Dec 19, 2011

UNSUNG HORRORS: RAVENOUS

Every once in a while, a genuinely great horror movie—one that would rightfully be considered a classic, had it gotten more exposure and love at the box office—makes an appearance. It comes, no one notices, and it goes. But movies like this are important. They need to be treasured and remembered. If intelligent, original horror is supported, then that's what we'll begin to receive, in droves. We need to make these movies a part of the legendary genre we hold so dear. Because these are the unsung horrors. These are the movies that should have been successful, but were instead ignored. They should be rightfully praised for the freshness and intelligence and craft that they have contributed to our genre.

So, better late than never, we’re going to celebrate them now… one at a time.

Dir. Antonia Bird
1999
Fox
United States

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster…"
- Friedrich Nietzsche
"Eat me."
- Anonymous

I’m not sure how a movie like Ravenous ever received a wide release. It surely wouldn't today – not even with more immense star power. The film’s budget was a moderate one, being estimated at just twelve million (in late 90s terms), and despite the relatively low budget, the film was a box office disaster upon its release. It received warm notices from critics, notably Roger Ebert, who called it “clever in the way it avoids most of the clichés of the vampire movie by using cannibalism, and most of the clichés of the cannibal movie by using vampirism. It serves both dishes with new sauces.”

I applaud FOX for releasing the film, for today they are a studio known as troublesome and bullying; they have gained a reputation for meddling in the productions of some of their tent pole films, neutering some of their harder franchises (Alien, Die Hard ) for the PG-13 crowd, and for being unreasonably fan unfriendly. How a movie like Ravenous ever managed to slip past their radar I’ll never know, but I’ll be forever grateful it did.


Ravenous was one of Guy Pearce’s immediate post-L.A. Confidential roles, and it was certainly a bold one to take on. There is very little dialogue for his character (he does not utter a full onscreen line of dialogue for nearly the first third of the movie), and his role as Captain Boyd, the disgraced war hero of the Mexican-American War, did not stand a chance against Robert Carlyle’s truly maniacal Colqhoun. The role of Boyd is understated and unorthodox – for much of the film he is a weakling coward, and then later, something comparable to a drug addict desperate for a fix.

But make no mistake – this movie belongs to Robert Carlyle. Had Ravenous received more attention upon its release, Carlyle would have certainly been nominated for Best Actor/Supporting Actor (and why couldn't he? Another famous cannibal was honored just eight years prior). His portrayal as the two-faced Colqhoun alernates from helpless and terrified to downright bloodthirsty and savage. Trainspotting’s Begby (another Carlyle role) does not hold a candle.

The rest of the cast is comprised of recognizable and respectable character actors (another detractor in the weird world of cinema, where money talks and bullshit walks). Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ) plays Colonel Hart (ho ho), the even-tempered and fatherly leader of the U.S. Army outpost where the bulk of the film takes place. He reads world literature, eats walnuts, and has graciously accepted his niche as keeper of a bunch of misfits. This role could have easily been written as the typical overbearing army superior fuckhead, but it wasn’t, and Jones bring a real humanity to what could have been a one-note role. Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan ) plays Private Toffler, a possibly autistic, God-loving ball of nervousness. Neal McDonough (Minority Report ) plays Private Reich, and despite his short crop of screaming blonde hair, he fits right into the role of the soldier with far too much testosterone and very little reason. Finally, David Arquette plays Private Cleaves, and despite being fresh off the success of 1996’s Scream, his part is minor and perhaps underwritten.


Our plot is a relatively simple one: During the Mexican-American war, Captain Boyd fakes dying during battle in order to spare his life. He is thrown into a pile of dead bodies – at the very bottom – and has no chance at escaping, due literally to the dead weight piled above him. However, blood from his commanding officer’s “half shot-off head” leaks into his mouth, and he gains the strength to crawl out from under the dead and take out several enemy soldiers. He is hailed a hero, but military superiors know the truth of his cowardice. He is banished to Fort Spencer under the guise of being promoted, and here he remains with the above-mentioned characters until someone comes calling late one night – someone with tales of wintry survival and inhuman appetites.

