RABID GRANNIES (1989) - Heavily edited (at least here in the States) but still outrageous horror-comedy from Belgium. A group of relatives gather at the mansion of their wealthy aunts (not grannies) to celebrate their birthdays. What a lovely bunch of people they are: A mistrusting lesbian and her beautiful lover; a cowardly husband and his wife and two bratty kids; a lecherous nephew who hits on the lesbian's lover; a truly repulsive child-hating priest; a man with a wife young enough to be his daughter; and, a bike-riding spinster. All these people have one thing in common: They are at this party to get on the good side of their aunts so they will be put in the will. While the party is going on a sinister-looking hag delivers a gift from a nephew who was disowned by the family for practicing black magic. The gift is an ancient box and, when it is opened, demons possess the two elderly aunts. They proceed to literally rip apart their family. From this point on the carnage doesn't stop. It is a shame that Troma, who distributes this film in the US and other territories, decided to release a severely edited cut, devoid of the gorier scenes to secure an R rating. The DVD they released in America is also full screen, with the edited out scenes as extras on the disc. In the United Kingdom they released the fully unedited version on DVD in widescreen. This is what you are missing in the R-rated version: People are ripped in half, beheaded, crushed between bars of an iron gate and one unlucky man gets his ass chewed off. Best scene: The two possessed aunts corner the priest and hand him an automatic rifle. They give him a choice: Either shoot himself where he will go to Hell for taking his own life or let the aunts poke out his eyes and eat his stomach where he will die and go to Heaven. He takes the easy way out. This is one of the most original scenes on film in years as it induces shudders as well as laughs. Bravo to first-time (and only time) director/screenwriter Emmanuel Kervyn for making something other than a run-of-the-mill, reading-of-the-will potboiler. The film is smothered in atmosphere and looks like Kervyn studied the horror films of Italy, especially Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985). This is a bloody good show. Starring Danielle Daven, Anne Marie Fox, Jack Mayar, Elliot Lison, Raymond Lescot and Guy Van Riet. A Media Home Entertainment and Troma Team Release. Rated R.

THE RAGE (2007) - Stop me if you heard this before: A mad scientist kidnaps innocent people and performs illicit experiments on them, only to have one of his guinea pigs escape, which leads to events where a group of annoying young teens are stalked and killed. Heard it before? I thought so, but the only things THE RAGE has going in it's favor are a heavy quantity of bloody gore and a smattering of nudity. Some viewers will find that enough to get through the next 86 minutes, but others will be asking for more, like logic and a coherent plot. Dr. Viktor Vasilienko (Andrew Divoff; FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED - 2001), a mad Russian scientist, has been infecting kidnapped people for several years with his Rage mutagen, hoping to spread the infection throughout the free world (don't ask). One of his subjects breaks free, kills Viktor and escapes into the forest, where he kills a necking couple in a car. He then dies and his corpse is picked clean by a flock of vultures, which then become infected and attack weekend fisherman Uncle Ben (Reggie Bannister, who manages to get a PHANTASM reference in, even though his screen time is less than three minutes). After chowing down on his visiting niece and nephew (played by director Robert Kurtzman's children), Uncle Ben is then killed when he is run over by an RV occupied by a group of idiotic twenty-somethings (one of them portrayed by ultra-low-budget scream queen Misty Mundae, using the name "Erin Brown" here) on their way back from an outdoor rave. The vultures attack and disable the RV (in a scene that will either have you howling with laughter or shaking your head in disbelief), forcing the group to flee into the woods, where they are either killed by the vultures (who spit an acidic liquid out of their beaks!) or infected with the virus. The survivors manage to make it to Viktor's hidden laboratory, only to discover that the mad Russian has returned from the dead, infected with the Rage virus and anxious to continue his experiments. The doctor and his two mutant sidekicks (the results of his failed attempts) continue his research, but the final two ravers fight back using whatever sharp instrument is handy (and there are many) to make their escape. In typical modern horror film fashion, there's an unnecessary sting in the final shot that leaves this film open for a sequel.  If it's blood and gore you want, look no further. All others stay away. The film nearly screeches to a dead stop once we meet the ravers, who are some of the worst actors this side of a H.G. Lewis film, but director Robert Kurtzman (THE DEMOLITIONIST - 1995; WISHMASTER - 1997, also starring Andrew Divoff), the former K of KNB Effects, tosses in so many bloody makeup effects, like decapitations, eye-gouging, impalements, axes to the head and bites out of flesh, that you can almost forgive the terrible thespians. Almost. The final thirty minutes, where a deformed Divoff (who is his usual professional, off-kilter self) reappears and explains his motivations for his hatred of western culture (It seems he found the cure for cancer, only to have his research stolen by U.S. interests and he was then placed in an insane asylum, where he was given electroshock treatments), becomes total inept insanity, especially his dwarf transvestite hunchback assistant (!), who carries around a stuffed monkey and screams "Kiss the monkey!" to the restrained ravers as he/she/it shoves the stuffed animal in their faces. While Kurtzman and his newly-formed Precinct 13 Entertainment effects crew manage to supply as many practical effects as possible (lots of squishy bladder effects and dismembered body parts), there are also some glaringly-bad CGI shots on view, especially whenever the vultures are in flight, which don't for a second look like anything but cheap computer animation. Some of the blood effects are also enhanced by CGI and they are just as noticeable as the damned vultures. THE RAGE delivers on the grue, but fails on nearly every other level. That can either be read as a ringing endorsement or a dire warning. I'll leave that decision up to you. And what's up with all these new horror films having headache-inducing thrash metal soundtracks? This one contains songs from Mushroomhead and The Fakers. Gary Jones, the director of such genre films as MOSQUITO (1995), SPIDERS (2000) and CROCODILE 2: DEATH SWAMP (2002), was Line Producer and First Assistant Director here. Also starring Ryan Hooks, Sean Serino, Rachel Scheer, Anthony Clark, Christopher Nelson, Matt Jerrams and Alan Tuskes. Available on widescreen DVD with many bonus features (including a behind-the-scenes doc that's longer than the film and twice as interesting) from Screen Media Films. Unrated.

THE RAT MAN (1987) - Who but those crazy Italians would remake Sondra Locke’s RATBOY (1986) as a horror film? Why would they want to? A scientist crosses the genes of a monkey and a rat and comes up with the title creation (portrayed by Guinness World Book title holder for the shortest human being: 27 inch-tall actor Nelson de la Rosa [in ridiculous make-up]). The creature breaks loose and kills anyone that gets in it’s way, including models on a fashion shoot. The sister of one of the models (Janet Agren of GATES OF HELL - 1980) teams up with a TV mystery writer (the late David Warbeck of THE BEYOND - 1982) to stop this pitiful tiny terror. Basically a series of stalk-and-slash scenes, this mundane film is real boring and will tax even the most patient viewer. Illogical to the extreme, THE RAT MAN pushes the believability barrier by giving such a small creature the ability to slaughter full-size humans without much of a fight. All rats and monkeys should protest this film. Directed by Guiliano Carmineo using the pseudonym "Anthony Ascott" (THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS - 1971; EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 - 1983). Also starring Eva Grimaldi and Werner Pochath. This film is not available on any legal label in the U.S., but can be purchased from many gray market sellers. Not Rated. NOTE: Nelson de la Rosa died on September 22, 2006 of unknown causes. He is probably best remembered by movie fans as the diminutive sidekick of Marlon Brando in 1996's THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. He was also the blueprint for Mini-Me in the AUSTIN POWERS movies and sports fans on the East Coast also knew him as the pal of then-Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, who used Nelson as a good luck charm during the Sox's 2004 World Series run. R.I.P. Nelson.

RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (1983) - In the year 225 A.B. (After The Bomb) there are two types of people who live on Earth: Those who live above the ground and those who live beneath it. A ragtag group of above-ground scavengers are searching for food and shelter when they chance upon an abandoned town. It seems to be an Eden to them because the town has a healthy supply of food, liquor and even a water purification machine. Eden soon turns into Hell however, as this town is populated by thousand of man-hungry rats who begin to attack and devour the new visitors. After three of the group are killed (one girl is eaten from the inside-out as she is trapped in a sleeping bag) the rest barricade themselves in a building, as the rats have chewed through their vehicles' tires and contaminated their food and water supplies. The rats manage to pick off the group one-by-one until only four are left. The quartet discover a recording device in which a scientist details the evolution of these rats. Prolonged exposure to radiation have evolved the rats into a new intelligent species. After spending years underground, the rats have returned to the surface to claim what is rightfully theirs. The rats begin an all-out assault and two more of the group are killed. When all seems lost, the remaining two are saved by the underground people who come to the surface wearing yellow radiation suits and gas masks. The duo thank them for saving their lives as one of them removes his gas mask, revealing the face of .......a rat! Guaranteed not to be endorsed by the Humane Society, this film has live rats being burned, impaled, stepped-on and generally mistreated. Call me twisted, but I found this more disturbing than the frequent shots of the rodents chewing through human bodies. This Italian production, directed by Bruno Mattei (using the pseudonym Vincent Dawn) and co-directed by Claudio Fragasso (a.k.a. "Clyde Anderson" of MONSTER DOG fame), has many gross effects and full frontal male and female nudity to hold your attention. The best part of the film is the character's names. Deuce, Video and Lucifer are some of the names you'll hear and the lone black cast member (Geretta Geretta, a.k.a. "Janna Ryann"; WARRIOR OF THE LOST WORLD - 1983) is given the name Chocolate! As with most Italian genre films, the dubbing is unbelievable and the dialogue is hilarious. RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR is better than most of the Italian post-apocalypse films due largely to a different type of storyline (no MAD MAX-type action here) and a good, healthy dose of unrated gore. But did they really have to kill live rats? Starring Richard Raymond, Alex McBride, Ann Gisel Glass and Richard Cross. Also known as RATS OF MANHATTAN. A Video Treasures Home Video Release. Also available from Anchor Bay in pristine form on DVD. Now available in an even more pristine form as part of a double feature Blu-Ray with HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) from Blue UndergroundUnrated.

THE REDEEMER (1976) - Weird slasher film with religious undertones. The film opens with the following statement superimposed over a shot of a serene lake: "From out of the darkness the hand of the Redeemer shall appear to punish those who have lived in sin..."  Then, a boy rises from the water and we see his shadow appear over the bed of a faceless sleeping man. The man then goes to the Stuart Morse Academy and murders the caretaker and makes a mask of the dead man's face. Meanwhile, the boy has hopped on a school bus and goes to church, where he puts on an altar boy uniform and joins the other children while they listen to a preacher deliver a fire and brimstone sermon. We are then introduced to short glimpses into the lives of six people, each of them sinners in their own way (vain movie star, abusive husband, rich uncaring lawyer, closet lesbian, etc.). What do they all have in common? They are all going to their high school reunion this weekend...at the Stuart Morse Academy. They all gather at the academy only to find that they were the only ones invited. They are greeted at the door by the imposter caretaker who leads them to a banquet hall. He then locks all the doors (all the windows have bars on them). Let the killing begin. After stuffing their faces and trying to one-up each other, the six characters realize they are trapped when they find the maggot-infested corpse of the caretaker and the killer taunts them outside while dressed as the Grim Reaper. The first guy is killed when a clown marionette carrying a blowtorch burns him to death. One girl finds a way out of the house, only to be shotgunned by the killer, dressed as a hunter. Even though the final four decide to stick together, the killer manages to do them in. One gets a sword dropped on his brainpan, another is drowned in a bathroom sink full of hot water and another is shot point-blank in the head (but not before seroiusly wounding the killer, who is now dressed as a lawyer). The final woman is killed by another clown marionette carrying a sword and then it immediately cuts to the preacher finishing his sermon. When the boy leaves the church (he touches the priest, telling him that "everything will be alright now"), be prepared for two "What The Fuck?!?" moments when the preacher removes his shirt.  The best way to describe this film, directed by Constantine S. Gochis (his only directorial effort), is strangely twisted. Though we never know the motivation of the killer (Was he sent by God or did the six people do something to him when they were in high school?), the entire film is one big puzzle that must be watched very closely (it demands repeat viewings) if you are to receive the proper clues. When the killer, disguised as a magician says, "Guilt...is a hard-edged thing", just before dropping a sword on the movie star's head (the film's bloodiest effect), it will send a chill down your spine. While basically a riff on organized Catholicism (each person killed represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins), once you realize who the killer actually is, you'll see that screenwriter William Vernick may not be the biggest fan of religion in general. Without giving away too much, there's a scene in the beginning of the film where an altar boy is telling a dirty joke to the other boys while they're getting changed into their uniforms. When the boy from the lake doesn't laugh, the joke-teller threatens him with a knife. At the end of the film, we see the joke-teller dead with his throat slit, hidden in the back of the station wagon of a bible salesman. The entire film has an eerie vibe to it that cannot be described properly (the music helps immensely). It must be viewed to be fully appreciated. This film, along with SAVAGE WEEKEND (1976), are two unsung 70's gems just begging to be rediscovered. Starring Damien Knight, Jeanette Arnette, Nick Carter, Nikki Barthen, Michael Hollingsworth, Gyr Patterson, T.C. Finkbinder as the killer and Christopher Flint as the boy. Also known as CLASS REUNION MASSACRE (on the Continental Video Video label) and THE REDEEMER...SON OF SATAN. A Video Communications, Inc. (VCI) Release. Also available in a horrible VHS transfer from Genesis Home Video and on widescreen DVD & Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.

THE RED MONKS (1988) - This is one of the many late-'80s Italian horror films that is part of the "Lucio Fulci Presents" series, but unlike many of the others, no footage was cribbed here for Fulci's piecemeal film A CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990). Fulci had nothing to do with the making of this film (besides a fake-ass-looking spider that looks like it was a leftover from his THE BEYOND [1981]) and reportedly subsequently sued the producers to remove his name from the film. It looks like he succeeded in Italy, but when this was released all over the world on VHS & DVD, they played up Fulci's involvement, saying that he was a producer or supplied special effects to this film. Needless to say, none of that is true at all (his name appears nowhere on the credits).
     Richard Garlini (Gaetano "Ronald" Russo; THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS - 1974) is walking through the woods and comes across an abandoned castle. He then hears violin music and sees an old woman in a red dress wearing a big hat with a black veil draped across her face playing a haunting tune on the violin. He compliments the woman's violin playing and tells her he thought the castle was abandoned a long time ago. She tells him he is correct, not bothering to explain why she is in the middle of nowhere playing the violin. Richard tells the woman his name and she replies, "Yes, I know." He tells the woman that the castle and the land surrounding it once belonged to his family, but for some unknown reason they stopped taking care of it. He just inherited the castle and property, so he decided to come here and check it out; he's thinking of turning it into a hotel or boarding school. The old woman congratulates him and tells him to take a look inside the castle and check out what state it's in and then she continues playing the violin and walks away. Richard enters the castle and finds it in a disheveled state, but there's a valuable sword hanging on a wall, its handle encrusted with what looks like rubies. He touches it and cuts his finger. He then sees a beautiful naked blonde woman walking upstairs and goes to investigate. He follows the woman down to the castle's catacombs that lead him further down, walking through an iron gate into a strange room. He finds the naked woman standing in the middle of the room, her back to him. She is holding the sword Richard saw hanging on the wall and when she turns around, she slices off Richard's head with it.
     Fifty Years Earlier (Sometime in the 1930's): We see Richard's father, Robert Garlini (Gerardo Amato; CALIGULA - 1979) at the castle, listening to his dog Morgan bark incessantly, so he goes outside to investigate. He finds a pretty young woman, Ramona Curtis (Lara Wendel; YOU'LL DIE AT MIDNIGHT - 1986), up a tree, telling Robert that his dog chased her there. Robert tells the strange unknown woman to jump down from the tree and he will catch her, not to worry about Morgan because his bark is worse than his bite (There's a fake-ass-looking spider slowly crawling towards Ramona as she is sitting in the tree that neither of them see). Ramona won't jump until Robert closes his eyes like any "gentleman" would and he does just that, but when Ramona jumps, they both are knocked to the ground and laugh, introducing themselves to each other. It seems Ramona was on the castle grounds to paint a nature scene, showing Robert her easel and half-painted art. It's obvious that a romance is developing, as Robert invites her to come inside the castle so his housekeeper, Priscilla (Malisa Longo; SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN - 1974), can mend her ripped skirt. Pricilla mends the skirt and hands it to a half-naked Ramona, asking her if she intends to stay at the castle, saying they only use a small portion of the castle and if she stays, she will be put in one of the many castle rooms that she and Robert haven't seen yet. Ramona tells her no and a sly smile comes across Priscilla's face. It's also obvious that Priscilla has the hots for Robert, but does he feel the same way about her?
     Apparently not, for a short time later we see Robert and Ramona getting married at a church in a small ceremony; just them, a priest and a witness. They drive back to the castle, where Robert tells his new wife that the castle is hers and they begin to kiss passionately, while Priscilla watches them, a look on her face telling us she wished Robert married her instead. Priscilla tells Robert that she received five mysterious phone calls tonight, the voice on the other end saying that Robert has an urgent appointment he needs to keep tonight. Robert seems to understand (He says, "Damn them!"), telling Ramona that he has to leave, but he will only be gone for a couple of hours. What could be so important that Robert has to leave his new bride on their wedding night? When Ramona asks Robert what it is all about, he deflects her question and leaves, telling Ramona that Pricilla will take care of all of her needs (But not the "need" she needs from Robert, if you know what I mean). Priscilla shows Ramona to her and Robert's new bedroom, where Ramona says she will have to do some major redecorating because the room is much too dour and sad (as well as bright red!). This will be the least of Ramona's problems.
     We then see Robert talking to some people we cannot see, telling them, "What you are asking for is absurd. What more could you want from me? I've given you everything within my power, houses, land, money. You can't ask me for anything more!" We then see Robert is talking to a group of people wearing red hooded monk's robes and they grab Robert as he goes to leave. The leader of the Red Monks tells Robert, "You cannot rebel against that which is written. The task is yours and you must fulfill it. We require the blood of a virgin. Your wife. You will offer us your wife, at midnight of the fourth day!" The monks point their swords at Robert and make him leave, but it is clear by the look on his face that Robert doesn't want to harm Ramona in any way. But does he have a choice? I know this is the 1930's, when a woman saved her virginity until marriage, but how will both Robert and Ramona be able to deal with this situation, Ramona not knowing why Robert doesn't want to make love to her and Robert getting a major case of blueballs?
     Robert hires a personal French maid named Lucille (Mary Maxwell) for Ramona, who seems friendly and accommodating. When Ramona explores the castle by herself, she finds a room in the attic containing a portrait of a woman she can't make out because it is covered in a layer of dirt. She also finds a dress in an attic chest, but when she puts it on, Robert gets angry, telling her to take it off and put it back where she found it, not explaining why. It's easy to see that Ramona is sexually frustrated because Robert won't even touch her. Lucille tells Ramona she has discovered a secret and takes her to the castle's basement (the same route Richard took before losing his head). They come to a locked iron gate and Lucille says to Ramona, "Who knows what mysteries your husband is hiding behind it? Wouldn't you be happy to learn them?" Later on at dinner, Robert tells Ramona that the castle doesn't have any secret passages or ghost or spirits and it has always been that way, at least as far as he's concerned (As we know from numerous Italian Gothic horror films, all castles have secret passageways). Ramona then has a nightmare (?) about what's behind that locked iron gate. It's a room full of lit candles, where a skeleton with glowing eyes holds the sword with the ruby encrusted handle. Its glowing eyes scare Ramona and she is then surrounded by the Red Monks, who slowly approach her from all sides, holding their swords to their chests. Ramona faints and falls to the ground and Priscilla wakes her up, telling Ramona that she had passed out on her bed for no reason. Robert tries to calm her down, but Ramona screams out, "They want to kill me!", Robert telling her she hasn't left the room and she only had a bad nightmare.
     Ramona tells Lucille about her nightmare where she imagined walking in the catacombs last night. Lucille tells her she didn't imagine it, she saw her walking in the catacombs last night, but that "old witch" Priscilla told her to mind her own business and to go back to her room. Ramona confronts Priscilla, but she says she has no idea what Lucille is talking about. Later that day, Lucille sees a Red Monk skulking around on the castle grounds and goes outside to investigate. As she walks deeper into the woods, she becomes terrified that someone or something is chasing her, so she runs toward the castle, only to get her head cut off by someone wielding a scythe. Ramona walks to the woods with her easel to do some painting and as she is sitting on the ground, the same fake-ass-looking spider crawls towards her. When Ramona looks down, the spider seemingly morphs into a nattily dressed man in a pinstripe suite and fedora hat (Chuck Valenti; THE BRONX EXECUTIONER - 1989; using the pseudonym "Richard Brown") and he tells Ramona that he likes her painting. The man with no name (who looks like a '30s pimp!) then rapes Ramona (!), but she is so sexually frustrated she doesn't put up much of a fight. She also doesn't tell Robert about what happened, instead they have a picnic (!), but when Ramona opens up the picnic basket, Lucille's decapitated head comes rolling out!
     That night, Robert gets a phone call, telling him that tomorrow at midnight is the time he is to deliver Ramona to them. We also find out that Robert is having an affair with Priscilla (apparently, long before he got married to Ramona and solving his bad case of blueballs!), but Ramona spies on them having passionate naked love and then gives herself freely to the nameless stranger. Priscilla sees them driving away and tells Robert about it. Another stranger on the street hands Priscilla a package and tells her to give it to Robert. When he opens it, Robert discovers a note that reads, "The time is up at midnight", along with a sand-filled hourglass.
     The nameless stranger takes Ramona to the house of an historian (stuntman/actor Claudio Pacifico; DAY OF THE COBRA - 1980), who tells Ramona the history of the castle (cue the flashback): "In 1418, the castle was owned by Grand Duke Lodorisio (portrayed by Pacifico), a member of the Order of the Templars. He founded the Confraternity of the Red Monks, so-called because of the scarlet robes they wore on top of their armor. They were a sect generally believed to be heretical and suspected of collusion with the forces of the occult. The Grand Duke was a mighty warrior, but his eyes could be tempted by targets other than enemy lances. One day, he saw a young gypsy girl (portrayed by a naked Lara Wendel!) on his lands, an inviting prey." The Grand Duke watches the naked gypsy woman swimming in his lake, but when she sees him, she runs away. The grand Duke catches her and then rapes her (Oh those Italians and their raping ways!). He falls in love with her and she with him and they get married, where he introduces her to the cult of Red Monks. The authorities want to do away with this cult, so they send a secret assassin to kill the Grand Duke. The assassin and the Grand Duke get into a swordfight to the death inside the castle, but just when it looks like the assassin is about to lose, he scratches the Grand Duke's hand with a poison ring and he falls down dead. The assassin was an ancestor of Robert and he and his family have owned the castle since 1418. Legend has it that the Grand Duke's wife vowed to avenge him and to perpetuate the cult of the Red Monks by celebrating it with an offering of human blood, whenever there came about the entrance of Uranus into the second sextile in Saturn (Hey, I don't make this stuff up! I believe the dubbers were having some fun here.). Ramona asks the historian when the next entrance takes place and he replies midnight tonight.
     Okay, I have given you all you need to know about why Ramona is in such peril, but what I didn't tell you is that Robert hired a private investigator to look into Ramona's background, since he knows nothing about her past. What he discovers about Ramona changes everything, but is it for the better or worse? As the sand in the hourglass is about to run out, we discover who really is the bad guy/gal here and it's not who you think. The ending of the film also doesn't mesh with the beginning of the film. If Robert was the last person in the Garlini family line, how does one explain Richard?
     This Gothic horror film, a rather late entry, was directed and co-written by Gianni Martucci (director of BLAZING FLOWERS - 1978 and TRHAUMA - 1979, as well as writer or co-writer of NAKED GIRL KILLED IN THE PARK - 1972 and THE FLOWER WITH THE DEADLY STING - 1973), who is billed on some prints as "John Martucci" or "Joe Martucci." Co-written by this film's producer Pino Buricchi (Producer of THE FINAL EXECUTIONER - 1983 and URBAN WARRIORS - 1987), this movie is highly derivative of all those "virgins needed for a human sacrifice" supernatural horror films of the '60s & '70s. The Red Monks are not even integral to the plot, as we only catch fleeting glimpses of them and they are interchangeable with any other satanic cult, be it witches, devil worshippers, hippie cults, or the like. They are of no importance here and fail to make an impression. As I mentioned before, the ending doesn't mesh with the beginning of the film, making the beginning minutes seem tacked-on to flesh-out the film to feature length. If it weren't for the frequent nudity by the beautiful Lara Wendel and Malisa Longo (Wendel was quite frumpy in GHOSTHOUSE [1987], which she made immediately before starring in this), I would have given up on the film long before it ended (But I would have still watched it all the way through because I always watch the entirety of a film once I begin them. It's both a gift and a curse, something I do for you, my faithful readers.). This film lacks tension, as well as scares, and the special effects are anything but special, as the severed heads on view look like mannequin heads outfitted in wigs and makeup and most of the gore is off-camera, including Lucille's decapitation. Did I mention the fake-ass-looking spider? I did? Good! This film has nothing to offer horror film aficionados, yet it is not a badly made film. It's just too common for its own good, but if you want to see Ms. Wendel naked, full monty nude, then go for it. All others are urged to stay away.
     Shot as I FRATI ROSSI (a literal translation of the review title), this film didn't receive a theatrical or home video release in any format in the United States, not even a legitimate streaming run, but if you have an all region disc player, both the UK and Germany offer the film on DVD (both DVDs offer English dubbing, but the German DVD is slightly cut, missing about 30 seconds of footage, mainly of Ramona getting raped by the nameless stranger). I caught an unedited version streaming on YouTube from user "Horror Realm", who offers it in an open-matte print and English dubbed. Also featuring Ludovico Della Jojo (YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE - 1983) and Luca Intoppa. Not Rated, but that's only because it was never submitted for a rating in the States.

RED SANDS (2009) - Director Alex Turner and screenwriter Simon Barrett, who previously teamed-up for the supernatural horror western DEAD BIRDS (2004), a film I didn't care for (but I'm apparently in the minority in that opinion), returns with this modern-day horror film, set in the beginning of President George W. Bush's "War On Terror" in the Middle East. I'm glad to report that I enjoyed this film immensely. The film opens with Army Specialist Jeff Keller (Shane West; DRACULA 2000 - 1999) being grilled by his superiors on why he is the only survivor on a mission he and a small platoon of soldiers were assigned to. The film then flashes-back two weeks earlier to show us what happened. Lt. Colonel Arson (J.K. Simmons; THE CLOSER - 2005-2012, in what amounts to a small cameo) assigns Staff Sgt. Marcus Howston (Leonard Roberts) and his men to patrol a stretch of road known to be used by Al-Qaeda (Arson asks Howston, "Do you like unicorns?" and a puzzled Howston answers, "Yes". Arson then replies, "What are you, some kind of faggot?" and quickly inserts that he was just "Fucking with you". Howston does not look amused, but if Howston was only going to deal with mythical unicorns in the next two weeks, he would be a happy faggot!). We then switch to the city of Kabul in Afghanistan (The movie was actually filmed in Kabul, Afghanistan and also in Morocco). It's September 2002 and Howston, along with Keller, Chard (Brendan Miller), Trevor (Aldis Hodge), Gregory (Callum Blue) and a few other soldiers (if this were STAR TREK, we would call them "red shirts") are patrolling the streets, both on foot and in vehicles, looking for traces of Al-Qaeda. It is a tedious mission filled with boredom and dust, with little children on the street asking the soldiers for a "biscuit?" One day, their convoy comes under attack from enemy fire while they are driving in the middle of the desert. They stop their vehicle to recon the area and come across a strange statue carved into the side of a mountain. Wise-ass Chard fires a bullet into the statue, which causes it to crumble into a million pieces. What Chard has done is release a vengeful Djinn, a human-hating spirit that was trapped in the statue for thousands of years. The soldiers make temporary headquarters at a bombed-out stone house (where the former residents were killed by phosphorous bombs that burned them alive to their bones) and pretty soon the Djinn begins fucking with their minds and then their bodies. During one of their patrols, they find an enemy camp that is eerily deserted, except for one dead enemy combatant that was buried up to his chest and stoned to death. Back at their temporary headquarters, they are hit with an unusually long sandstorm and the sudden appearance of an Afghani woman who seems scared shitless and rambles incoherently. Could this be the same woman Keller sees in his strange recurring nightmares? Is she the Djinn (That question is answered fairly early, as her arm stretches like Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards in FANTASTIC FOUR [2005] when she reaches for a canteen of water.)? The Djinn uses each soldier's worst memories against them (Gregory is visited by an American soldier who he killed in a friendly fire incident; Howston gets radio transmissions from an Afghani girl he killed during a raid; etc), until they mentally crack and turn on each other. When Gregory is found brutally murdered (his eyes are all black) and the other soldiers start killing each other, only Keller keeps a level head about himself and survives the ordeal, but is it the real Keller that is being grilled by his superiors in the beginning of the film or the Djinn (That question is answered in the film's creepy closing shot.)?  This is a slow (some horror fans would say it is too slow), methodical and psychological horror film that doesn't play its entire hand all at once. One thing this film does particularly well is show how American soldiers are truly "strangers in a strange land" when forced to occupy territories they really have no business (nevermind no understanding of traditions) to be in. While there is some blood and gore on display (especially the gaping head wound of the American soldier Gregory accidentally shot), this film is more about mood and atmosphere (you'll get dry mouth from all the sand on display here). Particularly telling is the scene where Howston (who is quite crazy at this point) catches Chard raping the woman and pulls him off her. Instead of being upset about the attempted rape, Howston takes offense to Chard calling him a "nigger" and stabs him to death. This is a film about identity, both real and perceived, and how being in an unfamiliar place for too long can fuck with those perceptions (as real-life American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan will readily tell you). The only disappointment here is the Djinn itself. When it is finally shown in the film's final twenty minutes, it is nothing but an obviously bad CGI creation, which is neither scary or believable. Other than that, RED SANDS is an effectively frightening film which evokes what scares us the most: Fear of our own worst memories coming back to life. This is one of many post-9/11 war horror flicks and would make a perfect companion piece with THE OBJECTIVE (2007). Also starring Theo Rossi, Noel G, Andrew Elvis Miller and Mercedes Masohn as the mysterious Afghani woman. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE REDWOOD MASSACRE (2014) - There have been an awful lot of horror films coming from Ireland and Scotland lately (this one is from Scotland) and if you like gore, you'll probably love this film, but if you want a coherent plot with characters you give two shits about, look somewhere else. It could be because director/screenwriter David Ryan Keith (ATTACK OF THE HERBALS - 2011) took on six other important jobs in the film (cinematographer, editor, co-producer, digital effects supervisor, sound editor and camera operator), rather than give them to someone else to do, because the film has many continuity errors and an over-reliance of normal slasher film conventions to make it stand out from the pack. Sure, it's bloody as hell, but even that becomes boring after a while because many of the kills are the same and it then throws in a ton of torture porn, to boot. The film opens with a bloody girl with a bad stomach wound in the woods at night trying to avoid someone or something (it's never made clear whether we are dealing with a man or a demon). She is then attacked by someone dressed as a scarecrow (Benjamin Selway, who is listed as "Evil Maniac" in the credits), who stabs her over and over in the stomach until she falls on the ground. As she is trying to crawl away the Evil Maniac hits her three times in the back with and axe (really graphic) and then drags her away (The Evil Maniac does the same exact thing to a bloke taking a piss in the woods a few minutes later). When morning comes, four young adults decide to camp at the same place where the Evil Maniac struck the night before (Mark [Adam Coutts] has the nerve to bring his current and ex-girlfriend along! He prophetically says to his current girlfriend Kristy [Lisa Livingstone], "Trust me. This is going to be a weekend you'll never forget!" But don't they say that in all slasher films?). They are unaware that they are being watched closely by a hunter (Lee Hutcheon; director/star of such films as MY BROTHER'S KEEPER [2012], featuring a lot of the actors in this film) a short distance away after he discovers the bloodpool of the girl from the night before. But why is he watching them? It will be answered. It wouldn't be so bad if every one of these four young adults weren't annoying as fuck and, of course, there is no cell service the farther they go into the woods. The last call they make is to Bruce (Mark Wood), who is traveling by mountain bike to meet them. Believe it or not, they are all going to a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a multiple murder that happened there (Who in their right mind celebrates a murder spree with a party?). Kristy tells everyone about the mass murder that happened 20 years earlier: A man known as "The Farmer" (Liam Matheson) and "The Redwood Massacre". The Farmer murders his wife by slicing open her stomach and eating her innards (we are shown it all in flashback). He then chops off his daughter's head (we don't see that) and murders his son (again, we don't see it) and then supposedly committed suicide, but his body disappeared from his grave. Bruce is almost at his destination when he falls off his bike and is dragged away by the Evil Maniac. The next morning, Kristy and Pamela (Lisa Cameron; LORD OF DARKNESS - 2012) wake up from their tents, only to discover Mark and and his ex-girlfriend Jessica (Rebecca Wilkie) are missing and think they have headed to The Farmer's house (Really? Without telling them?). They are actually being held captive in the Evil Maniac's slaughterhouse (Big continuity error. How did they get there? Is it possible director Keith was too involved with his other occupations on the film to recognize that he forgot to film the scene?), tied-up and gagged. Now it's time for torture porn. The Evil Maniac picks up Jessica, ties her to a table, stabs her in the stomach a couple of times with a small curved blade (twisting the blade while it is in her), takes off her gag and then stabs her over and over in the stomach so the guys next door can hear her death throes. It is very bloody, but we have already seen it done earlier in the film. The Evil Maniac then grabs Mark and ties him to a chair, while Bruce breaks free and grabs an axe, but instead of trying to save Mark (who has just had an axe planted between his legs and then has the top of his head cut off with a hacksaw; once again, nothing is left to the imagination), Bruce turns chicken and heads in the opposite direction, but the slaughterhouse is very big. The Evil Maniac puts bits of Mark and Jessica in mason jars in case he gets hungry later on. Meanwhile, Pamela and Kristy make it to The Farmer's deserted house, not knowing that it is the living area for the Evil Maniac (Jesus, I am getting tired of all these stupid young adults). They find a dead fox in the bathroom, but that will be the least of their problems. Bruce and the Evil Maniac play a game of cat and mouse (Guess who's the mouse?), where Bruce discovers the body of the girl killed at the beginning of the film in a wooden box. The Evil Maniac beats the shit out of Bruce and takes him prisoner again, where he kills Bruce with some unseen torture. Pamela and Kristy decide to spend the night in The Farmer's deserted house (Yes, these girls are missing a few brain cells). After killing Bruce, the Evil Maniac chases Kristy with an axe, catches her, stabs her in the stomach with a huge blade and then begins to pull out her internal organs while she watches, still alive. Pamela does the regular stupid young adult thing and runs towards Kristy's screams and ends up in the slaughterhouse, where she secretly watches the Evil Maniac chop someone into pieces with an axe. The hunter (remember him?) puts the barrel of a shotgun to Pamela's head and says, "Don't look at me." in a whisper. He is there to kill the Evil Maniac because he killed his daughter ten years earlier and he has been searching for him ever since. He says to Pamela, "You people. You think it's a fucking game. You have no idea what this thing can do. There is no end...this is just the beginning." (It's probably the most adult thing that Pamela has ever heard in her life.). He tells Pamela to leave because all her friends are dead, but Pamela refuses to leave and wants to help the hunter get payback. The Evil Maniac shows up and the hunter puts a shotgun blast into him with no effect. He gives Pamela the shotgun and tells her to run away. He faces down the Evil Maniac and tells him, "Makes no difference if I live or die. I died a long time ago." The Evil Maniac then runs him through with a machete and then stabs him through the top of his head (Ten years of searching for this? It just seems so...stupid.). The Evil Maniac then goes after Pamela (she has to run through a gauntlet of hanging bodies, some still barely alive and some of them her friends) and catches her, punching her over and over in the face until it becomes bloody filmic overkill. But, somehow, the hunter shows up to buy Pamela some time (but the Evil Maniac punches his fist clear through the hunter's body) to grab the shotgun and shoot the Evil Maniac in the face. Is it finally over? Pamela runs like hell through the woods until she comes to a road and is picked up by a man in a van. Pamela passes out from exhaustion, but the driver wakes her up a couple of hours later and tells her that he got lost and believes they have been driving in circles, ending back at The Farmer's deserted house (Really?). The Evil Maniac slits the van driver's throat and chases Pamela into an auto graveyard (Judging by the newer model of cars in the graveyard, I wouldn't be wrong to hazard a guess that these are the cars of the Evil Maniac's victims over the years). After the Evil Maniac delivers more punches to her face (She is going to be sore in the morning!), Pamela jumps into one of those giant magnet vehicles and drops a car on top of the Evil Maniac (How does she even know how to operate one of these big machines?). Before the closing credits begin to roll, Pamela says, "Fucking Farmers!"  Besides THE REDWOOD MASSACRE being a lot bloodier than your normal slasher film (the closing credits thank the company that supplied them with gallons of fake blood!), this is just another mindless slasher flick that asks a lot of questions and offers no answers. Just who is the Evil Maniac? Is he The Farmer or something more supernatural? If the Evil Maniac can survive a point-blank shotgun blast to his face (which we never see since he never takes off the scarecrow mask), he sure as hell can survive having a car dropped on him. so I wouldn't be surprised if there will be a sequel in the future. And don't get me started on the continuity. It jumps from scene-to-scene with no connective tissue, like huge chunks of the screenplay were thrown away in the name of pacing (it is quick-paced, even though it took 35 days to shoot this 82-minute film). The next time, I hope David Ryan Keith just sticks with directing and writing and leaves the other jobs to qualified people. This way he could spend more time making sense of his films and not leaving us asking questions that we shouldn't be asking. If you are a gorehound, this film will delight you. If it's involving characters or plots you want, look somewhere else. This film does serve a purpose for a specialty crowd and, while I enjoy lots of gore just like every other horror film fan, I also appreciate some time building up the characters so we have people we care for. Keith fails miserably in that department. A little less H.G. Lewis and a little more John Carpenter. It's a well-made film, although it's apparent that some of the Scottish actors are trying a little too hard to speak American (especially Kristy) and there's also a total lack of nudity, so don't go looking for it here. Also featuring Claire Beam, Morgan Keith, Cheryl Bernard, Lindsay Cromar, Alec Westwood, Adam Huckle, Paige Henderson and Gina Hooper. An Uncork'd Entertainment DVD Release. Director/screenwriter/jack-of-all-trades David Ryan Keith returned six years later for an ultra-bloody sequel titled REDWOOD MASSACRE: ANNIHILATION (2020) Not Rated.

REEKER (2005) - Five college students, on their way to a rave in the desert, experience a strange phenomenon where they are seemingly stuck in time. They find themselves trapped at an abandoned motel/café, where, a few short hours before, it was teeming with customers. The students, Jack (Devon Gummersall; EARTH VS. THE SPIDER - 2001), who was blinded at the age of six by a lawn darts accident; Gretchen (Tina Illman, also one of the Producers), who plays everything a little too safe; Nelson (Derek Richardson; HOSTEL - 2005), a DJ; Cookie (Arielle Kebbel; THE GRUDGE 2 - 2006), the sexpot; and Trip (Scott Whyte; DEATH ROW - 2006), a wise-ass who has just stolen a fresh batch of Ecstasy from drug dealer Radford (Eric Mabius; RESIDENT EVIL - 2002), try to figure out why they seem to be all alone (a lone radio signal implies that there has been some kind of toxic spill which has closed down all the roads), while a creature called a Reeker (David Hadinger) goes on a killing spree. Only the blind Jack senses that something extraordinarily wrong is going on, as the stench of decaying flesh fills the air. Trip heads out on his own on his skateboard to look for help and runs into Radford, whose car has broken down. While Trip is trying to avoid the wrath of Radford, he meets Henry (Michael Ironside; WATCHERS - 1988, in what amounts to nothing more than an extended cameo), who is looking for his missing wife Rose (Marcia Strassman, also in a blink-it-and-you'll-miss-it cameo). There's something off about Henry, who drives Trip back to the motel and also confides in him that he's seeing dead people (This happens after Trip pulls a living dead trucker, missing the lower half of his body, out of a garbage bin and it scuddles away by walking on it's hands!). Trip tries to siphon gas out of Henry's RV (in a funny bit, Trip mistakenly siphons the RV's septic tank first), unaware that the Reeker has already killed Henry (whenever the Reeker kills someone, they literally see their lives flash before their eyes). Trip begins seeing all the dead people, which means that he's the next victim of the Reeker's wrath (which is a shame, because he's the film's most interesting character). Cookie and Nelson are the next to die, while Jack and Gretchen try to fit all the pieces of the deadly puzzle together. Trip turns up briefly (minus an arm), just long enough to fill Jack and Gretchen in on what they are dealing with (Trip says to Jack, "At least you can still whack-off!" to which Jack dryly replies, "Use your other arm."), before he is really dispatched by the Reeker (who has a huge mechanical drain snake-like device in place of it's right arm), leaving Jack to use his heightened sense of smell to try and save their lives. What happens next is creative, as well as poignant, even if it doesn't make a lick of sense.  Not a bad little horror film considering it's low budget, director/screenwriter/co-producer Dave Payne (NOT LIKE US - 1995; SHOWGIRL MURDERS - 1995 [using the name "Gene Hertel"]; ALIEN TERMINATOR - 1996), who also composed the music soundtrack, manages to cram a lot of humor and tense situations into a story that is full of unique ideas, which is why Payne probably remade the film with a slightly larger budget as NO MAN'S LAND: RISE OF THE REEKER in 2008 (which I found a little more satisfying than this if only because it expands on this film's premise). Not everything works here (For starters, the Reeker is a terribly underwritten character), but Payne at least tries to be different from the countless other DTV horror flicks that don't have an original idea in their tiny little heads. The makeup effects, using both practical effects and CGI, are very bloody (the film gets off to a gory start when a vacationing family hits a deer with their car and suffer a far worse fate than the deer, including the family's poor pet dog), but are used sparingly, so when they do come into play, they are shocking and effective. While not everything succeeds in REEKER, I applaud Dave Payne for giving us a horror film that's funny without being overly jokey (some of the dialogue is inspired, including how Jack's blindness led to a lawsuit mandating that lawn darts be made out of plastic instead of metal) and complicated enough to actually make us use our brains (the finale is unique and well-done). Make sure to read to the final credits for Payne's funny take on film reviewers. I won't hold it against you, Dave. A Showtime Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

THE REJUVENATOR (1988) - In this bloody updating of Roger Corman's THE WASP WOMAN (1959), Mrs. Ruth Warren (Jessica Dublin), a wealthy old woman, funds a top secret project of Dr. Ashton (John MacKay). It's a youth serum he has developed by extracting fluids from the brains of the recently deceased. There's only one drawback: The serum is temporary and it also has some other serious physical and psychological side effects. Mrs. Warren, who was an actress in her younger years and wishes to be a young actress again ("Only young actors get the good parts."), pressures Dr. Ashton to use the serum on her before his animal testing is complete. He relents and injects her with the serum. At first, things go perfectly, as Ruth becomes a vibrant young woman (played by Vivian Lanko) but, since this is a horror film, things go horribly wrong pretty quickly. The serum is like heroin, as the more Ruth uses it, the more her body becomes tolerant to it. As her demands for the serum grows, the demand for cadavers rises in kind. You can see where this is heading. When the supply of dead bodies dries up, murder becomes necessary to keep Mrs. Warren beautiful. To hide her true identity, the young Mrs. Warren passes herself off as Elizabeth, the niece of Mrs. Warren. Elizabeth and Dr. Ashton begin an affair, much to the displeasure of her lifelong manservant Wilhelm (James Hogue), who has been holding a torch for Mrs. Warren for many years. Dr. Ashton should have kept a closer eye on his test rat. It has morphed into a hideous bloodthirsty monster, which is exactly what Elizabeth turns into when she doesn't get her injections in time. Elizabeth ends up cruising bars, killing men and women so Dr. Ashton can get the brain juce he needs to make the serum. She even goes as far as removing the brains of her victims with her bare hands. When Elizabeth discovers that eating the brains of her victims produces the same effect as the serum, Dr. Ashton must find a way to synthesize the serum before more people die. The best laid plans.......  This splattery horror flick takes a while to get rolling but, once it does, it offers a lot of bloody imagery and gruesome goodness. Director Brian Thomas Jones (ESCAPE FROM SAFEHAVEN - 1988; POSED FOR MURDER - 1989), who co-wrote the script with genre vet Simon Nuchtern (SILENT MADNESS - 1984), patterns much of the film after RE-ANIMATOR (1985), right up to a sub-plot about a rival doctor trying to steal Dr. Ashton's work. Wilhelm's devotion to Mrs. Warren also brings up images of a similar plot in the classic SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950). The script is littered with witty lines, such as when two coke-sniffing party girls see Elizabeth get ugly in the ladies room. One of them says to the other, "As soon as a club gets hot, they let in the bridge and tunnel crowd!" There's plenty of gore, especially in the final third, as you will view brain removal and eating, a nasty neck-twisting (resulting in the head snapping off the body), a fist through the stomach and exiting out the back and various goopy transformations (effects supplied by Ed French [BREEDERS - 1986]). The finale is especially memorable and is sure to please fans of extreme horror. THE REJUVENATOR (also known as REJUVENATRIX) is a pretty good example of what you can do with a limited budget and a lot of imagination. This one's a keeper. Original music by the Poison Dollys. Also starring Katell Pleven, Marcus Powell and Roy MacArthur. A Sony Video Software Company Release. Rated R.

REST IN PIECES (1987) - Combination haunted house thriller/slasher flick filmed back-to-back with EDGE OF THE AXE by director Jose Ramon Larraz (using the pseudonym "Joseph Braunstein" on both films) and utilizing many of the same cast and crew. Helen Hewitt (Lorin Jean Vail) and her husband Bob (Scott Thompson Baker) fly from Los Angeles to Spain to say goodbye to Helen's dead Aunt Catherine (Dorothy Malone, a long way from her Academy Award®-winning role in WRITTEN ON THE WIND [1956], because all she basically does throughout this film is smile, point directly into the camera and call-out Helen's name) and when they view her body in her coffin, she suddenly sits up, scaring the crap out of Helen ("Don't worry, it's a common occurrence", says the funeral director, which is a crock of shit). Aunt Catherine is then cremated and the ashes are given to Helen, but when she leaves the funeral parlor, a strange wind kicks-up, knocking the urn out of Helen's hands and blowing Aunt Catherine's ashes into the wild (When some of Catherine's ashes blow into her mansion, the maid says, "She has returned!" and the butler adds, "Just like she promised!"). Could this be an omen of things to come? You bet your ass. Catherine's lawyer warns Helen that her Aunt suffered from a mental illness and committed suicide in front of a video camera. That videotape became Catherine's last will and testament and Helen and Bob are about to watch the footage. Aunt Catherine comes on screen and rails against Helen's mother, saying "You should have been my daughter!", yet she bequeaths her entire fortune, including the mansion, to Helen, before she downs a drink laced with strychnine and passes away on-screen. Bob seems very happy about becoming an "instant millionaire", but Helen seems more worried about why the lawyer refuses to go to the mansion with them. Once at the mansion (it looks more like a split-level ranch than a mansion), Helen and Bob are greeted by Lisa (Carol James), the maid, and Luis (Tony Isbert), the butler/gardener and Helen notices a garage full of vintage cars, including a Rolls Royce that starts-up by itself. Before they even settle in, strange things begin to happen, like Bob's clothes changing position in the bedroom closet and the bathroom suddenly taking a life of its own, with the shower curtain nearly suffocating Helen while she is taking a bath. Helen swears she saw a smiling Catherine trying to kill her, but Bob thinks she just fell asleep in the tub and the shower curtain came loose (Yeah, right, shit like that happens every day!). Helen and Bob then meet all their strange neighbors, including blind author David Hume (Jack Taylor), lesbian Gertrude (Patty Shepard), Dr. Anderson (David Rose), Mr. Whitmore (Robert Case) and Reverend Flaherty (Jeffrey Segal), who all live in chalets on Aunt Catherine's property and don't pay a cent in rent (which Bob finds peculiar). The neighbors also attend regularly scheduled "concerts", which end in some deadly ritual we are not yet privy to. The neighbors feel that the sudden appearance of Helen and Bob will put a damper on their "concerts", but Helen has more serious problems on her hands, like seeing Aunt Catherine at the most inopportune times, getting obscene phone calls and being locked in the garage and nearly asphyxiating on the exhaust fumes. Is it possible that Aunt Catherine is still alive? And how is it tied to the neighbors' "concerts", where we find out that they kill the classical musicians they hire to play, chop-up their bodies and eat their flesh? Maybe the connection lies in the abandoned house across the street and the fact that all the neighbors committed suicide years ago? If Bob wasn't so interested in finding Aunt Catherine's hidden money (she didn't believe in banks and there is close to $8,000,000 somewhere in the house), maybe Helen wouldn't have to put up with all this shit alone. Do you think you know how this is going to end?  Director Jose Ramon Larraz (WHIRLPOOL- 1970; THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED - 1973; VAMPYRES - 1974; SAVAGE LUST - 1989) and screenwriter Santiago Moncada (THE SWAMP OF THE RAVENS - 1974) have fashioned a creepy, if far-fetched, horror film that touches on themes previously explored in films like PSYCHOMANIA (a.k.a. THE DEATH WHEELERS - 1971), whereby committing suicide under certain circumstances can lead to immortality, only REST IN PIECES adds the extra ingredient that you must resort to murder and cannibalism on a regular basis to maintain that immortality. Both Scott Thompson Baker and Lorin Jean Vail are stiff as boards (although Ms. Vail does look good in her many topless scenes), but the neighbors, which includes genre vets Jack Taylor (NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS - 1973), Patty Shepard (THE WITCHES' MOUNTAIN - 1972) and the hulking Fernando Bilboa (a.k.a. "Fred Harris"; EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 - 1983), are the real stars here, whipping out knives and other bladed objects (Taylor has a retractable knife in his cane) and slashing people until they are bloody raw, then chopping-up their bodies with meat cleavers for chow and discarding the unwanted parts (like the feet) in a furnace. Some parts of the film are shocking in the matter-of-factness way these neighbors are shown killing their victims (including a classical string quartet who never see it coming). While not without its faults (especially the acting talents of the two leads and a flashback to a mass fake-stabbing that must be seen to be disbelieved), this film is still an entertaining and bloody horror film. Also starring Daniel Katz and Antonio Ross. Originally released on VHS by LIVE Home Video and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE RESURRECTED (1991) - Excellent horror thriller, loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward". The majority of the film is told in flashback (in some cases, there are flashbacks within a flashback within a flashback within a flashback!) as we follow the exploits of private investigator March (John Terry). He accepts a case offered to him by Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett) to find out what exactly her husband Charles (Chris Sarandon) is doing with the shipments of animal bones and blood that are delivered to his farmhouse in a small Rhode Island town. Slowly we learn that Charles has inherited the secret of resurrecting the dead (using only the bones or cremated remains from the deceased), a secret passed to him by his great great great great grandfather, who was identical in appearance to Charles. The resurrection process has a drawback: If the deceased remains are not complete, they come back to life in a hideous, mutated form. This is one review where I will not give away any more plot, except to say that Charles is not who he appears to be. The rest I will leave for your viewing pleasure. This terrifying and spellbinding feature starts out deliberately slow, drawing the viewer deeper and deeper into the unknown. The flashback device is never obtrusive. It instead allows the viewer to pick up clues along the way. There are some truly masterful sequences in this film, such as when Claire, March and his assistant (Robert Romanus) discover a secret passage in Charles' farmhouse and decide to investigate. What they discover you will not soon forget. All the performances are top-notch, especially those by John Terry (HAWK THE SLAYER - 1980), Chris Sarandon (CHILD'S PLAY - 1988) and Robert Romanus (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH - 1982). This is Dan O'Bannon's first directorial feature since his 1985 hit RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and he sure delivers the goods: Enough atmosphere for a dozen films, bloody and effective effects, a good sense of humor and above all, it never bores. THE RESURRECTED is a hundred times better than most direct-to-video fare, which raises the question: Why didn't it get a theatrical release? This filmed-in Vancouver, B.C. masterpiece richly deserved one! THE RESURRECTED is bound to become a cult classic. To see how Lovecraft should not be adapted for the screen, see the review for CTHULHU MANSION. A LIVE Home Video Release. Available on DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment. Rated R.

RETURN OF THE FAMILY MAN (1989) - Pretty bad South Africa-lensed horror flick that is full of characters you want to grab by the collar and punch in the face. A group of obnoxious overage teens, including pizza delivery boy Alden (Liam Cundill), who is on the run from drug dealers after witnessing a multiple murder in a deal gone wrong, vacation at a run-down mansion deep in (what's supposed to be) the Pacific Northwest woods. Trouble is, they are not alone in the mansion, as a notorious serial killer known as the Family Man (Ron Smerczak) has just escaped after killing everyone in the bus transporting him (including his fellow prisoners) and he has come home (the mansion was his family home before he killed them all and ten other families before being caught). Besides the nervous Alden, the rest of the cast are straight out of Stereotypes 101: English Billy Idol-wannabe Weasel (Adrian Galley); sexpot and bubblehead Libby (Debra Kaye); good girl Vickie (Michelle Constant, who has a nose as big as the great outdoors); Marty (Kurt Egelhof), a Hindi Indian who's great with electronics (aren't they all?); Vickie's unfaithful boyfriend Brian (Terence Reis); French foreign exchange student Sylvie (Dominique Moser); and plain jane Evelyn (Victoria Bawcombe). After 55 minutes of sexual hijinks, house cleaning and baseball practice (!), the Family Man finally arrives, kills Sylvie and the rest of the group go looking for her the next morning. Brian finds a room hidden behind a brick wall which contains the skeletal remains of the Family Man's family and a small fortune in money, but doesn't get a chance to tell anyone as the Family Man caves his head in with a sledgehammer. The rest of the gang bands together and, with the help of Marty's homemade weapons (including a bomb stuffed with nails and an aerosol flame thrower), try to defend themselves from the maniac. They fail, of course (he's virtually indestructable), but Alden, Vickie and Weasel manage to trap the Family Man in an abandoned well in the backyard and drop a huge propane tank on him that is detonated with the late Marty's bomb. Rest in pieces, Family Man!  Directed (and co-written) by-the-numbers by John Murlowski (AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION - 1993; CONTAGION - 2001), this is a slow-moving and rather bloodless slasher film. The violence is tame, as the camera tends to pull away just as it's about to get interesting. The best part is when Libby sets the Family Man's head on fire with the homemade flame thrower. Rather than running around screaming in pain, he calmly reaches for a towel, puts out the flames (his whole head is a charred mess) and shoves Libby's face into the spinning blades of a blender. What's really distracting about this whole production (besides Michelle Constant's huge honker) is that everyone talks in that English/German dialect that can only come from South Africa. Why is it set in America in the first place? When the sheriff (co-scripter Karl Johnson) says the word "peckerwood" in his fake American accent, you'll either laugh or throw your hands up in the air in disbelief. How come South African filmmakers think all Americans speak with a Southern accent and isn't this supposed to take place in the Pacific Northwest anyway? Even with his accent, Ron Smerczak is quite good as the family-hating serial killer. The problem is that director Murlowski refuses to let him go full-tilt bozo and keeps it restrained when he should be chewing up the scenery (as well as the cast). You can skip this one unless you are a slasher film completist. A Raedon Home Video Release. Not Rated.

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III (1993) - It's a rare occasion when a sequel matches or surpasses the quality of the original film and it's even rarer when a third film does the same thing. I'm glad to say RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III is that film, but with a few caveats. The original RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) is a classic gore comedy, a laugh-out-loud funny take-off of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) that works thanks to a talented cast, taut direction by Dan O'Bannon (THE RESURRECTED - 1992) and a script (also by O'Bannon) that never takes itself too seriously, but doesn't skimp on the scares. Ken Wiederhorn's RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II (1987) is a vastly inferior sequel that's a total waste of time, as Wiederhorn's script goes the AIRPLANE (1980) route, parodying the genre with a non-stop barrage of unfunny jokes and visuals. Thankfully, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III goes in the exact opposite direction, playing everything with a deadly serious tone and not leaving room for much humor. Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond) steals his father's high security keycard and brings his girlfriend Julie (Mindy Clarke), who has an unhealthy obsession with death, to a top-secret government lab to secretly watch his father, Col. John Reynolds (Kent McCord), perform an experiment where he reanimates a corpse using the poison gas 2-4-5 Trioxin in hopes of creating the perfect undead military killing machine. When the experiment goes horribly wrong and a couple of technicians end up dead (one of them is portrayed by genre director Anthony Hickox), Col. Reynolds is immediately reassigned and must report to another base in a different state in two weeks. When he tells Curt that they will have to move yet again (being a military brat is tough), Curt rebels and takes off on hjis motorcycle with Julie as his passenger, only to end up getting into an accident where Julie slams into a telephone pole and dies. Curt gets the bright idea to bring Julie back to life using the 2-4-5 Trioxin, so he brings her back to the lab, opens a canister of the gas and revives her. He is not quite prepared to handle what he has just created. When Julie complains that she is "hungry", he brings her to a convenience store, where they run afoul of a Spanish gang led by Santos (Mike Moroff), that ends with Julie biting one of the gang members and the store manager getting shot. This sets off a series of events where Julie begins chowing-down on the brains of several people, leading Curt and Julie to escape into the sewers, where they are befriended by a crazy coot named Riverman (Basil Wallace). Santos and his gang follow them into the sewer, while Col. Reynolds is left with the chore of cleaning-up Julie's messes and containing the infectious outbreak. Julie is able to temporarily curb her hunger by self-inflicting severe pain, so she begins piercing every inch of her body with any sharp object she can find, including nails, coil springs and shards of metal and glass. She is not able to sate her appetite for very long, though, and soon begins putting the bite on everyone she runs across. Just as she is about to devour Curt, Col. Reynolds saves the day and stops her with an experimental rifle that instantly freezes the infected. Julie is brought back to the lab, where she is to be used in a new experiment conducted by Col. Reynolds' replacement, Lt. Col. Sinclair (Sarah Douglas). When Curt catches a glimpse of what is about to happen to Julie, he sets her free, which results in the entire facility going into lockdown when a horde of the infected undead are released in the melee. It all ends on a fatalistic, but fitting, note.  Besides a few lapses in logic (Why in the hell would they bring Curt back to the lab and let him walk around freely?) and some hinky acting (especially by Pia Reeves, who portrays Alicia, the female member of Santos' gang), this film is a bloody good show that is bolstered immensely by Mindy (later known as Melinda) Clarke's nuanced performance as Julie. She's simply wonderful here as a girl who was clearly troubled when alive, which only makes her undead status all the more fascinating and tragic. Director Brian Yuzna (SOCIETY - 1989; THE DENTIST - 1996; PROGENY - 1998) gets a lot out of his obviously small budget, especially in the makeup effects department. People are gnawed, eaten, ripped apart (especially Santos getting his head ripped away from his body with the spinal column still attached) and shotgunned, but nothing comes close to Julie's ritualistic piercing of her entire body. It's a thing of unflinching beauty. If you want to view all this carnage, you'll have to search for a copy of Vidmark Entertainment's Unrated VHS tape (they also put out an R-rated cut, so be careful), because the DVD put out by Lionsgate Home Entertainment is the R-rated edit that omits nearly everything I have described in this review. Also starring James D. Callahan, Sal Lopez, Fabio Urena and Jill Andre. Unrated.

RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (2007) - DTV sequel to the 1999 theatrical film remake, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (one of the few modern horror films I can watch over and over and never grow tired of, thanks to Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen's acerbic performances as a husband and wife who truly love and hate each other at the same time). The only similarities between the 1999 film and its 2007 sequel are the return of Jeffrey Combs as the ghastly Dr. Vannacutt and the former insane asylum he ran, which holds the ghostly and vengeful spirits of the mental patients who died there, many at Dr. Vannacutt's hands. RETURN opens (after a lightning-fast series of edits in the opening credits showing Dr. Vannacutt being meted-out justice by his pissed-off head cases) with XTD Magazine reporter Ariel Wolfe (Amanda Righetti; FRIDAY THE 13TH - 2009), her photographer boyfriend Paul (Tom Riley), paranormal book author and college professor Richard (Steven Pacey), his assistant Kyle (Andrew Lee Potts), Michelle (Cerina Vincent; SASQUATCH MOUNTAIN - 2006) and Desmond (Erik Palladino; DEAD & BREAKFAST - 2004) investigating the mysterious death of Ariel's sister Sara (played in the 1999 film by Ali Larter), who was only one of two survivors of the original film. It seems Sara was killed by Desmond and his gang because she had Dr. Vannacutt's journal, which details the location of an ancient artifact known as Baphomet's Idol, which is highly sought after by Richard and Desmond, a former student of Richard's who now works for anyone who is the highest bidder for the idol. Sara mailed the journal to Ariel, so Desmond kidnaps her and Paul and heads for the titled house, only to find Richard and his assistants already there. The journal mentions that the idol is located in a secret room somewhere in the house's basement, so everyone agrees to split-up into groups of two (a horror plot device as old as film itself) to go look for it. As in the first film, the house goes into lockdown mode, so everyone is trapped inside and the killings begin. The first ones to die are two of Desmond's goons, Warren (Chucky Venice; WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD - 2009), who gets his guts ripped out by a ghost before being pulled through a tiny hole in the wall, and Harue (Kalita Rainford), who has her face cut off by Dr. Vannacutt (a well-done and gory effect) after being seduced by two naked female ghosts (another modern film fact: all female bad girls are lesbians). While Ariel gets psychic warnings from her dead sister and other ghosts, the killings continue, including musclebound goon Norris (Gil Kolirin), who gets drawn-and-quartered by sheets (!); goon Samuel (Andrew Pleavin), who has the top of his head removed and his brain twisted out; Kyle, who is drowned by ghosts in a basement pool; Michelle, who has a refrigerator dropped on her head; and Desmond, who is thrown in a crematorium and burned alive. Ariel finds Baphomet's Idol and she and Paul try to escape the house, while a possessed Richard, Dr. Vannacutt and the asylum's ghosts try their best to kill everyone. Like the first film, only two make it out alive.  This is strictly a by-the-numbers DTV sequel, directed by Victor Garcia (who also directed the internet prequel 30 DAYS OF NIGHT: BLOOD TRAILS [2007] for the defunct FearNet) and written by William Massa that has very little to offer storywise. The Baphomet Idol plotline is not only far-fetched (Why would Dr. Vannacutt possess such an item in the first place and where did he get it from?), the idol's powers are never fully explained. But if it's blood, guts and nudity you want, this film delivers all three in spades (much moreso than the 1999 remake). I'm also happy to report that most of the gore effects are practical in nature and CGI, while still present, isn't quite as obvious as most DTV productions. It's also apparent that this wasn't filmed in the same house as the 1999 original (this is supposed to take place in Los Angeles, but was actually filmed in Bulgaria). The original house had a personality all its own, while the house here seems more like an underground bunker than a house and besides some exterior shots of the original house and one interior set that tries to copy the first film's main room (complete with stained glass littering the floor and the table that had the miniature coffins that held the guns), it bears no resemblance to the original. Still, it's a quick 81 minutes and I've seen much worse. Stay tuned after the closing credits for a final stinger, which sets-up a sequel that takes the action away from the house. A sequel which, as of this writing, has yet to be made. RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL was the first DTV DVD released by Warner Bros. offshoot label Warner Premiere, which would later release such titles as LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE (2007) and THE HILLS RUN RED (2009). Unrated, and for good reason. NOTE: If you are going to watch this film, stay away from the version shown on cable channel American Movie Classics (AMC) since they edit out almost all of the gore and all of the nudity. This from the same channel that shows plentiful gore on their TV series THE WALKING DEAD. Go figure. NOTE #2: I have been informed by long-time reader Michael Prymula that the Blu-Ray version of this film has several alternate scenes and endings you can choose from. If that stuff interests you (since it is not available on the DVD), that may be the route you may want to take.

RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP (2008) - It's been 25 years since the infamous murder spree at Camp Arawak, committed by transgendered teen Angela Baker (Felissa Rose; CORPSES ARE FOREVER - 2003; DEAD AND GONE - 2007). Well, the camp has been reopened, renamed (to Camp Manabe) and restaffed by new owner Frank (Vincent Pastore; BLACK ROSES - 1988). Yes, it's a recipe for a new disaster. This film centers on fat, pug-nosed, loud-mouthed and repugnant camp member Alan (Michael Gibney), who doesn't get along with anyone, including the other kids in his cabin and camp counselor Randy (Brye Cooper), who seems to take pleasure in torturing Alan (It's not like Alan doesn't deserve it, though, because he's really an annoying sack of shit). When Alan goes to the camp's kitchen, run by Chef Charlie (the late Isaac Hayes in a cameo parodying his Chef character on SOUTH PARK), he gets into a fight with kitchen staffer Mickey (Lenny Vento) and almost kills Mickey by throwing a butcher knife at him. Frank wants to punish Alan, but he runs away into the woods (after calling Frank a "Big Pussy", a sly reference to Pastore's Mob nickname on THE SOPRANOS), so Frank sends Alan's half-brother Michael (Michael Werner) to go fetch him. A short time later, Mickey is dunked head-first into the deep fryer by someone wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black gloves, who then puts Mickey's body into a plastic bag and stuffs him in the trash compactor. Is it possible that Alan is the killer? Alan has the hots for female camper Karen (Erin Broderick), but fellow campers T.C. (Christopher Shand) and Bella (Shahidah McIntosh), as well as stoners Weed (Adam Wylie) and Stan (Chaz Brewer), who make Alan smoke a joint containing cow manure, are always picking on him and interrupting his romantic overtures (if you want to call them that). Later that night, the killer ties-up Weed, force-feeds him gasoline and sticks a joint in his mouth, forcing Weed to go up in flames from the inside out when the joint is lit. Is it possible Alan is the killer? Sheriff Jerry looks into the rumor that Angela Baker has escaped from the insane asylum, so he interviews Angela's brother Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten, returning from the first film), who assures the sheriff that Angela is still locked up. Alan keeps suffering humiliation after humiliation (everyone at paintball uses him as a target; Michael skins all of his pet frogs; T.C. gives him an atomic wedgie and throws him in the lake in front of all the other campers, where they learn he cannot swim; Karen tricks him into playing Spin The Bottle, only to have him appear with his pants around his ankles on the camp's stage), until he snaps and runs away. Then the killings really start. Frank has his head trapped in a birdcage while the killer sticks a rat in the cage to keep him company. Randy is tied to a tree and has his family jewels yanked-off with fishing line. Randy's girlfriend Linda (Jackie Tohn) gets a barb wire necktie. T.C. gets a sharp stick rammed through his eye and Bella dies when a bed of nails falls on her. Is Alan the real killer or is it someone else? Don't read the rest of the review if you don't want the answer.  Oh my god, this is a bad film (originally lensed in 2003, but not obtaining a release until 2008), but it's bad in the best way possible. Director/screenwriter Robert Hiltzig, who performed the same duties in the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983; he basically ignores the two sequels, SLEEPAWAY CAMP 2: UNHAPPY CAMPERS [1988] and SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND [1989], both directed by Michael Simpson, as well as the unfinished third sequel, SLEEPAWAY CAMP IV: THE SURVIVOR [1992], all available as part of Anchor Bay Entertainment's SLEEPAWAY CAMP SURVIVAL KIT DVD box set), tosses-in plenty of bad acting (Michael Gibney as Alan is so over-the-top, he transcends badness and enters a whole new plateau of "acting". Paul DeAngelo, one of the returning actors from the original film [he plays sympathetic counselor Ronnie here] proves he hasn't learned a lick of acting in 25 years) and red herrings, but the killer is so obvious, you'll have to be blind not to spot it. As soon as the character of Sheriff Jerry is introduced early in the film, it's quite plain to see that it is actress Felissa Rose under heavy makeup (a beard and a ridiculous fake nose). The fact that Sheriff Jerry can only speak with one of those electronic voice wands (supposedly because of cancer caused by smoking) is another plot device that tips its hand much too early, so when Angela finally reveals her true self in the film's closing moments (and she does the same scream she did in the finale of the first film, minus the penis shot), the only one who should be surprised is the family dog (and it would have to be one dumb dog!). I do have to say that this film does have its perverse charms and some of the effects are very gory, but this is by no means a whole-hearted recommendation on my part. It's terrible, but it wallows in its terribleness, which makes it slightly more watchable than the average badfilm. Make sure you stay until after the closing credits to see the film's bloodiest effect. Also starring Kate Simses, Jaime Radon, Paul Iacono and Jake O'Conner. A Magnolia Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

REVENGE OF BILLY THE KID (1991) - Gross-out horror comedy from Britain. The MacDonald Farm (on an island that no one else lives on) is occupied by a family that can best be described as slobs and perverts, with one exception. There's hard-drinking father Gyles MacDonald (Ronald Balfour), who spits on pigs, throws buckets at chickens and takes extreme pleasure in milking the family goat every morning. And then there's the mother, Gretta MacDonald (Jackie D. Broad), an overweight sow of a woman whose missing teeth equals her IQ. Then there's their two sons, both named Ronald (Bryan Heeley and Trevor Peake), who are both so stupid, they couldn't count the fingers on one hand, even with the use of a calculator. The one exception in the MacDonald family is daughter Ronnie (Samantha Perkins), who is a bit fed up with her family's crude ways (When Granddad MacDonald [producer and co-scripter Tim Dennison] dies at the breakfast table [complete with several loud burps and farts], the Ronald brothers and Ma fight over his food and eventually dump his body on a rather large dung pile in the middle of their backyard) and yearns to get away from this slob of a family before it is too late (Dad named her Ronald, too, but she uses the name Ronnie instead). Ronnie, who is as bright as a broken light bulb, has fallen in love with a "mainlander", much to Ma's discontent (She calls Ronnie a "jezebel" for cheating on her brothers!), but Ronnie takes the rowboat to the mainland to meet her true love, Lance Abbott (Dean Williamson), whose father, Mr. Abbott (Norman Mitchell), owns the local butcher shop (Where they sell more gross items like maggots and condoms with feathers than actual meat). It seems the mainland is just as slovenly and unkempt as the MacDonald's Island, as the mainland streets are lined with drooling idiots, armless painters (a swipe at MY LEFT FOOT - 1989) and loonies of all types. Lance and Ronnie are the closest people in either place that would pass for normal, although if they were to have children, they would certainly be considered retards to even the most conservative society. Something awful happened years earlier between the MacDonald family and the mainlanders, something so bad, no one dares to talk about it, but it will never be forgotten. One day, Pa gets drunk and fucks the family goat (he took her out to pasture to stud but decided he would be the better stud instead!). A few months later, the goat gives birth to a mutant, which Pa wants to kill immediately, but Ronnie grows fond of it. She names him Billy and raises him as her pet, teaching him how to play fetch and giving him lots of love. Alas, Billy is a killer at heart and escapes from Ronnie, first eating small animals like rabbits but, as he gets bigger, Billy turns his attention to larger animals and eventually humans, starting with Granddad's rotting corpse on the dung pile. Pa grows tired of Billy's constant meddling with his still, so he knocks him out, puts him in a sack and drowns him in the ocean. Or so he thought. The rest of the film details the title of the film, as a pissed-off Billy makes life on the MacDonald's farm e-i-e-i-ouch! It's hard to grade a film like this when it is obvious director Jim Groom (ROOM 36 - 2002), who co-wrote the screenplay with Tim Dennison and Richard Mathews, wants to keep everything tongue-in-cheek, even the gore sequences. I have to admit, I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions in spite of myself. The humor here is of the lowest common denominator, but no one does this type of humor better than the British and this film won me over strictly because it doesn't pretend to cater to intellectuals. The various growth stages of Billy (listed as "Billy T. Kid" in the credits) is a hoot and a half to watch (especially Billy's inventive POV shots) and the gore is nasty and very well done. The sight gags, such as the entire MacDonald clan sleeping in the same bed; a torn EVIL DEAD poster on Lance's bedroom wall (a definite influence on this film); Pa lubing Ma with a bucket of lard before fucking her; Pa shotgunning a rooster for waking him up; and others too numerous to mention in this review, make this film move at a brisk pace. As long as you don't mind toilet humor (most of it literal toilet humor!) mixed with bloody gore, REVENGE OF BILLY THE KID is sure to get your blood pumping and give your laugh muscles a good workout. Also starring John Gugolka, John Abbott and a cameo by Hammer Films veteran Michael Ripper (this is his last film appearance) as a pub local. Never released legitimately in the U.S. on home video, you can purchase the British DVD from Medusa Pictures from most online retailers. Not Rated.

REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES (1988) - Nearly every living dead film since NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has followed the same formula: Something brings the dead back to life and they in turn go on to chow down and infect a group of trapped innocents. Some are done well, such as DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985). Some are okay, such as Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (1979) and Umberto Lenzi's CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (1983). Some are bitter disappointments, such as this one (and countless others). It's a pity, too, because quadruple threat (Director, Producer, Screenwriter & Star) Bill Hinzman was also involved with the classic NIGHT, portraying the first onscreen zombie who attacks Russell Streiner and Judith O'Dea. In REVENGE, he basically plays the same role in the same makeup! A farmer unearths Hinzman's chained-up coffin and opens it, unleashing his living dead body, causing a series of zombie attacks which infects half the population of a small town on Halloween night. The rest of the film consists of people being bitten (some of the effects are bloody and well done) or of people fighting back, shooting the zombies in the head. The finale is a direct steal from NIGHT: The couple who have survived attacks throughout the film are mistaken for zombies and shot in the head by a hunting party. I was quite surprised at the high quality of the makeup effects on display here (many of the X-rated variety), but the sad fact is good effects do not make a good film. You also need a good story, professional acting and talent behind the scenes. You'll find none of that here. Hinzman, who also directed the interesting failure THE MAJORETTES (1986) and photographed the mega-bomb CAPTURED ALIVE (1995), stumbles and fumbles at every turn. There are no surprises, just telegraphed shocks that are highly unoriginal. There's an old saying that goes, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES, originally titled FLESH EATER, and also known as ZOMBIE NOSH, is just a quick means of making a fast buck. Also starring John Mowod, Leslie Ann Wick, Kevin Kindlin and James J. Rutan. A Magnum Entertainment VHS Release, who released the film in both R-Rated and Unrated editions. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Media Blasters. Unrated.

REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE REPORTER (1989) - Ace reporter Mike R. Wave (David Scammell) is working on a story about negligence at a nuclear power plant facility. When he confronts the board of directors of the facility about recent deaths and deformed babies being born because of radioactive leaks, he is tossed into a vat of nuclear waste where he transforms into the title creation: a hideously burned and deformed reporter in a hat and trenchcoat whose touch means instant death. Thinking Mike to be dead, the board decides to get rid of all the evidence, including Mike's fiance, Rochelle (Kathryn Boese). Easier said than done, as Rochelle has a toxic avenger protecting her. Rochelle joins forces with Mike's brother, Joe (Randy Pearlstein), to find the truth, while Mike disposes of the people responsible for his condition. This juvenile horror/comedy contains more infantile jokes than a school full of fifth grade children. Characters are given names such as Peter Spurtz, Dick Swell and Cher Noble and the jokes and one-liners are strictly sexual in nature (and you've heard them at least a hundred times before). The acting also leaves a lot to be desired, especially from Randy Pearlstein, who emotes like he is reading his lines off of cue cards. There are some good effects (face burnings, a head smashing and other body dismemberments), but the humor is so puerile that it makes Troma's THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984) seem sophisticated. Executive producer Howard Goldfarb was sentenced to six years in prison for bilking director Craig Pryce (THE DARK - 1993) and Pryceless Prods. out of more than $300,000 in distribution rights to this film. I have the feeling the wrong person went to jail. So will you after viewing this sophormoric mess. Also known as ATOMIC REPORTER. A Magnum Entertainment VHS Release. Not Rated.

RING OF DARKNESS (1977/1979) - A coven of witches, consisting of four women, Carlotta (Anne Heywood; THE KILLER IS ON THE PHONE - 1972), Elena (Valentina Cortese; THE EVIL EYE - 1963), Agatha (Marisa Mell; SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS - 1972) and Raffaella (Irene Papas; DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING - 1972), give their souls and bodies to Lucifer (Enzo Miani; RED NIGHTS OF THE GESTAPO - 1977) years ago when they were in their early-twenties. They did it in a ritual that can best be described as a weird, artistic, ballet dance-like Off-Broadway stage rehearsal in order to achieve a lifetime riches and a high standing in society, but as we have learned countless times before is that Satan never plays fairly, or, as they say, "The Devil is in the details." First off, Lucifer demands that they cannot have any male lovers for the rest of their lives except for him (Whenever the women try to make love to a human male, Lucifer appears and the situation doesn't turn out too well, especially for the unknowing men!).
     Thirteen years ago, both Carlotta and Elena were impregnated by Lucifer, which resulted in daughters. Carlotta's daughter, Daria (Lara Wendel; ZOMBIE 5: KILLING BIRDS - 1987), is now recognizing her demonic origins and embraces it, while Elena's daughter, Anna (Paola Tedesco; BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS - 1973) doesn't accept her demonic origins and commits suicide rather than embracing the satanic lifestyle of her mother.  Daria becomes a bitch with a capital "C", as she uses her newfound satanic powers, such as mind reading and an extensive knowledge of Black Magic, to belittle and kill. Daria not only embraces her new powers, she revels in it, using her newfound supernatural powers for evil purposes, such as burning the chest of crippled school student Martin (Mark Jeremy Stross), who has a crush on her, simply by putting her hand there, or killing her "human" father, Peter (West Buchanan; TO ALL A GOODNIGHT - 1980), who knows all about Daria's origins, by causing the plane he was traveling in to crash, simply by using her mind. Noticing Daria's sudden transformation is the Professor (Ian Bannen; WITCH STORY - 1989), a seemingly always drunk teacher at Daria's school (He says this about his drinking: "It gives me the courage to tell the truth!") who equates everything in life and death to the game of Chess. He also has the hots for Carlotta and when he forces himself on her in her apartment complex (in all fairness, Carlotta doesn't put up much of a fight as she, too, is horny for the love of a man other than Satan), Lucifer appears, the Professor runs away and Lucifer boffs Carlotta (The life of a fallen angel is never easy!). Carlotta is fearful that Daria will become just like her; a wealthy woman without a human soul and no joy in her life at all,  who is cursed by Lucifer's laws and edicts, so she is willing to try anything so that her daughter can live a normal life. This includes hiring a soon-to-be ex-priest (John Phillip Law; THE EYE BEHIND THE WALL - 1977) to perform an exorcism on Daria to free her from Satan's influence. When that doesn't work Carlotta and her three-woman coven try to free Daria by using their powers in a ritual where Daria is tied naked to the floor, spread-eagle a pentagram, but it ends rather badly. Carlotta then tries to battle Lucifer's power over Daria on her own, but will she succeed? Or will Lucifer once again win this "game"?. The finale tells us the answer, as Daria takes a taxi to the Vatican and is about to battle the Pope! Which is actually more evil: Daria or the Catholic Church? That's a hard question to answer, since both cover-up their evil-doings (I would like to think Daria won, as it would help to explain how a certain soulless reality star was able to become President of the United States!).
     This little-seen supernatural horror film was obviously influenced by THE EXORCIST (1973), even though this film's director/screenwriter Pier Carpi (whose only other directorial effort was POOR CHRIST - 1976, a review written by our own Steven Jackson, which can be read HERE), billed here using the pseudonym "Peter Karp", denies it, saying his film is based on a novel he wrote in the late-'60s (which wasn't published until 1974!). After watching the film, all I can say is that, even in this version, which was released in 1979, there are many similarities, but it still has some originality that can't be denied. I say "this version" because the original film was started in 1975 and finished in 1977, but Executive Producer Piero Amati ordered extensive reshoots and recutting (editing out over 20 minutes of footage), because he thought it resembled director William Friedkin's 1973 classic film too much and feared they may be sued by Warner Bros (as they did successfully with 1974's ABBY and unsuccessfully with BEYOND THE DOOR - 1974). That's not to say this film suffers because of the recutting and reshooting because it doesn't (although some of the actors here, such as Frank Findlay [TWISTED NERVE - 1968], as Carlotta's best friend Paul, and Paola Tedesco as Anna, have their scenes cut to the bare bones). This film is full of eye-opening nudity, plenty of bloody gore and a great cast of Italian genre pros, all of whom do their best to gets your minds off Linda Blair. But do they succeed?
     Not only does this re-edited version have many scenes that will remind you of the 1973 horror masterpiece (it still hoilds up today), there are also many references to other American horror classics, including ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968), THE OMEN (1976), DAMIEN: OMEN II (1978) and others, but that is to be taken for granted since most Italian genre films (with the exception of giallo flicks) don't have an original idea in their tiny little heads, but that doesn't mean they can't be appreciated and enjoyed for their Italian sensibilities, including copious full-frontal female nudity and gory violence, which this film has in spades. Not only do all the women here have nude scenes, it should also be noted that Lara Wendel, who was thirteen at the time, also has plenty of nude scenes and we never see her face and naughty bits (or as Steven would say, her "proud mary"!) in the same shot until the finale, but even then it just doesn't look right, like Lara's face was super-imposed on another actress' body. I would like to think it was a body double, but with these crazy Italians and their weird film customs (such as creating and filming real life animal deaths for "entertainment value"), I just don't know, it may be Ms. Wendel herself. I do know one thing, director Carpi manages to extract a very good performance from  Lara Wendel and if you have seen any of her other film performances, such as in YOU'LL DIE AT MIDNIGHT (1986), the previously mentioned KILLING BIRDS (1987), GHOSTHOUSE (1987) and THE RED MONKS (1988), you'll know that's kind of a big deal, as her performances in those films were lackluster at best. She is so good as Daria that I wanted to strangle her with my bare hands for the cruel and dastardly things she says and does to people here, especially her own mother, and I abhor violence against women! When Carlotta trims Daria's fingernails, Daria takes the clippings and buries them in the dirt of a potted plant, telling her mother, "You know as well as I do, no one should ever have access to the dead parts of our bodies." Daria also has a habit of stealing dolls from stores and when Peter gives her a Barbie doll as a present, she throws it off of a bridge to the water below (never even opening the box it is wrapped in), saying to her "father", "What do you expect me to do with a doll that's been bought?" At a custody hearing, Daria tells a lawyer that she wants to live with her mother, saying that Peter will die very soon. She then goes home and uses a secret three-finger salute (that the witches use to greet each other) on Peter's photo, which causes his plane to crash (offscreen). When Carlotta tells Daria that Peter is dead, the victim of a plane crash, Daria replies, "I know. I told the lawyer that this morning." It is an excellent performance in a very entertaining supernatural horror film. Pier Carpi, who died in 2000 at the age of sixty, didn't have many film credits to his name. Besides the film I already mentioned, he was responsible for writing the screenplay to the borefest known as CAGLIOSTRO (1975) and a romance movie made in 1992, before retiring from the filmmaking business and becoming an author. All-in-all, this is a pretty decent horror film that very few people have even seen. It is a feast for the eyes to those fans of female nudity, contains some bloody deaths for fans of gore and makes a good drinking game if you play "spot the reference" to other better-known American horror films. You'll be blind stinking drunk in the first thirty minutes alone, but there is also some originality here, too. I like  how Raffaella becomes a streetwalking prostitute, picking up strange men on the off-chance that Lucifer will be too busy to intervene in the sex, but Lucifer is nothing but a man of his word, always showing up just as Raffaella is about to do the dirty deed, either killing or chasing away the male partner and screwing her himself. It should also be noted that the late Stelvio Cipriani turns in an effective music score here, adding layers of atmosphere to many scenes. Mr. Cipriani is my second favorite composer of Italian genre films, right behind the late Ennio Morricone who, unlike Cipriani, also composed music for many famous non-Italian movies, such as John Carpenter's THE THING (1982) and Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) and even winning an Academy Award® for Quentin Tarantino's THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015). Stelvio Cipriani, on the other hand, rarely did music scores for anything besides homegrown Italian films (there are some exceptions, but nothing like Morricone's career) and he has a style that is instantly recognizable to me.
     Shot as UN'OMBRA DELL'OMBRA ("A Shadow In A Shadow", which is also the title of Carpi's novel), this film received no theatrical release in the United States, but it supposedly had a VHS release in the U.S. by Saturn Productions in 1985 (I say "supposedly" because I could find no images of the VHS sleeve to back up IMDb's claim). It wouldn't be until the year 2010 that this film appeared on American shores under the title SATAN'S WIFE on a legitimate (?) DVD from Mya Communications, in a much-too-soft, but watchable, anamorphic widescreen print with your choice of English or Italian dubbing (it is obvious that most of the actors are speaking English here, as Ian Bannen, Frank Finlay and other actors dub their own voices). Gray market label Cheezy Flicks then released their own version of this film on  a pressed DVD (it's not a DVD-R) in 2015 (my review is based on this disc, which I purchased on Amazon), but it looks like a port of the Mya disc. It can also be found streaming on YouTube from channel "Horror Realm", but be aware it looks no better than the Mya DVD. All of these releases are the re-edited 87-minute 1979 version. I would love to see director Pier Carpi's original cut of the film with the missing twenty minutes restored, just to see if Executive Producer Piero Amati was correct about it being too similar to THE EXORCIST. Also featuring  Carmen Russo (PATRICK STILL LIVES - 1980), Dirce Funari (PORNO HOLOCAUST - 1981), Sonia Viviani (THE POSSESSOR - 1975), Sofia Dionisio (LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN - 1976) and Marina Daunia (ESCAPE FROM WOMEN'S PRISON - 1978) & Patrizia Webley (PLAY MOTEL - 1979) as two street prostitutes who verbally abuse Raffaella for infringing on their territory. Not Rated (Ignore the R-Rating on the Cheezy Flicks DVD sleeve. This film was never submitted to the MPAA).

RISE OF THE DEAD (2007) - After Sally Sherman (Brooke Delaney) kills her husband, Sam (Patrick Pope), with an eating utensil for seemingly no reason at all, Laura (Erin Wilk) is attacked while leaving a bar by a man (who moves in herky-jerky blurs, an editing effect I'm growing quite tired of), but Laura's boyfriend, Jack (Stephen Seidel), runs him over with a truck, killing him. How are these two murders connected? The police have a hard time believing Laura and Jack's story, since the man Jack killed was a well-respected lawyer in town. Laura is suddenly haunted by nightmares about the death of a little baby boy (the adopted son of Sally and Sam), who was tragically killed when he grabbed Sam's pistol off the coffee table and shot himself. Laura's roommate, Amber (Jaime Whitlock), is viciously stabbed to death by a stranger who breaks into their house and when Laura comes home with Jack, the stranger attacks Laura, forcing Jack to stab him in the back, killing him (Lucky for Laura that she has Jack around!). It doesn't sit too well with the police, especially Sheriff Brown (Peter Blitzer), that Laura and Jack have been involved in two deaths and when it's revealed that Sally and Sam's dead adopted son was actually Laura's illegitimate baby that she gave up for adoption, Sheriff Brown grows more suspicious of Laura, but he can't prove anything. Laura goes to stay at her mother's house (with a cop car parked outside for protection), but it's easy to see Laura and her Mom don't get along (Mom is a religious nut who got pregnant with Laura when she was sixteen). When Mom seemingly goes bonkers and tries to kill Laura and Deputy Greer (Executive Producer Chris Ferry; TRYST - 2005) with a golf club, Mom is committed to an asylum, the same institute where Sally Sherman is a patient. Sally tells Laura that her dead baby was cursed (yeah, the curse of being born a bastard!) and his ghost is possessing people to kill Laura (This is the first time Laura learns that her baby is dead). Sally also tells Laura that she must find the baby's first adoptive family to learn the truth. Deputy Greer becomes possessed by the baby and is shot dead by Sheriff Brown when he tries to strangle Laura, but when the Sheriff becomes possessed by the baby from Hell immediately after Greer's death, Laura is going to have to find the first adoptive family as quickly as possible. Laura finds them, Barbara and Hank Clemens (Emily Ackerman and Doug Sobon), only to discover that they are so uber-religious, they were deemed to be unfit parents. They cursed the baby as it was taken away from them and it seems the curse stuck. Laura and Jack must find a way to lift the curse and put the baby boy to rest before anyone remotely close to Laura ends up possessed or dead. How Laura does this is one of the worst "What The Fuck?!?" moments I have ever witnessed.  This ultra-low-budget horror film (originally filmed on a budget of $20,000 as TANTRUM and also known as GHOST BABY), directed by first-timer William Wedig and scripted by Joshua & Jeffrey Crook (directors/writers of SALVAGE [2006], also starring Chris Ferry) and Kris Scotto, has a few effective scenes but is otherwise a pretty laughable affair. Especially funny is the way all those people possessed by the dead baby begin drooling from their mouths and dripping snot from their noses while making "goo-goo" and "ga-ga" noises on the badly overdubbed soundtrack. While there are a few bloody moments (a couple of gory stabbings) and instances of female nudity (including the obligatory shower scene), the premise is so ludicrous, it's hard to take anything seriously, which I doubt was the objective of the filmmakers. By the time we get to the outrageous finale, where Laura makes love to a possessed Jack (thereby fucking her own baby!) in order to plant her baby's seed into her to get pregnant, you'll either be throwing your hands up in the air in disgust or laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I chose to laugh, because it is obvious that director Wedig and the screenwriters were trying to makle a statement about the insanity of religion (all the religious people in this film are either hypocrites or full-blown nut jobs), but they failed miserably. What they did do was make a 72 minute unintentional comedy about a killer baby ghost. Think about that for a minute. Is a baby even mentally capable to understand the complex mechanizations that is possession? Also starring Vickie Meyers (who died shortly after this film was finished), Matt Regney and Jack Gordon as Cade, the killer baby. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE RITUAL OF DEATH (1990) - Incomprehensible Brazilian horror film about ancient Indian curses, human sacrifices and gory deaths. After a lecture by a professor on Egyptian and Indian rituals, male student Brad (Olair Coan) follows a sinister looking man (Sergio Hingst), who is wearing a bowler hat and walking with a cane, to the basement of a lecture hall, where he observes a group of Indians performing a human sacrifice on a stone altar. The sinister man tells Brad that he must find "the book", which the man holds in his deformed, green pus-oozing, hand. The man then disappears, taking the book with him, while Brad is grabbed by the sacrificed man and the Indians before they, too, disappear, leaving Brad by himself in an empty basement. Brad's friend Jim (Michael Kelly) wants to stage a play about how the ancient Egyptians influenced the Indians, but first he and Brad must find a way to steal an old manuscript from an elderly man (Serafim Gonzalez) in the school's library. Jim sends Brad, his girlfriend Carol (Carina Palatinik) and friend Mickey (Tiao Hoover) to steal the manuscript from the library and they do, but Brad is surprised to learn that it is actually the book that the sinister man was holding in his oozing hands. When Mickey opens the book, we watch as a naked couple make love in a bathtub while rubbing the blood of a decapitated goat's head on their bodies (What The Fuck?!?). During rehearsals for the play, Brad becomes distant to Carol and he refuses to make love to her (Carol retorts, "Go easy, sweetheart! I might just get tired of you!"). Brad begins to act strangely, like eating raw meat in his bedroom of his alcoholic mother's home and worshipping at a makeshift altar that contains candles, a goat's head (again?) and live frogs. When Brad almost strangles a girl during rehearsal in front of the play's sponsors, they pull their sponsorship, which infuriates Jim. Brad begins to have nightmares of the naked couple in the bathtub and of his face breaking out in gooey pustules. The elderly librarian has the police return the stolen book to him, but a now totally possessed Brad (whose skin has broken out in boils and green ooze drips from his mouth) steals the book back again and goes on a murder spree, killing Jim (by drowning him in a bathtub and ripping out his eyes) and a streetwalker who worked as an extra on the play (he stabs her repeatedly in the stomach and then some huge wheel appears out of nowhere and runs her over!). Brad begins murdering everyone involved with the play, while we discover that the sinister man was actually Jim's Uncle Parker, who was once the leader of a cult that practiced human sacrifice before he and his cult were killed. Uncle Parker is using Brad to bring him back to life, while the elderly librarian tries to help Mickey and Carol, the last survivors of the play, to defeat the evil in Brad. Can they do it before it is too late?  If you thought the films of Jose Mojica Marins (a.k.a. "Coffin Joe") were disjointed and confusing, just wait until you take a gander at this train wreck, directed by Fauzi Mansur (SATANIC ATTRACTION - 1989) and written by Filipe Grecco and Anthony Roark. While the film is gory as hell, including a knife impalement in the mouth, disembowelments by hammer, a wind machine chopping a guy to pieces after Brad throws acid in his face, a spike driven into a woman's chin, a spear impalement and all of Brad's victims returning to life as zombies, the rest of the film is a bloody mess, as the dubbing and dialogue are simply horrendous (while most of the actors look as though they are speaking English, the actual dubbing sounds like it was recorded inside of a tin can) and the story makes about as much sense as a fever dream. Add to it editing that is downright hectic and acting that can best be described as amateurish (both Leo Robinson as the head police officer and Mara Husemann as Brad's drunk mother are so bad they become mesmerizing in their awfulness) and what you end up with is a film that can best be described as a gorehound's delight, but very little else. It's weird, I'll give it that, but weirdness without purpose loses its appeal mighty fast. Also starring Lillian Ramos, Vanessa Alves, Graca Costas, Ana Flora, Eduardo Panizza, Alfredo Gonzalez, Leticia Vota and Josie Bernades. Originally available on VHS by Complete Entertainment, Inc. and not available on DVD, but there are plenty of gray market sellers offering it on DVD-R. Not Rated.

ROCKTOBER BLOOD (1984) - Another turgid 80's stalk 'n' slash flick with a rock 'n' roll band as a backdrop, just as with TERROR ON TOUR (1980), HARD ROCK ZOMBIES (1985), ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987), BLACK ROSES (1988) and many others. After a late night recording session, lead singer Billy Harper (Tray Loren) begins killing the technicians and groupies (slit throat, impalement on coat hooks) and is caught and executed after killing 25 people. Two years pass and former backup singer and now lead singer Lynn Starling (Donna Scoggins), whose testimony led to Billy's execution, has reformed the band, renamed it Headmistress and they are about to headline a huge rock tour. A person dressed as Death corners Lynn backstage and when he takes the mask off, it turns out to be Billy, who says, "I'm back!" Her manager, Chris (Nigel Benjamin), doesn't believe her and tells her to go to a secluded cabin in the woods with some backup dancers to relax before the tour starts. Bad idea. Lynn (who was under psychiatric care after witnessing Billy's first murder spree) begins getting obscene phone calls from Billy ("I want your hot pussy blood all over my face!") and sees him lurking in the woods, but no one believes her. Billy then kills everyone at the cabin, hides their bodies and terrorizes Lynn, leading her to accidentally stab Chris (he survives). Chris thinks Lynn is going crazy, especially when she wants to dig up Billy's body to prove he's still alive. She goes to the grave with Chris and Honey Bear (Cana Cockrell) and they find his rotting corpse in the coffin. So, is Lynn crazy or not? If not, who is this person killing all these people? You will find out on the opening night of the tour. It seems that Billy had a twin brother named John and he killed all those people two years earlier. Lynn sent the wrong man to his death. Now, John has come back and is chasing Lynn backstage, trying to tell her that he actually wrote all the songs, not Billy, and he's not happy with her performance of them (neither am I). It's going to be a killer opening show.  This is one of a slew of regional films made by husband/wife team of Ferd and Beverly Sebastian (GATOR BAIT - 1973; BLOODY FRIDAY - 1973; FLASH AND THE FIRECAT - 1975 and many more). They usually co-directed all their features together, except for this one (Beverly directed it alone. They both co-produced and scripted.), which could explain why it's worse than most of their other films. The acting in this one is especially sub-par, as no one here could act their way out of a paper bag, but at least Donna Scoggins gets naked often (and looks good, too). The kills are rather tame and bloodless, consisting of a drowning in a hottub, a steam iron to the throat and a stabbing. The bloodiest part of the film is the concluding concert, where John dons the Death disguise, sings a song ("There's A Killer On The Loose") and actually disembowels one dancer with a lance and beheads another while the audience screams with delight, thinking it's part of the stage show. Things get surreal when John unmasks himself onstage, handcuffs himself to Lynn and the band plays on as if everything is normal! The only plus is that Tray Loren looks like he's actually singing (he's not) and the band (actually members of Sorcery of STUNT ROCK fame) is actually playing live (they are). The songs aren't really that bad if you compare them to the songs in other films of this sub-genre. The film has a non-ending, as it freezes on John's face when he sings the final song ("I'm Back"). Proceed at your own risk. Also starring Renee Hubbard, Tony Rista and Ben Sebastian (I smell nepotism!). Also known as ROCKILL. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R.

ROUTE 666 (2001) - I have to admit: I was expecting a lot more from this one than what I got. It is the first film from director William Wesley since 1988's SCARECROWS. It has a novel idea that concerns four convicts, murdered 30 years ago and buried under the titled roadway, who appear when they smell blood and slaughter people with jackhammers, picks and sledgehammers. And it stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Lori Petti, Steven Williams, Dale Midkiff and L.Q.Jones. So what is wrong with this picture? For starters, the characters are so totally unbelievable that I stared in utter amazement watching people do things that no normal person would ever dream of doing in the same situation. Phillips and Petti are Special Agents assigned to bring captured witness Williams ( "X" on THE X-FILES) to L.A. to testify in a mobster's trial. They, along with Agents Midkiff (NIGHTMARE WEEKEND - 1985; PET SEMATARY - 1989), Alex McArthur (RAMPAGE - 1988) and Mercedes Colon, take the titled shortcut to make up lost time and run smack dab into the aforementioned dead convicts, one of whom happens to be Phillips' dead father! How's that for coincidences? They are also being chased buy a Russian hitman (Sven-Ole Thorsen of THE RUNNING MAN [1987]) and the Sheriff (Jones of THE WITCHMAKER [1969]) who murdered and buried the convicts 30 years earlier. Every time blood is spilled the dead ones show up to pummel, hack and jackhammer in graphic detail the hapless victims. The whole film seems rather disjointed, like chunks of the screenplay were tossed out the window in favor of action. That would all be fair and good except the action scenes are so lazily shot (with what I call "shaken camera syndrome") and edited (one wooden crate explodes three times in one gunfight scene!!!) that one wishes that there were a coherent story to go along with this mess. How can you justify the scene of  McArthur and Colon making out in their SUV while their charge is hancuffed to a car in the blistering heat? Or how about when Midkiff gets drunk waiting for backup? Professionals would never do this. Williams overacts to the point that you want to bitch-slap his ass (he does get in a sly X-FILES reference, though).  Phillips underacts (even worse than his performance in BATS - 1999) and Petti, well, let's just say Petti is being Petti. On the plus side, there's the convicts themselves, a frightening concoction of burnt, cracked skin and lethal silent fury. There's also some nice desert scenery, an abandoned drive-in, some decent (if somewhat quick) gore and a strange final scene between Phillips and his dead father. It's also good to see L.Q. Jones back on the screen. He always lends an air of professionalism to everything he's in.  One only hopes director Wesley picks a better script (he co-wrote this one) and doesn't wait another 13 years before he makes another movie. It seems he got rusty in between films. Better luck next time. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE RUINING (1993/1997) - You know you're in for trouble when Troma President Lloyd Kaufman comes on screen and apologizes for the condition of the print that is about to be shown on their DVD. He's absolutely correct. It's scratchy, choppy, missing a lot of frames and the sound is mixed all wrong (all the sound comes from the back speakers on a Dolby system). He also should have warned you that the film itself is also a stinker that, besides a couple of scenes, is not worth the plastic it's pressed on. Two obnoxious couples become stuck in a hicktown after one of them accidentally shoots their SUV with a gun. They run into a farmer (Robert Silverman of SCANNERS - 1981) and his retarded adopted daughter Becky (who acts like a dog), who the farmer found 17 years earlier abandoned in a burlap sack, the product of an incestuous relationship. The farmer also sells the town psychedelic eggs, laid by a special chicken which cause the eaters to experience acid trips filled with strange visuals (including a mutated chicken hatching from a giant egg). The town is absolutely hooked on the eggs and are surprised when the two couples don't order eggs with their beers when at the bar! Not much of the rest of the films makes much sense as the couples bicker and cheat on each other, two are killed (one of the men smears peanut butter on his dick and has Becky lick it off until it goes too far and she ends up biting it off!), there's a barn full of body parts and the ending makes absolutely no sense. Director/writer/star Chris Burgard (who usually acted in films such as SYNGENOR - 1990) started this film in 1993 and had to halt production because one of the producers ran off with the money. He resumed over four years later with the same cast (it's obvious that some of them gained weight and lost some hair) and hasn't been able to get it released until 2004, thanks to Troma, who'll release anything. The DVD case states that the film stars Wings Hauser and Patrick Warburton. Hauser shows up in one scene playing a parody of himself and punches a local punk out when he calls him David Hasselhoff! Warburton shows up in one scene as a patron of the local strip bar. Nobody ever accused Troma of truth in advertising. The presentation of the film is nearly unwatchable in the state it is offered here but I doubt that all the restoration in the world would make this a better film. It does try to be something different but fails on all levels. It ruined my evening. A Troma DVD Release filled with their usual bunch of trailers, music videos, fake PSA's and a short behind the scenes documentary on the film. It's actually more interesting than the film itself. Not Rated.

SATANIC (2005) - Teenage miscreant Michelle (Annie Sorell) causes a car accident, which kills her father and sends her to the hospital with severe facial injuries. Dr. Barbary (Angus Scrimm; PHANTASM - 1979) drills a hole in Michelle's head to relieve the pressure when she starts to bleed profusely and he jokingly tells Michelle that in the Dark Ages, doctors performed the same procedure to release evil spirits from possessed peoples' bodies (Michelle then strangely asks, "Are they gone...the spirits?"). Michelle has no recollection of the car accident, but she does see the spirit of her eyeless father at the most inopportune times, as he pleads, "Why did you hurt her and why did you kill me?" Over the next couple of months, Dr. Barbary reconstructs Michelle's face with plastic surgery based on photos from her family album (hospital janitor Cliff [Mike Gaglio] calls her "Bride of Mummy" because of her bandaged face and she seems to scare him more than anything else he has ever seen in this hospital) and when the bandages are finally removed from her face, she is beautiful but she doesn't recognize her face in the mirror. When the Sheriff's Department finally releases her personal effects from the accident, one of the items is an evil-looking ouija board with a satanic-shaped planchette (a five-pointed star), which somehow flashes long-dormant memories into Michelle's mind as soon as she sees it. Later that night, some gloved figure kills Cliff and steals his keys, which brings Detective Joyner (Jeffrey Combs; THE HORROR STAR - 1981) to the hospital to investigate. Since Michelle has no living family, she is sent to Harmony Home, a halfway house for troubled, criminal and orphaned teens run by Mr. Bisson (the late Rick Dean; RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991; in his final role) and his wife Jackie (Diane Ayala Goldner). Mr. Bisson informs Michelle that she use to be a good girl, but when her mother died of cancer and her father started dating again soon after, she tried to stab her father's new girlfriend with a big-assed knife (Michelle has no recollection of this ever happening). Mr. Bisson allows Michelle to enter her father's house to pick up some personal items and Michelle discovers that her bedroom is decorated with all sorts of black magic items. Mr. Bisson finds a diary in her bedroom that is decorated with the satanic star and he even steals her pot stash! At Harmony House, Michelle meets troubled teens Dutch (Brian Burnett), Larry (Brett Erickson), Dalia (Eliza Swenson) and the uber-religious Jackie, who warns Michelle to stay away from her husband. Mr. Bisson likes to talk about going to strip clubs, sex and is possibly a rapist (He tells his wife, "Remember, they dropped the charges."). Michelle has more nightmares about her eyeless father (his body is now covered in leeches) and pretty soon a black-hooded figure begins dispatching the residents of Harmony House, making the deaths look like suicide. Larry becomes rightfully concerned and picks up an important clue from Dr. Barbary, while Michelle is chased around by bum Eddie (James Russo), who asks her, "What have you done with Kayla?" The totally not-unexpected finale answers that question.  This is standard DTV horror fodder whose punch line can be guessed almost from the opening scene. Director Dan Golden, who showed much promise with his first film, NAKED OBSESSION (1990), but then seemed to lose it with films like BURIAL OF THE RATS (1995) and THE HAUNTED SEA (1997), doesn't even try to mask the "surprise" ending in this film. The screenplay, by first-timer Ben Powell, is full of stock, clichéd characters, including horny, wise-assed teens, a plot we all have seen a hundred times before (including using a ouija board to contact the dead and making Jackie such a drunk, religious nut that Dalia calls her "Ilsa, She Wolf Of The SS" [I'm not a religious person, but portraying the ultra-religious as drunks is quite unfair and common in horror films]) and plot holes you could navigate a cruise ship through (For example: Why didn't Jackie confiscate the ouija board when she removed all of Michelle's other possessions? You would think the God-fearing Jackie would have tossed it in the garbage as soon as she saw the satanic symbols. And why does Michelle decide to take a shower after just discovering the butchered bodies of Mr. Bisson, Jackie and Dutch? How stupid do you think we viewers are?). The only person who registers here is Rick Dean (who died shortly after completing this film). He plays the role of Mr. Bisson as such a flawed character, you can't help but like him, even if he is a horndog. Everyone else, including Angus Scrimm, Jeffrey Combs and a cameo by James Russo (FREEWAY - 1988) are wasted in thankless, stereotyped roles. While there is a flash of female nudity and a modicum of blood and gore, SATANIC stacks up as nothing by a generic horror flick that offers nothing new to the genre, including a "surprise" ending (just after an awfully choreographed catfight) that leaves the film wide-open for a sequel that, thankfully, hasn't materialized yet. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

SATAN'S BABY DOLL (1982) - At the wake of Maria Aguilar (Marina Hedman), family and staff stand solemnly around her body when it suddenly sits upright, scaring the shit out of her daughter Miria (Jacqueline Dupre). The family doctor, Juan Suarez (Alfonso Gaita), explains to husband Antonio (Aldo Sambrell) that his dead wife's movement was nothing but a muscle spasm, but Antonio (who is a intravenous drug user) believes his wife was trying to tell Miria her secrets. While Antonio is shooting-up in his bedroom, his paraplegic wheelchair-bound mute brother, Ignazio (Joe Davers), is watching housekeeper (and soon-to-be nun) Sol (Mariangela Giordino) masturbate in her bed. When Antonio catches Ignazio getting an eyefull, he takes out his frustrations on Sol instead, berating her for performing such lewd acts. While Miria is lying in her bed, she hears her mother's voice calling her, so she goes down to the crypt in the cavernous basement, where she spots butler Isidro (Giancarlo Del Duca) geeking a chicken and she sees her dead mother's nude body open her eyes. Miria is convinced her mother wants to tell her something, but Dr. Suarez wants to put her in a psychiatric hospital instead. Before he is able to do so, Dr. Suarez has a heart attack in the crypt when he imagines that Maria (who was once his lover) has come back to life (And just what was the good doctor about to do with that huge hypodermic needle?). The ironfisted Antonio orders Isidro to hide the doctor's body in the castle's vast dungeon crypt and warns Sol to keep her mouth shut. Isidro performs another ritual in the crypt  using a mummified corpse, which makes Miria masturbate in her bedroom and then again hear her mother's voice, who orders her to "kill mercilessly" everyone in the castle. Isidro is the first to die when the mummified corpse seemingly comes to life and strangles him while a possessed Miria stares into his eyes. Ignazio is the next to die when he also seemingly gets up from his wheelchair and falls into an open crypt. After Antonio shoots-up again, he imagines making love to Maria, only to realize a short time later that he's making love to his own daughter. He backs away in disgust and falls down a stairwell, killing himself. The last one left is Sol, who goes down to the crypt, lies naked on top of Maria's body and is crushed to death when Maria gives her a dealdy bearhug. With Miria the only person left alive (and the only truly innocent one), Maria can now rest in peace.  This sleazy Italian/Spanish co-production doesn't make much sense, but it sure ain't boring. Director Mario Bianchi (THE BLACK MAID - 1976; THE MURDER SECRET - 1989), here using the pseudonym "Alan W. Cools", ladles on the sex and sleaze, including full-frontal male and female nudity, including a scene where Sol gives Ignazio a spongebath and spends most of the time with her hands on his penis. While it's clear that there's a lot of dark secrets in the Aguilar family (The question soon becomes, "Who didn't sleep with Maria?"), the biggest monster turns out to be the impotent Antonio, who finds great pleasure in bullying his family and staff, repeatedly calling them "wretched" and "nothing". Aldo Sambrell's (VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST - 1972; BEAKS: THE MOVIE - 1987) performance is the best this film has to offer. The scene where he is wheeling his helpless brother down to the crypt to die is chilling. As the camera, mounted to the bottom of the wheelchair and pointing up, looks into the faces of both Antonio and Ignazio, Antonio calmly and slowly pushes the wheelchair down to the crypt, all the while telling his brother how he is going to die of starvation while covered in his own excrement, unable to move or scream out for help. It's the film's standout sequence. While there's not much in the way of blood or gore, the tone of the film is relentlessly perverse, as well as sexy. At a little over 73 minutes long, it doesn't wear out it's welcome and you won't go longer than five minutes without seeing some eye-opening nudity. What more do you want? This film (a semi-remake of Andrea Bianchi's [no relation] MALABIMBA [1979]) was also shot as a hardcore sex film (under the title ORGASMO DI SANTANA). That could explain BABY's short running time, but whoever edited this version did a masterful job because there are no jump cuts or obvious edits. Originally released in the U.S. in a severely-edited cut under the title A GIRL FOR SATAN. Now available in an uncut, widescreen print on DVD in the original Italian language with English subtitles under the title LA BIMBA DI SANTANA from Severin Films. Not Rated, but it goes way beyond an R-Rating.

SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1975) - A vampire priest (!) drools on himself as he watches a beautiful woman slash herself to death with a razor blade in her house in Monterey, California. Her actor brother arrives from Hollywood for her funeral. He stays at her house and meets a police detective who tells him he thinks it wasn't suicide. Her third finger of the left hand was cut off and there wasn't a drop of blood in her body. The detective says that there have been a series of similar mutilations in the area where the victims were found clutching pieces of black cloth which dates back 200 years. The vampire priest brings Sis back to life and instructs her to kill her entire family. She starts with her invalid aunt and her housekeeper. Brother finds a manuscript Sis was working on entitled "High Satanic Rites" which leads him to the church where the vampire priest resides. He learns that Satan appeared at the church hundreds of years ago and converted the priests and nuns to his side. Satan plans for the brother to marry his sister to produce an offspring that will take over the world.This awful amateurish production looks arid sounds like a porno movie without the nudity or sex. Jumpy editing, terrible music, atrocious acting and bad makeup effects are all this film has to offer. Thankfully it is only 60 minutes long. When I rented this turkey the leader snapped off the take-up reel. Maybe someone was trying to tell me something. I shouldn't have fixed it. Director Philip Miller is actually entepreneur Steve Millard. You may know him better as Nick Phillips, director of the ultra-cheap cult films CRIMINALLY INSANE (1975), the sequel CRAZY FAT ETHEL II (1987) and DEATH NURSE (1987) all starring the overweight and extremely ugly Pricilla Alden. SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING stars Greg Braddock, Ray Myles and Lisa Milano. I doubt you have ever seen them in anything else. A World Video Pictures VHS Release. Also available on DVD with CRIMINALLY INSANE and its sequel from Retro Shock-O-Rama/E.I. Independent Cinema.  Rated R.

SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER (2004) - When director Jeff Lieberman releases a new film, you tend to sit up and take notice.  Having directed such quirky films as  SQUIRM (1976), BLUE SUNSHINE (1977), JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980) and his most recent film before this, REMOTE CONTROL (1987), Lieberman has always been a director involved in creating some of the most watchable films in the genre. This one is no different. Little Douglas Whooly (Alexander Brickel) is hooked on a video game called Satan's Little Helper, where the onscreen computer character helps Satan by kicking dogs, running over old ladies and generally causing mayhem wherever he goes. Doug is so involved in this game that he dresses up in a Devil's costume for Halloween, the day this story takes place. He, along with his mother (the always welcome and loopy Amanda Plummer), go to meet his collegiate sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick) who is visiting their island community by ferry. Doug loves his sister and wants to marry her when he grows up (leading to a funny incest remark by Plummer who is talking to a friend on the phone) and especially loves going trick or treating with her. When Jenna shows up with new boyfriend Alex (Stephen Graham) in tow, Doug grows despondent and tries to find a way to get rid of Alex. While walking down the street, Doug sees a serial killer in a Satan costume (it's a great get-up) killing a neighbor and setting the body up as a Halloween decoration. Thinking that the costumed killer is the actual Satan and that all this is play-acting, Doug bonds with the serial killer and they go off on a murder spree. Doug thinks he is Satan's Little Helper and that everything that is happening is fake. Along the way, many mistaken identities are to be had, some funny and some downright dreadful. To give away any more of the plot would be destroying the viewer's enjoyment of this extremely black-humored film. There are a few great setpieces, one concerning a black cat (it's a jolt), another relating to Doug's dad (Wass Stevens) when Doug realizes that this is no joke and another that takes place during an adult Halloween party in a castle (where a reveler can be seen in a mask with worms coming out of it; a small salute to Wormface in SQUIRM). Amanda Plummer really shines in her role as the mother. It's quite remarkable how much she loves her kids and accepts them unconditionally, even when her daughter brings an uninvited guest. It's also commendable that she's open about her pot use and mentions getting stoned on several occasions. She's just generally a nice person who gets caught up in one of the worst days of her life (I'll never look at packing tape the same way again). Though gory in spots, this film relies more on humor and family relationships (including Alex's abusive father, who also happens to live on this island) to get it's point across. There's also a great scene where the serial killer trades his Satan costume for something more appropriate after shooting himself through the palm of his hand. Left wide open for a sequel, let's hope Jeff Lieberman doesn't wait another 17 years before making his next genre film. A Screen Media Films Release. Rated R.

SATAN'S SLAVE (1980) - The press materials say that this is an Indonesian version of PHANTASM (1979) but, truth be told, it's not, although I do see many references to other horror films of the period (including a scene stolen directly from SALEM'S LOT [1979] in the film's opening minutes). After the death of their mother, a family begins to experience some supernatural occurrences, which may be tied to a family curse. Teenage son Tommy Munarto (Fahrul Rozi) wakes up one night to discover the decomposing corpse of his mother floating outside his bedroom window, calling for him to come outside and join her. Older sister Rita (Ruth Pellupessy; THE SNAKE QUEEN - 1982) witnesses Tommy walking outside, but fails to mention it to her father (W.D. Mochtar; MYSTICS IN BALI - 1981) the next morning at breakfast because she doesn't want to upset him. Tommy begins acting strangely, so some of his friends tell him to go to a fortuneteller for some help. He does and the fortuneteller doesn't like what the cards tell her, so she tells Tommy to protect himself using black magic, especially whenever he sees a coffin. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as Tommy walks out of the fortuneteller's home, a hearse pulls to the side of the road and several pallbearers pull out a coffin, with the head pallbearer pointing directly at Tommy, as if to say, "Climb on in!" (This is the only scene that resembles PHANTASM in any way). Tommy begins performing black magic rituals in his bedroom, which worries Rita, especially when she begins receiving phone calls where a female voice asks, "Is this Tommy's house?", the doorbell rings and no one is there and Tommy begins getting nosebleeds. Dad decides the kids need a housekeeper and hires Ms. Darminah (Diana Suarkom), who shows up late one night, seemingly out of nowhere. It soon becomes apparent that Ms. Darminah is the housekeeper from Hell, as she begins controlling the Munarto household, especially Tommy, who has a nightmare in which Ms. Darminah and some rubber mask-wearing Satanists sacrifice him on an altar. As the bodies begin piling up, a white witch doctor is called in to perform an exorcism on the Munarto home, but Ms. Darminah's black powers prove to be too strong. When the bodies of the recently deceased rise from their graves and lay siege to the Munarto household, a priest enters the picture and uses the power of faith to destroy Ms. Darminah  and her satanic meat puppets. Praise be to Allah!  This Indonesian horror film, directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra (PRIMITIVES - 1978; THE WARRIOR - 1981; HUNGRY SNAKE WOMAN - 1987; REVENGE OF SAMSON - 1987) is much more laid-back than most Indonesian horror flicks and has a much stronger religious subtext, too. That's not to say that this film is boring, because it's not. It's just that it lacks the non-stop weirdness that we've come to expect from films of this type. SATAN'S SLAVE (not to be confused with the 1976 British horror film of the same name, directed by Norman J. Warren) takes it's time to get to the payoff, borrowing themes from THE EXORCIST (1973), THE OMEN (1976) and countless haunted house thrillers, to tell it's story about family loss and the faith they must put in God (in this case, Allah) to defeat all the supernatural events happening in their home. There are still plenty of atmospheric chills on view, including the nocturnal visit Mom pays to Tommy; a visit to a morgue, where Rita must identify the body of her boyfriend Herman, who was killed in a motorcycle accident caused by Ms. Darminah; Tommy's nightmare of being sacrificed; the undead Herman (who, for some reason, is now a vampire with big-ass fangs) as he attacks Rita in her home; and many other sequences. Be forewarned: Those looking for the sheer lunacy of films like THE WARRIOR or THE DEVIL'S SWORD (1984) will be severely disappointed, but those adventurous enough willing to view SATAN'S SLAVE on it's own terms may just find themselves liking it. The script, by Putra, Imam Tantoni (THE WARRIOR AND NINJA - 1985) and Naryono Prayitno (THE HUNGRY SNAKE WOMAN - 1987), saves most of the bloody action for the finale, which involves grave robbing, zombies, rotting flesh being pulled off the bone and religious retribution. Also starring Simon Kader, I.M. Damsyik, Doddy Sukma, Siska Karabety, Adang Mansiur, Ali Albar and Moesdewyk. The widescreen print used for both Deimos Entertainment's Eastern Horror Vol. 4 (with CORPSE MASTER - 1987) and BCI's Eastern Horror Advantage Collection 10 Movie Set seems to be missing some picture information on the bottom third of the screen, probably masked-out to cover up foreign subtitles. New English subtitles are now in it's place. Not Rated. UPDATE: Now available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Severin Films, the purveyors of everything weird.

SAVAGE INTRUDER (1968) - This low-budget horror variant of SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) opens with a long shot of the world-famous Hollywood sign, only to reveal, a few second later, the same sign in extreme close-up, decaying and full of holes. It's a terrific metaphor on how looks can be deceiving; especially when it pertains to people and the masks they wear to hide their inner demons. It seems someone is carving-up middle-aged women and carefully placing their body parts around Los Angeles (In the opening, we see a woman's dismembered head lying in the middle of her dismembered hands and feet directly under the Hollywood sign), leaving the police baffled as to the killer's motive. We then watch the killer  (he wears an overcoat, a big-rimmed fedora and sunglasses to hide his face) following a middle-age bar floozy home, where he hits her over the head with a lead pipe and then begins dismembering her body with an electric carving knife, part of his killing kit that he carries with him in a backpack. When the poor woman wakes up (while he's cutting off her hand!), the killer finishes her off with a meat cleaver. We then switch to drifter Vic (John David Garfield; THE STEPMOTHER - 1972) hitching a ride on the back of a Movieland Tour bus (the bus driver is short-lived Three Stooges member Joe Besser). He jumps off at the mansion of aging alcoholic ex-movie star Katherine Parker (Miriam Hopkins; DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE - 1931), who has just broken her leg after taking a drunken stumble down her mansion's spiral staircase. Vic immediately ingratiates himself into the Parker household, including maid Mildred (Florence Lake), whom he introduces himself to as "Laurel N. Hardy" (!), and Miss Parker's stern manager Leslie (Gale Sondergaard; THE BLACK CAT - 1941), who begrudgingly gives him a job as Miss Parker's nursemaid. Vic soon becomes Miss Parker's closest confidant, much to the dismay of Leslie and the rest of the staff, who have been with her for years but have never been treated as well as she treats Vic. When it's revealed that Vic's a habitual drug abuser and has frequent flashbacks about his childhood, where he watches his mother willingly being gang-banged by four sweaty men before she has her hand chopped-off by someone swinging a hatchet, it becomes quite reasonable for the viewer to assume that Vic is the serial killer on the loose. Miss Parker's cook, Greta (Virginia Wing), becomes pregnant by Vic, only to end up chopped into little pieces by someone wielding a meat cleaver. It turns out, as no surprise, that Vic is quite mad, and when Miss Parker grows suspicious of his motivations, he kills her, replaces her with a mannequin and takes over the mansion, not allowing anyone to talk to or visit "Miss Parker". As the rest of the staff also grow suspicious, Vic kills them one-by-one until he is left alone in the mansion, where he is able to relive and reboot his childhood. Only this time, he's in control.  This swinging 60's horror film, full of hippie dialogue, fashions and freak-out sequences, not to mention some surprisingly graphic bits of gore (all with that bright, almost neon, red blood that that era was so fond of), is a good time capsule of when horror films actually told a coherent (if freaky) story to go along with the scares. Triple threat director/producer/scripter Donald Wolfe (who never directed another film, although he was an editor on such films as THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS [1965]) offers a fascinating glimpse of two distinctly different lifestyles facing each other head-on: The Old Guard, represented by Katherine Parker, who still dreams of making a comeback film (she sometimes drunkenly hallucinates about it, which leads to her broken leg), not knowing that her career is nothing but a footnote to most people (At one party thrown at her house by Vic, a midget offers her cocaine [She replies, "The only trips I go on are the nostalgic kind!"] and a young woman sarcastically asks her if she appeared in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN); and the New Guard, represented by Vic, who believes sex, drugs and taking advantage of an old woman's weaknesses is all he needs to survive. Miriam Hopkins (this is her last film; she passed away in 1972 of a heart attack) is terrific as Miss Parker, who relives her past successes with a combination of alcohol and watching her old films in a screening room in her mansion (using actual footage of some of Miriam Hopkins' old films). She even does a brief topless scene! John David Garfield (the son of actor John Garfield) is equally as good as the murderous, opportunistic Vic, who has yet to meet anyone he can't deceive or murder when his fragile psyche is exposed. The supporting cast of film veterans also raises this film a notch or two above the norm and help move this film to it's graphic conclusion. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked this film, especially since it is steeped in drug and alcohol abuse and yet turns out to be a sobering experience. Also starring Lester Mathews, Riza Royce and Minta Durfee. Originally released on VHS by Unicorn Video. The version I watched, under the title HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE (it is also known as THE COMEBACK), was sourced from a beat-up 16mm print that only adds to the ambiance. Now available on DVD under the title HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE from Full Moon Video, but be aware that the DVD was taken from less than pristine sources so you may want to hold on to your Unicorn VHS. If sales are good enough, they will look for a pristine 35 mm source and repress the DVD. So what happens to the people who bought the inferior version? That's Full Moon for you. Rated R.

SAVAGE ISLAND (2003) - Steven and Julia (Steven Man and Kristina Copeland), along with their newborn baby, travel to her father's remote island for some rest and relaxation. Julia's brother Peter (Brendan Beiser), picks them up and accidentally hits a small boy, the son of a family of inbred squatters, led by the demented Eliah Savage (Winston Rekert of ETERNAL EVIL - 1985). Julia's father Keith (Don S. Davis of STARGATE SG-1) plans on turning the island into a resort paradise and is trying to get rid of the squatters.  Eliah finds his dying son (he snaps his neck to finish the job) and demands that Keith give him Steven and Julia's baby as a trade-off. Keith, of course, refuses and runs off Eliah and his wife (Lindsay Jameson) with a pistol. The Savages kidnap Peter (after he digs up the Savage's dead son), cut out his tongue and offer him as trade for the baby. Keith and Steven go looking for Peter, only to have the Savage gang attack Julia and her mom (Beverly Breuer), killing mom by repeatedly stabbing her with butcher knife and taking Julia and the baby hostage.  Keith catches up with them and gets staked in the stomach while being forced to watch Peter have his throat slit wide open.  Steven turns out to be a coward as he watches in the woods as his family is killed and kidnapped. Even a threat by Eliah to shoot Julia in the head does not bring him out into the open. Lenny Savage (Zoran Vukalic) saves Julia when he says he wants her as his woman. Julia is drugged and forced to marry Lenny. Keith begs Steven to kill him ("How are you going to have the guts to save your wife and baby if you don't have the guts to finish me off?", Keith asks.). Steven kills Keith and goes out for his revenge. Filmed on digital video and edited by director Jeffrey Lando (whose next movie was the giant insect film INSECTICIDAL - 2005) on his Apple IMac G3 in his home, this movie is filled with grainy shots (apparently done purposely but very annoying to the viewer) and very strong acting. This is a good inbred family-in-the-woods film that were popular in the 70's & 80's (JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980), THE FOREST (1981), etc) that has it's fair share of outrageous dialogue (Rebecca Savage [Nahanni Arntzen] says to Peter: "Mamma told me I could have proper babies if I did it with a stranger.") and a few surprises (including an unexpected suicide) near the finale. If you can put up with the headache-inducing graininess, you'll probably enjoy this one. This one clocks in at a small 84 minutes and a supposed longer cut exists in Canada, where it was shot. An Ardustry Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

SAVAGE LUST (1989) - This is a cheap, badly acted horror flick from director/screenwriter Jose Ramon Larraz (THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED - 1973; REST IN PIECES - 1987), but it is so goddamned weird and utterly mind-boggling, you'll be glued to the screen for the entire running time. During the opening credits, we see the after-effects of a motorcycle "accident", where the male driver and female passenger are both completely naked, bloody and dead on the ground as we glimpse the back window of a black limousine going up before it pulls away. We are then introduced to six stereotypical teens on their way to Lake Wappakanokee (no kidding!) for some fun, sex and pot smoking. They get hopelessly lost, but luckily (or not) they come upon limping hitch-hiker Jack (Clark Tufts, who was just dropped off on the side of the road by a truck carrying a statue of Bob's Big Boy!), who knows the way to the lake. After having a flat tire and almost getting caught smoking weed by a State Trooper (Douglas Gowland, who gives the teens a lecture on the "penny test", or how to tell when a tire has lost its tread!), Rod (Mark Irish) decides on his own to pull off on a side road to rest when Jack tells them they still have quite a ways to go before reaching the lake (It's one of the stupidest moves in horror film history). He continues to drive on the dirt road until it ends at a strange house that looks like it's deserted and has a weird "monument" in the yard: A wrecked black limousine sitting on a slab of concrete surrounded by four stone statues. Rod, Tony (Greg Rhodes) and Peter (Jerry Kernion) take a closer look at the monument and notice a framed photo of a young pretty woman in the limousine's back seat, like some sort of shrine. Helen (Claudia Franjul) notices someone peering out of one of the house's windows, so everyone goes to check it out (Helen says, "This house is evil!" to which Peter replies, "Hey, maybe you'll spit-up pea soup and your head will turn around!" What?!?). Helen refuses to go into the house and walks off into the forest (In a real asshole move, boyfriend Tony doesn't go after her, explaining to his friends that this is nothing but "foreplay"! Double What?!?), while the rest of them break into the houseand take a tour. They naturally decide to check out the basement first (Triple What?!?) and find two coffins, one marked "Alfred" and the other marked "Amanda". Tony loses his ring trying to open one of the coffins (Quadruple What?!?) and then everyone hears the destroyed limo's horn honk outside. Tony finally decides to go find Helen, but it's too late, as someone has slit her throat and is dragging her corpse through the forest (Tony's not getting any foreplay tonight!). Jack and the rest of the group, which also includes Susan (Liz Hitchler) and Anne (Kathleen Patane), decide to check out the house further and find that the whole house is plastered with photos of the same woman found in the back seat of the limo (We also discover that Jack is wanted by the police, but we don't know what his crime is). Tony returns to the house empty-handed (Peter makes a crass joke about Helen using her ample assets as a hitch-hiker, while everyone else roasts wieners in the fireplace. Quintuple What?!?) and Susan notices a crack in the only wall without photos that seems to be getting bigger. When they discover a closet full of pickled human scalps, you would think that they would make a hasty retreat, right? Well, think again. They decide to stay until morning because it is raining outside! It's not long before all these stupid, stupid motherfuckers get just what they deserve, as Alfred (William Russell), the facially-scarred husband of the ill-fated (and badly burned) Amanda (Jennifer Delora; BAD GIRLS DORMITORY - 1986), the chick in all the photos, begin killing them in various bloody ways. Finally, a man and a woman with common sense!  I could write a book describing all the idiotic and bone-headed things these poor excuses for human beings do and say, but then I would be depriving you of a once-in-a-lifetime experience of pure inanity. With friends like these, who needs enemies? I wish I could say this is all because of director/screenwriter Jose Ramon Larraz's lack of command of the English language, but he's been making English language films since the early 70's (WHIRLPOOL - 1970; VAMPYRES - 1974), so I would like to believe this was his way of goofing-on or fucking-with the audience. These kids live in some alternate universe, where it is normal to sit in a wrecked limousine and smoke a cigarette or open a sealed casket to see if there's a body inside (C'mon, everyone's doing it!). Thankfully, Larraz offers us plenty of nudity (including disturbing naked photos of Alfred and Amanda's victims, both male and female, that he keeps in an album) and some graphic bloodletting in the final third of the film. The reveal of what's behind the cracked wall is also quite graphic and well-photographed. SAVAGE LUST (also known as DEADLY MANOR) is one of those films you find yourself enjoying for all the wrong reasons and there's nothing wrong with that. Filmed in Suffern, New York and Ramapo, New Jersey. Originally available on VHS by Action International Pictures Home Video and not available on DVD in the U.S., but there's a British DVD available (under the DEADLY MANOR title) from budget label Pegasus. Not Rated. UPDATE: Now available on Region-free Blu-Ray from Arrow Video under the DEADLY MANOR title.

SAVAGE WATER (1979) - Here's an obscure, bad slasher flick that takes place during a white water rafting trip (filmed on location in Moab, Utah and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona). It's also guaranteed to put your ass to sleep. A group of diverse, stereotypical people, including Doc Rogers (Ron Berger), a psychiatrist; a widowed father and his snotty son; a elderly German couple (the German guy tells the snotty kid, after the kid calls him a Kraut: "Adolph Hitler ist dead und some day you vill be too!"); a Arab sheik; a couple of sexy female teenagers; a husband and wife (the wife is deathly afraid to eat in the dark!); and an overweight junk food fanatic in a Gilligan hat, head down the Colorado River in three rubber rafts with their tour guides. After being lectured by the tour guides about the horrors of littering (What, no crying Indian?) and what wild plants not to eat (apparently eating belladonna will make your heart race so fast, it will explode), our motley group get their first taste of the rapids and camp out for the night on the banks of the river. One of the sexy teenagers hits on the Arab sheik and he proposes marriage ("Will you be my American wife?"), while the tour guides smoke pot. After an unreasonably long stretch of useless hijinks and constant in-fighting, someone pushes one of the tourists off a cliff after he snorts some coke. Thinking he was high, lost his balance and slipped, the tour guides simply bury him and continue with the trip (!), not aware that someone in their group is actually a cold-blooded killer. After the snotty boy is bitten by a rattlesnake (the killer purposely put it in the boy's sleeping bag) and one of the tour guides ends up dead, the idiotic tour group still continues on their trip, even though their radio to contact the outside is out of commission. Yes, these people deserve entry into the "Idiots Hall Of Fame" and deserve everything that is about to happen to them. One of the sexy teenagers is stabbed to death in the back with a hunting knife and another woman is poisoned with belladonna. Everyone finally wises-up, but they try to hang Doc Rogers when they mistakenly believe he is the killer. Tour leader Dave (Gill Van Wagoner) saves him from the noose, but while rafting back to civilization, Dave is forced to kill him with the spinning propellers of one of the raft's outboard motors, even though to his dying breath, Doc professes his innocence. Back in civilization, the surviving tourists and crew are found innocent of culpability in a civil trial, but the epilogue reveals the identity of the real killer. It's no surprise. This is an embarrassingly dull mystery/horror film that's sub-par on every level. The acting by a cast of regional non-pros is especially excruciating to watch, as everyone flubs or steps on lines constantly (Rasheed Javeri as the Arab sheik Mahomed is about as bad as they come). It wouldn't be so bad if there were a little action to go along with the constant yapping, but 95% of the film is nothing but incessant, inane dialogue spoken by people who couldn't order a Happy Meal without needing a second take. Director/ producer/ editor/ photographer/raft inflator Paul W. Kener (whose only other contribution to cinema is the harder-to-find horror abomination WENDIGO [1978]) forgot the cardinal rule of successful horror filmmaking: Put some fucking scares and blood into the damn film! Instead, he offers endless shots of people walking, talking and doing trivial things, like eating, waiting to go to the bathroom or acting like total idiots. Kener even manages to make white water rafting seem ho-hum, as the majority of the film takes place on dry land. The film isn't even good enough for an unintentional laugh, as most of the killings take place off-screen, there's no nudity (the film's idea of skinny-dipping is everyone jumping in the river with their underwear on) and the pacing is stagnant (the screenplay was written by Kipp Boden, his only film credit). I swore I actually saw the hands of my watch move counter-clockwise while viewing this. SAVAGE WATER is a loooong 95 minute viewing experience and makes director Byron Quisenberry's similarly-themed SCREAM (a.k.a. THE OUTING - 1981) seem like a masterpiece of suspense. Watching this film proves that some hard-to-find films deserve to be that way. The bad title tune was written and warbled (badly) by co-star Doug Warr. Also starring Bridget Agnew, Mike Wactor, Gene Eubanks, Steven Evans, Dirk Strickwerda, Clayton King, Pat Comer, Dawn DeAnne, Valerie Kittel and Doug Jones as Dean, the snotty boy. This has never been available on home video in the U.S., which only proves that we here in the States still have a modicum of pride. The print I viewed was sourced from a British VHS tape, proving once again that they will do anything to shame us. Not Rated.

SAVAGE WEEKEND (1976) - Another unsung gem from the 70's that, when it is mentioned in reference books, is usually maligned or unfairly labeled a "bomb". While the film is partly a stalk 'n' slash tale, it's quite refreshing in it's delivery, as there are no teenagers and very few children in sight, just adults acting like adults. A group of friends (each one with personal problems of their own) head to a house in Upstate New York for some business and fun. In the film's funniest scene, openly-gay Nicky (Christopher Allport of JACK FROST - 1996) stops at a bar for a drink and ends up beating the shit out of two brawny men making fun of his sexuality (and the extremely short swim trunks he is wearing). Once they reach the house, they find a dead bat nailed to the door (only Nicky is man enough to remove it). After a few BIG CHILL-like moments, where Mac Macauley (RE-ANIMATOR's David Gale) regales a story to two of the guests about how local borderline retard Otis (William Sanderson of FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE - 1977, in his first theatrical film) branded a woman years earlier with the letter "H" (for "whore"; I said he was borderline retarded), another couple make love completely naked in a field while Nicky watches nearby (and ogles the naked man) and they all watch Otis kill a renegade rat, a masked killer begins to kill them one-by-one for some unknown reason. Could it be Otis, who rides a bike and spends too much time in a graveyard talking to the headstone of his dead friend? Or Mac, who gets his rocks off by telling scary stories to everyone? Or could it be someone in the house? Since they all seem to have one problem or another, from jealousy, child custody trouble, sexual abuse to sexual identity, it is a definite possibility. As the story progresses, the group have a fancy dress dinner party and the killing begins. Jay (Devin Goldenberg) is hung in the barn and another is done in with a hatpin to the ear. A table saw is used to kill another, in the film's most suspenseful scene. A baling hook and impalement are used to kill another before the killer is unmasked and his motivations revealed. It all ends in a final showdown (a chainsaw and a machete are involved), where an unlikely character becomes the savior.  This is one of my favorite 70's horror films. It's mature in it's approach to love and death, something you don't normally see in low-budget horror films. Director/producer/scripter David Paulsen (SCHIZOID - 1980) doesn't tip his hand that there's a killer on the loose until about the 45 minute mark (where we see the masked killer trying on one of the guest's clothes). Up until then, we see plenty of full frontal nudity (both male and female), the Otis flashback where he brands the woman and smashes her lover's head against a rock (this flashback may not be true, since Mac, who is telling it, does not like Otis to begin with), a cringe-inducing scene where Mac removes a fishing hook from a guy's foot and various sexual infidelities amongst the cast. What really is different about this film is the way it portrays the gay character. Nicky is not portrayed as a limp-wristed girly-man, but as a strong person capable of taking care of himself and others, a rarity in 70's cinema. The killer's motivation is not much of a surprise (it's basically revealed in the opening minutes), but the tense final minutes, coupled with a creepy banjo score, really toss you for a loop. The acting is uniformly good (most of the cast went on to have long careers, many of them in the horror genre) and the gore, while sparse, is well-handled. The only minus is the pesky boom mike makes several appearances at the top of the screen, but that could be a framing issue on the print I viewed. Originally filmed in 1976 as KILLER BEHIND THE MASK, released in 1979 as THE UPSTATE MURDERS and renamed in 1981 as SAVAGE WEEKEND. It would make a perfect double bill with another 70's undiscovered gem, THE REDEEMER (1976). Also starring James Doerr, Marilyn Hamlin, Caitlin O'Heaney (as "Kathleen Heaney", who would later star in HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE - 1980), Jeffrey David Pomerantz and a very young Yancy Butler (WITCHBLADE [2001 - 2002]) as the "Little Girl". A Paragon Video VHS Release. Also available on DVD in one of those 50 movie comps (DRIVE IN MOVIE CLASSICS) from Mill Creek Entertainment and plenty of gray market sellers as a stand-alone title. There was even a version converted to 3D in 2012 in hopes of getting people to buy it for the now long-lasting 3D fad. Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber Home Video are releasing the definitive HD anamorphic widescreen version on DVD & Blu-Ray sometime in late 2015. Rated R.

SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER (1990) - Decent follow-up to David Cronenberg's 1981 exploding head masterpiece about people with the ability to control and reshape other peoples' minds and bodies. This one deals with a police captain (Yvan Ponton) who enlists scanners to destroy those responsible for shortchanging his political career. He dupes a confused scanner (David Hewlett of CUBE - 1997) to help him control the female mayor's (Dorothee Berryman) mind, so she will appoint him as the new chief of police, after he has the old chief bumped-off by his horde of drug-addicted scanners. After Hewlett figures out Ponton's plans for the city, then the world's, domination, he flees to his parents' country home with the other scanners in hot pursuit. He finds out that he was adopted and has a sister (Deborah Raffin of THE SENTINEL - 1977) living by herself in the outskirts where city noise is non-existant. He finds her, and since she is also a scanner, they come up with a plan to defeat Ponton's iron-fisted scheme. This Toronto-lensed opus offers plenty of brisk action, good special effects (some gross enough to push past its R-rating) and some pretty good twists and turns in the story lines. Check out the weird-looking residents in the scanner group (Central Casting looks like they went out of their way to find the ugliest Canadians in the Toronto vicinity). Raoul Trujillo (THE SWORDSMAN - 1993) stands out as the head bad guy scanner and does a lot with his facial expressions to put fear in the viewer. Good acting raises this one a notch or two above most sequels. The open ending sets the way for more sequels including SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER, shot back-to-back with this one by director Christian Duguay, who made a bunch of respectable films until the stinker EXTREME OPS (2002) was released to theaters. Talk about a major disappointment!  SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER is damned-good entertainment with a sense of heart and exploding heads. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER (1991) - For those who found satisfaction with SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER (1991), this second sequel should be even more enjoyable and is probably (God forbid) better than David Cronenberg's original. Scanner Alex (Steve Parrish) takes up residence in a Thailand monastery after accidently scanning his best friend off the balcony of a highrise apartment at a Christmas party. Alex's mild-mannered scanner sister Helena (the sexy Liliana Komorowska) suffers severe headaches and decides to use an experimental drug called EPH-3, invented by their adoptive father (Daniel Pilon). The drug is a patch which is worn on the back of the neck, and soon Helena starts going stark raving mad. She telekinetically explodes a pidgeon for taking a dump on her hand. She kills a doctor (head explosion) who runs a clinic for scanners and takes control of the Scanner population. When she discovers that her powers can be transmitted over the airwaves, she comes up with a plan for world domination. She kills her adoptive father and send a scanner over to Thailand to kill her brother so she can inherit her father's giant pharmaceutical business. Alex escapes, but can he save the world? This film is jam-packed with violent action and stunts. Beside the prerequisite head explosions, there's finger explosions, body parts shot off, kung fu fights, car chases and various bodies in stages of scanning deformity. Director Christian Duguay (who filmed this one back-to-back with Part 2) injects a healthy dose of humor into the proceedings and also has a fine visual eye, filling the screen with unusual camera angles and atmospherics. Duguay would later go on to direct LIVE WIRE (1992), the excellent horror film SCREAMERS (1995), the widely-praised espionage thriller THE ASSIGNMENT (1997) and the action film THE ART OF WAR (2000). He definitely has talent. As it stands, SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER is a great, head-swelling experience. SCANNER COP (1993) was next. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

SCANNERS: THE SHOWDOWN (1994) - The SCANNERS series is, in my opinion, the best horror franchise available on video. The general rule of thumb is that sequels are inferior to the original. This film (originally titled SCANNER COP 2: VOLKIN'S REVENGE) breaks that convention. It is an exciting, horrific rollercoaster ride of thrills, chills and excellent special effects (supplied by John Carl Buechler and MMI, who have never done better). There are scenes in this film that push the envelope of endurance, making the viewer cringe and pray that the scenes will end soon. All this is done with quick editing, a pounding soundtrack (that really does affect your nervous system somehow if you listen to it in Surround Sound) and the aforementioned special effects that push the boundries of its R rating. It is a total sensory experience. Daniel Quinn returns from SCANNER COP (1993) as scanner cop Stan Staziak, who is searching for his long-lost mother with the help of scanner Carrie Goodart (Khrystyne Haje of TV's HEAD OF THE CLASS [1986 - 1990]), a trans-neural researcher who helps other scanners learn to lead a normal life. Staziak has a major problem on his hands: He is being hunted by Carl Volkin (Patrick Kilpatrick of DEATH WARRANT - 1990), an escaped convict and scanner who Staziak put away five years ago after subduing him and killing his brother in a botched robbery attempt. Volkin has discovered a way to increase his scanning powers by sucking the life force out of other scanners, leaving his victims nothing but burnt, shriveled-up shells of their former selves. Since Staziak is a much stronger scanner, Volkin must locate other scanners to increase his powers before he can confront his nemesis face-to-face. He breaks into Carrie's office to get her client list of scanner patients. When she catches him in the act (and dials 911), Volkin attempts to perform his talents on her. The police break in and distract Volkin. He dispatches the cops and leaves Carrie in a coma. The only information Volkin was able to obtain was Staziak's home address, so he breaks into the house and tries to take Staziak out using conventional means, namely a shotgun. Staziak is too smart for him and foils the attempt. They get into a scanning contest where Staziak proves to be the strongest. Volkin escapes in the nick of time and searches the streets for scanners to kill. He finds a few, which does increase his powers, but still not enough to defeat Staziak. He breaks into Carrie's office again and this time is able to get her client list. He then goes on a scanner killing spree, a delirious section of the film which is a showcase of imaginative and wickedly gross special effects. Volkin has now gained enough strength to take Staziak on, but first he wants to make him suffer. He attempts to kill Staziak's scanner mother, but she senses his presence and kills herself by jumping out a window so that her power will not be passed on to Volkin. Staziak, who arrives too late to save his mother, now knows that he is not strong enough to beat Volkin just by using his powers alone. He resorts to the art of illusion in a final battle that ends with a nifty head explosion (a staple in this series). Director Steve Barnett, who also made the Fangoria horror film MINDWARP (1990) and the excellent action feature MISSION OF JUSTICE (1992), imbues this film with a sense of foreboding and doom. He also injects some very dry humor into the proceedings. Daniel Quinn and Patrick Kilpatrick make for a grand battling duo and, when they go into their scanning routines, make it look downright painful. More than once I found myself digging my fingernails into my palms from the tension onscreen. Isn't that the whole point in watching horror films? This is the last film in the series. They should make more. Also starring Robert Forster, Stephen Mendel, Brenda Swanson and Jewel Shepard. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

SCARAB (1982) - Incomprehensible Spanish/American co-production with an over-the-top performance by Rip Torn (THE BEASTMASTER - 1982) and a phone-it-in turn by Robert Ginty (THE GOLD RAIDERS - 1983). Torn portrays physics professor Wilfred Manz, a possible ex-Nazi who tries to raise an ancient spirit called Khepera, who uses scarab beetles as it's calling card. After unsuccessfully trying to summon Khepera in his laboratory (He has a scarab beetle, which is sitting atop a miniature pyramid surrounded by candles, shocked with jolts of electricity in a feeble attempt of raising the spirit), crazy Dr. Manz cuts his hand in anger and accidentally bleeds over his totem. Before you know it, Khepera appears and possesses the Professor's body, eventually turning him into a cult leader who swears to his many followers (the male members look like masked Mexican wrestlers and the female members walk around topless) that he will save the Earth from the people that would destroy it by nuclear war and famine; namely, politicians. Pretty soon, political leaders begin committing suicide for no reason at all (one stabs himself with his own rapier after practicing with his young son and another pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head at a press conference); the only thing they have in common with each other is that a tiny scarab beetle was placed on their persons shortly before they offed themselves. Womanizing reporter Murphy (Ginty), who was at the ill-fated press conference, begins following a nurse named Elena (Cristina Hachuel) when he notices her stealing the scarab from the dead politician's body. Elena, who has mystical powers (including the power to heal, as we watch her miraculously cure a serious head wound of one of her patients), may just be what the world needs to combat the possessed Dr. Manz. As Murphy ingratiates himself into her life, he also does some research into Khempera and discovers some disturbing facts. Meanwhile, the possessed Dr. Manz hangs out with some topless female followers in his temple, but every time he tries to make love to them, something awful happens, such as one girl's body morphing into that of a jackass (!) or another girl instantly becoming covered in boils and exploding (What the hell?). Murphy has multiple attempts made on his life and discovers that Elena is actually Dr. Manz's daughter. Together, they try to find her father and end the madness. By the time they reach that juncture in the film, you will either be sound asleep or wishing that you were.  This boring horror film, directed and co-written by Steven-Charles Jaffe (better known for scripting and producing MOTEL HELL [1980] and producing NEAR DARK [1987] and THE FLY II [1989]), is really a mess of a film. The story is confusing, especially since portions of the film are spoken in Spanish without the benefit of English subtitles, and Robert Ginty sleepwalks throughout the entire film, making his character more unlikable than Khepera, something I'm sure scripters Jaffe, his brother Robert Jaffe, Ned Miller and Jim Block didn't count on. It's also hard to understand why an accomplished, award-winning actor like Rip Torn would take such a demeaning role as he did here, unless he needed some quick booze money (Torn has a reputation for being a notorious alcoholic) or just wanted to bang some topless starlets. It's pretty embarrassing watching him literally spitting out his line here (I'm not kidding. In some scenes you can actually see drool on his chin or spraying spittle as he barks out his lines). Jaffe's idea of atmosphere is to bathe every scene in fog (the fog machines are working overtime here) and although there is some gore, it's nothing to write home about. Everything about SCARAB just seems wrong-headed and ill advised. I'm still trying to figure out why Ginty ignorantly walks down a busy street listening to his walkman, oblivious to the fact that someone is trying to kill him, even though he can plainly see objects and people blowing up in front of him. Ginty acts like it's a normal, everyday occurrence and doesn't wise-up until a piece of shrapnel hits him in the face. I guess that pretty much wraps-up how I feel about this film: It's clueless to the point of being stupid and I'm not talking about the good stupid, either. Also starring Isabel Garcia Lorca, Donald Pickering, Sam Chew Jr., Jose Luis de Vilallonga, Hector Alterio, Jose Ruiz Lifante and Alfredo Cembreros. I don't believe that this was ever available on home video in the U.S., but if you are a glutton for punishment, you can easily find a copy on DVD-R from gray market sellers. Not Rated.

SCARCE (2008) - More cannibal/torture nonsense; this one taking place at a hillbilly town somewhere in Pennsylvania (actually filmed in Ontario, Canada during one of the harshest winters on record). The film shows a twilight of promise in the opening scene, as a totally nude and blood-covered skeletal-looking man tries to outrun whomever is chasing him (the chase is intercut with someone playing around with some bloody Rube Goldberg-esque torture devices while eating a bloody bowl of something with a spoon), only to be captured and letting out a blood-curdling scream. The story then shifts to a snowboarding lodge in Colorado, where two New Jersey guys, Dustin (Thomas Webb) and Owen (co-director/co-producer/co-writer John Geddes), are on their last day of vacation and hit the party circuit looking to score with some chicks (Nice that they waited until their last day of vacation to do so. They give all guys from New Jersey, including myself, a bad name). In between swigs from a beer bong (oh, memories), hits off a pot pipe (oh, more memories) and way too much thrash music (never my thing and why does every thrash metal singer sound like he's got a hard turd stuck in his ass and the only way to remove it is to scream like a banshee?), Dustin gets lucky, but Owen strikes out (he catches two lesbians making out in a bedroom and he reacts like a deer caught in the headlights) until he passes-out from doing too many shots. The next morning, a hungover Dustin, Owen and Trevor (co-director/co-producer/co-writer Jesse T. Cook) hop in their car for the long trip back to Jersey (If yesterday was their last day of vacation, why did they decide to drive nearly across country the next day? Again, they are giving Jersey guys a bad name!) and only make it to some podunk town in Pennsylvania thanks to a raging snowstorm (where a local diner has a shotgun hanging under portraits of George Bush Sr. & Jr. and also a written sign that states: "Sexual harrassment in this area will not be reported. However, it will be graded."!). After eating a disgusting meal at the diner that is populated by the ugliest bunch of hicks this side of DELIVERANCE (1972), our Jersey trio get directions to the highway by a fat guy with a broken neck at the diner's counter (he uses a small hand mirror to see behind him). Being the trusting idiots that they are, they follows the guy's directions and end up in the middle of nowhere, crashing their car and Trevor breaking his leg. While Trevor waits in the car, Dustin and Owen head out in the middle of a snowstorm (Did I mention that they were idiots?) and find a strange-looking cabin hidden in the woods (As with most of these DTV horror flicks, there is no cellphone service and the cabin has no phone). They meet creepy cabin owner Ivan (Steve Warren), who drives them back to their car, only to find Trevor missing and tracks in the snow indicate that he was carried-off by someone (Like we all didn't see that coming!). Ivan tells the guys that Trevor was probably rescued by neighbor Wade (Gary Fischer) and he offers to drive them there the next morning once the snow stops. Rather that running off like scared rabbits, Dustin and Owen decide they have no choice but to spend the night with Ivan, eating his special brand of "meat" and drinking his moonshine. I think we can all see where this is heading: A non-stop barrage of torture and cannibalism, followed by a fatalistic finale where the good guys don't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of making it out alive no matter how hard they fight back. In other words, a typical ending when the writers can't come up with a decent ending, so they kill off the good guys (a plot device used in way too many modern DTV horror films).  This is the first feature film from directors/producers/screenwriters/actors John Geddes and Jesse T. Cook and it's just about what one would expect from a couple of young filmmakers weaned on a steady diet of the SAW franchise (2004 - 2010), the three HOSTEL films (2005, 2007 & 2011) and the 6 WRONG TURN films (2003, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 & 2014), especially the cruel and twisted final minutes (I know some of these films were made after this one, but I'm an anal completist!). The first forty minutes are spent getting to know Dustin, Owen and Trevor and the remainder of the film is spent watching Ivan and Wade torture the trio, stripping away their flesh and cooking them. I don't know about you, but all this cannibalism nonsense in horror films is becoming cliched and old hat, no matter how bloody and gory this film is. And gory this film is, with bodies being gutted; arms, legs and heads being cut off; bones exposed; and all the torture devices, including metal body cages, teeth and toenail removal by pliers, mouth gags and arm and leg restraints. The apex of clichedom comes when we learn that Dustin is a vegetarian, so you know the cannibals think he will taste the best. Hey, I know budding filmmakers have to start somewhere and SCARCE is not a badly made or acted film, but it is something we have seen too many times before, so why should we watch it again? I mean, these three kids are snowboarders and not once do we see them using their shredding skills to escape or get even with their captors. I hate the term "torture porn" (yes, there's torture, but there's no porn), but I'm beginning to understand it's use in describing films like this. There is a smidgen of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) thrown-in towards the end, but it comes way too late to give a damn. Also starring Jacyln Pampalone, Jackie Eddolls, Melanie Brown, Jason Derushie, Matt Griffin and Chris Warrilow as "The Slob", the broken-neck cannibal who doesn't fully put in an appearance until late in the film. An Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

SCARECROWS (1988) - Now this is a great horror film! First-time director William Wesley could give lessons to the so-called veterans of the genre on how to make an exciting, original and most of all, scary fright film. A group of ex-military fanatics pull off a 3.5 million dollar robbery and hijack a plane for their escape. One of the group turns traitor and bails out of the plane with the loot, landing in an abandoned field populated by some of the ugliest scarecrows this side of the WIZARD OF OZ. Only these scarecrows aren't friendly! The rest of the group doubles back, forcing the pilot to land in the field. In their search for the traitor, the group finds a deserted farmhouse and it becomes apparent to them that supernatural forces are at work here. A truck runs without an engine. When dice are rolled, they come up snakeeyes. Their ex-friend, the traitor, shows up to give them the fight of their lives. Bullets won't stop him. Only when they cut off his head do they find out why: He was stuffed with straw! Pretty soon the group is being stalked by the mean-spirited scarecrows, who gut their victims (in graphic detail) and use their victims body parts to replace their own missing limbs. The chase is on and only one will survive. Who will it be? This filmed-in-Florida gorefest is a masterpiece of modern horror. It has restored my faith that something new can be done in the horror field without resorting to the old cliches. Every aspect of this film is handled expertly, from the acting (by a relative group of unknowns), effects (extremely bloody) and photography (moody and well lit since most of it takes place at night), to the screenplay and direction. William Wesley has a firm grip on his material and knows how to wring every drop of tension out of a scene. What I want to know is why some major studio hasn't snapped-up Mr. Wesley and given him the opportunity to show what he can do with a big budget. His next full length feature would not be until 2001's ROUTE 666 (see review). SCARECROWS is available in both R-rated and Unrated versions. Stick with the Unrated version so you can see all the carnage intact. Do not let this one pass you by! Starring Ted Vernon, Victoria Christian, Richard Vidan, B.J. Turner, David Campbell and Michael Simms.  A Forum Home Video Release. NOTE: The Unrated version is now available on DVD from MGM in a beautiful widescreen print.

SCORCHED HEAT (1987) - Here are some things you don't see too often: An African American yachting club. A Bible Belt atheist. A Jewish ice hockey team. An Iranian politician telling the truth. A Swedish horror film. Well, I'm glad to say that I've found the latter long at last and it's as goofy as it sounds. When Eric and Steve were young boys, they were constantly abused by their teacher, Mr. George Andersson (Johnny Harborg). One such incident has Mr. Andersson catching Eric and Steve smoking cigarettes, so he slaps Eric Hard across his face and puts out a cigarette on Steve's palm before giving them detention. The boys have had enough of his abuse, so they attempt to teach him a little lesson by playing a practical joke on him by throwing firecrackers under his reading chair in his home, but it goes horribly wrong and Mr. Andersson catches fire and burns to death. Eric and Steve were never blamed for the death and Steve moved to America shortly thereafter. Twenty years pass and Eric (Martin Brandqvist) is a complete mess. He believes Mr. Andersson has returned from the grave and is haunting him, so he writes a letter to Steve (Harald Treutiger), who is now a successful music producer, begging him to come back to Sweden to help him fight the demon. Steve flies to Sweden with his bitchy wife Linda (Babs Brinklund) and the first thing they do is head to Eric's house, which they find a ramshackled mess. A crazed Eric tries to strangle Steve, but Linda beans Eric over the head with a wine bottle, which seems to knock some sense into him. While Linda takes a bath in Eric's upstairs bathroom, Eric and Steve talk about the bad old days, when all of a sudden Linda screams and disappears from the bathroom. Steve and Eric find her unconscious in the attic, where she pukes-up maggots and Mr. Andersson's burned arm bursts out of her mouth. Eric tells Steve that they're all illusions performed by the vengeful ghost of Mr. Andersson and if they don't want the illusions to turn deadly, no one should leave the house. That's not such a wise move. Mr. Andersson turns out to be much more crueler dead than he was alive and when Linda finds out the truth of how Mr. Andersson became a ghost (She callously says, "Don't bother to tell me that I'm married to a killer!"), she gets the bright idea to blow up the cellar of Mr. Andersson's burned-out home (luckily, Eric has a case of TNT hanging around in his living room!). They decide to blow-up the cellar the next morning, but this night is going to be a rough one, as the ghostly Mr. Andersson tries every illusion in the book to get the trio to kill each other. They manage to make it through the night after a close call with a burglar (co-scripter Johan A. Dernelius) and a police officer (co-scripter Anders Jonsson) and then drive to Mr. Andersson's home, only to be taken hostage by a street gang that is squatting there. They manage to scare off the gang and locate the cellar. They plant the dynamite, only to discover that the entire house has reappeared. They quickly forget that everything is an illusion and it leads to one of the trio being killed by the hands of the other two. Stupid Swedes, duped by a ghost! Take 'em away boys!  This wacky Swedish horror film (all the actors speak their own fractured versions of English), directed and co-written by Peter Borg (SOUNDS OF SILENCE - 1989), is one of those movies where having a good tolerance level (for Swedish accents, fragmented dialogue, cheesy special effects) is a must. If you find you can get through some of the film's hoarier moments (which is practically the entire first 45 minutes), you may find yourself having a good time here. Half the fun is listening to the actors speak their lines in Swenglish, especially the gang of thugs who occupy the remains of Mr. Andersson's home (Gang Leader: "Do you find it very hard to say hello?"  Linda: "Fuck you!"  Gang Leader: "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I think you owe me an apology. That is, of course, if you don't wanna lose your tits!") The fact that no one dies throughout the entire film (there are a few close calls) until the finale and a lack of any substantial blood and gore (the worse it gets is the maggot puking scene) will probably turn off horror purists, but SCORCHED HEAT is goofy entertainment of the highest order if you are in the right mindset. Also starring Tony Ellis, Michael Flanigan, Dennis Castillo, Eric Elmerson and director Borg as a priest. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS Tape. Not Rated.

SCOURGE (2008) - The return of Jesse Jarrett (Robyn Ledoux) to the town of Harborford, Washington stirs up those old feelings in ex-boyfriend Scott Miller (Nic Rhind), who is a hockey-playing, motorcycle-riding ex-con (he's really not such a bad guy, though). Unfortunately, this is happening while the old town church burns down. It turns out the church was harboring a deadly secret since 1871; a multi-tentacled creature that escapes and hides in the body of a fireman (it enters through his navel), who then transfers the creature to Scott's cheating girlfriend, Lydia (Marina Pasqua). Scott has had his doubts about Lydia's faithfulness, so he follows her one night and catches her cheating with some guy in the ladies room of a nightclub. Too bad for Scott, as Lydia has already transferred the creature into her new lover's body and she dies (bloodily) in Scott's arms. Sheriff Durst (Russ Ferrier), Jesse's uncle, has a hard-on for Scott and wants him arrested in connection with Lydia's death. Jesse, who is fighting some personal demons of her own, helps Scott, much to her Uncle's displeasure, while Scott tries to discover exactly what killed Lydia. It leads him to the firehouse and then the church, where Scott discovers the truth behind the ancient evil. Meanwhile, the guy Lydia infected goes berserk in a shopping mall, forcing Deputy Sam (Jason Harder) and Sheriff Durst to shoot him dead. While transporting the body in an ambulance, the creature enters the body of a skateboarding paramedic (!). The creature infects several more people, while Scott tries to track it down and Jesse looks for clues to the creature's origins in the church's records. Jesse finds the great-granddaughter of an 1871 victim that was locked in the church's catacombs and she tells Jesse the whole sordid story. Apparently, only huge electrical shocks (like a lightning strike or being stunned with a taser) or alcohol will keep the creature at bay. When Scott is arrested by the Sheriff, who, it turns out, is infected with the creature, Jesse has to find a way to save Scott and kill the creature in her Uncle. The appearance of a one-eyed church official comes in the nick of time, as a broken lamp, a vat of wine and a very hot fire kills the creature for good. Or does it?  Although the film starts out interestingly enough, it quickly deteriorates thanks to amateur acting, crappy CGI effects and a story that makes very little sense (It plays like a sub-par version of THE HIDDEN [1987]). Director/screenwriter Jonas Quastel (SASQUATCH - 2002; RIPPER 2: LETTER FROM WITHIN - 2004; THE PSYCHIC - 2004) doesn't seem to miss any cliché here; from the Sheriff who refuses to believe that anyone but Scott could be responsible for the murders (no matter how fucked-up the corpses look); the incredible coincidence where Scott is locked in the same cell as the latest infected victim (who also informs Scott that the Sheriff is corrupt and is responsible for setting up Scott's first two-year stint in prison!); to the way police and firefighters don't act slightly concerned how the Sheriff, now burned to a crisp, can suddenly bolt up and infect the town's overweight newspaper reporter (by attaching his lips to the reporter's navel!). Add to that the side effects of being infected includes overeating and constant burping and farting and what you have is a film so devoid of originality or suspense, you'll want to beat yourself over the head with a pipe for comfort, especially after watching Jesse's lame attempt at seducing the fat reporter. It's painful, just like watching the rest of the film. Besides a few moments of gore (including an obvious CGI shot of a man losing his lower jaw), there's nothing to recommend here. Hell, there's not even any nudity! In other words, SCOURGE is a typical Vancouver-lensed DTV horror film financed by Canadian tax dollars. Also starring Alan Legros, Sharron Bertchilde, Hugh Anderson, Mensah Iruje, Paul Vigano and Russ Ball. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

SCREAM (1981) - No, this is not the Wes Craven film of the same name. This is a bland slasher flick where you have to guess the killer's identity (unlike Craven's film, the identity of the killer in this one is a cheat). A group of investors are rafted down the Rio Grande to a site where a ghost town resides. They are there to size up the area in hopes of turning it into a vacation resort. The very first night there, the killing begins (offscreen). The group become suspicious of each other as the unseen killer hangs, knifes and meat cleavers members of the group one-by-one (again offscreen). As daylight comes, they find their rafts missing and they are 30 miles away from the nearest civilization. Since their leader was one of the first ones killed, the group decides to stay at the ghost town and wait for a rescue team since no one knows the way back. No one said they were smart. When two lost offroad cyclists stumble into town, one of the group borrows a motorcycle and goes off for help. Will he get back before everyone is systematically murdered? Will your eyes close before the film ends? Will I ever stop watching crap like this? Here's my problem with this flick: If you're going to make a slasher film, you damn well better show the slashings. Besides a fleeting second of a scythe cutting off a head, director Byron Quisenberry (who is a movie stuntman by trade) has fashioned a rather bloodless take on FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980), DELIVERANCE (1972) and countless other horror films of the day. Originally lensed in 1981 as THE OUTING, this film didn't see the light of day until 1985 when practically every horror film with a pulse got a VHS release. All the characters in this film are from Stereotypes 101: The gruff, know-it-all who wants complete control, the woman scared of her own shadow that screams at every opportunity, the cowboy hat-wearing man who steps up at the plate, the woman who falls for him and, finally, the man-child who is here for sympathy and comic relief. Woody Strode makes a brief appearance two thirds of the way through as an ex-sailor (huh?) with a pet rottweiler who comes bearing bad news, spouts some mumbo-jumbo and then disappears only to return in the finale to save the day. Everyone in this film does stupid things that defy explanation (such as stacking the dead bodies like cords of wood), there's blatant Dr. Pepper product placement and the suspense is sorely lacking. Jesus, this film is bad! If there's one good point to this film, it's the music. While it does sound awfully familiar to John Carpenter's theme to HALLOWEEN (1978), it does add atmosphere to some scenes. Also starring Pepper Martin (the man in SUPERMAN II [1980] who beats up Clark Kent in the diner), John Ethan Wayne (the Duke's son), Gregg Palmer, Ann Bronston, Alvy Moore (THE WITCHMAKER - 1969), Julie Marine and Hank Worden. This is also an early credit for PM Entertainment co-founder Richard Pepin, who photographed and co-produced. A Vestron Video VHS Release. Released on DVD by Code Red/Shriek Show. Also released on a widescreen double feature DVD from Code Red, with the film BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD (1974). Rated R.

SCREAM BLOODY MURDER (1972) - Six year old Matthew runs over his father with a tractor and loses his hand when the same tractor runs it over. After a lengthy stay in a mental hospital the grown up Matthew returns home to find his mother remarried much to his chagrin. After dispatching stepdaddy with an axe and accidentally killing his mother, the hook-handed Matthew hitches a ride out of town with a newlywed couple. He murders the couple after seeing them kiss (He sees his mother's face in his mirror). Matthew has a mother fixation. He sees his mother's face on every woman he meets. He is befriended by a prostitute (whom he calls Daisy, after his mother) and goes about killing her Johns. To impress Daisy he tells her he is rich and lives in a mansion. Matthew finds a mansion and kills the occupants (including the family dog!) just so he can prove to Daisy he is telling the truth. He brings Daisy to the mansion and tells her to give up her business. When she declines, Matthew ties her to the bed and makes her a prisoner of the mansion. He goes on a robbery spree so he can buy Daisy the best. Daisy refuses his advances and in one scene when she will not eat the food he is feeding her, Matthew says, "Eat, or I'll cut your tongue out!" The bound and gagged Daisy tries to escape (she dials the operator with her tongue) but Matthew catches her. Angus Scrimm (PHANTASM - 1979) puts in an appearance as a doctor who stops by the mansion to give the former occupant her arthritis shot. The doc is killed when he becomes suspicious and finds the dead bodies. Daisy tries a different approach. She entices the virgin Matthew with her naked body. As they are about to dance between the sheets, Matthew sees his mother's face and kills the poor Daisy. His mother's face doesn't disappear this time. The apparition chases him into a church where Matthew meets his maker. This truly amazing early '70's gore psychodrama (which claims to be the first film to be called "gore-nography"!) contains competent acting by Fred Holbert as Matthew and Leigh Mitchell as Daisy, not to mention a very weird finale. While most reference books list the director of this film as Robert J. Emery, the on screen credit goes to Marc B. Ray (who also directed WILD GYPSIES in 1969 and wrote STEPFATHER III in 1992). Complaints: The print quality on the United Home Video version is washed out and the end titles aren't letterboxed, so a portion of the credits are unreadable. Angus Scrimm uses a different name here, but unfortunately I couldn't make it out (It turns out he used his real name "Rory Guy", the same name he used in THE AROUSERS - 1971 and some other of his early films). SCREAM BLOODY MURDER is also known as THE CAPTIVE FEMALE, MATTHEW and CLAW OF TERROR. A United Home Video Release. Also available on DVD from VCI Entertainment (also in very poor shape) on a double feature with SISTERS OF DEATH. Rated R. NOTE: For more info on this film from one of the film's co-stars, Bill Reynolds, click HERE.

SCREAM PARK (2012) - I always liked horror films that take place at deserted amusement parks, like Tobe Hooper's THE FUNHOUSE (1981), JACK THE REAPER (2011), the cheapjack CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1971) and many others (a lot reviewed on this site). There is just something creepy and dangerous about an amusement park or carnival closed at night, especially the carnies and performers that live at the places, as they travel town-to-town (even the stationary ones are creepy when you visit them at night, something I did several times as a teenager with my friends, getting caught once by the carnies and having a shotgun fired over our heads!). This film takes place at a stationary amusement park that is closing in a few days (actually filmed  at Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania, an actual amusement park that was closed in the early Spring when this film was lensed), thanks to dwindling attendence, a mostly disinterested employee force and a general lack of care from the corporation that owns it (the girl who runs the rollercoaster smokes in front of the few kids that are still there). The park's guard watches NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) on one of the monitors (one of three films I viewed this week where people were watching George Romero's classic!) rather than watching the other monitors, where cameras are at every ride and the parking lot, missing a strange brown van with a cracked windshield driving into the parking lot at closing time (the ominous music lets us know that whomever is in that van is not friendly). When the park's manager, Marty (Steve Rudzinski), gathers together all his soon-to-be ex-employees and tells them that their last paychecks will be delayed because the park's owner, Mr. Hyde (HELLRAISER's Pinhead, Doug Bradley, who shot all his scenes in one day in a single location), filed for bankruptcy and all his bank accounts were frozen by the IRS, the employees decide they are going to party all night at the park (What is Marty going to do, fire them?). Red-headed park employee Roy (Kyle Riordan) comes back from the liquor store and passes the brown van, which is now empty. One of the employees named Blake did not make it to the meeting and cannot be found, even though his car is still in the parking lot. The guard does his nightly perimeter search of the park to make sure no kids were left on the rides. It's apparent that there is someone in the park that does not belong there, as the guard is hung by his neck by a piece of rope and then stabbed in the heart with a screwdriver. Employee Jennifer (Wendy Wygant), the good girl of the bunch, senses something is wrong when her boyfriend Blake still has not shown up and the guard is late coming back from making his rounds (he is never late). The rest of the employees get drunk, smoke pot and have sex in the Ladies Room. Jennifer and Marty spot a couple of oddly-dressed strangers in the park and decide to warn the others, while one of the strangers (who wears a mask with a huge beak) shoves Carlee's (Kailey Marie Harris) face in the deep fryer, burning her face off. Carlee's boyfriend Tony (Dean Jacobs) is knocked out and, when he wakes up, he discovers that his arms and legs are duct-taped to a rollercoaster car, while the beak-masked stranger slices his stomach open and pulls out some of his innards. When Jennifer and Marty investigate why the rollercoaster is operational, they discover more of Tony's intestines spill out when his car stops. Another girl has her throat graphically slit open by the other stranger (wearing a burlap bag over his head, making him look like a hulking scarecrow) and soon the two strangers begin killing the rest of the employees one-by-one because it is "their job". With the landlines not working and all the employees cell phones missing (clue alert!), the employees fight back by any means possible (the gates to leave the park are padlocked), but another male employee is scalped and his girlfriend has her faced wiped in his blood before she is dispatched. The killers turn out to be Ogre (Ian Lemmon) and Iggy (Skinny Puppy musician Nivek Ogre; 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS [2010]; REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA [2008]; who uses the name "Kevin 'Ogre' Ogilvie" here) and Ogre kills Allison (Alicia Marie Marcucci) with an axe to her head until only Jennifer and Marty are left. Marty thinks he knows what is going on, as he has a flashback to a meeting he had with Mr. Hyde a few weeks earlier (if you look closely at Mr. Hyde's desk, you will see the Lament Configuation Box and Mr. Hyde even moves it!), where Mr. Hyde says, "People don't ride the rollercoasters or brave the funhouses. Now they ride their couches and brave the commercials." (scary, but true). He goes on to say that if the amusement park were to survive, "We need something novel. Something catastrophic. Almost like...a...an accident." Marty tells Jennifer that he believes Mr. Hyde set up this mass murder to make this amusement park popular again. What better way to put people's asses in the rides' seats than the slaughter of innocent people? Crowds love to gather at crime scenes or accidents; the bloodier, the better. Still at the flashback, Mr. Hyde says, "Think of the news coverage. Think of the crowds. We would never have to worry about profits again!" Jennifer is incensed with Marty for not telling her or anyone else at the park about this conversation before (earlier, Jennifer stabbed Ogre in the back with a butcher knife when he attacked her and Marty and it didn't affect him at all). Jennifer decides to go outside to grab the guard's gun, while Marty stays behind and watches the monitors. She leaves the safety of the guard's office and ventures into the park, only to discover that Iggy already took his gun and he takes Jennifer prisoner. She is saved by Roy (who has managed to stay in the shadows away from the two psychos) and Jennifer escapes with the gun, while Ogre snaps Roy's neck like a twig. Jennifer finds the headless corpse of her boyfriend Blake and kills Ogre by pumping him full of lead with the gun. She is then chased by Iggy through the park and Jennifer climbs to the top of the wooden rollercoaster. Iggy catches up and begins to strangle her with his bare hands, but Jennifer gouges both his eyes out with her fingers and kicks him off the rollercoaster, Iggy falling to his death. Morning arrives and so do the police and the news crews. We then discover that Marty is keeping Blake's head in his locker. Does Marty want Jennifer all to himself (throughout the film, we see Marty trying to hit on her) or was it him who orchestrated this mass slaughter and not Mr. Hyde? If IMDb is correct, we may discover the answer in RETURN TO SCREAM PARK, which is supposedly being made in 2016 and will answer those questions.  This gore film, partially financed by internet funding site IndieGoGo, was the first effort by director/producer/screenwriter Cary Hill and, while it's not perfect, it is a very enjoyable way to spend 84 minutes (ignore the 96 minute running time in the DVD's sleeve). There are some very bloody deaths (especially the scalping, where Iggy wears the scalp on his head before he throws it against a glass door and wipes the victim's girlfriend's face in the blood). Being filmed at an actual amusement park gives the film an air of authenticity, especially since it was filmed before the actual park was given its usual new yearly coat of paint, so everything looks beaten to hell. If your taste runs towards gore more than an actual plot (although the ending did take me by surprise), this semi-professional effort (the technical aspects are fine and the acting by a cast of mainly young unknowns [Doug Bradley and Nivek Ogre excluded] ranges from average to good) is a film worth watching. Director Hill has a cameo at the end as a paramedic who takes care of Jennifer and there is a mostly funny blooper reel as an extra on the DVD, along with a shitload of trailers for other films (some which look worth purchasing). Also starring Nicole Beattie, Brian McDaniel, Tyler Kale and Carrie Lee Martz. A Wild Eye Releasing DVD Release. Why is it that these small labels take most of the chances releasing new DTV horror films with budgets that wouldn't buy a good meal for a major label releasing DTV flicks? I hope labels like Wild Eye stay around for a long time. Not Rated.

SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT (1979) - A group of college students take a vacation at the secluded camp on Coyote Lake, named that because of the strange noises the wind makes whistling through the trees. They keep occupied by fishing, making out and telling each other scary stories by the fireplace. The first story is about the Moss Point Man. A necking couple run out of gas on a backwoods road and the man heads out into the darkness with gas can in hand leaving the woman alone in the car. The man is chased and killed by a cackling creature with long white hair. The woman hears a scraping sound on the roof of the car, goes out to investigate and (surprise!) finds her lover hanging by his neck, his feet scraping the roof. In between stories, John (Matt Borel) tells Cal (Patrick Byers) about a series of unexplained murders and disappearances that has happened in the area over the years. Cal thinks it's best not to tell anyone else. The second story told by the fireplace is the tale of three fraternity pledges who must spend the night in a haunted hotel with nothing but a sleeping bag and a candle. They are told not to go beyond the first floor. Being pledges, they think it's a test and one-by-one walk up the stairs to the second floor and beyond. The last member see a sight which strikes him mute and crazy. After that story, John and Steve (Gil Glasgow) head out during a storm under the pretense that they are picking up more oil for the lanterns. What they really do is put on a werewolf costume and scare the shit out of everyone else. The final story is about Crazy Annie, a mousey girl who decides to get retribution on those she believes have mistreated her, only to go crazy at the end. In the film's finale, the group finds out just what caused all those murders and disappearances in the past as a violent storm brings something otherworldly with it. Will anyone survive this Winter night?  Made by actual college students in Louisiana and directed by one-shot wonder James L. Wilson, SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT is a rather tame PG-rated anthology film that is short on blood (up until the finale, when it pushes the PG rating) and relies on psychological scares. Even though all the stories are familiar campfire tales, they do raise some goosebumps thanks to the claustrophobic atmosphere and a cast that plays multiple roles (in the present and in the tales). This is nothing spectacular, mind you. Just a pleasant way to spend 91 minutes of your time. Look for a young William Ragsdale (FRIGHT NIGHT - 1985) as a gas station attendant in the beginning of the film. The overhead shots of the van traveling down a secluded road remind me of the shots in the beginning of Kubrick's THE SHINING, even if this film did come out a year earlier. Also known as HOWLINGS OF A WINTER'S NIGHT. Also starring Mary Agen Cox, Robin Bradley, Ray Gaspard, Beverly Allen, Brandy Barrett and Charles Rucker. A VCI Home Video Release, which is now considered a collector's item. Not available on DVD, but available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated PG.

THE SECT (1991) - In 1970, we see a group of hippies grooving to America's "Horse With No Name" (the film's biggest anachronism since this song wasn't released until 1972). One hippy, Mark (Dario Casalini), who is painting a girl's breast (hippies loved to body paint!), runs after little boy Jimmy when he hears him cry (he saw a snake) and as he is consoling the little boy, a Manson-like figure named Damon (Tomas Arana; INCARNATE - 2016) shows up and spouts verses of The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil". The hippies take to Damon and make him their leader (The "Sect" of the title). We then see Damon talk to someone in a black car with tinted windows and the stranger tells him, "It is not yet time". We then see Damon's sect sacrifice a person in a ritual. Yes, they are Devil worshippers.
     We are then in Frankfurt, Germany and the year is 1991. We watch as cult member Martin Romero (Giovanni Lombardo Radice; DEADLY IMPACT - 1984) follows a woman named Marion Crane (a reference to PSYCHO - 1960; this film references many horror movies, including Radice's name, which is a not-to-subtle reference to the late George A. Romero and his film MARTIN [1977]) through the streets of Frankfurt, eventually grabbing her, stabbing her to death and cutting out her heart (offscreen). When a thief tries to pick the pocket of Martin on the subway, Marion's heart falls to the floor, scaring the crap out of the people in the subway car. Martin is captured by the police and when they try to handcuff him, he grabs an officer's gun, puts it in his mouth and blows his brains out of the back of his head. It seems that in the past three years a string of unsolved murders have taken place in the vicinity and Justice Jonathan Ford (Donald O'Brien; DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. - 1980) blames a satanic cult for the killings.
     We then see old man Moebius Kelly (Herbert Lom; MARK OF THE DEVIL - 1970) pull a canary out of its cage and let it go free while saying,"It is time. At last, it is time!". He travels by train holding on to a package as if his life depended on it. When he is walking down the middle of a road (admiring the Sun), he is hit by a car driven by school teacher Miriam Kreisl (Kelly Curtis, the older sister of Jamie Lee Curtis). She takes Moebius to her home and it is quite obvious that it is the place he wanted to be. He talks in riddles ("I am close!") and knows more about Miriam than she knows herself. The big question is: Why? Miriam has a pet rabbit, which she refuses to name so they can be on a level playing field (WTF?!? Maybe she should sing a "Rabbit With No Name"!). That night, while Miriam is sound asleep, Moebius opens his package, walks into her bedroom and puts a weird-looking insect on Miriam's face, which crawls into her nose and disappears! She has a dream where she sees a naked man tied to a tree, tries to free him, passes out and a crane crawls up her nightgown and pecks her, ripping a bloody hole in her neck. When she wakes up, she finds Moebius bent over and coughing like a smoker with a three-pack-a-day habit. She drives to the house of Dr. Pernath (Carla Cassola; CIRCLE OF FEAR - 1992), but she is not there. Her nephew, Frank (Michel Adatte), also a doctor, is there and he volunteers to go to Miriam's house and look at Moebius. We then see that Moebius was just pretending to get Miriam out of the house. He goes down to the basement, pulls off a metal cover that was hiding a deep well (it has a ladder that travels to the bottom), sets his package on fire and throws it down the well. He throws a cloth over his face and then dies (the rabbit is standing on him).
     Miriam and Frank find Moebius' body and the well (Miriam has only lived in this house for eight months and never knew the well was there). When Frank examines his body, he discovers that Moebius has fairly new scars on his wrists and comes to the conclusion that he tried to commit suicide a couple of months ago. Frank and an ambulance take the body away, but it is clear that Frank wants to be more than Miriam's new friend. Then some crazy shit happens. Miriam finds a young Asian girl in her basement. She steals the cloth that covered Moebius' face and runs out of the house saying, "Me no bad!"  At her school, a young student named Samantha (Yasmine Ussani) draws a picture of a bug, the same type of insect that crawled up Miriam's nose. For some reason, it affects Miriam. Samantha's mother, Claire Henri (Angelika Maria Boeck) doesn't come to pick her up, so Miriam drives the little girl home. She meets Samantha's father, Mr. Henri (Niels Gullov), who tells Miriam that his wife has been missing for several days (So why did Miriam see her minutes before school closed for the day?). She also discovers that Claire was an entomologist who has been researching an insect that has been extinct for over ten thousand years (I'll give you one guess!),
     Miriam's school teacher friend Kathryn (Maria Angela Giordano; BURIAL GROUND - 1980) finds the cloth on the floor (How did it get there?) and when she looks at it (It has Moebius' face imprinted on it). it wraps itself around Kathryn's face. Miriam manages to pull it off, but Kathryn is now possessed by some unknown force. The normally chaste Kathryn picks up a total stranger named Jack (Richard Sammel) at a truckstop and he stabs Kathryn repeatedly. He tells his trucker friends that Kathryn made him do it and that her face was on fire.
   The water in Miriam's house becomes deadly, as her pet fish are mutilated in their tank and the tap water has worms in it. Miriam gets a phone message from the dead Moebius, telling her that he left his diary at her house and she should put it in a "safe place". Frank then calls Miriam and tells her to come to the hospital quickly because someone is calling her name. When she gets there, Dr. Pernath tells Miriam that Kathryn just died in the operating room and she was calling her name. Miriam insists on seeing Kathryn's body (over the doctor's objections because she is still on the operating table) and when she does, a naked Kathryn springs to life, wraps her hands around Miriam's neck, yells, "I died for you, Miriam!" and drops dead (The doctor says it must have been a jolt of adrenaline!).
     When Miriam tells Frank about the phone message, he and Miriam go to the morgue so he can prove to her that Moebius is dead. Frank can't get the metal casket open, so he punctures it with a metal rod and it shoots a liquid into his face (well water?). Moebius is not in his casket. We then see Damon, who is carrying a leather pouch that contains some ancient metal objects. A female cult member shows Damon Claire's dead body and tells him that Mr. Henri is "one of us". Frank spends the night at Miriam's house, where the well calls to him. He climbs the ladder down to the bottom and discovers a secret passage, which leads him a sparkling tree where Damon and his cult insert hooks (the ancient metal objects) into Claire's face and hang her upside down from the tree. Damon pulls her face off (a real gory effect) and places it on the face of Moebius' dead body, bringing him back to life. The sect spots Frank spying on them and the chase is on. While Frank is climbing the ladder and almost at the top, he slips and falls into the well. Miriam wakes up to find her bed is full of creepy crawlers. She goes looking for Frank, finds him outside her front door and he tries to kill her with a knife ("I know your secret!"). Miriam tries to escape in her car with Frank clinging to the car's door. She crashes (Frank is trapped underneath the car) and runs back to her house to find Moebius and the sect waiting for her ("We are your family!"). A female cult member injects the tip of Miriam's nose with some unknown drug and she passes out. She wakes up in her basement, the walls now covered with satanic symbols, and she sees the crane of her dream fly out of the well which, once again, pecks her neck, opening a wound that is full of maggots. The sect lowers a tied-up Miriam into the well, Miriam screaming, "I don't want to die!", with Moebius replying, "You're not here to die. You're here to give life!" As she is hanging in the well water, she gives birth to a fetus wrapped in a flesh cocoon. Yes, she has given birth to the son of Satan (Moebius says, "Our revenge against God!"). She is given the choice of raising the baby or letting the sect raise him. What would you do? Well, if you were Miriam, you would grab the baby, run to your burning car (Damon killed Frank by setting the car on fire) and  jump into the flames! When firefighters get there and put out the fire, the water reveals an unscathed nude Miriam. Was this the work of God?
     This atmospheric chiller makes very little sense, but there is no denying that it has a certain something that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. It should come as no surprise that this was directed by Michele Soavi, who also gave us THE CHURCH (1989) and CEMETERY MAN (1994), two other films that make very little sense, but are watchable due to the atmosphere that permeates every frame. Soavi has an uncanny knack of knowing how to light a scene and where to place the camera, making the well look foreboding and other-worldly. His sense of visual information is second to none. The screenplay, by Soavi, Dario Argento (he was also one of the Producers) & Giovanni Romoli (Argento's TRAUMA - 1992) offers Soavi a chance to shine with his visual flair (Try to count how many times water is shown as something deadly). What I found really surprising is how much Kelly Curtis looks and sounds like her little sister, Jamie Lee Curtis. Kelly never got the breaks her sister did, as she has appeared in small roles in some feature films and some small parts on TV but never got the recognition she deserved. This was by far the biggest role of her career. She retired from acting in 1999. It was also nice to see the late Herbert Lom return to his horror roots. Most people know him for his role as the comedic "Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus" in the PINK PANTHER series of films, but he plays Moebius as such a creepy person, your skin will crawl. When this film was made, Italian horror movies were presumed dead, but you wouldn't know it by watching this. If I have one complaint, it is that it runs a little long (117 minutes), but you will not be looking at the clock.
     Originally released in the U.S. on fullscreen VHS by Republic Pictures Home Video under the title THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER, which gives away the ending of the film. It was released under the review title on VHS around the world. It is also known as DEMONS 4 in some Asian countries (Soavi's THE CHURCH was known as DEMONS 3 early on, but the title went to Lamberto Bava's DEMONS III: THE OGRE [1988]). This received a fullscreen budget DVD release from EastWest Entertainment in 2007 (basically a port of the Republic tape), but the Blu-Ray release, by Scorpion Releasing, presents the film in its proper OAR and it looks great. We can finally see Soavi's great visuals the way they were meant to be seen. The extras on the disc includes trailers of Italian films on Scorpion's roster as well as a new 30 minute interview with Tomas Arana. He is a joy to listen to, as he describes in detail the differences in acting in an American production versus an Italian production. He also relates some funny stories, including how he passed out when filming a scene in this film, where Damon is smoking a joint (it was not real) and blowing smoke directly at the camera. Soavi asked for several takes, asking for Arana to blow more smoke into the lens and when it was time to film the next scene, Arana got to his feet and passed out because he was not a smoker. He also gives tips to young actors on how not to act in front of the camera and he makes sense. I could listen to him talk about his career (It is quite extensive. Look it up on IMDb) for hours. He is very congenial and he should teach classes. There is also an interview with Michele Soavi on the disc, but it is the same one that is on Scorpion's THE CHURCH Blu-Ray. All in all, this is a wonderful release for a film that should be on your radar. Also starring Paolo Pranzo, Erica Sinisi, Carmela Pilato and Fabio Saccani as the Pickpocket. Look for a cameo by Michele Soavi as a magician on the TV. Not Rated.

SEED (2007) - Leave it to Uwe Boll, of all people, to finally make me sick to my stomach. Not for anything he shot, mind you, but for the real animal cruelty footage that he scammed from PETA and inserted into the film for no other reason than, well, to turn our stomachs. Sure, Boll puts a warning statement at the beginning of the film and makes a (pretty weak) case for including the animal cruelty footage, but it's a sad state of affairs when a director has to stoop this low to try and shock us. SEED is a horror film that falls under the "Torture Porn" banner (I hate that term, but in this case, it's accurate) and, unless you're a fan of human and animal suffering, I'd advise you to steer clear. It's not a badly-made film, but it's just about as grim and hopeless a film can get without making you want to slit your wrists. Inexplicably set in the 70's (probably to avoid such modern conveniences as cell phones and the internet, which would render much of this film moot), the film opens with police detective Matt Bishop (a dour Michael Pare; Boll's TUNNEL RATS - 2007) capturing notorious serial killer Max Seed (Will Sanderson; Boll's IN THE NAME OF THE KING - 2007), who likes to trap animals and people (including a baby) in his dungeon and film them (using time lapse photography) as they slowly die of starvation and then become food for the maggots. Seed then watches the films (sexual gratification is implied) and sends copies to the police, as if to say, "Catch me if you can!" Well, Detective Bishop does just that and Seed is sent to Death Row, where a few years later he is sent to the electric chair. As luck would have it, the electric chair is faulty (the executioner has been trying to get it replaced since the last execution, in which the prisoner caught fire) and Seed survives two 45-second jolts of 15,000 volts. Since federal law states that any prisoner that survives three 45-second jolts shall be set free (it's simply not true, but it makes for a good plot device), warden Arnold Calgrove (Ralf Moeller; Boll's FAR CRY - 2008) has the doctor on hand falsely certify Seed as dead and has him buried alive in the prison's potter's field. It should come as no surprise to viewers that Seed digs his way to the top to get even with those who wronged him, beginning with the executioner (who dies in his own electric chair), the doctor (who has his lips bitten off) and the warden (impaled through the stomach and pinned to a wall) and then kidnapping Bishop's wife and young daughter and sending Bishop live footage of him torturing his family (killing Bishop's wife with a nailgun). Seed wants Bishop to kill himself to stop his daughter's suffering and the film ends on one of the most nihilistic images in a horror film made in 2007.  This is a dank, dark and colorless film (most scenes are filmed at night and are bleached to give them a sepia tone) that really serves no other purpose than to shock. Director/screenwriter Uwe Boll (HOUSE OF THE DEAD - 2003; ALONE IN THE DARK - 2005), who filmed this back-to-back with his bad taste comedy POSTAL (2007), seems to garner a lot of bad press, both from critics and audiences, but I don't think he's a bad filmmaker, just a wrong-headed one. All of his films are professionally made and cast with decent actors (I just don't agree with people who compare him with someone along the lines as Ed Wood or Coleman Francis), but they contain an atmosphere of insane over-the-topness that no other director dares (or cares) to duplicate. SEED is full of such scenes, the standout (or low-point, depending on your point of view) being the sequence where Seed beats some poor woman tied to a chair in the head with the blunt end of a hatchet over-and-over for what seems to be an eternity, until the entire room is covered in her blood and the woman's head is nothing but a bloody pulp (all of this seemingly done in one long take, but it's obvious that CGI was used here on the woman's head and some of the blood splatter). Now comes the "Boll Moment": Instead of stopping the scene there, Boll has Seed plant the handle of the hatchet in the top of the woman's head, like an explorer planting his nation's flag in some new territory. This is what Uwe Boll is all about. There's hardly any plot here to talk about, just scene-after-scene of bloody makeup effects, including a prison guard (who tries to anally rape Seed with two other guards) getting his head kicked through the bars on the jail cell. The only bit of humor in this film is an in-joke where Bishop's young daughter is watching Boll's BLOODRAYNE (2005) on TV and says to her mother, "It's a vampire movie, but it's boring." SEED isn't boring (consider it HOSTEL without all the hip dialogue), but it's only for fans of on-screen pain and suffering. I've deducted a few points for the real-life animal cruelty, which was totally unnecessary and sickening when used out of context, as it is here. I'm also perplexed as to why the warden would allow Seed to continue to wear his mask (actually a burlap bag with eyeholes) in his cell and during his execution. I'll chalk that one up to "artistic license". Also starring Jodelle Ferland, Thea Gill, Andrew Jackson, Brad Turner and a cameo by the late Don S. Davis (TV's STARGATE SG-1). A sequel was made in 2013 called BLOOD VALLEY: SEED'S REVENGE (a.k.a. SEED 2), but it was not directed by Uwe Boll (he is just a Co-Executive Producer here and gets a "Characters Created By" credit) and a different actor (Nick Principe) portrays Max Seed. A Vivendi Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

SEEDING OF A GHOST (1983) - Chau Zhou (Kao Fei, aka: Phillip Ko) is driving his cab one night when he runs over a black magician who is being chased out of a graveyard by a mob of angry, torch-bearing townspeople. The black magician suddenly appears in the back seat of Chau's taxi and puts a curse on Chau and his family. Chau's newlywed wife, Irene (Maria Jo), begins having an affair with rich bigshot "Anthony" Fang Ming (Hsu Shao-Chiang, aka: Norman Chu) after he showers her with money and jewelry at her job at a casino (she's a blackjack dealer). One night, Irene has a lover's spat with Anthony and jumps out of his car, only to be chased and raped by two young punks, Peter and Paul, in an abandoned mansion. When she tries to get away, the punks slap her around and, after taking a nasty fall down a long flight of stairs and still trying to get away, she falls off the mansion roof and is killed. Chau gets a mysterious call on his taxi radio, telling him to meet his wife at the mansion. When he gets there, his taxi gets a flat tire and, when he goes to change the tire, the spare tire magically rolls the the spot where his dead wife's body lies. The police naturally think that Chau is responsible (his dispatcher denies making the radio call that sent him to the mansion), but further investigation by the police turns up Anthony's affair (he cops to the affair, but not the murder) and Chau's recollection of seeing Peter and Paul's red Fiat at the scene of the crime lets the police question the two punks. Everyone is eventually released for lack of evidence. This is when it gets tricky and icky. Peter and Paul try to kill Chau, but he ends up beating them to a pulp instead (the police blame Chau for the fight!). Chau then tries to kill Anthony with a baseball bat, but Anthony kneecaps Chau with the bat instead, crippling him. Chau the goes to the black magician he ran over in the beginning of the film and threatens to turn him in for grave robbing if he doesn't help him get revenge. The black magician agrees and performs an ancient ritual called "Seeding Of A Ghost", where Chau's spiritual body and Irene's corpse are joined together (it's quite a sight). As Irene's vengeful spirit goes out to get justice, Chau must constantly apply coconut oil to her shriveled corpse to keep her comfortable (he must also passionately make love to her corpse, too!). As with all black magic rituals, revenge comes with a price. In this case, Chau's body slowly begins to decompose as Irene's spirits torments Peter, Paul and Anthony. And what lovely torment it is. At first, it's just little things. Paul throws up worms after eating a bowl of noodles. Peter's bathroom explodes all around him. Anthony's wife anally rapes him with a giant plastic matchstick (ouch!). Things get progressively worse for the three cads on Irene's shitlist and only Anthony seems to grasp what is going on. He hires a white magician to break the evil spell on his wife. Peter and Paul go to a phony medium, but Irene possesses her body and tells the duo that "My son will get revenge!" Being the two stupid dolts that they are, Peter and Paul ignore the warning because Irene was only married for four months and couldn't possibly have a son. Or could she? I'm afraid you'll have to watch this film if you want to know how it ends, although I will tell you that a baby is born and it is born with a full set of teeth...  This sleazy Hong Kong horror film, directed by Yang Chaun (HELL HAS NO BOUNDARY - 1982; MY DARLING GENIE - 1984; TWISTED PASSION - 1985; REVENGE OF ANGEL - 1990), takes a while to kick in but, when it does, stand back and prepare to be slack-jawed. With surprising scenes of full-frontal nudity, necrophelia, ooze and bladder effects, SEEDING OF A GHOST is truly one twisted film. The final half hour is one of the sickest thirty minute examples of early 80's Hong Kong horror, as corpses have sex, spinal columns are exposed and a battle between good and evil magicians takes place. Too much sleaze happens here to fit into one review, but I loved the scene where Paul's sister, who is now possessed by Irene's spirit, walks into a sleeping Paul's bedroom, proceeds to have sex with him, tries to strangle him with her panties when he wakes up and then tosses him to his death off of the apartment roof. The "birth of a baby" scene will have you doing a double-take (I rewound it a few times just to make sure I wasn't imagining it). It's apparent the scene was modeled on the chest-bursting sequence in ALIEN (1979), but this film takes it to new, dizzying heights! Describing it here is doing you a disservice. This is a gory, sexy, crazy flick that gets my highest recommendation. A Shaw Brothers Production that is available on DVD in a beautiful widescreen print (with English subtitles) from Celestial Pictures. Search it out. Also starring Man Biu Baak, Wei Chia-Wen and Chik Mei-Tseng. A Celestial Pictures Release. Not Rated.

SEEDPEOPLE (1992) - Any similarities between this film and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) is purely intentional, even if the opening credits say it is based on an original idea by Charles Band. The peaceful town of Comet Valley, the site of a meteor shower 500 years earlier, is closed off to all incoming and outgoing traffic for 3 days when its only entrance, a bridge, is shut down for repairs. Pieces of meteors are found in the barren forest, and upon examination, are found to be seeds from some alien planet sent into space to multiply upon contact with fertile soil. The only problem was that they crashed on protein defecient soil and were lying dormant for five centuries. That problem is resolved when the town's alcoholic, half-crazed physician, Doc Roller (Bernard Kates), takes one of the seeds and grows it to fruition. The result is three plant-like monstrosities (courtesy of John Carl Buechler's MMI creature shop) who proceed to take over the bodies of Comet Valley's population. Soon the townspeople are walking around like a bunch of zombies, looking for more seeds to grow. Plant expert Sam Hennings joins forces with the remorseful Doc to try to destroy the menace before the bridge reopens. Their only weapons: Ultraviolet light (the aliens abhore it) and a powerful pesticide. Highly derivitive of the far superior BODY SNATCHERS, but still fun anyway. The only complaint I really have is Full Moon's dependence on Buechler's F/X every time they have a film with creatures in it. All their films are beginning to look alike, because most of Buechler's creature effects have a similar feel to them. As one of the few production companies still around to make low budget horror, Full Moon should give some F/X work to the many new breed of young artists, even if Charles Band has had a long affiliation with Buechler (it dates back to Band's Empire Films days). New blood may inject a sense of realism into the films, something which Buechler's work lacks. Also starring Andrea Roth and Dane Witherspoon. SEEDPEOPLE was directed by Peter Manoogian (ENEMY TERRITORY - 1987; DEMONIC TOYS - 1990). A Paramount Home Video VHS Release. Available on fullscreen DVD from Full Moon Direct. Rated R.

SEE NO EVIL (2006) - For anyone who watched WWE Wrestling during 2006, this was one of the most overhyped films on WWE's three weekly TV wrestling programs. It's no wonder because WWE president Vince McMahon is executive producer on this and it's WWE Films' first stab at an R-rating. And what a brutal, violent film it is. It's director Gregory Dark's first straight film since 1995's ANIMAL INSTINCTS: THE SEDUCTRESS, as he is a noted porn director by trade (a fact that seemed to slip through the cracks of WWE's hype machine). Four years ago, Jacob Goodnight (WWE wrestler Kane, whose real name is Glen Jacobs) killed seven people by plucking their eyes out in some weird religious ritual. A veteran cop named Williams (Steven Vidler) and his rookie partner are investigating a complaint about a woman screaming in an abandoned building when they run into Goodnight, who kills the rookie and cuts off Williams' arm with an axe, but not before he puts a bullet in Goodnight's skull (who still somehow manages to get away). Cut to the present, as Williams is now a corrections officer (with a prosthetic arm) in charge of a group of eight petty criminals who are released on a special program to clean-up the abandoned Blackwell Hotel. Little does anyone realize that Jacob Goodnight is also occupying the 8th floor and it's not long before he starts killing the felons one-by-one, snaring them with a big hook attached to a chain and then plucking their eyes out with his bare hands. Goodnight kidnaps Kira (Samantha Noble) and saves her as his personal pet, because she has crucifixes tattooed all over her body. If you think Williams is going to save the day, you're going to be in for a shock, because Goodnight dispatches him quickly (a hook through the jaw), probably because of the huge hole Williams put in the back of his head four years earlier. Now, the remaining felons must band together and try to survive Goodnight's bloody religious rampage.  Although this has a generic slasher film plot, there's a lot here to really admire. Gregory Dark (who also used the names "Gregory Brown" and "A. Gregory Hippolyte" when directing non-porn films in the past) gives the film a nice visual flair, using hand-cranked cameras and other photographic tricks to imbue the film with a nice unhealthy dose of atmosphere. Kane is also a real imposing presence, as he prowls the halls with his lumbering nearly 7 foot frame, bald head and hands the size of baseball mitts. The fact that he hardly utters ten words (flashbacks reveal that his uber-religious mother tortured him as a child for having "impure thoughts") is a testament (no pun intended) to his visual scariness. The violence in this film is definitely hard-R territory, as eyes are plucked-out in graphic close-up, various body parts are lopped-off, there's a vicious attack by a pack of dogs on a woman hanging upside down and Goodnight makes another girl swallow her constantly-ringing cell phone. There's also an unexpected twist (at least for me) two-thirds of the way through the film that gives everything that came before it a little extra bite. Kane's death is one of the mosts memorable departures in slasher film history. Stay tuned during the end credits for a humorous (if nasty) stinger. I liked this film quite a bit because just when you think the film is going to turn left, it hits you with a nasty, hard right. This is one bloody good show. Even with all of WWE's hype, SEE NO EVIL didn't perform as well as expected in theaters. Maybe it will find the audience it deserves on home video and cable. On a side note: After watching the "Making Of" segment on the DVD supplements, I'm convinced that Gregory Dark has the biggest ears I have ever seen on a human being. I believe a good gust of wind would make him airborne. Also starring Christina Vidal, Michael J. Pagan, Luke Pegler, Cecily Polson and Rachel Taylor. Filmed in Australia. A Lionsgate Release. Rated R. Not to be confused with the 1971 film starring Mia Farrow with the same name. NOTE: A long gestating sequel was released in 2014, also starring Kane as the villain, directed by the highly over-rated Soska Sisters (AMERICAN MARY - 2012; RABID - 2019 [A remake of David Cronenberg's 1977 film of the same name. It's actually getting good reviews!]).

SELF STORAGE (2013) - Refreshing horror/comedy film for only the fact that Eric Roberts and Michael Berryman have bigger roles than normal. Roberts is Walter, the owner of a huge self storage facility in Rhode Island who is also a serial killer who likes to operate on his victims (We watch as Walter removes a still breathing woman's heart from her body. A newswoman tells the public on TV that six people have disappeared in as many days (Where is the best place to put a body besides a storage locker?) When storage facility guard Jake (Director Tom DeNucci; ARMY OF THE DAMNED [2013]), who finds out the entire storage facility is full of cameras and Walter shows him a "best of" Jake's goofing off at his job and says "Why do you bust my balls acting like a retard?") hears Walter tell fellow guard Trevor (Berryman) that he is selling the storage facility and Trevor will be split in on the profits, Trevor asks what will happen to Jake. Walter replies "We will have to let him go." Unfortunately Jake overhears the entire conversation and decides to throw a big party that night and disonnects all the cameras and electrical power (We see all 6 of Walter's still-alive victims take a painful acid shower while they are chained up, a security measure Walter installed to get rid of his victims quickly in case the cameras fail or the police arrive. We find out that the storage facility is being sold to cokehead Jonah (Jonathan Silverman; also an Executive Producer) as a place to store black market human body organs. Walter notices that Jake is throwing a party and sees it as an opportunity rather than a hindrance (When Trevor, who knows what Walter is and even gave him a liver transplant (!), asks Walter what he is going to do about the party, Walter says, "Improvise.") Walter and Trevor notice that all their previous 6 captives are now nothing but dissolved human flesh and Jonah is expecting some human organs tonight for a fortune in illicit overseas money, so Walter gets his serial killer face on and gets to work with the people at the impromptu party. He disconnects the phones and jams transmissions from cell phones, cut the wires to the cars, turns on the electric fence and makes it impossible for anyone to escape the storage facility. After some drinking, sex (naked female breasts) and partying, Walter and Trevor (who served in the military together) begin collecting live human bodies (except for Trevor, who accidentally kills a woman while hitting her with a baton) and we see Walter performing an operation on the left knee of one of Jake's friends (nothing is left to the imagination) when he soon discovers he was operating on the wrong knee and has to do it all over again. Jake and his buddies discover that his friends are being killed (He unwraps one of his friends, who is covered in plastic and sees his friend's intestines fall out!) and finds out Trevor is involved. Trevor chases them and steps on a bear trap (What the hell is that doing there?). Somehow, he breaks free and Trevor stabs a pimp (who brought the girls) in the crotch (The blood comes gushing out). Jake holds Trevor at bay with a flare gun and makes him take Trevor to Walter, who is about to operate on Jake's girlfriend Sara-Marie (Gillian Williams). Walter murders Trevor by stabbing him over and over for disobeying him and escapes through a back door while a fatally wounded Trevor tells Jake that Walter once was a good man. Jake meets Jonah and his crew and fast-talks his way out of getting shot by giving the crew a cooler full of human body parts. Coke-head Jonah ends up shooting and killing his crew and then leaves the facility. A newswoman comes on TV to report about the atrocities at the storage facility, while Jake takes Walter's (we never find out what happened to him) boat out into the ocean and has the overseas money transferred into an account (the information was on a card Jonah gave to Jake) and he suddenly becomes rich. Then Sara-Marie comes up from below deck in a bikini and we notice she has the same fresh scar that Trevor did when he got a liver transplant. What does it mean? You've got me.  This is by no means a good film. I happened to like it just for the extended roles of Eric Robert and Michael Berrymen, who usually only have cameos in films like this. You can definitely call both Roberts and Berryman the stars of this film. There are plenty of scenes of extreme blood-letting (especially whenever Roberts operates on a live patient) and when Jonathan Silverman (What in the hell is he doing in a film like this? It certainly is a long way from WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S - 1989) shoots his comrades at the end  (one gets shot in the neck and we see more blood gushing into the air). There is a great idea for a film in this plot somewhere, but Tom DeNucci's non-direction and screenplay (He also acted in INKUBUS - 2011, also with Silverman in Rhode Island) destroy any hope of it being called a good film. I just liked seeing Eric Roberts and Michael Berryman having a good time and it looks like they are having it in this film. Otherwise, just stay away. This is not a horror movie for those with good taste. A ScreenMedia Films DVD Release Rated R.

THE SEVERED ARM (1973) - Six friends spend their vacation exploring a cave when it collapses. After 30 days with no food, the group decide to draw straws, the loser has to give up an arm so the others can eat it. Ted has his arm cut off  (much to his protest of, "Please wait a few hours more!") and minutes later the group hears digging on the other side of the cave-in. They are saved! Realizing the consequences of their actions, the group concoct a story that Ted had his arm crushed in the cave-in and they had to cut it off to save his life. Ted ends up in an insane asylum and vows revenge. Five years pass and Ted is released from the loony bin. One of the survivors receives a human arm in the mail and calls the other four to get together for a meeting. Since they are all successful businessmen (doctor, detective, TV writer, architect, radio DJ) and they do not want the truth to come out, they decide to hunt down Ted and put him back in the nut house. Ted has other plans. The doctor is his first victim. His arm is cut off with an axe. The DJ is next. He has his arm hacked off while he is live on the air. The architect gets his arm cut off in an elevator. The remaining two enlist the help of Ted’s daughter (the late Deborah Walley) to help them capture Ted. She has a meeting with her father at the beach, so the two decide to lay a trap. But just who is laying the trap? The trap backfires and the detective has his arm ripped off (he is tossed off a cliff with a rope attached to his arm; this scene is extremely effective). In the end it turns out that Ted’s daughter and son are the real killers. They are avenging their father, who is now a vegetable in a wheelchair. Years of stagnating in a mental institution have turned him into a comatose invalid and his children have special plans for the last remaining survivor. They lock the TV writer in a padded room with nothing but a sharp knife, telling him that when he gets hungry enough, he will cut off his own arm for nourishment. The children gleefully show their father what they have done but he just stares blankly into space, not able to relish the retribution he so strongly desired to perform before he became a one-armed head of lettuce. This is not a bad example of the "killer on the loose"-type film that became commonplace (and downright boring) after FRIDAY THE 13TH hit the market and opened the floodgates. Although the gore is not very convincing (this is the early 70’s), the creepy storyline manages to hold your attention even if you can spot who the killer really is 20 minutes into the film. There are many effective moments, including Marvin Kaplan’s (who plays radio DJ "Mad Man Herman") death in the radio booth. We see an overhead shot of an axe-weilding hand breaking the glass partition in slow motion, the axe swing back and forth until no glass is left to obstruct the killer’s path. There are a few other shocking moments in the film that I will leave for the viewer to discover. If you remember Deborah Walley from GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN (1961), BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1965) and the weird 3-D sci-fi film THE BUBBLE (a.k.a. FANTASTIC INVASION OF PLANET EARTH - 1966), you will hardly recognize her here. Time has not been kind to her. Co-star John Crawford (who plays the doctor) has a long career in films, dating back to the 1950 serial THE INVISIBLE MONSTER. He can also be seen in RED LINE 7000 (1965) and THE BOOGENS (1981). Paul Carr (who plays the TV writer) has also appeared in THE BAT PEOPLE  and TRUCK STOP WOMEN (both 1974), THE DEADLY TOWER (TV - 1975) and SISTERS OF DEATH (1976). To the best of my knowledge, director Thomas S. Alderman has not made another film, which is a shame. THE SEVERED ARM is not a bad film to have on your resume. Note: Nearly all reference books give this film a "bomb" rating, which leads me to believe they have never viewed this film and are rating it by the title alone. It deserves a better fate than that. A Video Gems Home Video VHS Release. This version is uncut. All other versions on VHS and DVD are cut, except for the version on a double feature DVD (with SO SAD ABOUT GLORIA - 1973) from Code Red. Not Rated.

SHADOWS OF THE MIND (1976/1980) - This is one of late director Roger Watkins' (here using the pseudonym "Bernard Travis") rare forays into mainstream filmmaking, his first being LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1973). It's films like this that probably drove him go back to making stylish porn films like CORRUPTION (1983) and AMERICAN BABYLON (1987). He wasn't happy with this film and it's easy to see why. Elise (screenwriter Marion Joyce) has been in an institution for 12 years after seeing her father and stepmother drown in a lake when she was 12 years old. Years of experimental therapy, by her psychiatrist, Robert (Erik Rolfe), have "cured" Elise and now she reluctantly is ready to go home to the empty mansion where she grew up. While in the mansion, Elise has flashbacks of when she was young and hears voices of her father and stepmom pleading, "Elise, help us!" over and over, leading the viewer to believe that maybe they didn't die in an accident after all. She is also harassed by her failed-stockbroker stepbrother Leland (G.E. Barrymore), who knows that she's worth millions (she has no idea that she is rich thanks to Robert, who thinks she's better off not knowing) and makes her life miserable with nasty little comments. There's also the house's leering caretaker, Andrew (Anthony Frank), who makes every word that comes out of his mouth seem like a sexual chauvanistic remark when talking to Elise. It all boils down to this: Is Elise slowly going mad again or is she "pushed" along for more nefarious reasons? It doesn't take long to find out the answer as pretty soon people start turning up dead, especially when Robert comes to visit with his snotty girlfriend Diana (Bianca Sloane) and they are forced to stay the night. Soon after, we learn the real truth behind Elise's parents' deaths. It's easy to see why Roger Watkins doesn't care for this film because he was forced by the producers to use screenwriter Marion Joyce as the lead actress. It's apparent she can't act after the first words come out of her mouth and her thick Brooklyn (?) accent is a total distraction. But that not the worse thing about her. She's butt ugly! She has the face of a mule and when she opens her mouth, you have to turn away from the screen for a few seconds because she has this huge overbite and the gaps between her teeth are so huge, she could use chopsticks to floss. It's hard to care about someone when you can't look at them. Another real distraction is the use of voiceover narration to advance the plot. It seems as if Watkins wasn't given enough time or money to film the necessary expository scenes. On the plus side, there are some nice camera flourishes and Watkins does know how to compose a shot and they both add nicely to the schizophrenic atmosphere. There are also a couple of of fairly gory murders (a scythe through the neck; a corkscrew in the eye) and some nudity (thankfully, none by Joyce), but this film is mainly a talky mess that is best viewed as the rare curio that it is. As a horror film, it fails to connect. Originally filmed in 1976 as "The Heritage Of Blood" and not released until 1980. The copy I reviewed was struck from a Dutch VHS tape that had burned-in Dutch subtitles. Also known as SHADOWS IN THE MIND, although the poster art looks strangely familiar (Click HERE). Not Rated. NOTE: Watkins made a film in 1980 called SPITOON, which was basically a fictitious take on the story of his diffuculties in making SHADOWS OF THE MIND. He also was not satisfied with the way that film turned out and destroyed the negative.

