SHORT REVIEWS A - M
THE RIVER (2013) -
Interesting Italian horror film that takes you in unexpected directions.
An ethologist (a person who studies animal behavior with emphasis on
the behavioral patterns that occur in natural environments) by the
name of Marco Contrada (Marco Marchese) traps animals in the remote
woods on the Slovenian border and attaches cameras to them so he can
study their movements. The footage from one of these cameras will
lead him to an even more remote village, where he will become trapped
and what he discovers will change his life forever, that is if he
survives the ordeal. But I am getting ahead of myself, so let's move
back to the beginning&ldots;
While in the remote woods, collecting memory cards he has on motion-activated cameras connected to trees, Marco discovers something strange floating in the river, what looks like two young girls' white night dresses, the kind girls use to wear years ago when they went to bed. He finds it somewhat strange, but he has seen stranger things in the woods and continues to do his job, setting up cages to capture animals he previously tagged with cameras, such as wild boar and deer. We then see an old man (Renzo Gariup) and his wife (Lidia Zabriezach) in bed, the old man awoken by a strange noise he heard in the woods, but his wife tells him to ignore it and come back to bed. It's a noise he has heard before and by the look on his face, it is not a noise he thought he would ever hear again. Marco spends the night in a shack in the woods and the next morning goes about his business of collecting memory cards from the cameras he has placed on trees. He then hears the same strange noise as the old man and it turns out to be a thirteen-pound fox that he had previously tagged with a camera that he has caught in one of his cages. He shoots a tranquilizer dart with a blowgun into the fox's body and removes the memory card from the camera and then lets the fox go free when it awakens. He begins to view the memory card on his laptop in his RV and is taken aback by some footage showing the fox traveling some place he has never seen before; a strange village where the buildings look ancient in their construction, like something out of a medieval textbook. He follows the coordinates on the footage with his RV, crossing a river whose water is about to rise to dangerous levels thanks to the torrential rain outside. He ends up in a remote village he didn't know existed, a large stone wall surrounding it. Marco searches the village and it seems to be deserted, but he will soon find out it is anything but. As night comes, he discovers the carcass of a 240-pound wild boar he had previously tagged and there are bites on the abdomen of the still-warm carcass. They look like human bites, yet the body looks torn apart by something with large claws, something not human. He then hears a noise that chills him to the bone, so he runs to his RV and locks himself inside it.
Marco watches the footage taken from the dead wild boar and sees something large tearing it apart, the camera not revealing what is doing the deed, but scaring him enough to grab his shotgun and go outside to see if he can find what caused it. Marco finds nothing, but chalks it up to a pack of wolves. He then gets in his RV and begins to head back to civilization, but the river he needs to cross is overflowing and he has no other way to get back, so he is forced to stay in the village. He gets the feeling that he is not alone (he finds a pocket watch and a book full of strange symbols, as well as deer bones scattered throughout the village), so he sets up a motion-activated camera in the village to alert him of movement, which it does in the middle of the night, waking him up, so he goes outside for a look, armed with a flashlight, a directional locator and his shotgun. He finds blood in places it wasn't earlier in the day and hears glass clanging in one of the buildings (where there's an old family photo, where the faces of two young girls, twins [?], are scratched out). Whomever, or whatever, it was manages to stay out of sight. To make matters worse, it begins raining heavily again, further prolonging Marco's stay in the village.
Marco hopes to discover who or what it is that manages to stay hidden by watching more footage on the memory cards and discovers an ominous scream that scares all the animals away. But what could it be? He then sees two young girls, the same girls in the old photo, dressed in white night dresses in some of the footage, seen immediately after the scream is heard (Their eyes eerily glow in the dark, the result of the camera recording in night vision mode, but eerie nonetheless). Things go from bad to worse when Marco discovers that his RV is missing, forcing him to stay in the village at night, every building's roof leaking during the torrential rainstorm, putting him on further edge. And making matters much worse is that he is now getting sick from a mysterious illness, making him cough up blood and upchuck. Is it possible that this village is cursed and Marco is the latest victim? Count on it, as the more he tries to find a way out of the village and back to civilization, it only leads him back to the village. We then watch the old man listening to a radio news report about Marco, saying he has vanished in the woods of Eastern Friuli on the Slovenian border and it is impossible to search for him due to the severe weather. Will Marco survive this ordeal or will he become another victim of the village's curse?
This was one of those movies I watched on a whim, with no inclination of writing a review, but after viewing it, I thought it was worthy of my pen. This was a film I picked while perusing the synopsis on Amazon Prime, no idea of what it was about (or that it was Italian!) except for a brief, one sentence description. Hoping it wasn't a "found footage" film (a subgenre I despise) , my hopes were nearly dashed by the black and white POV footage of animals in the woods that opened the film, but my worries were relieved when Marco appeared. While there are found footage aspects to the film, including footage the old man shows to Marco's Civil Defense rescuers; home movies taken by soldiers during World War II, showing how strange the village was, even back then (giving us an inkling of what Marco is about to go through, but if I described it, it would ruin the film for you), but it is integral to the plot and therefore necessary. While basically a one person film until the old man appears two-thirds into the film, director Lorenzo Bianchini (THE SQUARE ROOT OF THREE - 2001; CUSTODY OF THE BEAST - 2004; EYES - 2010), working with a screenplay written by himself and wife Michela Bianchini, keeps things interesting with a minimal of dialogue (the film is in Italian with English subtitles) and a lot of atmospheric visuals (running water seems to be the film's main theme), as well as some graphic violence, but this is not a gore film. While this film won't win any prizes, it is a perfectly acceptable way to spend 91 minutes of your precious time. Also featuring Alessio Bertoni, Lucio Zannella, Edo Basso and Fiorella Petrozzi & Marzia Ancora as the cursed twin sisters. Not Rated.
AND EVE VERSUS THE CANNIBALS
(1983) - Crazy-ass Italian/Spanish exploitation flick on the
Bible's take on the creation of man, only this film doesn't mention
God at all (but it does mention the word "faith" a few times).
After an opening of stock footage of volcanos erupting and the harsh, hard landscape turning into a lush forest, we see Adam (Mark Gregory; 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS - 1982) being born, fully grown, out of a flesh-like cocoon (yet he still has a belly button!). Adam wanders the land, having virgin experiences with everything, like lions and other wild animals (he is friends with them, like Tarzan!) and visiting the ocean for the very first time, where he is a natural born swimmer. Adam soon becomes lonely, so he creates a version of a woman in the sand (How the fuck does he know what a woman looks like???) and protects it when the rain threatens to wash it away. He jumps on top of his sand castle woman and as the rain dissolves his creation, the sand washes away, but there is a live woman underneath him, Eve (Andrea Goldman; in her only film). They walk around naked in their huge Garden of Eden (only showing both male and female full-frontal nudity in long shots), swimming in the lake (with a beautiful waterfall, a location used in many Italian jungle films) and generally having the time of their lives, but a hissing snake tempts Eve to take a bite of the sweet apple. Eve is tired of eating berries and dates, so she reaches for the apple, but Adam stops her, saying it is forbidden (Suddenly, they speak perfect Italian!). Eve tries to stay away from the apple, but the snake keeps egging her on until temptation takes over and she takes a bite of the apple, handing it to Adam, who also takes a bite out of it. Adam, who sees a lion screwing a tiger from behind, gets the idea of doing the same thing to Eve, so he takes her from behind and she likes it! Then, they are swept out of the Garden of Eden and forced to live off the land, no more garden, no more food (And the film never tells us who forced them out of the Garden, but that is something we should all know).
After almost getting carried off by a pteradactyl (proving once and for all that man lived with the dinosaurs, just like The Flintstones!), which Adam kills by forcing its jaws open (hilarious in the way it's portrayed, but there is a much funnier scene to come), our biblical twosome meet a clan of post-cavemen (When they see that this clan is wearing clothes that cover their privates, Adam and Eve suddenly become bashful in their nakedness and put on clothes so small, it barely covers their private parts). They almost get into a fight (A couple of male clan members hold Adam, while their leader grabs his dick!), but Adam wants to look for the sea, because he believes that is where he and Eve belong. Eve doesn't want to go, so Adam heads out alone, Eve becoming friendly with a male member of the tribe that the credits list as "Bearkiller" (Ángel Alcázar). Eve and Bearkiller become close (if you know what I mean), but Adam gets lonely and heads back to Eve. When he gets back, Adam becomes jealous when he sees his woman with another man (Ah, so this is where jealously came from!). Eve indoctrinates Bearkiller on the joys of bathing and while he is washing the green paint off his body, a bear appears (When I tell you this is the worst bear costume I have ever saw, believe it!) and Adam watches as Bearkiller (So that how he got his name!) kills the bear with his trusty club. Then a clan of neanderthal cannibals attack Bearkiller's clan, killing a female member and eating her, while Adam uses his new club to kill a couple of cannibals and save Bearkiller's clan. Eve grows tired of Bearkiller (Just like a woman) and goes back with Adam. They search for their place by the sea, but it is a long and arduous journey, as they go hungry and are attacked by a pack of wolves, but they persevere and find their place by the sea when the frozen ground beneath them melts, showing them that they have reached their destination. Eve tells Adam that she is not felling well, not knowing that she is actually pregnant. The film ends with Eve giving birth to a son while she squats in the sea, Adam holding his son up to the sun. The rest is history.
This entertaining, yet perverse film only proves to me how ridiculous the Bible is. While this film exploits everything in that book, it only shows us that our belief in immaculate creation is nothing but a lie (That's all I am going to say about religion). The film is wonderful to look at, as the locations are beautiful and hazardous, sometimes at the same time. Too bad I can't say the same thing about Mark Gregory, because he has a look on his face all the time that will remind you of someone crapping their pants! Andrea Goldman is easy on the eyes, but there a reason she never made another film. She's a horrible actress. It took two directors to make this hoary mess, Enzo Doria (as "Vincent Green") and Luigi Russo (as "John Wilder"), who both directed the BLUE LAGOON rip-off BLUE ISLAND (1982), and seven screenwriters (I'm not going to mention them, to protect their guilt) to bastardize the Good Book. This film isn't a total write-off, as it has more that a few sequences that will make you laugh out loud (And, just like most Italian jungle films, it contains footage of real life animal death). Surprisingly, most of the animal footage is not stock, as we can plainly see Mark Gregory petting lions, cougars and other wild animals (yet wolves attack him!). Originally released on edited fullscreen VHS by Trans World Entertainment (TWE) as BLUE PARADISE (I guess they were trying to make people believe that this was a sequel to THE BLUE LAGOON - 1980, but they should have released the directors' previous film instead!). No legal DVD or Blu-Ray in the U.S. yet, but you can pick up copies on DVD-R from some gray market sellers (like Desert Island Classics and Mutant Sorority Pictures). This review is based on the nice uncut, widescreen streaming version shown on Amazon Prime. It is in Italian with English Subtitles, the way it should be seen. Also featuring Costantino Rossi, Pierangelo Pozzato, Vito Fornari, Liliana Gerace and Andrea Aureli. Not Rated.
THE ALIEN FACTOR (1977) - I'm the first to admit that I would love to get in the filmmaking business. But after viewing this turd, I may have lost my desire to do so. This is filmmaking at its' worst. Director/Producer Don Dohler (FIEND - 1980; NIGHTBEAST - 1982; GALAXY INVADER - 1985; BLOOD MASSACRE - 1988 [his best film]; HARVESTERS - 2001) must have said to his friends in Baltimore: "Hey gang, I've got ten bucks. Let's make a movie!" What even amazes me more is the fact that this film was sometimes shown on TV (usually around 4:00AM). Here's the plot: An alien spacecraft crash lands in the forest next to a secluded town. It seems the spacecraft was some sort of zoo and all the captive alien creatures are set free to terrorize the populace of the aforementioned town. An alien humanoid is sent to Earth to stop this menace. Get a load of these aliens! One looks like he is wearing oversized platform shoes connected to stilts, while another contains the worst stop-motion animation ever committed to film. Whenever I have insomnia I plunk this video into the VCR and within 10 minutes I'm sound asleep. There's one drawback, though. The next morning I always awake with a bad taste in my mouth. Believe it or not, this also got a theatrical release in 1978!. Originally released on VHS by VCI Home Video. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD Release. Also available on Mill Creek Entertainment's SCI-FI INVASION 50 MOVIE DVD Compilation. Not Rated but no stronger than a PG. The late Don Dohler (who passed away in 2006) remade the film as ALIEN FACTOR 2: THE ALIEN RAMPAGE in 2001 with a bigger budget and somewhat better effects. It still has the Dohler cheapness feel to it, though.
THE AMERICAN SCREAM (1988) - Tidy little black comedy which contains a plot that is similar to 2000 MANIACS (1964), but offers enough differences to make it unique. A family take their vacation to a winter resort only to have the teenagers discover that there is no one their age in the entire town. Everyone seems to be into their thirties or higher. The kids try to avoid being killed, espescially by the town's pastor (played by Blackie Dammett, whose real name is John Kiedis, father of Red Hot Chilli Peppers' lead singer Anthony Kiedis). They are helped in part by George "Buck" Flower and his stuffed dog, who tells them the story of how his family was killed there years ago, before getting a bullet in his head for his trouble. The kids' parents act oblivious to everything that is going on around them, but the finale shows that they definitely came to this town for a purpose: namely to get rid of their kids. The kids turn the tables on the townspeople and their parents and in the end take over the town. Director/writer/producer Mitchell Linden (his only directorial effort) includes a beheading, various knifings, barbecued body parts and other bloody mayhem to good effect. The acting is decent (Whatever happened to Blackie Dammett? Remember him getting pummelled by Mel Gibson by the Christmas trees in LETHAL WEAPON (1987)? I always thought he had a face that could menace Jack Palance!) and includes Matt Borlenghi (DINOCROC - 2004), Pons Maar, Jennifer Darling (a terrific voice-over artist responsible for supplying voices on animated films and cartoons too numerous to mention), Kimberlee Kramer (a.k.a. Riley Weston, who created quite a stir when she claimed to be 19 when writing for the TV series FELICITY [1998 - 2002], when she was actually 32!) and Kevin Kaye. An Innovid Home Video Release. Rated R.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) - "Houses don't kill people. People kill people." Well, duh! But houses can give you that little push which sends you over the edge. Unless you've lived in a cave for the past 30 years, you already know the story behind the Amityville horror. If you're like me, you were probably thinking, "Why do we need a remake of the 1979 original?" Turns out that this remake is pretty good, with plenty of decent jump scares. George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) move into the infamous house one year after Ronald Defeo gunned down his entire family while they slept. Happy-go-lucky Geoege does a 180 degree personality shift and the kids start experiencing various degrees of supernatural scares, the little girl being especially vunerable. As the house becomes more dominate in the Lutz's life, Kathy asks a priest (Philip Baker Hall) to bless the house. We all know what happens next: Flies and more flies as the house tells the priest, "Get OUT!" While offering nothing new to the Amityville legend (besides the addition of a boathouse in the backyard), the remake offers plenty of scares and thrills (including a tense rooftop rescue). Since one of the producers is Michael Bay (who did the same on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake in 2003), expect plenty of quick-cutting and loud soundtrack jumps. Director Andrew Douglas (a TV commercial director before this) actually keeps Ryan Reynolds' performance restrained, as he has no sarcastic wisecracks to spout here like most of the films he's been in (especially BLADE: TRINITY - 2004). Reynolds is actually quite good here as a man drifting into a psychotic rage he tries so hard to control. I've seen a lot worse than this, so give it a chance when you have the time. Besides, it's only 89 minutes long, a full 30 minutes shorter than the original (which I always thought could have used some trimming anyway). Also starring Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Grace Moretz, Rachel Nichols and Brendon Donaldson. An MGM Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
ANIMAL INSTINCTS (1992) - This is probably the worst erotic thriller in recent memory. Cop Maxwell Caulfield tapes his overly eager wife (Shannon Whirry) in sexual frenzy with total strangers (both men and women). He does it to help save his marriage (he also gets his rocks off viewing the tapes). When he recognizes one of his wife's visitors as someone important he comes up with a blackmail scheme which lands him and his wife in hot water. There is absolutely nothing to recommend here. There are no murders, very little nudity and a real cop-out of an ending. Director A. Gregory Hippolyte (CARNAL CRIMES - 1991; MIRROR IMAGES - 1991; MIRROR IMAGES II - 1993), who directs porn films and non-sex flicks under the name "Gregory Dark" (his birth name is actually "Gregory Hippolyte Brown"), shows no talent whatsoever when it comes to erotic thrillers. Where he does excel is in directing stylish porn fims (NEW WAVE HOOKERS - 1985) and ultra-violent horror and sci-fi films, such as DEAD MEN WALKING (1987), STREET ASYLUM (1990) and SEE NO EVIL (2006). Demand your money back if you got suckered renting this one. An Academy Entertainment Release. Spawned two sequels, both directed by Hippolyte. Unrated.
AQUANOIDS (2003) - Ambitious little no-budgeter that bites off a little more than it can chew. In 1987 a small California coastal town (actually filmed on Catalina Island) experiences 17 deaths attributed to sea creatures known as Aquanoids. It was all covered up by the Mayor and 16 years later the Aquanoids are back killing the surfers and swimmers on the Fourth of July, much to the consternation of the Mayor and his businessman partner and their "land deal". A female environmentalist, Vanessa (Laura Nativo), and her friend Christina (Rhoda Jordan) try to warn to populace, but are ignored by everyone except her cop boyfriend Bruce (Christopher Irwin). The Mayor and his friend try to kill Vanessa and fail. The rest of the film contains scenes that are downright homages to HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980), JAWS (1975) and contain references to TENTACLES (1977) and ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION (1991). Co-writers Eric Spudic and Mark J. Gordon pepper the script with touches of absurd humor (The coroner says "Say hi to your Grandpa!" to the Mayor soon after his dead daughter, who was raped by the monster, gives birth to a baby Aquanoid and gets shot through the head for the comment!; The businessman fakes jerking-off with lotion while stealing an incriminating videotape from a news reporter.), but the bad acting, laughable creature suit and haphazard direction by Ray Peschke sink this film before it has a chance of floating to the top. On the plus side are the wonderful underwater photography (also by Peschke), copious nudity, some good gore scenes and split screen effects (something you don't usually see in low budget filmmmaking). Having the heroines riding motorized scooters was also a hoot too. It could have been a good film with proper financing and actors that can do line readings without the help of cue cards. As it stands, it's an OK time-waster good for a few laughs. Also starring Hugh Laurence Hobbs, Edwin Craig, Ike Gingrich, Susan Spann and Doug Martin as the coroner, the best part of the film. A York Entertainment Home Video Release. The VHS tape is in letterbox, even though the video box doesn't mention it. A pleasant surprise. Also available on DVD. Rated R.
AGE VAMPIRE (1960) - Don't
be fooled by the title, there's not a vampire in sight, just a grisly
little Italian horror flick with much to recommend. I remember
watching this on TV as a child in the '60s and being scared shitless
(and that was the edited-for-TV version). Even though 20 minutes were
cut out for its U.S. theatrical release, it is still an adult shocker.
Professor Alberto Levin (Alberto Lupo; MINOTAUR, THE WILD BEAST OF CRETE - 1961) is in love with exotic dancer Jeanette Moreneau (Susanne Loret; UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE - 1959), but when she has an accident in her car (it goes over a cliff and explodes), burning her over 90% of her body, it forces Alberto to use experimental means to restore her beauty (her face is horribly burned). Alberto has created a serum that regenerates human skin cells at an alarming rate, but it is only temporary (Pre-dating DARKMAN  by 30 years. It makes you wonder.). Alberto tests his serum on himself, turning him into a murderous monster at the most inopportune times and he kills beautiful women to make more serum to keep Jeanette beautiful.
His first victim is his own lab assistant Monique (Franca Parisi; WHITE SLAVE SHIP - 1961), who is jealous of Jeanette being Alberto's lover. She seems very happy when she sees Jeanette revert back to her ugly, burned self and doesn't want to help Alberto restore his love's beauty (In her defense, Alberto tells her that they will have to kill young beautiful women in order to keep Jeanette a stone cold fox). Alberto even goes as far as to make Monique his lover and she appreciates it, not knowing that when he kissed her, he put a drug in her glass of champagne, putting her in a permanent coma. He eventually kills her and uses her glands to make more serum.
Alberto is being dogged by the Commissioner of Police (Ivo Garrani; MILANO CALIBRO 9 - 1972) when bodies of pretty women turn up in the morgue. Also suspicious is Alberto's mute servant Sacha (Roberto Bertea), but he is unable to voice his suspicions to the Commissioner. As soon as the Commissioner leaves his house, Alberto turns into his Mr. Hyde and takes a female pedestrian's (Gianna Piaz) life, so he can perfect the serum to turn back into his normal self, but that, too, is only temporary. Now Alberto has to kill more women to obtain both of his goals.
Jeanette also has a secret. She is in love with Pierre Mornet (Sergio Fantoni; THE BELLY OF AN ARCHITECT - 1987), the owner of a nightclub where she performed. When she meets Pierre, he is shocked to see she is beautiful again, so he goes to the Commissioner and tells him what he saw and what Jeanette told him about Alberto. The Commissioner finds it hard to believe, since Jeanette is classified as a missing person, but he goes to Alberto's house to see if it is true. Alberto assures him that he doesn't know where Jeanette is and the Commissioner believes him...for now (But Pierre secretly stands guard at the house). We then learn that Alberto does all of his experimenting in a greenhouse on his property and one of the Commissioner's men wonders (out loud) why the gardener (Andrea Scotti; WEREWOLF WOMAN - 1976) works nights as well as days (he's standing guard over the greenhouse).
Jeanette becomes disillusioned with Alberto, telling him that she wants to go back to Pierre. Alberto talks her into staying, telling her that in a few days he will perfect his serum and she will have to take no more shots. Alberto goes to a movie theater (Remember when you were allowed to smoke there? I do.) and follows a female patron home, where he tries to kill her, but her dog and some neighbors hear her screams and stop him. Alberto escapes from them by jumping from rooftop to rooftop, but this is the first big break for the Commissioner, as he and his men find some evidence at the movie theater and has the coroner examine it (it is Alberto's blood). What will happen to Jeanette? Will Alberto perfect his serum and make Jeanette and himself perfect or is he blowing hot air?
When Jeanette sees Alberto turning into his ugly alter ego, she screams, alerting Pierre outside. Pierre gets into a fight with the transformed Alberto and when he tries to kill Pierre, Jeanette intervenes. Everything concludes in the greenhouse, where Alberto dies in a hail of bullets and Jeanette and Pierre will have to live with her being ugly. But the final shot shows us that Alberto did indeed perfect his serum and the last thing he did before he died was inject Jeanette with it. So there is a happy ending after all.
This black & white Public Domain (PD) film was very adult for its time (not unlike THE MANSTER - 1960), forcing extensive cuts to be made so it was viewable to children in U.S. movie theaters. Director Anton Giulio Majano (LIONS OF CORSICA - 1961, who went on to a successful career in Italian television, directing TV movies and mini-series until his death in 1994) does sneak in some bits of nudity in this film, but they are almost subliminal, as you have to slow down the film frame-by-frame to see them, the most notable is Jeanette's right breast sticking out of her sexy nightie when she gets out of bed in the last 15 minutes of the film (Also, look in the nightclub the first time we see Pierre, when a belly dancer exposes her breasts in the background, but only for two frames). The screenplay, by Majano, Gino De Santis (FURY OF ACHILLES -1962) & Alberto Bevilacqua (PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES - 1965), shies away from Alberto killing the women, but it has an air of sleaze that editing cannot destroy. This is a good, late night film to watch with the lights out (many kids did, on TV in the '60s & '70s).
Filmed as SEDDOK, L'EREDE DI SATANA ("Seddok, The Heir Of Satan"), this film did get a U.S. theatrical release (by Topaz Film Corp.) and, thanks to its Public Domain status, it has many VHS releases, most notably by Acme Video (an arm of Rhino Home Video that only released PD films). It also had many stand-alone and multi-film DVD releases. The stand-alone DVD from Alpha Video is the 70-minute TV cut and not the 87 minute theatrical edit as it states on the DVD sleeve. Avoid that one at all costs unless you are nostalgic. My review is based on the 107-minute Italian version, which was fansubbed on torrent site Cimemageddon. While I generally frown upon torrent sites, I don't feel guilty about downloading this version, even though only the 70 and 87-minute versions are in the Public Domain. I hardly doubt that any company would release this version on DVD in the United States because it definitely could have used some editing, as the middle section really drags, so if you can find the 87-minute version, that is the one you should watch (I believe it is part of Mill Creek Entertainment's The Undead: Vampire Collection 20 Movie Classic Features compilation DVD, but I won't swear to it, as I have seen this film many times in all three versions). A nice blast from the past that doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Also starring Rina Franchetti (CROSS CURRENT - 1971), Gianni Loti (THE GIANT OF MARATHON - 1959), Tullio Altamura (HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS - 1963), Francesco Sormano (THE SECRET 7 - 1963) and Glamor Mora as the belly dancer. Not Rated.
THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2000) - Head-scratching horror film that leaves too many questions unanswered. Trevor Blackburn (Andras Jones of FAR FROM HOME - 1989) awakens from a coma to be told by the strange Dr. Ek (Jeffrey Combs of CASTLE FREAK - 1995) that he has killed his fiancee in some kind of ritual sacrifice. Trevor has no memories of this ever happening and is put into a halfway house populated by the craziest patients this side of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975). Trevor teams up with another patient (an over-hyper Seth Green of IDLE HANDS - 1999) to search the forbidden attic of the halfway house as it may hold clues to Trevor's past. Pretty soon the patients start turning up dead in various bloody ways. Or do they? Is this all happening in Trevor's mind or is Dr. Ek running one of his secret medical experiments on him? Beats me, as the finale has one of the most "What the fuck?!" denouements in recent memory. This is by no means a bad film as it contains many atmospheric scenes that induce shudders and it doesn't skimp on the blood and gore. It's just that the film as a whole is unsatisfying because director Jeremy Kasten and screenwriter Rogan Russell Marshall seem to have made a movie that can't possibly have any type of coherent ending. That's a shame because it had a really good premise. Also starring Wendie Robie (TWIN PEAKS [1990 - 1992]), Ted Raimi (SKINNER - 1993), Beth Bates, Shannon Hart Cleary and a funny cameo by Alice Cooper. A First Look Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
AXE GIANT: THE WRATH OF PAUL BUNYAN (2012) - Minnesota 1884: Foreman Bill (a cameo by Dan Haggerty) and his lumberjack crew have just called it a day and are ready for dinner, where Elmer the Cook (Alan Tuskes) is roasting a huge ox over a fire pit. Bill needs to take a shit before he eats, so he leaves for the forest without his axe. When he returns, he finds his entire crew and the other hired crew have been slaughtered, their heads and other body parts bloodily dismembered. A slightly tall man with a monstrous face appears and chases Bill into the log-sawing shack. Bill first loses an arm from the large round spinning blade and then he gets cut in half through the middle of his skull. Cut to the present at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, where Ms. K (Kristina Kopf) and the gruff Sgt. Hoke (Tom Downey) are running the "First Offender Program", where teens and young adults like Marty (Clifton Williams), Rosa (Victoria Ramos), Trish (Jill Evyn), Zack (Jesse Kove) and CB Tanner (Amber Thomas), the father of Sheriff Tanner (Tim Lovelace), have to survive a week in the Minnesota forest and they will have their records wiped clean if they stay out of trouble for six months. The trouble is CB is only semi-guilty, since she got behind the wheel of her car slightly buzzed ("Buzzed driving is drunk driving" is what those commercials say over and over) and a man ran a red light and smacked into her car. A man with influence with three arrests for DWI who used his power to blame CB and made her attorney take a plea deal. Daddy was powerless to do anything, because he was overruled at the State level. So she took the plea deal and is now in this program. People will thank her for that. Once everyone is in the forest (where Sgt. Hoke treats them like they are in the the military while he enjoys fine cigars and booze in his cabin), everyone meets Meeks (Joe Estevez, who can do this kind of role blindfolded), who tells them that there is death waiting for them the deeper they go into the forest, but Sgt. Hoke tells everyone he is crazy. Not as crazy as Sgt. Hoke thinks. On one of their grueling hikes, the giant Paul Bunyan (Chris Hahn, who is rendered in CGI, forced perspective and miniature sets) appears behind Trish and uses his trusty giant axe to split her in half vertically and the cuts Sgt. Hoke in half through his stomach, stepping Sgt. Hoke's upper torso when he won't shut up about killing him (both deaths are highly graphic). Rosa is injured by a giant flying branch, so everyone still left alive holes-up in a cabin, while Paul Bunyan drags their van away ("There goes our only ride, man!"). Meeks joins the group and tells them the real story about Paul Bunyan. When he was born, he was unusually large and doctors gave him a slim chance to live. His face was especially deformed from the delivery. Meeks tells the group that Bunyan is so angry because Zack stole one of Babe The Blue Ox's horns and he wants it back. If they place it at the shrine he created for his only one true friend, Paul Bunyon will probably leave them alone. Zack goes outside and throws the horn into the woods, screaming that the giant can leave them alone now, but the horn comes flying back and impales Zack through his stomach and Paul Bunyan drags Zack away screaming. Meeks continues his story of Paul Bunyan ("He's twice a big as the normal man and lives three times as long!") and we see in flashback Foreman Bill kill Babe and then hand him over to Elmer the Cook to make dinner out of. Paul Bunyan (who is already six foot high and just a teenager of 13) is enraged and goes on a murder spree (we get to see him cut heads and appendages off where we only saw the aftermath in the beginning of the film, thanks to Robert Kurtzman's Creature Corps), ending in Foreman Bill's death. The people in town capture him and drag him through town (the two men who drag him are Robert Kurtzman and director Gary Jones), where people spit on him and the girl he was sweet on, Mel (Donna Williams), turns her back on him (She could overlook his ugliness, but not murder). He is thrown into a mine shaft and the entrance sealed with dynamite. Bunyan eventually escaped and headed for the high country, where he built a shrine to Babe and grew and grew and grew. He really never bothered anyone (We watch him kill a bear in the beginning of the film when the bear goes to kill a deer, so he lives off the land) and has kept to himself, but the desecration of Babe's shrine by Zack has turned him into a wild man once again. Ms. K and the rest of the kids are still in big trouble from Paul Bunyan's vengeance. Can Sheriff Tanner save them in time? CB is in the most danger because she is the spitting image of Paul's old flame Mel and Bunyan attacks the cabin, using his axe to chop a hole into the cabin's roof. He grabs Rosa, but when he gets a good look at her and sees it is not CB, Bunyan throws her through the air like a ragdoll, where she hits a tree and dies. Ms. K uses Sgt. Hoke's pistol and shoots Bunyan in the eye and Sheriff Tanner shows up, puts a few rifle shots into Bunyan and he falls back into the shack (a very good use of miniature sets and forced perspective). Meeks, carrying a shotgun, refuses to let anyone leave, because he does not want the town to know that Paul Bunyan is real. Marty goes to grab the shotgun away from Meeks and gets shot in the chest and dies. I guess Paul Bunyan doesn't feel the same way about Meeks, because he throws the giant axe and decapitates him (another very well done scene, where Meek's rolling head ends up in front of the camera). The last three remaining survivors jump into Sheriff Tanner's truck, where CB drives while her father shoots at Paul Bunyan. who is chasing the truck. CB eventually crashes the truck (Was she buzzed?), so the three head for a small bridge with Bunyan not far behind. The door to the other side of the bridge is locked and gunfire won't open it, but a posse who heard the Sheriff's call for help earlier in the film show up and put a whole lot of gunfire into Bunyan's body (pretty good scene). Before Bunyan dies, he looks at CB and says "Mel! Mel!" and falls off the bridge to the river below. All we see is one huge blood puddle. Is this the end of Paul Bunyan (it isn't if you read the final words in the end credits)? The posse carry Paul Bunyon's giant axe away as proof and Sheriff Tanner, CB and Ms. K have a story to tell for generations to come. And remember: "No critters were harmed in the making of this film." This film made its debut on the SyFy Network, but in severely edited form. There are scenes of topless female nudity, foul language and plenty of bloody gore that even regular cable wouldn't allow. Director/co-screenwriter (with Jeff Miller)/co-producer (also with Miller)/visual effects editor Gary Jones (MOSQUITO - 1995 [Jones and the late star Gunnar Hansen built up a professional and personal friendship]; SPIDERS - 2000 [a real guilty pleasure, even though the acting sucks]; CROCODILE 2: DEATH SWAMP - 2002 [must hold some type of record for saying the word "fuck"]; JOLLY ROGER: MASSACRE AT CUTTER'S COVE - 2005 [one of The Asylum's few non-mockumentaries]; BOOGEYMAN 3 - 2008 [the best of the franchise]; and many others) manages to keep the CGI at a minimum (Once you see Babe The Blue Ox in CGI, you'll be thankful, believe me!) and relies more on physical effects (although some are "goosed" with CGI), which makes a world of difference in the enjoyment of this film. Robert Kurtzman's gory effects are very well done (he makes a better effects man than a director, as you can see in BURIED ALIVE , THE RAGE  and DEADLY IMPACT , although I will give him his well-deserved props for WISHMASTER ). This is no great shakes as a horror film, but it is a nice little time-waster with some welcome gore, minimal CGI and nudity if you watch it in its unedited form. Not your typical SyFy film. Besides, who doesn't want to see Grizzly Adams bite the big one in such a bloody way? It's worth it just for that alone. Also starring Bud Moffett, Daniel Alan Kiely, John Schneider (no, not that one), Tom Luhtala and Jeremy Price. A Virgil Films & Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
THE BAY (2012) - Readers of this site know that I'm not the biggest fan of "found footage" films, but here's one that is done correctly and it's also bloody and scary as hell. Maybe that's because it was directed by Academy Award winner Barry Levinson (he also co-wrote the story and co-produced with Oren Peli; the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise), who gave us such quality movies like DINER (1982) and RAIN MAN (1988). The story adds-on to the real-life incidents in 2009, where millions of dead fish washed ashore and flocks of birds dropped dead in mid-air all over the world. The film starts in 2012, where reporter Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) give a video interview that contains government-confiscated footage from all different sources about something she witnessed as a novice fluff story TV reporter in the coastal town of Claridge, Maryland on July 4, 2009 (actually filmed in Georgetown, South Carolina). The town is enjoying it's tourist-packed July 4th celebration when people start breaking out in disgusting boils, bleeding profusely from every orifice and finally dying after something eats its way from the inside-out of their bodies. Footage taken by a couple of oceanographers and an eco-terrorist a month earlier show that the bay is severly polluted, probably because a huge chicken farm in the vicinity is dumping tons and tons of chicken shit directly into the water (the shit contains steroids used to feed the chickens so they grow faster). The oceanographers discover an unknown parasite is infecting the fish, sometimes growing to fist size in a record amount of time. Mayor John Stockman (Frank Deal) knows all about it, but refused to report it to higher authorities in fear that it will destroy their tourism business (reminicent of JAWS - 1975). He did the same thing two years earlier when the local nuclear power plant had an accident and radioactive waste seeped into the bay and local artesian wells. To make matters worse, the Mayor built a desalinization plant, which turns the bay's salt water into fresh drinking water. Now it has all come back to bite him in the ass. People begin dropping like flies, quickly filling up the town's hospital. Dr. Jack Abrams (Stephen Kunken) sees the rapidly spreading boils, is forced to amputate limbs and contacts the Center For Disease Control, who prove as useful as tits on a rock. As the outbreak progresses, the parasites begin biting out people's tongues and bursting out of every part of their bodies, while Donna and her cameraman document what is going on outside. What follows next is not for the faint of heart. Even though the ending is a little too pat, director Levinson mostly stays away from the "shakey cam" syndrome, relying instead on a professional news cameraman, stationary cameras throughout the town, police car dashboard cameras and Skype conversations on computers to document the carnage. There are a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments as well and the gore and blood scenes are very well done and plentiful (even the CGI parasites are seamless). Hey, I'll now admit that not all found footage films are bad (I also liked CHRONICLE - 2012), but this one stands out among the pack because it has a director who knows how to do it right. See it when you get the chance and decide for yourself. Also starring Kristen Connolly, Christopher Denham, Justin Welborn, Andy Stahl, James Patrick Freetly, Lauren Cohn, Jody Thompson and Robert Treveiler as the most useless CDC doctor ever committed to film. Originally released simultaneously to theaters and Video On Demand (VOD), a new practice that is becoming commonplace with small films like this. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.
BEYOND JUSTICE (1990) - Rutger Hauer takes another step in the wrong direction appearing in this lifeless Italian action flick. Hauer is hired by rich bitch Carol Alt to retrieve her son who has been kidnapped by her ex-husband (Kabir Bedi). Bedi brings the kid to grandfather Omar Sharif's Middle Eastern fortress to teach him how to become Emir once Omar kicks the bucket. This film breaks the cardinal rule of action films: It's deadly slow and dull. Nice music though. Directed by Duccio Tessari (THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971). Rated R.
BLACK CRYSTAL (1990) - Remember that first time you had sex? The uncertainty. The sweaty palms. The joy you felt during the actual act of making love and, finally, realizing how quick the whole thing took. You'll experience nothing of that while watching this film. One-man kamakaze squad Mike Conway wrote, directed, edited, starred and composed the music for this piece of crap. When Will Harper (Conway) picks up a hitchhiker on a deserted highway, they are forced off the road by a bunch of guys wearing sneakers. The hitchhiker is killed (his eyes are ripped out) and Will escapes with a black crystal that the hitchhiker had in his possession. The hitchhiker mentioned a girl named Daphne who happens to live in the same town as Will's brother Pete. The townspeople warn Will to stay away from Daphne (Lily Brown), but he doesn't listen. Daphne is a witch and the black crystal is a power source wanted by a cult leader Daniel (Mark Lang) that will channel all the evil energy of the world. Will and Daphne fall in love and Daphne gets Will out of a couple of scrapes with the locals by killing them with her powers. When Pete dies after trying to run Daphne out of town, the cult leader and his henchmen kidnap Will and Daphne. While Daphne takes Daniel to the crystal Will escapes. The chase is on as we find out that Daphne and Daniel were once lovers and they are immortals. Will begins to wipe out the cult members one-by-one until only he and Daniel are left. (As Will pumps bullets into Daniel's chest, he says: "You are becoming a real pimple on my ass!") Who will survive? Will Will and Daphne find true love? Who gives a flying fuck? This is a lazily-filmed piece of junk that contains atrocious acting, bad dialogue ("You filthy son of a whore!), a snail-like pace (at 70 minutes, it seems twice as long), terrible effects and a budget that would probably buy you breakfast at your local IHOP. Avoid this one like the plague. It shouldn't be too hard, since no one really has heard of this film before it was listed on the Internet Movie Database! The end credits list the title as THE BLACK TRIANGLE. Mike Conway also directed the equally obscure films WAR OF THE PLANETS (2002), THE AWAKENING (2005) and EXILE (2008). Maybe they are all obscure for a reason. A Raedon Home Video Release (Have they released anything that was good?). Unrated, but no worse than an R.
THE BLACK ROOM (1981) - Brother and sister Jason (Stephen Knight) and Bridgette (Cassandra Gaviola) rent a candle-lit room in their palacial mansion for couples to have sex and do drugs while Jason photographs them through a two-way mirror. Unfortunately Jason has a rare blood disease that only affects those of Mediterranian heritage and he needs fresh blood transfusions in order to stay alive. They end up killing most of the people who rent the "black room" and drain them of their blood through an elaborate machine in their basement. Married couple Larry (Jimmy Stathis) and Robin (Clara Perryman) have an "open" marriage even though they have two kids. Larry takes young women to the rented room and has sex with them with Robin's somewhat reluctant permission. Most of Larry's pick-ups end up as drained corpses which Jason and Bridgette bury in crates in their backyard. Robin becomes curious and comes to the mansion to see what Larry really does. Jason shows her through the two-way mirror what he does and it affects Robin considerably. Robin has sex with Jason and some other unknown men just to get back at Larry. Just as it seems as their marriage is falling apart, Larry and Robin must fight for their lives to stay alive so they do not become the latest victims of the "black room". This is an OK time-waster that has it's fair share of blood and nudity, even if one scene is totally unbelievable: When one of their female victims escapes (she's all pasty-faced by having most of her blood drained), she is able to flag down a truck. But Jason and Bridgette talk the driver out of taking her away! Director Elly Kenner (who has never done anything before or since) and writer and co-director Norman Thaddeus Vane (of MIDNIGHT  and TAXI DANCERS  infamy) do inject the proceedings with some erotica and some cringe-inducing bloodletting scenes (including Bridgette's neck stabbing by Robin in the finale). The ending also leaves it wide-open for a sequel (and kind of blows everything which preceeds it moot) which never materialized. Look out for cameos from a young Christopher McDonald and Linnea Quigley as blood donors. Also starring Charlie Young, Geanne Frank and Allisun Kale. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R.
