Review: The Land That Time Forgot

The Land That Time Forgot (US-2009; dir. C. Thomas Howell)

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The Asylum’s latest foray into the world of B-film genre mayhem is an enjoyable adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel, The Land That Time Forgot. Its blend of good-natured low-budget monster SFX, likeable and distinctive (if largely uncomplicated) characters, and familiar narrative (spiced up with a few unexpected turns) makes it an appealing evening’s entertainment — one that may not be on the dino-pic A-list, but which at least gets a table in the main dining area.

In the present day, a group of holidaying middle-class adventurers on a yacht piloted by the crusty Captain Burroughs (played with idiosyncratic conviction by Timothy Bottoms) find themselves caught up in a very strange storm at sea. Their boat is dragged into a tear in time and space and they are stranded on an island that is the enforced home of pteradactyls, over-sized T-Rexs, a WW1 pilot and the surviving crew of a Nazi submarine. They are consequently faced with some important questions: Can they avoid becoming dino-food? Can they escape the island? And who exactly can be trusted?

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The Land That Time Forgot‘s clear and colourful cinematography — it’s filmed on location somewhere green and open, with at least the appearance of being an actual island paradise — gives it an expansive quality that makes the film look glossier than you would expect from its restrictive budget. Available resources are used effectively. Though director C. Thomas Howell (who also plays the narrator, pictured below) keeps the narrative moving with all due aplomb, the setting itself and the competence of the cast carry us over the gaps between monster action without feeling like the human drama bits are merely filler. I was actually impressed by some of the performances, and especially so when it came to the unexpectedly non-stereotypical depiction of the Nazis.

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Not that the monsters lack presence. They turn up enough to keep all but the most attention-deficient satisfied and the SFX guys manage to work enough alternative perspectives into how we see them that their scenes are neither repetitious (a problem with many low-budget monster films) nor rushed in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it manner.

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On the question of SFX, here at least the low-budget CGI is definitely watchable. The creatures may not sit as solidly in the scene as, say, Kong in Jackson’s remake or the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park — but they look pretty good and are a lot more convincing than the puppets of the 1975 Doug McClure version of the story (as effective as those were in context). Neither these nor 1975 director Kevin Connor’s look entirely “real”, but they are used imaginatively in both films and, failing an injection of an extra $100 million, that’s good enough for me.

It’s inevitable, I suppose, that The Land That Time Forgot will not be forgiven by many net-critics for being made by the notorious Asylum — but at the risk of sounding like an apologist for the company, I don’t think such an attitude is fair. The fact is, this is a decent and entertaining B-monster romp, infinitely better than many of the so-called “classic” creature features thrown together by B-film specialists in the past and now revered by the very fans who rubbish The Asylum for its often entirely acceptable exploitation endeavours. Sure, I’ve seen Asylum films that are more-or-less unwatchable, and others that are OK but rather more rough around the edges than one would like. But seen in the right perspective, this new straight-to-DVD version of The Land That Time Forgot needs little apology.

So I won’t apologise for it. I’ll just say that I enjoyed it. It didn’t bore me nor did it feel like a waste of 90 minutes of my time. If you like dino-flicks — and don’t carry grudges — check it out for yourself.

Posted in Dinosaurs, Film, Review | 5 Comments

Bollywood’s First “Creature” Film

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Bollywood auteur Vikram Bhatt describes the impetus behind his filmmaking:

Every filmmaker has a genre he’s comfortable with and every filmmaker is a peddler. Karan Johar peddles emotions. Yashraj peddles romance. Priyadrshan and David Dhawan peddle comedy. I peddle fear! And I teach my audience how to fight their fear and come out stronger!

Bhatt’s last film was 1920 — an angry spirits/haunted house/exorcism flick that apparently did rather well despite less than enthusiastic reviews.

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Synopsis:

1920 takes place in the pre-independence era and revolves around Arjun and Lisa who are newlyweds. Arjun works as an architect and has been hired to build a hotel where an old mansion is currently placed. To prepare for the reconstruction, the young couple moves into the mansion, but Lisa quickly realizes that something’s wrong. The spirits in the house don’t seem to want them to demolish the old building, but what can they do to prevent it? (Slasherpool.com)

Bhatt is currently in the midst of filming (in London) another horror film, Shaapit, which is due for release in 2010. Though there seems to be little information available on the plot, the poster is at least indicative:

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Romance and supernatural threat…

But while fending off the demons, Bhatt has found time to announced that he has two other films going into production. There’s no word on the first except that it’s a “home-grown” one, but the third will be Bollywood’s first-ever “Creature” film — and Jaws and Jurassic Park are quoted as examples of what the “creature” genre offers: films in which the main interest lies with the monster itself. This could mean Big Monster or “natural”-sized monster, though the fact that Bhatt is touting it as the first one ever made in Bollywood, all bets seem to be on the possibility of a Giant Monster film — seeing as Bollywood has made many films with human-sized monsters.

