Showing posts with label jp simon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jp simon. Show all posts

Mar 24, 2020

THE RIFT (1990)

With a mere two films, director J.P. Simon has done more for my life than other filmmakers who have made actual good films that I liked reasonably well. The first of these discoveries was Slugs, bought on a whim at a local record-and-tape trader I frequented for the sole reason of seeking random and obscure horror films. With the cover art of a dead woman’s bloody face leaning against a bathroom tiled wall, and with a slug right next to her — obviously the culprit — well, I knew I had to have it. And it was a wonderful, slimy mess of a film. At the time, it hadn’t occurred to me to look into Simon’s filmography; instead, I went on my merry way (and probably discovered Tourist Trap).

During this time, while perusing those “bad movie” compilations on YouTube, I became aware of the existence of Pieces, courtesy of Linda Day George’s repeated and increasingly dramatic screaming of “bastard!” into the sky above her. Again, such a fraction of the overall film was enough for me to know it was something I had to have. And I did. I’ve owned Pieces on multiple formats, including Grindhouse Releasing’s recent and beautiful Blu-ray release. It’s one which receives a decent amount of playtime because of how fucking happy it makes me.

Which brings us to The Rift.

Released in 1990 as Endless Descent, The Rift was originally destined for theaters before it did an about-face and instead debuted on video after a very select theatrical release. The finished film is your best explanation of why. The Rift is goofy as hell, but somewhat disappointingly, not as goofy as Simon’s previous goofiness. Ultimately the film falls somewhere into a no-man’s land; not quite dumb enough to be as celebrated as Pieces or Slugs, but certainly not at all good enough to be accepted by both critics and mainstream audiences, The Rift is just kind of there and only occasionally entertaining for all the wrong reasons. (The death scene for “Skeets,” played by John Toles-Bey, is definitely one of the highlights. And don’t start yelling “hey, spoilers!” because this was an ’80s horror film and Toles-Bey is black and them’s the rules.)

As usual, R. Lee Ermey plays a rigid and gruff military man (how non-traditional!) but manages to not come off as poorly as everyone else — and the entire film around him. Simon’s tendency to have actors loop most of their dialogue in post-production hinders nearly every performance, giving it that awkwardness of which only joint Italian/Spanish and American productions were capable. Jack Scalia suffers the most, as every line he recites seems to be tinged with disbelief and near over-enjoyment. Ray Wise is given very little to do except stare intently at a computer screen, at least until the third act, in which he’s…well…given more to do. Where The Rift doesn’t disappoint is with its less than effective employment of practical effects. Shots of the submarine submerged are hilariously model-like, and so many heads get blown off either humans or sea creatures that one can’t help but smile (because one is very sick).

The Rift is every underwater ocean thriller that came before it, taking its cue mostly from ones not-so-memorable. Deep Star Six, Leviathan, mixed with aspects of better sci-fi classics The Thing, Alien, and The Abyss — that’s The Rift. Not as well directed as Slugs (seriously, some of Slugs is downright great!), and lacking the grindhouse nastiness of Pieces, The Rift is a very okay way to spend 82 minutes. It’s hard to say how much rewatchability it has, except for the good parts, and it’s certainly not one of J.P. Simon’s more celebrated titles, but hey, if it makes someone out there as happy as Pieces makes me, then I’m glad for them. Internet high-five.

Not at all a “good” film, but sadly, one that also doesn’t quite scratch that “so bad it’s good” itch like J.P. Simon’s more celebrated titles, The Rift has moments of cheese that nearly reach the heights of bad moviedom. Things to love: the terrible dialogue, awkward performances, do-it-yourself special effects, and obviously nice helping of bloody chunkiness. Things not to love: too-long scenes of people staring dramatically at radar and looking shocked, or half-baked marital distress straight out of The Abyss that’s given very little room to breathe. The Rift is what it is, and what it is ain't great.

Mar 10, 2020

SLUGS (1988)

Never was a horror movie more deliciously cheesy than it was in the ’80s. Delicious, delicious cheese in the form of Slumber Party Massacre, Sleepaway Camp, and Pieces smashed the faces of film-goers everywhere — film-goers who wouldn’t know how good they had it until it was all over.

The ’80s were a time in which horror movies were allowed to be fun. They were filled with inconsequential characters whose first name you would be hard-pressed to remember as they ran from a killer with a drill, or from an animal/insect gone amok, or from what would turn out to be a 13-year-old hermaphrodite with a freaky face and a tiny dingle thing. Plots were allowed to be wildly ludicrous and it was OK to ask the audience that they suspend their disbelief, if only for a couple hours.

