OLD-SCHOOL THRILLS AND BLOOD-STAINED SPILLS
CLASSIC MONSTERS make a comeback in Damien Leone’s wellmeaning if overlong Frankenstein Vs. The Mummy. On a presentday American campus, Frankenstein (bland Max Rhyser) places the brain of a vile bodysnatcher into his monster (Constantin Tripes), while an Egyptology prof (Boomer Tibbs) vivifies an evil mummy (Brandon despain) by sacrificing coeds. Tripes’ articulate creature is unusually malicious, but (as ever) the mummy comes in a dusty second.
David Gelb’s The Lazarus Effect is a subtler Frankenstein-on-campus tale which harks back to classic mad science but has a plethora of up-to-date concerns. Significantly named scientist Frank (Mark Duplass) devises a defibrillator-equivalent to overcome brain death. When partner Zoe (Olivia Wilde) — Greek for “life” — is electrocuted, Frank brings her back as an otherworldly, altered being with Lucy-like enhanced brain activity, Carrie-like psychic powers and black contact lenses. Well-cast and acted, despite hokey shocks it’s a lot of fun.
As the universe dictates, if someone makes a Frankenstein picture, someone else will make a Dracula movie. Derek Hockenbrough’s Dracula: The Impaler sees seven obnoxious students (a greedy one, a lustful one... see where this is going?) visit Dracula’s shack in Romania. Vlad’s spirit has possessed a descendant and the sinners get ironically killed, but a better bet is Emily Hagins’ My Sucky Teen Romance (aka My Teenage Vampire Romance), a fresh comedy-horror with a sweet, thoughtful streak. At a comic convention haunted by bloodsuckers, fangirl Elaine Hurt has an odd relationship with just-back-from-the-dead vampire Patrick Delgado. Hagins, 18 at the time of production, has a genuine, distinctive talent; she’s a name to watch out for.
It’s been a decade since Graboids last grabbed and Ass Blasters last ass-blasted, so Tremors 5: Bloodlines is a welcome revival. Shot in South Africa, it teams series star Michael Gross with Scream’s Jamie Kennedy on a safari to investigate underground monster activity on a game reserve. The formula of squabbling comedy dialogue and imaginative monster action still works, and it has great CG creatures for its budget level.
Ben Cresciman’s languid Sun Choke follows possibly unstable Janie (Sarah Hagan), who is ignored by her jet-setting father and lives in a luxurious LA mansion with a carer (Barbara Crampton) who is wary of letting her go out too much. When Janie becomes obsessed with a chance acquaintance (Sara Malakul Lane), she goes wildly off the rails and, in the last act, changes her role from captive to captor. Not an easy watch, it’s powerful and disturbing stuff.