HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, December 9, 2023

CLOAK & SHAG HER -- DVD Review by Porfle

Originally posted on 11/24/10


With its poppy 60s-spoof packaging and "Austin Powers" overtones, CLOAK & SHAG HER (2008) looks like it's going to be as much fun as another  Seduction Cinema release I caught earlier, SSI: SEXY SQUAD INVESTIGATION.  But this one doesn't quite have the same mojo, baby.

I don't know about you, but I find extended softcore sex scenes to be even more boring than extended hardcore sex scenes.  Sure, I love looking at nude women, but watching long, drawn-out sequences of them coyly fiddling around with each other and doing R-rated stuff eventually makes me start to yawn, especially when a movie is composed of several of these scenes linked by brief patches of lame, half-hearted comedy. 

Maybe that's why I liked SSI so much--it had the same structure but the comedy was actually funny in its own dopey way.  And I think it helped that I saw the shorter version in which the pretend-sex scenes ended before I started to nod off.  SSI also had the advantage of some location photography, as opposed to the claustrophobic CLOAK & SHAG HER which was taped entirely under one roof, plus an overall sense of comic enthusiasm that is lacking here. 
The story, such as it is, concerns a scheme by the evil Dr. Mean (Darian Caine) to use a love potion to make horny yuppies more susceptible to her commands.  I think.  This is such a terrifying prospect that super-sexy secret agent April Flowers (Julian Wells) and her bumbling partner Basil Shagalittle (Dean Paul) are fetched from the late 60s via time machine and summoned into action.  This action, of course, consists of having sex with Dr. Mean and her minions.

The actors are adequate but nobody in the cast is in danger of winning an Oscar.  As April Flowers, Julian Wells is cute as a button and makes really cool faces during sex.  Dean Paul gives us his best Austin Powers imitation as Basil, but it just ain't happenin', baby.  Darian Caine is a little bland for a super-villian--she recites her lines okay but doesn't really put much into them.  As her minions, the sexy A.J. Khan and the incredibly non-sexy Shane Annigans (as the hulking, homicidal-but-sensitive henchman "Sid the Mangler") do what they can with their roles, while Ruby LaRocca is a lot funnier as herself in the making-of featurette than she is in the movie.

The extras also include a director's commentary and a bunch of trailers from other Seduction Cinema releases (most of which looked like more fun than this one).  And there's also a 2nd disc that consists of--surprise!--the film's soundtrack music by a group called Trigger Finger.  The songs tend to get a little monotonous, but this is mainly because they were written as backup to monotonous scenes.  Otherwise, it's a pretty cool CD. 

This might be a pleasant diversion if you catch it in the right mood, but it's just too blah for me to give it a "yeah, baby, yeah!"  The pop-art opening titles sequence, with all the female characters indulging in some topless go-go dancing to Trigger Finger's catchy main theme, is a lot of fun and kicks the movie off right.  It's too bad the rest of CLOAK & SHAG HER barely even tries to be as shag-a-delic.


Friday, December 8, 2023



Originally posted on 5/10/17


If you're going to retell an old story in a fresh and funny way, you could do a lot worse than THE NEW ADVENTURES OF ALADDIN (2015). 

This breezy comedy retains only the bare bones of the familiar tale and fleshes them out with a fast-moving series of verbal and visual gags that hit the target more often than not and never let up.

Two homeless brothers, Sam (Kev Adams) and Khalid (William Lebghil), have gotten jobs as department store Santas so they can steal as much as they can from the place during the busy Christmas rush.

But when Sam gets stuck entertaining a bunch of kids while their parents are shopping, the impromptu tale he spins for them becomes a grand adventure with him as Aladdin and his well-to-do girlfriend Shallia (Vanessa Guide), who thinks he's a stockbroker, as the lonely princess being forced to marry the evil Vizir (Jean-Paul Rouve).

Naturally, Sam/Aladdin ends up finding the magic lamp after a nifty RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK-style foray into a booby-trapped castle and meets the excitable genie (Eric Judor). Meanwhile, through a series of twisted circumstances, Khalid has been enlisted to impersonate the Vizir's nephew and try to win the princess' hand in marriage.  Things get more complicated when the princess falls madly in love with Sam, now posing as a wealthy prince from out of town. 

Any attempt to recap the story sounds pretty stodgy compared to the light and delightfully funny way that it all plays out.  The gags come fast and furious, with a surprising blend of raucous slapstick and the kind of stimulating verbal humor found in such films as MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN.

Sam and Khalid make a likable comedy duo and the rest of the cast range from deadpan (the grimly sinister Vizir) all the way to flat-out farcical (the neurotic genie). Audrey Lamy has a pleasing Andrea Martin quality about her as Shallia's maid Rababa.  Performances are generally spot-on, right down to the bit players.

