i’ve never seen a ™ in a credits splash screen before.

not a lot of meat on this bone so this might be a shorter review (ed note: hello, i am bea from the future, editing this and this was a lie). in modern day viewings, “warriors of virtue” suffers from a very specific problem: it is almost entirely indistinguishable from every live action children’s film made from 1985-2005. this genre of movie is what i like to call “bad”: a precocious child (usually one who is weaker or in a weirdly prominent couple of cases, disabled) meets (a) creature(s) and goes on an adventure to get a thing and defeat the final boss. there are mini-bosses and dungeons. it is like the hero’s journey but marred by the existence of the typically hideous creature accompanying the child. “mac and me” is one of these. “warriors of virtue” is obviously one of these. you couldn’t swing a dead cat in the 90s without hitting one of these.

bad enough to go in the zine? sure. i wasn’t blown away by it, but i think people who are just starting to dip their toes into bad movies will feel like they’re getting their psyche sandblasted. it’s a good entry point, but i don’t think it retains the same power it had when it made that movie critic hurl in 1997. here’s a list of things it is to give you an idea of what you’re in for: isekai, a flamboyant but only somewhat charismatic villain, old wise chinese guy, extremely poorly crafted and unsettling anthropomorphized kangaroos, insensitive to outright insulting portrayal of the disabled, the martyrdom of the child protagonist.

i’m hoping to ease you guys into this as we delve into the rich (?) and enchanting (??) world of tao. like entering a hot bath. i’ll try to relay the emotional journey you take watching this bizarre little project cobbled together by four physician non film-maker brothers. with that in mind, the movie feels like a fake movie you would see on a tv show: it copies the beats and shape of a real movie yet is so artificial and clinically crafted that each and every scene feels deliberate instead of “an experience”. it’s so calculated and so obviously created from The 90s Kids Movie Template that the artificiality’s potency is enough to set off all kinds of warning alarms in your head. it activates the lizard part of your brain that recognizes that something is not quite right. 

our hero is a young boy with a disability that affects his mobility in one leg. this is…absolutely the most missed mark in an attempt to portray disability on screen i’ve seen that didn’t also feel actively malicious. it’s just very obviously stupid and blatantly insensitive, and kind of a worrying belief to portray if this came from the doctors themselves. we’ll cover it as we hit the relevant story beats, but this is important to keep in mind as we move on. it was honestly the most upsetting part of a film with man-kangaroo hybrids. it’s not like balls to the wall wild but it makes you put your hands on your hips and go “hey knock that off!”.

our plucky little lad, who is supposed to be going to school, makes a pit stop at a chinese restaurant that’s open at like 8am (bad sign, you want a place that’s open from lunch to 5am. thats the good shit). here, his epic chef friend is doing teppanyaki-esque moves in a closed kitchen where the only people who can see him are his coworkers. one of which is a kung-fu kick to turn on the sink. very unnecessary and dangerous.

bro stop

in a scene that is edited very strangely, with lots of soft dissolves that in normal filmmaking would imply that significant amounts of time are passing, they wander around this brown brick kitchen (which is suddenly and mysteriously empty) as they discuss how cool it would be to be a martial arts warrior (very cool).

ah, but alas. our hero is not a cool kung-fu guy. he is a loser white kid who is the water boy of the football team. i’m not really sure why he does this. it’s obvious he hates it, the team openly harasses him and watching the other kids do football leaves him embittered because his leg excludes him from school sports. so, ryan? is his name ryan? ryan of course is a football tactical genius who is also SUPER nice about helping his bullies win the football game so he can get mad about how it was HIS play that won them the game. maybe he should just not help his bullies and say “fuck this football shit” and get really into collecting knives or something. he probably won’t, because he has a very encouraging and nice friend who gasses him up like a king.

at the behest of the bully’s (i just noticed he has huge 90s cool boy earrings) inexplicably super nice girlfriend, ryan is invited to hang out with them that evening. he goes home where he takes out all his frustration of the day out on his poor mom. in a pure white boy moment, he tells her that her cooking is shit, he wants his dad back, and when his mom offers to order take-out, he bitches about that too. don’t worry, she gets her revenge by serving him a pile of dog shit in the first place. she must have anticipated this.

bon appetit

ryan returns to the chinese restaurant to cheer himself up (? i dont know why he went back). his epic chef friend who lives above the restaurant tells him a metaphor about letting people complete their own journeys in life that ryan barely understands and uses once again to depreciate himself over his leg. don’t worry, our cool ass friend has a magic ancient chinese book of tao that will give you wisdom or whatever. but ryan dismisses it by telling his friend that his job is lame and leaves. wtf lol.

ryan and his less epic friend show up at a water treatment plant to hang with the bullies. kids are stupid. no one goes to a water treatment plant for fun. you go there to be killed. rookie ass mistake. in fact, his bully convinces him, in a rite of initiation, to try to cross a VERY narrow pipe over a terrifyingly strong looking open whirlpool of water. why isn’t there a cover on this thing. ryan is knocked into the vortex by a pipe that just hurls out water once in a while. its like a pipe connected to a single person’s toilet or sink or something. anyway ryan dies. movie over.