BLACK ROSES (1988) - The 80's turned out a bunch of turgid Rock 'N' Roll-themed horror movies and this is one of the worst of them. You know you are in trouble when the hero is the poetry teacher of the local high school! When the rock band Black Roses turn up in a small town to give a few concerts before hitting the big cities, the local parents , including the Mayor (Ken Swofford of HUNTER'S BLOOD), listen to a practice session to ease the tensions that the band will cause trouble in the town. After the band gives a pleasant-sounding concert and the parents leave, they then begin to play heavy metal music which turns to kids into parent-killing machines. Parents are shot, bludgeoned, sucked into speakers (a much thinner Vincent Pastore, Big Pussy on THE SOPRANOS, in his first film role) and have their throats slashed. Poetry teacher Matt (John Martin) must try to stop the band and the kids (who turn into rubbery creatures) at their final concert (by setting the building on fire!), where all the kids will be turned into Satan-loving worshippers. Better-known for its' 3-D video box than for the film itself, this relic from the rather-be-forgotten 80's decade of Hair Metal is an endurance test for even the most ardent horror fan, as the effects are pathetic, the monsters fake-looking and the acting over-the-top. Director John Fasano, who a year earlier foisted ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (with that star still waiting to be recognized, Jon Mikyl Thor) on an unsuspecting public, does not improve his craft here as the music is bad, the action listless and the ending a letdown. Stay away from this unless you want to see a bunch of kids overreact at a rock concert. White Snake would be proud. Also starring Julie Adams, Sal Viviano, Carmine Appice and Carla Ferrigno. Fasano would later go on to direct the first American-based Chinese hopping vampire movie, THE JITTERS (1988), as well as writing (and sometimes directing and producing) some made-for-TV films. An Imperial Entertainment Corp. Release. Rated R. Other Rock-themed 80's horror films include TERROR ON TOUR (1980), ROCKTOBER BLOOD (1984), BLOOD TRACKS (1985) and HARD ROCK ZOMBIES (1985).
BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER (1963) -
Many Americans got their first taste of Italian horror courtesy of
their television sets. This film played constantly on TV during the
'60s & '70s and then disappeared. There was nothing like Italian
gothic horror and this black-and-white film is a good example of it
being done right, made to cash-in on the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe
films of the early-'60s, yet containing plenty of creepy, atmospheric
sequences, locations and situations.
Northern France 1884: Emilie De Blancheville ("Joan Hills" a.k.a. Ombretta Colli; WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS - 1966) returns to her ancestral home (a castle surrounded by barren woods) after years of self-imposed exile (in other words, she went to college). When Emilie arrives at the castle, she and her college friend Alice Taylor (Irán Eory; WEB OF VIOLENCE - 1966), along with Alice's brother John ("Richard Davis" a.k.a. Vanni Materassi; THE SISTER OF URSULA - 1978), who have made the trip with her, meet new butler Alistair ("Frank Moran" a.k.a. Paco Morán; PYRO - 1964), who seems suspicious to the audience and to Emilie.
Once in the castle, John notices Emilie staring at a portrait of her father and she tells him that the last time she was home, her father was alive. She then meets her brother, Roderic (Gérard Tichy; PIECES - 1982) and we learn that it is one week until Emilie's 21st birthday (Roderic says to Emilie, "I still own you until then."). While Alistair shows Alice and John to their rooms, Emilie collapses into Roderic's arms, crying that she was never able to see their father before he died. Roderic sent Emilie a telegram days after their father died, but why?
Emilie sees an imposing woman at the top of the stairs and asks Roderic who she is. He replies that she is Miss Eleonore (Helga Liné; RINGS OF FEAR - 1978), the new housekeeper. The old housekeeper, Dorothy, passed away because she was old, or so Roderic says. Roderic has nothing but nice things to say about Miss Eleonore, but the look on his face tells us that there is much more to her going on other than housekeeping. When Eleonore shows Emilie to her room, Roderic goes to the piano and starts playing a tune that sounds like a funeral dirge. Why is he so somber?
At dinner (at a very large table), Emily and Alice hear what sounds like a dog howling. Their dinner is interrupted by Doctor LaRouche (Leo Anchóriz; UP THE MACGREGORS - 1967), Roderic's personal doctor. When Emilie asks her brother what happened to the previous family doctor, Roderic tells her that he got old and died (This castle doesn't treat the elderly very well, does it?). When everyone exits the dining room, the doctor hands Eleonore something and she tells him he has to honor his commitment. what commitment?
That night, Alice hears someone moaning and she goes to the tower to investigate, finding Alice holding a hypodermic needle and about to inject a man with burned skin, with blood on his hands. Alice passes out and falls into Roderic's arms. When she wakes up, she tells Roderic what she saw, but Roderic tells her she must have had a nightmare. she leads him to the tower, but the room is now empty. Roderic starts a romantic relationship with Alice, telling her that her brother is beneath Emilie (John is in love with Emilie), because "noble blood" flows through her veins. Roderic tells Doctor LaRouche that he is going to tell Emilie and Alice "everything" and walks upstairs and says, "Emilie, you must prepare yourself for something unpleasant." He goes on to say that their father is not dead and apologises to alice for deceiving her last night. Their father became horribly disfigured in a fire at the castle's abby. The man Alice saw with Eleonore was their father and Roderic tells Emilie that he has escaped and fled into the woods. He is dangerous and wants to kill Emilie. "Carved on a headstone in the family tomb there is an old prophecy that only a warped and distorted mind can believe in", says Roderic. He continues, "It says that the House of De Blancheville will end with this generation if a female descendent reaches the age of 21. Father will do anything to carry out this prophecy and that's why he wants to kill you Emilie!" Roderic assures Emilie that he will watch over her and not to worry, but it is plain to see that she is in danger. That night, her father comes into Emilie's bedroom and hypnotizes her. She sleepwalks in a trance to the abby, with her disfigured father following her. "Your tomb, Emilie, your tomb! Enter to your death!" says her father, but Roderic and Doctor LaRouche save her in the nick of time. Is this disfigured man actually her father or is something more sinister going on?
This black-and white film, directed by "Martin Herbert" (real name: Alberto De Martino; MEDUSA VS. THE SON OF HERCULES - 1963; THE TEMPTER - 1974; BLOOD LINK - 1983; FORMULA FOR A MURDER - 1985) and written by "Gordon Wilson Jr." (Bruno Corbucci; THE COP IN BLUE JEANS - 1976) & "Jean Grimaud" (Giovanni Grimaldi; CASTLE OF BLOOD - 1964), based on Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Premature Burial", is steeped in atmosphere and contains some great location set-pieces and some unusual camera work (such as the dream Emilie has when Miss Eleonore drugs her). The film gives the viewer many clues as to what is actually going on, some easy and some sly (like Alice finding a book on hypnotism in Doctor LaRouche's medical bag). Gothic horror like this only really works in black-and-white (unless you are Mario Bava), as the shadows hold secrets that color cannot convey.
This Italy/Spain co-production, filmed under the simple title HORROR, fell into the Public Domain a long time ago and can be found on many DVD compilations, such as the CHILLING CLASSICS 50 MOVIE PACK. My review is based on the stand-alone fullscreen DVD from Alpha Video. The print is soft, but better looking than those on compressed DVDs. It reminded me of watching it on TV in the '60s with a roof antenna, before cable became commonplace. It is also available in widescreen from Bayview/Retromedia Entertainment. This is a nice throwback to when films like this were shown on TV on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we will never see those days again. I'm going to do my best in reviewing many of those films that still haunt me from my childhood. Also starring Emily Wolkowicz (WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? - 1972) and Harry Winter. Not Rated, but nothing objectionable. Just good, creepy entertainment.
BLOOD FRENZY (1987) - This slasher film in the mold of FRIDAY THE 13TH has two things going for it: A scary jack-in-the-box rendition of "Pop Goes The Weasel" on the soundtrack and a blood and gore-drenched finale. The films' slight and ridiculous story line involves a female psychiatrist driving a handful of her patients to the middle of the California desert for a group "confrontational" therapy session. All the patients have a certain stereotypical problem (disturbed Vietnam vet, nymphomaniac, lesbian, alcoholic, etc..). An unknown assailant starts to dispatch the patients to the tune of "Pop" in various bloody ways. Sliced throats are a specialty. Nothing new in that department, right? The acting ranges from good to sub-par and the scenery gets tedious after a while. The film is fairly bloody throughout and it really begins to flow in the last 10 minutes, even if deja vu sets in after the first 10 minutes. Directed by Hal Freeman (a porn director by trade [the CAUGHT FROM BEHIND series] who was once prosecuted in 1988 for "pandering" and won!) and starring Wendy McDonald, Tony Montero, Lisa (the original "Wednesday Addams") Loring and Hank Garrett. Photographed by future PM Entertainment action specialist Richard Pepin (CYBER-TRACKER - 1994). A Hollywood Family Entertainment Video Release (What "Hollywood Family" was BLOOD FRENZY made for, the Lohans?). Unrated.
BLOOD GNOME (2003) - I liked this micro-budgeted horror film because it tries to be different. It is just as interested in the Bondage Sadomasochistic (BDSM) lifestyle as it is in horror. A troubled Crime Scene Photographer named Daniel (Vincent Bilancio, also a Producer) spots a very small hand print at a murder scene involving a BDSM couple ripped apart with body pieces missing. His assistant accidentally has his Sony Handycam set in nightvision mode and Daniel spots a small creature (who is invisible to the naked eye) in the viewing screen. Of, course no one believes him so he goes to a bondage mistress Divinity (Mellissa Pursley) to help him understand the BDSM lifestyle. This leads both of them to a bondage queen Elandra (Ri Walton), who keeps a mother gnome in a box, whom she feeds the missing body parts to. The mother gnome then gives birth to baby gnomes who Elandra sticks with hypodermics and extracts a hallucinogenic drug which she sells for big profits. Sensing that Daniel is getting too close, Elantra sends her invisible gnomes to kill him. Daniel bites one of the gnomes and tastes their blood, thereby giving him the ability to see them. More murders of BDSM couples ensue and Elantra manages to get her gnomes to implicate Daniel in the murders. Daniel and Divinity must stop Elantra at a big BDSM party, where Elantra plans on killing everyone and feeding them to the mother gnome. The effects by Todd Rex range from laughable to excellent and the screenplay by director John Lechago keeps the viewer on their toes. The bloody body-ripping effects are very well-done as the invisible gnomes (who are mostly seen as a blur) slice and dice the tied-up victims. Bilancio (CAMP BLOOD - 1999; DEADLY SCAVENGERS - 2001) is very good as the exhausted photographer (with a whacked-out back story) and scream queen Julie Strain and the Porcelain Twinz (?) put in cameos at the final party slaughter. The gnomes themselves are just a cut above the GHOULIES (1985), but it doesn't distract the viewer from having a bloody good time. Also starring Laurie Jameson, Charles Mosby and Scott Evangelista. More small-budgeted films should take chances like this. It might make the whole low-budget filmmaking culture that much more interesting. A Screen Media Films Release. Rated R.
BLOODLUST ZOMBIES (2011) - It seems that everytime someone decides to direct their first feature, it turns out to be a horror film. And for the past decade, most freshman directors decide to make those horror films depicting zombies; a good percentage of the films dealing with a bunch of infected people killing the unaffected in a locked-down facility, not for the sake of the story, but to keep costs down (the fewer the locations, the cheaper and faster you can shoot it). That describes BLOODLUST ZOMBIES to a tee, with the only different thing about it being that it stars bubble-butted porn actress Alexis Texas (who has made an amazing 329 porn films between 2007 and 2014 and made her share of TV and Film porn "parodies", a term the porn business uses so the major studios can't sue them for copyright infringement). Let me say this about Alexis Texas: as an actress, she makes a fine naked female. In other words, she has no future in non-porn films unless she starts taking acting lessons (Fred Olen Ray used her once in BIKINI FRANKENSTEIN  and hasn't worked with her since. Now that should tell you something.). The film starts with two lab rats performing experiments on cats with a new serum called "BZ32". After giving the cats shots of BZ32, one cat kills another. Their experiment turns into a success, so at a late-night board meeting, president and CEO Bobby Lee (Robert Heath) asks co-workers Judy Miller (Janice Marie), Darren (Adam Danoff, this film's Co-Producer and Editor), Catherine (Catherine White) and Executive Assistant Andrea (Alexis Texas) to stay late so they can Skype the good news to their sister company in another time zone. BZ32 is a hit. Well, it's a hit if you take into consideration that it causes humans to become zombified fighting machines (Bobby Lee plans on using this new serum/virus on enemy soldiers so that they will kill each other [There are so many holes in that logic to drive a train through. The first one being: Who are the zombies going to chow-down on next when they eat all their fellow soldiers? Wouldn't they go after us?]). We then see Andrea and Bobby Lee playing "hiding the sausage" (I guess when you can't act, you do what you know best), while Catherine is bringing champagne to the two lab rats for a job well done. One of the workers drops a test tube in the lab, but he says that it wasn't one containing the BZ32 virus, yet the entire building goes into lockdown just in case the threat is real. Catherine is attacked by one of the infected cats and she, in turn, attacks the two lab workers, turning them into the titled creatures. You guessed it: The unaffected employees must now run and hide from the zombies (It is impossible to leave or get into the building [Another huge hole in the plot. Wouldn't some outside agency like the CDC be notified if something like this happened? Or at least the local Police Department?]). The zombies bite everyone they come into contact with (We can imagine the special effects technician, just offscreen, pushing the rubber bulb containing the fake blood and it comes out in perfect streams. It seems every bite results in the same effect.), while everyone else does the most idiotic things at the most inopportune times. This is supposed to be a funny horror film, but their idea of "funny" is Darren imagining all the women in various states of undress when they ask him what he is thinking. There is not an original thought in this film's tiny little brain (they rip off "The Girl From Ipanema" elevator scene from DEEP RISING  for Christ's sake!). Darren even takes a camera photo of his penis to prove to "Libby The Temp" (Lauren Todd) that he is not a zombie, as they shoot guns at each other from a distance of about ten feet (a joke badly ripped-off from THE NAKED GUN - 1988). Alexis Texas proves to us that her greatest assets are her bubble butt and her breasts, as her acting reeks so bad, you can smell it coming out of your disc player. And why do directors and producers always think that they can act in the films they are making? Director/screenwriter/cinematographer/co-producer Dan Lantz (whose only other directorial effort is the gay-themed thriller INTO THE LION'S DEN - 2011) portrays a security guard that likes talking to himself and keeps a closet full of automatic weapons. I really can't decide which is worse: His direction or acting (In the DVD's blooper reel, Lantz tells us that he isn't even in the film, so either he has a short memory or is just trying to make us forget his bad acting). And co-producer/editor Adam Danoff, who supplies most of the film's "comedy", is just simply terrible and unfunny. The basic truth is that while there is plenty of violence, such as ears getting bitten off, skin being bitten and pulled like string cheese, gunshots to the head and axe attacks, Lantz and Danoff's screenplay is juvenile at best and misogynistic at worst (I guess when you have a porn "actress" starring in your film, you must think you can get away with a lot more jokes at the expense of women). There really is not one thing to recommend in this film, not even Alexis Texas' nudity. If you want to see her nude and do much more, rent one of her TV and movie porn parodies. I guarantee you will be a lot more entertained than watching this poor excuse of a film. I have bits of things in my stool that are more entertaining than this. Also starring Sarah Dewey, Robb Stech, Justus White, Jim Bagwell, Jerry Cartier, Kevin Chick and a whole bunch of other people you never heard of. Filmed in Paoli, Pennsylvania. Remind me never to visit there. A Vicious Circle Films DVD Release. Not Rated.
BLOOD SALVAGE (1989) - I remember first watching this Georgia-lensed film when it was released on VHS in the early 90's and being somewhat impressed with it. Today, I wondered why it was never released on disc in the United States. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I now know. It's awful. This horror/comedy is about a southern hick named Jake (Danny Nelson; the insufferable CAPTURED ALIVE - 1995) who runs an illegal human organ black market. Jake has his son, Hiram ( Christian Hesler) run people off the road with his Gran Torino with a spiked front bumper (and the horn beeps "Dixie") and then Jake comes along with his tow truck and tows them to his home, where he "gasses" them by putting a rag over their mouth and nose, puts them in a barn full of his earlier victims (including Elvis!) and removes their organs while keeping them alive for future organ orders. His latest victims are the Evans family. April Evans (Lori Birdsong; MUNCHIES - 1987) is participating in The Stonewall County Peach Festival beauty contest, even though she is confined to a wheelchair due to a "virus" in her spine (she plays a classical tune on a piano while noticing Jake leering and drooling at the sight of her). Jake takes an instant shine to her (he thinks he can "fix" her) and has Hiram mess with the Evans' RV. Dad Clifford Evans (John Saxon, who looks embarrassed to be in this) tries to console April when she loses the pageant, but as they are driving down the road, the front wheel of the RV falls off and they skid off to the side of the road (Young son Bobby [Andy Greenway] says, "Cool! We just got into an accident!"). Along comes Jake and his tow truck and he takes the RV and the entire Evans family, including mother Pat (Laura Whyte; SCALPEL - 1977), back to his house, but April warns her father not to go because she doesn't trust Jake. Clifford should have listened, because when they get to Jakes house, Bobby goes exploring and thinks a live alligator that Jake keeps on the property is a dog! Bobby is soon gassed and put in the barn. Soon Dad And Mom turn out to be victims, but April stays in the RV armed with a shotgun. When she runs out of shotgun shells, Jake takes her to the bedroom of his dead wife, taking her wheelchair away. Jake's retarded son, the fat and hulking Roy (Ralph Pruitt Vaughn, who walks around with a headless talking doll that says "I love you"!), takes an instant shine to April, but Jake warns him to keep away from April because she is his. We see Jake take a long hypodermic needle to Bobby's back and drain him of spinal fluid. Jake uses it to make his own special serum, "gasses" April and injects it into her back. Yep, April can now walk. We then see Mr. Stone (the late Ray Walston; MY FAVORITE MARTIAN - 1963-1966, who looks equally embarrassed) follow Jake into the barn and looks at Clifford's body. Mr Stone buys human organs for the black market and wants Clifford's kidneys as well as mom Pat's eyes. Jake makes a deal with him and Mr. Stone leaves and says he will return in a couple of days to collect the organs, but complains about the alligator walking freely on the property. April tries unsuccessfully a couple of times to escape from her room, so an agitated Jake puts her in his room. (It has a metal door that can't be unhinged or unlocked without the key. We also learn that he keeps the rotting corpse of his wife in his bed!). April tempts Roy to come into the room so she can read a child's book to him and he enters; April hits him over the head with a heavy object and kills him. Jake discovers his body when April escapes (she kills the alligator by leading it into the back end of a garbage truck and crushing it to death, but there are plenty of alligator eggs hatching in an abandoned car, as April discovers when she tries to hide). Jake has had it with April's behavior and decides to use her as an organ donor. As he is about to put a scalpel to her back, April picks up an oil lamp and throws it onto Jake, setting him on fire. She finds her mother, who has had her eyes removed and they take off in the RV that Jake fixed. Hiram is now pissed-off and tries to run them off the road with his Torino, but April leads him to a logging truck stopped on the road and Jake crashes into the truck, a log taking his head off and the car exploding. As mom dies in the back of the RV, we see that a severly-burned Jake has been hiding in the RV and he heads towards a driving April. She slams on the brakes and Jake goes flying through the front window (By the looks of it, there is no such thing as safety glass on RVs!). April runs over his body with the RV and continues on her way. The film ends with a not quite dead Roy, picking up Jake's crushed body and driving off in the tow truck, Hiram's Torino on the hook. Roy thinks he can fix both of them. Horrendously acted by nearly everyone in the cast (especially Birdsong as April, who screams out most of her lines), this film was partially financed by boxer Evander Holyfield (probably for tax shelter purposes), who gets an Executive Producer credit and makes a cameo as a boxer at a carnival, where the barker (boxing trainer great Lou Duva) challenge anyone in the audience to knock out a blindfolded Holyfield, so Hiram decides to try, only to get his lights knocked out. While the acting is abysmal, even more disgusting is the tone of the film, such as when the ultra-religious Jake wants to make April his bride and Hiram threatens to rape her several times. Director/co-screenwriter Tucker Johnston never directed another film again, but he did co-author the screenplay to director Gregory Dark's SECRET GAMES 3 (1994), his only other credit. Producer/Co-Screenwriter Ken Sanders found success producing movies for Lifetime, such as PSYCHO IN-LAW (2017). So many good opportunities are missed in this film (such as putting some light on the inside of the barn so we could get a good look at the organ donors; one who even looks like Yoko Ono!) and it is not as gory as it sounds. Both John Saxon and Ray Walston must have owed someone a big favor because they do not belong in such an unprofessional film as this. Some critic compared this to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) and, while its influence permeates this film (also known as MAD JAKE), the critic must have been viewing a different film than what I saw. This film couldn't lick TCM's meathooks. The boom mike makes a lot of appearances in this film, especially the scenes filmed in Jake's house, but that is probably because it is an unmatted Fullscreen print. If it were OAR, I am sure the mike would be no where to be seen. And to think I liked this film based on the first time I viewed it. Well, I am much older and wiser and can tell a stinker when I see it. This one reeks like a human liver left out in the blazing sun. A Magnum Entertainment VHS Release. Still no DVD or Blu-Ray release in the U.S., but you can buy a German DVD if you have a multi-region player and speak German. Rated R. TRIVIA: Both John Saxon and Ralph Pruitt Vaughn appeared in director Antonio Margheriti's CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980).
PIT OF HORROR (1965) -
Continuing with my reviews of childhood films that fell into the
Public Domain (PD) comes this modern (at least in 1965) gothic horror
film with a maniacal performance by Mickey Hargitay (LADY
FRANKENSTEIN - 1971; DELIRIUM
- 1972) and some risque (at least in 1965) shots of partially-clothed
women. "My vengeance needs blood!" - Marquis De
Sade. So begins the film.
In medieval times, the Crimson Executioner is sentenced to death for torturing and killing countless victims of his wrath. He is put in an Iron Maiden (No, not the heavy metal band!), where the sharp spikes inside impale his body. The device is then sealed with symbol that will damn his soul for all eternity and it is put in his castle as a reminder to everyone of his reign of evil. We are then in the present (at least in 1965), where the "Cover Girls", beautiful models all, are planning on doing a photo shoot in the Crimson Executioner's castle. The models, along with chaperone Rick (Walter Brandi; THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA - 1960), photographer Dermott (Ralph Zucker; Producer of KONG ISLAND - 1969 and THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT - 1973), agent Daniel Parks (Alfredo Rizzo; SS HELL CAMP - 1977), "red shirts" Perry (Nando Angelini; NAKED YOU DIE - 1968) and Raoul (Albert Gordon), try to get in the castle only to discover it is locked (they believe the castle is empty). Perry climbs through a window and lets them in, where Cover Girl Edith (Louise Barrett: SUPERARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS - 1968) tells everyone that she senses evil in the castle.
That evil is Travis Anderson (Hargitay), who doesn't take too kindly strangers invading his privacy. He tells Rick that they must all leave immediately, but when he gets a look at Edith, he changes his mind and tells them that they can stay for the night. Dermott takes advantage of the situation and has the girls get changed for a photo shoot. Perry and Raoul decide to tour the castle on their own and end up in the castle's dungeon, where Perry trips, making an ancient Axe fall off a wall, breaking the seal on the Iron Maiden (Uh oh!!!). Dermott begins the photo shoot, where the Cover Girls pose in skimpy clothing using the dungeon's torture devices as props (each shot looks like a crime scene photo!). Suddenly, a spiked booby trap in the dungeon falls on Perry's chest, killing him. The girls want to quit and go home, but Daniel triples their salary and they continue the photo shoot. Raoul and Suzy (Barbara Nelli) are making out in the dungeon when they are attacked by the Crimson Executioner (Hargitay again), their fates not yet known. Like all castles, this one has secret passageways and spy holes, where Travis watches the girls getting undressed, vowing that he will get even with them for invading his privacy. Rick and Dermott check out the dungeon and when they open the Iron Maiden, Suzy's dead body falls to the ground. We then find out that Edith was once engaged to Travis, who was a muscleman actor in Italian peplum films (talk about art imitating life!), he had a nervous breakdown and disappeared. This is the first time Suzy has seen him in years. Why the hell didn't she tell anyone else when she first saw him??? We then see that model Kinojo (Moa Tahi; WILD, WILD PLANET - 1966) is caught in a deadly booby trap that looks like a giant spider web. If she, or anyone else, touches the web's ropes, Kinojo will be shot with innumerable arrows. Rick shimmies under the web, playing a game that looks like a spy breaking into a bank vault protected by infrared beams, and saves Kinojo, only to discover that everyone is trapped in the castle. Yes, Travis is quite mad, dressing as the Crimson Executioner and dispatching the cast one-by-one, using the dungeon's torture devices. In his twisted mind, he thinks this is just another acting gig, only he takes his performance too far. Edith calls him an "egoist", which pushes him over the edge, stepping up his torture and killing of both men and women (he doesn't discriminate). Nancy (Rita Klein) and Annie (Femi Benussi; THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN - 1973) are tied to a rotating torture device, sharp swords getting closer to slicing-up their bodies on every rotation. Rick is tied to a dead Raoul and placed on a canopy bed, where the top of the canopy, which contains deadly spikes, inches closer to his body. The women are also stretched on the rack and tortured on a curious device that drips cold water on the victim's exposed back. Will Anyone survive? Will Travis go back to acting in peplum flicks? (He better hurry up because, in 1965, they went out of favor with audiences!). Will the Crimson Executioner ever wear yellow?
Yes, I am having some fun at this film's expense, but that is because I never get tired of watching it. Director Massimo Pupillo (credited as "Max Hunter"; TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE - 1965) and screenwriters "Robert McLoren" (Romano Migliorini; NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972) & "Robert Christmas" (Roberto Natale; WATCH ME WHEN I KILL - 1977) have crafted a very colorful film that makes absolutely no sense. That's its charm, as we never see the Crimson Executioner capture anyone, they are just being tortured while Hargitay laughs like a madman. Why waste time showing how they got there? Hargitay goes off the rails here. He is normally a stiff and wooden actor, but he seems to relish the role of the Crimson Executioner. Some of the deaths are quite explicit for 1965, especially Nancy getting shot with an arrow in her cleavage and Annie getting sliced in both breasts by the rotating device. There is also an unpleasant death in a metal cage that hangs above a raging fire.
Shot as IL BOIA SCARLATTO ("The Scarlet Executioner"), this film played in U.S. theaters for nearly two decades as a double feature, first as the top-billed feature with TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE in the '60s and then as the bottom-billed feature, with (GOKE) BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968), in the '70s. Then it fell into the Public Domain, where it had many budget VHS releases. Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment released a nice widescreen DVD early in the New Millennium and it also showed up on many multi-film DVD compilations. My review is based on one such compilation, Midnight Movie Madness 50 Movie Collection, by Mill Creek Entertainment. It was a real surprise because, even though they cram five films on one DVD, the print is in widescreen and looks surprisingly sharp. I don't know how they did it because it looks great, as I was expecting a crappy fullscreen print, something these Mill Creek sets are known for. It definitely bumped-up my enjoyment of the film. A rare win for Mill Creek. Also available as part of Alpha Video's GRINDHOUSE SHOCK SHOW 5 Movie DVD Box Set. Also starring Gino Turini (ACHTUNG! THE DESERT TIGERS - 1977) and Roberto Messina (THE COP IN BLUE JEANS - 1976) as Travis' henchmen. Rated PG.
BODYCOUNT (1986) - Director Ruggero Deodato treads FRIDAY THE 13TH territory pretty well in this mostly unseen slasherama. A group of obnoxious teenagers decide to spend a weekend in a long-shut camping site, where 15 years earlier a series of grisly murders took place. The locals attributed the murders to an old Indian shamen, the legend of the forest. Before you can say "How!", the teenagers are being dispatched in various excessive gory ways. Could it be the Indian shamen doing the dirty deeds or could it be the owner of the campsite (David Hess), his wife (Mimsy Farmer), the town sheriff (Charles Napier) who is having an affair with Farmer, or Hess' son (who looks like a young Clark Kent) who has just returned from a stint in the Army? It's not hard to figure out who the culprit is, but the gory killings (there are plenty), good music score (by Claudio Simonetti) and a surprise ending will more than make up for it. Originally titled CAMPING DEL TERRORE, Midnight Video offers a pristine print in all its' Unrated glory. This one is worth your time and money.
BOG CREATURES (2002) - Let me warn you right from the start: This is not a film for those that are easily susceptible to falling asleep at the drop of a dime. If you are, you'll be snoring after the first 5 minutes. This shot-in-New York low budget feature can kindly be called boring tripe or I can go all-out and call it a piece of celluloid shit. You can make the call. The basic premise is this: A group of really annoying, no-talent teens go on an archeological dig to recover the Bog People (the film's original title), a midieval tribe of Danish Berserkers buried in a swamp. Before you can say "I wonder how many of the teens are going to be killed?", most of them are dispatched by the reanimated bog-thingies. If you come into this film looking for some bloody killings and plenty of nudity, be forewarned: Despite the film's R-rating, there's very little nudity (fleeting glimpses of nubians' breasts in the first 5 minutes of the film) and absolutely no extreme violence at all. This film could have easily been rated PG if the nudity (about 2 seconds worth) was cut out. All the actors are extremely bad, even the only "name" actor, Debbie Rochon (REGENERATED MAN - 1994, and nearly 100 other Z-grade films since 1988!). Director J. Christian Ingvordsen (HANGMEN - 1988 [a very early film for Sandra Bullock, even though her role is very small but played-up very big on the DVD covers]; THE OUTFIT - 1990; AIRBOSS - 1997; which spawned three inferior sequels, all directed by Ingvordsen and starring Frank Zagarino) drops the ball on nearly every tense moment this film has to offer, as the camera tends to dwell on the wrong part of the action. As a matter of fact, the behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD is more enjoyable than the film itself. What does that tell you? If I had anything good to say about this film, it would be that the Bog People are a nice creation. Too bad they're in such a crappy film. You'll be smelling peat long before this film is over. Also starring Courtney Henggeler, Jeffrey Howard, Michael Mosley, Joshua Park, Jesse Steccato, Leis Thompson and Tara Theodos. You can see them all starring in their next feature: The Unemployment Line. An MTI Home Video/Bedford Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2009/2011) - I really wanted to write a long review for this film, lensed in 2009, but not released until 2011 (co-star Chris Hemsworth filmed this right before the disasterous RED DAWN remake), but if I did, I would be ruining one of the best horror films released in 2011. You may think that this is going to be an EVIL DEAD-like flick, but you'd be so wrong because there is so much more going on. There are so many references to other horror and fantasy films (you'll have to watch it twice or more to spot them all, especially during the last twenty minute "purge" [you will be cringing every time the elevator light comes on], but I am saying too much) and an unexpected cameo during the final five minutes, that you'll be standing up in your living room wiping your eyes in satisfaction. I really want to say more (I really, really do), but I would spoil one of the most original horror films in the last thirty years (The CUBE-like elevator ride is worth the price of admission alone). Props to director/co-writer Drew Goddard (co-screenwriter of WORLD WAR Z - 2013) and co-writer/producer/second unit director Joss Whedon (director of 2012's best superhero film, THE AVENGERS) for supplying 96 minutes of unguessable horror bloodshed (really, you never know what direction this film is going to take and the stoner of the group, Marty [Fran Kranz], and his collapsible thermal coffee mug/bong, turns out to be a hero!). Lots of laugh-out-loud humor (the phone call that Bradley Whitford puts on loudspeaker from grizzled old tobacco-spitting gas station owner Mordecai [Tim De Zarn] was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed; freeze frame the DVD/Blu-Ray when the betting board is on view for some valuable funny info [you'll know the scene when you see it]; the way the Japanese schoolgirls defeat the child ghost is a hoot) and good old-fashioned blood-soaked gore (it flows like a river, although there is plenty of excellent CGI, especially during the finale). The reason for the delay to release this film was because the studio wanted to convert it to 3-D, but level heads prevailed. This originally played theatrically, where it more than recouped its 30 million dollar budget. Don't expect a sequel for this film because it doesn't leave room for one. My highest recommendation. Oh, and one other thing: Beware of the Merman!!! Also starring Richard Jenkins (WHITE HOUSE DOWN - 2013), Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Brian White and Amy Acker. A Lionsgate Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
THE CALLER (1987) - This is a fascinating two character thriller with one hell of a twist ending. When stranger Malcolm McDowell knocks on Madolyn Smith's cabin door located deep in the woods and tells her that his car has broken down, a cat-and-mouse game of questions and answers follows and we don't know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Did Madolyn kill her husband and daughter or is Malcolm a serial killer, cop or something else? Every time Madolyn catches Malcolm in a lie he says, "Point to you." This means something only Madolyn understands. It gets creepier and creepier as we want to know just what Madolyn is keeping in the hat box and why we don't see any other human beings throughout the whole film. Needless to say, the film surprises often and, while it feels like a filmed stage play, it's never boring and the ending really hits you hard in the gut. This is one of Malcolm McDowell's best film roles of the 80's as he gets the chance to actually act because the film is mainly nothing but dialogue. Madolyn Smith (FINAL APPROACH - 1991) also holds up her end real well acting scared and defiant, sometimes at the same time. Believe it or not, director Arthur Allan Seidelman's first directorial effort was also Arnold Schwarzenegger's first film: the truly awful HERCULES IN NEW YORK (1970). They've both come a long way since then. Give this seldom-seen film (Executive Produced by Charles Band during his Empire Pictures days), lensed in Rome, Italy a try and I'll guarantee that you will be entertained and shocked. A Trans World Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.
CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990) - Truly wretched adaption of the comic book classic. Matt Salinger stars as the title character, battling his evil nemesis, the Red Skull (Scott Paulin). This movie is an editor's nightmare as it looks like many cuts were made to secure a PG-13 rating. Disjointed and hard to follow (How many films were taken out of Pyun's hands at the editing stage? I'm willing to bet it's the majority of his vast output. The man just never learned how to connect scenes in a cohesive fashion.). Director Albert Pyun (who showed promise with his first film THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER in 1982) once again demonstrates he doesn't understand the action genre. If you don't believe me try viewing any of his latter films, including DOWN TWISTED (1987), ALIEN FROM L.A. (1988), CYBORG (1989), DOLLMAN (1991) and OMEGA DOOM (1995).
CAPTURED ALIVE (1995) - ANSWER: C.T. McIntyre. QUESTION: Who is the loser responsible for directing, producing, writing and editing this piece of grade Z trash? A small planeload of obnoxious (and untalented) people are shot down over the West Virginia wilderness by a family of hillbillies using a Civil War cannon (Talk about a near-impossible shot! What did they use, a "smart" cannonball?). The passengers are taken prisoner and are forced to work in a mine disposing of toxic waste that is trucked there from a nearby chemical plant. The captives try several times to escape and fail miserably due to the stupidity of the script. Every time a hillbilly is knocked-out or killed, the captives never once take the weapon, resulting in endless scenes of people running around the woods. Pat Morita (!) reaches a new career low (far surpassing his terrible performance opposite an even worse Jay Leno in COLLISION COURSE - 1986) as a plane mechanic who must put up with countless Jap and Tojo jokes (can you imagine in this day and age if the mechanic was Black and had to put up with nigger and coon jokes from his fellow employees?) while searching for his downed pilot friend (Dan Pinto). Amateurish on every level (it was photographed by Bill Hinzman of REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES - 1988) and deadly boring. I had more fun plucking my nose and ass hairs than watching this shitfest. Films like this dont get made, they escape. I really suffer for my art so you dont have to. Also starring Dawn Lambing, John Mouganis and Danny Nelson (BLOOD SALVAGE - 1989). An Arrow Video Inc. Release. Rated R.
THE CARRIER (1987) - This low-budget AIDS parable is quite good and packs a powerful punch. An outcast (Gregory Fortescue), who is unjustly accused of killing his parents, is attacked by a bigfoot-like creature who transfers a contagious disease into his body. The poor boy becomes a carrier of this strange disease which is transmitted by his touch. Any object this boy touches means certain death to any person who holds it, as it dissolves flesh and bone. Soon the entire population of this small town are wrapping themselves in plastic and marking all the contaminated objects with red cloth (sound familiar?). Much more happens in this literate, well-written, film and I will not spoil it for you. Also starring Stevie Lee (a terrible actress and the worst thing about this film), Steve Dixon and Patrick Butler. Directed and written with style by Nathan J. White. This is no ordinary horror film. On VHS from Magnum Entertainment. Also available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.
CASTLE OF EVIL (1966) - Standard "Reading of the Will" in a haunted castle thriller with one caveat: The killer is a robot duplicate of the horribly disfigured deceased person (named Kovic) who proceeds to kill the people who he thinks is responsible for the "accident" that killed him in a lab. The six people who are at the will reading do not understand why they are there as they are the people who hated him the worst. Each person had a reason for killing Kovic and as the film progresses we have to figure out who did the deed. Director Francis D. Lyon (who filmed this back-to-back with DESTINATION INNER SPACE with many of the same stars) adds touches of wit in the many dialogue scenes and the robot creature is very effective, but the film does not rise above the routine thanks to too much talk and too little action. If you have nothing better to do with 80 minutes of your time, you may want to give this one a try or you can simply take a nap and forget about it all together. Starring Scott Brady, Virginia Mayo, Hugh Marlowe, David Brian, Lisa Gaye and Shelley Morrison as Lupe the Housekeeper, who is better known now as the ascerbic housekeeper Rosario on the TV series WILL & GRACE (1998 - 2006). An NTA Home Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
THE CAVE (2005) - I love films that deal with exploration, whether it's jungle, underwater, mountain or planet. But I especially love films that contain cave exploration. It's the feeling of claustrophobia and the danger of everything collapsing in on you that give cave exploration films that extra scare factor. THE CAVE uses that fear to good advantage. When a huge subterraneous cave is discovered underneath a destroyed church deep in the Carpathian Mountains, expert spelunkers and deep sea divers Jack (Cole Hauser; 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS - 2003) and Buchanan (Morris Chestnut; HALF PAST DEAD - 2002) are hired to go down into the cave with their crew and map it out. They must travel nearly 2 1/2 miles underwater to get to the first dry land that they are able to explore on foot. When an underwater cave-in blocks their exit back, they must find another way to return to the outside world. They also face a more serious problem: They are not alone. There are winged creatures who are equally at home in the water or on dry land and they have a hunger for their new visitors' flesh. When Jack is bitten by this new species of creature, he slowly begins to change and has some type of psychic connection to the creatures. Jack becomes a danger to his crew, which includes his hothead brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian; TV's THIRD WATCH [1999 - 2005]), fellow member Charlie (Piper Perabo; THE I INSIDE - 2004) and documentary cameraman Alex (LOST [2004 - 2010] and the rebooted HAWAII FIVE-0's [2010 - Present] Daniel Dae Kim). When they discover that the creatures are actually mutated humans who were trapped in the cave 30 years earlier, the fun really begins. While the adventure elements are excellent (helped greatly by the location photography in Romania and Quintano Roo, Mexico), the horror elements are severely hampered by the film's PG-13 rating. The subject matter screams for some R-rated carnage, but THE CAVE pulls away from the grue and only gives you brief flashes of the red stuff. THE DESCENT, released less than a year later, is a good example of R-rated cave gore. Still, this film does have some tense scenes and is an OK time-waster with some great directional sound effects and some pretty good creature effects, although some of the CGI is iffy. Directed by first-timer Bruce Hunt, who later became Second Unit Director of the 2010 remake of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Also starring Rick Ravanello, Lena Heady and Marcel Iures. A Screen Gems DVD Release. Rated PG-13.