Sadly, this period of horror has come to an end, but it’s left in its wake numerous treasures, one of these being the greatest movie of all time to feature an army of slugs destroying the human race, asshole by asshole.

Yes, Slugs. The slugs crawl in, the slugs crawl out, the slugs get in your body, shoot maggots out your eye, and make your face explode.

Slugs is brought to you by the Spanish (particularly J.P. Simon, director of Pieces, and all-around king of ’80s horror). In fact, its release title in Spain during its run was Muerte Viscosa, which translates to “Viscous Death” (haha). The genesis of this production certainly informs the final product — not environmentally so much as aesthetically. Amusingly referred to as the “United Nations” of killer animal movies in one of the audio commentaries included on this release, Slugs features a very diverse cast of different nationalities (most of whom who were dubbed into English, including one very not-British actor suddenly becoming very British).

The plot is quite simple: a small town becomes overrun with carnivorous slugs. Not the sticky, slow, undeadly kind, but the sticky, slow, DEADLY kind.

These slugs first make their presence known by invading the filth-douched basement of Old Man Trash, which is filled with empty pizza boxes and other rubbish he couldn’t be bothered to, ya know, put in a garbage can. It’s this event which puts these slugs on the radar of the film’s main character and hero, hilariously named Mike Brady. Yes, the city health inspector and 1/9th of a Bunch of Brady’s will be the one in the Roy Scheider role as he tears across town trying to get officials to believe that they have a major shark slug problem on their hands.

There’s so much to love and appreciate about Slugs, and some of it’s not even ironic. Sure, it’s easy to laugh at one character, Don, being married to someone who looks much older than him (called “the mother/wife” during another commentary track on this release), and it’s especially easy to guffaw when an old man puts his hand into a slug-infested glove and decides the only way to remove it is to chop off his entire goddamn hand with a hatchet. But in the midst of all this madness, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Slugs is actually kind of well made. With this being a product of the late ’80s, practical effects were the name of the game and handily brought the slugs to life, and their victims to death. The gore gags throughout Slugs are hilarious but undeniably effective. Eyeballs hang out of sockets, faces explode, limbs are hacked off — sounds fun, doesn’t it? Here’s the thing though: IT IS.

Adding to Slugs’ enjoyment is the baffling musical score. The themes beg comparison to the music often found in instructional videos on how to use the card catalogue, or rejected cues from The A-Team. Some themes even end in a triumphant crescendo that should complement an Indiana Jones-ish character jumping off a rocky cliff for the just-out-of-reach vine (or something equally exciting), but instead is used to complement a person getting out of a car, or running into a municipal building. Another theme actually utilizes the sad trombone/wahh-wahhhh-waahhhhhh a la bad jokes from ’50s sitcoms.

Like other films not just in Simon’s career, but also general Italian/Spanish and American joint productions from the ’80s and ’90s, there’s a certain hamfistedness to their plots and a definite, tangible awkwardness to their productions. Simon, for instance, was infamous for having nearly all his actors return during post-production to loop their lines, which offers every scene a subtle offkilterness. And this isn’t a case of Spanish actors’ dialogue being replaced by English-speaking voice-over artists. No, English-speaking actors spoke English during their scenes, but then came back to loop their dialogue again anyway — still in English. Obviously it made sense for Simon to result to this, or else he wouldn’t have done it; the why doesn’t matter — it’s the effect that does. And the effect is total joy.

There are different schools of thought as to what makes a bad horror film “so bad it’s good.” Some people claim to watch Uwe Boll films over and over and laugh with glee, which makes zero sense to me, considering his stuff is basically bottled pain. And that Sharknado nonsense, forget it. That’s not fun. Slugs is fun. Do you know why Slugs is fun? Because Slugs is trying. It’s the ones that try, but still fail spectacularly, that bring about the most joy. That’s really the takeaway: you can’t manufacture bad horror without purposely descending into parody, in the same way you can’t set out to produce a film you know will achieve cult status. You — the royal you, filmmakers everywhere — don’t decide how audiences will react to your film, ironically or otherwise, and you don’t decide if audiences — even a small portion of them (read: cult following) — will love and remember your film for decades after you’ve made it.

