Wednesday, April 20, 2022

It Came From the Desert (2017)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: It Came From the Desert (2017)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Horror
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: AMP International, Cinemaware, Oy Bufo Ab, Roger! Pictures, Crystalsky Multimedia, Black Lion Pictures, Elisa Viihde, Fox, GAGA., Horrify, Horror Channel, Hulu, ITN Distribution, Impact Films, Minerva Pictures, Raven Banner Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Sunfilm Entertainment, The Orchard, Thunderbird Releasing, Tiberius Film, Zylo
Director: Marko Mäkilaakso
Writers: Trent Haaga, Marko Mäkilaakso, Hank Woon Jr.
Actors: Harry Lister Smith, Alex Mills, Vanessa Grasse, Mark Arnold, Callum McGowan, Andrew Horton, James Alper, Michael Majalahti, José Varela, Jose Leonardo Garcia Torres, Ross Ellis, Gregory Rowbottom, Larry Wayne, L.J. Ruth, Christy Fabbri, Rob Drex, Perry Norton, Rick Shockley, Genevieve Baer
IMDb Blurb: A pulpy monster movie inspired by the cult classic 1980s video game "It Came from the Desert," featuring rival motocross heroes and heroines, kegger parties in the desert, secret underground military bases...and of course giant ants!

Cat’s Point of View:
I must admit that when I watched It Came From the Desert, I had no idea that this film was an adaptation of an 80’s video game. (The story takes place 60+ years after the events in the game.) In retrospect, it makes so much more sense now. I just figured someone had a crazy idea along the same vein as Big Ass Spider! (2013), Lavalantula (2015), or Eight Legged Freaks (2002).
That’s really the main thing to keep in mind while watching It Came From the Desert. This isn’t a serious piece of cinema here. This is campy and playing to the pulp fiction genre. No one was fishing with Oscar bait here – even though the acting on the part of the leads was generally fine.

There were little nods here and there that gave the audience a clear picture that the key players were aware of how ridiculous the situation was.
I mean, have you ever wondered what it would look like if an ant snickered? Well, worry not – It Came From the Desert has a compelling visual for you. (The production value on the effects was pretty good, as well.)
The sci-fi elements here weren’t so far-flung as to defy suspension of disbelief, at least. The setting even felt like an ideal place for a monstrous anthill. It was certainly remote enough that a ‘secret facility' would be plausible.

While computer technology and cell phones prevent this actually from being set in the 1980s, It Came From The Desert certainly pays a good deal of homage to the 80s action tropes. It plays out like a love letter to campy serialized B-movies from that era – but doesn’t leave out the occasional homage to more serious works such as Aliens (1986) and Jurassic Park (1993).
Of course, then there’s the random motocross element. Hey, it works here though.
There was really only one thing that bothered me about this production. I didn’t like the song they generally use as the main theme throughout the movie and end credits. Melodically, and as a piece of music, it was fine. The lyrics just rubbed me the wrong way with their repeated reference to River Phoenix (1970-1993). That’s just my own personal bias talking, though. If you tune out the words and just vibe with the scenes, it was easy enough to get past.
As long as you don’t set expectations too high, and approach It Came From the Desert with the simple desire to be entertained, it’s a fun ride that would be great to share with friends and plenty of popcorn.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 60%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 31%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.2/10
P.S. - 8-bit animations of plot elements are at beginning of the credits, there is a small additional scene mid-credits, and then as the rest of the credits roll, actual game-play from the 80s video game is shown in a window on-screen.

Trust the Dice: Parental Guidance Rating – PG-13
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, April 18, 2022

Virus-32 (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Virus-32 (2022)
Genre: Horror
Length: 89 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Aeroplano Cine, Mother Superior, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Argentina
Director: Gustavo Hernández
Writer: Juma Fodde, Gustavo Hernández
Actors: Rasjid César, Sofía González, Daniel Hendler, Paula Silva
Blurb from IMDb: A rapid spreading virus which transforms people into intelligent, ultra-violent, extra-fast zombie hunters. After each wave of attack by the monsters, they're left incapacitated for 32 seconds while they recover their strength.

Selina’s Point of View:
Virus-32 is a basic zombie story. I’ve mentioned before, however, that I don’t have much of an issue with recipe films, and this is exactly the kind of flick that helps make my point.
There are some things that Virus-32 did so right that it elevated the recipe.
For one thing, the acting was well done. Paula Silva (In the Quarry, Metro de Montevideo, Feheler 78),  was exceptionally easy to relate to, and she kept me right along side her for the entire ride. She made me care. Her character also made a few extremely smart decisions, which caused me to pay even closer attention.
The direction was extraordinary. There are a couple of tension-building long shots that were impossible to look away from. It was such a simple addition to the movie, but it made a huge difference. Those scenes were, like the majority of Virus-32, following a recipe. Had they been shot as expected; my attention would have waned just about instantly. But because of these unbroken, constantly-moving (but not shaky cam), long shots… I was glued to the screen, and the scares hit where they otherwise wouldn’t have.

There was also the ending.
One scene leading up to the ending, I couldn’t even watch. It was terrifying, and my imagination made it even worse. I straight-up hid in my shirt. Further along, there was another scene that caused me to exclaim – out loud – “get the fuck out of here.” I don’t have many moments like that when watching horror these days.
I’ll admit that I can’t comment too deeply on the script, because my captions weren’t as on point as they should have been. There were words randomly missing/added. Other times it was just a bad translation. I was able to follow along well enough because of my very minor understanding of Spanish. I’m not going to hold the captions against it though, because we received an early copy. I’m guessing they’ll tighten the translation up for when it premieres on Shudder.
All-in-all, Virus-32 was a solid zombie flick, even though it didn’t really subvert expectations the way one would hope.

Cat’s Point of View:
Virus-32 was certainly interesting. It worked its way through the middle ground between a tale of a viral outbreak and zombie horror. While I haven’t generally sought out films about pathogens since the whole global pandemic thing began, these two sub-genres are right in my horror wheelhouse.
The fact that Virus-32 was in Spanish, as it was set in the Argentinian city of Montevideo, helped immerse me in this story further. I was having to pay closer attention because I was following the subtitles. I didn’t get caught up in the usual rabbit-hole trips my brain takes with mainstream cinema. I didn’t recognize anyone here, so I was just able to settle into the story. Well – as much as someone could settle into this particular one. There was a lot of breath-holding and edge-of-seat riding here. I think the only few moments I slipped down a slight tangent were when I recognized that what was said in Spanish didn’t get translated correctly – mostly expletives. My inner child giggled when “motherfucker” became “damn.” I couldn’t help it.
That was the only thing to snicker about – the rest was mercilessly brutal. There were several story choices that had me wincing – not because I’m squeamish (I’m generally not), but because what happened was just so unpleasantly hard to watch.

Virus-32 put a new spin on well-worn tropes and I think it worked well. I appreciated that the audience was put in the lead character’s shoes so that very little was known about whatever was afflicting the populace. I didn’t mind that the production skipped over the backstory that went with the “infection.” (Unless clues were in some of the broadcasts in the background that didn’t have a translation.)
If I was hard-pressed to find a negative about Virus-32 it would only be the brief segments of footage generated by a rig attached to the actor’s body. Fast movement and spinning with that point of view were disorienting for me and on par with shaky-cam. Anyone who has medical issues due to strobing lights should also be cautious here, as there’s a segment in Virus-32 that has some serious light flashing going on.
Virus-32 is a great addition to the Shudder lineup. Fans of the viral outbreak or zombie genres should find something enjoyable here. Just keep in mind, this one gets really dark.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: