Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
April 1st, 2008

The Morgue

The Morgue
Directed by Halder Gomes, Gerson Sanginitto
Written by Najla Ann al-Doori
Starring Heather Donahue, Lisa Crilley, Christopher Devlin, Brandon Quinn
Produced by Gerson Sanginitto, Carina Sanginitto
84 mins

Congratulations, Heather Donahue! You're well on your way to supplanting Eric Spudic as my new bad movie barometer! Your career is a blistering wasteland of garbage, sufficient to make me wonder if you were actually cursed by the Blair Witch herself, or if any movie that doesn't feature you bawling to the point where snot dribbles out of your nose is just destined to be a total flop and languish in obscurity.

And you'll keep the stride alive that features you in such cinematic bulwarks as "New Suit" and "The Velvet Tigress" by signing on for "The Morgue", one of the first horror films I've seen in a long time where the back of the box will actually lie outright to the reader.

Anyway, this newest piece of Heather Donahue flotsam to wash up on the video store shelves is all about a young woman who's working as a night janitor cleaning up a morgue. And one night, a whole lot of people come stumbling in with a whole host of automotive problems. A series of unexplainable events flood on by, and by the end of the night, some of them might not survive.

Actually, the above synopsis is slightly a crock. Why? Well, I'll tell you why, and I'll spoiler confidently so you don't have to waste your time on this steaming pantload.

Because THEY'RE ALL DEAD, that's why! That "astonishing twist" that the back of the box practically falls all over itself to describe? That's the twist. They're all dead.

That is NOT a twist. See, the problem with calling that a twist is that it ignores a huge body of work that came before it that already USED that twist, and did it in a far better and more convincing fashion than The Morgue could ever DREAM of doing. We've been rickrolled by this alleged twist for YEARS now. To call it "astonishing" is a lie of epic proportions, and frankly, calling it a twist at this point only cements its status as lie. I was personally convinced that they'd all been dead since about the twenty minute mark, and frankly, I'd rather not see anyone else waste perfectly good time and money on this cinematic sludge pile than absolutely necessary.

Hence, the spoiler.

Clearly, I'm seriously torqued about this ridiculous little movie actually landing on shelves when GOOD movies go unappreciated and unseen. So I like the thought of being just a little bit trollish and spoilering.

The ending, well, I've already made that pretty clear--suffice it to say that they're going to take about five or ten minutes to thoroughly explain that they're all dead just in case you're too damn stupid to get it the first time. This should, of course, insult you like no tomorrow because it definitely got me interested in smacking somebody.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, along with a behind the scenes featurette and trailers for The Morgue, Bangkok Dangerous, Restraint, Artifacts, and a new, surprisingly freaky trailer for It's not quite as freaky as the psychokinetic freakgirl in the dingy hotel room but it'll get the job done. It's the best part of the disk.

All in all, blech. The fact that only onomatopoeia will accurately describe this dreck should give an accurate portrayal of how I felt about it. This is definitely one to avoid.

Class of 1999

Class of 1999
Directed by Mark Lester
Written by C. Courtney Joyner
Starring Pam Grier, Malcolm McDowell, Stacy Keach, Darren E. Burrows
Produced by Mark Lester
1990 / 2008
96 mins

You know, with all the sputtering about declining test scores and assorted whatnot revolving around the state of education in this country, all the naysayers really need to pop themselves some popcorn, settle in for a movie, and watch Class of 1999, if for no other reason than to see how good we actually have it.

Because in Class of 1999, major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Detroit and Seattle, among others, have been swallowed up by gang violence and drugs. The schools in those areas, not surprisingly, have basically shut down because it's hard to get the Crips and such to leave their drug businesses for six hours so they can make first bell. Thus, the Department of Educational Defense, which sounds like a half-baked nightmare of the kind only the Bush administration could cook up, is called in to try and reopen the schools from the nightmare of the "free-fire zones". They answer the call in spades by refurbishing old androids and loading them up with educational software, then sending them in to teach.

You can imagine how badly this will go wrong.

Which is the thing about Class of 1999. You've got to bear in mind that this was originally released back in 1990, which was a time when we were just starting to come down off of Rambo movies, and the Cold War was actually still fairly warm. We believed in action movies very heavily back then, and man, did we get them out of Class of 1999.

Sure, the writing's a bit hackneyed, at least the dialogue is--there's actually nothing much bad to say about the overall plot itself, which was also a bit hackneyed but was also set nine years into the future, so they have plenty of plausible deniability. They wrote it for the future, after all, and who knows where that'll wind up going? That and most of the special effects don't look too bad. After all, they depend heavily on explosions, and do explosions ever really go out of style?

Of course not. Just ask Michael Bay.

Oh yes, I went there.

Frankly, there are lessons to learn here about how to make a low-budget movie that manages, somehow, to not look dated despite the fact that it's now officially legal and able to vote in the United States. Not just the explosions, either--you'll notice that much of the effects work is makeup rather than CG based, and that lends it an extra note of endurance. And of course, getting solid actors to handle the roles--Keach, McDowell and Grier all handle their action roles with the kind of authority you'd expect from long-since masters. Keach is an appropriately smarmy jerk, McDowell is well in his element as a well-meaning principal gone too far and Grier manages to make you believe she's an android hellbent on ending gang violence in schools.

Besides its longevity, Class of 1999 is actually just plain fun to watch. This is a comparative rarity in low-budget filmmaking these days and it's one I'm glad to see back in full force.

The ending is solid, satisfying, and involves lots of things and people blowing up or burning. What they did to that android gym coach I wouldn't do to a dead dog with leprosy.

The special effects are a bit sparse, but functional, including English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for the Terminator 2 Extreme DVD version, "Alien 3000", "Rottweiler", "Shockwave", and "They Are Among Us".

All in all, Class of 1999 is a fun, fairly satisfying romp through the annals of low-budget film history, and a worthwhile trip to take as long as you don't expect too much out of this unapologetic target range of a movie.