HORROR D - I


DAGON (2001) - This is a welcome return to H.P. Lovecraft territory by director Stuart Gordon and screenwriter Dennis Paoli, both responsible for the classic RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and the near-classic FROM BEYOND (1986). After their boat crashes on some rocks during a sudden storm, Paul (Ezra Gordon) and girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Merono) manage to make it by raft to the tiny fishing village of Imboca. Paul charters a fishing boat to go back to his boat to rescue his friends while Barbara goes off with the local priest to get the police. When Paul gets to his boat, he finds his friends missing and when he gets back to shore he finds that Barbara has also gone missing. The residents of Imboca start pursuing Paul as he starts to realize that these are not normal people. They are a misshapen, deformed lot, with tentacles for hands, gills on their necks and sunken, bulging eyes. While Paul is hiding from these mutants, he meets the town drunk (Francisco Rabal in his final performance), the last human resident alive in Imboca. He tells Paul the story of how this town became this way: When he was a boy, the town was going through tough times. There were no fish to be caught and the people were getting desperate. The people rejected God and began worshipping Dagon, an undersea creature/deity who promises them gold in return for their obedience and faith. Soon, the fishing nets are bringing up gold artifacts and the people are happy (and rich). But this type of happiness comes with a price. Dagon begins demanding human sacrifices and the people start mutating into what Paul sees today. It seems Barbara has been chosen to be Dagon's bride and bear his children. Paul tries to stop this from happening and also must deal with the strange feeling that he's been here before (he has recurring dreams about swimming underwater into a strange symbol-filled cavern). This film has a dream-like quality which you don't find in most horror films. The constant rain and weird set pieces make this film seem like one long fever dream, but without the lapses in logic. Stuart Gordon is masterful here, slowly pulling you into his world, not giving away too much information until you need to know it. The town of Imboca is the main star here, with its' dark cobblestone streets, dank rain-soaked houses and total lack of humanity. The hotel is not fit for human occupancy as Paul soon finds out when he first steps into town. Things go downhill very quickly for him soon after. I know what you're thinking: "What about the blood?" I'm glad to report that there's plenty on hand here, some pushing the boundries of its' R rating. Francisco Rabal's skinning alive is particularly cringe-inducing as is the shocking death of Barbara (sorry, spoiler!) and other surprise bits, including the unmasking of some of the mutants (including the High Priestess, played by Macarena Gomez, who has a thing for Paul). DAGON is a highly atmospheric tale which should be viewed by anyone with a taste for horror and the perverse. This Spanish-lensed film also stars Brendan Price, Birgit Bofarull, Ferran Lahoz, Alfredo Villa and Uxia Blanco. Producers Brian Yuzna and Julio Fernandez's Fantastic Factory have also released FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED (2000) and ARACHNID (2001) with more to follow in the coming years. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment Release. Rated R. If you're in the mood for an alternate take on the same subject matter, you could try director Peter Svatek's interesting, but highly flawed BLEEDERS (1996 - a.k.a. HEMOGLOBIN).

DARK TOWER (1987) - Failed horror film that is better known for its troubled production history. Producer Sandy Howard replaced Freddie Francis (TALES FROM THE CRYPT - 1972) as director (when he walked off the set), with co-scripter/executive producer Ken Wiederhorn (SHOCK WAVES - 1977). When both Francis and Wiederhorn saw the disaster of the final cut, they both opted to take the shared fictitious name "Ken Barnett" as director credit. Despite a great cast of seasoned pros, this film is just too damned disjointed to make any impact and for those of us unlucky enough to remember POLTERGEIST III (which was made a full year later!), severe deja-vu is about to set in. The construction of a new highrise tower in Barcelona, Spain is plagued with many mysterious accidents; such as when a window washer is supernaturally attacked by some unknown force after watching Unico Ltd. architect Carolyn Page (Jenny Agutter; LOGAN'S RUN - 1976) disrobe in her office and he is thrown 29 stories to his death, landing on a Unico executive and crushing him to death (all off-screen). Unico's head of security, Dennis Randall (Michael Moriarity; BLOOD LINK - 1982), is called in to investigate and finds Carolyn's story hard to swallow (he believes it was simply a strong wind or the window washer committed suicide), yet he begins to have strange psychic visions from the moment he steps into the building (like having sex with Carolyn, a woman he has just met). A security guard is the next to be killed when the elevator he is riding in develops a mind of its own and freefalls 30 stories. Carolyn can feel that something is wrong with the building when the windows start bleeding and her office door handle jiggles by itself. When Dennis' partner, Williams (Robert Sherman), investigates the elevator death, he becomes possessed, pulls out his gun and begins randomly shooting at people exiting the elevator, almost killing Carolyn before an injured guard shoots him in the back. Dennis is rightfully perturbed ("Something screwy is going on here!"), but when he starts seeing ghosts, he begins to look into Carolyn's background and the building's history. It turns out that the ghost he has been seeing is Carolyn's dead husband, who passed away two years earlier. Dennis' visions come much more frequently, including one of Carolyn running through the hallways of the building; her clothes all torn and disheveled. Dennis asks his girlfriend, Elaine (Anne Lockhart; TROLL - 1986, also starring Moriarity), to dig up some dirt on Carolyn's dead husband and she finds Maria (Patch Mackenzie; GRADUATION DAY - 1981), who tells Dennis that Carolyn's husband was a "prick" and he drowned, yet his body was never found. It also seems that Carolyn may be responsible for his death and probably tried to kill him two times previously, but failed. Dennis contacts prominent parapsychologist Dr. Max Gold (Theodore Bikel), where we discover that Dennis has strong psychic powers called "precognition" (well, duh!). The doctor agrees to help Dennis uncover the truth and he begins interviewing Carolyn's executive assistant, Tilly Ambrose (Carol Lynley; BEWARE! THE BLOB - 1972), who doesn't like the questions the doctor is asking. When Carolyn shows up at Dennis' apartment and Max tries to interview her, she hurries out the door mumbling stuff about "witch doctors and gypsies" (a bad looping job obviously done by someone other than Ms. Agutter). Max enters the haunted building on his own, detects a supernatural presence and is nearly killed in an elevator. Max asks a real medium named Sergie (Kevin McCarthy; INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS - 1956) to help him and Dennis unravel the mystery and, in the finale, most of them die as Dennis becomes possessed by Carolyn's dead hubby, turns into a prune-faced demon and makes Carolyn pay for her murderous sins.  There's not much to recommend here since the film moves at a snail's pace (there's an awful lot of extraneous elevator footage here, much of it used to bridge scenes that were apparently not finished) and the actors, especially Michael Moriarity and Jenny Agutter, look bored beyond tears to be starring in what is obviously a troubled set. It's not only obvious very early on what is going on at the building; it's so easy to figure out, a nine year-old could guess it and probably write a better screenplay (which is credited to Ken Blackwell, Robert J. Avrech and Ken Wiederhorn). The final third of the film is severely disjointed and makes very little sense, especially the participation of Kevin McCarthy, who is supposed to be a world-class medium, but all he does is walk around the building in a drunken haze. Add to that a violence level that is very low (most of the killings occur off-screen), absolutely no nudity and a storyline that just meanders along until its uneventful conclusion, and DARK TOWER is nothing more than a failed supernatural thriller whose behind-the-scenes controversy is far more interesting than the film itself. Also starring Rick Azulay, Radmiro Oliveros and Josh Batalla. Originally released on VHS by Forum Home Video with a laserdisc release by Image Entertainment. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

DANCE OF THE DEAD (2008) - Oh dear lord, another zombie comedy? What hath SHAUN OF THE DEAD wrought? Thankfully, this is one of the best (if not the best) in the wake of zombie comedies that came after SHAUN's success. A cemetery near a nuclear power plant spawns an army of the walking dead, just in time for the Hawaiian Hula Prom at Cosa High School. Before that happens, though, we are introduced to the students and faculty of the high school, including: Jimmy (Jared Kusnitz; DOLL GRAVEYARD - 2005), the class joker who never takes anything seriously, which leads to the breakup with his girlfriend Lindsey (Greyson Chadwick) hours before the prom; Steven (Chandler Darby), the leader of the Sci-Fi Club who never goes anywhere without a video camera attached to his face; Gwen (Carissa Capobianco), the head cheerleader that Steven has a crush on; Nash Rambler (Blair Redford), the lead guitarist in a lousy punk band; and Kyle Grubbin (Justin Welborn; THE SIGNAL - 2007), a multi-body pierced hothead with a thing for JACKASS-styled stunts. When the dead begin to rise from their graves (they don't just rise, they leap out of their graves in a well-handled and visually exciting sequence) and eat Gwen's new boyfriend as they are necking in the cemetery and chowing-down on a member of the Sci-Fi Club when they are filming an amateur horror video, Jimmy teams with Kyle and Gwen and make their way to Lindsey and Steven, who escape the graveyard and hole-up with the remainder of the geeky Sci-Fi Club. Along the way, Jimmy discovers that the nuclear power plant has been illegally dumping waste in the sewers, which is causing everything dead to come back to life (including a dissected frog in Biology class, which jumps down the throat of cruel teacher Mr. Hammond [Jonathan Spencer], turning him into a zombie). When Jimmy and the gang get to the house that Lindsey is hiding in, they discover that it is actually a funeral home, which makes everyone's lives a little bit harder, as they not only have to fend-off the zombies outside, they must also contend with the dead customers inside. Kyle becomes the first victim, bitten on the neck and turning into a zombie, forcing Jimmy to kill him with repeated blows to the head with a pipe. The survivors steal a hearse and head to the prom and on their way discover that Nash Rambler and his band have found a way to neutralize the zombies for a short period of time: Playing their music live! With the help of football Coach Keel (Mark Oliver; SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND - 1988) and his arsenal of weapons, they all head to the prom for the ultimate battle.  I must say I was quite impressed with this gory horror comedy. Director Gregg Bishop (THE OTHER SIDE - 2006) and screenwriter Joe Ballarini (also the 2nd Unit Director) have fashioned a very funny flick (with lots of name-dropping, including a couple of funny lines of dialogue involving Craig's List and Red Bull) without skimping on the red stuff. Particularly impressive is Greyson Chadwick as Lindsey, a character who is so religious, she demands that everyone forms a prayer circle before the climatic battle and also refuses to swear, using the term "effin" every time she wants to say "fuck". She's a hoot-and-a-half to watch, especially when she has a weapon in her hand killing zombies left and right (It seems religion doesn't get in the way of killing, as long as those being killed are already dead!). There are a lot of impressive kills on view, all imaginatively done and gory as hell, with plenty of decapitations and other head violence, appendage-yanking, a funny scene of a body being torn in half and a really nasty tongue-biting scene, followed immediately by some hilarious hot zombie sex. There's a fine line that is usually crossed in these horror comedies, where the humor detracts from the horror and vice versa. I'm glad to say that this is not the case with DANCE OF THE DEAD. It finds that rare balance where the laughs and blood actually compliment each other. I know I am probably going to get a lot of angry emails for saying this, but I haven't enjoyed a zombie comedy this much since RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985). It's that good. I'm still laughing thinking about Nash Rambler and his band playing an extremely slowed-down version of Pat Benetar's "Shadows Of The Night" at the prom to stop the zombies dead in their tracks. Favorite line: "But I don't know how to shoot a machete!" (Spoken by Gwen when Coach Keel doles out weapons to everyone in his garage). Filmed in Rome, Georgia. Also starring Randy McDowall, Michael V. Mammoliti, Mark Lynch, Hunter Pierce, Lucas Till and James Jarrett as the mysterious gravedigger. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release through their Ghost House Underground division. Rated R.

DAWN OF THE LIVING DEAD (2004) - One man wrecking crew David Heavener (DEADLY REACTOR - 1988) strikes again, this time directing, producing, writing and starring in a zombie horror film. And wouldn't you know it, besides the clumsy direction, badly-recorded sound and general ultra-low-budget look, this film actually has some effective moments. Engaged couple Jeffrey (Joe Estevez) and Renee (Amanda Bauman) buy a house sight-unseen in the California desert at a place called Heaven Valley, not aware that the previous occupants, a Mexican family, were savagely shotgunned to death by an unknown assailant. Renee instantly falls in love with the place, but she soon begins having visions of the Mexican family being murdered and a dead little girl keeps showing her visions of things past and future. Renee also finds some Mayan artifacts scattered throughout the property and brings them into the house, which is also festooned with Mayan artwork on the walls. In the sky, a rare aligning of the planets is taking place and the dead Mexican family rise from their unmarked graves in the desert as bloodthirsty zombies and begin their path of destruction by eating a couple of "jackals" (Steven Bracy and Carrie Gonzalez, who has a nude scene) and the two wetbacks they have tied-up. Renee finds a book and homemade CD that explains that when all the planets align, the people that died an unjust death will rise from their graves to get their revenge. Renee meets electric windmill operator Michael Richards (Heavener) on one of her daily walks and invites him to dinner. At dinner, Renee reveals that she spent the last two years in a mental institution after her daughter (from a previous marriage) was killed by a drunk driver. Jeffrey was the doctor that helped her regain her sanity and they've been a couple ever since. Michael reveals to Renee and Jeffrey that the house they are living in use to be a safehouse for wetbacks that illegally crossed the border (he also makes his hatred of Mexicans known to the couple). To make a long story short, Jeffrey gets drunk and jealous and then tries to rape Renee, Michael and Renee begin an affair and Jeffrey is graphically devoured by the zombie family. Renee and Michael must defend themselves from the zombie horde, but a twist in the story shows that not everyone is as good as they pretend to be.  This cheapjack production is actually enjoyable if you ignore the gaping plot holes and just go along for the ride. While the acting is nothing to write home about (Can it be possible that Joe Estevez actually has no talent?), I've definitely seen worse and some of the zombie effects are pretty gory, including Estevez's head being torn off and the birth of a zombie baby, who gets revenge on his daddy, in one of the film's unintentionally hilarious highlights. Another funny moment is the appearance of former DIFF'RENT STROKES (1978 - 1986) bad boy Todd Bridges as Heavener's retarded co-worker, Ruben Herardo. He sports a set of ogre teeth and a prosthetic beer gut and is virtually unrecognizable. Even though he is given fourth billing, he's in the film for less than three minutes. I guess he needed some coke or bail money. David Heavener (who also wrote the opening and closing song "Mombie Zombie") is one of the last people in the business who is an industry unto himself. He keeps churning out no-budget flicks up to this day, still choosing to make his movies using actual film rather than videotape or digital video. While DAWN OF THE LIVING DEAD (originally filmed as CURSE OF THE MAYA in 2004, but not given a release until 2007) is nothing more than a seat-of-the-pants production, some fun can be had here if you can get past the cheapness of it all. Also known as EVIL GRAVE: CURSE OF THE MAYA. Also starring Andrew Crandall, Lauren Aguas, Elizabeth Webster, Robert Aceves, Maui Yang and, just so we know nepotism is alive and well, Adena Heavener and Libertie Heavener. A Hannover House DVD Release, who usually released Christian-themed family films. Rated R.

DEAD & ROTTING (2002) - On a dare, three drunken construction guys go to an old witch's house in the woods in hopes of winning a "12 pack". They are chased away by Pox (Christopher Suciu), the witch's son, who is really a black cat! The guys next meet Pox at a bar and he eggs their pickup truck. They beat up Pox, which doesn't sit well with the witch. She blows poison ivy powder in their faces and it causes them to break out in boils and get extremely ill. When they recover, they hire two stoner boys to go to the witch's house and break some windows. Being stoners, they go one further and kill Pox (who was a cat at the time) and cook him in boiling water. The witch vows revenge, takes a magical bath and turns into a beautiful woman (Debbie Rochon). She seduces all three guys and, after she fucks them all, performs a spell where she takes her afterbirth (!), puts it in a hollowed-out pumpkin and buries it. Before you can say "PUMPKINHEAD", three rotting demons rise from the ground and wait to do the witch's bidding. Can you guess what she wants them to do? After disposing of one of the stoners, the witch and the demons begin her revenge on the construction trio. Will the "whammy" (a spell made up of the cut-off fingers of the surviving males) save those who are left?  Directed without much style by makeup effects wizard David A. Barton (THE DEAD NEXT DOOR - 1989), the film fails on two levels: 1) Most of the acting by the cast is sub-par and 2) it's not very original. The good points are that it is capably acted by Debbie Rochon (who has appeared in over 100 films from 1995 - 2006!) and some of the effects are absolutely surreal (the dead plants growing out of the heads of the undead victims is very well done). Thankfully, the film has a short running time of 72 minutes, so it doesn't overstay it's welcome. It was executive produced by Charles Band and J.R. Bookwalter. This was the type of film Full Moon was making before it went into a self-imposed retirement. That should give you some idea as to the quality of this. Also starring Troma graduate Trent Haaga (who also produced), who was excellent in SUBURBAN NIGHTMARE (2004), Stephen O'Mahoney, Tom Hoover, Jeff Dylan Graham and Barbara Katz Norrod as the witch. The Special Edition DVD includes an early 11 minute super 8 short by Barton, a behind-the-scenes documentary, makeup effects footage, isolated music score (by Midnight Syndicate and others), commentary track by Barton and Hoover, still galleries and trailers. Not bad for the $6.99 I paid for it. A Tempe DVD Release. Rated R.

DEAD BIRDS (2004) - Hey, I'm a fan of horror movies that take place during the Western period of America, but this film would try the patience of even the most open-minded viewer. Besides a few jump scares, this film offers very little in the way of a coherent storyline. A group of criminals pull off a bloody bank robbery (the best part of this film) in Alabama after the end of the Civil War. They then head off to an abandoned plantation (which seems to be surrounded by miles of dead corn stalks) to hide out. Once inside the house, and after a confrontation with a creepy scarecrow and a skinned animal in the field, the criminals begin to act strangely, seeing dead children and slaves. It all has something to do with the house's previous owner (a cameo appearance by Muse Watson), who sacrificed his children and slaves in order to bring his wife back to life. It's all very confusing, slow and boring, with occasional CGI scares and a dabble of gore. The talents of Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, Nicki Aycox, Isaiah Washington, Mark Boone Junior and Michael Shannon are completely wasted here as they do nothing more than walk around the house in a trance (and getting killed) as we are given very little information about their characters to really give a shit about their fate. They are cold-blooded killers after all, as the opening bank robbery shows, so why should we care about what happens to them? Director Alex Turner, in his first full-length feature, does imbue the film with loads of eerie atmosphere (a haunted well; a locked door that holds secrets; footprints that turn from human into animal) but atmospherics do not necessarily make a good film. The whole film reminded me of a dumbed-down Western version of director William Wesley's SCARECROWS (1988), without the scares and shudders. Can someone please tell me what the ending was all about? Does it have something to do with the circle of life? I had high hopes for this film after reading a bunch of positive reviews from the festival circuit. Don't believe everything you read. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

DEADFALL (2000) - Low-budget, shot-on 16mm EVIL DEAD (1983) clone. And, surprise! It's really bad. Environmentalist Stanley (Patrick Lawlor) is taking his girlfriend Dora (Audrey Lowe), her friend Hope (Kirstin Leigh) and Hope's boyfriend Rudy (Brady Fischer, also this film's producer and co-scripter) to a cabin in the middle of the woods to celebrate Dora's birthday and to also collect some water samples (Stanley could have done both things much more easier if he took her to Burger King and tested the water in the bathroom!). Stanley hasn't been to the cabin since he was a child, yet he doesn't seem too concerned with the little stone demon statues that litter the property. While Stanley and Dora are out in the woods collecting water samples and documenting their finds with a video camera, jokester Rudy discovers that the previously-locked door to the cabin's basement has now been mysteriously unlocked, so he heads down there to take a look (yeah, that's what I would do!). While holding his nose from the foul stench and stepping over an axe on the floor that looks to have dry blood on it (yep, that's something I would do!), Rudy discovers a weird box with the word "Gift" emblazoned on it and a strange brass demon head padlock, so he would do what every other conventional horror character would do and brings the box upstairs. He nearly breaks the demon head padlock with a screwdriver, but Hope lures him up to the second floor for some sex (phew, dodged a bullet there!). While Rudy and Hope are doing the nasty upstairs, the box begins to shimmy and shake on the coffee table. We then discover that Stanley's uncle, the owner of the cabin, is an expert on European folklore and has been collecting objects for years, storing them in the basement (we also discover that Dora's biggest fear is porcelain clowns! Well, they are a little creepy.). Later that night, everyone celebrates Dora's birthday (Her "cake" is a single Hostess Cupcake with a candle in it! I guess the Craft Service budget was non-existant on this film!) and then sit down in the living room to watch the video footage Dora shot earlier in the day. Dora is mysteriously drawn to the box on the coffee table and notices that the demon head padlock is unlocked, so she removes it and opens the box (another rookie move). Biggest. Mistake. Ever. An invisible evil force escapes from the box and begins playing games with the foursome. Rudy's reflection in the mirror tells hin, "You are dead!" Stanley's van takes off by itself without any apparent driver. Rudy becomes possessed (in a really crappy makeup job) and begins terrorizing everyone else. Stanley is attacked by a stone demon statue and then chops-up Rudy into little pieces with the basement axe (all of it off-screen). Stanley, Dora and Hope (who should change her name to No Hope) become trapped in the cabin when a mysterious wailing force surrounds the outside of the cabin (and Dora has a nightmare where she is attacked by a porcelain clown). Rudy comes back to play some more deadly games with the living (I guess the dead have a special supernatural glue that works with human body parts), but by the time the film finally ends, you'll be rooting for Rudy to finally finish off these people, who all have the charisma of a rock and the brains to match. NOTE: Apparently "Gift" in German means "Poison". I looked it up and they were right.  Oh, boy. Director/co-scripter Vince Di Meglio (CHRISTMAS NIGHTMARE - 2001) may have been "inspired" by EVIL DEAD, but he's no Sam Raimi. Where much of EVIL DEAD depended on the "anything goes" performance of Bruce Campbell and Raimi's frenetic directorial style and camera placements, DEADFALL has the dull-as-dishwater Patrick Lawlor (and later on, Kirstin Leigh) in the Campbell role and while Di Meglio tries hard with his camera placements and movements, by the year 2000 it had all been done to death in countless other horror films. The total lack of blood and gore throughout most of the film's running time certainly doesn't help its cause and the stabs at comedy (a possessed Rudy getting face-planted with a frying pan; Stanley going after Rudy with electric hedge clippers before running out of electric cord) seem more forced than funny. When the "tree rape" scene in EVIL DEAD is replaced here by Dora getting attacked by leaves (!), you'll say enough is enough. Why parody a film that was a parody to begin with? Don't waste your time with such tripe. There's also no nudity besides a shot of Rudy's ass pressed against the glass shower door. Really, is that what we really want to see when watching a horror film (gay men excluded)? If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, DEADFALL can be considered a swift kick to Sam Raimi's ballsack. This is such a blatant rip-off of Raimi's film, but neither Di Meglio or Fischer bother to thank him (or recognize his huge contribution) in the closing credits. Screw them. Available on DVD from Lincoln Media Group. Not Rated, but I've seen more gore and nudity in a PG-13 Rated film. Not to be confused with the 1993 film DEADFALL, starring a manic Nicolas Cage and directed by Christopher Coppola (DRACULA'S WIDOW - 1988).

DEADLY END (2005) - Bob and Wendi Petersen (Jack Huston, Pell James) have just moved cross-country and are the new neighbors in a house on a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood that can best be described as rundown (as Bob drives to his first day at his new job at ZeeCorp, he notices that nearly all the houses on his block are boarded-up and deserted). Bob finds out from co-worker Scotty (John Ennis) that the neighborhood was the victim of some chemical spill by the company he now works for (Scotty calls it the "ZeeCorp Love Canal"), but no one is allowed to talk about it in fear of being fired.  Bob and Wendi are about to find out why, as they meet the weirdest assortment of people this side of Twin Peaks. While Bob is at work, Wendi has the gas and electric turned on in their house and the utility man makes sexual advances towards her. When she turns him down, he walks outside and pisses on the house. The two elderly people who live next to them are deaf and strange. The old lady likes to drive her car on Bob and Wendi's lawn while honking the horn and later we see the two old farts taking a shower with bottled water. Someone leaves a bouquet of flowers at the front door for Wendi with a welcome letter (that looks more like a ransom note!), but as Wendi will find out later that night, the flowers are covered in poison oak (she wakes up in bed with her face covered in blisters and has to be rushed to the hospital). Wendy begins acting strange, hiding in moving boxes and not wanting to leave the house. Bob meets another strange neighbor named Adrien (Nick Searcy), who covers  his windows with newspapers and spend his days and nights listening to a religious radio call-in show. Adrien delivers some chocolates to Bob and Wendi's house as a welcoming gift, but as they will find out, the chocolates are filled with a horse laxative (Bob has a particularly bad bathroom accident at work, that's both nasty and hilariously funny). Adrien returns the next day with a gift of grape preserves, but Bob tells him to take his preserves and get lost. Adrien then threatens both Bob and Wendi's lives, calling them "damn sex whores" and returns in the middle of the night to sabotage the food in their refrigerator. Bob catches him in the act and calls the police, but as Bob will soon find out, the police are just as crazy as Adrien and everyone else on the block. When Bob tries to gather all the neighbors together to form a neighborhood watch, he and Wendi find out that no one dares speak badly about Adrien. When Bob and Wendi discover that she is pregnant, the film takes a gross turn that will most certainly make you laugh and wince in pain at the same time.  This sick and twisted film is like a black comedy version of the 1984 thriller IMPULSE, where a chemical spill causes a town to lose all their inhibitions. In this case, whatever was spilled (it's never explained or expanded upon after Scotty's off-hand remark about it to Bob) caused the people to turn totally insane and director/scripter Graeme Whifler (who scripted the equally outrageous SONNY BOY [1989] and the above-average horror comedy DR. GIGGLES [1992]) piles on the depravity, but always with a wicked sense of humor. My favorite scene is when we watch Adrien "masturbate" in his bedroom. He inserts a finger into a stitched-up incision in his stomach and repeatedly jams a hypodermic needle into his crotch while moaning like some schoolboy reaching orgasm. Both Jack Huston and Pell James prove to be good sports, as they spend a good portion of their screen time in the bathroom, either with a bad case of the "Hershey squirts" or puking their guts out, thanks to Adrien fucking around with their food and water. I don't recommend this low-budget film to new home owners, because it will make you very wary of your neighbors. Everyone has a neighbor they don't particularly care for, but this film amps up that fear to a whole new level. While not very gory (Until the outrageous finale, where Adrien performs a homemade C-section on Wendi and sticks his hands into her open stomach and then performs the same operation on himself, fondling his internal organs and removing a large tumor, only to be interrupted by the deaf old man. What happens next is truly mind-boggling!), the film makes you feel uncomfortable, such as the scene where Adrien spits into an unconscious Bill's mouth or when he turns off the electricity to the deaf old lady's ventilator. Nick Searcy (a great character actor probably best known to readers as portraying Deputy Ben Healy on the cult TV series AMERICAN GOTHIC [1995 - 1996]) is outstanding here as an insane individual who performs unnecessary operations on himself, including surgically removing his own penis (he shouts out, "No more dirty sheets! No more stinky juice!"). The ending of the film is somewhat of a letdown, but I guarantee that you will be sitting there with your mouth wide open, wondering if what you just witnessed wasn't just some bad fever dream. This is a darkly comic trip into a perverse sector of Twilight Zone, which should come as no surprise once you discover that Graeme Whifler started his career directing music videos for such eclectic bands as The Residents and Oingo Boingo. Originally filmed under the title NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH which is a much more fitting title if you ask me. Also starring Terry Becker and Anina Lincoln as the deaf old couple, Chris Ufland, Jerry Schumacher, Tim Devitt, Randall Bosely and a cameo by Irwin Keyes (LOVELY BUT DEADLY - 1981) as a garbage man. A Lunatic Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

DEADLY STINGERS (2003) - Director J.R. Bookwalter's homage to the giant creature features of the 50's is a double-edged sword: In its favor, it has many creepy moments, thanks to Director of Photography Mac Ahlberg, who has shot everything from Swedish erotic films of the 60's & 70's (and directed some of them, too) to some of the better 80's horror films, including HELL NIGHT (1981) and RE-ANIMATOR (1985). On the opposite end, this is directed by J.R. Bookwalter, who blew his wad with his first film, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989), and then never recovered. This film was also Executive Produced by Charles Band, during one of the low points in Full Moon's history. Band initially agreed to make this film for 20th Century Fox, but Fox shelved it "due to a decline in the industry" (which is film-speak for "We didn't care for the film.") and, as of this writing, has yet to achieve a legitimate U.S. home video release in any form. Let's get all of the bad stuff out of the way first: There's plenty of sub-par acting, enough plot holes to start a swiss cheese factory and some really crappy (although quick) CGI shots of the monsters, in this case giant scorpions. All is not lost here, though, because there are some really good and gory makeup effects and the majority of the giant scorpion effects are practical. The story is simple (screenplay by C. Courtney Joyner [LURKING FEAR - 1994] as "Gene Yarbrough" and Bookwalter as "Lance Randas"): Some unscrupulous land developers allow toxic waste to be dumped on their desert property. Normal-size scorpions frolic in the toxic substance and turn into six foot killing machines (their POV shots make them see like flies), tearing apart the population of a small town, beginning with high school wrestler Eric (Jeff Dylan Graham), who gets his insides ripped-out by one of the sharp-clawed buggers just as he is about to rape Joey (Sarah Megan White), the sister of Alice (Marcella Laasch), a doctor who runs Fairview House, a halfway house full of ex-cons and recovering junkies. Mayor Carl Baxter (Jay Richardson; TOMB OF THE WEREWOLF - 2003), who hates the halfway house, blames the residents of said abode for the disappearance of some of the town's residents and the murder of Eric. Besides Alice and Joey, other members of the halfway house includes Jim Crane (Nicolas Read; SLAUGHTER STUDIOS - 2002), who may or may not be responsible for the murder of his wife, and crankhead Elroy (Trent Haaga; THE GHOULS - 2003), who sees imaginary demons due to his excessive past drug abuse (or is he pulling a fast one on Alice?). Mayor Baxter pressures Sheriff Evans (Stephen O'Mahoney) to arrest Jim for Eric's murder, but when the mayor gets killed by one of the snapping critters and county coroner Collins (Sewell Whitney, who pukes at the sight of dead bodies) narrowly escapes a scorpion attack, Collins and the residents of Fairway House must defend themselves as the scorpions lay siege to the building once the Sheriff is butchered by a scorpion. How do you kill mutant scorpions? Why, you find a way to use their deadly tail venom against them, that's how!  While not a badly-made film, DEADLY STINGERS has so many lapses in common logic that it becomes painful at times to watch. Why in the world would Jim be serving time in a halfway house in the same town where he supposedly killed his wife? If he didn't kill his wife, wouldn't it give the real killer just more opportunities to make Jim look guilty? How in the hell did Elroy get his hands on a gun when he's not allowed to leave the halfway house? How come the rest of the town isn't panicking? If you can get past these huge plot holes, some of the intentionally funny dialogue (much of it not funny at all) and the lousy CGI (which is usually just shots of multiple scorpions in the same frame), you may enjoy some of the bloody gore on view and the practical rubbery giant scorpion mock-ups (Trent Haaga, who is the best actor in the film, has the most memorable death. A scorpion rips-off both his legs and he tells the rest of the cast, "It looks a lot worse than it actually is" before dying). In some ways, this film is a throwback to all those giant creature feature films of the 50's, but then modern technology once again raises its ugly head to remind us otherwise. Look for blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos by Brinke Stevens, Ariauna Albright and Debbie Rochon. Also starring Lilith Stabs (seriously?) Jeffrey Sisson and Sunny Leone. The print I viewed was a DVD-R taken from a British cable telecast. No U.S. label available at the time of this review, although it would make perfect SyFy fodder. Not Rated.

DEAD MAN'S HAND: CASINO OF THE DAMNED (2007) - More Full Moon crap, directed by founder Charles Band. At one time Band showed some talent, directing such varied fare as CRASH! (1976), TRANCERS (1985) and HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1996), but he recently has been scraping the bottom of his career barrel, churning-out such mindless, boring drivel as THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005), EVIL BONG (2006) and this film, a ghost story about the evils of playing games of chance in a haunted casino. Matthew (Scott Whyte; REEKER - 2005) has inherited the abandoned and crumbling Dragna's Casino from his dead Uncle Franco (It looks as if Band blew most of his paltry budget on cobweb machines), where forty years earlier, Roy "The Word" Donahue (Sid Haig; THE DEVIL'S REJECTS - 2005) and many other people were murdered while gambling at the casino. Instead of bulldozing the casino to the ground and selling the property, Matthew wants to restore the casino to its former glory and reopen it for business (Never mind about important stuff like gambling licenses, building permits and such; this film would rather you not dwell on such things). Maintenance man Sam (Bob Rumnock) and a female realtor (Diane Mizota) are sent in advance to check the place out, but they are both killed in the casino's mens room by some unknown force (Sam has his face ripped off and the realtor has her head repeatedly bashed against the bathroom door until her skull bloodily splits open). Instead of wondering what happened to Sam and the realtor, Matthew and his girlfriend JJ (Robin Sydney; WICKED LAKE - 2008), along with friends Jimbo (Wes Armstrong) the pothead, Emily (Lily Rains) the closet lesbian, Skeeter (Kavan Reece; GRIZZLY PARK - 2008) the impotent and Paige (Kristyn Green; CARVER - 2007) the sexpot, head to the decrepit casino to clean it up and open it for business. Things take a bad turn from the start when JJ plays one of the dusty slot machines (that, surprisingly, still works!) and it pays out in human teeth. Skeeter takes a crap in a toilet that overflows with blood. Emily meets a blackjack dealer (Rico Simonini), one of the ghosts of the massacre forty years earlier, who challenges her to a game of blackjack (Emily is not only a lesbo, she's a math genius, to boot!). Skeeter meets another murdered ghost, Melissa (Jessica Morris; BLOODY MURDER - 1999), and suddenly there's some spring to his usually flaccid penis. Matthew and JJ are visited by the ghosts of Roy Donahue and Gil Wachetta (Michael Berryman; THE HILLS HAVE EYES - 1977), who tell them that Matthew's Uncle Franco hid two million dollars in silver in the casino and they want it (What in the hell are ghosts gonna do with a fortune in silver? They're fucking ghosts for Christ's sake!). Everyone becomes trapped in the casino (Suddenly, cellphone service stops, because, as we all know, supernatural forces can block the cellphones' service providers. Give me a fucking break!), as Roy, Gil and the other ghosts begin dispatching Matthew's friends in various, cost-conscious, low-budget ways, all having to do with games of chance. In the finale, Matthew must play Roy one hand of Poker, the winner getting both the silver and a chance to escape with their lives.  This has all the earmarks of a latter-day Charles Band flick: It's filmed on limited sets; has more talk than action; has most of the females in skimpy clothing, but stops short of actual nudity; and has special effects that are a combination of cheap CGI and even cheaper practical effects (The Melissa demon, who has one-armed bandit slots instead of eyes, elicits laughter rather than fear, as does the roulette wheel demon, who looks like a GHOULIES {1985] reject). The screenplay, by August White (Band's SKULL HEADS - 2009), is just a collection of stereotypical characters and clichéd situations, many of which don't make any sense at all. The only line of dialogue that made me laugh was when Skeeter says to Melissa, "Popping a boner over a dead chick? I gotta have my head examined!" Michael Berryman is totally wasted here, relegated to saying "Good one, boss!" whenever Sid Haig makes a quip. DEAD MAN'S HAND should be retitled LIMP MAN'S DICK, because the action is as soft as Skeeter's pecker, the story about as sharp as a wet noodle and the gore about as hard as kindergarten math. Skip it. A Full Moon Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

DEADMATE (1988) - Waitress Nora (Elizabeth Mannino) is sick of her job and sick of the people she meets such as the condom salesman who wants to give her a free sample in the back seat of his car. She is also sick of the recurring nightmare she has of having her heart yanked out while she watches, unable to move. So she chucks her job and her boring life when a handsome man in a limousine, John Henry Cox (David Gregory), walks into the diner and asks her to marry him. Nora has no family (she was brought up in an orphanage) so she jumps at the chance figuring the man has money and she will finally have a comfortable life. Things get a little strange for Nora. She finds out that John Henry is an undertaker when he drives her to his hometown of Newbury (the name has a double meaning). They immediately get married right in the Cox Funeral Home (I hope this name doesn't have a double meaning!). The entire town is anxious to meet her. John Henry likes his bed cold and when they make love he instructs her to be very still. Funerals in Newbury are very popular and have huge turnouts. Nora soon finds out why her new husband and the townspeople seem weird when she spies on them having intercourse with a dead girl's body. They are necrophiliacs and when they feel the urge they run some young girl off the road, bring her to the funeral home, drain her blood, give her electric shock and screw her. As one of the townies says, "It's much safer this way. You can't get AIDS from a dead person." When the body begins to decompose they cause another accident to supply themselves with a fresh corpse. Nora realizes she is next when she discovers a tombstone with her name on it in the local cemetery. This exercise in bad taste was written and directed by Straw Weisman, who was a collaborator with the late ultra-low budget auteur Andy Milligan (TORTURE DUNGEON - 1970; CARNAGE - 1982). Mr. Weisman shows much more talent in his directorial debut than Mr. Milligan could ever dreamed of having. A good story with generous amounts of black humor and gore (effects by Arnold Gargiulo,Jr.). Check out the motorcycle chase near the finale when the rider slowly decomposes as he tries to run the heroine off the road. Pretty creepy stuff. The end credits promised a sequel that never materialized. Probably the best film on the subject of necrophilia since Alfred Sole's 1972 X-Rated porn comedy DEEP SLEEP or director Jacques LaCerte's little-seen LOVE ME DEADLY (1972). Producer Lew Mishkin is the son of William Mishkin, who used to produce Andy's bombs. A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Available on DVD from Video Kart as GRAVEROBBERS (I don't like that title). Unrated.

THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989) - This is probably director J.R. Bookwalter's best film also it being his first film. Mainly financed by Sam Raimi (he executive produced this using the pseudonym "The Master Cylinder") and filmed in Super-8 over a period of four years, the story is generic zombie gut-munching stuff, but has a visceral energy which makes it stand out from the pack. The walking dead have taken over the Earth except for a force of people known as the Zombie Squad, who go around shooting all the zombies that they see. There's also the Reverend Jones (Robert Kokai) who plans on using the zombies for his own nefarious means. The story is inconsequential, as scenes of zombies biting into their victims or Zombie Squad members killing the zombies are shown very frequently (the film only runs about 70 minutes if you don't count the long end credits sequence). Flesh and guts are ripped apart, heads are severed or blown off and other body appendages are chewed or torn off. The effects are quite good (by Dave Barton [DEAD & ROTTING - 2002], Bookwalter and others) for such a super low-budget film and there is plenty of humor and jump-out-of-your-seat scares to go around. The question still remains: What in the hell happened to Bookwalter? Besides the halfway decent OZONE (1993) and POLYMORPH (1996), his output has been mainly sub-par SOV crap that was picked up by Charles Band or David DeCoteau. It seems he shot his wad (don't say that in front of DeCoteau!) on his first film and lost the spark that all good directors seem to keep at least for a few films. Bookwalter is a mainstay in the independent filmmaking world, even today, but I cannot understand why. Most of his stuff, including THE SANDMAN (1996), WITCHOUSE II: BLOOD COVEN (2000) and WITCHOUSE 3: DEMON FIRE (2001) are dreadful pieces of dreck. He has also produced, edited and written countless other films which I will not mention. THE DEAD NEXT DOOR will remain his crowning achievement and that's not a bad thing.  Also starring Peter Ferry, Bogdan Pecic, Jolie Jackunas, Scott Spiegel, Michael Grossi and Bruce Campbell dubbing the voices of several characters. Most of the characters names are famous horror directors, Anchor Bay has released a pretty good looking DVD of this film. There's plenty of grain (it is Super-8 after all), but they've remixed the film into Dolby Digital Surround and filled the DVD with plenty of extras, my favorite being the auditions of the actors/behind the scenes talent. Not Rated.

DEAD OF NIGHT (1999) - Sleeper of a film that never quite got the recognition it deserved, thanks to it's generic title (at least ten films share it) and lack of publicity or distribution.  Serial killer Leo Rook (Christopher Adamson) escapes off a prison ship headed for an isolated prison island and sets foot on a island with a lighthouse (LIGHTHOUSE is the film's original title). After killing most of the lighthouse residents, Rook turns off the light in the lighthouse causing the prison ship to crash on the jagged rocks. The surviving prisoners and guards, including new prison doctor Kirsty McCloud (Rachel Shelley), must learn to trust each other while Rook begins killing them in very gory ways. Dr. McCloud forms an uneasy alliance with prisoner Richard Spader (James Purefoy), who says he is innocent. Is he really? What secret is Dr. McCloud concealing? And what are Rook's motives for causing this shipwreck? While this might seem a generic description for hundreds of slasher films, DEAD OF NIGHT delivers where it counts. It's scary, involving and gory as all hell. I'm quite surprised that this actually received an R-rating in the States as there are many scenes of dismemberment (Rook really likes to decapitate people) and tense scenes of terror (try to watch the scene with the rolling aerosol can in the bathroom and not jump out of your skin). First time director Simon Hunter (THE MUTANT CHRONICLES - 2007) gives the whole film a genuinely creepy atmosphere, filming the kills in unusual ways (one kill can only be seen in a swinging window's reflection) and using fog, light and sound to great effect. The final 15 minutes are a spectacular white knuckle ride, so the less said about it the better. This is one film that should be on every slasher film fanatic's must-see list. What are you waiting for? This film reminded me of 1972's TOWER OF EVIL (a.k.a. HORROR ON SNAPE ISLAND), since they both deal with a killer murdering people on a deserted island with a lighthouse, but this one is much better. Also starring Paul Brooke, Don Warrington, Chris Dunne, Bob Goddy and Pat Kelman. An A-Pix Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.

DEAD SNOW (2009) - After hearing and reading good things about this Norwegian horror film about Nazi zombies on the loose in the snow covered mountains, I must admit that maybe my expectations were set too high, because after watching it, I found it to be nothing more than an average horror flick with some great location photography and some good gore and makeup effects. Storywise, it's the same old scenario that has been used in hundreds of horror films since FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980; which gets name-checked here, along with EVIL DEAD 1 [1983] & 2 [1987], APRIL FOOLS DAY [1986] and many other horror films since one of the main characters is a horror film nerd). Seven twenty-somethings take a weekend party vacation to a cabin in the mountains that is only accessible by snowmobile or a 45-minute walk. They get drunk, have sex and play Twister (Why? Because they saw it in a horror movie!), until a lone wanderer (Bjorn Sundquist) comes knocking at their door and warns them that the area they are in was once the location of a Nazi atrocity during World War II, where hundreds of people were mysteriously slaughtered. Up to this day, people still go missing, which worries Vegard (Lasse Valdal), since his girlfriend Sara (Ane Dahl Torp) decided to ski to the cabin instead of joining everyone else on the car/snowmobile trip and she hasn't arrived yet (What Vegard and the group doesn't know, but the audience does, is that Sara is already dead, as we watch her being murdered by persons unknown in the film's opening minutes). The wanderer should have listened to his own advice and left the area, because later that night he has his throat cut and is then torn to pieces in his tent by an unseen growling figure. When Sara doesn't show up at the cabin, Vegard takes the only snowmobile to look for her, while the rest of the gang amuse themselves with sled races and heavy drinking. Erlend (Jeppe Beck Laursen), the horror film nerd (he walks around in a BRAINDEAD [1992] tee shirt), discovers a small chest full of old gold jewelry, while Vegard discovers the disemboweled remains of the wanderer and then falls through a hole in the snow. Chris (Jenny Skavlan) becomes the first casualty of the group (second, if you count Sara) when she is attacked and killed in the outhouse and then Erlend becomes the next victim when a zombie rips his face apart at his eye sockets. It then becomes survival of the fittest, as the rest of the group tries to make it to safety or stay put in the cabin, while an army of Nazi zombies descends upon them. Using whatever weapons they can find (including a sledgehammer, a chainsaw, a WWII-era German hand grenade and tree branches), the group tries to fend off the zombies (most are unsuccessful), while Vegard (who was bitten by a zombie) makes an important discovery in a cave and races back to his friends (his snowmobile is now equipped with a mounted machine gun!). The resulting bloodbath is guaranteed to please even the most jaded of gorehounds, but disappoint those who were hoping for a more fleshed-out story.  Besides taking nearly forty minutes to get to the first kill in the group, director Tommy Wirkola (KILL BULJO: THE MOVIE - 2007), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Stig Frode Henriksen (who co-stars as Roy), throws-in every horror film cliché in the book, including false jump scares, jokey film reference dialogue (God, I hate that crap! Curse you, SCREAM! [1997]) and unbelievable situations (The major offender being Chris entering the outhouse while Erlend is taking a shit and then making love to him. Yech!). Thankfully, the nice snowy scenery (which, even on the hottest summer day, will cool you down just by looking at it) and gory makeup effects redeem the film to a certain degree, offering some novel and imaginative sights (My favorite being Vegard hanging off the side of a cliff using a zombie's intestines as a rope, while another zombie tries to bite him. Vegard's death is also memorable.). Watching Nazi zombies rising and running through the snow is also a creepy sight (the finale is particularly effective), but I could have done without all the semi-humorous "ain't it cool" dialogue and some particularly noticeable CGI effects and just stuck with the straight-ahead horror aspects of the film. That's where DEAD SNOW (original title: DOD SNO) shines. As far as Nazi zombie films go, I rate this one a notch below SHOCK WAVES (1976; the granddaddy of Nazi zombie flicks), but it is still worthwhile viewing for fans of the genre. Just don't set your sights as high as I did. Also starring Vegar Hoel, Charlotte Frogner, Orjan Gamst, Evy Kasseth Rosten and director Wirkola as a zombie. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from IFC Films/MPI Media Group. Not Rated.

DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS (1972/1977) - I've had this DVD in my "To Be Watched" pile for over three years because, frankly, this film couldn't possibly live up to it's hype. Lost for over 25 years (Well, not exactly lost. Just mostly unseen except for a small cult following since it was pirated on VHS in 1983), DEATH BED has slowly built word-of-mouth raves that I have read on various websites and publications. That has always bothered me since MALATESTA'S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973) got the same type of press and I hated that film (Hate is a harsh word. Let's just say I disliked it immensely.). Well, I'm glad to report that DEATH BED is a laugh riot and not in some unintentional way. This is a deliberate horror comedy that hits all the right notes. The film is broken into chapters, titled "Breakfast", "Lunch" and "Dinner" and each chapter tells a different story about separate victims of the bed, which our imprisoned narrator (who was a victim of the bed) mocks continually, especially for it's "stupidity" for not being able to move. The bed is located in an abandoned castle, it's always-clean white sheets and purple canopy inviting people to come and try it out. Little do they know that the bed is hungry and will devour their flesh (not to mention their bucket of chicken, apples or whatever else they bring to bed with them) with it's acidic juices, sometimes only leaving bone in it's wake. Our narrator sits helplessly behind a painting facing the bed, witnessing the murdering mattress from Hell doing it's business. The film is just a series of funny (and sometimes frightening) imaginative kills, enhanced by the bed's absurd sound effects, some creative (and downright hilarious) visuals and our narrator's continuous verbal attacks addressed to the bed. Director/producer/writer George Barry, who started this film in 1972 but didn't strike an answer print until 1977, never made another film after this, thanks to it never getting a legal distribution deal in the U.S.. It's a shame, too, because Barry had talent. Though not overly bloody (gorehounds will be disappointed), Barry does splash the red stuff around, though much of it (but not all) is used for comical effect. By the end of the film, you will think the bed is a real character because, between the crazy visuals and the narrator's verbal and visual history of the bed, it seems to take a life and personality all it's own.  That's one of the hardest things to do as a filmmaker and Barry hits it out of the ballpark on his first try. Since he is still alive, maybe someone will give George Barry the funds to make another film. If the actor who loses his hands at the end of the film looks familiar, that because the credited actor "Rusty Russ" is actually the excellent character actor William Russ, who you have seen in films like THE UNHOLY (1988) and AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998) and has appeared on too many TV shows to mention. This was his first acting role in a film. After watching DEATH BED, one has to wonder how many other undiscovered gems are out there sitting in someone's closet, attic or basement, just rotting away, never getting their chance in the spotlight like this film did. The mind boggles. Also starring Demene Hall, Julie Ritter, Linda Bond, Patrick Spence-Thomas and Dave Marsh. A Cult Epics DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Not Rated. Contains female nudity, Russ with skeleton hands and a lengthy scene of a Black girl trying to escape from the bed after it has dissolved her legs. The payoff is suspenseful as well as funny. Grab this while you still have the chance!

DEATH BY INVITATION (1971) - This lightweight, made in Staten Island, NY, horror film is just slightly above the quality of the films of Staten Island's own Andy Milligan, but just slightly. It is a talky flick that opens up in a Dutch Village in the 1700's, where a woman named Lise (Shelby Leverington) is accused of being a Southern Tribes witch by town leader Peter Vroot (Aaron Phillips). We really never see what happens to her, but she puts a curse on the Vroot family, telling Peter that in 300 years, his ancestors will suffer her wrath. We then cut to 1971, where ancestor Peter Vroot (Phillips again) is having dinner with his wife Naomi (Sarnell Ogus), daughters Sarah (Sylvia Pressler), Coral (Rhonda Russell) and young-un Elly (Leslie Knight), sons Roger (Denver John Collins) and Michael (Bruce Brentliner) and Coral's fiance Jake (Norman Paige). Family friend Lise (Leverington again) shows up late for dinner, but seems like a good companion to Naomi and her daughters Sarah and Elly. Little do the Vroot family know that the 300 years are up and Lise is about to exact revenge. Lise first lures the virginal Roger to her home, which is full of black candles and other witchcraft-related items. She takes Roger's shirt off and puts her hands on Roger's shoulders as the camera pans down and we see blood running down Roger's back. When Roger doesn't come home, Peter calls the police and the detective (Tom Mahoney) accuses Roger of selling or using drugs, implying to Peter that his son is probably passed out in a gutter somewhere after getting high. The rich Peter doesn't believe his ears and forces the detective to leave his house. The rich Peter offers Jake a job and wants him to come to his office to talk about it (There's a head-scratching long sequence where Jake arrives Peter's office building, only to discover that you need a map to find his office. Once he is in Peter's office, the music playing on the intercom increases, making the conversation between Jake and Peter hard to make out. This sequence serves no purpose except to pad out the film's paltry 81 minutes). At another dinner at the Vroot house, Lise goes to talk to Sarah in her bedroom, only for Lise to tear Sarah's head off (off-screen). When little Elly goes to check up on them, she opens Sarah's door and sees Lise holding Sarah's decapitated head. Elly screams, falls down the stairs and hits her head on a chair, killing her. The Vroot family is destroyed, but Lise isn't done with them yet. The only problem is, Jake knows something is up with her, so he comes on to Lise and gets himself invited to her house for a makeout session. Jake doesn't know that both young Michael and Peter follow him (Peter is more concerned about Jake cheating on Coral!). Once at the house, Lise tries to seduce Jake, but he is having nothing of it. Michael sneaks into a room covered by a heavy curtain and discovers blood on the floor. When Jake sees Michael's pale face as he exits the room, he goes to investigate and discovers the chopped-up remains of Roger hanging in a plastic bag, his blood dripping on the floor. Peter grabs an axe and tries to kill Lise, only to have the axe slice Peter's throat (at least that's what I think happened, because it is filmed in a way that we never see the action performed clearly). Peter dies and the curse is lifted. Well, I think it is because the film suddenly ends.  Although there are a few sparse scenes of bloody gore (especially the scene of Lise holding Sarah's decapitated head), the film is badly acted (most of the people who starred in this, except for Shelby Leverington, never appeared in another film), they step on each other's lines and it moves at a snail's pace. Director/writer Ken Friedman only directed one other film, the 1987 road drama MADE IN USA, but he did write the screenplays for such films as WHITE LINE FEVER (1975), MR. BILLION (1977), the TV Movie 11TH VICTIM (1979) and JOHNNY HANDSOME (1989), among others. Friedman has no sense of pacing and in one of the film's more unintentional humorous moments, the detective's police sidekick, Sam (Jay Lanno), has no idea where to walk once he delivers his lines. He walks directly into the detective and then looks straight into the camera as if to ask the director where he should go! There's not much to recommend here except some wild 70's-styled flowered and striped shirts (worn by the male cast!), long sideburns and fleeting glimpses of nudity. Executive Producer Leonard Kirtman is best known for directing the amusement park gore film CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1971), the hippie horror opus CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (1972) and then producing/directing countless porno films using the name "Leon Gucci". Vinegar Syndrome offers this film in its original aspect ratio on a double feature DVD with one of my favorite badfilms of all time, DUNGEON OF HARROW (1962). The print is in great condition and blows away the one used by Something Weird Video on VHS & DVD-R. Another great job by Vinegar Syndrome, that is fast becoming a DVD label that should suit everyone's exploitation needs. Not Rated.

DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966) - As I write this review, I'm happy to report that director William Grefe is still alive and kicking and making the rounds at horror conventions. He may not be well-known to people born in the 80's or later, but to us old fogies, no mention of Florida regional filmmaking can go unchecked without Grefe's name being uttered. Grefe didn't direct many films, but to those of us who went to the movies or watched late-night horror films on TV during the late-60's through the 70's, his name was synonymous with South Florida, with titles like STING OF DEATH (1966), STANLEY (1972), IMPULSE (1974), MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (1976) and this film, a TV staple throughout the 70's about an ancient Seminole Indian witch doctor out to get revenge on those who desecrate his sacred burial ground. The film opens with an explorer (an uncredited Brad F. Grinter; BLOOD FREAK - 1972) discovering a secret cave in the Florida Everglades, which contains the sarcophagus of Tartu (played by makeup effects technician and magician Doug Hobart). The huge stone door (which is obviously made of Styrofoam) closes behind him, trapping the explorer as Tartu rises from his coffin, kills the explorer and opens a manuscript in the explorer's possession, the pages revealed to be the opening credits of the film (which Tartu slowly flips through for the viewers' pleasure)! We then switch to Indian guide Billy (Bill Marcus) and explorer Sam Gunter (Frank Weed) paddling a canoe through the Everglades until they reach a destination on Sam's map. Billy refuses to go any further ("Ever since I was a young boy, I've seen my people bring back the bodies of dead men who have invaded this sacred burial ground."), so Sam heads out on his own ("Any ghost that bothers me will have his hands full!) after handing Billy the map and telling him to give it to Ed Tison (Fred Pinero) and his wife Julie (Babette Sherrill) so they can come here in airboats. Sam continues his trek, ignoring ancient warnings like human skulls hanging on tree branches and then setting up camp. After doing a little exploring, Sam discovers an ancient Seminole artifact buried under an alligator skull, which wakes up Tartu once again. Tartu transforms into a huge boa constrictor and crushes Sam to death while Indian drums and warrior chanting fills the air. Bill gives Ed and Julie the map, but refuses to go with them, so they, along with archaeology students Cindy (Mayra Cristine), Johnny (Sherman Hayes), Tommy (Gary Holtz) and Joann (Maurice Stewart), take the airboats to their destination and look for Sam. When they find the camp, but no Sam, Ed tells the students that he must be out hunting a deer, but he knows something is wrong. Ed begins deciphering the artifact Sam left behind (It tells how witch doctor Tartu can take the shape of any creature to exact revenge and that only nature can destroy him), while the students go to the lake to "roast marshmallows" (a code phrase for making out and doing the Twist in their bathing suits). Apparently, Tartu doesn't appreciate cheap 60's rock-and-roll or woman shaking their asses, as he turns into a shark and devours Tommy and Joann as they take a swim, an occurrence Ed finds impossible ("Sharks don't live in fresh water."). The drums and warrior chants fill the air once again, so Ed, Julie, Cindy and Johnny beat a hasty retreat to the airboats, only to discover that they have been destroyed by alligators. Johnny leaves to find help on his own, but is soon repeatedly bitten in the face by a poisonous snake and dies. Ed decides that the only way to stop this madness is to find Tartu's grave and destroy his body, but Cindy panics and is killed by an alligator. When Tartu transforms into a young version of himself and chases Julie into a pit of quicksand (caves, quicksand, sharks...man, the Everglades have everything!), Ed has to find a way to save her and destroy Tartu at the same time. Hmmmm...maybe if you could find a way to toss him in the quicksand!  Ah, memories. What scared me as a young 'un now seems awfully quaint and cheap, but not without its charms. There's some nice on-location Everglades photography and some surprisingly gory effects on-view (including Ed dragging the lake and latching-on to one of Tommy's dismembered arms and Cindy having her hand bitten off by an alligator) and the acting could be a whole lot worse than it is. Unfortunately, the pacing of the film is deadly slow and director/screenwriter William Grefe does no one any favors by inserting long scenes of people running or walking through the Everglades, a silly "dancing by the lake" sequence or the unbelievable bit where Ed moves the giant stone door by using the powder of a single rifle bullet! Still, the sight of the skeletal Tartu rising from his coffin is very effective (and has been burned in my brain since I was a child) and there's some choice 60's gore on view (man, 60's blood was really bright red!), so DEATH CURSE OF TARTU is not a total loss and manages to be quite atmospheric at times. Originally available on VHS by Active Home Video and available on an extras-packed double feature DVD (with Grefe's STING OF DEATH) from Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment and it's worth every penny, especially the added attraction of the 30-minute 1964 gore sexploitationer LOVE GODDESSES OF BLOOD ISLAND (a.k.a. SIX SHES AND A HE), which is unbelievable. Not Rated.

DEATH ROW (2006) - Average DTV horror flick that made its (edited) premiere on the Sci-Fi Network (now SyFy) under the title HAUNTED PRISON. A trio of young students, Keith (Kyle Schmid; THE COVENANT - 2006), Brian (Scott Whyte; REEKER - 2005) and Missy (Claire Coffee), are making a documentary on the Isla Del Roca Penitentiary in Texas where, years before, a prison riot took place that claimed the lives of many prisoners and guards, which led to the prison being closed down permanently. No one knows why the riot started, so the three documentarians plan on going to the prison to discover the truth, but first they stop at a hospital to interview infirmed former prison guard John Elias (a haggard-looking Stacy Keach), who was there in the middle of the riot. After filling-in the kids on some of the aspects of the riot (a flashback reveals that Elias may have been the catalyst, but he talks about himself in the third person and the kids don't make the connection), where he had to cut off both of his legs off at the knees in order to survive (he hid in the prison's gas chamber while everything burned around him), our trio (with two additional friends) head to the abandoned prison to begin filming. Unfortunately, they are not alone in the prison, as six fugitives of a diamond heist, led by Marco (Jake Busey; THE FRIGHTENERS - 1996), use the prison as a hideout (the irony of the situation is not lost on the crooks). One of the fugitives, Vincent (James Leo Ryan), has a serious leg injury and when his blood drips on the prison floor, it wakes up vengeful spirits who died there (they move in herky-jerky motions) and they begin killing the living in various gory ways. Marco has a history with this prison, since his grandfather (a badly made-up Busey; they should have spent a few bucks more and used his crazy father Gary Busey!) was a guard there and then became a prisoner (the grandfather and Elias had a history) before he died in the bloody riot. The rest of the film is nothing but a series of gory set-pieces, as the prison's pissed-off- spirits begin murdering the living while the prison becomes inescapable. Fugitive Ron (Marco Rodriguez) is squeezed through a chain link fence, turning his body into bloody puree. Anibal (Russell Richardson) gets sliced into little pieces when his body is forced through a license plate cutting machine. Hector (Rey Gellegos) is fried on the electric chair (Is it standard for a prison to have both a gas chamber and an electric chair? Oops, I forgot, this is Texas!). Angel (Danny Arroyo) is impaled on a pipe sticking out of a wall. Jasmine (Jamie Mann) is cut in half by a ceiling fan. Marco, who is more interested in his share of the diamonds than the bloody deaths of his comrades, becomes unglued when Jasmine hides the diamonds and takes their location to her grave. Missy finds the diamonds and she, Keith and Brian must avoid a now-psychotic Marco, as well as the vengeful spirits, while trying to find a way to escape the prison. Will their documentary ever see the light of day? Do you even care?  This is typical DTV crapola: Lots of blood and gore (even some of the lousy CGI kind) and a story that makes very little sense, not to metion the outrageous coincidences that dot the screenplay (What are the odds that Marco would pick this abandoned prison to hide in? Why does no one have a cell phone and even if they did, it would probably show "No Service"? Why does an abandoned prison still have electricity?). Director/co-producer/co-writer Kevin VanHook (FROST: PORTRAIT OF A VAMPIRE - 2001; VOODOO MOON - 2005; THE FALLEN ONES - 2005; SLAYER - 2006) tries to keep things moving at a quick pace, but unless you suffer from a severe mental handicap, you'll be questioning too many of the film's plot points. In other words this is typical SyFy material that follows their movie-making "bible": A bloody murder every ten minutes or so (perfect for the station's many commercial breaks) and very little character or plot development. Instantly forgetable unless you like gore. Danny Trejo (MACHETE - 2010) puts in a useless cameo as a priest. Also starring Shanna Collins. A Starz Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

DEATH SHIP (1980) - I love movies that take place on haunted ships (GHOST SHIP [2002] notwithstanding). Maybe it's because of the feeling of isolation the viewer gets; being trapped in the middle of the ocean, hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the nearest dry land and at the mercy of a derelict ghost ship that wants nothing more than to make sure that your soul stays on board for all eternity. I mean, really, what choices do you have when trapped on a death ship? Most of the time in these films, the radio is on the fritz, all the lifeboats are gone and food and drinkable water are at a minimum, so your only real choices are to fight the evil and hope to God that you win (which usually means that you'll be rescued by a passing ship) or just give up and jump overboard, where you will tread water for as long as you can and then eventually drown or get eaten by a shark. Face it, being trapped on a ghost ship sucks and the odds are stacked against you. Which brings us to DEATH SHIP, one of the first modern-day haunted ship films to mix that dreaded feeling of isolation with scenes of bloody gore. George Kennedy (DEMONWARP - 1987) is cruise ship Captain Ashland, who is on his final voyage (he retires in three days) and showing the ropes to the next ship's captain, Trevor Marshall (Richard Crenna; LEVIATHAN - 1989). Captain Ashland is a bitter, bitter man who shows nothing but disdain to both crew and passengers and hates the thought of forced retirement (One of his crew members says, "Bastard! Thank God this will be his last trip."). Trevor's wife, Margaret (Sally Ann Howes) and their two young children, Robin (Jennifer McKinney) and Ben (Danny Higham), are also on-board the cruise ship to celebrate his promotion. He should have left his family at home. A ghost ship appears out of nowhere on radar and rams the cruise ship, sinking it and leaving Trevor and his family, deck hand Nick (Nick Mancuso; RAPID FIRE - 1992), passengers Sylvia (Kate Reid; PLAGUE - 1978) and Lori (Victoria Burgoyne), Master of Ceremonies Jackie (Saul Rubinek; TRUE ROMANCE - 1993) and an injured Captain Ashland as the only survivors. After spending several days floating in the sweltering sun, the ghost ship suddenly appears next to them, anchored and not moving. They all board the floating rust bucket, but the ship tries to kill Trevor, Nick and Captain Ashland before they even set foot on-board (a quick-thinking Trevor saves the day). Jackie is the first casualty when the ship snares his leg on a rope and drops him overboard, where the ship's spinning propellers grind him to pieces. The ship, which is a German WW II frigate that had a Nazi crew, possesses the vulnerable Captain Ashland (Hey, he gets to captain another ship!), while the rest of the survivors search the ship for food dry clothes and other signs of life. German voices in Captain Ashland's head tell him that this is now "his ship", so he begins killing the survivors, beginning with Sylvia (who breaks out in facial pustules after eating a peppermint candy she found in a cupboard), whom he strangles when no one else is around and blames her sudden death on "a seizure". The Captain's obsessive behavior (he now dresses in a German Captain's uniform!) troubles Trevor (When he asks Captain Ashland, "Where do you plan to sail her?", Ashland replies, "Eternity, Marshall. Eternity!" Oh boy, this does not sound good at all.), so he tries to take control of the ship from Ashland, but the ship won't let him. As Ashland bellows "No one leaves my ship!", Trevor and his family, now the only living survivors remaining, try to do just that, but will they be successful?  Although it takes a while to get cooking, the Canadian-financed DEATH SHIP does have its share of creepy moments and atmospheric sequences, but it is nearly ruined by the stupid antics of pint-sized Ben, who always has to pee (He should see a doctor about it!) or runs-off at the worst times possible. I wanted to punch the little snot squarely in the face on more than one occasion. Director Alvin Rakoff (KING SOLOMON'S TREASURE - 1977; CITY ON FIRE - 1979) and screenwriter John Robins (better known as one of the producers of THE BENNY HILL SHOW!) save most of the gruesome stuff for the film's final third, such as the discovery that this was actually a German "interrogation" ship and it is littered with the bodies of Jewish victims (Nick finds out the hard way when Captain Ashland throws him in one of the ship's bilge wells and he lands on a net full of rotting Jewish corpses); Lori takes a blood shower (gratuitous full-frontal nudity alert!) before being tossed overboard by a possessed Ashland; there's a freezer full of frozen corpses of the ship's original crew; Nick claws his way through the walls of the ship's movie viewing cabin while Nazi propaganda films are projected on his body (this is a nicely-filmed sequence and my favorite part of the film); and George Kennedy overacts to the point where he almost becomes a parody of himself (Listen to his line readings of "Blood! This ship needs blood to survive!" for proof of Kennedy taking the film to dizzying new heights). What more could you ask for? Grant Page (STUNT ROCK - 1978) was Stunt Coordinator here and genre director Jack Hill (THE BIG BIRD CAGE - 1972) is credited with co-writing the story. Originally released on VHS by Embassy Home Entertainment and available on a beautiful widescreen DVD from Scorpion Releasing, the only way to watch the film. Rated R.

DEATH SPA (1987) - Just why are people dying graphically at the Starbody Health Spa? Who or what is controlling the computer operated exercise equipment so that a man's ribcage is torn apart while he's using a butterfly machine? Why would anyone want to put chlorine gas in the steam room? And why are the tiles flying off the walls in the women's shower room? Could it be the spa's owner's (William Bumiller, star of Andy Sidaris' GUNS [1990] and DO OR DIE [1991]) or the ex-brother in law (the late Merritt Butrick, who was Kirk's son in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN [1982] and STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK [1984]), who designed the spa's unique computer system? Could it be the owners of a rival spa looking to put Bumiller out of business? Or could it be Bumiller's dead wife (and Butrick's twin sister, who doused herself with gasoline and set herself aflame when she became a cripple after a miscarriage) come back to life to make things miserable for her hubby and his new girlfriend? If you answered yes to the last three questions, you were correct, as they are all involved somewhat in the dastardly doings. While low on originality, it is pretty high in depicting gory mayhem and beautiful women's naked hardbodies. There are impalements, acid burnings, pool mishaps, a particularly nasty mirror explosion/beheading and a CARRIE (1976) - inspired finale. It was also a pleasure to see nice looking girls in various states of undress since low budget films like this normally showcase the bodies of out-of-shape, cellulite-ridden ugly females who would do anything (and usually do) to get their mugs and jugs on screen. Director Michael Fischa also made the terrible, laugh-an-hour comedy MY MOM'S A WEREWOLF (1988), as well as the urban exploitationer CRACK HOUSE (1989). Co-star Ken Foree can also be seen in George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND (1986), two films which are recommended viewing for all horror fans. Rosiland Cash also starred in THE OMEGA MAN (1971) and DR. BLACK MR. HYDE (1976; a.k.a. THE WATTS MONSTER). On the gore and flesh quotient alone, DEATH SPA (also known as WITCH BITCH) is a mildly diverting experience in fleshtones and blood. An MPI Home Video Release. Also available from MPI on DVD & Blu-Ray. Unrated.

