Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Demons AKA The Most Convoluted Apocalypse Ever

Ok, so it's Halloween and in keeping with that theme, I've decided to review a personal favourite of mine, called 'Demons'. This movie was directed by Mario Bava's son, Lamberto and has a screenplay co-written by Dario Argento so the pedigree behind it is pretty good. 'Demons' has some of my absolute favourite Euro-Horror tropes in that it's a simple story told in the most ludicrous and overly complicated way possible, it's littered with characters who serve as nothing more than ridiculously over developed diversionary tactics and red herrings which make less sense than a pig with tits. It also has a soundtrack which is totally out of place for the most part and I'm pretty sure that Claudio Simmonetti samples 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' for the main title theme but the tempo makes it sound whimsical and completely ruins the atmosphere. As a concept, this movie is fucking nuts. As movie, it's even worse. Get yourself bedded in because this is a fucking long one even compared to my other reviews. Lets go...  

The movie starts on a train with one of our main characters called Cheryl. She looks to be the goody-two shoes kind of character because she's dressed in that frumpy way that all goody-two shoes characters were dressed in the eighties. She's on the train because she's heading to class and she's holding a book about Bartok so you're left thinking she's a sophisticated chick. So, while she's on the train, she's getting freaked out by all the punk looking dudes and the old weirdos when she catches a glimpse in the train window of a guy wearing what looks like a metal mask over half of his face. I don't know if this is a common thing. She acts like she's seen it before and it's something she's regularly scared by but it's not really that common a sight on public transport. Anyway, she's freaked out and when the train pulls up and she gets off, she's all of a sudden left alone on the platform. She thinks she's ok but she hears all this clinking and shit and these footsteps from behind her. She starts to make her way to the exit and once again, she thinks she's safe but she bumps into the guy with the metal mask over half his face and it looks like he's wearing a bin bag with buttons on it. There aren't any chains and he isn't wearing spurs or anything so I don't know why he was clinking so much. Maybe it's a lot of change in his pockets or galvanised shower curtain hooks or something. Anyway, you think this guy is going to kill her and sex in her eye sockets but all he does is hand her this gold ticket to a cinema called the 'Metropol'. He walks off and starts handing out more of these tickets to people in the train station. Cheryl thinks that it's a perfectly reasonable course of action to catch up to this guy and ask for another ticket because she's meeting a friend and what better way to spend your evening than going to a cinema you've never heard of with two golden tickets given to you by a clinking weirdo at a train station? Cheryl asks the guy if he's dressed like that for the promotion of the film but he just kind of smirks and walks away again. He never even looks her in the eye when he gives her the ticket which is kind of confusing because (spoilers) he's obviously setting up the whole 'demonic possession' deal at the cinema so why does he look kind of ashamed of what he's doing? You know what, actually, hold onto that thought. We'll come back to it.

'My heart just isn't in this ruse but I spent two hours in make-up for this shit so just take the damn ticket'

Outside the train station, Cheryl meets up with her friend Kathy who looks like she might be a bit of a trouble maker. She's dressed a bit sexier than Cheryl but in a shock twist, it turns out that Cheryl is the one who enjoys nothing more than ditching class so she can be stabbed in strange movie theater's. Cheryl shouts Kathy from literally about 10 feet away and suggests skipping school and going to the Metropol. Kathy tries to reason with Cheryl and asks her if she thinks going to this movie theatre is a good idea but Cheryl is clearly insane and before you know it, they're outside the Metropol. Cheryl never explains where she got these tickets. It's the kind of thing you'd tell a friend, right? I don't know. Their relationship seems fundamentally flawed if Cheryl is psychotic enough to accept tickets from a train platform rapist in a bin bag and not tell her friend that this is how she acquired them and Kathy is fucking retarded for not just saying 'Bitch, is you crazy?!'.

Inside the cinema, things are heating up. You're treated to a slow, sexy shot of the usherette touching her legs and making sure her stockings aren't all ruffled and shit. She looks at herself in the mirror and turns to face the camera so you're thinking to yourself at this point that this treacherous snake whore is probably going to be a key element in this demonic take over but (spoilers) she isn't. There are loads of other moments a little later on where you think that this chick is definitely on the side of evil but (spoilers) she isn't. I can't stress to you enough just how not-evil this character is. Sorry. I'm fixated on her because this character is the dumbest fucking red-herring I think I've ever seen in a movie. Anyway, back to the action and the people who have been developmentally disabled enough to turn up are all piling into the cinema. You can tell that this is a classy affair because in addition to the gold tickets (which look totally real and not like someone cut up a lamé coat and wrote 'Metropol' on it), there's a dirt cross bike in the foyer which is on a pedestal and it's being ridden by a dummy carrying a samurai sword in one hand and a demonic mask in the other so that's appropriate and makes total sense. One of the character's, called Frank, has turned up with his wife and he mentions that the building was condemned and that someone must have spent a fortune on the renovation. I'll level with you, I think Frank is a piece of shit. There's no two ways about it. He has a huge attitude problem and he's fucking whining to his wife about something or other and she basically asks him to calm down because they want to have a nice evening because it's their anniversary. Frank's response to this is that she should relax because he's brought her to a show and she shouldn't really want anymore. Please feel free to remember at this point that this is a free show at a previously condemned cinema which they have only been able to attend because of tickets given to them by a chrome plated maniac who clinks for no reason. Total dick seam.

 'What? I aint hit ya tonight, have I? Yet'

So, elsewhere in the foyer, we meet some of our other main protagonists who are due for the the traditional euro horror treatment. There's George and Ken who are two rapey looking dudes wearing slacks who spot Cheryl and Kathy trying to negotiate a can of coke from a vending machine and spend part of their screen time pouring praise on the generic looking dirt bike in the foyer. There's Tony The Pimp (who is a pimp) and his two whores Rosemary and Carmen who he's treated to a night off from the dick with free cinema tickets and up to 45% less bitch-slapping, Hannah and Tommy who are two young lovers of no consequence and a blind guy called Werner who's with his carer, Liz; the most in-compassionate carer in the universe (more from her later). Oh and Werner looks like a Blind Harry Dean Stanton. I usually refer to him as such when discussing this movie with friends but I'll continue to call him Werner for the remainder of this article because it's easier to type but feel free to call him Blind Harry Dean Stanton when you're out and about. Continuing the action in the foyer, Werner has randomly decided to start reaching out to feel his surroundings when he accidentally touches the dummy on the dirt bike. He tells Liz not to touch it despite the fact that she's not paying any attention to what's happening and she isn't six years old. Rosemary the whore has spotted the demonic looking mask hanging from the dummy on the bike and she's picked it up and started horsing around with it by putting it on her face and trying to scare Carmen When she takes the mask off, she's managed to cut her cheek and Tony chides her, telling her 'that'll teach (her) to touch things' so there's a lot of good, strong fatherly advice flying around in this foyer.

