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Shrieks and freaks

Shriek Show is a DVD company that packages old movies at reasonable prices.  The reason that the prices can be good is because these are not great films, but rather cheapie horror or crime flicks.  Recently, I watched all the movies in Shriek Show’s Three-set, Mutant Monsters.

The first in the set that I watched was the one I had the least hope for, Creatures from the Abyss.  While the other two movies boasted familiar star names, this foreign (obviously dubbed) movie offered a bunch of people with little name recognition.  It is the tale of five college age kids who stumble upon a deserted yacht that is also an oceanographic lab.  The kids fit generic film stereotypes:  there is the prankster, the smart guy (you know he’s smart because he wears glasses), the good girl, the dumb-but-chesty blonde and the blonde’s sister, who seems to just be along for the ride.

There’s a reason the boat is deserted; almost everyone on board has been killed by mutant fish that have been brought up from the very deep ocean and exposed to radiation.  What’s worse, as the hapless kids find out, is that exposure to the fish can lead to some nasty mutations for humans too.  None of really makes much sense, but it is actually fun despite all its superficial deficiencies (bad effects, acting, writing, etc.)  Quality 3/10, Fun 5/10.

Second in the set is The Being, a real yawnfest imitation of Jaws and various late-’70s enviromental horror movies.  A local nuclear waste dump has somehow transformed a kid into a virtually indestructible man-eating creature.  Martin Landau plays a scientist who tries to downplay the effects of dumping nuclear waste into the local water supply; Jose Ferrer plays the mayor who wants to downplay any problems.  Ruth Buzzi plays the mayor’s wife; I suppose it’s hard to take any movie very seriously which has Ruth Buzzi.

At the core of the film is the cop character played by Rexx Coltrane (or is his name Johnny Commander?  Both names appear in the credits). His real name is apparently Bill Osco, related to the Osco Drugs franchise.  It makes sense, because after you watch his performance, you feel drugged with boredom.  I have seen few actors more effectively suck life out of a film; it’s not that he’s a particularly bad actor, just a thudding bore to watch.  Not that the rest of the film is much better.  Quality 3/10, Fun 2/10.

Finally, there is The Dark, an all-star alien invader film with Cathy Lee Crosby, William Devane, Richard Jaeckel, Keenan Wynn and Casey Kasem (a pre-Miami Vice Philip Michael Thomas also has a small role).  The standard enough story focuses on an alien that comes out every night and kills one person, apparently feeding on it to get more powerful.  It is superstrong, bulletproof and shoots rays out of its eyes.

Occasionally, the movie plays with the idea of public panic, akin to the panic felt about the Hillside Strangler, but this is never depicted very plausibly.  In fact, there isn’t much plausibility in the behavior of many of the characters, nor why this movie with little gore, no nudity and little in the way of harsh language would merit an R-rating; by today’s standards, it’s a soft PG-13.  Quality 5/10, Fun 4/10.


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