Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Killer Bunnies and More!

Pontypool - 2008 - Dir: Bruce McDonald
Location: The Comfort of My House

I heard about this film quite some time ago and then heard some info on Rue Morgue Radio (Rue Morgue's weekly podcast) since it was filming nearby. Since then I had almost completely forgotten about it, until the DVD recently landed in my lap. The story involves a former radio shock jock, Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), busted back to the minors, which means an AM station broadcasting out of a church basement in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario, Canada. While they are doing the morning show something happens outside and masses of people start going crazy all over town killing each other and muttering strange things to themselves. The only info the radio crew of three get is what comes from callers, like their own traffic reporter.

The film unfolds, save for a couple brief moments, entirely inside the basement studio area. As everything begins to unfold in the outside world you are forced to use your imagination to piece it all together from what they say in the studio and from the choppy cellphone audio. It reminds me a lot of Orson Welles' infamous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. At times they even think they are being pranked, but it is very much real. Also keeping the film confined within this basement adds a very claustrophobic atmosphere. It's not that the studio is small but being stuck there you can feel how the characters sense the walls are closing in on them.

My only real complaint is that the last act gets a little too convenient, but it's not enough to ruin this great film or sully McHattie's amazing performance as Mazzy. The DVD also includes the radio version. At just under an hour this aired on the CBC in Canada and eventually BBC radio as well and only concerns what happens over the air and through studio microphones. It would have been nice if the studio would have included this as an MP3 file to pull off with the aide of a DVD drive, but alas I'll have to do it myself so I can listen to this in the car.

I'm so glad I watched this and you should too. Turn the lights off and pick up the DVD here. The source novel, also written by Tony Burgess, just came back into stock, place your order for it right here.

Night of the Lepus - 1972 - Dir: William F. Claxton
Location: The Comfort of My House

This is a movie I had heard about for quite some time, but never managed to actually watch until the other night. Why did I wait so long? It's giant killer rabbits after all! The film deals with an area in Arizona plagued with hundreds of rabbits causing problems with a man's crops. He wants to eradicate them but doesn't want to use poison if at all possible so he does what anyone would do, calls in a zoologist to find a better way. Dr. Bennett experiments on some of the rabbits with hormones in order to slow their reproductive process but ends up making them grow in size and develop a taste for blood - animal or human.

One of the things that doesn't make a whole lot of sense is the size of the killer bunnies. Dialog refers to them as wolf-sized but while watching they look more like the size of a bus at times. This could be due to scale problems with the models. Instead of creating a bunch of fake giant animals they just made miniature sets and let normal rabbits loose and film them in slow-motion for added effect. It's hilarious to see herds of galloping rabbits terrorizing a whole town. Almost as funny as the fact that the one and only Janet Leigh plays Dr. Bennett's wife. HA!

Scares are not really the issue here but there are plenty of laughs. I can't believe standing up in front of a full drive-in audience during the feature and broadcasting through a bullhorn that killer rabbits are on the way isn't followed by raucous laughter. Instead everyone complies with rolling up their windows and leaving. Just one example of the cinematic gold you will witness if you give it a watch. And you should!

The DVD is currently out-of-print but you can probably still find it in some stores or used copies right here.

Dark Star - 1974 - Dir: John Carpenter
Location: The Comfort of My House
Carpenter Catalog Project

I have a short term goal to watch all of John Carpenter's films. I have seen many, but I have also not seen many of them. I want to see them all before going to Texas Frightmare Weekend in a few months where I will meet, and hopefully interview, the man. Where is a better place to start than the beginning. This was the first feature Carpenter ever made and it's a sci-fi comedy about a crew who have spent the last twenty years mundanely traveling through space and blowing up unstable planets. The film shows the boring side of space travel we don't always see in movies and tries to pair it with some pretty funny situations.

All I can really say about this film is I'm glad this isn't as good as it gets. There are plenty of people out there who love this movie, or so I hear, but I am not one of them. There are a few funny moments, especially the dialog between one of the astronauts and a talking bomb, but it wasn't really enough to keep my interest. To be fair, I was pretty tired when I watched this so maybe I should try again when I'm more awake, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. The script was co-written by Carpenter and the recently late Dan O'Bannon (who also plays Sgt. Pinback) and evidently he took the idea of the alien in this film, which is a painted beach ball with clawed feet, and turned it into the horror/sci-fi epic Alien.

I would really only recommend this film to die hard sci-fi, O'Bannon or Carpenter fans. The DVD release is not the best transfer and is unfortunately non-anamorphic, but at least it's only $10. Pick it up right here.


btsjunkie said...

Love me some NIGHT OF THE LEPUS! Did a killer animal retrospective that lasted about 6 months during HMN 2006 and this was one of the highlights for sure!!

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