Quite a weird movie for this week’s recommendation. MIRACLE MILE (1988) is one of the strangest films I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s an almost surreal mix of genres: love story, thriller and comedy for starters, with a healthy dose of added paranoia. Here’s the synopsis and trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.
A young man meets and falls in love with a young woman at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. This area is known as Miracle Mile, and the whole movie takes place there. They make a date, which he misses, and while he is searching for her, he accidentally finds out that we (the United States) are about to start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He frantically searches for her so that they can escape Los Angeles.
I owe Ryan Fleming a thank you and an apology. Not only is he a film director, roving reporter and star of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH(page 351), he’s also a top bloke. Many moons ago he was kind enough to send me a copy of today’s film recommendation – BY DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT. I watched it almost straight away, but it’s taken me until now to write up this post.
BDEL is a TV movie from 1990, based on the novel TRINITY’S CHILD by William Prochnau. It boasts an excellent cast including Martin Landau, James Earl Jones, Rebecca De Mornay and Darren McGavin. It was directed by Jack Shoulder, probably best known to genre fans as the director of the divisive NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE. As usual, a brief synopsis follows. Unfortunately I can’t track down a trailer, so you’ll have to make do with a short clip from the movie. Click the link below for my thoughts.
When a fanatical group opposed to friendly US/Soviet relations explodes a nuclear missile over a Russian city, it begins a chain reaction of accusations and actions. As the clock ticks toward total nuclear annihilation, the American and Soviet leaders race toward a solution, fighting with their own camps as well as with each other. Two air force pilots are ordered to take their B-52 bomber into the air and await further instruction, but when it’s reported that a bomb has killed the President, pilots Cassidy and Moreau are ordered to perform the grand tour: the systematic bombing of all Russian leaders. Can these two follow through on a command that will mark the beginning of the end?
It’s been a busy week, but I managed to sneak in a quick movie (in gradual bite-sized chunks at the end of each day) which I wanted to tell you about.
JUAN OF THE DEAD (original title Juan de los Muertos) is a 2011 Cuban-Spanish co-production which was billed as Cuba’s first horror movie. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers zombie comedy about a couple of slackers… so far, so Shaun, but the unique setting and the sentiment will make JUAN of interest to zombie completists.
The blurb: Juan is a slacker trying to reconnect with his daughter, who plans to rejoin her mother in Miami. Lazaro, Juan’s friend, is trying to connect with his own son, a persistent womanizer. They begin to notice that locals are “going crazy”, killing people and eating their flesh, and the recently deceased are returning to life. The Cuban government and the media claim that the zombies are dissidents revolting against the government. Juan starts a business to profit off of killing the zombies, but the group may soon find their own lives at risk.
For reasons I don’t want to go into yet (but which will, hopefully, become obvious over the course of the next couple of years) I’m increasingly fascinated by micro-budget film-making. A few weeks back I wrote about James Plumb’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RESURRECTION – a strong, good-looking feature produced with a). very little money but, more importantly, b). a huge amount of talent and commitment.
Shane Carruth’s PRIMER (2004) is another such film. Clocking in at a lean 77 minutes, it crams more inventiveness and originality into its short running time than many big budget blockbusters manage in a few hours. As always, here’s a synopsis and a trailer. Click the link below for my brief thoughts.
Four friends/fledgling entrepreneurs, knowing that there’s something bigger and more innovative than the different error-checking devices they’ve built, wrestle over their new invention.
Something completely different for this week’s post-apocalyptic movie club selection, and I have a feeling this film will have passed most folks by…
IDIOCRACY is directed by Mike Judge, who first came to prominence in the mid-nineties as the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head. This, his second live action feature which was released (barely… I’ll explain in a second) in 2006, is a science-fiction satire which, I don’t mind admitting, left me feeling genuinely uneasy. As usual, here’s the plot, followed by the trailer, followed by my thoughts:
“Private Joe Bauers, the definition of “average American”, is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes 500 years in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive.”
