HORROR J - Q
JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER (2007) - Fun horror film that relies more on practical effects and very little CGI, making for a refreshing change of pace. Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews; who also co-produced and received a story credit) has become an angry young man, who easily loses his temper when even slightly provoked, thanks to a traumatic event that happened when he was a young boy, where he watched helplessly (and frozen in fear) as his entire family was slaughtered by a monster while camping in the woods. Now in his twenties, Jack realizes he needs professional help, so he goes to a psychiatrist, Dr. Silverstein (Daniel Kash), who seems to think Jack is beyond psychiatric help. Jack's nagging shrew of a girlfriend, Eve (Rachel Skarsten), makes him go to night school to better himself, where science teacher Professor Gordon Crowley (Robert Englund) takes note that Jack is a plumber and invites him to his creaky old house in the middle of nowhere to fix his pipes. Jack ends up screwing-up the plumbing even worse and the increased pressure in the pipes leads to the unleashing of an ancient evil that possesses the Professor. Jack needs an outlet to release all his pent-up anger (Dr. Silverstein offers Jacks several useless suggestions, including Tai-Chi and yoga, and Jack's response to him is one of the funniest lines in the film) and the events of the proceeding days will offer him that outlet. Professor Crowley discovers a crate buried in his backyard and digs it up, discovering a bunch of human bones and a beating human heart inside. Some supernatural force makes the Professor eat the heart and he begins to slowly transform into some hideous monster. Jack and the rest of the night school class immediately notice the Professor's weird behavior (Maybe the Professor throwing-up on the blackboard was their first clue?), but chalk it up to his already-strange personality. The Professor begins getting an insatiable appetite (he eats his own dog!) and starts sprouting tentacles from his stomach, which he cuts off with a pair of scissors. Hardware store owner Howard (David Fox) tells Jack the story of when he was a boy and had to kill his Uncle when he became possessed by the heart (it's a Japanese demon of some sort). He blew his Uncle away with a shotgun when he bit off some of Howard's fingers and then buried him in a crate in the backyard of his Uncle's house (now the Professor's house), along with the cursed heart. To make a long story short, the Professor transforms into a multi-tentacled monster and begins transforming all his night school students into grotesque monsters. Jack becomes quite adept at killing these creatures and finally has found his outlet to release all his pent-up hostility. So, adept, in fact, that he takes this job full time, first returning to the forest and killing the creature that killed his family years before and then traveling around the world to rid it of monsters (the last time we see him, he's fighting a nasty Cyclops in an African village). Although it takes a while to get to the actual monster-bashing, first-time feature director Jon Knautz (who previously directed several horror and sci-fi-themed shorts, including TEEN MASSACRE  and the acclaimed STILL LIFE , which convinced Robert Englund to take the role as the Professor here) injects a lot of humor and interesting characters into the screenplay he co-wrote with John Ainslie. Particularly good are Trevor Matthews as Jack (his scenes with the psychiatrist and Howard are priceless) and Robert Englund as the Professor. The old school special effects, which consist of plenty of latex, bladders and buckets of slime, should make you feel like you are back in the 80's, as they have that comfortable, low-tech feel. Sure, they all look fake, especially the creature that the professor transforms into (it looks like Jabba The Hut's cousin), but they are fun to watch, which makes all the difference in the world when compared to all those cheap CGI monsterfests made today, especially for the Sci-Fi Channel. The monsters seem comfortable in their environments, as opposed to being inserted later on by some computer animator. JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER is a nice throwback to the creature features of yore and I expressly hope that more young filmmakers put down their computers and start making more movies like this. Well done, everyone! Also starring Stefanie Drummond, James A. Woods (excellent here as John, a night school student constantly hitting on Eve and too stoned to notice that Jack is noticing it, too), Dean Hawes, Ashley Bryant and Chad Harber, An Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
JENNIFER (1978) - In this low-budget rip-off of CARRIE (1976), a poor Southern girl named Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan; GHOULIES - 1985) is admitted to the prestigious all-girl Green View School on a scholarship and must put up with verbal and physical abuse by a clique of snotty, uppercrust students, led by Sandra Tremayne (Amy Johnston), who calls Jennifer a "hayseed" and a "hillbilly". As we learned in CARRIE, you can only push a quiet girl so far before she reacts in strange, violent ways and Jennifer is no different. When Jennifer was a little girl, she experienced a traumatic incident in the snake-worshipping church run by her hyper-religious father, Luke (Jeff Corey; MESSENGER OF DEATH - 1988). Jennifer was a child prodigy of the church and people came from miles around to watch her power to control snakes, but when a snake-handling sermon goes wrong and some parishioners are bitten and killed, Jennifer vows never to use her powers again. That won't last very long now that she's attending Green View. Sandra gets caught cheating on a mid-term test by teacher Jeffrey Reed (Bert Convy; HANGING BY A THREAD - 1979), but she tries blaming Jennifer for her mess. Jeffrey is having none of it and sends Sandra to the Headmistress, Miss Calley (Nina Foch), who then blackmails Sandra's rich father, Senator Tremayne (John Gavin), into making a "donation" to the school to make his daughter's latest problem go away. It seems Sandra has always been a problem child and has been kicked-out of several schools for various serious infractions, so Daddy warns her that if she gets into any more trouble, he will disown her and send her to live with her "common" mother. Of course, Sandra blames all her problems on Jennifer and vows to make her life a living hell. Poor Jennifer, not only does she have to put up with Sandra's constant harassment, she also has to go home every night to her alcoholic father, who owns a pet store and constantly reminds her (using fire and brimstone sermons) that she should resume her life as a religious snake-handler. Jennifer joins the school's swim team over her father's protests ("It's sinful!") and when Sandra tries to drown her in the pool, Jennifer says enough is enough and uses her supernatural powers for the first time since the fatal incident as a child to make snakes materialize and then disappear in Sandra's locker, scaring the shit out of her. Sandra retaliates by joining with her boyfriend Dayton (Ray Underwood) in stealing Jennifer clothes while she is taking a shower in the girls locker room, taking photos of her in the nude and plastering the photos all over the school. Jeffrey wants to help Jennifer, but she would rather deal with it on her own. Sandra continues her harassment, killing Jennifer's favorite cat and having Dayton rape ex-clique member Jane (Louise Hoven) for siding with Jennifer. Things take a bad turn when Sandra and her clique kidnap Jennifer out of her bedroom, put her in the trunk of a car and take her to the top of a parking garage, where Dayton and his male friends terrorize her by trying to run her over in their cars. Jennifer snaps and unleashes her snake powers to deadly effect, where we learn the real extant of her powers. No one is going to slither out of this mess, except for Jennifer and new best friend Jane. The parallels to CARRIE are numerous: A teen with psychic powers with a domineering uber-religious parent; a shower scene that proves to be embarrassing to the teen; an understanding teacher who tries to help the much put-upon teen; a climatic finale where the teen suffers humiliation in front of her peers, which forces her to unleash her powers to full effect, resulting in death and destruction; and the title itself, which is simply the teen's first name. Hell, if director Brice Mack (SWAP MEET - 1979; ROOSTER: SPURS OF DEATH - 1983) and screenwriter Kay Cousins Johnson were any more blatant, I'm sure Stephen King and Brian DePalma would have a winnable lawsuit on their hands. While JENNIFER is not a badly made film, it is far too restrained for it's own good. Besides a brief bit of nudity by Lisa Pelikan and a spot of mild violence and minimal cursing, this all plays like some subdued 70's TV movie until the crazy finale, where Jennifer goes bonzo and creates monster snakes with her mind that bite the cast (the giant snake in Sandra's car is a hoot) and then simply disappear, leaving some of the cast dead and others emotionally scarred for life. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is full of inane teen chatter (Where the girls argue over who is cuter, John Travolta or Warren Beatty. They should see them now!), sub-par revenge tactics and very little snake action. If you are going to make a knock-off of an established hit, why on Earth would you make a toned-down PG-rated version of it? It makes no sense. Also starring Wesley Eure, Florida Friebus, Georganne LaPiere, Sally Pansing, Lesley E. King and Lillian Randolph. Released on VHS by Vestron Video and available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber. Rated PG.
THE JITTERS (1988) - For a minute I thought I shit my pants. It turns out the smell was coming from this film. This is a lame attempt to mix the Chinese hopping vampire legend ("gyonsii") with American street gang action. It doesn't work. When Alice (Marilyn Tokuda) sees her Uncle Lee (Handy Almadja) murdered by a street gang, she quits her job and decides to take over her uncle's storefront souvenier shop, much to the displeasure of her boyfriend Mike (Sal Viviano). Tony Yang Sr. (James Hong) and Jr. (John Quincey Lee) revive Uncle Lee as a hopping vampire, and he hops back to his shop where he saves Alice from the clutches of the street gang. Mike and Alice learn from Yang Sr. & Jr. that Uncle Lee is just one of a small force of gyonsii, all of them killed by the street gang and they will remain vampires until they can get justice and then pass on to the great beyond. The Yangs are able to control the gyonsii by attaching slips of parchment with Chinese spells written on them to their foreheads. When the parchments are removed, they become active. Leech (Doug Silberstein), the leader of the street gang, sends his goons to steal Uncle Lee's body and the parchment falls off when they stuff him in a car trunk. He ends up biting two gang members and hops around the city (even in daylight) until he ends back at his shop, where Mike and Alice subdue him with a parchment. Leech and his gang go to Yang's warehouse, where they kill Yang Sr. and take Alice prisoner. Yang Jr. and Mike use the small army of gyonsii at their disposal to get their revenge, but they don't know that the gang has learned how to kill them (with mirrors) after accidentally killing one of their members that have turned into a vampire, thanks to Uncle Lee. Everything works out in the end, though. The gyonsii are able to go on to their great reward and Alice and Mike live happily ever after. I think I'm going to be sick. I can't believe how bad this film is. Director/producer John M. Fasano (ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE - 1987; BLACK ROSES - 1988) hasn't got a clue how to stage an action scene (the martial arts fights are horrendous) or how to block a shot. The film is purposely played as a comedy (at least I think it is), but I didn't laugh once. I did, on the other hand, groan a bunch of times, especially when Hong says, "One hour after he bites you, he wants to bite you again!" or when one of the gang members proclaims, "I'm terrified beyond the capacity of rational thought!" I was bored beyond the point of no return. The acting is very poor, as everyone plays their roles rather broadly and even old pro James Hong (THE VINEYARD - 1989) looks ashamed here, like he lost a bet and this was his punishment. The sound recording is also poor, as some people are hard to hear and the sound level increases tenfold whenever music pops up on the soundtrack, forcing you to keep your finger on the volume control button on your remote. The makeup effects are also nothing to write home about, except for one transformation scene late in the film that was done by Steve Wang. This cheapjack rip-off of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986; also featuring Hong) is a failure in nearly every department. Also starring Jonathan Goldstein, Dave Roberts, Jesse D'Angelo, Lana Davies and Clare Pater. A Prism Entertainment Release. Rated R.
THE JOHNSONS (1990) - Due to illegal fertilization experiments, seven baby brothers are born from one fertilized egg. The baby brothers are called the Johnsons, named after the doctor who performed the experiments and delivered them. When they are seven years old, they slaughter 16 kids in an orphanage, leaving a strange symbol painted in blood on the walls. The Johnson brothers are then locked in a high security prison built expressly for them and they never speak and are prone to fits of extreme violence (they tear apart their doctor). Today is their 21st birthday. Meanwhile, Emalee (Esmee De La Bretoniere), who is about to turn 14, is having nightmares about the Johnsons raping her, even though she has never met or heard of them (her doctor thinks she is having these nightmares because she has yet to begin menstruating!). Her mother Victoria (Monique Van De Ven), a nature photographer (and orphan), takes Emalee with her to the country on a photo shoot. As fate would have it, they end up not far from where the Johnsons are being held captive. A college professor of anthropology (Kenneth Herdigein) is hired by a government agency to find out what makes the Johnsons behave the way they do. With help from his old world father, the professor learns that Dr. Johnson once visited the Mahxitu Indians and stole the fetus of their god Xangadix. The legend states that Xangadix will bear seven sons who will impregnate their sister. The birth will result in a creature that will cause the destruction of mankind. The professor discovers that Dr. Johnson used DNA from the stolen fetus in his fertilization experiments and used eggs from a young Victoria while she was at the orphanage (without her knowledge) to create the seven brothers. That makes Emalee their sister. The brothers escape their prison (watch out for the 'head of security' joke) and hunt down Emalee, who has just begun to menstruate. In the bloody finale, all parties meet at Victorias apartment building for a blood-soaked showdown. Based on a story by Roy Frumkes (STREET TRASH - 1987), director Rudolf Van Den Berg (THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY - 1995) has fashioned an atmospheric, horrific and sometimes gory (decapitations, a electric knife through the face, head explosions) film that transcends horror movie cliches. It plays more like a mystery, letting the clues unravel slowly while the viewer is seduced by the dream-like images and thoughtful screenplay (by Leon De Winter and an uncredited Van Den Berg). If you are willing to buy the premise and ignore some of the inappropriate dubbing of some of the actors, you will probably really enjoy this cult classic just waiting to be discovered. This Swedish production is an unusual film, not at all like most of the crap that is produced in the States that try to pass themselves off as horror (see the Robert Downey-starrer IN DREAMS  for a cringe-inducing experience). THE JOHNSONS is available in letterbox format from Anchor Bay Entertainment on VHS and DVD. Its a great-looking print, but I would like to see a subtitled version also released. Not Rated.
JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980) - In my opinion, this is the best "terror in the woods" film that was originated in DELIVERANCE (1972), which spawned-off excellent films such as RITUALS (1977) and HUNTER'S BLOOD (1987) and some mediocre ones like THE FINAL TERROR (1981) and GOD'S BLOODY ACRE (1975). There are too many bad ones to mention, such as DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (1981). The genre is still going strong today with the WRONG TURN franchise (2003 - 2014). But, for my money, nothing can beat JUST BEFORE DAWN, because it mixes in bloody carnage, a musical score that sends chills up your spine (by Brad Fiedel; the whistling theme, to me, is more iconic than FRIDAY THE 13TH's) and likable characters into one satisfying stew. The film opens up with hunters Vachel (Charles Bartlett) and his Uncle Ty (Mike Kellin; SLEEPAWAY CAMP - 1983) stopping at an abandoned church in the middle of the Oregon forest (filmed on location), with a buck tied to the hood of their pickup truck. It's obvious Ty is drunk, but he spots someone looking at them through a hole in the church's roof. He goes outside to investigate, only to have their truck roll downhill into a tree and explode. Vachel is inside the church, when suddenly a fat inbred hillbilly appears before him and runs a machete through his groin until the blade protrudes out the back of his tailbone (man that looks painful!). Ty sees the fat hillbilly put on Vachel's orange vest and hat and runs through the forest to get away. We then switch to five people traveling in an RV through the Oregon woods: Warren (Gregg Henry; GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY - 2014), his girlfriend Connie (Deborah Benson - MUTANT ON THE BOUNTY - 1989), brothers Jonathan (Chris Lemmon, son of Jack Lemmon; WISHMASTER - 1997) and Daniel (Ralph Seymour; KILLER PARTY - 1986), and Jonathan's girlfriend Megan (Jamie Rose; PLAYROOM - 1989). Warren has inherited some property in the Oregon woods and they are going there to check it out and do some rock climbing while they are at it (Blondie's "Heart Of Glass" is playing on the radio while they are talking, even mentioning why all the people they have seen look alike and making incest jokes). They hit a deer (but it looks to the audience like it is only the severed head of a deer) and stop the RV. Warren gets out but cannot spot the deer, so he lies to Connie and tells her that he saw the deer run away. They then stop at the outpost of Forest Ranger Roy Mclean (George Kennedy; DEATH SHIP - 1980) and when Warren tells them where they are going, Roy says, "Only a fool would do that!", to which Warren replies, "Well, we have five of them here." When Roy wants to know their exact location so he can alert authorities to where they can find their dead bodies, Warren lies to him and says they are going to Silver Lake. The five friends proceed on with their trip, when Daniel suddenly thinks he sees someone. They stop the RV and meet Ty, who tells them that "demons" are after him. They can smell the booze on his breath and write him off as a local drunk and refuse to let him travel with them (Jonathan throws some sandwiches out the window in case he is hungry!) and continue on with their trip, but the fat inbred hillbilly jumps on the roof of their RV and takes the ride with them (Ty notices this and begins to laugh, knowing that he is now safe from the demons). The group travel as far as the RV can take them and travel the rest of the way by foot, with the fat hillbilly following them. They set up camp, but Warren and Jonathan have to go back to the RV when they forget to bring the food with them. As nightime approaches, Connie, Megan and Daniel become worried about the other two not being back yet and they are sure someone is watching them, but Warren and Jonathan come jumping from out of the dark and scare the shit out of the trio (and tell them that someone broke into the RV and stole all the food). The next morning, they hear a girl singing by a pond and approach her, but she runs away. They then cross a dangerous rope bridge (which Daniel nearly fall off of) that stretches across a waterfall and, once they get to the other side, they go down to the base of the waterfall, where Megan takes a topless swim with Jonathan. She thinks that Jonathan is fooling around with her underwater, but when she sees Jonathan at the bank of the pond, she screams in fear because it is obvious that the fat hillbilly is copping a feel. She gets away, but Jonathan doesn't believe what she is saying. While they are all getting drunk at night and dancing while their radio blares loudly, they are visited by a hillbilly family, led by Pa Logan (Hap Oslund), who shoots the radio and tells them all to leave because they have "raised the Devil". Ty makes it to Forest Ranger Joe's outpost and tells them about the "demons" jumping on the RV, so Joe jumps on his trusty horse Agatha and goes out to save them. The singing girl, whose name is Merry Cat Logan (Kati Powell), the daughter of Pa Logan, comes on to Jonathan and tells him she liked watching him swim in his underwear the day before. She kisses Jonathan and runs awy to the rope bridge and hides. Jonathan crosses the rope bridge, only to have the fat hillbilly meet him at the end, cut Jonathan's hand with the machete and then cut the rope to the bridge, making Jonathan fall into the river, but he manages to hold on to the rope so that he doesn't go over the waterfall. He climbs the rope on the opposite side, only to meet the fat hillbilly at the top (How is this possible?), who kicks Jonathan in the face and he falls into the river below. Daniel and Megan find the abandoned church and leave it because it has an awful smell. Daniel takes photos of Megan in the graveyard, but loses his glasses (he need them to see) and they both think they see Jonathan, so they fake making out to get Jonathan jealous, only to discover too late that it is the fat hillbilly, who stabs Daniel in the stomach with the machete and chases Megan into the church. It is at this time when we find out how the fat hillbilly can be at two places at once. They are twins! One kills Megan in the church (he is wearing Daniel's glasses) while the other one takes photos of the killing with Daniel's camera. While Connie and Warren are wading at the bottom of the waterfall, Jonathan's dead body falls at their feet and they now know they are both in trouble. As nighttime approaches and Daniel and Megan don't return to camp (they run into the Logan family again and Pa tells them to get out of here), Daniel has to go back to where they left Jonathan's dead body to get the RV keys out of his pocket. Roy makes it to the Logan family house and asks Pa if he or his family have seen the five campers. Pa lies and says no, but Merry Cat stops Joe and tells him she will take them to their camp. It is at this time we find out that the murderous twins are Merry Cat's brothers. One of the twins chases Connie up a tree and starts to chop it down with his machete, while Warren runs into Joe and they head to the campsite. The murderous brother chops down the tree and Connie falls down with it. Just as he is about to kill Connie with his machete, Joe kills him with a few well placed shots from his rifle (Joe says, "You breed in the family for so long and something is about to snap."). Not knowing that the dead brother has a twin, Joe leaves Warren and Connie after telling them to get to the RV and drive away while he goes and gets some help to retrieve the dead bodies. When he is gone, the other brother seriously wounds Warren in the side with his machete and then puts Connie in a bearhug. Connie has had enough and, in the film's most memorable scene, she sticks her fist in the brother's mouth and shoves it in up to her elbow (!), killing the inbred twin brother. Warren and Connie get away after Merry Cat watches what Connie has done. Beautifully directed by genre vet Jeff Lieberman (SQUIRM - 1976; BLUE SUNSHINE - 1977; REMOTE CONTROL - 1987 and SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER - 2004) and wonderfully acted by a talented cast (some just beginning their careers [this was the first theatrical film for Jamie Rose], some in the middle [George Kennedy, who is still alive at the time of this writing], and some nearing their end [Mike Kellin would pass away in 1983]), this film hits all the right notes in making a scary little horror film. While there are some bloody spots, the film doesn't wallow in gore (makeup effects by Matthew Mungle) and the screenplay, by Lieberman (as "Gregg Irving") and Mark Arywitz (his only one), based on a story by Joseph Middleton (who is actually adult film director/screenwriter Jonas Middleton; THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS - 1976), offers us enough clues (in both the dialogue and situations) to reveal that the inbred fat hillbilly is actually twins (watch it for a second time and see and hear for yourself). If you want to see how an 80's horror film is done right, mixing in the right amount of human drama, scares and gore, you could do a lot worse than this one. Also starring John Hunsaker as the twins and Barbara Spencer as Ma Logan. George Kennedy and Gregg Henry previously appeared together in the prison drama MEAN DOG BLUES (1978), which was Henry's film debut. Originally released uncut on fullscreen VHS by Paragon Video. The original widescreen double DVD release by Shriek Show was a cut version and the missing bloody scenes were offered as extras on the second disc. Both the DVD & Blu-Ray offered by Code Red have the uncut 91-minute R-Rated cut and an uncut 102-minute extended cut meant for overseas distribution, but stick with the R-Rated cut because the extended version looks like it was taken from a well-worn 35mm print that was run through the projector one too many times. Besides, the extra 11 minutes is nothing but exposition (and edits some scenes differently) and offers no new blood or gore and the R-Rated version looks absolutely stunning in high definition anamorphic widescreen. Rated R.
KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN (1973) - I have always been a big fan of the late Texas-based director S.F. Brownrigg, the man responsible for such drive-in classics as DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973), POOR WHITE TRASH PART II (a.k.a. SCUM OF THE EARTH - 1974) and DON'T OPEN THE DOOR! (1975). He infused his low budget films with such unusual looking performers that you wonder if they act that way in real life. Brownrigg's paltrey budgets actually enhanced his films, giving them a grainy, seedy feel which makes your skin crawl. In my opinion, he was the master maker of southern trash films during the 70's. KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN is another one of his films which begs to be rediscovered. It's a psychological horror tale about a series of brutal sword murders that take place at an isolated farmhouse owned by Leslie Fontaine (Camilla Carr). She blames the murders on her long-lost husband Kevin, but it becomes apparent to the viewer that Leslie is two cards short of a deck. We find out later that Leslie is dressing up as her husband (who may also be her brother!) due to a traumatic experience she had long ago on her 16th birthday. She dispatches her unwanted visitors and hides them in an old car in the barn. When her psychiatrist (Gene Ross) threatens to commit her, Leslie chews on a combination of pills and broken glass and dies. In the finale, we see Kevin (Chelsea Ross) walking out of the house with a shovel in his hands muttering, "The least you could have done was bury them for me!". While low on gore and nudity, this film has enough creepiness and inventive visuals to keep you glued to the tube. What Brownrigg lacked in finances, he more than made up for in placing his camera in unusual locations. (i.e. When Leslie imagines Kevin making love to her, the camera is Kevin's p.o.v.) Camilla Carr is excellent as Leslie and has appeared in most of Brownrigg's films as well as LOGAN'S RUN (1976). The biggest surprise here is an early appearance of balding actor Stephen Tobolowsky (seen here with a healthy head of hair), who has also appeared as Bridget Fonda's lecherous boss in SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (1990). KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN is also available on video as THE HOUSE WHERE HELL FROZE OVER. It's a good rental prospect under either title, if just to see what talent can do with no money. A Unicorn Video VHS Release. Also available on a double feature DVD (with BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT - 1970) from Alpha Home Entertainment. Rated R.
KILLER CROCODILE (1989) - Italian horror film about a pissed-off giant crocodile. A group of ecology warriors, headed by Kevin (Anthony Crenna; ONE OF THEM - 2003) and Jennifer (Ann Douglas), charter a boat and head down river on some unnamed tropical island to check out reports of illegal dumping polluting the waters. When they find rusting barrels of radioactive waste leaking into the river, they beat a hasty retreat to the nearest village, unaware that a radiation-mutated crocodile is on their trail (We have already witnessed the croc munching on two fishermen and a female swimmer earlier in the film). The only law in the village is an elderly white man called the Judge (Van Johnson; SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS - 1982) and he doesn't seem too pleased to hear the news about the radioactive waste. He threatens to arrest them all if they don't leave the village immediately. It's no surprise to find out that the Judge is being blackmailed by Jim Foley (Wohrman Williams), the head of a chemical company doing the illegal dumping, who has some information on the Judge's true identity and threatens to expose him if he doesn't play ball. Kevin, Jennifer and the team head back to the dumpsite to collect more evidence and discover a half-eaten corpse of a local girl, which they bring back to the village for an autopsy. The croc pays a brazen visit to the village and nearly eats a young girl playing on a dock, but is saved by Kevin and crocodile hunter Joe (Thomas Moore; LIGHT BLAST - 1985). Kevin and the team set out to capture the croc alive, but Joe goes out on his own to kill it. Kevin decides to follow Joe, so he and his team jump in their boat and stay a safe distance behind Joe, only to have their boat break down in the middle of the jungle. They are forced to camp out on the banks of the river and the super-intelligent croc separates the men from the women, dragging Kevin and the male members into the middle of the river, sinking their boat and chowing-down on team member Bob (John Harper). Joe shows up and saves their lives, bringing the rest of the team to the safety of his home in the middle of nowhere. Kevin quickly changes his tune about capturing the croc alive and joins forces with Joe, but they also have to deal with Foley and the Judge, who have placed explosives at the dumpsite to get rid of the evidence. Again, the croc proves to be smarter, as it makes a meal out of Foley and the Judge and then turns it's attention to Kevin, who is armed only with an outboard engine. The croc is force-fed the spinning propeller of the outboard and then has it's head blown off when the engine explodes. Don't worry, folks. A sequel followed the next year continuing the exploits of Kevin and Joe and their battle with yet another giant croc. Some guys have all the fun. While not a bad film when taken in context, KILLER CROCODILE suffers the same curse most Italian horror films of this vintage do: Namely, a severe lack of logic. Although capably directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (DEADLY IMPACT - 1984; OPERATION NAM - 1986; KARATE WARRIOR - 1987), who uses his usual "Larry Ludman" pseudonym here, the screenplay, by De Angelis and genre vet Dardano Sacchetti (using the name "David Parker Jr."; THE RAT MAN - 1987; RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY - 1988), contains so many plot holes and lapses in common sense, you'll wish the crocodile eats the entire idiotic cast. Thankfully, it does eat a good portion of them and the full-size mock-up of the croc, created by Italian special effects master Giannetto De Rossi (who would direct the sequel, KILLER CROCODILE II ) is a thing of beauty and is the best aspect of this film. The gore is sparse, but effective, and includes torn-apart corpses, limbs ripped-off and other crocodile carnage. One has to wonder why an old-time movie star like Van Johnson (who passed away in late 2008) would agree to appear in this, but he does give it his all, including falling into the dirty river water and becoming croc bait. All in all, it's not a bad little time-waster, as long as you don't mind stupid people doing idiotic things and some hilarious dubbed dialogue (Joe calls the croc an "overgrown pollywog" and Kevin asks, "Pollywog?" to which Joe replies, "Crocodiles are very sensitive. They really get mad when you insult them!"). Also starring Sherrie Rose (CY WARRIOR: SPECIAL COMBAT UNIT - 1989), Julian Hampton and Gray Jordan. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., this review is based on the widescreen English language DVD from German label X-Rated. Not Rated.
KILLER'S MOON (1978) - It's time to dust off and revisit that old chestnut plot device of psychos escaping from confinement and terrorizing innocent people (i.e. DELINQUENT SCHOOLGIRLS - 1974; ALONE IN THE DARK - 1982). This British film finds four psychopathic criminals escaping from a psychiatric hospital where they were under experimental "dream therapy", or as their psychiatrist explains to a concerned Government Minister, these criminals are now walking around freely believing they are in a dream (The Minister tells the psychiatrist, "My God! In my dreams, I murder freely, pillage, loot and rape!", to which the surprised psychiatrist responds, "You do?"). The escaped loonies come straight out of Central Casting: A mass murderer; a rapist; a homosexual; and a religious fanatic who believes everyone is in league with the Devil and must be "obliterated". As the four crazies roam the rural countryside (one of them cuts off the leg off some poor doberman pincher), a busload of young schoolgirls on their way to a music competition are stranded in the same area when their bus breaks down and they are forced to take refuge in a secluded hotel that is closed for repairs. The killings start when the bus driver has an axe planted in his neck as he walks through the woods after escorting the girls and their two dowager chaperones to the hotel. After cutting the phone lines, the four psychos begin killing the occupants of the hotel (one of them also cuts the tail off some poor cat), while visiting campers Pete (Anthony Forrest) and Mike (Tom Marshall), along with local girl Julie (Jayne Hayden) and schoolgirl Agatha (Georgina Kean) try to get help. Thinking that all this is a shared dream, the psychos begin raping the schoolgirls, killing the chaperones and terrorizing the other schoolgirls who have locked themselves in their rooms. The psychos threaten to kill classmate Mary (Jo-Anne Good) if the other girls don't unlock their doors and come out. The girls relent and then are forced to, God forbid, cook for them. After having a close call with one of the loonies, Pete is able to smuggle two girls out of the hotel, but one of them is choked to death while trying to get away. The finale finds the remaining schoolgirls (and the three-legged dog) turning on their attackers. It also seems that the psychos didn't pick this hotel at random, as one of them has a connection to it and the secret is located in a room in the basement. This is strictly by-the-numbers horror film stuff, directed/scripted/co-produced without much imagination by Alan Birkinshaw (INVADERS OF THE LOST GOLD - 1981; MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH - 1989). I'm sure Birkinshaw's idea was to make this film a black comedy, but the broad overacting by the quartet of actors playing the psychos (David Jackson, Nigel Gregory, Paul Rattee and Peter Spraggen) just make the whole film seem rather silly and not very funny or frightening. While I will admit that the idea of the psychos believing that they are in a dream sounded intriguing, Birkinshaw's script fails to deliver on the premise more often than not. The closest it comes to hitting the mark is when one of the inmates stops another from killing one of the schoolgirls by remarking, "What if it's one of the nurses and we're still in the hospital?", or another one questioning whether he should have chosen Britain's National Health Care by saying, "I should have gone private!" Most of the time, though, they just say innoculous crap like, "I'm confused. Am I in your dream or are you in mine?". Birkinshaw does throw in a lot of nudity by the young cast (although it is rather obvious they are too old to be schoolgirls), some pretty decent gore (a throat slashing, an axe murder, a sickle attack) and I liked the scene of the three-legged dog (played by a real three-legged dog) getting even on it's attacker by ripping out his throat, but nearly 80% of the film is a languidly-paced talky horror flick with not much to recommend. I can only surmise that Birkinshaw was trying to make a horror film in the vein of director Pete Walker (FRIGHTMARE - 1974; THE COMEBACK - 1977), but only Pete Walker can pull off that blend of biting wit and extreme horror. KILLER'S MOON isn't a total failure, it just could have been a whole lot better. Also starring Alison Elliott, Lisa Vanderpump, Debbie Martyn, Christina Jones, Jean Reeve, Elizabeth Counsell, Hilda Braid and Chubby Cates as the unfortunate bus driver. A CIC Video (VHS) Release. Also available on widescreen DVD from Redemption Films. Not Rated.
THE KILLER SNAKES (1974) - This sick and sadistic Hong Kong horror film is certainly an eye-opener, if only for the way it depicts sex as acts of violence. The story is about Zhihong (Kan Kuo Liang, aka "Kurt Lang"), a sexual deviant-in-the-making, whose only real friends are snakes and lizards. Ever since he was a young boy, Zhihong has associated sex with pain, thanks to his whore mother, who could only reach orgasm if she was whipped or beaten. Now a grown man, Zhihong is a loner who gets picked on by nearly everyone he meets and he masturbates to bondage photos he has taped to walls of the shack he lives in. He gets a job as a delivery boy at a restaurant and one day an injured cobra appears in his room. The snake's gall bladder has been removed (the liquid in the bladders are considered a sexual delicacy), so Zhihong stitches him up and nurses him back to health. They become friends, Zhihong names him "Xiaobiao" (I'm sure that has some significance in Chinese) and, pretty soon, more injured snakes and lizards visit Zhihong to be healed. It's not long before Zhihong has an army of reptiles at his disposal, willing to do anything he commands. Zhihong is repeatedly attacked and humiliated by street thugs and prostitutes (One street gang strips him naked and steals all his money he had hidden in his sneaker) and he is getting sick and tired of it, so he decides to use the snakes as tools of revenge. When he visits a whorehouse, a hooker and some street toughs follow him out of the whorehouse and try to steal his money, but Xiaobiao is hidden in his pocket. The cobra bites and kills all the guys and Zhihong brings the unconscious hooker back to his shack, ties her up, has bondage sex with her and then (in a scene sure to make even the most jaded viewer squirm) lets a snake crawl up her vagina while other snakes sink their fangs into her naked body, with Zhihong screaming, "Bite her!" over and over. The next to suffer the wrath of the snakes is Zhihong's bullying boss, who is always docking his pay for inconsequential things. Zhihong then brings a masochistic prostitute back to his shack, ties her up (a recurring theme), beats her and then lets some giant lizards make a meal out of her. After seeing his only human friend turn into a prostitute and a drug addict, Zhihong does the only thing his twisted mind will allow him to do. After one more bit of bloody revenge, Zhihong decides that all his slithery friends are better off dead, so he puts them in cardboard boxes, douses them in gasoline and sets them aflame. Bad move. He should have realized that snakes are resiliant creatures and don't like to be double-crossed. They pay Zhihong a final visit and the last time we see him, he's covered from head-to-toe in live snake and lizardwear. Insert screams here. This sexually-charged WILLARD (1971) rip-off (a Shaw Brothers Production) is truly an endurance test for those who are squeamish about snakes or real-life animal slaughter (the film opens up with real footage of gall bladders being removed from snakes). That's not the most gruesome detail about this film, though. Director Kuei Chi Hung (THE BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS - 1973; THE IRON DRAGON STRIKES BACK - 1979; THE BOXER'S OMEN - 1983) and screenwriter I. Kuang depict sex as a dirty, unnatural and painful act, especially through the eyes and imagination of the emotionally-scarred Zhihong. Although there is plenty of nudity and sex shown (much more than most Hong Kong features at the time), nearly every time it is depicted, someone is getting humiliated, hurt or killed. There are very few likable characters here; even the much put-upon Zhihong is shown to be a sexual deviant who can't ejaculate without fantasizing about women being tied-up or beaten. When he visits the whorehouse, his entire time of having sex with the hooker is about thirty seconds shy of a minute. He spends much more time with her once she is bound-up with rope in his shack. The closest thing to a sympathetic character here is the female Xiujuan, who actually feels sorry for Zhihong. He blows it with her when she catches him masturbating to bondage photos in a magazine. After he is caught, the only thing he can do is commit violence, so he destroys her cart where she sold toys on the street. When her father dies, she is forced to become a hooker and, eventually, a drug addict to pay her family's bills. She ends up getting anally raped by a man in a hotel room and when Zhihong sees her naked and passed out on the bed (he's a peeping tom, too), he breaks a window, enters her room and has Xiaobiao bite her because she's "better off dead than being a prostitute". A pretty grim take on life brought on, no doubt, by his upbringing. It's apparent that during the many snake attack scenes (the best being the attack on Xiujuan's rapist, where many real snakes are cut in half with a sword) that people were actually bitten, making this both a physically and psychologically graphic experience. This is grim stuff, so forget about a feel-good experience here. When THE KILLER SNAKES was released to theaters in the United States, it was slapped with an X rating. For those of you that have only seen this on the scratchy, English-dubbed widescreen print from Something Weird Video, I would advise that you purchase the pristine English-subtitled widescreen DVD from Celestial Pictures/Image Entertainment. It's worth the purchase. Also starring Li Lin Lin, Chen Chun, Lin Feng, Ko Ti Hua and Liu Hui Yu. A Celestial Pictures/Image Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
KILLING SPREE (1987) - Ultra-cheap Florida-lensed horror film about a delusional man (the hilariously-monikered Asbestos Felt) who believes his wife (Courtney Lercara) is having an affair with every man in town after reading what he thinks is her diary but is actually a rough draft of fictional stories she is selling to a romance magazine. The film is merely an excuse to showcase various gore effects as hubby disposes of wifey's supposed suitors in bloody ways. His best friend (Raymond Carbone) is beaten to death with his girlfriend's severed head. A TV repairman has his guts ripped out with a chainsaw and is then electrocuted by having his intestines attached to live wires. A deliveryman has a screwdriver thrusted in his cranium and is burned in a metal drum. The gardener is buried in the ground and has his fingers cut off with a lawnmower. An electrician has the top of his head lopped off by a ceiling fan fitted with machetes. In the film's coup-de-grace, Asbestos removes a nosey neighbor's lower jaw by planting a claw hammer under her chin. Things get downright surreal when all of the victims return from the dead and demand that Asbestos kill his wife (they determine that if she hadn't written those stories they would still be alive!). Asbestos instead decides to slit his own throat with a hacksaw. Director Tim Ritter, who also wrote and directed (as "Yale Wilson") the similarly-themed TRUTH OR DARE?: A CRITICAL MADNESS (1986), directed it's sequel WICKED GAMES (1994) and the rest of the TRUTH OR DARE franchise, as well as DAY OF THE REAPER (1984; Ritter's first full-length feature film), TWISTED ILLUSIONS (1985; co-directed with Joel D. Wynkoop), CREEP (1995) and many others, tries hard to do something different here but budgetary restrictions severely limit any appeal it might of had when it was written on paper. The acting is semi-pro but not spectacular and the effects are only so-so (although the lower jaw gag is a hoot). The only unintentional appeal to be found in this film is spotting how many ways Asbestos can contort his bushy beard and moustache. I wanted to grab the pruning shears and give him a trim. Available on budget VHS & DVD from Eden Entertainment (long OOP). Also available on DVD from Camp Motion Pictures and on a limited edition VHS, DVD & Blu-Ray from Sub Rosa Video. Not Rated.
KNOCKING ON DEATH'S DOOR (1998) - A newlywed couple, Brad (Brian Bloom), a parapsychologist, and Danielle (Kimberly Rowe), a medium, are sent to check out a haunted house by their devious boss, Professor Ballard (musician John Doe). As soon as they move in, Brad is knocked unconscious by a flying lamp while a fireplace poker sails through the air, the room turns cold and candles blow out by themselves. The next day, they set up their scientific instruments and for a month they experience no paranormal activity. When they go for a night out on the town, things go badly. A guy in a bar hits on Danielle and the extremely jealous Brad (who doesn't trust his new wife since he caught her having an affair with Professor Ballard shortly before they were married) decks the guy with a beer bottle to the head. When they get home and argue, Danielle passes out and later goes to town sawbones Doc Hadley (David Carradine), who shows an unusual interest into why she and her husband have moved into the "Sunset Place". Doc Hadley also informs Danielle that she is pregnant. Danielle tries to contact the spirit that is haunting the house and it reveals itself to be "Samuel" (it writes it's name in chalk on the basement floor). Danielle thinks that two spirits are haunting the house and one of them is very unfriendly (it tries to kill Bard by dropping a grandfather clock on him, just as he's about to get busy with his wife). Both Brad and Danielle come to the conclusion that one spirit seems to reveal itself when sex or anger is involved and Brad seems to be the one that gets hurt when he argues or tries to have sex with Danielle. Brad thinks that Samuel wants Danielle for himself. The problem is that there are two Samuels haunting this house: Samuel Sr. (Michael McCabe), who died in a car fire, and his son, Samuel Jr. (Brian Glanney), whose death is a mystery. Danielle must unlock the mystery and lay Samuel Jr. to rest by finding out where his murderer buried him. When Doc Hadley reveals his true identity (he was the illicit lover of Samuel Jr.'s mother, who was responsible for both Samuel Sr. & Jr.'s deaths), he tries killing Danielle, but Samuel Jr. comes to both Brad and Danielle's aide and kills Doc Hadley in a fiery car crash. Add one part THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973), mix in some themes from THE DEAD ZONE (1984), sprinkle in a murder mystery and toss in some sex scenes and what you get is a pretty ordinary, if somewhat atmospheric, haunted house thriller with a few creepy scenes. Director Mitch Marcus, who also made another haunted house film the next year (THE HAUNTING OF HELL HOUSE) using the same sets and locations (filmed in Ireland), gives us a couple of goosebump-inducing scenes (Danielle playing "London Bridge Is Falling Down" on the piano and discovering the ghost of Samuel Jr. is sitting beside her when she looks in the mirror; The seance where Samuel Sr. comes out of the wall in a flash of bright light and hovers near Danielle's face)), but much of the film seems like filler and there's some unnecessarily sloppy plot holes (script by Craig J. Nevius) that deters the viewer from truly enjoying this (The major one being why Brad would work for such an asshole lech like Professor Ballard, when it's plain to see he still has the hots for his wife). While this is not a violent or bloody film (there's an axe murder in the beginning prologue, but nothing too graphic afterward), it does have it's share of chills (thanks mainly to Brian Glanney's creepy sudden appearances as Samuel Jr.) and some welcome nudity from Kimberly Rowe (some of it looks to have been done by a body double). Too bad there's not enough meat in the plot to sustain it. That, and Brian Bloom tries way too hard playing the jealous husband. Half the time I thought he was possessed by a spirit, when he actually wasn't. Made for Executive Producer Roger Corman's New Concorde Productions, but it's not as cheap looking as most of Corman's productions at the time, thanks to the on-location photography. Also starring Brendan Costello, Stella Freehilly, Stuart Dunne, Freda Hand, Caroline Rothwell and a cameo by William Hickey (his last film). A New Horizons Home Video Release. Rated R.
KNOCK KNOCK (2006) - "Knock, knock." "Who's there?" "Pound through the door." "Pound through the door who?" "Pound through the door and rip your head off, you Catholic bastard!" There, I've just given you the basic plot of this very uneven, but gory, slasher film. Someone is killing members of the Glass County High football team, including members of the cheerleading squad. The first one to die is Jerome Peters (Damion Lee). There is a knock at his mother's door and when she opens it, she finds Jerome dead, pinned to the door like Christ on the cross, with icepicks sticking through his mouth arms and chest (I'm detecting some Catholic guilt going on here). Detective Billie Vega (Kim Taggart) is assigned to the case and has a run-in with Mike (Antonio Mastrantonio), an ex-cop who has returned to town to try and reconnect with his granddaughter, Nikki Reynolds (Joli Julianna), who just happens to be a member of the cheerleading squad. Nikki would rather her grandfather just disappear from her life again, but something tells me that she will soon welcome his presence. Nikki keeps seeing this huge guy with a burned face following her, but her friends think she is just seeing things of it's her grandpa keeping tabs on her. Detective Vega and Sheriff Cutter (Anthony Palladino) go to the house of Mrs. Olen (Susan Lehman) and her mentally handicapped son, Troy (Sal Sirchia), one of the school's janitors, to ask him some questions because members of the cheerleading squad don't like the way he looks at them (Hell, you don't have to be retarded to stare at pretty girls in tight uniforms, do you?). All Troy says over-and-over is, "Please don't let them take me away!", so Vega and Cutter leave. They should have stayed long enough to discover that Troy keeps a bunch of Barbie dolls dressed in cheerleader uniforms in a metal box and one of them has a photo of Nikki's face glued on it! The next to die is Julie (Katherine Castaneda), who is crucified at her father's auto garage (The killer pounds a screwdriver through her temple, positions her body on the car lift and then burns her stomach in graphic detail with a acetylene torch), so it's the first thing her father sees when he looks through the garage door (More religious imagery). The town issues a curfew for the teens, but the killer manages to do some killings during the day, murdering football player Shawn (Jeremy Drew) by impaling him through the chest with a mop handle at the high school locker room. The killer then cuts off one of Shawn's legs with a hacksaw, disembowels him with his bare hands and leaves his body in his father's locker (Shawn's dad is also a school janitor), with the words "Knock Knock" written in Shawn's blood on the locker door. When Dad opens the door, he finds Shawn's body has been sawed into little pieces. It becomes apparent to the viewer that all these killings were meant to punish the parents, but who caused these killings and what is the reason? Troy is immediately arrested, but that is way too easy, isn't it? Mike delves deeper ionto the killings and discovers that it may have something to do with the town's deranged former undertaker and his kids, Rico (Lou Savarese) and Rachel (Stephanie Finochio). In case you haven't guessed, all the dead kids' parents were members of the 1990 Glass County High football team and some of them locked Rico in one of his father's caskets as a practical joke, accidentally setting the place on fire and permanently disfiguring Rico, who was sent to an insane asylum. Well, he's out and when Mike learns that his son was also a member of that football team (Wait. Why didn't he know that?), he races to save Nikki before it is too late. Director/producer/screenwriter Joseph Ariola (COALITION - 2004) sure ladles on the gore thick and heavy (it's all very well done by effects artist Tate Steinsiek) and tries to keep the mystery fresh as the film progresses, but the sad fact is that there are so many untalented Italian-American actors on view, you'll think you're at the Jersey Shore during the middle of July. It's like watching an episode of THE SOPRANOS performed by the staff and students of Fuhgettaboutit High. In between plenty of "deese" and "doose" though, there are a lot of grisly deaths, all pushing the boundaries of good taste. There is so much unrated neck slashings, disembowelments, stabbings, dismemberment, beheadings and bone snappings, you'll think you're back in the 80's heyday of gore. Director Ariola (I bet he got teased a lot in school) also tosses in some prime female nudity, including a rather painful death in a shower. If it's gore you are after, you can't do much better than KNOCK KNOCK (you really do get your money's worth), but, mamma mia, couldn't Ariola have given some of his non-Italian friends a chance to speak? (It also doesn't help that the town's two Black students suffer the bloodiest deaths). Also starring John Cipriano Jr., Chris Bashinelli, Ernest Mingione, Nicole Abisinio, Ben Fiore, Katherine Casteneda and Erika J. (Who also sings the closing tune. I'm willing to be a bundle of money her name also ends in a vowel!). A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.
LADY FRANKENSTEIN (1971) - The good Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten; BARON BLOOD - 1972; SCREAMERS - 1980) is up to his old tricks again. He's paying grave robber Lynch (Herbert Fux; MARK OF THE DEVIL - 1969) to supply him with a steady stream of corpses so he can create the first man-made man. When the Baron's daughter, Tania (Rosalba Neri, here using the name "Sara Bay"), returns from medical school a full-fledged surgeon, she confronts her father about his experiments. It seems she has known about her father's secret experiments with human body parts ever since she was a child, but instead of being mad at him, she wants to join him in creating the perfect human being (it seems she went to medical school just so she could gain her father's approval). The Baron needs the corpse of someone dead less than six hours, so Lynch steals the body of a man that was just hanged (Both the Baron and Tania watch the hanging and it is clear that she was sexually turned-on in watching it). As the Baron is performing his latest body part transplants, Tania suddenly appears and likes what she sees (again, she gets sexually excited viewing the monster's body, even running her fingers across the creature's open incisions!). As a large lightning storm approaches, the Baron sees this as the perfect opportunity to transplant a heart and brain into the creature's body and bring it to life. The Baron's assistant, Charles (Paul Muller), notices the brain is damaged, but with the lightning storm rapidly approaching and no other brain available, The Baron decides to use the brain and finish the reanimation. You just know this isn't going to end well. When the creature is struck by lightning, it catches on fire, horribly scarring it's face. The creature does come to life, though, and while Charles rushes to get Tania to witness her father's triumph, the creature crushes the Baron to death in it's arms and escapes from the laboratory. Tania uses her womanly charms on Charles, having him report her father's death to Police Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay) as a murder by an intruder. Captain Harris has a hard time believing Charles' story, as the creature begins laying a path of death and destruction on his way into town (he kills a nude girl making love to her boyfriend in a field and snaps the necks of some locals who try to intervene). The villagers take up arms when tales of the monster begin to circulate, while Tania and Charles create another creature to be used as an "executioner" to the first creature. They decide to use the body of retarded, hulking handyman Thomas (Marino Mase) and Charles' brain (!) to create the new creature (Tania marries Charles and then has sex with him, using her body as a means to get Charles to give up his brain). Things go south when Thomas' sister comes looking for him, Captain Harris discovers the truth and the first creature returns to the castle to do battle with the Thomas/Charles creature (which Tania uses as a sex toy!). As the creatures battle each other (and, once again, Tania watches completely turned-on), the castle catches fire when torch-bearing villagers (are there any other kind?) break in and destroy the place. As the castle burns around them, Tania and the Thomas/Charles creature make love one final time, the creature strangling Tania with his bare hands while she reaches orgasm. Tania finally experiences the sex/death connection she so desperately wanted. Previously released in a severely-edited 83 minute print, I finally got to view a composite print which restores all the footage excised from most prints. While it is not a better film in this incarnation by any stretch of the imagination, it is a far sexier film as all the full-frontal nudity is reinstated. Even though it's nice to finally see all the missing nudity, this is still a clunky affair. Director Mel Welles (MANEATER OF HYDRA - 1966) has made an endlessly talky film that takes forever to get moving. While it's always great to see Rosalba Neri (AMUCK - 1971; FRENCH SEX MURDERS - 1972) naked, the sad fact is that this film lacks pacing, atmosphere and the creature's appearance elicits laughs rather than fright. The lack of any substantial gore (most of the creature's kills are simple neck-snappings) also hurts the film. Since this film fell into the public domain years ago, there have been many versions available on home video, mostly crappy EP-mode VHS tapes and low-bitrate budget DVDs. Even in unedited form, it's bound not to win any new fans because, let's face it, crap is crap no matter how much nudity is in it. Only for fans of Rosalba Neri and people with a lot of time on their hands. Also starring Renata Cash, Lawrence Tilden, Ada Pomeroy, Andrew Ray, Johnny Loffrey, Richard Beardley and Paul Whiteman as the Creature. LADY FRANKENSTEIN was released to theaters by Roger Corman's New World Pictures and then released on VHS by Embassy Home Video. The version I viewed was taken from a Dutch-subtitled VHS with inserts from an unknown source. Also available on DVD from Shout! Factory (also the restored version, but it looks horrible) as part of their Roger Corman's Cult Classics "Vampires, Mummies & Monsters" 2-Disc collection (which also includes THE VELVET VAMPIRE , TIME WALKER  and GROTESQUE ). Rated R.
LAID TO REST (2009) - A young, nameless girl (co-producer Bobbi Sue Luther) wakes up locked in a coffin in a funeral parlor. She breaks out of her mini-prison and dials 911 on the wall phone, but before the police can run a trace, she stupidly breaks the phone cord by stretching it out until it snaps (She deserves to die just for being such an idiot). Mr. Jones (a cameo by Richard Lynch; CUT AND RUN - 1985), the funeral parlor director, offers to help the girl, but he is killed by someone wearing a chrome skull mask. The girl, who has no memory of who she is or how she got into this predicament, escapes from the funeral parlor and is picked up on the side of the road by Tucker (Kevin Gage; STRANGELAND - 1998), a burly man who walks with a cane. After quizzing the girl, he brings her to his home, where his wife Cindy (Lena Headey; THE CAVE - 2005) discovers a nasty cut on the girl's head (which probably caused her amnesia). The girl spends the night with Tucker and Cindy, while Chrome Skull (Nick Principe) injects something directly into his eye (no explanation is ever given why he does this) and watches homemade torture videos on a handheld device. Chrome Skull kills Cindy (a nasty scene where he rams his specially-made knife into Cindy's skull and twists the blade) and records her death (he has a video camera attached to his shoulder) in front of Tucker and the girl, who he has nicknamed "Princess". Tucker and Princess escape into the night in Tucker's truck, but they fail to notice Cindy's brother, Johnny (a cameo by Johnathon Schaech; PROM NIGHT - 2008) and his girlfriend Jamie (Jana Kramer) pulling-up to the house. Johnny thinks Tucker is cheating on his sister (he saw him pick up Princess from the side of the road earlier) and has come to confront Tucker. Johnny will confront Chrome Skull instead, who cuts-off Johnny's face with his knife (you have to see it to believe it) and slices Jamie in the stomach until her intestines fall out. Tucker and Princess drive to the nearest home in search of a phone and end up at the residence of Steven (Sean Whalen; PYTHON - 2000), who doesn't have a phone, but he sends an email to the police station from his computer. While Princess is cleaning-up in the bathroom, Steven and Tucker do a search on the internet on the killer and find information on both Chrome Skull and Princess (which the audience is not yet let in on). The trio drives to the police station, only to find all the cops dead and Chrome Skull waiting for them. They manage to escape and end up back at the Jones Funeral Home, where Princess hopes to find the answers to her true identity. Princess ends up locked inside another coffin, but Tucker and Steven save her after shooting Chrome Skull and discovering a barn full of coffins containing the dismembered body parts of Chrome Skull's previous victims. They steal Chrome Skull's car and video camera, where Princess learns more about her true identity. She steals Chrome Skull's car and leaves Tucker and Steven behind, unaware that Chrome Skull is still very much alive and in control of the car. What happens next is best left for the audience to discover for themselves. Let's just say that Princess wasn't one of society's best citizens before she lost her memory. This horror tale, directed and written by Robert Hall (LIGHTNING BUG - 2004), is effective due to it's fractured narrative and dreamlike quality. Things, very graphic things, happen matter-of-factly throughout the film seemingly without rhyme or reason, but as the film progresses, it's clear that something important is about to happen to tie all the loose ends together. And then it doesn't. LAID TO REST leaves many questions unanswered (particularly about Chrome Skull and his motives), but it is not a film for the faint of heart, as the makeup effects, usually involving the damage Chrome Skull does with his huge, chrome-plated serrated knife (although there is a creative kill involving a can of Fix-A-Flat), are as grisly and graphic as you will ever see on film. Yet it is the film's hopeless tone, achieved through draining the color photography (the majority of it filmed in Maryland during the dead of night), ethereal acting (both Sean Whalen and Kevin Gage register here; one as a man who has just lost his mother and is scared to death of death and one as a semi-cripple who tries to make sense of everything that's happening around him, including the vicious killing of his loving wife) and a haunting music score that sets this film apart from most modern DTV horror. This film isn't perfect, as the story takes a few fatal missteps (especially in the final third), but it's still better than 99% of the crap that passes for horror nowadays. Also starring Thomas Dekker and Lucas Till. An Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD Release. Followed by a sequel, CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (2011). Not Rated.
THE LAST SHARK (1981) - This is the film Universal sued successfully to block it's release in the U.S. because it too closely followed the plot of JAWS (1975). I think it's closer to JAWS 2 (1978). I don't know what Universal was worried about. After watching ten minutes of this (also known as GREAT WHITE and THE LAST JAWS), you'll be digging through your DVD collection looking for your copy of JAWS. Writer Peter (James Franciscus) searches the ocean for his daughter's missing surfer friend and finds evidence that a great white shark killed him. Peter tries to warn the town about the shark, but the Mayor (Joshua Sinclair) ignores him since the big windsurfing regatta is about to go on. When the regatta is attacked and people end up dead, Peter teams with shark hunter Ron (Vic Morrow, who spouts the worst Scottish accent I have ever heard) to destroy the shark. The first attempt proves unsuccessful, but when Peter's daughter loses a leg to the shark (offscreen), he vows revenge. Somehow Peter ends up trapped on a raft, forced into a climatic battle with the Great White. There's also a subplot about a news crew who lure the shark to get the "story of the year". It doesn't end too well for them. Director Enzo G. Castellari (1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS - 1982; THE NEW BARBARIANS - 1983) offers nothing new to the genre. Everything that happens on the screen is routine and boring, especially the shark attacks. Nevermind that the shark model is laughable (it's no Bruce), the whole film is rather bloodless (except for the scenes where the Mayor gets bitten in half while hanging from a helicopter and a news cameraman also meets a similar fate), something I find unforgivable in an Italian rip-off. As a matter of fact, JAWS is much bloodier than this. If you're not going to up the gore quotient, why make the film in the first place? Believe me when I say that the American audiences didn't miss much when it was banned. Also starring Timothy Brent, Micky Pignatelli, Stefania Girolami and Max Vanders. Originally titled " L' Ultimo Squalo ". A Bijouflix DVD-R Release that was ported from a widescreen Japanese-subtitled laserdisc. Rated PG.
