What if there was an alien organism out there whose evolutionary process unfolded at about a thousand times faster rate then ours? What if it crash landed on earth and began said process amidst our carefully balanced infrastructure and caused a modicum of pandemonium? Couple that juicy premise with the gooey Ghostbusters sensibility of Ivan Reitman and the X Files vibe that David Duchovny carries and you’ve got Evolution, one hell of a fun film. This raucous SciFi comedy didn’t make much of a critical splash and sort off faded into obscurity but it’s tough for me to see why as I had a fucking blast with it, starting with the oddly balanced comedic quartet of Duchovny and Orlando Jones (in a role that sounds like it was written for Will Smith, how cool would that have been) as college scientists, Julianne Moore as a CDC guru and Seann William ‘Stifler’ Scott as a hapless wannabe fireman. This alien species grows at a scary rate and contains the kind of arbitrarily morphing biodiversity you might find in a Super Mario game. While they kind of seem benign and don’t really have an aggressive or conquering mentality beyond their base evolutionary nature, it still seems like they need to be eradicated on the simple ‘us vs. them’ clause. An asshole military general (Ted Levine) and the blustery, stressed out governor (Dan Akroyd dressed to the nines and stealing the show) have their own ideas but they’re in over their overqualified heads and it’s up to our four heroes to figure something out. This is an escapist comedy that doesn’t take its premise too seriously but rather wants to showcase some lovingly crafted 80’s era practical effects and a few scrappy early 2000’s CGI ones too. It’s got a playful Men In Black mentality that I felt right at home in, and knows how to have a great time. My favourite scene is when four scared housewives open the pantry to find a slug/dog/platypus/seal looking thing and one of them responds dead seriously with: “When did you get a dog??” It’s that kind of lunacy that spurs this into a truly inspired piece. That and all the ooey gooey aliens running around being chased by a shotgun wielding Agent Mulder & Co. Good times.
Some franchises feel stale and wrung out by the time the third effort comes along, but not From Dusk Till Dawn. In fact I’d even be so bold as to say that despite not having quite such a budget and resources as the original Tarantino/Rodriguez splatter party, this prequel almost has more in the way of imagination. The first came out of the gate roaring and paved the way, the second was a more mellow heist orientated flick that incorporated the horror elements in as it went, but the third does something altogether different. It’s a period piece, set a hundred years in the past, sometime around the Mexican/American war. When notorious outlaw Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi) dodges the hangman’s noose and escapes, he brings abused daughter Esmerelda (Ara Celi) along and scrambles for the state line. The ferocious hangman is none too pleased, given the menacig scowl of Maori bad boy Temuerra Morrison, who played Jango Fett in another prequel we all love. Rounding up a posse, he hunts Madrid and his scurvy gang through the terrain. Madrid is unknowingly headed for a far worse danger though, when he and Esmerelda run straight into the iconic Titty Twister bar, dressed up like a frontier whorehouse this time around. Also along for the ride are a group of wagon travellers including a young newlywed couple (Rebecca Gayheart and Lennie Loftin), oddball Ezra (Orlando Jones) and the real life writer Ambrose Bierce, played with alcoholic grit and gallows humour by Michael Parks. Bierce is famous for actually disappearing somewhere in that area back then, and I like how the film cleverly weaves fact and fiction, putting in a commendable effort to make the turn of events fascinating beyond just a servicable horror level. Danny Trejo also returns, as he must, playing pretty much the same character he did in the first and second, never mind the fact that he keeps dying (you can’t really kill Danny, everyone knows this). I love the formula for these films; they always start out with a slower paced, pulp/crime style narrative that suddenly explodes into creature FX, blood orgies and vampire mayhem without much warning. The first was the bank robbers on the run with hostages, the second was the heist crew and the third is a rousing Desperado style actioner that morphs into the horror we all know is coming. Well produced with a lot of love and some real thought put into the story, exciting and provides more than enough for any horror fan. Definitely the better of the two sequels.