The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue (2013)
There's Something in the Basement...
Similar in spirit to films like Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale, this guy has a quirky premise that I think a lot of folks feel it fails to deliver on (judging by the Netflix reviews). I've never heard of it until it showed up on the new additions list, and considering the last movie I saw with Robert Englund in it as a side part was Jack Brooks (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I figured let's roll with it and see how it is. Animal lovers beware - although shown violence against pets is rather limited, the implication that most all the furry cast becomes mole meals is pretty straight forward.
The premise is straight forward and simple - losers Marion (Mike Bradecich) and Jarmon Mugg (John LaFlamboy) are in charge of an apartment complex after their beloved mother dies, and simply put they are rather bad at it. They steal power from a nearby church, and are loosing renters rather rapidly when Jarmon decides that his Llama ranching idea wasn't as profitable as he hoped and returns to help out. Riddled with complaints from the current renters, they have one slightly more pressing matter at hand - the culprit behind the missing pets. On the way to their room, the brothers run smack into the Mole Man, and as the pets slowly start to disappear as mole food, the pressure to deal with the mysterious and meat-hungry creature rises.
That's pretty much the depth of the plot here. The threat of the Mole Man is the main horror element of the flick, and most of the tension one might have normally experienced is killed off by the ineptitude of the brothers and how they go about things. It's not uncommon, for example, that instead of facing a problem that the two brothers decide instead that it's "Time to go to the bar." You can see where the influences of something like Shaun are there, but that it also isn't quite as fully developed in it's wit department. That being said, the plot is there enough to provide a story space with which to go about the movie and the escalation of events flows nicely as far as that story goes - even if a good quarter or third of the film could probably be cut out and not impact the experience.
As much as it might cause my reviews into question by me saying so, the acting in this movie is surprisingly not that bad . It feels like a cheesy B-movie, without a doubt, but the way in which (most) the actors go about playing their rolls feels like it's how it was meant to be done. This is best exemplified in the two brothers, who's acting very well makes it go from them being implied losers on script to visible and audibly a couple of guys that you don't expect to amount to absolutely anything (and makes the end contrast that much more effective). Meanwhile, on the other hand, some of the characters (such as the cops) feel incredibly over-the-top to the point of silliness, although it also feels that this isn't a case of bad acting either, simply just that it's what the script called for. It's interesting, because it's certainly not what one would expect to call good acting in the slightest sense, but it does admittedly somehow work .
It's not really quite acting I suppose, but they also somehow managed to pick a slew of pets that are both adorable and incredibly well behaved for all the stuff going on (usually involving them being "pulled" into vents and the likes). I would like to think that a giant mole man's hands would cause an animal to freak out a heck of a lot more than these pet's, calling into question how much of it could be called "acting" on the part of the furry little buggers, but it also gives the distinct impression that the animals are all very chilled out around the set. The mole man is mostly rag-covered in appearance, although does have trademark "mole teeth" to make sure you know that he's a mole man (as opposed to some grotesquely mutated homeless man). I can't say how much of his wall climbing and the likes is mole-like, as I personally don't know any moles, so I guess we'll just call the monster's acting as an "alright performance, possibly could improve."
Sound balance is well done in here, although for the most part there isn't any conflicting audio in the background to cover things up. In a few occurrences, music is provided by the brothers via a "dream sequence" - with rather amusing lyrics assuming you can get by a bit of light swearing- and others mostly being from the resident guitar player strumming his way through songs in the bar. Effect-wise audio comes through pretty clean and understandable, and matches well to the extensive use of practical effects through the film. The best example of this would be the banging of the vents as the Mole Man travels to different floors.
It's certainly not a movie I would recommend to everyone, but if you watch the trailer and it strikes you as something you would enjoy, you shouldn't be disappointed. There's a bit of topless lady in there, and a good deal of profanity, but violence is surprisingly almost entirely off-screen (which keeps it from being overdone, but also seems like a strange choice considering the swearing and nudity would bump the rating bracket up faster then violence anyways). I enjoyed it, and although I can't really say it's topped any of my lists I can say that it was quite the pleasant surprise considering most of the reviews I read of it on Netflix.