Archive for March, 2013

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

My newest piece for Through The Shattered Lens website takes a look at the latest offering from Harmony Korine, “Spring Breakers.”

Through the Shattered Lens


So, we’ve finally discovered what it takes for Harmony Korine to go mainstream — a couple of  established stars, a little T&A, and hey! — he’s in the club. Hell, he can even manage to get himself invited onto Letterman outta the deal — although apparently he can’t stick around for long. Still, the fact remains — long (hell, decades) after you’d given up on the very notion it would ever happen, Hollywood has opened its doors to the guy who gave us GummoJulien Donkey-Boy, and Trash Humpers. And truth be told, he didn’t have to dumb down his sensibilities all that much in the process.

Okay, yeah — Spring Breakers is full of Girls Gone Wild-type footage of hot young flesh parading around in bikinis (or less), muscle-heads partying in jock straps, beer bongs being poured on impossibly tight stomachs, impromptu lesbian make-out sessions…

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Posted: March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

My newest piece for Through The Shattered Lens website looking at Fred Olen Ray’s forgettable “Alienator.”

Through the Shattered Lens

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Give Fred Olen Ray credit — the guy’s a survivor. While his name has never been attached to a genuine B-movie classic — although Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers definitely has its fans — he’s found a way to remain, if not exactly relevant, at least employed for decades now and has , according to official IMDB totals, written 56 films, produced 80, starred in 143, and directed a staggering 128! Granted, directing 128 movies isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds when most have two-or three-day production schedules, but still —

Anyway, Fred seems to be settling comfortably into the tail end of his career now helming SyFy network made-for-TV numbers and “Skinemax” fare such as Busty Housewives Of Beverly Hills, but back in the late ’80s/early ’90s the straight-to-video market was  wide open territory for low-budget mavens such as himself and he was more than willing to help blaze…

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By my reckoning, it’s been at least a month since we set our sights north of the border around these parts, so you know what that means — time to look at another ’80s Canadian slasher flick lest we don’t make our entirely unofficial quota.  And one that I’ve definitely been remiss in not covering previously is director Paul (Prom Night) Lynch’s reasonably-regarded 1982 effort Humongous, a film that certainly isn’t hailed as a classic by any means, but definitely has its partisans out there and seems to have generated a bit more buzz around it within the last year or so given its first official — and uncut — DVD release from Scorpion at part of their “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” series. But more on that in a minute, let’s have a gander at the movie itself first —


So, the story goes — and we’ve got the opening flashback scene to “prove” it! — that back in the late 1940s, a wealthy young socialite-in-training was savagely raped outside a party her family was throwing on their private island. Eventually one of the family’s rabid-looking dogs shooed her attacker off, but by then it was far too late to save our damsel’s virtue — but not too late for the island to get itself a new name out of the deal, and it’s been referred to as “Dog Island” ever since. Fast-forward to the then-present day and five completely obnoxious asshole rich kids, who are staying on another island nearby, are out getting wasted on one of their daddy’s boats when said boat runs aground on the other island where the (surprisingly quite long and brutal) earlier sexual assault took place. What’s it called again? Oh yeah, Dog Island!  Needless to say, the scions of privilege soon begin disappearing one by one under mysterious circumstances even though the mansion and all other grounds as far as the eye can see look to be, for all intents and purposes,  completely abandoned. They sure do hear a hell of a lot of barking and wailing though —

Okay, if all of this sounds more than a touch derivative, I guess it is, but Humongous definitely has more in common, both thematically and stylistically, with exploitation fare from its own country — Rituals in particular — than it does with, say, Halloween  or Friday The 13th, and it’s not afraid to bend — or even break! — some of the standard slasher tropes, such as with its decision to portray all of its principal characters, even “final girl” Sandy Ralston (Janet Julian, who turns in a far more credible acting performance than her peers, who struggle mightily in the credibility department almost from start to finish) as completely unlikable, unsympathetic, spoiled-beyond-belief brats, and Lynch makes a curious about-face maneuver when, after a pretty harrowing opening sequence, he opts to go the essentially bloodless route when the story shifts to the here and now ( again,circa 1982, mind you).