CELLAR DWELLER (1987) - Director John Carl Buechler runs both hot and cold as a director and special effects person. He was responsible for creating the awful GHOULIES (1985), directing and creating the creatures in TROLL (1986, and a guilty pleasure of mine, so quit judging me!) and directing the truly terrible ICE CRAWLERS (2002) and the halfway decent MINER'S MASSACRE (2003). He hits paydirt with this one though, as it is an affectionate (albeit gory) tribute to the old EC Comics of yore (Although some real-life "graphic novelists" have problems with this film. Let them make their own goddamn film!). Thirty years earlier an artist by the name of Colin Childress (Jeffrey Combs in what amounts to a cameo) is writer and illustrator of a horror comic called Cellar Dweller. He uses an old magic book for inspiration and one day the drawing of his monster comes to life and kills a woman he has drawn. He kills the monster by setting his fresh drawing on fire, killing himself in the process. The police investigation portrays Colin as a murderer and the case is closed. Thirty years later, a comics artist named Whitney (Deborah Mullowney, a.k.a. Deborah Farentino) goes to Colin's old house, which is now an artists' retreat run by Mrs. Briggs (Yvonne De Carlo). Whitney begins drawing Colin's comic Cellar Dweller (using the magic book for ideas) and the monster begins to go on a killing spree again. Former cop turned novelist (Vince Edwards) is gorily decapitated (a good effect). Lisa (Cheryl Ann Wilson, a.k.a. Miranda Wilson) is eaten by the creature after taking a shower (nudity alert!). Whitney's old arch nemesis Amanda (Pamela Bellwood) is also dispatched by the monster. Whitney, with the help of fellow artist Phillip (Brian Robbins), try to kill the monster, but the monster kills Phillip instead. Whitney finds a way to kill the creature (she throws White-Out on the drawings!) and draws all the dead people and brings them back to life. But Whitney soon finds out that the comics business can be a killer. Filmed on a shoestring budget in Italy for Executive Producer Charles Band's Empire Pictures (which would transform into Full Moon Pictures a few years later), CELLAR DWELLER is a compact 77 minute horror film which delivers the goods. It doesn't overstay its welcome and has plenty of blood, nudity and a pretty decent story (written by Don Mancini [CHILD'S PLAY - 1988] using the pseudonym "Kit Du Bois") to please the fans. The acting is generally good and the only drawback is the monster itself. It looks like a giant Ghoulie (actually a monster suit worn by Michael Deak), but with more mouth movements. Oh well, you can't have everything. I liked it and if you give it a chance, you may like it too. Also known as UNDERGROUND WEREWOLF. A New World Video Release that is long OOP. You can probably find a copy on eBay if you really want to see it. Also available from Scream Factory as part of their 4-film, 2-DVD 4 ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON VOLUME TWO compilation and as part of a double-feature Blu-Ray with the film CATACOMBS - (1988). Not Rated.
CHERRY 2000 (1987) - This should have been a good movie. Something went wrong in the translation from script to screen. The title refers to a certain make of female robot, the only kind that can show emotion and make love. They are very rare in this futuristic society. Our hero (David Andrews) accidentally short circuits his Cherry while screwing her on a wet floor! He hires a good-looking tracker (a slightly chubby but appealing Melanie Griffith) and they set out on a journey to the forbidden Zone 7 looking for replacement parts for his tin honey. Slowly he realizes that maybe knocking boots with a robot isn't the best answer. Maybe what's best for him is staring (and arguing with) him right in the face. On the plus side are some neat stunts, great locations and the late Ben Johnson as the legendary tracker Six Finger Jake who everyone thinks is dead. Unfortunately, Johnson's screen time is minimal. This film has other positive points but I can't really recommend it as the story is haphazard and all over the place and Tim Thomerson's outrageous comic overacting really grates on your nerves. Director Steve De Jarnatt would make the masterful MIRACLE MILE the next year. Beside the people already mentioned, this film has a dream cast of exploitation actors: Brion James, Robert Z'Dar, Marshall Bell, Larry Fishburne, Harry Carey Jr, Michael C. Gwynne and Pamela Gidley as Cherry. Too bad the script let them down. Originally released on VHS by Orion Home Video and released on DVD by MGM/UA Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13.
CLOWNTOWN (2015) - Killer clown horror films are flooding the DTV market. Some of them are great (100 TEARS - 2007), some of them are good (CLOWN - 2013), some are downright terrible (SLOPPY THE PSYCHOTIC - 2012) and many others are like this film, where clowns can be substituted for any non-greasepainted psychos. The film opens with a baby sitter (Kaitlyn Sapp, who shows us her breasts within the first 5 minutes of the film), putting her two charges to bed and then hearing on the TV news that there has been a bad train accident, the worst in the State's (filmed in Ohio) history. She then sees one of the children, Ricky (Nathan D. Goins) dressed in a clown outfit running upstairs. She also goes upstairs to see why he is dressed like that, only to be stabbed and meat-cleavered in her stomach. 15 years later, Brad (Brian Nagel) is about to ask his girlfriend Sarah (Lauren Elise) to marry him after they go to a Country Music concert in Columbus and he shows the ring to his best friend Mike (Andrew Staton, also Stunt Coordinator). The foursome, including Mike's girlfriend Jill (Katie Keene) take instructions from the locals in a diner, including the Sheriff (Christopher Lawrence Chapman, also an Executive Producer) on how to take a shortcut to Columbus, but he also warns them not to stop in any strange little towns and you just know they are heading into trouble. Brad takes the Sheriff's directions, while one of the locals in a diner is killed by someone with a crowbar, who shoves it in his throat. Jill discovers she has lost her phone (she freaks out because her credit card information is on it; stupid girl), so Sarah tells her to use her cell phone to call the diner to see if her phone is there. Jill calls the diner and a man answers and says he has her phone. He wants to know where they are, so she gives him their location. The voice on the other end of the phone tells them where to meet him and he will return the phone. They end up in a small, seemingly deserted town, that is not as deserted as the foursome thinks. It is occupied by a group of psycho clowns, one holding a baseball bat (David Greathouse; the most disturbing of the lot), who likes to play with fire, one holding a machete (Chris Hahn). one holding a crowbar (Ryan Pilz, also the Production Designer), one wielding an axe (Alan Tuskes) and even a psychotic girl clown (Beki Ingram). As you can probably already guess, this small town has no cell phone service and their car won't start. While walking down the street, Jill sees the machete clown and is almost hit by a pickup truck driven by co-workers Billy (Director/editor Tom Nagel) & Dylan (Jeff Denton) who were both at the diner the same time when the foursome was. The crowbar clown kills Billy and the baseball clown sets him on fire, while everyone else runs and hides in an empty Recreational Vehicle. An old crazy man named Frank (Greg Violand) saves their hides and takes them to his hideout.. Jill is captured by the clowns and tied -up, where the famale clown says "I am going to make you so pretty!" Frank tells them that ever since the terrible train wreck 15 years earlier, this town has never been the same. People ended up missing and the clowns suddenly appeared (flashbacks show us the clowns killing people , including a girl sunbathing in her bikini). Nearly everyone forgot the town existed (which I find highly unlikely for reasons apparent to everyone). I don't think I have to tell you the way the film progresses, as the clowns begin to pick off the group one by one. First Dylan has his jaw torn in half by the crowbar clown and then has the crowbar jammed into his stomach. Jill is grabbed by the crowbar clown, but Brad saves her and kills the clown with his own crowbar by bashing his head in. Brad recognizes the clown as the busboy in the diner by the tattoo on his arm, so all the other clowns must be members of the diner. The girl clown covers Sarah's face with greasepaint and she screams like she is having her arm cut off! Brad, Mike and Jill "borrow" Billy & Dylan's truck and discover Frank stumbling down the street with an object impaled in his stomach. They are all attacked by the clowns and they all run in different directions. Brad finds a house occupied by an old lady named Myrtle (Maryanne Nagel; and yes, there is a lot of nepotism in this film), who was the mother of young boy Ricky in the beginning of the film. Flashbacks show us Myrtle killed the babysitter. Ricky is the baseball bat clown with a fixation for fire. For some reasons left unclear, the Sheriff from the diner is behind this all. Will Brad propose to Sarah? Will Mike and Jill survive? Will the clowns join a psycho circus? (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey went out of business in 2017, which wouldn't surprise me if their clowns went bonkers.) I'm afraid you'll have to watch this for yourself to get those answers. Director/Editor Tom Nagel is better known as an actor, appearing in such films as The Asylum's THE BEAST OF BRAY ROAD (2005), HILLSIDE CANNIBALS (2005) and THE BURNING DEAD (2015). While the film is a few steps above an Asylum film and quite graphic (Effects done by Robert Kurtzman's Creature Corps (He is also a Co-Producer), there is nothing here that you haven't seen a dozen times before. While the beginning of the film makes us believe we are going to see more female nudity, it is the only scene of it in the entire film. but this is a good little time-waster if you have nothing better to watch. An Entertainment One DVD Release. Not Rated.
AT YA! (1981) - Yes, I know, I
usually don't review Westerns, but after witnessing the ultra-weird GET
MEAN (1975), I just had to watch this film since it was
directed and co-written by the same people involved with MEAN
and features the same actor from that film. This Italy/Spain/United
States co-production was also the film that kickstarted the
early-'80s 3-D craze. It was so successful, in fact, that it made
over $6,000,000 in just 200 theaters, unheard of at the time for a low-budget
feature (over $20,000,000 when inflated to current American dollars)
and rumor has it that the film had to be temporarily pulled from
circulation when the distributor ran out of 3-D glasses.
H. H. Hart (Tony Anthony; The STRANGER trilogy - 1967-1968; BLINDMAN - 1971) is a Confederate Army gunslinger who, in a flashback, is gunned-down by Polk Thompson (Ricardo Palacios; MONSTER DOG - 1985) and his brother Pike (Gene Quintano; screenwriter of the Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner SUDDEN DEATH - 1994) at his wedding, his bride Abilene (Victoria Abril) ripped from his arms and carried away into the sunset. (I wonder if there is where Quentin Tarantino got the idea for KILL BILL?) He has been searching for his bride and the Thompson brothers since that fateful (but not fatal) day. Hart corners a bagpipe-playing Preacher (Lewis Gordon; CRYSTALSTONE - 1987) in a confessional, the Preacher telling him that this is a ghost town because two evil brothers came here and murdered all the men and children, kidnapping all the pretty women. Hart tells him about the Thompson brothers, so the Preacher joins him on his quest. We then see that the kidnapped women are being held captive in a rundown church, where they are attacked by cheesy-looking bats, who attach themselves to some of the women's faces (and fly directly at the camera), but they all fly away when the Thompson brothers enter the room (Yes, they are so mean, even the bats are scared of them!).
A short time later, Polk forcefully enters the home of a baby girl's mother (we know it's a baby girl, because her baby vagina is thrust at the camera!), where he begins to rape the unfortunate woman. Hart then enters the house, killing Polk's henchmen, and begins to beat the crap out of Polk, demanding to know where his wife is. Polk says he doesn't want to know and we see Abilene and several other women walking on a large table, while men (and women) bid on them, buying their bodies for sex. Hart enters the church where the current crop of kidnapped women are being held, telling them that he will lead them to safety, but first he sneaks into the auction house and kills a couple of buyers with his shotgun. He then hold Pike at bay with his shotgun, telling him that if he wants to see Polk alive, he will do what he says. He holds Pike hostage, giving Abilene and the other kidnapped women enough time to escape, but someone with a bullwhip disarms Hart, Pike demanding to know where his brother is. When Hart refuses to tell him, he burns Hart's hand with a red hot poker, Hart spilling the beans (sorry, this is not a 3-D effect!) and Pike riding out to rescue his brother, leaving Hart tied-up in his hideout.
We then see Polk tied to a pipe, while rats feast on his flesh. Pike saves his brother before he becomes a three-course meal for the rats (but they still managed to eat his left eye!). "He kicked me!" says Polk, Pike telling him not to worry, Hart is tied up back at the hideout and he can kill him when they get back. Meanwhile the Preacher and all the escaped women have formed a miniature wagon train, but when a squad of Thompson henchmen show up, the women run for their lives, but they are caught. Abilene, too, as we see her lassoed and dragged through a beach. Polk returns to the hideout and beats the stuffing out of Hart, but Hart manages to turn the tables and kills Polk, escaping while trying to avoid the flying spears and flaming arrows coming his way, being sent by one of Polk's Indian henchmen (This scene must have looked excellent in 3-D). Hart manages to kill the Indian with one of his own spears, but Abilene is a prisoner once again. When Pike discovers Polk dead, he begins a long sexual assault on Abilene. Hart discovers Abilene's dress on the beach and knows what he has to do. He also discovers all of the escaped women dead, tied to the ground on spikes, left there to slowly die in the blazing sun. He finds a barely-alive Preacher, who tells Hart that Pike killed all of the women except for his wife, leaving the Preacher alive to tell Hart where to meet Pike if he wants to see his wife alive. Will Hart kill Pike and his numerous henchmen (who seem to grow in number as the film progresses) and save his wife? What do you think?
While not as batshit crazy as GET MEAN, director Fernando Baldi (TERROR EXPRESS - 1979; WARBUS - 1985), working with a script written by Gene Quintano, Wolfe Lowenthal and Lloyd Battista (the last two also responsible for the screenplay of MEAN), still manages to milk the many 3-D effects for all they are worth. The opening credits are in 3-D, written in unusual places, such as a snake wrapped around a wine bottle (and the wine bottle's label), the bottom of a horse's hoof, a bag of coffee beans, and a gun barrel, just to name a few. It should also be noted that the opening 15 minutes are dialogue-free, just Carlo Savina's excellent music score and various sound effects, yet it still manages to tell the story about what happened to Hart and his bride. There are also 3-D effects that you will not see in any other film, including the baby girl's nudity, which makes this film stand out from the pack. Even though I watched this film in 2-D, the 3-D effects still manage to pack a punch. Sure, there are a lot of gun barrels thrust into the camera and plenty of slow-motion deaths (with bloody bullet sqibs exploding in your face), but it's the little things used for 3-D that makes this film so enjoyable. I should footnote this review by explaining that I never saw a 3-D movie. Hell, I can't even see in 3-D, since I was born with only one working eye (no cyclops jokes, please, I still have two eyes, it's just that one doesn't work). Whenever I wanted to see a 3-D movie, I had to find a theater playing it in 2-D (otherwise it would just be a blur to me), making it tough, especially in the elongated 3-D craze that hit us in the New Millennium (the longest in 3-D history). Since this is an R-Rated 3-D film, even the plentiful female nudity is in your face, as are the bloody deaths. Even Pike's explosive death registers in 2-D, proving to me that you don't need two good eyes to enjoy a 3-D film. Baldi directed a 3-D companion film, the RAIDERS clone TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS (1983), but it didn't register with audiences as this one did since people were growing tired of 3-D films when it was released.
Released theatrically in the U.S. by Filmways Pictures, with a VHS release a couple of years later by Rhino Video, who then released a widescreen version on DVD early in the New Millennium (both OOP). MDV Visual re-released the film on DVD, only this time it was converted to the modern-day Real 3-D, the first vintage film to receive the conversion. I saw this converted version streaming on Amazon Prime (free for Prime Members). The film looks like it was shot yesterday, as it is crisp, clean and colorful. No Blu-Ray at the time of this review. Give it a chance, you'll probably like it. Also featuring Luis Barboo (THE LORELEY'S GRASP - 1973), Charly Bravo (NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF - 1980), Domenico Cianfriglia (SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN - 1974), Goffredo Unger (SNOW DEVILS - 1967) and Joaquín Gómez, all as Thompson henchmen. Rated R.
THE CONTROL GROUP (2014) - Interesting sci-fi/horror/thriller, but the low budget can't sustain its lofty ambitions. Five college students wake up in an abandoned mental asylum and have no idea how they got there. We eventually find out that this is an experiment sanctioned by a government black ops group called "The Agency". They are testing out a new drug (which is never given a name in the film) that makes people face their worst fears. The Agency wants to use the drug for overseas interrogations. Dr Broward (Brad Dourif; DEATH AND CREMATION - 2010) is in charge of the experiment, but when one of the college students, Grant (Justen Jones), dies, they find out that the drug has an unknown side effect: The dead rise to life and go on a murder spree. There is also another problem: The mental asylum is haunted by "The Patient", a notorious serial killer who is also a rapist. Turns out that Dr. Broward knew about this all along and he is running his own experiment without The Agency's knowledge. Dr. Broward wants to go to the "other side" and back, pulling as many live human beings as he can with him. Too bad that freshman director/producer Peter Hurd (His only film when this review was written) pared Logan Goin's screenplay down to the bare bones. Too many things happen with no explanation. First, Grant steals some top secret files called "Blank Slate" and they contain the combination to a vault which houses "The Machine", a chair that enables people who sit in it to wipe their brain clean and transfer another person's memory into it. By the time the it is over, your head will be spinning from all the new layers that keep on getting added to the film with no backstory. The film actually centers on college student Jack (Ross Destiche), who was a loner and just lost his sister in a preventable car accident. He blows the whole experiment wide open when he discovers one of the "crow people" (The Agency keeps watch on the group while wearing crow masks and hooded black robes) is actually electronic surveillance. While the film is interesting (Except for actress Emily Soto, who plays ghost girl Anne. Her voice is so grating you'll want to whip out a wheel of cheese.), it travels all over the map, making it difficult to keep up with the story. I am sure director Hurd wanted to make a completely understandable film, but it is obvious he didn't have the budget. Hurd does throw in some nifty practical effects (The optical effects are sub-par) such as Grant killing Agent Torrez (Taso N. Stavrakis; who also played "Torrez" in the late George A. Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD - 1985) by breaking his back until his feet touch the back of his head. He comes back to life and spider walks, much in the same way Linda Blair did in the cut scene from THE EXORCIST (1973). Angent Torrez eventually gets his fingers cut off and his head separated from his body with a hacksaw. There is also death by electrical straight saw; stepping on a metal spike; Grant originally dies by walking into a room filled with barb wire; a better than average scene where Grant kills two Agents approaching him in different directions by killing them with a shotgun (he non-chalantly kills one coming at him in the front and lays the shotgun on his shoulder and kills one approaching him from the rear.); and other bits of gory violence. But you'll spend more time trying to figure out the story, which is all helter skelter. A nice try, but not a success. For once in films like this, Brad Dourif doesn't put in a five minute cameo. His role in the film is important in some way (If I only could figure it out!). In an easter egg, the DVD cover shows ghost girl Anne holding a Chucky Doll, a tribute to Dourif for appearing in this. To show you how inaccessible this film is, it was made in 2014 but not released on disc until 2017. The acting ranges from professional (Dourif) to amateurish (Soto). Filmed in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Also starring Monique Candelaria (THE CONDEMNED 2 - 2015), Jenna Enemy, Shane Philip, Jerry G. Angelo (THE RAMBLER - 2012), Kodi Saint Angelo, Larry Laverty (THE HAMILTONS - 2006) and Luce Rains (THE CABINING - 2014) as "The Patient". A Wild Eye Releasing DVD Release. Not Rated.
THE CRAWLERS (1990) - You will not find a film as boring as this one even if you purposely went in search of one. A greedy nuclear plant owner dumps toxic waste in a forest to save himself a few bucks, causing tree roots to come alive and attack the inhabitants of a nearby town! If that synopsis makes the film sound interesting, please read on to avoid embarrassment. This is the worst acted, inanely scripted film to come down the pike in quite a while. This U.S.-lensed, Italian-made fiasco offers nothing to the discerning gorehound and may well have the worst special effects in recent memory (check out the helicopter crash!). Directed by Fabrizio Laurenti (WITCHERY - 1988) using his usual pseudonym Martin Newlin and starring Jason Saucier (HITCHER IN THE DARK - 1989), Mary Sellers (GHOSTHOUSE - 1987) and Bubba Reeves (CHINA O'BRIEN - 1990). If there were a God in Heaven, they would never, ever, have appeared in another film. I guess God was too busy to hear my prayers (What else is new?) From Columbia-Tri Star Home Video. Also available from Scream Factory as part of their 4-film, 2-DVD 4 ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON VOLUME TWO compilation. Rated R for one gory scene. The film is otherwise bloodless. Why would anyone bother? Also known as CREEPERS and CONTAMINATION .7 and, believe it or not, TROLL 3.
CRAWL OR DIE (2014) - One of the perks of being an Amazon Prime member is that I have been able to watch an awful lot of DTV films released by Uncork'd Entertainment on DVD for free. Surprisingly, a lot of them have been good to excellent, but this film, originally titled CRAWL BITCH CRAWL and made for less than $7,000, is not one of them. It's supposed to fill us with the dread of claustrophobia, but all it really does is make us look at the clock and wait for it to end. The opening looks like some found footage film, as the cameras shake and shimmy while we watch a band of Special Forces soldiers shooting at something that doesn't look human (it's really hard to make out, even when you freeze frame), while they are lowering a civilian woman down the opening of an underground tunnel and then joining her. They keep very quiet while one of the Special Forces soldiers turns the wheel to lock the surface door, while another tries to booby-trap the door, but he drops the triggering mechanism down to the ground. Instead of throwing the trigger back up to him, the alien breaks in and the soldier blows himself up, but it has no effect on the alien (Not 5 minutes into this film and I know this squad of Special Forces soldiers are nothing but a bunch of screw-ups). We are then transported seven months in the past at a mission briefing of the same Special Forces team. It seems we are in the future where a virus had made nearly all the women infertile. General Z (David Zeliff) informs the squad he has received a "Code 455", which means they have located two women that are fertile (a statistic so improbable to calculate, it would make any scientist roll his/her eyes in disbelief and the plot reminded me of both the Jean-Claude Van Damme film CYBORG  and AMERICAN CYBORG: STEEL WARRIORS , one of Cannon Films last productions), but one of the women has passed away from the virus. Their job is to escort "The Package" (Torey Byrne) as she is flown off the planet in the spaceship Oklahoma (an in-joke; but this film is so cheap that no spaceship is ever shown) and all will be put in cryosleep for seven months, where they will land on "Earth 2". The General says that all the rumors they heard are true; they are preparing a disease-free planet for habitation by non-diseased people, but it will still take four more years to finish. Since this unit has never lost a single package (hard to believe after what we witnessed in the beginning of the film), the General makes it clear that no matter how much the Package cries or complains, she must be delivered (to whom we are never told). She is to be treated like an actual package than a human being (if this is our future, stop the car, I want to get out). We are then back in the tunnels seven months later, as Special Forces leader Tank (Nicole Alonzo; one of the film's Producers and wannabe singer; she has a haircut that would never be approved by the Special Forces) leads the troops and the Package through the tunnels, which gets smaller and smaller, until the men in the squad, including Snoop (Wil Crown), Doc (Tommy Ball), Mic (Tom Chamberlain), Thumper (Larry Huitt) and over a half-dozen "red shirts" (A term taken from the original STAR TREK (1966 - 1969), where, if an unknown crew member was beamed down to a planet wearing a red shirt, you knew he was going to die) cannot crawl or squeeze through the opening, and try to find an alternate means to their destination (which we still don't know), while Tank strips down to her underwear and has the Package crawl in front of her. I know we are supposed to get a severe case of claustrophobia, but all we really get is a case of severe case of boredom and hope that the camera gives us another crotch shot of Tank. The alien (played by Matthew Crabtree, who also designed the creature suit and plays one of the red shirt Special Forces members) grabs the Package and takes off down the tiny tunnels, with Tank trying to follow them. When she finally gets to a chamber, we don't see the Package (the alien probably ate her, but that is just speculation on my part), so her team finds a way to pull her up from the chamber and Tank sets the alien on fire (the film is so cheap, we don't even see the creature suit on fire). So much for their unit never losing a package and they have probably killed all mankind. While the alien is following the two and then grabs the Package, all we get is nothing but a short view of it during the finale, where it looks like a cross between ALIEN (1979) and FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982). This entire film, directed/co-produced/screenwritten/set designed (I bet that cost him $50)/co-photographed by Oklahoma Ward, picked a pretty poor film to make as his feature film debut (all he did was short films before this). The closest I can come to describe it is one of those cheap 80's & 90's Roger Corman productions (like THE TERROR WITHIN - 1988), but at least Corman's films gave us blood, gore and creatures we can actually see and not the quick-cutting one second shots of blood, gore, the creature and always shaking camera that Ward offers us here. There are lengthy periods of no dialogue, just a droning background noise that induces headaches (I swear my 5.1 Dolby Stereo System was crying!) and a whole lot of unanswered questions (How did a huge alien drag the Package through such tight areas? What is Earth 2 doing with an underground tunnel system and what purpose does it serve? Is the alien a resident of Earth 2 or did it follow them to stop Earth people from continuing to exist? How did the virus start? Was it man made, alien made or a natural occurrence?). There are so many unanswered questions in this film that a book can be written about them and don't go looking for answers (not even what happened to the Package), because you will get none. I am always willing to give directors a second chance, but the next film Oklahoma Ward directs better be something spectacular. Even though it cost under $7,000 to make, that is no excuse. SKINLESS (2013) was made for less than $2,000 and held me spellbound. This film just held me prisoner and all of Tank's scenes are filmed with a sickly blue filter for no other reason than his digital camera allowed it. If you like your action in one second edits, gore in even less time and never a really good look at the alien, you may like this film (you poor bastard). I actually had a better time brushing my cats than watching this cheap excuse as an 80's throwback film. No nudity, no really discernible blood or gore (thanks to the quick editing) and no answered questions. After the end credits it says "Tank will return soon." Let's hope not. God, let's hope not. Also starring David Paul Baker, Clayton Burgess, Troy Bailey, Jonathan Dixon, Robbie Huitt, Jeremy Sellers, John Stirling, Austin Wood and J. Luke Lanson as the interchangeable Special Forces team. An Uncork'd Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated, but there is nothing here that goes past a PG-13.
CRUEL JAWS (1994) - Another one of Bruno Mattei's (here using the Anglicized name "William Snyder") homages to American blockbuster films (see reviews for ROBOWAR and SHOCKING DARK). You can guess by the title what film this flick is ripping off, but one has to wonder why anyone would want to make a JAWS rip-off twenty years after the fact (and even cribbing some actual footage from JAWS - 1975 and JAWS 2 - 1978), especially since the Italians already milked it to death in the 80's, with films like THE LAST SHARK (1981, footage from it is also in this film) and DEEP BLOOD (1989, still more cribbed footage). Anyway, if you must know the story, here it is: A shark is terrorizing the coastal Florida community of Hampton Bay, killing swimmers and scuba divers, leaving their half-eaten carcasses on the beach. A real estate magnate, who is trying to buy out the local aquarium (whose owner looks like a skinny Hulk Hogan), tries to cover-up the attacks until after his deal and the annual regatta are both completed. Billy (Gregg Hood), a visiting oceanographer, tries to help the concerned sheriff, Francis (David Luther), rid the town of the shark before more people are killed. Billy and the sheriff face off against the shark in separate battles and only one of them will come out alive. Much stupidity follows and did I actually hear somebody say, "We need a bigger helicopter?"! For an Italian horror film, I must say that I was bitterly disappointed with this one. We never watch these kind of films for the storyline, but rather for the blood and nudity. Sadly, CRUEL JAWS is severely lacking in both departments, probably because it was made for European TV. While there are plenty of good-looking women in teenie bikinis, they never take them off and the gore is basically just shots of body parts lying on the beach and a couple of views of the shark munching on humans (it's bloodless). The shark attack scenes are laughable as most of them are stolen from other films. The scene where the shark attacks the regatta and a little girl in a wheelchair who rolls into the waiting jaws of the shark, only to be saved by Billy's girlfriend (who becomes chum), is awkward and clumsily filmed. All the little girl says after the attack is, "Sharks are really bad!" No shit, Sherlock. While I generally like these Italian rip-offs because they go overboard in the exploitative elements, CRUEL JAWS (also known as JAWS 5 and THE BEAST) just goes overboard and never comes up for air. Why bother? Also starring George Barnes, Scott Silveria, Kristen Urso, Richard Dew, Sky Palma and Norma J. Nesheim. Video label unavailable. The version I viewed was taken from a bootleg VHS tape. NOTE: Scream Factory was going to release this film as part of a double feature Blu-Ray (with EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 - 1983) until they learned that it contained illegal footage from some A-List American films. This was one of the stupidest moves in disc history, especially since anyone who has ever heard of this film already knew that most of the shark footage was cribbed from other movies. Scream Factory quickly withdrew the planned release with a press release that had to be read to be believed. They didn't know? C'mon now! Not Rated.
CURSE OF BIGFOOT (1958/1976) - This extremely slow-moving horror hybrid was a TV staple during the mid-70's to early 80's. The bulk of the film consists of footage from an unfinished 1958 production titled TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING (released on VHS in an unfinished 60-minute version), an unremarkable story about a professor and his archaeology students on a field trip who discover an ancient Indian mummy in a sealed cave and accidentally bring it back to life. The first 30 minutes, though, is hastily-shot footage filmed in the mid-70's about a teacher giving a class on the history of Bigfoot (which cuts to way too much nature footage, a JAWS (1975) reference, and even more stock footage), which the leads to a short story about two men in a truck who meet a bigfoot in the woods (it just seems long because of the endless padding of the two men walking in the forest), which then leads to a visiting professor (Dennis Kottmeier, returning from the original film) telling the same class a story about his run-in with a bigfoot 15 years earlier (cue the 1958 footage), where three of his seven students he brought with him on that fateful field trip would end up in a mental institution. I think they ended up there because they needed drugs to keep them from slashing their wrists from the sheer boredom. While this could have been an interesting time capsule, the fact that nothing much happens throughout the entire running time pretty much sinks any novelty value this film has for those seeking something different. Since it takes over 30 minutes to get past the new footage (and believe me when I say that watching grass grow is more interesting), most viewers would have turned it off long before getting to the old stuff. Not that the old stuff is any better as it's just as inane as the new stuff and the film stock of the old footage has an overly red tint to it and is much blurrier than the new footage. The only fun spot is when one of the 50's kids says, "Boy, I could go for a bottle of pop." The other kid asks for a dime plus three cents for the deposit! The creature from the 50's footage isn't really a bigfoot. As I have said before, it is actually an ancient Indian mummy (and ridiculous in it's paper-macheness). First (and only time) director Don Fields changed it to a bigfoot probably to appease the audience's 70's fascination with the subject. I remember watching this on TV in the late 70's and being bored to tears. My opinion still hasn't changed. Some things should not be resurrected just because it's old and unseen. Sometimes things should just stayed buried. Starring Bob Clymire, Jan Swihart, Bill Simonsen, and Ruth Ann Mannella. A RetroFlicks DVD-R Release (and from several budget DVD companies) which was also available in the late 80's on a crappy EP-mode VHS tape from Star Classics. Also available on a double feature DVD, with CATHY'S CURSE (1977), from Alpha Video. Not Rated.
DANGEROUS GAME (1988) - Excellent Australian thriller about a psychotic cop with a huge grudge against a college student, whose deceased father once made trouble for the cop. He harasses the student so much that he is suspended from the force. When the student and four of his college pals break into a secured department store on a bet, the cop follows them in and teaches a deadly lesson. While the plot could describe dozens of horror films (HIDE AND GO SHRIEK - 1987 comes to mind), this one stands head and shoulders above the rest due to believable acting, great camerawork, flashy editing and zippy sound (it must be heard in stereo for full effect). This is everything PSYCHO COP (1989) was not. Starring Miles Buchanan, Sandie Lillingston and Kathryn Walker. Directed with verve and zest by Stephen Hopkins (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 - 1988; PREDATOR 2 - 1990). From Academy Entertainment. Rated R.
THE DARK (1979) - I'm a fan of director/actor John "Bud" Cardos (KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - 1977; SKELETON COAST - 1987), but this film is one hot mess. This was originally a zombie film directed by Tobe Hooper, but when Producer Edward L. Montoro saw the dailies, he fired Hooper, hired Cardos and decided to change it from a zombie film to a film about an alien serial killer by adding a ridiculous on-screen scrawl in the beginning (read by a narrator just in case you couldn't read) about life on other planets not being that friendly, freeze-frame the zombie footage and add bad optical effects where the now-alien has glowing eyes that shoot laser beams, put gibberish alien language on the soundtrack every time there is a murder and forgot to change other plot points to disguise the fact that it was actually a zombie film (such as a newspaper headline declaring a "Mangler Zombie" is on the loose). The film begins with a young girl being beheaded by some unknown killer (the "alien's" modus operendi, which is never clearly shown in any of the killings) and then mangling her face. She was the daughter of ex-con turned successful horror author Roy Warner (William Devane; who first acts like he has a bad case of tuberculosis and then miraculously stops his coughing fits about 15 minutes into the film!), who harasses police detective Dave Mooney (Richard Jaeckel) to keep him updated on his progress, something that pisses off Dave since he put Roy in the slammer three years earlier on a manslaughter charge! Dave and his partner Detective Jack Bresler (Biff Elliot; who always has a piece of food in his mouth or hands in every scene he is in) are always in hot water because the killer keeps on beheading and mangling a new victim every night and their Captain (Warren Kemmerling) is chewing them out because there is a leak in the department and the newspapers are calling the killer "The Mangler". An entertainment TV reporter named Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby) talks her boss Sherm (Keenan Wynn) into letting her become a serious reporter and start covering The Mangler case. She says something unflattering about Roy (who uses the name "Steve Dupree" when he writes his books) on TV and when they meet in a bar, Roy says to her: "If we were both liberated, I would knock you on your ass!". While Roy travels the streets in his silver Corvette listening to his police radio for clues, Dave and Jack get a visit from a psychic named De Renzy (Jacquelyn Hyde), who tells them they should be following a young wannabe actor, who she says will soon be a victim of The Mangler. The detectives write her off as some kook, but she does have some psychic connection to the killer (which is never explained). Eventually, Roy and Zoe team-up and believe what De Renzy has to say (De Renzy is psychically attacked in her house in one of the film's many head-scratching scenes, which also includes a pointless scene of Sherm in an underground garage) and try to find out the identity of the wannabe actor. When they do, they follow him and then the alien starts going after them, which brings out Dave, Roy and the entire police force out in force to battle the alien, who shoots death rays from his eyes (killing some police in a puff of smoke and setting others on fire) while the police riddle it with bullets and shotgun blasts. Eventually the alien blows up and peace is restored to the city, but another added-on end crawl warns us that it may happen again, maybe sooner than we think. It's easy to see that this was a troubled production right from the start, because the direction by Hooper and Cardos couldn't be more different and it sticks out like a sore thumb (you can tell immediately which director shot which footage). There's a lot of great genre vets in the cast (including the late Casey Kasem as the police pathologist and the late John Bloom as the killer; they worked together before on THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT - 1970, in which Cardos was the Second Unit Director) and cameos by Philip Michael Thomas as a bigoted onlooker at one of the murder scenes, who is listed as "Corn Rows" in the credits, and diminutive Angelo Rossitto as a newspaper seller (who is horribly dubbed and uncredited), but the film is such a jumbled mess, that is all the enjoynemt you'll find here. There is some violence, but since just before The Mangler attacks, the lights go out, so it's hard to make out anything. There's no nudity, a smattering of comedy and some risable dialogue (screenplay by Stanford Whitmore; MY OLD MAN'S PLACE - 1971, also starring Devane), but nothing to make it a must-see for anyone other than those who must see every bad horror film ever made. The late Lee Frost was Second Unit Camera Operator and Dick Clark was one of the Producers. Also starring Vivian Blaine, William Derringer, Jay Lawrence, Russ Marin, Vernon Washington, Ken Minyard, Kathy Richards (mother to Paris Hilton) and Mel Anderson. Originally available on VHS from Media Home Entertainment and then released on anamorphic widescreen DVD from Shriek Show, who also offer it in a DVD three pack, with the films THE BEING (1981) and CREATURES FROM THE ABYSS (1994). Released theatrically by Montoro's Film Ventures International, where, in this film, you can see posters of FVI's releases BEYOND THE DOOR (1974) and THE NIGHT CHILD (1975). Soon to be available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.
THE DARK (1993) - An undiscovered species of prehistoric animal is discovered hiding beneath a cemetery, sustaining its' existence by eating dead bodies. A scientist (Stephen McHattie; SEARCH FOR THE GODS - 1976; LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY'S BABY - 1976) wants to capture the creature alive because it secretes a substance which has mysterious healing powers (the creature saved McHatties life two years earlier by spreading its secretion on a fatal bullet wound). A psychotic ex-FBI agent (the late B-movie staple Brion James; DEAD MAN WALKING - 1987; MOM - 1989), who administered the fatal bullet wound to McHattie, wants to kill the creature to avenge his partners death. The two converge at the cemetery (along with an assortment of other people) to do their thing with the creature. This reviewer was rooting for the creature, as every person in the cast displays a serious lack of common sense. Filled with improbable situations, this film could use a good dose of reality to make heads or tails of the hackneyed plot. It falls flat at every turn. Also starring Cynthia Belliveau, Jaimz Woolvett and Neve Campbell (SCREAM - 1997). Its another Canadian tax shelter film directed by Craig Pryce, who also made the disasterous REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE REPORTER (1989). From Imperial Entertainment Video. Rated R.
DARK HARVEST (2003) - The killer scarecrow genre is a small lot: There's the 1981 TV Movie DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (considered the granddaddy of scarecrow horror films), the excellent SCARECROWS (1988), the so-so NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1995), the lame York Entertainment Scarecrow Trilogy (SCARECROW , SCARECROW SLAYER  and SCARECROW GONE WILD ), the completely idiodic MESSENGERS 2: THE SCARECROW (2009; watch it and you'll understand completely), the better-than-average HUSK (2011), and this one, the worst of the lot. After a good start set in the 1930's, the film degenerates quickly once it comes forward to the present, when adopted teenager Sean (Don DiGiulio) inherits a farm in the West Virginia mountains from his real family and brings a bunch of his obnoxious friends (his girlfriend, an interracial couple, a lesbian couple, etc.) along to check it out. After constant bickering between the group, some pot smoking and, of course, sex, they are attacked by scarecrows come to life. Besides a couple of good gore scenes (and plenty of bad ones) there's not much to recommend here. Director/Writer Paul Moore, who you can plainly see is working on a miniscule budget, does get some atmospheric shots on location and some scares in the scarecrow attacks, but this is typical cookie-cutter stuff. The scarecrows could just have well been werewolves, vampires or unkillable psychos. As it stands, DARK HARVEST wastes it's eerie location with a predictable plot. The acting by the group of unknowns, including Jeanie Cheek, Jennifer Leigh, Aimee Cox, Jessica Dunphy and especially B.W. York, is way below par. The only saving grace is some behind-the-scenes footage that rolls during the end credits. It's an interesting look into what goes on behind the cameras even if it was only put in there to pad out the running time. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R. Believe it or not, two sequels followed, although they are in-name only.
OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE (2017) -
I wish someone would give me a reasonable answer to this question:
Why do people think they have to remake a film that is already a
horror classic? DAY OF THE DEAD
(1985) is my favorite George A. Romero zombie film and it still
stands up today. This was already remade as an abysmal
film in 2007 and, while this one isn't as bad as that remake, it
is missing something that the original had in spades: '80s blood and
gore, free of CGI and all practical, back when people used their
imagination and ingenuity to pull off bloody effects that were more
original than they are today. Back then, audiences could believe that
zombies were real, but computer effects, which don't take the law of
physics into consideration, make audiences feel that this could not
possibly happen. That is one reason where this film fails.
Besides the flashback opening, this film actually follows the original's plot. Zoe (Sophie Skelton) is a medical student at a teaching hospital. When the body of an obese man who died of influenza is brought into the morgue, he turns into a zombie (no explanation on why this has happened). He bites Max (Johnathon Schaech; ARSENAL - 2016), a pervert with a rare blood type, who tries to rape Zoe (He carved her name into his wrist and shows it to Zoe, who is repulsed). Within four hours, the town is crawling with zombies. Right away, we know that these zombies are fast-moving and not mindless, as one zombie breaks the window of a car with a rock to get to his prey (Unlike zombie films of yore, when you were safe in a locked car). This film also takes zombieism to new heights, as when you are bitten, you don't just bleed. The initial bite causes the blood to erupt out of the body like a volcano.
Five years later, Zoe is working in an underground military bunker, trying to find a cure for the zombie virus. When Zoe and some military personnel leave the bunker to find some meds Zoe needs for the cure, they are attacked by zombies and unknowingly bring back a zombie who has the smarts to hide under a military vehicle. That zombie is Max (this film's "Bub") who, because of his rare blood type, has become half-human/half-zombie. Max is intelligent enough to avoid detection and makes his way through the bunker's air ducts to get to his intended goal: Zoe. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is basic Horror 101, as Max picks off people one-by-one before he is captured by Zoe (he wanted her to capture him). Zoe uses him as a guinea pig, thinking he is the answer to reversing the zombie plague. Zoe must also deal with the temperamental head of the bunker, Lt. Miguel Salazar (Jeff Gum), who zigs when everyone else zags (He is this film's "Rhodes", who was played by Joseph Pilato in the original). Max still has the hots for Zoe, refusing to bite her and letting her draw his blood without fear. Zoe needs some zombies to experiment on, so some military men (without Miguel's permission) let some zombies in through the fence that surrounds the bunker. It gets out of hand and the zombies break the perimeter, surrounding the bunker, trying to find a way in.
Sadly, this film fails to generate the suspense of the original, especially the ending where a horde of zombies invade the bunker and Max breaks free (Unlike the original, Max doesn't even give Miguel the fate he so richly deserves. Another zombie we never have seen before does.). While "modern" audiences may find Romero's film slow-going, this film glosses-over many of the sequences that made the original so memorable, especially the scene where military men capture zombies by putting a choke harness around their necks. There is also an over-reliance on using CGI bullet squibs, especially for head shots. As a matter of fact, this film is so quickly paced that the audience has no time to feel sympathy or hatred for many of the characters, especially when they die or turn. And, therefore, that is where this film fails. Unlike the nihilistic ending of the original, Zoe finds a cure and saves the world. In the canon of Romero remakes, this one falls behind DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) and THE CRAZIES (2010) and slightly above the 2007 remake. The fact is this film is not very good, especially by making Max such an unsympathetic character (he comes across as a half-zombie rapist and he talks!). Bub, in the original, got a standing ovation when he saluted Rhodes as zombies tore him in half. There's none of that to be found here. Directed by Hèctor Hernández Vicens (THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ - 2015). Also starring Marcus Vanco, Lillian Blankenship, Ulyana Chan and Mark Rhino Smith. A Lionsgate Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.
