80's Thriller Throwback: The Final Conflict: Omen III (1981)

 Sam Neill Steals The Show in This Gem of a Thriller

by robotGEEK

I had completely forgotten about this film until it was mentioned in the excellent doc In Search of Darkness II, which led me to immediately add it to my Netflix DVD list. Late 70s/early 80s horror/thrillers are a favorite genre of ours, and this just goes to show that there are some true gems out there still waiting to be discovered. 

Sam Neill plays adult Damien Thorn, the Antichrist, who's quick rise up in power within the government leads a small group of monks to stop him at any cost. 

Boy, what a treat. First off, Sam Neill is absolutely brilliant as Thorn, hamming it up to 11 and easily delivering one of his most delicious performances ever. Literally almost every moment he's on screen is pure gold. The cast is pretty great all around, but the film really shines with it's brilliant and gorgeous cinematography (courtesy of Phil Meheux and Robert Paynter) and Graham Baker's (Alien Nation) excellent direction. 

As a whole the film is a bit silly, with an insane amount of ridiculous plot holes and questionable decisions of a lot of characters. But really, I tried not to let any of that bother me and just enjoyed it for what it was. And boy, all of it's issues aside, it's a helluva fun ride and a fitting end to the series. My one and only issue was the ending, that was incredibly anticlimactic for a film that build and builds to this finale. Still, what a gloriously cheesy good time. Stunning camerawork, fun performances and some amusing kills make it a fun time all around. You really can't beat films from this period. They're such a rare treat. 


The Cult Corner: Brainscan (1994)

Brainscan VHS scan courtesy of MorbidlyBeautifl.com

by robotGEEK

A 90's Misfire For All Involved

On the surface, I should love Brainscan. The behind-the-scenes team on this thing is pretty damn remarkable, and it's this fact that forced me to finally sit through this from beginning to end....finally. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en, 8mm, Sleepy Hallow), makeup by the great Steve Johnson, a catchy score by George S. Clinton, and directed by a truly underrated filmmaker John Flynn, who's given us some classics such as Rolling Thunder, Best Seller (a personal favorite), Lock Up and to this day, directing one of Steven Seagal's best, most gritty films with Out for Justice. And that's something all of his films have in common- a grittiness that a lot of directors don't pull off very well. But for him, it seems effortless. So to say I was intrigued to see him tackle the horror genre is an understatement. Yet this is the second time I've attempted to watch this film, because the first time I gave up after 45 minutes. But I do know there is a large fanbase for this film, so perhaps I'm missing something? I figured it was worth the trip, even if it ended up being a bad one. 

Brainscan is not a good film on any level. In fact, it's kind of a mess. It's hard to really tell what genre they were attempting here, but it definitely doesn't come across as a horror film all that much. In fact, the R-Rating is really surprising considering the lack of gore. Aside from the very brief flash of boobs, there's not even any nudity. I've seen more nudity in an 80's PG-Rated comedy! 

At times it feels like not much is really fleshed out, especially when it comes to Michael's (Edward Furlong) relationships to his only friend, his absent father and also in regards to the strange (and sometimes creepy) infatuation he and his cute neighbor seem to share with one another. Speaking of Furlong, wow he is just awful in this. I know he was the "hot" item back in the 90's and he was consistently busy with big studio projects, but I'm sorry, he's as wooden as a bedpost and really just comes across as annoying more than anything. He makes it hard to care about anything he's going through when he comes across as a whiny, moody, arrogant teenager. Frank Langella, bless him, doesn't fare any better. Probably his most understated performance ever captured on film, he seems to really not give a shit and puts in as little effort as possible. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, T. Ryder Smith as The Trickster is clearly having a blast. Still not a great character by any means, but he pops in from time to time to break up the boredom and ham it up, which in this case, was a welcome treat.