A strange man named Colqhoun collapses just outside the fort’s main cabin, freezing from the cold, and ready to drop dead from malnourishment. He is brought inside and cared for by the fort’s occupants. He soon awakens with quite a story:
We left in April. Six of us in all: Mr. MacCready and his wife, from Ireland. Mr. Janus – from Virginia, I believe – with his servant, Jones. Myself. And our guide: a military man, coincidently. A Colonel Ives. He professed to know a new, shorter route through the Nevadas. Quite a route that was. Longer than the normal one. Impossible to travel. We worked very, very hard. By the time of the first snowfall we were still one hundred miles from this place. That was November. Preceding though the snow was futile. We took shelter in a cave. Decided to wait until the storm had passed. The storm did not pass. The trails soon became impossible, and we had run out of food. We ate the oxen. All the horses. Even my own dog. And that lasted us about a month. After that, we turned to our belts, shoes, and roots we could dig up... but, you know, there's no real nourishment in those. We remained famished. The day that Jones died I was out collecting wood. He had expired from malnourishment. And when I returned, the others were cooking his legs for dinner. Would I have stopped it had I been there? I don't know. But I must say. When I stepped inside that cave... the smell of meat cooking... I thanked the Lord! I thanked the Lord!
He goes on to explain that the consumption of human flesh gave him almost supernatural strength…and unnatural appetites. These words give Boyd pause, as he remembers his own experience on the battlefield — when all seemed lost until dripping blood from the corpses above him gave him unnatural strength…

Colqhoun, we soon come to realize, is not who he seems, and when the men trek to the cave to search for survivors, he reveals his true face. With the help of a buried dagger, he picks off the men one-by-one, leaving Boyd for dead. Out of desperation, Boyd slices off some of Private Reich’s dead flesh, gaining enough strength to make it out of the wilderness and return to Fort Spencer. As does Colqhoun…under the guise of Colonel Ives, one of the alleged murdered. No one believes Boyd’s wild stories about murder and cannibalism and he is shackled.


One of the fort’s occupants, Martha (a Native American), warns Boyd that the only way to defeat a wendigo – an evil force that devours men and absorbs their spiritual and physical strength – is to “give” … because all the wendigo does is “take.”

At movie’s end (this should come as no surprise, but, spoiler), Boyd and Colqhoun battle to the death by falling into an awaiting bear trap, which snaps them both together, six-inch spikes stabbing into their flesh. Boyd is victorious, having “given” his life to stop Colqhoun from “taking” further lives. Before he dies, Colqhoun challenges Boyd: “If you die first, I am definitely going to eat you. But if I die first, what will you do?”

What Boyd chooses is ultimately left ambiguous, but I think it’s safe to say he opts to fast.

At the end of the day, the plot of Ravenous is gleefully and unashamedly stupid – it amounts to no more than a bunch of men stabbing each other, getting blood all over pretty much everything, and eating human flesh. The movie really just wants to have fun, and that it does. Director Antonia Bird knows the movie’s true strengths lie in the atmosphere that can be created – that of a stark winterscape draping across a barren military outpost. Despite this – and as unusual as it may sound – none of the murder and the mayhem ever feels mean-spirited. If made today by a different director, the movie would be a bloody show set in dingy basements or laboratories. Men would be locked into rooms and forced to eat each other. And there would be no humor in the proceedings at all. And this is where Ravenous truly shines.


The onscreen events are horrifying – not just the notion of death, but of your earthly body being consumed after you check out – but director Bird keeps the levity going. And she was smart to. (Credit must also be given to screenwriter Ted Griffin, who would go on to write more straightforward comedies like Ocean’s Eleven, Tower Heist, and Rumor Has It…) Most of the humor comes from the wry dialogue between the characters, but also from the film’s score by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn (a rare foray into film music from the frontman of Blur and Gorillaz). Hillbilly fiddles play as Colqhoun chases Private Toffler through the woods with a dagger, ordering him to “run;" poorly performed military music squeaks in the beginning of the film, during which a hundred men sit down to their post-war meals of bloody steaks, showing just how ridiculous it all really is. The musical score utilizes found audio, native vocalizations, and wildly diverging tones to create one of the most frenetic (and frankly, best) film scores I’ve ever heard. It effortlessly rotates between goofy, to dreamlike, to pulse pounding, to downright creepy.

And creepy the movie is.

Colqhoun’s descent into newfound madness, and his frenzied digging at the dirt where his dagger is buried; the rapidly increasing cuts that begin when Boyd and Reich descend into the cave; the close-up shot of Reich's dead and dirt/blood-covered grinning face, tinted blue under the light of the moon – it's all incredibly and effectively unnerving, even on repeated viewings.