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As you can not-so-plainly see from the image above, though, one of the aspects of this flick that actually isn’t all that interesting — in fact, it gets pretty old pretty fast — is how goddamn dark everything is. It’s almost as if the lighting was handled by a crew of hopeless amateurs (which, for all I know, maybe it was). It works out okay at first in terms of establishing a foreboding atmosphere and all, but when it comes time for heads to roll and limbs to break, it would be nice to at least partially be able to see what the hell is going on, and this aggravation is compounded by the fact that when we can tell what’s happening, cinematographer Brian R.R. (no, that’s not a typo) Hebb’s camerawork is actually quite moody and effective. Who knows what cool stuff we’re missing out on?

Needless to say, it turns out that it’s not wild dogs doing in the rich little shits, but something far worse — what that “something” is I won’t spell out too explicitly in case any of you haven’t seen this thing, but again, once the killer is (semi)-revealed, it really is a shame we can’t see more of it/him, because it/him seems to be pretty decently realized, especially for a two-million-Canadian-dollars feature.

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Still, as far as gripes go, that’s about it — on the whole Humongous is surprisingly entertaining slasher fare that manages to stick to the rules closely enough to be credible, while breaking them with enough frequency to genuinely keep you guessing. I’m not planning a trip to rural Ontario anytime soon, but if I were this film packs just enough of a punch that I might think twice about it. No mean feat for a story marred by some pretty lame performances and that’s so dimly lit  you can barely  make out what’s going on half the time.


Now, about that Scorpion Releasing DVD hosted by Katarina Leigh Watters I mentioned at the outset. It’s pretty damn good. The widescreen transfer seems fairly solid given the, shall we say, challenging source material, the mono sound does the job just fine, a rather worse-for-wear original theatrical trailer is included, we’re graced with Watters’ standard intro/outro bits, and the former WWE “diva” hosts a very lively and entertaining full-length commentary track with Lynch, screenwriter William Gray, and DVD Delirium author (and Mondo Digital webmaster) Nathaniel Thompson. A brief alternate version of the pre-title sequence rounds out a fairly comprehensive little package.

I certainly wasn’t blown away by Humongous or taken aback by its unexpected awesomeness or anything of the sort, but I did find myself silently nodding my head in appreciation on several occasions and certainly never got bored even if the pacing is a bit on the deliberate side. It’s definitely one I can see myself popping in the player every once in awhile when the right mood strikes me, and that’s a solid — if modest —accomplishment in and of itself, so there ya go.

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Give Survivor credit — they only had one hit (at least that I can remember), but they sure did milk it for everything it was worth. For a good few years there, “Eye Of The Tiger” was absolutely everywhere, wasn’t it? Rocky III was only the beginning — the song went on to appear in countless commercials, it was on the radio all the fucking time (peaking at number one on the Billboard charts, where it remained for a good couple of months), and in 1986 it even got itself a movie written around it a la Convoy and Take This Job And Shove It —a jaunty little Death Wish/Walking Tall -style revenge number starring Gary Busey and directed by Richard C. Sarafian of Vanishing Point fame.

That’s a pretty solid record of accomplishment for a song that, let’s face it, sucked. But we’re not really here to talk about the song, are we? So let’s get down to bid’ness.

Tough-ass-but-kind-hearted Viet Nam vet Buck Matthews (Busey, in fine form here as you’d probably expect), having just done a nickel upstate for justifiably killing a man in self-defense, returns to his hometown only to find it overrun by a sadistic motor cycle gang that is cooking up crack on the outskirts of town. His parole officer, the local sheriff who sent him away on his bogus beef in the first place (Seymour Cassel),  just so happens to be on the take from the gang’s leader, one OTT hard mofo who goes by the handle of Blade (William Smith, veteran of pretty much every AIP biker exploitation flick), so even though Buck’s seething with rage at the injustices happening to his townsfolk on a daily basis, he’s gotta keep himself outta trouble. Still, when he “steps out of line” by saving a young damsel from being raped by a rowdy n’ randy handful of Blade’s men, the psycho bikers and their kept cop figure it’s time to teach ol’ Buck a lesson.