Start them young, that’s what I always say. I think my taste in films and books (and, perhaps, my chosen career) was decided at an early age. I have vivid memories of watching Dr Who, Blake’s 7, and Space: 1999 and so on as a kid, then graduating to horror and developing an unhealthy addiction to post-apocalyptic books and films during my teenage years (thanks, in no small part, to growing up during the tail end of the Cold War). So I felt it was my duty as a father to sit down with my wife and two youngest daughters to watch a family friendly dystopian movie recently. And I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
I approached HOW I LIVE NOW (2013, based on the 2004 novel by Meg Rossoff) with some trepidation, fearing I was in for 101 minutes of Twilight-like pretty kids moping around, but I needn’t have worried. As usual, here’s a brief synopsis and a trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts on the movie.
Set in the near-future UK, Daisy, an American teenager, is sent to stay with relatives in the English countryside. Initially withdrawn and alienated, she begins to warm up to her charming surroundings and strikes up a romance with the handsome Edmund. But on the fringes of their idyllic summer days are tense news reports of an escalating conflict in Europe. As the UK falls into a violent, chaotic military state, Daisy finds herself hiding and fighting to survive.
HELL (2011) came to me courtesy of a long-time supporter of my work from Germany (thanks again, Jochen!). It’s a low budget German movie which gained a lot of attention because the executive producer was Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 etc.). But if Emmerich’s overblown, Whitehouse destroying blockbusters aren’t your scene, then you’ve come to the right place, because HELL is about as far removed from those kinds of movies as you can get.
I was immediately drawn to the film because of the basic premise. At first glance it sounds like a similar kind of set-up to STRAIGHT TO YOU:
“It was once the source of life, light and warmth. But now the sun has turned the entire world into baked and barren wasteland. Forests are scorched. Animal carcasses line the roads. Even the nights are dazzling bright. Marie, her little sister Leonie and Phillip are heading for the mountains in a car with covered windows. Rumor has it there is still water there. Along the way they run into Tom, a first-rate mechanic. But can they trust him? Tension grows in the small group. As if things weren´t bad enough, they are lured into an ambush. Their real battle for survival begins…”
Watch the trailer (ignoring the awful English dubbing), then click the link below for my thoughts.
And while we’re on the subject, I’ve got another interesting film piece coming up for you tomorrow (hopefully), and I’ve also got another 40 or so movies queued up to watch and review. But I want more! If you’ve got a particular favourite post-apocalyptic movie that you’d like featured on the site, either contact me or leave the name in the comments here or on Facebook or Twitter.
Regular visitors here will recall how, a couple of weeks back, I was banging on about concept versus story and my argument boiled down to this: it’s all well and good having a great idea, but without a story which matters to people, your book or film will most likely go unread/unwatched/unloved.
Today’s Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club selection is a fantastic example of how that holds true – a movie with a deceptively slight concept which is carried by an excellent story and performances.
THE BATTERY is a lo-fi zombie movie. In fact, it’s one of the lowest lo-fi movies I think I’ve ever seen. It has a very small cast, a distinct lack of action, and yet I was captivated through the entire one hundred and one minutes. Here’s the synopsis and trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.
Two former baseball players, Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), cut an aimless path across a desolate New England. They stick to the back roads and forests to steer clear of the shambling corpses that patrol the once bustling cities and towns. In order to survive, they must overcome the stark differences in each other’s personalities—Ben embraces an increasingly feral, lawless, and nomadic lifestyle—while Mickey is unable to accept the harsh realities of the new world. Mickey refuses to engage in Ben’s violent games and longs for the creature comforts he once took for granted. A bed, a girl, and a safe place to live.
When the men intercept a radio transmission from a seemingly thriving, protected community, Mickey will stop at nothing to find it, even though it is made perfectly clear that he is not welcome.
On Saturday I wrote a piece about ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and it was clear from the number of comments, re-tweets etc. I received that it’s a film a lot of people have a lot of love for. The movie I want to talk about today, however, is, in my opinion, far less satisfying.
James DeMonaco’s 2013 movie THE PURGE starts with a broadly similar premise to EFNY, in that in order to try and cope with a crime rate that’s spiralled out of control, the US government is forced to try a radical new approach. This is the titular Purge – a brief period of time once each year when all criminal activity is legalised. Read the synopsis, watch the trailer, then follow the link for my brief thoughts.
In an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity-including murder-becomes legal. The police can’t be called. Hospitals suspend help. It’s one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this night plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger comes knocking. When an intruder breaks into James Sandin’s (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear a family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide.