F…Just Friday: Rise of the Gargoyles (2009)

Why… well, just why? I never found it until this week, and it’s sure not “finally!” watched, but this one made it into my Netflix queue for three reasons:

  1. I like gargoyles.
  2. Eric Balfour, who plays this movie’s hero,  was one of my favorite things about Haven.
  3.  I have a very high tolerance for bad effects. (I own The Shining miniseries: enough said.)
Unbelievably, that blazer survives unscathed through the entire movie.

The Premise: Scholar Jack Randall (Balfour, with a very good adventure-hero moniker) once wrote a book about cryptids at the instigation of his girlfriend Carol, and it almost destroyed him professionally. After another rejection for Jack’s latest manuscript, Carol talks him into exploring an old church scheduled for demolition. While in the catacombs, she pockets a strange rock—which is so obviously a gargoyle egg that you’ll be yelling at your TV—and loses her life as a result. Slowly Jack begins to put the pieces together (no pun intended), and with the help of a pair of tabloid TV reporters and an insane priest (Nick Mancuso!), Jack sets out to exterminate the murderous creature.

I sometimes feel as though movies I’m ambivalent about are trying to win me over, like when the Carpenters’ “Superstar” kept turning up in 2007’s Ghost Rider. That’s the case here, too. Rise of the Gargoyles  is uniquely suited to my interests, with Balfour in a tweed jacket as an amalgam of Indiana Jones, Rupert Giles and Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon. There’s mention of that other, more NSFW stone creature, the sheela-na-gig—pretty impressive folklore knowledge for a monster movie. And just like in Belphegor, we have a creature terrorizing Paris, albeit with a lot more blood. This movie should be awesome, for that value of awesome that is “puts a manic grin on my face at the prospect of maybe seeing a baby gargoyle.” (Spoiler alert: there’s a reason the phrase isn’t “Chekhov’s Baby Gargoyle.” Maybe the budget wasn’t there.)

The Verdict: For the second week in a row, what should have been a really enjoyable monster flick fails to fully deliver. Rise of the Gargoyles never quite clicks: the characters don’t seem to relate to each other, the idea that Jack is suspected of Carol’s murder—with one swipe of his pointed academic bona fides, presumably—is ridiculous, and even a few horror moments reminiscent of Preston and Child’s excellent The Relic couldn’t get the movie where it needed to go. It’s not bad (and Mancuso declaiming about the devil is not to be missed), but it is kind of a long 94 minutes.

Even So: There’s something endearing about a movie where people in trouble call the police, bring extra flashlight batteries on their trip to the old crypt, and so on. Rise of the Gargoyles has a practical-minded streak that I appreciated.

Fun Trivia Fact: If a gargoyle stops acting as a waterspout—say, by coming to life and decapitating a bunch of people—it is technically a grotesque in every possible sense.

Might go well with: Croissants, as long as they aren’t actually monster eggs; The Relic; Haven.

 

Next time: Dr. Quest’s Mini-Me.

 

The Quest For Monday! Part 57: The Right Tool For The Right Job

(Episode: “The Dreadful Doll”)

Synopsis: The Quests are diverted from fun fish-identifying business: first by the appearance of a spy sub, then by villagers with a voodoo problem. The voodoo is a smokescreen…er, zombie-drug-screen…to hide the construction of an undersea base, and the situation escalates faster than you can say “Wade Davis.” Highlights of this episode include turbanless Hadji and Bannon beefcake, because the dreadful doll is a doggone distraction.

 

Tip 57: Sometimes old movie quotes say it all.

You know how to make it seem like you can turn people into zombies via magic, don’t you?

It’s true: you just put your lips together and blow.

 

Next time: I wish I knew…

Next time on TQfM!: We finally see the darned doll.

Found-Again Friday: Dracula A.D. 1972

“Dig the music, kids!” —Johnny Alucard

Why Found-Again? At the end of my last post, I mentioned the Five Film Fang Fest, a Hammer Dracula mini-marathon that aired on TBS in October in the late ’80s. That’s where I first saw my favorite (Taste the Blood of Dracula) and least favorite (The Satanic Rites of Dracula, or as I like to call it, Dracula vs. the Shrubbery, With Surprising Results) of Christopher Lee’s outings as the titular count. It’s also where I watched Dracula A.D. 1972, but other than the kind of “hip” counterculture stuff the Austin Powers movies mined for laughs, I don’t remember much about it.

The Premise: After his demise in the 19th century (impaled on a wagon wheel! must’ve been made of hawthorn), Dracula’s signet ring and ashes are stolen away by some young spark.

….in other words.

