Tag Archives: worst movie

Bleeders

Bleeders (1997)

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Today, I’m going to be fulfilling a request from one of my gracious Patreon patrons, and talking about 1997’s Bleeders.

The plot of Bleeders is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A man travels to an island with his girlfriend in search of his relatives but he finds maybe more than what he wanted to know.

Bleeders is loosely based on a serialized 1923 H.P. Lovecraft story called The Lurking Fear, which had been translated to the screen twice previously in Dark Heritage (1989) and The Lurking Fear (1994).

Among the credited screenplay writers for Bleeders is Dan O’bannon, who was known for genre flicks like Alien, Return of the Living Dead, Lifeforce, Total Recall, and Screamers. Also listed is Ronald Shusett, whose works include Freejack, Above The Law, and King Kong Lives.

bleeders2Bleeders was directed by Peter Svatek, who also helmed Witchboard III: The Possession, the television show Big Wolf On Campus, and television movies like Baby For Sale and The Christmas Choir.

The cast for the movie is headlined by Roy Dupuis (Screamers, La Femme Nikita), Kristin Lehman (The Killing, The Way of The Gun), and noted character actor Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Surviving The Game, The Hitcher).

bleeders5The creature designs for the film were provided by CJ Goldman, who went on to work on larger movies like Battlefield: Earth, Pacific Rim, The Fountain, 300, and X-Men: Apocalypse.

As with many b-movies, Bleeders has been released under a number of different titles over the years, including Hemoglobin and The Descendant.

Bleeders currently holds an IMDb user score of 3.8, alongside an unenviable 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. A prominent review of the film on HorrorNews.net confidently stated that “I’ll be damned if there was anything in this picture worth seeing again,” which succinctly sums up the general reaction to the film.

When I first saw images of Bleeders, the first thing that stuck out to me were the monster designs. They don’t look particularly good, but they are, I suppose, imaginative. I assume that the budget, particularly for the effects, was really low, so there was a lot of necessary creativity to accommodate those restrictions. Honestly, considering that, the monsters could definitely have looked a whole lot worse.

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That said, there is definitely a problem with the monsters: they aren’t scary. While they do successfully rack up a kill count over the course of the movie, they are never particularly intimidating, which I think is more the fault of the direction than the creature designs themselves. There is one specific sequence I recall in the film where one of the beasts charges out of a clothes dryer at a potential victim, only to get caught in a sheet, flail confusedly, and then fall head-first into a boat motor. That sequence is probably the best representation of a Dungeons and Dragons “critical fail” that I have ever seen on screen, and it doesn’t give the CHUD-like beasts much gravitas.

The ludicrousness of that incident aside, the moment in the movie that has made the most lasting impression on me was a sequence that was meant to have great plot significance. One of the lead characters is, during the story’s climax, forced into a position where he must succumb to his long-suppressed cannibalistic nature. On its own, this setup has the makings for a decently dramatic scene. However, the way he goes about indulging this need is at once too gross, while arguably not being explicit enough: he eats (drinks?) a wet specimen of a human fetus.

While the act isn’t shown, the lead up and its aftermath are. On one hand, the very idea of eating a wet specimen is hella gross, and that is accurately and sufficiently conveyed. On the other hand, from the perspective of understanding and experiencing the character, not actually capturing this final, irredeemable act is a huge loss for the audience: it is a pivotal, climactic moment for a central character that is played entirely off-screen. While suggestion can certainly be powerful, missing out on the entire fall from grace isn’t something that can be overcome easily. At the very least, the act could have been done in silhouette or in deep shadow: any way that the content could be understood and experienced, while details of the act could still be somewhat concealed. The moment simply would have been more powerful if the audience could have experienced it.

This brings me to the biggest issue with the film: there really isn’t anyone for the audience to identify with. One of the strengths of Lovecraft’s stories comes from his ability to write horror from a distinct perspective, which helps immerse readers into his tales of terror. However, Bleeders lacks this immersive identification with any of the characters. If the story were from the perspective of the sick young man, that might have worked as a descent into madness. If the story had been through the eyes of his love-stricken, confused caretaker, there still could have been a story there, as she is the most notable outsider on the island. Instead, the narrative doesn’t back anyone in particular: the audience is left without even the slightest guidance. On top of that, the characters are all so damn weird and unbelievable that I couldn’t help but feel like a wholly disengaged gawker, rather than an invested observer of the story.

