Thursday, August 04, 2011
Chupacabra vs. the Alien
In the past few months I have acquired a Secret Shame so delightful I feel compelled to share. The Shame in question goes by the name of Sci Fi Original Movies. If you ever wondered what happened to made-for-television films (remember the "Movies of the Week" from years ago on major networks?) they are alive and thriving on cable. The Lifetime channel is the proud progenitor of its own set of shameful films, but given the choice between women's exploitation and cheesy science fiction I'll take the movie with the alien in it every time.
A couple of years ago the Sci Fi channel changed its name to the horrendous SyFy but the production company, still known as Sci Fi Pictures, continues to be the savior of underemployed members of the entertainment industry everywhere. These films usually contain one or two reasonably good, recognizable actors to anchor the thing as well as terrible CGI effects and/or guys in monster suits. They are generally filmed in out-of-the-way parts of the world on the cheap; I award bonus points if they are filmed in Bulgaria.
What are the movies about? You can get a pretty good idea by casting your eye down the list of titles linked above. Aliens are quite popular - five movies on the list have the word "alien" in the title; natural disasters such as volcanoes, tornadoes and massive storms; horror flicks featuring monsters or the supernatural. Someone at Sci Fi Pictures really has a knack for coming up with titles: How can you read the words "Reign of the Gargoyles" or "Android Apocalypse" and not be tempted to watch? (Full disclosure: the scriptwriter for "Frankenfish" is a friend of mine. Do him a favor and rent it even if you don't watch it.)
You'd probably appreciate these films more if you're a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and are comfortable with the idea of screaming abuse at your television. Most recently I found myself yelling "That doesn't make any sense!" at poor Xander Berkeley, playing a vulcanologist out to save the world in Magma: Volcanic Disaster. He was expounding his character's theories about what would cause all the volcanoes in the world to erupt at the same time, and none of it was the least bit logical or realistic. Still it was great fun to watch, especially if you are a fan of Mr. Berkeley as I am.
And this is the real reason why I watch these movies. My hobby is crushing on character actors. The chance to see Xander Berkeley in a starring role, playing a good guy for a change? Awesome. I'd watch the guy read the phone book. Want to see Bruce Campbell playing an "astronaut and osteopath" in Alien Apocalypse? Sure you do. John Rhys-Davies as a ship's captain in Chupacabra: Dark Seas, Ron Perlman as an evil corporate head in Absolon - there are many more. It's a delight to watch these actors do their thing, manfully keeping straight faces in the midst of monster makeup and really bad acting from their compatriots.
I wouldn't recommend these films over, say, Citizen Kane but if you're looking for a pleasant way to waste time and laugh your head off I can't think of too many better ways than watching these movies. You can find the SyFy channel's schedule here. Click and soon you too can be watching Bruce Campbell and Stacy Keach in Man with the Screaming Brain.
Which was filmed in Bulgaria. Ten points!