DEAD & BREAKFAST (2004) - I know: Just what we need, another zombie comedy. Only this one is slightly different. It also has musical interludes, sung and written by Zach Selwyn, who narrates the film using Country, Rap and Hip-Hop (sometimes mixing all three together) to keep the film moving at a snappy pace. An RV full of people (including Ever Carradine, Jeremy Sisto, Erik Palladino and Gina Philips) get lost on a way to a wedding and end up in the town of Lovelock (or "Lovecock" as Palladino calls it). They decide to stay the night there and end up in a Bed & Breakfast owned by the mysterious Mr. Wise (David Carradine [Ever's Uncle], in what amount to a cameo) and run by a nasty French chef (Diedrich Bader), When Bader is murdered and Mr. Wise has a heart attack and dies, the Sheriff (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) demands that they all stay in town until the murder is solved. When the Sheriff arrests a drifter (Brent David Fraser) for the crimes, everything seems back to normal except when one of the gang opens an Oriental box containing an evil spirit (or "Kuman Thong" as it is normally known) who begins possessing the townspeople. The only way to kill them is to cut off their heads or shoot them in the brain (how original). Most of the cast becomes possessed and it is up to the remaining three survivors to stop this menace by digging up the body of Mr. Wise, burning it and fashioning knives out of his bones (don't ask). There's beheadings, dismemberment, brains being blown out and impalements aplenty, but it is Selwyn's witty tunes that carry the show. He even sings after he becomes a zombie! Director Matthew Leutwyler (ROAD KILL - 1999) thankfully keeps the running time short (88 minutes) and fills the screen with enough carnage, comedy (Palladino's motorcycle take-off is a hoot) and music to keep your mind off the gaping plot holes. And you got to love those homemade shotguns! DEAD & BREAKFAST also contains a cameo by Portia de Rossi as the profane bride, a drumstick in the eye, a deer antler impalement, chainsaw murders and human heads used as hand puppets. What more could you ask for? Also starring Vincent Ventresca, Oz Perkins, Bianca Lawson, Miranda Bailey and Mark Kelly. An Anchor Bay Entertainment Release. Unrated. Someone should release a soundtrack album. It would probably make more money than the film itself.
DEADLY EYES (1982) - This Golden Harvest production, based on James Herbert's novel THE RATS (also the film's alternate title), is not as bad as you might have heard. Since it never got a major release in movie houses, I caught this on cable. The film involves a pack of oversized rats terrorizing a community and the people who try to stop them. The rats (actually dressed-up dashchunds) also happen to be intelligent. Add in some dirty politics and you have a stew that, for some reason, is strangely satisfying. I won't give much of the plot away, but the scene in the disabled subway car towards the end of the film is particularly meaty. Director Robert Clouse (ENTER THE DRAGON - 1973; the extremely weird GYMKATA - 1985) builds suspense throughout and the attack scenes are well handled. Besides, any film with Scatman Crothers (THE SHINING - 1980) in it can't be all bad. This is not a bad way to spend 87 minutes. DEADLY EYES stars Sam Groom, Sara Botsford, Cec Linder, Lisa Langlois and James B. Douglas. A Warner Bros. Home Video VHS Release. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray in an excellent combo pack from Scream Factory. Rated R.
THE DEADLY INTRUDER (1984) - When a violent mental patient (whose face we do not see) escapes the looney bin and begins killing the populace of a sleepy town, it is up to Police Captain Pritchett (a tired-looking Stuart Whitman) and his two-person police team Danny and Carlos (Daniel Greene and Santos Morales) to catch him before he kills anyone else. Could the killer be the drifter (screenwriter Tony Crupi), who just came into town? Or ex-Partridge Family troublemaker Danny Bonaduce (who spouts such lines as, "Cooking without garlic is like sex without foreplay")? How about the flatulent police dog (OK, that one's a stretch)? What about Bob (Chris Holder), the new worker at a department store and hopeful boyfriend of Jessie (Molly Cheek)? When Danny gets an axe planted in his back and other townspeople, such as a mechanic (who has a car dropped on him), a female neighbor (who is drowned in the kitchen sink) and an electrician (who has his eye removed with a screwdriver) turn up dead, it's not hard to spot who the killer is even though Police Chief Pritchett is about three steps behind the viewer. Director John McCauley (RATTLERS - 1975) telegraphs all the moves, rips-off John Carpenter's theme from HALLOWEEN (1978) and plays the stalk-and-slash theme close to the vest. By making Jessie the target of the unseen killer, you could call this HALLOWEEN-lite, since she must find different ways to fend off his attacks. Thank God theres some nudity and gore to take your mind off of the gaping plot holes (some of them are so huge, you could pass an elephant through them) and the "surprise" twist, otherwise you will be hitting the fast-forward button so often that it will look like a silent film. At least I got to see Danny Bonaduce get his head thrown through a TV screen. It was almost (I repeat, almost) worth the price I paid for it on eBay. I also have one final question to ask: Why in the hell do you stand by a window if you are trying to hide from a psycho? I've seen this so many times in films like this that I have to believe that these airhead women must think that windows do not break. Skip this one and have a bowel movement instead. In the end it's more satisfying. Also starring Laura Melton, Marcy Hansen and David Shroeder. Don't expect this one to turn up on DVD any time soon. A Thorn EMI Video Release. Rated R.
DEADLY SUNDAY (1982) - This hostage thriller, directed by genre vet Donald M. Jones (PROJECT: NIGHTMARE - 1985; MURDERLUST - 1986; HOUSEWIFE FROM HELL - 1993), is an OK film for fans of movies that put ordinary people in extraordinary situations. A vacationing family stop by a secluded roadside store only to be taken hostage by a gang of jewel thieves who are holed-up there waiting for their partner to come back with some loot. They, along with other hostages, are subjected to impromtu target practice, rape, and other degradations before turning the tables on their captors. The lead villian Gil (Dennis Ely) is an impotent psychopath who has a deadly fear of bees (which comes in handy at the end of the film). The partner that the thieves are waiting for turns out to be a very mean woman who takes pleasure in torturing the male captives. It culminates in a showdown at the end where the couple's son Joey (David Wagner) turns out to be the hero, using his slingshot and a handy hornets nest to get even with the dastardly Gil. Mom joins in to pump a couple of shots into him for good measure. While not overly bloody, this film earns points for bringing out the terror in everyday people as they must endure situations that most people never even dream about. While most viewers will find this film slow going, the patient will be rewarded with a very good finale as we witness both good people and bad getting killed by gun, knife and slingshot. Also starring Henry Sanders, Gylian Roland and Douglas Alexander. Written and Produced by James C. Lane, who also did the same for MURDERLUST. A Lightning Video Release which is long OOP. Not Rated.
DEAD MEAT (2004) - I'm beginning to get really tired of zombie films. No matter how you dress them up it's still the same formula: The survivors try to stay one step ahead of the zombies and usually don't succeed. The films are basically just one long chase scene with bits of gore thrown in to keep your interest. This Irish-made film is no different. A mutant strain of mad cow disease has caused all the people that have eaten the infected beef to become zombies. A tourist (Marian Araujo) and a local gravedigger (David Muyllaert) band together and try to escape the zombies. Along the way, they pick up a child and a husband and wife who get off on killing zombies. Nearly everyone is killed, infected or led away like cattle by the government in the finale (I guess it's supposed to be ironic). Besides the graphic bloodletting (heads cut off at the jawline by a shovel, decapitations, impalements, and various bitings), scenes of sleeping zombies (?) and the appearance by a zombie cow, this film is the same generic zombie plot. Run, fight, run. Director/screenwriter Conor McMahon relies way too much on the SteadiCam as the camera keeps moving at a brisk pace nearly causing vertigo to the viewer. The film doesn't overstay it's welcome (it clocks in at under 80 minutes), but I can't really recommend the film. You've seen this film many times before. One of the actors (Eoin Whelan) speaks in such a thick Irish brogue, you'll need to turn on the optional English subtitles to understand what he is saying. Also starring David Ryan, Amy Redmond and Kathryn Toolan. Not to be confused with the 1993 horror film DEAD MEAT, a gory Super 8mm horror flick that got very little airplay. Released on DVD on the Fangoria label distributed by Hart Sharp Video. Rated R.
DEATH PROMISE (1977) - Very poor revenge melodrama. Greedy landlords will try anything to get the poor tenants to move out of a slum building so they can tear it down and build a highrise. Charlie (Charles Bonet; DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE - 1979), a martial artist, and his father (Bob O'Connell), a former boxer, help protect the tenants from the landlords' dirty tactics, but when his father is murdered, Charlie vows revenge. He must first get more training, and travels far away to bone up with a Chinese master (Tony Liu) who speaks bad English (therefore leaving all the people behind who actually need him to fend for themselves). When he is finished with his training, Charlie is ready to kick ass (I guess it's too bad that some of the tenants have died during his absence). This is basically an Americanization of a plot found in hundreds of earlier Chinese kung fu flicks, all done better than this one. Poorly acted and technically inept (see how many times you can spot our old friend the "Boom Mike" in the upper part of the screen, although it is possible that it was shown open matte and all those mike shots where supposed to be matted out for a widescreen presentation). Directed by one-time-only director Robert Warmflash with a case of the hot flashes. Also starring Vincent Van Lynn, Abe Hendy, Bill Louie. Thomsom Kao Kang, Thom Kendell and Tony De Caprio. From Paragon Video on VHS. Also available on DVD from Code Red in its original aspect ratio. Rated R. WARNING: People who hate the sight of rats may also want to skip this film. Personally, I think rats are very smart and cuddly if you treat them right, but other people view them as nothing more than disease-infested vermin with sharp teeth.
DEATH ROW DINER (1988) - Another abysmal 80's SOV film that excels at being incapable of doing anything right in every department. In the 1940's, film studio head Otis Wilcox (John Content), is executed in the electric chair for a crime he did not commit. He didn't get his last meal which makes him very mad. Cut to the present and third-rate director Bill Weston (an over-acting Jay Richardson) is filming the story of Otis' execution at the actual deserted prison. Otis comes back to life and begins killing the crew, looking for his last meal which consists of human flesh. Otis grandaughter, Julia (Michelle Bauer, here billed as "Michelle McClennan"), the main actress on the film and husband to Weston ("It's not a marriage. It's a punishment from God."), is having an affair with one of the crew and is trying to stop her husband from gaining controlling interest of the studio. The rest of the film is nothing but bad photography (this is video), long lapses of inane dialogue, grade school gore and terrible acting (especially by Rick Preston, who plays a caterer dressed liked Elvis). There's also unneeded narration, by someone who sounds like they smoked too many cigarettes, throughout the film. There's numerous mentions of HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (1988), which starred both Richardson and Bauer (There's a trailer for it at the end of the tape.). It's not a compliment. Director B. Dennis Wood should be strung up by his short hairs for unleashing this at the public. Even BLOOD CULT (1985) looks professional compared to this. There's also an unforgivable couple of Oriental jokes at the end of the film. Even at 68 minutes this film seems twice as long. There are bloopers at the end credits (the best part). Also starring Tom Schell, Dennis Mooney, Frank Sarcinello and Dana Mason. A Camp Motion Picture Release. Not Rated. After the film, there's some trailers and an unexpected short called BIKINI ARM WRESTLING, where bikini-clad girls dance for an audience and then arm wrestle each other!
PHOTO OF GIOIA (1987) - A
really weak and late entry in the giallo genre from Lamberto Bava (A
BLADE IN THE DARK - 1983; BLASTFIGHTER
- 1984). It is one part REAR WINDOW
(1954), one part EYES OF
LAURA MARS (1978) and 100% boring.
Big-breasted Gloria (Serena Grandi; ANTHROPOPHAGUS - 1980: She's called "Gioia" in the Italian version), a former model, publishes the softcore porn magazine Pussycat. During one softcore photo shoot at her house, where her brother Tony (Vanni Corbellini; THE BELLY OF AN ARCHITECT - 1987) is photographing busty female models feeling each other up, Gloria gets a phone call from wheelchair-bound neighbor Mark (Karl Zinny; THE FINAL EXECUTIONER - 1983), who tells her that he is watching her through a telescope from his bedroom window. Gloria is disgusted, but she doesn't know she has a far deadlier fan: A psycho who starts killing her models, posing their dead bodies with photos of Gloria in the background (The killer also sees his victims wearing masks that correspond to his/hers method of killing). The first victim is Kim (Katrine Michelsen; SPECTERS - 1987), who gets a pitchfork planted in her stomach and then is thrown in Gloria's pool (The killer sees her in a very grotesque mask [see scan at right]). The list of suspects is long. Could it be Mark, who is in a wheelchair because of a car accident he caused which killed his fiancee, yet his doctor tells him there is no medical reason why he can't walk? Could it be Roberto (David Brandon; BEYOND DARKNESS - 1990), a photographer at Pussycat Magazine, who is a big fan of Gloria? What about her former lover Alex (George Eastman; HANDS OF STEEL - 1986), whom Gloria reconnects with when her life is spiraling out of control? How about her assistant Evelyn (Daria Nicolodi; DEEP RED - 1975), who is always drunk? Or her former manager, Flora (Capucine; RED SUN - 1971), who threatens to release compromising photos of Gloria unless she sells her Pussycat Magazine? What about her brother Tony, who may have incestual feelings for his sister? Or could it be Gloria herself, who may be killing her models to increase sales of her magazine?
As you can see, nearly everyone in this film could be the killer, yet it is quite obvious nearly from the start of the film who the killer is (The killer can't perform sexually, even with a beautiful naked model in the killer's bed). The only "hook" this film has are the masks the victims wear before they are killed. Model Sabrina (Sabrina Salerno) gets out of the shower and is seen wearing an insect mask. The killer seals-up her apartment and releases a swarm of killer bees, which sting Sabrina to death. Otherwise, the film is a loooong 94 minutes. The acting is horrendous (especially by Karl Zinny, an obvious red herring, who smiles and laughs at all the wrong times. He is simply horrible.), the giallo elements old hat (The clues are in the photographs. Paging Dario Argento!) and the mystery is not interesting and uninvolving. If it weren't for the frequent nudity on view, I would have lost interest almost immediately. The music, by Simon Boswell (Argento's PHENOMENA - 1984), is particularly grating, as it goes from soft rock and '80s faux-New Wave to ear-piercing hard rock, causing severe headaches. This is probably Boswell's worst music score. The screenplay, by Gianfranco Clerici (THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982) and Daniele Stroppa (WITCHERY - 1988) is nothing but giallo genre cliches (making everyone look as guilty as possible) and the unmasking (if it were) of the killer would only surprise a child. I have always said that director Lamberto Bava ran hot and cold and this film, shot under the title LE FOTO DI GIOIA (the title on the print is simply "Delirium"), is the coldest film of his career. Even when he films one long chase scene in a single take, it seems like nothing but leftover Argento. The only unintentional laugh I had was when the killer receives a shotgun blast to the groin and a doctor tells a hospitalized Gloria, "He'll need a wheelchair for the rest of his life", which then sets up the "surprise" CARRIE-like coda. I have seen better mysteries on PERRY MASON.
Originally released on DVD by Media Blasters/Shriek Show early in the New Millennium, which was uncut and in widescreen. The Blu-Ray, from Code Red (my review is based on this disc), looks great, but it's not encoded in Dolby stereo, even though, when it was shown in Italy and Europe theatrically, it was encoded in Dolby stereo. The extras on the disc are basically the same ones that are on Code Red's Blu-Ray of BLASTFIGHTER. There are 2016 interviews with Bava and George Eastman, who calls Bava an "idiot" and "half a man". It's obvious there is some bad blood between the two. The disc also contains an earlier interview with Eastman (the same extra that is on the Media Blasters DVD), where he has a different opinion of Bava, proving that old age has turned Eastman into a crank (He also calls most of the films he has appeared in "banal and stupid". No wonder he hasn't worked since 2010!). Also starring Beatrice Kruger, Loredana Petricca, Gianni Franco, Lino Salemme as "Inspector Corsi" and Lionello Pio Di Savoia as Mark's doctor. A Code Red Blu-Ray Release. Not Rated.
DEMON (1979/1981) - Cheap and
confusing South African horror film that copies many elements from HALLOWEEN
(1978), which was recently released when this film was shot. If it
weren't for one out-of-nowhere scene, this film would have been a
complete washout (If you saw this film, you know what I am talking
about). An unknown killer is on the loose in an unnamed town (it
tries to be passed off as some American town, but the Afrikaan
accents say otherwise). We first see the killer
enter a house, where he puts a plastic bag over mother Joan Parker's
(Moira Winslow) head and kidnaps daughter Emily (Ashleigh Sendin).
Mr. Parker (Peter J. Elliott) comes home just in time to save his
wife, but their daughter is nowhere to be found. The police begin a
mass effort to find her, and we see the killer splitting town,
hitching a ride with a talkative driver. While the driver rambles on
(calling his passenger a "captive audience"), he fails to
see the killer putting on black leather gloves with sharp metal
fingernails (a prototype for Freddy Krueger?). The driver then gets
his face slashed while he is driving (!) and dies, with the killer
taking his car to another town. Mr. and Mrs. Parker want to know
whether their daughter is dead or alive (she has been missing for two
months), so they hire former Marine-turned-psychic detective Col.
Bill Carson (Cameron Mitchell; KILLPOINT
- 1984), who tells them that he is not a "witch doctor" but
someone who gained the power of ESP and has helped many police
departments find missing persons. He goes into Emily's bedroom and
begins to act strange, ripping one of Emily's pillows apart. He then
begins to see through the killer's eyes and tells the parents that
they are dealing with an "aberration of the species"
and other things that don't make much sense (I doubt even Mitchell
understood what he was saying!).
In what seems to be a scene from another film (this film tells three or more stories that never link together), a girl leaving a disco (where we see people boogieing down to Lipps, Inc.'s song "Funky Town") is assaulted in an alley by the killer, but he is stopped from killing her by two motorcyclists who race down the alley. The killer knocks one off his bike and it explodes (it hits the wall ever-so-gently and explodes, like a 1979 Ford Pinto!). We then switch to Emily's father, who asks Carson if his daughter is alive. All his is able to get is some random gobbledegook, telling him this about the killer, "He is less than a man and more, much more than a man" (WTF?!?) and hands him drawings he made when he saw through the killer's eyes (which would not make a grade-schooler jealous!). One drawing interests Mr. Parker (of a cheap boarding house) and he goes there, only to have the killer murder him. We then see two boys playing with walkie-talkies in a park, when they scream, discovering a female skeleton in a tree (I guess it is supposed to be Emily's but the film doesn't let us know whether it is or it isn't, but what happens next tells us it probably is).
In the scene I was talking about in the beginning of the review, Carson goes to Mrs. Parker to pay his respect, when she pulls out a revolver and shoots him between the eyes! We never know if she is grief-stricken or just mad at Carson for not finding her daughter alive and causing the death of her husband, but she says something like. "I bet you never saw this coming" before shooting him (I believe there is a third reason: Mitchell had a one or two day shooting schedule and the production couldn't afford to shoot the remaining scenes as written because Mitchell would have demanded more money). The middle third of the film really drags as we are introduced to pre-school teachers (and cousins) Mary (Jennifer Holmes; RAW FORCE - 1981; also with Cameron Mitchell) and Jo (Zoli Markey). We get to know more than we ever need to know about their private and love lives (too much, if you ask me) and it is obvious that they are just meat for the killer's plate. But which one will survive?
This Public Domain (PD) film contains long stretches of nothingness, followed by non-bloody violence (the killer uses his gloves, but we never see the result of their use). In the film's favor, there is plenty of female nudity and some good camerawork (the 360° pan around the outside of Mary's house is really effective), as is Mitchell's shocking death but, like I said, that was probably never scripted and was a budget necessity. The only person we can blame for this meandering piece of horror filmmaking is director/producer/screenwriter Percival Rubens (SURVIVAL ZONE - 1982), who doesn't even bother to give us a reason why the killer is doing this, he just kills for no rhyme or reason. Also making matters confusing is that the killer wears a white mask, but in some scenes, he is seen not wearing the mask and then wearing it again. I don't know if Rubens was going for something supernatural or if it was just lazy filmmaking, but the finale, where Mary kills the menace, by stabbing him in the neck with scissors and he falls (slowly) into the bathtub, it is plain to see he is not wearing the mask, but when the camera lingers on him for the closing shot, he is wearing it, causing Mary to scream. If it is supposed to mean something, it got lost in the translation from page to screen. The only good thing I can say about this film is that Craig Gardner, who played Jo's rich boyfriend Dean Turner, is very good. We get invested in their relationship, only to have them uncerimoniously killed by the Demon (Is he a demon???). There is also a lot of talk about meditation and out of body experiences (OOBE), topics which were popular when this film was made, but doesn't help this film's languid pacing. But there is something about this film that makes me watch it when I can't decide on what to view. I don't know whether I hope to find something nice to say about it or whether I am just a masochist, but I have seen this film at least a dozen times and still have the same opinion about it. Not good, but not awful, either. It just is.
Released theatrically in the United States by Gold Key Entertainment, this film (also known as MIDNIGHT CALLER) had many VHS releases thanks to its Public Domain status (the first one being from Thorn/EMI Video). It also had countless budget DVD and DVD compilation releases and was one of the first films to be released on disc (by Diamond Entertainment). This review is based on the double feature DVD from Alpha Video, with the film PANIC (1982; using the title MONSTER OF BLOOD). The print is soft, but watchable, like many of Alpha's DVDs. Made in 1979 (we see a theater marquee displaying THE AMITYVILLE HORROR - 1979), but not released until 1981. Also starring Mark Tanous (Jennifer Holmes' new husband at the time. They filmed this days after they got married!), George Korelin & Vera Blacker as Mary's nosy neighbors, April Galetti,Jannie Wienand,John Parsonson and Graham Kennard as The Demon. Rated R.
DEMON LUST (1980) - Weak German-made, English language entry in the terror in the woods genre. A vacationing married couple (The wife was raped as a child by a stranger bearing candy. Christ on a cracker, even I wasn't that stupid [Unless it was a Chunky Bar. I'd go down on a filthy hobo for a tasty Chunky Bar]!) are stalked in the country by a pair of drifters (one being a retarded mute). The wife is raped (this time without being offered candy first) and her husband is tied up like a dog. The husband escapes while the drifters are taking a dump in the woods(!). He grabs his wife and they both flee to town. Instead of reporting the crimes to the police (he doesnt want his wife to go through another rape trial), the husband grabs a shotgun and returns to the country, determined to get even with the drifters. Very few surprises follow. In order for a film like this to work, the victims must be sympathetic and the villians must be brutal. Everyone in this film comes off as weak or wimpish and the entire proceedings are bloodless and lethargic. Avoid it. Starring John Parsonson (who also produced), Lieb Bester and Tessa Marie Ziegler. Directed and written by Bernard Buys, who was Associate Producer and Sound Recordist on the 1979 stinker horror film THE DEMON. The excellent photography is by Hanro Mohr, who later directed the Wings Hauser actioner HOSTAGE (1987). From Genesis Home Video. Not Rated, but it would probably get a PG-13 if it were. Also known on TV as SAVAGE ENCOUNTER.
DEMONSTONE (1989) - R. Lee Ermey made a distinct impression on me when he appeared as the tough, filthy-mouthed drill sargeant in Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET (1987). He has since starred in his fair share of stinkers, including ENDLESS DESCENT (a.k.a. THE RIFT - 1989), KID (1990) and THE TERROR WITHIN 2 (1991), but he has always seemed to rise above the material. Even he seems embarrassed appearing in this one, a poor tale about an ancient demon occupying the body of a woman (Nancy Everhard). Watching Nancy running around with glowing eyes results in laughter, not what director Andrew Prowse had in mind. Co-stars Jan Michael Vincent (a tipoff that you are about to watch some emoting straight from a bottle of Jack Daniels). A Fries Home Video Release. Rated R.
DESERT KICKBOXER (1992) - Abysmal martial arts film about a Native American Indian cop (John Haymes Newton) protecting a woman (Judie Aronson) and her retarded brother (Sam DeFrancisco), who are witnesses against drug runner Paul L. Smith (SONNY BOY - 1989). Full of badly staged action sequences and even worse acting. Michael Foley (THE DIVINE ENFORCER - 1991) shows up in this one as one of Smith's goons and has an extended fight scene with Newton. Foley has a presence and is the only bright spot in this dull film. Directed by action specialist Isaac Florentine (born "Yitzhak Florentin"; this was his first full-length film, so some allowances should be made), who usually shows a much steadier hand than this (HIGH VOLTAGE - 1997; COLD HARVEST - 1998; BRIDGE OF DRAGONS - 1999; U.S. SEALS 2 - 2001; SPECIAL FORCES - 2002; UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING - 2006; THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL - 2008; NINJA - 2009; UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION - 2010; ASSASSIN'S BULLET - 2012; NINJA II: SHADOW OF A TEAR - 2013). Florentine's next film would be SAVATE (1995), a martial arts Western starring Olivier Gruner. An HBO Video Release. Rated R.
HELP (1988) - We have seen the
telephone used as an instrument of death in many films, such as the
Charles Bronson flick TELEFON
(1977), MURDER BY PHONE
(1982) with Richard Chamberlain, Robert Englund's directorial debut 976-EVIL
(1988) and Jim Wynorski's 1991 sequel,
but you'll never see a phone used in such a way as in this film,
directed/co-written by Ruggero Deodato. Yes sir, it's a damn weird
film, but is it worth your precious time? It all depends. Read on...
Jenny Cooper (Charlotte Lewis; THE GOLDEN CHILD - 1986) is a model/actress and somewhat of an amateur psychic who dials a wrong number and gets a room full of cobweb-filled reel-to-reel tape recorders that suddenly come to life, somehow killing a cleaning woman who hears the phone ringing and picks it up. Jenny starts receiving a series of strange phone calls that affect her life dramatically. One phone call shatters a mirror in front of her and another phone call kills all the fish in a large tank in her apartment. She rightfully becomes creeped out and asks next door neighbor Riccardo (Marcello Modugno; YOU'LL DIE AT MIDNIGHT - 1986) to spend the night at her apartment so she's not alone. When Jenny falls asleep, her phone makes a strange ringtone, causing Carlo to walk out to the apartment building roof in a trance, where he tries to commit suicide by jumping off the roof, but Jenny saves him in the nick of time, slapping the shit out of him until he snaps out of the trance. Jenny then asks a phone company friend to check out the phone system in her apartment complex to see if anything unusual is going on. He, indeed, finds something strange, it's like everyone in the world is talking on the same line but, before he can do anything, the phone kills him, tossing his body through a plate glass window in front of Jenny. Then things get really weird.
In a deserted subway station, a stalker tries to rape Jenny, but a pay phone begins spitting coins like bullets, turning the rapist's face into hamburger, killing him. Jenny escapes on an empty subway car, where the intercom system begins saying thing like, "Come join us Jenny!" and "We need you Jenny!" What in the world is going on? I think it is better to say what not in this world is going on?
Jenny begins to believe that the phone wants to kill her, any phone, especially when she goes to her photographer friend Carmen's (Carola Stagnaro; TERROR AT THE OPERA - 1987) house and finds her dead, hanging from a phone cord wrapped around her neck. When a phone cord tries to grab Jenny, she escapes once again. Riccardo does some research at the university and discovers that a certain Professor Irving Klein (William Berger; THE SPIDER LABYRINTH - 1988) can help Jenny, as he believes there is an "energy" in this world that is unknown and deadly and once it attaches itself to a person, there is little that can be done to make it go away. Jenny and Riccardo meet the Professor at the airport, but before he can help Jenny, the energy attacks, exploding the pacemaker out of the Professor's chest! The energy then starts to "play" with Jenny sexually, making her writhe around in the bathtub (in her underwear) in a sexual frenzy. When Riccardo knocks on the bathroom door, it snaps Jenny out of her trance and she jumps out of the bathtub just before an electric phone comes flying through the bathroom window and lands in the bathtub water. Why does this energy want Jenny and her friends dead and can Jenny find a safe place to hide with no phones nearby?
Sure, this film is silly and it doesn't help that director Ruggero Deodato (JUNGLE HOLOCAUST - 1976; CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - 1980; CUT AND RUN - 1985) plays everything that happens here seriously, which is why this film doesn't work. The idea of common electric appliances turning deadly is certainly not a new idea, as the film PULSE (1988) showed us (and it was done so much better than this film), but the lack of a proper explanation on why this is happening and the serious tone are the film's biggest distractions. It also doesn't help that the characters within this film do the stupidest things possible at the worse times, such as Jenny using the phone at the airport after meeting the Professor, which causes his death. I mean, if you are so scared of the phone, why would you use one??? The screenplay, by Deodato and husband and wife team Joseph & Mary Cavara (their only film credit), is full of stupid people doing idiotic things, which makes this film a waste of celluloid. It isn't even good for an unintentional laugh. Add to that a total lack of nudity (although the beautiful Charlotte Lewis walks around in a minimal amount of clothing) and you'll be saying, "Why bother?" It should be noted that a couple of deaths are gory and you will see some electric appliances do things they were never meant to do (A ceiling fan drops to the floor and keeps spinning, trying to stop Riccardo from saving Jenny by cutting his legs off at the ankles [but failing]; phones of all types doing acrobatic stunts; and other awfulness), but it's all done without a hint of imagination or pinache, making this film a chore to sit through. So, what does this energy want from Jenny, you may ask? It seems all it wanted Jenny to do was call a certain number and tell the energy that she "loves" it! That's what she does and then the film ends. I mean, what the fuck?!? I was tempted to throw my remote at my TV screen, but that would be like blaming a TV for showing a shitty film! Do yourself a favor, treat your phone like a human being (in this age of cell phones, some people treat them better than they do people!) and avoid this film at all costs.
Filmed as MINACCIA D'AMORE ("Threat of Love"), this film received a limited U.S. theatrical release from Overseas FilmGroup, with an edited VHS release from Prism Entertainment, missing 3 minutes of footage (I don't know what footage was missing, but it couldn't possibly be anything explicit because there's nothing explicit to edit out!). No DVD or Blu-Ray release in the United States at the time of this review. I saw a nice uncut, anamorphic widescreen print on streaming channel B-Movie TV, the only free streaming horror channel that is worth having. Also starring Mattia Sbragia (ACT OF REVENGE - 1989), Victor Cavallo, Carlo Monni (THE SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS - 1982), Giorgio Tirabassi, Jole Silvani (FLAVIA THE HERETIC - 1974), Antonietta Di Vizia, Cesare Di Vito (PLAY MOTEL - 1979) and a cameo by Ruggero Deodato as a smiling man in a phone booth during the opening credits. Not Rated, but nothing in this film goes beyond a PG-13 or a very soft R-Rating.
DOCTOR MORDRID (1992) - The first in a series (God, I hope not!) about the adventures of mystical Dr. Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs). This film has absolutely nothing new to offer in way of entertainment except a short bit of stop motion animation at the very end. You'll have to put up with some agonizing acting and mind numbing plot holes before you get to it. Another failure from Full Moon, directed by father and son team Albert and Charles Band. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Full Moon Direct. Rated R.
DOLLS (1987) - Another winner from Stuart Gordon, director of the highly-regarded gross-out films RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and FROM BEYOND (1986) and the more recent shocker DAGON (2001), all based on stories by H. P. Lovecraft. This one, though, has nothing to do with Lovecraft but is still enjoyable nonetheless. During a heavy storm, a group of people with widely variable personalities take shelter in an old mansion run by an old doll maker (Guy "MR. SARDONICUS" Rolfe before he became Andre Toulon in the PUPPET MASTER films) and his wife (Hilary Mason). It seems as if his dolls have a life of their own, made possible by the kindly old dollmaker's secret process. The dolls kill anyone who intend to harm the old man, his wife or the house. This is actually a fairy tale gone out of control, as anyone (besides children), that does not retain their child-like innocence, is systematically dispatched by the dolls. Hate, deceit, thievery and wickedness brings death, while love, trust and innocence brings a life of happiness. Although this film gets rather bloody in spots (some doll attacks are graphic), you feel these people are getting what they deserve. The doll attacks, using stop-motion animation (by Dave Allen) and puppets, are convincing and well-done, unlike the effects for the PUPPET MASTER series. Same goes for the acting of the players, especially under-used actor Stephen Lee (ROBOCOP 2 - 1990), delivering their lines with tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. Director Gordon never panders to the audience, delivering them a good way to waste 77 minutes of their lives. You'll never look at a Barbie doll or a Teddy Bear the same way again. This film had a very limited regional theatrical release in the U.S. before going directly to video. Gordon's next film was the TV-movie DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS (1990). A Vestron Video VHS Release. Also available on widescreen Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, which is the only way to really watch the film properly. Rated R.
LOOK IN THE ATTIC (1982) -
Once again I had to raid my VHS library to review a film that is not
yet on DVD or Blu-Ray (at the time of this review). I think I know
why. This Italian horror film is so lethargically paced, it would tax
the patience of a snail covered in molasses.
Turin, 1955: We watch as two men fight, while a woman screams at them to stop because the house is making them fight. One man stabs the other to death and the woman pulls the knife out of the body and stabs the other man in the back, killing him. Then a red light appears in the room (supposedly telling us that the house is haunted) and the woman runs outside into a graveyard. A hand shoots up out of a grave, grabs the woman by the leg and pulls her underground to her doom.
Turin, To-Day (Their spelling, not mine): Lawyer Ugo Ressia (Jean-Pierre Aumont; CAULDRON OF BLOOD - 1970) draws up a will where the haunted house and the woman's fortune will be split between three relatives, daughter Elisa (Ann Gregs; TEENAGE PROSTITUTION RACKET - 1973), and nephews Tony (Tony Campa) and Bruno (Foster Bards; RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR - 1983). There is one major stipulation: All of them must live in the house and it can never be sold or altered in any way. Elisa is somewhat of an enigma. She never knew her mother (she disappeared when she was very young) and may have psychic powers. Tony and Bruno haven't talked to each other in years and they have never met their cousin Elisa. At the reading of the will, they meet each other for the first time at Ugo's office, along with Bruno's wife Sonia (Helen Frasson; KILLER NUN - 1979). When they all arrive at the house, they meet the creepy gardener Phillip (Paul Teitcheid), who has been living in the house ever since Elisa's mother disappeared. That night, Sonia has a nightmare where she witnesses her own death and she begs Bruno to leave the house, which he shoots down. Her screams wake up everyone else and Elisa accuses Tony of skulking by her bedroom door, but he denies it. Elisa also hears her mother calling to her, telling her to come to her tomb (If she disappeared, why does she have a tomb?).
It becomes apparent that Bruno wants the house and the fortune for himself. He fosters bad blood between Elisa and Tony by telling her that Tony wants to marry her (unlike this country, Italy has no problem with cousins marrying). Bruno also wants to have a baby with Sonia, but Sonia tells Elisa that her husband is sterile (he doesn't know it...yet). That night Bruno accuses Sonia of being barren and later, she sleepwalks out of the house and gets hit by a car, her face going through the windshield (just like in her nightmare). There's also a subplot where Ugo's partner, defense lawyer Casati (George Ardisson; EYES BEHIND THE STARS - 1977), and his mistress Martha (Beba Loncar; WHO KILLED THE PROSECUTOR AND WHY? - 1972) try to gain possession of the house (I'm still not certain why, even after Ugo is killed by Casati!).
This film is the pits, as the dubbing is horrendous. The line readings are so strange, you'll be shaking your head in disbelief and wondering if English was a second language for the dubbing artists, especially when Bruno, after just losing his wife, asks Elisa to marry him and, when he tries to rape Elisa, she tells him he is sterile! I hardly think that is the time to mention that point. The film also makes very little sense, as the screenplay offers no answers to the littany of questions it delivers, such as: Is this house really haunted? Why is there a cemetery in the front yard? What is Elisa's mother's name (her gravestone is blank)? Why does Beba Loncar get top billing when she is only in the film for about five minutes? Why do my loud farts turn into hard gas?
Directed/produced/written/photographed without any sense of style by Carlo Ausino (credited as "Charles Austin"), who was responsible for some second-tier Italian flicks such as CITY OF THE LAST FEAR (1975) and KILLER'S PLAYLIST (2006), films that never received a U.S. release in any format. This film, originally titled LA VILLA DELLA ANIME MALEDETTE ("The Villa Of Cursed Souls"), isn't even good for an unintentional laugh, as the violence is restrained (and shown at night), the plot confusing (and deadly slow) and even the music, by the usually dependable Stelvio Cipriani (A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971), is forgettable, not to mention the non-ending, which doesn't resolve anything. It just ends with the spirit of Elisa's mother sitting in a rocking chair on the house's porch and ruminating on what she is going to do! Also known as THE HOUSE OF THE DAMNED and THE EVIL TOUCH. Also starring Victor Bally, Attilio Cagnoni, Mario De Gregorio and Amelia Vercellino as the mother with no name. A Mogul Communications VHS Release. Unlike most VHS tapes from the period, the print used is letterboxed. Not Rated, but no blood and no nudity, so why bother?
DRIVE-IN MASSACRE (1976) - Tongue-in-cheek horror film, directed by TV veteran Stu Segall (HUNTER [1984 - 1988]; SILK STALKINGS [1991 - 1999]), who also directed porno features under the names "Godfrey Daniels", "Ricki Krelmn" and "P.C. O'Kake", and co-written by none other than genre veteran George "Buck" Flower (with long-time professional partner John Goff), who also puts in an appearance at the end of the film as an escaped mental patient shot dead after trying to kill his daughter (played by real-life daughter Verkina Flower). Someone is killing the patrons of the local drive-in with a sword. Heads are sliced off, necks are slashed and other various body parts are impaled. Two detectives (James Barnes and Adam Lawrence) are put on the case and stake out the drive-in for suspects. The manager (and ex-knife thrower) Atkin (Newton Naushaus), ex-circus geek and sword-swallower turned janitor Germy (Douglas Gudbye) and peeping tom Orville (Norman Sherlock) are the prime suspects as still more patrons turn up dead. The fact is, none of these people had anything to do with the killings as they are all dead by the end of the film, the killer never caught and unmasked. A voiceover at the end of the film notifies the audience that a murderer is loose in the theatre. The film has the look of a mid-70's porno feature, with bare bone sets, a droning synthesizer score and grainy photography. This actually adds to the charm of the movie. There are some bloody killings, especially in the beginning, to keep gorehounds occupied and some nudity to keep exploitation fans happy. But the screenplay has some funny bits, like when one of the detectives dresses as a woman to go undercover at the drive-in and gets stares and remarks from various people that are downright hilarious. If you go in with expectations not set at high, you may have fun with this film. DRIVE-IN MASSACRE is only 75 minutes long, so give it a try. A Magnum Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on DVD in Great Britain from Vipco, but not yet available in the States in that format. Rated R.
DUST DEVIL (1992) - Director Richard Stanleys atmospheric supernnatural thriller is available on U.S. video in heavily edited form (shorn of nearly 20 minutes). Its still, even in this trunicated version, a highly imaginative film full of visual delights and legitimate scares. Robert Burke stars as a supernatural serial killer who has runaway wife Chelsea Field on his list. Zakes Mokae (BODY PARTS - 1992) is the disbelieving policeman who must stop the Dust Devil before he claims another victim. Filmed at the Namib desert in Africa, this film offers great acting, sweltering photography, atmospheric music and a nifty head explosion. The storyline is somewhat muddled due to the severe editing, but still comes highly recommended. A Paramount Home Video release. Rated R. NOTE: Full unedited versions of this film are available if you look hard enough.
ED GEIN (2000) - For those of you expecting a gorefest, you are going to be disappointed. Except for a brief moment at the end, there is absolutely no blood. For those of you expecting a thought-provoking and uneasy biography of probably the most famous serial killer in American history, you will be rewarded. The film opens and closes with real newsreel footage of Gein's arrest and the townspeoples' view on his crimes. Steve Railsback (who also portrayed Charlie Manson in HELTER SKELTER - 1976) gives a quiet, understated performance as Gein, tortured by an uncaring father as a child and repressed by his domineering mother (the late Carrie Snodgress in an outstanding performance) as an adult. It's only when Mom dies does Ed go off the deep end, committing the crimes that PSYCHO (1960), DERANGED (1974) and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) so gruesomely detailed. This film is played mainly as a psychological drama as we get deeper and deeper into Gein's psyche until he snaps. Director Chuck Parello is to be commended for not going the gore route here as he did in HENRY 2: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER - MASK OF SANITY (1996). The viewer is made to feel uneasy and off-center (My wife said it was the most unsettling film she has seen in quite a while, but she couldn't explain why). Railsback (who also executive produced) is one actor who's worth watching in any film he's in. Watch this one with an open mind and you will be greatly rewarded. Also starring Carol Mansell, Steve Blackwood, Craig Zimmerman and Pat Skipper. A First Look Home Entertainment Release. Next up from First Look: TED BUNDY (2002). Not Rated.