'Liz! Liz! Stop doing what I'm about to tell you to start doing again. It doesn't need to make sense, I'M BLIND!'

Next, all of our cast from before are getting themselves seated ready for the movie that they know nothing about. 

--Seriously though, as far as schemes to bring about the end times go, this one has been pretty fucking complex so far. Think about it; this is a previously condemned building which has been completely and totally renovated for the purposes of this single night by beings who are putting a lot of faith in the ultimate stupidity of people turning up to a show, which they don't know the content of, with tickets given to them by a mute psychopath in a train station. Think of everyone you know and think about how many of them would willingly show up to the screening of a film they know nothing about after being given tickets by a weirdo. It's madness. Complete and total fucking insanity. Half Mask Man from earlier in the movie may have had, say, 100 tickets. If he gives out every single one of them, this means he's relying on 100 complete fucking idiots showing up to a holocaust which he's not really done a great job of making it seem like it's innocuous. Anyway, back to the movie-- 

Cheryl and Kathy have sat kind of near the front, as have Tony and his whores. George and Ken skulk in and slither over to Cheryl and Kathy (I don't know why I'm giving them such a hard time. They're actually pretty nice kids and Cheryl is totally into anonymous, cinema hook ups). The film starts what seems like half way in and has pretty good production value considering that it doesn't even really need to exist. The films shows these four kids riding up to the ruins of a house or something on motorbikes. Maybe motorbikes are something these demons need in order to possess everyone, like they need to be in the background or something. I don't think they play an active part in a ritual or anything, I think the demons just like motorbikes. I don't know. It's fucking stupid. Anyway, these kids have pulled up at these ruins. There's two guys and two girls and one of the guys is actually Half Mask Man but with his face intact (I must have watched this through at least 15 times before I even noticed that they were the same guy). They're looking at all these stone tablets and talking about Nostradamus and how it's rumoured that he's buried at the ruins. It doesn't matter. One of the guys in the film makes a comment about Nostradamus but it's clear that he knows as much about Nostradamus as the writer's of this film know about sanity. Anyway, these kids continue dicking about in the ruins until the guy who will become Half Mask Man finds a stone version of the mask from the foyer. He puts it on and the other guy tells him that he's being a prick and to take it off. When he does, he has a cut on his face just like the one Rosemary had from the mask earlier. This makes Rosemary want to check her own face in the bathroom mirror so she gets up and makes her way out of the theatre. While this is going on, several things are happening at once;

  • Werner is developing this odd fascination with Liz's emotional state and I strongly suspect that the only reason he's here is for sexual gratification. He keeps asking her if the kids in the movie are scared and if she's scared. Liz just seems dead to it all after what I can only assume is years of abuse at the hands of this maniac
  • In the movie that these idiots are watching, Half Mask Man is losing his shit and he's turned into a lunatic. He's produced a knife from somewhere (it looks like a kitchen knife. An ancient, Sumarian Sabichi if you will) and he's stabbing the shit out of all the other kids
  • Another guy has come into the cinema and he's sat down next to Liz. He's making out with her pretty heavily in front of Werner but Werner doesn't know this is going on because he's too transfixed with the sounds of murder being shot into his ears by a dolby surround system. That and he's blind

This is the killer's P.O.V. Just take a moment to think about how this looks from the victim's P.O.V...pretty fucking stupid, right?

In the bathroom, Rosemary is getting very upset with the oozing gash on her face and rightly so because before you know it, that shit's swelling up like a bad zit and exploding all over the place. Tony is getting impatient and he wants to know what the hell happened to Rosemary so he sends Carmen to look for her. She finds Rosemary hiding out in a bathroom stall and is attacked by the possessed Rosemary, who slashes her face to shit. Carmen manages to escape the bathroom and runs off but can't seem to find her way back to the main movie theatre and decides to take a detour to areas of a cinema even I wouldn't know how to get to. Meanwhile, things are getting hot and heavy with Liz and her mystery lover who I've decided she doesn't know because that makes it weirder. They've found the most inconvenient place in the entire movie theatre to make out, behind some curtains but Liz is still in ear shot of Werner who's calling out for her as he's running low on emotion juice. Kathy can somehow hear Carmen screaming and tries to tell Ken that she knows a real scream when she hears one (presumably because she rooms with Cheryl and Cheryl is so fucking crazy she probably screams in the middle of the night for no reason). All of a sudden, Carmen comes bursting through the cinema screen and falls to the floor. Tony immediately stands up and rushes over to her, showing us that as a Pimp, he possesses an uncharacteristic concern for humanity. Meanwhile, Possessed Rosemary has become agitated whilst looking for Carmen and has come across Liz and her creepy lover. Possessed Rosemary wraps a rope around their necks while they're still kissing and begins strangling them. I don't quite know how this works and seems a bit of a complex way to kill two people at once but then again, I'm looking for logic in the palace of lunacy. 

Back in the theatre itself, Carmen is causing a fraction of concern for the assembled idiots. She's fallen on all fours and shit's getting fucking vile as she starts changing into a demon in a display of some of the most disgusting prosthetics I've ever seen. She jumps at the throng of people gathered round her and slashes the bejesus out of Frank's face. In the ensuing chaos, Werner is understandably confused. He somehow manages to nearly trip over Liz's ravaged body and he sets down beside her, saddened that he will no longer be able to sap the emotional states of his carer anymore. As he's doing this, Possessed Rosemary gets her claws into him and scratches out his eyes which is fucking disgusting and also pointless. It's like punching an amputee in the stump. So, with Werner now double-blind, Possessed Rosemary runs off in search of more pointless injuries to inflict on people. In the auditorium, vast numbers of people who I'm pretty sure weren't in the theatre before are making a run for it and trying to get out of the theatre but someone's bricked the doors up and they can't escape. Tony The Pimp seems like the only dude who's in full control of his faculties at this point and suggests that everyone should find the emergency exit. Amidst the panic and a Possessed Rosemary making another appearance to tear the ears off a deaf woman or something, Kathy is screeching about how people are getting possessed just like in the movie. In fact, she mentions that the movie is to blame for everything that's happening, she can't explain how she knows and that it's just a feeling which I guess is as sane an attempt as you can hope for. Tony The Pimp agrees with this because what would be the point in arguing logic at this point? He makes a bold statement about how Rosemary put on the mask and how the demons are instruments of evil and they have stop it. He's talking about the movie, unfortunately and not making a selfless gesture for the betterment of humanity so you're a little dis-heartened that Tony doesn't possess quite as much of a strong moral compass as you'd have once thought. Tony suggests that they all try and find the projection booth but when they do, it's deserted therefore adding another intriguing layer to this cleverly devised and deeply convoluted plot.

