SHORT REVIEWS A - M
THE ALIEN FACTOR (1977) - I'm the first to admit that I would love to get in the filmmaking business. But after viewing this turd, I may have lost my desire to do so. This is filmmaking at its' worst. Director/Producer Don Dohler (FIEND - 1980; NIGHTBEAST - 1982; GALAXY INVADER - 1985; BLOOD MASSACRE - 1988 [his best film]; HARVESTERS - 2001) must have said to his friends in Baltimore: "Hey gang, I've got ten bucks. Let's make a movie!" What even amazes me more is the fact that this film was sometimes shown on TV (usually around 4:00AM). Here's the plot: An alien spacecraft crash lands in the forest next to a secluded town. It seems the spacecraft was some sort of zoo and all the captive alien creatures are set free to terrorize the populace of the aforementioned town. An alien humanoid is sent to Earth to stop this menace. Get a load of these aliens! One looks like he is wearing oversized platform shoes connected to stilts, while another contains the worst stop-motion animation ever committed to film. Whenever I have insomnia I plunk this video into the VCR and within 10 minutes I'm sound asleep. There's one drawback, though. The next morning I always awake with a bad taste in my mouth. Believe it or not, this also got a theatrical release in 1978!. Originally released on VHS by VCI Home Video. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated but no stronger than a PG. The late Don Dohler (who passed away in 2006) remade the film as ALIEN FACTOR 2: THE ALIEN RAMPAGE in 2001 with a bigger budget and somewhat better effects. It still has the Dohler cheapness feel to it, though.
THE AMERICAN SCREAM (1988) - Tidy little black comedy which contains a plot that is similar to 2000 MANIACS (1964), but offers enough differences to make it unique. A family take their vacation to a winter resort only to have the teenagers discover that there is no one their age in the entire town. Everyone seems to be into their thirties or higher. The kids try to avoid being killed, espescially by the town's pastor (played by Blackie Dammett, whose real name is John Kiedis, father of Red Hot Chilli Peppers' lead singer Anthony Kiedis). They are helped in part by George "Buck" Flower and his stuffed dog, who tells them the story of how his family was killed there years ago, before getting a bullet in his head for his trouble. The kids' parents act oblivious to everything that is going on around them, but the finale shows that they definitely came to this town for a purpose: namely to get rid of their kids. The kids turn the tables on the townspeople and their parents and in the end take over the town. Director/writer/producer Mitchell Linden (his only directorial effort) includes a beheading, various knifings, barbecued body parts and other bloody mayhem to good effect. The acting is decent (Whatever happened to Blackie Dammett? Remember him getting pummelled by Mel Gibson by the Christmas trees in LETHAL WEAPON (1987)? I always thought he had a face that could menace Jack Palance!) and includes Matt Borlenghi (DINOCROC - 2004), Pons Maar, Jennifer Darling (a terrific voice-over artist responsible for supplying voices on animated films and cartoons too numerous to mention), Kimberlee Kramer (a.k.a. Riley Weston, who created quite a stir when she claimed to be 19 when writing for the TV series FELICITY [1998 - 2002], when she was actually 32!) and Kevin Kaye. An Innovid Home Video Release. Rated R.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) - "Houses don't kill people. People kill people." Well, duh! But houses can give you that little push which sends you over the edge. Unless you've lived in a cave for the past 30 years, you already know the story behind the Amityville horror. If you're like me, you were probably thinking, "Why do we need a remake of the 1979 original?" Turns out that this remake is pretty good, with plenty of decent jump scares. George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) move into the infamous house one year after Ronald Defeo gunned down his entire family while they slept. Happy-go-lucky Geoege does a 180 degree personality shift and the kids start experiencing various degrees of supernatural scares, the little girl being especially vunerable. As the house becomes more dominate in the Lutz's life, Kathy asks a priest (Philip Baker Hall) to bless the house. We all know what happens next: Flies and more flies as the house tells the priest, "Get OUT!" While offering nothing new to the Amityville legend (besides the addition of a boathouse in the backyard), the remake offers plenty of scares and thrills (including a tense rooftop rescue). Since one of the producers is Michael Bay (who did the same on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake in 2003), expect plenty of quick-cutting and loud soundtrack jumps. Director Andrew Douglas (a TV commercial director before this) actually keeps Ryan Reynolds' performance restrained, as he has no sarcastic wisecracks to spout here like most of the films he's been in (especially BLADE: TRINITY - 2004). Reynolds is actually quite good here as a man drifting into a psychotic rage he tries so hard to control. I've seen a lot worse than this, so give it a chance when you have the time. Besides, it's only 89 minutes long, a full 30 minutes shorter than the original (which I always thought could have used some trimming anyway). Also starring Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett, Chloe Grace Moretz, Rachel Nichols and Brendon Donaldson. An MGM Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
ANIMAL INSTINCTS (1992) - This is probably the worst erotic thriller in recent memory. Cop Maxwell Caulfield tapes his overly eager wife (Shannon Whirry) in sexual frenzy with total strangers (both men and women). He does it to help save his marriage (he also gets his rocks off viewing the tapes). When he recognizes one of his wife's visitors as someone important he comes up with a blackmail scheme which lands him and his wife in hot water. There is absolutely nothing to recommend here. There are no murders, very little nudity and a real cop-out of an ending. Director A. Gregory Hippolyte (CARNAL CRIMES - 1991; MIRROR IMAGES - 1991; MIRROR IMAGES II - 1993), who directs porn films and non-sex flicks under the name "Gregory Dark" (his birth name is actually "Gregory Hippolyte Brown"), shows no talent whatsoever when it comes to erotic thrillers. Where he does excel is in directing stylish porn fims (NEW WAVE HOOKERS - 1985) and ultra-violent horror and sci-fi films, such as DEAD MEN WALKING (1987), STREET ASYLUM (1990) and SEE NO EVIL (2006). Demand your money back if you got suckered renting this one. An Academy Entertainment Release. Spawned two sequels, both directed by Hippolyte. Unrated.
AQUANOIDS (2003) - Ambitious little no-budgeter that bites off a little more than it can chew. In 1987 a small California coastal town (actually filmed on Catalina Island) experiences 17 deaths attributed to sea creatures known as Aquanoids. It was all covered up by the Mayor and 16 years later the Aquanoids are back killing the surfers and swimmers on the Fourth of July, much to the consternation of the Mayor and his businessman partner and their "land deal". A female environmentalist, Vanessa (Laura Nativo), and her friend Christina (Rhoda Jordan) try to warn to populace, but are ignored by everyone except her cop boyfriend Bruce (Christopher Irwin). The Mayor and his friend try to kill Vanessa and fail. The rest of the film contains scenes that are downright homages to HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980), JAWS (1975) and contain references to TENTACLES (1977) and ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION (1991). Co-writers Eric Spudic and Mark J. Gordon pepper the script with touches of absurd humor (The coroner says "Say hi to your Grandpa!" to the Mayor soon after his dead daughter, who was raped by the monster, gives birth to a baby Aquanoid and gets shot through the head for the comment!; The businessman fakes jerking-off with lotion while stealing an incriminating videotape from a news reporter.), but the bad acting, laughable creature suit and haphazard direction by Ray Peschke sink this film before it has a chance of floating to the top. On the plus side are the wonderful underwater photography (also by Peschke), copious nudity, some good gore scenes and split screen effects (something you don't usually see in low budget filmmmaking). Having the heroines riding motorized scooters was also a hoot too. It could have been a good film with proper financing and actors that can do line readings without the help of cue cards. As it stands, it's an OK time-waster good for a few laughs. Also starring Hugh Laurence Hobbs, Edwin Craig, Ike Gingrich, Susan Spann and Doug Martin as the coroner, the best part of the film. A York Entertainment Home Video Release. The VHS tape is in letterbox, even though the video box doesn't mention it. A pleasant surprise. Also available on DVD. Rated R.
THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2000) - Head-scratching horror film that leaves too many questions unanswered. Trevor Blackburn (Andras Jones of FAR FROM HOME - 1989) awakens from a coma to be told by the strange Dr. Ek (Jeffrey Combs of CASTLE FREAK - 1995) that he has killed his fiancee in some kind of ritual sacrifice. Trevor has no memories of this ever happening and is put into a halfway house populated by the craziest patients this side of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975). Trevor teams up with another patient (an over-hyper Seth Green of IDLE HANDS - 1999) to search the forbidden attic of the halfway house as it may hold clues to Trevor's past. Pretty soon the patients start turning up dead in various bloody ways. Or do they? Is this all happening in Trevor's mind or is Dr. Ek running one of his secret medical experiments on him? Beats me, as the finale has one of the most "What the fuck?!" denouements in recent memory. This is by no means a bad film as it contains many atmospheric scenes that induce shudders and it doesn't skimp on the blood and gore. It's just that the film as a whole is unsatisfying because director Jeremy Kasten and screenwriter Rogan Russell Marshall seem to have made a movie that can't possibly have any type of coherent ending. That's a shame because it had a really good premise. Also starring Wendie Robie (TWIN PEAKS [1990 - 1992]), Ted Raimi (SKINNER - 1993), Beth Bates, Shannon Hart Cleary and a funny cameo by Alice Cooper. A First Look Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
AXE GIANT: THE WRATH OF PAUL BUNYAN (2012) - Minnesota 1884: Foreman Bill (a cameo by Dan Haggerty) and his lumberjack crew have just called it a day and are ready for dinner, where Elmer the Cook (Alan Tuskes) is roasting a huge ox over a fire pit. Bill needs to take a shit before he eats, so he leaves for the forest without his axe. When he returns, he finds his entire crew and the other hired crew have been slaughtered, their heads and other body parts bloodily dismembered. A slightly tall man with a monstrous face appears and chases Bill into the log-sawing shack. Bill first loses an arm from the large round spinning blade and then he gets cut in half through the middle of his skull. Cut to the present at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, where Ms. K (Kristina Kopf) and the gruff Sgt. Hoke (Tom Downey) are running the "First Offender Program", where teens and young adults like Marty (Clifton Williams), Rosa (Victoria Ramos), Trish (Jill Evyn), Zack (Jesse Kove) and CB Tanner (Amber Thomas), the father of Sheriff Tanner (Tim Lovelace), have to survive a week in the Minnesota forest and they will have their records wiped clean if they stay out of trouble for six months. The trouble is CB is only semi-guilty, since she got behind the wheel of her car slightly buzzed ("Buzzed driving is drunk driving" is what those commercials say over and over) and a man ran a red light and smacked into her car. A man with influence with three arrests for DWI who used his power to blame CB and made her attorney take a plea deal. Daddy was powerless to do anything, because he was overruled at the State level. So she took the plea deal and is now in this program. People will thank her for that. Once everyone is in the forest (where Sgt. Hoke treats them like they are in the the military while he enjoys fine cigars and booze in his cabin), everyone meets Meeks (Joe Estevez, who can do this kind of role blindfolded), who tells them that there is death waiting for them the deeper they go into the forest, but Sgt. Hoke tells everyone he is crazy. Not as crazy as Sgt. Hoke thinks. On one of their grueling hikes, the giant Paul Bunyan (Chris Hahn, who is rendered in CGI, forced perspective and miniature sets) appears behind Trish and uses his trusty giant axe to split her in half vertically and the cuts Sgt. Hoke in half through his stomach, stepping Sgt. Hoke's upper torso when he won't shut up about killing him (both deaths are highly graphic). Rosa is injured by a giant flying branch, so everyone still left alive holes-up in a cabin, while Paul Bunyan drags their van away ("There goes our only ride, man!"). Meeks joins the group and tells them the real story about Paul Bunyan. When he was born, he was unusually large and doctors gave him a slim chance to live. His face was especially deformed from the delivery. Meeks tells the group that Bunyan is so angry because Zack stole one of Babe The Blue Ox's horns and he wants it back. If they place it at the shrine he created for his only one true friend, Paul Bunyon will probably leave them alone. Zack goes outside and throws the horn into the woods, screaming that the giant can leave them alone now, but the horn comes flying back and impales Zack through his stomach and Paul Bunyan drags Zack away screaming. Meeks continues his story of Paul Bunyan ("He's twice a big as the normal man and lives three times as long!") and we see in flashback Foreman Bill kill Babe and then hand him over to Elmer the Cook to make dinner out of. Paul Bunyan (who is already six foot high and just a teenager of 13) is enraged and goes on a murder spree (we get to see him cut heads and appendages off where we only saw the aftermath in the beginning of the film, thanks to Robert Kurtzman's Creature Corps), ending in Foreman Bill's death. The people in town capture him and drag him through town (the two men who drag him are Robert Kurtzman and director Gary Jones), where people spit on him and the girl he was sweet on, Mel (Donna Williams), turns her back on him (She could overlook his ugliness, but not murder). He is thrown into a mine shaft and the entrance sealed with dynamite. Bunyan eventually escaped and headed for the high country, where he built a shrine to Babe and grew and grew and grew. He really never bothered anyone (We watch him kill a bear in the beginning of the film when the bear goes to kill a deer, so he lives off the land) and has kept to himself, but the desecration of Babe's shrine by Zack has turned him into a wild man once again. Ms. K and the rest of the kids are still in big trouble from Paul Bunyan's vengeance. Can Sheriff Tanner save them in time? CB is in the most danger because she is the spitting image of Paul's old flame Mel and Bunyan attacks the cabin, using his axe to chop a hole into the cabin's roof. He grabs Rosa, but when he gets a good look at her and sees it is not CB, Bunyan throws her through the air like a ragdoll, where she hits a tree and dies. Ms. K uses Sgt. Hoke's pistol and shoots Bunyan in the eye and Sheriff Tanner shows up, puts a few rifle shots into Bunyan and he falls back into the shack (a very good use of miniature sets and forced perspective). Meeks, carrying a shotgun, refuses to let anyone leave, because he does not want the town to know that Paul Bunyan is real. Marty goes to grab the shotgun away from Meeks and gets shot in the chest and dies. I guess Paul Bunyan doesn't feel the same way about Meeks, because he throws the giant axe and decapitates him (another very well done scene, where Meek's rolling head ends up in front of the camera). The last three remaining survivors jump into Sheriff Tanner's truck, where CB drives while her father shoots at Paul Bunyan. who is chasing the truck. CB eventually crashes the truck (Was she buzzed?), so the three head for a small bridge with Bunyan not far behind. The door to the other side of the bridge is locked and gunfire won't open it, but a posse who heard the Sheriff's call for help earlier in the film show up and put a whole lot of gunfire into Bunyan's body (pretty good scene). Before Bunyan dies, he looks at CB and says "Mel! Mel!" and falls off the bridge to the river below. All we see is one huge blood puddle. Is this the end of Paul Bunyan (it isn't if you read the final words in the end credits)? The posse carry Paul Bunyon's giant axe away as proof and Sheriff Tanner, CB and Ms. K have a story to tell for generations to come. And remember: "No critters were harmed in the making of this film." This film made its debut on the SyFy Network, but in severely edited form. There are scenes of topless female nudity, foul language and plenty of bloody gore that even regular cable wouldn't allow. Director/co-screenwriter (with Jeff Miller)/co-producer (also with Miller)/visual effects editor Gary Jones (MOSQUITO - 1995 [Jones and the late star Gunnar Hansen built up a professional and personal friendship]; SPIDERS - 2000 [a real guilty pleasure, even though the acting sucks]; CROCODILE 2: DEATH SWAMP - 2002 [must hold some type of record for saying the word "fuck"]; JOLLY ROGER: MASSACRE AT CUTTER'S COVE - 2005 [one of The Asylum's few non-mockumentaries]; BOOGEYMAN 3 - 2008 [the best of the franchise]; and many others) manages to keep the CGI at a minimum (Once you see Babe The Blue Ox in CGI, you'll be thankful, believe me!) and relies more on physical effects (although some are "goosed" with CGI), which makes a world of difference in the enjoyment of this film. Robert Kurtzman's gory effects are very well done (he makes a better effects man than a director, as you can see in BURIED ALIVE , THE RAGE  and DEADLY IMPACT , although I will give him his well-deserved props for WISHMASTER ). This is no great shakes as a horror film, but it is a nice little time-waster with some welcome gore, minimal CGI and nudity if you watch it in its unedited form. Not your typical SyFy film. Besides, who doesn't want to see Grizzly Adams bite the big one in such a bloody way? It's worth it just for that alone. Also starring Bud Moffett, Daniel Alan Kiely, John Schneider (no, not that one), Tom Luhtala and Jeremy Price. A Virgil Films & Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
THE BAY (2012) - Readers of this site know that I'm not the biggest fan of "found footage" films, but here's one that is done correctly and it's also bloody and scary as hell. Maybe that's because it was directed by Academy Award winner Barry Levinson (he also co-wrote the story and co-produced with Oren Peli; the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise), who gave us such quality movies like DINER (1982) and RAIN MAN (1988). The story adds-on to the real-life incidents in 2009, where millions of dead fish washed ashore and flocks of birds dropped dead in mid-air all over the world. The film starts in 2012, where reporter Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) give a video interview that contains government-confiscated footage from all different sources about something she witnessed as a novice fluff story TV reporter in the coastal town of Claridge, Maryland on July 4, 2009 (actually filmed in Georgetown, South Carolina). The town is enjoying it's tourist-packed July 4th celebration when people start breaking out in disgusting boils, bleeding profusely from every orifice and finally dying after something eats its way from the inside-out of their bodies. Footage taken by a couple of oceanographers and an eco-terrorist a month earlier show that the bay is severly polluted, probably because a huge chicken farm in the vicinity is dumping tons and tons of chicken shit directly into the water (the shit contains steroids used to feed the chickens so they grow faster). The oceanographers discover an unknown parasite is infecting the fish, sometimes growing to fist size in a record amount of time. Mayor John Stockman (Frank Deal) knows all about it, but refused to report it to higher authorities in fear that it will destroy their tourism business (reminicent of JAWS - 1975). He did the same thing two years earlier when the local nuclear power plant had an accident and radioactive waste seeped into the bay and local artesian wells. To make matters worse, the Mayor built a desalinization plant, which turns the bay's salt water into fresh drinking water. Now it has all come back to bite him in the ass. People begin dropping like flies, quickly filling up the town's hospital. Dr. Jack Abrams (Stephen Kunken) sees the rapidly spreading boils, is forced to amputate limbs and contacts the Center For Disease Control, who prove as useful as tits on a rock. As the outbreak progresses, the parasites begin biting out people's tongues and bursting out of every part of their bodies, while Donna and her cameraman document what is going on outside. What follows next is not for the faint of heart. Even though the ending is a little too pat, director Levinson mostly stays away from the "shakey cam" syndrome, relying instead on a professional news cameraman, stationary cameras throughout the town, police car dashboard cameras and Skype conversations on computers to document the carnage. There are a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments as well and the gore and blood scenes are very well done and plentiful (even the CGI parasites are seamless). Hey, I'll now admit that not all found footage films are bad (I also liked CHRONICLE - 2012), but this one stands out among the pack because it has a director who knows how to do it right. See it when you get the chance and decide for yourself. Also starring Kristen Connolly, Christopher Denham, Justin Welborn, Andy Stahl, James Patrick Freetly, Lauren Cohn, Jody Thompson and Robert Treveiler as the most useless CDC doctor ever committed to film. Originally released simultaneously to theaters and Video On Demand (VOD), a new practice that is becoming commonplace with small films like this. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.
BEYOND JUSTICE (1990) - Rutger Hauer takes another step in the wrong direction appearing in this lifeless Italian action flick. Hauer is hired by rich bitch Carol Alt to retrieve her son who has been kidnapped by her ex-husband (Kabir Bedi). Bedi brings the kid to grandfather Omar Sharif's Middle Eastern fortress to teach him how to become Emir once Omar kicks the bucket. This film breaks the cardinal rule of action films: It's deadly slow and dull. Nice music though. Directed by Duccio Tessari (THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971). Rated R.
BLACK CRYSTAL (1990) - Remember that first time you had sex? The uncertainty. The sweaty palms. The joy you felt during the actual act of making love and, finally, realizing how quick the whole thing took. You'll experience nothing of that while watching this film. One-man kamakaze squad Mike Conway wrote, directed, edited, starred and composed the music for this piece of crap. When Will Harper (Conway) picks up a hitchhiker on a deserted highway, they are forced off the road by a bunch of guys wearing sneakers. The hitchhiker is killed (his eyes are ripped out) and Will escapes with a black crystal that the hitchhiker had in his possession. The hitchhiker mentioned a girl named Daphne who happens to live in the same town as Will's brother Pete. The townspeople warn Will to stay away from Daphne (Lily Brown), but he doesn't listen. Daphne is a witch and the black crystal is a power source wanted by a cult leader Daniel (Mark Lang) that will channel all the evil energy of the world. Will and Daphne fall in love and Daphne gets Will out of a couple of scrapes with the locals by killing them with her powers. When Pete dies after trying to run Daphne out of town, the cult leader and his henchmen kidnap Will and Daphne. While Daphne takes Daniel to the crystal Will escapes. The chase is on as we find out that Daphne and Daniel were once lovers and they are immortals. Will begins to wipe out the cult members one-by-one until only he and Daniel are left. (As Will pumps bullets into Daniel's chest, he says: "You are becoming a real pimple on my ass!") Who will survive? Will Will and Daphne find true love? Who gives a flying fuck? This is a lazily-filmed piece of junk that contains atrocious acting, bad dialogue ("You filthy son of a whore!), a snail-like pace (at 70 minutes, it seems twice as long), terrible effects and a budget that would probably buy you breakfast at your local IHOP. Avoid this one like the plague. It shouldn't be too hard, since no one really has heard of this film before it was listed on the Internet Movie Database! The end credits list the title as THE BLACK TRIANGLE. Mike Conway also directed the equally obscure films WAR OF THE PLANETS (2002), THE AWAKENING (2005) and EXILE (2008). Maybe they are all obscure for a reason. A Raedon Home Video Release (Have they released anything that was good?). Unrated, but no worse than an R.
THE BLACK ROOM (1981) - Brother and sister Jason (Stephen Knight) and Bridgette (Cassandra Gaviola) rent a candle-lit room in their palacial mansion for couples to have sex and do drugs while Jason photographs them through a two-way mirror. Unfortunately Jason has a rare blood disease that only affects those of Mediterranian heritage and he needs fresh blood transfusions in order to stay alive. They end up killing most of the people who rent the "black room" and drain them of their blood through an elaborate machine in their basement. Married couple Larry (Jimmy Stathis) and Robin (Clara Perryman) have an "open" marriage even though they have two kids. Larry takes young women to the rented room and has sex with them with Robin's somewhat reluctant permission. Most of Larry's pick-ups end up as drained corpses which Jason and Bridgette bury in crates in their backyard. Robin becomes curious and comes to the mansion to see what Larry really does. Jason shows her through the two-way mirror what he does and it affects Robin considerably. Robin has sex with Jason and some other unknown men just to get back at Larry. Just as it seems as their marriage is falling apart, Larry and Robin must fight for their lives to stay alive so they do not become the latest victims of the "black room". This is an OK time-waster that has it's fair share of blood and nudity, even if one scene is totally unbelievable: When one of their female victims escapes (she's all pasty-faced by having most of her blood drained), she is able to flag down a truck. But Jason and Bridgette talk the driver out of taking her away! Director Elly Kenner (who has never done anything before or since) and writer and co-director Norman Thaddeus Vane (of MIDNIGHT  and TAXI DANCERS  infamy) do inject the proceedings with some erotica and some cringe-inducing bloodletting scenes (including Bridgette's neck stabbing by Robin in the finale). The ending also leaves it wide-open for a sequel (and kind of blows everything which preceeds it moot) which never materialized. Look out for cameos from a young Christopher McDonald and Linnea Quigley as blood donors. Also starring Charlie Young, Geanne Frank and Allisun Kale. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R.