just kidding. he gets isekai’d to a magical fantasy world by falling into a big toilet. like he does seem to die in the real world at this point in the movie. he’s fucking dead.

fromsoft platforming

he falls into a fucking swamp. honestly not a bad looking set!! it’s hard to say anything about the technical quality of this movie because it’s stunningly competent (the budget for this movie is HUGE! $36 mil huge!) . the forest he wakes up in is tropical and dense with huge rubbery hanging vines from gnarled trees and a boggy environment that he’s about to run around in freely. because…because…

his leg is “fixed”. this is not a movie aimed at uplifting and empowering disabled kids by depicting them on the big screen in a heart-pounding adventure. as it turns out, you can’t have a big adventure when you’re different. only “normal” people who are “just like everyone else” (ryan’s words, not mine) get to have adventures. in the movie, it’s presented as a moment of triumph for ryan in what i can only assume (all my disabilities are under my skin and in my head, so i highly encourage any bad movie seekers to give me their thoughts on this) was an ill-advised attempt to both demonstrate that something magical has happened (unnecessary, he fell to his death and woke up in dagobah) and to. i don’t know. “fix” the protagonist in the eyes of the writer(s)?

i’m bothered by this. naturally not every movie featuring disability needs to revolve around it or be a purely positive portrayal of it (many movies in fact try to tackle the complicated subject of how one relates to their own body), but why does this one have it at all? the answer is: it only exists here so that it can be “cured” and symbolically free him from his inhibitions. ryan’s leg is the only thing preventing him from being “a leader” instead of “a follower”. it is an issue that is raised and discarded, suggesting that ryan’s legitimate only problem is not his adversarial relationship with his own body but his body itself.

this shit suck. thank you for allowing me all that build up for the first 20 minutes of the movie so you can understand how hard this pistol-whipped me when it happened.

then- oh no! OH SHIT!

crap i already used my fromsoft joke

dudes! dudes are after you! just when all hope is lost and ryan really looks like he’s about to get turned into pastes by some medieval knights, the most obvious and cliche thing happens next: a kangaroo jumps out of the swamp water and beats the ever loving shit out of these knights. these kangaroos are our titular warriors of virtue. why kangaroos? don’t know. there was apparently a sequel where they retconned the kangaroos into humans. a wise choice perhaps for a wide audience but the kangaroos are the only thing this movie has going for it that sets it apart from bog-standard kids fare. 

and they look like this:

so, like, not great. this the first view we get of them and it’s so foreboding.

ryan runs away and then is immediately ganked by who other than michael j anderson, noted loon. he starts strangling the shit out of this kid until a knife thrown by a mysterious pretty girl interrupts the fight. she’s looking for a newcomer….everyone is looking for a newcomer, as it turns out. the girl, elysia, grabs ryan by his shirt and then rockets upward with her fist extended like superman. absolutely insane to behold actually. (ed note: i just realized she never does this again in the movie)

but now…the villain…the dreadfully fabulous and eccentric komodo. his lackeys include two bald guys and not-maleficent (the best one). there’s like 5 bald guys in komodo’s court. there’s something in the water here, which might have been what alos gave komodo his ~telekinetic powers~. komodo actually kind of rules. he has these incredibly goofy monologues and angus macfadyen is playing him at maximum ham. “what’s the point of power” he muses, “if you don’t abuse people?”. if i had ultimate power i would use it to force the baskin robbins people into giving me free scoops so like i get it.

komodo gets his hands on ryan’s backpack and with it, his dope ass book about tao he got from epic chef. they say it “t-ow” by the way. not “d-ow”. i had to look this up to make sure i wasn’t going nuts. meanwhile, ryan is asking the normal questions you would when you wake up in a new place: where am i? was that book i lost important? was it a vital piece of the puzzle that would allow us to save this world i’ve been flung into? answers: you’re in tao, yes its the manuscript of legend, and yes nice going moron. ryan gets the skinny on the situation: komodo is draining some magic………….lumps. for the mineral inside. the mineral makes him strong and live longer, but the mineral also supports all life on earth (tao, whatever). there’s only one magic lump left so the battle is on to protect the lump.

exhibit a: the lump

we enter the village of the lump which is another impressive set piece with some goofy looking animal people mixed in with the regular people. they’re all shockingly alien looking; there’s been no attempts to try and make these “cute”. they’re very freaky looking and i kind of like it. like, look at this guy:

i like him. i trust him.

the village is freaking out because 1 of the 5 warriors of virtue is awol. no one is happy to see ryan the newcomer of legend except for wise master chung. we see the rooz (that’s the species name) from afar and the suit actors are honestly doing some CRAZY shit in these awful bulky things they crushed them into. one of these rooz is doug jones! we also finally see one of their faces from a reasonable distance.

you won’t like this so brace yourself.

yuck! no good! skin texture is very very unfortunate. looking very klingon here. the lips are an insane choice.