Will the riddle of the empty projection booth ever be solved?!? SPOILERS No. No, it won't

--Right, seriously now, this is fucking crazy. Is this film honestly trying to make me believe that a satanic cult or something has bought and renovated an old movie theatre for the sole purpose of hoping that someone puts on the mask from the foyer? That's insane. That's not a devilish plot to take over the world; that's a prank and a pretty shitty one at that. Like, make a fucking concession or something. Why in the holy hell would you put your demon possession face mask on a dummy riding a motorbike? Just put it on a pedestal with a sign underneath it that says 'Please try me on'. Just get Half Mask Man to smash it into innocent bystander's faces on the street. And why fucking brick people in? What...what even is that in tactical terms? And who bricked them in? Independent contractors? A sub-division of demon builders who are great at masonry but not so good at apocalyptic take-overs? Half Mask Man? Usually I'm happy for a film to play out but I want answers from this asshole movie--

So, after Tony has finally decided that he's been calm and collected for long enough, he loses his shit and tells everyone to 'smash everything' thereby hoping to scupper the demonic take over by distracting them with a trip to Radio Shack to make repairs. Cheryl catches another glimpse of Half Mask Man in a window but I don't know why I mention that because it doesn't matter and I'm a fool for letting you believe it means anything. Next (and yes, seriously this happens right in the middle of this movie) we're taken outside of the Metropol and we meet some punk kids who've stolen a car and they're driving around town snorting cocaine out of a coke can. That, right there, is subtlety personified. This seemingly non-sequiter punk sideline doesn't make any sense to begin with and the punks' interludes happen at totally random times so I'll just get their character development out of the way now so it doesn't spoil the flow later on. They're driving around, they're snorting coke, one of the punks is a girl who manages to spill the cocaine all over the fucking car. Their leader gets understandably pissed and tells them to pick it all up. While they're parked up, the police pull up alongside them and ask them for their license and registration so their leader bullshits a bit and the kids all make a run for it and end up outside the Metropol (I'll join these chuds a little later on when they become relevant again but as you'll come to find out, these punks absolutely, categorically, unquestionably do NOT need to be in this film. Like, at all). Meanwhile, back at the Metropol, all the survivors have made their way up to the balcony area in the main theatre and Sheryl is being bubble-headed enough to think that now they've smashed up some projection equipment, the satanic uprising that they've all been witness to is surely quashed. Werner pops up from behind some seats to act as this film's harbinger. He starts banging on about how it isn't the film that kills, it's the theatre but to be honest he's not really in any kind of position to make a statement like this. Not only has he not been with the rest of the survivors while all this has been going on but he's blind and should just shut the fuck up. Likewise, Tony is slowly losing his grip on Pimp reality and he's shouting at George because George doesn't want to throw Liz's dead body over the balcony. Tony calls him a bitch or something to that effect and makes Ken help him throw the body over the edge. Just as they're about to throw her over, Frank's possessed body comes out of nowhere and tries to pull Tony over the side. Tony, true to form, produces a flick knife from his jacket and gets into a mini knife fight with Possessed Frank. Possessed Frank appears to have utilised the rope that Possessed Rosemary used to strangle Liz's mystery lover with to climb up to the balcony with perhaps the express intention of killing Tony because even in death, I think Frank would be this much of an asshole. Tony stabs Possessed Frank over the edge of the balcony and when Frank lands, he vomits splendidly on Hannah, who is crawling around on the theatre floor.

Demonic Possession = Vomit. That's actual science.

After a brief Car-Punks interlude, Tony has well and truly lost his marbles and he's making the survivors smash all the chairs to form a make-shift barricade so no more demons can get in. Tony's in the middle of screaming something not entirely un-motivational when a possessed Liz springs back to life and bites Tony on the leg. Tony shouts to George to throw him the knife (why George has it now, I don't fucking know) thereby posing George with the age old quandary of 'Do I jump into this titanic struggle twixt pimp and demon or not?'. As Tony and Possessed Liz do battle, they fall over the edge of the balcony and become tangled in Frank's racist climbing rope from before. As they do, Tony drops the knife. George picks up the knife and lets Tony fall to his death which effectively removes the only character worth remembering from the film. Down below, Tommy and Liz are re-united and try to find an exit all on their own, those selfish little bastards. Back on the balcony and the survivors are trying to smash their way through the wall of the theatre with fire extinguishers. Outside the building, the punks are now parked up (they're becoming slightly more relevant at this point but only because one of them seems to hear the sound of fire extinguishers being bashed against 12" thick brick walls from literally 800 feet away which is fucking stupid). Back in the building, George has managed to smash some of the wall down with a fire extinguisher and he can see another room through the hole (which renders the punks' hearing even more incredible). Werner, meanwhile has decided that he wants to make life even more difficult for himself by crawling out through the piles of chairs, to find an exit. All the survivors are still smashing this wall with whatever they can find and when they finally manage to break through, there's a small staircase and a room behind the wall which is a dead end. It's randomly situated but the film makes out like it's a room which has been specifically built for the purposes of psychological torture. It's literally just a room. It's a bit dank and the walls are dripping but essentially, it's just a room and everyone acts like they've all just found out that their parents were responsible for the Holocaust or something. This is where the punks come back into play. They've managed to evade the police and they're trapped in this alley way when a door to the Metropol mysteriously opens and they all pile inside. Moronically, they don't shut the door behind them which, I'm to understand, when you're being chased by policeman, is a dead giveaway as to your location. Because they don't shut this door behind them, Werner manages to get out and ducks behind a car which is parked in the alleyway.

