HORROR A - C
ABBY (1974) - While in Africa on an archaeological dig, Dr. Garnet Williams (William Marshall) finds a wooden vessel in a cave and opens it, unleashing the ancient demon Eshu, the demon god of sexuality (among other nasty things). Meanwhile, in Louisville, Kentucky, Williams' preacher son Emmett (Terry Carter; BROTHER ON THE RUN - 1973), his wife Abby (Carol Speed; DISCO GODFATHER - 1979) and Abby's mother Miranda (Juanita Moore; THE MACK - 1973, also with Carol Speed) are seen moving into a new house. It's not long before the ultra-religious Abby begins experiencing floating objects, moving furniture and other supernatural doings in the new house. She is raped in the shower by Eshu (we see subliminal flashes of Eshu [actually Carol Speed in demon makeup]) and it's not long afterward that Abby is possessed by the demon, slicing her arm up with a butcher knife and freaking out at one of her husband's sermons at church (she throws one church member through a door and drools all over him). Abby begins to physically and mentally deteriorate (she begins talking foul language in a deep voice and punches Emmett in the nuts) and Emmett, at first, fears Abby is on drugs, but her brother, police detective Cass Potter (Austin Stoker; HORROR HIGH - 1973), doesn't believe that is the problem. When Abby rips her clothes off in front of two church members (Emmett says to her, "Whatever possessed you to do a thing like that?"), rapes Emmett in their own bed and kills the church organist, Mrs. Wiggins (Nancy Lee Owens), by giving her a heart attack, Emmett calls his father in Africa and begs him to come home. Dr. Williams, you see, is also a priest and has performed exorcisms in the past. Emmett puts his wife in the hospital, but all the tests find nothing wrong with her, so the doctors recommend she see a psychiatrist (they never get the chance to go). When Dr. Williams arrives in Louisville and attempts to help Abby, she runs out of the house and Emmett steals a car (!) to go looking for her. Abby ends up at a bar, where she kills a series of men while fucking them (she fucks one guy to death in his Cadillac and it fills up with smoke as she begins talking in her possessed voice). Emmett and Cass catch up with her at the bar (she tosses everyone around like a ragdoll) and then Dr. Williams arrives (Abby/Ushu says to him, "Hello motherfucker!"), performs an exorcism ("The light of God binds you!") and gets Eshu to go back into his wooden vessel. Abby wakes up with no memory of what has happened. Praise the Lord! Warner Bros. successfully sued to stop ABBY from being screened shortly after it was released because they believed it followed the plot to their hit from the previous year, THE EXORCIST, a little too closely. While that may have been true (the subliminal flashes, the possession theme, trip to the hospital for tests, etc.), this film contains enough original touches to be an entertaining film on it's own right (American International Pictures, who released this film theatrically, pulled it from release without putting up any fight at all). There have been more blatant rip-offs of THE EXORCIST than this (BEYOND THE DOOR , anyone?), so it seemed a little harsh when this film was pulled and hasn't had a legitimate release in any form for over thirty years (It should be noted that when Warner Bros. tried to stop the release of BEYOND, the courts decided that Warner Bros. didn't hold the rights to the possession or exorcist themes). Director William Girdler (ASYLUM OF SATAN - 1971; GRIZZLY - 1976; DAY OF THE ANIMALS - 1977; and many others until his unfortunate death in a helicopter crash while scouting locations in the Philippines in 1978) has fashioned a film, while exploitative (I never liked the term "blaxploitation"), still maintains it's religious convictions and is believably acted by all. William Marshall, fresh off his starring turns in BLACULA (1972) and SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973), does a marvelous job in the exorcist role, his booming baritone voice shaking the rafters as he attempts to exorcise Eshu out of Abby's body. The exorcism at the bar is a sight to behold, as Marshall spouts religious mumbo-jumbo, while Abby screams out obscenities and acute observations (My favorites being, "Loyalty! All crap!", "Violence! That's your nature! and "Don't play games with me, you simple-minded shit!") while the bar explodes around everyone. This is good, mindless fun that, unfortunately, got railroaded into obscurity. The gray market DVD by Cinefear Video looks to have been sourced from a beat-up 16mm print, but it is watchable and contains the trailer, a radio spot, stills, lobby cards, pressbook, posters and an informative background article as DVD extras. Definitely worth an investment. Also starring Charles Kissinger (a regular Girdler player), Elliott Moffitt, Nathan Cook, Don Henderson and Bob Holt as the voice of the demon Eshu. American International Pictures wanted to change the name to THE BLACKORCIST before it's release, but saner heads prevailed. A Cinefear Home Video Release. Rated R.
ABERRATION (1997) - Amy Harding (Pamela Gidley) and her cat move into her parents' cabin located in the New Zealand forest. When her car breaks down while picking up traps in the general store for what she thinks is a rat problem, Marshall (Simon Bossell), a field researcher, offers her a ride home. He tells her that all the wildlife in this section of the forest have mysteriously disappeared and he was sent here to find out why. After finding her cat dead, Amy and Marshall find themselves trapped in her cabin by a blizzard and must fend off a pack of mutated gekkos (!) intent on having them for dinner. These lizard-creatures can mutate at an alarming speed, adapting resistance to chemical sprays and gunfire with each rapid new generation. They also spit out a venom which blind their victims and are also growing larger. Amy is harboring a deep secret that catches up with her during this conflict. Absurd to the extreme, ABERRATION is full of instances where characters act unrealistically, such as when Amy finds her cat dead (no feelings of remorse) or when she finds her neighbor dead (she lights a match in a gas-filled room!). How can you care what happens to a person like that? I sure as hell would not want to have her for a friend. Director Tim Boxell (CHASING DESTINY -2000) offers some gore (bodies being eaten, gunshots to a head and McGuyver-type surgery) but the lizards look so phony (like rubber toys) and the situations are so far-fetched, that you'll just shake your head in disbelief. Not the good kind. An Artisan Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.
THE ABOMINATION (1988) - What an apt title for this horrible ultra-low budget made for video clunker! A woman, after watching a phony evangelist named Brother Fogg on TV, coughs up a tumor and throws it away in the garbage. The tumor escapes from the trash and crawls under her son's (Scott Davis) bed where it takes over his mind and grows into a bloodthirsty multi-tentacled monster (who Mom thinks is the Whore of Babylon!). Davis is forced to kill many people to feed the title creature. He even brings the creature to the office of Brother Fogg, hiding it in Fogg's toilet waiting for Fogg to take the last crap of his life. Holy shit, Brother! When the creature gets too big to carry around, it hides in Davis' kitchen cabinets wating for him to feed it the hacked-off body parts of the murdered victims. When Davis falls in love with a beautiful(?) woman the creature takes exception and orders Davis to kill her. Will Davis kill her or destroy the creature? See if you can stay awake to find out. The very bloody effects are the only reason to sit through this catastrophe. Otherwise you will sit through some of the worst stuff badfilms of this type have to offer: Post-synch dubbing, terrible acting, canned music, cheap sets and poor photography. Fortunately, this film shows all of its' bloody effects during the first five minutes when Davis has a succession of nightmare flashbacks, so you don't have to watch the whole thing. Wasn't that a nice thing to do? Director Max Raven (who also directs low budget films under his real name: Bret McCormick) also made OZONE ATTACK OF THE REDNECK MUTANTS (1986), a super 8 zombie comedy. Donna Michele Releasing has a slew of these homemade video horrors taking up space in video stores, so use a little caution before renting. Also starring Jude Johnson, Blue Thompson, Brad McCormick and Suzy Meyer. A Donna Michele Home Video Release. Also available on limited edition VHS by boutique label Massacre Video (It is in very limited supply and sold out by the time you read this, making me believe it is an eBay scam to charge ridiculous prices for the product made). Unrated.
AGAINST THE DARK (2009) - Although this is Steven Seagal's first foray into horror territory, the sad fact is that this film is nothing but a boring, shot-in-Romania DTV effort where Seagal has minimal screen time and he couldn't be bothered with looping his own voice (proving, once again, that Seagal is doing this strictly for the money and can't be bothered with such small things as staying with a film until it's completion, as is the case with the majority of his recent DTV flicks). Instead of battling the usual cast of drug runners, Japanese criminals or smarmy towelheaded terrorists, Seagal and his squad of commandos square-off against a population of plague-infected cannibals, the result of a mutant man-made virus that has spread throughout the planet. Seagal portrays Tao (The Tao Of Steve? Sorry about that.), the leader of a group of "Hunters", a squad of civilian vigilantes who decide who "lives or dies". Those who die are the flesh-hungry mutants and those who live are the non-infected survivors who cross their path. Tao and a small group of Hunters enter an abandoned hospital, where Dorothy (Jenna Harrison) and Morgan (Danny Midwinter) lead a group of survivors through the mutant-filled rooms and corridors trying not to become infected or mutant chow. The rest of the film is nothing but endless man vs. mutant fight scenes, as Tao and his Hunters slice and dice their way through the hospital (There is very little gunplay here, as Tao and his Hunters prefer the use of swords, knives and other edge weapons, which seems to go against the whole point of this film, which is: The plague is highly communicable, so why splatter and spray mutant blood all over the place?), while Dorothy, Morgan and the rest of the survivors try their damnedest to stay alive until they can be rescued. The introduction of an insane doctor, who stalks the hospital and experiments on the uninfected looking for a cure for his infected young daughter, only adds to the banality, so be prepared for a long, tiring ride (and not the good "I just had sex!" kind). As I have stated before, Seagal's screen time is minimal until the final third of the film, so those expecting one of his chop-socky extravaganzas are going to be severely disappointed. The bloated Seagal shows up about every fifteen minutes or so to slice-up a mutant with his trusty sword, while the majority of the film focuses on the exploits of Dorothy, Morgan and the hospital survivors. There's also a sub-plot where Colonel Waters (Keith David; THEY LIVE - 1988; in a quick booze money cameo) and Lieutenant Cross (Linden Ashby; MORTAL KOMBAT - 1995) decide to "sterilize" the area where Tao and everyone else are fighting the mutants, so it not only becomes a fight for survival, but also a tired "will they make it out in time?" scenario. The direction, by first-timer Richard Crudo (the cinematographer of Seagal's much-better PISTOL WHIPPED ), and screenplay, by Michael Klickstein, are both second-rate, as they borrow liberally from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), John Carpenter's VAMPIRES (1998) and countless better genre films. There's not much in the way of suspense or action, as characters are introduced and then dispatched (the mad doctor plot ends as quickly as it is introduced when Seagal enters the operating room and unceremoniously blows the doctor away with a shotgun in one of the few scenes of gun violence), the fight scenes consist of the shaky-cam, jackhammer-edited variety that seem to be the standard in today's genre films (thanks BOURNE IDENTITY!) and the acting non-existent (Seagal, who is also one of the many Producers, seems to let his painted-on hair do most of his emoting, which begs the question: If Seagal looks so bored and non-committal in his recent DTV efforts, why should we continue to watch them?). There's plenty of splashy gore, which includes lots of spilled guts, severed body parts, people being eaten, arterial spray and a decent full body explosion, so if it's blood and gore you are after, you may find some enjoyment here. But, if your idea of a good time runs wider than watching a bunch of gaunt Romanian extras being sliced from stem-to-stern, I would advise that you avoid AGAINST THE DARK. Also starring Tanaoi Reed (a stunt double for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in many of his films; the resemblance is uncanny), Stephen Hagan, Daniel Percival and Skye Bennett. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
ALBINO FARM (2008) - Being born, bred and still living in the Northern New Jersey hills, I know a thing or two about albinos. Not only did an albino family live on the same street where I spent my entire childhood (My father outright banned me from playing with the albino kids, not because they were albinos, mind you, but because they were black. Even as a child, that didn't sit right with me, so we managed to have a "secret" friendship, a friendship that would get me severe beatings by my father when he caught us together. But that's another story for another time...), there was also this legendary place called Albino Village, a town tucked away deep in the woods that was populated exclusively by albinos. The story was bullshit, of course, but it was a fun way to scare the new neighborhood kids when we went on our frequent camping outings in the woods (Don't get me started on Jackson Whites. Google the term if you have never heard of them.). Now I hope we are all adult enough to realize that albinos (and Jackson Whites) are no different than anyone else (except for the lack of pigment in their skin, eyes and hair), but their appearance is enough to send any uneducated person running for the hills. Which brings us to ALBINO FARM. Like the Albino Village of my childhood, the title location in this film is a forbidden place for outsiders located somewhere in the Ozark Mountains, a place not only populated by albinos (although we don't actually get to see any there), but also every deformed freak imaginable (which we do get to see). The adjoining town to the title location is named Shiloh and, wouldn't you know it, four obnoxious twenty-somethings get a flat tire smack-dab in the middle of town while trying to avoid an old dwarf, who is scraping roadkill off the middle of the pavement. The four Gen-X'ers, Stacey (Tammin Sursok), Brian (Nick Richey; WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE - 2006), Melody (Alicia Lagano) and Sanjay (Sunkrish Bala), crack redneck jokes and buy a tire from a local named Jeremiah (Duane Whitaker; TRAILER PARK OF TERROR - 2008), who warns them to leave the area as soon as possible. Instead of taking his advice (and not wondering why Jeremiah has a pile of perfectly good tires on rims in his backyard), the foursome decide to stay in town and film an amateur documentary on local legends, especially when creepy townie Caleb (Richard Christy) mentions the Albino Farm. They go about interviewing the strange locals (who all are "off" in one way or another), including waitress Shelby (Shelby Janes), who has a deformed hand; a mute little boy (Jackson Curtis), who communicates by writing on his personal chalkboard; and redneck Levi (WWE wrestler Chris Jericho), who agrees to take Brian and Melody to the Albino Farm in his black limousine (driven by two inbred brothers with a thing for heavy metal music) if Melody will flash her tits (which she does reluctantly). While Stacey and Sanjay do research at the local church (where they discover an old lady breast-feeding a deformed baby!), Levi drops off Brian and Melody at the front gate of the Albino Farm with nothing but a flashlight and a claw hammer, leaving the duo to their own devices. This is not going to be a pleasant night for the outsiders, as an army of freaks torture and kill them for daring to set foot on their property. This is standard DTV fodder in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE/WRONG TURN vein that eventually deteriorates into a series of bloody torture sessions once the foursome step onto the Albino Farm property. Until then, it's a fairly creepy, if generic, foray into the absurd, as our cast of stereotypical outsiders (although it's interesting in having Indian actor Sunkrish Bala portray one of the stupid outsiders, but his heritage serves no other purpose than that of stunt casting) investigates Shiloh and its deformed citizens. First-time feature film director/producer/screenwriter team of Sean McEwen and Joe Anderson offer plenty of atmosphere, freakish makeups, including a topless "Pig Bitch" (Bianca Barnett), and gory effects (including bone-snapping, a meathook through the mouth and Stacey and Sanjay having their arms sewn to each other), but there is only one albino on view (albeit briefly in the finale), which makes the film's title mostly a cheat (I guess FREAK FARM doesn't have the same allure, but it's more accurate). Another major distraction is the "shakey-cam" photography that is utilized once everyone is on the property. Not only is this camera effect headache-inducing (and it is overused in the majority of horror and action films made today), it's also rather obvious it is used here to mask some of the sub-par freak make-ups. Add to that an ending a blind man could spot a mile away (leaving the film wide-open for the eventual sequel) and what you end up with is a film (lensed in Missouri) that is much less scary than those campfire tales from my childhood. Also starring Kevin Spirtas, Paul Ford and Joicie Appell. An MTI Home Video DVD Release. Rated R.
ALIEN 2 (1980) - Holy crap! This Italian horror flick is a chore to sit through. The first half of this film is so slow and mundane, if I were a vampire, I would be praying for sunrise. While waiting for the latest space capsule to splash down in the ocean, cave expert Thelma Joyce (Belinda Mayne) is being interviewed on a TV talk show when she passes out just as the capsule hits the water. Her boyfriend Roy (Marc Bodin) comes rushing out and explains that Thelma is psychic and sometimes sees "monsters". Rather than worry about her episode, Thelma and Roy go bowling (!) with friends. After bowling, Thelma has another vision at the beach, just before a little girl has her face chewed off by a growling blue blob in the sand. Thelma and her friends (which includes future director Michele Soavi [using the pseudonym "Michael Shaw"] as Bert) then go on a cave expedition and, on their way there, they hear on the radio that the space capsule was found empty, the astronauts missing. After rappelling deep into the cave for what seems like half a lifetime, the group settle in for the night (Bert brings his typewriter with him and bangs out pages for his latest novel by candlelight!). The next morning, they all go exploring and the blue rock that Thelma earlier found in a gas station bathroom and put in her backpack begins pulsating. Something looking like a piece of raw liver leaps out of the blue rock and enters the body of Jill, but only Thelma sees it happen and has a difficult time getting anyone to believe her. After what seems like another half a lifetime of rescuing Jill from a ravine (I could have gotten a shave and a haircut and not missed anything), the alien presence bursts out of Jill's eyesocket and begins killing the rest of the group. The first guy is decapitated while hanging upside down on the side of a ravine (the film's best effect) and the rest of the group try to find a way out. After deducing that the caves feed into the ocean, the group then realize that the alien must have hitched a ride on the space capsule and then made it's way into the caves. Bert and girlfriend Maureen (Judy Perrin) are next to die, as the alien rips off their faces. Thelma seems to have some psychic link to the alien and can see what the alien sees. And it gets bigger after every kill. And it can possess people. And it can program a VCR (OK, I made that last one up.). Thelma and Roy escapes the caves only to find out that they may be the only humans left alive on Earth. Oops! After a nasty meeting with an alien back at the bowling alley, you better make that one person left alive. God almighty, Jesus on the cross, this is a tough film to sit through. Director/producer/scripter Ciro Ippolito (using his "Sam Cromwell" pseudonym) has made a film where absolutely nothing happens for over 70% of the running time. Filled with scenes of people bowling, driving or spelunking for looooong periods of time (use a calendar instead of a clock to keep track of the time), ALIEN 2 (also known as ALIEN TERROR) is mostly dead air enlivened by brief scenes of gore. Belinda Mayne (WHITE FIRE - 1984) does nothing but look confused, scream and run around a lot (she also gets naked for one brief scene), the same things I was doing when watching this (including the naked part). The gore scenes are nasty, but there is no way I would ever recommend this to anyone unless it were to be used as a method of torture. Watching this should loosen the lips of those al Qaeda bastards! Believe it or not, I watched two versions of this film in one night: An 80 minute version taken from a Japanese subtitled VHS and an 85 minute version taken from a Spanish subtitled VHS. The only differences were the opening credits and the Spanish version has five more minutes of exposition. The gore is the same in both. There's supposedly a 102 minute version also floating around. Flush it, now! This has absolutely nothing to do with Ridley Scott's ALIEN (1979), but I didn't have to tell you that, did I? The only relatively good aspect of this film is the music soundtrack by "The Oliver Onions" (AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK - 1983), which is actually brothers Guido and Maurizio De Angelis who, together and separately, have scored over 160 Italian productions. Also starring Robert Barrese, Benny Aldrich, Don Parkinson and Claudio Falanga. Not Rated. Remember..."You May Be Next!" NOTE: New label Midnight Legacy (a legitimate offshoot of the old bootleg Midnight Video label) released this film (as ALIEN 2: ON EARTH) on one of the most beautiful Blu-Rays of 2010, with a DVD release in 2011. Too bad the film is a turd but, man, is it now a beautiful polished turd to look at!
ALIEN 51 (2004) - Here are the three outwardly noticable signs to let you know you are watching a truly wretched film:
1) It's released by York Entertainment.
2) It "stars" Heidi Fleiss, ex-Hollywood madame and Tom Sizemore's favorite punching bag.
3) You find yourself eating handfuls of Ex-Lax, just so you have an excuse to get up and go to the bathroom.
A genetically enhanced creature, called the X-9, is killing people in the surrounding desert next to Area 51. The local sheriff (Sean Galuszka) is helped by Dr. Cleo Browning (Phoebe Falconer), a scientist who created the X-9 and is working undercover for the government as a Fish & Game agent, to destroy the creature. Dr. Psycho Billy (Chase Hoyt), a circus sideshow owner and con artist, and his drug-addled partner, Evelda (Fleiss), look to capture the X-9 and make it part of their freak show. Also searching for the creature are a pair of horny environmentalists who want to save it from destruction. Guess who gets killed first? With the pro-animal duo out of the way, the sheriff and Cleo (who looks like a low-rent Traci Lords) become close, have sex and Cleo tells the sheriff who she really is (the X-9 attacked her years earlier, leaving three huge scars on her shoulder).The creature captures snaggle-toothed moonshiner Cletus (Matthew Christopher) and feeds him to a baby X-9! The sheriff and Cleo kidnap baby X-9 only to have Psycho Billy and Evelda steal it from them and trap them in a mine with a pissed-off Mama X-9. Who will survive and who will die? Why does Cleo bring only a knife to a monster fight? Why does X-9 wear a facial expression that looks like someone farted? Who told Heidi Fleiss that she could act? For these answers and more, try to stay awake until it ends. It took two directors, Paul Wynne and Brennon Jones (who also scripted), to churn out this terribly unfunny horror comedy. Wynne and Jones also co-directed the abysmal EL CHUPACABRA a year earlier while Wynne directed 2001's TAIL STING, an equally awful giant scorpions-on-a-plane flick. Everything about ALIEN 51 is below-average, from the acting, special effects, set design (the sideshow is a cheap tent with hand-painted signs), right down to the freak who keeps his crack pipe in a vintage MUNSTERS lunchbox. As Fleiss says in the finale: "This is one of those times that maybe I should feel something." The only thing you'll feel is contempt. The Ex-Lax wore off too soon. A York Entertainment Release. Rated R.
ALISON'S BIRTHDAY (1979) - Extremely talky Australian supernatural horror film, with a couple of good sequences to redeem it. When Alison (Joanne Samuel) is sixteen years old, she and some school friends play with a glass ouija board and a spirit comes forth to warn Alison not to let "them" get her when she turns nineteen. Cut to the present and it's a few days before her 19th birthday. She seems like a well-adjusted girl who's in love with her disc jockey boyfriend Pete (Lou Brown). Since she was a young girl, she's been an orphan and it seems like she has a good life, but something begins to happen to her that changes her sunny outlook. She begins to have nightmares about a cult of people in robes repeating "Hail Myrne" over and over and the occupants at the boarding house she lives in seem to pay very close attention to her. Perhaps too close. She becomes a virtual prisoner in the boarding house, as the resident "doctor" seems to be drugging her. Pete tries to get her out of there, but is defeated every time he tries. The strange people even hypnotise Alison to get her to say to the police that she doesn't want Pete around any more. As Pete digs for more clues as to why Alison is acting so strangely, he comes across the word "Myrne" which is a Celtic demon, that a cult of witches worship. Together with his friend Sally Brown (Lisa Peers), Pete pieces together what is really happening. This is the 19th year of the Myrne calendar and, because of her birth date, Alison is a very special person for them. They need her body to bring back a demon, which will give the cult members very special gifts, like eternal life. It then becomes a race between Pete and the cult as to who will get possession of Alison. It's apparent that director/screenwriter Ian Coughlan (who died of cancer in 2001) has watched ROSEMARY'S BABY maybe one too many times, but he does inject some terror into the proceedings, especially a tense moment in a graveyard that involves a pitchfork and an ending where good does not triumph. Still, it's rather talky and bloodless and reminds me of those 70's Australian TV movies that Paragon would release on tape (ie: NIGHT NURSE; IMAGE OF DEATH; DEATH TRAIN): Somewhat entertaining, but missing elements that would make it more enjoyable, like nudity and gore. Also starring Bunney Brooke, John Bluthal, Vincent Ball, Margie McCrae and Julie Wilson. A VidAmerica Home Video Release. Not Rated.
ALTERED (2006) - Consider this a reverse take of FIRE IN THE SKY (1993) where, this time, the hillbillies strike back. The hillbillies in question here are Cody (Paul McCarthy-Boyington), Duke (Brad William Henke) and Otis (Mike C. Williams), who, fifteen years before, were abducted, probed and experimented on by aliens before being dumped back on Earth, where an unbelieving public held them to ridicule. They've waited years for their retribution and, finally, the backwoods trio have captured themselves a real live alien. The only problem is that they never fully thought-out what they were going to do once they captured one and thinking an alien spaceship is following their van, they drive themselves and their captive to a secluded compound owned by Wyatt (Adam Kaufman), a neurotic survivalist who was also abducted by aliens. The hillbilly trio look at this as an opportunity to get payback, since fifteen years earlier, the aliens killed Cody's brother Timmy, but Wyatt believes believes that more aliens will come to retrieve their comrade (Wyatt performs some homemade surgery removing an organic tracking device, called a "Clicker", from the alien's body). When the alien tries to take over the mind of Wyatt's girlfriend Hope (Catherine Mangan), Wyatt sets up a safe perimeter around the alien (who is chained and duct-taped to a table in Wyatt's garage) after Hope nearly kills herself with a box cutter and the alien bites Cody on the arm. The alien begins fucking with everyone's minds, as violent ex-con Cody becomes infected by an alien organism and tries to burn the alien with an acetylene torch before being knocked-out and locked in a closet, where his flesh slowly rots from his bones. Wyatt seems to know more about the alien and the infection than he's letting on (Like why he's immune to the infection) and when the alien breaks free, it becomes clear that all this was an alien plan to locate Wyatt, who years before performed some surgery on himself, removing a Clicker from his intestines so the aliens couldn't keep track of him. The sudden appearance of nosy Sheriff Henderson (James Gammon) throws a monkey wrench into the proceedings, as the alien attacks Otis (it holds a still-living Otis' intestines in it's hand in some weird Mexican standoff, in one of the film's standout scenes) and the Sheriff is accidentally shot dead. Wyatt and Hope hop in the van to take a mortally wounded Otis to the hospital, but Duke pulls a fast one and loads an empty cage in the back of the van (Wyatt thinks the alien is in the cage). When Otis dies in the van, Wyatt discovers the deception and heads back to the compound on foot (narrowly escaping an army of aliens), only to discover Duke an inch away from death (he's been nail-gunned to a wall with his intestines exposed; a Clicker visible amongst the entrails) and a rotting Cody possessed by the alien. Hope shows up and saves Wyatt's hide and, luckily, Wyatt has a master plan when the aliens show up en masse to take him away. This is a fascinating look of humans being the captors instead of the captives, but how our emotions will always get in the way for us to be as unfeeling and clinical as the aliens. Director Eduardo Sanchez (co-director of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT  and director of SEVENTH MOON , LOVELY MOLLY , a segment of V/H/S/2  and EXISTS ) and screenwriter Jamie Nash (a frequent Sanchez collaborator) have fashioned a wonderfully tense horror film that not only plays with our perceptions of life and death, but also with what it means to be human. This is a cerebral horror film that doesn't skimp on the red stuff to get it's point across. There are scenes here that will actually make you cringe, such as when the alien takes over Cody's rapidly deteriorating body and attacks Wyatt; Cody's brittle bones snapping like twigs and protruding out of his decaying skin as he swings at Wyatt. The alien design is amazingly frightening in it's simplicity, a combination of practical and CGI effects (CGI is mainly employed for the alien army sequences), yet not once did I think that this was a person (actually a stuntwoman named Misty Rojas) in an alien suit. The acting is uniformly excellent for such a low-budget effort and most of the time everyone here acts like normal people surrounded in a situation that is anything but normal. The deleted scenes on the DVD add extra depth to the characters and, in my opinion, should not have been edited out of the film. ALTERED (a title that has many meanings here) is a thoroughly engrossing take on the alien abduction subgenre. It's a film that will leave you thinking long after the film is over. How many films, especially horror films, can make that claim? A Universal Studios Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
AMERICAN GOTHIC (1987) - Extremely dark humored horror film from the director of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) and DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY (1974), two of my favorite 70's genre films. While AMERICAN GOTHIC fails to achieve the sense of tragedy of those two films (both have killer shock endings), it is still miles better than most of the 80's schlock that flooded the market and actually makes some rather sharp, insightful observations about what constitutes a "family". The film opens with Cynthia (Sarah Torgov) being released from a mental institution after recovering from a nervous breakdown over the tragic accidental death of her child. Her husband Jeff (Mark Ericksen) thinks it will be a good idea to take her on a trip to the islands off the coast of Seattle, Washington, the same trip they took during their honeymoon (they want to try and have another child), only this time they are bringing some friends along with them to cheer-up Cynthia and get her mind off the tragedy. The friends, Rob (Mark Lindsay Chapman; THE ANNIHILATOR - 1986), Terri (Caroline Barclay), Paul (Stephen Shellen) and Lynn (Fiona Hutchinson), join Cynthia and Jeff on a sea plane and end up taking a trip to the darker side of Hell. The plane develops engine trouble, so pilot Jeff is forced to land the plane next to some uncharted island, where they pitch tents and camp out for the night. The next morning, Terri decides to do some scuba diving (She asks Rob to go with her, but he declines, saying, "I only dive for muff, sweetheart!") but she slips on some rocks, hits her head and ends up floating face-down in the ocean. When Cynthia see this happening, she instantly flashes-back to her baby tragedy, where her baby daughter accidentally drowned in the bathtub, thanks to Cynthia being too occupied by the phone ringing and dinner boiling over on the stove. Cynthis freezes in her tracks and Jeff is forced to save Terri. Jeff can't fix the plane, so Paul stays behind to watch the plane while everyone else searches the island. They come upon a house built near the edge of a cliff and when no one answers the door, they let themselves in and find what can best be described by Rob as he says, "Geesh, it's like we walked into the 1920's!" While everyone else is dancing the Charleston as 78rpm records play on a Gramophone, Cynthia explores the house and finds a nursery filled with toys, furniture and photos from the 20's. Everyone's fun is cut short by the appearance of Ma (Yvonne De Carlo; NOCTURNA - 1979) and Pa (Rod Steiger; WOLF LAKE - 1978), the owners of the house. Ma seems outgoing and friendly, while Pa seems strict and uber-religious. The group has dinner with Ma and Pa, who both seem stuck in the 20's (When Rob mentions that man has landed on the moon, Ma tells him to "quit telling stories.") and are then invited to spend the night, where they meet Ma and Pa's "children": 50 year-old Fanny (Janet Wright), who is obviously retarded and thinks she's about to turn twelve (!), and Woody (Michael J. Pollard; NIGHT VISITOR - 1989), who is equally retarded (it's kind of hard to tell with Pollard the actor, though!). Fanny and Woody kill Rob by pushing him over a cliff while he is taking a scary ride on a homemade swing set and when Cynthis finds his mangled body, it sets in motion a series of events where Cynthia learns what family is really all about, even if the lesson comes from a family of incestuous throwbacks, which also includes another child named Teddy (William Hootkins; HARDWARE - 1990) and the mummified corpse of Fanny's baby. Meanwhile, Cynthia's friends start dropping like flies. Director John Hough, who also gave us SUDDEN TERROR (1970) and THE INCUBUS (1981), has fashioned a film that is, for all its outrageous preposterous situations (How have Ma, Pa and their children have remained hidden for so long?), still a damn fine piece filmmaking that says a lot about what constitutes a family, no matter how fucked-up they are (and, really, do you know a family that isn't?). While the screenplay, by Burt Wetanson and Michael Vines, may fall back on some genre conventions (the killing of Cynthia's husband and friends in various bloody ways, such as axe-to-the-head, a hanging and an eye impalement), there are scenes here that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, such as Cynthia giving-in to her neurosis and the reveal of Fanny's "big dollies" in the cellar, where Ma gives a chilling description of each "dolly's" history. There's also an unpleasant scene where Teddy rapes Lynn's corpse (thankfully, most of it is offscreen, but we get the gist) and the macabre scene where Cynthia and Fanny argue over possession of the mummified baby's corpse (ripping its head off in the process!), which sets off an obviously psychotic Cynthia to murder her new family (Pa, after seeing what Cynthia has done, renounces God just as Cynthia shotguns him in the back) and claim the island as her own. AMERICAN GOTHIC is pretty heady stuff for an 80's horror flick. Recommended viewing. Not to be confused with the AMERICAN GOTHIC TV series that ran for one season from 1995 to 1996. Originally released on VHS by Vidmark Entertainment followed by a fullscreen budget DVD release from Trinity Home Entertainment. Rated R.
AMITYVILLE 1992: IT'S ABOUT TIME (1992) - This is the sixth (following THE AMITYVILLE CURSE - 1989), and probably the best, in the long run of Amityville films. A widowed dad (Stephen Macht) brings home an antique clock from a house his architectual firm demolished in Long Island, New York (guess which one?). Soon the clock starts a reign of terror, possessing Dad, his daughter (Megan Ward) and even the neighborhood dog(!) as well as playing time tricks on the son (Damon Martin) and dad's ex-girlfriend (Shawn Weatherly). The film's subtitle explains it all (and makes for a killer closing line) as the possessed dad complains, "I need more time!" while frantically drawing numerous pictures of the original Amityville house as Weatherly tries to tend to the bloody gaping wound on his leg inflicted by the demon dog. Hours pass in the wink of an eye in this house due to the clock's fast moving hands. The clock can also reverse time and make it stand still. A neighbor (Nita Talbot) discovers the truth behind the clock and is killed by a runaway diaper van! Timid Ward becomes a sexpot and puts the moves on her brother (shades of AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION - 1981). Swastikas mysteriously appear on neighbors' doors and they blame Martin because he hangs out with the wrong crowd. The whole family becomes dysfunctional, so the disbelieving Weatherly brings her fiancee (Jonathan Penner), a psychiatrist, to the house to try and straighten out the situation. The clock plays time games with him before hanging him. The finale is bloody and inventive and does an unusual take with the old "This was only a dream" cycle. Although this would seem like a bad episode of FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES (1987 - 1990), it is an imaginative film with good effects (courtesy of KNB Effects Group), unusual camera work and good direction (by Tony Randel, who also made HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II - 1988). The story angle about time is involving, something sorely lacking in most horror films. Genre vet Dick Miller puts in a cameo as an angry neighbor. Stephen Macht gives a sweatier performance here than he did in GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990) and that's saying a lot! AMITYVILLE 1992: IT'S ABOUT TIME is one of those rare birds: A sequel with bite. Followed by AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION (1993 - a killer mirror); AMITYVILLE: DOLLHOUSE (1996 - a killer dollhouse); the 2005 remake of the original THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979); the found-footage THE AMITYVILLE HAUNTING (2011) from no-budget company The Asylum (Need I say more?); the arresting documentary MY AMITYVILLE HORROR (2012), told by a now grown-up Daniel Lutz; the so-so AMITYVILLE ASYLUM (2013); the unbelievably overlong and error-filled three-part docudrama SHATTERED HOPES (2011 - 2014), narrated by Ed Asner; the piss-poor (but unintentionally hilarious) AMITYVILLE DEATH HOUSE (2014); Dimension Films new reboot of the series, AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014; aiming for a 2015 theatrical release) and the DTV AMITYVILLE PLAYHOUSE (2015), not to mention the dozens of TV "documentaries" that appeared after writer James Anson's supposedly true book appeared on shelves in 1977 (which has proven to be a crock of shit by Ronald DeFeo's lawyers as a way of trying to get him off a mass murder charge). A Republic Pictures Home Video VHS Release. Also available on DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment. Rated R.
AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION (1993) - The last installment, AMITYVILLE 1992: IT'S ABOUT TIME, took the premise "What if objects from the Amityville house (which was destroyed) found their way into unsuspecting hands and cursed their lives, causing death and destruction?" In that film a cursed clock caused plenty of problems for a suburban family before it was destroyed. In this installment, a demonic mirror is the culprit. An artist named Keye (Ross Partridge) receives an unusual looking mirror from a bum (Jack R. Orend) on the street. He brings it back to his apartment complex, which houses an odd assortment of artists including Julia Nickson-Soul as a painter of demonic portraits and Richard Roundtree as a twisted sculpturor. When the mirror causes the death of Soul and her abusive boyfriend, a police detective (Terry O'Quinn) becomes interested in Keye's life. When the bum is found dead, the detective discovers that the bum was actually Keye's long-lost father who committed a series of brutal murders of his family in the Amityville house when he was a teen. Keye has no memories of his father since he saw him kill Keye's mother when they were visiting him at a mental hospital years before, that event causing his mind to block out the bloody event. With help from the detective, Keye is able to remember those repressed memories and get on with his life. But the mirror contains the spirit of his father, who tries to make Keye commit murder in the same manner as he did to his family. It all culminates in a showdown at an art exhibit where Keye must decide to either kill his friends or destroy the mirror. This edition of the Amityville franchise is low on originality, low on shocks and, worst of all, low on blood and guts. At least AMITYVILLE 1992 had a playful screenplay and good effects. AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION contains neither, as it just meanders to an unexciting conclusion. Terry O'Quinn and Richard Roundtree do add some class to the proceedings. Unfortunately, their screen time is way too short to recommend this loser. Director John Murlowski previously made RETURN OF THE FAMILY MAN (1989), a cheap carbon copy of the Terry O'Quinn-starrer THE STEPFATHER (1987). I wonder if Mr. O'Quinn was aware of this? Mr. Murlowski later went on to make the decent actioner AUTOMATIC (1994) and CONTAGION (2001). Also starring Lala Sloatman and David Naughton. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Also available on DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment. Rated R.
AMUSEMENT (2007) - A series of three seemingly unrelated stories, all concerning three female students of the same grammar school, make up this interesting horror film. The first story is about Shelby (Laura Breckenridge), who is traveling down the highway late one night in a car driven by her boyfriend Rob (Tad Hilgenbrink; LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE - 2008). Rob becomes a participant in a "convoy", where his car, an eighteen-wheeler and an SUV travel at the same rate of speed behind each other, with the eighteen-wheeler leading the way. When the truck pulls into a gas station for fuel, so does Rob and the SUV. Rob meets the talkative driver of the SUV while Shelby notices a scared-looking woman in the cab of the eighteen-wheeler. The truck driver tells everyone that the highway ahead is bumper-to-bumper traffic, so everyone should follow him because he knows an alternate route (He also says that he is traveling alone, which immediately raises suspicions in Shelby, but Rob ignores her warning and follows him anyway). They're all in the middle of nowhere when a woman jumps out the back of the truck and onto the windshield of Rob's car. This all leads to the real killer being unmasked, Shelby being kidnapped and Rob being told, "You picked the wrong convoy, buddy!" by the killer before fading to black. The second tale is about Tabitha (Katheryn Winnick; HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD - 2003), who comes to her Aunt's new house to babysit young nephews Danny and Max (real-life brothers Brennan & Preston Bailey). She is surprised to find that the previous babysitter has already left, leaving the two young boys alone, but noises in the attic and a late night visit from the babysitter's boyfriend lead Tabitha to believe that something is very, very wrong in this house. Maybe it's the creepy life-size clown doll that seems to have a life of it's own, maybe it's the TV that turns itself off and on or maybe it's the raging thunderstorm outside, but Tabitha is more than a little on-edge. When her Aunt calls on the phone and tells Tabitha that they don't own a life-size clown doll, Tabitha must save her nephews and herself from a cackling clown serial killer who is holding some very sharp weapons. Just when it looks like the clown is going to kill Tabitha, we cut to Tabitha being questioned in an interrogation room, where she flashes-back to her grade school days when she was best friends with Shelby, Lisa and a strange young boy who is carrying around a splayed-live rat diorama. This triggers the last story, where a fully-grown Lisa (Jessica Lucas; CLOVERFIELD - 2007) is in a bar discussing with her roommate the dangers of picking-up strange men. After watching her roommate picking up a complete stranger, Lisa returns home and her roommate never shows up or leaves a phone message. She goes to the creepy old hotel where her roommate said the stranger was staying, only to be turned away at the door after being told by the creepy hotel proprietor "all of our beds are full tonight". Lisa and her boyfriend Dan (Reid Scott), a health inspector, stakeout the hotel and notice that no one seems to be coming in or going out of it. Dan enters the hotel under the ruse of a health inspection, where the creepy proprietor shows Dan an antique Victrola that kills Dan by shooting a sharp projectile into his head. Lisa grows worried when Dan doesn't come out, so she sneaks into the hotel and discovers that every bed is indeed full: The bodies of every previous occupant are sewn into the sheets and mattresses in a sight that can only be described as grotesque. In the finale, we find Shelby, Tabitha and Lisa have all been deposited in the same abandoned insane asylum, their captor being the strange little boy from their past, who has grown into an insane killer (and, apparently, a master of disguise) known only as "The Laugh" (Keir O'Donnell). It seems he now wants to play and this abandoned building has become his personal diorama. This is not your normal anthology film, as director John Simpson (who also made the highly unusual and affecting thriller FREEZE FRAME in 2004) and screenwriter Jake Wade Wall (WHEN A STRANGER CALLS - 2006) have turned in an above average horror film that contains weird visuals (take notice of all the circular-shaped objects in this film), some inventive camera work and good acting. While the violence isn't overly gory, when it is displayed it is effective (especially the reveal of the beds in the creepy hotel and the fates of Shelby and Lisa, who are both splayed-open and still alive, only to trick the viewer into believing they are seeing something that's not really there). If there's a weak point to this film, it's the final fifteen minutes, where the insane killer proves to be virtually indestructible. How come all mental patients in horror films seem to have this power? Maybe I should spend some time in one. All-in-all, though, AMUSEMENT is a no-holds-barred horror flick that, belying it's title, holds very little humor. This is amusement of a totally different sort, like watching a crazed child plucking the wings off flies. Also starring Kevin Gage and Rena Owen. A New Line Home Video DVD Release. Rated R.
ASYLUM OF SATAN (1971) - Lucina (Carla Borelli) wakes up at Pleasant Hills Hospital and has no idea why she is there. The mysterious Dr. Spector (Charles Kissinger) tells her that she has had a nervous breakdown and that she is not allowed to leave or have visitors until he cures her with his special brand of "treatment". She has no recollection of her breakdown and begins to experience some strange things. During dinner she is forced to sit at a table occupied by a blind girl, a mute man and a wheelchair-ridden woman. They are also there to be cured of their afflictions by Dr. Spector's special treatment. At the other dinner tables the patients are draped in white robes with hoods covering their faces. Lucina hears chanting coming from behind the walls and is chased down the hall by a man in a fright wig and bad makeup. Meanwhile, Lucina's fiance, Duncan (Nick Jolley), comes to visit her at the hospital and is told by Dr. Spector that she is not allowed visitors. Growing suspicious, Duncan does some research on Spector and discovers that the good doctor has a shady past and should be over 85 years old. Why then doesn't he look a day over 45? Duncan goes to the police and brings a detective over to Pleasant Hill. They find the place deserted as if it wasn't lived in for years. Duncan finds the charred head of the mute man , so he and the detective join forces to find Lucina. It turns out that Dr. Spector is a devil worshipper and plans on sacrificing Lucina to Satan in order to sustain his eternal life. Can Duncan and the detective save Lucina's life? They shouldn't have bothered. This Kentucky lensed film was the directorial debut of the late William Girdler, a quirky director who would later find his mark with such films as THE ZEBRA KILLER (1973), SHEBA BABY (1975), PROJECT: KILL (1975), GRIZZLY (1976), DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977) and THE MANITOU (1978) before losing his life in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for a film. This is the only Girdler film I do not care for due to the slow pacing and cheap makeup effects. The appearance of Satan in the final reel is laughable and ruins the overall effect of the film. The acting is generally good and the late Charles Kissinger (who had appeared in most of Girdler's films) essays three roles in ASYLUM: Dr. Spector; the aged caretaker of the deserted hospital; and Martine, the female head nurse of the hospital! Kissinger was also the Fearless Fearmonger, a local horror host on TV in Louisville, Kentucky for many years. Girdler followed ASYLUM with THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1972), an atmospheric chiller based on the life of mass murderer Ed Gein and ABBY (1974), a decent black version of THE EXORCIST. Skip ASYLUM and rent these instead. You can thank me later. A United Home Video Release. Also available on DVD from Something Weird Video. Rated R.
AVH: ALIEN VS. HUNTER (2007) - Yes, it's that time once again for another "mockbuster" from those fine thieving folks at The Asylum (see review of HILLSIDE CANNIBALS for more background info on The Asylum), this one being a shameless no-budget rip-off of ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (2004) and it's sequel ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM (2007). AVH stars a haggard-looking William Katt (HOUSE - 1985; SNAKE ISLAND - 2002) as transplanted newspaper reporter Lee, who has moved to a small mountain town to take it easy. Lee and Sheriff Armstrong (Collin Brock) check out a domestic disturbance at a trailer in the woods, only to discover a crashed alien spaceship with a pissed-off alien creature that kills the Sheriff. Lee and Tammy (Whittley Jourdan), one of the trailer's residents, escape and make it back to Lee's house. Lee smells a big story and tries to balance his excitement with Tammy's concern for her family, but when they see a car destroyed by the alien (who has the body of a spider), Lee and Tammy go to warn the town of the impending doom. Of course, no one believes Lee (he's a failed writer that's been turned down by every major publishing house) and think he's just making the whole thing up to win a Pulitzer (!), but when they go out into the woods to investigate, they are attacked by the alien. The sudden appearance of a Predat...um, Alien Hunter (a ridiculously cheap concoction that looks like a man covered in Rubbermaid products) saves nearly everyone's asses, as the humans escape to safety using a series of underground tunnels and end up at the home of Valentine (Randy Mulkey), a survivalist and enemy of Lee (who wrote an unflattering story about him a year before). Valentine leads them all back into the tunnels, where they hook-up with his militia buddies, led by Two Fingers (Kevin Kazakoff). The men split up from the women (Really, is that ever a good idea?), the men getting in the way of the Alien/Hunter conflict, while the women scope-out the Hunter's spaceship. Do any of us really care what the outcome will be? Will anyone be awake when this film finally ends? I have nothing by contempt for cheap, quick knock-offs like this. It looks as if director Scott Harper (SUPERCROC - 2007) and screenwriter/producer David Michael Latt (who directed the interesting KILLERS  and the abysmal SCARECROW SLAYER ) spent no more than a single weekend shooting this film, as actors continually flub their lines (Katt has trouble remembering if the Sheriff's last name is "Armstrong" or "Anderson"); the film is full of cheap home computer CGI effects (including numerous POV shots from both the Alien and the Hunter, who mimics the Predator's POV, but on a dimestore scale); and endless scenes of the cast running back and forth getting picked-off one-by-one. Both William Katt and a severely bloated Dedee Pfeiffer (BROTHERS IN ARMS - 1989; BLUE DEMON - 2004) look extremely embarrassed appearing in this shit film and rightly so, because this is a career low for both of them (Porno flicks are a step-up from this). The practical effects are truly terrible (Again, the Hunter looks like someone cut-up a few of those dark green plastic garbage cans and glued them on some skinny stunt man's body) and the computer effects are even worse, leaving AVH a boring and nearly blood-free mess (just a couple of impalements and blood-covered shirts). The "surprise" finale, where the Hunter pulls off his mask, revealing himself to be human, is one of the most idiotic cop-out endings of all time. It really amazes me how the people at The Asylum can continue getting away with ripping-off titles of major motion pictures (even copying their ad campaigns) and still not get their asses sued off. Maybe it's because these little pieces of boredom are beyond contempt. At least when Roger Corman did it, they were fun and sexy. When The Asylum does it, they are worthless and about as sexy as watching grandma undress. Save your time and money. Also starring Jennifer Couch, Jason S. Gray, John Murphy Jr., Philip Bak and Josh Tessier. An Asylum Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.