As for the movie’s “moral”? Take your pick: During the film, Colqhoun muses on the idea of manifest destiny—of the infant country’s citizens as they expand across the land with their voracious appetites. And while they are consuming the natural resources of the country, in the end, it is the country that is consuming them. Meanwhile, the backdrop of the movie is set against the Mexican-American war, yet another conflict involving stolen land and the United States, who in an effort to consume even more territory and grow stronger, killed a lot of their own men in the process. And lastly, there is the Native American element (two of whom live in Fort Spencer), and worn of the “wendigo.” Interesting that this warning would come from them, being that it was their people who were displaced when our ships first breeched their shores so many years ago – in an effort to consume, dominate, and grow stronger.

"McDONOOOOOOUUUUUUUGH!!!!!!"

Most importantly, however, is that Ravenous is just a great movie, whether or not you want to dig beyond the surface and examine the themes below. It boasts great performances, great atmosphere, and amazing music. The red stuff flies, as do limbs and bones. The chemistry between the cast is pitch perfect, and it's truly a shame this movie was not more appreciated upon its initial release.

Dec 15, 2011

THEIR STRICT ATTENTION


What sick ridiculous puppets we are
and what a gross little stage we dance on.
What fun we have dancing and fucking.
Not a care in the world.
Not knowing that we are nothing.
We are not what was intended.



If we don't, remember me.

Dec 13, 2011

GHOST PHOTOGRAPHY: PART II

“Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving.”
- Mark Twain







Dec 12, 2011

SHITTY FLICKS: FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY

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.


In 1957, a legend was born; a pint-sized legend that rocked a white suit, triumphed against adversity, and wooed the ladies. His hair was as black as squid ink, his smile glinted like the afternoon sun, and his nipples were the size of silver-dollar pancakes.

He came, he saw, he littled. And in 1992, he died of bad crab.

But in between those two history-changing years, he became an action-star sensation in his native homeland of the Philippines, and his presence in the film community carved a never-fading presence and laid root to his still-celebrated career.

Weng Weng: He's armed, dangerous,
and fits into most overhead storage compartments.

1981’s For Your Height Only would be one of two (possibly more) films in which Weng Weng would play a fun-size James Bond-ish super spy known as Agent 00. This role would continue in 1982’s The Impossible Kid (as well as in 1981’s Agent 00, which may or may not exist).

For Your Height Only begins with a montage of the main Weng in action, grasping weapons, jumping off rooftops, and being an all-around tiny bad ass. Once the montage ends, the plot picks up with the kidnapping of the brilliant Dr. Kohler by a Filipino mob for nefarious purposes, namely his formula for the A-bomb. Details of the kidnapping are relayed to Mr. Giant, the shadowy leader of the crime syndicate, by his number 2, Mr. Keiser. They speak through a special blinky mirror/intercom thing, leaving Mr. Giant faceless and mysterious (and with perfect voice dubbing).

Meanwhile, Weng Weng lounges by the pool, wearing a yellow terry-cloth robe and far-too-large sunglasses. His secret spy watch strapped to his tiny doll wrist begins blinking, so he leaves his bikinied company behind him.

On his way through the parking lot to wherever he is heading, he spies the attempted assassination of Irma, a local beauty who states that her refusal to join Mr. Giant’s crime syndicate for purposes of prostituting herself and peddling drugs has led to multiple attempts on her life.

After sending the assassin scurrying, Weng Weng and Irma begin an everlasting partnership for the next 82 minutes.

Weng Weng pumps his mini legs over to the syndicate’s crime compound and begins his assault of little kicks into the knees and genitals of many henchmen. Irma, however, prefers to go for the Adam’s apple, which she does frequently with many men.

Apart, Weng Weng and Irma are soldiers on a quest for justice, but together, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Together, they also equal about ¾ of an actual human man.

They corner one of the henchmen and demand to know where to find Columbus, one of the bosses of the syndicate.

"Talk, or you’ll eat lead!" orders Weng Weng, his dubbed voice akin to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s take on Truman Capote.

Having been told of Columbus' whereabouts (at a nearby hotel), Irma enters and pretends to offer herself to him. During this womanly deception, Junior Mint-sized Weng Weng crawls in through her legs and slides across the floor, out of view of the boss. Columbus, a bald, Morgan Freeman-looking fellow, gets up from the bed, his gun drawn, ready to shoot Irma. Weng Weng suddenly kicks himself across the floor in a glorious slide and takes a single shot, killing Columbus and knocking his own head on the wall behind him.

"Ow, my tiny head!" cries Weng Weng, grasping his softball-sized skull.