The film is filled with amusing throwaway gags, as when a guard catches the Vizir talking to himself every time he goes into an expository monologue.  Since it's Sam's story, his Aladdin suddenly displays amazing fighting skills when he needs them, while naturally being irresistible to the princess.

In addition to a healthy dose of creative slapstick throughout are several satirical jabs at movies such as STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and LORD OF THE RINGS.  (Look for an amusing cameo by Snow White.) One scene even manages to feature a comical beheading thanks to someone's ill-advised nitpick of the Vizir's grammar.

SPFX are nicely done and at times impressive, particularly the flying carpet effects which are helped by some panoramic CGI shots of ancient Baghdad.  The production values in general are consistently lavish and colorful.  In his feature debut, Arthur Benzaquen's direction is brisk and creative and displays a keen sense of off-the-wall comedy. 

French-to-English dubbing is pretty good so I had no problem with it.  (The film will also be available in a French language version with English subtitles.)  Some of the jokes are a bit on the crude side, so parents might want to watch first and judge its suitability for their kids.

A return to the present day wraps things up with a "And you were there, too!" conclusion that adroitly avoids being sappy while still delivering a mildly emotional lift.  (And reminding us that, after all, this is nominally a Christmas story.)  All in all, I found the cartoonishly fanciful THE NEW ADVENTURES OF ALADDIN to be a laugh-out-loud comedy romp that's brimming with fun.


Thursday, December 7, 2023

THE MERRY GENTLEMAN -- Movie Review by Porfle


Originally posted on 12/6/16


Kate Frazier has an abusive husband, so she runs away to find a new life in another city.  She meets a man named Frank who, although quietly enigmatic, seems very nice.  Trouble is, Frank is a suicidal hitman whose next victim just might be himself.  And yes, Kate really knows how to pick 'em.

In Michael Keaton's 2009 directorial debut THE MERRY GENTLEMAN (Breaking Glass Pictures), Kelly Macdonald (TRAINSPOTTING, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) is appealing as Kate, who's quite likable herself and makes friends easily in her new office job.  When someone in her building is killed by a sniper (guess who), the investigating cop, Detective Dave Murcheson (Tom Bastounes), is smitten with Kate himself after questioning her about a man she saw teetering on the ledge of the building across the way. 

The man was our own suicidal Frank, who fell back out of danger when she screamed.  Grateful, Frank manages to meet Kate (they have a cute Christmas tree interlude) and they become friends.  It's the old story of two unlikely people reaching out to each other in a time of need.  And Kate's need grows even more urgent when her husband Michael (Bobby Cannavale, ANT MAN, 10 ITEMS OR LESS) tracks her down and shows up in her apartment, claiming to have been "born again."

Since we don't know if Michael's really a changed man or not, and we really kind of doubt it--as does Kate--this is where we think, "Hmm...good time for Kate to have a new best friend who's a professional hitman."  I wouldn't dream of giving away what happens next, but that's pretty much the set-up, and it's an intriguing one.

Keaton, of course, plays one of those palatable "movie" hitmen who, unlike their counterparts in real life who are nothing more or less than the absolute scum of the earth, we can actually like and identify with.  This nattily-dressed "gentleman" is even so thoughtful that he stops to set right a nativity figure that's fallen down.

Frank has developed a sour stomach for the job and his heart just isn't in it anymore.  So we pretty much buy that he can actually have a sweetly platonic relationship with an emotionally needy woman, especially since this relationship is plausibly simple and avoids getting overly cute.  (With the possible exception of the Christmas tree interlude.)

Michael Keaton, who, of course, we know and love from BATMAN, BEETLEJUICE, NIGHT SHIFT, and MR. MOM, among other things, plays Frank with remarkable restraint and doesn't veer too far into false sentiment to make him more likable.  His scenes with Kelly Macdonald also never try too hard to push our "aww" buttons. 

In fact, THE MERRY GENTLEMAN is so low-key and restrained overall that it barely tries to evoke much in the way of strong feeling from us at all.  It pretty much just shows us stuff happening in a very matter-of-fact way as we watch helplessly. 

Kate and Frank's oddball mutual attraction, Detective Murcheson's sudden infatuation with Kate and clumsy attempts to court her, the complications that ensue when Michael reappears--it all plays itself out with much the same sort of narrative detachment as THE BICYCLE THIEF.

As a director, Keaton lets it all unfold with a slowburn pace, which suits his non-sensationalistic handling of this material well.  He has a very neat visual style that I found quite pleasing, with the same taste and restraint that he applies to the story itself.

