Dust off the cobwebs in a corner the forgotten ruins of VHS land and you’ll find charmers like The Grave, a enjoyable, forgettable little haunt that stars 90’s indie beauty queen Gabrielle Anwar, her kooky real life husband Craig Sheffer, Breakfast Club alumni Anthony Michael Hall and B movie sultan Eric Roberts, if you’re quick enough to spot his cameo. It’s one among an infinity of B movies from back in the day that starred earnest character actors involved in lurid criminal escapades and sensual deception, each plot only slightly altered from the last. This one see a troupe of escaped convicts (Sheffer, Hall, Donal Logue and others) running around out west in search of a treasure chest full of loot that’s supposedly buried next to it’s millionaire owner. This setup leads way to betrayals, double crosses, Coen-esque hayseed black comedy and all sorts of shenanigans. Anwar plays the scheming ex girlfriend of one of them who gets in the way of all involved like any self respecting femme fatale should. Curiously, Eric Roberts has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot and only shows up for like a minute long cameo as a country bumpkin who gives hitchhiking Anwar a ride when her rig breaks down, talks her ear off for a spill and then heads off never to be seen again. Huh. Must have owed the director a favour from the last B flick he headlined. Anyways it’s a fun one on low key, inconsequential terms.
iMurders. Just let that title sink in. It’s worse than it sounds. A movie about a series of murders related to an online internet chat room should at least have the trashy decency of something like Pulse or One Missed Call, but this thing plays like a soap opera that got cancelled after the pilot. Cheap, lazy and ridiculous, the only saving grace is the comforting presence of a few character actors to brighten your day. It’s a roundtable whodunit with a series of characters, all who might be the killer stalking them via ‘cutting edge’ technology that resembles nothing Apple has actually ever put out. There’s a tragic shooting from years before that has somehow spurred this lunatic to torment a MySpace group like this, but honestly it’s all a bunch of narrative mud. There’s a scandalous college professor (the great William Forsythe), Gabrielle Anwar (who honestly deserves better than this) as a girl with a few skeletons in her closet, a detective (Frank Grillo) with some personal ties to the case, and more. The one decent strand sees a mysterious psychiatrist (Charles Durning) interviewing a girl (Miranda Kwok), and the two appear to be in some weird other dimension, probably one where the horror films are better than stuff like this. Tony ‘Candyman’ Todd shows up as a sarcastic FBI agent. The whole thing has a silly Fisher Price feel to it and we never buy anything as legit, and even on the standards set by B Movies this is shameless, and that’s all I have to say. Oh and Billy Dee Williams is apparently in it too, but I’ll be fucked if I remember who he is.
The 90’s was a heyday of hard boiled, ultraviolent film noir, a ripple effect that can undeniably be traced back to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, however it’s silly to say that they all are derived from that film, because plenty of them have their own distinct groove and flavour. One such flick is Gary Fleder’s Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, a mouthful of a title that serves as harbinger to one of the most idiosyncratic, verbally flamboyant scripts Hollywood ever produced, penned by Scott Rosenberg. They scored the cast to back it up too, for a beautifully melodramatic neo-noir pulp opus that should be as legendary as any of the household name films to come out of that era. Andy Garcia is the definition of slick as Jimmy The Saint, an ex mobster on the straight and narrow who’s pulled back into the game by The Man With The Plan (Christopher Walken) his former employer and the most dangerous crime boss in all the land. Hired to scare the piss-ant boyfriend who stole Walken’s son’s girl, Jimmy rounds up a crew that shouldn’t be trusted to watch a junkyard. Pieces (Christopher Lloyd, brilliant) is a diseased old porn shop owner, Easy Wind (Bill Nunn), tough guy with a heart of gold Big Bear Franchise (William Forsythe) and Critical Bill (Treat Williams) the psychopathic wild card who uses his day job at a mortuary as an anger outlet by pummelling the corpses like punching bags. Of course they royally fuck up the job, and Walken places scary, symbolic ‘hits’ on each of them. The clock ticks as they all try to either leave town or face the music, but Jimmy is the one with something to lose as he’s fallen in love with elegant, posh rich girl Dagney (Gabrielle Anwar). The script could have easily gone for just colourful carnage and glib posturing, but there’s real, palpable gravitas to the character relations, especially between Jimmy and Walken, who’s history is hinted at and brought to complex life by the two pros. This is Walken at his weirdest and wildest, confined to a spooky wheelchair and locked up in a guarded, dimly lit estate like Count Dracula. There’s a touching subplot involving wayward hooker Lucinda (Fairuza Balk, always terrific) that brings out the dormant humanity in hardened Jimmy. The cast here really is a marvel, and includes Don Cheadle and Glenn Plummer as a couple of loudmouth criminals, Jack Warden, Jenny McCarthy, Tiny Lister, Marshall Bell, Bill Cobbs, Michael Nicolosi, and Steve Buscemi as a freaky hitman named Mr. Shhhh, because he shoots first and doesn’t ask any questions at all. The dialogue is unique and flows from the actors like urban Shakespeare, it’s one of the coolest scripts ever written, and serves not just to be slick for the sake of it, but use jive and jargon to bring forth character naturally, and effortlessly provide buoyancy to the story. One of the great hidden gems out there. Boat Drinks.