BACTERIUM (2007) - This is one of several low-budget horror films that cult director/screenwriter Brett Piper made for DVD label Shock-O-Rama Cinema (the others being THE SCREAMING DEAD , BITE ME  and SHOCK-O-RAMA ). BACTERIUM is Piper's ultra-low-budget take on THE BLOB (more the 1988 version than the original 1958 film), where paintball warriors discover a seemingly deserted house in the woods, only to find out that it is occupied by the mad Dr. Boskovic (Chuck McMahon), who is experimenting with a bacterium of his own design. The mad doctor kidnaps Beth (Alison Whitney), one of the paintballers, strips her naked and decontaminates her, but Beth breaks free, overpowers the doctor and takes him captive and is joined by friends Jiggs (Benjamin Kanes) and Brook (Miya Sagara), as the looney doctor explains the predicament they are all in. Dr. Boskovic's bacterium was developed as a germ warfare weapon, but the doctor and his partner (who we saw burned to death by flame-thrower by government goons in the film's opening minutes) stole it away from the government. Dr. Boskovic has the last vial of the bacterium and is trying to find an antidote to counteract it's effects, but the bacterium gets loose and begins growing, first attaching itself to the crazy doctor and slowly dissolving his flesh from his bones. Beth, Jiggs and Brook are trapped in the house, unable to leave thanks to some government snipers posted in the woods with orders to kill anyone who comes outside. Government agents Dr. Karin Rayburn (Shelley Dague) and Chandler (Andrew Michael Kranz) enter the house to grab the vial, unaware that the bacterium is already on the loose. Chandler becomes the next victim, as the unfeeling Dr. Rayburn transmits live video to Major Larson (Jessica Day) of the organism feeding on lab animals and asexually reproducing. The government has 48 hours to figure out a way to destroy the blobs (dropping a nuclear device and blaming it on terrorists is discussed) and finally decide to use a "black hole bomb" to destroy the threat, but what does this mean for the fate of Beth, Jiggs and Brook? A motorcycle gang, led by Beth's ex-boyfriend, saves their hides just before the black hole bomb explodes and destroys not only the blob (which has grown to enormous proportions), but also Major Larson and her team, in what turns out to be a huge underestimation of the range of the bomb. Way too talky and low-rent for it's own good, BACTERIUM shows none of the playfulness Brett Piper displayed in earlier films like A NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL (1991), THEY BITE (1996), ARACHNIA (2003) or even PSYCLOPS (2002), a film I'm not too crazy about, but even it has more meat on the bone than this one does. All we have here is endless inane dialogue spoken by a cast of amateur actors (some doing better than others, especially the guy who finds every conceivable way to say "Are you shitting me?" within 30 seconds), interrupted every now and then by cut-rate blob effects achieved using practical, CGI and model effects. To add insult to injury, the blob attack scenes aren't very bloody (most attacks are achieved by running the film backwards or by simply applying green-colored peanut butter to the victims' faces), but Piper does finally used his patented low-tech stop-motion effects work in the finale, where a giant blob grabs a helicopter out of the sky. Too bad he doesn't use more of that imagination throughout the film, because BACTERIUM is Piper's weakest film. The only real humor (besides the "Are you shitting me?" bit) comes when two government officials toss a coin to decide whether or not to use the black hole bomb, because they don't believe the President of the United States has a grasp of the graveness of the situation the world is in (it's a smart jab at the policies of then-President George W. Bush and his backward-steps regarding science in general). The scientist who developed the bomb also seriously underestimates the range of the bomb, because when it goes off, it also obliterates Major Larson's communications station, killing everyone inside. Unfortunately, all the good stuff comes during the film's closing minutes, so I can't in good conscience recommend this to anyone. Also starring Tom Cikoski, John Fedele and Rob Monkiewicz. A Shock-O-Rama DVD Release. It says it's Rated PG-13 on the DVD sleeve, but I seriously doubt this was ever submitted to the MPAA, as there is full-frontal nudity early in the film (although it's the only nudity on view).
THE BARBER (2001) - I'm always interested in anything Malcolm McDowell does. Sometimes I'm disappointed because he's made some bad career choices (much like Lance Henriksen, who I'll also watch in anything), but he's usually good in these films anyway. He never telephones in a performance. I'm really surprised by this film since I was expecting the same old horror story thing that panders to the lowest common denominator so prevalent nowadays. Not so. This is a somber, sometimes darkly funny, story of a serial murderer Dexter Miles (McDowell) who opens a barbershop in a remote Alaskan city where it stays in darkness 24 hours a day. When a pair of drunken hunters find the strangled body of a woman buried in the snow, the not too bright Chief Vance Corgan (Jeremy Ratchford of TV's COLD CASE [2003 - 2010]) must try to solve the crime as well as put up with the folks of this tiny town who don't think too kindly of him. Enter FBI Ageny Crawley (Garwin Sanford), who thinks this murder is part of a string of murders that started in the lower 48. More women end up dead at Dexter's hands and he seems to make it look like Chief Corgan was involved. The Chief is relieved of duty and begins to investigate on his own. He comes up with a vital clue that will prove that Dexter was the killer but as he is about to expose him in front of everyone in a bar, he is shot through the back with a shotgun by the first murdered woman's husband. Everyone, including Agent Crawley, believe that the Chief was the killer, so the case is closed. It seems that Agent Crawley believed that the infamous Green River Killer was the murderer and that the Chief fit the profile. The coroner finds out the truth but is killed by Dexter, who then hitches a ride with Agent Crawley back to the States. Filled with McDowell's stinging commentary on the state of human condition and with scenes of bizarre hilarity (as when McDowell talks the murdered woman's husband to put down his shotgun in a diner and nearly blows a hole in his new shoes), director/screenwriter Michael Bafaro (11:11 THE GATE - 2004) makes you actually feel the depression that these people go through with no sunlight to brighten their day. This is the exact opposite effect that you feel in both versions of INSOMNIA (1997 & 2002), where people are in sunlight for 24 hours a day. I was really surprised by this film and especially liked all the performances. I'm beginning to like Canadian-made films again, especially if they are as mind-provoking as this one. Jeremy Ratchford is better known in horror circles as playing the title character in the 1985 film JUNIOR. Also starring Brenda James, Paul Jarrett, David Abbott, Philip Granger, C. Ernst Harth and Vince Murdocco. A Velocity Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
BARRICADE (2006) - Ultra-violent German-made torture/horror film. How violent is it? Well, in the first ten minutes, five German-speaking male campers are killed by a backwoods cannibal clan in the following order: One has his dick cut off; another is eviscerated and the other three are brought back to the cannibals' home, where one is forced to drink acid (until his face melts off his skull and his stomach opens-up from the inside-out), another has his head cut off with a serrated knife and the last one is torn apart and eaten alive. We are then introduced to our three protagonists: Musclehead Michael (co-producer Joe Zaso; NIKOS THE IMPALER - 2003); wise-ass David (Andre Reissig); and low-budget actress Nina (Raine Brown; 100 TEARS - 2007), who is visiting from New York to commiserate with Michael (who has the hots for her) over losing custody of her young daughter in a bitter divorce. The trio decides to get away from their troubles by camping out at Waterfall Lake (which, ironically, contains no waterfalls). Yeah, you guessed it. They walk straight into cannibal country. As our hapless trio walk towards their destination, discussing their troubles and rekindling old romances, the cannibal clan, which includes a mute mother (Manoush) and her freak son (Andreas Pape), kill some more campers (axe to the head; machete to the neck) and eat their flesh back at their cabin. That night, a stranger named Marc (director Timo Rose) shows up at our trio's tent and warns them to leave immediately, but they ignore his warnings and tell him to go take a hike. David takes a walk in the woods alone (always a good idea), where he is captured by the cannibal clan's third member, the hulking gasmask-wearing Goliath (Sebastian Gutsche). We watch as Goliath tortures another man in a shed as David watches, cutting off his arm and then removing the poor fellow's liver with a pair of pruning shears and then eating it. David is brought back to the cannibals' cabin and has his head smashed to a bloody pulp with a wooden chair. Michael and Nina go looking for David the next morning and when Michael's leg gets caught in a barbwire booby-trap, Nina leaves him there to go get help, but she gets hopelessly lost. Guess where she ends up? That's right, at the cannibals' cabin. She and Michael end up fighting for their lives when Marc reveals that he's also a cannibal family member and introduces them to even more members. The finale is a total bloodbath of flying body parts, exploding heads and human organs, as Nina and Michael try to escape the clutches of the cannibal clan. My God, make it stop! What is it with Germans and gore films? Director/co-producer/co-writer Timo Rose (PSYCHO JACK - 2000; SPACE WOLF - 2003; FEARMAKERS - 2007; BEAST - 2009; UNRATED: THE MOVIE - 2009; REEPERBAHN - 2015) seems to be following in the footsteps of Olaf Ittenbach (HOUSE OF BLOOD - 2005; DARD DIVORCE - 2007) and Andreas Schnaas (VIOLENT SHIT - 1989; ZOMBIE '90: EXTREME PESTILENCE - 1990) in showing as much degradation, blood and gore as humanly possible, yet foregoing such necessities as decent acting (Zaso is as professional as it gets here and half the film is spoken in unsubtitled German [which I hope will be fixed for it's U.S. DVD release]) or a coherent plot. The story here, written by Rose and Ted Geoghegan (DEMONIUM - 2001), is so generic and desperate, it is pitiful, especially when it is revealed that Marc is not only a member of the cannibal clan, he also makes snuff films of all the killings. Leave it to those crazy Germans to throw a snuff film subplot into a gore film. Like Ittenbach, Rose has some sense of style with his camera, but ruins many of the shots with jackhammer editing, artificially scratching the emulsion to give it a "grindhouse" feel, over-processing the film to give it a washed-out look or an over-abundant reliance of screeching sound effects to put the viewer off-kilter. All these tricks do is quickly give the viewer a migraine headache. If is only gore you are looking for, BARRICADE delivers it in buckets, but, personally, I'm growing tired of this whole "torture porn" subgenre and wish it would stop, or at least die a violent death. Also starring Thomas Kercmar, Tanja Karius and Ellen Tanumihardja. A Cinema Image Productions DVD Release. Not Rated. Not to be confused with the terrible semi-horror PG-13 Rated WWE-produced film called BARRICADE (2012), starring Eric McCormack in one of his worst acting roles ever.
BEASTIES (1989) - This could quite possibly be the worst horror movie ever made. At least that is what one-time director/producer/writer Steven Contreras wants us to believe. He's not far off. The back story of the film is actually better than the film itself. It was shot on 8mm in 1989 and distributed by Cinema Home Video on VHS in 1991 with the first 20 minutes cut out to pick up the pace. When less than 200 copies were sold, it was pulled from distribution, hopefully never to see the light of day again. No such luck. Director Contreras decided to put back the missing 20 minutes and sell it on DVD-R on eBay in a "Collectors Edition" in 2005. Being the badfilm freak that I am, I had to buy a copy. If I could stick my own foot up my ass as punishment, I would. (Have you noticed that my ass gets a lot of mentions in my reviews? I wonder what Freud would have to say about that?) The film has a bunch of college students running into a spaceship that has crash-landed in the woods and the little creatures (that make GHOULIES look like masterpieces of special effects) begin to devour them, using their flesh to repair the ship, which is made up of living tissue. Needless to say, the nerd of the group, Nelson (Eric C. Bushman), and his underage new girlfriend Laura (Denise Mora) are the only ones that can stop the menace. Nelson steals an egg from the ship in hope of finding a way to destroy the aliens. Other college students, including Nelson's best friend Chubbs (James Jeffries) go to the Sheriff (Ted Esquivel) to report the UFO, but are sent home because Chubbs has a predeliction of pissing on vehicles, one of them being the Sheriff's. There's also a subplot about a bunch of punks, led by Hammerhead (Eric Delabarre), who worship an evil man called Osires (Hector Yanez) who is somehow linked to the spaceship and the aliens. The punks kidnap Nelson, Laura and Sara (Janine Miskulin). Osires and Nelson are somehow connected and a "surprise" ending explains it all (and it's a doozie! Think THE TERMINATOR.). Oh, dear. Where do I begin to tell you how bad this is? It contains nudity and blood, but the girls are butt-ugly and the gore is of the grade school variety. The sets are threadbare and the acting is beyond the point of being surreal. The action scenes, including one of the worst knife fights ever committed to film (When the girl's throat is cut, blood squirts from the wrong part of the knife.), are pathetic. The music sounds like it was recorded on a Yamaha synthesizer and the DVD is so full of artifacting (since it was recorded on the DVD-R in the LP mode from a VHS tape), that sometimes it's actually physically painful to watch. I actually had to make a copy of this DVD-R so I could watch it without the DVD stopping all the time (don't use labels on DVD-Rs Mr. Contreras). The question remains: Is it the worst horror movie ever made? I don't think so, but it comes damn close. It's at least better than those SOV pieces of shit that float around on video compilations from Brentwood. No label available since it is self-distributed. Originally shot under the title BIONAUT, a word which is not used until the film is almost over. Not Rated.
BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT (1970) - Weird Filippino horror from the director of MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (1969) and TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1973). At the end of World War II an army deserter (John Ashley) is hunted down for the murders and rapes of a Filipino family. Cornered in the jungle, and running out of time, he strikes up a bargain with a mysterious man (our old friend Vic Diaz of VAMPIRE HOOKERS  and countless other Filippino flicks). Diaz turns out to be the Devil and gives delight in giving Ashley eternal life, letting him occupy other people's bodies to "release the latent evil in their souls." In 1970 Ashley occupies the body of a wealthy industrialist who had his face destroyed in an accident. He miraculously recovers (giving Ashley his face back and the attending hospital doctor a heart attack!) and causes considerable confusion for his wife (Mary Wilcox of LOVE ME DEADLY - 1972). She never expected hubby to pull through and is having an affair with his brother (Ken Metcalfe). Ashley then falls in love with her not realizing that Diaz will not allow him to experience pleasure. Every time Ashley feels amorous he changes into an indestructable monster (in bad makeup) who feels compelled to rip out the innards of the Filippino population. A police detective (Eddie Garcia) assigned to the case notices a resemblance between the industrialist and the army deserter and pieces together the puzzle. As the police close in, Ashley is befriended by a blind hermit (in true FRANKENSTEIN fashion) who makes Ashley realize that the power of prayer may finally release him from his diabolical pact. Ashley had a long relationship with director Eddie Romero, starring in (and sometimes producing) such films as the aforementioned MAD DOCTOR and TWILIGHT as well as BRIDES OF BLOOD (1968), BEAST OF BLOOD (1970), BEYOND ATLANTIS (1973), SAVAGE SISTERS (1974) and THE WOMAN HUNT (1972). Ashley later quit acting (a good thing for mankind) and became a successful TV producer (an even better thing for mankind) of such iconic action shows as THE A-TEAM (1983 - 1987), RIPTIDE (1983 - 1986) and WALKER, TEXAS RANGER (1993 - 2001) before he passed away of a heart attack in 1997. BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT is a mildly diverting time waster thanks to the strange storyline, bloody gore, Wilcox's nudity and Diaz's all too brief performance. A United Home Video Release. Rated R. Also available on DVD from Retromedia Entertainment. UPDATE: Eddie Romero passed away on March 28, 2013.
THE BEES (1978) - If you're as old as I am (not very many people are), you'll remember all the hubbub about Africanized killer bees making their way from South America to the United States. It was supposed to be a natural disaster in the making, as these aggressive and angry bees reportedly had no problem attacking humans without provocation and, if they stung you enough times, you could die. A disaster of this proportion was ripe for the film industry to exploit and exploit it they did, turning out this low-budget film, countless TV movies (such as THE SAVAGE BEES - 1976, its sequel TERROR OUT OF THE SKY - 1978, right up to DEADLY INVASION: THE KILLER BEE NIGHTMARE - 1995 and KILLER BEES - 2002) and, of course, the Irwin Allen big-budget bomb THE SWARM (1978). This Mexico-produced film purports that South America has been completely taken over by the killer bees and they are beginning to gain a strong foothold in Latin America and Mexico. Dr. Franklin Miller (Claudio Brook; ALUCARDA - 1975) and his wife Sandy (Angel Tompkins; LITTLE CIGARS - 1973) are experimenting an a large quantity of killer bees in a small Brazil town in hopes of making them less aggressive and more docile by using crossbreeding techniques with normal honeybees. But when a father and his young son accidentally set some "devil bees" loose when they try to steal some honey, resulting in the stinging death of the young boy, the locals come bearing torches and burn down Dr. Miller's home and laboratory, setting loose all the killer bees that were in captivity. Sandy survives by hiding in a walk-in freezer, but Franklin and most of the locals are stung to death. At the United Nations, Dr. John Norman (John Saxon; CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE - 1980) and bee expert Dr. Sigmund Hummel (John Carradine; VAMPIRE HOOKERS - 1979) try to convince the countries of the world (in one of the chintziest office sets in recent memory) how it would be in everyone's interest to convert the killer bees to hybrids and mass-produce their honey, thereby curbing worldwide hunger (When the representative from Cuba complains that stepping-up honey production will severely curb their sugar cane sales, Dr. Hummel breaks a jar containing some bees and clears out the room in a hurry. Take that, Cuba!). Sandy comes to New York with her dead husband's notes and a suitcase full of killer bees (so much for Customs!) to work with John and her Uncle Sigmund (A couple of thieves try to rob Sandy in an elevator, but they get stung repeatedly, one crashing through a glass door and the other getting hit by a car). As our trio try to find a way to tame the killer bees (Big business wants to secretly bring the bees to America to harvest their special brand of royal jelly for the cosmetic industry), huge swarms of the bees suddenly appear across the U.S., killing everyone in their path. Can our trio discover a way to render the bees harmless (They have a way to turn the bees gay!) before these little buggers dominate America? Talk about a buzzkill! This ridiculously ludicrous horror flick, directed/produced/written by Alfredo Zacharias (DEMONOID - 1981; CRIME OF CRIMES - 1989), is full of so many unintentionally hilarious set pieces, it's hard to dislike it. My favorite sequence comes when an old man with rheumatism offers two boys in a park two dollars to catch five bees in a paper bag, which he intends to use on his leg (He says the bee stings make his leg feel better!). Another boy, jealous that he wasn't offered money to catch the bees, throws his baseball at a huge killer bee nest and the bees attack and kill everyone in the park, including the old man! There's another scene where John Carradine (doing his best German accent while waving around his arthritis-stricken hands) has developed a computer program that can translate the buzzing made by the killer bees into English and he begins interpreting a conversation between two bees in front of an amused Saxon (the look on his face is priceless). The final scene, where all the bees use Sigmund's computer program to talk to John and Sandy and then to all the members of the U.N., is worth the price of admission alone. Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY - 1964) did some uncredited work on the screenplay, which may be why some of the dialogue is intentionally funny, especially Carradine's. Though not very violent (it's mainly shots of people flailing their arms at some superimposed bees, followed by some shots of stung, swollen bodies), THE BEES is a campy, fun romp that mixes corporate espionage and horror genres with some laugh-out-loud process shots of the bees attacking the U.S. landmarks, including the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. Also starring Alicia Encinas, Julio Cesar, Armand Martin and George Bellanger. Originally released on VHS by Warner Home Video and not available on DVD. Rated PG.
BEVERLY HILLS BODYSNATCHERS (1989) - Hey we all have to start somewhere. This is director Jonathan Mostow's first full-length film (listed here simply as "Jon Mostow"). As we all know, he would later go on to direct the excellent TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003), one of the only major motion pictures of that year with a really downbeat ending. Unfortunately, Mostow falters on his first film, a comedy retelling of RE-ANIMATOR (1985), mixed with some Mafia hijinx. Mortuary owner Lou (Vic Tayback of BLOOD AND LACE - 1970) and scientist Doc (Frank Gorshin) borrow money from the mob to fund Gorshin's research in reanimating dead bodies. Mob underling Vic (Art Metrano) sends his nephews Freddie (Rodney Eastman) and Vincent (Warren Selko) to work at the mortuary when Lou is late paying back the money. Vic has plans of becoming boss and has Don Carlo (Seth Jaffe) knocked-off while playing a round of golf. When Don Carlo is sent to the mortuary, he is injected with Doc's serum and becomes a mindless killing machine, offing anyone who gets in his way. Vic is unaware of this and makes plans with Don Ho (Keone Young) to join forces and become one big crime family. Don Ho will only do this if he can see Don Carlo's body at his funeral. More "hilarity" ensues when Freddie, Vincent, Lou and Doc try to bring back an escaped reanimated Don Carlo back to his funeral in time for Don Ho to see the body. Everything works out in the end as Doc perfects his formula and is able to bring back Don Carlo to a regular human state, much to the annoyance of Vic. A tacked-on "surprise" ending promises a sequel which, thankfully, never materialized. Mostow tries hard here with a cast of pros but the juvenile screenplay by P.K. Simonds Jr. give most of the players nothing to do except scream at each other and look confused. There are whiffs of laughter to be had, but nothing that hasn't been done before and much better. A near total lack of blood and gore also don't help much either. There is some nudity, some mindless zombies walking around and a display on how to properly embalm a body (done much better in HBO's SIX FEET UNDER [2001 - 2005]), but unless you have nothing better to do for 85 minutes (say, like giving your cat a bath or tweezing your pubic hairs), I would recommend that you keep your distance and watch Mostow's other great film BREAKDOWN (1997) instead. Also starring Brooke Bundy, Allison Barron and Steven Field. A Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.
BEWARE: CHILDREN AT PLAY (1989) - Although this low-budget regional film (lensed in Long Island, NY and northern New Jersey) boasts poor acting and a nonsense story, it does contain some good graphic bloodletting and a finale that goes way beyond the borders of good taste for a U.S.-made production. A father and son are on a camping trip when Dad gets his leg caught in a bear trap. Unable to free himself (and mistakenly thinking that help is on the way), the father tells his young son the story of Beowulfs Grendel (dont ask!) while maggots eat away at his wounded leg. Dad dies and the son goes bonkers, ripping out Dads heart and eating it. Flash forward 10 years to a nearby town where 13 children have come up missing. The local police are unable to solve the disappearances (its a miracle that they can find their own station), so they call in a writer of paranormal stories to help them find out what is going on. More children disappear (including the writers daughter), adults begin showing up dead and devoured and the townspeople start showing signs of developing a mob mentality. It seems the children have become cannibals and their leader is the boy (now a young adult) who was left in the woods 10 years earlier. In the finale, the townspeople locate the kids hideout in the forest and slaughter all of them (except for one), killing the writer in the process. It is this finale that makes the film really disturbing. Children are shown getting shot in the back, having their heads blown off, having axes planted in their bodies and pitchforks shoved through their necks, all in loving close-up. Director Mik Cribben (who also appears as the religious farmer who leads the adult revolt) spares no gore in other scenes as we view a man cut in half, a nasty throat slashing, various cannibalistic atrocities and a rape committed on the writers wife by the demented mountain boy. The effects range from amateurish to quite good. If you like gore, this is the film for you. If you want something more, then pass this one by. Jim Muro (STREET TRASH) handled the steadicam work. Starring Michael Robertson, Rich Hamilton, Robin Lilly and Lori Tirgrath. This film (originally known as FRIENDS OF THE GOBLINS) sat on the shelf for over 5 years before Troma Films picked it up for distribution. It would make a good double bill with Max Kalmanowiczs THE CHILDREN (1980) if you are psycho enough to watch another bunch of killer kids get slaughtered. BEWARE: CHILDREN AT PLAY is Unrated for obvious reasons.
BEYOND DARKNESS (1990) - As Father George (David Brandon) is giving last rites to female mass murderer Bette (she killed many children and claims to have eaten their souls), she gives the Father her satanic bible just before she is executed in the electric chair. After she is dead, Father George sees the spirits of all the children she has killed, ready to follow her to Hell. The film then turns into a bastardization of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, as Father Peter (Gene Le Brock), his wife Anne (Barbara Bingham) and young kids Martin (Michael Stephenson) and Carole (Teresa F. Walker) move into an old house where a lot of strange stuff is going on. There's a hole in the wall of Carole's bedroom that emits a bright light only when she's around. It gives her nightmares of being trapped in a coffin and, one night, the light burns her face. Peter's bible also flies into a puddle, there's a statue of a black swan that rocks by itself and an old radio plays satanic chants, even though it's not plugged in. The family also must contend with flying plates and silverware, some mysterious entities cloaked in black and a head that tries to break through the hole in the wall. Peter performs an impromptu exorcism, which quiets things down for a little while. Peter goes to his superior, Reverend Jonathan (Stephen Brown), who tells Peter he knows about the house's history (the bastard!) and he should work with Father George, not knowing that Father George is now an alcoholic who sees visions of the dead children being led around by Bette. Carole comes down with a mysterious fever and then it disappears ("The bad people gave it to me!"). When the spectre of Bette comes to the house and takes Martin, Father George appears ("Your son is in an infernal limbo!") and announces that the house is a gateway to another dimension. They break down the wall with the hole in it and rescue Martin, or at least they think they do. George must regain his faith and perform an exorcism, not only to free Martin of his possession, but to cleanse the house of evil spirits. He fails miserably. Can Peter pick up the slack and save his son? Directed and co-written by Claudio Fragasso (MONSTER DOG - 1984; TROLL 2 - 1990), using his "Clyde Anderson" pseudonym, BEYOND DARKNESS (originally made as LA CASA 5) is nothing but a series of shock cuts and scenes lifted from other films. You'll see references to AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE EXORCIST (1973), POLTERGEIST (1982), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) and even PHANTASM (1979) tossed around in no particular order, none of it making a lick of sense. Since this is an Italian production (filmed in Louisiana with English speaking actors), you'll hear some risable dialogue ("I love beans!" "But then you make stinkies!"), violence against children and some weird camera angles (the rocking swan cam). While there are many violent situations, I was taken aback by the total lack of blood or gore. Most of it is just burn makeup, possession effects, ghostly apparitions or flying objects. None of it is the least bit scary or effective, which could be the reason why this was one of the last Italian haunted house films. It was fun while it lasted, but this one is no HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY or THE BEYOND. Hell, it's no GHOSTHOUSE, either. It was time to move on. Also starring Mary Coulson as Bette. An Imperial Entertainment Corp. Release. Rated R.
BEYOND DREAM'S DOOR (1988) - Ambitious little film, probably inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. College student Ben Dobbs (Nick Baldasare) begins to have a recurring nightmare from his childhood which has long been dormant, but thanks to sleep experiments that he is involved in, it becomes something that cannot be put to rest (no pun intended). Everyone that he tells about the dream ends up dead, killed by a long-clawed demon that rips the flesh from their bodies or squeezes their heads until the brains pop out. They then end up completely forgotten by everyone, except Ben, as if they never existed. Ben, with the help of Professor Eric Baxter (Rick Kesler), uncover the truth behind the dream. It involves a book written years before by a Mr. White (Dan White) who had the same dream as Ben. The demon needs the book to stay in the real world and Ben has the only remaining page of it in his possession. Ben must find a way to lure the demon back to the dream world where it can do no harm to anyone except to give bad nightmares. This is director Jay Woelfel's first full-length film, made with the cooperation of Ohio State University. Woelfel would later go on to direct UNSEEN EVIL (2001), DEMONICUS (2001) and TRANCERS 6 (2002) but, sadly, none of these shows the imagination on display here. Filmed with an extremely small budget, it earns point for actually being shot on film and not on video like most small independents. Sprinkled with nasty bits of gore and nudity to liven up the proceedings (some reviewers say this film is slow, but I think that's the way it was meant to be) and some amateur acting, BEYOND DREAM'S DOOR has a nightmare quality in the visuals and music (composed by Woelfel) that most films can only dream of creating. I liked it and if you give it a chance, I'm sure you will too. My only real complaint is that there's a short film of Woelfel's inserted in here called "Come To Me Softly" that really has nothing to do with the rest of the film. It was inserted at the distributor's request to add to the running time (86 minutes) and will be excised in the Director's Cut (80 minutes) soon to be released on DVD. The short will be an extra on the disk. Also starring Susan Pinsky, Norm Singer, John Dunleavy and Darby Vasbinder. A VidAmerica, Inc. Home Video Release. Not Rated. Note: Jay Woefel's next film is GHOST LAKE, which he promises to be better than the quickie films he had to make for producer Charlie Band and the like, since he had total creative control. I, for one, can't wait to see it. See the EMail Section for more information. For more on Jay Woelfel, go to his website: www.JayWoelfel.com.
BEYOND TERROR (1980) - Weird and wild Spanish horror film that I am finally seeing for the first time with English subtitles, thanks to a fansubbed edition (the print taken from the uncut now-definct bootlegged Midnight Video Spanish language print) found on torrent site Cinemageddon (For all those of you who are saying "Shame on you!" for using a torrent site, here's my response: "Fuck you!" There's more on Cinemageddon besides full DVD rips of recent films. A lot more.). Lola (Raquel Ramirez) takes her married paramour (Adolfo Gallego) to a "romantic" place in the woods to fool around (She says that she would feel like a "whore" if they had sex in a cheap motel room!). When Lola tries to steal his wallet and he catches her, she stabs him several times in the chest with her handy switchblade (after kneeing him in the nuts) and rummages his bloody corpse of all his valuables. She then walks to the nearest phonebooth (this is before the advent of cellphones) and calls her brother Nico (Emilio Siegrist) to meet her for a drug deal. After making the drug deal, Lola (who is a cunt with a capital "C"), Nico, Chema (Francisco Sanchez Grajera) and Jazz (Martin Kordas) head out on their motorcycles for a night of troublemaking, starting with stopping at a diner. They rob everyone, but when a passing pedestrian spots the robbery and calls the cops, a shootout occurs, in which two cops and all the diner patrons are shot dead, except for Linda (Alexia Loreto) and Jorge (Antonio Jabalera). The two innocents are taken hostage (Chema shoots Jazz in the head when he is wounded in the gunfight!), their car is stolen and everyone heads out to the country to avoid more police. When Nico stupidly stupidly pours booze over Jorge's head while he is driving, Jorge crashes the car (he and Nico then get into a fight), forcing everyone to hoof it on foot. They come upon a house, where Lola is attacked by a dog on the front lawn and Chema is forced to shoot it. They break into the house and force the owner, an old lady (Andree Van De Woestyne) who Nico calls a "witch" (it's prophetic to say the least), to her knees by throwing a heavy object against her back. Lola abuses the old lady, slapping and kicking her while ripping an unusual necklace off of her neck (When Linda tries to intervene, Lola slaps her around and calls her a "cocktease"). While Chema and Jorge are upstairs in the bathroom cleaning up (increduously, Jorge tells Chema [who is totally naked] that he can keep Linda if he lets him go!), they find a young boy crying in his bedroom, so Chema locks the bedroom door so the boy cannot escape. After receiving a mysterious phone call that sounds like someone in the throes of a "death rattle", Chema and the group steal the old lady's car, but not before setting fire to the house with the old lady and the little boy trapped inside. Little do they know that the old lady is a Satan worshipper and with her last dying breath, she curses all those involved in her and the boy's deaths. The Dark Lord is gonna have some fun tonight! Up until the old lady bites it, this film (original title: MAS ALLA DEL TERROR) plays like a standard crime thriller, with robberies, beatings and shootings. But once the gang and their hostages get into the old lady's car (which plays music on the radio that can't be turned off and drives them to an abandoned church, where the shit hits the fan), the film shifts gears (pardon the pun) and turns into a gory horror flick. Director/screenwriter Tomas Aznar (THE BOOK OF GOOD LOVE - 1975), who co-wrote the original story with Executive Producer Juan Piquer Simon (PIECES - 1982; SLUGS: THE MOVIE - 1987), who uses the pseudonym "Alfredo Casado" here, and Miguel Lizondo, populates the film with the most unlikable characters (the only person who generates any sympathy is Linda, but the only reason she is in the middle of this mess is because she is cheating on her husband and, as we soon learn, has some not-so-nice secrets of her own), so when they start meeting their maker, the viewer does get a sense of satisfaction. Once at the dilapidated church (where Chema screws a receptive Linda and Nico masturbates in front of Lola!), the supernatural shenanigans begin, starting with Jorge being burned alive in the car after seeing the ghostly visage of the dead young boy and the other four meeting creepy kid Andras (David Forrest), who tells them that there is a fortune in treasure in the church's catacombs, but it is guarded by the mummies of those buried there. What they find in the catacombs is creepy, atmospheric and gory, as our group split-up (why do they always do that in horror movies?) and discover that they are individually in a Hell of their own making. Some my find BEYOND TERROR (a.ka. TERRORGANG; I have yet to find any ad material using the literal English title) a little too lethargically paced and meandering, but there is an air of dread and enough touches of sleaze (including incest between Lola and Nico) to please the more discriminating horror fans. Originally available on bootleg VHS from the defunct Midnight Video in an uncut, unsubbed, Spanish language print. By the time you read this, the English fansubbed version (which is quite faithful to the Spanish dialogue) should be widely available for download on the internet. Or you could pay some gray market seller for a DVD-R copy. Either way, the choice is yours. Not Rated.
BIOHAZARD (1984) - This extremely low-budget film is director Fred Olen Ray's fourth (made after SCALPS - 1983) and is one of the first non-theatrical American films to rip-off elements of ALIEN (although the Italians started copying it almost immediately after it opened, with films like ALIEN CONTAMINATION - 1980). Angelique Pettyjohn stars as Lisa, a psychic trained by the military to grab objects from another dimension and bring them back to ours. When Lisa accidentally grabs a creature (portrayed by Ray's son Christopher Ray) from another dimension, General Randolph (Aldo Ray) takes it into Army custody where it breaks loose, ripping the face off of a soldier. Mitchell Carter (William Fair) and Lisa track the monster through the desert, as it begins killing citizens and dropping little face-hugging creatures along the way. The rest of the film is just a series of bloody monster attacks as throats are torn open, faces are ripped apart or hugged and stomachs are used for incubation. There's also a truly bizarre ending that's better seen than described. This is nothing more than one of those countless little B movies that Fred Olen Ray made in the 80's, although I like his earlier films more than his later ones because he seemed to care more about the plots and added some directorial flair. It seems that on his newer films, he worries more about how to insert the cribbed footage of A-list films he has licensed into his productions. His newer films seem colder and don't have that absurd sense of humor (which this film displays with a small bit with the creature and a poster of E.T.) his earlier films did. I get the sense he's doing it strictly now for the money as he seems to have lost his fanboy mentality, which shone so brightly even in his lousy early films (like THE ALIEN DEAD - 1979). Ray was also one of the few directors to put washed-up and old-time actors in his cast, giving Aldo Ray and Carroll Borland (MARK OF THE VAMPIRE - 1935) roles in this one. Although the monster suit is shoddy (not to mention comically small), Ray throws in a lot of bloody mayhem, some of it pretty well done. Angelique Pettyjohn (MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND - 1969) get a chance to show off her giant mud flaps and there's other female nudity on view also. At 76 minutes, this film moves at a breezy clip and is not boring at all, even if some of the acting leaves a lot to be desired. When viewed today, BIOHAZARD may seem derivative of countless ALIEN clones of the 80's. Just remember that this was one of the first straight-to-video films to jump on the bandwagon. All the others followed this one. Assistant director Donald G. Jackson (THE DEMON LOVER - 1977) and Ray portray the most inept EMTs I have ever seen. Pray your heart doesn't stop when they're around. Stay tuned during the end credits for an amusing blooper reel which contains more Pettyjohn nudity. Unavailable since it's original 1984 VHS release from Continental Video and then a terrible encoded EP-Mode tape from budget label MNTEX Entertainment in 1991, Ray released this on DVD through his outfit, Retromedia Entertainment, in 2003. Also starring Frank McDonald, David Pearson, George Randall and Loren Crabtree. Unrated.
BITTER FEAST (2010) - Ah, I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. Master chef Peter Grey (James Le Gros; THE RAPTURE - 1991) is having a very bad day. His TV cooking show is being canceled (thanks to a female co-host [Megan Hilty] who makes fun of everything he does and the audience loves her) and he has just been fired (by Mario Batali of all people) as the head chef of a prestigious restaurant based on a blog written by food critic J.T. Franks (Joshua Leonard: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT - 1999), who calls Peter's food crap. J.T. has problems of his own. His marriage has been in trouble since his two year-old daughter died of leukemia a couple of years ago and he hasn't written a positive review of a restaurant since. Peter snaps (flashbacks show him as a child shoving a stick into his bully older brother's neck [the blood sprays like a geyser] and then burying the body without any future consequences) and kindaps J.T., chaining him up in various places in his country home and challenging him to taste the difference in foods based on the scathing reviews he has written over the years. At one point, Peter puts two dishes in front of J.T.; one dish contains cooked rabbit with blueberries and the other contains the same thing but with a deadly dose of hemlock. He has to pick a dish and finish it. Since he's a food critic, he should be able to taste the difference, right? Wrong. J.T. is so hungry (he eats with his hands) that he picks the wrong dish and Peter watches the air slowly leave J.T.'s body before injecting him with the antidote. He wants J.T. to suffer more, so Peter kidnaps J.T.'s wife, Katherine (Amy Seimetz; WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY - 2006), after he plants an axe into the back into private investigator William Coley (played by genre director Larry Fessesden; WENDIGO - 2001; who is quite good here and has a hefty role; he's also one of this film's Producers), whom Katherine hired to look into her husband's disappearance (although he's been known to disappear for days at a time since the death of his daughter). Peter plans on feeding Katherine some mystery meat (it's implied that he's going to feed her the flesh of William Coley), but first Peter wants to play a version of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) with J.T.. He gives him a three-minute head start (Peter is a master huntsman) and sends J.T. into the forest. This is just the time Katherine needs to find a piece of glass and cut herself loose (One of the film's many obvious mistakes; if he chains J.T., why not chain Katherine?). When she runs into Peter outside, she shoves a stick into his neck (and the blood spurts out like a geyser). Ah, the Circle of Life. Director/screenwriter Joe Maggio (THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY - 2011) telegraphs all the surprises (not that there are many) and not one of the characters is likable in any way (even the wife). We should at least have someone to root for, but everyone here is so impossible to care for (When Peter makes J.T. walk for water carrying a bucket and tells him he cannot have any until he gets back to the house [even though he is parched], you hope he takes a drink before he gets home, just so we can see what Peter does to him. When J.T. does just that, I was kind of happy because J.T. is such a prick.) you won't care whether they live or die. If I were Peter, the first person I would have kidnapped and killed would be his female TV host. That would have made a much more enjoyable film because she is a bitch of the highest order. As it stands, this film offers little for the demanding horror film fan. Just a little blood, a little nudity and a little story to go along with it. Nothing special, but professionally made (using two high-definition digital Canon 5D Mark II cameras). Just a small-budgeted film about a man who snaps when someone ruins his life with the stroke of a keyboard. I can sympathize, but the film should have been so much better. Also starring John Speredakos, Tobias Campbell and Owen Campbell. A Dark Sky Films DVD Release. Rated R.
THE BLACK CAT (1965) - Well-executed update of Poe's tale, set circa. 1965 Texas. Animal lover Lou (Robert Frost) is given a black cat by his wife Diana (Robyn Baker) for a first anniversary present. He names the cat Pluto and begins showering it with attention, much to Diana's chagrin. Lou spends too much time with Pluto, ignoring his wife's sexual needs and drinking way too much. For their second anniversary, Lou comes home drunk, tries to strangle Diana and cuts Pluto's right eye out with a pocketknife after the cat scratches his hand. Lou begins to go bonkers, pouring hot coffee on his pet monkey and imagining that everyone in a bar is wearing a black patch over their right eye (a very good scene featuring singer Scotty McKay and his band). He comes home and electrocutes Pluto with a stripped electrical cord, accidentally burning down the house. Finding out that he has no insurance and is dead broke, he goes insane, tries to strangle his lawyer and is committed to an insane asylum. After spending several months in the asylum (where he begins to write a story called "The Black Cat"), Lou is released into the loving arms of Diana, "cured" of his alcoholism and insanity. Sure he is! Almost immediately Lou begins hitting the bottle, calls a hooker in a bar a "witch" ("Just make sure you spell that with a W." is her reply) and sees a black cat following him. He brings the cat home and gives it to Diana, who notices it has a bad right eye, "just like Pluto." The cat begins to torment Lou as his descent into madness begins to get the better of him. He buries an axe into Diana's head (a very gory image that any true horror Baby Boomer has seen, thanks to exposure in Famous Monsters and other horror mags of the 60's) and walls her body up in the basement. The housekeeper (Sadie French) calls the police and they search the house looking for Diana. Lou is pretty sure he has the police fooled until they hear a cat meowing behind the basement wall and break it down, discovering Diana's decomposing body with the black cat resting on her head. Lou escapes and leads the police on a high-speed chase, where he loses his life after flipping his sports car trying to avoid a black cat in the middle of the road. The last shot we see is Lou lying lifeless amidst the wreck of his car, his right eye missing. Shot on a shoestring by writer/director Harold Hoffman (who directed SEX AND THE ANIMALS using the pseudonym "Hal Dwain" in 1969 and wrote the screenplay for Larry Buchanan's IN THE YEAR 2889 in 1967), THE BLACK CAT has been available for a long time on VHS in various dupey versions. The folks at Something Weird Video have released a beautiful letterboxed version on DVD as part of a double feature also including THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT (1963). Sprinkled throughout with startling bits of gore, including eye gouging, the aforementioned axe in the head and other pieces of depravity, this film must have been considered shocking when released to unsuspecting audiences in 1965. This black & white feature would most definitely have been slapped with an R rating if released today. It is also pretty faithful to Poe's story and is a great way to spend 73 minutes of your life, just to see how they made 'em in the infancy of gore filmdom. This gets one of my highest recommendations! Well acted, well-made and well done. Also starring Anne MacAdams with a cameo by Bill Thurman (GATOR BAIT - 1974; THE EVICTORS - 1979) as a bartender. Both Thurman and Scotty McKay would next appear in Larry Buchanan's ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS (1966). A Something Weird Video DVD Release. Not Rated.
BLACKENSTEIN (1972) - Ah, the good old 70's. A decade that allowed every genre of exploitation film to get a chance to shine. One of the rarest of the exploitation sub-genres was the blaxploitation horror film, some of which gave a new spin to the classic 30's horror films. Dracula became BLACULA (1972), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde became DR. BLACK MR. HYDE (1975) and Frankenstein became this, the barely-released and little-seen runt of the litter. There's a reason for that. Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone) moves to L.A. to take a job with Nobel Prize-winning Dr. Stein (John Hart) and to be close to her bedridden boyfriend Eddie Turner (Joe De Sue), a Vietnam veteran who lost both arms and legs when he stepped on a landmine. Dr. Stein is the leading authority on limb transplants, so Winifred has Eddie moved from the Veterans Hospital (where he is abused by a male orderly, who gives a long, rambling speech mocking Eddie's "patriotism") to Dr. Stein's castle laboratory, where we are introduced to Dr. Stein's other patients: Eleanor (Andrea King), an elderly patient who is getting progressively younger thanks to Dr. Stein's daily injections of his new, yet not perfected, DNA formula and Bruno (Nick Bolin), a patient who recently had a new leg attached to his body (also using the DNA formula). Dr. Stein and Winifred perform a quadruple transplant on Eddie, giving him new arms and legs using the DNA formula to stop Eddie's body from rejecting the limbs. At first, everything seems to go swimmingly, as Eddie can move his fingers and toes, but when Dr. Steins lumbering black assistant, Malcomb (Roosevelt Jackson), professes his love for Winifred and she turns him down ("I think it's best we just stay friends."), he fucks around with Eddie's final DNA injection, which turns him into a foot-shuffling, violent monster: Blackenstein! Blackie breaks free and begins a murder spree, killing the abusive V.A. hospital orderly, a prostitute and her john and a rapist and his victim, before returning to Dr. Stein's castle, just in time to catch Malcomb trying to rape Winifred. After killing Malcomb, Eleanor, Bruno and, finally, Dr. Stein, Blackie leaves the castle, chases and kills one final victim before he is killed in a most unothodox manner. Winifred faints into the arms of a black detective and the film mercifully ends. This cheap horror flick, the first directorial effort by William A. Levey (WHAM BAM THANK YOU SPACEMAN - 1975; HELLGATE - 1989) and one-time producer/scripter Frank R. Saletri, barely got a theatrical release and it's easy to see why. It's deadly slow and nothing much happens for the film's first fifty minutes. Thanks to home video, viewers can fast-forward to watch the gory killings in the final thirty minutes, but for theater goers this must have been pretty yawn-inducing. The first murder (the V.A. hospital orderly) is shown only as shadows against a hospital bed curtain and contains one of the worst arm-rippings in recent memory (there is a quick shot of the orderly's bloody stump afterwards, though) and Liz Renay (THE THRILL KILLERS - 1965) puts in a cameo as Blackenstein's third victim, who gets eviscerated by Blackie's hands and has her intestines fondled. There's also a groan-inducing black comedian (Andy "Z") in a cabaret who tells an awful talking dog joke before introducing singer Cardella DeMilo, who sings a tune entitled "Thankful", while we watch Blackie snap the neck of a rapist and then play with the disemboweled internal organs of a topless female victim. There's not much to recommend here, as the editing is atrocious, the music soundtrack is mostly library cues and the acting is simply horrid (John Hart and Andrea King are the only cast members that had extensive film credits). The only plus here is Dr. Stein's laboratory. They had the good sense to hire Kenneth Strickfadden, who supplied the electrical lab equipment that he used for the 1931 classic FRANKENSTEIN to this film and, while the laboratory shots are filmed with some eye for shadow and detail, but I doubt anyone would want to watch this simply for that reason. The film loses all sense of continuity after Eddie becomes the monster. It's as if Levey gave up hope on making a rational film, as scenes start in mid-sentence, the time frame makes no sense (shots go from night to day back to night again) and the introduction of a white female victim (Dale Bach) in the finale (used, I think, to pad the film's running time) reeks of desperation. The death of Blackie (he's torn to death by a pack of police dobermans!) is a total letdown. No people with torches, no big fire in the laboratory, just Blackie lying on the ground with his stomach ripped out. BLACKENSTEIN (with the video-generated title "THE BLACK FRANKENSTEIN" directly proceeding it, just so retarded viewers get the reference) is nothing but one big sloppy mess. Avoid it. Also known as BLACK FRANKENSTEIN. Producer Frank R. Saletri reportedly directed a feature called BLACK THE RIPPER in 1975, but since no one has actually ever seen it (the only proof of the film is a couple of mentions in Variety in 1975 and 1976) and Saletri died in 1982 (He was actually murdered in his own home, his killing was never solved.), we may never find out whether it exists or if it ever made it out of the pre-production stage (UPDATE: It seems BLACK THE RIPPER did enter the production stage, but was never finished. Someone uploaded a 57-minute version of this film on Cinemageddon and said it was given to him by "Jon Cardos, a friend of my uncles". It lists Frank R. Saletri as director/writer and only two actors: Marva Farmer, who also sings the film's title tune, and Hugh Van Putten, in the opening credits. The funny thing is that Black The Ripper is actually White [!] and the whole film seems to be missing some important scenes, as well as having no closing credits. Another mystery solved!). Also starring Beverly Haggerty, Jim Cousar, Bob Brophy and Don Brodie. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment. Available on VHS and DVD from Xenon Home Video in a badly beat-up print that looks like it was run through a projector one too many times. Rated R.
