61 Days of Halloween – Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween please go here.

Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996)

In the interest of full disclosure, I believe I watched this for last year’s theme, maybe even for the year before, but it was such a demoralizing viewing that I left my notes aside figuring I wouldn’t bother to feature it. A few things come to mind because of it: one, I tend to try and focus on a long-running series (or more) per year and this sequel squashed the possibility of me moving past it any time soon. Two, as opposed to a zeitgeist reaction of “it took too long for this sequel to come around” I saw this many years later and it still felt a disjointed unnecessary edition that takes a leap too many and forgets part of its tonal formula for success in the original.

There is to this film a terribly slow, mercenary start. Most of what it forgets is to incorporate humor. It’s not that it doesn’t try, but it does not try enough and does not succeed. The efforts are far more fruitful and concerted on the horror end, but still a bit misguided. There is a quantum leap in the evolution of these creatures in a short period of time and suddenly there is metamorphosis, asexual reproduction, infrared senses and biped offspring. That’s a lot to absorb especially when you consider that the creatures are MIA for a large portion of the beginning. Therefore, these changes are more jarring, there’s minimal explanation.

Clearly when you go a long time between editions in a series you’ll lose cast members. Michael Gross’ character was perfect as secondary, pivotal nutjob but hardly leading man material.

As the film progresses it does get a little better, but it never rights itself. I’ve been through many long series and slogged through them. In many cases, the badness almost became a sort of morbid addiction. This one is such a soul-crushing departure from the first it compelled me to quit at least for the time being.

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61 Days of Halloween: The Asphyx (1973)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween and a list of past titles please go here.

The Asphyx (1973)

As I did with the last post I would like to commend a distributor to start, I got this film also at Monster-Mania but this time at the Kino Lorber table. Kino’s catalogue is fairly diverse and they offer many silent gems, other classic, art house and foreign fare as well as horror. This release is part of a line called Redemption, so named for previously rare titles in the genre. The idea for the line is wonderful, even if this particular selection doesn’t quite work for me in many ways.

I forget where I saw it, and it may have been a later film, but an interest in capturing the exact moment of death is not a new one. However, it is an intriguing concept especially when the possibility exists to cheat it. The Asphyx is the spirit of the death, which is carrying the deceased across the mortal plain when the time comes.If one has no Asphyx, it is found, they can not die.

An obsessive pursuit of immortality is a good angle to play up. Where things start to go wrong occurs quite soon after the film starts, and quite often; such that the film does eventually lose me. It starts with cheats in the motion picture images that seem to show the Asphyx. The researcher having created motion picture recording is a clever plot element but the cuts in the image, that suggest new camera angles, are clearly cheats for we see the camera he used never moved. That’s a nitpicky complaint, but it starts the snowball effect on this film.

Clearly with the setup this story has the Asphyx must be seen, but that creates many of the issues. The effects works is good considering the likely budgetary constraints and the time period, but the design of the Asphyx strikes me and unintentionally comical. Its presence, however, is not but is rather grating and annoying.

Eventually, once the obsession is full blown the pace slows down to a snail’s crawl and why every attempted inducement of death, to lure the Asphyx, needs to be a Rube Goldberg device is beyond me. There are some good building blocks to the film but ultimately the whole is ineffectual.