Reviewed by Simon Drake
Directed by Jeff Hare
Starring Craig Sheffer, Gabrielle Anwar and Rutger Hauer
A bunch of Brazilian tribesmen get a tad miffed at an American company building a freeway through their rainforest, so they attack all the construction workers in a protracted (and slow motion) shootout. Plucky (and not terribly bright) reporter Anne Bauer (Anwar) realises there is a news story in it, so off she trots into the jungle wearing a pair of sandals and dragging her ‘rent a quip’ cameraman (and all his expensive equipment on tow) with her in search of the tribesmen.
They are soon unsurprisingly attacked and Anne gets shot by a bunch of guerrillas, stung by a killer bee and then rescued by the tribesmen. Quite what her cameraman was up to when all this was happening I don’t know.
Anne wakes up in a hospital being run by creepy Dr North (played by American Werewolf David Naughton) and makes a rapid recovery from her gunshot wound. Dr North notices the bee stings and her healed wound and decides to smuggle some conveniently captured bees back to America for experiments and profit.
Marty, Anne’s whiny ex husband shows up (the charisma free Craig Sheffer) and is told to bugger off by Anne (something that happens frequently throughout the film) so he heads back to the Airport and catches the next plane back to America. I’m guessing Marty is a pretty tolerant guy with a fairly flexible job and plenty of holiday pay as he doesn’t seem all that bothered about flying from America to Brazil just to go home again that afternoon.
Marty happens to catch the same Brazil to New York flight as Dr North and his carry on bag of killer bees and once they are in flight the bees escape because of a poorly stowed surfboard (how much surf is there in the Brazilian rainforest anyway?) The Bees swarm around the plane and sting a few random passengers from club class including Dr North who immediately fall into comas, well I guess you get what you pay for when flying Brazilian airlines.
Back on the ground Anne is released from hospital and within minutes she’s going back to the same place she was shot the pvious night, only to be shot at and chased again by the same goons that are hired by who else but Rutger Hauer. He's a molecular biologist (no really!) who’s created the bees to wipe out all the villagers that are standing in the way of construction of the freeway.
Only the tribesmen have the antidote for the killer bee stings (hence Anne’s rapid recovery) so Anne and Cameramook have to run around the jungle being chased by Rutger and friends to get the antidote for Marty, who has to take the flying into his own hands as the pilot died. As I said you get what you pay for when flying Air Brazil!
It’s the sheer dullness of the whole affair; Getting back the ‘creative team’ and actors from Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal and dumping them in the jungle playing a hapless band of incompetents supposedly masquerading as the heroes whilst reading out the risible script with zero chemistry.
Everyone just looks like they are going through the motions, including the extras who seem to earn their money unconvincingly fighting off imaginary bees with a look of utter boredom on their faces. Even our man Rutger can’t even be arsed to ham it up, he just swans around wearing a rather fetching tasselled suede jacket and cowboy boots being evil and quoting ‘evilspeak’.
Plus the Brazilian jungle is hardly given justice, the crew were clearly there but they make it look as if it was filmed in the Lake District.
Not too much, the bees effects are okay.
Not bad per se, just clear that no one, directors and writers included, could be arsed with the film…And by the end that feeling has successfully worn off onto the viewer.
On the 747, the pilot is stung and collapses over the cockpit controls…The scene plays out so much like ‘Airplane’ you half expect an inflatable autopilot to pop up and take control.
Production Values – So so effects, but some bad continuity and stock footage. Plus the lighting and stuntwork isn’t that great either. 14
Dialogue and performance – Falls largely into the insipid category on both counts. 10
Plot and execution – A lethargic Outbreak meets Airplane without the laughs. 13
Randomness – The entire premise doesn’t really add up, coupled with all the smaller points just come across as a waste of everyone's time. 16
Waste of potential – Killer bee films don’t have a great deal of filmic credibility and this one does little to change that. 14
Reviewed by Simon Drake
Directed by Josh Olsen
Starring Zach Galligan, Amy Jo Johnson and Camilla Overbye Roos
The funeral of former college friend Steven brings together a group of thirtysomething yuppies for a reunion after ten years. They all go to stay at a summer beach cottage for a touching nostalgia fuelled trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, before the group hugging and misty eyed flashbacks can get underway one of the guys is stung by a combusting insect and turns into a zombie. He kills one of the women causing the rest to barricade themselves inside the house, but they are gradually all infected one by one and eventually only Steven's girlfriend Jessie is left. She escapes and blows up the house after Steven makes a miraculous recovery from the dead and tries to kill her. Seeking refuge in a nearby church Jessie is found by the priest who points and makes the ‘insect cry’ noise much like the Invasion of the body snatchers ambiguous ending.
It is one of those films where it is hard to work out if its intolerable levels of crapness are intentional or not. It’s clearly aiming for the tongue in cheek approach, I’m assuming the producers were priding themselves on a ‘skewered version of The Big Chill’ but it just fails to work as it acts really seriously. After about thirty minutes it becomes so relentlessly stupid and random it soon becomes obvious they are making it up as they go. Things get more implausible and a bunch of subplots are introduced that bear no relevance to the plot as more and more random ideas are stuffed into the film to pad out the running time bringing us ever closer towards the end credits. The gore effects are really bad as are the bugs and not bad in a campy knowing b-movie way, just rubber bugs and animated swarms, not CGI animation either come to that…But Scooby Doo type hand drawn swarms. There isn’t much in the way of explanation or conclusion to why there are swarms of infectious insects or where they came from or why Steven being immortal is connected to these insects.