THE SHE BEAST (1966) - Transylvania - Today: Count Fritz Von Helsing (John Karlsen; SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971) settles into the ruins of his home with a bottle of wine while he reads "The Sound Of Demons: The Autobiography Of Count Gustaf Von Helsing" and a flashback takes us back to ...
     Transylvania; July 18, 1765:  We are at a young boy's funeral, where a little boy tells everyone in church that the witch Vardella (Jay Riley) has taken his younger brother to a cave. All the townspeople grab torches and whatever else they can carry as weapons and begin to storm the cave. A dwarf bellringer says they should wait until the Count is told, but one villager says damn the Count, all he will do is consult his books and tell everyone it is not yet time and another child will be dead at Vardella's hands. The dwarf says that, according to the Count, Vardella needs to be exorcised. If everyone kills her before the exorcism, Vardella will haunt the village for all eternity. The villagers are too angry to listen to the tiny man and head to the cave to confront Vardella, who, in witch form, is a disgusting pea soup green color with dirty, stringy white hair and a face no mother could love. When the priest demands Vardella come out of the cave, she does, bounding out of the cave very quickly while screaming, as the villagers pin her to the ground (She puts up a good fight, killing a couple of villagers before being restrained). They carry Vardella to the lake, where the "dunking chair" awaits her. The dwarf runs to the castle of the Count to tell him what is about to transpire, but can the Count (also portrayed by John Karlsen; CRYPT OF THE VAMPIRE - 1964) stop the villagers from killing Vardella before an exorcism is performed on her? This wouldn't be much of a film if all of the pieces were to fall in place this early, now would it? We watch as the villagers bind Vardella to the dunking chair and, as they are about to drown her, the witch curses the villagers by saying, "Hold! On this day be ye with your decendants cursed until all eternity! Think not that ye are rid of me, for I, Vardella, will return! Vardella will return!" The villagers hammer a red-hot spike through the chair into Vardella's back to ensure she cannot escape and proceed with the dunking. The Count and the dwarf watch from the top of a hill as the villagers drown a screaming Vardella, knowing full well that the village is now cursed forever.
     Back In The Present: Newlyweds Veronica (Barbara Steele; BLACK SUNDAY - 1960) and Philip (Ian Ogilvy; FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE - 1975) drive their car (a Volkswagen Beetle) to the only hotel in the small burg of Vaubrac, Transylvania, where hotel owner Ladislav Groper (Mel Welles; CHOPPING MALL - 1986) serves them tea outside (with previously used tea bags!). They notice that this small town is occupied by people who can politely be called two bricks short of a wall (they previously talked to a really loony policeman on a bicycle when asking directions to the hotel), but they accept it in typical British fashion. They see Fritz Von Helsing enjoying a ride on a child's swing set and he gets up and introduces himself to the couple. When he tells them his name, Veronica asks him if any "Draculas" still roam this land. Fritz says no, his ancestors rid this town of vampires, but he offers to tell the newlyweds about the curse Vardella put on this town two hundred years ago (to the day) if they buy him a bottle of vodka. The couple do and Fritz tells them that Vardella will return to life very soon, offering to show them proof, but the couple are too tired and they retire for the night. Fritz tells them he will stop by their room tomorrow at noon tro tell them the end of Vardella's story and show them books from the only demonic law library in Transylvania.
     Veronica and Philip soon realize that they shouldn't have stopped in this town, when Groper bursts into their room without knocking. He tells the newlyweds, "No need to knock in People's Republic. No citizens got secrets from brother citizens. Privacy breeds conspiracy!" (It's also obvious that Groper is blind stinking drunk). As the newlyweds are breaking in their squeaky bed (Groper's hotel is in a chronic state of disrepair; when he leaves their room and slams the door, the doorknob falls off!), Veronica catches Groper peeping on them through a window, so Philip gets up and punches Groper through the window, knocking him on his ass. Philip then runs outside and bashes Groper's head against a wall until he is unconscious, his blood smearing on the wall as he falls to the ground. Philip wants to leave immediately, but Veronica tells him she is too tired. Besides, she has found a way to protect herself from people like Groper, showing Philip that she's wearing a makeshift necklace containing a clove of garlic (everyone in town is wearing one). Philip makes her take it off, saying it smells and then they make love.
     The next morning, as they are about to leave, their car won't start, Philip discovering that the engine's distributor cap is missing. He bursts into Groper's room without knocking (Hey. what's good for the goose...), finds the distributor cap and drives off with Veronica. Suddenly, Philip has trouble with both the steering column and the brakes and almost hits an oncoming truck, sending their car off a cliff and into a lake, the same lake Vardella was killed in. Philip manages to make it out of the car and he and the truck driver (Ennio Antonelli; CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1964) try to save Veronica, but they are too late, Veronica is dead and Philip faints. The truck driver, fearing he will get blamed for the fatal accident, brings the unconscious Philip and the dead body of Veronica to Groper's hotel, telling Groper not to injure Philip any more than he already is (Groper takes a look at Philip and says, "Even unconscious he looks arrogant!"), at least until he pays "witnesses" to say he was in Aspen at the time of the accident (When the truck driver asks a badly-bruised Groper if Philip beat him up because he was peeping on them through their bedroom window, Groper responds, "Because he caught his wife making eyes at me!"). The truck driver reminds Groper not to be upset that the Kommissar has an ulcer, "Which is a lot less painful than what we will get if we muff this." Philip wakes up in the hotel's kitchen, with a drunk Groper sitting nearby. Philip asks where Veronica is and Groper points to the body wrapped in burlap on a nearby table. Philip looks at the body and yells out, "What have you done with my wife!?" Groper rises from his chair and looks at the body. Sure enough, it's not Veronica's body, but the corpse of Vardella. Fritz then enters the kitchen, looks at the body and knows it is Vardella. He tells Philip it may not be too late to save his wife, but he must do as he says. Fritz asks Philip is he saw anything unusual when his car plunged into the lake and Philip says he saw a wooden see-saw-like object in the water, describing the dunking chair device. Fritz tells Philip to trust him completely and not to ask him any questions for the time being if he wants to see Veronica alive again. Philip wants to go to the police, but Fritz takes him to his ruined home instead, since the government dispossessed him of his family castle (it turns out Fritz lives in a cave!). He hands Philip a wood crucifix necklace, telling him under no circumstances to take it off, saying this about the necklace and Vardella, "Not quite foolproof, of course, but enough to put the old girl off for a moment."
     Philip thinks Fritz is insane and escapes from the cave  when Fritz is not looking. Fritz goes looking for Philip and when he cannnot find him, he drives to the hotel and performs a ritual over Vardella's corpse (He pokes at one of Vardella's eyes on her maggot-ridden face, causing it to bleed). Vardella springs to life and kills Fritz, while Groper tries to rape his niece (Lucretia Love; BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS - 1973) when she pays him a visit (I know that Groper is considered this film's "comedy relief", but he is a pretty disgusting human being, too. You can also see brief flashes of Lucretia Love's nipples when she wrestles with Mel Welles on a bed, but it has been edited out of most prints, but not the one I'm watching!). The niece escapes her horny uncle's grasp and runs away. Philip then appears and tells Groper to call the police, but he knocks out Philip with a vodka bottle to his head instead ("Oh my God, I killed him! I killed him dead!"). Groper drags Philip's body to the middle of the road, hoping the oncoming vehicle belonging to the truck driver will run him over, but the trucker manages to just miss him. It turns out Fritz wasn't dead at all, he was simply unconscious (I guess that happens a lot in Vaubrac!). He pulls Philip off the road and tells him to stick with him if he want to see Veronica alive. Meanwhile, Vardella hacks a hiding Groper with a sickle (Look for an inside joke about Communism involving the sickle next to a hammer!). Fritz tells Philip that Vardella has returned and she has chosen Veronica's spirit to possess. Today is the 200th anniversary of her death and she has sworn vengeance on the village just before she died. The decendants to all who were present at her death are already marked as victims. The only way Fritz can reunite Philip with Veronica is to keep Vardella alive until he is able to achieve a complete exorcism. Fritz can see by the look on Philip's face that he doesn't believe any of this, even though Philip says (rather unconvincingly) that he does believe him. Philip will finally believe Fritz when he sees dead bodies littering the streets, all victims of Vardella. Philip and Fritz then try to protect the decendants of the curse.
     When Vardella tries to kill a young boy (Woody Welles, the son of Mel Welles) trying to sneak a peek through a window at a cockfight, Philip and Fritz drug and subdue Vardella, placing her body in a wooden box covered in blocks of ice located in the hotel's kitchen (Fritz tells Philip not to worry, Vardella is use to the cold). Philip wonders what happened to Groper and Fritz tells him  he is probably dead, since he was one of those marked for Vardella's vengeance. Fritz tells Philip that they just have enough time to prepare the complete exorcism, since it will be exactly two hundred years of Vardella's death at 6:00 PM tonight. Complications ensue when the police raid the hotel and find Vardella's body, taking it to the police station and locking it in a cell. Can Fritz and Philip retrieve Vardella's body before it's too late? Can they perform a complete exorcism, where Vardella "gives birth" to Veronica? For the answers to these questions and many more you may have, you'll have to watch the film, but it's really easy to find since it is in the Public Domain (PD) and can be found on many free streaming sites and channels.
     There is no doubt in my mind that director Michael Reeves (billed as "Mike Reeves" here) would have had a long and successful career in films if his life didn't end so tragically (He died from an accidental overdose of barbituates on February 11, 1969. He suffered from depression and acute insomnia most of his life and was only 25-years-old when he passed). His short career consisted of uncredited director/screenwriter of the aforementioned CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964; he is credited as "Second Unit Director" on the print) and, after this film, went on to direct and write THE SORCERERS (1967; starring Boris Karloff in one of his finest performances) and THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL (a.k.a. THE CONQUEROR WORM - 1968; one of Vincent Price's meanest and most memorable roles) before succumbing to the accidental overdose. Reeves also wote the screenplay to this film (as "Michael Byron"), with uncredited assists from co-star Mel Welles (director of MANEATER OF HYDRA [1966] and LADY FRANKENSTEIN [1971]), Charles B. Griffith  (screenwriter of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS [1960; also starring Welles] and director of UP FROM THE DEPTHS [1979] and DR. HECKYL AND MR. HYPE [1980]) and F. Amos Powell (screenwriter of KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN [1977] and DEMONOID [1981]). Both Griffith and Powell have brief cameos in this film, Griffith as the loony policeman on the bicycle and Powell as "Man In A Raincoat". This film is full of wonderfully comical dialogue and situations (which I credit to Griffith), but it in no way interferes with the horror this film holds. As a matter of fact, the comical dialogue actually pushes the horror into violent and fatalistic territory, proving that humor, if done right, can make the horror even more horrific, by lulling the audience into a false sense of security and then pulling the rug from under their feet. You believe that nothing bad can happen to Veronica and Philip due to their sunny dispositions, but when Veronica dies, it throws you for a loop. This is where the film works best (at least for me) and the short 79-minute running time doesn't give the viewer much time to poke holes in the story (And there are plenty, such as Vardella being drowned in the dunking chair, when we can see clearly that her head not once goes underwater. There's also a car chase during the final minutes that seems totally out-of-place with the rest of the film.). This film is really a blast from the past and worth viewing, if only for the sexy Barbara Steele and witnessing Michael Reeves first credited film as a director. Lucretia Love's luscious nipples are also a plus and I will tell you in the next paragraph how you can see them.
     This United Kingdom/Italy co-production, known in Italy as IL LAGO DI SATANA ("The Lake Of Satan"), is also known as REVENGE OF THE BLOOD BEAST and found a theatrical release in the United States by Europix Consolidated Corp. as part of a double bill, with the Italian horror film THE EMBALMER (1965). This film was a TV staple during the late-'60s & '70s thanks to its short running time, where very little needed to be trimmed  (besides the quick nipple peek) to fit in a 90-minute time slot. Released on VHS by Gorgon Video, this film had many budget DVD releases, from labels such as Alpha Video  and Sinister Cinema (all in cut versions), to premium DVD labels such as Dark Sky Films and Raro Video (who also released it on Blu-Ray) in uncut versions. It is also available streaming on Amazon Prime in two versions, uncut (including the nipple scene) and in anamorphic widescreen under its alternate title and under the review title  as part of Amazon's DOUBLE DOSES OF HORROR series, titled "Whips & Exorcists!", with Mario Bava's THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963), but even though it is in anamorphic widescreen, it is missing the nipple scene. If you don't want to shell out money to watch it, be aware that it is available on many of the commercial-driven free streaming sites, such as Tubi. I can't guarantee that it is the uncut version though. You get what you pay for. Also featuring Richard Watson (DEATH RIDES A HORSE - 1967), Peter Grippe and Edward B. Randolph. Not Rated.

SHOCK (1977) - "Death is like going on a long trip, only you never come back."  Yes, this is a mother's explanation of death to her young son, but in this film, death doesn't seem to be the final leg of the trip, only the beginning, as a mother will never trust her son for as long as she lives. And that may not be very long.
     Dora (Daria Nicolodi; DEEP RED - 1975) and new husband Bruno (John Steiner; PLOT OF FEAR - 1976) along with Dora's young son Marco (David Colin Jr.; BEYOND THE DOOR - 1974), move into the house where Dora's first husband committed suicide a couple of years earlier (Bruno wanted to move there since it is close to where he works, but we will find out as the film progresses, that he has another reason). Almost immediately, Marco begins to act strangely, talking to a tree in the front yard, saying, "Marco, that's my name!" That night, when Bruno and Dora are making love, Marco awakens from a deep sleep and screams out, "Pigs! Pigs!" Marco is an inquisitive little boy who doesn't remember living in this house, so he goes exploring, going down to the basement, where all his dead father's belongings are. If you look closely at one of the basement walls, you will see that some bricks and mortar don't match the rest of the wall, as if something is hidden behind it. When Bruno discovers that Marco was down in the basement, he locks the door and pockets the key, telling Marco it is much too dangerous for a young boy to be down there, forbidding him from going down there again.
     Then things begin to get creepy between Marco and Dora, so creepy, it will make your flesh crawl. Marco is not only acting strange (asking his Mother and Bruno if they are going to live in the house "forever"), he begins to look and touch his mother with a feeling of sexual longing (This kid is good at making you think that!). Is it possible that Marco is possessed by the spirit of his dead father? All signs point to yes. Since Bruno is an airline pilot and is away for long periods of time, it leaves Dora and Marco alone with each other in the house. One morning, Marco sneaks into his mother's bedroom and climbs into bed. He begins to caress his mother's neck while she is asleep. She responds lovingly, probably like she did when her first husband was alive, only Marco's hands change into what look like the hands of a rotting corpse.
     When Bruno is home, he and Dora throw a party, inviting all her old friends over to the house. One of those friends is psychiatrist Dr. Aldo Spidini (Ivan Rassimov; SACRIFICE! - 1972), who we discover was Dora's headshrinker when her first husband committed suicide. He was forced to commit Dora to a sanitarium for six months when she started to lose her grip on reality, after finding the body of her husband in the basement. We also discover that her first husband was a drug addict who Dr. Spidini was treating, telling an obnoxious party guest (Paul Costello; CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE - 1980) that her husband probably committed suicide because of his drug use and that Dora came back to reality in the sanitarium, so he had her released. At the party, Marco gives Dora a strange look and says, "Mama, I'm going to have to kill you." (He says it so matter-of-factly it will send shivers down your spine). This, of course, freaks Dora out and she begins a rapid decline in her mental health, which Marco seems to feed off. When Dora tells Bruno what Marco said, he tells her don't worry about it, kids will be kids. But why does he look so worried?
     Marco then goes really off the rails, cutting up all of his mother's underwear, breaking the glass in a frame containing a photo of Bruno and Dora (the crack in the glass goes through Bruno's section in the photo, which will remind you of THE OMEN - 1976) and then playing a not funny prank on Mom, pretending to be deathly ill until Dora starts crying (he then opens his eyes and laughs in her face!). But the most eerie thing is when Dora gets a bouquet of flowers delivered to her, the card reading "One for each year. In spite of it all, you are still mine." She notices the card is in Marco's handwriting and she confronts her son, demanding to know why he wrote it. Marco denies writing it, so Dora slaps him hard across the face (Hey, this is Italy after all!) and then takes him to Dr. Spidini, telling him she feels her son is a "go-between", or a vessel for the spirit of her dead husband. Dr. Spidini tells her to stop acting foolishly, otherwise he will have to commit her to the sanitarium again.
     Bruno's plane has engine trouble, forcing him to have an extended layover in London, which leaves the possessed (?) Marco plenty of time to drive his mother crazy. When Dora is playing the piano, she slices her hand open and discovers that someone has hidden a razor blade between the keys. Marco begins to draw violent pictures and asks Dora, "Mommy, why did you kill Daddy?" Dora then has a flashback showing her slicing her first husband's throat with a box cutter. Is that what actually happened or is it just the product of a mind that is quickly losing touch with reality? Are these things actually happening to Dora or is she going crazy? A mother should never be afraid of her son, but Dora is, deathly afraid. All points indicate that Marco is possessed, but if you want to know the truth, you'll have to watch the film. You'll be glad I didn't give away the ending.
     This was the last theatrical film directed by Mario Bava (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE - 1964; FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON - 1970; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971, and many others), who was not in the best of health when making this (He would pass away in early 1980). It was Mario's son, Lamberto Bava (MACABRE - 1980; YOU'LL DIE AT MIDNIGHT - 1986; BODY PUZZLE - 1992), who convinced his father to direct this, even chipping in to do some uncredited directing himself while Dad did the uncredited cinematography (with Alberto Spagnoli; THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES - 1972).  Released theatrically in the United States and other countries as BEYOND THE DOOR II, to capitalize on that film's popularity (and that film had a TV trailer that haunts me to this day). The only thing these two films have in common is young David Colin Jr., but he plays different roles in both films (and are his only credited acting roles, which is a shame because he's very good here). This has nothing else in common with the first film. That one was an Italian copy of THE EXORCIST (1973) with its own unique spin, but it was still a good flick (at least in my opinion). Bava's film is actually a taut psychological thriller with horror overtones. While the finale is not much of a surprise (at least to me), there is still much to admire here. There are at least two good scares that will make you jump, one happening when Marco runs to Dora, saying "Mommy! Mommy!" It's done very simply, yet it will still make you jump out of your seat, thanks to Bava's patented flourishes (You will know what I am talking about when you see it). While there isn't much blood or gore, when it happens, it's shocking and unexpected (one character get a pickaxe planted in their torso). Bava certainly had a unique vision and knows how to bathe a film in atmosphere, making this film a must to recommend to my readers out there. The screenplay, by Lamberto Bava, Francesco Barbieri, Alessandro Parenzo (Bava's RABID DOGS - 1974) and Dardano Sacchetti (Lamberto Bava's A BLADE IN THE DARK - 1983), contains enough clues to tell you what is really going on, but this is Mario Bava's film all the way, full of his patented shocks and thick atmosphere. Those expecting a bloody horror show will be disappointed, but those who like some meat to go with their potatoes will be richly rewarded.
     Shot as SCHOCK (TRANSFERT - SUSPENCE - HYPNOS), loosely translated as "Shock (Transference - Suspense - Hypnotic)" and, as I have mentioned previously, was released theatrically in the U.S as BEYOND THE DOOR II by Edward L. Montoro's Film Ventures International. The theatrical print was edited, missing over five minutes of footage, including scenes of implied incest. This print was then released on fullscreen VHS in the U.S. by Media Home Entertainment, with a budget VHS release to follow by Video Treasures. Early in the New Millennium, Anchor Bay Entertainment released an uncut widescreen version under the review title on VHS and DVD, which Blue Underground later on released on DVD (which is what this review is based on). No Blu-Ray in the U.S at the time of this review, but that should change shortly. For those who are Amazon Prime members, they offer the same print used for the Blue Underground DVD streaming for free. But this is one film you should have as part of your film library. Also featuring Nicola Salerno (this film's Assistant Director) and an uncredited Umberto Orisini (THE TEMPTER - 1974) as Dora's first husband. While the edited theatrical release was Rated R, the Blue Underground DVD is Not Rated.

SHOCK WAVES (1976) - This is the film that started the Nazi zombie craze (most recently seen in DEAD SNOW - 2009) and it's still one of the best. The fact that this film manages to be creepy without relying on gross-out gore, but rather with mood and atmosphere, is all the more remarkable. Even more amazing is that it was directed and co-written by Ken Weiderhorn, who would later give us such inferior films as the frat house scatfest KING FRAT (1979), the B-level slasher film EYES OF A STRANGER (1981), the fractured mess of a horror film DARK TOWER (1987) and the mostly unfunny horror sequel RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II (1988), so it seems he shot his creative wad on his freshman effort. In the film's beginning, it is explained that during World War II, the Nazi SS High Command began top secret experiments in the supernatural (it is now a well-known fact that Hitler had deep interests in the occult) to turn soldiers into indestructible zombie storm troopers, which was code-named "The Death Corps." (the shooting title of the film). Unfortunately for Germany, the war ended before The Death Corps. could be put into action outside Germany and a platoon of the Nazi zombies have been waiting in a sunken freighter off the coast of Florida to be reactivated. It is now 1976 and a fishing boat spots a glass-bottomed dingy drifting aimlessly in the Florida seas. On the dingy is a dehydrated Rose (Brooke Adams; THE DEAD ZONE - 1983) and the story she has to tell is the basis for the rest of the film. We flashback to a few weeks earlier, where Rose and three other passengers are on a small tour boat trolling around the islands. The temperamental boat's even more temperamental Captain Ben (John Carradine; FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND - 1981) complains to first mate Keith (Luke Halpin; MR. NO LEGS - 1979) that the boat must have "accurate navigation" ("It's a sailor's best friend!"), but the sun starts to look strange (the whole sky turns orange) and they lose compass bearings and radio contact. This visibly unnerves Captain Ben and his crew (The boat's cook, Dobbs [Don Stout], says, "The sea spits up what it can't keep down" which is very prophetic), but they try to hide it from the passengers, which besides Rose, includes an always-complaining Norman (Jack Davidson), his much put-upon wife Beverly (D.J. Sidney) and the physically-fit Chuck (Fred Buch). In the middle of the night, the boat is sideswiped by a ghost freighter, which seemingly rose out of the ocean depths and has gotten itself stuck on a sandbar. The next morning, everyone discovers that they are stuck on the same sandbar next to a mysterious island, but Captain Ben is missing. When it is deemed that the boat is no longer seaworthy, everyone takes the glass-bottomed dingy to the island, where they discover Captain Ben's dead body underwater. On the island is a decaying old seaside hotel and they use it for shelter, but it's plain to see someone already lives there (a working fish tank and a Gramophone playing an old 78 rpm record are just two clues). That occupant is an old SS Commander (Peter Cushing; his next film was STAR WARS!), who has been hiding on the island since the end of WWII, and he is just as surprised as everyone else to see the rusted freighter on the horizon. This can only mean one thing: The Death Corps. Have been reactivated and they are ready to kill. The blonde-haired, goggle-wearing, jackbooted zombies rise out of the ocean (a very well-done and eerie sequence) and begin killing the stranded castaways, beginning with Dobbs, who Rose finds while taking a swim in the lagoon (his body is bloated and misshapen). The SS Commander explains to the group what they are up against and offers them a small sailboat to make their escape, but as we already know, there will only be one survivor of this ordeal.  While there is very little plot to this low-budget horror flick (Weiderhorn co-wrote the screenplay with John Harrison [MURDER BY PHONE - a heavily edited version of the Canadian thriller BELLS - 1982]), SHOCK WAVES still manages to be a scary, moody film thanks to some totally creepy underwater sequences (the zombies walking on the sea bottom is a unique sight and Underwater Photographer Irving Pare captures it perfectly) and the look of the zombies themselves (Makeup Design by Alan Ormsby; CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS - 1972), outfitted in SS uniforms and looking like the Master Race with a really bad case of acne. I also like that these zombies aren't flesh eaters. They're fast-moving undead whose only job is to kill, even killing the SS Commander who created them (Peter Cushing looks impossibly thin and frail here). There's very little blood or gore on view (just shots of dead bodies and zombies rotting when their goggles are pulled off), but there is no real call for it here, because this film relies more on atmosphere than blood and guts. Must viewing for fans of Val Lewton-esque horror. This had various VHS releases, from Prism Entertainment, American Video and Starmaker Entertainment, but the only way to really watch this film is the widescreen DVD & Blu-Ray from Blue Underground, mastered from the director's own vault print. It blows all the VHS editions out of the water. Rated PG.

SHREDDER (2001) - When my first marriage dissolved in the early 80's, I decided to change my life completely. I threw away all the bad baggage in my life and made some new friends. One of the rituals we did was rent a house during the Winter in a ski town called Hunter Mountain in New York and get together every weekend. This co-ed house only had three rules: 1: Everyone always had their own bed no matter what time they came home. 2: Absolutely no sex between shareholders as not to cause any undue stress (although family members and friends the shareholders brought with them were fair game) and 3: When you are out at a bar you get your own ride home no matter who you came with. These were excellent rules and this ritual lasted a good seven years (and I still remain friends with nearly all the shareholders today). In the seven years that I spent Winters in Hunter Mountain I must have hit the slopes only four times. It wasn't about skiing but about having fun, getting wasted and meeting new people. I eventually met my current wife during one of these weekends. Alas, we're all married now and don't get together as often as we like, but we are still in each other's hearts. Just what does this have to do with the movie you may ask? Well, in this film every rule I stated has been broken and people are paying their lives for it. A rich bitch and her snowboarder friends break into an abandoned ski lodge, where years earlier a group of snowboarders killed a young girl by mistake. Now someone wearing a black ski suit is killing the obnoxious group (which contains the bitch, her put-upon boyfriend, a guy with a video camera nearly attached to his face, a champion snowboarder, a faux lesbian, a horny girl and a "European" hitchhiker they pick up along the way). Quicker than you can say, "Where's the bedroom?", the girls are having sex with the hitchhilker, the snowboarders are breaking all the mountain rules and the killer finds different ways to get rid of them. There's an icepick to the forehead, a skipole through the head, impalement by icicle, a hanging on the ski lift by a scarf, a hatchet to the leg, two decapitations and a CGI disposal of the killer with a huge icebreaker. It's not hard to spot who the killer is, but there's nice mountain scenery, some excellent skiing and snowboarding footage, a few good scares (including a head impaled on a fire poker being thrust at one of the girls trapped in a closet, the film's highlight) and some well-placed humor. It's just an ordinary horror film that doesn't take too many chances and leaves a lot of unanswered questions, Like: What is a fully-functional hot tub doing at an abandoned ski lodge? Director Greg Huson gets props for ladling on the blood and gore, but the characters are one-dimensional and the plot is full of holes. He must be a skier because he enjoys killing snowboarders who refuse to obey the rules (a major plot point in the story). Starring Scott Weinger, Lindsey McKeon, Juleah Weikel, Billy O' (I guess he couldn't afford a full last name), Holly Towne, Brad Hawkins and Candace Moon. A MGM DVD Release. Rated R.

SHROOMS (2006) - Even though the plot is as common as a $10 blowjob on 80's Times Square, this Irish/British/Danish co-production does offer a sense of style and panache missing from most modern horror films. Good Catholic girl Tara (Lindsey Haun; VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED - 1995) and best friend Lisa (Maya Hazen; SHUTTER - 2008) fly to Nothern Ireland to hook-up with Tara's boyfriend Jake (Jack Huston) and do some "shrooms" (for those less informed, a term used for indigenous psychedelic mushroom). Also along for the ride are three other people; steroid-enhanced musclehead Bluto (Robert Hoffman), who is Lisa's boyfriend; good guy Troy (Max Kasch), who is a human encyclopedia of illicit drugs; and Troy's girlfriend Holly (Alice Greczyn; EXIT SPEED - 2008), who doesn't appear to like to shave her armpits. After picking everyone up in his van and giving them a brief pictorial history on mushrooms (both the good and bad type, including the "Magic Mushroom"; the one they are searching for), Jake drives them to a secluded part of the forest to do some shroom picking. Things start bad right away when the van hits an elk, covering the front of the van in blood. Jake puts the elk out of its misery with a couple of shots to the head with a tire iron when two backwoods men (who would give the hicks in DELIVERANCE nightmares) appear out of nowhere and claim the elk's dead body as their next meal. Undaunted (but a little freaked out over the "indigenous population"), the group continues on their way and eventually set up camp. Jake collects all their cell phones as a precaution, so they don't call for help while tripping on the shrooms (a unique way to stop the cast from using their cell phones that doesn't involve the usual "dead zones" or "low Battery" scenarios) and they go on their shroom hunt, avoiding the black-tipped shrooms (Jake tells everyone that eating a black-tipped one will cause your "heart to explode, along with your kidneys and liver"). Tare sees a blue-tipped shroom and seems drawn to it, eventually eating it and nearly dying in the process. When she recovers, Tara tells Lisa and Jake that she can now see into the near future and it is not going to be a pleasant experience for anyone. As a matter of fact, It's going to be deadly. Everyone think it is just the shrooms messing with her head, so the rest of the group get drunk while Jake tells a horror story about the "Black Brother" around the campfire. The story freaks everyone out and Jake tells everyone not to eat their shrooms until the following morning, but when everyone retires to their tents for the night, nearly everyone ignores Jake's rule about eating the shrooms. Troy and Holly eat their shrooms to heighten their sexual pleasure and they catch someone watching them make love. This leads to some long, pent-up anger among the group, which results in Lisa kicking Bluto out of their tent. Bluto eats some shrooms, meets a talking cow (who tells Bluto that he is "dead fucked"), has his dick bitten off (Playing a sex game that Jake mentioned to everyone in the van ride; I'll leave it to you to discover what it is!) and is then killed by someone in bare feet. Tare "witnesses" the entire episode in her mind and soon figures out that Jake's "Black Brother" campfire tale may not be a tale at all. How can she convince everyone else what she has discovered when they are all tripping out on shrooms? There's going to be a lot of freaking out and death before this trip is over.  Expertly directed by Paddy Breathnach (RED MIST - 2008) and written with a sense of the macabre and a touch of black humor (the talking cow sounds like it was voiced by Ian McShane) by Pearse Elliott, SHROOMS is a breath of fresh air amongst the hundreds of stagnant DTV horror films that get released every year. The film makes very good use of Northern Ireland locations and some creepy local actors (especially Don Wycherley and Sean McGinley as the drooling backwoods brothers Ernie and Bernie, who tell Holly "Fuck reality!" when she tells them they can't be real) and, while the violence isn't overly gory, it is effectively done and somewhat shocking. The surprising finale takes "Catholic Guilt" to a whole new level and may have you re-watching the film a second time just to pick up missed clues. The film isn't perfect, though. Many of the scenes are purposely drained of color and bathed in a bluish hue (I know it's supposed to show the effects of eating the blue-tipped mushrooms, but it is an annoying effect that is used in way too many horror films these days) and Tara's "visions" (quickly-edited shock cuts with over-amped sound and music effects) soon lose their effectiveness after their third or fourth appearance. Still, SHROOMS is a worthwhile viewing experience, where you are tripping or not. Also featuring Toby Sedgwick as the Black Brother. A Magnet Releasing DVD Release. Not Rated.

SILENT MADNESS (1984) - This little-seen horror gem (filmed in 3-D, but shown flat when released to most theaters) deserves a U.S. DVD release NOW! Better acted than most slasher films, SILENT MADNESS delivers the goods from the get-go. Due to a name mix-up, psychotic silent mental patient Howard Johns (stunt co-ordinator Solly Marx) is accidentally released from the looney bin and begins to kill immediately. He kills a teenage couple making out in a van (the boy gets a sledgehammer to the head and the girl gets a flying 3-D axe planted in her back) and then turns his anger on a rollerskating girl, crushing her head in a vise. He then begins stalking the girls at a local sorority house (where it is half-empty during Fall Break), where den mother Miss Collins (film vet Viveca Lindfors) chastises the girls for flaunting their feminity. One of the girls pays the price by getting a faceful of steam, courtesy of Howard. Meanwhile, back at the hospital, psychiatrist Dr. Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery) is trying to find out why the dastardly Dr. Kruger (Roderick Cook) is covering-up Howard Johns' release. Dr. Kruger says Johns is "deceased" not "released" as it says on the paperwork, declaring it a typo. Dr. Gilmore doesn't buy it and tries to find out just what type of experiments Kruger is running on the patients in his heavily guarded ward. Dr. Gilmore takes her case to the police and tries to get info on Howard Johns from foul-mouthed Sheriff Liggett (genre stalwart Sydney Lassick), who tells her to go to the newspaper office. There she meets Mark McGowan (David Greenan), a reporter who helps her unravel the mystery. She learns that Johns committed several bloody murders at the sorority house years earlier, and with Mark's help, goes undercover there as an alumni to try to uncover more info.  She becomes friends with the girls there and she learns that Miss Collins knows all about the murders. Miss Collins tells a story (told in a black-and-white flashback) of how Howard was ridiculed by some sorority sisters during Pledge Week and snapped, killing them all in the house's boiler room. While investigating the boiler room, Dr. Gilmore is attacked by Howard, but escapes. Now that she has proof that Howard is alive, she and David have the proof they need to bring down Dr. Kruger, that is if Howard and the evil doctor (and his goons) don't get to her, David and the sorority girls first. Director Simon Nuchtern (SAVAGE DAWN - 1985) builds the tension slowly, giving us a trio of murders in the beginning and then slowly building suspense until the suspenseful conclusion. For once, the 3-D effects don't seem to be tacked on as they are integral to the plot and killings. No flying ping-pong balls or yo-yos in your face here (just one unnecessary electric prod thrusted at the screen). The acting is uniformly excellent for a horror film and it's nice to have more than one bad guy to boo at, as there are two kinds of killers here: The psychotic "kill anything that moves" kind and the cold, calculating intellectual kind. Give this one a chance and you'll probably like it, but good luck trying to find a copy. It's just different  and more offbeat than most films of this type and there's a couple of killer gags involving a flying dumbell and a table drill. Also starring Rick Aeillo, Stanja Lowe and John Bentley. A Media Home Entertainment Release wich is long OOP. I managed to score a copy on eBay, but not without some heavy bidding. Rated R.

SISTERS OF DEATH (1977) - If there was ever a case of substance over style, this is it. Arthur Franz (INVADERS FROM MARS - 1953; ATOMIC SUBMARINE - 1959) stars with the late Claudia Jennings in this poorly photographed, but well written revenge melodrama. A girl is killed during the pledge ceremonies of a sorority called The Sisters. The police label it an accident. But was it? Seven years later the remaining Sisters receive identical letters inviting them to a reunion at a remote estate. This estate is a killer with an electrified fence, spiders, snakes, a vicious dog, and a gattling gun! The script (by Peter Arnold and Elwyn Richards) to this odd exercise in filmmaking is full of twists, especially towards the end. What destroys the movie is the shoddy work behind the scenes. Bad direction, terrible lighting, and a boom mike that is clearly visible through half the film. (I guess no one knew how to block a shot, unless this was shown open matte) are some of the reasons that it is hard to take SISTERS OF DEATH seriously. Director Joseph Mazzuca  takes the blame for turning a promising film into a broken promise. (Note: God, I miss the days when this video from Interglobal Home Video and many others like it could be purchased at the checkout lines in most grocery and department stores for under $10.00. The days of "impulse buys" are long gone bye thanks to the internet.) Also starring Cheri Howell and Paul Carr. Also available on DVD from VCI Entertainment on a double feature with SCREAM BLOODY MURDER. Not Rated, but not stronger than a PG-13.

666: THE CHILD (2006) - Another "mockbuster" from those cheap bastards at The Asylum; this one released to DVD to try and fool retarded renters and buyers that they were bringing home the 2006 remake of THE OMEN. Stupid, stupid retards. The funny thing is that this is actually one of The Asylum's better films, but that is by no means a recommendation from me. It's still an Asylum film, after all. After a devastating plane crash into the California mountains (which we never see), a single boy is the only survivor and he walks away from the crash virtually unscathed. The story is immediately picked-up by TV news outlets, including TV news anchor Erika Lawson (Sarah Lieving), who seems very affected by the boy in the news. She and her husband, news cameraman Scott Lawson (Adam Vincent), head to the hospital to do a live interview with the boy, who they discover is an orphan. The boy, Donald (Boo Boo Stewart; now there's a name that his parents didn't think out too well, especially when he becomes an adult. I can hear the Yogi Bear jokes now!), has some type of psychological and emotional hold on Erika and Scott and since they are childless (Erika is medically incapable of getting pregnant), they decide to adopt him. Back at the hospital, a randy nurse and a horny doctor are fooling around in a supply closet next to Donald's room and they both ends up up dead when a steam pipe breaks loose, cracks the nurse in the head, splitting her skull in two, and spraying steam directly into the doctor's face. A freak accident? I don't think so. Erika's sister, super-celebrity Mary Lou (Kim Little), expedites the adoption thanks to her tremendous clout, so Erika and Scott pick up Donald at the orphanage, but not before celebrity-hating priest Father Francis (Robert Pike Daniel) warns them, "God is always watching!" They bring Donald home and everything seems normal, at least for a little while. Scott's father, Big Jake (Robert D. McEwen) comes to live with them to take care of Donald while Erika and Donald are working, but when playing catch and Donald gets hit with a baseball on his face, Big Jake takes him to the dentist, where both the dentist and his female assistant end up dead when Donald drills them both through their eyes (The police deem the incident a "terrible accident". A terrible accident? C'mon now!). Big Jake wants Erika and Scott to hire a professional nanny for Donald and that night Big Jake is killed when the ceiling fan in his bedroom slices his throat (The police once again call it a "terrible accident".). While Scott is still mourning the loss of his father (Erika decides to cover a story about a fire on the Santa Monica Pier!), a crazed nun (Lucy Doty) suddenly appears in the house and says, "The reign (rain?) of blood is just beginning!" and warns Scott that Donald is the spawn of Satan. Instead of listening to her, Scott throws her out of the house and she is killed after being run over by a car. While Scott becomes increasingly suspicious and begins digging deeper into Donald's history, Erika becomes more distant (and she becomes more career-oriented when she is offered a national TV anchor gig) and nanny Lucy Fir (Nora Jesse; and c'mon now, "Lucy Fir"? Really?) shows up at the door. Lucy is definitely in league with the Devil and knows about Donald's secret stash of violent drawings (he's quite the artist). Anyone who has watched THE OMEN (either the original 1976 version or the 2006 remake) can see where this story is heading. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying a sequel, 666: THE BEAST was made the following year (which is one of The Asylum's worst films ever and that's saying a lot!).  Although director Jack Perez (AMERICA'S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO - 1993; MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS - 2009), here using the pseudonym "Jake Jackson" (IMDB lists it as "Jake Johnson" and some foreign DVDs use his real name), and screenwriter Ben Henry definitely have THE OMEN on their brains, the meager budget offered 666: THE CHILD means that some of the more complex and gruesome set-pieces of its big-budget counterpart had to be jettisoned in favor of more lo-fi effects sequences, the best being the death of Scott's best friend Tony (Rodney Bowman) who, after accidentally discovering Donald's bloody drawings, becomes trapped in a garage where he has his fingers cut off by a lawn mower, is impaled in the back by a drill bit and then has his face cut in half by a portable circular saw. Other deaths include Erika slipping in a hotel bathroom and being cut to pieces by the glass shower door; Lucy having a fireplace poker shoved into her mouth until it exits out of the back of her head; and Scott being shot in the head by a cop when he tries to kill Donald (At least the police can't label this one a "terrible accident"!). The acting is not bad (Sarah Lieving [THE HITCHHIKER - 2007] deserves a lot better and she is the spitting image of a young Gina Gershon), but the whole film looks so cheap (And who came up with the name "Donald" as the Son of Satan? You might as well call him Eugene!) and uninspired (the "Mark of the Beast" isn't on Donald's scalp, it's on his tongue!), it hardly seems worth all the trouble, even if it is a step-up from the usual Asylum crapola. Not to be confused with 666: THE DEMON CHILD (2004), which is not an Asylum film and has nothing to do with THE OMEN-style mechanics of this film. An Asylum Home Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

666: THE BEAST (2007) - This is a sequel to The Asylum's 666: THE CHILD (2006) which, in turn, was a cheap rip-off of the theatrical remake of THE OMEN (2006). If we are to put this film into proper perspective, it's more of a remake of the original THE OMEN's (1976) second sequel, THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981), as The Asylum decided to ignore the first sequel, DAMIEN: OMEN II (1978), which documented the Son of Satan's teenage years and went straight ahead to his adulthood. If I haven't confused you enough, read on. When we last saw demonic seed Donald Lawson in 666: THE CHILD, he had killed-off his adoptive parents and their friends (clips of their deaths are shown here). Now an adult, Donald (Chad Mathews) is married to Kate (Makinna Ridgway), who is pregnant with his child. Father Deacon Cain (Collin Brock) is dispatched by the Vatican to go to America to make sure Kate has her baby, because it spells certain doom for humanity if it is not born (Wait just a goddamn minute. If Donald is the Son of Satan and his wife has a baby boy, wouldn't the baby be the grandson of Satan? What's next: Meet Harold, Satan's cousin twice removed?). Kate's twin sister, Sarah (Ridgway again), is found murdered in Los Angeles; her body crucified above a satanic symbol. Father Deacon shows up at the murder scene and tells the detectives in charge to look for a birthmark on Sarah's neck. Kate has the same birthmark, what looks like a small crucifix on the base of her neck. Donald's life takes a turn for the better when his boss, Ashmed (Amol Shah), promotes him to Junior Vice President and gives him a beautiful secretary named Sydonia (Alma Saraci). Ashmed knows about Donald's history (In this film, unlike 666: THE CHILD, Donald is quite confused about his heritage, which makes no sense at all) and wants him to travel to Israel on a "business" matter. Kate is informed about her twin sister's murder, but when Father Deacon tries to warn her about bad things to come, she doesn't believe him and runs away. Kate begins to have disturbing visions (eggs containing bloody yolks; people on the streets with demonic faces), while Donald is being seduced by Sydonia and given grief by co-worker Tom (Stephen Blackehart), who is jealous of Donald's new promotion. Donald becomes a success in his new position, turns power-mad and makes love to Sydonia. When Tom catches them together and threatens to tell his wife, Donald strangles him and throws him down a flight of stairs, right in front of Ashmed, who approves of the deed. Ashmed opens Donald's eyes as to who he really is and Donald embraces it. Meanwhile, Kate is hospitalized when signs of the stigmata appear on her body and the authorities think it is a suicide attempt (in both of these films, the police are portrayed as total dolts). Father Deacon helps Kate finally realize that she is bearing Christ's child (It still makes no sense to me unless Kate had a virgin pregnancy, but that issue is never addressed) and tries to protect her from her own husband, who must kill the baby with a special dagger before it is born. Jesus Christ, make it stop! My head hurts!  If I could come up with a better phrase than "bored beyond tears", I would use it here because 666: THE BEAST is one of the slowest-moving horror films in recent memory. Director/screenwriter Nick Everhart (2012: DOOMSDAY - 2008) has no sense of pacing, as the film just lumbers along with a series of loosely-fitting sequences that go nowhere; religious mumbo-jumbo that makes very little sense and a lack of any substantial blood or violence. There's really no point in discussing this film any further because it is simply talk, talk, talk about either forsaking God or embracing him. When the most violent parts of this film are the flashback murder scenes from the first film, it is time to call it a day and move on to the next film. Simply awful. Even by The Asylum's standards, this is a piss-poor film. Also starring Doug (misspelled "Dung" in the closing credits!) Burch, Giovanni Bejarano, Terry G. Reed and Damien Puckler. An Asylum Home Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.

SKINNED ALIVE (1989) - Amateurish black comedy shot for $16,000.00 on 16mm film.  A trio of psychopaths, led by the bitchy female Crawldaddy (Mary Jackson) pick up hitchhikers and people with broken-down cars and skins them alive (hence the title) and sells their skins as leather goods. The cackling Phink (Scott Spiegel, the best thing about this piece of trash) and Violet (Susan Rothacker) round out the trio. When their van breaks down in some hick town in Ohio, they are taken in by the kindly Paul and Louise Hickox (Floyd Ewing Jr. and Jennifer Mullen). Soon the trio are up to their old tricks, cutting off the fingers of a delivery boy (Mike Shea), shooting and skinning alive a Jehovah's Witness (Producer J.R. Bookwalter) and cleaving Mrs. Hickox's head in half with and axe. A disgraced, alcoholic ex-cop (Lester Clark), who lives next door, notices their strange behavior and, in the finale, goes Rambo on their ass. He literally blows apart Crawldaddy (the film's best effect), slices open Violet's stomach until her intestines fall out and blows apart Phinks's face. It all sounds much more exciting than it is, but the main reason for watching is the extras that come after. J.R. Bookwalter, director/writer Jon Killough (who plays the first victin and most of the cast and crew are interviewed for the 2002 remastered edition. Bookwalter ends up looking like a controlling prick, Killough gave up directing any more films due to his bad experience with Bookwalter and the cast and crew also get in their digs and accolades at both Killough and Bookwalter. It seems the film ended up being too short to be called a feature, so Bookwalter took over the film and shot scenes of the cop's ex-wife and lawyer emotionally torturing the cop to pad out the film to feature length (75 minutes). It slows down the pace of the film, as if it could have gone any slower. The extras are the best part of the package as people either praise or put down the film and the conspicuous absence of Scott Spiegel during any of this becomes apparent. He had moved on to bigger and better things, directing such films as FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY (1998) and executive-producing HOSTEL (2005), while Bookwalter, who hasn't directed a good film since his debut THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989), keep turning out SOV crap as his ego gets bigger and bigger. He's the king of the  Grade Z School of Filmmaking (and quite proud of it). If you are gonna watch this, pick up the remastered version. It has a better picture, new opening and closing credits, 5.1 Dolby Sound and the entertaining extras. The film may suck but the documentary describing the film's history is priceless. The effects (supervised by David Barton [DEAD & ROTTING - 2002] and others) range from amateurish to gross (check out the hanging skin in the Hickox's basement that Violet likes to play with, especially the penis). A Tempe Video Release. Not Rated.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (1987) - Alex Gardner (Nicholas Celozzi) is having terrible nightmares about being trapped in a prison while a hulking monster approaches. He reads a story about a rock group called Body Bag being found slaughtered on Alcatraz Island by lead singer Sammy Mitchell (Toni Basil), who authorities believe killed everyone before committing suicide. Alex feels a connection to that story and, along with his brother Richard (Tom Reilly) and a few friends, goes on a "field trip" to Alcatraz to try and cure himself of his nightmares (which are now also occurring during the daytime). Leading them on the trip is Carolyn (Donna Denton), a teacher and parapsychologist, who tells Alex his dreams are tied to the history of Alcatraz (before it was a prison, it was occupied by Indians who practiced cannibalism). and he must face his fears if the nightmares are to stop. Once on the island, the group begins their investigation and almost immediately Alex is separated from everyone else. The ghost of Sammy Mitchell warns Alex that a monster called the Commandant (Al Fleming) is loose on the island and she accidentally let him loose when she was shooting a music video here. Richard becomes possessed by the spirit of the Commandant and tries to rape his girlfriend Krista (Hope Marie Carlton). He eventually rips her throat out with his extremely large (and sharp) teeth. Richard then snaps the neck of Jack (Steven Brian Smith) and puts his fist through the head of Marty (Ty Miller). The only people left alive on the island (there are plenty of ghosts and only Alex can see and talk to them) are Alex, Carolyn and Jan (Tamara Hyler), as the ghost of Sammy helps Alex to open a door which will set all the souls of the people who died on the island free and destroy the Commandant in the process. Alex must fight his way to the door while Carolyn and Jan keep Richard busy. They all succeed (Carolyn loses her life in the process) and Alex gets a reward for his good deed: He gains all of Sammy's musical talent! Some small reward for getting most of his friends killed.  Director Dimitri Logothetis (BODY SHOT - 1993) has crafted a somewhat atmospheric, if derivative, horror tale, severely marred by some amateurish acting (lead Nicholas Celozzi is the main offender and I guess he got the job because his father Nicholas Celozzi Sr. was executive producer) and an awful lot of juvenile and jokey dialogue between the cast. The script (by Sandra Willard and Nora Goodman) doesn't make very much sense, mixing demons, ghosts, cannibalisn, realistic nightmares, Indians and rock music (original songs written by Mark Mothersbaugh and performed by Devo). There's plenty of bloody imagery, as hands are chopped off, rib cages are pulled out, people are disemboweled and sliced up and Alex pukes up worms. Hope Marie Carlton also strips nude a couple of times to keep your mind off the absurdity of it all. But the story mixes too many genres and doesn't amount to all that much. When Toni Basil (whose song "Mickey" burned up the charts and fried everyone's brain cells during the early 80's) does one of her patented choreographed dances about halfway through the film, I was severely tempted to turn this damned thing off. The film can't seem to make up it's mind up whether it wants to be a comedy or a serious horror film and both aspects never gel together as a whole. There are a few good scenes, but much of it will remind you of the much-better A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984). The location photography is good, though. A Sony Video Software Company VHS Release. Available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.

THE SLAYER (1981) - This underrated little horror film is a neat slice of 80's cheese. Kay (Sarah Kendall) has been bothered by recurring nightmares ever since she was a little girl, especially the one where a creature with huge taloned fingers grabs her by the neck. Kay and her husband, David (Alan McRae), decide to vacation with her brother, Eric (Frederick Flynn), and his wife, Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), at a house on a secluded island. From the moment Kay steps off the small plane, the island seems familiar to her, like she's been there before. Island caretaker Marsh (Michael Holmes) tells her that she's not the first one to feel that way. Particularly disturbing to Kay is the abandoned theater that they pass while walking to the house. Kay, who is an artist, has painted that house on one of her canvases months before. She only paints images from her nightmares, which is beginning to put a strain on her marriage.  Meanwhile, a fisherman, who is cleaning his catch on the island's beach, has his head caved-in by someone swinging a mean oar. Of course, after less than a day on the island, a nasty storm blows in, knocking out the electricity and trapping everyone on the island. That night, Kay and David have an arguement (she tries to convince him that she's been to this house before in her dreams, but he's getting tired of listening to it) and David walks out of the bedroom. David hears a noise in the basement and investigates, finding water leaking through an elevator shaft. David climbs a ladder and opens the shaft's trap door, but it slams on his neck and he is killed. At the same time, Kay has a nightmare that she is kissing David's decapitated head in their bed and the next morning, when David turns up missing, Kay knows that he is dead, but she can't convince Eric or Brooke that her dreams come true. Eric and Brooke search the island for David, while Kay checks out the creepy abandoned theater. She finds David's headless body hanging over the stage and tries to convince Eric and Brooke that if she goes to sleep, their lives are in danger. They should have listened to her. Instead, they drug her milk and put her to sleep. While Kay sleeps, Eric is dragged into the water after a huge fishing hook punctures his neck and Brooke has a pitchfork shoved through her back (it exits through her breasts, in the film's best gory effect). When Kay wakes up the next morning and discovers the bodies, she barracades herself in the house and tries to stay awake (even burning herself with a cigarette). As night approaches, Kay realizes she's not alone in the house. Someone or something is trying to kill her and she hides in the attic after shooting Marsh with a flaregun and setting the house on fire. Unfortunately, something nasty is waiting for her there. A surprise ending explains it all.  This atmospheric, but sometimes darkly-lit, horror flick is the first directorial effort from J.S. Cardone, who would later give us such horror films like SHADOWZONE (1990), THE FORSAKEN (2001) and WICKED LITTLE THINGS (2006). Although THE SLAYER is nothing extraordinary, it's a decent chiller that gets to the scares pretty quickly and is enhanced by the eerie island locations and set-pieces. While the gore is minimal, it is brutal (freeze frame when the oar hits the fisherman's skull for an example of what I mean) and the creature effects are very well-handled, though insanely brief. The acting isn't too bad either and there are no annoying teens like in most films of this type. The cast of adults is refreshing and this film would make a good double bill with SAVAGE WEEKEND (1976), another horror film with an all-adult cast. This film also uses themes (the blur between nightmares and reality) that would be expanded upon three years later in Wes Craven's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and the surprise ending is actually satisfying for a change. It doesn't seem tacked-on like most 80's horror films. There's really not much more I can say about this film, except it's a totally watchable horror film that delivers what it promises. Nothing more, nothing less. Stay clear of the version on VHS from Continental Video, part of a double feature with Fred Olen Ray's SCALPS (1983). It's edited down to 75 minutes and cuts an entire character completely out of the film: Kay's agent, Norman (Sandy Simpson). The edit is obvious, as we see David and Kay talk about the trip in the beginning of the film and then there's a noticable jump-cut to everyone on the plane, excising a good six minutes of footage. The rest of the film seems untouched as far as I could tell. Try to find the VHS version on Canadian label Marquis Video or the British DVD from Vipco, as they are both the uncut 81 minute version. Also starring Paul Gandolfo, Newell Alexander, Ivy Jones, Jennifer Gaffin and Carl Kraines as the Slayer. Rated R.

THE SLEEPER (2011) - If you have already seen the original BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) or SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE (1986), then you have already seen this movie, filmed in 13 days in Springfield, Ohio. It opens in 1979, where we witness a college student sleeping in her bed at her sorority house, only to open her eyes to see a blue-eyed psycho name The Sleeper (Jason Jay Crabtree) about to kill her with a claw hammer (His weapon of choice, but he does manage to use a few more objects for killing as the film progresses). We then switch to 1981, where sophomore college student Amy (Brittany Belland) is invited to become a pledge at a party thrown at the  sorority house (the same one we saw in 1979) run by the Alpha Gamma Thetas. Amy talks her reticent dormmate Ava (Ali Ferda) to go with her to the party, which has to be one of the most sparsely-populated sorority houses (not to mention colleges) in the history of horror films. The sorority house has been getting a lot of strange calls from The Sleeper, who mentions one of the girls' names and says they are going to die (Remind you of any particular film?), so sorority house mother Miss Joy (Beverly Kristy) warns the girls that all boys must be out of the house by midnight. Cindy (Jessica Cameron) has boyfriend Bobby (Paul Moon) come to her bedroom for some sex before time runs out. Bobby leaves at midnight and Cindy has her face graphically smashed-in by The Sleeper's claw hammer (Earlier, we see The Sleeper in his private cubby hole on another building getting excited over photographs he has taken of the sorority girls. When he picks one he is going to kill he writes "ZZZ" across their photo with red lipstick). When Cindy doesn't answer Bobby's calls the next day, he gets worried and contacts police Detective Drake (E. Ray Goodwin), who tells Bobby that maybe Cindy fell asleep at the library while studying, but if he doesn't hear from her by tomorrow, to give him a call again. Amy, Ava and head Theta sorority girl Laura (Jenna Fournier) go to a bar, where they do a line dance (!) on the dance floor with the other patrons and Amy meets Matt (Aaron Russell). Matt walks Amy home, while Ava and Laura (who have become chummy) continue to drink. The Sleeper has already taken photos of Amy, so when Matt drops her off at her dorm, he is attacked and killed by The Sleeper, who hits him over-and-over with his hammer (off-screen). Another nameless Theta girl (Kendra Stevenson) gets the claw end of the hammer planted in her eyes and Rebecca (Tiffany Arnold) has her eyes and nose ripped off by The Sleeper after she walks out of the shower (forget about seeing any nudity here). Derek (Eric Sarich), Bobby's best friend, and Stacy (Riana Ballo) are next on the list, when Stacy doffs her top (the only instance of nudity in this film) and pulls-in Derek (fully clothed) into the college's indoor pool. While Stacy goes to change, Derek is strangled by The Sleeper with a rope and when Stacy hears the commotion and finds Derek's lifeless body, she is decapitated by The Sleeper with an axe. As the drunken Ava and Laura walk home, they are assaulted by The Sleeper, who blinds them over-and-over with the flash on his camera. Meanwhile, Detective Drake talks with Miss Joy on the phone and discovers that many of her girls are missing, so he calls Ava and Bobby and tells them to meet him at the sorority house. Drake taps the phone with the help of Detective James (Luke Frost) and when The Sleeper calls, they are able to trace where he is staying. Detective Drake heads to the location, telling Detective James to watch the inside of the house, while another police officer (Bob Ferrato) stands guard outside. That doesn't stop The Sleeper, though. He rips out the throat of the officer outside with his claw hammer and enters the house, where he bashes-in the forehead of Detective James (off-screen) and rips-out the eyes of Miss Joy (also off-screen). He then kills sorority girl June (Elizabeth James) by impaling her through her ear with a butcher knife. Detective Drake reaches The Sleeper's hideout, only to find a photo of Amy hanging on the wall. He rushes back to the sorority house, where The Sleeper is already chasing Amy throughout the house, trapping her in the bathroom and breaking down the door with his hammer. Detective Drake saves Amy, but is knocked unconscious by The Sleeper with the hammer and he continues to chase Amy outside and right to his hideout (where she spots Ava's lifeless body, her forehead split open with the hammer, although we never find out what happened to Laura). As The Sleeper is about to bash Amy's head in (He says to her, "Night, night!"), she picks up a knife from a table and supposedly stabs him to death. After a jump scare inspired by CARRIE (1976) and the original FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980), Amy wakes up in a hospital (also sparsely populated; she seems to be the only patient in the entire wing!), where her doctor (a cameo from genre expert and movie critic Joe Bob Briggs) tells her that Detective Drake is recouperating downstairs and the killer has been caught. Sure he has. The phone in Amy's hospital room rings and it's The Sleeper on the other end. Amy tries to flee her room and the film ends with a freeze frame of The Sleeper directly behind her.  While not a boring slasher film, it is a downright unoriginal one, the themes done to death in countless films before it. Director/writer/co-producer/cinematographer/sound editor Justin Russell (DEATH STOP HOLOCAUST - 2008) gives us plenty of gore (but at least 50% of it is shown after the fact), but really nothing else (except for that cute opening animated Canadian "Restricted" ratings bit and a fake "grindhousey" beginning to make it seem like the film was actually made in the 80's). The film manages to move at a brisk clip (filmed during the Winter season), but everything on screen is just deja-vu all over again. While the gore is handled pretty well (especially Cindy's graphic face smashing and the eyes on Stacy's [obviously fake] decapitated head still moving back and forth, looking at her headless body), there is little else to recommend. The technical aspects of the film are average at best and so is the acting, making THE SLEEPER a must-see only to those who have to view every slasher film ever made. All others can stay away and not worry about it. A Gamma Knife Films DVD Release (It was also released in a limited 500 piece DVD/VHS combo pack) The artwork used on the DVD is nearly a direct steal from the poster art for DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (1979). Unrated.

SLEEPOVER NIGHTMARE (2004) - Right from the beginning, you know this is going to be one of those films that throws all logic out the window in order to advance the plot. While transporting psychotic killer Ron (Wayne McMahon) to the Koksilah Institute For The Criminally Insane (really?), the driver of the van decides to play chicken with a Ferrari (really?) and ends up getting into a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler, which allows Ron to escape (after biting one of the guards in the jugular). He ends up at the exclusive enclave of Gnarly Oaks (really?), where, coincidentally, a big summertime party is in full swing, full of dumb teenage victims just waiting to be slaughtered. This isn't just your standard annoying teenage boozefest, this is your super-standard, super-annoying teenage boozefest, complete with amateur acting, a trampoline, volleyball playing, water-skiing and plenty of bikini-bottomed booty-shaking. The victims include super-cad Dwight (Chad E. Rook); his new, much-too-understanding girlfriend Karli (Haley Sales); rich bitch Shannon (Kristine Cofsky), who is throwing the party and has a history with Dwight; Shannon's ecstasy-addled boyfriend Michael (Benjamin R. Hanson); nerdy Harry (Richard Olak); and various other stereotypical idiotic teens. As Ron spies on the partygoers bouncing on the trampoline, having sex and swimming in the pool, we learn why he is so psychotic: Seven years earlier, he caught his girlfriend screwing another guy in his car, so he goes berserk and kills the guy (by slamming the car door repeatedly on his head), throws his girlfriend in his car and takes off like a bat out of hell, failing to notice the large bonfire in front of his car. He hits it, spins the car over on it's roof and the car explodes. He escapes, but his girlfriend is burnt beyond recognition and he hasn't been the same since (really?). Ron now begins killing everyone at the party using such weapons as a long metal crowbar, belonging to irate elderly groundskeeper Jimmy (Will Millar, who channels Groundskeeper Willie from THE SIMPSONS), and a beer can (yes, you read right, a beer can!). Things really turn hairy when daylight ends and the party turns into a sleepover nightmare. Ohhhh, I'm scared!  I know director/screenwriter/co-producer Boon Collins (ABDUCTED - 1986; ABDUCTED II: THE REUNION - 1994) was aiming for a tongue-in-cheek horror flick, but he populates it with people so unlikable, it's hard to give a shit what happens to them (Really, I was hoping that Ron would kill them all in one broad stroke to end the inanity). For one, Dwight is such a heartless prick (he screws Shannon at soon as he arrives at the party, leaving current girlfriend Karli to roam around not knowing anyone), it's hard to have sympathy for Karli, who would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to realize what a cheating bastard he really is. Another minus is having a psychotic killer with the common name Ron. I mean, really, Ron? Hardly the iconic moniker for a mass murderer, is it? While there is plenty of blood and gore on view (including death by outboard motor, impalement by crowbar and having a beer can thrust through one guy's forehead), it's so cheaply done (either by using obvious CGI or throwing blood from off-screen onto the actors), it's ineffective. Toss-in a cliché-ridden script where everyone does the stupidest things possible at the most inopportune times (When two cops show up at Shannon's house to see if everything is OK, she doesn't believe they are cops and asks for their badge numbers, like she would know the difference!)  and what you end up with is an instantly forgettable horror flick that's a total waste of your time. I still cannot believe that these crazy Canadians still fund films like this using their tax credits. If they tried to make this film in the States using my tax dollars, I can assure you that the nightmare wouldn't be the sleepover kind! Useless Bit Of Trivia: Will Millar is the former lead singer of The Irish Rovers (best known for their 1967 smash single "The Unicorn") and this film used his house for most of the interiors and exteriors. Also starring Ace Hicks, Ashleigh Harrington, Jonas Shandel, Graham Wright and Jolene White. Don't be surprised if you hear many of them ask you "Do you want fries with that?" the next time you order a meal at McDonalds. A Velocity Home Entertainment VHS & DVD Release. Rated R.

SLOPPY THE PSYCHOTIC (2012) - Films about killer clowns have recently become very popular. Hugely popular, thanks to the 2017 remake of Stephen King's IT (based on the 1990 TV mini-series of the same name). People find clowns so scary that there have been police reports of clown sightings in the woods, but we all know it it just some teenager getting his jollies (expect more when IT become a hit movie). There have been some excellent clown films, such as my favorites 100 TEARS (2007) and the simply-titled CLOWN (2013) and a lot of poor ones, the major bombs being the Full Moon KILLJOY Series. Which brings us to this film: It make any KILLJOY film look like a theatrical blockbuster. From The opening sequence, it is obvious that this was shot -on-video and not digital video, either, but something that looked like it came out of a 70's VHS video camera. Mike (director/producer/co-screenwriter Mike O'Mashony) is a loser of the first degree. He cant find a decent-paying job, lives with his parents (his father rags on him every chance he gets) and nothing ever goes right for him. He does kids' parties as Sloppy The Clown and his car is dressed-up as a clown mobile. He runs into old girlfriend Sandy (Lauren Ojeda) and she tells him she needs some entertainment for one of her girlfriend's kids, who is having a birthday party, and a clown would be perfect. Mike is all for it and Sandy says she will call him. Mike has a party to do as Sloppy that day and when the girl he is supposed to entertain draws a filthy picture of him, he grabs the little girl and tells her she shouldn't be drawing things like that. The girl's mother sees Sloppy grab her daughter and kicks him out of the house, then calls his boss, Mr. Jenkins (Lewis Beaver) of Clowns R Us and gets him fired. This turns out to be the final straw for Mike, as he gets drunk, calls up a hooker and kills her, stuffing her body in a trunk a dwarf wouldn't fit in. He decides to become an independent clown and hangs up flyers all over town (He never hears the telephone message that Sandy left saying her girlfriend's party is a go.) Mike gets drunk all the time and falls asleep while driving his car, hitting the wooden fence of a home owner, who wants money for the damage. Mike says he has no money, so the home owner, who sees Mike is driving a clown car says "We'll call it even if you make me laugh." The home owner takes a piss into a hole in the pavement, filling the hole to the top. When Mike fails to make the guy laugh. he says he has a sure-fire way to make him laugh. He has the guy bend over the puddle of pee, hits him on the back of the head with his booze bottle and drowns him in his own urine puddle. Mike then confronts his boss as Sloppy and knocks him out (With a sock full of change!), binds his hands and mouth with duct tape and puts him in his clown car, where he stabs him repeatedly in the stomach. Mike then puts him in the trunk (His intestines fall out and Sloppy just picks them up and throws them in the trunk) and then cuts his head off (off-screen) and leaves the head on the bed of the little girl who got him fired (That'll teach her for drawing dirty pictures!). Mike finally hears Sandy's message and gives her a call. He thinks this party will make Sloppy The Clown popular again. That night, Sloppy gets a phone call by some college assholes, one who tells Mike he will pay triple his rate if he comes to their party tonight. The forever-loser Mike soon learns that it was all a practical joke , as he is thrown into a pool and everyone laughs at him. Mike follows one of the college guys as a girl gives him a blowjob (It is shown as a shadow on the wall of a building and comes close to being X-Rated) and shoves a giant candy cane up the guy's ass until it comes out of the back of the girl's head. He then goes to the creator (and Sloppy's wet practical joke) of the party's house and cuts off the tip of his dick while he is jerking off to porn and shoves the tip of the dick into the dying guy's mouth (One of this film's bloodiest, yet fake-looking scenes). Sloppy then runs over three retarded guys (squashing one of their heads like a watermelon) while their handler is inside a house buying drugs. He comes outside, sees the carnage and says "Oh, shit", like he forgot his to buy cigarettes at a convenience store (his lack of emotion is amazing!)! Sloppy goes to his party that Sandy set up (he even cooks a meal for the kids that contains human flesh and another special ingredient). Sloppy makes balloon animals (one shaped like a giant cock and balls, in which the adults laugh at!). The kids scarf down Sloppy's special food (They love it). Sloppy gives a cigar to the birthday kid's father and it explodes , blowing his head off. The kids get sick off of eating Sloppy's food  and they begin to bleed from the ass while Sloppy stomps their heads to a bloody pulp (He throws the birthday boy into a lit gas barbecue grill and closes the cover!). He kills all the kids and parents and piles their bodies on top of each other. The film ends with Sloppy killing two policemen and then slamming his garage door (after implying he killed his parents).  I've seen high school student films with more talent than this video movie. Not once does director Mike O'Mahony even try to act like a clown. Sure, he dresses like one, but he uses his normal voice when entertaining kids. If I were a parent with kids, I would ask for my money back because as a clown, Sloppy is a good murderer. The special effects, while bloody, are even less than high school level and can be done by anyone with a butcher shop nearby,a gallon of stage blood and a pump.The closest this video "film" comes close to being inventive is when Sloppy is threatened with a gun and the usual "BANG!" flag comes out of the barrel, but Sloppy pulls out his clown gun and it shoots real bullets (This is how he kills the two policemen in the end). Sloppy also makes a hooker (Who is tied to his bed so loosely even a baby could escape!) swallow his tied-together never-ending colored handkerchiefs and then yanks it out of her mouth. Seems there was a razor blade on the first one she swallowed and blood splatters against his bedroom wall. Another thing: While we always hear his father and mother rag on him, we never once see them. This is one of the worst SOV films I have seen in quite a while. There is some nudity, but it is by some fat frat chick that is giving the ower of the house a hand job through the zipper of his pants (The same guy who had the tip of his dick cut off), but this is strictly amateur hour  and making fun of the mentally handicapped for comedy is about as low as you can go. This film reaches those depths and then tries to dig deeper by showing children being fried, shit their pants, or throwing up blood.  I find it hard to believe that Mike O'Mahony has directed before and after this film with titles such as DEADLY DETOUR (2011); I.B.S. (2013) and A DARK PLACE INSIDE (2014). IF you see these titles anywhere, run, don't walk, in the opposite direction. Sloppy is insufferable stuff. I would go as far as to say it is not a film at all, but a home video. And more boring than your Aunt Tilly's trip to the world's biggest ball of string. A Chemical Burn DVD Release.  Not Rated.