It's hard to know where to put the blame too. You have so many questions about characters, plot, relationships and motivation, but almost none of them are answered, and that is incredibly frustrating. Maybe Walkers script was more fleshed out and was cut in post? Maybe director Flynn was out of his element, or maybe directing a kid was something he wasn't cut out to do? Maybe the studio enforced edits to make it more commercially viable? I don't know, but ultimately Brainscan is a film who's reputation I clearly do not understand. Maybe it would be different had I seen this originally back in 1994 when I was 18? Perhaps. But watching it for the first time as a 45 year old, I just don't get it. 

Brainscan is currently streaming for FREE on Crackle.com with commercials


90's Thriller Throwback: Enemy of the State (1998)

This is One Helluva Thriller!

by robotGEEK

How the hell have I never seen this before? Enemy of the state is arguably a perfect thriller in every sense of the word. A balls to the walls experience that not only showcases director Tony Scott's brilliance as a filmmaker, but the film delivers in a way that 80% of thrillers try and fail, which just goes back to the fact that I never hear anyone talk about this gem. 

While I've always been a HUGE Tony Scott fan, I avoided this one simply because I feared it was similar to his film Spy Game, which I just could not get into. But boy was I wrong. Here Scott delivers a film that quite arguably blew me away. Everything from his amazing visuals, camerawork, cast and insane amount of tension just works masterfully. 

Speaking of the cast, holy shit. Literally everyone is in this. I lost count how many times I kept getting surprised by who showed up, even in the smallest roles. It's definitely a fun time just spotting all the famous faces, some who were just newbies then, but have gone onto bigger and great things since. And while Will Smith was great and effective here, I gotta give it to my man Gene Hackman (reteaming with Scott after the amazing Crimson Tide) who once again steals the show in every scene he's in. Here he plays a character that is remarkably similar to one he played many years earlier that have a lot of theorists online debating about whether it's just a coincidence, a homage or that he is in fact the same character. I'll let you judge for yourself though. 

Tony Scott would ultimately begin losing some steam in his later films, even drastically changing up his style in films such as Man on Fire and Domino. He would come full circle later with films like Unstoppable and The Taking of Pelham 123 where he would go back to the style that made his films so iconic and identifiable, unlike the quick-edit/shaky-cam headache approach he adopted in the early 2000's, before sadly taking his life. But with Enemy of the State, I can wholeheartedly state that for me personally, this was his last great film of the 90's. RIP

Enemy of the State is one of the best, most intense, stylish and entertaining espionage thrillers I've ever seen, of any decade. Currently streaming on HBO Max and FREE on The Roku Channel.  


The Best Movie I Never Saw: Light Years AKA Gandahar (1987/1988)

VHS cover scan courtesy of Animation Cult on Tumblr

Light Years Is The BEST Animated Film That Still Hasn't Made It's Way To The Mainstream

by robotGEEK

Recently I decided to revisit Heavy Metal (post coming soon), and while I was never all that much into it growing up, except for the constant barrage of animated nudity , I really only ever cared for 2 of the stories; the one about the cabbie in the futuristic New York, and the one with the B-52 Bomber. But as with a lot of my film experiences, my tastes change as I get older and ultimately I enjoyed Heavy Metal much more this time around. But that experience led me to another one. This past year I've been experimenting with mushrooms for the first time and it was during my last trip that out of nowhere, the VHS cover for this movie popped in my head. I guess you can say I've been on a bit of an animation kick lately, having revisited Heavy Metal and diving deep into some animated shows like Batman: The Animated Series (thanks to HBO) and M.A.S.K. for instance. So somewhere in my subconscious, this cover had always been there because I've never actually seen the movie, but I do recall seeing this cover at my local video store's back in the 80's and 90's. And boom! Just like that. During a very pleasant psychedelic trip, Light Years pops in my head and thus began my quest to track it down in some way. 

Released in 1987 under it's original title Gandahar, Light Years is a French production courtesy of Fantastic Planet (1973) writer/director Rene Laloux and it is honestly one of the best damn animated films I've ever seen in my life. In fact, it may very well be my new all-time favorite animated film ever. And there's just so much to love here. But I should mention, I have only seen the Americanized version. The Weinsteins released this in the U.S. under their Miramax label back in 1988, and recut, re-edited and rescored the film to appeal to American audiences. This U.S. version is a few minutes shorter, and now contains more of a progressive rock/synth score, which honestly works for me because it blends with the vibe of the film so splendidly. They also dubbed the film with American actors such as Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Bridget Fonda, Glenn Close, Christopher Plummer, Penn Jillette and most impressively John Shea (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), who does an outstanding job as the lead Sylvain. 