If you're looking for gritty cop-noir or tense action, this isn't going to ring your chimes.  More than anything, THE MERRY GENTLEMAN is a character study, albeit a decidedly unusual one, and goes for subtle emotional responses rather than exploiting the subject matter for suspense or thrills.  As such, I found this thoughtful, melancholy mood piece well worth devoting some time to.


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

CAESAR AND OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS -- Movie Review by Porfle

(Originally posted on 8/28/12)

When we last checked in with those wacky half-brothers Caesar and Otto, they were frantically eluding the bloody clutches of a serial killer in CAESAR & OTTO'S SUMMER CAMP MASSACRE and trying not to get sued by the Prince of Darkness himself in CAESAR & OTTO MEET DRACULA'S LAWYER.  Now, with CAESAR AND OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS (2012), even "the most wonderful time of the year" becomes a nightmare of horror and hilarity for our dauntless dim-bulbs.

Directing his own screenplay (from a story co-written with Joe Randazzo) in his usual frenetic and wildly inventive style, indy auteur Dave Campfield once again stars as "effete tough guy" Caesar Denovio, a whirling dervish of cowardly aggression who fancies himself a great actor even though he bungles even the tiniest bit parts (such as "Waiter" or "Background Pedestrian").

Caesar constantly bullies and beats up on his much larger but mild-mannered half-brother Otto (Paul Chomicki), an unemployed "sponge" living in Caesar's apartment.  Together, Campfield and Chomicki form a comedy team that harkens back to such classic duos as Abbott & Costello and Ren & Stimpy, but with their own amusingly unique style.

Several elements from SUMMER CAMP MASSACRE are carried over here, including Caesar and Otto's quest for employment leading them into the manipulative clutches of the deceptively pleasant Jerry (Ken MacFarlane), who now heads an evil organization called XMas Enterprises.  Caesar gets to display his bad-acting chops again, this time failing his audition to play Santa due to a childhood trauma caused by crazy Grandpa Denovio (a hilarious cameo by Troma's Lloyd Kaufman).

There's a road trip complete with endearingly bad (if not impossible) process shots, along with another of Caesar's BABY JANE-style attacks on Otto as they compete for the same acting role.  The suspenseful climax recalls that of the previous film, with Caesar, Otto, and their dad Fred in grave peril at the hands of Jerry and his minions.

One of the most delightfully funny new wrinkles in DEADLY XMAS is when Caesar gets the chance to write, direct, and star in his very own low-budget horror film (financed by XMas Enterprises) which, of course, is a disaster.  "Hand-hold it, the shakier the better!" he says gleefully during one scene.  "That's, like, never done in independent films!"

Other returning castmembers include Robin Ritter as Nurse Helen, Avi K. Garg as the plucky Drew (who remains upbeat even though he keeps losing his arms and having them reattached), Scott Aguilar as Caesar and Otto's no-good but lovable dad Fred, Summer Ferguson as Otto's boyhood love interest Allison, Keith Bush as the Caesar-hating chief of police, Dawn Burdue, Jen Nikolaus, and Derek Crabbe. 

Felissa Rose (SLEEPAWAY CAMP), Martin Sheen's brother Joe Estevez, and scream queens Brinke Stevens and Debbie Rochon make their customary cameo appearances, while Linnea Quigley plays Caesar's crabby agent Donna and recreates her celebrated death scene from 1984's SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT.

Felissa's husband Deron Miller, who had a much smaller role in SUMMER CAMP MASSACRE, plays Santa-clad serial killer Demian, a crazed lackey of XMas Enterprises who becomes fixated on our heroes and starts killing off everyone on the "called to cancel" list for Caesar's annual Thanksgiving feast (which features pretzel sticks, popcorn, and toast on picnic plates).  Demian's axe-wielding exploits supply the film with most of its over-the-top comedic gore, aside from a dream sequence in which a mortified Caesar gets drenched from head to toe in the red stuff while Santa dismembers Otto with a chainsaw.

Once again, Dave Campfield is able to overcome a rock-bottom budget simply by means of creative directing, camerawork, and editing (the latter is especially good), along with sound design and a hyperkinetic pace which recall classic theatrical cartoons.  In addition to this, the cast is brimming with talented performers rather than, as in so many low-budget features, a bunch of nitwits thrown together on the cheap.  There's a lot of good comic acting going on here, with each castmember seemingly inspired by the project.

This is especially true in regard to Campfield himself, who, given the right resources, has (in my opinion) the potential to develop into one of the sharpest and most visually creative comedy filmmakers working today.  While still suffering from a lack of polish that a decent budget would solve, his "Caesar and Otto" series has its own distinctly warped slapstick style and sensibility in the same way that, say, the Zucker Brothers' comedies do.  I'm not saying Dave Campfield is the next Buster Keaton, but I think ol' Stone Face might've gotten a few good laughs out of CAESAR AND OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS.

Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas--Fun Facts and Trivia

Story: With the holiday season approaching, Caesar and Otto find themselves employed at X-Mas Enterprises Inc., where a disgruntled employee wearing a Santa suit has begun a killing spree, and has appeared to have found himself the perfect patsies.

Cast: Dave Campfield, Paul Chomicki, Deron Miller, Ken Macfarlane, Summer Ferguson, Brinke Stevens, Scott Aguilar with special appearances from Lloyd Kaufman, Felissa Rose, Debbie Rochon, Joe Estevez and Linnea Quigley.


The film is part spoof of 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night, and features many direct homages. Most notably, Linnea Quigley being impaled upon antlers.

Lloyd Kaufman’s appearance is a direct spoof of an opening scene from Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984).

Deadly Xmas is a sequel to Caesar & Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre, which lampooned “Sleep away Camp” (1983). Summer Camp featured Felissa Rose in a role that parodied her Angela character from the original.

Deron Miller, who portrays Demian in this feature, was lead singer of the hit rock group, CKY.

Deron Miller and Felissa Rose play husband and wife in the film. In real life they in fact are.

Neil Leeds is in fact a local Los Angeles celebrity known for his around the clock television ads as Leeds Mattress owner and spokesperson.

Preproduction has begun on the next installment, which will satirize both Halloween and the Paranormal Activity movies.

Intended to be a modern day throw back to the Abbott and Costello horror/comedy crossovers of yesteryear.



Tuesday, December 5, 2023

RED CHRISTMAS -- Movie Review by Porfle


Originally posted on 8/24/17


A movie that might also have been called "When Abortions Attack!", RED CHRISTMAS (Artsploitation Films, 2016) is a pretty effective cautionary tale about what can happen if your viable aborted fetus is rescued by the guy who's about to blow up the abortion clinic, grows up into a twisted, deformed freak, and then returns as an adult on Christmas Day to wreak bloody revenge on his erstwhile mother and her comically dysfunctional family. 

Of course, any such film must star beloved genre queen Dee Wallace as the mom, who so desperately wants a traditional, happy family get-together despite having a woefully untraditional, unhappy family with absolutely no intention of getting together.  Her only solace is son Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), whose Downs Syndrome only makes him more special in Mommy's heart.

The rest of the clan includes the rebellious teen girl, her witheringly cynical and very, very pregnant older sister, the ultra-religious sister whose husband is a pious man of the cloth, and Mom's old-hippie brother who is forever puffing away on his medicinal marijuana. 

The prickly interactions amongst this motley bunch, spurred by various family issues and clashing personalities, would be sufficient for a twisted "Big Chill" sort of ensemble dramedy were it not for the fact that their ritual of exchanging gifts around the Christmas tree is interrupted by the entrance of one Cletus, an extremely creepy figure robed in black and wrapped from head to toe like a leper. 

Anyone who watches the abortion clinic prologue and then gets a load of Cletus should have very little trouble putting two and two together as well as mentally mapping out pretty much what territory the rest of RED CHRISTMAS is going to cover. 

All that's left to discover is who's gonna die in what order, how (and how bad) it's going to be, and whether or not first-time writer-director Craig Anderson will be able to make it entertaining for us jaded old slasher-flick junkies. 

Of course, the movie has already proven itself absorbing and fun thanks to good dialogue and performances and a pleasing overall look which includes nicely creative use of color and camera movement. 

Once the axe hits the skull and Cletus starts racking up his body count, the story goes into high gear and keeps us on our toes even though most of the plot's twists and turns cover pretty familiar ground. 

Granted, things start to lag a bit in the second half, but remain generally engaging enough to keep us wanting to see what happens next.  The kills range from teasing glimpses to graphic gore (although this isn't really a gorehound's dream) while our fleeting glimpse of Cletus sans facial bandages drives home the pleasingly retro nature of the film's practical effects. 

The tone is mock serious, with any humor that's inherent in the script kept utterly deadpan and never overt, which I like.  I also like the fact that the premise is so refreshingly different from the usual teens-in-a-cabin or campers-in-the-woods slasher fare while retaining the better elements of such films.

Mainly, though, RED CHRISTMAS lets us enjoy watching the wonderful Dee Wallace giving her all in a great role while fun and entertaining murder, mayhem, and carnage ensue all around her.  It's enough to give horror fans a little taste of Christmas right here in the middle of August.

August 25th Theatrical Release:
Laemmle Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Red Christmas: English / Australia / 82 minutes