SLUGS: THE MOVIE (1987) - Leave it to Spanish director Juan Piquer Simon (PIECES - 1982; EXTRA TERRESTRIAL VISITORS - 1983) to turn one of the slowest creatures on God's green earth into bloodthirsty, flesh hungry creatures and actually making it a creepy (if slightly overwrought) experience (not to mention this film's obsession with local government politics and basically nailing it to a tee!). Years ago in the fictional town of Ashton (actually filmed in Lyons, New York), some unscrupulous companies dumped toxic waste into the ground, causing the slugs over the years to mutate and become hungry for everything they come in contact with (in the film's opening minutes, the little slimeballs snack on a teenage fisherman and a drunk about to be evicted from his home). County health inspector Mike Brady (Michael Garfield) and Sheriff Reese (John Battaglia) drive to the drunk's house to evict him, only to discover his corpse has been picked clean. Mike does a cursory investigation of the house and finds hundreds of slime trails leading to the basement, but no sign of the critters that caused them. Mike and his best friend, county sewer engineer Don Palmer (Philip MacHale), investigate a claim by a belligerent constituent that her sewer smells awful (they all do, lady!). Don goes down into the sewer in full haz-mat getup to clear the line (where he discovers human skin and a huge cow tongue in the clog), but when something grabs his clearing bar and drags it deeper into the pipe, Don makes a hasty retreat topside. Meanwhile, Mike's wife, Kim (Kim Terry), a teacher at the local high school, must contend with the snootiest students this side of THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955). Not only do they call Kim "witch bitch", they plan on throwing a Halloween party that none of the adults know about, complete with booze, drugs and, of course, sex (one mullet-headed female teen blames the drunk's death on the "Goat Killer", the town's mythical serial killer). As the slugs begin killing the townspeople in various bloody ways (including a gardener who chops-off his own hand with a hatchet when some slugs crawl into his glove and he then accidentally blows-up his greenhouse, killing himself and his wife), Mike notices a huge slug in Kim's garden and tries to pick it up, but it bites him (it's funny and frightening at the same time). Mike and Kim bring a few huge slugs to Professor John Foley (Santiago Alvarez), who seems quite surprised at their size (Later on, a slug gets loose in his lab and kills his caged rat. Believe me when I say that you haven't lived until you've seen a rat giving a slug a piggyback ride!). Alcoholic housewife Maureen Watson (Alicia Moro; EDGE OF THE AXE - 1987) serves a salad with some chopped-up slugs to her husband David (Emilio Linder; MONSTER DOG - 1985), who complains that the salad tastes "too salty" and, later on, he suffers a most unfortunate fate (he begins to bleed out of every orifice in his body at a restaurant, with baby slugs bursting out of his eye sockets!). In the film's standout sequence, teenagers Bobby Talbot (Kris Mann) and Donna Moss (Kari Rose) are eaten alive by a bedroom full of slugs as they are completely naked and making love. Since Mike can't convince the thick-headed Sheriff Reese that slugs are responsible (The Sheriff retorts, "What'll be next, demented crickets? Rampaging mosquitoes, maybe?"), he and Don decide to eliminate the slugs the only way they know how: Salt. Lots and lots of salt. Not really. It's actually some newfangled chemical Professor Foley has created that makes the slugs explode on contact, but I would have used the Road Dept.'s salt supply, because they end up blowing-up half of the town!  Only Juan Piquer Simon (ENDLESS DESCENT - 1989; CTHULHU MANSION - 1990) could take a storyline so ridiculous (screenplay by Ron Gantman, based on Shaun Hutson's novel "Slugs") and make it so bloody entertaining. Not only is the dialogue a hoot (When Mike learns that the gardener and his wife were killed in a greenhouse explosion, all he has to say is, "They were very nice people. I liked them a lot!" Or this bit of hilarity when Mike tries to get the Water Dept. head, Frank Phillips [cameo by Frank Brana, who has appeared in nearly every film Simon has made] to turn off the water to the town: Frank: "You ain't got the authority to declare Happy Birthday!"), but the gore and nudity goes way past the film's R-rating (Someone at the MPAA was sleeping when this was screened). Not only are there both male and female genitalia on view, director Simon has a predilection for popping victims' eyeballs out when the slugs attack. When the "Goat Killer" is revealed to be an actual serial killer (he stalks the teens' outdoor Halloween party, where nobody wears a costume except him!), I just gave up trying to make sense of the story (and the utterly stupid things some of the people do and say) and went along for the ride (The "Goat Killer" sequence is immediately dropped when the girl he is trying to rape and kill falls down a sewer drain and is eaten by the slugs!). The practical makeup effects are appropriately gooey and gory and the slugs themselves (many of them real) are slimy and menacing. We're not talking rocket science here; SLUGS (with a video-generated "THE MOVIE" following it, just so we don't get it confused with SLUGS: THE CARNIVAL RIDE) is just a good, old-fashioned 50's monster film with 80's gore sensibilities. Also starring Concha Cuetos, Manuel De Blas, Andy Alsup, Stan Schwartz and a cameo by Patty Shepard (REST IN PIECES - 1987). It's quite apparent that all the non-Spanish actors here were local New York talent, as most of them have never appeared in another film. Originally released on VHS by New World Video, followed by a budget VHS release by Starmaker Entertainment, then a widescreen DVD release by Anchor Bay Entertainment, followed by a no-frills DVD from Image Entertainment as part of their "Midnight Madness Series", which is just a port of the Anchor Bay disc without the extras. Rated R. UPDATE: Now available on an extras-packed Blu-Ray from Arrow Video, making this the preferred way of viewing the film.

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III (1990) - Yes, it's time once again for a bunch of nubile young bimbos to hold a slumber party and then get slaughtered by someone wielding an oversized electric drill (among other weapons) in this third and final, yet unrelated, film in the series (it was filmed under the title STAB IN THE DARK before uncredited Executive Producer Roger Corman changed the name to make it more marketable). Jackie Cassidy (Keely Christian) is hosting a slumber party at her home, where five girls come over, put on lingerie and talk about sex and boys. Little do they know that some (as yet) unknown person dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt and white mask is watching their every move. The party is invaded by three local boys who scare the shit out of the girls. The girls chase them out of the house and when one of the guys, Michael (Garon Grigsby), comes back to apologize, he is promptly impaled in the stomach with a For Sale sign by the killer. The next to die is the pizza delivery girl, who, after delivering the pizza to the girls, is chased down the middle of the street by the killer and run-through with the drill. The list of suspects is plentiful: Could it be the weirdo (Yan Birch) who picked up Jackie's address book while they were playing volleyball on the beach earlier in the day? Or how about Ken (Brittain Frye), a jock from another school who has his eye on Juliette (Lulu Wilson)? There's also nerdy Duncan (David Greenlee), who desperately wants to be part of the gang. Let's not forget about Morgan (M.K. Harris), a prospective boarder for a spare bedroom for rent in Jackie's house. Finally, there's Frank (David Lawrence), Jackie's new boyfriend who has a troubled past. When Juliette is electrocuted while taking a shower by the killer (He throws an electric vibrator into the water!) and everyone else discovers her body, we discover who the killer is (I won't spoil it for you) and his reasons for the killings. Jackie and her scantily clad friends must fight off the driller killer, who has them all trapped in the house. In the finale, Jackie manages to defeat the killer with his own weapon, after other members of the party (most of them end up dead) shoot him in the leg with a spear gun, blind him with bleach and bean him over the head with a polo mallet.  Leave it to Roger Corman. He always finds a way to bypass the screams of "Misogyny!" by feminists and Christian fundamentalists. As with the other SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE films, he has hired a female director (Sally Mattison, who also wrote and performs two songs on the soundtrack) and screenwriter (Catherine Cyran, who also produced), as if to give a big middle finger to all those who think only men can make a film full of female nudity and gory violence (and, really, what is the drill if nothing but a symbolic extension of the killer's penis?). This film is much less jokey than SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II (1987), where the killer had a drill attached to an electric guitar. This is more straight-ahead horror which gets to the killings rather quickly. To add confusion to the mix, there are three different edits of Part III: In 1990, New Horizons Home Video issued an R-rated 75 minute cut (the same as the theatrical release) and an 80 minute Unrated Edition that greatly expands the gore scenes (much more bloody drilling, slashing and an extended version of the chainsaw fight between Tom [David Kriegel] and Ken, as well as much more bloody footage of Jackie's revenge on the killer in the finale). Then, in 2000, New Horizons issued an 87-minute R-rated edition on VHS and DVD that contains all of the bloody footage that's in the Unrated Edition, plus seven minutes of dialogue scenes that Corman originally had edited out to pick up the film's pacing (a practice that Corman utilized frequently). This is the version to get your hands on if you must see this film (which isn't bad, just common), but it is long OOP and goes for big bucks on the collectors' circuit. Jeremy Stanford (WATCHERS III - 1994) was Second Unit Director here. Also starring Hope Marie Carlton, Maria Ford, Brandi Burkett, Marie Claire, Devon Jenkin, Wayne Gracie and Alexander Falk. A New Horizons Home Video Release. Rated R or Unrated versions available. Shout! Factory has collected the trilogy in one collection (with Part III the Unrated Version) called THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE COLLECTION with an informative booklet inside written by director John Paul Collum of 5 DARK SOULS (1996) and OCTOBER MOON (2005) fame. It's a nice package that should be a must purchase for anyone who is a fan of these films.

SMILEY (2012) - Here's an urban legend film updated for the Internet Age. The legend is this: If you log into an anonymous chat room, pick a person that you don't know, concentrate real hard and then type "I did it for the lulz" three times (It's Internet speak for "I did it for the laughs."), a killer named Smiley (who stiched his eyes shut and then stitched a large smile on his face) will appear behind that person and slice their throat or stab them in the heart. We then switch to freshman college student Ashley (Caitlin Gerard; THE AWAKENING - 2010, who is very good here), a young female nerd who is trying to get over the suicide of her mother and had to be institutionalized for a short while. Rather than living in a dorm, she moves into a house close to campus with Proxy (Melanie Papalia; CONFINED - 2010), another young female who is the exact opposite of Ashley. She likes to party and have a good time, where Ashley is rather straight laced. Proxy talks Ashley into going to a party with her (after introducing Ashley to the joys of pot) at the house of rich privileged asshole computer hacker Zane (Andrew James Allen). She also meets fellow nerd Binder (Shane Dawson), who is thrown out of the party for ratting out Zane and his friends to campus authorities for their hacking habits (They all call him "PedoBear" and if you don't know what that means, Google it). After getting drunk at the party and watching a video of Smiley in action on one of Zane's computers, Ashley and Proxy go home and log into an anonymous chat room, where Proxy picks a person (a man who is flashing them his penis) and tells Ashley to concentrate really hard (because you have to want it to happen) and type in "I did it for the lulz." three times. An apprehensive and still-drunk Ashley does it and, sure enough, Smiley appears behind the guy and slits his throat. He then stares directly at the screen with his sewn-shut eyes. This freaks Ashley out, fearing that Smiley now knows who she and Proxy are. Ashley then believes that Smiley is after her (the dreams she has are very vivid) and goes to psychiatrist Dr. Jenkins (Liza Weil; STIR OF ECHOES - 1999), who prescribes her an anti-anxiety drug and threatens to recommit her if she gets worse. She also has discussions with psychology teacher Professor Clayton (an excellent Roger Bart; HOSTEL PART II - 2007), who tells her that all humans in general are doomed to extinction and it is only a matter of time before it happens (it's also refreshing that he never hits on her, except jokingly). I'll leave the rest for you to discover, as it didn't turn out the way I thought it was going to, which is always a plus in my book. For those that don't bother watching the closing credits to a film, I recommend you stay until the end for a stinger that changes everything. Director/co-writer/co-executive producer Michael J. Gallagher (his first theatrical effort, even if it only played for one week before going the DTV route) has created an inventive new character in Smiley (along with co-writer/co-executive producer Glasgow Phillips, who directed the funny Western zombie flick UNDEAD OR ALIVE - 2007) and fills the film with plenty of jump scares, which are usually nothing but somebody suddenly appearing in frame while the music amps up in volume, but it did manage to make me jump a couple of times (something that most modern horror films don't do to me). The inventive finale really surprised me, but there are clues along the way (especially if you watch it a second time) that doesn't make it seem that it is just coming out of left field, like most modern horror films where the writers and directors don't know how to properly end a film. SMILEY thankfully doesn't suffer that fate (and the stinger after the final credits is also a plus) and Roger Bart as Professor Clayton is such an interesting character, I wish I could go back to college and have him as a teacher. The acting and technical aspects are also above par for such a low-budget film and while there is some blood and gore, it doesn't rely on it to get the point across. In other words, I enjoyed it. It's nothing spectacular, mind you, just an entertaining update of all those urban legends that scared the shit out of us when we were kids. Also starring Keith David (as a police detective who really has nothing to do besides disbelieve everything Ashley tells him), Toby Turner, Jana Winternitz, Nikki Limo, Steve Greene, Richard Ryan and Michael Traynor as Smiley. An Arc Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

SNAKES ON A TRAIN (2006) - Yes, this is another of The Asylum's shameless rip-offs (they prefer you call them "mockbusters", but c'mon, rip-off is a much better word). If I have to tell you which film this is a cheap knock-off of, stop reading now, call-up some friends, have them come over and let them repeatedly kick you in the head. Back to the film: Two illegal Mexican aliens, Brujo (Alby Castro) and the sickly Alma (Julia Ruiz), cross the American border in hopes of finding a better life and a cure for Alma's sickness in Los Angeles. What Alma suffers from, though, is like no sickness you've ever seen, as she and Brujo have to stop often so she can puke up some green liquid, followed by snakes (!), which Brujo collects in mason jars in his backpack (I usually save all my puke, too, and show it to my friends later on.). Alma pukes out a snake that Brujo fails to capture and it bites their Coyote guide, killing him instantly. Brujo and Alma sneak into the baggage car of a train headed for Los Angeles, where a bunch of other illegals are also hiding out, including Alma's friend Miguel (Giovanni Bejarano). We are then introduced to the train's paying customers, as conductor Frank (Stephen A.F. Day), punches their tickets. It's an anemic passenger list (appropriate with The Asylum's meager budget) that includes two models, Crystal (Amelia Jackson-Gray) and Summer (Shannon Gale); a trio of pot-smoking surfer dudes; a husband, wife and their young daughter; a businessman; a mysterious Middle eastern guy; and a dude in a cowboy hat who jumps on the train just as it leaves the station. Alma's mysterious ailment gets worse (The race is on as to see whether Brujo can get her to Los Angeles in time, as his Uncle there has a cure), but when Brujo gets into a fight with some wetbacks, the snakes in his mason jars are released. Not only are the bites from the snakes deadly, they are also hungry and growing larger by the minute. Brujo thinks he has recaptured all the snakes, but he should tell that to the paying customers, as a few hungry ones have made their way to the passenger cars. Personal dramas mix with snake attack scenes, as we find out that Crystal and Summer are drug mules and cowboy hat dude is a dirty ex-cop following them. The Middle Eastern guy is actually the girls' connection, the snakes begin killing more passengers and Alma transforms into one big-assed snake, which forces all the survivors to disembark in a hurry before she swallows the entire train! Someone get this motherfucking snake off this motherfucking train!  As with most of these Asylum flicks, there are long stretches of dialogue that seem to go on forever. Unlike most of these Asylum flicks, there are actually some effective scenes, especially the snake attack scenes. Director Peter Mervis (credited here as "The Mallachi Brothers"), who also made DEAD MEN WALKING (2005) and WHEN A KILLER CALLS (2006) for The Asylum, and screenwriter Eric Forsberg (who also wrote and directed ALIEN ABDUCTION [2005] and NIGHT OF THE DEAD [2006] for The Asylum) have fashioned a film steeped in Mexican folklore ("Brujo" is Spanish for "witch") and while it's not completely successful, at least it's different enough from the usual Asylum dreck. The snake attack scenes are gory, as they don't just bite, they burrow under the skin and lay babies (At one point, Brujo rips a guy's heart out with his bare hands and a snake is seen slithering between the exposed valves). There's an awful lot of puking in this film, so if scenes of people retching get your gag reflexes into overdrive, this may not be the film for you. Surprisingly there is very little CGI utilized until the ridiculous finale (where Alma turns into a giant snake and swallows the entire train!), as most of the snake attacks are done with real snakes or practical effects (some very well-done and squirm inducing, especially the little girl being swallowed whole by a huge snake). I'm not saying that this is a good film by any means, but it's a step-up from your usual Asylum production. Biggest blooper: The make and model of the train changes constantly throughout the film. Also starring Isaac Wade, Al Galvez, Madeleine Falk, Derek Osedach, Jason S. Gray, Jay Costelo and Sean Durrie. An Asylum Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

SNUFF (1971/1976) - A group of female bikers chase down one of their own when she holds out on some cocaine (which she snorts through an extremely large straw). They shoot and wound her, then put her feet in stocks. Their Manson-like leader, with the improbable name "Satan" (Enrique Larratelli), orders one of the girls to take a knife and slice her between her toes, which she does. Meanwhile, a girl (disguised as a man), stabs a man in the back, then slits his throat in the mens room of an airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina where movie star Terry London (Mirtha Massa) and her overbearing manager Max Marsh (Aldo Mayo) are arriving so Terry can star in a new movie being filmed there. Terry (who is pregnant) ditches Max and phones new rich boyfriend Horst (Clao Villanueva) to come visit. Satan has a plan to get rid of Max Marsh and get Terry's baby so it can be sacrificed in one of his satanic rituals. Why? I haven't got the foggiest idea. Max and Terry go to Mardi Gras (cue the stock footage) and then a costume ball (more stock footage, please!) where Horst whisks Terri away for some hot sex while Max is viciously stabbed in the heart by one of Satan's girls. Terry is interrogated by the police about Max's death (in one of the shoddiest police sets of all times) and is released in Horst's care. Satan's girls rob a store where they kill the owner, his wife, son and young daughter. The girls, on Satan's orders, invade the house of Horst's father, where they stab or shoot everyone (they may even slice off Horst's manhood, but that's open for debate) and when they get to Terry (who is sleeping with Horst's father!), one of the girls plunges a knife into her pregnant belly. That's when we learn that this was all a film, as the director yells "Cut!" and we then see the actress that played Terry being sliced and sawed apart by her boyfriend in a "real" snuff film, the last shot being her boyfriend holding her intestines in the air and screaming with excitement before the camera runs out of film (but, strangely, not sound).  This infamous film, noted for it's violent (but extremely fake) final five minutes, is really quite awful. The majority of the movie is actually a 1971 film called THE SLAUGHTER, a Charles Manson-inspired film about kidnapping and murder directed by Michael and Roberta Findlay (SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED - 1974). This part of the movie, filmed in and around Buenos Aires, is a boring mess that contains terrible post-synch dubbing (not only does Roberta Findlay appear as one of Satan's girls, her unmistakable Brooklyn accent is also on the dub track), some cheap gore effects (where the blood is that bright red early-70's color) and countless scenes of naked women with very small breasts (this was before the augmentation age). The final five minutes are what give this film it's notoriety. Film huckster Allan Shackleton bought THE SLAUGHTER from the Findlays (after an unsuccessful theatrical run), hired Simon Nuchtern (SILENT MADNESS - 1984) to direct the finale which purportedly shows the actress who played Terry being slowly killed in an actual snuff film (nevermind that the woman that plays Terry in this sequence looks nothing like actress Mirtha Massa). It's apparent after viewing it that it's fake beyond belief, but Shackleton made sure that word got out that it was real before it was released, which caused a firestorm of protests from various watchdog groups and plenty of attention from the news media, which gave it great success at the boxoffice. This is one of the greatest examples of successful false advertising in the history of film. Forget that the film is basically a dog. Enjoy it for it's history and novelty factor. I did. Blue Underground had a novel way for releasing SNUFF on DVD. The sleeve is nothing but a facsimile of plain brown wrapping paper where there's nothing but the title and the film's original theatrical tag line: "The film that could only be made in South America...where life is CHEAP!" Nothing else, not even a Blue Underground logo. The DVD itself is even simpler: Just a fullscreen print (probably an open matte presentation) with no extras and no chapter stops. As soon as you put the disc in your DVD player, the film begins and when it ends, it starts all over again. A gutsy move on BU's part because it could be considered cheap by those not in on the gag. The film is also devoid of any credits except the title, the same way I remember seeing it in theaters in the mid-70's. This is the film that made the term "snuff film" a part of our vocabulary. The FBI still insists that snuff films don't exist. In today's video age, I have my doubts. A Blue Underground DVD Release. In 2013, Blue Underground released another DVD/Blu-Ray of this title, this time with plenty of extras, a reversible cover and in widescreen. If you don't want the grindhouse experience, then this is the version you want to watch. Not Rated. Originally Rated X when released to theaters.

SOCIETY (1989) - Billy (Billy Warlock) is having family problems. He tells his psychiatrist (Ben Slack) that his rich,  well-to-do parents favor his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings), even though he is about to become student body president of his high school class as well as being the school's star basketball player. Jenny is about to have a coming-out party and her ex-boyfriend David (Tim Bartell), an electronics wizard, suspects something is also wrong with the family. He puts a bug in Jenny's earring and records a disturbing conversation between Jenny and her parents. It seems her coming-out party involves sex with males and females, including her parents. The tape also suggests that the term "coming-out" may have more than one meaning. David plays the tape to Billy, who listens to it with disgust. Billy takes the tape and gives it to his psychiatrist, saying that it will prove that something is wrong with his family. The next day, when he goes back to the shrink's office, the tape contains only innocent dialog. David dies (?) in a car accident, with all copies of the tape missing. Any aquaintances of Billy's who are willing to help him also turn up dead, and half the town keep saying to him that he will make a "wonderful contribution to society." Billy is drugged by the psychiatrist (with his parents blessings) but escapes the hospital where he was taken. He decides to have a showdown with his family. Little does he realize that this was all an elaborate plan. His whole life has been bred for this moment. He is about to become dinner for The Society, a race of shape-shifting beings that have been on Earth as long as humans have. Will Billy survive? The real star of this film are the surrealist effects of Screaming Mad George. His creations are a marvel to behold (as well as being extremely gooey). I don't want to spoil anything for you, but the shunting scene has to be seen to be believed. You will also see a man's head appear through the crack of his ass (he's called Butthead), along with the sight of a man being pulled inside out. Fantastic stuff! Director Brian Yuzna also made BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1989) and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT IV: INITIATION (1990), both utilizing the talents of George, as well as THE DENTIST 1 & 2 (1996 & 1998), PROGENY (1998) and FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED (2000) . He also directed parts of NECRONOMICON: BOOK OF THE DEAD (1993). SOCIETY may not be to everyone's taste, but for the adventurous, it will be rewarding. The abrupt ending is a letdown, though. The VHS, released by Republic Pictures Home Video, is edited. A lot of the shunting finale is cut due to nudity and graphic makeup effects. You would be better off with the unedited stand-alone or double feature DVD from Anchor Bay, with the film SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. Available in a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack from Arrow Films. If it's Rated R,it's the edited version. If it is Not Rated, this is the version you want.

SODOMA'S GHOST (1988) - Six really obnoxious Americans, in their haste to make it to Paris before nightfall (the Range Rover they are in is in less than stellar condition), make a wrong turn on some backwoods road and end up at an abandoned house where, years before, Nazis would hold decadent, drug-fueled orgies just before the end of World War II. When they enter the house, the Americans find the inside of the house in extremely good condition, with fresh fruit and food lining banquet tables and a 78 rpm record playing on a Victrola, as if someone were ready to have a party (or maybe an orgy?). The stupid Americans help themselves to the food and well-stocked wine cellar and then decide to spend the night. Have these idiots lived in a cave all their lives? Don't they know what happens to people who spend the night in strange houses? That night, they are visited by the ghosts of the house, including sadistic Willy the Nazi (Robert Egon), who knows all the Americans' innermost desires and fears and uses them to feed his lust. When the Americans try to leave the next morning, they find that all roads lead to the same destination: Right back to the house. Their car finally breaks down and they are forced to stay in the house until help arrives. They use the phone in the house to call for help, but it seems the only number that works is to the local cemetery. It's not long before they are all trapped in the house, as all the windows and doors becomes locked by some supernatural force. Rather than working together to find a way out, they turn on each other, freak out or get drunk, which is the perfect opportunity for Willy to play mind games with each one. He uses such tricks as Russian Roulette, a lesbian Nazi succubus (Zora Kerova) and rape to turn the friends on each other, which results in murder. A canister containing a roll of 16mm film holds the clues as to why this is all happening and the house tries to stop the remaining Americans from viewing it. When they do view it, they suddenly wake up in a cemetery and everyone is alive, the house nothing but a foundation with crumbling walls. They all hop in their car and leave. The End. What the fuck?!?  This totally predictable and minor horror film is one of famed director Lucio Fulci's (LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN - 1971; ZOMBIE - 1979; MURDER ROCK - 1984) lesser latter-day horror films. While Fulci fills the film with female nudity, the horror elements are hackneyed and uninteresting. What I find most insulting, though, is that Fulci chose to make the victims a bunch of aggravating Americans. It's obvious that most of them are portrayed by Italians, so I can only come up with two conclusions why Fulci made them Americans: The first reason is Americans make the film more likely to be purchased for release in English-speaking territories, but this never got a legal U.S. release on home video. The second reason (and the one I believe to be true) is that Fulci just wanted to make the victims Americans because, in his mind, they are the logical choice to be tortured by the Nazis. For a Fulci flick, the gore is rather sparse (just a pretty gross rapidly-decaying body and a shot of a woman's breasts turning to goo when touched) and, in the orgy scenes, the men keep their pants on when screwing the women. The only scene that generates any suspense is when Willy plays a game of Russian Roulette with Mark (Claudio Aliotti), but even then there's no final payoff. It ends without a single shot being fired. It's also obvious that the screenplay, by Fulci and Carlo Alberto Alfieri, lacked a tangible ending, so they resorted to the tired "it was all a dream" finale. Do yourself a favor and avoid this at all costs because it's apparent Fulci made this without his patented mean streak. His heart definitely wasn't in it. Fulci would use clips from this film in his 1990 horror film A CAT IN THE BRAIN (a.k.a. NIGHTMARE CONCERT), which is much more effective than this. Also known as THE GHOSTS OF SODOM (original title: IL FANTASMA DI SODOMA, which is the title used on the print available on the no-frills DVD from British label EC Entertainment). Also starring Maria Concetta Salieri, Luciana Ottaviana, Teresa Razzaudi, Sebastian Harrison and Alan Johnson. There is also a U.S. DVD available, but since it was released by pirate label Televista, it's best not to speak further about it. Not Rated.

SOLE SURVIVOR (1982) - Denise Watson (Anita Skinner), a television commercial director, is the sole survivor of a plane crash. She escapes the crash unscathed much to the surprise of her hospital doctor, Brian (Kurt Johnson), who soon becomes her boyfriend. Death refuses to let her go as she is visited repeatedly by dead people with blank staring eyes (a real creepy effect) who try to cause her death, including a little soaking-wet girl who tries to crush her with a truck (We later find out that the little girl was in the hospital morgue and disappeared for a short time.). Karla Davis (Caren Larkey), an actress who is starring in Denise's coffee commercial, is psychic and warns Denise that she is in mortal danger. Brian attributes all of Denise's troubles to "survivor's syndrome", an affliction which causes the survivor of any major disaster to feel guilty about being alive. He suggests she go see a psychiatrist. Denise doesn't need a shrink, she needs a miracle if she is going to stay alive. Real trouble begins to happen when one of Denise's friends, Kristy (Robin Davidson), is drowned in her swimming pool by some unknown person (It turns out to have been done by a man that has been dead for at least two days.). The cops think Denise is crazy because she is taking anti-depressants and was drinking at the time of the attack. Brian begins to believe Denise as he investigates and finds that the corpses have all died standing up! Much more is about to happen to Denise and none of it is good, especially when Kristy begins walking around carrying a butcher knife, kills a lecherous cabbie and decides to pay Denise a visit. This is kind of a cross between CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) and the much-later FINAL DESTINATION (2000). It's a spooky concoction that doesn't skimp on the scares. Director Thom Eberhardt (who also made the cult comedy/horror film NIGHT OF THE COMET [1984] and the comedy/mystery WITHOUT A CLUE [1988]) leaves no room for comedy here (except for a small strip poker bit) and gives us one humdinger of an ending. This has bits of gore (including a person torn in half at the plane crash) and nudity, but strangely didn't need it because the story (also by Eberhardt) is engrossing without being gross. I loved this film and you should too. Not to be confused with the 1970 TV-Movie with the same name. A Vestron Video Release. Also available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE (1986) - Minor slasher film that's a lesser variation of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982), yet both films are intricately linked (both were financed by Roger Corman [who is the uncredited Executive Producer here] and directed and written by women). After a pretty creepy and atmospheric first ten minutes, this film quickly degenerates into standard stalk 'n' slash material. Beth (Angela O'Neill; ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989), who is mourning the death of the aunt who raised her, decides to spend time with some female friends at their sorority house to help her overcome her grief. From the moment she steps through the door of the sorority house, Beth is overwhelmed with the feeling that she has been there before, apparently when she was a young girl, but she has no memory of her childhood years due to a traumatic event that she has blocked from her memory. She also begins to have a psychic link with Bobby (John C. Russell), a psychopath in an insane asylum who hasn't spoken a word since he was committed. Until now. He says one single word, "Laura", kills an orderly and escapes from the asylum. The first thing Bobby does is go to a sporting goods store, grabs a knife, stabs the clerk in the stomach, steals a car and heads to the sorority house. Beth begins having visions of people being killed in the house, but as we will soon find out, they're not visions at all. They're repressed memories from her childhood. Of course, most of the sorority sisters leave the house for Spring Break, leaving Beth and a handful of girls, along with some horny guys who come over for a night of sex and scary stories, to fend for themselves when Bobby shows up and begins killing them one-by-one. Under hypnosis (performed by one of the sorority sisters, who has taken a psychology class and therefore is an expert at the practice!), we find out that Bobby is actually Beth's brother (no surprise there, as it's telegraphed early on) who murdered his three other young sisters in the house years before. Beth or, rather Laura (Beth is her middle name), escaped the slaughter before Bobby could do her in, too. All her repressed memories come back to Beth like a flash flood and after Bobby kills everyone else in the house, Beth and Bobby face-off in a knife duel to the death. A CARRIE-inspired shock ending follows.  The first thing you'll notice about this film is that even though it's directed and written by a woman, it's still full of female nudity and bloody violence. This only proves how crafty Roger Coman is as a producer. Feminists couldn't possibly complain about a slasher film being misogynistic when it was directed by a woman, could they? Director/scripter Carol Frank, who worked as an assistant to director Amy Jones on SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (and never made another film after this), opens the film on a fairly creepy note, with slow-motion tracking shots of the camera gliding through various empty rooms of the sorority house, while Beth has a nightmare of three young girls warning her not to go into the house, ending with Beth walking into the dining room where three creepy dolls are sitting around a table. Unfortunately, the film pretty much goes steadily downhill from there, dissolving into tiresome dialogue scenes of dream interpretation, hypnosis and generic slasher material, where director Frank clearly represents Bobby's constant need to stab things as a metaphor for his pent-up sexual desires. Bobby's motivation for killing his sisters is never overtly revealed, which also diminishes the scare factor. There are a few bloody stabbings, but since all of the deaths are by stabbing, there's no variety to the killings. A good slasher knows when to change-up on the weapons he uses. Like SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, this film spawned two sequels (the third one, directed by Jim Wynorski, titled HARD TO DIE [1990] is probably the best in the series) and SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II (1990) is padded-out with scenes from the first SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE film, further cementing the relationship between the two series, even if that connection is nothing but Corman's propensity to re-use footage as a cost-cutting measure (In other words, he's cheap). At 74 minutes long (there's rumors of an 86 minute British edit, but I don't recall if anyone has actually seen it), SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE is an OK, if routine, slasher film for fans of the genre. If it managed to maintain the intensity of it's first ten minutes, it would have been a classic. Also starring Wendy Martel, Pamela Ross, Nicole Rio, Marcus Vaughter, Vinnie Bilancio, Joe Nassi and Robert Axelrod (REPO JAKE - 1990; here using the name "Axel Roberts") as insane asylum orderly Larry. Originally released on VHS by Warner Home Video and later released on VHS & DVD and later on  a double feature DVD (with the first sequel), all in fullscreen, by New Horizons Home Video. Also available on widescreen Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber/Scorpion Releasing, which is the only way to watch it. Rated R.

SPASMS (1982) - This one had promise but, in the end, it turns up craps. Hunter Oliver Reed hires a group of mercenaries to capture a monster snake on an unnamed island, where years before the snake killed his brother and bit him, giving him a pyschic sense to see through the serpent's eyes. The snake is captured and brought back to the States, where Reed hires scientist Peter Fonda to find out why the snake and him have a psychic link. Of course the snake escapes, thanks to Reed's neice (Kerrie Keene), and it attacks everyone who gets in it's way. The serpent's bite causes the inflicted to swell up and burst, causing gory agony before death. There's also a subplot about a cult of snake-worshippers who try and steal the serpent for their own means. Unfortunately, none of this goes anywhere as the production ran out of money before they could film the finale and the movie is stuffed with too many POV shots and scenes are repeated over and over to pad out the running time. The finale is so sudden, that it makes the bulk of the film seem moot. There are a few positives: The late Al Waxman's death in a van is juicy (thanks to makeup artist extrodinairre Dick Smith), the snake attack scene while a girl is taking a shower is suspenseful and some scenes do build up tension. There's also a song by Tangerine Dream made expressly for this film. But the negatives outweigh the positives. When we finally do get a look at the serpent, it's laughable, looking like a relative of REPTILICUS (1961). Peter Fonda phones in his performance here; he's probably only in this for some quick blow money. And don't get me started on the ending: It's so disjointed and confusing, that I left deep gouges on the top of my head from scratching it. There are enough loose threads in SPASMS to knit a sweater. Director William Fruet also made HOUSE BY THE LAKE (a.k.a. DEATH WEEKEND - 1976), FUNERAL HOME (1980), KILLER PARTY (1986) and the extremely weird (and mistitled) BLUE MONKEY (1987) as well as directing many genre TV series up to this day. A Thorn EMI Home Video Release. Also available in anamorphic widescreen DVD from Code Red. SPASMS is also known as DEATH BITE. Rated R.

SPAWN OF THE SLITHIS (1977) - WARNING: Gratuitous slo-motion shots of a fat kid running dead ahead! When said kid and his frisbee-loving friend find a skinned dog lying by a riverbed, it starts a chain of events which leads journalism teacher Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard) to believe a creature may be responsible. When a bickering couple are savagely slaughtered in their home, Connors goes to the house and finds evidence to back up his claims. Unable to get the authorities to believe him, even after getting scientific proof from his scientist friend Dr. John (J.C. Claire), Connors goes off on his own and tries to destroy the creature. It seems the creature was created by a scientist (who is now horribly scarred about the face) at an oil company who was experimenting with radioactive mud, called Slithis, and the creature was a byproduct of those experiments. The creature starts turning up at an alarming rate and is first spotted by a bum ("Did you crap your pants again?" "Nah, I just farted!") who is camped out by the river with his friend. The police don't believe the bum's story, but Connors does, as more people and animals turn up dead. To get the proof he needs, Connors hires a diver to collect soil samples in the lake near a nuclear power plant. Connors and his friends devise a plan to trap the creature (using JAWS-inspired tactics) and hopefully rid the world of this flesh-hungry menace. As with most late 70's horror films, be prepared for a stinger in the finale. This is one of the last PG-rated monster flicks that was released during the 70's just before everything turned to blood and R-rated gore. While there are brief flashes of blood and gore on view here (it doesn't linger on it for more than a second), this film (also known simply as SLITHIS and NUCLEAR MONSTER) seems more inclined to dwell on the personal rather than the more horrific elements. Director/producer/writer Stephen Traxler (who also produced DRACULA'S WIDOW - 1989; and was production manager on  INVASION U.S.A. - 1985) would rather point out the plight of the homeless and the nuclear power controversy (a major subject during the 70's) and the effects that they both had on society. The creature, in other words, was a product of our ignorance and inability to control what we try to harness. Along the way, we witness the 70's phenomenons known as turtle racing, swingers, disco music and funky fashions (Did I really dress like that? I like to believe I didn't.) The creature, when fully seen, is a pretty formidable sight, but doesn't carry much screen time during the first sixty minutes. Still, this is not a film for the kiddies, as Traxler fills the screen with plenty of adult material, especially during the final 30 minutes, such as the scene where the creature seems to rape a woman on a boat (with surprising nudity). While talky in spots and unevenly acted, SPAWN OF THE SLITHIS is OK viewing for those who wish to be whisked-back several decades when a PG rating didn't automatically mean you were watching a dumbed-down kid's film.  Also starring Hy Pike (HACK-O-LANTERN - 1987) as the worst acting Chief of Police ever committed to the screen, Dennis Lee Falt, Mello Alexandria, Rocky Fumarelli and Win Condict as the creature. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. Released on DVD by Code Red. Rated PG.

SPECTRE (1996) - Another one of Executive Producer Roger Corman's haunted house thrillers that he made in Ireland during the 90's (KNOCKING ON DEATH'S DOOR [1998]; THE HAUNTING OF HELL HOUSE [1998] and THE DOORWAY [2000] are others). Will South (Greg Evigan; DEEPSTAR SIX - 1989), wife Maura (Alexandra Paul; PREY OF THE CHAMELEON - 1991) and young daughter Ashley (portrayed by Evigan's real-life daughter Briana Evigan) move to Ireland when one of Maura's relatives dies and she inherits a huge mansion called Glen Abbey Manor. Will and Maura's marriage is strained due to Will having an affair back in the States, so they look at this move as a first step in repairing their relationship. What they don't know is that this house comes with a lot of supernatural baggage (In the beginning of the film, we witness a maid being attacked by rats and then killed when her car mysteriously blows up when she tries to escape the house). Almost immediately after the Souths move in, strange things begin to happen. Aubrey is drawn to one of the many bedrooms and finds a doll (which she calls Colleen) that talks to her. Will's videotape footage of their move is distorted and shows a mysterious aura surrounding Aubrey. Maura's nerves are shaken when something keeps moving the furniture in the blink of an eye. When Will and Maura are awakened by Aubrey's screams and discover a semi-transparent demon looming over Aubrey's bed, they hire parapsychologist Dr. Edward Shea (Dick Donaghue) and his assistant Amy Wolfe (Mary Kate Ryan) to come to the house and find out just what in the hell is going on. Dr. Shea discovers that a young girl named Colleen was murdered in the house and when a possessed Aubrey leads them to her body, which was hidden behind a brick wall in the basement, they give Colleen's body a proper burial in the town cemetery and believe their haunting problems are now over. Far from it. At dinner that night, all hell breaks loose. The turkey dinner takes on a life of it's own, Dr. Shea is decapitated when he runs outside and Aubrey ends up missing. Father Seamus (Eamon Draper) explains to Will and Maura the history of the house. The house is possessed by an evil force and has taken Aubrey to replace Colleen. Their only hope of getting her back is to perform an ancient religious ceremony and return an amulet to it's proper place that Will removed when they moved in. They manage to get their daughter back, but their problems are far from over. The evil now possesses Maura and it uses Maura's fears of Will's continued cheating to make her believe that Will is having an affair with Amy, which drives a wedge into an already unstable marriage. Will must find a way to snap Maura out of the supernatural hold she is under before she kills Aubrey or herself. A dead Father Seamus leaves Will the tools he needs to get the job done back at his church, but can Will make it back to the house in time?  While nothing but a low-budget rip-off of POLTERGEIST (1982) with a little bit of THE HAUNTING (1963) thrown in for good measure, SPECTRE (also known as HOUSE OF THE DAMNED) is a lot bloodier than the Tobe Hooper frightfest and even tosses in a lot of female nudity and a couple of good scares. Even though it's apparent that this was made for very little money, director Scott Levy (UNKNOWN ORIGIN - 1995; PIRANHA - 1995) manages to generate some truly suspenseful scenes and bloody set-pieces, including the opening scene of the maid perishing in her car; the dinner where the turkey being served becomes the aggressor; and the sequence where they find Colleen's body. The film does fall apart in the final third (the house fire that closes the film is as cheap and fake-looking as you'll ever see) and Brendan Broderick's screenplay does depend too much on haunted house clichés (disembodied moaning; objects flying through the air and crashing against the wall), but the beautiful Ireland location photography, nudity and bloodletting makes for a mildly diverting 83 minutes of supernatural thrills. The cast does well with what they're given to do and first-timer Briana Evigan is surprisingly good as a child under constant danger. She may have gotten the role because she was Greg Evigan's daughter, but she acquits herself nicely. Also starring Columba Heneghan, Helena Walsh, Marie Stafford and Adife O'Grady as Colleen. Not to be confused with Gene Roddenberry's SPECTRE (1977), one of his many failed 70's TV pilots, which, nevertheless was an entertaining film starring Robert Culp and Gig Young as occult investigators. Available on VHS & DVD from New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.

SPIKER (2008) - Shot at various locations around Long Island, NY, this minor horror film, directed by and starring Frank Zagarino (CY WARRIOR: SPECIAL COMBAT UNIT - 1989), opens with notorious albino serial killer Adam Brandis (Zagarino), who is better known as "The Spiker" (for his penchant for dispatching his victims with railroad spikes), escaping after being transferred from prison (where he has spent the last twenty years) to a rehabilitation facility when a judge determines he can become a productive member of society. Won't these liberals ever learn? After jumping off the ferry transporting him to the hospital, Brandis disappears, much to the chagrin of Sheriff Paxton (Lou Martini Jr.), who was a rookie cop when Brandis slaughtered 27 citizens in the town he is now in charge of protecting. The Police Search and Rescue Squad determines that Brandis has drowned, but Sheriff Paxton (and the audience) knows better. Brandis walks out of the water and kills a man who is (conveniently) repairing a dock using railroad spikes, so the Spiker now has all the equipment he needs to go on another killing spree. He then walks the rails of a railroad track until he comes to an old deserted house from his past, which is now (conveniently) being used as Party Central by three teenage jocks and their cheerleading girlfriends (who don't bother changing out of their cheerleading outfits until they get to the house!). One of the girls, Nikki (Ginger Kroll), is (conveniently) the niece of Sheriff Paxton's deputy, Scott McLean (Mike Fedele). Another one of the girls, Lisa (Giselle Rodriguez), whose dead aunt, Elizabeth Shaw, (conveniently) use to live in the deserted house, seems to have some type of psychic link to the Spiker, especially after the third girl, goth chick Erin (Linda Johnson), holds a séance to contact Lisa's dead aunt. It seems that Elizabeth died the same day and year Lisa was born and, get this, it was also Elizabeth's wedding day (Would someone please stop all these convenient coincidences before my head falls off?). It's not long before Lisa is being visited by the ghost of her dead aunt (still dressed in her bridal gown) and the groundskeeper (Why would a deserted house need a groundskeeper?), a creepy guy named Clive Grendel (David 'Shark' Fralick), warns the horny teenagers to leave the house immediately. Do they listen? Of course not. As Lisa begins to slowly (and I do mean slowly) uncover the truth about the mysterious wedding day death of her aunt, Brandis goes into full Spiker mode, first killing Erin's boyfriend, Gary (Adam Shonkwiler), by planting a spike through his neck and another one through the back of his head until it protrudes out of his forehead and then turning his attention to Erin, throwing a spike into the back of her neck. The other four teens try to escape (conveniently, it's a dead zone for cell phone service), but the Spiker disables their truck by tossing Gary's severed head onto the engine. A long-dormant secret involving involving Elizabeth and Brandis may be the key to stopping Brandis from repeating a crime from the past, but the question remains: Who will survive before Deputy McLean and Sheriff Paxton arrive on the scene? It all ends on a rather depressing (and convenient) note that sets everything up for the inevitable sequel.  While it does have it's share of gory kills, SPIKER is nothing more than a crappy "teens in peril" horror flick that offers nothing new to the genre other than the killer's weapon of choice. Zagarino the actor wisely chooses to make is character a man of few words, so there's no jokey dialogue as he dispatches the cast and he does make for an imposing figure with his long white hair, red eyes and pale skin, but Zagarino the director (this is his third directorial effort, following the impossible-to-find FIST FIGHTER 2 [1993] and NEVER LOOK BACK [2000]) could have used better writing, as Richard Preston Jr.'s (DARK BREED - 1996) screenplay is mostly tired teen clichés wrapped around a mystery a five year-old could solve. The blood and gore flow rather freely during the final forty minutes, including spikes being driven and thrown in nearly every body part and a nasty death by axe, but the plot is so common, I can hardly recommend this to anyone but diehard slasher fanatics who must see every slasher film ever made. SPIKER technical qualities are very poor (although I did like how some of the local actors didn't try to disguise their Long Island accents and there's a pretty good CGI shot of Zagarino throwing a spike at Lisa in the finale) and there's nothing here that hasn't been done at least a thousand times before and a hundred times better. Originally filmed under the title BLOOD RAILS. Producer Michael J. Hein previously directed the low-budget shocker BIOHAZARDOUS (2001). Also starring Matt Jared, Josh Folan and Carson Grant. An MTI Home Video DVD Release. Rated R.

SPLATTER UNIVERSITY (1981 - 1983) - First a little history on this film: When director Richard W. Haines finished shooting and editing this film in 1981, it clocked-in at a measly 65 minutes and no distributor would touch it. Over the next couple of years, Haines and his team shot an additional 14 minutes of footage and Troma Films picked it up for distribution in 1984 in two versions: a 78-minute R-Rated version and a 79-minute Unrated version (This was actually the first Unrated VHS tape I purchased [from Vestron Video] and I still own it to this day). Lloyd Kaufman gave himself an "Associate Producer" credit (Which means he did...nothing) and he and Kaufman (using the pseudonym "Samuel Weil") would co-direct CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH in 1986 and Haines would direct the extremely gory ALIEN SPACE AVENGER in 1989 (Better known for filming in 35mm three-strip Technicolor, a process that wasn't used for years. Even the VHS versions of the film looked fantastic.). He would direct about a dozen more films (and I wish he would direct more), but he is a walking film encyclopedia. I use to talk to him a lot on a film forum that is hardly in use today (if you go to the forum, you can actually see tumbleweeds blow across your computer screen) until some people would be confrontational towards him (some people just can't take others being smarter than they are) and made his life as difficult as possible, so he was either banned or just quit. Like me, he didn't suffer fools gladly and never held back, giving the offenders both barrels (Just for information: I was banned from that forum, too.) and always spoke his mind. Maybe that is why I appreciate the man. But this is a review site and I don't kiss ass because I like someone, but I have to say that even with all the gaffes, this is an extremely bloody and quick-moving slasher film and not bad for a freshman effort (I suppose it would be made into a "found footage" flick today, because most freshmen directors of this new generation can't afford high-end digital cameras or musicians for a soundtrack). While I would hardly call this film good, it rises head and shoulders above most DTV slasher films today and the blood flows like wine very often (especially in the Unrated version; I have never watched the R-Rated version for a comparison). Back then, the MPAA were real bastards to independent films, while most films from major companies would get a pass. The MPAA would never tell the independents what to edit out to achieve an R-Rating, so sometimes they would cut out a few frames from each kill and other times they would edit a kill out completely. You had to fly by the seat of your pants. Imagine this: If Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL (2003) were released by an independent, do you think the film would have received an R-Rating? Especially with all the limbs being cut off and blood flowing like geysers? I highly doubt it. But I digress... Paranoid schzophrenic William Grayham (Who some orderlies in the end call "Daniel". I guess three years of filming can make you forget.) has escaped his cell at a mental institution and since he is considered homicidal, it results in a lockdown and a building-wide search (We watch a patient give a mannequin head and then himself the "two finger eye-poke", one of a few Three Stooges tributes in this film, but you really have to look and listen for them). Grayham stabs an orderly in the groin when he finds him hiding in a janitor's closet, and he strips the orderly naked (we see the orderly laying up against a sink, his underwear all bloody) and puts on his clothes, covering up the bloody crotch on the pants with a lab coat, leaving the building.  "St. Trinians College, three years later:" Teacher Janet Phillips (Donna Hartman) is working late in her empty classroom when there is a knock at her door. She opens the door and a hand holding a knife stabs Janet in the heart, her blood spilling everywhere. "St. Trinians College, the next semester, yesterday..." (Now what the fuck does that mean?). New teacher Julie Parker (Francine Forbes) is interviewing for the position that Janet Phillips held with wheelchair bound school headmaster Father Janson (Dick Biel). He tells her all about what happened to Janet and that some applicants walked out of the interview when he told them the truth. He likes Julie because she is not superstitious and hires her. Julie rents an apartment and gets the skinny of all the killings from her busybody landlady that have been happening in town, not just Janet's. We then see a bunch of teenage punks having arguments with their chicks and Cathy (Kathy Lacommare) heads to her dorm room when the guys go to score some drugs. On her first day of teaching, Julie is being monitored by Father Perkins (director Haines, here using the name "Rick Haines") when one of the wiseass students says they should talk about the new anti-abortion bill and Julie reluctantly agrees since all of the other students (who treat Julie like she has the plague) stay silent. After class is over, Julie is in Father Janson's office getting her ass chewed-out over her choice of subjects (this is a Catholic college) because she was ratted out by Father Perkins. She notices Father Janson's hands twitching, as his fingernails tap on his desktop. Doreen (Joanna Mihalakis) leaves the local diner, gets in her car and Grayham slices her across the top of her forehead and throws her in a dumpster. Julie asks fellow teacher Mark (Ric Randig) about what really happened to Janet and he tells her the truth (except for one vital bit of information), even going as far as to say he believes the killer works at the college. When Julie gets back to her apartment, her nosy landlady hands her a package addressed to her, which she thinks is strange since she hasn't had time to tell anyone her new address. When she opens the package, it is filled with religious books and pamphlets, which she drops to the floor and goes to sleep. "Three weeks later:" Julie feels as if her class is conspiring against her. She is also now dating Mark. Cathy tells Julie that she is pregnant and Julie tells her the best thing to do is talk to Father Janson. Cathy and Tom (Ken Gershon; who doesn't know Cathy is pregnant) go to a drive-in movie ("Nine Bucks? I just want to watch the movie, not own it!") and Grayham shines a flashlight into their car. Tom gets out to confront the stranger, but when he doesn't come back, Cathy gets out of the car to go look for him. Grayham bloodily slits Cathy's throat and when Tom returns to the car, he finds Cathy's blood-soaked body inside. There are enough red herrings in this film to fill up a sardine can (I haven't even told you about Father Williams [Dan Eaton] and his predilection for schoolgirls), but when Cynthia (Laura Gold) tells Julie that Mark was dating Janet when she was killed, Julie becomes outraged and, with Cynthia's help, breaks into Mark's apartment, where she finds a locked drawer full of newspaper headlines about Janet and the unknown killer. Julie manages to escape Mark's apartment just in time before he comes back, but he looks out the window when he sees that his desk was messed with and sees Cynthia driving Julie away. When the students complain that one of the bathrooms is locked, Julie uses her keys and everyone is shocked to see the bloody corpse of Cynthia. Is Mark the killer or is he being set up? In quick succession, a teacher taking a pee in the ladies room is graphically stabbed to death in a stall. Student Denise (Denise Texera) is stabbed in her mouth when she opens her bedroom closet. When Mark tries to call Julie, she keeps hanging up on him. Julie calls Father Janson and tells him she thinks she knows who the killer is, so the good Father says he will leave a side door open for her so she can enter the college and talk to him in his office. Mark shows up at Julie's door and she has to knee him in the nuts and hit him over the head with a vase. Mark was trying to tell her something important, but Julie doesn't give him the chance, as she hops in her car and heads to the college. When Julie makes it to Father Janson's office, she quickly discovers that he is actually William Grayham, as he gets out of his wheelchair, pulls out a knife hidden in the handle of a huge crucifix that hangs on his wall and tries to use it on Julie. Julie is forced to kick him in the crotch and she runs away, with Janson/Grayham holding his balls while chasing her (this got a good laugh from me). Mark arrives at the college, but can't find an open door to get inside. Julie hides in a ladies room, but discovers the bloody corpse of the teacher (You have to freeze-frame to see that her intestines are in her lap while she is sitting on the throne and there's "Though We Walk" written in her blood on the wall.). Julie screams when she sees the terrible sight and has to leave the ladies room. Julie takes a freight elevator to the bottom floor and as the door opens Janson/Grayham is waiting for her and uses his crucifix knife to stab her in the lower back and pushes the knife upwards towards her neck, killing her (quite a shocking surprise for a heroine to get killed in a slasher film in the early-80's). Mark finally discovers the open door and finds Julie's dead body in the elevator. Father Janson gets back in his wheelchair and calls the police, saying he heard a woman scream. Mark talks to Father Janson when he notices a single stream of blood on the wall coming from the crucifix. We next see William Grayham in a strait-jacket and a rubber room (This is where one of the orderlies mistakenly calls him "Daniel" Grayham instead of William. He also makes the mistake of saying Willian "Daniel" Grayham worked at St. Trinians College for two years, when it clearly stated in the beginning of the film that he has been there three years.) The film ends with William Grayham railing against women and how they ruined his life.  Besides some sloppy dialogue (full of timeline errors), boom mike appearances, reflections of the crew in windows and flubbed lines (In Haines' defense, he was supposed to have free use at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY during Spring Break for two weeks, but the school cut it down to one week, so Haines had to make do with a lot of first takes when filming at the school.), the movie moves quickly and there is plenty of blood and gore. Even with all the mistakes, this is a pretty good freshman effort and Haines has nothing to be ashamed of here. Be aware that the old DVD from Elite Entertainment was the R-Rated version in widescreen, but the Amazon "exclusive digitally remastered" DVD and streamed versions (the way I watched it) are the Unrated version, look to be sourced from tape masters and are in fullscreen, so you'll have to pick your own poison (I'll take the Unrated edition any day). Co-screenwriters John Elias Michalakis (as "John Michaels") and Miljan Peter Ilich were Director and Executive Producer respectively of I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE (1987). Also starring Suzy Collins, Sal Lumetta, Noel Stilphen, Clifford Warren, Mary Ellen David, George Seminara, Jim Martin, Charles Brukhardt, Jonathan Schwartz and John Michaels. Go to Amazon.com and pick out which version you want. Unrated or Rated R versions available.

SPOOKIES (1985) - Here's a horror film that will have you scratching your head so much that, by the time it is finished, you'll need to go to the hospital to stop the bleeding. The fact that it took three people to direct it, four people to write it and four people to produce it, makes it all the more confounding. You would have thought one of these people would have said, Wait a minute! Is it just me or does none of this make any sense?" Here's what I have been able to decipher: A seemingly immortal old man with supernatural powers, who goes by the name Kreon (Felix Ward), summons a divergent group of people to his crumbling mansion with the express purpose of reanimating his long-dead love, Isabelle (Maria Pechukas). The group of people include four teenage punks, four button-down business types and thirteen year-old runaway Billy (Alec Nemser). After fooling around with an ouija board, one of the girls is possessed and turns into an old hag. Another guy is pulled underground in a graveyard and the rest are trapped in the mansion when the dead rise from the graveyard outside. Also making life difficult for the group is Kreon's servant (Dan Scott), a creature with a hook on one arm and a cat-like paw on the other (he purrs when around Kreon, who calls him "My Kitty"). Kitty savagely slashes Billy across the face and buries him alive. The group is attacked by farting Muck Men carrying pickaxes (they are eventually dissolved in wine), one girl is bitten by a small lizard creature (it looks like a GHOULIES reject), one girl is dissolved (via stop-motion animation) by a monster with an exposed heart, a statue of the Grim Reaper comes to life and slashes some people and a Chinese lady turns into a spider woman and sucks the life out of another guy. The film concludes with a reanimated Isabelle killing Kreon and then being chased by a bunch of zombies in a graveyard. She gets away, thanks to a good samaritan who picks her up in a car, only to find out that Kreon is not dead. Confused? Join the club.  If you need to know why the film seem so disjointed, it's because SPOOKIES is actually two different unfinished films were stitched together (Thomas Doran and Brendan Faulkner's TWISTED SOULS and Eugenie Joseph's GOBLIN) to form this abomination. The film is a total washout except for some good old-fashioned makeup effects. This is nothing more than a series of makeup effects set pieces, some good (the spider woman transformation; the final zombie attack) and some bad (the lizard creature; the fart monsters). The effects come courtesy of Arnold Gargiulo, Vincent Guastini, Gabe Bartalos and Jennifer Aspinal, all excellent artists, but one gets the impression that there wasn't a lot of prep time involved (the opticals are especially weak). Another clue that the film suffered a lot of post-production tinkering is Billy's story. The film opens with runaway Billy celebrating his thirteenth birthday alone. We get involved in his character only to have him buried alive a few minutes later and we never see him again. Here's another sign of trouble: It had twelve assistant editors. Even they couldn't salvage a story with the footage that they had because the finale makes absolutely no sense and it leaves the fate of three characters up in the air. Do yourself a favor and let this one pass you by. Too many cooks made a meal no one could ever eat. Also starring A.J. Lowenthal, Peter Dain, Nick Gionta, Lisa Friede, Peter Iasillo Jr. and Soo Paek as the Spider Woman. A Sony Video Software Company Release. NOTE: Streaming channel B-Movie TV (only available by Roku) shows a tightly-edited 53-minute version, which seems to be the TWISTED SOULS cut, without Billy. It makes a lot more sense than this cobbled-together version. Rated R.

SRIGALA (1981) - Here it is, folks: An Indonesian version of FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980). Since this film isn't dubbed or subtitled in English and my Indonesian is a little rusty, here's what I can make out: Three treasure hunters go to an abandoned camp in the woods (the sign reads "Siru Angsana") and use scuba gear to dive for submerged treasure in the adjoining lake. Their hunt is put in jeopardy when two women, Nina and Kristy, and their male friend, Bonno, decide to use the lake as a vacation getaway. When Nina nearly drowns while swimming in the lake, one of the treasure hunters (Berry "Barry" Prima) saves her and it's not long before a romance develops between them, which pisses off his stern boss. When Kristy hooks up with Johan, the othe young treasure hunter, their boss gets even more pissed off. What the six people really have to worry about, though, is the mysterious killer dressed in black (complete with black gloves and ski mask) who is watching their every move. The mystery killer disrupts the treasure hunters' next outing on the lake by trying to run them over in a power boat, even throwing dynamite into the water! Prima (his character's name in unpronouncable, so I'm just gonna call him "Prima") gives chase in his boat, which results in the mystery killer crashing the power boat into the jagged rocks on shore, the boat exploding into a fireball. The three treasure hunters recover a huge wooden crate from the lake and when they open it, all they find is a rotting human body, which they intend to turn over to the police the next day (Nina has a nightmare that night that three corpses rise from the lake, carry her to the crate, then throw her in it and close the lid). A bad thunderstorm blows in which forces Nina, Kristy and Bonno to abandon their tent and stay with the treasure hunters in the cabin. It's at this time that the shit hits the fan. When Kristy goes to take a shower, the killer splits her head open with an axe. The killer then slams Bonno's head under the hood of a Land Rover and then uses the Land Rover to run over the Boss. Johan gets speargunned and Prima gets impaled with a pitchfork. All that is left is Nina, who gets a visit from another female friend, who turns out to be the killer (she's the Mrs. Vorhees of this film). She relates a story to Nina (told in flashback) about her involvement of the murdered body in the crate and how she tried to cover it up by putting the body in the lake. Since the body has been discovered, she has no choice but to kill everyone who saw it. She then goes after Nina with a machete, but Nina fights back and defeats her attacker with a machete blow to the heart (I guess the filmmakers couldn't afford a decapitation).  This slow-moving horror film, directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra (PRIMITIVES - 1978; THE WARRIOR - 1981), takes forever to get moving and when the killings finally happen, Putra pulls away instead of showing the violence, which is strange considering the graphic bloodshed shown in his other films. Kristy's death by axe is only shown as shadows on a wall, Bonno's head-crushing is viewed only in a long shot and when the Boss is run over, we only see a close-up of his face with blood coming out of his mouth. Though we do not actually see Barry Prima (THE DEVIL'S SWORD - 1984; REVENGE OF NINJA - 1984) get killed, we do see his body impaled on a pitchfork later on. As with most Indonesian exploitation films, there are a couple of "What The Fuck?" moments, one of them being when Nina and Kristy begin fighting each other like two kung-fu masters (complete with exaggerated sound effects) for no apparent reason that I could discern (again, I don't speak the language, so I could have missed something). That scene does set up the finale, where Nina takes on the mystery woman. I dare you not to laugh at Nina's sudden changeover from victim to victor. After being uncerimoniously slapped around and abused, she then takes a martial arts stance and proceeds to beat the crap out of her attacker and then stabs her in the heart just to make sure we know she means business! The ending is a scene-by-scene steal of the original FRIDAY THE 13TH shock coda, complete with Nina in a canoe out in the middle of the lake, the police waving her in and a Jason-like creature jumping out of the water to grab her out of the canoe, all while a faux Harry Manfredini score plays on the soundtrack! If you don't mind derivative filmmaking and can watch a film in a strange language with no English help, SRIGALA (when translated, means "Fox") may be worth a few chuckles. Just don't go in expecting the graphic bloodletting normally associated with films from Indonesia, because you will be disappointed. It's not exactly dry, but it's not as wet as it should have been since it was made made for Rapi Films, Indonesia's premiere purveyors of sleazy entertainment. Also starring Lydia Kandou, S. Parya, Siska Widowati, Dorman Borisman, Rudy Salam and Meike Wijaya. I couldn't make out any other credits because the fullscreen print I viewed was severely cropped and projected dead-center, cutting off all the credits on both ends (the film's title only shows "IGA" on-screen!). Video label unavailable. Not Rated.

STING OF DEATH (1965) - For more on director William Grefe, a filmmaker who specialized in regional South Florida genre films, see my reviews of DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966) and STANLEY (1972). STING OF DEATH is Grefe's first stab at a horror film and it's a lulu. Teens in bikini's grooving poolside while Neil Sedaka sings "Do The Jellyfish" (Sedaka, who never appears on-screen here, actually co-stars in 1965's PLAYGIRL KILLER and sings "Waterbug" by a poolside!), plenty of beautiful Florida Everglades photography and a walking jellyfish monster whose tentacles cause the film's title, so what more could you ask for? The film opens with Ruth, a buxom blonde in a black bikini seemingly without a care in the world, who is listening to a portable radio where a newscaster announces that the police are baffled as to why fishermen have been disappearing off the coast of South Florida. Poor Ruth is about to discover the reason why, as the jellyfish monster is slowly sneaking up one her as she sunbathes on a dock, reaching up out of the water, pulling her under (the monster also has hands, something real jellyfish lack!) and dragging her lifeless body by her hair to it's lair. It seems Ruth was the assistant to Dr. Richardson (Jack Nagle) and Dr. John Hoyt (Joe Morrison), who are on a secluded island doing experiments on marine life (hmmm...I wonder if those experiments have anything to do with jellyfish?). Dr. Richardson beautiful daughter Karen (Valerie Hawkins) arrives on the island with four equally beautiful female friends, who get a jolt when Dr. Richardson's facially deformed assistant, Egon (John Vella), makes a sudden appearance (something he does a lot in this film). Sheriff Bob (Robert Stanton) shows up by boat and has something to show both the doctors: The dead body of one of the missing fisherman that John thinks was stung by a Portuguese Man-O-War, but the sting marks are much too big for any jellyfish he has seen. Egon believes it is possible to cultivate a jellyfish that size, but Dr. Richardson, John and Sheriff Bob ignore him (they shouldn't). A bunch of wild grad students show up by boat for a pool party in Karen's honor (they all start doing the Twist and the Frug as soon as they set foot on the dock, while the cameramen make sure to get plenty of tight shots of women shaking their asses!), where they all make fun of Egon's deformities (over Karen and John's objections) before he escapes on an airboat and the partygoers form a conga line to the pool. By this time, it's apparent to the viewers (if not the cast) that Egon, who has the hots for Karen, has been performing illicit experiments on himself at his secret underwater lair and that he's actually the jellyfish monster. The monster Egon (portrayed by Doug Hobart, who played Tartu in DEATH CURSE OF TARTU, which was shot back-to-back with this) plans on getting even with the partygoers, hiding in the pool (toss all rationality out the window because no one sees his big black body in the clear pool water!) while everyone dances to Neil Sedaka's "Do The Jellyfish" ("Monkey, don't be a donkey. It's nothing like the Monkey! It isn't funky or anything that's junky! It's something swella! The jilla-jalla Jellyfish!" Oh...my...god!). Louise (Sandy Lee Kane) jumps in the pool and is attacked by the jellyfish man (who looks like a man in a wetsuit, flippers and an inflated clear plastic garbage bag over his head!), who then capsizes the partygoers' boat as they try to escape and killing them all by releasing jellyfish into the water. With the radio on the island destroyed (I wonder who did that?), Dr. Richardson, John, Karen and her female friends must fight off the Egon/jellyfish man, while Karen and John fall in love. Uh, oh, jellyfish man no likey!  Unlike TARTU, the bloodletting in William Grefe's STING OF DEATH is kept to a minimum and suffers because of it. The jellyfish man is also a ridiculously cheap creation and is about as scary as seeing your grandmother without her teeth in (thankfully, the monster isn't fully revealed until the finale). Fortunately, the fullscreen print Something Weird Video uses for their DVD (a double feature with TARTU) is vibrant, sharp and colorful, which makes all the underwater and Everglades scenery really "pop" and the brightly-colored 60's fashions stand out (Did I really dress like that? Why yes, I did!). There's really not much meat to Al Dempsey's screenplay (Dempsey was also editor on producer Richard Flink's LOVE GODDESSES OF BLOOD ISLAND [a.k.a. SIX SHES AND A HE - 1964], an unbelievable gore/sexploitationer whose only existing footage is included on the DVD as an extra), just a bunch of teens dancing, plenty of shots of the flipper-footed monster stalking his victims and nothing else (except for a really slow airboat chase during the finale). I was laughing out loud, though, at the sight of the capsized boat's passengers fighting off a school of jellyfish when it is apparent the "jellyfish" were nothing but plastic sandwich bags filled with air! A relic from the anything-goes 60's. Also starring Deanna Lund, Lois Etelman, Blanche Devereaux, Barbara Paridon, Judy Lee and Tony Gulliver. A Something Weird Video/ Image Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

STONES OF DEATH (1988) - Australian-made horror film that's a cross between A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) and POLTERGEIST (1982). The teens living on a newly-developed housing site are having a nightmare where an Aborigine witchdoctor hands them a crystal stone. When they wake up, the stone is resting on their pillow. Whoever receives the stone suffers a horrible death a short time later. A young girl, Gail (Zoe Carides), who lives in the development does an investigation and finds out that all the houses were built on a sacred Aboriginal burial ground, the site of a mass murder of young Aborigines by the White man a hundred years earlier. To make matters worse, it was Gail's father (Eric Oldfield) who built the development, fully knowing the history of the site. When Gail has the nightmare and receives the stone, she confronts her father and discovers that his company found a burial cave during escavation and did not report it to the authorities because it would have put an end to the development. Gail receives help from an old Aborigine tribesman (Steve Dodd), who gives her an ancient carving to fight the witchdoctor's evil powers. After a couple of close calls (Gail is attacked by a hand that pops out of the floor drain in the girls bathroom; her boyfriend becomes possessed and attacks Gail and her father), the tribes-man performs a ritual in the burial cave and frees Gail from the curse. Her father agrees to destroy all the houses and they live happily ever after. Interesting mainly as an indictment against the White man's treatment of the Aborigines (for more on the subject, see THE NAKED COUNTRY - 1985), this film does boast some good acting and some tense scenes but it is highly derivative of countless horror films. There are a couple of bloody murders (a dingo rips a girl's throat out; a boy is stung in the eye by a funnel spider) but there's not enough of the red stuff to make this film must-viewing for avid gorehounds. It's not that STONES OF DEATH is a bad film. On the contrary, it's quite well-made. It's just that it is overly familiar, like a recurring nightmare. Directed by James Bogle. A Sony Video Software Company Release. Rated R.

THE STRANGENESS (1980) - An earthquake reopens the abandoned Golden Spike mine, where 100 years ago workers refused to enter because of unexplained accidents and deaths, resulting in the dynamiting of the entrance. Since the mine was never played out of all its' gold, a team of explorers re-enter it hoping to hit the mother lode. The only lode they will find is the one in their pants, as they are trapped in the mine by a cave-in and are being picked-off one by one by a mostly unseen tentacled monster which legend says was placed there by Indians to keep the white man off their sacred land. The explorers not only have to contend with the creature, they also have to deal with the pit boss (Rolf Theison) who has a severe case of gold fever and is not above murder to keep the booty all to himself. After a rather long and dragged-out middle section, the film concludes with the last two survivors trying to destroy the creature and exit the mine at the same time. They succeed at one and fail at the other, leaving the film open for a sequel that, thankfully, was never made. The major drawback to this film is that it is so severely underlit it makes most of the action hard to see, thereby causing eyestrain. It's a shame too, because the creature (seen in stop-motion animation) is an interesting creation, sort of a cross between OCTAMAN (1970) and THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983). There is also some sparse gore on hand, like some bloody ripped-off body parts and a maggot infested corpse. Co-stars and co-producers Mark Sawicki and Chris Huntley (who also co-wrote the film) also handled all the effects work. The acting is uniformly amateurish but doesn't detract from the proceedings. As it stands, THE STRANGENESS (directed/co-written/co-produced by one-shot wonder David Michael Hillman, which is actually a pseudonym for Melanie Anne Phillips), could have been a lot more interesting if only a little more light was shed on the subject. This film was made a year before the infamous Jensen Farley Pictures, THE BOOGENS, was released. They both bear a strikingly similar plot. Hmmm... Also starring Terri Berland, Keith Hurt and Dan Lunham. A Trans World Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.