You can guess the rest, I’m sure — they bust into his house, kill his wife, traumatize the shit out of his daughter, and Buck swears to bring ’em all down. He’s gotta get some help, of course, and fortunately “good cop” J.B. Deveraux (the legendary-for-good-reason Yaphet Kotto) is willing to lend a hand in bringing down his boss and the “wild riders” who pay him to not only look the other way, but provide them with protection and even chip in with their law-breaking when necessary.



Still, two against dozens is a pretty uneven fight, but before you go and figure that mathematics isn’t exactly one of Eye Of The Tiger‘s strong suits, rest assured — Buck’s former cellmate, a Miami drug kingpin, is willing to help the fellas out by providing all the heavy-duty ordnance they could ever possibly need, and while you might be tempted to scratch your head over not only the morality but the logic of utilizing the ill-gotten gains of a massive drug-running organization to bring down a much-smaller-time drug-running organization, rest assured that the ensuing mayhem — which includes piano-wire biker decapitations and burying a bad guy’s head in a pile of cocaine — will entertain you so much that you won’t be worrying about such pesky little details.

On the plus side, this is a well-done, stereotypical blue-collar revenge flick with some terrifically-shot-and-paced action sequences, fun cardboard characterization (Buck’s impassioned speech about his days in ‘Nam delivered at a bingo hall is a personal favorite moment), and plenty of kick-ass murder and general violence. The actors are all having an obvious blast delivering their corny-as-shit lines and Sarafian does a great job of keeping the proceedings light while obviously still being concerned about delivering a quality product.

On the minus side, the theme song is played over and over again incessantly. But what the hell — you made it through 1983 and 1984, when you couldn’t even get through a day without hearing snippets of it at least a dozen times even entirely by accident, so you can sure as shit do the same thing here. Eventually it just kind of harmlessly blends into the background of the film, just as it kind of  harmlessly blended into the background of life itself for awhile there.



Eye Of The Tiger is available on DVD a couple of different ways — either as a stand-alone release from MGM that features a nicely-remastered widescreen picture and mono sound with no extras or, better yet, as part of Shout! Factory’s “4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon” two-disc set that just came out last week. B-Movie fans are all over this one (even though it’s also a bare-bones release with the same picture and sound specs) for a couple of reasons, one being that it retails for under ten bucks, the other being that it finally marks the long-awaited release of Exterminator 2 in a post-VHS format. Needless to say, buy this now or you’re an idiot.



I suppose at this point that you might be thinking to yourself — quite understandably — that this flick essentially sounds like Death Wish 3 on steroids, and you know what? You’re exactly right. That might sound kinda unoriginal and hackneyed to the sophisticated cineastes of the world, but to me it sounds like a recipe for guaranteed awesomeness.

You got a problem with that?

Posted: March 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

My latest piece for Through The Shattered Lens website, on Ray Dennis Steckler’s “The Las Vegas Serial Killer.”

Through the Shattered Lens


As we painstakingly established around these parts a few days back, The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher was not exactly Ray Dennis Steckler’s finer hour (okay, hour and ten minutes). It’s a definite head-scratcher of a movie, to be sure, but as mind-bogglingly weird as Steckler’s idea to shoot a silent slasher flick on a budget of $1,000 in 1979 was, that decision seems positively logical in comparison to his decision to actually make a sequel to said silent $1,000 slasher flick seven years later!

Still, in 1986, for reasons known only to the the pseudonymous “Cash Flagg” himself, that’s exactly what he did. Sort of. I think.


