s, and an early sojourn into today's rampant late night episodic soap opera/action television (I'd argue you would never have your precious "24"s or beloved "Lost"s without "Werwolf:The Series"), I was a huge fan of this show when it originally aired, and actually have memories of it being pretty intense, as did my wife, so we were both stoked to check it out again. Sadly, due to the cost of obtaining the DVD rights to the ridiculous 80s pop music used in the pilot and a few episodes, the remastered/extras loaded Shout Factory box set has been canceled and the odds of seeing this released anytime soon are slim to none. Where does a loyal woofman fan turn? Trusty old bootlegs!

As one might guess, the quality of the bootleg making the rounds that I obtained through my nefarious back alley contacts is VHS (at best), but still watchable. Made up of a mixture of dubs from Fox originally airing the show, and some better quality episodes that were shown on the Chiller Network at some point, I lowered my high horse from my 2010 standards of remastered pristine looking dvds only to watch these less than stellar copies, because the show is just that good!. Yup, it does actually hold up pretty damn well, albeit in a very odd way. Allow me to explain...

Lead actor/ lycanthropy victim and 80s soap opera heart throb John J. York turns in a masterfully cardboard performance as Eric Cord, the show's "Fugitive/Incredible Hulk by way of Werewolf By Night" main character. Equally great is his majestic and awe-inspiring 80s hybrid afro/mullet hair-do, It's hard to say if his amazing locks are naturally styled that way, or if it's the work of the lost art of 80s style perms (Abby claims she saw a curler in his hair in one episode), but his helmet of impeccably styled blond tresses is almost as entertaining as his stilted, robot like soap opera acting. His wooden, glassy eyed thespian chops combined with the hilariously sappy, weeping Reagen-era keyboard and rock guitar during every remotely emotional scene really makes you feel for the victims of the awful wolfman curse, and his interactions in the pilot with his best friend, especially in the scene where he learns about the curse and wimps out on killing his buddy until after he is bitten and infected by him, should have won him every acting award of 1987. I would pay good money to see that scene in particular done as a one man show (if you're reading this Mr. York, please consider it!).

The over the top 80s-ness of the show may feel dated (although totally fun as all hell), but it's balanced out completely by the AMAZING late-great Chuck "The Rifleman" Conners as the "one armed man" of the show, the originator of the werewolf plague and series over-arcing bad guy Capt.Janos Skorzeny. Mr. Conners is completely out of control bonkers as the creepy as fuck , patch eyed mysterious sea captain and possible original start to the werewolf plague that has infected our wayward hero. No joke here, he is truly fucking great on this show. His dialogue scenes, where he rants and raves, cackles and breaks out into dubbed in wolf howls are so amazing, I actually had to rewind a few and watch them again. Not only that, but, while all the transformation sequences on the show are top notch-state of the 80s-art, his are completely crazy and have to be one of the best in the history of werewolf lore. As his patch is removed to show his crazy wolf eyes appearing from beneath huge gnarly scars, he actually PEELS OFF HIS FUCKING FACE to reveal this disgusting, mangy wolfman that Eric Cord speculates might actually be a satanic wolf who changes into a man instead of the other way around. If this sea captain comes at you, you better hope to all fuck you melted down your Grandma-ma's china into some bullets, because he is going to scare the ever loving piss out of you!

Another cast member who makes "Werewolf" work so damn well is the grim faced, relentless bounty hunter who knows Eric is a wolfman, "Alamo" Joe Rogan (played by none other than total bad ass Col. Decker from the A-Team, Lance LeGault!). Constantly clad in cowboy hat, a duster and aviator glasses (even though the show takes place at night and in the fog 90% of the time) and always toting a shotgun, Alamo Rogan is way more effective at pursuing Eric than he was the A-Team, and is pretty darn menacing as he stalks around, flashing his photo of Eric to the various characters they encounter as Eric travels across the country taking odd jobs and befriending the downtrodden. Rogan knows that Eric killed his best friend in self defense due to lycanthtopy, but he doesn't care - he wants the bounty. Nothing stops this guy! I'm not going to spoil it, but as the series progresses his motivations are revealed to maybe be deeper than just cash. A lot of episodes have him just show up in the end, much like Col Decker, but nonetheless the combination of LeGault and Conners as the series heavies was casting genius, and is a huge part of what makes the show work.