elysia lets ryan in on more lore: one rooz (? is that the plural or the species name?), yun, is missing because he broke the warrior’s creed not to kill. it’s obvious from the way elysia reacts to ryan’s bonkers and insensitive “SO WHAT” that the person yun killed was her aforementioned dead brother- yo holy shit not-maleficent is wearing a SPIDER WEB CAPE. anyway, yun the rooz saves ryan from some evil dudes again (yes, it WAS him the first time saving ryan, making this 2 wins for yun after a big off screen L) and re-unites with the rooz. very short lived separation in the scheme of the movie. no one had to convince him, really, or help him overcome his trauma. he’s back and ready to punch people non-fatally.

we get a scene with komodo where he like, free associates some evil thoughts while swinging in a hammock as a monkey man sing/screams at him. excellent, dude. but what’s this…? ELYSIA IS WORKING FOR KOMODO!!??! i actually didn’t see this one coming because it’s revealed like halfway through a movie where the adventure is literally just getting started. its been an hour!!! dude her perm is whack lol look at this:

oh no lol

she’s got weird sexual tension with komodo in this scene, which means i guess i don’t know how old she is. she’s either too old to be ryan’s love interest or way too young for komodo. i’m glad the adventure is beginning so i can stop typing for a while.

ryan wakes up from a nightmare and checks his leg to make sure its still working. i lean back in my chair and make a pained noise like a dying sheep.

michael j anderson returns and tries to talk ryan into some kind of scheme and tricks ryan into getting owned and kidnapped along with all of the warriors of virtue. elysia is extremely evil now; she and komodo are making the most insane “YOO HOO~!” noises together while strutting around the room like a pair of roosters. ryan is saved by master chung so he’s safe for now but the warriors are straight fucked. just kidding, they escape from the deadly spinning blade trap without harm. meanwhile ryan is picking his fucking nose and eating dandelions while learning about kung-fu from master chung. the warriors are fucking DYING ryan.

no time for ryan to get his shit together. its time for the star wars moment: old man versus bad guy; komodo is here to KILL. the fight choreography in this is driving me insane on my second watch. it’s all in slow motion, but not REAL slow motion, the kind that’s for showing detail and near scrapes or impressive maneuvers. it’s skipping every other frame i think. it’s the entire fight and it feels like i’m playing a videogame while my latency is fucked. naturally the old, wise leader everyone was depending on is no more after he gets his face slashed by komodo…we must forge our own path in life now…..etc…

i can’t believe i forgot to show you komodo. you know this guy ruined someone’s brain chemistry at an early age.  he’s a sephiroth type!

ryan can’t help because, get this, his leg is stuck in a hole and he’s USELESS. really makes you think. he’s so useless he gets kidnapped and then get his heart broken by elysia who reveals how evil she is (but shes actually nice or whatever). he is forced by komodo to read the magical manuscript since the newcomer is the only one who can read the pages…but it’s empty to ryan as well. so ryan uses his presumed last seconds on earth to ruin komodo’s vibe.

not bad but this is a kid’s movie so points deducted

elysia is killed by not-maleficent in front of ryan who completely and rightfully freaks out. ryan escapes but has a total emotional meltdown realizing he’s going to see people die for real. so he takes it out on michael j anderson by totally and brutally reading him the riot act about what a fucked up little dude he is. ryan returns to help the rooz and komodo makes a “the warriors” reference. the one you were thinking of. that one. it’s time for the FINAL battle. [checks the time left on this movie] uh oh.

komodo summons shadow clones of himself to fight the rooz, indicating he has reached his second phase and his health meter is halfway down. his hair looks SO soft. like compared to the rooz, who look like they might leave a film on your hand after your pet them, komodo looks so silky. just an observation. i don’t care about this not-slow-motion-yes-slow-motion fight scene.

ryan receives the wisdom of the book when he’s at his most desperate, revealing that komodo’s powers have been lessened by his desire and willingness to kill. you know, in hindsight, if ryan had a gun, this whole thing would have been easy. instead ryan has to trick komodo into using up all his magic juice on blowing this 10 year old to smithereens. after this, the warriors are able to “purify his spirit” and turn him into a nice boy again.


the world is saved! except ryan is fucking dying for real. like this kid straight up dies on screen. he fucking dies!

don’t worry he wakes up in the real world again right before he takes his fateful plunge. but this time he decides not to jump in the swirling hole of instant death. everyone leaves the bully to “get owned” by water in a non-fatal way. ryan apologizes to his mom for being a little dick before and then settles in to tell his fucking dog about his adventure. his dog.

movie over. what did we learn? uhhhh discriminatory attitudes toward the disabled mostly. also you can shoot a 10 year old with a laser beam and it isn’t immediately fatal.

both equally valuable pieces of knowledge (?).