DEATH WISH CLUB (1983) - You may have seen this film in a condensed version in the trilogy NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985). Even if you have, I urge you to check out the complete version of this outrageous and unpredictable low-budget gem. Glenn (Rick Barnes), a college student, falls madly in love with a girl (Meredith Haze) he spots in a porno movie. Not knowing her name, he tracks her down with a little investigative work and finds out her name is Greta and she plays piano at a bar run by the mysterious George (J. Martin Sellers). Greta is a strange girl. She likes to walk around half-naked, use profanity and fuck Glenn like a rabbit (much to the pleasure of Glenn's elderly neighbors; a running gag throughout the film). Greta and George indoctrinate Glenn into their club, whose members meet regularly and try to cheat death. Glenn's first meeting with the club involves sitting around a table while a poisonous giant beetle is let loose, flying around the table picking out a victim to sting. (Stop-motion animation was later added to the edited version in NIGHT TRAIN to make the scene more believable.) Glenn is disgusted with the proceedings and wants nothing more to do with Greta or the club. To give away any more of the plot would be cheating you out of a once-in-a-lifetime trip into the bizarre. This film, originally titled CARNIVAL OF FOOLS (in a slightly different edit), could only come from the fertile pen of Philip Yordan, who also wrote BLOODY WEDNESDAY (1985), THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS (1980 - a.k.a. CATACLYSM and SATAN'S SUPPER) and dozens of other pieces of weirdness. Yordan puts in a cameo appearance here as a dirty old man in a porno theater. DEATH WISH CLUB is packed with unusual situations, set pieces and dialogue. During one club meeting where everyone is strapped in an electric chair waiting to see which one of them will receive the lethal jolt, the loser says, "Pardon me while I smoke", just before he expires from the excess voltage. There's also plenty of nudity on view and, surprisingly, very little blood considering the subject matter. DEATH WISH CLUB deals with the perversities of life in such an off-kilter, humorous way that excessive bloodletting is not needed. This is probably the strangest love story ever filmed and thereby is required viewing for anyone looking for something off the beaten path. This is jaw-dropping stuff!  Directed by John Carr (FUGITIVE LOVERS - 1975; MARILYN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS - 1982/1993). A Regal Video, Inc. VHS Release. Also available on a budget fullscreen DVD from Trinity Home Entertainment. Not Rated.

DEEP SPACE (1987) - Another one of director Fred Olen Ray's many 80's horror films, mixing a generic plot with a cast of highly capable B-movie stars. When deep space probe Centaur One, which contains a top secret experiment conducted by Dr. Forsythe (James Booth; AVENGING FORCE - 1986), crash-lands in the California forest near L.A., it unleashes creature that, according to Dr. Forsythe, was "trained to kill". The shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later detective team of Ian MacLiamor (Charles Napier; SKEETER - 1993) and Jerry Merris (Ron Glass; TV's FIREFLY - 2002) are assigned by their hotheaded boss, Captain Robertson (Bo Svenson; DEADLY IMPACT - 1984), to investigate the murders of two teenagers in the woods, who just happen to be the creature's first two victims. When they get to the scene of the crime, Ian and Jerry find the victims torn to pieces, parts of their bodies strewn all over the crash site. While the police forensics investigator, Dr. Rogers (Anthony Eisley; THE WITCHMAKER - 1969), brings a huge organic pod back to his lab for further study (a huge toothsome creature, with a vagina-like opening in it's stomach, later escapes from the pod and kills Dr. Rogers), Ian and Jerry find two smaller versions of the pod and bring them home with them (I can't begin to count how many police procedurals they just broke!). After questioning a wino who witnessed the probe's crash landing (the wino's immediately killed by the creature as soon as he stumbles out of the police station), Ian and Jerry head back to the crash site only to be refused entry by government soldiers carrying automatic weapons. Ian smells a rat (or rather, an alien) and his suspicions are confirmed when Captain Robertson informs him that the case is closed (all the deaths are classified as "accidents") and he then suspends Ian and Jerry from the force. Ian gets outside help from psychic Lady Elaine Wentworth (Julie Newmar; EVILS OF THE NIGHT - 1984), who eventually convinces Ian that she has a psychic link with the creature. When Ian's new girlfriend, female cop Carla (Ann Turkel; HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP - 1980), tells him that the pod he has looks like a giant cockroach egg, they bring it to Professor Whately (Fox Harris), who opens the pod and is killed by a miniature version of the creature. After killing the small monster, Ian realizes that Jerry has a pod at his house. Ian and Carla race over there, but they are too late. Jerry is dead and is being eaten from the inside out by the second small creature. Lady Wentworth informs Ian that if he wants to stop the infestation, he is going to have to kill the large creature, which is capable of laying many more eggs. Ian, Carla and Captain Robertson confront the creature in a warehouse in the film's finale, where a chainsaw is used to finally behead the creature. Thank goodness for gas-powered tools!  Better acted than most of Fred Olen Ray's 80's frightfests, DEEP SPACE is an OK time-waster for the less discriminating horror fan. It also contains one of the most unusual seduction scenes in horror film history, where Charles Napier (who is excellent, as usual) plays the bagpipes during his first date with Ann Turkel and she agrees to take off her clothes if he stops playing! The film is full of little comical moments and dialogue and, while some of it is groan-inducing, there are some inspired scenes, like when Ian pulls the small creature off of Professor Whately and accidentally tosses it right into Carla's face. There's also some pretty good gore (the main creature has tentacles that shoot out of it's vagina-like opening that attach themselves to the victims' bodies and tear them apart) and the creature itself is a goofy, but effective, concoction (imagine part-ALIEN and part-John Carpenter's THE THING [1982] rolling on a shopping cart!). Don't fool yourself into believing you're watching anything but a quickly-made B-monster flick and you just may find yourself having a good time with this. It's quite obvious that Ray was influenced by THE BLOB (1958) (the opening crash landing mimics this film rather closely), ALIEN (1979) and 50's monsters-on-the-loose films when he made this. Ray would later recycle footage from this film for his vastly inferior HYBRID (1996). A scene from Ray's THE TOMB (1986) can be seen playing on a TV at the guard station in a warehouse. Gary Graver was Director of Photography, which is why this film looks better than it has any right to. Also starring Norman Burton, Michael Forest, Jesse Dabson, Peter Palmer and Elizabeth Brooks (THE HOWLING - 1981). Originally released on VHS by Trans World Entertainment and not yet available on DVD. Rated R.

DEMON HUNTER (1965) - This poorly-shot obscure oddity has very little to offer in terms of entertainment value. That is, unless your entertainment values run towards the inane and ridiculous. Originally titled THE LEGEND OF BLOOD MOUNTAIN, the story begins with clumsy novice reporter Bestoink Dooley (George Ellis, an Atlanta-based TV horror host during the '60's) investigating the legend of a monster residing on Blood Mountain. While on the mountain he meets a doctor, his daughter, his female assistant and a forest ranger. After countless scenes of driving and bad post-synch dubbing, the monster finally appears. You'll wish it didn't. It is a laughably bad creation. Dooley destroys it with a flame thrower after a protracted, presumably comical, chase sequence. Directed by Massey Cramer, whose only other credit is as producer and writer of THE FLORIDA CONNECTION (1974), this film is more interesting for its' history rather than for the actual film itself. Notorious director, producer and all-around roustabout Donn Davison added some scenes featuring a new monster, some gore and himself as a respected professor, cut out all the previous monster footage and released it as LEGEND OF MCCULLOUGH'S MOUNTAIN and BLOOD BEAST OF MONSTER MOUNTAIN in 1976. This version is available from Something Weird Video. The original version was released on video in the late '80's by Camp Video missing an entire reel at about the 50 minute mark. The approximately 80 minute film has an actual running time of 65 minutes in this version! To add insult to injury, Camp Video's box trumpets the fact that this film features rare footage of Kenny Roger's ex-wife, Marianne Gordon. It's rare indeed. She is shown drinking Pepsi out of a vintage can for about 30 seconds and she doesn't have a speaking part! Add to that endless scenes which seem to go on forever, such as in the beginning where Dooley is in bed eating cookies and drinking milk for what feels like hours and what you get is a film that can only be viewed if your sense of enjoyment leans towards the masochistic. Also starring Erin Fleming, Sheila Stringer and Bob Corley. A Camp Video Release. Not Rated.

DEMONICUS (2001) - I'm a big fan of director Jay Woelfel. His BEYOND DREAM'S DOOR (1988) and GHOST LAKE (2004) are excellent and unusual horror films that show a personal style. But when you have to work with hack producer Charles Band and his Full Moon Productions, you can basically throw all your personal visions out the window. Even though Jay co-wrote the screenplay (along with Tim Sullivan), this is still standard Full Moon crap about a group of students who are on a hike (and some type of contest) in the Italian Alps (actually filmed at Angeles National Park in L.A.). When James (Gregory Lee Kenyon) finds a cave with a preserved Gladiator, he dons the costume and becomes possessed and begins killing the rest of the group one-by-one, cutting off their arms, legs and heads and bringing back their body parts to the cave where he performs a ritual to try and bring back to life the long-dead Gladiator Demonicus. He nearly succeeds a couple of times but is thwarted by knowledgable female professor Maria (Jennifer Capo) and nerdy Dino (Brannon Gould). Budget restraints notwithstanding, this film is very bloody in spots (courtesy of legendary badfilm director and effects master Joe Castro of JACKHAMMER MASSACRE [2003] fame), as arms are hacked off, a leg is sliced off, Dino is run-through with a sword and there's a pretty convincing beheading. But the plot is so absurd and the situations so unbelievable, that I doubt that even Jay would count this as one of his favorites. The real problem though is that Jay didn't do his own music soundtrack for the film. This one has a droning synthesizer score that's headache-inducing (courtesy of Danny Draven), something that Jay would never do. His scores are haunting and add a great deal to his films atmosphere. At least it's only 72 minutes long, so it doesn't overstay it's welcome. While this is better than most of the latter-day Full Moon films (thanks to Jay's POV blood shots and better-than-average acting), it's still nothing to write home about. Would someone please give Jay Woelfel the money he needs to make a film on his terms? When that happens, he always turns out quality product, not by-the-numbers stuff like this to make a living. Also starring Venesa Talor, Kyle Tracy, Allen Nabors, Candace Kroslak and Todd Rex as Demonicus. Released under Full Moon's Cult Video label on both DVD and VHS in a letterbox transfer. Rated R. For more on Jay Woelfel, go to his website: www.JayWoelfel.com.

DEMON KEEPER (1993) - Conman Remy Grilland (the late Edward Albert; GALAXY OF TERROR - 1981), who makes a living swindling old ladies and alcoholic women of their money by holding phony séances, is about to get a rude awakening. After pouring all his money into an old house and tricking it out with all sorts of gadgetry, Remy will soon begin to believe that the supernatural is not all phony mumbo-jumbo. He invites a group of wealthy believers to spend a weekend at the house, but when one of the rich old broad's nephew (who is in hock with gambling debts to a gangster and hopes to get his Aunt's money instead) insists on bringing noted medium Alexander Harris (Dirk Benedict; RUCKUS - 1980) to try and debunk his powers, Remy decides to perform a Druid ritual (out of an ancient book that was passed down in his family) instead of a simple séance. He accidentally unleashes a demon (Mike Lane) that traps everyone in the house and begins possessing people to do his bidding, which usually ends in murder. Harris tells Remy that the only way to find out what the demon wants is to perform a séance and, after Remy confesses to everyone that he is a fake, Harris takes over and performs the séance. The demon appears and tells the group that since they have awakened him from his peaceful eternal slumber, he has to kill everyone in the house by daybreak in order to return to his afterlife. The demon possesses the women in the house, using their naked bodies to entice the men (and women!) to an early grave. Before the night is out, everyone but Harris will be dead, thanks to an ancient ring Harris finds that he thinks will protect him. But, as we all know, it's very hard to cheat the Devil and Harris ends up being blamed by the police for all the deaths in the house. Yawn. Is it over?  This is a disappointing outing from director Joe Tornatore, who previously gave us the unusual actioner THE ZEBRA FORCE (1976), it's sequel CODE NAME: ZEBRA (1986) and the weird horror flick GROTESQUE (1987). DEMON KEEPER is a bland horror film that only comes to life during the several nude scenes (one guy is crushed between the legs of a possessed woman while they are having sex, in the film's most inspired moment). Both Edward Albert and Dirk Benedict are simply awful here and look like they would rather be drinking in a bar than appearing in this dreary film. The script, by frequent Tornatore collaborator Mikel Angel (THE LOVE BUTCHER - 1975), is a slow-paced and uneventful haunted house thriller where nothing much happens during the film's scant 72 minute running time. The gore is also minimal and pretty badly done. There is a quick shot of a dog tearing-out a woman's throat, a couple of stabbings (one shown in silhouette) and plenty of bad optical effects (by David L. Hewitt). The demon costume is pretty good, but it is never used in a manner to induce fear or shocks, even though he is the most animated person in the whole film. Everyone else in this film acts as if they are in some sort of trance, giving the whole film a lethargic pace. I really can't see any point in spending more time explaining just how boring this film really is. Let's just say it's bad and leave it at that. The film is set in Connecticut, but was actually filmed in Zimbabwe, Africa. Also starring Andre Jacobs, Adrienne Pearce, David Sherwood, Jennifer Steyn, Claire Marshall, Diane Nuttal, Else Martin and Katrina Maltby. Available on VHS & DVD from New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.

DEMON OF PARADISE (1987) - A group of fishermen in Kihono, Hawaii are illegally fishing with dynamite when they unleash a long-dormant creature (in other words, a man in a rubber suit). After causing the fishermen to blow up their own boat, the creature then goes on a killing spree. The local natives believe that a mystical beast called Acua has returned, so they perform an ancient ritual (lots of hula dancing) to keep the creature at bay so they can continue fishing. It doesn't work. Local cop Keefer (William Steis), who use to be a sheriff in Reno, Nevada until a serial killer made him lose his edge, joins forces with visiting herpatologist (it's a reptile expert, stupid!) Dr. Annie Essex (Kathryn Witt) to get to the bottom of the killings. Complicating matters is nosey tabloid reporter Ike (scripter Frederick Bailey), who is working in cahoots with down-on-her-luck resort owner Cahill (Laura Banks) to publicize the creature's sudden appearance, so it makes the resort a popular tourist attraction. Also on the island are two criminals, Langley (Nick Nicholson) and Shelton (Henry Strzalkowski), who are waiting for a huge shipment of TNT to arrive, which they plan on selling to the local fishermen (the ones that aren't superstitious, that is). As the tourists start pouring in, the killings begin to escalate and Keefer wants to close down the resort's lake, but in true JAWS (1975) fashion, Cahill refuses and tells Keefer to do his job ("I'm not going to let anyone railroad me!"). Cahill holds a "Creature Egg Hunt", where the tourists search for eggs hidden around the resort (you've got to be kidding me!), but when Keefer and his men have a shootout with Langley and Shelton and the creature puts in an appearance and kills Shelton, all the tourists leave the resort in a panic. Keefer calls in the National Guard and they drop grenades on the creature from a helicopter. This just pisses-off the creature, as it then walks on land for the first time and traps everyone in the resort's main cabin. The creature begins picking off people one-by-one and then chases the remaining survivors to the ruins of an ancient temple, where the creature faces-off with Keefer, Annie and the National Guard in the film's explosive finale.  This is prolific Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's second horror film (after VAMPIRE HOOKERS - 1979) and it's easy to see why he didn't make any more. He stinks at it. This is basically a remake of UP FROM THE DEPTHS (1979; which Santiago produced) and it's a boring mess, with long stretches where nothing happens, followed by an explosion every now and then, followed by an appearance of the creature, which is laughable at best. The subplot about Keefer's past is never fleshed out, besides him saying "I came here to get away from this stuff!" when the murders begin to happen and then later mentioning to Annie that he is a widower (we never really know if the serial killer back in Reno murdered his wife). The film is also rather dry and relatively gore-free for a horror film. The creature attack scenes are few and far between (the sparse gore consists of after-effects of the creature attacks, like slash marks on the face and chest of it's victims), as Santiago would rather focus on the action elements of the film, like Langley and Shelton's dynamite exploits and several gunfights and explosions. Santiago could be an efficient director when faced with the right material (see reviews of FINAL MISSION - 1984; NAKED VENGEANCE - 1985; SILK - 1986), but he seems uncomfortable when it comes to directing horror. He plays it way too safe, which is probably why he didn't make more of them after this. Almost all of Santiago's action and post-nuke flicks (STRYKER - 1983; RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991) display more blood and gore than this film, so avoid this and watch one of those instead. Also starring Lesley Huntly (who supplies this film's only topless scene), Joe Mari Avellana (also the Second Unit Director and Production Designer), Paul Holme, Liza Baumann, David Light, Ronnie Patterson, Dave Anderson and Joseph Zucchero. Many of them have appeared in numerous Santiago films in the 80's & 90's. Originally released on VHS by Warner Home Video and available on DVD from Shout! Factory as part of a double feature with UP FROM THE DEPTHS. Rated R.

DEMONOID (1981) - Mexican-made horror film with an international cast. The film opens with a woman stealing a severed hand out of a silver case (which is shaped like a hand) in a cave occupied by a religious sect dressed like the Ku Klux Klan (only with yellow hoods and robes). The woman becomes instantly possessed and gains superhuman powers in her left hand, but is overpowered by members of the sect, who chain her now-topless body to a cave wall and chop-off her left hand with an axe (nothing is left to the imagination). The hand tries escape on its own, but a sect member stabs it with a knife and puts it in the silver case, waiting patiently for the next person to open it and become possessed. We then switch to the present day, where Jennifer Barnes (Samantha Eggar; CURTAINS - 1982) arrives in Guanajuato, Mexico to spend some time with her husband Mark (Roy Jensen; NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON - 1973; here billed as "Roy Cameron Jenson"), an investor in a silver mine. Jennifer enters the mine by herself (in high heels and an evening dress, but she still has enough sense to wear a hardhat!) and accidentally disturbs some rocks, exposing a rotting corpse missing its left hand (the woman from the beginning, perhaps?) and a huge chunk of silver (Which begs the question: How did Jennifer discover this so easily in an area the miners walk through on a daily basis?). Pepe (Jose Chavez Trowe), Mark's right-hand man (no pun intended), tells Mark and Jennifer that the mine is cursed with the "Devil's Hand", a centuries-old legend, and now that she has exposed the one-handed corpse, none of the superstitious locals will enter the mine and do their jobs. Jennifer hopes to shame the locals into going back to work by traveling down to the deepest part of the mine with just her husband and make they it there after several close calls (A human skull falls into Jennifer's hands and Mark jokingly says, "What, are you collecting those?"). Mark falls through a sand pit into a lower chamber that contains a sacrificial temple to the demon with only one hand. After Jennifer joins him in the chamber, they find the silver hand case and bring it topside. All hell breaks loose after that. Mark shows the case to the workers and they all run away in fear. That night, a drunk and distraught Mark opens the case and discovers nothing but ash inside. He goes to sleep, but the ash transforms into a crawling hand that tries to attack Jennifer. Mark grabs the Devil's Hand and becomes instantly possessed; his left hand has a mind of its own and it's up to no good. The next morning, Mark forces all the mineworkers back into the mine and blows it up with dynamite, killing everyone. Mark escapes to the Sands Casino in Las Vegas, where his possessed left hand makes him a big winner at the craps table, but he is knocked out in the parking lot by hustlers Frankie (Ted White) and Angela (Russ Meyer regular Haji, billed here as "Haji Catton") and driven to a shack in the desert, where he is tied to a table and questioned about his "system" for winning. Mark breaks free and kills them both and, in a moment of clarity, douses himself in gasoline and sets himself on fire, but the left hand buries itself in the sand to avoid being burned. Mark's body is claimed by Father Cunningham (Stuart Whitman; NIGHT OF THE LEPUS - 1972) and buried in Los Angeles (Why he claims Mark's body is never fully explained, but it does move the action to L.A.). Jennifer is convinced that her husband is still possessed and not technically dead, so she goes to Los Angeles, where the burnt corpse of Mark rises from the grave, severs his left hand in the door of a police car and possesses the body of Sgt. Leo Matson (Lew Saunders), a cop friend of Father Cunningham. Can the good Father and Jennifer get the hand back in the silver case before more people get the nickname "Lefty"?  Silly beyond belief, DEMONOID (subtitled "MESSENGER OF DEATH!" on the advertising materials, but not on the actual prints) is mindless entertainment, which defies all normal logic. Director Alfredo Zacharias (THE BEES - 1978; CRIME OF CRIMES - 1989), who co-wrote the mind-numbing screenplay with David Lee Fein and F. Amos Powell, has made an unintentionally hilarious supernatural chiller, as he tries to show how many different ways people can sever their left hand from their bodies. Besides the axe and car door dismemberments, there's removal by laser at a doctor's office, getting run over by a train, cut off by car windshield during an auto accident and removal by blowtorch. There's not much more to the story than that, as the possessed hand passes from body-to-body. Samantha Eggar knows fully well that she picked a stinker to star in, so she plays her role so earnestly, she becomes a parody of herself (especially during the "What The Fuck?!?" finale). Toss in a loony car chase, subliminal demon imagery (like Pazuzu in THE EXORCIST - 1973), a few scenes of gore, dismembered hand puppetry and a bit of female nudity and what you get is a film best viewed under the influence. What that influence is depends on your preference. The late Robert A. Burns (TOURIST TRAP - 1978) handled the Special Effects Art Direction. Also starring Narciso Busquets, Erika Carlsson, George Soviak and Al Jones. Available on VHS by Media Home Entertainment with a budget VHS release by Video Treasures a few years later. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

DEMON POSSESSED (1989) - A trio of couples run into more trouble than they can handle while vacationing in Minnesota during the Winter. During a snowmobile race on Black Friar Lake, Tom (Aaron Kjenaas) is seriously injured when he flips his snowmobile and smacks his head against a tree. Miles from anywhere, they are forced to hold up in Camp St. Dominic, a deserted religious camp where a series of satanic murders took place years before. After playing around with a Haitian ouija board, called a "Devil’s Eye", Tom becomes possessed by a demon. Before you can say, "The Devil made me do it", he starts killing his friends in various bloody ways. One is beheaded by barb wire. Another is chopped up by a ceiling fan. Still another has an icicle shoved in his eye while yet another is hung by the neck on a volleyball net. The only one left is his fiancee (Dawn Laurrie). She escapes, which leads to a climatic snowmobile chase, where Tom is killed after being run over by a snowmaking machine(!). This low-budget regional film, originally titled THE CHILL FACTOR, was picked up for video release by A.I.P. Studios who re-edited it (adding some voice-over narration) and renamed it DEMON POSSESSED. It is neither good or bad, just an average little horror flick that has nothing new to offer fans of the genre. Director/producer Christopher Webster tries hard to use the snowy locales to good effect, but without a good story (here supplied by Julian Weaver) all that you get is some nice scenery shots. This is the type of film you rent when nothing else can be found at the video store. That’s what happened to me. Also starring David Fields, Eve Montgomery, Connie Snyder and Jim Cagle. An A.I.P. Home Video Release. Not Rated, but the gore and nudity never go beyond R  territory.

DEMON SLAYER (2002) - Standard latter-day New Concorde horror flick about five juvenile delinquents who are sent to rennovate an abandoned mental hospital on a special work release program. If they stay there for three days and do their jobs adequately, they will get probation for their crimes. They are the typical cliche group of horror movie teens: The Goth Chick; The Punk; The Brotha; The Bitch; and The Bitch's Friend. Alicia (Michelle Acuna), the Goth chick, begins having visions of people in robes performing some type of satanic ritual. As the five teens bicker amongst themselves, there seems to be something roaming the vacant halls (displayed as distorted POV shots) and the adult supervisors, including tough cripple Mr. Cobb (Layon Gray) and Father Patricio (Robert Eaton) pay them no mind, although it's clear that two of them, Patricio and the mysterious Father Enrique (Joaquin Garrido), know more than they are saying. Alicia finds a photo book and a diary that both chart the history of the hospital and it's not pleasant because anyone who have lived in this area (including when it was a bordello) have died horribly. It's not long before a supernatural force begins possessing and killing the teens and the supervisors while Alicia tries to find out how she is involved with the history of this place. A standard "surprise" ending follows.  Routine in every aspect, DEMON SLAYER panders to the lowest common denominator when it comes to the exploitation aspects. The frequent nudity is here to get your mind off the fact that nothing happens for the first hour, besides a brief bloody killing in the first five minutes. The dialogue consists of lines such as "Fuck you!", "What the hell is going on here?", "Fuck you, bitch!", "Ain't this some shit!", "Up yours!" and a couple of more variants of the word "fuck". Phillip (Adam Huss), the punk, is fond of spouting lines from other films, including THE EXORCIST (1973) and "The Wolfman's got nards!" line from THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987). Why he does it only writer /director James Cotten (a recent grad of the Los Angeles Film School) can answer. My best guess is that he had watched SCREAM (1997) one too many times. The violence in this film, when it finally does appear, is bloody but unconvincing. Arms and legs are cut off with an axe, someone's spine is ripped out, a giant CGI spider crawls out of another's mouth, various body part munching from some hooker zombies and a screwdriver to the forehead. The film is full of that foggy neon lighting and solarized flashback footage that recent horror films are so fond of using. Although played broadly enough to be considered a comedy, most of the lines fall flat although I did chuckle when asked by Phillip what is rolling down the hall, Father Enrique answers, "It's a baby carriage from Hell!" It's an OK time-waster that pops-up every now and then on the Sci-Fi Network in edited form (without the nudity and extreme violence, it must be a big snooze), so if you must watch this, rent the DVD. SEE NO EVIL (2006), the film starring WWE wrestler Kane, used a similar storyline four years later. Also starring Harold Williams Jr. (the Brotha), Hannah Lee (the Bitch) and Monique DeVille (the Bitch's Friend). A New Concorde Release. Rated R.

DEMONWARP (1988) - Forget trying to make sense of the title and just enjoy this off-the-wall horror outing. One hundred years ago a spaceship crash landed in the woods. A traveling preacher sees the craft and disappears. Cut to the present and proud father George Kennedy (yes, that George Kennedy!) sees his daughter killed and taken away by a bigfoot creature. A bunch of teenagers rent the same cabin where the bigfoot attack took place and soon they are also attacked by the bigfoot, the majority of them being killed and taken away. The rest of them team up with George Kennedy, who has set up camp nearby in hopes of killing the bigfoot in retribution for the death of his daughter. But all is not what it seems. It turns out that the alien whose spacecraft crash landed one hundred years ago is still alive and is turning all the humans into zombie slaves so they can fix his ship. The preacher from the beginning is still alive and has not aged. He performs sacrifices on some humans, cutting out their hearts and feeding them to the alien. The alien also has the power to turn any human into a bigfoot, thereby providing him with a way to kidnap and kill campers (including an almost always nude Michelle Bauer) and keep his supply of zombie workers. Nearly everyone dies and the film ends on is it or is it not a dream finale. There's a lot to like here: Plenty of nudity, a great bigfoot costume (by John Carl Buechler, who also wrote the story the screenplay is based on), lots of gore including heads and various body parts being ripped off and a really one-of-a-kind storyline that makes you want to stayed glued to the tube, so you don't miss anything. I had to watch it twice just to get some of the little nuances in the story, such as why the bigfoot didn't kill the main teenager Jack (David Michael O'Neill) when he had the chance in the cabin. This is by far director Emmett Alston's best film, having made NEW YEAR'S EVIL (1980) and a bunch of forgettable ninja films in the 80's. He also wrote the screenplay for the creepy terror-in-the-woods film HUNTER'S BLOOD (1987). This film is a must for any discriminating horror fan and may be the most unusual film of the late 80's. Also starring Pamela Gilbert (also nude a lot), Billy Jacoby (a killer Jack Nicholson imitation), Colleen McDermott, Hank Stratton and John Durban as the preacher. A Vidmark Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated for all the right reasons.

DEMON WARRIOR (1987) - Good, old Texas. Home of George Bush (Sr. & Jr.), a legal system quick to put you to death if you spit on the sidewalk (or if you are retarded), gun racks on prepubescents' tricycles and an oil well in everyone's backyard. Of course, not everything about Texas is a cheap joke. Texas was (and still is) a hotbed of low-budget genre filmmaking. Directors such as Larry Buchanan (ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS - 1966; CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE - 1966; IN THE YEAR 2889 - 1967; IT'S ALIVE! - 1969) and S.F. Brownrigg (DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT - 1973; KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN - 1973; POOR WHITE TRASH PART II - 1974; DON'T OPEN THE DOOR - 1975) are probably the best-known low-budget Texas auteurs. There have also been many Texas-lensed "one-shot wonders", including MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (1966), NIGHT FRIGHT (1967), ENTER THE DEVIL (1974), FUTURE KILL (1984), NAIL GUN MASSACRE (1985), R.O.T.O.R. (1987) and FOREVER EVIL (1987), not to mention the most famous Texas feature of them all, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). Which brings us to this film. From the opening shot, where the camera lovingly pans over a variety of firearms and ammo, to the actors' accents, where everyone calls each other "son" or "mam", you know you are about to witness something strictly Texan. Unfortunately, director/producer/co-scripter Frank Patterson forgot the cardinal rule of horror filmmaking: Cut to the chase and get to the good stuff. Neil Willard (Wiley M. Pickett) and girlfriend Sarah (Leslie Mullin) bring some friends to Neal's family property (who the locals refer to as "The Old Willard Place") for a weekend hunting trip (This is Texas after all. What else would they do on their weekends?). There have been many unexplained deadly "accidents" on the property in the past, but since Neal is not a superstitious man, he decides to ignore all the warnings and put his friends' lives in jeopardy. It seems the Willard propery use to belong to the local Indians and Neal's ancestors forced them off the land, which made an Indian shaman put a curse on the property. A "Demon Warrior" (Lee Barret) inhabits the property, killing anyone who steps foot on it (Don't try to rationalize it or you'll go crazy). It's not long before the Demon starts killing Neal's friends using various Indian methods (death by stone sacrificial knife, arrow and tomahawk). The sudden appearance of a friendly Indian (Jon Langione) proves beneficial to Neal and Sarah, the only two people in the hunting party still left alive. He explains to the duo that the legend of the land is true and only he can lift the curse. As he performs an ancient ritual his grandfather taught him, the Indian is shot in the chest with an arrow by the Demon. Neal grabs the Indian's bow and shoots an arrow at the Demon, who grabs the arrow in mid-air and disappears in a bolt of lightning. The dying Indian informs Neal and Sarah that the curse is now lifted. Umm......what?!?  More silly than scary, DEMON WARRIOR is a lethargically-paced horror film that takes forever to get to the first killing and when it does, the camera pulls away before we see anything. Director Frank Patterson (BLACK SNOW - 1989), who co-wrote the script with Mark Baird and Alan Stewart (who directed the Texas-lensed horror western GHOST RIDERS [1987], on which Frank Patterson was Associate Producer and Music Composer), tries to inject some drama into the tired plot by having Sarah and Neal's best friend Brent (Jerry R. Coiteux) express their love for each other behind Neal's back, but when Brent is killed by the Demon (an arrow in his chest), Neal later tells Sarah while they are sitting around a campfire that he knew about her infidelity, but he wanted to see how it "played out" before he confronted her. I guess the advantage goes to Neal! To further stretch the boundaries of believability, the Indian that arrives to save Neal and Sarah tells them that he is actually a wealthy investment banker! The Demon is basically nothing but bodybuilder Lee Barret dressed in a tiny buckskin loincloth with some horribly lame-assed makeup applied to his face. It one of the worse monsters that I have ever seen and it sometimes reminded me of the turkey monster in BLOOD FREAK (1972). There's also minimal gore (just a couple of arrow impalements and a tomahawk to the head), one of the limpest finales in horror film history (Really, I can't remember when another film left me saying, "Is that it?") and only one instant of nudity (in the beginning of the film, no less!). The acting is amateurish (try not to laugh when Jerry R. Coiteux is shot with an arrow and says to his friend, "Hassmiler, help me!" in one of the weakest cries for help my ears have ever heard) and the only halfway decent thing about this film is a pretty good car crash/explosion. Faint praise for a totally lackluster regional horror flick. Which just proves that not everything that comes out of Texas is big. Also starring John Garrett, Bruce Carbonara, Vonda Borski, Martin Smith and Robert Lee Seglar. A Monarch Home Video Release that's thankfully not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE DENTIST (1996) - Funny and gory horror film that has a great over-the-top performance by Corbin Bernsen (TV's PSYCH). He plays a high-price dentist (all his office rooms have themes, such as the jungle, opera house, etc) who goes mad when he catches his wife screwing the pool man. He imagines that all his female patients are his wife and punishes them graphically with his dentistry tools. Bernsen must also deal with a greedy IRS agent (Earl Boen) and a cop (Ken Foree) who is investigating a string of burglaries in his upperclass neighborhood. This film works because it preys on everyone’s fear of going to the dentist. Filled with gory close-ups of oral mutilations (teeth unnecessarily being pulled, overdrilling a tooth down to the gum line) and the sounds that go with it, this film would be very hard to watch if it weren’t for the frequent black humor, the excellent off-kilter cinematography and Bernsen’s performance of a man’s descent into madness. I’ve seen Bernsen turn in some telegraphed performances in some of his B-films (see KOUNTERFEIT [1997] as an example), but here he seems to be enjoying himself and it shows. Director Brian Yuzna (SOCIETY - 1989) does an unusually good job of displaying patients’ anxieties and fears as they sit in the waiting room ignorant of the fact that those anxieties and fears will soon come true. Stuart Gordon receives co-story credit, which explains the frequent touches of black humor. This film makes it very difficult to take your eyes off the screen, even if you find yourself want to (and you will). Also starring Linda Hoffman and Michael Stadvec. Yuzna directed a sequel, THE DENTIST 2 in 1998, but it is no where near as good as the original. It plays like a bastardization of THE STEPFATHER (1987). Both DENTIST 1 & 2 made their premiere on HBO and are available on VHS and DVD from Vidmark Entertainment. Rated R.

THE DESCENT (2005) - For those of you that really despised THE CAVE (2005), try this horror film as an alternative, a really jolting sophomore effort by director Neil Marshall, who made the excellent werewolf film DOG SOLDIERS (2002). A group of women get together every year on vacation to do some extreme sport. Last year they went white water rafting and one of the women, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) loses her husband and daughter on the trip home in a truly shocking accident (one of the best "jump-scares" of 2005). The next year, the women get together in the Appalachian Mountains (actually filmed in Scotland and on film stages in Pinewood Studios, England) to explore some newly discovered cave. Sarah is still not over her loss but decides to go on the trip to get her mind off of it. What they discover down there will leave you gasping for breath, as Sarah and her mates must fight off some human-like blind creatures (their origin is never explained, but they may have been the decendants of some lost explorers who were in the cave 100 years earlier, known as "crawlers" in the end credits), a cave-in, as well as some infighting among themselves. Only we, the viewers, know that Sarah is experiencing flashbacks and hallucinations of her daughter's birthday (we see her blowing out the candles on her cake as a symbolic gesture of giving up), but the real menace (beside the creatures taste for human flesh) is expedition leader Juno (Natalie Mendoza), who is harboring some secrets of her own and commits one of the worst bits of violence in this film. It all ends on a final note of desperation, the only logical conclusion for the film. Now the bad news: Lions Gate is releasing the film to theaters in the US devoid of the downbeat ending (they plan on including it as an extra when they release it on DVD). I can think of no better time to buy a multi-region DVD player than now. I'm tired of film companies like Lions Gate and Dimension Films giving us watered-down tripe so American audiences can walk out of the movie happy. I don't know about you, but I don't mind using my brain while watching films. Back to the movie: Marshall directs with a sure hand with an all-female cast and builds atmosphere by using only available light, greatly enhancing the tension and making you jump at certain sections of the film. The creatures are amazing and move quickly, but the women hold their own against them until they are separated. Soon, scenes of gut-munching (gory, but shot in a way not to give away too much), crossing crevasses to escape the terror and unexpected bits of violence by the women soon follow. Marshall is to be congratulated for making a film about women with grit and character, which makes their deaths all the more shocking. Well done and must viewing for any horror fan. Also starring Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone and Molly Kayll. Skip the Lions Gate DVD and get the English DVD from Pathe Distribution, Ltd. (available from amazon.co.uk). Rated R.

DETOUR (2003) - Not bad little independent horror film which owes a lot to THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and the then recently-opened theatrical release WRONG TURN (2003). A bunch of teenagers, returning from a rave in the desert, make a detour to try to find a lost stash of peyote (!?). Their RV breaks down (of course) and they are left stranded in the desert. Unfortunately, there's also a bunch of cannibals on the loose and begin to pick-off the teens. An obnoxious, ghetto-talking white boy named Loopz (Aaron Buer), becomes one of the unlikely heroes, helping the two remaining girls kill-off the cannibalistic clan, whose flesh-hunger seems to be caused by some unknown chemicals that are leaking by a nearby mineshaft. Initially slow-going, the film picks up in the second half dramatically as people are run over, dismembered, disemboweled, impaled, shot and generally chopped-up. Buer gives a grating performance in the beginning and you think that he will be one of the early victims. Director/screenwriter S. Lee Taylor (THE SURGE - 2002) surprises us by making him one of the main characters who saves the day, as he transforms from a jive-talking jerk into someone who begins to see that becoming a hero is not a simple job. The other young actors, including Ashley Elizabeth, Brent Taylor (who bears a striking resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio), Danna Brady, Kelsey Wedeen and Jessica Osfar do a good job for such a low budget flick. The girls are especially pretty and look good in the skimpy clothes that they wear. There's also plenty of humor, as when Taylor goes off on his own and spots a sign that reads: "Trespassers Will Be Eaten". Director of Photography Cort Fey (COLD CASE TV Series [2003 - 2010]) does a nice job in establishing tension and mood in the desert settings. Featuring plenty of blood and body parts, DETOUR (originally known as HELL'S HIGHWAY) is a good bet for non-discriminating horror fans. An MTI Video Release. Rated R.

DEVIL FISH (1984) - This unredeemable Italian/French co-production is a laughably bad rip-off of JAWS (1975). Something resembling a squid with a shark's head is biting off the arms and legs of unsuspecting fishermen and pleasure boaters in the waters off a coastal Florida town. An oceanographer (John Garko), dolphin expert (Valentine Monnier) and electronics genius (Michael Sopkiw) try to capture the creature so they can identify it. They are constantly thwarted by employees at a research laboratory who have genetically produced this monster in hopes of controlling the world's oceans. When it is discovered that this tentacled terror is able to reproduce by itself, our heroes must find a way to destroy it before it dominates and destroys the marine population. Who will live and who will die? Who gives a shit? This slow moving catastrophe contains the phoniest looking monster you are ever likely to see. It makes the creatures in THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964) look absolutely polished. It does have some nudity and gore, but not enough to keep your eyes on the screen rather than the clock. Director "John Old Jr." is really Lamberto Bava, who also made the vastly superior FROZEN TERROR (1980: a.k.a. MACABRE) and DEMONS (1985) & DEMONS 2 (1986). One gets the feeling that Bava is only slumming here. Top-billed Sopkiw and Monnier can both be seen in Sergio Martino's AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK (1983). DEVIL FISH is also known as MONSTER SHARK, RED OCEAN and DEVOURING WAVES. It stinks under any title. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Not Rated.

THE DEVIL'S CHAIR (2006) - Nick West (Andrew Howard) and his girlfriend Sammy (Polly Brown) drop some acid after breaking into the abandoned Blackwater Asylum and decide to have sex on an old chair made out of wood and metal that was previously used for shock treatments (If this isn't a reason not to do drugs, kids, than nothing is because this chair comes complete with a human skull that someone has jammed between two metal rods on the chair's back. Not the best place to "get it on", if you ask me!). Serious problems happen when Sammy sits on the chair, as the metal restraining devices clamp down on her hands and neck and she begins to bleed profusely out of every orifice in her body. When the chair lets her go, the blood-soaked Sammy runs out of the room and disappears, leaving a tripped-out Nick unsure about what he has just witnessed. When Sammy's body is never found, Nick is declared criminally insane and committed to a psychiatric institution because no one will believe his story. Four years later, Nick is now convinced he killed Sammy (thanks to all the psychotropic drugs pumped into his body), but Dr. Willard (David Gant) wants to discover the truth about what really happened to Sammy, so he has Nick released from the hospital under his care. Dr. Willard plans to write a book about the subject, so he brings Nick back to Blackwater Asylum, along with psychology students Rachel (Elize Du Toit), Brett (Matt Berry) and Dr. Willard's assistant, Melissa (Louise Griffiths). Nick is not too keen on the idea, but since he really has no choice in the matter, he reluctantly agrees and, once they all set foot in Blackwater Asylum, it is plain to see that Nick has a good reason to feel uneasy. Not only is it apparent that some deadly supernatural force possesses the chair, but Nick has to put up with the sarcastic bullying remarks of Brett (who is an asshole of the first degree), the untrusting attitude of Melissa (who believes that Nick is a murderer) and Dr. Willard's ulterior motives (which have to do with the experiments run by the asylum's namesake, Dr. Blackwater, before he went mad and disappeared in 1963). Only Rachel seems sympathetic towards Nick, but he is going to need more than sympathy if he (or anyone else) is going to survive their stay at the asylum. By the time we get to the film's convoluted finale (which makes absolutely no sense if you bother to think about it deeply enough), Nick will face his demons, both imagined and real, while everyone else dies nasty, violent deaths.  This English horror film, directed by Adam Mason (THE 13TH SIGN - 2000) and co-written by Mason and Simon Boyes (who both co-directed the much better BROKEN the same year as this film), suffers greatly because Mason tips the hands of everyone's fates at the beginning of the film. The framing device of Nick narrating the entire film (where he utters the word "cunt" much too often) and showing all the major characters meeting their fates in the opening minutes of the film (even showing the demon, who doesn't come into play until the final third of the film), leaves very little room for surprises, no matter if Nick is insane or not. The decision to give the entire film a bleached-out look (an effect of draining the footage of normal fleshtones and natural colors that is over-used in horror films today and really serves no purpose here) wins no favor with me, either. The only plusses this film has to offer are some gory makeup effects (the mechanics of the chair are very effective, if absurd) and David Gant's over-the-top performance as Dr. Willard, which reminded me of the late Ferdy Mayne (THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS - 1967; THE HORROR STAR - 1981). Nick's narration is much too juvenile for the film's own good and, at one point, his narration reveals an utter contempt for the type of audience who would watch this film in the first place. The reveal of Nick's true mental state is not much of a surprise and Andrew Howard (who looks and acts like Jason Statham's hyperactive third cousin) does nothing to make the character the least bit interesting. It's nothing but a cardboard cut-out of a psychotic living in a world of his own making. Also starring Olivia Hill, Nadja Brand (also one of the Producers) and Gary Mackay. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT (1973) - An archaeologist, travels to Castle Dracula in Transylvania in search of the Niebulungen Ring, which gives the wearer untold powers as long as they denounce love. At the castle he meets the Countess and proceeds to make love to her. He discovers the ring on her finger and she turns into a bat. He ends up buried alive in a crypt. His twin brother comes to the castle looking for him. He becomes suspicious when the Countess tells him that his brother has left the castle. He rescues his brother from the crypt not knowing that he is too late. His brother has become a vampire. Meanwhile, the Countess uses the ring to lure all the town's virgins (apparently there were plenty of them in the 19th century) to her castle to prepare for a black mass wedding. She plans to marry the archaeologist. The twin brothers fight. Who will survive? Mark Damon (BLACK SABBATH - 1963, CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1973) essays the roles of the twin brothers and buxom Sara Bay (LADY FRANKENSTEIN - 1971) is the Countess in this fairly routine Italian period piece spiced up somewhat by arty camera angles and flashy editing. There is plenty of nudity but it was severely edited for U.S. release. Director Luigi Batzella (listed here under the pseudonym Paul Solvay) also made NUDE FOR SATAN (1974), SS HELL CAMP (1977 - as "Ivan Kathansky") and many others. Screenwriter Ralph Zucker, who directed the excellent TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE (1965), also executive produced and supervised the English language version of THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT. One note of warning: The print quality of the VCI transfer is very scratchy and is distracting to the eyes. A VCI Home Video Release. Rated R.

DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1974) - This often overlooked 70's sickie really deserves a place on every horror fans' mantle. Thanks to Code Red, this film is now available on DVD for everyone to enjoy. The story is rather simple: A group of psychotic kids, who escape after their van slides in the snow and rolls down the side of a mountain, invade the deep-in-the-woods winter home of iron-fisted patriarch Papa Doc (Gene Evans) and proceed to kill the residents. Papa Doc's group are a veritable smorgasborde of stereotypes: Family suck-up Harvey (the DUKES OF HAZZARD's [1979 - 1985] "Boss Hogg", Sorrell Booke) and his alcoholic wife Ruth (Shelley Morrison), nymphomaniac Lovely (Carolyn Steller), good-girl daughter Julie (Joan McCall) and her good-guy boyfriend Rick (Taylor Lachler), and mentally retarded (and abused) servant Ralph (John Durren). When the kids first enter the home, they are treated as poor helpless tots, but it soon becomes clear that they are way more dangerous than meets the eye. David (Leif Garrett, already an established child star [and future rock star and flameout]) likes to play chess and is a closet transvestite. Hannah (Gail Smale) likes to dress as a nun but is not above using a butcher knife. Moe (Dawn Lyn) likes to play with her doll but likes playing with dead bodies more. Susan (Tia Thompson) likes to play with a lighter and Briann (Tierre Turner) likes to carry a toy rifle and thinks he's in the military. When Ralph is found dead (hanged by a boobytrapped generator) as well as the phone disconnected, the family become suspicious of the kids, and rightly so. Papa Doc's collection of rifles end up missing as does all of the sharp-edged silverware (Rick wryly says to Papa Doc: "I hope you can butter your toast with a spoon."). Soon they all end up dead thanks to piranhas in the bathtub (!), an ingenious use of a scythe, being soaked with gasoline and set afire, a child-made spear and bear traps capped-off by a throat slashing. The most unusual death comes in the beginning when one of the surviving doctors in the accident tries to warn the people in the house, only to be attacked by the kids with garden and construction tools. The scene turns to black-and-white and slow-motion as the kids stab and whack the doctor with a pitchfork, a sledgehammer, a claw hammer and other instruments until he slowly dies. I was also taken aback that the kids would first target Ralph, the person who would probably cause the least resistance due to his mental state. These kids mean business! Director Sean MacGregor (NIGHTMARE COUNTY - 1971; GENTLE SAVAGE - 1973) infuses enough perverse situations (Garrett in drag; the intense piranha kill sequence) and, surprisingly, no female nudity (but there is a instance of male nudity) to hold your attention throughout, even if the screenplay (by co-star John Durren and Sandra Lee Blowitz) has enough holes to pass a train through. But, all things considered, this is a great example of 70's sleaze that could never get made today. DEVIL TIMES FIVE is also known as PEOPLETOYS (which makes sense if you've seen it) and THE HORRIBLE HOUSE ON THE HILL. Also available on VHS from Media Home Entertainment in the SP speed and Video Treasures in the EP speed and as part of Mill Creek's 50-movie DVD compilation CHILLING CLASSICS (which looks like a dupe of Media's VHS). Stick with the DVD from Code Red (if you can find it). It's widescreen and looks beautiful. Rated R.

DIARY OF THE DEAD (2007) - This is director/screenwriter George A. Romero's fifth DEAD film (it follows LAND OF THE DEAD - 2005 and precedes SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD - 2009), but it doesn't follow the timeline of the previous four films. Instead, it reboots the story and starts from scratch, telling the tale of the living dead infecting the Earth through the lenses of cameras being used by film school student Jason Creed (Joshua Close) and his crew, who are making a low-budget mummy horror film on digital video when the real zombie outbreak begins. Pretty soon, Jason and his crew, including girlfriend Debra (Michelle Morgan), begin documenting the ensuing madness as they try to escape to safety in their RV. When their friend Mary (Tatiana Maslany) tries to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head, they drive her to the nearest hospital, only to find that it is overrun with zombies. As their numbers begin to dwindle, Jason, Debra and the remaining crew get back in the RV and have several close calls, first with a deaf Amish man (who supplies the only bit of humor in the entire film), then with a group of African American survivalists in the forest (Their leader tells the crew, "For the first time, we've got the power!"), then an unpleasant trip to Debra's family home (where Mom is chowing-down on Pop and her little brother attacks Debra before getting an arrow in the head) and, finally, a run-in with some nasty National Guardsmen. The crew finally settle-in at the isolated mansion of actor Ridley's (Phillip Riccio) rich parents. The mansion has security cameras in every room and Debra notices that Ridley is acting weird (Was the first clue that he's still in his mummy costume?). It turns out he's been bitten and turns into a zombie, shuffling around the mansion in his mummy costume, biting Jason and forcing Debra to finish Jason's film on her own and warn the world that in order for us to defeat the zombies, we first must learn to treat each other as "human" beings and not as disposable "product". Debra concludes the film by asking, "Are we worth saving? You tell me." as we watch footage of two hunters shooting tied-up zombies for kicks.  This is a low-budget, but highly effective horror film that, thankfully, doesn't induce the same "shakey-cam" queasiness or headache-inducing effect as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) or CLOVERFIELD (2007) did, even if it uses the same "found footage" premise as those films. George Romero is much more crafty here, using a mixture of handheld cameras, including regular retail video cameras, professional digital video cameras and even camera phones, with fixed cameras, such as the mansion's security cameras, and even YouTube, to tell his tale. First and foremost, this is a horror film, but it is also a parable about modern society's need to catch everything on camera, as if to say, "If it's not documented on video, it can't be very important." We are a culture of video on demand (thanks to the internet) and our constant desire to view everything immediately or when it suits us comes with dire consequences. The character of Jason Creed represents that need. As his friends and colleagues fall victim to the zombie horde, not once does he put the camera down and offer help. Instead, he rolls tape, callously catching footage of his friends dying or shooting zombified friends in the head. He becomes an extension of the camera, as he inoculates himself from all human emotions, proving to be just as hungry as the zombies, except his hunger is for the "perfect shot". Only Debra seems to understand the gravity of the situation and DIARY OF THE DEAD is actually her document of the entire affair. She edits all of Jason's footage, along with TV news clips and other people's home video footage (including a child's birthday that turns nasty when the hired clown turns out to be a zombie), to form a cautionary tale warning any potential survivors in the world that the living may be more dangerous than the living dead. If this film has a fault, it's that Romero augments the practical gore effects with way too much CGI enhancement, which is a disappointment since Romero and practical effects use to go hand-in-hand. Too many of the gore effects (and there are many) have noticeable CGI help, including the deaf Amish guy's death by scythe and a lot of CGI blood, which gives the deaths a fake, plastic feel. Still I admire the new direction Romero has taken the series, offering an up-to-date revision of his ground breaking 1968 classic. Low in budget, but not low in imagination. Many genre directors, including Wes Craven, Guillermo del Toro, Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino, put in voice cameos as TV newsreaders. Also starring Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Scott Wentworth, Chris Violette, Todd William Schroeder and Romero in a cameo as a police chief on a TV screen. A Dimension Extreme Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

DR. BLACK MR. HYDE (1976) - Dr. Henry Pride (Bernie Casey; HITMAN - 1972) is a noted researcher who is working on a serum that will regenerate dead liver cells, thereby curing deadly liver diseases (one which killed his mother). While treating prostitute Linda Monte (Marie O'Henry) on one of her weekly hospital visits (she has a minor liver disease), Dr. Pride is chastised by Linda for acting too "white" and she tells him to loosen up a little. Little do they both know that what she said will come all too true. When Dr. Pride injects one of his mice (a white one) with the newest version of his serum, it becomes agressive, bites Dr. Pride and then kills all the other rats (all black) in it's cage. After seeing the results of his latest experiment, Dr. Pride decides he needs a "human factor", so he injects a terminally ill elderly black woman in the hospital with his serum, turning her into a homicidal albino (!), who attacks a nurse and then dies. Dr. Pride's lab assistant/wannabe lover, Dr. Billie Worth (Rosalind Cash), makes a remark that maybe the old woman's heart was too weak, so, like all mad doctors, Dr. Pride injects himself with the serum, transforming him into a superhuman murderous honky (!), Mr. Hyde (his alter ego's name is never mentioned once in the film, though). Mr. Hyde hops into his Rolls Royce and goes looking for Linda, stopping long enough to beat the crap out of three black thugs who try to rob him. Linda has problems of her own, as her ex-pimp Silky (Stu Gilliam) tries to talk her into working for scumbag drug dealer Preston (Marc Alaimo). When Mr. Hyde finds Linda at her nightclub hangout, a huge fight breaks out and Mr. Hyde throws everyone (including Silky) around like ragdolls until Silky cuts him with a switchblade and a few minutes later he turns back into Dr. Pride (and no one recognizes him!). Dr. Pride brings Linda back to his house and tries to inject her with the serum but, when Dr. Pride injects himself with the serum (to prove it's harmless) and turns into Mr. Hyde, Linda runs away. Suddenly, there are a series of prostitute murders in the area and the cops assigned to the case, Lt. Jackson (Ji-Tu Cumbuka) and Lt. O'Connor (Milt Kogan), try to find out who is behind the killings and put an end to the bloodshed. They get help from Linda, who tells the cops the whole story. At first they don't believe her, but Lt. Jackson decides to check it out. After interviewing Dr. Worth, Lt. Jackson becomes convinced that Linda is telling the truth. Dr. Pride is no longer able to separate himself from his alter ego, so he hunts down Linda and is killed in a hail of police gunfire.  This is one of the last horror blaxploitation flicks to get a theatrical release and, since it was directed by William Crain, who kick-started the genre with BLACULA (1972), this film is not without it's merits. It's not as well-made and acted as BLACULA (Ji-Tu Cumbaka is pretty bad here and star Bernie Casey looks to be sleepwalking through his role), but the screenplay (by Larry LeBron) has a lot of comical, as well as serious, touches. My favorite scene is when Mr. Hyde chases Silky down in his Rolls Royce and pins him against the wall. As Mr. Hyde puts his car into reverse for one more hit on the seriously-injured pimp, Silky pulls out his switchblade in defiance, as if a sliver of metal could stop a ton of charging steel. Even though I can sympathize with Dr. Pride's motivation for developing the serum (He delivers an impassioned speech about his mother's sad life to Linda while they are in his car.), I have to say that the way he goes about achieving those goals doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense. I can see his interest in Linda, since she suffers from liver disease, but why the hell would he inject himself when he's healthy as an ox? My favorite bit of dialogue comes when Lt. Jackson tells his partner that they are probably dealing with a "haint". Lt. O'Connor turns to him and says, "What the fuck is a haint?" Jackson replies, "That's a cross between the Abominable Snowman and Willie the Werewolf!" Although the film's not very bloody, it is violent and the scene where Mr. Hyde kills a police dog and tosses it's lifeless body in front of a shocked crowd of cops is very well done. The finale takes place on the world-famous Watts Towers in California and the film was later retitled THE WATTS MONSTER to capitalize on it. Bernie Casey's transformation into Mr. Hyde (makeup by Stan Winston) is quite simple: Just pancake makeup on his face and arms (with an undersized jacket on his torso, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows), a salt-and-pepper afro and white contact lenses. Not very convincing or frightening, but it is unintentionally funny. Rosalind Cash (DEATH SPA - 1988) is wasted in a thankless role. Still, DR. BLACK MR. HYDE is a fun little time capsule of an era in filmmaking where horror films were made for a black audience, but everyone could enjoy them. Not like the "urban action" films made today where you need subtitles to understand what is being said (Curse you, Snoop Dogg!). Also starring Elizabeth Robinson, Della Thomas, Sam Laws and Bob Minor (also the Stunt Coordinator). A VCI Home Video Release. Available on DVD from VCI Entertainment in a "35th Anniversary" edition. Rated R.

DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN (1971) - English newlyweds Imre and Justine decide to spend their honeymoon in Imre's home town of Baliavasta, located in Transylvania. While visiting the gravesite of his parents, Imre is attacked and killed by three brothers robbing his car. Justine is nearly raped by the three when Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) steps in, kills two of them and saves her. He brings Justine back to his castle and looks after her, along with an old witch who also lives there. The surviving brother vows revenge and brings two friends to the castle looking to rob Waldemar, then kill him. Too bad they decided to do this during a full moon. Waldemar turns into a werewolf and kills the two friends, but the surviving brother escapes again. Waldemar opens up to Justine about his affliction when she sees him turn into a werewolf from her bedroom window. The brother kills the witch woman (he cuts her head off and parades it around on a stick) and gets the townpeople to storm the castle. Justine and Waldemar escape and Justine brings him back to London. Justine goes to her good friend Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor) and asks him to try to help Waldemar find a cure for his condition. Skeptical at first, Dr. Jekyll invites Waldemar to come to his office for tests. Waldemar gets accidentally stuck in an elevator on the way to Jekyll's office and turns into a werewolf, slaughters the nurse trapped in there with him and eventually escapes, beginning a reign of terror the newspapers are calling "Worse than Jack The Ripper". Dr. Jekyll uses an altered version of the serum his grandfather invented on Waldemar and turns him into Mr. Hyde who, with the help of Jekyll's jealous female assistant Sandra, escapes and begins his psychopathic urge to kill women, eventually turning his attention toward Justine. Can Waldemar fight off both his Mr. Hyde and werewolf personalities and find true love with Justine? You just know this will all turn out badly.  This is the sixth in the series of the exploits of Waldemar Daninsky and it is probably the tamest, until the final third, that is. Directed by Leon Klimovsky, who directed Naschy in WEREWOLF SHADOW (1970), one of the better Daninsky sagas, he keeps the nudity and most of the gruesomeness to a minimum until the final 30 minutes, when it really kicks into gear. Mr. Hyde's rape and eventual flogging of Justine certainly will wake you up if you were losing interest. Naschy chews up his role of Mr. Hyde, walking the streets of modern London in his overcoat, ascot, hat and cane (with hidden sword), picking up prostitutes and killing them. He even tosses one unlucky lad into the Thames for a final swim. This is probably the most dated of the Daninsky flicks as he invades a mod discoteque (complete with go-go dancers) as Mr. Hyde, changes back to Waldemar Daninsky and then promptly turns into a werewolf in front of all the disco patrons' frightened eyes. If this film has one problem, it's that the Mr. Hyde angle is never satisfactorily concluded. Once he changes from Mr. Hyde back to the werewolf, the Hyde story is dropped as Daninsky bites Justine and, just before she kicks off, she pumps a couple of silver bullets into his chest and they die side-by-side. The bloodletting is sparse, limited to a head being crushed with a rock, a couple of torn throats (with pieces of bloody meat hanging from Naschy's mouth), an off-screen beheading, a couple of stabbings and Justine's topless flogging. This is a minor chapter in the Daninsky saga, but it does have it's good moments, enough to keep you entertained for 90 minutes. As with all the Daninsky films, this was written by Naschy using his real name, Jacinto Molina. Also known as DR. JEKYLL VS. THE WEREWOLF. Also starring Shirley Corrigan, Mirtha Miller, Luis Induni, Barta Barry and Jose Marco. The version I viewed was the unedited international version, still sporting the Spanish title DR. JEKYLL Y EL HOMBRE LOBO. I picked it up on eBay a couple of years ago. Available on a widescreen double feature DVD from Code Red with the film THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY (1974). Not Rated.

DOGS (1976) - The 70's churned out plenty of "animals gone amok" films thanks to the success of JAWS (1975). Some were blatant rip-offs (GRIZZLY - 1976; CLAWS - 1977) and some were quite good (THE PACK - 1977; PIRANHA - 1977), but DOGS falls somewhere in the middle. Thanks to a top-secret government laboratory that's performing "high energy particle experiments", a small college town is experiencing rolling electrical blackouts and a series of unexplained mutilation deaths in both livestock and, eventually, people. Biologist Harlan Thompson (David McCallum; TV's NCIS) and hotshot new college professor Michael Fitzgerald (George Wyner; SPACEBALLS - 1987) try to figure out what is causing all these deaths, but it is obvious to the viewer early on that normally harmless domesticated dogs are responsible, as they seem to pack together at night with the singular purpose of ripping apart anything that crosses their path. What Harlan and Michael find so strange is that while the attacks are savage, none of the corpses seem to have been eaten, like the animals are killing not from hunger, but for the sake of killing. It's not long before our two heroes trace the cause of the attacks to the government facility and their extremely huge particle accelerator experiments, but they have a hard time convincing the powers-that-be of their concerns. That all changes when the canines at a local dog show break their leashes and attack their masters, but instead of listening to Harlan's advice of going home and locking their doors, some of the macho men form a hunting party, which leads to a mass dog attack where all those involved are savagely mauled to death. The dogs take over the town, attacking and slaughtering everyone they come in contact with. The dogs then turn their attention to the college campus, trapping all the students and faculty at the campus library, which leads to the deaths of nearly every person trapped there. Harlan and his girlfriend, Caroline (Sandra McCabe), flee the town and see nothing but death in their wake (including Michael's chewed-up body). The closing shot shows that's it's not just Fido that is now infected (Meow!).  DOGS (also known as SLAUGHTER) plays like a TV movie with lots of blood and foul language. Director Burt Brinckerhoff is better known for directing numerous TV movies (BRAVE NEW WORLD - 1980) and episodes of TV series throughout the 70's, 80's & 90's, so it should come as no surprise that this has the look and feel of a 70's Movie of the Week (As far as I can discern, Brinckerhoff has only one other non-TV credit in his extensive career, 1978's ACAPULCO GOLD). Like the similarly themed THE PACK, domesticated dogs turn nasty, and in order to pull it off on-screen, you have to make normally harmless-looking dogs seem deadly. While it may be easy to make Dobermans, German Shepherds and other larger canines look threatening, the trick is to make poodles, Jack terriers and other smaller dogs look the same way. That's where DOGS falls short. It's hard to take some of the attack scenes here seriously, especially when the little nippers are wagging their tails and look as happy as when they lick peanut butter off their trainer's private parts. Brinckerhoff doesn't hold back on the blood and shows the effects of the dog attacks in great detail (the attack on the campus library is very bloody), not to mention the scene of Michael accidentally shooting and killing a man when he is trying to shoot a dog, but most of the film is flat and bland. David McCallum sleepwalks through his role and Sandra McCabe is extremely bad in her debut film performance (She is one of the worst screamers in film history and had a very short acting career). I did like how excellent, unsung character actor George Wyner, who usually has small roles on TV and in films, is given the chance to shine here in one of his biggest film roles. He's the best thing about this film. Future DALLAS [1978 - 1991] star Linda Gray has a small role as cocktease Miss Engle, who is attacked by dogs while taking a shower. She also supplies the film's only brief shot of nudity. Other 70's animals attack films include DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977), THE BEASTS ARE ON THE STREETS (1978), MANEATERS ARE LOOSE (1978) and NIGHTWING (1979). Also starring Eric Server, Sterling Swanson, Holly Harris, Lance Hool, Barry Greenberg, Dean Santoro, Cathy Austin and Jim Stathis. The version on VHS from Genesis Home Video (under the title SLAUGHTER) is to be avoided at all costs. It's muddy and unwatchable. The budget fullscreen DVD release from Trinity Home Entertainment is a much better, if not perfect, choice. Even better is the DVD offered by Scorpion Entertainment in it original aspect ratio. It's really the only way to watch this film now and contains extras like interviews with the cast and crew and extensive liner notes by author Lee Gambin. Rated R.

DOGS OF HELL (1982) - This is regional producer/star Earl Owensby's stab at the 3-D revival craze of the early 80's and, since it's his most violent and bloody film, it's also one of his best (in the realm of low-budget moviemaking, that's still not saying much). The government uses a commercial big rig to transport a pack of genetically altered rottweilers (bred to be the military's newest weapon) to a military laboratory in Fort Bragg. The truck crashes not too far from the summer resort town of Lake Lure in North Carolina, spilling it's cargo, setting the killer canines free to roam the countryside. The dogs attack and kill a group of models and a photographer camped out on a photo shoot. Lake Lure's sheriff, Hank Willis (Owensby), biggest problems used to be breaking up fights at the local bar's female mud wrestling contests or fining people for fishing without a license, but when local residents start turning up savagely torn to pieces, Sheriff Willis at first thinks he's dealing with a rogue cougar or a "knife-weilding psycho with sharp teeth" (um, what?). Compounding his problems are the government, who are being led on a wild goose chase by the head scientist in charge of the project, Dr. Fletcher (Bill Gribble), who wants to save his dogs and Sheriff Willis' rebellous son Ben (Mike Craig), who has been ignoring his father's commands as of late. Dr. Fletcher comes to town and offers his assistance to the sheriff, saying he never intended the dogs to be used as weapons. He has a device that makes the dogs docile and wants to capture the dogs alive, even if it means a few innocent people die in the process. Sheriff Willis forms a hunting party and head to a religious retreat that the local reverend is holding in the woods. They are able to kill one of the dogs, but not before they sink their teeth into a few people. When the dogs finally reach town and kill one of Sheriff Willis' closest friends (he responds by shooting the jaw off of one dog with a revolver that would make Dirty Harry proud), he gathers all the locals and tourists in the hunting lodge for a last stand against the dogs. He must also contend with the dastardly Dr. Fletcher, a raging fire in the lodge and his son, who is trapped in the attic with other people and the dogs close behind.  Owensby proves once again that he's a better producer than an actor. When he opens his mouth, the words don't matter, because his delivery is always the same: A monotone reading so wooden, you'll swear cedar chips fall out of his mouth every time he opens it. Owensby, who prided himself in making wholesome family films, definitely didn't follow that rule here, as the blood flows rather freely and the gore is graphic (but quick). People are torn apart, there's gaping wounds that spurt blood and when the dogs are shot, they don't just bleed, they explode. Many of the 3-D effects are incidental rather than integral to the plot (except in the finale) and consist of a pointer and darts thrust or thrown directly at the camera, some forced perspective shots and people and dogs crashing through windows. The dog attacks are handled pretty well, as the rottweilers actually look threatening and the aftermath is pretty gruesome. Owensby, who got his start with CHALLENGE (1973) and appeared in nearly all his productions, fancies himself a low-budget John Wayne and even quotes one of the Duke's most famous lines when he decks a drunk at the mud wrestling match. Director Worth Keeter worked steadily on many of Owensby's films, including directing him in the only other Owensby horror film, WOLFMAN (1979).  Even though very few of Owensby's films ever played theatrically above the Bible Belt, they were popular enough to make Owensby millions (estimates say he made about $70 million!) and home video opened up a whole new fan base for him. DOGS OF HELL (a.k.a. ROTTWEILER) is one of his best, although I'm still stymied why one of the characters says, "Whitefish and golf don't mix." Also starring Robert Bloodworth, Kathy Hasty, Ed Lilliard, Donna O'Neal, Ashley Blythe and Brownlee Davis. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Also available on budget VHS from Video Treasures. Rated R.

