Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Slithis (aka Spawn of the Slithis) (1978)

Oh, Slithis, if only people understood you. Like Frankenstein's monster and so many rubber creatures that came before it, misunderstanding begets violence and so much unnecessary blood is shed. To be fair, Slithis' penchant for sucking the flesh off of dogs and eventually people probably didn't buy it much sympathy, but this is a creature that never should have been and emerged only due to the ignorance of us foolish humans.

To truly understand the creature is to know its origin which no one in this film seems able to adequately define. Apparently, the mixture of toxic waste into elements in a nearby canal have produced a new substance described by a scientist as "organic as well as inorganic." OK, so that doesn't really help. So tell me doctor, how did this new microscopic organism grow into a murderous succubus akin to Gamera's ugly cousin? No idea? I'll guess we'll just move on. (There is actually a lot of discussion about Slithis though it is all quite meandering. On the plus side, The Thing of Fantastic 4 fame makes a random cameo with a diatribe of science-y words.)

So we have an underwater creature that has tired of feeding on raw fish (I like Japanese too, but not every day) and has taken to stalking this coastal CA town at night for a little variety and the police are bumbling as always as they think a murderous cult is responsible for the dead so just who will save us? Wait, a mild-mannered high school journalism teacher looking for his big break is on the case. Luckily, he is willing to trample evidence at crime scenes, consult his science teacher friend and bribe homeless people with cheap wine to put the Slithis to rest. And faster than you can say, "Wait, isn't this climax awfully similar to Jaws," the credits are rolling and all is right with the world again (as long as you were rooting for the Slithis that is. And I was.)

Odd to think Roger Corman didn't have a hand in this one as it is firmly rooted in everything one would expect from him. The creature is best left to the imagination though we see plenty of Slithis. I did appreciate "Slithis vision" which is nothing more than a fish eye lens, but it is always good fun to get the killer's perspective. And please do pay special attention (not that it could be missed) to the police captain's "talent." He is, without a doubt, the best small town community theater actor I have ever seen. Eyebrow raises all over the place, enunciating like I've never seen and a long, utterly hilarious and baffling scene where he pretends to talk on the phone. I swear they must have told him to play it as if he were hunchback or troll; it is remarkable. Though it is only fair to admit that most of the intimate dialogue amongst characters within Slithis is as unnatural as can be, but this man deserves his own highlight reel.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Visitor (1979)

Narrated by blond Jesus to a gathering of bald children, The Visitor focuses on Sateen (a villainous bed sheet fabric or just a weird pronunciation of Satan? You be the judge.) whose efforts to overtake the world were cut short as he was cast away. Unfortunately, this is not before he is able to impregnate a slew of random women whose children possess some of his telekinetic powers and propensity for mischief.

Cue ten year old Katy, a seemingly precocious little girl who we meet at a professional basketball game as her mother is courting the owner. After a good ten minutes of action (of which every single basket is a slam dunk), Katy decides to use her talents to blow up the basketball as the potentially game winning dunk is attempted. The crowd files out as if nothing happened and we learn the ever important fact that Satan is not an Atlanta Hawks fan.

Meanwhile, her potential stepfather is nothing more than a pawn for some evil businessmen employed by the big guy downstairs and is instructed to father more children with Katy's mother to further rid the world of our game balls (and ice skating teenagers though we will not learn of this deviousness until later). This proves difficult as the mother is vaguely frightened by her daughter which is only made worse when one of Katy's birthday presents magically transforms from a toy bird into a pistol that she accidentally shoots and cripples her mother with.

This is not to say that the side of good is without reinforcements as blond Jesus has sent Jerzy (John Huston, well after he stopped reading scripts before signing) to keep an eye on Katy. Of course, all this amounts to is standing idly by while she kills off anyone that even suspects wrongdoing. Though to be fair, he does almost beat her in a gripping Pong match while pretending to be her babysitter.

Honestly, it really is not going to start getting any clearer so let us wrap this up as the film abruptly did with a massive bird attack that plucks out the evil within Katy (Satan's one weakness: pigeons) and blond Jesus and Jerzy celebrating the only way they know how by creepily hugging the bald children.

Convoluted apocalyptic-lite script? Check. Several formerly big name actors willing to slum it for mostly glorified cameos? Uh-huh. Hot Pong action? Oh, yeah. Really, what more do you need? Squarely intended at this day and age for the undiscerning viewer, The Visitor will confuse, befuddle and melt your face with its rampant awesomeness. I could not recommend any higher (or lower, for that matter).