Too little for a regular bed and too big for a doll bed,
Weng Weng was forced to sleep on the floor.

Later, Weng Weng goes to see a peer at his spy agency, who shows him a series of “new gadgets” to add to Weng Weng's arsenal: a gold ring that detects ALL poisons, a necklace tracking device, a very tiny machine gun, an Uncle Sam hat that ejects a dangerous blade, an ordinary-looking pen that fires bullets, a belt-buckle filled with various tools, and lastly, X-Ray sunglasses.

"I like the way you pay attention," he oddly states to Weng Weng, as he continues to tediously explain each weapon and what it does, trying best to remember all of his lines for this long, uninterrupted scene.

On his way out, Weng Weng tries out the X-Ray specs on the two cute receptionists, getting a good giggly look at their privates. Weng Weng is both a super spy and pervert. Do not bring him home to mother, unless you need the chimney cleaned.

While Irma successfully infiltrates the crime syndicate as a new member (and I have no idea how this was possible being that both Weng Weng and Irma had previously stormed their compound and killed one of the bosses), Weng Weng meets with a random woman on whom we have no information at all.

"I like ‘em little," states the woman as Weng Weng smiles. As his head is turned, the woman dumps poison into his Coke (Weng Weng’s drink of choice), and leaves him. Luckily, Weng Weng’s spanking new ring detects the poison immediately. Not caring that he was almost killed, Weng Weng drinks his remaining Coke from the bottle, and does not apprehend the woman that tried to poison him.

Say, what was that all about?

No time to explain; it's time for Weng Weng’s shirtless scene!

Ladies, clench those legs!

Irma spots the syndicate’s plot to smuggle bags of cocaine out of the country hidden in loafs of bread.

"There’s lots of dough in this dough! The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker!" Mr. Keiser emphatically exclaims, sounding like a hard-boiled private eye from the American 1930s.

Meanwhile, Weng Weng follows Irma’s tracking device necklace to their location and hides under the table. As the men continue their drug-smuggling operation just mere inches away, he hammers on their feet, and the men make extremely over-the-top gorilla “ouch” faces. Weng Weng then springs into action and very lightly hits each of them on the head with a bread pan, knocking them out.

Later, yet another boss, Cabbie (whom I have taken the liberty of naming myself, because I’m pretty certain the movie did not), demands to know how that "little midget" grew wise to their scheme. Someone suggests that a spy might be in their gang, but that idea is quickly and thankfully discounted for absolutely no reason.

The next afternoon, Weng Weng and Irma walk through the park hand-in-hand as she relays new information to him.

"I worry for you," says Irma in a motherly tone. "Maybe we should work together to infiltrate Mr. Giant's hideout." And then she wonderfully adds: "But you’re such a little guy, though; very petite, like a potato."

"Let’s go," Weng says, cutting her off immediately, the movie’s awful editing making it seem like he does not care for the analogy.

That night, the syndicate sweats a local businessman out of his collection of gold at one of their hideouts. The businessman, dubbed by a smarmy Frenchman, sits nervously on a crate.

Weng Weng, again following the lead from Irma, tosses a gas bomb and takes care of all the henchmen, freeing the businessman easily.

Another plot foiled by the half-pint super spy!

Spotted by members of the crime syndicate, a chase gives way in the street as Weng Weng flees in itty bitty terror. Weng Weng tosses his special hat, which hovers around the henchmen and scares them all off. The hat returns to its owner and drops on the smiling head of Weng Weng.

In yet another scene where one would assume that Irma’s cover was blown, her and Weng Weng flee from several of the henchmen following her.

"I’ll meet you later at the discothèque!" Weng shouts as the two separate. He then serves up a kid’s meal of whoop-ass, elbowing and kicking and stamping genitals like he was born to do.

Weng Weng's favorite defensive move: The Kickstand.

Weng Weng goes back to his apartment, but runs afoul of an assassin waiting in the lobby, a gun hidden in his umbrella. The assassin is easily defeated by Weng Weng, but his team of henchmen pursue him. As some of the assassin’s henchmen run up a stairwell, Weng Weng suddenly launches at them from off-screen and impossibly high, obviously being thrown by some off-camera grips. His football-sized body somehow hurtles the men to the floor, and he punches them into darkness with his fists of fury.