BLACK ROSES (1988) - The 80's turned out a bunch of turgid Rock 'N' Roll-themed horror movies and this is one of the worst of them. You know you are in trouble when the hero is the poetry teacher of the local high school! When the rock band Black Roses turn up in a small town to give a few concerts before hitting the big cities, the local parents , including the Mayor (Ken Swofford of HUNTER'S BLOOD), listen to a practice session to ease the tensions that the band will cause trouble in the town. After the band gives a pleasant-sounding concert and the parents leave, they then begin to play heavy metal music which turns to kids into parent-killing machines. Parents are shot, bludgeoned, sucked into speakers (a much thinner Vincent Pastore, Big Pussy on THE SOPRANOS, in his first film role) and have their throats slashed. Poetry teacher Matt (John Martin) must try to stop the band and the kids (who turn into rubbery creatures) at their final concert (by setting the building on fire!), where all the kids will be turned into Satan-loving worshippers. Better-known for its' 3-D video box than for the film itself, this relic from the rather-be-forgotten 80's decade of Hair Metal is an endurance test for even the most ardent horror fan, as the effects are pathetic, the monsters fake-looking and the acting over-the-top. Director John Fasano, who a year earlier foisted ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (with that star still waiting to be recognized, Jon Mikyl Thor) on an unsuspecting public, does not improve his craft here as the music is bad, the action listless and the ending a letdown. Stay away from this unless you want to see a bunch of kids overreact at a rock concert. White Snake would be proud. Also starring Julie Adams, Sal Viviano, Carmine Appice and Carla Ferrigno. Fasano would later go on to direct the first American-based Chinese hopping vampire movie, THE JITTERS (1988), as well as writing (and sometimes directing and producing) some made-for-TV films. An Imperial Entertainment Corp. Release. Rated R. Other Rock-themed 80's horror films include TERROR ON TOUR (1980), ROCKTOBER BLOOD (1984), BLOOD TRACKS (1985) and HARD ROCK ZOMBIES (1985).
BLOOD FRENZY (1987) - This slasher film in the mold of FRIDAY THE 13TH has two things going for it: A scary jack-in-the-box rendition of "Pop Goes The Weasel" on the soundtrack and a blood and gore-drenched finale. The films' slight and ridiculous story line involves a female psychiatrist driving a handful of her patients to the middle of the California desert for a group "confrontational" therapy session. All the patients have a certain stereotypical problem (disturbed Vietnam vet, nymphomaniac, lesbian, alcoholic, etc..). An unknown assailant starts to dispatch the patients to the tune of "Pop" in various bloody ways. Sliced throats are a specialty. Nothing new in that department, right? The acting ranges from good to sub-par and the scenery gets tedious after a while. The film is fairly bloody throughout and it really begins to flow in the last 10 minutes, even if deja vu sets in after the first 10 minutes. Directed by Hal Freeman (a porn director by trade [the CAUGHT FROM BEHIND series] who was once prosecuted in 1988 for "pandering" and won!) and starring Wendy McDonald, Tony Montero, Lisa (the original "Wednesday Addams") Loring and Hank Garrett. Photographed by future PM Entertainment action specialist Richard Pepin (CYBER-TRACKER - 1994). A Hollywood Family Entertainment Video Release (What "Hollywood Family" was BLOOD FRENZY made for, the Lohans?). Unrated.
BLOOD GNOME (2003) - I liked this micro-budgeted horror film because it tries to be different. It is just as interested in the Bondage Sadomasochistic (BDSM) lifestyle as it is in horror. A troubled Crime Scene Photographer named Daniel (Vincent Bilancio, also a Producer) spots a very small hand print at a murder scene involving a BDSM couple ripped apart with body pieces missing. His assistant accidentally has his Sony Handycam set in nightvision mode and Daniel spots a small creature (who is invisible to the naked eye) in the viewing screen. Of, course no one believes him so he goes to a bondage mistress Divinity (Mellissa Pursley) to help him understand the BDSM lifestyle. This leads both of them to a bondage queen Elandra (Ri Walton), who keeps a mother gnome in a box, whom she feeds the missing body parts to. The mother gnome then gives birth to baby gnomes who Elandra sticks with hypodermics and extracts a hallucinogenic drug which she sells for big profits. Sensing that Daniel is getting too close, Elantra sends her invisible gnomes to kill him. Daniel bites one of the gnomes and tastes their blood, thereby giving him the ability to see them. More murders of BDSM couples ensue and Elantra manages to get her gnomes to implicate Daniel in the murders. Daniel and Divinity must stop Elantra at a big BDSM party, where Elantra plans on killing everyone and feeding them to the mother gnome. The effects by Todd Rex range from laughable to excellent and the screenplay by director John Lechago keeps the viewer on their toes. The bloody body-ripping effects are very well-done as the invisible gnomes (who are mostly seen as a blur) slice and dice the tied-up victims. Bilancio (CAMP BLOOD - 1999; DEADLY SCAVENGERS - 2001) is very good as the exhausted photographer (with a whacked-out back story) and scream queen Julie Strain and the Porcelain Twinz (?) put in cameos at the final party slaughter. The gnomes themselves are just a cut above the GHOULIES (1985), but it doesn't distract the viewer from having a bloody good time. Also starring Laurie Jameson, Charles Mosby and Scott Evangelista. More small-budgeted films should take chances like this. It might make the whole low-budget filmmaking culture that much more interesting. A Screen Media Films Release. Rated R.
BLOODLUST ZOMBIES (2011) - It seems that everytime someone decides to direct their first feature, it turns out to be a horror film. And for the past decade, most freshman directors decide to make those horror films depicting zombies; a good percentage of the films dealing with a bunch of infected people killing the unaffected in a locked-down facility, not for the sake of the story, but to keep costs down (the fewer the locations, the cheaper and faster you can shoot it). That describes BLOODLUST ZOMBIES to a tee, with the only different thing about it being that it stars bubble-butted porn actress Alexis Texas (who has made an amazing 329 porn films between 2007 and 2014 and made her share of TV and Film porn "parodies", a term the porn business uses so the major studios can't sue them for copyright infringement). Let me say this about Alexis Texas: as an actress, she makes a fine naked female. In other words, she has no future in non-porn films unless she starts taking acting lessons (Fred Olen Ray used her once in BIKINI FRANKENSTEIN  and hasn't worked with her since. Now that should tell you something.). The film starts with two lab rats performing experiments on cats with a new serum called "BZ32". After giving the cats shots of BZ32, one cat kills another. Their experiment turns into a success, so at a late-night board meeting, president and CEO Bobby Lee (Robert Heath) asks co-workers Judy Miller (Janice Marie), Darren (Adam Danoff, this film's Co-Producer and Editor), Catherine (Catherine White) and Executive Assistant Andrea (Alexis Texas) to stay late so they can Skype the good news to their sister company in another time zone. BZ32 is a hit. Well, it's a hit if you take into consideration that it causes humans to become zombified fighting machines (Bobby Lee plans on using this new serum/virus on enemy soldiers so that they will kill each other [There are so many holes in that logic to drive a train through. The first one being: Who are the zombies going to chow-down on next when they eat all their fellow soldiers? Wouldn't they go after us?]). We then see Andrea and Bobby Lee playing "hiding the sausage" (I guess when you can't act, you do what you know best), while Catherine is bringing champagne to the two lab rats for a job well done. One of the workers drops a test tube in the lab, but he says that it wasn't one containing the BZ32 virus, yet the entire building goes into lockdown just in case the threat is real. Catherine is attacked by one of the infected cats and she, in turn, attacks the two lab workers, turning them into the titled creatures. You guessed it: The unaffected employees must now run and hide from the zombies (It is impossible to leave or get into the building [Another huge hole in the plot. Wouldn't some outside agency like the CDC be notified if something like this happened? Or at least the local Police Department?]). The zombies bite everyone they come into contact with (We can imagine the special effects technician, just offscreen, pushing the rubber bulb containing the fake blood and it comes out in perfect streams. It seems every bite results in the same effect.), while everyone else does the most idiotic things at the most inopportune times. This is supposed to be a funny horror film, but their idea of "funny" is Darren imagining all the women in various states of undress when they ask him what he is thinking. There is not an original thought in this film's tiny little brain (they rip off "The Girl From Ipanema" elevator scene from DEEP RISING  for Christ's sake!). Darren even takes a camera photo of his penis to prove to "Libby The Temp" (Lauren Todd) that he is not a zombie, as they shoot guns at each other from a distance of about ten feet (a joke badly ripped-off from THE NAKED GUN - 1988). Alexis Texas proves to us that her greatest assets are her bubble butt and her breasts, as her acting reeks so bad, you can smell it coming out of your disc player. And why do directors and producers always think that they can act in the films they are making? Director/screenwriter/cinematographer/co-producer Dan Lantz (whose only other directorial effort is the gay-themed thriller INTO THE LION'S DEN - 2011) portrays a security guard that likes talking to himself and keeps a closet full of automatic weapons. I really can't decide which is worse: His direction or acting (In the DVD's blooper reel, Lantz tells us that he isn't even in the film, so either he has a short memory or is just trying to make us forget his bad acting). And co-producer/editor Adam Danoff, who supplies most of the film's "comedy", is just simply terrible and unfunny. The basic truth is that while there is plenty of violence, such as ears getting bitten off, skin being bitten and pulled like string cheese, gunshots to the head and axe attacks, Lantz and Danoff's screenplay is juvenile at best and misogynistic at worst (I guess when you have a porn "actress" starring in your film, you must think you can get away with a lot more jokes at the expense of women). There really is not one thing to recommend in this film, not even Alexis Texas' nudity. If you want to see her nude and do much more, rent one of her TV and movie porn parodies. I guarantee you will be a lot more entertained than watching this poor excuse of a film. I have bits of things in my stool that are more entertaining than this. Also starring Sarah Dewey, Robb Stech, Justus White, Jim Bagwell, Jerry Cartier, Kevin Chick and a whole bunch of other people you never heard of. Filmed in Paoli, Pennsylvania. Remind me never to visit there. A Vicious Circle Films DVD Release. Not Rated.
BODYCOUNT (1986) - Director Ruggero Deodato treads FRIDAY THE 13TH territory pretty well in this mostly unseen slasherama. A group of obnoxious teenagers decide to spend a weekend in a long-shut camping site, where 15 years earlier a series of grisly murders took place. The locals attributed the murders to an old Indian shamen, the legend of the forest. Before you can say "How!", the teenagers are being dispatched in various excessive gory ways. Could it be the Indian shamen doing the dirty deeds or could it be the owner of the campsite (David Hess), his wife (Mimsy Farmer), the town sheriff (Charles Napier) who is having an affair with Farmer, or Hess' son (who looks like a young Clark Kent) who has just returned from a stint in the Army? It's not hard to figure out who the culprit is, but the gory killings (there are plenty), good music score (by Claudio Simonetti) and a surprise ending will more than make up for it. Originally titled CAMPING DEL TERRORE, Midnight Video offers a pristine print in all its' Unrated glory. This one is worth your time and money.
BOG CREATURES (2002) - Let me warn you right from the start: This is not a film for those that are easily susceptible to falling asleep at the drop of a dime. If you are, you'll be snoring after the first 5 minutes. This shot-in-New York low budget feature can kindly be called boring tripe or I can go all-out and call it a piece of celluloid shit. You can make the call. The basic premise is this: A group of really annoying, no-talent teens go on an archeological dig to recover the Bog People (the film's original title), a midieval tribe of Danish Berserkers buried in a swamp. Before you can say "I wonder how many of the teens are going to be killed?", most of them are dispatched by the reanimated bog-thingies. If you come into this film looking for some bloody killings and plenty of nudity, be forewarned: Despite the film's R-rating, there's very little nudity (fleeting glimpses of nubians' breasts in the first 5 minutes of the film) and absolutely no extreme violence at all. This film could have easily been rated PG if the nudity (about 2 seconds worth) was cut out. All the actors are extremely bad, even the only "name" actor, Debbie Rochon (REGENERATED MAN - 1994, and nearly 100 other Z-grade films since 1988!). Director J. Christian Ingvordsen (HANGMEN - 1988 [a very early film for Sandra Bullock, even though her role is very small but played-up very big on the DVD covers]; THE OUTFIT - 1990; AIRBOSS - 1997; which spawned three inferior sequels, all directed by Ingvordsen and starring Frank Zagarino) drops the ball on nearly every tense moment this film has to offer, as the camera tends to dwell on the wrong part of the action. As a matter of fact, the behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD is more enjoyable than the film itself. What does that tell you? If I had anything good to say about this film, it would be that the Bog People are a nice creation. Too bad they're in such a crappy film. You'll be smelling peat long before this film is over. Also starring Courtney Henggeler, Jeffrey Howard, Michael Mosley, Joshua Park, Jesse Steccato, Leis Thompson and Tara Theodos. You can see them all starring in their next feature: The Unemployment Line. An MTI Home Video/Bedford Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2009/2011) - I really wanted to write a long review for this film, lensed in 2009, but not released until 2011 (co-star Chris Hemsworth filmed this right before the disasterous RED DAWN remake), but if I did, I would be ruining one of the best horror films released in 2011. You may think that this is going to be an EVIL DEAD-like flick, but you'd be so wrong because there is so much more going on. There are so many references to other horror and fantasy films (you'll have to watch it twice or more to spot them all, especially during the last twenty minute "purge" [you will be cringing every time the elevator light comes on], but I am saying too much) and an unexpected cameo during the final five minutes, that you'll be standing up in your living room wiping your eyes in satisfaction. I really want to say more (I really, really do), but I would spoil one of the most original horror films in the last thirty years (The CUBE-like elevator ride is worth the price of admission alone). Props to director/co-writer Drew Goddard (co-screenwriter of WORLD WAR Z - 2013) and co-writer/producer/second unit director Joss Whedon (director of 2012's best superhero film, THE AVENGERS) for supplying 96 minutes of unguessable horror bloodshed (really, you never know what direction this film is going to take and the stoner of the group, Marty [Fran Kranz], and his collapsible thermal coffee mug/bong, turns out to be a hero!). Lots of laugh-out-loud humor (the phone call that Bradley Whitford puts on loudspeaker from grizzled old tobacco-spitting gas station owner Mordecai [Tim De Zarn] was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed; freeze frame the DVD/Blu-Ray when the betting board is on view for some valuable funny info [you'll know the scene when you see it]; the way the Japanese schoolgirls defeat the child ghost is a hoot) and good old-fashioned blood-soaked gore (it flows like a river, although there is plenty of excellent CGI, especially during the finale). The reason for the delay to release this film was because the studio wanted to convert it to 3-D, but level heads prevailed. This originally played theatrically, where it more than recouped its 30 million dollar budget. Don't expect a sequel for this film because it doesn't leave room for one. My highest recommendation. Oh, and one other thing: Beware of the Merman!!! Also starring Richard Jenkins (WHITE HOUSE DOWN - 2013), Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Brian White and Amy Acker. A Lionsgate Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
THE CALLER (1987) - This is a fascinating two character thriller with one hell of a twist ending. When stranger Malcolm McDowell knocks on Madolyn Smith's cabin door located deep in the woods and tells her that his car has broken down, a cat-and-mouse game of questions and answers follows and we don't know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Did Madolyn kill her husband and daughter or is Malcolm a serial killer, cop or something else? Every time Madolyn catches Malcolm in a lie he says, "Point to you." This means something only Madolyn understands. It gets creepier and creepier as we want to know just what Madolyn is keeping in the hat box and why we don't see any other human beings throughout the whole film. Needless to say, the film surprises often and, while it feels like a filmed stage play, it's never boring and the ending really hits you hard in the gut. This is one of Malcolm McDowell's best film roles of the 80's as he gets the chance to actually act because the film is mainly nothing but dialogue. Madolyn Smith (FINAL APPROACH - 1991) also holds up her end real well acting scared and defiant, sometimes at the same time. Believe it or not, director Arthur Allan Seidelman's first directorial effort was also Arnold Schwarzenegger's first film: the truly awful HERCULES IN NEW YORK (1970). They've both come a long way since then. Give this seldom-seen film (Executive Produced by Charles Band during his Empire Pictures days), lensed in Rome, Italy a try and I'll guarantee that you will be entertained and shocked. A Trans World Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.
CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990) - Truly wretched adaption of the comic book classic. Matt Salinger stars as the title character, battling his evil nemesis, the Red Skull (Scott Paulin). This movie is an editor's nightmare as it looks like many cuts were made to secure a PG-13 rating. Disjointed and hard to follow (How many films were taken out of Pyun's hands at the editing stage? I'm willing to bet it's the majority of his vast output. The man just never learned how to connect scenes in a cohesive fashion.). Director Albert Pyun (who showed promise with his first film THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER in 1982) once again demonstrates he doesn't understand the action genre. If you don't believe me try viewing any of his latter films, including DOWN TWISTED (1987), ALIEN FROM L.A. (1988), CYBORG (1989), DOLLMAN (1991) and OMEGA DOOM (1995).
CAPTURED ALIVE (1995) - ANSWER: C.T. McIntyre. QUESTION: Who is the loser responsible for directing, producing, writing and editing this piece of grade Z trash? A small planeload of obnoxious (and untalented) people are shot down over the West Virginia wilderness by a family of hillbillies using a Civil War cannon (Talk about a near-impossible shot! What did they use, a "smart" cannonball?). The passengers are taken prisoner and are forced to work in a mine disposing of toxic waste that is trucked there from a nearby chemical plant. The captives try several times to escape and fail miserably due to the stupidity of the script. Every time a hillbilly is knocked-out or killed, the captives never once take the weapon, resulting in endless scenes of people running around the woods. Pat Morita (!) reaches a new career low (far surpassing his terrible performance opposite an even worse Jay Leno in COLLISION COURSE - 1986) as a plane mechanic who must put up with countless Jap and Tojo jokes (can you imagine in this day and age if the mechanic was Black and had to put up with nigger and coon jokes from his fellow employees?) while searching for his downed pilot friend (Dan Pinto). Amateurish on every level (it was photographed by Bill Hinzman of REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES - 1988) and deadly boring. I had more fun plucking my nose and ass hairs than watching this shitfest. Films like this dont get made, they escape. I really suffer for my art so you dont have to. An Arrow Video Inc. Release. Rated R.
THE CARRIER (1987) - This low-budget AIDS parable is quite good and packs a powerful punch. An outcast (Gregory Fortescue), who is unjustly accused of killing his parents, is attacked by a bigfoot-like creature who transfers a contagious disease into his body. The poor boy becomes a carrier of this strange disease which is transmitted by his touch. Any object this boy touches means certain death to any person who holds it, as it dissolves flesh and bone. Soon the entire population of this small town are wrapping themselves in plastic and marking all the contaminated objects with red cloth (sound familiar?). Much more happens in this literate, well-written, film and I will not spoil it for you. Also starring Stevie Lee (a terrible actress and the worst thing about this film), Steve Dixon and Patrick Butler. Directed and written with style by Nathan J. White. This is no ordinary horror film. On VHS from Magnum Entertainment. Also available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.
CASTLE OF EVIL (1966) - Standard "Reading of the Will" in a haunted castle thriller with one caveat: The killer is a robot duplicate of the horribly disfigured deceased person (named Kovic) who proceeds to kill the people who he thinks is responsible for the "accident" that killed him in a lab. The six people who are at the will reading do not understand why they are there as they are the people who hated him the worst. Each person had a reason for killing Kovic and as the film progresses we have to figure out who did the deed. Director Francis D. Lyon (who filmed this back-to-back with DESTINATION INNER SPACE with many of the same stars) adds touches of wit in the many dialogue scenes and the robot creature is very effective, but the film does not rise above the routine thanks to too much talk and too little action. If you have nothing better to do with 80 minutes of your time, you may want to give this one a try or you can simply take a nap and forget about it all together. Starring Scott Brady, Virginia Mayo, Hugh Marlowe, David Brian, Lisa Gaye and Shelley Morrison as Lupe the Housekeeper, who is better known now as the ascerbic housekeeper Rosario on the TV series WILL & GRACE (1998 - 2006). An NTA Home Entertainment Release. Not Rated.
THE CAVE (2005) - I love films that deal with exploration, whether it's jungle, underwater, mountain or planet. But I especially love films that contain cave exploration. It's the feeling of claustrophobia and the danger of everything collapsing in on you that give cave exploration films that extra scare factor. THE CAVE uses that fear to good advantage. When a huge subterraneous cave is discovered underneath a destroyed church deep in the Carpathian Mountains, expert spelunkers and deep sea divers Jack (Cole Hauser; 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS - 2003) and Buchanan (Morris Chestnut; HALF PAST DEAD - 2002) are hired to go down into the cave with their crew and map it out. They must travel nearly 2 1/2 miles underwater to get to the first dry land that they are able to explore on foot. When an underwater cave-in blocks their exit back, they must find another way to return to the outside world. They also face a more serious problem: They are not alone. There are winged creatures who are equally at home in the water or on dry land and they have a hunger for their new visitors' flesh. When Jack is bitten by this new species of creature, he slowly begins to change and has some type of psychic connection to the creatures. Jack becomes a danger to his crew, which includes his hothead brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian; TV's THIRD WATCH [1999 - 2005]), fellow member Charlie (Piper Perabo; THE I INSIDE - 2004) and documentary cameraman Alex (LOST [2004 - 2010] and the rebooted HAWAII FIVE-0's [2010 - Present] Daniel Dae Kim). When they discover that the creatures are actually mutated humans who were trapped in the cave 30 years earlier, the fun really begins. While the adventure elements are excellent (helped greatly by the location photography in Romania and Quintano Roo, Mexico), the horror elements are severely hampered by the film's PG-13 rating. The subject matter screams for some R-rated carnage, but THE CAVE pulls away from the grue and only gives you brief flashes of the red stuff. THE DESCENT, released less than a year later, is a good example of R-rated cave gore. Still, this film does have some tense scenes and is an OK time-waster with some great directional sound effects and some pretty good creature effects, although some of the CGI is iffy. Directed by first-timer Bruce Hunt, who later became Second Unit Director of the 2010 remake of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Also starring Rick Ravanello, Lena Heady and Marcel Iures. A Screen Gems DVD Release. Rated PG-13.