 --The fuck is this shit?! In addition to this being the most complex and costly demonic take over in the known universe, the demons have put further faith in a group of cocaine addled dicks getting in trouble with Johnny Law and being in the exact right place at the exact right time to find a back entrance into the cinema AND allow one of the possessed access to the street? And it's the fucking blind guy who's been made double blind?! Is that irony? Fuck this movie--

The police see Werner duck behind this car and mistake him for one of the punks so they move towards him. Instead of punks, they encounter Possessed Werner who is potentially the most retarded of the demons we've seen so far because he thinks that by putting his hand over the barrel of a gun, it ceases to pose a threat to him. Back inside the theatre and the punks are proving to everyone that they're as pointless to this story as a dick on your arm. They're all picked off pretty easily and I don't have to mention them again. At this point, a couple of things happen. Tommy and Hannah have decided to try and make their escape through the air conditioning system but Hannah, in a reasonably neat turn of events, has turned into a demon (but held off just long enough to go all demony in the hands but not in the face) and butchers Tommy in the air shaft. While the demons have been making mince meat out of the punks, they've also been making a hell of a racket and there's been some gun fire (yeah, the punks had guns but still ran from the police. Don't look to me for answers, I didn't write this piece of shit) so all the survivors in the balcony area of the theatre are frantically pulling part of the make-shift barricade down in a display of such ferocious stupidity, it'll make you throw your shoes at the TV screen. George, Ken, Kathy and Cheryl exhibit previously untapped powers of common sense and don't see this noise as salvation but as another way for them to have their guts pulled out through their assholes so they make their way out of the balcony area through another area of the barricade. This proves to be prophetic because all the demons from before start coming through the barricade that the other survivors are pulling down and slash, stab and vomit over everyone they can see. Meanwhile, George and the others have managed to navigate their way through the barricades (which, come to think of it, has a lot of gaps and crawlspaces. How the hell did it maintain it's structural integrity for this long?). George and Cheryl are the first ones out but as Ken is about to make his exit, he says that Kathy fainted. They drag her out and make their way to the foyer. Probably to get another look at that sweet ass dirt bike. Probably.

'Aw, man it's so roomy in here. You can really spread out. Hey, don't you guys reckon you could really spread out?! Say, what d'ya think's holding all these chairs up?'

Kathy is quite clearly very ill because she starts asking these questions like 'Who are you?' and 'Where am I? What is this place?' in a really weird voice. These fucking idiots think she's just hysterical or something but it's painfully obvious what's happening. Kathy seems to get the shittest deal of everyone who's fallen victim to the demons because after she turns and Ken beats her around the head with the edge of an air conditioning hatch, she falls on all fours and starts convulsing until an actual demon climbs out of her fucking back! I don't understand this scene because this hasn't happened to anyone else who's been possessed. By the way, I've decided to call this little critter 'Hilton the Existential Demon' due to the fact that he's the only demon with enough power to break through someone's back but ask questions about the deeper significance of the soul before doing so. In all the confusion of Hilton busting out of Kathy's back and him making a bolt for it, Hilton slashes Ken across the chest and Ken gets upset because he knows he's officially fucked. He runs off and George and Cheryl follow him. Ken has to reason with George for a while before George relents and decides that yeah, cutting his best friend's head off is probably the merciful thing to do. It seems to take a while for George to come around to the idea, though. I get it, though. It must be difficult. Anyway, George kills Ken and Cheryl runs off back into the main theatre where she's surrounded by demons. Things are looking pretty bleak for her at this point until George bursts through the curtains to the theatre on the back of the dirt bike, wielding the samurai sword.

I have seen some deus ex machina's in my time but this takes the fucking biscuit

George manages to cut a swathe through the demonic population of the theatre and you wonder why they didn't just do this in the first place when all of a sudden, there's a crash from above them and a helicopter comes through the roof. I get that this is a sign of the horrors going on outside of the Metropol but given that the films offers zero explanation as to why a lone helicopter pilot would just randomly lose his shit and come crashing through the roof a cinema, it seems pretty weird. George and Cheryl manage to climb up some sort of rope that they find on the helicopter and they're seemingly home free until Half Mask Man shows up on the roof and immediately sets about kicking the shit out of George in a pretty ineffectual way. Speaking of Half Mask Man, I don't get this guy. What is he fucking about at? I'm thinking he's got to be the guy in charge or at least like an executive of Demon Corp. or whatever and you'd think that to be in that position, he'd have to be a demon himself so why doesn't he just slash George up and turn him into a demon? Why's he so vindictive that he's got to try and push him down the hole in the roof? Well, whatever's happened, he's obviously feeling a lot better about the whole apocalypse thing because he looks like he's enjoying the murder now rather than at the start when he looked all guilty and shit. Maybe he attended one of those self improvement seminars while all these guys were trapped in the theatre but then again he'd probably need to be on hand to facilitate or something. Those building contractors who bricked the doors up don't delegate themselves. Man, being a demon seems like a lot of work when you consider all the administrative responsibilities. Anyway, Cheryl drives an antenna or something through Half Mask Man's back and then they both push his face onto a spike.

They climb down some ladders or whatever and come face to face with the stark reality and the shear magnitude of what's happening; the world has gone to shit. Everyone's either a demon or having their dick stomped by a demon, buildings are on fire and everything looks totally hopeless for George and Cheryl until a guy who looks like Donald Pleasance turns up in his jeep with his kids (who are terrifyingly aryan and way too proficient with firearms) and offer George and Cheryl the retarded explanation that '(they) saw some lights in the sky so maybe not everything is lost' which is terrifying because it seems like they're doomed to spend the rest of the apocalypse saddled with this fetal alcohol syndrome maniac and his sociopathic children. The credits start to roll and you think everything's going to be ok for George and Cheryl aside from their curious travelling partners. They'll be able to settle down, maybe start a family; the future is looking pretty promising for them all things considered until, for some reason, Cheryl turns into a demon despite having no contact with any of the other demons and one of the aryan kids has to gun her down and that's how the movie ends. For real this time. Yeah...