Weng Weng then bursts into a random room in which a hot little thing lies relaxing on the bed. Before planning a masterful escape from her balcony, he runs over to the bed and lays on this complete stranger a very intoxicating kiss. It’s so hot that they both keep their eyes open the whole time and stare at each other, as the girl’s hand delicately caresses Weng Weng’s teensy head. He then jumps off the balcony of the apartment, and using the assassin’s umbrella, softly floats to the rooftop of a jeep below.

On the way down, and shot from afar, we are treated to the sight of a very fake Weng Weng dummy attached to an umbrella as it floats to the ground, the "body" swinging haphazardly this way and that.

As promised, Weng Weng and Irma rendezvous at the discothèque, and upon exiting, attract the attention of some of the henchmen.

"Where’s that little midget?" asks one of the men.

"Probably hiding in her handbag," answers one of the men.

You laugh (or not), but it’s entirely plausible.

After getting dropped off by a taxi, Irma is kidnapped by the henchmen, apparently FINALLY seeing that it was her leaking the information about their shady dealings, and she alerts Weng Weng via the tracking device in her necklace. The boss, spotting the blinking red light in her necklace (good one, super secret intelligence agency), rips it from her neck and orders she be taken to Mr. Giant.

The boss uses the tracking device in a trap for Weng Weng and corners him in a warehouse.

"Where’s Irma?! TALK!" Weng Weng shouts, although it sounds an awful lot like:

"Where’s Irma?! FUCK!"

Weng Weng is tied up and one of the henchmen amusingly places Weng Weng very carefully in a tiny box as if he were the newborn Jesus.

Mr. Keiser communicates via blinky mirror with Mr. Giant, who sounds like he was dubbed by a middle-aged British man, and Mr. Giant says he would be pleased to have an interrogation session with Agent 00.

Not one to give up, Weng Weng uses a handy tool from his belt buckle that burns an escape hatch in the side of the box, and he easily dispatches the henchmen guarding (read: sitting on) his box.

One by one, henchmen are punched, kicked, and/or have poison darts blown into their throats, as Weng Weng gets closer to JUSTICE.

"He’s as slippery as an eel! How do you hold onto an eel?" Cabbie demands to know. "I declare war on that little stinker!"

Weng continues to cut a swath of justice on his mission to free Irma, masterfully shooting each henchman with a single bullet. He finally crosses paths with Cabbie, three times sliding across the floor and firing his gun. Out of bullets, it looks like Weng Weng may be visiting that tiny men's suit store in the sky, but as Cabbie continues to balk, Weng slides his not-so-ordinary pen into his hand from his sleeve and quickly shoots Cabbie.

The next day, Weng Weng infiltrates yet another crime compound and continues his no-holds-barred assault on the axis of evil. Weng Weng literally grabs a henchman’s gun and beats him to death with it, before firing the gun itself at a nearby guard tower’s henchman and being blown back by the gun’s trajectory.

Get it?

Cuz he’s got the stature of a baby.

Weng Weng’s tiny machine gun serves up a cold dish of MURDER to each henchman unfortunate enough to cross his path. The magic gun fires automatic rounds as well as tiny bombs, and makes short work of the way-too-many henchmen. One of those men stalks slowly down a walkway, waiting for Weng Weng to show his face...who then surprisingly does, bursting out of some bushes!

With a BOOO-I-I-N-G noise to punctuate his appearance, "kind-of-a-boner" Weng Weng shouts "here I am!" and shoots the man.

CUT TO THE DISCOTHEQUE!

Weng Weng rendezvous with another agent named Anna, also dubbed with a British voice, and collects information on Mr. Giant. During their meeting, Anna’s very rude male companion drunkenly orders her back to their table. Weng Weng then slaps this rude man into unconsciousness for close to a half hour.

"Well, hello there, little one. From what
summer camp do you hail?"

Later, at Anna’s apartment, she thanks Weng Weng’s chivalry with a bit of nookie. In a scene that must have been over-dubbed while the sound technician's supervisor was on vacation, the following exchange takes place:
Anna: You’re a great person, you know.

Weng Weng: [very rushed] You know what they say, it ain’t the size, it’s the way you use it.

Anna: Maybe, but are you a sexual animal?

Weng Weng: I dunno.

Anna: I’m crazy about you, Agent 00. Why? I dunno. Maybe it’s the way you strut your stuff. Sex is like tequila. Take one sip, and you’re a goner.

Weng Weng: Shall we get it on?

Anna: Yes, darling. Bare your bod.
Seriously, there’s no way that was ever in the original script, despite how goofy the movie has been up to this point. That’s just too weird.