STUMP THE BAND (2006) - Maybe someday, low-budget DTV horror films will stop using THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) as a blueprint (I mean, c'mon, it's been nearly 40 years already!) and try to do something original for a change. Until that day comes, we will continue to have horror films like this. A quartet of female punk rockers, Tammy (Courtney Bean), Kim (Dominique Davalos), Elaine (Brittney Startzman) and slutty Joan (Becky Boxer), are about to hit the big time with their band if they can make it to Los Angeles in their van and play an important gig with some record executives in attendance. Along for the ride are the band's manager, Nigel (co-director JoJo Henrickson), who financed this trip by borrowing money from a loanshark (who sends a goon to break Nigel's index finger when he doesn't pay his vig on time); Tammy's over-protective boyfriend Kiel (Brandon Tesar), who beats-up audience members when they get too close to the stage; and lesbian roadie Nikki (Ellen Fox), who has a Lilith Fair-like feminist quote for every situation. They stop at some jerkwater town (uh, oh!) for some gas and Nigel asks the attendant, Little Joe (Danny Cooksey; remember him as "Sam McKinney" on DIFF'RENT STROKES [1984 - 1986]?) for directions to the next town where they are supposed to play a gig. Little Joe tells Nigel that he knows a shortcut (any directions that end with "Go left on Crystal Lake Road" is not a good sign) and a one-armed man (Charles Klausmeyer; THE UNNAMABLE II - 1992) warns Kim, "You better watch your back!" Just in case you were born in a vacuum, the directions turn out to be totally bogus and van driver Kiel nearly hits a dog in the middle of the road, forcing him to crash the van into the forest (this is also when they discover Little Joe never filled their tank with gas and, wouldn't you know it, there is no cellphone service where they are). After sleeping in the van that night, they head out on foot looking for some help, but not before all the girls go skinnydipping in a pond, but Kiel won't let Nikki go in because she's a "lesbo who wants to fuck Tammy" (Nikki doesn't go in because Kiel is right!). The girls are being watched by some unseen grunting psycho and while Nigel is taking a shit in the woods and Kiel is keeping a close eye on Tammy, someone kidnaps Nikki. She ends up in the basement of a nearby house, where a psychopath is sharpening his axe on a foot-powered grindstone and then uses it to chop-off one of Nikki's feet, which he places in a shoebox! Tammy and Kiel go looking for Nikki (now there's a bright decision!) and it's not long before the bickering couple are attacked by Little Joe and Billy (Jake Hames). Kiel gets a hatchet planted in his back and Tammy escapes to warn her friends. Luckily, Nigel has a .45 pistol in his possession (Kim: "Whoa, Phil Spector, where did you get that?" Nigel: "Oddly enough, Phil Spector!"), but before he can get a shot off, he gets face-planted by Little Joe's flying hatchet. The girls are now on their own, with only their wits, tits and a .45 to protect them. Who will survive and what will be left of them (I'm sorry, I just had to say that!)?  This is an average DTV horror flick that has a few funny one-liners and some laugh-out-loud original songs, but the characters, both heroes and villains, are far too one-dimensional. Little Joe has a "funny" quip to say after every killing (When he kills Nigel with the hatchet, he screams out, "What's the matter, you don't like heavy metal?" That groan you just heard was mine.) and Billy communicates by barking and acting like a dog. Little Joe and Billy's mentor, Coach (Larry Wyatt), is the one with the serious foot fetish. He murders his victims by chopping off their feet and adding them to his shoebox collection (Why does he do it? Why, he's got mother issues! I know, it makes no sense to me either). Really? Is this how desperate horror films have become? The blood and gore doesn't really start until the film's second half, where you will see the aforementioned foot amputations; a manual disembowelment; a drumstick to the eye; death by electric guitar; the one-armed man explaining (in flashback) how he lost his arm; decapitation by guitar string; death by a circular saw blade-firing crossbow; and Coach's death, which must be seen to be disbelieved (if any more CGI was used, he would be totally animated!). STUMP THE BAND (well, at least the title does have some ring of truth to it, although no member of the actual band loses an appendage, but nearly everyone else does) is a thoroughly routine DTV horror flick enlivened every so often by some funny off-the-cuff remark and plenty of bloody gore. Co-directors William Holmes and JoJo Henrickson (who also wrote the screenplay and gave himself the best lines; he also directed the films THE BARRIO MURDERS - 2001 and GB 2525 - 2009) get close, but they fail to get the cigar. Also starring Robbie Rist (also the Music Supervisor), Scott Holmes and David Berges. A TLA Releasing DVD Release. Not Rated.

THE SUBSTITUTE (VIKAREN) (2006) - In this Dutch horror comedy, an alien from a planet that is always at war comes to Earth as a small glowing orb and enters the body of Ulla Harms (Paprika Steen), a substitute teacher who is assigned to a new class of 6th Grade students, including Carl (Jonas Wandschneider), who just lost his mother in a car crash; new student Rikke (Emma Juel Justesen), who just moved into town with her mother; class clown Albert (Jakob Fals Nysgaard); class know-it-all Lotte (Mollie Maria Gilmartin); and bullies Tobias (Andreas Gram Nielsen) and Malthe (Mathias Peter Kjaer). The alien Miss Ulla has come to Earth to learn about human emotions such as love, since the word and concept is (ahem) alien to their race (What does the alien do before it enters the body of Ulla? Why, it knocks-out, but doesn't kill, Ulla's chicken farmer husband with a shotgun blast to the head!). The school principal informs the class that Ulla will be giving them a series of EU-sanctioned tests and if everyone passes them, they will all be going on a trip to Paris. Carl is forced to see school psychiatrist Claus (co-writer Henrik Prip), because Carl has become introverted since his mother's death, but Carl thinks it is useless and pretty much makes his views known to Claus. Ulla proves to be a most unorthodox substitute teacher, calling all the students "stupid" and making fun of their physical and mental attributes (She says to the buck-toothed Albert, "Make sure your teeth don't scrape the floor!").The alien Ulla also has the power to put words in kids' mouths and can read their minds, which particularly disturbs Carl (who thought there was something wrong with Ulla the first time he met her), since all he ever thinks about is his mother and he may actually hear his mother talking to him from Heaven warning him about Ulla's motives. Ulla takes pleasure in psysically and mentally torturing the students, especially Carl (she makes fun of his mother's death), because it is the only way she can learn about human emotions, such as empathy and sympathy. The parents of the students are up in arms about Ulla's treatment of their kids and during a school meeting of parents and teachers, Carl discovers who Ulla really is when he spots her creating a clone of the Education Minister out of a ball of some alien material. While the fake Education Minister assures the worried parents that nothing is wrong, Carl gets his hands on some alien documents from Ulla's briefcase and takes pictures of them with his camera phone. Can Carl convince his classmates and his author father Jesper (Ulrich Thomsen) that Ulla is an alien before it is too late? A photo which shows all the students at the chicken farm looking up at the sky (a photo none of the children ever posed for) holds the clues Carl and the students need to unlock the mystery. Everything comes to a head when Ulla takes the children (and Jesper) on a bus ride to Paris and they make an unscheduled stop at the chicken farm. Carl must try to destroy the alien ball before they are all sent to Ulla's planet, where they are to be used for God knows what.  This is a pretty good horror comedy that is not only very scary in spots, it also says a lot about humanity in general and how we can be easily fooled into compliance as long as we are assured by authority figures that nothing (or something) is wrong (Tea Party anyone?). Director/co-writer Ole Bornedal (who also gave us the original NATTEVAGTEN - 1994, as well as the American remake NIGHTWATCH - 1997 and THE POSSESSION - 2012) shows us how easily manipulated parents can be when it comes to their children's welfare. Rather than believing their children, the parents would rather take stock in the words of their adult counterparts at school (who are like surrogate parents when the kids are away from home). Bornedal wraps this parable in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, such as the scene where the parents forcibly make their children get on the bus, even though they don't want to (Albert says to his parents, "I hope you know this is the last time you will see your child alive!") or where Ulla shows her true form to Carl when she comes to have dinner with Jesper (who has written a book about love). In this film, it is the kids who act like adults and the adults who act like children, but Bornedal doesn't skimp on the creepy (yet funny) sequences, like where the children watch in horror as Ulla feeds on a live chicken or when she shrinks the school principal (who sneaks into her bedroom in his underwear) and eats him. The always-changing photo is also a good gimmick (shades of BACK TO THE FUTURE - 1985) and, besides some obvious CGI, the effects in the film are very well done. Worth a viewing, either in its original language with English subtitles (under its original title, VIKAREN) or the better-than-average English dubbed version. Also starring Nikolaj Falkenberg-Klok, Josephine Wormslew Gents, Emma Claudia Sondergaard and Sonia Richter. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD through their Ghost House Underground sub-label, which is now, sadly, defunct. Rated R.

SUPERBEAST (1972) - Obscure Philippines-lensed horror film that never received a home video release in the United States (it did get a much-publicized theatrical release by United Artists as part of a double bill with the Tom Selleck-starrer DAUGHTERS OF SATAN [also 1972]), even though it was directed, produced and written by American George Schenck, who is now one of the Executive Producers of the popular TV series NCIS. The film opens with American Ray Cleaver (John Garwood) escaping from the jungles of Manila by stealing a local's truck and driving himself to the hospital, where it is so overcrowded, no doctors or nurses will attend to him even though it's obvious (at least to the viewer) that his face and body are transforming into something quite Neanderthal. He gives up on the hospital and heads to the airport, where he beats up a businessman in a bathroom, steals his clothes, passport and ticket, hops on the plane and not too long afterward the pilot is radioing Guam Airport to make an emergency landing because a psychotic passenger (Guess who?) is manhandling the crew. When the plane lands in Guam, the waiting military surround the plane and shoot and kill Cleaver, who now looks like a caveman in a business suit! In Venezuela, Dr. Alix Pardee (Antoinette Bower; DIE SISTER, DIE! - 1972) hops a plane to Guam and performs an autopsy on the freakishly changed Cleaver (after performing the autopsy, she turns to her assistant and says, "Wow!"). She heads to Manila to investigate, where she learns that Cleaver was an AWOL Marine who disappeared a month earlier after being arrested and accused of being a hash smuggler and then sent to some rehabilitation camp in the jungle for some "experimental" treatment. Dr. Pardee hops a steamer heading to the city of Pangan, where she is being shadowed by mysterious American businessman Stewart Victor (Harry Lauter). Once in Pangan, Dr. Pardee is met by Dr. Raul Rojas (Manny Oheda), who informs her that Cleaver isn't the only case of radical transformation in the area. A horrible "evil spirit" is attacking the residents of a remote jungle village, so both doctors make their way by canoe to investigate. They mistakenly go over a huge waterfall in their canoe (How in the world did they not see it?) and when Dr. Pardee awakens, she is naked and in bed at a plantation run by Dr. Bill Fleming (Craig Littler), who informs her that Dr. Rojas has not been found and is presumed dead. Dr. Pardee is rightfully concerned of her situation, as there are bars on the windows, she hears terrible screams at night and she spots Stewart Victor walking freely around the plantation, usually with a hunting rifle in his hands. It's plain to see that Dr. Fleming is another incarnation of Dr. Morneau, as he has created a serum that supposedly turns all the hardened criminals in his care into docile, law-abiding citizens. Yeah, right. It's also apparent that his serum has serious side effects, turning some of Dr. Fleming's subjects into creatures that nightmares are made of (makeup effects by PLANET OF THE APES' John Chambers). Dr. Pardee must figure out a way to escape the plantation before she is killed by the dastardly Victor, who pays Dr. Fleming big bucks to hunt his failures like prey. How she escapes will have you wishing that she gets a bullet right between her eyes.   This is a boring and slow-moving horror film that plays more like a travelogue during the first half before becoming a second rate ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU/MOST DANGEROUS GAME clone during the second half. It's not surprising that this is George Schenck's only directorial effort, because it's a rather static affair that just meanders along at a snail's pace, never coming close to having a pulse (Schenck switched to being a successful TV producer/writer, a job he still holds to this day). Antoinette Bower makes for a deadly dull heroine and Craig Littler is one of the nicest mad scientists I have ever seen. Only Harry Lauter registers slightly as a big game hunter who enjoys tracking down and killing Dr. Fleming's "mistakes". There's not much in the way of nudity or violence (at least in the print that I viewed, which was sourced from a TV print, the only way to see this film in the States for over 35 years, but there are reports that the autopsy Dr. Pardee performs in the beginning of the film contained real, gruesome autopsy footage in the unedited version), so all the viewer has to look forward to is John Chambers' Neanderthal makeups and lots of shots of people walking around, talking incessantly or running through the jungle. Not worth your time. Also known as PRIMAL INSTINCTS. Vic Diaz puts in an appearance as a crooked constable who gets his just desserts. Also starring Jose Romulo, Bruno Punzalan, Alex Flores, Roderick Paulate, Ricardo Santos and Nanita. The TV print is available for sale on most gray market sites and for download on torrent sites. Rated R.

THE SUPERNATURALS (1985) - During the end of the Civil War, a unit of Nothern soldiers from the 44th Division force a small group of Confederate soldiers to walk across a minefield (a tried-and-true method of making sure the coast is clear!) and only young boy Jeremy (Chad Sheets) makes it to the other side alive. Jeremy, who has "special powers", causes something catastrophic to happen (we don't see it) when a strange light emits from his clenched fist and a heavy wind blows in from nowhere. In the present day, some greenhorn members of the Army's 44th Division are on a training mission in the same location where the massacre of the Confederate soldiers took place 120 years earlier. I think you can see where this is heading. The unit's commanding officer, Sergeant Leona Hawkins (STAR TREK's Nichelle Nichols), leads her inexperienced group of Privates on a march through the forest and Pvt. Ray Ellis (Maxwell Caufield) begins hearing voices calling his name and they all see a ghostly woman named Melanie (Margaret Shendal) in the woods, but she only has eyes for Ray. The unit camps out on the exact spot of the massacre (it's a barren area where nothing seems to grow) and Pvt. Tim Cort (Bobby Di Cicco) falls into a hole, which turns out to be a hidden Civil War bunker. Pvt. Chris Mendez (Scott Jacoby), the unit's unofficial Civil War expert, notices a strange phenomenon on the barren spot. There seems to be a mysterious wind that eminates from the center of the barren spot and blows outward in all directions (this plot point is dropped as soon as it is mentioned). While Ray is digging a latrine (he's on Sgt. Hawkins' shitlist for some past transgressions), he unearths a skull which Tim stupidly uses for target practice. That night, a drunk Tim tries to rape Pvt. Angela Lejune (Talia Balsam), the unit's only other female member, but she sticks a knife between his legs and he walks away, only to fall into an underground man-made tunnel, where he is attacked by some rotting zombie Confederate soldiers and killed. The rest of the film finds the soldiers being attacked and killed one-by-one by the living dead Confederate soldiers, while Ray discovers that he has a personal connection to the massacre that happened over a century earlier. And is it possible that the old mute man that lives in a shack in the woods is actually Jeremy? You'll get the answers if you manage to stay awake through this borefest.  This disappointing horror film, directed by Armand Mastroianni (HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE - 1980; THE KILLING HOUR - 1982; CAMERON'S CLOSET - 1987), plays like a TV movie of the week. The action is pretty lame and the bloodletting non-existant until the latter part of the film and even then it's nothing to write home about. Nichelle Nichols, in a rare starring role, is simply horrible here. Her stilted delivery as she barks out orders is pretty pathetic and she manages to make the normally stiff Maxwell Caufield (THE BOYS NEXT DOOR - 1985; SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT - 1990) look animated. The young cast, which also includes LeVar Burton (a future member of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), Bradford Bancroft, Richard Pachorek and John Zarchen, are wasted in underwritten roles and are just fodder for the (lame) slaughter. The zombie makeups (by Mark Shostrom) are effective, but underused, and there is some creepy atmospheric nighttime scenes, but the sad fact is that this film drags when it should pop and that fault lies squarely on the shoulders of producers Joel Soisson and Michael S. Murphey, who were also responsible for the anemic screenplay. The mixture of supernatural elements with modern-day Army action just doesn't gel here. It seems forced and is unconvincing. If there's one good thing to say about THE SUPERNATURALS, it's this: It's still miles better than director Tony Malanowski's two similarly-themed horror films, NIGHT OF HORROR (1978) and CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES (1982). That's not much, but that's all I have. An Embassy Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

SUPERSTITION (1982) - This is a good old-fashioned 80's supernatural gorefest that went virtually unnoticed when released to theaters, but gained a cult following when making it to home video. After playing a practical joke on a necking couple outside a creepy old abandoned house, Artie (Bennett Liss) and Charlie (Johnny Doran) are then brutally murdered by an invisible force inside the house (Charlie finds Artie's head cooking in a microwave and Charlie is graphically cut in half when trying to escape out a window). When the bodies are discovered, the county gives the church (who own the house and surrounding property) 120 days to clean up the house and make it livable again, otherwise the house will be destroyed. The church sends Reverend David Thompson (David Houghton) to survey the property and get it in shape for Reverend George Leahy (Larry Pennell) and his family to live in. The house, known as the "Sharack Place", named for the original owner who was said to be a witch, has a long history of unexplained deaths, the latest being a cop who is dragged into the pond behind the house by a pair of taloned hands. Church-hating Inspector Sturgess (Albert Salmi) blames the death of his officer on Arlen (Joshua Cadman), the mute son of the last surviving Sharack female, Elvira (Jacquelyn Hyde), who looks like a witch and lives in a small house on the property. Sturgess blames all the recent murders on Arlen (he has a real hard-on for him) and Reverend Thompson orders the pond to be drained to see if there are any bodies in it. It seems that the pond doesn't want to be drained, though (the pumps keep getting clogged), but a large wooden crucifix is found at the bottom of the pond and once it is removed, strange things begin to happen, none of them good. Reverend Thompson meets Mary (Kim Marie), a little girl in a white dress, who turns out to be an evil spirit. Every time she makes an appearance, someone dies a gruesome death. The first one is Reverend Maier (Stacy Keach Sr.), who dies in a freak "accident" when the spinning blade of a circular saw disengages itself, flies through the air and slices through his chest (and the chair he is sitting on). A electrician is hanged when his neck gets caught around the cable of the house's elevator. When the gin-soaked Reverend Leahy moves in with his family, one of his daughters is nearly scared to death when a disembodied hand latches on to her leg while she is swimming in the pond. Somehow, the stubborn and sarcastic Inspector Sturgess still believes that Arlen is responsible for all these new deaths, but Arlen seems to have disappeared. The Leahy's young son, Justin (Bobby Jacoby; BLOODY BIRTHDAY - 1980), becomes friends with Mary and he soon ends up missing. Sturgess and the Leahys search the house and property (where Sturgess make a discovery of a secret room), while Reverend Thompson researches the history of the crucifix and the house. Once Thompson discovers the truth (told in flashback), he races back to the house to save the Leahy family. He should have driven a little faster.  Anyone who likes bloody horror films will find a lot to admire here. Director James W. Roberson (THE LEGEND OF ALFRED PACKER - 1978; THE GIANT OF THUNDER MOUNTAIN - 1991) not only tosses in numerous gory deaths, he also builds-up a resonable amount of tension and dread, thanks to some excellent camerawork and editing. The bloody set-pieces go way beyond R-rated gore (it was released to theaters unrated) and after the first couple of minutes watching this, you will see why. A head explodes in a microwave, a body is cut in two, a saw blade rips through a body (the film's highlight gore scene), death by wine press and a wooden spike through a head are just some of the juicy goods on view. The film has two faults and this is what they are: 1) Albert Salmi's (EMPIRE OF THE ANTS - 1977) Inspector Sturgess is such a prejudicial hothead (his hatred of the church, priests and mutes is never explained), it's hard to believe any town would hire him as their top cop. 2) It's strange that Reverend Leahy was made an alcoholic when it's never properly fleshed-out. He acts more like a coward than an alcoholic. It seems the only reason he was made a drunk was to give one of his daughters a reason to yell at him every time he opens his mouth. Don't let those two things deter you, though, because SUPERSTITION (also known as THE WITCH) is a fun, blood-drenched flick that delivers what it promises. Besides, you gotta love a film where absolutely no one is left alive once the final credits roll, not even the kids. This is one of the first films to be Executive Produced by the team of Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, who would find mainstream fame with FIRST BLOOD (1982) and it's sequels, RED HEAT (1988), TOTAL RECALL (1990) and many others. Ed Carlin was this film's Producer and is better remembered for producing 70's exploitation films like BLOOD AND LACE (1970), THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED (1971) and THE SWINGING BARMAIDS (1975) with then-partner Gil Lasky. Also starring Lynn Carlin, Robert Symonds, Heidi Bohay, Maylo McCaslin, Carole Goldman and John Alderman. Originally released on VHS by Lightning Video and later on widescreen DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unrated.

SWAMP OF THE LOST MONSTER (1956/64) - I knew something was wrong when I rented this dud. The sales clerk said, "Gee, you're the first person to rent this film in over three years!" He further explained that since this film wasn't a good rental prospect they put it in their bargain bin for resale. Even at the unheard of price of $2.99 it languished in the bin for over two years, so management decided to put it back on the shelves for rental. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to bring this home. I said yes and as I was walking out the door I was sure I heard someone snickering. As I entered the cassette into my VCR I knew what the snickering was all about. This south of the border production (made in 1956) stars Gaston Santos and his wonder horse "Moonlight" (not a good sign). It was released directly to American TV in 1964 after notorious producer K. Gordon Murray did some post-production tampering, hiring director Stem Segar to film some extra footage (I'm starting to feel ill). It is badly dubbed and has a fat Mexican called Pepito supplying comic relief (the chunks are rising from my stomach to my throat). The swamp monster is so poorly constructed that it makes the creature in Larry Buchanan's CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE (1966) look absolutely hi-tech (I have the urge to purge). It turns out that the monster is just a man in a rubber suit pretending to be dead so he can kill his enemies and collect his $1 million life insurance (Watch out! I'm going to spew!). The Genesis video box claims that this film was made in 1970. Don't you believe it. American International Pictures handled the TV distribution. Director Raphael Baledon is also responsible for CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN (1961) and THE MAN AND THE MONSTER (1959). Mexican horror films are an acquired taste. They are usually high on atmosphere and set decoration and short on everything else. SWAMP OF THE LOST MONSTER is just plain bad.  Next time I will listen to that sales clerk. A Genesis Home Video Release. Not Rated.

SWAMP OF THE RAVENS (1974) - This strange Spanish/U.S. co-production is a precursor to 1985's RE-ANIMATOR as they both share some major plot points, but SWAMP veers off into it's own territory pretty quickly. Dr Frosta ("Raymond Oliver" nee Ramiro Oliveros), a renegade genetics scientist, is working on perfecting a serum that can bring the dead back to life, provided that they have been dead no longer than eight minutes. Dr. Frosta's colleagues frown on his experiments, which force him to perform them in a lab (basically a shack on stilts) he has located next to the titled swamp. His failed attempts (including a man with leprosy) are dumped in the murky swamps by his mute assistant, their flesh picked at by the ravens before they sink to the bottom. Every once in a while the ravens dump a body part (a hand, an ear, an eye) where the authorities can find it, causing the police to open an investigation which includes questioning people at the hospital where Dr. Frosta works. When Frosta's fiancee Simone (Marcelle Bichetti) leaves him to hook back up with American ex-boyfriend Ben (William Harrison), Frosta kidnaps her, binds her to his lab table, strips her and kisses her body (shades of RE-ANIMATOR again, though this one was made 11 years earlier, hmmmmm....), before killing her and using his serum on her lifeless body (but not before some quick necrophelia!). As Ben and the police draw near, Dr. Frosta invites all his colleagues to his lab to witness his triumph, but a fire derails that triumph, forcing him to flee the country and start anew somewhere else. Will he get away with it?  Competently directed by Manuel Cano (VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST - 1972; here using his Americanized "Michael Cannon" pseudonym) and written by Santiago Moncada (REST IN PIECES - 1987), SWAMP OF THE RAVENS contains several chilling scenes that are highly atmospheric. The best scene shows Frosta standing on the bank of the swamp while the faces of all the dead bodies dumped there stare blankly back at him. But, there are also several unintentionally funny scenes (helped immensely by the lousy dubbing), including Ben's ridiculous song he sings to a female mannequin in his nightclub act (try not to laugh, I dare you), as well as the inept police inspector's (Fernando Sancho) ludicrous investigative techniques. Still, it's a pretty good piece of atmospheric entertainment that's worth at least one viewing, although I was hoping all those dead bodies in the swamp would come to life and get even with Dr. Frosta. You can't win them all. Believe it or not, this was also released to some U.S. drive-in circuits under the title THE HOUSE ON SKULL ISLAND. Something Weird Video offers a decent (though damaged in spots) widescreen print on a double feature DVD with THE THIRSTY DEAD (1973). Also starring Antonia Mas, Cesar Carmigniani, Marcos Mollina and Gaspar Galupi. A Something Weird Video Release. Also available on a double-feature DVD (with I EAT YOUR SKIN - 1964) from VCI Entertainment. Rated R.

SWEATSHOP (2010) - This Texas-lensed regional horror flick is truly one of the goriest films I have seen in many years, but if you are looking for sympathetic characters you can identify with or root for, look somewhere else. The premise is simple: A group of chain-smoking, beer-drinking, drug-taking, lollypop-sucking, body-pierced punkers break into an abandoned warehouse and set up for a rave they plan to throw later that night. Unfortunately, the warehouse is not as empty as they expected. It is infested with four ghoul-like females and a hulking welding mask-wearing killer known as "The Beast" (Jeremy Sumrall), who wields a heavy hammer made out of an anvil attached to a pipe, a pair of sharp garden shears, razor wire and other weapons of death. The group, headed by Charlie (Ashley Kay), begin setting up the lighting, DJ booth and sound system (not to mention a "Makeout Room", where Charlie pimps out two girls as whores for anyone who is willing to pay the price), while The Beast begins dispatching the group one-by-one in various extreme bloody ways (nothing is left to the imagination). Lighting girl Kim (Danielle Jones) is tied to a table with the razor wire and has the lower half of her body crushed with the anvil hammer, stripping the skin off both of her legs (she survives, but has her head crushed with the hammer as she tries to crawl away later in the film). Kenny (Vincent Guerrero) is decapitated at his jawline while Charlie is giving him a blowjob in her car and when Charlie escapes, she accidentally puts her hand in Kenny's bloody stump and then falls out of the car, landing on the top half of Kenny's head (people who get queasy easy should turn away). Jade (Melanie Donihoo) tries to escape from the ghoul girls in a warehouse elevator, only to have her head crushed through the elevator's door grate by The Beast's hammer. Scottyboy (Peyton Wetzel, easily the most interesting character in the film for reasons I'll explain later) is impaled through the neck by the garden shears, only to have The Beast grab the handles and suddenly open them, instantly cutting off Scottyboy's head. There is plenty more extreme gore on view, so if you're a fan of 80's-styled slasher films, I'll leave them for you to discover, including an unexpected bloody massacre of the patrons that show up for the rave.  Director/co-producer/co-writer/cinematographer/editor/visual effects supervisor Stacy Davidson (DOMAIN OF THE DAMNED - 2007) has fashioned a film that's a gore lover's dream, but he and co-writer Ted Geoghegan (who co-wrote the screenplays to the gore-soaked films BARRICADE - 2006 and DON'T WAKE THE DEAD - 2008) have underwritten most of the characters, except for spiked-mohawked Scottyboy and his older brother, the straight-laced, but mean, Wade (Brent D. Himes, who looks like a slightly less obese John Goodman wearing a trucker's cap). Scottyboy loves to receive oral sex, but can't stand to be "snowballed" (Google it) or perform oral sex on a female, so when fellow punker Miko (Julin) makes a bet with him to perform oral sex on her and he loses the bet, she tries to force him to perform oral sex, only to have The Beast crush Miko's body with his hammer while she is standing (one of the film's most upchucking moments). Wade is nothing but a big redneck bully who gets drunk on beer and tries to have sex with Kim while she is tied to the table, failing to notice that Kim's legs are nothing but bloody bones. He fails to deliver the goods because he is too drunk, but The Beast thrusts two spikes under Wade's chin and razor wires him to a table with his brother and Charlie (his fate is still left in the air when the film ends, the only cast member we don't find out who lives or dies). Hey, if you like wall-to-wall gore that is very well done and filmed professionally, this film is for you. If you want a plot to go with it (we really have no idea how The Beast or the ghoul girls claimed this warehouse as their own, as none of them are given a backstory), look somewhere else. Let's just say that the film doesn't have any lofty goals and delivers the goods to the audience it was made for, that being gorehounds. I liked SWEATSHOP for what it was and it never bored me, even if some of the music seemed out of place for a rave. Filmed in 2008 and 2009, but it bears a 2010 copyright during the closing credits. Also starring Naika Malveaux, Krystal Freeman, ViVi Sterling and Fangoria managing editor Michael Gingold as a cop who shoots and kills an innocent girl as she tries to escape The Beast in the beginning of the film. Star Ashley Kay also portrays one of the ghoul girls, but I'll be damned if I could recognise her. Stacy Davidson also worked as producer/cinematographer/editor/visual effects supervisor on director/writer Larry Wade Carrell's highly-regarded Texas-made indie horror film JACOB (2011), which also features some of this film's actors. A Screen Media Films DVD Release. Not Rated and rightfully so.

SWEET SIXTEEN (1982) - As Melissa Morgan (Aleisa Shirley) is rapidly approaching her sixteenth birthday, a series of murders begin to occur in a small Texas town in this horror film that also has something to say about the plight of Native Americans in modern society. Melissa (who is sexually active) is new in town and is watched closely by her overprotective father (and American Indian artifacts expert) Dr. John Morgan (Patrick Macnee) and her slightly off-balance (and former town resident) mother, Joanne (Susan Strasberg). There seems to be a serious problem with the people who become friendly with Melissa: Most of them end up being killed, stabbed viciously with an Indian hunting knife. The first to end up dead is Johnny (Glenn Withrow), a boy who fooled around and smoked pot with Melissa and was caught by her father. He ends up getting sliced and diced in the desert in the middle of the night. When Sheriff Burke (Bo Hopkins, who else?), his son Hank (Steve Antin) and daughter Marci (Dana Kimmell) find Johnny's mutilated body, they interview Melissa, her father and mother and Melissa drops hints that local Indian Jason (Don Shanks) may be responsible (he spurned her advances the night before because she was underage). Now we know that, besides being sexually active, Melissa is also very spiteful (and prone to lying). Johnny brother, local redneck Billy (Don Stroud, who is woefully underused here), gets wind of Jason's alleged involvement and turns his brother's death into a race war against the Indians, with other townspeople joining the fray (one local calls Jason a "red nigger"). As more people end up dead, the sheriff is caught between vigilante justice by his neighbors and trying to find the real killer, while Hank and Marci perform their own investigation and come too close to the truth. Who is slicing up all these people up with a buck knife? You will find out at Melissa's sixteenth birthday party and the whole town is invited!  Quite good as a mystery as well as a horror film, director/producer Jim Sotos (FORCED ENTRY - 1975; not the hardcore porn film with the same name) builds a lot of suspense with the town's prejudice and Melissa's spiteful ways. Scripter Erwin Goldman gets a lot of mileage out of basic slice-and-dice techniques by actually telling a decent story to go along with the slasher elements. The contrast between Sheriff Burke's loving relationship with his kids versus Melissa's cold and detached relationship with her parents is never more apparent then when Marci accuses Melissa of lying to her father when she blamed Greyfeather (Henry Wilcoxon), Jason's grandfather, of murdering the school quarterback, leading to Billy and some of the townspeople to lynch him. Melissa's response to Marci is. "Why do you have to be so good?" While the murders are not very graphic (there's evidence of some post-production tampering to achieve an R rating), they are well-handled and shocking. The cast of genre vets do a nice job here, even if it's weird to hear Patrick Macnee's British accent amongst everything Texan. Even though the real killer is not very hard to spot (there's plenty of clues for the killer's motivation throughout the film, but when Dr. Morgan frames Jason, it practically gives it away), but the story is different enough and the cast good enough (including Michael Pataki [HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS - 1988] as the town's mayor and Sharon Farrell [LONE WOLF MCQUADE - 1983] as Hopkin's love interest who helps him break the case) to keep you involved throughout. There's also a full frontal nude scene of Melissa taking a shower (I guess Aleisa Shirley wasn't actually fifteen years old) for those who keep track of stuff like that (fuckin' A!). The end credits song, "Melissa's Theme" , is also memorable and fits in perfectly with the goosebump-inducing stinger in the final seconds. This film is definitely worth a rental or purchase if you can find it. The late Gary Graver was second unit cinematographer. Also starring Logan Clarke, Michael J. Cutt (NIGHT OF THE DEMON - 1979) and a cameo by Larry Storch as a shotgun-toting bartender. A Vestron Video Release. Available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.

TALON FALLS (2017) - Every avid reader of this site knows that I absolutely love horror films that take place in carnivals or amusement parks, but this film will test the patience of a saint. I'll get to why it is bad later in the review. The film is one huge flashback, as we meet Lindsey (Morgan Wiggins), who comes running in front of a pickup truck all bloodied and battered. She then appears in a hospital room with gauze covering her eyes and tells her story to Dr. Onychectomy (Matthew Bozone; do not look up the definition of "Onychectomy" until the film is done!). It seems she and three other friends, Sean (Ryan Rudolph), Ryder (Jordyn Rudolph) and Lance (Brad Bell), are on Fall Break from college and decide to go on a road trip to visit the Talon Falls Screampark in Commonwealth, Kentucky (an actual Haunted House attraction). When they arrive there, they find the screampark is crowded, but it is highly obvious that the park workers don't want them to leave. When they see the huge line of people waiting to get into the Haunted House attraction, they almost leave, but a park worker walks up to them and says he can get them into the Haunted House immediately as long as they wear the red plastic wristbands he hands them (It is also obvious that these wristbands are a way to mark them as potential victims. But of what?). The foursome walk into the Haunted House, where the corridors are full of attractions, such as a man strapped to an electric chair. The switch to flip on the electricity is controlled by the visitors and Lance seems to enjoy electrocuting the man. Maybe a little too much (It is also highly obvious that he is actually electrucuting a live human being.). Lance's actions don't go unnoticed by whomever is watching him on the many cameras that are strewn throughout the Haunted House, so he is led to the Control Room, where he watches Lyndsey and Sean get hit in the face with a sledge hammer and girlfriend Ryder grabbed from behind and dragged away. We are then introduced to Tiny (Tim McCain) a hulk of a man who is wearing a very ugly rubber mask, making him look like a giant pig.  Sean, Ryder and Lyndsey are now in cages, as we watch Tiny pulling another female victim out of a cage and hand her over to another masked person, who tortures her until she screams (This film has a LOT of screams on the soundtrack!). Tiny then goes back to retrieve Sean, When he puts up a fight, Tiny shocks him with a cattle prod and drags him away to a torture room full of bloody surgical tools and straps him to a chair. The masked torturer enters the room, sharpens his knives  and procedes to cut off Sean's left ear and rips-off one of his toenails (all shown lovingly in close-up). An unnamed male prisoner (Kurtis Hage) comes up with a plan to escape, but he needs Lindsey and Ryder's help to pull it off. He breaks out of his cage, gets into a fight with Tiny, while Ryder holds a murderous guard dog by a rope leash (It actually looks like the poor dog is suffering. I wonder if the ASPCA was there to monitor the action?), The man grabs hold of Tiny's keys and slides them to Lyndsey so she can open the padlocks to her and Ryder's cages. Lyndsey opens her and Ryder's cages , hits Tiny over the head with a two-by-four, knocking him out and they escape (leaving behind all the other female victims trapped in cages, the bitches!). The man is killed by the guard dog. Lyndsey and Ryder hide out in the Control Room, where they watch Sean being tortured on one of the monitors. This brings up the big question: What happened to Lance?  The masked torturer puts a vice on Sean's head and tightens it, while Sean screams in pain. The girls try to escape the Haunted House with Tiny hot on their trail. They become trapped in a slaughterhouse, while an axe-wielding Tiny looks for them. He is given instructions on where to find them by the man in the Control Room (Michial Courtney). Just when it seems that Ryder is about to become chopped liver, Lyndsey appears and stabs Tiny in the side with a large knife (it has little effect). The girls try to hide from Tiny and the many cameras located throughout the park. This is when we find out what has happened to Lance, He is now in the electric chair while paying customers jolt him and laugh, not knowing they are actually eltrocuting him. When Ryder tries to free Lance, Tiny pulls the switch, electrocuting the both of them (We see Ryder falling to the groud, her face all burned and smoke coming out of her mouth!). Tiny chases Lyndsey and she falls through a round metal conduit, leading her to the dumping ground of the Haunted House's previous victims. Thinking that Lyndsey is hiding under the dead bodies, Tiny hacks away at them with his axe. Lyndsey escapes the park and it brings us back to the beginning of the film where she runs in front of the pickup truck. In a surprise ending everyone saw coming, the old man in the truck is actually a park worker and Dr. Onychectomy is actually the masked torturer (Onychectomy is a medical term for the surgical removal of fingernails or toenails.). We then see Lyndsey being tortured in the Haunted House, while clueless paying customers think it is just another sideshow attraction. Director/screenwriter/co-producer/editor Josh Shreve (CHASING GHOSTS - 2014) gives us no motivations on why Haunted House workers are torturing and killing paying customers, except for the pure joy of it. This film is abysmally acted by a cast of amateurs (this is the first acting job for the four college kids and it shows. The rest of the cast are players from the actual Haunted House.). It is plain to see that Josh Shreve got his inspiration from THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) and Tobe Hooper's THE FUNHOUSE (1981), but this film cannot hold a candle to those classics. In those films, there was a reason for the killing: For meat for the Sawyer's clan award-winning Texas Chili and to cover up the fact that the kids saw the deformed hulk in a Frankenstein-mask kill a prostitute. You will get none of that satisfaction here. While the practical makeup effects are better than average, it comes across as torture for torture's sake. There are also many gaping plotholes in the screenplay, such as when Lindsey refuses to get out of the car when they reach Talon Falls (she was against going there), but the next scene shows her standing next to Sean in the park. If you can overlook the terrible acting, lack of connective tissue between scenes and no reason for the killers to kill, you may enjoy this 74-minute exercize in torture. Me? I was expecting much more and didn't get any satisfaction. For a more enjoyable experience , try the horror film that actually takes place in a real Haunted House attraction, HOUSE OF HORRORS: THE GATES OF HELL (2012). Also starring Lonnie Bloomburg, Tim Casey, Steven Chaney and Krissy Leanne Calouro, A Lost Empire Films DVD Release. Also available streaming for free if you are an Amazom Prime member. Not Rated.

THE TEMPTER (1974) - I love Italian horror films. I find they have a frenetic, over-the-top quality that are sorely missing from their American counterparts. I must make an exception of THE TEMPTER though, not because it is a quick copy of 1973's THE EXORCIST (what Italian horror film isn't an imitation of some other film that was popular? Dario Argento excluded.) but because of its deadly slow pace and frequent lapses into poor taste. Who wants to watch a woman lick the asshole of a goat or fuck her brother? I sure as hell don't! The story is about a crippled woman (Carla Gravina) who becomes possessed by the Devil much to the chagrin of her father (Mel Ferrer) and her priest/uncle (Arthur Kennedy of THE MEAN MACHINE - 1973). Soon she is speaking in tongues, foaming at the mouth, spitting out green bile, levitating herself and other objects, ripping the heads off toads, screwing her brother, twisting a young man's head 360 degrees and the aforementioned act with the goat. When it is learned that she is pregnant (from the tryst with her brother), an exorcist (George Coulouris) is called in for fear that the unborn baby may be the Antichrist. She is eventually freed of her demonic possession after she embraces a large wooden cross in a cathedral. The world is safe for the moment. Originally titled L'ANTICRISTO (THE ANTICHRIST), it was shorn 16 minutes of its running time before reaching American theaters in 1978. The special effects range from bloody (toad decapitations and witch burnings) to downright ludicrous (levitation and other effects use the rather obvious blue screen and split screen processes). This film takes forever to get moving and the exorcism doesn't take place until the final 10 minutes. Nudity is also at a minimum here. Alberto De Martino also directed HOLOCAUST 2000 (a.k.a. THE CHOSEN - 1977), an OMEN ripoff as well as PUMA MAN (1980), an awful SUPERMAN (1978) cash-in, BLOODLINK (1983) and the late giallo entry FORMULA FOR A MURDER (1985). Aristide Massaccesi (a.k.a. Joe D'Amato) was director of photography on THE TEMPTER and gives the film a fluid, professional look, its' only saving grace. Stay away from this film unless beastiality and incest turns you on. If they do, shame on you! An Embassy Home Entertainment Release. Also available on DVD (as THE ANTICHRIST) from Anchor Bay Entertainment in its unedited form. I plan on reviewing this unedited print to see if my opinion changes. I doubt it, but you never know. Rated R or Unrated.

TERROR IN THE SWAMP (1984) - So-so horror show, lensed in Louisiana, about the search for a man-sized beast killing off hunters. There's also a subplot about two overweight bayou brothers, who are poachers and thieves, that killed a guard so they could get their hands on some explosives. Somehow it all ties together in the end. It seems that a scientist is performing gene-splicing experiments  which involve mixing human genes with those of nutrias (a rodent-like creature) in the hopes of producing larger pelts. The creature that  was manufactured escapes, wrecking havoc on trapping season. The scientist wants to keep his mistake a secret, so he hires the two fat boys to bring the creature back alive. Meanwhile, the local authorities try to solve a series of killings that plague their local community. According to the end credits this film was originally titled NUTRIAMAN: THE COPASAW CREATURE. I have a feeling the title change was appropriate. The creature is shown mainly in shadows or long shots, so you really don't get a good look at it. Maybe that is for the best. The real stand-out is Michael Tedesco, who plays T-Bob, the half-wit brother of the bayou duo. With his thick Louisiana drawl and hefty poundage, he is truly a screen presence. Not much blood (except for a quick shot of a dismembered leg), but not a bad example of regional filmmaking. I give this one extra points for its' use of the scenic Louisiana bayous. Also starring Billy Holliday (who also wrote the story the screenplay is based on), Chuck Bush and Chuck Long. Co-directed by Joe Catalanotto (FRENCH QUARTER UNDERCOVER - 1985; also starring Billy Holliday, who unfortunately died of a heart attack mid-film, turning the movie into a jumbled flashback-filled mess) and Martin Folse (who has done nothing else that I could find). A New World Video Release. Rated PG.

TERROR IN THE WAX MUSEUM (1973) - Quaint, TV-like horror film made back-to-back with the more raucous ARNOLD by the same director and screenwriter. The elderly Claude Dupree (John Carradine) is the creator and proprietor of Dupree's Wax Museum And Chamber Of Horrors in late Nineteenth Century London, who treats all of his wax figures (many of them mass murderers from throughout history) like fine art. If he finds the tiniest imperfection, Dupree and his hideously deformed deaf mute assistant, Karkov (Steven Marlo), cart the wax figure down to the basement, melt it in a huge vat of wax and recreate a perfect copy. Alas, Mr. Dupree is getting on in years and is being pressured by businessman Amos Burns (Broderick Crawford), who wants to buy Dupree's wax figures and move them to New York City. Mr. Dupree is reticent about selling (When he asks what is to become of Karkov, Mr. Burns replies, "There are institutions for freaks like that."), so he asks Mr. Burns to return in the morning for his final decision. Mr. Burns leaves the museum and walks the fog-shrouded streets of London to Tim Fowley's (Louis Hayward) pub, where he listens to music hall singer Laurie Mell (Shani Wallis) perform and eventually takes her home, which upsets Karkov, who watches all the action through the sub-sidewalk grating. That night, Mr. Dupree has a terrible nightmare where all the wax figures (including Jack The Ripper and Lizzie Borden) come to life and attack him for betraying them. When he wakes up, he decides not to sell the museum, but when he goes downstairs to check on his wax figures and "explain" to them his decision (he is their creator after all), the wax figure of Jack The Ripper seemingly comes to life for real, calls Dupree a "liar" and stabs him in the heart, killing him instantly. Police Inspector Daniels (Maurice Evans) and Sgt. Michael Hawks (Mark W. Edwards) of Scotland Yard are called-in to investigate Dupree's murder and interrogate suspects Mr. Burns, Dupree associate Harry Flexner (Ray Milland), Dupree lawyer Mr. Southgott (Patric Knowles) and Karkov. The arrival of Dupree's niece, Meg Collins (Nicole Shelby), and her guardian, Julia Hawthorn (Elsi Lanchester), raises the questions: Who actually owns the museum and where is Dupree's will? The only bit of information that is known is that Dupree's last will and testament is located somewhere in the museum, so the search is on. Mr. Burns suggests that the killer may be the real Jack The Ripper (The real Ripper is still at large and may not be too happy about the way Dupree portrayed him in wax) and since Sgt. Hawks worked on the Ripper murders, he doesn't discount it. The greedy Miss Hawthorn takes over the museum until the will is found and immediately reopens the museum to take advantage of the throngs of gawkers lingering outside. The museum plays to packed houses with Mr. Flexner as the tour guide. When an attempt is made on Meg's life (the killer is still dressed as the Ripper) and Mr. Burns is found dead in the museum (he was run-through with a sword), Sgt. Hawks must gather the clues (including a white carnation) and catch the killer before Meg (whom he has grown quite fond of) ends up dead or worse: dipped in the wax vat in the basement.  This bloodless horror film, directed by Georg Fenady (a respected TV director with hundreds of TV episodes, including 29 episodes of QUINCY M.E. [1980 - 1983], under his belt before his death in 2008) and written by Jameson Brewer (ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS - 1969), both responsible for the aforementioned black comedy ARNOLD (1973), is a treasure trove of classic movie stars, but as both a horror film and a murder mystery, it fails drastically because it is far too tame for it's own good. This could (and actually did) play on TV with no cuts, as the film takes a 30's & 40's approach to showing the murders (as a matter of fact, 1933's THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM is far more graphic than this), relying on mood rather than blood, which must have disappointed moviegoers in the 70's (the ads played-up Karkov [which the ads misspelled as "Karkoff"!] as the monster, when he was really one of the most sympathetic characters in the film). It is also obvious that many of the wax figures are portrayed by living extras that try to remain as still as possible, but fail in many of the scenes (it helps if you pay close attention to the background of the scenes shot in the Chamber of Horrors). Consider TERROR IN THE WAX MUSEUM a distant cousin (twice removed) of the more effective films of its type, including the 3-D HOUSE OF WAX (1953), which only shows a pulse whenever the bitchy Elsa Lanchester (THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - 1935) is on-screen. Produced by Andrew J. Fenady (Georg's brother) for Bing Crosby Productions (BCP), the production company also responsible for WALKING TALL (1973) and THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD (1975). Originally released on VHS by Lightning Video and not available on DVD. Rated PG.

TERROR ON TOUR (1980) - One of the first low-budget rock-themed horror films, which also includes ROCKTOBER BLOOD (1984), BLOOD TRACKS (1985), HARD ROCK ZOMBIES (1985), ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987), BLACK ROSES (1988) and SHOCK 'EM DEAD (1990). TERROR ON TOUR documents the on-and-off-stage antics of a KISS-like band called The Clowns, who mix rock-and-roll with a Grand Guignol-esque stage show where both mannequins and live women are stripped, stabbed or have their limbs hacked-off, all for the sake of giving the audience what they want: a bloody good show. There's as much going on backstage as there is during the stage show. Roadie Herb (Jeff Morgan) puts on the Clowns' makeup because he feels he is too ugly to get chicks without it. Jeff (David Thompson), another roadie, is a lazy good-for-nothing who likes to stiff drug dealers and take advantage of Herb every chance he gets. When a female drug dealer (the one that Jeff stiffed) is viciously stabbed at the back door of the theater the Clowns are playing at (she's waiting in vain for $50 Jeff owes her) by someone wearing Clowns makeup, the theater owner (producer Sandy Cobe) calls the police and Lt. Lambert (Johnny Green) chalks it up to a drug deal gone bad. The band's manager, Tim (Larry Thomas; STREETS OF DEATH - 1987 and better known as the "Soup Nazi" on TV's SEINFELD, who uses the name "Larry Thomasof" here), tries to keep the band's members; Fred (Rick Styles), pill-popping Ralph (Chip Greenman), Henry (Rick Pemberton) and Cherry (Dave Galluzzo), happy since the band is finally finding success after changing their sound and stage persona (something Fred is not too happy about), but is it possible they have also gained a murderous groupie, or is the killer one of their own? Tim throws a party for the band at the theater during their day off, which is full of beautiful topless women, booze and drugs, but the killer is also there in full Clowns regalia, stabbing a naked female groupie to death and then slashing the throat of another groupie that the band members were passing around like a joint in the secret "Blood Room" (it's literally a blood room now). The killer then murders another topless groupie sitting alone in the mezzanine section by stabbing her between her breasts (Groupie: "Is there something I can do for you?" Killer: "Yes...die!") while the wild party continues. When the janitor finds the body of one of the dead girls in a bathroom stall, the party stops and Lt. Lambert brings in snitch Jane (Lisa Rodriguez) to keep a close eye on the band to make sure one of them is not the killer. Herb finds a letter in Tim's briefcase which shows that Tim's mother is a religious zealot and Tim may be a Momma's boy (this can't be good!), while Tim fires Jeff for not doing his job, with Jeff vowing, "I'll get you!" The finale finds The Clowns putting on a final bloody stage show, where the killer begins to murder people, including Lt. Lambert and Jane backstage and Herb on-stage, but the audience thinks it's all part of the show.  TERROR ON TOUR is strictly minor league horror material that takes forever to get moving. Director Don Edmonds (ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS - 1975; BARE KNUCKLES - 1977) and screenwriter Dell Lekus seem more interested in showing the band's backstage lifestyle of broads, booze and drugs than the actual horror elements and besides the first few opening minutes and the finale, we never see The Clowns performing on stage (the music is actually performed by a band called The Names). The murders are strictly of the pre-FRIDAY THE 13TH variety, where blood is merely splashed on the victims. No gaping, blood-spurting wounds here. There are enough red herrings to keep most retarded viewers guessing the killer's identity, but most horror fans will know who the killer is within the first fifteen minutes (blame religion if you can't come up with a better idea). The underlit photography is a major distraction since most of the film takes place backstage in the dimly lit rooms and hallways, so you'll be spending most of your time squinting to make out what the hell is going on. Not worth the eyestrain and the non-ending will make you madder than hell. The only time this film shows that it has a pulse is when Fred plays a love ballad called "Lisa" (in the vein of KISS' "Beth") backstage and tells Lt. Lambert that he wishes the band could go back to playing that type of music. Lt. Lambert simply says, "I like it" and Fred actually looks appreciative of the comment. If the film stuck to the little human aspects like this, maybe the film would have resonated more. Alex Rebar (THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN - 1977) was one of the Executive Producers (He also Executive Produced and scripted DEMENTED around the same time). Our old, dear friend George "Buck" Flower was Production Manager on this and his daughter Verkina Flower was Art Director, Set Director and Wardrobe Director, as well as making a cameo appearance as the "Well Endowed Lady". Also featuring Suzann Fellman, Jim Roberson (also the Director of Photography) and cameos by Johnn Wintergate and Kalassu, who would both star in one of the first SOV horror films, BOARDINGHOUSE (1982; also directed by Wintergate). Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE TERROR WITHIN (1988) - In the not-to-distant future, Earth has been ravaged by a biological "accident", where a man-made virus escaped from a laboratory, killed most of the human population and turned some of the survivors into hideous mutants called "gargoyles". A small band of unaffected survivors, located in an underground laboratory beneath the Mojave Desert, are slowly starving to death thanks to a dwindling supply of edible food. This forces them to travel to the surface to search for food, such as rattlesnakes and lizards. When two of the survivors don't come back from a hunt, leader Hal (George Kennedy; CREEPSHOW 2 - 1987) sends David (Andrew Stevens; DAY OF THE ANIMALS - 1976) and Sue (Starr Andreeff; CLUB VAMPIRE - 1997) to the surface to search for them. David and Sue find their comrades savagely butchered next to a cave where a family of slaughtered nomads were staying. David finds it strange that all the dead nomads are male and don't seem to be mutated, so Hal tells them to stay put while he sends scientist Linda (Terri Treas; THE NEST - 1987) to collect some samples to determine why they were able to live outside for so long without mutating (Linda has created a vaccine which protects humans from mutating into gargoyles). Hal's orders are put on hold when David and Sue find a living female named Karen (Yvonne Saa) and bring her back to the underground lab. Linda examines Karen and finds that she is pregnant, but Hal orders Linda not to tell anyone else just in case the baby is a mutant and they have to kill it. Sue and David quickly find out, though (Sue wants to have a baby with David and views this news as a sign of hope), but there are more pressing problems at the moment. The gargoyles also want Karen and have found the secret entrance to the lab and are trying to break in. Linda also discovers that Karen's pregnancy is advancing at an accelerated rate (That can't be good), so Hal orders Linda to abort the fetus. The fetus has other ideas and bursts out of Karen's stomach during the operation (killing her) and escapes into the air vents. Linda determines that the fetus will become a full-grown gargoyle within twenty-four hours, so everyone bands together to flush it out and kill it. Unfortunately, the now fully-grown gargoyle proves to be a trouper and kills nearly everyone and rapes Sue. Linda and David rescue her (everyone else is dead) and when Linda examines her, she finds Sue is pregnant. The question then becomes: Whose baby is it, David's or the gargoyle's? We don't have to ponder that question for too long, because it turns out her fetus is a monster, so Sue gives herself a homemade abortion, killing the baby and herself. A dog whistle (!) and the spinning blades of an industrial fan finally destroy the gargoyle in the finale. Linda and David set out on foot after getting a radio message from a bunch of survivors in a lab in the Rocky Mountains. I hope they packed an extra pair of hiking boots.  This low-budget ALIEN (1979) clone, produced by Roger Corman and directed by Thierry Notz (WATCHERS II - 1990), doesn't have much going for it besides a handful of gory scenes and the acting talents of a highly-capable cast. The script, by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (THE SISTERHOOD - 1987; DUNE WARRIORS - 1990), quickly degenerates, after a fairly compelling opening, into a series of generic stalk-and-slash scenes, as the survivors hunt the rogue gargoyle through the various levels of the lab while the gargoyle kills them one-by-one, stopping long enough to kidnap and rape Sue. Corman made numerous films in the same vein, beginning with DAY THE WORLD ENDED (1956) and flooding the market with many rip-offs in the 80's & 90's after the success of ALIEN, including HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980), FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982), LORDS OF THE DEEP (1989), DEAD SPACE (1990), UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1995), CARNOSAUR 2 (1994), CARNOSAUR 3: PRIMAL SPECIES (1996), ALIEN TERMINATOR (1996) and a sequel to this film, THE TERROR WITHIN II (1990), directed and starring Andrew Stevens. Most of these films recycled the same plot over and over, changing only the location and species of monster. The gargoyles are a ridiculous concoction and look to be slightly altered versions of the suit used in the Corman-produced WATCHERS, made the same year as this. There's not much to recommend here besides a bloody stomach-bursting (an effect used in many of Corman's horror flicks), various throat slashings and Butch the dog, played by Andrew Stevens' real-life pet "Butch Stevens". It's hard to believe, but back in the 80's, films like this actually received a theatrical release. That would never happen today. It would be dumped directly to home video and instantly forgotten. Also starring John Lafayette, Tommy Hinkley, Joseph Hardin, Al Guarino and Roren Sumner as the Gargoyle. Originally released on VHS by MGM/UA Home Video and later released on VHS & DVD by New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.

THE TERROR WITHIN II (1990) - At the end of THE TERROR WITHIN (1988), David (Andrew Stevens), Linda (Terri Treas) and faithful dog Butch (Butch Stevens) escaped from an underground laboratory in the middle of the Mojave Desert after killing a murderous mutated human fetus, the byproduct of a biological holocaust that wiped-out most of the human population. They make a trek to the last known packet of human survivors in an underground lab in the Rocky Mountains. This film picks up with David (who now sports an ungodly amount of facial hair) and Butch nearly at the end of their journey (Linda was killed in the desert) and not a moment too soon. The occupants of the Rocky Mountain lab, headed by the stern Von Demming (R. Lee Ermey; DEMONSTONE - 1989), are slowly dying of the plague and desperately need the vaccine that David is carrying. After receiving a garbled radio message from David, Von Demming sends two of his people, Kyle (Chick Vennera; MCBAIN - 1991) and Sharon (Barbara Alyn Woods; DANCE WITH DEATH - 1991), to find David and lead him back to the lab. Unfortunately, they run into a pack of mutant creatures and have to turn back, leaving David and Butch to find their own way. David saves the life of a young woman named Ariel (Clare Hoak; MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH - 1989) from a mutant and promises her dying brother, Aaron (Gordon Currie), that he will look after her. Of course, they fall in love and end up bumping nasties around a campfire (after he shaves off his beard), after which, Ariel informs David that she knows he got her pregnant (Um, what?). David better get to the lab quick because, besides the intrigue between various members of Von Demming's group (Sharon has developed a vaccine in secret, but doesn't have enough to go around; others are beginning to succumb from the plague), a severed finger of a mutant is accidently brought into the lab and is transforming into a gelatinous blob that attaches itself to Jamie (Larry Gelman) and becomes a new kind of creature called a "Lusus". Ariel is kidnapped by a band of human scavengers led by Elaba (Cyndi Gossett), who offers Ariel to a mutant in some strange ritual. After the mutant rapes her, David arrives and saves her and they head to the lab (Poor Butch has his throat cut by a member of the scavengers and dies in David's arms). To make a long story short, once they get to the lab, Ariel delivers a baby that's half human/half mutant, which grows to adult size in a matter of minutes. The mutant, along with the Lusus, begins killing members of the lab until only David, Ariel, Kyle and Robin (Renee Jones) are left alive to battle the two monsters.  While basically nothing but a retread of the first film, THE TERROR WITHIN II ups the gore quotient considerably from the previous film. Star Andrew Stevens, who took over directing and scripting chores here (his first time in both fields), knows damn well what genre audiences want and he delivers as much boobs and blood as his meager budget would allow. Besides nude scenes from Clare Hoak and Barbara Alyn Woods, there's a decapitation, various stabbings, a crossbow bolt in the eye, the gooey birth of a mutant baby and numerous slashings by the creatures. Andrew Stevens even gets to boss around his actress mom, Stella Stevens (LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH - 1993; THE GRANNY - 1994), who appears here as Kara, one of the doctors in the lab and love interest for R. Lee Ermey. The creature effects are also more polished than the first film, not that they're anything more than men in rubber suits, mind you. If you don't mind the same old rehashed plot, THE TERROR WITHIN II just may satisfy your lust for sex and violence. I enjoyed it much more than the first one. This is the first film to be photographed by Janusz Kaminski, who would later win Academy Awards for cinematography on SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993) and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), both for director Steven Spielberg. Even in the 90's, Roger Corman (who was Executive Producer here) was still employing and willing to take chances on people who would later make names for themselves. Why Corman hasn't received an honorary Oscar for his contributions to motion pictures is a crime I hope will be rectified before he passes away (He finally received an honorary Academy Award in 2010 "For his rich engendering of films and filmmakers."). Also starring Burton Gilliam, Lou Beatty Jr., Brad Blaisdell, Dean Jones (who also handled makeup effects), Peter Koch and Brewster Gould as the Lusus. A Vestron Video Release. Not available on U.S. DVD at the time of this review, but it got a Blu-Ray release from Code Red. Rated R.

THE THAW (2009) - Remember when DTV releases starred no-name or B-level actors? Well, in the past few years, that has all changed. Such once-bankable stars as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, Cuba Gooding Jr., Christian Slater and others all make their main living in DTV flicks (And according to Lundgren in an Entertainment Weekly interview, it is quite lucrative.). Don't get me wrong, some of these films are highly entertaining (even Seagal, who started this trend, seems to now realize that a little quality and looping his own lines make his fans happy), but I just get the feeling that we are at the closing end of the "Big Hollywood Star" cycle and will never see those days again (no matter how many times TV shows like Entertainment Tonight, TMZ and other gossipy dick-munchers try to make stars out of pasty-faced CW-ready actors like Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, both of whom I hope both fade away quickly). Well, you can now add Val Kilmer to the list of once in-demand big-budget actors (see my review for THE SALTON SEA - 2002 and watch his performance as John Holmes in WONDERLAND - 2003 to see what a highly nuanced and excellent actor he really is) who has gone the DTV route (although he still does a theatrical release every now and then). While his talent rarely waivers (too bad I can't say the same thing about his weight!), he has appeared in a slew of DTV films in the past few years, including FELON (2008), CONSPIRACY (2008), STREETS OF BLOOD (2009), BLOOD OUT (2011), the final two both co-starring Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, and this horror film, a combination of John Carpenter's THE THING (1982) and a first year episode of THE X-FILES (1993 - 2002). While the world is suffering a serious pandemic (in which the opening montage of faux YouTube clips link to Global Warming), ecologist Dr. David Kruipen (Kilmer) and his staff are studying the plight of the polar bear in the Canadian Arctic, when they make a stunning discovery: a perfectly preserved wooly mammoth in the ice. The only problem is, the wooly mammoth is infected with some unknown parasite, which begins infecting the humans and other animals, eating them from the inside out. Evelyn (Martha MacIsaac), the daughter of Dr. Kruipen, hates her father ever since he was a no-show at her mother's funeral (he simply couldn't get a flight out due to bad weather), so when she and three undergrad students, Atom (Aaron Ashmore), Ling (Steph Song) and Federico (Kyle Schmid; DEATH ROW - 2006) show up at the Arctic compound and find it deserted, they all think it was trashed by eco-terrorists (there is a rotting corpse of a polar bear inside a sealed laboratory), but Evelyn contacts her father by radio to discover he is at another base camp (the one with the mammoth). What Dad doesn't tell Evelyn is that he, Dr. Jane Sanders (Anne Marie DeLuise) and Edward (John Callander) are all infected with the parasite. Jane goes crazy and shoots Dr. Kruipen and Edward and then returns to the compound to sabotage the helicopter, so Evelyn and the three others have no way to escape. What Jane doesn't know is that Ling and helicopter pilot Bart (Vin Leacock) are already infected, since they both have touched the infected polar bear. Evelyn and Atom take an ATV to look for her father after Jane dies a horrible death. They discover the wooly mammoth and Edward's body, but Dad is nowhere to be found (Evelyn thinks a freshly-dug grave is her father's, but we know better). An infected Federico radios for a backup helicopter and destroys the radio when Evelyn tries to cancel the pickup because she doesn't want to spread the parasite to the rest of the world. The rest of the film details Evelyn and Atom's plight (they are the only two not infected) as they try to stop the spread of the parasites (including amputating Bart's infected arm with a meat cleaver), while those infected go crazy and die. Perhaps Dr. Kruipen's journal and video diary will give them a clue? Yet, when Dad returns to the base camp and tries to escape in the rescue helicopter, Evelyn and Atom have no choice but to shoot the helicopter down, killing Dad and saving the world from another pandemic. Or did they? A closing stinger shows that the parasites have made the trek to civilization in the bodies of migrating birds, as a hunting dog chews away at one of the dead bird's bodies.  This run-of-the-mill DTV horror flick, directed by Mark A. Lewis (ILL FATED - 2004) and written by Lewis and his brother Michael W. Lewis, fails to generate much suspense and besides a few gory scenes (including the arm amputation and some bloody and gooey open body sores), offers very little to horror fans. Val Kilmer probably shot all his scenes in two or three days, since his screen time is limited to a few minutes in the beginning and during the finale. The practical makeup effects (by Todd Masters) are well done (although some of the CGI parasites are iffy), but as we have learned time and time again, it's the story that matters, not the effects (this is no longer the early-80's) and, besides the last minute surprise revelation, THE THAW is nothing but reheated leftovers that we have eaten many times before. William B. Davis (There's that X-FILES connection again!) puts in a quick cameo in the beginning of the film. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release through their now-defunct Ghost House Underground sub-label. Rated R.

THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1972) - This atmospheric low budget chiller is director William Girdler's take on the life of Ed Gein, previously filmed in 1960 as PSYCHO and then in 1974 as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Billy Townsend (James Pickett) picks up four city girls whose car has broken down on a small country road late in the night. Billy brings them home for the night where they meet Pa Townsend (Charles Kissinger). Pa and Billy argue about the girls. Pa reminds Billy what happened the "last time he had a whore in the house" after his mother died. Billy ignores him and makes the girls a meal with Pa's "specially smoked meat". Later that night all the girls are slaughtered by an unseen hand. (One is knifed repeatedly while taking a bath, two are shotgunned and the fourth is beheaded with an axe.) The next morning Pa blames Billy for the killings and tells him to go to the city, see a show and not to come back until his head is clear. Billy goes to a bar, listens to a rock band (American Xpress), gets drunk and meets a waitress named Sherry (Sherry Steiner), who takes him to her pad to sleep it off. They fall in love and Billy brings her home to meet Pa. Big mistake. Pa says to Billy, "Strange things happen when you're around women", to which Billy replies, "I'm no killer!" It turns out Billy is right as Pa reveals that he is the killer. In a twist ending, it is revealed that Billy's mother is still alive and suffers from a cannibalistic disease. Pa was killing the women to satisfy her craving for human flesh and blaming Billy for the crimes. Though somewhat padded, this film has an overall creepy quality you just can't shake. It is also surprising in many ways such as when the four girls in the beginning are disposed of. Up until that point the entire story revolved around them. Watching them being viciously murdered comes a quite a shock. Pat Patterson (THE BODY SHOP - 1973; a.k.a. DOCTOR GORE), a real-life magician who died of cancer in 1975, supplied the makeup effects which include the aforementioned murders as well as a pick-axe through the stomach and the sight of three girls on hooks in Pa's meatlocker. This was director Girdler's second film, his first being ASYLUM OF SATAN (1971; they played together on many double bills through the 70's & 80's). THREE ON A MEATHOOK is the type of film they just don't make anymore: Low on budget, high on shocks. Originally released on VHS by Regal Video, Inc. and then on budget VHS by Video Treasures. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

THE TOMB (2004) - Holy Christ, what a steaming pile of manure. It's even sadder once you find out that this shot-on-digital video turd was one of the last films to be directed by the late Bruno Mattei, using his frequent pseudonym "David Hunt". This is a sad, sad way to end a career. The film opens two thousand years ago, with an Aztec high priest (Hugo Baret) performing human sacrifices in order to raise some sort of demon. Before he is able to sacrifice the last virgin, the villagers revolt and stab the high priest in the back. His masked female assistant rips out his eyes with a hook and mummifies his body, saying that one day in the distant future the high priest will return to life in order to complete his sacrificial ritual. Cut to the present, where archaeology Professor Langley (Robert Madison; MOTHER OF TEARS - 2007) brings a bunch of his students to Mexico to search for something or the other (Why do all the Mexicans look Filipino, you may ask? It's because this was primarily lensed in the Philippines.). After losing their guide (who sports the phoniest moustache I have ever seen) when somebody buries him alive in a spooky cemetery (in the film's most atmospheric sequence), the Professor and his students hire a creepy witch woman to guide them through the jungle to their destination: A temple in the middle of nowhere that just happens to contain the tomb of the mummified high priest. They make it to the temple (after encountering some quicksand and stock footage of bats in flight), where one of the female students, Liz (Kasya Zurakowska), begins having visions of owls (more stock footage) and the high priest rising from his tomb. The witch woman, who turns out to be the reincarnation of the high priest's assistant, revives the high priest and pretty soon Professor Langley's students are killed one-by-one when they are trapped in the temple by a cave-in (by obvious styrofoam boulders). One student has his eyes ripped-out, another is impaled by a pendulum (what a pendulum is doing in a temple is never explained), still another has her throat cut and another is bitten by a bunch of poisonous spiders. The finale finds the revived high priest about to sacrifice the virginal Liz to finally complete the ritual he started two thousand years earlier. Can the Professor stop him before it's too late? Does anyone care at this point?  Where to begin? First off, the whole shot-on-digital video look gives the film (an ultra-low-budget rip-off of Universal's THE MUMMY [1999] remake) a soap opera-ish feel, which is never a good thing. Even though some of the Philippines location scenery is quite fetching, the SOV look makes it all seem rather flat and one-dimensional, lacking the depth that shooting on film would allow. Director Bruno Mattei (THE OTHER HELL - 1980; ROBOWAR - 1988; CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST: THE BEGINNING - 2003) is not one that cares much for subtlety, as he rips-off the Santanico Pandemonium dancing scene in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1995) early in this film and even "borrows" (I'm positive they're unlicensed) clips from Universal's ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) and other A-list films to pad out this flick's 92 minute running time. Never mind that these film inserts stick out like a sore thumb, Mattei would rather you not dwell on that. The fact is, I could overlook these faults (including the terrible dubbing) if the film was at least fun or remotely interesting, but it's a boring mess, where the characters always do the stupidest things humanly possible (When one guy loses his glasses, he just gives up all hope and whines like a baby!) and the film has so many factual errors (Ancient Aztec women wore thong underwear? Mummification rites involved wristwatch-wearing warriors? Who knew?), it's laughable. If I had to say something good about this film (and that a big if), it would be that some of the makeup effects were well done (effects by Davide Chiesa and Alessandro Franceschini of Logical Art), but that's faint praise indeed. No one really needs to see this. American expatriate and Filipino film staple Mike Monty was the Dialogue Coach. Also starring Gyorgy Szabados, Ann Maxwell, Mark Rambert, Faith Lowe, Frank Barber, Juliette Junot, Kenny Krall, Angie Linn and David Brass. The DVD put out by York Entertainment is total amateur hour. Besides erroneously reporting the running time as 110 minutes (I would have put a bullet in my head if I actually had to watch an additional eighteen minutes of this dung pile), the DVD menu looks like it was burned on a home DVD recorder! Not Rated.

