Sunday, October 7, 2012

Corpse Grinders II (2000)

Where do I begin with this one?  Well, let's start with how this film came to be. Here is the conversation between writer/producer/director Ted V. Mikels and some office intern that led directly to the making of this film (this is from the original transcript):

"I wanted to make a sequel to The Corpse Grinders, but I have no new ideas. Well, one, but it doesn't make any sense. It's dog aliens fighting cat aliens. So instead of a sequel, I've decided to just remake the original Corpse Grinders, but make it much, much worse."
"Sir, is that possible? Your original film is just awful."
"Yes, I'm certain I can do it. I have a plan.  First, I'm not going to hire a sound man. Or a lighting person.  Also, we'll shoot the whole thing on video, and use people without any acting ability whatsoever. Whenever possible, we'll have them read their lines directly off the script just out of frame. Heck, I'll even stick myself in the film in a pointless role. And we'll shoot the entire thing here in my office, without moving anything out or bringing in any set decoration."
"That still sounds basically like the original.  I don't know if it will be any worse."
"Really? Do you have any ideas?"
"Why don't you add in your dog alien, cat alien thing?  That sounds incredibly stupid, and will be sure to make the film a completely senseless pile of garbage."
"Okay! Good thinking. And I just had another idea of how to make it worse. We'll remove the one element that made the original film interesting. We'll take out the cats attacking and eating their owners."
"Yes, that will make it worse, Sir, especially as that was really the driving point of the film."
"By the way, we have a budget of fifteen dollars, but ten of that has to be saved for the wrap party. So I'll be using spaceship footage from another film."

And they were on their way.  This is one movie where you never worry about a boom shadow in the shot. Why? No boom.  Half the time you can't make out the dialogue, and that might be to the viewer's benefit.

The movie begins with a Star Wars-like crawl, which informs us, "In a galaxy many light years away there is a planet called Ceta. Its inhabitants emulate their ancestors, the cat-worshipers of Egypt and Atlantis. There is a shortage of food and water on Ceta and the cat-people struggle for survival against the elements. The dog-people of the neighboring planet Traxis wage war against Ceta and have plans to invade." And there are ridiculously cheap shots of cat aliens and dog aliens fighting, and then the cat aliens discussing their dilemma in someone's living room. There is some talk about going to Earth in order to survive.  Right away, you might be wondering, What is the goofiest element?  The costumes? The set dressing, or lack thereof? The script?  The acting? The children with black cat T-shirts saying "meow"?  You pick.  Whatever you choose is correct.

Meanwhile, in a cheap office set a guy sets a chair upright and puts some magazines away.  Yes, the film is riveting right from the start.  Two nephews of the people who owned the cat food company from the original film have now inherited the place (a few decades later?), and have decided to make the same mistakes their uncles did. Good plan. That is, for those not familiar with the original movie, to use human corpses as ingredients in the cat food. They hire homeless winos and other assorted incompetent people to assist them.  By the way, the corpse grinding machine switch says, "Hitachi Camera Power Unit." Do movies come any cheaper?  However, this is the only film I know of with beef-flavored embalming fluid. 

The alien ship lands, and some old guy sees it, but two government men immediately show up and order him to go with them. Not to silence him, or anything. Just to take him to an office for a few minutes and then let him go.

Meanwhile two people who work in a hospital are kissing.  The girl, Angie, has a cat who apparently won't eat any food (but yet is still alive).  This seems familiar.  Wasn't this in the first film?  Yes.  Angie would be really pretty if she were lit better.  That is to say, if she were lit.  (Often the sound of the cats seems to be someone saying "ow" in a baby voice.)

What else? Oh yes, Gandalf The Grey has fallen on hard times and supports himself and his gorgeous wife by digging graves. (Yes, this was also in the original.)  The nephews want him to supply them with corpses.  I spent a few moments trying to make sense out of this line: "No advance without the merchandise." Then I gave up.

Meanwhile the alien woman is now disguised as a human woman, and is blending into society by sniffing meat in a grocery store. (She might be more at home in a John Waters film. And actually, there is a John Waters actor in this film - Liz Renay, who plays Cleo, the gravedigger's wife.)

Anyway, the movie goes on for a long time with the nephews making business deals. Really interesting stuff. There are lots of shots of people on telephones.  Where are the aliens? And why is no one getting killed?  Isn't this a horror movie?

The nurse, Angie, buys a can of Lotus cat food, and the cat eats it. Hurrah!  Just like in the original film.  The cat scratches her boyfriend when he tries to move the cat away from the food. He then calls the CEO of the cat food company.  Interesting reaction. It's almost as if he'd seen the original film.  Speaking of which, some of the people in this movie are aware of what the original owners of the company did.  And yet, they're quite surprised and confused to learn that once again humans end up in the food.  They're not too bright.