No, hang on. I spoke too soon. This takes the fucking biscuit

So, there you go. That's 'Demons'. It probably comes across like I don't enjoy this movie but I don't understand how anyone couldn't enjoy a film where the climax is a katana showdown on the back of a dirt bike. There's so much to enjoy about this movie regardless of how fucking insane it is. I read an article which pointed out that Argento and Bava were keen on having a hit movie in the U.S hence things like the over abundance of heavy metal on the soundtrack and tearaway punks stealing cars and snorting cocaine. Although, saying that, trying to make something seem a little bit more 'American' by putting cocaine snorting punks and heavy metal music on your soundtrack is like making a movie to appeal more to English audiences by having a guy hitting his wife while eating baked beans and listening to the Beatles. One of the most fascinating things about Euro Horror cinema is that watching Italian made movies from the 70's and 80's is a little bit like those episodes of Star Trek where an alien intelligence creates a stylised interpretation of what it perceives as being 'reality' for the amusement of a befuddled Enterprise crew. It's a slightly skewed, off-balance version of what we know as normal but instead of making you feel kind of sick, it's just kind of endearing. Some would probably argue that it's a good thing that they don't make 'em like this anymore but fuck those clowns. It truly is a shame that they don't make 'em like they used to. Happy Halloween, everyone.

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Saturday, 12 October 2013

McBain A.K.A Waistband Walken's Crazy Coup

So, I’ve been promising it for a while but not delivering on those promises. Sorry about that. But if all those episodes of Star Trek taught me anything it’s that forgiveness is close to godliness. I think that’s how it goes. It doesn't matter because McBain. I've got to tell you; this film makes sense for about 7 minutes and after that it’s just unfiltered crazy. You’ll kind of get the story and recognise the usual tropes inherent in commando movies like this but it takes you on what should be a straightforward journey via a chasm of screaming skulls and bad editing. I’m perhaps being melodramatic. Essentially, it's dogshit and the soundtrack gave me diabetes but I promised to do this so lets get started...

This movie starts in 1973 and the Vietnam war has come to an end. A load of tanks and shit are making their way through the jungle to find marines that are stationed there. This Colonel dude is making his way towards an encampment and he walks into this hut where we meet some of the film's main protagonists. There's Santos, who ends up being the driving force of this film's plot, Eastland (played by the late Steve James), Frank Bruce (played by Michael Ironside) who's a genuinely confusing character as he's a borderline psychotic and definite shit-head, Gil (played by Thom G Waites who you'll recognise from John Carpenter's 'The Thing') and Dalton who seems to be an all round nice guy. Plus he's a doctor. So, this Colonel guy is in their encampment and he starts giving these guys a load of shit because he walked right in on them while they're all reading and just hanging out and he didn't encounter any kind of perimeter security or anything. It's difficult to understand why he's giving them this amount of shit because he's come to tell them that the war is over but that's his job, I guess. So, after he tells them that the war is over, they all get on board this helicopter and start to make their way out of the jungle. It's worth noting that, at this point, it's literally just some of the main protagonists. McBain is nowhere to be fucking seen, here. While the marines are making their way out of Vietnam, they're shot at by this V.C soldier and they spot all these bamboo cages and shit which they decide to take a look at.

Down below at the V.C camp, we finally meet McBain plus some other G.I's and they're being led into these bamboo cages by what looks like a fat, Vietnamese Rambo and a tonne of V.C soldiers. Walken has sensible hair in this scene so you know he hasn't quite lost his shit just yet but that'll change later on. While this is going on, all of our guys from before are doing some recon and working out which is the best way to kill these ass-holes and set these other G.I's free. McBain is put inside a bamboo cage along with Fat Rambo and they start to fight. McBain is having his ass handed to him to begin with but then our guys from before start to attack the camp. There's this V.C General who's also inside the bamboo cage and he throws a knife into the ground so that Fat Rambo can stab McBain to pieces but when an explosion distracts him, McBain gets the drop on Fat Rambo and throws the knife into the V.C General's chest. The helicopter from before makes an over-head pass and starts firing fuck into the V.C camp which is pretty irresponsible considering that they've got well over fifteen friendly troops on the ground and this pilot hasn't done a single bit of recon to know that he's shooting at the right dudes. Asshole. Still, his blood lust seems to be do the trick and all the V.C troops are taken out. McBain starts to exit the bamboo cage when Fat Rambo gets up, takes the knife out of his commanding officer's chest and makes a lunge for McBain. Santos spots this shit from a mile off, tells McBain to get down and caps that Stallone looking mother fucker. McBain tells Santos that he owes him one so Santos tears a $100 bill in half and tells him that if the other half of this bill finds him, he can repay the favour. I'm not entirely comfortable with this arrangement. There's no significance in it being a $100 bill. It could have been a $1 or $5 bill because that seems more affordable but $100? Guy's too rich to be fighting in 'Nam.

Stand this guy next to Richard Crenna and 9 out of 10 times, he won't notice it's not Stallone

Cut to 18 years later and we're in Columbia. Santos and some armed guys are walking into a village. No one seems to give a shit that there are a bunch of armed guys strolling through their village so I'm led to believe from this that they're probably friendly. Santos makes his way into one of the huts in the village and is greeted by a woman, Christina, his sister. Santos and Christina have a strange relationship if you ask me and you'd be forgiven for thinking that they're going out but they're not. They're honestly brother and sister. I don't have a sister so I don't know what would be classed as inappropriate but to me, this is pretty fucked up. They don't kiss or anything but as far as I'm concerned, face touching is a prelude to sexy time. Anyway, Santos tells Christina that he's going to go ahead with something massively important. He doesn't say what, though. This is a major problem with this fucking movie; character's explain what they're doing in riddles. The only clue I had that Santos was a revolutionary (before all the revolution happens in a short while - that shit is a DEAD giveaway) is that he's wearing a beret. Oh and you can tell he's supposed to be older now because he's wearing glasses, as well. He tells Christina that if this operation goes to shit, she should get in touch with a guy called Bobby McBain who lives in New York and works in construction. He gives her the other half of the $100 bill, the name of his company and the telephone number for his union which seems like a lot of details to have on someone you haven't spoken to in 18 years. I mean, people change jobs all the time and I doubt Santos has access to a phone in this shit hole village so how has he kept abreast of what McBain is up to? Anyway, Santos tools up and leaves the village on his way somewhere (at this point, you literally have no idea what he's doing because there's been no expository dialogue or anything) while all the kids in the village cheer him and his men on. You can tell they're good guys because the kids love them.

