Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bad Movie of the Month: Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness

I may not be devoting all of my time and effort to covering bad movies these days, but that doesn’t mean I stopped loving them. So once a month, I’ll spread a little bit of that love…

We’re recording the final episode of The Lair of the Unwanted this week, concluding what will for me have been an eleven-year odyssey into bad movies (though I'll still run the occasional review here). But before I hang up my bad movie reviewin’ spurs, I do have one last bit of business: a movie I’ve long promised a good friend that I’d cover.

How did you stumble upon this particular bit of cinema, Brian? Was it on the Sci-Fi Channel? Yeah, I’m guessing the Sci-Fi Channel…

Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness (a.k.a. Gargoyle’s Revenge, though I don’t know what the gargoyle is seeking revenge over) is a 2004 film starring Michael Pare (who you might remember from Eddie and the Cruisers and Streets of Fire) and the lady who played Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. More interesting to me – something that would have gotten me off my ass to review this sooner if I had known – is that this was directed by Jim Wynorski, who directed a couple of my all-time favorite bad movies: Chopping Mall and Deathstalker II.

I’ve just derailed myself checking out Wynorski’s IMDB page, and while he’s been awfully prolific, it seems like he’s gotten into a bit of a rut:
  • The Bare Wench Project
  • The Bare Wench Project 2: Scared Topless
  • Bare Wench Project: Uncensored
  • Busty Cops
  • Busty Cops Go Hawaiian
  • The Devil Wears Nada
  • Lust Connection
  • The Witches of Breastwick
  • The Breastford Wives
  • House on Hooter Hill
  • Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade

And that’s just a sample of the booby-centric titles. I’d get it if these were all ‘80s movies, but every film listed there is from 2000 or later. Did anyone tell Wynorski about the Internet?

Anyway, Gargoyles: Wings of Darkness

The movie opens in 1500s Romania, where a woman I believe was wearing Converse All-Stars under her period dress is driving a wagon post haste through a forest. We soon see why: she’s being chased by a CGI gargoyle. She makes it to her destination and whips out a crossbow, ready for action. Suddenly, an entire mob of torch n’ pitchfork wielding villagers are on hand (I guess they were hiding, surprise party-style), and a priest shoots the CGI gargoyle out of the sky. The villagers roll a Styrofoam boulder over the hole the CGI gargoyle fell into, the priest applies a curse to the burial site (as priests do), the end.

Oh, no, sorry. That just takes us to the opening credits.

We’re now in 2004 Romania, where Secret Agents Michael Pare and Sonya Blade are attempting to negotiate the return of a guy with an explosive collar from the car trunk of some baddies, and this is the point of the film where I experienced a unique challenge: The only of this film I could find online happened to be dubbed in French. And I don’t speak French. At all. After some deliberation, I decided to forge on and fulfill the promise I made. Besides, film is a visual medium, right?

So the secret agents and the baddies are talking, and they’re talking, and uh… everyone’s tense, the music tells me that much. Suddenly shooting! And a car chase! It’s a European car chase, too, which means tiny cars zipping along tiny alleys, and that's something I always find a lot of fun. Secret Agent Michael Pare chances the baddie to the roof of a building, but the baddie gets scooped up and eaten by the CGI gargoyle. So he’s escaped his cursed Styrofoam boulder, I guess.

Meanwhile, there are some college types doing some kind of research at a church, and there’s a local priest and a priest sent in from the home office and that’s a thing, perhaps they resent each other or they have past beef? Uh... Maybe the trailer can help.

Look, the whole movie was in French, so I’m really taking wild guesses at the actual plot points. What’s important is that much of the film is structured like a shark movie, alternating between scenes of our main characters sorting things out and scenes of random people getting eaten. And some of those random death scenes are a thing of beauty.

Take the zoo scene, where a woman is soooo into taking pictures of animals at the zoo that she doesn’t notice that hours have passed, the sun has gone down and the zoo is now closed. She tries to hide from the CGI gargoyle in a monkey cage that had been left open (?), but gets eaten anyway. Helpfully, she leaves her camera behind for Secret Agent Michael Pare to find.

And then there’s this, my favorite scene in the whole movie: A brow-beaten schoolmaster (?) is taking a gaggle of young private schoolboys to a carnival at night (odd time for a field trip). They all hector him to go on the Ferris wheel except for one lad who is clearly afraid of heights. So what does the schoolmaster do with the one kid who does not want to go on the ride? Drags him on with himself, then mocks him while drinking from a hip flask, of course! Naturally they get stuck on the top, and naturally the CGI gargoyle swoops in for some arbitrary justice.  

I suppose we should talk about this gargoyle… I keep calling it a CGI gargoyle, but it really appears to be a strange blend of CGI and Claymation. Clearly a lot of work went into it, and had this film come out in 1984 instead of 2004, it would have been amazing. Sadly, for all the work put into the CGI gargoyle, absolutely no work was put into how it was inserted into the film. The end result is weightlessness and disconnected. It’s not quite as bad as Birdemic, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Yep, that gargoyle is definitely there...

Is this movie worth you checking out? I don’t know, the whole thing was in French. But in addition to what I described, the film features a gargoyle hitting power lines like a big bug zapper and reveals that the CIA brings flame throwers with them on missions, so there's that. Even in a foreign language, I could tell there was enough for me to consider circling back on it when it’s available for streaming in English.

Congratulations, Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness: You are the Bad Movie of the Month.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Video Essay (Headbanger Edition): The Psychology of Character

You may have noticed that I've been MIA the last couple weeks. I'd love to tell you that it's because all this great stuff has been happening with my writing, that I've been getting multiple offers from agents all while cranking out my next book. That would all be a lie.

No, the truth is far more mundane: I've been buried in Real World stuff. And when I have taken some time to work on Book #2, it's usually ended up like this:

Something's been holding me back, and I hadn't been able to put my finger on it until this evening. At first, I thought it was because I didn't have all the details of the plot ironed out... so I did some ironing. Then I thought it was because I didn't have a fully realized sense of the secondary characters... but I have enough of a sense, certainly enough to get rolling.

Leave it to Michael of Lessons from the Screenplay to point it out: I need to dig deeper into the psychology of my protagonist. Especially if I want the story I have in mind to work.

I'd usually say something more about the movie being featured here, but I've actually never seen Good Will Hunting (I know, I know...), so let's just agree I said something snappy and made a "how 'bout dem apples" crack and here you go:

First Post: The Story So Far

Hallo. I’m Scot Nolan, though you might know me from reviewing and discussing bad movies over the past ten years as “Nolahn.” But this ...