Monday, September 28, 2015


This is the Star Wars film that started it all for me. My earliest memory of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is watching the movie with my parents in a standing room only auditorium. And everyone was glued to the screen.

What makes THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK so great? Why is it the favorite among the majority of Star Wars fans? It can't just be because of Boba Fett can it? I mean come on, how bad ass can the guy really be? He fell into a pit and died at the beginning of RETURN OF THE JEDI.

I'm just kidding. Boba Fett is cool, don't worry. But seriously, what makes Episode VI so great? The simple answer is that the film delivered on fan expectation. Everything about the sequel is bigger and better. It has a bigger budget, better special effects, excellent script, and good direction. All these elements distract the audience that the film itself has a weak plot. The plot of the film is simply Darth Vader hunting down Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion.

The film opens with a bang. The Hoth sequence rivals the Battle of Yavin from the first film. And what's really cool about the Hoth ground assault scene is that it happens at the beginning of the film. 99% of the time a sequence like this is always at the end of the film. I believe there are two reasons for this; Lucas wanted to give audiences something to rival the climax of STAR WARS right off the bat, and the second reason is Lucas is again playing with conventions and audience expectations.

The film doesn't slow down because next our heroes split up. A first for a Star Wars movie. Luke takes a detour from the Rebellion rendezvous to visit Yoda, the Jedi master. And Han and Leia would like to meet up at the rendezvous but are having a hard time shaking off the relentless Empire.

Watching the movie for the first time I loved Yoda. For the longest time he was my favorite character. As a teenager the scenes on Dagobah bored me because of a whinny Luke Skywalker. With the exception of one scene. And that's Yoda lifting the X-Wing from the swamp. That scene will always be an all time favorite of mine in the Saga.

I always wanted to get back to the relentless pursuit of Millennium Falcon. The tension still holds up today! Darth Vader killing officers left and right, the asteroid field, and the bounty hunters. What a movie!

The bounty hunters must have left a huge impression on me because I believe I had pretty much every toy related to those iconic characters. Boba Fett's ship, Slave-1 was my favorite toy second to the Millennium Falcon. And I'll never forget my oldest cousin giving me his mail away action figure of Boba Fett. My cousins are some of the nicest people I know.

It wasn't until RETURN OF THE JEDI that the big twist at the end of Episode VI had any real impact on me. The only thing I remember is being scared and I thought Luke was going to die. Pretty dark and deep material for someone who hasn't even started kindergarten yet.

But for the past 15 – 20 years that lightsaber duel at the end of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is my second favorite duel in the series!

From start to finish the film is just a masterpiece of genre cinema. While the first film is art out of adversity, it's clear that the money is on the screen for the sequel. While still having a budget, it's obvious Lucas spared no expense.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is the best Star Wars movie. And THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is the greatest film ever made!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


THE GREEN INFERNO is director Eli Roth's love letter to cannibal exploitation horror films. This Italian horror sub-genre became popular in the late seventies and early eighties. The genre never quite caught on like the Spaghetti Westerns or Zombie films did. That's why you don't see a ton of them, unlike your typical DAWN OF THE DEAD rip off or umpteenth Django western.

Stuck in limbo for almost two years it was unclear if moviegoers were going to see THE GREEN INFERNO at the theater, or at all for that matter? Months if not weeks before the film was to hit theaters the studio releasing the picture hit a financial snag and couldn't/wouldn't show the movie. Given the opportunity I always try to watch a film on the big screen. Especially one that I want to see! Thanks to movie producer Jason Blum (the current David O. Selznick of horror) audiences now were able to see the cannibal horror adventure on a mainstream level.

Will a theatrical release help THE GREEN INFERNO in terms of box office? Probably not. I don't see a cannibal resurgence happening anytime soon. It's just cool that a film like this is getting a major release.

Much like Roth's two previous films, THE GREEN INFERNO has a group of college aged kids finding themselves in a heap of trouble. This time around it's a college activist group heading to the jungles of Peru to stop the deforestation of the Amazon. From the start you get the feeling that something isn't quite right. These students are quick to blindly follow activist Alejandro. At first our films lead Justine (played by the beautiful Lorenza Izzo) isn't buying into the cause, but cannot get over how hot she thinks Alejandro is. So she joins the group despite her skepticism.

When they arrive their plan is to chain themselves to trees and broadcast it live over the internet. The protest is a success but the college kids are immediately taken back to the plane and asked to leave. With no time to change they are back on the plane still wearing construction worker uniforms. The victory is cut short when the plane crashes into the jungle.