At any rate Bhatt is ambitious. He is quoting the budget at 100 crores (which translates to 1,000,000,000 rupees, I think, or roughly $US20,650,000) — the largest ever for Bollywood — and a big risk as the film will not feature big-name stars.

Though Bhatt won’t reveal anything much about the film, he has said:

Yes, I’m planning to announce something very big. Wait and watch but it’s too early to tell you the details. I’m working on this script for a creature film and yes, I’m meeting up with certain people on the same. But I will make the announcement when everything’s ready. (Glamsham.com)

And he is apparently seeking special effects and technical assistance from “the technical guys who have worked with Spielberg and the like”.

Could be interesting. Once again, we can only wait and see.

Meanwhile, here’s a trailer for Bhatt’s 1920:

Source: Various (as mentioned in text), via Avery

Posted in Film, Ghosts, Giant Monsters, Monsters in general, News | 2 Comments

Weekend Fright Flick Bonus: Spider

Spider (Australia-2007; short [9:39 min.]; dir. Nash Edgerton)

And just because I’ve had this one for a while and forgot to put it up, here’s a short morality tale about two people and a “spider”. It’s slow-build, too — the way such things should be.

“It’s all fun and games — until someone loses an eye.” (Mum)

Be warned. It has several things that will freak you out — and the spider is only one of them.

Posted in Film, Independent film, Weekend Fright Flick | 1 Comment

Weekend Fright Flick: Road to Moloch

Even if you don’t normally watch the films I put up here on a more-or-less weekly basis, this one is a Must-See. It’s a new short film, only recently completed — a supernatural thriller/action film with superb production values and lots of impact.

In recent times, not surprisingly, there have been a number of feature-length horror films set in contemporary war hot-spots, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Red Sands (US-2009; dir. Alex Turner). But what they do in 90-odd minutes, Road to Moloch does in 16 minutes or so, and with considerable force. Whatever you do, if you like horror films (and if you don’t why are you here?), take the time to check it out.

Road to Moloch (US-2009; short [16.35 min.]; dir. Robert Glickert)

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Synopsis:

While on a mission to locate three missing soldiers, a team of reconnaissance marines encounter a blood-spattered Iraqi stumbling through the desert. After following the distraught man into the depths of an insurgent cave, the marines make a horrifying discovery bringing them face-to-face with an ancient evil.

High Resolution Version: Watch it fullscreen if you have the computer grunt….

Road to Moloch (Higher Res) from Robert Glickert on Vimeo.

Lower Bandwidth version:

Road to Moloch from Robert Glickert on Vimeo.

  • Official website
  • Source: Chris Mirjahangir via Avery. Avery would like to thank both Chris and director Robert Glickert, not just for the film but for bringing it to his attention.
Posted in Demons, Film, Horror, Independent film, Weekend Fright Flick, Zombies | 1 Comment

Update: Return to Yucca Flats

Remember Leon Cowan’s remake of The Beast of Yucca FlatsReturn to Yucca Flats: Desert Man-Beast — which David C. Hayes bravely wrote and is producing, and in which he even more bravely plays the titular Man-Beast? No, well, go to this Undead Backbrain article and check it out. Go on! We’ll wait for you.

While we’re waiting, here’s a faux trailer for a 1970s-style B (for Bad) film called Love Tard, created by Hayes. Be warned, however; the B also stands for “Bad Taste”.

Hmmm, sorry about that. Okay, before we return to Return to Yucca Flats: Desert Man-Beast, here’s a warning (again from Hayes). The actor is Kim Sonderholm:

Ah, you’re back. Up to speed now?

Okay, the good (?) news is that Return to Yucca Flats: Desert Man-Beast will be finished filming by the end of the month — and Hayes says that they may have a distributor.

In case you’re wondering what we’re in for, here’s a clip of Hayes as the Man-Beast dancing in the desert.

I think I need to go lie down now.