The setup here is, as you might expect, something of a puzzler in spite of its simplicity. Pierre Agostino is back as our strangler, but he’s called “Johnathan Glick” rather than “Johnathan Click,” and his stomping grounds have changed from…

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Posted: March 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

My latest piece for Through The Shattered Lens website on Ray Dennis Steckler’s “The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher.”

Through the Shattered Lens


Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. Watching cult auteur Ray Dennis Steckler’s less-than-no-budget/dual-slasher mash-up The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher feels like a step back in time to the late 50s/early 60s, when ultra-cheap productions like The Creeping Terror and The Beast Of Yucca Flats were shot not only without sound, but with what sound was dubbed in later in post-production coming primarily in the form of voice-over narration, since the producers were too stingy and/or lazy to match up dialogue with actors’ moving mouths and only wanted to have to hire one person to tell their “story” anyway.

There’s just one wrinkle — Steckler (under his often-used “Wolfgang Schmidt” pseudonym) made this thing in 1979, hoping for a quick cash-in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween and the fly-by-night slasher genre that was then burgeoning in its wake! Honestly, by this point…

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Hmmm — maybe it’s just the so-called “soft tyranny of low expectations,” but the fact is that I wasn’t quite as offended by the sixth and final issue of Len Wein and Jae Lee’s Before Watchmen : Ozymandias  as I was expecting to be and it didn’t quite piss me off as much as the previous five had.

Oh, sure, it’s still more than fair to say that nothing actually happens here, and that we’re just spoon-fed a bunch of over-written flashback scenes that don’t even do much to flesh out events as initially presented by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons over a quarter-century ago — as a matter of fact, Wein even goes down the ultra-lazy route (one he’s traveled before) of including a scene previously written by Moore verbatim here (in this case it’s the Comedian’s famous late-night visit to Moloch’s apartment and it takes up two of this issues 23 story pages), which I hope resulted in a commensurate docking of his pay.

And Lee’s art still sucks, too — it’s as stiff, lifeless, and devoid of backgrounds as ever. How this book ever ended up getting behind schedule is beyond me, as his panels are the most basic thing you’ll ever see. His cover (as shown above) is decent enough as far as these things so, as is Ryan Sook’s variant (shown below), but honestly, where all the “ooh”ing and “aah”ing in fandom comes from in regards to the art on this series is absolutely beyond me.


So, what did I actually like  about this concluding chapter? Well — nothing, I guess, but I actually don’t recall saying I liked  it, only that I didn’t actively dislike it as much as I had some prior installments. Look, Wein actually has Adrain Veidt say “heavy is the head that wears the crown” in this issue and seems to be writing the scene with a straight face! So, no, this isn’t a good comic. In fact, it’s a decidedly lousy, completely unnecessary one.

But hey — it’s not as lousy and completely unnecessary as parts one through five. The conversation Veidt has with writer Max Fisher, and the explanation Wein provides for the pretext under which he recruited the artists, writers, scientists, and other “visionaries” to work on his hidden island, are actually somewhat interesting — if not terribly surprising or imaginative. So this book has a couple of things going for it, I guess (sort of), and that’s more than you can say for the segments of the story which preceded it.

Yeah, I know — that’s definitely damning with faint praise.  It’s also the first and only praise I’ve had for this series — and since this is the final issue it’ll be the last, as well.

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You honestly have to wonder — what would low-rent exploitation producers have done in the early 1970s without Charles Manson? Cinematic variations on the murders attributed the impish, always-horny Rasputin and his so-called “family”  were positively everywhere for awhile there, and if it weren’t for the bloodbath on Cielo Drive we wouldn’t have had such entries into the grade-Z canon as The Helter-Skelter MurdersI Drink Your Blood, and Simon, King Of The Witches , to name just a (very) few. In addition, we wouldn’t have had the superb and genuinely chilling documentary Manson, and hell — on-again/off-again “Family” associate (and convicted murderer) Bobby Beausoleil even appeared in Van Guylder’s 1969 sexploitationer The Ramrodder and  legendary underground auteur/”black” magician Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising.