CELLAR DWELLER (1987) - Director John Carl Buechler runs both hot and cold as a director and special effects person. He was responsible for creating the awful GHOULIES (1985), directing and creating the creatures in TROLL (1986, and a guilty pleasure of mine, so quit judging me!) and directing the truly terrible ICE CRAWLERS (2002) and the halfway decent MINER'S MASSACRE (2003). He hits paydirt with this one though, as it is an affectionate (albeit gory) tribute to the old EC Comics of yore (Although some real-life "graphic novelists" have problems with this film. Let them make their own goddamn film!). Thirty years earlier an artist by the name of Colin Childress (Jeffrey Combs in what amounts to a cameo) is writer and illustrator of a horror comic called Cellar Dweller. He uses an old magic book for inspiration and one day the drawing of his monster comes to life and kills a woman he has drawn. He kills the monster by setting his fresh drawing on fire, killing himself in the process. The police investigation portrays Colin as a murderer and the case is closed. Thirty years later, a comics artist named Whitney (Deborah Mullowney, a.k.a. Deborah Farentino) goes to Colin's old house, which is now an artists' retreat run by Mrs. Briggs (Yvonne De Carlo). Whitney begins drawing Colin's comic Cellar Dweller (using the magic book for ideas) and the monster begins to go on a killing spree again. Former cop turned novelist (Vince Edwards) is gorily decapitated (a good effect). Lisa (Cheryl Ann Wilson, a.k.a. Miranda Wilson) is eaten by the creature after taking a shower (nudity alert!). Whitney's old arch nemesis Amanda (Pamela Bellwood) is also dispatched by the monster. Whitney, with the help of fellow artist Phillip (Brian Robbins), try to kill the monster, but the monster kills Phillip instead. Whitney finds a way to kill the creature (she throws White-Out on the drawings!) and draws all the dead people and brings them back to life. But Whitney soon finds out that the comics business can be a killer. Filmed on a shoestring budget in Italy for Executive Producer Charles Band's Empire Pictures (which would transform into Full Moon Pictures a few years later), CELLAR DWELLER is a compact 77 minute horror film which delivers the goods. It doesn't overstay its welcome and has plenty of blood, nudity and a pretty decent story (written by Don Mancini [CHILD'S PLAY - 1988] using the pseudonym "Kit Du Bois") to please the fans. The acting is generally good and the only drawback is the monster itself. It looks like a giant Ghoulie (actually a monster suit worn by Michael Deak), but with more mouth movements. Oh well, you can't have everything. I liked it and if you give it a chance, you may like it too. Also known as UNDERGROUND WEREWOLF. A New World Video Release that is long OOP. You can probably find a copy on eBay if you really want to see it. Also available from Scream Factory as part of their 4-film, 2-DVD 4 ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON VOLUME TWO compilation and as part of a double-feature Blu-Ray with the film CATACOMBS - (1988). Not Rated.
CHERRY 2000 (1987) - This should have been a good movie. Something went wrong in the translation from script to screen. The title refers to a certain make of female robot, the only kind that can show emotion and make love. They are very rare in this futuristic society. Our hero (David Andrews) accidentally short circuits his Cherry while screwing her on a wet floor! He hires a good-looking tracker (a slightly chubby but appealing Melanie Griffith) and they set out on a journey to the forbidden Zone 7 looking for replacement parts for his tin honey. Slowly he realizes that maybe knocking boots with a robot isn't the best answer. Maybe what's best for him is staring (and arguing with) him right in the face. On the plus side are some neat stunts, great locations and the late Ben Johnson as the legendary tracker Six Finger Jake who everyone thinks is dead. Unfortunately, Johnson's screen time is minimal. This film has other positive points but I can't really recommend it as the story is haphazard and all over the place and Tim Thomerson's outrageous comic overacting really grates on your nerves. Director Steve De Jarnatt would make the masterful MIRACLE MILE the next year. Beside the people already mentioned, this film has a dream cast of exploitation actors: Brion James, Robert Z'Dar, Marshall Bell, Larry Fishburne, Harry Carey Jr, Michael C. Gwynne and Pamela Gidley as Cherry. Too bad the script let them down. Originally released on VHS by Orion Home Video and released on DVD by MGM/UA Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13.
CLOWNTOWN (2015) - Killer clown horror films are flooding the DTV market. Some of them are great (100 TEARS - 2007), some of them are good (CLOWN - 2013), some are downright terrible (SLOPPY THE PSYCHOTIC - 2012) and many others are like this film, where clowns can be substituted for any non-greasepainted psychos. The film opens with a baby sitter (Kaitlyn Sapp, who shows us her breasts within the first 5 minutes of the film), putting her two charges to bed and then hearing on the TV news that there has been a bad train accident, the worst in the State's (filmed in Ohio) history. She then sees one of the children, Ricky (Nathan D. Goins) dressed in a clown outfit running upstairs. She also goes upstairs to see why he is dressed like that, only to be stabbed and meat-cleavered in her stomach. 15 years later, Brad (Brian Nagel) is about to ask his girlfriend Sarah (Lauren Elise) to marry him after they go to a Country Music concert in Columbus and he shows the ring to his best friend Mike (Andrew Staton, also Stunt Coordinator). The foursome, including Mike's girlfriend Jill (Katie Keene) take instructions from the locals in a diner, including the Sheriff (Christopher Lawrence Chapman, also an Executive Producer) on how to take a shortcut to Columbus, but he also warns them not to stop in any strange little towns and you just know they are heading into trouble. Brad takes the Sheriff's directions, while one of the locals in a diner is killed by someone with a crowbar, who shoves it in his throat. Jill discovers she has lost her phone (she freaks out because her credit card information is on it; stupid girl), so Sarah tells her to use her cell phone to call the diner to see if her phone is there. Jill calls the diner and a man answers and says he has her phone. He wants to know where they are, so she gives him their location. The voice on the other end of the phone tells them where to meet him and he will return the phone. They end up in a small, seemingly deserted town, that is not as deserted as the foursome thinks. It is occupied by a group of psycho clowns, one holding a baseball bat (David Greathouse; the most disturbing of the lot), who likes to play with fire, one holding a machete (Chris Hahn). one holding a crowbar (Ryan Pilz, also the Production Designer), one wielding an axe (Alan Tuskes) and even a psychotic girl clown (Beki Ingram). As you can probably already guess, this small town has no cell phone service and their car won't start. While walking down the street, Jill sees the machete clown and is almost hit by a pickup truck driven by co-workers Billy (Director/editor Tom Nagel) & Dylan (Jeff Denton) who were both at the diner the same time when the foursome was. The crowbar clown kills Billy and the baseball clown sets him on fire, while everyone else runs and hides in an empty Recreational Vehicle. An old crazy man named Frank (Greg Violand) saves their hides and takes them to his hideout.. Jill is captured by the clowns and tied -up, where the famale clown says "I am going to make you so pretty!" Frank tells them that ever since the terrible train wreck 15 years earlier, this town has never been the same. People ended up missing and the clowns suddenly appeared (flashbacks show us the clowns killing people , including a girl sunbathing in her bikini). Nearly everyone forgot the town existed (which I find highly unlikely for reasons apparent to everyone). I don't think I have to tell you the way the film progresses, as the clowns begin to pick off the group one by one. First Dylan has his jaw torn in half by the crowbar clown and then has the crowbar jammed into his stomach. Jill is grabbed by the crowbar clown, but Brad saves her and kills the clown with his own crowbar by bashing his head in. Brad recognizes the clown as the busboy in the diner by the tattoo on his arm, so all the other clowns must be members of the diner. The girl clown covers Sarah's face with greasepaint and she screams like she is having her arm cut off! Brad, Mike and Jill "borrow" Billy & Dylan's truck and discover Frank stumbling down the street with an object impaled in his stomach. They are all attacked by the clowns and they all run in different directions. Brad finds a house occupied by an old lady named Myrtle (Maryanne Nagel; and yes, there is a lot of nepotism in this film), who was the mother of young boy Ricky in the beginning of the film. Flashbacks show us Myrtle killed the babysitter. Ricky is the baseball bat clown with a fixation for fire. For some reasons left unclear, the Sheriff from the diner is behind this all. Will Brad propose to Sarah? Will Mike and Jill survive? Will the clowns join a psycho circus? (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey went out of business in 2017, which wouldn't surprise me if their clowns went bonkers.) I'm afraid you'll have to watch this for yourself to get those answers. Director/Editor Tom Nagel is better known as an actor, appearing in such films as The Asylum's THE BEAST OF BRAY ROAD (2005), HILLSIDE CANNIBALS (2005) and THE BURNING DEAD (2015). While the film is a few steps above an Asylum film and quite graphic (Effects done by Robert Kurtzman's Creature Corps (He is also a Co-Producer), there is nothing here that you haven't seen a dozen times before. While the beginning of the film makes us believe we are going to see more female nudity, it is the only scene of it in the entire film. but this is a good little time-waster if you have nothing better to watch. An Entertainment One DVD Release. Not Rated.
THE CRAWLERS (1990) - You will not find a film as boring as this one even if you purposely went in search of one. A greedy nuclear plant owner dumps toxic waste in a forest to save himself a few bucks, causing tree roots to come alive and attack the inhabitants of a nearby town! If that synopsis makes the film sound interesting, please read on to avoid embarrassment. This is the worst acted, inanely scripted film to come down the pike in quite a while. This U.S.-lensed, Italian-made fiasco offers nothing to the discerning gorehound and may well have the worst special effects in recent memory (check out the helicopter crash!). Directed by Fabrizio Laurenti (WITCHERY - 1988) using his usual pseudonym Martin Newlin and starring Jason Saucier (HITCHER IN THE DARK - 1989), Mary Sellers (GHOSTHOUSE - 1987) and Bubba Reeves (CHINA O'BRIEN - 1990). If there were a God in Heaven, they would never, ever, have appeared in another film. I guess God was too busy to hear my prayers (What else is new?) From Columbia-Tri Star Home Video. Also available from Scream Factory as part of their 4-film, 2-DVD 4 ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON VOLUME TWO compilation. Rated R for one gory scene. The film is otherwise bloodless. Why would anyone bother? Also known as CREEPERS and CONTAMINATION .7 and, believe it or not, TROLL 3.
CRAWL OR DIE (2014) - One of the perks of being an Amazon Prime member is that I have been able to watch an awful lot of DTV films released by Uncork'd Entertainment on DVD for free. Surprisingly, a lot of them have been good to excellent, but this film, originally titled CRAWL BITCH CRAWL and made for less than $7,000, is not one of them. It's supposed to fill us with the dread of claustrophobia, but all it really does is make us look at the clock and wait for it to end. The opening looks like some found footage film, as the cameras shake and shimmy while we watch a band of Special Forces soldiers shooting at something that doesn't look human (it's really hard to make out, even when you freeze frame), while they are lowering a civilian woman down the opening of an underground tunnel and then joining her. They keep very quiet while one of the Special Forces soldiers turns the wheel to lock the surface door, while another tries to booby-trap the door, but he drops the triggering mechanism down to the ground. Instead of throwing the trigger back up to him, the alien breaks in and the soldier blows himself up, but it has no effect on the alien (Not 5 minutes into this film and I know this squad of Special Forces soldiers are nothing but a bunch of screw-ups). We are then transported seven months in the past at a mission briefing of the same Special Forces team. It seems we are in the future where a virus had made nearly all the women infertile. General Z (David Zeliff) informs the squad he has received a "Code 455", which means they have located two women that are fertile (a statistic so improbable to calculate, it would make any scientist roll his/her eyes in disbelief and the plot reminded me of both the Jean-Claude Van Damme film CYBORG  and AMERICAN CYBORG: STEEL WARRIORS , one of Cannon Films last productions), but one of the women has passed away from the virus. Their job is to escort "The Package" (Torey Byrne) as she is flown off the planet in the spaceship Oklahoma (an in-joke; but this film is so cheap that no spaceship is ever shown) and all will be put in cryosleep for seven months, where they will land on "Earth 2". The General says that all the rumors they heard are true; they are preparing a disease-free planet for habitation by non-diseased people, but it will still take four more years to finish. Since this unit has never lost a single package (hard to believe after what we witnessed in the beginning of the film), the General makes it clear that no matter how much the Package cries or complains, she must be delivered (to whom we are never told). She is to be treated like an actual package than a human being (if this is our future, stop the car, I want to get out). We are then back in the tunnels seven months later, as Special Forces leader Tank (Nicole Alonzo; one of the film's Producers and wannabe singer; she has a haircut that would never be approved by the Special Forces) leads the troops and the Package through the tunnels, which gets smaller and smaller, until the men in the squad, including Snoop (Wil Crown), Doc (Tommy Ball), Mic (Tom Chamberlain), Thumper (Larry Huitt) and over a half-dozen "red shirts" (A term taken from the original STAR TREK (1966 - 1969), where, if an unknown crew member was beamed down to a planet wearing a red shirt, you knew he was going to die) cannot crawl or squeeze through the opening, and try to find an alternate means to their destination (which we still don't know), while Tank strips down to her underwear and has the Package crawl in front of her. I know we are supposed to get a severe case of claustrophobia, but all we really get is a case of severe case of boredom and hope that the camera gives us another crotch shot of Tank. The alien (played by Matthew Crabtree, who also designed the creature suit and plays one of the red shirt Special Forces members) grabs the Package and takes off down the tiny tunnels, with Tank trying to follow them. When she finally gets to a chamber, we don't see the Package (the alien probably ate her, but that is just speculation on my part), so her team finds a way to pull her up from the chamber and Tank sets the alien on fire (the film is so cheap, we don't even see the creature suit on fire). So much for their unit never losing a package and they have probably killed all mankind. While the alien is following the two and then grabs the Package, all we get is nothing but a short view of it during the finale, where it looks like a cross between ALIEN (1979) and FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982). This entire film, directed/co-produced/screenwritten/set designed (I bet that cost him $50)/co-photographed by Oklahoma Ward, picked a pretty poor film to make as his feature film debut (all he did was short films before this). The closest I can come to describe it is one of those cheap 80's & 90's Roger Corman productions (like THE TERROR WITHIN - 1988), but at least Corman's films gave us blood, gore and creatures we can actually see and not the quick-cutting one second shots of blood, gore, the creature and always shaking camera that Ward offers us here. There are lengthy periods of no dialogue, just a droning background noise that induces headaches (I swear my 5.1 Dolby Stereo System was crying!) and a whole lot of unanswered questions (How did a huge alien drag the Package through such tight areas? What is Earth 2 doing with an underground tunnel system and what purpose does it serve? Is the alien a resident of Earth 2 or did it follow them to stop Earth people from continuing to exist? How did the virus start? Was it man made, alien made or a natural occurrence?). There are so many unanswered questions in this film that a book can be written about them and don't go looking for answers (not even what happened to the Package), because you will get none. I am always willing to give directors a second chance, but the next film Oklahoma Ward directs better be something spectacular. Even though it cost under $7,000 to make, that is no excuse. SKINLESS (2013) was made for less than $2,000 and held me spellbound. This film just held me prisoner and all of Tank's scenes are filmed with a sickly blue filter for no other reason than his digital camera allowed it. If you like your action in one second edits, gore in even less time and never a really good look at the alien, you may like this film (you poor bastard). I actually had a better time brushing my cats than watching this cheap excuse as an 80's throwback film. No nudity, no really discernible blood or gore (thanks to the quick editing) and no answered questions. After the end credits it says "Tank will return soon." Let's hope not. God, let's hope not. Also starring David Paul Baker, Clayton Burgess, Troy Bailey, Jonathan Dixon, Robbie Huitt, Jeremy Sellers, John Stirling, Austin Wood and J. Luke Lanson as the interchangeable Special Forces team. An Uncork'd Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated, but there is nothing here that goes past a PG-13.
CRUEL JAWS (1994) - Another one of Bruno Mattei's (here using the Anglicized name "William Snyder") homages to American blockbuster films (see reviews for ROBOWAR and SHOCKING DARK). You can guess by the title what film this flick is ripping off, but one has to wonder why anyone would want to make a JAWS rip-off twenty years after the fact (and even cribbing some actual footage from JAWS - 1975 and JAWS 2 - 1978), especially since the Italians already milked it to death in the 80's, with films like THE LAST SHARK (1981, footage from it is also in this film) and DEEP BLOOD (1989, still more cribbed footage). Anyway, if you must know the story, here it is: A shark is terrorizing the coastal Florida community of Hampton Bay, killing swimmers and scuba divers, leaving their half-eaten carcasses on the beach. A real estate magnate, who is trying to buy out the local aquarium (whose owner looks like a skinny Hulk Hogan), tries to cover-up the attacks until after his deal and the annual regatta are both completed. Billy (Gregg Hood), a visiting oceanographer, tries to help the concerned sheriff, Francis (David Luther), rid the town of the shark before more people are killed. Billy and the sheriff face off against the shark in separate battles and only one of them will come out alive. Much stupidity follows and did I actually hear somebody say, "We need a bigger helicopter?"! For an Italian horror film, I must say that I was bitterly disappointed with this one. We never watch these kind of films for the storyline, but rather for the blood and nudity. Sadly, CRUEL JAWS is severely lacking in both departments, probably because it was made for European TV. While there are plenty of good-looking women in teenie bikinis, they never take them off and the gore is basically just shots of body parts lying on the beach and a couple of views of the shark munching on humans (it's bloodless). The shark attack scenes are laughable as most of them are stolen from other films. The scene where the shark attacks the regatta and a little girl in a wheelchair who rolls into the waiting jaws of the shark, only to be saved by Billy's girlfriend (who becomes chum), is awkward and clumsily filmed. All the little girl says after the attack is, "Sharks are really bad!" No shit, Sherlock. While I generally like these Italian rip-offs because they go overboard in the exploitative elements, CRUEL JAWS (also known as JAWS 5 and THE BEAST) just goes overboard and never comes up for air. Why bother? Also starring George Barnes, Scott Silveria, Kristen Urso, Richard Dew, Sky Palma and Norma J. Nesheim. Video label unavailable. The version I viewed was taken from a bootleg VHS tape. NOTE: Scream Factory was going to release this film as part of a double feature Blu-Ray (with EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 - 1983) until they learned that it contained illegal footage from some A-List American films. This was one of the stupidest moves in disc history, especially since anyone who has ever heard of this film already knew that most of the shark footage was cribbed from other movies. Scream Factory quickly withdrew the planned release with a press release that had to be read to be believed. They didn't know? C'mon now! Not Rated.
CURSE OF BIGFOOT (1958/1976) - This extremely slow-moving horror hybrid was a TV staple during the mid-70's to early 80's. The bulk of the film consists of footage from an unfinished 1958 production titled TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING (released on VHS in an unfinished 60-minute version), an unremarkable story about a professor and his archaeology students on a field trip who discover an ancient Indian mummy in a sealed cave and accidentally bring it back to life. The first 30 minutes, though, is hastily-shot footage filmed in the mid-70's about a teacher giving a class on the history of Bigfoot (which cuts to way too much nature footage, a JAWS (1975) reference, and even more stock footage), which the leads to a short story about two men in a truck who meet a bigfoot in the woods (it just seems long because of the endless padding of the two men walking in the forest), which then leads to a visiting professor telling the same class a story about his run-in with a bigfoot 15 years earlier (cue the 1958 footage), where three of his seven students he brought with him on that fateful field trip would end up in a mental institution. I think they ended up there because they needed drugs to keep them from slashing their wrists from the sheer boredom. While this could have been an interesting time capsule, the fact that nothing much happens throughout the entire running time pretty much sinks any novelty value this film has for those seeking something different. Since it takes over 30 minutes to get past the new footage (and believe me when I say that watching grass grow is more interesting), most viewers would have turned it off long before getting to the old stuff. Not that the old stuff is any better as it's just as inane as the new stuff and the film stock of the old footage has an overly red tint to it and is much blurrier than the new footage. The only fun spot is when one of the 50's kids says, "Boy, I could go for a bottle of pop." The other kid asks for a dime plus three cents for the deposit! The creature from the 50's footage isn't really a bigfoot. As I have said before, it is actually an ancient Indian mummy (and ridiculous in it's paper-macheness). First (and only time) director Don Fields changed it to a bigfoot probably to appease the audience's 70's facination with the subject. I remember watching this on TV in the late 70's and being bored to tears. My opinion still hasn't changed. Some things should not be resurrected just because it's old and unseen. Sometimes things should just stayed buried. Starring Bob Clymire, Jan Swihart, Bill Simonsen, Dennis Kottmeier and Ruth Ann Mannella. A RetroFlicks DVD-R Release (and from several budget DVD companies) which was also available in the late 80's on a crappy EP-mode VHS tape from Star Classics. Not Rated.
DANGEROUS GAME (1988) - Excellent Australian thriller about a psychotic cop with a huge grudge against a college student, whose deceased father once made trouble for the cop. He harasses the student so much that he is suspended from the force. When the student and four of his college pals break into a secured department store on a bet, the cop follows them in and teaches a deadly lesson. While the plot could describe dozens of horror films (HIDE AND GO SHRIEK - 1987 comes to mind), this one stands head and shoulders above the rest due to believable acting, great camerawork, flashy editing and zippy sound (it must be heard in stereo for full effect). This is everything PSYCHO COP (1989) was not. Starring Miles Buchanan, Sandie Lillingston and Kathryn Walker. Directed with verve and zest by Stephen Hopkins (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 - 1988; PREDATOR 2 - 1990). From Academy Entertainment. Rated R.
