Heebie Jeebies

Heebie Jeebies

Written by Trent Haaga
Directed by Thomas L. Callaway

Heebie Jeebies
Gold prices skyrocket as the fear monster eats world gold supplies, mocks bitcoins

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—and also mining accident fear monsters out for revenge!” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, shortly before battling the mining accident fear monster that cost him the use of his legs.

Fear. Nothing is more scary, except maybe terror. Now, it is hard to have a concept such as fear attacking people on a SyFy creature feature, so we have the next best thing, a creature that attacks by causing fear. Heebie Jeebies is not just a goofy title, it’s a concept that extends to the plot. To drive the whole fear thing home, the main character even gets panic attacks!

Heebie Jeebies
The Man with the Golden Gun? We ate him!

Heebie Jeebies gets points for having an innovative monster design and concept, and being a parable about how greed is bad and ultimately destructive. It also gives us a glimpse of the history of exploited immigrant miners. The Asian-American family’s dynamic is similar to actual Asian-American families I know, it’s cool to see characters jumping back and forth between languages. It does lose points for having the only black character be a criminal.

What is weird is I watched Heebie Jeebies back to back with Flying Monkeys, and Tyler Forrest is in both of them. In Flying Monkeys, he plays a creepy guy, while in Heebie Jeebies, he plays a terrible boyfriend. As Louisiana seems to be the new it location for filming SyFy films (at least as long as the tax breaks last!) I expect Tyler Forrest will be showing up a lot!

Director Thomas L. Callaway has had an insanely awesome cinematography career (Critters 3 and 4, Road House 2, Who’s Your Caddy?), but has only helmed one other film, 2007’s Broke Sky. Writer Trent Haaga is a hardworking actor/writer/producer who has some Troma roots.

Heebie Jeebies
A terrible Mr. T costume…

Todd Crane (Robert Belushi) – Small town cop who has crippling panic attacks, like all good cops. Is working on controlling his attacks with meditation therapy with Theresa. Is investigating the mysterious murders committed by what turns out to be a revenge monster while trying to be a parent to his little sister. Robert Belushi is James Belushi’s son.
Theresa Lim (Cathy Shim) – Doctor and medical examiner who becomes extra busy thanks to the rash of murders and the simultaneous freak out of her grandmother who knows more than she lets on. Is also helping Todd meditate in what is prelude to a romance. Cathy Shim is awesome, and deserves to be more famous. She’s probably best known for Reno:911 and 3Way.
Billy Butler (Michael Badalucco) – Local mine owner and owner of a cash for gold business. He’s like one of those obnoxiously hilarious local commercials come to life. Just think Boss Hogg meets Yukon Cornelious. Gets gold fever when he sees the monster bleeds gold and tries to capture it.
Zu Mu (Lucille Soong) – A Tiger Grandma of Theresa and Tracy, who knows more than she hints about the awakened revenge monster. Responds by freaking out on her family, but eventually tells Todd about how Chinese laborer miners were trapped and left to die in 1840, and her ancestor – a witch – cursed the mine and created a revenge monster from the souls of the trapped miners.
Veronica Crane (Evie Thompson) – Todd’s sister, who can’t wait to get it on with her boyfriend, Mace. Veronica is desperate to have some fun in the small town, so her and her friends plan to hang out in the abandoned mine like all the cool kids do.
Mace (Dave Randolph-Mayhem Davis) – Veronica’s reluctant boyfriend, who seems very apprehensive about having the sex with Veronica. Even still, he’s probably one of the few good catches left in town.
Tracy Lim (Olivia Ku) – Theresa’s sister and Zu Mu’s granddaughter. She gets instantly grounded by Zu Mu to keep her safe, even though her grandmother doesn’t explain anything. Is rebellious and sneaks out with Veronica and their boyfriends, ending up in trouble at the mine.
Sheriff Tatum (Carl Savering) – The local sheriff who spends most of his time yelling at Todd or making bad decisions like putting lots of civilians in harms way. And he gets captured by Billy at one point. Is Mace’s dad, so he’s the genius who named his kid Mace.
Agnes Whitehead (Marion Ross) – Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days! A retired teacher and not nice woman. Mrs. C is packing some heat, and even yells former student Todd Crane into a panic attack when he attempts to give her a ticket. Gets Heebie-Jeebied!
Fear Monster (CGI) – Monster with gold blood that eats gold. Expels fear gas to paralyze its targets with terror. Eats gold as well. Was created by a witch curse from wife of one of five miners abandoned alive underground after an accident. The best part is it has gold monster vision!
Heebie Jeebies
How about a little fire, Scarecrow!