BLACK MAGIC (1975) - This Shaw Brothers production is the film that kick-started interest in the U.S. of modern Hong Kong horror films. For those that remember this film's U.S. theatrical release (through World Northal, usually on a double bill with THE ORPHAN  in the late 70's), this uncut widescreen DVD from Celestial Pictures/Image Entertainment will bring back memories. For those of you only familiar with this title from TV's BLACK BELT THEATER in the 80's, this version will be a revelation, since it restores all the sex, gore and violence missing from the TV version and plays like a totally different film. A woman named Lo Yin (Tammy Tien Ni) goes to a sorcerer to put a death spell on her husband and his mistress. We then watch the gory details, as the sorcerer prepares the spell (He cuts the flesh off a corpse's stomach and then removes the corpse's head, putting the flesh and the head over an open fire while he chants and we watch the body parts roast). The sorcerer grabs two wax dolls (one has an erect penis) and he joins them together in the missionary position. He then pierces the wax dolls with numerous needles as we watch the naked bodies of the actual husband and his mistress writhe in agony and die. When their bodies are found the next morning, a priest chants over their corpses, which causes the evil sorcerer to slice his tongue with a knife, have his face burnt with a mysterious red light and his house collapses and is destroyed. The now-wealthy Lo Yin sets her sights on handsome young lad Hsu Lo (Ti Lung), even though she knows he's engaged to be married to Wang Chu-ying (Lily Li). A gigolo (Lo Leih), after Lo Yin's money, goes to wizard San Kan-mi (Ku Feng) for a love spell and watches in the shadows as the wizard prepares a love spell for a naked woman (He covers her vagina with white rice, squirts milk out of her breast into a bowl, mixes it with snake venom, soaks the vagina rice with the mixture, shapes the rice into a ball and tells the woman that her boyfriend has to eat the rice for everlasting love to her). The gigolo agrees to pay San Kan-mi a gold bar for his services, but first the gigolo must bring the wizard some of Lo Yin's hair and her footprints in mud (!). He does and the wizard creates the love powder and a mud effigy of Lo Yin. The gigolo puts the powder in one of Lo Yin's drinks at a cocktail party and she falls madly in love with him, but a freak accident (involving the mud effigy) breaks the spell and Lo Yin forces the gigolo to tell her about the love spell. Lo Yin uses the gigolo and San Kan-mi to her advantage and has the wizard create a love spell ("Guaranteed to last a minimum of one year.") which she plans to use on Hsu Lo, but first she must collect some of Hsu's hair and blood, produce milk from her breasts (the wizard makes her swallow a potion to make this happen) and hide a human finger and teeth under Hsu's bed. Once the spell is completed, Lo Yin uses the potion at Hsu's marriage ceremony to Wang Chu-ying and Hsu walks away hand-in-hand with Lo Yin in the middle of the wedding reception. Needless to say, Wang Chu-ying is not going to take this lying down and since the spell can only be broken if San Kan-mi dies, a good sorcerer is brought in to do battle. Wang Chu-ying has a death spell put on her and only has three days to live. Is there enough time left for both spells to be broken and the newlyweds to live happily ever after? Expect some double-crosses to happen before this film is over. Director Ho Meng-Hua (who made the even crazier OILY MANIAC back-to-back with this) created a new genre of horror film with BLACK MAGIC and it's themes of magic spells, gore, nudity and good vs. evil sorcerers in a battle to the death in a modern-day setting would be copied countless times in the years to come. Besides spawning two official sequels, BLACK MAGIC 2 (a.k.a. REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES - 1976; also directed by Meng-Hua) and BLACK MAGIC III (a.k.a. QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC and BLACK MAGIC TERROR - 1979), this film's influence can be spotted in films as recent as THE ETERNAL EVIL OF ASIA (1995). Ho Meng-Hua, who also directed the cult classics THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1974), THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977; a.k.a. GOLIATHON) and the Cat III film THE RAPE AFTER (1985), fills BLACK MAGIC with delirious camera angles, nudity, a nightmare with floating ghosts, cannibalism at a construction site, brain surgery, an unbelievable laser battle (complete with force fields) by the two sorcerers while atop a highrise under construction, time lapse disintegrations, grave robbing and, of course, scenes of worms, centipedes and snakes either being eated or vomited out. If you want to see how it all started (and it's still one of the best), rent or purchase this DVD. Also starring Chen Ping, Yueh Hua and Ku Wen Chung. Filmed in Malaysia. A Celestial Pictures/Image Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
BLACK MAGIC 2 (1976) - I've been waiting quite a few years to get my hands on an uncut version of this film ever since I saw a chopped-up edit of it in theaters (distributed by World Northal Corp.) and on bootleg VHS under the title REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES. Now, thanks to the fine folks at Celestial Pictures, we can all see this film the way it was meant to be seen: Fully uncut and with English subtitles (replacing the horrendous English dubbing on earlier edits). The film opens with a bunch of topless women (all nudity was cut from the edited version) splashing around in a river when, all of a sudden, a huge crocodile grabs one of them and chows down on her. An elderly white-haired witch doctor hangs a live chicken on a hook above the river and begins chanting. The crocodile grabs the chicken and becomes hooked, as the witch doctor pulls it to shore and stabs it in the eyes, finishing the crocodile off by gutting it and pulling the contents out of it's stomach, which includes a tin can, a sandal and the unfortunate dead girl's bracelet, which he hands over to her family. We then switch to two professional city couples, who take a trip to "a tropical city" to research spells and to discover if they have any validity in modern society. Something tells me that they're not going to like what they uncover. They stop at a nightclub (a disco band plays a funky tune while a girl in a sequined bikini dances on-stage), where we watch an evil black magician (Lo Lieh; THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER - 1974) bring a beautiful woman back to his mansion, leads her into a secret room, strips her naked and then reveals that she has a giant spike embedded in the top of her skull! He slowly pulls the spike out with a pair of pliers and the beautiful girl rapidly turns into a decaying corpse. The two couples, the male members both being doctors, visit a hospital where the patients have strange skin ulcers, all said to have been caused by spells, especially the dreaded "Green Venom Poison Spell", which causes lesions that look like human faces. The black magician becomes smitten with Margaret (Tanny; HUMAN LANTERNS - 1982), the wife of one of the doctors, and puts a spell on her by stealing a drop of her blood, hanging a dead cat in her yard and pouring a potion made from her blood on one of his huge collections of wax effigies. Margaret's husband, Zhensheng (Ti Lung; 10 TIGERS OF KWANG TUNG - 1980), becomes worried for his wife's health and safety when she disappears each night. She is under the control of the black magician, who creates a potion using her freshly-shaven pubic hair (!), to make Margaret produce breast milk, which he will drink every night to keep his youthful appearance. Every night, Margaret sleepwalks to his mansion, where he sucks on her titties and then makes love to her (including some backdoor action!). When Zhensheng finally catches on to Margaret's nocturnal visits, he also discovers that she is suddenly nine months pregnant! She has an emergency c-section, where a mutated stillborn baby is delivered. Folks, this is only the first thirty minutes of the film. What comes next is truly beyond proper description and is best witnessed first hand. This is another weird and entertaining Shaw Brothers production, directed by demented genius Ho Meng-Hua (credited as "Horace Mengwa" on the abortive English language prints), who also directed the original BLACK MAGIC (1975; which stars many of the same actors here, but in different roles), as well as THE OILY MANIAC (1976), THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977; a.k.a. GOLIATHON) and THE RAPE AFTER (1985). The screenplay, by I Kuang (THE KILLER SNAKES - 1974), gets increasingly more bizarre as the film progresses, as we watch the black magician (whose name is revealed as Kang Cong!) perform his various spells (usually love spells for some poor schmucks that invariably go very, very wrong) obtaining blood or a personal item from his victims, which he uses to make potions to pour over his wax dolls or on the many dead, rotting corpses he keeps in the basement of his mansion. He then hammers a giant spike into the tops of their heads and, presto!, instant zombie with a youthful appearance. There's so much more insanity on view, including grave robbing, dead cat whipping, breast milk squirting, stop-motion disintegrations, skin lesions containing slimy worms and a zombie attack in the finale that is as surreal as it is horrific. There's also the prerequisite battle between the good magician (the white-haired witch doctor from the beginning of the film) and the black magician, where the black magician drives giant nails into his own cheeks and hands while the good magician rips out his own eyes and gives them to the hero for protection! I won't even mention the fight on a moving tram car that offers some of the chintziest blue screen work in recent memory. There's also tons of nudity and sex on view, all of it missing from the English language version; so much so, that it plays like an entirely different film. This is twisted horror in the best sense and gets my highest recommendation. A second in-name-only sequel, the Indonesian QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1979), followed. Also starring Liu Hui-Ju, Lily Li, Lin Wei-Tu, Frankie Wei and Yang Ai-Hua. A Celestial Pictures DVD Release in a beautiful widescreen print. Not Rated.
BLACK MAMBA (1974) - This weird, little-seen Philippines-lensed horror film opens in a fog-shrouded graveyard, where we see a hunchback ghoul break into a crypt and cart off a body after stealing an unusual gold ring off the corpse's finger. As he is dragging the body through the graveyard, he is startled by the sudden appearance of a witch (Marlene Clark) dressed in black and he runs away. The ring ends up in a jewelry store and we see the witch purchase it. While in church, Elena (Pilar Pilapil) notices the ring on the witch's finger and has words with her outside. The ring belonged to Elena's dead husband and he was buried with it, so she wants to know why the witch is wearing it now. The witch turns and walks away and, in flashbacks, we learn that the witch was having an affair with Elena's husband a short time before he died. Elena and her young son Michael (Steve Maniquiz) now live with her sister Barbara (Rosemary Gil) and her husband Fred (Filipino stalwart Eddie Garcia). Fred wants a child of his own, but Barbara is incapable of having any (He tells Elena, "She's as barren as the Sahara!"), so he looks at Michael as his own son. The strain it is having on Fred and Barbara's marriage is highly evident. When the hunchback is found dead in the graveyard (the witch frightens him to death by putting a vision in his head that the body he is stealing has come back to life), the police ask kindly town doctor Paul Morgan (John Ashley) to perform an autopsy to find the cause of death. Paul is also treating the jewelry store shopkeeper (Alfonso Cavajal), who is having visions of the Grim Reaper (complete with scythe), since the witch put a spell on him for buying the ring from the hunchback. The witch makes a wax effigy of the shopkeeper and gives him a heart attack, killing him. Paul and Elena are having a picnic on the beach and a black bird steals Elena's handkerchief. The witch uses the hankerchief in one of her rituals (also including a wax doll) to give Elena severe headaches, forcing Elena to pass out at a bus stop. The witch weasels herself into Paul's life, but when the shopkeeper is finally found dead in his home nine days later, a thief is killed after jumping through the jewelry store window and Elena is seriously hurt and ends up in the hospital, Paul has to put aside his "logical explanations" and learn to fight the unknown with magic. When little Michael gets caught in the middle of this mess, good will have to fight evil (including using a medicine man , who tries to whip the evil out of Elena) in the ultimate battle of power. Since this film never got a legitimate release in the United States until recently, it's not as well known as some other Filipino horror films made around the same time, like NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN (1972, also starring Marlene Clark in a role similar to the one she plays here) or the many horror and action films the late John Ashley made there, including the BLOOD ISLAND trilogy and SAVAGE SISTERS (1974). Director George Rowe (ENEMY a.k.a. FATAL MISSION - 1989) keeps the bloodshed and carnage to a minimum, relying on the supernatural elements, like voodoo ceremonies, visions and graveyard fog to convey a mood of dread. There is one gruesome scene where a coroner performs an autopsy on the shopkeeper's body, where he removes and cuts into the heart and extracts the brain using a bonesaw (after peeling back the scalp), but this sequence seems to have been inserted strictly for shock value (some say it's real autopsy footage) as it's out-of-place with the rest of the film. The screenplay (by Carl Kuntze) tries to find a parallel between modern medicine and ancient beliefs in witchcraft and how they both can be accepted as legitimate science. While there is no nudity in this film, a snake does crawl between Elena's legs and enters her snatch and, if I'm not mistaken, Old Scratch makes an appearance during a ritual involving dancing girls dressed in red (It is his favorite color after all!). There is also an exorcism (THE EXORCIST was new and novel at the time) and, if you ever wanted to see John Ashley deliver a baby, pick it up with one hand and slap it on the ass, then this is the film for you. Some may find this too dull and soap opera-like to sustain interest. It's rarity makes it worth at least one look in my book. Also starring Willie Nepomuceno (as the hunchback), Laurice Guillen, Antonio Carrion and Andres Centenera. Is it just me or does John Ashley seem to sleepwalk through his role here? The print I viewed looks like a dub taken from a worn, soft-looking 16mm print with some noisy and scratchy sound problems. It's watchable, though. Now available on DVD as part of the BLOOD-O-RAMA 4 movie compilation from Image Entertainment. The print on the DVD is not much better than the print I viewed and it has new, video-generated titles. Not Rated. UPDATE: Screenwriter Carl Kuntze emailed CritCon with this juicy bit of behind-the-scenes information: "The making of BLACK MAMBA was more interesting than how the movie turned out. The autopsy was supposed to be conducted by a certified pathologist, who hadn't shown up as promised. A Filipino morgue attendant volunteered. "I will be the one. I know how." He didn't even have proper instruments. When the doctor showed up five hours after the filming was over, he was shocked at the condition of the body. It was completely mangled. It had to be buried in a sealed coffin. The relatives of the corpse, who was convicted of capital crimes, had consented to the autopsy for the money to bury him. Had they seen the body, they might have committed some mangling themselves. John Ashley and most of the production crew were puking their guts out. I reshot the autopsy using a pig's brain and entrails. The skull was reconstructed from ceramics by an artist. A reviewer complimented the protocol. The producer himself used a surgical saw. I intended to rewrite it according to the original premise: Santeria (Palo Mayombe). I didn't have a devil worship scene, and my doctor was not in The Peace Corps. He was an incompetent hiding his failings in a small town. John Ashley did his best acting in this movie. He should have taken it more seriously."
BLACK SHEEP (2006) - Good and gory horror comedy filmed in New Zealand. Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) returns to his family's sheep farm for the first time in fifteen years, only now he has a deathly fear of sheep, thanks to a cruel prank played on him by his sadistic brother Angus (Peter Feeney; 30 DAYS OF NIGHT - 2007) and the death of his father in an accident, both happening on the same day fifteen years earlier. Henry has reluctantly returned home to stop the sale of his father's farm by Angus and to try and get over his fear of sheep at his therapist's urging. Sometimes therapists are full of shit, as Henry will soon find out. Angus hands Henry a check for two million dollars (his share of the sale), but Henry feels uneasy about accepting the money because he knows that Angus is up to no good. Henry might want to hold on to that check because things are about to get very weird. A few miles down the road, two vegetarian environmentalists, Experience (Danielle Mason) and Grant (Oliver Driver), steal a canister of genetic waste from an experimental laboratory. While running away, Grants stumbles and drops the canister, breaking it, and out pops a genetically altered baby mutant sheep. It bites Grant on the ear and then goes on its merry way to infect the first flock of sheep it runs across, turning them into human-hating killing machines. While Grant starts mutating into a weresheep (I kid [ahem] you not. He begins eating live bunny rabbits and then moves on to larger prey.), Experience, who hasn't heard a New Age-y mantra she hasn't repeated more than once, joins forces with Henry and his old friend Tucker (Tammy Davis) to fight the mutating angry sheep and make it to safety. When it's revealed that Angus is involved in the genetic engineering of sheep (Grant gives him a bite on the hand as a big "Fuck You!!!"), Henry, Experience and Tucker (who is slowly being turned into a mutated sheep after being bitten on the foot) try to stop Angus and head genetic scientist Dr. Rush (Tandri Wright), but Tucker is captured, while Henry and Experience fall into a pit of decaying sheep parts (the results of failed experiments) when they try to get away. They are not alone in the pit and beat a hasty retreat when they find a series of tunnels that run under the farm. They run into a fully-mutated Grant (a sight to behold) and then witness the slaughter of Angus' potential investors at an unveiling of a new breed of successfully genetically-altered sheep stock (Angus falls in love with the single mutated female sheep and then has sex with it, luckily for us, off-screen!). It all ends at the Oldfield family farm, where secrets are revealed, fears are erased, antidotes are administered. a airplane's propeller is used as a murder weapon and the mutated sheep emit highly-flammable flatulence. Shear brilliance! This goofball and extremely bloody horror film, directed and written by Jonathan King (UNDER THE MOUNTAIN - 2009), is not only funny as hell, it also contains some outstanding makeup effects which are refreshingly CGI-free. The sight of a fully-mutated Grant shearing himself is sure to raise a chuckle or two, but when Angus begins to slowly transform, first by speech ("Those baaa-stards!") and then physically (his bitten hand turns into a sheep's hoof), while watching all his investors get devoured by a flock of infected sheep, I dare you not to laugh out loud. This sequence is definitely the film's gore highlight, as arms are bitten off, intestines pulled out of stomachs, throats torn out, faces bitten off, a priest reading out loud from the Bible (the word "flock" is mentioned) before getting his just due and other bloody mayhem; all filmed not only for maximum visual impact, but also for maximum comical effect. I guarantee that you will never look at sheep the same way again (I grew up with sheep, so I know their normal temperment, but director King had me a believer in a very short time, thanks to some well-edited cuts between real sheep and the animatronic kind) and this would make a great companion piece with underrated director Fredric Hobbs' GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (1973), another film that deals with politics and a genetically mutated sheep. If you want to see a horror comedy done the right way, I urge you to rent or purchase BLACK SHEEP. The beautiful green New Zealand locations are merely icing on a very flavorful cake. Not to be confused with the 1996 Chris Farley/David Spade comedy of the same name. Also starring Glenis Levestam, Richard Chapman, Louis Sutherland, Ian Harcourt and Matt Chamberlain. A Dimension Extreme Films DVD Release. Unrated.
BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH (1984) - Sometimes funny British parody that lampoons numerous horror and sci-fi films (some obvious, some subtle), made by and starring the cast and crew of the hugely popular British series, THE KENNY EVERETT VIDEO SHOW (1978 - 1981) and THE KENNY EVERETT TELEVISION SHOW (1981 - 1988). In 1975, a group of robed Satanists invade stately boarding house Headstone Manor and kill everyone inside by various bloody means (axe to the head, skewered in bed, decapitation, etc.). The next morning, when the police arrive, they find eighteen dead bodies and have no clue as to the motive (or do they?). Nine years later, a group of scientists and paranormal investigators, led by Dr. Lukas Mandeville (Everett) and his assistant, Dr. Barbara Coyle (Pamela Stephenson; who speaks with an annoying lisp), arrive at Headstone Manor to find out the truth of what happened there in 1975. When Lukas and Barbara stop at a pub on the way to the manor, they notice all the patrons (even a dog!) have a strange symbol tattooed on their bodies and it soon becomes apparent to the viewers that most of the townspeople belong to a satanic cult ruled by the 700 year-old Sinister Man (Vincent Price; who, in his very first scene, delivers a hilarious monologue in reply to a female cult member, who tells him to "piss off".). It seems that nine years earlier, the Sinister Man was supposed to resurrect Satan at Headstone Manor, but the presence of the eighteen borders stopped him from doing so. Tonight is the night to try again, but the sudden appearance of Lukas and the gang at the manor may hamper the resurrection, so Satan sends evil doppelgangers of Lukas and his team into the manor to kill the pesky humans. As the doppelgangers come up with creative ways to dispose of their human counterparts, lone survivor Barbara is whisked-off to safety by her new invisible lover (in a manner sure to upset Steven Spielberg), thereby foiling Satan's plans once again for world domination. Won't that horned devil ever learn? This is a hit-or-miss kitchen sink comedy that contains more misses than hits, but it does have some laugh-out-loud moments and, surprisingly, a lot of them come courtesy of Vincent Price, who shows an uncanny knack for comedy timing, swears like a truck driver and looks like he's having the time of his life here. Director/producer/co-scripter Ray Cameron (who, with writing partner Barry Cryer, wrote most of the gags for Everett's TV series and the VHS-only THE KENNY EVERETT NAUGHTY JOKE BOX - 1981) lampoons nearly every horror movie from the 70's and early-80's imaginable (in one such instance, Stephenson gets raped by an invisible presence, ala Pamela Franklin in THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE , only Stephenson shares a cigarette with her transparent attacker when he is finished) and doesn't skimp on the blood and gore. In a funny take-off of CARRIE (1976), a telekinetic daughter punishes her uber-religious mother by cutting her head off with a manual can opener! In an inventive parody of ALIEN (1979), Everett collapses on the dinner table and his stomach looks as if something is about to burst through it. After a minute of screaming and rolling about, Everett lets out a loud burp and everything's fine (What can I say? I'm a sucker for burp and fart jokes.). The makeup effects are surprisingly well done and graphic, but are always used for comic effect (there's a death by telephone that's a direct steal from Price's THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES  and when evil doppelganger Elliot [Gareth Hunt] strangles his human counterpart, the real Elliott wonders, "Does this count as suicide?"). There are also knife-carrying teddy bears and other comical mayhem, like a blood-spewing bathroom whose toilet swallows paranormal investigator Henry (John Stephen Hill; who sports the biggest arm mole in film history) whole, but the film really belongs to Vincent Price, who brings big laughs in the few scenes he is in. When he dies (He tells his cult, "Well don't just stand there, light the faggots!" and they accidentally burn him to death!), the film loses it's greatest comical asset. Truthfully, I didn't find Kenny Everett all that funny here. Still, BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH is an OK satire of horror films that has too many visual gags to count (notice the name of the magazine the openly-gay Elliot is reading just before he is strangled) and ends with a couple of profane E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL jokes. Also starring Don Warrington, John Fortune, Sheila Steafel, Cleo Rocos, Graham Stark and David Lodge. Available on VHS from Media Home Entertainment in the SP Mode and on budget label Video Treasures in the EP Mode. Not available on DVD in the U.S., but available on British DVD & Blu-Ray. Rated R.
BLOODBEAT (1982) - There are many facets of this French-made, lensed in Wisconsin film that categorize it as a badfilm: Confusing storyline, lousy sound, flubbed lines, cheap optical effects and below-par photography. But when they are mixed in together it proves to be a fascinating (if mind-boggling) experience. A family, with a few secrets of their own, are terrorized by the spectre of a Japanese samurai warrior (at least I think it is a samurai warrior, the story is that confusing!) at their home deep in the woods. The mother, who goes into trances and paints surreal pictures, suffers migraine headaches and emits glowing red rays from her hands. The brother, who has come home from college along with his sister to celebrate Christmas, brings his girlfriend who has the same type of attacks as his mother. She believes she has been in this house before and has dreams of the surrounding neighbors being slaughtered by the sword-waving warrior. The mother's boyfriend, a deer hunter, walks around the house looking perplexed, wondering what the hell is going on (at least I'm not the only one!). People begin to die, some by sword, some by arrow before Mom's two kids step in and dispatch the sword-weilding samurai with their newfound magical power. Are you as confused as I am? Good! I wish I could describe the plot better, but the damn music soundtrack kept drowning out crucial bits of dialogue which could have helped explained this mess. There is some nudity (the girlfriend has the smallest nipples I have ever seen on a woman!) and bloody gore (knives entering bodies, a bloody stomach and neck wound) to keep your mind briefly occupied, but your brain will continually try to make sense of the screenplay. Good luck. Where else in the world can you see a French-made film about a Japanese killer on the loose in the United States? In this aspect alone, BLOODBEAT is worth the price of a rental or purchase. Starring: Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Claudia Peyton, James Fitzgibbons, Dana Day. Dir & Sc: Fabrice-Ange Zaphiratos/ Prod: Helen A. Boley, Henri Zaphiratos/ An International Film Marketing Presentation. A Huskypup Film Production. A Trans World Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.
BLOOD CREEK (2008) - It's hard to believe that A-List director Joel Schumacher, who gave us such entertaining (and not-so-entertaining) films as THE LOST BOYS (1987), FLATLINERS (1990), FALLING DOWN (1993), 8MM (1999), THE NUMBER 23 (2007) and those two embarrassing 90's BATMAN films, would finally fall into the DTV vacuum, but here is the proof. The funny thing is, BLOOD CREEK belongs on the big screen because it is quite entertaining and somewhat ingenious, to boot. The film opens in the 1930's, when Adolph Hitler was in search of Nordic runestones. He believed these runestones would lead the Nazi race to world domination and even immortality (It is a well-known fact that Hitler was very interested in the Black Arts and how it could help his cause, both personally and professionally). We then switch to a pig farm in Morgan County, West Virginia. The year is 1936 and farm owner Otto Wollner (Rainer Winkelvoss) receives a letter from Berlin that asks him to host Richard Wirth (Michael Fassbender; EDEN LAKE - 2008; PROMETHEUS - 2012), who plans to conduct research in their region on "German heritage". I don't know about you, but this whole enterprise doesn't smell kosher, but Otto and his family will receive $150 a month (a lot of money in 1936) as long as Wirth stays with them, so Otto agrees even though Mama Wollner (Joy McBrinn) has reservations. The mysterious Herr Wirth arrives with a few trunks packed with books on the supernatural and before long he's making statements like "Columbus was a fraud" and "Soon, the whole world will be speaking German!" He is particularly interested in the runestone Otto has recently dug up on his property (He tells Otto that the Norsemen were the first to discover America, but the Indians chased them away. They left a few magical runestones behind before they fled.) and when Otto tells him that he used the runestone as part of the foundation to build his barn, Herr Wirth says, "How forward thinking of you!" Mama Wollner is very leery of Herr Wirth and for good reason, as he has a briefcase containing the skull and spinal column of some as yet-unknown person, along with a dagger with runic symbols on it. Herr Wirth goes to the basement of the barn, where Otto's young 12 year-old daughter, Liese, is mourning the death of her pet bird. Wirth takes the corpse of the bird and recites an incantation next to the runestone in the foundation (which contains ancient symbols that the Nazis would adopt for their flag [the swastika] and police force [the SS insignia]) and the bird comes back to life, but only for a short while. Wirth says that with more practice, he could bring dead things back to life permanently and then asks Liese to be his helper. The film then switches (from black & white to color) to modern-day Morgan County, where paramedic Evan Marshall (Henry Cavill; HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD - 2003; and future MAN OF STEEL - 2013) must not only have to deal with murderous overdosing meth-heads at his job, but also a fucked-up personal life that contains his missing brother's wife and two kids, a sickly father (Gerald McSorley) and the memory of his missing brother Victor (Dominic Purcell; THE GRAVEDANCERS - 2006; ASSAULT ON WALL STREET - 2013), who came home after fighting in Iraq and then mysteriously disappeared two years ago when he and Evan went fishing at "Town Creek" (the film's original title). When Victor suddenly appears in Evan's trailer (with long stringy hair and a beard), he begs Evan to come back to Town Creek with him to destroy an evil that can't be described. It seems Victor was being held captive and tortured at Otto Wollner's farm and it looks like the entire Wollner family is still very much alive and kicking and have only aged five years since 1936. Pretty soon, you too, will be asking, just like Evan, "What's in the black container?" I'm afraid you'll have to watch the movie to find out, but I've given you enough clues in this review for you to figure it out. This is an excellent horror film (lensed in Romania) that, thankfully, contains none of director Joel Schumacher's overblown excesses to remind us that we are watching a Schumacher film. This is a straight-ahead horror flick and David Kajganich's bizarre screenplay, which mixes Nordic legends, Nazi experiments and slasher film elements, keeps the viewers on their toes. There's a lot to recommend here, especially the scene where a monstrous-looking Herr Wirth kills a horse, brings it back to life and then sends it to kick down the door of Otto's farmhouse (Wirth can't enter the house because it is protected by ancient symbols painted all over it), where Victor and Evan try to kill the horse with shotgun blasts to no avail. The scene is not only suspenseful as hell, it's also very gory. There's a lot more to enjoy here, which I will leave you to discover. The use of CGI is thankfully minimal (the horse being set on fire is obvious CGI) and there is loads of blood and gore on display, making this the perfect film to watch with the lights out. Joel Schumacher should slum more often. He's very good at it. Also starring Emma Booth as the eternally 17 year-old Liese, Shea Higham, Laszlo Matray, Troy Barger and Albert Gherasim. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R. NOTE: Definitely check out Schumacher's other films TWELVE (2010), about the day in the life of a drug dealer and his friends and TRESPASS (2011), a thriller starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. It's two more of his films that bypassed most theatrical playdates and went directly to VOD, DVD and cable. They both deserve better treatment than they have gotten.
BLOOD DINER (1987) - Director Jackie Kong has only directed four films; the horror flick THE BEING (1981), the police kitchen sink comedy NIGHT PATROL (1984; with a farting Billy Barty), the comedy THE UNDERACHIEVERS (1987) and this horror film, an Unrated black comedy originally supposed to be a remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis' BLOOD FEAST (1963), but changed at the last minute to be a film to stand on it's own. Screenwriter Michael Sonye (who is also an actor [NIGHTMARE SISTERS - 1987] and a musician in a band called Haunted Garage) tries to pay homage to Lewis' film with bits of dialogue and scenes found in the original film, but this one is even more badly acted than the film it purports to originally copy. Two young boys see their serial killer/chef Uncle Anwar (Drew Godderis) killed by police in a hail of gunfire on the front lawn of their home (Mom is out buying tampons!). Twenty years later, the two boys, Michael & George Tutman (Rick Burks, Carl Crew) are seen digging up Uncle Anwar's grave (one of them hits the graveyard's secruity guard in back of the head so hard, his eyes pop out of their sockets) and put Uncle Anwar's brain and eyes in a fluid-filled jar and take him back to their diner, where Anwar (who can somehow speak without vocal cords) tells them how to create Sheetar, an ancient Sumerian goddess who will take over the world by turning everyone into mindless zombies who will do her bidding. The two boys must create her from the parts of the sluttiest women they can find and feed her a virgin as her first meal to bring her to full life. The boys go about creating the woman, first bursting in on a nude aerobics class and killing them all with machine guns, taking some body parts with them. Meanwhile the police chief (Max Morris) has two detectives, Sheba Jackson (LaNette La France; a worse actress you will never see grace the screen) and Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer; he runs a close second in the bad acting department) investigate a series of murders where women of ill repute are found dead with pieces of their bodies missing. Meanwhile, Michael falls in love with virgin Connie Stanton (Lisa Guggenheim, whose real name is Lisa Elaina), but he is still going to use her as the final sacrifice. When the entire Sheetar (Tanya Papanicolas) is assembled and a huge party is thrown at the diner, lots of people end up dead when Sheetar is accidentally fed the head of Michael rather than Connie and she starts shooting bolts of electricity out of her fingertips (One guy has both ear drums punctured as the bolt of lightning travels through one ear and out the other), turning the patrons into zombies. The police finally put an end to the madness, when they shoot all the zombies in the head, kill George, destroy Anwar in his glass jar and make Sheetar (who has a huge set of teeth running from her breasts to her vagina) explode. It's beyond me why people like this film so much. Sure it is gory and full of blood and guts, but nearly everyone either yells out their lines (especially the Chief of Police, who for some reason talks in a thick Muslim accent) or speaks in such an unnatural way, like they are either reading from cue cards or just don't know how to act. There is a comedy routine where George tries to run over a fat guy in his catering van, only for the fat guy to get up again and again; another scene where George wants to become a wrestler, so he fights a guy called Little Jimmy Hitler (John Barton Shields) and some of the items on the diner's menu are priceless. Still, this is Jackie Kong's least professional film, since she uses none of the B-movie stars that she used in her other three films. Even her then-husband, Bill Osco (who produced/acted in COP KILLERS - 1973, produced FLESH GORDON - 1974, executive produced CHEERLEADERS WILD WEEKEND - 1978, produced Kong's other three films and directed the disgusting comedy film GROSS OUT - 1990 as "Janus Alucard Stelloff"), refused to touch this film (although he is listed as "Creative Consultant" under the name "Mr. Osco"). Jimmy Maslon produced this film. Maslon would go on to Associate Produce H.G. Lewis' BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL U CAN EAT (2002; along with the late Mike Vraney) and Co-Direct (with Frank Henenlotter)/Produce (with Mike Vraney) the Lewis documentary HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE (2010). Carl Crew (this was his first acting assignment) also played the title character in THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER (1993; he also wrote and co-produced it), as well as working with Bill Osco on a few of his films including GROSS OUT (which he wrote under the pseudonym "Phillip P. Pillsburry") and URBAN LEGENDS - 1994 and the short ART OF NUDE BOWLING (1995), both which can be found on Code Red's DVD of THE UNKNOWN COMEDY SPECIAL (1987; also directed by Bill Osco). Carl Crew is still working today, although both Jackie Kong and Bill Osco seem to have retired from the filmmaking business. The live music in this film is by Dino Lee and The Luv Johnsons (all the music has a faux 50's-to-early-60's feel to it). Also starring Roxanne Cybelle (she plays the young Michael in the beginning of the film!), Sir Rodenheaver, Bob Loya, Alan Corona, Deseree Rose and Laurie Guzda. Most of the actors in this film never went on to appear in another one. Thank your lucky stars. Originally available in its Unrated form by Vestron Video and is now available on DVD in its Unrated form and letterboxed by Lionsgate Films in its HORROR COLLECTION 6 MOVIE PACK. The only caveat is that they cram three movies on a single DVD, but the print was clean and didn't have any artifacting that I could tell. Unrated.
BLOOD FREAK (1972) - This is required viewing for all badfilm fanatics: A Christian-themed gore film which may or may not be a joke on the viewer. When biker Herschell (Steve Hawkes) meets the deeply religious Angel and she brings him home, he gets caught up with Angel's drug-taking sister Ann and becomes hooked on weed after smoking one joint. Herschell finds a job working on a turkey farm and makes some extra money on the side tasting the genetically-altered turkeys developed by scientists working in the farm's lab. The mixture of pot smoking and eating the tainted turkey turns Herschell into the infamous turkey-headed monster, whose thirst can only be satisfied by drinking the blood of junkies, poking their throats with an ice pick and scooping up their blood with his hands and feeding it into his beak. He also amputates the leg of a dealer with a buzzsaw (a real-life amputee; you can watch him limping as he tries to run away from Herschell), letting the blood from his bloody stump run all over his oversized turkey head. This all turns out to be a dream. Herschell just passed out after eating the turkey and dreamed the whole thing up. Angel cleans up Herschell's drug addiction with the help of the Lord and Ann also cleans up her act. Herschell and Ann live happily ever after. The film is interrupted at various times by an on-screen narrator (Brad Grinter, who shared writing, producing and directing chores on this with star Hawkes), who chain-smokes while reading off a script on his desk extolling the virtues of clean living and decrying the use of chemicals in your body. His last on-screen appearance is a hoot as he has a coughing fit while talking about putting unnatural substances in your body (A lot of people seem to think this is unintentional. I think otherwise. You decide.). The blood does flow in this film (especially the leg amputation), but the whole film is so badly acted and photographed, that you just sit there shaking your head in disbelief. The DVD version of BLOOD FREAK is so clear, you can see the burn marks on Steve Hawkes arms that he received during an accident while making some Tarzan knock-off films (including TARZAN AND THE BROWN PRINCE and KING OF THE JUNGLE - both 1969) in South America. He explains the burns in this film as being the results of Vietnam war action. Brad Grinter is also the director of the notorious FLESH FEAST (1969 - Veronica Lake's last film), the biker film DEVIL RIDER (1970) and was Unit Coordinator on MASTERBLASTER (1986). Even though I think BLOOD FREAK was made as a joke to disturb both Christian leaders and drug-takers, it's still one of the best badfilms ever made. Once you watch it, you will never forget it. Isn't that enough? Also starring Dana Culliver, Heather Hughes and Larry Wright. Originally released on VHS by Regal Video, Inc. with a budget VHS by Video Treasures to follow. A Something Weird Video DVD Release. Not Rated.
BLOOD HARVEST (1985) - There's an old saying that goes, "Nothing is scarier than meeting a clown in the dark." SEINFELD's Kramer was deathly afraid of clowns. I bet half the world's adult population would shit their pants if they met a clown alone in a dark alley. Who wouldn't? For a profession that is supposed to bring joy to children's faces, it has the exact opposite effect on adults. Put Tiny Tim, the world's scariest man-child, in clown makeup and you have yourself on of the screen's most perverse characters. Tim portrays The Marvelous Mervo, a retarded man who wears clown makeup and an outlandish colorful wardrobe. The setting is a 1980's Wisconson farm town, which most of the farmers are having their buisnesses foreclosed and auctioned off thanks to President Reagan's economic plan. College girl Jill (Itonia 'Cari' Salochek) return to town to visit her parents, who turn up missing. Jill's father is the banker who is foreclosing all the farms and the sheriff and the townspeople don't seem too concerned about finding him. Jill meets her grade school boyfriend Gary (Ed Bevin), whose parents were murdered years before, their throats cut and hung upside down in a barn near Jill's parents house. These murders permanently changed Gary's brother, Mervin, who is also known as The Marvelous Mervo. Soon Jill is being terrorized by some person wearing a stocking over his head. She is chloroformed, stripped naked and tied spread-eagle to her bed while she is sleeping. The unknown assailant then takes Polaroids of her and redresses her so she is none the wiser. Scott (a young Peter Krause of HBO's SIX FEET UNDER [2001 - 2005]), Jill's college boyfriend, comes to town to keep her company, much to Gary's chagrin as he peeps on the two lovebirds making out. It's not long before Scott is knocked-out and hung upside down in the barn. Jill's friend Sarah (Lori Minneti) is the next victim, having an arrow shot in her hand and then stripped hanging upside down in the barn and having her throat cut. Jill is then abducted after being drugged and is brought to the barn. The killer makes Scott watch him sexually fondle Jill before he slits Scott's throat. It's obvious to everyone that Gary is the killer and it's up to Mervin to save the day before Jill becomes another barn victim, even if she thinks that Mervin is the killer. This was director Bill Rebane's final film (so far) and it is most definitely his best. This is the most atypical Rebane film as it is full of gore and nudity, something you usually don't see in his films. It is also his best-paced film as it moves very quickly and has a halfway decent plot (even if you can guess who the killer is after the first 10 minutes). The late Tiny Tim does a good job playing the off-kilter Mervo (I guess it was not such a stretch), evoking terror as the clown-faced retard in the beginning and a sympathetic (if still scary) hero in the end. The film is available here for the first time on DVD in the unseen director's cut under the title NIGHTMARE, a title Rebane preferred to BLOOD HARVEST or it's alternate title THE MARVELOUS MERVO. (This director's cut is also missing some of the extreme gore and exposition found on the VHS version using the title BLOOD HARVEST, an almost impossible to find item released in the late 80s). It's must-viewing for anyone looking for something bizarre and outrageous. And now a little background on Tiny Tim: Mr. Tim (Real name: Herbert Butros Khaury) was most definitely an aquired taste. You either loathed him or loved him as he never gave you any middle ground. He had the face of a pedophile and the voice of a child. That inner conflict didn't sit well with the older generation, even if he sang and talked like he was living in the 1920's. The counterculture took a liking to him during the late 60's, thanks to his frequent appearances on LAUGH-IN. He became so popular that his wedding to Miss Vicki (whom he later divorced) was held live on the TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson. Times became hard for Tiny during the late 70's into the 80's. He still had a small fan base, but the general public grew tired of his act. Director Bill Rebane took a liking to Tiny and offered him what was to be his only starring role. Rebane even filmed a pilot for a children's show starring Tiny. It never aired. After suffering several heart attacks and other bouts of bad health (including debilitating migraines), Tiny Tim tiptoed off this Earth on November 30, 1996, leaving behind a boxfull of psychedelic memories that only us zonked-out Baby Boomers could really appreciate. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated. NOTE: Fred Olen Ray and Retromedia Entertainment pulled the DVD off the market due to a lawsuit with director Bill Rebane. NOTE #2: This film can now be found on DVD under the title NIGHTMARE on the Brentwood DVD compilation PSYCHOTIC TENDENCIES (2005).
BLOOD NA$TY (1989) - It's hard to believe it took two people to direct this crappy horror comedy. A trio of thieves dig up the grave of notorious serial killer Luis 'Blade' Orlando, the "Butcher from Bogota" ("He killed for the fun of it. Claimed it kept him alive"), to get a valuable ring on his finger. Roy Flowers (Todd McCammon) is betrayed by the other two thieves, who kill Roy (they shove a pipe through his midsection and bury him on top of Blade), take the ring and hop on a plane. As luck would have it, the plane explodes above Blade's grave and the ring falls on top of Roy's dead body. Roy comes back to life (he walks around comically with the pipe through his body until he has someone cut off both ends), possessed by the spirit of Blade. Roy's white trash family, Mom (Catherine McGuinness) and Sis (Allison Barron), think Roy is dead since his cohorts used his ticket on the ill-fated flight. A lawyer by the name of Barry Hefna (Troy Donahue) comes to their house and hands Mom a check for $300,000, the insurance payout for his death in the plane explosion. When Roy shows up at Mom's new house alive, money-hungry Mom must find a way to keep her son's sudden appearance a secret from Barry, who shows up at the most inconvenient times. Roy begins having spells, where he speaks in a Spanish accent (Mom says, "What is it with this beaner talk? It's native wetback!"), starts to decompose and is prone to violent episodes (Ron says to Sis, "Did you ever have deja-vu?", to which she replies, "Is that Spanish?"). Roy kills his nurse girlfriend Sylvia (Shannon Absher) by cutting her up with an electric knife (off-screen) and Mom and Sis help him bury her in the backyard. Blade's psychic stripper girlfriend Wanda Dance (Linnea Quigley) shows up at Mom's house and soon Roy/Blade and Wanda scheme to take the money away from Mom (Roy even shoves Mom's hand into the garbage disposal, in the film's goriest effect, to show her who is boss). Mom and Barry (who now knows that Roy is alive) conspire with Wanda to kill Roy to collect a two million dollar wrongful death settlement from the airline, but Roy/Blade beats Barry to death with a baseball bat (off-screen). Sis and her boyfriend Danny (co-director Richard Gabai) try to find a way to get Blade out of Roy's body and even involve themselves with Wanda, who conducts a seance (it turns out badly). After a setback involving pool men (a running joke throughout the film), Sis and Danny, armed with a pipe wrench (!), extract the evil out of Roy with a few twists of the wrist. This impossibly cheap, terribly unfunny horror/comedy is virtually unseen here in the United States (it was never able to acquire a distribution deal). There's a reason for that. It stinks. Co-directors Richard Gabai (ASSAULT OF THE PARTY NERDS - 1989) and Robert Strauss (who also co-wrote the threadbare screenplay with Burford Hauser) have crafted a comedy without any laughs and a horror film without any scares. To prove it to you, here's the best comedy exchange, when Sis and Danny try to figure out a way to get Blade's spirit out of Roy's body: Sis: "The answer lies in that pipe in his stomach." Danny: "Maybe we should call a plumber!" Pure comedy gold! There are a couple of good instances of gore, such as the garbage disposal sequence and a scene where Roy/Blade cuts off a piece of Mom's tongue with nail clippers, but otherwise it's a pretty dry and dreary affair. Linnea Quigley spends most of her screen time topless or half-dressed, but name a film she was in during the 80's where she wasn't. BLOOD NA$TY (that is the actual on-screen title) is like that strange relative that no one in your family likes to talk about. It's best kept locked in a place where it can never escape. Too broadly acted to be funny and not remotely scary enough to be considered horror. It's just horribly unfunny. Also starring Karen Russell, Jamie James and Michelle Winding. The end credits contain (obviously) fake crew names and David DeCoteau (DREAMANIAC - 1986) is thanked. The print I viewed was a dub of a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Those Greeks will watch anything. Not Rated.
BLOOD ORGY OF THE LEATHER GIRLS (1988) - This no-budget horror comedy (whick looks like it was edited in a moving car by a meth addict going through withdrawal) opens with a montage of unrelated scenes, including footage of a real birth of a baby, a woman rubbing blood over her breasts and a spinning drill bit next to some guy's naked hairy ass, while the on-screen narrator, Detective Joe Morton (Phillip Silverstein), warns us that what we are about to see is "the most bloody series of crimes ever perpetrated by a group of adolescent girls". We are then introduced to those girls, some of them named Rawhide and Fleabrain. One is a Jewish girl who secretly worships Adolph Hitler (she hides his photos behind an Israeli flag). Another is a religious fanatic who practices bloody self-flagellation. Another is a fan of Western films who masturbates to a photo of John Wayne (her bedroom is plastered with Spaghetti Western posters). The last one is an exercise fanatic who shadowboxes a rubber bat on a string. After they get dressed and stuff weapons in their bras (guns, strait razors), they all congregate, hop into a convertible and drive to their Catholic school. At the "No Girls Allowed" clubhouse, four guys drinking Stroh's discuss bowling and ninjas. We are then introduced to Lenny Rice, "Teen Tycoon of Smut" (Sven-Erik Geddes), a porno filmmaker who shoots rubber darts onto the breasts of his porn actresses while they work out. The Leather Girls attack a guy wearing a "Super Dad" t-shirt and beat him bloody. Rawhide (Melissa Lawrence) then stabs a beat cop to death, steals his gun and eats a piece of of his flesh. We then see a drunk driver run over a baby in a carriage while Detective Morton shows photos of the baby's dismembered hand and rails against drinking and driving. The Leather Girls then throw a bowling ball through the car's windshield and stab the drunk driver to death. When a friend of the Leather Girls is raped at a school dance, they follow the rapist in their car, but lose him. Working on an obscure hunch, the Leather Girls begin a journey of death, killing anyone they think is involved in the rape. As the bodies begin piling up, Fleabrain (Jo Ann Wyman) is given the task of cutting up the bodies and disposing of the parts (people scream when they discover fingers and other body parts on the sidewalk). The girls then chase a guy into a ninja academy (we know it's a "Ninja Academy", because a hand-painted sign tells us so) and blow everyone away after the ninja teacher makes one of the girls play "Ninja Roulette" (it's the same as Russian Roulette). The girls capture Lenny Rice at a drive-in (where a really bad movie about "perimeter zombies" is playing) and they bring him back to their hideout. After they castrate another guy they are holding there (he screams like a little girl when he wakes up and discovers his pecker is missing), they anally penetrate Lenny's hairy ass with a power drill. The girls then discover that their friend at the dance wasn't raped at all. She simply passed out because she was malnourished! Oops! As you can tell by the above synopsis, this film isn't something you'll see on Masterpiece Theater anytime soon. Filled with flubbed lines, terrible acting, bad sound, lousy camerawork and the aforementioned choppy editing, THE BLOOD ORGY OF THE LEATHER GIRLS is pretty rough going, even though there's plenty of nudity and blood. Director Meredith Lucas (who committed suicide when she couldn't find a distributor for this film!) shoots everything in such a disjointed manner, it's hard to make out what's going on and the script (by Lucas and Sarah Dicken) is full of groan-inducing lines like, "Success is often failure turned inside out.", coupled with threadbare sets (much of the film is shot against bare walls) and a strange facination with bowling (people fondle bowling trophies, bowling balls and there's endless talk about bowling in general), make this a tough film to sit through. Lucas does try to keep it different, with scenes of a guy picking his nose during sex, cannibalism and acts of depravity, but the whole affair just comes across as an impoverished amateur hour (actually it's 70 minutes long) that would tax even the most patient viewer. The music soundtrack is full of 80's independent bands (The Megatrons, David Nudelman and the Wild Breed [who also play at the school dance], The Pleasure Seekers, Ralph Nielsen & The Chancellors, Myron Lee and the Caddies and The Phantom Surfers) and one of the girls wears a Misfits jacket. A soundtrack album was released on Planet Pimp Records in 1994 by this film's producer, Michael Lucas, as a tribute to his sister Meredith (Michael was also a member of The Phantom Surfers). There's also a really bad LSD trip sequence where a man dances with a guy dressed like an owl. No less than seven people are credited with the camerawork (including underground filmmaker Jon Jost [SURE FIRE - 1990; FRAMEUP - 1993]) and it shows. THE BLOOD ORGY OF THE LEATHER GIRLS is like watching a filmed headache. If you didn't have one before you watched this, you're guaranteed to have on once you finish it. Sometimes little-seen films like this are little-seen for a reason. Also starring Simoone Margolis, Robin Gingold, Andrew Pavis, Eric Moberg and Gary Castell. A Forbidden Cinema Archives VHS Release. Not Rated.
BLOOD RANCH (2005) - Four friends on their way to the Burning Man Festival pick up hitch-hiker Alex (Daniel O'Meara) on the side of the road and learn when they stop for gas that they are the last car allowed on this road because it is being closed for repairs. Things get worse when a little blind girl at the gas station tells them that they are all going to die. As they continue on their way down the deserted highway, they almost hit a bloody naked woman named Megan (Shalena Hughes) with their car (she throws up on the windshield). The woman is in shock, so they load her in the car and head for the nearest hospital. A mysterious black van then begins chasing them and runs the car off the road. Alex chases the van off with his 9mm automatic, but their car is toast. Jason (Dayton Knoll) stays behind with Megan, while Alex leads the rest of them to look for help. After passing a spooky scarecrow that overlooks some freshly-dug (and smelly) graves, Alex and the group happen upon a ranch called "The Web", occupied by a long-haired, bandana-wearing creep named Spider (Jim Fitzpatrick) and his silent hulk of an assistant, Mute (Scott L. Schwartz). Almost immediately, Spider and Mute take the foursome prisoner and begin a series of violent, bloody tortures (Why? Who the hell knows, they're hillbillies!). Meanwhile, Jason and Megan have a violent run-in with the facially-scarred Shotgun (Vernon Wells) and his dentally-challenged sidekick Floyd (Nick Machedo), the driver and passenger of the black van. A quick-thinking Jason shoots both of them and they steal the van and begin their search for their friends. Back at the ranch we discover that the place is full of deviants, including a guy named Dart (Robert Ambrose), who throws (what else?) darts into the back of a tied-up man; another guy named Chair (George T. Woods), who wants to use a woman's body parts to make furniture; and a transvestite midget named Dorothy (Joe Gnoffo), who likes to get fucked in the ass by Spider. Jen (Season Hamilton), Jason's sister, manages to escape Spider's clutches and she watches in the shadows as three of Spider's "disciples" slit her friend Val's (Madeleine Lindley) throat. She makes a new friend in hulking half-wit Mask (John Marrott), Spider's brother, but she ends up stabbing him in the back when he gets too excited when she tries to free Alex. Alex tricks Spider into believing that he wants to become one of Spider's disciples and Jason and Megan arrive at the ranch. Spider and Mute will soon learn that city folk can be more dangerous than simple country folk. While nothing but a series of blood and guts gore set-pieces, director Corbin Timbrook (A CRACK IN THE FLOOR - 2001) does manage to generate a good amount of suspense from what is obviously a meager budget. The film keeps one-upping itself as it progresses, introducing new members of Spider's clan and their favorite ways to kill. Spider is still the oddest duck of all, though. He has an affinity for opera, lounge music and strange clothing (including red silk pajamas) while he does his killing, whether it is skinning a woman's leg (he then cuts her arm off with a miniature chainsaw) or serving some poor girl her boyfriend's head for dinner (He then hits her over the head with a wine bottle, tells her, "Did you know that I only had two friends in my lifetime? Mute and insanity. And they've both been loyal as hell!" and then graphically rapes her while screaming in her face, "Adore it!"). Jim Fitzgerald goes a little overboard as Spider (Think Bill Moseley with a mouth full of chewing tobacco), but it's obvious that director Timbrook and scripter Antonio Hernandez were going for a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE/HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES vibe and, besides a few scenes where the limited budget exposes itself (some of the sound effects are wonky), this DTV horror flick is entertaining as well as being very bloody. The row of women being kept prisoner in chickenwire cages, as well as some of the characters (I'm still laughing and repulsed at the sight of the midget transvestite in pigtails!) and well-done effects will keep you on the edge of your seat. I also love how Spider's disciples have simple names that describe their behavior. Mute is a mute (he does speak as he is dying, though), Shotgun carries a shotgun, Mask wears a mask, Chair spends most of his time in a chair, and so on. Even the little midget is given the name Dorothy because he/she is made up to look like the character in THE WIZARD OF OZ. That still doesn't explain "Floyd", though! I can think of a million reasons why I should hate this film, but it's weird vibes and enthusiasm won me over. Many may believe differently and think that BLOOD RANCH is highly derivative of countless past horror films. You decide for yourself. Vernon Wells (THE ROAD WARRIOR - 1982; ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989), also an Associate Producer here, is on-screen for less than five minutes. Also starring Mike Faiola, Clare Freeman and Sarah Burdge. A Xenon Pictures DVD Release. Unrated and proud of it.
BLOOD SHACK (1971) - Another cinematic atrocity from cult director Ray Dennis (THE THRILL KILLERS - 1965) Steckler (using his frequent pseudonym "Wolfgang Schmidt") which is also known as THE CHOOPER (not THE CHOPPER as it is erroneously listed in many reference books) and CURSE OF THE EVIL SPIRIT. Filmed in the desert of Nevada, this slim tale is about a woman (Carolyn Brandt, Steckler's ex-wife) who inherits a run-down ranch with a curse attached to it. Whenever anyone enters the dilapidated old house located on the property, they are savagely knifed by a mysterious man in black (he looks like a ninja) known as the Chooper. The ranch's caretaker, Daniel (Jason Wayne), then disposes of the bodies by buring them in the desert. Tim Foster (Ron Haydock), a neighbor, wants to buy the ranch because of the pure water located underground but Carolyn constantly refuses his offers. Since this is basically a three character film (except for two bratty girls, played by Steckler's daughters) it is not very difficult to unmask the killer. Sprinkled throughout with the usual Stecklerisms: Bad music, even worst acting, grade school gore, voice-over narration and mistakes galore. Examples of such mistakes include Wayne losing his hat every time the wind blows and during a fight scene between Haydock and Wayne, Brandt breaks it up by brandishing a two-by-four between them. After they separate Brandt throws the board to the ground hitting Haydock squarely on the ankle. His pained expression is the best part of the film, because he is not acting. At least Haydock knows how the rest of us feel watching this crap. Thank God the film only runs 56 minutes. A Sinister Cinema Home Video Release. Also available on DVD from Shriek Show, which also includes the alternate 70-minute cut of THE CHOOPER (Holy crap, 14 more minutes of sheer boredom? What is Shriek Show trying to do, kill off their customer base?). Unrated.
BLOOD SISTERS (1987) - Thirteen years ago, a little boy (the bastard son of a prostitute) murdered a fat whore and her john with a shotgun in the mansion-like brothel where his mother worked. During the present day, the girls of the Kappa Gamma Tau sorority at Edmondson College use the now-deserted whorehouse to haze seven new pledges. Linda (Amy Brentano), the head of the sorority, has her boyfriend Russ (Dan Erickson) and some other guys rig the house with props (like paper mache axes, fake guns, a coffin and spooky sound effects) to scare the pledges, but Larry (John Fasano, future director of such "classics" as ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE - 1987, BLACK ROSES - 1988 and THE JITTERS - 1988) hears noises, sees a table move by itself, gets scared and bolts from the house. Later that day, Linda and the seven pledges arrive at the house (One of them says, "It looks like a Hitchcock reject!") and each of them is assigned to a separate bedroom. Linda gives all the girls a list of items they must find scattered throughout the house and, after telling them that the house is haunted, sends them on their search in this "test of maturity". After falling victim to some of the guys' rigged props, the girls begin to fall victim to an unknown assailant and begin losing their lives for real. One of the girls finds a hidden diary that explains the history of the house and Cara (Cjerste Thor) begins seeing flashbacks of the shotgun murders in a mirror. After finding some more items for the scavenger hunt, the girls are hunted down by what seems to be a woman in a white nightgown and a feather boa. Cara is strangled, Laurie (Brigete Cossu) is nailed into a coffin and Ellen (Gretchen Kingsley) and Jim (Randall Walden) are shot to death with a pistol while making love. Linda realizes that this is no longer a joke, but when she gathers the remaining girls together, she finds out (surprise!) that the van has been disabled. When Alice (Shannon McMahon) leaves in the middle of the night by foot to get help, Linda learns the hard way to never trust your boyfriend. When Alice shows up with the cops the next morning, the house is empty and the van works fine. As the police drive away thinking this was all a practical joke, Alice jumps in the van and goes to drive away, unaware that the killer is in the back seat and he's got a knife. How come no one ever checks the back seat before they get into their vehicle (even the police)? It only takes a second and it will save your life. This haunted house horror film is one of the later entries from exploitation vet Roberta Findlay and it's not one of her best. Findlay, who, along with her late husband Michael, gave us such classic genre films as the late 60's FLESH trilogy, SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1972) and, of course, SNUFF (1970/1976), looks to have lost interest in her later films and seemed to be running on fumes. Films like this, THE ORACLE (1985), LURKERS and PRIME EVIL (both 1988) look to have been made for the paycheck, as they all show a lack of imagination or interest by Ms. Findlay (In my opinion, Findlay's TENEMENT: GAME OF SURVIVAL  was her last entertaining film). It takes almost sixty minutes for the first pledge murder to take place and, until then, all we have to look forward to are some false scares (lots of things popping out of the dark) and some nudity from the female cast (including a ghost lesbian scene!). The death scenes are bloodless and the sex scenes are filmed like porn, which is no surprise since Findlay directed her share of hardcore porn flicks, like A WOMAN'S TORMENT (1977), MYSTIQUE (1979), HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (1979) and JUSTINE: A MATTER OF INNOCENCE (1980), usually using such pseudonyms as "Robert W. Brinar", "Robert R. Walters", "Robert W. Norman" and "Harold Hindgrind"! The script, also by Findlay, is full of haunted house cliches (it even contains ghost scenes that have nothing to do with the rest of the plot) and the reveal of the killer's identity comes only as a surprise if your IQ level dips below 65. So, in conclusion, BLOOD SISTERS is fine if you're retarded or in a vegetative state. Otherwise, save your time and money for better things, like visiting a real brothel. Also starring Marla Machart, Elizabeth Rose, Patricia Finneran, Pam La Testa and Ruth Collins. A Sony Video Software Company VHS Release. Also available on DVD from Shriek Show with an amusing commentary from Joe Bob Briggs. Rated R.
BLOOD SONG (1982) - First off: Yes, this is the film where Frankie Avalon tries to shed his good-guy image by playing an escaped psychotic mental patient named Paul (he saw his Daddy kill his mother and her lover before eating a bullet). The good news is that he actually pulls it off. After escaping the asylum, he steals a van (after burying a hatchet in the driver's head) and picks up a female hitchhiker (whom he also kills). The only problem is that high school student and legbrace-wearing gimp Marion (a chubby Donna Wilkes, who would later play the title character ANGEL  as well as appearing in GROTESQUE ) has psychic visions of his killings and actually watches him bury the female hitchhiker. She also hears Paul playing his homemade flute (that his father made him) while no one else does. Everyone thinks that she is crazy, including her boyfriend Joey (William Kirby Cullen), her abusive alcoholic father (Richard Jaeckel) and the Police Chief (Dane Clark). Before you can say, "I told you so!", Frankie begins killing all of Marion's friends and family (which Marion sees in visions), saving Marion for last. What link do Frankie and Marion share that makes her have these visions? It seems that both Marion and Paul share a rare blood type and Marion received some of Paul's blood during her stay in the hospital when a drunk Daddy crashed his car with Marion inside, causing her to be a cripple. So why does Paul kill everyone Marion knows? The only thing I could come up with was that Marion wants her father punished so bad for making her a cripple, that Paul picked up her brain waves and she his (I know, it's quite a stretch! Or it could be as simple as Paul wanting to kill Marion because she saw him burying the hitchhiker. The motive is quite confusing.). In the finale, Paul chases Marion to a lumber mill, where she electrocutes and drowns Paul after a forklift he is driving falls into a lake. Is he really dead? Well, the film doesn't make much sense, but it does contain a few underlying themes that aren't usually displayed in films like this. First off, Richard Jaeckel comes off like the father from hell and implies that incest would not be out of the question. He's always harping on Marion that he knows she is having sex with Joey and talks repeatedly about her taking her clothes off. You're actually glad when Paul does him in (while repeating, "You're not my Dad! He Never hurt me!"). Second, even though Paul is psychotic, he comes across sympathetically in some scenes. He seems to be looking for something that he just doesn't quite understand and you can see it in his facial expressions. Director Alan J. Levi (who directed many TV series episodes and some TV films, including the MST3000-parodied RIDING WITH DEATH  and THE STEPFORD CHILDREN  and continues to direct today) keeps the proceedings moving at a brisk pace and gives you the favorite 80's shock ending that films of that decade were so proud of. Co-star Lenny Montana (who plays Joey's boss, Skipper) also co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced. I enjoyed this little slice of bloody nostalgia and wished that Frankie Avalon would have branched out after this. Sadly, he didn't (He basically retired from acting save for a few parts here and there, including lampooning his goodie-goodie beach boy image in the well-received BACK TO THE BEACH - 1987)). Also starring Antoinette Bower, Victor Izay, Noelle North and Jennifer Enskat. BLOOD SONG is also known as DREAM SLAYER. A Coast To Coast Family Video Release. Also available on DVD on the BLOOD BATH 2 compilation from Brentwood. Not Rated.
BLOOD STALKERS (1975) - Two married couples decide to spend their vacation at an old hunting cabin located deep in the Florida everglades. On their way to the cabin, they meet an old gas station attendant who warns them to turn back ("That there is Blood Stalker territory. It's dangerous to be there day or night. Especially night!"). They also meet a trio of hillbilly hunters, who leer at the women while they play with their guns and knives. Once at the cabin, the two couples enjoy such activities as skinnydipping and making out on the kitchen table. On the first night, they are attacked by a bigfoot-like creature. They manage to fight off the attack but find their car destroyed. Mike (Jerry Albert) decides to walk to town to get some help. He finds the townsfolk a might uncooperative, especially the three hunters he met earlier. They chase him but he eludes capture. The next morning, Mike flags down a deputy and they head for the cabin. They find Mike's wife and the other couple visciously murdered. Mike shoots the bigfoot creature and discovers that it was just a suit worn by one of the hillbilly hunters. The hunters were using the cabin as storage for their illegal poaching operation, using the bigfoot disguise to chase away any unwanted visitors. When the deputy is suddenly murdered, it is up to Mike to get his revenge. This example of regional filmmaking has a few interesting scenes (especially the intercutting of Mike running in slow motion while his wife and the other couple are slain to a gospel music soundtrack), but on the whole, is basically a bore. The special effects (a gutted dog, a hand being severed, an axe to the stomach) are by Doug Hobart, who played the cursed indian in William Grefe's DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966). Some of the effects are realistic, while some are phony-looking (the severed hand is one example of the latter). Director Robert W. Morgan (has he made anything else?) also appears as the bald-headed hillbilly hunter with a fondness for knives. Top-billed Kenny Miller had a long career in films, appearing in films such as ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958), I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) and TOUCH OF EVIL (1958). Otherwise, everyone else in the cast is unknown. BLOOD STALKERS is a hit or miss affair, with more misses than direct hits. You can judge for yourself. Originally titled THE NIGHT DANIEL DIED. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
BLOOD SYMBOL (1984/91) - College freshman Tracy (Micheline Richard) is having some problems and they're not school related. She is having strange visions which contain occult symbols and human sacrifices. She is also being followed by a scar-faced man dressed in black (Trilby Jeeves) whom only she can see. A female student at Tracy's school is abducted and we view her throat being graphically slit by the man in black in a ritual sacrifice. Tracy does some research in the school library and recognizes a symbol from her visions in a book. Tracy finds out that she is a "chosen one", or a person that devil worshippers sacrifice for their blood to obtain immortality. Tracy is attacked by thr man in black (who is actually an ageless devil-worshipping priest looking for his latest 100-year fix) but manages to kill him with a sacrificial dagger with the help of her boyfriend, Steve (co-director Maurice Devereaux, who made this with Tony Morello). Or did they kill him? The next night, Tracy wakes up from a horrible nightmare to find the man in black standing next to her bed. He slits her throat and is able to live the next hundred years as an immortal. According to the production credits, This French-Canadian film was started in 1984 and finished in 1991. It shows. The lead actress, Micheline Richard, shows a noticable difference in age and weight from scene to scene. The film lists at least a dozen photographers and it is easy to spot the different photographic styles throughout the production. The film's main distraction is the constant use of hand-held cameras. It produces such a dizzying effect that it induces a severe migraine on the viewer (kind of what THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT  did to me in the theater). The film is also dubbed to remove the actors' French accents, even though they were speaking English. There is some graphic violence and a few tense scenes, but overall, the film has the look and feel of someone's film school project. If I were to grade BLOOD SYMBOL, I would give it a C. An Atlas Entertainment Corporation Home Video Release. Not Rated.
BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1980) - During a solar eclipse, three babies are born at almost the exact same time at a hospital in the small town of Meadowvale, California: Two boys and a girl, all born to different mothers. Ten years later, a series of brutal murders are happening in Meadowvale, each one gorier than the last. The first are two teens who are necking in a graveyard. One is repeatedly hit over the head with a shovel and the other is strangled with a jump rope. The three birthday kids, Debbie, Curtis and Steven, are all best friends and, quite frankly, are as crazy as a bag full of baboons. We first know something is wrong when we see Debbie charging the two boys a quarter each so they can spy on Debbie's sister, Beverly (Julie Brown), dancing topless in her bedroom through a hole in the closet. The three then kill Debbie's father, who happens to be the sheriff, and then make it look like an accident. The only problem is that neighborhood kid Timmy (K.C. Martel) saw them murder the sheriff, so they must get rid of him, too. Curtis locks Timmy in an abandoned refrigerator and leaves him there, but Timmy escapes and runs to his older sister, Joyce (Lori Lethin). Since he's known as a somewhat untruthful kid, she doesn't believe him. Curtis then shoots stern schoolteacher Miss Davis (Susan Strasberg) with the sheriff's gun, but Joyce finds the body too soon, so the demonic trio try to run her over with a car, but fail (Did I mention that they're only ten?). Debbie keeps a scrapbook which contains newspaper clippings of their kills, which will be instrumental later on. Joyce, who is heavily into astrology, does astrological charts on the three murderous brats and her findings show that all three, thanks to being born during an eclipse, were born without consciences. Joyce and Timmy have a hard time convincing anyone that these three ten year-olds are responsible for the spate of murders happening in town. As more murders continue, Joyce and Timmy take it upon themselves to bring these three down. Killer kid films are a rare breed. Because of the dicey subject matter, very few filmmakers tackle this subject full-bore. BLOODY BIRTHDAY does and, with such films as DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1974), THE CHILDREN (1980) and BEWARE: CHILDREN AT PLAY (1989), does so with relish. The three kids truly have no souls as they kill with smiles on their little faces. Little Debbie (not the snack food company) kills her sister by shooting her in the eye with an arrow, while Curtis wanders the streets at night with a gun, shooting a naked couple who are making out in a van. Since they are all very smart, they are devious as well as deadly and are able to cover-up their crimes quite well, usually blaming them on innocent people. This is inarguably director Ed Hunt's best film, as he has also helmed the awful STARSHIP INVASIONS (1977), the so-so PLAGUE (1978), the laughable ALIEN WARRIOR (1985) and the campy THE BRAIN (1987). Pretty suspenseful in spots, it's unnerving watching little kids firing guns, driving cars, shooting arrows and wielding knives. While not as bloody as you would expect, BLOODY BIRTHDAY still delivers enough chills to make it a worthwhile purchase. But a word of warning: The fullscreen print on the VCI Entertainment DVD is a bloody mess. It's severely cropped and not even in pan-and-scan (the opening credits read "LOODY BIRTHDA") and shows plenty of grain, even though the DVD sleeve says it's a widescreen print that's enhanced for 16X9 screens. It also says that it was recorded in Dolby Digital. It isn't. Future B-movie action star Michael Dudikoff has a small role as Julie Brown's pot smoking boyfriend. Also starring Melinda Cordell, Billy Jacoby (who's fantastic as Curtis), Joe Penny, Bert Kramer, Elizabeth Hoy (as Debbie), Andy Freeman (as Steven) and Jose Ferrer as the doctor. A VCI Entertainment Release. Rated R.
BLOODY MOON (1981) - Let me set the record straight before I go any further: I find Jesus Franco (or any of his nearly one hundred pseudonyms) and the vast majority of his films to be nothing more than pretentious arty drivel. I've been told by people much smarter than me that I just don't "get" Franco, but I know what I don't like and I fail to see any social significance in films like THE MAN HUNTER (1980), OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981) or the countless other quickly-assembled pieces of mediocrity that he has been churning out for over 45 years. Sure, some of his earlier films, such as THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (1962), THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1966) and VENUS IN FURS (1969) were efficient and moody little thrillers, but as he became more experienced behind the camera (especially with the zoom lens), he became less interested in what was in front of it. I enjoy watching a Franco film as much as hammering nails into my scrotum. If that's not clear enough for you, let me make it clearer: I would rather watch the entire libraries of Andy Milligan, Ed Wood and Al Adamson combined than to watch one faux arty Franco flick. Which brings us to BLOODY MOON, Franco's stab at the slasher genre. The opening shots, which are hard camera zooms of the Moon and various extreme close-ups of peoples' faces, followed by a psycho with a burned face donning a Mickey Mouse mask (Where are the Disney lawyers when you need them?) killing a poor young, half-naked girl with a pair of scissors, clue us in what to expect next. Years pass and the killer, Miguel (Alexander Waechter), is released from a mental hospital into the custody of sister Manuela's (Nadja Gerganoff) care. A series of brutal murders begins at the palatial home of Miguel and Manuela's rich aunt (she is burned to death in her bed) and then at Alvaro's (Christoph Moosbrugger) new language school (where Manuela is a student), all coinciding with Miguel's return. The list of red herrings is tremendous, as Alvaro's school isn't financially sound, Manuela was hated by her dead aunt (and her fortune goes to Miguel only) and student Angela (Olivia Pascal) has shown up for classes a week late, but won't tell anyone why. It doesn't help that Miguel (and his deformed face) skulks around the school and the surrounding buildings, especially since one of the buildings is where the poor girl was viciously stabbed years before. It also doesn't help that Miguel and Manuela have been carrying-on an incestuous relationship for many years and she wishes that everyone would "just disappear" so they can't judge their sexy love for each other. When students begin getting murdered by someone wearing black gloves, all evidence points to Miguel, but that would be too easy, right? Eva (Ann-Beate Engelke) is murdered in Angela's bed (a knife is shoved through her back until the blade exits out of one of her nipples), but when Angela brings Antonio (Peter Exacoustos) back to her room to view Eva's body, it has disappeared and everyone thinks she's crazy. Angela gets a threatening tape in Spanish language class where a voice threatens to cut her into pieces with a hacksaw, but when Alvaro listens to the tape, it's nothing but normal class tutorial. Angela searches for Eva's body around town and spots Antonio in a compromising position with Manuela and nearly gets crushed by a giant (obviously paper mache) boulder as well as almost being bitten by a poisonous snake. Angela is convinced that Antonio is trying to kill her, but a retard who has had half his brain removed could see it is someone else. Inga (Jasmin Losensky) is tied to a marble block by the killer and has her head cut off with a rock saw (The film's best scene). A little boy witnesses the murder, but the killer runs him over with a car. After several more close calls on her life, Angela, with the help of Miguel (who get a hairbrush handle shoved through his neck for his trouble), is able to unmask Manuela and Alvaro as the killers, but will she survive the night? There's not much more I can say about this by-the-numbers slasher/giallo film, except that Rayo Casablanco's illiterate screenplay could have been written on a napkin, the English dubbing is horrendous (it's not even lousy enough for a laugh) and Franco's direction is full of his usual weird camera angles (he likes to shoot a lot from overhead here), false scares (yes, a cat does jump into frame to scare our heroine) and zooms galore. There are a few bloody bits of gore, but it's nothing you haven't seen a hundred times before (rock saw decapitation excluded). Even the frequent nudity on display can't save this boring piece of tripe and devout Francophiles list this as one of his minor films, so why should you have to suffer through it? Also starring Corinna Gillwald, Maria Rubio, Antonio Garcia and Beatriz Sancho Nieto. Originally released on VHS by Trans World Entertainment with noticeable edits during the kill scenes and available on uncut widescreen DVD from Severin Films. Not Rated.
BLOODY MOVIE (1988) - Twenty years after Hollywood legend Lance Hayward (John Ireland) mysteriously disappears in a fire, his dilapidated mansion is the site of a series of brutal murders which mirror Hayward's old silent films. The film opens with one visiting lawyer being torn graphically in two after being tied to a car and a tree by some unknown killer wearing a black fedora with a white hatband. Immediately after that, another lawyer, played by Dan (billed as "Daniel") Haggerty, is run-through with a spear (readers of this site know that this was the high point of my night, me being such a big "fan" of Haggerty). Six obnoxious teens decide to party at the mansion after seeing a story about Hayward on TV. They are joined by stoner biker Angel (Jimi Elwell), his chick Jo (Michelle Bauer) and Captain Ned (Aldo Ray), a drunken bum who lives on the mansion grounds. Captain Ned is then dispatched with a hook to the head by someone dressed as a pirate. As the teens search through the mansion playing dress-up and fooling around with the various movie props scattered throughout (including a bit with an out-of-place robotic hand, which seems to have been put there just to show off it's "wow" factor since it's never heard from again), the unknown killer begins murdering them one-by-one. The first guy gets shot with several arrows by the killer (dressed as Robin Hood). One of the girls is decapitated by a sword swung by Ali Baba. The remaining kids find a huge locked vault which they hope holds Hayward's long-lost fortune. It turns out that the vault contains the original nitrate negatives of every film Hayward made as well as his hidden fortune. Another girl then falls into a pit of stakes and is impaled after being chased by a Great White Hunter. Another guy has his hand chopped off by a knight in armor carrying an axe. Angel and Jo are killed by Zorro (by sword and whip). With only two members left, can nerd Chip (William C. Butler of the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake) figure a way out of this mess and unmask the killer? While basically a showcase for some bloody killings, this film, originally known as TERROR NIGHT (available on DVD in Canada under that title), was also the last film partially directed by Andre De Toth (HOUSE OF WAX - 1953), yet he receives no on-screen credit except for a "Thank You" in the end credits from director/producer Nick Marino (who cut his teeth co-directing parts of John Saxon's DEATH HOUSE in 1987). The final 25 minutes of the film seem forced, as if the film came up short and more scenes had to be filmed to make the running time feature length. John Ireland (who really only appears at the end) looks embarassed and the revelation of him actually being the killer is a cheat because it's apparent that other people (including Fred Olen Ray staple Jay Richardson) are playing him throughout the rest of the film. Also unbelievable is the fact that six teens would be such fans of Hayward's silent films and know all the lines (Hold on now. There's spoken dialogue in silent films? I'm confused!). The film also has an inordinate amount of B actors (including Cameron Mitchell as a detective and Alan "Skipper" Hale as a night watchman), whose only role is to say a line or two of dialogue and die. On the positive side, there are a few juicy kills (the opening torn-in-half murder is especially bloody) and Michelle Bauer has a fairly graphic nude scene, which is always a plus in my book. The showing of Hayward's (fake) movie posters before each kill is also a novel idea. Kenneth J. Hall (EVIL SPAWN - 1987) was one of the screenwriters and porn and LAST HOUSE vet Fred J. Lincoln was Second Unit Director. As a gore film, BLOODY MOVIE is an OK time-waster. The undemanding will be entertained. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD (fullscreen) Release. There's also a fake trailer, made up of scenes cribbed from the film. It's the only extra on the disc. The DVD cover screams: "From the producer of DUDE! WHERE'S MY CAR?" As if that's an incentive to buy the DVD! Unrated.
BLOODY MURDER (1999) - Simply horrible slasher flick with no redeeming qualities. How bad is it? In the opening sequence, the hockey mask-wearing killer chases his prey with a chainsaw and the length of the chainsaw blade changes from scene-to-scene (not to mention that the blade never turns once, even though we hear the chainsaw revving). This FRIDAY THE 13TH clone finds a group of camp counselors getting Camp Placid Pines ready for it's summer opening. After scaring each other with tales of camp serial killer Trevor Moorehouse around a campfire, they all play a game of Bloody Murder and Jason Hathaway (Justin Martin) plays a practical joke on Tobe (Patrick Cavanaugh), where he dresses as Trevor and threatens Tobe with an axe. Later that night, Jason disappears after screwing Whitney (Tracy Pacheco) in the woods and girlfriend Julie (Jessica Morris) grows worried when he still doesn't show up in the morning. Later on that day, Whitney is stabbed to death in the pantry by the hockey mask killer. The list of possible suspects is long: Dean (Michael Stone), who spotted ex-girlfriend Whitney fucking Jason in the woods (and tries drowning her in the lake a short time later to teach her a lesson); Brad (David Smigelski), who was a rival of Jason's when they were in high school and the bad blood is still there; Patrick (Peter Guillemette), the person in charge of getting the camp in shape; Drew (Christelle Ford), a girl with anger issues (and the biggest toes I've ever seen on a woman!); and Henry (Bob Stuart), an old crazy man that tells Julie a couple of times that "Nelson has come back to even the score!" Crazy Henry seems to know Julie's father and tells Julie to ask him about Nelson. Julie emails her Dad and asks him about Nelson and he replies that he never heard of him (an obvious lie). When Brad is shot and killed by a couple of arrows by the killer and disappears, the police are called in and they suspect the still-missing Jason. Dean is the next to be murdered when his throat is slit and his back impaled with a garden claw. When Jason resurfaces and is arrested by the cops, everyone but Julie believes the killings are over with. When we see Doug (William Winter) get killed by a lawn dart to the chest, we know Julie is correct. Julie's father comes for an unannounced visit, the real killer reveals himself (it's a cheat) and chases Julie through the woods (She races right by an axe, but the killer has the brains to pick it up). Drew (who Julie incorrectly thinks is the killer) ends up saving her life by shooting the killer in the shoulder. The sheriff asks the killer why he killed Doug, but when he replies that he didn't, we then realize that there's a second killer in the camp. Could it be Trevor Moorehouse? Do you smell that? It reeks of a rip-off and you'll believe someone ripped a nasty smelly one after watching this turd. Director Ralph Portillo (ONE OF THEM - 2003) builds zero suspense and the script, by John R. Stevenson (who, surprisingly also wrote the sequel's excellent script), is nothing but tired, old horror movie cliches that offers plenty of red herrings, even if a blind man could spot the killer a mile away (Patrick's actions and facial expressions when Julie mentions Nelson's name is a dead giveaway). The acting and dialogue are pathetic as are the situations the characters must endure (Such as the camp's obstacle course, which rivals anything that the Marine Corps. has!). There's not much to enjoy here, as the gore is tame, there's only one instance of nudity and whenever there's an email or letter shown on-screen (which is often), the person that wrote it is heard reading it out loud, as if they were in the same room as the person reading it. It's annoying and should have been fixed during the looping process, but I don't think this film had a budget big enough to allow for looping. BLOODY MURDER is a lame, unscary slasher flick, but it's sequel, BLOODY MURDER 2 (2002), is one of those rare cases where the sequel delivers the goods and puts the original to shame. Even though the sequel follows the same basic plot line as this one, the script, direction and acting stand head-and-shoulders above anything this film has to offer. Watch it instead. This one is unoriginal, boring and painful to watch, like purposely stubbing your big toe over-and-over on your coffee table. Clips from director Portillo's FEVER LAKE (1996) are shown as the film the counselors watch one night (they refer to it as "Sleepover Camp Massacre 14"). Also starring Michael Prohaska, Jerry Richards and Brian Messing. An Artisan Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on DVD as part of a 4-FILM COLLECTION from Lionsgate. Rated R.
BLOODY MURDER 2 (2002) - This sequel to the awful BLOODY MURDER (1999) is a hundred times better than the original and, even if it's highly derivative of FRIDAY THE 13TH, it's still a bloody good show. Five years after the events of the first film, a group of camp counselors are closing down Camp Placid Pines for the winter and, while getting drunk around a campfire one night, decide to play a game of "Bloody Murder" (which seems to be a variation of Hide and Seek). After scaring new member James (Lane Anderson) with tales of camp serial killer Trevor Moorehouse (this camp's version of Jason Voorhees) and playing a prank on him, James is brutally murdered (both his legs are cut off with a machete and his head is squashed like a melon with a boulder) by someone dressed as Trevor. Or has Trevor returned? Counselor Tracy Hathaway (Katy Woodruff), whose brother Jason (Tyler Sedustine; a different actor than the first film) disappeared five years earlier at the camp during Trevor's killing spree and is presumed dead, is having nightmares about Trevor and, when she spots Trevor with her binoculars walking through the woods, she can't get anyone to believe her, including boyfriend Mike (Kelly Grunning). Trevor then goes on a murder spree, first killing Ryan (Tom Mullen) with a crossbow bolt to the neck. As the camp counselors go missing one-by-one, Tracy still has a hard time convincing the remaining people that there's a major problem, especially since Rick (Arthur Benjamin), who is in charge of closing down the camp, has an explanation for every disappearance. To complicate matters, Mike screws around with Angela (Tiffany Shepis, who gets naked a lot) and she finds Ryan's dead body half-buried in a shallow grave. The police are called in and everyone at the camp are considered suspects. Mike ends up M.I.A. and Elvis (Raymond Smith) is viciously knifed and killed by Trevor while the police are standing guard outside. Mike is now considered the primary suspect when Trevor's mask is found in his cabin. When Tracy finds some video evidence that points to Mike's guilt and he's finally arrested, both Tracy and Angela still think he's innocent and they're right. Using information found on Rick and Ryan's pagers, Tracy, Angela and Sophie (Amanda Magarian) try to figure out who the real killer is. Problem is, the real killer won't stop until they are all dead. While Tracy gathers evidence that points the finger at Rick (she's wrong), Angela takes a machete to the face and Sophie is knocked unconscious by the real killer. When the sheriff kills Rick, everyone thinks the killings have stopped, until the real killer reveals himself to Tracy on the ride back to civilization. A surprise ending reveals that there is more than one killer stalking the camp. Viewed strictly as a stalk "n" slash film, BLOODY MURDER 2 is a lot of fun but, thankfully it also works on a mystery level, too. It has gory deaths (James' death is a highlight, as we see Trevor cut off one of James' legs and tosses it in front of a crawling, screaming James, who has to look at it while Trevor cuts off his other leg), a lot of nice nudity (I'm becoming a real fan of Tiffany Shepis [THE GHOULS - 2003]. She's a decent actress who's not ashamed to show off her naked body, a real rarity nowadays.) and a well-plotted script (by John Stevenson), even if the reveal of the identity of the real killer comes totally out of left field (if you think it's Tracy's brother, you're sadly mistaken). Director Rob Spera (WITCHCRAFT - 1988; LEPRACHAUN IN THE HOOD - 2000) does a good job messing with the viewer's head and has a fun time playing around with slasher film conventions. For once, all the girls get along with each other (Tracy and Angela remain friends, even after Angela tells her about her tryst with Mike), the story is engaging without being too outlandish (it's one of the first films to use ringtones as a major plot device) and the acting by everyone is quite good. The finale leaves it wide-open for another sequel (A 2006 production, titled THE GRAVEYARD, is supposedly the third film in the series but, besides taking place in Camp Placid Pines [and the connecting namesake cemetery!], it bears no resemblance to the first two films.). BLOODY MURDER 2 is one of the better latter day slasher films and is a marked improvement over the original. Please do not judge this based on that film. If you have held off seeing the sequel based on the utter crappiness of the original, do yourself a favor and give it a chance. I doubt you will be disappointed. This is a well-made low-budget horror flick, much better than most of the shit that gets passed off as horror in theaters today. Also known as HALLOWEEN CAMP. Also starring Virginia Mendoza, John Colton, Carl Strecker and Benjamin Schneider. An Artisan Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on DVD as part of a 4-FILM COLLECTION from Lionsgate. Rated R.
THE BODY SHOP (1973) - God knows that I try to give no-budget horror films like this a lot of leeway but, holy shit, this film is insufferable. This is about as low budget as you can get and still call it a movie. There's threadbare sets, bad acting, annoying music (by William Girdler, of all people), chainsaw editing, lots of terrible post-synch dubbing and direction that can best be described as "huh?" Since this film is directed/produced/written and lead-acted (among other jobs) by the same person, J.G. 'Pat' Patterson Jr., it's quite obvious who is to blame. The story is simple (maybe "simpleton" is a better word): Dr. Donald Brandon (portrayed by Patterson, using the pseudonym "Don Brandon, America's No. 1 Magician") loses his beloved wife Anitra (Jenny Driggers) in a car accident (since this is a low budget film, we don't actually witness the accident, we just hear about it), so he, along with his mute, stogie-chomping hunchback assistant Greg (Roy Mehaffey), go about creating a whole new Anitra using the body parts of other women, onto which Dr. Brandon intends to insert his wife head as the final step. At first, Dr. Brandon and Greg rob graveyards for their body parts, but when those extremities aren't fresh enough to be revived (he wraps them in tin foil and zaps them with electricity like they were yesterday's leftovers), he begins hypnotizing young women, bringing them to his laboratory and cutting off the body parts that he finds "perfect". Greg simply disposes of the unused parts in the handy acid bath pit Dr. Brandon has in his lab. After killing enough women for parts, Dr. Brandon creates the "perfect" (his favorite word) woman. The only problem is, she's horny as hell and hits on every man she sees (even Greg, who Dr. Brandon kills by planting a meat cleaver in his hump!). This drives Dr. Brandon over the edge. He ends up in a looney bin (It looks more like a prison. Since when do looney bins have iron bars for doors?), reliving all the horrific moments of his life in his deranged mind, still dreaming about the perfect woman. His creation (who walks around in nothing but a bikini) gets picked-up on the side of the road by some horny guy in a beat-up van. I have the feeling that she's going to be more than he can handle. I really can't describe how awful this film is, not to mention how illogical the whole story plays out. One first has to wonder where Dr. Brandon found a hunchback assistant named Greg. Did he have him before his wife died or did he advertise for one after she kicked the bucket? If he had Greg before his wife died, what exactly did he do for the doctor? Trim his hedges? Cook his meals? One also has to wonder how Dr. Brandon picked up that marvelous skill of hypnotizing women without uttering a word. All he does is look at them and the next thing you know, they're on his operating table having their limbs removed without the benefit of anesthesia by scalpel or hand saw. Really, who wouldn't want to have that kind of power? THE BODY SHOP (also known as DOCTOR GORE) could be forgiven those transgressions if it weren't so damn boring. It's nothing but long stretches of tedium interrupted by some scenes of extremely fake-looking gore, which was also supplied by Patterson. I do have to admit that there were two instances in this film where I laughed out loud, even if it was for the wrong reasons. The first instance was where Dr. Brandon and Greg finished their first unsuccessful experimant and we hear a big booming knocking sound on the soundtrack. Dr. Brandon turns to Greg and says, "Get that, it might be the door." What they hell else could it be? Large woodpeckers? The second instance comes again when someone knocks on the door. It's the middle of the night and when Dr. Brandon opens the door, it cuts away to a hick sheriff obviously standing in the middle of a field during the day asking if everything's OK and making sure nothing illegal is going on. It's apparent that this clip came from an entirely different film (probably some regional moonshiner flick). It's hilarious in it's ineptitude. I wish I could say the same thing about the entire film but, unfortunately, it's just a boring mess. A lot of people think H.G. Lewis had something to do with this film since filmed an introduction for it on the old United Home Video VHS edition (under the DOCTOR GORE title), but the fact is Lewis never viewed the film before he filmed the introduction. Even by Lewis standards, this film is a dud. A lot of reference books claim that Patterson committed suicide when he couldn't obtain a theatrical release for this film, but they are wrong. He did obtain a regional theatrical release through distributor Variety Films, the same company responsible for distributing the ultra-sick rape porno flick FORCED ENTRY (1972). Patterson directed another film, THE ELECTRIC CHAIR (1975), as well as supplying makeup effects for other films (THREE ON A MEATHOOK - 1972; AXE - 1974) before dying of cancer in 1975. In THE BODY SHOP, he chain smokes like a fiend. Also starring Jan Benfield, Howard Stewart, Nita Patterson and Bill Simpson as the sheriff. This had multiple VHS releases from Paragon Video, United Home Video and Something Weird Video, who also offer it on DVD. Not Rated.
BOG (1978/1983) - This is why I sometimes curse home video. This film, made in 1978, wasn't released until 1983, thanks to the popularity of VHS. There's a good reason for that, too. It stinks. This Wisconsin-lensed regional turd opens with a dynamite fisherman being pulled under the water while a white-haired witch woman watches on shore. After the credits (and a cringe-inducing love song), we are introduced to a couple of obnoxious vacationing fishermen who go to the lake with their equally obnoxious wives. After some drinking, bad W.C. Fields imitations and some lame sex jokes, the wives are pulled under the water by a creature (we only see it's huge claw). The guys run to the local sheriff (Aldo Ray) and the town sawbones (Marshall Thompson) and a search party is formed. The women's bodies are found floating in the water totally drained of blood. The town's coroner (Gloria De Haven) says, "Is it possible we have a Dracula out there?" More people turn up dead in the same condition (including a local cop) and the two (non-grieving, but mad) husbands decide to get some payback on their own. They are introduced to the wotch woman, Adrianne (Gloria De Haven again in tons of old-age makeup), who tells them the creature was awakened by the dynamite fisherman. The coroner theorizes that the creature is some sort of insect as yet undiscovered. The rest of the film is just a poor mixture of romance between the doctor and the coroner, the feeble attempts of the sheriff to do one thing right and everyone trying to find a way to capture it, none of it very interesting. If you're not asleep before the film is over, you're probably not human (or trippin' on meth). God, shoot me now! This boring piece of PG-rated trash has nothing to recommend, except for the cast of veterans, who all (yes, even Aldo Ray) look like they would rather be getting a root canal than to be here. Director Don Keeslar (THE CAPTURE OF GRIZZLY ADAMS - 1982) has the cast spout a bunch of gibberish (script by Carl N. Kitt) and there are long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. Add to that a severe lack of blood, violence or nudity. So what's the point? It's like a throwback to all those 50's monster-on-the-loose flicks, minus any excitement or sense. You'll know what I mean if you're ever forced to watch this (oh yes, you will be forced!). I think this is the film that turned Also Ray into an alcoholic. When he says, "I need a drink!" about halfway through, it's the film's only believable moment. There's a reason he runs directly into the claws of the creature a few minutes later. He had a moment of clarity. When we finally do get a look at the creature (played by Jeff Schwaab), it looks almost exactly like the one in Larry Buchanan's CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE (1966). Best line: "We've got to catch him before he infuses her!" And you thought only Bill Rebane made bad films in Wisconsin. Shame on you! Executive Producer Clark Paylow got his start in the early 60's directing films like RING OF TERROR (1962). Also starring Leo Gordon, Ed Clark, Robert Fry, Carol Terry, Lou Hunt and Glen Voros. A Prism Entertainment Release. Rated PG.
THE BONEYARD (1990) - I really liked this film and let me tell you why: It's got characters that you care about and a most unusual heroine for a horror film - an overweight psychic named Alley (Deborah Rose) that retired from helping police after seeing too many children being killed by psychos. So when detectives Jersey Callum (Ed Nelson) and Gordon Mullin (Jim Eustermann) go to Alley's house to ask for her help in a strange case of three dead decaying children found locked in a room in a funeral home with pieces of half-eaten human flesh nearby, she initially refuses. But after a strange nightmare, Alley changes her mind and meets Jersey and Gordon at the morgue (the "boneyard" as it is fondly called by everyone that works there) to look at the three children and try to get a reading from them. The reading she gets is not a good one. These three children are actually ghouls which spring back to life and start chomping down on the populace of the morgue, which includes the strict Mrs. Poopinplatz (Phyllis Diller minus her wig in a mostly serious role), the lead coroner Shepard (the late Norman Fell in a ponytail!), a failed female suicide Dana (Denise Young - who nearly gets sliced open by Shepard during her autopsy!) and all the rest of the characters. This film starts out slowly, building relationships (especially between Jersey and Alley and Gordon and Dana) that actually mean something to the viewer. When all hell breaks loose in the morgue and people start getting eaten by these ghoulish children, we actually care about what happens to them. First-time director and special effects expert James Cummins understands this and builds suspense where most films of this type are only interested in killing people as fodder for the viewer. Alley's weight problem does come into play towards the end of the film and I found myself rooting for her to get the hell out of her predicament. There's plenty of blood and guts for the fans of gore and some funny transformation scenes (especially Mrs. Poopinplatz and her pet poodle, who eats some of a dead ghoul), but Mr. Cummins understands that the meat should be in the story and not mostly splattered across the screen. He should be congratulated for that. James Cummins (who died in December 2010 at the age of 51) wrote and directed two other films: DARK:30 (1993) and HARBINGER (1996), but they are nearly impossible to find so I cannot comment on them. But, if they're half as good as THE BONEYARD, they're still better than most of the horror films made during the 90's. A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available full frame on DVD from Lucky 13. Rated R.
THE BOOGENS (1981) - In 1888, one of the biggest veins of silver was found in the mountains of (the aptly named) Silver City. For nearly 24 years, the silver-rich mines put Silver City on the map, making it one of the richest cities in the United States. But then, in 1912, a series of cave-ins, the loss of dozens of miner's lives and reports of mysterious attacks caused the mines to be shut down for good, or at least everyone thought. Cut to the present (well, 1981 anyway), where mine experts Brian Deering (John Crawford; THE SEVERED ARM - 1973) and Dan Ostroff (Med Flory; THE HEARSE - 1980), along with their best workers, Mark Kinner (Fred McCarren) and Roger Lowrie (Jeff Harlan), open the Silver City mine to take a cursory look and report on its condition. While Dan checks the stability of the wood support beams and nearly causes a cave-in (Mark: "You smell anything?" Roger: "No, why?" Mark: "I just shit my pants."), Mark and Roger string-up lights and set up the generator to get a clearer view of the inside of the mine. Brian and Dan use dynamite to clear an obstruction in the mine and everyone calls it a day, but long-time Silver City resident (it isn't much more than a ghost town now, with a few residents, a bar and a restaurant to sustain it) old man Greenwalt (Jon Lormer) knows that the dynamite blast has just released an evil sitting dormant since 1912. That night, resident Martha Chapman (Marcia Reider) crashes her car into a snow bank after nearly hitting a deer (she has a bumper sticker on the back of her car that says "I Brake For Animals") and ends up walking to the house that she is getting ready for Mark and Roger to live in while they work the mine. She goes down to the basement to retrieve some supplies because she is going to have to spend the night since she can't get a tow truck until morning, but she's never going to live that long. After hearing a noise in the basement and then going to sleep in one of the bedrooms, she hears the noise again and investigates, but something grabs her in the kitchen and drags her down to the basement. Dan, Mark and Roger clear a cave-in in a section of the mine that is not on their map and discover a natural cavern, complete with lake and the bones of at least thirty people, all stacked in a pile on one side of the lake. Meanwhile, Roger's girlfriend Jessica (Anne-Marie Martin; SAVAGE HARVEST - 1981), her best friend Trish (Rebecca Balding; SILENT SCREAM - 1980) and pet poodle Tiger arrive at the house for a three day visit and make themselves comfortable. When Trish is unable to get hot water for a bath, she (gulp!) goes down to the basement to light the pilot on the hot water heater, but she is saved from certain death when Tiger chases her upstairs (the dog knows something is wrong). While Roger and Jessica are trying to have sex (a running joke throughout the film has Roger and Jessica being constantly interrupted while trying to do the deed), Mark and Trish get to know each other and hit it off. They are paid a visit by Deputy Blanchard (Scott Wilkinson), who is looking for Martha and when they all tell the Deputy they haven't seen her, the foursome decide to go out for dinner, where Jessica hustles Brian and Dan at pool and Roger goes to the house by himself because he has to get up early to pick up updated maps in another city. Roger is killed by one of the creatures when its clawed tentacles slash him across his neck and drags him away (this is the first time we even see a part of the creatures). To make a long story short (and not give away the manner of the other deaths), Trish, who is a reporter, does some digging in the Silver City newspaper archives and discovers that old man Greenwalt is the son of the only survivor of the 1912 cave-in and has seen the creatures, but no one believed him. In the finale, only Mark and Trish are alive and they are stuck in the mines fighting the creatures with the only weapon that will do any good: dynamite. This is actually a pretty taut and suspenseful horror film, directed by James L. Conway (HANGAR 18 - 1980; EARTHBOUND - 1981; and plenty of episodic American TV, including SUPERNATURAL [2005 - ?]) and written by David O'Malley (ZONE OF THE DEAD - 1978) and Bob Hunt (a pseudonym for director/screenwriter Jim Kouf; GANG RELATED - 1997), that contains personable characters rather that stereotypical ones (the acting here is much better than most low-budget horror fare), so when they are killed or put in peril, we actually care (Hell, even the dog is good here!). Director Conway rightfully doesn't reveal the creatures in all their glory until the film's finale (think sharp-toothed turtles with clawed tentacles), rather offering the viewer the creatures' POV shots and some rather nasty clawed tentacle attacks. This is by no means a gore film, so those looking for plenty of blood and guts are bound to be disappointed. THE BOOGENS actually harkens back to those 50's monster flicks, only with a little nudity (it's more funny than erotic), more violence and is wonderful entertainment for those in the mood for a good creepy creature feature. Recommended. Producer Charles E. Sellier Jr. was also responsible for those memorable 70's Schick Sunn Classic "documentaries" such as THE MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS (1976), IN SEARCH OF NOAH'S ARK (1976; also directed by Conway), IN SEARCH OF HISTORIC JESUS (1979) and many others. Originally released on VHS by Republic Pictures Home Video and available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Olive Films (through Paramount Pictures). Rated R.
BOOGEYMAN (2004) - When I was a kid, I was scared to death of going to sleep because Shadow Man was in my bedroom, waiting for me to close my eyes. No amount of reasoning by my parents, telling me he didn't exist, would sway me because I had SEEN and TOUCHED him. I spent a good chunk of my childhood training myself to stay awake and attribute that training as to why I still can't get more than three or four hours of sleep each night to this day. The closest any film has come to depicting what Shadow Man looks like are the shadow creatures in GHOST (1990). You know, those black creatures that drag away Tony Goldwyn in the finale? Unfortunately, that film came nearly 30 years too late to make a difference (although I still find it difficult to watch those scenes). Which brings us to BOOGEYMAN. Poor Tim (Barry Watson) still has a hard time forgetting that the Boogeyman killed his father by dragging him into Tim's bedroom closet. Since his body was never found, everyone (but Tim) thinks his father abandoned the family. Now an adult, Tim must return to his childhood home (his mother has died) and face his fears. The more time Tim spends in the house, the more we begin to question Tim's sanity. Is everything that is happening in the house all in his mind or is it real? Childhood neighbor Kate (Emily Deschanel of BONES [2005 - ?]), who Tim hasn't seen in over 15 years, tries to help him sort it out. And what about that backpack full of missing children posters? Has Tim stumbled into something more nefarious than even he could dream of? I'll leave those questions for you, the viewer, to answer. Not since POLTERGEIST (1982) have closets been used so effectively. This is by no means a great film, but people who had to deal with their own personal demons when they were kids should get a shiver or two. Since this is a psychological tale, the PG-13 rating doesn't hurt it at all. There are more than a couple of good scares here, as the scratches on my arm will attest, the result of my wife grabbing a hold of it firmly on several occasions while watching this. Director Stephen Kay (GET CARTER - 2000; CELL 213 - 2011) offers no comedy here (a welcome relief) and instead only gives us a pretty good "is he or isn't he" scenario (screenplay by Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White) that's very somber in tone, which is quite refreshing. My favorite line comes when Tim tells a little girl how to combat the Boogeyman: "When you're afraid, close your eyes and count to five." She just looks at him and says, "What happens when you get to six?" If you're like me, you don't ever want to have that answered. For a change, the deleted scenes and alternate ending on the DVD are worthwhile and change the film's direction if director Kay would have chosen to do so, although it looks like, by the unfinished alternate ending (bad opticals in the final tracking shot), that he made his mind up before shooting finished. There's a small treat for those who watch the entire end credits. Worth a look. Produced by Sam Raimi and Bob Tapert. Also starring Lucy Lawless (who is unrecognizable here) and Skye McCole Bartusiak. Followed by two unrelated sequels: BOOGEYMAN 2 (2007) and BOOGEYMAN 3 (2008). Not to be confused with Ulli Lommel's 1980 horror film THE BOOGEY MAN. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Release. Rated PG-13.
BOTTOM FEEDER (2006) - Why is it that every special effects technician must try their hand at directing? And why do their efforts always go overboard with the bloody special effects, but lack the basic necessities a film needs, like an interesting script or decent acting? This creature feature is a sub-standard stalk 'n' slash yarn about a scientist named Dr. Leech (James Binkley) who invents a formula that can regenerate cells, but it has very serious side effects if not used properly. The subject injected with the formula must also be administered a nutritional serum also developed by Dr. Leech to curb the subject's hunger, otherwise their hunger will rage out of control and they will eat any edible object handy. Any edible object. The formula catches the interest of billionaire industrialist Charles Deaver (Richard Fitzpatrick), who was severely burned in a car accident and is now confined to a wheelchair. Mr. Deaver buys the formula from Dr. Leech, but before he tries the formula on himself, he has his two dastardly hired hands, Krendal (Wendy Anderson) and Wilkes (Simon Northwood), beat the crap out of Dr. Leech, shoot him in both legs, inject him with a mega-dose of his own formula and lock him in the tunnels of and abandoned government facility. They plan on returning twenty-four hours later to see if the formula worked, but since they forgot to leave him any nutritional serum, Dr. Leech starts to get very, very hungry, begins eating rats and dogs and transforms into a creature who takes on the form of whatever it devours, basically proving that old adage "You are what you eat." And wouldn't you know it, a quartet of workers, headed by Vince Stoker ("name" actor Tom Sizemore; THE RELIC - 1997) and his partner Otis (Martin Roach), arrive at the building to clean it up and become trapped in the tunnels. They must not only contend with the creature, they also must avoid Krendal and Wilkes, who have returned to check on Dr. Leech's progress. You can probably guess what come next, as Vince tries to protect niece Sam (Amber V. Cull), who was just hired on her uncle's crew, while the creature begins chowing-down on the cast and gaining intelligence as well as nourishment. Ho-hum. It's even got the prerequisite downbeat ending that all these modern-day DTV horror films seem to love, setting it up for a sequel no one in their right mind would ever ask for. This is the freshman directorial and scripting debut of Randy Daudlin, who got his start supplying makeup effects on TV's FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES (1987 - 1990) and working in the same capacity on many low-budget horror film (a job he still performs). Unfortunately, BOTTOM FEEDER is generic "monster on the loose attacking people in a locked building" stuff, which has been done hundreds of times before and much better. While this film has it's fair share of gory effects, including decapitations, flesh-eating, a lower jaw-ripping and slashings, it's a pretty boring and tepid affair. Tom Sizemore, better known recently for his real-life fondness for crystal meth and his ensuing law enforcement and legal problems (not to mention his disastrous appearance on that celebrity rehab TV show), was reportedly a handful on the set of this film, refusing to show up for filming or showing up high as a kite (All of this was documented on the VH1 reality series SHOOTING SIZEMORE ). He still shows a spark here, such as when he's on the phone with Mr. Deaver negotiating a price to save his life (a funny scene), but you can see the ravages of drug use beginning to appear on his face. It's kind of sad to watch such a talented actor self-destruct on screen in such a bad manner, reduced to starring in shoe-scraping crap like this rather than the A-list films of yore. BOTTOM FEEDER is an apt title, but BOTTOM OF THE BARREL is a much better one. Avoid it. Also starring Joe Dinocol, Philip Akin, Tig Fong and Greg Campbell. Available on DVD from Genius Products. Unrated.
THE BRAIN (1987) - Crazy Canadian tax shelter horror flick that plays like an even more absurd 80's remake of THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957), with slightly better special effects and a more skewed sense of humor. Dr. Anthony Blake (David Gale: RE-ANIMATOR - 1985) is the head of the Psychological Research Institute and also hosts a popular local morning TV talk show in the town of Meadowvale called "Independent Thinking". The subject of this morning's show is teenage alienation and how modern science can cure teenage alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide (Hey, don't adults suffer from these things, too?). While her mother is watching Dr. Blake on TV, Becky (Susannah Hoffman), a patient of Dr. Blake, is in her bedroom, when the walls begin to shake, her teddy bear bleeds from its eyes and monster hands and tentacles bursts through her door, walls and TV. Mom runs upstairs to see what all the screaming is about and Becky stabs her in the chest with scissors (she believes she is stabbing tentacles), killing her. A giant brain then smashes through her mirror and tosses Becky out of her bedroom window, killing her instantly, as we then watch as Dr. Blake announces that his local TV show will soon be going national. Call me naïve, but this can't be a good thing. There have been a rash of murder/suicides in Meadowvale for the past several weeks, usually involving teens and their parents. Local high school prankster and intelligent student Jim Majelewski (Tom Breznahan; TWICE DEAD - 1988) gets caught dumping a bar of pure sodium down a toilet, causing the pipes to explode and soaking the school's principal. He brings Jim's parents in for a meeting and tells them that if Jim hopes to graduate this year, he will have to be a patient at Dr. Blake's Psychological Research Institute for "behavior modification" (Since when can a high school principal force a student to go to an institute for behavior modification? What makes him an expert? These are just some of the questions you will be asking yourself if you don't turn off your thinking function in your own brain and just go along for the ride.). Jim's parents reluctantly agree (as a going away present, Jim superglue's the principal's ass to his chair!) and Jim tells his virgin girlfriend, Janet (Cindy Preston; PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS - 1990), that he will soon be Dr. Blake's patient. Janet warns him to be careful, because she was a friend of Becky's and knows she was never the same once she became a patient of Dr. Blake. Once at the Institute, an apparently crazy patient tells Jim that Dr. Blake is an alien before brutish orderly Varna (George Buza) takes the patient away. Jim is subjected to some weird video therapy where he has electrodes attached to his head and the giant brain (which also has two eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth) sends Jim "hypnotic waves". Jim is able to resist the giant brain's hypnotic waves, but begins to suffer from hallucinations, so Dr, Blake deems Jim unfit for more "treatments". When it turns out that Dr. Blake has the giant brain broadcasting its hypnotic waves through his TV show in order to reprogram the ways teenagers think (those immune to the brain's waves are the ones causing the murder/suicides, an unfortunate side effect), serious shit begins to happen. Dr. Blake's nurse threatens to spill the beans to the authorities, so the brain swallows her whole (Dr. Blake retorts, "That's food for thought!). The brain (which is getting larger) tries to kill Jim by forcing him to get into a car accident (Jim hallucinates that the steering wheel falls off and is replaced by tentacles). When that doesn't work the brain freaks-out Jim while he is at the diner where Janet and best friend Willie (Brett Pearson) work, scaring the shit out of the employees and customers and Varna shows up with the police, injects him with a tranquilizer and brings him back to the Institute, throwing him into a rubber room. Jim discovers the truth about the brain and, with the help of Janet and Willie, breaks out of the Institute (unfortunately, in the process, Willie is eaten by the brain). Can Jim and Janet keep one-step ahead of the police and Dr. Blake long enough to expose what is going on before Dr. Blake transmits his show nationwide? Silly and nonsensical to the extreme, THE BRAIN is nothing more than a popcorn movie about mass mind control that not only bears similarities to AROUS, but also to John Carpenter's THEY LIVE (1987). Director Edward Hunt (STARSHIP INVASIONS - 1977; PLAGUE - 1978; ALIEN WARRIOR - 1985) and screenwriter Barry Pearson (Hunt's BLOODY BIRTHDAY - 1980) offer no explanation of the brain's origins or why Dr. Blake is helping it take over the world, other than a quick remark that Dr. Blake is not human (David Gale, who passed away in 1991, looks rail-thin and sickly here, which may be why he disappears through much of the film). The Brain itself is a supremely goofy creation that somehow gets around by moving it's large brain stem, which Varna calls a "tail", but is quickly corrected by Dr. Blake (If you look close enough in one scene, you can plainly see that the giant brain is being pushed around on a wheeled platform!). There are plenty of deaths on view, but precious little gore, including a real dry beheading by axe and one of the most bloodless chainsaw vivisections ever committed to film. Sure, it's stupid, cheap and makes no sense at all, but THE BRAIN contains enough entertaining idiocy (including David Gale losing his head once again) to make for a pleasant night's viewing. Also starring Christine Kossak, Bernice Quiggan, Ken McGregor, Robert King and Vinetta Strombergs. Originally available on VHS by I.V.E. Home Video and not available on DVD. Rated R.
BRAIN DEAD (2007) - I have to admit that I'm growing kind of tired of the glut of DTV zombie comedy films that have been popping up lately, but when I learned that director Kevin S. Tenney (WITCHBOARD - 1986; NIGHT OF THE DEMONS - 1988; PEACEMAKER - 1990) was responsible for this, I just had to give it a view and I'm glad to report that it's pretty good. A small meteor embeds itself into the head of a fly fisherman in some backwoods burg, instantly turning him into a brain-hungry zombie (the first thing he does is stick his thumbs through his buddy's eyes and tear his head in two, a nifty effect that is about as gory as anything you have ever seen). We are then introduced to the usual bunch of oddball characters, including wisecracking Clarence Singer (Joshua Benton), a local man arrested for a traffic offence, who is handcuffed to violent criminal Bob Jules (David Crane), just as Bob blows off a deputy's head with a shotgun (another uber-gory effect) and escapes from custody; the lecherous Reverend Farnsworth (Andy Forrest) and his horny female secretary Amy (Cristina Tiberia); and lost hikers Claudia Bush (Michelle Tomlinson), a lesbian, and big-busted Sherry Morgan (Sarah Grant Brendeke), as they all converge on an abandoned fishing lodge deep in the woods. As you can probably guess, they all soon come under attack by a couple of alien zombies, who spread their infection not by the normal bite, but by expelling a black slimy liquid out of their mouths and onto the heads of their victims. The dumb-as-a-post and ultra-violent Bob holds everyone hostage, even after witnessing one of the zombies putting his fist through the head of nosy female park ranger Sydney (Tess McVicker), which just adds to the difficulty level of survival for everyone involved. It's not long before our unlucky six fish-out-of-water begin getting gorily killed or infected, beginning with Amy and Bob. It turns out that the big-busted Sherry is not a bimbo at all, but rather a brainiac, as she correctly deduces that the black ooze is an alien organism that attaches itself to the brain, slowly eating it's host's brain until it craves more cerebral tissue. When Clarence and Sherry make an important discovery in the lodge's basement, it becomes apparent that the alien organism is very intelligent. Maybe too intelligent for our meager human brains to understand. Though a little too flippant for it's own good (Dale Gelineau's screenplay offers so many witty remarks from Clarence [he acts like a less-educated Dennis Miller], you'll want to punch him in the face to shut him up), BRAIN DEAD delivers so much gore and nudity (there's so much full frontal female nudity in the first twenty minutes, you'll think you died and gone to Nudist Heaven!), you'll forgive some of the cringe-worthy dialogue (although I did have a good laugh at Bob's recollection of having a near-death experience on the electric chair and, ever since that day, he can't keep his hair flat!). Director Kevin S. Tenney makes the most out of special makeup effects master Gabe Bartalos' gory makeup effects, never pulling away from the money shots and really delivering the bloody goods, offering decapitations (too many to keep track of) and other head violence, arms hacked or blown off and one zombie being cut in two with a shotgun. The majority of the effects are refreshingly the practical kind, although CGI is employed on a few scenes (including a long shot of the after-effects of Sydney's head-punching). There are a few standout funny sequences, such as Amy being infected by the alien, but since she's such an airhead, the organism bypasses her brain and hides in her uterus instead (!), so when she comes back to the lodge seemingly unharmed, the black ooze shoots out of her vagina and attaches itself to lesbian Claudia's face (a fitting choice). After tossing Claudia face-first into a roaring fireplace, Clarence turns to Sherry and asks, "What kind of amoeba is that?" to which Sherry replies, "A Trojan amoeba? How the Christ do I know?" Tenny also gives the film a funny framing device and offers an unapologetically downbeat, yet sarcastically fitting, finale. You can do a lot worse than this low-budget horror comedy and, God knows, I certainly have. Also starring Locky Lambert, Chad Martin Guerrero, Greg Lewolt and low-budget auteur Jim Wynorski (CHOPPING MALL - 1986; SORCERESS - 1994) as Sheriff Bodine, who has a severe hard-on for Clarence and his family. A Shoreline Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.
BREEDERS (1986) - During the mid-to-late-80's director Tim Kincaid took a break from making gay porn (his real forté), in which he used the pseudonyms "Joe Gage" and "Mac Larson" (his real name is Tim Gambiani) to direct/write several horror, sci-fi, action and comedy films, most of them for uncredited Executive Producer Charles Band and his Empire Films. Those of us who remember searching the shelves of VHS rental shops remember those titles well, thanks to their garish artwork on the Wizard Video label. Films Like BAD GIRLS DORMITORY (1984), ROBOT HOLOCAUST (1986), NECROPOLIS (1986; Producer only), THE OCCULTIST (1987), ENEMY TERRITORY (1987; Producer only), MUTANT HUNT (1987), RIOT ON 42ND ST. (1987), and SHE'S BACK (1989) littered the shelves and many of us picked them up for rental, only to discover that the artwork on the box was the best thing about the films. And then there is BREEDERS. This film must have come as a shock to most renters because they had no idea what they were in for: A female-nudity filled, bladder-busting old-school makeup effects (supplied by effects master Ed French, who also has a major acting role in this film) and alien goop-filled sexploitation horror film that nearly defies description. I said nearly, because the plot is so outlandish. The film starts with a hooker running down a dark alley when she runs into a seemingly harmless old man who is walking his dog. They strike up a polite conversation and then the old man keels over in pain, as his flesh rips away from his hands, exposing some type of alien being, who carries away the girl and rapes her (offscreen). She is rushed to Manhattan General Hospital, where head Dr. Gamble Pace (Theresa Farley) informs Detective Dale Andriotti (Lance Lewman) that this is one of several women who have been raped in the past couple of days and they all had one thing in common: they were all virgins (try not to think about the hooker in the opening scene being a virgin because it will just drive you insane). As the film progresses, we get to see many women topless (thankfully all natural and not silicone-enhanced) as their male friends begin to change and burst out of their skin, they are actually an alien being who can possess any body it wants. It ends up raping the girls and putting them in Dr. Pace's hospital (One girl has nipples so big for an A-Cup, they cover her entire breasts!). Gamble and Dale work together to try and find out who or what is responsible for these vicious attacks (some girls are so scarred, they will never heal properly). They find all the girls have another thing in common (besides being virgins): They all had traces of red brick dust on their bodies and it could have only come from certain places underground from New York City's past. They do a radius search and discover that the nearest place to use red bricks was the basement of the Empire State Building and (surprise!) the hospital has a tunnel that leads right to it. Suddenly, all the raped girls get out of their beds and head to the basement of the Empire State building, where they all bathe naked and writhing in a goop-filled pool-like structure, while the evil Dr. Ira Markum (Ed French) informs our intrepid pair (who were following the evidence) that once the women deliver the alien babies, the people of Earth stand no chance of surviving. Dr. Markum begins to change into an alien being (some really disgusting bladder effects), while Dale tries to pump a few bullets into it with no effect. Dale and the alien get into a fight and just when things look grim for Dale, Gamble comes to the rescue and impales the alien on a sharpened piece of wood, destroying it (seems there was only one!) and destroying the chance of the women having their alien babies (try not to think too hard, just go with it). The film ends with Gamble in bed with Dale and he turns into an alien, but it all turns out to be a nightmare. The camera pans back on a frightened Gamble lying in her bed, worried that the whole thing will happen again (Or is she pregnant? It was discovered that while she was under the Empire State Building that she was a virgin!). This short, 77-minute exercise in female nudity (some full frontal and some ass shots, too) and disgusting practical special effects (Kincaid's ex-wife Cynthia De Paula was Producer on all these films, but not his gay porn films) makes absolutely no sense (I mean, really, there were that many virgins in NYC in 1986?) and the acting is way below par, but it does have that certain something that makes you want to watch it over and over (I, myself, have seen it well over 20 times). It's just so weird and out-there that it belongs in a universe of its own and the effects, though obviously done on an extremely low budget, are very good, especially Ed French's transformation in the final minutes. Most of these films never received a theatrical release (although BAD GIRLS DORMITORY and ENEMY TERRITORY did) and proudly exclaimed "Too Gory For The Silver Screen" on the front of the VHS box. If you are going to watch any of these films, this one, ENEMY TERRITORY and RIOT ON 42ND ST. are your best bets. The acting on all these film may be sub-par, but there is enough blood and gore to make even the most ardent horror and action film fanatic happy. Kincaid went back to working on gay porn films immediately after he was done with these films, something he is still doing up till this day (and winning awards from the gay community). Arthur D. Marks was Director of Cinematography on all these films. Also known as KILLER-ALIEN. This film is worth your time because it is relatively short, contains many shots of unaltered naked female flesh (most of the girls' breasts are very small) and contains effects that bring back memories of the good old days, when CGI was not even a thought. It's no classic, but I'll be damned if I don't love it to death. Also starring Frances Raines (who appeared in a few of these films, as well as THE MUTILATOR - 1984, and quit acting in 1987 after she got married), Amy Brentano (Roberta Findlay's BLOOD SISTERS - 1987), Natalie O'Connell, LeeAnne Baker (The six-breasted witch in NECROPOLIS), Matt Mitler (BASKET CASE 2 - 1990), Adriane Lee and Mark Legan. A Wizard Video VHS Release. Later released on VHS and widescreen DVD by MGM Home Entertainment (without a single cut). Not Rated.
BRIDES OF BLOOD (1968) - If you can remember the numerous times this film was shown on TV during the 70's under the title ISLAND OF LIVING HORROR, then you will understand why it holds a fond place in the hearts of horror fans: It was the first movie to introduce us to Filipino horror, something that would alter our viewing pleasure forever. The first part of a horror trilogy, which would continue with THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (a.k.a. TOMB OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1969) and finish with BEAST OF BLOOD (1970), this film opened our eyes to a whole new genre: A mixture of sex, blood and gore set in exotic locales, populated by scantily-clad people who spoke fractured English and starring B-actors slumming for their supper. A good many of these films starred the late John Ashley (who loved the Philippines), an actor then known for appearing in a bunch of American International horror, juvenile delinquent and beach party films of the 50's & 60's. Thanks to the success of BRIDES OF BLOOD, Mr. Ashley and the Philippines enjoyed a fruitful career together, appearing in such films as BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT (1970), TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972), THE WOMAN HUNT (1972), BEYOND ATLANTIS (1973) and others, opening the floodgates of Filipino filmmakers to invade the American Drive-In circuit of the 70's. We were inundated with Philippines-made horror films (NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN - 1972; DEVIL WOMAN - 1973; BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL - 1974), women-in-prison flicks (WOMEN IN CAGES - 1971; THE HOT BOX - 1972), and action movies (TNT JACKSON - 1975; THE MUTHERS - 1976; BLIND RAGE - 1978) boosting the careers of directors Cirio H. Santiago, Efren C. Pinon and many others. American production companies, such as Roger Corman's New World Productions, filmed many movies in the Philippines because it was cheap, contained colorful locations and had many capable local actors (such as the stalwart Vic Diaz). All of this can be traced back to the success of BRIDES OF BLOOD. Is it a good film? Quite frankly, no. But it is enjoyable. A scientist (Kent Taylor of BRAIN OF BLOOD ), his horny wife (Beverly Hills) and a Peace Corps volunteer (Ashley) come to Blood Island to study the effects of radiation from recent A-Bomb tests on the local people and surroundings. What they find is that the natives are offering their virgins to "The Evil One", a horribly mutated monster who mutilates the women beyond recognition. leaving only bloody body parts behind. The Evil One is actually a local plantation owner (Mario Montenegro) who transforms into the creature thanks to the radiation. He's not the only thing that's affected. There's killer trees and plant life that tear people apart with their very flexible branches and limbs. The most hilarious scene is where Kent Taylor is attacked by a killer butterfly! This film does deliver in the blood and nudity department. Bloody body parts, hacked-off heads and nude virgins tied-up to bamboo posts are just some of the depravity you'll see here and who can forget the first time you saw the mutated creature? It's a one-of-a-kind creation that leaves a lasting impression. The Image Entertainment DVD offers a decent full-frame transfer not without some scratches and speckling, especially at the beginning and at reel changes. It's still the best this film has looked since it's theatrical run and blows the VHS versions out of the water. For serious collectors of childhood memories and horror film firsts, BRIDES OF BLOOD (also known as BRIDES OF THE BEAST, BRIDES OF BLOOD ISLAND and GRAVE DESIRES) is a must-own. Directed by Gerry de Leon (TERROR IS A MAN - 1959) and Eddie Romero (who also has an informative and humorous interview on the DVD). They both co-directed a war feature, WALLS OF HELL, in 1964. An Image Entertainment DVD Release. Also available on DVD as part of Alpha New Cinema, which is basically a port of the Image Entertainment DVD, but without most of the extras. Not Rated. UPDATE: Eddie Romero passed away on March 28, 2013.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1970) - I remember watching this as a kid on TV in the mid-70's and hating it. Watching it again today brings about a whole new perspective for me. This film was made for adults and not for kids (even though it was rated GP [then changed to a PG ] when originally released). The film opens up with a toy tank turning into a real one and killing the occupants of a car by repeatedly rolling over it. A lone boy emerges from the wreck, grabs the toy tank and joins some waiting children on a hill. A traveling family consisting of Ben (Charles Bateman), his daughter KT (Geri Reischl, who would later play Annie in I DISMEMBER MAMA - 1974) and girlfriend Nicky (the sexy Ahna Capri of PIRANHA, PIRANHA - 1972) happen upon the accident and report it to Sheriff Pete (veteran actor L.Q. Jones) of the next town called Hillsboro. They are attacked by the entire town and escape, only to be run off the road by a small girl blocking their way. They have to make their way back to the town. We slowly learn that the town's residents are being killed off (27 adults killed in 72 hours) and their children abducted, who are later to be used to transfer the souls of the old coven of Devil worshippers into the body of the children in order to keep alive for eternity. The town doctor (the always fabulous Strother Martin in a rare starring role) is the leader of the coven, not above killing one of his coven for having her granddaughter baptised (the whole coven rip her apart with their bare hands). Needing another child to complete their ritual, the Doc and his coven turn their attention to KT. The town priest (Charles Robinson, not the African-American actor of TV's NIGHT COURT [1984 - 1992] fame) is very suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the missing children and is getting closer to the truth. The town deputy, Tobey (Alvy Moore) thinks it's all the fault of UFOs (he's not the smartest fish in the tank). Ben and the Sheriff investigate (there's a surreal scene where they survey all the dead adult bodies stored in the local meat locker), while Nicky has a dream that all the bodies in the meat locker are actually the children instead of the adults and has premonitions of her own death. With no way to contact the outside world and no transportation, Ben and his family must find a way to escape Hillsboro. KT disappears and Ben and Nicky (with the help of the Sheriff, the Priest, Tobey and the dastardly Doc) must find her before the soul of an old witch is transferred into her body as the ritual is to be performed that night. Directed with style by Bernard McEveety, who also directed many episodes of TV series before his death in 2004. This is his only theatrical horror film (he was assistant director on THE RETURN OF DRACULA - 1958), the rest of his movie directorial career consisted of Westerns (RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE - 1966; ONE LITTLE INDIAN - 1973; THE BEARS AND I - 1974). L.Q. Jones and Alvy Moore are also the Producers (as they also did on THE WITCHMAKER - 1969). Sean MacGregor (who directed DEVIL TIMES FIVE - 1974) wrote the original story. Quite bloody for a PG-rated film, THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN contains a beheading (by a toy knight riding a horse coming to life), the bloody meat locker scenes, various flaming sword sacrifices and children in peril. It also contains one of the most downbeat finales in cinematic history. Thank to Columbia TriStar, you can know view this long-forgotten gem on DVD and revel in it's creepiness. I would truly recommend this one for people who like to feel their skin crawl. Rated PG.
BURIED ALIVE (2006) - Tired "teens in peril" slasher film with a couple of strong bursts of graphic gore. Zane (Terence Jay, who also composed the music score) takes a bunch of college kids, including cousin Rene (Leah Rachel); her boyfriend Danny (Steve Sandvoss); nerdy geek Phil (Germaine De Leon); and sorority pledges Laura (Erin Michelle Lokitz; THE GRAVEYARD - 2006) and Julie (Lindsey Scott) to a house in an old New Mexico ghost town in the middle of the desert. The house belonged to Zane's grandfather, who, years ago, was the only survivor of a massacre in the house. Legend says that there's a fortune in gold hidden in the house and after being warned by creepy caretaker Lester (Tobin Bell; the SAW franchise) not to spend the night in the house, Zane and the stereotypical stupid teens ignore his warnings and enter the house. It's clear from the beginning that cousins Zane and Rene are harboring romantic feelings for each other (but they keep it secret from the others), but both of them are also prone to disturbing visions (Rene dreams that Zane drowns her in a bathtub and Zane keeps seeing a creepy old hag which no one else sees), which are all clues of things to come. Zane believes the missing gold is located somewhere in the house's cavernous sub-basement, but immediately notices that someone (it's Lester) has been recently digging down there (We see Lester find a huge gold nugget earlier in the film). The killings finally begin when Phil goes outside to get better wi-fi reception for his laptop and is cut in two down (vertically down the middle) by someone swinging an axe. Laura is nearly the next one to be killed by the axe-wielding specter (who rises out of a blood-filled bathtub), but a circular tattoo on her back stops the specter from killing her. Some old photos found in the house reveal that Rene bears a striking resemblance to Zane's great-grandfather's second wife and the necklace Rene wears is actually a totem (It's the same design as Laura's tattoo) and it looks like the specter is the vengeful spirit of great-granddad's first wife, a Native American Indian who was buried alive so great-grandpappy could marry his second wife. She wants to kill the last of great-grandfather's bloodline, which happens to be Zane and Rene, and she'll kill anyone who gets in her way. The specter works her way through the rest of the cast (only Laura survives, thanks to her body art), giving Zane and Rene a fitting demise in the finale. What about the missing gold? Well, I'm afraid that's left for another film. Although director Robert Kurtzman (THE DEMOLITIONIST - 1995; WISHMASTER - 1997; THE RAGE - 2007) tosses in plenty of exploitable elements, including lots of female nudity and gore (also supplied by Kurtzman, who got his start in the business as one of the three founding members of the KNB Effects Group), it's the lack of any sympathetic characters that sinks this film from the start. Not only is the near-incestuous relationship between Zane and Rene creepy (I realize it's not against the law, but, really, do we need to think about flipper kids in their future?), but it takes nearly 72 minutes (excluding Phil's killing) for the blood and gore to finally reach the screen. Until then, it's nothing but talk, talk, talk, followed by brief bits of nudity and a couple of false scares, some more talking, brief nudity, false scares and repeat until the blood finally kicks in. Rene comes across as a real nasty cunt, who gets so jealous when Zane and Julia have sex, she hazes both pledges just for the sheer joy of it, which results in Julie's death. Besides a couple of creative and gory deaths (Danny getting his face cut off with an axe; Phil's death), BURIED ALIVE is nothing but a generic slasher flick that offers very little to the genre. It seems screenwriter Art Monterastelli forgot to put the "slash" into slasher, as the on-screen body count is anemic (Four, but we only see two of them on-screen and Zane and Rene are buried alive). It's hard to believe a special effects master like Kurtzman could turn out a boring piece of tripe like this. He should know better. A Dimension Extreme Films DVD Release. Unrated.
BURNED AT THE STAKE (1981) - During the Salem witch trials in 1692, spoiled brat Ann Putnam (Susan Swift) falsely accuses the wife and young daughter of William Goode (David Rounds) of being witches. Her accusations, given in concert with corrupt witchfinder Reverend Parris (John Peters), results in William's wife being hanged and daughter Dorcas (Jennine Babo) about to be burned at the stake. Cut to the present day, where Loreen (Swift again) and her classmates are taking a class trip on the history of the Salem witch trials. On their way the the Salem Witchcraft Museum, Loreen feels a strange sensation when the bus she is in passes local witch Merlina (Beverly Ross) walking down the street and her dog starts chasing the bus, running alongside Loreen's window and staring at her. Once at the museum, William Goode is magically transported to the present day and attacks Loreen, thinking she is Ann Putnam. William runs away and his eyes can't believe what he sees (automobiles and planes), but he still manages to avoid the police and stay within spying distance of Loreen, even though local cop Captain Billingham (Albert Salmi) is called in to investigate Loreen's attack (he thinks William is a sexual predator). The class trip still goes on and when they visit the Salem cemetery, Loreen's teacher is killed when she saves Loreen from a falling tree branch. After her teacher's death, Loreen begins to talk in an early American dialect and her worried mother, Karen (Trisha Sterling), calls on famous psychologist Dr. Grossinger (Guy Stockwell) to look at her but, at first, he has no idea what is going on. When William breaks into Loreen's bedroom and confronts her, Karen shoots him (nothing happens; the bullets just pass through his body) and Captain Billingham captures him and puts William in the local jail, where he tells his story to an understanding TV reporter (Frank Dolan). We then begin to realize that William was sent to the present day to get Loreen, who is now possessed by the spirit of Ann Putnam, to confess to her lies about her accusations against Dorcas. If she does, William's daughter will be saved from being burned at the stake back in 1692. When the reporter is killed (by the horribly burned visage of Reverend Parrish and the possessed Loreen) for getting too close to the truth, good witch Merlina helps William, Kathy and Loreen achieve karmic justice. This is a rare non-special effects horror flick from director/producer/scripter Bert I. Gordon, who is better known to genre fans for his giant monster flicks, including THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957; and it's sequel, 1958's WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST), the giant grasshopper film THE BEGINNING OF THE END (1957), the self-explanatory VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (1965), the giant animal and insect film FOOD OF THE GODS (1976) and the giant ant flick EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977), all which earned Mr. Gordon the nickname "Mr. B.I.G." (since he also did most of the cheapjack special effects on all these films, too). Mr Gordon also made non-horror features, such as the thriller PICTURE MOMMY DEAD (1966), the gory police thriller THE MAD BOMBER (1972), a couple of sex comedies and a trio of witchcraft films, including this one (also known as THE COMING), NECROMANCY (a.k.a. THE WITCHING - 1972) and SATAN'S PRINCESS (1990). BURNED AT THE STAKE is not a bad film (actually filmed in Salem, Massachusetts), just an unremarkable one. Susan Swift (AUDREY ROSE - 1977) is good as Ann/Loreen, but the story and special effects (including some wonky optical work) leaves a lot to be desired. Albert Salmi plays one of the most trusting police captains in recent memory, as he believes everything witch Merlina tells him, even going as far as releasing both her dog and William into her custody based on a far-fetched reincarnation scenario, even though both her dog and William may be involved in murders! The print I viewed was a cut TV edition and it is obvious that some of the bloodier bits have been edited out, but I doubt the inclusion of those scenes would change my opinion about this film. The premise is interesting, but the execution is pedestrian. Give me one of Mr. Gordon's cheesy giant monster flicks any day. An LD Video Productions VHS Release. Originally Rated R.
THE BURNING (1980) - This is one of the better 80's slasher films, thanks to the natural acting of the young cast (including a pre-bald Jason Alexander, a very young Fisher Stevens and a very early role for Holly Hunter), an eerie electronic score by Rick Wakeman and the bloody effects of Tom Savini, many of which were trimmed to achieve an R rating. Thanks to the satellite channel MonstersHD, THE BURNING is available uncut for the first time in a pristine widescreen print. The plot of this film is your standard slasher story, but the acting and practically everything else in front and behind the screen is first rate. A bunch of camp kids play a practical joke on the caretaker, Cropsy, that gets out of hand, resulting in him being horribly burned over his entire body. Five years pass and he is discharged from the hospital because there is nothing left they can do for him (none of his skin grafts were successful). The first thing he does is visit a prostitute. When she is repulsed by the sight of his face (we won't see it until the finale), Cropsy savagely stabs her with scissors (the first of the restored footage) and pushes her through a window. He then goes back to his old stomping ground, Camp Stonewater, and begins to stalk and kill the kids and camp counselors with a pair of garden shears. One of the kids, the timid Alfred (Brian Backer), who is afraid of the water, is the first to spot Cropsy, but can't get anyone to believe him. During a weekend canoe trip down river, Cropsy begins his killing spree, picking off the kids and counselors one-by-one. He also sets loose the canoes, forcing the kids to build a raft and use it to paddle up river, leading to the film's most talked-about scene: The slaughter of half the cast by Cropsy in the middle of the river (made more memorable by the reinsertion of the cut gore, including finger-lopping, throat stabbing and a nasty forehead slashing). Alfred and the remaining campers are left to fend for themselves as Cropsy targets them next. When the raft drifts back to them with the mutilated bodies of their friends still on it, they finally believe Alfred, who is now being chased through the woods by Cropsy. A final fight between Cropsy and one of the counselors reveals that the counselor was one of the kids responsible for burning Cropsy five years earlier. Alfred saves the day, but not before one final surprise. This early Miramax film (first distributed by Orion and then by MGM), co-written by Bob Weinstein and produced by brother Harvey Weinstein, has a lot to recommend. The banter and foreplay between the cast is honest and rings true, which makes their deaths all the more horrible. The deaths are downright gory. While the raft sequence may get the most press, I found the death of Glazer (Larry Joshua) to be much more gutteral. His stabbing in the upper chest by the garden shears, with the camera tracking him eventually being impaled to a tree is a highlight. When Cropsy pulls the shears out of him in one quick, bloody jerk, your anus will pucker. The print shown on MostersHD is a revelation. It's crisp, colorful (the blood really pops) and, for the first time, you can see it in all it's uncut glory. Nudity was also trimmed for it's R release, so now you are able to see some full frontal female nudity (and Larry Joshua's ass) that you missed in the edited version. Director Tony Maylam (THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS - 1979; SPLIT SECOND - 1992) uses the entire image to frame some of the murders, so viewing it in widescreen for the first time is like watching a totally different film. Future director Jack Sholder (ALONE IN THE DARK - 1982; THE HIDDEN - 1987; ARACHNID - 2001) was director of photography on this. THE BURNING is one of the better FRIDAY THE 13TH clones and some would say (myself included) that it surpasses it. The only problem is that this unedited version is not yet available on home video, so if you don't have MonstersHD (sadly, it's now an extinct channel), you'll have to depend on the kindness of strangers to supply you with a copy (like I did). Whoever controls the MGM library now (I believe it's Sony, but it seems to change every week) should get off their lazy asses and release this on DVD (along with NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON and hundreds of others). Also starring Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Ned Eisenberg, Carrick Glenn, Carolyn Houlihan and Lou David as Cropsy. Originally released on VHS by Thorn EMI in the R-rated cut. Not Rated. NOTE: Our prayers have been answered! The Unrated Version is now out on DVD from MGM (even though it says "Rated R" on the DVD sleeve). Also available on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Shout! Factory sub-label Scream Factory. This is the one to get if you want to watch the film in all its original aspect, unedited glory.
THE BURNING MOON (1992) - After watching NEKROMANTIK (1987) and VIOLENT SHIT (1989), I got this strange notion that Germany consisted of nothing but really sick and twisted people waiting to unload their depraved fantasies on the world. After watching THE BURNING MOON, I am convinced of this. This is a sick little film. A slacker, drug-addicted guy (played by director Olaf Ittenbach) gets hopped up on smack and tells his little sister two stories. "Julia's Love" is a pretty standard slasher tale dealing with an asylum escapee (Bernd Muggenthaler) who gets jilted by Julia (Beate Neumeyer), when she finds out he's an asylum escapee, and his subsequent stalking of her and the murdering of her family. "The Purity" is not as standard in that it deals with a demented priest (Rudolf Hos) who, in 1957, rapes and murders young women while proclaiming that he is purifying their souls. The bulk of the tale deals with the townfolk's persecution of Justuz (Andre Stryi) under the belief that it is he that is doing the killings. What happens to the man who kills him is really sick and twisted. The main claim to fame of this film is that it is a shot-on-video gore extravaganza. There is a lot of gore in this movie. Stabbings, impalements, beheadings, bullet hits and many other fun moments can be had here. In the final minutes there is one of the most grotesque journeys through Hell I have ever seen. Most of the gore is very convincing. If this had been shot on film, it probably would have been almost unwatchable. Unlike NEKROMANTIK and VIOLENT SHIT, this film is made by someone who knows how to direct a movie. It's a little slow in spots (99 minutes) but it really tries. The music helps it along except when it sounds suspiciously like the theme from STAR WARS (1977). The second tale, in particular, has a tremendous kick to it. It manages to pack rape, religion, revenge and redemption in Hell all into one sloppy little package. It's not for everyone but, if you can get into it, it's good sick fun. Director Olaf Ittenbach later went on to direct the very gory PREMUTOS: LORD OF THE LIVING DEAD (1997) and LEGION OF THE DEAD (2000). Note: Apart from the gore, the toughest part about watching this movie are the subtitles. They're terrible and only seem to vaguely relate to the way the English language works. A Dead Alive Home Video Release. Also available on legitimate DVD from InterVision Picture Corp., an offshoot label of Severin Films. Unrated.
THE BURROWERS (2008) - In this unusual horror western, something is stalking the families living in the Dakota Territories in the late summer of 1879. As more families end up missing or strangely murdered, local lawman John Clay (Clancy Brown: CARNIVALE [2003-2005]) believes it is the Indians that are responsible (There is no love lost between Indians and the white man in this film, which adds to it's believability). When local girl Maryann Stewart (Jocelin Donahue; HOUSE OF THE DEVIL - 2009) and her family end up missing and the Williams family is savagely slaughtered (their bodies all bear strange slash marks on their necks that, for some reason, didn't bleed), Clay forms a posse, which includes Maryann's intended suitor Fergus Coffy (Karl Geary), William Parcher (an excellent William Mapother; THE GRUDGE - 2004) and young Dobie (Galen Hutchinson), the son of William's fiancée, Gertrude Spacks (Laura Leighton). After burying the Williams family and Fergus noticing some strange holes burrowed in the surrounding property, John and his posse join up with an Army regimen headed by Henry Victor (Doug Hutchinson; THE GREEN MILE - 1999), his cook Walnut Callaghan (Sean Patrick Thomas; DRACULA 2000 - 1999) and various Indian guides, with hopes of rescuing Maryann and killing some Indians, but they will soon discover that the Indians are the least of their problems. The sadistic Henry Victor makes it clear to everyone that he is in charge and to prove it, he spots a lone Indian on the plains, shoots his horse and has his Indian guide Ten Bear (Anthony Parker) torture the poor young buck just for the shit and giggles (Henry hates Indians so much, he carries a tobacco pouch made from a dead Indian's scrotum!). Most everyone else in the posse don't care much for Henry's methods (When Walnut takes pity on the tortured Indian and gives him some food, Henry screams out, "Who fed my Indian!" and nearly kills Fergus when he takes the heat), but they have to put up with his cruelty since he wears the stripes and threatens to hang anyone who disobeys him (his handlebar moustache only amps-up his evil quotient). That night, while everyone is asleep except for a couple of Army guards, something from underground grabs four Army soldiers and Henry, of course, blames the Indians. The captive young buck mentions "The Burrowers", a tribe of underground dwellers that have begun eating Indians since their main source of protein, the buffalo, have been hunted to near extinction by the white man (He also says of the Burrowers, "I'm glad they like white men, too!"). Since Henry thinks this is nothing but a bunch of bullcrap and is more interested in killing Indians than chasing monsters, John, William, Fergus and Dobie break from the Army regimen and go on a monster hunt, following a trail of holes in the ground (Walnut shows up a short time later to help them). They find the body of a young white woman who seems to be dead, but her eyes are open and her body is twitching weirdly, so they send Dobie back to town with the body. Dobie never makes it, as when he beds down on the plains at night, he is dragged away by a Burrower after being slashed on the neck and infected. John is shot in the neck (and then has his face graphically caved-in with a rifle butt) by some renegade Sioux Indians, leaving William, Fergus and Walnut to fend for themselves. William is infected in his neck by a Burrower, but Fergus and Walnut save him and run into a squaw named Faith (Alexandra Edmo), who explains to them just who the Burrowers are and their method of killing (Their infection causes a waking death and they wait for the bodies to start decomposing and eat the "soft parts"). Only the Ute Tribe knows how to kill the Burrowers (you have to poison them at night so they can't burrow underground and the morning sunlight will kill them), so the Utes steal William, poison his body and wait for the Burrowers to feast on him. Fergus and Walnut try to save their friend, but Walnut gets shot in the leg and Fergus gets one of his legs caught in a bear trap, which leads to the Burrowers chowing-down on William's still-alive body and Fergus trying to free himself before he is next on the menu. Helped tremendously by a cast of pros, THE BURROWERS takes a while to get cooking, but it is never boring. At times it seems that director/screenwriter JT Petty (SOFT FOR DIGGING - 2001; MIMIC 3: SENTINEL - 2003) is more interested in the minute details of Old West living (Fergus and the gang having a contest to see who can hit a tree with a rock [the Old West version of playing a video game!]; how hard it is to take a piss in cowboy pants without peeing on yourself), but it is this minutiae and lack of anachronisms found in most modern horror westerns that makes this film so effective. You begin to care about these people, faults and all (especially everyone's pure hatred for Indians), so when they start dying, be it by Indian (many who are just as cruel as Henry), white man or Burrowers' hands (In the Burrowers' case, it would be claws), it's effective and tugs at your emotions. Petty purposely keeps the Burrowers off-screen for most of the film's running time (which is bound to piss off some horror fans), rather offering us quick glimpses of their faces and claws (and their method of infecting humans), so when he finally does show them in all their glory (and thankfully, they are performed by humans and puppeteers rather than CGI), it's quite shocking. I also like how Petty uses the loss of buffalo as a food source to justify the Burrowers eating humans. Again, it's the white man's fault these monsters are murdering people, since they hunted the buffalo into near extinction for their skins. Just another reason for the Indians to hate us. I was a little disappointed when Doug Hutchinson's Henry disappeared at the film's midway point (although he makes a quick appearance at the film's end and sets the film up for an eventual sequel), because he's deliciously evil, but there's more than enough going on in this film to keep audiences entertained throughout. It's always nice to see William Mapother (Tom Cruise's cousin) in such a prominent role. Talent runs in that family. Besides some too-dark nighttime photography and some noticeable CGI (gunshots to horses are the most obvious), this film is a great addition to the burgeoning horror western genre (see my review of UNDEAD OR ALIVE  for more titles). Hell, I'll even go as far as to say it's one of the best horror films released in 2009. A eighteen minute prequel, called BLOOD RED EARTH (told entirely from the Indians' POV), was shown on internet site FearNet in 2009. You don't have to view it to appreciate the movie (As a matter of fact, besides the Larry Fessenden cameo, I found it boring and unresolved). Also starring Harley Coriz, Tatanka Means and David Midthunder. Filmed in New Mexico. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
CAMP FEAR (1994) - You gotta love a film that opens up with a bunch of overage sorority girls (including a cameo by Michelle Bauer) getting naked and taking showers (including what Retromedia's DVD sleeve shouts as: "See: Tragic Porn Star Savannah Take A Long Hot Shower!" A new low in advertising, but no one ever accused Fred Olen Ray of good taste.). After the showering, a Lambada dance and a few earthquake tremors, Professor Vincent Van Patten (!) takes four college girls (including Betsy Russell [who Vince was once married to in real life], Peggy Sands, Mindy Myer and Erika Nann) on dig up in the mountains to find some Indian artifacts. Along the way they run into a motorcycle gang (which includes Mike Diamant as "Frog", who looks like one of the Barbarian Brothers, and Vince's brother Nels Van Patten) and wino George "Buck" Flower (here listed as "Buck Flowers" in the opening credits), who warns them that "there are devils and demons in those hills". He's right as the crew first runs into an Indian (Jim Elk) who tells them to leave this area immediately and then encounter a 7-foot tall Druid demon (played by hulking former basketball player "Tiny" Ron Taylor) who is looking to perform four ritual sacrifices in order the save the next millennium (don't try to make sense of this because you'll just end up pulling your hair out). He kidnaps and chains all four girls in a cave and prepares them for sacrifice by drugging them. The motorcycle gang (who kidnap the wino), initially invade the camp to rape the women, but end up helping Vince save three of the girls, the fourth having her throat cut by the Druid. Frog saves the day when his knife reflects the Druid's laser beam (don't ask) and engulfs the giant in flames. There's also a huge sea monster in the lake that takes out two of the motorcycle gang and the wino. The four sacrifices save the next millennium. While short on logic, there plenty of eye candy to keep you occupied and some priceless dialogue to keep you amused. The late Buck Flower has a larger than usual role here as the wino who wears a pair of sunglasses missing a lens and offers anyone information for a beer or a bottle of wine. There's also a very brief view of the sea monster, a fire gag and very little blood except for the throat-slitting ritual at the end. The Lambada dance leads me to believe that this film was made a few years before it's 1994 copyright as that craze died down quicker than you could say "mood ring" or "pet rock" in 70s & 80s (My guess is that the film was actually made in 1990). Tiny Ron is a sight to behold too. All-in-all, not a bad way to spend 86 minutes. This film had a brief release on VHS under the title THE MILLENNIUM COUNTDOWN before disappearing into obscurity. Vince's half-uncle Tim Van Patten quit acting to become a successful TV director; directing (and sometimes writing) multiple Emmy-nominated episodes of THE SOPRANOS (including the hilarious "Pine Barrens" episode), DEADWOOD and many other episodic series. Now, there's a Van Patten with talent! Also starring David Home and James Kratt. Gary Graver was one of the directors of photography. This is director Thom Keith's only effort although he does assistant directing chores on movies made up till this day. I remember some time ago that there was a web site devoted to this film, debating whether it was real or not. The site has since closed down. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.
CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980) - I have always thought that director Antonio Margheritis best work was in the early 60s when he was turning out gothic chillers starring Barbara Steele. I found his later films to be highly derivative (even rip-offs) of American films popular at the time. While that last statement may be true, I am beginning to rethink my assessment of Margheritis later films. After viewing the uncut version of this film (released to theaters in the U.S. uncut as CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS, on video in butchered form as INVASION OF THE FLESH HUNTERS and in foreign territories as VIRUS), I have come to the conclusion (or is that concussion?) that Margheriti is a minor genius. Sure, this film contains ample amounts of graphic gore and flesh-munching fans of this genre demand, but its the subtleties of the performances and script (co-written by Margheriti and Dardano Sacchetti) that make it stand out from the pack. John Saxon gives a quiet, understated performance as Norman Hopper, a retired Army captain, who faces two dilemmas:The guilt he feels after cheating on his wife Jane (Elizabeth Turner) with teenage neighbor Mary (Cindy Hamilton) and the guilt he hides inside concerning himself, Charlie (John Morghen) and Tom (Tony King), two men he saved from a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp: They are infected with a virus which causes them to crave human flesh. Norman is able to control his craving until he has to save Charlie, who has just chewed a girl in a movie theater and is now holed-up in a department store, keeping the police at bay with a shotgun. Norman convinces Charlie to give himself up and he is immediately shipped off to a loony asylum where Tom is a resident. Norman helps them escape, along with a recently infected nurse (the virus is spread with a bite). With the cops hot on their trail, the quartet hide in the sewers beneath the city, only to get picked-off one-by-one until only Norman is left. Badly wounded, Norman manages to make it home, where he sees his wife get bitten by an infected cop. Norman shoots the cop and Jane embraces him, pointing the gun he is holding at her head. With a loving look from his wife, he knows what he must do. As the police pull up to the house, two gunshots are heard. The police are glad it is over, as we view an infected Mary (who Norman bit during their lovemaking session) watching the proceedings from her window, smiling. This film works on many levels. It has many gross moments (that you will not see in the cut version), including a graphic eye gouging, a tongue being bitten off, impromptu leg surgery involving a mechanics electric saw and John Morghens (real name: Giovanni Lombardo Radice) death by shotgun. He has a hole blown into him big enough to pass a subway car through as the cameraman obligingly shows us. In my younger years, this would have been all Ive needed to enjoy a film of this type, but as I get older I need more. A good story would be nice. Thankfully, this film delivers that need. While this film does not have the sociological subtext of George Romeros DAWN OF THE DEAD (i.e. zombieism = consumerism), it does manage to convey one mans feelings of loyalty to his family and his comrads. The viewer is made to feel sympathy for Norman, even when he cheats on his wife with his overeager teenybopper neighbor. Normans actions in this film are justified, because when you save someone from a life or death situation (as he does when he saves Charlie and Tom during the war), a sense of obligation to those people remains with you till the day you die. John Saxon relays those feelings perfectly in this film. When he is seduced by the underaged Cindy, we can see just by the look on his face that he does not want to go through with it, but when she bares her flesh it is just too much for him (mainly due to the cannibalistic urges that surge throughout his body). This is not a sexual tryst but a loss of his human morality.The finale brings his human side back, where the right decision has to be made. It is very touching without being overly-sentimental. My first article on Antonio Margheriti was in issue #1 of Critical Condition. In that article, I basically called him a hack who lost all sense of originality when he started making rip-off films for a living. I am here now to say that I was wrong. I have learned to look more deeply into the films I am viewing (without being overly-analytical like some reviewers, so analytical that you would have to be a psychiatrist to understand the reviews). Sure, CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE is a quickie film whose foremost reason for being is to gross-out the audience. But Margheriti does imbue this film with a sense of right and wrong that you dont find in most films of this type. Since issue #1, I have read many interviews with actors and others who have worked with Margheriti. None of them (including John Morghen, Fred Williamson, John Saxon, etc.) have even the tiniest bad thing to say about him. They have all said that it was a pleasure to work with him and that they would work with him again in a heartbeat. He is a funny, knowledgeable person who is not the least bit egotistical. This review is my apology to him. While I still do not care for some of his films (YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE - 1982; ARK OF THE SUN GOD - 1983; HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA - 1982; CODENAME: WILDGEESE - 1984), I have come to respect some of his later works due to that thing that happens to most of us: Growing up. While no masterpiece, CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE is an above-average entry, because it offers some meat with its bite. Vestron Video (SP speed) and Video Treasures (EP speed) offers the cut R-Rated version on VHS. Avoid those. Get a hold of an uncut version instead. Midnight Video offers a pristine, letterboxed bootleg VHS version. Image Entertainment offers a beautiful uncut widescreen edition on DVD as part of their "EuroShock Collection" with hours of extras.
CANNIBAL GIRLS (1972) - Vacationing couple Cliff and Gloria (Second City vets Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin) are on their way to Farnhamville ("The Friendly City") when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. They eventually get it started, but not before we spot someone spying on them through the trees in the snowy forest. Once they get to town, Cliff meets another out-of-town man who is looking for his missing sister (He's eventually murdered by two local garage mechanics). Cliff and Gloria get a motel room and the motel owner tells them the "legend" of the three sisters who lived in the area. They lured men to their house with the promise of sex, fatten them up with home-cooked meals and then kill them while in the sack. Their hunchback servant, Bunker, then chops up the bodies into manageable pieces and puts the dismembered parts in a freezer in the basement to be eaten later. Yes, the three girls were (are) cannibals and the motel owner tells Cliff and Gloria that the sisters' house is now a restaurant and they should have dinner there tonight. At the restaurant (which has only one dish on the menu), they are greeted and entertained by the Reverend (Ronald Ulrich), the tux and top hat-wearing owner who, with the three sisters, serves Cliff and Gloria a meal they will never forget. It becomes apparent that the Reverend is the leader of the town and all the citizens are cannibals. Cliff and Gloria spend the night at the Reverend's house (he scares them into staying by telling them that there's a maniac on the loose) and Cliff is hypnotized by the Reverend, but Gloria gets away. The next morning, Gloria tries to convince Cliff to leave, but he refuses to believe her story (he's still under the Reverend's power). With their car being repaired and all the outside phone lines down, Gloria must get Cliff to snap out of it before they both become a menu item in the Reverend's restaurant. It all ends back at the Reverend's house, where a shocking act of betrayal seals Cliff and Gloria's fate. Bon Appetite! This bloody Canadian horror/comedy is an early directorial credit for Ivan Reitman, who would later produce David Cronenberg's SHIVERS (1975) and RABID (1977) and then graduate to the big leagues directing films like GHOSTBUSTERS (1984), KINDERGARTEN COP (1990), EVOLUTION (2001) and many others. Rough around the edges (the boom mike is visible in a few scenes, some of the acting is amateurish and parts of the film drag), CANNIBAL GIRLS is still an enjoyable low-budget gore romp that doesn't have as much comedy as you would expect, especially from the two main stars. Eugene Levy (nearly unrecognizable, he looks like Gene Shalit here) and Andrea Martin are rather subdued (a lot of the dialogue between Levy and Martin was improvised) and are nothing like the characters they played on SCTV. The comedy comes mostly from the absurdities of the situations and some of the townspeople's character traits. There's also funny little bits going on in the background of some scenes, such as when Cliff and Gloria are walking through town and we see the local barber cut off a patron's ear while giving him a shave. The film is full of nudity (none by Levy or Martin) and gore, including axe murders, stabbings, dismemberments, flesh eating and a nasty mace killing. This little-seen gem was originally shown in theaters (distributed by American International Pictures) with the gimmick of a "Warning Bell" that would ring every time a violent scene was about to happen. The print I viewed (supplied by a Canadian friend) was, thankfully, free of this annoyance. This film never got a home video release in the U.S. (it was distributed in Canada on VHS from the CIC label), on VHS or on DVD. Ivan Reitman (who owns the U.S. rights) is holding up the release and is known not to speak fondly of it. He really has nothing to be ashamed of. It's highly watchable and kind of twisted. Also starring Alan Gordon, Allan Price, Bob McHeady, May Jarvis and Randall Carpenter, Bonnie Nielson and Mira Pawluk as the Cannibal Girls. A CIC Video Release. Finally available on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory. Rated R.
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST: THE BEGINNING (2003) - This is one of Bruno Mattei's (using his frequent pseudonym "Vincent Dawn") last crop of films before his death and it's not a pretty way to end a career. This shot-on-digital video feature is nothing but a piss-poor, pale imitation of Ruggero Deodato's 1980 gut-munching classic (no matter how much I hate it due to it's real-life animal violence). Two has-been TV newscasters, Grace Forsythe (Helena Wagner) and Bob Manson (Claudio Morales), join forces and film a "documentary" on cannibalism along the Amazon River. With a promised paycheck of one million dollars each from Grace's TV station (as long as they transmit gory, sensationalistic footage), they set out down river with their crew: Cindy Blair (Cindy Matic), Bob's assistant; Rick Norton (Kevin Maxwell), the cameraman; and Ted Brandon (Antoine Reboul), the sound recordist. They hire a native guide named Garcia (he wears torn blue jeans!) and, within a day, they are filming a tribe eating what seems to be human flesh. They also film a squad of gun-toting Forest Rangers gunning-down the tribe. Grace, Bob and the crew head deeper into the jungle looking for the "Invisible People", a much-talked about, but never seen (until now) tribe of cannibals. The footage that Grace sends back (by satellite transmission) is a big hit with the viewing audience, but her bosses demand more bloody, graphic footage to increase ratings, which worries Bob, who is a conservationist at heart. The callous Grace gets too involved in her work when, after watching the cannibal tribe gut and eat a conscious topless native woman, she orders the crew to set fire to the village and film the cannibals being burned alive. Even Bob eventually gets caught-up in the moment and starts randomly killing cannibals. Of course, this all bites them in the ass, especially when Ted and Bob rape a young cannibal girl (Ted: "She's a virgin!" Bob: "She was, you mean!"), slaughter her and then film her corpse and blame the cannibals for it. The cannibals have had enough of the white man's (and women's) violence and make a five course meal of the documentary crew. Seasoning is optional. This is one of the sloppiest-made films in recent memory. There are too many continuity errors to mention (Rick's last name switches from "Wallace" to "Norton"), the "documentary" footage shows Rick filming footage that he shouldn't be seen in (It's a one camera shoot, so where did the second camera come from?) and most of the dubbed dialogue is so cringe-worthy, it's embarrassing (Sample dialogue: "You're a big whore, Grace, but you've got a mind as devious as Caligstro's!"). Since this is an Italian cannibal film, you can also expect disgusting scenes of live animal slaughter. There's really no excuse to do it other than economics (Why kill an expensive special effect when you can kill the real thing?) and I nearly turned the film off when Garcia gutted a live lizard. While the film is bloody, the effects are never convincing (some are downright laughable, including the burning down of the village) and the characters are unrealistic and way too broad to be believable. Bob's transformation from caring conservationist to cold-blooded killer defies explanation and the TV Executive Boardroom scenes, where they discuss ratings and if the footage Grace has sent back has gone "too far" (One executive says, "The law of ratings is devilish!") is hysterically groan-inducing. While there is plenty of gut-munching and nudity, I would like to think that even the most ardent gorehound would expect something better than this. This is just god-awful. If you must watch a Bruno Mattei film, watch his earlier films like THE OTHER HELL (1980), HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980; a.k.a. NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES), CAGED WOMEN (1982), ROBOWAR (1988) or SHOCKING DARK (1989) instead. They may not be considered good cinema, but they are way more entertaining than this. This was made in the Philippines, where Mattei (who was one of the last Italian directors still making low-budget genre films) lensed nearly all his latter-day films (including 2004's THE TOMB) until he passed away in May 2007 of a brain tumor. Also starring Brad Santana, Michael Garland, Foster Howard and Chan Lee. Originally filmed as MONDO CANNIBALE ("Cannibal World") back-to-back with LAND OF DEATH (a.k.a. IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST 3: CANNIBAL VS. COMMANDO), utilizing some of the same actors (in different roles). Available on DVD from Japanese outfit Media Suits and in the U.S. by InterVision Picture Corp. as MONDO CANNIBAL. Not Rated.
THE CAPTURE OF BIGFOOT (1979) - This is another Bill Rebane-directed, Wisconsin-lensed film that's more talk than it is action. When a pair of hunters capture a baby bigfoot (played by Rebane's son, Randolph Rebane), a grown-up bigfoot (whom the local Indians call Arak) attacks them, killing one and seriously injuring another, who escapes and makes it to town by dogsled. Steve Garrett (Stafford Morgan), a wildlife officer, with the help of grizzled old hunter Jake Turner (the late George "Buck" Flower), track the hunters last steps and find the bloody corpse of the first hunter. They also find a huge footprint that could not possibly be human. Meanwhile, town bigshot Harvey Olsen (Richard Kennedy, a.k.a. "Wolfgang Roehm" from ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS - 1974) offers two rogue trackers (Otis Young and John F. Goff) $10,000 to capture the bigfoot, which he plans to display for big bucks. The trackers manage to shoot the baby bigfoot and barely escape the wrath of Papa bigfoot. The town brat Jimmy (John Eimerman), brother of Steve's girlfriend Karen (Katherine Hopkins), witnesses the killing of the baby bigfoot and reports it to Steve. The town sheriff (Wally Flaherty, who does bad imitations of Bogart, Colombo and John Wayne) warns Olsen to stop sending people out into the woods and firing their guns. In retribution, Papa bigfoot attacks some local skiers (one played by Verkina Flower, George's daughter), but does not kill them. Olsen and his goons go out looking for the bigfoot and will kill anyone who get in their way. They capture Steve and Jake and tie them to a tree, hoping that they will freeze to death. Olsen captures the bigfoot (by dropping a net on it!) and begins to go mad. Will Steve and Jake escape? Will Olsen get his just due? Will you fall asleep before it ends? THE CAPTURE OF BIGFOOT is definitely not Rebane's worst film (That would be INVASION FROM INNER EARTH - 1974), but it sure comes damn close. The bigfoot costume is a howl, as it resembles suit of sheep wool sewn onto a leotard. Not much in the way of violence of gore either, as this film is rated PG. It's mostly talk, pretty winter Wisconsin scenery, a lame car chase, an even lamer fist fight and plenty of long stretches where nothing happens. In other words, a typical 1970's Bill Rebane film using his regular stable of stock players. Rebane got much more interesting in the 80's, when he started using nudity and gore. An Active Home Video Release, later put out on VHS & DVD by Troma Video. Rated PG.
CARNAGE (1982) - This is actually one of the late director Andy Milligan's better films but it still makes you feel like a condemned man being asked what he would like as a last meal. You'll wish you were dead too, after watching this gore-a-thon. A newlywed couple (Leslie Den Dooven and Michael Chiodo) move into an old house haunted by another newlywed couple who committed suicide three years earlier. Strange and deadly occurrences begin to happen to our just-married couple as the vengeful spirits try to dispose of them. Objects move or disappear. The gas stove is turned on while they are sleeping. Potted plants drop from the roof. The maid slits her throat with a straight razor after viewing the dead spirit bride (with a bloody bullet hole in her temple). In the film's best scene, the dead bride dispatches two burglars who break into the house by chopping one's hand off with a hatchet and impaling the other thief with a pitchfork, slitting open his stomach with a sword and then stretching out his intestines! Not satisfied with suffering alone, the newlyweds decide to throw a housewarming party, thereby imperiling their friends. More accidents and deaths occur (including a bathtub electrocution and a hilariously bad decapitation) until the loving couple decide to kill themselves rather than leave the house they so dearly love. The cycle continues... Unlike the majority of Milligan's horror "masterpieces" (THE GHASTLY ONES - 1968; THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS - 1969; THE BODY BENEATH - 1970; GURU THE MAD MONK - 1970) this one is in modern dress rather than period costumes. Milligan would usually dress his actors in 19th Century garb so that his films would not seem "dated" when shown years later. No such luck here. Not only is it dated, it is also badly acted, photographed (by Milligan), edited and written. One piece of dialog goes, " Shut up and drink your breakfast!" The special effects are of the grade school level where objects are dangled on strings to give them a floating look and the actors freeze their movements so that ghosts appear suddenly when the camera rolls again. That type of effect went out when I DREAM OF JEANNIE (1965 - 1970) left the airways. One critic once said that to enjoy Milligan's films one must be "braindead or mentally disturbed." Since my doctors won't let me write with anything sharper than a crayon, I would have to agree. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Unrated.
CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1971) - Theres nothing quite like a good 70s pre-HALLOWEEN slasher film. Before the formula set in and filmmakers were allowed to roam anywhere, we got films like this. Not that this is a good film. Set in Coney Island, it deals with a woman-killing psycho amongst all the rides and games. I hesitate to say much more because Ill ruin the already strained surprise ending. Suffice to say, this is one of them Constant Loop Movies. You meet a couple (obnoxious woman, suffering man), they go to Tom (Earle Edgerton) and Gimpys (Burt Young as "John Harris") balloon-popping game. Tom and Gimpy get mad at the woman and she dies in a rather bloody fashion soon after. Toss in a main couple (Judith Resnick and Martin Barlosky), and a Fat Blonde (Gloria Spivak), and youve got a recipe for a sleazy, gory and occaisonally boring entertainment. I could go on for hours about how badly made this film is. Director Leonard Kirtman (who has made porn films such as UP IN THE AIR  using the name "Leon Gucci") seems to understand that the camera must be on to make a movie but he has no idea what to point it at or when to turn it off. However, the film does have that certain 70s-something which makes it watchable in a way that most formula slashers are not. Two notes: This is Burt Youngs (John Harris) first film. He plays Gimpy, the hunchbacked, sore covered assistant to Tom and if you want to shock Italian men who love ROCKY (1976), show them this movie. Second note: The Prostitute and the Sailor (second loop) section brings up an interesting point. If youve killed someone and their intestines are exposed, should you touch them since youve the chance? I mean, who hasnt wondered what human intestines feel like? The killer did and he does something about it. A Monarch Home Video Release. Rated R. Also available on DVD from Something Weird Video on a double-bill with Kirtman's strange hippie/horror opus CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (1972), which he directed using the name "John Kirkland".
CARNIVORE (2001) - Horrid ultra low-budget "creature on the loose" flick that is so bad it almost becomes entertaining. Almost. A secret government laboratory, disguised as an abandoned house (it's the old haunted "Romero House") in some podunk town in Illinois, accidentally sets loose a genetically-altered carnivore, or "Carny", a prototype for a soldier of the future. As the Carny begins killing innocent townspeople, the government sends some government thugs and a female scientist to either capture or kill it. Meanwhile, four teens go and spend the night at the old Romero House and guess who is there to make their lives a living hell? Why, it's good old Carny, hungry for some teen flesh. Scream. Run. Die. Repeat as many times as needed until the film is feature length. Nope, there's not one good thing I can say about this film. Atrociously acted (the two guys who play the bumbling local cops are truly painful to watch), badly photographed (the grain is so noticable, you'll want to play connect the dots) and horribly written and directed by the tag team of Kenneth Mader and F. Joseph Kurtz, CARNIVORE has the look and feel of a student production (Actual on-screen credit: "Assistant to Mr. Mader - His Mom"). The Carnivore is not really a bad creation, it's just filmed to look that way and it's POV shots are achieved by simply pressing the "Solarize" button on the digital camera. There is some gore on view, but it is so hazily filmed (did I mention that it was grainy?), it's hard to make out anything. Why are abandoned houses so smokey? Makes no sense to me. From what I could make out, a face is chewed off, another guy has his guts ripped out and the Carny gets hit in the face with a board with nails sticking out of it. None of it is done very well. Do yourself a favor and find something better to do for 80 minutes. I wish I had. Starring Jill Adcock, Randy Craig, Steven W. Cromie, John C. Jacob, Lori Johnson and Jeff Swan. A Key DVD Release distributed by 20th Century Fox. For a namebrand company, this has to be one of the worst presentations of a film my eyes have ever seen and the DVD sleeve promises a lot and delivers nothing: Widescreen Presentation (it's actually fullscreen); Directors Commentary (Where? I'd love to hear this!); Featurette (Maybe they were talking about the pause between the end of the film and returning to the menu); Optional Spanish Subtitles (Yes, but you have to go to Spain to get them); Dolby Digital (Will two cans and a piece of string work instead?); Digitally Mastered (Directly from a VHS tape!); Trailer (It's what the directors are living in now); and finally, Interactive Menus (If "Play" and "Scene Selection" can be considered interactive). A first class presentation all the way! I've seen better presentations on Dollar DVDs. I spent ten bucks on this. Hey, I took one for the team here and you all owe me! Rated R.
CARNOSAUR 2 (1994) - Roger Corman does it again. He had Michael Palmer recycle the script of THE TERROR WITHIN (1988 - which was a rip-off of ALIEN , which was a rip-off of IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE ) and substituted dinosaurs for mutant creatures. A cleanup crew go into an underground nuclear dump site and become trapped, being picked-off one by one by genetically engineered dinosaurs who were exposed to the leaking radiation. That's basically the entire plot. There are some juicy dismemberments and gut-munching scenes but not nearly enough to forget that this is basically deja vu all over again. It's of interest if only to see how low the careers of John Savage (TV's DARK ANGEL [2000 - 2002]), Cliff DeYoung and Don Stroud have sunk. Also starring Rick Dean (ISLAND OF BLOOD - 1982), Ryan Thomas Johnson and Arabella Holzbog. Directed by the numbers and without imagination by Louis Morneau (QUAKE - 1992; BATS - 1999). This sequel definitely does not have the weirdness factor of the first CARNOSAUR (1993), which was really only a quick cash-in of Spielberg's JURASSIC PARK (1993), but turned out to be one of Roger Corman's best films of the 90's. A New Horizons Home Video Release. Rated R.
CARNOSAUR 3: PRIMAL SPECIES (1996) - By-the-numbers sequel that doesn't skimp on the sauce. If it weren't for the frequent gore on view to keep you distracted, you might have discovered plot holes big enough to pass a dinosaur through. A Special Forces team is dispatched to retrieve three biogenetically engineered dinosaurs stolen during transport. With the help of a scientist (Janet Gunn), the team (led by a bored-looking Scott Valentine) try to contain the carnivorous critters in a dockside warehouse before the queen T-Rex lays her eggs and infects the human population (what the hell??). Of course, complications arise. After mucho macho posturing, only Valentine and Gunn are left alive. Will they save the day? You bet. Is it left wide open for another sequel? What do you think? (So far, no third sequel has been forthcoming, but that doesn't mean there won't be one sometime in the future. Let us not forget this is Roger Corman we are talking about!). The effects are quite good and plentiful. Heads and body parts are ripped off in such a manner as the flesh stretched like cheese on a pizza. The only performance worth noting is Rick Dean (ISLAND OF BLOOD - 1982; STRIPTEASER - 1995) as a wisecracking soldier. Things go quickly downhill when he is killed off. As it stands, CARNOSAUR 3 (also known as TRANSPORT) is an O.K. time-waster if blood and guts are the only thing you are looking for. Also starring Morgan Englund and Stephen Lee. Directed by Jonathan Winfrey (BLACK SCORPION - 1995; NEW CRIME CITY - 1994). A New Horizons Home Video Release. Rated R.
CARVER (2007) - Another low-budget entry in the "torture porn" genre, which I hope soon dies a violent, bloody death. After a gory opening, where we witness an unfortunate young woman dressed in nothing but a pair of dirty bra and panties being beheaded with a hand saw by overweight psycho Bobby Shaw Carver (Eric Fones), while a banjo-heavy version of "Turkey In The Straw" plays on a turntable, we are introduced to four extremely annoying young adults: brothers Pete (Matt Carmody) and Bryan (Neil Kubath) and best friends Zach (Jonathan Ruckett) and Rachel (Kristyn Green), as they take a camping vacation. They stop at Billy Hall Carver's (David G. Holland, who looks like Brad Dourif's backwoods cousin) roadhouse for a bite to eat (and a bathroom break) and are soon swayed by Billy Hall (with the promise of $50 and a free night of booze) into cleaning out a ramshackle house in the middle of the woods (yes, these are stupid people). After setting up their tents and meeting fellow camper Kate (Ursula Taherian), who is searching for her missing friend (the girl we saw beheaded in the beginning), the now-quartet head to the house and discover Bobby Shaw's stash of homemade 8mm snuff films, which they all watch, believing them to be cheap slasher films. Only Bryan believes they are real, but he can't convince anyone else, even after finding a human tooth in the woods (Pete tells him to put it under his pillow!). After a night of boozing and karaoke singing (!) at Billy Hall's roadhouse, where Zack gets punched in the face by a patron and Rachel pukes on Pete, Zack is soon killed (or is he?) when he uses the local outhouse to take a crap. Bobby Shaw handcuffs him to the wall, rips the toilet from the floor and dumps shit all over Zack's face (it will make you gag) and then squeezes Zack's balls with a pair of pliers until they burst (an effect that will have every male viewer grabbing their nutsacs in unison). Pete and Bryan go looking for Zack, only to become accidentally trapped in Bobby Shaw's killing shed. Bobby Shaw then kills the still-drunk Rachel next, while Pete and Bryan try to escape the shed (Pete nearly has his arm cut off when the sliding metal door of the shed slams on it). Kate is the next to die after she kills the now-testicle lacking Zack by planting a hoe in his head after mistaking him for Bobby Shaw (a hard thing to do since their physiques are nothing alike!). Bryan finally kills the seemingly unstoppable Bobby Shaw (who survives multiple stabbings, having his eye poked out and being shot point-blank) after witnessing Bobby Shaw torture and kill brother Pete with a sledgehammer (another hard-to-watch sequence), only to realize too late that someone else had to film Bobby Shaw while he killed all his other victims in those snuff films. I wonder who that could be? Impossibly cheap-looking with sound levels that vary from scene-to-scene (you'll be constantly fiddling with the volume control buttons on your remote control, as the music and foley effects are loud and the dialogue is very soft), CARVER is the type of film that has very little to recommend except for some extremely bloody gore. Nothing that precedes it will have you prepared for the testicle-squeezing scene, as everything that comes before it is somewhat gory, but not as revealing as this. Nothing is left to the imagination, especially in the Unrated Version (I seriously doubt the R-rated version, which is also available and runs five minutes shorter, contains this scene or many of the others that follow it) and, from that moment on, the film turns into a series of hard-to-watch torture scenes, such as when Bobby Shaw hammers a huge nail into various parts of Rachel's body and then removes it with a claw hammer; repeating the torture over-and-over until he finally puts her out of her misery by driving the nail through her forehead. The film suffers immensely because director/screenwriter Franklin Guerrero Jr. (THE 8TH PLAGUE - 2006) fails to make Bobby Shaw anything but a fat backwoods slob who seems to do nothing but enjoy killing. No motivations are given for his love of killing or filming his torture/slayings, yet Guerrero (who is also one of five Producers here) keeps piling on a tone of hopelessness for our five young adults, all of them killed by Bobby Shaw, except for Bryan and Kate (who unrealistically shoots herself in the head after discovering the mutilated corpse of her missing friend!), which sets up a final coda that's as obvious as it is frustrating. At least HOSTEL (2005), a film which clearly influenced this, had the good sense to offer some meat with it's gristle. CARVER is just torture for torture's sake and, while the effects are very well done, the film just rings hollow. Nothing to see here folks, keep moving. Filmed in Virginia, where, apparently (at least according to the joke-filled end credits), underage children routinely worked long, unpaid hours behind the scenes. Also starring Luke Vitale (also a Producer), Natasha Malinsky, Savannah Costello and Stephen Rodgers. An Allumination Filmworks DVD Release. Available in R-Rated and Unrated editions. If you must see this, go for the Unrated "Grisly Edition".
CASTLE FREAK (1995) - Stuart Gordon makes a welcome return to the horror fold in this excellent film. This is actually a very good psychological tale about demons, both real and imagined, and the effects it has on a family who have suffered a personal tragedy. John Reilly (Jeffrey Combs of THE FRIGHTENERS ) inherits a castle in Italy from an aunt he never knew he had. John is an ex-alcoholic who killed his five year-old son and blinded his daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) in a drunk-driving accident nine months earlier, so he thinks a trip to the castle is just what he needs to put the family back on track again, especially his relationship with his unforgiving wife Susan (Barbara Crampton). Little does he realize that the castle comes with some baggage of its own: Namely, a disfigured, castrated creature (Jonathan Fuller) who takes a liking to Rebecca. I dont want to spoil the story (supplied by frequent Gordon collaborator Dennis Paoli) except to say that there is some graphic sex, extreme gore (a nipple bitten off, oral sex taken to a bloody extreme) and enough plot twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. I happen to think that this is one of the best horror films of 1995, thanks in part to great acting by everyone, excellent on-location photography (by Mario Vulpiani, who shot most of this in an actual Italian castle), a literate screenplay which doesnt treat the audience as half-witted morons and the sure and steady hand of Stuart Gordon, who knows how to evoke terror out of the simplest of situations. This is one of the rare Full Moon Productions that you should run out and rent or buy. Available in R-Rated and Unrated versions. Avoid the R-rated cut, as it does not contain the explicit sex scene and is also missing most of the nasty bits of gore. This film works on so many levels that I cannot recommend it enough. Welcome back Stuart!
A CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990) - This horror film, directed, co-scripted and starring the late Lucio Fulci, is about 85% recycled footage from other late-80's Fulci-directed or produced films, but is still interesting nonetheless. Fulci plays a bastardized version of himself, a horror film director named "Lucio Fulci", who becomes unhinged when he is unable to differentiate the gory violence in his films with real life. Fulci goes to a psychiatrist, Professor Egon Schwarz (David L. Thompson), to discuss his problem (The Professor's receptionist recognizes him and calls up a friend, telling her that she hopes he gives her a part in his next horror film!) and the Professor tells him that his mind is breaking down the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Fulci goes to the set (at the real Cinecitta Studios in Rome) of his newest flick, a Nazi horror film, and finds a documentary crew waiting to make a film on his life and movies. He loses it and attacks the documentary crew and nearly rapes the female interviewer while in some kind of trance (He apologizes to the woman and she says, "I really never had such a thrill in my life!"). Professor Schwarz watches all of Fulci's films (as research) and hypnotizes Fulci to "curb this tendency you have to pass over the boundaries between reality and fantasy". It turns out that the Professor is actually the madman, though. He conditions Fulci (with an electronic bell tone) to believe that he is responsible for a series of brutal murders that are happening in the area, when it is, in fact, the Professor committing them. We watch the psychopathic Professor cut off some poor woman's fingers with a switchblade and then cut her head off with an axe while making Fulci believe he is actually responsible. As Fulci sinks deeper and deeper into paranoia (his producer, Filipio [Shillet Angel], is forced to shoot scenes of the new horror film by himself), we learn the reason why the Professor is murdering all these people: His unfaithful wife, Katya (Melissa Longo), flaunts her affairs in front of her husband and killing other women (and a few men) is his way of dealing with it. He uses Fulci's films as blueprints for his murders, as if to say violent films cause violence in real-life (He says that same exact thing out loud at one point in the film, only in a sarcastic manner). Thankfully, Fulci has a police inspector (Jeoffrey Kennedy) following his every move and catches the Professor trying to set Fulci up. The cops kill the Professor and Fulci sails away (with the Professor's receptionist!) on his sailboat (named "Perversion"). A sound of a chainsaw below deck proves that Fulci is not as innocent as we are led to believe. Or is he? One gets the feeling when watching this film that Fulci was trying to tell his financial backers and fans that he was burned-out and tired of making gore films and it comes across loud and clear. While this film is gory as hell, Fulci uses the blood as a means of demeaning the horror genre rather than to defend it. Fulci was quite capable of making good films in many genres, from giallo (PERVERSION STORY - 1969; LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN - 1971; DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING - 1972), sex comedies (THE EROTICIST - 1972), family films based on Jack London novels (WHITE FANG - 1973; CHALLENGE TO WHITE FANG - 1974), supernatural thrillers (THE PSYCHIC - 1977), crime (CONTRABAND - 1980), sword & sorcery (CONQUEST - 1983), post-apocalypse sci-fi (THE NEW GLADIATORS - 1984), erotic thrillers (THE DEVIL'S HONEY - 1986) and even Westerns (MASSACRE TIME - a.k.a. THE BRUTE AND THE BEASTS - 1966; FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE - 1975; SILVER SADDLE - 1978), but since his gore films, like ZOMBIE (1979), THE GATES OF HELL (a.k.a CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1980), THE BEYOND (1981), THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981) and NEW YORK RIPPER (1982) proved to be his most popular and financially successful (Even if he did turn out the occasional cropper, like THE BLACK CAT - 1980; MANHATTAN BABY - 1982 and AENIGMA - 1987), the only films he could really direct in the latter half of the 80's and early 90's were horror and gore flicks (HANSEL E GRETEL - 1990 [he was uncredited co-director]; DEMONIA - 1990; VOICES FROM BEYOND - 1991; DOOR INTO SILENCE - 1991; Fulci's last directorial film) and even the occasional Italian TV Movie (HOUSE OF CLOCKS - 1989; SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS - 1989) and this semi-autobiographical film speaks volumes on how he was feeling at the time. A CAT IN THE BRAIN is a very apt title (and, yes, you do see [puppet] cats munching on a brain) to how Fulci must have felt. To have your entire career reduced to nothing but gore-filled horror films after a lifetime in the business must have been truly disappointing to Fulci, yet for all his disappointment, he still manages to ladle on the blood, as we witness a woman being dismembered with a chainsaw, various stabbings, beheadings and impalements, cannibalism and a juicy sequence where Fulci repeatedly runs over a man in his car. None of these scenes were original. They were all lifted from films like Fulci's TOUCH OF DEATH (1988; featuring Brett Halsey and Ria De Simone) and SODOMA'S GHOST (1988; featuring Robert Egon); Andrea Bianchi's MASSACRE (1989); Mario Bianchi's THE MURDER SECRET (1989) and several others. A CAT IN THE BRAIN should please two types of horror fans: Those looking just for the gross-out (including a child in a wheelchair getting beheaded with a chainsaw) and those looking for a little subtext to go along with the blood. I get what Fulci was trying to achieve here and I couldn't agree with him more. Fulci does quite nicely playing himself (It's not as easy as it seems!) and the cast also includes Judy Morrow as the receptionist (who gets her wish), Layla Frank, Georgia Moore, Paul Muller and Marco Di Stefano. Also known as NIGHTMARE CONCERT. Originally released on laserdisc by Box Office Spectaculars and available on DVD from Image Entertainment as part of their "EuroShock Collection". Also released on 2 Disc Deluxe Edition DVD from Grindhouse Releasing, the preferred method of watching this film. Not Rated.
CEMETERY OF TERROR (1984) - In the serviceable Mexican horror film, a serial killer called Devlon (Jose Gomez Parcero) is shot to death by police in a hail of bullets just after he murders his 17th victim. Devlon's psychiatrist, Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stiglitz), begs the Police Captain (Raul Meraz) to cremate Devlon's body, as he feels it's the only way to stop his reign of terror, the doctor feeling that Devlon is the personification of evil. The Police Captain thinks Dr. Cardan is the one who is crazy and refuses his request. Three horny medical students and their girlfriends have a party in an abandoned house, which happened to be Devlon's hideout, and one of the students, Jorge (Cervando Manzetti), finds Devlon's satanic bible. Jorge gets the bright idea of stealing Devlon's body out of the morgue and bringing it to the cemetery (which, uncoincidentally, sits right next to the abandoned house), where he and his horny partygoers plan on repeating phrases from the satanic bible in some kind of amateur Black Mass. They couldn't have picked a better time to perform their ritual, since it is Halloween Night and they are not alone in the cemetery. Also at the boneyard are some young children (some of who are the Police Captain's kids), who are trying to scare each other, not realizing that they are about to go through a night of hell. When Dr. Cardan discovers Devlon's body missing from the morgue, he and the Police Captain drive around, waiting for the violence to start. They won't have to wait long. When Jorge reads some verses over Devlon's corpse, nothing happens at first other than a bad thunderstorm, so the six partiers head for the abandoned house, where they drink and have sex, unaware that Devlon has risen from the dead and he now has the power to be invisible (!). Devlon goes back to his hideout, where he starts to kill the sextet responsible for his ressurection. He slashes the throat of one girl, rips open the stomach of one of the guys, pulls out the intestines of another girl, impales Jorge against a wall, slashes the last girl about the body and face and plants an axe in the last guy's face. Devlon then turns his attention to the children in the graveyard. The quick-thinking of young Tony (Eduardo Capetillo) buys the kids some time until Dr. Cardan arrives and tells the kids that they must burn Devlon's book. With the house surrounded by hordes of the living dead, the kids and Dr. Cardan try to burn the book before they are all killed. This film, the first directorial effort by Ruben Galindo Jr. (DON'T PANIC - 1987; GRAVE ROBBERS - 1989), contains a lot of elements lifted directly from HALLOWEEN (1978) to be considered "original" (Dr. Cardan could easily be Dr. Loomis and Devlon a substitute for Michael Myers), but one thing this film has that HALLOWEEN didn't is gore. Lots and lots of gore. Like Michael, Devlon is an unstoppable killing machine but, unlike Michael, Devlon likes to use his hands for most of his killings, ripping out throats and thrusting his fists into torsos and pulling out internal organs. Not much is left to the imagination here and I particularly liked the scene where Tony pulls the axe out of Pedro's (Andres Garcia Jr.) head and there's a piece of brain matter hanging off the blade. Two-thirds of the way through the film, it becomes a different kettle of fish, as Devlon performs a ceremony and all the dead in the cemetery rise from their graves to terrorize the children. This injection of the supernatural provides the film with a distinct voice, as we witness young children being chased by the undead (the makeups are very good) and the cemetery gates magically grow so the children can't climb over them (like a cemetery prison). There is also a scene that reminded me of HORROR HOTEL (a.k.a. CITY OF THE DEAD - 1960), where a wounded Dr. Cardan uproots a wooden graveyard cross and uses it to set the undead on fire. Hugo Stiglitz (NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS - 1972; CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD - 1983) has the best line when he tries to rescue the children, only to have a tree fall on him (!). As the children ask him if he's OK, he replies, "Run, children, everything's lost!" Wow, way to comfort the kids! Proving that it's not just American horror films to give us a "surprise" final coda to set up a sequel, this one does, too, but a sequel was never made. CEMETERY OF TERROR is nothing outstanding, but it is a fun little gore film that doesn't skimp on the red stuff. Also starring Usi Velasco, Erika Buenfil, Edna Bolkin, Rene Cardona III and Cesar Velasco. The fullscreen print on the double feature Deimos Entertainment DVD (with Galindo's GRAVE ROBBERS) is full of emulsion scratches and has a red tint in spots (probably from improper storage), but that just adds to the film's atmosphere. It's beat-up, but watchable. Not Rated.
THE CHANNELER (1990) - A female college professor Pam (Robin Sims), her teenage students and lover/older student Jay (Jay Richardson) decide to clean up an abandoned mining camp where something horrible happened years before. Despite warnings by local bar owner Jack (top-billed Richard Harrison, who is not even mentioned about being in this film on IMDB), the motley (and horny) group hike up to the site despite one of them, Scott (David Homb), having visions of death and grand-mal convulsions. They find footprints of a strange creature with three toes and long, sharp rubbery fingers. Pam and Jay are attacked while making love by some unseen entity. After one of the students breaks his arm after trying to ride a horse (don't ask), Pam and Jay send him back down to the town with one of the students. The rest of the group run into Arnie (the always unwelcome Dan Haggerty) and his dog. Arnie (who is a parapsychologist!) tells the group about the history of the mine and how in the 1840's the entire mining community disappeared and were killed by something the miners found, something which Pam failed to tell her students. Arnie is also a lifelong resident of this community and runs blood tests on the students, trying to find some unknown thing (to us) that he isn't telling the rest of the group. We also find out that Arnie is Jack's brother. Scott has another vision and says: "The gate must be sealed. The price must be paid.", before the two who were sent down the mountain are attacked and killed by three creatures in black robes, called Darklings (It's not mentioned in the film, only in the closing credits). With Arnie's help, Pam confesses that she knew about the history of the mine to her students. It turns out Scott is a Channeler, a person who can conjure up entities from a past life. Pam knew about Scott's abilities and decided to use his talents to find out the truth about what happened to the miners. Before Pam is able to tell him, Scott disappears and everyone (besides Arnie) goes out looking for him. Arnie continues to run his blood experiments and finds out something about one of the students. The group finds Scott at the entrance of the mine, possessed by an entity and tells everyone that the main creature is now loose and will start killing unless the gate is closed by a direct blood decendent of the one who opened it. Arnie is attacked by one of the creatures while riding to the rescue on his motorcycle and kills a creature with a flare gun. He sends his dog (!) to go get his brother Jack and then dies. Pam and Jay are kidnapped by the black-robed creatures, who plan to cut out their hearts so the gate will stay open forever. Jack shows up in the nick of time (it seems he is the decendent needed to close the gate), while a possessed Scott diverts the creatures while Jack closes the gate by giving up his life by blowing up the mine with a hand grenade. Directed without any flair by Grant Austin Waldman (his first directorial gig, he would later make the unfunny horror comedy TEENAGE EXORCIST - 1991, and the disasterous actioner GATOR KING - 1996). There's hardly any blood, no nudity and the final shot of the head Darkling is a hilarious thing to see. It's a rubber concoction that looks like a cross between THE BOOGENS (1981) and the original version of THE FLY (1958). My so-called friend Will Wilson sent me this film because he knows how much I love Dan Haggerty (NOT!!!). Thankfully, Haggerty doesn't show up until the halfway mark and is dispatched rather quickly. I say not quickly enough. Will, I will get even!. This film is only recommended for fans of Jay Richardson, a fun and respected actor of many films and commercials, who is a regular in a lot of Fred Olen Ray's films (who gets an "Executive Consultant" credit here). The acting on the whole is competent (Haggerty excluded), but the story makes no sense and the plot hangs ever so tenderly by a thread (Like: Why does backwater town bar owner Jack drive a Porsche? Where did the horse come from?). Not as bad as Waldman's other films, it's just one way of spending 90 minutes of your life. Another way would be scratching your ass until it bleeds. Also starring Oliver Darrow, Brenda James, Charles Solomon, Tom Shell and Waldman himself as one of the Darklings. A Magnum Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated, but nothing really objectionable (unless you count Dan Haggerty's acting abilities).
CHAOS (2003) - This is a very graphic retelling of Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), made six years before the authorized 2009 remake (As a matter of fact, based on the advertising posters alone, I can't see why Craven didn't sue the pants off the filmmakers!). Two young college girls, Angelica (Maya Barovich) and Emily (Chantal Degroat), head to an all-night rave in the woods, only to be captured by sadistic meth-heads Chaos (Kevin Gage; LAID TO REST - 2009), Swan (the late and tragic Sage Stallone; MOSCOW ZERO - 2006), Daisy (Kelly K.C. Quann) and Frankie (Stephen Wozniak). As it the original LHOTL, the girls bring trouble to themselves when they go searching for illegal drugs (in this case Ecstasy) to enhance their music experience and they ask Swan to hook them up. He brings them to a cabin in the woods, where Chaos and his goons (Swan is Chaos' son) throw the girls in the back of their van, drive to a secluded section of the woods and begin an uncomfortably long session of rape and torture on the two girls. Believe me when I say that this section of the film goes way beyond the boundaries of good taste (some would say it goes beyond the boundaries of bad taste), as Emily's interracial parents, black mom Justine (Deborah Lacey) and white dad Leo (Scott Richards), discuss crashing the rave (they decide against it because they trust their daughter), while Emily and Angelica are brutalized and raped. When Angelica kicks Frankie in the nuts when he tries to force her to give him a blowjob, it gives the two girls a chance to escape, but Angelica is quickly recaptured. Chaos cuts off one of her nipples with a hunting knife and forces her to eat it (she vomits soon after), stabs her repeatedly in her back, killing her, and then sodomizes her corpse while the other three watch in disgust. Frankie is apparently not too disgusted , as he takes his turn at sloppy seconds. When Emily never answers her cell phone (she conveniently left it in Angelica's car), Justine and Leo call the police, who tell them that the girls are probably drunk and met a couple of guys (proving once again that police in these kinds of films are masters of consolation). It's obvious that the cops aren't about to lift a finger to help (One of the cops, a raving racist, says to his partner, "How would you go around life being half a nigger?" when describing Emily), so Justine and Leo go looking for Emily and Angelica. They find Angelica's car and then discover Angelica's bloody corpse, but Emily (who stabs Swan in the balls, forcing Chaos to kill him to put him out of his misery) is recaptured by Chaos, stripped naked, hog-tied and then has a big hunting knife shoved up her ass (While she recites the Lord's Prayer, which never seems to work at all in horror films besides THE EXORCIST - 1973), killing her. When their van won't start, Chaos, Daisy and Frankie walk to the nearest house looking to steal a car. Guess whose house they pick? Let the revenge begin, but those expecting an ending like the original LAST HOUSE are in for a surprise. It's hard to defend a film that lacks any basic core of emotion and CHAOS is just that type of film. Director/screenwriter David DeFalco (HEAVY METAL MASSACRE - 1989; THE BACK LOT MURDERS - 2002; WRONG SIDE OF TOWN - 2010), originally hired original late LHOTL star David Hess to star in this, but then changed his mind when he decided that this film wasn't going to be a straight-ahead remake (don't let that fool you; this is basically the same film with a different, totally ridiculous ending). DeFalco thought that adding racial tension into the mix would make his film more "relevant" (yeah, "nigger" remarks by a racist cop is just what we need in horror films today!), but anyone with half a brain can see that he doesn't have a clue on how to handle the issue and comes off as being an unintentional racist himself by letting Chaos be the only survivor of the film! The finale is so hamfisted that I wanted to kick-in my TV screen, as Chaos kills Daisy with a shotgun blast, Leo kills Frankie with a chainsaw, the racist cop shoots Leo in the head, Justine shoots the racist cop, Chaos then shoots the racist cop's partner and then turns the shotgun on Justine. The film fades to black, where we then hear a shotgun blast and then the sound of Chaos laughing. What exactly is the message here? Bad things happen to good people? We see that in the news every day; we don't need to see it in the movies. Though not a badly-made film, CHAOS is instantly disposable fodder that fails to satisfy even on the most basic level, unless you are a sadist. Skip it and watch the original or its very well-done 2009 remake instead. Filmed in 2003, but not released until 2005. Also starring Ken Medlock and Jeb Barrows as the cops. A Razor Digital Entertainment DVD Release in both R-Rated (aviod it like the plague) or an Unrated Director's Cut (the only way to watch the film if you must).