THE DARK (1979) - I'm a fan of director/actor John "Bud" Cardos (KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - 1977; SKELETON COAST - 1987), but this film is one hot mess. This was originally a zombie film directed by Tobe Hooper, but when Producer Edward L. Montoro saw the dailies, he fired Hooper, hired Cardos and decided to change it from a zombie film to a film about an alien serial killer by adding a ridiculous on-screen scrawl in the beginning (read by a narrator just in case you couldn't read) about life on other planets not being that friendly, freeze-frame the zombie footage and add bad optical effects where the now-alien has glowing eyes that shoot laser beams, put gibberish alien language on the soundtrack every time there is a murder and forgot to change other plot points to disguise the fact that it was actually a zombie film (such as a newspaper headline declaring a "Mangler Zombie" is on the loose). The film begins with a young girl being beheaded by some unknown killer (the "alien's" modus operendi, which is never clearly shown in any of the killings) and then mangling her face. She was the daughter of ex-con turned successful horror author Roy Warner (William Devane; who first acts like he has a bad case of tuberculosis and then miraculously stops his coughing fits about 15 minutes into the film!), who harasses police detective Dave Mooney (Richard Jaeckel) to keep him updated on his progress, something that pisses off Dave since he put Roy in the slammer three years earlier on a manslaughter charge! Dave and his partner Detective Jack Bresler (Biff Elliot; who always has a piece of food in his mouth or hands in every scene he is in) are always in hot water because the killer keeps on beheading and mangling a new victim every night and their Captain (Warren Kemmerling) is chewing them out because there is a leak in the department and the newspapers are calling the killer "The Mangler". An entertainment TV reporter named Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby) talks her boss Sherm (Keenan Wynn) into letting her become a serious reporter and start covering The Mangler case. She says something unflattering about Roy (who uses the name "Steve Dupree" when he writes his books) on TV and when they meet in a bar, Roy says to her: "If we were both liberated, I would knock you on your ass!". While Roy travels the streets in his silver Corvette listening to his police radio for clues, Dave and Jack get a visit from a psychic named De Renzy (Jacquelyn Hyde), who tells them they should be following a young wannabe actor, who she says will soon be a victim of The Mangler. The detectives write her off as some kook, but she does have some psychic connection to the killer (which is never explained). Eventually, Roy and Zoe team-up and believe what De Renzy has to say (De Renzy is psychically attacked in her house in one of the film's many head-scratching scenes, which also includes a pointless scene of Sherm in an underground garage) and try to find out the identity of the wannabe actor. When they do, they follow him and then the alien starts going after them, which brings out Dave, Roy and the entire police force out in force to battle the alien, who shoots death rays from his eyes (killing some police in a puff of smoke and setting others on fire) while the police riddle it with bullets and shotgun blasts. Eventually the alien blows up and peace is restored to the city, but another added-on end crawl warns us that it may happen again, maybe sooner than we think. It's easy to see that this was a troubled production right from the start, because the direction by Hooper and Cardos couldn't be more different and it sticks out like a sore thumb (you can tell immediately which director shot which footage). There's a lot of great genre vets in the cast (including the late Casey Kasem as the police pathologist and the late John Bloom as the killer; they worked together before on THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT - 1970, in which Cardos was the Second Unit Director) and cameos by Philip Michael Thomas as a bigoted onlooker at one of the murder scenes, who is listed as "Corn Rows" in the credits, and diminutive Angelo Rossitto as a newspaper seller (who is horribly dubbed and uncredited), but the film is such a jumbled mess, that is all the enjoynemt you'll find here. There is some violence, but since just before The Mangler attacks, the lights go out, so it's hard to make out anything. There's no nudity, a smattering of comedy and some risable dialogue (screenplay by Stanford Whitmore; MY OLD MAN'S PLACE - 1971, also starring Devane), but nothing to make it a must-see for anyone other than those who must see every bad horror film ever made. The late Lee Frost was Second Unit Camera Operator and Dick Clark was one of the Producers. Also starring Vivian Blaine, William Derringer, Jay Lawrence, Russ Marin, Vernon Washington, Ken Minyard, Kathy Richards (mother to Paris Hilton) and Mel Anderson. Originally available on VHS from Media Home Entertainment and then released on anamorphic widescreen DVD from Shriek Show, who also offer it in a DVD three pack, with the films THE BEING (1981) and CREATURES FROM THE ABYSS (1994). Released theatrically by Montoro's Film Ventures International, where, in this film, you can see posters of FVI's releases BEYOND THE DOOR (1974) and THE NIGHT CHILD (1975). Soon to be available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.
THE DARK (1993) - An undiscovered species of prehistoric animal is discovered hiding beneath a cemetery, sustaining its' existence by eating dead bodies. A scientist (Stephen McHattie; SEARCH FOR THE GODS - 1976; LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY'S BABY - 1976) wants to capture the creature alive because it secretes a substance which has mysterious healing powers (the creature saved McHatties life two years earlier by spreading its secretion on a fatal bullet wound). A psychotic ex-FBI agent (the late B-movie staple Brion James; DEAD MAN WALKING - 1987; MOM - 1989), who administered the fatal bullet wound to McHattie, wants to kill the creature to avenge his partners death. The two converge at the cemetery (along with an assortment of other people) to do their thing with the creature. This reviewer was rooting for the creature, as every person in the cast displays a serious lack of common sense. Filled with improbable situations, this film could use a good dose of reality to make heads or tails of the hackneyed plot. It falls flat at every turn. Also starring Cynthia Belliveau, Jaimz Woolvett and Neve Campbell (SCREAM - 1997). Its another Canadian tax shelter film directed by Craig Pryce, who also made the disasterous REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE REPORTER (1989). From Imperial Entertainment Video. Rated R.
DARK HARVEST (2003) - The killer scarecrow genre is a small lot: There's the 1981 TV Movie DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (considered the granddaddy of scarecrow horror films), the excellent SCARECROWS (1988), the so-so NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1995), the lame York Entertainment Scarecrow Trilogy (SCARECROW , SCARECROW SLAYER  and SCARECROW GONE WILD ), the completely idiodic MESSENGERS 2: THE SCARECROW (2009; watch it and you'll understand completely), the better-than-average HUSK (2011), and this one, the worst of the lot. After a good start set in the 1930's, the film degenerates quickly once it comes forward to the present, when adopted teenager Sean (Don DiGiulio) inherits a farm in the West Virginia mountains from his real family and brings a bunch of his obnoxious friends (his girlfriend, an interracial couple, a lesbian couple, etc.) along to check it out. After constant bickering between the group, some pot smoking and, of course, sex, they are attacked by scarecrows come to life. Besides a couple of good gore scenes (and plenty of bad ones) there's not much to recommend here. Director/Writer Paul Moore, who you can plainly see is working on a miniscule budget, does get some atmospheric shots on location and some scares in the scarecrow attacks, but this is typical cookie-cutter stuff. The scarecrows could just have well been werewolves, vampires or unkillable psychos. As it stands, DARK HARVEST wastes it's eerie location with a predictable plot. The acting by the group of unknowns, including Jeanie Cheek, Jennifer Leigh, Aimee Cox, Jessica Dunphy and especially B.W. York, is way below par. The only saving grace is some behind-the-scenes footage that rolls during the end credits. It's an interesting look into what goes on behind the cameras even if it was only put in there to pad out the running time. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R. Believe it or not, two sequels followed, although they are in-name only.
DEAD & BREAKFAST (2004) - I know: Just what we need, another zombie comedy. Only this one is slightly different. It also has musical interludes, sung and written by Zach Selwyn, who narrates the film using Country, Rap and Hip-Hop (sometimes mixing all three together) to keep the film moving at a snappy pace. An RV full of people (including Ever Carradine, Jeremy Sisto, Erik Palladino and Gina Philips) get lost on a way to a wedding and end up in the town of Lovelock (or "Lovecock" as Palladino calls it). They decide to stay the night there and end up in a Bed & Breakfast owned by the mysterious Mr. Wise (David Carradine [Ever's Uncle], in what amount to a cameo) and run by a nasty French chef (Diedrich Bader), When Bader is murdered and Mr. Wise has a heart attack and dies, the Sheriff (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) demands that they all stay in town until the murder is solved. When the Sheriff arrests a drifter (Brent David Fraser) for the crimes, everything seems back to normal except when one of the gang opens an Oriental box containing an evil spirit (or "Kuman Thong" as it is normally known) who begins possessing the townspeople. The only way to kill them is to cut off their heads or shoot them in the brain (how original). Most of the cast becomes possessed and it is up to the remaining three survivors to stop this menace by digging up the body of Mr. Wise, burning it and fashioning knives out of his bones (don't ask). There's beheadings, dismemberment, brains being blown out and impalements aplenty, but it is Selwyn's witty tunes that carry the show. He even sings after he becomes a zombie! Director Matthew Leutwyler (ROAD KILL - 1999) thankfully keeps the running time short (88 minutes) and fills the screen with enough carnage, comedy (Palladino's motorcycle take-off is a hoot) and music to keep your mind off the gaping plot holes. And you got to love those homemade shotguns! DEAD & BREAKFAST also contains a cameo by Portia de Rossi as the profane bride, a drumstick in the eye, a deer antler impalement, chainsaw murders and human heads used as hand puppets. What more could you ask for? Also starring Vincent Ventresca, Oz Perkins, Bianca Lawson, Miranda Bailey and Mark Kelly. An Anchor Bay Entertainment Release. Unrated. Someone should release a soundtrack album. It would probably make more money than the film itself.
DEADLY EYES (1982) - This Golden Harvest production, based on James Herbert's novel THE RATS (also the film's alternate title), is not as bad as you might have heard. Since it never got a major release in movie houses, I caught this on cable. The film involves a pack of oversized rats terrorizing a community and the people who try to stop them. The rats (actually dressed-up dashchunds) also happen to be intelligent. Add in some dirty politics and you have a stew that, for some reason, is strangely satisfying. I won't give much of the plot away, but the scene in the disabled subway car towards the end of the film is particularly meaty. Director Robert Clouse (ENTER THE DRAGON - 1973; the extremely weird GYMKATA - 1985) builds suspense throughout and the attack scenes are well handled. Besides, any film with Scatman Crothers (THE SHINING - 1980) in it can't be all bad. This is not a bad way to spend 87 minutes. DEADLY EYES stars Sam Groom, Sara Botsford, Cec Linder, Lisa Langlois and James B. Douglas. A Warner Bros. Home Video VHS Release. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray in an excellent combo pack from Scream Factory. Rated R.
THE DEADLY INTRUDER (1984) - When a violent mental patient (whose face we do not see) escapes the looney bin and begins killing the populace of a sleepy town, it is up to Police Captain Pritchett (a tired-looking Stuart Whitman) and his two-person police team Danny and Carlos (Daniel Greene and Santos Morales) to catch him before he kills anyone else. Could the killer be the drifter (screenwriter Tony Crupi), who just came into town? Or ex-Partridge Family troublemaker Danny Bonaduce (who spouts such lines as, "Cooking without garlic is like sex without foreplay")? How about the flatulent police dog (OK, that one's a stretch)? What about Bob (Chris Holder), the new worker at a department store and hopeful boyfriend of Jessie (Molly Cheek)? When Danny gets an axe planted in his back and other townspeople, such as a mechanic (who has a car dropped on him), a female neighbor (who is drowned in the kitchen sink) and an electrician (who has his eye removed with a screwdriver) turn up dead, it's not hard to spot who the killer is even though Police Chief Pritchett is about three steps behind the viewer. Director John McCauley (RATTLERS - 1975) telegraphs all the moves, rips-off John Carpenter's theme from HALLOWEEN (1978) and plays the stalk-and-slash theme close to the vest. By making Jessie the target of the unseen killer, you could call this HALLOWEEN-lite, since she must find different ways to fend off his attacks. Thank God theres some nudity and gore to take your mind off of the gaping plot holes (some of them are so huge, you could pass an elephant through them) and the "surprise" twist, otherwise you will be hitting the fast-forward button so often that it will look like a silent film. At least I got to see Danny Bonaduce get his head thrown through a TV screen. It was almost (I repeat, almost) worth the price I paid for it on eBay. I also have one final question to ask: Why in the hell do you stand by a window if you are trying to hide from a psycho? I've seen this so many times in films like this that I have to believe that these airhead women must think that windows do not break. Skip this one and have a bowel movement instead. In the end it's more satisfying. Also starring Laura Melton, Marcy Hansen and David Shroeder. Don't expect this one to turn up on DVD any time soon. A Thorn EMI Video Release. Rated R.
DEADLY SUNDAY (1982) - This hostage thriller, directed by genre vet Donald M. Jones (PROJECT: NIGHTMARE - 1985; MURDERLUST - 1986; HOUSEWIFE FROM HELL - 1993), is an OK film for fans of movies that put ordinary people in extraordinary situations. A vacationing family stop by a secluded roadside store only to be taken hostage by a gang of jewel thieves who are holed-up there waiting for their partner to come back with some loot. They, along with other hostages, are subjected to impromtu target practice, rape, and other degradations before turning the tables on their captors. The lead villian Gil (Dennis Ely) is an impotent psychopath who has a deadly fear of bees (which comes in handy at the end of the film). The partner that the thieves are waiting for turns out to be a very mean woman who takes pleasure in torturing the male captives. It culminates in a showdown at the end where the couple's son Joey (David Wagner) turns out to be the hero, using his slingshot and a handy hornets nest to get even with the dastardly Gil. Mom joins in to pump a couple of shots into him for good measure. While not overly bloody, this film earns points for bringing out the terror in everyday people as they must endure situations that most people never even dream about. While most viewers will find this film slow going, the patient will be rewarded with a very good finale as we witness both good people and bad getting killed by gun, knife and slingshot. Also starring Henry Sanders, Gylian Roland and Douglas Alexander. Written and Produced by James C. Lane, who also did the same for MURDERLUST. A Lightning Video Release which is long OOP. Not Rated.
DEAD MEAT (2004) - I'm beginning to get really tired of zombie films. No matter how you dress them up it's still the same formula: The survivors try to stay one step ahead of the zombies and usually don't succeed. The films are basically just one long chase scene with bits of gore thrown in to keep your interest. This Irish-made film is no different. A mutant strain of mad cow disease has caused all the people that have eaten the infected beef to become zombies. A tourist (Marian Araujo) and a local gravedigger (David Muyllaert) band together and try to escape the zombies. Along the way, they pick up a child and a husband and wife who get off on killing zombies. Nearly everyone is killed, infected or led away like cattle by the government in the finale (I guess it's supposed to be ironic). Besides the graphic bloodletting (heads cut off at the jawline by a shovel, decapitations, impalements, and various bitings), scenes of sleeping zombies (?) and the appearance by a zombie cow, this film is the same generic zombie plot. Run, fight, run. Director/screenwriter Conor McMahon relies way too much on the SteadiCam as the camera keeps moving at a brisk pace nearly causing vertigo to the viewer. The film doesn't overstay it's welcome (it clocks in at under 80 minutes), but I can't really recommend the film. You've seen this film many times before. One of the actors (Eoin Whelan) speaks in such a thick Irish brogue, you'll need to turn on the optional English subtitles to understand what he is saying. Also starring David Ryan, Amy Redmond and Kathryn Toolan. Not to be confused with the 1993 horror film DEAD MEAT, a gory Super 8mm horror flick that got very little airplay. Released on DVD on the Fangoria label distributed by Hart Sharp Video. Rated R.
DEATH PROMISE (1977) - Very poor revenge melodrama. Greedy landlords will try anything to get the poor tenants to move out of a slum building so they can tear it down and build a highrise. Charlie (Charles Bonet), a martial artist, and his father (Bob O'Connell), a former boxer, help protect the tenants from the landlords' dirty tactics, but when his father is murdered, Charlie vows revenge. He must first get more training, and travels far away to bone up with a Chinese master (Tony Liu) who speaks bad English (therefore leaving all the people behind who actually need him to fend for themselves). When he is finished with his training, Charlie is ready to kick ass (I guess it's too bad that some of the tenants have died during his absence). This is basically an Americanization of a plot found in hundreds of earlier Chinese kung fu flicks, all done better than this one. Poorly acted and technically inept (see how many times you can spot our old friend the "Boom Mike" in the upper part of the screen, although is is possible that it was shown open matte and all those mike shots where supposed to be matted out for a widescreen presentation). Directed by one-time-only director Robert Warmflash with a case of the hot flashes. Also starring Vincent Van Lynn, Abe Hendy, Bill Louie. Thomsom Kao Kang, Thom Kendell and Tony De Caprio. From Paragon Video on VHS. Also available on DVD from Code Red in its original aspect ratio. Rated R. WARNING: People who hate the sight of rats may also want to skip this film. Personally, I think rats are very smart and cuddly if you treat them right, but other people view them as nothing more than disease-infested vermin with sharp teeth.
DEATH ROW DINER (1988) - Another abysmal 80's SOV film that excels at being incapable of doing anything right in every department. In the 1940's, film studio head Otis Wilcox (John Content), is executed in the electric chair for a crime he did not commit. He didn't get his last meal which makes him very mad. Cut to the present and third-rate director Bill Weston (an over-acting Jay Richardson) is filming the story of Otis' execution at the actual deserted prison. Otis comes back to life and begins killing the crew, looking for his last meal which consists of human flesh. Otis grandaughter, Julia (Michelle Bauer, here billed as "Michelle McClennan"), the main actress on the film and husband to Weston ("It's not a marriage. It's a punishment from God."), is having an affair with one of the crew and is trying to stop her husband from gaining controlling interest of the studio. The rest of the film is nothing but bad photography (this is video), long lapses of inane dialogue, grade school gore and terrible acting (especially by Rick Preston, who plays a caterer dressed liked Elvis). There's also unneeded narration, by someone who sounds like they smoked too many cigarettes, throughout the film. There's numerous mentions of HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (1988), which starred both Richardson and Bauer (There's a trailer for it at the end of the tape.). It's not a compliment. Director B. Dennis Wood should be strung up by his short hairs for unleashing this at the public. Even BLOOD CULT (1985) looks professional compared to this. There's also an unforgivable couple of Oriental jokes at the end of the film. Even at 68 minutes this film seems twice as long. There are bloopers at the end credits (the best part). Also starring Tom Schell, Dennis Mooney, Frank Sarcinello and Dana Mason. A Camp Motion Picture Release. Not Rated. After the film, there's some trailers and an unexpected short called BIKINI ARM WRESTLING, where bikini-clad girls dance for an audience and then arm wrestle each other!
DEMON LUST (1980) - Weak German-made, English language entry in the terror in the woods genre. A vacationing married couple (The wife was raped as a child by a stranger bearing candy. Christ on a cracker, even I wasan't that stupid [Unless it was a Chunky Bar. I'd go down on a filthy hobo for a tasty Chunky Bar]!) are stalked in the country by a pair of drifters (one being a retarded mute). The wife is raped (this time without being offered candy first) and her husband is tied up like a dog. The husband escapes while the drifters are taking a dump in the woods(!). He grabs his wife and they both flee to town. Instead of reporting the crimes to the police (he doesnt want his wife to go through another rape trial), the husband grabs a shotgun and returns to the country, determined to get even with the drifters. Very few surprises follow. In order for a film like this to work, the victims must be sympathetic and the villians must be brutal. Everyone in this film comes off as weak or wimpish and the entire proceedings are bloodless and lethargic. Avoid it. Starring John Parsonson (who also produced), Lieb Bester and Tessa Marie Ziegler. Directed and written by Bernard Buys, who was Associate Producer and Sound Recordist on the 1979 stinker horror film THE DEMON. The excellent photography is by Hanro Mohr, who later directed the Wings Hauser actioner HOSTAGE (1987). From Genesis Home Video. Not Rated, but it would probably get a PG-13 if it were. Also known on TV as SAVAGE ENCOUNTER.
DEMONSTONE (1989) - R. Lee Ermey made a distinct impression on me when he appeared as the tough, filthy-mouthed drill sargeant in Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET (1987). He has since starred in his fair share of stinkers, including ENDLESS DESCENT (a.k.a. THE RIFT - 1989), KID (1990) and THE TERROR WITHIN 2 (1991), but he has always seemed to rise above the material. Even he seems embarrassed appearing in this one, a poor tale about an ancient demon occupying the body of a woman (Nancy Everhard). Watching Nancy running around with glowing eyes results in laughter, not what director Andrew Prowse had in mind. Co-stars Jan Michael Vincent (a tipoff that you are about to watch some emoting straight from a bottle of Jack Daniels). A Fries Home Video Release. Rated R.
DESERT KICKBOXER (1992) - Abysmal martial arts film about a Native American Indian cop (John Haymes Newton) protecting a woman (Judie Aronson) and her retarded brother (Sam DeFrancisco), who are witnesses against drug runner Paul L. Smith (SONNY BOY - 1989). Full of badly staged action sequences and even worse acting. Michael Foley (THE DIVINE ENFORCER - 1991) shows up in this one as one of Smith's goons and has an extended fight scene with Newton. Foley has a presence and is the only bright spot in this dull film. Directed by action specialist Isaac Florentine (born "Yitzhak Florentin"; this was his first full-length film, so some allowances should be made), who usually shows a much steadier hand than this (HIGH VOLTAGE - 1997; COLD HARVEST - 1998; BRIDGE OF DRAGONS - 1999; U.S. SEALS 2 - 2001; SPECIAL FORCES - 2002; UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING - 2006; THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL - 2008; NINJA - 2009; UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION - 2010; ASSASSIN'S BULLET - 2012; NINJA II: SHADOW OF A TEAR - 2013). Florentine's next film would be SAVATE (1995), a martial arts Western starring Olivier Gruner. An HBO Video Release. Rated R.
DOCTOR MORDRID (1992) - The first in a series (God, I hope not!) about the adventures of mystical Dr. Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs). This film has absolutely nothing new to offer in way of entertainment except a short bit of stop motion animation at the very end. You'll have to put up with some agonizing acting and mind numbing plot holes before you get to it. Another failure from Full Moon, directed by father and son team Albert and Charles Band. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Full Moon Direct. Rated R.
DOLLS (1987) - Another winner from Stuart Gordon, director of the highly-regarded gross-out films RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and FROM BEYOND (1986) and the more recent shocker DAGON (2001), all based on stories by H. P. Lovecraft. This one, though, has nothing to do with Lovecraft but is still enjoyable nonetheless. During a heavy storm, a group of people with widely variable personalities take shelter in an old mansion run by an old doll maker (Guy "MR. SARDONICUS" Rolfe before he became Andre Toulon in the PUPPET MASTER films) and his wife (Hilary Mason). It seems as if his dolls have a life of their own, made possible by the kindly old dollmaker's secret process. The dolls kill anyone who intend to harm the old man, his wife or the house. This is actually a fairy tale gone out of control, as anyone (besides children), that does not retain their child-like innocence, is systematically dispatched by the dolls. Hate, deceit, thievery and wickedness brings death, while love, trust and innocence brings a life of happiness. Although this film gets rather bloody in spots (some doll attacks are graphic), you feel these people are getting what they deserve. The doll attacks, using stop-motion animation (by Dave Allen) and puppets, are convincing and well-done, unlike the effects for the PUPPET MASTER series. Same goes for the acting of the players, especially under-used actor Stephen Lee (ROBOCOP 2 - 1990), delivering their lines with tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. Director Gordon never panders to the audience, delivering them a good way to waste 77 minutes of their lives. You'll never look at a Barbie doll or a Teddy Bear the same way again. This film had a very limited regional theatrical release in the U.S. before going directly to video. Gordon's next film was the TV-movie DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS (1990). A Vestron Video VHS Release. Also available on widescreen Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, which is the only way to really watch the film properly. Rated R.
DRIVE-IN MASSACRE (1976) - Tongue-in-cheek horror film, directed by TV veteran Stu Segall (HUNTER [1984 - 1988]; SILK STALKINGS [1991 - 1999]), who also directed porno features under the names "Godfrey Daniels", "Ricki Krelmn" and "P.C. O'Kake", and co-written by none other than genre veteran George "Buck" Flower (with long-time professional partner John Goff), who also puts in an appearance at the end of the film as an escaped mental patient shot dead after trying to kill his daughter (played by real-life daughter Verkina Flower). Someone is killing the patrons of the local drive-in with a sword. Heads are sliced off, necks are slashed and other various body parts are impaled. Two detectives (James Barnes and Adam Lawrence) are put on the case and stake out the drive-in for suspects. The manager (and ex-knife thrower) Atkin (Newton Naushaus), ex-circus geek and sword-swallower turned janitor Germy (Douglas Gudbye) and peeping tom Orville (Norman Sherlock) are the prime suspects as still more patrons turn up dead. The fact is, none of these people had anything to do with the killings as they are all dead by the end of the film, the killer never caught and unmasked. A voiceover at the end of the film notifies the audience that a murderer is loose in the theatre. The film has the look of a mid-70's porno feature, with bare bone sets, a droning synthesizer score and grainy photography. This actually adds to the charm of the movie. There are some bloody killings, especially in the beginning, to keep gorehounds occupied and some nudity to keep exploitation fans happy. But the screenplay has some funny bits, like when one of the detectives dresses as a woman to go undercover at the drive-in and gets stares and remarks from various people that are downright hilarious. If you go in with expectations not set at high, you may have fun with this film. DRIVE-IN MASSACRE is only 75 minutes long, so give it a try. A Magnum Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on DVD in Great Britain from Vipco, but not yet available in the States in that format. Rated R.