Next, we're in Bogota (I only know this because later on, you have to glance at a T.V screen to find out where the fuck it is which is annoying because this film has been pretty keen with it's hard coded location subtitles, so far) and a big-ass limo pulls up outside what looks like an embassy but is in fact, El Presidente's house palace. A guard at the gate stops the car and asks the driver what he wants. The driver tells him that he has whores in the back for El Presidente and he should be let through. The guard gives him a knowing little nod and a cheeky smile and lets him through with his slutty cargo. Once inside, another guard stops the car and asks what's going on. The driver informs him of the sexy transaction that's about to take place and he lets them in but OH SHIT the driver isn't really a limo driver. He's one of Santos' men and so are the whores! They cap this guard so that Santos and some other guys can get out of the trunk of the car and they all make their way into the building. It's pretty clear what's happening now...except it isn't. There are no subtitles in this scene and your only clue to where they are is the word 'El Presidente' and all the Carry-On nods and smiles concerning the sexy chicks.

'Hi, ladies. Can I see some I.D? Ha-ha, only joking. Just show me your tits'

Inside the building, El Presidente is filming a speech to the Columbian people and you just instinctively know that this guy is a fucking douche box. Meanwhile, Santos and his guys are making steady progress through the house. They come across this hatch in the ceiling which has a set of ladders leading up to it. One of the whores from before who still hasn't changed out of her heels climbs up the ladder and opens the hatch and is greeted by the sight of El Presidente's crotch. She starts unzipping his fly and puts a knife to his balls. El Presidente gets a look on his face like he's used to filming important statements to his people whilst being blown when all of a sudden, Santos and some of his guys burst into the room where the filming is going on and take over the recording. Santos makes a public plea for the U.S to get involved or else he's pretty much fucked. Immediately after this, in the next scene, we see a car carrying some government looking types to this harbour where they board a speedboat and make their way to this little lakeside cabin which I think is supposed to be Camp David or something. There's an old looking guy doing some fishing in this river when he sees the speedboat coming into view and he doesn't look happy that these government men are fucking up his chances of catching some bitching bass.

Inside the cabin, we learn that the old guy who was doing some fishing is the President of the U.S and he's being told about what's happening in Colombia. His advisors are telling him that Santos has acted without any kind of word from the U.S so they don't know why the fuck he's thinking they're going to come and help out. Santos seems like a fairly straight-up dude so I guess he's wondering why they wouldn't come and help. But if we're going to learn anything from this movie, it's that unless it's called 'McBain', it's not coming to help you. Some of the President's advisors seem to think that a rogue CIA agent probably told Santos that he would be guaranteed help but this seems like a really shitty joke, to me; 'Yeah, sure we'll help with your coup. I've got a buddy who can totally help you out with that'. So, the President is told that the U.S can't help because they'll be too busy preparing graphs which seems like bureaucracy gone mad if you ask me. Just send some dudes to help out and chill that situation out. Man, this President is a dick. So, back in Colombia, everything is going to hell. Santos is panicking, no one's coming to help and the army are starting to take Colombian citizens off the street and force them between these tanks where they'll be crushed. Santos can't bear to see this happen so he hands his gun over to El Presidente who promptly shoots Santos in the head on live TV for daring to be a decent guy and not getting blown whenever he's making public addresses.

'Son, this is the expression you'll wear at some point in your life, for a wide variety of reasons. Most of them will involve your penis'

Back in the States, the President is watching events unfold on the news, as is McBain but they're not in the same place or anything. McBain's in this shitty looking cafeteria and the President is still at Camp David. You can't blame McBain for watching this happen because he doesn't know a damn thing about what's going on but the President can't be excused for this shit. He's literally watching Santos get his brains blown out on television while sipping tea. Interestingly, you never see the President again. I guess this is none too subtle hint that you can't trust your government to not sit back and drink tea when you're about to get your head blown off. It's a problem we face all the time. I can totally get behind that. Anyway, McBain recognises Santos getting his brain relocated and starts thumbing through his wallet and finds his half of the $100 bill but it takes him a while to find it which is kind of embarrassing. Back in Colombia, Christina is being given some cash and some other shit by the villagers and sent on her way to the U.S on the back of a donkey. I don't think she goes the whole way on the donkey or anything. She probably catches a plane at some stage because that's a long journey for a donkey. It's not clear whether the donkey goes with her to the States or not. I got kind of concerned because it's a nice donkey. Anyway, she manages to find McBain and presents him with the other half of the bill. McBain tells her that he's been expecting her and they go for a drink at the shitty cafe where McBain tells her a story about the time that he went to Woodstock. This whole section is a little confusing to me. It seems like Christina is telling McBain a very heartfelt story about her brother and the situation in Colombia and McBain can only think to tell her a story about the kick ass time he had at Woodstock. There's probably some historical reference I'm missing here but fuck learning. I don't watch a commando movie to fucking learn. And oh yeah, McBain now has the crazy Walken hair we're all used to seeing. Whether this is a trick to show us that time has passed or not, I don't know. I think the subtitle saying '18 years later' was plenty of notice. So, McBain says that the poultry sum that Christina assembled in the village is bullshit and quite clearly not enough to stage a violent take down in Colombia so he starts to make some phone calls.

The next scene is where we get to catch up with Gil, Eastland and Dalton. Gil is a police officer, Dalton is a surgeon and Eastland is working as a security guard for the head of this shitty corporation that looks like it's exploiting people. Each one of them is shown displaying their intrinsic strengths as characters with Gil mourning the loss of his partner, Dalton frantically trying to save a dying man's life and Eastland letting someone punch fuck into this guy he's supposed to be protecting. Again, it's none too subtle with its messages. I don't know who McBain is calling, by the way. It's obviously these guys but not one of them is near a phone when he's making these calls. The only one who can be contacted at all is Eastland, who has a pager. I guess this makes sense in a way because by the next scene, it's only McBain, Eastland and Christina who have met up to visit Frank Bruce but fuck this movie. I'm not going to let it out-logic me. So, anyway they meet up with Bruce who's now bizarrely wealthy but the film never explains how. He's got fancy looking art hanging up on the walls and a woman swimming in an indoor pool. McBain even mentions that Bruce has four Ferrari's but still calls him out when Bruce doesn't seem interested in joining McBain and his guys in avenging Santos. McBain berates him for being a wet bitch before they leave. Bruce offers McBain some cut price offers on plane transportation to Colombia, though but this seems shitty when you consider that they were all supposed to be friends.

