Monday, May 9, 2016


Monsters are good for me. I was a little out of sorts last week for reasons I’d rather not go into. I watched five monster movies over three nights and, after each night’s viewing, I felt more centered and relaxed. These movies are comfort food for my mind.

Four of the movies were definitely worth watching once. The fifth is one I know I can watch again. I’m saying this up front so that I don’t have to repeat myself in each review. Don’t worry. When I review the movie I would watch a second time, I will let you know.

Starting with the most recent movie...

I watched Terror Birds [2016] via Amazon Video. It was directed  by Sean Cain, who also directed 2015's Jurassic City. It was written by Jake Helgren. The two actors in the film you might know are Greg Evigan, who has starred in many TV series (and a considerable number of movies like this one), and Leslie Easterbrook, who was in most of the Police Academy movies and lots of other stuff and who I kind of sort of adore.  Here’s the summary of the movie from the Internet Movie Database:

When Maddy Stern discovers her father has gone missing during a routine birdwatching excursion, she and her college pals trek out into the wilderness to find him, only to end up in a wealthy scientist's desolate ranch aviary, where they encounter a pair of giant, hungry terror birds believed to be extinct for centuries.

Evigan plays a pseudo-scientist entrepreneur who found and captured the last two members of a species of deadly prehistoric predators that will remind you of dodo birds. He wants to breed more terror birds. Easterbrook plays a legitimate scientist who isn’t evil.

Maddy [Jessica Lee Keller] and her college pals are the usual young people you see in movies like this, updated for our modern times. There’s her best friend, who is a lesbian; her ex-boyfriend; his current girlfriend, who’s not quite the typical bitch; and another male friend, who is gay. Then there’s an assortment of other folks destined to become bird chow.

One of the elements I like about the movie is how, if they show you something in one scene, it will have a role later in the movie. I also like that the “bitch” character [Lindsey Sporrer] is actually quite capable when the going gets deadly.

The terror birds themselves never look as goofy as you might think they would. The film teaches you to respect them early on. The CGI effects are good with one particularly graphic death that, while it isn’t quite 100% effective, was still a shocker.

Terror Birds doesn’t seem to be available on DVD in any area save Australia and the couple copies I’ve seen on sale are prohibitively expensive for a movie that falls into the “worth watching once but just once” category. If you want to see it, you can get it from Amazon or other streaming services.


I watched Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2016) twice, but that was mostly to check details and refresh my memory; it had been a while since I watched it originally. The movie, which I bought on DVD from a dealer in Thailand, was directed by the legendary Jim Wynorski, who has been at the helm of dozens of entertaining “B” movies. It was written by Wynorski and Facebook friend William Dever with additional material by Corey Landis. The film stars Traci Lords, Dominique Swain, Cindy Lucas and Christine Nguyen. Here’s a quick summary:

A fracking explosion opens up a hole between our world and a vast underground ocean. Out come hungry prehistoric sharks. On the menu is a group of escaped women convicts, some of whom were forced to take part in the escape. They get trapped in a secluded cabin and must figure out to get out alive.

Traci Lords plays a detective looking for bank robbers and sort of finding sharks. Dominique Swain is a vicious killer who stages the escape to rescue her lover (Cindy Lucas). Christine Nguyen is one of the prisoners forced to escape by crazy-ass Swain. High points to Lords, Swain and Nguyen who are fun to watch. Another credit to the cast is John Callahan as a prison guard who is taken hostage. I’m singling out these four actors because they were outstanding, but, while there is a bit of scenery chewing here and there, all of the players are, at the very least, good in their roles.

I have two problems with this film. The most serious one is that we hardly get to see the sharks. We do see their fins plowing through water and loose soil, and a few blink-and-you-miss-them frames of the sharks attacking, but the movie just doesn’t deliver sufficient shark for the money.

My other problem is...the scenes with Lords and her partner seemed tacked on to pad out the movie’s length. The two characters don’t actually play a significant part in the movie. I would have liked to have seen Lords playing against the convicts.

