Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Corn
***
DVD
Directed by Dave Silver

They're names we hear every day. Or at least on Sunday if we're frequent watchers of network news shows. Names like Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, and even Pioneer are names that drift across the national consciousness. And do we really know just what it is these massive food conglomerates are doing on any typical work day? We know what we're told, but do we truly know?

We may finally have some insight into the typical workings of the food conglomerates with Dave Silver's "Corn," a cautionary tale that shows us, firsthand, the potentially deadly possibility of genetic engineering when it comes to our food supply.

So what we have here is the story of our heroine Emily, a young lady with a past, who returns to her hometown to have her baby. Sadly, the father, a highly placed state official, isn't interested in helping Emily care for the baby on anything much over a financial level, and even then grudgingly. But before she can take off and appear on the Maury show to force his hand and open his wallet, all agricultural hell breaks loose.

A genetically modified crop of corn is responsible for an ecological disaster that our heroine bears witness to, and she's left to warn the town. Of course, with her past on her side, she's not exactly well received by the townsfolk, and neither is her warning.

She thus sets out to discover the truth of what's going on here, and discovers that something's very wrong with the local food supply. Facing down the lethal corn, and her own past, she's all that's left to protect the town.

Now, it's actually very interesting, that they give a statistic in the first minute of the movie how a million children a year die from vitamin A deficiency, and if one gene was implanted into rice, it would yield a rice grain that was very high in vitamin A. And "Corn" is sort of a cautionary tale. Yes, it's all fine and well that the rice could be improved in that manner, but what would too much vitamin A do to those children? To the adults? To the rest of the environment? The focus of "Corn" isn't on the biologically improved corn, but rather on a by-product. A weed growing in the corn has some very unusual properties, and when the local sheep eat it, they grow addicted. When the people eat the mutton and lambs that have eaten the weed, strange birth defects start cropping up. This landslide, this domino effect, is where the true danger of genetic manipulation lies.

The inevitable lesson of history is that, when you change just one thing, you end up changing everything. That's the lesson that "Corn" seeks to impart in true cautionary tale fashion. When you change the vitamin A count of a grain of rice, you inevitably alter everything, from the ground up, that comes in contact with that grain of rice, and often in a manner that is utterly unforeseeable and sometimes cataclysmic. You may actually manage to succeed in your stated purpose of improving the vitamin A levels in that grain of rice, but what will your efforts do to the weeds in the rice paddy? What will the weeds do to the local wildlife and livestock? What will be the effect of those same people, now with extra vitamin A in their blood streams, eating the livestock and wildlife with the extra chemicals?

"Corn" is actually a very important film. With the recent rush on to create so-called "Frankenfoods," the consequences of such actions often go unconsidered. "Corn" is a film that considers them and then some. Check out the truly disturbing dream sequence at the one hour and eleven minute mark.

The ending is inconclusive, mildly unsatisfying, but abjectly and purely terrifying all at once.

The special features include an interview with Chloe Bulinski, PhD, of Columbia University that adds fuel to the cautionary fire, and a set of trailers for "Super Size Me," "Levelland," and "Gypsy 83."

All in all, "Corn" is a fantastic cautionary tale, packed with suspense and a solid lesson about the often unconsidered or poorly considered dangers of genetic manipulation on a wide scale.

Alien Abduction
**1/2
DVD
Directed By Eric Forsberg

 

Hey everybody!

 

How would you like to take a twisted, maniacal, disturbing roller coaster ride?

Sure, of course you would. And if I told you this ride was as close as your nearest video store, you'd be even happier, right? Right!

Now, how would you feel if I told you that this roller coaster has no cars?

In fact, the whole theme park has no front gate. There's absolutely no way to get in.

Hey, now you're feeling a bit cheated.

Now you know, in fact, how I felt about The Asylum's "Alien Abduction," which you'll find on your store shelves April 26th.

So what we have here is the story of--wait for it--an ALIEN ABDUCTION.

Hence the title. Clever, huh?

But of course it's not just an alien abduction. No sir. If it were, Whitley Streiber would be pounding on the doors of The Asylum, demanding royalties because it's just way too similar to "Fire in the Sky" to be a coincidence.

To hear Whitley talk, sometimes, absolutely anyone who ever mentions aliens anywhere in the world throughout space and time in perpetuity is infringing his work.

But anyway, we've got an alien abduction, and its aftermath, which not surprisingly features Sleazy Government Activities, carried out by Sleazy Government Agents, in Hidden Government Facilities.

All snarky capitalized phrases are copyright The Video Store Guy, 2005. Steal THAT, Streiber!

And of course, you can't have Sleazy Government Activities without disturbing experimentation, and human rights abuses, and just plain old balls-out confusion, which is precisely what we're dealing with here.

The plot of "Alien Abduction" is nowhere near as obvious as its title, sadly. In fact, I can sum up "Alien Abduction" in just two words:

Disturbing. There's no doubt that this movie is disturbing. You've got big box speakers continuously playing "On Top Of Old Smokey." You've got people running through the woods, creatures with giant bioluminescent skulls, bizarre psychological testing, fisheye camera shots, weird background noises everywhere, and just a general feeling of something being gravely wrong pervading the entire atmosphere.

Confusing. The biggest problem with "Alien Abduction" is that it tried so incredibly hard to be disturbing and disjointed, much like a David Croenenburg movie (a back-of-the -box blurb strikes the comparison between "Alien Abduction" and "Jacob's Ladder," a comparison which is not without its merits.) that it forgot it needed to be coherent enough to be understood.

It did such a good job of being disturbing that it forgot it needed to make sense.

For crying out loud, the first five minutes of "Alien Abduction" watch like "The Blair Witch Project!" It's literally a camcorder running through the woods. I'm actually sitting here watching a camcorder run through the woods.

The ending, on the other hand, is easily one of the best I've ever seen. It comes full circle to the beginning, making what seemed a red herring at the time into a full-fledged plot point. If you're not paying attention, you might actually miss it.

The special features include audio options, cast and crew commentary, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailers for "Jolly Roger," "Death 4 Told," "Alien Abduction," "Ghost of the Needle," "Intermedio," and, get this...

..."H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds."

The joke is, I'm not kidding.

It's going to be released at almost the same time as the Spielberg version, and leaves me wondering just what the hell The Asylum was thinking.

This is either a masterstroke or the single worst idea since Rob Zombie making movies.

All in all, "Alien Abduction" is like the most fantastic video game you've ever seen, but the instructions are printed in some language you've never heard of. Half confusing and half terrifying, "Alien Abduction" manages to save itself from mediocrity with a killer ending.

 

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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