So yeah, there’s no doubt about it, friends — the tentacles of Charlie and his associates/accomplices were spread far and wide throughout Hollywood there for awhile. The always-entertaining and thought-provoking Dave McGowan, who runs the “conspiracy”-themed website Center For An Informed America ( — and Dave, if you’re reading this, please write more often, your work is sorely missed!) even has a “flow chart” of sorts up called “The Six Degrees Of Charlie Manson,” detailing the various connections within the movie and music industries of the guy whose birth certificate reads “No Name Maddox,”  that’s absolutely mind-boggling.

All that being said, somewhere underneath the veritable cottage industry of dark rumblings and shadowy, slithering tendrils that have sprung out from what arguably remains America’s most notorious crime spree there’s still, in fact, a very real, concrete set of murders that took place —and even if the events and motivations surrounding those murders remain hotly debated and endlessly speculated about to this day, their bloody end result is certainly not in question. To that end,  if  a “just the facts, ma’am” approach is what you’re after, one of the more straight-forward re-tellings of the so-called “Manson murders” is to be found in 1971’s “Sweet Savior,” a movie that transposes the infamous events from California to New York, sure, but otherwise doesn’t take too many liberties from what we know to be true (or at least what we think we know to be true).

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Starring former ’50s teen heart-throb Troy Donahue as a charismatic cult leader named Moon who keeps his mostly-female acolytes tethered to his will via a potent combination of psychedelics, sex, and “trippy” pseudo-philosophy, the film — better known by the title Troma gave it in 1985 for home video release, The Love-Thrill Murders — doesn’t shy away from Manson/Moon’s alleged racism, sexism, and anti-semitism, but director Bob Roberts looks at the crimes from an angle few were willing to consider in the years immediately following in their wake — namely that the victims were every bit the drugged-out, hedonistic degenerates that the perpetrators were.

These days, of course, it’s pretty well accepted that Sharon Tate and her party guests were just  as immersed in the late-60s Hollywood drug culture as Charlie and his girls, and that it’s quite likely that everyone at the house on that fateful night knew each other, but in the immediate aftermath of the incident, the general public perception, eagerly sold by the mass media,  was that Tate and her friends were absolute saints and the no-good hippie scum who slaughtered them like, as was written on the wall in blood, “pigs,” were Satanic reprobates spewed out from the very pit of Hell itself. Remember, we’re talking about a time here when Roman Polanski was viewed as a grieving widower who lost not just a wife but an unborn infant, as opposed to these days when he’s known to be an admittedly great director, sure, but also a child molester who can’t set foot on American soil.



It would be too much to say that Roberts portrays Moon and his coterie of impressionable young beauties as being sympathetic in this film, but his Tate stand-in character, bored-and-wealthy socialite Sandra Barlow (Renay Granville) and her crowd are shown to be moving in the same milieu as the Manson-family-in-all-but-name, and even invite their eventual murderers over to their party willingly, thinking they’ll provide some “kicks” for the evening. Those “kicks” unfold more or less exactly as the court records state they did in real life, so in that sense The Love-Thrill Murders is a bit on the dry side, but the challenging editorial viewpoint Roberts takes with his story’s presentation more than makes up for any lack of creativity on his part. He certainly isn’t saying the “beautiful people” who get butchered up “have it coming,” by any means, but he is saying that if you flirt with danger for cheap thrills, sometimes you don’t come out alive.



If you want to watch this flick, you’ve only got two options — either find it on VHS or catch a shitty rip of it that’s up on a website whose initials are Y.T., since for whatever reason (probably a legal limbo of some sort) Troma’s never put this out on DVD  despite the film having a relatively decent reputation. I personally view movies like I Drink Your Blood, that use the basic trappings on Manson-ism as set-up but then veer off into telling completely different stories with no connection to reality whatsoever, as having a bit more sheer entertainment value, but for its audaciousness (at least for its time) alone, The Love-Thrill Murders is definitely worth a look. In addition, Donahue’s surprising effectiveness in the lead role, Roberts’ unflinching portrayal of the murders (the film got an “X” rating upon its initial release), and a nice little “twist” ending that finally does diverge from the Vincent Bugliosi-approved (and, some would argue, created from wholecloth) version of history all combine to give the proceedings a bit more “oomph,” as well.