After one of the most intense plane crashes in cinema history, the survivors are captured by a indigenous tribe. But instead of being welcomed as guests to the village, the group becomes dinner. The plane crash was intense but this is when the film becomes no holds barred.

Up to this point the movie is pretty bad. Flat looking cinematography (thanks to digital) and clunky dialogue plague the first half of THE GREEN INFERNO. The stiff acting and bad dialogue might be on purpose due to the film being a exploitation movie? But once we get to the jungle everything looks beautiful and performances are great. The fist victim of cannibalism is the most gruesome scene in the film. I mean this guy gets it the worse. I won't go into to detail, but we're talkin' 5 piece barbecue chicken dinner. Everything after is pretty standard (not a bad thing), but that first kill belongs in the horror hall of fame.

While waiting for their fate the rest of the group learn that Alejandro hasn't been completely honest with them. The protest was all a ruse so that another construction team could come in and clean house. So now that it has been revealed that he's a asshole, the group plan to escape without him. They get caught again and now Justine is victim to an ancient ritual. But thanks to a young boy from the tribe she escapes. But will the green inferno of the Amazon engulf her? While THE GREEN INFERNO is one of the most brutal films you'll see this year, it's got some dark humor to relieve the tension. This is where Eli Roth reminds the audience that what you are seeing isn't real. And that you can have fun while being scared or grossed out. In other words THE GREEN INFERNO isn't just complete total nihilism.

The fact that the film isn't a full on exercise of nihilism depravity is a good thing. The horror review gurus that criticize THE GREEN INFERNO for not going all the way are wrong. The only things missing from Roth's film are rape, genital mutilation, and animal killings. Who wants to see those things? The themes are implied well enough that we don't need to see it. Less is more anyways.

So I should mention the political sub text of the film. Eli Roth hates the idea of social justice warriors. And I don't blame him. Making change in the world isn't about how many “likes” your Facebook page gets, or how many times you've been re-tweeted. If you're on social media then you know what I am talking about. It's gotten so bad these past couple of years that I always consider deleting my Facebook account.

The thing that surprised me the most about THE GREEN INFERNO was how Eli Roth didn't go full on homage. Instead, we feel the spirit of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX.

If you're a fan of horror and have never seen a cannibal movie, then I recommend THE GREEN INFERNO. And if you see the film and love it, and by love it I mean it's now your favorite horror movie, then and only then do I recommend you see CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

Friday, September 25, 2015


My curiosity for horror movies probably started 30 years ago with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE for rent on VHS. Or maybe it was HBO? I think back then, stuff came out on cable before it hit video? Whatever the case, I was frightened/intrigued by the 'Freddy' cardboard standee at my neighborhood video rental store. They had it in the corner so that it would stare at you no matter where you stood. I've told this story before but it's left an impression on me and think that it's the catalyst for why I like horror movies.

The reason why I think horror films are so popular is because of the thrill viewers get by watching them. Much like the love of riding a roller coaster. Along with that is the notion that the movie might be something forbidden, something you're not allowed to see. The threat of nightmares kept me away for awhile.

In my formative years I just stuck with the standard horror classics like the Elm Street, Jason, and Evil Dead films. All the heavy metal kids in High School talked about the Faces of Death movies, but I stuck with the fake stuff, thank you very much. Turns out those were fake anyways, and apparently sucked. So jokes on them!

By the late 90's and early 2000's I heard about a sub genre of horror called Italian horror. And in my discovery learned about a film called CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. This film was the holy grail of exploitation horror. In a nutshell, the film had a reputation that if you watched it you'd go to hell. At the time of discovery the film was only available by bootleg. So my friend and I just stuck with the safe stuff like THE BEYOND or DEMONS.

When KILL BILL came out, that's when my obsession with exploitation films started. And I made it my mission to find and watch the mother of all exploitation films. At the time I didn't know what that was, but I'd soon find out.

I had forgotten about CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST until about a year ago when it made it's debut on blu-ray. I quickly remembered that the movie was considered one of the best, if not the best horror exploitation films ever made. It certainly sounded like the most controversial because of all the real life killing of animals.

After giving it some serious thought, I finally decided to watch the film. After all, it's only a movie. How nasty can it be? Pretty nasty as it turns out.

