Day: December 13, 2015

The Fly II – Dead Heat – tape 302

We’re off to Sky Movies for a sequel that nobody really wanted. When David Cronenberg didn’t want to make a sequel to his classic body-horror movie The Fly they looked around for someone else to direct the sequel, and ended up with Chris Walas, the makeup effects artist on the original.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – directors often rise through the ranks – David Lean and Robert Wise were editors, Ridley Scott was a designer and camera operator, and James Cameron started in visual effects, so there’s no reason to assume that Walas won’t be a great director.

The screenplay has Frank Darabont listed as a writer, along with Jim and Ken Wheat, then hot off the success of Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. Mick Garris is also credited, and I presume he wrote the first draft, since he gets story credit. Garris has written a lot of genre stuff, but he’s never really had a massive hit.

But let’s see how the movie does. It opens in media res with (it would appear) Geena Davis’ character from the first film in the midst of a traumatic birth – a scene that echoes a dream sequence from the first movie, although this scene doesn’t use any footage from the original, and they’ve used a lookalike for Davis. Not that she gets to do much except thrash and scream before she expires after giving birth to… something.

Flybaby

In fact, the only returning cast member is John Getz as Stathis Borans.

One bright spot from the opening credits is the music, unmistakably Christopher Young, who can whip up a bombastic sound for horror with his eyes shut.

The slug turns out to contain a normal looking baby, but one which is afflicted with Brundle’s accelerated growth syndrome, so it grows up at a highly accelerated rate, and also possesses a brilliant mind – I’m not sure both of those would happen at once, but let’s assume he inherited his father’s genius.

He grows up on a lab, monitored all the time, and when he’s about 18 months old (but as grown up as a six year old) he becomes attached to one of the dogs at the lab. And when it’s taken away to another part of the facility, he looks for it, where he finds it being used in an experiment.

Dog in a Pod

Yes, Jeff Goldblum’s pods from the previous movie are still there. And it almost works too, but wouldn’t you know it, the cute dog is transformed into an unconvincing hairy puppet who bites off a scientist’s fingers. This is worse that Old Yeller ever was.

Cut to his fifth birthday, and young Martin has blossomed into Eric Stoltz. As a birthday present, Mr Bartok, the seemingly avuncular head of Bartok Industries, the organisation where Martin lives, says he’s giving him his privacy, and takes him to his new quarters, a fairly normal set of rooms in the facility. He also asks him to work on the teleportation project. We get a brief glimpse of Jeff Goldblum in some archive recordings Stoltz watches, but it’s noticeably not Geena Davis’ voice on the recordings.

Stoltz also meets Daphne Zuniga, who works nights in the facility, so naturally they strike up a friendship.

Daphne Zuniga

Stoltz discovers that his beloved dog, mutated by the machine, is being kept alive somewhere in the lab. Yes, the movie is so proud of this animatronic dog they wanted to use it again.

Stoltz can’t bear to see his old friend suffering, so he puts him to sleep.

Bad Dog

Then Stoltz and Zuniga try the pod on a kitten. One weird thing about the way the film portrays the transportation effect – there’s lots of electricity and noise, but at the exact moment the animal disappears from the first pod, the dog barks and the cat meows. It’s almost comic.

But this kitten survives, because Stoltz has solved the problems. Zuniga is so impressed that she sleeps with him.

Stoltz is also looking for a cure for his condition, so he asks the computer.

Ask the Computer

He could cure it with DNA from a healthy donor, but that donor would die. Hmm.

Zuniga gets transferred because Bartok was still spying on Stoltz – you knew that line about giving him privacy was a fake, didn’t you? The news is delivered by the creepy security guard who doesn’t like Stoltz, so you know he’s got a sticky end coming. In fact, most of the staff there, with the exception of Zuniga, seem to really resent Stoltz, presumably because he’s 5 years old and smarter than all of them. They really are terrible scientists, and it’s no wonder they couldn’t get the pods to work.

So soon Stoltz learns that he’s been monitored, and also learns the true nature of his genetic condition, so he escapes and finds Zuniga. They go to visit John Getz, who seems to be there solely to be grumpy, as he doesn’t help the story at all. Stoltz’s condition is rapidly deteriorating, and Zuniga panics and calls the institute, who came and get them.

Stoltz enters some form of larval state. Luckily, when he emerges, there’s only one scientist in the lab, and it’s the one who was horrible to him earlier, so we don’t care when she’s menaced by Brundlefly Jr.

We’re then treated to an extended sequence of Brundlefly Jr attacking various people in the facility, as Bartok and his goons hole up in the pod lab. There’s an ace face-ripping scene when he spits fly-vomit on a guard’s face.