Sound technician whose supervisor was on vacation: I applaud you.

After the coitus, Weng Weng slides on his snappy Uncle Sam, blade-emitting hat, breaks into yet another secret location, and finds a map detailing the location of Mr. Giant, Irma, and… Dr. Kohler!

You COMPLETELY forgot about him, didn’t you?

So did I!

Weng Weng infiltrates Mr. Giant’s secret hideout on an island with the aid of Weng’s newest gadget: a jetpack! As Weng Weng wobbles back and forth on his way over the crevice and onto the island, one wonders how these genius filmmakers were able to make the strings attached to the jetpack only kind of visible, instead of obnoxiously visible.

Weng Weng FINALLY meets the infamous Mr. Giant, another midget who is still taller than Weng himself. The two midgets throw wee punches and little kicks, before the fight ends with little-person grappling and a puny gun firing mini bullets into Mr. Giant’s not-so-giant torso.

MINI DANCE PARTY!!

Meanwhile, Weng Weng’s unit storms the location and kills hundreds of henchmen all dressed in red-crested sweaters and matching berets.

Weng Weng frees Irma and Dr. Kohler as the henchmen continue to easily catch bullets in their bellies.

Know who else catches a bullet in the belly?

Irma.

"Irma!" Weng Weng shrieks, struggling to lift her heavy body to him. She dies, her last words being, “Mission accomplished!”

The movie ends with Weng Weng saluting a grave that’s assumed to be Irma’s, but whose name is blocked by flowers because they were most likely filming guerrilla style in a local cemetery.

Weng Weng may have loved and lost, but his fight isn’t over. He has many more enemies to overcome, ladies to bed, and tiny to be, and his presence in film history has only just begun.



Dec 5, 2011

SHITTY FLICKS: CHOPPING MALL

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.


Robots.

Are you scared yet?

Well, you should be.

The robots are coming, people. Whether along the lines of that maid from "The Jetsons" who will strangle you with its metal claws, or even in the form of an advanced bathroom scale that convinces you you’re not overweight until you eat yourself to death, robots are going to be the human race’s undoing.

This is why Chopping Mall is so terrifying. It’s a robot killing teenagers. In a mall. A mall of teenagers and robots. Seriously, is there anything more terrifying?

The movie opens with a leather-clad thief smashing the display case of several jewels. The thief, having collected his night’s pay in the form of glinty rock, strolls through the mall.

And then the hum of little robot feet soon cuts through the air.

Security robots? What's next, a black president?

“STOP. RIGHT. THERE,” the robot demands. “SURRENDER. YOUR. WEAPON.”

The thief shoots the robot, not at all put off by the fact that he is being pursued by one in a shopping mall. The robot, unaffected by the gunshot, continues its pursuit. The thief then makes one last effort to escape before the robot shoots him with a laser, or something.

THE END.

Of the promotional video, that is.

The flip screen goes blank, the lights come on, and Dr. Stan Simon approaches the stage of what appears to be a press conference to introduce the three robots that will begin serving as security of the mall where this presentation is taking place.

Dr. Simon demonstrates a typical robot/human scenario:
  • The robot demands to see identification.
  • Dr. Simon holds the badge in front of its face.
  • The robot scans the badge and wishes him a merry day.
Sure, looks easy enough, but one can only assume that if something occurs where the robot cannot scan the badge, the human will end his night paralyzed by lasers.

Despite this thrilling display, the audience asks the typical “I am nervous about robots” questions, worried about working alongside them. Dr. Simon assures them that “nothing could possibly go wrong.”

Cue title: CHOPPING MALL.

No, dear reader, that's not a robot.
That's what we call an "80s human."

We barely meet our first two characters: young, supple, mall-restaurant waitresses named Suzi and Allison. Intriguing character development is introduced, such as Allison being new to the restaurant, while Suzi isn’t new to the restaurant. Also, Suzi is the outgoing type. Allison isn’t the outgoing type.

That’s about all we get for character development.

Lightning suddenly strikes the mall’s outdoor-important-electric-thinger, sending a scientist in a control room scrambling to stabilize everything. The robots just behind him whir and flash their face light, having been awakened by said lightning, unbeknownst to the scientist. Having stabilized the big dashboard of blink-lights, he wheels around in his chair, looks at pornography, and is killed by a robot claw.

Boy, these robots sure are proactive!

