A Playground for Authors Jason White and Michael Schutz-Ryan

Posts tagged “monster movies

Rawhead Rex (1986)

Rawhead Rex poster artBow down. You are in the presence of a dark god. One that has no love, no mercy, no empathy at all for us mere humans. While bowing, this god, known to many as Rawhead Rex, just might take a massive piss all over you in your reverence. But don’t worry. You’ll like it. It’s Rawhead Rex after all. He is your dark master. Just be glad he isn’t chewing off your face.

Being a fan of monsters movies, this film really drew me into it when I first saw it sometime after its VHS release in the late 1980s. During this time period, I had yet to read any Clive Barker, but the man’s work was not foreign to me. I remember seeing the covers of the Books of Blood back then as they were released as six (I believe) volumes. Those book covers gave me a profound expectation of what  reading Barker might be like and I was too afraid to delve into that world. They were disturbing, gruesome, and touched me in dark places I was only beginning to discover.

I wish I had picked them up, though. Those covers are awesome. And they weren’t all that far off the mark, I later learned, when watching another film by Barker, Hellraiser from 1987.

Cover of Books of Blood - Volume 4

Volume Four of The books of Blood. Perhaps one of the most disturbing to my, at the time, 12-year-old mind.

So, unlike Stephen King or Koontz, I came to Barker’s work movies first. I had no friends or anyone who read what I read during those days, and the friends I did have worried that listening to Guns N’ Roses was devil worship (welcome to a Canadian small town existence). After Rawhead and Hellraiser, though, I was hooked and began reading Barker. I remember getting excited when I was about to read Rawhead Rex and, as is typical, enjoyed it more than the movie. But the movie remains a benchmark in of my early days of horror fandom. It nested itself into my conscious and unconscious mind so deeply that I can, and do, still watch this movie today and get a kick out of it.

Clive barker has gone on record to say the hates this movie, despite his writing credit. I don’t know if the writing was messed with or if he simply loathes the creature effects, or perhaps the whole project was a bad experience and left a sour taste in his mouth (perhaps it’s a mixture of all), but this movie cannot, in my opinion, be left in the past to rot in the annals of forgettable movies.

I mean, really. It’s not that bad a movie!

A statue by Jonathan Dewar: a much more accurate portrayal of Rawhead Rex.

A statue by Jonathan Dewar: a much more accurate portrayal of Rawhead Rex.

The worst part of the movie, in my opinion, is the creature affects. Rawhead Rex is a man in a what would become a Cenobite-like costume and a bad 80s heavy metal mullet haircut. What’s worse is that sometimes Rawhead’s massive teeth jiggle like … oh I don’t know … like maybe they’re made of rubber or latex. And there are other times where our king of darkness is severely cross-eyed. In my mind this only enhances the movie, as it never truly takes itself too seriously.

There are a lot of positives to the film adaptation of Rawhead Rex, too. There’s a scene where the story’s hero, Howard Hallenbeck (played by David Dukes)  is taking a late-night walk to clear his mind. While out in the wilderness, he sees the demonic figure of Rawhead Rex standing on top a hill in the distance. He blinks, rubs his eyes, but the vision is still there. He rubs his eyes again and when he looks back, Rawhead is gone. It’s very creepy, and if I had ever seen anything like that during a late night walk, I’d either question my sanity, or put a load in my pants (not the good kind). Either way, I’d be running back home.

At the time of this writing, there are 2,386 user ratings on IMDb’s page for Rawhead Rex. It’s average rating is 4.9 out of ten stars there. This is, perhaps, a fair rating, despite my own gushing nine out of ten rating.  I guess it depends on who you are and when this movie came into your life.

And yet still, the second night time scene where Rawhead destroys a trailer park and kills a bunch of people still manages to get my adrenaline running.

Watch it for yourself, if you haven’t already. Make sure that you also read the literature, if you haven’t. Both in my opinion, are great pieces of story-telling and I can’t recommend this fun monster creation enough.

Four out of five Dweller Heads!

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All Hail!