Posted in Film, Horror, Independent film, Update | 1 Comment

New: Dog

Dog (US-2009; dir. Tim Gates)

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This upcoming horror film from Tim Gates offers a very promising approach to the animal/human interface. Definitely not your average lycanthrope.

Synopsis:

A vast salvage yard lies nestled in the woods, on the edge of a small, Mid-Western town. Owned and operated by a pair of sadistic, murderous brothers, the yard is a place of death and unimaginable horror. A place that hides the darkest of family secrets. When night falls, the salvage yard is watched over not by canines of the four-legged breed but by ‘Dog’, the owners’ younger brother.Warped by years of abuse at the hands of his siblings and horribly deformed by generations of in-breeding, the feral and misshapen boy (more beast than man) prowls his shadowy domain, viciously slaughtering anyone foolish enough to enter after dark.

One day, Lizzie and her friend ‘Pump’ enter the salvage yard and from a distance (within the darkened confines of an abandoned school bus), Dog takes notice. The sight of the young woman causes something to rise from deep within him … a feeling he’s never felt in his entire, tortured existence. These urges drive him into the night, to track the troubled teen and his journey takes him beyond the fences of the salvage yard, to the outside world … with deadly consequences.

Featuring an experienced cast and crew, it seems to offer more than the rather soulless plotting of much recent horror cinema, recognising the narrative power that can be generated by monsters that elicit our sympathy at the same time as they threaten the normalities we cling to.

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Dog was an “Official Selection” at 5th Annual Fright Night Film Festival, held in Louisville, KY, on 12-14 August, after premiering at a special showing on 29 May at the Michigan Theatre in Jackson, MI.

Actor John Lennox, who is trained as a fight director, plays the lead character Dog, a role for which he had to lose 30 pounds to get the right look. He commented:

“It was one of the hardest gigs I’ve ever done. A lot of running about, moving about, jumping on people.”(mlive.com)

Creature and other effects for the film were handled by special effects artist Vincent Guastini and his fellow artists in V.G.P. EFFECTS and DESIGN STUDIO. V.G.P.’s credits include Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags Of Our Fathers, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Scary Movie 4, Stephen King’s Thinner, Child’s Play 3, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Virus, The Last Of The Mohicans, Super Mario Bros: The Movie, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Snoop Dogg’s: Hood of Horror, Driftwood and Unearthed.

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Hopefully, the film will be released more widely very soon. Director Timothy Gates has promised to keep us informed.

Gallery (including some alternative posters):

Posted in Film, Horror, Independent film, Monsters in general, News | 5 Comments

Hulk Fights Giant Monsters

The synopsis might read: “An articulate Hulk fights giant beasties, gladiator-style, on an alien planet, exiled there by none other than Ironman.”

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It’s Planet Hulk, an animated feature due to premiere on DVD in 2010, based on the comic series Planet Hulk: Exile.

Trailer:

Posted in Animation, Giant Monsters, Robots, Science Fiction, Trailers | 3 Comments

War of the Worlds: Goliath of a Trailer

War of the Worlds: Goliath (US-[in production for 2010]; dir. Joe Pearson) is “a 90-minute, animated, steampunk epic of war, comradeship and courage under fire”, based on H.G. Wells’ iconic Martian invasion novel, War of the Worlds. (See Robot War Espresso for our previous article on it, including lots of artwork.)

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The basic scenario?

In 1900, the Earth was attacked by ruthless invaders from the planet Mars. The Martian’s 80 ft tall, heat-ray spewing, Tripod battle machines laid waste to the planet, but the invaders ultimately fell prey to Earth’s tiny bacteria.

Fourteen years later, Man has rebuilt his shattered world, in large part by utilizing captured Martian technology. Equipped with giant, steam-powered Tripod battle machines, the international rapid reaction force, A.R.E.S., is Mankind’s first line of defense against the return of the rapacious Martian invaders. Based in a massive fortress complex at the south end of Manhattan Island, the young warriors of A.R.E.S. train under the leadership of Secretary of War, Theodore Roosevelt, and the grim General Kushnirov.

And return the Martians do. The rematch finds the multinational squad of the A.R.E.S. battle Tripod “Goliath” on the front-lines of a vicious interplanetary offensive when the Martian invaders launch their second invasion using even more advanced alien technology. In the crucible of combat, this young team helming the mighty Goliath will be tested to the limits of their endurance and courage as they fight for Mankind’s very survival under the onslaught of an implacable enemy. (HeavyMetal)

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The film’s steampunk aesthetics look great, as does the animation now that we have a chance to see it in a just released trailer. Check it out:

It’s not hard to see the influence of Japanese anime in this — not that that’s a problem. War of the Worlds: Goliath certainly looks to be of the highest quality. In the end, whether the scripting proves to be equally successful will determine where the movie will fit in the pantheon of scifi animation, the upper echelons of which are at present dominated by the Japanese.

