WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
After the joyous time I had watching Piranhaconda I decided that I wanted to indulge in some more Syfy Original goodness. Turns out I had quite a few lying around and, because it’s the height of winter right now, dived into bed, blasted the heater and turned on Alien Tornado. This one wasn’t as heavily advertised as some other Syfy movies, but it’s definitely a lot of fun. If there’s a little sci-fi nerd living deep inside you that doesn’t really care about wafer-thin plots so long as there are shiny things in the sky then you’ll absolutely love this. And if the shining lights fail to grab your attention, maybe you can be tempted by tornadoes that shoot out funnel hands and scoop people up (so that they can be probed, I assume).
No movie about marauding alien tornadoes could conceivably begin without a troubled father/daughter duo, so let me introduce you to Judd and Kelly Walker. They live on a farm in a little town in the middle of Who The Hell Cares, USA. The day started out perfectly normally for the two: Kelly continued to be a blonde genius from the sticks and Judd spent his morning grooming a horse. Things take a mysterious turn when, from out of nowhere, a very shiny and sparkly tornado appeared and started ripping up the farm in a remarkably coordinated attack for a mindless wind funnel. Father and daughter escape any serious kind of harm, but the farm’s been badly damaged. In the aftermath we also learn about Kelly’s dead mother and how Judd squandered his daughter’s college fund, setting us up with daddy issues that will see us all the way through to the end.
We’ll come back to Judd VS Judd in a moment but first we need to meet Gail Curtis, an amateur storm chaser who runs a blog. This blog has somehow gained her a level of notoriety, which for me raised a few questions. At the risk of it sounding like sour grapes, how exactly does one become famous from running a storm chasers blog? And do amateur storm chasing bloggers really have the enormous number of groupies that this movie suggests is possible? But I digress. Gail notices that, whilst there are a number people reporting these strange tornadoes, neither the news or weather stations have said a single thing about them. Being the bright and clever female storm chaser she is Gail also thinks that it’s a bit strange that these tornadoes only touch down and destroy major utility buildings or areas of military importance. Maybe, just maybe, these aren’t your regular run-of-the-mill tornadoes after all…
Gail’s suspicions are also raised when the FBI, apparently led by Beverley Leslie, arrive to investigate the tornadoes. Co-incidence brings Gail and Judd together, and Kelly just happens to be a huge fan of her blog. Kelly also managed to record a very strange sound that came on the radio when one of the tornadoes touched down, a sound that seems remarkably similar to a kind of code. By pissing the guys in the FBI off enough Judd and Gail manage to find out that the Earth is, in fact, being invaded by aliens that use the weather as their biggest weapon. Despite the FBI’s flamboyant best efforts the future of mankind (and Chicago) will lie in the hands of a blogger, a grizzly farm owner and a blonde high school student. What could possibly go wrong with that?
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Young women should be made to bale hay to earn their keep.
- Amateur storm chasers need to pass a master class in ‘oh my God, what is that?!?’ faces.
- There is no father daughter crisis so terrible that it can’t be turned into a so-so country song.
- Fat people aren’t reliable storm chasers.
- Farmers are ready to form a lynch mob whenever the words ‘the city’ are uttered.
- Abducting humans is the alien equivalent of grabbing a toy bear in a claw machine.
ALIEN TORNADO TRAILER
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
In my humble opinion there just aren’t enough killer scarecrow movies out there. Like clowns there’s just something very off-putting about a scarecrow, so the horror movie opportunities to use them are virtually endless. I dug this movie out for that exact reason – scarecrows are scary and deserve their place in the long list of seemingly harmless things that can and will kill you when the opportunity arises. As an added bonus I get to throw the collective ‘murder of crows’ around in this review 🙂 All in all Hallowed Ground isn’t a bad movie and there are certainly far worse ways for a person to kill 90 minutes of their time. It just isn’t an amazing movie; it never really gets to the point where you’re on edge waiting for what might be coming round the corner.
Our story begins back in the day (late 1800s-ish) in the ironically named little town of Hope. It’s a bustling little community of hard-working farmers tending to their cornfields day and night to ensure a good harvest. Hope is renowned for the quality of its corn and the townsfolk’s ability to grow their corn no matter what the weather; even droughts can’t keep these people without corn. As well as being hard-working corn farmers Hope’s inhabitants are also a sizeable body of religious nut cases headed up by the equally insane but charismatic Jonas Hathaway. It’s from him that the locals have learned how to grow amazing corn: you gather up any sinners you might have running around town, you dress them up like a scarecrow and then you crucify them in the middle of the cornfields. The exact scientific reasons for the corn liking this so much was never fully explained to the audience, but that corn’s growing like it’s nobody’s business so something’s working. Unfortunately for the town news of their dear preacher’s unorthodox corn-growing methods make it to Liberty, the next town over, and the locals their proceed to storm the cornfields and crucify Hathaway and then burn him.
Flash forward to the present day and Hope’s still standing and the people there are still growing corn. Our leading lady Liz Chambers literally rolls into town one day when her car begins to break down while she’s out on a scenic drive to wherever the hell she feels like going. The car’s gonna take a day to fix so she needs to get comfortable and pops off to the diner to grab a bite to eat and be stared at by anyone who walks past her. At the diner she meets Sarah, a lovely tabloid reporter who fills her in on Hope’s back story. With nothing better to do Liz decides to go with Sarah out into the cornfields to get a look at Hathaway’s old farmhouse and take some photos that can be later used in Sarah’s newspaper. For full effect they decide to make a creepy scarecrow, stick it up on a crucifix and hang it in the cornfield. Hathaway’s ghost takes this as his opportunity and possesses the scarecrow and proceeds to brutally murder Sarah before going after Liz, who manages to escape and make it back into town.