Later, in swingin’ 1972 London, we see a very familiar young-sparky face at a party/orgy. Johnny Alucard (I don’t write it, I just report it) convinces a bunch of hippies to do a black mass, resurrecting You-Know-Who. Sadly for Dracula, one of the hippies (Stephanie “Sister Kate” Beacham) is a van Helsing, with a grandfather played by Peter Cushing. This has predictable results.

Alucard.
The other one.

In some ways, this is a rehash of Taste the Blood of Dracula, in which Dracula is raised by a young nihilist who forms an ad hoc Hellfire Club. Cults were back in the news in the ’70s, and it shows in the police investigation that leads the cops to the vampire hunter who can help them. The attempt to drag Dracula into modernity—hiding vampires at a Chelsea nightclub, pairing him with a guy who strongly recalls Alex from A Clockwork Orange—is imperfectly executed but interesting, and the movie seems to sense this, since it regularly returns to the traditional creaky old church setting. There also seem to be a few scattered visual jokes: a shot of empty milk bottles on a sidewalk after Dracula attacks a victim, Peter Cushing racing to save his granddaughter through a service entrance marked “Goods.”

The Verdict: I wish I could say that Dracula A.D. 1972 won me over, but it’s just not quite…right. It has a lot going for it in its relatively balanced portrayal of the hippie kids, and Christopher Lee does a great job as always, but the old and new portions of the narrative never truly gel. (Honestly, the fact that there was a character named “Johnny Alucard”—and that van Helsing had to draw a diagram to work that one out—may have stuck a stake in this film as far as I’m concerned.) Given the goofy ways they kill off vampires in these Hammer movies, though, I am happy to report that Dracula ends up doused in holy water and speared on punji sticks. Van Helsing circa 1972 is not messing around.

Other random observations:

  • If you like ’70s music, this is kind of fun. The party that kicks off the 1972 timeline resembles some of the Incredible String Band’s album covers, and some of the incidental music sounds like long-lost James Bond.
  • Whoever gave Stephanie Beacham that haircut should be prosecuted.
  • Imagine those old houses where there always seems to be a print of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, only instead of the blue boy, it’s a scary woodcut of Christopher Lee.

Might go well with: Tomato juice, the music of Donovan.

Next time: Doing that voodoo that…that bald guy on Jonny Quest…does so well.

The Quest For Monday! Part 56: Putting The “Ick” In Ichthyology

(Episode: “The Dreadful Doll”)

Synopsis: The Quests are diverted from fun fish-identifying business: first by the appearance of a spy sub, then by villagers with a voodoo problem. The voodoo is a smokescreen…er, zombie-drug-screen…to hide the construction of an undersea base, and the situation escalates faster than you can say “Wade Davis.” Highlights of this episode include turbanless Hadji and Bannon beefcake, because the dreadful doll is a doggone distraction.

Only a spot of voodoo could interrupt Team Quest’s oceanic idyll… apparently.

Tip 56: It’s good to love your work, but maybe not too much.

Especially if your work shows signs of loving you back.
And the family’s not even that surprised.

 

Next time: Christopher Lee in a movie I haven’t seen since the days of TBS’s Five Film Fang Fest, which is to say a hell of a long time.

Next time on TQfM!:  Becoming a voodoo master the easy way.

Found-Again Friday: Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)

It’s been a while since I rewatched a Jeff Goldblum movie for this site—well, he’s in The Sentinel for about a minute, like everyone else—and this was one of the first I ever saw.  It was 1986, and I was attempting to gear up for The Fly by watching everything the guy had ever done, including Death Wish and that disco movie.

Can you blame me?

Why Found-Again? That said, I’ve been putting this one off. I’ve seen a lot of Found-Again films at this point, and only a few have really disappointed me. I thought Transylvania 6-5000  was goofy fun when I was 12… but will a comedy broader than the ocean, and sporting an aesthetic best described as Monty Hall meets The Munsters meets Benny Hill meets Love Boat, really stand up to grown-up scrutiny?

The Premise: Instead of making things up like a normal tabloid, the paper Jack and Gil* (Goldblum and Ed Begley, Jr.) work for sends them to Transylvania after a tourist video seems to show the Frankenstein monster. They arrive to find a town bent on increasing tourism and showcasing its normalcy despite being populated by (among others) a goofy bellhop, a sort of Igor family, a shy but horny vampire, a werewolf, a mad scientist, and, yes, the F-Monster himself. Jack, who has an amazingly low tolerance for bullshit for a hero in a comedy, just wants to give up and romance a beautiful blonde; Gil, who makes up in go-getter spirit what he lacks in brains, stays on the case. And that’s how they stumble onto the real secret of the Transylvanian monsters.

It’s also how this happens. Ordinarily I wouldn’t include a groin-grab screenshot, but when I talk to other people who’ve seen the movie, this is invariably the thing they remember.

