Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987)

Following a nuclear war, the remaining inhabitants of Earth are few and most of the women have been left infertile due to fallout. Enter Sam Hell (the incomparable 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper), an oversexed vagabond whose sperm levels just so happen to be off the charts. Captured by the provisional governing body, he is forcibly recruited by the Med-Vac division to impregnate any woman found to still have a light on in their oven. This leads to a rescue mission in Frogtown where several nubile young ladies (how come the women in all these movies are always barely covered up? Are there really not enough tattered rags but for what amounts to a bikini? And better yet, why am I complaining about this?) have been captured by amphibian-human mutants that have been driven from what is left of society and restricted to their own makeshift towns. Hell and his all-female warrior companions kick rubber-masked ass, keep on the look out for more bubble gum (not likely to be easy in the post-apocalypse).

Hell Comes to Frogtown essentially boils down to being an entertaining but rather shallow effort. The humor is solid even if the timing of its actors is not (truth be told, Piper simply chewing scenery would amuse me) and he is most definitely the main attraction here.

The story suffers from a lack of imagination (I know what I just said, bear with me) outside of the interesting premise. We get Hell (in government sanctioned metal briefs to protect their investment) and his companions covering the first act on the road with little progress and a lot of campfires to sit around doing nothing. There is a rather forced love story sub-plot brewing between Hell and the main Med-Vac rep that was pointless and therefore will not be mentioned again.

The film picks up slightly once they finally reach Frogtown (which is basically a rundown construction site in the middle of the desert) and the mutants do look decent for the budget. There is more bantering and Farmer Vincent himself of Motel Hell (1980) pops up to flash his creepy, pearly white smile and get shot (movie has gotta have some heart after all). The kidnapped females are now employed in Commander Toty's harem and no worse for wear because of it. It makes for an odd scene when those that are to be rescued seem content with where they are, but they come along willingly all the same. It all ends as expected.

There seemed to have been a reluctance to discuss (humorously or not) the state of a world where procreation is expected to be the sole purpose for sex. The amphibian people are rightfully pissed about their situation but little is made of their plight or really even the intentions behind kidnapping the fertile women. We are told initially that they are being held for ransom, but then are suddenly held as (not really) sex slaves. There are whole scenes that consistently lead to nothing and have no bearing on the film as a whole. More than anything, I was disappointed in the directionless route that was taken when there was so much potential.

Just watch A Boy and His Dog (1975) again.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Dead & Buried (1981)

The people of Potter's Bluff, a small New England seaside burg, do not take kindly to strangers (or so it would seem). The townsfolks penchant for brutally murdering any visitors that happen to find their way within its limits is a pretty good indicator. However, a short time later, the recently deceased tourists show up alive around town with new identities and no memory of their previous lives outside of Potter's Bluff. This is not to say that the entire populace is behind this particular brand of malevolence as the town sheriff appears to be unaware of the local past time and goes about investigating the savage deaths. With the assistance of the humorously macabre town coroner, the sheriff slowly uncovers the town's secrets leading to a somewhat fulfilling twist.

There are few films that can overcome the shortfalls of their story, but Dead & Buried does precisely that. The final reveal is suitably haunting though far too convenient for what it has been led up to. I will leave most of the specific details out for the uninitiated, but will say that the explanation for how the citizens came to be, most specifically, their complete lack of memory function, serves only to lazily fill numerous plot holes.

Be that as it may, the atmosphere that is created around Potter's Bluff through lighting and a truly astounding use of fog (apparently taking cues from, well, The Fog (1980)) is exceptional and from the first reel, gives the whole picture an otherworldly feel to it. There is clearly something amiss well before the first tourist is burned at the stake and this uneasiness created does not let up.

Much credit should also be given to the character of Dobbs, the town coroner who above all other eccentricities, shows what can only be described as 'restrained giddiness' each time a freshly disfigured corpse finds its way to his steel slab. There is little doubt that this man revels in his work and this inclusion of black humor is almost always welcome amongst the horror elements.

Still, the question remains, as is usually the case with the dreaded "twist ending," was it really necessary?