DOLLY DEAREST (1991) - Eliot Read (Sam Bottoms) moves his family from Los Angeles to Mexico to start production on a line of dolls he hopes will make him rich (NAFTA raises its ugly head again). His assembly plant is located next to a Mayan escavation site where a week before a man was killed opening a tomb, unleashing an evil spirit. That spirit occupies the body of Dolly, a life-like doll that Eliot gives to his daughter Jessica (Candy Hutson) when they tour the plant. Soon Jessica begin to act strange. She has an aversion to crucifixes and religious people, talks back to her mother Marilyn (Denise Crosby) and spends a lot of time conversing with Dolly in the backyard dollhouse. Jessica's suspicious brother Jimmy (Chris Demetral) teams up with an archaeologist (Rip Torn) to explore the opened tomb. They discover that it is the tomb of the Devil Child, leader of a group of ancient Satan worshippers known as the Sanzia. Marilyn also joins forces with the archaeologist when she realizes that her daughter is becoming possessed by the Sanzia (Jessica threatens to kill her mother if she takes Dolly away from her). Satan plans on making Jessica the new Devil Child. It's a race against time as Marilyn and Jimmy try to separate Jessica from Dolly, while Eliot has to contend with a factory full of Dollys come to life. The comparisons between this film and CHILD'S PLAY (1988) are so obvious that nothing else needs to be said on the matter. The flick's main distinction is that it has a woman director (Maria Lease), a rare commodity in the horror film business (Mary Lambert's PET SEMATARY [1989; also starring Denise Crosby], Marina Sargento's MIRROR, MIRROR [1990] and Hope Perello's HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS [1991] are other examples). DOLLY DEAREST was produced by Daniel Cady, who also produced 1972's GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE and GARDEN OF THE DEAD. Lee Frost (PRIVATE OBSESSION - 1995) was the production supervisor. While too derivitive to be original, DOLLY DEAREST is nonetheless worth a look if nothing better can be found of the shelves. Rip Torn is one of the few actors that can appear in video fodder like this and still remain respectable enough to appear in A-list films. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Rated R.

DON'T PANIC (1987) - Michael Smith (Jon Michael Bischof, who also wrote and sings the title tune) and his alcoholic mother (Helen Rojo) have moved to Mexico following a divorce. During the conclusion of his 17th birthday party, after some hesitation on Michael's part, he and his friends fool around with an ouija board, but nothing happens. Mom chases the kids out of the house and we then see the ouija board's planchette move by itself, eventually flying through the air. Thanks to something that happened in his past that only he and friend Tony (Juan Ignacio Aranda) know about, Michael believes in the Devil, and has even given him a nickname: "Virgil". It's not long before Michael begins having terrible nightmares of bloody hands bursting through his bedroom ceiling and knives being thrusted into the bodies of his friends and he wakes up with terrible headaches. But are these nightmares or prophecies of things to come? Michael falls in love with beautiful schoolmate Alex (Gabriela Hassel) and pops her cherry in his bedroom. He gives her a single red rose and says to her, "As long as there is love between you and I, this rose will never wither." (Wow. If I were in high school and popped a girl's cherry in my bedroom, that would be the last thing on my mind! Besides, what teenage boy talks like that anyway?). Michael has a vision (whenever he gets a vision, the pupils of his eyes turn blood red) of his friend Debbie (Cecilia Tijerini) being viciously slashed to death in her bedroom (the knife ends up buried in the top of her head). Michael begins popping Tylenol like they were candy and takes to wearing sunglasses all the time, even when he is indoors. A head pokes through his TV set and tells him that his friend Cristy (Melinda McCallum) will die if he doesn't take her out of town by midnight. This puts a strain on his budding relationship with Alex and Mom makes him go to a doctor for a checkup, who then tells Mom that David needs to see a psychiatrist and pronto! When Cristy is killed with the same strange knife as Debbie, Michael tells his Mom that he thinks best friend Tony is possessed by Virgil and is responsible for the killings. Rather than believe him, sauced-up Mom has the doctor sedate him and when his father, Fred (Eduardo Noriega), shows up, things take a turn for the worse. While Mom and Dad are downstairs arguing, Cristy's brother, John (Roberto Palazuelos), kidnaps Michael thinking he is responsible for his sister's death. Michael is able to convince John otherwise and they go off in search of the possessed Tony. The only way to defeat Tony/Virgil is to kill him with the same knife he has been using to kill everyone else. Personally, I wanted to use the knife on all those responsible for making me sit through this 87 minute abortion.  This horror flick, directed by Ruben Galindo Jr. after his CEMETERY OF TERROR (1984; footage of this film appears briefly on a TV screen here) and before his GRAVE ROBBERS (1989), suffers because of the terrible acting of lead Jon Michael Bischof (although he's not the only offender), some rather convenient (and unbelievable) plot contrivances and because it was filmed in English rather than it's native Spanish. It's apparent that co-scripter Galindo Jr. (working with Bruce Glenn) didn't have a handle on the English language as most of the dialogue is stilted and even though it's plain to see that nearly everyone here is speaking English, they are all obviously overdubbed. DON'T PANIC is very bloody in spots, but most of the running time is spent on endless scenes of Michael trying to convince everyone else that he is not crazy. The film plunges into the depths of unbelievability when Michael and John rescue drunk friend Robert (Raul Arauza Jr.) from Virgil's wrath, only to leave him alone in a car while Michael goes back to the apartment to retrieve Robert's pants (!) and a shotgun-toting John goes to the grocery store to pick up a couple of packs of smokes (!!). Robert then gets his throat graphically sliced open by a possessed Tony and all I wanted to do was kick scripters Galindo Jr. and Glenn in their nuts for making it so goddamned obvious. Don't get me started on the scene where Michael bursts into Alex's house and interrupts a dinner party being thrown by Alex's rich father. Rather than tossing him out on his ass, Alex's father offers him a glass of wine (I guess there's no minimum age requirement for drinking alcohol in Mexico). Alex then pulls out a gun and begins shooting-up the place, grabs Alex by the arm and runs out of the house. What the flying fuck?!? This is a dreadful excuse for a horror film with nothing but a few bloody scenes (mostly knife violence), lots of inane dialogue and piss-poor acting. Watching this film is the equivalent of having bamboo chutes shoved under your fingernails. Also starring George Luke, Edna Bolkan, Evangelina Elizondo, Mario Ivan Martinez and Lucho Gatica. Originally released on VHS by Mogul Communications, Inc. in one of their colorful oversized clamshell boxes. Available on DVD by Deimos Entertainment as part of their CRYPT OF TERROR series as a double feature with Galindo Jr.'s DEMON RAT (1992). Not Rated.

DON'T WAKE THE DEAD (2008) - German director Andreas Schnaas has a one-track mind and is quickly becoming a one-trick pony. All he seems to care about is gore, gore, gore, letting the story take a back seat. While I have nothing against gore (believe me, it has its place in horror films and I'll be the first to admit it!), it sure would be nice if Schnaas took some time to wrap all that bloodshed around a decent plot. DON'T WAKE THE DEAD opens with voiceover narration telling us that a long time ago, a group of Knights Templar were killed at a castle and every 66 years, they rise from their graves and go on a bloody murder spree for one night. The only two things that can stop them are the morning sun and the Sword of Mecca, the weapon originally used to kill them all. We then switch to modern day, as a bus load of buxom women are on their way to that very same castle to help their friend Lana (Sonja Kerskes) renovate the place, where a bad German thrash band called Gang Loco (they have their own topless woman dancing on stage while they all play their one annoying chord) is the featured musical guest. Ignoring a warning from a mortorcycle-riding Vincent (Ralph Fellows) to turn the bus around, the girls make it to the castle, where they are greeted by Herr Janowitz (Wolfgang Cloris Wobeto), a gaunt, pasty-faced butler (Flashbacks show that he was involved with the Nazis at this castle during the 1940's and they battled the revived Knights Templar.). The girls ignore Herr Janowitz (one of them calls him "freakshow") and hook-up with Lana, who assigns the girls bedrooms that come complete with peepholes. While Vincent performs some blood ritual on the castle grounds (complete with CGI spirits), the girls decide to explore the castle, not knowing that K.C. (Maren Lisner), one of their own, has slipped in the bathroom and bashed her head against the edge of the bathtub. The girls stupidly split-up to check out the castle  (horror film stereotype 101), with Herr Janowitz showing a couple of the girls the castle's graveyard. As the film progresses, we learn that Vincent's grandfather stopped the last Knights Templar attack (during the castle's Nazi reign) and has passed down the Sword of Mecca to him, for tonight is the night of the Templar's rising and no one is safe. The rest of the film is nothing more than a series of extreme gore set-pieces, as the Knights Templar begin slaughtering everyone in sight, beginning with the members of Gang Loco (I'm an athiest, but this is one time I thanked God) and then moving on to the girls, who manage to do the stupidest things as possible at the most inopportune times (horror film stereotype 102). Can Vincent manage to save any of them before the Templars and some revived Nazi zombies (packing still-working machine guns!) kill them all before calling it a night?  My, oh, my. Where do I begin describing how truly awful this film really is? Let's begin with the dialogue. While everyone speaks English here, it's quite apparent that it is their second (or third) language because their line readings are simply atrocious. Director/producer Andreas Schnaas (VIOLENT SHIT - 1989; GOBLET OF GORE - 1996; ZOMBIE DOOM - 1999; NIKOS THE IMPALER - 2003) and screenwriters Klaus Dzuck & Ted Geoghegan haven't got a clue how to use the English language to their advantage, especially the scene where Beth (Fiana de Guzman) puts the moves on Vincent, just after he tells her that he's a monk who took a vow of chastity. Forget that all this is happening while everyone around them is being sliced to pieces, it's just something that would never happen in the real world. And therein lies this film's major problem: While everyone is being killed in the most gruesome of fashions (sword impalement to the vagina; manual disembowelments; beheadings; head crushed in a van door; body sliced vertically in half; knife in head; etc; all the effects are rather well-done), the girls fight among themselves about who is going to be the first to deflower Vincent. Un-fucking-believable. Since most of the girls are uglier than sin (Hey, I'm German, so I can make that statement, especially the bald-headed Cristiane Malia, who plays Shannon), the plentiful nude scenes aren't even eye candy (they are more like eye poison), and just when you think it couldn't get any worse, the zombified members of Gang Loco take center stage and put on a concert (this is one of the reasons why I am still an athiest)! Oh, my aching eyes and ears! Schnaas plays much of the film as broad comedy (Vincent utilizes a flying guillotine on some of his victims; a tribute to the Hong Kong martial arts flick MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE - 1975), but the film falls flatter than a half-cooked wienerschnitzel. To add insult to injury, Schnaas closes the film with a music video by...Gang Loco, who apparently only have one song on their playlist (at least in this film). For better films about the Knights Templar check out director Amando de Ossorio's TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1972) and its three sequels. Also starring Carolin Schmidt, Sarah Plochl, Amy Lee, Julia Casper and Courtney Peltzer. I don't believe this film ever received a legitimate home video release in the U.S., but it can be easily obtained from German Amazon on the Marketing-Film label. Not Rated.

DOOM ASYLUM (1987) - A palimony lawyer is horribly scarred in a car wreck, killing his beloved Judy (Patty Mullen), who was also his client. He wakes up during his autopsy(!), killing the medical examiner and his assistant after learning of Judy's death. Ten years later, a carload of obnoxious teens decide to spend the night in an abandoned insane asylum that just happens to be the residence of the demented lawyer. To heap on even more coincidence, one of the teens just happens to be the daughter of the lawyer's late, lamented love Judy (played by Mullen again). The lawyer (whose scarred makeup makes him look like Christopher Lee in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN - 1957) then dispatches the teens and a trio of female punk rockers, who are using the asylum as a rehearsal hall, in various bloody ways (bone saw, ice tongs, acid bath), saving Judy's daughter to be his new (old) love. She rebuffs his advances, stabbing him in the face with the handle of her mother's hand mirror. Which proves that old adage: The only good lawyer is a dead lawyer. This horror/comedy is amateurishly acted (which explains why most of the jokes fall flat) and sloppily edited. The effects are bloody but were obviously trimmed to receive an R-rating. The best parts of this film are the frequent film clips of forgotten actor Tod Slaughter, showcasing him in the rarely-seen DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (1936), MURDER IN THE RED BARN (1936), FACE AT THE WINDOW (1937), HORROR MANIACS (1948) and others. This was an unexpected pleasure in an otherwise dismal offering. Former Playboy centerfold Patty Mullen later went on to star as the title creation in the far superior horror/comedy FRANKENHOOKER (1990). Co-star Ruth Collins also appeared in the equally inept films GALACTIC GIGOLO (1987) and CEMETERY HIGH (1989). Director Richard Friedman showed much promise with his first film DEATHMASK (1983), a moody, atmospheric chiller which had medical examiner Farley Granger trying to solve the identity of a murdered four year-old boy. Friedman later went on to direct SCARED STIFF (1987) and PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE (1988), both mediocre, though not quite as bad as DOOM ASYLUM. Also starring Kristin Davis, William Hay, Kenny L. Price, Harrison White and Michael Rogan. An Academy Entertainment Home Video Release. Available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.

THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1981) - During Christmas vacation, five college students volunteer to close down the aging Morgan Meadows Hall, a 75 year-old seven story dormitory that is going to be torn down and turned into an apartment complex. The close-knit group have two weeks to clear out the building of all it's furniture and other objects, but what they don't count on is that some unknown psycho is also in the building and he's none too happy that they're there. The psycho first kills Debbie (Daphne Zuniga; THE INITIATION - 1983) and her parents. Dad gets a nail-embedded baseball bat to the skull, Mom gets a wire garrotte necklace and Debbie gets run over by a car. Joanne Murray (Laura Lapinski), who is in charge of the clean-up, must contend with her groups constant pranking on each other, as well as deal with unwelcome illegal resident John Hemmit (Woody Roll), strange horny furniture buyer Bobby Lee Tremble (Dennis Ely) and a handyman (Jake Jones) whose power tools end up missing. Could any of these people be the sneaker-wearing psycho? When the group try to locate John and run him off (he's always scaring the girls by peering into the windows at night), they are unable to find him. The handyman is the next to die, thanks to a power drill to the back to his head. As the days wear on, it becomes apparent that the students have issues of their own. One disappears for hours on end, one has anger problems and Joanne is uncertain of her future with her boyfriend Tim (Robert Frederick). When the phone lines go dead and the electricity is shut off, the killing begins to intensify. Brian (David Snow) is attacked with a machete. Patti (Pamela Holland) is put in a vat of boiling water and cooked alive. John attacks Joanne and Craig (Stephen Sachs), but they both get away and Joanne finds Brian dismembered body. While Joanne thinks John is the killer (she clobbers him over the head with a baseball bat), she soon finds out that the killer is much more familar, too familar for Joanne's good, as he shows her the results of all his murderous handiwork that he has hidden in a tunnel under the dormitory.  This is the first film for directors/screenwriters Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow (THE POWER - 1983; THE KINDRED - 1986) and it's not bad for a first effort, even if it's your standard "killer on the loose in a building full of teens" plot. Some of the kills are pretty inventive (effects courtesy of Matthew Mungle), although some of the gorier deaths look to be trimmed to receive an R rating. There's still plenty of blood to keep gorehounds happy and the acting doesn't suck, which is a big plus for a film like this. Woody Roll resembles a slightly demented Paul Le Mat and he's pretty scary for someone who isn't the killer. The killer's motivation is pretty weak (He's in love with Jennifer, but she's not in love with him, so he murders anyone who even talks to her. That's taking devotion a little too far.), but the standoff between him, Bobby Lee and the police is ingenious and very well executed (literally!). The ending is also very nasty without being graphic. It's not a happy ending, by the way. This is a pretty enjoyable way to spend 85 minutes if you don't set your sights too high. Also known as PRANKS and DEATH DORM. Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow would end their partnership in the early 90's. Carpenter would go on to direct the dreadful SOUL SURVIVORS (2001) and Obrow would make SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT (1991) and THEY ARE AMONG US (2004), George "Buck" Flower's final film. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Synapse Films. Rated R.

DREAMANIAC (1986) - This is director David DeCoteau's first legitimate film (he directed a bunch of gay porn videos before this using various pseudonyms) and it's one of those "Original Made-For-Video" feature films that Wizard Video ("Too Gory For The Silver Screen" was their motto) was so fond of releasing in the early to mid-80's. A sorority party at a private house turns deadly when a supernatural succubus named Lily (Sylvia Summers) begins slaughtering the guys and gals in bloody ways. This is not very good, but at least it's short and contains plenty of nudity. The blood also flows freely but this is the type of film every director makes to break into the field. Horror movies are cheap to film and every single dollar (at least 10) is up on the screen. The story is pedestrian, the acting ranges from sub-par to average and the gore is basically stab or drill someone and squirt them with buckets of blood. There's also a lame attempt at a "surprise" ending. DeCoteau is still making plenty of films today, most of them bad (he usually uses the pseudonyms "Ellen Cabot", "Victoria Sloane" or "Julian Breen" on those films), but he has turned out his fair share of good films also (SKELETONS - 1996; FINAL STAB - 2001), although openly gay DeCoteau has put a little too much homoeroticism in his newer films for my tastes. DREAMANIAC was just a stepping stone in director David DeCoteau's more than 50 film resume (so far), many for Charles Band's now-defunct Full Moon Productions. DeCoteau now heads a company called Rapid Heart Pictures, Ltd. I've seen a lot worse first films but I also have seen a lot better. Also starring Thomas Bern, Kim McKamy, Brad Laughlin, Matthew Phelps and Bob Pelham. A Wizard Video VHS Release. Available on DVD as part of Full Moon's "Grindhouse Collection" (which basically means it has not been remastered and was probably taken from 1" tape masters). Not Rated.

DREAM DEMON (1988) - Future bride Diana (Jemma Redgrave) has a nightmare where she jilts her blueblood fiancé, Oliver (Mark Greenstreet), at the altar. He then slaps her in the face and she retaliates by slapping him back, only she slaps him so hard, she decapitates him and his neck stump splatters blood all over her white wedding dress, while a pleased swarm of paparazzi snap away with their cameras. Diana and Oliver are England's newest celebrity couple, so when she tells Oliver about her nightmare, he tells her it was probably caused by all the pressure she is under. Her dreams get more bizarre (bugs coming out of dolls' eyes; showing up at a high society tea party dressed like a hooker), but they all end the same way: Oliver either slaps her, rapes her, or both. Diana is verbally assaulted by two tabloid reporters, Peck (Timothy Spall; SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET - 2007) and Paul (Jimmy Nail; HOWLING II - 1985), who trap her outside her new home with questions like, "Are you a virgin?" and "How big is Oliver's sausage?"  Diana is saved by American Jenny Hoffman (Kathleen Wilhoite; MURPHY'S LAW - 1986; WITCHBOARD - 1986), who kicks Peck in his sausage and both women escape into Diana's home. Jenny tells Diana that she is searching for her missing parents and her research has led her to Diana's new home. Diana knows nothing about the house, except her rich father just recently bought it for her and Oliver as a wedding present and she has only been living in it for two weeks, which correlates to when her nightmares began. Diana has another awful nightmare where Peck chases her down into the basement and he falls into a bottomless pit of fire. When Diana wakes up and finds her engagement ring missing (she lost it in her nightmare), she and Jenny head to the basement, only to find Paul down there looking for Peck, who has gone missing. Diana begins to believe that her nightmares are real, so Jenny stays with her on a permanent basis (or at least until Oliver comes back from Naval maneuvers), but it doesn't stop her nightmares. When Diana confides to Jenny that she is indeed a virgin, the pieces start to fall in place. What is the secret this house hides and what is Jenny's connection to it? When Jenny is sucked into Diana's nightmares, they must both solve the mystery before they can return to the living world and escape the clutches of Peck and Paul, who have both become demons in dreamland. And is Oliver only marrying Diana because he's flat broke?  This British variant of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), directed by Harley Cokliss (WARLORDS OF THE 21ST CENTURY - 1982; BLACK MOON RISING - 1986; MALONE - 1987), has a few effective scenes and outbursts of graphic gore (the opening minutes are very atmospheric and ends with a real shocking jolt), but most of the time the film is slow-moving and rather uninvolving. The screenplay, by Cokliss and Christopher Wicking (CRY OF THE BANSHEE - 1970; MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE - 1971; DEMONS OF THE MIND - 1972), is nothing but rehashed ideas already displayed in the ELM STREET series, where Diana's dreams cause death and destruction in the real world. Both Diana and Jenny are then chased around by demons Peck and Paul, where wisecracks are made and gross makeup effects are displayed (such as when Diana rips-off Peck's ear and later puts her fist through his head). The whole dream imagery thing grows tiresome after a while, because DREAM DEMON degenerates into dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams until we get to a point where we just feel like screaming "Enough already!" There is also a mystery involving a little blonde-haired girl and her abusive father that happened in the house years earlier, but you would have to be a complete moron not to figure out who the little girl really is (Who dyes her hair black in this film?). This is a minor British horror film that holds little interest unless you're into ELM STREET clones. Also starring Susan Fleetwood, Annabelle Lanyon, Nickolas Grace and Patrick O'Connell. A Warner Home Video VHS Release. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

DREAM NO EVIL (1970) - All little orphan Grace MacDonald wants to do is find her real father. Now an adult, Grace (Brooke Mills) is still looking for her father, traveling from town to town with the sideshow church that adopted her as a child. Grace is a high fall artist who draws people to the church with her 30 foot dives, while her fiance's brother, Jesse (Michael Pataki), preaches the word of God and performs faith healings. Grace is also a virgin, much to the consternation of her fiance, Patrick (Paul Prokop, who says,"I'm not going to walk away, half bent over from that pain, anymore!), who is studying to be a doctor. Soon Grace starts to slip into an "imaginary world" (as the film's narrator tells us). While searching for her father in a seedy hotel she meets a pimp/mortician (Marc Lawrence, who has a stable of the ugliest whores this side of Afghanistan!) who tells her that he knew her father (Edmond O'Brien) and that he died yesterday. He takes Grace to see the body and her mind snaps. She thinks that O'Brien is still alive and she begins murdering people who get in her way (starting with Lawrence, who has his back ripped open with a scapel), acts which she attributes were done by her father. Grace kills Jesse with a metal wedge after "Daddy" catches them making love in a barn. (I guess insanity leads to promiscuity.) After planting a sickle into a nosey sheriff's chest, she goes after Patrick with an axe, because he is leaving her for a female med student who will give him some nookie. Patrick manages to sedate Grace and police psychiatrist Arthur Franz (ATOMIC SUBMARINE - 1959) shows up at the end to explain everything we have just viewed.  While low on gore, nudity and production values, this is a pretty good example of one person's descent into obsession and insanity. Brooke Mills (THE BIG DOLL HOUSE - 1971, THE STUDENT TEACHERS - 1973) gives a good performance as Grace. She is able to rise above some of the dicier material. Edmond O'Brien (D.O.A. - 1949, FANTASTIC VOYAGE - 1966) hammily overacts as Grace's domineering and violent father. More on co-star Michael Pataki (a favorite of mine) in a future issue of CritCon. Producer Daniel Cady also produced DOLLY DEAREST (1991). Director John Hayes (who died in 2000) had been turning out small exploitation films for years. Some are good, such as GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) and some are downright bad, such as GARDEN OF THE DEAD (1972) and END OF THE WORLD (1977). DREAM NO EVIL (a.k.a. NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO DIE) falls into the former category. Originally released on VHS by Active Home Video, with a budget VHS release a few years later by Star Classics Home Video. Not Rated.

DRIVE THRU (2006) - Proof positive that Lionsgate Entertainment will release anything on DVD as long as it contains recognizable stars. From the opening moments, where a car-full of trash-talking wiggas and their skank girlfriends stop at the drive thru at Hella Burger (which looks closed, but these idiots don't seem to notice), only to be sliced and diced, deep-fried and trash talked by the burger joint's mascot, Horny The Clown (Van De La Plante), to the stupid open-ended finale that promises a sequel (which thankfully never happened), this film reeks worse than a uncooked burger left in the afternoon sun (And really, what parents would take their kids to a franchise whose mascot's name is Horny The Clown?). I can't think of a recent DTV horror film that I hated more than this; it's the kind of horror flick that gives intelligent horror film fans a swift kick to the groin, as if to say, "Fuck you for being a horror film fan!" Not a single cliche is missed; from the virginal, about-to-turn-18 rock singer named Mackenzie (Leighton Meester; GOSSIP GIRL - 2007-2012); her horny, ready-for-sex boyfriend Fisher (Nicholas D'Agosto); an ouija board session that goes very, very wrong; a killer clown that makes a lame wiseass cracks everytime he kills someone; stupid teens (who all seem to have rich parents) that put at least one "fuck" or "bitch" in every line of dialogue they speak and who do the most asinine things at the most inopportune times so they can be fodder for Horny's specially-made cleaver; two police detectives, Chase (Lola Glaudini; who was on the TV series CRIMINAL MINDS from 2005 - 2006) and Crockers (Larry Joe Campbell; ACCORDING TO JIM - 2001-2009), who couldn't detect a turd in a toilet bowl; a head-banging thrash metal soundtrack that plays every time Horny chases his prey; and pitiful excuses for jokes in a supposedly laugh-filled screenplay (A lot is made about detectives Chase & Crocker's last names; "Cheese & Crackers", get it? Ugh!). The simple story (believe me, they don't come any simpler) details Mackenzie trying to get anyone to believe that she somehow has a psychic link to Horny and his victims. She gets warnings in advance (on the ouija board, her camera and even an Etch-A-Sketch!) on who the next victim will be, but her parents, Marcia (Melora Hardin; who appeared on the TV series THE OFFICE from 2005 - 2011) and Bill (Paul Ganus), and the detectives refuse to believe her. It's obvious that her parents are withholding "The Secret" from her, especially about her rapidly-approaching 18th birthday, but the obvious question remains why Horny is killing the kids of other parents who all graduated tegether years earlier. While Mackenzie tries to avoid Horny's cleaver with Fisher's help, she also tries to figure out who is dressing as Horny and killing her friends. Don't hink too hard Mackenzie, otherwise you'll become retarded. The audience (including those with an IQ that matches their age, have figured out his identity long before the film ended).  It's hard to believe that it took the joint effort of two people to direct and write this abomination (Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Too many cooks spoil the stew and how many films can you count on one hand that were directed by more than one person that can be considered good? Maybe THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT - 1999, but I'm not even a fan of that film!), but the fact is Shane Kuhn and Brendon Cowles should never be trusted with a computer or a camera ever again. While there are a few bloody practical gore effects (Cleaver in the head [a very easy effect to pull off], decapitation at the jawline), there are also some crappy CGI effects, none so bad as a girl getting her head microwaved until it explodes; a teen getting cleaved in half by Horny's cleaver or Mackenzie spewing CGI flames into Horny's face. While there are a few nice cameo appearances by Sean Whalen (LAID TO REST - 2009) as a dentally-challenged school janitor; documentary director Morgan Spurlock SUPER SIZE ME - 2004) as the much put-upon manager of a Hella Burger joint; and Clyde Kusatsu (THE CHALLENGE - 1982) as a TV reporter, the rest of the cast (consisting mainly of TV actors) have absolutely nothing to work with here (Typical dialogue: "Your balls are showing!"), nor do they deserve it. If the idea of a fast food joint naming their mascot "Horny" bothers you, imagine an entire film full of such idiotic details (Nevermind that the Hella Burger commercials that are shown on TV throughout the film would never get passed by the FCC!). Ground this film up like some bad meat and feed it to the pigs. Also starring Penn Badgley (Meester's GOSSIP GIRL co-star), John Gilbert, Richard Bella, Shedrack Anderson, Maliabeth Johnson, Tyler King, Robert Curtis Brown and Sita Young. Gordon Clapp (N.Y.P.D. BLUE - 1993-2005) supplied the voice of Horny The Clown and director Michael Feifer (THE GRAVEYARD - 2006; B.T.K. - 2007) was the Line Producer here. DRIVE THRU is not a shining moment for either of them. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

DYING BREED (2008) - Four friends, Jack (Nathan Phillips; SNAKES ON A PLANE - 2006), Matt (Leigh Whannell; SAW - 2004), Nina (Mirrah Foulkes; ANIMAL KINGDOM - 2010) and Rebecca (Melanie Vallejo), travel to the island of Tasmania, Australia to search and photograph the thought-to-be-extinct Tasmanian Tiger. Nina has a secondary reason for going: Her sister "fell off the radar" eight years ago while in the same area and Nina would like to discover the truth about her drowning death, as the last thing she sent Nina before she died was a photo showing a paw print of a Tasmanian Tiger. The Tasmanian locals don't take too kindly to the foursome's sudden appearance (and the fact that troublemaker Jack punctures the tire of a local's car for no apparent reason at all), especially when they announce they are looking for a tiger. It could be because most of the locals are descendants of prisoners who were sent to the island when it was a penal colony from 1788 to 1868; it's most famous prisoner being cannibal Alexander "The Pieman" Pierce (Peter Docker), who escaped from the prison into the woods and was never heard from again (A flashback in the beginning of the film shows Pierce taking a bite out of a prison guard's neck and tossing the bit of bloody flesh to a hungry Tasmanian Tiger.). After a memorable night in town, where someone keys Jack's new truck and Jack beats up a local for spying on him and Rebecca making love, the foursome heads to the area in the photo that Nina has, first by boat and then on foot. It's apparent that they are not alone in the woods, but the question soon becomes: Do the foursome have any right to be in these woods, especially the jackass Jack, who brings a crossbow on what is supposed to be a photographic hunt? Jack really is a first-degree prick, as he uses the crossbow to kill a helpless rabbit and then skins it in front of Nina, who is an animal rights activist. Rebecca is the first to die when some grunting feral man bites off her fingers, snaps her neck and then chews off her face. The appearance of a small girl in the woods (who looks at a photo of Nina's sister and says "Mama!"), leads to Nina and Matt joining two local hunters to search for Rebecca and Jack (who disappeared while looking for Rebecca). When Jack is found and they discover the shack owned by twin brothers Harvey and Rowan (both portrayed by Bille Brown), Harvey being the "normal" one and Rowan the deformed one (they are the incestual descendants of Alexander Pierce), our trio finds out what generations of inbreeding hath wrought: Two cannibal brothers that raped Nina's sister eight years earlier, resulting in a baby girl. Is history about to repeat itself, only this time with Nina as the unwilling sperm receptacle?  This Australian production, the feature debut of director Jody Dwyer (who co-wrote the screenplay with producers Michael Boughen and Rod Morris), is nothing more than an updating of Jeff Lieberman's JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981) with an added subplot about the search for a Tasmanian Tiger. Although it take a while for the film to find its pulse (it crams way too many different storylines in the first hour, including the search for the tiger, Nina's nightmares about her sister, the townies' incestuous secrets and Jack's generally assholiness), once the foursome actually get in the woods, the flick starts delivering the gruesome goods, including cannibalism (the sight of Rebecca's body hanging in Harvey/Rowan's backyard is an image you won't soon forget); a crossbow bolt shot through Harvey's cheek and pinning him to a tree; Jack stepping on a bear trap and then falling head-first onto another one; a hunter getting his head cleaved in two by a machete; a pickaxe through Rowan's heart and other gory mayhem. If I have one big problem with DYING BREED, it's that it drops the Tasmanian Tiger hunt to focus on the human hunt and then returns to the tiger in a quick, two second shot that closes the film. I would have liked to have seen more of the tiger and a lot less of Jack's annoying habits. Also starring Ken Radley, Elaine Hudson, Sheridan Harvey and Boris Brkic. Originally part of the After Dark Horrorfest III, which received a limited theatrical release in January 2009. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

EDGE OF THE AXE (1987) - Someone is swinging a mean axe in Paddock, Texas, dispatching its denizens and spreading fear throughout the town. What's the connection between the butchering of an ambulance driver, a waitress, a prostitute and the wife of a pig farmer? I'll make it real simple for you. All of the above victims used to work at a psychiatric hospital and one of the townspeople used to be a patient there. The list of suspects is large. As a matter of fact, there's enough red herrings on hand to stock a large lake. It's up to you to guess which one it is. (Hint: It's Barton Faulks' girlfriend [Christina Marie Lane].) Besides the fairly graphic axe attacks (the blood flows rather freely as heads and fingers are lopped off and close-ups of the axe entering bodies are shown), this film has very little to offer in way of entertainment. The storyline is lethargic and dopey, the acting sub-par (this is a Spanish production and some of the actors are dubbed) and the direction is static. Director Joseph Braunstein is actually Jose Larraz, who directed the erotic (and far superior) VAMPYRES (1974) as well as DEVIATION (a.k.a. WHIRLPOOL - 1970) THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED (a.k.a. SCREAM AND DIE -1973), VIOLATION OF THE BITCH (1978), THE GOLDEN LADY (1979), STIGMA (1981), REST IN PIECES (1987 - filmed back to back with EDGE with many of the same stars) and SAVAGE LUST (1989). Patty Shepard and Jack Taylor, both veterans of Spanish horror cinema, have very little to do here besides being lambs for the slaughter. To sum it up, EDGE OF THE AXE lacks the edge needed to make it a film  of viewable quality. It's like watching grass grow. Also starring Page Moseley, Fred Holliday and Alicia Moro. A Forum Home Video Release. Unrated.

ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNKNOWN (1973) - Submitted for your approval...oops! Wrong anthology. While Rod Serling is the (offscreen) narrator of this low-budget supernatural anthology film, he had nothing to do with the script of any of these three tales and we are all worse off for it. The film opens with an on-screen crawl (narrated by someone other than Serling) that states that between the years of 1949 to 1970, a certain Dr. Jonathan Rankin (who never existed) documented 453 cases of the paranormal and discovered that the 453 people involved in those cases are buried in only 23 cemeteries. These cases have been dubbed the "Rankin Cluster Phenomena" and the stories that follow are taken from those case files (Yeah, right!). The first story is about a trio of friends playing pool who send a horny geek to the house of a girl of ill repute. Problem is, they send him to the wrong address and he ends up getting accidentally shot dead by the old woman who lives there. At the cemetery, the dead geek's mother puts a curse on the three friends and tells them every seven days one of them will die a horrible death. After one friend is killed when he is hit with a car, the second friend hops on a plane on the 14th day after the funeral and ends up sitting next to a priest. He tells the whole story to the priest, but the priest tells him it was just a coincidence and God will protect him. When the priest disembarks the plane at his stop, the plane crashes on takeoff, killing the second friend. When the priest (who now believes the story) tries to warn the third and final friend on the 21st day, he's too late. He went skydiving. The second story is about a young boy who loses his dog and discovers a mysterious hole in the middle of a field. Spooky sounds eminate from the hole, so some townspeople go to investigate and disagree with each other about what could be in the hole. The people lower the boy's father down the hole, he screams (and a photo of him falls off the wall at home, breaking in front of his wife) and when they pull him up, he's nothing but but a babbling insane idiot who is eventually committed to an asylum for the rest of his life. That's the (w)hole story. The third tale is about a Senator and his wife who stop at a bridge to give a girl a lift (All she says is, "Take me home!"), only to later discover that she is a ghost who died when her car went over the bridge many years earlier. It's an old urban legend told many times before (and much better than this). The finale recaps all three stories (again!) in painstaking detail, as the offscreen narrator (again, not Serling) tries to find a rational supernatural explanation for each story. He fails miserably and the viewer suffers in ways that would make a hooker blush.  The best way to simply describe this film is awful. Amateurish in nearly aspect, from the acting, the photography, the library music score and, especially, the direction by Harry Thomason, who also gave us SO SAD ABOUT GLORIA (1973 - a.k.a. VISIONS OF EVIL) and THE DAY IT CAME TO EARTH (1977), among others. While the second tale (about the hole in the ground) does have some creepy moments (it reminded me a little bit of THE PIT - 1981), the rest of the film is pretty rough going for the viewer. It's endlessly talky and padded out with scenes of people walking or running through fields, cars driving down roads and nature scenes. The third tale is especially superfluous, as it insists on giving us the complete backstory of the ghostly girl on the bridge. All that information (including an achingly-long love ballad that plays while scenes of the girl and her boyfriend frolic in a field) kills any supernatural interest the story holds. We all know how that story ends anyway. This segment never seems to end. The most painful part, though, is the finale, which condenses the previous 75 minutes and explains to us what we just saw for another 15 minutes (!), while the narrator prattles on-and-on, spouting supernatural mumbo-jumbo. It's rather obvious that this was tacked-on to further pad-out the film's running time to feature length. For Rod Serling completists only, although I believe that Harry Thomason must have had something to hold over Serling's head (Maybe some incriminating photos?) to get him to narrate a turd like this. Speaking of Thomason, he later became a successful TV producer with his wife Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (DESIGNING WOMEN [1986 - 1993] and EVENING SHADE [1990 - 1994]) and gained some notoriety with his involvement in the Whitewater Scandal with good friends Bill and Hillary Clinton. ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNKNOWN was filmed in Arkansas and stars many of the same people that would appear in the films of director S.F. Brownrigg (KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN - 1973; POOR WHITE TRASH PART II - 1974), including Gene Ross, Bill Thurman, Rosie Holotik and Michael Harvey. Also starring Bob Ginnaven (a regular Thomason player), Gary Brockette, Robert Holton and John Leslie. A United Home Video VHS Release. Also available on a double feature DVD (in widescreen) from Code Red, with Juan Piquer Simon's WHERE TIME BEGAN (1978). Rated PG.

ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND (1980) - Amiable Hong Kong horror comedy that's full of great martial arts fights as well as some gory supernatural shenanigans. Director Samo Hung (WHEELS ON MEALS - 1984; HEART OF DRAGON - 1985) stars as Bold Cheung, a poor fat slob who prides himself on his bravery, when in fact he's scared all the time (even when he sleeps, he dreams about two angry ghosts who chase him and take bites out of his flesh). One day, a friend of Cheung's (who has a nasty mole on the side of his nose that sprouts a huge hair!) challenges him to a game of "Peel Apple", where Cheung must peel an apple in front of a mirror without breaking the skin. If the skin isn't in one piece when he is done peeling, bad supernatural things will happen to him (Those crazy Chinese and their even crazier superstitions!). Cheung reluctantly agrees to the challenge and that night begins peeling an apple alone in front of a mirror at his friend's house, unaware that his friends have tricked-out the house in an elaborate practical joke in an attempt to get Cheung to break the skin. Cheung does just that; he breaks the skin and actually unleashes a female ghost with a horribly burned face and extremely long arms, who pulls Cheung's mole-faced friend into the mirror and tries to do the same to Cheung, but he cuts-off one of her hands and pins it to the floor with a knife. Cheung returns home and nearly catches his wife cheating on him with his boss, Master Tam (Wong Ha). Master Tam wants Cheung dead, so he has his underling, Lau (Cheung Ti-Hong), hire an expert in witchcraft, Chin Hoi (Chan Lung), to kill Cheung using his supernatural powers. Using Cheung's claim to being the bravest man in town, a deadly trap is set when Cheung is challenged to spend the night in a haunted temple. Cheung gets some unexpected help from Tsui (Fat Chung), an associate of Chin Hoi who doesn't believe in using witchcraft to do harm, especially death. Cheung is locked in the temple and must follow Tsui's instructions to the letter if he is to survive the night. The night includes reanimated corpses, hopping vampires and several close calls, but Cheung escapes with his life, only to let his damned pride make him accept another bet to spend another night in the temple for 50 pieces of silver. Cheung once again gets some help from Tsui to combat Chin Hoi's magic spells, but when one of the counterspells fails to work, Cheung will have to use his martial arts skills to battle a hopping vampire, defeating it and putting Chin Hoi in traction. Cheung returns home to find a pool of blood on the floor and his wife missing. He is arrested and imprisoned for his wife's murder (even though her body is not found), where he learns that he's to be beheaded the following morning! Cheung breaks out of prison and joins forces with Tsui, where they fight Chin Hoi in the finale to a battle of witchcraft, which includes zombies, tiger fighters and Cheung transforming into a fighting Monkey God (complete with monkey sound effects!).  Full of Samo Hung's patented broad humor and kung fu skills (the man may be fat, but he can move as quickly and agilely as a man half his size), as well as some gruesome makeup effects and gravity-defying wire work, ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND (which spawned several sequels and countless copycats) is engrossing and sometimes hilarious hybrid of martial arts and horror genres. Samo Hung's much put-upon Cheung is a comical everyman whose only sin is his vanity. He's says he's afraid of nothing (the opposite is true) and he suffers greatly for that sin. Not only does he have to fight reanimated corpses, ghosts and hopping vampires sent upon him by Chin Hoi, he must also suffer the indignities of a cheating wife and a boss who would rather have him dead than find out. This leads to a series of comical martial arts fights, including one where Cheung fights everyone in a restaurant with a possessed left arm. Some of the art direction is truly inspired, especially in the haunted temple, and the weird visuals on view, including the sight of a naked Cheung painted head-to-toe with protective spells, makes this film a sure bet for fans of Hong Kong weirdness. The closing shot, between Cheung and his unfaithful wife, is one of the most audacious conclusions of any film I have seen in recent memory. You'll either be cheering Cheung on or making a call to a battered wife helpline reporting a serious crime. Also starring Dick Wei, Lam Ching-Ying and To Siu-Ming. Also known as SPOOKY ENCOUNTERS. A Media Asia Group DVD Release in Cantonese with removable English subtitles. Not Rated.

END OF THE LINE (2006) - Something strange is happening in the Montreal subway system and only nurse Karen (Ilona Elkin) seems to be picking up on it. The hospital she works at has seen an upswing in crazy people screaming about "demons" (one intern comments that there's a full moon tonight and an eclipse is about to happen in a couple of hours as well), but when one of Karen's patients, Viviane (Christine Lan), commits suicide by jumping in front of a subway train after seeing one of the demons (A man whose mouth has been fused shut with maggots and worms) and leaves Karen an envelope containing drawings depicting demons at the hospital and subway, Karen heads down to the subway to investigate. After nearly getting robbed and raped by scumbag Patrick (Robin Wilcock) on the platform, Karen is saved by good guy Mike (Nicolas Wright) and they board the train. This is when things get extremely weird. The train grounds to a complete stop and Mike is stabbed in the back by seemingly normal middle-aged Betty (Joan McBride), who is suddenly brandishing a knife in the shape of a crucifix after she receives a message on her pager. As a matter of fact, many people on the train receive the exact same message on their pagers and they all begin pulling the same type crucifix knife out of their matching satchels and start stabbing and slicing the rest of the passengers while muttering "God is love!" or "God loves you!" over and over. It seems all these psychos are under the control of some cult-like figurehead called the "Reverend" (David L. McCallum; who, up to this point, we only see on poster and pamphlet covers strewn throughout the hospital and subway system), who leads a doomsday group called "Voice Of Eternal" and tonight's the night that the Reverend's prophecy is fulfilled. A bunch of survivors, including Karen, Mike, Neil (Neil Napier), John (Tim Rozon), Sarah (Nina M. Fillis), Julie (Emily Shelton), Davis (Danny Blanco Hall) and Frankie (John Vamvas), escape into the subway tunnels and temporarily hide in a workers break room, where they discover all TV and radio signals are blocked (every channel on TV has a blood-red liquid flowing on-screen). Everyone except Davis and Frankie (who are subway workers) leave the break room and head through the tunnels in hopes of reaching the freedom of outside, but the will have to run a gauntlet, which includes a gang of possessed young children (one of whom gets a crowbar planted in his head); that scumbag Patrick, who nearly rapes both Karen and Julie; and a horde of the Reverend's unholy rollers. When the Reverend makes an appearance on TV and pleads to all his followers to continue the killings to "save all their souls", things get even weirder. By the end of the film, all of the non-believers have split-up and gone their separate ways looking for ways out of the subway while being chased by different factions of the Reverend's followers. Just as it all seems hopeless, all the pagers go off again with another message and all of the Reverend's followers, with the exception of Patrick, stop their killing and swallow cyanide capsules. Is the Apocalypse truly upon us? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.  This is a tight, suspenseful thriller that greatly benefits from not playing its entire hand too soon. Director/producer/screenwriter Maurice Devereaux, who previously gave us the awful BLOOD SYMBOL (1984/1991) and the decent SLASHERS (2001), brings his "A" Game here, as there are scenes on view that will send chills down your spine. One such scene is when the religious fanatics, led by Betty, tells Frankie to kill his pregnant wife Brenda (Lori Graham), but when he refuses, Brenda stabs him instead and then the fanatics take turns stabbing Brenda, removing her unborn baby from the womb and placing it between Frankie and Brenda's bodies. Once you witness this atrocity, you will not soon forget it. Devereaux keeps the viewer on their toes throughout, as we are never really certain of the extent of this apocalypse (Is it confined to the subway or is it global, as the Reverend would have us believe?) and who among the cast is part of the conspiracy. I won't reveal the ending here, because it will ruin your enjoyment of what precedes it. The film is bloody as hell, with multiple stabbings, slit throats, a nasty axe to the head, near-decapitation by sword, a lower lip bitten off and other gory mayhem, yet there is no gunplay at all, which is totally refreshing. The standout here is Robin Wilcock as the rape-happy Patrick, who is willing to go against the Reverend's puritanical wishes just to get some pussy and when he reveals later in the film that he's still a virgin, it brings new layers to the evil he causes. END OF THE LINE is an exciting, cerebral thriller that never loses focus, even when it is shifting gears. Good show! Also starring Kent McQuaid, Robert Vezina and David Schaap. Available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment/Critical Mass, but be aware that the boneheads that designed the DVD cover gives the ending away! Unrated.

ENTER THE DEVIL (1972) - Surprisingly well-made regional horror film (shot in Terlingua, Texas) that I never heard of before. When a vacationing rock collector turns up missing, the county sheriff sends out his deputy, Jase (David Cass, who also co-wrote the screenplay), to look for him. Little does he realize that he is about to become involved in a series of murders committed by "The Disciples Of Death", a satanic cult whose members include people in high places. Jase’s investigation leads him to a hunting lodge run by Glen Phelps (Josh Bryant) where some of the hunters disappear. Together, with the help of an anthropologist (Irene Kelly) whose specialty is "weird cults", Jase and Glen try to unravel the series of mysterious deaths only to find out that your friends are not what they seem. For a low-budget horror film, it delves into some unusual subject matter including illegal aliens, political intrigue and race relations. Although low in the blood department (most of the carnage takes place off-screen), this obsure little thriller (ENTER THE DEVIL is also known as DISCIPLES OF DEATH) is well-acted, tightly paced and contains good location photography. Director Frank Q. Dobbs later went on to make the asinine western comedy UPHILL ALL THE WAY (1985) and then disappeared into obscurity. Also starring John Martin, Carle Bensen and Norris Domingue. See if you can find this film listed in any of the reference books. A Something Weird Video Release struck from an extremely scratchy source print. Rated PG.

ESCAPE FROM CORAL COVE (1986) - This is a Hong Kong rip-off of FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and not a very good one. A group of spoiled rich kids spend their vacation at the exclusive Coral Cove resort and are stalked and killed by a dead green CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON-like sex maniac (with bugged-out eyes) who was buried at sea. The remaining survivors hire a ghostbuster (!) to rid them of their problem, but are left to their own devices when the ghostbuster is staked through the heart. An amateur scientist injects the sex killer with a formula invented by his bratty kid brother, causing the demon from the deep to inflate and explode. The version I viewed was heavily edited, deleting most of the gore and leaving some major holes in the plot. While it does have some beautiful underwater photography and a spattering of nudity, this film is basically boring stuff, thanks mainly to the severe editing (there is one scene that will take you by surprise, though). Directed and co-written by Terence Chang. Starring Elsie Chan, Yin Cheung Joh, Louis Fong, Fu Lik, Yuen-Ching Leung and Roy Cheung as the creature-like sex killer. Available on VHS & VCD from Ocean Shores Home Video in the edited form. There is an official DVD of ESCAPE FROM CORAL COVE floating around on some unknown label, but stories abound that only the 81 minute edited version exists and that it was trimmed before it was shown theatrically. We may never see the uncut version. Not Rated, but no harder than a soft R in this version. Subtitled in Chinese and English.

THE ETERNAL EVIL OF ASIA (1995) - Crazy Hong Kong horror film about hexes and enchantments. We are first informed about how the bodies of recently deceased children are used to carry out hexes (apparently, dead children like to go to the movies, so if one asks you to take him/her to the bathroom in the middle of watching a film, you will more than likely not come back alive!). The film then switches to a father who is yelling at his son for eating too much Cup O' Noodles ("Don't you know they kill you!"). We then see a mysterious man walking down an alley (stray cats explode as he walks by!) carrying a voodoo doll with the father's photo on it. The father, who has just buried his elderly parents, gets a phone call from his mother and father telling him that it's cold where they are. As the mysterious man throws dirt on and then pierces the voodoo doll's head with a needle, the father sees his dead parents in the apartment and hacks away at them with a meat cleaver, not knowing he is actually killing his wife and son (and two neighbors who show up at his door to complain about the noise). When the doll is set on fire, the father falls off his terrace and is impaled on some flourescent light tubes below. We then view a bunch of chatty women at a hair salon talking about marriage, sex and enchantments. The mysterious man has put a hex (using another voodoo doll) on May's (Ellen Chan) boyfriend, Bon (Chan Kwok-Bong), and when they have sex later that night, Bon is unable to perform (He hits himself in the crotch and screams, "My little dick!"). After some supernatural, ghostly stuff happens at the salon, May goes to a good witch, who believes all this bad luck is related to a trip her boyfriend took to Thailand a few weeks earlier with three of his friends (the father who took a header off the terrace was a member of that party). The good witch puts an enchanted worm into May's body for protection (don't ask) and tells her to find out exactly what happened on that Thailand trip.  May confronts Bon (who is visited by the ghost of the dead father, who has flashing flourescent tubes protruding out of his body) and he reluctantly tells her the truth. It seems that when they were in Thailand, Bon and his three friends visited a whorehouse, got into trouble (a hooker in the whorehouse screams out, "I've got AIDS!"), ended up lost in the woods and happened upon the mysterious man's house, who turns out to be a wizard. Things rapidly go downhill from there. It involves sex slaves, competing wizards, lots of ooze, some wirework stunts and a love potion that ends up it the wrong hands.  Things pick up considerably in this Cat III film once Bon relates his Thailand flashback. Some of the surreal scenes include: The wizard turning the head of Kong (Elvis Tsui) into a giant penis, complete with piss squirting out of the top when he gets nervous (One of his friends says, "You are an ugly dickhead!"); Two competing male/female wizards who fly through the air while fucking doggie-style; A cursed friend turns into a cannibal in a busy restaurant (he bites off the hand of a female patron), which results in him eating his own left arm before he dies; and many more outrageous scenes. As with many of the Cat III titles of the time (the equivalent of an NC-17 rating in our country), there is plenty of nudity and sex to go along with the violence, but some of the sex scenes seem edited, especially the scene of Bon's three friends raping the wizard's sister (it's really not their fault, since the sister meant the love potion to be delivered to Bon, but his three friends receive it instead), which is the reason why the wizard (who looks like Jet Li's twin brother) is killing the four friends. Director Chin Man Kei (SEX & ZEN 2 - 1996; THE HAUNTED SCHOOL - 2006) fills the screen with flashy camerawork, bloody violence (including a tribute to Pinhead in HELLRAISER - 1987), off-the-wall humor (some of it way beyond the boundaries of good taste) and the prerequisite fights between good and bad wizards. Since most Asian horror films nowadays are more concerned with ghosts of the wet stringy-haired variety who hide in the shadows, it's nice to watch one that's a throwback to 70's & 80's Hong Kong horror cinema, with a modern sexual twist (wait until you witness the invisible fellatio scene!). Worth your time. Also starring Lily Chung, Ben Ng, Julie Lee, Bobby Au Yeung, Ng Shui Ting, Yuen King Tan and Baat Leung Gam. Available on DVD by Tai Seng Video Marketing with burned-in Mandarin and English subtitles, some of the translations being extremely funny. I especially liked when the Thai wizard called Bon and his three friends "Hongkies"! Not Rated.

EVIL ALTAR (1987) - Thirty years ago, warlock Reed Weller (William Smith) annoints a new "Collector" and tells him to procure "103 healthy children and the last one must be a virgin". Cut to the present and the Collector (Pepper Martin) brings Weller child #99, a kid he cracked over the head with a baseball bat at a local baseball game. Weller gets pissed off because he specifically said "no local children" because he wanted no unneeded attention brought to the town. The Collector then kidnaps visiting Black child Troy Long (Marcus Wyatt) from a gas station and his worried father Daley (Tal Armstrong), a powerful California lawyer, calls Sheriff O'Connell (Robert Z'Dar) to start searching for his son. When local hunter Stu Connors (David Campbell) and his daughter Teri (Theresa Cooney) mistakenly shoot and kill the Collector when hunting for deer, it becomes apparent that the sheriff and nearly everyone else in town is under control of Weller, who has used his sorcery to grant "favors" to the townspeople in return for their undying loyalty. The sheriff delivers Troy and the Collector's body to Weller, who performs a ritual and brings the Collector back to life. Daley begins asking questions in town and the only person who will talk to him is Josh (Jack Vogel), Teri's brother. It seems Teri is a virgin and will be Weller's 103rd sacrifice when the time is right. The Collector appears to Teri one night (he pulls the bullet she shot out of his heart in front of her) and tells her that she'll be next. She then begins to see him everywhere; on the street, in her bedroom and even on the TV. No one will believe her except Josh, who knows something has been very wrong in this town since his and Teri's mother was killed and their father's bimbo mistress moved in the very next day (all thanks to Weller's satanic powers). When a magical floating baseball (!) crashes through Teri's bedroom window one night, destroys her room and nearly kills her, Teri, Josh and girlfriend Lisa (Connie Lolan) douse the Collector with gasoline and set him on fire. The sheriff shows up and Josh realizes that they are on their own. When Teri is kidnapped by Weller, Josh, Lisa and Daley team up to rescue Teri and Troy. They are too late to save Troy (which only makes Daley more pissed), so they raid Weller's house and must fight Weller's supernatural powers as well as the sheriff and his itchy trigger finger. Can the forces of good defeat the powers of evil? Prepare yourself for one head-scratcher of an ending.  I really don't know what to make of this weird little horror film. Stuntman-turned-director Jim Winburn (THE DEATH MERCHANT - 1991) has crafted a tale of small town horror, but there is precious little back story to go along with the horror. My biggest question is this: Since it's quite apparent that Reed Weller has the power to perform many supernatural acts (like raise the dead and grant the townspeople's wishes), why does he need to kill 103 kids? How much power does one person need? The film's heart is in the right place, though (screenplay by Brent Friedman, Scott Rose and John Geilfuss), as big Bill Smith (with satanic symbols tattoed on his bald head) is effective as Weller, Pepper Martin (SCREAM - 1981) is creepy as the Collector and some scenes are inventive (Stu's death after disobeying Weller is one such scene, as well as when Daley realizes that he has to kill his son to find peace). There's a lot to like here (it's not very gory, but it is very violent), but I wish there were more motivations behind the killings. It would have added a little meat to go along with the potatoes. This film is usually rated as a bomb (or lower) by nearly every reviewer I have read. Either I watched this while I was having a very good night or I managed to look past some of the mistakes (the boom mike in the frame, flubbed lines, etc.) and chose to enjoy it as an atmospheric little chiller. Nothing special, mind you, just enjoyable. Also starring John Powers, Lee Night, Patrick Fahey and Norman Shore. A Southgate Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.

EVIL CAT (1986) - Another strange film from director Dennis Yu (THE BEASTS - 1980; THE IMP - 1981), this one dealing with supernatural possession. A bulldozer in a quarry unearths a huge stone tablet with ancient writing on it that is covering a deep shaft. When the tablet is lifted by the quarry crew, revealing the shaft, a surge of electrical energy shoots out of it, which seems to affect Master Cheung (Lar Kar Leung) clear across town. He walks home and pulls a bow and three magical arrows from under his bed and then mutters, "It has been 50 years that you finally appear!" He treks over to the quarry and a flashback reveals how fifty years earlier, he and his father trapped a demon known as Evil Cat down the shaft, but Cheung had to kill his father in the process. With his dying breath, his father warns him that "this possessed cat has nine lives" and it has already been defeated eight times by members of his family every fifty years for the past four hundred years. It is now Master Cheung's turn to fight the Evil Cat, but he better do it quick because, according to his medical records, he is dying from cancer and only has a short time to live. We then switch over to the highrise building which houses the Fan Holding Company. It seems Evil Cat has taken up residence in the building, killing multiple security guards and personnel before possessing the body of the business's millionaire owner, Mr. Fan (Stuart Ong). Master Cheung, with the help of Mr. Fan's limo driver, Long (Mark Cheng), prepare to do battle with Evil Cat (Cheung gives Long a magical necklace, but tells him to throw it away if he's still alive in seven days). Inspector Wu (Wong Ching, who also wrote the screenplay), is assigned to investigate the slaughter at the highrise and is happy to find female TV reporter Siu Chen (Tang Lai Ying) is already on the scene, since he has a huge crush on her. As luck would have it, Siu Chen is the daughter of Master Cheung, but when she sees her father at the crime scene, she doesn't believe his story and threatens to send him to a sanitarium for his final days (What a bitch!). She doesn't believe in spirits or evil and thinks her father is an old, superstitious fool. Mr. Fan begins acting strange, ordering his staff at home (including Long) to go to bed early and not to disturb him after midnight. Long gets hungry late that night and goes to the kitchen, only to spot Mr. Fan outside with his face immersed in the coy pond. When Mr. Fan comes up for air and has a live fish in his mouth (!), he spots Long and attacks him, which leads to a wild car ride to Long's mother's house. His Mom fights off Evil Cat/Mr. Fan by throwing a statue of Buddha at him (!) and Long goes to Master Cheung, who is now staying at Siu Chen's home, for help. Siu Chen thinks Long is as crazy as her father, but even she will soon come to believe as more murders take place. Cheung kills Mr. Fan with one of the magical arrows but is stopped from finishing off Evil Cat when Inspector Wu intervenes. Evil Cat has now jumped into the body of Mr. Fan's sexy mistress, Tina (Tsiu Suk Woon), and it's very, very, pissed.  This wild horror film contains many action-packed and gory set-pieces but, thankfully, doesn't take itself too seriously. Where director Dennis Yu's THE BEASTS was a relentlessly grim rape/revenge exploitationer (with hardcore sex inserts), he gives EVIL CAT a much lighter tone, but doesn't sacrifice shocks or gore in the process. The relationship between Master Cheung and Long is a delight, especially the sequence where Cheung tries to teach an impatient Long how to gain magical powers and Long tries to cheat at every opportunity, usually with disasterous results. There are many "out-there" scenes, including the car ride, a sequence where Mr. Fan traps Long in his office and the rape/possession of Tina, but they all take a backseat to the amazing final twenty minutes, when Tina/Evil Cat lays waste to an entire police station, where she/it decapitates cops by swatting at their heads, thrusts her hands through bodies, tosses people around like they are ragdolls, detaches her own arms to strangle Master Cheung (who is at least 50 feet away from her!), all while taking multiple bullet hits to her head and body. It's guaranteed to get your heart racing. But, until then, there's plenty of carnage to keep you happy, including impalements, limb removal, a tongue biting and a comical case of mass vomiting. If there are any complaints about this film, it's that Wong Ching's portrayal of Inspector Wu is a little too broad for my tastes (How did a buffoon like this become an Inspector?), the English subtitles leave a lot to be desired and the final shot defies the legend of Evil Cat that was explained in the beginning (Cats don't have ten lives). Don't let these minor quibbles stop you from seeing this, though. It's a wonderful piece of Hong Kong horror/action cinema. A Fortune Star/Deltamac DVD Release. Not Rated.

EVIL ED (1995) - This lamebrained Swedish-made gore comedy tells the story of Ed (Johan Rudebeck), a film editor hired to cut out all the more violent parts of the fictitious "Loose Limb" series of horror films for distribution in European countries that have stringent censorship laws. The previous editor found the task so daunting that he blew his head off by sticking a hand grenade in his mouth! Our new editor doesn’t particularly enjoy the job but, because he needs the money, agrees to edit the 8-part series. After viewing scene upon scene of hacked-off limbs and bloody murders, Ed begins to hallucinate various graphic acts, such as cutting into an arm when he is actually slicing a loaf of bread and viewing a grotesque vulgarity-spewing monster in his refrigerator. Ed starts killing for real and likes it, so he starts murdering anyone he can get his hands on. Neck snappings, beheadings, electrocutions and a skull split down the middle follow. One wonders what director/screenwriter/photographer/editor Anders Jacobsson was trying to say here. Does he believe that watching violence causes violent behavior or is it his way of making fun of this controversial issue? I tend to lean towards the latter but I’ll bet that some anti-violence media whores will view this as a documentary of our society today. Available in Unrated and R-rated versions, you should probably avoid the R-rated cut as it excises all the bloody deaths that Ed is supposed to be editing out of the films. Maybe Ed edited the R-rated version as it destroys any impact that the film has in the first place. Ironic isn’t it? Even though all the actors speak English, they are overdubbed by others with a special voice appearance by Bill Moseley (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 - 1986). Also starring Olaf Rhodin, Per Lofberg and Camela Leierth. An A-PIX H.V. Release. Unrated.

EVIL LAUGH (1986) - Another annoying teen horror film that has nothing to offer the viewer except bad acting, lame effects and illogical situations. To give you an idea what to expect: In the beginning of the film, a guy complains that he doesn't have any liver to serve for dinner. The cackling unseen killer stabs the guy with a butcher knife and cuts out his liver, placing the still-steaming organ on a dinner plate. Get it? Ha! A group of kids converge on a long-abandoned building to help a friend (the guy who had his liver removed) clean it up so he can turn it into a pediatric clinic. What most of them don't know is that years ago the building was an orphanage where a series of brutal murders took place. Someone doesn't want the kids messing with the building, as an unseen maniacally-laughing psycho begins dispatching them in various unimaginative ways. Between scenes of bad dancing (and terrible original rock songs), horny sex and in-fighting between the young cast, the chuckling weirdo begins the killing spree. A delivery boy is offed with a power drill (off-screen), a couple having sex are butchered with a knife, another guy is stabbed in the crotch and so on. The cast learns about Martin, the murderer who committed the murders in this building years before and we are left to wonder if it is indeed Martin who is killing the kids (or is it someone closer?). Barney (Jerold Pearson), a horror movie fan, is the only voice of reason, wanting everyone to leave the house before they all get killed (He even warns his friends not to have sex because, in horror films, anyone who has sex dies, predating a similar scene in SCREAM by over ten years). No one believes him and most of them are killed before the remaining members finally believe. Barney discovers an audio cassette containing the killer's voice saying no one in the house deserves to live. When the killer is finally unmasked, you'll be punching your TV in retaliation for having been cheated out of 85 minutes of your life. You may just kick your dog after having to view the preposterous "surprise" ending.  Guaranteed to bore you after ten minutes, EVIL LAUGH seems to pull away when it should be charging ahead. Director Dominick Brascia (who also co-wrote and co-produced this with star Steven Baio, who looks like [and is] Scott Baio's emaciated brother) doesn't let us see most of the killings and tosses in numerous references to FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and HALLOWEEN (1978), cheap sex jokes and shows issues of Fangoria every now and then to give the film some street cred. The acting is pretty erratic, ranging from OK (Baio) to unbelievably bad (the guy who played the cop). That's a shame, because most of the film is filled with endless dialogue scenes with people spouting inane lines like, "10:30? By God, it's the middle of the night!" By the time the killing spree kicks in, you'll either be sound asleep or scratching your balls in anticipation. One way, you'll be rested and relaxed. The other way will only get you looks of disgust by those around you and you'll be bitterly disappointed to boot (as well as having sore balls). What you will see is a lame axe to the head, a knife to the groin (the tip protrudes out of the guy's ass) and Steven Baio having his head shoved in a microwave oven. None of the effects are well done or filmed in any way to give them impact. EVIL LAUGH is a minor slasher film that doesn't have one original idea in it's tiny little head. It was supposedly shot in one week and it shows. Also starring Kim McKamy, Tony Griffin, Jody Gibson, Johnny Venocur, Myles O'Brien, Howard Weiss and Susan Grant. Krishna Shah, the director of HARD ROCK ZOMBIES (1985), was one of the Executive Producers. A Celebrity Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

EVIL REMAINS (2003) - Uninvolving and boring Louisiana-lensed horror flick originally released as TRESSPASSING (the version I watched on Amazon Prime through my Roku streaming player [an excellent device, especially the Roku 3] had this title). College student Mark (Daniel Gillies) is doing his thesis on myths and legends, trying to prove that they were once based on truth before being blown out of proportion over time. He interviews Dr. Theodore Rosen (Kurtwood Smith in what amounts to an extended cameo in the beginning and end of the film. He is also the best thing about this film.) about the legend of Carl Bryce, who, ten years earlier, first killed his dog, made a mask out of the skull and then killed his father (Will Rokos) with a pair of garden shears and burned his mother (Maryam d'Abo) alive by pouring gasoline over her body and then setting her on fire (this sequence opens the film). Legend has it that anyone who sets foot on the Bryce property will become insane, not trust anyone and may be murdered by Carl, who was never found. After a stern warning by Dr. Rosen not to set foot on the property, Mark decides not to take his suggestion and brings his brothers Eric (Jeff Davis) and Tyler (Clayne Crawford), as well as lesbian lover friends Kristy (Estella Warren) and Sharon (Ashley Scott), along with him to the Bryce property to help him document his thesis with video and sound. As soon as they set foot on the property, the three brothers investigate the inside of the house, while Kristy and Sharon walk through the woods surrounding the house. From the moment they step into the house, the brothers begin to hear voices and creaking floorboards and Tyler photographs a figure in a dog skull mask on his Polaroid camera in the basement. Eric ends up missing, so Mark and Tyler head to the attic after witnessing one of the bedroom walls seeping blood. They find Eric hanging upside down, his throat slashed and tied to boards like an upside down Jesus on the cross. Paranoia quickly begins setting in both Mark and Tyler, who blame each other for Eric's death and there's talk about Tyler murdering their abusive father when they were kids. Meanwhile, Kristy and Sharon find a whole bunch of animal traps littering the woods (Kristy frees a rabbit caught in one) and Sharon accidentally steps on one, injuring her foot.  Kristy uses a tree branch to set off every trap she finds and, as she disables the final one while heading back to the house with a limping Sharon, Tyler is killed in the attic when he walks directly into a giant bear trap that impales his body from head to toe. Mark is then chased throughout the house by Carl and as Mark makes it out the front door, Kristy and Sharon see him pulled inside by the dog skull masked killer. Kristy and Sharon then fall into a trap next to the house and are locked inside it by Carl. Kristy is able to loosen some bars that lead to a tunnel to the house's basement, as they both become more and more paranoid (especially Sharon, who I wanted to kick in the face). Sharon is killed by Carl and Kristy is chased through the woods, finally making it to freedom when a tractor trailer hits Carl and splatters him into a million pieces. Four years later, a girl interviews Dr. Rosen about Kristy, who now permanently resides in a mental institution, convicted of killing all her friends when no trace of Karl can be found on the truck that hit him. Dr. Rosen tells the girl that he believes that Kristy is innocent and warns the girl not to go on the Bryce property because it brings out the worse in people. THE END. Director/writer James Merendino (WITCHCRAFT IV: VIRGIN HEART - 1992; SLC PUNK! - 1998) offers nothing new to the horror genre besides some lush Louisiana scenery and a cheap jump scare here and there. All the characters are terribly underwritten, so we really feel nothing for them when they die. The only interesting thing about this film (besides Kurtwood Smith, who is listed in the opening credits, but not the closing ones) is the insane music that plays over the closing credits. It's genuinely creepy, something which the rest of the film tried to achieve, but failed miserably. Although the film is not terribly acted, there is almost a total lack of blood (except for the bedroom wall, the sight of a murdered Eric and the stabbing death of a welder who calls the police for Kristy). Why bother making a stalk 'n' slash flick and be stingy on the slash? I can't in good conscience recommend this film. It's not terrible, just boringly ordinary. Also starring Brandon Martin, Rusty Tennant and Jeff Galpin as Carl Bryce. A Screen Media Films DVD Release. Rated R.