Face Ripping

Bonus points for getting in a guard having his head crushed by a descending elevator. This movie is certainly delivering on the gore, even if the rest of it is a bit warmed over.

The evil security guard from earlier is called Scorby, which is also the name of John Challis’ character in the Doctor Who serial The Seeds of  Doom. I’d like to think this was homage, but I don’t think it was. He’s played by an actor called Gary Chalk. I had an art teacher once called Gary Chalk, but that’s a different one, who went on to have a good career illustrating a range of choose-your-own-adventure books. He used to keep us amused in class by reading from Winnie the Pooh, and telling us how he was late that day because he was menaced by a swan on the way t school. He was great.

But I digress.

The Brundlefly Jr isn’t a bad design – it’s got six appendages, at least – but I’ve definitely seen better work. I’m not sure why he has a red eye with a pupil, rather than a compound eye, but it’s a genetic mishmash, so I won’t quibble.

Brundlefly Jr

Soon it’s just Zuniga, Bartok and Brundlefly Jr left, so he drags Bartok into the pod with him, and gestures for Zuniga to hit the return key to initiate transport. I guess it’s hard to write a cron job when your fingers have been replaced by fly claws.

But the teleport happens, and miraculously, Stoltz is cured – once he’s pulled out of a gloopy conjoined state with Bartok, who doesn’t come out of it well. And in a textbook definition of irony, the final scene sees the malformed Bartok in the same chamber as Stoltz’s mutant dog earlier. I don’t think this organisation is going to win any ethcs awards.

As a cheap and cheerful schlocker, this is OK, but it suffers so much in comparison with Cronenberg’s ‘original’ it’s like Jaws 2 all over again. A noble effort, and some classic gore effects, but nothing underneath.

After this, recording switches to a film about which I have no expectations whatsoever. Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo star is Dead Heat. Well it can’t be all bad if it features Darren McGavin of Kolchak fame, and the great Vincent Price.

Williams and Piscopo are cops, and after a huge shootout at a jewellery store, they learn that the criminals were actually dead men, having had autopsies already. They track a particular chemical to a local company. They’re a bit secretive, so Piscopo goes snooping and finds a big secret room that looks like a Tardis.

Dead Heat Tardis Room

Under the big dome is some kind of creature, who attacks Piscopo. When he shoots at it, the shots are heard in the lobby where Williams is making small talk with the company’s head of PR. Williams draws his gun and starts to look for where it’s coming from, and a security guard tries to shoot him, which seems a bit of a giveaway that something nefarious is going on.

Dead Heat Troll

There’s a big fight with the troll thing, during which Williams is knocked into a decompression chamber which the company uses to euthanise animals, and an unseen figure activates the machine.

So Williams is dead, which surprised me, because I assumed Piscopo would be the dead one. The Medical examiner, played by Clair Kirkconnel, who originally discovered the undead nature of the jewellery store hoodlums, examines the strange Tardis thing and realises that that’s how they were brought back to life, so they try the process on Williams (whose character name is ‘Roger Mortis’ ho ho ho) and it works. except he has no heartbeat.

He also has a limited lifespan, so they have to crack on with the investigation, which takes them to the PR director (Randi Harper, played by Lindsay Frost) who they find trying to leave town. There’s another big gunfight with more armed zombies, who appear to want her dead, and we learn that her father was Arthur P Loudermilk, who died recently, and was played by Vincent Price, on video. I wonder if that was the only scene they could get him for or if he will appear later.

There’s a bizarre sequence in a chinese restaurant kitchen where the resurrection machine brings all the dead animals to life. I can see this movie is trying for comedy, but it’s not raising many smiles.

This film has a heck of a second act reverse – after going to see Loudermilk’s crypt, Harper admits she isn’t his daughter, and they met in hospital when she was there for rehab. Then they go back to her house to discover Piscopo is dead, and Harper then admits she wasn’t in the hospital for rehab, she was actually dead, and she them proceeds to decay to death in front of Williams.

Lindsay Frost

It goes even more batty, as Williams discovers that it’s his boss, Darren McGavin, who is behind everything, working with the still-alive Vincent Price (yay!).

Vincent Price

He’s offering eternal life to rich people, and asking only for half of their fortunes in return.

To demonstrate the machine, they have to revive a corpse – so naturally it’s Piscopo they choose. And the whole thing ends with lots of explosions, and our heroes walking off into the night. Although you notice it’s only the guys who walked out – both women stay dead.

There’s a bitching 80s rock tune for the end titles, too.

The tape ends shortly after the film ends.

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