DUST DEVIL (1992) - Director Richard Stanleys atmospheric supernnatural thriller is available on U.S. video in heavily edited form (shorn of nearly 20 minutes). Its still, even in this trunicated version, a highly imaginative film full of visual delights and legitimate scares. Robert Burke stars as a supernatural serial killer who has runaway wife Chelsea Field on his list. Zakes Mokae (BODY PARTS - 1992) is the disbelieving policeman who must stop the Dust Devil before he claims another victim. Filmed at the Namib desert in Africa, this film offers great acting, sweltering photography, atmospheric music and a nifty head explosion. The storyline is somewhat muddled due to the severe editing, but still comes highly recommended. A Paramount Home Video release. Rated R. NOTE: Full unedited versions of this film are available if you look hard enough.
ED GEIN (2000) - For those of you expecting a gorefest, you are going to be disappointed. Except for a brief moment at the end, there is absolutely no blood. For those of you expecting a thought-provoking and uneasy biography of probably the most famous serial killer in American history, you will be rewarded. The film opens and closes with real newsreel footage of Gein's arrest and the townspeoples' view on his crimes. Steve Railsback (who also portrayed Charlie Manson in HELTER SKELTER - 1976) gives a quiet, understated performance as Gein, tortured by an uncaring father as a child and repressed by his domineering mother (the late Carrie Snodgress in an outstanding performance) as an adult. It's only when Mom dies does Ed go off the deep end, committing the crimes that PSYCHO (1960), DERANGED (1974) and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) so gruesomely detailed. This film is played mainly as a psychological drama as we get deeper and deeper into Gein's psyche until he snaps. Director Chuck Parello is to be commended for not going the gore route here as he did in HENRY 2: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER - MASK OF SANITY (1996). The viewer is made to feel uneasy and off-center (My wife said it was the most unsettling film she has seen in quite a while, but she couldn't explain why). Railsback (who also executive produced) is one actor who's worth watching in any film he's in. Watch this one with an open mind and you will be greatly rewarded. Also starring Carol Mansell, Steve Blackwood, Craig Zimmerman and Pat Skipper. A First Look Home Entertainment Release. Next up from First Look: TED BUNDY (2002). Not Rated.
ELVES (1989) - Why the HELL do I keep doing this to myself? I see the name Dan Haggerty and I have to see if he's improved his acting ability and every time I get the same result: How does this hack still get acting roles? In this film he plays an alcoholic department store Santa, who is down on his luck (he gets evicted from his trailer!) and decides to spend the night in the store. Also there are three teenagers, who previously reanimated an angry elf (?!), who was created by an old Nazi (He has the nerve to say, "When there is no more room in Hell, the Elves will walk the Earth.") during World War II to use against their foes. This old Nazi (Borah Silver) has sex with his nasty daughter (Deanna Lund, who drowns the family cat in the toilet after putting it into a pillowcase!) to produce the now teenage Kirsten (Julie Austin), who he plans on mating with the elf to produce a new Master Race! Since Kirsten's grandfather is also her father, it's no wonder that she is so fucked-up. The murderous elf (a ridiculous puppet whose mouth never moves) invades the department store and begins killing the inhabitants (including the original store Santa, who has his nuts cut off while snorting coke in a bathroom stall), which also includes a group of Neo-Nazis sent to retrieve Kirsten and impregnate her by using the elf. Santa Haggerty gets in the middle and helps Kirsten escape (including one of the lamest shootouts recorded on film) and retrieve a red crystal; the only object that can stop the elf and send him back to Hell. It's hard to tell if this film was actually made as a comedy, as director/writer Jeff Mandel (ROBO-C.H.I.C. - 1988) can't seem to make up his mind if the line readings are to be taken seriously (they're all over the place) and the action is about as exciting as watching paint dry. At least we get to see a kid piss on Haggerty's lap (and who hasn't wanted to do that?) while he is playing Santa (he's also Associate Producer of this turd). There's also only one elf in this film, which makes it hard to accept the title and the deceptive back cover of the video box. One wonders who Dan Haggerty owns in Hollywood (perhaps he has photos of some Hollywood agent blowing one of his male clients or maybe he just blows his agent?) as he's about as animated as a piece of driftwood and has the charm of that Uncle you always hated but had to invite over your house during the holidays as not to piss-off your other relatives ("Now we all know your Uncle Danny has problem with children and has to stay at least 100 feet from schools, but he's gotta eat!"). This film does contain some extreme blood and nudity, but it's so lame that you just don't care. Only for the retarded (damn the politically correct!) and the "visually impaired" (Damned the blind. This time I envy them!). Also starring Laura Lichstein, Mansell Rivers-Bland (how appropriate!), Stacey Dye and Christopher Graham. Released on VHS by A.I.P. Home Video in SP mode and Hemdale Home Video in EP mode. Not yet available on DVD (thank God!). Not Rated.
THE EMERALD JUNGLE (1980) - Sick Italian crossbreed of the cannibal and religious fanatic genres. A young woman (Janet Agren) hires a mercenary (Robert Kerman) to help her search for her sister, who has joined a religious cult located deep in the New Guinea forest. The leader of the cult, a Jim Jones-like figure named Jonas (Ivan Rassimov), drugs his followers to keep them in line and dishes out severe punishments for disobedience. To make matters worse, his camp is surrounded by a tribe of cannibals, making any escape attempt next to impossible. Here is a partial list of the carnage on view: A man has his penis lopped off; Agren is raped with a dildo dipped in cobras blood; decapitations with machetes; body parts being devoured (including a womans breast); various animal mutilations (all real) and in the finale, a mass suicide. This film is for sadists only. Written and directed by Umberto Lenzi, who cribbed some footage from Ruggero Deodatos earlier cannibal epic THE LAST SURVIVOR (1976 - available on video as JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, CANNIBALS and CARNIVOROUS) to fill out the running time. Also known as EATEN ALIVE, EATEN ALIVE BY CANNIBALS and DOOMED TO DIE. From Continental Video. Not Rated, but it would have easily garnished an X Rating if submitted to the MPAA. Even fans of cannibal films (myself included) will find this one a tough one to sit through. Extremely strong stomachs required (And don't get me started on the real-life animal slaughter for "entertainment value". That's a bullshit excuse that doesn't fly. If you can fake human deaths, you can also fake animal deaths. Killing an innocent animal on screen is the act of a coward. All you people who try to justify the killings by saying that the meat of the animal was used for meals after their on-screen death can eat a bowl of fuck. I wonder how you would feel if it were a loved one [like your beloved Grandma] or loving family pet you were watching being slaughtered.).
ENCOUNTER AT RAVEN'S GATE (1988) - I just love Australian horror films. Sure, there's been some bad ones, but the majority of them knock anything made in America clear out of the water. This one is no exception. In the opening prologue, an object is discoverered to have landed at the small town of Raven's Gate and a Government inspector is sent out to take a look. He finds a cop searching a burned-out house and the film flashes back to five days earlier. Some type of electrical surge has begun to stall out cars, kill birds while they are flying, and change people attitudes until they become murderous. This electrical surge also empties-out a half-full water tank instantly, turns domesticated animals into killers and murders an elderly couple by frying them alive. What exactly is doing this and why? The answer is hard to find in this film (but the pieces are there if you look hard enough), but it is entertaining with it's colorful characters (an ex-con who stole a police car, a homicidal cop who is in love with the same woman as the ex-con and a hortculturist who cares more about the water supply than he does people). The desolate, dry landscape and some really tense situations add to the strange allure of this film. Director/Producer/Writer Rolf De Heer (BAD BOY BUBBY - 1993) builds up suspense without catering to the gorehound crowd (although there is some shocking bits of blood and unexpected violence). It's a film that actually makes you think for a change and that is a film that's hard to come by, especially for the horror genre. It enigmatic (but not as enigmatic as a David Lynch film) and makes you take a long, hard look at what lengths the Government will go to to cover up whatever is out there. The final scene will bear me out. If you're in the mood for something different, this film will do the trick nicely. Starring Steven Vidler, Celine O'Leary, Ritchie Singer, Vincent Gil and Saturday Rosenberg (love that name!). An HBO Video Release. Not yet available on DVD in the U.S (but is available as part of the DVD "Rolf De Heer Collection" in Australia as INCIDENT AT RAVEN'S GATE by Umbrella Entertainment) and the VHS is long OOP, so search eBay for a copy. Rated R.
THE EVIL WITHIN (1989) - This is a rare instance of an excellent horror film coming from France. Originally titled BABY BLOOD (an in-joke in the film shows a poster for the yet unmade BABY BLOOD 2), this wild exercise in graphic bloodletting tells the tale of a creature who takes up residence in the belly of a circus performer (Emmanuelle Escourrou) and demands blood for substanance. While we listen to the conversations between pregnant mom and her unborn monster baby, we also witness the gruesome murders mom has to perform to satisfy this things habit. I will not divulge any more as it will spoil your viewing pleasure. Escourrou carries the show and, even with a gap between her front teeth you could pass a train through, displays fine form as a tortured soul who doesnt know whether to love or hate the monster in her body. Good direction, excellent photography and inventive special effects make for a bloody good time for all. For once, the English dubbing is not intrusive and seems to be done by people who take pride in their work. Co-starring Jean-Francois Gallotte, Christian Sinninger and Francois Frapier. Directed and written by Alain Robak (who appears in the film under the funny pseudonym "Roger Placenta"), who has real talent. On VHS from A-Pix Entertainment Video. Rated R, but this is hard R bordering on NC-17. Anchor Bay Entertainment released a fully uncut DVD in both French (with English subtitles) and dubbed into English (where Gary Oldman is the voice of the bloodthirsty baby!).
THE EXECUTIONER (1974) - Duke Mitchell (of Mitchell and Petrillo fame) directs and stars (under his given name "Dominic Miceli") in this ultra-low budget GODFATHER clone that will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Filled with priceless dialogue, bloody violence, nudity and racial epithets galore, this film should fail miserably but somehow, it gels together rather nicely and will hold you enthralled. Mitchell stars as Mimi, a second generation mafioso, who returns from Sicily to L.A. to restart his exiled father's crime business. He runs into trouble with his father's old business partners and resorts to kidnapping, body dismemberment and many gun battles to get his way. You'll gasp in amazement at Mimi's monologues and some of the dialogue (I laughed so hard, I nearly pissed my pants), but you won't soon forget it. Purportedly made for $27,000, this film is must viewing for anyone looking for something different. Mitchell also contributes four songs to the soundtrack. Also starring Vic Caesar, Ted Schneider and George "Buck" Flower! THE EXECUTIONER was also released as LIKE FATHER LIKE SON (it played in NY under this title), THE MAFIA KILLER and MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE. From Video Gems. Mitchell's next (and last) directorial effort was GONE WITH THE POPE (1976 - a.k.a. KISS THE RING), which sat unfinished for 33 years until Grindhouse Releasing and Academy Award-winning editor Bob Murawski took the deceased Mitchell's rough cut of the film, polished it and gave it a regional theatrical release starting in 2009. I have the feeling that I will be long dead waiting for Grindhouse to put either THE EXECUTIONER or GONE WITH THE POPE on DVD (or whatever the format will be in the future), based solely on the time it takes them to get their films to the home video market. They seem more interested in giving their films a theatrical release, which makes absolutely no sense to me since more people can watch the film at home in one night than an audience can see in theaters in over a year. From what I understand, a lot of their theatrical showings of these two films averages about 50 people per showing. In can't see the profit margin in that, although it is probably quite an experience seeing the films on the big screen. NOTE: Oh, happy day! Grindhouse Releasing delivered a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack of this film on March 10, 2015 under the title MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE and a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack of GONE WITH THE POPE on March 24, 2015. Rated R.
EXTERMINATOR 2 (1984) - Although this film has its fans, I find it a very poor imitation of the original THE EXTERMINATOR (1980), since Mark Buntzman (the producer of the original film) decided to direct, produce and co-write this film (with William Sachs, director of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN - 1977; GALAXINA - 1981; HITZ - 1988; and others), taking over directing chores from James Glickenhaus. Mark Buntzman is no James Glickenhaus. Imagine making an action exploitation film with very little blood or gore and throw in characters you don't give a damn about, but you really should. At least the original had some wit, charm and imaginative deaths (not to mention one hell of a decapitation). The sequel has none of this, unless you like seeing people on fire and burning to death. The late Robert Ginty returns from the original as John Eastland, and he still is acting like a vigilante, walking around the alleys and back streets of New York City with a flame-thrower strapped to his back, frying would-be thieves and street scum, including the brother of street gang leader X (Mario Van Peebles; NEW JACK CITY - 1991). This seems to upset X, who orders his men to kill Eastland. When Eastland's dancing girlfriend Caroline (Deborah Geffner) is crippled and then killed by X's gang (including the hulking Irwin Keyes; LOVELY BUT DEADLY - 1981; who plays a character called "Monster"), Eastland gets down to serious business. He teams up with old Vietnam buddy Be Gee (Frankie Faison; RED DRAGON - 2002), now a garbageman, and they trick-out a garbage truck into a moving fortress, complete with machine guns and grenade launchers. They go after X and his gang and I guess I don't have to tell you the rest. I remember seeing this film in a theater and then renting the VHS and thinking to myself, "Man, the editing sucks in this film." That may be because triple-threat Mark Buntzman (this is his only directorial effort) didn't know how to end a scene (you know there had to be some production trouble when the closing credits say "Additional scenes directed by William Sachs", who reshot much of the footage when Cannon Films was not satisfied with Buntzman's final cut). Some scenes just end without explanation and leave you scratching your head and it looks like Cannon Films (the theatrical distributor of this film in the U.S.) had to make some severe cuts in the violence department to receive an R-Rating. The VHS tape, released by MGM-UA Home Video is the same theatrical version. Maybe someday this film will get an uncut release on DVD (it's still not available on legitimate DVD in any form in the U.S.), but until then I will give this film a thumbs-down. I may raise my thumb into the upright position if I ever see the complete unedited film. This film also contains early acting appearances by Arye Gross (HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY - 1987), Thomas Calabro (THEY NEST - 2000), Jesse Aragon (WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE - 1986; who died way too young) and John Turturro (TRANSFORMERS - 2007) as "Guy #1". NOTE: Finally available on DVD from Shout! Factory as part of their 4 ACTION-PACKED MOVIE MARATHON in its original aspect ratio and audio commentary with director Mark Buntzman and star Mario Van Peebles, but it is the same 89 minute R-Rated theatrical version. Rated R.
FALL DOWN DEAD (2007) - It's nice to see genre vet Udo Kier (ANDY WARHOL'S DRACULA - 1973) get a nice juicy role in a recent horror film. Too bad it's a generic slasher film with no surprises to offer. It's Christmas Eve and Kier stars as "The Picasso Killer", a serial killer who uses a strait razor to cut-up young women and leaves them for the police to find as examples of his "masterpieces". When waitress Christie Wallace (Dominique Swain; DEAD MARY - 2007) is walking home and catches The Picasso Killer carving up a young woman for his latest masterpiece, she runs into a mostly-empty high-rise building, where security guard Wade Douglas (the late David Carradine; MIDNIGHT FEAR - 1990) calls the cops. Detectives Stefan Kercheck (Mehmet Gunsur, who is a pill-popper) and Lawrence "Don't call me Larry" Kellog (R. Keith Harris) show up and don't believe a thing Christie says, until she mentions that The Picasso Killer carved a sideways "V" into the stomach of the victim (It's put out there that an FBI profiler believes that the sideways "V" represents that the women mean "much less than him" [the killer].). Since this aspect of the killer's MO was never reported to the news, the cops finally believe her, but wouldn't you know it, a rolling blackout hits the area and everyone is trapped in the building (The outside doors are locked by Wade, the phones don't work, cellphones don't work because the towers don't have power and the cops' radios don't work because the repeaters also have no power). The Picasso Killer then begins to kill everyone in the building one-by-one, including a couple screwing in an office (What would Christmas Eve be without one of those?), a cleaning lady (her face is cut in half), Wade and Lawrence, before Christie manages to throw him off the roof. This being a modern DTV film, there's a "surprise" ending where The Picasso Killer isn't dead (How he survived the long fall without a scratch is never explained) and goes to Christie's home, where he kills the babysitter and tells Christie's young daughter that he'll be coming for her mother soon, because she's "not ready" to become one of his masterpieces. Oh boy, another film left wide-open for a sequel! Udo Kier is quite good as the killer, humming and singing Christmas songs as he hunts down his prey (I like that he sang "Oh, Tannenbaum", rather than "Oh, Christmas Tree" since he is German) and telling Christie that he will cut out her tongue and use it as a brush to paint, but director Jon Keeyes (LIVING & DYING - 2007) and screenwriter Roy Sallows (SHADOW ZONE: THE UNDEAD EXPRESS - 1996) fail to put much meat on the plate, failing to explain The Picasso Killer's motivations (besides a couple of childhood photos which left me scratching my head) and why there is a series of rolling blackouts happening throughout the city (especially during the Winter). But Udo Kier saves the film, because everytime he is on-screen stalking and talking, it sends shivers down your spine. He just has that kind of voice where he could read the telephone book and make it sound scary. By no means a good film, but anything with Udo Kier in such a big role is worth watching. Also starring Monica Dean, Austin James, Karine Darrah and Jennifer Alden. An Image Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
FLESH GORDON MEETS THE COSMIC CHEERLEADERS (1990) - What can you say about a film that contains juvenile sex humor, comical and sexist FX and some of the zaniest creatures ever put forth on the screen? I say, just sit back and enjoy it! Flesh Gordon (Vince Murdocco, who is absolutely a horrible actor) joins forces with the Cosmic Cheerleaders to stop Emperor Wang (William Hunt, the only original cast member to return from the original FLESH GORDON ) from unleashing a ray which will render Earth's male population impotent (remember, this was before Viagra). Filled with clever sight gags and set pieces, some downright funny (check out the creature called "Dick Head") and some disgusting (e.g. the ass-teroid belt; the Turd People). Poorly acted, especially by martial artist Murdocco (it needed to be said twice), but so good-natured and chock full of nudity that you should have a good time with it. Directed with imagination by Howard Ziehm, co-director of the original. Also starring Robyn Kelly, Tony Travis and Morgan Fox. A New Horizons Home Video Release. Unrated but not X rated.
THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN (1974) - A horror/comedy about a family of cannibals shown under the titles CLUB DEAD, SECRETS BEYOND THE DOOR, TERROR HOUSE, TERROR ON THE MENU and TERROR AT RED WOLF INN on video and TV. A college coed (Linda Gillin) receives a letter which says she has won a free vacation at the Red Wolf Inn. Having nothing better to do on her vacation, she goes, only to be greeted by more girls who have received the same piece of mail. The family that runs the inn are a pack of flesh eaters and proceed to fatten up the girls with a non-stop orgy of food.There's also a well-padlocked meat locker (ala WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH - 1973). Black humor abounds. When a black girl is drugged in her sleep and carried down to the meat locker the father of the cannibals says, "It'll be nice to have dark meat again!". Real lady fingers are eaten at the dinner table. Even the cops can't be trusted. One of them comes over for one of Ma's home cooked meals. It also has an ending which shows where its' tongue is firmly planted. A nice effort from the director Bud Townsend, who also gave us the awful NIGHTMARE IN WAX (1969). Also starring Arthur Space (whose decapitated head winks at the camera in the finale of some versions of this film), John Nielson and Mary Jackson. Beware of a PG-Rated version (TERROR AT RED WOLF INN) floating around video stores. That version runs 83 minutes and is shorn of most of the violence. An Academy Entertainment Release, but I would try to find the version from Canadian label Lettuce Entertain You (under the TERROR ON THE MENU title), as it seems to be the most complete version (It's 5 minutes longer than the Academy version). Also available on a double feature DVD (with HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1973) from Alpha Home Entertainment. Rated R.
FRANKENFISH (2004) - Fun little horror film, directed by Mark Dippe (SPAWN - 1997), that originally made it's debut on the Sci-Fi Channel as one of their original movies. I would urge everyone that has seen this film on Sci-Fi to go out and rent or buy the DVD version as it contains much more gore and nudity than the version shown on TV. The plot is your basic giant-monster-on-the-loose premise. It's the locations and characters, along with a healthy dose of black humor and unexpected violence that makes this one stand out from the pack. A medical examiner, Sam (Tory Kittles), and a biologist, Mary (China Chow), are sent into the Louisiana swamps to invesigate a mysterious death. What they find is that some genetically enhanced (fucking giant!) Chinese Snakehead fish have been accidentally set free in the area and are chowing down on the local wildlife as well as the human population. They soon become trapped on a group of docked houseboats populated by some of the craziest (and funniest) locals to hit the screen in quite some time. I really enjoyed the nudist couple (Richard Edson and Noelle Evans) who grow hydroponic marijuana on their boat. There's also Ricardo (Raul Trujillo), a silent local who has grudge against the fish. There's also a houseboat where a quarreling couple (K.D. Aubert and Matthew Rauch) on a date are visiting the girl's mother (Donna Briscoe), who tries to set her up with Sam. After the character exposition is out of the way, the rest of the film is non-stop carnage as the monster fish bite the heads, stomachs and other body parts off of the trapped cast. The real jolt comes from the unexpected accidental death of Mary. It is a real surprise and I applaud the filmmakers for killing a main character in such an unheroic way. While the film does rely a little too much on CGI in some scenes (especially when the fish jump in and out of the water), there's enough comic lines ("The house shot her!" during Mary's death and "That's just so wrong!" when everyone watches Ricardo cut the heart out of one of the fish and eat it.) and bloody violence to appease any horror fan. FRANKENFISH is a breath of fresh fishy air amid most of the dreck that gets released today. This should have gotten a theatrical release. Also starring genre vets Muse Watson (DEAD BIRDS - 2005; TV's PRISON BREAK [2005 - 2009]) and Mark Boone Junior (FILM HOUSE FEVER - 1986; DEAD BIRDS - 2005). A Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
FRANKENSTEIN 80 (1973) - Badly scanned, ridiculously misogynistic version of the Frankenstein legend. A whacked-out doctor (Gordon Mitchell; TERROR FORCE COMMANDO - 1986) stitches together various body parts and creates a monster he calls Mosaic (Xiro Papas; THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT - 1973). Mosaic has two severe problems: He likes to rape women and his transplanted body parts and organs (including his penis!) are being rejected by his immune system, forcing him to walk the streets ripping organs (and clothes) off unsuspecting female victims. Thats about all that happens here as we witness various bloody mutilations, operations, female flesh and plot holes the size of New Hampshire, while we wait for Mosaics brain to be rejected. This could only happen in Italy. Also known as MIDNIGHT HORROR. John Richardson (EYEBALL - 1975), Renato Romano (DORIAN GRAY - 1970) and Dalila Parker (a.k.a. Dalila Di Lazzaro of ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN  fame) co-star. Directed by Mario Mancini (His only directorial effort, although he was cinematographer on films such as KONG ISLAND - 1968; THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS - 1972 and GIRL IN ROOM 2A - 1973). A Gorgon Video Release. Not Rated.
