Archive for February 11, 2017

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I’m not really sure how to classify this one, to be honest — writer/director/producer Ryan Cavalline’s 2017 no-budgeter  Mountain Devil (now streaming on Amazon Prime) isn’t exactly a “found footage” flick so much as it is a “mockumentary,” which is to say, yeah, there’s plenty of phony “footage” of the “long-lost home movie” variety, but it’s also “supplemented” by “dramatized re-creations” and the whole package is “hosted” by some charisma-free zone named Duane Bradley — who, near as I can tell, isn’t an actor, but a real guy. Or maybe he’s just a real guy who’s never taken any acting lessons. I dunno.

Nor, frankly, does it really matter. Apparently this standard-issue Bigfoot yarn about a guy named Frank Peterson (played by Eddie Benevich) and his pal, Randy Wallis (Eric Koval), who decided to spend a weekend getting drunk and playing with firearms at a secluded cabin along the Appalachian Trail in BF, Pennsylvania is “true” — at least as far as the average “Squatcher” is concerned. But just because something (may have) happened, that doesn’t make it particularly interesting.

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Under normal circumstances, a more detailed breakdown of the particulars of the film’s plot would be in order here, but ya know what? I’ve honestly told you pretty much all you need to know already. One weekend in 1978 (if I remember correctly), a couple rednecks went to a cabin and got set upon by Bigfoot. Who, in this film, is only about — I dunno, six feet tall. And rented his costume from the local theatrical supply shop, who no doubt keep this one around for promos at the used car lots around town, where, truth be told, it’s probably put to better use — because there’s nothing even remotely good about this 80-minute celluloid abomination. It’s boring, it’s cheesy (without being “fun” cheesy), it’s dreadfully-acted, and it’s utterly devoid of drama, scares, suspense, or even purpose. Every second you spend watching it is a new opportunity to hate yourself for wasting your time on it and little (okay, nothing) more.

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Here’s the friggin’ goofy thing, though — in recent years, “found footage” and Bigfoot have sorta mashed together pretty nicely, haven’t they? Movies like Willow Creek and Bigfoot : The Lost Coast Tapes have done an admirable job of proving that these two genres go hand in furry, clawed hand really well. So I held out some faint hope that Cavalline might be able to continue that trend — but hey, what can I say? I was wrong. Painfully wrong. I might even go so far as to say dead wrong — but that would be a bit tasteless given the final fate that befell Peterson and Wallis.

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In any case, the least I can do is warn you good people off this thing. Before sitting down to write this review, I reached really deep into the most musty and under-utilized parts of my mind in order to come up with some reason — any reason — for perhaps the more morbidly curious among you to give it a go, and came up absolutely empty. I tried, I swear, but the task proved just too daunting for me.

And that probably tells you all you need to know right there — and certainly exhausts me of everything I wish to say about the matter. Mountain Devil made me want to run for the hills and never come back.

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As a general rule, I have precisely zero faith in humanity. Evidence for why this would be the case abounds, of course : the election of Donald Trump. Keeping wild animals caged in zoos for our entertainment. The wholesale destruction of our environment. The enduring popularity of Billy Joel. Yup, friends, there’s just no doubt — people don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.

But then along comes some (usually out- of- left- field and entirely unassuming) reminder that maybe — just maybe — all is not lost, after all. Maybe somebody out there “gets it” and knows what needs to be done in order to, if not save us, at least keep us good and entertained while the whole shithouse goes up in flames. Enter Leicester, UK-based brothers Carl and Marc (no relation to you-know-who) Hamill, masterminds behind the 2015 mini-masterpiece Toxic Apocalypse (or, as it was known upon its initial DTV release in its country of origin, The Wrong Floor). With only five thousand pounds to their names and a cast composed largely of friends and relatives, these two have single- (okay, double-) handedly restored my faith in our still-certainly-doomed-at-some-point species. Yup, it’s true — this flick (now streaming for free on Amazon Prime) is just that much fun.

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Read the following brief synopsis and tell me that it doesn’t sound like all kinds of awesome to you : Danny Green (played by our guy Carl) is searching for his recently-disappeared father, a scientific genius employed by the nefarious EKAF Corporation, a typically sleazy big-business outfit that’s promising the world a “free energy” breakthrough but is, in fact, surreptitiously supplying the criminal underworld with the suddenly-popular street drug known as “Haze,” which has the unfortunate side effect of turning a number of its users into bloodthirsty homicidal maniacs. Rumors of the company’s involvement in the “Haze” racket abound, but thanks to corrupt cops and government officials, nothing has ever been proven — until now. After hitting one brick wall after another trying to get dirt on EKAF, Danny has decided to take the direct approach by getting hired on as a low-level security guard in the hope of catching the bastards red-handed. Along the way he manages to make an ally in the form of the plant’s fetching receptionist, Clarissa (Heather Percival) and the two quickly discover that “mad scientist”-type Dr. Logan (M.J. Simpson) is in league with a couple of local thugs (played by Chris Postlethwaite and Tom Robinson) who provide him with homeless people to experiment on. From there the trail leads to crime boss Marcais (Ron Hamill — yes, there’s another one of ’em), who controls “Haze” distribution in town, policeman-on-the-take Blackwood (David Hardware), and eventually back to EKAF itself, where most of the research staff seem well aware that rather than working on a renewable fuel resource, their efforts are actually being used to refine an even more potent (and deadlier) new version of “Haze.” It’s only a matter of time before Danny’s true intentions are discovered, of course, but what does he really have to worry about — other than a lab full of doped-up crazed killers, the rest of the plant’s security staff, and Marcais’ vicious street muscle — all of whom are closing in on him at once? After all, he’s got the truth on his side! Unfortunately, he doesn’t really have much of a plan, but that’ll work itself out — won’t it?

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Obviously, writer/director Marc and script editor/star Carl have done their genre homework — Toxic Apocalypse plays out like the kind of film that could only be made by a couple of guys who have spent way too many hours watching The StuffStreet Trash, and Troma flicks like The Toxic Avenger. It has its tongue well and firmly in cheek from start to finish, and is blissfully unafraid to sacrifice logic, continuity, and even common sense on the altar of balls-out, ultraviolent hijinks. No one’s safe in this movie, anything can happen at any time, and none of it really matters, anyway, so why not be as absurd as your (admittedly limited) resources will allow you to be? If you’re tired of “micro-budget” productions that take themselves way too goddamn seriously, congratulations — your antidote to pretentious navel-gazing has arrived, and it doesn’t care whose delicate sensibilities it offends.

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Do you have to to make the usual allowances for a zero-budgeter with this one? Sure you do, to an extent, but these guys are so effing smart that they’ve even figured out a way to have fun with their own limitations — for instance, look for actress Claire Ball as a scientist, a hooker, a protester, an old lady, and a laser tag player. By and large the all-practical FX work is solid, the acting ranges from competent to actually pretty damn good, and the direction is surprisingly (and refreshingly) creative. At the risk of sounding like too much of a pathetic fan-boy, I honestly can’t think of anything to bitch about here.

And on that note, I think I’m done taking up any more of your valuable time. There are a million and one better things you could be doing other than reading this review — and watching Toxic Apocalypse immediately should be at the top of the list.