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Flying Monkeys

Flying Monkeys

Written by Silvero Gouris
Directed by Robert Grasmere

Flying Monkeys
What did you say about my stinking paws???

Flying Monkeys is a perfect example of a SyFy flick. It’s got a swarm of ridiculous creatures, lots of bloody death, bad CGI, and random acting talent. Released to cash in on Oz: The Great and Powerful, Flying Monkeys wedges in two small Oz references, but then goes on its own direction in what may be one of the most liberal SyFy films ever.

Flying Monkeys
This monkey is a curse to all it touches…it was in Hangover 2!

Does Flying Monkeys promote exotic animals as pets, or is it a warning against them? Without being preachy, Flying Monkeys shows that exotic animals are smuggled into the US, are sold by a gun-packing jerk, and can cause horrible ecological damage and death when introduced to a new ecosystem. Also that they slaughter and devour entire towns full of random people, just like kudzu does!

Even more crazy, Flying Monkeys has a commentary on gun control! Flying Monkeys is anti-gun. If the flying monkeys (actually a Chinese mythological creature called a hsigo) are killed, they just turn into two hsigos. They can only be killed by special weapons blessed by the Emperor of China. Guns just make things worse, though they may cause a brief way to escape, they ultimately just increase the problem. Characters disparage how everyone in the US has a gun, because it makes the effort to kill the hsigos that much harder. Hsigos are like Gremlins, except they reproduce thanks to violent gun culture instead of water. Expand this out to how gun violence can create more gun violence, and Flying Monkeys is suddenly drawing a line in the sand.

Flying Monkeys
First we catch the monkey, then I argue with it about post-Baum Oz books and which should be considered canon, until it dies of boredom!

There is also a throwaway bit about how Skippy the flying monkey leader doesn’t kill Joan because she’s nice to him in monkey form. The hunters are shocked at this, stating because no one has ever been kind to a hsigo, ever. Then they go to kill him anyway, though this suggests that maybe, just maybe, the killer monkeys could be rehabilitated.

As we declared long ago, Type A SyFy films feature one (or a small number) of invincible creatures that slaughter everyone. Type B SyFy films (which Flying Monkeys is an example of) feature a whole swarm of creatures that slaughter everyone, but the creatures have a weakness in that they have a Queen-type creature that if killed, they all die. Type C SyFy films feature a whole swarm of killable creatures that slaughter everyone, with no leader creature. I’ve since added Type D SyFy flicks, which is when creatures battle each other, though those films can also fit in with any of the prior three types.

The hsigo of Chinese mythology (from what little I’ve found on them in English) are actually helper animals, winged monkeys with human faces. Their depiction in Flying Monkeys seems largely invented. The creatures are played by a mix of real monkeys, CGI, and gloved monster hands used for closeup shots. But let’s not forget the greatest thing of all, FLYING MONKEY VISION!

Flying Monkeys
Rainbow Heart: The sign of a true killer

Joan Palmer (Maika Monroe) – High school graduate and one day veterinarian who is getting over her mother’s death and her father’s lack of interest. Is gifted with a pet monkey, that turns out to be a killer flying monkey. It could happen to anyone! Maika Monroe is a famous kiteboarder turned movie star.
James Palmer (Vincent Ventresca) – Joan’s absentee dad who decided the best way to get over his wife’s death was to work himself to death and ignore his daughter. He begins to make up for it just in time for the flying monkeys attack! Interesting they made the Invisible Man into the Invisible Dad…
Sonya (Electra Avellan) – Joan’s friend who has the classic Kansan accent. She just wants to live life and party and shower without monkeys spying on her.
Yin (Boni Yanagisawa) – Female Hunter of hsigo whose clan has been doing so for centuries under order of the Emperor. Sure, the Emperor is long dead and China’s now run by a completely different government, but the hunt continues. Yin is very intense.
Chin-Lee (Lee Nguyen) – Hunter of the clan that was ordered to track down and destroy the rogue hsigos. Possibly the best actor in the entire movie.
Flying Monkeys (real monkeys, CGI, gloves) – These hsigo are cute monkeys by day, vicious winged killers by night. If you kill a hsigo, you only make it split in two and both of them mad! Joan names her monkey/hsigo Skippy, though later it is revealed the hsigo’s name is Nico (a traditional Chinese name??) and if he dies, all the hsigos die. Animated without hair, because CGI hair is expensive.
Wang (Alvin Chon) – Smuggler pilot and best character in the film!
Flying Monkeys

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