That's not a regular height that someone's waistband should be. Seriously, almost two thirds of his body is trouser.

McBain and Christina have another heart to heart and McBain reassures her that they'll come to Colombia and kill this piece of shit President. McBain tells her to go back to Colombia while he rustles up some cash. McBain goes back to his house where Gil, Eastland and Dalton have stayed the night. They all agree that their defining purposes in life now is to kill the shit out of this El Presidente joker and they agree on a strategy to come up with the cash considering Bruce is being such an asshole about it all. The next scene is this pretty cool take down of this slum building which is being used to sell drugs. McBain and his guys fancy some of the action that's going on in the building so they bust in and start taking out some of the lower level guards while up above, their leader, played by Luiz Guzman, is counting money and sorting out levels of drugs and all that shit. McBain and his boys burst in and immediately shoot this one guy through a window which looks fucking sick, I won't lie. This movie has really schizophrenic levels of violence ranging from sub-standard action fare violence that we're all used to seeing in these types of pictures to really over-the-top, exploding squibs and guys getting pulled out of buildings on wires to simulate the power of a shot gun blast. All the time this is going on, Walken's waistband is getting higher and higher. I think it feeds off the carnage. So, McBain and his guys pull guns on Luiz Guzman who doesn't give a fuck. He knows this game like the back of his hand. Gil makes some comment about the drug guys that they've already wasted and how they sell drugs to kids and they're all pieces of shit. Guzman responds by saying that these guys wouldn't be able to work for minimum wage and that he pays them $200 a day. He also says that they don't sell drugs to kids, just tourists from New Jersey. Basically, Guzman makes a pretty good case for being a drug dealer and the whole scene becomes a bit embarrassing. I don't think this was intentional but that's how it comes across. Guzman goes onto say that the real money is in the hands of the mob and they should go and visit them. McBain steals a hat and sunglasses off this one drug guy that they've killed, asks Guzman this really strange question about his shirt and then leaves. Seriously, he asks him about his shirt.

In the next scene, it's night time and three well dressed guys are walking out of a restaurant and discussing shit loudly and waiting for an attendant to bring round their car. The next thing we see is this garbage truck smashing into their car and McBain and his guys knock two of the suits out and hi-jack the other other. Next thing you know, McBain and his buddies have tied this guy to a chair and then tied the chair to this winch and they're dangling him over the edge of a building. Things get weirder when McBain, now in his stolen hat and sunglasses, adopts this accent which I can't make out where the fuck it's supposed to be from and starts telling this mob boss that it's collection time and he wants $10 million transferred to a Swiss bank account. This entire scene is fucking stupid for a number of reasons; firstly, Chris Walken has three defining characteristics which make him scary. These are, in order, his voice, his hair and his eyes but he goes and fucking covers each one of them up throughout this entire scene. Secondly, after he's concluded his meeting with the mob boss and he tells him to deposit $10 million in a Swiss bank account, McBain and his buddies just up and fucking leave this guy hanging from a winch above the city. No one knows this guy's hanging there. His men don't know he's there, his wife doesn't know he's there. Literally no one knows that this guy is hanging from a winch above New York City. I was under the impression that time is of paramount importance to this operation being successful so you'd think it would be prudent to, say, let the guy down so he can call his bank and have the money transferred. Thirdly, no one else in the gang is bothering with a disguise. Just McBain. Gil has some sunglasses on but I think they were just part of his outfit from the start of the day and I guess now that McBain is wearing sunglasses, Gil doesn't have to feel like such a prick wearing them on an overcast day. The whole thing is dumb as shit.

I'll commend Gil for not going 'double-denim' on us here. That's a tough look to pull off

Loaded up with their drug money (you'd hope), McBain and the gang now need to arrange themselves some transport so they opt to steal one of this Mob guys' planes which ships drugs to the U.S. Meanwhile, in Colombia, Christina is explaining to a load of freedom fighters that they need to clear an airstrip that the Colombian army are guarding or else McBain and the dudes won't be able to land. This airstrip is also the site of a drugs factory which a dude called Escobar owns. Jump back to New York (seriously, this shit's all over the place) and Bruce has met up with McBain again. I don't know why he's there, in all honesty. The last we saw of this guy, he was arranging some flight into Colombia for McBain but that was it. He made his intentions pretty clear and to all intents and purposes, Bruce was no longer part of the equation. I don't know. He's an asshole. This movie is an asshole. Still, Bruce explains that he's got this computer software that can tap into spy satellites and then he asks McBain if he can come along. There's no concession made to soul searching or anything, he literally just asks if he can come. He doesn't make any grand statements about avenging Santos or even liberating Colombia from an oppressive asshole regime, he just wants to come along. This signifies the one and only time in Michael Ironside's cinematic history that his borderline psychosis and rampant blood lust is implied rather than explicitly demonstrated. McBain and the bunch board their plane and set off for Colombia.

We take a quick trip to Colombia where Christina and her fighters are beginning their raid on the air strip so that McBain and co. can land. There's some pretty visceral combat footage which once again proves that if this film were a child, the little bastard would be on enough Ritalin to kill an Ox. On board the stolen mob plane, everything seems to be going ok until some pilots from the Colombian Air Force spot their plane. Bruce radios a pilot friend of his who's escorting their weapons into Colombia and asks them him to come and help out with these three Colombian fighters. Bruce tells McBain that this pilot is the son of a guy who died in Vietnam so he's prepared to break international law and potentially start a war for the right price. So, one of the Colombian pilots flies up alongside McBain's plane and orders them to set down. There then follows a bizarre series of events which kicks off with McBain himself shooting one of the pilots of the fighter jets with a pistol. Through two cockpit windows. At an unspecified altitude. Lets just say their altitude is 'really fucking high up'. It's crazy. Next up, Bruce's pilot friend engages the remaining two Colombian fighters and a bit of a dog-fight ensues. The Colombian pilots fire missiles at our American guy and he has to try and fuck them by flying as high as he can so that the missiles burn out.
This dogfight is pretty good and it momentarily distracts you from this laden piece of shit movie but the harmony is disrupted when it becomes apparent that the the American pilot sounds like he's getting head inside the cockpit. Seriously, listen out for it. It's really uncomfortable. With his balls emptied, our American pilot fires on the remaining Colombian fighters and destroys them.