Killer Buzz, aka ‘Flying Virus’, is every bit the ludicrous SyFy turd you’d expect, and follows on the heels of several other B movies starring real life couple Gabrielle Anwar and Craig Sheffer, who inexplicably insist on starring together in bilge water like this (check out the third sequel to Turbulence and you’ll see what I mean). All you need to know about this one, besides the fact that it sucks, is that it’s about genetically altered killer wasps brought to life by windows 98 screensaver effects, and a sorry bunch of actors running away from them, one of which unfortunately happens to be Rutger Hauer. Anwar plays some journalist who uncovers a plot hatched by the government to kill humanity using giant monster wasps (how’s that for a plot), and makes a vague effort to stop it. Hauer is a hard nosed mercenary in charge of distributing these mutant stingers, and the shittiest, bottom feeding schlock ensues for a mercifully short eighty minute runtime. The special effects for the wasps really are a pitiful effort, even by these second tier standards, they look like pixelated crazy-frogs made of yellow paper mâché. The only memorable part is when someone warns Hauer about how dangerous they are and he growls in deadpan, “actually, bees are allergic to me”, brandishing a sidearm that wouldn’t do any good against them anyways. I kind of wanna go get a shirt printed at Bang-On of him saying that and giggle like a hipster when no one on the planet but me gets the reference. In all honesty, Killer Buzz is a giant buzz kill and should be avoided like a swarm of…. wasps.
Fallen Angels was a super cool L.A. film noir television series that ran in the 90’s, only never to be heard from again, curiously. It attracted an incredible lineup of directors including Tom Hanks, Alfonso Cuaron, Steven Soderberg, Peter Bogdanovitch, Jonathan Kaplan, John Dahl, Keith Gprdon, Tom Cruise and more, with an even more unbelievable troupe of prolific actors. For whatever sad reason though, it was never really released or marketed well, and has never seen the light of day. Dead End For Delia is the first, and one of the best of the bunch, directed by Phil Joanou, with the lead roles taken by Gary Oldman and Gabrielle Anwar. I’ve always wanted to see the two of them do something together, and funnily enough they share almost no screen time, but having the two occupy space in any project is electric enough. Oldman plays Pat Keilly, a police sergeant who is summoned to the scene of a crime, only to find out that the murder victim is his wife Delia (Anwar). As he is led along a trail of clues as to who her killer might be, he discovers things about her and realizes that he may have never really known his wife, or the person she really was. Oldman does something interesting here; for most of the film his trademark intensity sits at a low boil, lulling us into a false sense of calm and seeming to be one of his more restrained exercises. Then, all of a sudden in the last act he downright explodes and goes on a tirade of fuming emotion that is quite something to see. Makes me wonder if he planned this with his performance, or if he surprised himself with the unexpected outburst. The whole series is solidly star studded, and in addition to Oldman and Anwar we get to see Meg Tilly, Wayne Knight, Paul Guilfoyle, Vondie Curtis Hall and the great Dan Hedaya who works overtime playing at least ten different characters all throughout the show. It’s filmed through a lacy lens, the windows on set always open, the gauzy curtains set unearthly adrift to let in that clammy, humid L.A. breeze that promises secrets you wish you never knew as soon as it brushes against you. Perhaps one day this forgotten show will get a lovely dvd box set. Until then you have to scavenge for fragments over in the scrap yard of youtube. Good luck.