TOMB OF TORTURE (1963) - Welcome to Castle Monte Cristo. Come on in, the door is open. You want to leave? Well, that's not going to be easy. My droopy-eyed monster, Hugo, may want to "play" with you first. I hope you brought a change of clothes!
     Two young women, Esther (Emy Eko) and Cathy (Terry Thompson), enter the castle, where rats walk freely on the furniture and it is dark as death. Cathy gives Esther some matches to light a candle, not noticing that her handkerchief has fallen to the floor. They admire a picture of Countess Irene, who disappeared twenty years ago, no one knowing what happened to her. They are frightened by Countess Elizabeth (Flora Carosello, as "Elizabeth Queen"; APOCALYPSE JOE - 1970). the castle's current resident, and she wants to know what they are doing here. The girls tells her that they only wanted to see Countess Irene's picture (it is so realistic, it looks alive), but Countess Elizabeth gets angry and orders the girls to leave. When the Countess leaves the room, the front door to the castle locks, so the girls try to find some other way to exit the castle. As they walk from room to room, Cathy starts acting weird, crying out loud. Esther tries to comfort her and then leaves her sitting on a chair while she tries to find a way out. Esther hears Cathy scream and goes running to her, finding Cathy passed out on the floor. It's quite obvious who put Cathy in that condition, as when Esther turns around, she sees the horrible droopy-eyed monster Hugo (Bernard Blay), who laughs like a madman. Hugo kills Esther and we then see Cathy chained to the castle's dungeon wall, screaming for help, as Hugo approaches her. he unlocks her chains and secures her to a rack, laughing all the time. What happens to Cathy?
     A carriage containing Dr. Darnell (Adriano Micantoni, as "Thony Maky"; PLANETS AGAINST US - 1962) arrives at a crime scene, where Officer Dobson (Fred Pizzot) is standing guard over the dead naked bodies of Esther and Cathy. Officer Dobson has never seen anything like this before and asks the doctor what he thinks. Before he can answer, Indian mystic Raman (director/co-screenwriter Antonio Boccaci, as "William Gray") arrives at the crime scene and talks to old friend Dr. Darnell, telling him that he has been away for a few years, but he has returned, for reasons not yet clear. It seems Dr. Darnell has returned to the village, too, to take care of daughter Anna (Annie Alberti, as "Annie Albert"), who is in the carriage. The doctor introduces Raman to his daughter and when he sees her, only one word comes out of his mouth: "Irene". Yes, Anna is the spitting image of Countess Irene and Raman is so taken aback, he excuses himself and leaves. We then see Hugo walking the castle grounds and entering the castle through a secret passageway (every castle has one). We then discover that Dr. Darnell has brought Anna to the village to solve a medical mystery. Anna has been having a recurring nightmare where she is Countess Irene and is in the castle's crypt, where a bearded hermit is chasing her. A man calls out Irene's name and he is killed by someone wearing a suit of armor, beating the man over his head with a club. When the person in the armor lifts up the visor, the nightmare ends, Anna never seeing the person's face. This nightmare has made Anna emotionally sick. Every time she has this nightmare it takes her longer to wake up. Dr. Darnell is worried that one day soon she will never wake up from this nightmare, because it has taken her over three hours to wake up from it yesterday. He hopes that if they find out what happened to Countess Irene twenty years ago, Anna will be cured and the nightmare will end (Just go along with it). Raman tells Dr. Darnell that he has returned to the village to find out who murdered Countess Irene, because he was in love with her and he knows that if she was alive she would have found some way to contact him. He thinks it is too dangerous for the doctor and his daughter to be here and says it might be better if they left the village immediately, but Dr. Darnell says no, the life of his daughter depends on finding out the truth.
     Newspaper reporter George Dickson (Marco Mariani, as "Mark Marian"; DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER - 1973), who is doing a story on the two murdered girls, arrives at the village, but before he gets there, his newfangled machine, called an automobile, overheats, so George stops at the local lake for some water for the radiator, interrupting a skinnydipping Anna, who is bathing in the lake. She and George become fast friends, but when her father finds out what George does for a living, he orders his daughter to stay away from him. What is Dr. Darnell afraid of?
     Countess Elizabeth tells Raman, "There's something strange in the air tonight" (and it ain't Phil Collins!) and we then see the person in the armor ordering Hugo to kill everyone who is meddling in their business. Elizabeth then talks to Anna, telling her that "they" killed Irene and they're going to kill her, too, but who are "they"? Elizabeth also says that there's a hidden treasure in the castle and that's the reason why Raman returned to the village (He was once Elizabeth's lover, but the real reason why he came back was to find Irene's body and find out who killed her, if she is really dead.). Anna tells George that she thinks she is going insane and believes she is the reincarnation of Irene, but George tells her not to be silly, soon they will leave the village and get married (Boy, he moves fast!). They then make love while daddy is away on business for the night. Anna begs George not to go to the castle and he tells her if she marries a reporter, she should know that he goes where the story is and this story has everything to do with the castle. While Anna is asleep, George sneaks into castle, admires Ann....err, Irene's picture and almost becomes a victim of a knife thrown by someone, but they miss, the knife sticking in Irene's picture. Outside the castle, George hears a woman's screams, goes to investigate and discovers a laughing Hugo coming towards him. They get into a fight and as Hugo is about to finish off George with a rock to his head, a dog barks and scares Hugo away, George seeing him escape through the secret passageway.
     Anna wakes up and discovers George is gone. She then goes into a trance and sleepwalks to the castle (this place is busier than a McDonalds!). She walks by Irene's picture, then sees Irene dressed as a bride and follows her. What Anna finds is the answer to the mystery and, just like her father said, her emotional problems are cured. Maybe now she will realize that when she said she would marry George, it was a rash decision!
     This obscure little Italian Gothic horror film, directed/co-written by the even more obscure Antonio Boccaci, who uses the name "Anthony Kristye" here (and is sometimes credited as "William Grace"). Not much is known about Boccaci, as this is his only directing and acting credit and he wrote the screenplays to three other equally obscure films in the '60s, ending with Alfonso Brescia's spaghetti western DAYS OF VIOLENCE (1967). But this is a passable chiller with some effective scenes and unexpected humor. When Officer Dobson tells Dr. Darnell that he doesn't trust Raman and wants to know what he thinks about him, the good doctor tells the officer that what he needs is an enema to flush the crap out of his system! (something unusual for a film made in 1963). This black & white film seems to have been converted to sepia-tone, as most scenes have a light brown tint to them. I'm sure it is not a bad print because the picture is sharp and clear and the sepia adds a little character to the flick, especially in the dungeon scenes. But this film is about secrets, as everyone seems to be harboring one or two that's integral to the plot. It's not hard to figure out who Irene's killer is and the "tomb of torture" in the film's title does come into play during the film's finale, where Elizabeth chains Anna to the dungeon wall and orders Hugo to kill her, but he can't because he was in love with Irene and his tiny monster brain believes Anna is Irene. George and Raman use the secret passageway to save Anna and Hugo knocks out Raman, but when he goes to kill George, Anna's pleas stop him from doing so. We then find out it was Elizabeth in the suit of armor and she killed Irene, putting her body in an empty tomb in the crypt, which Raman finds (which results in Elizabeth's death), ending his search for the truth. Hugo begins to act like Quasimodo, swinging on some chains attached to the ceiling. He gets a little too carried away and ends up hanging himself when one of those chains wraps around his neck. Hugo is nothing by a horror film cliche, but his makeup is appropriately grotesque. While nothing remarkable, this is an OK time-waster if you have nothing else to watch.
     Filmed as METEMPSYCO (it doesn't even have a translation in Italian), this film received a U.S. theatrical release in 1966 (by Trans-Lux) as part of a double bill, with the equally obscure German film CAVE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964). It was released on VHS and DVD by Image Entertainment in 2000 and has yet to get a Blu-Ray release. My review is based on the streaming version I saw for free on Amazon Prime. The print is crisp and clear and the sound is good. Once again, I thank Amazon for putting this film on their streaming site. I've been reading where people say that Amazon only puts lousy DTV films on their streaming site for free, but that is not true. You have to look and if you do, you will find many good early horror films on the site. My Roku 3 is still the best device for streaming films on my HDTV. The best investment I ever made. This film Not Rated.

TOOLBOX MURDERS (2003) - Director Tobe Hooper nearly returns back to form in this gory, yet underwritten, horror film that has very little to do with the original TOOLBOX MURDERS (1978), except that the killer uses power and hand tools to do his killings. Newlyweds Nell and Steve Barrows (an uglied-up Angela Bettis and Brent Roam) move into the Lusman Arms apartment complex, which is undergoing a major renovation. As soon as they move in, strange things begin to happen such as tenants disappearing, finding a box of teeth in a hole in the wall and the sound of power tools in the middle of the night. Steve, who is a hospital resident, spends most of his time at his job so Nell must find out the cause of all the problems she is experiencing. When she calls the cops after hearing one of the tenants screaming for her life (the lady has been literally nailed to the wall with an air hammer) and they bust down the door, the police find nothing (she has been nailed to the ceiling out of view) and chalk it up to Nell having a vivid imagination. More murders occur, including her new friend Julia (Juliet Landau) getting power-drilled through the head, another female tenant getting a claw hammer rammed through her chin, the building's maintenance man (co-screenwriter Adam Gierasch) getting his head cut in half at the jaw line with a portable circular saw, the doorman (Marco Rodriguez) getting his head squeezed in a vise while acid is poured on his face and the manager (Greg Travis) getting his spinal cord cut in half with bolt cutters (after screaming, "Kill me already!"). Nell finds an ally in long-time resident Chas Rooker (genre great Rance Howard [TICKS - 1993]), who leads her in the right direction by pointing out that none of the apartment floors have a Room 4. There's also some strange supernatural symbols on each floor in which Nell discovers that the building has a separate smaller building hidden inside it! It all leads to a rather rushed conclusion that has something to do with a "Coffin Baby" (Chris Doyle, who looks like a cousin of DARKMAN - 1990), the supernatural actor who built the apartment complex and stays alive by killing the residents for the past six decades. This is the part that is woefully underwritten and spoils the finale of the film. It also leaves the film wide open for a sequel. On the plus side, there's the competent acting by the cast, moody murder scenes, some jump-scares and the building itself, which seems to have a life of it's own. Sherri Moon (HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES - 2002) has a cameo as the first on-screen victim. This is better than all of Tobe Hooper's recent films, including CROCODILE (2000), THE MANGLER (1995) and NIGHT TERRORS (1993), but no where near as good as his 70's classics. While the film is rated R, the extras on the DVD have deleted scenes which include the extended and much gorier versions of the death scenes, especially the power drill and circular saw murders and an extended scene which shows that Rance Howard's character was probably a ghost. All-in-all, I enjoyed this little diversion into depravity and you will too if your hopes aren't set too high. Followed in 2013 by a sequel TBK: TOOLBOX MURDERS 2, directed by Dean C. Jones, which picks ups directly where this film ends. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

TOOTH AND NAIL (2007) - In this post-apocalyptic horror film (originally one of eight films in the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest), the Earth ceases to function normally, not because of war, disease or famine, but because, as Professor Darwin (Robert Carradine; MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH - 1976) tells us, "We simply ran out of gas." (both figuratively and literally). A group of human survivors, headed by Darwin (Darwin, get it?), make their home in an abandoned hospital, sending out hunting parties every day to search for food and other survivors. On one of their missions, members Viper (Michael Kelly; DAWN OF THE DEAD - 2004), Dakota (Nicole DuPort) and Ford (Rider Strong; CABIN FEVER - 2002), discover a female survivor named Neon (Rachel Miner; PENNY DREADFUL - 2006, also part of the AFTER DARK series of films) passed-out in an abandoned building, her boyfriend dead thanks to a Rover, a member of a nomadic tribe of cannibalistic humans who munch on the flesh of any survivors they find. Neon is brought back to the hospital, where she is nursed back to health and proves to be an intelligent addition to the ragtag group (She is able to fix the water purification system, which was previously thought to be beyond repair). Neon (yeah, most of the non-cannibal characters for some reason have the names of automobile makers and models) is not trusted by some members of the group (especially Viper and Ford) and when Professor Darwin is murdered by some unknown person swinging a mean meat cleaver and his body ends up missing, the question soon becomes: Who is responsible? Is it someone from their own group or is it the Rovers, who are after Neon for some, as yet, unknown reason? The leader of the Rovers, Jackal (Michael Madsen; SPECIES - 1995, who lately seems to take any role offered him), has his cannibal comrades, including second-in-command Mongrel (Vinnie Jones; THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN - 2008), surround the hospital and begin killing the survivors one-by-one, starting with Yukon (Zack Rubidas), who is repeatedly whacked in the back with Jackal's double-bladed axe. The survivors elect Neon as their new leader (much to Ford's objections) since she has dealt with the Rovers before. They should have listened to Ford, because Neon is actually a member (possibly even the leader) of the Rovers. She begins separating the survivors so the other Rovers can kill them. The fight for survival is extreme, but Dakota fights back using a bow and arrow until she faces-off with Neon in the finale. May the best bitch win!  This is a well-made, but bland, low-budget horror film that doesn't offer anything new or radically different from any other low-budget horror film. Director/screenwriter/editor Mark Young (SOUTHERN GOTHIC - 2006) must have blown the budget on Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones and Robert Carradine's paychecks, because the majority of the film is nothing but people running, hiding, talking and dying throughout the hospital's dingy corridors and rooms. While the blood flows rather freely, the gore effects are standard fare, including a meat cleaver to the head (one of the oldest and easiest effects to pull off), a baseball bat full of nails to the cranium, an axe to the back, impalement by spear, acid thrown in a face, an arrow piercing an eye and gunshots to a torso. It's like director Young and producers Jonathan Sachar and Patrick Durham (who both appear as members of the Rovers) just got done watching the terrible SOV pseudo-documentary SPLATTER: THE ARCHITECTS OF FEAR (1986) and decided to remake the film-within-the-film that SPLATTER pretended to document, even copying many of the gore effects that fake film had! While the acting here is OK (although it's obvious that Madsen, Jones and Carradine were probably only available for a day's-worth of shooting time), the film just plods along until it's "surprise" reveal, which anyone with half a brain could see coming a mile away. The dialogue contains such embarrassing exchanges like: Dakota: "I'm going to kill you!" Neon: "Not if I eat you first!" or this monologue between a cannibal and his rumbling stomach: "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! We'll be eating in a couple of hours. Nice, tasty meat! Yum, yum!" so be prepared to shake you head in disbelief every now and then. There's not much to recommend here unless you're a fan of generic stalk 'n' slash material, although I have to admit that the finale, where Dakota comes up with a novel way to defeat the Rovers, did take me by surprise. Filmed in Philadelphia, PA. Also starring Alexandra Barreto, Emily Young, Kevin E. Scott, Beverly Hynds and Bill Duff. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

TOUCH OF DEATH (1990) - "That's Parson, Lester Parson. That's right, almost like a person. But not quite." Degenerate gambler Lester Parson (Brett Halsey; DEMONIA - 1990), who has a thing for the horses, cooks a steak and then eats it, sharing it with his cat Reginald, telling him not to worry, he will always get his share. We then see a dead woman lying naked on a table in another room of Lester's house, a piece of her flesh missing from her upper thigh in the same shape as the steak Lester just ate. Lester then enters the room, grabs an electric chainsaw and cuts off the woman's arms, head and legs (in that order. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but when he turns on the electric chainsaw we hear a gas-powered chainsaw on the soundtrack. Electric chainsaws do not make that noise. It could be an in-joke or sloppy looping, but I believe it's the former, for reasons that will become abundantly clear as the film progresses). Yes, Lester Parsons is a cannibal, a modern-day Bluebeard who romances rich, lonely women and then kills them, cooks them and eats them after robbing them blind. He may be a gambler, but he's not a good one, losing big on the ponies. He asks his bookie, Randy ("Al Cliver"; THE BEYOND - 1981; who uses his real name, Pier Luigi Conti, here), for a loan, but he refuses, telling Lester he will just lose it at the races and he won't be able to pay it back.
     Lester searches through the lonely-hearts ads in the newspaper to look for a new conquest. We then see him in bed with an extremely ugly middle-aged woman named Margie Holt (Sasha Darwin; VOICES FROM BEYOND - 1991), who has a noticeable dark mustache, discolored skin on her face and two large black moles on her right breast! While she moans in pleasure, Lester has a look of disgust on his face; every kiss he plants on her naked body makes him gag silently (It's quite funny, as well as extremely hard to watch). Later on, he decides to murder a drunk Margie by drugging her drink, but every time she is about to swallow it, something happens, so she doesn't. She gets suspicious when he makes her drink a drugged glass of bicarbonate of soda (holding her nose and pouring it down her throat) and she gets sick, runs to the bathroom and then throws up. Lester has had enough, so he picks up a wood tree branch and smashes her over the head repeatedly until her brain matter spills to the floor, but she still refuses to die (!), forcing Lester to put her head into the microwave oven and turning it on, watching her face melt away (That's not how a microwave works. Even in early models, safety precautions were taken where the door must be completely closed before you could turn it on! Another in-joke, perhaps?). Lester then puts her dead body in the trunk of his car (She still makes his life difficult, for every time he goes to close the trunk, her foot pops up to block it from closing, forcing him to cut off her feet!) and dumps it at a construction site, covering her body in wet cement. When Lester gets back in his car, he is surprised to see that a tramp (Marco Di Stefano; APOCALYPSE MERCENARIES - 1987) was sleeping in the back seat. He tells Lester that he saw him dumping a body, so he gives the tramp money to keep his mouth shut, but when the tramp gets out of the car, Lester runs him over repeatedly, the tires crushing his head like a watermelon. It seems that Lester is not only a gambler and a cannibal, he's also quite psychotic and may also have someone who is copycatting his murders and pointing to Lester as the culprit. This voice begins making Lester's life very difficult, not only talking to him over the radio (which he tapes on a cassette to make sure it is real), but also threatening him over the phone, giving him advice on how to live his life. Is it possible that all this is real and not happening in his twisted mind?
     When Lester goes to a fence to hock Margie's jewelry, he discovers it is only worthless costume junk, forcing him once again to find another rich woman in the lonely-hearts ads, this time a middle-aged opera singer named Alice Shogun (Ria De Simone; WOMEN'S CAMP 119 - 1977), who likes to be slapped in the face and is into S & M sex. Alice also sings loudly while she sleeps (!), keeping Lester up all night, so he strangles her in her sleep with a whip (a sex toy they apparently used that night). Once again, her dead body proves to be difficult for Lester when he puts it in the front passenger seat of his car (she keeps slumping over, even when he straps her in the seatbelt and shoulder harness!). It's nearly curtains for Lester when he is stopped by a cop for going under the speed limit (!), Alice strapped in the front seat, but he gets away by the skin of his teeth.
     Lester is getting sloppy and worries that the police are closing in, blaming the copycat killer for it, so he goes to Randy to place another bet, only to be told by Randy that the shop is closed because the police are tapping his phones. Randy has a poker game going on in his office and Lester joins in, only to lose all of Alice's money and a whole lot more. Randy gives him a week to pay it back, if he doesn't, pain, and a whole lot more, are in his future.
     Lester continues to get phone calls from the copycat, telling him, "My fate is linked to yours." Lester wants to meet him, only to be told, "Forget it. It will mean the end of you." Lester is willing to take that chance (he is a betting man, after all) and asks the voice where he is located. "Nearer than you can ever imagine. I can almost say we are close enough to touch", says the voice on the other end. Then the phone goes dead (after the curtains in Lester's living room blow open). Lester thinks that Randy is somehow involved in all of this, yet when he goes to Randy's office (located above a horse stable), he finds a "For Sale" sign hanging on the door. Lester breaks in and discovers that a cat still lives there and the more he searches, he begins to realize the person who lived there leads a life remarkably like his own, scaring the shit out of him, yet he is too psychotic to realize that his worst enemy is himself.
     Lester gets a phone call from a woman named Virginia Fields (Zora Kerova; THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982; billed here as "Zora Ulla Kesler"), who seemingly called the wrong number (she is very beautiful, but has a disgusting harelip). She tells Lester he has a nice voice, just like her dead husband and jokingly says she wishes to hire him to wake her up every morning. Lester tells her that would be an expensive proposition and Virginia says that isn't a problem, her dead husband left her a lot of money. Is Lester extremely lucky or is he being set up? Is there actually a copycat murderer? Why doesn't Lester cast a shadow? If you want to know the answers to these questions I'm afraid you'll have to watch the film, but I think you already know the answer to some of those questions and will be surprised by the rest of them.
     What I found fascinating about this film is that director/screenwriter Lucio Fulci (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1980; THE BLACK CAT - 1981; AENIGMA - 1987) shows a sure hand at comedy. Sure, it's pretty dark humor, but it's funny nonetheless. What I especially found funny is that Lester seems to pick women with deformities that he has a hard time dealing with, be it physical or mental deformities, making his time with them before he kills them just as painful for him as the end is for them. Of course, none of this would have worked if it wasn't for the talents of Brett Halsey (Fulci's THE DEVIL'S HONEY - 1986), for, even though his voice is dubbed (the dulcet tones of maestro dubber Nick Alexander), his facial expressions and body language imbue Lester with just enough menace to go along with his finely-tuned comic performance (His expression when kissing Virginia is worth the price of admission alone). He's actually a revelation here and I have never seen him do better. What is also surprising about this film is that it was made for Italian television, yet it is full of gory violence and female nudity (but none of it titillating in the least), unlike most of Fulci's other TV movies, which include SODOMA'S GHOST (1988), THE SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS (1989) and THE HOUSE OF CLOCKS (1989). Some scenes, including the tramp being run over, were used in Fulci's A CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990), a film that I believe is Fulci's most personal, which is made up primarily of scenes from other films (See my review for more information). I didn't expect to like this film, since most of Fulci's later ones are less than stellar, but this one surprised me pleasantly. I love being surprised and I recommend you search for this film and give it a chance. You should like it, too, especially if you appreciate black humor (and a well done closing scene that involves Lester's shadow).
     Shot as QUANDO ALICE RUPPE LO SPECCHIO ("When Alice Broke The Mirror"), this film had neither a theatrical or VHS release in the United States, first hitting these shores in 2005 as a DVD from Media Blasters/Shriek Show (which is how I viewed it). No disc updates since then, but if you have an all region disc player, a Blu-Ray can be purchased from British label 88 Films. Or, if you don't want a physical copy, you can watch it streaming on YouTube from users "Dethfukk" or "Horror Realm" in a nice OAR print (1.33:1) dubbed in English. Also featuring Antonio Maimone (TERROR EXPRESS - 1979) and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Maurice Poli (Fulci's WHITE FANG - 1973) as a TV news reporter. Not Rated.

THE TOUCH OF SATAN (1971) - This will forever be known as the horror film that many people thought Billy Jack directed. They would be wrong. After a brutal pitchfork murder of an old prospector in a barn, we are introduced to the Strickland family, who seem to be harboring some deep, dark secret. Driving into town is young Jodie Thompson (Michael Berry), who is warned by the gas station attendant that a "fromicidal maniac" is on the loose. Jodie stops by a pond to eat lunch and meets Melissa Strickland (Emby Mellay). They strike up a conversation and Melissa invites him home (it's a walnut farm!) for dinner with her family. Melissa's father, Luther (Lee Amber), is wary of Jodie's presence (He says to Melissa, "You didn't 'call' him, did you?") and after dinner, when Jodie accepts Melissa's offer to spend the night, it worries Luther and Melissa's mom, Molly (Yvonne Winslow), even more. It's not long before Jodie and Melissa fall in love, which worries Mom and Pop on even a larger level, as they try to hide the hideously-burned and old (and seemingly insane) family member Lucinda Strickland (Jeanne Gerson) from Jodie, but she sneaks into his bedroom and warns him to "Go away!" Lucinda's old, burned face scares Jodie, but Melissa explains that her great-grandmother is harmless. It's quite clear that all is not right with the Strickland family, especially with Melissa, when we see her go into Lucinda's room and she calls her "my sister". There's also talk between Mom and Pop that Jodie may be "the one" and Melissa says, "We'll have to wait and see". After a trip to town, where all the people stare at the couple, Melissa reveals to Jodie that she is a witch, but he doesn't believe her. She takes him to a secret cabin in the woods, where she goes to practice her craft. Lucinda gets loose and murders a snooping cop (Lew Horn) with a baling hook. Luther locks Jodie in the barn after he sees the cop's bloody body. Jodie agrees to keep his mouth shut as long as Melissa leaves with him tomorrow, which triggers a flashback that tells the Strickland's backstory. During the early 19th Century, Lucinda was being burned as a witch when sister Melissa makes a deal with the Devil (who speaks in a voice that sounds eerily similar to Melissa's) to save her. Melissa never grows old but, this being a deal with the Devil, Lucinda continues to age but not die. Melissa hopes that Jodie will be the one that is able to break this spell. She makes love to Jodie and turns old in front of his eyes. Melissa is finally free of the spell, but Jodie makes a deal with the Devil (who sounds eerily like Jodie) to make her young again. The Devil wins every time.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out what is going on here, but director Don Henderson, (the sexploitation films THE BABYSITTER [1969] and it's sequel WEEKEND WITH THE BABYSITTER [1970]), films everything with a sense of loneliness and dread, as if something bad could happen at any time (Some people believe that Don Henderson was a pseudonym for BILLY JACK himself, Tom Laughlin, but that is not true. Henderson produced Laughlin's THE BORN LOSERS [1967], the very first Billy Jack film, which Laughlin directed using the name "T.C. Frank" and people believed that Henderson was another of Laughlin's pseudonyms, a rumor that was proven wrong.). This GP-rated (later PG) film is fairly bloody in spots (when the cop is killed, the blood flows rather freely), but that wasn't uncommon in 70's horror cinema (just look at 1970's BLOOD AND LACE, which may be the goriest PG film ever made). What is unusual in a film like this is the long, 360 degree tracking shot that Henderson utilizes just after the cop is killed. The camera spins in a circle, but stays focused on Melissa's worried face, as we hear Molly and Luther clean up the crime scene. It's quite an effective sequence that conveys a lot of emotion. Joe Blasco (ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS - 1974) has one of his earliest special makeup effects credits here. His old-age burn makeup on Lucinda is excellent as are his other gore effects. While this is a slow-moving horror film, patient viewers will be rewarded. This use to play constantly on TV during the 70's and early 80's and then just disappeared until MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 gave it the full comedy treatment. It can be found in that form on Volume 5 of their DVD collection from Rhino Home Video. Unfortunately, they do not offer the unedited version on the DVD. That version can be found on a long OOP VHS tape from King Of Video (later Paragon Home Video). THE TOUCH OF SATAN is also known as THE CURSE OF MELISSA and THE TOUCH OF MELISSA. It also played once as NIGHT OF THE DEMON on a double bill with THE HOLLYWOOD HILLSIDE STRANGLER (1973), which many people mistaken for the 1979 Bigfoot gore film over the years, but take it from someone who actually saw the double bill; they were wrong.  Also starring Robert Easton, Hal K. Dawson, Frank Jansen, Sharon Crabtree and John J. Fox. Now available on a double feature DVD from Code Red, with the film SEEDS OF EVIL (1972). Rated PG.

TOURIST TRAP (1978) - Here's one of the creepiest PG-rated horror flicks ever made, thanks to Chuck Connor's over-the-top performance, a house full of the scariest mannequins you will ever see this side of Filene's Basement and a music score that is guaranteed to get under your skin and make you twitch like a junkie high on smack. The film opens with Woody (Keith McDermott) rolling a spare tire in need of air down a dirt road until he gets to a rundown gas station/museum called "Slausen's Lost Oasis And Old West Museum" in the middle of nowhere. Woody's girlfriend, Eileen (Robin Sherwood), waits by the car when three of her friends, Jerry (Jon Van Ness; HOSPITAL MASSACRE - 1981), Becky (Tanya Roberts; FORCED ENTRY - 1975) and Molly (Jocelyn Jones; THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE - 1976), drive by and rescue her and then go looking for Woody, who enters the dilapidated museum, hears what sounds like female moaning and decides to investigate. Poor Woody, he didn't stand a chance. He enters a back room, is attacked by a bunch of cackling mannequins (whose mouths open and close in the most frightening way) and all the objects in the room either shake or fly through the air, including a piece of lead pipe, which impales Woody through his back and he dies (as blood flows out of the open end of the pipe). Jerry and his friends arrive at Slausen's Lost Oasis (all of them missing the "Closed To The Public" sign with a live vulture roosting on it!) and their Jeep suddenly goes on the fritz (since this movie was made before cell phones and their lack of signals, the "car failing to start" routine was the most popular convenient inconvenience in horror films), but the girls find a beautiful waterfall and lake a few hundred yard away and decide to go skinny-dipping, only to be interrupted by a smiling, shotgun-toting Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors; THE MAD BOMBER - 1972), who seems to take a keen interest in Molly, the most prim and proper of the three girls, and to warn them to leave the area before it gets dark (the lake fills up with deadly water moccasins at nighttime). Mr. Slausen drives Jerry and the girls to his museum, where Eileen asks about all the lifelike mannequins that litter the place. Mr. Slausen explains that they were all created by his brother, who was lured away to the big city ("He's out there still making dummies for one of them wax museums.") and shows them the intricate mechanics of one of the Old West mannequins. When Mr. Slausen and Jerry go to fix his Jeep, Eileen finds that the phone doesn't work (Slausen says, "I ain't got nobody to call."), so she decides to check out Slausen's home (which is separate from the museum) all by herself to look for another phone (big mistake). She discovers a house full of mannequins and one that is dressed as Woody, who telekinetically strangles Eileen with a scarf while all the objects in the room shatter or fly through the air. It's quite obvious by now that Mr. Slausen is hiding a deadly secret and when he returns to the museum without Jerry and starts talking about his dearly departed wife (he keeps an eerie wax likeness of her in the museum and she looks somewhat like Molly), it's clear that he has more than one screw loose (When he goes to the house to find Eileen, he discovers she has been turned into a mannequin). What is the secret of Slausen's Lost Oasis and what power does Mr. Slausen have that lets him control the mannequins? More people will die before the secret is revealed, but will anyone survive and will they be sane?  Since this film is a fine example of style over substance (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE's Robert A. Burns handled the effective Art Direction and Pino Donnagio [CARRIE - 1976] the unforgettable music score that is punctuated with creepy "oohs" and "ahhs"), TOURIST TRAP (a.k.a. HORROR PUPPET), the first directorial feature film by David Schmoeller (CRAWLSPACE - 1986; CURSE IV: THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE - 1988; PUPPET MASTER - 1989; NETHERWORLD - 1991), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Producer J. Larry Carroll (THE DAY TIME ENDED - 1979), is full of atmospheric shocks and unforgettable visuals (especially those weirdly-jointed mannequin heads), but not much story. It's basically nothing more than a bunch of young adults being stalked by the demented Mr. Slausen, who, for some reason, has strong telekinetic powers and wants to turn the interlopers into his own personal mannequins (It all stems from Slausen finding his wife and brother "whoring together" and killing them both). Charles Band (who is Executive Producer here) was quite capable of turning-out perfectly watchable horror films (CRASH! - 1977; LASERBLAST - 1978) before he became obsessed with killer puppets and dolls. Maybe TOURIST TRAP was his first film to fuel that obsession. Either way, it's a good, skin-crawling way to spend 90 minutes. Originally available on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and a widescreen DVD release by Cult Video. Rated PG, but don't let that turn you off. There are some perverted pleasures to be had here, including a rather bloody hatchet-to-the-head, fleeting glimpses of female nudity and, dear lord, those fucking creepy mannequins.

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014) - I have to say that I went into this film with a lot of trepidation, since I simply love director Charles B. Pierce's 1976 film of the same name, which was based on a true series of murders that terrified the town of Texarkana (which is located in both Texas and Arkansas and shares two mayors, two councils, two police forces, etc.) in the late 1940's & early-1950's, that was never solved. A serial killer with a burlap sack on his head (with two eye-holes cut out), simply called "The Phantom", killed a bunch of people by various means and then disappeared. But as soon as I saw the Orion Pictures logo on the screen (the first time it has been used in a motion picture in over 15 years, since director Lance Hool's ONE MAN'S HERO in 1999), I knew that I was in for something different. What I didn't know is how much I would enjoy it since it pays tribute to the true story and Charles B. Pierce's film and in a way that should please those who love the 1976 film, as well as gorehounds. The film opens up with a narrator explaining the true events that went on in Texarkana (just in case you were not familiar with it) and then goes on to explain that when Charles B. Pierce made the film in their town in 1976, it became a town tradition to screen the film every Halloween and in 2013 it was the Twin Star Drive-In's turn (on the Arkansas side) to screen the film, where the Reverend Cartwright (Edward Herrmann, in his last film) pickets the film and hands out flyers telling everyone to stop watching the film and come to his church on Sunday to confess their sins (it turns out that he is a real scumbag later on in the film). Jami (Addison Timlin), an aspiring writer who lost her parents in a car wreck years earlier, and Corey (Spencer Treat Clark), are watching the film, but Jami doesn't want to be there and agrees to go to Lover's Lane with Corey to make out. When they arrive there and are just about to get busy, The Phantom appears and makes both Jami and Corey get out of the car. He tells Jami to turn around and not look, as he makes Corey drop his pants and lie on the ground. Just when you think Corey is about to be sodomized, The Phantom repeatedly stabs him in the back over and over and Jami turns around. The Phantom says, "You looked." and chases her through the woods. He finally catches her, but instead of killing her, he tells her, "This is for Mary. Make them understand." When Jami walks out of the woods and Corey's body is found by the Jim Bowie statue in the middle of town (with a burlap sack on its head), the police Chiefs of both sides of town, Chief Deputy Tillman (Gary Cole) and Sheriff Underwood (the late Ed Lauter, in one of his final films), question Jami and decide that they don't want to start another panic in town like in the 40's, so they keep things hushed up and Jami goes home to Lillian (Veronica Cartwright), her grandmother, who was alive when the original murders happened and is very open about telling her everything she remembers about the original killings and the movie being made in town in 1976. Deputy Foster (Joshua Leonard) is assigned to keep an eye on Lillian's house and follow Jami around to make sure she is safe. The town will soon be in panic mode once again, when a returning Marine and his girlfriend (who is about to propose to him!) are screwing in a motel room and she asks her sweetheart to get her some cookies from the vending machine outside. As she is setting up the proposal, the Marine's severed head comes crashing through the front window, followed by The Phantom, who chases the girl (who jumps out the bathroom window and has a huge piece of glass impaled in her ankle) to her car and stabs her repeatedly. The town holds a community meeting, where both mayors assure everyone that the film will no longer be shown and it can't be the original Phantom, because he would be over a hundred years-old. A drunk in the audience (more about him later) says he knew this was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. Enter Texas Ranger Lone Wolf Morales (Anthony Anderson), who announces that he will now be taking over the investigation (he is a composite of the real Texas Ranger in the 40's and Ben Johnson's character in the 1976 film) and needs all the files, as well as a copy of the film, which he has never seen! The town holds a vigil at the high school for Corey, the Marine and his girlfriend, which Jami attends and "The Phantom" appears and is shot to death by a Marine attending the vigil. It is announced at a town dinner that The Phantom has been killed and the band there starts playing some old-time dance music. After the dinner, two gay teens in the band decide to drive to the old sign graveyard (it is quite the sight) for their first encounter with homosexuality (the conversation between the two is hilarious and they do it in front of an old sign featuring the Reverend Cartwright's image), when The Phantom appears (turns out the one that was killed at the vigil was a college kid who left a suicide note in his dorm room) and smashes one boy in the face until it is a bloody pulp (he then finishes him off by shooting him in the head with a silencer) and ties the other boy up and does the trombone murder scene that is in the first movie, only this one is much, much bloodier. Deputy Tillman is shot in the eye by The Phantom while getting oral sex from a bar floozy in his home (You haven't lived until you see the look on Gary Cole's face as he is getting a blowjob!) and the floozy is chased outside into a cornfield, murdered and left hanging like a scarecrow. Meanwhile, Jami and new friend Nick (Travis Tope), who works at the local newspaper's research department, find out some vital information about the murders thanks to tracking down Charles B. Pierce Jr. (character actor supreme Denis O'Hare, who also supplied the film's opening narration), the son of the film director, who was the drunk we saw in the audience. He tells them that the final murder by the original Phantom was never reported. His name was Hank McCreedy and he was found cut to pieces on the railroad tracks, so the authorities said that he was The Phantom and stopped the investigation (since no more killings happened again). This drove McCreedy's wife Mary to suicide and Pierce Jr. says that it is McCreedy's grandson who is committing all these bloody crimes. To say any more will be to ruin a great ending (let me just say that I was half surprised, as I have given you the clues you need to figure it out at least one part of it), but it is a satisfying conclusion until the final freeze-frame, which then leaves the film open for a sequel (Why do they always have to do that?). This is director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's feature film debut (he directed many episodes of the wonderful TV anthology series AMERICAN HORROR STORY) and he does an excellent job here, even throwing in some seat-raising jump scares. The camera breezes though some scenes like it is floating through the air (the cornfield scene is really impressive) and there is no quick editing, as the camera lingers on some of the killings for longer than some people can endure (this is a good thing). The screenplay, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (CARRIE - 2013), is repectful to the late Charles B. Pierce's film (although I'm not too sure he would like his son being depicted as a drunk), even incorporating some scenes from the film into the murders thanks to cross-editing (the trombone murder for one) and when Lone Wolf watches the film for the first time on VHS (I guess they didn't get the Scream Factory Blu-Ray!), where Lone Wolf seems transfixed on the Ben Johnson character (One of the very many homages to the original film that are sprinkled and hidden throughout this film. See how many you can find. I'll give you one more: A character named "Sparkplug" is briefly seen and mentioned by name.). The screenplay has everyone but one person being killed because they are having or talking about sex, a throwback to 80's slasher films. Another plus for this film is the excellent actors that were assembled for this film, something unusual for a movie of this type (and even sadder when two of them would make this film their swansong) and it makes the film better than it has any right to be. Everyone here is a joy, especially Addison Timlin, who plays her part with just the right amount of sadness (she is the cause of her parents' deaths) and need to be accepted in town, even if it means having sex with someone popular when she doesn't really want to (and then gets called a slut by Corey's mother at his wake!). Look for a poster of BOXCAR BERTHA (1972) in a theater scene. If you want to see how a modern horror film can be done right (and some of the gore and nudity pushes the R-Rating to the limits), you could do a lot worse than this one. Originally released simultaneously in limited theaters and VOD before making its DVD & Blu-Ray debut from Image Entertainment. Also starring Wes Chatam, Morganna May, Arabella Field, Andy Abele, Lance E. Nichols and Geraldine Singer. An Image Entertainment DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.

TOXIC ZOMBIES (1980) - Lame-brained, low budget 16mm feature that contains all the standard horror film cliches. The government sprays a marijuana crop deep in the Pennsylvania mountains with an experimental herbicide, turning the harvesters and the cropduster pilot into flesh-eating zombies. The harvesters terrorize and devour anyone who crosses their path, including a camping family complete with a retarded son (was that really necessary?), some stupid locals and a government agent (Charles Austin) on a fishing trip with his wife and brother. The agent and his family hook-up with the retarded boy and his sister and try to stay one step ahead of the zombified potheads. Good luck. Since pot smoking leads to the munchies, this group of braindead harvesters will do anything for a good human meal. Poor in every department, this film is a good example on how not to make a movie. Bad acting, jittery camerawork, lame dialogue, lamer jokes (e.g. Q: How do you know you're in a Polish bank? A: You give them a toaster and they give you $500.) and slipshod direction make this an extremely hard film to watch. The only noticable face is that of John Amplas from George Romero's MARTIN (1977), who has a small role here as a government agent instrumental in having the herbicide applied in secrecy and trying to cover up the aftermath. There are some bloody effects, such as a hand being chopped off, multible stabbings and spilled innards, but they're nothing to write home about. TOXIC ZOMBIES is also available on video under the titles BLOODEATERS, CRYING FIELDS and FOREST OF FEAR. If this film is supposed to be a parable on the adverse effects of pot smoking, it didn't work. I had to smoke a joint just to get through this mess. Bummer, man! Directed, Produced and Written by one-shot wonder Charles McCrann who, unfortunately, lost his life in the collapse of the Twin Towers due to the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. A Videatrics Home Video Release. Rated R.

TRACK OF THE MOONBEAST (1972) - MOONBEAST is a film that is forever etched in my mind thanks to its’ many TV showings during the 70’s. Unfortunately, it’s pretty bad. A fragment of a meteorite lodges into the head of a mineralogist (Chase Cordell), turning him into a bloodthirsty black lizard monster (played by future makeup master Joe Blasco) whenever the moon is full. His understandably upset girlfriend (Donna Leigh Drake) and American Indian friend (Gregorio Sala) try to find a cure for him before he explodes (don’t ask!). They don’t succeed. This regional film (made in the Nevada desert) does not have much going in its’ favor as there are long stretches of boring dialogue, plenty of bad acting and make-up effects that can best be described as amateurish. The transformation scenes are a series of poorly-staged dissolves and the carnage is phony-looking. The video copy I viewed was severely cut, suggesting that it was an edited TV version (a print of an unedited version seems to be impossible to find). What is seen is a camper having his arm ripped off and various bloody faces. Oh well. Another childhood memory shot to hell. Directed by Dick Ashe, who was the first assistant director of A PLACE CALLED TODAY (1972) and second assistant director of DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE (1970). TRACK OF THE MOONBEAST was his only directorial effort. One can see why after viewing it. A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated.

TRAGIC CEREMONY (1972) - After watching director Riccardo Freda's THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (1971), I had to take a short sabbatical from his other films since it was terrible (but extremely bloody). Freda was a man who turned out some extremely good films, such as CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959) and his final film, the giallo MURDER OBSESSION (1981; he passed away in 1999 at the age of 90). After just watching Freda's Gothic horror film THE DEVIL'S COMMANDMENT (a.k.a. I VAMPIRI - 1957), the first Italian horror film of the Sound Era (read my review for more information), it dawned on me that he excelled at Gothic horror, also giving us THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK (1962) ands its semi-sequel THE GHOST (1963), so I decided to give this film a look, Freda's last Gothic horror film, to see if he still had "it". I'm afraid to mention, after watching it two times, that my reaction is mixed, but I enjoyed the film much, much more the second time I watched it, but I still have reservations about it. This film contains all the Gothic horror staples, including a creepy house, even creepier people and some supernatural mumbo-jumbo, along with some '70s trappings, such as female nudity and some very graphic bloodletting, but the film still seemed "off".  So what are my reservations? Let me first explain the film's plot and then I will get to it.
     A group of four young adults (i.e. hippies) are on a luxurious sailboat owned by Bill's (Tony Isbert; THE DRACULA SAGA - 1973) rich father, enjoying life, playing guitar and getting tans. Bill lives on his family's money and Joe (Maximo Valverde; HOTEL FEAR - 1978) makes sure that Bill knows it. As they go to shore, Bill hands Joe and Fred (Giovanni Petrucci; DEATH RIDES A HORSE - 1967) some travelers checks for helping him on this outing and even offers to pay Jane (Camille Keaton; WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? - 1972) some money, but she refuses, telling Bill that she's only here to "enjoy life". When Bill gets Jane alone, he gives her a very expensive pearl necklace, which she gladly accepts. A flashback shows us that Bill originally purchased the necklace for his mother (Irina Demick; NAKED GIRL KILLED IN THE PARK - 1972), but when he tells her that the antiques dealer he brought the necklace from told him that the original owner was a crazy woman who was possessed by the Devil and it may be cursed, his mother no longer wants to wear it, putting it in a drawer in her bedroom night table. It turns out Bill knew his mother wouldn't want the necklace, so he steals it out of the night table after spying on his mother naked in the bathroom bathtub sharing a smoke with Joe! Back in the present, when Jane goes to kiss Bill to thank him for the expensive gift, she suddenly has a vision, seeing Bill's face a sickly blue color with eyes that are bleeding, and runs away in fear. It turns out Jane is dating Joe and Bill is not too pleased with it, thinking he can buy her love (Why doesn't shit like this happen to me?).
     The group of four go for a nighttime ride in Bill's dune buggy, but they run out of gas. They push the dune buggy to the nearest gas station, where the attendant (Jose Calvo; THE PRICE OF POWER - 1969) refuses to give them any gas because he believes the travelers checks Bill has are stolen since he left his ID back in the tent at the campsite and can't prove his identity. The attendant, who is an old prick, gives them a minute amount of gas when Jane flashes her eyes at him, but they quickly run out of gas again, only this time the buggy conks-out (in the pouring rain) next to a creepy villa occupied by Lord (Luigi Pistilli; THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW - 1974) and Lady Alexander (Luciana Paluzzi; THE MANIAC RESPONSIBLE - 1975), who make the Addams Family look like Disney characters (that is if Disney hasn't already purchased their rights!). Lord Alexander opens the front gate to the villa electronically and lets the foursome push the dune buggy into an open garage, where a cherry vintage Rolls Royce also sits. Lord Alexander then introduces himself and tells them that "there's plenty of what you are looking for here", but since it is pouring rain and the dune buggy has no roof, they should come inside the villa, get comfortable and wait for the storm to end. Jane is instantly suspicious, especially when Lord Alexander says, "Hospitality is sacred here", but the quartet go inside anyway (after Bill fills up the dune buggy with a canister of gas and it won't start). Lord Alexander tells his wife that he let them in and they are now in the garage, but Lady Alexander asks, "And our friends?" Lord Alexander says their "friends" are waiting downstairs and Lady Alexander smiles slyly.  Something tells me that these "friends" are not so friendly.
     After trying to push-start the buggy with no success, Lady Alexander pulls Jane out of the pouring rain and into the villa, so the others follow her inside. Joe makes himself at home, saying he's hungry and grabbing some food out of the refrigerator without asking his hosts. Lady Alexander takes a special interest in Jane, getting all touchy-feely and running her a hot bath. Jane strops naked and Lady Alexander secretly watches her, a look on her face as if she won the lottery. We then find out that the 'friends" are the members of some cult, as they all wear black robes and kiss Lady Alexander's hand. One member begins playing the organ and the lights go out in the villa. Bill sees the gas station attendant staring at him through a window and runs outside, but Joe and Fred don't see him and tell Bill he imagined it. Jane gets out of the tub when she hears the organ music and walks as if in some kind of a trance towards the music (the other three don't hear the organ music because they are in a different part of this large villa). We then learn that the cult are Satan worshippers, as they chant, "Prince of Darkness, once in Heaven, now ruler in Hell. Hallowed be thy name. We elect you to be our God." As Jane slowly walks to the cult's altar room, the pearl necklace Bill gave her begins to burn her neck, so she pulls it off, the beads of pearls spilling down the stone stairs. Maybe Bill wasn't lying to his mother about the necklace. It may, indeed, be cursed!
     Joe decides to explore the villa on his own (never a good thing), as Lord Alexander picks up Jane and lays her on the altar. As Joe is walking down the stone stairs towards the altar room, Bill and Fred stop him, saying they found Jane's clothes, but not Jane. Then Bill notices the beads of pearls scattered along the stairs and wonders if Jane is in trouble. Joe tells Bill that they may not be Jane's pearls at all and continue walking down the stairs to look for Jane. We then see Lady Alexander standing next to a prone Jane, a ceremonial dagger in her hand. Just as she is about to stab Jane in the heart with the dagger, Bill stops her and a struggle ensues, resulting in Lady Alexander stabbing herself in the stomach with the dagger and dying. The trio rescue Jane and what happens next is not just totally unexpected, it is also a gorehound's delight. A male member of the cult begins shooting other members with a pistol, as Lord Alexander grabs a sword and cleaves the pistol-carrying member's head in two. An old female cult member grabs another pistol and shoots a male member in the head, while still another male member grabs a sword and cuts the old female's head off. It's nothing but a massacre in the altar room as cult members begin killing other members. More deaths ensue, as cult members are shot, one female falls head-first into a fire (burning her face off!) and another takes a dive out of a second story window to the pavement below (Wait a minute! I thought they were in the villa's dungeon?). This is the film's gory highlight, as the graphic deaths come up unexpectedly and quickly and are as bloody (if not bloodier) as anything released today.
     The quartet push-start the dune buggy (the storm is now over) and drive off. After traveling a short distance, Bill stops the buggy so they can collect their thoughts. Bill is sure he will be charged with murder if they were to report what just happened to the police, so they all agree not to say anything. Two cops on motorcycles approach the foursome, so Bill hides behind some bushes. They ask what is wrong and instead of telling them the truth, Jane says they are lost and need directions. After the cops give them directions and leave, Bill says the dune buggy needs some gas (Jesus, is this buggy a gas-guzzler or does it have a hole in its gas tank?). So where do they go? That's right, the same gas station they went to before, but once they get there, it looks like the station hasn't been open for decades, as the gas pumps are destroyed and rusting and the windows are all broken. Just what in the Hell is going on here? Bill drives his friends to his mother's house for a night of rest and relaxation, only Mom tells Bill they cannot stay here, she has given the servants the night off and none of the rooms are ready. She hands Bill some money so they can all spend the night at a hotel. Do you think Mom may be hiding something? Damn right she is, for as Bill and his friends leave, Mom pulls Bill aside and tells him the pearl necklace is missing and if he knows anything about it. Bill says no and wishes her a good night. Like mother, like son, for as everyone leaves, Mom turns out the lights and walks upstairs, where her lover, a young man, is waiting for her (He makes a remark about Bill and may be one of his friends!).
     When Joe asks Bill if they are going to a hotel, he says no, they are going to his father's country home. Since the dune buggy is low on gas, they take two motorcycles Bill keeps at his mother's house, Jane on the back with Bill and Fred with Joe. We are then privy to a conversation two cops are having when they stop their police car at the deserted gas station. The gas station hasn't been in operation for fifteen years and it is said the old attendant who worked there still haunts the place. One of the cops remembers him as being very generous, giving free gas to people who couldn't afford it, especially if a young pretty girl was involved. The other cop remembers him as being a "lecher' who was always making unwanted advances to pretty young girls. Is this important to the film? Damned if I know!
     The quartet makes it to the country estate, but Bill doesn't have a key, so they break down the front door. They all believe they are wanted for murder by the police and Bill blames the attendant for leading them to the Alexander villa. They turn on the TV, where a news report is airing live footage of the police and medical personnel carrying the dead bodies away from the villa. The reporter describes the crime scene as if "a monster or steamroller had passed suddenly through. And with bestial violence, it snuffed out, in an atrocious manner, eight lives." The reporter goes on to state that the crime scene looks like a Black Mass gone horribly wrong (Ever know one to go right?) and even a Scotland Yard inspector agrees. This seems to relieve the foursome, but when the reporter also mentions that valuable beads of pearls were found at the scene, Bill goes into panic mode, fearing they could be traced back to him. They also find Joe's guitar at the scene and the reporter says the crime scene is similar to the Sharon Tate murder, mentioning "hippies" may be involved. When Bill turns up missing, everyone goes into panic mode. They search the house for him and Joe finds Bill dead in a closet, his skin all blue and with bloodshot eyes, just as Jane saw him when he gave her the pearls. How could Bill look like this when he was very much alive just a few minutes ago? When Joe tells Fred and Jane what he has found they come running upstairs and when Jane sees Bill's face, she screams. They decide to hide Bill's body so they won't be blamed for his death, but all they are doing is digging their own graves. You see, you can't cheat the Devil out of something that was promised to him, namely Jane. Will any of them survive? Should any of them survive? Apparently not, as Fred cuts his own throat with a straight razor as he is shaving and Joe sees Jane missing her face at the jawline and speeds off on a motorcycle, crashing into a lake and drowning, Jane looking on with a smile on her face. Jane is committed to an insane asylum, where she witnesses the entire Black Mass massacre in a vision, as if Bill never saved her (and repeating all the gory kills several times!). When Jane opens her clenched hand, she is holding a single pearl. The orderlies find Jane dead in her bed, the ceremonial dagger impaled in her heart. We then see a still-alive Lady Alexander walking out of the asylum, telling her chauffeur (the gas station attendant) to take her to the villa. The asylum doctor gives the police inspector his theory of Jane's death, which must be heard to be believed (and you still may not believe it!).
     It's hard to dislike this film, mainly because of the Black Mass massacre that comes halfway in the film, but director Riccardo Freda (who once again takes the pseudonym "Robert Hampton"), working with a screenplay written by Mario Bianchi (the director of SATAN'S BABY DOLL [1982] and THE MURDER SECRET [1988]), Jose G. Maesso (RICCO, THE MEAN MACHINE - 1973) and Leonardo Martin (COUNSELOR AT CRIME - 1973), fails to maintain that sequence's manic tone, relying instead on pat supernatural trappings and clichés. The fact is that the cast of young adults barely pass muster and they act so stupidly, it's hard to root for them. We want to see them die because they are cruel, mean-spirited people who don't deserve to live. Camille Keaton, in her first starring role (she had a few bit parts in other Italian genre films before starring in the rarely-seen MADELEINE, STUDY OF A NIGHTMARE - 1974 and then graduating to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE - 1978) is not good at all here, basically sleep-walking through her role as Jane. Truth is, I always found her acting to be rather vanilla. She does quickly flash us the "full monty" here during her bathtub scene. Some may find that enough, but not me. Toss in scenes that make no sense at all and what you have is a stew of supernatural hodge-podge, only broken up by the graphically gory Black Mass massacre (Effects supplied by Carlo Rambaldi; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971; DEEP RED - 1975). If the rest of the film contained that scene's sense of lunacy and graphic gore, the film would be much better than it is now, but it is still a creepy little film. I found myself liking the film more on the second viewing, but I really don't know why. I just can't put my finger on it. I'm not going to recommend this film, but I'm not going to lambaste it either. It is what it is, a supernatural tale with bits of really graphic gore. Nothing more, nothing less. But it could have been so much better. Stelvio Cipriani's music soundtrack is good, though, giving the film more creepiness than it deserves.
     Shot under the rather long title of ESTRATTO DAGLI ARCHIVI SEGRETI DELLA POLIZIA DI UNA CAPITALI EUROPEA ("Excerpts From The Secret Police Archives Of A European Capital"), this film never received a theatrical or VHS release in the United States, making its first appearance here in 2007 as a DVD from Dark Sky Films (which is how I saw it). The disc is long OOP and goes for big bucks now, since there haven't been any updates on disc or even streaming since then, making this DVD the only legal way to see the film. A Blu-Ray would be nice for this title and I really don't know why one hasn't been issued. Also featuring Beni Deus (A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE - 1973), Milo Queseda (DJANGO KILL...IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT - 1967), prolific cameo queen Carla Mancini (FLAVIA THE HERETIC - 1974) and Fulvio Mingozzi (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE - 1970) as the police inspector & Paul Muller (LADY FRANKENSTEIN - 1971) as the asylum doctor, who gives the most insane reason for Jane's death (The film is almost worth watching just for his explanation!). Not Rated.

TRAILER PARK OF TERROR (2008) - When Norma (Nichole Hiltz, who bears a striking resemblance to Jaime Pressly), the anti-heroine of this film, screams out "Get me out of this hellhole!" after her new boyfriend is viciously murdered by three filthy louts at the Tophet Meadows Trailer Park, you really feel her pain. The fact that it happens in the first eight minutes of the film makes you aware that the rest of the film has a lot to live up to and I'm glad to report that this may just become a modern day classic of the macabre. In the first eight minutes we get to know Norma and her surroundings. She is a used and abused piece of trailer trash who dreams of meeting the right guy and finally getting out of the trailer park for good. A trailer park so dirty, colorless and populated by society's rejects, it's actually a step down from living in Hell. So when Norma's last chance at a normal life is murdered (her new boyfriend is tossed into a wrought iron fence and is impaled through his chest) by the trailer park's unholy trio of white trash, Marv (Lew Temple), Roach (Myk Watford) and Stank (Ed Corbin), she heads out on foot for the open highway and meets a mysterious man in black cowboy duds (Country Music star Trace Adkins), who may be the Devil himself (when we first see him, he is pissing acid in a field and the bed of his red pickup truck is full of snakes). He uses her fragile state of mind to his advantage and she makes a deal with him to "get even with the world". He hands Norma a shotgun and she walks back to the trailer park, shoots everyone and then blows up the trailer park (herself included) in a propane explosion. That all happened in 1981 and ever since that fateful day, a rash of missing persons have been reported in the area. In the present day, a busload of juvenile delinquents on their way back from Jesus Camp (after having their souls "saved") are trapped in the area when wise-ass teen Alex (Ryan Carnes) causes the bus to get into an accident during a violent thunderstorm, forcing the teens and their pastor chaperone to seek shelter in the Tophet Meadows Trailer Park, which miraculously looks unchanged since it's 1981 pre-explosion. They are all greeted by Norma, who regales them with tales from her and the trailer park's past and then hits on the pastor. Goth chick Bridget (Jeanette Brox), the only teen on the bus who thinks it's a bad idea to spend the night at the trailer park, instantly recognizes Norma for what she really is, since Bridget also use to be a whore and shares more of Norma's traits than she cares to admit to. It turns out that all of the former residents of the trailer park are also back as undead flesh-hungry zombies and the teens and their pastor will experience true terror and death before daylight arrives, using their vices, hidden desires and weaknesses as a means for their undoing. Only Bridget survives the night, but as she leaves Tophet Meadows (which is now a burned-out shell), the mysterious man in black appears, gives the camera a sly wink and then disappears.  Director Steven Goldmann, an award-winning Country Music video director (which explains Trace Adkins involvement here [he also sings the film's closing tune, "Welcome To Hell"]), has made a winner here, thanks to a cast of trailer park residents who actually look the part. While Timothy Dolan's screenplay (based on the Imperium Comics series of the same name) offers us the standard teen characters (pothead, sex addict, porn addict, smart aleck, etc.), it's the residents of the trailer park that really sells the film. They are the skuzziest and dankest characters in recent memory and that's even before their zombie transformation. While the middle section bogs down to introduce us to the teens and their idiosyncrasies, the pace quickly picks up once they get to Tophet Meadows and the gore literally explodes on the screen. Some of the gore on view: Norma ripping off the pastor's head while they are making love; a zombified Miss China (Michelle Lee), the park's resident "massage therapist" (i.e. whore), walking on one teen's upper torso until his spinal column bursts out his back (she then rips off his dick when he can't give her a "happy ending!); a girl getting her arm cut off with a portable band saw while she is tripping on drugs and then running into Larlene (Trish Rae Stahl), the park's extremely overweight meat-hungry female, who rips open the poor girl's stomach and begins chowing-down on her innards; and Stank, who forces Alex and another teen girl to make a snuff film (Alex is then skinned alive and deep-fried!). While the film does go overboard at times, especially with Roach and the songs he composes on his electric guitar (but, damn, the songs are funny!), the effects are top-notch and the humor is extremely black. Why this film went directly to video and bypassed a theatrical release is beyond me. It's so much better than the SAW franchise and 99% of all the other horror films that play in theaters today. Also starring Haley Marie Norman, Stefanie Black, Ricky McCabe, Duane Whitaker and cameos by Pricilla Barnes as Norma's slut mother (who, in flashback, gets a bullet in her brainpan when she refuses to insert an object up her ass in one of Stank's homemade "porno" films) and Tracey Walter as an old trucker. Available on widescreen DVD from Summit Entertainment. Unrated.

TRICK OR TREAT (1986) - Metalhead high-schooler Eddie "Ragman" Weinbauer (Marc Price) worships rocker Sammi Curr (Tony Fields). So much, in fact, that he writes him fan letters every day and has a poster of him on the wall facing his bed, so Sammi is the last thing he sees every night before he closes his eyes. Sammi is also the most famous person to ever graduate from Eddie's high school, the same school that Eddie suffers through five days a week, thanks to jock Tim Hainey (a baby-faced Doug Savant of TV's MELROSE PLACE [1992 - 1999] and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES [2004 - 2012]) and his gang, who mercilessly torture Eddie every chance they get (At one point, Tim throws a naked Eddie into the girls' gymnasium during volleyball practice and locks the door behind him). Eddie also secretly pines for pretty fellow classmate Leslie Graham (Lisa Orgolini), but she barely notices him. Sammi is supposed to to give a Halloween concert at the high school, but the local tight-asses and politically correct politicians ban him from performing, calling his act "rock pornography". When Sammi dies in a hotel fire, Eddie becomes more withdrawn, tearing down all the posters off his bedroom wall. Eddie's friend, radio DJ Nuke (Gene Simmons), sees that Eddie is having a rough time dealing with Sammi's death, so he gives him a one-of-a-kind acetate LP of Sammi's last recording, made hours before his death. At a pool party, Tim and his goons shove a bench weight down Eddie's pants and throw him in the pool. Leslie has to jump in to save him from drowning and as he leaves the party, he vows to Leslie that he is going to get even with Tim and his friends. That opportunity comes later that night when Eddie plays the acetate on his turntable and he hears a message when he plays the album backwards. Eddie's luck seems to change overnight. At school the next day, Eddie plays a prank on Tim and gets away with it. This change in luck comes with a steep price, though. The more Eddie plays the album, the darker the messages become and Eddie slowly changes into a person ten times worse than Tim. Wherever Eddie goes, bad things happen to those around him. As more and more people end up hurt (Tim's girlfriend Geenie [Elise Richards] is supernaturally undressed and has her brain fried when she listens to a copy of the acetate that Eddie transferred to cassette tape), Eddie begins to see the error of his ways. The acetate is a vessel for Sammi's return from the dead and Eddie finally realizes that his hero is nothing more than a murderous supernatural psychopath. Eddie has to destroy the acetate and the cassette copy he made in order to send Sammi back to Hell. That's not going to be as easy as it sounds, especially since Eddie's best friend Roger (Glen Morgan) told him he destroyed the tape, but really didn't. Oh, and did I mention that Nuke has a copy of the acetate and plans on playing it on his radio program on Halloween Night?  This is one of many 80's rock 'n' roll horror films (TERROR ON TOUR - 1980; ROCKTOBER BLOOD - 1984; BLOOD TRACKS - 1985; HARD ROCK ZOMBIES - 1985; ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE - 1987; SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK - 1987; BLACK ROSES - 1988) and, besides some stunt casting (Gene Simmons, who is surprisingly good; Ozzy Osbourne as the anti-rock, fire-and-brimstone Reverend Aaron Gilstrom, who is simply terrible), this flick is pretty entertaining. Those expecting a comedy will be severely disappointed, as director (and actor) Charles Martin Smith (FIFTY/FIFTY - 1992) plays everything relatively straight, which adds some punch to the horror scenes. Marc Price ("Skippy" on the popular 80's comedy TV series FAMILY TIES [1982 - 1989] and the star of the awful horror/comedy LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH - 1993) is very good as the much put-upon Eddie. Much of the film lays on his shoulders and he manages to rise to the occasion. While not very bloody, TRICK OR TREAT does contain some good horror set-pieces, including Tim getting his tie caught in a spinning lathe, Eddie's ride in a possessed automobile and Sammi's appearance at the high school's Halloween party, which turns into a CARRIE-inspired slaughter as Sammi begins zapping students with his guitar. This film actually got a theatrical release, thanks to the then-fear by idiotic parents and "protectors of society" that heavy metal music was destroying our youth by forcing them to commit suicide with hidden messages within the music. This film did not lay those fears to rest. (When I was a kid, it was the whole Beatles' "Paul Is Dead" debacle and he's still alive!), Director Charles Martin Smith has a small role as Mr. Wimbly, the school's principal, who gets zapped by Sammi at the Halloween party. Glen Morgan, who plays Eddie's geeky friend Roger, would later go on to become a successful writer/producer/director, working on the TV series THE X-FILES (1993 - 2002) and MILLENNIUM (1996 - 1999), as well as directing the remakes of WILLARD (2003) and BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006). Tony Fields, who plays Sammi, was a professional dancer who appeared in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Beat It" music videos. He died of complications due to AIDS in 1995. The original heavy metal tunes were composed and performed by music group Fastway. One visual joke has a theater showing a film called "Lunch Of The Dead". I wonder if Wes Craven got the idea for SHOCKER (1989) after watching this film, since both films use electricity and electrical appliances as conduits for their villains? Not to be confused with Gary Graver's similarly monikered TRICK OR TREATS (1982). Also starring Elaine Joyce, Richard Pachorek, Clare Nono and Alice Nunn. Originally released on VHS by Lorimar Home Video and available on fullscreen DVD from budget outfit Platinum Productions. Rated R.

TRICK 'R TREAT (2007) - There hasn't been a good Halloween-themed horror movie (that isn't a sequel or remake) in over thirty years. TRICK 'R TREAT just may be that movie. The film opens with Henry (Tahmoh Penikett) and wife Emma (Lesley Bibb; THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN - 2008) returning home from a party on Halloween night. Henry wants to go inside, put on a porno tape and have sex, but all Emma wants to do is remove all the Halloween decorations from the front yard before her mother comes for a visit the following morning (She says, "I hate Halloween!" as she pulls sheets off the crucifix-like poles in the front yard.). While Henry is in the house getting in the mood with the porn tape (just like a man, he falls asleep), Emma is attacked and killed by someone (or something) hiding in one of the sheets. When the porn tapes ends and Henry wakes up, he goes outside to look for Emma, only to find her tied to one of the crucifixes with an oversized pumpkin lollipop shoved in her mouth. The opening credits rolls (a series of comic book panels giving us a graphic representation of things to come) and we are taken back to earlier in the night to the town of Warren Valley, Ohio, where we watch young boy Peeping Tommy (Quinn Lord, whose presence in this film holds huge ramifications for everyone involved) spying on four girls, "virgin" Laurie (Anna Paquin; TRUE BLOOD), Janet (Moneca Delain), Maria (Rochelle Aytes) and Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith), who are in changing rooms at a store putting on their costumes and talking about coming to Warren Valley (a city which takes the Halloween spirit very seriously) for the express purpose of picking up guys (or, in Maria's case, a girl). We then switch to overweight bully Charlie (Brett Kelly), who likes to smash the neighbors' pumpkins and steal their candy. When he gets caught stealing candy at Principal Steven Wilkins' house, Steven (Dylan Baker; FIDO - 2006) makes Charlie sit down on the front stairs while he carves a pumpkin and tells him a story from his childhood, the moral of it being "Always check your candy." Charlie begins projectile vomiting (Steven spiked his candy with poison) and Steven drags Charlie's near-lifeless body into the house, almost getting caught by some young trick-or-treaters. Steven then dumps Charlie's still-not-dead body in a grave he dug in his backyard, but he is constantly interrupted by his young son Billy (Connor Levins), cranky Halloween-hating neighbor Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox; RED - 2008; under heavy old-age makeup) and Kreeg's nosy dog Spite (Steven cuts one of Charlie's fingers off with a shovel and feeds it to the dog!). Steven finally finishes Charlie off and buries him (this is apparently not the first time he has killed a child) and then notices Mr. Kreeg screaming for help through his window, but he ignores him and brings Billy down to the basement, where they make a jack-o-lantern out of a decapitated woman's head! It gets stranger, folks. We then follow four young trick-or-treaters, Chip (Alberto Ghisi), Schrader (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), Macy (Britt McKillip) and Sara (Isabelle Deluce), as they go on their rounds stealing pumpkins (for a ceremony involving a school bus full of children who drowned in a lake years earlier) and playing a practical joke on Rhonda The Retard (Samm Todd), who is actually an idiot savant that likes to carve pumpkins and has an encyclopedic knowledge about the origins of Halloween. Meanwhile, someone dressed in an executioner's costume and sporting vampire fangs is killing the residents of Warren Valley and no one notices because this town's interest in Halloween goes way beyond what we would call "normal". It may seem that there are too many stories here to maintain one's interest, but they all manage to intersect in the most interesting and unusual ways, making this film one of the most satisfying horror films to come down the pike in quite a while.  It's hard to believe that this film sat on a shelf for two years before eventually being released on DVD, but director/screenwriter Michael Dougherty (co-writer of URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY [2005]; this is his first feature film as a director, but I see many more in his future) has nothing to be ashamed of here. This was supposed to get a theatrical release (there were books, comics, action figures and other merchandise commissioned to coincide with its release), but the boneheads at Warner Bros. chickened out, probably because this Vancouver, B.C.-lensed film doesn't shy away from showing children being killed, mutilated or constantly put in danger. That's a shame, because TRICK 'R TREAT is a modern day cult classic of the macabre. Not only are children victims here, they are also villains (I won't spoil it for you by giving away particulars, except to say that the final story, involving Mr. Kreeg, is one of the scariest/funniest pieces of cinema I have had the pleasure to watch). Dougherty imbibes all his stories here with a palpable sense of dread, a heavy dose of atmosphere and a wicked sense of humor. I'm not going to spoil the film more than I already have but, needless to say, I haven't been this entertained by a recent horror in many a moon. My highest recommendation. Produced by Bryan Singer (THE USUAL SUSPECTS - 1995; SUPERMAN RETURNS - 2006). A Warner Premiere DVD Release. Director Michael Dougherty, in October 2013, announced a sequel was to be made, this time to be a theatrical release instead of a DTV release, thanks to this film's popularity and cult status on home video. Rated R.

THE TRIPPER (2006) - If you hate hippies, this is the film for you. In 1967, a young boy with a terminally ill mother watches helplessly as his logger father is arrested for pulling a pistol on a bunch of hippie tree-huggers who are blocking the progress of a logging operation. The young boy then grabs a chainsaw and attacks the leader of the protestors, nearly cutting his head off (in graphic detail) before the police grab him and cart him away. Forty years later, a bunch of modern-day young adults, who adhere to the hippie lifestyle, are driving through the same section of the forest when a dog darts out in front of their van, nearly causing an accident. Ivan (Lucas "Did you fly in with those ears?" Haas; WITNESS - 1985; SOLARBABIES - 1986) steps out of the van to take a leak and three guys in a pickup truck bust a beer bottle over his head and speed off. After some homemade stitches are applied to his scalp (in graphic detail) to close the wound, the pseudo-hippies drive to the next gas station, where they have a run-in with the same three rednecks in the pickup, led by Muff (director David Arquette). After a small scuffle where troubled hippie chick Samantha (Jaime King; BULLETPROOF MONK - 2003) is nearly raped by Muff, slow-witted gas station attendant Gus (Chris Nelson: THE RAGE - 2007) steps in and breaks Muff's arm (in graphic detail). The hippies continue on their way to the Free Love festival, a yearly outdoor music and drug gathering of hippie types run by huckster Frank Baker (a hilarious turn by Paul Ruebens). This year the festival, which has had a troubled history (people end up missing while attending it), is being held in the same patch of woods where the boy killed the tree-hugger forty years earlier. After being warned by Sheriff Buzz Hall (Thomas Jane; THE MIST - 2007) and a lumberjack named Dylan (Redmond Gleeson) to mind their manners and to stay away from the local pot farmers' booby-trapped fields, the hippies camp out in the woods in preparation for the festival. Not long afterward, someone in a Ronald Reagan mask begins killing the festival's hippie guests in various bloody ways (in graphic detail). Samantha believes that her abusive straight-laced ex-boyfriend Jimmy (Balthazar Getty) has followed her to the festival and wants to kill her and her friends for using drugs on a regular basis. Could he be the hippie killer or is the problem more localized? You have to watch the film to find out, but I believe most readers of this site have a good idea who the killer is.  Deftly directed by twitchy actor David Arquette (SCREAM - 1996; RAVENOUS - 1999) and populated with plenty of recognizable actors (most of them appearing as a favor to Arquette), including Jason Mewes (as a drug-taking hippie, what else?), Rick Overton (as the town's crooked mayor) and Arquette's wife Courtney Cox (in a funny cameo at the end), THE TRIPPER offers a nice mix of comedy and graphic horror. Setting it among the modern-day retro hippie subculture was also a nice touch (screenplay by Arquette and Joe Harris) that allows for a few trip-out scenes, full-frontal nudity (of both sexes), drug use of nearly every kind (including huffing glue and inhaling nitrous oxide from a balloon) and plenty of tie-dyed outfits. The violence is brutal, especially in the Unrated DVD edition, as the Ronald Reagan killer lops off heads and hands, disembowels a man and pulls out his intestines, catches people in bear traps and stabs them repeatedly. Some of the comedy is inspired (Samantha's clean-cut ex-boyfriend Jimmy's vanity plates reads REDST8S) and Paul Reubens is a hoot as the foul-mouthed festival promoter, whose favorite word is "fuck" (he also suffers the most bloody and funny death in the finale, which sets up the film for a sequel). The biggest laugh I had was when the Ronald Reagan killer murders Jimmy with an axe and Jimmy's last words are, "But I'm a Republican!" You also gotta love a killer that screams out "Nancy!" or quips "Well, there you go again!" while killing the game cast and, believe it or not, although the screenplay is politically motivated, George W. Bush is treated rather fairly. Oh, sure, he takes some hits, but he has his defenders also among the hippie crowd. THE TRIPPER is a good old-fashioned slasher flick that is helped immensely by the unusual setting and a biting political script (Why the killer adopts the Reagan personae is especially original). This film is fun and I hope Arquette continues to direct. I always thought there was something "off" about the man (face it, he's always come off as slightly crazy, but not the dangerous kind) and this film highlights that offness to perfect effect. Also starring Richmond Arquette, Paz de la Huerta, Ben Gardiner, Josh Hammond, Brad Hunt, Stephen Heath and Marsha Thompson. Distributed on DVD by Arquette and his wife's own label, Coquette Productions. Unrated for all the right reasons.