LEGACY OF HORROR (1979) - Sometimes late director Andy Milligan turned out interesting, if highly-flawed, films like BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (1970), TORTURE DUNGEON (1970); GURU THE MAD MONK (1970), THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE! (1972), and WEIRDO: THE BEGINNING (1988). Other times, he turned out insufferable films that, even if you had the patience of a saint, seemed like you were spending an eternity in Hell. LEGACY OF HORROR is one of those films. This is nothing but a more impoverished (if you can believe that) verbatim remake of his own THE GHASTLY ONES (1968), which was nothing but a standard "reading of the will" horror flick. In the early Twentieth Century, the three married Handley sisters are called to New York by a law firm and told that their deceased wealthy father (who was somewhat of a bastard) has left them a fortune. There is one caveat, however. In order to collect their inheritance, all three sisters (and their husbands) must spend three days and nights at their father's remote island mansion living in "sexual harmony" (whatever that means). Also at the mansion are two spinster sisters who are the caretakers. They live there with their severely retarded brother, who's only friend is his pet white rabbit. When at the mansion, the Handley sisters discover that the only time their father spent any time there was to get their mother pregnant (all three sisters were born at the mansion). One of the sisters finds the white rabbit gutted in her bed, with a note that says, "And the meek shall inherit". Someone dressed all in black then murders the Handley sisters' husbands, by hanging, tree saw and pitchfork (a Milligan trademark). The "surprise" ending reveals that the spinster sisters and their retarded brother are also Papa Handley's kids, and one of them wants the inheritance for themselves. As with most Milligan productions, this film is extremely talky and nothing really happens through the film's very looong 82 minutes. As a matter of fact, it takes nearly half of the film before the three sisters even make it to their father's mansion, as Milligan insists on showing us the minutae of the sisters' everyday life, from what type of dressing they like on their salad to the exploits of an (obviously) gay butler and a drunk, aging actress that lives with one of the sisters. None of this does anything to advance the plot. It's just there to fill up time. As with most Milligan films, this is supposed to be a period piece, but you can hear the noise of automobile traffic in some of the scenes and modern-day power lines can be seen running from some of the houses. There's also an out-of-place sequence where the sisters visit a long-haired hippie prophet, who has a freak-out scene. The cheapness of this Staten Island, NY-lensed borefest (one of the few 70's Milligan films not to be made for producer William Mishkin) becomes highly apparent when the Handley sisters and their husbands are waiting at a train station and the arrival of the train is nothing more than someone out-of-frame discharging a fire extinguisher at the actors' feet to simulate a steam engine! There are scattered bits of gore, but none of it is worth the pain you'll have to endure by watching this gabfest. The funniest scene comes early in the film when two New York toughs grab the retarded brother and toss him off a train platform. He falls at least twenty feet, lands on his head and only ends up with a broken arm, which miraculously heals in a couple of days! Save your sanity and pass this one up. If you have already seen THE GHASTLY ONES, I can think of no good reason to watch this, because it is a scene-by-scene remake, including all of the murders (all of which happen in the final 15 minutes). Hell, even if you've never seen THE GHASTLY ONES, I still can't think of one good reason why you should torture yourself. The things I put myself through so you don't have to! Milligan wouldn't make another film until CARNAGE in 1983. Starring Elaine Boies, Marilee Troncone, Julia Curry, Chris Broderick, Pete Barcia, Jeannie Cusick, Joe Downing, Louise Gallandra, Dale Hansen, Martin Reymert and Stanley Schwartz. Originally released on VHS by Gorgon Video and available on DVD as part of "Elvira's Movie Macabre" from Shout! Factory, under the title LEGACY OF BLOOD, which is not to be confused with director Carl Monson's LEGACY OF BLOOD (a.k.a. BLOOD LEGACY - 1971), which has almost exactly the same plot as this. Not Rated.
THE LEGEND OF BLOODY JACK (2007) - One of the last surviving family members of notorious serial killer (and lumberjack) Bloody Jack brings his girlfriend to the Alaskan wilderness to bring Jack back to life and document it on a video camera. After reading a passage from Jack's journal and laying a fresh heart on the ground, Carol (Lauren Cashman) returns to the hotel while her boyfriend, Pat (Garrett Brawith), decides to spend a couple of hours in the woods, just to make sure he didn't revive Bloody Jack. He falls asleep (!) and when he wakes up, the heart is missing and he's chopped into pieces with an axe by Bloody Jack. So begins another cheapjack slasher flick with an unexceptional killer (a lumberjack with a scarf covering his face!) and a bunch of by-the-numbers victims. We then switch to seven twenty-something slackers spending the weekend in a cabin in the same neck of the woods that Bloody Jack is prowling. After getting some BIG CHILL-type personal issues out of the way ("Welcome to the first day of the rest of your boring lives!") and then having sex, Bloody Jack begins dispatching the cast with his axe. The first one chopped to pieces is Tom (Josh Evans), who goes outside to get some wood for the fireplace (his body parts are then stacked like cords of wood). When Ray (Travis Young) sees all the blood, he wants to search for Tom, but is talked out of it by Nick (Craig Bonacorsi), saying it is much too dangerous to go walking in the woods at night. George (John Kawalski) is the next to die, as Bloody Jack lops off his penis while he is taking a piss in the woods and then tries to plant his axe in the body of George's girlfriend, Lisa (Jessica Szabo), but she escapes and makes it back to the cabin. Too bad she shows up a couple of minutes after Officer Vince (Jeremy Flynn) has left the premises (Don't worry, Bloody Jack hides in the back of Officer Vince's cruiser and delivers a fatal axe blow to his neck as he is driving away). The rest of the film is nothing but the remainder of the cast trying to avoid Bloody Jack and his axe, usually failing in grand fashion by doing the stupidest thing possible at the worst time imaginable (Who in their right mind takes a shower with a maniac loose in the house?). The film ends with a pitiful CGI car explosion and then reveals that the entire film was a ghost story told over a camp fire by the same exact cast of characters, who are then mercifully killed quickly by Bloody Jack. Believe me when I say that I was happy to see them go. This boring, flatly-filmed slasher flick, directed/written/edited by Todd Portugal (FLOODING - 2000) is rough going, even for the most patient slasher film fanatics. The acting never rises above high school thespian level and the gore, while plentiful, is never convincing (in one scene, as Lisa watches Bloody Jack chop-up George in the woods, we can see the actor playing Bloody Jack pulling his axe blows, never making contact with George's body). The character of Bloody Jack is another major drawback to the film. It seems he has the power to appear and disappear at will, yet he can be shot, knocked-out and kicked to the ground like a normal person. Not once does he come across as terrifying or scary; he looks like some average guy in a flannel shirt and scarf covering his burned face (Why is his face burned? It's never explained.). Don't waste your time with this one. It's weak, slow-moving and doesn't contain one working brain cell in its tiny little head. Oh, and there's some topless nudity in a few scenes, if that makes any difference. It shouldn't. Also starring Erica Hoag, Alicia Klein, Pamela Porter, Tricia Allen and Matt Nelson and Jeffrey Allen, who take turns portraying Bloody Jack. An Asylum Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.
LEGEND OF THE CHUPACABRA (1997) - This faux documentary, about a group's videotaped footage of the search for the title creature in the Texas wilderness, is about as awful as a film can be and still be called a film. Made before THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but using the same premise, CHUPACABRA deals with a woman (Katsy Joiner), who lost her uncle to the creature's hunger, and a group of cryptozoologists who document her search for the origins of the Chupacabra or, the "goat sucker". Something sucks, all right, and me thinks it's this film. Where do I begin? It's atrociously acted. It's obvious from the start that this documentary is scripted as the dialogue doesn't feel natural and the "actors" fail miserably in delivering it. The Chupacabra appears within the first ten minutes of the film, negating any suspense in the group's search for it. Let's talk about this Chupacabra: It's a ridiculous concoction (by director Joe Castro), with a giant mutated chicken-like head, huge talon-like claws, a fur-covered body and long porcupine-like needles sticking out of its' back. It makes the creature in BLOOD FREAK look absolutely polished. This film is filled with unbelievable situations which the characters react to in unbelievable and, downright idiotic, ways. Who would lock themselves in a cage made of chicken wire to take a shot at this creature when you have seen what strength it possesses? These stupid characters do. As a matter of fact, everyone in this film does something so extremely stupid, that you root for the creature to end their miserable lives. If there's one positive thing I can say about this flick, it's that it's extremely bloody. Intestines are ripped out, someone takes a shotgun blast to the head, an arm is ripped out of its' socket, bloody psychic surgery and various bloody aftermaths of the creature are shown lovingly in close-up. But as I have said many times before, good effects don't make a good film. Director Joe Castro learned nothing from his previous failure: The crappy "college students trapped in a mansion with a demon" film CEREMONY (1994). He went on to direct the even crappier horror/animation dud TERROR TOONS (2001). LEGEND OF THE CHUPACABRA should be avoided at all costs, just like the real creature. THE X-FILES tried a Chupacabra episode and it was one of their weaker efforts. I guess he doesn't translate well to the screen. Proceed at you own risk. Also starring Stan McKinney, J.T. Trevino, Chris Doughton, Paul Podroza, Frank Thomas and Sandy Swartz. Tell them to "supersize it" the next time they take your order at Burger King. A Troma DVD Release. Not Rated.
LEGEND OF THE PHANTOM RIDER (2000) - Horror Westerns were a very small sub-genre until the new millennium rolled along (see my review of UNDEAD OR ALIVE for more titles) and I'm surprised the time period wasn't tapped more frequently when it came to making horror films. Sure, there were a handful of horror-themed Westerns throughout the decades, some well-known (William "One Shot" Beaudine's JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER and BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA [both 1966]) and some obscure (JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST - 1974), but it took the Computer Age for this sub-genre to finally catch on. It is my opinion that they are so popular now because people want to see how problems can be solved without the use of computers, the internet or cell phones; in a era when guns, guts and wits settled most problems. LEGEND begins with this on-screen scrawl: "The Pelgidium legend says that evil manifests itself on Earth as a human every couple of hundred years and searches the Earth for the person who unknowingly harbors the 'lost spirit' of a warrior chief. When that evil finds the warrior chief, a process of torture begins that eventually leads to a battle for supremacy. This battle only takes place within the ancient walls of the city of Trigon." After watching one such battle between an Indian medicine man and the Pelgidium in the American West in the year 1165 A.D., the film flashes ahead to the same territory in 1865, as a family traveling in a covered wagon is attacked by an outlaw gang headed by Blade (screenwriter Robert McRay), leaving a father and his young son dead and mother Sarah Jenkins (Denise Crosby; MORTUARY - 2005), who is raped, and her young daughter Melanie (Alexis Bond) to fend for themselves. Penniless and robbed of all their belongings, Sarah and Melanie walk to the small town of Saugust and are taken-in by General Store owner Nathan (Stefan Gierasch; BLOOD BEACH - 1980) and his wife Jane (Julie Erickson), who inform Sarah that Blade and his gang have killed the sheriff and taken over the town. While Sarah searches for someone in the town to help her get revenge for the death of her husband and son, Blade and his right-hand man Suicide (Zen Gesner) begin killing townspeople who don't share their views, beginning with the town's judge (George Murdock; BREAKER! BREAKER! - 1977), the new sheriff (Mark Colliver) and the mayor, with Blade taking over as sheriff, Suicide as judge and other members of the gang filling other positions of authority that have just opened up. During a secret town meeting, where Sarah and a bunch of concerned citizens discuss ways to overthrow Blade and his gang, Blade appears and shoots little Melanie in the head, putting her in a coma that Doc Fisher (Rance Howard; SASQUATCH MOUNTAIN - 2006) tells Sarah is irreversible. It becomes apparent that Sarah unknowingly harbors the 'lost spirit' of a warrior chief (played by Saginaw Grant) and Blade is the evil that manifests itself every couple hundred years. Sarah is able to call forth the Pelgidium (also played by Robert McRay), who takes form as a long-haired, facially-deformed masked gunman that begins to systematically kill Blade's gang one-by-one, until only Blade is left. Blade figures the only way to get rid of the Pelgidium is to kill Sarah, but the townspeople finally grow a backbone and hide Sarah from him. Will Sarah get the revenge she so richly deserves, especially when Blade kidnaps the comatose Melanie and holds her hostage? While confusing as hell, director/producer Alex Erkiletian (his feature film debut) at least offers enough bloody violence (although some of the violence, including Nathan having one of his hands cut off and Doc Fisher getting beheaded, is played off-screen) and good character actors, including Angus Scrimm (PHANTASM - 1979) as the Preacher and Irwin Keyes (WRESTLEMANIAC - 2006) as Bigfoot (a member of Blade's gang, not the furry forest beast), to offset Robert McCray's much-too-mystical screenplay (which he wrote using the name "Robert Ray"). The biggest problem this film has, besides the incomprehensible supernatural plot, is that Blade seems to have an inexhaustible supply of gang members at his beck and call. For every one that the Pelgidium kills, two seem to take his place. It makes no sense because the town should be teeming with bad guys, but the streets are always empty. Putting all the negatives aside, LEGEND OF THE PHANTOM RIDER contains just enough weirdness to make it worthwhile viewing as a nightly rental. Former child star Lee Montgomery (BEN - 1972) supplied the evocative music score. Also starring Scott Eberlein, Jamie McShane, Robert Peters, John Henry Whitaker and G. Larry Butler. An MTI Home Video VHS & DVD Release. Rated R.
LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974) - This is a beautiful unedited letterboxed print of one of the best European NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD rip-offs, better known to American audiences as DON'T OPEN THE WINDOW (in severely edited form), BREAKFAST AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE and THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE. An experimental agricultural pest-control machine, using ultrasonic waves to rid bugs from farmers' crops, has the power to reanimate the recently deceased, causing problems in a small Irish community. The chief of police (Arthur Kennedy) blames the recent rash of murders on a newly arrived young couple (Ray Lovelock and Cristina Galbo), who he believes are drug-taking devil worshippers. Lovelock makes the connection between the pest-control machine and the revived dead after visiting the hospital (which also serves as the town morgue) and witnesses a newborn baby attacking a nurse (the machine also affects the newly born). After he and Galbo are nearly devoured by a band of walking dead, Lovelock goes to the Chief to tell his story and is promptly arrested. Galbo is attacked by her dead brother-in-law and becomes hospitalized. Lovelock escapes the police and destroys the machine. He learns that Galbo is in the hospital and goes to rescue her from certain doom. He arrives too late as he witnesses the morgue patients chowing down on his precious Galbo. He sets them on fire, thereby ending the living dead menace. Kennedy, who never believed Lovelock's story, pumps a few bullets into Lovelock's body after seeing him set the bodies aflame. In a final twist, the pest-control machine is repaired, allowing Lovelock to return from the dead and put the bite on Kennedy. This gory shocker is an effective addition to the living dead genre. Nice locations, eerie atmosphere, an unusual storyline and bloody mayhem (including a woman having her breast ripped off) make this film better than most of its kind. The only thing out of place here is Arthur Kennedy (THE MEAN MACHINE -1973; THE TEMPTER - 1974), who wildly overplays his role as a hippie-hating cop. He plays every scene as if he has a roll of quarters shoved up his ass. This is basically a minor point, because director Jorge Grau (LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE - 1972) fills his film with enough creepiness and dread for a dozen films. LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (a.k.a. INVASION OF THE ZOMBIES and THE LIVING DEAD) is available on VHS and DVD from Anchor Bay and later on DVD from Blue Underground. Unrated.
LORD OF DARKNESS (2012) - "Mad men do what good men dream." Known as SAWNEY: FLESH OF MAN in most other countries (a much better title if you ask me), this gory horror film, lensed in beautiful Scotland, is quite good for a first-time director, even if it did take nearly two years to make. This is an updating on the true-life story of the Sawney Bean family (a cannibal clan that lived in Scotland over 500 years ago, killing the local population and devouring their flesh), as an off-screen narrator tells us that the entire Bean family was wiped out centuries ago. All except one, that is. The film opens in 1990, in the Scottish Highlands, as we watch someone in a black cab drive a doctor to a secret location behind a waterfall, where he bloodily delivers a baby from a woman that is tied up with a burlap sack over her head. As soon as the baby is delivered, that same someone (in a black hood) blows the doctor's head off with a shotgun. We then switch to the present, where Rebecca (Shian Denovan) and her boyfriend Jamie (Ross Maxwell) are at a bar on Halloween Night. Rebecca gets very angry with Jamie when she finds out he was snorting coke in the bathroom, so she leaves the bar with Jamie following her. He hands over his stash of coke to Rebecca, who puts it in her pocketbook and refuses to get into Jamie's car because she believes he is in no condition to drive. He leaves in a huff and Jamie notices a black cab (with black-out windows) nearby and hops in. We hear a scream, the cab shakes and then it drives off. We then meet Sawney Bean (David Hayman; BURKE & HARE - 2010), back at his secret location behind the waterfall (it's actually an abandoned mine), where he has Rebecca tied-up. He takes a bite out of her and rapes her (seems he keeps his bloodline alive by kidnapping women and getting them pregnant), then going back to his duties of preparing a bowl of human body parts and innards as a meal for "Mother", who is a prisoner behind a locked door and kept somewhat docile by opera music that plays on a boombox. He then rifles through Rebecca's pocket book and finds photos of her in a bikini and begins to masturbate with a dismembered human hand! The film then takes us to the funeral of Charlotte McIntyre (Elich Nairn), where alcoholic newspaper reporter Hamish MacDonald (Samuel Feeney), who was a friend of Charlotte's and is the ex-boyfriend of Charlotte's sister Wendy (Elizabeth Brown), sits in his car in the pouring rain trying to figure out who killed her. According to Hamish's source, Detective Bill Munro (Gavin Mitchell), Charlotte was found at an ancient Druid sacrificial site in the Scottish Highlands. Well, just her head was found (it is impaled on a pole, maggots crawling out of her eye sockets) in a makeshift human body. The only problem is the rest of the body parts found there were all from different human bodies (Bill gives Hamish photos of the crime scene) and it looks as if someone has chewed on the body parts. Bill's police captain, Charlie McGuire (William Houston), is not happy that Hamish is having his stories on the case make the front page of the newspaper, so he tells Bill to stick close to Hamish and make sure that the information he gives him is misleading or minimal. As Hamish is getting closer to the truth, going to the library and finding a newspaper article on microfiche dating back to 1970, where another woman was found in the same dismembered condition as Charlotte and a photo of that crime scene contains valuable information to the location of the murderer, Sawney Bean and his black-hoodied "sons", Judd (Jean-Paul Jesstience) and Jake (Will Sutton), who are both well-versed in martial arts and parkour (the French term for being able to jump, climb or run long distances through various obstacles in the quickest and most efficient manner possible), are searching for another victim. One of the sons sees a woman all alone walking down the street and goes to kidnap her, but a good samaritan hears her screams and intervenes, only to get his throat cut. A Traffic Warden (Ian Sexton) notices Sawney's black cab parked illegally, so he gives it a ticket because he can't see through the blacked-out windows. Sawney then knocks out the traffic cop and puts him in the back seat, honking the horn to tell his son to stop (the woman does not know how lucky she was). The next time we see the Traffic Warden, he is locked in wooden stocks while being butt-fucked by one of the sons. Sawney then cuts off the cop's head with a curved meat knife (nothing is left to the imagination) and tells his son to go feed Mother. Rebecca escapes her shackles (after the son takes a bite out of her thigh) and runs for her life, only to be trapped on a cliff by a shotgun-toting Sawney and his two sons. Rebecca decides to take her own life by falling off the cliff (good choice), so Sawney needs a new woman to torture and rape. He kidnaps Wendy (just after she says she loves Hamish over the phone), while Hamish is out at the crime scene trying to find out where the killer is hiding out. A plumber is checking out the mine because a neighbor has been complaining about a foul stench that has been coming through her sewer line for years (for some reason, the sewer line runs through the mine). One of the sons discovers the plumber and knocks him out. Meanwhile, Hamish discovers the hidden waterfall location, but Sawney is waiting for him. How did he know? To say any more would be to ruin the film for you, my dear readers. Capably directed by first-timer Ricky Wood Jr., who co-produced the film with his father, Richard W. Wood (who also wrote the screenplay and created the stomach-turning prosthetics and makeup effects), the movie has a lush feel to it thanks to cinematographer Ranald Wood (Ricky's brother), who used Red cameras to film it. It took them nearly two years to finish the film because they all had regular jobs and filmed mostly on weekends and whatever free time they had. The only real noticable way you can discern this is by the stubble on Samuel Feeney's face. If you look closely, you can see it change length from stot-to-shot. Otherwise this is a terrific first effort by a family dedicated to turning out a quality film. The acting is excellent across the board and the gory effects push way beyond the film's R-Rating. The film is literally full of dismembered body parts, guts and blood and some of the sequences even made this jaded gore junkie stand up and take notice. Toss in a dwarf cannibal, a talking severed head, the unmasking of "Mother" and a surprise reveal during the finale and what you end up with is a gory, glossy horror flick, the kind they use to make a long time ago. The only thing that bothered me was the unnecessary nihilistic ending, but I suppose that Wood will be directing a sequel sometime in the future and the closing shot leaves him room to do so. Other films that deal with the Sawney Bean story are BLOOD CLAN (1990) and EVIL BREED: THE LEGEND OF SAMHAIN (2003). Even Wes Craven has said that he based his THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) on the Sawney Bean story. Also starring Rachel Jackson, Lisa Cameron and Lindsay Cromar. A Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
THE LORELEY'S GRASP (1973) - During the 70's, the Spainards proved just as adept at churning out gore-filled horror films that the U.S. was unable or just flat-out didn't want to make in fear of the censors. Well, the MPAA has a field day when this film was released in the U.S. under the title WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS, as nearly all the heavy gore and much of the nudity was removed, making the film nothing but a shell of its former self. Which is why I miss DVD company Deimos Entertainment, who released many of these films in their original uncensored versions, making us appreciate the films that we originally saw heavily edited in theaters or even more cut on TV (some so heavily cut, they made no sense at all!). When Deimos ceased operations, no one seemed to pick up the Spanish horror film mantle, except public domain companies who would release the TV versions on DVD and an occasional unedited one from companies like Raro Video (who are more interested in Italian giallo or Poliziottesco films), Code Red, Scorpion Releasing, Mondo Macabro, Vinegar Syndrome (who are more into porno) and Synapse Films. So, if your tastes run towards 70's Spanish gore film (like mine does), keep searching for Deimos Entertainment DVDs that are still in circulation (They later issued double features, but they didn't cheap-out, always giving each film their own DVD and carrying over the extras from the single releases. I got this one at a fantastic price with the Unrated version of HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB , one of my favorite Spanish horror films of all times.) This modern-day film starts off on the right foot when, within the first five minutes, we see a bride-to-be (Betsabe Ruiz) taking off her clothes and putting on he nightgown and wedding veil. Her soon-to-be-husband, Carl (Joseph Thelman), throws small rocks at her window to get her attention because he wants to see her beautiful face before they get married in the morning. She playfully tells him to go home (which he does), only to hear nore tapping on her window. When she opens her window (thinking it is Carl), a sharp-clawed creature enters her room and leaves deep scratches in her face and on her right breast, killing her instantly. At her funeral are Carl and her friends and a horse-drawn carriage just out of view occupied by the mysterious Lorelei (Helga Liné; THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY - 1972; and don't ask me to explain why her name is spelled differently from the film's title) who, for some reason, is very interested in the funeral. When Carl starts shoveling dirt on his dead fianceé's coffin before the preacher is done with his service (I'm still puzzled about that one), Lorelei gestures to her man-servant Alberic (Luis Barboo; THE DEMONS - 1973) to drive away.
LURKERS (1987) - This is one of the last films directed by the still-living (at the time of this review) Roberta Findlay and, while watching it, it was easy to see why. Her heart just wasn't in it anymore. Findlay was one of the sexploitation godmothers of the 60's, working closely with husband Michael Findlay (who was accidentally killed in 1977 on the top of the-then Pan Am Building in New York City, when the helicopter he was about to travel in collapsed, decapitating him and killing four more people), usually acting under the name "Anna Riva", producing, writing and photographing films under various male pseudonyms (such as "Robert W. Norman", "Robert Walters", "Harold Hindgrind" and nearly 20 more!) and generally was a jill-of-all-trades when it came to making sexploitation films. When the sexploitation market dried-up, both Michael and Roberta began making hardcore porn films, but they are probably best kown in the 70's as being the people behind the controversial film SNUFF (1976), which was actually a Findlay film called THE SLAUGHTER (1971), a Manson Family-inspired thriller, that didn't take off theatrically, but legendary film huckster Alan Shackleton took that unpopular film and hired Simon Nuctern (SILENT MADNESS - 1984) to direct a tacked-on ending purportedly showing an actress actually getting killed on screen and a legend was born. The brew-ha-ha that it caused, which included people picketing at theaters showing it and the F.B.I. investigating the allegations, made the film a smash hit, but the Findlays never saw a penny of profit from it because they sold their original film outright to Shackleton. When Michael died, Roberta continued making porn films and then, starting in the mid-80's began directing and photographing a series of exploitation and horror films, which included the superior TENEMENT: GAME OF SURVIVAL (1985); THE ORACLE (1985); BLOOD SISTERS (1987); PRIME EVIL (1988); the rarely-seen BANNED (1989); and this film. While this is not a bad film (it is competently acted, photographed and has a few genuine scares), it was obvious that Roberta Fildlay was working on auto-pilot when she directed this. Even more disappointing is that the "blah" screenplay was co-written by Ed Kelleher (with Harriette Vidal), who also co-wrote the memorable cult films INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS (1972) and SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974; directed by Michael Findlay). The idea behind the film is very interesting, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I consider this a reverse version of THE SENTINEL (1977) and as you read my review, you will soon understand why. This movie is about cellist Cathy (Christine Moore), who is going through a lot of shit. When she was just a young girl (played by Dana Nardelli) living in a brownstone in Washington Heights, New York, her cruel mother would abuse her (like burning her with a hot iron!) and telling her constantly "They are going to get you!" One day after abuse from her mother, Cathy walks down the many floors of the brownstone by using the spiral staircase-like steps crying her eyes out. When she goes outside, two girls ask if she wants to jump rope. When she does, her neck gets tangled in the ropes and the two girls pull the rope tightly, the two girls under the control of a ghostly girl dressed in white (Lauren Ruave). It seems Cathy has an unnamed female guardian angel (Eva Baumann), because just as Cathy is about to lose consciousness, she makes the ghost girl disappear and the two girls let go of the rope. That night, while Cathy is under the covers of her bed reading a book with a flashlight, she hears strange voices calling her name. She flips the covers open and discovers a wide assortment of human-like creatures called Lurkers (excellent make-up effects by Ed French of BREEDERS  fame) floating around her bed. When then cut to the present, where Cathy is a successful cellist in a string quartet. We see her walking across the street to meet her fiancé Bob (Gary Warner), when a cab comes barreling down the road. Just before the cab hits her, the guardian angel from earlier in the film (who hasn't aged a year) pulls her back and saves her from certain death. When Cathy mentions to Bob that if it weren't for the woman she would be dead, Bob says, "What woman?" Cathy and Bob are soon to be married and he wants Cathy to invite her only living relative, brother Phil (Gil Newsom), who is a priest, to the wedding, but Cathy says she hasn't spoken to him in years and refuses to talk to Bob what happened to make them become estranged. Bob is the co-owner of a modeling agency with beautiful partner Monica (Marina Taylor) and he hands photos of Cathy to her, which makes Monica very interested in something (While this is happening, two models, one of them portrayed by Ruth Collins [DOOM ASYLUM - 1987], are off to the side stripping topless while talking about junk bonds and insider trading!). We then see Cathy playing cello in a recording studio with her string quartet, when the ghostly girl in white pops-up in one of the booths, causing Cathy to scream and run out of the studio (No one else sees her, as the studio engineer asks, "Is that a wrap?"). Director Findlay show her roots in sexploitation when we see Bob and Cathy nude in bed making love. Cathy has a nightmare flashback where she witnesses her mother brutally kill her father by stabbing him in the chest with a butcher knife (the blood literally squirts out of the wound), with Mom then chasing a young Cathy down the street, but before dear Mother can kill her, Cathy wakes up. In the film's most telling, yet mysterious sequence (it will be explained later in the film), Bob meets a nervous Steve (Peter Oliver-Norman) in a bar, where Steve says to Bob, "I can't do it any more!", but Bob says he made a deal with "them" and he has to follow through with the deal or suffer the consequences. Bob leaves the bar and Steve collapses, as if he is having a nervous breakdown. Cathy goes to see psychic friend Rita (Nancy Groff) for a Tarot Card reading and a card comes up that doesn't bode so well for Cathy, but Rita lies and says she and Bob will have a happy life together. Cathy then goes to meet her brother Phil at the steps of his church to invite him to the wedding, but Phil is very unreceptive and turns down her invitation, telling her to get some professional help. As Phil walks into the church, Cathy sees the ghostly girl, who tells her, "Go home Cathy!", which triggers another nightmare flashback. This time we see Cathy's mother being taken out of the brownstone, a huge butcher knife buried in her chest, while her dying abusive mother tells her, "Go home Cathy!" Is there something mentally wrong with Cathy or are there more sinister forces at work (Bet on the latter)? Why was Steve carried away in a straitjacket after his discussion with Bob? What exactly are Lurkers? Are they real or a figment of Cathy's twisted mind? Where did I put my pants? The pieces start falling together (I still haven't found my pants, though) when Bob takes Cathy to a party, but first Cathy makes Bob stop the car to pick up her guardian angel, who is standing at the curb of a street. This time Bob can see her and the guardian angel says, "Don't go home Cathy!" and disappears into thin air (Bob tells Cathy that she probably jumped out of the convertible!). Once they reach the party location, Cathy realizes that it is the Washington Heights brownstone where she was raised as a child and refuses to go inside. Bob tells Cathy to wait outside while he makes excuses to the host, Desmond (Roy MacArthur), as to why they cannot stay. Bob seems to be taking an awfully long time upstairs, as Cathy witnesses a bloody girl running by her with Leo 'The Hammer' (Thomas Billett) chasing her, sledgehammer in hand, Steve on the ground pleading for God to forgive him, a dead chicken hanging upside down on on a cemetery gate and Leo crushing the poor bloodied girl's head in with the sledgehammer, all while trying to find a working payphone to call for help (even today, that is an impossibility in New York City!). With a little prying from Bob, he gets Cathy to enter the brownstone and attend the party, telling her she can use the phone in there to call for help. It all turns out to be a trap for Cathy, as the brownstone Cathy lived in as a child is actually a gateway from Hell to let "Lurkers" walk the Earth, as long as they get someone to take their own lives. Everyone at the party that Cathy thought were her friends are all actually Lurkers (She sees a repentant Steve at the party, where Desmond says to him, "Really Steve, you're such a worthless fuck!" before Leo pummels Steve to a bloody pulp for not bringing a close relative with him to sacrifice to the Devil). Bob (who is also a Lurker) must try to convince Cathy to commit suicide, so all the Lurkers shed their human skins and show their actual selves (it's not a pretty sight). It seems that when Cathy was a child and that jump rope was around her neck, she was supposed to die, and Satan is nothing if not a good bookkeeper, so Cathy must take her life to balance the books. Bob also tells Cathy that everyone who dies in that brownstone automatically goes to Hell and also says that there are buildings like this spread throughout the world. Cathy runs to the roof of the brownstone, where the Lurkers trick Cathy and she falls off the roof and dies. The next time we see Bob, he has a new fianceé, who tells him that when she was a child, she lived in a strange brownstone full of creepy creatures which would come to her bedroom at night. The cycle continues........ If I make this film sound interesting, my apologies. It is so leisurely-paced, a snail could beat it in a footrace. The actual Lurkers come few and far between, once at the beginning and once at the end, so the rest of the film is nothing but Cathy acting scared while we try to figure out what in the Hell (pardon the pun) is going on. I'm still scratching my head about Phil the priest. We never see him as a boy during Cathy's frequent childhood flashbacks, so where the hell was he? At Seminary School? And why does he refuse to help his sister? He is a priest, for Christ's sake (pardon that pun, too, but I have to find something funny to say to relieve the 85 minutes of boredom I just witnessed). Besides the excellent makeup effects by Ed French, there is really nothing to offer the viewer in way of entertainment. The Lurkers are definitely creepy and their first appearance does raise some goosebumps, but they are used so sparingly, it hardly makes up for the other 84 minutes of soap opera-like story. Roberta Findlay definitely knows how to film scenes for optimum effect and the music (by producer Walter E. Sear, who also co-edited the film with Findlay), although electronic, sounds harpsicord-heavy and is effective during the few scare scenes. Some secondary things in the movie did tickle my funnybone, though, like Bob and Cathy eating at Fiorello's Cafe, a joint I used to eat lunch at often when I worked in NYC; Cathy reading the book "Prisoners Of Childhood" while taking a bath (talk about prophetic!); and a parking garage only charging $5.26 for the night! Try finding parking for quadruple that in any parking garage in NYC now and you'll be lucky! Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment, and as part of a DVD box set from Rhino Video under the title "Horrible Horrors Collection Volume 1", it is now available as a double feature DVD from Scorpion Releasing (with the 1972 PG-Rated thriller DIE SISTER, DIE!) in a flawless 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen print. I doubt you will ever see this film on Blu-Ray, so if you must watch this film, the Scorpion DVD is the way to go. Also Starring Carissa Channing, C.C. Banks, Anne Grindlay, Wayne Burcham and blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos by a young Debbie Rochon and genre writer Maitland McDonagh ("Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento") at the party in the finale. A Scorpion Releasing DVD Release. Rated R.
THE MAD (2006) - When I read the plot synopsis on the DVD sleeve, all I could think was, "Oh great, another zombie comedy!" (Insert sarcasm here). But, much to my surprise, this one is at least worth a rental. The plot is rather simple: Slaughterhouse owner Arlen Sutter (Ian McPhail) supplies beef to the local diner that is intentionally infected with a Mad Cow-like disease, which turns the patrons that eat it into flesh-eating zombies. A visiting tourist family, which includes dad Jason Hunt (Billy Zane; DEAD CALM - 1989; TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT -1995); his girlfriend Monica (Shauna MacDonald), who insists on dressing Jason in retro 80's fashions (because it makes her hot!); teenage daughter Amy (Maggie Castle), who hates Monica for what she's turning her father into; and Amy's bubble-headed boyfriend Blake (Evan Charles Flock), decide to spend the day (and night) in the town, unaware of the horror they are about to encounter. While having a meal in the diner, Monica is killed by an infected townie and Blake has some of his toes bitten off by another zombie, forcing Jason, Amy and an infected Blake to team-up with waitress Steve (Jordan Madley) and cook Charlie (Rothaford Gray) and barricade themselves in the diner. Jason (who once played synth drums in an 80's New Wave band incredulously called "The Mad") is a doctor and performs a makeshift autopsy on Monica's corpse to try and pinpoint the reason for the sudden outbreak of zombieism. He accidentally discovers that there is something wrong with the beef when the last infected hamburger patty springs to life and attacks Blake, attaching itself to Blake's face (Jason removes it by pouring olive oil on Blake's face, to which Blake exclaims, "Oh great, now my face is going to break out!"). Blake is decapitated by the zombie horde (a funny scene) and both Steve and Charlie are devoured, too, but Jason and Amy hop in a car and hightail it out of town. Incredibly, they turn around to combat the root of the problem (Jason looks at his daughter and says, "Damn it, Amy. I'm not a doctor, I'm a musician!" What?) and head to the Sutter farm, where they meet Arlen's strange son Johnny (Matthew Deslippe). Jason and Amy find out a little too late that both Sutters are infected with the disease and resort to cannibalism to keep the condition under control (they are somewhere between human and full-blown zombies). Can vegetarian Amy charm the pants off Johnny before Arlen and a barn-full of living chopped beef devour Jason? The first thing you'll notice about this film, directed by Johnny Kalangis (whose only other directorial credits are a couple of romantic dramas) and co-written by Kalangis, Kevin Hennelly and Christopher Warre Smets, is how fast and loose it plays with the characters' lives. We are led to believe that there is going to be a lot of personal drama between Amy and Monica, only to have Monica be the first on-screen casualty. The same can be said about Steve and Charlie, who are both given interesting back-stories, only to be unceremoniously killed in a quick fashion. The entire film is played rather broadly, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and while not everything works (some of it is groan-inducing), there's a lot here that manages to raise a chuckle, including Billy Zane's entire performance, some extreme gore (most of it used humorously) and some good one-liners ("Has your beef been acting strangely?"). Not everyone is going to like THE MAD, because everything is treated as a joke and nothing is taken seriously (some of the dialogue between Jason and Amy later in the film is downright surreal), but, at 82 minutes long, it doesn't overstay it's welcome and is a pretty entertaining flick if you're in the right frame of mind. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but a nice diversion. Also starring Christopher Gross and Angela Maiorano. A Peace Arch Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.
MALEVOLENCE (2004) - Neat and compact (85 minute) horror film which stand heads and shoulders above THE DIVIDING HOUR, films that have their fair share of similarities. In this one, four people in 1999 rob a bank and head off in two cars to a remote house to split up the loot and make a quick retreat. One of them is killed in the robbery and another's car breaks down. He takes a young mother (Samantha Dark) and her 9 year old daughter (Courtney Bertolone) hostage, stealing their van and beating the other two remaining robbers (a man and his girlfriend) to the abandoned house. He ties up the mother and daughter but the little girl gets loose, running to hide in a nearby abandoned slaughterhouse, where ten years earlier a kidnapped little boy, Martin, was forced to watch some unknown person knife a woman to death. The robber gets knifed to death by some unknown assailant when the other two robbers arrive at the house and find the tied-up woman. Thinking that the other robber has stiffed them, they set out looking for him. The mysterious stranger stabs the woman to death in front of the tied-up mother and the other robber comes back, unties the mother and they go looking for her daughter. The pieces start to fall together as the slaughterhouse starts revealing it's secrets as the remaining robber pays for his discovery with his life, but not before saving the mother and her daughter. The killer was Martin, who was being trained by the owner of the closed slaughterhouse on how to become a serial killer. When the police arrive, there are so many bodies in the slaughterhouse that the FBI is called in to help notify the families of all the mutilated bodies. A series of ledgers found in the slaughterhouse detail the killings by the owner, how he trained Martin and that he knows Martin will kill him next. Martin's body is never found and the final coda will send a chill down your spine. Obviously shot on a shoestring budget (but on film and not video), one-man wonder Stevan Mena directed, produced, wrote, edited and did the music for this atmospheric horror film which actually jolts the viewer with some real scares, uses mainly unknown actors to good advantage and gets plenty of mileage out of his limited locations. It actually got a small theatrical release before coming to DVD. Rent or buy it if you like to be scared late at night with the lights out. While not overtly bloody, it contains many disturbing images (including a man-made Cow-Man skeleton which has to be seen to be believed) and will not please anyone who dislikes knives. I liked this one a lot and it does not contain one bit of humor. Kind of refreshing for a horror film these days. Also starring Brandon Johnson, Heather Magee, Keith Chambers, Richard Glover and John Richard Ingram as the cop who discovers the mess. Director Stevan Mena made a prequel to this film, titled BEREAVEMENT, in 2010. A third installment is reportedly in the works. An Anchor Bay Entertainment Release. Rated R.
MANEATER OF HYDRA (1966) - Mad Botanist Baron von Weser (Cameron Mitchell, who is horrendously dubbed by someone with a British accent) reluctantly accepts a group of upper class tourists to his remote island villa because he needs their money to continue his illicit experiments. One of the tourists, Professor Julius Demerest (Herman Nelsen), immediately notices on the car ride to the villa that the island is full of plant life not indigenous to the area. The car also hits one of the Baron's horribly-scarred servants when he darts out in front of it, killing him (the Professor seems to believe he died of fright, though). Luckily, as we find out a short time later, the servant has a mute twin brother. At dinner that night, the Baron serves some of his genetically altered vegatables (he's a vegetarian) and the taste amazes the tourists (One old broad says, "It looks like a cucumber, but it tastes just like meat!"). After dinner, the Baron shows off his collection of carnivorous plants he has created and feeds a mouse to one of them (Professor Demerest says, "It's better than a cat!"). David Moss (George Martin) smells a rat and warns new love interest Beth (Elisa Mantes) to play it safe and lock her bedroom door at night. He's right, of course, as members of the group (beginning with the gigolo limo driver) start getting mysteriously murdered, their bodies drained of blood. Some members of the group believe it to be the work of a vampire and they are partly right. The Baron has created a carnivouous tree that needs blood to survive and when the Baron doesn't get the red stuff to it promptly, it uproots itself and goes searching for some on it's own. As the tourists start turning on each other, the phone lines dead and the ferry not due back for two days, you would think that they would stick together for safety, right? Wrong. Professor Demerest is killed by the Baron (with a spike hidden in a statue) when he gets too close to the truth. During a heavy thunderstorm, the carnivorous tree kills Mrs. Callahan (Matilde Sampedro) and attacks Beth, so David springs into action and begins pruning the tree with an axe (it spurts gallons of blood). The Baron goes bonkers and attacks David (they get into an axe fight) and the Baron offers his own blood to the tree, kind of a human/tree transfusion. The tree takes too much and the Baron falls victim to his own creation. It ain't pretty. This Spanish/German co-production, directed by genre vet Mel Welles (star of such films as ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS , the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS  and director of LADY FRANKENSTEIN ), is pretty bloody for it's time (especially the finale) but, unfortunately, the print used for the DVD from Shout! Factory (as part of their "Elvira Movie Macabre" series) is a terribly soft fullframe speckled mess that's full of drop-outs, emulsion scratches and jitter. It's also obvious that it's a TV print (although it appears to be uncut), as every ten minutes the film fades to black. If you've never seen this film before, it's a pretty decent mystery/horror film with some fluid camerawork, atmosphere and a few good scares. But the craptacular dubbing, especially for Cameron Mitchell (THE TOOLBOX MURDERS - 1978; RAW FORCE - 1982; KILLPOINT - 1984) and Matilde Sampedro, really detracts enjoyment of the film. The middle of the film also drags a bit and the screenplay, by Stephen Schmidt (the story is co-credited to Ernst R. von Theumer, who would later direct THE BIG BUST-OUT , JUNGLE WARRIORS [1983); and others), introduces sub-plots that are never resolved. The final reveal of the Baron's giant blood-sucking tree and the (literal) shower of blood are a hoot, though (there's also the gory visage of the after-effects of an axe murder). Too bad that this presentation is such a let-down. Since this seems to be the only legal U.S. version available, it will have to do for now, but some enterprising distributor should find a widescreen version and release it. Other 60's man-eating plant films include DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962) and THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS (1965). Also starring Kay Fischer, Ralph Naukoff, Richard Valle and Mike Brendel. Also known as ISLAND OF THE DOOMED. A Shout! Factory Release. Not Rated.
MANIACTS (2001) - This is a wonderful comedy/horror film about two serial killers who fall in love and try to live a normal life. Have I got your attention? Good. Joe Spinelli (Jeff Fahey), known as the "Blueblood Killer" because he only kills doctors, lawyers and bankers, is captured and sent to Edgemare Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane in Arizona. He is a shy, introverted person (but still a killer) who has trouble fitting into the institution, where the guards are rough, the matron (Leslie Easterbrook) brutal and the politics corrupt. When Joe meets fellow inmate Beth (Kellie Waymire), a serial killer who thinks she comes from royal ancestry, he begins to open up. He puts on little acts like crucifying himself on a cross and slitting his stomach (both fake) to impress her. She falls for him and he for her. When he asks her how she had the strength to kill all those people she shows him in a game of arm wrestling, where she demonstrates that she becomes almost superhuman when someone hits her or gets her physically excited (she's been physically and sexually abused all her life). Joe and Beth are befriended by asylum trustee Mason (Mel Winkler), who helps them escape, but before they do they have some housekeeping to attend to. Beth crushes the matron's head with a high-pressure water hose (a graphic effect) while Joe impales the head doctor (Bob Bancroft, who looks and acts like Andy Dick) on a flagpole (to comic effect). Joe and Beth escape to the farm of kindly and psychic Mr. Boley (John Furlong), who says that he was expecting them for a long time as he saw them in a dream. Boley treats them like they were his own children and they live as one happy family. One outrageously funny scene is when Beth discovers that Joe is a virgin and makes love to him for the first time. Since Beth gets super strong when her adrenaline increases this makes for one noisy and hurtful lovemaking session, but Joe doesn't care. Things come to a boil when a sleazy realtor comes calling and wants to buy the farm. Boley refuses to sell and the realtor comes back with a bunch of punks to force them off. A bloody fight ensues (hands are chopped off, a scythe is run-through another's stomach) and Boley gets shot. Before he dies, Boley gives Joe and Beth the farm. They live happily until Beth finds out that the Queen of England is coming to Arizona for a special tribute to the London Bridge. Beth wants to meet the Queen since she believes that she comes from royalty. Joe reluctantly agrees and they head off to the tribute. The finale shows Joe making the ultimate (and heartbreaking) sacrifice while Beth has a surprise of her own. Director/writer C.W. Cressler has crafted a film that works on many levels. It is an indictment against corporate greed, a love story about two people who have never experienced love before and an absurb comedy which pokes holes at the little things we take for granted. The film is told in chapters, which explains what the title of the film really means. Jeff Fahey (BODY PARTS - 1991) has never been better here and now can be forgiven for some of his more recent film choices. Kellie Waymire, who worked with Fahey on the short-lived 2001 TV series WOLF LAKE, is a wonder, displaying a range of emotions and delivering her lines (such as: "It's gotta be OK to kill people. Carmakers do it, doctors do it, governments do it all the time.") with such aplomb that it still brings a smile to my face. She died late in 2003 of a heart attack at the age of 36. A real loss for the film community. John Furlong (a regular player in most of the late Russ Meyer's films) is also excellent and has quite a few memorable lines. In fact, every thing about this film is memorable, from the oddball characters (including an inmate called Tapeman [Vincent Guastefarro] who believes he invented crime scene tape. Everytime he sees someone getting killed he says, "Ka-ching!"), the set pieces (especially the scene where Boley has put two nails in the wall for pictures) and the death scenes (bloody, cringe-inducing and hilarious). This little low-budget picture is destined to become a sleeper. See it! The film is dedicated to late actor Joe Spinell (MANIAC - 1980). I'm sure he would have been pleased. An MTI Home Video Release. Rated R.
MANHATTAN BABY (1982) - Totally confusing nonsense from late Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci, director of the splatterfests ZOMBIE  and GATES OF HELL . Unfortunately, Lucio comes up with a cropper here, as the plot limps along at a snail's pace and most of it is filmed in such extreme close-up that Tylenol is needed to cure the extreme headache it induces from watching it. Storyline involves an archaeologist (Christopher Connelly) visiting Egypt with his wife (Martha Taylor) and daughter (Brigitta Boccoli). He discovers a tomb of a 5,000 year old demon and is blinded by a carving of a blue eye on the tomb wall. Meanwhile, while mom is away taking photos of Egyptian ruins, the daughter is handed an amulet in the shape of the blue-eyed carving by a blind old hag. Daughter becomes possessed and strange things begin to happen once they move back to their apartment in Manhattan. Cobras and scorpions appear. The apartment security guard dies after falling through the elevator floor. The babysitter disappears. One of mom's co-workers vanishes in a flash of white light with Egyptian sand left in his place. Dad and Mom try to save their daughter. Can they do it? This is practically a goreless exercise except for the last five minutes where a professor (Fulci) is torn apart by his collection of stuffed birds! MANHATTAN BABY is also known as EYE OF THE EVIL DEAD and POSSESSED. Dreary. A Lightning Video VHS Release and available on DVD from Anchor Bay and Blue Underground. Unrated.
MANSION OF THE DOOMED (1975) - When the beloved daughter of Dr. Chaney (the late, great Richard Basehart) loses her eyesight in a car accident, he will do anything to restore her to her former glory. He removes the eyes from living victims to transplant into his daughter. The first victim is Dan (a young Lance Henriksen in an early starring role). At first the operation seems a success, but soon her body rejects the eyes. This leads to the good doctor kidnapping more people for his experiments, locking their still-alive, but eyeless, bodies downstairs in the basement.The bodies begin to pile up and they are not a happy lot. Not only can they not see, but they are kept starving prisoners in an electrified cage. While Dr. Chaney goes about his gruesome business (he even attempts to steal a young girl from a park but she escapes), Dan and his visionless pals devise a way to free themselves and get their retribution. Basically a remake of THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DR. FAUSTUS (1959; a.k.a. EYES WITHOUT A FACE), this Charles Band production has real-life footage of actual eye surgery and some gross makeup effects (supplied by Stan [billed here as "Stanley"] Winston) but not much else. Directed by veteran character actor Michael Pataki (GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE - 1972) and written by Frank Ray Parelli (DRACULAS DOG - 1977). Future director Andrew Davis (THE FINAL TERROR - 1981; UNDER SIEGE - 1992) was Director of Photography here. Also starring Trish Stewart and an alcohol-induced Gloria Grahame with a cameo by Vic Tayback. MANSION OF THE DOOMED is also known as THE EYES OF DR. CHANEY and MASSACRE MANSION. Available from Bingo Video on VHS in a severely scratched print and on budget DVD from Trinity Home Entertainment. Also available on DVD from Full Moon Direct. Rated R.
THE MANSTER (1960) - This surprisingly adult Japanese/American co-production was one of my favorite horror films when I was a kid in the 60's, even if I didn't get the mature subtext. All I cared about were the weird transformation scenes that were etched in my brain during the numerous times I viewed this flick on TV during the 60's & 70's. Now that I have achieved adulthood (some may disagree), I can finally see that this is a crazy morality play about adultery and the monster that resides in all of us (or something like that). The film opens with a gorilla-like creature slaughtering some geisha girls in a Tokyo bathhouse. The creature returns to the laboratory of Dr. Suzuki (Satoshi Nakamura), who we learn has created this creature by injecting his brother with a serum that causes mutations. Dr. Suzuki shoots and kills his brother and throws him into a lava pit conveniently located in his laboratory, which is carved into the side of a volcano. Enter Larry (Peter Dyneley), a reporter who has come to interview Dr. Suzuki. The Doctor, needing another guinea pig, drugs Larry and injects him with the serum. Larry, who has been faithful to his wife Linda (Jane Hylton) since his assignment to Tokyo, suddenly begins to change both mentally and physically. He begins to hang out with geisha girls, drinks heavily and blows off the plane ride back to New York to settle down with his wife (thanks to Dr. Suzuki's sexy assistant, Tara [Terri Zimmern], who seduces Larry on Dr. Suzuki's orders). The right side of Larry's body also begins to change. First his hand and arm get hairy and deformed. Then an eye appears on his shoulder. Pretty soon that eye turns into a head and Larry starts roaming the Tokyo streets killing anyone he can get his hands (and heads) on. Larry's boss (Van Hawley) tries to help him by bringing Linda to Tokyo, but Larry is too far gone to even care. The police hunt for Larry after finding some damning evidence in his apartment. Larry returns to Dr. Suzuki's laboratory (The Doc says, "He was conceived in the mountains. He'll return to the mountains.") where he kills Dr. Suzuki and abducts Tara. With the police not far behind, Larry carries Tara to the top of the volcano. Larry then splits in half (the alternate title for this film is THE SPLIT), one half being a monster and the other half being the normal Larry. The monster half picks up Tara and tosses her into the volcano. Normal Larry then pushes the monster into the volcano. Larry's wife rushes to him and cradles him in her arms. THE END. Running a scant 72 minutes, THE MANSTER never has time to be boring. The action picks up immediately and never lets up, thanks to tight direction by George Breakston (THE BOY CRIED MURDER - 1966) and Kenneth G. Crane (HALF HUMAN - 1955; MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL - 1957; and the surreal Ed Wood-scripted REVENGE OF DR. X [a.k.a. THE DOUBLE GARDEN - 1967]). The effects are surprisingly effective for such an early production. Who can forget the first time we saw the eye growing out of Larry's shoulder? It's one of my earliest horror film memories as an impressionable kid in the 60's. It ranks up there with Ray Tudor as the beatnik having his guts eaten out by THE FLESH EATERS (1964). THE MANSTER also benefits by the multi-ethnic cast. The Japanese actors are not dubbed. They speak English when they need to and Japanese when required. Peter Dyneley is also effective as Larry, as we watch him turn from a decent human being into a souless monster. Dyneley can also be seen in HOUSE OF MYSTERY (1961), THE EXECUTIONER (1970) and SOUL PATROL (1978; a.ka. DEATH OF A SNOWMAN). Finally available on DVD from Retromedia Entertainment, this full-frame transfer is a welcome addition to any horror film fan's collection (and is in much better shape than the version offered on DVD from Alpha Video). Also starring Jerry Ito, Toyoko Takechi and George Wyman. Not Rated, but it must have been considered daring for its time.
MARDI GRAS MASSACRE (1978) - There's really no massacre in this film. Three women are killed during the course of the movie, but only the first butchery is shown. The same scene is repeated two more times to depict how the other two women are killed! This flick is actually a remake of H..G. Lewis' BLOOD FEAST, the ground breaking gore film of the early sixties. Most of the time the photography is out of focus and it looks like it was edited with a trowel (There is a scene where three hookers are drugged by our psycho that was edited so haphazardly and hilariously, I'm still trying to figure out if it was intentional or not. You'll know the scene when you see it.). So what, you may ask, makes this movie so special? The dialogue. When our psycho walks into a pick-up bar and asks a succession of hookers, "Are you evil?", I dare you to keep a straight face. When one of the hookers answers, "Yes", he takes her to his place and asks, "Would you like some wine?". Of course the wine is drugged and the hooker winds up strapped to a table while our resident psycho is readying her to be sacrificed to an ancient god. He then proceeds to cut her heart out in extreme close-up (funny how this woman doesn't seem to have a ribcage!). This entire scenario is repeated verbatim two more times before he is dispatched (or is he?). Threadbare sets, dog-ugly women, and some of the worst acting this side of PLAN NINE make this one of the Ten Worst Of All Time. Hilariously funny, although I doubt it was meant to be so. This film's only strong point is that it is a great time capsule of mid-70's New Orleans. The end credits look like they were pasted together in someone's garage. If you are a bad movie buff, this one's for you. Starring Curt Dawson, Gwen Arment, Bill Metzo and Laura Misch. MARDI GRAS MASSACRE was directed by Jack Weis, whose only other horror film was the mediocre CRYPT OF DARK SECRETS (1976), also filmed in New Orleans. A VCII Incorporated VHS Release. Also available on DVD from Code Red, but don't look for the film to be remastered. It is a slightly better presentation than the VCII VHS release, but not by much. Unrated.