 

bleeders3Overall, Bleeders is a weird, if uneven, b-movie. Rutger Hauer is good for what little time he is on screen, and there are a couple of other hammy performances that lighten up the experience of watching the flick. However, the story is pretty damn slow, and pretty much everything that shows up on screen is visually bland. There are definitely the makings of a decent movie with the source material, but this isn’t it.

As far as a recommendation goes, I’m on the fence. Bleeders is definitely not your everyday b-movie, and it does have some redeeming qualities, but they aren’t enough for me to recommend it to anyone but the most die-hard bad movie fans.

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Fateful Findings

Fateful Findings

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This past week, I had my first opportunity to experience Fateful Findings, a movie from the contemporary trash cinema master, Neil Breen.

Neil Breen, who performed just about every major role behind the scenes of the movie, is apparently a successful Las Vegas architect who self-funds his film productions with his profits. On top of his numerous behind the scenes duties, he also stars in all of his films, and Fateful Findings is no exception.

Fateful Findings was released in 2013, and is Breen’s third feature-length work. A fourth feature, Pass Thru, is due to release in 2016.

Fateful Findings is a movie that almost defies summary. There are so many sub-plots, dropped threads, and non-sequiturs that the story is barely coherent. On IMDb, the plot is broken down as follows:

A small boy discovers a mystical power as a child. He is then separated from his childhood girlfriend. He grows up to be a computer scientist who is hacking into the most secret national and international secrets, as well as being an acclaimed novel writer. His childhood ‘finding’ gives him amazing paranormal powers. He is reunited with the childhood girlfriend, mystically, on his hospital deathbed… as his relationship with his current drug addict girlfriend is deteriorating. The passions build between the threesome. Mystical, psychiatric and worldly forces rise to prevent him from revealing the hacked secrets. He attempts to reveal all in a Washington DC large press conference, with ‘fateful’ and dangerous consequences.

Fateful Findings is one of the most deeply incompetent films I have seen in a long time. Honestly, Coleman Francis, who could never quite figure out how sound worked on film, made more watchable movies than Neil Breen. Not only is Fateful Findings written in a confusing, convoluted, and rambling way, but both the sound and visuals are lacking on a near-parallel level.
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Any given sequence might feature an airplane flying overhead, a loud air conditioner, inexplicably loud ambient tones, or silence for no apparent artistic purpose. Really, the sound throughout the movie is a crap shoot in every way imaginable. There is even one sequence where the sound of keyboard typing continues in the background after the character is no longer on the computer.

The visuals are primarily comprised of awkward close-ups, with occasional strangely set up two shots. A number of sequences feature two or more people at a table, which rapidly become confusing thanks to the way the shots are structured, and the fact that Breen can’t seem to fit more than two people in any given shot.  Even worse, however, is the fact that the acting is all truly horrendous, which makes the pressure of the closeups unbearable. On top of that, the editing leaves in long stretches of silence between lines, that only serve to enhance the awkwardness of their deliveries.

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Honestly, I could go on forever nitpicking specific issues with this movie. However, here is the key takeaway: with the right group of people, Fateful Findings is a blast. This is a weird movie that takes itself way too seriously, and is all the more comedic because of it. It is almost artistic in its lack of cogency, and in how it revels in its own terrible form and practice.  Surreal might be the right word for it, but I would hesitate to give it that much credit: it is a nonsensical fever dream of a concept that somehow made it to film without getting translated into any language at all.

The Killer Shrews

The Killer Shrews

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Today’s flick is a notoriously terrible creature feature: The Killer Shrews.