EVIL TOWN (1974/1985) - Mardi "Anything For A Buck" Rustam strikes again. He has taken a little-seen horror film from 1974 called GOD BLESS DAMN DR. SHAGETZ, edited it down and filmed new inserts featuring two murdering, raping grease monkeys called Harry and Wally (Keith Hefner & Greg Finley), added some nudity from actresses Jillian Kesner and Lynda Wiesmeier and mixed it all together. It's all rather obvious and extremely boring. The majority of the film concerns the creepy isolated burg of Smalltown (the sign on the way into town reads "Population: 666 Elevation: 13", just so we know it's creepy), which seems to be populated only by senior citizens. We soon find out that when any young people (including kids) stray into town, they are knocked-out and sent to a clinic run by Dr. Schaeffer (Dean Jagger, who was called "Dr. Shagetz" in the original edit), who uses their youth to keep the elderly population immortal. Trouble arises when a camper containing Christopher (James Keach), wife Linda (Doria Cook), friend Mike (Robert Walker Jr.) and girlfriend Julie (Michele Marsh) breaks down as they enter Smalltown. Instead of spending the night in the house of "kindly" old Lyle (Dabbs Greer) and his wife (Lurene Tuttle), the quartet decide to camp out in the woods, making it more difficult for the old geezers to kidnap them. Every few minutes, the newly-shot (and badly-matched) footage intrudes on the proceedings, showing Harry and Wally kidnapping some necking couples (including a lesbian couple), bringing the men to Dr. Schaeffer's clinic and saving the women for themselves, restraining and raping them in their garage (Harry says to Wally, after they have raped one girl, "Don't say a word about her!" Wally replies, "I won't. Cross my legs!"). When the old cronies discover that the camping foursome are moving to L.A. (for some reason that's a bad thing in their eyes), they make sure that the camper is permanently disabled. Christopher, who is moving to L.A. to start his medical residency, becomes mighty suspicious of the town's old farts, especially when he sees the white-haired population carrying Mike and Julie's drugged bodies to Dr. Schaeffer's clinic. Christopher and Linda are eventually captured and brought to Dr. Schaeffer, who shows Christopher his operation and asks him to carry-on with his experiments in perfecting the immortality serum. After seeing a cage full of Dr. Schaeffer's failed experiments (a gaggle of young people in straitjackets and acting crazy), Christopher gives his answer by strangling Dr. Schaeffer with his bare hands, grabbing Linda (Mike and Julie are dead) and setting the clinic on fire.  This patchwork film fails to register, thanks to the obvious inserts (the film stock, fashions and dialogue just don't gel with the old footage) and boring nature of the reworked screenplay (the story credit goes to late character actor Royce Applegate). Mardi Rustam (the director of EVILS OF THE NIGHT [1984) and producer of such films as PSYCHIC KILLER [1975], THE BAD BUNCH [1976], Tobe Hooper's EATEN ALIVE [1976] and DEATH FEUD [1987]) seems only interested in putting as much nudity, sex and foul language as he can in the new footage which, quite frankly, sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the original film, which was directed by Edward Collins, Larry Spiegel (SURVIVAL RUN - 1978) and Peter S. Traynor (DEATH GAME - 1977). Rustam, who used the same killer grease monkey idea previously in EVILS OF THE NIGHT, was trying to pull a fast one on VHS renters during the release-anything 80's but, unfortunately, he forgot the golden rule. If you want to pull a fast one on us (especially with the misleading VHS cover art), at least have the courtesy to throw a little bloody violence into the new footage (the nearest he comes to it is when a clinic escapee gets into a martial arts fight with an orderly!). The closest this film come to violence is when James Keach punches-out a couple of octagenarians and hits Dabbs Greer with a chair. Dean Jagger (VISIONS OF EVIL - 1973) is absent for most of the film until the finale and it's easy to see why. He overacts terribly and it looks like he's having a hard time remembering his lines and I believe at one point he forgets them all together and improvises (badly). Robert Walker Jr., who appeared in several low-budget 70's horror flicks (BEWARE! THE BLOB - 1972; THE SPECTRE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE - 1972; THE SHRIEKING - 1973), is wasted here (at least in this edit). He's given very little to do except slap his knees in time while James Keach (SLASHED DREAMS - 1975) plays his guitar around a campfire and deliver the film's only intentionally funny bit of dialogue when Keach and Doria Cook talk about making love in the woods. The Post Production Supervisor (the person in charge of putting this whole mess together into a cohesive whole) was Henri Charr, who also directed another lousy 80's piecemeal film, ISLAND FURY (1983/1989). I can say with a reasonable amount of confidence that you can skip EVIL TOWN and not worry about it at all, unless you must see a bunch of wrinkled old toadies trying to act murderous. What is wrong with you people? Also starring Christie Hauser, Regis Toomey, Paul McCauley, E.J. Andre and Hope Summer. A Trans World Entertainment VHS Release. Also released on VHS by budget label Star Classics in a crappy EP-mode transfer. Not yet available on DVD (count your blessings). Not Rated.

THE FANGLY'S (2003) - Ultra-low-budget regional horror film (filmed in and around Justin, Texas), reportedly made for less than $2,500 and it shows. As with a lot of these no-budgeters, it takes place during Halloween and concerns itself about a local legend; a family of cannibals called the Fangly's, who haunt the woods around Storm Creek during the candy-giving holiday, slaughtering those who dare enter their territory. The young adults in the area don't take the legend too seriously and use it as a rite of passage to haze the non-believers, but Sheriff Pete (Burton Gilliam; THE TERROR WITHIN II - 1990) knows that the legend is real and has been covering-up the Fangly's murderous doings for many years, especially the killings performed by witch matriarch Fanglady (played by Justin Hamilton in drag) and her retarded son Chubb (director/scripter Christopher Abram, acting under the name "J. Christopher"). A group of obnoxious twenty-somethings, including Mark (Robert Harvey), his wife Kelly (Laurie Reaves), perpetual coward Jerry (Tim Boswell), prankster Steven (Josh Gobin) and new girlfriend Camille (Natalie Woods), think it would be a good idea to party in the cemetery of Storm Creek on Halloween Night (yeah, none of them are the sharpest tools in the shed). They build a campfire in the middle of the cemetery using wooden grave markers as firewood (again, these are studid people) and Kelly tells ghost stories about Fanglady stealing the lifeforce of her victims and Chubb taking the lifeless corpses and skinning them (which we are barely shown in flashbacks), which scares the crap out of Jerry and new-to-town Camille (hint, hint). I guess we all know what happens next. After Steven steals more wooden grave markers to add to the campfire (he deserves to die just for doing that), they are discovered by Chubb, who disables their car (and steals a porno DVD from the back seat!) when he notices the grave markers missing in the cemetery (he uses the graveyard to bury the bones of Mommy's victims). Camille ends up missing, Chubb knocks-out Steven and then terrorizes the rest, eventually kidnapping Kelly. Mark comes to the rescue, only to discover that Camille is actually a Fangly's family member, but he manages to kill Chubb (after the retarded Chubb accidentally kills Camille with a pitchfork) and Fanglady before he, Kelly and Steve escape. They then learn from Sheriff Pete that the Fangly's can never truly be killed and they will surely rise from the dead next Halloween.  This is a terribly slow moving horror flick that has very little (if anything) going in its favor. It's poorly acted (the only professional here is Burton Gilliam, who looks embarrassed), talky as hell and contains nearly no gore, which, considering the subject matter, was a very poor decision. It's hard to determine if director/writer/actor/editor/dishwasher Christopher Abram (AFTER SUNDOWN - 2005; BY THE DEVIL'S HANDS - 2008) purposely set out to make a campy film, but it's difficult to take this as a serious horror film. The character of Chubb elicits laughs rather than gasps with his oversized crooked (and obviously fake) upper teeth and he acts more like a brainless moron than someone who is supposed to scare us. Director Abram manages to break every cardinal rule of horror filmmaking: He pulls back on every gore shot when he should be moving in for the close-up (There's one maddening scene where Chubb threatens a necking couple with a machete, but then tosses it to the ground and snaps the man's neck with his bare hands instead! I swear, I nearly stopped watching the film there and then, but I soldiered-on in hopes that it would get better. It didn't.); he has the women keep their bras and panties on during their sex scenes (Even when Chubb rapes one of them in his bedroom!); and there's even a thing in a cage that Chubb keeps as a pet, but we never see it! We are even led to believe that Chubb kills Jerry (and, believe me, you'll want this whiny shit dead as soon as you meet him), but if you survive through the end credits, you'll learn that even he survives. What's the point? No, really, will someone tell me why anyone would make a horror film but leave out the horror? I've taken dumps that scared me worse. Also starring John William Galt, Natali Jones, Jason Skeen and Malissa Dusza. Available on VHS & DVD from Asylum Home Entertainment. Rated R, but there's nothing here that goes beyond a PG-13.

FATAL GAMES (1983) - Someone is killing the Olympic hopefuls at the prestigious Falcon Academy Of Athletics. Can it have something to do with the steroids, hormone injections and "vitamins" that the doctors at the academy make all the athletes take every day? The first one to die is gymnast Nancy (Melissa Prophet), who gets impaled by a javelin while working out alone in the gym. Team doctor (and possibly lesbian) Diane Paine (Sally Kirkland) worries about the kids sudden behavioral changes and voices her concerns to Dr. Jordine (director Michael Elliot), the team's head doctor ("They are kids, not guinea pigs!"), but is told to mind her own business. Gymnast Sue Ellen (Angela Bennett) is the next in line to get a javelin piercing, as she is chased naked through the academy by the black tracksuit-wearing killer. Javelin thrower Joe (Nicholas Love) is next to die, as the killer returns one of Joe's throws and nails him through the torso (There goes our best suspect!). The coaches and doctors are worried that three of their best athletes are missing and again Diane wonders if the medications are involved ("Maybe they had adverse reactions."). Diane finds Annie (Lynn Banashek) lying down in the middle of the hallway, screaming in pain (from the medication) and Diane takes her home where we learn that Diane's mother was an Olympic gold medal winner. Frank (Michael O'Leary) breaks his leg dismounting off the parallel bars and, that night, his girlfriend Lynn (Teal Roberts) is speared by the javelin while doing laps in the pool. Dr. Jordine finds a team photo with all the dead athletes x'ed out and suspects the other doctors and coaches, since they are the only ones with keys to the office. Frank begins snooping around and finds some incriminating evidence and discovers all the dead bodies stuffed in lockers, but is "javelinized" by the killer before he can tell anyone. Annie is wounded by the killer, but boyfriend Phil (Sean Masterson) saves her and brings her to Diane. Bad move. Turns out that Diane was born a man and had a sex change operation, but lost her Olympic gold medal (in the javelin throw) when drug tests proved she had too many male hormones in her system. Now she's making all athletes pay.  Pretty blah as a mystery and a slasher film (a blind man could spot the killer and there are only so many ways you can kill with a javelin), the only redeeming quality this film has to is the constant full frontal female nudity from nearly every female cast member except, surprisingly, Sally Kirkland (who had many naked moments in the vastly superior IN THE HEAT OF PASSION - 1991). Kirkland is truly awful here. She has the emotional range of a piece of fruit and looks like she would rather have a really painful bikini wax than be here. The gore is practically non-existant, too. Just a few javelin impalements and Kirkland's final fall onto a first place trophy (oh, the irony). First (and only) time director Michael Elliot sure has a lot of pretty girls in the cast (including blink-and-you'll-miss cameos from Linnea Quigley as an athlete and Brinke Stevens as a naked shower girl), but it's hard to believe that it took three people (Elliot, Raphael Bunuel and producer Christopher Mankiewicz) to write such a trite, generic screenplay. Only for those interested in viewing plenty of naked unaugmented female flesh. FATAL GAMES is also known as THE KILLING TOUCH. Also starring Marcelyn Ann Wilson (later changing her name to Spice Williams) and Lauretta Murphy. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Not Rated.

FATAL IMAGES (1988) - God, I hate SOV (Shot On Video) flicks. Most of them are so cheap and boring, they make Sunday School look appealing. This is one of the worst examples of what was foisted onto unsuspecting renters looking for something new during the video boon of the late 80's. The film opens with a serial killer murdering an undercover female officer while taking her picture in his photo studio. As the police close in, the serial killer sits down in a director's chair, takes a self-portrait of himself with a rare VDeluxe camera and then simply passes away, pissing off the dead undercover cop's detective boyfriend. Ten years later, a photographer named Amy (Lane Coyle) goes to a pawn shop looking for some props for a photo shoot (the pawn shop looks like someone's garage). The slimy pawn shop owner sells Amy the serial killer's VDeluxe camera for fifty bucks and tells her that the camera already "has film in it. It always has film in it!" Rather than questioning him about that statement, Amy stupidly buys the camera and takes a picture of a drunken bum as she is walking out of the pawn shop. A short time later, the bum is slashed to death by the seemingly-revived serial killer. It seems that whomever Amy shoots with the VDeluxe camera ends up dead by the serial killer's hands and when Amy develops the photos, they show the people in their murdered states. It takes Amy a few more murders to catch on as to what is happening (she's not the sharpest tool in the shed) and the police detective (the same one who's girlfriend was killed ten years earlier) begins to notice striking similarities between the new wave of murders and the killings ten years earlier. He's also got a new cop girlfriend and, yep, you guessed it, Amy takes her picture with the damned camera. Can Amy and the secretive Chan (don't ask) stop the serial killer before he kills everyone who stopped for a photo op? Why does the camera never run out of film? Do we really care? Did anyone see my pants?  As with most SOV features, the sound is bad, the acting atrocious and the camerawork static. Director Dennis Devine, who has unleashed other shitty SOV horror flicks to a rightfully agitated audience, including HELL SPA (1992), THINGS (1993) and CURSE OF PIRATE DEATH (2006), pads out this feature (I don't want to call this a film because, let's face it, it's not) with long static shots of people talking (the funniest being the two cops in a car in the beginning of the film who, upon hearing that an undercover cop is in trouble, take the time to buckle their seatbelts before starting the car!) and POV shots of the serial killer stalking his victims. The sets are cheap (the police detective has a poster of LETHAL WEAPON (1987) hanging in his sparsely-decorated office) and the violence is nothing more than splashing blood on victims, one fake-looking arm being yanked-out of it's socket and the after-effects of an offscreen decapitation (believe it or not, the effects were supplied by Gabe Bartalos, who must have owed someone a big favor). There's also a long-haired priest, who's living room is wallpapered with movie posters of JAWS (1975), PINOCCHIO (1940), AMAZING GRACE AND CHUCK (1987), and a Confederate flag (he even makes an off-hand remark about 20TH CENTURY OZ [1976]); an Asian guy named Chan (Brian Burr Chin), who skulks around in the shadows, jumps out in front of Amy and offers to buy the camera from her ("I'll give you twice what you paid for it!"); and a big-haired metal band named Teaser, who play a song in a bar where about six people are seen dancing. Not a glaring endorsement, either for the band or the bar. The most unbelievable moment comes when the police detective decides to eat a bullet and blows his brains out, rather than to relive the horror from ten years earlier. Is that any way to protect and serve? As far as FATAL IMAGES goes, let's just say I've seen better production values and acting in my Aunt Millie's vacation videos. This film is only for the retarded. The severely retarded. 95 minutes of pure hell. I curse the day when BLOOD CULT (1985) was released on VHS and proved that there was a market for SOV flicks, flooding the market with "masterpieces" from every amateur with a store-bought video camera. That's why I usually leave those reviews to my friend Mario in the "Films On The Fringe" section of this site. He manages to find artistic merit where all I see is shit. Also starring Alison Brown, Angela Eads, Jeff Herbick, Michael Robbin, Frank Scala and David Williams as one of the least-scariest serial killers in recent memory. An Active Home Video Release. Later released on VHS by Cinematrix Releasing. Not Rated.

FATHER'S DAY (2011) - Holy shit! This film contains bad acting, cheap extreme gore effects, groan-inducing comedy and dime store stop-motion animation (which makes Brett Piper's work look like the late Ray Harryhausen), but I'll be damned if it all doesn't work as a whole to make a highly entertaining film, as long as you are not one to get easily queasy. Ten years ago, the eyepatch-wearing Ahab (Adam Brooks) was convicted of murdering an innocent man he thought was Chris Fuchman (pronounced "Fuckman"), a rapist and serial killer of fathers. Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock) raped and murdered Ahab's father when he was just a kid and then sliced Ahab's right eye with a box cutter (all shown lovingly in close-up) and since then Ahab was on the search for the deadly serial killer. After being set-up for murder and sent to jail, Ahab does his time and is released from prison, where he goes into hiding at a cabin in the woods, collecting toxic berries (don't ask) and making maple syrup from trees that aren't maples (really, don't ask). Priest Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy) finds Ahab and talks him into coming back to civilization. The raping and killing of fathers starts again as soon as he is released from prison, so Detective Stegel (Brent Neale, who talks and bears a resemblence to James Woods) thinks Ahab is responsible. The latest victim is the father of male prostitute/thief Twink (Conor Sweeney), who is fucked in the ass and then set on fire. Twink joins Ahab and Father Sullivan to try and bring Fuchman down, but first Ahab tries to talk his sister Chelsea (Amy Groening) into leaving the strip club she works at and live a normal life. Chelsea wants to join the trio in their pursuit of Fuchman (she has been tracking his progress over the years in a journal she keeps), but Ahab refuses. Fuchman tries to kidnap Chelsea after raping and killing Twink's best friend Walnut (Garrett Hnatiuk) by biting his dick off (it seems Walnut got several girls pregnant, which technically makes him a father), but Ahab and his new-found friends foil it. Fuchman finally kidnaps Chelsea at the strip club, killing all the strippers (one has her head sliced in half with a chainsaw) and the patrons. Ahab nearly dies after giving chase in a car to save Chelsea (he is impaled on the tire iron he is carrying after falling off Fuchman's truck) and Twink and Father Sullivan crash their car. This leads to a night in the woods, where Twink and Father Sullivan eats some of Ahab's toxic berries and trip out (it's one of the film's funny highlights) and force feed Ahab some of the berries. The berries heal Ahab and they end up at Fuchman's hideout (after the film stops for a short fake commercial for a film to be shown later that day, which ends with a hilarious stinger), where they find Chelsea chained up and Fuchman on the run. Ahab kills Fuchman by shotgunning him in the groin, stomping on his head and throwing him off a dam wall, thereby ending the menace (there's a funny shot at the end of this scene that involves a train coming out of a tunnel). Do you really think it would be that easy? Father Sullivan finds a book under the murdered Father O'Flynn's (Kevin Anderson) bed, which details that the Fuchmanus is actually a demon reincarnated in Hell after incest between a brother and sister that produces an offspring. When Chelsea shows up at Ahab's motel room dressed scantily and coming on to him, Ahab gives in and has sex with his sister (cringeworthy to say the least). Chelsea is now in Hell (see if you can spot the STAR WARS [1977] homage) and the trio decide to kill themselves so they can go to Hell and save her. Ahab and Twink end up in Hell, but Father Sullivan ends up in Heaven, where he puts a gun to his angel guide's (Falcon Van Der Baek) head and forces him to take him to God (played by Troma head Lloyd Kaufman, who released this film on home video). Father O'Flynn appears in God's office and forces him at gunpoint to send Father Sullivan to Hell (since Father O'Flynn is blind, he really doesn't know where to aim the gun, which leads to a bit of funny dialogue by Kaufman). What happens next is best for the viewers to discover, but I will say that the final stinger is funny as hell (look for THE DEER HUNTER [1978] reference).  Directed and written (among many other duties behind the camera) by a Canadian group that call themselves "Astron-6", which includes stars Brooks, Sweeney and Kennedy, as well as Jeremy Gillespie (who has a bit part here and co-wrote most of the film's original music) and Steven Kostanski (who directed Astron-6's equally funny and low rent MANBORG - 2011), FATHER'S DAY was a surprise to me from the start. It contains everything I usually hate, including giving it that fake "grindhouse" look by inserting emulsion scratches, some out of fucus photography and hairs on the projector bulb, but this is a great way to spend 99 minutes if you just want a good, old-fashioned 70's or 80's-like gore film with a plot that is sometimes inventive and sometimes offensive. Nothing is left to the imagination, including the aforementioned dick-biting, gunshots to the head, bodies torn in half and many other bloody bits. The comedy and acting are definitely hit-or miss, but that just adds to its charm. Troma founders Kaufman and Michael Herz produced the film and released it in a four disc limited edition Blu-Ray, 2 DVDs & a CD music soundtrack box set, with many extras (a Troma trademark), including a couple of Astron-6 short films and liner notes by acclaimed Canadian independent director Guy Maddin (THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD - 2003), who gets a "Thanks" during the end credits. This is way better than most of the crap that Troma releases and it gets my highest recommendation. Also starring Meredith Sweeney, Kyle Young, Zsuzsi, Billy Sadoo and Murray Davidson. A Troma Entertainment Blu-Ray/DVD Release. Unrated for all the right reasons, including copious nudity and an extremely uncomfortable scene where Fuchman injects his penis with some unknown substance and then cuts it with a knife, rubbing the blood on Chelsea's face.

FEAR NO EVIL (1980) - This minor cult classic has gained quite a reputation through the years, not for it's storyline (which is a mixture of THE OMEN [1976] meets NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD [1968]), but for it's trippy visual flair and punk rock soundtrack. Everyone knows Andrew Williams (Stefan Arngrim) is the Antichrist, especially when, as a baby in 1963, the water used to baptise him turns to blood. Eighteen years have passed since then (expertly shown as time-lapse photography of Andrew's parents' house, which goes from brand new to decrepit in less than 30 seconds) and Andrew witnesses his father severely cripple his mother on his birthday. At school, Andrew is a straight-A student but is treated like an outcast by nearly every student (it doesn't help that he's extremely introverted and always dresses in black). Andrew does have a crush on one female student, Julie (Kathleen Rowe McAllen), who has strange visions every time she is near Andrew. Could she be the reincarnation of the angel Gabriel, sent to Earth to join forces with two other angels to stop the Second Coming of Satan, a key part which lies in the evil powers of Andrew? Be prepared to witness the resurrection of the dead as the angels must battle Andrew and his horde of the living dead for the souls of every human being on Earth.  The first film by a then 26 year-old Frank LaLoggia (LADY IN WHITE - 1988), FEAR NO EVIL is probably the most definitive case of style over substance. The atmosphere is laid on thick and consists of wonderfully-used camera tricks (the feeling of hopelessness between Andrew's mother and father for Andrew's first 18 years of life could not have been done better than the time-lapse photography mentioned earlier) and the use of the entire widescreen image to convey alienation (used expertly in a funeral scene) is fantastic. If I have a complaint, it's that the screenplay (also by LaLoggia) is too derivative of other films, like 1976's CARRIE (there's a shower scene where the jocks pick on Andrew, only to have it bite the main bully in the ass) and THE OMEN (the whole Anti-Christ angle), which I am sure were on LaLoggia's mind when he was writing this as they were both fairly fresh films at the time. The fantastic finale (at the town's annual re-enactment of Christ's birth and death), which is full of scenes of the dead rising from their graves mixed with foggy neon lighting and laser effects (also fairly new at the time) are what previous viewers remember most about this film as it is fast-paced, bloody and comes out of nowhere. Mix in a soundtrack with songs by The Ramones, Boomtown Rats, Sex Pistols, Patti Smith and other punk bands and this was quite a treat for teens both in sight and sound when it originally played in theaters in 1980, especially after a joint or two (that's how I saw it). This low-budget gem may seem a little creaky today, but it still holds up as an atmospheric foray into the supernatural. I dare you not to smile when Andrew's drunken father (Barry Cooper) yells in a bar, "My son's the Devil!" over and over. It's also the only horror film where you'll witness a death by dodgeball and see a man grow breasts (and then kill himself!). There's also a surprising amount of full frontal male nudity but very little female nudity as the film has an underlying theme of homosexuality or, I should say, a fear of homosexuality as the shower and breast-growing scenes so beautifully display. Good stuff. FEAR NO EVIL is also known as LUCIFER. Also starring Elizabeth Hoffman, Frank Birney, Daniel Eden, Jack Holland and Alice Sachs. Originally released on VHS by Embassy Home Entertainment and released on widescreen DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Rated R.

FEAST (2006) - This is the film that was made during Season 3 of PROJECT GREENLIGHT and, after watching all the hoops first-time director John Gulager had to jump through to get this made, I'm glad to report that it's probably the best horror film released in 2006. After a humorous opening, which gives a brief bio and life expectancy of each character, the film immediately kicks into gear. A barfull of lowlifes and losers must band together and fight four creatures which are trying to get inside. The creatures, which have huge teeth and razor sharp claws, are hungry for flesh and looking to get even with the woman (Navi Rawat) who hit and killed one of them (possibly the grandfather of the pack) when driving with her husband (who is the first to get killed after bursting into the bar and announcing, "I'm the one who's gonna save your asses!" and then promptly gets decapitated). As the occupants bitch and moan and then finally band together, the creatures pick them off one-by-one in various gory ways (dismemberments, eye gougings, head squishings, dissolving bodies by spitting a slimey green goo on them). That's basically all there is to the plot and I know it sounds generic, but Gulager's execution is anything but generic. The whole film has a manic comic tone to it, like a Three Stooges short taken to the next level. Clothes are ripped off, body appendages are accidentally blown off and, just when you thought you've seen it all, the film reminds you that you haven't. I loved the part where they introduce Kevin Smith regular Jason Mewes (playing himself) only to immediately have his face ripped-off by a baby creature and then get shotgunned in the chest by the bartender (a welcome return to films by genre vet Clu Gulager [RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1985], the director's father). The whole film is full of little surprises like that and the script (by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan) is full of choice one-liners sure to bring a smile to your face. My favorite line comes when one of the men (who was drenched in the creature's goo) asks one of the women how he looks (he lost an eye and his face is dissolving). She takes one look at him and throws up. He just looks at her and says, "You shoulda been a nurse". If there's one complaint I could lodge against this film, it would be that some of the editing is way too quick, making some of the action hard to distinguish. It was probably done to cover-up some of the more low-budget aspects of the film. But, that's just a minor quibble as FEAST is a bloody good show for fans of horror. I can't wait to see what John Gulager does next without all the cameras and interference that dogged him during the shooting of this one. It should be a doozy (It turns his next assignments would be to direct two sequels to this film: FEAST II: SLOPPY SECONDS [2008] and FEAST III: THE HAPPY FINISH [2009], both highly watchable, but not what I expected). Dimension Films gave this a cursory one week theatrical release (using the R-rated cut) before dumping it to DVD. With the right marketing campaign, Dimension could have had a winner on their hands, but we know how fickle executive producers Bob & Harvey Weinstein are. Just be happy this film was released and didn't end up sitting on a shelf for a couple of years like other Weinstein productions. Also starring Balthazar Getty, Henry Rollins, Duane Whitaker, Judah Friedlander, Josh Zuckerman, Jenny Wade and Krista Allen. A Dimension Home Entertainment Release. Not Rated.

THE FEAST OF SATAN (1971) - When nurse Maria (Veronica Lujan) takes a mysterious 30 day vacation and is later found on the side of the road, in total mental breakdown and her hair turned completely white, the doctors at the hospital tell her sister, Hilda (Krista Nell; THE SLASHER - 1972), that Maria suffers from "Hammer Syndrome" and has been mentally deranged by fear (Maria hysterically screams out "Sheba!" and sees a mysterious man in a black cape wearing a ruby-encrusted medallion whenever she closes her eyes). When Maria is kidnapped from the loony bin by the man in the black cape, Hilda tries to uncover what happened to her sister while she was on "vacation" in hopes it will lead to her sister's present location. Hilda's investigation leads her to the cryptic (and filthy rich) Dr. Tills Nescu (Esperacto Santoni; THE FEMALE BUTCHER - 1973) and his beautiful lesbian assistant Andrea (Teresa Gimpera; CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1973). Dr. Nescu invites Hilda, Dr. Carlos Ferrer (Thomas Moore; LIGHT BLAST - 1985) and police Inspector Gonzales (Julio Pena; CROSS CURRENT - 1971) to a cocktail party at his remote mountain castle where, earlier, we see Dr. Nescu and Andrea murder his new girlfriend, Paula (Carla Conti), in some sort of sacrificial ritual. Dr. Nescu puts the moves on Hilda and she plays along so she can find clues about her sister. What Hilda doesn't know about Dr. Nescu is that he is a powerful mentalist (He proves is powers to a doubting visiting Prince by making a male lounge singer lose his voice while singing a song in a cocktail bar) and Hilda falls under his black powers, falling madly in love with him and revealing who she really is. Hilda is warned several times by complete strangers to stay away from Dr. Nescu (one crazy lady even mentions Sheba), but she doesn't listen. Instead, she ends up alone in the castle with Dr. Nescu , Andrea and their oriental servant, and is drugged, held prisoner and hallucinates (?) about a black magic ritual where Dr. Nescu and a bunch of his satanist followers sacrifice a live goat and invoke Satan and Sheba's names. The confusing finale finds Dr. Nescu trying to make Hilda his new Sheba, but a jilted Andrea (don't ask, I know she's supposed to be a lesbian) stabs Dr. Nescu in the back before he can finish the ceremony. Or does he?  This Spanish/Italian co-production, also known as FEAST FOR THE DEVIL, is a dreary, slow-moving horror thriller that contains horrible pacing, god-awful dubbing (try watching the scene where Dr. Nescu uses his mentalist powers on the male lounge singer and try not to laugh) and a plot that makes very little sense, as well as stretching credibility a little too far. Why on earth would Hilda fall in love with the man who is quite possibly responsible for her sister's disappearance and why the hell would her good friend Carlos (who also harbors secret feelings for her) or Inspector Gonzales let her? This film relies on too many convenient coincidences to advance the plot (Dr. Nescu is a playboy, yet he has a severe hatred for his mother, whom he use to watch whipping his father with a belt as a child. Shouldn't he be a homosexual instead?). Director Jose Maria Elorrieta (THE CURSE OF THE VAMPIRE - 1972), using the pseudonym "Joe Lacy", offers very little for the viewer to enjoy, as there is minimal blood, only a touch of nudity (both Nell and Gimpera do strut around in bikinis on several occasions, though) and the script (by Jose Luis Navarro, Marino Girolami and Miguel Madrid [as "Micael Skife"]) that will have you scratching your head in complete confusion and desperation, as you try to make sense of all the characters' actions (Especially the ludicrous finale, where two people commit suicide and Hilda suffers the same white-haired fate as her sister, even though Dr. Nescu is dead. What the fuck?). File this under "What The Hell Were They Smoking When They Made This?" This is nothing put plenty of camera zooms on Dr. Nescu's eyeballs and garish early-70's fashions. I was hoping "Tills Nescu" was an anagram, but it turns out it's just a funny name. Also starring Luis Villa and Francesco Acciaccarelli. Released on VHS by Mogul Video (under FEAST FOR THE DEVIL) and not available on U.S. DVD, although German company Marketing Films offers it on DVD under the title TANZ DES SATANS. The print I viewed was taken from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Rated R.

FERTILIZE THE BLASPHEMING BOMBSHELL (1989) - Another strange retitling job from Troma Films, available on Rhino Video as MARK OF THE BEAST and also known as TRIANGLE OF DEATH. Sheila Caan portrays Sandy, who, with her husband-to-be, are on their way to Las Vegas for a quickie wedding and to meet her identical twin sister Susan (Caan again), an anthropology professor who shares the same feelings (i.e. pain) as her sister. While driving through the desert, Sandy and her fiance take a shortcut off the highway and get lost. They end up in the town of Ellivnatas (Population: 13. Get it?) where they are greeted with staring eyes from the few residents. The people are devil worshippers and soon Sandy and her fiance are lured out to a canyon where her fiance is set on fire and tossed off a cliff and Sandy is stabbed in the chest as a sacrifice by the cult leader (the late Robert Tessier of HARD TIMES [1976], in one of his last roles). Susan feels Sandy's pain and begins searching for her. She meets a mechanic (Rick Hill) who joins her in the search. She ends up in that quaint little town and is threatened, physically abused and nearly run off the road. Susan tries to get the county sheriff (Bo Hopkins, who could phone in his performance) to help, but he is either unable or unwilling to give it. The remainder of the film consists of Susan running around in her underwear trying to avoid Tessier and his baddies from impregnating her with the Devil's child. Better acted and filmed than most Troma product (probably because they purchased it after production ended), this is still third-rate stuff even when compared with any one of Concorde's worst productions. One gets the notion that Bo Hopkins takes these roles to supply his dwindling liquor cabinet. John Saxon and Bo Svenson were probably at an AA meeting when this role was offered. One can only feel pity for  Robert Tessier. This is not a fitting way to end an illustrious career of playing bad guys. For Hopkins and Tessier completists only. Directed and written by Jeff Hathcock (VICTIMS - 1985; NIGHT RIPPER - 1986; STREETS OF DEATH - 1987) who's no Hitchcock.  A Troma Films Release. Rated R.

FINAL EXAM (1981) - A college quarterback and his new girlfriend are savagely stabbed by a hulking psycho while they are necking in the parking lot of March College. At nearby Lanier College the next morning, the students, on hearing the news, can only talk about how it increases their odds of their football team winning the championship this year (Kids, you gotta love 'em!). During finals, one of the fraternaties, headed by football star Wildman (Ralph Brown), stages a prank where masked terrorists come out of a van and start shooting up the campus with machine guns (if they did that today, they would be looking a serious jail time) as a diversion so Mark (John Fallon), another football jock, can cheat on one of his tests. The psycho is now also at Lanier College following Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) around in a van. Courtney's best friend is Radish (Joel S. Rice), a nerdy genius (who has a TOOLBOX MURDERS [1978] poster on his wall), who helps her when she comes to him with personal problems. A pledge named Gary (Terry W. Farren), who just stole the answers to another test so Mark can cheat again, is tied to a tree (after being stripped to his underwear) and covered in shaving cream and left there overnight, as punishment for giving his pledge pin to his girlfriend Janet (Sherry Willis-Burch). Gary doesn't make it through the night. Neither does Janet. The killer viciously stabs both of them. The killer targets Wildman next, hanging him on some gym equipment after Wildman steals some uppers from the coach's desk. Mark is next to go, stabbed in the chest when he goes to check up on Wildman. When Radish finds Mark's body, he calls the Sheriff (Sam Kilman), but he doesn't believe him because Radish called him earlier in the day to report the fake terrorist attack. Radish also loses his life to the killer's knife. Courtney finds Radish's body and runs to warn everybody, only to find out they are all dead. Now it's just Courtney against the killer and they both have knives. Why is he killing everyone? We will never know. Does a psycho killer with a big butcher knife really need a reason?  Director/screenwriter Jimmy Huston (DARK SUNDAY - 1976; SEABO - BUCKSTONE COUNTY PRISON - 1978; MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE - 1988) seems to have forgotten what makes a slasher film work: Lots of inventive bloody deaths. After the initial car stabbing, it takes nearly 55 minutes for the next murder to take place. The murders are always clouded in darkness, so you never see the payoffs. I will give one concession to the killer: When he stabs someone, it's usually multiple times, not "one stab and you're dead". For a slasher flick, FINAL EXAM is way too tame. The acting, by a cast of unknowns, isn't too bad, but the story just meanders along at a much too leisurely pace, playing like a low-rent version of ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) until the final 30 minutes, when all the campus fun stops and the killer dispatches everyone except Courtney who, in the finale, stabs him about a dozen times (all of it placed conveniently just off-screen). The killer's (played by Timothy L. Raynor) motivation is never explained, so the killings really have no meaning. While many real-life serial killers may kill for no reason, it helps in low-budget horror films like this if we understand why the killer is killing. There's also no nudity (although there's plenty of sex talk amongst the cast) and very little foul language. The reason for this is probably because director Jimmy Huston got his start working for producer/star Earl Owensby (this movie was filmed at his E.O. Motion Picture Studio in Shelby, North Carolina, but otherwise Owensby had nothing to do with it), whose early films were advertised as "family friendly", a mindset that Huston probably found hard to shake when he was writing the script for this. Although the film is rated R, a couple of small edits amounting to less than 5 seconds would put it in PG (not even PG-13) territory. Why bother? You shouldn't. Also starring DeAnna Robbins, Don Hepner and Mary Ellen Withers. An Embassy Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on anamorphic widescreen DVD from Scorpion Releasing and on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory/Code Red. Rated R.

FLESH EATING MOTHERS (1988) - It's always a good idea when you're making a horror film to have at least one character you can sympathize with or at least root for. This ultra low-budget 16mm epic has none. After a lengthy set-up establishing the characters in a town full of adulterers, abusive husbands, bullies, angry divorced parents, crooked cops, slimey doctors and high school hooligans, the film kicks in gear when an unknown virus (passed by a cheating husband to a bunch of his married conquests) infects the women, causing them to become hungry for the taste of human flesh. When divorced cop Clyde McCormick (Mickey Ross) goes to his ex-wife's home and finds her chowing-down on their son, he shoots her in the head, since that seems to be the only place on her body that a bullet works (fuckin' George Romero and his mythology!). He's arrested for her murder when no one believes his story, although the one-armed Police Commissioner (Ken Eaton) should since he lost his arm years earlier due to a similar incident. Clyde escapes custody determined to find out what the hell is going on and why the commissioner is covering it up. It's not long before every mother and wife begins eating members of their families in very graphic ways. Clyde works with the vertically-challenged medical examiner, Dr. Grouly (Michael Feuer, one of the worst actors I have ever seen), while the surviving kids band together trying to find a way to stop their flesh eating mothers. Armed with a new vaccine (which turns out to be penicillin!) which will reverse the virus, the kids try to "stick it to" their mothers before the police kill them all.  I guess the best word to describe this film is amateurish. It's apparent when watching the film that no one in it has any acting experience as there's not a decent performance in the bunch. Director James Aviles Martin (who has since gone on to make documentaries) tries to make this a gore comedy, but fails miserably on both counts, as the gore, while extremely bloody, is not very convincing and the comedy consists of people saying lines like, "What's eating you?" and "Fuck you, you fucking cannibal!" The Elite Entertainment DVD offers the full unrated cut (Academy Entertainment offered both an R-rated edit as well as the Unrated cut on VHS), but the widescreen transfer is very grainy at times, thanks to it's 16mm origin. Like I said in the beginning, the total lack of sympathetic (nevermind believable) characters sink this film and the bad acting and chintzy make-up effects don't help either. My advice is to avoid this one unless you like sitting through 89 minutes of tedium. Also starring Robert Lee Oliver, Valorie Hubbard, Neal Rosen, Donatella Hecht, Katherine Mayfield and Grace Pettijohn. An Elite Entertainment Release. Not Rated.

FLESH FEAST (1969) - Deadly slow mixture of espionage and horror genres that's more important for its pedigree than for the actual film itself. First off, it stars 40's blonde bombshell Veronica Lake (who is also a producer) who, unfortunately looks like a bombed blonde shell of her former self. It was directed, co-produced and co-written by Brad F. Grinter, who made the classic badfilm BLOOD FREAK three years later. It was co-written by Thomas B. Casey, who would direct SOMETIMES AUNT MARTHA DOES STRANGE THINGS in 1971. Harry Kerwin, who directed GOD'S BLOODY ACRE (1975), has a small part and is production manager here. Chris Martell, who starred in SCREAM BABY, SCREAM (1969), also stars and is assistant director on this. As you can see, it's a veritable who's-who of early 70's Florida regional filmmaking. It's just too bad that FLESH FEAST is such a total bore. Lake stars as Dr. Elaine Frederick, who has perfected a rejuvenation procedure that involves specially-bred maggots that eat the flesh of dead people and, when applied to live people, give that person new youth and vigor. When some shady South American dudes in dark suits and black sunglasses hire Dr. Frederick to rejuvenate their boss, "The Commander", she prepares her lab for his arrival (her female assistant steals a female corpse from the hospital so the maggots can feed, as we see another assistant cut off the corpse's leg with a bone saw). A subplot involves a female student falling in love with Jose (Bill Rogers), one of the South Americans who have taken over Frederick's house. When Dr. Frederick performs a practice experiment on Max Bauer (Martell), an old man with a scarred face (to satisfy the S.A. dudes that her experiment is on the up-and-up), he becomes a young, spry man who proceeds to rape Jose's new girlfriend and then kills her. Jose kills him and puts his dead girlfriend in Dr. Frederick's lab. Satisfied with the outcome, the South Americans bring The Commander to Frederick's house. The Commander turns out to be Adolph Hitler (!) and Dr. Frederick has revenge on her mind, since her mother died in one of Hitler's concentration camps. The film ends abruptly with Dr. Frederick using her maggots on Hitler in a whole new way, while she cackles "Heil Hitler!" in front of a portrait of her dead mother.  Even at 72 minutes, the film seems hopelessly padded as the Jose subplot and another involving a newspaper reporter/C.I.A. agent Dan Carter (Kerwin) go nowhere and neither one is resolved. The entire film looks to have been shot silent and the post-synch dubbing, though done by the actors, barely match the lip movements. The film is also hopelessly dated, as every male character wears a dark suit with a skinny tie and most of the women sport beehive hairdos, except for Lake, who still wears her hair as she did when she was a femme fatale in films such as THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942). This was also Lake's last film, but try not to remember her this way. Doug Hobart (DEATH CURSE OF TARTU - 1966) provided the not-so-special effects, which include the aforementioned leg amputation, some old age makeup (which looks like oatmeal paste) and various body parts hanging in Dr. Frederick's lab. FLESH FEAST is worth a viewing if you are interested in Florida regional exploitation films (I think the only regional talent not involved in this were William Grefe and Wayne Crawford!), but have a stimulant handy because you'll need it. The Beverly Wilkshire DVD (which is OOP but still available on some online outlets) is pretty poor and looks like a second or third generation VHS dupe. It also has a glitch around the 11 minute mark that brings you back to the main menu. Just go to the second chapter and rewind to just after the glitch and the rest of the film plays fine. Also starring Phil Philbin, Martha Mischon, Doug Foster, Brad Townes and Otto Schlesinger. A Beverly Wilkshire DVD Release. Also available on VHS from World Video. Rated R.

FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: OUTBREAK ON A PLANE (2006) - Here's a question I have for all the big movie production companies: How is it a fun, gory horror film like this bypasses a theatrical release and goes straight to DVD and yet lousy horror films like THE RETURN (2006) and THE MESSENGERS (2007) get wide theatrical play? While nothing more than a zombie version of SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006), this film is a hoot and a half to watch. After being introduced to all the major characters on Flight 239 heading to Paris, including a cop named Truman (David Chisum); his prisoner Frank (the wonderful Kevin J. O'Connor), who profoundly professes his innocence; pro golfer Long Shot (Derek Webster); his alcoholic wife and several dozen other passengers, we learn that the evil Dr. Leo Bennett (Erick Avari), who is also on the plane, has brought a new virus on-board that can bring the dead back to life. When bad turbulence causes the cargo to shift, the virus is set loose when the cryogenically frozen body of Dr. Kelly (Laura Cayouette) is released and she begins biting and infecting passengers. As more people begin getting exposed (and turning into decaying zombies), the unafflicted passengers band together and try to figure out how to stop the infection from spreading. Dr. Bennett tries to cover-up the truth (even resorting to murder), so Truman, Long Shot, flight attendant Megan (Kristen Kerr), TSA agent Paul Rudd (Richard Tyson) and even Frank (who has escaped Truman's custody during the turbulence) pitch in and fight the zombie onslaught. With the plane's radio out of order and the government now well-aware what is loose on-board, the motley group must find a way to defeat the virus and stop the government from vaporizing the plane before it flies over a populated area. Things take a turn for the worse when both the pilot and co-pilot are infected and the plane goes on auto pilot. It will take some quick thinking and self-sacrifice to rid the plane of the zombies, stop the fighter jet from firing it's rockets and, finally, crash-landing the plane so the four survivors can walk away.  While this film is nothing more than your basic "zombies-on-the-loose where no one can escape" scenario that we have seen dozens of times before, this film has plenty of attitude (and altitude) to spare and generates a good share of scares and tension. It's also got a wicked sense of black humor. Also unusual for a film of this  type are the calibre of actors involved, some in nothing but bit parts. Besides the ones already mentioned, there's Brian Thompson (as the soldier who guards the virus on the plane and becomes it's first victim), Raymond Barry (as the pilot), Dale Midkiff (as Dr. Lucas, one of the early victims), Tucker Smallwood (as Colonel Wolff) and David Spielberg (as Dr. Conroy). The film also has some very well-done action and horror set-pieces, such as when Paul accidentally fires his weapon in the cargo hold and the bullet ends up killing a flight attendant above or the scene in the plane's bathroom, where we are led to believe a zombie is going to pop out of the toilet, only to have it suddenly appear somewhere else. There's even a scene of zombies rising up out of the ground, only in this case they are tearing their way from the plane's floors rather than from graves. The film is very bloody and goes way past an R-rating, as people are graphically eaten, shot (Paul says, "Two in the chest, one in the balls!" as he and Truman use the zombies for target practice) and dismembered. One scene shows a nun (There's one on every plane, isn't there?) having her legs chewed off as she crawls away, minus any lower limbs. So much for divine intervention! The visual humor is in some of the zombie attacks and aftermath and most of the verbal humor is supplied by Kevin J. O'Connor (DEEP RISING - 1998; THE MUMMY - 1999), but director/co-producer/co-scripter Scott Thomas (LATIN DRAGON - 2004) never allows the film to drift into satire. He prefers to play it straight and let the outlandish sights and situations (including an Asian zombie that can't figure out how to undo his seatbelt, zombies scurrying away with arms and legs in their mouths and Long Shot using his golf clubs to decapitate a zombie) speak for themselves. The zombie makeups and effects are very well done (although some of the CGI effects are obvious) and the acting is uniformly excellent, so grab this one and enjoy the ride. It's left open for a sequel and, for once, I hope it happens. This is one of my Top Ten independent horror films to be released in 2007. Also starring Todd Babcock, Siena Goines, Mieko Hillman, Sarah Laine and Brian Kolodzeij. A New Line Home Entertainment Release. Unrated.

FREAK (1997) - Nine years ago, in Vahalla Mills, Ohio, a fat, disgusting (and pregnant) abusive mother keeps her facially deformed son locked in the attic, slapping him around and chaining him up like a dog. Mom unlocks the chains so he can eat and then goes into labor, running downstairs to deliver her baby girl, which she then throws into a burning barrel outside. The son sees her throw the baby into the fire and rescues it, then going to his mother (who is recuperating in bed) and caving her head in with a rock. A few days later, the police arrive and, since they can't find the mother, the baby girl is sent to Child Services and the deformed boy is sent to an institution. In the present day, Stacy (Amy Paliginoff) and her nine year-old adoptive sister Jodi (Andrea Johnson) are moving from Indianapolis to Virginia Beach after the sudden death of Stacy's parents. At the same time, the malformed boy, now an adult called Keller, is being moved to a different institution, when he escapes. As Stacy and Jodi enter Ohio on their way to Virginia Beach, they will cross paths with Keller and neither Stacy or Jodi will come out unaffected. I submit that you should look at Jodi's age and the fact that she's adopted to connect the dots. Keller kidnaps Jodi and heads to his mother's house. Stacy joins forces with Jason (Travis Patton), the security guard that let Keller escape, to find Jodi and stop Keller's killing spree.  This ultra-low-budget film by first time director/producer/writer Tyler Tharpe takes a while to get moving, but once it does it's pretty entertaining. It's not hard to spot the telegraphed connection between Keller and Jodi and Tharpe reveals it at the halfway mark. Although the premise for Keller's escape is kind of weak (Jason is on probation, so he doesn't report the escape because he doesn't want to lose his job!), the film does build a fair amount of suspense without being overly bloody. There's a surprising reveal about Keller's condition near the end of the film (he lost one of his senses, which explains his behavior all his life). The showdown between Stacy and Keller is much too quick and is somewhat disappointing. The film suffers from a grainy transfer and the non-acting talents of little Andrea Johnson, who looks and acts like she would rather be any place but here. The ending is also a letdown as it seems Keller is way too easy to kill. Still, for a debut film, it's none too bad and is worth at least one look. Also on the DVD is a short black & white film called HEADCHEESE (2001), a pretentious TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1975)-inspired story co-produced by Kim Henkel (co-writer of the original TCM) that was filmed on several locations used in TCM. Using sound effects, quick-cutting and weird visuals, this insipid film induced headaches rather than terror. I've crapped more interesting things. A Shock-O-Rama DVD Release. Rated R.

THE FREAKMAKER (1973) - Step right up ladies and gentlemen. Come and see the mistakes of nature. The only problem is, some of the mistakes had human hands involved. The film opens with some striking time-lapse photography of plants coming to life as Professor Nolter (Donald Pleasence) lectures his university students about certain species of plants that act like animals. He tells his students that one day we will be able to take a single cell from a fossil and grow a dinosaur by cloning it (pre-dating JURASSIC PARK by 20 years!). But what the Professor is really trying to do is fuse humans with the mutant carnivorous plants he has created, the result being a human/plant hybrid that will survive our uncertain future. The Professor has the horribly ugly Mr. Lynch (Tom Baker) snatch students from the university for use in his illicit experiments in exchange for the Professor reversing the effects of Mr. Lynch's deformed face (a task you know immediately that Nolter will never honor). The mistakes of Nolter's experiments are sent to Mr. Lynch's freak show, where paying customers scream and faint at the sight of them after paying an extra charge for the privilege. During the middle part of the film we are shown an actual freak show, where the diminutive co-owner and ringmaster Burns (Michael Dunn, who died shortly after making this film) introduces us to the Monkey Woman (Madge Garnett), the Human Pincushion (O.T.), the Frog Boy (Felix Duarte), the Alligator Girl (Ester Blackmon) and the infamous Popeye (Willie Ingram), a tall black man who can pop his eyes out of their sockets (I swear I threw up in my mouth a little!). Some university students (Julie Ege and Jill Haworth) and a visiting professor (Brad Harris) become suspicious when their friend Tony (Scott Anthony) turns up missing after visiting the freak show. After operating on Tony and transforming him into a walking Venus Flytrap mutation (who escapes), Nolter shows his true colors: a meglomaniac who cares only about his results and nothing about human life. After he has Lynch kidnap Ege for another experiment, his escaped mutation comes back for some payback. Not to be outdone, when Lynch shows his contempt for the freaks, it ends up biting him in the ass. Originally released as THE MUTATIONS and later changed to THE FREAKMAKER, this only horror effort by award winning cinematographer and director Jack Cardiff (THE LONG SHIPS - 1963; GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE - 1968) is a darn good horror flick that contains good scares, weird plant mutation creations, great colorful set direction and a music score that can best be described as eclectic. I liked that the script, by Robert D. Weinbach (also the producer) and Edward Mann, showcases the real-life freaks as human beings who look after each other as if they were one big family. You really feel for them when outsiders look at them with disgust. The DVD contains a wonderful featurette about making the film (which cost $400,000 to make), with interviews of Cardiff, Brad Harris and Weinbach (who supplies some hilarious anecdotes about Harris and Popeye). There's also a hidden Easter Egg that gives you the opening with THE MUTATIONS title. The DVD box says: "It's the 70's version of the cult classic FREAKS!" It's that and a whole lot more. Recommended. A Subversive Cinema DVD Release. Rated R.

THE FREEWAY MANIAC (1987) - Here's the film in a nutshell: An escaped mental patient terrorizes and kills the cast and crew who are filming a low-budget sci-fi flick in the middle of the desert. Yeah, I know. Big deal. The psychopath, Arthur (James Courtney), who has severe mother issues (We watch him, as a child, kill his slutty mother and her one night stand white trash boyfriend with a butcher knife), escapes from the loony bin rather easily (this mental hospital has the worst security ever!) and begins his path of death and destruction. He kills a guy walking his dog, steals his car and drives towards the desert. At the same time, a young model/actress named Linda (Loren Winters) comes home early to find her boyfriend screwing another woman. Hurt deeply, she hops in her car and drives blindly into the desert, where her car breaks down and she is forced to walk to the nearest gas station, a ramshackle dive run by the lecherous Ray (Jeff Morris). When Ray puts the moves on her, Linda runs away, right into the arms of Arthur, who decided to stop for gas. Arthur murders Ray and tries to do the same to Linda, but she fights him off (by hitting him with a car) and escapes to safety. Linda becomes a local celebrity when Arthur is recaptured; he grows more and more obsessed with Linda the more she is profiled for her bravery on the TV news. Linda uses her new-found fame to secure a starring role in a cheap sci-fi film and when Arthur catches wind of her new fame, thanks to newspapers and daily news reports, he goes full-tilt bozo and escapes the asylum again (Everyone that works there should be fired for incompetence, not only for letting him escape again, but also for supplying him with newspapers and TV that feeds his obsession!). The Linda-obsessed Arthur steals a big rig (after killing the driver), kills a bunch of wise-ass teens in a pickup truck (by running them over) and then heads towards the film shoot by foot once the truck breaks down, stopping long enough to kill a couple necking in yet another pickup truck and a couple of hikers. When the producer of the film, Bert (Sheperd Sanders), and Linda's agent, Steven (Donald Hotton; ONE DARK NIGHT - 1982), are notified that Arthur has escaped, they decide not to tell Linda for strictly personal financial reasons. As more cast and crew of the film shoot end up missing, Linda's cheating boyfriend arrives on the set and saves Linda from the clutches of Arthur. Or does he? Thankfully, the threat of a sequel never materialized.  The best way to describe this low-budget horror film with one simple word?: Lacking. The only thing this film has going in it's favor is some female nudity, as the rest of the film is dreary, from it's one-note villain, the terrible acting, the static camera work and the dearth of any notable gore. Director/co-producer Paul Winters (RED BLOOD - 2001), who also co-wrote the screenplay with master of the macabre illustrator Gahan Wilson, misses every opportunity possible to offer the audience something to like or at least find interesting. The killings are mostly bloodless, with the camera pulling away rather than focusing-in on the blood and gore. The sad fact is that the little snippets we see of the film-within-the-film seem infinitely more enjoyable than the actual film itself. At no time does Arthur seem like someone who could scare a ten year-old, never mind an adult. He looks and talks like some regular Joe, yet he survives getting shot, being thrown off the hood of a speeding car and other situations that would kill, or at least maim, a normal person. I love where films like this try to get away with making their villains superhuman or supernatural for the mere fact that they've spent most of their lives in a mental institution. It seems to me they would be the exact opposite, weak and slow. Basically, THE FREEWAY MANIAC is a complete bore, offering nothing new or remotely interesting to it's intended audience. This is an anti-horror horror film that's a slap in the face to anyone who watches it. Gahan Wilson (who designed the film's only funny prop, the "Sand Clam" used in the film-within-the-film) would rather we all forget this film was made (he refuses to talk about it). Follow his advice. Robert Bloch and Stan Lee are thanked in the closing credits. Also starring Robert Bruce, Dale Howard, Ronny Kenney, Trisha Hutton, Thad Greer, Jason Christmas, James Maniaci, Bob Harvey and Joe Perry. This Cannon Films Production was released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and is not available on DVD. Rated R.

FROM BENEATH (2011) - Simply horrid Canadian horror film with enough plot inconsistencies to fill a book. After a rather atmospheric opening where we watch Dan Kentley (Blake Retter), who looks like he is turning into something inhuman (one of his eyes is yellow and his body is full of black sores and veins), throwing a young girl into a lake and something grabs her, we then switch to the film proper, which goes downhill so fast, you'll feel as if you're watching a soapbox derby. Unmarried couple Sam (Lauren Watson) and Jason (Jamie Temple) drive to the desolated farmhouse (you can tell this movie is Canadian because they use the word "kilometers" instead of "miles") of her sister Elizabeth, husband (who is Dan Kentley) and two young daughters, who have started an internet business and want solitude. They get to the house and find it empty, so they follow a path outside in which they find a creepy barn and then go further, where the path ends at the lake we saw at the beginning of the film. They decide to take a swim in the lake (even though when they were in the barn we could see their breath, telling us it was freezing outside), strip down to their underwear (don't expect any nudity because there isn't any) and jump in. When they get out, Jason spots a leech-like creature crawling on Sam's back, so he knocks it off and steps on it. That's when he notices that he has one of those creatures crawling inside his leg. They go back to the house and Sam dresses the wound on Jason's leg, they make love (Really?) and she tells him that she loves him, but he can't say it back (he has committment issues due to something that happened in his childhood). The wound becomes more and more infected, causing the same types of black veins on his leg as we saw on Dan's body. Sam tries to call for an ambulance on a land line in one of the many phones in the house (her cell phone doesn't work because they are in a dead zone, one of the oldest excuses in a horror film since cell phones became commonplace), but the lines are dead, so they decide to drive back to civilization. Of course, the car doesn't work (another horror film stereotype), so they go back to the house, where Jason begins hallucinating and tries to strangle Sam a couple of times. Rather than running away, Sam stays with Jason because he finally says "I love you" (C'mon now!), as his leg becomes more and more infected. They notice a locked door and find the key under a waterproof flashlight. They open the door and find Elizabeth's decomposing body. Jason talks Sam into moving the body out of the house and leave it by the lake (He doesn't want it to be put where Sam can see it out the window!). Jason finally becomes a monster while Sam goes back to the lake, where she finds a sign hidden under the grass that says the lake is off limits for swimming due to biological contamination (The closest you'll ever find out exactly what these creatures are). When she goes back to the house, Jason knocks her out and carries her back to the lake, where tentacles grab Sam on her leg and begin dragging her underwater. Noticing that bright light seems to be the creatures (and Jason's) kryptonite, she uses the flashlight on the tentacles and on Jason, getting out of the water in the nick of time. For just a moment, Jason become human again, grabs the flashlight and jumps into the lake, where we see a blast of bright light and nothing else. At the finale, Sam discovers she is pregnant, lifts up her shirt and has black veins on her stomach. She screams. THE END. I can't begin to tell you how bad this film is, but I can tell you who to blame. His name is David Doucette and he directed, wrote, co-produced, did the cinematography and edited this hellish effort, every one for the first time on a feature-length film (it clocks in at a scant 82 minutes and the end credits only last for about 30 seconds because the majority of names are Doucette's. It doesn't even have a copyright date.). His screenplay for this ultra-low-budget effort is the biggest problem of the film and contains so many holes, it would make a swarm of moths in a sweater factory jealous. The biggest hole is why there are no computers in Sam's sister's house when they are running an internet business? Not one single computer is seen (not to mention not a single TV), probably because the budget wouldn't allow it, so why doesn't the screenplay give the family another reason for living there? There is a small digital camcorder that Sam finds in one of her neice's bedroom that details what happened to her sister and family, but it doesn't add anything to further the plot. And since bright light seems to kill these creatures, wouldn't the sun hitting the lake qualify as a bright light? While basically a two character film, these are two people that deserve their fates because they do things that just defy reason (especially moving the corpse of the sister and not noticing her car is covered by brush). There's very little blood or gore; just close-ups of Jason's leg wound as it gets worse, dripping green puss and Jason hallucinating a couple of times where blood flows out of Sam's mouth. The acting is also a step below amateurish (Lauren Watson has had uncredited bit parts in films like RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES [2011], but everyone else here is an acting virgin) and the sound recording is technically sub-par. Do yourself a favor and spend the 82 minutes doing something else, like trying to clip the nails of a rabid raccoon while blindfolded. Anything you do would be better than watching this boring mess. Also starring Bella Hawkesboyd as the corpse of Elizabeth. A Midnight Releasing DVD Release. Not Rated.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY (1998) - I've read many bad reviews for this belated sequel to the Robert Rodriquez/Quentin Tarantino 1995 hit (they both executive-produced this one), but I enjoyed it immensely. This is a highly entertaining vampire flick. Buck (Robert Patrick, who replaced David Duchovny on THE X-FILES [1993 - 2002]) joins escaped bank robber Luther (Duane Whitaker, who also co-wrote the screenplay) and his gang to rob a bank in Mexico. Along the way, Luther is bitten by two vampires (Danny Trejo, the only returning actor from the first film [and the only actor to appear in all three films] and this film's editor, Bob Murawski) after stopping at the infamous Titty Twister bar. Needless to say, he infects everyone in his gang except Buck, who must convince sheriff Otis Lawson (Bo Hopkins, who looks like he is having fun) that he is not dealing with normal bank robbers. The final showdown at the bank is a bloody mixture of bullet hits, neck bitings, Hong Kong-style stunts, impalements and disintegrations. Director/Co-screenwriter Scott Spiegel (INTRUDER, a.k.a. BLOODNIGHT - 1989) lays on the gore (supplied by the KNB effects house) thick and heavy and supplies enough inventive POV shots (courtesy of DOP Philip Lee) to keep your eyes occupied long enough to let you ignore some major gaping plot holes (that must be the longest total eclipse in history!). This is clearly a case of style over substance and, in this film, it works. This is strictly played for laughs, with lines such as, "I'd kill your ass if you weren't already dead!" and is probably the first time you will see a vampire killed with a pair of mirrored sunglasses! You could do a whole lot worse than rent this low-budget gem. I guarantee that you will not be bored. Also starring Muse Watson, Brett Harrelson and Raymond Cruz with cameos by Bruce Campbell and Tiffany Amber Thiessen. Filmed in South Africa, but unlike most films lensed there that try to pass themselves off as the United States, Mexico or someplace else, you wouldn't know it unless you read the end credits. Followed by FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER (2000). A Dimension Home Video & DVD Release, with a re-release on DVD from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment in 2011. Rated R.

FROM WITHIN (2007) - Talk about lost potential. Here's a film that begins with an interesting idea, but stumbles soon after and never regains its footing. Natalie (Rumer Willis; SORORITY ROW - 2009) watches helplessly as her boyfriend pulls out a gun and kills himself by swallowing a bullet. She runs to her father Bernard's (Jared Harris) clothing store, where Lindsay (Elizabeth Rice) and stepmom Trish (Laura Allen; THE 4400 [2004 - 2007]) are buying a dress for church. The blood-covered Natalie tells Lindsay that a strange woman has been following her since her boyfriend offed himself and to tell Bernard to check outside. A few seconds later, Natalie is found dead with a pair of scissors sticking out of her neck, another apparent suicide. Since Natalie and her boyfriend were the goth couple in town, no one (besides her father) makes too much of the suicides, but it is apparent to the viewer that something much more sinister is going on. Later that night, Bernard is visited by some unseen form and is killed, which will also be deemed a suicide since he is found hanging in the rafters by his niece. A pattern starts to emerge where whoever finds the last "suicide" is doomed to be the next victim of the suicide sickness. This splits the town into two factions: One faction, led by Pastor Joe (Steven Culp; HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER - 2001) and his son Dylan (Kelly Blatz), blame the family of Aidan (Thomas Dekker; LAID TO REST - 2009), whose mother, Molly (Amanda Babin), was believed to be a witch and may have been killed by Pastor Joe and his followers in a fire years earlier that was declared to be an accident by the authorities. Lindsay gets caught in the middle when her boyfriend Dylan beats-up Aidan and she drives Aidan home. This doesn't sit too well with drunken stepmom Trish, who warns Lindsay to stay away from Aidan and stick to her current boyfriend Dylan, who also warns that "this town takes care of its own." Lindsay goes to Aidan's house to warn him about upcoming reprisals and she meets Aidan's cousin, Sadie (Margo Harshman), who warns Aidan to keep "outsiders" out of their business (there's a lot of "warning" in this movie). Things get downright creepy when Bernard's niece is visited by a spooky woman who slits her wrists on some broken glass. The next day, Lindsay's best friend Claire (Brittany Robertson) passes by the spooky woman's dead body and is infected. A short while later, Claire gets into a car accident and is burned alive.  Trish witnesses the accident  and becomes infected. She is tricked into drinking a bottle of drain cleaner by her image in the bathroom mirror (her image makes the drain cleaner look like a bottle of bourbon!). Lindsay, who has just been abducted by Dylan, Pastor Joe, Sadie and her white trash father Roy (Adam Goldberg; STAY ALIVE - 2006), has an exorcism performed on her, discovers Trish's body in the bathroom and becomes next in line to be infected with the sickness. Lindsay races to Aidan's house in hopes of finding a cure, but what she learns instead is that her fate lies in a cursed book and only a real, true suicide can stop the sickness from spreading. But just who has to willingly give up their life? And will uber-religious dickhead Dylan ruin the whole thing? Make sure to stay through the end credits to find out.  This so-so horror film, part of AFTER DARK HORRORFEST III (a series of eight films given a limited theatrical release in January 2009), has some really creepy scenes, but it isn't wholly successful. Director Phedon Papamichael (SKETCH ARTIST - 1992; DARK SIDE OF GENIUS - 1994) has an eye for framing shots for maximum effectiveness (he should, as he's an excellent cinematographer by trade), but the screenplay, by Brad Keene (THE GRAVEDANCERS - 2006), begins falling apart at the halfway mark, when it becomes clear that Keene is merely copying plot points from successful J-Horror flicks, where stringy-haired ghosts and evil doppelgangers begin killing townspeople, all over a cursed book (substitute a VHS tape or a cell phone and you'll quickly get the connection). The acting is uniformly good and there are some good gore and scares, but FROM WITHIN just gets downright silly and unbelievable as it progresses to its ridiculous conclusion. Hey, I'm not a religious man, but even I found the use of religion here as a representation of evil more than a little heavy-handed. This is one of those films that begins like gangbusters and then peters-out like a silent-but-deadly fart. Also starring Michelle Babin as Evil Molly. A Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

FRONTIER(S) (2007) - What is it with the French lately? The new millennium seems to have brought out the bloodlust in them, with films like THE NEST (2002; really worthwhile viewing), HAUTE TENSION (2003), CALVAIRE (2004), SHEITAN (2006), MARTYRS (2008) and this film (Not surprisingly, Los Angeles movie "suits" have pulled most of these films' directors from France to make "Hollywoodized" genre films). FRONTIER(S) opens with a real-life violent time in French history. In 2005, a major race riot broke out on the streets of Paris due to the police chasing two teens on a minor charge, which resulted in the teens accidentally electrocuting themselves while trying to hide in a power plant. Thousands of teens and other sympathizers protested in the streets and eventually it turned into a violent riot, thanks once again to the police mishandling the situation by using brutal violence on the crowds (This film does play loose with the actual facts, changing the riots to coincide with a volitile political election). Within this background of violence in the streets, we meet Yasmine (Karina Testa), who is three months pregnant and looking for a safe way to get out of Paris. With her brother Sami (Adel Bencherif) shot and bleeding during the riots, Yasmine calls ex-boyfriend Alex (Aurelien Wiik), the unborn baby's father, for some help, not realizing that Alex, along with friends Tom (David Saracino) and Farid (Chems Dahmani), using the riots as a cover, have just pulled a bank heist and killed a couple of cops. Alex agrees to take Sami and Yasmine to the hospital, while Tom and Farid take their stolen loot and hide out in the "frontier" (their term for the countryside). Alex waits outside the hospital while Yasmine and a mortally wounded Sami go inside. Just before he dies, Sami begs Yasmine to keep the baby (she is seriously thinking about getting an illegal late-term abortion) and she must leave the hospital quickly because the police are approaching. Tom and Farid end up at their destination, a quaint little inn in the middle of nowhere, only this little inn may be the most terrifying place on Earth. The innkeeper, Goetz (Samuel Le Bihan), is a tall, bald-headed brute who tells his two sisters, Gilberte (Estelle Lefebure) and Klaudia (Amelie Daure), to make sure that Tom and Farid are made to feel at home (This also involves sex, but the girls have very violent sex with the guys and both girls seem to love it). At the dinner table, Goetz feeds the guys some mystery meat (thinking it is pork, Farid declines because of his Muslim upbringing) and they then watch Goetz and his sisters force-feed their comatose mother at the dinner table. Later that night, Goetz's equally brawny and bald cop brother, Karl (Patrick Legardes), tries to steal Tom and Farid's money bag, which results in Tom being beaten with a pipe before getting a couple of fingers blown-off with Karl's gun. Tom and Farid manage to escape in their car, but Goetz runs them off the road and they crash down a mine shaft. Goetz thinks they are dead, but Tom and Farid manage to get out of the car and crawl through the mine shaft, only to have Tom's head caved-in withy a sledgehammer by another one of Goetz's bald-headed brothers, Hans (Joel Lefrancois). With Farid and his trusty night-vision video camera trapped in the mine with crawling cannibalistic dwellers chasing him, Yasmine and Alex arrive at the inn and, you guessed it, are about to have a night they will never forget, but only if they make it out alive. It seems that Goetz and his rather large family are not only cannibals, they are also white supremacists ruled over by their elderly father Von Geisler (Jean-Pierre Jorris), an escaped Nazi from World War II, who wants to make Yasmine "pure" so she can marry Karl and keep the family bloodline flowing. Let the torture begin.  Director/screenwriter Xavier Gens (HITMAN - 2007; THE DIVIDE - 2011) may have thrown a little historical accuracy into the horror mix, but when all is said and done (and yes, I do get the irony that the "frontier" is more dangerous than the riot-torn streets of Paris), it's easy to see that Gens fashioned his film on the unexpected success of HOSTEL (2005). It's obvious that the second half of the film exists solely to show human beings being mistreated and tortured in the worst ways possible, whether it is Tom hanging upside down, suspended by his ankles that are impaled on curved blades (he eventually has his throat cut and bleeds out); Farid being caught in a huge pressure cooker and slowly roasted to death (Yum!); Alex having his achilles' tendons sliced with a huge set of tongs; or a pregnant Yasmine having to swin through pig shit to escape, but she is eventually recaptured, has all her hair cut off (it is too dark for dear old Nazi dad) and is forced to eat the cooked flesh of Alex. What about Yasmine's unborn baby? Well, the film implies that she wants to keep it (she did make a promise to a dying Sami) after she is brutally punched, kicked and gun-butted, yet ends up killing most of the Nazi family single-handedly (including a nasty buzzsaw death and biting a meaty chunk out of Gilberte's neck). Whatever political statement Gens was trying to make with this film gets lost in a flood of unflinching bloodshed (nothing is left to the imagination), lots of "shakey-cam" photography (especially in the first half) and trying to humanize (not to mention feeling sorry for) some members of the Nazi clan. It just doesn't wash. I don't like using the term "torture porn", but that is exactly what the second half of FRONTIER(S) is. Why the "S" is in parenthesis is a head-scratcher and open to many interpretations. Mine would be that there are many such places in the world (The actual name of the sign is "Frontiere", which is French for "border") that deal with this type of degradation and our group of unlucky victims just happened upon one of them. Others believe the "S" stands for the Nazi "SS", but I find that explanation a little hard to swallow. Or maybe it's just a French cultural thing and has no purposeful meaning. Also starring Maud Forget and Rosine Favey. This was supposed to be one of the films in the second annual AFTER DARK FILM FEST 2007, but when the MPAA slapped an NC-17 rating on the film because the subject matter was deemed too controversial and violent, it was dropped from the theatrical roster (it did manage to get a small regional theatrical release a few months later, but not many theaters, even today, will show films with NC-17 ratings), but was released on DVD by Lionsgate Entertainment as part of the series. Unrated.