okay, so first of all, right off the bat. let’s get this out of the way: “a cure for wellness” did not make the cut for the zine. this is for two reasons which are somehow not at polar opposite ends of the movie review spectrum: it’s very beautiful and compositionally competent. the costuming walks that thin line in capturing a sense of both mundanity and unease in all the bleached white uniforms and scrubs without giving in too much to one or the other. these locations they’ve scouted give a sense of isolation and insolation, with the tight hallways and symmetrical architecture. all this in effect creates a very claustrophobic feeling movie, which i feel is very appropriate for a movie which revolves around, and hardly leaves, a single creepy location. no one is slacking in their performances (some are working harder than others and dane dehaan zero charisma in this role but its fine).

its also insanely boring, insipid as shit and the plot is fucking stupid. i’m actually not sure what the hell happened with this movie. it’s an anomaly to me. everyone who worked on it appears to be totally average movie makers who tried to box above their weight class in a major way. this movie was trying to Be something. in that way it is kind of interesting, but it is absolutely NOT entertaining enough to recommend to people in good faith. it is cursed with an absurd run-time only get funny once or twice before barreling full steam ahead in the last 30 minutes.

the person presumably responsible for what it looks like, cinematographer bojan bazelli, has worked on nothing i’ve seen except for “boxing helena” (1993) (which i hated), hairspray (2007) (absolutely unremarkable filmmaking, maybe even leaning toward bad), and “the ring” (2002) (probably his best effort but its just like. okay). the writer has no notable credits and gore verbinski has graced us with a lifetime of terrible movies (starting with the 1997 “mouse hunt”) before winning an oscar for “rango” because there wasn’t a disney or pixar movie that year. these guys all got together and decided “what if we made an artsy psychological horror film?” and…to their credit…they got halfway there. they thought they could bamboozle me just by shoving film through my eyes for nearly 3 hours until i was overloaded with information. but im too powerful for them and saw through their ruse because i’m insane.

[begrudgingly] that’s pretty cool gore

the writing in this movie is outstandingly terrible. like we’ll hit all the individual components here because this movie is like a pale, ethereal, slippery soup made up of many stupid ingredients but let’s start with the shit they hit you with right off the bat. justin haythe writes his evil corporate glenngary glen ross wannabes with the grace and authenticity of a literal child. i’ve seen episodes of “riverdale” with more convincing suits. our main character is a boiler-plate business asshole whose introduction to the audience is literally shuffling numbers around in excel for evil reasons. it’s so fucking lucky for haythe that we get the fuck out of this setting immediately because any more time spent here might have. actually you know what i was going to say it would have ruined the movie but who cares and how could it have..

it’s a completely functional story, which is usually a major hurdle a psychological horror movie has to cross, so at least i can give it that. is it good? uh. no. its not bad either, it just is. our protagonist is a business guy (dane dehaan) who did business crime so his business bosses threaten to give him up to the business police unless he retrieves a business guy from a decidedly non-business sanitarium overseas. unfortunately, he gets owned big time by a deer while cruising in the swiss alps and flies through his windshield into a big ol’ clumsy leg cast at the super special clinic he was looking for. enter the mysterious doctor volmer (jason isaacs, who is really playing this role lol. he’s having fun being a naughty little mysterious man…hee hee! hoo hoo!). he encourages him to drink plenty of……water….hehehe…[exits enticingly]

isaacs is great in his role but for whatever reason the entire cast was directed to speak like they were in a public library. you really gotta lean in to hear anyone in this damn movie. there’s not really any jump scares so at least they’re not cheap enough to hit you with that, but then it begs the question as to why? you have to struggle to hear the persistent squeak of our protagonist’s crutches over the soundtrack CONSTANTLY going full ear-drum popping dolby BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR that overtakes the soundtrack every 15 minutes.

our business boy finds his business man (harry groener) who refuses to come home in order to cure his non-specific illness he’s determined himself to have. that’s the psychological part of the horror you see. the water from the wells and springs at the sanitarium is believed to have very, very vague healing powers that the many elderly patients are gaga for. he also meets a very mysterious and wispy girl named hannah (mia goth, who i feel a little bad for her since she keeps getting stuck with these “creepy girl” roles because she has pale eyebrows) who is clearly under socialized from having lived in the sanitarium her whole life waiting for her dad to come back from getting cigarettes or whatever. 

our business lad, lockhart, is dumped into an enormous tub of water after he hallucinates and passes out in a very public way that was a little too close to my real life for MY comfort. the water vat is a treatment for what ails him; like sensory deprivation except there’s a huge window letting in a bunch of light on the side of the tank and he has to be submerged under the water with a snorkle, so nothing like it at all actually. this is where shit gets hysterical. please prepare your body, mind and soul for the next sentence which will reveal to you the unspeakable horror which awaits you in “a cure for wellness”.

our hero is menaced by a hundred eels (who just kind of gently swim around him while he screams and flails) while the guy who is supposed to be watching him is literally masturbating to a nurse who just decided today was more of a tits out kinda day.

just like grab them and tie them in a knot dude.

his stupid flailing pulls his snorkel out and he almost drowns. like at no point were the eels a danger to him in this instance. he almost killed himself because he saw creatures he wasn’t expecting. frankly. i wouldn’t do that. i would simply enjoy the creatures.

