Videodrone B-Sides for August: SyFy Sharks versus 'Bigfoot'
Our monthly round-up of direct-to-disc and made-for-cable pictures that slip on to the New Release racks
We lead off our monthly round-up of direct-to-disc and made-for-cable pictures that slip on to the New Release racks with a trio of SyFy original movies, a menagerie of monster mashes that have become the channel's signature for Saturday night entertainment: drive-in movies for the in-home crowd.
"Bigfoot" (The Asylum) relocates to South Dakota for this aggressively overstuffed romp built around the not-so-high concept face-off of the seventies child sitcom stars Danny Bonaduce (of "The Partridge Family") and Barry Williams ("The Brady Bunch") as rivals battling over environmental protection during an Eighties Music Festival produced by deejay turned promoter Bonaduce and protested by eco-activist Williams and his coterie of adoring young women. It turns out Bigfoot, a CGI rag doll of a shabby King Kong knock-off, doesn't like construction, feedback, or people in general, and he goes on a rampage through the cast-of-dozens at the festival and ends up (where else?) at Mount Rushmore.
There is a lot of bad CGI on SyFy Original Movies. That's part of the kitschy fun that people get in their Saturday night monster movie fixes. "Bigfoot" offers some of the worst, in part because it reaches for visual spectacle on a TV budget. The creature wobbles as it walks and hops around the stone faces of Mount Rushmore like a character in a "Super Mario Brothers" video games. Jet fighters lob missiles at the national monument. And when all else fails, Bigfoot simply stomps on his victims. With his big foot, of course. Director Bruce Davison (apparently unleashing all of his pent-up aggression from starring in the family-friendly Bigfoot TV show "Harry and the Hendersons") forgoes any pretense of dignity and simply lets everyone have fun, from the jerkfest squabble between Bonaduce and Williams to the rest of the stunt casting: Sherilyn Fenn ("Twin Peaks") as the sheriff and Howard Hessman ("WKRP in Cincinnati") as the mayor, Davison as an old cop offering advice, and Alice Cooper as himself, the only legitimate act at the music fest.
DVD only, with a featurette.
"Jersey Shore Shark Attack" (Anchor Bay) – It's all there in the title: the mook culture of "Jersey Shore" faces a shark infestation and these muscleheaded beach bums are the only ones that can take them, since nobody believes them. This school of prehistoric albino sharks, it turns out, are hit-and-run feeders with a gift for a quick getaways and disposing of leftovers. So between break-ups and skirmishes in their on-going war with the stuck-up preppies trying to gentrify their working-class beachfront, they go commando on the sharks armed with the best fireworks beach bums can buy. It's not really very clever (the humor doesn't rise much above names like The Complication and Nookie and a half-dozen Vinnies) and I can't say if this is a parody of "Jersey Shore" culture or a pale imitation of the real thing. But it certainly doesn't take itself seriously and has fun with the idiocy of the fatheaded hardbodies whose lives revolve around hooking up, working out, and drinking fruity cocktails. The celebrity count for this one comes down to Paul Sorvino of "GoodFellas," Tony Sirico of "The Sopranos," TV vet Jack Scalia, and boy band celeb Joey Fatone as himself.
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by director John Shepphird and the film's producers, and a featurette.
Cribbing its title from the brilliant branding of the Discovery Channel's nature gone wild programming, "Shark Week" (The Aylum) is another shark movie / reality TV mash-up, this one cribbed from "Survivor" (by way of "The Most Dangerous Game"). Top-billed Patrick Bergin and Yancy Butler play the evil gamemasters who kidnap eight generic victims (apparently they are responsible for the death of his son), dump them on a tropical island, and send them through a series of challenges that involve shark traps and bloody victims. Like "Bigfoot," this is from The Global Asylum, a busy little B-movie outfit cranking out productions for SyFy, and they've found a natural collaborator in director Christopher Ray, who turns out to be the son of Fred Olen Ray, one of the most prolific exploitation filmmakers in the entire world. DVD only, with a featurette.
"Hell" (Arc Entertainment), also known as "Apocalypse," is a survival thriller from Germany set in a future when the sun has baked the Earth into a wasteland Would you believe that Roland Emmerich is the executive producer? German and English soundtracks. Blu-ray and DVD.
- "Shuffle" (Screen Media) is a time-shifting mystery starring two actors from the TV series "Bones": TJ Tyne (who also produces) and Tamara Taylor.
"The Liquidator" (Millennium) features Vinnie Jones as an assassin, but he's essentially the out of town talent in what is otherwise a Russian gangster film from Kazakhstan, with a Russian cast, director, and producer. Features both original Russian and English dub soundtracks.
- "For the Love of Money" (Lionsgate), which carries the "based on a true story" subtitle, jumps into organized crime in Los Angeles with Edward Furlong, Paul Sorvino, and James Caan.
- "Changing the Game" (Lionsgate), set in Philadelphia, is an urban crime thriller with Sean Riggs, Irma P. Hall, and Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones.
- "Born 2 Race" (Arc Entertainment) stars Joseph Cross as a driver trying to make his name in the world of competitive drag racing. Blu-ray and DVD.
- "Battleground" (Well Go) follows the aftermath of a bank robbery gone bad when the robbers hide out in an isolated cabin owned by a Vietnam vet.
- "A Day of Violence" (MVD) charts the last days of a mob collector who thinks he's hit it big.
"The Scar Crow" (MVD), a modern tale of ancient witches who survived the witch-hunts of centuries ago, arrives on DVD after a tour of horror and independent film festivals.
- "The Hunt" (MVD) sends a journalist on the trail of story than lands him in the midst of a fatal competition.
- "Knock Knock 2" (Lionsgate) is another "found footage" reality horror about friends on a tour of famous murder sites in Hollywood. This footage, as they say, is all that remains.
- From Thailand comes "Ladda Land" (Millennium), about dark forces in a gated community. Original Thai and English dub soundtracks.
- "Below Zero" (Screen Media) stars Edward Furlong as victim and Michael Berryman as psycho butcher. Gore ensues.
"Remains" (Shout! Factory) is a post-apocalyptic survival thriller (with zombies) based on the graphic novel by "30 Days of Night" author Steve Niles. Originally made for the Chiller Network, it stars Grant Bower and Lance Reddick and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD in an unrated edition with footage not seen on Chiller.
- "Ground Zero" (Shock-O-Rama) opens with a frozen corpse injected with an experimental virus, which of course comes back to life once it defrosts.
- "Zombie Undead" (MVD) is what a terrorist dirty bomb in an urban center creates in this low-budget film.
- "Zombie A-Hole" (MVD) is a zero-budget gorefest from "the creators of "The Puppet Monster Massacre"," as the cover so helpfully reminds us.
"I Heart Shakey" (Phase 4) is a family comedy about a single father, a precocious daughter, and a lovable that needs a home when they move to the big city. Steve Lemme and Steve Guttenberg star.
- "The Newest Pledge" (Lionsgate) is a baby in a frathouse. Which is funny! Rob Steinhauser, Jason Mewes, and Kevin Nash star.
- "Yellow Rock" (Screen Media) is a western with Michael Biehn and James Russo
- "Sultry Assassin" (Switchblade) is samurai exploitation with a geisha assassin and erotic interludes. Japanese with English subtitles.
- "The Devil's Feast" (Switchblade) is another work of Japanese exploitation, this one a thriller with bondage interludes. Japanese with English subtitles.
All on DVD only, unless otherwise noted.