Inevitably, horror king Danny Trejo will occasionally pop up in movies in my watchlist. He might have top billing, he might be featured front and center in the poster art. And yet…he will barely be in the movie. So, why not look at four such films in one post?
THE PREY: LEGEND OF KARNOCTUS (2022)
Danny Trejo is in this little creature feature for about five minutes total.
It begins with full Monty monster attacking some men in a cave. That leads to a comic book style intro set to hip hop music, making this feel like something on the SyFy network in 2003. And I was so there for that vibe.
Next, U.S. troops get into a gun battle in Afghanistan and are forced to retreat into a cave. Typical egos come into play as the group splits up to explore the tunnels. They stumble upon gas canisters, some of the soldiers begin having hallucinations, there are large spiders, bodies of decaying past victims are found…
…but no more monster until 58 minutes in. Even so, the monster delivers on the creature feature fun.
It looks a bit different than your usual underground creature and sees humans with some sort of X-ray vision. Cool.
The final battle is also a good time. My only complaint is that it turns out there are more than one of the monsters, which makes it kind of inexcusable that it takes almost an hour for them to start attacking invaders in their home.
CYBORG X (2016)
This is one of those movies you stumble upon on a streaming service that makes you long for the days when SyFy was pumping out cheap action/sci-fi/horror flicks that are campy and cheesy thanks to low budgets and bad CGI effects, and also endearing thanks to recognizable faces in the cast.
Cyborg X concerns a military group that has to fight back against cyborgs gone wild after a weapons supplier is taken over by a virus.
These cyborgs happen to look like muscular, shirtless knock-offs of comic book villain Bane.
The leading man is a very pretty hunk who delivers on the shirtless action (for lady lovers there’s also a hot babe as the female lead).
Danny Trejo plays a crazy team member who gets more screen time than expected, considering I figured he was going to be cast in a cameo just for name recognition. And funny man Adam Johnson of Vamp U plays a different role as a cigar-smoking, bearish military man. Hot.
Despite the CGI effects, there are practical gore effects during gun battles, which are mostly contained to the first act, smack dab in the center, and final act. The bulk of the film does get a little too talkie as the team makes battle plans.
L.A. SLASHER (2015)
This is a trendy, artsy “slasher” in which the whole is simply not as good as the sum of its parts. It’s an attempted commentary on people that are famous just for being famous (reality stars, socialites, influencers, etc.). They are being targeted by a killer that wants to expose them for the talentless hacks they are and make them pay the price for gaining success by doing nothing—and in the process becomes a sort of celebrity himself. Problem is there isn’t any aspect of the film that is truly developed, including the killing.
I will start by saying I was loving the 80s vibe. The film begins with “The Look of Love” by ABC, has plenty of neon-drenched party and club scenes set to faux 80s dance music, closes with the 1990 hit “The King of Wishful Thinking” by Go West, and uses Divine’s “I’m So Beautiful” as a theme song for the killer.
It’s everything else that has issues. There is essentially no lead character here to carry a story arc, leaving the audience flailing in the wind as irrelevant characters go through various scenes with no purpose.
Mischa Barton is the closest we get to a final girl, but she’s barely in the film. Other familiar faces that appear fleetingly include Brooke Hogan, David Bautista, Eric Roberts, and of course Danny Trejo.
The most cringey casting is Andy Dick as the voice of the killer. His irritating tone destroys what is otherwise a freaky killer in a white tuxedo, blank white mask, and long wig. I think the point of the killer’s appearance is to show that only beautiful people get noticed in L.A., because everyone in the city knows there’s a killer on the loose, yet the killer goes out on the town and parties in crowds and never gets a second glance.
The film is filled with flashy editing, trippy sequences, lots of drugs and parties, online social media commentaries on screen, and a sleek, stylized, all-white lair where the killer brings his victims to terrorize them. Unfortunately, while there’s plenty of blood splatters as aftermath, all the kills are cutaway, so this film offers nothing in the way of death scenes. It’s a bummer, because the visual presentation leading up to the kills is hot.
This low budget indie has a very direct-to-DVD circa 2001 look and feel. It’s not so much a vampire horror film as it is a romanticized vampire legend film—it’s about a female vamp who has longed to become human since she was a child. Huh? Vampires don’t grow or age, so how was she once a vampire child? I guess that tells you everything you need to know about lack of attention to details with this one.
Anyway, Danny Trejo gets about fifteen minutes of screen time in total, playing the vamp father—who has no vampire teeth while all his children do. Again, it’s all about the lack of attention to details. He informs his kids that their time on earth has come to an end due to lack of blood to drink—mortals have become to pure. Say what? I really struggled to get through this one.
Accepting that their time has come to an end, the family commits suicide together, but the daughter who wanted to become human shows up late and didn’t get the memo. So she sets out on a journey to figure out who and what she really is now.
She visits her therapist (played by Tom Sizemore). She visits her doctor, who seems to have ulterior motives while treating her and also sleeps with a blow-up doll. She goes to a Halloween party with the best friend she has lesbian feelings for. She becomes close to a cute young male detective who is investigating a series of murders for which she is one of the suspects.
If you’re okay with low budget films and like stories that feature a vampire as the protagonist, I guess you might like this one. It was all just a little too silly for me—although it did have some intentionally funny moments that gave me a chuckle.