Some Guy Who Kills People (2011) This black comedy from director Jack Perez and writer Ryan Levin proves that direct to video isn’t always a bad thing. Kevin Corrigan stars as Ken Boyd, a socially inept 34-year-old who works at an ice cream parlor and lives with his mom. He’s been trying to put his life back together since suffering a mental breakdown. After his subsequent release from a local mental ward, Ken finds solace in his comic book illustrations and wandering off at night following his shift.
Things get complicated when he reconnects with his teenage daughter. Oh, and he might or might not be responsible for the deaths of several high school classmates who had tormented him in the past. There are some surprisingly good supporting performances by Barry Bostwick as the eccentric Sheriff Walt Fuller and Karen Black as Ken’s mother Ruth. Bostwick steals the show whenever he’s on screen, with an insatiable oral fixation (He never stops eating or drinking, even when investigating grisly crime scenes.). Black also seems to be having a lot of fun as Ruth, who just wishes her son would get a life. Who would’ve thought that the director of Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus was capable of something good? Some Guy Who Kills People is well worth a look.
Rating: *** ½. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) Ho-hum, it’s another beautifully animated film from Studio Ghibli. Screenwriters Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, along with director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, bring Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers to life. It’s a visual delight, providing a bug’s eye view of a house in the country, filtered through the perspective of a family of tiny people living under the floorboards (The plucky 14-year-old heroine Arrietty, her laconic father Pod, and histrionic mother Homily). The diminutive humans call themselves “Borrowers,” although it’s kind of misnomer, considering the fact that they never actually return anything. Their way of life is endangered when they’re discovered by an inquisitive boy with a heart condition named Shô. The boy eventually proves to be their ally, but not before exposing them to undue peril. It’s too bad that the story and characters can’t quite live up to the stunning visuals. Most of the characters are fairly bland and two-dimensional, compared to many other Studio Ghibli films, but the animation never fails to impress. Even if it’s not quite up to the standards of co-writer Miyazaki’s own films, it’s still an enjoyable, if slight, romp.
Rating: *** ½. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) Hammer’s last Frankenstein film, and Peter Cushing’s final outing as the eponymous baron (known here as Dr. Victor), is a somewhat lackluster affair. It’s not as terrible as some reviews would lead you to believe, but it’s not very good either. Cushing and director Terence Fisher were probably just in it for the paycheck at this point, but Cushing is still fun to watch as the morally bankrupt doctor. The apelike creature (played by David Prowse) is the biggest departure from other depictions of the Frankenstein monster – whether that’s a good thing is debatable. While Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell probably won’t be anyone’s favorite of the series, it’s mildly recommended if you’re a Cushing fan or a Hammer completist. Be sure to lower your expectations a notch, though.
Rating: ***. Available on DVD and Netflix Streaming.
Return of the Ape Man (1944) This cheapie from Monogram films stars Bela Lugosi as the unscrupulous Dr. Dexter. His groundbreaking research involves reviving humans from a frozen state. After freezing and successfully reviving a homeless man after four months (Hey, ethics schmethtics!), he concludes that he can revive someone who’s been frozen for much longer, such as a caveman frozen in the ice for tens of thousands of years. No sooner than you can say “plot convenience,” he locates his specimen and proceeds to revive him. There’s only one problem. The caveman is so bewildered by his new surroundings that he becomes homicidal. Only fire seems to deter the man-beast (Witness priceless dialogue, such as “Fire is your master. You probably never understood it!”). Dexter concludes that a partial brain transplant will enable the caveman to relate to the modern day and be able to communicate with the doctor (Huh?). His colleague Professor Gilmore (John Carradine) opposes his plan, but unwittingly becomes a part of it. With a scant 59-minute running time, Return of the Ape Man doesn’t stick around long enough to wear out its welcome. It’s so bad, it’s almost good.
Rating: ** ½. Available on Netflix Streaming