GACY (2003) - There are too many films being made about famous serial killers. This is one of the most lamest and bloodless. John Wayne Gacy (Mark Holton, who was the fat half-wit Ozzie in LEPRECHAUN - 1993) was convicted of killing 29 young boys and burying them in his crawlspace underneath his house. This film focuses on the last few months of his freedom (before being executed by lethal injection, his last words being, "Kiss My Ass!"), when the neighbors and friends notice a peculiar smell coming from his basement. He blames it on a leaking sewer pipe and lays down lime to offset the odor. His wife and kids leave him after she finds homoerotic magazines in his garage. He still picks up boys (posing as a cop) and rapes them (never shown on screen) then buries them in his crawlspace until there is no room left. His undoing comes when the police start noticing that the boys that work for his construction company turn up missing and stake out his house. The film skips most other aspects of his life (being a clown at kids' parties is mainly glossed over as is his penchant for painting clowns on canvas), although a flashback paints that his whole problem with boys stems from an abusive father (played by Adam Baldwin). Holton is good in the title role but most of the sleazy things you expect from a film like this are never shown or explored. It plays like a cable TV movie with some swearing and a little female nudity. Director Clive Saunders seems to have wanted it that way, but if you are going to do a film about one of the most famous serial killers in U.S. history, a little blood and guts wouldn't hurt. There are plenty of maggots and other bugs on display here, representing all the decaying bodies buried in the crawlspace which are sadly not shown except in bodybags at the finale. Co-screenwriter David Birke also did some uncredited writing for another serial killer film, DAHMER (2002) which, as an in-joke, is shown playing on a TV. Also starring the late Rick Dean, Tom Waldman, John Laughlin, Joe Sikora and Joleen Lutz. Brian Dennehy played Gacy in the Canadian TV miniseries TO CATCH A KILLER (1992). A Lions Gate Entertainment Release. Rated R. NOTE: I have seen this film about a dozen times since writing this review (thanks to its many showings on the Encore pay channels), and while my basic opinion about the film hasn't changed, Mark Holton is impressive as John Wayne Gacy. Really impressive.
GANGS OF THE DEAD (2005) - This is neither a good or bad zombie horror flick. It is what it is. Filmed under the title LAST RITES and also released as CITY OF THE DEAD in some foreign territories, this low-budget flick opens with a meteor containing alien spores hitting a bridge, where a homeless street preacher (Terrence Evans; THE PUMPKIN KARVER - 2006) is prophetizing the end of the world to his homeless flock. He was more right than he even realized. He and the rest of the homeless crowd are turned into flesh-hungry zombies and begin chowing down on every human they meet, including the wife of the local TV weatherman, who just happens to have the last name Weatherman (Cazimir Milostan). He hoofs it to a warehouse, where two gangs, a Black one and a Hispanic one are making a deal for weapons or drugs (it is never made clear) with supplier Mitchell (Reggie Bannister; PHANTASM - 1979, who has nothing more than an extended cameo). They are also being staked-out by the police outside, who decide to make the arrests, but the homeless zombies attack them and only two cops make it into the warehouse (Mitchell is hit by the police van, smashing him into bloody pieces). The two cops want everyone to put their differences aside and work together to get out of the warehouse, but Hispanic gang leader Caesar (Noel Gugliemi, listed in the credits simply as "Noel G") will hear none of it and eventually becomes head douchebag in charge, killing one Black gang member by shooting him in the head (after the gang member dares him to pull the trigger!) and using everyone else as bait. What he doesn't know is one of the gang members is a snitch and that's why the police are there to begin with. The zombies begins to rip apart the cast one-by-one until only a few are left (Caesar suffers the bloodiest death and it is very well done), using a box of hand grenades to kill the rest of the zombies. They make it outside, only to discover more meteors hitting the skyscrapers of the city. Is there no hope left for humanity? While there is some bloody gore that sometimes surpasses the film's R-rating, there is also some dodgy CGI, especially in the explosions (it is easy to differentiate real flames from CGI ones). Director/co-writer/co-producer Duane Stinnett (his only feature directorial effort at the time of this review) offers nothing new to the zombie genre and the screenplay, which he co-wrote with Krissann Shipley (who stars as Cassie, the female member of the Hispanic gang), makes some of the characters seem retarded, especially Latasha (Dayanah Jamine), the sister of one of the Black gang members, that you just want to strangle them. Sure, the film is stupid, badly acted and cheap as hell, but it is worth at least one viewing if you can't find anything better to watch. Also starring Howard Alonzo (listed simply as "Howard"), Ethan Ednee, Ryan King, Enrique Almeida, Danny Martinez, James C. Burns and Stephen Basilone (listed as "Steve B."). A Screen Media Films DVD Release. Rated R.
GHOSTS OF HANLEY HOUSE (1968) - This obscure Texas-lensed haunted house thriller is a pretty drab affair. Two men make a bet (his Jaguar against the other's MG) that the other can't spend the night at the mysterious Hanley house, where Mr. and Mrs. Hanley disappeared years before. Ever since then, the house has been haunted by ghosts. They go to the house with a female medium, another young woman and an older gentleman who has lived in the town for years. The medium instantly senses something supernatural going on, as knocking is heard at the front door when nobody's there, there are cold spots in the house and the basement and attic hold deadly secrets. The occupants drink beer, dance and hold a seance where a spirit is called up that holds a grudge against one of the group. After the other woman is choked by an unseen pair of cold hands, the guests decide to leave but none of their cars will start. They take off on foot but no matter what direction they head off into, it leads them back to the house. In the end, it turns out that the older gentleman killed the Hanleys with an axe after they extorted $100,000 from him for witnessing him accidentally killing a child years before. He hid the money in the house and came to withdraw it. Alas, it doesn't work out very well for him as the spirits kill him in a graveyard. Everyone else gets to escape after they find the bones of the Hanleys and bury them in the graveyard. This is pretty boring stuff as director/writer Louise Sherrill (her only directorial effort although she acted in BLOOD AND LACE - 1970) tells the story without any flair (and too many close-ups) and the acting ability of the cast leaves a lot to be desired. The only sensible person is the one who played the black housekeeper. She left before nighttime came. Star Cliff Scott sounds just like Bill Thurman. Alpha Video juiced up this black-and-white release by adding red-tinted solarized shots and ear-splitting stereo sound effects (the rest of the film is in mono) in hopes of modernizing this creaky little film. It doesn't work. It does work as a piece of obscure cinema, but not as a watchable film. Maybe it was obscure for a reason. Also starring Elsie Baker, Barbara Chase, Wilkie De Martel, Roberta Reeves and Leonard Shoemaker. An Alpha Video DVD Release. Not Rated.
GHOSTS THAT STILL WALK (1977) - I should really put this film in the "Short Reviews For Sucky Films" section of this site, except it has one thing in its' favor: The scene of the rolling boulders attacking an RV Camper in the desert. I remember seeing this film on TV in the late 70's and was impressed by this scene. I'm still impressed by this scene today, but the rest of the film is a bunch of paranormal crap told in flashback to a parapsychologist (Rita Crafts) by grandmother Ann Nelson (the hanging lady in AIRPLANE - 1980) about her trip with her husband in the desert; the mother (Caroline Howe), who goes crazy after talking to a mummy; and the grandson (Matt Boston), who hears voices and is not acting like himself. It's like watching three separate films stitched together with a rather flimsy framing device: the boy being possessed by the spirit of a mummy (due to astral projection). Director James T. Flocker had a quite undistinguished career, having a hand in directing parts of THE LUCIFER COMPLEX (1979) and directing the family film GHOST SHIP (1992), his last effort to date. If it weren't for the possessed rolling boulders, you probably wouldn't be reading this review today. Originally released on VCI Home Video with a budget EP-Mode release from InterGlobal Video a few years later. Not Rated, but it doesn't go anywhere near past a PG rating.
GIRLS' SCHOOL SCREAMERS (1985) - It has taken me two months since viewing this celluloid turd to come up with something to say about it. Watching it is like taking a drive through the desert: Long stretches of nothing. The sadist in me will not allow a plot description. I'd rather you all suffer the same way I had to, by watching this piece of worthless shit. One bit of advice for the father/son team of John Finegan Sr. (director & screenwriter) and Jr. (producer): The stink that came out of my VCR tells me that you should be in the manure business. It's dreck like this that gives film stock a bad name. Stay away if you want to keep your sanity. If you must know know, this film stars Mollie O'Mara, Sharon Christopher, Mari Butler and Peter Cosimano. They all are now probably working the midnight shift at the local 7-11. A Lightning Video Release. Rated R. Also known as KILLER QUEEN. In case you haven't noticed, I hated this film.
GRABBERS (2011) - This Nothern Ireland-lensed horror comedy (filmed partly in the same area as the revived Hammer Films' WAKE WOOD - 2011) has a really ridiculous premise, but the goofy overall tone of the talented cast will win you over very quickly (and, for once, their accents don't need subtitles to understand what they are saying). The film opens with what looks like a meteor hitting the waters just off the coast of Erin Island (a town known more for their drinking than their fishing), when the crew of a fishing trawler notice it and send out an SOS to the Coast Guard. Everyone on the trawler is then disposed of by a huge creature with tentacles. This just happens to be the first day of policewoman (here called 'Gardas") Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), who is on a two-week temporary assignment on Erin Island to replace another Garda who is on holiday. She is picked up from the ferry by fellow Garda Ciaran O'Shea (Richard Coyle), who is nursing the mother of bad hangovers and doesn't want a stranger as a temporary partner. Their first case as an investigating team is the beaching and deaths of a group of Pilot whales. Island coroner Dr. Adam Smith (Russell Tovey), who takes one look at Lisa and is instantly smitten, tells them that this phenomenon is known to have happened before, but scientists have no explanation as to why it happens. Eternally drunk fisherman Paddy (a hilarious Lalor Roddy) catches a baby tentacled creature in one of his lobster traps and puts it in his bathtub (after it squirts something in the face of another fisherman), while other people are being pulled off the beach into the ocean by large tentacles. A married couple relaxing in a house near the beach (the husband is watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD  on his TV) get a knock on their front door and when the husband opens it, he notices one of his friends (who he thinks is drunk) is moving weirdly. He is actually being used as a marionette by a giant creature as bait (or a worm as it were, pulling a reversal on fisherman) and when the husband goes outside to investigate, a tentacle pulls him up straight in the air, his wife screaming in terror. She tries to hide in the house, but a tentacle comes down the chimney and pulls her through the fireplace. When Paddy is attacked by the small creature he found (it tries to wrap itself around his face, a tribute to ALIEN  and there are all types of references to other horror and science fiction films in this movie), but he manages to pull it off him without being harmed. He brings the baby creature to Alan's lab for an autopsy (Paddy thinks it is dead and calls it a "grabber", a reference to TREMORS ), but Alan discovers that the small creature is pregnant (he pulls out a disgusting round egg from its body) and tells Ciaran, Lisa and Paddy that all the creature needs to survive is water (shades of GREMLINS ) and blood, so he sets fire to it and Lisa accidentally sets off the sprinkler system (Alan sarcastically says, "You are Irish, aren't you?"), reviving the creature and it attaches itself to Ciaran's face (it's funny and horrifying at the same time, as Ciaran hits himself in the face with a shovel to get the creature off him), but the creature suddenly lets go and falls to the floor. Adam comes to the conclusion that the creatures are allergic to alcohol (Paddy is drunk and Ciaran still has alcohol in his body from last night), but they must find out how much alcohol in their system it will take to kill the creatures (since all Paddy and Ciaran did was temporarily incapacitate the small creature), so they use Lisa as a test subject (she has never drank alcohol before) and get her drunk as a skunk (it's a really funny scene) and then inject a vial of her alcohol-infused blood into the small captive creature, killing it. Adam reads her blood alcohol level as 0.20, so they will have do get everyone on the island that drunk (there seems to be a lack of children on the island, so that isn't a stumbling block in this film), but not tell them the truth so there isn't a panic. They come up with the bright idea to throw a party at the island's bar owned by husband and wife Brian (David Pearse) and Una Mahar (Bronaugh Gallagher; who is as funny here as she was in BOTCHED - 2007), who are both aware of the situation, with a "free bar", so nearly everyone on the island shows up (hey, free booze is free booze!) for the free drinks (mixed with Paddy's super-potent homemade brew). It begins raining outside (not a good thing) as tiny tentacled creatures approach the bar (it a hoot the way they move) and Brian and Una try to get everyone to a 0.20 alcohol blood level while a drunk Ciaran and Lisa are keeping an eye out in their patrol car outside and begin to fall in love (it's a highly inappropriate time and a drunk Lisa mentions that very same fact, but the drunken heart wants what the drunken heart wants). They spot the tiny creatures approaching the bar and start squishing them beneath their feet, but they then notice one of the bar patrons has stepped outside to take a leak and it is grabbed by the mother of all tentacled creatures, spitting out the poor guy's head out till it rolls at Ciaran and Lisa's feet. When the bar runs out of alcohol is when the trouble really begins, but I won't spoil it for you, other than to say that drunk people are rather useless in life-or-death situations (Brian runs outside in the rain with a Super Soaker full of Paddy's extremely flammable alcohol with a lit candle taped beneath the water gun's spout, he being too drink to understand that as soon as he walks outside, the candle will be extinguished by the rain) and Lisa going into full-blown Sigourney Weaver mode (copying one of her actions in ALIENS - 1986). In the immortal words of Brian the next morning. "That was fun, wasn't it?" It sure was and a final coda at the end leaves the film wide-open for a sequel, one I wouldn't mind watching. Director Jon Wright (TORMENTED - 2009; ROBOT OVERLORDS - 2014), working with a screenplay by first-time feature-length writer Kevin Lehane, keeps the tone light and funny, even in the gore scenes, such as when Ciaran and Lisa go to the house that was attacked and a human head rolls off the roof and hits Ciaran squarely on the nose. For once, the CGI is not a distraction and works very well here, as the giant creature destroys a car and its tentacles impale people through their torsos or just lift them up in the air. The CGI-filled sequence of the baby creatures approaching the bar will have you howling with delight, not because the CGI is bad, but because it is so good you will not notice it is CGI at all (That is what CGI should be: invisible). Screenwriter Lehane fills the film with references to other films (there's a direct sequence related to PREDATOR  towards the end of the film) and some extremely funny dialogue, such as when the bar runs out of alcohol and the drunk group discusses that they may have to sacrifice one of their own in order for the others to get away and Brian says, "Let them eat Father Potts (Micheál O'Gruagain). That should keep them busy for a while!" (the look on the portly Father's face is priceless) or a shit-faced Paddy telling another patron when he discovers that they are out of booze, "Relax, you'll give yourself angina!" Don't raise your expectations too high and you'll have a lot of fun with this film. Also starring Pascal Scott, Clelia Murphy, Louis Dempsey, Ned Dennehy, Stuart Graham and Jonathan Ryan. An IFC Midnight DVD Release. Not Rated.
GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) - One of my favorites. They don't make exploitation much better than this. A vampire returns to life in the 1940's and attacks a necking couple (no pun intended) parked in a graveyard. He kills the boy and savagely rapes the girl. The girl becomes pregnant and gives birth to a gray-skinned baby. The baby doesn't like milk so his mother feeds him her blood to nourish him. Cut to the present. The boy is now a man (William Smith) looking for the man responsible for ultimately killing his mother (there's only so much blood a mother can give her son). Smith finds the vampire (Michael Pataki) teaching classes at a college! He enrolls in the class and the game of cat and mouse is on. Two standout scenes: 1) The mother and son, standing in the shadows, watching children playing baseball in the bright sunshine, knowing that he will never be able to go out there and join them. 2) The concluding scene of son and father fighting to the death. It is exciting and well lensed with a twist ending. This is perhaps director John Hayes' (THE CUT-THROATS - 1969; DREAM NO EVIL - 1970; GARDEN OF THE DEAD - 1972; END OF THE WORLD - 1977) best film. William Smith (INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS - 1974) and the late Michael Pataki (DRACULA'S DOG - 1977) were favorites in low budget films. They made even the most unbearable film they appeared in better than it should be. Eric Mason (KISS OF THE TARANTULA - 1972) plays a cop in the beginning of the film who is done in by the vampire. The screenplay is by David Chase, who would later go on and create THE SOPRANOS. A fast-paced, off the wall horror film. If you happen to run into a copy of GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (also known as SEED OF TERROR), buy it or rent it immediately! A Unicorn Video Release. Also available on DVD from Alpha Video. Rated R.
THE HAGSTONE DEMON (2011) - If you don't like leisurely-paced low-budget horror films with black and white photography (only the flashbacks are in color), then this film probably won't be your cup of tea. But if you like horror films with a somewhat original plot and starring Mark Borchardt, a minor celebrity who gained fame in the documentary AMERICAN MOVIE (1999), about a determined filmmaker who will do practically anything to get his short horror film COVEN (started in 1997, but not finished until 2000) finished, turning that fame into a career in appearing films like this and CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING BREAK (2009), then you just may enjoy this gritty little horror flick. Borchardt stars as Douglas Elmore, the new caretaker of the about-to-be-condemned Hagstone apartment building. He is trying to get over the suicide of his wife Julie (Gizelle Erickson), who blew her brains out with a pistol. Douglas deals with the many strange inhabitants of the building, including busybody Mrs. Brennan (Marilyn Murphy), Mr. Thompson (Jay Smiley), a man who knows the complete history of the building, and Sam Witkowski (David S. Bennett), an older gent who likes his pornography. Perhaps the strangest inhabitant is Karna (Nadine Cross), a young woman who is living illegally with her hairless cat Victoria in Room 3, located in the basement next to the laundry room (Douglas lets her live there because the building is going to be torn down in two months). After driving out of town to visit his brother-in-law Carl Becker (Sasha Andreev), a priest who still remains friends with Douglas because he knows something about Julie's past, Douglas returns to the Hagstone building and becomes obsessed with Karna and the strange visitors she receives at night. He follows her one night and watches as she gives some guy dressed in a trenchcoat and fedora a plastic bag where something is moving inside it (Unless I missed something, we are never told what it is, although I think it is her cat) and when he goes to Room 3 to fix her toilet, she strips naked and offers to have sex with Douglas. He turns her down, because he still can't get over the death of his wife. Murders begin to happen at the Hagstone, including finding the naked corpse of Sam on his couch (Mrs. Bennett says, "I always knew he was a masturbator!" and Douglas finds a "Tijuana Bible" among Sam's porn collection which will prove important later on), Mrs. Bennett is found dead on the stairs with six quarts of her blood dripping down the staircase and a truck stop prostitute (Tiffany Moy), who Douglas paid a visit to, is found murdered. Police Detective Willis (Michael Glen) believes Douglas is involved in the murders and even threatens to exhume Julie's body, which upsets Douglas greatly. Long story short, Karna is a succubus and Julie killed herself because she was a Satanist (so was Douglas) who was supposed to get pregnant by Douglas in a cult ritual, but the pregnancy never happened, which made her commit suicide. Since Julie died under those circumstances, it leaves her wide-open to also become a succubus, so Douglas, Carl and Hagstone resident Barbara (Cyndi Kurtz) must stop Karna, who digs up Julie's corpse in a graveyard (she also murders Detective Willis at the graveyard) and brings the body to a secret room at the Hagstone, ready to turn Julie into a succubus. I won't spoil what happens next, only to say that Mr. Thompson isn't who he says he is (it's quite the suprise, especially when Douglas and Carl pull at his legs to get him off Barbara) and getting to the secret room is one freakish experience. Second-time feature film director Jon Springer (a cinematographer by trade who directed a religious-themed feature film and a bunch of horror-themed shorts before making this), who co-wrote the screenplay with Harrison Matthews, is definitely a believer in "slow and steady wins the race", as the film moves at a snail's pace, but reveals the underlying layers as it progresses. Mark Borchardt is not your typical leading man, nor is he a very good actor, but he is effective here for reasons I don't really understand. He has long, greasy hair and wears huge eyeglasses with coke-bottle lenses, but he fits the character he portrays perfectly. The color film stock is used judiciously, only appearing in about three sequences, but its use is effective (usually flashbacks are shown in black & white, not the other way around). This is by no means a good film, but it is an interesting one, which is good enough for me. Shot in 2007 and, besides a few festival showings in 2009, not released on home video until 2011 (It carries a 2011 copyright during the end credits). Filmed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Also starring Lung Leg, Charles Hubbell and Carol Vnuk. A Pacific Entertainment Corporation/Genius Brands Blu-Ray/DVD Release. Rated R.