ELVES (1989) - Why the HELL do I keep doing this to myself? I see the name Dan Haggerty and I have to see if he's improved his acting ability and every time I get the same result: How does this hack still get acting roles? In this film he plays an alcoholic department store Santa, who is down on his luck (he gets evicted from his trailer!) and decides to spend the night in the store. Also there are three teenagers, who previously reanimated an angry elf (?!), who was created by an old Nazi (He has the nerve to say, "When there is no more room in Hell, the Elves will walk the Earth.") during World War II to use against their foes. This old Nazi (Borah Silver) has sex with his nasty daughter (Deanna Lund, who drowns the family cat in the toilet after putting it into a pillowcase!) to produce the now teenage Kirsten (Julie Austin), who he plans on mating with the elf to produce a new Master Race! Since Kirsten's grandfather is also her father, it's no wonder that she is so fucked-up. The murderous elf (a ridiculous puppet whose mouth never moves) invades the department store and begins killing the inhabitants (including the original store Santa, who has his nuts cut off while snorting coke in a bathroom stall), which also includes a group of Neo-Nazis sent to retrieve Kirsten and impregnate her by using the elf. Santa Haggerty gets in the middle and helps Kirsten escape (including one of the lamest shootouts recorded on film) and retrieve a red crystal; the only object that can stop the elf and send him back to Hell. It's hard to tell if this film was actually made as a comedy, as director/writer Jeff Mandel (ROBO-C.H.I.C. - 1988) can't seem to make up his mind if the line readings are to be taken seriously (they're all over the place) and the action is about as exciting as watching paint dry. At least we get to see a kid piss on Haggerty's lap (and who hasn't wanted to do that?) while he is playing Santa (he's also Associate Producer of this turd). There's also only one elf in this film, which makes it hard to accept the title and the deceptive back cover of the video box. One wonders who Dan Haggerty owns in Hollywood (perhaps he has photos of some Hollywood agent blowing one of his male clients or maybe he just blows his agent?) as he's about as animated as a piece of driftwood and has the charm of that Uncle you always hated but had to invite over your house during the holidays as not to piss-off your other relatives ("Now we all know your Uncle Danny has problem with children and has to stay at least 100 feet from schools, but he's gotta eat!"). This film does contain some extreme blood and nudity, but it's so lame that you just don't care. Only for the retarded (damn the politically correct!) and the "visually impaired" (Damned the blind. This time I envy them!). Also starring Laura Lichstein, Mansell Rivers-Bland (how appropriate!), Stacey Dye and Christopher Graham. Released on VHS by A.I.P. Home Video in SP mode and Hemdale Home Video in EP mode. Not yet available on DVD (thank God!). Not Rated.
EMBALMER (1965) - This film is
important for two reasons: 1) It was one of the last Italian horror
films to be made in black-and-white and 2) it contains elements of
giallo with gothic horror, one of the first films to contain giallo
elements when gothic horror was on the wane. Unfortunately, it fails
to generate much suspense in either category and is best remembered
for a couple of ridiculous scenes (read on). It should also be noted
that many of the actors and behind the scenes personnel never did
another film after this.
Beneath the canals of Venice lurks a maniac who kidnaps beautiful women, embalms them and then poses their bodies in his personal "Temple of Beauty", a creepy underground crypt where they stand side-by-side in white gowns. "You will stay with me always. No one else will have you!", says the maniac, continuing with, "You will be my godesses, my idols...forever!" The killer, who hides his identity by wearing a scuba diver outfit when he kidnaps the women and a skull mask and hooded robe when he is not in the water, is hunted by the police and newspaper reporter Andrea ("Gin Mart" Real name: Luigi Martocci). Andrea pesters the Commissioner of Police (Alcide Gazzotto) constantly to find out why all these young women are disappearing (We know who the next female victim will be because they are denoted by a close-up and freeze frame for a couple of seconds, this film's "hook"). Andrea meets Miss Marie (Maureen Lidgard Brown), a young tour group guide, and he escorts her and her group (mostly beautiful young women) to their hotel. One of the pretty young tourists, Grace (Alba Brotto), is unable to get a room on the same floor as her friends, making her a prime candidate as an addition to the killer's Temple of Beauty. We must try to figure out who the killer is (he is never called "The Embalmer" once in the film), as almost every male (not including Andrea) has secrets they would rather not share with anyone else. Is it the Police Commissioner? How about the rich industrialist (Elmo Caruso), who hopes to modernize Venice (destroying its ancient beauty)? How about the bishop (Carlo Russo; church figures are almost always villains in giallo flicks)? Or is it the hotel manager, Mr. Torre (Gaetano Dell'Era)? What about the Professor (Luciano Gasper), who is the only male member of the tour group? And, finally, could it be Andrea's dentally challenged co-worker (Pietro Walter)?
At the hotel's nightclub, you'll see such crazy sights as an elderly skinny woman (Anita Todesco) doing the twist (she says she is only 42, but she has to be twice that age!) and an Elvis Presley wannabe (Roberto Contero), who suddenly appears in a coffin (!) and starts plucking his giutar and singing a song that is clearly not what we are hearing on the soundtrack! We also see Andrea and Miss Marie dancing cheek-to-cheek while salsa music plays! We then watch the technique the Embalmer uses to prepare his women for his Temple of Beauty. It involves a "secret formula" he injects into their veins to stave-off the decomposition process. But why is he doing this?
We then find out why Grace was given that room. The hotel manager installed a two-way mirror in the room so he could watch women get undressed and take a bath, all from the comfort of his office. The Professor discovers an important clue in the hotel's basement and, that night, his dead body is discovered in the singer's coffin, a knife sticking out of his chest. Andrea does some investigating and discovers a secret tunnel in the hotel basement, next to the Professor's pipe and a pool of blood. We know the Embalmer walks freely around Venice, as the camera pans down to his shiny black shoes while he picks out his next female victim. Who can it be? I'll never tell because this film is whacked-out, never giving us a reason why he is doing it (OK, it's the rich industrialist!).
This film is so atrociously dubbed, you'll be laughing out loud at the absurdities that come flying out of these people's mouths especially when the singer makes his initial appearance at the hotel's nightclub (This hotel has it all and I wondered why tourists would stay there because there is no reason to tour Venice when everything is at the hotel!). It comes so far out of left field and his song is so awful, you'll be wondering how he got the job in the first place. It's obvious this was the first time he held a guitar because his fingering makes no sense. Since this is a mid-'60s production, there is no nudity. When Grace takes a bath, all we see is her shadow projected on a wall as she takes off her clothes. There are also two comic fishermen who only talk about wine or getting drunk. There is some nice Venice scenery, but the mystery is not that engrossing. This was director/co-screenwriter Dino Tavella's last film (he only directed one other fim) before he passed away in 1969 at the age of 49. Very little is known about Tavella or 90% of the people in front or behind the cameras, since this was their only film. The screenplay, by Tavella, Paolo Lombardo (director/screenwriter of THE DEVIL'S LOVER - 1972), Gian Battista Mussetto & Antonio Walter, definitely lost something in its translation to English because it doesn't make a lick of sense, but its weirdness won me over.
Shot Under the title IL MOSTRO DI VENEZIA ("The Monster Of Venice", an alternate title for this film), this film's main claim to fame was that it was the bottom-billed film in THE FINAL DIMENSION IN SHOCK! triple feature (from Geneni Film Distributing Co.), which included THE CORPSE GRINDERS (1971) and THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS (1966) as the top-billed features, where you were handed a "Certificate of Assurance" that certified that you were of sound mind and body. A nurse was also supposed to be at the theater to take your blood pressure. I went to this showing in the early-'70s and receive no such certificate or saw any nurses, but none of these film were terrifying enough to warrant either. When I saw this triple feature, half the audience walked out of the theater when this film was shown, only because it was in black & white! This was one of those films that fell into the Public Domain and was shown on TV constantly during the '70s and is easily obtainable today as a stand-alone disc or part of DVD compilations such as TALES OF TERROR 200 HORROR FILMS compilation from Mill Creek Entertainment. This review is based on the stand-alone DVD from Alpha Video, which is surprisingly in widescreen. The print is soft, but watchable. Also available on widescreen DVD from Bayview/Retromedia Entertainment under the alternate title. Also starring Viki del Castillo, Paola Vaccari. Maria Rosa Vizina, Francesco Bagarin and Antonio Grossi. Not Rated, but nothing objectionable.
THE EMERALD JUNGLE (1980) - Sick Italian crossbreed of the cannibal and religious fanatic genres. A young woman (Janet Agren) hires a mercenary (Robert Kerman) to help her search for her sister, who has joined a religious cult located deep in the New Guinea forest. The leader of the cult, a Jim Jones-like figure named Jonas (Ivan Rassimov), drugs his followers to keep them in line and dishes out severe punishments for disobedience. To make matters worse, his camp is surrounded by a tribe of cannibals, making any escape attempt next to impossible. Here is a partial list of the carnage on view: A man has his penis lopped off; Agren is raped with a dildo dipped in cobras blood; decapitations with machetes; body parts being devoured (including a womans breast); various animal mutilations (all real) and in the finale, a mass suicide. This film is for sadists only. Written and directed by Umberto Lenzi, who cribbed some footage from Ruggero Deodatos earlier cannibal epic THE LAST SURVIVOR (1976 - available on video as JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, CANNIBALS and CARNIVOROUS) to fill out the running time. Also known as EATEN ALIVE, EATEN ALIVE BY CANNIBALS and DOOMED TO DIE. From Continental Video. Not Rated, but it would have easily garnished an X Rating if submitted to the MPAA. Even fans of cannibal films (myself included) will find this one a tough one to sit through. Extremely strong stomachs required (And don't get me started on the real-life animal slaughter for "entertainment value". That's a bullshit excuse that doesn't fly. If you can fake human deaths, you can also fake animal deaths. Killing an innocent animal on screen is the act of a coward. All you people who try to justify the killings by saying that the meat of the animal was used for meals after their on-screen death can eat a bowl of fuck. I wonder how you would feel if it were a loved one [like your beloved Grandma] or loving family pet you were watching being slaughtered.). UPDATE: February 20, 2018: Now available in a pristine transfer on Blu-Ray from Severin Films under the title EATEN ALIVE! with plenty of extras and a reversible cover. Look for an updated review in the weeks to come.
ENCOUNTER AT RAVEN'S GATE (1988) - I just love Australian horror films. Sure, there's been some bad ones, but the majority of them knock anything made in America clear out of the water. This one is no exception. In the opening prologue, an object is discoverered to have landed at the small town of Raven's Gate and a Government inspector is sent out to take a look. He finds a cop searching a burned-out house and the film flashes back to five days earlier. Some type of electrical surge has begun to stall out cars, kill birds while they are flying, and change people attitudes until they become murderous. This electrical surge also empties-out a half-full water tank instantly, turns domesticated animals into killers and murders an elderly couple by frying them alive. What exactly is doing this and why? The answer is hard to find in this film (but the pieces are there if you look hard enough), but it is entertaining with it's colorful characters (an ex-con who stole a police car, a homicidal cop who is in love with the same woman as the ex-con and a hortculturist who cares more about the water supply than he does people). The desolate, dry landscape and some really tense situations add to the strange allure of this film. Director/Producer/Writer Rolf De Heer (BAD BOY BUBBY - 1993) builds up suspense without catering to the gorehound crowd (although there is some shocking bits of blood and unexpected violence). It's a film that actually makes you think for a change and that is a film that's hard to come by, especially for the horror genre. It enigmatic (but not as enigmatic as a David Lynch film) and makes you take a long, hard look at what lengths the Government will go to to cover up whatever is out there. The final scene will bear me out. If you're in the mood for something different, this film will do the trick nicely. Starring Steven Vidler, Celine O'Leary, Ritchie Singer, Vincent Gil and Saturday Rosenberg (love that name!). An HBO Video Release. Not yet available on DVD in the U.S (but is available as part of the DVD "Rolf De Heer Collection" in Australia as INCIDENT AT RAVEN'S GATE by Umbrella Entertainment) and the VHS is long OOP, so search eBay for a copy. Rated R.
THE EVIL WITHIN (1989) - This is a rare instance of an excellent horror film coming from France. Originally titled BABY BLOOD (an in-joke in the film shows a poster for the yet unmade BABY BLOOD 2), this wild exercise in graphic bloodletting tells the tale of a creature who takes up residence in the belly of a circus performer (Emmanuelle Escourrou) and demands blood for substanance. While we listen to the conversations between pregnant mom and her unborn monster baby, we also witness the gruesome murders mom has to perform to satisfy this things habit. I will not divulge any more as it will spoil your viewing pleasure. Escourrou carries the show and, even with a gap between her front teeth you could pass a train through, displays fine form as a tortured soul who doesnt know whether to love or hate the monster in her body. Good direction, excellent photography and inventive special effects make for a bloody good time for all. For once, the English dubbing is not intrusive and seems to be done by people who take pride in their work. Co-starring Jean-Francois Gallotte, Christian Sinninger and Francois Frapier. Directed and written by Alain Robak (who appears in the film under the funny pseudonym "Roger Placenta"), who has real talent. On VHS from A-Pix Entertainment Video. Rated R, but this is hard R bordering on NC-17. Anchor Bay Entertainment released a fully uncut DVD in both French (with English subtitles) and dubbed into English (where Gary Oldman is the voice of the bloodthirsty baby!).
THE EXECUTIONER (1974) - Duke Mitchell (of Mitchell and Petrillo fame) directs and stars (under his given name "Dominic Miceli") in this ultra-low budget GODFATHER clone that will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Filled with priceless dialogue, bloody violence, nudity and racial epithets galore, this film should fail miserably but somehow, it gels together rather nicely and will hold you enthralled. Mitchell stars as Mimi, a second generation mafioso, who returns from Sicily to L.A. to restart his exiled father's crime business. He runs into trouble with his father's old business partners and resorts to kidnapping, body dismemberment and many gun battles to get his way. You'll gasp in amazement at Mimi's monologues and some of the dialogue (I laughed so hard, I nearly pissed my pants), but you won't soon forget it. Purportedly made for $27,000, this film is must viewing for anyone looking for something different. Mitchell also contributes four songs to the soundtrack. Also starring Vic Caesar, Ted Schneider and George "Buck" Flower! THE EXECUTIONER was also released as LIKE FATHER LIKE SON (it played in NY under this title), THE MAFIA KILLER and MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE. From Video Gems. Mitchell's next (and last) directorial effort was GONE WITH THE POPE (1976 - a.k.a. KISS THE RING), which sat unfinished for 33 years until Grindhouse Releasing and Academy Award-winning editor Bob Murawski took the deceased Mitchell's rough cut of the film, polished it and gave it a regional theatrical release starting in 2009. I have the feeling that I will be long dead waiting for Grindhouse to put either THE EXECUTIONER or GONE WITH THE POPE on DVD (or whatever the format will be in the future), based solely on the time it takes them to get their films to the home video market. They seem more interested in giving their films a theatrical release, which makes absolutely no sense to me since more people can watch the film at home in one night than an audience can see in theaters in over a year. From what I understand, a lot of their theatrical showings of these two films averages about 50 people per showing. In can't see the profit margin in that, although it is probably quite an experience seeing the films on the big screen. NOTE: Oh, happy day! Grindhouse Releasing delivered a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack of this film on March 10, 2015 under the title MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE and a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack of GONE WITH THE POPE on March 24, 2015. Rated R.
EXTERMINATOR 2 (1984) - Although this film has its fans, I find it a very poor imitation of the original THE EXTERMINATOR (1980), since Mark Buntzman (the producer of the original film) decided to direct, produce and co-write this film (with William Sachs, director of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN - 1977; GALAXINA - 1981; HITZ - 1988; and others), taking over directing chores from James Glickenhaus. Mark Buntzman is no James Glickenhaus. Imagine making an action exploitation film with very little blood or gore and throw in characters you don't give a damn about, but you really should. At least the original had some wit, charm and imaginative deaths (not to mention one hell of a decapitation). The sequel has none of this, unless you like seeing people on fire and burning to death. The late Robert Ginty returns from the original as John Eastland, and he still is acting like a vigilante, walking around the alleys and back streets of New York City with a flame-thrower strapped to his back, frying would-be thieves and street scum, including the brother of street gang leader X (Mario Van Peebles; NEW JACK CITY - 1991). This seems to upset X, who orders his men to kill Eastland. When Eastland's dancing girlfriend Caroline (Deborah Geffner) is crippled and then killed by X's gang (including the hulking Irwin Keyes; LOVELY BUT DEADLY - 1981; who plays a character called "Monster"), Eastland gets down to serious business. He teams up with old Vietnam buddy Be Gee (Frankie Faison; RED DRAGON - 2002), now a garbageman, and they trick-out a garbage truck into a moving fortress, complete with machine guns and grenade launchers. They go after X and his gang and I guess I don't have to tell you the rest. I remember seeing this film in a theater and then renting the VHS and thinking to myself, "Man, the editing sucks in this film." That may be because triple-threat Mark Buntzman (this is his only directorial effort) didn't know how to end a scene (you know there had to be some production trouble when the closing credits say "Additional scenes directed by William Sachs", who reshot much of the footage when Cannon Films was not satisfied with Buntzman's final cut). Some scenes just end without explanation and leave you scratching your head and it looks like Cannon Films (the theatrical distributor of this film in the U.S.) had to make some severe cuts in the violence department to receive an R-Rating. The VHS tape, released by MGM-UA Home Video is the same theatrical version. Maybe someday this film will get an uncut release on DVD (it's still not available on legitimate DVD in any form in the U.S.), but until then I will give this film a thumbs-down. I may raise my thumb into the upright position if I ever see the complete unedited film. This film also contains early acting appearances by Arye Gross (HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY - 1987), Thomas Calabro (THEY NEST - 2000), Jesse Aragon (WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE - 1986; who died way too young) and John Turturro (TRANSFORMERS - 2007) as "Guy #1". NOTE: Finally available on DVD from Shout! Factory as part of their 4 ACTION-PACKED MOVIE MARATHON in its original aspect ratio and audio commentary with director Mark Buntzman and star Mario Van Peebles, but it is the same 89 minute R-Rated theatrical version. Rated R.
FALL DOWN DEAD (2007) - It's nice to see genre vet Udo Kier (ANDY WARHOL'S DRACULA - 1973) get a nice juicy role in a recent horror film. Too bad it's a generic slasher film with no surprises to offer. It's Christmas Eve and Kier stars as "The Picasso Killer", a serial killer who uses a strait razor to cut-up young women and leaves them for the police to find as examples of his "masterpieces". When waitress Christie Wallace (Dominique Swain; DEAD MARY - 2007) is walking home and catches The Picasso Killer carving up a young woman for his latest masterpiece, she runs into a mostly-empty high-rise building, where security guard Wade Douglas (the late David Carradine; MIDNIGHT FEAR - 1990) calls the cops. Detectives Stefan Kercheck (Mehmet Gunsur, who is a pill-popper) and Lawrence "Don't call me Larry" Kellog (R. Keith Harris) show up and don't believe a thing Christie says, until she mentions that The Picasso Killer carved a sideways "V" into the stomach of the victim (It's put out there that an FBI profiler believes that the sideways "V" represents that the women mean "much less than him" [the killer].). Since this aspect of the killer's MO was never reported to the news, the cops finally believe her, but wouldn't you know it, a rolling blackout hits the area and everyone is trapped in the building (The outside doors are locked by Wade, the phones don't work, cellphones don't work because the towers don't have power and the cops' radios don't work because the repeaters also have no power). The Picasso Killer then begins to kill everyone in the building one-by-one, including a couple screwing in an office (What would Christmas Eve be without one of those?), a cleaning lady (her face is cut in half), Wade and Lawrence, before Christie manages to throw him off the roof. This being a modern DTV film, there's a "surprise" ending where The Picasso Killer isn't dead (How he survived the long fall without a scratch is never explained) and goes to Christie's home, where he kills the babysitter and tells Christie's young daughter that he'll be coming for her mother soon, because she's "not ready" to become one of his masterpieces. Oh boy, another film left wide-open for a sequel! Udo Kier is quite good as the killer, humming and singing Christmas songs as he hunts down his prey (I like that he sang "Oh, Tannenbaum", rather than "Oh, Christmas Tree" since he is German) and telling Christie that he will cut out her tongue and use it as a brush to paint, but director Jon Keeyes (LIVING & DYING - 2007) and screenwriter Roy Sallows (SHADOW ZONE: THE UNDEAD EXPRESS - 1996) fail to put much meat on the plate, failing to explain The Picasso Killer's motivations (besides a couple of childhood photos which left me scratching my head) and why there is a series of rolling blackouts happening throughout the city (especially during the Winter). But Udo Kier saves the film, because everytime he is on-screen stalking and talking, it sends shivers down your spine. He just has that kind of voice where he could read the telephone book and make it sound scary. By no means a good film, but anything with Udo Kier in such a big role is worth watching. Also starring Monica Dean, Austin James, Karine Darrah and Jennifer Alden. An Image Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
OF THE LIVING DEAD (1969) -
Uneven Spanish/Italian horror film from the director of the BLIND
DEAD series (1971 -
1976) that was ruined due to the producers pulling ther budget in
week four of a seven week shoot, forcing the director to rewrite the
ending, which makes absolutely no sense at all.
Model Sylvia Morel (Anita Ekberg; THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS - 1972) is two weeks away from marrying her fiance, Dr. Piero Luciani (Gianni Medici, as "John Hamilton"; SOMETHING CREEPING IN THE DARK - 1971), when she gets a letter informing her that she has inherited a castle from her deceased mother (She turns to Piero and says, "You are about to marry a Countess!"), She wants to see the castle, so she travels by plane to get there, telling Piero that she will be back in time for the wedding. She should not make promises she cannot keep. Once near the castle, Sylvia stops at an inn to get a drink. She orders a whiskey from barmaid Bertha (Diana Lorys; HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN - 1973), only to be told that they only serve beer in town. She tells Bertha that she is the castle's new Countess and everyone in the bar turns around to look at her, the bar turning eerily silent. Suddenly, Vladis (Fernando Bilbao; THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY - 1972), the castle's coachman, arrives at the inn and tells Sylvia, "The Count is expecting you!" and then takes her to the castle. Once at the castle, Sylvia finds it unusual that the Count hasn't greeted her and Vladis tells her, "You will see him at ten tonight!" (Vladis then spies on her getting undresses through her bedroom door keyhole). At 10:00 PM, Sylvia meets her uncle, Count Walbrooke (Julián Ugarte; ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK - 1972). He greets her to the castle (Sylvia notices that his hands are cold) and then calls her father a "fool" for taking her away from here when she was a child. The Count refuses to talk about Sylvia's mother, only telling her that she died of "melancholy" and is buried in the castle's family crypt. The Count takes her to the family crypt, telling her a history of her ancestors. He then tells her that her mother died in 1944 and it upsets Sylvia. We also notice that Sylvia looks just like her grandmother, Malenka, her portrait hanging on a castle wall.
That night, Sylvia is visited in her bedroom by Blinka (Adriana Ambesi; as "Audrey Ambert"; CRYPT OF THE VAMPIRE - 1964; SECRET AGENT SUPER DRAGON - 1966), who tells Sylvia that she is in love with the Count, who is over 100 years old. Blinka also tells Sylvia that her mother used the very same bedroom (and died there) and that the Count was not able to "dominate" her. The Count barges into the bedroom and drags Blinka away, telling her, "I told you not to do that!" Sylvia follows Blinka's screams and discovers the Count whipping her. Sylvia then sees that Blinka has fangs and runs to her bedroom. The Count frees Blinka saying, "Maybe I should tell her who you are!"
Sylvia wants to leave, but the Count tells her she must stay and to call off her wedding, because the blood running through her veins demands that she stay. The Count then relates a story about her grandmother. Flashbacks show us how Malenka (Ekberg again), a brilliant biochemist, was killed by the villagers, burned alive at the stake for being a witch (she was actually working on a formula for immortality). Ever since, every Countess in the castle was cursed, which is why she can never get married. The Count continues, telling Sylvia that her ancestors are actually alive, but they are "Nosferatu", the living dead. It turns out the Count is actually her great-grandfather and he opens Sylvia's mother's tomb, showing her that it is empty. Is what the Count telling her true?
Sylvia writes Piero a letter, calling off their wedding, so Piero travels to the castle with his best friend Max (César Benet, as "Guy Roberts", this film's comedy relief and his only film), where Vladis tells them that Sylvia left orders not to be disturbed. Piero sees Sylvia through a window and calls to her, but all she does is give him a faint smile, not saying anything. At the inn, Bertha asks Piero to examine her because she hasn't been feeling well lately and Max begins sneezing because he is allergic to garlic, which is hanging all over the bar and inn. That night, Max wakes Piero up when he sees a huge black bat flying by the bedroom window. Bertha's sister, Freya (Rosanna Yanni; COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE - 1972), comes in to Piero and Max's bedroom and tells them that Bertha just died and they will have to put a stake through her heart! Piero talks to the village physician, Dr. Horbinger (Carlos Casaravilla; FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR - 1968), who shows him two puncture wounds on Bertha's neck and has him come to his office for further proof that there are vampires in the village. We then see Bertha rise from her grave and head towards the castle, but is she really a vampire?
The Count hopes to turn Sylvia into a vampire, so he cuts his wrist, bleeds into a goblet and hands it to Sylvia to drink. She refuses, runs to her bedroom, locks the door and escapes through a secret passageway (all castles have them!). She finds a bound Blinka and frees her. Blinka tells her about a secret tunnel in the family crypt that will lead her to freedom. Looking for the tunnel, Sylvia meets Bertha, who tries to bite her, but Sylvia escapes through the tunnel and runs to the inn, where she meets Piero and tells him about Bertha. He doesn't believe her, telling Sylvia that he just attended her funeral that morning. Eventually, Piero begins to believe in vampires, as he, Max and Dr. Horbinger go to the graveyard and wait for Bertha to rise from her grave, where they plan on staking her through the heart. They see her rise and Max sneezes, getting her attention. Bertha attacks Dr. Horbinger, so Piero and Max head to the castle after learning Vladis has kidnapped Sylvia. Piero tries to talk some sense into Sylvia, but she tells him to go away because she is cursed. Piero argues with the Count and Vladis knocks him out. Blinka tries to put the bite on Max, but every time she tries, he laughs because his neck is ticklish(!). Piero is chained up and we finally learn that this vampire happening is nothing but a hoax. The Count wants Sylvia to be commited to an asylum for the insane so he can inherit the castle and the fortunes that come with it!
This film gives us no nudity and no graphic violence. It's hard to fathom why this film was made at all, as director/screenwriter Amando de Ossorio (THE LORELEY'S GRASP - 1973; NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS - 1973; DEMON WITCH CHILD - 1974) offers no scares for the horror crowd, no nudity for exploitation fans and terrible humor disguised as comedy. Apparently, Boris Karloff was hired to play the Count, but when he demanded North American rights to the film (which I find very hard to believe, because he was very ill at the time), they hired Julián Ugarte instead. If Karloff were to star in this film, he would have passed away during production, making this his last film. To add insult to injury, the producers of this film pulled the budget during week four of a seven week shoot, forcing de Ossorio to rewrite the ending, which make no sense at all. To further add more insult to injury, the American distributors tacked on an alternate horror ending, showing the Count disintegrating into a skeleton and that he really was a vampire, contradicting the rest of the film!
Filmed as MALENKA, LA SOBRINA DEL VAMPIRO ("Malenka, The Vampire's Niece"), this film is well known due to the gimmicky "Orgy Of The Living Dead" triple feature ad campaign, with REVENGE OF THE LIVING DEAD (THE MURDER CLINIC - 1966) and CURSE OF THE LIVING DEAD (Mario Bava's KILL, BABY...KILL! - 1966), where we learned that a certain "John Austin Frazier" went insane from watching this triple feature and audiences were promised free psychiatric care if they went insane! I highly doubt that anyone went crazy by watching this triple feature, as all three film were heavily edited in order to gain a PG Rating and to fit in a time allotment that made theater owners happy (more time means less people in their seats per day). Unfortunately, it is this edit of the film that fell in the Public Domain (PD), where it had numerous VHS and budget DVD releases. This review is based on Retromedia Entertainment's DVD Release. The fullscreen print is soft and Retromedia added cricket chirps to the first few minutes of the film (To claim "exclusivity" to their print, so no other company could legally copy it! Retromedia, owned by Fred Olen Ray, did this to many of their PD DVD releases.). The film is also available on many multi-film DVD compilations, such as Mill Creek Entertainment's Pure Terror 50 Film Classic Features. Also available on widescreen Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. I, for one, would never shell out that much money ($20.00) for this film. Also starring Paul Muller (NIGHTMARE CASTLE - 1965), Juanita Ramírez, Adriana Santucci and Aurelia Treviño. Rated PG.
FLESH GORDON MEETS THE COSMIC CHEERLEADERS (1990) - What can you say about a film that contains juvenile sex humor, comical and sexist FX and some of the zaniest creatures ever put forth on the screen? I say, just sit back and enjoy it! Flesh Gordon (Vince Murdocco, who is absolutely a horrible actor) joins forces with the Cosmic Cheerleaders to stop Emperor Wang (William Hunt, the only original cast member to return from the original FLESH GORDON ) from unleashing a ray which will render Earth's male population impotent (remember, this was before Viagra). Filled with clever sight gags and set pieces, some downright funny (check out the creature called "Dick Head") and some disgusting (e.g. the ass-teroid belt; the Turd People). Poorly acted, especially by martial artist Murdocco (it needed to be said twice), but so good-natured and chock full of nudity that you should have a good time with it. Directed with imagination by Howard Ziehm, co-director of the original. Also starring Robyn Kelly, Tony Travis and Morgan Fox. A New Horizons Home Video Release. Unrated but not X rated.
THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN (1974) - A horror/comedy about a family of cannibals shown under the titles CLUB DEAD, SECRETS BEYOND THE DOOR, TERROR HOUSE, TERROR ON THE MENU and TERROR AT RED WOLF INN on video and TV. A college coed (Linda Gillin) receives a letter which says she has won a free vacation at the Red Wolf Inn. Having nothing better to do on her vacation, she goes, only to be greeted by more girls who have received the same piece of mail. The family that runs the inn are a pack of flesh eaters and proceed to fatten up the girls with a non-stop orgy of food.There's also a well-padlocked meat locker (ala WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH - 1973). Black humor abounds. When a black girl is drugged in her sleep and carried down to the meat locker the father of the cannibals says, "It'll be nice to have dark meat again!". Real lady fingers are eaten at the dinner table. Even the cops can't be trusted. One of them comes over for one of Ma's home cooked meals. It also has an ending which shows where its' tongue is firmly planted. A nice effort from the director Bud Townsend, who also gave us the awful NIGHTMARE IN WAX (1969). Also starring Arthur Space (whose decapitated head winks at the camera in the finale of some versions of this film), John Nielson and Mary Jackson. Beware of a PG-Rated version (TERROR AT RED WOLF INN) floating around video stores. That version runs 83 minutes and is shorn of most of the violence. An Academy Entertainment Release, but I would try to find the version from Canadian label Lettuce Entertain You (under the TERROR ON THE MENU title), as it seems to be the most complete version (It's 5 minutes longer than the Academy version). Also available on a double feature DVD (with HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1973) from Alpha Home Entertainment. Rated R.
ON THE MOON (1974) -
Unusual giallo film that ladles-on the psychological terror, with a
smattering of sci-fi and a mystery that is hard (but not
impossible) to solve.
The film begins with a Moon landing, where a drugged astronaut is purposely left on the Moon. He watches the lunar module leave the Moon, as the other astronaut radios Earth and tells Professor Blackmann (Klaus Kinski; SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971) that his plan went off without a hitch. Right off the bat, you'll be asking yourself this question: Why would anyone leave an astronaut abandoned on the Moon?
We then switch to Alice (Florinda Bolkan; FLAVIA THE HERETIC - 1974), who has been having a recurring nightmare about the abandoned astronaut. She tells a friend that she thinks it has something to do with a movfie, called "Footprints On The Moon", that she saw as a child but never saw the ending. She thinks the nightmare is her brain filling in the blanks. Alice is also shocked to learn that she has lost three days nd tries to remember what happened. Alice is a translator for the International Congress and the last thing she remembers is sitting in her booth, translating a speech that was being given. She also discxovers a torn piece of paper that has the word "Garma" printed on it. Garma is a small island off the Italy coast that she believes she never visited, but she will soon find out that isn't the case. Alice finds a strange dress she has never seen before in her apartment, so she packs it in her suitcase and heads off to Garma, where she hopes to unravel the three missing days.
Once on the island, she goes to Hotel Garma, the only establishment equipped to handle tourists. For some reason she can not quite understand, she asks for a particular room overlooking the ocean. She then takes a walking tour of Garma (the island is full of ancient and beautiful buildings) and by the look on her face, everything feels familiar to her. She meets a small girl named Paula (Nicoletta Elmi; WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972) and when Alice tells her her name, Paula says, "That isn't true. Your name is Nicole!" Paula tells her Nicole was looking for a white house in the woods and that she is much nicer than Nicole, who was a bitch to her. Alice then meets Alfred Lowenthal (John Karlsen; THE CHURCH - 1989), who tells her he saw her on the beach two days ago. Alice then goes to the beach and quizzes Mrs. Heim (Lila Kedrova; THE NIGHT CHILD - 1975), the town gossip. She asks Mrs. Heim if she saw her at the beach two days ago. Mrs. Heim replies that she broke her glasses. If Alice was there, she couldn't have seen her if she tried. What has Alice wiped from her mind? She also meets Henry (Peter McEnery; TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS - 1973), a biologist who lives on the island. He tells Alice he never met her before and it is quite obvious that he has romance on his mind. Is Henry telling the truth or is he holding back something? When Alice gets back to the hotel, the concierge (Feridun Çölgeçen) tells her that she had a long distance phone call, but he couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman because the line was bad.
The next day, after having the nightmare again (only this time, it goes a little bit further than before), Alice meets Paula on the beach and they build a sandcastle. Paula's dog, "Fox", refuses to come near Alice and Paula hands her a torn piece of paper for the castle's flag. It looks exactly like the torn paper Alice found earlier and she interrogates Paula into showing her where she found it. It was at a campfire a short distance away, where Paula tells her a woman holding a package was burning something. When Alice asks if she was the one who was burning something, Paula says she couldn't possibly be Nicole because she had long white hair (Alice has short brown hair) and that she hated her. Alice starts to get mad and begins shaking Paula. While walking through the forest looking for the white house she was told about, she finds a red wig on the ground. Is this a clue?
Alice goes to a boutique (after having drinks with Henry) to get the wig cleaned, only to be told by the gay clerk (Luigi Guerra) that it is her wig. When she puts it on, she becomes a different woman, both in looks and attitude. The boutique owner (Caterina Boratto; PHANTOM OF DEATH - 1987) tells Alice that the hat she ordered for "Helen" is ready, but the pocketbook she ordered is not ready because she didn't personalize it with the name "Nicole" yet. Alice then goes to the island's old cathedral, where Mrs. Heim hands Alice her "lost" wallet. While listening to organ music, Alice has a flashback (flashforward?) showing us that the abandoned astronaut has committed suicide by taking his helmet off, forcing Professor Blackmann to find another "guinea pig".
Figured it out yet? OK, just a little more info to whet your appetite. Paula and Alice go shopping and when Alice picks up a pair of silver scissors, Paula gets very nervous, forcing Alice to shake her violently, demanding that she tell her the truth. Henry and Alice become lovers, but it is apparent that he is holding something from her. She finds an important clue in his bathroom: An earring that quite possibly belongs to her. She confronts Henry and when he truthfully answers her questions, she stabs him to death with the silver scissors. How is Professor Blackmann connected to Alice? Is she the new "guinea pig" or is she psychotic and all of this is just in her mind? we find out in the finale, where two astronauts in spacesuits chase her down the beach!
This isn't your typical giallo film, as there is no black-gloved killer or murders every few minutes. Director/co-screenwriter Luigi Bazzoni (THE FIFTH CORD - 1971), along with co-screenwriter Mario Fenelli (this film is based on his novel "Las Huellas" ["Fingerprints']), has fashioned a psychological mystery, where two seemingly unrelated stories suddenly gel together. Some may find this film deadly slow, as there is no nudity or graphic violence you expect from an Italian giallo film but if story matters to you more than those two things, you will be rewarded. A horribly dubbed Klaus Kinski is only in this film for less than five minutes, so don't expect his usually twitchy performance because it never happens. The photography (by Vittorio Storaro; Academy Award®-winner for APOCALYPSE NOW - 1979) and locations (the island transports you back to the 19th century) adds to the film's effectiveness, as does the closing shot, where the axtronauts in spacesuits chase Alice through the beach. Is it real or all in her mind? You'll have to watch the film or read between the lines of this review. The answers are there.
Shot under the title LE ORME ("Footprints"), this film never received a U.S. theatrical release, but was released on VHS (by Force Video, a sub-label of Wizard Video) under the title PRIMAL IMPULSE. This version of the film fell into the Public Domain (PD) and can be found on many DVD compilations, including Mill Creek Entertainment's Sci-Fi Invasion 50 Movie Classic Features. I don't recommend you watch any fullscreen print of this film because it severely compromises Storaro's wonderful widescreen photography. If you want to watch this film the way it was meant to be seen (and have an all region player), the only way to go is the British DVD from Shameless Screen Entertainment (which is the way I viewed it). It is not only in widescreen, it also restores footage that was cut out of the European theatrical release. Also starring Evelyn Stewart (real name: Ida Galli; THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971), Myriam Acevedo, Rosita Torosh (NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972), Franco Magno and Esmeralda Ruspoli. Not Rated, but nothing really objectionable.
FOR A MURDER (1985) - Minor
giallo film from director Alberto De Mendoza (THE
BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER - 1963; THE
TEMPTER - 1974; BLOOD
LINK - 1983), here billed under his pseudonym "Martin
Herbert", that is almost worthwhile viewing due to one or two
ingredients, but they are not enough for me to recommend it.
Joanna (Christina Nagy) is a pretty young woman confined to a wheelchair, put there when she was eleven years old, falling down the stairs in her father's home while trying to escape from a serial killer pedophile priest, who raped and killed dozens of pre-teen girls before he disappeared off the face of the Earth. Joanna's wealthy father has recently died, leaving her a wealthy woman. Joanna has become an expert at fencing and archery (both will be used towards the end of the film, but not in the way that I hoped), even in her wheelchair, thanks to Craig (David Warbeck; FATAL FRAMES - 1996), a handsome young man at a rehabilitation clinic that Joanna is funding, who makes her feel like a woman again, even in her wheelchair. It's not long before Joanna and Craig fall in love, even though Joanna's best friend, Ruth (Carroll Blumenberg) doesn't approve. They get married rather quickly, even when Joanna's physician, Dr. Sernich (Rossano Brazzi; PSYCHOUT FOR MURDER - 1969), tells Craig that the pedophile priest raped Joanna before she tried to escape from him. He also tells Craig that Joanna has a weak heart and any strenuous physical exertion, such as aggressive sex, could kill her. On their wedding night, newlywed Craig has aggressive (bordering on rough) sex with Joanne, causing her to scream, waking up a visiting Ruth, who gives an evil look upstairs. Yes, Joanna and Craig are living in her late father's house, the same location where she fell down the stairs as a pre-teen, causing her to lose the use of her legs. Soon, Joanna begins seeing someone dressed as a priest and carrying her favorite childhood doll, which is covered in blood, walking down that same staircase, calling her name over and over. She screams and both Ruth and Craig come running to her, but there is no priest in sight. Is she going mad or is someone trying to scare her to death, knowing that she has a weak heart?
If you guessed the latter, you would be correct, as director De Mendoza reveals, rather quickly, that Craig and Ruth are working together to kill Joanna, so Craig can inherit her millions and split it with Ruth (De Martino doesn't want you to think that Craig will inherit her millions by himself, since he is the only living member of her family. Thinking logically? No, that just won't do!). What Ruth doesn't count on is that Craig will actually fall in love with Joanna, yet he still dresses as a priest, killing her real priests in bloody, hard-to-watch killings (He doesn't want Joanna to write a hefty check to the church) and haunting her by walking down the stairs, holding the bloody doll (It's the film's most effective scene, as the bloody doll talks [I couldn't understand what it was saying, but it is still creepy], dripping blood as it comes downstairs). He haunts Joanna as the priest on a ferry (She and Craig seem to be the only passengers on it, so you would think Joanna would make the connection!) and back at the house. Joanna also has a recurring nightmare where she is in a park and her wheelchair can't move because the wheels are locked. A faceless priest comes along and pushes the wheelchair into a field, away from all the people, where he tries to kill Joanna. She gets out of her wheelchair (she can walk) and stabs the priest to death. Then she wakes up. If you think Joanna is harboring a secret, you would be wrong, because she can't walk.