lockhart survives and reconnects with hannah, who is the only person not allowed to splash in the waters due to “her condition”, which is just Victorian Wasting Waif Disease at first glance. they sneak away on her bike into town which is FORBIDDEN and stop in the least friendly bar i’ve seen in a motion picture that isn’t a biker or trucker bar. the whole time we’re here, the soundtrack is blaring german (?) post-punk over the jukebox and it looks like a place where you go to be crucified by the local extremely niche pagan cult specific to the town.

wow big crowd tonight

look, they make plot progress here but all of it is so minimal and so uninteresting. it’s shockingly banal and cliché; lockhart runs into a kid drawing a ~scary picture~ and talks to the town vet (~who is covered in blood~) about his suspicions that the sanitarium might not be on the up and up! turns out the place used to be owned by a baron obsessed with creating a pure bloodline and his sister-wife, who was infertile. they both came here seeking a cure for her “condition”. meanwhile, hannah (who he left in the bar) flirts with womanhood by applying someone else’s lipstick that she found in a public restroom?! GIRL THAT’S YUCKY DISGUSTING

the vet cuts open a dead cow in front of lockhart and a bunch of eels fall out. ahhh heed this warning that this might happen to you!! after witnessing this frankly insanely fucked up scene that would have me questioning whether or not satan is real, lockhart runs back to the bar to… call his workplace so he can ask them if his business partner here at the sanitarium had any pre-existing health conditions. now, here’s a thing about employers: there’s this little thing called the ADA that makes it so they specifically can’t ask you about that. so why would they know that. im not trying to be smarter than the movie here but it’s a weird detail when it ends up honestly not mattering. this would have been a great scene for the cutting room floor in this THREE HOUR MOVIE.

lockhart freaks out at hannah over the Mystery of the Sanitarium instead of telling his employer to send a fucking car and a plane and the fbi and the guys that dealt with waco. instead he makes the wis 20 move of  starting a bar fight in a leg cast. 

i’m starting to think this guy is fucking stupid.

oh shit! the saca tripas! used to gut sheep and other warm blooded animals!!!

the MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR VOLMER pops in just in time to save them and bring them back to the sanitarium. lockhart should have maybe refused to leave. that’s what i would have done. but maybe i am not psychologically horrified enough yet. the eels didn’t do it for me. you know what is giving me the fucking willies are these scenes between the spooky doctor volmer and hannah, who is pining for her missing father. the unpleasantly horny doctor volmer makes a few REALLY bad moves on this explicitly underage girl while i check how much runtime i have left.

our protagonist starts to investigate the bowels of the sanitarium, where the movie honest to god does the room rattling BRRRRRRRRRRRR to reveal a woman in a laundry room witting a stick. two seconds later we see two nurses punch an old man in the head to no fanfare. the movie is starting to go off the rails a little but it’s not enough to make the movie worth it yet. we will be stuck in this speed for another 40 minutes. it’s a little better, but not quite where i need it to be.

he meets one of his allies in the sanitarium, an older woman who earlier enticed him with a crossword puzzle comprised of plot points, who gives him a little history lesson while lying on a slab like a corpse. legends say that the baroness was once infertile…but cured…through strange and mysterious means! means that apparently involved a fuck ton of dead peasants. once the remaining villagers found the bodies, they burned down the manor and killed the baroness. just to add insult to injury, they cut out the baronesses’ fetus and chucked it in a well where it apparently thrived long enough to be rescued. haha well baby

speaking of drowning in a well lockhart finds a horrible room full of naked old people soup.

ding-dongs unconfirmed but theres boobs

he spies his old pal pembroke the business man but that bitch just floats in the soup. he can’t be helped. business boy hustles back to the main hallway filling his pants with terror induced shit where he is intercepted by……THE EVIL DOCTOR VOLMER!!! YAY!!! the incomparable doctor volmer takes this time to show off his cartoonishly malevolent dentistry skills by just drilling straight through his tooth after strapping him down into what can only be described a dental bdsm device. oopsie!! tee hee!!

lmfao come on

there’s a wholly useless scene where lockhart tries to go to the cops that progresses nothing and adds no emotional depth to the film. this is truly the most useless scene in the film. if its supposed to underline the helplessness of our protagonist, i’m not sure it helps or hinders. our idiot protagonist had access to a phone and used it to ask his boss about his coworker’s dietary needs. i dont really need to be shown why the cops are useless. there’s already a good reason why our protagonist can’t be saved from the sanitarium: he’s fucking dumb.

it does have a hysterical moment where they bring pembroke into the room to prove he’s alive, implying that they brought him with them somehow knowing they’d need him. he was in the soup like thirty minutes ago so he probably had to dry up too.

we have forty minutes left and here the movie starts to offer us pockets of hope: our protagonist starts to hallucinate. you might be thinking “well, that could be spooky” but what if told you were treated to the delightful sight of watching a man in a leg cast rip a toilet full of eels out of the floor. the handle had the audacity to jiggle ominously at the camera. an eel peeks its head out of the bowl. it’s an all-timer honestly but it’s also only like a minute long. in no way enough to justify a three hour movie.

