Wednesday, December 26, 2012

DVDebut: Kenneth Cran's MILLENNIUM BUG proves a fun throwback to an older decade and some ancient special effects

Wow. Old-time models (that look exactly like old-time models: see the photo below), a man in a monster suit playing the title character (damn well, too!), and a time frame set some thirteen years back, just as we entered the present century with the threat of that weird "YK2 bug" hanging over us and our poor computers. Remember?  It should all come back to you in spades -- silly, gross, gory and enjoyable spades -- as you watch this new straight-to-video hoot (after quite a successful genre festival run), written and directed by Kenneth Cran and entitled THE MILLENNIUM BUG.

This is Mr. Cran's first full-length feature (he earlier made one short), and it's a lot of fun -- particularly for those of us who grew up watching those silly but somehow endearing man-in-a monster-suit movies from the 1950s (It Conquered the World, anyone?). If you remember those, I think you'll be hooked on this one from the start. The difference however, and it's a big one, is that Cran, shown at left, has made a movie for the new century in terms of violence, bloodshed, gore and special effects. And the folk you'll be rooting for, just because you like them and they're the heroes, don't all come through unscathed. You wouldn't take Granny -- unless she's a real genre nut -- to see this film. (That's Adam Brooks, below, emoting, and rather well, too.)

Another important difference will probably be apparent as you view: When I mention special effects, and when Cran gives them to us, they are not the kind of CGI stuff we've all gotten used to and unfortunately usually demand. Nope, these are old-fashioned, handmade effects that still manage to pack quite a punch when they're delivered as well as this filmmaker and his crew do it.

The editing (by Cran) is fast and smart; the excellent cinematography is from Oktay Ortabasi; and the effective -- yuuuch! -- special make-up effects (see above, by Robert Lindsay) and creature and special visual effects (like those giant teeth, see below, by Dustin Yoder) all help seal the deal.

The plot, usually the least of things in this genre, proves so once again. A father, daughter and new wife take a New Year's camping trip/vacation somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (I think that's the location) just as the century turns. Dad (a nice, action-ful job by Jon Briddell, below) grew up near this isolated spot, so he sort of knows the area.

What Dad does not know is that a very strange family of inbred hillbillies (refugees from the Dust Bowl, perhaps? Ask Ken Burns) has taken up residence nearby and enjoys using any isolated tourists as feed for its special pet/family member, Orpheus.

That's Granny, above (Sandi Steinberg), and poor misbegotten Rip, below (Ben Seton). I'd show you them all, and they're quite the catalog of horrors -- behavior and appearance -- but time and space do not permit and, anyway, you should savor these and other surprises in store via this little fright delight.

Also on hand is the requisite loony, would-be scientist who is tracking the title character, a huge being/bug that hatches only once a millennium -- and lives... ah, but that's another of the surprises. As usual in these sci-fi-horror outings, there must be plenty of events, with those events moving fast enough to mow down our disbelief. Fortunately there are and they do.

Childbirth (awwwww......!), possible cannibalism (ewwww....!), and the poor, trapped daughter (Christine Haeberman, above, in bridal attire) getting hitched to the hunkiest of the hillbillies (played by a nasty, sexy John Charles Meyer, below) who probably doesn't bathe. It's all here and it's all silly, if ugly, fun.

Best of all, for me, was "filming of" special feature on the DVD, in which Cran and his brother James talk about why they wanted to do this movie the old-fashioned way, and why the guy in the monster suit (the very physical Benjamin Watts) was so important, among other very interesting topics. (That's leading lady, Jessica Simons, a little bit bloodstained, below)

All told, The Millennium Bug is a definite "watch" for genre aficionados, particularly those who appreciate seeing some of those eternal verities of the horror/monster genre brought back to funny, charming, creepy, bloody life. (That's the head hillbilly, played by Trek Loneman, below, in his film debut.)

The movie, from Green Apple Entertainment and running 88 minutes, is available now on DVD (no Blu-ray) for sale or rental. You can buy it from Amazon, of course, or you can "Save" it on Netflix (but why hasn't this company bothered to actually order the film?). Blockbuster claims to have it available, too. I suspect that it will go to VOD or maybe streaming eventually, so watch for that via your favorite sources.

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