A New York University professor returns from a rescue mission to the Amazon rain forest with the footage shot by a lost team of documentarians who were making a film about the area's local cannibal tribe.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is basically two films. The second act is a found footage film sandwiched between the film. The first part is finding out what happened to the missing crew. The second part is us getting to see the footage and piecing together the mystery. And lastly we get a social commentary on what is considered 'entertainment' these days.

The film is a gore fest and on several occasions I wanted to shut it off. But every time I thought about doing that, something brilliant always happened. And when it got to the ending I came to the conclusion that the film is a masterpiece. Who would've thought that a horror exploitation film can have a message? So yeah, I guess you could say I like gore. Gore in movies. Why? I don't know because the funny thing is, I cannot stand sick stuff in real life. Unless it's my own, the sight of blood freaks me out. Heck, I don't even like to hunt. And that includes fishing.

But when it comes to blood & guts make-up effects, the gore doesn't bother me. Okay, it does but I can handle it, Most of the time. I guess because I know it's fake and I can't help but think the movie making process is fun.

In fact, I know from experience that it's fun because I had the honor of playing a dead guy in a popular web series. The make-up effects guy gave me a bullet hole in the head. That was a fun couple of hours!

With all that being said, the gore effects in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is pretty extreme. But it is fake, so just keep telling yourself that. What's not fake is the animal killings. And yes it's disturbing and uncomfortable to watch. Forget the cannibalism, it's the innocent slaughter of jungle rats, monkeys, sea turtles, and pigs that's repulsive.

In good conscious I cannot recommend CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. But I'm not your mother, so watch at your own risk. Just remember, curiosity killed the cat.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


For the past decade or so I've had a real guilty pleasure of seeking out classic exploitation films. Most of them are crap that haven't aged well, some are good, but there are a few that become gems. While it's not my favorite, CANNIBAL FEROX is a grindhouse gem!

CANNIBAL FEROX, or as it's known in the States, MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY was part of the short lived Italian horror cannibalism sub-genre. It's a good thing the genre was short lived because most of the films suck. But there are two masterpieces, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX. Not only are these films great cannibal movies, they are excellent pieces of Italian genre cinema.

Now I wanna make something perfectly clear, I like gore, but not in the way you might think. For me it's more of an effects thing. I'm curious how they pulled off the illusion . But let's be honest, with the cannibalism films it is all about the shock and gore that make them popular. So why do I like them? If horror films are akin to roller coaster rides, then I'd say the Italian cannibal movies are the carnivals.

There are several reasons but the main reason for my guilty pleasure is the sleaziness. The fact that KILL BILL is my favorite film(s) has a lot to do with that. I also like how CANNIBAL FEROX actually went deep into the Amazon jungle to film. And lastly I just think exploitation films are cool.

Two New York City low life's rip off a drug dealer and head off to South America. We know this because the film starts off with a murder investigation in the Big Apple. Man, I love 80's New York City! Anyway, the very next scene is in Rio (I think) and we follow three friends taking a trip into the Amazon jungle to disprove cannibalism. The two groups eventually meet and become hunted by a indigenous tribe seeking revenge.

While on the run from the tribe, one of low life's spills the beans. He tells the group of friends the true story of why him and his partner Mike Logan, are in the Amazon. They stole money from a heroin dealer back in the States and fled here to hide. In Rio they met someone who had uncut emeralds and knew where to get more. Things didn't pan out and Mike, high on cocaine, went nuts. He killed a few members of the tribe, and the rest is history.

The tribe is out for revenge and everyone is guilty. And rest assured, they are gonna make them die slowly.

The first time I watched CANNIBAL FEROX it made me sick. Sick that I'd watch a movie like that. It didn't have quite the moral impact that CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST did. But at least it's part of exploitation history and I have seen it, and I can move on. But I watched it a second time so that I could blog about it and get the movie out of my system. Then the strangest thing happened? I liked the film the second time around. The gore still makes me uncomfortable, but it has what I love about exploitation films. Or in this case, Italian exploitation films.

Let's talk about the gore for a moment because let's face it, blood and guts are what make these films popular. From a special effect stand point the gore is amazing. Unfortunately what isn't a special effect is the killing of animals (the main controversy of these films). And let me tell you, seeing a defenseless animal getting killed is far worse and super uncomfortable compared to fake gore. No matter how realistic looking it is.

The conversation on gore will continue when I blog about CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Because in that film, I almost shut if off on several occasions. But much like the trooper that I am, I stuck through it. Which I'm glad I did because while the movie is what it is, there is a good message in the film. But like I said, more on that latter.