MARTYRS (2008) - This French/Canadian production has been hailed and touted as the new direction of horror, but I think the film is more of a Frankenstein's monster, made up of pieces of different horror film genres (found footage, torture and reality genres) to make some sort of mutant whole. While not necessarily a bad thing, MARTYRS is not the revolutionary horror film some people claim it to be, but it is a powerful film nonetheless. In 1971, a young girl named Lucie escapes her confinement in an abandoned industrial complex where she was chained and tortured for several months. A medical documentary crew then begin filming Lucie and her background to try and discover why she went through such horrors (and Lucie is of no help since she has been silent since her escape). Lucie is put in an orphanage, where she shies away from all the other children except Anna, who acts as Lucie's surrogate protective sister. The medical crew show Anna all the documentary footage they shot and want her to help them find out who did this (and why) to Lucie. Anna and Lucie become inseparable, even though Lucie suffers from terrible nightmares and begins cutting herself. Fifteen years pass and the next time we see Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi), she enters the home of an affluent French family and murders them all with a shotgun (it's shocking in its matter-of-factness), believing that the mother and father were somehow involved in her childhood torture sessions (She kills the brother and sister after asking them, "Do you know what your parents did?"). It's clear that Lucie is damaged goods (She screams at the parents' corpses, "Why did you do that to me?" while firing the shotgun into the ceiling), but Anna (Morjana Alaoui) is still around to keep Lucie in check. While Lucie waits at the dead family's house for Anna to pick her up, she is attacked by a naked female demon who slices Lucie's body with a strait-razor. Lucie has been attacked by the apparent inner demon on many occasions since escaping the torture room as a child and with every attack, she regains some memories of what happened in that room fifteen years earlier. The question then becomes: Are these repressed memories actually real (like the female demon, these memories may be nothing more than a child's fantasy) and why is Anna helping her cover-up all her crimes? Both of these questions are answered at the film's midway point, as the film makes a very wide U-turn in the second half when Anna learns firsthand that there is a secret society out there whose sole purpose is to create martyrs. What transpires next is best viewed without the aide of words, since mere sentences and paragraphs cannot convey the sheer systematic torture Anna (who is now the new Lucie) is about to endure to give a bunch of elderly people a glimpse of what lays beyond death. But does God want the living to know the truth? Though not as ground-breaking as a lot of people make it out to be, MARTYRS still manages to pack an emotional gut-punch or two thanks to its unflinching violence (the shotgun murders and a nasty scene involving a miniature sledgehammer) and a 180 degree turn at the film's halfway mark that will surely catch most viewers off-guard. Director/screenwriter Pascal Laugier (SAINT ANGE [a.k.a. HOUSE OF VOICES - 2004]) keeps us on our toes, as the film's second half, involving Lucie's suicide and a discovery Anna makes in the dead family's home, will have some viewers reaching for a bucket to puke in. I don't want to give too much away except to say that Anna finds a new cause to believe in: Her own self-preservation. MARTYRS is a film about secrets and suggests to the audience that maybe some secrets should remain a mystery. As one character says in the film, "It's easy to create a victim. Very easy." Your enjoyment of this film depends on your tolerance for graphic violence (some of the cutting scenes go way beyond what you may have seen before) and your acceptance that, in some situations, there is no such thing as hope. You have been warned. Also starring Catherine Begin, Robert Toupin, Patricia Tulasne, Juliette Gosselin, Xavier Dolan-Tadros, Isabelle Chasse, Emilie Miskdjian and Mike Chute. Available on English-subtitled DVD from Weinstein Company Home Entertainment in both a severely edited R-Rated (avoid) and an Unrated versions.
MARY MARY BLOODY MARY (1975) - DeLorean heir and talk show queen Cristina Ferrare stars in the title role as a blood drinking painter who drugs her victims before slashing them with a blade hidden in her hair. Her new boyfriend (David Young) knows nothing of her habits and neither does the lesbian owner of the art gallery which exhibits Mary's paintings. When the lesbian comes on to Mary, she kills her, leading the FBI and the Mexican police on her trail. Also on her trail is a mysterious figure dressed in black who also enjoys the pleasures of drinking the red stuff.. Who is this figure and why is he trying to kill Mary? This south of the border production, filmed in English, is an OK horror item. The storyline treats Mary's drinking problem as a disease, not as vampirism, but you'll want to watch it for the liberal doses of blood and gore as well as the sight of Ms. Ferrare's nubile body before it chunked up. John Carradine plays the black-clad figure, although it is obvious a double was used in most of the scenes. Director Juan Lopez Moctezuma (who died in 1995) also helmed DR. TARR'S TORTURE DUNGEON (1972 - a.k.a. MANSION OF MADNESS), a stylish film based on an Edgar Allan Poe story, as well as ALUCARDA (1975 - a.k.a. INNOCENTS FROM HELL and SISTERS OF SATAN). A Continental Video Release. Also available on Blu-Ray (with an eventual DVD release) from Code Red. Rated R. (See the EMAIL section of this site to see why this review was changed).
MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY (1985) - Late entry in the Italian cannibal genre that has nary a dinosaur to be seen. A planeload of assorted characters crash land their plane in Dinosaur Valley, an uncharted region of the Amazon that is inhabited by bloodthirsty cannibals who worship a dinosaur god. The grounded group try to find their way out of the jungle and avoid the cannibals, but do a lousy job of it. Most of them are captured or perish in the jungle until there are only three left alive. They manage to escape the cannibals, but run smack-dab into an illegal mining operation run by a fat slob who also happens to run a slavery operation on the side. The hapless trio are taken prisoner, where the two women are used as playthings for the horny slaver and his lesbian sidekick. The lone male survivor (Michael Sopkiw of AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK - 1983) is tied to a stake and left for the pigs to feed on. Will they escape? Who in the hell cares! Besides fleeting glimpses of gore (including a ripped-out heart being eaten by ravenous cannibals) and generous doses of full frontal nudity, theres not much to recommend, as you have probably seen the same thing many times before and done much better. Not worth your time unless you are a cannibal completist. This film also stars Susane Carvall, Milton Morris and Martha Anderson, who all look rather embarassed spouting ridiculous lines (When will the Italians learn basic English sentence structure and proper pronounciation?) and shedding their clothes. All this can be blamed on writer/director Michael E. Lemick (actually a pseudonym for Italian director Michele Massimo Tarantini; WOMEN IN FURY - 1985), who adds nothing new to a then-tired genre. Originally titled NUDO E SELVAGGIO and also known as AMAZONAS; PRISONERS IN THE VALLEY OF DINOSAURS; STRANDED IN DINOSAUR VALLEY and the unbelievably-titled CANNIBAL FEROX II. A Lightning Video Release. Not Rated.
MAUSOLEUM (1982) - Moody, atmospheric horror film with a confusing storyline. It opens with young Susan Walker (Julie Christy Murray) at the funeral of her mother, who died under strange circumstances. When Susan learns that she will now be living with her Aunt Cora Nomed (Laura Hippe; THE SWINGING BARMAIDS - 1975) and not at home (Home or with Aunt Cora, her last name will still be "Nomed". Why it's downright demonic!), she runs through the cemetery, is drawn to the Nomed family mausoleum and she hears voices inside that are calling her name (See, if that were me, I'd be running in the opposite direction, especially since it is sunny out, but it is raining over the mausoleum!). As Susan approaches the mausoleum, the "crown of thorns" seals protecting the gates and the crypt explode; Susan walks inside (Why is it thundering and lightning inside the mausoleum?) and approaches the Nomed crypt, which looks more like a sacrificial altar. When a homeless man tries to stop Susan from going any closer, a robed figure (only seen in shadows) makes the homeless guy's head start to smoke, as he stumbles outside and his eyes explode out of their sockets. Susan's eyes start to glow green as she opens the crypt and we see a demonic clawed hand emerge from it. Over twenty years pass and the adult Susan (Bobbie Bresee; EVIL SPAWN - 1987) is married to Oliver Farrell (Marjoe Gortner; BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW - 1976), but Aunt Cora tells Susan's psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Andrews (Norman Burton; DEEP SPACE - 1988), that Susan is becoming more and more like her mother and is concerned she will end up dead in the same manner. Dr. Andrews thinks this is all poppycock, but Cora gives him a book on the Nomed family history and hopes it will change his mind before it is too late. It seems Susan was possessed by a demon when she went into that mausoleum as a child (it's part of the "Nomed Curse" that is detailed in the book) and only a "crown of thorns" being placed on the demon's head will vanquish it back to the crypt. Susan is now showing signs of possession, as a drunk (who looks like Dan Haggerty, but isn't), who hit on her in a disco, is burned alive in his car before it explodes. Ben (Maurice Sherbanee), the Farrell's gardener, makes leering advances at Susan, so she lures him into the garage, turns into the green-eyed bitch from hell and hacks him to death with a gardening claw. Aunt Cora is next, as the demonic Susan levitates her and rips open her chest. When Oliver gets a good look at the demonic Susan when he awakens one night, he calls Dr. Andrews, who doesn't believe him, even though he has read the book. Dr. Andrews hypnotizes Susan and her demonic side comes out, so he calls parapsychologist Dr. Roni Logan (Sheri Mann), to help him rid Susan of her demon. Will they be successful or will evil win? Besides lots of mood and atmosphere, MAUSOLEUM also offers plenty of nude scenes by Bobbie Bresee (she's a mighty beautiful woman, but not much of an actress) and a few gory deaths, including the iconic scene that is burned into every horror fan's mind: When Susan's breasts turn into two little toothsome demons and kill Oliver in the bathtub. Director Michael Dugan (SUPER SEAL - 1976) really doesn't have much to work with in producers Robert Barich and Robert Madero's screenplay, as it is just a fractured mess of demonic possession and supernatural mumbo-jumbo, but the plentiful death scenes (some of which seem to be edited to achieve an R-rating) and Ms. Bresee's nudity will keep viewers occupied. There's unnecessary comic relief from the Farrell's black housekeeper, Elsie (LaWanda Page; ZAPPED - 1982), who has the good sense to leave before she becomes the next victim ("Good googily-moogily. Time to stop grieving and start leaving!") and an unusually long sequence showing Ben the gardener going about his daily routine, but that only adds to the film's strangeness factor. MAUSOLEUM is by no means a good horror film, but it is different enough to justify at least one viewing, even though the closing shot is a head-scratcher (I thought Ben was dead, so why is he in the cemetery dressed in a monk's robe and laughing hysterically into the camera?!?). Also starring Chu Chu Mulave as a delivery man who begins to bleed from his ears and loses an eye when he puts the moves on Susan and Ron Cannon as a mall art gallery owner who gets levitated and impaled on a sculpture after being dropped two stories. The late Robert A. Burns (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE - 1974) was Art Director and John Carl Buechler (CELLAR DWELLAR - 1987) handled the special effects makeup. Originally released on VHS by Embassy Home Video and on DVD by BCI Eclipse. Both are OOP. Rated R.
MAYA (1988) - Italian horror nonsense about Mayan curses with a few good gore scenes tossed in for good measure. After some mumbo-jumbo about an ancient spirit that tried to kill all the Mayan people, but failed, vowing to return in the future to yank-out the hearts of his victims with his own hands, we witness Dr. Salomon Slivak (William Berger; HELL HUNTERS - 1986) having some strange vision of his death after staring into a small antique mirror. He drives into the Mexican mountains, where he encounters a cryptic little girl with frizzy hair and follows her to an ancient Mayan pyramid. He ends up dying just like in his vision, when someone or something plunges a dagger in his chest and drags him away. We then cut to Peter (Peter Phelps), an American living in Mexico, who spends his days gambling on finger wrestling contests (where we watch one man bloodily ripping-off the finger of his opponent!), screwing the local senoritas or scamming the local fishermen out of product for the restaurant/bar he co-owns. When Dr. Slivak's daughter, Lisa (Mariella Valentini), arrives in town to claim her father's body, she is appalled to discover that his chest was sliced open and his heart removed. Finding out that Peter and her father were friends, Lisa hires Peter to find out who murdered her father. Meanwhile, a series of grisly murders begin to take place in town, always prefaced by the victims looking into mirrors before they meet their deaths, beginning with two very annoying Texas teens who have come south of the border to get drunk on cheap booze and rape the local women (One teen ends up with his head crushed under the hood of their truck, while the gets a metal pole thrust into his mouth until it exits out the back of his head). Lisa finds a manuscript written by her father that tells of the ancient spirit returning to life and Peter takes her to a local witchdoctor, where they witness an exorcism and the possessed victim throws-up a pile of snakes. As more people end up dead (with their hearts missing), Peter admits to Lisa that he and her father went to a shaman to "expand their minds" and, in doing so, may have awakened the ancient spirit. Peter must now find a way to put the genie (in the form of the frizzy-haired little girl) back into the bottle before it claims his and Lisa's lives. And wouldn't you know it, today is the Day of the Dead? For God's sake, whatever you do, don't look in the mirror! While this film, directed and co-written by Marcello Avallone (SPECTERS - 1987), is confusing as hell and relies a little too heavily on mysticism, it's not without it's good points, which includes a constant sense of dread, plenty of well-done graphic deaths and lots and lots of female nudity and sex. I particularly liked Avallone's use of mirrors in this film. While not used as overtly as in POLTERGEIST III (made the same year as this) or the more recent MIRRORS (2008), the placement of mirrors in MAYA is downright ingenious in spots. While we take looking in the mirror as an everyday experience and give it no thought whatsoever, in this film it's a certain death sentence. Some of the deaths are very hard to watch, such as Peter's on-again, off-again girlfriend Jahaira (Mariangelica Ayala), who looks in a mirror while taking a bath and gets her face repeatedly bashed onto the faucet and side of the tub until her nose splits in two. Or Maria (Antonella Angelluci), Dr. Slivak's lover/assistant, who ends up hung by the neck after some deep sea fishing hooks rip through her flesh. The plot may be as thin as a seedy motel's walls (script by Avallone, Andrea Purgatori and producer Maurizio Tedesco), but MAYA more than makes up for it with inventive deaths, lots of beautiful female flesh, a pulsing electronic score, creepy atmosphere and some nice outdoor cinematography (filmed on the Isle of Margarita in Venezuela). The finale, which takes place at an airport, is a real brain-scratcher, though. Also starring Cyrus Elias, Mirella D'Angelo, Antonello Fassardi, Erich Wilpret, Tullio Cavalli and Vilma Ramia. Never legitimately on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed came from the very nice-looking, English-dubbed German DVD on the Dragon Film Entertainment label. Not Rated.
MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973) - Extremely effective, atmospheric and moody horror film. When Arletty (Marianna Hill) stops receiving letters from her artist father (Royal Dano), she travels to the small coastal town of Point Dune to check up on him. She enters his house and finds the walls painted with eerie silouettes of people with blank staring faces. She also finds her father's diary which details his descent into madness, caused by some unknown disease which is rapidly spreading throughout the town. While searching the town for her father, Arletty meets a man (Michael Greer) who is in town with his two girlfriends (!) (Anitra Ford and Joy Bang) researching the legend of the "Blood Moon", the night when the moon turns red and the population goes cannibalistic. The warning signs are already there: People start bleeding from the eyes and puke out beetles, maggots and lizards from their mouths. They also begin to chow down on the unaffected population. Disheveled bum Elisha Cook Jr. warns Arletty that her father is dead, and if she were to meet him, she should set him on fire because that is the only way to rid the world of the menace. Bullets and dismemberment have no effect (and not for the lack of trying). When Arletty finally meets her father, he lays this horrifying tale of the town to her: One hundred years ago a man dressed in black rode into town. He was a preacher and one of the surviving members of the ill-fated Donner Party who grew to like the taste of human flesh. The townspeople didn't care much for him so he walked into the ocean vowing to return in a hundred years to spread his flesh fetish. The time has come for his return. The film is intentionally slow-moving and uses that pacing to drop small clues and set up some genuinely shocking visuals. The scene with Joy Bang in a supposedly empty movie house (showing Bernard Girard's seldom-seen western GONE WITH THE WEST ) is a knockout as is the finale where the populace attack Hill and Greer at her father's house. And there's also the strange looking, albino-like man who likes to eat mice! After this film director Willard Huyck and producer Gloria Katz wrote the extremely popular AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973). Huyck later directed the bad BEST DEFENSE (1984; with Eddie Murphy) and the abominable HOWARD THE DUCK (1986). Marianna Hill can also be seen in the underrated film THE BABY (1974) and the so-so BLOOD BEACH (1981; where a rapist has his dick ripped off by a sand-dwelling monster!). Joy Bang also appeared in NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN (1972) and CISCO PIKE (1971; as a pregnant teenage junkie). Ray Nadeau, director of BEAUTIES AND THE BEAST (1973) served as post-production supervisor. MESSIAH OF EVIL was also released as DEAD PEOPLE, THE SECOND COMING, DEEP SWAMP (!) and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. George Romero sued when it was rereleased under this title for using the tag line "When there is no more room in Hell the dead will walk the Earth" (from DAWN OF THE DEAD ) in their ads (click on ad mat above). The ad was immediately withdrawn and the next day released as REVENGE OF THE SCREAMING DEAD with a new ad campaign. Under any title, this is must viewing. A Video Gems Home Video Release, also available on a truly awful DVD from Diamond Entertainment and a better DVD transfer from Brentwood Home Video in their TALES OF TERROR 10-DVD collection. Unfortunately, the latter DVD transfer kicks out after the Joy Bang movie house attack and freezes, eliminating the final 30 minutes! Also released on widescreen DVD & Blu-Ray by Code Red, which is now considered the definitive version. Rated R.
METAMORPHOSIS (1989) - The Grim Reaper directs! George Eastman (real name: Luigi Montefiore), who starred as the Anthropophagus Man in THE GRIM REAPER (1980) and its' sequel MONSTER HUNTER (1981), as well as appearing in countless Italian potboilers, wrote and directed this pretty bad horror film after apparently viewing Cronenberg's version of THE FLY (1986) and episodes of MIAMI VICE (1984 - 1990) one too many times. A research scientist (Gene LeBrock of FORTRESS OF AMERIKKKA - 1989), fearful of losing his funding, injects himself (through the eye!) with a serum he has invented that is supposed to regenerate cells independently, thereby allowing a person never to age and live forever. Of course, things go wrong, as he begins to mutate into a "living fossil" (actually a miniature dinosaur) forcing him to rip out people's livers for nutriment. His unsuccessful attempt to revert his metamorphosis rounds out the film, as his fate is sealed by the son (horrendously acted by Jason Arnold) of his love interest (Catherine Baranov). Eastman shows a fondness for draping his cinematic compositions with neon lighting. Unfortunately, much of the action takes place in the darkness, making it very difficult to see anything. The performances are bad all around, as the actors seem to be reading off cue cards. The gore and nudity are kept to a bare minimum which makes this film barely watchable. Exploitation veteran Laura Gemser (TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM - 1977) puts in a cameo appearance as a battered prostitute in one of the most confusing bar fights ever committed to celluloid. In fact, most of the action that takes place in this film (also known as LIZARD) is so confusing that it leaves you shaking your head in bewilderment. The appearance of the miniature dinosaur in the finale is laughable (and thankfully short). After viewing this film I have some advice for the director: Luigi, don't give up your day job as an actor! It's always good to have something to fall back on. An Imperial Entertainment Release. Rated R.
MIDNIGHT KISS (1992) - One thing that I really hate is a movie that starts off promising and then immediately sinks into total mediocrity. This is one of those films. In the parking lot of a bar, a woman is being raped by a drunken lout who she rebuffed earlier. Along comes a priest (Gregory A. Greer) and he steps in to stop the attack. The drunk shoves a knife into the priest's hand and then we learn that the priest is actually a vampire. He rips off the drunk's face and throws him into a wall while the bar owner comes out and unloads a shotgun blast into the priest's chest (with no effect). He takes the gun away and shoots the bar owner in the chest and then blows his head off with another pull of the trigger. He then proceeds to make a meal out of the woman. That's the good part. It goes downhill from there. When the police arrive, we learn that the woman is number 17 in a string of killings of women by the unknown serial killer. Enter ex-homicide officer Carrie Blass (Michelle Owens), who now works on rape cases after botching a homicide investigation run by her ex-husband Dennis (Michael McMillen). She desperately wants back on homicide, even going as far as trying to sleep with her Captain (Robert Miano) to get back in. She refuses at the last minute, but the Captain puts her back in anyway and has her team up with her ex-husband as a partner. During a failed stakeout, Carrie gets bitten on the arm by the vampire before putting a bullet into his head and getting away. She begins a slow transformation into a vampire as Dennis and the entire police department don't believe her story. Carrie must destroy all of the vampire's undead victims and track down and destroy him so she can get back to her normal human self. She drags Dennis along and finally she gets him to believe her after killing one female victim who comes back to life in the morgue. Now Carrie and Dennis must track down the head vampire before the night is out. There are a few parts of this film that are, to put it mildly, flabbergasting. How is it that a vampire can wear a crucifix as an earring and is not afraid of crosses? (The only explanation we are given is when the vampire says to Carrie, "Don't believe everything you read." Huh?!?) And where did this vampire come from? No explanation is ever given. Another scene shows Carrie (in the midst of becoming a vampire and dressed provocatively) disarming a perp in the police station and bashing his head against the wall until brain matter appears. What happens to Carrie? She gets pats on the back from her fellow officers and the incident is never mentioned again. Director Joel Bender (THE IMMORTILIZER - 1989) has no sense of pacing and the middle of the film drags so badly that, any interest you may have had, disappears. Not worth your time except for the first 5 minutes. Also starring B.J. Gates, Michael Shawn and Celeste Yarnell (THE VELVET VAMPIRE - 1971). An Academy Entertainment Release. Rated R.
MIDNIGHT MOVIE (2008) - Famed movie director Ted Radford (Arthur Roberts; HAMMERHEAD: SHARK FRENZY - 2005) has been institutionalized for forty years, ever since starring in and directing his last film, "The Dark Beneath", a creepy black & white horror film that has strange effects on whomever watches it. Some stupid psychiatrist decides to "cure" Radford by projecting the film on a continuous loop in his cell; thinking that if Radford faces his worst fears, his psychosis will be cured. Dr. Wayne (Michael Swan) doesn't think it's such a good idea and he's right. When Dr. Wayne returns to the asylum the following day, the place is a bloody mess; everyone is missing and Radford (after taking a bite out of his own wrist) has left a strange circular symbol on the floor in his room, written in his own blood. Five years later, a small movie theater managed by Bridget (Rebekah Brandes; CURSE OF PIRATE DEATH - 2006) is showing Radford's film for the first time to audiences in forty years as a Midnight Movie and, as you can probably guess, this is not going to be a quiet night. Detective Barrons (Jon Briddell) is convinced that Radford is still alive and will show up at the theater (Seventy people disappeared from the asylum five years earlier, including Radford, and their bodies were never found), so he sits in the back row as the film unspools, hoping to catch Radford in the act (of what is not yet made clear). Luckily, the theater is nearly empty (kids today have no soul!); just Bridget's boyfriend Josh (Daniel Bonjour), his friend Mario (Greg Cirulnick), girlfriend Samantha (Mandell Maughan), film nerd Sully (Michael Schwartz), burley biker Harley (Stan Ellsworth), his old lady (Melissa Steach) and the small theater staff. As everyone watches the film on-screen (it's a riff on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), fantasy and horror become blurred with reality, as the skull-faced killer in the film begins killing people in the theater, the real-life murders somehow showing up on-screen (only in black & white). Dr. Wayne shows up at the theater to keep Detective Barrons company, both still not aware of what is really going on in the theater (Even Bridget and the gang think they are being punked when the killer murders Sully on-screen). When everyone finally realizes what a dire situation they are all really in, it's too late, as they find themselves trapped in the theater with no way out (the doors are supernaturally closed and there is no cellphone service), while the film plays on the screen. Whenever a murder happens in the film, the killer strikes in real life, using a fancy sharp spiral homemade tool to slice throats, remove hearts and thrust through torsos. How can anyone stop a killer on film? How about stopping the film in the projection booth? With all the doors shut tighter than a new prisoner's ass at his first communal shower, only Bridget's younger brother Timmy (Justin Baric), who snuck into the theater earlier, can fit though the air ducts that lead to the projection booth. As they will find out, the murders only really stop once everyone stops being scared. Easier said than done. Although this film has some effective moments (especially the segues between black & white and color), it's full of stock, stereotypical characters and clichéd situations. What it all boils down to is a masked killer stalking a theater and killing its patrons, with some supernatural mumbo-jumbo (which is never adequately explained) thrown-in for good measure. First-time director Jack Messitt, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mark Garbett, tries to make things relevant by portraying Bridget and young brother Timmy as victims of an abusive, violent father (who we never see), but when they are the last two survivors and resort to quoting the "Lord's Prayer" to put them in their "safe place", just like they use to do when daddy beat them, the film goes off the rails and never recovers. There are some bloody kills (especially Detective Barrons' and Dr. Wayne's deaths), but MIDNIGHT MOVIE is nothing but generic "stalk 'n' slash" stuff. This territory was covered much more effectively in director Bigas Luna's ANGUISH (1986) and John Carpenter's season one episode of MASTERS OF HORROR titled "Cigarette Burns". Watch those instead. Another DTV effort, THE HILLS RUN RED (2009), also deals with a cursed "lost movie" premise. Let's hope this doesn't start a trend. A Peace Arch Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
MIND KILLER (1987) - DTV 80's horror flick (part of a three picture deal producer Sarah H. Liles and her production company, Flash Features, struck with VHS releasing company Prism Entertainment) that has some good ideas and wonderfully weird makeup effects (by Ted A. Bohus [REGENERATED MAN - 1994] and Vincent J. Guastini [SPOOKIES - 1986]), but it is undone by amateur acting and the general overall cheapness of the production (videography, sound, set direction, music and editing are all generally poor). This is the story of angry nerd Warren (Joe McDonald), who can't find a girlfriend no matter how hard he tries (That's his problem, he tries way too hard). He and equally nerdy co-worker Larry (Christopher Wade) go to local pick-up joint Swingles to meet chicks and Warren gets shot down by every girl he hits on, while suave friend Brad (Kevin Hart) has no problem getting a woman on the first try and bringing her back to the apartment he shares with Warren. Larry and Warren work in the sub-basement archives at the local library and when their scumbag boss, Mr. Townsend (George Flynn), introduces them to their newest co-worker, Sandy (Shirley Ross), Warren is instantly smitten and asks Brad for advice on how to ask her out on a date. Of course, Warren fails miserably when Sandy informs him that she has a policy against dating co-workers (Warren, whose deceased father was a popular professional wrestler, is slowly losing his grip, as he punches mirrors and puts a steak knife to his throat when he doesn't get his way), so he buries himself in his work and finds an old manuscript on mind control deep in the library's archives. The manuscript describes in detail on how to unlock the 90% of the brain we don't use and Warren begins to follow the instructions. Larry (who is a human encyclopedia of knowledge) tells Warren that the person who wrote the manuscript, Dr. Vivac Chandra (Tom Henry), died "a horrible death" in 1957, but Warren pays it no mind because he feels like a "changed man" after reading it. Too bad that the changes also apply to physical manifestations, as well as mental. Warren not only becomes a genius and can read other people's minds, he can also manipulate people's minds (he "helps" Larry solve the Rubik's Cube) and control machines (like TVs and snack machines). He and Larry go back to Swingles, where Warren uses his new-found powers and scores with the first chick he hits on, but he begins to suffer from extreme headaches whenever he overuses his powers and loses even more of his already-fragile temper. When he finally tries his powers on Sandy, he's only partially successful and Sandy becomes scared of him. Warren becomes more unglued (When Mr. Townsend berates Larry in front of everyone over nothing, Warren wills Townsend's clothes away, so he is standing in nothing but his underwear!) and "forces" Sandy to have dinner at his place, where she shows more interest in Brad than him. She and Brad become "friendly" and Warren finally loses it. His hair begins to fall out, his forehead becomes larger and larger and he nearly cuts-off Larry's fingers with a paper cutter when he can't find the last two pages of the manuscript (He reads Larry's mind and discovers that Larry is hiding the last two pages from him. Larry knows the last two pages will put Warren over the edge and he is just trying to be a good friend). Before long, Warren's brain becomes too big for his body, as he becomes a grotesque monster who can't control his own thoughts. Larry, Brad and Sandy band together to try and save Warren, who is searching for a device created by Dr. Chandra that will separate his mind from his body and make him a "god". Larry pays a visit to Dr. Chandra's senile mother (Diana Calhoun), seeking clues to the whereabouts of the device (Larry has also read the manuscript, including the final two pages, but he is much more in control of his mentality because he has no problem being seen as a "geek". As a matter of fact, he embraces it.), but Warren has already found it and used it on himself. What happens next is a tour-de-force of bladder effects, a gooey, toothy brain creature and head-scratching theatrics. While the themes of MIND KILLER may be thought provoking (no pun intended), director Michael Krueger (who also directed the abysmal NIGHT VISION the same year, as well as co-producing/scripting the little-seen werewolf flick, LONE WOLF, in 1988, the other two films in the Flash Features canon) doesn't have the talent or the budget to pull-off such a heady (pun intended) topic. The screenplay, written by Dave Sipos, Curtis Hannum and Krueger, has a lot of good ideas about what could happen if someone were able to use 100% of their brain, but the actors are incapable of rising to the material. At least the creature effects are halfway decent, but we have to wade through nearly 70 minutes of bad acting to get to them and when we finally do, they are nearly ruined by some really cheap optical effects, such as Larry suddenly having the power to shoot electric bolts from his fingertips. The film is a total mess from a technical standpoint, too, and it is filled with 80's fashions and hairstyles we would all rather forget. Still, MIND KILLER is a mildly diverting time waster if you ignore all the minuses and pay attention to what the film tries to convey, but ultimately fails to deliver. Filmed in Denver, Colorado. Also starring Crystel Niedle, Dawn Jacobs and Edd Nichols as "Mr. Suave", a self-help geek who put out a "How To Pick Up Girls" VHS tape and then suddenly appears at Swingles, just to make Warren look more like a dweeb. Originally released on VHS by Prism Entertainment and not available on DVD. Not Rated (contains brief female topless nudity and a smidgen of blood).
MINER'S MASSACRE (2002) - While this is basically a teens-in-peril horror film, it does have some points in it's favor. It's well-acted (for a horror film at least), contains a who's-who list of grade B actors (Karen Black, Richard Lynch, Vernon Wells, Martin Kove, Jeff Conaway and John Phillip Law) in cameo bits, some unknown actors (Carrie Bradac, Sean Hines, Alexandra Ford, Elina Anderson, Rick Majeske, Shadrach Smith, Stephen Wastell and Kelsey Wedeen) who can actually act and bits of bloody violence. When the brother of Claire Berman (Bradac) mails her half a treasure map and a piece of gold, it leads her and her friends to the deserted mining town of Suttersville. They are warned by the local sheriff (Law, who is also an Associate Producer with Wells and Kove) and the lovely local Eve (Ford) to stay away from the mines as not to disturb the legendary Forty-Niner (Brad H. Ardin), a ghostly miner who will kill anyone who steals his hidden gold. It's already too late, as the Forty-Niner has already come to life thanks to Claire's brother (who we see is hanged by a hook in the beginning of the film). Claire and her friends find the other half of the map and easily find the Forty-Niner's gold, setting off a chain of events which leads to the grisly deaths of several of the friends and locals (Death by pick, death by shovel, death by fire, death by decapitation, etc). Eve's aunt (Black) saves the remaining people and relates the story of how the Forty-Niner came to be. He was originally called Jeremiah Stone (played by Wells in the flashback sequence) and was one of the Donner Party who survived. He jumped mining claims, killing (and eating) many people to get his gold. It is claimed that he was so mean that even the Devil would not take him when he was killed, lying in wait until his gold is disturbed. The only way to destroy him is to return every piece of gold to it's original resting place and burn him when he comes to check up on it. The remaining three survivors come up with a way to destroy the Forty-Niner and think they have succeeded, only to have a surprise ending come up and bite them in the ass (and leave room for a sequel). While low on originality, director and effects expert (MMI) John Carl Buechler (TROLL - 1985; CELLAR DWELLER - 1987 and ICE CRAWLERS [a.k.a. DEEP FREEZE] - 2003) squeezes in enough blood and suspense to get by for 86 minutes. At first the murders are shown off screen, leading me to believe that this was going to be a rather bloodless affair, like his badly-cut FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988), but as it progresses it becomes much bloodier and the killings are shown on-screen. I may be growing soft in my old age, but I liked this film. Just don't kill me for it. Peter Lupus (the star of the original MISSION IMPOSSIBLE TV series) is the Executive Producer. Originally known as CURSE OF THE FORTY-NINER. A DEJ Productions DVD Release. Rated R.
MOLLY AND THE GHOST (1991) - Another strange film from director Don Jones, who previously gave us SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS (1973), THE LOVE BUTCHER (1975), THE FOREST (1982), DEADLY SUNDAY (1982) and MURDERLUST (1985), although Jones vehemently denies he had anything to do with the last two (as well as PROJECT NIGHTMARE - 1987) and claims they were directed by someone with the same name (a claim I find dubious, since the second "Don Jones" has never been uncovered). Teenage troublemaker and seductress Susan (Ena Henderson) moves into the opulent home of older sister Molly (Lee Darling) and her new husband Jeff (Ron Moriarty) after she gets into a huge argument with her father. It's not long before Susan is purposely interrupting lovemaking sessions between Molly and Jeff (Susan has nipples so large, they are the size of cup saucers) and listening to their private conversations in order to take advantage of their weaknesses. When Susan gets caught stealing money and jewelry from Molly and then Molly catches Susan trying to seduce Jeff by wearing sexy lingerie (When Jeff objects because Susan is so young, she replies, "So young...and so experienced!"), Molly throws her out of the house and hands her a plane ticket home. Instead of flying home, Susan heads to Hollywood, stays in a sleazy motel and gets mistaken as a hooker by two drunken guys who chase her into a bar (where the gentlemen refuse to enter because there is a cover charge!). In the bar, Susan meets a Vietnam veteran (P.K. Flamingo), a ne'er-do-well who convinces Susan that he is a hitman (it's obvious by his clumsiness that he's not). Susan, using her body as collateral, talks him into breaking into Molly's house and killing her. Armed with a butcher knife in one hand and a machete in the other, he chickens out when Molly wakes up and starts screaming. Somehow, Susan convinces Molly to take her back (and we also learn that Susan was adopted by Molly's family when Susan's mother mysteriously disappeared and her father's identity was never established), but Susan becomes so obsessed with Jeff, she hires a professional hitman (who she finds from an ad in a Soldier Of Fortune-like magazine) to kill Molly. Susan seriously fucks-up when she sends the hitman, John (Daniel Martine), a photo of herself instead of Molly and John ends up strangling Susan instead. In what amounts to a total left-hand turn in the film, Susan's ghost is picked-up in a white stretch limousine by one of God's agents (!) and she convinces the agent to let her return to Earth to atone for her sins. Instead of atoning, Susan begins haunting Molly and Jeff and seeks revenge on John for killing her (Wouldn't God immediately revoke her status and just send her to Hell? Oh, well...). She haunts and taunts John repeatedly (by wearing different theatrical fright masks and saying such things to him as, "Run! Run to your grave! It waits for you!"), so much so that he impales himself on a tree branch and dies while trying to escape her ghostly image in a forest. Susan then turns her attention to Molly and Jeff. She possesses Molly's body and begins sleeping around, much to Jeff's chagrin. Can Molly find a way to get her body back and send Susan back to her grave? The paper-thin plot (no one gets screen credit for writing the screenplay), along with a lack of any substantial violence (John's impalement is the only blood on view) or nudity (there's only Susan's early topless scene and a quick shot of Jeff's naked ass), should be enough to turn-off any serious genre viewers, but director/co-producer Don Jones tosses-in several "What The Fuck?!?" moments to keep us entertained throughout. Jones certainly makes some odd choices, my favorite being John shooting at Susan's ghost in the forest and showing us a couple of super-slow-motion shots of John firing his gun and the bullets leaving the barrel, passing through Susan's (superimposed) body and exploding into the trunks of trees or some conveniently-placed tin cans on the ground. There's another unbelievable scene where Jeff gets the idea to hire a parapsychologist after looking at the VHS box of GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)! I also love the way Molly and Jeff so easily accept the fact that they are being haunted by Susan's ghost and don't seem concerned at all when glass vases and furniture start flying around the house. The not-so-special effects consist of double exposures for the ghost effects, cheap opticals and even emulsion scratching. As a matter of fact, this film has production values that are a step-down from TV soap operas, but that only adds to the film's charms. The truth is that MOLLY AND THE GHOST doesn't make a lick of sense (especially what's written on Susan's headstone in the finale, but I'll leave that tidbit for you to discover yourselves), but we are all better off for it nonetheless. It's so illogical, it's brain-frying. Jones edited the film using the name "Nod Senoj" (I'll give you a minute to process it). Also starring Reg Green, Lyric Lawson, Cliff Marlowe and Stephanie Johnson. Available on DVD as part of RAREFLIX.COM TRIPLE FEATURE VOL. 2 box set distributed by Media Blasters. Not Rated.
MONGREL (1982) - A group of diverse and strange people are staying at a gothic-looking and rundown boarding house managed by the obnoxious Woody (Mitch Pileggi). The newest boarder, Ken (Andy Tiemann), becomes acquainted with all the guests and their predilictions. Besides Woody (who is a real pain in the ass), there's meek writer Jerry (Terry Evans), who is scared of his own shadow; stringbean military buff Ike (Jonathan M. Ingraffia), who blasts cadence marches on his hi-fi; Woody's girlfriend Turquoise (Rachel Winfew), who tends her garden and meditates; ex-bar owner Leon (Daniel Medina), who has a kick-ass custom made DEEP THROAT pinball machine; Woody's best friend Toad (John Dodson), a garage mechanic and somewhat of a lunkhead; and Sharon (Catherine Molloy), a beautiful woman and the voice of sanity in the group. When Ike's dog (who never stops barking) breaks his chain and attacks Toad, Woody shoots and kills it. Jerry watches the attack from his window and starts having some type of pstchotic reaction (Sharon tells Ken that Jerry was attacked by a dog as a kid and now has a severe fear of canines). To spite Ike, Woody brings home a puppy and keeps it in the basement (he plans on turning it into a guard dog). Ike has bigger problems, though. He's severely jealous of Ken spending time with Sharon (she dated Ike a couple of times), so he and Woody play a nasty practical joke on Ken (it involves putting the body of Ike's dead dog in Ken's bed). The prank goes horribly wrong and Ken is electrocuted. Woody and Ike get rid of all the incriminating evidence before calling the police. Jerry sees the dead dog and Ken's body and tells Sharon, "I can't let them get away with this!" Sharon can't take it and leaves the boarding house for good. Then the shit hits the fan. Woody's puppy is found torn apart in the basement. Woody blames Ike, but Jerry tells everyone that he heard a growling dog in the hallway. The next night, Ike is mauled and killed by some unseen growling beast outside the house. Turquoise finds Ike's body in her garden and the police are called. No one, including the police, believe Jerry's claims of a growling creature roaming the halls. Jerry continues having bad nightmares and Woody disappears. When Turquoise finds Woody's body, the killer is revealed. It attacks Turquoise and Leon, killing them. Toad comes home from work and is impaled on a spike sticking out of the wall in the cellar. Sharon stops by for a visit and is saved by the landlord's well-aimed shotgun blast. This is the only feature directed by the late Robert A. Burns, who was better known for his incredible art and set directions on films like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and TOURIST TRAP (1978) and for starring as Daniel Ray Hawkins in CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER (1985). More of a character study than a horror film, MONGREL is extremely low-budget but has a certain charm that can't be denied. Pretty well acted for a zero budget item, third-billed Mitch Pileggi (this was his first film acting assignment) is the real stand-out, bullying people to get his way and being somewhat humorous at the same time. Aldo Ray puts in a couple of appearances as the building's landlord (probably for some quick booze money), but all he does is yell, scream and yell some more before he saves the day. His total screen time amounts to less than two minutes. All clues point to Jerry being the killer and the film offers no apologies or explanations when the killer is revealed. You'll have to guess what the motivations are. While not very gory (a torn apart puppy, some bloody slashings) and no nudity is present, MONGREL succeeds primarily on it's unique characters and a talented, though mostly unknown, cast. Filmed in Burn's hometown of Austin, Texas. A Paragon Video Release. Not Rated.
MONSTER DOG (1985) - Rock star Vincent Raven (Alice Cooper) is returning to his boyhood mansion to film a music video for his new song "Identity Crisis". On the way towards town, Vince and his crew are stopped at a roadblock manned by Sheriff Morrison (Ricardo Palacios), who warns Vince and his crew that a pack of wild dogs are running loose and have killed five people so far. The sheriff also mentions Vince's dead father and something (bad) that happened twenty years ago, but Vince doesn't want to talk about it. As soon as Vince leaves the roadblock, the sheriff and his deputy are attacked and killed by a weird-looking dog. Vince hits a dog with his van and puts it out it's misery with a rock to it's head. An old man (B. Barta Barri) with bloody clothes appears out of nowhere and tells Vince and his crew that they will all be dead shortly. Once they get to the mansion, they find it deserted, but well-stocked with food, booze and a "Welcome Home Vincent" banner across the front doorway. Vince grabs a shotgun and searches the house while Angela (Pepita James) has a nightmare that everyone is dead and Vincent has become a werewolf. Vince's manager and girlfriend, Sandra (Victoria Vera), becomes worried when Vince tells her that he believes werewolves are real and that his father was one. Twenty years ago, the townspeople stabbed his father with pitchforks and burned him alive with gasoline after they caught him eating livestock and people. Is it possible that the curse was passed from father to son? While filming a video for Vince's new tune ("See Me In The Mirror"), the dead body of the mansion's caretaker comes crashing through a window and lands on Angela. As Angela runs out of the house (with Vince in close pursuit), four psychotic hunters invade the mansion and hold everyone prisoner, waiting for Vince to return so they can kill him (they blame his return for the rash of killings). The hunters kill Angela by mistake as she walks through the door and Vince is forced to kill three of the hunters with his shotgun. A pack of dogs invades the mansion, attack the crew and kill the fourth hunter. The werewolf then makes an appearance and begins devouring the rest of the crew. When all that are left are Sandra and Marilou (Maria Jose Sarsa), the question remains: Is Vince the "Monster Dog" or is it someone else? This Spanish/Italian co-production, directed/scripted by Claudio Fragasso (TROLL 2 - 1990) using his "Clyde Anderson" pseudonym, is definitely a product under the influence of the MTV Generation, back when MTV was vital and actually showed music videos. Mixing music video techniques with gothic atmosphere is a strange brew and sometimes it works. The main problem with this film is that Alice Cooper voice is dubbed (his music videos here are not, though) by someone whose voice is two octaves too low and it severely hampers any scene Cooper is in (which is about 70% of the film). The film doesn't make very much sense, bit it does contain a lot of gory bloodshed, including a nasty shot of Vince blowing the top off one hunter's head with a shotgun blast, some bloody dog attacks and lots of mangled bodies. At 84 minutes, the film doesn't overstay it's welcome and some scenes are quite good (some tracking shots inside the house are very forboding), but the Monster Dog looks like a bad puppet. Besides two original Alice Cooper songs, I'm pretty sure there's also an uncredited song or two by the Alan Parsons Project. MONSTER DOG is an interesting failure that is too schizophrenic to succeed. Carlos Aured, the director of HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973), was producer here. Also starring Carlos Santurio, Emilio Linder, Luis Maluenda and Charly Bravo. A Trans World Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
MONSTER HUNTER (1981) - A big Greek man (George Eastman) is impaled on an iron fence while being chased by a Greek priest (Edmund Purdom) in an unnamed American town. He is found with his intestines exposed by the family of a bedridden sick girl (Katya Berger) and rushed to the hospital. Once there, the doctors discover that he can regenerate his dead cells. Before the police can question him, the big man escapes, but not before running a bone drill through a nurse's head. The priest tells the cops that the big man is an escaped biogenetic experiment that has gone insane. It seems the only cells he isn't able to reproduce are his brain cells, so the only way to kill him is to destroy his brain (hmm...sounds familiar). The big man begins a series of murders (including cleaving a man's head in half with a band saw), eluding the police and eventually finding his way back to the house of the bedridden girl. After offing the babysitter with a pickaxe through the head (the parents are away at a Superbowl party) and roasting the bedridden girl's nurse in the oven (she turns a nice shade of golden brown), the big man sets his sights on the girl and her bratty younger brother. Will she be able to get out of the bed and stave off his murderous advances? What the hell do you think? After a struggle, the girl chops off the big man's head and shows it to her parents and the cops who are waiting outside. This is Joe D'Amato's (here using the pseudonym "Peter Newton"; real name: Aristide Massaccesi) sequel to his successful film THE GRIM REAPER (1980). It is a bloody, but uninspired, film that runs out of steam long before it ends. There is one bright unintentional laugh here: During the Superbowl party everyone is seen eating their favorite food...spaghetti! Me thinks this film is showing its' Italian roots. George Eastman (real name: Luigi Montefiori, who would later direct the terrible METAMORPHOSIS), who also played the cannibal in the original, stumbles around in this one trying to find something to do. He could have telephoned in his performance. MONSTER HUNTER, also known as ABSURD, ANTHROPOPHAGUS II, THE GRIM REAPER II and HORRIBLE, has plenty of gore but no shocks. Avoid it and rent something else. A Wizard Video Release. Unrated.
MONSTROSITY (1987) - A trio of overage punks, called The Cole Gang, go on a crime spree. They start by slitting the throat of an old man leaving a grocery store, then stealing a car (after knifing the female driver and rifling through her purse) and finally raping the girlfriend of a med student (Michael Lunsford). After talking to the cops at the hospital, the girl is killed by the leader of the gang (disguised as a doctor) by graphically slitting her stomach open with a scalpel and pulling out her intestines. Vowing revenge, the med student and a couple of his school buddies, after listening to the Jewish legend of the Golem (!), decide to build their own creature to track down and kill the Cole Gang. Now this is when it begins to get weird. The med students steal a torso, the head of a pervert and the arm and leg of a gorilla (!), stitch them all together and bring to life a creature they dub "Frankie" (Hal Borske), after Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Up until Frankie's creation, this film is played dead-serious. During the creation, the flick turns into a broad comedy and stays that way for the rest of the film. Once Frankie comes to life, he's portrayed more like a retarded child than a killer and the med students try to teach him to kill by showing him Stallone and Schwarzeneggar posters! The Cole Gang first meet Frankie as they are killing a pimp (throat slashing) and his second-in-command (run over by a car). Frankie cut the hand off one of the gang (the other two get away) with a meat cleaver and saves one of the prostitutes, Jaimie Lee Curtis Wochieski (Carrie Anita), who he brings home. They fall in love (She says, "You wanna nail me, Frankie?") and Frankie finds out that he leaks blood from his stitches when he gets aroused or angry (I promise I'm not making this up.). The rest of the film documents Frankie's destruction of the Cole gang, his romance and marriage to Jaimie and meeting his guardian angel, Angelo 10, who goes on an anti-abortion tirade that must be heard to be believed. As the med students become power-mad, there's a truly head-scratching finale that will leave you saying, "What the HELL?" This is the first of a trio of films that director Andy Milligan made before succumbing to A.I.D.S. in 1991. The other two films were WEIRDO: THE BEGINNING and SURGIKILL (both 1988). MONSTROSITY mixes gags with gore (decapitations, throat slashings, appendage and organ removals and a large nail hammered into someone's forehead) for an uneasy mixture. The tonal switch from seriousness to juvenile comedy throws the viewer for a loop and the film never recovers. The DVD liner notes state that Milligan filmed the second half of the film first and only filmed the first half when he knew he would get a distribution deal. This would explain the fractured narrative. The film looks like it was filmed on short ends (a Milligan trademark) as the color and focus shifts from scene to scene. This is not essential Milligan (but what is?) although it is good for a retarded laugh here and there. The effects are quite graphic but are laughable in their execution (another Milligan trademark). Also starring Joe Balogh and David Homb. Produced by Lew Mishkin, son of William Mishkin, who distributed a lot of Milligan's early films. A Video Kart, Ltd. DVD Release. Not Rated.
MOON STALKER (1989) - Cheapskate father Harry takes his family to a secluded campground in the middle of Winter to avoid the traffic and long lines of L.A. (even though in some shots you can see a stretch of highway with cars zipping by and hear the sounds of traffic during dialogue scenes). They are soon joined at the campground by "Pop" Bromley (Tom Hamil), a rotten-toothed old man who keeps his deranged son Bernie (Blake Gibbons) chained-up in his beat-up camper. You can tell he's deranged because he is wearing a straight-jacket and has a potato sack on his head. Pop lets Bernie out at night to kill Harry and his family and steal their microwave (!). Bernie does what Pop asks, but Pop drops dead of a heart attack, leaving Bernie to fend for himself. He kills a passing camp counselor, steals his identity and his truck and heads to a wilderness training camp where several people are learning to be camp counselors. It's not long before Bernie is killing the camp counselors with an axe, hunting knife or any other deadly weapon he can get his hands on. Meanwhile, Taylor (Assistant Director Neil Kinsella), a county cop, discovers the dead tourist family and Pop, who he recognizes from years before. He puts the pieces together and knows that Bernie is doing all the killing, but can't get the other cops to believe him. By himself, he heads to the wilderness camp to stop Bernie. When Taylor stumbles on to a campfire full of singing corpses (!), Bernie gives Taylor last rites (with a spear). Will anyone survive Bernie's carnage? Will Bernie change his name to something more fitting of a serial killer? This impossibly-cheap horror flick was next to impossible to see when first released on VHS in the early 90's due to a pretty nonexistant distribution deal with a no name company (Complete Entertainment) and playing one time (in an edited cut) on USA's UP ALL NIGHT. Thanks to this "Value DVD", it can be yours for the measly price of $1.00 but, even at that price, you'll feel you're being ripped-off. As a horror film, it stinks royally because the camera cuts to the next scene nearly every time Bernie swings his axe. Late director/screenwriter Michael O'Rourke, who also directed the weird rural horror film DEADLY LOVE in 1987, apparently never watched FRIDAY THE 13TH close enough because, besides the real lack of substantial blood and gore, there's also no nudity (even though two girls do take showers on separate occasions) and absolutely zero scares. What gore there is is strictly the "aftermath" variety as we view severed limbs and heads lying on the ground, none of it remotely believable. It's not even funny as an unintentional comedy because the pacing is deadly slow and the acting by the cast is strictly amateur hour. Blake Gibbons, who plays the silent Bernie, looks remarkedly like Robert Beltran when he's wearing the cowboy hat and aviator sunglasses. He looked like he belonged more on WALKER: TEXAS RANGER than in a horror film. This Nevada-lensed film is pretty dreadful. If there's one good thing I can say about MOON STALKER (also known as CAMPER STAMPER), it's this: It was shot on film rather than SOV like most films of this type during the time period. Surprisingly, the DVD looks pretty good for such a cheap deal, as the colors are fairly vibrant and the night scenes are crisp with no artifacting. Still, save your $1.00 for the value menu at BK. Also starring Ingrid Vold, John Marzilli, Jil Foor, Joe Balogh, Ann McFadden and Alex Wexler. A Global Multimedia Corporation DVD Release. Not Rated.
MORTUARY (1981) - Here's a movie that's part soap opera and part horror film. It opens with Dr. Parson (Danny Rogers) getting hit several times with a baseball bat by some unseen killer and falling dead into his pool. Daughter Christie (Mary McDonough; MIDNIGHT OFFERINGS - 1981) sees her father floating lifeless in the pool and starts screaming "Daddy!". The authorities list his death as an accident and ever since then, Christie started sleepwalking. We then switch to Greg (David Wallace; HUMONGOUS - 1981), Christie's boyfriend, and Josh (Denis Mandel) breaking into a warehouse owned by funeral parlor director Hank Andrews (Christopher George; PIECES - 1982). Josh is an ex-employee of Andrew's funeral home and is owed money, so he decides to steal a couple of tires as payment. Greg and Josh hear some chanting coming from another room and they spot Hank, Christie's mother Eve (Lynda Day George, who also starred in PIECES and was Christopher George's wife until his untimely death in 1983) and some other women all dressed in black-hooded robes performing some type of ritual. Greg watches the action while Josh grabs the tires, noticing the arm of Hank's wife (Donna Garrett), who supposedly committed suicide, sticking out of a casket on the warehouse floor. Josh is then brutally murdered with a huge embalming needle by someone in a black robe, shoving the needle into Josh's stomach until it comes out his back. When Greg returns, he notices his van and Josh are gone, so he calls Christie to come pick him up. Sheriff Duncan (Bill Conklin) finds Greg's van and comes to the conclusion that Josh left town because he was prone to do such things. Greg agrees, but Hank spotted Greg at the warehouse, which puts a damper on Greg's parents' florist business. Back at high school, Beethoven-loving Paul Andrews (Bill Paxton, in one of his earliest roles), Hank's son, pines for Christie and asks her if she wants to hear the newest Beethoven album he bought, but Greg appears and puts a damper on the date. That night, Christie sleepwalks right into her pool and wakes up to find that a black-hooded person is trying to kill her with that damn embalming needle (The print is so clear on this DVD, that you can actually see who the killer is!). Christie's mother doesn't believe her, which causes friction between them. Greg does believe her and finally confesses that he saw her mother with Hank performing some kind of ritual. They follow her one night, only to discover that Hank, Eve and the other women Greg saw earlier are performing a seance, trying to contact Christie's father. They do contact him and discover that he was actually murdered. Eve fesses-up to Christie that Paul once asked her father if he could marry Christie, but Dr. Parson recommended to Hank that his son be committed to a mental institution. Hank refused, saying that he would keep a closer eye on him. Well, he failed his duty. Paul sneaks into Christie's home and kills Eve by stabbing her over-and-over in the stomach with the embalming needle. After a lengthy chase, Paul captures Christie and knocks her out, putting both her and Eve's corpse in his station wagon. As he is driving away from the house, Greg notices his car and follows him back to the funeral home. Paul strips Christie naked (an obvious body double since we never see Mary McDonough's face when the full-frontal nudity is shown), sedates and is about to embalm her (This way, he can have her forever!), when Hank suddenly appears and Paul shows him what he has done. Hank is appalled and tells Paul that he should have listened to Dr. Parson and committed him. Paul stabs Hank in the stomach with the embalming needle, killing him, just as Greg enters the funeral parlor. Paul locks Greg in a room and takes off with the bodies of Hank, Eve and a still-living Christie, bringing them to the warehouse, where he also has the bodies of Dr. Parson and his mother sitting in chairs. He plans on embalming Christie and then marrying her in front of all the stiffs. Greg finds an axe and breaks out of the locked room, driving quickly to the warehouse (How did he know to go there?) and stopping Paul from embalming Christie just in the nick of time. A fight ensues and Paul gets the upper hand, but a sleepwalking Christie rises from the embalming table, picks up the axe and plants it into Paul's back. Thinking that they are now safe, we quickly learn that Paul's mother didn't commit suicide and is quite alive. She rises from her chair with a knife in her hands and screams, the film ending while freezing on her obviously psychotic face. This is nothing special, but it is a perfectly fine way to spend 93 minutes. Director Howard "Hikmet" Avedis (SCORCHY - 1976; THE FIFTH FLOOR - 1978; THEY'RE PLAYING WITH FIRE - 1984), who co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced with wife and frequent collaborator Marlene Schmidt (who also plays Greg's mother here), keeps the film moving at a quick pace even though a five year-old could spot the killer within the first 15 minutes. There are a few gory scenes, such as Eve's protracted death by embalming needle, the aforementioned nudity (including another young nude female corpse that we see Paul actually embalming) and a scene at a roller skating rink (a late-70's to early-80's staple), to keep you interested and the atmospheric cinematography, by the late Gary Graver, is better than this film has any right to be. The print used on the DVD by Scorpion Releasing is practically blemish-free and is super sharp without using all that noise reduction that some companies employ. If you are going to view this film, this is really the only way to watch it properly. Also starring Alvy Moore (THE WITCHMAKER - 1969; he was also a Avedis film regular, besides being famous for his role as "Hank Kimball" on TV's GREEN ACRES [1965 - 1971]) as Greg's father and Curt Ayres and Greg Kaye as a couple of Greg's school chums. Filmed in 1981, but not released theatrically until 1983. A United American Video VHS Release. A Scorpion Releasing widescreen DVD & Blu-Ray Release (the only way to watch this film). Rated R.