Ruth is not satisfied with how their plan is going, so she tells Craig that she will kill Joanna herself. Craig doesn't like that change in plans, so he viciously slashed Ruth to death with a straight razor (the film's bloodiest sequence). When Joanna accidentally discovers Ruth's bloody corpse wrapped in plastic (a killer's favorite way of disposing of a human murder victim!), it leads to the frantic finale, where Craig Tries to kill Joanna, but she gets the upper hand (at lest three times), as Craig refuses to die (like Michael Myers!). Every time you think the film is going to end and Craig is dead, he pops up and she has to kill him some more (she tosses a fireplace poker like a spear, impaling Craig in the leg; she stabs him in the stomach with a sword; and then tosses him out a window, using her upper body strength to pull herself back into the house, as her wheelchair and Craig are on the ground below, yet he still returns, trying to kill her!). Dr. Sernich finally arrives at the house and carries her to safety. The next time we see Joanna, she is in a park and her wheelchair refuses to move. A priest comes along and pushes her and her wheelchair to...THE END.
While I probably make this film sound better than it actually is, it does have a manic performance by David Warbeck, especially in the finale. Warbeck, who usually portrays stiff and stilted reserved English gentlemen (thanks for the phrase, Steve!) in films like THE BLACK CAT (1980), THE BEYOND (1981) and dozens of other films, is a revelation, as you will never see him so animated and going full-tilt bozo as he does in this film. It's almost enough to make me recommend this film. Almost. The sad fact is that the story (screenplay by De Martino and Vincenzo Mannino [as "Frank Walker"; THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK - 1979; THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982]) is strictly old hat and full of giallo clichés, offering few surprises. It is bloody, though, I'll give it that, but neither the bloody deaths nor Warbeck's manic performance is enough to make me suggest that this film is a must-see. It comes close, but eventually fails.
Filmed as 7. HYDEN PARK: LA CASA MALEDETTA ("7 Hyden Park: The House Of The Damned"), this film received a slightly edited U.S. VHS release under the review title, courtesy of Lightning Video (in a fullscreen print), but still no disc release (at the time of this review). If you have an all-region player (If not, why???), British label Shameless Screen Entertainment offers this film on DVD, uncut and in its OAR (and, according to my friend across the pond, Shameless released the film locally with a free yellow raincoat!). I saw a nice uncut, widescreen print on streaming channel Shockwerks (only available on Roku), which has rapidly become one of my go-to channels and gave me a good reason to quit cable. Also starring Rodolfo Ruzza (MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD - 1978), Andy Covella, Adriana Giuffre (RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS - 1983) and Loris Loddi (De Martino's MIAMI HORROR - 1985) & Andrea Bosic (MANHATTAN BABY - 1982) as the priests who meet a bloody end by Warbeck's hand. Not Rated.
FRANKENFISH (2004) - Fun little horror film, directed by Mark Dippe (SPAWN - 1997), that originally made it's debut on the Sci-Fi Channel as one of their original movies. I would urge everyone that has seen this film on Sci-Fi to go out and rent or buy the DVD version as it contains much more gore and nudity than the version shown on TV. The plot is your basic giant-monster-on-the-loose premise. It's the locations and characters, along with a healthy dose of black humor and unexpected violence, that makes this one stand out from the pack. A medical examiner, Sam (Tory Kittles), and a biologist, Mary (China Chow), are sent into the Louisiana swamps to invesigate a mysterious death. What they find is that some genetically enhanced (fucking giant!) Chinese Snakehead fish have been accidentally set free in the area and are chowing down on the local wildlife as well as the human population. They soon become trapped on a group of docked houseboats populated by some of the craziest (and funniest) locals to hit the screen in quite some time. I really enjoyed the nudist couple (Richard Edson and Noelle Evans) who grow hydroponic marijuana on their boat. There's also Ricardo (Raul Trujillo), a silent local who has grudge against the fish. There's also a houseboat where a quarreling couple (K.D. Aubert and Matthew Rauch) on a date are visiting the girl's mother (Donna Briscoe), who tries to set her up with Sam. After the character exposition is out of the way, the rest of the film is non-stop carnage as the monster fish bite the heads, stomachs and other body parts off of the trapped cast. The real jolt comes from the unexpected accidental death of Mary. It is a real surprise and I applaud the filmmakers for killing a main character in such an unheroic way. While the film does rely a little too much on CGI in some scenes (especially when the fish jump in and out of the water), there's enough comic lines ("The house shot her!" during Mary's death and "That's just so wrong!" when everyone watches Ricardo cut the heart out of one of the fish and eat it.) and bloody violence to appease any horror fan. FRANKENFISH is a breath of fresh fishy air amid most of the dreck that gets released today. This should have gotten a theatrical release. Also starring genre vets Muse Watson (DEAD BIRDS - 2005; TV's PRISON BREAK [2005 - 2009]) and Mark Boone Junior (FILM HOUSE FEVER - 1986; DEAD BIRDS - 2005). A Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
FRANKENSTEIN 80 (1972) - Badly scanned, ridiculously misogynistic version of the Frankenstein legend. A whacked-out doctor (Gordon Mitchell; TERROR FORCE COMMANDO - 1986) stitches together various body parts and creates a monster he calls Mosaic (Xiro Papas; THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT - 1973). Mosaic has two severe problems: He likes to rape women and his transplanted body parts and organs (including his penis!) are being rejected by his immune system, forcing him to walk the streets ripping organs (and clothes) off unsuspecting female victims. Thats about all that happens here as we witness various bloody mutilations, real operation footage, female flesh and plot holes the size of New Hampshire, while we wait for Mosaics brain to be rejected. This could only happen in Italy. Also known as MIDNIGHT HORROR and FRANKENSTEIN 2000. John Richardson (EYEBALL - 1975), Renato Romano (DORIAN GRAY - 1970) and Dalila Parker (a.k.a. Dalila Di Lazzaro of ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN  fame) co-star. Directed by Mario Mancini (His only directorial effort, although he was cinematographer on such films as KONG ISLAND - 1968; THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS - 1972 and GIRL IN ROOM 2A - 1973). A Gorgon Video Release. Not Rated.
2000 [RETURN FROM DEATH] (1992) -
This is the last horror film directed by Joe D'Amato (DEATH
SMILES ON A MURDERER - 1973; EMANUELLE
AND THE LAST CANNIBALS - 1977; BEYOND
THE DARKNESS - 1979; ANTHROPOPHAGUS
- 1980), using his "David Hills" pseudonym, who would then
finish his career directing porn until his death in 1999. This is not
a good way to remember the man because this film amateur hour in
look, acting and direction. I've smelled betting things in a pile of
dog crap (and I'm being polite!).
Ric (Donald O'Brien; DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. - 1980) is slightly retarded handymen who use to be a prizefighter. He works and baby-sits for a young widow named Georgia (Cinzia Monreale; THE BEYOND - 1981), looking after her young son Stephen (ladies and gentlemen, the worst young actor in film history: Robin Tazusky!) and sweeping up her video store. Little Stephen is a troubled boy who has never been the same since he saw his father killed (it is never explained how he was killed or why). One day, Georgia goes to her video store to do inventory, where we learn she has telekinetic abilities (She plugs the calculator power cord into the electrical outlet just by looking at it intensely). Georgia also suffers from visions, where she sees her young son being chased by a man carrying an axe, who cuts the little boy's head off, which goes flying in the air (this has nothing to do with the film proper though, it's just there for "shock" value). Three motorcycle thugs, Hans (Dan Dustman), Kurt (Mark Frank) and Erik (Mark Quail), break into the video store and try to rape Georgia, but Ric stops them. She and Ric report the attempted rape to two security guards, Strolls (Walter Travor) and Malder (Massimo Pittarello, as "Joe Pittsbergh"; THE SWORD OF THE BARBARIANS - 1982), but they convince Georgia not to report it to the police because they would probably arrest Ric, since he is an ex-boxer and his hands are considered lethal weapons. The truth is, these two security guards work for crooked businessman Mr. Hoffman (Maurice Poli; MASSACRE - 1989), who wants to buy Georgia's video store for his own purposes. That night, Strolls and Malder, on Mr. Hoffman's orders, crack Ric with a baseball bat to his head in front of Georgia's house, splitting his forehead wide open and knocking him out, while the three motorcycle creeps rape Georgia in her home in front of Stephen, putting her into an irreversible coma. During the rape, Erik, who is Mr. Hoffman's son, loses one his contact lenses and doesn't want to rape Georgia. Kurt says to him, "You don't need your eyes to rape her!" (Classy!), but Erik refuses and walks out of the house ("Good! More for us!" Real classy!). When the police arrive, the security guards tell them that Ric raped Georgia and they had to hit him with a bat to subdue him, so the police arrest Ric and throw him in jail.
Georgia's physician (and lover), Thomas (Riccardo Ascerbi, as "Richard Harsh"; Lucio Fulci's AENIGMA - 1987), doesn't believe that Ric is capable of doing harm to Georgia and he also knows about Georgia's telekinetic abilities, so he has Dr. Frankenstein (Martin Dansky; BLUE TORNADO - 1990) perform some kind of experiment on Ric (it is never made clear what kind of experiment it is) so he can use his brainwaves to talk to the comatose Georgia, in hopes of snapping her out of the coma, but it doesn't work out the way Thomas hoped. Georgia uses her telekinetic powers to take over Ric's body, and when Ric commits suicide in his jail cell (by hanging himself), he rises from the dead in the mortuary and kills the coroner (by squeezing his head until his eyes pop out of their sockets). The possessed Ric then goes out and murders all those involved in Georgia's rape, including the motorcycle thugs, the two security guards and, finally, Mr. Hoffman. That's basically the whole film, folks, stretched out to an incredibly long 92 minutes, with one of those "surprise" endings that we all hate, leaving the film wide open for a sequel, which, thankfully, never materialized. As a matter of fact, the finale is so insulting, you'll be temped to kick in your TV screen just for spite.
This is an incredibly cheap film, not helped by the fact that director Joe D'Amato puts zero energy into the proceedings. Everything simply just happens with no rhyme of reason. D'Amato (as "Joan Russel") and an uncredited Antonio Tentori's (Fulci's A CAT IN THE BRAIN - 1990) screenplay is full of every horror film cliché, all done poorly and haphazardly, not even good for an unintentional laugh. Poor Donald O'Brien looks embarrassed appearing in this badly made flick, because we never believe, even for a moment, that he's an ex-boxer, as his body frame is so thin, you half expect him to fall through a crack in the floor. He also shuffles around with huge metal staples in his forehead, looking like some cheapjack version of Frankenstein, but only if Arnold Stang or Wally Cox played the monster! You won't believe, even for a millisecond, that someone so thin could lift a man twice his size up in the air with one hand. I know when it comes to horror films you should suspend all belief, but this film takes it much too far. I would believe in God before I would believe Ric could do the things he does in this film (and if you knew me, that's quite a statement!). Everyone here also talks in stilted English, like it was their second language or they were taking diction lessons from William Shatner ("I want...you...dead!"), making what comes out of their mouths hard to swallow. It's no surprise that many people in the cast never acted again, because, said simply, they stink. While the film is very bloody, with a lot of gory kills, the makeup effects look so phony, you'll wince from embarrassment (The coroner's head squeeze being the major offender). The film is so low-rent and cheap looking, with flat photography (by D'Amato, as "Frederico Slonisko"), dime store effects (by Danilo Del Monte; FATAL FRAMES - 1996) and amateurish acting (especially by Stephen [who can't even play with a ball by himself without looking awkward!] and the two security guards), you'll be wondering who the film was made for. It certainly wasn't made for horror film or even bad film lovers, so what's left? Oh, yes, the braindead. They'll love this film because no brain cells will be depleted when watching this. For shame Filmirage, Italy's premiere production company for gory horror films, for shame!
Filmed as FRANKENSTEIN 2000 - RITORNO DALLA MORTE (a literal translation of the review title), this film never received a legitimate release on home video in the United States in any format, but it can be found in plenty of places online, including YouTube (where I saw it). The print is in fullscreen in English (it looks like no dubbing was done here, which is one of the film's many problems). Please, please, please, don't blame me if you decide to view it. I gave you fair warning! D'Amato's favorite actress, Laura Gemser (EMANUELLE IN PRISON - 1983), handled this film's costumes. Even they are plain. Also featuring Emy Valentino (PHANTOM OF DEATH - 1987), Max Tazusky, John Wood, Robert Milton and Susan Baker. Not Rated.
GACY (2003) - There are too many films being made about famous serial killers. This is one of the most lamest and bloodless. John Wayne Gacy (Mark Holton, who was the fat half-wit Ozzie in LEPRECHAUN - 1993) was convicted of killing 29 young boys and burying them in his crawlspace underneath his house. This film focuses on the last few months of his freedom (before being executed by lethal injection, his last words being, "Kiss My Ass!"), when the neighbors and friends notice a peculiar smell coming from his basement. He blames it on a leaking sewer pipe and lays down lime to offset the odor. His wife and kids leave him after she finds homoerotic magazines in his garage. He still picks up boys (posing as a cop) and rapes them (never shown on screen) then buries them in his crawlspace until there is no room left. His undoing comes when the police start noticing that the boys that work for his construction company turn up missing and stake out his house. The film skips most other aspects of his life (being a clown at kids' parties is mainly glossed over as is his penchant for painting clowns on canvas), although a flashback paints that his whole problem with boys stems from an abusive father (played by Adam Baldwin). Holton is good in the title role but most of the sleazy things you expect from a film like this are never shown or explored. It plays like a cable TV movie with some swearing and a little female nudity. Director Clive Saunders seems to have wanted it that way, but if you are going to do a film about one of the most famous serial killers in U.S. history, a little blood and guts wouldn't hurt. There are plenty of maggots and other bugs on display here, representing all the decaying bodies buried in the crawlspace which are sadly not shown except in bodybags at the finale. Co-screenwriter David Birke also did some uncredited writing for another serial killer film, DAHMER (2002) which, as an in-joke, is shown playing on a TV. Also starring the late Rick Dean, Tom Waldman, John Laughlin, Joe Sikora and Joleen Lutz. Brian Dennehy played Gacy in the Canadian TV miniseries TO CATCH A KILLER (1992). A Lions Gate Entertainment Release. Rated R. NOTE: I have seen this film about a dozen times since writing this review (thanks to its many showings on the Encore pay channels), and while my basic opinion about the film hasn't changed, Mark Holton is impressive as John Wayne Gacy. Really impressive.
GANGS OF THE DEAD (2005) - This is neither a good or bad zombie horror flick. It is what it is. Filmed under the title LAST RITES and also released as CITY OF THE DEAD in some foreign territories, this low-budget flick opens with a meteor containing alien spores hitting a bridge, where a homeless street preacher (Terrence Evans; THE PUMPKIN KARVER - 2006) is prophetizing the end of the world to his homeless flock. He was more right than he even realized. He and the rest of the homeless crowd are turned into flesh-hungry zombies and begin chowing down on every human they meet, including the wife of the local TV weatherman, who just happens to have the last name Weatherman (Cazimir Milostan). He hoofs it to a warehouse, where two gangs, a Black one and a Hispanic one are making a deal for weapons or drugs (it is never made clear) with supplier Mitchell (Reggie Bannister; PHANTASM - 1979, who has nothing more than an extended cameo). They are also being staked-out by the police outside, who decide to make the arrests, but the homeless zombies attack them and only two cops make it into the warehouse (Mitchell is hit by the police van, smashing him into bloody pieces). The two cops want everyone to put their differences aside and work together to get out of the warehouse, but Hispanic gang leader Caesar (Noel Gugliemi, listed in the credits simply as "Noel G") will hear none of it and eventually becomes head douchebag in charge, killing one Black gang member by shooting him in the head (after the gang member dares him to pull the trigger!) and using everyone else as bait. What he doesn't know is one of the gang members is a snitch and that's why the police are there to begin with. The zombies begins to rip apart the cast one-by-one until only a few are left (Caesar suffers the bloodiest death and it is very well done), using a box of hand grenades to kill the rest of the zombies. They make it outside, only to discover more meteors hitting the skyscrapers of the city. Is there no hope left for humanity? While there is some bloody gore that sometimes surpasses the film's R-rating, there is also some dodgy CGI, especially in the explosions (it is easy to differentiate real flames from CGI ones). Director/co-writer/co-producer Duane Stinnett (his only feature directorial effort at the time of this review) offers nothing new to the zombie genre and the screenplay, which he co-wrote with Krissann Shipley (who stars as Cassie, the female member of the Hispanic gang), makes some of the characters seem retarded, especially Latasha (Dayanah Jamine), the sister of one of the Black gang members, that you just want to strangle them. Sure, the film is stupid, badly acted and cheap as hell, but it is worth at least one viewing if you can't find anything better to watch. Also starring Howard Alonzo (listed simply as "Howard"), Ethan Ednee, Ryan King, Enrique Almeida, Danny Martinez, James C. Burns and Stephen Basilone (listed as "Steve B."). A Screen Media Films DVD Release. Rated R.
GHOST (1963) - Very good Italian
gothic horror film starring Barbara Steele and her mesmerizing eyes
(really, if you look at them for too long, you will fall under her spell!).
The film begins after a seance ends, as the credits play and the camera pans to a human skull on a table. Dr. John Hichcock (Elio Jotta, acting under the name "Leonard G. Elliot"; MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES - 1964) turns to the other seance members, telling them that the house they are in is cursed and is on the "blacker side of death". John is unable to use his legs due to some unknown malady and is being treated daily by Dr. Charles Livingstone (the late Peter Baldwin; click on his name to find out a lot more about him), who gives him a shot every day that makes him feel better. John depends on his housekeeper, Catherine (Harriet Medin White; THE WHIP AND THE BODY - 1963), to take care of his needs and is suspicious that his wife, Margaret (Barbara Steele; THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH - 1964; TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE - 1965), is having an affair with Charles. John, who is an expert on the "psychic sciences", is deeply troubled and doesn't want to live any more, going as far as to put a pistol to his head. Before he can pull the trigger, Margaret grabs the gun and tries to console him, but fails ("Why did you stop me? I'm just a living corpse!"). It turns out that Margaret is having an affair with Charles, but she wants to stop. Charles tells her that John will die very soon, as all he is doing is giving him a shot of a stimulant every day, which makes him feel better, but he is actually getting worse. John is paid a visit by Canon of the church Father Owens (Umberto Raho, as "Raoul H. Newman"; WOMEN IN CELL BLOCK 7 - 1973), who begs John to stop "playing with forces that are best left alone", putting his hand on a bottle. John warns him that there is curare in that bottle and if that poison were to touch his skin, he will be worse off the he is (John even implies that curare put him in a wheelchair). That night, Charles gives John his injection and he convulses. Is it possible that he was poisoning John with curare so he could have Margaret all to himself?
Margaret and Charles hear the bell John uses to summon Catherine and they rush to him, only to find John dead. Charles says that he has been dead for at least an hour. So who rang the bell? After John's funeral, the crazy stuff begins to happen. Margaret is being driven crazy by a howling dog, so Charles shoots and kills it. Then John's wheelchair falls down the stairs, seemingly on its own and Margaret hears and sees John calling her name (a really creepy scene). At the reading of John's will, he leaves the house to Margaret, but only if she will keep Catherine on the payroll to her dying days. He also leaves the contents of his lockbox to Margaret and all his books and research on the psychic sciences to a local university. Charles and Margaret go nuts looking for the key to the lockbox, but Catherine tells them that John kept the key in his coat...the one he was buried in! Since there is supposedly over £150,000 in cash and jewels in the lockbox, Charles and Margaret do what any upstanding citizen would do: open John's tomb and become graverobbers. They open his coffin and find John's body a decayed mess, looking far more decomposed than a body that was dead for a few days, but they do find the key. While Margaret keeps Catherine busy, not letting her know what the did to get the key, Charles opens the lockbox, telling Margaret that when he opened it, there was nothing inside and they will have to search the house for the valuables.
That night, Margaret sees a pale and sickly John carrying a bouquet of dead flowers slowly approaching her bed (this scene will certainly give you the creeps!). She empties a pistol (the same one John tried to take his life with) into John's approaching body and then faints, waking up with Catherine and Charles standing over her, but John's body is nowhere to be found. Charles and Margaret see blood dripping from the ceiling and Charles heads upstairs to investigate, finding John hanging by his neck in the attic, but he can get no closer as the attic door slams shut in front of him, locked. Father Owens then pays a visit to the house, telling Margaret that she missed John's memorial service at church and the town is gossiping about Charles being at the house for such a long time after John's death. Charles and Margaret begin to argue and grow further and further apart, so Charles recommends that she go place flowers on John's grave and to make sure that people in town see her doing it. She does just that, but she hears John's music box playing both at the grave and inside the house (Catherine tells her she hears nothing). Margaret goes to John's favorite room where she sees his chess pieces move by themselves and one of his books is open to a page on astral projection. Margaret then hears John's voice telling her that all she "longed for" is under his coffin.
Margaret, without Charles, goes to John's tomb and struggles to tip over John's coffin. When she finally does, she discovers a gold jewelry box under his casket, which she picks up, cutting her hand in the process. When she opens the jewelry box, it is empty. Catherine sees what Margaret is doing and pins the blame on Charles. Margaret runs to Charles and he tells her he is leaving her because all the wealth is not worth all the emotional pain he is going through. When he picks up his suitcase, the missing money and jewels fall from it to the floor, but he swears he doesn't know how it got there. In a scene that has to be seen to be believed, Margaret picks up a straight razor and slashes away at Charles until the screen (including the camera lens) is full of blood. She drags his bloody dead body to John's tomb, douses it with lamp oil and sets it aflame. Thinking that her life is over, Margaret returns to her bedroom and and spikes her nightly drink with curare, While she is sitting on a bedroom chair waiting for the inevitable to happen, she sees the bookcase open, revealing a secret passageway. John steps out of it and is very much alive and healthy, telling Margaret that the curare she just took was a phony, but when she cut her hand on the jewelry box, it was dosed with just enough curare to to turn her into what he once was: a paraplegic living a lifetime to think about all the bad she has done with her life. It turns out Catherine was helping John with his dastardly plan and her payment is a few bullets in her back. But then, John accidentally doses himself with curare, pleading with Margaret to give him the antidote, which is on a table beside her. All Margaret can do is laugh, as she is unable to move. There is no happy ending for anyone, as the film ends with Margaret laughing away at the absurdity of it all!
This is a damn good gothic chiller with many effective scenes, as well as some unexpected bloody violence. This is a sequel of sorts to THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK (1962), but the only thing this has in common with that film are actresses Barbara Steele and Harriet Medin White (in different roles) and director "Robert Hampton", who is actually Riccardo Freda, acclaimed director of CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959; a TV favorite of mine during the '60s), THE WITCH'S CURSE (1962; a peplum flick with a difference), MURDER OBSESSION (1981; a tense giallo) and the atypical so-awful-it's-funny THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (1971; look for a review soon). The screenplay, by Freda & "Robert Davidson" (Oreste Biancoli; ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS - 1961), keeps you guessing until the nihilistic ending. I was thinking that Charles was responsible, then Catherine and, finally, John, but that is what is so fun about this film, it keeps you guessing. The beautiful color photography, by "Donald Green" (Raffaele Masciocchi; HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS - 1963), adds greatly to the mood and the pacing, especially Charles getting slashed to death and the dead flower-holding John slowly approaching Margaret. Films like this are why I enjoy Italian gothic films of the '60s so much. Barbara Steele is no stranger to this genre, some may rightfully state that she is the reason why this genre is so popular as, beside the three films I mentioned earlier, she has appeared in BLACK SUNDAY (1960), CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964), NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965), THE SHE BEAST (1966) and AN ANGEL FOR SATAN (1966), all prime examples of gothic horror. There's no denying she has a screen presence (thankfully, she is still alive and well) and her eyes can express so much more than mere words can ever hope to convey.
Filmed as LO SPETTRO (a literal translation of the review title) and also known as THE SPECTRE OF DR. HICHCOCK, this film obtained a U.S. theatrical release in 1965 (by Magna Pictures Distribution Corporation) before falling into the Public Domain (PD), where it had many VHS releases, mostly by gray market distributors (Something Weird Video, Sinister Cinema, etc.) and, later on, was available on many PD DVD and multi-film DVD labels. The fullscreen DVD from Alpha Video looks like crap, but the fullscreen print that is part of Mill Creek Entertainment's Chilling Classics 50 Movie Pack, looks sharp and colorful with very little print damage. While there are widescreen DVDs out there (one from Retromedia Entertainment), they are either very hard to find or expensive. A severely edited print use to show up on TV during the '60s & '70s (cutting out Charles' bloody death), but it hasn't shown up on TV in my area for well over 30 years. I wish some network would grow some balls and air films like this late at night, like so many networks did back in the day. Until they do (and I doubt they ever will), I'll stick with my Roku and Amazon Prime, who show a streaming widescreen version of this film for free. Also starring Carol Bennet, Reginald Price Anderson and "Charles Kechler" (Carlo Kechler; THE WILD, WILD PLANET - 1965) as the clueless Police Superintendent. Not Rated.
GHOSTS OF HANLEY HOUSE (1968) - This obscure Texas-lensed haunted house thriller is a pretty drab affair. Two men make a bet (his Jaguar against the other's MG) that the other can't spend the night at the mysterious Hanley house, where Mr. and Mrs. Hanley disappeared years before. Ever since then, the house has been haunted by ghosts. They go to the house with a female medium, another young woman and an older gentleman who has lived in the town for years. The medium instantly senses something supernatural going on, as knocking is heard at the front door when nobody's there, there are cold spots in the house and the basement and attic hold deadly secrets. The occupants drink beer, dance and hold a seance where a spirit is called up that holds a grudge against one of the group. After the other woman is choked by an unseen pair of cold hands, the guests decide to leave but none of their cars will start. They take off on foot but no matter what direction they head off into, it leads them back to the house. In the end, it turns out that the older gentleman killed the Hanleys with an axe after they extorted $100,000 from him for witnessing him accidentally killing a child years before. He hid the money in the house and came to withdraw it. Alas, it doesn't work out very well for him as the spirits kill him in a graveyard. Everyone else gets to escape after they find the bones of the Hanleys and bury them in the graveyard. This is pretty boring stuff as director/writer Louise Sherrill (her only directorial effort although she acted in BLOOD AND LACE - 1970) tells the story without any flair (and too many close-ups) and the acting ability of the cast leaves a lot to be desired. The only sensible person is the one who played the black housekeeper. She left before nighttime came. Star Cliff Scott sounds just like Bill Thurman. Alpha Video juiced up this black-and-white release by adding red-tinted solarized shots and ear-splitting stereo sound effects (the rest of the film is in mono) in hopes of modernizing this creaky little film. It doesn't work. It does work as a piece of obscure cinema, but not as a watchable film. Maybe it was obscure for a reason. Also starring Elsie Baker, Barbara Chase, Wilkie De Martel, Roberta Reeves and Leonard Shoemaker. An Alpha Video DVD Release. Not Rated.
GHOSTS THAT STILL WALK (1977) - I should really put this film in the "Short Reviews For Sucky Films" section of this site, except it has one thing in its' favor: The scene of the rolling boulders attacking an RV Camper in the desert. I remember seeing this film on TV in the late 70's and was impressed by this scene. I'm still impressed by this scene today, but the rest of the film is a bunch of paranormal crap told in flashback to a parapsychologist (Rita Crafts) by grandmother Ann Nelson (the hanging lady in AIRPLANE - 1980) about her trip with her husband in the desert; the mother (Caroline Howe), who goes crazy after talking to a mummy; and the grandson (Matt Boston), who hears voices and is not acting like himself. It's like watching three separate films stitched together with a rather flimsy framing device: the boy being possessed by the spirit of a mummy (due to astral projection). Director James T. Flocker had a quite undistinguished career, having a hand in directing parts of THE LUCIFER COMPLEX (1979) and directing the family film GHOST SHIP (1992), his last effort to date. If it weren't for the possessed rolling boulders, you probably wouldn't be reading this review today. Originally released on VCI Home Video with a budget EP-Mode release from InterGlobal Video a few years later. Not Rated, but it doesn't go anywhere near past a PG rating.
GIRLS' SCHOOL SCREAMERS (1985) - It has taken me two months since viewing this celluloid turd to come up with something to say about it. Watching it is like taking a drive through the desert: Long stretches of nothing. The sadist in me will not allow a plot description. I'd rather you all suffer the same way I had to, by watching this piece of worthless shit. One bit of advice for the father/son team of John Finegan Sr. (director & screenwriter) and Jr. (producer): The stink that came out of my VCR tells me that you should be in the manure business. It's dreck like this that gives film stock a bad name. Stay away if you want to keep your sanity. If you must know know, this film stars Mollie O'Mara, Sharon Christopher, Mari Butler and Peter Cosimano. They all are now probably working the midnight shift at the local 7-11. A Lightning Video Release. Rated R. Also known as KILLER QUEEN. In case you haven't noticed, I hated this film.
GRABBERS (2011) - This Nothern Ireland-lensed horror comedy (filmed partly in the same area as the revived Hammer Films' WAKE WOOD - 2011) has a really ridiculous premise, but the goofy overall tone of the talented cast will win you over very quickly (and, for once, their accents don't need subtitles to understand what they are saying). The film opens with what looks like a meteor hitting the waters just off the coast of Erin Island (a town known more for their drinking than their fishing), when the crew of a fishing trawler notice it and send out an SOS to the Coast Guard. Everyone on the trawler is then disposed of by a huge creature with tentacles. This just happens to be the first day of policewoman (here called 'Gardas") Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), who is on a two-week temporary assignment on Erin Island to replace another Garda who is on holiday. She is picked up from the ferry by fellow Garda Ciaran O'Shea (Richard Coyle), who is nursing the mother of bad hangovers and doesn't want a stranger as a temporary partner. Their first case as an investigating team is the beaching and deaths of a group of Pilot whales. Island coroner Dr. Adam Smith (Russell Tovey), who takes one look at Lisa and is instantly smitten, tells them that this phenomenon is known to have happened before, but scientists have no explanation as to why it happens. Eternally drunk fisherman Paddy (a hilarious Lalor Roddy) catches a baby tentacled creature in one of his lobster traps and puts it in his bathtub (after it squirts something in the face of another fisherman), while other people are being pulled off the beach into the ocean by large tentacles. A married couple relaxing in a house near the beach (the husband is watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD  on his TV) get a knock on their front door and when the husband opens it, he notices one of his friends (who he thinks is drunk) is moving weirdly. He is actually being used as a marionette by a giant creature as bait (or a worm as it were, pulling a reversal on fisherman) and when the husband goes outside to investigate, a tentacle pulls him up straight in the air, his wife screaming in terror. She tries to hide in the house, but a tentacle comes down the chimney and pulls her through the fireplace. When Paddy is attacked by the small creature he found (it tries to wrap itself around his face, a tribute to ALIEN  and there are all types of references to other horror and science fiction films in this movie), but he manages to pull it off him without being harmed. He brings the baby creature to Alan's lab for an autopsy (Paddy thinks it is dead and calls it a "grabber", a reference to TREMORS ), but Alan discovers that the small creature is pregnant (he pulls out a disgusting round egg from its body) and tells Ciaran, Lisa and Paddy that all the creature needs to survive is water (shades of GREMLINS ) and blood, so he sets fire to it and Lisa accidentally sets off the sprinkler system (Alan sarcastically says, "You are Irish, aren't you?"), reviving the creature and it attaches itself to Ciaran's face (it's funny and horrifying at the same time, as Ciaran hits himself in the face with a shovel to get the creature off him), but the creature suddenly lets go and falls to the floor. Adam comes to the conclusion that the creatures are allergic to alcohol (Paddy is drunk and Ciaran still has alcohol in his body from last night), but they must find out how much alcohol in their system it will take to kill the creatures (since all Paddy and Ciaran did was temporarily incapacitate the small creature), so they use Lisa as a test subject (she has never drank alcohol before) and get her drunk as a skunk (it's a really funny scene) and then inject a vial of her alcohol-infused blood into the small captive creature, killing it. Adam reads her blood alcohol level as 0.20, so they will have do get everyone on the island that drunk (there seems to be a lack of children on the island, so that isn't a stumbling block in this film), but not tell them the truth so there isn't a panic. They come up with the bright idea to throw a party at the island's bar owned by husband and wife Brian (David Pearse) and Una Mahar (Bronaugh Gallagher; who is as funny here as she was in BOTCHED - 2007), who are both aware of the situation, with a "free bar", so nearly everyone on the island shows up (hey, free booze is free booze!) for the free drinks (mixed with Paddy's super-potent homemade brew). It begins raining outside (not a good thing) as tiny tentacled creatures approach the bar (it a hoot the way they move) and Brian and Una try to get everyone to a 0.20 alcohol blood level while a drunk Ciaran and Lisa are keeping an eye out in their patrol car outside and begin to fall in love (it's a highly inappropriate time and a drunk Lisa mentions that very same fact, but the drunken heart wants what the drunken heart wants). They spot the tiny creatures approaching the bar and start squishing them beneath their feet, but they then notice one of the bar patrons has stepped outside to take a leak and it is grabbed by the mother of all tentacled creatures, spitting out the poor guy's head out till it rolls at Ciaran and Lisa's feet. When the bar runs out of alcohol is when the trouble really begins, but I won't spoil it for you, other than to say that drunk people are rather useless in life-or-death situations (Brian runs outside in the rain with a Super Soaker full of Paddy's extremely flammable alcohol with a lit candle taped beneath the water gun's spout, he being too drink to understand that as soon as he walks outside, the candle will be extinguished by the rain) and Lisa going into full-blown Sigourney Weaver mode (copying one of her actions in ALIENS - 1986). In the immortal words of Brian the next morning. "That was fun, wasn't it?" It sure was and a final coda at the end leaves the film wide-open for a sequel, one I wouldn't mind watching. Director Jon Wright (TORMENTED - 2009; ROBOT OVERLORDS - 2014), working with a screenplay by first-time feature-length writer Kevin Lehane, keeps the tone light and funny, even in the gore scenes, such as when Ciaran and Lisa go to the house that was attacked and a human head rolls off the roof and hits Ciaran squarely on the nose. For once, the CGI is not a distraction and works very well here, as the giant creature destroys a car and its tentacles impale people through their torsos or just lift them up in the air. The CGI-filled sequence of the baby creatures approaching the bar will have you howling with delight, not because the CGI is bad, but because it is so good you will not notice it is CGI at all (That is what CGI should be: invisible). Screenwriter Lehane fills the film with references to other films (there's a direct sequence related to PREDATOR  towards the end of the film) and some extremely funny dialogue, such as when the bar runs out of alcohol and the drunk group discusses that they may have to sacrifice one of their own in order for the others to get away and Brian says, "Let them eat Father Potts (Micheál O'Gruagain). That should keep them busy for a while!" (the look on the portly Father's face is priceless) or a shit-faced Paddy telling another patron when he discovers that they are out of booze, "Relax, you'll give yourself angina!" Don't raise your expectations too high and you'll have a lot of fun with this film. Also starring Pascal Scott, Clelia Murphy, Louis Dempsey, Ned Dennehy, Stuart Graham and Jonathan Ryan. An IFC Midnight DVD Release. Not Rated.
GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) - One of my favorites. They don't make exploitation much better than this. A vampire returns to life in the 1940's and attacks a necking couple (no pun intended) parked in a graveyard. He kills the boy and savagely rapes the girl. The girl becomes pregnant and gives birth to a gray-skinned baby. The baby doesn't like milk so his mother feeds him her blood to nourish him. Cut to the present. The boy is now a man (William Smith) looking for the man responsible for ultimately killing his mother (there's only so much blood a mother can give her son). Smith finds the vampire (Michael Pataki) teaching classes at a college! He enrolls in the class and the game of cat and mouse is on. Two standout scenes: 1) The mother and son, standing in the shadows, watching children playing baseball in the bright sunshine, knowing that he will never be able to go out there and join them. 2) The concluding scene of son and father fighting to the death. It is exciting and well lensed with a twist ending. This is perhaps director John Hayes' (THE CUT-THROATS - 1969; DREAM NO EVIL - 1970; GARDEN OF THE DEAD - 1972; END OF THE WORLD - 1977) best film. William Smith (INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS - 1974) and the late Michael Pataki (DRACULA'S DOG - 1977) were favorites in low budget films. They made even the most unbearable film they appeared in better than it should be. Eric Mason (KISS OF THE TARANTULA - 1972) plays a cop in the beginning of the film who is done in by the vampire. The screenplay is by David Chase, who would later go on and create THE SOPRANOS. A fast-paced, off the wall horror film. If you happen to run into a copy of GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (also known as SEED OF TERROR), buy it or rent it immediately! A Unicorn Video Release. Also available on DVD from Alpha Video. Also starring Lyn Peters, Diane Holden, Lieux Dressler, Jay Adler and Carmen Argenziano. Rated R.
THE HAGSTONE DEMON (2011) - If you don't like leisurely-paced low-budget horror films with black and white photography (only the flashbacks are in color), then this film probably won't be your cup of tea. But if you like horror films with a somewhat original plot and starring Mark Borchardt, a minor celebrity who gained fame in the documentary AMERICAN MOVIE (1999), about a determined filmmaker who will do practically anything to get his short horror film COVEN (started in 1997, but not finished until 2000) finished, turning that fame into a career in appearing films like this and CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER (2009), then you just may enjoy this gritty little horror flick. Borchardt stars as Douglas Elmore, the new caretaker of the about-to-be-condemned Hagstone apartment building. He is trying to get over the suicide of his wife Julie (Gizelle Erickson), who blew her brains out with a pistol. Douglas deals with the many strange inhabitants of the building, including busybody Mrs. Brennan (Marilyn Murphy), Mr. Thompson (Jay Smiley), a man who knows the complete history of the building, and Sam Witkowski (David S. Bennett), an older gent who likes his pornography. Perhaps the strangest inhabitant is Karna (Nadine Cross), a young woman who is living illegally with her hairless cat Victoria in Room 3, located in the basement next to the laundry room (Douglas lets her live there because the building is going to be torn down in two months). After driving out of town to visit his brother-in-law Carl Becker (Sasha Andreev), a priest who still remains friends with Douglas because he knows something about Julie's past, Douglas returns to the Hagstone building and becomes obsessed with Karna and the strange visitors she receives at night. He follows her one night and watches as she gives some guy dressed in a trenchcoat and fedora a plastic bag where something is moving inside it (Unless I missed something, we are never told what it is, although I think it is her cat) and when he goes to Room 3 to fix her toilet, she strips naked and offers to have sex with Douglas. He turns her down, because he still can't get over the death of his wife. Murders begin to happen at the Hagstone, including finding the naked corpse of Sam on his couch (Mrs. Bennett says, "I always knew he was a masturbator!" and Douglas finds a "Tijuana Bible" among Sam's porn collection which will prove important later on), Mrs. Bennett is found dead on the stairs with six quarts of her blood dripping down the staircase and a truck stop prostitute (Tiffany Moy), who Douglas paid a visit to, is found murdered. Police Detective Willis (Michael Glen) believes Douglas is involved in the murders and even threatens to exhume Julie's body, which upsets Douglas greatly. Long story short, Karna is a succubus and Julie killed herself because she was a Satanist (so was Douglas) who was supposed to get pregnant by Douglas in a cult ritual, but the pregnancy never happened, which made her commit suicide. Since Julie died under those circumstances, it leaves her wide-open to also become a succubus, so Douglas, Carl and Hagstone resident Barbara (Cyndi Kurtz) must stop Karna, who digs up Julie's corpse in a graveyard (she also murders Detective Willis at the graveyard) and brings the body to a secret room at the Hagstone, ready to turn Julie into a succubus. I won't spoil what happens next, only to say that Mr. Thompson isn't who he says he is (it's quite the suprise, especially when Douglas and Carl pull at his legs to get him off Barbara) and getting to the secret room is one freakish experience. Second-time feature film director Jon Springer (a cinematographer by trade who directed a religious-themed feature film and a bunch of horror-themed shorts before making this), who co-wrote the screenplay with Harrison Matthews, is definitely a believer in "slow and steady wins the race", as the film moves at a snail's pace, but reveals the underlying layers as it progresses. Mark Borchardt is not your typical leading man, nor is he a very good actor, but he is effective here for reasons I don't really understand. He has long, greasy hair and wears huge eyeglasses with coke-bottle lenses, but he fits the character he portrays perfectly. The color film stock is used judiciously, only appearing in about three sequences, but its use is effective (usually flashbacks are shown in black & white, not the other way around). This is by no means a good film, but it is an interesting one, which is good enough for me. Shot in 2007 and, besides a few festival showings in 2009, not released on home video until 2011 (It carries a 2011 copyright during the end credits). Filmed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Also starring Lung Leg, Charles Hubbell and Carol Vnuk. A Pacific Entertainment Corporation/Genius Brands Blu-Ray/DVD Release. Rated R.