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Produced by Tripod Entertainment, War of the Worlds: Goliath is being directed by animation veteran Joe Pearson (Epoch Ink Animation), and written by accomplished wordsmith, David Abramowitz (Highlander). Featuring the voice talents of Adrian Paul, Peter Wingfield, Adam Baldwin, Elizabeth Gracen, Jim Byrnes and many others, the movie is being storyboarded and designed by an international team of top artists and designers, and is being animated in a state-of-the art combination of CG and traditional cel animation in Seoul, South Korea. Audio and video post-production including music score, sound design, voice direction, mixing, visual effects and editing will be done by the best studios in Southeast Asia, Imaginex Studios and BaseCamp Films. (HeavyMetal)

Behind the Scenes: can be accessed from this page.

Gallery:

Posted in Animation, Cartoon, Flying Saucers, Giant Monsters, Robots, Update | 2 Comments

Update: Survival of the Dead

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Fast turn-over for an update, I know, but George A. Romero has released a bunch of images from his latest zombie film, Survival of the Dead — a follow-up (rather than a sequel) to his Diary of the Dead (2007). During an interview with Romero in 2008, Romero said to Undead Backbrain, in regards to Diary of the Dead, but in the context of a possible follow-up:

One of my biggest fears about the blogsphere is that I don’t think it works to widen people’s understanding or bring people together. People only seek out the opinions of those they already agree with. It creates tribes. There’s no discourse.

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The idea of divided communities or tribes now appears to inform this most recent of his zombie films in a direct way, having grown out of earlier films, in which human inability to work together effectively drives the characters’ ultimate fate — not to mention the “enclave” mentality that proves so destructive in Land of the Dead. Commenting on the new film’s central idea, Romero said:

“It’s this whole idea of tribalism – that we can’t pull it together.  News reports about the presidential race still bring up religious topics or racism. That’s pretty much the central theme. There are two factions. It’s the idea that even when faced with a crisis, tribal concerns about power control people’s motives.  One side wants to kill off zombified loved ones before cannibalistic urges strike. The other would rather wait to see if there is a cure for such cravings. They want to leave Grandma in the rocking chair for a while longer.  It’s not a good idea.”

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As regards the title, he added:

By the end, something happens that makes the word “survival” take on a whole new meaning. I’m not going to give it away now.

All up I’m feeling rather positive about this film. My impression is that Romero’s metaphorical approach to the living dead has once again undergone a mutation — the sort of rejigging that has kept him ahead of the game over several decades (whatever naysayers reckon) and which make his zombie films trendsetters in the genre. If each of the Living Dead films defines for Romero the tenor of the times in which it is made, then clearly Romero perceives today’s world to be stricken with tribalism — idealogical divisions that will ultimately threaten our survival.

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Behind-the-Scenes video:

Survivial of the Dead will be screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

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Posted in Film, Update, Zombies | 3 Comments

New: Parasitic

Parasitic (US-2009; short [14 min.]; dir. C.J. Arellano & Josh Alletto)

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In Parasitic, a talking tapeworm forms in the stomach of a lonely, snobby high school boy.

With a scenario in the tradition of Frank Henenlotter’s 1988 sentient parasite film, Brain Damage — and a few moments that echo the famous “birth” from AlienParasitic looks like a lot of fun.

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Trailer:

Production:

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If the short film has a youthful air about it, it’s not surprising really — though the professionalism on display seems quite remarkable. Comments co-director C.J. Arellano:

The age range of the cast and crew who worked on Parasitic ranged from 17-22. I was 20 when we produced the film in Chicago in 2007; my co-director and star of the film, Josh Alletto, was 22. I was 18 when I wrote it in 2005. (Whew, it’s been a long journey!) … We will definitely be selling it on DVD and/or posting it online in November. In the meantime, we hope that it will be screening at festivals between September and November.

In fact, the film is now set to premiere at the Shockerfest 2009 Film Festival in Modesto, CA.

We’ll be looking forward to seeing it sometime afterwards.

Breaking News! Parasitic will also be screening at the Illinois International Film Festival.

Gallery:

Posted in Film, Horror, Independent film, Monsters in general, News | 2 Comments