In all honesty I cannot recommend a film like CANNIBAL FEROX. Due in large part to the extreme nature of it. For me even the mere mentioning the film feels like dealing with contraband sometimes. This blog is more or less about me getting the film out of my system and acknowledging the sub genres place in horror history.

Friday, September 11, 2015


My earliest memory of STAR WARS was seeing it at a Drive-In theater. We were in the old family van, not a mini-van, but a van. I was in the back with all my Star Wars toys having an adventure. I cannot remember for sure if this was my first time seeing the film? I'm thinking no, because of the toys. But they were Empire Strikes Back toys. So maybe THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was my introduction to the Trilogy? Age wise this makes the most sense.

While THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is my favorite film of the saga, I owe my love of cinema to STAR WARS. Let me rephrase that. I owe my formative years of loving movies to STAR WARS. Harrison Ford was my first favorite actor. I went crazy seeing Carrie Fisher play a scorned girlfriend in THE BLUES BROTHERS. And Darth Vader was my favorite fictional character.

From ages 3 – 8 it's probably easy to say that my fandom was primarily due to toys. I know I loved the movies, but I liked the toys more. It wasn't until the late eighties and early nineties that I started to forget Star Wars. Me and my best friend at the time were getting into Nintendo and horror movies. He was really into the film ALIENS and I followed suit. By the nineties we thought Star Wars was kids stuff. Fast forward a couple of years and it's all Nirvana, video games, Ninja Turtles, and EVIL DEAD II. It was also around this time that I thought TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY was the biggest best film around.

90's modern rock was real big with me (and the world) at the time. And there was this independent film called CLERKS that had a cool soundtrack, or at least that's what the ads in my comic books were telling me. One afternoon at the video store I stumbled across CLERKS and decided to rent it because of that cool soundtrack. I invited my friend over and we laughed our asses off! At the time I thought it was the funniest film I had ever seen.

Some of the jokes were referencing STAR WARS. It was so awesome! Now for any millennials reading this and thinking “so what”? Believe it or not, but there was an actual time where Star Wars was nostalgic. Man, that's depressing. Star Wars will never ever be nostalgic again.

It was an awesome time to be a fan. And in 1997 the coolest thing happened, STAR WARS was re-released on the big screen. But this wasn't your typical re-release, no we were getting a special edition of our beloved trilogy! Never underestimate the power of the dark side. We were all duped on this because of nostalgia clouded our judgment.

To this day I don't have a problem with the minor changes of the special edition. I think a lot of the improvements are valid. What I do have a problem with is all the unnecessary additions of CGI creatures, buildings, Boba Fett, Han shooting first, and other alterations to Mos Eisley cantina.

Maybe one day we'll get a non special edition of STAR WARS! There are rumors that such a release is on the way? To mark the 40th anniversary of the film, 20th Century Fox will release a 4k remaster of STAR WARS. I'm not holding my breath, but this may be happening folks! How cool it that!

Watching the film as an adult I find myself enjoying more with every viewing! Now that my knowledge of film is more vast, I pick up more on the influences. The easiest being Kurosawa. But more that that I get a kick out of how unconventional it was for it's time. Who begins a movie with two robots in the desert? And it's east meets west. The eastern influence you have Darth Vader, a fallen warrior, who uses a laser sword. Then there is the west, characters like Han Solo, the smuggler gunslinger.

Depending on what mood I'm in will always decided what film I like more, STAR WARS or THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. They are both masterpieces in my opinion! I love how simple and imaginative STAR WARS is. It's a fairy tale in space. And while being serialized, it can still certainly be a stand alone film.

Imagine if the movie would have flopped? You'd have this cult classic space opera film that movie buffs would still be talking about today.

I try and watch STAR WARS at least once a year. Heck, I've already watched THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK five times this year already! I swear it's not because I'm crazy, I'm just excited about the new Star Wars film coming out this December. My only complaint is that I wish I was 23 years old and not 38! Fans that grew up with the original trilogy got screwed over in 1999 with STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE.

We were all duped back then, but I honestly believe this time is different. I haven't been this excited for Star Wars in a long long time. In fact, before it was announced that Lucas sold the rights to Disney, I was seriously thinking of setting childish things aside. I had talked about Star Wars enough. Thankfully, filmmaker J.J Abrams has so far proven to change that.

The second teaser trailer for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS makes be believe that there is hope once again in that galaxy far, far away.