Speaking of wolfmannery, the shows monsters (courtesy of creature designs by effects god and werewolf master Rick Baker) are the bees mother fucking knees. Huge, slavering, howling, canine behemouths, they look like some kind of unholy cross between a grizzly bear, a gorilla and Rob Bottin's lycanthropes from "The Howling", the transformation scenes and werewolf parts you get guaranteed in every episode are top notch. Granted, the werewolve's huge, slavering jaws might suffer from "Rawhead Rex lock jaw" (they don'[t really close all the way), but when they hit the slow motion and the werewolf leans back and howls at the moon it hardly matters.

The transformations always start with a super cool bleeding pentagram on Eric's hand (fantastic!) and leads to an excrutiating, painful looking sequence of claws splitting hands, and fangs and muzzles extending from jaws until the huge grizzly bear like werewolf appears, and usually jumps through a door or plate glass window like an unholy, rabid Kool Aid Man. Another great touch is that they actually came up with different styles of transformations for different werewolves, which makes the changes that occur every episode obviously not just re-used stock footage as many of the "Incredible Hulk" sequences transformations often seemed to be.

The werewolves run around with lots of wolf POV shots (with that weird video toaster effect that they used in "The Wolfen"), and Eric always ends up attacking the evil doers by throwing them across the room and charging after them with his fists planted in a menacing, gorilla like run that is a unique idea I'm surprised no one ever came up with for werewolves before. These parts of each episodes are usually the money shot, and they don't disappoint. The effects work is top notch and still holds up well today, shaming the wonky CG werewolves that have plagued the horror genre for the last decade.

As you probably guess, the basic gist of each episode is Eric Incredible Hulking from town to town, hitch hiking and trying to do battle with Capt. Skorzeny (and possibly other mysterious werwolves) to end his curse, while he dodges the bounty hunting shenanigans of "Alamo" Rogan. Meanwhile, he Kung Fus up with various people who need help, and ends up Fugitiving the bad guys and setting things right before he Ghost Riders his way out of town and onto the next episode. The over arcing story gets touched on usually at the end of each episode for a minute or two (popular cable TV series "Burn Notice" and it's ilk are clearly rip offs of the famed "Werewolf:The Series" format), and moves forward at a pretty good clip as Eric discovers more and more about his awful curse and the world of the lycanthropes in general. All the usual 80s TV cornerstones are touched upon (evil land developers and housing foreclosures, crooked cops, scary motorcycle gangs) but he also encounters lots of cool horror villains from serial killers and vampires to witches, ghosts and haunted houses! Throughout these adventures, John J. York is joined a parade of B list 80s tv guest stars and character actors, making it feel at times almost like a horror version of "The Love Boat". In one of the first couple stories, pay special attention to the red headed kid from Different Strokes who plays the COOLEST FUCKING KID IN THE HISTORY OF KIDS, who carries around a my pet monster and has a giant "Q-The Winged Serpent" poster on his wall. Kid, I want that poster!

Anyways, I will be re-visiting "Werewolf" in my upcoming "action shows: the biker gang episode" feature, but in the meantime, throw out your stupid "24" box set, erase "Lost" from your DVR, toss the "True Blood" files into the recycle bin, and get ta' watching "Werewolf:The Series", the king of all episodic television shows!

10 out of 10 fucking Oscars!

now playing -
Death "Leprosy" 180 gram clear vinyl gatefold LP (w/ blood splatter)
The Accused - "Curse Of Martha Splatterhead" 180 gram vinyl LP
Franko Bixio - "A Pugni Nudi" OST
Secret Chiefs 3 - "New Traditionalists:Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Utimi Uomini"
180 gram vinyl LP
Exodus - "Bonded By Blood" 180 gram vinyl gatefold double LP
Goblin - "Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark" 180 gram vinyl gatefold LP

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Galaxy Of Terror" (aka Planet of Horror aka Mind Wipe) dvd (1981) - movie review