THE CHILDREN (2008) - Sisters Elaine (Eva Birthistle) and Chloe (Rachel Shelley; THE BONE SNATCHER - 2003) spend the Christmas holidays together at a house deep in the woods with their husbands, Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield; CREEP - 2004), and their four young children, Leah (Raffiella Brooks), Nicky (Jake Hathaway), Miranda (Eva Sayer) and the sickly (and not quite right in the head) Paulie (William Howes). Teenage daughter Casey (Hannah Tointon) is reluctantly along for the trip, where she will be forced to act as babysitter for the kids while the married couples do some Christmas partying. Casey would rather be anywhere but here (her cell phone can only get service if she walks outside and makes a long trek to a wintery wood pile) and as we will soon find out, her instincts are correct. While the rest of the children are playing in the snow with their parents, Paulie remains by himself, isolated from everyone else as he bangs out an unrecognizable tune on his toy xylophone (he also has the creepy habit of watching the other kids sleep and throwing-up at inopportune times). It becomes apparent after a short while that the children have become infected with some unknown organism that is slowly turning them into homicidal maniacs and Paulie seems to become the leader of the pack. At first it's small things, like killing the family cat Jinxie or trying to hobble Elaine with a runaway sled, but things turn absolutely bloody when Robbie is killed in a sledding "accident" set-up by the kids (he slides head-first into a garden hoe and is scalped). The children, except for Miranda, then run into the woods and Casey goes chasing after them, only to fall into a puddle of goo which may be the cause of the infection (the infection is never completely defined), Soon, the children are separating the adults, as Paulie breaks mom Elaine's leg on the monkey bars, Leah (who has stolen Robbie's corpse and has inserted one of her dolls in his stomach, which she has graphically slit-open) traps Chloe in a tent (she is eventually stabbed in the eye with a spike by Nicky) and Miranda manages to convince daddy Jonah that Casey is responsible for it all (Kids blaming a teenager. There's a new one!). When everyone else is dead, Elaine and Casey try to drive to safety, but as we (and, eventually, Elaine) will find out, the infection has spread and it is now not just limited to children. This effective little British horror film (not to be confused with Max Kalmanowicz's 1980 horror film THE CHILDREN, also about infected killer kids), directed and written by Tom Shankland (THE KILLING GENE - 2006), is a highly uncomfortable mixture of bloodshed caused at the hands of little children and how easily it is for the adults to jump to the wrong conclusions, blaming teenager Casey for the killings because she is "moody" (She has a tattoo of an aborted baby next to her navel to signify how she was Elaine's unwanted daughter). The violence committed by and to the children is quite brutal and since no real scientific reason is given for the infection (Robbie does speak a throwaway line about how hundreds of new viruses are discovered every week, but this is before anyone is infected), those looking for a film that gives explanations or shies away from showing children killed (Paulie is impaled on a pane of broken glass; Nicky gets his throat impaled on a shard of wood; Miranda is crushed by a car) should stay away from this movie. Those more daring will find much to like here, as THE CHILDREN has a lot to say about the parent/child dynamic (especially about playing favorites) and how young kids can get away with cold-blooded murder because, hey, they're fucking kids and lack the capacity to kill, right? The acting (even by the children) is uniformly excellent, the killings are well done (thanks to some intelligent editing) and the music soundtrack adds to the creepy atmosphere. Also unusual for a horror film is that this film takes place almost entirely during the day and yet it still manages to give you the chills. If the final image doesn't manage to raise some goosebumps and send the hair on the back of your neck reaching for the ceiling, I would have to say that you've become jaded to these types of films. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release through their Ghost House Underground sub-label. Rated R.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST (1994) - A vast improvement over the previous two films, Part 3 is actually a very good horror film trapped within a franchise title. A childless Chicago couple adopt a pair of Amish brothers and it soon becomes apparent that one of the brothers is much more than he seems. He is pure evil and plans on destroying the entire world's adult population with a new strain of corn that, when eaten, causes adults to vomit bugs (!!!) and die (a disgusting sight). The good brother (who adapts to city living mighty easy) must figure out a way to stop his brother before he hypnotizes the teenage population and destroys the world. Extremely gory for it's R Rating (thanks to Screaming Mad George's effects), horror fans should have a bloody good time with this one. The story moves along briskly and director James D.R. Hickox (BLOOD SURF - 2000) pours on the blood in increasingly steady amounts, culminating in a massacre in the final reel as "He Who Walks Behind The Rows" finally makes an appearance and slaughters some disobedient teens. Finally, a sequel much better than the original! That's not something you hear very often. Starring Daniel Cerny, Ron Melendez, Jim Metzler, Mari Morrow and Duke Stroud. A Dimension Home Video Release. CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING was next. Rated R.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING (1996) - If you have ever dreamed of seeing actor William Windom sliced in half (who hasnt?), then this is the film for you. There are so many flying body parts in this third sequel, as a matter of fact, that youll wonder if the MPAA actually viewed it before slapping it with an R rating. Storywise, the film is rather mundane as the children of a small Nebraska town all come down with a strange fever which causes them to murder adults. If you would rather watch gore and dont care about the plot, than this one really delivers. Besides the Windom scene, youll also view a decapitation (which is really being overused as of late), fingers lopped off, a head impalement, two crucifixions (one with farm tools, the other with syringes and scapels) and various slicings and dicings. The effects are courtesy of Gary Tunnicliffe, who directed the abysmal WITHIN THE ROCK the same year. While not as good as Part 3, it still stands head and shoulders above the first two in the series and manages to throw in a few good scares along the way. Also starring a pre-famous Naomi Watts, Brent Jennings and a valium-induced Karen Black. CHILDREN OF THE CORN V: FIELDS OF TERROR (1998 - Dir: Ethan Wiley), CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC'S RETURN (1999 - Dir: Kari Skogland) and CHILDREN OF THE CORN: REVELATION (2001 - Dir: Guy Magar) followed. Dont bother. They're all a waste of time. A Dimension Home Video Release. Rated R.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC'S RETURN (1999) - It hard to believe that this franchise made it to seven films. This is the sixth in the series and, while it isn't the worst, it comes damned close. Hannah (Natalie Ramsey) is having visions and decides to go back to Gatlin, Nebraska to look for answers, where 19 years earlier, she escaped a massacre (which was the original CHILDREN OF THE CORN - 1984). A couple of miles before she hits town, she picks up a preacher called Zachariah (Gary Bullock), who proceeds to tell her the biblical meaning of her name and then vanishes into thin air, causing a startled Hannah to crash her car. She is taken to the Gatlin hospital by unfriendly female cop Cora (Alix Koromzay), where Dr. Michaels (Stacy Keach) tends to her wounds and seems to be the only adult over the age of 25 who isn't in a coma or crazy as a loon. It seems the town was waiting for Hannah's return, as she is the "Chosen One", the only person that can wake comatose Isaac (John Franklin), the original cult leader of the Children of the Corn. When Isaac awakens, a chain of bloody events begins in which Hannah discovers that all the children in town are the children of the original film's kids and she is needed for the cult to achieve it's dastardly prophecy. With the help of Gabriel (Paul Popowich), Hannah tries to flee town, but ends up fulfilling the prophecy instead. She broke the horror film rule: Never trust anyone named Gabriel. Didn't she see THE PROPHECY (1995)? This film spends too much of it's scant 82 minutes building up to the first kill (which occurs at the 40 minute mark), filling us with meaningless supernatural mumbo-jumbo, false scares and "plot development". Nancy Allen shows up as Hannah's birth mother Rachel, the only other unaffected adult in town, who has been taking care of the town's children until Isaac's return. It's a thankless role. John Franklin returns from the first film as Isaac, giving the film some creedence, but the screenplay (co-written by Franklin) is drab and fairly routine. Speaking of routine, the violence in this film is unimaginative, consisting of an electrocution, a slit throat, a branding, a body split in two by a machete (it sounds more bloody than it is) and a suicide by scythe, the film's highlight. Director Kari Skogland, who would later make the vastly superior LIBERTY STANDS STILL (2002), gives this a TV movie look, as it is rather flat and colorless. It's hard to recommend a film when there's nothing interesting going on. I mean nothing. Also starring John Patrick White, Nathan Bexton, Sydney Bennett and William Prael. A Dimension Home Video Release. Rated R.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: REVELATION (2001) - I'm a big fan of director Guy Magar. One of my favorite supernatural films of the 80's was his RETRIBUTION (1988), an ingenious tale of a vengeful spirit taking over the body of a nebbish man, turning him into a real force of nature. But fate has not been kind to Mr. Magar, as he's getting a reputation as a franchise killer, mainly because he has helmed STEPFATHER 3: FATHER'S DAY (1992) and this film, both the last of their series. In all fairness, though, the CORN series was always a pretty lame exercise in the supernatural, always promising more than it ever could deliver. Besides a few decent kills over seven films, it never offered-up much of a mythology that could sustain such a long reign. In this film, Claudette Milk portrays Jamie Lowell, who travels from California to Nebraska to check up on her grandmother who was staying at the condemned Hampton Arms, a run-down boarding house with a cornfield for a backyard (Uh-oh!). Her grandmother has disappeared, so Jamie does the sensible thing (?) and stays in her grandma's room, hoping to find out what has happened to her. The house and the surrounding area are occupied by children who stare blankly into space (but can play the amusement game House Of The Dead like champs at the local 7-11!). The adults in the area refuse to talk to Jamie about her grandmother or the children and the tenants in the boarding house are straight out of stereotypes 101: There's Jerry (Troy Yorke), the pot-smoking manager; Tiffany (Crystal Lowe), a stripper who works at the airport bar; Stan (Michael Rogers), a gun-toting man who keeps a locked room in the basement and wears night vision goggles, and the Cranky Man (John Destry), an old man who zooms up and down the hallways in his wheelchair while yelling obscenities at everyone. They are all fodder for the children. And who is this priest (Michael Ironside) that seems to be around everytime something weird happens? As Jamie digs deeper into the mystery, she discovers some interesting facts about her grandmother's and her parents' pasts that have bearing on what is about to happen to her. Yawn. Pee. Yawn. Repeat as needed. This is basic DTV fare which really offers very little entertainment to the viewer. The kills are bloodless and boring, the best being Tiffany's death in the bathtub as one of the children thrown corn kernels in her tub and she is drowned by the cornstalks that grow from them. There's also a decapitated head (only seen after the fact), a heart attack and a man falling down a stairwell, all of it sterile. While the acting is OK, the script (by S.J. Smith) gives the actors very little to do except look scared or look scary. I ask you: Is this any way to treat a horror fan? He who walks behind the rows is nevermore. Until some ninkompoop film executive tries again, that is. Also starring Sean Smith, Jeff Ballard and Taylor Hobbs. A Dimension Home Video Release. Rated R.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: GENESIS (2010) - This is the 8th film in the series and also the worst. It is obvious the the Weinstein Brothers and Dimension Films were about to lose the rights to the CORN franchise, so they churned out this cheapie with a minimal amount of effort, actors and sets so they could retain the rights. It also obvious that this film has about as much in common with Stephen King's original story (which was remade as the abysmal CHILDREN OF THE CORN in 2009) as Rock Hudson did to heterosexuality. The film opens in September of 1973, 20 miles from Gatlin, Nebraska, as young soldier Cole (J.J. Banicki) returns home from the Vietnam War. He notices some children playing outside, but when he enters the house, he finds his mother, father (who has ears of corn shoved into his eyes) and fiancee dead (He totally misses the human finger in a pitcher of lemonade!). A young boy dressed as a girl stabs Cole with a knife in one of the bedrooms on the second floor and he falls out a window. Cut to the present day, where married couple Tim (Tim Rock) and Allie (Kelen Coleman; HBO's THE NEWSROOM [2012 - 2014]) have their car break down in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. Since Allie is pregnant and no cars have come near them in hours, they decide to take a walk when they notice some telephone poles in the distance. Hoping to find a phone, they come upon a run-down shack occupied by Preacher (Billy Drago, in one of his biggest roles in years) and his nymphomaniac Ukranian wife Oksana (Barbara Nedeljakova; HOSTEL - 2005 and HOSTEL PART II - 2007). At first, Preacher refuses to let them in, but relents when he discovers that Allie is pregnant. Once inside the shack, the first thing they notice is that the living room has a huge flat screen TV hooked up to a digital camera (it's not that unusual when you have a wife who is a nymphomaniac!). While Tim makes a phone call in the kitchen to get help for their car, Oksana starts exposing herself to him, which makes Tim very uncomfortable. Even more uncomfortable is Allie, who is being asked personal questions by Preacher about her pregnancy (We find out later in the film that Allie once had an abortion). After discovering that no one can come and fix their car until tomorrow morning, Tim and Allie have no choice but to stay with Preacher and his horny wife. Allie sneaks out at night and discovers a small metal barn with some pews and a ritual altar (with dolls made out of corn stalks) and then a locked shack that contains a child (Dusty Burwell), with strange psychic powers (are there any other kind?). It turns out that Preacher is actually the soldier Cole, who we saw in the beginning of the film and he's keeping the child locked-up until he can find another child to replace him. Now I wonder where he will find that child? Hmmmmm....... Allie and Tim try to flee the area when their car is fixed by mechanic Pritchett (Duane Whitaker; FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY - 1998), but the psychic child makes automobiles fall off a truck hauling cars (in obvious footage taken from another film), killing Tim and when Allie wakes up, she is back with the Preacher. THE END. Not only does this film make no sense, it really has nothing to do with the CORN franchise, except for one dream sequence where a girl is slashed to death in a cornfield and one mention of "He Who Walks Between The Rows" by Preacher. Director/screenwriter/co-producer Joel Soisson, who has directed such sequels as THE PROPHECY: UPRISING (2003), THE PROPHECY: FORSAKEN (2003), PULSE 2: AFTERLIFE (2008) and PULSE 3 (2008), as well as producing such films as TRICK OR TREAT (1986), FEAST (2006) and HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2010; a title partially cribbed from the last CHILDREN OF THE CORN film before this one), doesn't seem to care if his screenplay is coherent (it isn't). He only seems to care that his bosses retain rights to any further sequels. Billy Drago (THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake - 2006) mumbles his way throughout the film, just coasting by to earn a paycheck. The only interesting thing of note in this entire film is the fate of a solitary policeman who comes to check out the property, only to be supernaturally thrust into the sky (seems like the police in this territory don't even send out a search party when one of their officers turns up missing!). We learn what actually happens to him during the final credits. The film runs a scant 81 minutes, of which six minutes are credits, so it is a long time to wait for the only semi-funny thing in the movie. Just do yourself a favor and skip this, unless you are a completist to this series. Hey, I have to watch these films, but that doesn't mean you have to. Available as a single DVD from the now-defunct Dimension Extreme label or as a triple feature DVD from ARC Entertainment. Rated R.
CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD (2000) - After a promising start, this film takes a steep decline into mediocrity and bad acting. The film begins right after what seems like the ending of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The living people of a Pensylvania town are shooting all the undead in the head and stacking their bodies in piles and burning them. One man (top-billed Tom Savini, who's nothing more than a cameo here and the best thing about this film) is clearing out a barn with a local cop (Martin Schiff, who has the most distracting birthmark since Gorbachev) when he is bitten by zombie Abbott Hayes (A. Barrett Worland). The local cop flees the scene thinking Savini has killed Hayes before killing himself. He was wrong. Cut to the present. The old barn is about to be torn down and turned into a car dealership. The local cop is now the sheriff and is in cahoots with the owner of the car dealership to cut corners and get the job done as soon as possible. The owner sends his son (Damien Luvara) to town to oversee the project. Sooner than you can say "zombie dinner", Abbott Hayes starts turning the local population into the undead. The rest of the film is your standard "undead vs. alive" scenario, only done so poorly that boredom sets in rather quickly. The ending leaves it wide open for a sequel. Let's hope not. Someone should start a petition to stop John Russo (who produced this one) and Bill Hinzman (who photographed this) from ever making another zombie film (remember REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES - 1988 or the 30th Anniversary Edition of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with the reshot scenes?). I know they were both involved with the original NOTLD, but it's about time they've stopped riding on George Romero's coattails and give up the ghost. About the only decent thing about this film are the makeup effects by Vincent J. Guastini (who cameos as a construction worker). The acting, direction (by Tor A. Ramsey) and screenplay (by Karen Lee Wolf) are all sub-par. Consider this: If the best actor here is Tom Savini (who also served as Stunt Coordinator), how good can this flick be? You've been warned. Also starring Jamie McCoy, Sam Nicotero, Heidi Hinzman (nepotism! nepotism!), Tom Stoviak and Philip Bower. An Artisan Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
CHILLERS (1988) - Probably the best shot on video production ever made in West Virginia. This anthology film presents five stories of terror as told by stranded passengers at a bus depot. Each of the passengers has had a particularly bad nightmare and as they unreel deja vu sets in on the viewer. It's not that this is a bad film, but the ending seems telegraphed from the beginning. For a video presentation the production is first-rate, almost making you forget that you are watching something shot on video. The acting and effects are above par for this type of thing but the story smacks of an imitation of TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) or DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965). And as the little boy repeats in the film, "That's not so scary." Still, director Daniel Boyd (who also wrote and produced) should be commended for turning out such a good-looking film on an extremely low budget. Boyd's next film was INVASION OF THE SPACE PREACHERS (1991). If you don't mind derivative filmmaking, give this one a look. Starring Jesse Emery, Marjorie Fitzsimmons and David Wohl. A Raedon Home Video and Troma Team Home Video Release. Also available in a crappy EP-mode version from Simitar Entertainment. Unrated.
CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (1980) - This is one of a long string of popular Italian zombie films of the 80's. This one is a little different, though. Instead of slow moving, rip 'em apart with your hands and teeth walking dead, you have very quick ones ones that aren't beneath picking up a gun and using it. The film opens with our hero (Hugo Stiglitz), a television reporter, covering a story at a local airport. An unidentified plane lands and, while police surround it, the door opens and a horde of well armed zombies dash out. Arms are ripped out of sockets, throats are slashed, flesh is eaten, and bodies are riddled with bullets. Hugo decides to warn the populace, but to no avail, as he has the plug pulled on him by government officials. Meanwhile, the zombies attack a televised dance show (a girl's breast is cut off), a hospital (robbing a blood bank, attacking bed-ridden patients, and stopping an operation in progress to chow down on a patient's open incision), and at the end, an amusement park (scenes of zombies being shot in the head in slow motion). It all turns out to be a dream, however, when Hugo awakens and remembers he has to cover a story at the local airport. Holy deja vu Batman! It's a fun movie in a twisted sort of way. Forget the bad dubbing and sit back and enjoy the gore. Directed by Umberto Lenzi (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974). Also starring Mel Ferrer, Laura Trotter and Francisco Rabal. A Raven Video Release. Available on DVD from EC Entertainment under its' original title NIGHTMARE CITY. Not Rated.
CLAWED: THE LEGEND OF SASQUATCH (2005) - When four poachers are attacked on Echo Mountain by an angry Sasquatch, only Ed Janzer (Miles O'Keeffe) makes it out alive. The other three are mutilated (one is disemboweled), so Sheriff Drake Kassel (Jack Conley) wants to form a hunting party to kill the bear he thinks is responsible, but Mayor Potts (John Patrick Lowrie) and the townspeople rather have the killings covered-up since tourist season is near. Classmates Richard Winslow (Dylan Purcell) and Jay Kelter (Brandon Henschel), who don't particularly like each other, are both failing Biology class, so their teacher assigns them to work together on a weekend project about endangered species. They head to Echo Mountain with girlfriends Jenny (Chelsea Hobbs) and Shea (Casey LaBox) to videotape some woodland creatures the same time Janzer brings three more buddies to the mountain to hunt and kill the Indian he thinks is responsible for the poachers' deaths. Richard is nearly attacked by a grizzly bear, but quick thinking on his part (he freezes in his tracks) saves his life. Park Ranger (and Native American) John Eagleheart (Nathaniel Arcand) warns the kids to leave the mountain (he calls the Sasquatch a "noble savage"), but they get lost and discover the body of a dead Sasquatch. A live one chases them, forcing them to split up (Did we have any doubts this was going to happen?). When one of Janzer's hunting party is killed by the Sasquatch, Janzer captures Eagleheart and ties him up, cuts his chest with a knife and uses him as bait (Can Sasquatch sniff out Indian blood?). Eagleheart escapes just as the Sasquatch attacks Janzer's camp, killing Tom (Cooper Huckabee of THE FUNHOUSE ). Janzer shoots and kills Manny (Michael Bailey Smith of MONSTER MAN  and IN HELL ) when he wants to go home and then takes Jenny hostage. Janzer shoots and injures Eagleheart, but Richard grabs a rifle and kills Janzer. Sasquatch roars with approval as Jay shows up with his video camera to take footage of the creature. Richard and Jay then use the footage to get their snotty biology teacher fired when he submits the footage to TV and is branded a fraud. Those crazy kids! This pretty ordinary DTV feature, directed and co-scripted by Karl Kozak (OUT OF THE BLACK - 2001), manages to tie the white man's hatred of Native Americans and the Sasquatch legend together and it doesn't quite gel. The backstory as to why the Sasquatch is so mad at humankind is this: During the Gold Rush in the mid-1800's, the white man mined the mountains dry, forcing the Sasquatch off of their land. They killed the miners in retribution and the white man blamed the Native Americans for the killings, which resulted in the tribe being wiped out to near extinction. Ed Janzer still carries that hatred of Native Americans to this day, even when a Park Ranger of Indian ancestry saves his life (Janzer refuses to believe that anyone or anything other than Eagleheart is responsible for his friends' deaths). While that plot device may be somewhat unique, it doesn't make this a good film, as most of it is full of false scares (including an out-of-place nightmare sequence that serves no other purpose than to make you jump), teenage sexual hijinks (including nudity, video voyeurism and wisecracks) and Sasquatch POV shots (apparently they can only see in black and white). The nadir comes when one member of Janzer's second hunting party farts into a campfire. The film also uses elements of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) with some of the videotape sequences and the gore is rather sparse after the opening minutes (most of the later bloodshed is either shown through the Sasquatch's eyes or in flashback scenes, both in black and white). The Sasquatch costume is very good, but is used sparingly. Miles O'Keeffe (PHANTOM RAIDERS - 1988; CARTEL - 1990), who is very stiff and emotionless here, sounds exactly like Clint Eastwood's less choosy brother (if Clint happened to have a brother that did low-budget horror and action flicks). Dylan Purcell's real-life mom, Lee Purcell (MR. MAJESTYK - 1974; STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE - 1978), puts in a cameo appearance as (what else?) his mother in an early blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene. CLAWED (originally known as THE UNKNOWN) can be skipped unless you are a bigfoot film completist. Also starring Christian Boeving and Bill Bragg (also one of the film's Producers). Other recent bigfoot films include SASQUATCH (2002), ABOMINABLE (2004), SASQUATCH MOUNTAIN (2006 - all featuring Lance Henriksen!), SASQUATCH HUNTERS (2005) and SCREAM OF THE SASQUATCH. A First Look Home Entertainment Release. The DVD's 1:78:1 widescreen presentation appears squeezed, making all the actors look short and stubby, like an anamorphic print being viewed on a non-16x9 TV screen. Rated R.
CLAWS (1977) - In this Alaska-lensed knock-off of GRIZZLY (1976), three hunters illegally shoot and wound a huge grizzly bear, who then attacks and seriously wounds logger Jason Monroe (Jason Evers; THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE - 1962; BARRACUDA - 1978), leaving his left arm useless. Five years pass and Jason has become a bitter, obsessive man, who thinks of nothing but killing the bear who mauled him and made his marriage to Chris (Carla Layton) dissolve. The grizzly, who the press and locals have named the "Devil Bear", has been killing campers and townspeople for the past five years and is smart enough to elude capture. When Howard (Glenn Sipes), Chris's new boyfriend, takes a bunch of Boy Scouts, which includes Chris and Jason's son Bucky, on an overnight camping trip, the Devil Bear attacks, mortally wounding Bucky and seriously wounding Howard and several kids. The news of Bucky's condition puts Jason over the edge, especially when Chris visits him and begs him not to go after the grizzly. Jason ignores her pleas and goes on the hunt, but the woods are full of hunters looking to do the same thing, as well as a scientific team that shows up to capture the rogue grizzly alive. All these extra people in the woods proves beneficial to the Devil Bear, as it goes on a killing spree, first slaughtering the science team and their tracker, Marshal (Bill Ratcliffe), by crashing through their cabin and tossing them around like ragdolls. Jason, with the help of Indian Henry Chico (Anthony Caruso; ZEBRA FORCE - 1976), who believes the bear is a supernatural entity, begins tracking the Devil Bear, with forest ranger Ben Jones (Leon Ames) and Howard tagging along. After a short while, the hunters become the hunted, as the Devil Bear kills Henry (who was having visions of wolves and three Indian spirits), then Harry and gives Ben a heart attack, which forces Jason to call in a helicopter and haul Ben away. When Chris gets the good news that Bucky is going to recover from his wounds, she takes the helicopter out to the woods to join Jason in killing the grizzly, by dousing it in gasoline, shooting it with a magnesium flare and tossing it's flaming body over a cliff. I hope you like your bear meat well-done. This regional horror film, co-directed by Richard Bansbach (whose only other film credit is as producer/cinematographer of the ultra-cheap slasher film BITS AND PIECES ) and Robert E. Pierson (his only film credit), has it's effective moments, but is mostly a talky drama about family relationships (told in endless flashbacks) and Indian mysticism. The script, by Brian Russell and producer Chuck D. Keen (TIMBER TRAMPS - 1975), seems to be more interested in the soap opera lives of the characters (angry husband; the ex-wife that still loves him; drunk old Indian friend; etc.) and the bear attacks are merely a way to connect the dots. The bear attack scenes are a combination of stock nature grizzly footage, a man in a bear suit and slow-motion POV footage from the bear's perspective. This is fairly bloody for a PG-rated film, but most of the blood is viewed after the bear attacks. There is no gore (except for an early shot of a bullet entering the bear's body), but lots of blood is splashed on the bodies of the bear's victims. The story behind the distribution of this film is more interesting than the film itself. It was re-released to certain territories in 1978 under the title of GRIZZLY 2, which made some people think it was an official sequel to GRIZZLY. CBS-TV then aired this film once on it's 11:30PM program THE LATE SHOW in 1981 under the CLAWS title. When the official GRIZZLY sequel, GRIZZLY 2: THE PREDATOR (1983) was made (but never finished or released), many people confused CLAWS with the official sequel and a legend was born, where many people (even today) swear they saw the unreleased sequel on TV, when they are actually remembering watching CLAWS. This legend has led to many heated debates (Look up GRIZZLY 2 on IMDB to get a taste of the legend), but as I have actually viewed the unfinished workprint for GRIZZLY 2 (see review) and can say with certainty that it was never completed, the TV rumor is nothing but childhood memories getting their wires crossed. CLAWS (which was also released on VHS in some foreign territories under the title GRIZZLY, just to make things even more confusing) is an average film at best, but it's legend will always live on. Also starring Myron Healey, Gil Lonacre, Buck Young and Capt. Nemo and His All Girl Band. Originally released on VHS by Video Gems and not available on DVD. Rated PG.
THE CONFESSIONAL (1975) - Director Pete Walker and writer David McGillivray always made a good combination when they made horror movies together. They all had stories that suggested that people in authority (especially in the Catholic Church) will more than likely abuse that authority and abuse it in such an underhanded way as to cause the deaths of the people they are supposed to be protecting. In THE CONFESSIONAL, that authority figure would be Father Xavier Meldrum (Anthony Sharp), a Catholic priest who tape records all his parishoners' confessions and murders those he considers too permissive. When Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) goes to confession and tells Father Meldrum that she has had an abortion, he decides that all those involved should be punished. He throws a pot of hot coffee in the face of Jenny's friend Bobby (John Yule), who he mistakes for Jenny's boyfriend, beats and burns Jenny's boyfriend Terry (Stuart Bevan) with a flaming incense burner and buries him in the church cemetery. He hopes Jenny will come to him and ask him to help her. We slowly learn that the good Father has a sickly mother (Hilda Barry) that he loves very dearly but is being abused by one-eyed caretaker Miss Brabazon (played eerily by Walker regular Shelia Keith), whose reasons for abusing her will be revealed later on. Jenny's sister Vanessa (Stephanie Beacham) and border Father Cutler (Norman Eshley) learn of the recording from Jenny and try to get it back. When Father Cutler confronts Father Meldrum about the tape, Meldrum plays another tape that makes Jenny look like she is lying. Father Cutler doesn't buy it and digs for more clues, including why a grave in the church cemetery which should be empty has a mound of dirt that goes above ground level. Father Meldrum goes to the hospital and kills Bobby so he cannot point the finger at him. Jenny catches him in the act, but no one will believe her. A priest a killer? Pish, posh! Vanessa and Father Cutler become lovers. How do you think Father Meldrum will handle that situation? Mrs. Davey (Julia McCarthy) tells Jenny that she knows that Father Meldrum is a killer and offers to help her but is killed during Communion when the Father gives her poison wine and a wafer. Things come to a boil in the finale, a strange concoction that only Walker and McGillivray could pull off. It's a corker! With films like FRIGHTMARE, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD (both 1974) and SCHIZO (1976) under their belt (THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW  and THE COMEBACK  are two of the very few of Walker's 70's horror films that McGillivray did not work on), each dealing with dark secrets and a hint that the Church may have too much power over everyone's life (both moral and professional), Pete Walker and David McGillivray made thinking-man's horror films of the 70's, even though they didn't skimp on the gore. These are intelligent horror films which, I think, will become cult classics in the years to come. If cerebral horror doesn't scare you, grab these films and enjoy them before someone in authority decides that the truth cannot be handled by the masses. THE CONFESSIONAL is also known as HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (also available on Blu-Ray from Redemption Films/Kino Lorber under this title) and THE CONFESSIONAL MURDERS. A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Those lucky bastards in England get the whole series on DVD called THE PETE WALKER COLLECTION from Anchor Bay (but now we do also, thanks to Kino Lorber). Rated R.
CONTAMINATION (1980) - Italian director Luigi Cozzi's (THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN - 1973; STARCRASH - 1979) sci-fi/horror flick that is part ALIEN (1979) rip-off, part gore film and part affectionate throwback to 50's monster movies & 60's spy thrillers. The film opens with a helicopter view of New York City (including shots of the World Trade Center, which made me feel nostalgic and sad), as the helicopter pilot follows a crewless ship that is heading towards New York Harbor. Luckily, the ship is towed to an out-of-the-way dock, where Dr. Turner (Carlo Monni) is met by police Lt. Tony Aris (Marino Mase; LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN - 1976), who informs Dr. Turner that the ship is named the Caribbean Lady and that it started its voyage in the tropics of South America. There is no sign of human life on-board, except for a "strange smell", so Dr. Turner, Lt. Aris and a crew of health inspectors don white hazmat suits and board the ship to see what they can discover. They find the ship's captain's body in a closet and it looks like his body exploded from the inside-out. As more bodies of the crew are discovered in the same condition, Dr. Turner calls for a quarantine of the ship and then follows a trail of green slime to the ship's hull, where they find hundreds of boxes of coffee marked "Univer X", a brand name no one has ever heard of before. Inside each box are huge green eggs and they discover one of the eggs pulsating between two hot water pipes. Dr. Turner stupidly picks it up and it explodes in his hands, infecting him and everyone except Lt. Aris, who escapes after watching everyone else's stomach implode in graphic detail (the blood and guts really "pop" against the white hazmat suits). Washington D.C. puts Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau; THE POSSESSION OF VIRGINIA - 1972) in charge of the case and after she interviews Lt. Aris, she has the entire ship put in a deep freeze and takes one of the eggs for examination, where she is told by scientists that it is not an egg at all, but rather an "intensive culture of unknown bacteria" that reacts to heat and becomes deadly (We watch as a white rat is injected with the green goo and then explodes). Stella believes that whomever was to receive the cargo planned to put the "eggs" in the New York sewer system, so she, Agent Young (Carlo De Mejo; TERROR EXPRESS - 1979) and Lt. Aris raid the warehouse where the ship's cargo was to be delivered, only to discover that the warehouse already contains thousands of eggs and then watch in horror as three Latino men purposely expose themselves to the eggs and explode, rather than be taken alive. After destroying all the eggs with flame-throwers and learning back at the lab that the eggs are actually alien in origin, Stella puts two-and-two together and deduces that these eggs came to Earth from the last Mars expedition two years earlier. She interviews that expedition's commander, Albert Hubbard (Ian McCulloch; ZOMBIE - 1979; ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST - 1980), who was kicked out of the space program and deemed "psychotic" when he reported that the Mars' polar icecap was littered with eggs. He agrees to help Stella (who was instrumental in getting him shit-canned from the space program) when he discovers that his partner on that mission, Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch), is responsible for cultivating the eggs. But for what purpose? Stella, Hubbard and Lt. Aris fly to South America to find out what Hamilton is up to, but they only have 72 hours before Washington intervenes in a very big way. The best place to start is the coffee factory, but Hamilton is aware of their presence and has some surprises in store for them, even before they get there. This is one of those films that I absolutely hated the first time I saw it nearly thirty years ago, but I have come to appreciate it a lot more on repeated viewings. It's connection to ALIEN is tenuous at best (even though it was released in theaters and on VHS under the title ALIEN CONTAMINATION to capitalize on the-then popularity of the Ridley Scott-directed film) and there's a scene here that pre-dates ALIENS by six years: When Stella is locked in a hotel bathroom with an egg that is about to explode (basically the same thing as Ripley being trapped in a locked lab with a face-hugger) while Hubbard and Aris argue outside over who is going to win her affection. CONTAMINATION would be much better described as an "aliens invade Earth" scenario (screenplay by Cozzi [who uses his "Lewis Coates" pseudonym here] and Erich Tomek) with scenes of extreme gore (lots of exploding stomachs and chests, many of them lovingly filmed in slow-motion) and a big-assed cyclops alien in the blood-filled finale. The second part of the film plays more like a James Bond-like thriller with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS undertones, as we watch the eggs being cultivated in the coffee fields and discover that Hamilton is actually an alien duplicate. The reveal of the cyclops alien in the finale is a hoot, as one look at it and you're instantly hypnotized and eaten whole, as poor Lt. Aris discovers. Not a great film, but a fun one nonetheless. Also starring Gisela Hahn. Originally available on VHS by Paragon Video as ALIEN CONTAMINATION and on Lettuce Entertain You Video as TOXIC SPAWN. Both are the R-Rated cuts and are edited. Blue Underground offers the film on DVD fully uncut and in widescreen, which is really the only way to watch this film. Unrated.
THE CORONER (1997) - Lame horror flick with so many plot holes, you could strain spaghetti with it. Emma (Jane Longenecker), a lawyer with a troubled past (she tried to commit suicide years earlier), is abducted and tortured by a serial killer who is spreading terror in the city. She escapes from his house and leads the police back to the scene of the crime, which turns out to be the house of the town's coroner, Dr. Uraski (Dean St. Louis). The police don't believe her story because of her troubled past and the fact that Dr. Uraski has great reputation. The police warn her to stay away fron the doctor or risk being put into a mental institution. She becomes obsessed with bringing him to justice which just gets her into more trouble with her friends (who eventually abandon her because of her obsession with the doctor) and fiance Alan (Bryn Pryor), who fears that she is reverting back to the state that led to her trying to take her life. She eventually kidnaps the doctor and chains him in her basement, torturing him by slicing his achilles heel with a sword and popping a few nails in him with a nailgun. Her fiancee comes in an sees what she is doing and handcuffs her to the stairs while he frees the doctor, which turns out to be a big mistake. Dr. Uraski chokes Alan and goes after Emma. She impales him with a pole, slits his throat with a sword (all while handcuffed to the stairs!) and finally sets him on fire. The next time we see Emma, she's in a rubber room wearing a straightjacket. If the synopsis I have just given makes this film sound interesting, I'm sorry. The film runs barely 70 minutes (and 5 minutes of it are the end credits) but it seems twice as long. Director Juan A. Mas (THE CHOKE - 2005), with some uncredited help from Brian Katkin, has no idea how to pace a film and the screenplay by Geralyn Ruane will just leave you scratching your head with the silly situations and laugh-out-loud dialogue. The entire film was shot on short ends and uses recycled music from at least four New World and New Concorde films. It was filmed quick and it shows. Also starring Eric Gerleman and Robert J. Pouliot. Not released until 1999. A New Horizon Home Video Release. Rated R.
CORPSE EATERS (1974) - Terrible independent horror flick (and probably Canada's first gore film) that begins with an audio announcement from a guy with a thick Canadian accent that tells us that the film we are "aboot to see" may be upsetting to some viewers, therefore a "Warning Buzzer and a picture of a patron reacting to the scene (actually an old guy covering his mouth with a handkerchief in disgust) will be shown before every act of gory violence. It gets shown twice! When the film starts, we are introduced to the workers of the Happy Halo Funeral Home, where the owner drives around a graveyard in his hearse gloating about how well his business is doing (in voiceover narration). The scene is intercut with footage of his undertaker fixing the body of a corpse that has just been mauled by a bear (or so we are led to believe). We then switch over to watching two couples jumping in a motorboat and going to an island to have a picnic. One couple gets naked and goes at it, while the other couple watch (the other guy tries to get in on the fun, but the girl pushes him away!). Since this is Friday the 13th, the couples decide to have a party and spend the night in a graveyard (One of the guys even has the nerve to say, "People are dying to get into this place!"). It begins to rain, so they find an open crypt, where they draw a circle on a coffin and chant, "Lucifer, Lucifer, Barrabus, Barrabus, Santanis, by Satanis, come, come!" When nothing happens, one of the guys turns a crucifix hanging on the wall upside down and they repeat the chant. Something happens this time. The dead rise from their graves and they eat one of the women (cue Warning Buzzer!) and attack one of the men. As the three remaining survivors drives away, the girl asks her boyfriend what the should do about their female friend that they left behind. He says to his girlfriend, "Forget her!" They drive their seriously hurt friend to the hospital, but he dies on the operating table. The girl has a nightmare where she bites a huge chunk of flesh out of her boyfriend's neck (cue Warning Buzzer!) and then stabs a nurse to death. It turns out that the body delivered to the Happy Halo Funeral Home was actually the guy who died on the operating table. He rises out of his coffin and, along with the other zombies, begins chowing down on the corpses in the funeral home and eat the eyes of the funeral home's owner. In the confusing finale, the owner is then seen clad in a strait-jacket and locked in a padded cell while he yells, "I'm not insane!" and he still has his eyes! Huh? Even though this film is just a tad under one hour in length, it still seems about two hours too long. The acting is strictly amateur hour and the special effects, while gory, are sub-par (One of the zombies uses a shovel to cut off the hand of the girl they just attacked and killed before he eats it. What ever happened to chewing it off?). Directors Donald R. Passmore and Klaus Vetter (yeah, it took two guys to direct this and, needless to say, they drifted into obscurity) spend way too much time on shots that lead nowhere (close-ups on the funeral home owner's eyes; the two couples frolicking in the water; shots that go on for way too long and never seem to end) and not enough time on the horror elements. The sad fact is that it takes over thirty minutes for the first gore scene (and Warning Buzzer) and then there is only one other gore scene after that. Not very good for a film that runs less than sixty minutes. There are too many loose ends to mention and the finale makes no sense. Producer/screenwriter Laurence Zazelenchuk (who also handled the zombie makeups) owned The 69 Drive-In in Ontario, Canada at the time and took $36,000 of his savings to finance this film (he fired Donald R. Passmore after four days of shooting and replaced him with Klaus Vetter). He screened this film at his drive-in for a couple of years as part of double and triple bills until Howard Mahler purchased the rights and let it sit on the shelf (after a limited run) for tax write-off purposes. If you want my opinion, Mr. Mahler did the world a favor. Starring Michael Hopkins, Edmond LeBreton, Halina Carson, Michael Krizanc, Terry London, Douglas Deering, Gary Stevens, Louise Parr and Cathy Hickey. An Encore Entertainment, Inc. Release in a faux letterbox presentation (a fullscreen print was simply cropped top and bottom) with an "Encore" bug burned on the lower left hand side of the print. Not Rated.
COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE (1972) - This is one of long line of Spanish horror films that use to play endlessly on TV during the 70's & early-80's in heavily cut form and then disappeared. Elvira revived a lot of these films on VHS & DVD, but they were still the same cut TV versions. The only way to see these films uncut, the way the filmmakers intended, was through a long line of OOP double film DVDs, the first one being CEMETERY GIRLS (just one of many retitlings of COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE; even the print bears the original title) and the second one being Cirio H. Santiago's horrorible vampire comedy VAMPIRE HOOKERS (1979; which at one time was also released as CEMETERY GIRLS!) being distributed by Code Red as part of their now defunct Exploitation Cinema Double Feature line. The film opens with two unnamed delivery guys dropping off a heavy box at the deserted Dr. Kargos Sanatorium, located in the middle of nowhere, and curiosity gets the better of the both of them and they open the box. Inside the box is a coffin and one of the delivery guys says that sometimes expensive jewelry is buried with corpses, so they open the coffin, only to find the skeleton of a young woman. It is this time that a pack of rats scurry to a corner of the room and one of the deliverymen (Jose Manuel Martin; CUT-THROATS NINE - 1972) is bitten in the neck by a shadowy figure and the second deliveryman (Álvaro de Luna; COMPANEROS - 1970) has a small ax planted in his upper forehead as he rolls down a flight of stairs (this sequence is played ad nauseum as the credits roll and we see it so much that we notice the ax falls out of his head on the very first step he hits; Code Red, in their untimate twisted wisdom, decided to run this sequence backwards and forwards in slow motion for 5 minutes after the film ends. I dare you to watch it all without hitting the Fast Forward button!). We then switch to chaperone Imre Polvi ("Vic Winner"; A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL - 1973; real name: Víctor Alcázar) as he escorts four buxom young ladies, Senta (Rosanna Yanni; CROSS CURRENT - 1971), Elke (Mirta Miller; BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS - 1973), Marlene (Ingrid Garbo; MANIAC MANSION - 1972) and the virginal Karen (Haydee Politoff; THE "HUMAN" FACTOR - 1975) through the deep woods by stagecoach. Suddenly, the stagecoach throws a wheel and Imre and Marlene (who are secret lovers) go out to look for it (yeah, right). Back at the stagecoach, the stagecoach driver gets kicked in the head by a horse (both horses flee into the forest) and dies. When Imre and Marlene get back (after some nookie), they hear the whole sordid story about what has happened and decide to walk the trail and see if the can spot any houses for help. What they find is the Dr. Kargos Sanatorium and when they ring the doorbell, they are greeted by the seemingly nice Dr. Wendell Marlowe (Paul Naschy; HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB - 1972; who also co-wrote the screenplay using his real name "Jacinto Molina"), who invites them all in, but advises them that the building is in very poor shape and there is only one real bed available. Most of the girls find Dr. Marlowe the man of their dreams, not realizing that he is actually Count Dracula, who needs a virgin to give herself to him without reservation and with pure love, so he can revive his daughter (the skeleton in the coffin we have seen earlier). I think we know who that girl is going to be, don't we? Meanwhile, that unnamed deliverman (remember him?) is now a vampire and is walking around the buiilding, turning Imre and a couple of the girls into vampires, while Count Dracula plants bear traps around the grounds to catch some unexpecting peasants, so he can feed on them (a plot device I wish they used more in this film because it adds something new to the vampire mythos). Now all the women, except for Karen, are now vampires and everyone tries to sink their fangs into her virginal tasty flesh. When Imre tries to put the bite on her, Count Dracula and Imre get into a fight and the good Count throws Imre out a window, only to have him impaled on the iron gate below (something you never saw in the TV version). When the unnamed deliveryman tries to sink his fangs into Karen, Count Dracula impales him with a fireplace poker. It seems that the Count and Karen have really fallen for each other, so much so, in fact, that the Count can no longer go through with the ceremony to revive his daughter (at one point in the film he runs a dagger clear through Karen's neck while she is in a trance and she feels nothing, but we can all feel her pain for her because it is a great effect). Instead, Count Dracula pulls out a wooden stake and impales himself through the heart, proving that love is more powerful than family. The Dracula Curse will have to wait another hundred years for it to take place again. The first thing you will notice in this version is how much nudity and violence you missed if all you have ever seen is the TV version of the film. The movie is practically filled to the brim with female nudity and the violence, although infrequent, is effective when it is used. It is mainly throats slashed and bitten, various impalements, the aforementioned ax to the head and an innocent village woman whipped to a pulp as part of the discontinued ceremony (in other words, she died for nothing!) Director Javier Aguirre is better known for directing comedies and musicals, but he did direct two of the best horror/giallo films in 70's Spanish history: the demented HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (1973; also with Paul Naschy) and the murder mystery THE KILLER IS ONE OF THIRTEEN (1976; also featuring Naschy). The photography and scenery are lush, the girls are all lookers and they all get at least topless (in the Spanish version, they were all clothed, because the Franco Regime didn't allow nudity in movies) and the violence bloody and creative. And absolutely no humor. My one only regret is that they didn't use the bear trap gag for more kills (it is only used for one). This is the first time I have seen that device used to capture vampire victims. So if all you remember are the bloodless TV versions of this film, I would advise you search out this double feature DVD, since it restores all the nudity and blood and makes for a mighty fun 85 minutes. Also Known as DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE and DRACULA'S VIRGIN LOVERS. Stay away from any that feature Elvira on the cover. The ending seemed a little rushed (and the dubbing is awful), but that is just a minor qualm to an otherwise perfectly entertaining horror film. A Code Red DVD Release. It is also in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, so don't consider this a budget release because it is not. For the most part, the print used is blemish-free and quite crisp color-wise. It has been long OOP and may take some detective work on your part to find an affordable copy. Rated R.
A CRACK IN THE FLOOR (2001) - Jesus, I wanted to hate this film so badly since the storyline makes old hats look like shiny new fedoras in a department store, but the overall goofy tone, mixed in with some extreme gore won me over. The basic plot is this: Thirty-three years ago, a young boy named Jeremiah watches as his uber-religious widowed mother (a cameo by Tracy Scoggins) is viciously raped by two vagrants (who manage to rape her with their pants on!) and then has her throat cut. The vagrants then turn their attention to Jeremiah and bash him on the head and leave him for dead. Guess what? He's not. Cut to the present, as we watch six young adults who take a trip every year based on a suggestion by a different member of the group. This time, group member Heidi (Daisy McCrackin, daughter of Phil McCrackin. Old joke, moving on...) wants to take the group (which includes Mario Lopez, Bentley Mitchum, Justine Priestley, Francesca Orsi and Jason Oliver) on a hiking trip in the woods and stay at an old abandoned cabin, which, you guessed it, is now occupied in the basement by an adult Jeremiah (who we never get a clear view of his face), who doesn't fancy visitors. Now this is where the film gets weird and outright hilarious. The six adventurers stop at a gas station/fried chicken joint in the middle of nowhere run by the one-armed Floyd Fryed (Rance Howard, who we can plainly see is hiding his "missing arm" under his shirt!) and run into Tyler Trout (Gary Busey in a wonderfully perverted five minute cameo), who wears a disheveled and bloody light blue three-piece suit and carries an ax, but he's not dangerous, just weird. He hands one of the girls a freshly severed chicken wing and tells her, "Take the chicken wing, it's soft, and use it as a suppository. Leave it in for 10 minutes, it'll take you out of your misery." He then turns to her boyfriend and says, "You know what's good about that suppository? When she farts, it's gonna smell like southern fried chicken. You hold that in your heart." The two kids run to the vehicle and tell Lopez to step on the gas (they are all eating Floyd's chicken, which they promptly spit out and throw out of the window of their SUV after the two tell them about their run-in with Tyler). Floyd and Tyler have a good laugh at the kids' expense and Tyler just blurts out about a plane coming to pick him up and take him to Brazil (it's obvious the guy is crazy). When Floyd asks if he can come too and they can both play with monkeys (?!?), Tyler says, "Play with monkeys. Put bananas in hidden places." That is the last we see of Floyd and Tyler, but you will never forget them once you see and hear them. It's like the entire sequence was improvised and it works so well, you will be on the floor laughing your ass off. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is the same old, same old, as one of the girls is about to announce that she is pregnant to her boyfriend, the group smokes lots of weed, tell a short horror story about "The Empty Man" (David McNaughton in a blink and you will miss it cameo) around the fireplace and Jeremiah dishes-out some bloody vengeance. The first one to be killed is the Sheriff (played by Bo Hopkins, who else?), who is graphically stabbed with a pitchfork and impaled on a wall of the shack when he gets a call to check out a disturbance in the area. Then the group gets picked-off one-by-one; one has her head twisted around 180°, so that when she is laying down, the front of her head is on the same side as her back and ass; another has his throat cut, two are killed with impalements with a pickaxe, until only Lopez is left. He is picked-up by Officer Gordon (Stephen Saux), who arrests Lopez after he tells his story. When the Sheriff doesn't return, Officer Gordon begins to believe Lopez's story and they head out to the shack, where they are both chopped to pieces by Jeremiah with an ax. No survivors. We next see Jeremiah in his basement waiting for more victims to slaughter in a sequel, which this many years later, never materialized. Co-directed by Corbin Timbrook (who also directed the superior BLOOD RANCH - 2005; and starred in such films as THE KILLER WITHIN ME - 2003) and Sean Stanek (director of PLAYED - 2006), who really don't offer anything new to the horror genre except for a sense of playfulness (not parody; I hate parody) missing from most horror films. The cast of young adults talk to each other like real people and don't bicker like you see in most horror films. Stanek's screenplay (based on a story by Timbrook and himself) doesn't offer much in the way of suspense, because the killing are quick (except for Svenson's; his is protracted and hard to watch) and all we really see of Jeremiah is his long stringy hair and his eyes, but that just adds to the mystery of the man. It's the five minute sequence with Rance Howard (as we all know is the father of Ron Howard and Clint Howard) and Gary Busey that will stick in your head long after the film is over, because it just comes out of left field and really adds that extra "oomph" to the film. I can think of a lot worse films to watch than A CRACK IN THE FLOOR (and believe me, I have). It's a quick 90 minutes that offers laughs, some scares, and just enough gore to satisfy those looking for such things. Michael Feifer, the director of THE GRAVEYARD (2006) and ED GEIN: THE BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD (2007), among many others, was Line Producer and First Assistant Director on this film. Also starring Frank Collinson, the late Bill Erwin (who is equally funny as the police department's elderly janitor), Jacquie Barnbrook, Sal Landi and Roger Hewitt as Jeremiah. A Monarch Home Video VHS & DVD Release. Rated R.
CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976) - Two Chicago college guys, Pahoo (Dennis Fimple) and Rives (John David Carson), go to the forest and swamps of Louisiana to look for the title creature, a bigfoot-like monster said to inhabit the area. The creature supposedly has never harmed a human being, but there's always a first time, as we see the creature kill the partner of fur trapper Joe (Jack Elam) by dragging him under a boat in the middle of the swamp. Pahoo and Rives hit town and begin asking questions about the creature and are almost immediately warned by the sheriff (Bill Thurman) to stop inquiring about the creature (Everyone in town are reluctant or afraid to talk about it). After a near disastrous encounter with Joe in a diner, Pahoo and Rives meet Orville (screenwriter Jim McCullough Jr.), who tells them a story about seeing the creature when he was young and it causing an automobile accident, which kills his mother and father. Orville then takes them to see his grandfather (Dub Taylor), who tells them more stories about running into the creature (it killed his favorite hound). Grandpa treats the two "Yankees" like his own, telling them funny stories and treating them to a home cooked meal as long as they don't mention the creature in front of his wife (who still can never forgive it for killing her daughter and her husband). During dinner, Pahoo mistakenly mentions the creature (he thinks the mule braying outside is the monster!) and Grandpa throws them out of the house, but Orville allows them to stay in the barn for the night. That night, the creature comes for a visit and Rives records the creature's yell on his tape recorder. Later, Pahoo and Rives meet two local girls (one of them happens to be the sheriff's daughter) and it's not long before the girls visit their campsite at night for some romantic fun. Unfortunately, the creature comes for a visit followed by the sheriff, who throws them in jail (Whoops! The girls were underage.). While in jail, Joe is attacked by the creature and later arrested for being drunk. He is thrown in the same cell as Pahoo and Rives, which leads to a series of events where Joe tells them the location of the creature. Pahoo (who wants to go home) and Rives (who wants to stay) camp out for one final night in the woods. It all turns out badly, as a case of mistaken identity leads one friend to accidentally gut-stab the other while the creature is attacking them. This slow, leisurely-paced piece of hokum doesn't have much to recommend except for the cast of great character actors and an unexpected downbeat ending, which is totally out of place from the rest of the film. Director Joy Houck Jr. who directed the offbeat and bloody films NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR (1968) and NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER (1972), keeps this film at a PG level as there is no nudity, very little bad language and no blood at all, except for the aforementioned finale, which is an eye-opener. Probably made to cash-in on the spate of bigfoot documentaries at the time (THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT - 1976; SASQUATCH - 1976; BIGFOOT: MAN OR BEAST? - 1972), not to mention the success of Charles B. Pierce's LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972), this film is mainly notable as a rare starring vehicle for the late Dennis Fimple (THE EVICTORS - 1979; HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES - 2002), who plays against type here (for once, he's not a hick). Co-star John David Carson appeared in EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977) next. Father/son team Jim McCullough Sr. (who produced this) & Jr. would later go on to make MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE (1983), also featuring Bill Thurman. CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE is a minor bigfoot film (you really only get quick glimpses of the creature, mainly at night), whose only redeeming feature is the cast. It got lots of TV play during the late 70's and early 80's, then it turned up on home video from many different companies, thanks to it's public domain status. The version I viewed was a badly pan-and-scanned copy put out on DVD by Hollywood Entertainment as part of their "Silver Series" collection (don't hold your breath for the gold version). Also known as DEMON OF THE LAKE. Rated PG.