HAUNT (2013) - I quit watching the IFC Channel on TV a few years ago when they changed their policy and started showing commercials every 10 minutes (Even though the channel still shows films "uncut", a movie that runs 95 minutes is now shown in an unreasonable 135-minute time slot. You do the math.). I find it ironic that the "I" in IFC stands for "Independent", since all their movies and TV shows are now advertiser-driven. That's the antithesis of Independent (On a side note, I predicted way back then that the Sundance Channel would go the way of IFC and, sure enough, it did. Two commercial-free TV stations now show more commercials than most major networks. These are channels I pay a premium for from my cable provider and once were stables of my TV-watching habits, yet there is no way to take these two stations off my line-up. Hell, I remember when AMC was commercial-free. This is what happens when major corporations like Cablevision, Time Warner and Disney buy networks and enforce their "make more money" rule.). Even though I haven't watched anything on IFC for years, I do have to give them props for their IFC Midnight DVD label, because they have released some very good (some bad and some excellent, too) independent horror films (including one of my favorites from the past decade, ALMOST HUMAN ), so IFC is not completely off my radar (to see a collection of films IFC Midnight has released, click HERE). I honestly believe that IFC Midnight is the go-to label for modern-day independent horror films, giving both first-time directors and established ones that are dipping their toes in the low-budget pool an outlet to let their films actually be seen outside of film festivals (Most IFC Midnight pick-ups are given a simultaneous limited theatrical/VOD release before being released on DVD. So far, most of their releases are not on Blu-Ray, which is no big deal to me.). But I digress. Let's get to the movie at hand. This is an old-fashioned haunted house film, that plays with little gore, but plenty of jump scares. It's not really that special, but it is done with some flair and displays a family dynamic unusual for a horror film (thanks to first-time screenwriter Andrew Barrer). The film begins with a drunk and pill-popping Franklin Morello (Carl Hadra), as he is crying while looking at Polaroids of his family. He is in a special room in his house, where he hand-cranks some electronic box with decades-old tubes (the kind that use to power early amplifiers and TVs) to contact the dead, where he talks to his deceased children, apologizing for not being able to protect them. A ghostly demonic creature (Kasia Kowalezyk) then appears and attacks Franklin (his eyes turn completely black), before he falls down a flight of stairs and dies. Franklin's wife, Janet (Jackie Weaver; ANIMAL KINGDOM - 2010), the last surviving member of the Morello family, then narrates the opening of the film, telling us that she, her husband and children moved into that house, using part of the house to practice pediatric medicine. Then, their three children began dying in mysterious ways and their medical practice began drying-up (Janet says, "What good is a pediatrician who can't keep her own babies alive?"), the townspeople referring to it as "The Morello Curse". Janet moved out of the house and a new family (who are aware of the house's history) move in. They are the Anders family: mother Emily (Ione Skye; STRANDED - 1987), father Alan (Brian Wimmer; THE MADDENING - 1995), teenage daughter Sara (Danielle Churchran), pre-teen daughter Anita (Ella Harris) and 18 year-old son Evan (Harrison Gilbertson; NEED FOR SPEED - 2014), who is basically an Athiest and doesn't believe in the afterlife. Janet pays the Ashers a visit under the pretense of picking up a portrait of her dead son Matthew (Sebastian Barr), who died at the same age of Evan, but it is obvious that she has other reasons for checking out the new family occupying her old house. That night, Evan hears what sounds like a violent argument in the woods and he goes to investigate, meeting a crying pretty girl named Sam (Liana Liberato; TRESPASS - 2011), who tells Evan to mind his own business. That same night, while Evan is watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) on TV, the power goes out and he has to go down to the basement to get to the fuse box (his parents are hardly ever home for some unexplained reason). It's obvious to the viewing audience that something supernatural is going on (such as Anita walking around in a trance as she enters her bedroom) and when Evan goes to bed, he is joined by Sam and he lets her stay because he believes she is being abused at her home (she is). Sam has a nightmare involving Janet and a crying baby and, when she wakes up, it is morning and Anita (who now acts normal) is standing by the bed wondering who she is. Evan has the coolest parents, who have no problem with Sam spending the night with Evan (he is old enough to make his own decisions), but mother Emily just gives Evan one piece of advice: "Be careful." (It turns out Sam is being used as a punching bag by her always-drunk father when Emily notices the bruises on her wrists and arms.). Sam stole the magic box to contact the dead and when she and Evan use it in a shed next to a cemetery, Matthew Morello leaves them an ominous message from beyond the grave (Evan returns the box back to the special room in his house). As expected, Evan and Sam become lovers, while Evan notices Anita talking to herself in her bedroom (he totally misses the sudden appearance of a ghostly girl, one of the Morello daughters, who makes a short appearance in the bedroom doorway as Evan turns his back). Even though the entire Archer family are well-aware thet the house they moved in is supposedly haunted, they are not prepared for Anita announcing over dinner that a girl ghost occupies her bedroom, but she will do no harm to her as long as she keeps the ghost girl "happy". Evan and Sam go into the special room and use the box again, this time Matthew Morello telling them "Don't you move!", but they don't listen and beat a hasty retreat outside the room. Sam makes it out of the house, but Evan becomes possessed by the demon creature and when Sam returns looking for him, Evan tries to strangle her with his bare hands, but Sam manages to grab a lamp and knock him out. Evan goes to Sam's house to apologize, but her drunken father answers the door and says, "Sam is not home right now. Leave a message at the beep!" and slams the door in Evan's face. While Evan is walking away, Sam catches up with him a few minutes later and both decide to go to Janet to see if she can shed any light on their situation. Janet just yells not to use that damn "box" again (There was just something off about the whole conversation, which set off alarms in my head). Evan and Sam burn the box, along with the Polaroids of the Morello family, but all that does is make everything worse, as the demon creature invades the house and flashbacks reveal the truth about everything. Like Janet tells us in the finale, "Some houses are more dead than others.", as the camera pans down below the floorboards to reveal the deadly secret. Director Mac Carter, whose first film was the enjoyable DTV documentary SECRET ORIGIN: THE STORY OF DC COMICS (2010) and was Second Unit Director on the Vin Diesel film THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (2015), keeps us on our toes by switching-up the old clichés of haunted house horror films with something completely different. I was quite surprised when I had what I thought was a specific aspect about one of the major characters (I won't spoil it for you, but the character says, "That's the spirit!"), only to discover that I was completely wrong. That doesn't happen very often and I was delighted to be surprised I was wrong. While not particularly scary for a haunted house film (but it does have its fair share of jump scares and some goosebump-inducing scenes, especially when the box is used), it does have a refreshing change of pace in depicting a family unit, the parents believing everything their children tell them and actually trusting them (even though Ione Skye and Brian Wimmer have basically nothing but extended cameo roles). This is a perfectly fine way to spend 85 minutes and it was great to have the DVD jam-packed with extras (like DVDs were in the old days), including the extremely creepy 8mm short film "Morello Home Movies", which gives that family a little more character development and ends on a truly eerie final shot. The extras are as long (if not longer) than the actual film and, for once, they are not filler or "making-ofs", but actual extras made specifically for the DVD. You can do a whole lot worse than watching this not by-the-numbers haunted house flick. Also starring Brooke Kelly, Maggie Scott, Jan Broberg, Aline Andrade and Kelly Noonan. An IFC Midnight DVD Release. Rated R.
HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000) - The fifth film in the HELLRAISER franchise (also known as HELLRAISER 5: INFERNO) is a pretty good murder mystery that would have done just as well without Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and the rest of the Cenobites. Detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer; NIGHTBREED - 1990) is not the best of cops. He cheats on his wife with prostitutes, plants evidence to convict people who have beaten the court system and seems to be the only cop who believes that there is a serial killer out there who is nicknamed "The Engineer". It seems someone is tearing people apart with hooks (including the last prostitute he was with) and leaves a finger of the same little boy at all the crime scenes. When Joseph's detective partner Tony Nenonen (Nicholas Turturro; NYPD BLUE - 1993-2005; whose character's name is a palindrome) and his Captain (Carmen Argenziano; GRADUATION DAY - 1981) becomes worried about Joseph's sanity, he is sent to a psychiatrist/priest Dr. Paul Gregory (James Remar; QUIET COOL - 1986) to talk about his problems. When Joseph finds the Lament Configuration Box and opens it, his life turns into a total nightmare. He begins seeing things that can't possibly be there, like a pair of female Cenobite tatoos moving on a tattoo artist's back. To make a long story short, Dr. Gregory turns out to be none other than Pinhead (a.k.a. "The Engineer"), who doesn't punish Joseph (not at first), but sends him on a quest that will finally make Joseph see the light. Turns out that the fingers found at the scene of the crimes are none other than Joseph's when he was a child, so he is transported back to a time when he was a child to unravel the mystery. What he discovers is not what he expected. Freshman feature film director/co-writer Scott Derrickson (THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE - 2005; THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - 2008) keeps the viewer quite entertained until the "What The Fuck?!?" finale, where it seems he and co-writer Paul Harris Boardman couldn't quite figure out a proper ending for the film. That's a shame, because I was having a good time with it before the abrupt finale that really doesn't measure up to the rest of the film (It seems like Joseph is cursed to relive the same day over-and-over for all eternity. Does that remind you of anything?). Like I said before, the film would have worked well enough without any of Clive Barker's characters (the Pinhead character is in the film for five minutes, tops, and the other Cenobites have even less time) and would have been a good cop thriller/mystery without it. Too bad the ending ruins everything that came before it. Also starring Nicholas Sadler, Noelle Evans, Lindsay Taylor, Matt George and the late Kathryn Joosten (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES - 2004-2012) as Joseph's mother. HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2001) was the next film in the series. Originally released on VHS and DVD by Dimension Home Video (now "The Weinstein Company") and then released on DVD & Blu-Ray in HELLRAISER multi-packs by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment when Dimension no longer distributed DVDs (but still using the Dimension name to sell them!). Please stay away from HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2010), the newest installment in the franchise, as it is an abomination and they used someone other than Doug Bradley to play Pinhead. Blasphemous! Rated R.
THE HIDDEN 2 (1993) - Just to remind you how good the original THE HIDDEN (1987) was, the filmmakers' of this turd of a sequel include the original's final scenes in an absurd, newly-edited form. It seems that when Kyle MacLachlan (who should sue for defamation of character) blew away the alien at the press conference, a dog picked up a piece of it and the alien uses the poor mutt's body as an incubator. The dog hatches many alien eggs in an abandoned warehouse. Fifteen years later, Michael Nouri's daughter (Kate Hodge) joins forces with a good alien (Raphael Sbarge) to find the newly-hatched aliens who take over the bodies of patrons of a rave club opened at the abandoned warehouse. This is strictly second-rate stuff which offers none of the suspense or humor of the original, as the aliens just jump from one body to the next without a plot to work with. The role Michael Nouri played in the first one is portrayed by a different actor in this one (hey, Michael knows a dog when he sees one!) Directed and written by Seth Pinsker (Who also directed episodes of TV's EIGHT IS ENOUGH [1977 - 1981]. Doesn't that tell you something?) without a handle on the material. Also starring Jovin Montanaro, Michael Weldon and Christopher Murphy. A New Line Home Video Release. Rated R.
HIDE AND GO SHRIEK (1987) - This is just another one of those "horny kids trapped in a closed department store while a crazed killer picks them off one-by-one" film. Director Skip Schoolnik (who produced and directed episodes of the TV series ANGEL [1999 - 2004] and edited many TV movies) goes through the paces setting up red herrings and stupid horny teenager situations along the way. There's much nudity and simulated sex as well as some tense moments (dig that realistic decapitation by elevator that can only be seen in the Unrated Edition, effects courtesy of Screaming Mad George), but the sad fact is that there's too much cheese on this sandwich and not enough meat, not to mention a denouement that would set GLAAD back fifty years. There are some good points to this film: The acting is decent, the effects are professional and the music (by John Ross) does set the right mood. The bad points are that this is no different than hundreds of films of the period that kill kids for having sex, being someplace that they are not supposed to be and generally acting idiotic. Hey, we've all been there, done that, but most of us are still alive, unlike the participants of these films. Is this film escapist fun? Well, yes, as long as you drink a six pack or toke on a fattie. Just don't expect a mind-blowing experience. Starring Brittain Fry, Rebunkah Jones, George Thomas, Donna Baltron, Scott Fults, Annette Sinclair and Scott Kubay as the killer. A New Star Video Release. Available in both R-Rated and Unrated versions. The only difference in the two versions is a two second shot of the aforementioned decapitation. Soon to be available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Code Red.
THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER (2004) - This is the ultimate nadir in filmmaking. This film was only made to pander to those freaks who like to watch women being tortured while stripped naked. An anorexic C.Thomas Howell (who plays serial killer Kenneth Bianchi) travels to California and moves in with his abusive cousin Angelo Buono (Nicholas Turturro, who should absolutely be ashamed of himself) and they both proceed to kidnap, kill and rape (yes, in that order!) random women they find on the highway. The first women turn out to be prostitutes, so they do not draw too much attention, but when they start turning their attention to teenage runaways and more affluent women, they start to draw the attention of the newspapers, TV News and the Police. Angelo goes bonkers, threatens Kenneth with a gun and tells him to cool it for a while. Kenneth becomes a sex therapist (!) while hiding his murderous urges from his straight-laced girlfriend (Allison Lange). This is sick stuff that should not be viewed lightly, yet director Chuck Parello, who also made the understated and affecting ED GEIN (2000), gives barely any reason why these two guys do the hideous things that they do (besides having overbearing mothers) and leaves nothing to the imagination. Howell acts likes he's high on cocaine all the time and Turturro is just plain terrible as the pain-inflicting and sweaty overweight accomplice. Everyone involved here should take a cold shower and wash away all their sins. I was hoping to find some redeeming conclusion, but there isn't any. This is sleaze at it's worst and if this review makes you go out and rent or buy this film: SHAME ON YOU!!! Of all the recent serial killer movies that have been made in the past few years, nothing is lower than this one. Not to be confused with HILLSIDE STRANGLER (the title was changed to RAMPAGE: THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER MURDERS to avoid confusion) made the same year and directed by Chris Fisher, who also made the serial killer film NIGHTSTALKER (2002) and the DONNIE DARKO (2001) sequel S. DARKO (2009). Confusing, isn't it? A Tartan Video DVD Release. Unrated. The title was later changed to THE HILLSIDE STRANGLINGS.
HUMONGOUS (1981) - Director Paul Lynch made this inferior horror film right after his surprise hit PROM NIGHT (1980). A group of stupid boating teenagers become stranded on Dog Island, populated by packs of ravenous dogs and a mutated man with Acromegaly, the same disease that affected actor Rhondo Hatton. Only this man has a taste for teen flesh and begins picking off all the teens after he has eaten all the dogs. The film would be much better if the screen wasn't so dark during the kill scenes (most of the killing takes place at night, of course). You end up squinting to see the action and gore (some of it trimmed to get an R rating) resulting in Excedrin headache #10. I hear that the Canadian video version of HUMONGOUS is much lighter and retains all the gore missing from this version. I suggest you track that one down as you will find no enjoyment in this version. The killer is barely shown, the gore is dark and ugly and the screenplay is nearly non-existant (it deals with a rape 36 years earlier that resulted in this mutant offspring). While there is nudity and an ending which, thankfully, does not leave room for a sequel, I can't recommend this film to any seriuos slasher buff. Even PROM NIGHT, which was highly derivative in the slasher film genre (even this early in the game), is much more enjoyable than this. Starring Janet Julian, David Wallace, John Wildman, Janit Baldwin, Garry Robbins as the killer and Page Fletcher (TV's THE HITCHHIKER [1983 -1991]) as the rapist. Also known as DOG ISLAND. An Embassy Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on uncut DVD from Scorpion Releasing, but the print is in less than pristine condition (It is one of Scorpion's worst releases [which looks like a VHS port], so buyer beware). Scorpion has released the film on Blu-Ray in a new print which looks much better than their DVD. Rated R.
HUNTER'S BLOOD (1987) - A good example of the "terror in the woods" genre that reads like a who's who of B movie stars. The story deals with five friends who go deer hunting and run into trouble with a pack of poachers. The poachers are so slimy and disgusting they would give inbreeders bad nightmares! It turns into a tale of survival, as the hunters become the hunted.. The special effects are excellent, especially the aftermath of a shotgun blast to the head (it's truly a "Holy Shit!" moment). The acting is generally good, with a nice performance from Joey Travolta as a novice in the woods. Bruce Glover and Billy Drago, as two of the poachers, look and act truly demented. HUNTER'S BLOOD is best movie of its type since John Boorman's DELIVERANCE (1972) and Jeff Lieberman's JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980). It's so good, it made me wanna squeal like a pig! Be prepared for a real downbeat ending. Also starring Sam Bottoms, Clu Gulager, Ken Swofford and Billy Bob Thornton in a small role as "Billy Bob". Directed by Robert C. Hughes (MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE - 1988, DOWN THE DRAIN - 1989). WRONG TURN (2003) and its five sequels (2007 - 2014) are other recent movies dealing with backwoods inbreds. An Embassy Home Video VHS Release. For some unknown reason, this excellent film has yet to find a DVD or Blu-Ray release yet, but never say never. Rated R.
INTERFACE (1984) - The computer nerds take a beating once again; this time they are playing a life or death game on a college campus with death meaning murder. Can the college professor (John Davies) figure out who is doing it before he becomes the next statistic? Undistinguished first feature from Andy Anderson, who later would hit critical acclaim with the film noir POSITIVE I.D. (1987). There are a couple of good scenes, including when the professor gets caught in the raw and must escape through town wearing nothing but a smile. Worth renting if your sights aren't set too high. A Vestron Video Release. Not Rated.
INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS (1972) - They sure don't make them like this anymore. A bunch of Druids in Upstate New York are draining the blood of the local population in hopes of resurrecting their queen. While this is by no means a good film, it is good for a few laughs (look at the blood draining machines and you'll spot swimming pool pumps as the main component!) and some surprising gore for a PG-rated film (back when PG meant more than family-friendly fare). Director Ed Adlum also produced and co-wrote (with Ed Kelleher) the fake bigfoot gore film SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974), which should be watched back-to-back with this one. This type of extremely low budget film just doesn't get made any more, which is a shame (I must have seen this film more than 6 times on double and triple-bills during the 70's & early 80's). Starring Norman Kelley, Tanna Hunter, Bruce Detrick, Jack Neubeck and Frank Iovieno. Photographed by Roberta Findlay (as Frederick Douglass) and edited by Michael Findlay (director of SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED). INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS was originally released on VHS by Regal Video, Inc. A Retromedia Entertainment DVD Release. Finally available in its original aspect ratio on a double feature DVD from Code Red with SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (a.k.a. DEATHOUSE - 1972), a public domain horror film that finally gets the proper treatment it deserves and is also shown in its original aspect ratio. Rated PG.
THE ITEM (1998) - Freaky little horror/action film about a group of four gun-toting cons who agree to pick up a strange electronically sealed package and sit on it for 24 hours for a fee of over one million dollars. Curiosity gets the better of them as they open the package and unleash one of the strangest creatures to ever grace the screen. It looks like a giant stitched-together penis and soon it has the four cons turning on each other and anyone who comes into the apartment. This Item speaks perfect English and knows all your fears, hopes and dreams and uses them against you. Filled with scenes of jaw-dropping violence (some of which is downright hilarious), gunfights, verbal sparring and characters that have to be seen to be believed. Director/Screenwriter/Star Dan Clark is to be congratulated for turning such a low budget film with such a weird premise into a treat for the eyes and the ears. This is a close as you can get to watching an art film and still call it horror. I like to think of it as Art House Exploitation. Mr. Clark is a force to watch out for in the future. Also starring Dawn Marie Velasquez, Dave Pressler, Dan Lake, Ron Fitzgerald and Judy Jean Kwon. An Artisan Home Entertainment Release. Unrated.
THE JACKHAMMER MASSACRE (2003) - Who is giving director Joe Castro money to keep making films? After the disasterous CEREMONY (1994), LEGEND OF THE CHUPACABRA (1997), TERROR TOONS (2001; and a 2007 sequel), NEAR DEATH (2003) and several others, someone seems to think that this guy has talent. Whoever he or she is should go to an eye doctor and have them checked right away. This pitiful excuse for a film portrays the downfall of once promising businessman Jack Magnus (Aaron Gaffey), who begins to tweak a special brand of methamphetamine with his old high school chum Mike (Kyle Yaskin) and becomes hopelessly addicted to the stuff, even though it kills his friend on the first try. He begins to have paranoid hallucinations that everyone is out to get him (and is also haunted by the ghost of Mike), picks up the titled tool and begins to run everyone through with it. Castro also supplies the special makeup effects (he's better at this than directing) and includes a truly cringe-inducing scene of Jack cleaning out his infected, swollen arm with q-tips and peroxide. There's also scenes of the jackhammer (with the longest extension cord in movie history) entering body parts, including the mouth, stomach, ass and other extremities, eyes being poked out, a lesbian scene and all the actors take off their shirts at one point or another, making some of the scenes look like a gay porn video. If Castro was trying to tell us that taking drugs was bad, point well-taken, even if it is heavy-handed. Otherwise this is just a gore-soaked, badly-acted snoozefest with no redeeming value and an ending which will probably lead to an unwanted sequel. If that interests you, then go for it. I just found it dull and listless, like some drug addict's libido. Also starring Evan Owen, Nadia Angelini, Desi O'Brian, Bart Burson and Joe Haggerty. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment Release (I'm still having a hard time believing that they would pick this up for distribution.). Rated R.
JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST (1973) - This is a severely-edited feature once known as KNIFE FOR THE LADIES and had a TV and foreign VHS release under the title SILENT SENTENCE. Cut down to 51 minutes by Bryanston Pictures (originally 89 minutes; this version was probably used as the bottom film on a double and triple-bill), the film is not boring as all the edits seem to sacrifice character development and not the violence. The small western town of Mescal (actually filmed in Tuscon, Arizona) is experiencing a series of women of ill-repute having their throats slit by some mysterious person wearing black gloves. A detective (Jeff Cooper of CIRCLE OF IRON - 1978) is sent to investigate much to the consternation of the town sheriff (the always wonderful Jack Elam). The two are adversaries at first, but after a big fistfight between them, they join forces to find the killer. The town matriarch, Elizabeth Mescal (Ruth Roman of THE BABY - 1973), who recently lost her son Travis, is the only clue to the killings. After the fatal stabbing of the town barber/mortician, the sheriff and the detective figure out the case. It seems Elizabeth's son Travis (Peter Athis) didn't die and is slowly dying of syphilis, which he caught off the town's whores. She keeps him locked in a cage upstairs in her house feeding him a strong pain killer to keep him alive and manageable. Elizabeth is killing the women (and men) in retribution for her son's condition. The film ends with her severely-scarred son falling off a staircase trying to stop his mother from killing the town's good girl Jenny (Diana Ewing), Both mom and son die. Director Larry G. Spangler (THE SOUL OF NIGGER CHARLEY - 1973) does a good job with the suspense and even gives his son Jon Spangler a major role as Seth, a kid who accuses the wrong person for killing one of the women, which leads to the man's death by hanging. Gene Evans (DEVIL TIMES FIVE - 1974) also appears as a man who wants the sheriff's job, only to get caught in a gunfight with the sheriff and losing. The short running time never gives the film a chance to bore, but you can tell good chunks of character exposition is missing between the killings. Brentwood offered this film on DVD in it's BLOOD BATH 2 compilation. It looks like the film was mastered from a VHS tape as there are instances of tape rolling and fluttering. You do get the choice of listening to it in Dolby Digital 5.0 though. Horror Westerns are a rare breed, so I think this scarce film alone is worth the DVD's price of $9.98. Also starring John Kellogg, Derek Sanderson and Phillip Avenetti. Amazingly, this was released on an uncut anamorphic widescreen Blu-Ray by Code Red (Available only through Screen Archives Entertainment) for the very first time in the United States. And it looks magnificent! Rated R.
THE KILLING OF SATAN (1983) - Wild Filipino horror/fantasy film which doesn't skimp on the gore effects. When Lando (Ramon Revilla) is shot in the head protecting his family from a gang of thugs, he miraculously recovers when the bullet hole disappears. Meanwhile, half a continent away, Lando's uncle (who has magical powers) dies of a bullet wound to the head but not before naming Lando as his successor as protector of the village. Lando inherits his uncle's powers and he is going to need them, for as soon as he sets foot in the village his daughter is kidnapped by the Prince of Magic (Charlie Davao), who plans to give the girl to Satan for carnal pleasure. Lando follows the Prince of Magic into his huge underground lair where he must battle snakemen, the Prince's minions, the Prince himself and, finally, Satan to save the virtue of his daughter. Extreme gore (a face ripping, a chest bursting, a man crushed by a large boulder) and cheap optical effects somehow make this a highly watchable film. Viewing this film is like having a dream while running a 105 degree fever. It doesn't make much sense but it does pack a wallop. A cult classic begging to be discovered. Also starring Elizabeth Oropesa, George Estregan, Paquito Diaz and Cecille Castillo. Directed by Efren C. Pinon (ENFORCER FROM DEATH ROW and BLIND RAGE - both 1978). From Paragon Video. Not Rated.