This is why tripe like Sharknado isn’t just unfun, but poisonous to the genre. Because Sharknado isn’t trying. Sharknado mugs for the camera and demands Twitter to ask, “How crazy will this get?” Sharknado adds Scott Baio or one of those Wild ‘n Crazy Kids or some other washed-up nobody whose calls are answered only by the Sci-Fi Channel, throws a shark up in the air, and calls it clever. But it’s not, because Sharknado isn’t trying. Sharknado is phoning it in.

Slugs is trying. Slugs just wants to be loved. And it will crawl right down your goddamn mouth to prove it.

Real Facts about Slugs:

  • Slugs are hermaphrodites  and they have their own Facebook identity option.
  • Slugs can stretch to 20 times their normal length and then launch themselves into your soup.
  • Slugs can follow slime trails they left from the night before, just like James Franco.
  • Slugs can follow other slug slime trails in order to find a slug sock hop, your butthole, or another social event.
  • Slug eggs are in the soil just about everywhere, and also in that brownie you’re crunching.
  • Banana slugs are bright yellow, can grow from 8 to 18 inches, and are absolutely fabulous.
  • There are at least 40 species of slugs in the U.S. and they are all behind you. 

Feb 14, 2013


Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.

The saga of Pieces begins in 1942 in Boston. We meet Little Boy, who loves puzzles and reciting “Humpty Dumpty.”

Get it?

His loudly-dressed mother walks into his room, ready to tip her head, exhale happily, and watch her young son assemble a puzzle—a puzzle of... a naked woman?!

How did this young son get this puzzle?

Do puzzles of naked women even exist?

Where can I find said puzzles?

No time for questions as the mother freaks out and slaps Little Boy. Then she takes her craziness one step further and smashes the boy's mirror with a picture frame, and then kicks the puzzle o' tits to...pieces?

"That's NOT how you dance, son..."

"...THIS is how you cut a rug!"

While she begins rifling through his drawers, she orders him to go fetch a bag with which to discard and burn these smutty puzzle pieces, also being sure to call him "stupid," because she is a good mother.

As she busies herself in his toy chest, looking for more forbidden objects, Little Boy walks up behind her and wields a large axe. She turns and gasps as Little Boy bounces the obviously rubber axe against her head a few times, opening up her face like a Rutgers gal opens up her vagina.

The phone begins to ring, which Little Boy promptly ignores. There are pressing matters at hand, after all: matricide.

Meanwhile, a nosy busy-body has grown tired of ringing the doorbell and calling the house with her touch-tone phone (wait, isn't this 1942?) in a vain attempt to keep some sort of appointment with the now deceased vagina-faced woman, so she goes to fetch the police.

But don’t worry!

Little Boy has plenty of time to slowly handsaw his mother’s body into…pieces?

Two cops, one sporting an awesome caterpillar mustache, bust into the room with the old busy-body close behind them. They see that the room is covered in bloody blood, and an axe lies on the ground in the sea of gore. The cops see the mom’s mutilated body and, instead of pulling out their guns, they opt to walk directionless around the room, touching all the evidence. Mustache man opens one closet to reveal...the mother's head!

"Johnson, what the fuck is that on your face?"

The cops barely react and open another closet to reveal Little Boy, caked in blood. 

“Mommy!” he calls, easily fooling the policemen into thinking he had hidden from the “real” killer. 

One cop comforts the blood-douched boy as we…flash forward FORTY YEARS LATER.

The killer still lurks, only now he is old and wears gloves. He’s also still infatuated with the same naked woman puzzle. When his murderous ways are re-awakened, he'll routinely add...pieces? it after each murder. While I’m not sure why, I am sure that I don’t care, because this movie is too hilarious.

The killer's thirst for bloodshed is awakened by a stupid college girl accidentally skateboarding through a large mirror being schlepped by two movers ('member? Cuz his wacko jacko mother smashed his mirror after seeing his masturbatory puzzle?). Upon seeing his reflection shatter to...pieces?...he immediately makes a long over-due kill, decapitating a girl with his chainsaw.

Crusty Lieutenant Bracken and Sergeant Holden show up to investigate this bawdy murder of a girl in broad daylight with a loud weapon that no one managed to witness. But don’t worry, despite the murder, a group of students still find time to stand around and discuss the new waterbed recently installed on campus(?). One strange girl takes it one strange step further: "The most beautiful thing in the world is...smoking...pot and...fucking on a water bed at the same time."

Said girl goes on to harass one Professor Brown, seemingly blazed out of her skull as she asks him if her breasts are funny looking.