FUNERAL HOME (1980) - When Heather (Lesleh Donaldson) goes to help her Grandmother (Kay Hawtrey) turn her old funeral home into a tourist hotel, strange things begin to happen. Tourists begin to disappear, a land developer's car is found buried in a haystack and something strange is going on down in the cellar. Could it have something to do with the disappearance of Heather's Grandfather (Jack Van Evera), who one day just up and vanished? Does retarded Billy Hibbs (Stephen E. Miller) know more than Grandma will let him tell? What about the strange male voice that comes out of the basement? And just what is buried in gthe lake at the nearby quarry? Heather begins a relationship with Rick Yates (Dean Garbett) which Grandma doesn't take a liking to since his brother Joe (Alf Humphreys) is a local police officer. Joe is able to tie the land developer's disappearance to a plan involving buying up all the land in the county, except Grandma refused to sell because they wanted to move the graveyard. The Sheriff (Bob Warner) tells Joe to drop the case. A cheating husband (Harvey Atkin) and his mistress (Peggy Mahon), who are staying at the converted hotel much to Grandma's prudish consternation, are pushed off a cliff in their car at the quarry by someone driving a beat-up pickup truck. It seems the locked basement holds the key and anyone who enters there is sure to be slaughtered. If this all sound a little too much like PSYCHO you would be right but it does have a charm all its' own. The acting is generally good, and while not extremely bloody or gory, it does shock on occasion. Director William Fruet (DEATH WEEKEND - 1976, SPASMS - 1982; THE KILLER INSTINCT - 1982; KILLER PARTY - 1986 and many other films and TV shows) is an old master at these Canadian horror thrillers and shows a sure hand at handling the suspense. While by no means a classic, FUNERAL HOME (a.k.a. CRIES IN THE NIGHT) is a lot of fun to watch, especially for fans of this type of film (myself included). When I first saw this film in a theatre in the early 80's, I hated it. Maturity has gotten the better of me, since I no longer judge a film by it's gore quotient. This is actually a pretty good story that also stars Barry Morse as a border who is not quite what he seems. A Paragon Home Video Release. Paragon, based in Las Vegas, released a slew of strange horror/action/gore films in the early to mid-80's, such as ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER (1980), THE WITCHING (1972), MONGREL (1982) and many others, most of them not available on DVD. Try eBay to pick these little gems. They're worth it just for the 15 minutes of obscure trailers that precede each film. Rated R.

THE FUN PARK (2007) - Regional Oklahoma-lensed horror flick. When Wilson Creek police find a bloody and bruised Megan Davis (Jillian Murray) on the side of the road, she relates to them a story about five of her friends being murdered at an abandoned amusement park; a story so brutal, the police have problems believing her. And rightly so, since there is no evidence of foul play at the Fun Park to back up her story and a background check of Megan's past reveals that she hasn't had the best childhood and may be suffering psychological problems because of it. That is not to say that the Fun Park hasn't had its share of controversy in the past. The story begins years earlier, when crazy mother Waureen Renquist (Verna Vaughn) would physically and mentally abuse her son, Kestor (Mike Leipart), forcing him to wear clown makeup and making him perform private shows for her. When the police found out about the abuse, they institutionalize Waureen (until she died) and Kestor bounced from foster home to foster home until he was murdered twenty years ago. So why does Megan insist that Kestor is responsible for the deaths of her five friends? That question falls into the lap of Megan's court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Marissa Jade (Jennifer Ferguson), who must separate the fact from fiction. She investigates Kestor's past and discovers that when he became an adult, he still wore the clown makeup and called himself Bobo, working at the Fun Park as a water-dunking clown for several years, where he was quite popular (even with the ladies). Then, for some unknown reason, Kestor snapped and murdered the judge that committed his mother to the insane asylum (Kestor was found wearing the judge's face!). He was then committed to the same asylum as his dead mother, but he soon escaped and DNA blood evidence found at the Fun Park revealed that Kestor was dead, even though his body was never found (that's never a good sign). The Fun Park was closed down for good and it remained shut down until Megan told her horrible story (and if it is true, Kestor is now 55 to 60 years old). Dr. Jade has a session with Megan and the film switches to a series of flashbacks mixed with the current session. We learn that Megan's mother was a whore and she never knew her father. We also learn that Dr. Jade has recently suffered a miscarriage and this is her first case since losing her baby. As more flashbacks reveal what actually happened to Megan and her five friends at the abandoned Fun Park, including her boyfriend Justin (Randy Wayne), who is moving far away to attend college, it becomes clear to the viewers that what we see through Megan's eyes and mind may not be as cut and dried as it seems. Will Dr. Jade be able to separate fact from fantasy or is Megan doomed to spend the rest of her life in a rubber room? Perhaps a video camera found at the scene of the crimes will clear things up?  This is by no means a normal modern day horror film. It is more like a picture puzzle that the viewer must piece together as the film progresses; the only problem being is that two or more pieces of the puzzle may fit into the same empty slot, so we must decide which piece actually belongs there. Director/screenwriter/co-producer Rick Walker (an Oklahoma radio DJ whose only other film is the 2002 love story SAM & JANET) does a good job keeping the audience guessing, but there are many long stretches where nothing really happens, especially when the flashbacks take us to Megan and her five friends at the Fun Park during that fateful night. We are treated to so many false "jump" scares during this sequence that when we actually get to the violence, it loses its effectiveness. There are also a few huge leaps in logic (The biggest one being: Why would an abandoned amusement park closed for the last twenty years still have electricity and working video games?), the gore quotient is pretty low (those expecting a non-stop bloodbath will be bitterly disappointed) and the flashback scenes are lensed using a sickly green filter (making it look like it was shot through a bottle of Mountain Dew), but for the most part THE FUN PARK is just different enough to merit a rental even if the final denouement is a cop-out. As far as psychological horror films go, this was gets a few extra points for its somewhat unique story structure (the ambient noise soundtrack and the dialogue-less killings during the flashbacks are sure to raise a few goosebumps). Also starring Sara Rae Foster, Trevor David, Randy Colton, Todd Lisenbee, Jesse Albright, Clint Caswell, Vanessa Altshuler, Rod Meyer and Warren Hoover. An Empire Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

THE FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (1970) - This is the third, and weakest, of Waldemar Daninsky's (Paul Naschy) werewolf sagas thanks to the lazy direction of Jose Maria Zabalza (who, according to Naschy, was drunk through most of the filming) and the soap opera-like plot (by screenwriter Naschy, using his real name Jacinto Molina). Professor Waldemar Daninsky (here renamed "Walter" for it's American release) returns from his trip to Tibet afflicted with lycanthropy, a pentagram burned into his chest. He finds out from fellow teacher Dr. Ilona Elmann (Perla Cristal) that his wife Erika (Pilar Zorrilla) has been having an affair. At first, Waldemar doesn't believe Ilona (who secretly is in love with him), but when his car's brakes are tampered with and he gets into a serious accident, he comes around. He goes home, turns into a werewolf, bites Erika and kills her lover. He then runs amok and is electrocuted by a power line. Everyone but Ilona thinks Waldemar is dead, so they bury him. Ilona has him dug up and brings him back to her laboratory, where she straps him to a table and begins experimenting on him, hoping to cure him of his werewolfism and turn him into one of her loyal zombies. Meanwhile, the police and a nosy reporter are investigating Daninsky's death and the subsequent grave robbery. While Ilona performs her experiments, Waldemar  turns into a werewolf. She chains him to a wall and tries to whip the werewolf out of him but he escapes and kills a university student and nearly kills a young woman going to bed, but stops himself. He does manage to kill a husband and his wife in their kitchen, though. The police use dogs to track Daninsky, but lose his scent when he turns back into a human. Waldemar and new friend Karen (Veronica Lujan) try to escape Ilona's lab and find her hidden basement of failed experiments. They set them free and then find Ilona's diary, where Waldemar learns that Ilona has set him up from the start. His wife Erika is now a werewolf and is under Ilona's control. As with all of the Daninsky films, it ends rather badly for nearly everyone.  This film makes absolutely no sense (How does Waldemar break his chains? Why does he go back to Ilona's lab after he has just escaped from it?) and, therefore is enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. It jumps all over the place and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the orgy scenes, Waldemar's fight with a man in shiny armor (what the fuck?) and the purpose of Ilona's experiments. Characters pop in and then disappear, never to be seen again. Ilona's basement of freaks and failed experiments is another head-scratcher. Why would Karen and Waldemar set them free only to fight and kill most of them a few minutes later? If you're looking for answers, don't bother, as there aren't any. There's an unbelievable trite scene near the end of the film where the reporter gets all the answers he needs by asking some previously unseen girl questions in a bar. It's just lazy writing as it tries to tie up all the loose ends with a 30 second scene. The fight between Waldemar and Erika in the finale elicits grins rather than fright. Storywise, this is the worst film in the series and director Zabalza adds nothing of worth visually to the film, probably because he was hammered for the entire shoot. It's also very light in the blood and nudity department, but this could be because the print I viewed came from Avco Embassy (the version titled WEREWOLF NEVER SLEEPS purportedly has more blood and nudity). It's not a TV print, though, because it does contain too much blood for 70's television (Embassy did release this as part of a mid-70's Spanish horror TV package, along with A BELL FROM HELL (1971), NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (1973), THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN (1971) and others). The next chapter in the Daninsky saga, the excellent WEREWOLF SHADOW (1970), picks up immediately after FURY ends. Also starring Mark Stevens, Michel Rivers and Francisco Amoros. Originally released in a cut print on Unicorn Video and an uncut print on Charter Entertainment. It is now in the public domain and can be purchased on DVD from various budget companies (but in the edited print). Not Rated.

THE GAME (1982) - Three millionaires, tired of playing tennis and attending socialite events, devise an unusual annual event to keep themselves amused. It's called "The Game Of Fear" and it goes like this: Gather an assorted group of people with no family or dependents at a secluded northwestern resort and try to scare the hell out of them. The last person to remain at the resort will receive a prize of one million dollars. Events soon turn deadly as members of the group begin to disappear, meeting grizzly fates. One man is hanged. Another is eaten alive by rats. A girl is shot in the head. After a while it becomes apparent that the three millionaires have nothing to do with the deaths. Then who could it be? Could it be the scarfaced hunchback we briefly glimpse throughout the film? Could it be one of the remaining survivors of the game? Or could it be some as yet unseen killer?  If you guessed the last one, you would be right. As the remaining three survivors of the game leave the resort convinced that it was all a joke and the victims are safe at a motel down the road, the three millionaires are killed by an unexplained ghostly spectre. But even that isn't what it seems. Filmed around the same time as his DEMONS OF LUDLOW and RANA: THE LEGEND OF SHADOW LAKE (a.k.a. CROAKED: FROG MONSTER FROM HELL), it looks like director Bill Rebane (INVASION FROM INNER EARTH - 1974) was making this up as he went along. It doesn't make much sense and contains very little nudity (one scene) and very sparse gore, which pretty much knocks off any reason for viewing this Wisconson-lensed whodunit. Rebane does show he has a sense of humor by having his earlier film, THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975), showing on TV while a girl is attacked by a rubbery monster that bursts from her bed. The ghostly spectre at the finale is a frightening creation, but all in all, you'll not be missing much if you let this one pass you by. Now if I could only get my hands on Rebane's BLOOD HARVEST (1985 - purportedly his best film). It's the only film of his I haven't seen. It stars Tiny Tim (!) as a clown who goes on a murderous rampage (or does he?). If it stars Tiny Tim, it must be a horror! (NOTE: I've seen it. See review.) THE GAME (also known as THE COLD) stars Tom Blair, Carol Perry, Stuart Osborne and Don Arthur.  A Trans World Entertainment Release. Rated R.

GARDEN OF THE DEAD (1972) - Out of all the zombie films I have viewed over the years, this one holds the title in the following three categories: 1 - It's the shortest (59 minutes); 2 - It's the cheapest (it looks like it was filmed for around $59.00; and, 3 - it's mind-numbingly dumb (written by someone with an IQ of 59). The threadbare plot concerns a bunch of prison camp inmates who manufacture formaldahyde (huh?) for the camp's sadistic warden. The inmates also endlessly sniff the formaldahyde to get high and plan to escape the prison camp. They steal a truck with barrels of formaldahyde and speed off to freedom. Unfortunately, the warden is wise to their plan and ambushes them, causing the inmates to crash the truck, not only killing them but also drenching them in spilled formaldahyde. The warden orders the other inmates to bury them (in what has to be the shallowest graves ever committed to film) and to keep their mouths shut. Wouldn't you know it? The dead inmates rise from their dirt blankets to exact revenge for their deaths. Their only weakness: Light. Any kind of light. Flashlights, headlights, lightbulbs, etc. While the living population of the prison camp try to keep the generator going, the formaldahyde zombies pick them off one-by-one. Where do I start to describe what's wrong with this dizzying exercize in ineptitude? For starters, there's no blood! I've often heard rumors that there's a longer version available, but so far that's all it is: a rumor. The version I viewed is rated PG and it does show some jump cuts which does make me believe that it's edited. Garden tools are shown thrusting down on the victims but never hitting them. If you look closely, you can see blood on the garden tools. That's all the blood on view here. The zombies are another cheap creation. This was an early job for Joe Blasco (who created and played the creature in TRACK OF THE MOONBEAST - 1972) and it looks like he slapped some green-gray makeup on their faces and blackened out their eyes. Their hands look completely normal. The disintegration scenes consist of the zombies letting an Alka-Seltzer dissolve in their mouths. Add to that: a prison a blind man could escape from; total lapses of logic, reason or continuity and absolutely no foul language or sex and you come up with a film that should be viewed only while under the influence of a controlled substance (formaldahyde will do). Directed rather shabbily by the late John Hayes, who has done much better. See DREAM NO EVIL (1970) and GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) for Hayes' career highlights. GARDEN OF THE DEAD (a.k.a. TOMB OF THE UNDEAD and GRAVE OF THE UNDEAD) stars John Dennis (THE SLAMS - 1973), Eric Stern (THE LOVE BUTCHER - 1975), Duncan McCloud (BLACK GODFATHER - 1974), Carmen Filpi (ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK - 1981) and a cameo appearance by Lee Frost. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD Release.  Rated PG.

THE GATES OF HELL PART II: DEAD AWAKENING (1988) - You know a film is in trouble when it opens with a dedication to the memory of Lucio Fulci. The problem is, Lucio Fulci was still alive in 1988! The Texas-lensed film then proceeds with a voiceover by lead actress Tamara Hext, who plays Sandra Curtis, where she says such mind-numbing things as, "In the morning, my sister will still be dead." I certainly hope so! As this regional no-budgeter moves ahead, it's easy to see that the filmmakers try to emulate Fulci's style (it even has two guys on phones speaking English-subtitled Italian), but only Fulci could do Fulci and even then, he had a hard time doing it. I will give this film some proper respect for being confusing as an 80's Fulci film, as this whole production has a disjointed feel to it; like it is nothing but a series of unrelated scenes edited together. Supposedly, this is a film about "separate realities", as one minute we see Sandra's sister, Marilyn (Tracy Baldwin), waiting by her car on some dark, deserted road, when someone in a car pulls next to her and then we switch to two guys  (one of them wearing a "Dallas Naval Air Station" trucker cap) who are rock climbing and discover a corpse before both of them are chased and killed by a grunting demon. We then switch to three people in a bar discussing something bad (One guy says, "I don't like it. I think we should call this off." While another guy says, "It's too late.") and suddenly it is five weeks later and Sandra is in a bar getting sloshed and has the cops called on her for throwing a drink on the bartender. The cop, Nick Berkley (Tom Campitelli), takes pity on her drunk ass and drives her passed-out body home after rifling through her purse for her address (and ogling her legs). Being a woman, Sandra takes advantage of the situation and invites Nick to a bar the next night, where she offers to pay him to work on his off-duty hours to find Marilyn, who has been missing for (you guessed it) five weeks. Sandra tells Nick about the nightmares she's been having since Marilyn went missing, where she and Marilyn are standing on the top of a cliff and Marilyn falls down it. Nick agrees to help her and immediately takes a week's vacation (I guess that's how long it takes to find a missing person in Texas).  We then cut to an ominous group of men (all shown in extreme close-up, probably because the budget couldn't afford a set) discussing a bad situation and saying stuff like, "We called it to serve us!" We then switch to a security guard in a warehouse calling his wife and then listening to her being murdered over the phone. What The Fuck?!? When Sandra and Nick check out Marilyn's office (she was a travel agent), they find a mysterious medallion and get paid a visit by the even more mysterious Randy Sternman (Randy Strickland), who is looking for Marilyn. Meanwhile, the group of ominous men continue to make arcane statements about "conjuring demons" and then one of them is hit over the head by a flying Bible. More confusing shit happens, like a mother being killed in her garage by the demon while her two young boys watch. Sandra and Nick begin questioning the relatives of the other missing people in the area, including those of the two missing rock climbers, and come up with an important clue on the rock climbers' map. How will all of this tie together? Will it all tie together? Why are things always bigger in Texas? And why doesn't a Hebrew demon know better than to go on a killing spree in Texas, especially since every citizen owns a gun, an automatic rifle and a couple of grenades?  There's not so much an air of a Fulci influence here that I could detect, except for an air of mass confusion. The film (also known as THROUGH THE FIRE), directed by G.D. Marcum (his only film as director), bears very little resemblance to Fulci's original GATES OF HELL (1980), as that film was full of blood and gore, something this film severely lacks (Not to mention that the camera turns away just as things are about to get bloody). The screenplay, by Marcum and Brad Potter, bites off way more than its paltry budget could ever hope to chew and the only Fulci-inspired moment, where Nick and Sandra are attacked by evil forces at a séance held by P.J. (Billie Carroll) is ruined by cheap optical effects. Everything about this film screams out poverty, from the muffled sound recording, bare-bone sets, stupid stabs at comedy (there's a dead cat in P.J.'s freezer and Nick ignores it and reaches for an ice cream bar instead; Nick tries to commandeer a citizen's car, only for the citizen to pull a gun on him) and poorly-blocked action scenes. Christ, even when Sandra takes a shower, we see no nudity! Fulci would have been spinning in his grave if he were actually dead at the time. If you decide to dedicate a film to his memory, you better deliver, but it takes more than some fog and a couple of fake-ass zombies to achieve that goal. Also starring Dan Shackleford, John Davies, Wendy Wade, Terry Wegner, Martin Smith, Lourdes Regala and Dan Robbins. A Creatures Features VHS Release and available on DVD from Cydonia Pictures. Not Rated.

GHOST GAME (2005) - Let me know if you heard this one before: A group of idiotic college students (with the combined IQ of a small rock) rent a remote cabin on the middle of an island only accessible by canoe, where, thirty years earlier, a trio of teenage witches were murdered after performing some magical ceremony. The remainder of the film intercuts past and present, as we slowly learn what the three witches were actually doing at the cabin and how it affects the college students now staying there. Dara (Alexandra Barreto; TOOTH AND NAIL - 2007) finds a diary at the cabin, but the last few pages are torn out. That's too bad, because if those pages were still in there, these stupid college kids (did I mention they had the combined IQ of a toenail?), which also includes Nate (Peter Cilella), his girlfriend Abbey (Shelby Fenner), wise-ass Randy (Curt Cornelius), Cousin Ted (Robert Berson, who became a millionaire by copyrighting the word "extreme" (and every alternate spelling of the word!), Sebastian (Aaron Freeman) and his obnoxious girlfriend Talia (Danielle Hartnett), would never do what they are about to do (again: combined IQ < -1). They find a metal box in a closet and open it, only to find an Ouija board-like device, a map and one missing page of the diary with "Don't Play This Game!" written on it. Instead of heeding this dire warning, Cousin Ted starts palying the game, which releases the spirits of the three witches, who begin killing the college students. Nate is the first to be killed (choked to death) and Randy is drowned after finding that the canoes are missing and trying to swim for help. Dara, Abbey and Cousin Ted figure out the only way to survive is to finish the game, which isn't a game at all, but a Wiccan ceremony, the same ceremony performed by the three witches thirty years earlier. Sebastian is stabbed to death while having sex with Talia, which leaves only four lives left. The quartet must find a number of objects that are drawn on the map found in the metal box and place those objects around a metal pole that acts like a moondial (it lets our students know how much time they have left). Skanky Talia dies next (she's impaled through the neck and stomach by tree branches), so Dara stays by the moondial while Abbey and Cousin Ted look for the remaining objects. Abbey is the next to die (she has her neck broken with a piece of rope) and before the film is over, both Cousin Ted (the only non-teen in the group, yet he's the only virgin!) and Dana will also be dead. Groundskeeper Simon Brady (Eric Scott Woods) buries all the bodies and waits for the next group to rent the cabin. It seems Mr. Brady has been doing this for many years and even makes some money on the side by selling the cars of those unlucky enough not to return from their canoe trips (try not to think too hard or you'll realize the absurdity of it all). I hope this doesn't mean there's gonna be a sequel? Father, Son, Holy Ghost, make it stop!  Competently made, but boring to the extreme and illogical as hell, GHOST GAME suffers the same fate most of these modern DTV "teens in peril" flicks are stricken with: Too much unfunny hipster dialogue, an over-abundance of jackhammer-style editing (not to mention that the flashback footage looks to have been filmed using nightvision goggles) and not enough common sense. Director/co-producer Joe Knee (CULT - 2007) seems to think that a little blood and nudity goes a long way, but the fact is we watch these films to see lots of blood and nudity, not the anemic amounts on view here. While the storyline had possibilities (screenplay by Ben Oren, a staff writer for MTV's now-defunct THE ANDY MILONAKIS SHOW [2005 - 2007], which would explain the juvenile humor spoken by the cast here), such as the mixing of past and present in the narrative, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Not only are most of the deaths bloodless (two strangulations, a drowning and a bloodless head-bashing), but the comical dialogue spoken by the cast totally belies the situation they are in. The most groan-inducing line is spoken by Talia when she says, "I thought he (Sebastian) was taking me to a spa!" as she lies dying with two tree branches impaled in her body (the film's bloodiest effect). This film also suffers from a case of fatalism that seems to be infecting many of the newer horror films. Just because everyone dies by the film's conclusion, don't think that a statement is being made. It's a cop-out that is used much too often when a screenwriter can't come up with a proper ending and it just comes off as a lazy way to end a film. Pretend you're a ghost and let this one slip through your hands. Also starring Caroline D'Amore, Sarah Shoup and Sahra Silanee as the three witches. An Image Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated, but there's nothing here that goes beyond an R-Rating.

GHOSTHOUSE (1987) - This is a late entry in the Italian pantheon of haunted house thrillers that flooded the VHS shelves in the 80's. This one is directed by Umberto Lenzi using his Americanized "Humphrey Humbert" pseudonym. The film opens up with a father punishing his little girl Henriette (who killed a cat with a pair of scissors) by locking her and her oversized clown doll in the dark basement. Soon after, the father is killed by an axe to his head and the mother has a butcher knife thrust in her throat by what looks like the clown's hand while all the lightbulbs and mirrors in the house shatter. Twenty years later, Paul (Greg Scott) and Martha (Lara Wendel) investigate a series of ominous radio messages that Paul is picking up on his ham radio. They trace the signal to the site of the murder house, which is now abandoned. They find a ham radio setup in the attic which is owned by a family camping out in a trailer in the back yard. It's not long before the house starts playing with the unwelcome occupants as glass objects begin shattering, clocks shoot fire and Martha see a decapitated head in the washing machine. As they investigate further, people begin to die, as Henriette (Kristen Fougerousse) and her clown doll appear just before someone meets a gruesome death. One has is throat slit by a flying fan blade. Another is cut in half by a guillotine blade. Another nearly dissolves in a pool of lye and is stabbed in the back with a pair of hedge clippers by his own girlfriend who mistakens him for a supernatural demon. Meanwhile, Paul and Martha dig into the history of the house and discover that the only way to end this madness is to burn Henriette's body, which is entombed in a local graveyard. A final stinger at the end proves that it's not that simple.  This Massachusetts-lensed Italian production has a few good kills but nothing much else going for it. The acting is poor and the pacing slow, which is the norm for most Italian haunted house films (WITCHERY - 1988, immediately comes to mind). The scene where Martha is trapped in Henriette's bedroom and is attacked by a flying Mickey Mouse is the film's high point and should have raised Disney's ire. DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. (1980) himself, Donald O'Brien (here spelled "O'Brian") makes an appearance as the house's murderous caretaker. It's also awkward that the film's only Black character is portrayed as a hitch-hiking pompous asshole who annoys everyone he meets with a mechanical corpse hand he keeps in his backpack. His death is the only one not shown in detail. There's also plenty of chuckle-inducing dialogue (courtesy of screenwriter Cinthia McGavin) that in no way sounds like any person I know. Umberto Lenzi has certainly done much better than this, as he has directed the first Italian cannibal film, MAN FROM DEEP RIVER (1972), the excellent crime thriller ALMOST HUMAN (1974) and the gaillo thriller EYEBALL (1975). During the 80's, Lenzi directed the crazy zombie film CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (1980) and the cannibal classic CANNIBAL FEROX (a.k.a. MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY - 1981) and the truly wretched WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK (1988). GHOSTHOUSE (originally titled LA CASA 3) is just typical Italian horror nonsense that's good for a look if you've got nothing better to do. Also starring Mary Sellers, Ron Houck, Kate Silver, Martin Jay and Willy H. Moon. An Imperial Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated.

GHOSTKEEPER (1980) - While exploring the woods on their snowmobiles on a wintery New Year's Eve, Marty (Murray Ord), Jenny (Riva Spier) and Chrissie (Sheri McFadden) become stranded at a deserted old hotel deep in the forest when Chrissie's ride becomes disabled during a heavy blizzard. The hotel is empty, so why is the heat on and the shelves stocked with food? Forced to spend the night, the trio make themselves comfortable while Chrissie tries to come on to Marty, much to girlfriend Jenny's disgust. Jenny also has the feeling that they are not alone in this hotel. She is right. It is also occupied by an old woman (Georgie Collins) and her weirdo son Danny (Billy Grove). She is known as the Ghostkeeper and, unknown to our trapped trio, she keeps a furry human-like creature locked-up in the ice cellar which she must feed human flesh. The old woman also shows and unusual interest in Jenny and Jenny in turn feels like she has been brought to this hotel for some unknown purpose. Chrissie is abducted by Danny while taking a bath. He drags her down to the ice cellar, slits her throat and gives her to the creature. The next morning Marty goes outside to find his snowmobile has been intentionally disabled and Chrissie's snowmobile missing. While Marty tries to fix the snowmobile, Jenny is drugged and brought to the cellar. She awakens to find books on ancient Indian legends and old newspaper articles on people found slaughtered at the hotel. She finds the locked ice cellar, opens it and sees the creature. Before she can do anything she is attacked by Danny with a chainsaw. A chase to the attic ensues which results in Danny falling off the roof, impaling himself on the wrought-iron fence below. Seeing this, Marty freaks out, paints his face with grease and runs off into the woods! Jenny finds a shotgun, confronts the old woman (who tells Jenny that she's her mother!) and blows a hole in her belly. She then goes downstairs to the ice cellar and tells the creature not to worry; she will take care of him now. Jenny then finds Marty frozen to death in the woods. She is now the Ghostkeeper and must now keep the creature fed.  Based in part on the Wendigo legend (here spelled "Windigo), this little-seen Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada-lensed horror film also shows that it owes some of its' storyline to the then recently released THE SHINING. The authentic lush snow-filled landscapes and hotel in the middle of nowhere reminds one of that film even if the storyline veers off into another direction. The Windigo creature (played by John MacMillan) is only viewed in the shadows to maintain its effectiveness. The film does show some tampering in the editing as nearly all scenes that show bloodshed are excised or trimmed. This is odd since the tape's packaging carries no rating. Still, it's an interesting little shocker which shouldn't disappoint fans of things that go bump in the night. GHOSTKEEPER was directed and written by James Makichuk (writer of DREAM HOUSE [1998] and ROSWELL: THE ALIENS ATTACK [1999]). A New World Video VHS Release. Also available on widescreen DVD from Code Red. Not Rated. For more films based on the Wendigo legend see the awful FROSTBITER (1996) and director Larry Fessenden's scary WENDIGO (2001).

GHOST LAKE (2004) - Director Jay Woelfel directed one of my favorite low budget films of the 80's, BEYOND DREAM'S DOOR (1988). For most of the 90's he has toiled for producer Charles Band and others making quick, mostly forgettable horror and exploitation films (see review for DEMONICUS). The good news is that this, his newest film to date, harkens back to his early days as this is a multilayered horror film that will please both gore fans and people who like to use their brains. Rebecca (the beautiful Tatum Adair) has been taking care of her family ever since her father was confined to a wheelchair. One night she decides she needs a break and goes to a nightclub, where she meets a stranger and screws his brains out in the back of his car. While this is happening her parents are succumbing to a gas leak in the home and they both die. Filled with guilt (and maybe seeing things that are not there), Rebecca goes to her parents' cabin in Rushford Lake, NY (a real town) to rest and recuperate. The only problem is, Rebecca is seeing murders occur at the lake and talks to a little girl that no one else sees. She slowly learns that the lake has a history that involves people disappearing every 13 years. It seems that this is a man-made lake and a whole town was submerged to make it. Some of the residents did not make it out alive. So every 13 years the dead rise from the lake and take 13 lives. Rebecca has picked the wrong year to convalesce here. At first the local police think that she is just plain crazy, but soon come around when they begin finding bodies in the lake. Can Rebecca and the police stop more murders from happening? You'll have to watch the film to find out for I do not want to spoil the surprise. Filled with goosebump-inducing scenes of the denizens of the lake decaying before your eyes, GHOST LAKE is the kind of film that stays with you long after it is over. The scene where Rebecca is confronted by a dead fisherman at her door who has come to redeem himself only to be touched by the hand of death is a classic of fright and effects.  Director Woelfel (who also wrote, composed the eerie, effective score and plays the "Shadowy Figure") has a winner here and should be congratulated for making a horror film that does not compromise the story for shocks (although there are plenty). Well done, Jay! Also starring Timothy Prindle (who also handled the stunts), Gregory Lee Kenyon, Azure Sky Decker (as the ghostly little girl), Chuck Franklin, Damian Maffei, Dan Metcalf and Rick Kesler. A Velocity Home Entertainment Release. Rated R. For more on this film being shown at the Microcinema Fest in August 2005, click HERE. For more on Jay Woelfel, go to his website: www.JayWoelfel.com.

GHOST TOWN (1988) - This supernatural horror western was one of the best films to come out of Executive Producer Charles Band's Empire Pictures during the late 80's, but, just like everything Band touches, it had a troubled production history. Director Richard Governor (his only film) walked off the set two weeks before the film finished principal photography (apparently due to an ever-changing unfinished script by Duke Sandefur [THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA - 1989] and continuing interference from Band), which forced Director of Photography Mac Ahlberg to take over and finish it. It's surprising the film turned out so well, even if some of the scenes look frazzled and others look unfinished. The film opens with runaway bride Kate (Catherine Hickland; WITCHERY - 1988) driving through the Arizona desert when she comes up against a downed telephone pole blocking the road. She exits onto a dirt road to get around the blockage, but as she is driving, she can hear the sounds of a horse's hoofs following close behind her, but she sees no horse. Her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and she is suddenly abducted by someone on horseback, who appears in a strange cloud of dust. Crack shot lawman Langley (Franc Luz; THE NEST - 1987) is assigned to find Kate when her car is discovered abandoned on the side of the dirt road and it's so rusted, crumbling and full of sand, it looks like it has been sitting there for a hundred years. Langley is about to go on a long, strange trip, where past and present collide. While looking for Kate in the desert, Langley is attacked by the mysterious man on horseback and his police vehicle (a Ford Bronco, which is used as a sly joke later in the film) spontaneously combusts, forcing Langley to travel by foot. He comes upon a headstone for a sheriff who was killed in 1870 and when he lifts the headstone off the ground, the sheriff's rotting corpse suddenly springs-up from underground, grabs Langley by his arms and says, "You're the one! You'll rid my town of evil. Don't fail or risk a fate worse than death!" The corpse then crumbles to dust (Langley steals his badge) and Langley takes refuge in a nearby ghost town when a torrential thunderstorm hits. He falls asleep and when he wakes up the next morning, he begins searching the ghost town for Kate (the audience is aware that she is there) and spots many things that shouldn't be there, like rotting corpses littering the entire town and meeting "The Dealer" (Bruce Glover; NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW - 1994), a blind man who speaks in riddles and percentages before suddenly disappearing. To make a long story short, Langley becomes the new sheriff in town (he should have never pinned the dead sheriff's badge to his chest) and must face-off against ghost gunslinger Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs; OBLIVION - 1994) and his gang. Devlin is holding (and raping) Kate and the ghost town suddenly springs to undead life with the ghosts of the residents who died there by Devlin's hands. Can Langley defeat Devlin and his gang, put the residents of the ghost town at eternal peace and return Kate to the present?  While the plot hardly makes a lick of sense, what this film does have in spades is a creepy atmosphere that will chill you to the bone. A lot of it can be attributed to Mac Ahlberg's excellent cinematography, but there are scenes here that transcend the photography (such as prostitute Etta [Laura Schaefer] suddenly being surrounded by Devlin's ghost gang on a flight of stairs) and sets a mood that goes beyond creepy and enters a new plateau. There are a few gory scenes on view, such as Devlin getting shot in the cheek that leaves a gaping exit wound (as well as Etta getting pitchforked to death, various slashed throats and gun violence), but this is more a psychological horror film about accepting the cards that are dealt to you and finishing the game on terms that are not always in your favor. GHOST TOWN falters somewhat in the final third (you can almost spot the point where Governor walked off the set and Ahlberg took over, not to mention suddenly completely dropping the secondary story of Langley's boss trying to locate him and an ending that seems rushed and incomplete), but don't let that discourage you from searching-out this unusual film. It's worth the effort. Also starring Penelope Windust, Zitto Kazann, Blake Conway and Michael Alldredge. Originally released on VHS by New World Video with a budget VHS release (recorded in the inferior EP mode) from Starmaker Entertainment a few years later. Image Entertainment also released a widescreen laserdisc in 1989. Try to find a bootleg DVD-R of the laserdisc (the widescreen photography is gorgeous), because you'll probably not see this film released on legitimate DVD for quite some time due to rights issues, like most of Charles Band's Empire Pictures library. Rated R.

THE GHOULS (2003) - You have to give director Chad Ferrin (UNSPEAKABLE - 2000) a lot of credit here. He has created a horror film of unrelenting tension on such a small budget that it probably wouldn't pay for the craft service of one day of a major motion picture. You also have to give Ferrin props for making the hero of the film such a despicable human being. Eric Hayes (Timothy Muskatell, also co-producer) is a stringer, a videographer of human atrocities. He follows leads that he gets on the police scanner in his car and films such things as a husband repeatedly stabbing his wife and a car chase that ends badly. He then sells his tapes to a news director (an unrecognizable Joe Pilato from DAY OF THE DEAD - 1985) for airing on the local news. Eric is also a drunk, chain-smoking, crank-sniffing piece of scum who will stoop as low as possible to get the money shot. One night he spots three men dragging a woman into an alley. He picks up his camera thinking that he is about to film a rape in progress. He's in for a big surprise. What he finds instead is the three men are actually ghouls and they are tearing the woman apart, eating her guts and appendages. The ghouls spot him, but Eric gets away and brings his camera to the news director. There's only one problem: Eric, in his crank-induced, booze-fueled stupor, forgot to put a cassette in the camera. The director calls him a loser and throws him out. Eric enlists Clift (Trent Haaga, also an associate producer), another crime videographer (and probably the closest thing he has as a friend in this world because Eric's girlfriend has just left him), to help him find these ghouls and get them on tape. Clift gets captured by the ghouls and Eric has his camera stolen (after getting shots of the ghouls) by a retarded boy at a bus stop. Eric is then knocked-out and brought to the sewers where the ghouls live. He spots Clift hanging by a hook, the skin stripped from his body, but still alive. Eric uses the hook to escape from the locked sewer room and, with a gun he had hidden on his body, kills all the ghouls (including a mother ghoul and her baby!). Back on the surface, Eric spots the retarded boy with his video camera and beats him up and takes the camera back. He goes back to the news director with footage of what he thinks is of the ghouls eating people. What he finds on the tape instead is the retarded boy reciting the famous "You talkin' to me?" scene from TAXI DRIVER (1976) and then knocking on a door and killing a woman for no reason! The director, realizing that he has footage that is headline material, says to Eric: "It looks like our boat has come in." Eric, chainsmoking a cigarette, just replies: "You're in the boat. I'm in the water." THE END. This is a powerful little horror film (about 75 minutes long) which tries to point out who is more evil: the people who live above ground and murder, rape and deceive to get what they want (Eric leaves one of the people, a corrupt cop he owes money to, unconscious on the ground as bait for the ghouls, who end up ripping him in half) or the "monsters" who live below the surface, who usually eat the homeless or people who will go unnoticed to stay alive. Ferrin leaves it up to you to decide who is worse. Most of the movie is filmed with a hand-held camera to give it a realistic look and the lighting is all natural. I watched this film with the lights out and I must say that it really affected me. It probably will do the same for you. Since it is such a low-budget flick, it does have some problems with sound and graininess, but, man, it just adds to the atmosphere. Also starring Tina Birchfield, Casey Powell, Stephen Blackehart, James Gunn, Joseph Rhodes and Tiffany Shepis as the mother ghoul. A Silver Nitrate Entertainment Release. Rated R.

THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005) - I firmly believe that Charles Band (who directed and produced this turd) has finally lost whatever shred of respect and sanity he had left in his overly self-promoted, self-indulgent body. Not only does he have an obsession with all things small (GHOULIES, TROLL, the PUPPETMASTER series, DEMONIC TOYS, DOLLMAN, BLOOD DOLLS and many others), he has also single-handidly destroyed what little self-respect Gary Busey had left. When this film opens, serial killer Millard Findlemeyer (Busey) is robbing a diner and kills everyone inside, except for Sarah Leigh (Robin Sydney). Two years pass and Findlemeyer has been caught and executed, thanks to Sarah's testimony, who now runs her alcoholic mother's bakery. One night, Sarah gets a surprise package at the door marked "Grandma's Gingerbread Seasoning" and, without batting an eyelash or questioning why she's getting a package in the middle of the night, adds the seasoning to her latest batch of gingerbread dough. As we all could have guessed, she shouldn't have done that. The seasoning contained the cremated ashes of Findlemeyer, put there by his vengeance-seeking mother (E. Dee Biddlecome). A series of highly-doubtful "coincidences", including a baker bleeding into the dough and an electrical surge into the oven, create the title character, a killer gingerbread man (voiced by Busey and created by John Carl Buechler) that begins killing bakery customers and employees, cracking wise at every opportunity. The killer cookie's real target is Sarah, who he wants to kill in retribution for his execution. The rest of the film is nothing but a series of badly-staged death scenes, as the Gingerdead Man cuts off fingers (insert lame "ladyfingers" joke here), hits people over the head with a frying pan (that's one strong cookie!) and even drives a car (using a rolling pin to step on the gas pedal!) to achieve his goal of killing Sarah. When all seems lost, baker Brick Fields (Jonathan Chase) returns to the bakery and bites the head off the cookie. He then becomes possessed by Findlemeyer's spirit, turns into a monster (with black makeup around his eyes) and is finally thrown into the oven and burned to a crisp. Thank God!  I actually had a friend tell me that I should watch this, as it was one of the campiest films he can recall viewing. After watching ten minutes of this, I came to this conclusion: I need to get myself some new friends. This is one of the poorest, most poverty-ridden and boring horror films that I have seen in quite a while. It's as if Charles Band (who, nowadays, seems more interested in merchandising than actual filmmaking) forgot everything he learned in over thirty years in the filmmaking business and started from scratch, only this time he's using the brain of a retard with an IQ of 60. Or maybe he just doesn't give a crap anymore. The film plods along at such a lethargic pace, that the scant 71 minute running time (ten minutes of it being slow-running closing credits!) seems three times as long and the script (by Silvia St. Croix and August White, who both should be shot) is nothing but tired old cliches and bad puns (including some of the characters' names, take-offs of food company's names). When Amos Cadbury (Ryan Locke) first catches sight of the Gingerdead Man and says, "How much dough can you make from a talking cookie?", that's about as cerebral as it gets, folks. Gary Busey probably needed some quick coke money, because his face is on-screen for less than three minutes and his looping of his cookie character could have been done in less than an hour. Appearing in shit like this is committing career suicide and if he still has the same agent, he has no one but himself to blame. This is nothing but another one of Band's ultra-low-budget latter-day disasters that, believe it or not, spawned three sequels, GINGERDEAD MAN 2: THE PASSION OF THE CRUST (2008), GINGERDEAD MAN 3: SATURDAY NIGHT CLEAVER (2011) and, in even a new low for Full Moon, GINGERDEAD MAN VS. EVIL BONG (2013), none of them featuring Busey (except in flashback footage cribbed from this film). I really don't know why anyone would want to torture themselves by watching this, unless they want to view Busey fall off the bottom rung of the career ladder. There's no nudity, very little blood and talentless people in front and behind the camera. I've farted things more interesting than this. Also starring Larry Cedar (who should know better), Daniela Melgoza, Margaret Blye, Alexia Aleman and James Snyder. A Wizard Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated, but there's nothing here approaching blood-drenched gore, just a face slashing, a finger getting cut off and a lame knife-in-the-forehead gag.

GIRLS NITE OUT (1983) - What does the suicide of a certain Dickie Cavanaugh at the Weston Hill Sanitarium have to do with someone in a bear costume killing the students at nearby Dewitt University? It seems Dickie Cavanaugh killed the daughter of college security guard Mac (Hal Holbrook) years earlier and was committed to the sanitarium after being found insane. While Cavanaugh is getting a pauper's midnight burial, someone dressed in black attacks and kills the two gravediggers with a shovel and buries them in the grave instead, then taking off with Cavanaugh's corpse. After a lengthy series of exposition scenes where we are introduced to the college's many students and personnel (there are almost 20 separate characters with their own story arcs!), the killings begin. At a huge sorority party, where students drink heavily, play strip poker, have sex and cheat on each other, someone viciously stabs the student who plays the basketball team's mascot and steals his bear costume. The killer accessorises the costume with a nasty sharp homemade claw, which will be used to rip apart the female cast. The killer also steals the details of the big sorority scavenger hunt, which becomes useful as the killer waits at various sites to target victims. The list of potential suspects (and red herrings) is large. Besides Mac, who seems to harbor resentment against the student body, there's Mike Pryor (David Holbrook, Hal's son), who just caught his girlfriend cheating on him at the party and calls everyone "whores" before storming out (the killer calls the female victims "whores", "bitches" or "sluts" while killing them); Pete 'Maniac' Krizaniac (Mart McChesney), the school's star basketball player who seems to be repressing a secret; and Ralph (John Didricksen), the school nerd who can't score with women, even when he gets them drunk. The killer calls the college radio station after each kill to announce the name of the victim and to proclaim, "Dickie Cavanaugh is back!" So who is the killer and why all the killings? Is it possible that Dickie has a relative on campus?  This early 80's slasher flick is pretty good for what it is, even if it does take nearly 45 minutes for the first college murder to occur. What's unusual is the film's approach of the women as the aggressors and the men as the followers. The girls are shown smoking pot, talking graphically about sex and actually being the ones talking the guys into having sex, rather than vice-versa as in most other horror films. It comes as no surprise then to find out that it is a female doing all the killing, too. While it does take a while for the killings to start, director Robert Duebel (usually a short film and documentary filmmaker) keeps the film moving at a brisk pace, mixing comedy (including fart jokes), personal drama and college hijinks in a pleasing stew and plays plenty of 60's & 70's pop hits (from such artists like The Livin' Spoonful, Ohio Express and Tommy James) on the soundtrack. The murders, committed with a bear paw with serrated knives as claws, are fairly bloody and the red stuff flows freely. Since the killer primarily targets female victims, the first thing that popped into my mind was that the killer must be male, so I was surprised when the killer was unmasked. Also unusual for a slasher film is that it shows two cops (one of them is the late Richard Bright) interviewing all the male characters and each interview ends with the suspect saying, "You don't think I had anything to do with this, do you?" Mac ends up solving the case thanks to tapes the radio station made of the calls and the film ends on a really strong image that will stay in you mind for a few days. This is a damned good mystery as well as a horror film and should please fans. Also known as THE SCAREMAKER. Filmed in Ohio. Also starring Julia Montgomery, James Carroll, Suzanne Barnes, Rutanya Alda, Al McGuire, Matthew Dunn, Gregory Salata, Lauren-Marir Taylor, Lois Robbins, Susan Pitts, Paul Christie and Carrick Glenn. A Thorn EMI Video Release. Also available on DVD from Media Blasters. Rated R.

GNAW (2008) - This British horror variant in the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)/HOSTEL (2005) mode opens with an on-screen scrawl stating that over 210,000 people go reported missing in the U.K. every year and, while most of them are found, some are never heard from again. This film is purportedly about what happens to some of those who were never found. After watching an unfortunate girl named Amy (Jennifer Wren) being chased down by some hulking figure in a grotesque mask somewhere in the Suffolk countryside and then being sliced-up into filets in his killing cabin (where he also stirs a big pot of stew containing a human hand), the film switches over to a group of annoying twenty-somethings as they drive to a house in the same area for a weekend of partying. These are stock characters straight out of Stereotypes 101 and includes vegetarian goth chick Lorrie (Sara Dylan); tough chick Hannah (Julia Vandoorne, who picks up a bloody dead cat that she just ran over like she was picking up a piece of paper); her henpecked boyfriend, Ed (Hiram Bleetman); virginal Jill (Rachel Mitchem) and her horny, practical joke-playing boyfriend Jack (Nigel Croft-Adams); and best friend Matt (Oliver Lee Squires), who has a thing for Lorrie. When they walk into the house and discover that a veritable feast of food of every type is laid-out on the dining room table, rather than question its presence, they chow down and eat it, starting with the steak and kidney pie, but when a human hair is found in it, they decide to stick with the desserts instead (good thing, too, because I'm willing to bet both the steak and kidney are of the human variety). It's quite obvious that the masked killer also occupies the house and has a crush on Lorrie (who is harboring her own secrets, as she is prone to sleepwalking and puking her guts out). Could he be related to the house's creepy owner, Mrs. Obadiah (Carrie Cohen), who suddenly appears and begins cooking for the group in an effort to fatten them up? I guess we can all see where this is heading. The killer begins slaughtering the group one-by-one, beginning with Hannah and Ed (both are stabbed with a pitchfork; Hannah in the stomach and Ed in the back [after he steps on a bear trap!] and then both are fed through a meat grinder after being cut into pieces with a chainsaw). He then turns his attention towards Jack, who is tied to a table and has his tongue ripped-out with a pair of pliers. Jill is next on the list, leaving Matt and Lorrie to fend for themselves. When it is revealed that the killer (Gary Faulkner, who is listed in the credits as "The Slaughterman") is actually Mrs. Obadiah's son and Matt is killed (in a scene where I wanted to throw my remote at the screen), Lorrie must defend herself from the killer's totally insane mother. The finale, which takes place one year later, made me actually throw my remote at the TV. Luckily I missed the TV and hit my wife instead, so there was no damage done (Just kidding. I broke my remote.).  This highly derivative horror flick, directed by freshman Gregory Mandry and written by Michael Bell and Max Waller, contains all the usual horror clichés, including being in a location where there is no cellphone service; discovering a room that contains all the previous victims' personal effects; finding rings and other belongings in food and not questioning it; a heroine that doesn't eat meat; and the worst cliché of all: Trying to hide from the killer in the dark while holding a lit flashlight (Why don't you just shoot-up a flare?). The killer, when unmasked, looks no more scary than a soccer hooligan with a shaved head and things go from bad to worse for the viewer when the asthmatic Matt, who has the killer on the ground and is just about to impale him with a pitchfork, decides to drop it and pick up his inhaler instead. It's moments like this that makes GNAW the type of experience that shakes your faith in the horror genre. I almost didn't want to watch another modern horror film ever again. Add to that one of the most stupefying finales in recent memory (yes, it's really that bad) and what you are left with is a film so devoid of characterization or plot (it is very bloody, but blood without story is just blood) that I doubt anyone but diehard gorehounds (and Fangoria) would have anything good to say about it. A Dark Sky Films DVD Release. Not Rated.

GORE MET ZOMBIE CHEF FROM HELL (1986) - After watching the first few minutes of this unfunny horror comedy, I was instantly reminded of how anything, no matter how threadbare and poverty-stricken, could obtain a VHS release in the 80's. All you needed was some attention-grabbing cover art and you were guaranteed a healthy shelf life. This is exactly one of those films and, Christ, it's an endurance test to sit through. In 1386, the Holy Order of the Righteous Brotherhood (which seems to only have three members) convicts fellow member Goza (Theo Depuay, who also handled the lousy makeup effects) of high treason and make him drink a potion that gives him immortality, but forces him to eat human flesh daily or else his body will begin to decompose (Is it just me, or does anyone else fail to see the logic behind the Brotherhood's punishment? Aren't they putting countless human lives at stake for the sake of one man's punishment?). Six hundred years pass and Goza is now the owner of "Goza's Deli and Beach Club", where he kills customers (and a nosy health inspector) and, what he doesn't eat himself, uses the uneaten body parts in the stew he serves his clientele. The bulk of the film is Goza choosing victims and cutting them up with a portable band saw (unconvincingly, mind you), while the Brotherhood tries to find a way to stop him (Which, again, brings up the question: Isn't this the Brotherhood's fault in the first place?). The appearance of a woman named Missy (Kelley Kunicki), the reincarnation of someone Goza knew six hundred years earlier, holds the key to Goza's destruction. She superglues (!) Goza's mouth shut, nails his feet to the floor (with a strangely convenient nailgun) and watches as he decomposes. Now why didn't anyone think of that before?  Atrociuosly acted, edited, photographed and scored (Porn films have better production values), this shot-on 8mm horror flick, directed/produced/co-written/edited/photographed by Don Swan (who, rightfully, never directed anything else), is the filmic equivalent of watching paint dry. The jokes fall flat and lifeless (To give you an example, when Goza kills a girl named Stella and serves a burger made from her flesh to her boyfriend and he finds her engagement ring in the meat, he screams out, "Stella! Stella!" like he's in a high school version of A Streetcar Named Desire. It doesn't get any better than that, folks, especially when Goza advertises for a short order cook and a midget shows up to apply for the job.) and the gore is nothing but dimestore props covered in fake blood. I can't properly describe how mind-numbingly illogical this film really is, from the robed guy carrying a staff who stands outside of Goza's deli (Which isn't a deli at all. It's a bar/restaurant.) and warns everyone not to go inside (Wouldn't Goza just simply make him stew meat and be done with it?), to the state of Goza's kitchen, which is always strewn with human body parts, Don't get me started on the scene where a cop discovers the body parts, sits down in a chair (with his back facing the camera) and is then decapitated with one punch to the head by Goza's assistant cook! At certain points in the film, Goza breaks the fourth wall and talks directly into the camera, chiding the audience for judging him, saying he's no worse than Joe Sixpack ordering food from McDonalds or Burger King! Watching this film is akin to smelling a piece of liver sitting in the blazing sun for three days. If the film itself doesn't question your film-watching habits, the droning electronic music score (coupled with a bad 50's-styled ditty, sung by a local black guy accompanied by a saxophone player) which drowns out much of the dialogue, will surely make you believe that you have a brain tumor. Really, what other explanation could it be? Also starring C.W. Casey, Alan Marx, Michael O'Neill, Joy Merchant, Jeff Pillars and Jeff Baughn, who co-wrote this mess with Swan and William Highsmith. A Camp Video Release. Not available on DVD. Not Rated. (NOTE: If this film looks familiar to readers of this site, it's because I originally gave it the one sentence treatment in the "Short Reviews For Sucky Films" section. That review can still be accessed by clicking HERE.)

GRADUATION DAY (1981) - Minor league slasher film helped by a veteran cast of genre actors. Tragedy strikes at a high school track meet when sprinter Laura Ramstead (Ruth Ann Llorens) drops dead after winning the hundred-yard dash (turns out she had a bad ticker). It's not long before both male and female members of the track team are dispatched in various gory manners. Laura's sister, Anne (Patch Mackenzie; THE DARK TOWER - 1987), takes a leave of absence from the Navy and arrives in town just as a female student is killed while jogging in the woods by someone with a stopwatch and a very sharp knife. Graduation Day is rapidly approaching and some of the athletes blame Coach George Michaels (Christopher George; GRIZZLY - 1976) for Laura's death because he's a no-nonsense kind of guy who pushes his athletes hard. Some say way too hard. Anne returns home to find her mother, Elaine (Beverly Dixon), has become an alcoholic and her stepfather, Ronald (Hal Bokar; REVENGE OF THE BUSHIDO BLADE - 1978), is as verbally and physically abusive since the day she left to join the Navy (He may very well be the reason why she joined). Anne sleeps in Laura's room (Ronald has turned Anne's bedroom into a darkroom) and tells her mother that she only plans to stay until graduation is over (a special trophy in Laura's honor is to be given to Anne) and she has no desire to keeps Laura's life insurance payout, which pleases a drunken Ronald. The black-gloved killer begins crossing out the faces of his victims on a team photo in red lipstick, while Anne tries to figure out why Laura really died; beginning with Laura's boyfriend, Kevin Badger (E. Danny Murphy; FINAL MISSION - 1984), who keeps a shrine of Laura in his home (as well as a crazy grandmother who yells at the TV). Anne likes Kevin and gives him a necklace she was going to give her sister at graduation. Coach Michaels forces gymnast Sally (Denise Cheshire) to do her entire uneven bar routine just for a newspaper photo op and the killer (again with stopwatch in hand) murders her by thrusting a sword through her neck while she is shaving her legs in the shower. Music teacher Mr. Roberts (Richard Balin) is seduced by topless student Dolores (a baby-faced Linnea Quigley) and Principal Guglione (Michael Pataki; GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE - 1972), who carries a switcblade (red herring alert!), is having an affair with his secretary Blondie (E.J. Peaker), so it's no wonder that no one notices that students are going missing. Mr. Roberts hears a tapping on the pipes and checks out the boiler room (Hasn't he ever watched a horror film?), where someone is playing a cassette tape of his makeout session with Dolores (It's a practical joke by Dolores and Tony [Billy Hufsy] and the entire sequence leads nowhere). Dolores and Tony get caught smoking pot by Officer MacGregor (Virgil Frye; UP FROM THE DEPTHS - 1979), but he lets them off with a warning and tokes-up on the joint he confiscated from them. Anne accuses Coach Michaels of killing her sister, but he tells Anne he "loved" Laura, just like all his students (He also lost his coaching job after graduation is over). The stopwatch killer then dispatches football player Pete (Tom Hintnaus) with a spike-tipped football to his midsection. Think you know who the killer is? I've laid out all the potential suspects, but you'll have to wait until just before the graduation ceremony for the killer to be revealed.  GRADUATION DAY is a painfully slow-moving slasher flick that throws every early-80's trick in the book to liven-up the proceedings, including an opening disco tune, plenty of topless female nudity and even a roller skating scene (where a band called Felony performs their 'hit' song, "Gangster Rock"), but director/co-producer/co-screenwriter Herb Freed (HAUNTS - 1975; BEYOND EVIL - 1980; SURVIVAL GAME - 1987) forgot the most important ingredients: blood and gore. Sure, there are plenty of deaths and some practical makeup effects, but they lack the "oomph" needed to make them memorable. Tony suffers from one of the driest decapitations this side of an Andy Milligan film and Herb Freed hopes the editing, which is full of shock cuts and pre-MTV flash editing (some of it almost subliminal), will keep our minds occupied. It doesn't. The closest thing this film comes to actual gore is when a pole vaulter lands on a bunch of spikes and Anne discovering the dead bodies (and body parts) under the bleachers while being chased by the killer. This is the type of horror film where every major character acts like they could be the killer by doing or saying ominous things (Such as Anne saying to Coach Michaels, "We'll meet again!" Of course they'll meet again. They'll both be at the graduation ceremony!). It's no wonder that Herb Freed gave up filmmaking to become a rabbi! Also starring Carmen Argenziano (FIGHTING MAD - 1978) as Police Inspector Halliday, who appears during the third act to wrap everything up (by shooting the wrong man!). Letter-turner Vanna White also turns up as an overage high school student. Originally released on VHS by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, with a budget VHS by Goodtimes Home Video (recorded in LP mode). Also available on budget DVD from Hollywood DVD Ltd, and a simply horrible DVD from Troma that is the director's cut, with nine extra minutes of footage, none of it gore. Also available on a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack from Vinegar Syndrome. Rated R.

THE GRANNY (1994)  -  Semi-funny horror comedy with some witty one-liners and gross effects. Stella Stevens stars as Granny Gargoli, an ill matriarch who is hated by her entire family with the exception of granddaughter Kelly (Shannon Whirry). The rest of the family would like to see Granny dead so they can inherit her multi-million dollar fortune. Granny has her family over for Thanksgiving dinner and they try to kill her by poisoning her soup. They fail. Granny has a visitor in the form of the mysterious Namon Ami (portrayed by director Luca Bercovici), who gives her an elixir  that will give her immortal life provided it is not exposed to the sun. Guess what happens? Granny drinks the tainted elixir and becomes a demon bent on destroying her family. The family (who think Granny is dead) alter her will and throw a party at her house to celebrate her death. Granny slaughters her family in various ways (death by scapel; death by fur stole[!]; death by castration; death by wrestling), saving Kelly for last. Kelly joins forces with Namon Ami to try to defeat Granny. A battle royale breaks out where it seems good wins over evil. In a typical modern-day horror film coda, evil has the final word. Filled with plentiful nudity, bloodletting and funny dialogue (Granny laments on the birth of her son by saying, “I should have swallowed that load!”), this film is not a bad bet if you down a six-pack or smoke some wacky weed beforehand. Stella Stevens is hilarious spouting vulgarisms and acting like a lunatic. She looks like she is having a helluva good time. She has held up pretty well for her age. Stella is no stranger to exploitation films as she has appeared in ARNOLD (1973), THE MANITOU (1978), MOM (1989) and many others. Her biggest claim to fame may be for producing her son, B-movie star and film producer Andrew Stevens. Co-starring Pat Sturges, Ryan Bollman, Sandy Helberg and Heather Elizabeth Parker (nice tits). Director Luca Bercovici also made the awful GHOULIES (1985, which spawned many unwanted sequels), the even worse ROCKULA (1990, which thankfully has no sequels) and then graduated to action films such as THE CHAIN (1996), CONVICT 762 (1997) and LUCK OF THE DRAW (2000). THE GRANNY is a step in the right direction for him. A Warner Vision Films Home Video release. Rated R.

GRAVE ROBBERS (1989) - Gory and fun Mexican horror film. During the Dark Ages, the Noble Executioner of a Catholic church is caught trying to rape a young woman and impregnate her with Satan's seed. He is caught before he is able to finish the deed and is tortured on the rack. When he refuses to repent his sins, a church elder plants an axe in his chest. With his dying breath, he puts a curse on the church and the surrounding town, saying, "Someday someone will come and wrench the axe out. Then I'll return with more power...to father Satan's son in one of your descendants!" In the present day, four young graverobbers enter the town's cemetery looking to loot some graves for gold. After digging up a grave and finding no gold (they first light a match to get rid of the methane gas that has built up from the decaying body), female member Rebecca (Erika Buenfil) jumps down into the grave and falls down a shaft when the coffin collapses. Manolo (Ernesto Laguardia) goes in after her and discovers the old torture chamber and a bunch bodies covered in gold and jewels. Armando (German Bernal) and Diana (Maria Rebeca) join their other two grave robbing friends down the shaft and begin looting the bodies. Manolo and Armando find a crypt and open it, even after Rebecca (who is psychic) begs them not to (She says, "Let's go before we're jailed for tomb profanation!"). They find the body of the Noble Executioner and remove the jewel-encrusted axe from his chest. As soon as the axe is removed, a storm brews outside and the bloodshed begins. The four graverobbers hop in their truck to leave, but it's hopelessly stuck in the mud (not much of a surprise there). The revived Executioner grabs his axe out of the back of the truck and goes on a killing spree, first killing two peasants on horseback who try to help the foursome free the truck from the mud. Police Captain Lopez (Fernando Almada) happens to be driving by and sees a riderless horse dart by him. Once he sees the two slaughtered bodies of the peasants, he arrests the four graverobbers for murder. At first he doesn't believe the story they have to tell, but when more bodies turn up brutally murdered, he has no choice. Captain Lopez has another reason to worry: His virginal daughter Olivia (Edna Bolkan) is camping out in the woods with three other female friends and she is the perfect candidate to bear Satan's son. Captain Lopez finds a book bearing the coat of arms of the Holy Inquisition that will put an end to this menace, but it is written in Latin. He goes to his local church to enlist the help of the Padre (Roberto Canedo) in hopes of unlocking the books secrets. As two of the graverobbers meet a bloody end, Captain Lopez must find a way to stop his daughter from becoming Satan's whore. Could the axe be the answer?  This obviously low-budget Mexican horror flick takes a while to get cooking, but once it does, it's pretty gory. Director/scripter Ruben Galindo Jr. (CEMETERY OF TERROR - 1984; DON'T PANIC - 1987) offers us a throat slashing, an axe to the forehead, a hand being chopped off (and the poor girl's stump just won't stop spurting blood!), a decapitation, a nasty chest-bursting scene, an axe to the face, a head squeezed through the grate of a fence, a knife in the hand and other gory mayhem. The effects may not be state-of-the-art, but it's apparent that they're a labor of love and a breath of fresh air when compared to the sterile CGI effects of today. The film has a low-budget atmosphere that's infectious, so it's various shortcomings (including some camera shadows) can be ignored. As with a lot of Spanish and Mexican horror productions, religion plays an important role in the redemption of some of the characters, but GRAVE ROBBERS (on-screen title: LADRONES DE TOMBAS) doesn't hit you over the head with it. This is a good, old-fashioned 80's gore film. Nothing more, nothing less. Also starring Tono Infante, Tony Bravo, Augustin Bernal, Andres Bonfiglio and Andrea Legarreta. Available on a double-sided DVD (with Galindo's CEMETERY OF TERROR) from Deimos Entertainment, an off-shoot of BCI Eclipse. Both films are fullscreen transfers in their original Spanish language with optional English subtitles. The subtitles are serviceable, although my Spanish skills did spot a couple of occasions where some liberties were taken (not to mention some noticable spelling errors). It's still great to see these titles get a legitimate DVD release, though, and I tip my hat to BCI for doing so. Not Rated.