The disinterested and/or merely curious probably won’t find much here to either attract or hold onto their attention, it’s true, but for those of us still morbidly intrigued by the entire, let’s face it, Manson legend, The Love-Thrill Murders makes for some interesting — at times even compelling — viewing.



Let’s be honest — if I don’t review a foreign-made Road Warrior knock-off here every couple of months at a minimum, I’m just not doing my job. And it really does take a certain amount of dedication to my (unpaid) responsibilities to make it through normally-reliable veteran Filipino  exploitation auteur Cirio H. Santiago’s 1987 snooze-fest Equalizer 2000. All I can say is — thank God for Corinne Wahl.

If you’re unfamiliar with the luscious Ms. Wahl (shame on you!), she was a two-time Penthouse “Pet of the Month” back in the early 80s,  was voted “Pet of the Year” in 1982 was married to former Wiseguy star Ken Wahl before he hooked up with one of the Barbi Twins (remember them?), gave acting a try there for awhile, and now works with her sister as a tarot card reader to the stars. She spends a goodly amount of time in this flick running around in skimpy, tight-fitting leather bondage-ish gear (or less), and gets to do things like point a big ol’ gun at a group of standard-issue post-nuke ruffians and exclaim “I’d love to blow you all right now!” What’s not to love, I ask you?



Well, quite a lot as it turns out, because unfortunately the list of Equalizer 2000‘s relative “merits” begins and ends right there. The plot here is your usual insipid, by-the-numbers stuff — after the requisite “nuclear winter” we were all scared shitless of when I was a kid, Alaska (by way of the Philippines) has become a scorching, irradiated desert wasteland lorded over by an outfit of elitist pigs called “The Ownership” who horde all the oil that’s left in the world (a “world,” we’re told, with “no vegetation” even though plants are clearly visible in a couple of scenes — whoops!) and protect themselves from the disorganized rabble who semi-populate the wastelands via the services of their paid mercenary biker forces.

After “The Ownership” makes the mistake of killing his father, our tale’s ostensible “hero” , a mercenary named Slade (Richard Norton, who had a decent career in Hong Kong martial arts flicks but gets a chance to display exactly zero of his skills here and instead spends the entire film doing his best imitation of a rock), tells his employers to take their job and shove it and splits to join one of the disparate, nomadic bands of rebels he used to fight and kill for a living. In between blowing shit up for reasons usually not adequately explained and impressing the lovely young Karen (Wahl) with his stoic non-personality, he’s also working on a bad-ass super-gun called , yup, the Equalizer 2000, which he’s gonna use to bring the whole “Ownership” down.



I won’t kid you, folks — even by the admittedly meager standards of the post-apocalyptic genre, this is pretty bare-bones stuff. To the extent that there’s even a coherent “plot” here at all, the script diverges from it constantly to indulge in one pointless, listless “action” sequence after another, and Santiago is quite clearly “mailing it in,” as the saying goes.  It’s hard to believe this is the same guy who gave us TNT Jackson — hell, even the one other post-nuke flick on his lengthy resume, the third(at best)-rate Stryker, has more going for it than this poorly-thought-through, lackadaisically-directed mess.



All that being said, if pretty much any flick with souped-up, junked-out muscle cars chasing around after souped-up, junked-out motorcycles that throws in some good-looking ladies and an explosion or two here and there can keep you entertained for all of about 80 minutes then Equalizer 2000 will, I suppose, get the the job done — but even then only just barely. I caught this  online via a website which shall remain nameless (it’s not out on DVD even though it got stateside distribution under the auspices of Roger Corman’s Concorde/New Horizons, but it’s pretty easy to find online, at least in 10-minute chunks — there’s a big hint) and have to admit that when Wahl wasn’t onscreen, my eyelids started to feel pretty heavy pretty fast. Oh, sure, there’s a “hey! How ’bout that!” moment when a young(-ish) Robert Patrick turns up turns up as a  generally amoral gun runner named Deke, but beyond that and Ms. Corrine’s leather ensembles, there’s not much to be on the lookout for here.