Picture of Rawhead Rex

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Splinter (2008)

splinter-posterDirector: Toby Wilkins

Staring: Shea WhighamJill WagnerPaulo Costanzo

Splinter, I have to say, was a pleasant surprise. Good monster movies are hard to find today. Don’t get me wrong, there are a decent amount of good horror movies coming out these days, what with James Wan and crew continuously producing creepy ghost and possession movies, amongst others, but monster movies have become a rare commodity. I love a good monster movie, John Carpenter’s The Thing being one of my first and still a favourite today. And speaking of The Thing …

Splinter, from 2008, has a lot to owe The Thing. It’s about a fungus that, when even a sliver of it stabs into your skin, it slowly takes you, its victim, over and turns you into what it wants.

This can result into some seriously painful situations for our poor victims as some succumb to this violently aggressive fungus. Which makes this movie fun and, sometimes, hard to watch.

No movie, however, is perfect, and there certainly are some flaws with this one. Nothing severe enough to take you out of the experience too far and make you question why you’re watching this piece of crap. No, and that’s because Splinter is far from a piece of crap. The problems that arise are probably result of time and budget constraints. But who knows. Maybe I’m just full of myself, blowing hot air out my mouth.

We start the movie with a young couple on a supposed camping trip. Polly and Seth at least try to make the trip a success, but Seth botches it with his tent pitching ineptitude (there’s no puns there). Considering his knowledge of forestry, as we soon learn while they head off looking for a motel to stay at for the night, one has to wonder if Seth didn’t botch it up on purpose … Yeah, Seth. I went there!

Anyhoo, Along the highway they come across what is seemingly a woman in need of help. She jumps out onto the road at them, looking all sick and despondent. It would be anyone’s moral obligation to stop and help her, right?

Enter Lacey and Dennis. Two individuals, another couple it seems, on the run. Now, all this happens within the first ten minutes, so I don’t think I’m ruining anything. Dennis, who’s clearly in charge, highjacks Polly’s vehicle and they head off down the road of despair.

Night comes and Polly runs over some sort of creature, causing their rear tire to blow. It’s at this point we find out that, yes, Lacey, Dennis’s girlfriend, is not only sick with drug withdrawal, but she’s clearly out of her skull. She thinks that they ran over her dog, which never existed in the viewers eyes and even Dennis is like, “The dog died a long time ago.”

Seth and Lacey investigate the road kill while Dennis and Polly work on changing the ruined tire. There’s something … different with whatever it was they ran over. There’s spikes all over it, something like a porcupine, but smaller and somehow deadlier. What they don’t know is that those very spikes knocked out their antifreeze, and so once they’re back on the road, the engine soon overheats.

Thankfully, there’s a gas station close by, and so they stop.

This is where things go from bad to worse real quick. Gas Station attendant afflicted with the splinter fungus   They quickly find that there’s nobody behind the till at this gas station, and then learn as to exactly what has happen to the poor bastard. When Lacey heads to the restroom, she runs into our poor gas jockey, who apparently has a serious fungal disease. It’s so bad, in fact, that his last words are, “Kill me.”

That’s where I’m going to leave the story. Obviously, the movie becomes a sort of isolated invasion where our characters are stuck in the gas station convenience store, fending off the monster and trying to survive.

Picture of Splinter's monster Over all, it’s a fun ride. The acting, up to a certain point, is top notch, and the monster… Well, the monster is one part that I had a problem with. You can tell by the short glimpses you get that the monster is indeed well done, but we don’t ever get a good look at what, exactly, this creature looks like as it gathers and joins its victims’ corpses into one, horrid-looking … thing.

I wanted that closer look, but we don’t get it until the end. And when we do get it, it looks like cheap computer graphics. And, technically, it’s still not a clear shot. The picture to the right here is one of the quick, sudden pictures that we do get. But the picture moves too quickly for us to get a solid view.

The acting, as mentioned, is really well-done. Also mention, it’s really well-done to a point. Somewher close to the end the acting sort of takes a backseat to the monster  and its desire to consume, or assimilate (however you at it) our characters. I really don’t want to say the part that bothered me most, because it will give away part of the movie that is fun and cringe-worthy to watch, despite the sudden change of acting skills.

Perhaps this part of the movie was rushed?

Whatever. It’s not important. What is important is that Splinter is a capable, well-done horror monster movie. If you’re a fan of this genre, you owe it to yourself to give it a look. It’s got some really gory moments with horrific scenes that will probably follow you for the rest of your days.

I therefor award Splinter 3.5 CHUD-Dwellers out of five, rounded up to four to save embarrassing myself with my photoshopping skills.

 

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shea-whigham-in-splinter-(2008)

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