MOTHER OF TEARS: THE THIRD MOTHER (2007) - Director Dario Argento finally completes his "Three Mothers" trilogy, first started with SUSPIRIA (1977) and then followed by INFERNO (1980). I'm glad to report that this is Argento's finest film in the past 20 years, but with some reservations. A crew digging a new grave in a cemetery uncover a coffin with a strange rectangular urn chained to it. A priest dates the coffin and urn to 1815 and he reburies the coffin on blessed ground, but not the urn. He takes the urn home with him and when he opens it, he is horrified by what he sees. He reseals the urn in church candle wax and ships it off to his friend Michael Pierce (Adam James), an archaeologist at a museum in Rome. The urn is unwittingly intercepted by museum workers Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) and Giselle Mares (Coralinda Cataldi-Tassoni) and in their haste to open it, Giselle cuts herself and bleeds on the urn. Uh-oh! When they open the urn, they find an ancient dagger, three stone idols and a red robe with strange symbols adorning it. While Sarah is off getting a book to decipher the writings, a monkey and three robed figures appear, killing Giselle (what they do to her mouth is simply painful to watch) and tearing her body apart. Sarah returns, only to be chased by the monkey, but an unseen force helps Sarah escape (we hear a disembodied female voice say, "Leave now!"). When Sarah reports what she saw to police detective Enzo Marchi (Cristian Solimeno) , her an the other cops laugh at her (especially when she mentions the monkey), but Marchi knows that there is more to the story, so he keeps a close eye on her. While Sarah and Michael (who are lovers) try to unlock the secrets of the urn, a rash of violent suicides and murders infect Rome that have the police baffled (a mother throws her baby off a bridge; people stab and pummel each other on the streets for no apparent reason). Michael is told that the urn contained the spirit of Mater Lachrymarum, the "Mother of Tears", a demon that brings nothing but sadness and death wherever she goes. The bad new is that Mater Lachrymarum has reincarnated herself into the body of a young woman (Moran Atias, who spends the majority of her screen time in the nude) and she has had her minions kidnap Michael's young son to keep him quiet. Sarah seems to be the only person able to battle this ancient and, with the help of the unseen female voice (which turns out to be her dead mother [portrayed by Asia's real-life mother, Daria Nicolodi], who teaches her how to be invisible!), she sets out to find Michael (who has disappeared) and put an end to the madness that is spreading throughout the land, while trying to avoid the police, who want to arrest her for murder. Along the way, Sarah learns the truth about the mysterious death of her mother. That knowledge will help Sarah battle the evil which hopes to bring about the "Second Coming Of Witches" and, believe me, no one wants that to happen except the evil forces which look to enslave and kill all humanity. Lots of gory mayhem follows. Here's my biggest complaint about this film: Asia Argento doesn't have the talent to pull-off a demanding role as the one she has to play here. Frankly, she doesn't have the range for such a complex role and half the time she looks like she's sleepwalking through the film. It's especially annoying when she has to display different emotions in the same scene and all she can muster is the look of someone passing a kidney stone or experiencing a case of hard gas. It's downright embarrassing at times (watch the scene where she cries out "Mommy! Mommy!" and try not to laugh). Dario has got to cut the apron strings and start once again using stronger actresses as leading ladies (In my opinion, Asia also ruined Dario's THE STENDHAL SYNDROME  with the same one-note acting). Now on to the good stuff: Dario fills the film with many gory set-pieces, much of it dealing with some sort of head trauma. Skulls are crushed, eyed are poked or popped-out of their sockets, Udo Kier (in a cameo) has his face chopped to pieces with a meat cleaver and even the poor baby gets it's head caved-in when thrown off the bridge. There's also plenty of other violence, too, including throat-slittings, stabbings, tendon-slicing, limb-hacking, a skinning and a nasty scene where a woman has a pole thrust-up her snatch until it exits out her mouth (shades of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST ), all supplied by Italian effects expert Silvio Stivaletti. There's also some effective tracking shots (an Argento staple), plenty of nudity, a pit of sludgy body parts (which will give your gag reflex a good workout), a decent music score by Claudio Simonetti and very little CGI, although some of the fire effects, the death of Mater Lachrymarum and the final scene in the film are obvious CGI creations (I'm still trying to decide if the final scene was purposely done in CGI, though. You'll have to see it to understand what I'm talking about.). Some of the dialogue seems a little forced (it was filmed in English and some of the Italian actors look to be speaking English phonetically) and some of the situations are a little too pat (I groaned out loud when Sarah threw her cell phone out the car window simply because she couldn't get in touch with Michael) or familiar (some scenes reminded me of John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS ), but MOTHER OF TEARS is still better than 95% of the horror films made today. If you weren't impressed with Argento's later films, including PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1998), SLEEPLESS (2001), THE CARD PLAYER (2004) or DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? (2005), this film should make you a believer again. It's Argento's best film since (TERROR AT THE) OPERA (1987). Also starring Philippe Leroy (CROSS CURRENT - 1971), Valeria Cavelli, Robert Madison, Tommaso Banfi and Jun Ichikawa. The Weinstein Company (Bob & Harvey) have picked-up this film for U.S. theatrical distribution and release on DVD through their Dimension Extreme label. Judging by their track record (they have yet to meet a foreign film that they haven't fucked-up in post-production), I'm thankful that I got my hands on a completely unedited European version. Sure enough, the R-Rated Dimension Extreme DVD version edits nearly all the gore and full-frontal nudity out of the film. It's a total travesty. Try to find the Unrated version. Not Rated.
MOTOR HOME MASSACRE (2005) - This film reminds me of the time I went to Florida with my first ex-wife and her family in an RV during the late 70's. Yeah, it's that painful. A group of overage teenagers hop in a vintage motor home for a vacation in the woods. As you can probably guess, a masked madman begins killing them off one-by-one (using that old standby, a machete). After what seems to be an eternity of "character development", where one of the girls, Sabrina (Shan Holleman), broods about her recent breakup with live-in boyfriend of two years (and lots of flashbacks documenting the breakup) and a hillbilly shopkeeper (Lane Morlote) relates a story to the kids about recent killings in the woods, the dumb-as-a-bag-of-rocks gang finally settle in to their campground. That night, the group meets black girl Nicole (Tanya Fraser) and her dog Lulu. Nicole, who was with another couple in the beginning of the film just before they were slaughtered (she ran away when they wanted to have a three-way with her), keeps getting angry phone calls from her weird-sounding jealous ex-boyfriend telling her that he's going to kill the people around her (We never hear her phone ring, which I first thought was laziness on the filmmaker's end, but it turns out to be a big clue). The group is then attacked by two drunken rednecks, but nerd Benji (Justin Geer) chases them off with a machete. Benji then walks Nicole back to her campsite, kisses her and a couple of minutes later, she gets another call from her ex threatening Benji's life. A nightvision goggle-wearing madman dressed in black then begins chopping and stabbing the cast with a machete. After murdering nearly the entire cast, the killer goes one-on-one against Sabrina and she beans the killer three times across the head with a frying pan (complete with exaggerated sound effects). The finale finds the survivors hitting one more roadblock on their way to freedom. Please God, kill me too! This bottom-of-the-barrel DTV horror flick, directed by one-shot wonder (so far) Allen Wilbanks (who also scripted), is so poor that some of the scenes are shot with a camera lens that has an annoying visible smudge in the upper right-hand corner. I can forgive one scene with the smudge, but there are several, including a black-and-white flashback, so I imagine that an entire day's shooting took place with this defect and rather than reshoot the footage, they just hoped that the viewer wouldn't notice. It didn't work. This is nothing but a series of fart, nose picking and horny teenage sex jokes, punctuated by some of the worst gore I have ever laid eyes on (The blood is bright day-glo red and reminded me of the blood used in 60's & 70's horror films). MOTOR HOME MASSACRE also has the distinction of being populated with some of the most annoying actors I have ever had the displeasure of watching. The two most annoying are Todd Herring as Lincoln, a white boy who thinks he's black and uses the words "nigger" and "bitch" in nearly every sentence, and Justin Geer as Benji, the sweater vest-wearing driver of the RV whose teeth are so big, I really don't think he can close his mouth. This is also one of the sloppiest made films that I have ever seen, as camera shadows are frequently in view, the sound recording fluctuates from shot-to-shot and there are flubbed lines aplenty (not to mention some of the most headache-inducing editing, like watching action through a strobe light). While I'm still glad that low-budget horror films are still being made and distributed (see my review for BLOODY MURDER 2), it's films like this that can kill the genre for good. Much like a real RV that's been on a long trip without any stops, this film is full of shit. I honestly can't think of one good thing to say about this film. It's that bad. Oh, and that chainsaw that's so prominently displayed on the DVD cover? Nowhere to be found in the film. Also starring Nelson Bonilla, Breanne Ashley, Greg Corbett, Diana Picallo, West Cummings and Sande McGhee as a one-legged (and eventually, one-armed) Park Ranger. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE (1983) - Here's a regional film that is best remembered for it's tag line ("Please do not disturb Evelyn. She ALREADY is.") than for the actual film itself and rightly so because the film is a slow gender-reversal rip-off of PSYCHO. Evelyn (Anna Chappell) is a former state mental patient who may be ready for the rubber room again. We first meet Evelyn as she is chopping up a little bunny rabbit that has invaded her garden. She then slices up her daughter's neck with a sickle after catching her performing witchcraft in the basement. She covers up the murder to make it look like an accident and gets away with it, although the Sheriff (James Bradford) is suspicious. She then resumes her duties as the owner/operator of the Mountainside Motel, and out-of-the-way dive in the Louisiana backwoods. Evelyn hears voices telling her that people know she is crazy which leads her to torment and kill the occupants that are unlucky enough to be spending the night at her run-down establishment. The residents at the motel are the standard horror film stereotypes: A newlywed couple; a couple of female cousins who are country singer wannabes; Reverend Bill (horror film vet Bill Thurman), a preacher with an alcohol problem; a businessman named Al (Will Mitchell) who happens to be a record producer (or is he?); and Crenshaw (Major Brock), an out of work carpenter who can still swing a mean hammer. Using the secret underground passageways that connect all the rooms, Evelyn begins dispatching the roomers, first antagonizing them with snakes, rats and roaches and then going full-bore bonkers, using her sickle to kill everyone that crosses her path. In one stormy night, Evelyn throws away all that good psychiatric care she received to satisfy those pesky voices in her head. Al and Crenshaw band together to get Evelyn before she gets them, but Crenshaw ends up losing a hand (then his life) before Evelyn loses her head in a fight with the Sheriff, who has come to save the day. Not much in the way of entertainment here, unless your idea of fun is bad acting and cheap gore effects. Father/son team of Jim McCullough (director & producer) and Jim McCullough Jr. (screenwriter & co-producer) had been churning out cheap regional films in many genres throughout the 70's and 80's, including THE CHARGE OF THE MODEL T'S (1976), THE AURORA ENCOUNTER (1985) and VIDEO MURDERS (1987), none of them very good. The film moves at an extremely slow pace as it takes nearly an hour for the first murder to take place. In copying PSYCHO, Evelyn's abode is full of taxidermied animals and the entire night of carnage takes place during a rainstorm. Unlike PSYCHO, there is zero suspense. The gore is basically all sickle-related as we see it planted in a chest, through someone's cheeks (upper not lower), some neck slashings and other body parts affected by it. I'm almost ashamed to say that I saw this when New World Pictures gave it a theatrical release in 1986 (and then released it a month later on VHS, those bastards!). My opinion still hasn't changed. It's pretty bad. Also starring Virginia Loridans, Amy Hill, Marian Jones, Greg Brazzel and Jill King. An Anchor Bay Entertainment Release which is available as a stand-alone DVD or as a double feature DVD (with THE INITIATION - 1983). Rated R.
MR. HUSH (2011) - If you can get pass the cheapness of the entire production, including questionable acting from nearly all the cast members, you may find yourself having a good time with this strange horror flick. Ten years ago, Holland Price (stuntman/actor Brad Loree, who looks like a young Richard Moll and played Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION - 2002) was a loving father of young daughter Amy and devoted husband to beautiful wife Julie (Jessica Cameron). On Halloween Night, the last visitor to ring the doorbell to the Price household is Father Flannagan (Edward X. Young; MEGA MAN - 2009, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Zacherle), who assures Holland that he is not wearing a costume and that his bus (which he says is full of orphans) conked out about a half mile away. He wants to use the phone to call for help, but first needs to use the bathroom. The next time we see Father Flannagan, he is holding a butcher knife to Julie's throat and slashes it in front of Holland. Amy ends up missing and Father Flannagan gets away, promising they will meet again before he knocks out Holland. Cut to the present and Holland (now with long gray hair) is living in a tent next to new buddy Mac (Steve Dash), making money working as a dishwasher and waiter at a bar/restaurant with fellow waitress Debbie (Connie Giordano). Mac wants Holland to put down roots and settle down with Debbie and her daughter Kat (Alexis Lauren), but Holland is sure that Amy is alive and never spends more than two weeks in one place looking for her (that explains the tent). Holland eventually falls in love with Debbie and gets along great with Kat, but Father Flannagan rings the doorbell to Debbie's house, slits Debbie's throat and ties Holland and Kat up in a basement, where Flannagan's assistant, Stark (actor/former gay porn film star Stephen Geoffreys; FRIGHT NIGHT - 1985; DO NOT DISTURB - 2013, who overacts here to the point of diversion for the viewer) torments them verbally. Holland swears to Kat that they will get free and calls Flannagan "Mr. Hush", because he likes to sing the song "Hush Little Baby". Holland and Kat watch as Hush and Stark bring in some unknown girl, tie her to a table and slowly drain her of blood by putting a tube in her arm and letting her blood drain into a bowl. Holland and Kat finally get free and while Kat goes to get the police, Holland searches the house to kill Hush. He manages to kill Stark and finds his now-teenage daughter Amy (Megan Heckman) in one of the upstairs bedrooms, but Mr. Hush has a hold on her and demands she goes back to her bedroom. She does just that and Holland demands to know why Hush has such a hard-on for him: Hush explains that in the 1930's, he and his wife were out for a midnight stroll looking for dinner when Holland's grandfather lost control of his car, crashed into a picket fence and one of the pickets flew in the air and impaled Hush's wife in the heart, killing her. Since Hush looks no older than 45, it soon becomes apparent that Hush and his wife were vampires and Hush swore that Holland's bloodline would suffer a fate worse than death. Namely, he killed Holland's grandparents, parents and makes Holland suffer by killing everyone that he loves. Hush then shows his true colors (mainly blue), as he transforms into a vampire with a full set of sharp upper and lower teeth. Holland tries to hit him with a baseball bat, but it just splinters when he hits Hush over the head with it. Just as he is about to kill Holland, Hush is impaled with the sharp end of the baseball bat, courtesy of Amy (Hush says, "Isn't that funny? A vampire killed with his own bat!") and he stumbles outside where we hear the sound of bat wings flying away. A year later, Holland, Amy, Kat and Mac are living peacefully in a house when the doorbell rings. Mac goes to answer the door when the other three scream to him, "NO!!!!". While not a good film at all, it is still an interesting one and director/screenwriter/executive producer David Lee Madison (his first and, so far, only directorial effort) works pretty well in the confines of what he has to work with; namely a meager budget, non-professional actors (besides Geoffreys) and limited locations and sets. There's not much blood spilled (just a couple of slit throats, a knifing, threatening to cut off the head of the unknown girl with a chainsaw [the film's biggest tease, because Hush turns off the chainsaw just as we are expecting him to cut her head off], a bloodless impalement and the aforementioned bleeding of the unknown girl), but the story really doesn't demand it. There's a stinger during the end credits that tries to emulate Geoffreys' final line in FRIGHT NIGHT (Only this time he says, "Smells like chicken!", a line he says a couple of times during the film proper when he sniffs people). Speaking of Geoffreys, he has not progressed as an actor but actually regressed, because his performance here is one of the worst in the film (not to mention his prominent beer belly). He overacts to the point of wanting to duct tape his mouth and chaining his legs together, as he jumps and screams all over the place in one scene and he is only reading a newspaper! I will give this film one positive point and that is it is different from most ultra-low-budget DTV junk being released today. That's not an endorsement, but you could do a helluva lot worse. Also starring Thomas J. Churchill (as one of the most worthless sheriffs committed to film), Tim Doughtery, Colleen Cohan and Brian O'Halloran. A Horizon Movies DVD/Blu-Ray Release. Not Rated.
MULBERRY STREET (2007) - Pretty good independent New York City-lensed horror film that played in theaters for one week during Halloween as part of the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest. The occupants of a rundown tenement building are under attack by a mutant strain of rat, which are driven from their habitat thanks to an urban renewal project in effect to bring a higher class of people to the titled neighborhood. Once bitten, the tenants turn into rat-faced zombies, who go about trying to infect the rest of the occupants. A group of tenants, led by former boxer Clutch (co-scripter Nick Damici), gay friend Coco (Ron Brice), Kay (Bo Corre) and her sickly son Otto (Javier Picayo), Charlie (Larry Fleischman) and several others, band together as all of Manhattan is thrown into chaos when thousands of people are bitten by rats and turn into flesh-craving zombies. All of this is particularly distressing to Clutch, because his daughter Casey (Kim Blair) was just released from a veteran's hospital after sustaining serious facial injuries while fighting in the Iraq War and is stuck in the middle of Manhattan after the Mayor of NYC quarantines the whole island and shuts down all subway service and public transportation. Casey must find a way to get to her father without being bitten by the infected, while Clutch becomes the guardian of Mulberry Street, trying to protect his friends and neighbors until official help arrives. As they all begin to get infected one-by-one, Casey finally makes it to her father, only to end up fighting side-by-side next to Clutch as the invading horde of rat zombies infect everyone floor-by-floor in the tenement building. When the government forces finally show up (in bright yellow haz-mat outfits), they prove to be no better than the rats, as they kill anyone with the slightest amount of blood on their bodies, infected or not. I'm glad to see that our taxpaying dollars are being put to such good use. While there's a little too much "shakey-cam" photography for my taste (the same type of annoying technique used in FEAST [2006; which this film reminds me a lot of] and many other modern horror and action films), director/co-scripter Jim Mickle (this is his first feature-length film) still manages to fashion a very interesting horror film on an extremely low budget. What I find most interesting are the parallels scripters Mickle and Damici use in comparing the war in Iraq to the rat-zombie invasion of Manhattan. Particularly effective is the plight of Casey, who just got done fighting one war, which left her with permanent physical scars, only to get caught-up in the middle of another one, which will leave her with much worse scars, the kind you can never recover from. This is a relentless, grisly film that doesn't take any prisoners. Some of the most likeable characters meet gory demises (usually graphic bites), only to return later as rat-zombies, scurrying on all fours as they try to infect the rest of the cast. Some of the attack sequences are particularly heart-wrenching, especially in the finale, as the infected don't seem to lose all their humanity or past memories, yet their hunger for human flesh takes precedence over their feelings for their friends and family. Although I found the nihilistic ending to be a bit too much (Do all modern horror films have to end on a bitter note?), what comes before it is a refreshing new slant on the zombie genre mixed with a wicked side-order of political angst. While MULBERRY STREET (also known as ZOMBIE VIRUS ON MULBERRY STREET) does expose it's low-budget roots every now and then (the CGI oxygen tank explosion being a glaring example), it's still better than many big-budget horror films that get a wide theatrical release. Why films like the headache-inducing CLOVERFIELD (2007) get more recognition than this is beyond me. I will be on the lookout for Jim Mickle's future projects. Also starring Tim House, Antone Pagan, John Hoyt, Larry Medich and cameos by director Larry Fessenden (WENDIGO - 2001) and low-budget scream queen Debbie Rochon. A Lionsgate DVD Release. Rated R.
MUM & DAD (2008) - If people tell you that the British are incapable of making good horror films any more, point them in the direction of this film, a tense, terrifying and utterly hilarious (in a totally black, black way) parable about family mores and values taken to the extreme. Birdy (Ainsley Howard) and her adopted brother, the mostly silent Elbie (Toby Alexander), work on the night shift janitorial staff of London's Heathrow Airport. Elbie strikes up a friendship with new staff member Lena (Olga Fedori), a Polish immigrant who confides to Elbie that she doesn't get along with her parents because they expected her life to be different than it is. Birdie (who doesn't mind cleaning the worst shit-stained toilets in the airport's bathrooms because she is "use to it") tells Lena that she and Elbie get along great with their Mum and Dad because they work at the airport, too (There is really no other jobs in the area for people of their "class" than working at the airport). Birdie is the talkative type who likes to nick items (like an MP3 player) from the offices she and Lena clean, but Lena can't help but stare at the multiple scars on Birdie's arms, which she calls "war wounds" (Birdie confides to Lena that she had some "behavioral problems" in the past, but she's better now). Lena misses her bus home at the end of her shift (thanks to some trickery on Birdie's part), so Birdie and Elbie take her to their parents' home, a ramshackle house at the end of one of the airport's deserted runways. Lena is drugged and knocked-out and when she wakes up, she's in a bedroom covered with bloodstained walls and meets Mum (Dido Miles), who informs Lena that she is now a part of their family and she must keep Dad (Perry Benson) calm, otherwise he goes on bloody, murderous fits of rage. Mum drugs Lena again and when she wakes up, she's chained to the ceiling while Mum pierces her skin with a knitting needle asking, "Are you my girl?" Elbie watches this horrorshow through a peephole in in the wall and masturbates while Dad holds a knife to his throat and tells Elbie to "finish it!" (Jerking-off, that is!). As Mum is slicing Lena's back with a box cutter, calling her a "precious gift from Heaven", Birdie enters the room to deliver some tea and cookies for Mum. Mum and Birdie bring a bloodied Lena to formally meet Dad and when they get to his torture room, they all watch him masturbate with what looks like a human liver (I swear, I almost threw-up!). Dad lays down the rules ("In this household, family is everything!") and tells Lena to forget about the outside world ("It doesn't exist anymore!"), do her chores and, most of all, respect her new Mum, Dad, Sister and Brother. How in the world is Lena going to escape this nuclear family from Hell? Lena gets her chance on Christmas Day and it's about as bloody as you would expect it to be. Revenge is the sweetest when it come from the tip of a knife (at least in Lena's case). As directed and written by first-time helmer Steven Sheil, MUM & DAD is full of potent images that will shock even the most jaded of horror film fans. While a general description of the film may make it seem nothing more than "torture porn" (God, I hate that term!), there is a lot more going on here both visually and psychologically than any torture porn film I have seen (and I've seen plenty). The whole ideal of an airport as a microcosm of family life is an unusual take on a familiar horror convention (Help for Lena is just an airport runway away, yet she might as well be in the middle of the desert). It's really no different than the plotlines of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) or THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and, just like those films, has a unique perspective on what constitutes a "family". Dad is a fat slob who is also a sexual deviate. He works at the airport's cargo section, stealing suitcases, bringing them home and making his "children" sort out the contents as one of their "chores". Mum is even worse. Her sexual thrill is cutting things, especially human flesh, and gets-off on cutting her "children" with a variety of sharp objects, all while professing her love for her "Angel" (her new name for Lena). Birdie actually becomes jealous of alll the bloody attention Mum & Dad shower on Lena, even going as far as making Lena look bad in Mum's eyes. Elbie is nothing more than a Dad-in-the-making, which becomes evident in the scene where Dad stuffs Lena in a suitcase and begins hitting her with a wooden mallet (a punishment for trying to escape) and then hands the mallet to Elbie, who at first is reluctant to hit her, but then gets into the swing of things after a couple of direct hits. This is by no means an easy film to watch and rightfully so. If you thought your family was fucked-up, seeing what this family does may make you appreciate your's a little bit more. The film is full of incest (even though it's highly doubtful Birdie and Elbie are actually blood relatives of Mum & Dad); human body parts (Lena is forced to kiss the severed head of a victim she is indirectly responsible for killing); lots of human suffering and torture (I'll bet you all the money in the world that you never spent a Christmas celebration like this family); and some unusual set pieces (porn films play on the TV during breakfast at the house!). This film is worth your time if you have a strong stomach and one day it may be considered a classic of its genre. Also starring Micaiah Dring and Mark Devenport. A Revolver Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated, and for good reason.
MURDER PARTY (2007) - In this clever independent horror gore comedy (filmed in Brooklyn, New York), loner Chris (Chris Sharp; one of this film's two Producers) plans to spend Halloween Night alone with his cat watching rented horror VHS tapes (with fake names such as SCAREWOLF) and eating candy corn out of a bowl, but all that changes while he is walking home from the video store and an ominous invitation to a "Murder Party" appears on the sidewalk. Intrigued (the invitation says "Come Alone"), Chris fashions a knight's costume out of a cardboard box (it's quite funny), bakes a loaf of bread from a smashed pumpkin found on his doorstep, Googles directions and hops on the subway (where he is verbally accosted by a wannabe rapper) to attend the party. After walking through some rough-looking back alleys, Chris finally makes it to the party, which is located at some out-of-the-way warehouse and is attended by a bunch of costumed weirdos dressed in various Halloween costumes (19th Century vampire; the Darryl Hannah character from BLADE RUNNER ; a member of the Baseball Furies from THE WARRIORS ; etc). It seems poor Chris is the unfortunate random victim picked by a group of pretentious friends who decided to actually murder someone, all in the name of "art". They bound and gag Chris and begin to photograph and videotape the proceedings, but they are so inept at doing the actual murder, they prove more dangerous to themselves than to Chris. Sky (Skie Saulnier; the film's other Producer) accidentally trips, hits her head on a sledgehammer and dies of a massive bleeding head wound. Macon (Macon Blair) douses Chris with what he thinks is deadly acid, but it turns out to be nothing but a big bottle of vinegar. We then learn that the leader, Alexander (Sandy Barnett), a really pretentious asshole with a capital "A", has gathered all these people together with the promise of a $300,000 grant to the person who can come up with the most creative death. Alexander and his drug dealer sidekick Zycho (Bill Tangradi) makes everyone shoot-up with sodium pentathol (truth serum) and they play a game of "Extreme Truth Or Dare", where secrets are revealed and they begin to turn on each other. The finale finds Chris escaping while everyone else is killing each other. He is chased by Bill (William Lacey, who is dressed as one of the Baseball Furies) and they end up at another even more bizarre Halloween Murder Party, where Chris kills Bill by slicing his head with an electric chainsaw. Chris then returns home to finish his night watching rented horror tapes with his cat and eating candy corn out of a bowl. Just another regular Halloween for Chris (from now on). While not a horror film in the purest sense (it's more like a horror-themed BIG CHILL -like ensemble piece), freshman feature director/screenwriter Jeremy Saulnier has created a movie that's rich in character development and surreal set pieces. The people here are some of the most unlikable and pretentious (I know I've been using this word a lot in this review, but in this case, it's a good thing) "artists" that you will ever meet, yet you can't take your eyes off the screen, because even though they spout the most pretentious dialogue you are likely to ever hear, director Saulnier leaves no doubt in our minds that they are going to get exactly what they deserve (their "just desserts" if you like). When they start turning on each other in the gore-filled finale, it's unrelentlessly graphic and satisfying (The makeup effects, by co-star Paul Goldblatt, are surprisingly good and refreshingly CGI-free). Macon accidentally sets himself on fire while wearing a werewolf mask and it melts onto his face, making him look like an actual werewolf. Paul (Goldblatt), the photographer of the group, is graphically shot in the head while taking the "perfect" shot with his camera. Zycho has his leg cut-off with a chainsaw by Macon. Bill plants an axe into Lexi's (Stacy Rock) head and then goes berserk with the very same axe at another Halloween party while chasing Chris, chopping-up a roomfull of revellers. Alexander (who, it turns out, is a fake and a nobody who lives with his grandmother!) has his face chewed-off by his pet dog Hellhammer (just after the dog ingests a baggie of crank). the dog which Alexander planned on putting to sleep because it is "ugly" ("I only like puppies." is his explanation). Even Chris has his problems. He's taking anti-depressants (and also works for the police department as a civilian parking ticket agent!), but he throws away the pills when he finds killing Bill with a chainsaw to be cathartic. My favorite scene comes when Chris confesses (after being injected with the truth serum) that he once shit his pants so bad after being stuck alone on an elevator, that it ran down his legs and touched his socks! It's not only howlingly funny, it also shows what a boring life Chris has led up until this point, since it's the worst secret he's never told anyone until now. This is a great debut feature film from director/screenwriter Jeremy Saulnier, as it has a lot to say about the mores and value differences between the "artistic" and "normal" societies, yet it becomes clear the differences are negligent when pitted against each other. The closing shot, where Chris returns home covered in blood and has a face-off with his cat (who is ultimately responsible for Chris making the decision to attend this party in the first place), is priceless. Grab this one when you get the chance. MURDER PARTY shows what can be done with very little money and a lot of imagination. A Magnet Releasing DVD Release. Not Rated.
MURDER-SET-PIECES (2004) - This is 2004's answer to an assault on your eyes and ears. It's painful to watch, very hard to listen to and yet it is strangely compelling for a film that really has nothing to say. A serial killer, cannibal and fitness nut (Sven Garrett) is slaughtering women in Las Vegas while posing as a photographer. Not just slaughtering them, mind you, but raping them, driving nails through their hands and chainsawing them in the head in his secret torture room in his house (filled with dead rotting bodies and body parts). There's even one really tasteless scene where we see him getting a blowjob in his car by a decapitated head. When he is done, he simply throws the head out the window! Everything is right there up on the screen and nothing is left to the imagination. The serial killer is never given a name (he is only known as "The Photographer" in the credits) but we do know that his grandfather was a Nazi, he rants in unsubtitled German while killing (bring along a German chick to translate and see if she'll ever talk to you again) and he considers all women as disposable trash. What little plot there is consists of the little sister Jade (Jade Risser) of the woman who is dating the killer. Jade has suspicions that he is not all there and warns her sister to be careful when around him. The older sister just thinks Jade has a vivid imagination. Bad move. When Jade confides to her best friend that she knows that her sister's boyfriend is the grandson of a Nazi and find him spying on her at school, The Photographer stabs Jade's 10 year-old friend graphically in the stomach in a bathroom in a public park, something I thought I would never see in an American-made film. It's extremely hard to watch and very bloody. Production notes state that over 30 gallons of fake blood was used in making this film. It looks like it. The finale finds Jade and The Photographer fighting each other in his hidden killing room. She gets slashed repeatedly with a straight razor in the back and she plants a pair of scissors in his stomach. They both get away. Jade has terrible nightmares and The Photographer is seen leaving town on a bus talking to a beautiful girl while taking her picture. Director/writer Nick Palumbo is really a sick son-of-a-bitch or a filmic genius. I still cannot make up my mind. There's enough gore and nudity for a dozen horror films and takes chances that no other U.S. horror film has taken in ages (killing kids on screen?). His previous film, NUTBAG (2000), a SOV serial killer film, is similar in tone and plot but does not have the production values (2.4 million dollars to make and shot on 35mm) or the professionalism of MURDER-SET-PIECES. Dozens of murders take place in this film (which led to some film festivals refusing to show it and three film processing companies refusing to handle it) and this is one of the goriest films in recent memory. It's not for all tastes (I'm not even sure if I liked it, but I couldn't take my eyes off it), so if you see this sucker (available only on-line, forget WalMart!), think twice before you buy it. It even got a run in theaters in New York and other select cities before hitting DVD. I would have loved to see the peoples' reactions while watching this misogynistic film on the screen. Sven Garrett (love those sideburns) carries the film as he rants and raves in English and German and we are given small flashbacks to him as a small boy as to why he hates women so much. What this film lacks is a realistic touch. Sure, the murders are extremely bloody, the nudity abundant and the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife, but the police are never shown once investigating the murders (I was left wondering what happened when someone found the severed head in the parking lot). Truth be told, thousands of people disappear in Las Vegas every year, never to be heard from again. It is Sin City after all. I can't really give this film my recommendation because of it's subject matter (although history has taught us that people like this do really exist), but I can't really pan it either. It's slick and well-made with a great music score. This film has turned my brain to Jello (the red cherry flavor, of course). With cameos by Gunnar Hansen (as a Nazi-loving gun seller) and Tony Todd (as an adult store clerk). Also starring Ed Neil, Cerina Vincent and Valerie Baber. The end credits list the Executive Producers as Herman Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels. Now, that's just sick! A Frightflix.com DVD release. Unrated and rated NC-17 for its' theatrical release (William Friedkin's KILLER JOE - 2011 [but not released until August 2012] was also Rated NC-17 and only played a few theaters before going directly to VOD & DVD. When will theaters owners realize that just because a film is given that rating, there's nothing wrong with adults seeing it on the big screen? I was lucky enough to see Friedkin's film on the big screen and it's a corker [Matthew McConaughey has never been better]. I guarantee that you will never look at a piece of fried chicken again after watching this film.). Remember: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
MUTANT MAN (1995) - A flashback in 1959 shows a mother dying while giving birth to the titled character, while her two young children and the crazy fruit stand lady (Sula Von Woltor) are left to care for him. So begins another low-rent rip-off of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), with a little THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) thrown in for good measure. In the present day, an RV full of bad actors breaks down in Hammonton, NJ near the house that the Mutant Man, whose name is Leroy (Jim Baldi), now shares with his three siblings (don't know how it went from two to three and it's never explained) and the fruit stand lady (who hasn't aged since 1959, but that's not in the screenplay, just lazy casting). In a stroke of luck that only happens in horror films, our hapless campers run into two cops that they know and they stay with them as they camp out on the dangerous property. It's not long before Leroy is killing the campers in various bloody ways. Throats are torn, necks are snapped, arms are bitten and, in what turns out to be the films coupe-de-grace, Leroy rips the breasts off of one of the female campers in one pull and eats them! The film is just a series of chases, as the campers try to avoid the mutan's cannibal family, but they are mostly unsuccessful. Of course the film is left wide-open for a sequel which, thankfully, never materialized. Third rate in every way, MUTANT MAN is a real exercise in tedium. The film is horrendously acted, especially by the guy who plays Twitch (John Battaglia), as well as badly scripted and directed. Did I forget to mention that this film is also a comedy? Not all the time, mind you, just when director/producer/writer Suzanne DeLaurentiis (best remembered as one of the two actresses who was harassed by the hillbilly family in JUNIOR - 1985) feels like it, as when one of the retarded cannibal brothers chases two farm hands with a scythe around a field. Here's some sample dialogue that's supposed to make me laugh: When one of the campers spots a pentagram necklace around the sister's neck, she says, "That's a pretty necklace. Are you Jewish?" Hardee-fuckin'-har! It also name-drops various films, including DELIVERANCE (1972), TCM and THE SHINING (1980). Leroy looks like a huge hillbilly with bad teeth (are there any other kind?) and a pageboy wig, not very frightening at all, especially since all he ever says is "Aargh!" over and over. I will give it this, though: The film is very bloody. Besides what I have already described, there's an arm thrust completely through Twitch's stomach until it comes out his back (yay!), a nasty knife through the neck, an even nastier leg breaking and other body appendage mayhem, some of it done quite well. If that's all you're looking for, I'm sure you will be pleased. But if farting, jokes about rape and depictions of retards as comic relief turn you off, expect to turn this off five minutes in. At least it was shot on film, but I'm getting sick of filmmakers portraying New Jersey as a state full of inbred hicks. I looked at my wife/sister and, by the sound of her grunts and the amount of drool coming out of her mouth, she agrees with me. This only goes to prove that women can direct badly, too. Also starring Yvonne Buchanan, Charlie Patiro, Christian Munroe, Carol Furphy and Billy Villegas. A Platinum Disc Corporation Release. Not Rated.
THE MUTILATOR (1984) - When Ed was a young boy, he accidentally shot and killed his mother while cleaning one of his father's rifles. Now a college student, Ed (Matt Mitler) and his friends are trying to decide what to do on their fall break when Ed gets a call from his father asking him to close up his condo on the beach before Winter comes. Ed and his friends decide to make a vacation out of it and drive to the condo. Once they get there, they find the condo unlocked and a bunch of liquor bottles scattered about, like a party had just finished. Ed explains to his friends that his father is a hunter and heavy drinker and shows them his father's trophies and weapons. That's when Ed notices that a battleaxe is missing from it's place on the wall. Being horny teenagers, there's lots of talk about having sex, romantic walks on the beach and games of Monopoly (?), but why is Ed's father (Jack Chatham) hiding in a shed in the back yard holding the battleaxe? Linda (Frances Raines) is killed while skinnydipping in a pool and her boyfriend, Mike (Morey Lampley), follows a trail of her clothes to the shed, where he is disemboweled by an outboard motor operated by Ed's dad. He then hangs both dead bodies by impaling their heads on spikes in a hidden room in the shed. When the other four go looking for Mike and Linda, they meet a cop (Ben Moore) on the beach. He tells them to be careful and then goes snooping around the condo, only to be stabbed in the face with a sword and then beheaded with the battleaxe. When Ralph (Bill Hitchcock) goes to the shed to look for his missing friends, Ed Sr. shoves a trident through his neck. When Sue (Connie Rogers) goes looking for Ralph, Ed Sr. puts her on a table and shoves a gaffing hook in her vagina until it exits out her stomach. He then chops her head off. Ed Jr. is then impaled on the leg with the axe and Pam (Ruth Martinez) stabs Ed Sr. in the chest with a knife. As they are about to drive away, Ed Sr. jumps on the hood and Pam throws the car into reverse, pinning him to a wall and cutting him in half. Ed Sr. has one more bit of gory mayhem to perform before he passes away. Why did kill all these people? Let's just say he was having a bad day because the film gives you no concrete reason. This low-budget slasher flick, directed/produced/scripted by one-shot wonder Buddy Cooper, delivers on the gore (avoid the R-rated cut, as it edits out nearly all the graphic bloodshed) but fails on nearly every other level. It takes forever to get moving and there are more false scares than actual ones. It seems the only false scare they didn't use was a cat jumping out of nowhere. The gore is very graphic when it finally comes and it lingers lovingly on gushing wounds, spilled innards, dismembered body parts and impaled heads. The gaffing hook stunt is particularly hard to watch and is only trumped by the finale where Ed's father is cut in two. Nothing is left to the imagination and it is downright nasty in it's execution (especially what happens to a cop who checks on the body). The only recognizable names in the cast are Frances Raines and Matt Mitler, who would both later co-star in Tim Kincaid's BREEDERS (1986). Originally titled FALL BREAK and filmed in 1982, the distributors changed the name and hired John Douglass to "tighten up" the film (he gets a "co-director" credit). This actually played theaters in 1984. Look closely at the end credits at the production date. A new date of 1984 is burned-in over the old date. A good film for gorehounds. Not so good for everyone else. The tag line is great, though: "By Sword. By Pick. By Axe. Bye-Bye!" A Vestron Video Release. Available in R-Rated (blue background) and Unrated (black background) editions.
MY BROTHER HAS BAD DREAMS (1972) - Should be titled PSYCHO GEEKBOY AND HIS MANNEQUINS. Carl (Nick Kleinholz) went mental when he saw his alcoholic father bludgeon to death his wheelchair-ridden mother 15 years earlier. He now spends his time fishing, swimming in the nude (not a pretty sight), masturbating while watching his sister Anna (Marlene Lustik) taking a shower and collecting mannequins and pretending they are his mother. Carl makes friends with Tony (Paul Vincent), a drifter who nearly runs him over with a motorcycle, and brings him home to meet his overprotective sister. After a shaky start, Tony and Anna soon become fond of each other and she convinces him to stay at the house for a few days (she also loses her virginity to Tony at 28 years of age!). After witnessing one of Carl's frequent nightmares (he dreams of his hanged father coming to kill him), Tony decides to help Carl rid himself of the bad dreams. Tony throws out all the things that remind Carl of his mother, including her wheelchair and the mannequins. That doesn't sit too well with Carl. He goes bonkers and kills the mailman with a poker (the same weapon his father used on dear old mom) and buries him in the backyard. He then stabs Tony and Anna while they lay asleep in each other's arms. In the finale we learn that Anna was involved in mom's death and helped dad dispose of the body. Carl straps a mannequin on his back, takes off on Tony's motorcycle and kills a cop on a high speed chase. He then stops at a pier, throws the mannequin into the sea, slits his wrists, jumps off the pier and gets eaten alive by sharks! The whacked-out ending aside, this is an effective psychological chiller that is well acted and quite entertaining. Nick Kleinholz looks like a nerdy version of Norman Bates, with his horn-rimmed glasses and severely thin frame. He make quite an impression in what I think is his only filmic role. Director Bob Emery (SIGN OF AQUARIUS - 1969 [a.k.a. GHETTO FREAKS in slightly altered form]; RIDE IN A PINK CAR - 1974) squeezes the most out of a limited budget, delivers the goods and throws in some gory early 70's blood and nudity. The film is obviously retitled (Emery is also mistakenly credited in most reference books with directing SCREAM BLOODY MURDER - 1972, so could the original title be similar?) and the print I viewed was way too dark but that should not deter you from searching out this oddity. It will shock and surprise you and not bore you to tears like most films of this type. A United Entertainmant Video Release. Not Rated. (NOTE: Bob Emery is now a very successful independent producer and director. He did the documentary/interview series THE DIRECTORS, currently showing on the Encore channel. He has won over 75 awards for his 32 years of film work, his most current project (as of this review) being THE GENOCIDE FACTOR (2000), a 5 hour series documenting the worst atrocities that man has committed on his fellow man from biblical times to the present.)
MY PURE JOY (2011) - Here's a gory horror film which seems to condemn its core audience, but makes no apologies because there are extenuating circumstances. Adam (Alexei Ryan, who also sings a song on the soundtrack) is a horror film-loving teen who is also a serial killer. Flashbacks show that that his dying father (Mark Glasser), who was also an abusive husband (the extenuating circumstance), got Adam hooked on horror films when he was a child (while his father lays dying in his bed). It was their only way of connecting and his father fills his head with such nonsense as, "You can only get to people through fear. If you want to impact somebody's life, you gotta terrorize 'em!" and "These horror movies will stick with you forever because you fear them." The first time we see Adam in action, he is wearing all black with a hand-painted white mask, killing a family who we just saw previously arguing at the dinner table. Adam kills people using methods he learned while watching horror films, except he puts his own spin on them. He first kills the family's young son while he is sleeping in bed, stabbing him repeatedly until he is nothing but a bloody mess. He then stuffs the young boy in a pillowcase and finishes up the rest of the family, culminating is stabbing the mother to death while she is taking a shower (shades of PSYCHO - 1960), then cutting off her nipples and placing them over her eyes (something the Hitchcock film didn't do). Adam then goes home (where he lives with his mother) and writes of his escapades in a journal. He goes to the house of his best friends, the black Chris (Christopher Chandler) and the white Steve (JD Fairman), who are both brothers (Adam saves Steve from choking by performing the Heimlich Maneuver). They discuss their love of horror films (where MARTYRS - 2008, FINAL DESTINATION - 2000, DARD DIVORCE - 2007, PREMUTOS - 1997 and other gory horror films are discussed throughout the film), drink beer and alcohol (Adam says to Chris while they are drinking in a car, "It's only a DUI if you get caught.") and talk about who they are going to take to the prom. Adam wants to ask Cindy (Kimberly Night) to the prom, but she is seeing white rapper-wannabe Derron (Phillip Andrew Christopher). At a party, Adam gets up enough nerve to ask Cindy to the prom, but when one of Derron's homies informs him of what Adam is doing, he challenges Adam to a fight and generally embarrasses Adam in front of everyone. At one point Adam asks the overweight Wendy (Emily Bordignon) to the prom to try and save some face, but he still walks away with his tail between his legs. Later on that night, he has Wendy give him a blowjob in his car and convinces her to agree that he has spent the entire night with her, even though he has no intention of doing so. What Adam actually does is go to Derron's house in his mask get-up, knock-out Derron while he is making love to Cindy doggy-style and then stabs Cindy in the vagina with his trusty switchblade (in loving close-up). He then ties-up both Cindy and Derron to chairs with duct tape, where he cuts-off Derron's finger, slices-off his tongue and then kills Cindy, raping her dead body (thankfully, off-screen). He then shoves a microphone in Derron's mouth, killing him (Adam is aware that Derron has a video camera hidden inside a stuffed animal so he can film his trysts with women, so the masked Adam plays up to the camera before he leaves). When he is home, his mother warns him not to go out because there is a serial killer on the loose. She also informs him that his long-absent brother Joseph (Cory Jacob) is coming over to visit, which sends Adam over the edge. His mother notices the knife and wants to know why he has it. He threatens her life if she doesn't quit nagging him (She really is a piece of work). When Joseph shows up for dinner, an arguement between Adam and Joseph ensues, where Adam tells Joseph (who is a recovering drug addict and wants to live in their house for a month until he gets back on his feet, which Mom agrees to, telling Joseph he can share Adam's bedroom) that he didn't even come to his own father's funeral and how dare he show his face around him. Their mother takes Joseph's side (she was abused by her husband, after all) and Adam gets up and storms out of the house. Mom tells Joseph about the knife she saw Adam carrying and they go to his bedroom, where Joseph reads Adam's journal and discovers that Adam is the serial killer, finding the mask under his bed. When Adam gets home, Joseph and his mother confront him, telling him he belongs in a mental institution. Adam hits Joseph in the head with a baseball bat and then stabs him in the leg, forcing him to watch as he bashes his mother's head over-and-over on the floor until her brains spill out. Adam then tells Joseph to eat their mother's spilled brains and when Joseph refuses, Adam stabs him in the eye, killing him. He puts the mask on Joseph, just as the police come to the door (Mom dialed 911 before Adam was able to kill her), making it look like Joseph was the serial killer. Adam gets away with it all, collecting his mother's life insurance, but it turns out that both Chris and Steve were nothing but imaginary friends that Adam concocted in his mind, as the final shot shows us. One man force James Cullen Bressack (as co-founder of ultra-cheap production company "Psykik Junky Pictures", he has directed a handful of short films including HEROINE JUNKY FOR DUMMIES , UNTIMELY DEMISE , has contributed shorts to anthology films like THEATRE OF THE DERANGED ; executive produced the TREASURE CHEST OF HORRORS franchise [2012 - 2013] and then started making full-length features like this one, HATE CRIME  and TO JENNIFER ), who directed, wrote, co-produced (with Jarret Cohen), edited, was in charge of the ADR recording and was camera operator (among even more technical duties) of this shot-on-digital video horror flick, wants to have his cake and eat it too. But MY PURE JOY just doesn't make his case that watching horror films as a child can turn you into a serial killer. Making the excuse that his mother was abused by his father doesn't wash, because Adam himself wasn't physically abused (Sure, he was emotionally abused by his father's rantings, but c'mon). If everyone in that situation turned out like Adam, horror films would not be as popular as they are (and would probably be banned in this politically correct climate). Besides that huge gaffe, the film has that washed-out look that cheap digital cameras display, so nothing really pops and the colors are muted (It was reportedly shot on a $10,000 budget and it looks it). There are a few good gore scenes (but the "knife in the eye" gag is terrible, because you can plainly see that the blade of switchblade is not deployed) and Alexei Ryan is good as Adam, but gore and good acting don't necessarily translate into a good film. The message of this film really bothered me, because it seems to me that director Bressack is telling his audience that excessively watching horror films, especially gory horror films, will turn you into a psychopathic killer. As we all know, that is not true and that is where this film fails miserably. In my opinion, it's not worth the cheap digital tape it was made on. Also starring Lisa Frantz as Adam's mother, Jon Bloch, Kevin Flood, Laura Meadows, Nathan Blaiwes, Bailey Gaddis and Bryan Calvert. Director Bressack can be heard as the 911 operator during the finale of the film. A Shriek Show/Media Blasters DVD Release. Not Rated.
THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS (1965) - Here's another horror film that damaged my fragile childhood mind due to its numerous TV showings in the late-60's and early-70's (it also played endlessly in theaters as a double feature, with WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET , right-up to the early-80's), so I have decided to watch it again using my "adult" brain to see if I can destroy my childhood memories once and for all. I can happily report that my fond childhood memories have been pushed out of my left ear and creepy adult thoughts have been crammed into my brain through my right ear. Why do I keep doing this to myself? A plane carrying strange plant life from the Antarctic (as part of "Operation Deep Freeze", which consists of stock shots of penguins, dog sleds and glaciers) crash-lands on a military base on tropical Gow Island when the cargo on the plane gets loose and begins attacking the passengers and crew. Acting Base Commander Lt. Charles Brown (Anthony Eisley; DEEP SPACE - 1988) and Ensign Rutherford Chandler (Bobby Van; DOOMSDAY MACHINE - 1972) board the destroyed plane and the only person they find is the pilot, who is in a state of extreme shock. Base nurse Nora Hall (Mamie Van Doren; UNTAMED YOUTH - 1957) and the base doctor (Phillip Terry; THE LEECH WOMAN - 1960) tend to the speechless pilot, whiles Charles and Chandler try to figure out what happened to the rest of the plane's crew. Did they jump out of the plane (during the fracas on-board the plane in the beginning of the film, we watch as a very frightened cook opens the plane's door and jumps without a parachute, taking the co-pilot with him) or has something more nefarious happened to them? We find out that the plane was transporting some unknown plant life that was found in an extremely warm section of the Antarctic and now it has gotten loose on Gow Island. And, surprise!, these miniature tree-like plants are capable of walking on their roots, secrete an acid that dissolves human flesh and like the taste of people! In between Peyton Place-like theatrics (where civilian meteorologist Bob Spaulding [Edward Faulkner; THE FLORIDA CONNECTION - 1974] has the hots for Nora, but she only has eyes for Charles), biologist Dr. Arthur Beecham (Walter Sande) and his assistant Marie (Pamela Mason; DOOR-TO-DOOR MANIAC - 1961) try to figure out what makes these plants tick and how to combat their acid strikes. After devouring all the penguins in the warehouse, the killer plants turn their attention to the base personnel, beginning with a guard at the downed plane and Marie, who both become plant food. Chandler is the next victim when he searches for his little doggie in the jungle and is grabbed by one of the carnivorous (or rather, omnivorous, as Dr. Beecham corrects Charles) plants. It turns out that these plants are also intelligent, as they destroy the base generator, knocking out the electricity. The plants are also hatching babies (!) and soon the base is overrun with full-grown and baby killer plants, all capable of secreting the acid. How to resolve this problem? I love the smell of napalm in the morning! I like to think of THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS as a $1.99 version of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962) with more than a touch of TV soap opera. It should come as no surprise then to learn that director/screenwriter Michael A. Hoey had a long career directing episodes of American TV series (he was also editor of the 1977 TV movie THE POSSESSED). NAVY seems to be shot on a series of sets (it's the sand in the jungle that gives it away) with some on-location photography and stock footage interspread throughout. The plants themselves are a ridiculous concoction (they look like miniature palm trees with tentacles), but there are some surprising graphic bits of gore, including an acid-scarred corpse, some close-up shots of acid burns and CPO Fred Twining (Billy Gray; WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS - 1971) having his arm ripped-off by a plant. The most unintentional funny sequences to me are when the shell-shocked pilot keeps escaping from his hospital bed and attacking the personnel (he is eventually devoured by a plant), when all the base doctor would have to do is restrain him to the bed and solve the problem once and for all (and save his life, too). It's lapses in logic such as this that makes this film such a hoot to watch (and Bobby Van calls Anthony Eisley "Charlie Brown" so many times, you half-expect Eisley to let out a "Good grief!" every now and then), but only if you are in the right frame of mind. Also starring David Brandon, Biff Elliot, Kaye Elhardt, Russ Bender and Del West. This film has fallen into public domain and was released on VHS by many budget labels in terrible condition, but the VHS tape from Paragon Video offers a reasonably sharp, colorful fullscreen presentation. Although it's not available in the U.S. on a pressed DVD, the fine folks at Monsterverse Entertainment have released a DVD-R of the film with an informative commentary by director Michael A. Hoey. Not Rated.
NECRONOMICON (1993) - Interesting, but not altogether successful, trilogy of horror tales whose framing device concerns author H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs, who is unrecognizable under prosthetic makeup) researching stories using the Necronomicon, the ancient book of the dead. The Necronomicon makes an appearance in all three tales. "The Drowned" concerns itself with a man (Bruce Payne) who has just inherited a spooky, run-down hotel, that tries to bring his dead wife back to life with hellish results. "The Cold" is about a runaway girl who meets a strange doctor (David Warner) who needs freezing temperatures to survive. "Whispers", the strangest tale of the trio, tells the story of a pregnant cop who is pursuing a serial killer known as "The Butcher" and runs smack-dab into a tribe of bat-like aliens with a fondness for bone marrow. This film has much to recommend but is strangely unsatisfying. Something is missing but Ill be damned if I can put my finger on it. Due to the graphic nature of some of the scenes, this film would be hard-pressed to obtain an R rating without suffering many cuts. Brian Yuzna (SOCIETY - 1989) directed the framing segments and the surreal "Whispers" episode, the best parts of the film. Also starring Richard Lynch, Dennis Christopher, Gary Graham, Belinda Bauer and Don Calfa (where did he disappear to?). Available on Japanese laserdisc in Unrated form and on VHS from New Line Home Video in an R-rated cut. Other films which use the Necromicon as a plot device include EQIUNOX (1967/1970), all three EVIL DEAD films (1981 - 1992) and THE UNNAMABLE 1 & 2 (1988 & 1993).
NEKROMANTIK (1987) - After reading so many positive reviews the past several years in genre publications, I finally broke down and bought a copy of this German-language, English-subtitled cult film. As I thought, I was not impressed. This grimy-looking, ultra-low budget horror film about a man (Daktari Lorenz) and a woman (Beatrice M) who like to have sex with rotting corpses is not recommended for anyone with an ounce of good taste left in their bodies. It showcases the actual killing and skinning of a rabbit (in graphic close-up), the slaughter of a cat (put in a plastic bag and repeatedly smashed against a wall) and other ghastly perversities, all shown in loving detail. The faked gore effects are quite well done but a film needs more than good effects to get a positive review from me. This film contains nothing else. Even at 73 minutes, this boring piece of celluloid moves at a snail's pace. I just don't get it's popularity. Directed by Jorg Buttgereit, who later made a sequel and other gore films that defy explanation. Alfred Sole's 1972 sex film titled DEEP SLEEP and Straw Weisman's DEADMATE (1988) dealt with the subject of necrophelia in a much more humorous way and director Jacques LaCerte's LOVE ME DEADLY (1972) handles the subject much more seriously than this film does. To see a German horror film made the right way, read the review for Olaf Ittenbach's THE BURNING MOON (1992). A Film Threat Home Video Release. Unrated.