The writer of The Killer Shrews was Jay Simms, who also wrote the low-budget b-movies The Giant Gila Monster, Panic In Year Zero!, and The Creation of the Humanoids. The director for The Killer Shrews was Ray Kellogg, who was also behind The Giant Gila Monster, and previously worked as a visual effects artist on movies like The Seven Year Itch and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

The cinematographer on the film was Wilfred M. Cline, who worked on such b-movies as The Giant Gila Monster, William Castle’s The Tingler, and Calamity Jane.

The editor for the movie was one Aaron Stell, who also cut highly acclaimed films like To Kill A Mockingbird and Touch of Evil, along with b-movies like The Giant Gila Monster, Silent Running, and Creature With The Atomic Brain.

The music composers for The Killer Shrews were Emil Cadkin and Harry Bluestone, a frequent composition duo. The latter of the two was a noted violinist who has had compositions featured in movies like Night of the Living Dead, Frida, and The Ladykillers.

The cast of The Killer Shrews included James Best (The Dukes of Hazzard), Ken Curtis (Gunsmoke), Baruch Lumet (The Pawnbroker), and the film’s producer, Gordon McLendon.

The plot of The Killer Shrews follows a group of people on a remote island, where a series of scientific experiments have created a species of giant, aggressive shrews with venomous bites. During a hurricane, the group of terrified people are put under siege by the shrews, and have to struggle to survive and find a way to escape with their lives.

The Killer Shrews wound up featured in a season 4 episode of the cult hit television show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was dedicated to mocking many of the worst films in history.

Depending on the shot, the eponymous killer shrews that appear in the film are either portrayed by hand puppets or dogs in vaguely shrew-like costumes, which you can see in screenshots below.

killershrews2 killershrews1The Killer Shrews notably received a colorized home video release in 2007 along with its companion film, The Giant Gila Monster. Personally, I don’t think the colorization really adds anything to the movie, but it is available if that is the sort of thing you are interested in.

Astoundingly, a sequel to the movie was made in 2012,  over 50 years after the original’s release, called Return of The Killer Shrews. The follow up follows a documentary crew that stumbles across the island decades after the events of the first movie, where the shrews have developed significantly over the years.

The Killer Shrews is widely regarded as a terrible, yet classic, b-level monster movie. It currently holds a 3.7 rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 50% (critics) and 25% (audience).

The Killer Shrews was made on an estimated budget of $123,000, and grossed roughly $1 million in its theatrical run on a double bill with The Giant Gila Monster. Both of the movies were made back to back outside of Dallas, TX, with much of the same crew involved. Both films are now regarded as b-movie classics for their respectively memorable monster effects.

Almost the entire plot of The Killer Shrews takes place over the course of a siege, with the characters barricaded into a compound and surrounded by the eponymous shrews. While there are plenty of good movies that use sieges effectively, it is really easy for movies with this device to become boring, because there is no natural motion or progression for the story in a physical sense. Movies like Assault on Precinct 13 use the small confines to create tension, and hone in on the psychological developments of the characters as the siege proceeds, and they are forced to bond and interact with each other. Unfortunately, The Killer Shrews doesn’t quite grasp how to do this, so most of the movie is just characters sitting around waiting for things to happen, and they never seem to really bond effectively.

The thing that really makes this movie memorable, however, are the effects. The shrews are some of the most silly movie monsters of all time, in both their puppet and dog forms. The hand puppets actually look kind of menacing, but they are still recognizably just hand puppets, and are about as intimidating as a herd of stuffed weasels. The dogs, on the other hand, just look adorable, and their outfits make them look all the more ridiculous. On screen, they look like they are just having a good time running around, but the actors have to try to make them seem terrifying with their reactions.

killershrews3Overall, this is a fun little monster movie that has managed to last through the years. There is certainly nothing groundbreaking about it, but the effects are just silly and charming enough to make this worth sitting through. The ending, in which the survivors essentially use a phalanx formation to get past the shrews, is also pretty memorable in how ridiculous it is. If you like classic low-budget monster flicks, this one is worth checking out. It is far from the worst of the bunch out there, and I actually enjoy it more than most of its peers because of how earnest it seems to be from beginning to end. Fortunately it is in the public domain, so it isn’t a hard one to get a hold of.