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The Bottom Shelf #86

12.14.2006

Some movies are good. Some movies are bad. Some movies can change the way we think and live our lives in a positive manner. Some movies combine all of these things to become awesomely bad movies that we can enjoy for generations. These are my nominees for the PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE award of "So bad, they have to be good" movies.

PHENOMENA (1985)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I'm not going to pussyfoot around this review with one of my build-ups. PHENOMENA is fantastically, insanely, gloriously BAD. It's that kind of bad that makes me hark back to the days when I would curl up on the living room couch with my dad on a Sunday afternoon and watch Elvira crack jokes at the horrible B movies that she was hosting. It's so bad it almost made me piss myself with laughter, I loved the damn thing that much. It's so bad that it was one of the best DVD watching experiences I've had all year, curled up on the couch with my own daughter and my two sisters, shrieking hysterically over every ludicrous plot twist.

PHENOMENA is another one of those 80's horror slash wanna-be suspense movies where there is an unidentified killer going after teen girls. Centered in the "Swiss Transylvania," it follows the teen daughter of an American movie star (not as if that bit of info is of any importance since the girl never pulls the clout that a movie star's kid should) as she enrolls in a boarding school where girls have been disappearing and coming up dead. Factor in a handicapped entomologist who relies on a chimp for a nurse and then take into consideration that this young girl has an ESP type connection with insects and you've got yourself one priceless piece of cinema.

I'm not sure if this was supposed to play out better in director Argento's native Italian, but the script is tantalizingly stupid, the acting is deliciously cut-rate and the play-by-the-numbers plot almost orgasmic in its utterly ridiculous inconceivability. But it gets better! The entire film is scored with heavy metal music that plays over every twist. Why go for the simplicity of the choreographed breathing of Friday the 13th when you can slam it home with a little Iron Maiden? Better yet, nothing but nothing screams "CLASSIC!!" like a chimp hell-bent on revenge! PHENOMENA is sinfully, decadently bad and I f*cking loved it.

Favorite Scene:

Dear Awesome, you can't possibly ask me to pick one scene! There's just so many to choose from!

Favorite Line:

If I could translate Chimp into English I would, since I know that ape said something fantastic.

Trivia Tidbit:

To create the "swarm" that is seen behind Connelly when she calls forth her insect horde to frighten off her fellow classmates, filmmakers poured coffee grounds into water and then superimposed that image over the one with the actress.

See if you liked:

SUSPIRIA, IDENTITY, THE WICKER MAN

WARLOCK (1989)
Directed by: Steve Miner
Starring: Julian Sands, Lori Singer

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

After subjecting myself to the glorious badness that was PHENOMENA, it reminded me of another wonderfully awful movie that I saw many years back in the theater. I actually sat through WARLOCK when I was 16, having gone to a showing with a boyfriend at the time who was a big horror movie buff. Unbeknownst to him, I have a tendency to turn into my own version of a MST3K player, and ended up giggling hysterically and making fun of the characters up on the screen and their fabulously inane dialogue. I think he might have regretted not getting me those Red Vines with which to shut me up.

WARLOCK starts in the year 1691 with Sands as the supposed satanic messiah, his wrists shackled evilly to his big toes. (Because those are the most evil of ALL the digits.) Inexplicably he is suddenly transported through time to the year 1988 and crashes through the window of the home that Singer's character shares with a gay man. (Because any other human being would have flipped the f*ck out if there were to be a strange man from out of nowhere lying in the middle of their living room floor. Those foolish gays!) Close on his heels is Richard E Grant as some kind of medieval police officer, wearing a fur coat that he never gets hot in and navigating through the future streets without skipping a beat.

The movie plays out as if it knows its own ridiculous nature. Singer is the typical joking young person who doesn't seem at all twisted out of shape about having a spell put on her and all while fashionably attired in metallic material and LA Gears. It's fun to look back and realize that we once thought that the special effects were "bitchin'." It's especially fun to know that should we ever want the power of flight, we need simply drink the boiled fat from an unbaptized male child. And you all thought that the Boy Scouts were only good for learning how to tie knots! Granted, there's no Iron Maiden to rock out to, but where else can you enjoy watching an Amish man bleed from the eyes?!?

Favorite Scene:

Realizing that when Kassandra has aged to "60," my mom is supposedly going to look that decrepit in 2 years and then teasing her mercilessly about it.

Favorite Line:

"He speaks English, English!!"

Trivia Tidbit:

WARLOCK was one of the last movies made by the now-defunct New World Pictures before they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was eventually distributed by Tri-Mark Pictures 2 years after completing production. Thanks Tri-Mark!

See if you liked:

PUMPKINHEAD, GINGER SNAPS, LEPRECHAUN

I'm almost missing big puffy shirts with ginormous shoulder pads, tennis shoes that came with laces shot through with what looked like silver tinsel and men with little budding ponytails. Almost... but not quite.

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