lockhart succumbs to life in the sanitarium. he goes in the soup but does NOT get his dick out. he’s wearing VERY conservative swim trunks like a bitch. in a moment of dawning realization, he finally tears off his cast to reveal his leg was fine the whole time (something i feel like would have been obvious much earlier??). 

thirty-five minutes left. the movie is now going to go full speed. hannah puts on the lipstick to symbolize her womanhood while lockhart discovers that the sanitarium is feeding the eels mummified corpses. get this: gore verbinski is about to blow your stupid mind with these sick editing tricks. you see, while lockhart witnesses the bloody feeding frenzy of the terrifying…eels, hannah gets her first period in a pool she walks into for some reason and starts bleeding like someone turned on a tap. i get its supposed to be a visual spooky aesthetic choice but…c’maaaaan. anyway the eels are like “yum yum blood” and swoop in. like literally i think they’re trying to swoop into her pussy based on her defensive maneuvers.

you need medical attention

let’s check in with our hero. oh he’s fighting off a henchman but don’t worry, he won. the eels meanwhile have abandoned the quest for pussy and instead are just circling her ominously. been there! hannah, wet and bloody, runs in and ruins a fancy banquet that the TWISTED DOCTOR VOLMER is holding for his patients! lockhart also wants to ruin the banquet and makes an impassioned plea: the doctor is keeping you sick! the water makes you dehydrated until you’re mummified! you’re dying and you don’t even know!!! literally everyone gets up and beats the shit out of him. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

it’s plot resolution time. i’m going to try to explain this but if it doesn’t make sense it’s not my fault, im just the reporter. we are given an explanation for the spooky occurrences: the water at the sanitarium is very toxic to humans…unless it can be filtered through them (process unknown). im not sure how something can be extremely toxic but also can be filtered through them over a period of time. many things are unclear. the result is a little bit of juice that gives you a freakishly long life. the mischievious doctor volmer then floods our protagonist’s mouth with eels. as you do.

now for a creepy wedding ceremony between the fifty year old doctor and the almost certainly not legal girl. i dont know what age you got your period at but for me it wasn’t even remotely close to eighteen.

if you showed this to someone they would think it was a real movie

the honeymoon begins instantly. and his super-hot come on is to gesture at the bed he’s dragged her to and say “this is where you started”.

that’s right. the fucked up and jokerfied doctor volmer is hannah’s FATHER!!!!!! oh, great. and he’s tying her down and talking about how he used to do this with his sister. i fucking hate germans, man. anyway whattttt the lascivious doctor volmer is the baron and hannah is the fetus that was chucked in the well and they’ve been living for a long time using the people eel juice??? oh no her boobs are out.

lockhart figures this all out when he finds a photo with a lot of important exposition hidden in it. he has like a jimmy neutron brain blast and saves us the trouble of going through this again.

with fifteen minutes left in the movie, the depraved doctor volmer tears his fucking face off revealing a bunch of green goosebumps goo underneath. i dunno! i laughed, i didn’t know what the fuck what happening. now this movie decided to get good all of the sudden? why now? why now after 2 hours and 35 minutes!! and then lockhart lights him on fucking fire!! it’s great! but not for long.

verbinski insults me and his audience by cutting between the incomprehensible doctor volmer flailing frantically due to his fire problem and the wedding guests dancing in the ballroom. we get it; there’s one thing happening, but at the same time a bad thing is happening that is visually similar to that first thing. i get it gore!! you need a second hook!

oops, we didn’t count on the undefeatable doctor volmer actually being a terminator. the fire did nothing except light everything on fire. now you have two problems. actually three, because the entire sanitarium is in flames and not just this sex room. hannah solves one problem when she hits her dad-husband with a shovel and the unfuckable doctor volmer dies an ironic death at the hands of his precious eels and daughter-wife.

hannah and lockhart escape! they are fleeing! our heroes have taken hannah’s bicycle and are riding it to freedom-


you thought this movie was ending for the 20th time but you’re wrong. the people in the car are his bosses from new york (??) and they get out and yell at him while he’s bleeding in the street. we finally get our scene where lockhart tells his bosses that he’s “feeling much better” (get it? eh? eh?) and then he skids away on his little bike. i’m not sure how his teeth come back but they’re here for this final shot where he grins into the night. how did the teeth come back.

this is a movie of contrasts. it’s so fucking long and asks so much of the audience. it is too boring to recommend to people, too competently made to be sold to people solely on the basis of it being a bad movie (if this movie had a worse budget it would have been a whole different experience lol), and while there are some genuinely “what the fuck” great belly laugh moments in it, they are too few and far in between.

i spent 6 hours of my life on this movie watching it twice. imagine how i feel.