HAUNT (2013) - I quit watching the IFC Channel on TV a few years ago when they changed their policy and started showing commercials every 10 minutes (Even though the channel still shows films "uncut", a movie that runs 95 minutes is now shown in an unreasonable 135-minute time slot. You do the math.). I find it ironic that the "I" in IFC stands for "Independent", since all their movies and TV shows are now advertiser-driven. That's the antithesis of Independent (On a side note, I predicted way back then that the Sundance Channel would go the way of IFC and, sure enough, it did. Two commercial-free TV stations now show more commercials than most major networks. These are channels I pay a premium for from my cable provider and once were stables of my TV-watching habits, yet there is no way to take these two stations off my line-up. Hell, I remember when AMC was commercial-free. This is what happens when major corporations like Cablevision, Time Warner and Disney buy networks and enforce their "make more money" rule.). Even though I haven't watched anything on IFC for years, I do have to give them props for their IFC Midnight DVD label, because they have released some very good (some bad and some excellent, too) independent horror films (including one of my favorites from the past decade, ALMOST HUMAN ), so IFC is not completely off my radar (to see a collection of films IFC Midnight has released, click HERE). I honestly believe that IFC Midnight is the go-to label for modern-day independent horror films, giving both first-time directors and established ones that are dipping their toes in the low-budget pool an outlet to let their films actually be seen outside of film festivals (Most IFC Midnight pick-ups are given a simultaneous limited theatrical/VOD release before being released on DVD. So far, most of their releases are not on Blu-Ray, which is no big deal to me.). But I digress. Let's get to the movie at hand. This is an old-fashioned haunted house film, that plays with little gore, but plenty of jump scares. It's not really that special, but it is done with some flair and displays a family dynamic unusual for a horror film (thanks to first-time screenwriter Andrew Barrer). The film begins with a drunk and pill-popping Franklin Morello (Carl Hadra), as he is crying while looking at Polaroids of his family. He is in a special room in his house, where he hand-cranks some electronic box with decades-old tubes (the kind that use to power early amplifiers and TVs) to contact the dead, where he talks to his deceased children, apologizing for not being able to protect them. A ghostly demonic creature (Kasia Kowalezyk) then appears and attacks Franklin (his eyes turn completely black), before he falls down a flight of stairs and dies. Franklin's wife, Janet (Jackie Weaver; ANIMAL KINGDOM - 2010), the last surviving member of the Morello family, then narrates the opening of the film, telling us that she, her husband and children moved into that house, using part of the house to practice pediatric medicine. Then, their three children began dying in mysterious ways and their medical practice began drying-up (Janet says, "What good is a pediatrician who can't keep her own babies alive?"), the townspeople referring to it as "The Morello Curse". Janet moved out of the house and a new family (who are aware of the house's history) move in. They are the Anders family: mother Emily (Ione Skye; STRANDED - 1987), father Alan (Brian Wimmer; THE MADDENING - 1995), teenage daughter Sara (Danielle Churchran), pre-teen daughter Anita (Ella Harris) and 18 year-old son Evan (Harrison Gilbertson; NEED FOR SPEED - 2014), who is basically an Athiest and doesn't believe in the afterlife. Janet pays the Ashers a visit under the pretense of picking up a portrait of her dead son Matthew (Sebastian Barr), who died at the same age of Evan, but it is obvious that she has other reasons for checking out the new family occupying her old house. That night, Evan hears what sounds like a violent argument in the woods and he goes to investigate, meeting a crying pretty girl named Sam (Liana Liberato; TRESPASS - 2011), who tells Evan to mind his own business. That same night, while Evan is watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) on TV, the power goes out and he has to go down to the basement to get to the fuse box (his parents are hardly ever home for some unexplained reason). It's obvious to the viewing audience that something supernatural is going on (such as Anita walking around in a trance as she enters her bedroom) and when Evan goes to bed, he is joined by Sam and he lets her stay because he believes she is being abused at her home (she is). Sam has a nightmare involving Janet and a crying baby and, when she wakes up, it is morning and Anita (who now acts normal) is standing by the bed wondering who she is. Evan has the coolest parents, who have no problem with Sam spending the night with Evan (he is old enough to make his own decisions), but mother Emily just gives Evan one piece of advice: "Be careful." (It turns out Sam is being used as a punching bag by her always-drunk father when Emily notices the bruises on her wrists and arms.). Sam stole the magic box to contact the dead and when she and Evan use it in a shed next to a cemetery, Matthew Morello leaves them an ominous message from beyond the grave (Evan returns the box back to the special room in his house). As expected, Evan and Sam become lovers, while Evan notices Anita talking to herself in her bedroom (he totally misses the sudden appearance of a ghostly girl, one of the Morello daughters, who makes a short appearance in the bedroom doorway as Evan turns his back). Even though the entire Archer family are well-aware thet the house they moved in is supposedly haunted, they are not prepared for Anita announcing over dinner that a girl ghost occupies her bedroom, but she will do no harm to her as long as she keeps the ghost girl "happy". Evan and Sam go into the special room and use the box again, this time Matthew Morello telling them "Don't you move!", but they don't listen and beat a hasty retreat outside the room. Sam makes it out of the house, but Evan becomes possessed by the demon creature and when Sam returns looking for him, Evan tries to strangle her with his bare hands, but Sam manages to grab a lamp and knock him out. Evan goes to Sam's house to apologize, but her drunken father answers the door and says, "Sam is not home right now. Leave a message at the beep!" and slams the door in Evan's face. While Evan is walking away, Sam catches up with him a few minutes later and both decide to go to Janet to see if she can shed any light on their situation. Janet just yells not to use that damn "box" again (There was just something off about the whole conversation, which set off alarms in my head). Evan and Sam burn the box, along with the Polaroids of the Morello family, but all that does is make everything worse, as the demon creature invades the house and flashbacks reveal the truth about everything. Like Janet tells us in the finale, "Some houses are more dead than others.", as the camera pans down below the floorboards to reveal the deadly secret. Director Mac Carter, whose first film was the enjoyable DTV documentary SECRET ORIGIN: THE STORY OF DC COMICS (2010) and was Second Unit Director on the Vin Diesel film THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (2015), keeps us on our toes by switching-up the old clichés of haunted house horror films with something completely different. I was quite surprised when I had what I thought was a specific aspect about one of the major characters (I won't spoil it for you, but the character says, "That's the spirit!"), only to discover that I was completely wrong. That doesn't happen very often and I was delighted to be surprised I was wrong. While not particularly scary for a haunted house film (but it does have its fair share of jump scares and some goosebump-inducing scenes, especially when the box is used), it does have a refreshing change of pace in depicting a family unit, the parents believing everything their children tell them and actually trusting them (even though Ione Skye and Brian Wimmer have basically nothing but extended cameo roles). This is a perfectly fine way to spend 85 minutes and it was great to have the DVD jam-packed with extras (like DVDs were in the old days), including the extremely creepy 8mm short film "Morello Home Movies", which gives that family a little more character development and ends on a truly eerie final shot. The extras are as long (if not longer) than the actual film and, for once, they are not filler or "making-ofs", but actual extras made specifically for the DVD. You can do a whole lot worse than watching this not by-the-numbers haunted house flick. Also starring Brooke Kelly, Maggie Scott, Jan Broberg, Aline Andrade and Kelly Noonan. An IFC Midnight DVD Release. Rated R.
THE HAUNTING OF HELENA (2012) - This is an involving Italian supernatural film that gets better and better every time I watch it. The film concerns recently divorced mother Sophia (Harriet MacMasters-Green; writer/star of PARKING LOT - 2011) and her young daughter Helena (Sabrina Jolie Perez) moving in to an apartment building, their apartment being the scene of a brutal murder many years earlier. Helena is losing her baby teeth, so her mother tells her to put her teeth under her pillow and the Tooth Fairy will give her money for it. Before it happens, Sophia gets into a major car accident with her daughter. A truck sideswipes her, forcing the car to go over a bridge in the river below (Sophie sees a ghostly girl child sitting in the backseat as the car fills with water. A truly spine-tingling scene). No major harm has come to Sophie or Helena, but Helena is never the same after that, she is downright frightening. She makes her mother go back to the destroyed car to fetch her tooth, which she lost in the accident. Mom gets it and Helena places it under her pillow. Sophie sneaks into Helena's bedroom to put money under her pillow, but Helena wakes up, telling her that the Tooth Fairy already paid her a visit and gave her money, a rare old Italian coin. Sophie doesn't know what to make of it, especially when she goes to Helena's school, told to come there by the principal. She tells Sophie that her daughter is paying other students for their baby teeth, showing Spohie the teeth that she had already collected and the money she paid them, more old rare coins. Back at their apartment, Helena tells Mom that the Tooth Fairy lives in a portable wardrobe closet (which Sophie brought up from the building's basement, placing it in Helena's bedroom) and visits her every night. She has no teeth, so the Tooth Fairy gave her money to collect more teeth. Mom is not so sure of the matter, thinking Helena is telling a fib, but where is she getting the rare coins? Their neighbor, the elderly Mr. Ferri (the late Paolo Paoloni; VOICES FROM BEYOND - 1991) tells Sophie that her apartment was the site of a brutal murder in 1940, an Army Captain pulling out all of his wife's teeth for smiling at another man! He then locked her in the wardrobe closet, where she died several days later. This bit of information leads to more trouble, especially when the Tooth Fairy makes an appearance in front of Sophie and Helena, opening her mouth and showing she has no teeth (a truly frightening sequence). Sophie throws all of the teeth Helena collected to the Tooth Fairy, but it doesn't end there. We are then taken to 18 months later. Helena is now confined to an insane asylum and she hasn't spoken since the incident. Her father, Robert (Jarreth J. Merz; THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST - 2004), comes to the asylum and tells Sophie that he is taking his daughter to Cancun, where he works. Robert doesn't live for much longer, because he is killed in the wardrobe closet (in a scene that must be seen to be believed). It turns out that this insane asylum also housed the husband that killed his wife in 1940, but he has long been dead. So why does Sophie always see him looking out a window in a part of the asylum that has long been closed (the only other one who sees him is a male patient)? Sophie begins an investigation into what happened to the husband and learns that he hid all of his wife's teeth, so Sophie gets the idea that if she finds the teeth and gives them to the Tooth Fairy, her daughter will be cured. Long story short, she finds the teeth and gives them back to the Tooth Fairy, only to learn that the Fairy is actually an Ogre who killed a bunch of children in 1940 (the town blamed the deaths on wolves!) and once the husband discovered who his wife really was, he pulled out her teeth and locked her in the wardrobe closet. Since the Tooth Fairy has all her own teeth back, she is now an Ogre once again, leading to Helena's death and Sophie being committed to the insane asylum. In a scene that will chill you to your core, Sophie sits outside on a bench at the asylum, cursed to see the visage of her dead daughter, looking out at her from the same window the dead husband did, for the rest of her life. This is a very well made film, directed and written by the relatively new team of Christian Bisceglia and Ascanio Malgarini (also this film's visual effects supervisor, which are well done), with many very frightening and well-timed scares. It also has many WTF?!? scenes, including a room raining down teeth, Sophie lifting her covers in bed to discover she is covered in flies and a locker in the asylum turning into something very deadly. I saw this on streaming channel Screambox ($4.99 a month and well worth it) in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen print. Even though it is an Italian film, everyone speaks English, so those opposed to reading subtitles need not worry (you know who you are). A DVD from Salient Media is also available and it will cost you $3.99 to watch it streaming on Amazon Prime. No matter what way you see it, it is recommended. This is a film you should watch late at night with all the lights out, if you want to be scared out of your mind. This beats all those BlumHouse supernatural films when it comes to scares and frightening gory images. Also featuring Matt Patresi, Giuliano Montaldo (director of GRAND SLAM - 1967 and MACHINE GUN MCCAIN - 1969), Marco Fattibene and Susanna Cornacchia as the Tooth Fairy/Ogre. Not Rated.
HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000) - The fifth film in the HELLRAISER franchise (also known as HELLRAISER 5: INFERNO) is a pretty good murder mystery that would have done just as well without Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and the rest of the Cenobites. Detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer; NIGHTBREED - 1990) is not the best of cops. He cheats on his wife with prostitutes, plants evidence to convict people who have beaten the court system and seems to be the only cop who believes that there is a serial killer out there who is nicknamed "The Engineer". It seems someone is tearing people apart with hooks (including the last prostitute he was with) and leaves a finger of the same little boy at all the crime scenes. When Joseph's detective partner Tony Nenonen (Nicholas Turturro; NYPD BLUE - 1993-2005; whose character's name is a palindrome) and his Captain (Carmen Argenziano; GRADUATION DAY - 1981) becomes worried about Joseph's sanity, he is sent to a psychiatrist/priest Dr. Paul Gregory (James Remar; QUIET COOL - 1986) to talk about his problems. When Joseph finds the Lament Configuration Box and opens it, his life turns into a total nightmare. He begins seeing things that can't possibly be there, like a pair of female Cenobite tatoos moving on a tattoo artist's back. To make a long story short, Dr. Gregory turns out to be none other than Pinhead (a.k.a. "The Engineer"), who doesn't punish Joseph (not at first), but sends him on a quest that will finally make Joseph see the light. Turns out that the fingers found at the scene of the crimes are none other than Joseph's when he was a child, so he is transported back to a time when he was a child to unravel the mystery. What he discovers is not what he expected. Freshman feature film director/co-writer Scott Derrickson (THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE - 2005; THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - 2008) keeps the viewer quite entertained until the "What The Fuck?!?" finale, where it seems he and co-writer Paul Harris Boardman couldn't quite figure out a proper ending for the film. That's a shame, because I was having a good time with it before the abrupt finale that really doesn't measure up to the rest of the film (It seems like Joseph is cursed to relive the same day over-and-over for all eternity. Does that remind you of anything?). Like I said before, the film would have worked well enough without any of Clive Barker's characters (the Pinhead character is in the film for five minutes, tops, and the other Cenobites have even less time) and would have been a good cop thriller/mystery without it. Too bad the ending ruins everything that came before it. Also starring Nicholas Sadler, Noelle Evans, Lindsay Taylor, Matt George and the late Kathryn Joosten (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES - 2004-2012) as Joseph's mother. HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2001) was the next film in the series. Originally released on VHS and DVD by Dimension Home Video (now "The Weinstein Company") and then released on DVD & Blu-Ray in HELLRAISER multi-packs by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment when Dimension no longer distributed DVDs (but still using the Dimension name to sell them!). Please stay away from HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2010), the newest installment in the franchise, as it is an abomination and they used someone other than Doug Bradley to play Pinhead. Blasphemous! Rated R.
THE HIDDEN 2 (1993) - Just to remind you how good the original THE HIDDEN (1987) was, the filmmakers' of this turd of a sequel include the original's final scenes in an absurd, newly-edited form. It seems that when Kyle MacLachlan (who should sue for defamation of character) blew away the alien at the press conference, a dog picked up a piece of it and the alien uses the poor mutt's body as an incubator. The dog hatches many alien eggs in an abandoned warehouse. Fifteen years later, Michael Nouri's daughter (Kate Hodge) joins forces with a good alien (Raphael Sbarge) to find the newly-hatched aliens who take over the bodies of patrons of a rave club opened at the abandoned warehouse. This is strictly second-rate stuff which offers none of the suspense or humor of the original, as the aliens just jump from one body to the next without a plot to work with. The role Michael Nouri played in the first one is portrayed by a different actor in this one (hey, Michael knows a dog when he sees one!) Directed and written by Seth Pinsker (Who also directed episodes of TV's EIGHT IS ENOUGH [1977 - 1981]. Doesn't that tell you something?) without a handle on the material. Also starring Jovin Montanaro, Michael Weldon and Christopher Murphy. A New Line Home Video Release. Rated R.
HIDE AND GO SHRIEK (1987) - This is just another one of those "horny kids trapped in a closed department store while a crazed killer picks them off one-by-one" film. Director Skip Schoolnik (who produced and directed episodes of the TV series ANGEL [1999 - 2004] and edited many TV movies) goes through the paces setting up red herrings and stupid horny teenager situations along the way. There's much nudity and simulated sex as well as some tense moments (dig that realistic decapitation by elevator that can only be seen in the Unrated Edition, effects courtesy of Screaming Mad George), but the sad fact is that there's too much cheese on this sandwich and not enough meat, not to mention a denouement that would set GLAAD back fifty years. There are some good points to this film: The acting is decent, the effects are professional and the music (by John Ross) does set the right mood. The bad points are that this is no different than hundreds of films of the period that kill kids for having sex, being someplace that they are not supposed to be and generally acting idiotic. Hey, we've all been there, done that, but most of us are still alive, unlike the participants of these films. Is this film escapist fun? Well, yes, as long as you drink a six pack or toke on a fattie. Just don't expect a mind-blowing experience. Starring Brittain Fry, Rebunkah Jones, George Thomas, Donna Baltron, Scott Fults, Annette Sinclair and Scott Kubay as the killer. A New Star Video Release. Available in both R-Rated and Unrated versions. The only difference in the two versions is a two second shot of the aforementioned decapitation. Soon to be available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Code Red.
THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER (2004) - This is the ultimate nadir in filmmaking. This film was only made to pander to those freaks who like to watch women being tortured while stripped naked. An anorexic C.Thomas Howell (who plays serial killer Kenneth Bianchi) travels to California and moves in with his abusive cousin Angelo Buono (Nicholas Turturro, who should absolutely be ashamed of himself) and they both proceed to kidnap, kill and rape (yes, in that order!) random women they find on the highway. The first women turn out to be prostitutes, so they do not draw too much attention, but when they start turning their attention to teenage runaways and more affluent women, they start to draw the attention of the newspapers, TV News and the Police. Angelo goes bonkers, threatens Kenneth with a gun and tells him to cool it for a while. Kenneth becomes a sex therapist (!) while hiding his murderous urges from his straight-laced girlfriend (Allison Lange). This is sick stuff that should not be viewed lightly, yet director Chuck Parello, who also made the understated and affecting ED GEIN (2000), gives barely any reason why these two guys do the hideous things that they do (besides having overbearing mothers) and leaves nothing to the imagination. Howell acts likes he's high on cocaine all the time and Turturro is just plain terrible as the pain-inflicting and sweaty overweight accomplice. Everyone involved here should take a cold shower and wash away all their sins. I was hoping to find some redeeming conclusion, but there isn't any. This is sleaze at it's worst and if this review makes you go out and rent or buy this film: SHAME ON YOU!!! Of all the recent serial killer movies that have been made in the past few years, nothing is lower than this one. Not to be confused with HILLSIDE STRANGLER (the title was changed to RAMPAGE: THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER MURDERS to avoid confusion) made the same year and directed by Chris Fisher, who also made the serial killer film NIGHTSTALKER (2002) and the DONNIE DARKO (2001) sequel S. DARKO (2009). Confusing, isn't it? A Tartan Video DVD Release. Unrated. The title was later changed to THE HILLSIDE STRANGLINGS.
HORRIBLE SEXY VAMPIRE (1970) -
Continuing with my reviews of Public Domain (PD) horror films from my
childhood comes this Spain/Germany co-production, which is short on
logic or blood, but has a high yield of nudity.
After a long day in their car, Arthur and his young wife stop at a hotel in Greenwich, Germany, just off the highway, for some rest and relaxation. The wife strips naked, takes a quick bath and goes to bed, while Arthur takes a shower. Suddenly, invisible hands grip around Arthur's throat and choke the life out of him. It seems the town of Greenwich is having a spate of unsolved murders, all the victims being strangled. The coroner (Anastasio "Joe" Campoy; THE CRIMES OF PETIOT - 1973) tells the Commissioner Of Police (Luis Induni; THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI - 1975) that he believes the murders are being committed by a vampire, but the Commissioner finds it hard to swallow. The coroner shows him his father's diaries and one passage says that in 1886, Greenwich went through a string of murders similar to what is happening now. Further investigation reveals that every 28 years, for 28 days, these murders happen and no one was ever caught. And this is the year it is to happen again. The coroner believes the Winninger Castle may hold the clues to solving these murders, so the Commissioner gets a search warrant and heads to the empty castle in the middle of the night (Why does he need a search warrant if the castle is empty?). While he searches the castle with some officers and the coroner, a policeman standing guard is strangled in his car by the invisible hands. The rest of the search party go into the castle's basement, where they see the tombs of Baroness Winninger, who died in 1870, and Baron Winninger, who died in 1886. They open the Baroness's tomb and find a skeleton, but when they open the Baron's tomb, it is empty. The Commissioner believes they are dealing with a body snatcher and they head upstairs, where they hear someone knocking on the front door. When they open it, the strangled officer falls to their feet and Baron Winninger (Waldemar Wohlfahrt; real name: Wal Davis; RINGS OF FEAR - 1978) appears and strangles everyone in the castle.
A new Police Inspector (Barta Barri; THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK - 1975) comes to Greenwich and it is his job to solve the murders. Count Oblensky (Wohlfahrt again) comes to town and drives to the family castle, only to find it locked-up. He talks to the Inspector, who can find no one with the last name Oblensky ever living in Greenwich, but the Count tells him that Baron Winninger stipulated in his will that the castle will only be in his name for all eternity and he shows the Inspector the will as proof. We then see pretty young thing Regina (Adela Tauler) returning home from work and then taking a shower in her apartment. She hears her door buzzer, jumps out of the shower and answers it, only to be strangled by the Baron, her topless body falling to the floor. The Count makes himself at home in the castle and is paid a visit by the Inspector. He agrees to help the Inspector solve the string of murders (He is doing research on his family tree). The Count begins reading the Baron's diary and learns he had a "sickness" for several weeks that no doctor could diagnose. He then hears the Baron laugh and goes down to the basement to investigate. The Baron suddenly appears and just as quickly disappears, the Count thinking his eyes are playing tricks on him, but he tells the Inspector anyway (He thinks the Count was drunk!). But why are the Count's dogs always barking? (And where in the hell did he get dogs in just one day???).
A barmaid named Marianne (Patricia Loran) and her lover have sex in her apartment above the bar. When they are done, her lover leaves through the back door, only to fall victim to the invisible hands. The Baron then appears in the apartment and chokes the life out of Marianne. Susan (Susan Carvasal), the Count's girlfriend, arrives at the castle and has him give her a tour of the castle. They make love and then play a game of Chess (!). The Baron appears to the Count (where we discover the Count's first name ifs Adolf!) and tells him that since he is a blood relative, he cannot harm him in any way, but Adolf realizes that doesn't mean he won't harm Susan. Will Adolf be able to kill the Baron or will Susan become his next victim?
The first thing you'll notice when watching this film is that every female in the cast has a nude scene (Regina's bush is so huge, it pokes out the top of her panties!). The second thing you'll notice is the total lack of blood or gory violence, which is strange considering the subject matter. Director/screenwriter José Luis Madrid (SEVEN MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD - 1971), credited on this print as "Arthur Davidson", has fashioned a film with many ideas, but not one of them is ever acted upon. That's too bad, because this film is soaked with atmosphere, where dread is around every corner, but the ridiculous English dubbing (Adolf: "I don't drink too much!" Inspector: "That's what every drunk says.") takes you right out of the film. Add bloodless vampires, who would rather strangle you than bite you on the neck, into the mix and what you end up with is a film that is great to look at (thanks to the frequent nudity and some effective hand-held camera work), but doesn't make a lick of sense (A vampire film with no vampirism? No thank you!). The Baron is so easy to kill, you'll wonder why no one has done it before.
Filmed as EL VAMPIRO DE LA AUTOPISTA ("The Vampire On The Highway"), this film did have a theatrical release in the United States (distributed by First Line Films ), followed by many VHS releases (most notably by Something Weird Video), thanks to it falling into the Public Domain. Mill Creek Entertainment (who else?) offers this film on many of their DVD Compilations. My review comes from their THE UNDEAD: VAMPIRE COLLECTION 20 movie Classic Features, where they cram five films on one DVD! The print is scratchy and windowboxed, but it is so compressed, I wouldn't advise blowing it up to fit your HDTV screen because it will look blocky (it also has a horizontal line in the middle left of the screen that plays through most of the film). Also starring Paul Lancaster, Peter White, Kurt Esteban (as "Kurt Gordon"), Victor Davis and Mary Trovar. Rated R. Look for more PD reviews in the future. They may be readily available, but they are rarely reviewed.
INFERNO (2013) - Ever since
"witnessing" (that's the best term)
director/producer/screenwriter Giulio De Santi's TAETER
CITY (2012), I had to build up enough nerve to witness his
next film, which is this extremely weird action/thriller/horror
hybrid, shot entirely in the "First Person", like some FPS
video game, but extremely violent and gory. If you have seen HARDCORE
HENRY (2015), you will know what the expect, but the fact is
this film came before it, even though it is not as well-known. The
film starts simple enough, but then veers off into territory quite
unexpected. We follow professional hitman Frank Zimosa (voiced by
Rayner Bourton) as he goes on his latest "job". He has been
hired by Jorge Mistrandia (voiced expertly by Michael Howe in a
chilling British tone), a bigwig that works for a mysterious
organization. Mistrandia has given Frank a special pair of glasses to
wear on the hit so he can watch him kill two people in the hotel room
next to Frank's, but he has some unusual requests before he kills the
husband/wife team of serial killers. He doesn't want Frank to use a
gun to kill them, but rather some strange tools he has supplied him,
which look like an ancient knife and axe. He wants Frank to remove
their brains from their head with the supplied tools and then cut
open their stomachs and remove their insides. Frank thinks the
request is weird,
but Mistrandia is paying him well, so why the fuck not do what he
says. Frank slowly enters the targets' room and kills the wife first,
splitting open her skull and then removing her brain, but he notices
that the brain is leaking some green slimy substance. He knows right
away that this is not normal and asks Mistrandia who these people are
and he tells Frank not to ask questions and do what he was paid for.
Frank then goes into the bathroom where the male member is in the
tub, saying he knew he would come to feed "Her". She needs
to be fed and killing him will feed her. Frank has no idea what he is
talking about (either do we) and questions Mistrandia again, being
told he will know everything at a later date when he needs to know
and to finish the job as requested, make sure these two people suffer
as much as possible. Frank has had enough and removes the glasses and
smashes them, only to discover that the hotel he is in is owned by
Mistrandia's organization for reasons that will be made clear later
in the film (and it's a doozy!). Everyone in the hotel is on
Mistrandia's payroll and now Frank is the target. He must try and
find a way out of the hotel before he loses his life, but it will be
extremely tough, because everyone in the hotel is infected by a
plague caused by "Her", who is also known as "The
Plague Spreader", a being from another dimension that
Mistrandia's ancestors captured in 400 A.D.. She needs to be fed fear
and pain to survive and Mistrandia uses his employees to create pain
in other people, but there is a deadly side effect. The more his
people kill, the more they become infected with the Plague, a disease
which deforms their bodies until they become nothing but green jelly.
Yeah, I know, this sounds far-out, but just go along with it because
this film is more about the action and bloody deaths, as Frank
traverses the hotel floor-by-floor, trying to find his way out before
he is infected, too, as Mistrandia taunts him on the hotel's intercom
system. You see, for every person he kills, he feeds the Plague
Spreader and he begins to become infected.
While nothing but a series of action and horror set-pieces, this is a well-edited experience, as Frank uses guns, knives and even a chainsaw to battle his way out of the hotel. The film's shining moment is when Frank discovers a shotgun and uses it on the horde of infected people coming after him. It is a non-stop barrage of deaths by shotgun, as heads explode, body parts fly off and other gruesome sights and you can't tell when the real life action ends and the makeup effects take over, as they are seemlessly edited together. While most people will find this movie hard to swallow, I found it a mind-blowing experience (pardon the pun), because Giulio De Santi definitely has talent to spare, supplying the tight direction and editing, as well as the gory effects. Also excellent is the techno music score by Protector101 and Razzaw, fitting perfectly to the action on screen. Hey, I know this isn't rocket science and that this is a cheap film, but it has the same "something" that I found so appealing about his previous film. The Plague Spreader (portrayed by Christian Riva) is a sight to behold, as she breathes fire is such a strange way, you won't be able to take your eyes off the screen. It's hard to explain the visuals in this film because mere words cannot do it justice, so if your taste runs towards the unusual and weird, seek out this short film (77 minutes). Also featuring Wilmar Zimosa, Santiago Ortaez, Monica Muñoz, Riccardo Valentiniand Giulio De Santi as an armless henchman. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Wild Eye Releasing and also available streaming on Amazon Prime, free for Prime members. This film restores my faith in modern-day Italian genre films! Two sequels have already been made, with more to come. Not Rated.
HUMONGOUS (1981) - Director Paul Lynch made this inferior horror film right after his surprise hit PROM NIGHT (1980). A group of stupid boating teenagers become stranded on Dog Island, populated by packs of ravenous dogs and a mutated man with Acromegaly, the same disease that affected actor Rhondo Hatton. Only this man has a taste for teen flesh and begins picking off all the teens after he has eaten all the dogs. The film would be much better if the screen wasn't so dark during the kill scenes (most of the killing takes place at night, of course). You end up squinting to see the action and gore (some of it trimmed to get an R rating) resulting in Excedrin headache #10. I hear that the Canadian video version of HUMONGOUS is much lighter and retains all the gore missing from this version. I suggest you track that one down as you will find no enjoyment in this version. The killer is barely shown, the gore is dark and ugly and the screenplay is nearly non-existant (it deals with a rape 36 years earlier that resulted in this mutant offspring). While there is nudity and an ending which, thankfully, does not leave room for a sequel, I can't recommend this film to any seriuos slasher buff. Even PROM NIGHT, which was highly derivative in the slasher film genre (even this early in the game), is much more enjoyable than this. Starring Janet Julian, David Wallace, John Wildman, Janit Baldwin, Garry Robbins as the killer and Page Fletcher (TV's THE HITCHHIKER [1983 -1991]) as the rapist. Also known as DOG ISLAND. An Embassy Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on uncut DVD from Scorpion Releasing, but the print is in less than pristine condition (It is one of Scorpion's worst releases [which looks like a VHS port], so buyer beware). Scorpion has released the film on Blu-Ray in a new print which looks much better than their DVD. Rated R.
HUNTER'S BLOOD (1987) - A good example of the "terror in the woods" genre that reads like a who's who of B movie stars. The story deals with five friends who go deer hunting and run into trouble with a pack of poachers. The poachers are so slimy and disgusting they would give inbreeders bad nightmares! It turns into a tale of survival, as the hunters become the hunted. The special effects are excellent, especially the aftermath of a shotgun blast to the head (it's truly a "Holy Shit!" moment). The acting is generally good, with a nice performance from Joey Travolta as a novice in the woods. Bruce Glover and Billy Drago, as two of the poachers, look and act truly demented. HUNTER'S BLOOD is the best movie of its type since John Boorman's DELIVERANCE (1972) and Jeff Lieberman's JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980). It's so good, it made me wanna squeal like a pig! Be prepared for a real downbeat ending. Also starring Sam Bottoms, Clu Gulager, Ken Swofford and Billy Bob Thornton in a small role as "Billy Bob". Directed by Robert C. Hughes (MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE - 1988, DOWN THE DRAIN - 1989). WRONG TURN (2003) and its five sequels (2007 - 2014) are other recent movies dealing with backwoods inbreds. An Embassy Home Video VHS Release. For some unknown reason, this excellent film has yet to find a DVD or Blu-Ray release yet, but never say never. Rated R.
INTERFACE (1984) - The computer nerds take a beating once again; this time they are playing a life or death game on a college campus with death meaning murder. Can the college professor (John Davies) figure out who is doing it before he becomes the next statistic? Undistinguished first feature from Andy Anderson, who later would hit critical acclaim with the film noir POSITIVE I.D. (1987). There are a couple of good scenes, including when the professor gets caught in the raw and must escape through town wearing nothing but a smile. Worth renting if your sights aren't set too high. A Vestron Video Release. Not Rated.
INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS (1972) - They sure don't make them like this anymore. A bunch of Druids in Upstate New York are draining the blood of the local population in hopes of resurrecting their queen. While this is by no means a good film, it is good for a few laughs (look at the blood draining machines and you'll spot swimming pool pumps as the main component!) and some surprising gore for a PG-rated film (back when PG meant more than family-friendly fare). Director Ed Adlum also produced and co-wrote (with Ed Kelleher) the fake bigfoot gore film SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974), which should be watched back-to-back with this one. This type of extremely low budget film just doesn't get made any more, which is a shame (I must have seen this film more than 6 times on double and triple-bills during the 70's & early 80's). Starring Norman Kelley, Tanna Hunter, Bruce Detrick, Jack Neubeck and Frank Iovieno. Photographed by Roberta Findlay (as Frederick Douglass) and edited by Michael Findlay (director of SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED). INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS was originally released on VHS by Regal Video, Inc. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD Release. Finally available in its original aspect ratio on a double feature DVD from Code Red with SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (a.k.a. DEATHOUSE - 1972), a public domain horror film that finally gets the proper treatment it deserves and is also shown in its original aspect ratio. Rated PG.
THE ITEM (1998) - Freaky little horror/action film about a group of four gun-toting cons who agree to pick up a strange electronically sealed package and sit on it for 24 hours for a fee of over one million dollars. Curiosity gets the better of them as they open the package and unleash one of the strangest creatures to ever grace the screen. It looks like a giant stitched-together penis and soon it has the four cons turning on each other and anyone who comes into the apartment. This Item speaks perfect English and knows all your fears, hopes and dreams and uses them against you. Filled with scenes of jaw-dropping violence (some of which is downright hilarious), gunfights, verbal sparring and characters that have to be seen to be believed. Director/Screenwriter/Star Dan Clark is to be congratulated for turning such a low budget film with such a weird premise into a treat for the eyes and the ears. This is a close as you can get to watching an art film and still call it horror. I like to think of it as Art House Exploitation. Mr. Clark is a force to watch out for in the future. Also starring Dawn Marie Velasquez, Dave Pressler, Dan Lake, Ron Fitzgerald and Judy Jean Kwon. An Artisan Home Entertainment Release. Unrated.
THE JACKHAMMER MASSACRE (2003) - Who is giving director Joe Castro money to keep making films? After the disasterous CEREMONY (1994), LEGEND OF THE CHUPACABRA (1997), TERROR TOONS (2001; and a 2007 sequel), NEAR DEATH (2003) and several others, someone seems to think that this guy has talent. Whoever he or she is should go to an eye doctor and have them checked right away. This pitiful excuse for a film portrays the downfall of once promising businessman Jack Magnus (Aaron Gaffey), who begins to tweak a special brand of methamphetamine with his old high school chum Mike (Kyle Yaskin) and becomes hopelessly addicted to the stuff, even though it kills his friend on the first try. He begins to have paranoid hallucinations that everyone is out to get him (and is also haunted by the ghost of Mike), picks up the titled tool and begins to run everyone through with it. Castro also supplies the special makeup effects (he's better at this than directing) and includes a truly cringe-inducing scene of Jack cleaning out his infected, swollen arm with q-tips and peroxide. There's also scenes of the jackhammer (with the longest extension cord in movie history) entering body parts, including the mouth, stomach, ass and other extremities, eyes being poked out, a lesbian scene and all the actors take off their shirts at one point or another, making some of the scenes look like a gay porn video. If Castro was trying to tell us that taking drugs was bad, point well-taken, even if it is heavy-handed. Otherwise this is just a gore-soaked, badly-acted snoozefest with no redeeming value and an ending which will probably lead to an unwanted sequel. If that interests you, then go for it. I just found it dull and listless, like some drug addict's libido. Also starring Evan Owen, Nadia Angelini, Desi O'Brian, Bart Burson and Joe Haggerty. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment Release (I'm still having a hard time believing that they would pick this up for distribution.). Rated R.
JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST (1973) - This is a severely-edited feature once known as KNIFE FOR THE LADIES and had a TV and foreign VHS release under the title SILENT SENTENCE. Cut down to 51 minutes by Bryanston Pictures (originally 89 minutes; this version was probably used as the bottom film on a double and triple-bill), the film is not boring as all the edits seem to sacrifice character development and not the violence. The small western town of Mescal (actually filmed in Tuscon, Arizona) is experiencing a series of women of ill-repute having their throats slit by some mysterious person wearing black gloves. A detective (Jeff Cooper of CIRCLE OF IRON - 1978) is sent to investigate much to the consternation of the town sheriff (the always wonderful Jack Elam). The two are adversaries at first, but after a big fistfight between them, they join forces to find the killer. The town matriarch, Elizabeth Mescal (Ruth Roman of THE BABY - 1973), who recently lost her son Travis, is the only clue to the killings. After the fatal stabbing of the town barber/mortician, the sheriff and the detective figure out the case. It seems Elizabeth's son Travis (Peter Athis) didn't die and is slowly dying of syphilis, which he caught off the town's whores. She keeps him locked in a cage upstairs in her house feeding him a strong pain killer to keep him alive and manageable. Elizabeth is killing the women (and men) in retribution for her son's condition. The film ends with her severely-scarred son falling off a staircase trying to stop his mother from killing the town's good girl Jenny (Diana Ewing), Both mom and son die. Director Larry G. Spangler (THE SOUL OF NIGGER CHARLEY - 1973) does a good job with the suspense and even gives his son Jon Spangler a major role as Seth, a kid who accuses the wrong person for killing one of the women, which leads to the man's death by hanging. Gene Evans (DEVIL TIMES FIVE - 1974) also appears as a man who wants the sheriff's job, only to get caught in a gunfight with the sheriff and losing. The short running time never gives the film a chance to bore, but you can tell good chunks of character exposition is missing between the killings. Brentwood offered this film on DVD in it's BLOOD BATH 2 compilation. It looks like the film was mastered from a VHS tape as there are instances of tape rolling and fluttering. You do get the choice of listening to it in Dolby Digital 5.0 though. Horror Westerns are a rare breed, so I think this scarce film alone is worth the DVD's price of $9.98. Also starring John Kellogg, Derek Sanderson and Phillip Avenetti. Amazingly, this was released on an uncut anamorphic widescreen Blu-Ray by Code Red (Available only through Screen Archives Entertainment) for the very first time in the United States. And it looks magnificent! Rated R.
KILLERS ARE OUR GUESTS (1974) -
It's amazing the films you can find on free streaming channels if you
don't mind the same commercial being repeated over and over. This one
is an Italian crime thriller that turns into a rape/revenge film. A
team of theives pull a heist in a jewelry store, yet for all
their careful planning, they don't take into consideration that a new
member of their gang will accidentally shoot one of their own during
the heist. That is exactly what happens here.
While successfully pulling the heist, new female member of the gang, Eliana (Margaret Lee; SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971), accidentally shoots Franco (Gianni Dei; SEX OF THE WITCH - 1973) when firing her machine gun in the air as they are leaving, to warn the people inside not to call the police. Once in the getaway car, Mario (Giuseppe Castellano; SCREAMERS - 1980), the supposed leader of the gang, wants to finish the heist as planned and drive to the airport, but Eliana insists on taking Franco to a doctor. Things go from bad to worse when their getaway car gets into an accident, the getaway driver being knocked unconscious. While Eliana and Franco leave on foot, Mario shoots the getaway driver in the head so he won't talk to the police and then steals another car by roughing up the car's driver. Mario picks up Eliana and a seriously injured France , where Eliana says that Franco needs a doctor fast and she knows how to find one. They stop at a phone booth, where Eliana finds a doctor in a phone book (!) and they drive to the address.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Di Stefano (Luigi Pistilli; THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW - 1974) is at the jewely store, determined to capture the thieves. He is getting a lot of heat from his superiors to solve this case because the city of Milan is going through a crimewave of robberies and murders. One of his men says it would take a "miracle" to find these thieves and the Commissioner tells him that they will find the thieves and to keep religion out of it!
Mario, Eliana and Franco arrive at the house of Dr. Guido Malerva (Anthony Steffen; THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE - 1971) and his wife Mara (Livia Cerini). Mario forces his way into the house and Eliana begs Guido to help her friend. The doctor says that Franco needs to be operated on in a hospital, but Mario tells him if he wants to live, he will perform the operation on Franco here and now. Guido reluctantly agrees and the operation is a success (Mario acts tough, but he refuses to watch the operation because he is squeamish), but Franco cannot be moved, forcing the gang to stay in the house until he can be moved. Mario calls the real head of the gang, heroin addict Eddie (Sandro Pizzochero; THE TEENAGE PROSTITUTION RACKET - 1975), who was the lookout at the jewelry heist (and the brains of the gang), to tell him where they are. Eddie tells Mario he is on his way.
The rest of the film details Mario's physical, mental and sexual debasement of Mara and her husband, while Commissioner Di Stefano and his men pick up clues that lead them to the house. The question remains this: Will the Commissioner capture this gang or will the doctor and his wife go all LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT on the brutally vicious Mario? Who will be left and what will be left of them?