NEON MANIACS (1985) - This mid-80's horror film is a good example of style over substance. That is to say, that while the film is great to look at, the story makes very little sense (actually, no sense at all). It could because the film had financial production problems, forcing the film to close down for three months and some of the actors playing the creatures were no longer available, which is why two (or even three) people are credited with playing certain creatures. Or it could be the screenplay (by Mark Patrick Carducci; PUMPKINHEAD - 1988; who passed away at age 42 in 1997) is so utterly bizarre, you could get a brain aneurysm if you think about it too hard. The film opens with a fisherman casting his line under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. He has no luck, so he begins to leave, when he notices a steer skull that is holding a tarot-sized deck of cards, each one of them portraying a different creature (one of them reminded me of the "Chattering Cenobite" in HELLRAISER, which was made two years later). Suddenly, a door open at the foundation of the bridge and the fisherman is killed with an ax (offscreen), just like the one a creature is holding in one of the cards. The film then switches to a bunch of teens in a van, where they are singing "Happy Birthday" to Natalie (Leilani Savelle; THE DELIBERATE STRANGER - 1986). Ray (James Atcheson) stops the van so they can pick up some beer and party at a park near the bridge. While the are waiting for Ray, Steve (Allan Hayes; FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER - 1984) is walking his dog (which he has named "Dog", because "Cat" would be inappropriate!), when it breaks free and runs directly to Natalie. It's plain to see that there is some chemistry between Steve and Natalie, but Ray comes out of the liquor store, calls Steve "Baloney Boy" (he works at his father's grocery store), hops in the van and drives off. We are then introduced to younger teen Paula (Donna Locke; her only film, which is too bad because she is good here), a horror film fanatic who has her bedroom decorated with all types of horror film memorabilia. She is also a budding filmmaker who plans on beginning to shoot her first horror film the following morning. We are then transported to the park, where Natalie and her friends (and a few other people) are partying. Wally (Jeff Tyler) and girlfriend Sue (Katherine Heard) go to a park bench for a little nookie (bare breasts alert!), when we see the feet of several creatures approaching the park carrying such weapons as a sword, noose, crossbow, etc. Suddenly, there is a god-awful screech coming from the direction of the bridge that everyone hears, but basically ignore. We finally see the faces behind the feet and weapons and the NEON MANIACS are not pretty (Makeup effects supplied by Allan A. Apone & Douglas J. White, who worked together often on such films as GALAXY OF TERROR  and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 ). "Decapitator" cuts off Wally's head while he is lying on the ground. "Samurai" slices off a girl's head while she is giving her boyfriend a blowjob and then cuts the boyfriend in half. "Scavenger" impales Sue's face with a giant hook and drags her away. "Punk Biker" rips a motorcycle rider's foot off. "Hangman" lynches Ray with a noose, while "Slasher" cuts his body while he is hanging from a tree. "Archer" shoots a fleeing girl in the back with a crossbow. The creatures, which in this instance also include "Mohawk", "Ape" and "Axe" (all the creatures names are self-explanatory), all converge on Natalie and the van (she is the only one left alive). Since she doesn't have the keys, all she can do is lock all the doors and hope for the best. The creatures begin destroying the van and just when they are about to overturn it, we hear a clap of thunder and see a bolt of lightning, which scares the creatures away. Why? Since no bodies are found, the police, which includes Detectives Devin (Victor Elliot Brandt; WACKO - 1981) and Wylie (David Muir; he was DR. HACKENSTEIN - 1988), find Natalie's explanation of events hard to swallow, so they begin to tail her, just in case the parents of the six missing teens report that their kids have not come home. The detectives believe Natalie knows more than what she is saying (Natalie's absentee rich parents are off vacationing out of the country and are unreachable). Natalie decides to float on a tube in her pool late that night, unaware that "Ape" is waiting for her at the edge of the pool. She falls asleep and has a strange nightmare where it is raining blood, but she wakes up when it actually begins to rain and "Ape" is no longer there (Clue alert!). The police search the park the following morning, but all they find are puddles of green goo. Paula's friend Gary (Chuck Hemingway), the son of one of the cops who searched the park, tells her the story about what happened to Natalie last night and Paula wants to know more because the six teens are now officially missing (To Paula, this has the makings of a good horror film, as we watch her filming an awful amateur horror film in a graveyard with her video camera). Meanwhile, Natalie is suspended from high school for an extended period of time by the Principal because he believes that her being in school will be disruptive to the rest of the students, who blame her for their friends' disappearances (She also gets calls from some of the missing teens' parents, who want to know the truth about where their kids are). When Natalie refuses to talk to the inquisitive Paula, the amateur sleuth does some investigating of her own and follows a trail of green slime to the locked door at the base of the bridge. (She is chased away by the police, one who she catches riding her pink bike!). Steven delivers groceries to Natalie's house and they end up making a date to go to the movies (Natalie makes it clear to Steve that it will not be a horror film!). While her mother is on a date that night, Paula heads to the bridge with her video camera and films the creatures coming out of the door. She notices that when one of the creatures trips and his hand falls into a water puddle, it dissolves (Don't think too hard about this, because just the thought of creatures that are adverse to water living in a bridge is just too mind-boggling to keep you sane! Either these creatures were born without rational thought or the scrennwriter just said, "What the fuck. No one will notice this." I tend to lean towards the latter.). It starts to rain out again, so the creatures retreat back to the door at the base of the bridge. After that, Steve and Natalie have a close call with the creatures on a subway train and then on a bus (Where "Mohawk" loses and arm, but when we see him later, it is reattached and working fine!) and they also discover that water is the creatures' kryptonite. They join forces with Paula to bring these creatures down (one of them tries to kill Paula in her bedroom, but she is prepared and turns the tables on it, first throwing a bucket of water on it and then killing it in the shower). The finale (well, close to the finale) takes place at a Battle Of The Bands competition (where Steven is a lead singer in one of the bands and sings a sappy love song) at the high school's gymnasium, where Natalie, Steve and Paula arm everyone with water pistols, telling them that the bands are going to be so hot, they will need to cool themselves off with them (talk about inflated egos and false pretenses!). The creatures (including some we have never seen before, including "Soldier" and "Juice" [who electrocutes everyone he touches]) attack the gymnasium, where we see human limbs (and a juicy shot of a girl getting shot in the back of her head with a crossbow bolt, the tip protruding out of her mouth) and creature parts flying through the air (one creature has his head blown off with a fire hose). Nearly everyone dies, besides Steve, Natalie and Paula (they should have told the rest of the students the truth instead of seeing them killed like lambs for the slaughter). In one of the most ridiculous scenes in 80's horror film history, the police and fire department head to the door in the Golden Gate Bridge armed with water pistols and fire hoses, but when they open the door, they find nothing. When everyone else leaves, Detective Devlin takes one final look behind the door and pays with his life. The Neon Maniacs still live. Since we are given absolutely no backstory behind why the Neon Maniacs even exist, it's hard to be really scared of them. Sure, they are nothing but killing machines, but where did they come from? Outer Space? Hell? Did someone fart them out? Director Joseph Mangine (he passed away in 2006 at age 73), who is better known for being a Cinematographer on such genre films as I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1970), SQUIRM (1976), MOTHER'S DAY (1980), ALONE IN THE DARK (1982), and many others (he photographed this film with Oliver Wood), gives this film a colorful sheen and keeps the pacing and beyond R-Rated gore (which makes me wonder if the MPAA was sleeping at the wheel when it passed this film with an R-Rating) coming fast and furious, but the story is so convoluted and unbelievable, you'll find yourself laughing instead of being scared. There are also some really "What The Fuck?!?" scenes, such as when Steve and Natalie, who are being chased by the creatures in the high school, stop long enough to make out. I guess getting a piece of tail is more important than saving your life. It's those kinds of situations that permeate the entire film and make it impossible to turn your brain off and just enjoy the film. It's one of those films that could have only come from the 80's and if you like horror films that make you laugh unintentionally (the makeup effects are excellent, though), you're gonna love this one. Be on the lookout for the film debut of actor Andrew Divoff (WISHMASTER - 1997). He portrays one of the creatures called "Doc" and he can be seen killing the high school security guard who is listening to a baseball game on the radio just before all the creatures attack the gymnasium. You can't see his face because it is covered by a surgical mask, but this is his first film credit. Stuntman supreme Solly Marx (here billed as "Solly Mark"), who portrayed the killer "Howard Johns" in the underrated 3-D slasher film SILENT MADNESS (1984), was one of the people to portray both "Punk Biker" and "Samurai" due to a three month financial production delay, where the original people portraying the creatures were no longer available when filming resumed. That is why during the closing credits you will see two or three people listed as playing the same role. Originally available on VHS from Lightning Video and then on DVD from Anchor Bay (both are long OOP). The Blu-Ray, released by Code Red, is nearly pristine and is really the only way to watch this film. Colors and the picture are sharp and no DNR was applied to "clean-up" the grain. This is as close to a theatrical experience as you will get with this film. The Blu-Ray also contains an isolated music track (I really don't know why, because Kendall Schmidt's score is a minimalist electronic drone), an interview with makeup artist Allan A. Apone (who is Samuel L. Jackson's personal makeup artist on most of his films) and the original theatrical trailer. Also starring Marta Kober, P.R. Paul, Amber Austin, Bo Sabato, John LaFayette and Frank Baleno. Listing all the people that played the 13 creatures (not 12 as listed on both the posters & Blu-Ray) seen in this film would take me half a day. A Code Red Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.
THE NEST (1987) - First, a word of warning: If the sight of cockroaches (lots of 'em) makes you queasy, it's best if you avoid this film. It's almost tourist season and the island town of Northport is having a deadly insect problem, thanks to some unscrupulous experiments being performed there by biotech firm Intech, under the watchful eye of local bigshot, Mayor Elias Johnson (Robert Lansing). Sheriff Richard Tarbell (Franc Luz; GHOST TOWN - 1988) is starting to get some strange reports, like a dog being slaughtered and stripped of it's flesh and all the books in the local library having the glue in their bindings eaten away in one night. It becomes apparent that a mutant strain of cockroaches are to blame, but why are they loose on this island? Complicating matters for Richard is the sudden arrival of Mayor Johnson's daughter, Elizabeth (Lisa Langlois; DEADLY EYES - 1982), who use to be engaged to Richard before she left the island unannounced a couple of years earlier after the death of her mother. Intech sends scientist Dr. Morgan Hubbard (Terri Treas; THE TERROR WITHIN - 1989) to do an autopsy on the dead dog, but Richard smells a rat after watching Mayor Johnson and Dr. Hubbard working so closely together, like they have handled this same type of situation previously. He's right, of course, as Intech is fully aware of the cockroach problem because they are responsible for the infestation. With the arrival of his daughter on the island and her life threatened by the onslaught of roaches, Mayor Johnson has a sudden change of heart and wants to evacuate everyone off the island, but Dr. Hubbard talks him out of it, telling him she can rid the island of the cockroaches in twenty-four hours using a new poison. He shouldn't have listened to her. It's not long before the flesh-hungry roaches begin devouring the occupants of the island, beginning with Shakey Jake (Jack Collins), the father of Richard's new girlfriend, Lillian (Nancy Morgan), who runs the local diner. Elizabeth stupidly treks out alone on a nostalgic trip through the island's cave system, but she is nearly eaten alive by a swarm of cockroaches after discovering some huge roach cocoons and timebombs (with the Intech logo on them!) in the caves. Richard resigns his post as sheriff when Mayor Johnson orders him to stay away from the caves and it's not long before the entire island is overrun with killer cockroaches. As we will soon find out, these are no ordinary cockroaches. They assimilate everything they eat and their goal is to mate with the human species, producing the first human/roach hybrid. Imagine how difficult it will be to exterminate this new species. They're going to need one big-assed can of Raid (but I guess those timebombs in the caves will do in a pinch)! This creepy and effective low-budget horror film from Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures (it's probably their best 80's horror flick) is full of goosebump-inducing scenes of cockroaches attacking, crawling and swarming over humans. For anyone who has ever had a roach problem, this film should hit right where it hurts. While I never had to deal with an infestation as bad as in this film, I once had a problem with those cagey buggers in my apartment after pulling some boxes out of a storage locker and bringing them home, accidentally setting loose about thirty cockroaches. These fuckers were so big, they scared the shit out of my cats and were nearly impossible to kill. To prove my point, I caught one and put it in an empty mayonnaise jar. The damned thing lived for over two months with no food, water or air. I finally had to call an exterminator to get rid of the pests before they reproduced and overran my apartment. THE NEST plays on these fears and does it with a good amount of atmosphere, not to mention some pretty good gore set-pieces, including Robert Lansing's (SCALPEL - 1976; EMPIRE OF THE ANTS - 1977) transformation into an uber-roach. My favorite scene has nothing to do with gore, though. It's when Richard finds Lillian frozen to death in her diner's freezer. Her only escape from the onslaught of roaches was to hide in her freezer, yet she still paid for it with her life. If watching someone unwittingly drinking a cup of coffee with a roach in it or chewing into a juicy steak covered with the little (and not-so-little) insects makes you squeamish, I would advise that you stay away from this film. But, if you like gory horror flicks and are not bothered by the sight of creepy crawlers creeping and crawling over a cast of brave actors, this film should be a treat. Directed efficiently by Terence Winkless (BLOODFIST - 1989; RAGE AND HONOR - 1992) and scripted by Robert King (SILK 2 - 1989; PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE - 1988). Also starring Stephen Davies, Diana Bellamy, Jeff Winkless, Steve Tannen and Heidi Helmer. Other films containing hordes of killer cockroaches includes DAMNATION ALLEY (1977), CREEPSHOW (1982), THEY NEST (2000), THEY CRAWL (2001) and the comedy JOE'S APARTMENT (1996). Originally released on VHS by MGM/UA Home Video and later released on VHS & DVD by New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.
NETHERWORLD (1991) - Here's a warning for all who plan to visit the bayou country of Louisiana: If you patronize a whorehouse called Tonk's Place make sure to steer away from the prostitutes in the basement, especially the one with a bird fetish. It just may cost you your soul. Corey Thornton (Michael Bendetti) arrives in Louisiana to inherit his dead father's estate. His father leaves him a diary stating that he has found a way to return from the dead. It involves Delores, the bird lady (Denise Gentile), a black magician who knows t.he secret of raising the dead; Tonk's Place (where Edgar Winter is always playing on stage. God, this must be Hell!), where Corey is warned to stay away from; and Corey himself, who somehow is key to the plan of returning his father to life. While mainly slow going, this film does have a few good points. The atmosphere is so humid that it actually makes you sweat along with the players. The special effects are above par, with eyes and hearts being pulled out at various times. There's even a flying hand, reminiscent of the silver sphere in PHANTASM, which soars through the hallways of Tonk's Place and attaches itself to several of the john's heads. NETHERWORLD is also steeped in sexual imagery and feathers. (You'll know what I mean when you see the film.) Director David Schmoeller also made the Chuck Connors campfest TOURIST TRAP (1978), the Klaus Kinski eye-roller CRAWLSPACE (1986), as well as Full Moon's first production PUPPET MASTER (1989) and CURSE IV: THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE (1988). Anjenette Comer (NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS - 1972) co-stars as the caretaker of the Thornton mansion who tries in vain to keep her sex-starved daughter (Holly Floria) away from Corey. Tall on atmosphere, short on plot. Stay tuned after the end credits for a final punchline. A Paramount Home Video VHS Release and available on DVD from Koch Vision. Rated R.
NEW YEAR'S EVIL (1980) - Radio personality Diane Sullivan (Roz Kelly), who uses the on-air moniker "Blaze", is hosting a live televised punk rock New Year's Eve music countdown in L.A., when she gets a call from someone named "Evil" (he uses a voice-disguising gadget) who tells her that he is going to kill someone at the strike of midnight on each of the U.S. time zones. Blaze asks Lt. Clayton (Chris Wallace) to protect her and he sets up a phone tap. Meanwhile, someone has killed Blaze's assistant before the show and her son Derek (Grant Cramer) is having bad headaches. As the clock strikes midnight in New York (EST), Evil (disguised as an orderly) kills a nurse at the Crawford Sanitarium and records the murder on a cassette tape. He then calls Blaze, plays the tape and tells her he will kill again in an hour, when the clock strikes twelve in Chicago (CST). Evil slaps on a fake moustache and a polyester suit and goes to a disco. He picks up two women and tells them that they are going to a "party at Erik Estrada's pad". He stops at a liquor store, sends one girl inside for champagne and suffocates the other girl with a plastic bag over her head and kills the other girl in a dumpster as the clock hits midnight in Chicago. He records both murders and calls Blaze, telling her he will be killing again when the clock strikes twelve in Aspen, Colorado (MST). Dressed as a priest, Evil has a close call with a pack of bikers at a drive-in (where a trailer for Cannon Film's BLOOD FEAST/BLOOD BATH double feature is playing) and steals a car with a half-naked teenage girl in the back. She manages to get away and he chases her into a stadium, but a cop intervenes before he is able to kill her. Back at the studio, Derek is walking around in the shadows with a red stocking over his face, looking like some perverted rapist. Evil knocks out a cop, steals his uniform and enters the heavily-guarded studio. It's at this time we find out that Evil is actually Blaze's husband Richard (Kip Niven) and what his motivations for the killings were. He was an ex-patient at the Crawford Sanitarium and he's not too happy about the way she's treating their son (truth be told, she is a pretty shitty mother). I know it makes no sense, but that's the best explanation you're gonna get. In the finale, as Richard sets up his wife to take a big fall (he takes one instead), we learn that old saying, "Like Father, Like Son" couldn't be truer. Directed without much verve by Emmett Alston (DEMONWARP - 1988), this film could pass for a TV movie if it weren't for the infrequent gore and nudity. It's also kind of hard to root for Blaze when Roz Kelly plays her as such an insufferable, uncaring manipulative bitch. At the end of the film, you kind of hope Richard does her in. When he puts a chain around her neck and handcuffs her to the undercarriage of an elevator and sends her for a ride up and down the shaft, you'll hope she ends up crushed when she reaches the basement. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen, but there's still hope as the film fades to black (seems we all forgot that Hawaii has a separate time zone, too). Not very bloody or exciting, scripter Leonard Neubauer does throw in a few funny lines, such as when one of the disco chicks says to the other as she is spouting the benefits of transcendental meditation to Richard while they are in the car: 'Whatever comes into your head comes right out your mouth!" It's hard to believe that, for a four hour live show, only two bands would play ("Shadow" and "Made In Japan") and their playlist would consist of five songs total (and not very good songs at that). Even if it were a free show, I would demand something back. NEW YEAR'S EVIL is a pretty poor slasher flick that copies some of Harry Manfredini's cues from FRIDAY THE 13TH, made the same year. Emmett Alston would also later go on to write the screenplay for the much-superior HUNTER'S BLOOD (1987). Watch that instead. Produced by Cannon Films founders Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan. Also starring Louisa Moritz, Jed Mills, Taaffe O'Connell, Teri Copley and John Alderman. Originally released on VHS by Paragon Video and later by Cannon Video (through Warner Bros). Available on widescreen Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. Rated R.
THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE (1990) - Someone is killing teenagers by cutting their heads off with a serrated tree saw, which is making the town's new sheriff, Carl (Kerry Knight), job hard on him, especially since all the heads are missing. Everyone in town begins to blame the hulking and deformed Charlie Puckett (Chuck Whiting), a local man who runs Charlie's Tree Service and is so ugly, he wears a burlap bag and a huge pair of goggles on his head. Walt (Joe Fishback), the town's coroner, begins to worry because he has two girls the same age as the ones getting murdered: Daughter Tanya (Monica Simmons) and step-daughter Jenny (Aimee Tenalia). Since Walt just recently lost his wife (and Jenny a mother), he keeps very close tabs on Jenny. Some think too close. Carl begins getting phone calls at the police station from the killer, taunting him. As more kids get killed and their headless bodies found, the District Attorney and the press put pressure on Carl to either find the killer or resign. As Carl investigates, it becomes apparent that the killer is trying to make it look like Charlie is the culprit. Carl is forced to arrest Charlie after evidence is found in his shack. Since Walt knows Charlie, Carl asks him to do the interview. A short time later, Walt comes walking out of the interrogation room with a full written admission of guilt, but Carl is suspicious (Charlie can't speak and the written confession is in Walt's handwriting). Carl sets up a trap that night and the real killer is unmasked. The killer is Walt (he has killed women while serving in Vietnam, but he was never convicted), but it gets worse. Charlie, you see, was in Walt's Army unit and helped Walt kill the women in Vietnam. The bad news is that Carl just freed him a few minutes ago and he is going after Jenny. Walt knocks out Carl and escapes. Can one killer stop another killer before Jenny loses her life? Be prepared for the standard slasher film ending that leaves it wide open for a sequel. Thankfully, that never happened. This ultra-low-budget feature, directed by Tom Logan (SHAKMA - 1990), is nothing more than a cheap knock-off of FRIDAY THE 13TH. The gore effects are tame, just shots of spurting blood, an axe in the chest and a god-awful shot of a decapitated head falling off a body. Most of the gore is shown after-the-fact, so you see no actual decapitations, just the after-effects. The acting is also sub-par. Aimee Tenalia as Jenny is particularly stiff and emotionless and wears the same sad-faced expression throughout the entire film. Everyone else isn't much better as it all looks and sounds like some high school production (it was actually filmed at Universal Studios in Florida). This is a really minor slasher flick that can be skipped by everyone but those that have to see every slasher film ever made. Bruce Carson, who wrote the highly-derivative script, also performs the fire stunt in the finale, the best part of the film. Also starring David Carr, George Carter and Al Arasim. A Quest Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
THE NIGHT CHILD (1975) - The Italian were known for taking a popular American film and putting their own unique spin on it. This film was obviously influenced by THE EXORCIST (1973), one of many Italian flicks to pay "tribute" to it, some cheesy (THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW - 1974), some so-so (THE TEMPTER - 1974) and some quite good and very popular (BEYOND THE DOOR - 1974). This one, shot under the title IL MEDAGLIONE INSANGUINATO (and playing on U.S. TV as THE CURSED MEDALLION), takes a germ of an idea from William Friedkin's classic film, but then ventures in a totally different direction. The film opens with widower and BBC-TV documentary maker Michael Williams (the late Richard Johnson; SCREAMERS - 1979) watching a slideshow of paintings show various portraits of Lucifer, when a slide of his daughter Emily (Nicoletta Elmi; WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972) and his late wife (Dana Ghia; SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYES - 1973) pops-up on the screen. At the same time, Emily is having a nightmare where she watches her mother burn alive in a house fire (it's quite shocking in its depiction). Michael has a doctor (a short cameo by Edmund Purdom; PIECES - 1982) examine Emily and he tells Michael that his daughter has had another nervous breakdown due to her witnessing her mother's death. Michael is worried because he has to take a trip to Italy shortly to film his new documentary titled "Diabolical Art" (about demons portrayed in medieval paintings and frescos), but the doctor tells him he should take Emily along, as the change of scenery, coupled with her staying close to her father, will be good for her psyché. Michael agrees and says he will take Emily, along with her nanny Jill (Evelyn Stewart; THE PSYCHIC - 1977), with him to Italy. Before they go, Michael stops at BBC headquarters, where he wonders why Italian Contessa Cappelli (Lila Kedrova; BLOOD TIDE - 1982) sent him a single slide of a painting depicting Satan in the background watching a woman on fire falling down from the sky while a little female child watches from below (William is mesmerized by it. I wonder why?). He hopes to find out why from the Contessa herself and the documentary's Production Manager Joanna Morgan (Joanna Cassidy; THE GLOVE - 1979; I had a major crush on her when I was a teenager and she still looks good today), neither of whom he has met, when they get to Italy. While Michael is at the BBC, Emily and Jill are at a nearby park, where Emily is staring at a statue depicting several people with pained expressions on their faces. When Jill asks Emily why she finds that particular statue mesmerizing, Emily replies, "Their faces fascinate me." Just before they leave for Italy, Michael gives Emily a large medallion which she wears as a necklace. Michael tells his daughter that he purchased the medallion at a rather unusual shop the last time he was in Italy and that the shop clerk told him it has a "strange history" (Then why in the hell would he give it to his daughter?). When Emily puts the medallion around her neck and looks in the mirror, she has a bad past memory about her mother (who we see is wearing the very same medallion) leaving Emily at home for an extended period while she and Michael head off to Paris on holiday. It is apparent that Emily did not care much for her mother, since she was alway gallivanting off to one place or another with Emily's father, while leaving her at home with the nanny. Once they are in Italy, they are met at the airport by the beautiful Joanna and there is some instant chemistry between her and Michael, which Emily notices and doesn't approve. To stop the mutual admiration between her father and Joanna, Emily feigns illness so Joanna has to drive them to their villa (Joanna is staying at a hotel). Later that night, after assuring Emily that the Devil doesn't exist, Michael heads out on foot to the mansion of Contessa Cappelli (he gets lost and asks a blind man for directions and he give them to him!). The elderly Contessa seems to know more about Micheal than he is comfortable with, but when Michael asks her about the slide of the grotesque painting that she sent him, she says it was never meant to be mailed to him and he should forget about it. Michael isnsists on using the painting for the opening of his documentary, but the Contessa already knows why he is so obsessed with it, it reminds him of his wife's death and his daughter watching it. Michael is shocked to hear her say that, but the Contessa tells him that she was born with the ability to read minds and she is a well-respected Medium. Michael begins shooting the documentary with his crew, using paintings and frescos from churches, chapels and other religious places to illustrate how Lucifer is depicted throughout the ages. After doing some research for Richard, she finds the location of the painting that Michael is so obsessed with and takes him there. As we take a much closer look at the painting, we discover that the young girl in the painting bears an uncanny resemblance to Emily, but something in her hand and around her neck has been obscured with red paint (Michael fails to notice any of this and films it for his documentary). When Michael and Joanna look at the developed footage, they discover all of it was ruined by a ghost image and it will have to be reshot. When Emily sees with her own eyes that her father and Joanna are becoming lovers, she begins to act strange. She begins smoking and acting like her mother, which Jill connects immediately (She has had romantic feelings for Michael for years, but he failed to notice that, too), but Michael is too involved in his documentary and budding romance to really take notice (He has a severe case of tunnelvision if you ask me). Emily totally flips out and attacks Jill, the same time Michael and Joanna are nearly killed by a falling statue in the building that houses the grotesque painting. Michael discovers that an another medallion (the exact same design as the one he gave Emily) and a double-bladed sword (the sword has to be held in the middle; the blades extending from both sides) were hidden inside the shattered statue and finally begins to realize that his daughter may be possessed by a supernatural power. The Contessa does a Tarot Card reading for Michael and warns him that his life is in mortal danger. She also sees death by fire and water and tells Michael that the little girl depicted in the painting was named "Emilia". She was mysteriously murdered and no one knows who was behind that painting (it is unsigned). While they are playing a game of Hide and Seek outside, someone pushes Jill over a cliff using a croquet mallet and she falls into the raging river below (a pretty bad optical effect), her limp, lifeless body then taking a trip over a waterfalls (Remember, the Contessa did say there would be a death by water). It is quite apparent by now that Emily is possessed by the spirit of her mother, as they all head back to England to bury the body of Jill. At the funeral, Jill's mother tells Michael that Jill sent her a letter stating that she had a strong feeling that she would not be leaving Italy alive. The Contessa goes to the grotesque painting and scrapes off the red paint that is obscuring Emilia's hand and chest, to discover that the medallion is around her neck and she is holding the double-bladed sword. Suddenly, the Contessa get a strong feeling that Michael is in danger. Michael and Emily return to Italy the next day (Is this father nuts or what? No time to mourn a nanny that has taken care of his daughter for years?) and he asks Joanna to stay with them, which puts Emily in a snit. As Michael and Joanna are making love (we do get to see Joanna's impressive naked rack) in front of a fireplace, Emily listens to their conversation and she will use what she hears to get rid of Joanna. While the Contessa is telling Michael the true meaning of the painting and warns him to go home immediately, Emily is setting fire to Joanna's bedroom, but Michael arrives in the nick of time to put it out. Emily runs out of the house, with Michael not far behind, trying to catch her. Emily sneaks into the old building that houses the grotesque painting and confronts the ghosts that have blocked her conscious mind for years. As Emily comes face-to-face with the painting, we learn how her mother really died. It was Emily who set the fire that killed her mother and she did it on purpose. Emity wasn't having nervous breakdowns because she witness her mother die, but because she was the cause of her mother's death. Emily picks up the double-bladed sword and destroys the painting, running into her father's arms when he calls her name. Unfortunately, Emily is still holding the sword, which impales both her father and herself and they both die on the cold marble floor, together forever. As the camera pans up, the painting is whole again, waiting for some new victims. Director Massimo Dallamano (DORIAN GRAY - 1970; WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? - 1972; THE COED MURDERS - 1974; and many others), here billed as "Max Dallamano", does what he can with the story (which he co-wrote with Franco Marotta & Laura Toscano [all three took the pseudonym "Jan Hartman" for the U.S. theatrical release] , who were also responsible for writing the screenplay to THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS - 1978), but this is a slow-moving affair with some atmospheric and effective scenes where you can guess what is going to happen long before it actually does. There is precious little violence or gore in this film, the most shocking bit being the flashback showing Emily's mother's arms on fire as she waves them back and forth out her burning bedroom window. Besides brief shots of Joanna Cassidy's breasts (always a plus in my book), there is no other nudity in the film, so the mystery must satisfy the viewer in order for the film to succeed. Even for 1975, the story was predictable and old hat, so this must be considered a minor entry in the Italian demonic possession genre. On the plus side, the Blu-Ray, from Code Red, is flawless and you can see every crack, crevasse and brush stroke on the beautiful old paintings and frescos, making you appreciate the fine details that you could never make out before. It is a beautiful film to look at, especially the location work in Italy, where the structures are like nowhere else in the world. I just wish the story was more involving and not predictable. Still, it is nice to have a film of this vintage look so good. There is also a short on-screen interview with Joanna Cassidy, who still look. beautiful (but it sounds like she was just getting over a cold, because she clears her throat a lot), but remembers absolutely nothing about this film (she can't even remember the director's name!), instead talking about her career in films and TV. If you are looking to find some insights about the making of this film, you will be sorely disappointed (there isn't a commentary, either). There are much better Italian demonic possession films, but I doubt they look this beautiful. Look for gratuitous shots of J&B Scotch bottles, a staple in Italian films. Also starring Riccardo Garrone, Eleonora Morano, Peter Cartwright, Tom Felleghy and Maureen Pryor. Dallamano (who passed away in 1976) has a cameo as a man at the airport. A Code Red Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.
NIGHT FEEDERS (2006) - Regional low-budgeter (filmed in North Carolina) about rednecks vs. an alien invasion. What makes this film notable and extremely entertaining is the casting of apparently real rednecks and hicks in the major roles and not using professional actors. A meteor crashes into a lake (after destroying a TV satellite, where a hick wife throws her pots and pans on the front lawn and tells her mechanic husband that he'll get dinner when she gets her TV reception back!) and hatches some toothy aliens, who begin thinning the redneck population. The first two victims are fishermen in a boat on the lake (one of them is portrayed by producer Paul Barrett), who discuss the differences between meteors and UFOs (and, of course, anal probes) before their boat is overturned and they are devoured, turning the lake a nice shade of red. Four good old boys, Donnie (Donnie Evans), John (Brett Gentile), Andy (Mike Monzitta) and Doug (Michael Ruff), go camping in the woods to hunt deer (they bag their first deer when their car hits one, crushing the hood and front end of the car, to which John laments, "My mother is gonna kill me!"). At the same time, game warden Mickey (Chip Barrett) goes to Clyde Cox's (Jerry Moore) spread to investigate Clyde's missing cow and dog, only to discover that another meteor has crashed on the property (Mickey pockets a piece of the meteor), Still at the same time, abused Terry (Kate Leahey) is running away from her violent boyfriend Mike (Byron Miller), who is chasing her through the woods. She manages to knock him unconscious with a tree branch and he falls into the lake. When Mike doesn't rise to the surface, Terry jumps in to save him. While the overweight Donnie (Who spouts such pieces of wisdom like, "Pull my teeth and call me Gummy!") starts a campfire with gasoline (it's funny as hell) and discusses John's valuable fossil collection and the merits of JURASSIC PARK (Donnie says, "Big lizards don't scare me!"), Doug decides to do some midnight fishing at the lake and before long is being chased through the woods by an alien, but is saved by Mickey, who drives him back to his friends. Mickey tells the group about the meteor, gives John the piece he pocketed and, after leaving the campsite, he is killed by one of the aliens. It's not long before our hapless quartet is besieged by aliens, so they hightail it back to their car where Andy immediately crashes it into a tree. Since they left all their ammo back at the campsite, Andy volunteers to go back to retrieve it while the others wait in the car (Donnie says, "I love that boy to death, but he's an idiot!"). It seems the aliens have an aversion to bright light, so when Andy gets back to the car (after discovering that the aliens have trashed the campsite), all four head-out on foot for a two mile trek through the dark woods to the nearest home, which turns out to be Clyde Cox's spread. Along the way, Doug has one of his arms ripped off (a graphic makeup effect), they discover Mickey's devoured corpse and find his car, but the keys aren't in the ignition (the keys are actually dangling from the car's trunk, but they don't notice because of all the hub-bub). They finally make it to Clyde's house and discover that Clyde's wife has already been killed. With no phone at the house and no service for Andy's cellphone (surprise, surprise!), the four friends and Clyde must find a way to survive the night and wait for daylight to make their escape. It's gonna be a long night. While NIGHT FEEDERS may be nothing more than your standard "monsters-on-the-loose" flick with CGI-created aliens and holes in the plot you could drive a John Deere tractor through, at least director/screenwriter Jet Eller (MARLEY'S REVENGE: THE MONSTER MOVIE - 1989), who made this movie for $59,000, had the great sense to cast real-life redneck Donnie Evans in the lead role of Donnie (If he's not a real-life redneck, it's quite possibly the greatest acting performance in film history). Evans is a hoot-and-a-half to watch and listen to (some of his witticisms are comedy gold) and I applaud Eller for casting such an unusual leading man. Evans is downright affecting on an emotional level, too, such as when he's the only one who survives the night, buries his friends, delivers a touching eulogy, kills an alien and burns it (screaming out to the other aliens hiding in the treeline, "Carolina barbecue at its finest!") and then discovers Terry hiding in the barn (When Donnie discovers Terry's boyfriend was abusive, he asks her, "Did that asshole at least teach you to use a shotgun?"). It's a star-making performance (enough to make Larry The Cable Guy cry in his squirrel stew!) and not a second of it rings false, which elevates NIGHT FEEDERS a notch or two above most DTV efforts. Overlook the bad CGI and revel in the wonder that is Donnie Evans. For once, we have a horror film that has a satisfying ending and still leaves the film open for a sequel (you'll know what I mean once you see it). Tony Elwood, the director of KILLER (1989; a small clip shows up on a TV screen before a meteor knocks-out the transmission) and ROAD KILL U.S.A. (1993), was a co-producer, editor and CGI special effects coordinator here. Also starring Ginger Curl, Gina Stewart, Carver Johns and Bob Beaver. An Allumination Filmworks DVD Release. Rated R.
NIGHT FRIGHT (1967) - Ah, 1967. You could drive your car without wearing seatbelts and not get a ticket, Texas never heard of George Bush, Jr. (or it did, but just decided to ignore him) and a mutated monster is roaming the Texas countryside killing necking teenagers. Ah, the good old days! If this fairly obscure horrror film from director James A. Sullivan has the look and feel of a Larry Buchannan movie, rest assured that your are not hallucinating: Sullivan worked in many capacities on Buchannan's films and also co-edited one of the worst films of all times, MANOS, THE HANDS OF FATE (1966). The plot of this movie concerns a downed U.S. spacecraft ("Operation Noah's Ark") that lets loose a mutated monster that attacks and kills several teenagers at a lakeside area called Satan's Hollow. Sheriff John Agar and Deputy Bill Thurman try to stop the monster before it kills Agar's daughter and friends who are having a party by the lake. This bloodless movie is more facinating for it's pedigree than for the actual film itself. Screenwriter Russ Marker (who has a small role here) directed and wrote the equally obscure THE YESTERDAY MACHINE (1963) and the impossible-to-find (and now considered "lost") DEMON FROM DEVIL'S LAKE (1964), of which NIGHT FRIGHT is a remake. Marker's last credits are several appearances on Chuck Norris' now-defunct TV series WALKER, TEXAS RANGER. The mutated monster is hilarious, the acting (beside Agar and Thurman) is strictly sub-par, and Sullivan's last credit was financing the erotic thriller LETHAL SEDUCTION (1997). NIGHT FRIGHT is by no means a good film. But it does have a history that is interesting (not to mention it predominently features a cherry-red Mustang Cobra Fastback, one of my first cars!). It's like playing "Six Degrees of Larry Buchannan". Also starring Carol Gilley, Ralph Baker Jr., Roger Ready (as the obligatory pipe-smoking scientist) and Gary McLain. Alpha Video offers a servicable, if rather dark, print of this film on DVD which is not bad for a film of this rarity. Alpha Video has come under attack in some film circles for cribbing prints of films from other companies and releasing them on their label. As far as this film goes, I know of no other film company releasing it. I'll leave the political back-stabbing to others. I wanted a print of this film and Alpha was the only one offering it. Their art department deserves cudos for delivering some of the most colorful artwork to ever grace DVD video sleeves. Besides, it only costs $5.99! Also known under the misleading title THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL NASTY and shown on TV in the 70's under the title FRIGHT NIGHT. This is one of those films I remember as a kid staying up late for and falling asleep before it was finished. Nothing has changed. Not Rated.
NIGHTMARES (1980) - I know what I like and I like Australian horror films, especially from their prime exploitation period, which ran from the late-70's to the mid-80's. With titles like PATRICK (1978), ROAD GAMES (1981), ESCAPE 2000 (1982), NEXT OF KIN (1982) and dozens of others, Australia made its mark on genre fans, especially once VHS releases of the titles made their way to the States. There was no looking back after that. NIGHTMARES (known in the U.S. as STAGE FRIGHT) is one of those films, a slasher flick with a nice bloody body count. In 1963, little Cathy causes a car accident when she wakes up in the backseat and catches her sluttish mother fooling around with some guy in the front seat (This isn't the first time Cathy has caught dear old Mom cheating on Dad). Mom goes flying through the front windshield and dies, while Cathy cries "Mommy! Mommy!" and tries to pull her back into the car (Cathy actually kills her mother when she pulls her through the broken windshield and slits her throat on a piece of jagged glass). Little Cathy is ostracized by her callous father ("You killed your mother! You killed her!"), who wants nothing more to do with her and puts her up for adoption. Little Cathy is a changed girl because whenever she sees broken glass or hears the sound of glass breaking, she gets a little psychotic (When her new foster father tries to give her a kiss goodnight and a water glass breaks [I believe sexual abuse is implied here], Cathy slashes his face with a shard of the broken glass). Seventeen years pass (to the day of the fatal car accident) and Cathy, who has changed her name to Helen Selleck (Jenny Neumann), is a struggling actress auditioning for a stage play. The director, George D'alberg (Max Phipps), gives Helen a major part in the play, but she seems disappointed she got it. Meanwhile, someone wearing high heels and black gloves is murdering a naked couple with a shard of broken glass, who are having sex in an abandoned building (Not only is the sex near-pornographic, but so are the murders, as the naked man is castrated and the nude woman is repeatedly stabbed in her breasts). Could Helen be responsible for these murders? She begins to have a romantic relationship with her co-star Terry (Gary Sweet), but wants him to move slow because, in her own words: "I've never had a boyfriend before. I've never been allowed. If we're careful...maybe." (Man, that doesn't sound good!). George tells Helen, Terry and the rest of the cast that the play is a "comedy about death" and when he asks Helen if anyone close to her has died, she goes into a laughing/crying jag and runs off the stage. Terry hears Helen screaming at another woman in her room and watches as the mysterious woman in high heels and black gloves leaves the room. It's now obvious even to the most retarded of viewers that Helen has a Norman/Mother Bates split personality thing going on and soon she begins murdering members of the stage play using her alter ego, beginning with stage hand Angela (Briony Behets), who gets stabbed over and over with a shard of glass because she yelled at Terry for whistling backstage (apparently, that's a sign of bad luck in theater circles). The police are called in to investigate and, incredulously, the rest of the theater troupe blames Angela's death on Terry for whistling backstage! We soon find out that Helen's evil side is named Cathy (surprise!) and even the mere sound of breaking glass (even a bottle rolling across the floor) causes Helen to transform into Cathy. The opening night of the play is a rousing success (even with forgotten lines and a disasterous curtain call), but gay theater critic Bennett Collingswood (John Michael Howson, one of the film's story co-writers), an old nemesis of director George, ravages the play in his review, but praises Helen's performance. At a party celebrating the play's success, Bennett makes the mistake of feeling Helen up (Wait a minute, I thought he was gay?!?), which turns out to be his fatal error. He gets a shard of glass impaled in his neck, courtesy of Cathy, and his scathing review of the play is never published. Things come to a boil on the second night of the play, where Helen/Cathy begins murdering the actors and crew during the play until only Terry is left alive. Will Terry survive the night and, better still, will the theater-goers get their money refunded for watching only half a play? There is no rocket science involved here in the story, just plenty of bloody good slasher fun. Director John Lamond (one of Australia's first sexploitation directors, with films like AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK  and FELICITY  under his belt, as well as producing SWORD OF BUSHIDO in 1989), who co-produced this film with screenwriter Colin Eggleston (the director of the superb LONG WEEKEND - 1977), makes no excuses here; this is a straight-ahead PSYCHO clone set in the theater world, with the added bonus of gobs of gore and nudity. Sex and glass are the themes here, as one is the trigger (most of Cathy's victims are either totally naked or have touched her in an inappropriate manner) and the other is a means of execution (one of Cathy's victims, Fay [Sue Jones], throws-up while she is being slashed to death with a shard of glass, something I have never seen before on film). So, if bloody deaths and naked bodies sounds interesting to you, give NIGHTMARES a try. You won't be sorry you did. Also starring Nina Landis, Edmund Pegge, Maureen Edwards, Peter Tulloch, Jennie Lamond and Adele Lewin. Originally available on VHS in the States from VidAmerica (as STAGE FRIGHT) in a slightly edited cut. Those who have multi-region DVD players should check out the widescreen Australian DVD from Umbrella Entertainment. It is not only uncut, it is loaded with entertaining extras, including an informative interview with director Lamond. This review is based on that DVD. Not Rated.
NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1987) - This was director David DeCoteau's third "straight" horror film (following DREAMANIAC  and CREEPOZOIDS ), after a career of directing gay and straight porn using the name "David McCabe". After watching NIGHTMARE SISTERS, it's plain to se Mr. DeCoteau still didn't have the whole porn thing out of his system, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since this film stars 80's scream queens Linnea Quigley (NIGHT OF THE DEMONS - 1988), Brinke Stevens (SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY - 1987) and Michelle Bauer (DEATH ROW DINER - 1988; appearing here using the name "Michelle McClennan"), who are naked here as much as possible (All three would reteam in DeCoteau's SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA , but minus any Linnea Quigley nudity). The film opens with widow Amanda Detweiler (Sandy Brooke) going to obviously phony fortune teller Omar (a funny Michael Sonye; screenwriter of BLOOD DINER - 1987; here using his frequent pseudonym "Dukey Flyswatter") to find out what really happened to her late husband Clinton, who was found in a pile of ashes in a hotel bedroom in Dallas. After fleecing Mrs. Detweiler out of cash and her late husband's jewelry, Omar peeks into his crystal ball and is possessed by Clinton, who we find out was fucked to death by a succubus and then spontaneously combusted. Poor Omar is also killed by the succubus, whose hands reach through the crystal ball and rip his head off (which leads into a hilarious musical segue to the opening credits, thanks to Sonye and his band, Haunted Garage, who supply songs to the film's soundtrack). We are then introduced to three homely sorority girls of Tri Eta Pi (groan!), all alone in their sorority house: Melody (Quigley, wearing an ugly set of fake buck teeth), Marci (Stevens, with her hair pulled back and wearing geeky eyeglasses) and Mickey (Bauer, in a fat suit complete with latex makeup appliances). While they are commiserating on why they can't get boyfriends, Marci comes home with a box of junk she picked up at a flea market. One of the items is the late Omar's crystal ball, so you know there's going to be trouble soon. The girls decide to throw a party, so Melody calls her equally geeky almost-boyfriend Kevin (Richard Gabai) and asks him to come over and bring two male friends with him. Kevin and his nerdy pledge brothers, Freddy (Matthew Vaughter) and Duane (William Dristas), are forbidden to go to the party by cruel fraternity pledge masters Phil (Timothy Kauffman), J.J. (Matthew Phelps) and Bud (C.J. Cox), but they sneak out a window and go anyway. After playing a game of Twister in the backyard (Where Mickey nearly crushes everyone to death), the group decides to hold a séance using the crystal ball. The girls become possessed by the succubi and are turned into beautiful sexbombs after being warned by the disembodied head of Omar and before you can say "Hey, my clothes fell off!", the three girls are topless and tempting the guys with pie and sex! When Phil and his fraternity brothers discover their pledges' treachery, they head over to the sorority house and can't believe their eyes when they peek through the window. Only Kevin keeps a straight head about him and tries to find a way to reverse the curse (although he's not above peeping on the girls through a keyhole as they take a naked bubble bath together). Phil and his fraternity brothers get their just desserts (all three get their dicks bit off [offscreen]) and are turned into piles of ashes, while Kevin and his friends try to return the girls back to their homely selves. Perhaps an exorcist will do the trick? NIGHTMARE SISTERS is one of those ultra-cheap, direct-to-VHS quickies (shot in four days and it shows) that lined the video store shelves during the mid-to-late-80's. It's just an excuse to show Linnea (who performs a song), Brinke and Michelle (who deep-throats a banana!) without clothes as much as possible. While that's never a bad thing, director David DeCoteau (LADY AVENGER - 1988; LEECHES! - 2003) and screenwriter Kenneth J. Hall (EVIL SPAWN - 1987; THE HALFWAY HOUSE - 2004) toss-in a lot of juvenile humor ("They sure made an ash out of him!") and some real amateur acting (Timothy Kauffman is simply awful) and not enough violence or gore (even Omar's beheading is bloodless). While it is always a pleasure to see some beautiful women in the buff, one wishes there were a little more meat to the story. Oh well, you can't have everything. The openly gay DeCoteau would eventually begin to throw a lot of gay subtext and imagery into his later films, which is great for the gay community, but not so great for straight, boob-loving guys like myself. Tony Malanowski, the director of the terrible NIGHT OF HORROR (1978) and CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES (1982), was Editor, Post Production Supervisor, Sound Editor and Sound Designer here. DeCoteau uses his "David McCabe" and "Ellen Cabot" pseudonyms in the final credits. Also starring Jim Culver as the American Express-taking Exorcist Perrin, who Kevin finds in the Yellow Pages. Originally released on VHS by Trans World Entertainment and later on (fullscreen) DVD by Retromedia Entertainment. Not Rated.
NIGHTMARE WEEKEND (1985) - A widowed scientist invents a behavior modification machine called Apache which has proven successful in turning dangerous animals into docile ones in this strange, seldom seen, dip into insanity. The scientists assistant (Debbie Laster) decides to use Apache on human subjects, much to her boss disapproval. Apache takes effect by transforming a subjects personal possession (i.e.. watch, lipstick) into a ball bearing-like object which forces its way into that said persons body. Stay with me now, because it gets complicated. Jessica (Debra Hunter), the scientists virginal daughter, falls in love with Ken (Dale Midkiff, in his pre-PET SEMATARY  days), the assistants ex-lover and henchman. Jessica also has a friend and protector called George, an incredible hand-puppet computer her dad invented for her when she was a child. Whenever Jessica gets into trouble (which is often), George interfaces with Apache to inflict some ball-bearing justice. The assistant unleashes Apache on a houseload of teens which changes their behavior drastically, to say the least. From this point on, this American, English and French co-production (lensed in Florida) loses all sense or logic (for what little it had to begin with). Even though it is apparent that this film faced the censor's knife to obtain an R rating, the last ten minutes are incomprehensible. The ending leaves you shaking your head, wondering if screenwriter George Faget-Bernard even thought to write one. This is the kind of movie you would expect from a director named H. (Henry) Sala and a producer named Bachoo Sen. Intriguing premise, bad execution. A Lightning Video Release. Rated R.
NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS (1972) - If you have any feline pets at home, make sure they are not around when you watch this strange Mexican horror film. Millionaire Hugo (Hugo Stiglitz) travels around in his helicopter looking for good-looking women to pick up and bring to his remote monastary. He wines and dines and then murders them, cutting off their heads for display in glass jars in his trophy room and feeding their leftover flesh to the thousand (actually about one hundred) hungry cats he keeps trapped in the basement. Hugos trusty mute manservant Dorgo (Gerardo Zepeda) then disposes of the unused body parts in a huge furnace. Hugo, like his ancestors, is a collector. Only he collects heads instead of coins, stamps or wild animals that his forebearers were fond of. His latest would-be victim is Cathy (Anjanette Comer), a married woman with a small daughter. While her husband is away on business, she shacks up with Hugo for a night of passion. She is saved from certain doom when an unexpected visitor knocks on the monastary door. A doctor, whose car has broken down, wants to use the phone to call a taxi. Cathy, finally realizing that she should get back home to her daughter, excuses herself and drives home. Hugo, distressed that he did not get head, cuts off the doctors instead and feeds the remains to the cats. Still upset about his failure to obtain Cathys head, Hugo reminisces about his past achievements (told in flashback form) and plays chess with Dorgo. When Dorgo wins a game, Hugo makes him the latest addition to his trophy case (what a sore loser!). After much persistence, Hugo persuades Cathy to return with him to the monastary. After some lovemaking, he shows her the trophy room. When she sees the heads in the jars, she wises up and tries to run away. She accidentally opens the cats cage and they attack Hugo, devouring him in the trophy room. Cathy escapes the cats and drives off to live her life with her unsuspecting husband and daughter. This is by no means a good film but it does have a few effective moments. The scenes of the trapped cats are well handled. They actually look menacing with their snarling faces and wild demeanor. So effective, in fact, that my two cats (who were sleeping beside me) would pick up their heads and give me a nasty stare every time the cats would appear on screen. It was at these moments that I realized that my cats could probably rip me apart if they wanted to. Luckily for me, I keep them well fed and give them plenty of love. Director Rene Cardona Jr. uses slow-motion to good effect, as we witness cats flying through the air and victims running away from the demented Hugo. While Cardona has made his share of stinkers (TINTORERA - 1977; TREASURE OF THE AMAZON - 1985; BEAKS: THE MOVIE - 1986), he does imbue this film with disturbing scenes (human meat being fed to the cats; the heads in the trophy room) and generous nudity. The film (also released on video under the title BLOOD FEAST) is a scant 65 minutes long and is padded out by running the same flashback scene in its entirety two times! A longer version exists, but it is very hard to find. The still-alive Hugo Stiglitz is a popular star of Spanish and Italian cinema, appearing in such diverse fare as CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (1983) and COUNTERFORCE (1987). Anjanette Comer is also no stranger to the genre, starring in the cult favorite THE BABY (1972) and the Full Moon Production NETHERWORLD (1991). NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS is just one in a long line of killer cat flicks. Others include: THE CORPSE GRINDERS (1968), EYE OF THE CAT (1969), THE UNCANNY (1977) and STRAYS (1991). You can bet that my feline buddies will not be around when these films are screened at home. An Academy Entertainment Home Video VHS Release. Also available on a double feature DVD (it's still the 65 minute version, but in anamorphic widescreen) from Code Red, with THE HOUSE OF INSANE WOMEN (1971) Rated R.
NIGHT OF HORROR (1978) - Watching this film is like having a very painful bowel movement, you know, the kind where you're in a public place and the pain starts to build up and you have to press your ass cheeks together with all your muscle power as you jump into your car and try to make it home before you explode and then you make it home and sit on the toilet screaming in pain as the excrement pours out in a burst of agonizing thrust that nearly sends you up to the ceiling. That about describes what it's like to view this film which concerns four "adults" whose camper gets stuck in what turns out to be a Civil War battlefield and encounter ghosts of soldiers that died there. There's no words to describe how bad this film is. The photography is so bad that at one point there's a big black blotch at the bottom center of the screen for at least ten minutes. The acting (by Steve Sandkuhler, Gae Schmitt, Rebecca Bach and Jeff Canfield) is so poor that you can hear dead actors moaning in their graves. The piano music just drones on and on and the direction by Tony Malanowski consists of static shots of talking heads and Civil War re-enactment footage. Malanowski would later make the similarly-themed CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES in 1982 which also starred Sandkuhler and Bach and work in various capacities on Don Dohler's NIGHTBEAST the same year before becoming an editor on such films as FELONY (1994) and MUTANT SPECIES (1995). Thank God for small favors. If you must watch this film, do it with a roll of toilet paper handy. You'll thank me later. Malanowski wishes Don Dohler good luck in the credits. He must be the Prophet of Doom! A Genesis Home Video Release in SP mode and later released by Star Classics in EP mode. If NIGHT OF HORROR ever gets a DVD release, I'll eat my own excrement! Rated R, but there's nothing here to warrant the rating.
NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES (1968) - A woman wrestler (Norma Lazareno) accidentally injures her opponent in the ring. She and her police lieutenant boyfriend (Jose Elias Moreno) go to the hospital and meet Dr. Crowman (Armando Silvestre) who performs the life-saving brain operation on her adversary. It seems Dr. Crowman is also doing an unscheduled operation with his gimpy assistant. His son is dying of leukemia so Doc kidnaps a gorilla from a zoo and replaces his son's heart with the gorilla's. (Real open heart surgery footage is shown. This would make a great double feature with NIGHT OF THE BLOODY TRANSPLANT.) Trouble ensues when the weak and thin son transforms into a strong and husky ape man with a penchant for beautiful naked women. He likes to rape them. The doctor loves his son very much and figures out a way to reverse the process. He will give his son a human heart. The Doc kidnaps the girl whom he performed the brain operation on and brings her to his laboratory. He transplants the girl's heart into his son's body. (More open heart surgery footage.) Meanwhile, the police lieutenant is trying to solve a series of murders (including a man who has his eye ripped out in extreme close-up) he attributes to a "half man, half beast". The Doc's operation is a success and his son reverts back to his normal self. Well, at least for a couple of minutes. Sonny boy changes back to ape man and goes on another killing spree, murdering the Doc's assistant (by ripping his head off), a policeman (by scalping him), and attacking the lady wrestler. The police capture him after he changes back to normal and is taken to the hospital for observation. He transforms again and takes a little girl hostage. The Doc talks his ape man son into handing over the girl and the police open fire and shoot him. Son changes back. Doc apologizes to son. Son dies. Doc goes crazy. This dubbed Mexican horror film is extremely violent for its' time. It's chock full of nudity and bloody gore unusual for the late sixties. Gorgon Video got its' hands on a pristine print of this little-seen wonder that has crisp color and clean sound (unusual for this type of release). WARNING: Even though one of the characters is a wrestler, this is not one of those Mexican wrestling films. NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES is also known as GOMAR THE HUMAN GORILLA and HORROR AND SEX. Not released in the States until 1971. This is silly stuff but we need that every once in a while. Director Rene Cardona directed many Mexican horror films including DOCTOR OF DOOM (1962) and WRESTLING WOMEN VS THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964). His son, Rene Cardona Jr., helped his father write the screenplay and later directed such films as NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS (1972), TINTORERA (1977), BEAKS THE MOVIE (1987), and TREASURE OF THE AMAZON (1985). A Gorgon Video VHS Release. Also released on a terrible budget DVD by Beverly Wilshire Filmworks and then on an excellent DVD by Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment, as part of a double feature with FEAST OF FLESH (1967 - a.k.a. THE DEADLY ORGAN). Rated R.
NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN (1972) - Filipino horror film that bears a striking resemblance to DEVIL WOMAN (1973) and BLACK MAMBA (1974) and even features some of the same actors. Oddly, this film came first and is the least interesting of the trio. Nurse Lena Aruza (Marlene Clark; BLACK MAMBA) and nurse friend Francisca (Rosemarie Gil; DEVIL WOMAN) are in the jungle looking for plants to use in medicine, when they spot the "herb of long life". Francisca doesn't believe in such nonsense, but since they are both nurses during World War II in an area of the Philippines that is teeming with enemy Japanese soldiers, Lena figures she can chew the herb to stay alert during the long hours she works at the mobile hospital where she and Francisca assist doctors patching-up injured soldiers. Lena finds a cave next to the rare herb and decides to explore it while Francisca keeps a lookout for the Japs. The cave is full of paintings of snakes and Lena is bitten by a rare Firebrand cobra (it has a red diamond-shaped marking on its neck), while Francisca is attacked and raped by a Japanese soldier (played by Filipino genre vet Vic Diaz; SUPERBEAST - 1972). Lena transforms into the Cobra Woman (complete with red diamond marking on her neck) and suddenly becomes one with the snakes, while the Japanese soldier shoots Francisca once he gets his rocks off and throws branches over her body. Lena uses her newly-gained snake powers to heal Francisca and the film then switches to the present day (well, 1972, anyway), where Dr. Terzon (Vic Silayan; DAUGHTERS OF SATAN - 1972) is explaining to his UNICEF medical students the unknown qualities of snake venom enzymes. UNICEF student Joanna (Joy Bang; MESSIAH OF EVIL - 1973) wants to study the venom of the Firebrand cobra, but Dr. Terzon tells her that species of snake is probably extinct, except for rumors of a "woman in the hills" (care to guess who that is?) who may have one. Rumors also say that anyone bitten by a Firebrand cobra (combined with chewing on the "herb of life") will stay young forever, so Joanna sets out to find Lena to see if the rumors are true. Joanna finds Lena's jungle house rather easily and when she knocks on the door, she is greeted by an old-looking Francisca and is chased away by Francisca's obviously retarded son, Lope (Vic Diaz again, only this time he's a mute and slightly hunchbacked, with big buck teeth and a deformed right eye). Joanna heads back to he apartment, eats a box of Cheerios (!) and masturbates in her bed, fantasizing about her boyfriend Duff (Roger Garrett), who is about to arrive in Manila to keep her company. When Duff arrives (and steals an eagle off the streets, which he names Dirk!), he decides to visit Lena on his own and is bitten by Lena's pet Firebrand cobra, Movini, on his way to her house. Lena (who hasn't aged a day in 27 years) saves Duff, but when he wakes up, it is Francisca who is by his bed and she explains that her son Lope became deformed when he made love to Lena. It turns out that Francisca is not the biggest fan of Lena and she agrees to go get Joanna and Duff's pet eagle and bring them back to the house (It would seem eagles and Firebrand cobras are mortal enemies). Trouble ensues when Lena wants to keep Duff for herself and sends Movini to kill Francisca (successful) and Joanna (unsuccessful). When Dirk kills Movini (turns out that Lena needs to be bitten by Movini on a regular basis or she will grow old), it sets off a chain of events that puts everyone's lives in danger (Lena is forced to suck the life out of several locals and tourists to remain young). Can Joanna and Dr. Terzon come up with an antidote to Lena's youth-sucking powers before she sucks all the life out of Duff? NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN is a fairly cheap and badly acted horror film (the usually dependable Joy Bang [who had a short, but memorable acting career] looks like she is reading off of cue cards and everyone else seems like they are walking around in a hypnotic trance), complete with crappy time-lapse transformations and lots of female nudity. Director/screenwriter Andrew Meyer (an Andy Warhol protégé who directed an obscure film called THE SKY PIRATE , then directed the U.S. insert footage [featuring Lorne Greene] to a Japanese disaster film that was released here as TIDAL WAVE [1973/1975] and then disappeared from view, until his death in 1987) moves this film at such a slow pace, it's almost sleep-inducing (I really believe he had someone hypnotize the actors, because most of them talk in slow, monosyllabic tones). The only time the film picks up steam is when Marlene Clark drops her top or when Vic Diaz is on-screen. Diaz manages to give Lope a soul (I'm still trying to figure out the symbolism of why he carries around a hat made of feathers, though), even if he does look ridiculous in his hunchback getup. There's also a tasteless scene of monkey experimentation, skin peeling (Lena sheds her skin when she sucks the life out of her victims) and some pretty poor old age makeups, but that doesn't detract from the fact that 85% of the film is a bore. Also starring Slash Marks (the worst actor in the film and that's saying a lot!), Bert Rivera and Logan Clarke. Released theatrically by Roger Corman's New World Pictures. The VHS tape released by Embassy Home Entertainment is an edited, though still R-rated, 76-minute version of the film that is missing nearly nine minutes of footage shown in the theatrical release. Most of the missing footage is exposition, so count your blessings (although Joanna's masturbation and a hotel room attack scene [with a cameo by the director] seems to be missing some footage). Available on DVD in its original aspect ratio by Scorpion Releasing. It's the only way to watch it, even though it is the same 76 minute version that is on the tape, only in widescreen. Also included on the DVD are on-camera interviews with Producer Roger Corman and star Marlene Clark and the original trailer. Rated R.
NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (1973) - In the jungles of Bombasa in the year 1910, a tribe of natives are performing a voodoo ceremony where they tie a captive white woman between two trees and whip her until she is bloody (and naked). The witch doctor then rapes her and a female member cuts the woman's head off while she is on an altar, the rest of the female tribe members smearing the blood flowing from her neck stump all over their faces. A rescue party shows up a few moments too late and guns down all the tribe members in retaliation, then noticing that the dead woman's head is still alive sporting vampire fangs and she's really angry. During the present day, an expedition, led by professors Jonathan (Jack Taylor) and Carter (Simon Andreu), is camped in the same area doing a survey of near-extinct animals. Along for the ride are rich bitch Meredith, who financed the expedition, and an all-girl crew (lucky bastards). Camped just a couple of hundred yards away from the sacrificial altar where the woman lost her head in 1910, the crew begin to experience mysterious goings-on in the night, when they're not fighting over the attention of Carter, that is. Carol (Loli Tovar), a photographer, wanders too close to the altar one night and becomes the first victim. She is whipped and stripped by the white vampire witch (who now has a body). The dead tribepeople arise from their rocky graves and watch as the vampire witch beheads Carol, turning her into a vampire witch also. It's not long before more women from the expedition are sacrificed and turned into vampire witches, much to the annoyance of Jonathan and Carter. When Jonathan discovers Carol's camera in the jungle and develops the film, the head vampire witch kills him, drowning him in the developing fluid. Carter goes on the offensive, but when Jonathan rises from the dead, it's one of the women who steps up and lays his soul to rest with a flaming death. Carter saves the last remaining girl from sacrifice (by throwing his gunbelt into a fire) only to discover the hard way that he is too late as they drive off into the sunset. This is a pretty slow-moving Spanish horror film that perks up during the sacrifice scenes, but stands still during the rest of the running time. Director/screenwriter Amando de Ossorio (the BLIND DEAD series - 1971-1976; WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS - 1973) gives us plenty of nudity, gore and slow-motion shots of the vampire witches running around in their leopard skin bikinis, but he unfortunately forgot to put any plot in his script. The blood flows rather freely (usually over the naked bodies of the female cast), but without a coherent story to go along with it, it basically means very little. As with most foreign horror films, the dubbing leaves a lot to be desired, such as this exchange between Carter and a guide when Carter discovers Jonathan's body: Carter: "He's suffered an accident." Guide: "Grave?" Carter: "Mortal." Guide: "Mortal?" The whole idea of white vampire women running around the jungles of Africa (It actually looks like the forests of Spain. The foliage is all wrong.) seems a little ridiculous as does the method to kill them: Remove the band of cloth they wear around their neck and their head falls off! I'm not sure what de Ossorio was aiming for here, mixing vampirism and voodoo in Africa, but at least he gives us plentiful nudity, a couple of decapitations and other assorted bloodletting. Stay away from the version issued on VHS by Unicorn Video. It's the 75 minute TV print that Embassy released as part of a Spanish horror film package in the mid-70's, missing all the nudity and violence. This version is a great cure for insomnia. The print I viewed came from Midnight Video and looks to have been sourced from an uncut 101 minute fullscreen Japanese laserdisc. Also starring Kali Hansa, Lorena Tower, Joseph Thelman and Barbara King. A Midnight Video Release. BCI Eclipse released an uncut fullscreen print on DVD, but it is long OOP. Not Rated.
NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1980) - In 16th Century Hungary, the Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Julia Saly) and her followers, including werewolf Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), are convicted of crimes against humanity, including vampirism, cannibalism and the slaughter of countless virgin women and children. At their death sentences, most of the Countess' followers get off easy with simple hangings or beheadings, but the Countess herself is buried alive (but not before cursing everyone responsible and their descendants) and Waldemar must wear the "Mask Of Dishonor" and then had a silver cross impaled into his heart. Of all the people convicted, only Waldemar seems to be thankful for death. In the present day, anthropologist and witchcraft expert Erika (Silvia Aguilar) and her friends Karen (Azucena Hernandez) and Barbara (Pilar Alcon) have discovered the burial site of Countess Bathory at a castle in the Carpathian Mountains. Erika (who is power mad and inherently evil) has also murdered an elderly professor (Narcisco Ibanez Menta) for a medallion he possesses that can return the Countess back to life. At the same time, two grave robbers loot Waldemar's tomb and pull the silver cross from his corpse. That was really stupid because, for one thing, there's a full moon in the night sky and as soon as the cross is removed, Waldemar turns into a werewolf and rips-out the throats of the two grave robbers. Waldemar takes up residence in the castle and, along with facially-scarred female assistant Mircaya (Beatriz Elorrietta), invites Erika and her two friends to stay with him in the castle. Erika immediately recognizes Waldemar (who is now using the name "Janus"), but doesn't let him know. Waldemar also knows the Erika is evil (even Mircaya warns him), but he finds her friend Karen irresistible and they fall in love. While Waldemar chows-down on the peasant population (he nearly kills Karen, but Mircaya chases him away with the silver cross), Erika kills Barbara and uses her blood, along with the medallion, to revive Countess Bathory. The Countess puts the bite on Erika and orders her to bring Waldemar to her. Waldemar and Karen work together trying to stop a series of vampire attacks that are striking the countryside. As the next full moon draws near, Waldemar must figure out a way to defeat the Countess, unaware that she has secretly bitten Karen. What's a good werewolf to do? This is the ninth entry (original Spanish title: EL RETORNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO) in the continuing saga of werewolf Waldemar Daninsky (it follows THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI - 1975) and the first to be directed by Paul Naschy (billed in the credits here as "Jack Molina"), although he did write the scripts for most of them (including this one) under his real name, Jacinto Molina. While basically nothing but a reworking of director Leon Klimovsky's WEREWOLF SHADOW (1970; a.k.a. THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN), this film is beautifully photographed and contains some grand sweeping camerawork. Unfortunately, the film is rather subdued in it's bloodletting, which is disappointing. Although there is plenty of blood on view, there is precious little gore to go along with it. To illustrate my point, there's a scene where Erika brings the body of Mircaya to the Countess and Erika slits Mircaya's throat with a dagger and the blood falls over the Countess' face. While we see the blood cover her face, we never actually see the throat slitting. It's quite easy to see that Naschy was aiming for a gothic atmosphere here and in that respect he succeeded completely. There are plenty of spooky shots, such as when the Countess is revived and her disciples suddenly rise-up from the earth; the Countess and Erika's first vampire attack (They are shrouded in fog as two giant windows swing open revealing the pair); and Karen saving Waldemar from a midnight visit by the Countess. The sets are also very effective and put to good use, especially the scene of the Countess and the two of her minions doing a slow-motion walk to their coffins in the castle's decaying dungeon. If you don't mind the low gore quotient, you will probably dig this well-lensed horror film. Besides, who can resist watching Europe's best-known werewolf taking-on the world's most sadistic female vampire and a finale where no one in the cast is left alive? Naschy would direct the next Waldemar Daninsky film, THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD (1983), in Japan of all places, since he could only get Japanese financial backing to make it. Also starring Luis Barboo and Charly Bravo. Deimos Entertainment offers a beautiful uncut widescreen print on DVD, which rises head-and-shoulders above the old fullscreen VHS tape put out by Vestron Video under the title THE CRAVING. That version is Rated R and is missing some nudity. The DVD version is Not Rated.
NIGHT SCREAMS (1987) - In the beginning of this low-budget slasher film, a married couple (the guy could be Harry Reems' twin brother!) are watching Herb Freed's GRADUATION DAY (1981) on TV when someone brandishing a butcher knife viciously stabs them. After finishing them off, the bloody hands of the unseen killer plays Chopsticks on a piano. We then cut to a doctor at a mental institution recommending the release of an unnamed patient (possibly the same killer we just didn't see), as he deems the patient no longer a threat to society. At the same time, three violent criminals, led by Snake (John Hines), break out of prison and kill two cops and the workers at a roadside café/gas station. After killing one of his fellow escapees over an argument over the café waitress (rather than letting the escapee rape the waitress, Snake shoots the waitress point-blank and tosses the escapee through a window after beating him to a bloody pulp), Snake and Runner (Tony Brown), hole-up in a house in the woods, which happens to be the location of a small party later that night by a bunch of high school jocks and their girlfriends, which includes troubled quarterback David (Joe Manno) and his new virginal girlfriend Joni (Megan Wyss). As Snake (who is a Bible-quoting fanatic) and Runner hide out in the basement, the party's guests arrive, which also includes D.B. (Ron Thomas), Chris (Susan Lyles), Mason (Dan Schramm), Brenda (Barbara Schoenhofer), Frannie (Diana Martin), Lisa (Janette Allyson Caldwell) and Russell (Randy Lunsford). It becomes obvious after a short time that there's more than one killer in this house. Not only are the escaped cons lurking downstairs, but the recently released mental patient also begins dispatching the young partiers. It's obvious that one of the students is the mental patient, but which one is it? There's plenty of suspects, including David, who has to take medication for a mysterious condition, and Joni, who is new in town and doesn't want to talk about her past. As the young cast is either strangled by Snake or murdered by the unknown killer (impaled by a fireplace poker; electrocuted in a hot tub; crushed by a car; axe to the head; etc.), the dwindling number of high schoolers must kill Snake and unmask the psycho killer. The revelation of the mental case should come as no surprise to anyone, since logic dictates it can only possibly be one person. The ridiculous ending proves once again that the filmmakers here haven't the slightest idea on how to end a slasher film properly. This is an average mid-80's slasher flick that takes a while to get moving after a fairly bloody first ten minutes, in order to introduce all the character and set them up as red herrings. Director Allen Plone (PHANTOM OF THE RITZ - 1988; SWEET JUSTICE - 1992), working with a script by Mitch Brian and producer Dillis L. Hart II, makes sure to toss all the exploitable elements into the mix, including plentiful female nudity (including a porn clip on TV starring John Holmes and Seka), some bloody murders and enough teen angst to supply a week's worth of CW programming. The acting, by a cast of unknowns, is dicey at best (Joe Manno as David is extremely annoying), but Plone supplies the viewer enough tits, ass and gore to keep our eyes, if not our minds, occupied. There's also some cheesy music (by a New wave band called The Dogs) and synchronized dancing (by an all-female leotard-wearing dance troup called The Sweetheart Dancers, who are simply terrible), as well as some very bad editing (credited to Herbert L. Strock, the director of I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN , in one of his final screen credits), especially in the first few minutes. Still, there are some bloody deaths (one teen has his face pressed against a hot grill while he is stabbed in the neck with a barbecue fork) and a lot of exposed bare flesh to keep slasher fanatics happy. One major disappointment, though, is that the escaped convict angle never develops the way we are led to believe it will and, in the end, just seems tacked-on and superfluous. The opening and closing tune, "Who Do They Think They Are?", by Michael Linn (EVIL TOWN - 1985), sounds very familiar to me, but I'll be damned if I can remember where I heard it before. Also starring Jerry Goehring, Mike Roark and Dennis Arnold. Originally released on VHS by Prism Entertainment and available on fullscreen DVD from Image Entertainment. Unrated.
NIGHT SHADOWS (1984) - A real strange one. This film seems more interested in characterization than horror, and in this case it doesn't work. Radioactive waste is being dumped in a small southern town and it has a strange effect on the townspeople. Each transforms into a blue-faced MUTANT (the film's original title). Their palms split open and a sickening yellow toxic substance gushes out. Whomever they touch burns severly and dies. Wings Hauser (VICE SQUAD - 1982, THE CARPENTER - 1987) is a Northern boy, who along with his brother (Lee Montgomery), take a trip to the country. Thanks to some rednecks, they are forced to spend some time in this weird town. Bo Hopkins plays the alcoholic sheriff (a real stretch) who wants Wings to get out, but later, because of strange happenings, becomes his ally. One good scene: The town's doctor (Jennifer Warren) is performing an autopsy on a little girl who was attacked. She's talking into her recorder and directly behind her, her assistant is changing from human to mutant. She turns around to ask him a question and is in for quite a shock. Too much talk does this flick in. While this worked for THE BIG CHILL, it doesn't belong here. A nice attempt, but ill conceived. Director John "Bud" Cardos' has a long history in the film industry. He was a bird handler on Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960), second unit director of HOUSE OF TERROR (1972), production manager on DEATHDREAM (1972), actor in ACT OF PIRACY (1988; which he also directed), as well as directing the excellent KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), THE DARK (1979), THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979) and many others. NIGHT SHADOWS (I saw it theatrically under this title, but I'll be damned if I can find any ads that use it) is OK if you like more talk than action. A Vestron Home Video Release. Rated R.
NIGHTSTALKER (1979) - This hysterically bad gore-o-rama, originally known as DON'T GO NEAR THE PARK, must be viewed by all badfilm fanatics at least once, if only to show how not to make a film. The film opens 12,000 years ago as an ugly old hag curses her two children (Barbara Monker and Crackers Phinn) to age 10 years for every one year of their lives, but never to die. Their only way of reversing the old age process is to rip open the stomachs of human mortals and eat their innards. The old hag also tells them that 12,000 years hence, when the twin stars of the wolf flank the moon, they will be able to lift the curse if they sacrifice a young virgin. Cut to 16 years ago, as we see the elderly brother chow down on the intestines of a young boy and the elderly sister do the same to a young girl. They both regain their youth. The brother rents a room from a pretty young woman (a slightly overweight Linnea Quigley) and pretty soon they fall in love and she gets pregnant. She has a little girl whom they name Bondi (Tamara Taylor). Daddy has plans for his little girl: He plans on sacrificing her when she turns 16, so the curse will be lifted. Daddy shelters his little girl from boys and sex and on her 16th birthday gives her a magic amulet to protect her (it comes in handy when three boys in a van try to rape her). After her mother and father have a serious fight, Bondi runs away from home and shacks up in a abandoned ranch house in the park occupied by Nick (Meeno Peluce) and Cowboy (Chris Riley), two other runaways. The house is also the residence of the cannibal sister, who now calls herself Patti. Nick meets a writer (Aldo Ray, who had appeared in so much shit that flies were beginning to follow him) who tells him stories of the grisly murders that have happened in the park in the past. Nick spots a picture of Patti in a book dated 1940 and grows suspicious. While spying on Patti, Nick watches her munching down on the guts of another unfortunate young female camper and goes to warn Cowboy and Bondi, but Bondi has had a bad dream and ran out of the house only to end up in a cave where her father is waiting to sacrifice her. Cowboy tries to save her but is temporarily downed when Daddy shoots a beam of light from his eye at him. Nick gets trapped in a cave-in at the mouth of the cave. For some unknown reason, Patti stops the sacrifice and tells Bondi to swallow the amulet. Bondi transforms into the old hag from the beginning of the film and curses her two siblings to suffer the same fate as their victims. All the previous victims come back to life and chow down on the pair, ripping them apart limb to limb. Ray arrives at the cave and digs our young trio out. Later on, everything seems normal as we see Bondi, Nick and Cowboy romping in a playground. Nick asks Bondi to push him down the slide and the last thing we see is Bondi with her hands on Nick's stomach and the sound of Nick screaming. Like father, like daughter. The level of technical ineptitude on display here is mind boggling. The editing of the film and the music is amateurish at best, giving the film a choppy, disjointed look that makes it extremely hard to follow. Even the opening credits contain a gaffe as when it reads "and introduceing (sic) Linnea Quigley"! (This was not Quigley's first film. I happen to know that she appeared in 1977's PSYCHO FROM TEXAS.) Most of the blame must be put on the shoulders of first-time director Lawrence D. Foldes, who gives the entire production a grade school look, filming most scenes in long or medium shots with very little close-ups. The actors must have had a hard time following his direction, as they frequently stare directly into the camera as if to say, "What do I do next?" Judging from Mr. Foldes later films, including THE GREAT SKYCOPTER RESCUE (1980), YOUNG WARRIORS (1983) and NIGHTFORCE (1986), he hasn't learned from his mistakes. NIGHTSTALKER (which is also out on video as CURSE OF THE LIVING DEAD and SANCTUARY FOR EVIL) verges on the edge of kiddie porn (most of the characters killed in this film are kids) and besides some extreme (and phony looking) gore, offers nothing else that would interest even the most hard-up video fanatic. Rent this one at your own risk. A ThrillerVideo Release. Unrated. NOTE: Now available on DVD as DON'T GO NEAR THE PARK from Dark Sky Films. Keep your Thriller Video version as the Dark Sky version runs 6 minutes shorter and most of the extreme gore is put on the DVD as a supplement.
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985) - This truly amazing piece of cheese is actually three edited versions of films written by Phillip Yordan during the early 1980's. All the films (the first one is an unfinished 1982 film that was re-edited into two separate films, one called MARILYN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS , and another called SCREAM YOUR HEAD OFF , both directed by John Carr and sharing some of the same footage, but having completely different storylines) have been juiced-up by adding stop-motion effects and bits of gore not found in the original films (The other two are DEATH WISH CLUB - 1983, also directed by Carr and THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS - 1980, directed by Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan and Greg Tallas). The framing device has God (Ferdy Mayne) and Satan (billed only as "Lu Sifer", but actually actor Tony Giorgio) in the cabin of a moving train arguing over who gets the souls of the people in the three films while a really bad 80's rock band (in typically excruciating period fashions) plays a catchy song called 'Dance With Me' ("Everybody has something to do......what about you?") in the car next door. The framing device is actually quite good (directed by Jay Schlossberg-Cohen) as God and Satan discuss the merits of the people involved ("Why don't we let him spend 100 years in purgatory" is a compromise they come to about John Phillip Law's character in the first film) and even get digs into each other. Satan says, after God tells him that he is unable to cry, that he can laugh and that's all he needs. God replies, "I can laugh and cry at the same time." If you don't have the patience to watch the full versions of all three films shown here, this film shows the best parts and should want to make you seach out the full versions. I have seen all three films and they are worth it. The late Phillip Yordan sure had a way with words and you'll appreciate the sly references and engrossing storytelling. Sure, this film was made to cash in on the previous films, but this is a good primer for anyone who wants to get into the mind of Mr. Yordan. The additions to the films are stop-motion effects to the deadly bug scene (including a tacked-on attack by the bug on a love-making couple in a garden) and more a grisly electrocution in DEATH WISH CLUB (available in a differently-edited version titled CARNIVAL OF FOOLS) and various stop-motion effects of demons and different deaths for Charles (Richard) Moll, Marc Lawrence (as a Jewish concentration camp survivor) and Richard Grandmaison (as Papini) in THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS (also known as CATACLYSM and SATAN'S SUPPER). There's plenty of blood to keep the gorehound interested (including Moll's beheading and the freezer full of bloody body parts in SCREAM), copious nudity, as well as meaty pieces of dialogue for the intellectual. The wreck at the end of the film is an obvious model train set. Also starring Gabriel Whitehouse as the mysterious conductor of the train. A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on DVD and VHS from Simitar Entertainment in much inferior condition than the Prism version. Anything released by Simitar is bargain-basement quality. Wonderful new label Vinegar Syndrome have given the film the ultimale DVD/Blu-Ray combo, while boutique label Massacre Video have given the film a limited edition VHS Big Box treatment of the film. Go for the Vinegar Syndrome edition because it is beautifully reproduced in its original aspect ratio and contains a surprise film (on DVD only) of an alternate cut of DEATH WISH CLUB called GRETA. All Massacre Video seems to be interested in is making a few VHS tapes (usually 50 to 100), selling them out quickly and making a few dishonest bucks on eBay with the tapes they held back from circulation (or as the owner of Massacre Video told me, loaning the film to a friend so he could make copies for sale on eBay. Yeah, right). The Vinegar Syndrome version is the best there is until something better comes along. I don't see that happening for a long, long time. Rated R.
NIGHT WARNING (1981) - This edgy little horror film is very different than most shockers made in the early 80s. The storyline and acting make it a cult classic waiting to be discovered. When Billy (Jimmy McNichol) loses his parents in a car accident, his Aunt Cheryl (the outrageously good Susan Tyrrell) is awarded guardianship. Now 17, Billy wants to go to college out-of-state to be with his girlfriend (ex-NEWHART star Julia Duffy, who bares her breasts here). Aunt Cheryl has other plans. She has the hots for Billy and will do anything to make him stay. When Aunt Cheryl brutally murders the TV repairman (for refusing her sexual advances), Billy becomes the prime suspect when it is discovered that the repairman was the homosexual lover of Billys basketball coach. The detective assigned to the case (Bo Svenson) is so homophobic that he makes Billys life a living hell. That, added to Aunt Cheryls excessive incestual overtures and sabotaging his basketball scholarship (by drugging him before the big basketball game), make Billy somewhat unsure of his own sanity. The bloody finale puts everyones life and death into perspective. Director William Asher (BEACH BLANKET BINGO - 1965) weaves a sordid tale packed with enough perversity and subjects considered taboo (for its time) to keep you guessing until the blood-drenched end. The manic Susan Tyrrell (ANDY WARHOLS BAD - 1977, CRY-BABY - 1990) plays her role with a perfect sense of desperation as the Aunt who wants nothing more than to slip between the sheets with Billy. There are many surprises to be had here, enough for a dozen films, which makes it a prime choice for horror fans looking for something off the beaten path. Also known as NIGHTMARE MAKER and MOMMAS BOY. On VHS from HBO Video. Finally available on OAR DVD from Code Red under the title BUTCHER, BAKER NIGHTMARE MAKER. Rated R.
NINE LIVES (2002) - Why oh why do I keep torturing myself? Whenever I see Paris Hilton on a video box, I must buy it just to see her degrade herself (something in me likes to see the rich fail miserably). In this pathetic English horror film, Paris plays one of a group of graduates who get together at a friend's mansion for a reunion. One of them finds an ancient book behind a wall and becomes possessed by the former owner of the house and, guess what? Paris is the first to be killed (before the 30 minute mark). Before she gets killed, she gets to play a spoiled rich kid who complains about everything. In other words, she plays herself. The rest of the film details the other English lads and lasses trying to avoid the possessed one, who looks like his eyes are blacked out. When the possessed one is killed, he simply moves to another body until there is only one left. Let me spoil it for you so you don't have to suffer: The only one that survives is the present owner of the house. He simply burns the ancient book and the film ends. There's no blood, gore (besides a brief glimpse of a stomach being slashed and a knife protruding out of a woman's stomach, which may be the stupidest suicide ever committed to film) and very little nudity. WHAT'S THE POINT? Modern horror films are in a real sorry state and need a good shot of adrenaline to get thing back on track. First-time director/producer/writer Andrew Green must have had something on Paris Hilton (perhaps another sex tape?) to get her to appear in junk like this, or a better theory may be that she thought that being in this film would advance her career (just watching her in THE SIMPLE LIFE [2003 - 2007] would lead anyone to believe that she's not all there mentally). This film sucks worse than a Red Devil portable vacuum whose rechargable battery has failed. Also starring Rosie Fellner, Vivienne Harvey, Patrick Kennedy, David Nicolle, Ben Payton and Amelia Warner. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment Release. Rated R. Paris Hilton has a much bigger role in the 2005 remake of HOUSE OF WAX. At least her death in that film is memorable. Even I have to admit that her performance in REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008) was probably the best of her short acting career. The Hilton dynasty must be proud.
NOCTURNA (1978) - Bone-headed horror comedy with a disco soundtrack. Count Dracula (John Carradine) has fallen on hard times. He is forced to open a hotel/nightclub next to his castle to pay the exhorbitant property taxes his castle incurs. The toothless Dracula (he has to wear fang dentures!) has his granddaughter Nocturna (Nai Bonet, who is also Executive Producer, is very pretty and can't act a lick) run the hotel/nightclub, as she auditions bands, dances and occasionally puts the bite on customers. The nightclub maitre de (and part-time Renfield to Dracula), Theodore (Brother Theodore, who is so funny, I nearly pissed myself a couple of times), is also a werewolf and has the hots for Nocturna. Trouble begins when Nocturna meets musician Jimmy (Tony Hamilton) and she falls in love (She says to him right after sex, "This is the first time I enjoyed making love!"). While Theodore spies on her taking a bath, Nocturna ponders what it would be like to be mortal and, since she is the last of her line, if it will be possible for her to have a child with Jimmy. Nocturna decides to leave for New York with Jimmy, which pisses-off Dracula, who says, "Men are only to be used as nourishment! You risk destruction if you leave!" She leaves with Jimmy anyway, never telling him she's a vampire. Once in New York, Nocturna stays with relative Jugula (Yvonne De Carlo; AMERICAN GOTHIC - 1987), who tells Nocturna, "Your destiny is locked!" Nocturna doesn't buy it and she tells Jugula that when she hears music, she can see her reflection! Jugula and Nocturna go to a BSA (Bloodsuckers Of America) meeting, where they listen to fellow vampires complain about the loss of purity of human blood due to additives in the food they eat! Nocturna begins to lose her taste for human blood, thanks to her love for Jimmy and disco dancing. Dracula and Theodore make the trip to New York to bring Nocturna back to Transylvania. Dracula hypnotizes Jugula to find Nocturna's location and he then sends Theodore to retrieve her and kill Jimmy. Will there be a happy ending? C'mon, this is disco! Every ending is a happy ending! There's not much to this film besides plenty of disco music, Brother Theodore's manic performance and Mac Ahlberg's sumptuous, fluid camerawork. Director Harry Hurwitz (using the name "Harry Tampa"), who also gave us the softcore sexploitationers AUDITIONS and FAIRY TALES (both 1978), creates a film that's really hit-and-miss, with more misses than hits, but it's not without it's charms. The film comes to life whenever the late Brother Theodore (real name: Theodore Gottlieb) is on-screen. For those of you not familiar with Brother Theodore, he was a stream-of-consciousness street performer, who always wore black and had a shaggy mop of silver-white hair. He gained national prominence on David Letterman's late night show as a frequent guest during the 80's & 90's. His wild-eyed monologues would leave Letterman and the audience in stitches and Theodore never broke character, no matter how out-of-hand it became. He does the same thing here, spouting lines that induce hysterics in the viewer and the film suffers in the middle portion when it cuts away from him and spends too much time on Nocturna's nocturnal NYC exploits (including a trip to a vampire brothel). Things pick up again once Brother Theodore sets foot on New York soil (Theodore was also in the kung-fu/horror film GANG WARS, a.k.a. DEVIL'S EXPRESS  and was "Uncle Ruben Klopek" in THE 'BURBS ). Former bellydancer Nai Bonet (SOUL HUSTLER - 1976) may not be a good actress, but she is a looker and does a few eye-opening nude scenes to make you forget her thespic talents. Oh, and she likes to dance! There's also a funny scene where Jimmy teaches Nocturna how to smoke a joint and, while she is stoned, she turns into a (badly animated) bat. Jimmy just looks at the bat and says, "This is some fantastic grass!" While this film doesn't add up to much, it gets high marks from me thanks to Brother Theodore's outlandish performance. I love his death speech. It goes: "Death to the young! Death to the strong! Death to the happy! Long live...Death!" Mac Ahlbeg's sweeping camerawork adds immensely to the proceedings and makes it one good-looking low-budget film. This was Compass International's follow-up film to their monster hit HALLOWEEN. It tanked and Nai Bonet never made another film. The next year, LOVE AT FIRST BITE was a hit for George Hamilton & Co., proving that timing is everything. Disco music supplied by Gloria Gaynor, Vicki Sue Robinson, Moment Of Truth, Heaven 'N' Hell and Jay Siegel. John Carradine's arthritic hands are prominently displayed and Yvonne De Carlo basically plays a sexed-up version of Lily Munster and almost gets Carradine to disco dance! Also starring Sy Richardson as a vampire drug dealer, Monica Tidwell, John Epstein and Irwin Keyes (LOVELY BUT DEADLY - 1981) as a Transylvanian disco customer. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Rated R. "As long as there is death......there is hope!"
NO MAN'S LAND: THE RISE OF REEKER (2008) - In 1978, inexperienced police officer Deputy McAllister accidentally captures the notorious Death Valley Drifter serial killer at his killing shed in the middle of the desert, which contains the decomposing body parts of all his victims (In the opening minutes, we watch as the Drifter runs over a hitchhiker with his car, parking one of the car tires on the hitcher's chest and then removing his tongue with a pair of shears). The Drifter, who hears voices that tell him to kill, is brought to justice and dies in the gas chamber, which is witnessed by Deputy McAllister, but as we know from watching too many horror films, death is only the beginning and retribution will be had no matter how long it takes. Thirty years later, McAllister (Robert Pine; Ponch and Jon's commanding officer on the TV series CHiPs [1977 - 1983]), who was promoted to Sheriff shortly after capturing the Drifter, is retiring from the Force and turning the reigns over to his estranged son Harris (Michael Muhney), who has just moved back into town. On his last day of service, McAllister must contend with three bank robbers who roll into town after pulling off a big heist. When one of the robbers is killed when a propane tank explodes at the town's only gas station during a shootout, it seems to cause an earthquake where something strange happens. McAllister, Harris, new waitress Maya (Mircea Monroe), town doctor Allison (Valerie Cruz) and the two remaining robbers, Binky (Desmond Askew) and Alex (Stephen Martines), are trapped in town, where everyone else has seemingly disappeared and the entire town smells like rotting flesh. Sheriff McAllister immediately recognizes the smell (it stinks just like the Drifter's killing shack thirty years earlier) and it soon becomes apparent that the town is in some sort of time warp (the town is surrounded on all sides by an impenetrable invisible force field, making escape an impossibility) and the Drifter has returned to continue his killing spree. Everything that now happens in town defies logic, yet Sheriff McAllister refuses to believe that the Drifter (who moves in herky-jerky motions and begins dispatching people with a flame-thrower and other weapons) is responsible for the killings. The Sheriff finally believes when he sees the Drifter with his own eyes, but as the Drifter begins thinning out the cast and things get weirder and weirder (in a good way for the viewer), it will take another huge explosion to return the town to normal. Who is left alive and the creative explanation for what has just transpired are just a couple of things I'll let the audiences discover for themselves. Not a bad little horror film, a sequel of sorts to 2005's REEKER (it's more of a remake than a sequel, since no one from the original film appears here), director/scripter/co-producer Dave Payne (also responsible for REEKER, as well as NOT LIKE US  and ALIEN TERMINATOR ) at least tries to give the viewer something different on what is obviously a very limited budget. There are some legitimate scares here as well as a few gross and funny sights. Since no one in town can actually die until the Drifter finishes them off, there are some strange visuals on view, such as when Binky hits the invisible wall while traveling full speed in his car, losing the top of his head and his nose in the process. Binky, not knowing how bad his injuries really are, gets out of the car and starts talking to a rightfully frightened Alex, who puts a plastic bag over Binky's head as they walk back to town. The entire scene, including the car hitting the transparent force field, is very well done and offers the audience both the gross-out gore they want mixed with some unexpected humor. I also admired how Payne films the deaths of the cast as a series of quickly-edited montage scenes from their pasts, like we are witnessing their lives flashing before their eyes. Not everything works here (some of the CGI-enhanced effects are simply awful), but NO MAN'S LAND: THE RISE OF REEKER is different enough to keep the viewer entertained throughout. Extra points go to the double-twist surprise finale, which really pack a punch, both viscerally and intellectually. I liked it a lot because it's not the same old and tired horror clichés that seem to be so prevalent today. Some thought went into this and it shows. Also starring Ben Gunther, Lew Temple, Ron Bogge, Gil Birmingham and Michael Robert Brandon as the Death Valley Drifter, One funny line in the end credits reads: "Shot entirely on Kodak Film. Film use to be cheaper, but the dollar is too weak. Eastman Kodak thanks you, George Walker Bush." Ha! A Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD Release as part of their Ghost House Underground label. R-Rated and Unrated versions are available.
THE OBJECTIVE (2007) - Two months after the terrorist events of 9/11/2001, CIA Agent Benjamin Keynes (Jonas Ball) is sent back to Afghanistan to investigate what seems to be a huge radiation blip in the rugged mountains in enemy territory. Thinking it may be a huge stash of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Remember those elusive WMD's?), Keynes and a squad of specially-trained soldiers land by helicopter as close to their objective as they can and travel the rest of the way by foot, but it is plain to see from the moment their feet hit the ground that this is not going to be an ordinary mission. It's going to be surreal as it gets and also just as dangerous. When Keynes and his soldiers go to meet their contact in an Afghan village, the elders tell Keynes that his contact has relocated to a sacred mountain; a place so holy and frightening to all the villagers that even the Taliban are scared to go there. After being warned by the village elders not to go there (it really was good advice), a friendly Afghan named Abdul (Chems-Eddine Zinoune) agrees to guide Keynes and his squad to the sacred mountain. After traversing booby-trapped roads (Keynes seems to have a second sense in locating hidden land mines), they come under enemy attack at a canyon and one of Keynes' soldiers is killed. The strange thing is that none of the enemy casualties can be found. It was like their bodies just disappeared. The soldiers want to call off the mission, but Keynes orders them to push on. That night, they spy what they think are the headlights of an enemy vehicle approaching them, but suddenly the lights split up and fly over them, not making a sound. Abdul tells them that these are called "spirit lights" and they have occupied this territory for generations. Things get downright spooky when their radio goes on the fritz and the sounds of helicopters fill the air, but none can be seen in the sky. The helicopter sounds suddenly stop and the next morning the body of their dead soldier disappears, a stone altar containing the innards of many bodies is discovered and several strange triangle-shaped doorways can be seen littering the landscape. After discovering an extremely old hermit in a cave who seems to be guarding something, we learn that Keynes knows a lot more about this "radiation" (which appears as red triangles on his special radiation viewer) than he is letting on to his squad. After accidentally killing the hermit, things turn from bad to worse when the soldiers begin to slowly lose grip on reality (they fill their water canteens with sand) and then become hopelessly lost (Even Abdul doesn't recognize the territory, especially the triangle-like mountain in front of them). When it becomes obvious that the soldiers aren't actually on a mission, they are the mission, it may be too late for everyone, as an ancient evil (known by Alexander The Great as the "Shield Of Fire") begins killing everyone. Will anyone be left to warn mankind or is something more sinister going on? This is a creepy, deliberately-paced supernatural horror film from director Daniel Myrick, who co-directed the cult hit THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999; which gave everyone with a video camera an excuse to make their own headache-inducing horror film in hopes of making a ton of cash), then unleashed the even creepier BELIEVERS (2007) and then gave us the engaging horror film SOLSTICE (2007; a busy year for Myrick!) . Myrick, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mark A. Patton and Wesley Clark Jr. (the son of retired U.S. General and Presidential candidate Wesley Clark), gives the viewer a severe case of the willies, as strange phenomenon unknown to everyone but Keynes (who experienced the same strange stuff before when he and his CIA buddies tried to set-up a training camp in the area several years earlier) begins claiming the lives of the soldiers and forces Abdul to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. The use of the barren terrain of Afghanistan (actually Morocco, because filming in Afghanistan during the "War On Terror" would just be plain nuts) to portray a feeling of hopelessness and despair, not to mention that it looks like some alien landscape, really works in this film's favor, because who can really say what actually happens in these remote regions of Earth? The mixture of UFO theories. local legends and modern technologies, combined with some really good sound design (the gun battles just pop and put you in the middle of the action if you have a good audio set-up) and a final image before the closing credits roll that will have you doing a double-take, makes THE OBJECTIVE a worthwhile addition to the crop of post-9/11 horror/war films that have slowly been appearing on DVD (MANTICORE - 2005; RED SANDS - 2009; THE DEVIL'S TOMB - 2008; WAR WOLVES - 2009; etc.). Also starring Matthew R. Anderson, Jon Huertas, Michael C. Williams, Sam Hunter, Jeff Prewett, Kenny Taylor and Vanessa Johansson. An IFC Independent Film DVD Release. Not Rated.
OCTAMAN (1970) - How bad does a horror film have to be for the lead actress to commit suicide after realizing that this movie probably wrecked her career? Well, try making it through this film (a 70's TV staple) without slitting you own wrists. What's even sadder is that Harry Essex (I, THE JURY - 1953), the director/screenwriter of this extremely boring movie, co-wrote the screenplay to the groundbreaking CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), so one gets the sad feeling that Mr. Essex was trying to relive old glories by making his own version over sixteen years later, but all he accomplished was creating a film that is unintentionally funny in spots, deadly boring for the remainder of the running time and will have you constantly looking at the clock in hopes that you will be put out of your misery soon. The film opens with Dr. Rick Torres (Kerwin Matthews; BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH - 1967) and his associate, Dr. Susan Lowry (the tragic Pier Angeli; IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH - 1970; who took her own life in 1971), measuring the unusually high radiation levels in the ocean waters off a small Mexican fishing village. Co-worker Mort Stein (Norman Fields) finds a mutated baby octopus in one of the nearby lagoons, so Rick, Susan and Mort go back to the lagoon, let the baby octopus go and then recapture it. I'm not sure why they do this, but it seems to upset the man-sized Octaman (suit designed by Rick Baker and Doug Beswick), who is hiding in the water nearby. While Rick and Susan fly off to their home base in the States to report their findings, Octaman attacks the base camp and kills a Mexican with its suckered tentacles, rescuing another baby mutant octopus (which the Mexican was about to dissect) and bringing it back to the lagoon. Once at the International Ecological Institute, Rick shows the mutant baby octopus to Director John Willard (Jeff Morrow; THIS ISLAND EARTH - 1955; in a quick booze-money cameo) in hopes of getting more funding to study the effects of radiation on ocean life (Susan's absence from this important meeting is quickly explained by Rick to Director Willard that she can't be here because she is at the hairdresser! Surely, for something this important, she could have postponed getting her hair done for a couple more hours! Or maybe she was already contemplating suicide?). Unbelievably, even after seeing the mutant baby octopus, Director Willard turns down Rick's request for more funding. Rick is forced to get financial backing from carnival owner Johnny Caruso (Jerome Guardino), who agrees to put up the money as long as he can capture any mutated marine life and display them "like they were King Kong!" They all drive back to the camp in a Winnebago and discover the dead body of their Mexican comrade. One of the locals tells a story (in flashback) of a "half-man, half-sea serpent" that roams the area (the flashback footage shows Octaman carrying away a local woman after killing her husband by striking him so hard on the head with one of its tentacles, his eye pops out of its socket!). The film continues to meander along at a snail's pace, as Octaman shows up every so often to kill some locals and then sets its sights on Susan, while Mort and Johnny argue over the benefits of saving our economy and recycling (an early-70's movie theme, as ecology and recycling were just becoming popular). When Octaman finally abducts Susan (it's true love), Rick must find a way to save her before Octaman becomes all touchy-feely. Perhaps creating a ring of fire around the creature while it is on dry land will suck all the oxygen out of its system? Perhaps not. It just pisses Octaman off even more and it eventually abducts Susan again, only this time Rick and company shoot Octaman in a hail of gunfire and it stumbles into the lagoon, hopefully to die and never appear in another film ever again. There's not much to recommend her except the Octaman rubber suit, but even it is overused to the point that we get to notice all its flaws, including eyes and mouth that do not move and the fact that it only has six tentacles (and two legs). While there are dollops of blood and gore here and there (including Octaman impaling one of its tentacles into the chest of a wetback), the film moves slower than an Alabama high school student trying to figure out a geometry exam. Poor Pier Angeli (real name: Anna Maria Pierangeli) looks as if she is drunk for most of her screen time and this has to be a career low for both Kerwin Matthews and Jeff Morrow. This is hack filmmaking at its worst and director/screenwriter Harry Essex made only one more film after this; the equally boring and uneventful THE CREMATORS (1972), before giving up and retiring from filmmaking (he passed away in 1997). OCTAMAN is not a good way to remember the man who wrote the screenplay to the 50's classic IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953). Also starring David Essex, Robert Warner, Buck Kartilian, Jax Jason Carroll, Wally Rose, Richard Cohen, Samuel Peluso and Read Morgan as Octaman. Originally released on VHS by Video Gems and available on widescreen DVD from Bayview Entertainment and Retromedia Entertainment. Rated PG.
OFFERINGS (1988) - Oh, my. This is going to be special. The film opens with an abusive mom flicking her cigarette ashes into the scrambled eggs she is making for her troubled ten year-old son John (who hasn't spoken a word since his father left him and Mom), who is a serial killer in the making, as his mother verbally fucks with him for drilling holes in his pet turtle. Later that day, he walks along the edge of a well on a dare from the mean neighborhood kids and slips and falls in, knocking him unconscious and disfiguring his face. The kids run away and leave him there, except for his only friend Gretchen. Ten years pass and John (Richard A. Bushwell) has spent those years under heavy medication in a mental institution since the police found him chowing down on the dead body of his mother. As luck would have it, John escapes the institution (by stabbing a hypodermic needle into the forehead of a nurse and drawing out some brain juice) on the tenth anniversary of the well incident. He heads back to town to get revenge on the kids (now college students) who did him wrong and to leave little gifts (the "offerings" of the title) for his only friend Gretchen (Loretta Leigh Bowman). Sheriff Chisum (G. Michael Smith) is notified of John's impending arrival and fears that he may be already here when he finds a half-eaten carcass of a live duck with human teeth imprints on it. John kills his first victim by putting his head in a vise and popping it like a zit (but only after both a chainsaw and electric drill refuse to work for him!). He snaps the neck of his second victim while she is sitting in her car. John starts sending gifts to Gretchen, the first one seemingly harmless (it isn't) and each one after that getting progressively worse. Gretchen calls Sheriff Chisum (when he comes over, he says, "Any more body parts around here?") and warns her and her friend Kacy (Elizabeth Greene) that John is on the loose. Since Gretchen's parents are away in Hawaii, it sets the stage for a final showdown between Gretchen and John at her parents' house, once John has killed everyone who was at the well ten years earlier (he dumps their bodies in the well). John offers Gretchen one final gift (Hint: It could fit in a hat box.) before she and the sheriff kill the seemingly indestructable John. It's at this time that John says his first word in his dying breath, "Love". This lower-tier HALLOWEEN clone (even the music is too close for comfort) has a few good scares, but the acting, by a mostly amateur cast, cripples the film most of the time. Director/producer/scripter/editor Christopher Reynolds, who also directed the weird religious-tinged horror film A DAY OF JUDGMENT (using the name "C.D.H. Reynolds") for Earl Owensby's outfit in 1981 and the regional actioner LETHAL JUSTICE in 1991, adds an interesting concept with John leaving Gretchen gifts at her door (the first being a couple of pizzas topped with the cooked flesh of his first victim, which her friends scarf down), but the rest of the film is basic stalk 'n' slash stuff. It would have been more interesting if the killings were bloodier (most of the deaths happen off-screen), but Reynolds does toss in a couple of screwy characters (like a gravedigger that hates worms and a young kid who tells Sheriff Chisum that his name is "Ben Dover" after being caught with a porn mag.) and a few funny lines ("I'm not going back in that kitchen. I don't care if that nose is real or not!") to keep it from being a total disaster. OFFERINGS is nothing to write home about but, on the other hand, it's not a total write-off either. Filmed in Oklahoma. Also starring Jerry Brewer, Tobe Sexton, J. Max Burnett, Doobie Potter, Mark Massey and Chase Hampton as "Ben Dover". A Southgate Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on DVD in a cheap-ass looking version from Madacy Entertainment. Rated R.
OFFSPRING (2009) - Here's another horror film that over the opening credits displays a bunch of local newspaper articles describing a series of grisly murders and missing children that date back over 150 years, a plot device used in numerous horror films over the years (One of these days, I'm gonna have to compile a list of horror films that use this opening credits trick). I know this is done to inform the viewers that something bad has been happening in the area for years (in this case, coastal Maine), but for God's sake, are all the reporters retarded for not making the connections? I mean, isn't that the job a reporter is supposed to do? Anywho, this horror film, written by Jack Ketchum (whose novels were turned into the films THE LOST - 2006; THE GIRL NEXT DOOR - 2007; the excellent RED - 2008; and THE WOMAN - 2011; a semi-sequel of sorts to this film, but with a twist) and based on his novel of the same name, is the story about an inbred cannibal clan who, every few years, venture out into civilization to butcher some fresh human meat and to steal babies and young children for breeding stock. When the film opens, a drunk mother arrives home (yes, she was driving; that's the type of film this is) to find that four young cannibal children (outfitted with the worst fright wigs imaginable [think Buckwheat from THE LITTLE RASCALS, if he stuck his finger in an electric outlet]) have butchered her babysitter and stuffed her baby in a plastic bag. The cannibal kids kill Mom (offscreen) and the next thing you know the police, led bt Sgt. Vic Manetti (Holter Graham), are asking ex-police chief George Peters (Art Hindle; RAW COURAGE - 1984, and one of this film's Associate Producers) to look over the crime scene, since he has seen this kind of carnage several times before he retired (but never solved the crimes because no one would believe his explanation of the crimes). Meanwhile, a mostly-naked cannibal girl (Rachel White, whose breasts are smaller than mosquito bites) roams the woods flagellating herself with a tree branch and appearing at night near the home of David Halbard (Andrew Elvis Miller), his wife Amy (Amy Hargreaves) and their young baby (David even jokes with his wife about seeing a naked girl in the woods and they have a good laugh about it!). George tells the entire police force that he believes that the killers are the descendants of an old lighthouse keeper who died in the 1850's and they have avoided capture for all these years by keeping on the move and hiding in the caves that dot the coastline, returning back to the towns where they have committed their crimes after everyone has forgotten about the murders. Things get heated when friend Claire (Ahna Tessler) and her young son Luke (Tommy Nelson) come to visit David and Amy to get away from her drunk and abusive husband Stephen (Erick Kastel), who has found out where she is and is driving from Connecticut to bring them back (Just to prove what a heel Stephen is, we see him pick up a female hitchhiker and physically and mentally abuses her before he lets her out of the car. Oh, and he's driving drunk, too.). The female head of the cannibal clan (Pollyanna McIntosh) decides they need a new baby for their clan, so they invade David and Amy's house that night, disembowel David (it's hard to watch), kidnap Amy and nearly kill Stephen, who has just arrived at the house, but Claire and Luke manage to grab the baby and escape, with the cannibals hot on their heels. Stephen gets stopped by George and the police, but he runs into the woods because he is drunk and David had called the police to tell the dispatcher about Stephen's eventual arrival (only to be asked by the dispatcher if he has a gun because too much is going on for the police to handle domestic disputes!). When the cannibals capture Claire, kill Vic (he gets a nail shoved into his eye, followed by a knife impaled through his neck and his lower jaw bitten off) and seriously injure George, it is up to young Luke to protect the baby (in a treehouse) and also find a way to free his mom and Amy. I have to say that I was expecting a whole lot more than what I got when I heard that Jack Ketchum actually wrote the screenplay to this film, but there are just too many plot holes you could drive a train through. This is nothing but an ordinary DTV horror flick that offers nothing new to the cannibal genre, Sure, there is plenty of graphic gore, rape and bloody deaths (including the killing of children), but the depiction of the cannibal clan, who dress in loincloths (Are they too stupid to wear the clothes of their victims to maybe look a little bit more normal? For a cannibal clan that has successfully hidden their presence for over 150 years, they sure do some stupid things!) and speak in gibberish (which is subtitled in English), it is so outlandish and sometimes cartoonish, it ruins the effictiveness of the film. Director Andrew Van Den Houten (whose first film, HEADSPACE , is much more effective than this) tries hard, especially with the gore sequences, but the screenplay is weak. The film loses all control when Stephen is captured by the cannibals and he helps them torture Claire (!), telling the clan that "she hates to be bitten", so one male cannibal strips Claire naked and proceeds to bite her between her legs! Stephen eventually gets his totally expected comeuppance (he has the top of his head lopped off and his brains eaten), but the damage is already done. If it's only gore you want, by all means OFFSPRING is for you; but if you want a coherent storyline and characters to care about, look somewhere else. Maybe all those people who call Jack Ketchum a "hack" who only cares about blood and gore in his novels are right (I can't say because I haven't read any of his novels, but I am basing my opinion based solely on this film). Also starring Spencer List, Leigh Shannon, Stephen Grey and Taylor John Piedmonte. A Ghost House Underground DVD Release. Rated R, but this is hard-R territory. NOTE: If you have seen this film on the cable channel CHILLER, you may be surprised how much of the gore they show, although they do shorten some of the more gory scenes (especially Claire's death) and blur out the breasts of Rachel White and other women, but at least they don't cut the scenes completely. Still, you should grab the DVD for the full experience if you are a gorehound.
OILY MANIAC (1975) - When Fu Sin Chen is served papers that his family's coconut oil farm is being foreclosed by the evil Mr. Yang, a fight breaks out and Fu Sin's father kills one of Mr. Yang's men. He is arrested and sentenced to be executed. The crippled Ah Yung (Li Hsiu-Hsien; a.k.a. "Danny Lee), the elderly Mr. Chen's nephew, visits Mr. Chen minutes before his execution. Ah Yung, who walks with two canes and leg braces after contracting polio as a kid, is asked by Mr. Chen to look after his daughter, Little Yue (Lily Li), and in return he gives Ah Yung a magic spell (it's tattooed on Mr. Chen's back) that will somehow help Ah Yung. The spell comes with a warning, though: "You can't use it with a wrong intent...or you will die in a very, very bad way!". Ah Yung makes a tracing of the spell on a piece of paper just before Mr. Chen is executed. He returns to his job at a law firm, where he is abused and berated constantly. On his off time he tends to the needs of Little Yue (who isn't so little) and Ah Yung falls in love with her, but his crippled body seems to be a major stumbling block. He remembers the spell and starts following the instructions. Step 1: Did a hole in the middle of the house. Check. Step 2: Sit in the hole and chant "Please give me peace and power" over and over. Check. Before you know it, the hole fills-up with a bubbling black oil, turning Ah Yung into a walking slimy black blob with two glowing eyes and an exposed beating heart in the middle of his chest, the Oily Maniac! The first thing OM does is save Little Yue from being raped by two of Mr. Yang's thugs. OM is able to transform himself into an oil slick and slides under Little Yue's door, where he beats one rapist to a bloody pulp (the other thug gets away to report to his unbelieving boss what he just saw) and then returns home to transform back to his crippled self. In court, another rapist is brought to trial (where he testifies that the female victim was actually the rapist!) and after Ah Yung sees how the court was played for a fool by his obnoxious boss (the rapist was actually innocent and the woman his boss was representing was just looking for a big payday) and, later, witnessing Little Yue make love to another non-crippled man, he decides to use his new power to teach women a lesson. He grabs a handy diesel pump at a gas station, sprays himself, turns into the Oily Maniac (!) and goes after the woman at the trial. He gets into her house by traveling through her bathtub faucet (!), kills her and her lover is blamed for the crime. As Ah Yung becomes more disillusioned with his job and women in general, he steps up his transformations and retributions, but when Little Yue commits suicide after being raped by one of Mr. Yang's men (set up by her new boyfriend to quicken the sale of her father's coconut oil farm), Ah Yung turns into a vigilante and starts killing people left and right, especially when he finds out that his boss is in cahoots with Mr. Yang. He should have listened to his late Uncle when he mentioned wrong intent and dying in a very, very bad way. Say, isn't oil flammable? This Hong Kong horror flick doesn't make a lick of sense but, man, is it sleazy and entertaining. Director Ho Meng Hua (THE FLYING GUILLOTINE - 1974; THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN - 1977), who filmed this back-to-back with the classic BLACK MAGIC (using many of the same personnel), seems to realize how ridiculous the entire premise is, therefore he shows as much nudity as possible (including a very ugly botched boob job) and makes each proceeding attack by the Oily Maniac (a truly bizarre creation) more outrageous than the last. My favorite has to be the attack by OM on a female plastic surgeon (who we see surgically altering a prostitute so she a virgin again [a re-virgination!]) and her all-female staff. It will have you howling with laughter as well as amazement, when he makes his sudden appearance during surgery and repeatedly stomps on the surgeon's head until only a pool of oil and blood are left. The script, by Tsai Lan, is a rather harsh indictment of the legal profession and women in general, as Ah Yung's slimy boss, Mr. Hu, demands 90% of court awards from his clients (who are usually conniving women) and treats Ah Yung like dog shit on the bottom of his shoe. The mostly all-female staff in Mr. Hu's office also treat Ah Yung like crap (except for one understanding girl), so we can begin to understand his hatred of women. Ho Meng Hua uses animation for some of the transformation scenes (crude, but eerily effective) and reverse camera shots (like those used on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN) to show the Oily Maniac's superhuman leaps into the air. I guarantee that you'll never see anything like this made in the States, so grab this Shaw Brothers Production, make a huge bowl of popcorn and prepare to be entertained. Also starring Chen Ping, Hua Lun, Wang Hsai, Angela Yu Chien, Ku Feng and Wei Hung. A Celestial Pictures DVD Release. Not Rated.