Now that the aerial combat has finished, McBain orders this American pilot to go and help out Christina and her band of freedom fighters who, to be fair, are having a hard time. There's this one guy who runs up to a tank, puts a grenade down the barrel of its cannon and leaves his hand stuck in there. This is possibly to stop the tank from firing the grenade back out but this really isn't how science works. Shame no one told this little guy about that. With all the guys down below taken out, it's safe for McBain and everyone else to land. Some of the Colombian army guys are still alive and their General or whatever runs away like a cowardly piece of shit to inform El Presidente that there's some bad mother fuckers coming his way. With the group re-assembled, they start to put their plan into operation and make their way to Bogota to kick some ass. The American pilot asks if he can stick around and help out so McBain lets him. They'll probably need a throwaway character to sacrifice later on, anyway.

After a brief, superficial interlude with the U.S President telling the press that America hasn't sent troops into Colombia, we return to El Presidente's office where he's beating the shit out of the General from before who ran away. He's got him tied to a ceiling fan in his office and he's smacking him with a baseball bat which seems a bit brutal, all things considered. El Presidente is interrupted by one of his men who tells him that Escobar is here to see him. Escobar is weird. I can't work out if he's supposed to be South African or what. He has slicked back hair and he's got the air of Bond villain about him but he's not massively important and quite frankly he's turned up too late in this movie for me to give a fuck about him so I won't spend too much time on this prick. He throws this General out of the window and sits down to a drink with El Presidente. In fact, there's two guys who come in and I can't work out which one is Escobar. Fuck it, I don't care, Basically, he threatens El Presidente because he's making a dick out of himself about the Americans and he's threatening to take over their embassy. Escobar doesn't want this to happen because drugs or something. I'm passed giving a shit about this sub-plot.

You've got literally nothing to look this smug about, asshole. Who even are you?!

In the next scene, Blond Escobar is attacking Christina's village for some reason.They fire some rockets and blow some stuff up and then leave. I really don't know why he does this. Anyway, McBain and some of his boys (there's been no mention of them splitting up or anything) show up to help out and Dalton saves a little girl's life. Dalton asks to stay behind and McBain tells him that he can hook up with Christina and Eastland somewhere else (thanks for letting me know, movie). So, Eastland, Christina and Dalton are outside this TV station and they're planning on hi-jacking the airwaves to send out the message to the Colombian people that El Presidente is a dick and they can all rise up and over-throw him. I was getting pissed at this point because Steve James rears up to karate kick the door down to the TV station but Christina stops him. I haven't seen a massive amount of Steve James movies and this will be rectified forthwith but all I've seen the guy in is this and 'I'm Gonna Git You Sucka' and in both films, I've never even seen this guy throw a fucking punch. Ok, so something good has come out of 'McBain'; it's put me on a righteous path to seek out more Steve James. Anyway, back in the movie and Christina has managed to hi-jack the TV station and she's making the impassioned speech I thought she might have done rather than break in so that she can meet some Colombian TV personalities. Her speech is seen by a shit load of people in Colombia and America and it's pretty inspiring to everyone. Elsewhere, McBain, Gil and our Pilot guy from before have broken into this truck depot which houses oil tankers. They steal one and attach detonators to it so they can drive it through the gates of El Presidente's palace. By the time they get there, the military are waiting for them and they blow out one of the tyres on the truck forcing our pilot guy to keep hold of the wheel. It's curtains for Pilot Guy but McBain makes a jump for it and gets out of the truck before it explodes. I don't know where Gil is but he gets out as well. I'm not sure whether he was in the passenger footwell or hanging onto the back of the tanker but he's ok by the time it explodes. With the gates down, McBain and his revolutionaries can storm the palace. The courtyard fire fight is pretty cool and in keeping with the action set pieces in this film but McBain stands with his legs a little bit too far apart at one moment and it kind of ruins the feel.

He kind of leans back, as well which accentuates the waistband. Oh and his dick. Totally his dick

Back in the U.S, the President is giving a speech about how he's changing the currency of the United States into this red, white and blue shit so that the drug dealers can't get a good exchange rate on their existing dollars, or something. I don't know. This really seems like a bizarre safe-guard policy. I half expected this to be some sort of ruse or a dream sequence but I honestly believe it's a serious plot point. Anyway, both blonde and brunette Escobar are unphased by this because they changed their money into Swiss Franc's so they couldn't give a fuck but they get stopped trying to leave the country by some of Christina's rebels. Back at the palace, McBain and his men are making their way towards El Presidente. McBain doesn't want to go through the main door to El Presidente's room, so he opts to stand on a table and go through this little air vent instead. El Presidente is readying himself for the inevitable shit fest he's got coming to him when all of a sudden, McBain has shaken things up and breaks through the ceiling to El Presidente's room and guns him down. This bothered me for a reason I can't quite explain. I know the movie is trying to show me that McBain is cunning dude and that the element of surprise is on his side but he comes through the celing in almost exactly the same place that the air vent is anyway so it doesn't make sense. It's amazing how much subtle set up is needed in a movie to make it all flow in a way that your brain is subconsciously following. It isn't until you see an uncoordinated piece of shit like this that you realise that. Anyway, McBain stands on the balcony overlooking the courtyard as Christina and the others show up. Everyone's happy, Colombia is free of an oppressive tyrant, Walken's waistband is still uncomfortably high.

So yeah, this film is pretty much a piece of shit and that's my honest appraisal. The first third of this movie is boring as fuck and I had a hard time writing about the rest of it because it was essentially joyless. I don't know why Walken agreed to be in this turd. Ironside, I get. He's a decent actor and everything but you're used to seeing him in pieces of shit like this. Not Walken, though. He's usually in more classy joints. It's difficult to work out what this movie is trying to say; on the one hand it's a none too subtle allegory for ineffectual U.S foreign policy and this stands head and shoulders above any other message it's trying get to get across but on the other, it seems to drop its heavy political message round about 30 minutes in. On paper, the movie is an interesting culmination of ideas; war veterans who are bonded by their experiences, come together to avenge the unjust death of one of their colleagues and overthrow a corrupt South American dictatorship but it never really sticks with one particular train of thought. Perhaps if it had at least partially focused on how war can change a man beyond the point of no return then it may have been a more laudable effort. That and not try and convince me that the U.S Government would make multi-coloured money out of unicorn dreams or whatever it is that they were going to do.

So, yeah sorry it took so long. I promise you won't have to wait as long for the next review.

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