while watching this movie i thought about how i would or could possibly explain what a roger corman movie is to people who aren’t familiar with his body of work. in particular, i’m thinking about what an audience of people who are becoming bad movie fans should be told to prime them for what they’re going to see. nothing is ever as brain-meltingly incomprehensible as a wiseau or breen vehicle, nor is it as sleazy or morally reprehensible like a troma flick. they are usually only moderately confusing, his actors tend to move and speak like they’re waste deep in water and had a brick dropped on their head 30 minutes ago, and his soundtracks are almost always unremarkable for whatever genre he happened to be producing that day. corman’s a prolific director with millions of feet of film under his belt either from directing or producing and trained at least two dozen directors of major acclaim, so it’s not like the man is a novice who doesn’t know the craft. you know him at least as the director of the original “little shop of horrors” movie (not the musical, the very first one from 1960). his movie production ethos was built on doing what you could on a budget, the problem being “what you could” being limited by one’s imagination and personal tastes. so what you usually got in the end was a completely watchable but recognizably bad movie. a movie that isn’t torturous to watch but also  makes you go “man, someone made this?”. it’s a unique entertainment experience. “entertainment”.

i hadn’t heard of this one when my friend (who sponsored this post via patreon) requested it for the review chopping block. the few details he gave to me about it intrigued me (jack nicholson and boris karloff?!) so i started watching it almost immediately. then i bought a house and that took up literally all of my time for like 3 months so i’ve been stewing about how guilty i feel for letting this fall to the wayside while i look at paint swatches for walls i won’t be able to paint for probably years. aaaah!!! anyway. 

what is “the terror”? in short: it’s corman’s attempt at replicating edgar allan poe after doing a few movies based on his works. in fact, a vast majority of the sets for this movie are from “the pit and the pendulum” which he wrapped up before starting on “the terror”. one of the little facts that comes up a lot when you start trying to figure out this movie’s fucking deal is that the watery grave ending was settled on because so many gothic novels end with fire so corman just wanted to do the opposite (fool ass idiot doesnt know the opposite of “fire” is “no fire”, not water). a modern attempt at gothic storytelling is kind of a neat idea, but of course this movie fumbles the concept like a buttery football. the problem? well. nothing really comes together to create anything emotionally substantial. it feels like you’re watching a slideshow of someone’s vacation photos.

jack nicholson stars and is one of the five (?!) directors of this movie, including a young francis ford coppola (?!!). jack himself is looking pretty baby-faced in this one but don’t worry: he’s still got that nasally new york intonation despite playing the part of a french general circa 1800. he just sounds like himself which is fine in 99% of all movies he’s ever been in and absolutely hysterical in a period piece. he plays andre, who is lost and disoriented with his horse from the jump and ends the movie lost and disoriented without his horse. 90% of the footage of his co-star, boris karloff, is just scenes of him opening and closing castle doors. they apparently only had karloff on set for two days which is insane but also explains why some of the footage has lousy cuts or edits. gotta work with what you’ve got i guess.

andre, who my notes make sure to point out “has a crease in his forehead so deep that you can use it as a coin slot” encounters a whole gaggle of weirdos in quick succession. for example, a mysterious woman who calls herself helene (played by nicholson’s at the time wife sandra knight) behaves like a badly programmed AI which turns nicholson on for reasons that only he can explain. once she fully short circuits, she walks into the ocean to her apparent death while nicholson gets dive-bombed by a hawk. the hawk is successful in downing nicholson until he too is swept away to sea. thankfully, he wakes up safely in the house of a strange old woman, her pet hawk that’s resting after a busy day of committing assaults on french people, and her “mute” son gustaf (he is revealed to not be mute literally 5 minutes later. it is a secret created and revealed for no reason and to no effect). again, my notes cruelly point out that nicholson “sounds like he sells hot dogs in front of a ferris wheel”.

nicholson leaves the old woman’s house and finds helene again who mysteriously and seductively leads him to a more private and DEADLY location. if not for gustaf’s intervention, nicholson would have tumbled to a quicksandy death. gustaf informs nicholson that helene is POSSESSED!!!! and then bounds off into the woods like an elf while the camera just fades to black.

nicholson returns to the old woman’s house where they share a dinner of potions and methamphetamine. to my annoyance, as noted in my notes, nicholson keeps calling gustaf “gust-av”. he’s either the only one saying it right or the only one saying it wrong in the entire cast. how about some consistency huh!!! after the hot tip from both gustaf and the old lady, nicholson heads out to look for the castle of the baron von leppe, where he believes helene is being kept. people in the old times were so inexplicably horny. the lengths they would go for fucking is unbelievable. if i found out the woman i had been leering at all day went home to her castle i’d be like “well damn, uh. that’s that i guess”. i guess they had less to do back then so they had more time to fuck around in castles.

the baron von leppe is, of course, boris karloff, who is looking sooo cozy in his little robes in this movie. he must have been sooo comfy. he looks like dark universe hugh hefner. nicholson is let into the castle and spies what truly must be the most busted portrait in a mainstream movie i’ve seen in a while. i don’t know who was churning out all those awful paintings for movies in the 70s but i’d like to shake their hand.