Oh gosh, looks like we have our first red-herring: Professor Brown, a boring man made uncomfortable by the sexuality of girls.

Later, Professor Brown answers questions, lobbed at him by the suspicious Bracken and Holden. When Brown questions the motives behind some of the cops’ inquiries, Holden responds, “We’re just buying clothes without labels here, trying them on to see what fits.”

Holden is deep.

Willard's decision to up his masturbation to three
times a day did wonders for his disposition.

Then we meet our next red herring: Willard, the landscaper. He is a large, beefy man with a thick beard who grins deviously and polishes his chainsaw out in plain view of everyone, even after the chainsaw murder of a girl.

But that's not important, because we have to gear up to meet the coolest guy on the planet; the cream of the crop, the big man on campus: KENDALL. He's so cool that his name cannot merely be said, but SHOUTED.

KENDALL wears tacky sweaters and somehow manages to gets his dick wet more than Michael Phelps.

A random girl, Susan, throws KENDALL a note across the table, but then says aloud anyway, “I want to fuck you under water, meet me at the pool,” and leaves the library.

Does KENDALL go and “tap that?” No, he slips on his glasses and goes back to studying. But you know who does go and "tap that?" The killer, who opts to "tap that" girl's face against his chainsaw.

Susan catches up with her friends on the way to the pool, and in order to remind you of the initial red herring, decides to harass Professor Brown with her friends as he walks by…again.

“HOW’D YA LIKE TO MAKE IT WITH HIM, SUSAN?” one of her bitchy girlfriends asks, loud enough to wake the dead.

Susan waves them away and descends to the pool, where she tediously strips down and dives in. The killer then uses a pool skimmer to ensare Susan's head (haha) and pulls her out.

He picks up his trusty chainsaw, taking up so much time to do it that she could have easily escaped, and cuts her to...pieces?

He then carries his prize in a wet, bulgy sat back to his lair and places them in his walk-in freezer.

Like all true puzzle masters, he was saving the vagina for last.

In a sudden and unexpected turn of events, Willard has been pegged as the killer and is captured in some kind of sting operation by Bracken and Holden. Incidentally, KENDALL gets wrapped up in this himself when he opts to go take Susan up on her hot fuck offer after all, and goes to the pool. And while it usually doesn't take long for the K-Man to find the vagina, this time he probably slipped on it. Eww, like, OMG.

Once Willard is in custody, Bracken and Holden ask Professor Brown if the blood-caked chainsaw found right next to the dead girl who was chainsawed apart was, indeed, the weapon that the killer used.

Professor Brown states, “I’m no pathologist…”

For those not in the know, Bracken + Holden + Brown = 3 boners.

Bracken and Holden enlist the help of college stag man KENDALL and Mary, a tennis pro and cop to keep an eye out for more piecery. KENDALL remains undercover as a horny college student and Mary agrees to go undercover as a tennis instructor.

And just when you think the excitement quota has been met, we meet the dance troop! These girls love to wear leotards and dance in formation.

Are they just doing aerobics?

Are they choreographing a new dance number?

Is this hot in the least?

The answers are: probably, who knows, and not at all.

But you know who does think it’s hot? The Killer, and he shows up to watch, his shadow a spitting image of Dick Tracy’s, which takes away drastically from his ominous presence.

The girls take a break and one of them uncharacteristically tells her instructor that she “has to go to the john.”

Later, said girl will practice by herself late at night. Also, later, she’ll be sawed apart.

"Thank God for these murders," declared Dr. Jones,
knowing his bullwhip-swinging antics would now go
unnoticed by the Department of Archeology.

It's worth noting that each time there is a simulated chainsaw attack, the saw itself is never actually running, so really, the onscreen action consists of a man dressed in a black hat knocking stiff, dumpy limbs off girls with a smoking but motionless chainsaw. It’s still terrifying, though. Terrifying in the sense that it’s ridiculous.

Speaking of a chainsaw attack, Girl from Dance Troupe decides that there is more to life than dancing, and she packs up her dance bullshit to leave. She steps onto the elevator and is about to ascend until Darkman himself shows up, wearing his typical garb and gets on with her. She stands awkwardly as the killer literally hides his chainsaw behind his back. He then stops the elevator and reveals his intentions to her.

Dumpy limb-flying ensues.

Bracken and Holden show up to the crime scene, mutter some eighty-year-old cop expressions ,and continue their long running joke of the latter denying the former a match because he doesn’t smoke. The only problem with this joke is that this entire movie is a bigger joke, so it passes by largely unnoticed.