The idea of a b-movie satire on those ‘yuppie angst’ shows where everyone ends up dying horribly gory deaths is at least a novel one, but the idea doesn’t stretch past the first thirty minutes. That said there is a nice intro sequence with a shot of each yuppie (over the cheery upbeat Eddie Money song ‘Two tickets to Paradise’) as they are told the news of Steven’s death. They all react or mime ‘What?’ or ‘Oh my God’ with such levels of unbridled ham it’s really funny. There is also some decent dialogue at the start and some snappy exchanges between the cast who (at first glance anyway it seems) can actually act.
It’s a rather shabby production that starts well enough but just goes off the rails quickly and seems like a bunch of mates making it up as they go. While that may have been fun for them, it makes rather poor viewing for the audience.
The opening credit sequence probably.
Production Values – Rubbish effects, shoddy lighting and camera work and a really really really stupid oesophagus cam (it looks like someone holding a rubber bug in front of the lens and dropping the camera down a sleeping bag) 18
Dialogue and performance – Starts promisingly, with some decent actor delivery but then as soon as everyone starts turning into zombies the dialogue simply stops as does the acting. 14
Plot and execution – The plot is a mish mash of other much better films made by much better directors with the cast running in and out of rooms finding new and ingenious ways of padding out the running time. 18
Randomness – The whole premise doesn’t seem as if it was thought out beyond the producers pitch of ‘Big Chill meets Dawn of the Dead with insects’ many of the random scenes come from the excessive amount of time wasting sub plots. 19
Waste of potential – In the hands of a more capable b-movie director the egregious levels of gore and goofy rubber insects could have played nicely with a parody of The Big chill, however writer/director Josh Olsen needed someone with more restraint in favour of a coherent second half. Anthony Hickox comes to mind, while not a great director at least he is consistent in (extremely bloody) tone and can do b-movie spoofery with that right balance of ham and knowingness. 16
Reviewed by Simon Drake
Directed by Louis Moreanu
Starring C Thomas Howell, Kari Wurhrer and Jake Busey
"Evil waits by the side of the road."
Picking up fifteen years after the first film, Jim Halsey is now working for the Police force until a use of excessive force during a kidnapping gets him promptly sacked, so for some moral support he goes to see his girlfriend Maggie who promptly dumps him…Ouch that’s gotta sting!
For some reason the sheriff from the original film persuades Jim to visit Iowa for the first time since he was attacked by Rutger Hauer fifteen years ago. So Jim and Maggie (who’s conveniently forgotten she’d dumped Jim an hour pviously) drive through the desert and on the same stretch of road they pick up psycho killer Jake Busey. And it all begins again.
Danger: Plot spoilers ahead.
It is probably unfair to compare it too much to the original. However whereas the first film was a bare bones stripped down horror with minimal dialogue and a menacing performance from Rutger at the top of his game (bearing in mind it was straight after Blade Runner and erm…Ladyhawke). This sequel’s major flaws are from its rather poor script, sadly Eric Red, who along with Near Dark knows a thing or two about writing roadside horrors, has been replaced by the Meeker siblings who frankly clutter up the film with too much backstory and really bad dialogue. They also insist on making their main characters act so mind numbingly stupid leaving you rather hoping they are going to get creamed. However after about thirty minutes into the film the only halfway interesting and sympathetic character Jim Halsey takes one for the team, and one in the chest, leaving only the moronic Maggie to run around being chased by rent-a-psycho Jake Busey. Sadly Mr Busey Jnr doesn’t really come off too menacingly, what with his Chris Isaak quiff and trademark ‘crazy guy’ flailing arms he comes across more goofy than scary.
The director is not without promise, he creates good suspense and the action/stunt scenes are very well done, although he does have an annoying penchant for ‘speeded up clouds’ cutaways. There is some excellent cinematography and the score is good too. C Thomas Howell is fine in his extended cameo, but lumbered with some lame dialogue then gets killed.
It’s competently put together, with a nice opening scene and finale. I just couldn’t help thinking if they had a better script and less annoyingly dumb heroine it could have been so much more.
The opening sequence involving a kidnapped boy is well done, as is the microlight/truck finale.
Production values – Good lighting, camerawork and score. And the stuntwork is done well. 3
Dialogue and performance – The script has some real clangers and the characters motivations are a little bizarre at times. But the acting is fine, but marred by the dialogue and annoying characters. 13
Plot and execution – The plot is pretty much identical to the original and directed well with some nice touches. Although it’s not made clear if Jake Busey is another incarnation of John Ryder, a copycat or just a random nut job. 5
Randomness – Mostly down to the rather staggering coincidences and the cretinous behaviour of the characters. 15
Waste of potential – Maybe if the producers had made a separate killer on the road movie they would have had more success, as all the existing backstory actually gets in the way (and is a little pointless as Jim gets killed almost immediately). I’d be interested to see what the director does next; maybe if he worked with a minimal script and simple premise like the original Hitcher film he’d achieve more impressive results. 13