Like a lot of these goofy movies from the ’70s and ’80s, this has a pretty good cast; if you ever watch it, remember that only a few years later, Geena Davis took home the Oscar. John Byner and Carol Kane steal every scene they’re in, and Jeffrey Jones does well as, essentially, the Principal Rooney of a small town in the Carpathians. It also has a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards, if you’re into that. As for the plot, you know me–any mystery in a storm.

The Verdict: I don’t think I’d go so far as to recommend it for a movie night, but being trapped in a room with T-6-5000 could certainly be worse. And  I won’t lie: the “heartwarming” denouement, especially Lupi and Radu, at the end of this movie gets me every time, as stupid as that is. Transylvania 6-5000 is still best enjoyed by 12-year-olds, but what I’ve lost in tolerance for its obvious gags is made up for by… well, by a lot of the other movies I’ve watched for this site. It’s an Abbott and Costello flick for a new(er) age, made with obvious affection for the old monster movies that inspired it.

That said, it was a pretty long 94 minutes, and you can see why.

 

 

*Oh, hell. Is that a pun?

 

Next time: The Quest For Monday becomes The Quest For Voodoo! And for next Friday, by default, we have Dracula AD 1972.

The Quest For Monday! Part 55: Scuba-Dooby-Doo!

(Episode: “Skull and Double Crossbones”)

Synopsis: The Quests are back on their home turf—the surf. What should be enviable underwater fun and education is ruined when Jonny finds a treasure and Team Quest is set upon by some very lazy pirates. Also, Bandit learns to dive.

(OOC Author Note: Even before my time got compromised late last year, I struggled with this one because it’s everything I ever wanted out of a Jonny Quest episode as a kid: sea creatures, showy-but-plausible science, and a swashbuckling plot. That makes it a little bland for Benton Quest Field Guide purposes, so I think I’m just going to wrap it up today.)

When your life is on the line, even from the laziest of sources, and you need to summon help…

…such as when confronted by pirates who are averse to standing up for long periods of time, but who could still shoot you.

Tip 55: Sometimes the weird thing to do is the right thing to do.

Bandit’s reporting trouble above the water. He’s kind of an inverse Lassie.

 

Next time: I’m letting someone else decide Friday’s movie, so it’ll either be really silly or the Hammer (film) will drop…which doesn’t actually preclude the silly.

Next time on TQfM!: “The Dreadful Doll” looks like the TV equivalent of movie voodoo, only in the Questverse. This has the potential to be excruciating. I can’t wait.

 

 

Found-Again Friday: Musical Interlude 13

In honor of the week, this interlude’s theme is love. But first, I’m tapering off. Here’s the video for “Hands Clean” because you-know-who is in it.

With that out of the way, here’s my favorite love song from an artist I’ve been listening to a lot lately, Webb Wilder.

If you prefer a song with the concentrated power of ten ordinary love songs, here it is.

Okay, fine, this next one is less “a love song” and more “a sad thing about love I sing along with loudly in my car.”

And the antidote for too much “Since I Fell For You”:

Lastly,  for you love cynics, I give you Barry Manilow’s version of “Read ‘Em And Weep,” which is pretty much the “Ride of the Valkyries” of breakup songs—even if the video gestures at a different opera.

Enjoy the season!

BECAUSE TIME IS OUT OF WHACK—Found-Again… Tuesday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christm… Valentine’s Day With Fright Night (1985)

Mom’s treatment is done! and I am finally back at the helm of the Omelet. I see somebody somewhere was actually reading the Highlander posts in my absence, which is thrilling for at least one of us!

But we have unfinished business: I promised you Sarandon. I promised you vampire(s). I promised you an outpouring of praise for what may be my all-time favorite horror film—and if I didn’t, brace yourselves. I wrote the first part of this before rewatching and before my schedule got rearranged, so with a few corrections, this should do just fine for a heart-based holiday:

And here we are. I can’t think of any better way to ring out this year celebrate Valentine’s Day than with Fright Night—one of my favorite vampire movies, one of my favorite horror movies, and one of my favorite movies full stop. I won’t pretend this one is really “found again.” It’s not even an every-other-year creepy pleasure like CandymanFright Night is, not to put too fine a pointy fang on it, The Good Stuff.

The Premise: Angsty, amiable teen doofus Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale, who like one of last week the last review’s stars was in Herman’s Head) likes making out with his girlfriend Amy while the late-night horror show Fright Night plays in the background. His sexual frustration is the least of his troubles when he starts to suspect his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, perfectly cast), might be a vampire.

When his weird friend Ed can’t provide enough protective vampire lore, Charlie seeks out the Fright Night show’s host, Peter Vincent. Instead of Van Helsing, however, Vincent is more Peter Cushing by way of Elvira, a washed-up actor annoyed by Charlie’s request for help and terrified when he realizes there really is a vampire. Once Jerry discovers they’re on to him, he begins to prey on Charlie’s friends, and Charlie and Peter must fight the vampire and save Amy from the extremely sexy clutches of a fiend.