ONE DARK NIGHT (1982) - Six young women and an old man are found dead in an apartment, none of them bearing any wounds to determine cause of death. The apartment, on the other hand, looks like it was hit by a hurricane, as objects of every kind (plates, utensils, kitchen chairs, even bedsprings!) are protruding out of the walls. The dead old man turns out to be notorious psychic magician Karl Raymar, who claimed his supernatural powers were real. His funeral brings out his estranged daughter, Olivia (Melissa Newman), and, at the mausoleum (where his body is interred), she begins to have strange visions. When Olivia and her boyfriend, Allan (Adam West), return home, they are greeted at the door by reporter Samuel Dockstader (Donald Hotton), an old friend of her father's, who has quite a story to tell her. It seems Karl was a "psychic vampire", a person who was able to drain the "bio-energy" (a force every living thing possesses that is viewable only by Kirlian Photography) from everyone he was near. He was able to store that energy within his own body and use it to perform amazing feats of telekinesis, or moving objects with his mind. Dockstader tells Olivia that he lost contact with her father when he started picking up hitch-hikers and draining them of their energy. He fears that her father wanted to die, so he could use his powers sans his human body. Allan thinks the story is nothing but nonsense, but Olivia is sure that it is true. College girl Julie (Meg Tilly) is being initiated into a sorority known simply as "The Sisters" by being locked in a mausoleum for the night. You guessed it. The mausoleum she is trapped in contains the body of Karl Raymar. Julie's new boyfriend, Steve (David Mason Daniels), is highly suspicious of the initiation because his ex-girlfriend, Carol (Robin Evans), is the leader of The Sisters (which is really only three girls) and he is sure that Carol has no intention of letting Julie join the sorority (Carol practically admits it when she hits on Steve when Julie is in the next room). Steve has no idea where Julie is and she can really use his help because Karl Raymar's powers are beginning to get deadly in the mausoleum. When Carol and one of her Sisters come back to the mausoleum to scare Julie (after drugging her with Demerol!), they'll wish thay didn't, as Raymar unleashes his power and reanimates a bunch of dead bodies. As Steve comes to save the day, Olivia learns that she may have inherited some of her father's powers and she rushes to the mausoleum to put her father's soul to rest. The finale is a psychic battle of good vs. evil, as the dead rise from their coffins and a daughter uses her new powers to send her father to a proper final reward. This atmospheric little chiller is far-fetched, but effective and it is all achieved with a minimum of blood and gore and a maximum of mood. From the opening shot of four white coroner vans pulling-up in unison to the front of Raymar's apartment building to collect the bodies, to the spookie mausoleum-at-night setting (which instantly brings to mind visions of PHANTASM ), you know this is going to be memorable. ONE DARK NIGHT is the first effort from director/scripter Tom McLoughlin (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES - 1986; SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK - 1991; THE UNSAID - 2001) and is not your standard "teens in peril" film by any means. It's an intelligent (though extremely unlikely) foray into things that go bump in the night. This film actually tries to give you an explanation why these thing go "bump". The whole idea of a "psychic vampire" may seem ridiculous, but McLoughlin pulls it off here, thanks to the goosebump-inducing location work, the eerie electronic music score (and sound effects) and some great makeup effects courtesy of the Burman Studios. The scene where Raymar unleashes his power in the mausoleum, when the caskets of the dead break through their enclosures, open up and the corpses attack Carol and Kitty (Leslie Speights), killing them (mainly from fright), and then attack Julie and Steve, is the definition of shit-your-pants scary. This isn't a classic by any means, but it is an effective little horror film with several good scares done on a purely emotional level. That's strange for a horror film made during this time period. There's minimal gore (but the corpses in the final are juicy), no nudity and very little blood, but it will have you in it's grip throughout it's entire running time. Good show. Also known as ENTITY FORCE (a retitling to cash-in on Sidney J. Furie's THE ENTITY ), NIGHT OF DARKNESS, NIGHT IN THE CRYPT, REST IN PEACE and DARK NIGHT. Also starring Elizabeth Daly, Leo Gorcey Jr. and Kevin Peter Hall. Originally released on VHS by Thorn EMI Video and available on DVD in a deluxe 2-disc set from Shriek Show. Rated PG.
ONE OF THEM (2003) - Low budget horror nonsense about five teens who become trapped at the sinister Marquez Academy after they are attacked by a swarm of locusts, causing their car to crash. The bad guys (you can tell they're bad because they dress in black and mysteriously appear in frame with a "woosh" sound) have dastardly plans for the teens, who begin to have visions of monks in robes and little girls with snake tongues. Miles from civilization and with no transportation to get away, the teens have nowhere to turn. When the uncle of one of Marquez Academy's full-time students comes to visit his niece and finds out that she is dead, he becomes suspicious of the Academy, especially when people from town continually ask him, "Are you one of them?" There's also a mysterious symbol that shows up just before someone is about to get killed. Somehow (but don't ask me how), all this ties into how one of the teens resembles a long-dead woman named Elizabeth, which really worries evil headmaster Santiago (Osman Soykut). As the teens become more and more suspicious, one gets showered with (CGI) blood while standing outside and another discovers an auto graveyard hidden behind the Academy (and gets graphically stabbed with a bayonette for his troubles). The Uncle (Richard Anthony Crenna, son of the late actor Richard Crenna) begins piecing clues together about the Academy, but everyone he talks to ends up dead (one guy is forced into a woodchipper). As the Uncle gets closer to the ultimate truth, more people continue to die, others have visions of Elizabeth and there's a finale that involves woodoo (Not voodoo. Woodoo is black voodoo according to this film.) and more sacrifices. Be prepared for the standard "twist" ending that all screenwriters (here it's David Ciesielski) use when they can't come up with a proper conclusion. This is pretty standard DTV stuff. Toss a bunch of unknown young actors into a perilous situation, throw in some bloody deaths (including a nasty scalpel to the eye) and add a hint of the supernatural and hope the audience doesn't notice how absurd the whole story is. The fact that most of the teens are pretty bad actors and the screenplay has enough holes to strain spaghetti, doesn't make this an easy film to sit through. The overwrought music soundtrack, which relies too much on heavy chants and choir singing, is also a distraction. But, director Ralph Portillo (FEVER LAKE - 1996; BLOODY MURDER - 1999) does offer enough bloody mayhem, including a sword through the neck, a bullet through the head, a shovel decapitation and other scenes to keep your brain busy so you'll hardly notice how ridiculous everything really is (yeah, right!). Proceed at your own risk. Also starring Marianne Bennett, Erin Byron, David Boller, Kelly Carmichael, Chase Carpenter and John Patrick Jordan. An MTI Home Video Release. Rated R.
THE ORACLE (1985) - After directing nothing but hardcore porn films for fifteen years, in 1985, Roberta Findlay began making a series of six horror and exploitation films with producer/musician Walter E. Sear. This was the first of those films. The next five were TENEMENT: GAME OF SURVIVAL (1985); BLOOD SISTERS (1987); LURKERS (1987); PRIME EVIL (1988) and the rarely-seen BANNED (1989). Then, she just stopped making films and still lives in New York City to this day, thick Brooklyn accent and all. She really could do anything when it came to making films. She was an accomplished director, cimematographer and editor (she did all three on these six final films) and before that, she also acted (as "Anna Riva") in a series of sexploitation films in the 60's, usually with her late husband Michael Findlay (see my review of LURKERS and SNUFF for more on him). She made some classy porn films, but her sudden turn to horror was quite puzzling, to say tthe least. Most of these six films were run-of-the-mill potboilers, but this film and TENEMENT are her best efforts out of the six. As a matter of fact, THE ORACLE has a quite complex storyline (screenplay by R. Allen Leider; who usually wrote porn films, some for Findlay, and appears here in a small role using the pseudonym "Lee-Allen Richardson") and, if I didn't know better, I would think that director Kevin S. Tenney saw this film and got the idea of making the similar-themed WITCHBOARD the following year (they are similar in some ways; totally different in others). That's not to say that Roberta Findlay invented the Ouija Board as an object in horror films, because it has been a major trope in them for many, many years before her film, but she managed to put a unique spin on it. The film open with old hag Medium, Mrs. Malatesta (Irma St. Paule), using an unusual-looking planchette (shaped like a human hand and holding a feathered pen) as it writes a message from the spirit world. It only writes one word: "Murder". The planchette than begins to move on its own, while Mrs. Malatesta says to the spirit, "No! I can't help you!" and then we see her Tarot Cards burning on her table. We watch building super Pappas (Chris Maria De Koron) packing up Mrs. Malatesta's things and moving them out of her apartment, including putting the magic box containing the planchette in a cedar chest, and moving it to the basement. New tenant Jennifer (Caroline Capers Powers, in her only film), who has moved into Mrs. Malatesta's apartment with her husband Ray (Roger Neil), goes to the basement to do some laundry when she sees a green light emitting from the cedar chest, which is slightly open. She opens the chest out of curiosity and is instantly drawn to the magic box. The Spanish Pappas appears and tells Jennifer about how the box is used, by telling her, "How do you say? To speak to the dead" and assures her it is no joke, because Mrs. Malatesta showed him many times how it was used. He opens the box to give Jennifer a demonstration and tells her that Mrs. Malatesta used it many times to talk to the spirits of the dead, but one day she just up and disappeared, never to be seen again. Pappas gives Jennifer the magic box as a Christmas present (she thinks it will make a great "conversation piece") and Jennifer invites him to her and Ray's Christmas party and dinner in their apartment. We then see some Mid-80's footage of Times Square, where a hooker is standing in front of a sign of a peep show that says "Where's The Beef?" She makes a date with a fat man (who keeps his face hidden from the camera) and takes him to her motel room, only to discover that the man is actually a female transvestite (a woman who dresses as a man) named Farkas (Pam La Testa) and she's in a murdering mood (The hooker unzips Farkas' pants and discovers there isn't any beef at all!). Farkas handcuffs the hooker's hands behind her back and begins to stab her repeatedly with a switchblade until the motel room's walls are literally covered with her blood. Farkas cleans her switchblade off in the bathroom. leaves some money on the sink and exits the motel room after saying "Merry Christmas!" to the hooker's corpse, who's bloody body is spread-eagle on the bed (all the while, an instrumental version of "Silent Night" is playing on a radio). How does this connect to Jennifer and the magic box? Be patient, dear reader. Be patient. Pappas shows up at Jennifer's Christmas party, where it is just him, Jennifer, Ray, Cindy (Stacey Graves) and her husband Ben (G. Gordon Cronce). Pappas has one drink and leaves the apartment quickly, not even staying for dinner, because the apartment somehow creeps him out. Jennifer and her friends have a nice Christmas dinner, while Farkas walks into a diner and orders the "Christmas Special" and a beer (When Farkas asks if the beer is imported, the wise-ass, gum-chewing waitress says, "Yeah, it's imported from Milwaukee!"). A pay phone rings in the diner and Farkas knows it is for her, getting up to answer it and saying something about the person on the other end owing her money (The same waitress says to Farkas, "What is this, your own private office?). At the same time, Jennifer pulls out the magic box and thinks it will all be fun if the four of them have a seance (Is that ever a really good idea in a horror film?). The planchette moves when all four of them put their fingers in it and it writes out "horny", something Ben purposely writes as a joke (Really, is joking around with a Ouiji Board a good idea in a horror film?). Farkas leaves the diner (after leaving a 40¢ tip!) while jennifer uses the planchette by herself and it spell out "help me". Ray accuses his wife of embarassing him by performing such a tacky trick in frony of their good friends and, later on, when they are in bed, Ray wants sex, but Jennifer turns her back on him for not believing that it wasn't a trick. That night, Jennifer sees a green light coming from the living room and gets out of bed to investigate, only to see the planchette moving by itself and leaving her another message (Which we can't make out at the moment. Believe me, I tried by freeze-framing the DVD, but the handwriting is so lousy, I couldn't make it out!). Jennifer picks up the piece of paper with the message and the green light disappears. Ben appears in the living room and when Jennifer tells him what she just saw, he says he is getting rid of the magic box in the morning. The next morning, Jennifer gives the message to her friend Cindy at her dress shop and we learn what is written on the paper" William Graham 676-3334." The number on the piece of paper is obviously a phone number, so Cindy calls it and a woman answers and identifies herself as Dorothy Graham (Victoria Dryden), who informs Cindy that her husband William committed suicide three weeks ago. We then see Dorothy talking to her dead husband's plant manager, Tom Varney (Dan Lutzky), about the phone call she just received and Tom doesn't look too pleased. Now, a good detective will be able to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out how everything that has happened so far is connected, but I'll supply even more information. Jennifer throws the magic box in the trash, but everything in her living room begins to move or fly through the air. We then see the planchette write a simple note: "No". Ray comes home and sees all the destruction, grabs the magic box and goes to throw it in the incinerator, but Pappas says he will do it, only for him to try and use the planchette to give him tomorrow's winning lottery numbers! When the planchette doesn't move, he spits on the box, but he doesn't see a slimy green octopus-like creature crawl out of the box and climb up the inside of his pants leg. Pappas suddenly sees tiny little sharped-tooth creatures all over his body (it's actually all in his mind, as he is halucinating), so he starts stabbing the creatures (actually just stabbing himself) and finally ends his life when he imagines a creature is covering one of his eyes, stabbing himself deeply in his eye (it's a bloody sequence). The magic box won't leave Jennifer alone, as it suddenly appears in her living room and she begins to have halucinations, too, like a clawed creature clawing through her shower curtain and then seeing a standing Pappas in the elevator with the knife still planted firmly in his eye. Ben does some research on William Graham for Cindy, where he tells her the method of William Graham's death: He ran a hose from the tailpipe of his car into the interior of the vehicle and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Jennifer has a vision of Tom Varney and Farkas knocking out William Graham and placing his body inside the suicide car, basically murdering him. She goes to Graham's wife Dorothy with her suspicions and brings along the notes the planchette wrote to her, but Tom overhears their conversation and hires Farkas to kill Jennifer. Farkas disguises herself as a maid at a New Years Eve party at Cindy and Ben's apartment and almost throws Jennifer over the railing of the terrace, but a drunk interrupts and hits on the obese Farkas. At the same party, Farkas tries to kill Jennifer again in the kitchen, but Jennifer throws a hot pot of coffee in her face and knocks her out with a frying pan to the head. Ray is tired of Jennifer seemingly making up stories and worries that she may be going crazy, so he sends her to a female psychiatrist, Dr. Ryker (Ethel Mark). While Jennifer is having her head shrunk, Ray goes home and sees the magic box on the coffee table in the living room. He takes the box and goes to throw it in the incinerator's slot, but a pair of sharp creature claws come out of the slot and rips Ray's head off (a pretty decent effect). After hearing Jennifer's story, Dr. Ryker has Jennifer committed to an institution for 72 hours of observation. Tom goes to the institution to kill Jennifer, but the shriveled-skin skull of William Graham flies through the air and crashes through a window, killing Tom with shards of glass that impale his face and body (a really creepy scene). Jennifer escapes the institution (a little too easily for my taste) and at the same time Dr. Ryker goes to Jennifer's apartment and is killed by the magic box (we are never shown how). We then find out that Dorothy was also part of her husband's murder, as she and Farkas kidnap Jennifer (In a big goof, we see people walking down the opposite side of the street, not noticing Jennifer's screams or Farkas and Dorothy manhandling [womanhandling?] her.), but Jennifer escapes and Farkas dies when she swings an axe at Jennifer and misses, hitting a drum of toxic waste instead. It sprays all over Farkas' face and body and we watch as she dissolves into a puddle of bloody goo (the effects in this film, by an uncredited Dean Mercil, his first film, are above average for such a low-budget affair). The shriveled corpse of William Graham forces his wife into the same car he died in and Dorothy is killed by carbon monoxide as the garage door closes. The next time we see Jennifer, she is sitting at a table in her apartment, with the planchette and some Tarot Cards on the table. She has become the new Mrs. Malatesta. This is probably the bloodiest and most special effects-laden of Roberta Findlay's last six films. She takes a basic "murder your husband for his money" scenario and turns it into a rather atmospheric and bloody supernatural tale, full of strange people (the female transvestite was a stroke of genius) and bloody deaths, that keeps you guessing the connection for the first two-thirds of the film. It's apparent while watching this film that Roberta Findlay was still interested in filmmaking, but as the rest of her last five made-for-home-video films progressed, it was apparent that she was losing interest more and more and just phoning-in her directorial chores by the time PRIME EVIL was made (I still haven't been able to get my hands on her last film, BANNED , so I really can't comment on it.). Caroline Capers Powers is quite good here as Jennifer and I was surprised to learn that this was her only film. She could have become a very good actress in genre films. THE ORACLE proved to me that Roberta Findlay still had talent to make interesting, non-porn films and I hope one day she decides to get behind the camera again. Enough time has passed to give her a long rest and recharge her batteries. The DVD, released by Shriek Show in 2004, has a commentary track and an on-screen interview with Ms. Findlay and she is absolutely hilarious with some of the stories she tells about making this film and her career in general. Once you hear her voice, you will never forget it. Originally released on VHS by U.S.A. Home Video. The DVD is fullscreen, so some enterprising boutique DVD company should release a widescreen version of this film. Filmed, just like Findlay's last five films, in and around New York City. Look for a bottle of Gordon's Gin at Dorothy Graham's office bar. Also starring Alexandria Blade, Joan Leonard, Einar O. Peterson, Lou Bacotti Lou Bartholomew, Mari Kasiner, Juan Calderon and James Styles as William Graham. A Shriek Show DVD Release. Not Rated.
THE ORPHAN (1977) - It's 1933 and eight year old David (Mark Owens) loses both his parents in an accidental shooting/suicide (which he witnessed). His Aunt Martha (Peggy Feury) moves into the family mansion to take care of him. From the outset, it is apparent that she is a strict disciplinarian, which doesn't sit well with Mark. She tells him when he can go to the bathroom, whom he can or cannot play with, badmouths his father and generally makes his life a living hell. The mental abuse begins to have an effect on David. He builds a shrine in the backyard chicken coop and fills it with family photographs and African artifacts that his father had collected from his numerous trips to that continent. At the center of the shrine stands a stuffed chimp who David thinks is inhabited by his father's spirit. When Aunt Martha accidently kills David's pet dog and then ties him to his bed, he becomes mentally unstable and resorts to murder. He stabs the housekeeper, Mary (Eleanor Stewart), after he overhears that she is leaving and not taking him with her as she promised. He shoots Aunt Martha with an elephant gun after she invades his shrine (he imagines that the stuffed chimp has come alive and is attacking her). The film ends with David eating a piece of toast, something Aunt Martha would never let him have. Director John Ballard spices up the proceedings with some arty camera moves and unusual visuals. Particularly interesting is David's imagined trip to a boarding school, where Aunt Martha threatens to send him. He sees it as a dirty, decrepit place, where the paint is peeling and filthy, sickly children are either tied to their beds or living in their own waste. His guided tour is a journey through a sick mind. The acting is uniformly good, especially Mark Owens and Afolabi Ajayi as an African man who befriends David before being banished by Aunt Martha for being a "bad influence". There's not much blood, no nudity and the story unfolds rather leisurely, but this film satisfies on a much more cerebral level than most other horror films. Therefore, I would recommend it. Also known as FRIDAY THE 13TH...THE ORPHAN and KILLER ORPHAN. A Prism Entertainment Release. Rated R.
THE OTHER HELL (1980) - Really bad Italian nunsploitation film that opens with a nun embalming another nun (who died while getting an abortion), who suddenly goes insane (or is she possessed?) and starts stabbing the dead nun in the vagina while ranting, "The genitals are the doorway to evil!" The film quickly goes downhill from there. After several nuns are found brutally slaughtered, the head of the convent, Mother Superior Vincenza (Franca Stoppi; CAGED WOMEN - 1982), calls in Father Inardo (Andrew Ray) to investigate. Almost immediately, his Bible catches on fire, he sees visions of owls and bats and one of the nuns shows signs of the stigmata (bleeding of the hands and feet, mimicking Christ crucified on the cross), so Father Inardo begins the rites of exorcism to rid the convent of evil, but he is cut short (What is in the attic that the Mother Superior doesn't want him to discover?) when the stigmata-afflicted nun disappears, leaving nothing but bloody clothes and sheets in her wake. The Catholic Church decides to replace the elderly Father Inardo with the younger, more modern Father Valerio (Carlo De Mejo; THE GATES OF HELL - 1980; THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY - 1981), who believes the Devil is merely a symbol for the evil in the human heart. The church sends him to the convent to investigate the murders, where he acts more like Sherlock Holmes than a Catholic priest. He uncovers a history of abuse and madness in the convent, which dates back to the mysterious death of the convent's first Mother Superior many years ago. A stubborn Father Inardo, who refuses to believe in Father Valerio's new methods (which includes videotaping his exploits), sneaks back into the convent to perform an old-fashioned exorcism and pays for it with his life when a fireplace spews out it's flames and sets him on fire. As things get stranger and deadlier at the convent, Father Valerio still refuses to believe anything supernatural is going on. He's wrong, of course, because Mother Vincenza is hiding a deadly secret in the attic: Her horribly burned telekinetic daughter, who was quite possibly the result of a rape by old Scratch himself. Maybe now Father Valerio will believe in the supernatural. Oops, too late! Mother Vincenza drives him completely mad when he discovers her secret. In my best Edward G. Robinson voice, let me say this: "Where's your Savior now? Yeah, see!" Deadly slow and atrociously dubbed, THE OTHER HELL is a chore to sit through. It doesn't help that director Bruno Mattei (ROBOWAR - 1988; SHOCKING DARK - 1989; THE TOMB - 2004), here using the pseudonym "Stefan Oblowsky", films many of the scenes without the benefit of any artificial light, making the viewer squint frequently trying to make heads or tails of what the hell is going on during the gore scenes. The script, by Claudio Fragasso (the director of MONSTER DOG  and the classic badfilm TROLL 2 ), plays fast and loose with the facts on display. While the final denouement leads us to believe that all the deaths committed at the convent were by human hands (albeit with telekinetic abilities), it's frankly hard to believe, because some of the deaths, including that of convent caretaker Boris (Frank Garfeeld), couldn't have possibly been by human means. Mattei does try to keep our minds off the absurdity of the plot by tossing in some gore (several bloody stabbings and a baby being thrown into a pot of boiling water) and the unfortunate scene of a live chicken having it's head chopped-off (the Italians have no shame when it comes to showing real-life animal violence), but the film is so static and uninvolving, it's hard to comprehend just what type of audience Mattei had in mind when he made this. It starts off as a nunsploitation flick, turns it into a quasi-Giallo film and then ends with a CARRIE-inspired finale, complete with a jump-scare final shot. I found the whole exercise a boring mess. This was released to U.S. theaters under the title GUARDIAN OF HELL in 1985 and is also known as THE PRESENCE. The electronic score, by Goblin, was lifted from Joe D'Amato's BEYOND THE DARKNESS (1979; a.k.a. BURIED ALIVE), which also starred Franca Stoppi. Also starring Francesca Carmeno, Susan Forget, Paola Montenero and Sandy Samuel. If you must watch this, pick up the widescreen DVD from Media Blasters/Shriek Show. The VHS tape released by Vestron Video in the mid-80's is a badly-cropped, overly dark fullscreen print that is the R-rated edit, missing small bits of nudity and gore. Mattei (who died in 2007) freely admits in an interview on the DVD that this is one of his least favorite films in his canon. Not Rated.
THE OUTING (1986) - Typical mid-80's horror film. This one is a regional Houston, Texas-lensed tale about a murderous genie (This film is also known as THE LAMP). It opens with a trio of thieves, led by Harley (Hank Amico), as they drive to the house of an elderly Arab woman (associate producer Deborah Winters under heavy old-age makeup), who is supposed to have a fortune in money hidden somewhere in the house (Harley use to deliver groceries to her and swears she is "filthy with it"). Harley and his crew break into the house in the middle of a fog-shrouded night and member Faylene (Michelle Watkins) wonders why all the lights are on (Harley tells her it's because she can afford it, since she's got "piles" of money). After finding no money downstairs, the trio, which also includes Max (Brian Floores), head upstairs and wake up the old lady, demanding to know where the money is hidden. When she refuses to tell them, Harley finds a chest hidden behind the bedroom wall and thinks he's hit pay dirt. When the old lady tries to stop him from opening the chest (there's an ancient Arabian-style oil lamp inside), Harley kills her with an axe and a ruby bracelet magically falls off her wrist. Harley tries to open the lamp while Faylene and Max ransack the house. When Harley can't open the lamp, he follows Faylene's joking advice and rubs it ("That's what they use to do in all them old movies."). Uh-oh, big mistake. The tip of the lamp, a small hand holding a ruby, begins to turn on its own and an unseen force escapes from the opening (represented by neon green opticals), enters the old lady's dead body (she still has the axe planted in her forehead!) and pulls down on Harley until his head is impaled on the other edge of the axe. The force then leaves the old woman's body and cuts Max in two at his torso while he's taking a dip in the pool. Finally, the unseen force chases a topless Faylene through the house and hangs her in the old lady's bedroom, as all the lights in the house go out. The next morning, police and ambulances show up at the house to cart the bodies away, while Detective Adams (Blue Deckert) and Detective Charles (producer/screenwriter Warren Chaney) search the house, find the lamp and put the small hand holding the ruby back on the lamp. Some items in the house, including the lamp and the ruby bracelet, are donated to the Museum Of Natural Science, where curators Dr. Wallace (James Huston) and Dr. Bressling (Danny D. Daniels) take extensive photographs of the lamp because "it looks valuable." Enter Dr. Wallace's precocious teen daughter Alex (Andra St. Ivanyi), who is upset with her father since he is never at home and says to him, "Sometimes I wish you were dead!", which she immediately apologizes for, but since she made this "wish" in front of the lamp, an apology may not be good enough. While Dad and Dr. Bressling are in another room, Alex tries on the ruby bracelet and then discovers she cannot remove it, so she hides it from her father (after rubbing the lamp!). The next afternoon, Dr. Wallace is hosting Alex's high school class on a field trip to the museum, which includes teacher Eve Ferrell (Deborah Winters again), whom the widowed Dr. Wallace has romantic interest in. Also along on the class trip are Alex's new boyfriend Ted (Scott Bankston) and her abusive ex-boyfriend Mike (Mark "Red" Mitchell; FOREVER EVIL - 1987), who sneaks into the museum because he was actually expelled from school after a violent episode where he vowed to get revenge on everyone. Dr. Bressling chemically dates the lamp to 3500 B.C. and programs the museum computer to translate the inscriptions. After the field trip is over, Alex, Ted and some of the students decide to illegally spend the night at the museum and will not only have to put up with a vengeful mike, but also a murderous djinn (or genie) which is released from the lamp and possesses Alex. Let the killings begin. Adequately directed by Tom Daley (his only mainstream film, although he has directed adult films using the name "Rex Mundo"), who uses sweeping crane shots and steadicam work to simulate the POV of the mostly unseen genie. THE OUTING mixes gory killings (besides the ones already mentioned, Dr. Bressling is pulled-up to the spinning blades of a ceiling fan; a museum guard is impaled by a floating spear; Ross [Barry Coffing] is cut in two; Babs [Damon Merrill] is bitten by poisonous snakes all over her body while taking a bath; Terry [Raan Lewis] has a snake crawl up his pant leg and bites him on his penis; Tony [Andre Chimeme] has his head turned around 360 degrees while a metal mask tightens around his head; Mike is impaled by a horned mask he is wearing while raping the high school principal's daughter, Gwen [Trayce Walker]; Ted has his fingers bitten-off and neck chewed-on by a mummy who has come to life; and Alex's wish about her father comes true) with some less-than-professional acting . Most of the actors here, with the exceptions of Deborah Winters (TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO - 1977), Red Mitchell and Blue Deckert, have never appeared in another film, which speaks volumes. Warren Chaney's screenplay is a standard "teens trapped in a locked facility while a killer is on the loose" plot, but some of the deaths are memorable and there's a heaping helping of female nudity. There's also an unnecessary subplot about Dr. Wallace proposing marriage to Eve that only serves in getting the two to the museum to save Alex. When the genie does reveal itself in the finale, it's a ridiculous rubber concoction, but at least it's not CGI. The late Robert A. Burns (TOURIST TRAP - 1978) was Production Designer and actor Jackson Bostwick (THE KILLINGS AT OUTPOST ZETA - 1980) supplied the voice of the genie. Originally available on VHS from I.V.E., Inc. and not available on DVD in the United States. Rated R.
PANIC (1976) - When an accidental spill at a laboratory causes the lab to become contaminated with a new deadly bacteria, the chemical company that is performing the illegal experiments tries to cover it up. A professor and a guinea pig exposed to the bacteria escape the lab and the professor goes on a killing spree, murdering and mutilating a necking couple in a car, drinking their blood to stay alive. Enter London Army Captain Kirk (David Warbeck), sent to investigate the disappearance of the professor (who the chemical company says is on a "fishing trip") and a series of brutal mutilations where the victims were chemically burned and drained of blood. Captain Kirk (snicker) joins forces with chemical company scientist Jane (Janet Agren), who is unaware of her company's criminal behavior, to locate the professor and put an end to the grisly killings. After finding the giant mutated guinea pig in the sewers, Kirk puts the pieces together. Meanwhile, the Army has quietly quarantined the entire town and is ready to kill everyone if Kirk doesn't locate and kill the professor (with a decontamination gun!). After the professor attacks a movie theater full of people, the town becomes panicked, forcing the Army to give Kirk twelve hours to find the professor or the town will be wiped off the map. This boring slice of Italian tripe (it's like a more bloody version of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN - 1970), directed by Tonino Ricci (RUSH - 1983), using his "Anthony Richmond" pseudonym, really doesn't have much to recommend in way of entertainment value. The print I viewed was shorn of all nudity, but couldn't have been a TV print since all the violence and language seems intact. The film moves at a snail's pace and both the late David Warbeck and Janet Agren (who would later team up for THE RAT MAN - 1987) look bored throughout. As with most Italian horror films, the dubbing is terrible and the dialogue borders on the insane ("This is all top secret. Don't forget it." is Warbeck's reply to a police sargeant when he explains the town's situation.). Another problem is the violence. It's pretty tame considering the circumstances as most of the carnage is shown after the fact. The movie theater attack sequence goes dark when the professor rips through the screen (I believe the light comes from the other end of the theater, doesn't it?), thereby robbing the viewer of any potential enjoyment. Why waste your time with this when it looks like it's going out of it's way to make you not watch it? Originally titled BAKTERION and also known as PANIK. Also starring Roberto Ricci, Franco Ressel, Jose R. Lifante and Miguel Herrera. A Gorgon Video Release. The same print was used as part of Mill Creek Entertainment's CHILLING CLASSICS 50 movie DVD compilation. Rated R.
PARASITE (1982) - Early 80's post-apocalyptic horror flick (advertised as "The First Futuristic Monster Movie In 3-D") made to cash-in on the 3-D revival at the time, as every few minutes bodies, creatures or other objects are thrust at the screen. Robert Glaudini (THE ALCHEMIST - 1981) stars as Dr. Paul Dean, a scientist who was infected with a parasitic creature after a lab accident. Now he travels the desolate highways of 1992 Southwest America (Where unleaded gas is $40.57 a gallon. And we thought we had it bad!) looking for a place to finish his experiments before a fully-grown parasite bursts out of his stomach. He finds an out of the way motel to perform his experiments, even though the nosey owner (Vivian Blaine) likes to interrupt him every now and then. Paul makes friends with Collins (Al Fann), the owner of the local diner and Pat (Demi Moore, in her second film), a local farmer. Paul makes enemies with Ricus (Luca Bercovici) and his gang of local ruffians. When Ricus steals Paul's canister, which contains another parasite, and opens it, it starts a chain of events which leads the town to fight a fully-grown parasite. Meanwhile, a take-no-prisoners government agent, called a Merchant (James Davidson), is looking for Paul and wants to bring him back to the government lab before the parasite inside him bursts out. Paul is able to control the parasite inside him with daily injections of tranquilizers directly into his stomach, but time is running out. With the government after him, a giant parasite on the loose and the one inside him ready to escape, Paul has to think quick if he wants to save his new friends. As far as low-budget horror films go, PARASITE is pretty decent, even without the 3-D effects (although one 3-D scene with a pipe spurting out blood after being shoved into someone's stomach is very well done and is equally good shown flat). The parasite effects, by Stan Winston and his crew, are appropriately squishy and disgusting. The real standout here is Luca Bercovici as Ricus, who at first is portrayed as a cruel gang leader, but as members of his posse become infected and die, he switches gears and becomes a hero. Bercovici would later go on to direct GHOULIES (1984), THE GRANNY (1994) and LUCK OF THE DRAW (2000). A lot was made of Demi Moore's participation in this (it was the film's major selling point when released on VHS), but her acting didn't impress me much and still doesn't up to this day. This was directed and produced by Charles Band before his Full Moon days, when it seemed he actually cared somewhat about the quality of the films he was making. While most reference books give this film a very low rating, I think most horror fans will find something here to enjoy, whether it's Cheryl Smith's topless scenes early in the film, the crisp photography by Mac Ahlberg, the bloody special effects or enjoying the 3-D effects in 2-D. Also starring Cherie Currie, Tom Villard and Scott Thomson. A Cult Video/Koch Vision Release. Rated R.
PATRICK (2013) - While this Australian remake of their own 1978 film (which was edited in order to receive a PG Rating when released to the U.S. theaters in 1979) follows the original's very closely, it has been updated to reflect the new technological age and has upped the gore quotient substantially. The plot is very much the same: a young woman named Kathy (Sharni Vinson; YOU'RE NEXT - 2011) takes a job in a small Australian coastal town as a nurse to the comatose in an ex-convent-turned-hospital, run the the seemingly sinister Dr. Roget (Charles Dance; he played "Tywin Lannister" on HBO's GAME OF THRONES until his memorable death at the end of Season 4 in 2014) and his no-nonsense head nurse daughter, Matron Cassidy (an unrecognizable Rachel Griffiths; HBO's SIX FEET UNDER - 2001-2005). Kathy is shown the ropes by fellow Nurse Williams (Peta Sergeant; TV's short-lived ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND - 2013-2014), who introduces her to their comatose patients, including the open-eyed Patrick (Jackson Gallagher), who is kept in his own room and is frequently injected with Dr. Roget's unknown serum (he is basically Dr. Roget's guinea pig). Patrick spits in Kathy's face and is told by Nurse Williams that this is an involuntary reflex, but Kathy seems to think that Patrick is trying to communicate with her (he is). Patrick has the ability to make people do what he wants with his telekinetic powers and he sets his sights on "protecting" Kathy, at first communicating with her by spitting (one spit for yes, two spits for no) and then having control of a computer's keyboard, typing out that he is looking out for Kathy's best interests. Patrick will only show Kathy that he is able to communicate and when she tries to show Dr. Roget that Patrick is not comatose, he does nothing to respond. Things turn deadly when anyone shows an interest in Kathy, including her ex-boyfriend Ed (Damon Gameau), who is forced by Patrick's mind control to put both his hands on a George Foreman grill (!), burning both his hands until the flesh melts off and then killing psychiatrist/new boyfriend Brian (Martin Crewes; RESIDENT EVIL - 2002) by taking over his car and driving him over a cliff (but first he takes control of Brian's body and spits in Karen's face, showing her the powers he has). For patient viewers (this film does move at a leisurely pace), the final 25 minutes will be an edge-of-the-seat thriller, complete with gory deaths (including a graphic electrocution followed by eyeball-popping), as the real reason why Patrick is in a coma is revealed (it's the same reason as the first film, only much more graphic and nudity-filled) and Kathy realizes that Patrick is not so innocent as he makes himself out to be. A running joke about a horribly burned patient named Morris (Rod Mullinar), who is trained by Dr. Roget to turn on the lighthouse at exactly 7:00AM every morning, actually plays an important part in the finale. Documentary filmaker Mark Hartley (NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION! - 2008; MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! - 2010; both highly recommended) directs his first feature film and sprinkles it with homages to late director Richard Franklin's original (which was written by Australian master screenwriter Everett De Roche; the remake was written by newcomer Justin King), including Charles Dance listening to Brian May's original music from the 1978 film in his headphones (the soundtrack music was replaced by a Goblin score in Europe; Dario Argeno scorer Pino Donnagio does the music in the remake) and having Ed's last name as Penhaligon, a tribute to Susan Penhaligon, who played Kathy in the original film. Antony I. Ginnane produced both the original and the remake. The original did inspire an unrelated 1980 Italian film, PATRICK STILL LIVES ("Patrick Vive Ancora") and this remake does end with the words "Patrick Vive", which means that it is left open for a possible real sequel in the future. Worth a look for those that were fond of Australia's Golden Age Of Horror, which ran from the mid-70's to the mid-80's. This is a very good film that evokes that time period and has a real gothic feel, while not making it seem dated. I enjoyed it and so should you. Also known as PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS. Originally simultaneously released in the U.S. in limited theaters and on VOD (which is becoming the norm with smaller films of this type). A Phase 4 Films DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Not Rated.
PERKINS' 14 (2008) - Ten years ago, fourteen children disappeared from the town of Stone Cove, including the son of police officer Dwayne Hopper (Patrick O'Kane), never to be seen or heard of again. Now, ten years to the day of his son's abduction, Dwayne is manning police headquarters on his own when prisoner Ronald Perkins (Richard Brake) asks him to let him out of jail because his children are all alone. Dwayne immediately becomes suspicious of Perkins and believes he is the Stone Cove Killer, based on a missing finger on Perkins' hand. The more Dwayne digs into Perkins' background, the more he believes that he is responsible for his son's and the other thirteen childrens' disappearances, so Dwayne has fellow police officer Hal (Dean Sansone) check out Perkins' home. Dwayne loses radio contact with Hal when he discovers a secret room in the basement and the audience watches as Hal accidentally opens a bunch of cages containing the now-adult fourteen missing children and they are ravenous for human flesh, so they chow-down on Hal's body. Dwayne plays a psychological cat-and-mouse game with Perkins at the police station, while fourteen zombie-like flesheaters begin terrorizing Stone Cove, including Dwayne's rebellious daughter Daisy (Shayla Beesley) and her punk boyfriend Eric (Michael Graves). When Dwayne goes to Perkins' house and discovers Hal's mutilated corpse in the secret room, he also finds a library of video tapes that shows Perkins torturing the children, including his son. Dwayne becomes enraged and brings Perkins to the secret room, where Perkins taunts Dwayne until Dwayne shoots him right between the eyes. Dwayne must now try to save Daisy, fully aware that one of the silent killers is his own son (The fourteen, for some unknown reasons, are impervious to bullets). Dwayne is also unaware that his wife, Janine (Mihaela Mihut), is having an affair until his own daughter informs him, so he, Daisy, Eric and an unnamed townie (Who calls the killers "monsters", to which Dwayne replies, "They're not monsters. They're victims.") head to the local motel to save her (Me personally? I would have let her rot in Hell.). After saving Janine (whose illicit lover is graphically beaten in the face over-and-over with a champagne bottle by one of the killers), everyone hides out in the basement of the police station, while Dwayne tries to figure out if there is a way to communicate with his son. As the cast is whittled-away one-by-one by the hungry killers, Dwayne never gives up hope that he can get through to his son and get the entire family back together to live a normal life. The nihilistic ending shows that family is not always thicker than blood. Besides the obvious plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through (Like why ten years of extreme torture can make the children immune to bullets, which is addressed unconvincingly by one police officer as Perkins feeding them "drugs" the years they were in captivity. What drugs are these, because I would like to take some!), PERKINS' 14 is a mostly effective and very bloody take on the zombie genre (which is beginning to get played-out as of late). I also liked how Dwayne is such a tortured soul (he can never forgive himself for his son's abduction, especially since he's a cop) and an unconventional hero, since Irish actor Patrick O'Kane (who does a great job hiding his Irish accent) is anything but the conventional handsome leading man type. The violence and gore is very graphic (pushing its R-Rating to the very razor's edge of an NC-17 or Unrated tag), including gut-munching, intestine-yanking, dismemberment (Dwayne blowing the legs off one of the killers with a shotgun is a highlight) and plenty of gun violence. Director Craig Singer (DARK RIDE - 2006) and screenwriter Lane Shadgett have managed to fashion a reasonably engrossing horror flick (besides the flashbacks, the entire film takes place during one night) that manages to touch on unusual horror subjects such as family guilt (Dwayne tortures himself internally, Janice turns to alcohol and infidelity, while Daisy has no other choice than to rebel to be noticed) and hopeless optimism (as the very downbeat finale shows) with absolutely no sense of humor (which is refreshing). Worthwhile viewing if you can ignore the gigantic plot holes. Also starring Gregory O'Connor, Katherine Pawlak, Josh Davidson, Jeremy Donaldson, Trey Farley and C.J. Singer. This got a limited theatrical release in January 2009 as part of the AFTER DARK HORRORFEST III. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
PHANTASM III: LORD OF THE DEAD (1993) - The original PHANTASM (1979) is one of those films that I could view time and time again and never grow tired of. Sure, its highly derivative of countless other films, but it has a certain kinetic charm that still holds up today. This third chapter reunites the original cast members (Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury and Angus Scrimm as "The Tall Man") and takes the viewer on another wild ride complete with great effects, moody atmosphere and more silver spheres (and a gold one!) than you can shoot a shotgun at. The story is secondary here so Im not going to explain it except to say that you will find out just what makes those flying spheres come to life. Originally announced as a theatrical release, it went instead the video route, but that should not deter you from renting it and immersing yourself in an absorbing 91 minutes. The video box claims that this is the final chapter, but don't believe it, as the film has such an open ending (wide open!) that PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION was released in 1998. It's not quite as good as Part 3. Directed, produced and written with a keen sense of humor and imagination by Don Coscarelli (THE BEASTMASTER - 1982; SURVIVAL QUEST - 1989). An MCA Universal Home Video VHS Release. Also available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Rated R for some great gore effects.
PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE (1988) - The 80's churned out dozens of cheapjack horror flicks based on classic novels. This one is an updated take on Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel "The Phantom Of The Opera" and it's pretty bad. The town of Midwood is celebrating the grand opening of the Midwood Mall, an expansive shopping center that offers many jobs to the town's teenage population. The mall also comes complete with it's own monster, the horribly-scarred Eric Matthews (Derek Rydall; NIGHT VISITOR - 1989), who a year earlier was trapped in a suspicious fire in his own home and left for dead. Eric's then-girlfriend, Melody Austin (Kari Whitman; MASTERBLASTER - 1986), was sure the fire was intentionally started and believed Eric was murdered by someone wearing a religious earring, but the police thought Melody was in shock and imagined it. Melody has taken a job at the mall (which was built on the site of Eric's fire-ravaged home) as a salesgirl and Eric (who wears a half-mask on his face, as all phantoms should) keeps track of her movements by tapping into the mall's security system, saving her in the parking garage from a ski mask-wearing rapist by shooting him with a crossbow. Eric also begins killing the mall's security guards (he travels store-to-store by using the mall's unusually large air conditioning vents), but the mall's owner, Harve Posner (Jonathan Goldsmith), covers-up the killings for reasons that become abundantly clear rather quickly. It seems Harv is responsible for the fire at Eric's house and he has hired the same killer that set that fire, Christopher Volker (Gregory Scott Cummins; CARTEL - 1990), to take care of his new problem at the mall. Newspaper photographer Peter Baldwin (Rob Estes; TV's SILK STALKINGS) notices the St. Christophers earring that Volker is wearing and informs Melody that she just may not have been in shock a year earlier. Peter and Melody begin a romance, which doesn't sit too well with Eric. The rest of the film is mainly a series of murders, as Eric begins disposing of the people he determines deserves to die. We watch as a peeping tom guard has his face shoved into the blades of a spinning fan; the mall's pianist (and Melody's would-be rapist) is bitten in the crotch by a cobra while tending to his crossbow wound in the Men's Room; and Harv's obnoxious son, Justin (Tom Fridley), has a rope tied around his neck and is dragged into the blades of a moving escalator. Melody and Peter determine that Eric is still alive (they dig up his grave just to make sure) and figure out Harv's treachery (after narrowly escaping Volker's grasp in a car chase through the mall's parking garage). They report their findings to Mayor Karen Wilton (Morgan Fairchild, in what amounts to an extended cameo), who tells Melody and Peter that they must find Eric before the mall's Fourth of July grand opening ceremony in order to prove Harv's deadly intrigue. Eric kidnaps Melody and brings her to his subterranean hideout, located in the mall's cavernous basement. Peter swoops in to save her and must get her out of the mall before Eric sets off a bomb at the mall's opening ceremony. The Mayor turns out to be as crooked as Harv, so Eric kills them both before the malls erupts into a huge fireball. Does Eric survive the explosion? I guess it all depends on how you read the film's vague closing shot. I, for one, hope we never see him again. This ridiculous horror film, directed by Richard Friedman (DEATHMASK - 1983; DOOM ASYLUM - 1987; SCARED STIFF - 1987), defies all logic. The script, by Scott J. Schneid, Tony Michelman and Robert King (who also wrote the screenplay to the far-superior THE NEST  and Cirio H. Santiago's SILK 2 ), is full of so many questionable circumstances and plot holes, a five year-old could point them out: A huge mall like this built in less than a year? Who buried Eric's empty coffin? Does being scarred by fire give you superhuman strength and make you a martial arts expert? Would a mall's basement have walls carved out of solid rock? What kind of mall store would actually carry a flame-thrower as an in-stock item? The mind boggles! I think the unmasking scene is the film's most interesting moment. Unlike most film versions of Phantom Of The Opera, the Phantom is not unmasked by his perceived lady love while playing the organ, but rather while he is pumping iron! Besides a couple of gory deaths (One of the guards has his eyes popped-out; Volker is decapitated by an industrial garbage disposal), this film doesn't have much going for it in it's favor. For one example, fourth-billed Pauly Shore (that's right, Pauly-fucking-Shore!) is given ample screen time to strut his patented "Valley Dude" schtick as Buzz, the mall's frozen yogurt shop employee. This film was made a couple of years before Shore would find a (thankfully) short-lived career starring in a series of awful comedies (I won't bother mentioning the titles and shame on you if you know them!). He actually gets top billing on the DVD packaging, as if that's a selling point. Believe it or not, besides Pauly Shore's antics, the film is played deadly serious. Therein lies the flaw. How can anyone expect a film with a title like this to be anything but a comedy? In all fairness, the closing tune by The Vandals, titled "Is There A Phantom In The Mall?", perfectly sums up the film (as well as gave me a good laugh). The lyrics go: "Is he the Phantom of the Mall or just some retard in a broken hockey mask?" I couldn't say it any better. Also starring Kimber Sissons, John Walter Davis, Dante D'Andre, Terrence Evans and Ken Foree as the mall's clueless head of security. Originally released on VHS by Fries Home Video. Available on a no-frills budget DVD (in fullscreen) by Platinum Disc Corporation. Rated R.
PIECES (1982) - You know you're in trouble when the film starts in 1942 and an angry mother, after finding her son putting together a puzzle of a naked woman, asks for a plastic bag to put all his pornographic stuff in. Then when the phone rings, it's a push-button phone, neither of which were available in that time period. The boy whacks his mother with an axe and saws her body into pieces. He is found cowering in a closet by police and sent off to live with his Aunt. Flash-forward 40 years and an unknown person wearing black is slicing and dicing pretty coeds at a Boston college. One gets decapitated by a chainsaw while reading on the lawn. Another gets chainsawed to bits while swimming topless, another has her arm sawed-off in an elevator and still another is brutally sliced in half by the same chainsaw while trapped a shower. Each of the bodies is misssing a different part (I wonder why?) when police detective Christopher George (GRIZZLY - 1976), who is always looking for a match to light his cigar, investigates the murders. The list of suspects is long: Could it be landscaper Paul L. Smith (SONNY BOY - 1989)? College dean Edmund Purdom (INVADERS OF THE LOST GOLD - 1981)? How about college professor Jack Taylor (EDGE OF THE AXE - 1987)? This film is basically an unrated gorefest that delivers the goods when it comes to the blood and boobs department. The story, on the other hand, is outlandish, has enough plot holes to drive a semi through, makes absolutely no sense (especially the way-out-there denouement which involves a truly painful to watch crotch-grabbing) and has some really risable dialogue (written by Joe D'Amato using the pseudonym "John Shadow"). Spanish director Juan Piquer Simon is no freshman when it comes to making horror films. His list reads like a who's-who in the horror field. Having directed such films as the unbelievable SUPERSONIC MAN (1979), the unintentionally hilarious THE POD PEOPLE (1983), the not-bad SLUGS:THE MOVIE (1987), the underwater adventure ENDLESS DESCENT (1989) and the truly horrible CTHULHU MANSION (1990), PIECES is probably his best-known film as it got quite a wide release in movie houses in the early 80s. It gained a reputation in the theaters as a good seat-jumper and did pretty decent business for the distributor. So if it's gore and naked women you like, this is the film for you. Anyone else steer clear. Also, stay away from the R-rated version that's floating around as it is missing most of the gore and contains alternate scenes that cover up some of the nudity. Also starring Linda Day as an ex-tennis pro-turned cop (who goes undercover at the college as a tennis teacher!), Frank Brana, Ian Sera and Gerard Tichy. PIECES (also known as THE CHAINSAW DEVIL) was originally released in the States on VHS by Vestron Video in both R and Unrated versions, it can also be found on DVD in truly terrible condition on various compilations distributed by Brentwood and other companies of ill repute. Grindhouse Releasing released a beautiful widescreen version of the film on DVD, loaded with extras. The version reviewed here comes from the Unrated Vestron release.
PINATA: SURVIVAL ISLAND (2001) - As a horror movie, points are to be given here for having a unique killer and some imaginative killings. On the other hand, this is basically just a stalk-and-slash horror flick that you have seen a million times before. A bunch of college students (including BUFFY's Nicholas Brendon and TICKER's Jaime Pressly) raft to a remote island to participate in a Cinco de Mayo scavenger hunt where the couple who collect the most womens' panties and mens' underwear scattered throughout the island win $20,000. The couples are handcuffed together and they search the island to collect the most undergarments, smoke weed and drink alcohol. One couple finds an ancient pinata, which, in the prologue, is used to collect all the sins of a Central America town and sent floating down the ocean. The stoned couple crack open the pinata with a rock, which brings the pinata to life, slaughtering the participants in various ways. You'll see heads cracked open repeatedly with a shovel, a guy's crotch ripped out, a beheading and other bloody killings. The Pinata itself is a crafty creation but proved troublesome in post-production, as it was not deemed scary enough. The Pinata was mostly replaced with a CGI version that, for the most part, looks frightening but not real enough. Sometimes it reminded me of the Tasmanian Devil in the old Warner Bros. cartoons as it's legs disappear and begins to fly through the air. The beheading is also quite obviously a CGI creation. Another thing about the film that really bothers me is that whenever the Pinata is on the screen, the sound's decimal level rises considerably. It becomes really distracting after a while. And why do monsters have to have a POV that's always distorted and hard for the viewer to tolerate? Can't monsters see normally with their eyes? Directors/Producers/Writers David and Scott Hillenbrand (who also made KING COBRA  and HOSTILE TAKEOVER ) are to be commended for setting their effort on a beautiful island and fill it with pretty women (including Pressly, Kasey Fallo, Lara Boyd Rhodes, Julia Mendoza and Daphne Duplaix), colorful underwear and a general tone of having fun, but they offer nothing new or frightening to the genre. If you've got 80 minutes to kill and have nothing better to occupy your time, this film will do in a pinch. Also starring Eugene Boyd, Nate Richert, Aeryk Egan and Garret Wang. A First Look Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R. Also known as DEMON ISLAND.
THE PIT (1981) - Poor little 12 year-old Jamie (Sammy Snyders). He is disliked by nearly everyone and has two major problems: He has a teddy bear called Teddy who tells him to do nasty things and he as also discovered a big hole (the "pit" in the title) in the woods that happens to be inhabited by a group of Trogs, or "Tra-la-logs" as Jamie calls them. When his parents go away on a long trip and leave Jamie with a nanny (Jeannie Elias), he grows a crush on her which turns deadly. He spies on her taking a shower, tells her that he loves her and also tells her the secret of the Trogs, which she does not believe. Jamie is truly a demented little soul, with nothing but sex on his brain. He tricks a neighbor to strip by her window by telling her that he has kidnapped her neice. He leaves sexy pictures for the librarian to find. He also must find a way to feed the Trogs. He first buys cheap meat from the butcher to feed to them but soon runs out of money. He then decides to feed the Trogs all the people that have wronged him (thanks to a suggestion by Teddy). His first victim is a little girl who refuses to let him ride her bike. His next victim is a wheelchair-ridden old lady who tattled on him. Up next is the nanny's boyfriend. The next two victims are a teenage boy who punched him in the face and the girl who laughed while it happened. When all these people are noticed missing, the nanny begins to believe Jamie and he shows her the pit. She is amazed at what she sees and tells Jamie that they must report their find to the scientific community. Jamie wants it to be their secret and the nanny accidently falls into the pit, to be graphically eaten by the Trogs. Jamie has no more enemies to feed to the Trogs, so he throws a rope down the pit which allow the Trogs to come up to the surface. They kill several more people before the police find them back in their pit and shoot them all. They then fill in the pit with dirt. Jamie is sent to live with his grandparents, where he meets a girl who has a surprise for him. This odd Canadian-made film (lensed in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin) is hilarious and mean-spirited at the same time. Jamie is definitely a sociopath, but the way some people treat him, you can't help but cheer him on when he leads them to the pit. Director Lew Lehman (an actor/writer, this being his only directorial effort) imbues the film with enough gore, nudity and absurd situations (such as when one of the policemen calls in to say that they have killed a pack of wild dogs when he knows that they weren't) to make this 96 minute film fly by. This is an undiscovered gem that soon will get a DVD release by Anchor Bay (or so they promised for a while). Also starring Sonja Smits, Paul Grisham, Wendy Schmidt and Lillian Graham. An Embassy Home Entertainment Release. Rated R. Also known as TEDDY.
PLAGUE TOWN (2008) - Fourteen years ago, a rash of mutated children were being born in a sleepy little Irish town. The babies looked so disgusting that the local priest would attend every birth and shoot the babies in the head, sending their Godless souls straight to Hell. On the very last birth, the father of the newborn mutated baby says enough is enough and kills the priest (first by planting a fireplace poker in the back of his head, followed by a hatchet to his face) before he has the chance to kill the baby. What happened to that baby? We'll soon find out. Cut to the present (well at least 2008 anyway), as we witness the American Monohan family: Molly (Josslyn DeCrosta), Jessica (Erica Rhodes) and father Jerry (David Lombard), along with Jessica's boyfriend Robin (James Warke) and Jerry's fiancee Annette (Lindsay Goranson), step off a bus and head out by foot looking for ruins in the Irish countryside that may give clues to the Monahan's heritage. As the quintet walk deeper into the countryside, it is obvious to see that the Monohan family have issues; Molly has mental problems that she is trying to control with medication and Jessica is a complete cunt. Not only does she rag on Dad's new girlfriend, she makes Molly's life a living hell. Because of Jessica's total lack of consideration for everyone else, they miss the last bus for their motel and must trek through the woods by foot, where they find an abandoned car in perfect condition and Molly sees a freaky-looking kid in the distance, but because she is "mental", no one will believe her. While the rest of the group take a siesta in the car, Robin and Jessica see a light in the distance and check it out, finding a ramshackle cabin with a single candle burning inside. On their way back to the car, Robin and Jessica run into a pasty-faced individual who tells Jessica, "You better come with me, sweetheart. I hate to see you go to waste." before he fires a shotgun blast directly into Robin's face and then chases Jessica through the woods while screaming, "They'll find you. Mark my words, they'll find you. You're better off with me!" Jerry hears the shotgun blast and goes searching for Jessica and Robin in the darkness of night. Jerry meets two playful, but grotesque-looking young girls who stab him with shards of glass and then cut off the top of his head with razor wire (a well done effect). Yes, it seems the woods are full of mutated killer children and they want to "play" with the remaining survivors. It seems Robin somehow survived the shotgun blast to his face and is led to shelter by Shiela (Elizabeth Bove), the grandmother of Rosemary (Kate Aspinwall), the now 14 year-old girl who was spared the priest's bullet in the beginning of the film. When Molly and Jessica are the only ones left alive, they make a discovery that these children are being created on purpose and the leaders need more healthy women to inseminate until they finally get it "right". Are Molly and Jessica going to end up being the ovens for the world's ugliest buns? This slow-moving, but atmospheric horror film, directed by David Gregory (best known at the time for directing the British documentary BAN THE SADIST VIDEOS!  and for directing supplementary featurettes for many genre DVDs for the past decade) and co-written by Gregory and John Cregan, takes its time getting to the good stuff, but once it arrives, it will take a few days to get some of the images out of your brain. While there have been a few killer children films (THE CHILDREN - 1980; BEWARE: CHILDREN AT PLAY - 1989; EDEN LAKE - 2008), I guarantee that you have never seen children quite like this before. Rosemary, for one, looks to have been born without eyelids, which make her eyes just pop-out from her face (her "romantic" scene with Robin, whose right side of his face is nothing but hanging, bloody flesh thanks to the shotgun blast, is a classic of creepy, gross-out cinema). The other children, especially the one with the huge fleshy jowls, who beats Annette to death with a hubcap, are equally grotesque creations. Add to it the fact that these children want to procreate (besides also being cannibals!) and PLAGUE TOWN becomes one of the grossest films in recent memory. It's uber-bloody, outrageous and lacks any inhibitions. Believe it or not, even though this film has a definite European vibe to it, it was mainly filmed in Connecticut (!) and was financed by DVD companies Dark Sky Films and Severin Films (both David Gregory and John Cregan are executives at Severin). Also starring Catherine McMorrow, Michael Donaldson, Peter Berges, Roisin Donnelly and Danny Martin Berkey. A Dark Sky Films DVD Release. Not Rated.