At long last, the often referenced but seldom seen (the VHS tape was only produced for a short time and it never existed on Laserdisc) New World/Roger Corman "Alien" inspired scifi horror gem "Galaxy Of Terror" has made it's way to dvd! Part of Shout Factory's top notch Roger Corman Cult Classics series, "Galaxy Of Horror" joins a recent, welcome parade of hard to find genre flicks that are finally being cleaned up and making their way into a wide, easy to find release. The last year alone has been pretty damn nice on this front, as I've been treated to great looking copies/edits of movies that I was starting to think I'd never see on dvd like Argento's "Four Flies on Grey Velvet", Fulci's "Black Cat", "Death Race 2000", "Night Of The Creeps", "Humanoids From The Deep" and "Dark Night of The Scarecrow" among others. Makes for some mighty fine movie 3am on a Saturday with an IPA and popcorn viewin'!

Anyways, Galaxy Of Terror is, up front, kind of a hodge podge of Alien/Geiger LSD horror tropes by way of 50s sci fi rubber suit monster movie, but really, it's a lot more than that. It rips off (to pretty damn good effect considering the budget) everything from "2001" to "Planet of the Vampires", and ends up with it's own vibe that somehow retains the New World Pictures cheez/camp factor and at the same time has an actual creepy sci fi feel that makes for a really fast paced, entertaining flick.

The cast is really stellar as far as this kind of thing goes, with stand out performances by genre favs Sid Haig and Robert Englund, as well as a pre-WIld Orchid/Red Shoe Diaries Zalman King (acting, not directing), Grace "Big Love" Zabriskie (chewing up the scenery, chomping it up and spitting it back out as Orsan Scott Card fashioned nails), Ray "My Favorite Martian" Walston and a constantly wide eyed space psychic Erin "Joanie Loves Chachi" Moran.

Like I said, Grace Zarbiskie is totally awesome in her over-the-top portrayal of Captain Trantor, last survivor of an infamous ill-fated space mission, who is now in charge of commanding the rag tag crew of the very cool looking star cruiser QUEST, sent by "The Master" (kind of a glowing, mysterious space president) to the very same planet to look for survivors of a recent space mission gone (surprise!) horribly wrong/missing. After a ridiculously amped up launch/FTL/space flight sequence The Quest crash lands on the super fucking cool space-storm lashed and foreboding-mat painting riddled planetoid Morganthus, after being caught in a tractor beam emitted from a strange Geiger-esque pyramid (I'm assuming taken from the well known abandon pyramid sequence from "Alien"), after which each astronaut is one by one separated from the rest of the crew and confronted by a violent and slime drenched manifestation of their deepest fears (which range from a plethora of bizarre alien creatures, being attacked by your own severed arms, tentacles sucking your insides out (before it was in fashion!) and the infamous baby Mothra rape scene).

There's so many good acting and dialogue moments in this I don't really know where to start. Sid Haig plays a mute (save for one awesome line) space commando who belongs to some totally kick ass religion that involves a super sweet fist bump/hand shake thing, worshiping/wielding crystal Glave-chinese stars (that he jumps around corner after corner posing with, and often tossing into walls, rubber monsters and bodies that drop from the ceilings) and generally looking like a bad ass space biker. I'm seriously considering joining this sect, as I'm a big fan of futuristic religions, and especially ones where your mantra is that you "live and die by the crystals" and get to constantly carry giant future-Krull ninja stars. I'd get to carry them onto planes and strut around national parks with them if they're part of my religion, right? I think I'll start the "conceal and carry glave" paper work today, as I'm sure it takes a while to get processed.

Robert Englund, Zalman King and even Ray Walston actually play the flick pretty serious and straight, which I think is part of what gives the picture it's moments of actual creepiness (something not often achieved in New World produced horror movies). Actually, the weakest acting comes from the leads, some corny looking dude who's name I can't recall and reality show/Happy Days casualty Erin Moran. You'll quickly notice that Joanie Cunningham constantly does this funny thing with her eyes in every close up she has in the movie that's pretty damn entertaining and makes her look sort of like an Italian grey alien. She's supposed to be a troubled space psychic, and the scenes where she has mystical, troubled flashes allow her to show off some of the corniest acting chops I've seen since the last episode of "True Blood". In the end, as I'd often wished for when watching "Happy Days" when I was a kid, she ends up joining the rest of the cast in a gory demise that involves a great head explosion that spews Stagg chili and slime all over the tunnel her character is trapped in. Is Erin Moran hot? Did people in the 80s think she was attractive? I wasn't sure then and I'm still not sure today... I think she might fall into that "hot mess" category. The skin tight space suit and super cool space backpack/light rig might be part of my confusion, because I'm actually having a hard time thinking of very many girls that wouldn't look good wearing that cool as fuck get up.