KINGDOM COME (2014) - As an Atheist, I generally frown upon sin and redemption disguised as horror films, but I must say that this one entertained me. Eight people, including a young girl, wake up at an abandoned hospital (The movie was filmed in a real abandoned mental hospital in the town of London, Ontario, Canada) with no idea how they got there. I know what you are thinking: They are all in Hell and have to pay for their sins in the worst way, but you would be wrong. None of them seemingly know each other, but there is evidence that they are all connected in some way, even if it's a trivial matter. There also seems to be no means of escape from the hospital. The angry Roger (JoJo Karume) sticks his arm out of a boarded-up window a few stories up, but something with sharp teeth bites him in the arm. Roger (who is the only black man among them) has a major attitude problem and leaves the group to go searching for a way out on his own. The other seven split up onto two groups and go searching for the same thing. Every once in a while, a member of the group has a flashback that gives us a little piece of their background and none of these flashbacks paint a good picture of any of them. But in their flashbacks is usually another member of the trapped group. Turns out that Roger was a notorious rapist and all his female victims (none of them have a stitch of clothing on) appear in the basement and rip Roger's stomach open, throwing his innards into the air. Victoria (Chelsey Marie) goes to take a pee and when she gets out of the stall, a junkie hands her a needle and the next thing we see is Victoria screaming and being pulled under the stalls (It's apparent Victoria was a junkie). Nadir (Soroush Saeidi) gets a visit from his dead daughter Meesha (Sima Sepehri), who he accidentally killed by smacking her in the face and falling down a flight of stairs just for the mere fact she was dating a black man and he is forced to hang himself with electrical wire before discovering it was all a hallucination (Or was it?). Sam (Ry Barrett) has a flashback where he killed his wife in a drunk driving accident while they were celebrating their anniversary. Roaming the halls is the debonairre Daniel Levine (Jason Martorino) and his entourage of "Gatekeepers", winged demons from the bowels of Hell. He takes particular interest in Sam and Jessica (Camille Hollett-French), who seem to be the keys to this whole hospital haunting. He kills some of the people in the abandoned hospital (some of which we are never formally introduced to) according to their crimes and the Gatekeepers drag the bodies away. But what could be little girl Celia's (Ellie O'Brien) crime? What could a pre-teen girl be so responsible for that she needs a demon to pass judgment on her? Pedophile Charles (William Foley) finds Celia hiding in a dryer and takes her hand and leads her away. Will his urges come over him before Sam and Jessica can save her (they have grown quite fond of her)? A child from Charles past, now a woman named Rachel (Katie Uhlmann; who is part of the original eight), goes to kill Charles because of sexual things he did to her in his past and Sam must fight a war of words with Daniel to get her to stop from killing Charles. Daniel wins (this time) and Rachel beats Charles to death with a pipe and the Gatekeepers drag Rachel away (Human nature is a tough act to break). "I can smell you, my little meat sacks!" is what Daniel says as he chases Sam, Rachel and Celia through the hospital corridors. Sam cuts off Daniel's hand when he grabs Rachel's hair but seconds later, we see Daniel with two hands again. Sam is magically dragged away by Daniel, but Jess seems to be in a room that Daniel can't enter. Jess leaves the room to save Sam's life and she stabs Daniel in the eye, but Daniel begins to psychically choke the life out of Sam, while Jess begs him to stop. Daniel makes Jess aware that Sam's drunk driving caused the death of her husband and herself. "It must just eat away at you like a motherfucker!" is Daniel's reply as he tries to get her to kill Sam. Jess instead says to Sam, "I forgive you!", which leaves Daniel powerless to do anything. Turns out Celia is working on the side of God, trying to find the good in people (she found it in Nadir) and, as the instrument of God, Daniel is pulled through a wall by some demon hands. Celia is also the ghostly apparition of Jess' aborted baby and she forgives Jess for her indiscretions (Jess was just a teenager when it happened), so Celia whispers, "172. She's waiting." to Sam, touches his cheek and suddenly Sam is at the automobile accident (seems like it was more of a pile-up than a two-car accident, as we see several people from the abandoned hospital, including Nadir, at the scene). Sam is able to locate Jess at mile marker 172 and the ambulance takes Jess away. Looks like she will have a nice life (although still husbandless). As Sam is strapped to the inside of the ambulance, Daniel appears and says, "Better buckle up Sammy Boy! It's going to be a bumpy ride!" Sam may be damned to Hell for his sins, but at least he did the right thing when it counted most. Never preachy or overtly religious, this supernatural film with some severe dollops of gore and nudity (Roger's death is a doozy and we can now understand why he is so confrontational in the beginning of the film. It has nothing to do with his color.), director/editor/co-producer/co-screenwriter (with Geoff Hart [Producer of UNEARTHLY - 2013 and TAPPED OUT - 2014]) Greg A. Sager (DEVIL SEED - 2012) makes an eerie little film with lots of atmosphere thanks to filming at an actual abandoned mental hospital. It may take the viewer several viewings to see what Mr. Sager was aiming for here (religious people may get the inference sooner than most other people), but this is a good little horror film with religious undertones. Being an Atheist, films like this don't bother me, especially if they are as entertaining as this one. Give this Canadian film a try and you may just find yourself creeped out by the way it is filmed and the connections between most of the cast. I will definitely watch more films by Greg Sager when they come out, especially if they offer the mystery and forgiveness (to a point) a film like this rarely shows. Good stuff to make you feel better about your own life unless you are worse than the people shown on screen. Also starring Bruce Turner, Colin Paradine, Stephanie Capeling, Kim Kaitall and Kat Krawczuk, Korinne Goudreau, Emily Deruytter, Matthew Chiu and Katherine Prentice as the winged Gatekeepers (really well done creature effects). An Uncork'd Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.
KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) - I consider this the JAWS of normal-sized killer spider movies (and there have been plenty, such as KISS OF THE TARANTULA - 1972 [see review below]; TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO - 1977; ARACHNOPHOBIA - 1990; IN THE SPIDER'S WEB - 2007). Why do I love this film so much, you may ask? Well, because real tarantulas (thousands of them) were used and all the actors had to endure them crawling all over their bodies, even biting them at times (William Shatner tells a good story on an extra on the DVD about him being covered with tarantulas while wearing a silk shirt and he could feel their claws as they crawled up his body!) and even though Shatner claimed very few actual spiders were killed in the film, from what I saw, it looked like an awful lot were snuffed out!. The premise is simple: veterinarian Rack Hansen (Shatner), who is taking care of his dead brother's wife Terry (Marcy Lafferty, who was married to Shatner at the time) and niece Linda (Natasha Ryan), after his brother is killed in the Vietnam War (Terry and Rack almost have a romantic interlude until she calls him his brother's name!) is called to the farm of Walter Coby (Woody Strode; SCREAM - 1981) and his wife Birch (Altovise Davis; WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH - 1973; and one-time wife to Sammy Davis Jr.) because their prized heifer looks like it was bitten by snakes and had died. Rack sends a sample of the heifer's blood to a local University and scientist Dr. Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling; BONNIE'S KIDS - 1972) and her Mercedes travel to Rack's town of Verde Valley (where a Festival is to take place in a couple of weeks) and accidentally meets Rack at the local gas station and mistakens him for the gas jockey (the entire sequence is funny because Shatner is very charming in this film and doesn't do his typical word cadence, where he pauses between words). When Rack and Diane meet properly, she tells him that the heifer was not bitten by snakes at all, but hundreds of spiders, tarantulas to be specific. They head for Walter's farm (the town's Mayor Connors [Roy Engel] is more concerned about a quarantine being put into place, destroying any chance of holding the Festival. Sound familiar?), where Walter and Birch show them a giant spider mound. Diane is surprised that different species of tarantulas are not fighting with each other (and cannibalizing each other), but getting along like good neighbors. Diane theorizes that because of the use of DDT (Remember that fiasco? If not, Google it), the spiders have adapted to it, but their food sources have been killed in the process. She then goes on to say that because the spiders have lost their food sources, they have adapted to new food sources, namely animals (there have been over 30 missing animals reports in the last month alone). Rack, Diane and Coby decide to burn down the mound when Coby's prized bull is killed by the spiders, but when they set fire to the mound, the spiders have a back door getaway. As Rack and Diane begin a romantic relationship (much to Terry's dismay), the spiders attack Coby in his truck and he goes over the side of the road, When Rack, Diane and Sheriff Smith (David McLean) make it down to Coby's truck, they discover that Coby is covered in a web cocoon. The Mayor makes the decision to use a powerful insecticide (to Diane's objections) on the spiders when 20 to 30 more spider mounds are found scattered throughout the countryside, so he hires The Baron (Whitey Hughes) to fly his plane and spray the affected areas. Little does The Baron know is that the plane is covered inside with tarantulas and before he can really begin spraying the insecticide, he is attacked (and he yelps out the girliest man-scream I have ever heard!) and crashes his plane into the garage of the gas station, where it explodes into a ball of fire (This portion of the film has a lot of realism, because you can see that Shatner, Bolling, Hoke Howell, who plays the mechanic/gas jockey, and other actors in the film, were actually there when the plane crashes and explodes and no stunt people were involved. That took a lot of guts for everyone involved.). Our heroes become trapped in the Washburn Lodge, run by Emma Washburn (Lieux Dressler; TRUCK STOP WOMEN - 1974) and occupied by her only other two guests, Vern & Betty Johnson (Joe Ross, Adele Malis). They try to cover up all the entrances that the spiders can come through (the air conditioning vents, the fireplace and other entry points), but they have a hard time keeping the hordes of tarantulas out. The Sheriff decides to check out the town, only to find out that it has already been overrun with spiders, as he spots people in web cocoons on the side of the road and people running in terror with spiders all over them (it is quite the event, but not the Festival they were expecting!). The sheriff dies when a car veers out of control and takes out the two front legs of the water tower and it falls directly on the Sheriff's car (Birch is also killed when her home is overrun with spiders and she nearly blows off her hand shooting a pistol at a spider residing there and Terry dies while saving Linda). When the spiders take out the lodge's electricity by shorting out the fuse box in the basement, Rack goes downstairs to fix it. He does, but then a ton of tarantulas break the window above him and jump all over his body (it's quite the sight) as Rack barely makes it up the stairs and gets medical attention from Diane. As the sun rises and the spiders have seemed to stop their attack, Rack decides to remove a board on a window and is horrified at what he sees: the entire town is one giant spider cocoon. What can they do next? Well, there was supposed to be a sequel made (according to Shatner's interview), but it never happened. This is probably director John "Bud" Cardos' (THE DAY TIME ENDED - 1979; THE DARK - 1979; NIGHT SHADOWS - 1984; SKELETON COAST - 1987) crowning achievement because it is suspenseful without being bloody (unless you have a fear of spiders; then you will be shitting your pants!) and the storyline (screenplay by Richard Robinson and Alan Caillou; THE LOSERS - 1970) puts almost everyone in the cast with a chance to be covered with spiders (even Cardos' son, Jon-Jon, who we see in the town, is crawling on the pavement with spiders all over his body). If you like horror films from the 70's that cross the boundaries of good taste, you can't do much better than KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. I use to have a deadly fear of spiders, but now that I don't, I can appreciate this film on its own merits. No CGI. Everything practical, including all the spiders being real. And there are a whole lot of spiders! Also starring Bill Foster, Jay Lawrence, Bettie Bolling (Tiffany Bollings' mother) and Juanita Merritt. I originally saw this film on a budget VHS from Interglobal Home Video, then a fullscreen DVD from Goodtimes Entertainment and finally (the only true way to watch it as of this writing) an anamorphic widescreen DVD (with a ton of extras, including the aforementioned Shatner interview) from Shout! Factory. Rated PG, but this is a 70's PG-Rating, not the pansy PG-Rating of today. Also available on Blu-Ray from Code Red.
KISS OF THE TARANTULA (1972) - A gruesome little shocker about a teenage girl (Suzanne Ling) and her fondness for spiders.. When anyone crosses her or her mortician father, the spiders come out to set things right. Her leering uncle and town sheriff (Eric Mason) has eyes for her, and she has the perfect plan to dispose of him. She also takes vengeance on the high school kids who broke into her house and killed her prized spider. She unleashes a slew of her friendly eight-legged buddies in their VW Bug (how ironic!) at a drive-in. It's a pretty graphic scene. Although its' low budget shows, it still has some nice touches and a great ending which shouldn't be missed. Recommended for those who are not arachnophobic. Director Chris Munger also made the exploitationer BLACK STARLET (1974 - a.k.a. BLACK GAUNTLET) also starring Eric Mason. Producers Daniel Cady and John Hayes were also responsible for GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) and GARDEN OF THE DEAD (1972 - a.k.a. TOMB OF THE UNDEAD). The first time I saw KISS OF THE TARANTULA it was on WOR TV (Channel 9 in New York, now part of the UPN network) about 35 years ago and they showed it uncut. Now it is only shown cut (at least the last time I saw it on TV in 1986). The defunct Gorgon Video label released an uncut version of this film in the mid-80's. Also available on uncut anamorphic widescreen DVD from VCI Entertainment. If you can find it, pick it up. Rated PG, but don't let that put you off. This is adult material.
LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1973) - Some genre critics found this film unnerving and terrifying. I found it sloppy and amateurish. A recently paroled porno filmmaker grows tired of his craft and decides to make snuff films instead. He recruits some willing comrades to help him and films his enemies being killed in various bloody ways (dismemberment on an operating table, drill bit through the head, etc.). An interesting premise unfortunately undone by bad acting, grade school effects, terrible lighting, chainsaw editing and plenty of post-synch dubbing. Directed by Roger Watkins using the pseudonym "Victor Janos". He would later go on to make the hard-to-find thriller SHADOWS OF THE MIND (1976), as well as directing stylish porn films under the pseudonym "Richard Mahler" before dying at the age of 58 in 2007. Also known as THE FUN HOUSE. The VHS tape of this title, released by Sun Video Distribution, goes for insane amounts of money in collectors markets and auction sites. Also available in a deluxe 2-disc DVD presentation by the now-defunct Barrel Entertainment. It was one of the best presentations of a horror film on DVD and was full of unexpected extras and hidden Easter eggs. Even though I disliked the film immensely, the Barrel Entertainment DVD made watching the film a worthwhile experience. Very few DVDs have been able to make that claim in my book. Unrated.
LEECHES! (2003) - Director David DeCoteau is paying way too much time making movies that would please gay men. This is one of those films. The men (actually teenagers) are rarely wearing shirts and constantly sporting Speedos and the women characters are vapid and generally there because they have to be if DeCoteau is to release this as a mainstream film. A male college swimming team (enter your own gay male fantasy here if you like) use steroids to enhance their performance. Unfortunately, while swimming at the local pond, they are attacked by leeches who begin to grow three feet in length and begin killing the team and their girlfriends. The leeches (who are actually rubber concoctions pulled by strings or hand puppets when they attack) somehow also begin to get smarter as they grow, something that is not revealed until the "surprise" ending. A nerdy team member, who refuses to take steroids, tries to find a way to kill the leeches and save what is left of the swimming team and their chicks. This movie is nearly stupid in every department, except for the cinematography of Gary Graver, who gives the film a polish it so dearly needs. If you like close-ups of the male body, so lovingly panned up and down that it almost seems like softcore porn, then this is the film for you. If you want a balls-to-the-wall horror film (insert joke here), skip this and watch something else instead. Myself, personally, felt dirty after viewing this. Mr. DeCoteau, whose first non-porn film was DREAMANIAC (1986), has made some really bad films in his life, but he has also made some decent ones, including SKELETONS (1996) and FINAL STAB (2001). He dedicates this film to the late Doris Wishman, who I am sure would have been pleased since none of her films ever had the productions values of this one. It's not praise, but at least someone had the guts to dedicate a film to such an obscure personality. LEECHES! stars Matthew Twining, Josh Henderson, Stacey Nelson, Tony Carroccio, Charity Rahmer and Mike Cole. A Sidekick Entertainment/Rapid Heart Pictures Release. Rated R.
LIONMAN II: THE WITCHQUEEN (1979) - Abysmal Turkish (thats right, Turkish!) fantasy that is filled with phony fight scenes and a droning synthesizer score. Lionman (Frank Morgan), who, as you can probably guess, was raised by lions since he was a baby, and his band of acrobatic fighters fight an evil witchqueen (Dee Taylor) and her evil king (producer Erich Akman) after they kidnap Lionmans son. Many magic spells and traps dog Lionmans every move as the witchqueen uses her demonic powers to try to kill Lionman so she and the king can claim his domain. See Lionman (who straps on a pair of gloves shaped as lion paws) fight hordes of evil Turks single-handedly with hardly any blood spilled. He also fights a swamp monster, has his horse shrunk to miniature and dodges many booby traps. This is bad stuff directed with no imagination by Michael Arslan. A Boomerang Films Release. Not Rated.
THE LOVE BUTCHER (1975) - Pretty good bizarre psycho-thriller. Someone is killing young women with gardening tools. The police are baffled. A reporter is on the case. A killer is on the loose. Although this case would be solved in 10 seconds in real life, the point of this film is to showcase the talents of Erik Stern. He displays a dual personality, which is truly fascinating. One character is Caleb, a crippled, bald and ugly gardener whom his women customers pick on. The other character is Lester, Caleb's handsome dead brother, who considers himself an "Adonis to all women". When a woman puts down Caleb, Lester pays her a lethal visit. The script contains many twists and turns along with a few shocks. Sympathetic characters are knocked-off and Erik Stern's transformation from one brother to another is amazing. He does it with a minimal of makeup. And his acting talents aren't bad either. If you see this in the video stores, pick it up. The frequent zoom shots aside, this is a rather well made film. Good show. Director Mikel Angel (who co-directed this film with Don Jones of SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS  fame) has had an active life in exploitation films, as a director, writer (PSYCHIC KILLER - 1974; GROTESQUE - 1988; DEMON KEEPER - 1993) and actor (THE BLACK SIX - 1974; EVIL SPIRITS - 1990) before passing away in 2005. A Monterey Home Video VHS Release. Finally availailable on a beautiful widescreen DVD & Blu-Ray from Code Red which are the only ways you should be watching the film now. They are sharp, colorful and in their original aspect ratios. Rated R.
LURKING FEAR (1994) - This Full Moon production is purportedly based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. I bet he is turning in his grave. A group of people converge on an old church in the town of Leverts Corner, each with their own agenda. Cathryn Farrell (the lovely Ashley Lauren) comes to this town to avenge the death of her sister, who was killed by a race of cannibalistic creatures who live beneath the cemetery next to the church. John Martense (Blake Bailey) comes to the cemetery to dig up a fortune in money that his dead hoodlum father buried in a casket. A gangster (Jon Finch) and his hoods take everyone hostage including a priest (Paul Mantee) and a drunk doctor (Jeffrey Combs) in hopes of getting his hands on the buried loot. The remainder of the film consists of the motley group fighting off the attacking creatures as they are picked off one-by-one. Jon Finch (FRENZY - 1972) does add some class here but this is still standard by-the-numbers material with nothing special to offer the viewer. In other words, a typical Full Moon film. Directed and written by C. Courtney Joyner (TRANCERS III: DETH LIVES - 1992). From Paramount Home Video. Rated R.
LUTHER THE GEEK (1990 - 1991) - Director Carlton J. Albright, who wrote and produced the equally perverse 1980 film THE CHILDREN, has crafted a work of unbridled disturbing behavior here. Writing under the pseudonym "Whitey Styles", Albright tells the story of Luther Watts (Edward Terry), a rather troubled individual who had his teeth knocked out as a child while watching a circus geek bite the head off a chicken. In 1990, Luther is released from a correctional facility after spending 25 years there for murdering three people by biting their necks and watching them bleed out. As soon as Luther is released, he chows down on the neck (with his sharpened metal teeth!) of an old lady (Gail Buxton) waiting at a bus stop and hides out at a farm house owned by Hilary Lawson (Joan Roth). Luther takes Hilary hostage (after a failed attempt of blowing her vagina off with a shotgun!) and ties her to a bed. Hilary's daughter Beth (Stacy Haiduk) discovers her mother tied to the bed but cannot free her in time before Luther comes back after injuring Beth's boyfriend Rob (Thomas Mills) and killing an intruding hunter (Martin Widener). Luther can only communicate by cackling like a chicken or crowing like a rooster, so reasoning with him is out of the question. Luther holds Hilary, Beth and Rob hostage, but you know pretty soon this is going to turn into a cat-and-mouse chase, where only the survival of the fittest and quickest-thinking can survive. I won't spoil the rest of the film for first-time viewers, but you'll be highly-rewarded, if not grossed-out by the rest of the proceedings. The bloodletting is highly realistic and the tension builds to a heart-pounding conclusion. This is Carlton J. Albright's only directorial effort and it's a damned shame that he hasn't made another film since. This is truly gripping stuff that should be watched by anyone who likes to be scared. In case you haven't noticed, I liked this film. The performances of all involved are realistic to the situations and, just like in real life, there are no complete happy endings. Pick this one up if you get the chance! It took Albright two years to complete LUTHER THE GEEK, due to financial difficulties. Available on VHS from Dead Alive Productions and Quest Entertainment, which are both long OOP. This film deserves a decent DVD release unlike the one Troma let escape on the marketplace.. It looks like a VHS transfer and the sound is all screwed up. Also starring J. Joseph Clark as a relentless State Trooper. Not Rated for all the obvious bloody reasons.
MALATESTA'S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973) - This odd little art house/gore film was considered lost for thirty years. A single copy of the film was found in someone's attic and transferred to DVD. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's not a very good film and its only claim to fame is that late dwarf actor Herve de Vellechaize ("De Plane, De Plane!") has a small role in it. Director Christopher Speeth has a severe problem of putting the camera at the wrong places at the wrong time. Heads are cut out of the frame and the hand-held camera has a problem keeping up with the action. It all takes place at a carnival run by the mysterious Malatesta (Daniel Dietrich), where workers and patrons are killed by his ghoulish minions by decapitation, stabbings and cannibalism. Everyone is told that it's "all an illusion" by head ghoul Mr. Blood (Jerome Dempsey) and it well may be so. It's just that the story's so confusing, the set pieces disturbing (ghouls eating body parts while Lon Chaney's silent versions of HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923) and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) are projected in the background) and the ending is abrupt. The arty approach works sometimes (Speeth has a thing for sheets of plastic as they cover everything and rooms are created from it) but more often everything just falls flat and it seems like a Psych student's take on existentialism. Nothing makes sense and people that are killed keep turning up alive again. This film actually played in theaters down South in 1973 and then disappeared into obscurity. The outtakes on the DVD show even more gore (a ghoul eating a severed head, body parts littered on the floor) and some cut scenes. At 73 minutes, the film seems 60 minutes too long. In case you didn't notice, I didn't like the film. Also starring Bill Preston, Janine Carazo and Lenny Baker as an evil janitor. If this film seems to be your cup of blood, the DVD can be ordered by going to www.malatestascarnivalofblood.com. Rated R.
MARK OF THE WITCH (1970) - Impossibly dated, cheap and boring supernatural film about a witch who takes over a college girl's body and wrecks minor havoc in a small college town. This film is nothing but talk, talk, talk which nearly made me turn it off, something I have never done. No blood, no nudity and no action (not even a single swear word!) make this film an exploitation lover's worst nightmare. The only enjoyment anyone can find here is spotting the 60's clothing and listening to the "hip" dialogue (of which there's plenty). It's a very small consolation as you will also have to sit through the longest 76 minutes of your life. MARK OF THE WITCH is recommended to those who only have 76 minutes to live. Starring Robert Elston, Anitra Walsh and Darryl Wells. Directed by Tom Moore (RETURN TO BOGGY CREEK - 1977), who hasn't a clue on how to keep the viewer's attention. On VHS from AIR Video. Also available on DVD from Retromedia/Image Entertainment with THE BRIDES WORE BLOOD. Also available on DVD as part of SIX PACK VOLUME ONE from Code Red. Not Rated.