Tag Archive | science fiction

Wild Zero (1999)

Directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi
Written by Satoshi Takagi
Starring Masashi Endô, Kwancharu Shitichai, Yôko Asada, Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf, Bass Wolf, Mikoto Inamiya, Naruka Hakajo, Taneko, and Yoshiyuki Morishita

Sometimes a movie is so overstuffed that it transcends petty issues like coherent narrative and physical laws. The enthusiasm of the production is enough to propel the audience past any concerns about logic or story structure. Such a movie was Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, a gleefully gory zombie romp from Australia. Wild Zero is another such film, also about zombies — this time from Japan.

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Arachnid (2001)

Directed by Jack Sholder
Written by Mark Sevi
Starring Chris Potter, Alex Reid, José Sancho, Neus Asensi, Ravil Isyanov, and Luis Lorenzo Crespo

It feels like most of the time we see giant spiders in the wild, they’re in caves. Certainly when they’re the focus of the plot, they’re in or approaching population centers. The one in Arachnid is an outlier in a number of respects, but primarily for spending the entire film on a tropical island.

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Krull (1983)

Directed by Peter Yates
Written by Stanford Sherman
Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Liam Neeson, John Welsh, and Robbie Coltrane

When I think of swashbuckling, I picture fantastic adventure and daring heroes, such as Sinbad and Robin Hood. The Buck Rogers comic strips and serials brought the sensibilities of the style into the realm of science fiction, and Star Wars launched a powerful franchise out of the mixture of fantasy, adventure, and technology. There have been quite a lot of imitators, but few ever approached the delightful world-building or production values achieved by Krull.

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World Without End (1956)

Written and Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Nelson Leigh, Rod Taylor, Shirley Patterson, Lisa Montell, Christopher Dark, and Everett Glass

One of the most enduring science fiction stories is The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells. Apart from popularizing the notion of time travel, it influenced the way we think about the future in terms of what will become of the human race and its civilizations. Humanity splits in two, with the Eloi physically dwindling and living in shiny towers while the Morlock grow strong laboring underneath. While Wells’ work stressed the division between the working and ruling classes, others would use the premise to make their own statements. The film World Without End uses the threat of nuclear war to create a future where humans on the surface are enslaved by mutants while those who sheltered below ground are failing to thrive.

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The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)

Directed by Bill Rebane
Written by Richard L. Huff and Robert Easton
Starring Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Robert Easton, Leslie Parrish, Alan Hale Jr., Bill Williams, and Diane Lee Hart


A lot of horror movies have misleading titles. The Monster That Challenged the World, for example, merely bothered a small boat. One thing I can say in defense of The Giant Spider Invasion is that its title is not technically a lie. There are spiders that are ecologically invasive, and one of them is indeed effing huge. That’s about the only thing impressive about it. The spider, I mean. More on that later.

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Queen of Blood (1966)

Written and directed by Curtis Harrington
Based on footage from Mechte navstrechu by Mikhail Karzhukov and Otar Koberidze
Starring John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper, and Florence Marly

The title artwork is terrific. It looks like vintage science fiction covers.

The title artwork is terrific. It looks like vintage science fiction covers.

Queen of Blood is a patchwork movie, built around footage from at least two Russian films: Mechte navstrechu and Nebo zovyot. Roger Corman snapped up the U.S. rights to the films and gutted them to use for his own features. Nebo zovyot was mostly turned into Battle Beyond the Sun, while Mechte navstrechu became the basis for this one. Given this origin, it’s remarkable that the film actually works.

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Night of the Creeps (1986)

Written and directed by Fred Dekker
Starring Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins, and Dick Miller

I have a suspicion that the title didn't help.

I have a suspicion that the title didn’t help.

Fame can be elusive, and one talent it got away from is Fred Dekker. In a career spanning four decades, he hasn’t written or directed very much. Among his limited output, however, he’s created a good number of cult classics. He wrote the story for House (the American horror-comedy), co-wrote and directed The Monster Squad, and wrote four episodes of Tales From the Crypt (directing two of them). Not everything was great, of course. There was Robocop 3 and his involvement in the regrettable series Star Trek: Enterprise, but what kind of fan would turn down work in either of those franchises? And make no mistake, Dekker is a big fan of monsters and science fiction. It’s not an abusive love, like you get from J.J. Abrams, either. It’s a genuine affection for what came before, which Dekker uses as the foundation for his work. Never is this more visible than in his writing and directing debut, Night of the Creeps. Even the name is a callback to the progenitor of modern zombie movies, Night of the Living Dead. Heck, there’s a Dick Miller cameo, so you know it’s an authentic genre film!

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Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Directed by John Hough
Written by Robert M. Young
Based on the book by Alexander Key
Starring Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasence, Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, and Denver Pyle

The title animation  makes the dogs seem like they'll be important.

The title animation makes the dogs seem like they’ll be important.

If you asked me who my favorite child actor at Disney was when I was growing up, I’d say Jodie Foster. Her hidden-treasure movie Candleshoe lodged in my brain and never left. But if for some reason you’d excluded Foster from the choices, I’d definitely give you a give you two answers: Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. They seemed to be everywhere, and most importantly they were Tia and Tony Malone: the Witch Mountain kids.

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Brain Dead (1990)

Directed by Adam Simon
Written by Charles Beaumont and Adam Simon
Starring Bill Pullman, Bill Paxton, Bud Cort, Nicholas Pryor, Patricia Charbonneau, and George Kennedy

The title is the only thing about the movie that's simple.

The title is the only thing about the movie that’s simple.

In 1990, theater-goers were astonished by the multi-layered, complex thriller Jacob’s Ladder. The big-budget film, starring Tim Robbins as a Vietnam War veteran whose life was collapsing in a Kafkaesque spiral of paranoia and hallucinations, quickly built a small but loyal following and influenced video games (Silent Hill), TV (American Horror Story: Asylum), and other films (The Sixth Sense, arguably included). Ten months earlier, Brain Dead had come out and quickly sunken to the murky depths of cult cinema.

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