The movie is worth watching once, but just once.


I didn’t know what to expect from Piranha Sharks [2014]. I saw the trailer for it a good while back and thought it could be fun. Then nothing. No DVD release in any country I could find. A very limited “on demand” showing. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis. Then it showed up as a free viewing on Amazon Prime. Here’s the quick summary:

Scientists create a hybrid species. You can figure out what kind of species from the title. The resultant creatures are very small and extremely dangerous. The experiment goes awry as such things will usually do. The company making the critters loses many millions of dollars. Two soulless entrepreneurs see enormous profit potential in marketing these sharks as "sea monkeys but a lot cooler." I think you know where this is heading.

Directed by Leigh Scott and written by Scott with Barney Burman and Mark Burman, this is a movie with some surprisingly good things in it. The actors, especially Amy Blackman as a chilly corporate exec who comes around to doing the right thing, are pretty good. Kevin Sorbo plays a corrupt New York City mayor who only puts his pants on for special events. Baseball player Jose Canseco and TV newsman David Shuster play themselves in a handful of scenes and sure seem to enjoy themselves. Once you get to the second half of this short movie (79 minutes), it’s exciting and fun. What doesn’t work is how long it takes for the action to kick in and the laughable creature effects. The movie is perfectly suitable for one-time viewing and, honestly, I don’t understand why the Syfy Channel hasn’t picked up on it. It would be a natural for this summer’s “Sharknado Week” on that network.

The Giant Spider (2013) is the movie I could watch and enjoy more than once. It’s directed and written by Christopher R. Mihm, whose Cave Woman on Mars (2008) received a favorable review from me back in January. Here’s the Mihm-written summary:

When radiation left behind by atomic weapons testing creates a gigantic killer mutant arachnid, it's up to a trio of scientists, an Army general, and a newspaper reporter and his fiancée to figure out how to stop the hungry beast from devouring the entire county in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm's ode to the giant bug films of yesteryear!

Mihm’s movies take me back to my childhood watching black-and-white monster movies on a small black-and-white TV with the sound turned down real low as to not wake my father and my own wee self as close to the set as possible. It may be why I had to wear glasses at an earlier age, but it was totally worth it.

The Giant Spider is a delight. Actors having a grand time spouting corny dialogue. Fashions and settings that make one think this film was actually made in the 1950s. A pet spider made gigantic through the 1950s-state-of-the-art special effects. And it’s even part of a larger movie mythology in which previous strangeness has happened around the Phantom Lake setting of the film. When I’m feeling blue, this is a movie I'd watch again.


Finishing up today’s monster movie marathon is Megaconda (2010), a movie which I missed if it ever aired on The Syfy Channel. I’d seen a few clips from the movie on YouTube, so when it showed up on a list of movies being offered by an eBay seller from Thailand, a gentleman I’ve done business with before, I bought it.

Megaconda was directed by Christopher Olen Ray, who has done lots of movies I’ve enjoyed. It was written by Steve Latshaw. The IMDb summary has it wrong, so I’ll give you my own short synopsis of the movie:

Evil developer Greg Evigan is leveling a beautiful chunk of nature to build either a strip mall or a planned community, whichever he decides is more evil. When his poorly-paid workers dig too deep, they release a giant CGI anaconda who will chow down on almost the entire cast. Good times.

This is a fun movie. Gutsy sheriff. His gutsy son. His son’s gutsy girlfriend and friends. A nature artist who is tough as nails and gorgeous in a “see’s seen some life” kinda way. Solid performances by a cast that takes the film seriously. Some genuine chills and, unfortunately, pretty boring death scenes. But it’s 86 minutes of entertainment and that’s all I needed from it. I doubt I’ll watch it again unless someone hires me to write Megaconda 2, but I think it was well worth watching once.

That’s a wrap for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a quick report on my Free Comic Book Day at The Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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