This is a very minor Italian crime actioner that suddenly turns into a rape/revenge thriller. All the ingredients are here: A brutal individual who believes sexually torturing a woman is nothing but foreplay (He even watches Mara go to the bathroom); a wife who enjoys putting down her husband, especially in the company of strangers, even going as far as to flaunt her affairs in his face; the female member of the gang, who has lesbian sex with Mara in front of her husband, Mara smiling the entire time; the husband, who puts up with his wife's verbal and sexual put-downs, but when things get to be too much, he turns the tables on the gang; the leader, who is in a drug-fueled haze, yet his word is gospel to the gang; and the cop, who feels the pressure of his job, but proves to his superiors that he is the man for the job. Yet, this film fails to register with its intended audience for many reasons. It's indifferently acted, the direction is bland, the music soundtrack is off-putting and the English dubbing is horrendous. There's a scene in the film where one of Mara's boyfriends comes to the front door and starts feeling her up and kissing her naked breasts, while Guido and the gang listen to the lover grunt and groan wildly. The grunts and groans push the believability factor off the charts and is what is exactly wrong with this film. Director/cinematographer/editor Vincenzo Rigo, who usually directed sex comedies (this being his first film), fails to let his actors make an impression, as they either overact or underact shamelessly. The screenplay, by Renato Romano (an actor by trade, appearing in THE SECRET OF DORIAN GRAY  and THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE ) and Bruno Fontana (ESCAPE FROM WOMEN'S PRISON - 1975), offers nothing new to the genre, just old hat ideas we have seen in countless films just like it. The film ends with a "surprise" reveal, where Eliana is actually Guido's lover and this whole thing was a setup so Guido could murder his wife and blame it on the gang (Eliana purposely shot Franco so she could take him and the gang to this house), but Commissioner Di Stefano catches Guido and Eliana together at the airport as they are about to fly to Buenos Aires, foiling their plan. Don't think too hard or you'll see the inconsistencies of their plan (like why did Eliana have to look in the phone book for Guido's address?). That is the main reason why this film sucks so hard, it offers nothing new and is just deja vu all over again. Deja vu all over again.
Shot as GLI ASSASSINI SONO NOSTRI OSPITI (a literal translation of the review title), this film never had a theatrical or VHS release in the United States, making its first appearance on these shores on DVD from Alpha Digital (long OOP). I saw it for free on streaming channel Drive-In Classics, who have the nasty habit of stopping the film every ten minutes (I timed it) to show the same commercial over and over, interrtupting the film at the most inconvenient times. When the film finally comes back on, they repeat the last 60 seconds of the film that you just watched! (Sometimes the commercials last longer than ten minutes, as they aired the same 2 minute commercial for the drug Humira five times in a row!). This station is worse than most network stations when it comes to commercials, but at least their movies are uncut, the closest equivalent I can come up with is the IFC Channel and that is not a good thing. Also starring Giovanni Brusadori (REFLECTIONS IN BLACK - 1975), Giancarlo Busi (GANG WAR IN MILAN - 1973), Marino Campanaro, Ferdinando Borgonovo and jeweler to the stars Antonio di Gennaro as himself (who?). Not Rated.
THE KILLING OF SATAN (1983) - Wild Filipino horror/fantasy film which doesn't skimp on the gore effects. When Lando (Ramon Revilla) is shot in the head protecting his family from a gang of thugs, he miraculously recovers when the bullet hole disappears. Meanwhile, half a continent away, Lando's uncle (who has magical powers) dies of a bullet wound to the head but not before naming Lando as his successor as protector of the village. Lando inherits his uncle's powers and he is going to need them, for as soon as he sets foot in the village his daughter is kidnapped by the Prince of Magic (Charlie Davao), who plans to give the girl to Satan for carnal pleasure. Lando follows the Prince of Magic into his huge underground lair where he must battle snakemen, the Prince's minions, the Prince himself and, finally, Satan to save the virtue of his daughter. Extreme gore (a face ripping, a chest bursting, a man crushed by a large boulder) and cheap optical effects somehow make this a highly watchable film. Viewing this film is like having a dream while running a 105 degree fever. It doesn't make much sense but it does pack a wallop. A cult classic begging to be discovered. Also starring Elizabeth Oropesa, George Estregan, Paquito Diaz and Cecille Castillo. Directed by Efren C. Pinon (ENFORCER FROM DEATH ROW and BLIND RAGE - both 1978). From Paragon Video. Not Rated.
KINGDOM COME (2014) - As an Atheist, I generally frown upon sin and redemption disguised as horror films, but I must say that this one entertained me. Eight people, including a young girl, wake up at an abandoned hospital (The movie was filmed in a real abandoned mental hospital in the town of London, Ontario, Canada) with no idea how they got there. I know what you are thinking: They are all in Hell and have to pay for their sins in the worst way, but you would be wrong. None of them seemingly know each other, but there is evidence that they are all connected in some way, even if it's a trivial matter. There also seems to be no means of escape from the hospital. The angry Roger (JoJo Karume) sticks his arm out of a boarded-up window a few stories up, but something with sharp teeth bites him in the arm. Roger (who is the only black man among them) has a major attitude problem and leaves the group to go searching for a way out on his own. The other seven split up onto two groups and go searching for the same thing. Every once in a while, a member of the group has a flashback that gives us a little piece of their background and none of these flashbacks paint a good picture of any of them. But in their flashbacks is usually another member of the trapped group. Turns out that Roger was a notorious rapist and all his female victims (none of them have a stitch of clothing on) appear in the basement and rip Roger's stomach open, throwing his innards into the air. Victoria (Chelsey Marie) goes to take a pee and when she gets out of the stall, a junkie hands her a needle and the next thing we see is Victoria screaming and being pulled under the stalls (It's apparent Victoria was a junkie). Nadir (Soroush Saeidi) gets a visit from his dead daughter Meesha (Sima Sepehri), who he accidentally killed by smacking her in the face and falling down a flight of stairs just for the mere fact she was dating a black man and he is forced to hang himself with electrical wire before discovering it was all a hallucination (Or was it?). Sam (Ry Barrett) has a flashback where he killed his wife in a drunk driving accident while they were celebrating their anniversary. Roaming the halls is the debonairre Daniel Levine (Jason Martorino) and his entourage of "Gatekeepers", winged demons from the bowels of Hell. He takes particular interest in Sam and Jessica (Camille Hollett-French), who seem to be the keys to this whole hospital haunting. He kills some of the people in the abandoned hospital (some of which we are never formally introduced to) according to their crimes and the Gatekeepers drag the bodies away. But what could be little girl Celia's (Ellie O'Brien) crime? What could a pre-teen girl be so responsible for that she needs a demon to pass judgment on her? Pedophile Charles (William Foley) finds Celia hiding in a dryer and takes her hand and leads her away. Will his urges come over him before Sam and Jessica can save her (they have grown quite fond of her)? A child from Charles past, now a woman named Rachel (Katie Uhlmann; who is part of the original eight), goes to kill Charles because of sexual things he did to her in his past and Sam must fight a war of words with Daniel to get her to stop from killing Charles. Daniel wins (this time) and Rachel beats Charles to death with a pipe and the Gatekeepers drag Rachel away (Human nature is a tough act to break). "I can smell you, my little meat sacks!" is what Daniel says as he chases Sam, Rachel and Celia through the hospital corridors. Sam cuts off Daniel's hand when he grabs Rachel's hair but seconds later, we see Daniel with two hands again. Sam is magically dragged away by Daniel, but Jess seems to be in a room that Daniel can't enter. Jess leaves the room to save Sam's life and she stabs Daniel in the eye, but Daniel begins to psychically choke the life out of Sam, while Jess begs him to stop. Daniel makes Jess aware that Sam's drunk driving caused the death of her husband and herself. "It must just eat away at you like a motherfucker!" is Daniel's reply as he tries to get her to kill Sam. Jess instead says to Sam, "I forgive you!", which leaves Daniel powerless to do anything. Turns out Celia is working on the side of God, trying to find the good in people (she found it in Nadir) and, as the instrument of God, Daniel is pulled through a wall by some demon hands. Celia is also the ghostly apparition of Jess' aborted baby and she forgives Jess for her indiscretions (Jess was just a teenager when it happened), so Celia whispers, "172. She's waiting." to Sam, touches his cheek and suddenly Sam is at the automobile accident (seems like it was more of a pile-up than a two-car accident, as we see several people from the abandoned hospital, including Nadir, at the scene). Sam is able to locate Jess at mile marker 172 and the ambulance takes Jess away. Looks like she will have a nice life (although still husbandless). As Sam is strapped to the inside of the ambulance, Daniel appears and says, "Better buckle up Sammy Boy! It's going to be a bumpy ride!" Sam may be damned to Hell for his sins, but at least he did the right thing when it counted most. Never preachy or overtly religious, this supernatural film with some severe dollops of gore and nudity (Roger's death is a doozy and we can now understand why he is so confrontational in the beginning of the film. It has nothing to do with his color.), director/editor/co-producer/co-screenwriter (with Geoff Hart [Producer of UNEARTHLY - 2013 and TAPPED OUT - 2014]) Greg A. Sager (DEVIL SEED - 2012) makes an eerie little film with lots of atmosphere thanks to filming at an actual abandoned mental hospital. It may take the viewer several viewings to see what Mr. Sager was aiming for here (religious people may get the inference sooner than most other people), but this is a good little horror film with religious undertones. Being an Atheist, films like this don't bother me, especially if they are as entertaining as this one. Give this Canadian film a try and you may just find yourself creeped out by the way it is filmed and the connections between most of the cast. I will definitely watch more films by Greg Sager when they come out, especially if they offer the mystery and forgiveness (to a point) a film like this rarely shows. Good stuff to make you feel better about your own life unless you are worse than the people shown on screen. Also starring Bruce Turner, Colin Paradine, Stephanie Capeling, Kim Kaitall and Kat Krawczuk, Korinne Goudreau, Emily Deruytter, Matthew Chiu and Katherine Prentice as the winged Gatekeepers (really well done creature effects). An Uncork'd Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.
KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) - I consider this the JAWS of normal-sized killer spider movies (and there have been plenty, such as KISS OF THE TARANTULA - 1972 [see review below]; TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO - 1977; ARACHNOPHOBIA - 1990; IN THE SPIDER'S WEB - 2007). Why do I love this film so much, you may ask? Well, because real tarantulas (thousands of them) were used and all the actors had to endure them crawling all over their bodies, even biting them at times (William Shatner tells a good story on an extra on the DVD about him being covered with tarantulas while wearing a silk shirt and he could feel their claws as they crawled up his body!) and even though Shatner claimed very few actual spiders were killed in the film, from what I saw, it looked like an awful lot were snuffed out!. The premise is simple: veterinarian Rack Hansen (Shatner), who is taking care of his dead brother's wife Terry (Marcy Lafferty, who was married to Shatner at the time) and niece Linda (Natasha Ryan), after his brother is killed in the Vietnam War (Terry and Rack almost have a romantic interlude until she calls him his brother's name!) is called to the farm of Walter Coby (Woody Strode; SCREAM - 1981) and his wife Birch (Altovise Davis; WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH - 1973; and one-time wife to Sammy Davis Jr.) because their prized heifer looks like it was bitten by snakes and had died. Rack sends a sample of the heifer's blood to a local University and scientist Dr. Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling; BONNIE'S KIDS - 1972) and her Mercedes travel to Rack's town of Verde Valley (where a Festival is to take place in a couple of weeks) and accidentally meets Rack at the local gas station and mistakens him for the gas jockey (the entire sequence is funny because Shatner is very charming in this film and doesn't do his typical word cadence, where he pauses between words). When Rack and Diane meet properly, she tells him that the heifer was not bitten by snakes at all, but hundreds of spiders, tarantulas to be specific. They head for Walter's farm (the town's Mayor Connors [Roy Engel] is more concerned about a quarantine being put into place, destroying any chance of holding the Festival. Sound familiar?), where Walter and Birch show them a giant spider mound. Diane is surprised that different species of tarantulas are not fighting with each other (and cannibalizing each other), but getting along like good neighbors. Diane theorizes that because of the use of DDT (Remember that fiasco? If not, Google it), the spiders have adapted to it, but their food sources have been killed in the process. She then goes on to say that because the spiders have lost their food sources, they have adapted to new food sources, namely animals (there have been over 30 missing animals reports in the last month alone). Rack, Diane and Coby decide to burn down the mound when Coby's prized bull is killed by the spiders, but when they set fire to the mound, the spiders have a back door getaway. As Rack and Diane begin a romantic relationship (much to Terry's dismay), the spiders attack Coby in his truck and he goes over the side of the road, When Rack, Diane and Sheriff Smith (David McLean) make it down to Coby's truck, they discover that Coby is covered in a web cocoon. The Mayor makes the decision to use a powerful insecticide (to Diane's objections) on the spiders when 20 to 30 more spider mounds are found scattered throughout the countryside, so he hires The Baron (Whitey Hughes) to fly his plane and spray the affected areas. Little does The Baron know is that the plane is covered inside with tarantulas and before he can really begin spraying the insecticide, he is attacked (and he yelps out the girliest man-scream I have ever heard!) and crashes his plane into the garage of the gas station, where it explodes into a ball of fire (This portion of the film has a lot of realism, because you can see that Shatner, Bolling, Hoke Howell, who plays the mechanic/gas jockey, and other actors in the film, were actually there when the plane crashes and explodes and no stunt people were involved. That took a lot of guts for everyone involved.). Our heroes become trapped in the Washburn Lodge, run by Emma Washburn (Lieux Dressler; TRUCK STOP WOMEN - 1974) and occupied by her only other two guests, Vern & Betty Johnson (Joe Ross, Adele Malis). They try to cover up all the entrances that the spiders can come through (the air conditioning vents, the fireplace and other entry points), but they have a hard time keeping the hordes of tarantulas out. The Sheriff decides to check out the town, only to find out that it has already been overrun with spiders, as he spots people in web cocoons on the side of the road and people running in terror with spiders all over them (it is quite the event, but not the Festival they were expecting!). The sheriff dies when a car veers out of control and takes out the two front legs of the water tower and it falls directly on the Sheriff's car (Birch is also killed when her home is overrun with spiders and she nearly blows off her hand shooting a pistol at a spider residing there and Terry dies while saving Linda). When the spiders take out the lodge's electricity by shorting out the fuse box in the basement, Rack goes downstairs to fix it. He does, but then a ton of tarantulas break the window above him and jump all over his body (it's quite the sight) as Rack barely makes it up the stairs and gets medical attention from Diane. As the sun rises and the spiders have seemed to stop their attack, Rack decides to remove a board on a window and is horrified at what he sees: the entire town is one giant spider cocoon. What can they do next? Well, there was supposed to be a sequel made (according to Shatner's interview), but it never happened. This is probably director John "Bud" Cardos' (THE DAY TIME ENDED - 1979; THE DARK - 1979; NIGHT SHADOWS - 1984; SKELETON COAST - 1987) crowning achievement because it is suspenseful without being bloody (unless you have a fear of spiders; then you will be shitting your pants!) and the storyline (screenplay by Richard Robinson and Alan Caillou; THE LOSERS - 1970) puts almost everyone in the cast with a chance to be covered with spiders (even Cardos' son, Jon-Jon, who we see in the town, is crawling on the pavement with spiders all over his body). If you like horror films from the 70's that cross the boundaries of good taste, you can't do much better than KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. I use to have a deadly fear of spiders, but now that I don't, I can appreciate this film on its own merits. No CGI. Everything practical, including all the spiders being real. And there are a whole lot of spiders! Also starring Bill Foster, Jay Lawrence, Bettie Bolling (Tiffany Bollings' mother) and Juanita Merritt. I originally saw this film on a budget VHS from Interglobal Home Video, then a fullscreen DVD from Goodtimes Entertainment and finally (the only true way to watch it as of this writing) an anamorphic widescreen DVD (with a ton of extras, including the aforementioned Shatner interview) from Shout! Factory. Rated PG, but this is a 70's PG-Rating, not the pansy PG-Rating of today. Also available on Blu-Ray from Code Red.
KISS OF THE TARANTULA (1972) - A gruesome little shocker about a teenage girl (Suzanne Ling) and her fondness for spiders.. When anyone crosses her or her mortician father, the spiders come out to set things right. Her leering uncle and town sheriff (Eric Mason) has eyes for her, and she has the perfect plan to dispose of him. She also takes vengeance on the high school kids who broke into her house and killed her prized spider. She unleashes a slew of her friendly eight-legged buddies in their VW Bug (how ironic!) at a drive-in. It's a pretty graphic scene. Although its' low budget shows, it still has some nice touches and a great ending which shouldn't be missed. Recommended for those who are not arachnophobic. Director Chris Munger also made the exploitationer BLACK STARLET (1974 - a.k.a. BLACK GAUNTLET) also starring Eric Mason. Producers Daniel Cady and John Hayes were also responsible for GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) and GARDEN OF THE DEAD (1972 - a.k.a. TOMB OF THE UNDEAD). The first time I saw KISS OF THE TARANTULA it was on WOR TV (Channel 9 in New York, now part of the UPN network) about 35 years ago and they showed it uncut. Now it is only shown cut (at least the last time I saw it on TV in 1986). The defunct Gorgon Video label released an uncut version of this film in the mid-80's. Also available on uncut anamorphic widescreen DVD from VCI Entertainment. If you can find it, pick it up. Rated PG, but don't let that put you off. This is adult material.
LAST HOUSE IN THE WOODS (2006) -
Here's something you don't hear very often: An Italian horror film
made in the New Millennium that is creepy and actually very good,
bordering on excellent. There are also has many unexpected surprises
in the twisty story and some very bloody and gory practical effects
(by Sergio Stivaletti; effects supervisor on THE
CHURCH - 1989 and director of THE
WAX MASK - 1997). I originally posted a two-sentence review
for this film in the DTV
Section of this site, but I thought it needed a more fleshed-out
review (so to speak).
The film opens with a family driving on a dark road in the forest, when the car runs over some sharp shards of glass in the middle of the road. The car gets a flat tire, loses control and crashes into a tree, killing the father. There is no cell phone service in the area, so the mother and young son Andrea (Francesco Lopez) walk down the road hoping to flag down a passing car. As a car approaches, the mother tells Andrea to wait on the side of the road while she steps into the road to stop the car. The car hits her, sending her broken and shattered body to the side of the road. The unseen driver stops, gets out of his car and walks towards the mother, who is begging for help. While Andrea hides behind a tree, he sees the man bash his mother in the head repeatedly with a rock, killing her. Andrea cries out for his mother and the man chases him into the woods, but soon gives up, putting the mother's body in the back of his car and driving away.
The film switches to young woman Aurora (Daniela Virgilio), who has just broken up with boyfriend Rino (Daniele Grassetti), but he doesn't understand why (A flashback shows us Rino fucking Aurora doggy style while she draws a picture for him with a crayon!). Rino is watching Aurora's house in his car across the street and when she comes outside, he pulls up beside her and begs her to get inside the car so they can talk. We then discover that Aurora and Rino did very little talking, as Rino's car is parked by the woods and they just finished making love, but she tells him she needs time to think about their relationship. Before they can talk further, three drunk thugs, Cesare (David Pietroni), Ginger (Geremia Longobardo) and Diego (Cristiano Callegaro), pull Rino and Aurora out of the car. They rob and knock-out Rino, taking his and Aurora's cell phones out of the car. As they are about to gang rape Aurora, a car comes up the street and Aurora jumps in front of it, pleading for help. The driver, Antonio (Gennaro Diana), tells Aurora to get in the back seat of his car while he deals with the thugs. Antonio's wife, Clara (Santa De Santis), tells Aurora not to worry because her husband will handle the situation. And handle it he does. When the thugs come at Antonio with knives, he pulls out a pistol and tells the trio to get lost, which they do, but not before threatening to get even with him.
Antonio drives Aurora and Rino to his home, a gated mansion with a very long driveway that is located in the middle of the woods. While Clara tends to Rino's wounds upstairs, Antonio asks Aurora if she wants to call the police, but she says no, she would just rather forget the whole thing and wait in his house until Rino is better (he took a nasty blow to his head). Aurora should have accepted Antonio's offer, because she and Rino are about to experience a horrific night they will never forget, that is, if they survive the night (throughout the film, we see Andrea running in the woods, yelling out for someone to help him).
Aurora asks Antonio if he and Clara live alone in this large house and he says no, their son Giulio also lives here, but he is sleeping upstairs in his bedroom ("He's only seven and he goes to sleep quite early" explains Antonio). It is at this time that Antonio begins to ask Aurora some very personal questions, like if there is anyone she needs to call to tell them she's OK (she says no), but he does it in such a way that it doesn't sound sinister. He also tells her that she is pretty and they begin to kiss, when Giulio (Fabiano Malantrucco) runs into the room, scaring the crap out of Aurora. It's plain to see that Giulio is not a normal child, as he has a mouthful of very sharp teeth that are coated in blood. Aurora finally begins to realize that this is no normal household, especially when she tells Antonio that she needs to check on Rino and he tells her to stay put and drink her coffee, he will go see how Rino is doing. When Antonio comes back into the room, he is filling a syringe with an unknown liquid, telling Aurora to stay calm, continuing with, "I'm sorry. I was gonna let you go. But it's too late now. It's impossible, Aurora. I do it for Giulio. I do it for our son." What is so impossible and why is it too late? If you want to know, you're going to have to watch the film. Believe me when I say you'll thank me for not telling you more. But I will tell you this: Don't forget about Andrea, because he plays an important part in the finale.
This is truly a house of horrors, the like which have never been seen before in a film made in the New Millennium. But it isn't just the house that is full of horrors, it's the freaking woods that surround the house, as Aurora discovers when she escapes the house and is knocked out cold when she enters an RV parked in the woods. What she witnesses after waking up in the house will take a strong constitution and if your gag reflex is set to low, expect to lose your lunch. This film takes elements from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), yet the film seems totally original and, above all, shocking beyond belief. Directed and written capably by Gabriele Albanesi, who ushered in a new wave of Italian talent, Albanesi also directing UBALDO TERZONI HORROR SHOW (2010; look for a review soon) and producing/directing a segment of the Italian horror anthology ITALIAN GHOST STORIES (a.k.a. PARANORMAL STORIES - 2011), which features segments directed by a group of new Italian horror genre talent. This film definitely has a '70s vibe to it, especially when Aurora wakes up in the house after escaping and seeing the carnage that awaits her. Antonio definitely has some perverted "family" members, as we witness Antonio's other two "sons"...Warning! SPOILERS!!!...chainsawing some appendages off a still alive Rino and using those body parts as food for Giulio, who survives by eating human flesh, in a scene that looks like a cannibal's version of The Last Supper! END OF SPOILERS!!! It may seem a little too pat when the trio of rapists run out of gas next to Antonio's home, but you'll definitely enjoy what happens to them when they try to invade the worst home possible and they get what they deserve (One of them even turns hero and tries to rescue Aurora, but he pays for that, too! I would advise not eating a hearty meal before watching this because it may leave the wrong opening in your body!). Yes, this is truly a gore film, as nothing is left to your imagination. I wish I could tell you the totally surprising final shot, but if I did, it will destroy the impact it will have on your psyche. I'll just say this: Some rooms in the house are covered in plastic for a reason. The final reveal is an image that won't leave your mind for a long, long time, if ever, making this film highly recommended to horror and gore film aficionados. A film like this doesn't come along very often, so I suggest you search it out (keep reading).
Shot as IL BOSCO FUORI ("The Woods Outside"), this film was released Unrated on DVD in the United States by Lionsgate Entertainment's late, lamented label Ghost House Underground in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen print in its original Italian with English subtitles (my preferred way of watching a film) or English dubbed. It is also available streaming on Amazon Prime (free for Prime members), but only in the English dubbed version. The dubbing here is quite unobtrusive and follows the Italian language version very closely. On a side note, I recorded the Italian language version from the Independent Film Channel (IFC) long before they decided to air commercials every ten minutes. They still call themselves IFC, which is a fucking joke. I mean, how in the hell can you call yourself "Independent" when you air commercials? That is the antithesis of independent, isn't it? Yet they continually harp on the fact that their movies are not edited in any way, but it takes a 135-minute time slot to air a 90-minute film! Needless to say, I haven't watched IFC for years. Rant over. Also starring Enrico Silvestrin and Elisabetta Rocchetti as Andrea's parents and Luigi Campi & Valter Gilardoni as Antonio's other two "sons". Not Rated.
LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1973) - Some genre critics found this film unnerving and terrifying. I found it sloppy and amateurish. A recently paroled porno filmmaker grows tired of his craft and decides to make snuff films instead. He recruits some willing comrades to help him and films his enemies being killed in various bloody ways (dismemberment on an operating table, drill bit through the head, etc.). An interesting premise unfortunately undone by bad acting, grade school effects, terrible lighting, chainsaw editing and plenty of post-synch dubbing. Directed by Roger Watkins using the pseudonym "Victor Janos". He would later go on to make the hard-to-find thriller SHADOWS OF THE MIND (1976), as well as directing stylish porn films under the pseudonym "Richard Mahler" before dying at the age of 58 in 2007. Also known as THE FUN HOUSE. The VHS tape of this title, released by Sun Video Distribution, goes for insane amounts of money in collectors markets and auction sites. Also available in a deluxe 2-disc DVD presentation by the now-defunct Barrel Entertainment. It was one of the best presentations of a horror film on DVD and was full of unexpected extras and hidden Easter eggs. Even though I disliked the film immensely, the Barrel Entertainment DVD made watching the film a worthwhile experience. Very few DVDs have been able to make that claim in my book. Unrated.
LEECHES! (2003) - Director David DeCoteau is paying way too much time making movies that would please gay men. This is one of those films. The men (actually teenagers) are rarely wearing shirts and constantly sporting Speedos and the women characters are vapid and generally there because they have to be if DeCoteau is to release this as a mainstream film. A male college swimming team (enter your own gay male fantasy here if you like) use steroids to enhance their performance. Unfortunately, while swimming at the local pond, they are attacked by leeches who begin to grow three feet in length and begin killing the team and their girlfriends. The leeches (who are actually rubber concoctions pulled by strings or hand puppets when they attack) somehow also begin to get smarter as they grow, something that is not revealed until the "surprise" ending. A nerdy team member, who refuses to take steroids, tries to find a way to kill the leeches and save what is left of the swimming team and their chicks. This movie is nearly stupid in every department, except for the cinematography of Gary Graver, who gives the film a polish it so dearly needs. If you like close-ups of the male body, so lovingly panned up and down that it almost seems like softcore porn, then this is the film for you. If you want a balls-to-the-wall horror film (insert joke here), skip this and watch something else instead. Myself, personally, felt dirty after viewing this. Mr. DeCoteau, whose first non-porn film was DREAMANIAC (1986), has made some really bad films in his life, but he has also made some decent ones, including SKELETONS (1996) and FINAL STAB (2001). He dedicates this film to the late Doris Wishman, who I am sure would have been pleased since none of her films ever had the productions values of this one. It's not praise, but at least someone had the guts to dedicate a film to such an obscure personality. LEECHES! stars Matthew Twining, Josh Henderson, Stacey Nelson, Tony Carroccio, Charity Rahmer and Mike Cole. A Sidekick Entertainment/Rapid Heart Pictures Release. Rated R.
LIONMAN II: THE WITCHQUEEN (1979) - Abysmal Turkish (thats right, Turkish!) sequel to the far superior LION MAN (1975), a fantasy that is filled with phony fight scenes and a droning synthesizer score. Lionman (Frank Morgan), who, as you can probably guess, was raised by lions since he was a baby, and his band of acrobatic fighters fight an evil witchqueen (Dee Taylor) and her evil king (producer Erich Akman) after they kidnap Lionmans son. Many magic spells and traps dog Lionmans every move as the witchqueen uses her demonic powers to try to kill Lionman so she and the king can claim his domain. See Lionman (who straps on a pair of gloves shaped as lion paws) fight hordes of evil Turks single-handedly with hardly any blood spilled. He also fights a swamp monster, has his horse shrunk to miniature and dodges many booby traps. This is bad stuff directed with no imagination by "Michael Arslan" (actually Mehmet Aslan; THIRSTY FOR LOVE, SEX AND MURDER - 1972). A Boomerang Films Release. Not Rated.
THE LOVE BUTCHER (1975) - Pretty good bizarre psycho-thriller. Someone is killing young women with gardening tools. The police are baffled. A reporter is on the case. A killer is on the loose. Although this case would be solved in 10 seconds in real life, the point of this film is to showcase the talents of Erik Stern. He displays a dual personality, which is truly fascinating. One character is Caleb, a crippled, bald and ugly gardener whom his women customers pick on. The other character is Lester, Caleb's handsome dead brother, who considers himself an "Adonis to all women". When a woman puts down Caleb, Lester pays her a lethal visit. The script contains many twists and turns along with a few shocks. Sympathetic characters are knocked-off and Erik Stern's transformation from one brother to another is amazing. He does it with a minimal of makeup. And his acting talents aren't bad either. If you see this in the video stores, pick it up. The frequent zoom shots aside, this is a rather well made film. Good show. Director Mikel Angel (who co-directed this film with Don Jones of SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS  fame) has had an active life in exploitation films, as a director, writer (PSYCHIC KILLER - 1974; GROTESQUE - 1988; DEMON KEEPER - 1993) and actor (THE BLACK SIX - 1974; EVIL SPIRITS - 1990) before passing away in 2005. A Monterey Home Video VHS Release. Finally availailable on a beautiful widescreen DVD & Blu-Ray from Code Red which are the only ways you should be watching the film now. They are sharp, colorful and in their original aspect ratios. Rated R.
LURKING FEAR (1994) - This Full Moon production is purportedly based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. I bet he is turning in his grave. A group of people converge on an old church in the town of Leverts Corner, each with their own agenda. Cathryn Farrell (the lovely Ashley Lauren) comes to this town to avenge the death of her sister, who was killed by a race of cannibalistic creatures who live beneath the cemetery next to the church. John Martense (Blake Bailey) comes to the cemetery to dig up a fortune in money that his dead hoodlum father buried in a casket. A gangster (Jon Finch) and his hoods take everyone hostage including a priest (Paul Mantee) and a drunk doctor (Jeffrey Combs) in hopes of getting his hands on the buried loot. The remainder of the film consists of the motley group fighting off the attacking creatures as they are picked off one-by-one. Jon Finch (FRENZY - 1972) does add some class here but this is still standard by-the-numbers material with nothing special to offer the viewer. In other words, a typical Full Moon film. Directed and written by C. Courtney Joyner (TRANCERS III: DETH LIVES - 1992). From Paramount Home Video. Rated R.
LUTHER THE GEEK (1990 - 1991) - Director Carlton J. Albright, who wrote and produced the equally perverse 1980 film THE CHILDREN, has crafted a work of unbridled disturbing behavior here. Writing under the pseudonym "Whitey Styles", Albright tells the story of Luther Watts (Edward Terry), a rather troubled individual who had his teeth knocked out as a child while watching a circus geek bite the head off a chicken. In 1990, Luther is released from a correctional facility after spending 25 years there for murdering three people by biting their necks and watching them bleed out. As soon as Luther is released, he chows down on the neck (with his sharpened metal teeth!) of an old lady (Gail Buxton) waiting at a bus stop and hides out at a farm house owned by Hilary Lawson (Joan Roth). Luther takes Hilary hostage (after a failed attempt of blowing her vagina off with a shotgun!) and ties her to a bed. Hilary's daughter Beth (Stacy Haiduk) discovers her mother tied to the bed but cannot free her in time before Luther comes back after injuring Beth's boyfriend Rob (Thomas Mills) and killing an intruding hunter (Martin Widener). Luther can only communicate by cackling like a chicken or crowing like a rooster, so reasoning with him is out of the question. Luther holds Hilary, Beth and Rob hostage, but you know pretty soon this is going to turn into a cat-and-mouse chase, where only the survival of the fittest and quickest-thinking can survive. I won't spoil the rest of the film for first-time viewers, but you'll be highly-rewarded, if not grossed-out by the rest of the proceedings. The bloodletting is highly realistic and the tension builds to a heart-pounding conclusion. This is Carlton J. Albright's only directorial effort and it's a damned shame that he hasn't made another film since. This is truly gripping stuff that should be watched by anyone who likes to be scared. In case you haven't noticed, I liked this film. The performances of all involved are realistic to the situations and, just like in real life, there are no complete happy endings. Pick this one up if you get the chance! It took Albright two years to complete LUTHER THE GEEK, due to financial difficulties. Available on VHS from Dead Alive Productions and Quest Entertainment, which are both long OOP. This film deserves a decent DVD release unlike the one Troma let escape on the marketplace.. It looks like a VHS transfer and the sound is all screwed up. Also starring J. Joseph Clark as a relentless State Trooper. Not Rated for all the obvious bloody reasons.
MALATESTA'S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973) - This odd little art house/gore film was considered lost for thirty years. A single copy of the film was found in someone's attic and transferred to DVD. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's not a very good film and its only claim to fame is that late dwarf actor Herve de Vellechaize ("De Plane, De Plane!") has a small role in it. Director Christopher Speeth has a severe problem of putting the camera at the wrong places at the wrong time. Heads are cut out of the frame and the hand-held camera has a problem keeping up with the action. It all takes place at a carnival run by the mysterious Malatesta (Daniel Dietrich), where workers and patrons are killed by his ghoulish minions by decapitation, stabbings and cannibalism. Everyone is told that it's "all an illusion" by head ghoul Mr. Blood (Jerome Dempsey) and it well may be so. It's just that the story's so confusing, the set pieces disturbing (ghouls eating body parts while Lon Chaney's silent versions of HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923) and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) are projected in the background) and the ending is abrupt. The arty approach works sometimes (Speeth has a thing for sheets of plastic as they cover everything and rooms are created from it) but more often everything just falls flat and it seems like a Psych student's take on existentialism. Nothing makes sense and people that are killed keep turning up alive again. This film actually played in theaters down South in 1973 and then disappeared into obscurity. The outtakes on the DVD show even more gore (a ghoul eating a severed head, body parts littered on the floor) and some cut scenes. At 73 minutes, the film seems 60 minutes too long. In case you didn't notice, I didn't like the film. Also starring Bill Preston, Janine Carazo and Lenny Baker as an evil janitor. If this film seems to be your cup of blood, the DVD can be ordered by going to www.malatestascarnivalofblood.com. Rated R.
MARK OF THE WITCH (1970) - Impossibly dated, cheap and boring supernatural film about a witch who takes over a college girl's body and wrecks minor havoc in a small college town. This film is nothing but talk, talk, talk which nearly made me turn it off, something I have never done. No blood, no nudity and no action (not even a single swear word!) make this film an exploitation lover's worst nightmare. The only enjoyment anyone can find here is spotting the 60's clothing and listening to the "hip" dialogue (of which there's plenty). It's a very small consolation as you will also have to sit through the longest 76 minutes of your life. MARK OF THE WITCH is recommended to those who only have 76 minutes to live. Starring Robert Elston, Anitra Walsh and Darryl Wells. Directed by Tom Moore (RETURN TO BOGGY CREEK - 1977), who hasn't a clue on how to keep the viewer's attention. On VHS from AIR Video. Also available on DVD from Retromedia/Image Entertainment with THE BRIDES WORE BLOOD. Also available on DVD as part of SIX PACK VOLUME ONE from Code Red. Not Rated.
(1989) - There's a psycho on the loose in Rome. We first see him
stopping his car (where his shoes miraculously change color!) and
chopping off the hand of a prostitute with a hatchet. He then cuts
off her head and rapes her headless body (thankfully, off screen).
But what does that have to do with Jennifer (Patrizia Falcone), an
actress who is starring in a horror film directed by Frank (Maurice
Poli; FIVE DOLLS FOR
AN AUGUST MOON - 1970)? Frank gathers all the actors and crew
on the film for dinner, telling then he has decided to make this
horror film as "realistic" as possible, so he has hired
Madam Yurich (Anna Maria Placido; THE
MURDER SECRET - 1989), a real medium, to perform a
séance, which he will film and include in his horror movie (a
zombie film titled "Dirty Blood"). This doesn't go over too
well with the male star of the film, Robert (Pier Maria Cecchini; THE
CARD PLAYER - 2004), and some of the crew, who only want to
make a run-of-the-mill horror flick, so they can get paid and leave
town as quickly as possible.
Jennifer's boyfriend, Walter (Gino Concare) is a police detective and a technical advisor on the film. He is also in charge of solving the prostitute's murder. Very soon, fantasy and reality will blur together, as Madam Yurich gathers everyone together and performs a séance, contacting her "spiritual advisor", a spirit by the name of Gabor. Only she doesn't contact Gabor, she contacts someone (or something) far more dangerous, a spirit by the name of "Rack". During the séance, which is being held in a room in a hotel, the bottles of booze at the bar Walter is sitting at shatter on their own and Walter falls to the floor, looking like he has seen something beyond his comprehension. After the séance is over, Madam Yurich tells everyone that Rack is the personification of evil and if she truly did get in contact with this evil spirit, everyone's life is in mortal danger (Madam Yurich has no memory of the séance).
It's not long before members of the cast and crew are found brutally murdered, the first victim being Robert's girlfriend, Liza (Silvia Conti). She is found on a merry-go-round, a metal spike driven through her skull. Walter and the other detectives on the case think the psycho who killed the prostitute is responsible for Liza's death, but the question remains: Is the psycho really responsible? The next murder victim is Madam Yurich. She has car trouble and has to pull over to the side of the road. Another car pulls behind her and when the person gets out, Madam Yurich recognizes the person (These parts of the film are lensed like a giallo flick, as all we see are the killer's POV). That night, as Jennifer and Walter are taking a romantic stroll down the street, Jennifer discovers Madam Yurich's dead body, impaled on an iron grate fence. Walter's boss, the Police Commissioner (Paul Muller; NIGHTMARE CASTLE - 1965), is livid, telling Walter he better solve these murders and be quick about it, because his job is on the line. The Commissioner is sick and tired of his detectives acting as bodyguards for the film's cast and crew, finding it a waste of time and money.
We then see the psycho killing a middle-age couple having sex in a car. He stabs the man repeatedly in the back and chases the naked woman into the woods, where he slices her throat with a knife, only, this time, he is caught by the police. Thinking they have caught the killer, the Commissioner pulls all of the detectives from their detail of protecting the film's crew. Big mistake. The unknown killer then kills three more people working on the film, including gay actor Adrian (Danny Degli Esposito; who does his interpretation of Joel Grey's cross-dressing role in CABARET  for Frank's horror film!), by ripping them apart with a gaffing hook (the killer may have cut off Adrian's penis and put it in his mouth! At least that is what I think I saw.). The Commissioner then chews out Walter again, telling him if he doesn't solve this case, he is "going down the river", only this time, Walter is defiant, telling the Commissioner, "I'm a good swimmer" and that he pulled the detectives from protecting the crew, so it's the Commissioner's job that is on the line. So who is the killer? If you have read this review, you already know who it is (a blind man could have figured it out!). That's right, it's Walter and he is possessed by Rack. He then begins killing his own men and then goes after Jennifer. Is she about to star in her own personal horror film?
I wanted to see this film ever since I saw Lucio Fulci's (who "presented" this film) A CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990; my favorite Fulci film). Since that film consisted of 80% footage taken from other films, including this one, Fulci's SODOMA'S GHOST and TOUCH OF DEATH (both 1988) as well as THE MURDER SECRET (1989), BLOODY PSYCHO (1989), ESCAPE FROM DEATH (1989) and HANSEL E GRETEL (1990), one of my life goals was to watch every movie that used footage for Fulci's film. This was the last film I had to watch to achieve that goal and I must say that I was disappointed. Director Andrea Bianchi, who was quite capable of turning out good films, such as WHAT THE PEEPER SAW (1972; co-directed with James Kelly), CRY OF A PROSTITUTE (1974), STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER (1975) and even BURIAL GROUND (1980) to some extant, was also responsible for some of the worst films, the most egregious of them being the boring ANGEL OF DEATH (1987; which makes Jess Franco look like Orson Welles), has committed the worst sin possible for a horror film: He opened the film with its most graphic murder (The footage used in Fulci's film), as the rest of the murders can't hold a candle to the first one. As a matter of fact, the other killings are shown after the fact, as we never see the killer committing them. Another major sin is that Frank's horror film seems more interesting than the one we are watching, as this is nothing but generic stalk 'n' slash material. It's not terrible, but it's not good, either. It just is. Oh well, another life goal flushed down the crapper. You think I would have learned by now. Very seldom is a life goal satisfying, but I'm not going anywhere until I see a print of director Charles Nizet's VOODOO HEARTBEAT (1972)! Look for bottles of J&B Scotch in the final scene, where Frank tells his assistant director that he is going to make a horror film about their current events, only in his film, Jennifer is the killer! Also starring Robert Egon, Marcello Furgiele, Lubka Lenzi (SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS - 1989), Maria Grazia Veroni, Cristina Lynn and Piero Pieri. Not Rated.