Many of the crew's violent splattery ends come from a variety of fantastic monsters that range from creepy stop motion to slime covered rubber puppets, and the infamous Mothra maggot larva rape scene, that is even more hilarious if you view the kick ass scary looking phallic armed worm concept sketches in the bonus features and then see the Sid and Marty Kroft by way of Toho end result that humps it's way across the lovely, naked and slime coated Taaffe O'Connel like a Gwar prop on quaaludes. I guess this scene was originally a lot longer, and combined with the "too gross for the MPAA" sound effects earned the original (and sadly lost) cut of the flick an X rating, but still, even in it's R form, the scene is worth all the attention it's garnered in horror zines and mags over the years.

I won't go into spoiling the cool as fuck "Outer Limits" style ending, but pay attention to the opening scene where the glowing headed "Master" of Earth is playing a video game with a creepy old witch (come on, how can you not want to see this movie?).

Another thing I have to mention is the amazing look of this flick. Not just the monsters and the space ship, but every damn thing in it is just ridiculously cool looking! The sets are dark and creepy, from the space ship bridge to the wind torn planet of ghostly mat paintings, and a lot of it will actually remind you of a welfare "Aliens", which makes sense considering James Cameron, Bill Paxton and several other effects/design artists who went on to work on that flick were involved in everything from set design and second unit directing to special effects and creature concepts (make sure you check those out as well, some great art work in there!). Much like "Death Race 2000" the amount of talent and work that went into the film in spite of it's Roger Corman budget (actually, I think they spent a lot more than most of New World's movies on this one) comes across onto the screen, and the whole thing is just one fucking cool looking set piece after another.

I can remember seeing the trailer at the end of a movie when I was a kid (I think it might have been "Forbidden World") and being freaked from just watching it, and I'd guess the reason for that is the bizarre/wonderful score courtesy of a "Electro-Acoustic" musician I was unfamiliar with named Barry Schrader. The entire score was done with sparse use of a sitar, some kind of strange percussion, and mainly some strange moog instrument I'm not familiar with that doesn't actually have a keyboard, but instead uses a series of early midi programming, a "fantasy pad" and endless amounts of patch cords. Jumping from sparse, creepy and atmospheric passages to sudden bursts of random, frantic electronic mania, you really have to hear it to get how freakin' cool it is. Sadly (of course) the score has never been released, but looking at Barry Schrader's website (www.barryshrader.com) I see he has several cds of experimental electronic music using all kinds of strange process's I've never heard of before. His new release "Monkey King" sounds especially interesting, and I think I'll probably order it and check it out soon (as well as inquire about the possibility of the score to "Galaxy Of Terror" being released at some point). Apparently, there is a genre of this "electro-acoustic" music that involves lots of midi and 70s tech combined with current recording techniques, and this guy is at the fore front of it. Who knew?

As for the dvd itself, Shout Factory has been knocking it out of the park with these "Roger Corman Cult Classics", and this is no exception, it comes packed with awesome concept art, posters, stills, , audio commentary and a great documentary that features interviews with the directors, most of the actors and Corman himself, this disc is well worth the time it takes to rip a copy before sending it back to netflix.

Anyways, in the end, sadly I do have to subtract one Oscar for lack of a fire walk considering that they (inexplicably) with out fail incinerate every dead body they find with neat, fiery blasts from their laser guns, and yet, no fire walk... That minor gripe aside, "Galaxy Of Terror" is a highly enjoyable scifi/horror flick that is more than just the rip off of "Alien" it may seem upfront and is well worth your late night movie viewing time. Also, if I may be so bold, I would highly recommend watching it as a "more than just an Alien rip off" double feature along with the great 1980 Luigi Cozzi directed/Goblin scored scifi/horror/coffee and espresso gone wrong flick "Contamination".

Now, I'm off to practice my new mantra... "Live and die by the crystals. Live and die by the crystals. Live and die by the crystals."...