I’m going to blow the “Verdict” section on this one. If you for some reason haven’t seen Fright Night, recently or ever, you should do that. Don’t even finish reading this. It’s that good. (And if you’re squeamish like me, it’s not even particularly gory until the end; I suspect a lot of the R rating was for boobs and swears.)

There is so much to like about this movie:

  • Fright Night is a crucial link between subgenres of vampire film, in that Jerry  is both a suave fanged seducer in the Christopher Lee mold and a gnarly* bat-monster in the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other screen vamps who came after Fright Night’s 1985 release. (That the plot involves a Hammer-horror-style actor coming up against gritty reality indicates that this duality is intentional, making the whole thing even better.)
  • Similarly, the mortal characters are all recognizable ’80s stock movie people, but so well-realized they rise above it. Stereotypical “horny teen” Charlie ends up worrying more about his math grade—and, you know, the vampire—than he does about getting laid. Charlie’s mother is to some extent written as a typical checked-out working parent, but it’s not ennui: it’s that this single mother has just started working nights and isn’t at her best for the duration of the film. And the quirky friend, “Evil” Ed, gets the most wrenching scenes in the movie. Fright Night is a little like Pumpkinhead, I think; if you go a while between viewings, the genre starts to blot out how nuanced and generally good the characters are. (It’s also nice that they look and dress like real people—looking at you, enjoyable-but-not-at-this-level remake.)

  • The characters often act the way you’d expect real people to act in such a situation. One of the first things Charlie does when people start disappearing is what so many protagonists should do… call the cops. They (quite realistically) think Charlie is nuts–as do his friends, who stage an intervention when they’re afraid he might endanger someone. All of this gives the movie a nice grounding when the monsters really get going.
  • The vampire. I imagine it’s hard to be an iconic bloodsucker with a name like “Jerry Dandridge,” but my goodness does Chris Sarandon make it look easy. Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes on this site knows I’m susceptible to what you might call “villain cute,” and you may never find a better example than some of the scenes in Fright Night.  Even so, Jerry is by no means a one-note baddie: by turns amused and frustrated by Charlie’s campaign against him, he also shows a certain amount of weariness with his immortality and need to prey on others that makes him almost a tragic figure. (Me being me, I sat in front of my screen thinking “Oh, yeah. This is what I’m supposed to feel about Connor’s situation in Highlander. ….Yep, still don’t.”)
Wears red, flies around, makes holes in people…what’s Cupid got that this guy doesn’t?

To sum up: Fright Night is a literally great movie that is also very entertaining. (If you want more on this, there’s a documentary I haven’t seen yet, and the Faculty of Horror podcast did a very good episode on the film. That’s where I learned that Chris Sarandon actually researched bats for his role as Dandridge; I thought I couldn’t love Fright Night more, but that tidbit proved me wrong.

 

*It is my belief that there are actors you simply cannot make ugly (readers here can probably name most of them by now), but the filmmakers certainly have a good go at it near the end of this movie—which is only a spoiler if you’ve never seen a vampire movie before.

 

Next time: Music post for Friday because we haven’t had one in a very long time; Jonny Quest posting resumes on Monday. Against steep odds, let’s get normal!

 

 

Apropos Of Our Cynical Omelet: As Granny Weatherwax Used To Say, “I ATEN’T DEAD”

You wouldn’t think taking my mother to appointments would stop the site in its tracks, would you?

Yeah, I didn’t think so either, but here we are. I guess that hour out of my day is The Blogging Hour and I had no idea until now.

I haven’t forgotten my 1.4 readers, though: Fright Night review is going to happen! Now on Valentine’s Day, because I love it that much, and because I shouldn’t write about how awesome Donald O’Connor is in Singin’ In The Rain  two years in a row. See you next month!

The Quest For Monday! Part 54: What A Dive

(Episode: “Skull and Double Crossbones”)

Synopsis: The Quests are back on their home turf—the surf. What should be an episode of enviable underwater fun and education is ruined when Jonny finds a treasure and Team Quest is set upon by some very lazy pirates. Also, Bandit learns to dive.

This week brings another safety tip that can be applied outside the Jonny Quest universe!

Tip 54: It’s inadvisable to dive alone.

Usually, that’s for reasons of water safety. In this case, though?

Cue Spandau Ballet.

It’s because you might find pirate gold and draw the attention of the bad guys.

A chef and a spy. What a multitasker! (Not to mention whatever is going on with that headgear.)

 

Next time: We wrap up the theme month with Fright Night, a movie I frankly adore.

Next time on TQfM!: As the kid in The Princess Bride said, captured by pirates is good. Right?