PLAY DEAD (1984) - Hester (Yvonne De Carlo) was always jealous of her sister taking away her boyfriend and marrying him. When her sister dies, Hester comes up with a plan to rid her of everyone on her sister's side of the family, blaming them for the death of her long-dead ex-boyfriend. She uses black magic on a rottweiler called Greta (she wears a talisman on her collar) and gives it to her niece Audrey (Stephanie Dunham). Greta goes about killing everyone who come in contact with Audrey whenever Hester performs her black magic rituals. Greta kills Audrey's brother Stephen (David Ellzey) by hiding in his convertible and jumping out at him, causing Stephen to get hit and killed by a car. Audrey's neighbor Monique (Carolyn Greenwood) is the next to go as Greta throws a plugged-in curling iron into the bathtub, electrocuting her. A police detective (Glenn Kezer) starts to grow suspicious of the "accidents" that are surrounding Audrey. He begins to think that Greta is not the docile pet that she seems to be and so does Audrey. The detective traces the dog's background ("Boy, that's one smart dog!") and Audrey starts to doubt her own sanity. Next up on Greta's hit list is Audrey's boyfriend Jeff (David Cullinane), who is choked to death by Greta's leash as she wraps it around a tree while Jeff is sitting next to it. While Audrey starts going completely off the deep end, the detective is sure that Greta has something to do with the murders. Greta's leash is the turning point in the investigation as the detective is sure that the leash was used to kill Jeff. Unfortunately, Greta picks up a container of lye and poisons the detective's bromo drink at Audrey's house, making it look like Audrey killed the detective. Audrey goes off to the funny farm as Hester has completed her revenge. Hester kills Greta by playing a fatal game of frisbee catch off the side of a cliff. Hester is about to learn that it's not easy to kill a black magic dog. Cats aren't the only animals that have nine lives. This is a tidy little Texas-lensed horror film directed by Peter Wittman, who also directed the erotic revenge thriller ELLIE the same year and produced the truly awful SKULLDUGGERY the year before. While no means a bloody film, it does have its moments of gore, nudity and welcomed humor to spice up the proceedings. It's nothing special, just a good time-waster. Who could ask for anything more? PLAY DEAD is also known as SATAN'S DOG and KILLER DOG. An Academy Home Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
PLEDGE NIGHT (1988) - Terrible frat house horror flick that mixes ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) antics with 80's slasher film conventions. A group of fraternity pledges are about to go through Hell Week, where they are put in degradating situations and forced to listen to verbal abuse not heard since the times of slavery. One of the pledges, Larry (Todd Eastland), learns from his mother that twenty years earlier a fraternity occupying the same house was forced to disband after killing a pledge during a hazing gone wrong. Mom tells Larry that her boyfriend at the time, Sidney Snyder (Joey Belladonna; lead singer for the rock group Anthrax), was supposed to take a bath in a harmless mixture of disgusting ingredients, but someone also tossed some muriatic acid into the mix, causing Sidney to be burned over his entire body and eventually die. Hazing is now outlawed because of that incident, but Larry and the other pledges soon find out that the hazing they are about to be put through will also turn deadly. They are led to believe that fraternity brother Dan (Arthur Lundquist) is suffering from a brain tumor (he's not), causing him to do crazy things, like stabbing a fellow brother with a steak knife (he doesn't), but when Dan actually does go mad and begins killing fraternity brothers and sorority sisters, Larry and the other pledges at first think it's all just another joke. It's not, of course, as Dan is actually possessed by the acid-scarred spirit of Sidney (now portrayed by Will Kempe) and soon Sidney bursts out of Dan's stomach (a terrible effect) and begins chasing the pledges and sorority sister Wendy (Shannon McMahon) through the house, cracking jokes like a 60's radical Freddy Krueger (He actually says, "That was for Spiro Agnew!" as he twists a pledge's head 180 degrees) while killing the pledges one-by-one (in typical slasher fashion, the only black pledge, Cagle [Craig Derrick], is the first to die). Pretty soon, the only people left are Larry and Wendy, as we discover that Larry is actually Sidney's son (it's telegraphed fairly early in the film). The final coda will have you arching your eyebrows in utter disbelief. Truly a chore to sit through, PLEDGE NIGHT (also known as A HAZING IN HELL) contains stock characters, stock situations and takes what seems like an eternity to get rolling. This is nothing but a series of stupid hazing rituals (picking up cherries off a block of ice with their ass; whip cream fights; paddle spankings; strings tied to penises; fake turd-eating out of a toilet; raw egg and live worm eating; etc.) followed by half-hearted attempts at gore. Director Paul Ziller (this was his first effort, followed by such films as BLOODFIST IV: DIE TRYING ; BACK IN ACTION ; and a string of Sci-Fi Network (now "SyFy") original films, beginning with SNAKEHEAD TERROR ) seems to forget what makes a good slasher flick. Instead of showing us the killing actually happening on-screen (like a death by portable mixer blade to the mouth; a lit cherry bomb shoved up someone's ass), Ziller cops out and shows us the bodies after the murders take place, robbing the viewer of any graphic enjoyment. The acting is also uniformly weak across the board and most of the actors seem way too old to be fraternity pledges. Most of the latter half of the film is just endless shots of the pledges tip-toeing around the fraternity house trying to avoid Sidney, without much success. This is a crappy film of the highest order, right up there with the similarly themed RUSH WEEK (1989). Don't waste your valuable time with this patently cheap flick. Producer/screenwriter Joyce Snyder apparently loves her last name, because killer Sidney also shares it. Also starring Dennis Sullivan, David Neal Evans, Robert Lentini (his enormous nose has it's own gravitational orbit!), James Davies, Lawton Paseka, Michael T. Henderson and Stephen Christopher Young. While Shannon McMahon had the only predominate female role, most of the secondary actresses go topless at one time or another. Produced by Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment, but released on VHS by Imperial Entertainment Corp. Rated R.
THE POWER (1983) - Once upon a time there were four Aztec demons. Three of them died and the fourth one, Destacatl, lives on in an idol so small, you can hold it in your hand. The god Destacatl is said to control the dark side of the human soul to whomever possesses the idol. So says Professor Wilson (Stan Weston) in a lecture to his college class. When a student makes fun of Weston's theories, we then see that Wilson has the idol in his possession. He looks at the laughing student and makes his nose bleed profusely. Class is over and Wilson is visited by fellow professor Francis Lott (J. Dinan Myrtetus) and he wants to know if the idol has taken over Wilson's soul yet. Wilson chases him away and the door mysteriously closes and locks behind Francis. Wilson holds the idol, screams in pain, floats in the air and is graphically impaled on a flag pole. Francis and the janitor manage to break open the door and when Francis asks Wilson where the idol is, Wilson says with his last dying breath, "I sent it back." (His hand that was holding the idol is now bloody and burned). Francis heads off to Mexico in a Jeep with a Spanish-speaking driver (this part of the film is subtitled). They travel 200 miles into the Mexican desert and has his driver drop him off in the middle of nowhere (holding nothing but a briefcase). Francis hands the driver a bunch of money and tells him to pick him up tomorrow morning, where the driver (Juan del Valle) says, "I don't think you'll be alive tomorrow." and drives off. That night, a young boy leads Francis to a tent, where an old Spanish man resides. He has the boy get the idol (The old guy tells Francis that the idol doesn't affect children since they still haven't lost their innocence), places a crucifix around his neck and hands Francis the idol. Francis holds the idol in his hand and says that he can feel its power, to which the old man says, "Yes, it's very alluring. That's the secret of its evil." The old man refuses to sell the idol to Francis, so he shoots and kills the old man and the young boy. Francis starts screaming in pain with blood flowing down his arm, as he drops the idol. Cut to high school students Julie (Lisa Erickson), Matt (Ben Gilbert) and Tommy (Chad Christian), as they plan on holding a seance that night ("There's even a full moon!"). They all sneak out of their houses that night holding something dear to them for protection from the spirits. They hold the seance at an old cemetery in a building where tombstones are made and put an ouija board on the ground, placing their personal protection pieces next to them. Tommy's piece just happens to be the idol of Destacatl, which he says his parents brought back from a trip. As they all place their hands on the planchette, it spells out "GO" and they all beat a hasty retreat out of the cemetery. The cemetery guard (Richard Congill) hears the commotion and goes inside the building to find out what is going on, only to have his head crushed by a stone casket (a very good effect). When they read in the newspapers that a cemetery guard was killed in the same building that they were in, mixed with Tommy nearly getting killed when the idol goes full-tilt weird in his bedroom (It acts like a magnet, drawing objects to it, tossing other objects in the air, boiling the fishtank water and setting fire to speakers, Tommy cowering in a corner with only a boogie board as his protection), they all go to tabloid reporter Sandy (Susan Stokey; STAR SLAMMER - 1986; THE PHANTOM EMPIRE - 1987) to tell their stories, but she blows them off as childish pranksters. Sandy's ex-boyfriend-turned-just-plain-friend Jerry (Warren Lincoln; TORMENT - 1985; co-directed by this film's production manager, Samson Aslanian, and assistant director, John Hopkins), who is paying Sandy a short visit before traveling to London, believes the kids and become the possessor of the idol. Uh-oh. Jerry tries to find the origins of the idol, but the idol begins to get the best of him. Sandy has a bad nightmare where hands and arms spring out of her mattress, pinning her to the bed (a very effective scene) and when she wakes up, she discovers all the furniture has been stacked upon each other (ala POLTERGEIST - 1982) and there's a fork impaled in one of her walls. Jerry blames the idol, but Sandy refuses to believe in such bunk (she been making up stories like that for her tabloid for years and wants to become a legitimate journalist) and she becomes even more pissed-off when Jerry brings the three teens to her boss, Marty (Gabe Cohen), who believes it's a great story (with further untrue enhancements, that is). It's not long before Jerry becomes full-blown possessed himself, his face and body becoming an ugly demon whose only reason to exist is to kill. He first kills Sandy's friend and co-worker Roxanne (Alice Champlin) by shoving her hand down a garbage disposal and then heads off to the house of Sandy's father (Rod Mays), who never liked Jerry to begin with. It's quite obvious that he has killed Sandy's father when Sandy arrives at her father's house (Jerry makes up a story that her father had a heart attack and was taken away by an ambulance, but the story just doesn't gel in Sandy's mind). Jerry cuts the phone line and turns once again into a demon, showing Sandy how slicing open his arm causes him no pain. Our three teenagers try to save Sandy, but Julie becomes trapped in the house with Sandy. Tommy and Matt sneak into the house through a basement window, where they discover the corpse of Sandy's father and scream. Their screams distract the demon Jerry long enough for Julie to grab the idol and become trapped in a tool closet with Sandy, as the possessed Jerry begins tearing down the door to get them. They discover that if the idol is smashed, it affects Jerry, so Sandy drops a cinderblock on it, breaking the idol into pieces, as the demon Jerry's skin begins to split wide open (another excellent effect). Three years pass and now Julie is a college student in New Mexico working at the facility's library. As she is closing for the night, a disfigured Francis (Remember him?) confronts her about her ordeal and says he was able to find her because of Sandy's book (Seems Sandy wrote a best-seller about her experience with the supernatural.). Julie runs to her car crying and when Francis follows her to say he is sorry, we then realize that Julie is possessed by Destacatl, as she is wearing the broken head of the idol around her neck like a necklace. She kills Francis and the demon Julie laughs at the camera. Destacatl lives. This tidy little 84 minute horror film was directed, written and edited by the team of Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter (Carpenter also photographed the film, while Obrow produced it), who also gave us THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1981) and THE KINDRED (1986). When they split up as a team, Obrow would go on to direct the effective THE SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT (1991) and SyFy's THEY ARE AMONG US (2004; George 'Buck' Flower's last film) and Carpenter would go on to direct the awful SOUL SURVIVORS (2001) and create the successful TV Series GRIMM (2011 - Present). Of the three films they made together, I would put this film last on their list, not because it's a bad film, but because the other two films had more meat on the bone. This is an ever-so-thin story that really has no narrative (Like: How did the other three Aztec demons die, yet Destacatl keeps on chugging along, seemingly indestructible? How did Tommy's parents get the idol since Francis had to jump through hoops just to see it? Why do Tommy's parents talk to him through an intercom in his bedroom rather than come up and see him in person [we never see Julie or Matt's parents]?). It is nothing but a collection of loose ideas highlighted by Matthew Mungle's (JUST BEFORE DAWN - 1980; PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE - 1988; and still working today in films and on TV) excellent gore and makeup effects. The acting in this film also leaves something to be desired (80% of the cast never went on to do another film and it's easy to see why), as there are no name actors besides Susan Stokey, who had a short career in cheap exploitation films. Still, at 84 minutes, it moves rather quickly and the excellent gore effects will hold your attention and hopefully make you forget the story's gaping plot holes. It's neither good or bad. It's just an ordinary early-80's horror flick with a few good effects and some nice desert scenery to get you by. Also starring Chris Morrill, Jay Fisher, Costy Basile, James Gilchrist, Barbara Murray, Jake Jones and Milton Robinson. Originally released theatrically by Edward L. Montoro's Film Ventures International (FVI) in 1984, with a quick release the same year on fullscreen VHS by Vestron Video, followed by a terrible budget VHS from Gemstone Entertainment in 1993. Scorpion Releasing put it out on an anamorphic widescreen DVD in 2014, but it is not in pristine condition. There are instances of static sound and some minor film splices, but I believe this will never look better and the few minor problems (both print-wise and story-wise) will not deter you from enjoying the film. Rated R.
POOR WHITE TRASH PART II (1974) - This is another one of director S.F. Brownrigg's regional horror films (originally titled SCUM OF THE EARTH) that continually amazes due to the scuzzy locations and realistic (?) acting. Brownrigg had the natural instinct of casting actors capable of playing scummy characters in his films and this one does not disappoint. When an unknown assailant puts an axe into the chest of her husband, Helen (Norma Moore) runs screaming into the woods and meets the creepy Odis Pickett (Gene Ross, a Brownrigg regular who also co-wrote this). Odis invites Helen back to the cabin to call the police , but when she gets there, there is no phone, only Odis' strange family: His retarded son Bo (Charlie Dell), mean-spirited daughter Sarah (Camilla Carr, also in Brownrigg's KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN - 1973) and pregnant young wife Emmy (Ann Stafford, also in GRAVE). Odis tries to rape Helen (as he has done to his own daughter Sarah many times) and Bo ends up dead, impaled through the neck on an iron fence by the unknown killer. Finding Bo dead has a strange effect on Odis (he really loved his son and wonders, "Who's goin' to bring me my jar?") and orders Sarah to clean Bo up (she refuses) to make him presentable when Odis goes for the preacher in the morning. In the meantime we learn a lot about the remaining people in the cabin such as Helen was married before (he died during the war), Emmy was given to Odis by her father to pay off a debt and Odis really is nothing but a filthy pig, threatening to kick Emmy in the belly just before actually raping Helen. Odis makes Helen clean up Bo while Sarah meets the killer in the woods (a POV shot of the killer is shown strangling her with barbed wire while asking the killer if he has a dollar!) walking to go get the preacher. While waiting for Sarah to return, Helen says to Odis, "You're too brutal and sadistic to be real!" Odis goes into the woods with his shotgun to go look for Sarah (he finds her barely alive) and gets shot through the eye with his own shotgun. The denouement is quite surprising, as Helen's first husband Jim (Hugh Feagin) is still alive, spending years at a POW camp before being rescued and placed in a mental institution. He escaped and tracked Helen down, killing everyone she came in contact with. Sarah crawls back with Pa's shotgun and shoots Jim in the back before she dies. Helen decides to stay in the cabin and take care of Emmy. The End. The late S.F. Brownrigg was one of the unsung heroes of 70's sleaze. This, along with KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN, DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (both 1973) and DON'T OPEN THE DOOR (1975) are all grindhouse classics. Before directing he worked in film in many capacities, working with Larry Buchannan and others in the 60's as editor or soundman on many lowbrow films. POOR WHITE TRASH PART II hits all the right notes at the right time and should be rediscovered very soon. A DVD is in order here! This is not a sequel to the 1957 film POOR WHITE TRASH (a.k.a. BAYOU) starring Peter Graves. To make matters even more confusing, in the United Kingdom, Part II was released as POOR WHITE TRASH on VHS with a picture of Sarah being strangled by the barbed wire (a scene which was cut from the British VHS!). A Magnum Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.
PORTAL (2006) - Here are some signs that the film you are about to watch is in serious trouble:
The typeface used in the opening credits is unreadable.
2) There are at least 15 Executive Producers listed in the opening credits.
3) The only "name" star listed is Kevin "Is my toupee on straight?" Dobson.
4) There are so many clichés, that the word "Cliché" becomes cliché.
Now for the film itself: Two friends, musicians Hooke (Chris Conrad) and Gibbs (Alexander Martin), are driving in a heavy fog towards a Renaissance Fair when their car is run off the road and they become stuck in the mud (Cliché #1). Two creepy looking women wearing monk's robes walk by their car without saying a word, so Hooke gets the bright idea to follow them in hope they will lead them to civilization (Cliché #2). Our two bright heroes end up in the town of Mercy at a creepy motel run by Benedict (Dobson) and they decide to spend the night after Benedict makes them both sign the seemingly empty registry book (I count at least three clichés in that last sentence). Hooke has a nightmare that involves a coven of witches performing a sacrifice and when Gibbs wakes him up, they discover that they have slept for over 24 hours and the fog is worse than ever. They have dinner with the other occupants at the motel (a dinner which consists of raw meat and brussel sprouts, which Hooke doesn't eat) and discover that everyone else is also here because of the heavy fog. Hooke becomes suspicious of Benedict and the motel staff when the maid warns him that if he ever wants to leave this place, he's not to eat the meat or drink the wine. When Gibbs disappears, Hooke does his own undercover investigation. He watches as a coven of witches kidnap a newly-registered honeymooning couple and toss the still-alive groom into a ritualistic fire. The registered guests who ate the meal begin to suffer similar fates: One woman shoots-out blood and worms from her vagina before she dies. Hooke finds Gibbs and they take off in their car, only to end up back at the motel and repeating the same day all over again, but for some reason, only Hooke is aware of it. Hooke pretends to be a coven member and witnesses one of the female guests being impregnated by Gibbs. Benedict and his coven are waiting for the perfect son of Satan to be born (they have a room full of caged pregnant women who were once registered guests) so they can leave this plane of existence, but they haven't been too successful, as the babies being born are mutated or self-abort (hence the blood-and-worms catastrophes). The whole motel is in some kind of time warp and the motel staff spike the food and wine with an ash that makes everyone live the same day over-and-over, with minor differences. There's a portal somewhere down the road that will lead everyone to safety, but can Hooke snap everyone from the spell they are under and get them there before it all turns to shit? The prerequisite "surprise" ending makes all of Hooke's hard work a moot point. This low-budget horror film, directed by Geoffrey Schaaf (SHELTER ISLAND - 2003) and written by Maurice Kelly & George Blumetti (FLESH HUNTERS - 2000), borrows liberally from such films as HORROR HOTEL (1960), ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968), THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971) and THE LEGACY (1979), but without any of those films' style or panache. There is a germ of a good idea here (Hooke and Gibbs have been at the motel for over six months and are unknowingly raping all the female guests in order to produce the perfect satanic baby), but the film moves at such a lethargic pace and the paltry budget is unable to convey the film's loftier ambitions. The acting is barely OK and there are a few examples of gore (the blood and worms abortion; a door hook piercing a guy's forehead) and nudity, but PORTAL is basically nothing but a failed elongated TWILIGHT ZONE episode told on a budget that probably costs less than a one night stay at a Motel Six. Also starring Katherine Hawkes, Peter Lucas, Brock Kelly, Mary Stein, Angell Connell, Ines Dali and Merik Tadros. An Industry Works DVD Release. Not Rated.
THE POSSESSION OF NURSE SHERRI (1978) - This is Al Adamson's last horror film (some of his others include BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR , the piecemeal HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS [1965-1970], BRAIN OF BLOOD  and DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN ) and probably his most technically proficient film (still, that's not saying much). It's also got the most complex plot of all his films, thanks to a fairly decent screenplay by Michael Bockman and Gregg Tittinger. When cult leader Reanhauer (Bill Roy) has a heart attack trying to raise a man from the dead in the Nevada desert, he is rushed to the hospital and dies on the operating table. The disembodied spirit (shown as a sickly green animated effect) enters the body of Nurse Sherri (Jill Jacobson), which causes her to act strangely, much to the concern of the hospital staff. Also in the hospital is football star Marcus Washington (Prentiss Moulden), who was recently blinded in a car accident and under the care of Nurse Tara (Marilyn Joi). When the possessed Sherri sees Marcus in his bed, she becomes fixated on his silver bracelet, a strange piece of jewelry with two demon heads on it, a gift given to him by his late voodoo priestess grandmother. Sherri first kills Dr. Nelson (Clayton Foster), a hospital physician who lives on a farm. She shoves a pitchfork through his back until the prongs protrude through his stomach. Why did she kill him? Sherri's doctor boyfriend, Peter (Geoffrey Land), becomes worried about her, especially when she begins speaking in Reanhauer's voice. Peter puts the pieces together. The possessed Sherri is killing all those who were in the operating room when Reanhauer died. Meanwhile, Stevens (J.C. Wells), an old colleague turned enemy of Reanhauer, is searching for Reanhauer's grave so he can finally put Reanhauer to rest. The only problem is, no one will tell him where he's buried. He gets into a car chase with Peter (Adamson still uses the comical effect of tires squealing on dirt roads, the same as he did in THE MURDER GANG), but Reinhauer possesses the car and Stevens barely escapes with his life. To make a long story short, Stevens falls into a vat of molten steel after burning the wrong body, Sherri continues killing hospital staff and Marcus gives Tara his bracelet and tells her what she must do to save Sherri (go to the graveyard and burn Reanhauer's body), while Peter runs around trying to figure out what he can do. While the screenplay may be complex, Adamson's execution of it is strictly low-rent. It's easy to spot the strings on floating possessed objects and he still hasn't learned how to film a car chase. Still, for a badfilm, it's pretty entertaining in a cheesy way, thanks to the plentiful nudity (This is the "horror" version. Shock-O-Rama also released a sexploitation version with more nudity and less violence under the simpler title NURSE SHERRI) and some R-rated violence. If the title music seems familiar, it is because it's the end theme of the original OUTER LIMITS TV series. This film, originally released by Independent-International, is also known as HOSPITAL OF TERROR, BLACK VOODOO, BEYOND THE LIVING, HANDS OF DEATH, KILLER'S CURSE and TERROR HOSPITAL. Phew! Adamson's next film (which would turn out to be his next-to-last) would be the extremely strange G-Rated film CARNIVAL MAGIC (1982), a screwy rip-off of Stephen Spielberg's E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982), but instead of an alien, it replaces it with a talking chimp! A Retro Shock-O-Rama Release. Rated R.
PROM NIGHT IV: DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1991) - Gone is Mary Lou from PROM NIGHT 2 & 3. This fourth installment harkens back to the original PROM NIGHT's stalk-and-slash formula and unfortunately it's a pretty dreary affair. Father Jonah, a renegade and psychotic priest (are there any other kind?), is kept drugged and strapped to a bed in the sub-basement of a church after savagely killing a teenage couple making out in the backseat of a car during their graduation prom in 1957. In 1991, the new priest in charge of taking care of Father Jonah neglects to inject him with the tranquilizer and he escapes, leaving in his wake a trail of bloody bodies. Father Jonah heads for his old monastary, which has been renovated into a summer home where four horny teenagers (are there any other kind?) decide to go after ditching their prom. Bad choice for them. Soon they are being sliced and diced by the sex-hating Father until only the virginal girl (Nikki DeBoer of CUBE - 1997 and the USA Network TV Series THE DEAD ZONE [2002 - 2007]) is left. From there on it's a game of cat-and-mouse where we come to realize that Father Jonah is more than a mere mortal. The ending is wide open for Father Jonah to return in PROM NIGHT V: DELIVER US FROM SEQUELS. Thank God he never did. This genre of film died from overkill in the early 80's when FRIDAY THE 13TH spawned countless imitators where sex equals death.. At least when Mary Lou was around things were interesting. She gave the death scenes a fantasy element sorely lacking from this installment. Director Clay Borris is also responsible for the violent revenge melodrama QUIET COOL (1986) as well as directing episodes of Canadian TV series such as HIGHLANDER (1992 - 1998), FOREVER KNIGHT (1992 - 1996) and RELIC HUNTER (1999 - 2002). Producer Ray Sager is most well known as portraying Montag The Magnificent in H.G. Lewis' WIZARD OF GORE (1970) and has become a well-known producer of many Canadian tax shelter films. As it stands PM4DUFE is competently made but terribly outdated. Also starring Alden Kane, Joy Tanner and Alle Ghadban. A LIVE Home Video Release. Also available on a fullscreen DVD as a double feature with Part III from Artisan Home Entertainment. Rated R.
PROTEUS (1995) - A group of criminals in Hong Kong escape in a yacht after a drug deal goes bad. The yacht blows up in the middle of the ocean (a really crappy model effect), forcing the six survivors to escape in a rubber raft. After a short time adrift, they stumble on a seemingly abandoned oil rig in the middle of nowhere, only it hasn't been abandoned. There's a monster on-board, a genetically-created creature that's a product of secret DNA experiments performed performed in a lab on the rig. Alex (Craig Fairbrass), the leader of the six survivors, finds weapons on the rig and, when they find the lab, he realizes that this rig hasn't been used for oil in quite some time. With the rig's radio out of commission (no surprise there), the ragtag group must find a way off the rig before they become fodder for the creature. Paul (Robert Firth) is the first member of the group to be attacked by the creature and when Alex and the rest go looking for him, they run into the unfriendly Dr. Shelley (Nigel Pegram) and the hysterical Dr. Carol Soames (Jordan Page). It's plain to see that something is wrong with both of them, because on two separate occasions, they throw the beefy Alex around as if he were light as a feather (and it doesn't help Alex's confidence at all). They also run into Buckley (Ricco Ross), the rig's head of security, who informs them that the creature's name is "Charlie", the creation of a new man-made DNA strain called "Proteus". Charlie is able to shape-shift into the form of any living object it comes in contact with and it becomes clear to the group that it can take human form when Buckley turns into the creature and infects Rachel (Jennifer Calvert). The creature starts infecting the rest of the group until only Alex and Linda (Toni Barry) are left. Alex reveals to Linda that he and Rachel are actually DEA agents sent to infiltrate the gang. That doesn't make much of a difference now, as Alex and Linda have to find a way to blow up the rig and send the creature to the bottom of the ocean, but things take a left-hand turn when the rig's owner, Leonard Brinkstone (Doug 'Pinhead' Bradley, under a ton of bad old-age makeup), shows up with a security force to find out what's going on. Charlie, who is now hopelessly addicted to heroin (thanks to "absorbing" junkie Mark [William Marsh]), now has two things on it's mind: Finding a way off the rig so it can absorb more humans (and gain more intelligence) and finding more heroin for it's next fix. What hath man wrought? The best way to describe this film is with one word: Average. Reminiscent of countless films before it (the TV movie THE INTRUDER WITHIN  and nearly every ALIEN clone), PROTEUS contains nothing that could be considered remotely original or contributes anything new to the genre, just countless distorted creature POV shots and people running endlessly up and down the rig's narrow corridors trying to escape from the creature. The film takes a sudden turn into THE THING territory (John Carpenter's 1982 version) when it is revealed that the creature can take human form but, unlike the tension in Carpenter's film in not knowing who is human and who is alien, PROTEUS never attempts to hide the creature's identity. Instead, it offers cheap jump-scares, a few lame transformation scenes and some cheap gore. Since this film was directed by special effects and makeup master Bob Keen (HELLRAISER - 1987; CANDYMAN - 1992), the lack of convincing effects, not to mention some haphazard morphing scenes, must fall squarely on his shoulders. Keen hasn't been very successful as a director. If you've seen his family film TO CATCH A YETI (1994; starring singer Meat Loaf in one of the worst performances of the 90's) or the more recent HEARTSTOPPER (2006), you already know what I mean. Craig Fairbrass makes a serviceable action hero and starred in a handful of 90's films (NIGHTSCARE - 1993; GALAXIS - 1995; DARKLANDS - 1996) and then basically disappeared into small character roles in later films, thanks to his refusal to alter his thick Cockney accent. Too bad. He was built like a brick shithouse and had great comic timing. The only enjoyable moment in the whole film is in the finale, when Charlie reveals his true form (a ridiculous animatronic creature with the head of a shark and a tentacled body) and says to Alex how superior it is to humans. Fairbrass looks at the creature and says, "Superior? You're a fucking fish with a drug habit!" I must admit I had a chuckle with that one. All-in-all, PROTEUS is nothing but a second-rate mixture of a horror film and DIE HARD (1988) on an oil rig. Instantly forgettable. The Scottish film GHOST RIG (2002) and the British film PARASITE (2003) would both re-use the same plot as this flick, which only proves that old addage: Keep trying until you succeed. Keep trying guys. Also starring Margot Steinberg. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. The only DVD release of this title I could find is a fullscreen Chinese-subtitled version from Hong Kong label Mei Ah. Rated R.
THE PROWLER (1981) - This is one of the better stalk-and-slash flicks of the early 80's due to the taught direction of Joseph Zito (fresh off from making BLOODRAGE - 1980) and the splatter effects of Tom Savini (fresh off supplying effects to FRIDAY THE 13TH - 1980). After receiving a "Dear John" letter from his girlfriend Rosemary at the end of World War II, the unseen soldier murders her and her new boyfriend by impaling them on a pitchfork at a graduation dance in the small town of Avalon Bay. Thirty five years later, the graduation dance is being reinstated. You can guess what is about to happen next. Since it has been twenty five years since the last murders, the list of suspects are few since most of the major characters are barely out of their teens. Could it be: A: The sheriff (Farley Granger) who decides to go on his annual fishing trip during the dance, or B: the wheelchair-bound veteran (Lawrence Tierney) who keeps a watchful eye on a house full of co-eds? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the sheriff is the killer, but that's not the point. The true point for watching this film are Zito's suspenseful setups and Savini's masterful effects. There's the infamous bayonet through the top of the head scene, various throat slashings and pitchfork impalements and, finally, the movie's best-known scene, where Farley Granger gets his head blown off with a shotgun. Blue Underground's uncut DVD is a revelation to anyone used to seeing this film on VHS. It's sharp and crystal clear, so clear in fact that it's easy to see that there's definitely a stand-in portraying Farley as the killer. Don't let that detract you from going out and purchasing this DVD. You'll probably never see a better looking copy of this film (also known as ROSEMARY'S KILLER) in any format in the near or far future. This little-known film deserves to be in any true horror fan's collection. While I'm on the subject on things little-known, let talk a little about director Joseph Zito. This guy has gotten such a short-shrift from critics for nearly every film he has directed. I find his style to be quite refreshing, especially his action sequences. On of my favorite action films is his INVASION U.S.A. (1985), which seems more relevant today than when it was made. It's probably the best film Chuck Norris has ever made (Zito also directed him in MISSING IN ACTION - 1984) and is action-packed from start to finish. It's just plain nasty. You have to love a film where terrorists attach a bomb to a traveling school bus filled with kids, an all-out crash and burn shoot-out in a mall full of Christmas shoppers and Chuck and Richard Lynch's knock-down, drag-out finale. They don't get much better than this, even if critics were unanimous in putting it down when originally released. Avoid watching this film on regular TV, as TBS and TNT (who I give props for showing it a couple of days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11) cut the shit out of it. Zito also directed the Dolph Lundgren-starrer RED SCORPION (1989), which contains some of the bloodiest R-rated action on film; FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984), the best of the sequels; ABDUCTION (1975), a retelling of the Patty Hearst kidnapping (and Zito's first film, supposedly shot with hardcore porn scenes which were deleted before it was released); DELTA FORCE ONE: THE LOST PATROL (1999), an action film which I have not seen yet, and POWER PLAY (2002), a weak environmental thriller about a power company causing earthquakes. Mr. Zito is a talent that has been mostly neglected and THE PROWLER is one of his films that should be re-evaluated by the so-called "critics". Also starring Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Cindy Weintraub and Thom Bray. Farley Granger and Lawrence Tierney are in the film for such a short time that their appearances can be considered cameos. Originally released on VHS by VCII, with a budget VHS release to follow by Star Classics. A Blue Underground DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Not Rated. Note: As far as I know, this film has never been shown on TV in the US. That has to be some kind of record!
KILLER (1974) - During the
70's, Kirlian Photography and Astral Projection were all the rage
(even though Kirlian Photography was discovered in the 1930's). The
explanation is simple: every object, even inanimate objects, have
their own energy force and there was now a way to photograph it and
even manipulate it. Entire films were made in the 70's on the subject (INVISIBLE
STRANGLER - 1977; PATRICK
- 1978; THE KIRLIAN WITNESS
- 1979), and this film, originally to be called THE KIRLIAN FORCE,
but changed at the last minute, is one of actor/director Raymond
- 1972; CRYPT OF
THE LIVING DEAD - 1973; and much episodic TV; Danton passed
away in 1992 at the age of 60) most unusual efforts. The film begins
with Arnold Masters (Jim Hutton; DON'T
BE AFRAID OF THE DARK - 1973) going batshit crazy at a
prison mental institution, screaming "Everything I love
dies!" (about his mother; she passed away six months earlier and
they just told him now). He has been unjustly committed to the
mental hospital for a murder he didn't commit and his personal doctor
Laura Scott (Julie Adams; CREATURE
FROM THE BLACK LAGOON - 1954) is worried about his mental
state, especially since he has been so calm before. The prison
hospital then puts him in a ward with even worse mental patients,
where Arnold meets Emilio (Stack Pierce; TRANSFORMED
- 2003), who stands by a fence on the hospital's roof and tells
Arnold that he "is waiting for a train" (It is probably the
film's most emotional moment) as an AmTrack train passes below them.
Arnold declares his innocence to Emilio, telling him how his mother
got sick, but because he didn't have the money, the doctors wouldn't
operate on her to save her life. He wanted to sell his mother's old
home, but she wouldn't allow it and when one of the doctors ended up
murdered, Arnold was convicted of murder but judged mentally unfit to
serve jail time. Emilio, on the other hand, professes his guilt and
tells Arnold that he murdered his daughter because she became a drug
addict and sullied the family name. He also tells Arnold that once he
kills his daughter's drug dealer (he plans on slitting his throat),
he will give Arnold a chance to leave the institution for good. One
night, Arnold watches as Emilio uses an amulet to go into some kind
of a trance and the next morning, he tells Arnold that he now has to
"catch that train", so Emilio climbs over the fence and
jumps to his death while an AmTrack train passes. Emilio leaves
Arnold all his possessions, including the amulet and a letter that
was just delivered that morning that is nothing but a newspaper
clipping that says a drug dealer was murdered by having his throat
cut from ear-to-ear last night. Arnold then knows that Emilio was
able to leave his body by using the amulet and tries it on himself. A
hospital orderly finds Arnold on the floor and he is declared dead
and brought to the morgue for an autopsy. When the coroner begins to
make an incision into Arnold's chest, he suddenly wakes up and the
hospital's head doctor (Rod Cameron) tells Laura that if this news
gets out (that they tried to autopsy a live person), their hospital
will be closed down. Luckily for Arnold (and the hospital) the real
person who committed the murder blamed on Arnold confessed, which
makes Arnold a free man. He heads for his mother's old house, which
is full of cobwebs and has a nice white kitty as a resident. The cat
actually gives Arnold the idea of using the power he now has of
leaving his body (known as "Astral Projection" or having an
"Out Of Body" experience [or OOB]) and getting even with
those responsible for his mother's death. His first victim is Dr.
Paul Taylor (Whit Bissell; I
WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN - 1957), the doctor that refused
to give his mother the life-saving operation without being paid
first. The sleazy old doctor brings a married woman to his cabin in
the woods for some nookie, but Arnold talks throughtout the entire
ordeal and only Dr. Taylor can hear it. It drives the doctor crazy
and he goes outside with a shotgun. We hear one shell being fired and
then Dr. Taylor is found dead with a broken neck. The detective on
the case, Lt. Jeff Morgan (Paul Burke; THE
DISEMBODIED - 1957), is stymied by the case because it is
obvious the nervous married woman doesn't have the strength to snap a
neck. Arnold's next victim is his mother's uncaring Nurse Burdon
(Mary Wilcox; LOVE
ME DEADLY - 1972; BLACK
OAK CONSPIRACY - 1977), who we see sexually teasing a
terminal patient in his own home, before doing a striptease and
taking a shower. It will be the last shower of her life because the
shower head begins to emit scalding water (and turns in her direction
so she cannot avoid it) and the nurse is unable to get out of the
shower until she crashes through the glass shower door. Again Jeff
and his partner, Lt. Dave Anderson (Aldo Ray; TERROR
ON ALCATRAZ - 1987) are flummoxed, as the apartment
building's hot water heater is incapable of reaching scalding
temperatures. Jeff sends Police Sgt. Marv Sowash (filmmaker Greydon
Clark, who co-wrote this film with Danton and genre vet Mikel Angel)
to the scene of the first crime to see if he can find something that
the crime scene investigators missed. Jeff doesn't realize that Marv
was Arnold's arresting officer and his next victim, as Arnold takes
control of his car and drives it off a cliff, killing Marv. When Jeff
interrogates a motorcycle cop (Marland Proctor) who was chasing Marv
for speeding, the cop tells Jeff that he could swear he heard Marv
say "Help me!". Now that there are three unexplained
deaths, Jeff makes the connection of all the deaths with Arnold and
keeps a close eye on him and his house by telescope at a house
located across the street. Laura also joins Jeff because she is
deeply concerned about Arnold and they both spy on him going into
such a deep sleep that even continued phone calls don't wake him up
(Arnold is actually murdering construction tycoon Harvey B. Sanders
[Joseph Della Sorte], who wanted to tear down his mother's house, by
dropping a heavy conerstone on his body using a crane.). It's not
long before Laura and Jeff become lovers and sleep together at Jeff's
house. It is there that Laura spots Arnold in the kitchen (who has
left his body once again), who tells Laura that he watched Laura and
Jeff making love and he wishes that it was him instead. When Jeff
enters the kitchen, Arnold disappears and Laura tells Jeff that they
need to see an old friend of hers, Dr. Gubner (Nehemiah Persoff; THE
POWER - 1968), who is an expert on Kirlian Photography and
how some humans are able to let their energies leave their bodies to
have Out Of Body experiences. Jeff, Laura, and Dr. Grubner go to Arnold's
house, where they discover he is in another trance (a trance that
actually makes the body look dead). Arnold is actually out killing
crooked butcher Lemonowski (Neville Brand; THE
MAD BOMBER - 1972) for charging too much for his meat (and
putting his hand on the scale)! Lemonowski then is forced to put his
hand in a meat grinder (the film's bloodiest effect), has his arms
tenderized and then has all his appendages cut off by a band saw
(offscreen). When Jeff, Laura and Dr. Grubner make it to Lemonowski's
butcher shop (thanks to a police radio report), they find the torso
of Lemonowski hanging on a meat hook. Jeff comes up with a brilliant
idea on how to stop Arnold: The next time he goes into one of his
trances (which he does, to take Laura sexually by force), he will
have a doctor next to Arnold's body to sign a death certificate and
then his lifeless body will be transported to the nearest crematorium
to be burned. That's exactly what Jeff does, and as Arnold's body is
being burned alive, the non-corporeal Arnold (who is rapidly
deteriorating because of the fire) appears to Laura to say one final
thing: "Everything I love dies!" For a film that was
Rated PG (this is the 70's version of PG, not the watered-down
version of today), this film is very violent in spots (without
actually being bloody or gory) and is not shy in showing Mary
Wilcox's nipples and naked ass more than a few times when she is
taking a shower. The film is never boring and is chock-full of stars
familiar to fans of the horror genre (the majority of them are no
longer with us) and is a perfectly fine way to spend 90 minutes of
your time. Jim Hutton (who died at age 49 in 1979) is rather low-key,
but effective, and everyone else does a more than adequate job in the
acting department. The final shot (of the cat with the amulet) left
this film wide open for a sequel (Could Arnold have transferred his
energy into the cat?), but it never happened. That's a shame, because
this film is a nice relic from the 70's, when any plot device could
be used effectively without seeming corny. Highly recommended. Also
starring Della Reese (in a funny cameo where she argues with
Lemonowski about his meat practices and accepting Food Stamps),
Judith Brown, John Dennis, Bill Quinn and Sandra Rustam (daughter of
producer Mardi Rustam, who directed the bad film EVILS
OF THE NIGHT - 1985; and directed the new scenes of EVIL
TOWN - 1974/1985), Originally released on VHS by Embassy
Home Entertainment. But if you want to see the film as it should
be seen, buy the DVD from Dark
Sky Films and watch it in all its widescreen anamorphic glory.
It's short on extras (just some TV spots and the theatrical trailer),
but it is a beautiful print that hasn't been washed away of grain.
Don't let the PG Rating fool you, this is adult stuff. Rated PG.
PSYCHO FROM TEXAS (1977) - Rather than give my usual review, let me tell this film's story with a song:
to the tune of "The Beverly Hillbillies")
Come and listen to a story about a man named Wheeler
A Texas-born psycho, kidnapper and stealer
And then one day he saw his mom whore around
Put him off of women, killed them from town to town
Crazy, he is
Psycho, capital P
Well the next thing you know, old Wheeler snatched a man
Held him for ransom, money on demand
The man escapes, Wheeler goes after his daughter
A real stupid move, he's dumber than water
Idiot, he is
Shotgunned chest, end of film
(My apologies to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.)
Note: This is the first screen appearance of B-movie scream queen Linnea Quigley. She portrays a barmaid who is forced to strip naked and dance, while Wheeler (John King III) pours beer over her head. An auspicious debut. PSYCHO FROM TEXAS, also known as THE BUTCHER and EVIL + HATE = KILLER, is strictly amateur hour and contains one of the longest foot chases ever committed to film where the pursuee harpoons the pursuer in the neck. This film also sets Civil Rights back 40 years, as the actress portraying the African-American maid thought she was starring in a low-budget version of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). Directed, produced and written by Jim Feazell, who thankfully never made anything else. This film carries a 1981 copyright, but by the clothing and hairstyles present, it's easy to tell that it was made several years earlier. A Paragon Video VHS Release. Also released in a widescreen version on DVD in the SIX PACK VOLUME THREE collection from Code Red. Rated R.
PSYCHO GIRLS (1985) - This odd Canadian horror film is narrated by a detective writer as if he were living in the 40's, which is unsettling, especially when he speaks the slang with his Canadian accent. In October of 1966, Sarah, a six year-old girl, spikes her parents' anniversary breakfast with rat poison, killing them. She is put in a mental institution and, on her 25th birthday, escapes. Her first stop is to the house of her psychiatrist, who she ties to his bed and cuts his head off. Victoria (Agi Gallus), Sarah's sister, works for novelist Richard Foster (John Haslett Cuff, our narrator) as a cook, when she begins to get phone calls from Sarah, goading Victoria into meeting her at an abandoned mental hospital. It turns out it was Victoria that poisoned their parents, not Sarah, but the years spent in the looney bin have definitely twisted Sarah's mind. The sisters get into a deadly fight and Sarah wins. Richard and his wife, Diane (Rose Graham), are having a big anniversary party and Victoria is supposed to cook the dinner, but when Sarah (Darlene Mignacco) shows up instead, Richard is at first hesitant to let her cook, but the hunger pains in his stomach relents and he lets her make dinner. During the course of the dinner party, questions will be answered, food will be served (including steak tartar) and people will be killed. Sarah has drugged the tartar and has dragged all the unconscious guests to the abandoned mental hospital, where she and a couple of other escaped loonies, tie all the guests to chairs arranged in a semi-circle and perform a ceremony where they worship a giant photo of Sigmund Freud and begin butchering the guests one-by-one (and order a pizza in the middle of the carnage!). One guy is strapped to a barber's chair, given a shave with a straight razor and then has his throat cut. A woman is stripped naked, put in a tub of water and is electrocuted until her body catches fire. More are tortured and killed until the tables are turned (and then turned again). What's the point of it all? I'm still trying to figure that out. The movie sounds much better than it actually is. The main problem is that most of the grisly murders are edited to the point of being meaningless (probably done so to achieve an R rating). There is plenty of nudity on view but, just when the killings are about to get interesting, there are huge jump cuts, especially in the beheading, shaving and electrocution segments. This is Gerard Ciccoritti's first effort and it is rather drab and colorless, nothing like his later vampire cab driver opus GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1987) and THE UNDERSTUDY: GRAVEYARD SHIFT II (1988), which were both neon-drenched in atmosphere and highly entertaining. He later went on to direct a lot of Canadian episodic TV, using the name Jerry Ciccoritti. I don't know what Ciccoritti was thinking when he put the 40's detective element in the script (co-written with producer Michael Bockner), but it is a distraction and seems totally unnecessary, since it does nothing to advance the plot (except for a lame "surprise" at the end). The acting is uniformly terrible (one of the crazies has a fondness for quoting Al Pacino in SCARFACE - 1982) and there's lots of annoying post-synch dubbing. The ending, which reveals that our narrator is actually dead and speaking from the grave, is a direct rip-off of SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950). Without the gory murders intact, PSYCHO GIRLS is just a third-rate horror film with nudity and nothing else to recommend. Also starring Silvio Oliviero, Pier Giorgio Diciccio, Michael Hoole and Dan Rose. Both Ciccoritti and Bockner have cameos. An MGM/UA Home Video Release. Rated R. There's supposedly an unrated cut out there released by Viacom, but I have yet to locate a copy. If I do, this review may change slightly.
PSYCHOPATH (1973) - This indictment against child abuse (a.k.a. AN EYE FOR AN EYE) is an excellent example of a horror film with a social conscience. Mr. Rabbey (Tom Basham), the host of a local childrens TV show, does more than entertain the kids. He also protects them by killing their abusive parents. While performing at a hospital child ward, Rabbey overhears a cop (Jackson Bostwick, who also executive produced) explaining to a nurse (Margaret Avery) how difficult it is to prosecute child abusers. Rabbey steals some hospital records on suspected child abusers and dishes out his own brand of justice. Riding his bike (he has no drivers license) to various households, we witness Rabbey use baseball bats, strangulation, knives and an electric lawn mower (!) on his victims as we learn that he was also abused as a child, which makes the murders all the more digestible. In the end, it is not the police but a child who puts an end to Rabbeys killings. She shoots him as he is about to kill her abusive mother and then turns the gun on Mom. A truly chilling scene. This film works in many ways, thanks to a literate screenplay (by Walter Dallenbach) and tight direction by Larry Brown (FINAL CUT - 1986; dealing with stuntmen breaking up a child-stealing ring). But the biggest plus this film has to offer is Tom Bashams performance as Rabbey. He evokes the right amount of terror and sympathy and says more with his facial expressions and child-like demeanor than any words could ever express. This is Bashams only starring role. He did have supporting roles in other features, including the thrillers COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (1970), the pilot feature film for NIGHT GALLERY (1969) and the gay biker flick THE PINK ANGELS (1971; also directed by Larry Brown). This PG-Rated film is fairly bloody in spots and was re-released in 1980 with all the killings edited out. Just For The Hell Of It Video offers the unedited cut. It is a worthwhile addition to anyones video collection.
THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN (1979) - This is the film from which writer/editor Michael Weldon cribbed the word "psychotronic", which he used to describe any film, music or writing that can't be properly categorized, as well as using it as part of the title of his long running (but, sadly, now defunct) film review/interview magazine and reference books. Psychotronic is now part of our language lexicon, but it's too bad that the film that started it all is such a boring piece of crap. It's not as badly-made as some would lead you to believe, it's just deadly slow. This Chicago lensed low-budgeter tells the story of barber Rocky Foscoe (producer/co-scripter Peter Spelson, whose only other screen credit is a small part in the 1982 horror film BLOODBEAT) who, while drinking and driving on a long car trip home, decides to pull over to the side of the road to catch a couple of winks. When he wakes up, it's the middle of the night and his car is enveloped by a thick fog, while a howling wind blows around him. He gets the shock of his life when he tries to exit his car, only to discover that he and his car are mysteriously suspended about twenty feet in the air! He passes out from the sight and when he comes to, he discovers that he has somehow driven himself home. His wife (Lindsey Novak) tells him to go see a doctor because he has an extreme headache, so he does just that, but when he tells the doctor what happened the night before, all the doctor can do is shake his head in disbelief. Rocky soon discovers that when he gets these headaches, he is able to telekinetically move objects with his mind. Rocky drives to the spot where he had his strange experience and meets an old man (Bob McDonald), who tells him that some mighty weird things have been happening in the area. Rocky goes to the old man's shack for a cup of coffee, gets one of his headaches and accidentally kills the old man by telekinetically embedding him in one of the shack's walls. Police Lt. Walter O'Brien (Christopher Carbis) and Sgt. Chuck Jackson (Curt Colbert) are assigned to investigate the old man's murder and find a clue: Rocky's barber jacket. There's also a tall, well-dressed man who also seems interested in the case. Rocky's doctor phones the police because he believes that Rocky is involved in the murder, but Rocky shows up at his office and kills the doctor by throwing him out the window to the street below by just using his mind. Lt. O'Brien is stumped when he examined the doctor's office because it looks like a war zone, with every object in the room looking like it exploded, but he does manage to find Rocky's medical records and the chase is on. Rocky heads to a bar to get drunk, where he meets co-worker Kathy (Robin Newton), and she asks him, "Is your head in the clouds?" to which Rocky retorts, "What did you mean by that?" Kathy takes Rocky to her pad, where they make love (He's been cheating on his wife for several years), while Lt. O'Brien interviews Rocky's wife at his house. After Rocky nearly kills his wife with his special powers, he leads the cops on a car chase, then a foot chase, through the streets of Chicago, finally ending on the roof of a building, where Rocky kills some cops with his mind before seemingly being killed by a sniper's bullet. So why can't the police find his body? This snail-paced, erratically acted horror film was directed by Jack M. Sell (OUTTAKES - 1987; DEADLY SPYGAMES - 1989), who also co-wrote, edited and photographed this regional wonder. Sell utilizes fisheye lenses, quick editing and slow-motion photography when Rocky uses his psychotronic powers, but the rest of the film is bogged-down by the minutiae, as Sell slowly lingers the camera on such things as cutting hair, putting a key in a car's ignition and turning it on, playing with the knobs of a car radio and other such trivialities of life. There's also a lengthy car chase where nothing happens except long scenes of cops talking on their radios. It's truly a chore to sit through THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN because the violence level is low, there is no sex or foul language and Rocky's sudden powers are never fully explained (Was it a UFO? Was it something supernatural? I have no clue!). There are some great shots of 70's Chicago, but it's just not enough to maintain interest. Historically, this film is important, but it's not very entertaining. Also starring Jeff Caliendo, Irwin Lewin, Corney Morgan, Paul Martel and Shirl Maschinski. Originally released on VHS by Unicorn Video and not available on legit DVD (Producer/star Peter Spelson once offered copies of the film for purchase at www.psychotronicman.com, but the domain address is no longer active). Rated PG.
THE PUMPKIN KARVER (2006) - Oh, great. Another horror film set during Halloween. One year ago on Halloween Night, Jonathan Starks (Michael Zara) saves his sister Lynn (Amy Weber) when a pumpkin-masked killer attacks her in the attic of their house. As Jonathan is stabbing the killer to death, the pumpkin mask falls off, revealing the killer to be Lynn's obnoxious boyfriend Alec (David Wright), who was just playing a (totally unfunny) practical joke on his girlfriend. He pays for it with his life. Exactly one year later, Jonathan and Lynn move to Carver, California (a small farming town) and we meet the rest of the young cast (yes, it's another "teens in peril" flick), including Jonathan's newest love interest, Tammy (Minka Kelly), and her angry ex-boyfriend Lance (David Austin), who threatens Jonathan's well-being if he dates Tammy. Also plaguing Jonathan are visions of the pumpkin-masked killer from a year earlier, but we soon learn that they may not be visions at all. At Carver's big Halloween party that night, someone begins slicing up the cast's faces like pumpkins (among other carnage) and since Jonathan is new to town (and an expert pumpkin carver), the suspicion falls on him. Old-timer Ben Wickets (Terrence Evans, the legless Monty in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake  and it's prequel THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING ), who is also an expert pumpkin carver, pulls Jonathan aside to show him his personal carving collection and sharp tools of the trade, relates to Jonathan the bloody history of the town and tells him that a mysterious carver appears every Halloween. As the party goes late into the night and more people disappear, the killer (who likes to skin his victims, leaving their teeth and jaw bones exposed on their faces) begins appearing more and more to Jonathan. Is Jonathan imagining all this or is it really happening? The maddening final scene will make you want to kick in your TV screen, as it throws the preceeding 83 minutes out the window and cheats the viewer out of a satisfying (or much of any) conclusion. It instead goes for a cheap shock and sets up the inevitable sequel. This by-the-numbers horror flick, directed by Robert Mann (TRAPPED - 1999), is professionally made and acted, but the screenplay (by Mann and Producer Sheldon Silverstein) offers nothing new to the genre. There are some graphic murders, including a gory giant drill-through-the-stomach scene, and good use of Dolby Digital 5.1 sound throughout the film, but the revelation by Jonathan of his father's sudden disappearance when he was a kid and some logic-defying scenes late in the film reeks of desperation. Instead of being a killer-on-the-loose film, the script tries tossing some supernatural mumbo-jumbo into the mix, including a scene of the pumpkin-masked killer popping-up suddenly out of the solid ground and Jonathan levitating from a prone to upright position (thanks to running the footage in reverse). The film also contains standard teen cliches, including angry ex-boyfriends made to look like the killer (too easy to be true), drunk teens doing stupid things (including eating live grasshoppers) and sex before death. I will give props to one funny death scene, though. It's when drunk party organizer Bonedaddy (David Phillips) is taking a piss in a pumpkin patch and the killer comes up behind him and cuts his head off with a sickle. The next shot shows Bonedaddy's headless body pissing into the open mouth of his decapitated head! THE PUMPKIN KARVER (Why do modern horror films feel the need to misspell words?) is an ordinary modern DTV horror film that contains just enough blood and violence (but strangely, no nudity), not to mention plenty of pumpkins, to keep you reasonably entertained if you can look past the cop-out ending. Straw Weisman (DEADMATE - 1988) was one of the Associate Producers, as was co-star Amy Weber. Also starring Mistie Adams, Jonathan Conrad, Briana Gerber, Jared Show, Charity Shea and late-night exercise equipment informercial pitchman Tony Little as a cop. A First Look Home Entertainment DVD Release. The DVD contains two hidden (but easily found) Easter Eggs, one being a blooper reel and the other an alternate take on the finale. Rated R.