9 out of 10 fucking Oscars

now playing - Carlo Cordio - "Aenigma" original sountrack

Saturday, September 04, 2010

free mix tape! LA ZONA SPAVENTO mix tape vol. 1 : THE MALVAGIO ORDA

Free music! Fright Zone mix tape vol. 1 courtesy of me.
All songs, chosen by me, for you!
Some tunes you've heard, some you have not heard... great for listening to music!
Download now, it's free!
...copy and paste this URL, download, unzip the mix tape and enjoy the music!
or follow this link to hear real, actual MUSIC!

Friday, September 03, 2010

"Expendables" (2010) - movie review

Man, what a boring snooze factory this turned out to be! A few decent fights, a couple CG exploding people/gun blasts (nothing compared to the last Rambo flick) and one short, cool part with a M.A.S.K. type airplane and that was really about it. Color me disappointed!

Tons of talk...ing, Stallone acting (I didn't sign up to watch Copland again!) and a plodding, paint by numbers plot which was hard to follow as simple as it was because Stallone's bizarro-esque plastic surgery face and weird facial hair was so distracting it was impossible to take him seriously. He must have had more work done since that last Rambo movie (which I totally loved, and was hoping this would follow in the footsteps of) because I didn't notice it half as much in that flick. How can I properly suspend my disbelief into thinking Mickey Rourke and Stallone are these super bad ass merc guys when their ridiculous plastic surgery faces keeps reminding you with every shot that they're closer to vain, insecure, sheet thread counting, personal chef havin', pampered Hollywood weirdos than machine gun toting, ice cold bad guy killin', globe trottin' black ops asskickers.

Jet Li didn't really get to do anything except one cool stand out fight with Dolph Lundgren (who was actually the best performance in the movie believe it or not!) and a couple other quick fist fights. His action scenes were the stand outs, but they were sadly short and subdued.

Even the end battle involved more footage of the team running around a set sticking bombs that looked like LED lights to the walls than actual fighting. I guess I thought this thing was going to be super over the top, and except for the star power, it almost felt like a modern direct to DVD action flick. Where were Segal and DMX?

Oh yeah, also, the lispy dude from Dexter, Steve Austin and Eric Roberts as the heavies didn't work either. I was especially bummed at Stone Cold's demise, a CG firewalk! Oh sin of sins! Minus a whole oscar for that. There's just no excuse!

While elements of both genres were present, Expendables wasn't able to come anywhere close to capturing the fun, over the top feel of a real 80s action flick or the frenetic craziness of a vintage HK gun-fu movie, and instead came off as less than either of those, a very half hearted cameo train and vanity film for Stallone.
The whole picture has this weird affected vibe that especially stuck out whenever all the "Expendables" were in scenes together. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what caused it, but it always felt like a bunch of actors goofing around together and having a party, and rarely started to feel like an actual movie. I was hoping that the cheez ball ending would at least give us C.H.i.Ps style laughing freeze frame credits, but after a total set up for it they even screwed us on that! All in all, I'm sorry to say, boring boring boring. Machete, take me away!

4 out of 10 fucking Oscars

now playing -The Budos Band "Budos Band III"

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Tobe Hooper's "Mortuary" (2006) - movie review

Dang. Tobey has really fucking
fallen apart. It makes "The Mangler" and "Crocodile" look like
"Poltergeist" and "Lifeforce". Salt to kill the zombies? Did we really need CG for the "hand bursts through the chest" effect? Doesn't that cost like 25$ to pull off with good ol' practical effects?

It was nice to see Tasha Yar in a starring roll though. Was this the kind of movies she left ST:TNG to focus on? Between this and "Eliminators" I think I've seen the twin jewels in the crown that is Denise Crosby's acting career.

final score - 2 out of 10 fucking Oscars. The Oscars are just because they re-used part of the set from TCMII and (spoiler I guess...)Denise
Crosby gets killed by a shape shifting oozing black mud monster, yet again. I wonder how stoked she was about that when she read that part of the script? "Oh OK. This again? I guess that's what people like to see me do...". I guess there is something to be said for making a living getting aced by a third tier baddy from the monster manual. Black Pudding indeed...

now listening to -
Asei Kobayashi & Micky Yoshino - "Hausu" OST