I guess, at the end of the day, the sad truth is that even if you go in to this thing with appropriately low expectations, Equalizer 2000 will have a pretty hard time meeting them — and it doesn’t even feel like Santiago is really trying to.




Weird as it may sound — or not — the best thing this movie could have done was be even worse than it actually is. It goes without saying that it was sure as hell never going to be good, but at least then it might have veered into the old “so-bad-it’s-good” territory that we all love around these parts. Still,  that usually requires a unique combination of inspiration matched with absolute inability, and this is a film that’s blessed with/suffers from neither — the script and acting are clearly, painfully uninspired, and Santiago is a perfectly capable director who just isn’t showing it here. The end result? A movie that features Corinne Wahl running around in just about nothing yet still manages to be achingly, crushingly dull. I guess that’s a semi-remarkable achievement of some sort, but it’s not one I care to witness again.


Another week, another Before Watchmen book draws — mercifully, I might add — to a close, as we reach the “climactic” final issue of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s four-part Rorschach mini-series. And frankly it’s not a moment too soon.

I’m not even sure how to properly convey my overall disappointment with this one, folks — and at this point I wasn’t even expecting much. It’s no secret I’ve been more than a tad disappointed by the entire BW project as a whole, but the concluding chapter of Before Watchmen : Rorschach really lets down the side —  even when compared against the slink-out-the-door, complete-cop-out ending of J. Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes’ Dr. Manhattan series. The scripting  — as we’ve come, sadly, to, expect from Azzarello — is lazy, the dangling plotlines are “resolved” in a completely rushed and unpredictable-only-in-terms-of-their-ineptitude manner, and all in all, well, the book just plain sucks.

If you’ll recall, last time around things were finally starting to come together a bit — Rorschach had been captured by super-criminal Rawhead and his boys (again) and was being trussed up in preparation for a gruesome death (again) while the serial killer known as “The Bard” zeroed in on Rory’s only friend in the world, the Gunga Diner waitress he was all set to meet up for a dinner date. On top of all that, the lights went out in New York City as the infamous blackout of 1977  hit. Simple as it would be to bring all these disparate plot elements together in a semi-satisfying, if unambitious conclusion — Rorschach gets away, saves the girl in the nick of time and/or doesn’t but manages to kill “The Bard” anyway, and the lights come on — Azzarello can’t even pull that off. Oh, sure, Rorschach escapes from Rawhead’s clutches (although how he actually manages to do so is barely shown), the girl gets away from “The Bard” on her own (somehow — in this case they don’t even bother showing us how), and five years later, when “The Bard” gets outta the joynt, Rory busts into his apartment and kills him in an epliogue that completely lacks any sort of “payback”-style drama because, well, even though “The Bard” has been hanging around the outskirts of the story since the beginning, he never once tussled with the star of the book.

What does “Azz” take up the remaining pages of this scantily-scripted issue with, then, you may wonder? Some lame-brained, last-minute “twist” to the plot featuring Rawhead hitting the streets in Rorschach’s mask and getting himself killed — all of which is, as you’d be right to guess, about as stupid as it sounds.


On the plus side, after the obvious deadline-rushed work of issues two and three, Lee Bermejo’s art improves here and is more or less back up to the standard he set in the book’s opening installment. His cover (shown atop this post) is pretty good, too, and Ivan Reis’ variant (shown above) is flat-out incredible. But pretty pictures alone can’t save this work, and somewhere I think Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are probably shaking their heads.

Then again, I’m sure they had better since than to actually read this thing. Wish I could say the same for myself.