Anyway, the aliens contact the government to get a supply of cat food to bring back to save their people.  I should add here that this film is not a comedy.

Finally, a government agent is killed while snooping around the factory. There is an excellent and completely believable sound effect as he gets hit in the head.  By the way, I love the shot of the agents watching the cat food company - they use binoculars, even though they're not more than ten feet from the door and are standing in plain sight in the factory's parking lot in the daytime. That reminds me of a funny moment in Police Squad (did you ever see that show?).

Then, for no reason whatsoever, an alien beams in from Star Trek to scare the gravedigger's wife, and then beams out, back to whatever movie it was supposed to be in.  This alien is a little grey stereotypical-looking alien, not the cat aliens or dog aliens that have been established (somewhat) in this film.  And no, we never see this alien again.  No matter.  The gravedigger then kills his wife.

So the old guy who saw the alien ship decides to try to get a grant to study cannibalism, and we have a scene of him soliciting the help of a colleague.  Why?  Who knows?  There are no cannibals in this film, and this character isn't really adding anything, or moving the plot forward.  There is also a scene where nearly every line of dialogue is a question.  It goes on for a long time, and involves four characters, and seems to be some sort of acting exercise that they decided to capture on video and edit into this movie.  (Here is a bit of it: How much? What's the right price? I don't know, what do you think?  I don't know. How about a grand a piece? A grand? You're kidding, right?)

Well, Angie (the nurse - remember her?) shows up again, now wearing a sweater and short skirt.  She looks seriously cute.  She talks on the phone to some character we haven't met, then writes a note that we don't see and leaves the office.  Then there's a board meeting of the stock holders of the cat company, deciding whether to sell their company to the alien woman.  This scene is nearly as exciting as the scene where the guy put the magazines away at the beginning.  We also learn that the aliens have mastered alchemy, but have no food.

Angie shows up at the cat food factory because the grocery stores are all out of that brand of cat food.  That happened in the original too.  But would that happen in real life?  If a store were out of a product, would you drive to the factory?  Well, the longer the movie goes on, the hotter Angie looks.  She is honestly the only enjoyable element of the entire movie. I have a weakness for women in sweaters and short skirts.  Meanwhile her boyfriend finds the note she left.  It's pretty important.  The note says that she went to buy cat food.  He seems distraught over this information, and laments aloud, "Why would she go without me?" They clearly have a strange relationship.

The old guy gets his grant approved.  (You were probably wondering about that.)  Also, he has an Eye Of The Storm in his home.  I had one of those in high school.  Very cool.  His is on, though it's daytime, and the effect is greatly diminished by sunlight.

Angie wanders around the factory by herself for some reason, then is grabbed by one of the nephews.  When she comes to, she is in the office and asks for a tour of the factory and for permission to buy two cases of cat food.  Apparently being knocked unconscious doesn't faze this chick one bit.  She gets her tour, and the cat food, and leaves.  And that's the end of her story.  Seriously. Someone forgot this is a horror movie.

The government wants to buy four hundred cases of cat food to give to the aliens.  They mention they're from A.S.T.A.P.P.  One of the nephews says, "What the hell is A.S.T.A.P.P.?"  The government agent says, and I am quoting here, "That's the government agency for Awareness Suppression To Avoid Public Panic."  Have you heard of them?  No? That's because they're suppressing awareness.

The movie then becomes truly suspenseful as the nephews begin making phone calls to order labels for the cat food cans and so on.  Will they be able to fill the government's order in time?  Actually, the government didn't give them a deadline, so there's no rush.  But whatever.  When enough food is produced, the agents beam in (like the random alien did earlier) to collect the food, and they call the technology a dimensional force field (which makes no sense).  They pay the nephews, handing them a leather bag that is clearly empty. Well, perhaps they wrote them a check and stuck it in a big leather bag.

The aliens get their food, and the old guy with the grant goes on the alien ship for some reason.  And that's the end of the film. 

So let's recap.  The nephews got away with using corpses in the food, and got rich off of it.  Angie managed to get two cases of cat food and went home.  The cat aliens got their food and also went home (presumably to then be killed by the dog aliens, whom we haven't seen since the very beginning of the movie). The gravedigger got away with murdering his wife (though there is some question about that - as she suddenly sat up as she was put into the grinder like three days later - so, yes, she was killed, but not by her husband, though he doesn't know that).  An old guy got a grant to study cannibalism and then went on a spaceship.  Any questions?

Corpse Grinders II stars... Wait, what does it matter? You don't care.  The only one that matters is Cara Jo Basso as Angie. Also, all of the cats in the movie got screen credits. I wonder if they also got a copy of the film.

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