ROBOTS: 1
HUMANS: 0

We then meet our trio of testosterone-driven generic hornball dudes. They pass the time of their shitty mall furniture job by discussing the plans of the evening: drinking beer and maybe having some sex at night in the furniture store where they work…after hours.

Dude. Hardcore.

Another scientist enters the control room, talks banter to himself for several minutes in an attempt to make a scene with himself interesting, and is killed by robots.

ROBOTS: 2
HUMANS: 0

"DR. GEORGE. COME. TO. BED. IT'S. LATE."

Now that all of our introduced children have met up, some serious dancing is taking place in the furniture store, as Ferdy, wearing glasses and therefore nerdy and awkward, is set up with Allison, an also nerdy and awkward teen.

Meanwhile…

“PROTECTOR. ONE. GOING. ONLINE. LEVEL. ONE,” a robot says to no one as he begins his nightly patrol of the mall. He comes across the partying teens in the furniture store, turns his robot head to analyze the threat-level, but then goes on his robot way.

Not just yet, robot.

Not just yet.

The other robots take their place on each level and begin their robot shift as well.

Couple Number One enjoys a roll in the sack, their underwear clad bits grinding.

Couple Number Two are stationed on a couch, as the girl does a naughty strip tease for her fella.

Couple Number Three seem to be engaging at failed cunnilingus.

Aaaand… Ferdy and Allison watch a giant killer crab movie, of which Allison is actually scared.

“Sorry, I don’t know why I watch these things,” she says sheepishly.

I don’t either, Allison. It’s a fucking giant crab movie. Then again, I am watching a killer robot movie.

Dick Miller, reliable genre favorite, plays Walter the janitor, who deflects mean-spirited comments from his janitor associates as he mops up the floor. His peers leave him to mutter, mop, and wonder where his life went wrong. But then a mystery guest shows up to help.

Robot.

It demands to see Walter’s identification badge, and when Walter refuses, the robot shoots a taser line, which misses and crashes in the moppy mess at Walter’s feet.

“What the hell is that?” Walter asks, reading my mind. He raises his mop, about to administer a braining, but he accidentally steps in the electrically charged puddle and subjects himself to the best electrocution visual effects that the 1980s had to offer. We even see a brief flash of his skeleton.

ROBOTS: 3
HUMANS: 0

Michael and his girlfriend, Leslie, finish up with their sex, so Michael decides it is time to smoke cigarettes. He puts on some jeans and leaves the furniture store to find a vending machine of smokes. His gum-smacking stupid face was born to be crushed by the metal tangibles of a wacko jacko robot. And so that happens now. The robot approaches and asks for his ID. Michael is more amused by the robot than intimidated. This will be his ultimate undoing. The robot claw softly caresses Michael’s throat, but in the robot way that robots do it. Needless to say, Michael doesn’t chew gum anymore. Or be alive.

ROBOTS: 4
HUMANS: 0

When Michael doesn’t return with a pack of smokes and his eighteen-year-old penis, Leslie soon loses patience and wanders after him, finding his motionless body in the vending machine hallway. Leslie decides to have a ten-minute conversation with Michael’s corpse in order to pad out the running time of this movie.

Leslie then does the typical “stop foolin’” shake until she sees his cut throat.

CUE ROBOT!

It pursues the girl through the mall, firing electrical bolts at her pantied ass until shooting one final and terribly satisfying blow to her face, exploding her head in a fountain of gore and delight.

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ROBOTS: AWESOME
HUMANS: LAME

The robots then storm the furniture store, their robot meters set on destroy, as they shoot lasers at the half-naked hooligans. The kids lock themselves in a storage closet as the robots fire their lasers at the conveniently steel-enforced doors.

“PREPARE. FOR. DETONATION,” says one of the robots, firing plastic explosives at the door hinges.

Why on earth would a mall robot have that?

The robots take refuge away from the explosion, but then they rush to the room to find…nothing. The girls manage to make it up into the air duct, while the boys haul ass to the mall’s sporting-good store: Peckinpah’s (ugh, I’m sure he would be pleased).

“Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambo-gram,” says one of them, as I groan. The idea that sporting good stores—in a mall, no less—sell magnum hand guns and machine guns is just as convenient as it is unrealistic, but that doesn’t matter, because a combination of aimless shooting and a haphazardly-tossed propane tank results in one Rambo-gram DELIVERED.