CREEP (2004) - I've been a fan of actress Franka Potente since her breakout performance in RUN, LOLA, RUN (1998) and as Matt Damon's love interest in THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002), but I became a superfan after watching her nuanced turn in the season six premiere episode of HOUSE M.D. (2004 - 2012) titled "Broken" (2009), where she portrays the sister of a committed cellist who falls in love with an also-committed Dr. House (Hugh Laurie; who never won an Emmy, nevermind nominated, for his role, which I consider a crime of television) and ends up breaking his heart. She not only turned-in what should have beeen an Emmy Award-winning performance (of course, she was never nominated!), she also made me want to search out other films in her resume, which brought me to this British/German co-production, a horror thriller set in the London subway system (or "Tube" if you like). The film opens with two workers clearing a drain clog in a sewer tunnel when they hear the most god-awful scream. They go to investigate and find a new tunnel, which the veteran worker, Arthur (Ken Campbell), declares he has never seen before. The new worker, George (Vas Blackwood), stays behind while Arthur takes a closer look, but when Arthur doesn't return, George has no other choice but to go look for him, thinking this is nothing but a practical joke on the "new guy". He quickly learns that this is no joke, as he finds Arthur in a state of shock, staring into the darkness. A bloody, screaming woman suddenly leaps into view, only to be violently jerked-back into the darkness. We then switch to a huge house party, where Guy (Jeremy Sheffield; THE CHILDREN - 2008) unsuccessfully hits on Kate (a blonde Franka Potente) and he doesn't seem too pleased about getting the brush-off. Kate leaves the party to try and get George Clooney's autograph at a party across town, but when she is unable to find a taxi, she has no choice but to take the subway. With the last train of the night arriving in eight minutes, a slightly tipsy Kate sits down on a subway station bench and falls asleep. When she wakes up, she discovers that she has missed the last train and is also locked in the station (of course we all know there is no cell phone service down there), but when a mysterious subway train arrives at the station, she hops aboard without hesitation (alcohol is indeed a dangerous drug!), as does a mysterious shadowy figure further down the station. When the train stops a few seconds later, Kate goes to the engineer's car to find out what the problem is (she can't see it, but the engineer has been brutally murdered), only to discover that Guy is the only other passenger on the train, he's tweaked on cocaine and he attempts to rape Kate. Before he can do the deed, Guy is violently pulled off the train by forces unknown and killed, but not before yelling to Kate to "Run!" She does just that, exits the train and heads back to the station, but she is still trapped like a rat until morning arrives. Someone or something is after Kate, so she will do anything to survive. She meets a variety of people, including Jimmy (Paul Rattray) and Mandy (Kelly Scott), two homeless people who live in the bowels of the station with their dog. Too bad for Kate that everyone she comes in contact with ends up dead (the killer's appearance is always prefaced by a groundswell of rats), so she makes her way through the tunnels (with a dead Jimmy and Mandy's dog as a companion) until she ends up in the same tunnel as the two unfortunate sewer workers in the beginning of the film. What she discovers living there can best be described as a cross between the films RAW MEAT (a.k.a. DEATH LINE - 1973) and C.H.U.D. - 1984. The only question is: Will Kate survive it all (I guess she can forget about getting Clooney's autograph!)? I must admit that this film, directed and written by Christopher Smith (SEVERANCE - 2006; TRIANGLE - 2009), sucked me in and had my full undivided attention for the first two-thirds, even with the leaps in logic (No one who works for the subway noticed the missing train that made an unscheduled stop?) and plot contrivances (no cell phone service; a security guard more interested in his own security than anyone else's), but when the final third rolls around and we discover that the killer is an underground mutant named Craig (Sean Harris) who kidnaps subway riders to cannibalize (A flashback shows that Craig's father may have been an abortionist, so Craig dons medical gear and gives Mandy, who is strapped to a gurney with her legs spread wide-open, a makeshift abortion with a big-ass bone saw), the film falls apart and turns into a standard "monster-on-the-loose" horror flick. It does get points for being extremely gory in the final third (both George and Craig's deaths are memorable), but I was expecting so much more than what I got based on the first sixty minutes. At least Franka Potente rises above the material and doesn't offer us the usual helpless heroine role. She's got balls here (Her reply to a homeless guy who asks her for "change" as she pulls out money of an ATM early in the film sets the tone of her character) and her final shot is sad and funny at the same time. Music by The Insects. Also starring Sean Harris, Kathryn Gilfeather and Grant Ibbs. Another great film that takes place on the subway is the Canadian film END OF THE LINE (2006). Stay away from the Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD, as it is an R-Rated print missing frames from the nastier gore shots. If you have a multi-region DVD player (and really, every reader of this site should), get the unedited British DVD from Pathe. Not Rated.
CREEPIES (2004) - Here's some important useful information from your Uncle Fred if you are in the market to buy or rent DVDs. It's called the "DVD Avoidance Test" and it is told in three parts. Avoid buying or renting DVDs if they are:
1) Directed by Jeff Leroy (HELL'S HIGHWAY - 2002; ALIEN 3000 - 2004)
2) Produced by David S. Sterling (HUMAN PREY - 1994; CAMP BLOOD - 1999)
3) Distributed by Maverick Entertainment Group (RECOIL - 2001; BATTLESPACE - 2006)
If you choose to ignore these three signs of the Apocalypse, CREEPIES is a good example of the punishment you will have to endure to watch a simple movie, and by "simple" I mean a movie so lacking in even the basic tenants of entertainment, it would take a retarded simpleton to enjoy it (and I'm talking about someone who need another person to change his adult diapers, feed them with a spoon and is not allowed to hold anything sharper than a crayon). CREEPIES opens with a flash-forward of things to come: Military men in obvious model tanks trying to blow-up a giant spider on the loose in Hollywood; eventually destroying the world-famous Hollywood Sign in the process (The giant spider is a combination of bad CGI and a stuffed toy spider, while all the sets are obvious models). The film then switches to two days earlier at the top-secret Foothills Experimental Weapons Center, where two bumbling Privates accidentally set loose an experimental killer spider and fail to tell anyone about it for fear of being court-martialed (ah, wartime during the Bush Administration!). The spider gets its revenge by killing the two Privates (it eats its way into the back of one of them and spits its venom into the eyes of the other), which, in turn, releases even more genetically-enhanced spiders (also a mixture of grade school CGI and hilariously bad animatronics) into the wild. Two hours after the incident, the Foothills Experimental Weapons Center is nothing but a giant spider web, so the military sends three men (!) to check it out. After they discover a fissure in the ground and are killed by the spiders (one guy has a spider attack his hand, so he blows his own hand off with his pistol!), a toy helicopter lowers more military man into the facility and the drop grenades into the fissure (when one guy asks his Commanding Officer if civilians are in any of the buildings, he replies, "So we lose a couple of janitors. Big fuckin' deal!"). The next day, the military try to clean up the mess as covertly as possible (by employing a platoon of toy tanks and motorized rocket launchers!), but the story switches over to a female rock band, The Barenaked Barbies, performing in a garage in Westwood. The female rockers, Michelle (Lisa Jay), Brinke (Phoebe Dollar) and Linnea (Calley Edmunds), along with Michelle's boyfriend, Dave (Jeff Ryan), head out to a recording studio to cut a demo, the same studio where the military accidentally shipped a box containing a bunch of killer spiders (Holy Fucking Coincidence, Batman!). As you have probably already guessed, some careless workers bust open the container and release the spiders (the head spider rallies the troops speaking Spiderese, which is subtitled in English!) just as the Barenaked Barbies and Dave arrive. Meanwhile, the military have to deal with a giant spider that is attacking Hollywood Boulevard and a military officer, Major Graves (Garett Clancey), who cares less for civilian lives than the giant spider does (He delivers a line about the "phonies" in Hollywood that made me laugh out loud). Sweet googly-moogly, how is all this going to turn out and who is going to be left alive? Director Jeff Leroy (who also handled the editing and cinematography chores, as well as the model effects) tries to make this an Americanized version of the Godzilla films, but the cut-rate model effects, along with the super-cheap CGI effects, make any Godzilla or Japanese giant monster films look Spielbergian in comparison. Screenwriter Eric Spudic's (AQUANOIDS - 2003; KILLERS BY NATURE - 2005) joke-filled script (the female band members are given the first names of 80's B-movie scream queens) is the best thing about this film, especially the dialogue between recording studio workers Steve (Joe De Angelis) and Jake (Eric Flenner) and the sly in-jokes referencing THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) and other genre films. Although the visual and model effects are laughable (not to mention sound effects that were cribbed from THEM! ), play close attention to the signs on the buildings being blown-up (One theater is showing "Robert Ginty in THE EXTERMINATOR" and the Hollywood Bowl has "Eminem In Concert"). This is badly acted by everyone involved (including a cameo by porn star Ron Jeremy as "Officer Spudic"!), but is saved somewhat by Eric Spudic's acerbic humor (the genetically-enhanced spiders have barcodes on their bellies and Jake's Lynryd Skynyrd speech are two laugh-getters) and some very bloody makeup effects (the spider attack scenes are quite gory, as is Jake's shotgun death of Linnea). It's still retarded entertainment nonetheless. Apparently, the Japanese (of all people) loved this film so much that they funded a sequel, CREEPIES II: LAS VEGAS ATTACK (2005), also directed by Leroy. Also starring Mitch Toles, Corbin Timbrook, Joe Myles, Joe Haggerty and Carl Washington. A Maverick Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.
CREEPIES II: LAS VEGAS ATTACK (2005) - Read my review of CREEPIES (2004) before proceeding with this review. It should give you some idea as what to expect here, except this time there is no acerbic Eric Spudic screenplay to fall back on. In this film, returning director Jeff Leroy (HELL'S HIGHWAY - 2002; ALIEN 3000 - 2004; RAT SCRATCH FEVER - 2011) decides he's up to the job of sharing the screenwriting chores with producer David Sterling and Eric Spudic (who, by the looks of it, had very little input in this story) and to put it simply: He's no Eric Spudic. Since Hollywood and Los Angeles were nuked at the end of the first film and everyone died, Part 2 picks up immediately after Part 1, with a giant genetically-enhanced spider (created with a combination of bad CGI and throwing a toy stuffed spider against the miniature model sets) surviving the nuclear blast and moving its hairy black ass to Las Vegas, where it causes all types of new problems with a fresh cast and gets to wreck havoc on model versions of Las Vegas landmarks. The film opens with two soldiers checking out the charred remains of L.A. and discovering that all of the fist-sized spiders are retreating en masse. The two soldiers are almost killed by a giant spider, but General McGinty (Robert Ambrose) enters the scene piloting a giant robot called the Mecha-Destructor (I laughed because it makes the robots in MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS look high-tech in comparison and it walks like it has got a load of shit in its metal diaper!) and blasts the spider to kingdom come. The film then switches to Las Vegas and we are given a quick visual tour of the Strip, while a man with a briefcase containing vials of genetically-altered spiders is being chased by someone in a car. As is to be expected, the vials break and the man is eaten by the spiders, who then make their way into a casino. Two government operatives call General McGinty to inform them that the spiders have now spread to Las Vegas. You know what that means: Very soon, toy tanks, plasma cannons, jets on visible strings and the Mecha-Destructor will soon be in the gambling capital of the world, laying waste to most of the well-known casinos and landmarks. The spiders couldn't have come at a worst time, because the final three players in the Texas Hold 'Em championship, Robert (genre director Jeff Burr [LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 - 1990; NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW - 1995]), Burt (Jed Rowen) and an Elvis impersonator named Doug Jacobs (Mitch Toles), are playing each other to determine who is Vegas' best card player. The Mecha-Destructor flies from its base in Area 51 and heads to Vegas, while General McGinty leads the ground forces and Brooke (Gina Valona) leads the jet assault. Rudd (Warren McCullough), one of the co-pilots of the Mecha-Destructor, tries to warn his girlfriend Kristin (Star Hansen), who just happens to work at the spider-infected casino (What are the odds?), about the impending spider doom, but she doesn't believe him (after all, he's only the co-pilot of the giant robot, it's not like he's the pilot!). Meanwhile, the spiders begin their attack, first killing a naked hooker and her john in one of the casino's hotel rooms. The hooker gives birth to a giant spider, who escapes through an open window (Anyone who has ever been to a Vegas casino hotel knows that the windows don't open to prevent suicide jumps) and begins terrorizing the Strip. The jets are the first to arrive on the scene and begin blowing-up Las Vegas, without the slightest consideration for civilian life (In one funny explosion, you can see obvious Barbie and Ken dolls flying though the air with their clothes on fire!). If you have seen the first film, you know what to expect here: Wanton destruction of Vegas landmarks (including bad model versions of The Golden Nugget, Treasure Island, Excaliber, Mandalay Bay, The BeLuxor Hotel, etc.) with a secondary story about innocent civilians on the ground trying to survive not only the spider attacks, but also the explosions from an uncaring military. While the explosions are bigger and the destruction grander, CREEPIES II is sorely lacking in the humor and genre film references, something the first film had in spades, thanks to Eric Spudic's screenplay. While Spudic (a truly nice and talented guy who should get more recognition than he does) is credited as a co-screenwriter here, it's quite obvious that director Jeff Leroy was more interested in making an old-fashioned Japanese-inspired giant monster flick (rumor has it that the Japanese loved the first film so much, they funded this one) than a semi-comedic horror film, which is what made the original CREEPIES such a retarded joy to watch. Still, if you want to see a model version of Las Vegas being destroyed and view a few gory makeup effects (there is very little gore when compared to the first film), all done on a budget that would make Andy Milligan wince (and he's dead!), CREEPIES II: LAS VEGAS ATTACK is the film for you. Also starring Loren Paul, Randal Malone, Gregor Collins, Eric J. Coffin, Katie Guman, Matt Emery and Corbin Timbrook. The print I viewed came from a Japanese DVD (the only release of the film I know of) and, fortunately, the Japanese subtitles are removable. Not Rated.
CRITTERS 4 (1991) - If you thought CRITTERS 3 (1990) was bad, wait until your eyes glaze over from watching this installment (so far, thankfully, the last). It picks up where Part 3 left off: with Charlie (series regular Don Keith Opper) placing the last two remaining Crite eggs in a space pod for shipment back to their home planet. Bumbling Charlie becomes trapped inside the pod and is held in suspended animation as the pod careens off course. Fifty-three years later, the pod is picked up in deep space by a salvage ship captained by Anders Hove (SUBSPECIES - 1991). The crew, including Brad Dourif (CHILD'S PLAY - 1988), drug-addled Eric DaRe (Aldo Ray's son and one of the stars of TV's TWIN PEAKS) and Angela Bassett (SUPERNOVA - 2000), contact the head of the galactic company, Ugh (played by series regular Terrence Mann), responsible for the pod and are told to dock their ship at a nearby space station and not to open the pod. When they get to the space station they find it abandoned. The station's computer is malfunctioning and its nuclear reactor is near meltdown status. The captain decides to open the pod, releasing Charlie and the two hatched Critters. The captain pays for his deed with his life (a Critter lodges itself in his mouth), leaving Charlie and the crew to fight the Critters before their newly-laid eggs hatch. Charlie accidentally disables the salvage ship, their only means of escape, and the station is only hours away from total destruction. Charlie also learns that money can drastically change a person as Ugh, who was once his friend, has turned into a power-hungry meglomaniac. Who will survive this mess? The main problem with this film is pacing. The screenwriters (including splatterpunk author David J. Schow) don't let the Critters do their thing until halfway into the proceedings. The PG-13 rating keeps their gory mayhem to a bare minimum. The always reliable Brad Dourif is terribly wasted here in a good guy role. All in all, nothing very exciting happens and boredom sets in very quickly. Directed by Rupert Harvey, who produced the Snoop Dogg horror film BONES (2001). A Columbia TriStar Home Video Release. Rated PG-13.
CROCODILE (1979/1981) - When a hurricane hits an unnamed Thai island, not only does it send a slew of injured people to Dr. Akom's (Nat Puvanai) hospital, it also disturbs a centuries-old giant crocodile who begins to chow down on the local fishermen and the tourists at a beachside resort. When Dr. Akom loses his entire family to the giant crocodile, he resigns his post at the hospital and goes on a personal vendetta to destroy the croc. Following eyewitness and newspaper reports, Dr. Akom starts his long (and I mean long) search for the killer croc as it seems to be comfortable in both fresh and salt water (thereby letting it escape time and time again by using the sea). The croc goes on a tear, destroying an entire village and killing a reknown crocodile hunter (shades of JAWS), before Dr. Akom, and a couple of new friends he's picked-up on the way, blow up the croc while on a boat in the ocean in a final desperate attempt (and a definite rip-off of JAWS!). There's not much to recommend about this film, directed by the mysterious Sompote Sands. If it looks like the crocodile changes size from scene to scene, it is because this film lifts some footage from an earlier giant crocodile flick, another Thai production titled AGOWA GONGPO (1978). Although gory in spots (severed limbs, some bloody croc munching, etc.), you'll have to put up with some long stretches of boredom before the end finally comes. The late, notorious producer Dick Randall (KING OF KONG ISLAND - 1968; PIECES - 1982; DON'T OPEN 'TIL CHRISTMAS - 1984) took producing credit (along with original producer Robert Chan) in 1981, two years after the film was finished. Herman Cohen (producer of many horror titles during the 50's & 60's, including BERSERK - 1967) released it to theaters. The DVD, put out by VCI Entertainment, is in widescreen, but it looks as if it was taken from a VHS master as there are numerous instances of rollout, fluttering and distortion only found on VHS tapes. The dubbing is atrocious, the model work obvious (check out the shots of the boat Dr. Akom is on during the finale) and the crocodile is a mix of real-life croc footage and bad mechanical effects. CROCODILE is good for a look if you would like to see how other countries pay "homage" to JAWS, otherwise stay away from this one and save yourself 92 minutes. Originally titled CHORAKE. Also starring Tany Tim, Angela Wells and Kirk Warren. A VCI Entertainment Release. Rated R.
CRYPT OF DARK SECRETS (1976) - Back in the early 80's, I used to go to a lot of midnight horror shows with my friend Mike Decker (who now runs Just For The Hell Of It Video). We were the only two in our group of friends who actually enjoyed going to these things. Even today, I still get strange looks from my friends when I recommend, say, BASKET CASE as an example of a good night's entertainment. Either you're born with it or not. There's no middle ground here. But I digress. One of the favorite midnight movies Mike and I saw was THE MARDI GRAS MASSACRE (1978), one of the most inept and hilarious pieces of trash ever committed to film. We must have seen it at least a half dozen times with each viewing bringing on fits of uncontrollable laughter and more people filling the seats than the time before. These people got the joke, were being entertained by the sheer badness of it all and were bringing more people to experience it. But I digress again. The first time I saw MARDI GRAS (basically an even cheaper remake of BLOOD FEAST - 1963), I became somewhat facinated by what director Jack Weis had created and had to know what else he had made. This was before home computers and the Internet, so I had to do a lot of leg work. I found out that he had directed just one other film, the nearly impossible to find (back then anyway) CRYPT OF DARK SECRETS. I was hoping that it was as insane and jaw-dropping as MARDI GRAS. I am sad to report that it is not. Although made before MARDI GRAS, this film is much more polished and professional for such a cheap flick. Sure, the exploitation elements are here: Damballa (Maureen Ridley), a beautiful witch who turns into a snake, brings Viet Nam vet Ted Watkins (Ronald Tanet) back to life after he is robbed and killed by a trio of thieves on his "haunted island" in the Louisiana bayou. She then exacts revenge on the trio. That's basically it in a nutshell. Compared to MARDI GRAS, CRYPTis a lame and bloodless affair. Gone is the unrated gore that MARDI GRAS wallowed in. In fact, CRYPT is rated R solely due to the fact that Ms. Ridley spends a good amount of her screen time totally naked. The violence is so tame that Ted dies after being hit over the head with a rolling pin (!) and then falls into the bayou. It's as if director Jack Weis was hit over the head after making this film and turned into someone totally different. The two films do contain some similarities. Both contain bad acting and dime store special effects. But gone is the kinetic awfulness that made MARDI GRAS such a facinating train wreck. CRYPT OF DARK SECRETS is just another bad horror film that disappointed me after many years of high hopes. Shit, I'm pissed! But I digress... Also starring Herb Jahncke and Wayne Mack. One of the biggest disappointments in my entire viewing history. Something Weird Video offers a beautiful print of this film on DVD along with a second feature, Larry Buchanan's 1961 horror/nudie film THE NAKED WITCH. Rated R. Other Louisiana-lensed obscurities include: VOODOO SWAMP (1963), THE EXOTIC ONES (1968), NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR (1968), NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER (1972), J.D.'s REVENGE (1976) and TERROR IN THE SWAMP (1984).
CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973) - This filmed in Turkey turkey was originally titled YOUNG HANNAH, QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES and HANNAH, QUEEN OF THE WITCHES. The filmmakers must of had a hard time deciding what they wanted Hannah to be. Andrew Prine travels to Vampire Island to collect the body of his father who was purposely crushed under the tomb of Hannah (Teresa Gimpera), an ancient vampiress. In order to remove his father's body, Prine and island resident Mark Damon must open the tomb to alleviate the weight so it can be lifted. They find the perfectly preserved body of the 700 year old Hannah, who begins chowing down on the island's populace with the help of a one-eyed hunchback (Ihsan Genik). Prine falls in love with Damon's schoolteacher sister (Patty Shepard) and they are both warned by a local blind man (Francisco Brana) that "Hannah is smart. 700 years smart". Meanwhile, Damon (who killed Prine's father in order to have someone help him open the tomb) falls in love with Hannah and asks her to give him immortality. Damon offers his sister as a sacrifice but Prine saves her in the nick of time. Hannah puts the bite on Damon, but he is staked through the heart by the angry villagers (so much for immortality!). Prine tries to dispose of Hannah by setting her on fire and tossing her off a cliff. When that doesn't work he runs a wooden stake through her charred body ending the vampire epidemic. The epilogue shows that one of Shepard's schoolkids is a bloodsucker, thereby continuing Vampire Island's heritage. Co-directed by ex-actor Ray Danton (THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND - 1960, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS - 1974); he directed the scenes for the American version, who would later go on to make the much-better PSYCHIC KILLER (1974) and my personal favorite, DEATHMASTER, in 1972, and Julio Salvador (co-writer of LOVE BRIDES OF THE BLOOD MUMMY - 1973). CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a tepid affair that's best avoided. A United Home Video Release. Also available on DVD under the YOUNG HANNAH title from VCI Entertainment. Also available on DVD as part of SIX PACK VOLUME ONE from Code Red. Also available in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Vinegar Syndrome. Rated PG.
CRYSTAL FORCE (1990) - One of the pleasures of my life is walking into a little mom and pop video store and discovering a film that I never heard of before. Of course, renting an unknown is like playing a game of Russian roulette. During the first five minutes of CRYSTAL FORCE I knew that there was a bullet in the chamber. It's bad. This is one of those home grown horrors populated by amateur thespians speaking badly written lines, cheap optical effects, and a monster suit so cheesy it makes the one in WATCHERS look absolutely masterful. The slim storyline is about a girl (Katherine McCall), while trying to get over the death of her father, buys a crystal from Mr. Beazel's Antique Shop to forget about her troubles. It turns out that Mr. Beazel (Tony C. Burton) is good ol' Beelzabub himself and the crystal is an outlet for him to let his demon come out and collect souls. Pretty soon McCall is fighting off the advances of the horny demon while her friends begin to die by its' hands. Can McCall's policeman fiance (John Serrdakue) save her before she becomes Satan meat? You'll find out if you can stay awake that long. The unrated version (it is also available in an R) contains extra nudity but no extra violence. I know this because I watched both versions back to back. (Talk about suffering for your craft!) As a matter of fact the carnage is kept to a bare minimum, with one face slashing (and protruding eyeball) and a couple of body lacerations. Take my word, this film is not worth your effort. Maybe next time I will be luckier. Then again, maybe I won't. Believe it or not, this film spawned a video game! Directed by Laura Keats, which proves that even women can make a bad horror film. Believe it or not, a sequel followed. A Vista Street Entertainment Release. Unrated.
CRY_WOLF (2005) - Supposed horror movie with one of the worst payoffs in movie history. When British kid Owen (Julian Morris) is transferred to an American private high school, he is invited by his dorm roommate Tom (Jared Padalecki of TV's SUPERNATURAL) to join in a private game where a group of teens, led by the beautiful Dodger (Lindy Booth), try to guess who the wolf is in the group by the rest of the students (called "the sheep"). The one who guesses correctly gets a pot of money. Bored with the game and hearing about a local girl killed in the woods by an unknown assailant, the kids decide to send a fake email to all the students telling a false story that a serial killer called The Wolf is loose and killing students in the school. Mr. Walker (a zoned-out Jon Bon Jovi), a teacher who knows about Owen's troubled past, warns him that he knows he's the one who sent out the email and to keep his nose clean. Pretty soon, real murders of the cast of the game begin to happen, as The Wolf turns out to be someone real and is not flattered by having his presence known. He begins a cat and mouse game with Owen, sending him threatening instant messages (supplied by AOL, who gets a prominent mention in the final credits and movie ad mats), planting weapons in his backpack, chasing him down empty school corridors, and killing off his mates one-by-one according to Owen's original email. Did I mention that all this takes place during Halloween? Well, things turn out to be not what they seem as we witness the lamest ending to a horror film in quite some time. If you can't spot who "the killer" is, you either have the IQ of a rock or didn't pay attention to the first 10 minutes. I'm not going to give the ending away. You'll have to suffer just like I did. This film, originally rated PG-13 for its' theatrical release and Unrated for its' DVD release (a couple of seconds of gore was put back in), is so goddamn awful on many levels, including a cameo by Gary Cole as Owen's uncaring father. He sports the worst English accent I think I have ever heard in a film. I was laughing hysterically every time he opened his mouth and I'm a big fan of Cole (who was so good as the late night radio host on the underrated TV series MIDNIGHT CALLER [1988 - 1991] and as the evil sheriff Lucas Buck on TV's AMERICAN GOTHIC [1995 - 1996]). How come English actors can nail the American dialect so well while American actors can't do the opposite? If there is one good thing I can say about the DVD is that director Jeff Wadlow included his award-winning short film, THE TOWER OF BABBLE, a smart and deeply affecting 20 minute exercise about the English language, where three different stories interconnect in the use of the same phrases, whose interpretation is used differently in each story as all three stories come crashing (literally) together in the finale. It's a smart, inventive short (only available on the Unrated DVD) that stars Tony Denison and is narrated by Kevin Spacey. I guess CRY_WOLF had too much outside influence for Wadlow to make it work. What a shame. Also starring Jesse Janzen, Paul James, Sandra McCoy and Ethan Cohn. A Universal Studios Home Entertainment Release. Unrated.
CTHULHU MANSION (1990) - If there is such a thing as video in the afterlife, H.P. Lovecraft would be contacting his lawyer. This film has nothing whatsoever to do with any Lovecraft story. It just bastardizes one of his titles. After killing a drug dealer and stealing his coke, a gang of punks (led by Brad Fisher) kidnap a carnival illusionist named Chandu (Frank Finlay), his daughter (Marcia Layton) and their mute servant (Frank Brana) and hole up in Chandu's mysterious mansion. The members of the gang (including William "Beam me up, Scotty" Shatner's daughter Melanie) are then dispatched by various supernatural means as we learn (in a rather confusing narrative way) that Chandu once practiced black magic which resulted in the death of his beloved wife. What does this have to do with the strange goings-on at the mansion? I haven't got the foggiest idea and I doubt that you will make heads or tails of it either. I was just glad it ended. This poor excuse of a horror film has a couple of stylish touches (moody photography and one good shock), but is so poorly written that it makes absolutely no sense. The actors seem to speak their lines as if they don't understand what it all means. At least we're not alone. Perhaps that is why Frank Brana (GRAVEYARD OF HORROR - 1971) took the role of a mute. Who do we have to thank for all this? Why, it's none other than Spanish director Juan Piquer Simon, who also threatened us with the ridiculous SUPERSONIC MAN (1979), the unrated splatterfest PIECES (1982), the slimy-trailed terror SLUGS (1987) and the underwater thriller ENDLESS DESCENT (1989). Even if none of these are considered must-see films, they all have one thing in common: They're ten times better than CTHULHU MANSION. Unlike THE RESURRECTED (1991) or DAGON (2001), good ol' H.P. would not approve. Why should you? Released to cable TV under the title BLACK MAGIC MANSION (perhaps Lovecraft did contact his lawyer!). A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.
CURSE (1987) - Leave to those thieving pirates at VideoAsia/Ventura Distribution. They stole the Ocean Shores print of the Hong Kong horror film called CURSE (it still has the Ocean Shores bug burned on the print at various times), retitled it CANNIBAL CURSE on the DVD sleeve (but not on the print itself) and put it on store shelves as part of their TALES OF VOODOO series (Volume 4). To add insult to injury, it plays both the Mandarin and Cantonese language tracks simultaneously and the subtitles are so low on the screen that they are unreadable. Here's what I was able to make out: A young woman named Miss Chan is in love with a young man named Roberto, but her family disapproves (he is only the gardener, after all). Tired of being abused by her wheelchair-bound father and nearly raped by her own brother (!), Miss Chan agrees to run away with Roberto but, before she is able to, he is savagely run over and killed by a car driven by her brother. Miss Chan goes to a female witch doctor and has Roberto's soul transferred into another man's body. Here's the catch: She doesn't know who's body the soul has been transferred in. The witch doctor only tells her that she will know who it is when she meets him. Forty years pass and a reincarnated Miss Chan is still searching for her Roberto. She goes to a fortune teller, who says she should travel to Manila. She does and she meets Robert, who she immediately recognizes as her reincarnated lover. The only problem is that Robert is married and has a baby. Robert recognizes her too, but hasn't got a clue why. A fortune teller spikes his drink and, after that, every woman he meets looks like Miss Chan. This is when the film gets really weird. There's an evil sorcerer who rapes women, worships snakes and has a band of pygmies who do his bidding. Miss Chan goes to him for a love spell she wants to put on Robert. Since Miss Chan is still a virgin, the sorcerer can't touch her, but he warns her that when she loses her virginity, she will have to do him a favor. She agrees, takes the potion and puts it in Robert's drink. He instantly falls in love with her and he pops Miss Chan's cherry. Things come to a boil when Robert's wife, Amy, comes to Manila looking for him and the evil sorcerer has now called in his favor (It involves snakes. Lots and lots of snakes). Amy hires a good sorcerer to find her husband. In the finale, the good and evil sorcerers duke it out for Robert and Miss Chan's souls. Watching a Hong Kong film without readable subtitles is like trying to read braille with no fingertips. It's downright impossible. There's always something visually crazy going on, but without the subtitles to rely on, how you decipher it is a crapshoot. There's pygmies with vampire teeth (then without), black panthers, close-ups of lizard eyes, bats, snakes and plenty of topless women (ass cracks aren't allowed, though, as they are optically fogged out). Robert becomes sick and he begins growing scales on his stomach. When the evil sorcerer tries to fuck Miss Chan, her vagina snaps off his pecker and snakes burst out of his body. Snakes seen to be a recurring theme in Hong Kong horror films. There's plenty of nudity and gross scenes (mostly involving those damn snakes) to keep you occupied even if you can't read 80% of the subtitles. Ocean Shores should sue. Directed by Kong Yeung. Starring Maria Jo, Elisa Ye, Isabel Lopez and Susan Brandy. A VideoAsia/Ventura Distribution Release. Boycott this edition like the plague. Not Rated.
CURSE II: THE BITE (1989) - This Italian-made, lensed in the USA production has a lot of good things going for it in the first 45 minutes. Then it turns into a run-of-the-mill horror film with an incredible premise. On the cross-country trip, Clark (J. Eddie Peck) and Lisa (Jill Schoelen) run over a bunch of snakes in the middle of the road. When Clark goes out to investigate, he is bitten by a snake when they stop at a gas station to get their vehicle fixed by a stubborn gas station attendant (Al Fann), who keeps a mutated dog chained up in the basement of his garage. Seems the area has been the subject of radiation tests and the animals (mainly the snakes) have mutated and are extremely poisonous. Clark gets an anti-venom shot by traveling salesman (and part-time unlicensed doctor) Harry Morton (Jamie Farr, who plays his role with a Jewish accent, but is quite funny!), thinking that Clark was bitten by a normal poisonous snake known to the area. After a closer study, Harry realizes that Clark was bitten by a mutated snake and spends the rest of the film trying to locate Clark (by using a CB radio to contact truckers, including a plump female one named "Big Flo" [Marianne Muellerleile], who is also Harry's lover!) so he can give him the right inoculation (and not be sued for malpractice!). Clark and Lisa run into a local sheriff (played by Bo Svenson in his usual overwrought style, with an unexplained bandage on his nose), and thinking that Clark is high on drugs, arrests them both and sends Clark to the hospital for detoxification. Clark's behavior begins to change and the trip to the hospital to treat his hand turns rather nasty. It seems his hand is turning into a snake (!) and the snake-hand kills a nurse before Clark escapes after Harry faints before he is able to administer the shot. The finale shows Clark turning into a giant mutated snake who is about to devour Lisa in a muddy pit before Harry blows off it's head with a shotgun. Director Fred Goodwin (actually Italian director Federico Prosperi [writer of his brother's Franco's crazy film WILD BEASTS - 1983]) uses the New Mexico desert locations in the beginning of the film to good effect as snakes are run over in slow motion (a very good scene) and the locale does imbue an eerie hue on the film. Unfortunately, once Svenson appears on the scene and the location shifts to a city, the film suffers a lack of focus. The film resembles SSSSSSS (1973) to a certain extent, but is much more graphic. Released in both R-Rated and Unrated editions. The differences are Fann's attack (and death) by his mutant dog is more graphic, the death of the nurse (who has her lower jaw ripped off) is completely missing and Clark's transformation at the end is more elaborate (the scene with snakes coming out of his mouth will make some people lose their lunch) along with other bits of gore in the Unrated edition (including a policeman having his heart removed through his mouth and the death of an uber-religious family who take Clark in when the father notices him hiding from the police in his pickup truck; effects expertly done by Screaming Mad George). This film is good for a little fun, but only the Unrated edition. The R-Rated edition cuts away just as it is about to become juicy. A Trans World Entertainment Release. Available on an Unrated double feature DVD (with the original THE CURSE ) from MGM Home Video. Be aware that the version on this DVD, although in fullscreen, is actually the Unrated version, even though the DVD cover carries an R-rating. The original THE CURSE also has extra scenes not shown in the theatrical version or in the VHS incarnations it was released on (it's also in widescreen on the DVD, though not in its original OAR). The entire CURSE franchise (reviews which follow below) have absolutely no connection with each other.
CURSE III: BLOOD SACRIFICE (1990) - This horror/suspense film made in South Africa, originally titled PANGA, was retitled to fit into the CURSE franchise. This is probably the best of the series. During the 1950's, in East Africa, a pregnant American, Elizabeth (Jenilee Harrison of TV's THREE'S COMPANY [1976 - 1984] and DALLAS [1978 - 1991]), and her friends stop the sacrifice of a goat much to the displeasure of the local witch doctor. He places a curse on her baby and everyone who didn't belong at the sacrifice. When Elizabeth starts getting bad stomach pains, her husband, Geoff (Andre Jacobs), calls the local doctor (Christopher Lee, who acts like he's in a Shakespeare play) to ease her pain. When the doctor and Geoff spot the goat in the front yard and Elizabeth tells the story of how she and her friends stopped the sacrifice, they both know that they are in a world of trouble. Geoff's sugarcane plantation workers refuse to show up for work because they know a curse has been put on the place. The doctor goes to the witch doctor with an ancient artifact and they have some unheard meeting. Strange occurances begin to happen. Elizabeth's friends are slaughtered on the beach while making love by some unknown entity wielding a machete. Geoff finds them hacked to pieces in their tent on the beach. Geoff is nearly killed by the same unseen killer (a real heavy breather) before escaping in his truck (or did he?). The rest of the film depicts Elizabeth's struggle to remain alive as supernatural things begin to happen which may have something to do with the good doctor's hidden agenda. While not overly bloody (head decapitation of actor Henry Cele notwithstanding), one-time director Sean Barton (who works as a film editor to this day) fills the screen with dread and suspense, as Elizabeth must fend for herself and try to fight off the curse. The eventual appearance of Panga (created by Chris Walas) makes him look like a cross between the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) and one of the HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980). The scenery and locations add to the suspense as do the acting talents of Jenilee Harrison, who was never given much of a chance in Hollywood to prove herself as an actress after her TV series ended. After this film she made the erotic thriller ILLICIT BEHAVIOR (1992) and the action film FISTS OF IRON (1995) before practically disappearing into obscurity. A real shame. Also starring Olivia Dyer, Jennifer Steyn and Dumi Shongwe as the Witch Doctor. A Columbia Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.
CURSE IV: THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE (1988) - Columbia TriStar, in their ultimate wisdom, decided to dust off a long-shelved production from Charles Band's defunct Empire Films and retitled it to fit in with the unrelated CURSE franchise. The original title of this film is CATACOMBS and it is an unremarkable religious possession tale marred by a relentlessly slow pace. It also contains a couple of scenes that will make devout Catholics see red. The picture opens during the times of the Inquisition as we witness a priest exorcising, then walling up, an albino demon (Jeremy West) in an Italian monastery's sub-basement. The demon stays confined up until the present day, where he escapes to terrorize and possess the population of the monastery, including a visiting schoolteacher (Laura Scheafer) and a priest who may be losing his faith (Timothy Van Patten). It's pretty slow going and rather bloodless. It does show some promise during two scenes even if the Pope and his followers will tend to disagree. The first scene is a touching dialogue spoken by a dying elderly priest regretting why he never had sex with a girl named Dolores when he was sixteen years old. His explanation of sex being a religious experience is a treat. The second scene involves a statue of Jesus on the cross coming to life and stabbing a priest with one of his cricifixion spikes. These two scenes constitute less than five minutes of this 84 minute dud, so don't rush out to rent it. Wait for it to show up on cable. Director David Schmoeller mainly worked for Charles Band, making TOURIST TRAP (1978) early in both of their careers and PUPPET MASTER (1989) and NETHERWORLD (1991) for Band's Full Moon Productions. He most recently directed the documentary PLEASE KILL MR. KINSKI (1999), a humorous look at his experiences dealing with wildman actor Klaus Kinski while making CRAWLSPACE (1986). Producer Hope Perello later went on to direct the franchise horror film HOWLING 6: THE FREAKS (1990) and the kids' film PET SHOP (1994). Feodor Chaliaplin, who essays the role of a priest with a sweet tooth (and the best performance in this film), also played similiarly themed roles in THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986) and Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH (1989). The less said about Timothy Van Patten's acting abilities, the better off we all are, but he did go on to become an Emmy Award-winning director of TV dramas including THE SOPRANOS and BOARDWALK EMPIRE. A Columbia Tristar Home Video Release. Also available from Scream Factory as part of their 4-film, 2-DVD 4 ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON VOLUME TWO compilation and a double-feature Blu-Ray with the film CELLAR DWELLER (1987). Rated R.
CURSE OF PIRATE DEATH (2006) - I decided after watching director Dennis Devine's feature debut, the horribly awful FATAL IMAGES (1988), to see if he's improved in the proceeding 18 years. Here's my verdict: No! A thousand times no! CURSE OF PIRATE DEATH is a lame-ass, low-rent SOV feature (made to cash in on THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN craze) that contains the same awful acting, bad sound and cheap gore effects that Devine's first flick contained, only this time there's bad artifacting any time the camera sweeps left-to-right or up-and-down, making it look like your watching it through venetian blinds. Here's the story in a nutshell (and believe me, it could fit there): Over two hundred years ago, the dreaded Pirate Death (Mitch Toles, who also supplied the crappy makeup effects) buried his treasure in a place called (what else?) Pirate's Point and slaughtered everyone who witnessed the burial. In the present day, lesbian college professor Anna Blackhart (Sally Mullins) lectures her students on how they are all decendants of the victims of Pirate Death (How can that be, if Pirate Death slaughtered all of the witnesses? It's just one in a long line of "How can that be's" in this turkey.) and sends them searching for the treasure, unaware that a decaying Pirate Death roams the area killing anyone who gets near his booty. That's basically the plot of the whole film, as Professor Blackhart has lesbian encounters with some of her students, bitchy student Amber (Syn DeVil) manages to piss-off everyone she comes in contact with and another female student has visions of the pirate massacre two centuries earlier, which will lead her and her friends to the treasure and the wrath of Pirate Death. They find the treasure near a "white brick wall" (it's repeatedly mentioned, but it's really a white cinderblock wall) and they each take a gold dubloon. Faster than you can say "LEPRECHAUN", Pirate Death begins killing them off one-by-one until he gets tricked into turning mortal, in which he is then run-through and decapitated with his own sword. Oh Fate, why are you so cruel? I thought that FATAL IMAGES was a horrible experience, but nothing prepared me for the crappy brain-frying banality that is CURSE OF PIRATE DEATH. Not only is the acting no better than the level of a high school play, but we also get to see veteran actor Vernon Wells (THE ROAD WARRIOR - 1982; ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989) commit career suicide as a pirate named "Vernon" in flashback scenes (Wells is also listed as one of the Associate Producers in the credits, just like he was in the far-superior BLOOD RANCH , but we all know what it takes to become an Associate Producer, right? Absolutely nothing!). The Hedgehog himself, Ron Jeremy, also puts in a cameo appearance as Professor Jackson, who wanders around a field making sexual remarks to students and fondling Professor Blackhart's breasts. It's apparent all his scenes were probably shot in a timespan of an hour and when he remarks in the film, "Oh, God, this day sucks!", I wanted to scream out, "Amen, brother!" Co-star Syn DeVil walks around with her emormously fake-looking silicone-enhanced breasts exposed throughout the film (how anyone finds these plastic hooters even remotely attractive is beyond me). When she smiles, all I see is way too much gum and not enough teeth. The gore effects are also sub-par, as Pirate Death runs people through with his sword (so we can watch close-up of the actors spitting out blood), slices off arms, slits throats or pokes out eyes with his hook hand (yes, he has a hook hand). The funniest scene (not "ha-ha" funny, just "pathetic" funny) comes when the dastardly pirate shoves his hand through the back of the head of some poor girl until it comes out of her mouth. It's all done in one take and is so laughable and obvious, I did chuckle out loud. I doubt this was the reaction director Devine (DEAD GIRLS - 1990; THINGS - 1993) was striving for. The music soundtrack is filled with headache-inducing Death Metal tracks from bands like North Side Kings, Hush and Meat Rocket. Producer David Sterling has been responsible for a lot of cheap SOV and DTV features since the early 90's, producing such features as HUMAN PREY (1995; I may never forgive him for that one!) and director Jay Woelfel's IRON THUNDER (1998), UNSEEN EVIL (1999) and DEMONICUS (2001). Please, please, please, save your money and spend it on something worthwhile, like laser hair removal or calf implants. You'll thank me later. Also starring Randal Malone, Monte Hunter, Dana Marsh, Rebekah Brandes, Denisse Bons, Sally Fay Dalton, Amanda Barker and Gina Vendetti. A Brain Damage Films DVD Release. Not Rated.
CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES (1982) - If you ever had the displeasure to sit through that abortion of a film called NIGHT OF HORROR (1978), be prepared for another extremely painful blow to your birth canal as this film uses the same plot, stars and director. If you can't get it right the first time, fail miserably again and torture the audience. Six aggravating people, including a blind Japanese girl (Mimi Ishikawa), go on a camping/hunting trip (complete with rifles with exploding bullets) and run into the reanimated corpses of a Confederate outfit hungry for the taste of Nothern flesh. When one of the men finds a chest with an old Confederate diary in it, he steals it and the dead rise looking to get it back. That's the whole film, folks. The majority of the running time is spent on long boring stretches of people walking through the woods, bad actors screaming their lines at each other and zombies in bad makeup walking drunkenly through the woods (their faces are either covered-up in cheap latex masks or greasepaint, but their hands are normal). By the look of the hairstlyes and clothing on view, this film (originally titled CURSE OF THE SCREAMING DEAD) looks to have been filmed at least five years prior to the end credits production date of 1982. Either that or Maryland (where this film was lensed) doesn't have a dress code. Director Tony Malanowski ups the gore quotient from his previous film (which had zero gore), but it is so amateurish (dig those exploding head effects!) and comes so late into the film, you'll probably be asleep or turned it off long before you get to it. The night scenes are so dark that it's hard to make out what's going on and, since a good 50% of the film takes place at night, that can't be a good thing (or could it?). Wait until you hear the line where one of the guys tries to rationalize how it is easier for the blind girl to travel at night than in the day time! And pay close attention to the scene where the cop is talking on his two-way radio in his patrol car. It's a comedy classic of bad timing in the making. I also love the way the zombies manage to pull out pieces of flesh from an untorn shirt. There are so many laughable moments (including a toy car on fire), that one could view this as an unintentional comedy if it weren't so damned boring. This is strictly amateur hour stuff. I've passed gas that has had more personality than this film. Death row inmates should ask to watch this film as their last request because it is the longest 88 minutes they will ever sit through. Starring Steve Sandkuhler, Rebecca Bach (both also starred in NIGHT OF HORROR), Christopher Gummer, Judy Dixon, Mark Redfield, Jim Ball and Bump Roberts. A Troma Team Release. Distributed on DVD by BCI as part of TOXIE'S TRIPLE TERROR VOL. 1 three disc set. Not Rated.
CURTAINS (1982) - Early 80's slasher film that never get the respect it deserved, probably because of its troubled production history (It started filming in 1980, but two years of reshoots caused the director, Richard Ciupka, to take the pseudonym "Jonathan Stryker", which just happens to be the name of the main character in this film, giving the whole viewing experience a "film-within-a-film" feel). In the film, conceited and abusive film director Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon; CHAINED HEAT - 1983) has to shelve his latest film, AUDRA, when leading lady Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar; THE BROOD - 1979) suffers a mental breakdown (she tries to stab Jonathan with a letter opener in the doctor's office) and is led away in a straitjacket. It all turns out to be a grand performance by Samantha, since the title role of Audra is a madwoman and Samantha gets herself committed, all in the name of "research". Jonathan is in on the ruse, but Dr. Pendleton (Calvin Butler) thinks Samantha is actually insane. The more time Samantha spends in the loony bin with all the female crazies (the screamers, the laughers and even serial ticklers!), the more Samantha seems to go actually mad, so much so that Jonathan decides to keep Samantha in the institution and hold an audition at his mansion with six actresses battling for the role of Audra. What Jonathan doesn't count on is Samantha escaping from the asylum (with the help of some unseen female accomplice) and she vows to get the role back by any means possible. I guess you know what that means: The other actresses auditioning for the role, diva Brooke Parsons (Linda Thorson; HALF PAST DEAD - 2002); ballet dancer Laurian Summers (Anne Ditchburn); stand-up comedienne Patti O'Connor (Lynne Griffin; BLACK CHRISTMAS - 1974); musician Tara Demillo (Sandra Warren; TERROR TRAIN - 1980); professional ice skater Christie Burns (Lesleh Donaldson; FUNERAL HOME - 1980); and Amanda Teuther (Deborah Burgess), begin to meet unwanted (and sometimes gory) demises. But is Samantha the one responsible? Amanda (who likes to play elaborate rape fantasies with her boyfriend, Peter [Booth Savage], when he breaks into her apartment with a stocking over his head and assaults her on her bed while she feigns disgust) never makes it to the audition, as she is viciously stabbed in her own apartment by someone wearing an old hag mask (this is after Amanda has a very vivid death dream about a creepy toy doll, which makes an appearance at two other murders). The other five actresses do make it to Jonathan's mansion, where he introduces them to his assistant Matthew (Michael Wincott; METRO - 1997) and Samantha shows up to tell Jonathan and the other actresses that she is Audra and everyone else doesn't stand a chance. Jonathan disagrees and it's not long before the other actresses begin dying, but what is the connection with the creepy doll? Alas, because of all the reshoots, we never get to find out. Although quite disjointed in spots, especially the second half (thanks to the reshooting, which included Linda Thorson replacing actress Celine Lomez in the role of Brooke Parsons after Ms. Lomez shot most of her scenes), CURTAINS has its share of atmospheric sequences and shocking deaths. Director Richard Ciupka (DEAD END - 1999) and screenwriter Robert Guza Jr, (who wrote the story to PROM NIGHT - 1980) nearly have this film achieve classic status based solely on the death of Christie Burns, who is ice-skating on a frozen pond to some cheesy love ballad on her radio, when the music suddenly stops and she finds the creepy doll buried in the snow. The killer, dressed all in black (including ice skates!) and wearing the old hag mask, skates behind Christie and attacks her with a scythe, chasing her into the woods and eventually killing her (Brooke finds Christie's decapitated head in her toilet later in the film!). If the rest of the film could maintain this intensity and inventive camerawork, we might be mentioning it in the same breath with HALLOWEEN (1978) and FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980). As it stands, CURTAINS is a well acted, if very fractured (especially the sudden disappearance of Matthew and the non-sensical ending), slasher film that delivers the creepy goods. It's not particularly bloody, but it doesn't need to be. That fucking doll is still sending shivers down my spine! Canadian staple Maury Chaykin (THE VINDICATOR - 1986) puts in a cameo as Brooke's agent. Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video and not available on DVD except as part of the four film THE MIDNIGHT HORROR COLLECTION: BLOODY SLASHERS compilation from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, but buyer beware, because the print used is a VHS port that looks worse than the Vestron Video version. Finally released on DVD & Blu-Ray in a remastered widescreen transfer from Synapse Films. This is the one you want. Rated R.