THE GRAVEYARD (2006) - This second sequel to the awful BLOODY MURDER (1999) bears no resemblance to the first two films (which includes 2002's BLOODY MURDER 2, the best in the series) and if it didn't take place in Camp Placid Pines (and Placid Pines Cemetery), it would have nothing in common with them. Which brings up the question: Would you send your kids to a summer camp if you knew it came with it's own namesake cemetery right next door? The film opens with six friends going to the cemetery one night and playing a practical joke on Eric (Mark Salling), where Bobby (Patrick Scott Lewis) dons a rubber fright mask and track suit and chases Eric around the graveyard with a butcher knife. Unfortunately, Eric takes it a little too seriously and impales himself on a wrought iron fence while running away and dies. Bobby is sent away to prison on a manslaughter charge and, when he is paroled five years later, he and the four remaining friends (along with some guests) return to the graveyard for a weekend (they stay in Camp Placid Pines' cabins) to work out their issues. While Bobby acts all mysterious and morose, someone wearing the same costume Bobby wore that fateful night five years earlier begins killing the members one-by-one. Bobby's ex-girlfriend Michelle (Lindsay Ballen) tries to get everyone to share in Bobby's guilt, but some members, including skirt-chasing Jack (Leif Lillehaugen), look on this excursion as a vacation. When Michelle and Sarah (Erin Michelle Lokitz) go to pay their respects at Eric grave (Lucky for them he was buried in the same cemetery where he died!), they find the grave has been recently dug up and Eric's body is missing. Jack's new girlfriend Veronica (Eva Derrek) is strangled by the killer when she's taking a shower and while cook/caretaker Peter Bishop (Markus Potter) leads a search for her through the woods, Sarah's lesbian ex-girlfriend Zoe (Natalie Denise Sperl) shows up and threatens everyone's lives (Never mess with an angry lesbian!), but she dies shortly after when the killer slits her throat (thereby eliminating her as a suspect). After Bobby and Jack play the worst (not to mention unbelievable) practical joke possible, the group finds all their cars disabled, the tires slashed and wires cut. Bobby leaves by himself to make the ten mile trek to the next town, while the masked killer begins slaughtering everyone else in earnest. As bodies begin to pile up, Bobby is arrested by the sheriif he flags down, while the remainder of the group try to figure out who the killer is. You'll have to be stupider than a tree stump not to figure it out yourself.  The best way to describe this film is "yawn". It's not badly made or amateurishly acted (except for a couple of people), but the film offers nothing remotely interesting to horror fans. Like most DTV flicks, the script (by Michael Hurst, who directed the much better than expected HOUSE OF THE DEAD II [2005], as well as PUMPKINHEAD 4: BLOOD FEUD [2007]) is generic and doesn't make a lick of sense. When Bobby and Jack pull their practical joke in the latter half of the film, that's the straw that breaks the camel's back, because it's so unrealistic, it's laughable. Director Michael Feifer (ED GEIN: THE BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD - 2007) is downright sloppy in a lot of scenes (Eric impalement is pathetic) and has the habit of pulling back when he should be pushing forward. There's an offscreen decapitation, a really bad throat slashing (you can see the blood coming from the blade of the knife), a bloodless strangulation, an electrocution (in the film's second unrealistic plot twist), a hatchet to the chest and other killings, none of them remotely interesting. There's also some nice female nudity (all courtesy of Eva Derrek), but it's not nearly enough to get your mind off on how ordinary the whole film is. The reveal of the killer's identity is telegraphed from the time of the reunion and the actor who plays the sheriff (Sam Bologna) is horrendous and keeps saying, "I haven't fired my gun since 1974!". If you're expecting something special to happen when he finally does fire his gun, forget it. This film's not that inventive. The "surprise" stinger ending leaves it wide-open for another sequel. After enjoying BLOODY MURDER 2 so much, I was expecting something much more entertaining than this. I should have known better. Also starring Chris Stewart and Trish Coren. A Lionsgate Entertainment Release. Rated R.

THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979) - Land developer Joshua (Mel Ferrer) has created a tourist trap called Paradise House in some tropical jungle and has invited photographer Daniel Nessel (Claudio Cassinelli) and model Sheena (Geneve Hutton) to come and view the new attraction a few days before it officially opens (When Joshua mentions to Sheena that Eve may have been a black woman, the black Sheena replies, "All I know is that Adam was a stupid shit!"). Joshua assigns his personal assistant, Alice (Barbara Bach), to show Daniel around, but when Daniel views members of the local Kuma tribe being used as menial and dangerous labor for Joshua's new resort, he becomes concerned that Joshua is taking advantage of them. Daniel also becomes worried when he spots Joshua's right-hand man, Peter (Romano Puppo), feeding live pigs to the crocodile population, in order to keep them close to Paradise House as a tourist attraction. Sheena is eaten by a giant alligator while making love to a Kuma tribesman on the eve before the resort's grand opening and, as a busload of tourists arrive to stay at the resort, Daniel finds Sheena's canoe with huge bite marks in it and fears she is dead. When Daniel relays his fears to Joshua about a man-eating alligator on the loose, Joshua prefers that Daniel keeps quiet as not to disturb the resort's full house. Daniel and Alice travel down river to the Kuma tribal village, where they review a ritual being performed by the tribe and they're getting pissed off. They are told by a tribe member that the "Great God" (the giant alligator) has been disturbed by the deforestation and blasting done to create Paradise House and are led to the secret hiding place (in a cave behind a waterfall) of crazy Father Jonathan (Richard Johnson), a missionary who fought the giant alligator years earlier and was the only member from his mission who survived. What a giant alligator is doing living with the crocodile population is never explained, but when Daniel and Alice barely make it back to the resort after being attacked by the alligator and report it to Joshua, he has Peter beat Daniel up when he tries to call for help on the radio. That night, the resort's helicopter is mysteriously dragged into the lagoon and someone destroys the radio's antennae just as the alligator begins to chow-down on the tourists and resort staff. When Joshua refuses to cancel the tourist boat ride down the river (called "Tarzan's Raft"!) and the Kuma tribe kidnaps Alice and plan to use her as their next sacrifice to appease the Great God, Daniel has to spring into action to try to save Alice and the boatload of tourists. He manages to save Alice, but when it comes to the tourists, let's just say the natives are as restless as the alligator.  This Italian JAWS (1975) clone (which was made under the title GREAT ALLIGATOR RIVER), directed by Sergio Martino (TORSO - 1973; MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD - 1978; SCREAMERS - 1980; AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK - 1983; HANDS OF STEEL - 1986) and co-scripted by Luigi Montefiore (a.k.a. "George Eastman"), holds most of the gore to a minimum until the finale, which shows the tourists fighting for their lives from two sources: The deadly alligator in the water and the Kuma tribe, who have had enough debasement and begin killing the tourists with flaming spears and arrows as soon as they make it to shore. It's the film's best sequence, as the tourists must decide which is the worst death; in the jaws of an alligator or a flaming sharp stick in the gut. Some of the tourists, in their panic, end up impaling themselves on the crocodile fence that surrounds the lagoon. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is fairly routine and bloodless. There's also an annoying subplot where a little girl tourist named Minou (Silvia Collatina) wanders around the resort saying "adorable" things, while her mother and new boyfriend avoid her. Two minutes after listening to her drivel, I was wishing the alligator would make her a snack. Speaking of the alligator, it's kept mainly off-screen or at least clouded by the water, which is a good thing considering what is viewable is not very believable. The scene where the van that Daniel and Alice are in plunges into the lagoon is obviously (bad) model work. The Sri Lanka locations are pretty to look at, though. Also starring Fabrizia Castagnoli, Enzo Fisichella, Bobby Rhodes, Lory Del Santo and Anny Papa. A Gorgon Video Release. Also available on DVD under the title THE BIG ALLIGATOR RIVER from Noshame Entertainment. Not Rated.

GROTESQUE (1987) - This horror film's major distinction is that all of its' sympathetic characters are killed off before it is half over! Linda Blair (enough said) brings along her best friend (Donna Wilkes of ANGEL [1983] and BLOOD SONG [1982]) to visit her movie makeup effects expert father (Guy Stockwell of SANTA SANGRE [1989]) and mother at their house deep in the woods. Along the way they have a chance encounter with a gang of murderous punkers. Blair and Wilkes escape but their problems are far from over. The leader of the gang (Brad Wilson) catches wind that Blair's father keeps a secret stash in his house. Thinking it to be money or drugs (?)  they break into the house and slaughter Wilkes, Blair and her family. While searching for the stash, the punks stumble onto a hidden room containing a deformed man called Patrick. Realizing that Patrick is the hidden stash, the punks flee. Patrick, seeing what was done to Stockwell and Blair, gives chase and kills the punks (including Nells Van Patten and Robert "MANIAC COP" [1988] Z'dar) one by one until only Wilson and his girlfriend are left. Blair's uncle (former teen idol Tab Hunter), a plastic surgeon, joins a police posse to find the killers of his family. The posse finds Patrick struggling with Wilson and his girlfriend and kill Patrick (a shotgun blast to the face), thinking that he is the killer. The two remaining punks say that Patrick was the killer and the police release them for lack of evidence. This pisses off Hunter quite a bit since he knows that Patrick couldn't be the killer. He kidnaps the two punks and exacts equal justice while revealing the truth about Patrick and himself. This is not an easy film to criticize. It's hard to tell if the humor is intentional or not. Van Patten's role as a laughing psychopath is one such case. Is it a parody or is he really trying to act? (I often think the same thing whenever I see his dad, Dick, perform.) There is no nudity (although Blair does threaten to take a shower) but there is enough blood and perversity to keep you occupied in its' short 80 minute running time. Director Joe Tornatore (ZEBRA FORCE [1976]) and scriptwriter Mikel Angel (who co-directed THE LOVE BUTCHER [1975]) also appear in minor roles. George "Buck" Flower was Pre-Production Coordinator. There are reviews out there that state that there's an alternate ending where the whole movie is nothing but a film-within-a-film where the Wolfman and Frankenstein watch the proceedings in a theatre projection booth complaining about how no good horror movies are being made today. They jump out of the booth and scare the hell out of the audience (Blair included). I tend to believe it for two reasons: 1.) The version I viewed ends rather abruptly with happy music playing in the background and, 2.) there are listings for actors playing the Wolfman and Frank N. Stein in the final credits even though they are nowhere to be found here. GROTESQUE is either a good bad film or a bad good film. That decision is up to you. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on DVD (with the missing footage intact) from Shout! Factory as part of their Roger Corman's Cult Classics "Vampires, Mummies & Monsters" 2-Disc collection (which also includes LADY FRANKENSTEIN [1971], THE VELVET VAMPIRE [1971] and TIME WALKER [1982]). Rated R.

GUTTERBALLS (2008) - Nasty, unpleasant gore film with hardcore porn scenes (the version that will be released to retail will be missing the hardcore scenes). Two rival bowling teams get into a fight after hours at the Xcaliber Bowling Center, which results in Lisa (Candice Lewald) getting gang-raped and violated with a bowling pin (in a needlessly graphic and overlong scene) by four miscreants, one of them being her ex-boyfriend Steve (Alastair Gamble). The next night, the two opposing teams, one led by Steve and the other led by Jamie (Nathan Witte), Lisa's new boyfriend, meet after hours at the Xcaliber lanes for a bowling competition, but the alleys are being stalked by an unseen killer, who wears a modified bowling bag over his head and uses various bowling-related items to dispatch the cast. Steve and his team are surprised to see Lisa at the tournament, especially since it looks as if she has told no one about the gang-rape the night before. Lisa corners the weakest member of Steve's team, Patrick (Trevor Gemma), and tells him that this will be a night he and everyone else in the bowling alley will never forget. The killer, who keeps tally of his victims on the alley's electronic scoreboard using the initials BBK, strikes first when he suffocates opposing team member Dave (Scott Alonzo) and bimbo Julia (Danielle Munro) as the are performing oral sex on each other (Julia chokes to death on Dave's cock and Dave is asphyxiated on Julia's pussy in graphic close-up). BBK then kills transvestite AJ (Nathan Dashwood) by shoving a bowling pin down his throat and then slicing his penis in half (again in graphic close-up) like a piece of sausage. As BBK continues his killing spree, stabbing one guy repeatedly in the head with a sharpened bowling pin, crushing a girl's head between two bowling balls, strangling another girl with the laces of a pair of bowling shoes, grinding a guy's face to a pulp in a ball polishing machine and anally raping Steve with a sharpened bowling pin and sending his dismembered head up the ball return, the final two bowlers, Jamie and Sarah (Mihola Terzic), try to escape the bowling alley, only to find every exit blocked. The final reveal of the killer(s) is one of the most incoherent and unbelievable endings in modern slasher film history. This X-rated gore flick, directed/written by Ryan Nicholson (TORCHED - 2004; LIVE FEED - 2006), is a foul-mouthed, sex-filled horror film that tries to be a throwback to the gore-drenched slasher flicks of the 80's (including a lot of songs from the 70's & 80's on the soundtrack), but the amateur acting and general cheapness of the production proves to be it's undoing. While the gore effects are very well done (some are absolutely hard to watch, especially the penis slicing) and the inclusion of hardcore sex scenes an added bonus (although it's unlikely most viewers will ever see these scenes when this film gets a distribution deal), the absence of any likable characters (they are either sex-crazed perverts [including the women] or curse word-filled cretins) makes it hard for the audience to give a damn about anyone's fate. If it's gore you want, this film delivers. If it's a coherent plot and interesting characters you crave, you're better off sticking with the actual slasher films of the 80's, where a semblance of plot and character development were more paramount. BBK is a ridiculous looking serial killer, wearing a bowling bag over his head and donning two bowling pins in holsters like they were six-shooters. The unmasking (or rather, unbagging) of BBK and the explanation of what the initials stand for is laughable to the point of being insanely stupid. Let's just say that GUTTERBALLS is bloody as hell but it doesn't have a brain cell in its tiny little head. I also have the feeling that the music soundtrack, which contains songs by Loverboy, Bachman Turner Overdrive, April Wine and Trooper, will probably be altered before it is legally distributed. I seriously doubt an ultra-low-budget film like this could afford the licensing fees for these songs. Also starring Wade Gibb, Jeremy Beland, Jimmy Blais, Stephanie Schacter and Dan Ellis as the mysterious bowling alley manager. A Plotdigger Films DVD Release. Not Rated, for obvious reasons.

HACK-O-LANTERN (1987) - Grandpa (Hy Pyke of SPAWN OF THE SLITHIS - 1977) has taken an unusual interest in his grandson Tommy (Gregory Scott Cummins of BLOOD GAMES - 1989). Unusual in many ways. It is made clear early on that Grandpa is also Tommy's biological father, the result of Grandpa raping his daughter (Katina Garner) on her wedding day. Grandpa is also the leader of a cult of Satan worshippers and wants Tommy to join the cult on HALLOWEEN NIGHT (one of the film's alternate titles). Grandpa's influence has left its mark on Tommy. He likes the taste of blood, dresses in black clothing, likes his room stuffy and keeps a satanic altar in his bedroom closet. This worries Mom quite a bit as well as Tommy's sister (Carla Baron) and policeman brother (Jeff Brown). To make matters worse, someone wearing a Devil costume is slaughtering the town's population in various ways. When his sister's boyfriend turns up dead (a shovel buried in his head), she blames Tommy and crashes his inauguration with the Devil to exact revenge. She is captured and Grandpa orders Tommy to kill her. He frees her instead which greatly disappoints Grandpa. The climatic showdown at the town's annual Halloween party pits Grandpa against the masked killer. Grandpa dies (but not before passing his powers on to one of his grandkids) and the killer is unmasked (no real surprise). This is an OK horror item which, though short on logic, has enough blood and female frontal nudity to hold your interest. A beheading, a hoe to the side of the head, a branding and a knifing are some of the effects on view. The acting is generally good although Pyke over emotes shamelessly (and he looks like an older version of Mike Myers in WAYNE'S WORLD - 1992).  Director Jag Mundhra also made OPEN HOUSE (1987 - with Adrienne Barbeau), THE JIGSAW MURDERS (1988), the Tanya Roberts starrer, NIGHT EYES (1990) and countless erotic thrillers in the 90's. HACK-O-LANTERN is nothing extraordinary, but not bad and is also available on video under the titles THE DAMNING and DEATH MASK. A Legacy Entertainment VHS Release. Rated R.

HALLETTSVILLE (2007) - This regional horror film, lensed in Austin, Texas, opens with someone murdering all the school children (by hanging, stabbing, bashing in the head with a rock) in a one-room schoolhouse in 1901 Texas and then burying the young bodies somewhere in the forest. Cut to the present, as we watch Tyler Jensen (Derek Lee Nixon) attending the funeral of his grandmother Hanna Myers. He has a flashback to when he was a child and Grandma Hanna grabbed his hand and cryptically said, "It stops with you!". Tyler has been away at college and when he returns back to the town of Hallettsville, it opens a floodgate of memories and bad emotions, the toughest being the breakup with his girlfriend April (Katie Fountain). She is till trying to get back together with Tyler (even offering to move so she can go to college with him), but she hurt him so bad, he wants nothing to do with her. When Tyler finds out that his parents are about to sell Grandma Hanna's ranch house, he gathers his friends, Luke (producer Logan Patrick Brown), Mark (Jordan Brower), Jonathan (Jesse Janzen), Candice (Brooke Baker) and Kristin (Karoly Giardello), to come with him to spend one more weekend at the house. Even April is able to talk her way into coming with them. On their way to the ranch house, they are stopped by Sheriff Dave Ketchum (a slurred-speech Gary Busey), who warns them not to cause any trouble while they are here. Tyler's mother (GiGi Erneta) is not very keen on Tyler and his friends going to Grandma Hanna's house because, when she was a little girl, she found the dead, mutilated body of her brother and later saw a horned demon in her bedroom, but she closed her eyes real tight and it went away. That night, around a campfire on the ranch house property (Where Jonathan tells this joke: Q: "What's funnier than a dead baby?" A. "A dead baby in a clown suit!"), Tyler tells everyone that on this property in 1901, a black-clad, mustached stranger visited school teacher Adam Lemmerich (Aidan Marus) in the middle of the night and possessed him. The next morning he killed all the school children in his charge, buried them and then disappeared, never to be seen again. Before you can say, "Hey, is this ranch house haunted?", the house begins fucking with everyones' heads, so much so that Jonathan wants to go home. Tyler agrees to drive him home, but when April tells Tyler that she's pregnant, Jonathan's problem suddenly takes a back seat. Too bad, because Jonathan is being haunted by the ghosts of all the dead school children. He steals Tyler's truck, flips it over trying to avoid a coyote in the middle of the road and is killed by one of the ghosts, leaving everyone else trapped at the haunted ranch house with no way out (Hey, don't they have feet? And conveniently, cell phones don't work there.). Mark is the next to die (drowned in a pond), followed by Kristin (tied to a tree and butchered), leaving the remaining foursome to grab some weapons to fight the ghost children (What do you use to kill ghosts? They're already dead!). But is it only the children they should worry about?  This totally ordinary low-budget horror flick, directed and co-written (with star Derek Lee Nixon and Tim Massey) by freshman Andrew Pozza, offers no real surprises to the viewers. The story has enough holes to drive a train through (The convenient discovery of Adam's journal, which explains everything. Where has it been for over a hundred years?) and the gore is very restrained, consisting of quick, almost subliminal, edits or showing the after-effects of the kills. Gary Busey (who looks very gaunt here, but no less crazy than usual) seems to be embarrassed to be involved in this film (which may be why they gave him a Producer credit) and is given the lion's share of awful dialogue (Tyler: "Can we have a minute here?" Sheriff: "You have 59 seconds." What is this, LET'S MAKE A DEAL?). The majority of the film finds the cast walking or running through the woods, while ghost children and grunting demons pick them off one-by-one. HALLETTSVILLE has as much meat on its bones as a starving Somalian child. The downbeat finale, which we have seen a thousand times in modern DTV horror flicks (Busey quits the police force and gets drunk [there's a stretch!] and April has her baby, who has pitch-black eyes), only add to its ordinariness. It's not a badly-made film, just a forgettable one. Also starring Dorian Ingram, Andrew Rice and Zach Freeman. A Westlake Entertainment Group DVD Release. Not Rated.

HALLOWEEN NIGHT (2006) - Another one of The Asylum's quickly-made horror flicks, this one released early to cash-in on Rob Zombie's upcoming HALLOWEEN (2007) remake. A young boy named Chris Vale witnesses his mother being raped and shot in the head by two masked home invaders. A stray bullet hits a steam pipe (in a house?), spraying hot steam all over Chris and burning him over 90% of his body. Ten years later, on Halloween Day, Chris (Scot Nery) escapes from a mental hospital when an orderly makes fun of him by wearing the same kind of mask as the home invaders who killed his mom (the orderly has his throat graphically ripped-out for his stupid and insensitive joke). We then switch to college student David Baxter (Derek Osedach; SNAKES ON A TRAIN - 2006), as he is outfitting his home to be the ultimate haunted house and all his friends start showing up in costume, including his fiancée Shannon (Rebekah Kochan; PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND - 2006), who is expecting a marriage proposal. The trouble is, Chris has just killed party guest Todd (Nicholas Daly Clark) when he stops at a gas station bathroom to change into his costume (a masked medieval knight complete with an armory of real edged weapons, in one of the film's most offensive coincidences). Chris dons Todd's costume and, after killing Todd (a sword through the mouth) and his girlfriend (repeated blows to the stomach with a miniature battleaxe until her guts spill out), he heads to David's party. David punks all his friends with an ultimately tasteless practical joke that involves friend Daryll (Jared Michaels; PLAGUERS - 2008), a fake cop and Todd as a hostage, but since Todd isn't actually Todd, the joke does not play out as planned and real cops show up and shut the party down. "Hostage" Chris (still dressed as Todd) impales Daryll with a sword and kills the fake cop (away from everyone else) and heads back to the house, where a pissed-off Shannon (who wasn't in on the prank), David and a few friends (including a couple of horny lesbians) still remain. Chris begins dispatching the few remaining guests with his arsenal of sharp weapons (he favors the battleaxe), but he doesn't harm Shannon because she reminds him of his mother, including the necklace she wears around her neck that David just gave her. The questions soon become: Is it the same exact necklace and where did David get it from? While Chris keeps Shannon tied-up in one of the bedrooms, the killings continue and secrets are revealed (Such as: This is the same house where Chris was disfigured and his mother was raped and killed ten years earlier.). I think we can all see where this is heading; right up to the ready-made finale that leaves this film wide-open for a sequel.  Purportedly based on a true story (yeah, right), HALLOWEEN NIGHT is nothing but a series of gory stalk 'n' slash scenes with a minimum of plot. Director Mark Atkins (EVIL EYES - 2004; HAUNTING OF WINCHESTER HOUSE - 2009; and cinematographer for the majority of The Asylum's productions) and screenwriter Michael Gingold (LEECHES! - 2003) have fashioned a horror film that exists solely on clichés, coincidences and stereotypes (The only person who puts up much of a fight with Chris is one of the lesbians and she gets a wooden clothes hanger shoved through her eye at the end of the fight). The major problem with this film, though, is the performance by Derek Osedach as David. He delivers all his lines (even the most serious ones) in such a glib, almost unrehearsed, manner that he comes across as a younger, less funny, version of Adam Carolla (if you can imagine that). While there is plenty of blood and gore on view, none of it is particularly well done or memorable. It's usually quickly-edited shots of someone being impaled or sliced, followed by shots of the victims spitting-up blood. In other words, another typical flick from the The Asylum, who have never been accused of trying too hard. Also starring Sean Durrie, Alicia Klein, Erica Roby, Amanda Ward, Jay Costelo, Amelia Jackson-Gray and a cameo by Eric Spudic, writer of AQUANOIDS (2003) and director of KILLERS BY NATURE (2005). An Asylum Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1980) - When Columbia Pictures saw what a monster hit Paramount Pictures had with FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980), they quickly commissioned their own slasher film and this was the result. I must say that their choice of director, J. Lee Thompson, was a bit peculiar, since the closest he came to directing a horror film was the original CAPE FEAR (1962) or the Charles Bronson fantasy Western THE WHITE BUFFALO (1977; Thompson would also direct the majority of Bronson's 80's output, including THE EVIL THAT MEN DO - 1984; MESSENGER OF DEATH - 1988; and KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS - 1989). The choice of casting Western film and TV star Glenn Ford to offset the young cast was also an odd choice, in what amounts to an extended cameo (although he does have more screen time here than he did in the strange Italian/German horror film THE VISITOR - 1978), but this whole film has this same odd feel, like its whole purpose was to rush it out to theaters before the slasher craze ran its course. The story is fairly simple: Troubled teen Virginia "Ginny" Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson; MIDNIGHT OFFERINGS - 1981) re-enrolls as a student at Crawford Academy and soon members of her new clique of friends begin dying bloody deaths. Previously, Ginny was involved in a car accident where her mother died and Ginny laid in a coma for several months, but an experimental procedure to regrow brain tissue was performed on her, which made Ginny wake up. Her memory is a bit foggy, but as every day passes, she gets bits and pieces of it back with the help of her psychiatrist, Dr. David Faraday (Ford). Harold (Lawrence Dane; RITUALS - 1977), Ginny's very rich father, seems to be holding something back from his daughter, but when more and more of Ginny's friends end up missing (they are actually killed, but only the audience is let in on that), even his money may not buy his way out of this situation. We watch as Ginny's friends meet various bloody demises by a killer dressed in black leather (including the prerequisite gloves): Bernadette (Lesleh Donaldson; FUNERAL HOME - 1981) has her throat slit with a strait razor; Etienne (Michel Rene Labelle) has his face turned into a bloody pulp when his scarf is tossed into the spinning wheels of his motorcycle; Greg (Richard Rebiere) has his trachea crushed when the killer drops a 20 lb. weight on his balls while he is bench-pressing way too much weight; Alfred (Jack Blum) is stabbed in the stomach with garden shears; Steve (Matt Craven; THE INTRUDER WITHIN - 1981) is skewered through the mouth with a shish-kebab tong; Ann (Tracy Bregman; THE CONCRETE JUNGLE - 1982) has her throat cut and is placed in a bathtub; and Dr. Faraday has his skull split open with a fireplace poker. All evidence points to Ginny being the killer and as her eighteenth birthday rapidly approaches, it sets the all-too-familiar scene of all the dead students sitting around Ginny's birthday table, complete with birthday hats and party favors, but an unbelievable final coda reveals if Ginny is really the killer or not (bet on not).  Way too overlong at 111 minutes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME suffers from that old corporate curse: Yeah, we want to make a teen slasher flick, but let's fill it with characters that were born to be red herrings (not to mention that they don't act like teens I ever knew), adults that act like they were never kids (they either yell at, ignore or patronize the teens) and edit the killings so that they show a hint of red, but never goes "all the way" (You have to hit the freeze frame button on your remote to get the full effect). Another important aspect this film lacks is nudity, something teen slashers must have. The closest it gets is showing Ms. Anderson in her bra. She even takes a shower and we see nothing! So basically what we have here is what a big studio thinks a slasher film should be and, of course, they miss the whole point by a mile. The late Glenn Ford looks and acts bored beyond tears and the screenplay, by John Saxton, Peter Jobin and Timothy Bond, is full of those handy coincidences and surprise reveals that makes audiences groan loudly in disbelief (especially that perfect Melissa Sue Anderson mask that the killer wears in the finale that would make MISSION IMPOSSIBLE envious!). Worth viewing if only to see how big corporations fuck-up the slasher genre. Also starring Lisa Langlois (THE NEST - 1987), Sharon Acker, Frances Hyland, David Eisner and Lenore Zann (VISITING HOURS - 1982). Originally released on VHS by Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment and available on widescreen DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Rated R.

HAPPY HELL NIGHT (1991) - What starts out as a strange and eerie experience quickly turns into standard slasher material in this Canadian/Yugoslavian co-production. A college fraternity sends out its pledges on Hell Night to take a photo of a lunatic named Malius (Charles Cragin) at the local insane asylum. Twenty-five years earlier, Malius killed and dismembered five pledges of the same fraternity and has spent the past quarter century sitting motionless in his cell, the outside world protected by a crucifix attached to his cell door. As you can guess, the pledges fuck-up and release Malius (whose pale, skeletal features make him a sight to behold) and he goes on a killing spree at the college. There's a sub-plot involving a pledge and his brother (the fraternity president) who are both in love with the same girl, but it's not very interesting. Darren McGavin portrays the two brothers' father, a survivor of the original massacre who harbors some secrets of his own. The rest of the film is merely a series of brutal (and unrated) killings, as Malius slashes throats, removes limbs and thrusts an ice hammer through the bodies of unsuspecting college kids having sex, including the welcome death of a video peeping tom (Ted Clark, who looks like comedian Richard Belzer on a herion binge). McGavin arrives to save his kids and confesses that it was he who performed a satanic ritual twenty-five years earlier, raising Malius from the dead (he thought it was a harmless fraternity prank until it was too late). McGavin is then stabbed in the back with his own ice hammer by Malius and as he lays mortally wounded he tells the kids that only the reading of a magical passage, performed at the original massacre site, will return Malius to the grave. They do. He does. The end. Or is it? While this film does have a few atmospheric touches (including a statue of Jesus on the cross coming to life) and plenty of extreme gore, it is basic "Teens have sex, teens get killed" formula filmmaking made popular back in 1980 by FRIDAY THE 13TH. This type of film went out of style years ago. Charles Cragin is terrifying as Malius and one wishes that there were a better storyline to showcase his talents (the ending of this film points the way for a Part 2, but I doubt that will ever happen). Darren McGavin's role in this film is no more than a extended cameo and he looks embarassed to be here. He probably took the role to get a free trip to Yugoslavia (where some exteriors were filmed) and to get some extra booze money. It's a long way from his KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (1974 - 1975) days. Everyone else in the cast are unknowns and will probably stay that way. If you are interested, there is some full frontal female nudity on view as well as some good photography, but not enough to get your mind off the fact this is something you have seen a hundred times before. To sum it up, HAPPY HELL NIGHT is neither good or bad. It's just deja vu. Directed by Brian Owens who also got story credit on the 1994 horror opus BRAINSCAN. Released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment to cash-in on co-stars Jorja Fox (TV's CSI) and Sam Rockwell's (MATCHSTICK MEN - 2003) recent fame (they have basically nothing more than cameo roles here, especially Fox, who goes uncredited in her role as a sorority girl).  Not Rated.

HATCHET (2007) - When one of the blurbs on the DVD package states "Amongst the greatest slasher flicks of all time", your expectations are automatically set to "high". Sadly, it fails to meet those expectations, but I will give it points for being extremely bloody and downright funny in spots. This Louisiana-set (but filmed on sets in Los Angeles) horror comedy opens with a father/son gator hunting team (played by Robert Englund and Joshua Leonard) being savagely disemboweled and dismembered by some unknown killer with superhuman powers. We then cut to Mardi Gras, where downbeat Ben (Joel David Moore; the paranoid computer game genius "J.R." in GRANDMA'S BOY [2006]), who is trying to get over a recent breakup with his girlfriend, talks his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond; SCREAM 3 - 2000) into taking a haunted midnight swamp tour, run by huckster Shawn (Parry Shen), who knows less about the swamp than his paying customers, which includes know-it-all Mr. Parmetteo (Richard Riehle) and his wife (Patriko Darbo); a Girls Gone Wild-type producer named Doug Shapiro (Joel Murray) and two bimbos, Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioreavianti), who doff their tops at the drop of a hat; and morose local girl Marybeth (Tamara Feldman), who is the daughter and sister of the two missing gator hunters. When the inexperienced Shawn accidentally sinks the tour boat and Mr. Parmetteo is bitten on the leg by a gator, the tour group must traverse the swamp at night. Marybeth tells everyone that the swamp is haunted by the ghost of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder; also the film's Stunt Coordinator), a horribly disfigured man who was accidentally axed in the head by his father (also played by Hodder in flashbacks) when trying to save him from a house fire (a prank gone wrong perpetrated by local kids with fireworks). Victor makes his presence immediately known and begins killing members of the tour group in extremely graphic ways, while everyone bickers amongst themselves and reveal secrets about each other (Some are damn funny, such as when Jenna reveals that she was not accepted at New York University, so she had to attend Hoffstra instead!). Only Ben and Marybeth are able to keep their wits about them (not to mention their heads) as Victor dispatches the rest of the group. The quick finale (a direct steal from the first FRIDAY THE 13TH [1980]) will have you cursing at the screen in utter disappointment.  The only way to watch this film is by way of the unrated DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. It did have a limited theatrical run, but it was a heavily-cut R-rated edit, that trimmed most of the bloody deaths. Director/scripter Adam Green (SPIRAL - 2007; co-directed by star Joel David Moore) spends too much time on character development and jokey dialogue throughout the first half of the film, but once Victor Crowley starts his killing spree, it's pretty much a non-stop gorefest. Special effects master John Carl Buechler (who has a cameo here as a swamp hick named Jack Cracker) and his MMI effects house supply some truly eye-opening and, refreshingly, non-CGI gore set-pieces, including bloody dismemberment by hatchet, a head getting manually ripped apart at the jawline, a head being twisted-off at the neck like a bottlecap, dismemberment and decapitation by shovel, a face being ground to chuck by a gas-powered belt sander (!), arms being ripped out of their sockets and other bloody mayhem. Believe me when I say that nothing is left to the imagination. Green's joke-filled script contains more groaners than hits, but I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. It's also apparent that Green is a huge fan of slasher films, as he slips in various homages to slasher flicks of the past, especially the FRIDAY THE 13TH series (Parts 1 & 2 are predominantly featured). My biggest complaint, though, is the sudden, senseless ending, which either shows that Green could never figure out a proper finale or he wanted to set it up for the inevitable sequel. Either way, it's nearly an unforgivable cop-out. Die-hard gorehounds should really enjoy this, though. It's well-made, decently acted by a cast of familiar faces and bloody as hell. Tony Todd (who is becoming the Cameron Mitchell of the new millennium) puts in a cameo as the litigious-wary Reverend Zombie, a swamp tour guide who refuses to take Ben and Marcus on a tour because his last customer sued him. An Anchor Bay Entertainment Release. The DVD contains a wealth of extras, including a "making of" documentary, plenty of behind-the-scenes docs on the gore effects and other background info, full-length commentaries by the cast and crew and a funny gag reel. Followed by an ultra-gory sequel in 2010, with Adam Green directing, Tony Todd in a much bigger role as Reverend Zombie and Danielle Harris (HALLOWEEN - 2007) giving the worst performance of her career. As with the original, stay away from the R-Rated edit, otherwise you will miss some of the best, bloodiest kills. Unrated.

HATCHET III (2013) - NOTE: To see my thoughts on HATCHET II (2010), click HERE. While slightly better than its predecessor, this second sequel still leaves a lot to be desired storywise, unless you watch these films only for the gore. If that's all you want, this film delivers the grue in bucket loads. It begins where the first sequel left off, where Marybeth (Danielle Harris, who is still as bad as she was in the first sequel, replacing Tamara Feldman in the original film) shoots Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) in the face with a shotgun (although it looks like much more damage was done to his face in the first sequel) and walks away, only to have Crowley get up and chase her. During their struggle, Crowley falls on an operating chainsaw and is cut in half from stem to stern (Outrageously graphic, but don't chainsaws have safety switches so this type of thing doesn't happen?). Marybeth, who is soaked in blood, takes a piece of Crowley's face and walks into the local police station, still carrying the shotgun. She is immediately arrested, washed down by a power hose (What about preserving the evidence?) and put in a cell under suspicion of multiple murders, where Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan, a long career slide since his starring role in GREMLINS - 1984) interrogates Marybeth and she tells him that Victor Crowley was responsible, not her. Not believing her, he sends out a search team into the area she was in the swamps, only for the team to discover multiple body parts and bodies missing most of their skin. As the Sheriff heads to the area, with a boat crew of paramedics (including Andrew [Parry Shen, who returns from the first two films, but in a totally different role] and Randy [Sean Whalen; LAID TO REST - 2009]) and a S.W.A.T. team (headed by Hawes [Derek Mears, who played Jason Vorhees in the 2009 FRIDAY THE 13TH reboot]), the Sheriffs ex-wife, Amanda (Caroline Williams; THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 - 1986, who overacts here to the point of parody), a disgraced reporter who hopes to prove her theory that Victor Crowley is real, talks Deputy Winslow (Robert Diago DoQui) into releasing Marybeth from her cell to defeat Victor Crowley once and for all. Amanda believes that only the people related to the persons responsible for Victor Crowley's father's death can kill him (Marybeth is the daughter of one of the deceased men, played by Robert Englund in the first film), so she, Marybeth and Deputy Winslow drive to the house of Abbott McMullen (Sid Haig, in a funny cameo performance as a hard-of-hearing racist), who has the cremated remains of Crowley's father in an urn. Amanda thinks that if Marybeth gives the urn to Victor Crowley, he will disappear for good and not be able to repeat the same day over-and-over. After nearly everyone is killed in the swamp by Crowley (gore-soaked deaths, including the decapitation of Sheriff Fowler using the gas-powered belt sander, which was also used in the first two films but doesn't exist in real life), the trio turn up in the swamp, where Amanda and Deputy Winslow are butchered by Crowley. Marybeth manages to throw the ashes of his father on Crowley's face after she is impaled on a tree branch. Crowley begins to disintegrate, but Marybeth makes sure that he is dead by blowing his body to bits with a shotgun blast. As Marybeth begins to takes her final breaths (?), the film cuts to black and the movie is over (a trademark of this franchise).  None of the film makes any sense at all and there are plot holes galore, but there are a few redeeming bits and pieces (pardon the pun), including a uncredited cameo from the first film's star, Joel David Moore, where we finally learn his fate. The gore is laid on hot and heavy and is very well done (by "Aunt Dolly's Garage"), but the film has a overall cheapness to it. Adam Green doesn't direct this time (he just wrote the screenplay and executive produced it, along with six other people), handing over the reins to freshman director BJ McDonnell, who usually is an expert Steadicam operator on such films as THE COLLECTOR (2009) and its sequel THE COLLECTION (2012) and worked on the first two HATCHET films as well. McDonnell does all he can with a weak script (there's a funny scene concerning a man's testicles hanging from a tree branch), but it's apparent most of the film's meager budget was spent flying everyone to Louisiana (the film's locale and the first time the series has filmed there, lensed during the Spring and Summer of 2012, where many of the crew were hospitalized with numerous bug bites and heat exhaustion), the massive gore effects (all physical and no CGI enhancement, which is always a plus), weapons fire and explosions. But if you're just in the mood for a blood-spattered gorefest, you may overlook the film's many shortcomings and just go along for the ride. I'm sure there will be a Part 4 sometime in the future, but as of this review, none has been announced. I just hope they replace Danielle Harris this time. She's great on the eyes (she has a nude scene in this, revealing that she has a giant tattoo on her back), but her acting in the two sequels borderlines on amateurish. Also starring Cody Blue Snider, Rileah Vanderbilt, Jason Trost, John Michael Sudol and Diane Ayala Goldner. Adam Green appears as a drunk in a cell next to Marybeth. A Dark Sky Films DVD & Blu-Ray Release. As with the first two films, expect an R-Rated cut (avoid) and an Unrated one.

HATCHETMAN (2003) - Here's an original idea: Someone sporting a latex horror mask and a black hooded sweatshirt is killing the strippers who work at a titty bar run by DiAngelo (Gino Maurizio). The unknown killer is particularly interested in the strippers' hands, as he has the tendency to cut them off with his trusty sharp steel hatchet and take them with him. Claudia (Cheryl Burns), a college girl by day/stripper by night (are there any other kind?), is dating cop Sonny (Jon Briddell), who supports Claudia's night job (stripping is helping her pay her way through law school), but really wants to marry her and get her out of the stripping lifestyle. Every time he goes to pop the question, another stripper ends up dead and he has to leave to investigate. The list of suspects (i.e. red herrings) is rather small, but obvious: There's Daniel Strong (Daniel Brown), a ex-boyfriend of one of the dead strippers who was just released from jail; Marty (Matt McDonald), a perverted auto mechanic who lives in the same apartment complex as all the strippers (a plot device that is too coincidental to believe) and likes to sneak into their apartments and try on their underwear; apartment manager Rob (Chris Moir), who has a crush on snooty stripper Star (Mia Zottoli) and has installed a spycam in her apartment so he can watch her; and Rob's friend Curtis (Darren Keefe Reiher), a surveillance specialist and apartment maintenance man who has a thing for novice stripper Molly (Nina Tapanin). When stripper Chloe (Racquel Richard) is found dead in her apartment with her hands missing (her nose-picking days are over), Claudia decides this is the perfect time to re-evaluate her life. Does she give up stripping and marry Sonny? Hell, no, she does the exact opposite! She breaks up with Sonny, the only person who can protect her, and continues stripping, while trying to solve the murders on her own (she is such a fucking idiot!). When Rob spots someone in a black hooded sweatshirt in Star's apartment on his spycam, he alerts a cop, who enters Star's apartment and shoots Marty (who was only there to ransack Star's panty drawer), killing him. Star is then killed in her car, Daniel is arrested and a cop is killed in the apartment after Daniel is captured, which proves that Daniel is innocent and the killer can be only one of two people. The idiotic Claudia and the rest of the strippers celebrate Daniel's arrest by partying with Rob at Curtis' home deep in the woods (c'mon now, I may be gullible but I'm not fuckin' gullible!). I think everyone with half a brain can guess what happens next.  Well, if it's tits and ass you are looking for, HATCHETMAN certainly delivers, much more so than any horror film in recent memory. Hardly five minutes go by without some good-looking gal exposing her breasts (some natural, but most silicon-enhanced) or giving us some gratuitous crotch shots, but the horror elements usually amount to nothing more than showing us the killer swinging his hatchet, followed by shots of blood splashing against walls, windows and other objects. Director Robert Tiffi (a.k.a. Robert Tiffe; SWORD OF HONOR - 1994) does let us see some of the handless corpses after the fact (as well as a pretty lame CGI-enhanced throat slitting), but the screenplay, co-written by Tiffe and Steven Jones, just piles-on one plot convenience and contrivance after another until all the viewer can do is roll their eyes in disbelief. Not only are we expected to believe that all the strippers live in the same apartment complex and that Claudia couldn't have picked the worse time to break-up with Sonny, we are also supposed to believe that Claudia is better at police work than her ex-boyfriend, based solely on the fact that she will soon be entering law school! Once you hear the killer's motivation for the hand removals ("Mommy did bad things with her hands!"), I doubt you'll stay until the film's sorry non-ending. The whole film plays like some third-rate Americanized giallo film, so why don't you watch one of those instead? The acting runs from decent to truly awful (Chris Moir as Rob is simply terrible) and the cinematography is sometimes very atmospheric, but HATCHETMAN fails as a horror film thanks to it's absurd screenplay full of coincidences and mind-numbing motivations. As a T&A flick, on the other hand, it succeeds completely. Also starring Elizabeth Ryan, Fonta Sawyer, Leila Renae and Christina Lepanto. A Showtime Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE HAUNTED (1976) - During the Civil War an Indian woman (Ann Michelle) is accused of witchcraft by a priest and an Army sargeant (Aldo Ray) to cover up the fact that she caught them stealing Indian gold. Her punishment is to be stripped naked, tied to a horse and sent out to the Arizona desert to die. She curses Ray and his family line, saying the curse will be lifted when the gold is returned to its' rightful owners. Over 100 years later, the sargeant's decendent (Ray again) lives in a virtual ghosttown called Apacheland (an old movie location site) with his two nephews (Jim Negele & Brad Rearden) and his dead brother's blind wife (Virginia Mayo). Mayo has gone a little looney thanks to an auto accident which killed her husband and left her sightless. Ray is in love with her (he blames his brother for stealing her away from him) and takes advantage of her now broken mind, making love to her while pretending to be her late husband. Strange things begin to happen in Apacheland. The telephone company installs a phone booth in the middle of the town's cemetery. One night the phone rings, and when Ray picks up the receiver, he hears the voice of the Indian woman telling him that his days are numbered. A young woman pulls into town with car trouble. She bears a striking resemblance to the Indian woman of yore (in fact it is Michelle again). She and Negele build a relationship much to Ray's displeasure. Negele sends his mother off to a sanitarium, feeling that she will get better there. That also pisses Ray off. Ray goes off the deep end (he knows where the gold is buried) and figures that if he kills Michelle the curse will be lifted. In the end, the telephone booth exacts the Indian woman's revenge thanks to Ray's carelessness with gasoline.This is a literate, bloodless exercise in the supernatural hampered by some amateurish acting (especially by Rearden). Director Michael de Gaetano (UFO: TARGET EARTH [1974]; VIDEO DEMONS DO PSYCHOTOWN [1989 - a.k.a. BLOODBATH IN PSYCHO TOWN]) gives us lush scenery, fleeting shots of breasts and some metaphysical dialogue. Worth a look if you like your horror more emotional than ensanguined. Originally released on VHS by VCII, followed by a budget VHS release from Gemstone Entertainment. Also available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.

HAUNTS (1975) - Ingrid (May Britt, who used to be married to Sammy Davis Jr.) is being stalked by a mysterious maniac wearing a black ski mask and gloves. The killer has already struck once, raping and killing a local girl by cutting her up with a pair of scissors. Her Uncle Carl (Cameron Mitchell) has a hard time believing Ingrid since she has a history of accusing men of rape since she was sexually abused as a little girl. Even the alcoholic Sheriff (Aldo Ray) has his doubts about her claims. More women end up getting murdered by the scissor-weilding psycho, with one of the bodies being dumped at Ingrid's farm, left as chicken food for the chickens. The list of suspects is large: Frankie (William Gray Espy), the local delivery boy who's a real horndog; Uncle Carl, whose appearance in town coincides with the murders; Bill Spry (Robert Hippard), the new guy in town who happens to be in Ingrid's church choir; the Sheriff, who takes his time in coming to Ingrid's rescue; and Ingrid herself, who cannot stand the touch of a man and who's religious convictions are on the obsessive side. Are Ingrid's attacks real or in her imagination? Was she raped by Frankie while she was taking a shower or was that a fantasy? When Bill Spry is shot dead after trying to rape a girl, everyone in the town, except Ingrid, thinks the killer has been silenced. She kills Frankie after he tries to rape her again and Uncle Carl buries him in the back yard. Or did she and does he? It turns out Ingrid is a total loon as Frankie is alive, the police find her favorite goat buried in the back yard and her Uncle Carl has never lived with her. She commits suicide by slitting her wrists in the bathtub, the same thing her mother did years before. An autopsy reveals that Ingrid died a virgin and all of the memories that she had of being sexually abused as a child were all in her head. When Uncle Carl comes to town to claim the body, he tells the Sheriff Ingrid's sad history. Flashbacks at the end reveal that Uncle Carl is not an innocent party in Ingrid's life. Director Herb Freed, who also made the horror films BEYOND EVIL - 1980, GRADUATION DAY - 1981 and SURVIVAL GAME - 1987 (who quit filmmaking in the early-2000's to return to his first profession as a rabbi!), moves this film at a leisurely pace and most fans of horror will find that it moves far too slow. As a study of an unstable mind and the things it takes to trigger the insanity, it hit its' mark. As a horror film, it doesn't get too bloody and, as I have mentioned before, it crawls at a snail's pace. You make up your mind if you want to see it. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release, with a budget VHS release by Video Treasures a few years later. Rated R.

HEARTSTOPPER (2006) - More Canadian Tax Credit DTV horror crap. Satanic serial killer Jonathan Chambers (James Binkley) is executed in the electric chair and his death is witnessed by Sheriff Berger (Robert Englund, the crowned king of DTV crud), who captured him, and Dr, Hitchens (Michael Cram), whose interest in serial killers goes way beyond what we would consider professional. It's apparent that Chambers' execution is also anything but professional, as the electric chair is struck by lightning (!) and Chambers' face is horribly burned. While Sheriff Berger and Dr. Hitchens are transporting Chambers' body to the local hospital for an autopsy, they hit suicidal teen Sara Wexler (Meredith Henderson), who is sitting in the middle of the road with her back turned to traffic (she's despondent over her fellow students calling her "Slut"!). They put the injured Sara into the same ambulance as Chambers' corpse (really?) and she witnesses his hands move, but she can't get anyone to believe her, including her insensitive mother (Lori Hallier), who seems more disturbed about driving to the hospital during a raging thunderstorm than her daughter's condition (She's a bitch with a capital "C"). While Dr. Hitchens is performing an autopsy on Chambers, he notices a cyst over Chambers' eye that is oozing yellow puss, so he takes a sample for analysis. Unfortunately, Dr. Hitchens will never get the chance, because Chambers comes to life and rips-out the good doctor's heart with his bare hands (his signature move when he was alive). Chambers then stalks the hospital looking for Sara (they have some as-yet unknown bond), killing everyone else who he comes in contact with, including Sara's mother (he sets her face on fire with a cigarette lighter in a laughable CGI effect), Sheriff Berger (who is shocked with a defibrillator, followed by a manual heart removal) and an entire E.R. room full of staff, patients and visitors. Sara, along with fellow student Walter (Nathan Stephenson) and Nurse Grafton (Laura De Carteret), spend the rest of the film trying to avoid Chambers, as the hospital is running on emergency power, the phone lines are down and all the roads are flooded due to the storm. Need I say more?  This ridiculously cheap horror film, directed by Bob Keen (TO CATCH A YETI - 1994; PROTEUS - 1995), who is better known for his effects work than his directorial skills, is a stereotypical stalk 'n' slash horror flick that delivers some decent unrated gore effects (various heart-rippings; a patient having his chest ripped open until his ribs and internal organs are exposed; a scalpel in the eye; a face slashing), but the storyline (screenplay by Vlady Pildysh and Warren P. Sonoda) is generic to the point of being tiresome. The majority of the film is Sara running through the hospital corridors, while Chambers, who may be possessed by the Devil himself (or "Dark Lord" as Chambers calls him), tries to capture her and take over her body (who better than a suicidal teen, right?). This is the type of film where the villain spouts sarcastic remarks while dispatching his victims and everyone else does the most illogical things possible at the most inopportune times just to advance the plot. Most annoying is Nurse Grafton, who at first is understanding and kind to Sara when she is first admitted, but once the shit starts to hit the fan, she turns into a quivering jackass who tells Walter that Sara has "abandoned them" when she is actually risking her life to find blood so she can give Walter a much-needed transfusion. Nothing here makes very much sense and the film just plods along to its inevitable crappy conclusion (ready-made for a sequel). HEARTSTOPPER is the kind of DTV horror dreck that offers nothing new to the genre. No surprises, no suspense and no imagination. Aviod it unless you are just interested in gore. Also starring Scott Gibson, Ted Ludzik, John Bayliss and Wayne Flemming. An Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

HEEBIE JEEBIES (2012) - Ridiculously horrible creature feature which made its premiere on the SyFy Network (but is not one of their Original Films, even though the streaming print that I viewed on mu Roku 3 player has fade-outs to show where commercial breaks should be inserted) that asks more questions than it answers and has the most horrendously-rendered CGI monster I can ever recall seeing. The story is simple: Gold-loving Billy Butler (an over-acting Michael Badalucco; SUMMER OF SAM - 1999) re-opens his ancestor William Butler's gold mine, where in 1840, five Chinese slave labor workers died in a cave-in. A Chinese witch created a "Five Heads Beast" (one head for each of the dead cave-in victims) that haunts the mines, killing anyone who dares look for gold. Back in the modern day, two men sneak into the mine looking for gold, only to set free the lumbering beast, which has fives heads, eats gold, has a stomach full of sharp teeth, emits a paralyzing gas so it can kill its victims easier (usually by turning their heads 360 degrees and ripping the flesh from their faces) and bleeds gold when it is injured! When the creature begins killing the town's citizens, police officer Todd Crane (Robert Belushi, the son of James Belushi and nephew of the late Jim Belushi), who suffers severe headaches and panic attacks whenever he is put in a stressful situation (Which brings up the film's biggest unanswered question: Why would he become a police officer when it is one of the world's most stressful jobs?), Sheriff Tatum (Carl Savering) and town coroner Teresa Lim (Cathy Shim), who is helping Todd cope with his condition using ancient Chinese methods, try to find out just who or what is committing these brutal killings. The first to be killed (after the two illegal miners) is Federal Mine Inspector Eve Moore (Jennifer Rubin; BAD DREAMS - 1988, who is given second billing, but is in the film for less than five minutes), who takes a bribe in gold from Billy Butler to look the other way because he is illegally using explosives, crashes her SUV when she spots the creature and is then killed by the creature, who eats all her ill-gotten gold just before her car blows up (more bad CGI). Todd's sister Veronica (Evie Thompson), her boyfriend (and Sheriff Tatum's son) Mace (Dave Davis), best friend (and Teresa's sister; this is a small town) Tracey (Olivia Ku) and her boyfriend Rick (Tyler Forrest) decide to sneak out to the mine to spend a night drinking beer and having sex, even though Todd tells Veronica to stay inside (He looks after her since the death of their parents) and Tracey's Chinese-speaking mother Zu Mu (Lucille Soong) forbids her to leave the house. The second to die is crotchety old Agnes Whitehead (Marion Ross of HAPPY DAYS [1974 - 1984], who is the best thing about this film), who lets her dog outside to take a shit (She says to her dog, "Pinch it off and come inside!", the comedy highlight of the film) and is attacked by the creature, who kills her and then steals the newly-installed gold fillings in her teeth! While Billy Butler is making one of his many TV commercials (He's one of those "Send me your gold for money" kind of guys), he witnesses the entire commercial crew getting slaughtered by the creature, but he is impervious to the creature's paralyzing gas. When he sees that the creature bleeds gold, Billy comes up with a plan to capture, not kill, it, because (as he explains to the Sheriff, who he has handcuffed to the back seat of his own patrol car) "You don't kill the goose who lays the golden eggs." Todd and Theresa try to save Veronica, Tracey and their boyfriends when Zu Mu (who could speak English all along) tells Todd the history of the mine, but the Sheriff has already sent a party of hunters to track down the creature and kill it. After the creature makes a hasty meal of the hunters, Billy Butler kidnaps Theresa and brings her inside the mine as bait for the creature. Will Todd get over his panic attacks in time to save his love Theresa and the others? What the hell do you think?  This is just plain bad from the first minute. Screenwriter Trent Haaga, who has acted in such films as TERROR FIRMER (1999), DEADLY STINGERS (2003), THE GHOULS (2003) and SUTURES (2009), as well as writing the screenplay to the far-superior DEADGIRL (2008), probably wrote the entire plot of this film on the back of a cocktail napkin, as it is full of stock characters and situations we have seen in hundreds of horror films before it. Director Thomas L. Callaway, a cinematographer by trade (his first film as photographer was the ultra cheap slasher flick BITS AND PIECES [1985] and then went on to film CREEPOZOIDS [1987], DEMON WARRIOR [1987], ACTION U.S.A. [1988], NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW [1995] and many others), doesn't help matters any by making the film move slower than a snail walking across molasses and the carnage, what there is of it, is mainly CGI blood spewing across the screen while the camera shakes wildly (every once in a while we do see practical effects like a human eyeball being squeezed through a chain link fence), only showing us the results of the creature's attacks after the fact (which is mainly bloody faces). The creature itself is the main distraction, though. It's an incredibly phoney-looking combination of mutated heads attached to a body that couldn't possibly move as fast as it does on-screen. When you watch it eating bars of gold, I dare you not to laugh. Do yourself a favor and just take my word for it. There is no reason for you to even bother watching this film unless you are a bad film fanatic. Also starring Kim Collins, Ray Gaspard, H. Daniel Gross and Jimmy Lee Jr. Not to be confused with the 2005 slasher film of the same name. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

HELLMASTER (1990) - In 1969, a secret government project called the Nietzche Experiment is being run at a private college by Dr. Jones (John Saxon), where he has invented a superman drug that is supposed to increase psychic abilities of anyone who is injected with it. Unfortunately, it also caused many people to mutate and the many college students injected with it died and Dr. Jones mysteriously disappeared and the whole thing was covered up by the government. Twenty years later, Professor Damon (Robert Dole) restarts the experiments on a new batch of college students. One student, Shelly O'Deane (Amy Raasch), begins to have visions of a mysterious man in the campus chapel. That man is Robert (DAWN OF THE DEAD's [1978] David Emge), a former TV reporter who was covering a story about a mysterious man who was injecting vagrants and street people with a drug called "The Reward", causing them to become deformed and psychotic and all but four of them died. That man turns out to be Dr. Jones (he's been perfecting his serum in secret for the past 20 years) and ever since he injected Robert's wife with the serum to stop Robert from investigating further, he has devoted his life to tracking down Dr. Jones and putting a stop to his experiment once and for all. Robert has tracked him back to the college where it all began. There's also another problem that has come to the college: The four vagrants (which Dr. Jones has adopted as his "family") that survived "The Reward" have arrived at the college in a strange religious-themed school bus and begin killing the students, teachers and workers, including Shelly's brother Adam (Todd Tesen), a campus security guard. Pretty soon, the entire Jones clan, all hideously deformed, begin stalking the campus, killing some people and injecting others with the serum. Kelly and her best friend Jesse (Jeff Rector), a disabled student, try to stay one step ahead of Dr. Jones and his clan. Shelly's psychic abilities come in handy, but they will need Robert's help, too. Armed with a crossbow that shoots undiluted serum (which causes those already infected to dissolve into a pile of goo), Robert works his way through the Jones family tree, while Shelly and her friends try to beat a hasty retreat. It all ends in the campus chapel, the same location where it ended in 1969, as Shelly finds the secret underground tunnels beneath the chapel and faces off with Dr. Jones, who wants Shelly to join his family because of her strong psychic abilities.  I'm still trying to make sense of this totally confusing horror flick. This was supposedly taken out of director/producer/scripter Douglas Schulze's (DARK HEAVEN - 2002) control and re-edited into this version (a "Director's Cut" was eventually released on DVD, which is almost 15 minutes shorter than this version). It's obvious that scenes have been re-shuffled and shown out of order (probably to alleviate the lagging pace), but all it does is increase the "Huh?" factor, as you'll be scratching your head wondering what the hell is going on. There are plenty of decent makeup effects, including face meltings, impalements and the horrendous faces of the entire Jones clan (Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton plays the nun, "Mama Jones"), but the storyline makes very little sense and John Saxon (in what amounts to an extended cameo) overacts terribly while spouting some of the gamiest dialogue your ears will ever hear ("If I can make them, I can make God!"). My favorite line comes from Jesse, when he is chastising a girl who has just seen her boyfriend melt after having a drum of medical waste dumped on him. When she refuses Jesse's advances, he says to her, "My handicap was born. Yours was chosen!" Unbelievable! HELLMASTER is 80% atmosphere (Schulze must be a big Dario Argento fan, as he lights many scenes with bright neon color backgrounds), 20% horror and 100% nonsensical. It's not a complete failure, though, but it could have been so much better if some attention was paid to the screenplay. Nathan J. White (THE CARRIER - 1988) was Executive Producer of this Michigan-lensed film. Also starring Lisa Sheldon Miller, Edward Stevens, Sean Sweeney, Neil Savedes and Suzanne Lablatt. An Action International Pictures Home Video Release. Not Rated.

HELLRAISER: DEADER (2003) - This is the 7th installment in the HELLRAISER franchise, filmed back-to-back with HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD (2003) by director Rick Bota, who also directed HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2001). I'm happy to report that this film brings Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his fellow Cenobites back to the forefront (even though their screen time is limited). London Underground magazine reporter Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer; KING OF THE ANTS - 2004) has just completed her multi-part article "How To Be A Crack Whore" for the zine (When we first see her, she is pretending to be a crack addict at a seedy crack house, taking photos on the sly), when her boss Charles Richmond (the unfortunately named Simon Kunz) pulls her in his office and has her watch a videotape he has just received. It shows a secret group called the "Deaders", led by the charismatic Winter (Paul Rhys), bringing a woman name Marla (Georgina Rylance) back to life after she commits suicide by shooting herself in the head. Charles wants Amy to run with the story, but all he has is Marla's address in Bucharest, Romania (where this movie was filmed). Amy heads for Bucharest and goes to Marla's apartment (she slips the superintendent a couple of twenties to let her in), only to find Marla dead in the bathroon, her eyes whiter than snow, insects crawling out of her mouth and a cord tied around her neck. There is an envelope with the words "Help Us" written on it and Marla is holding the dreaded Lament Configuration box in one of her rigored hands. Amy grabs the envelope and the box, only for Marla to seemingly come back to life for a few seconds and scare the shit out of Amy. Back at the hotel, Amy opens the envelope to find a VHS tape and a key. She plays the tape, where Marla tells whomever is watching it to please help her and other members of the Deaders cult and to talk to Joey (Marc Warren), who has commandeered the last subway car on one of the subway lines, because he knows where the Deaders compound is located. Amy also plays with the Lament Configuration box and accidentally opens it. Suddenly, large chains come flying out of the box and wrap themselves around her head and Pinhead appears, telling Amy her soul is now his, but she still has work to do. From that point on, Amy's life becomes a living nightmare, where she is unable to distinguish what is real and what is fantasy (Amy is already a troubled girl, as she frequently has flashbacks to her childhood, where her father constantly beat her with his belt, locked her in a closet and may have even sexually abused her.). She hops on the subway car to meet Joey (the car is quite the sight, as the windows are covered with newspapers and naked women and men gyrate in various sexual positions, some even being tortured). Joey tells her the location of the Deaders compound, but also tells her if she knows what is good for her, she should head back to London immediately (He says to her, "We're all just pieces in Winter's puzzle."). Amy doesn't take his advice and goes to the Deaders compound, only to find the gate chained with a padlock. Remembering the key in the envelope, she uses it to open the padlock to enter the compound. She begins to explore the labyrinth of hallways in the compound, which seem to get tighter and tighter as she progresses (a really atmospheric sequence, with a jump-scare that deals with a lighter and a wall full of bugs), getting so tight, in fact, that she is unable to progress any further. Suddenly an arm with a knife appears behind her and she suddenly wakes up in the same room she saw on the first videotape, with Winter and his followers looking down at her while she lies on a bed. Winters wants her to stab herself so he can bring her back to life, but she refuses, so Winters goes to stab her. She then suddenly wakes up in a mental institution, restrained to a bed with Charles beside her saying that he is working on getting her released. The doctor removes her restraints and she walks around the institution, where a little girl offers to draw her picture. When Amy sees the finished product, half her face is normal and half is monstrously decayed. She then wakes up in her hotel room, where she discovers that she has been stabbed in the back with a butcher knife, the blade protruding from her stomach, but she feels no pain even though she is bleeding profusely (She can't reach the knife to pull it out, so she uses a cabinet door in the bathroon to hold the knife's handle while she pulls away. This sequence is almost too hard to watch.). She then heads back to the subway car to talk to Joey, only to find him and the rest of the crew dead, looking the same way Marla did in her bathroom (If you look closely, you can spot a couple of Cenobites playing with the corpses). In the finale, Amy ends up back in the Deaders' suicide room, with Winter wanting Amy to open the Lament Configuration box. She refuses and throws the box to the floor, where it opens by itself. Pinhead and a couple of Cenobites appear and Pinhead is pissed because Winter is messing around in his territory, taking human souls for himself. Like any good Cenobite, Pinhead has chains with hooks shoot out of the walls  and pierce Winter's body, graphically tearing him apart limb-from-limb. Pinhead has two other huge chains shoot out of the walls to run through the midsections of Winter's followers, leaving large gaping holes in their stomachs before they die. Pinhead then switches his attention to Amy, saying it is now time for her to give him her soul. We then flashback to Amy's childhood and find out that when she was a little girl, she stabbed her father to death for all his abuse. Amy then looks at Pinhead, tells him he will never get her soul and then commits suicide by stabbing herself in the stomach. Pinhead screams, as he and the other Cenobites disappear in a flash of bright light. The film closes with Charles bringing a new wet-behind-the-ears female reporter into his office, telling her he has a tape he wants her to watch. And so, the cycle continues. While not a barn-burner, this film is better than most sequels (most of the HELLRAISER sequels have been better than average, except for maybe HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE [1996], the fourth installment and last film in the series to receive a theatrical release), thanks to plentiful gore supplied by Gary Tunnicliffe (who was also Second Unit Director) and his crew and lots of nudity (Yes, you do get to see Karu Wuhrer topless and she's not that bad!). Director Rick Bota (TV's HARPER'S ISLAND - 2009), a quality cinematograher by trade, does a nice job keeping the atmosphere thick and manages to keep the script, by Neil Marshall Stevens (actually a pseudonym for Benjamin Carr, director/writer of STITCHES - 2001, whose original screenplay had nothing to do with the Hellraiser mythos) and Tim Day (who co-wrote the screenplay to HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER and was brought in to rewrite the third act of Carr's screenplay, making Winter a descendent of the Lament Configuration box's creator, Lemarchand), moving at a quick pace. As you can probably guess, I'm a fan of this series of films, but that doesn't mean that I'm being too kind when I say that this installment is worth your time. This was the final appearance of Doug Bradley as Pinhead; he was replaced by Stephan Smith Collins in the god-awful HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2010), which I will review sometime in the future (hopefully after a lobotomy). The late Stan Winston (PUMPKINHEAD - 1988) was one of the producers of this film, which was made in 2003, but not released on home video until 2005, thanks to financial trouble at Miramax. It is now available as a stand-alone DVD (with no extras, unlike the original DVD release from the now-defunct Dimension Home Video) or part of a multi-pack HELLRAISER sequels Blu-Ray/DVD, both from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, who purchased the entire Miramax horror catalogue. Rated R.

HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2001) - This is the sixth film in the HELLRAISER series and one of the best since the first two. It would even hold it's own if it had nothing to do with the franchise. Trevor (Dean Winters of OZ [1997 - 2003]) and his wife Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) have an accident in their car and it goes off a bridge into the water. Trevor survives and tries to save Kristy as she is trapped in the car but is unsuccessful. Trevor wakes up in a hospital where he has severe headaches and has hallucinations (?) of grotesque images (including graphic surgery on his own brain) and making love to various women who are not his wife. The police are not sure that Trevor is telling the truth since Kirsty's body was never found. Trevor seems to be living a double life as we learn in bits and pieces that all is not quite what it seems. Trevor may have been having trouble with his marriage and may have planned on having her murdered by having her use the puzzle box displayed so prominently in the previous films. Just like a puzzle, Trevor begins to put the pieces together and may not like it when the final piece is put into place. Pinhead (Doug Bradley) make his first appearance to Trevor while he visits an acupuncturist (how appropriate) to help him relieve his head pain. He asks Trevor what he likes more: "The pleasure or the pain?" while shoving a big needle through Trevor's neck. At his apartment, Trevor spots some faceless hulk following him and finds a video camera on a tripod that makes him see Cenobites torturing him live on a monitor. The police are nearly ready to arrest him for the murder of his wife when they find out that he stands to inherit a vast amount of money from her estate (a reference to the first film is made here, since Laurence is playing the same role she did in that film). Trevor keeps alternating between two worlds, both which make no sense to him. When the final coda is revealed it is a doozy, so I will not spoil it for you here. Suffice to say, all the piece of the puzzle fit together quite nicely. Directed with flair by cinematographer Rick Bota, who must have impressed the bigshots at Dimension Films as they hired him to direct two more films for the series: HELLRAISER: DEADER and HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD (both filmed back-to-back in Romania in 2003, to be released in 2005). Pinhead and the Cenobites are used sparingly here, mainly to good effect. There are a few gory scenes, including an icepick to the head, the aforementioned needle through the neck, a suicide by gunshot from the chin through the brain and various Cenobite violence, including the prerequisite chains and hooks. Not bad for a HELLRAISER film and very good as a stand-alone murder/mystery/horror film. Also starring Rachel Hayward, Sarah Jane Redmond, William S. Taylor, Trevor White and Jody Thompson, who all play a vital part in this literate screenplay by Carl Dupre and Tim Day. A Dimension Home Video Release. Rated R. NOTE: Released on DVD & Blu-Ray in HELLRAISER multi-packs by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment when Dimension no longer distributed DVDs (but still using the Dimension name to sell them!). Please stay away from HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2010), the newest installment in the franchise, as it is an abomination and they used someone other than Doug Bradley to play Pinhead. Blasphemous!

HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD (2003) - I really wanted to hate this film. I really did, but when all the pieces fell together in the end, I knew that this was more than your typical HELLRAISER sequel (technically, it's the 8th in the franchise). Some thought actually went into the screenplay. A bunch of computer players of the game Hellworld (which uses the Hellraiser mythos as the main story) are invited to a rave at a deserted house by "The Host" (Lance Henriksen) and promises them a night they will not forget. Boy, is he right! People are decapitated, hung on hooks, have their throat sliced and seem to be in another dimension because when the police are called by Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick) and told to look at a certain window of the house to see her, all the cops can see is an empty window. Every once in a while Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his Cenobites show up to kill a main character and I'm glad to report that the blood and gore flows rather freely. When the only game players that are left are Chelsea and her semi-boyfriend Jake (Christopher Jacot), The Host plays his hand and tells them that they have been drugged from the beginning and buried alive (with plastic tubing as breathing airholes) with only their cellphones as companions, letting their imaginations, some deft instructions from The Host through the cellphones and Hellworld to destroy themselves. It seems that everyone else that was buried alive are now dead at their own hands (scared to death, asthma, tearing one's throat apart) and only Chelsea and Jake are still buried alive, but alive. Why has The Host done all this? Well, it seems that his son, Adam (Stelian Urian), who invented Hellworld, committed suicide after opening the Lament Configuration box and he blames all the other players who were his friends for his son's death (Seems like The Host never even went to his son's funeral.). The police arrive just in time to save Chelsea and Jake, but The Host gets away, hiding out in a roach-infested motel. Inside his briefcase is the Lament Configuration box and he fools around with it. Big mistake. The box opens and Pinhead and his Cenobites appear. One of the Cenobites cuts The Host into three pieces with what looks like a giant axehead attached to a metal chain (one of the film's gory highlights) and The Host appears one more time in the car of Chelsea and Jake to remind them that he will always be with them. I'm not saying that this is a great film, but it is an enjoyable extension of the HELLRAISER franchise, as the two films that came before it, HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000) and HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2001) could have worked as well without Pinhead and his gang. In this film, the characters are needed to make the film work.  Director Rick Bota, who also made HELLSEEKER, two episodes of HARPER'S ISLAND (2009) and filmed this one back-to-back with HELLRAISER: DEADER (2003, the 7th in the franchise), and screenwriter Carl Dupre (who also wrote HELLSEEKER), offer the usual blood and gore we depend on from the franchise, but also offer plenty of female nudity (something missing from most DTV films) and a literate way to keep the franchise alive by keeping the story modern (cellphones actually work in this film and play an important part in the story) and the denouement quite believable (for a horror film anyway). There are a lot worse ways to spend your nights than giving this film a chance. Filmed in Romania and made in 2003, but not released until 2005 because of financial problems at Miramax. Gary J. Tunnicliffe (the director of the awful WITHIN THE ROCK [1996] did the makeup effects and was also Second Unit Director (as well as playing one of the uncredited Cenobites). Also starring Henry Cavill (BLOOD CREEK - 2008), Khary Payton, Anna Tolputt, Victor McGuire, Magdalena Tun and Snowy Highfield. A Dimension Home Video DVD Release. Also released by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment on DVD & Blu-Ray in various compilations. Rated R. NOTE: Please stay away from HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2010), the newest installment in the franchise, as it is an abomination and they used someone other than Doug Bradley to play Pinhead. Blasphemous!

THE HEREAFTER (1983) - A little-seen horror film from Britain's answer to Ted V. Mikels, the mysterious Michael J. Murphy (INVITATION TO HELL - 1982; BLOODSTREAM - 1985; DEATH RUN - 1987; SKARE - 2009). The film opens with Neville Harmer (Steven Longhurst) trying to make love to his girlfriend Vicky (Catherine Rowlands) by a roaring fireplace, only to be interrupted by the incessant banging of a cane on the wall by Neville's sickly, abusive and wheelchair-bound father, Alfred (Al Greer), who wants to be put to bed. Vicky wonders out loud how much longer Neville will have to endure his father's constant maltreatments (When Neville carries his father to bed, the old man quips, "Ooh, you smell nice!") and Neville replies, "He'll be dead soon and we can leave this place for good", to which Vicky replies, "Will we?". Neville's father is filthy rich and lords his fortune over Neville's head, also calling Vicky a "slut" who only stays with him because one day he will be rich. The next day, Neville has had enough of his father's verbal and mental abuse, leaving him in his wheelchair on a rocky road. The brakes give out on the wheelchair and good old Dad rolls off a cliff, lands in a lake and dies. Neville is finally free and believes he can now sell his father's mansion and sawmill business for a million pounds, but at the reading of the will, Daddy gets his revenge by stating that Neville must live in the mansion for at least eleven months of the year or else the mansion and the sawmill will be given to charity. Neville and Vicky get married and move into the mansion and Vicky discovers that the house holds some deadly secrets of its own. There's a room in the mansion that Neville keeps locked and he explains to Vicky that his great-great uncle committed suicide in that room (by flinging himself through the window) after watching his commoner girlfriend being gang-raped and drowned by men hired by his uncle's disapproving father. Neville was accidentally locked in that room as a small child and swears he saw the ghosts of his great-great uncle and his girlfriend, which is why he keeps the room locked. Vicky thinks this is all a steaming pile of bunk, so she orders housekeeper Dorothy (Wendy Young) to open the room. Vicky also throws a costume party and has her friend Sylvia (Yvette Gunter) hold a séance. At the séance, Sylvia becomes possessed by Neville's father and soon Neville begins seeing the rotting corpse of his father at the most inopportune times. The question soon becomes: Is Neville actually seeing ghosts or is someone trying to kill him? If it is the latter, who can it be? Karate-loving groundskeeper Patrick (David Slater)? Housekeeper Dorothy? Devoted wife Sally? Or could it be a combination of any two? When Neville takes a header out the window of the once-locked room and nearly dies and the guilty parties exposed to the audience, a now-paraplegic and wheelchair-bound Neville (Oh, do you see the irony?) plays a cat-and-mouse game with the guilty parties after discovering the treachery, setting a plan into motion that proves deadly for everyone involved.  If you ever had the (dis)pleasure of watching a Michael J. Murphy film (he directed and wrote this one using the pseudonym "Michael Melsack"), you know what to expect here: Static camerawork (with plenty of Dutch angles); extremely cheesy makeup effects (a pickaxe to the eye; the rotting corpse of Neville's father; an arm caught in a bear trap; a bloody stabbing); amateurish acting (Murphy has a stock company of actors, many who appear in most of his films [both Steven Longhurst and Catherine Rowlands also appear in Murphy's BLOODSTREAM]); bad post-synch dubbing; and a droning synthesizer score. That doesn't mean THE HEREAFTER (originally known as QUALEN, since this film was expressly made for export to Spain!) is unwatchable, though. For some reason, Murphy's films have a nasty edge to them and, in this film, that nastiness comes in Neville's revenge once he figures out he is being played for a fool (and eventual murder victim). Watching Neville dragging his lifeless lower half up a flight of stairs and discovering all the evidence he needs to put the guilty parties in prison is about as creepy as it comes, yet instead of turning them into the authorities, he devises a devious plan of retribution that will have your attention to the bitter end, bad acting aside. This is by no means a good film, but it is an interesting no-budget horror flick for non-discriminating genre fans. Besides that, it's as rare as fuck. The only legitimate home video release in the entire world was the U.S. VHS tape on the Mogul Communications, Inc. label. Also starring Lindsey Allan, Harry Willowski, Michael Lynch, Marina Lee, Neil Wilkinson and Peter Neal. Not Rated.

HILLSIDE CANNIBALS (2005) - Yes, this is another cheap and boring rip-off from those fine folks at The Asylum, who haven't met a blockbuster film they haven't made a crappy copy of (They prefer you call them "mockbusters", but I prefer the term "barely legal cheap knock-offs"), with titles like H.G. WELLS WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005), SNAKES ON A TRAIN (2006), 666: THE CHILD (2006), HALLOWEEN NIGHT (2006), THE DA VINCI TREASURE (2006), PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND (2006), AVH: ALIEN VS. HUNTER (2007), INVASION OF THE POD PEOPLE (2007), TRANSMORPHERS (2007), I AM OMEGA (2007), DEATH RACERS (2008), ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE TEMPLE OF SKULLS (2008) and THE DAY THE EARTH STOPPED (2008), usually released to home video mere days ahead of the theatrical release of their big-budget counterparts (with almost the exact same print campaign), in hopes of duping unwary renters and buyers into believing they are getting the real deal. In the case of STOPPED, The Asylum had legal action brought against them from 20th Century Fox (it being released so close to their mega-budget remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL [2008]), but once Fox took a look at Asylum's no-budget rip-off, all they could do was laugh and drop the suit. Which brings us back to HILLSIDE CANNIBALS: It is nothing but an insufferably slow knock-off of Alexandre Aja's 2006 remake of Wes Craven's THE HILLS HAVE EYES with the legend of Sawney Bean tossed in for good measure (which was covered much gorier in EVIL BREED: THE LEGEND OF SAMHAIN [2003]). A group of teenage spelunkers go cave exploring in the middle of the California desert, armed only with a bag of marijuana, some bottles of Jagermeister and their raging hormones. It's not long before they are attacked and graphically killed (one of the girls is cut in half and gets to see the lower half of her body dragged away before she dies) by a tribe of mutant cannibals who speak in a thick Irish brogue. It turns out the leader of the cannibals is good old Sawney Bean himself (how he got to California is never explained) and he's been able to keep his clan going by eating wayward people who stray into their territory and occasionally accepting a new member into the fold, like they do with Ben (Tom Nagle), one of the spelunkers. Only Linda (Heather Conforto), Bill's girlfriend, escapes the clutches of the cannibal clan (thanks to an understanding cannibal member), but when she is picked-up by the Sheriff (Louis Graham), he doesn't believe her story and thinks she's high on drugs (not to mention that she's a teenage runaway reported missing by her parents). Linda escapes from the Sheriff (turns out he works in cahoots with the cannibals) and decides to deal with the situation on her own, so she heads back to the caves, rescues Bill and then are both pursued through the desert by the cannibals. Bill is quickly recaptured and tortured (some of his fingers are cut off with a pair of scissors and eaten in front of him), leaving Linda to join forces with Ted (Chriss Anglin), another survivor who witnessed his family being killed by the cannibals and vowed to get revenge. They both go the the caves and...hell, I can't go on with this charade. This film blows so hard, it would make a professional hooker give up her profession. This film doesn't conclude, it just ends, like the filmmakers ran out of film and hoped you didn't notice.  It's films like this that gives tripe a bad name. It's horrendously photographed (some shots are blocked so poorly, heads are cut off at nose level, which leads me to believe that this film was filmed open matte and cropped to look widescreen), badly acted and full of dime store gore effects. This is just a lazy film filled with too many questions and no answers. Even if we take for granted that Sawney Bean somehow made the trip to California unnoticed, when it's revealed that the Sheriff is actually working in conjunction with the cannibal clan (even going as far as to set up road blocks so the cannibals can attack unwary motorists), it just shows how lazy director Leigh Scott (THE BEAST OF BRAY ROAD - 2005; THE HITCHHIKER - 2007) and Steven Bevilacqua (WHEN A KILLER CALLS - 2006; just try to guess what film he's ripping-off here) really are. There's not much to recommend here besides some cheap gore (a face being removed and then worn by one of the cannibals; some throat slittings; flesh eating; various dismemberments), but, again, the laziness factor comes into play by giving the cannibals horribly mutated faces, but leaving the rest of their extremities (like their arms and hands) totally untouched. There's no other excuse for doing something like that except for sheer laziness and shooting with a budget that wouldn't pay for the craft service on the film that "inspired" it. The Asylum has nothing but contempt for their audience, so why bother supporting them by watching these abominations? Do yourself a favor and spend your time more productively, like trimming your nails or cleaning out your ears. All HILLSIDE CANNIBALS will do is bore you to tears. Also starring Frank Pacheco, Erica Roby, Marie Westbrook, Tom Downey, Crystal Napoles, Ella Holden, Katayoun Dara and director Scott as Sawney Bean. An Asylum Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

THE HILLS RUN RED (2009) - Low-budget horror films of the new Millennium are a mixed bag. Most of them rely too much on CGI effects, even on practical makeup effects. They may be saving themselves a few dollars, but CGI still hasn't progressed to the point (at least in my eyes) of replacing good, old-fashioned prosthetics blood and gore and those films that try to do it stick out like a sore thumb. Which is why THE HILLS RUN RED is such a mixed bag. After offering us a truly disgusting sequence over the opening titles, where a young boy mutilates his face with a pair of scissors while an old lady sings "Hush Little Baby" on the soundtrack and the kid then hides his horrendously bloody face behind a Babyface mask, the film then quickly degenerates into a bunch of cheap scares and obvious CGI-enhanced blood and gore. The film informs us that, in 1982, controversial film director Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler; DISTURBING BEHAVIOR - 1998) released his only film, aptly titled THE HILLS RUN RED, and it was quickly pulled from theaters because of its graphic depictions of sadism and murder. All known prints of the film vanished and no cast members were ever located. Over the years, it has become the Holy Grail of film historians, as all that remains of the film is a crudely made trailer and director Concannon was never heard from again. Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrinck; AMUSEMENT - 2007) is obsessed with the film, including the trailer (which we see), so he decides to track down director Concannon. Tyler has found out where Concannon's daughter, Alexa (Sophie Monk), lives, so he, reluctant girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery; WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD - 2009) and best friend Lalo (Alex Wyndham), along with Alexa (who is a coke-sniffing, heroin-addicted stripper at a titty bar who tries to give Tyler a lapdance on their first meeting), head-out to the locations where the film was shot in hope of locating Concannon and a copy of the film (But not before Tyler cures Alexa of her heroin addiction and Serina cheats on Tyler by sleeping with Lalo! Yeah, this is a screwed-up bunch.). While Tyler films a documentary of their exploits, Alexa (whose memory is fuzzy, but she believes her father died ten years ago) leads the group to the film's locations and they eventually end up at the film's main location: a house deep in the woods, where Tyler hopes to discover a copy of the film in its attic (Talk about wishful thinking!). What they don't count on is that the film's villain, Babyface, may actually be real (Alexa tells everyone that Babyface was portrayed by a local non-actor who was "slow in the head"). It's not long before the documentary shoot turns into a quest for survival, as Babyface begins his killing spree, infidelities (of all kinds) are exposed and it looks as if someone else is filming the new action and horror for a movie of their own. Care to guess who that can be?  While the film has an interesting premise (I'm a sucker for "lost movie" plots, since I've been on some Holy Grail hunts myself, especially a multi-country hunt for a surviving print of Charles Nizet's VOODOO HEARTBEAT [1972] that would make an interesting novel, encompassing rigged bidding, political intrigue and death threats!), all hope is lost for THE HILLS RUN RED when snippets of the lost film's gory killings (especially one poor girl getting torn in half with the help of barb wire and a tree booby trap) reveals that most of them were achieved with the help of CGI (In 1982? C'mon!). Things go from bad to worse when a bunch of local yokels, led by Sonny (Ewan Bailey), take the foursome captive in the middle of the woods and begin to film their own porno film, with Alexa as the star (we learn later that this was all a ruse), only to be saved by Babyface, who then begins to kill the foursome, beginning with Lalo. Director Dave Parker (his first feature film since 2000's THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING) and screenwriter David J. Schow (LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 - 1990) make sure they don't miss any horror film clichés here, from a barn full of hanging body parts, Babyface being nearly indestructible and superhuman in strength and a not-very-surprising late reveal that one of the foursome has set-up this whole scenario from the start and has been doing it for years, helping Daddy remake the film over-and-over since 1982. While there is plenty of blood, gore and nudity (Sophie Monk has the finest tits money can buy), THE HILLS RUN RED rings hollow for most of its running time, especially the ridiculous torture porn finale, William Sadler's shameless over-acting and the "surprise" ending (which made me want to kick-in my TV screen). Filmed in Bulgaria, where law states that every citizen must have at least one "v" in his or her name (try reading the closing credits!). Also starring Mike Straub, Joy McBrinn, Hristo Mitzkov and Raicho Vasilev as Babyface. A Warner Premiere DVD Release. Rated R.

HOLLYWOOD MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE (1976) - Christopher Lee appears on screen to give us a brief history of the human soul and how, throughout history, it is able to leave the body and then return. Mr. Lee then goes on to describe evil spirits throughout history. What does this have to do with the rest of the film? Not very much, but it does lend a touch of class to a rather classless film. The film proper opens with occult history teacher Professor Cantrell (James Habif) giving a class to his college students on an evil spirit called Morak, which legend says will do your bidding if you chant his name. When the professor makes student Mason (Larry Justin) look like a fool in front of his classmates, he and three of his buddies decide to teach the professor a lesson (after getting drunk and stoned). Wearing stockings on their heads, they break into the professor's house, where they knock out the professor, savagely stab and kill his daughter, strangle her boyfriend, murder the maid and even kill the dog. The professor sustains a serious head injury and he is paralyzed from the neck down, unable to speak but able to hear everything around him, including a police detective saying to a doctor that they have no idea who murdered his daughter. The professor summons the spirit of Morak from his hospital bed and it's not long before this vengeful spirit dishes out justice to the four punks who broke into the professor's house. At first the spirit infects their dreams, showing them they are about to die horrible deaths. The first one, Sean (Robert Clark), takes a hike in the desert and is savagely slashed to death by a cactus plant, his guts spilled all over his white tee shirt. The second one, Dirk (Doug Senior), is repeatedly impaled in the head by the latch of a car hood, which mysteriously slams itself down over and over on his cranium. The third one, Phil (Bob Mead), has his face burnt off by an exploding fuse box at the movie theater he works at. Mason is saved for last and, as he searches the professor's house for a way to fight the spirit, has his eye ripped out by Morak, who takes physical form (he looks like a bigfoot drop-out). Mason survives, but he lives the rest of his life as a babbling idiot in a padded cell at the local looney bin.  The only way to properly describe this film is CHEAP. It looks like a student film with all it's shakey hand held camerawork (which is surprising because the director of photography was Guerdon Trueblood, who directed the excellent thriller THE CANDY SNATCHERS in 1973), trippy visuals and so-so acting by a cast of unknowns. I'm willing to bet that one-time director Evan Lee had nothing to do with the Christopher Lee wraparound segments. They were probably added by the distribution company to pad out the running time and possibly to increase it's boxoffice potential (believe it or not, this did get a theatrical release). There are some bloody moments and effective visuals on view but, overall, it's just a minor horror film whose history is much more interesting than the actual film itself. Notorious badfilm director Edward D. Wood Jr. makes one of his final on-screen appearances as a photographer and producer/co-writer Ray Atherton went on to produce a string of documentaries, including executive producing the DEATH SCENES series of shockumentaries on VHS and DVD. This film, also known simply as MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE, as well as EVIL FORCE and MORAK, had a brief release in the U.S. on VHS from Catalina Home Video in the mid-80's and then disappeared. You should be able to find a copy on DVD-R from some grey market sellers on the internet if you really must have a copy. Also starring J. Arthur Craig, Alisa Beaton, Pat Nagel and Paul Kelleher and, no, there's no a meatcleaver in sight. Rated R.

HOLLYWOOD'S NEW BLOOD (1989) - Hoo, boy. I should have known better seeing that this film was released on VHS by RaeDon Home Entertainment, the short-lived video company that would release anything resembling a film (Even a video of your Aunt Fanny's funeral would qualify) during the late 80's & early 90's, but the masochist in me just had to see (and hear) for myself if this film is as bad as everyone says it is. I'm happy to report it is (Why am I happy? Because I'm out of my fucking mind!). A bunch of would-be actors gather at a house in the middle of the California woods to rehearse various exercises for an acting class. Unfortunately, sixteen years earlier in the same location, a special effects film crew blew up the wrong house for the movie they were working on, killing all eight members of the innocent Glouster family. Yeah, you guessed it. The Glouster clan (who dress like bums and hillbillies) rise from their unmarked graves and begin killing the young actors, as acting coach Vinnie (Al Valletta; RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE - 1982) puts his young thespians through their paces, using the woods for various "acting exercises" with deadly results. On one of those exercises, Vinnie sends all his students out into the woods to find objects that they can interact with in class. While most of the students come back with sticks, pine cones or rocks, Mitch (Joe Balogh: HITCHER IN THE DARK - 1989; MOON STALKER - 1989) comes back with a human skull and some bones, which belong to the deceased Mother Glouster. This even pisses-off the three undead Glouster boys more than usual and they step-up their killing spree, gut-stabbing one guy with a knife and slicing the throat of a girl (both off-screen) as they are making out in the woods. Only Bret (Bobby Johnston; DEMON WIND - 1990) takes any of this seriously and seems to know more than he is letting on. When Vinnie is stabbed to death in his bed (again off-screen) and Mitch is tied to a tree and skinned alive (Mother of god, again off-screen!), Bret and Liz (Francine Lapensee; BORN KILLER - 1989) must find a way to escape the woods while battling the Glouster boys.  Not much happens in this lethargic slasher film, directed and written by James Shyman, who also gave us the equally awful SLASHDANCE the same year and then disappeared into obscurity. HOLLYWOOD'S NEW BLOOD is nothing but endless scenes of people talking to each other (or themselves) and countless sequences of the same people (and camera POV shots) walking or running through the woods, infrequently interrupted by some of the lamest murder scenes ever committed to celluloid. Apparently, the special effects budget was non-existent, so we never see any of the actual killings, only the after-effects, which consists of nothing but throwing stage blood on the dead bodies. No gaping, blood-spurting wounds here, folks. The undead Glouster clan is no better; just three guys in flannel shirts, stupid-looking hats or wool caps and plenty of burnt cork and oatmeal rubbed on their faces and hands. They are about as frightening as the hobos and vagabonds you see begging for spare change on street corners. This film is like injecting a syringe containing 20 mg. of valium into your veins: Your eyes will lose focus, your brain will feel like mush and your body will go limp, yet with this film you'll still have to endure 77 minutes of sheer inanity (The film proper is only 66 minutes long, but it is padded with over 11 minutes of silent previously-viewed footage in the finale, while the crappy ear-bleeding title tune endlessly drones on until the final credits roll and the film mercifully ends). Skip the movie and just pop a real Valium instead. You'll thank me later. Someone farting directly in your face after eating ten bean burritos is less torture (and smells better) than watching this turd. Also starring Martie Allyne, Lynn Dee, Ken Denny, Lynne Pirtle, Kent Abrams, Allen Francis, Donna Lynn and George Spellman. A RaeDon Home Video VHS Release. Not available on DVD. Not Rated. Did I forget to mention that this film is also devoid of any nudity? Sacrilegious!

HOME SICK (2007) - When a film opens with a guy asking a multi-pierced dreadlocked white chick, "Can I pee in your mouth?", I think we can all come to the conclusion that we are not about to watch anything Shakespearian. That guy is Ben (Jeff Dylan Graham; DEADLY STINGERS - 2003) and when he leaves the dreadlocked girl in a hotel room to go get a pack of cigarettes (where a Santa hat-wearing cashier tells him, "This is going to be the worst Christmas ever.") and returns a few minutes later, he finds the girl is missing, the bathtub is full of blood and grue and someone wearing black rubber gloves stabs him in the back of the head with a knife (the blade protrudes out of his mouth), causing Ben to suffer a long, agonizing death which ends with him falling into the bathtub. Welcome to HOME SICK, a run-of-the-mill gore flick executive produced by the owners of Synapse Films, a DVD company better known for releasing older (and much better) horror and exploitation fare. The film then switches to earlier in the evening, with Claire (Lindley Evans), Mark (Forrest Pitts) and Robert (Will Akers) visiting the home of Candice (Tiffany Shepis; DETOUR - 2003) and Tim (Matt Lero). Claire has just returned from California and doesn't seem too happy to be back (she's a real downer), as the attempted suicide scars on her wrists bear out. The makeshift party is unexpectedly crashed by Mr. Suitcase (Bill Moseley; BABYSITTER WANTED - 2008), a smiling, bowtie-wearing stranger that no one knows who is carrying a suitcase. He parks himself on the couch and announces, "I am here to give and not receive." He puts on a pair of yellow latex gloves, opens his briefcase and reveals that it is full of loose razorblades. He says that this is a "healing exercise" and asks everyone to give him the name of one person they really hate. Everyone is understandably freaked out, but he forces them to answer. Robert hates his boss. Candice hates her ex-boyfriend (who happens to be Ben, from earlier in the film). Mark hates Matthew (Patrick Engel), a drug dealer. Claire hates Anthony (L.C. Holt). Tim hates "everyone in this fucking room." With each announcement, Mr. Suitcase reaches into his case, picks out a razor and slashes his own arm (the same arm that is holding Candice in a headlock) and we are shown brief flash-forwards of the hated people dying. Just as quick as he enters, Mr. Suitcase then leaves, but not before singing a hobo song and wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas". Since we already saw Ben die a nasty death in the beginning of the film, I guess we can all see where this film is heading. Everyone who the group said they hated begins dying gory deaths at the hands of a black-hooded demon, until we come to Tim's pick: The entire group themselves. Can they find a way to reverse this curse before they all end up dead? After getting to know these people for just five minutes, I hope they all suffer painful deaths. Seems I get my wish, but with one exception.  HOME SICK is merely an excuse to showcase extreme gore in between bouts of bad acting (even the usually reliable Bill Moseley is poor here, sporting a short haircut, over-bleached white teeth and a disinterested manner, like his heart really isn't in it). Director Adam Wingard (POP SKULL - 2007) and co-producer/screenwriter E.L. Katz seem more than happy to copy their killings from other films, including Matthew's death, which is a direct steal from the head stomping/curb killing from AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998). Add to that the fact that the characters are the most unlikable or morose bunch of people you'll ever meet (Candice and Tim are cokeheads; Mark and Robert work in a funeral home; Claire is just a sad excuse for a human being), that when they do die, there's no emotional involvement on the viewer's part (and why do most of them wear dark makeup under their eyes?). As a matter of fact, the group that told Mr. Suitcase who they hate are much worse than those who are hated. I'm a big fan of Tiffany Shepis (who gets her foot sliced in half between her toes with a knife before having her skull caved-in with a ballpeen hammer), but even I was embarrassed for her here (even though she does go topless and pukes on a corpse!), so I was glad when she was killed early on. HOME SICK has plenty of unrated gore for fans of that stuff (including fingernail removal; a body cut in half at the shoulder with an axe; a disembowelment; a gunshot to the head; a chest ripping; a manual beheading; a fist through a skull; a shotgun blast to the head), but it wraps itself around the worst acting (Matt Lero takes top honors for stiffness) and an idiotic storyline where people do and say the most asinine things at the worst possible moments imaginable. Synapse should stick to releasing DVDs, not actually producing films, especially if this is going to be the result. Tom Towles (HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES - 2002; also starring Moseley) puts in an extended cameo as Tim's Uncle Johnny (who is actually Tim's father), a gun and chili nut. Also starring Brandon Carroll and Shaina Fewell. A Synapse Films DVD Release. Unrated.

HOME SWEET HOME (1980) - Jay Jones (Jake Steinfeld) has just escaped from a mental institution. He kills a drunk, steals his car, shoots up PCP under his tongue and runs over an old lady carrying groceries (all while the credits roll). He then stalks the home of failed record executive Bradley (producer Don Edmonds), who has an odd assortment of friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. The strangest of all is Bradley's son, Mistake (Peter De Paula), who walks around with white makeup on his face and carries and electric guitar with a portable amp strapped to his back. Mistake is also somewhat a pain in the ass with the guests but is also a loving brother to his little sister Angel (Vinessa Shaw). When Jones cuts off the electricity and phone lines to the house, Bradley leaves to get gas for the generator. Being the cheap bastard that he is, Bradley see Jones' car on the side of the road and siphons gas from the tank. He then tries to steal the battery (!), but Jones jumps on the hood, crushing him dead. After a couple of hours pass and Bradley doesn't return, Wayne (Charles Hoyes) goes looking for him, but Jones is waiting in the back seat of the car and slits Wayne's throat. Jones then kills two female guests, Linda (Sallee Young) and Gail (Leia Naron), by slamming Linda's head against a rock and stabbing Gail repeatedly with a broken bottle. Mistake watches as Jones stabs Maria (Lisa Rodriguez) and then gets electrocuted when Jones attaches two power lines to his head (his guitar lights up like a light sabre!). The only people left alive are Scott (David Mielke), Jennifer (Colette Trygg) and Angel.  They start finding the bodies and think Mistake is responsible. Big mistake. They'll wish it was him when they have to face-off with the hulking Jones. Even with a knife in his back, Jones still stalks his prey. It takes two shotgun blasts from a passing cop to bring him down. Or does it?  This is a typical early 80's slasher flick that is marred by the extremely dark nighttime scenes (which amounts to about 70% of the film), where it is impossible to make out what is going on (the same problem that plagued HUMONGOUS - 1981). Jake ("Body By Jake") Steinfeld hams it up so badly, you half expect bacon to fly off the screen. All he does is laugh hysterically and scream about how "All women are no good. My mother was no good!" I'm sure if more people saw this film, he would have sold a lot less of his exercise gadgets on all those infomercials he hosted on late night TV. Producer/co-star Don Edmonds directed TERROR ON TOUR the same year, but this film was directed by Nettie Pena, whose only other credit was as editor of DRACULA SUCKS (1978). The way this film is structured, it looks as if Mistake will save the day but, the script, by Thomas Bush (who died during production), is just one cop-out after another. Nearly every character is killed without any buildup and the non-ending, where the seemingly dead Jones opens his eyes as the film fades to black, is textbook cop-out 101. Don Edmonds is best remembered for directing the first two ILSA films, as well as TENDER LOVING CARE (1973) and BARE KNUCKLES (1977), all featuring the late George "Buck" Flower. Alex Rebar, the star of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977), was one of the executive producers. Worth a look only if you need to see every slasher film made in the 80's. Also known as SLASHER IN THE HOUSE and BLOODPARTY. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Not Rated.

HOOD RAT (2001) - Atlanta, Georgia-based urban horror film about a pack of murderous rats terrorizing the city. After watching rat catcher J.D. Mogo (an uncredited Miguel A. Nunez Jr.) being devoured by a pack of hungry rats and then watching Judge Bankhead (Tami Anderson) sentence slumlord Mr. Souilliez (Taurean Blacque; HILL STREET BLUES - 1981-1987) to spend thirty days in one of his worse tenement buildings, we switch to Mr. Souilliez's rent collector, Grady (Ice-T; who got his LAW & ORDER: SVU [1999 - Today] gig shortly after appearing in this film), as he pounds on the doors of tenants and demands the rent money (One of Mr. Souilliez's tricks is to collect the rent money a day before the tenants' welfare checks arrive in the mail. This way he can charge them a late penalty). Some of the tenants include: pretty Nina (A.J. Nelson), whose boyfriend has just left her and taken off with the rent money; burly Satam (Chuck Wiley), who thrusts a huge hunting knife through the door when Grady comes a-knocking; an old couple who can barely afford to survive; a couple of young crackheads; a twenty-something white man who is way out of his element; and the nearly homeless Max (Isaiah Washington; DEAD BIRDS - 2004) and his disabled, wheelchair-bound brother Courtney (Guy Torry), who live in the tenement building's squalid basement for fifty dollars a month. Max, who is a little slow in the head and has a thing for Nina, finds the leader of the rats (a female white rat) caught in a trap and frees it, naming it "Tara" ("a rat" spelled backwards), after jokingly saying he's going to name her Ben (this is basically an urban version of WILLARD - 1971, its sequel BEN - 1972 and was filmed under the title TARA) and they become fast friends. Before you know it, Tara is stealing food out of Mr. Souilliez's apartment and bringing it to a hungry Max and introducing Max to all her rat friends. While Mr. Souilliez learns the hard way about life in the tenements (the screams and gunfire at night; getting cold because the boiler doesn't work; the electricity going on and off), Tara and her rat pack begin killing people who pick on Max, beginning with the two street thugs who stole his father's watch. Max falls into a funk when he discovers Nina making love to her ex-boyfriend, who has returned for some nookie. This leads to Courtney freezing to death when he falls out of his wheelchair outside during a cold Winter's night. Max doesn't hear his cries for help, but the two crackheads and Mr. Souilliez do, but they all choose to ignore him. When Mr. Souilliez discovers Max in the basement and thinks he's a squatter (Grady has been pocketing the fifty dollars a month without telling his boss), he beats Max repeatedly with a metal pipe and tosses him outside into the cold, all under the watchful eyes of Tara. When Max discovers Courtney's frozen corpse outside and Grady denies to the police that he was ever allowed to live in the tenant building's basement, the police arrest Max when he goes bonkers and calls them all liars, the police thinking he is drunk. When Max is released from custody, he and Tara get even with all the people who have wronged him and Courtney. Things begin to go terribly wrong when Tara grows jealous and kills Nina, which makes Max finally see the errors of his ways. He blows up the tenement building to kill himself, Tara and her pack of rats. But is he successful? As I have previously mentioned, this is basically a black version of WILLARD (which was itself remade in 2003 with Crispin Glover as the star), where Max befriends a rat and reaps all the benefits of the relationship before he goes too far and ruins it. Director Leslie Small (who usually directs comedy concert films, including comedian Kevin Hart's highly affecting comedy concert/documentary film LAUGH AT MY PAIN - 2011) and screenwriter Stan Foster (HANGMAN'S CURSE - 2003) pepper the film with plenty of black stereotypes (the horny black crackhead couple; the mean-as-dirt slumlord; the dastardly boyfriend that Nina just can't resist) and a lot of bad editing tricks (freeze frames; film speed-ups and slow-downs, usually in the same scene), but some of the rat attack scenes are convincing (when they aren't using obvious CGI), as is the gore (lots of chewed body parts). Max's transformation from a halfwit to lord of the rats is a bit rather much (he goes from speaking in broken sentences to full-fledged prose, like he is rehearsing for a role in a Shakespeare play!), but this is not nearly as bad as other reviewers are making it out to be. It is competently acted, has a sense of humor amongst the carnage and is professionally made on all technical levels. This film is nothing like those SOV urban films on DVD that flooded supermarket shelves from Maverick Entertainment (read my review of RECOIL - 2001) and other quick-buck companies during the late-90's and early-00's, including the awful giant rat film RODENTZ, also made in 2001. Also starring Tonea Stewart, Victoria Dillard, Kedar Ashaad, Stacii Jae Johnson, Cedric Pendleton, T.K. Kirkland, Jevon Sims, Jacqueline Fleming, Lawrence LeJohn and Brett McKee. A Universal Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

HORROR (2002) - With a title like that, you go in expecting a lot. When the film is over, you're not quite so sure what you have just experienced but you know it wasn't bad. This is a film about images and imagery, where every shot could have a double meaning. The non-linear storyline involves five kids who escape a drug rehabilitation center after their leader, Luck (Danny Lopes), kills a guard by shooting him in the head. They are heading to the home of the Reverend Salo Jr. (Vincent Lamberti), who visited the center the day before and gave Luck a bag of goodies, which included some psychedelic mushrooms. While driving to the home, they eat the mushrooms, which causes one of them to turn blue and get sick, while the others have hallucinations, including Luck, who sees two demon pumpkins floating in the air. Reverend Salo's daughter, Grace (Lizzy Mahon), is slowly losing her mind, thanks to her father and abusive mother (Christie Sanford) drugging and brainwashing her (for reasons which are kind of explained later in the film). Grace's only comfort comes from the kind attention of her grandfather, Reverend Salo Sr. (The Amazing Kreskin), a mentalist who is able to calm Grace with mere words and the power of suggestion. But things turn real crazy when Grace finds out that her grandfather has been dead for a week (was she really talking to him or was she dreaming?), Luck kills Salo Jr and his wife after a rather strange hallucination (or does he kill them?) and Grace meets the five teens and they are chased and threatened by an unseen force (which manifests itself in many forms, including a little girl with a horribly burned face). What does this all mean and why does a horned goat show up just before something really bad happens? No really. Will somebody tell me?  This stream-of-consciousness horror tale is like a very bad fever dream. You know, the kind of dreams you have when you are running an extremely high temperature and you drink a half a bottle of Nyquil and then fall asleep? Director/producer/writer Dante Tomaselli (DESECRATION - 1999) fills the screen with strange visuals and shock moments and the sountrack is full of eerie, ambient effects. You'll see a man whose brains are leaking out of his head, a forect full of zombies, various shots of burnt and rotting faces and other random atmospheric tricks which gives the film an otherworldly feel. It is as if this is all happening on some alternate universe. If it seems like some of the actors are in a trance, it's because Kreskin would use his mentalist powers on them to "suggest" how the scenes should be played just before the camera rolled. That has to be some kind of film first and it really does show in the cast when they are on screen. It's kind of spooky and unsettling. There's an amazing (no pun intended) special feature on the DVD where Kreskin displays his powers of suggestion on a group of disbelieving people. They become believers when he is done with them. Filmed during the Winter of 2001 in Warwick, NY (home of the only drive-in within driving distance near me), HORROR is a film not for all tastes, but the adventurous will find a lot to admire here. Felissa Rose has a cameo here as an art therapist and recreates her final facial pose that she did when she played Angela in SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983). Also starring Jessica Pagan, Raine Browne, Kevin Kenny, Laura Martin and Chris Farabaugh. An Elite Entertainment Release. Rated R.

HORROR HIGH (1973) - This Texas-lensed regional horror film has achieved somewhat of a minor cult following, thanks to the many TV showings, VHS releases and even earlier DVD releases (In Rhino's HORRIBLE HORRORS COLLECTION VOL. 1) of an edited version (with six minutes of extra footage shot to fit in a two hour airing) under the title TWISTED BRAIN. Even Crown International Pictures cut about one minute of footage for its theatrical showings so it could achieve a PG rating. DVD label Code Red finally has unearthed the totally uncut R-rated version of the film in its original aspect ratio, minus the TV footage (it's an extra on the DVD) and I'm happy to say that the extra blood and gore is extreme for a movie filmed in 1973. This is basically a teenage Jekyll & Hyde story, as teenage pimple-faced high school nerd Vernon Potts (Pat Cardi) is more interested in the chemistry lab and his pet guinea pig Mr. Mumps than any other class he takes. He is working on a serum that can change animal and man back to their more baser instincts, like homosapiens (He distinguishes the difference between homosapiens and humans later on in the film to fellow student and romantic interest Robin [Rosie Holotik; DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT - 1973]). When he accidentally hands in his biology report instead of his English paper to teacher Miss Grindstaff (Joye Hash), she cuts the biology report (which he has been working on for the entire semester) into pieces on the large paper cutter on her desk and gives Vernon an F on his English paper without even reading it. Back at the lab, a black cat belonging to mean janitor Mr. Griggs (Jeff Alexander) is sitting on top of Mr. Mumps' cage, so Vernon shoos it away with a broom, causing Mr. Griggs to threaten Vernon's life. Phys-Ed Coach McCall (John Niland, a Dallas Cowboys linebacker from 1973 to 1982) refuses to excuse rail-thin Vernon from class and he gets hassled by Roger (Mike McHenry), Robin's boyfriend and football star, and his friends, who play keepaway with Vernon's notebook, his only means of rewriting his biology paper. In other words, Vernon's life is a living hell at high school, but that is about to change. Vernon tries his serum on Mr. Mumps, only to later find Mr. Griggs' black cat dead dead in Mr. Mumps' cage, with Mr. Mumps covered in blood. When Mr. Griggs catches Vernon trying to dissolve the cat in a drum of sulphuric acid in the lab, he attacks Vernon with a huge pestle and makes him drink his own serum. Mr. Griggs then bloodily kills Mr. Mumps with the pestle (footage missing from the edited print) while Vernon turns into a monster (which is no more than just throwing some hair on his face and knuckles and giving him a limp), shoving Mr. Griggs face into the sulphuric acid, killing him (the R-rated print lingers longer on Griggs screaming in pain with his face melting away). Vernon disposes of the bodies of Mr. Griggs, Mr. Mumps and the cat in the acid drum, only to have Griggs acid-scarred skull discovered in the drum by a female student the next day. Enter Lieutenant Bozeman (Austin Stoker; THE ZEBRA KILLER - 1973; ABBY - 1974; ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 - 1976), a cop who begins to interview everyone in the school. He pays particular interest in Vernon because the bones of a cat and a guinea pig were also discovered in the acid drum by the crime lab, but he can't prove anything. The monster Vernon resumes his killing ways, this time paying attention to Miss Grindstaff, whom he chops off her fingers and decapitates her with her own paper cutter (scenes missing from the edited print, where it is only implied). He then pays close attention to Coach McCall (who wanted Vernon to cheat on the biology test for the failing Roger, otherwise Roger would be ineligible for football the following year), whom he meets at 10:00 PM in the gymnasium. The super-strong monster Vernon throws McCall onto the bleachers and stomps him to death while wearing a pair of spiked shoes (extended much longer in the R-rated print). He then goes after Roger and Robin, but Lieutenant Bozeman and the cops intervene, shooting Vernon to death in a barrage of gunfire and shotgun blasts (extended in the R-rated print). Although there is not much meat to HORROR HIGH, director Larry N. Stouffer (whose only other directorial credit is an obscure film titled SANDS OF ECSTASY - 1968; he was also assistant director on S.F. Brownrigg's KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN - 1973) and screenwriter Jake Fowler (actually a pseudonym for J. D. Feigelson, who also wrote the cult TV movie DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW - 1981) manage to keep the film moving swiftly and Pat Cardi (his last acting effort; he did many TV series guest roles in the 60's & early-70's) as Vernon is a very sympathetic character. The restored scenes make this film worth viewing again, especially if you have only seen the TV version, in which there are six minutes of footage of Vernon's widowed salesman father talking to him on the phone (we never see Vernon during this footage) and arguing with his rich girlfriend. The excision of this footage gives the film the right pacing that it needs and the restored footage contains a lot of blood. This film isn't a must-see by any means (Especially the 70's-style flowered shirts worn by the male students. Did I actually dress like that? Yes, I did!), but it is a nice time capsule of the way independent regional horror films were made in the early-70's (Filmed in two weeks with a budget of $67,000.00). Also starring pro footballer Joe Greene (THE BLACK SIX - 1974), Nick Felix, Laura Williamson and Chuck Beatty. A Code Red DVD Release. Rated R.

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1972) - Everyone has defining moments in their life. It's those times that something happens that you'll never forget no matter how long you live. This film gave me one of those moments. Back in the 70's, all you had on TV were over-the-air channels. Cable was just in it's infancy and many towns weren't even wired for it yet. You had to make do with whatever channels you could get with the antennae on your roof or the rabbit ears on top of your set. A lot depended on the area where you lived (distance + topography) and how big that roof antennae really was. I was lucky where I lived in New Jersey. We got all the major channels: CBS (2); NBC (4); ABC (7); plus all the independents: WNEW (5); WOR (9); WPIX (11) and PBS (13). We were also lucky to pick up some UHF channels, like the one that showed Uncle Floyd (who helped shape my demented teenage years) and Channel 48, the Spanish station broadcasting out of beautiful downtown Paterson, NJ. Since my father was somewhat of a raving racist, the only time I watched Channel 48 was when he went to bed. I didn't know a lick of Spanish but, somehow, I was always drawn to that station because they showed wrestling (Lucha Libre) in two hour blocks and they showed movies, all without commercials and all unedited. Mainly, the movies they screened were Mexican comedies starring Cantiflas or soap operas (novellas), but every once in a while they would slip you a mickey and show a film completely unsuitable for TV (at that time). This film (broadcast under the title "El Espanto Surge De La Tumba") was one of them. It was my first exposure to the Spanish horror films of Paul Naschy and I haven't looked back since. This film was quite an eye-opener for this teenager (this was 1974) because I was just beginning to "get into" horror films and this was one of the bloodiest films I ever saw. Let me also set the record straight: Until recently (the Mondo Crash DVD), the English-dubbed versions floating around now can't hold a candle to the Spanish-language I saw this one time. It had much more gore and nudity (including bush) than the dubbed versions. The story is simple: Back in the 16th century, a satanist (Naschy) is beheaded, his body and head buried in separate locations so they can never be joined together again. Before he dies, he puts a curse on his brother and his decendants. His wife also suffers a similar fate. In the present day, Hugo (Naschy again) goes to a seance with some friends, where he sees the apparition of his bodyless ancestor's head and it tells him the location of his body and his head. They all travel to his ancestral home where some of them (and the help) become possessed and join the head back to the body. The parts merge back together, he comes back to life and then revives his long-dead wife. They both go on a terror spree and begin to hunt down Hugo and his friends, using zombies, possession, a shotgun and their bare hands to exact their revenge. The last two surviving members form a plan to defeat this demonic duo. I know this film may not seem like such a big deal today, but back in 1974 it was something else, especially all the bloody mayhem that my eyes had not seen (at least not in one single film). The opening minutes show a man being decapitated and a naked woman hung upside down and then having her heart cut out. The rest of the film contained full-frontal female nudity, breast-fondling, breast slicing, lesbian trysts, blood drinking, a really atmospheric mass zombie attack, a shotgun murder, a really graphic scene of a heart being ripped-out of a chest (the film's highlight), an axe in the chest, a needle through the heart, not to mention one final decapitation. Seeing all this on TV in 1974 was certainly something I never expected to see. Finding any information about this film, or any Spanish horror film, back then was next to impossible. There was no internet or those plentiful reference books that are available today. It wasn't until a year or two later, when Embassy Pictures released a bunch of Spanish titles as part of a TV package, that I saw my next Spanish horror film. The package included A BELL FROM HELL (1971), THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN (1971), NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (1973) and many others. Unfortunately, they were all severely edited for TV and I would have to wait a good eight years before I would be able to view unedited Spanish horror films on TV, thanks to VHS. HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB gave me my first glimpse of what the Spanish thought horror films should look like and I wanted more. That is why it's my favorite Spanish horror film and it made me a Paul Naschy fan for life. Thanks for the memories. Directed by Carlos Aured (HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN - 1973). Also starring Emma Cohen, Vic Winner, Helga Line and Cristina Suriani. There are various versions of this film floating around on VHS (originally released by Charter Entertainment) and DVD. The one to get is the Mondo Crash DVD. It has both the English-dubbed edited version and the uncut International version. Not Rated.

THE HORROR STAR (1981) - Aging horror film star Conrad Radzoff (Ferdy Mayne; THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS - 1967) is at the point in his career where it is impossible to get movie roles anymore, so he is reduced to appearing in TV commercials spoofing his image. Unfortunately, Conrad is not a gentle soul like other aging horror stars of yore (Boris Karloff and Vincent Price immediately spring to mind), as he is downright murderous when he doesn't get his way (He kills an obnoxious TV commercial director when no one is looking by shoving him off a balcony onto the concrete stairs below). When Conrad makes a guest appearance at a college film festival, he suffers a heart attack, which makes him think long and hard about his career and the afterlife. Feeling that his time left on Earth is short and there are too many people to get even with, Conrad plans for his funeral, but with a big twist. He hires German director Wolfgang (a cameo by Leon Askin; DOCTOR DEATH: SEEKER OF SOULS - 1973), the first person to ever direct him in a film, and has him film a series of short films featuring Conrad that will play above his tomb for all eternity. Conrad then kills Wolfgang and then dies of a failing heart. The first short film plays at his packed funeral, where he announces that he will conquer death and come back to life. A group of college film students and Conrad Radzoff fans, including Saint (future director Luca Bercovici; GHOULIES - 1985; THE GRANNY - 1994), Stu (Jeffrey Combs; RE-ANIMATOR - 1985, in one of his first film roles) and Meg (Jennifer Starrett), break into Conrad's crypt (it has a huge flashing neon star over the doorway!) and steal his body, bringing his corpse to a shuttered funeral home near the crypt, where they prop his body at the dinner table and throw a weekend party in his honor (they also dance with his corpse!). That will prove to be a stupid and deadly mistake on their part. When his body is discovered missing by the cops the next morning, Conrad's widow Etta (Barbara Pilavin) goes to medium Mrs. Rohmer (Nita Talbot; ISLAND CLAWS - 1981) to contact the spirit of her dead husband to find out where his body was taken. Conrad talks through the body of Mrs. Rohmer and tells Etta that he went directly to Hell when he died (When Etta discovers this, she tells her dead husband to get revenge of those who stole his body by screaming out, "Burn them! Burn them!"). Conrad's dead body springs to life and begins killing the film students, beginning with Oscar (Alan Stock), who has his tongue ripped out of his mouth, and his girlfriend Donna (Donna McDaniel), who spontaneously bursts into flame (thanks to Conrad's telekinetic powers). Bobo (Scott Thomson) dies next, killed when he is trapped in Conrad's tomb and succumbs to deadly crypt gas (Is there such a thing?). Conrad kills Eve (Carlene Olson) when he telekinetically floats a coffin in the air and uses it as a battering ram against her body, When Stu loses his head to Conrad's sword (his head is then feasted upon by a raven), Saint and Meg decide to return Conrad's body to the crypt, but one more will die before Conrad is finally laid to rest.  While just another "teen trapped in a haunted house" scenario, this film does have the advantage of having great character actor Ferdy (billed here as "Ferdinand") Mayne as it's villain. He's a strikingly imposing figure here, not only when he's creeping around the dark corridors of the deserted funeral parlor, but also in the unnerving short films that play whenever anyone enters his crypt. Director/scripter Norman Thaddeus Vane, who also gave us the weird horror-tinged THE BLACK ROOM (1981) and the black comedy MIDNIGHT (1989; starring Vanessa Redgrave as a bitchy Elvira-like horror host), keeps the film moving at a quick pace, but one has to question the actions of the film students. I know this is only a film, but c'mon, not only are they grave robbers, they also defile Conrad's corpse by dancing, kissing (yech!) and partying with it. Can you imagine someone doing that with Karloff or Price's dead bodies? I can't. If you can get past that major faux pas, you may find yourself liking this film (it's better known under the title FRIGHTMARE). It has some effective scenes (greatly enhanced by the atmospheric soundtrack, which is full of distorted sound effects and music), a few instances of gore and a wicked sense of sick humor (especially in Conrad's filmed shorts). Not a bad little film. Verkina Flower (the late George "Buck" Flower's daughter) was Wardrobe Assistant, the late Forrest J. Ackerman supplied the numerous posters and movie memorabilia seen throughout and good old PORKY'S himself, Chuck Mitchell, appears as the police detective in charge of the case. Actress Jennifer Starrett is the daughter of late, great genre director Jack Starrett , who gave us such memorable films as THE LOSERS (1970), CLEOPATRA JONES (1973), THE DION BROTHERS (1974) and RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975). Originally available on VHS by Vestron Video and available on DVD from Troma Entertainment, both under the FRIGHTMARE title (Not to be confused with Pete Walker's FRIGHTMARE [1974], which was renamed FRIGHTMARE II for it's U.S. VHS release, even though it has nothing to do with this film and was made seven years earlier!), but the actual on-screen title on the Troma print bears THE HORROR STAR moniker. Rated R.

HOSPITAL MASSACRE (1981) - In 1961, young Susan receives a Valentine's Day card from Harold, which she promptly crumples up and throws to the floor. Harold, who is watching through a window, is not amused and impales her brother David's head on a coat rack. Nineteen years pass and an adult Susan (Barbi Benton) is in a hospital on Valentine's day to pick up some test results from a check-up she had the week before for insurance purposes for her new promotion at her job. Almost immediately, she gets stuck in an elevator while a psycho (dressed as a mask-wearing surgeon) kills Susan's doctor (with a huge knife) and switches Susan's x-rays with someone else's (probably his). The psycho then kills an orderly by sticking his head in a sink filled with acid after he finds the doctor's dead body. Susan meets another doctor named Harry (Chip Lucia), who takes a look at her false x-rays and sends her to Dr. Saxon (John Warner Williams), who makes her get undressed (yay!) and examines her topless (it's filmed to look as if he's feeling her up). Thus begins Susan's nightmare, as the doctors, based on the false x-rays, force her to stay in the hospital to run further tests. After the doctors run a battery of unknown tests (and drunk patient Hal [Lanny Duncan] watching her topless through a crack in the window shades), things start to get extremely bloody. A nurse typing up Susan's new test results is murdered and the killer replaces the test results with false ones. The list of suspects is pretty wide by now. Besides all the people mentioned, there is also Susan's bitter ex-husband Tom (Jimmy Stathis) and her present boyfriend Jack (Jon Van Ness). You can wipe Jack off the suspect list because he is the next to be killed. He comes to the hospital at Susan's urging and the killer uses an electric bone saw to cut off his head, which he puts in a hat box and delivers to Susan's room. When Dr. Saxon finds Susan's real x-rays, the killer plants an axe in his head. Susan is strapped to a bed (the doctors now believe she is psychotic) as the killer murders a nurse with a hypo full of acid to the heart and Dr. Bean (Den Surles) with a knife through the neck. The killer brings Susan to an operating room, where he unmasks himself and makes his intentions known (he wants her heart).  Israeli director Boaz Davidson (THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN - 1982; AMERICAN CYBORG: STEEL WARRIOR - 1993) has crafted a suspenseful, if unremarkable, slasher flick. We are not let in as to what condition the doctors think Susan is in until the film is nearly over. We know it's something extraordinary by the way the doctors and nurses react to the phony x-ray and test results, but we are never really told. That fact alone keeps the viewer glued to the screen because, in Susan's words to Jack, "They've been treating me like I've got leprosy or something!" Playboy Playmate and ex-Hugh Hefner squeeze Barbi Benton puts in a welcomed extended nude scene and actually holds up quite well in her role as a woman who need answers but gets none. The real star of this film is the hospital itself. The smoke-covered hallways (the 9th floor is being fumigated!), forboding wards, where one floor is nothing but old, dying people groaning and hooked up to IVs and another has rows of people bandaged from head to toe and doctors and nurses who act as if they are working in a looney bin rather than a normal hospital, adds an air of mystery to an otherwise ordinary story. There's enough red herrings here to keep you guessing, but if you have been paying close attention (especially to the prologue), the killer's identity shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Still, it's pretty good for what it is, as it has plenty of bloody kills, weird atmosphere and, of course, Barbi Benton's huge nipples to keep you pleasantly entertained. This Cannon Films production, produced by founders Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan, is also known as X-RAY and WARD 13. Also starring Gay Austin, Gloria Morrison, Karen Smith and Michael Frost. An MGM/UA Entertainment Home Video VHS Release. Available on a Double Feature Blu-Ray/DVD from Shout! Factory sub-label Scream Factory  under the title X-RAY with the Klaus Kinski slasher film SCHIZOID (1980). This is the one to get if you want to watch the films in all their original aspect, unedited glory. Rated R.

HOSTEL (2005) - Don't get me wrong. I LOVE gory movies and this one certainly ups the gore quotient from most of the horror films released today. It's just that this Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER - 2002)-directed film is just plain nasty in it's second half. Unnecessarily nasty. Three guys travel around Europe before getting serious in their life. While they were staying in Amsterdam (getting stoned and fucking every girl in sight), they meet a guy (with a tremendous mole above his lip), who tells them about a hostel they can stay in in some Slavik country (actually filmed in the Czech Republic), where they can get all the good looking pussy they want. Little do they know that they are being set up in one of the most perverse situations ever committed to film. Once they get to the hostel, they meet two girls who promise them a really good time. After some of the prerequesite naked sex scenes, the film takes a 180 degree turn as the guys begin to disappear one-by-one. It seems that they are being killed for sport or just plain for the thrill of it by rich people looking to see how it feels to kill a person. An American specimen gets the highest price. They are strapped down to chairs and murdered in various ways in an old abandoned building filled with hallways and killing rooms. The first of the guys, Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson, the best thing about this film) a man from Iceland who the other two hooked up with (he's the kind of funny dude anyone would want to hang out with), has his head cut off. The second guy, Josh (Derek Richardson), is strapped to a chair and impaled several times with an electric drill before being cut to pieces by a Dutch businessman (Jan Vlasák, who raises the creep factor several notches), who the three met on a train to the hostel. The last guy, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) is handcuffed to a chair and has two of his fingers cut off by a chainsaw by a German guy (Petr Janis), but escapes after the German slips on Paxton's blood and cuts off his leg with the chainsaw. Paxton, who first hides underneath a pile of body parts (including his best friend Josh) being chopped-up by a butcher and thrown into a fire, saves a Japanese girl (Jennifer Lim), who is being blowtorched in the face (one of the most cringe-inducing scenes in American cinema, as Paxton must cut off the Japanese girl's right eye, which is hanging out of it's socket) by an American businessman (Rick Hoffman, who played the agent on THE BERNIE MAC SHOW [2001 - 2006] and "Louis Litt", the lawyer we love to hate on SUITS [2011 - ?]). They escape and a car chase begins which leads to the death of the two complicit girls and the mole-lipped man (one of them being run over graphically by her own team). When they get to the train station, the Japanese girl sees her reflection in the glass and throws herself in front of a train, splashing blood all over the waiting passengers. Paxton gets on the train and sees the Dutch businessman and follows him when he gets off the train into the men's room. He cuts off the Dutch guy's two fingers with a scalpel, shoves his head in the toilet and slashes his throat. THE END. The film starts out with some really funny humor, especially from Oli, as the guys party till they pass out and play jokes on each other. The jokes end abruptly as soon as they reach the hostel and the gore comes quickly soon after. There is so much blood in this film, that it reminded me of director Nick Palumbo's MURDER-SET-PIECES (2004), another film that wallows in buckets of blood and grue. HOSTEL was executive produced by Quentin Tarantino, but contains none of Quentin's patented wordplay. It was also executive produced by Scott Spiegel (who acted in SKINNED ALIVE - 1989) and contains a cameo by extreme Japanese director Takashi Miike (ICHI THE KILLER - 2001). This film seems to wallow in the sadism of the story and doesn't give us enough background of the main characters to really care about their fate. The unrated DVD will put you off traveling to any Slavik nation, as it is shown to be a dingy place where all the cops are crooked and the children are a bunch of bloodthirsty killers (they kill two guys in a car with bricks and sticks after being bribed by Paxton with a bag of candy!). My wife just sat there horrified at some of the scenes, covering her eyes at certain places. I got a queasy feeling in my stomach while watching this film. Neither one of us usually act like that. If this was what Eli Roth was going for, all I have to say is: "Bravo!" On the other hand, if he was trying to make a social statement he failed miserably. If you like seeing people suffer, by all means rent or buy this film. If you just want to be entertained, avoid this like the plague. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Available in the original theatrical R-Rated cut or the much-gorier and bad language-filled (it must set some sort of record for saying the word "fuck") Unrated edition. Followed by two sequels, HOSTEL PART II (2007; directed by Roth) and HOSTEL PART III (2011; directed by Scott Spiegel) Another film with the same visceral thrills but with more character development is director Greg McLean's Australian serial killer film WOLF CREEK (2004).

HOSTEL PART III (2011) - "What happens in Vegas..." This second sequel to the uber-gory HOSTEL series is a welcome addition because it actually has a plot (HOSTEL PART II [2007] was basically the same film as the first one, replacing male victims with female ones) and was directed by Scott Spiegel (INTRUDER - 1989; FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY - 1998), who comes a very close second to his close friend Sam Raimi in his use of weird camera angles and downright funny POV shots. Best man Carter McMullen (Kip Pardue; STAG NIGHT - 2008) picks up best friend Scott (Brian Hallisay) for his bachelor party, telling Scott's fiancee Amy (Kelly Thiebaud), who Carter use to date while a freshman in college, that they will be playing a weekend of golf in Palm Springs. Carter, of course, is lying, as he and Scott head for Las Vegas, where they go to a casino and meet up with two friends, the married Mike (Skyler Stone), who complains about marriage and his fat wife, and Justin (John Hensley; TEETH - 2007), who wears a leg brace and walks with a metal hand crutch. Carter has also hired two hookers, Kendra (Sarah Habel; THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT 3: REVELATIONS - 2008) and Nikki (Zulay Henao; GRIZZLY PARK - 2008), to take care of their sexual needs during the weekend. Mike hooks up with Nikki and Carter pushes Kendra on Scott, but Scott doesn't want to have sex with her because he once cheated on Amy and someone told her. It took a while for Amy to forgive him and say yes to marriage, so Scott just wants to have fun during the weekend, but no sex. Scott gets sick on some champagne he has drunk (he was probably drugged) and when he wakes up in the hotel room with Carter and Justin, they find that Mike is missing. They try calling Mike, but he has turned his phone off (he doesn't want to take any calls from his nagging wife), so the trio, with the help of a business card Nikki gave to Justin, try to locate where Nikki lives, figuring Mike is staying with her for the weekend. They locate Nikki's house. It is a mobile home at a trailer park and when they break inside, they find nothing but roaches crawling under a rug and a closet full of sex toys. As they are leaving, they run into Kendra, who says Nikki is missing, too, so they all try to find the pair. Little do they know that Mike and Nikki were kidnapped by members of the Elite Hunting Club (the same dastardly business in the first two films, who all adorn tattoos of a bloodhound in a circle somewhere on their bodies, which act like keys to open doors in their compound), where Mike is the first one to be tortured. His is strapped to a chair and a curtain opens, where whe see a bunch of rich people, led by Master of Ceremonies Flemming (Thomas Kretschmann; GRIMM LOVE - 2006; TRANSSIBERIAN - 2008), playing a game of "Wheel Of Misfortune" on their laptops, where they win money if the wheel stops at a particular torture that will be used on Mike. A torturer comes in dressed as a doctor, threatens Mike with a power drill, puts a ball gag in Mike's mouth, picks up a white mask, puts it on Mike's face, traces the outline in grease pencil and then begins slicing Mike's face off with a scalpel (graphic doesn't begin to describe it). The winners behind the glass watching the action (both live and on large screen monitors) clap and the losers moan. Next up is Nikki, who is strapped to a table, sprayed with a sweet substance and has a whole lotta roaches dumped on her body (You just know director Spiegel couldn't resist a POV shot of the roaches crawling into Nikki's mouth!). Flemming's right-hand man, Travis (Chris Coy; TREME [2010 - Present]), takes a photo of Nikki's face (the roaches ate away her insides, leaving her face looking normal) and then sends a text on Mike's phone to the rest of his friends, telling them to meet him and Nikki at Room 6 of a local hostel (he attaches the photo of Nikki to prove that she is there with him), the same room where, in the beginning of the film, Travis drugged the beer he gave to a married Ukranian couple, Viktor (Nikola Shreli) and Anka (Evelina Oboza), and had their drugged bodies taken away though a secret door located behind a mirror in the bathroom. When Scott, Carter and Kendra (Justin stays in the car because his leg hurts) get to the room, they are gassed by members of Elite and put in the back of a black SUV. Justin notices the act and tries to save them, but Travis gets the upper hand and Justin joins his friends. When they all wake up, they are in locked cages at the Elite facility, where they meet prisoner Viktor (Anka has already been taken away and tortured to death off-screen). Justin is the first to be tortured, strapped into a chair while a female in a black leather getup and a strange mask shoots numerous crossbow bolts into his body (including his testicles). He dies without once screaming in pain, which not only pisses off his torturer, but it also disappoints the audience watching it. A major surprise (Warning: SPOILER!) awaits Scott and Kendra when Carter reveals that he is a member of the Elite Hunting Club (He sports the tattoo on his upper arm). Scott is picked to be tortured next and his torturer is to be Carter. When Scott asks Carter why he is doing this, he reveals that he is still in love with Amy and says, "When it comes to pussy, I have no friends!" He plans on killing Scott, consoling Amy and eventually becoming her lover. When Carter begins preparing Scott for torture by chainsaw, Flemming orders Travis to release the automatic metal restraints from Scott's chair, making it more of a fair fight (Turns out that Flemming doesn't care too much for Carter). Scott knocks out Carter and cuts off his tattoo with a knife, using it as a key to get out of the room. When Viktor gets free by electrocuting a guard with his own cattle prod (He shoves the prod into the guard's mouth and lets her rip!) and stealing the keys, he heads to the electrical room and disables the electricity to the building with a few swings of an axe. Viktor is shotgunned to death by another guard just as he plants the axe into the guard's chest. Scott runs to the cages to free Kendra, but she is shot dead by Travis, who chases Scott around the incinerator room with a meat cleaver (there's a nasty shot where Travis swings the cleaver, missing Scott, but cleaving the dead Mike's skinless head in half). Scott gets the upper hand and kills Travis with Justin's metal crutch (a fitting demise). Meanwhile, Flemming has all his members leave the building and activates a self-destruct sequence for the building. When Flemming gets into his SUV, Carter is waiting in the back seat and stabs him to death, stealing his car (Carter uses Flemming's dead body as a tire shield when the SUV runs across tire spikes), with Scott chasing him on foot. When Carter notices Scott chasing him, he locks the compound's gate behind him and the building blows up, killing Scott. The next time we see Carter, he is consoling Amy in her living room, both of them looking at Scott's urn on a mantle above the fireplace. Amy goes to get some wine and when she comes back, she shoves a corkscrew into Carters hand, pinning him to the table, while Scott suddenly appears behind him, his face and head burned badly on one side, but still very much alive. He and Amy tie up Carter in the garage, where they kill him with a gas-powered garden tiller. Justice is done. Although not as stomach-churning as the first two films (especially the eyeball sequence in Part 1 and the penis-yanking in Part 2), director Scott Spiegel (who also acted in such films as THE DEAD NEXT DOOR - 1989; SKINNED ALIVE - 1989, ROBOT NINJA - 1989 and 2001 MANIACS - 2004, as well as producing/co-writing THOU SHALT NOT KILL...EXCEPT - 1985 [co-starring Sam Raimi] and co-writing the screenplay to Raimi's EVIL DEAD II - 1987) keeps the proceedings moving at a brisk pace with his camera trickery and screenwriter Michael D. Weiss' (CROCODILE - 2000; I'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER - 2006) twisty script will keep most people guessing, especially the surprise reveal two-thirds into the film. The only problem I have with this film is that Thomas Kretschmann's character is woefully underwritten. He doesn't have much to do except tower over his fellow members or stick his head between the breasts of one of his female workers. It's never revealed why he dislikes Carter enough to put his whole enterprise in jeopardy by releasing Scott during the torture session. Besides that one gaffe, HOSTEL PART III is a quick (88 minutes), fast-moving DTV horror flick that should satisfy fans of gore, female nudity and surprises (including subliminal images during the end credits). I like Spiegel's flashy style and wish he would direct more films. Filmed mostly in Detroit, Michigan, with exteriors lensed in Las Vegas. Also starring Derrick Carr, Frank Alvarez, Tim Holmes and Danny Jacobs. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

HOUSE OF BLOOD (2005) - After a promising and well-photographed beginning, this gory horror film quickly degenerates, thanks to some truly amateur acting and long stretches of boredom (at 102 minutes, this film runs at least twenty minutes too long). A busload of prisoners on their way to a jail in Seattle (this was actually filmed in Germany and Austria) crashes into a car driven by Dr. Douglas Madsen (Christopher Kriesa; THE DENTIST - 1996), which allows four prisoners to escape, kill their guards (one has his head blown off with a shotgun blast, another is shot point-blank between the eyes and still another has his face torn apart at the jaw line) and take Douglas as a hostage as they trek by foot towards the Canadian border. They have to find shelter soon because Spence (Luca Maric), the brother of hot-headed escapee Arthur Palmer (Simon Newby), has a bullet in his arm that needs immediate removal before the wound gets infected and Arthur loses his arm or, worse, his life. As the quintet, which also includes Vincenzo (Mehmet Yilmaz) and Stephen (Jaymes Butler), travel deeper into the woods, they stumble upon a cabin occupied by a strange family that speak in an Olde English dialect (lots of "thees", "yees" and words that end in "est"). Arthur and the cons take the family hostage and, thanks to Arthur's stupidity and anger, that results in the loss of Douglas' medical bag, Douglas is forced to amputate Spence's arm the old-fashioned way, using the strange family's collection of hammers and knives and fire to cauterize the open wound. Family member Alice (Martina Ittenbach; DARD DIVORCE - 2007), who was spotted earlier bleeding a goat and using some strange black paste, assists Douglas in the amputation while the rest of her family prays and young girl Karen (Lisa Sachsenweger) begins growling like a dog. While Spence hovers between life and death, the other three cons and Douglas begin to notice that this family and their cabin are downright deadly (Maybe it was the chains on the walls and ropes on the beds that tipped them off?). It turns out that the family is a bunch of indestructible ghouls (When Arthur blows one of their heads off, it grows back!), who make mincemeat out of all the cons, but Douglas escapes into the woods with Alice's help. Douglas is rescued by a SWAT team looking for the cons and when he is questioned by a police detective (an extended cameo by Jurgen Prochnow; HOUSE OF THE DEAD - 2003), Douglas has a flashback to his childhood (Alice may actually be his mother!) and he refuses to cooperate. Douglas is then arrested, becomes a prisoner and is shipped off to jail on a bus on the same route as the first fateful bus. It's deja-vu all over again, as the bus crashes on nearly the same spot and Douglas leads a new group of four prisoners to the same cabin in the woods, like lambs to the slaughter. Is it possible that this is Douglas' pre-ordained mission in life? You'll find out if you make it to the film's long-overdue finale.  This horror film is basically nothing but the same story told twice, with brief bits of ultra-gore thrown in to keep the viewer awake. Director/co-screenwriter Olaf Ittenbach (THE BURNING MOON - 1992; LEGION OF THE DEAD - 2001) offers some interesting visual touches (including a nice shock cut involving a picture frame in the film's opening minutes) and camera setups (the cause of the first crash, a chain reaction where a dead bird falls out of a tree, dislodges a rock, which rolls downhill and crashes into Douglas' windshield, is very well done and creepy, to boot), but the acting talent of the cast (Kriesel and Prochnow excluded), especially Martina Ittenbach and pug-nosed Dan Van Husen as Paul, the leader of the second group of escaped cons, is simply atrocious and drags the film down into the pit of mediocrity. I'm still trying to figure out why director Ittenbach chose to set this film in the Seattle area, since the majority of the actors speak with thick German accents. The gore on view is very graphic (especially in the Unrated edition; it's also available in a toned-down R-Rated edition, but why bother?), including head explosions, a nasty arm amputation, flesh eating, multiple bloody bullet squibs and other extreme scenes (including an operation on a con's testicle), but there are long stretches of painful-to-watch dialogue sequences between those gory bits. While Ittenbach has definitely progressed from his SOV roots, he really needs tighter scripts and better actors to achieve more watchable films. HOUSE OF BLOOD (originally filmed as CHAIN REACTION, a much better title, but it may have reminded viewers of that awful 1996 Keanu Reeves film with the same name) has it's moments, but it really needed to reign-in all that bad dialogue and the amateurs that spoke it. Gore has it's place (and Ittenbach, who also did the effects, does a bang-up job here), but so does acting and story. Also starring Daryl Jackson, Wolfgang Mueller, James Matthew-Pyecka, Klaus Muenster, Gerhard Jilka and Harald Pucher. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. R-Rated and Unrated editions available.