Of course all is not well in the little town of Hope. Many years have passed but the locals have never quite managed to shake that Religious Sect of the Corn vibe that they’ve cultivated so well. Liz gets back to town only to be hunted down by the scarecrow and learn that bullets have very little effect against a stuffed bag of straw and decides to seek sanctity in the local church. From here things become even more bizarre when she’s informed that she is at the centre of a 100-year-old prophecy made by Hathaway. He foretold of her arrival just before he died and now needs the new priest to have sex with her, get her pregnant and when the baby’s born Hathaway can possess it. Sounds to me like the priest is a bit desperate, but I decided to run with it anyway. What happens afterwards is a combination of running, some fire, some more running, a crucifix, some hiding followed by some running, some corn, a murder of crows, some more running, some more crows and then some more corn. Oh yeah, and there’s an ending thrown in there as well. An ending that includes corn.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- The best way to ensure a bumper crop is to offer a human sacrifice.
- Reporters often walk around with scarecrow- and crucifix-making kits.
- Despite being made of straw scarecrows have remarkable upper body strength.
- There’s no kind of police business that should take more than 20 minutes to sort out.
- Scarecrows are particularly fanatical in their religious devotion.
- Boys get over excited during crucifixions and tend to do more harm than is necessary.
- It’s easy enough to massacre an entire town and hang them from telephone wires.
HALLOWED GROUND TRAILER
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Year of Release: 1972
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller
IMDB Rating: 3.9 / 10
Level of Awful: High
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Modern, low-budget filming techniques make it possible for any fool out there with a video camera, half a dozen friends, an axe and a topless female to make a horror movie. Now while I celebrate this achievement by watching and absorbing as much crap as I can, there’s a different kind of joy to be found in the simplicity of a 70s cheese-fest. And Night of the Lepus is definitely a cheese-fest, and most definitely not one of Janet Leigh’s (best known from the shower scene in Psycho and as the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis) better moments. She has openly admitted to trying to forget as much as she could about making this movie, and I don’t blame her. Most of the rabbits that were in this movie would deny having had anything to do with it.
Our movie begins on an educational note, informing the audience of the dangers rabbits pose to farmers and the destruction they inflict on food crops. We are then informed that this destruction threatens the very existence of the human race and every other animal on the planet. This minor education in the dangers of rabbits takes us to Cole Hillman’s farm, where thousands of rabbits are making their way through his crops and threatening mankind’s existence as shown in the educational video. Now Hillman is a good man and believes in respecting the balance of nature and doesn’t want to poison the rabbits so instead he calls in Roy and Gerry Bennett, a husband and wife team of scientists to genetically alter the rabbits so that they can either no longer breed or the offspring are born with horrible birth defects.
Sadly, as most b-horrors teach us, genetic experiments of this kind never go according to plan. This is especially true when the Bennett’s daughter Amanda decides to swap one of the control rabbits around with the one of the experimental rabbits. The problem is that Amanda’s father had no idea what the serum he injected the rabbit with would do to it, but because a friend sent it to him he thought he’d try it out. How badly can this kind of thing go wrong anyway? In the meantime Amanda, in that sneaky way that only little girls can do, convinces her parents to let her keep the experimental rabbit. They agree, not stopping to think that their little girl would willingly disobey by swapping around an innocent little bunny with Satan’s own furry little pet.
Unfortunately this highly experimental rabbit is set free by one of Amanda’s friends and, once underground, begins to mutate and grow to the size of a horse. Even more unfortunate is the fact that, once the rabbit gets to this size and begins to infect other rabbits, they begin to develop a taste for human flesh (although, in a pinch, an actual horse or cow will do the trick). It is now up to the Bennetts, Cole Hillman, their friend Elgin Clark and Sheriff Cole to stop the rabbits before they have a chance to migrate into the ‘major’ towns (population +- 200) and ‘eat’ the inhabitants (when being ‘eaten’ the victims have a can of rose-red paint thrown on them).
While this is the actual plot-line of the movie the majority of its 88 minute running time is taken up by the crew placing the rabbits on what are clearly miniature sets to emphasise how big the rabbits have become. Also, while the movie is called Night of the Lepus, taking into account the time required for genetic experimentation, time for infection to spread as well as the birth of newly infected rabbits, this movie should in fact be renamed to Fortnight of the Lepus, even if it feels like an eternity is passing you by before anything actually happens in the movie itself.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED:
- Animal rights REALLY weren’t a big deal in the 70s.
- Giant bunnies roar like lions.
- When running, giant bunnies make the same noise as air bubbles under water.
- Causing debilitating birth defects in newborn rabbits is more humane that poisoning them.
- Giant bunnies move in slow motion.
- Giant bunnies will leap off mountains to catch their prey by surprise at the bottom.
- People question nothing when they are told that man-eating rabbits are approaching town and the National Guard needs to use them as bait to catch the rabbits.
- Children should not be punished for unleashing man-eating genetic experiments on the general public.