somehow, nicholson recognizes this portrait as 1. a person 2. the woman he’s been chasing after all day. but it turns out the portrait is of the baroness von leppe and she’s been dead for over 20 years. this only deters nicholson a little bit and when the baron allows him to stay the night, nicholson makes awooga noises when he spots the woman from his window. he is stopped only by the horrific noise outside his door that sounds like 18 cats having sex while falling down a flight of stairs. nicholson bravely and smartly grabs his extremely tiny 19th century gun with the apparent intent of using it through an iron door. this story might make more sense if we assume nicholson is playing a common dullard.

okay, things start to get hinky here because this is where the story falls into a messy tangle of plot thread spaghetti that’s only mostly figured out by the final parts of the film. nicholson is exposed to a series of spooky sights: the von leppe crypt is devoid of any holy markings, helen’s face leers at him though a crack in a door, a terrible drawing he made of her for…reasons? anyway it’s torn in two when he returns from his little midnight stroll. after squeezing the baron for information, nicholson learns that “helene” is actually named ilsa and that she cheated on the baron while he was deployed. upon returning and finding ilsa in bed with another man, the baron killed her and then left his servant, stefan, to handle the man. none of this answers nicholson’s original question “who is eric” (how he found out about eric i can’t understand). but it’s fair to assume, due to him being the only unnamed character, that the man caught with ilsa was eric. the baron now confines himself to the castle out of guilt.

the audience learns that ilsa is under the thrall of the old woman, who is caught using black magic by stefan to in order to control and possess her. the old woman’s ultimate goal is to drive the baron bugfuck insane in revenge for some currently unspoken grudge. the old woman reveals that the house she has taken residence in once belonged…to ERIC!!! my goodness….what a revelation (?).

another shocking reveal: eric is indeed the man who was caught with the baroness and its dropped like its an earth shattering revelation. it’s like, obvious though right? again, he was the only unnamed character. who else would it be lol.  gust-av is punished for his meddling with a hawk attack. the effects for the gouged out eyes are hysterical: it almost looks like they used candy red acrylic paint due to how the “fresh wound” looks caked and dry in the footage they used. adding insult to injury, they throw a gustaf shaped dummy down a cliff which bounces off every rock piteously. nicholson also continues his bastardly actions by making a move on the baronesses’ ghost-wife when he gets alone with her in the crypt. unfortunately for him, she’s not interested in what he’s selling. she simply craves the grave.

if this all sounds like plot salad, that’s good; it means i’ve really captured the spirit of what watching the movie feels like.

okay for this next part i’m just going to copy and paste my notes. usually i just use these as the basis for what i want to remember to talk about when i write the review but this time all my notes are just a mad dash to try to keep up with all the working parts of this stupid fucking movie. the end result was a stream of consciousness that perfectly captured my emotional state while watching it, especially the highs and lows of both delight at what little i could recognize as classifiable human behavior and boredom when the plot started to try to muscle its way on screen.

lol another night of creepin on the baron, this time he uses a secret mechanism in a wall sconce to go in a secret room. jack, naturally, follows. its another coffin?? the baron is promising to flood the crypt and die with ilsa but where da fuck is she?? just kidding she’s there…or her voice is. she’s trying to suicide bait him and is making great progress but man he’s like 8000 years old. just wait like 2 minutes. the baron flips out and seizes when jack asks what the fuck these two are talking about. anyway the baron is bitching out bc god hates suicide. whatever.

whatever indeed.

there’s a scene where nicholson and stefan and the old woman all finally wind up in the same place together and collect all the information they have to come to a very annoying conclusion for everyone involved: this old lady’s revenge was for nothing. eric is not only the woman’s son but, as it turns out, he is the baron. in the struggle, the real baron was killed and eric took his place. eventually he came to believe he really was the baron and stefan was just cool with this i guess. a paycheck’s a paycheck no matter whose name is on the line. now the thing that really gets me is that karloff seems way older than this lady which raises some question here. maybe guilt really ages a person.

after walking on consecrated ground, the old woman turns into a dummy that bursts into flames. nicholson and stefan enter the crypt where the baron and the ilsa ghost are beating the shit out of each other. the baron has realized he’s been bamboozled into damning his IMMORTAL SOUL!! by the sexy ghost who is now doing everything she can to make sure he doesn’t turn the water off. why is this crypt designed to fill with water and drown everything? unclear.

the final 5 minutes of this movie are so unbelievably noisy, between the brass on the soundtrack and the rushing water, my eardrums are getting pulverized by sound wave attacks. when its over only nicholson and ilsa are left standing. they share a weirdly unconvincing kiss for a married couple and perhaps in response to his tepid efforts she melts into a skeleton. she kind of looks like she was made of chocolate, honestly. like not as a joke. very strange editorial decision.

what can we learn from “the terror”? well, mostly that if you’re trying to make a movie on a budget and a short timeframe, you should probably go in with more of a plot than “poe but with water”.  we learned that its difficult to take an actor’s role in a period piece seriously if their natural speaking voice has an accent that is particular to a specific modern time and place, since that seemed to really piss me off in my notes. and, most of all, we learned that you just can’t trust ANY women ever. the end.