I kind of half-expected this to have some rotoscoping animation (because that technique seemed to be prevalent during this time), which would have been fucking sweet, but to my surprise it didn't. But that doesn't matter because the animation in here is stunning as it is. But I think what really just floored me was how much science fiction was involved when I was mostly expecting a fantasy. I guess you could say that it's an equal blend of both, but for me personally, I was pleasantly surprised at how far into sci-fi it went. For so much of the film you see this awe-inspiring army of black robots causing destruction and catastrophe at the behest of their leader Metamorphis (Christopher Plummer), and it's just so insanely badass every time they're on screen, played with great effect to some synth rock. 

Going in, I knew literally nothing about it. So the voice cast was a nice surprise, and reading up on it a  bit, I'm kinda shocked to learn that it's not universally loved. My guess is that because it's a bit "trippy" (because it totally is), and it's more talky than you'd expect from an animated film, it comes across as more of an adult film, with a story and not just a lot of violence, nudity and action. It has all of those things, but at it's heart, there's an actual story about a perfect utopian society who's world is driven to chaos when an army of robots invades their genetically modified race to destruction. And while I do enjoy the story, it's all about the visual eye candy for me, and Light Years is oozing with gorgeous visuals from start to finish. Combined with an excellent score, an outstanding voice cast, and such a unique tone all around, Light Years will surely be a film you'll not soon forget. 

How to see it:

Now to the bad news. To my shock, it's never gotten an official release here in the states other than VHS, Laserdisc and it's limited theatrical run all the way back in 1988. Sadly there has never even been a DVD release here, much less a Blu Ray, and I was really stoked to snag a copy of this immediately after watching it. This needs to be in my collection! I have seen a Region 2 DVD floating around the secondhand market, which goes for astronomical prices. There's a bootleg from S. Korea you can get pretty cheap, but I can't vouch for it's quality. But there's "some" good news. A very kind and generous soul has uploaded it to YouTube in HD under it's original title "Gandahar". So having a physical copy may not be in the cards for us anytime soon, but at least there's a way for us to watch it, even if it is in full frame. I do hope someone snags the rights to this and releases it officially, in HD and in widescreen some day. It deserves to be discovered, at this rate, by several generations now. 


The Running Man 2-LP Vinyl Re-Issue

by robotGEEK

How the news of this release passed me by is beyond me, but thankfully a fellow cinephile and LP junkie on Instagram turned me onto this sweet bit of news today and in less than 2 minutes, my order was already placed. 

Apparently this re-release was first issued back in June via Varese Sarabande of last year and I'm only now hearing about it. But hey, better late than never! You can currently order it from a variety of online outlets, but I snagged mine from Amazon, where it's currently ON SALE for just $21 with FREE SHIPPING. 

Here are the details via Amazon:

"A tour de force of synthesizer based score from the composter of Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun . The original (1987) 17 track album has been expanded to 35 tracks, which includes additional music and unreleased/alternate cues all taken from the original Paramount Pictures sources. This 2LP set comes in gatefold jacket with printed inner sleeves. The entire package features original art specially created for this release along with extensive linter notes and original film stills"

What's funny is that I was actually looking for this on vinyl a few months ago after I watched it for the 100th time, and when I saw what the original pressing was going for online, I quickly gave up. But the good news here is not only is it remastered for optimum sound quality, but they've even expanded the number of tracks from17 to 35! Damn! 

Truly an iconic score from the great Harold Faltermeyer, who also gave us equally memorable synth scores with Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop and Tango & Cash, The Running Man is a surprisingly unique synth score that manages to somehow be inventive within the synth genre, while also being moody, catchy and impressive. 

You can order your brand new 2-LP Remastered Running Man Vinyl HERE via Amazon.