KENDALL, meanwhile, has found another girl with whom to have sex, and as he leaves her bed to investigate some strange goings-on outside the window, she begs him in an ungodly manner to have even more sex. She even offers to be gagged after KENDALL tries to shush her by telling her that she's "too god damned loud."

Jesus, KENDALL, what is your secret?

Meanwhile, Mary stumbles across the dark campus, as if waiting for someone to jump out and attack her. Someone does. BRUCE LEE!! Or at least someone who looks drastically like him. Lee performs a series of “secret chink stuff,” aka ass-kicking kung fu!

Mary, helpless despite the fact that she is a cop, throws herself to the ground to try to ward off this unwarranted and completely baffling attack. Just as Lee is about to open up a rice container of kick-ass moves, letting out the usual "whoops" associated with martial arts, KENDALL shows up out of nowhere, confused and handsome. KENDALL quickly explains that Lee is just Chow, the campus “kung fu professor.” Yes, a professor of kung fu. 

Upon being asked about his attack, Chow claims to have eaten “some bad Chop Suey.” He then descends into the darkness, allowing the thick cloud of horribly offensive stereotypes to whither and diffuse into the night air.

Why did that scene just take place?

I'll tell you why!


"And hanging from the door handle was a TURD."
"God, Gary—tell it right."

Later, marching band fanfare blasts from the campus audio system, a ploy the killer used to muffle the sound of latest attack.

KENDALL finds the poor girl sawed to bits and waits outside the locker room crime scene for Mary to show up. Mary goes in, sees the ooey-gooey mess and comes back. She then delivers the most overly-dramatic and overly-cheesy monologue I’ve ever seen in a movie. To watch it is to be convinced that it’s some kind of joke:

KENDALL, pitching in when needed, helps Holden go through files in the campus basement as the two snack on food from Wendy’s. In fact, every scene these two share together has either or both characters grasping a Biggie with the Wendy’s label clearly visible as they discuss crucial plot points, though I sincerely doubt a family restaurant contributed money to a movie about a killer who mutilates girls and is obsessed with vaginas.

But, whatever, it’s good for a laugh, because, what the fuck—Wendy’s?

Oh crap, looks like the Dean is actually the killer. Seeing as how he was the only character in this movie not to be painted as cartoonishly evil or overly aloof (or given any kind of development at all), this comes as the kind of surprise that I like to call "not a surprise."

"Sorry boys, auditions are over.
We gave the part to Eric Stoltz."

The Dean, seeing that Mary is asking him increasingly meddling questions, poisons her coffee, and she drinks it. Then Mary asks more questions.

The Dean, not knowing what to do now that his few drips of poison have failed him, spastically offers Mary more coffee...and adds even more poison.

Jeez, the Dean; done this before?

The poison finally works and it paralyzes her. Unable to move, Mary must be forced to watch as the Dean stares at her and then removes her shoes to heavily pet her feet and moan.

Bracken, Holden, and KENDALL break into the Dean’s office, themselves finally realizing that he is the killer. The Dean hides behind a curtain as KENDALL tries to move Mary around the room to stimulate her paralyzed muscles.

Bracken and Holden, the worst cops ever, unrealistically leave the room, because unbeknownst to them, the Dean is there still, hiding, and Mary can’t say shit about it!

Don’t worry, though, because Bracken randomly walks back in the room and shoots the Dean in slow motion as he is trying to stab KENDALL.

The end.

Or is it?

While I usually just give away major plot points and resolutions in movies because I just don’t care, the very end of this movie is magically bizarre and no one should ever ruin it. For a spoilery description of the end of this film, highlight the black patch:

Sergeant Holden makes a wise comment as he leans on a bookcase, which he inadvertently pushes in to reveal a secret nook. The other side of the bookcase spins out, revealing the dean’s true jigsaw puzzle: a dead puzzle girl. A little later, the dead puzzle girl, clearly dead, lies on the ground under a coroner's sheet. Seems to signify the end of the movie, doesn't it?. But wait! As Kendall reaches over the dead puzzle girl’s body for his jacket, her hand suddenly shoots up from under the sheet and rips KENDALL's dick and balls off for absolutely no reason. 

And thus ends Pieces, the first of what will eventually be many weird, unintentionally hilarious offerings from Juan Piquer Simón, aka J.P. Simon. Yes, years before your Jigsaw/Saw bullshit, the Dean was making puzzles of his own.

Puzzle girls.

Or something.