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2002) - As Sid Haig says in one of the interviews on this DVD: "Either you love the film or you hate it. Both are a good thing." He's correct. I loved it and my wife absolutely hated it, but we both couldn't take our eyes off the screen. Director Rob Zombie was shooting for that 70's vibe of horror that so many films today are lacking, and he hits it directly on the head (both figuratively and literally). The plot is simple: On Halloween Eve in 1977, two young couples (including Riann Wilson of SIX FEET UNDER [2001 - 2005], Chris Hardwick, the host of the dating show SINGLED OUT [1995 - 1997], Erin Daniels of BOOMTOWN [2002 - 2003] and Jennifer Jostyn of MILO [1998]), out on a road trip to document roadside attractions, stop at one such place run by Captain Spaulding (the always-welcome Sid Haig of SAVAGE SISTERS [1974]) where he takes them on the "Murder Ride", a tour of mass murderers including local legend Dr. Satan. Intrigued, the two couples get a map from the good Captain and head out to the location, picking up a beautiful hitchhiker named Baby (a great performance by newcomer Sheri Moon). Their car breaks down and Baby offers to take them to her home. Big mistake. If you thought 1974's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (which this film closely resembles in some ways, come to think of it!) had a fucked-up family, wait until you meet Baby's relatives: Mother Firefly (Karen Black of CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING - 1996), who flirts incessantly with the male guests but has no problem shooting a cop in the head; Otis (Bill Moseley, who was Chop Top in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 - 1986), a man who glees in butchering and skinning cheerleaders and other people to turn them into freaks, such as the FishBoy; Tiny (the late Matthew McGrory), a fire-scarred giant with a thing for cereal; and Grampa Hugo (the late Dennis Fimple of CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE - 1976), the venom-spewing patriarch of this vile clan.  Needless to say, the two couples are subjected to every type of torture imaginable, dying in horrible ways that you have to see to believe. There's always a feeling of dread permeating this film as director Zombie mixes film, videotape, documentary-like footage, solarization and quick cuts to induce fear into the viewer. My favorite moment of the film is the cringe-inducing scene when Otis holds a gun to the head of Officer Naish (Walt Goggins of THE SHIELD [2002 - 2008]) as the camera pans up for what seems like an eternity. You know what's going to happen, but not when. When it does happen, it's guaranteed to make you jump. There are some mistakes this film makes (such as the jump in logic of some scenes, probably due to editing for an R rating), but don't let that deter you from buying this DVD. You'll watch it many times. There are many extras on the disc as well as some well-hidden Easter Eggs starring Captain Spaulding, Otis and Baby filmed expressly for this DVD. The menu sections are a hoot and one of the extra features called "Tiny Fucks A Stump" is so funny I was actually crying. Unfortunately this is the R-rated cut of the film as Rob Zombie was too busy to put the cut parts back in, due to prior commitments, but there's enough red stuff and good music (used to terriffic effect) to satisfy any gorehound. More DVDs should be as entertaining as this, as the menus and special features show special care and a true appreciation for the horror genre. Run out and get ths DVD!!! Cameo appearances by Michael J. Pollard (THE ART OF DYING - 1991), Irwin Keyes (FRANKENSTEIN GENERAL HOSPITAL - 1988), Tom Towles (HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER - 1986) and Harrison Young (CROCODILE - 2000) round out the film. Rob Zombie promises a sequel (the excellent, but completely different in tone, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS) in 2005. I can't wait. If you're in the mood for something far-out and out-of-control, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES is the film for you. I felt about this film the same way I felt viewing LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT for the first time in theatres in the early 70's. That's a real compliment. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE HOUSE OF WITCHCRAFT (1989) - One of four films in the Italian "HOUSES OF DOOM" TV series, which also includes Umberto Lenzi's (also the director of this film) HOUSE OF LOST SOULS and Lucio Fulci's SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS and HOUSE OF CLOCKS (all 1989). This one opens with Luke Palmer (Andy J. Forest; MARK OF THE SCORPION - 1986) having a recurring nightmare where he is being chased by a pack of dogs (we hear them, but never see them) down a long tree and hedge-lined road until he gets to the gates of a secluded house, which magically open and let him in. Once in the house, Luke spots an ugly witch (Maria Clementine Cumani Quasimodo; wow, that's a mouthful!), who is cooking something in her cauldron and beckons him to come nearer. He does just that (that's right, he's an idiot!) and watches as she throws his decapitated head into the cast iron pot and begins stirring, at which point Luke always wakes up. Luke is under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Elsa Palmer (Susanna Martinkpva), his sister-in-law (she was married to Luke's brother, who died in a car crash), who tries to help him make these nightmares stop, but all she is able to gather is that these nightmares started six months earlier, when Luke married Martha (Sonia Petrovna). Luke also tells Elsa that Martha is obsessed with the occult sciences and spends entire nights studying tarot cards and the symbols of the Kabbalah. Luke believes that Martha is not normal (duh!) and he would probably be better off if they never married, because she scares him (double duh!). Luke and Martha decide to give their marriage one last chance, so Martha rents a house in the country to work with Luke on rebuilding their relationship. You don't need to be a bright bulb to know how this is going to turn out. As they are driving in the country, a car coming in the opposite direction suddenly loses control, nearly hits them and then flips over. Luke tells Martha to stop the car, but all she will say is, "It's no use. They're dead." Luke makes her stop the car anyway and, sure enough, both men in the other car are dead and Martha tells Luke to get back in the car before the police arrive. When Luke and Martha arrive at the country house, Luke is surprised to discover that it is the same house as in his nightmares (At this point in the film, I would have demanded Martha drive me back to civilization, but we all know that never happens in films like this.). Luke and Martha meet the house's owner, blind concert pianist Andrew Mason (Paul Muller), who informs them that his niece, Sharon (Marina Giulia Cavalli), will also be staying in the house. That night, Luke looks out his bedroom window and sees the ugly witch of his nightmares killing a priest. When he goes outside to investigate, all he finds is Sharon arriving and Martha walking around in a trance in her nightgown with a nasty gash on her hand. Feeling overwhelmed (and probably too stupid to describe in words), Luke phones Elsa and begs her to come to the house, but before she does, Luke is attacked by feathers (!) in one bedroom and a seemingly possessed Martha nearly runs-over Andrew's seeing-eye dog and Sharon with her car. Andrew tells Luke that years before, a skeleton was found behind one of the walls of the house and he believes it was the body of the witch. When Luke goes to talk to the local priest, he finds out that the priest was murdered the night before, just like he saw it (triple duh!). Luke finally realizes that he is now living his nightmare in real life, but can he unravel the mystery before his severed head ends up in the witch's cauldron?  This is a rather dry supernatural horror film that shows its Italian TV roots (they still could get away with more on TV in 1989 than we in the U.S. could have ever hoped for). While there is a dollop of gore here and there, it in no way reaches the blood/gore ratio of Italian genre theatrical films, including this film's director/screenwriter Umberto Lenzi's similarly-themed GHOSTHOUSE (1987). As a matter of fact, the usually dependable Lenzi (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974; SPASMO - 1974; CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD - 1980) has to reign-in his habit of showing too much blood and gore in this film, such as the scene where the witch attacks Steven (Alberto Frasca) with a pair of hedge clippers. Not once do we see the clippers enter the body, only brief glimpses of Steven's bloody sweater. There's also one of the most bloodless decapitations ever committed to film, something that would make even Andy Milligan proud! Lenzi's script offers no surprises, just all the usual haunted house cliches (furniture and objects moving or breaking by themselves; the electricity going kaput at the worst possible time; doors opening and closing on their own; secret passages; etc.) and none of it is helped by the flat, monotonous English dubbing. THE HOUSE OF WITCHCRAFT is dull supernatural hokum with a few cheap jump scares, a pretty ugly witch and not much else. Avoid it. Also starring Maria Stella Musy. This never received an official U.S. home video release, but it can easily be purchased on British VHS & DVD on the Vipco label. Not Rated, but with no nudity (until the final minutes) and very little blood, why bother?

THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1982) - One of the better early-80's slasher films, thanks to tight direction, a good script and effective performances. The prologue opens on June 19, 1961, where a doctor rushes into the home of pregnant Dorothy Slater to deliver her baby. After delivering the cryptic line, "She's the last one" to the attending nurse, the doctor then tells Dorothy that her baby is dead when she wakes up. The film then switches to twenty years later, as a group of sorority girls are about to graduate college and move out of their sorority house. Seven sorority girls, including virginal Katey Rose (Kathryn McNeil), plan on having one final blowout party at the house, but the house's strict den mother, who happens to be the now middle-aged Dorothy Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt), wants the girls out of the house immediately (for reasons not yet made clear). Sorority girl Vicki (Eileen Davidson) decides to play a practical joke on Mrs. Slater when she catches Vicki and her boyfriend Rick (Michael Sergio) screwing in Vicki's bedroom (Mrs. Slater uses her cane to puncture a hole in Vicki's waterbed). The prank goes terribly wrong when Vicki threatens Mrs. Slater with a gun she thinks is loaded with blanks. Unfortunately, someone put real bullets in the gun and Mrs. Slater is shot dead. The girls dump her body (over Katey's protests) in the house's unkempt outdoor pool (the water is dark green and full of leaves and debris because Mrs. Slater refused to pay for its upkeep), with plans of removing the body once the blowout party is over. During the party, some unknown person begins murdering the guests (mostly by using Mrs. Slater's cane) and hiding the bodies. Is it possible that Mrs. Slater is still alive (her body turns out to be missing from the pool) or is someone close to her responsible for the murders? What does Dr. Nelson Beck (Christopher Laurence), the same doctor responsible for delivering Mrs. Slater's stillborn baby twenty years earlier, know about all this and why is he fretting over a bunch of x-rays showing someone with psychotic brain deterioration? As the sorority house girls and their party guests begin meeting their maker in gory ways, Katey and new boyfriend Peter (Michael Kuhn) try to unravel the deadly mystery. They discover a child's bedroom in the attic of the house, which holds clues to the killer's identity, but once Dr, Beck shows up at the house, things take a bizarre turn as he tries to capture the killer alive, using Katey as bait. What kind of doctor is he anyway?  Director/screenwriter Mark Rosman (EVOLVER - 1995; THE INVADER - 1997) does a bang-up job in both of his capacities (he also produced this film with John G. Clark) in turning what should be a routine slasher flick into something quite involving and effective. Though not particularly gory, the murders and nonetheless nasty and upsetting, as the unknown assailant impales the girls and party guests with Mrs. Slater's cane; in the head, neck, hand, stomach and other parts of the body (there's even a decapitated head in a toilet). The toughest part of any slasher film is having characters you truly care about and, thankfully, Rosman has put together a great cast of female actors, including McNeil, Davidson, Harley Jane Kozak, Janis Zido, Robin Meloy, Judi Draigie and Eileen Dorsher, who give the all in their roles. I don't want to give away the ending because it will take even the most jaded slasher film fanatics by surprise. If you are a fan of slasher films or just love a good mystery, THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW should be on your must-see list. Future director Rachel Talalay (FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE - 1991; GHOST IN THE MACHINE - 1995) was Script Supervisor and Apprentice Editor here. Also starring Ruth Walsh, Peter McClung, Carlos Serio, Brian T. Small and the band "4 Out Of 5 Doctors", who play several original songs at the party. A "retelling", SORORITY ROW, was released in 2009. Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video, followed by a crappy EP-Mode budget tape from United American Video. Also available on budget DVD from Elite Entertainment and widescreen 2-Disc Special Edition DVD from Scorpion Releasing (the preferred way of viewing this film). Rated R.

HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1996) - During the mid-90's, Executive Producer Roger Corman commissioned a series of films to be premiered on pay-cable network Showtime under the banner ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS. Many were original films with titles like BLOOD SONG, NOT LIKE US, BURIAL OF THE RATS, SAWBONES and BLACK SCORPION (all 1995), but some were remakes of Corman's earlier films, including A BUCKET OF BLOOD (released on video as THE DEATH ARTIST), NOT OF THIS EARTH (actually a second remake, following the 1988 version starring Traci Lords), THE WASP WOMAN, PIRANHA (all 1995) and this one, which is probably the best in the batch of redos. Any self-respecting fan of nudity and gore has seen the 1980 original more than once and if you enjoyed that one, there's no reason why you wouldn't like this one, too. It offers enough originality to be enjoyed on it's own merits. The film opens with a squad of soldiers trying to kill some unseen creatures in a huge canister, only the creatures escape down a sewer pipe nearby after ripping a soldier's head off. We are then introduced to a bunch of environmentalists, led by Matt (Justin Walker; BORN BAD - 1999), who are picketing Canco Industries and it's owner Bill Taylor (Mark Rolston; SURVIVAL QUEST - 1989) for dumping growth hormones in the ocean off the coastal town of Harbor Shores in order to increase the size of the fish (bigger fish = bigger profits for the canning company). Wade Parker (Robert Carradine; TOOTH AND NAIL - 2007) is a shark attack survivor-turned-alcoholic whose daughter, Kim (Danielle Weeks), is dating Matt, which disappoints him because he's also Canco's publicity director. A series of ocean attacks and boating "accidents" are at first attributed to a rogue shark (Wade is hoping it's the same shark that attacked him [leaving the right side of his body badly scarred] so he can get revenge), but when Kim and a bunch of skinny-dipping friends are attacked and killed by a bunch of creatures, Matt is the only survivor and tries to explain what he saw to the Sheriff (Kaz Garas; FINAL MISSION - 1984), his Deputy (Clint Howard; ICE CREAM MAN - 1994) and especially Wade, when Kim's body is the only one not recovered. Matt also has an incriminating videotape exposing Taylor's dumping operation and Taylor would do anything to retrieve the tape, including murder. Wade believes Matt's monster story after witnessing first-hand one of the creatures relieving a poor fisherman of one of his legs, so he saves Matt's life when Taylor and his men try to blow up Matt and his house with some dynamite. Wade and Matt find an ally in scientist Dr. Drake (Emma Samms; STAR QUEST - 1994), who tells them the creatures are actually five death row inmates that were genetically altered in some top-secret experiment to turn them into super soldiers for the government. The experiment was deemed a failure, but the creatures escaped before they could be destroyed (hence, the beginning of the film) and have found their way to Harbor Shores, where the hormone-spiked waters have not only made them stronger, but also hornier for the female of the human species. When one of the female victims escapes from the creature, stumbles into a bar and gives birth to a baby creature, it gives Wade hope that Kim is still alive. Can Wade get over his fear of the water so he can join Matt and Dr. Drake in the search for the creatures' nest? Will the arrival of government soldiers inhibit Wade's search for Kim? If you think you know the answers, you may be in for some surprises.  The first thing you'll notice about this film, directed and scripted by Jeff Yonis (BLOODFIST V: HUMAN TARGET - 1994), is the huge cast of Grade A character actors that populate it, making it a much better film than it has any right to be. Besides the actors already mentioned, there's also Bert Remsen (LIES - 1983) as the hearing-impaired coroner Duffy; Season Hubley (VICE SQUAD - 1982) as the unfortunate woman who gives birth in the bar (an effect used in many of Corman's creature features, beginning with the original HUMANOIDS in 1980); THE SHIELD's (2002 -2008) Walton Goggins as an early victim of the creatures; Harrison Young (who also appeared with Goggins in Rob Zombie's HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES [2002]) as the leader of the squad of soldiers in the beginning of the film; Greg Travis (TOOLBOX MURDERS - 2003); Barbara Niven (PSYCHO COP 2 - 1993); and Warren Burton (BLOODFIST VIII: HARD WAY OUT - 1996). The script contains many humorous touches (including Wade constantly reminding Matt that if Kim is still alive, he's not allowed to date her), as well as many gross-out moments, mostly involving the creatures' sharp claws and teeth. In true Corman cost-cutting fashion, footage is recycled from the original film (most notably, the creatures invading the dockside carnival), but it doesn't detract from the fact that HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP is a fast-paced and humorous old-fashioned horror film with plenty of bloody gore (creature and makeup effects by Sota Effects), but precious little nudity (much less than the original). A New Horizons Home Video Release on both VHS and DVD. Rated R.

THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (1973) - Don't let the happy polka music that plays over the opening credits fool you, this is pretty grim stuff. Gotho the hunchback (Paul Naschy) works in the morgue of Fredericks Hospital where he dissects cadavers for interns' medical classes. Gotho also visits terminally-ill childhood friend Ilsa (Maria Elena Arpon) whom he loves deeply. Because of his malformation, Gotho is picked-on constantly, by the medical interns in the hospital (who make fun of his love for Ilsa) and the schoolkids who throw rocks at him when he walks down the street. When Ilsa dies, he kills two morgue attendants who try to steal Ilsa's crucifix necklace (he lops the head off one attendant with an axe and slits open the stomach of the other, spilling his guts on the floor). He steals Ilsa's corpse and brings it to his underground lair and then goes about killing those responsible for making his life miserable. While he is strangling an intern at the hospital a pack of rats is feasting on Ilsa's body. When he comes back to the lair and find the rats chowing down on his love, he sets the rats on fire (WARNING: Scenes of real rats on fire!) and moves Ilsa's rat-bitten body to a safer location, a hidden ancient torture chamber in a subterraneous cave. Gotho asks a scientist, Professor Orla (Alberto Dalbes), to help him "wake up" Ilsa and, when he sees Gotho's underground lair, facetiously agrees under the condition that Gotho allows him to use the underground lair for his illicit and illegal experiments involving human corpses. After getting the cave ready for the Professor (including the installation of a sulphuric acid pit to dissolve unused body parts), Ilsa's body is thrown into the acid pit by three callous workers. Gotho goes bonkers and kills them all but is calmed down by the Professor who promises Gotho he will build him a new female friend as long as Gotho supplies him with fresh bodies to experiment on, even if it involves murder. Poor Gotho does the Professor's bidding and the Professor creates a creature (which he calls a "Primordial") which eventually gets loose and spells doom for everyone involved.  This bloody Spanish production has me divided. It's extremely bloody (one scene involving the removal of a head is rumored to have been performed on an actual corpse, but I sincerely doubt it) and well-made, but I fail to see the point of it all. The screenplay (co-scripted by Naschy using his real name, Jacinto Molina) wants you to feel sorry for Gotho, yet he murders numerous people for no other reason than because the Professor said to. While the Professor is made out to be the real villian, he actually kills no one. The sight of actual rats set on fire and running around squealing in pain is also a turn-off. Director Javier Aquirre (DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE - 1972), much to his credit, does pull off some of the graphic killings with a certain amount of panache, as this is one of Naschy's bloodiest Spanish films and that's saying a lot. The dubbing, though, is atrocious, as the voice actor who dubbed Naschy is about three pitches too high, making him sound more comical than frightening. Still, there's plenty of the red stuff and enough atmosphere to appease horror fans. The print I viewed, from Midnight Video, was ripped from a letterboxed English-language Japanese laserdisc and looks to be the complete unedited version. Also starring Maria Pershy, Rossana Yanni, Vic Winner, Manuel De Blas and Antonio Pica. Also known as THE RUE MORGUE MASSACRES. The theatrical release was an edited version that was Rated R when released in the States (in 1975). This version is Not Rated.

HYBRID (1996) - Before you read my thoughts on this film, please first go to my review of BIOHAZARD (1984). It contains my opinions on why Fred Olen Ray's 80's films are so much better than his newer stuff. HYBRID is a perfect example of this. First off, the film is full of stock clips of other movies, including Fred's own DEEP SPACE (1987). It's quite distracting at times because the recycled footage is obvious, especially the shots of the ATV the scientists use to travel in. Let's just say if you're a fan of DAMNATION ALLEY (1977), you won't be disappointed. Lucky for us, they ditch the vehicle early on (probably because they ran out of usable footage). Secondly, this film is a remake of David DeCoteau's CREEPOZOIDS (1987). Fucking CREEPOZOIDS for fuck's sake! Better decisions have been made on the deck of the Titanic. In the year 2069, a group of doctors and technicians, headed by Dr. Paul Hamilton (John Barrymore III), are trekking through the desert looking for shelter before a deadly ion storm hits (I hate when that happens). They stumble upon a deserted research facility where they find the mangled corpses of the previous occupants. With the ion storm rapidly approaching, the ragtag group are forced to stay there. The problem is they are not alone. An alien creature is roaming the halls, looking to make mincemeat of the men and baby recepticles of the women. Two military men, McQueen (Tim Abell) and Sgt. Frank Blaine (good old Orville Ketchum himself: Peter Spellos, using the screen name "G. Gordon Baer") are the only line of defense between them and the alien (played by Fred's son, Christopher Ray). There's also a subplot about a hidden cache of stolen gold that is all but forgotten about when the film ends. That's about it, folks.  By this point in his career, Fred Olen Ray could direct films like this in his sleep. On HYBRID, it looks like he has. Case in point: As soon as they find the facility, what do the two female members (Brinke Stevens & JJ North) do? Why, they head for the nearest shower for a lesbian tryst! And this is just after finding a half-eaten corpse. Now, I'm not asking for realism, mind you. Just common sense. The whole film is full of instances like that, as the screenplay (by Sean O'Bannon) is derivative of all those "monster loose in a building" movies which flooded the home video market in the 80's and 90's. When you hear, "Our best bet is to split up", you know it's nothing but pure laziness on the writer's part.  On the plus side are the presence of Peter Spellos and Tim Abell, who never take anything they do or say very seriously and there's a couple blink-and-you'll-miss-it background jokes, including a "Rush Limbaugh For President" poster and a framed picture of Ray with Brinke Stevens which triggers a flashback (and some real Ray home footage). But, if you're like me, you'll realize after sitting through the entire film that it didn't have an original idea in it's head and you'll forget you ever watched it by the next morning. It's not a bad film. It's just a blah film. Also starring Ted Monte, Bobby Bragg, Nikki Fritz and a quick cameo by Robery Quarry, who uses the pseudonym "Robert Connell" here. Good move. An episode of Nite Owl Theater, which is on the DVD, is much more enjoyable than the film. Fred answers a viewer's question on how to get a woman to take off her top. He shows a couple of his techniques. A Retromedia Entertainment Release. Not Rated.

ICE CREAM MAN (1994)  -  Clint Howard (who stars here as the title character) may be the ugliest actor working in films today. Looks aside, he may also be the most talented of the Howard clan (which includes brother Ron and father Rance). He eludes a greasy charm, even when appearing in lowbrow trash such as this. Clint plays a former mental patient who takes over the local ice cream route of his mentor, who he saw gunned down as a child. He adds special ingredients to his ice cream: namely human body parts! A group of obnoxious kids, who call themselves the Rocketeers, spot Clint kidnapping one of their own and report it to the police (including an alcohol-bloated Jan Michael Vincent and Lee Majors II, who couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag). The police turn up nothing, so the Rocketeers take matters in their own hands. If it weren’t for the presence of Clint, this film would be unbearable. Even with a cameo cast that includes David Warner, Olivia Hussey, Sandahl Bergman, David Naughton and Steve Garvey, it’s unevenly acted and heavily edited to obtain the coveted R rating. There is a totally strange scene involving a lunatic asylum where the patients run the store, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Too bad. It’s the best part of the film. All-in-all, there’s not much to recommend here besides the presence of Clint. Directed and produced by Norman Apstein, who directs porn videos using the name "Paul Norman", responsible for the XXX Rated classic EDWARD PENISHANDS (1991). He is also the son of late TV writer Theodore Apstein, who worked on television when it first appeared, known as the "Golden Age." From Golden Age to golden showers. Life is funny, isn't it? An A-Pix Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.

ICED (1988) - A slasher film which gives all skiers a bad name. After finding his girlfriend in bed with his bitter enemy Cory, poor schlub Jeff (Dan Smith) decides to ski off the side of a mountain and lands face-first on a rock (shattering his goggles), killing himself. Four years later, the girlfriend, Trina (Debra DeLiso), now married to Cory (Doug Stevenson) travel to a secluded ski chalet with some friends, invited there on a free weekend to look at the property by a real estate agent. Meanwhile, someone with broken goggles (cue POV shots) is killing his way to the chalet. Could it be Jeff come back to life to get some revenge? Of course not! This ridiculous Z-grade horror film contains amateur acting, horrid pacing and it pulls away just as the murders are about to get interesting. Why bother? There's death by bulldozer, electrocution in a hottub, impalement by icicle, stabbing with a butcher knife and  a couple more. The problem is we never get to see the carnage as the camera cuts away just as it is about to get to the payoff. The main problem with this film is the skiing sequences. This is some of the slowest skiing action you are ever about to see as it looks like the steadicam operator was afraid of falling down so everyone skis like they are on the bunny slope. This should have all skiers rolling on the floor with laughter.  Another negative is the ability to spot the killer long before the film is over as first-time director Jeff Kwitny (BEYOND THE DOOR III - 1989) drops the ball in nearly every aspect of filmmaking. I think Kwitny was aiming for a horror-themed version of THE BIG CHILL (1983). All he ends up with is a small shiver.  Oh well. At least it does have some nudity to keep your eyes busy. It also looks as if the movie was made on videotape and transferred to film, giving it a soap-opera look. That's never a good thing.  A recent film, SHREDDER (2001), looks to be a remake of this film, only modernizing it to snowboarding instead of skiing. Also starring Elizabeth Gorcey, Ron Kologie, Joseph Alan Johnson (also the screenwriter), John C. Cooke and a cameo by Lisa Loring (BLOOD FRENZY - 1987). A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1971) - This film, along with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), is the grandaddy of early 70's exploitation sleaze. It has played on so many double and triple bills (usually in a severely edited form) that it had a healthy life in theaters well into the 80's. It is finally available on video in pristine and unedited condition from Grindhouse Releasing. A cult of satan worshippers (led by the singly-monikered Bhaskar) arrive in a small town that is soon to be flooded when a dam is completed. They rape a girl and force feed LSD to her angry grandfather. In retribution, a little boy injects rabid dog's blood into their meat pies, turning the band of satanists into rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth maniacs. They infect almost everyone (including a bunch of dam workers who fuck one of the slutty female satanists) until only a handful of normal people are left. We learn that hydrophobia (aka: rabies) is quite painful. It causes a dreaded fear of water and the color red as well as causing the infected to have murderous tendencies. Thank God that our hero drives a red car and there are plenty of garden hoses on hand! The police are finally called in and shoot all the infected, as the town doctor says he would prefer them to die this way because, "Death by hydrophobia is agony!"  Even though it is a cheap and somewhat dated film, it really delivers in the gore department. Hands, legs and heads are cut off. Grandpa is found with a pitchfork through his neck. Multiple impalements abound, including an infected pregnant girl who drives a stake through her stomach. Co-star Lynn Lowry (THE CRAZIES - 1972; THEY CAME FROM WITHIN - 1975) portrays a mute member of the satanists who proves highly proficient with an electric carving knife. Director/screenwriter David Durston (who is also responsible for the 1972 VD horror film STIGMA and passed away in 2010) keeps things moving at a brisk pace, never giving you enough time to realize how ridiculous the entire proceedings are. Viewing this film for the first time in nearly fifteen years made me long for the good old days when theaters offered fare such as this on double and triple bills. I DRINK YOUR BLOOD richly deserves its reputation. Available on a deluxe DVD from Fangoria (www.fangoria.com). It was also released on DVD by Grindhouse Releasing that was almost the same as the Fangoria release, but it has a little bit more in the way of style and class, the stuff Grindhouse is known for. Unrated.

I'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (2006) - Here's a question I want answered immediately: Who the fuck wanted this film? Really, I want their names, if only to get them the psychiatric help they so desperately need. In this second (yet unrelated) sequel to I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997) and I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1998), a group of bored and annoying teens in the small Colorado town of Broken Ridge play a stupid practical joke, where one of them dresses as the murderous serial killer The Fisherman (the only link to the first two films) and chases everyone at the local Fourth of July carnival with a fishing gaffe. The prank backfires when one of their friends skateboards off the roof of a building and is killed when he is impaled on the exhaust pipe of a tractor! Rather then tell the police about their prank gone wrong, they decide to cover it up and swear each other to secrecy (To further stretch the boundaries of believability, one of the teens tells the rest of his friends that he bought the real hook used by The Fisherman to kill his previous victims off eBay for $39.00 and wonders if it is cursed! They burn it in a campfire to cover-up their crime. Don't these idiots know that metal doesn't burn?). One year passes and all the friends return to Broken Ridge (some were away at college or simply moved away after their friend's death) after they receive invitations to a Fourth of July party. Before you can say "Oops, I did it again!", they begin to receive notes or text messages on their phones (this is the 21st Century, after all!) that say "I Know What You Did" and they begin getting slaughtered one-by-one by someone dressed as The Fisherman. The friends begin to suspect each other (there's also an insufferable amount of personal drama here), but the final denouement will have you throwing heavy objects at your TV screen for being duped into believing you were watching a straight horror thriller, not a supernatural horror thriller. I will leave it to you to discover what I mean. Why should I have to suffer alone? What a lousy film! This is the type of horror flick that depends on total suspension of logic or reason, as everything that happens here has to be some of the world's biggest coincidences or they live on some alternate Earth. To illustrate my point, one of the murders committed by The Fisherman finds him slicing the throat of one of the teens with his hook, but since there's a circular saw next to the body and a suicide note nearby, the police declare the death as self-inflicted. Nevermind that a circular saw wound looks totally different than a hook wound and a coroner could spot the difference in a microsecond, this film would rather you don't on such things as common sense. This is also the type of film that offers more false jump scares (where the music and sound effects suddenly become ultra-LOUD!) and teen angst than any normal person can possibly tolerate. When one of the teen girls mistakens a gondola worker for The Fisherman (the crowbar he carries looks exactly like The Fisherman's hook when shown in silhouette) and then, a few moments later, when the killer actually tries to kill her as she rides the gondola down the mountain, her dropped digital camera continually snapping photos on it's own, you'll be groaning, "Enough already! Do you think I'm a retarded idiot?" But nothing is as bad as the finale of the film, which totally throws all logic out the window (not to mention betraying the spirit of the first two films) when it explains away the killings in one of the most atrocious codas in sequel history. Shame on director Sylvain White (STOMP THE YARD - 2007) and scripter Michael Weiss (OCTOPUS - 2000; THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT 2 - 2006). Besides a couple of gory kills (a hook through the mouth; impalement on a forklift blade), this film is a total waste of time (There's no nudity, either!). The shit I have to put myself through so you don't have to. I sincerely wish that silly-ass teens would stop doing stupid things so films like this will stop getting made. Oh well, I can dream, can't I? Starring Brooke Nevin, David Paetkau, Torrey DeVitto, Ben Easter, Seth Packard, KC Clyde, Clay Taylor and Don Shanks (also the Stunt Coordinator) as The Fisherman. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE IMMORTALIZER (1989) - Inane rip-off of RE-ANIMATOR (1985; right down to the day-glo green serum), with nothing much to recommend for it except for some nudity and gore. Four college students are kidnapped by some crusty-faced monsters and their idiotic, alcoholic handlers and transported to an institution where the dastardly Dr. Divine (Ron Ray) helps old, wealthy people transplant their brains into young, healthy bodies. When one of the students, Gregg (Chris Crone), escapes and goes to the police, he is arrested as a drug addict. The next day the sergeant takes Gregg back to the institution to find out if his story is true. They are greeted by Dr. Divine's wife, Nurse Blaine (Melody Patterson of BLOOD AND LACE [1970]), and she shows them around, everything changed from the night before. Gregg escapes from the police and hides in the house of Agnes (Elmarie Wendel), whose son disappeared when the institution opened across the street a year before. Agnes agrees to help Gregg and goes undercover as a new patient of the clinic. Agnes gets a little too nosey and is attacked and chowed-down on by Gregg's brother Darrell (Greg Roche), who turns out to be one of Dr. Divine's failed experiments. Gregg breaks back into the institution with a gun, planning to put an end to the experiments, but falls through a trap door where all the creatures are kept. He blasts his way out of the lair (killing a female creature), but is kept prisoner in an adjoining cell. The doctors perform their experiments, throwing the leftover bodies into a giant meat grinder which feeds the creatures. In a final twist, the old Dr. Divine then has his brain transplanted in the much-younger Dr. Timmons (Steve Jamieson). Nurse Blair, who is having an affair with Dr. Price (Clarke Lindsley), blackmails Price into performing one more transplant. She wants the body of June (Bekki Armstrong, Playboy's September 1986 Centerfold), the last of the remaining college students. Gregg, meanwhile, talks his mutant brother into setting him free and he and the creatures run amok in the institution. Dr. Price, with the aide of a cattle prod, disposes of two of them into the meat grinder and thinks he kills Darrell with a shotgun. Gregg also gets thrown into the grinder but escapes in the nick of time. Darrell comes to to Gregg and June's rescue and throws Dr. Price into the grinder. The new Dr. Divine and the middle-aged Nurse Blaine escape and start up a new practice in a new town. Director Joel Bender, who also made the teen musical comedy GAS PUMP GIRLS (1979, with Huntz Hall!), the embarassing WITCH DOCTOR (1983), the vampire yawner MIDNIGHT KISS (1992) and the controversial KARLA (2005), infuses this film with absolutely no suspense, a little bit of humor and a storyline so hackneyed and familiar, that the viewer loses interest about 30 minutes in. The film runs 97 minutes. You do the math. There are sporadic spouts of gore and nudity, but not enough to sustain a feature-length film. Proceed at your own risk. An RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977) - You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll laugh so hard that you'll cry. I seriously doubt that director William Sachs (HITZ - 1988) had this in mind when he was making this so-bad-it's-good horror film whose only redeeming values are the gruesome effects by Rick Baker. When astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar, who would later write and executive produce DEMENTED  and executive produce TERROR ON TOUR - both 1980) is contaminated while viewing the Sun through Saturn's rings during Scorpio 5's mission, he is the only one to come home alive. Unfortunately he is slowly melting and needs human blood and skin to stay alive. He tears off half the face of the attending nurse while escaping into the woods. He then tears the head off a fisherman (we see his head floating down the river, eventually dropping down a waterfall and splitting wide open in slow motion). Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), an old friend of Steve's, is sent out to look for him with a geiger counter (since Steve is, of course, radioactive), all on the hush-hush since the Government doesn't want to scare the populace. Ted walks around the woods yelling: "Steve! It's Ted Nelson! I've come to help you!", before finding Steve's ear lying on the ground. (I guess Steve couldn't hear him!) A bunch of smoking youngsters and a horny elderly couple are the next to run into Steve. Fortunately, the kids escape Steve but the elderly couple are not so lucky. There's also a rather nasty electrocution. The film is so chock full of absurd situations that MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 did a great job of poking fun of it in their 7th season. It's one of their best episodes that has yet to reach the market. The best part has to be Ted yelling at two security guards: "I'm Ted Nelson! I'm Ted Nelson!" before one of the guards puts a bullet in his head. As if being Ted Nelson meant anything! I had a great time just watching the film straight as Steve begins to decompose until he is nothing but a pile of multi-colored goo that is swept up by a janitor. American International was hoping to have a new franchise on their hands with this one, advertising it as "The First New Horror Creature". After watching it, the executives must have had a heart attack. Hey, I love bad horror films. They fill a badly-needed void in a horror fan's soul. THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN will fill that void for a good couple of months. Also starring horror and western vet Myron Healey, Michael Alldredge, Ann Sweeney and the late, great Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith as a topless photographer's model. A Vestron Video VHS Release. Available on Blu-Ray/DVD from Shout! Factory. This is the one to get if you want to watch the film in all its original aspect, unedited glory. Rated R.

THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT (1970) - As the opening song states, "It's Incredible". Here's a horror film made by a bunch of people better known for their work in the late-60's to early-70's biker genre, so you can be sure that you will see plenty of motorcycles on view here, too. Director Anthony M. Lanza previously directed THE GLORY STOMPERS (1968), producer/co-screenwriter John Lawrence directed and wrote SAVAGE ABDUCTION (1973), co-screenwriter James Gordon White wrote the screenplay to THE TORMENTORS (1971) and many of the actors on view here have appeared in biker films. So consider this film a mash-up; part horror, part motorcycle action. Most people consider this film as a misguided, unintentionally funny horror/action hybrid, but I like it just for those reasons alone. When the film opens, mass murderer Manuel Cass (Albert Cole: SWEET SUGAR - 1972) has just killed a family and is about to rape the family's daughter, when the police bust through the door and capture him. The cackling Cass is declared to be insane in a court of law and is sentenced to an institution for the criminally insane for the rest of his natural born life (ah, there's the rub!). We then switch over to the ranch house of Roger (Bruce Dern; THE CYCLE SAVAGES - 1969), a doctor who suffered a nervous breakdown and is now performing experiments in his locked laboratory, where he and assistant Max (Berry Kroeger; PETS - 1974) are grafting extra heads on lab animals (some of the sights are a hoot to behold!). Linda (Pat Priest; THE MUNSTERS - 1964-1966), Roger's wife of six months, becomes rightfully worried that her husband is on the verge of another nervous breakdown, so she has Roger's best friend, Ken (Radio DJ and voice of "Shaggy" on SCOOBY-DOO Casey Kasem, who also starred and was Executive Producer on THE CYCLE SAVAGES with Bruce Dern), have a heart-to-heart with Roger to see why he is spending so much time locked in his laboratory. Roger laments and gives Ken a tour of his lab, where we see two-headed rabbits, foxes, snakes and even a monkey (still a hoot to see!). Roger hopes to soon be able to replace the second head with the original head on the animals and then move on to experimenting on humans (Imagine a cancer-ridden person being able to have his/her head grafted on to a new body). Roger hopes to perform the first human head transplant, but when Ken brings up morality and ethical issues (What about the owner of the original body? What happens to him/her? Who makes the decision about who lives and who dies?), Roger brushes him off, saying those issues will be decided by "future generations". When Cass escapes from the mental institution and conveniently ends up at Roger's ranch, he becomes turned-on by the sight of a bikini-clad Linda lounging by the pool. He ties-up Roger and kills groundskeeper Andrew (Larry Vincent) by hitting him over the head with a garden hoe and then kidnaps Linda and drives away. Max arrives to untie Roger and they catch up with Cass and mortally wound him with a shotgun. Max (who has ulterior motives) talks Roger into grafting Cass' head onto the body of Andrew's hulking retarded son, Danny (John Bloom; BRAIN OF BLOOD - 1971). Danny has the mind of an eight year-old since he was trapped in a mine cave-in as a boy and his brain was deprived of oxygen, so Roger performs the operation and creates what can be best described as a two-headed conundrum: One head is docile and retarded and the other head is psychotic and murderous, both connected to the body of a massive giant (see how many times you can spot the fake Cass head on Danny's body throughout the rest of the film). When Cass becomes the dominant personality and escapes Roger's laboratory (Danny: "My neck hurts!"  Cass: "Our necks hurt, stupid!"), it leads to all kinds of hijinks, best discovered by the viewer. Ridiculous doesn't begin to describe how ludicrous the premise is (so ludicrous and popular [it was highly profitable for American International Pictures], that it spawned a semi-remake in 1972 with the Ray Milland/Rosey Grier horror/action/racial melodrama THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, Executive Produced by John Lawrence, co-written by James Gordon White and containing plenty of motorcycle action), with a rape-happy two-headed monster on the loose, killing necking teenagers in a local Lover's Lane and Roger covering-up the escape by tying-up Linda and sedating her (he treats her no better than Cass did). The epitome of outrageousness comes when Cass/Danny kill a couple of bikers (one is bashed in the head with a rock and the other is beaten to death with a chain) and then drowns a biker chick in a lake. Casey Kasem makes for a pretty bland hero, Bruce Dern is his normal wacky self and Pat Priest really has nothing better to do than wear revealing clothing, take a bubble bath and faint a lot. There is some blood on view, but it is rather quick and subdued (this was a PG [originally GP] Rated film). Director Anthony M. Lanza does try some flashy editing tricks in the beginning of the film, but drops them in favor of "standard" storytelling shortly thereafter (He must have also realized how ridiculous the premise was and decided that fancy editing was not needed). This film is good for a hearty laugh, but is no means a serious horror film. John "Bud" Cardos (director of KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - 1977) was Second Unit Director and Production Supervisor. Also starring Jack Lester, Jerry Patterson and Darlene Duralia. Originally available on VHS by obscure label Gee Video. Available on DVD as part of MGM's now-defunct "Midnight Movies" series, double-featured with THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (it's one of MGM's best thought-out double features). Rated PG.

INFESTED (2002) - This is a real crazy one. It starts out like THE BIG CHILL (1983) and then turns into a demented killer insect flick, where mutated flies (yes, flies) invade living bodies and multiply. A group of yuppie friends (including Zach "I thought those CDs were free" Galligan) gather at at house in Suffolk, NY to mourn the death of their friend Steve (Daniel Jenkins), who committed suicide by wrapping his entire body in plastic. After reaquainting themselves with tales of yuppie angst and what could-have-beens, they are systematically attacked by a swarm of killer flies, who buzz into their mouths, take over their bodies and lay eggs. Their only weakness is sunlight, as they explode when coming in contact with it (no explanation is ever given as to why this happens). The flies also "eat your brains and know what you know" according to one Exctacy-induced survivor (Robert Duncan McNeill). After several attempts to escape the house, the lone survivor (Amy Jo Johnson), who happens to be Steve's girlfriend, finds out that her boyfriend is not dead and has brought all his friends together to get revenge for being the only one who has not become successful. Talk about sour grapes!  While short on logic (it's practically non-existant), this film delivers the goods in the gore department. Heads are lopped off, throats are torn apart, bodies are impaled and Zach Galligan performs some bloody leg surgery on himself. Director/writer Josh Olson (who wrote ON THE BORDER [1998] and INSTINCT TO KILL [2001]) also injects some needed humor into the proceedings, almost enough to get your mind off the fact that the CGI work depicting the swarm of flies is really lousy. Is it just me, or does it seem that CGI is used much too often in horror films today? Most of it sucks and sticks out like a sore thumb, contradicting its' purpose in the first place. INFESTED is fast paced and, at 84 minutes, never wears out its welcome. Worth a look if you want some shits and giggles. Also known as EATEN ALIVE. Also starring Lisa Ann Hadley, Jack Mulcahy, David Packer, Camilla Overbye Roos and Mark Margolis. A Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

INKUBUS (2011) - Interesting horror film that is somewhat marred by its shot-on-HD-video look (filmed using Canon 5D Mark II cameras). Most of the film is shown in flashback, as we watch seemingly disturbed ex-Detective Tom Caretti (Joey Fatone; ex-member of the boy band NSYNC and one of this film's many Executive Producers), who is in a strait-jacket in a rubber room, telling his psychiatrist what happened to him and his wife Erin (Michelle Ray Smith), also a cop, on a fateful day in the near past. Tom believes his wife gave birth to a demon baby and he explains why. He was on duty at a soon-to-be-closed police station (shades of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 - 1976) when a man known simply as Inkubus (Robert Englund, in one of his largest roles in recent memory) walks into the station holding the decapitated head of a recently murdered girl (the police already have a suspect in custody for her murder and didn't believe his story when he told them that someone mysteriously appeared out of thin air and cut off his girlfriend's head with a large retractable blade while they were making love). Inkubus instantly begins playing heads games with the skeleton crew after they arrest and handcuff him, starting with Officer Tech (Jonathan Silverman; WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S - 1989). While Tech begins typing his report (Inkubus insists his name be spelled with an inverted "k", which Tech does on his computer with a simple keystroke!), Inkubus effortlessly slips out of the cuffs, disappears, reappears this time with his hands cuffed in front of him and seemingly makes Tech's gun disappear and reappear. Tom and the rest of the small crew check out Inkubus' van, where they find a whole bunch of blood and human body parts. Inkubus demands his one phone call and makes the phone dial by itself; the call being to retired Detective Gil Diamante (a white-haired William Forsythe; THE RIG - 2010), who nearly caught Inkubus thirteen years earlier after he killed Gil's wife and his young son disappeared. He wants Gil to come to the station, but first Gil needs to bring along his personal psychiatrist, Dr. Emily Winstrom (Dyan Kane), who has to accompany Gil everywhere since his wife was slaughtered. Meanwhile, Inkubus tells the stationhouse residents that he was responsible for most of the unsolved (and some that were thought to have been solved) murders throughout history (including the Jack The Ripper murders), but he needs to be reborn every hundred years. Since he is very near that date, I guess you can already determine what is about to happen. None of the cops believe his story, thinking that he is just some crazy serial killer, except Gil, who shows up with Dr. Winstrom. Their minds are about to be blown. Inkubus disappears and begins to slowly force everyone to face their most personal demons, killing some by himself with his large retractable blade and making others believe they are killing Inkubus when they are, in fact, killing each other. At the end of the day, only Tom and Erin are left alive, which leads to the birth of the demon baby. Or was it all in Tom's mind?  The screenplay (by Carl V. Dupre; HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD - 2003), effects and acting are basically above par for such a low-budget effort (Even Joey Fatone, who in flashbacks is bearded and is clean-shaven in the rubber room, is somewhat effective), but since director/co-producer Glenn Ciano (INFECTED - 2013, also starring Forsythe) decided to film it using HD cameras, it gives the movie a washed-out cheap look which detracts from some of the film's more scary moments. Some of the gory effects push the film's R-rating, especially the death of Dr. Winstrom, who is cut in half by Inkubus using his handy blade. When he pulls her two halves apart and her guts and intestines spill out, you'll be wondering if the MPAA was asleep at the wheel when they viewed this. Robert Englund is very effective in his role and seems to throw himself into it. The delivery of his dialogue and his overall acting here doesn't make it seem like he's phoning it in, like some of his roles in other recent horror films (like HEARTSTOPPER - 2006; although he was pretty funny in ZOMBIE STRIPPERS - 2008). Overall, besides the muddy photography, this is a halfway decent horror flick that should satisfy genre fans. Filmed in Rhode Island. Also starring Tom Paolini, Tom DeNucci, Mike Cerrone, Aubie Merrylees, Kevin DeCristofano and Fred Sullivan Jr. A Screen Media Films DVD Release. Rated R.

THE INITIATION (1983) - When Kelly (Daphne Zuniga; THE FLY II - 1989) was a young girl, she witnessed her mother, Frances (Vera Miles; PSYCHO - 1960), having sex with Dwight Fairchild (Clu Gulager; HUNTER'S BLOOD - 1986) and then watched as Dwight fought with and poured alcohol on a strange man who bursts into the bedroom, accidentally setting him on fire by pushing him into the fireplace (If you watch this whole sequence very closely, it gives away the film's surprise "reveal" way too early, thanks to some awkward editing). Kelly is having the nightmare on a regular basis now that she is a pledge at the Delta Ro Kai sorority house, where she is subjected to Hell Week along with fellow pledges Marcia (Marilyn Kagan; THE LADIES CLUB - 1986), Beth (Paula Knowles) and Alison (Hunter Tylo; FINAL CUT - 1986; here using the name "Deborah Morehart"). Sorority head (and supreme bitch) Megan (Frances Peterson) has decided that for Prank Night, the four pledges are to sneak into Kelly's father's department store, Fairchild's, and steal the night watchman's uniform, "From his badge down to his skivvies". Megan has a real hard-on for Kelly ever since she went on one date with Andy (Pater Malof), Megan's ex-boyfriend. Meanwhile, three hundred miles away, someone wearing surgical gloves sets all the patients free at a mental institution and murders cruel Nurse Higgins (Patti Heider) with a garden claw (which may belong to a badly-burned trustee who is the hospital's groundskeeper). The surgical-gloved killer steals Nurse Higgins' car and escapes; the news seems to upset Frances and Dwight greatly. Kelly asks one of the teacher's assistants, Peter Adams (James Read), to help her solve the meaning of her recurring nightmare (since he is doing his thesis on dream interpretation) and cure the amnesia she has had since a young child (Frances told her that she fell on her head after falling out of a tree house and spent three months in a coma, but I'm willing to bet the farm that story is nothing but bunk). Peter hooks Kelly up to a bunch of machines to monitor her brainwaves and her EEG shows that when she is having her recurring nightmare, her brainwaves are weirdly calm. Peter believes the mirrors that punctuate her nightmares symbolize something very important, but when Frances finds out about the experimentation, she demands that Kelly stop seeing Peter (Frances also tells Dwight that she's tired of keeping a "horrible lie" from Kelly). Shortly after Kelly hears Dwight over the telephone setting up a date with a secret lover, he is murdered by the surgical-gloved killer with the garden claw to his throat and then is beheaded (offscreen) with a machete. After attending a fraternity costume party, where Ralph (Trey Stroud) dresses as a giant dick and testicles (it's hilarious) and Kelly hits on Peter ("You listen. That's why I chose you."), Peter hooks Kelly up to the machine and discovers that her real last name is Randall when Frances bursts in on the session and threatens to throw Peter in jail if he has any more contact with Kelly. Everything comes to a head when Kelly and the other two pledges (Beth thinks the whole thing is childish and quits the sorority) spend the night at Fairchild's Department Store, unaware the night watchman has already been murdered with the garden claw. Have you got if figured out yet?  A totally ordinary and uneventful slasher film if there ever was one, THE INITIATION sure isn't helped by the bland direction by Larry Stewart (a TV director by trade, directing episodes of FANTASY ISLAND [1977 - 1984], BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY [1079 - 1091] and other 70's & 80's series, which may be why this has the look and feel of a TV movie) or the rather easy-to-guess mystery screenplay by Charles Pratt Jr. It also doesn't help that many of the murders are saved for the final thirty minutes and they're nothing to write home about (a few garden claw stabbings; an axe to the forehead; an arrow to the chest [it's horrendously done and you'll know what I mean when you see it]; a throat slitting; a knife stabbing; a speargun impalement) and the blood is used sparingly. There is some nice topless and full-frontal female nudity, but the sad fact is that the mystery can be solved in the film's opening minutes (I solved it without even trying). Not worth your time unless you are a slasher completist. This film "introduces" Daphne Zuniga, but she appeared in THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD in 1981. Also starring Robert Dowdell, Christopher Bradley and Joy Jones. Originally available on VHS by Thorn/EMI Video with a budget VHS by Starmaker Entertainment following that. A single edition or double feature DVD (with MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE - 1983) was issued by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Rated R.

THE IRREFUTABLE TRUTH ABOUT DEMONS (2000) - This New Zealand-lensed horror flick is a well-made "Is he insane or is this all really happening?" scenario about anthropologist Harry Ballard (A pre-pumped-up Karl Urban; DOOM - 2005; PATHFINDER - 2007), who receives a year-old videotape that contains a note saying "Beware! The Black Lodge is after you!" Harry is also a researcher of religious cults and recognizes the name as a sect of demon-worshippers and when he watches the tape, he sees the Black Lodge's leader, Le Valliant (Jonathon Hendry), threaten his life by saying "We are going to get you!" That night, Harry is kidnapped by Le Valliant and some of his followers, shot-up with heroin and brought to a secret location, where he is chained-up and about to be cut to pieces with a chainsaw. Harry manages to escape, but when he tries to explain what happened to him to the police, they don't believe him because he smoked half a joint before he was kidnapped! We soon also begin to doubt Harry when we find out that his brother Richard committed suicide six months earlier, his suicide note describing that he was having "demon" issues. Harry begins having nightmares about being attacked by Le Valliant and when he wakes up from one such nightmare, he finds his girlfriend, Celia (Sally Stockwell), dead, her body crucified on his apartment wall and "I Killed This Demon" signed by "Harry Ballard" written on the wall in her blood. The police suddenly turn up at his apartment and Harry must flee before he is falsely (?) arrested. He ends up at a fleabag hotel and calls his friend Johnny (an over-the-top Tony MacIver) for help. Johnny soon ends up dead (Harry finds him in an alley with his chest torn apart, his ribcage exposed and his body covered in cockroaches, a recurring theme in this film) and Harry has another run-in with Le Valliant and is chased by a real demon (or is it?). Harry is rescued by spooky girl Bennie (Katie Wolfe), who tells Harry that she is a former member of the Black Lodge and that his brother Richard was also a member. Soon they are both being chased by a nasty black demon and they must find Le Valliant's home to reverse the curse put on both of them. We, the viewers, must figure out if all this is happening or if it's just a figment of Harry's imagination, especially when we discover that Harry is also a closet junkie. The surprise ending ties everything up nicely, but if you expect me to reveal it here, you must be high on something. Let's just say that cockroach-puking is involved.  Half the fun of watching this well-plotted horror film, directed and scripted by Glenn Standring (PERFECT CREATURE - 2006), is discovering the hidden clues about Harry's life that are sprinkled throughout and trying to discern what is fact and what is fiction. Karl Urban (who doesn't try to hide his accent here as he does in his later films) is very good as the much put-upon Harry, who steadfastly refuses to believe in the existence of demons, even after seeing one with his own eyes. He would much rather put his faith in man's inhumanity towards his fellow man, believing that "people get off shitting on each other". There's a gag-inducing scene of Le Valliant dumping a canister full of live cockroaches into Harry's mouth (No special effects here. Actual live cockroaches were dumped into Urban's mouth!), which seems to prove Harry's philosophy, but we still have to determine if all this isn't just in Harry's troubled mind, the result of his drug addiction and his grief over his brother's death. This is a fairly intense film that doesn't shy away from the gore (there's a manual heart removal and other bloody mayhem), but this is more of a psychological puzzle that the viewer must try to piece together as the film progresses. This is one of those films that requires at least a second viewing to be fully appreciated, much in the same way THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) was once the denouement was revealed. The only thing that hurts this film from being a totally satisfying experience (besides the overacting of Tony MacIver) are the badly-rendered CGI demons that show up at various times throughout the film. They are really not that necessary to advance the plot and therefore seem more of a distraction than a benefit. That's just a minor quibble, though. This is a film that demands you use your brain as well as your eyes for maximum enjoyment. Not many films can stake that claim, so enjoy it for that fact alone. Also starring Peter Daube, Kelson Henderson, Neill Rea, Robert Tripe, Mel Johnston and Perry Piercy. Some VHS & DVD artwork, including the U.S. release on the First Look Entertainment label, shortens the title to THE TRUTH ABOUT DEMONS (I guess they were worried too many illiterate viewers would be scratching their heads wondering what the word "irrefutable" means), but the actual prints carry the full title. Not Rated.

ISLAND CLAWS (1981) - Hoping to address the issue of world hunger, scientist Dr. John McNeal (Barry Nelson) has created a growth serum to increase the size and maturity rate of crabs. Unfortunately, a nearby nuclear power plant has a serious disaster, leaking radiation into the nearby waters and causing Dr. McNeal's crabs to become dangerously agressive and making one crab grow to monstrous proportions. When a boatload of illegal Haitian refugees land on the shores of this sleepy Florida coastal town, they are blamed for a series of deaths which are actually being caused by the deadly crabs. Moody (Robert Lansing), the owner of the local bar/restaurant The Half Shell, becomes involved in the proceedings when one of his employees is killed and his adopted son, Pete (Steve Hanks), becomes involved with Jan (Jo McDonnell), the daughter of the owner of the nuclear power plant, who also is responsible for the death of Pete's parents years earlier. Jan is attacked by a pack of crabs while riding her bike and Pete comes to her rescue and finds a huge crab shell in the process. Since Pete works for Dr. McNeal, he brings the shell to the laboratory. Dr. McNeal comes up with an anti-serum but they need to find the giant crab to use it on. The crab attacks increase in intensity, as the agressive crabs move further inland. It's not before Moody, Pete, Jan, Rosie (Nita Talbot) and the rest of the living townspeople are fighting for their lives against the marauding hordes of very hungry normal size crabs and the huge crab that has the humans on his menu. Can Dr. McNeal arrive in time to save the day?  Much more character-centric than most horror films of this calibre, this film has more than a passing resemblance to the giant monster films of the 50's with a little social relevance thrown in for good measure. The arrival of the Haitians into town is as first treated the same as the arrival of the crabs: An intrusion. When Moody's dog is attacked and killed by the crabs, everyone (but Moody) blames the Haitians (and their voodoo) and they form an armed posse to hunt them down. The townpeople shoot at them, until a little Haitian girl is attacked by the crabs, which brings everyone together. Director Hernan Cardenas (who never directed anything else) injects politics into the mix and it makes for an interesting parallel, as the debate on illegal immigration (in this film, it is both the Haitians and the crabs) is still a hot-button issue today. Well acted by everyone, the script, by Jack Cowden and Florida legend Ricou Browning (MR. NO LEGS - 1981), is full of believable characters doing believable things while something unbelievable is happening around them. The late Robert Lansing (SCALPEL - 1976; EMPIRE OF THE ANTS - 1977) is really quite good here as a displaced Irishman with a conscience, whom everyone in town trusts with their lives. His first reaction to the giant crab is priceless. Speaking of the crabs: The sight of hundreds of real crabs walking sideways on land is really unnerving because, face it, that's not something you see every day. The filmmakers save the appearance of the giant crab for the final 15 minutes and, I have to say, it doesn't suck. This is an actual full-size working model and it is impressive as it is expertly photographed for maximum effect. Not particularly a bloody film (it's roots, after all, come from such 50's films like Roger Corman's ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS - 1957), it contains a couple of crab attacks and a guy being crushed to death to in the claw of the giant crab. The worst death shown here is Moody's dog. A lot of reference books trash this film (originally titled GIANT CLAWS) which makes me wonder if they actually even watched it. I found it to be a charming throwback with a little modern political spin. Luke Halpin (SHOCK WAVES - 1976) was one of the stuntmen. A Vestron Video Release. Not legally available on DVD, but I do have a DVD-R from a gray market company called Cinema Apocalypse who give you a decent print (it's a little washed-out colorwise, but highly watchable) and an amusing extra of some St. Paul, MO guy named Scott Williamson rating some DVD and video releases, showing clips of NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986), THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969) and others. He's pretty funny in a retarded way, especially his rant on late night infomercials and how they are screwing with kids' minds. Priceless. Rated PG.

ISLAND OF THE DEAD (2000) - Another killer fly movie? Who would of thunk it? If you read the review of INFESTED above, this one seems more inclined to be the better-acted one and the killer fly angle comes into play late in the proceedings. Just let me say this: If you don't like to look at maggots, stay away from this film. The plot concerns a bunch of people on their way to New York's Hart Island (a real island, by the way, even though most of the movie was filmed in Canada), a Potter's Field where all the dead that no one claims, that are unidentifiable, that people just don't want are buried for eternity. There's the evil land developer (Malcolm McDowell) who hopes to turn the island into Hope City, where the dregs of society are sent to live out their pitiful lives. There's also a missing-persons detective (Talisa Soto of VAMPIRELLA [1996]) looking for the last victim of a case she is working on and a trio of short-term cons (including Bruce Ramsay [HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE - 1996] and rapper/poet Mos Def [CIVIL BRAND - 2003]) sent to the island to bury the dead. Soto and Ramsay are the interesting characters here as they at first seem at odds with each other because they both have something in commom (which I will not divulge here) but then become to admire each other when the going gets tough. And get tough it does. It seems that there is a strain of flies on this island that one single bite causes the person to deform and burst out with maggots in a matter of minutes. The maggots then turn into flies. Where they came from or how they mutated is never explained. They are just here and have to be avoided. After most of the people on the island are killed by the flies, it's just McDowall, Soto and Ramsay that remain. The neat thing about this movie is that dastardly McDowall never loses his cool, even when the flies trap them in a building with no discernable way out. He still barks orders like he owns all of humanity and shows little respect for his fellow man. Even when he is eventually bitten, he shows a comical dignity in his death, picking up his favorite watch off the ground as his face and body bloat out and explode maggots all over the place. No one plays bastards better than Malcolm McDowall. The ending finds Soto and Ramsay escaping the island and getting back to NYC, where she gets him off on the trumped-up charges he was incarcerated for. What happened to the swarm of killer flies is never explained. Director/co-writer Tim Southam (who has made many shorts and other non-genre movies in his native Canada) infuses the film with little touches of humanity and humor (such as when Mos Def asks another nose-pierced con what happens when he gets a booger in his nose) to make this film more than just a horror film. There's also some grisly deaths and insect POV shots that, at first, had me confused until I realized that I was watching a scene through a fly's eye. Daniel Pilon (SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER - 1991) has a cameo as the Mayor of New York City. This film has more meat on it's bones than most horror films because it's not just about the horror: It's also about the people. There's nothing wrong with that. A Key Video DVD Release that can be picked up for less than 10 bucks at any local Best Buy.

ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD (2006) - This is late director Bruno Mattei's (using his frequent pseudonym "Vincent Dawn") penultimate film, a tale of zombies and vampires on an uncharted island. The frustrated treasure-hunting crew of the salvage ship The Dark Star (a tribute to John Carpenter?) encounter a strange fog bank one stormy night and wake up the following morning next to an island that is not on any map, an island where, centuries before, a zombie uprising and an attack by a vampire pirate crew killed an entire village of Spanish missionaries and a battalion of Conquistadors. With The Dark Star in need of repair, the crew takes a trip to the island to see if they can find any treasure to plunder. They do indeed find treasure, but more importantly, they discover that the island is crawling with zombies. When The Dark Star explodes (thanks to a gas leak during a zombie invasion) and the lifeboat ends up missing, the crew, which includes Captain Kirk (Ronald Russo), Sharon (Yvette Yzon), Snoopy (Filipino regular Jim Gaines; PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987), Fred (Alvin Anson), Mark (Gary "King" Roberts) and Victoria (Ydalia Suarez), must find a place to hide out and defend themselves fron the living dead hordes. They find an old church and settle in, while Captain Kirk (a favorite joke name that Mattei used in many films) tells them that this must be the final resting place of an old Spanish ghost galleon called the Natividad, said to be carrying a king's fortune in gold. The next morning, the group (stupidly) split-up into three teams of two and explore the catacombs of the church. Sharon and Fred run into an undead monk and Fred blows it's head off with a shotgun. Victoria and Mark find a cask of old wine and proceed to get drunk, not realizing the the wine is crawling with maggots. The Captain and Snoopy make discoveries of their own, including a creepy old zombie woman who plays the lute. When the crew discovers the hidden treasure of gold, they won't get a chance to enjoy it, because they are attacked by hordes of flesh-hungry zombies. Fred (stupidly) sacrifices his life to the zombies so the others can escape. Sharon discovers a book that says whoever discovers the treasure will be killed by the pirate crew of the ghost galleon, who will rise from the ocean floor (apparently as vampires!) to exact revenge. Oh, great. Now the crew has to protect themselves from vampire pirates as well as zombies. To make a long story short, the crew dies one-by-one in various bloody ways (usually eaten in one manner or another) until only Sharon is left. She manages to make it off the island and is rescued by a helicopter, her story to be continued in Mattei's final film, ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING (2007), although with slight alterations (The surprise final reveal here shows that Sharon is now a vampire zombie, but the sequel drops that plot point, making it a nightmare sequence in a hospital room instead).  While not a very good film in many departments (the dubbing and dialogue are terrible and the acting is way too bland), director Bruno Mattei (NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES - 1980; COP GAME - 1988, which also had a character named "Captain Kirk"; SHOCKING DARK - 1989), who co-wrote the screenplay with Antonio Tentori and Producer Gianni Paolucci, does his normal routine of copying scenes verbatim from other well-known horror films and claims them as his own. Here, he lifts scenes directly from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968; The "They're coming to get you Barbara!" graveyard scene), Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (1979; The pointy wood shard in the eyeball scene) and John Carpenter's THE FOG (1979; the ghostly, fog-shrouded pirate crew) and tries to tie it all together, but doesn't accomplish the task. The film seems too disjointed to make much sense and it's one of those films where the characters make the stupidest decisions possible (especially Fred sacrificing his life and offering his arm for the zombies to chew on!) just to justify the gory deaths that follow. Still, the makeup and gore effects aren't horrible and the Philippines location photography is very colorful, making this a perfect film for Mattei fans: High on gore, low on believable characters and originality. You'll know within the first five minutes of watching this whether it is a film for you. The film concludes with a dedication to actor Mike Monty (NINJA WARRIORS - 1985; JUNGLE RATS - 1987), who died while this film was being made, but he doesn't appear in it. Also starring Thomas Wallwort, Miguel Franco, Curtis Carter, Arash Donadoni and Lilia Cantapay. Not yet available on U.S. shores legitimately (I soon expect it will be, if crap like Mattei's THE TOMB [2004] can get a legal DVD release), but it can be purchased on an English language DVD from German company KSM. Not Rated.