ROBOTS: 5
HUMANS: 1

The girls make it to a Sears Hardware-ish type store and collect cans of gasoline, the plan being to whip up a small arsenal of tin-can cocktails to make some robot toast. Unfortunately it doesn’t go so well, since they're girls. Allison tosses a flaming gas can at an oncoming robot, which results in a minor explosion which the robot simply wheels over.

“THANK. YOU. AND. HAVE. A. NICE. DAY,” says one of the robots, smarmily. He fires a laser at a gas can and delivers to Suzi a fiery death.

ROBOTS: 6
HUMANS: 1

The boys show up in time to get the girls to safety with the robot hot on their trail. They fire a series of shots into the elevator, exploding it and blocking the robots from accessing their higher level. The kids then chillax and try to regroup. Greg bitches at Allison, telling her that if they had stayed in the duct, Suzi, his fuck girl, would still be alive.

Accusations hurl.

Tensions mount.

Robots beep.

The kids try to make a break for it up an escalator, but Greg makes the mistake of leaving his back unguarded. Cue robot # 2, who was assigned to protect that level. The robot claws Greg in the back and pushes him over the railing to his death several levels below.

ROBOTS: STILL AWESOME
HUMANS: STILL LAME

The kids flee and the robots continue to pursue, using escalators to get around (haha, there is no better sight than seeing a robot slowly ride up an escalator as its stupid robot head swivels back and forth). Surprisingly, we’re this far into the movie when someone actually suggests that splitting up would be the best option. Everyone begins to shout at each other, which was bound to happen eventually.

“I guess I’m just not used to being trapped in a mall in the middle of the night being chased around by killer robots,” says Linda.

Suddenly, an idea sprouts and they get to work. And not a moment too soon! The robot lasers his way into their hideout and the kids open fire with their small arsenal. After attracting the lasers of the robot, they hide behind a row of mannequins and uncover the mirrors strategically placed behind them. The robot’s lasers deflect off the mirrors and fire back at himself, blowing himself up, but not without taking Linda and Rick with him.

ROBOTS: 9
HUMANS: 2

With Ferdy and Allison the remaining robot targets, the two finally opt to split up and see if they can find a way out. And from what I gather from their plan, if one finds the way out, they are to alert the other by screaming. A lot of loud, piercing screaming.

After a few minutes, Allison starts screaming.

Not at an exit, though.

At a robot.

Luckily, Ferdy shows up and fires his stupid gun which he has yet to learn is pointless against the steel robots. Once out of ammo, Ferdy throws a fire hydrant at the robot, which the robot promptly throws back, knocking Ferdy on his ass and out cold.

“THANK. YOU. HAVE. A. NICE. DAY.”

And the chase continues.

"Put my balls in your mouth you nasty robots!"

Allison takes refuge in a pet store, which turns into open season for robot hunting. The robot’s dumb body knocks over glass tanks left and right as he searches for her. The robot’s stupid robot head turns round-and-round, looking for Allison, but she has cleverly hidden herself under a tank, where, thanks to the robot's ability to turn his head left to right, yet, not pivot up and down, she is out of the robot’s sight. All of the creepy things from the smashed tanks, like tarantulas and snakes, figure Allison’s body is the best place to hang out, and so they all cuddle together as she tries to keep from screaming (which, let’s face it, when compared to killer robots, isn’t worth getting into a pissy over). Soon, the robot leaves, and Allison vacates the store, but a shrieking monkey (yes, a monkey in a mall pet store) causes Allison to cry out, and once again attracts the attention of the robot. Allison throws herself over the ledge and hangs onto the railing in order to hide from the robot, but that, too, fails, and she falls on a conveniently placed tent which breaks her fall—and her leg.

ZING!

Allison, with a newly found car flare, crawls into a paint shop, where she begins opening and throwing can after can of paint all over the floor, along with some paint thinner. After attracting the attention of the robot, his stupid conveyor wheels can’t find traction through the gooey paint and can only spin in circles, dumbly extending his robot arms.

“Have a nice day!” Allison yells ironically, tossing the flare into the paint store which results in a much-too-big explosion, ending the robot’s robot life.

HUMANS: VICTORIOUS
ROBOTS: NOT (BUT STILL AWESOME)

Allison crawls away from the wreckage, relieved that her night of robot evil is over, but one more surprise awaits her:

Ferdy, clasping a rag to his head.

“Nice shot,” he says, smiling, and wearing glasses.

They later get married, move to Long Beach, and have nerdy kids who then grow up to be killed by the kids of the dead robots.

Life just keeps going on, doesn't it?

ROBOT MOVIES: 1
ME: 0