The Guyver ~ 1991, Screaming Mad George, Steve Wang, USA, Japan


The Guyver is a real roller coaster. When you first hear about it, you like “An America adaptation of a Japanese Ultraman style superhero? That sounds like it’s going to suck really, really aggressively.” But then you find out it has Jeffery Combs in it, and you’re like “Oh… Okay. That’s kinda cool.” Next, at five minutes into the film, you’re thinking “Whoa, this is awesome! How is this movie not huge?” But then, as the credits roll, you think “Oh. That’s why.” After that, you’re just really sad.

As you’ve no doubt guessed, The Guyver starts strong- really strong. Right away the movie does its best to win you over by putting its very best attribute front and center- that being film’s numerous and remarkable creature effects. Suitomation, animatronics, makeup effects, holy smokes, you guys, The Guyver does all of this, and it does it WELL. Rad monsters abound, and these are the sort of practical effects that Hollywood realy doesn’t want you to know are even possible. Too bad, Hollywood, The Guyver spilled the beans. We now know that not every movie has to be Mark Wahlberg standing in front of a green screen for three hours, you’re more than capable of making physical effects that actually look awesome, you just don’t want to, and I’m sick of your bullshit. Go to hell, and take your lowsy CG with you.

But I digress.

Although The Guyver goes off with a bang, it has absolutely no stamina, like a long distance runner that hauls ass at top speed for four minutes, topples over sideways, and never even comes within eyeshot of the finish line. One gets the feeling that directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang (Wait, really?) knew things weren’t quite panning out, and so from early on we see them attempting to compensate… With humor. The Guyver becomes progressively zanier as it lags on, but its exhaustingly short on legitimate comedy, and shitty jokes are a real ineffective consolation prize when you’re watching a film that should, by any and all logic, be epic as hell. And The Guyver is NOT epic. Films like this needs a big third act, something that would take place on a space ship, or hopping across rooftops trying to repel an alien invasion, Avengers style- what we get instead is a made-for-TV budgeted costume drama where the bulk of the action takes place in one of two abandoned warehouses, or in a secret, underground laboratory which looks very similar to an abandoned warehouse with a  few computers scattered around. Your eyes will try to call in sick twenty minutes into this virtual snoozestraveganza of bland locations and disinteresting bullshit, and you won’t hold it against them. The Guyver gives us everything it has in the first ten minutes, and after that, it flounders about wildly.

It does have a virtual Sega Dreamcast of beloved genre actors, however, which helps. In addition to the aforementioned Jeffrey “Herbert West” Combs, here playing a scientist called “Dr. East” (cute), we also have Mark Hamill (who is NOT the lead), Michael Berryman, David Gale, and, most importantly, Jimmy Walker, of Good Times fame. Walker plays a character called Striker, who is, more or less, the comic relief, which means that he a shit load of screen time. At one point, in an example of truly desperate and shameless pandering, Striker busts out Walker’s classic sitcom catch phrase, “Dyno-mite,” which is really sad. It’s worth mentioning that the Striker character periodically raps (horribly), and also transforms into a monster which looks something like what you’d get if you fed Jar Jar after midnight.

jar jarYeah… That’s him on the right… I’m not proud of myself for gathering this screen shot, by the way.

Other than the effects, and the wealth of familiar faces, absolutely nothing in The Guyver shines. The music is obnoxious, the characters are lame, and the actual lead actor is one of the blandest humans I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing. In addition, the editing is actually kind of obnoxious, this is the first film in recorded history which has somehow engineered a transition effect even more objectionable than the oft reviled Star Wipe. I’d say the film is worth watching for that alone, and you’ll know it when you see it. Afterwards, however, slide this puppy back in the Netflix envelope from whence it came and part ways with it forever, as this is a classic cinematic wasted opportunity that you don’t need to sit through.


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Castle Freak~ 1995, Stuart Gordon

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Who among us has moved into a new place and NOT dreaded the day they might discover that there was, in fact, a castle freak hiding in the shadows, which the apartment management had failed to mention? Discovering that your new home also houses a dangerous, horribly disfigured psychopath who knows the ins and outs of your sweet two bedroom, one bath, party bungalow better than you ever could is a clear, constant danger to us all, and no one movie explores that very real fear better than Stuart Gordon’s super awesome Castle Freak, starring Jeffery Combs and Barbara Crampton.

In Castle Freak, Jeffrey Combs discovers that, well, what do you know; I’m totally royalty, and I just inherited a sweet castle in Italy! Never once expecting a fucking Castle Freak, Combs and his family travel to Europe to explore his newly discovered ancestral home, totally unaware of the damn Castle Freak, who is just waiting to screw up their day and/or straight up kill them. Talk about a case of the Mondays.

The Castle Freak does turn up, of course, and once he does he’s nothing but trouble. Aside from terrorizing Jeffrey Combs and his family, he also does all sorts of bad stuff around town that Combs ends up taking the blame for, and throughout most of the film he manages to do this while flying under the radar, because there is nothing stealthier than a wailing maniac who has lived his entire life confined to a dungeon knowing only brutality and violence.

All told, this is a redemption story. Combs’ character has, in the past, messed up real hard, so hard it makes Jack Torrence look like father of the year, and his family is just barely holding it together at the start of the picture. It’s a testament to the human will that he manages to use this murderous Castle Freak situation as an opportunity to turn it all around, to go that extra mile and win back his family’s trust, to say, “Yeah, I was drunk at the time, and yeah, the car accident killed our son and left our daughter blind- but hey, I got rid of that fucking Castle Freak, didn’t I?!” Way to be, Jeff. Next time you’re having hard time finding your silver lining, think back on Jeffrey Combs’ Castle Freak scenario and remember, if HE could do it, well then, darn it, you can too!

Loosely based (SUPER loosely) on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider, Castle Freak is probably the lesser of Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptations, but it’s still really great. It’s a very simplistic, straight forward, low budget horror movie, and it’s lots of fun. I have a lot of affection for the film, even if it can’t hold a candle to Re-Animator, From Beyond, or Dagon, and Castle Freak remains a film I enjoy and would happily recommend.


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