TROLL 2 (1990) - If there has been a worse film than this one released on video, I haven't seen it. You'll laugh with amazement as you witness some of the poorest acting, inane dialogue (when the sister kicks her boyfriend in the nads, he says, "What are you trying to do, turn me into a homo?", like homosexuals don't use their penises!!!!) and cruddiest special effects ever committed to celluloid in this Italian-made film masquerading as an American product. A family moves to the town of Nilbog (spell it backwards) where all the folks are vegetarians. The folks are actually goblins and they try to get the family to eat their special brand of foodstuffs that will turn them into plants which the goblins plan to eat. The boy, along with the spectre of his dead grandfather, has to come up with ways to stop his family from eating the food. In one instance, he pisses on the food to stop them from devouring it. Oh boy! Need I say more? Director Claudio Fragasso hides under the pseudonym "Drake Floyd" for this mess. He has made a lot of horror films in his life (MONSTER DOG - 1985; ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH - 1988), but nothing comes close to this escrutiating poor piece of crap. It has nothing to do with the original TROLL (1986 - a film undeserving of a sequel) and the word "troll" is not mentioned once in the screenplay. There is a surprising amount of ridiculous violence for a PG-13 rated film, but nothing you haven't seen done a hundred times before. Starring unknowns Michael Stephenson, George Hardy (a dentist in real life, although some people would say that watching this film is akin to having all your teeth pulled with no Novocain!), Margo Prey, Robert Ormsby and Connie McFarland. They should stay unknown.  European exploitation staple Laura Gemser (TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM, a.k.a. EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS - 1977) did the costumes. All the ice in the world cannot take the stink off this pitiful film. This film has achieved the kind of reverence usually reserved for films like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). There are original songs, poems, websites and even a documentary (BEST WORST MOVIE - 2010) devoted solely to it. Don't ask me why. I don't get it. An Epic/Columbia Tristar Home Video Release. Rated PG-13.

THE TURNPIKE KILLER (2009) - This is the first film from directing/writing duo Evan Makrogiannis & Brian Weaver (who would make the even-better THE SUPER in 2010 with many of this film's actors) and while this shot-on-digital effort has its bumps in the road, such as muddy, grainy photography, some questionable acting, bad sound recording and some lousy makeup effects (not all of them, just a few), this is a fairly absorbing look at a serial killer and what makes him tick. We start with two girls alive in a Queens, New York,  basement full of slaughtered dead naked women, when Jon Beest (Bill McLaughlin) comes down after being awakened by a foreign voice in his head (we will hear that voice often) that says, "Arise! It is time!". The two girls plead for their lives and when one of the girls says she "understands" him, Jon thinks she means she can hear the voice in his head, so he hammers two ten-penny nails in her head, guts her until her innards falls out, puts her plastic bag-wrapped body in his SUV and drives to New Jersey, where he dumps the body on the side of the NJ Turnpike (hence the title of the film). Next we see Jon meeting a jogging Michelle (Alia Lorea) at a park and she asks Jon if she can use his cellphone to call her boyfriend, since she left her's home to take a run. Jon obliges and then asks her out on a date after she finishes talking to her boyfriend. Michelle tells him she already has a boyfriend and Jon's attitude changes on a dime, so Michelle becomes creeped out and runs away. Jon yells out, "You got a big surprise coming to you, you little cocktease!". That night Michelle's boyfriend Nick (Frank DeJesus) gets threatening phone calls on his cellphone saying such things as. "Hey, faggot, I'm gonna kill you and your slut girlfriend!". Michelle explains what happened earlier with Jon, so Nick, after chastising Michelle for using a stranger's phone to call him, takes Michelle out for a night on the town. Jon breaks into Nick's apartment and waits for them to come home. Once they do, Michelle takes a shower and Jon beats Nick unconscious and ties him to a chair with duct tape (and delivers one more sucker punch when Nick begins waking up). Jon drags a screaming Michelle out of the shower and torments her in front of Nick ("Give me a blowjob", which she is willing to do, but Jon pushes her away in disgust. "Lick my shoes.", which she does.). After playing with the nude Michelle for a few minutes and telling Nick what a disgusting girlfriend he has, he cuts her throat right in front of Nick and then proceeds to remove her internal organs, slapping Nick in the face with what I believe is Michelle's freshly removed liver. Jon has had his fun, so he stabs Nick in the heart and then proceeds to cut Michelle's head off, dumping both their bodies off the NJ Turnpike. Divorced NY Detective Lloyd (Edgar Moye) and his partner are assigned to Nick & Michelle's murder case (they are working in conjunction with the NJ State Police), while Jon patrols the Manhattan-bound PATH train for another female victim. He finds one, chases her into an alley, attacks her (while wearing a mask and a wig), throws her in his SUV, drives home to Queens and then cuts off her head. Jon then meets wannabe Scream Queen actress Maria (Theresa Planell), who is standing on the street pissed that her boyfriend hasn't come to pick her up. She accepts a ride from Jon (Uh, oh!), where Jon teaches Maria how to scream like a real Scream Queen. When it becomes a little too real for Maria, she opens the door (a severed female head rolls out) and escapes. Jon hears the voice in his head again telling him to stop, so he hops back in his SUV and heads home while Maria is talking to a crowd of people nearby ("A female head fell out of the car!"). Detective Lloyd, with the help of a NJ State Detective, figures out that the NJ Turnpike's increasing victims are all from New York, but the killer drives to New Jersey to dispose of them, the Turnpike being his preferred dumping ground. The killer must be from New York. Lloyd then beats the NY streets looking for info and gets some important clues from street snitch T-Bone (Brian Manthorne). Meanwhile, Jon picks up hooker Lolly Pop (Brenda Gonzales) on the street. She starts making love to Jon in his SUV when the voice in his head says, "Kill her! Kill her! Punish!". Jon knocks her out and brings her to a secluded spot in a park, but she escapes and Jon hunts her down, eventually catching her under a tunnel, stabs her in the mouth and kills her with repeated blows of a pipe wrench, which he then throws into the river. A passing jogger sees Jon's face and runs in the direction he just came from to get away. His face has been seen too many times for him not to eventually get caught. Jennifer tells Donnie that Jon is stalking her, so Donnie invites Jon over for a talk. When Jon tells Donnie that Jennifer is his "sign", Donnie flips out and tells Jon to get out and never come back again. Jon burns Donnie's face off on a hot stove and, as Jon is leaving, he is spotted by Donnie's friend Jarvis (Chris Vazquez), who discovers Donnie's body and calls the police ("My friend's face is missing!"). Jon has left too many clues not to be discovered and Detective Lloyd gets information on Jon and goes to his home, trapping Jon in the basement while he is holding Jennifer hostage. Jon hears the voice in his head again, lets Jennifer go, charges Detective Lloyd and we hear gunshots as the screen goes black. One month passes and Jennifer still has bad nightmares about the ordeal. Her girlfriend answers the door and tells her a female reporter wants to talk to her. The "reporter" knocks her out and when Jennifer wakes up, she is tied naked to an altar while a mysterious hood-wearing cult surrounds her. The head of the cult turns out to be Jon's father (Demetri Kallas), who was also the voice in Jon's head. Jon was a member of this cult since he was a boy and learned to kill women at an early age. His father says, "You are the chosen! Hail Abraxis!" as he mounts Jennifer in hopes of creating a new Jon. The film freezes on the father's face and the end credits roll.  My only real complaint about this film is that the sound seems to have been recorded directly from the digital camera, so the farther the person is away from the camera, the harder it is to hear what they have to say (you'll be turning the sound up and down a few times while watching this). Bill McLaughlin is quite good as Jon Beest (I hate that last name, though, but it is hardly mentioned in the film) and Lyndsey Brown is also quite good as Jennifer. The rest of the cast is so-so, especially Edgar Moye as Detective Lloyd, who looks to be a good ten years younger than any detective I have seen. Besides a few wonky special effects, most of the guttings, beheading, etc. are very well done and quite accomplished (and all were done practically; no CGI) for a film that most probably had a budget that wouldn't feed a family of four for a month. I'd keep on the lookout for both Evan Makrogiannis & Brian Weaver, because I see nothing but good things in their future (At the time this review was posted, they were working on two new films). Some of the locations in this film looked very familiar to me because a lot of it was shot in Clifton, NJ, a mere three miles from where I live. It was also shot on location in Queens, New York and various other locations in NY & NJ. This film was finished in 2009 and had various boutique VHS & DVD releases until Wild Eye Releasing picked it it for a nationwide DVD release in 2014. If you are slightly adventurous and like ultra-low-budget gore films with an actual plot, you could do a lot worse than this one. Also starring Niki Rubin, Manoush, Javier Marquez, Lynn Hazelman and Christian McAteer. A Wild Eye Releasing DVD Release. Not Rated.

TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972) - This is actually a mixture of the H.G. Wells classic novel "The Island Of Dr. Moreau" (Which was filmed 3 times in the U.S. and I don't care what anyone says, I loved the 1996 version with Marlon Brando!) and the classic 1932 film THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Although it may seem tame now, to a Baby Boomer like myself, I was haunted in my dreams by the TV trailer for this film because of the flying bat-man (the trailer is on the DVD), much like the floating Juliet Mills creeped me out on the numerous showings of BEYOND THE DOOR (1974). They were both iconic moments in kids' and teenagers' minds, which made us want to see them all the more. These were the things nightmares were made of. Sure, we laugh at the shoddiness of the productions today (although I do think the flying bat-man still looks better than any film with a low-budget, even up to this day of CGI, especially since this was done physically [until the final shot]), but back in the early 1970's, these were films we HAD to see, just to get those memory pieces out of our sleeping brains. And we were entertained in the process. When I put this fullscreen VCI DVD into my player, I was instantly transported back to when I originally saw this film on a double feature with THE DOBERMAN GANG (1972). And that, my friends, is a good thing. The film begins with scuba diver Matt Farrell (late Filipino stalwart John Ashley; THE BLOOD ISLAND films [1968 - 1970]; BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT [1970]) being abducted underwater and being dragged up to the surface on a boat upside-down with a rope around his ankles. He is then tied to a bed, when he meets blonde-haired henchmen Steinman (Jan Merlin; SILK 2 - 1989), who says he is being taken to the island compound of Dr. Gordon (Charles Macauley; THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES - 1973) and Dr. Gordon's beautiful daughter Neva (Pat Woodell; THE BIG DOLL HOUSE - 1971), also a doctor who makes sure that Matt is in good health. After docking the boat and a long Jeep ride through the thick jungle, Matt meets Dr. Gordon, who tells Matt that he is doing experiments to create a race of "super beings" since humankind will not be around much longer and we need to move the evolutionary factor as fast as possible. Matt is a perfect specimen for such an experiment. Matt is locked in a bedroom where he meets the also-abducted Juan Pereira (Eddie Garcia; BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN - 1974) while looking out of the terrace, Juan (who has had his head shaved completely bald by Dr. Gordon's assistants) tells Matt that escape is impossible and, if you look at it the right way, this is not such a bad place to live (He will end up eating those words in a little while). Meanwhile, we see Steinman kill one of Dr. Gordon's escaped experiments, a half-man/half-boar, much to Dr. Gordon's disgust. We get the feeling that Steinman is running things around here, not Dr. Gordon. The good Doctor has a whole menagerie af half-human/half-animal experiments in cages in a laboratory in a cave. Some of them are docile, while others, like Ayesa, The Panther Woman (Pam Grier; Eddie Romero's BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA - 1973; she does nothing in this film but roar like a panther) are mostly animal and will kill at the slightest provocation. Matt finds a way to pick the lock on his bedroom door and takes a look around the compound, reading some of Dr. Gordon's files, watching an experiment being performed on Juan where the top of his head is cut off (some blood is spilled on Neva and she runs away) and then saving Neva from being killed by an escaped Ayesa, grabbing her from behind and putting her back in a cage. Most of Dr. Gordon's experiments trust Neva, since she treats them with respect and kindness. It's just that some have reverted back to their animalistic ways and cannot be trusted. Neva, of course, falls in love with Matt and they discuss a plan to escape the island with all the experiments, in hopes they can be cured. Unfortunately, Steinman knows all about Matt escaping from his bedroom and when he confronts Neva about it, she makes a veiled remark that Steinman is gay and wants Matt for himself, not as a lover, but as another head in a jar (earlier in the film, when Matt is checking out the compound, he finds a room full of decapitated heads in jars, along with other body parts being kept in strange glass encasements). Steinman gets sexual pleasure out of hunting humans. Matt wants Neva and the human/animals to take a different route than him, because he earlier promised Steinman that he was going to kill him and he's a man of his word. Besides, Steinman would rather hunt Matt than anyone else. Steinman orders a group of guards to retrieve or kill Neva and her friends, while he take a small crew and hunts Matt (you now know why). Matt has kidnapped Dr. Gordon and rakes him along on their jungle trek. Neva is having problems controlling some of the experiments. Ayesha kills a few guards by biting them in the face or tearing their throats out. Primo, The Ape Man (Kim Ramos), tries to rape Neva, but is stopped by the loyal Kuzma, The Antelope Man (an unrecognizable Ken Metcalfe; Eddie Romero's SUDDEN DEATH - 1975) and Primo runs away. In the film's only attempt at humor, Darmo, The Bat-Man (Tony Gonsalvez) tries to fly off the branch of a tree, only to land flat on his face (He does manage to inprove his technique though, otherwise my young teenage years would have not been disturbed by those images). Something ugly in the jungle foliage warns Matt that Steinmann and his crew are just around the corner. Dr. Gordon escapes and heads back to his compound, knowing all his work is about to be destroyed. Neva refuses to move until Ayesa comes back, so she sends Kuzma to look for her. Kuzma is shot by one of the guards and Ayesa tries to finish Kuzma off. Lupa, The Wolf Woman (Mona Maria) intervenes, so Kuzma hits Ayesa several times in the face with the butt of his rifle, killing her. After killing Primo, some guards capture Neva, so the rest of the animal people go on the offensive. Kuzma keeps the guards pinned down with a rifle, while Lupa kills a guard and Darmo finds his wings (this sequence can stand up to most big-budget movies today, only this sequence is done practically), killing some guards in the jungle and the compound. Steinman kills both Kuzma and Lupa, but Matt manages to put a bullet into Steinman with his rifle before Steinman runs away and hides for an ambush. When Matt goes to look for him following the blood trail, he finds Steinman dead with his eyes open (it's quite an effective scene), so Matt kept his word. Dr. Gordon is back at his compound collecting his files and escaping through a secret passageway, when he runs into a butt-ugly creature. It turns out to be Neva's mother and Dr. Gordon's wife (the same creature who warned Matt in the jungle), She stabs him to death with a knife and disappears, not wanting her daughter to see her this way. When Matt and Neva find Dr. Gordon's bloody corpse, they also see Darmo flying off into the horizon (this time replaced by a crappy animated bat-man). All's well that ends well.  Thoroughly enjoyable in its cheeziness, you have to give the movie props for delivering some good human/animal makeups (not all of them are good, though). Neva's mother is the stuff you find in your nightmares and Eddie Romero was smart to limit her time on screen. It just makes it all the more effective. There's also a fairly good amount of blood for a PG-Rated film (but no nudity), which wasn't unusual in films of the early 70's. The late Eddie Romero (he passed away in 2013) found great success in the United States with his made-in-the-Philippines films in the 1970's. Besides the movies already mentioned, he directed THE WOMAN HUNT (1972); BEYOND ATLANTIS (1973); and SAVAGE SISTERS (1974). When his type of films failed to attract audiences in the end of the 1970's, he continued directing films for his home country. I've always enjoyed his films and he is but one of my favorite Filipino directors (Cirio H. Santiago is still my favorite). A lot of people don't enjoy Filipino films, but I have been a fan since I saw Romero/Gerry DeLeon's BRIDES OF BLOOD back in 1968. The wonderful beauty of the people and the land, the great acting ability of some of the actors, both native and expatriate (John Ashley could never be mistaken for a good actor, but he had "something" people liked and he loved the Philippines, but he had to leave in the late 1970's and became a successful producer of U.S. TV series before passing away much too young at age 62 of a heart attack in 1997), and some of them are still friends of mine on Facebook. I just wish kids today could experience what it was like going to theaters to watch double features in the 1970's. I guess "experience" is the best word to describe it. I made many friends over the years as a teen seeing double bills in the 70's, some of them still good friends of mine today, but the teens today don't seem interested in having real friends, but ones they can put on their social media sites (but that's another story for another time). The IMDb lists Roger Corman as an uncredited Executive Producer, a claim I find dubious, since this film was distributed theatrically by Dimension Films, a direct competitor with Corman's New World Films. I doubt Corman had anything to do with this, even though he was working in the Philippines at the time (but mainly with Cirio H. Santiago). Originally released on VHS by VCI Home Video, with a budget VHS by Interglobal Home Video years later. The VCI DVD (which I picked up for a measly $2.99 during their 60% off Black Friday Sale and even though I picked Economy Shipping, it arrived at my door a mere 3 days later with a bunch of other VCI titles!) is fullscreen and it is a DVD-R (that's the way they seem to be producing their discs now), but it was crisp and clear and very colorful (the opening scenes of the colorful sea bottom pop off the screen). A blast from my past that I plan on making a permanent part of my library. Also featuring Angelo Ventura, Johnny Long, Andres Centenera, Letty Mirasol and Max Rojo. A VCI Entertainment DVD-R Release. Rated PG, even though it says "Not Rated" on the DVD-R sleeve. There are no extra scenes (if my memory is still holding up!).

2001 MANIACS (2004) - This remake of Hershell Gordon Lewis' early gore film TWO THOUSAND MANIACS (1964) delivers on the gore but does not improve on the plot of the original (which, in turn, was a loose retelling of the musical film BRIGADOON - 1954). In fact, the plot is a step down from the original. For the uninitiated, the plot tells the story of a group of Northern tourists (the remake makes it a bunch of Nothern college kids on their way to Daytona Beach for Spring Break) who are tricked into visiting the Southern town of Pleasant Valley, which is really a ghost town that comes back to life one day every year to get revenge on the decendants of Yankees who slaughtered them during the Civil War more than 150 years ago. That's basically the plot in a nutshell. The new version finds the town's mayor (Robert Englund) and matriarch (Lin Shaye) holding a jubilee in the new visitors' honor, the visitors not realizing that they are the main course. Most of them die horrible, gory deaths. One girl is drawn and quartered, her flesh then cooked and eaten by her unsuspecting friends during lunch. One guy is made to drink acid through a tube while having sex with a local, his torso opening up as his guts spill out while the acid burns a hole through the bed. Another girl has a giant iron bell dropped on her, crushing her body to a bloody pulp. Another guy is crushed under a giant press so hard that his eyes fly out of their sockets. The only gay guy in the group has a giant skewer shoved so far up his ass that the end comes out of his mouth. A local girl bites the dick off another guy after putting pointy metal teeth in her mouth. The last two surviving kids must try to escape the murderous cannibal Southeners before they, too, end up as meals on the picnic tables. In an ironic ending (different from the original because audiences today probably won't "understand" a happy ending), the kids get away on a motorcycle but meet one final booby trap as they escape.  Director Tim Sullivan (DRIFTWOOD - 2006) ups the gore quotient from the original (and really pushes the film's R-rating), but fails when it comes to building any tension between and during the murders. There's some inventive touches here and there (such as the scene of the group playing a twisted game of horseshoes), but they eventually lead nowhere. It seems that they were put there just to chew up time. Speaking of chewing, Robert Englund eats up the scenery with his role (as does Lin Shaye), but the the kids are bland and unbelievable in their roles as the horny college students who are more interested in getting laid than to notice what the hell is going on around them. I also didn't like all the heavy metal music on the soundtrack (another trend in recent horror films). It seems out-of-place considering the circumstances and ill-conceived. The use of an updated version of H.G. Lewis' song ("The South's Gonna Rise Again") from the original film is also a dud. All-in-all, I like the original film much, much better than this remake, even if this one had better lead actors, bloodier effects (although this one didn't contain the notorious barrel-roll scene of the original) and a bigger budget. The original had an air of desperation and dread (probably because they were working with relatively no money and had to improvise) that this remake is so sorely missing. If you are purely into gore, 2001 MANIACS will be a grand time for you. Otherwise, just skip it. Also starring Jay Gillespie, Guiseppe Andrews (the stoner cop from CABIN FEVER [2002] and the simply awful CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER [2009]), Brian Gross, Marla Leigh Malcolm, Gina Marie Heekin, Dylan Edrington, Matthew Carey, Bianca Smith, Johnny Legend and cameos by Travis Tritt as a redneck gas jockey, Peter Stormare as a college professor and Bill McKinney (who passed away in 2011) as the cannibalistic chef. Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER and HOSTEL - 2005) and Scott Spiegel (INTRUDER [1989] and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2 [1998]) are just two of the film's 11 producers (including David F. Friedman, who produced the original) and they both have small acting parts in it also. Followed by the simply horrid 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS (2010), also directed by Tim Sullivan. A Lions Gate Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

UNDEAD OR ALIVE (2007) - The horror western was a small subgenre throughout the decades (BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA and JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER [both 1966] being prime bad examples and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER [1973] being a prime excellent example), until recently, where there has been a huge resurgence. Some examples include LEGEND OF THE PHANTOM RIDER (2000), FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER (2000), DEAD BIRDS (2004), BLOOD TRAIL (2005), BLOODRAYNE 2: DELIVERANCE (2007), COPPERHEAD (2008), THE BURROWERS (2008), HIGH PLAINS INVADERS (2009) and this film, a zombie comedy set in the Old West. Legend has it that before powerful Indian chief Geronimo was killed by soldiers (Major anachronism: Geronimo actually died of pneumonia in 1909!), he created the "White Man's Curse", which turns white men into flesh-craving zombies. Enter stranger Elmer (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES' James Denton) into some jerkwater unnamed small western town. He gets into a fight with local man Luke (ex-SNL'er Chris Kattan; HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL - 1999) when he hits on Luke's girlfriend, bar floozy Kate (Cristin Michele). Sadistic Sheriff Claypool (Matt Besser) throws Elmer and Luke in jail and in the cell next to them is Ben (Brian Posehn; THE DEVIL'S REJECTS - 2005), a victim of the White Man's Curse who has just eaten the brains of his wife and young daughter and is sentenced to hang the following morning. Elmer and Luke form an uneasy alliance and break out of jail, sticking filthy slob Deputy Cletus (Chris Coppola) in the cell next to Ben, where Ben bites him and Cletus eventually bites the Sheriff. After taking back the money Sheriff Claypool stole from Elmer (and then robbing the Sheriff's safe for good measure), the duo hightail it out of town (their gun skills are so bad, neither of them can hit the side of a barn) and are followed by mystery woman Sue (Navi Rawat; FEAST - 2005). After hanging Ben in the morning (more on that later), Sheriff Claypool and Deputy Cletus (who are now both infected with the White Man's Curse) lead a posse to capture Elmer and Luke, but first they put the bite on their posse and pass the curse on to them. Sue turns out to be Geronimo's niece and takes Luke and Elmer prisoner (she strips them naked and forces them to ride bareback until their balls are raw!), but she eventually joins forces with them to get even with the men who killed her uncle. While Sheriff Claypool and his zombified posse hunt down our trio (where our trio quickly learns that the posse can't be killed with bullets or arrows, not even to their heads), Ben springs back to undead life after his hanging and begins putting the bite on the townspeople, beginning with Kate and trapping the town's Padre (the diminutive Leslie Jordan) in the hotel (he gets so thirsty, he drinks from a spittoon!). When the trio is captured by the U.S. Army (Elmer is an Army deserter), the same people responsible for Geronimo's death, the trio discover that the White Man's Curse is spreading rapidly and the only way to stop it is to dig up Geronimo's body and perform a ritual using his flesh, which may be the only way to save Elmer and Luke, who are now infected.  This zombie comedy (or "Zombedy" as the film's secondary title suggests), directed and written by Glasgow Phillips (his feature film debut), has a few funny and gory scenes, but truth be told, the humor is a little too "modern" for a Western setting, especially Navi Rawat's Sue, a New York educated Indian who is too wise for her years, not to mention more liberated than any woman would be even 100 years later (Truth be told, I'm majorly in love with Navi Rawat and have been even since I first laid eyes on her on the TV series NUMB3RS [2005 - 2010]). The film's good points are that the zombies retain their human traits (such as speech and the ability to think) and that simply shooting them in the head doesn't kill them; they must be decapitated to die, which sets up some nifty makeup effects (supplied by maestro Robert Kurtzman), There's also some dodgy CGI on view, especially some obvious computer generated explosions and arterial spray, an all-too-common occurrence in DTV films today. I do have to say, though, that the cure Luke and Elmer find for their affliction is novel (if you can't find Geronimo, eating one of his relatives will do the trick) and Ben reuniting with his family in the finale were nice touches. Not a total success, but not a failure, either, UNDEAD OR ALIVE is a mindless and harmless way to spend 90 minutes. Be sure to stick through the closing credits for some funny outtakes. Also starring Todd Anderson, Ben Zeller, Lew Alexander, Christopher Allen Nelson and T. Jay O'Brien. An Image Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE UNDERTAKER (1988) - This is Joe Spinell's final film and, as of this writing, it is still unavailable on VHS or DVD legally. I got this on eBay as a dupe VHS (the quality is good, though, in what looks like a workprint) and I must say that it's not a high note for any actor to go out on, but it does have it's charms. Spinnell plays Uncle Roscoe, the local mortician and undertaker who kills women to have sex with. His nephew Nicholas (Patrick Askin),who is studying necrophilia in his college anthropology class, catches on to his Uncle's lurid doings and gets his anthropology teacher (Rebecca Yaron) involved in the mess. The whole film is a series of Spinell hunting down women and killing them so they can be sent to his funeral home where he can have his way with their bodies.  Bodies are slit open with straight razors, machetes, hypodermic needles and any other sharp object that is available. Uncle Roscoe catches Nicholas snooping in his things and knocks him out and ties him up next to a bloody dead woman. A local movie theater security guard (played by Associate Producer France Poeta) notices that all the murders resemble the movie that is now playing and deduces that one of the patrons is doing the killings. The police are also involved trying to solve the gory murders. Considering that this is Spinell's final film (and resembles William Lustig's MANIAC [1980] to a certain degree), director Franco de Steffanino fills the films with amateur actors, downright silly situations and a screenplay (by William James Kennedy, who some people think is the actual director and that de Steffanino is just a pseudonym he used) that pushes believability beyond the realm of, well, believability. The main reason for watching this is Joe Spinell's sweaty performance as Roscoe. He is a creepy, ugly man who is incapable of having sex with a living woman. The coroner even tells the police that he found traces of semen on one of the disemboweled woman's intestines! The cop then says: "I think I'm going to be sick!" Roscoe hates all living people calling them hypocrites, bastards, jerks and so forth, while putting on a front when faced with the grieving relatives. When the security guard gets too close to the truth, Roscoe plants a knife in his eye. It's up to Nicholas' teacher to solve the murders and she enlists some college friends and the cops to stop the killings. Roscoe kills both cops (one of them played by Kennedy), putting an ice pick through one's neck and slitting the other's throat, all the while crying and blaming the crimes on Nicholas, whom he says was abused as a child (By him!). He then goes after the teacher in a final showdown and a surprise ending. This film definitely deserves the deluxe treatment just for the simple fact that it is Spinell's final acting gig and there's plenty of blood and guts to satisfy the most discerning gorehound. Shot on a low budget and it shows, but it is entertaining in a weird way. I recommend it but with serious reservations for anyone looking for a coherent plot. Also starring Martha Schoeman, Susan Bachla, Charles Kay-Hume. Max Stone and Joe Hagle. NOTE: Now available on legitimate DVD from Code Red. Not Rated. "Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly."

UNHINGED (1983) - This little-known horror opus deserves to stay unknown. The acting is terrible, the dialogue stilted and no blood is shown until the halfway mark. Three college girls on vacation have an auto accident during a rainstorm and find themselves recuperating in an old mansion ruled by a man-hating matriarch (Virginia Settle) and her spinster daughter (J.E. Penner). After much “plot development”, wherein we find out why Mom despises men (Daddy was caught diddling an 8 year-old girl), one of the college girls tries to walk through the woods to call for a tow truck, only to be hacked to death by an unseen killer carrying a scythe. Another college girl gets a hatchet lodged in her head while she sleeps. The surviving college chick (Laurel Munson) discovers the secret of the house: The spinster daughter is actually a man, hiding his identity from his demented and domineering mother. In the blood-drenched finale, he chops up the surviving college girl with a machete, leaving no survivors. Mediocre in all aspects, especially top-billed Laurel Munson (who wears the same facial expression throughout the film, as if someone let loose a smelly fart), this film offers nothing new to horror fans. Director/producer/co-screenwriter Don Gronquist (who also produced STARK RAVING MAD in 1982) has thankfully not directed another film since. A Lighthouse Home Video Release. Also available on DVD (Why? Why? Why? To make fun of, of course!) from Indie DVD. Also released on a double feature fullscreen DVD, with the Gronquist produced/written STARK RAVING MAD (here called MURDER RUN) by Code Red, both with audio commentary by Gronquist. Much better than the so-called humor commentary on the Indie DVD. Unrated due to the gory ending and a scene of body parts in a shed. Don’t waste your time.

UNSEEN EVIL (1999/2001) - Regular readers of this site know that I am a big fan of director Jay Woelfel. His BEYOND DREAM'S DOOR (1988) and GHOST LAKE (2004) are excellent examples of what can be done with talent and very little money. When Mr. Woelfel is in control of his material (i.e writes the screenplay and/or composes the moody music), his films have and edge to them that can't be denied. He falters a bit when he's just a gun for hire, as can be seen in DEMONICUS (2001) and TRANCERS 6 (2002). UNSEEN EVIL falls somewhere in the middle. Richard Hatch portrays Dr. Peter Jensen, a college professor who leads an archeology expedition to an ancient Indian burial ground deep in the California woods. The professor is tired of working for peanuts and decides to raid the tomb of all it's valuable artifacts, which doesn't sit too well with student (and former lover) Kate (Cindi Braun) and female Indian guide Dana (Cindy Pena). To make sure the women don't cause any trouble, Dr. Jensen brings hired muscle Williams (Jere Jon) and Mike (Frank Ruotolo) along to watch his back. What the good doctor doesn't count on is releasing an invisible Indian demon when they open the tomb. The creature (shielded in an invisibility cloak ala PREDATOR - 1987) first kills Dana, leaving the rest of our unhappy campers without a guide to find their way home. They manage to make their way back to their van, but the creature disables it as well as giving Williams a nasty leg wound. Meanwhile, pissed-off park ranger Chuck (Tim Thomerson), who Williams knocked out and handcuffed back at his outpost, comes to and goes looking for the group. He finds them and takes control of the situation, but is almost immediately decapitated by the creature. Williams takes the booty and steals the repaired van, leaving Jensen, Kate and Mike to fend for themselves. The rest of the film is just a cat-and-mouse chase between the creature and the remainder of the cast. You dont need ESP to know who is going to live and who is going to bite it.  This is standard monster-on-the-loose stuff elevated every once in a while by some extreme gore. I will admit it was nice to see Richard Hatch (also in Woelfel's IRON THUNDER - 1998) play a bad guy for a change, but the generic script Scott Spears (who was also cinematographer and second unit director) doesn't give Hatch or anyone else in the cast very much to do except run around and be fodder for the creature. The creature is a dodgy CGI creation (as is Thomerson's decapitation) that never looks the least bit frightening, so I guess it's best that it's kept invisible for most of the running time. When will filmmakers learn that CGI is no substitute for good old physical effects? The film does throw in an unusual surprise ending, but it's just a matter of too little too late. This is the kind of film that Roger Corman or Fred Olen Ray churned out on a regular basis during the 80's & 90's. If you liked those, you'll probably like this one, too. I do look forward to Jay Woelfel's latest film (as of this writing) LIVE EVIL (2007), his take on the vampire legend which he also scripted. Jay followed with CLOSED FOR THE SEASON (2010), an atmospheric horror tale about a long-closed amusement park that haunts a young girl, and ASYLUM OF DARKNESS (2017) an overlong, but totally weird, horror flick about an amnesiac asylum patient trying to find his true self. As I have said before, when Woelfel directs one of his own screenplays, the results are usually special. Also starring Ronnie Rist and Benjamin Cline. Originally filmed as UNSEEN in 1999 (and also known as THE UNBELIEVABLE), but not released until 2001. A Monarch Home Video Release. Rated R.

UP FROM THE DEPTHS (1979) - It's pretty hard to imagine that this pitiful excuse of a monster film actually got a theatrical release back in the day, but what's even harder to imagine is how poorly it turned out considering the talent in front of and behind the camera. An underwater tremor unleashes a bloodthirsty creature that threatens the lives of a small Hawaiian island (actually filmed in the Philippines). When shark heads and other body parts of sea creatures wash ashore on the beach of a once-popular seaside luxury resort owned by Mr. Forbes (Kedric Wolfe), he blames it on the nephew/uncle team of Greg (the late Sam Bottoms; HUNTER'S BLOOD - 1987) and Earl (Virgil Frye; BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW - 1976), who run a charter boat operation that cons the paying customers of Forbes' resort into going on phony underwater treasure hunts. When Forbes' pretty assistant, Rachel (Susanne Reed), witnesses the creature killing one of her friends and can't get Mr. Forbes to believe her, she joins forces with Greg (who witnesses the creature killing one of his rubes [played by Filipino staple Ken Metcalfe]) and ocean biologist Dr. Whiting (Charles Howerton) to find a way to stop the monster from killing more innocent people. Mr. Forbes tries his damnedest to keep word of the deaths from reaching the ears of his customers or the press, but that becomes next to impossible when human body parts begin washing ashore. When the creature attacks and kills several more of the resort's tourists, Mr. Forbes offers $1000 and a week's stay in the Presidential Suite to any tourist who bags the creature. Of course, all the tourists automatically disregard the bloody attack the night before and greedily take to the ocean en masse to kill the monster. When the tourists (Many of them too drunk or too stupid beyond believability) prove not up to the task, Greg uses the now-dead Dr. Whiting's body as chum (!) to entice the monster before blowing it up with explosives. Too bad that the viewer couldn't get as swift a death as the creature, because we'll have to keep the images of this film in our brains for the rest of our lives.  This horror film, directed by Charles B. Griffith (screenwriter of the cult classic LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS [1960] and director of such films as EAT MY DUST [1976] and DR. HECKYL AND MR. HYPE [1980]), is so bad, it almost reaches a new plateau of awfulness. It's a movie that is so shitty, I felt I had to wipe my ass after watching it. Nearly every technical credit is sub-par, including editing that looks to have been performed by someone going through detox, post-synch dubbing that sounds like it was recorded in a closet, and a monster that looks so ridiculous, I can't imagine how anyone in the cast kept a straight face when looking at it (imagine a shark with a couple of extra dorsal fins glued-on to it's body, done with the technical ability of an Ed Wood flick). Maybe it's because the cast realized when they got on set what a crap sandwich they signed themselves onto, as everyone looks and acts like they just got back from a loved one's funeral. The screenplay, by Alfred M. Sweeney (credited to Anne Dyer on posters and ad mats), is just a jumbled mess of horror clichés with no connective tissue, as sequences jump from one scene to the next without making any sense. People in this film do the most idiotic things imaginable and I let out an audible groan when all the tourists took to the ocean to kill the creature for a measly thousand bucks and a free week's stay at the resort (even the tourists that were injured the night before!). It's this type of contempt for the audience that makes this film a contender for the worst JAWS rip-off of all time (and, yes, I'm taking DEVIL FISH [1984] into consideration). Producer Cirio H. Santiago must of thought so, too, because he tried to redeem himself by directing a remake, DEMON OF PARADISE in 1987, but you know that old saying, "You can't polish a turd" had to come into effect, making DEMON one of the worst films in the late Santiago's long list of directorial efforts. UP FROM THE DEPTHS is an inane and slow-moving 85-minute piece of crap, which deserves all the bad vibes you can muster. Really, it's that bad. Also starring Denise Hayes, Chuck Doherty, Helen McNeely and Randy Taylor. Originally released theatrically by Roger Corman's New World Pictures and then on VHS by Vestron Video. Available on a double feature DVD (with DEMON OF PARADISE) from Shout! FactoryRated R for one scene of topless nudity. The blood and gore are practically non-existent (the bloodiest it gets is the sight of a torn-off arm on the ocean floor).

URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY (2005) - When a Salt Lake City high school prom gag goes wrong in 1969, leading to the death of hippie chick Mary Banner (Lillith Fields) and a cover-up by Willie and his jock friends, who stuffs her lifeless body in a trunk in the high school's basement, the legend of Bloody Mary is born. In the present day, Samantha Owens (Kate Mara) and a couple of her female high school friends are having a sleepover, telling each other scary urban legends when the topic of Blood Mary is brought up. Samantha foolishly repeats Bloody Mary's name three times and, in the morning, Samantha and her two friends have disappeared, worrying brother David (Robert Vito), mother Pam (Nancy Everhard; THE PUNISHER - 1989) and new stepdad Bill (Ed Marinaro; AVALANCHE ALLEY - 2001), who just happens to be the town's sheriff and is in the middle of a nasty campaign for Mayor. When Samantha and her friends turn up a day later, all three have the same story about waking up in an abandoned building in the state park with no memory of how they got there. Medical workups on all three girls show the presence of the date rape drug GHB in their systems, but none of them have been sexually assaulted. Suspicion immediately falls on members of the school's football team, since Samantha ran an unflattering photo and story of them in the school newspaper and they blacklisted her from the school dance. Samantha confides to brother David that it was indeed the jocks who drugged her and her friends as a practical joke, but that doesn't explain the rash of weird deaths happening to the jocks and their snotty cheerleader girlfriends, beginning with Roger (Brandon Sacks), who is roasted alive in a tanning bed.  When head cheerleader Heather (Audra Lee Keener) wakes up one morning covered in spiders (that crawl out of a huge zit on her face!), she rips her face off after crashing into a mirror. Head jock Buck (Michael Coe) believes that Samantha and David are responsible, but when fellow jock Tom (Nate Herd) has his penis fried off after pissing on an electric fence (his ring finger is also removed), Samantha believes this is all tied to Mary Banner's disappearance in 1969. Samantha and David begin looking-up people who were around during Mary's disappearance in 1969, beginning with black 60's radical pothead Grace Taylor (Tina Lifford; BLOOD WORK - 2002), who tells Samantha and David that Mary has returned and is taking revenge on the offspring of the five people responsible for her death. With three of the children already dead, Samantha and David try to find the remaining two families, not aware that one of the families is closer than they think (Hint: What name could Willy be using today?).  This is the third film in the URBAN LEGEND series and the first to go straight to home video. Professionally directed by Mary Lambert (PET SEMATARY - 1989; PET SEMATARY II - 1992; THE ATTIC - 2008) and acted by a talented cast of pros, URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY suffers from a weak script (screenplay by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris) that never rises above the ordinary or offers any real scares. There are some gory deaths (Heather's spider-filled demise is the film's highlight) and shock cuts (especially when Bloody Mary enters the frame), but the entire story hinges on figuring out who the fifth family is and even a monkey who has its body and brains inflicted with syphilis in some laboratory experiment could figure it out in the film's first fifteen minutes. Don't get me wrong, this is an OK horror flick for those not too concerned about having a substantial plot, but I, for one, would have liked the mystery elements to be, well, more mysterious. Typical big-budget studio DTV stuff. Watchable, yet hardly remarkable. Also starring Don Shanks and Jeff Olson. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

VAMPIRE COP (1990) - While I would normally leave a film like this for my friend Mario to review on his FILMS ON THE FRINGE section of this web site, I had to comment on this unholy crapfest disguised as a horror film. First, it was directed by former fanboy Donald Farmer of DEMON QUEEN (1986) infamy and second, it has a rare appearance by Mal Arnold, Fuad Ramses of BLOOD FEAST (1963), which many consider the first gore film. While he was wooden in that particular film, he looks absolutely professional as Lt. Ryan (who gets chainsawed to death for refusing to co-operate with gangsters) compared to all the other actors in this film. A vampire cop named Lucas (Ed Cannon, who is always shown in the same fog-shrouded shot as he is about to attack the bad guys) tries to stop a prostitute and drug ring after his partner is killed. Nosey TV reporter Melanie Roberts (Melissa Moore) keeps bugging Lucas for leads to the story and soon they fall in love. Finding out he is a vampire doesn't bother her much. Actually it turns her on more as she takes off her clothes at the drop of a hat (the only worthwhile reason for viewing this abomination). In the finale,  Melanie is taken hostage by the head baddie as he forces Lucas to wait for the sun to rise, therefore killing his nemesis and keeping his illegal business in business. I'm trying to decide where to start to describe how bad this film really is. Besides the atrocious acting, there's shots of Lucas being shot point blank by shotguns and handguns and no bullet holes appear in his shirt! The dimestore vampire teeth are a laugh riot and when he bites down on a victim, he rises with no blood on his mouth. Now that's what I call cleaning your plate! The camera work is choppy and the music mainly generic, but the biggest head-scratcher of all is how does a vampire become a cop? Don't you have to go through trainng camp for several weeks? In the daylight? While there is plenty of nudity on display (most of the supporting women are butt-ugly) this film doesn't have much going for it except the all-too-brief appearance of Arnold and the aforementioned nudity of Moore (who is beautiful and has a long career in horror films). For a vampire film, this one sucks. Keep on the lookout because Donald Farmer is still making films today and it looks like he has learned nothing from his previous mistakes. Also starring Terence Jenkins, Michelle Berman and Morrow Faye. Tim Ritter (KILLING SPREE - 1987) also gets an associate producer credit on this but it's not on his resume. Good move, Tim.  An Atlas Entertainment Corporation VHS Release. SRS Cinema is releasing VAMPIRE COP in a limited edition Blu-Ray/VHS that is advertised as the "Director's Cut", containing a lot more exposition footage between Moore and Arnold than the original VHS edition, to be released sometime early in 2017. Rated R.

VAMPIRE HOOKERS (1979) - You know when you hear dialogue such as, "Coffins are for being laid to rest, not for being laid" that you're not watching an intellectual film. John Carradine plays the Walt Whitman-quoting head of a coven of female vampires who disguise themselves as prostitutes and lure their tricks to an underground lair in a graveyard, where Carradine and his group (including veteran Filippino actor Vic Diaz, who farts in his coffin) drain them of blood. When two sailors (Bruce Fairbairn and Trey Wilson) lose their commanding officer after he is picked-up by a vampire hooker, they go looking for him and end up battling Carradine & Co.. This Philippines-lensed film, directed by action/horror stalwart Cirio H. Santiago (NAKED VENGEANCE - 1985; DEMON OF PARADISE - 1987), is played strictly for laughs. At least I think it was, but since I didn't laugh, I could very well be wrong. Vic Diaz spends most of his screen time crying (he wants to be a vampire but can't stand the taste of blood), farting (and inhaling the vapors) or chasing our two heroes around a graveyard, while Carradine quotes poetry and the hooker/vampires spout lines like, "It's not murder. It's dinner." Our two heroes don't fare much better in the dialogue department as they have to speak such cringe-inducing lines like, "That cemetery is full of dead bodies!" (Well, let hope so!). This one-joke film is stretched to an unbearable 80 minutes and, if it weren't for the frequent female nudity on view, I would have turned it off after Diaz's first gas attack. There's also some risable post-sync dubbing (it seems about 50% of the film is dubbed) even though it's plain to see everyone is speaking English. It also has a long orgy scene (where the female vampires keep their panties on) intercut with Carradine killing a rat with a crossbow and making Diaz drink it's blood. The uncredited end title song has lyrics that go, "They're vampire hookers and blood is not all they suck." That's about as funny as it gets here, folks. This is one of those films that everyone has heard of but few have seen. There is a reason for that. It stinks. Also starring Karen Stride, Lenka Novak, Katie Dolan and Lex Winter. Also known as CEMETERY GIRLS, SENSUOUS VAMPIRES and NIGHT OF THE BLOODSUCKERS. A Continental Video VHS Release. Available on a double feature DVD with Santiago's FIGHTING MAD (as DEATH FORCE, in its fully uncut 110 minute version) from Vinegar Syndrome. Rated R.

VAMPIRE IN VENICE (1988) - Very strange Italian vampire film. Not good, mind you, just strange. What is even stranger than the film itself is the story of making it, but I will get to that later in the review.
     The film begins with a group hunting quail in Venice. One hunter accidentally shoots and kills a bat and another hunter tells him that it is bad luck to kill a bat (Why? It is never explained.). If he only knew. We then see Professor Paris Catalano (Christopher Plummer; STARCRASH - 1978) arriving in Venice in a gondola (standing up, so pedestrians will notice him!) in the late 19th Century, as he explains in voiceover that he is an expert on Nosferatu, who is the Lord of Evil ("Second to the Devil himself"). The Professor has traced Nosferatu from the time he ruled the land in the 10th Century until he disappeared in Venice in 1786, where the city of Venice was hit with the Plague and over half of the population died from it.  An elderly Princess (Maria Cumani Quasimodo; ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK - 1972) has summoned the Professor to come to Venice because she has something to show him that he may be interested in. It is a strange-looking coffin wrapped in iron bands, not to keep someone from breaking into it, but to keep whatever is inside it from getting out. The Princess insists a séance be performed to contact Nosferatu (Why? It is never explained), over the objections of Catholic Church official Don Alvise (Donald Pleasence; THE DEVIL'S MEN - 1976). A medium (Clara Colosimo; THE GREAT ALLIGATOR - 1979) performs the séance and contacts Nosferatu, not knowing that by doing this, the master vampire is once again free (Why? It is never explained.) to roam and terrorize Venice at night, as he once did a century before.
     Nosferatu (Klaus Kinski; FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON - 1974) is surprised to see how his beloved city has changed over the years, but what hasn't changed are the people, as they have the blood he needs to survive and thrive, letting him create an army of vampires under his control. He starts by biting a woman dancing at a gypsy camp (portrayed by professional dancer La Chunga) and it escalates from that point on. But first, Nosferatu explores his beloved changed city, finding much to enjoy (people in masks celebrating in the streets) and much to make him sad (people staring at him as if he were a freak). Nosferatu pays the Princess a visit in her bedroom at night, who holds a crucifix to him to ward him off, but he grabs the crucifix, destroys it and throws the Princess out her bedroom window, where she is impaled on a iron fence below. The Princess' beautiful young charge, Helietta Canins (Barbara De Rossi), asks the Professor for help in killing Nosferatu, so the first thing he does is break into that strange coffin. A vampire woman sits up from it, but she disintegrates in front of everyone's eyes (The Professor tells them that this woman must have suffered from the Plague, as even vampires are not immune to it! Why? It is never explained.). Nosferatu catches sight of Helietta at a fancy dress ball and it's love at first sight, at least for him (Like in THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS [1967], Helietta sees that Nosferatu doesn't cast a reflection in the ballroom's large mirror). That night, Nosferatu shows up in Helietta's bedroom and he makes love to her, putting her under his control. The Professor knows this is the first step in Nosferatu's evil plans and vows to defeat him.
     This artsy-fartsy vampire flick has many problems, the main one being that it's so artsy-fartsy, it's confusing. This is a case of style over substance and unless you are David Lynch, that is never a good thing. I thought it took place in the late 19th Century, according to the manner of dress and the lack of modern conveniences, but when Nosferatu stalks an kills a prostitute on the street, she is wearing a white miniskirt and white thigh-high boots and is carrying a gaudy silver lamé purse, causing mass confusion on what timeline this film is actually following. Another major problem is that this film makes no sense at all, as Nosferatu walks in the daylight with no problem, tossing all vampire mythos aside without a hint of explanation. But the biggest problem is what this film went through just to get made and it shows on the screen. Klaus Kinski was hired to reprise his role in Werner Herzog's NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979), but he showed up on set on the first day of shooting with long hair, saying he had no interest in reprising that role, so instead of telling him to get lost and recasting the role, major rewrites to the script were made. Kinski then threw one of his patented temper tantrums, saying he would not come on set as long as director Mario Caiano (NIGHTMARE CASTLE - 1965) was in charge, so Caiano agreed to leave the film (still being paid his full hefty fee), the third director to do so. The original director was Maurizio Lucidi (THE DESIGNATED VICTIM - 1971; STREET PEOPLE - 1976), who shot a few crowd scenes before he was fired by producer/screenwriter Augusto Caminito, who then hired Pasquale Squitieri (GANG WAR IN NAPLES - 1972), but Caminito fired him, too. After the Caiano fiasco, Caminito decided to direct the film himself, something he has never done before, so he asked his assistant, Luigi Cozzi (CONTAMINATION - 1980), for some uncredited help and this is what they came up with, Caminito getting sole directorial credit under the pseudonym "Alan Cummings" (Kinski is said to have directed some scenes himself). The frenzied background shenanigans on the making of this film shows up on screen, as it is a fractured mess, some scenes beginning and ending with no connective tissue between what came before it or after it. It is not just erratic, it is also a very long 89 minutes, seeming twice as long than it actually is. There's not much bloodshed, just a poor optical shot of a huge hole in Kinski's chest when he gets blasted with a shotgun, which then heals quickly (and is badly rendered). Actresses Barbara De Rossi and Elvire Audray (THE SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS - 1982) filed formal complaints against Kinski, accusing him of sexually assaulting them when filming scenes with him, but nothing ever became of it. Just like always, Kinski kept on treating actresses as his personal sex toys, believing himself above the law (filmmakers treated him that way, too, enabling his bad behavior). Personally, I would have fired Kinski's ass because there were much better actors at the time that could have played the role better. Kinski is simply awful here, speaking so low you cannot make out a single word he is saying and sometimes speaking in a language no one has ever heard before!
     Shot as NOSFERATU A VENEZIA ("Nosferatu In Venice"), this film never received a theatrical or VHS release in the United States. An outfit called One7Movies offers this film in anamorphic widescreen on DVD under the title PRINCE OF THE NIGHT. You can also find it for free on YouTube if you must see it, but there really is no reason unless you a vampire completist, suffer from insomnia or just like to torture yourself. This is a case of too many cooks spoiling the meal. Also starring Yorgo Voyagis (DAMNED IN VENICE - 1978), Anne Knecht, Giuseppe Mannajuolo (MURDER-ROCK: DANCING DEATH - 1984) and Mickey Knox (DAY OF THE COBRA - 1980). Not Rated (Why? It is never explained). UPDATE: Now available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Severin Films under the title NOSFERATU IN VENICE. Even though I am not a fan of this film, I still must congratulate Severin for releasing rarities like this and giving them the full treatment they deserve. No one does it better than Severin, which is why I purchase most of their releases, whether I like the films or not (as long as they are not directed by Jess Franco, whom I find boring).

THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY (1972) - I always loved this modern-day Spanish gothic horror film (made as LA ORGIA NOCTURNA DE LOS VAMPIROS), even though most of the public domain versions I have viewed over the years were dupey, fuzzy and heavily-edited versions. The feeling of dread even permeated in those versions, so finally getting to see the film in its uncut American theatrical version in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen on a Leon Klimovsky double feature DVD (with DR. JEKYLL VS. THE WEREWOLF - 1971) thanks to Code Red, really made me appreciate it all the more (more on Klimovsky after the review). The film opens with a crowd of people gathered around a gravesite in a cemetery, as a casket is being lowered into the ground. Suddenly, the rope slips and the casket goes crashing into the hole, splitting open and revealing a smouldering skeleton with worms and maggots crawling through the skull. The crowd of people run away as if their lives depend on it. The film then switches to a group of people traveling on a small coach bus. Each one of them has been hired to perform particular tasks (chambermaid, kitchen cook, major-domo, gardener, teacher and chauffeur) at an "aristocratic" estate in a secluded town called Bojoni. When the bus driver keels over and dies, Ernesto (Gaspar 'Indio' González; THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI - 1975) grabs the steering wheel and hits the brakes before the bus is able to crash. Marcus (Manuel de Blas; HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES - 1974) asks fellow passenger Godó (Luis Ciges; NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS - 1975) to bring Raquel's (Charo Soriano) eight year-old daughter Violet (Sarita Gil) outside for a walk while they wrap the bus driver's corpse in a canvas cloth and put it in the back of the bus. While outside, Violet meets a silent little boy (Fernando Romero), who suddenly disappears into thin air when Godó tells her they are ready to leave. Back on the bus, everyone decides to stop in the town of Tolnia, since it is only 10 kilometers away. They have been traveling on the bus for over 36 hours and need a proper place to eat and sleep since Bojoni is still 110 kilometers away. Once at Tolnia (which is surrounded on all four sides by mountains), the group discover that the town is mysteriously empty, except for tourist Luis (Jack Taylor; NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS - 1973), who decided to take a shortcut off the major highway and got lost, ending up in this strange village. Alma (Dianik Zurakowska; THE HANGING WOMAN - 1973), another person on the bus (who was hired to be a maid in Bojoni), mentions that maybe the entire village is at church, but Luis tells her that he has walked throughout the entire village and didn't see one church. They all decide to sleep at the village inn and worry about the lack of people tomorrow. While Luis is hanging up his clothes in a closet, he notices a peephole that looks directly into Alma's bedroom and he spies on Alma disrobing (full-frontal nudity) before putting on a nightgown and getting into bed. Ernesto falls asleep at the inn's bar, but is woken up when the outside door opens by itself. He goes outside to investigate, walking down the cobblestone streets, only to then discover that the village's creepy residents have him surrounded. He is thrown to the ground as the people seek their teeth into him. The following morning, Alma is awakened by the inn's maid (María Vidal) and finds the inn crowded with the village's citizens. Alma and Luis meet Boris (José Guardiola; Klimovsky's I HATE MY BODY - 1974), Tolnia's Mayor, who explains to the duo that the village was empty last night because they were all at the cemetery saying their goodbyes to one of the village's most beloved men, who died suddenly. Yes, Tolnia is one strange town. When the inn's cook (Sandalio Hernández) asks Boris what these tourists are going to eat, he says, "The Countess will take care of it." In the next scene, we see a Giant of a man (Fernando Bilbao; who acts in films also using the pseudonym "Fred Harris"; EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 - 1983) enter a blacksmith's shop and chops off the blacksmith's (Alfonso de la Vega) lame leg with an axe. Immediately afterward, we see our tourists eating and complimenting on the inn's tasty meat, which is actually the blacksmith's lame leg! Boris tells the tourists that no other town has meat this delicious (I hear it tastes like chicken. I hear!). Marcus wonders where Ernesto is since he is driving the bus and they have to leave soon to start their new jobs in Bojoni. Ernesto suddenly appears at the door, his skin and face a sickly pale, and he tells Marcus that he has already taken care of the dead bus driver's body. Marcus is glad he did, jokingly saying, "Later on you can tell me how you arranged it. For my part, you could have cooked and eaten the poor bastard!" (If he only knew. I'm not so sure that one measly lame leg could satisfy the hunger of all the tourists!). When neither the bus or Luis' car will start, Boris says it will take at least two or three days for the parts to arrive to fix the vehicles. Marcus mentions to Boris that they are all broke, but Boris says that they should not worry because the Countess will take care of all of their needs. They all meet the beautiful Countess (Helga Liné; THE LORELEY'S GRASP - 1973), who not only assures them that they can have anything they want while they stay in the village, she also hands Marcus a check for a large sum of money, which she says they can split evenly among each other when they leave (I'm not so sure that check will ever be cashed). Since the Countess is a Shakespeare fan, she asks that Cesar (David Aller), the last person on the bus (who is supposed to be the major-domo in Bojoli), to stay with her for a few hours so he can recite some of Shakespeare's sonnets to her. Of course, they end up making love in her bedroom, but when Cesar discovers that the Countess is the village's queen vampire, it is already too late for him. She bites Cesar in the neck and then throws his body over the outside terrace, right into the arms of some thirsty villagers below, who feed on his body. Luis once again watches Alma strip naked through the peephole and even slips a note under her door telling her that she will be safe because he "looking out" for her! (He's a pervert and a hero at the same time). That same night, Ernesto tricks Marcus and Godó to check out the inside of the bus, where several vampires (including Ernesto) put the bite on the pair. What the vampires don't count on is Luis watching this happen, so he and Alma must figure out a way to escape the village with Raquel and Violet. Violet is outside playing a game of Hide and Seek with the young boy and when she goes to hide, she witnesses the Giant cutting a knife grinder's (Rafael Albaicín) arm off (The Giant says to the Grinder: "The Countess says you can continue sharpening knives...with one arm!"). As a horrified Violet watches, the Giant carries the dismembered arm away and we next see Luis and Alma enjoying a tasty meat dish. That is, until Alma discovers a human finger in her meal and she screams. Boris assures her that is was all a mistake; the cook had a nasty accident while preparing their meal (He cuts off the cook's finger in the kitchen just to give his story validity!). Luis tells Alma in her bedroom that he has figured out a way to fix his car and that she, Raquel and Violet should be ready that night to escape the village, unaware that someone is using the peephole in Luis' closet to eavesdrop on their conversation (Turn about is fair play!). Violet is trapped in the cemetery by the young boy, as the bloodthirsty villagers rapidly approach, while Raquel searches for her in the many undergound tunnels under the inn, accidentally discovering the Countess' crypt (she gets bitten by several vampires while running back to her room). The little vampire boy accidentally kills Violet, when he hold his hand over her face to stop her from screaming, as they hide from the vampires in the cemetery (The little boy is actually distraught, tears streaming down his eyes, because Violet was the only child he has played with for centuries). As Luis and Alma hop into his car and try to escape, they are besieged by hordes of villagers and vampire bats, but they manage to escape the village, only to find the Countess hiding in the back seat. Alma manages to stab her several times, but Luis tells her to stop, because they will need her body as evidence when they explain their story to the police in Bojoli. When the sun rises, the Countess' body dissolves into a pile of maggots (Luis says that the reasons the vampires were able to walk during the day in Tolmia was because the village was surrounded on all sides by mountains and the sun never shone there. I don't really buy that explanation, but just go along with it!). The police chief in Bojoli says there never was a village called Tolnia and to prove it, they all drive back to the location, where the village has disappeared. The police chief chalks it up to "youthful indescretion" (even if it is obvious that both Luis and Alma haven't been "youths" for a couple of decades!) and they all drive back to Bojoni, not noticing the burned shell of the bus used to get to Tolnia is on the side of the road. Since we are never given an explanation on why the village appears and disappears (Is it like BRIGADOON or 2000 MANIACS?), we have to let our imaginations take over. Director Leon Klimovsky was one of the better Spanish genre filmmakers, helming the previously-mentioned DR. JEKYLL VS. THE WEREWOLF (1971), as well as WEREWOLF SHADOW (1971); VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1972); A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE (1973); THE DRACULA SAGA (1973); THE DEVIL'S POSSESSED (1974); NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD (1975); THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1975); TRAUMA (1978); and several others (He also directed many Spanish-made Spaghetti Westerns in the 60's) before retiring from filmmaking in 1979 (he passed away in 1996). Klimovsky's horror and thriller films were always steeped in atmosphere and filled with gory violence and nudity, so you could alway count on being entertained when you saw his name on the screen. Screenwriters Gabriel Burges (who co-wrote a few of Klimovsky's films) and Antonio Fios (CANNIBAL MAN - 1972; IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN - 1973) get to the good stuff as quickly as possible, showing Alma fully naked and implying, as well as showing, some disturbing scenes of violence (especially the Giant's attacks). Klimovsky shows a sly sense of humor here during the dinner scenes, never showing human flesh being cooked, but cutting quickly from an arm or leg getting chopped off to immediately showing the unaware tourists enjoying the mystery meat (I especially liked the cook appearing with a bloody bandage on his hand, his middle finger missing, right after Boris says he "accidentally" cut it off). The widescreen print used by Code Red is pretty worn for the first couple of minutes, but then clears up, only showing emulsion scratches at reel changes. It's the best this film has ever looked on U.S. home video, so you can throw out all those PD VHS tapes and DVDs and watch the film as it was meant to be seen, the same as it was shown in theaters. I like this film a lot and like it even more now that it is in widescreen. Also starring Antonio Páramo and L. Villena. A Code Red DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.

THE VELVET VAMPIRE (1971) - Arty vampire tale set in the desert. Bloodsucker Celeste Yarnall invites married couple Michael Blodgett and Sherry Miles to stay the weekend at her retreat in the middle of the desert. Yarnall is not your typical vampire. She jets around in a dune buggy, spies on the couple in their bedroom through a two way mirror, eats raw chicken liver, and sleeps with the corpse of her century-dead husband. She also sleeps with both the husband and the wife. The husband and wife are also not your normal married couple. They have identical dreams at night, dreaming of making love to Yarnall on a bed in the blazing sun of the desert. And when Miles catches Blodgett in the act of screwing Yarnall on the floor of the living room, she seems more disappointed than angry. Disappointed that it's not her with Yarnall. Yarnall makes a mighty fetching vampire, with her chalk white body and come-hither attitude. Throw in some Indian mysticism and a few murders and you have a vampire tale more interested in the sensual and sexual aspects of the undead than most other fang-bearing tales (except for maybe THE VAMPIRE LOVERS [1970] and VAMPYRES [1974]). As with a lot of films made in the early '70's, hippies end up saving the day. Director Stephanie Rothman (TERMINAL ISLAND - 1973) shows a steady hand here, and definitely gives the story a feminine touch by displaying as much male flesh as female, as well as showing that woman is the superior intellect. Recommended for those with an open mind (or an open wound). The late Robert Tessier (FERTILIZE THE BLASPHEMING BOMBSHELL - 1989) has a small role here. Also known as THE WAKING HOUR. An Embassy Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available from Simitar Entertainment in an atrocious print recorded in the EP mode. Also available on DVD from Shout! Factory as part of their Roger Corman's Cult Classics "Vampires, Mummies & Monsters" 2-Disc collection (which also includes LADY FRANKENSTEIN [1971], TIME WALKER [1982] and GROTESQUE [1987]). Rated R.

V/H/S (2012) - A lot of critics liked this point-of-view "Found Footage" anthology film, but while watching this SOV flick, I started getting an extreme headache from all the shakey camera work. And most of the stories aren't all that original, either. The wraparound footage (titled "Tape 56", directed by Adam Wingard, who also has a role) is about a group of unlikeable guys (who like to videotape themselves attacking innocent girls and lifting up their shirts to record their breasts) who are hired by an unknown third party to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. Once they are in the house, they find an old guy sitting dead in a chair while numerous TV screens are playing static. The entire arc of the film is that one guy at a time watches a videotape in the room with the dead guy and then mysteriously disappears. The first tape is titled "Amateur Night" (directed by David Bruckner), about a trio of horny guys who have a pair of spy eyeglasses with a video camera hidden inside it. They go to a bar and pick up a couple of women, one of them a very creepy bug-eyed girl named Lily (Hannah Fierman), who only says "I like you." The trio take the girls back to a motel room, only to discover that Lily is some kind of monster (a gargoyle maybe?), who proceeds to kill the trio gorily one-by-one (This episode was remade as a feature film called SiREN - 2016, written by Bruckner and directed by Gregg Bishop, that is thankfully not a found footage film, but is bad nonetheless.). The second tape is entitled "Second Honeymoon" (directed by Ti West) about a vacationing couple in Arizona who are unknowingly visited by a female stranger who videotapes them while they sleep. This is easily the weakest entry of the anthology and has an ending that just leaves you saying "What the hell?". The third tape is titled "Tuesday the 17th" (directed by Glenn McQuaid) and concerns four twenty-somethings who go to the woods and encounter a killer who only shows up as a glitch on video (a rather good effect). It is nothing but a short stalk 'n' slash gore flick with no true surprises (Besides "The Glitch", played by Bryce Burke). The fourth tape is titled "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger" (directed by Joe Swanberg) about a couple separated by long distance who regularly keep in touch by computer using Skype. Emily (Helen Rogers) believes her apartment is haunted by a ghost child and there are some true scares here with a wicked ending and very little shakey camera work. This is the second best entry in the anthology. The fifth and final tape is titled "10/31/98" (directed by "Radio Silence", who are actually Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella and also star in this segment) and is easily the best tale in the anthology. The story is about a group of guys going to a Halloween party and end up at the wrong house. They discover a couple of men exorcising a tied-up woman in the attic and release her. Then all Hell begins to break loose (with lots of good special effects that will have you jumping out of your seat a couple of times), as the guys and the girl try to escape the house. It ends on a really downbeat note, but it's worth the trip. I'm not the biggest fan of found footage films (as readers of this site no doubtedly already know), especially when I always ask myself why people would hold onto a video camera while they are being chased or killed, but V/H/S is not without at least some merit (some scenes are very bloody). At least it keeps the tradition of VHS tapes alive (the whole reason why I started Critical Condition in the early 80's) and the wraparound footage is a pretty good excuse for showing these VHS shorts (even though sitting in a room with a dead guy to watch them defies all common sense). Two sequels, titled V/H/S/2 (2013) and V/H/S VIRAL (2014), have already been made and feature a new roster of directors (only Adam Wingard returns) and reviews state that both are better than the original. I will wait for their eventual quick DVD releases before I view them (the original and the first sequel were released to Video On Demand a couple of months before they made their one week limited theatrical releases, something which is becoming more commonplace for small independent films) because I can't stand watching "shakey-cam" flicks on big theater screens (the further back you sit in the theater, the better). Also starring Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Mike Donlan, Joe Swanberg, Daniel Kaufman, Norma C. Quinones, Nicole Erb and Bilal Mir. A Magnet Releasing/Magnolia Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

VICTIMS! (1985) - You would think that any movie that opens with a series of murders committed against women, including a hatchet to the head, a meatcleaver attack and a stabbing (all in the first 3 minutes!), would be interesting to watch. You would be seriously wrong. Director Jeff Hathcock (NIGHT RIPPER - 1986, FERTILIZE THE BLASPHEMING BOMBSHELL - 1989) has a mean misogynistic streak in him as it is apparent that all he wants to show is women getting raped, beaten to a pulp or killed in bloody ways. After a confusing 20 minute setup, this film tells the story of four women who go out on a trip in the desert. They are stalked and attacked by two mental deficients who take pleasure in raping and torturing the women. That's basically all there is to this film except for poor editing (some dialogue is cut off at various edits), shitty photography (the night scenes are impossible to see), crappy sound (one scene, where the four girls are talking in a car, all you can hear is a lawnmower in the background!), grade school acting (lots and lots of SCREAMING! and crying) and dime store gore effects. I'm still trying to figure out what type of audience this film was made for. Films like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) deal with the same subject matter but do it in a suspenseful way (although some of the more discriminating readers may disagree with me). VICTIMS!, on the other hand, seems to revel in the mistreatment of women just for the sake of showing it onscreen. Sure, the survivors do find justice with a gun and Bowie knife in the finale (where they are not just blamed for the deaths of the men, but also for the robbery of a gas station!) but that doesn't justify everything that leads up to it. It seems director Hathcock blames the women for their woes because of the way they dress and act. One drunk character blames it all on women's lib! Stay away from this film and save 76 minutes of your life. Starring Ava Kauffman, Ann Richardson, Geri Schlessel, Pam Richards, Robert Axelrod and Lonny Withers. A Simitar Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated.

VICTOR CROWLEY (2017) - Adam Green (FROZEN - 2010; DIGGING UP THE MARROW - 2014) returns to the directors chair in this third sequel to his gory HATCHET franchise (He relinquished directing HATCHET III [2013] to BJ McDonnell). Parry Chen also returns as Andrew (He appeared in all four films, as Shawn in HATCHET [2007], Shawn's twin brother Justin in HATCHET II [2010] and as Andrew in Part III), as does Kane Hodder, who appeared as the title maniac in all four films.
    This film opens in 1964, where Del (Jonah Ray) proposes to Sue (Kelly Vrooman) on a rowboat in the middle of the Honey Island Swamp (she replies yes, but it's the way she does it that will have you in stitches). In the middle of the proposal, the young couple hear someone groaning, so they get out of the rowboat to investigate. They meet a hunter (Tyler Mane; Michael Myers in Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN - 2007), who is about to warn them about something when he loses his head (literally!). Del then is impaled in the back of his head, causing one of his eyes to pop out of its socket. Sue is next. Victor Crowley cuts some of her fingers off (including her ring finger) and then lays her on the ground and proceeds to chop off her arms and legs (the flesh stretches like cheese on a pizza!), finishing her off by removing her head with his trusty hatchet and holding it up in the air.
     We then hear a young girl (the daughter of actress Felissa Rose [SLEEPAWAY CAMP - 1983], who appears in this film), who gives us a verbal history of Victor Crowley. We are then in the present day, as Andrew Young (Shen) appears on "The Sabrina Show", where his ex-wife Sabrina (Krystal Joy Brown) accuses him of being the "Body Butcher". Andrew denies it and is there to hawk his book, which is about the 10th anniversary of surviving Victor Crowley's wrath. Since hardly anyone believes Crowley actually exists, the majority of people think that Andrew is the killer. On his book-signing tour with his agent Kathleen (a terrific comic performance by Felissa Rose), people call him a "murderer", draw penises on his posters and one guy whips out his dick for Andrew to sign (a scene cut from the streaming version, but kept in the disc versions). Everyone believes his book is a work of fiction. At one book signing, wannabe director Chloe (Katie Booth), her boyfriend Alex (Chase Williamson; BEYOND THE GATES - 2015) and best friend Rose (Laura Ortiz) introduce themselves to Andrew and Chloe tells him that she is directing a low-budget horror film about Victor Crowley and they are going to the Honey Island Swamp to film the trailer (as as way to get financing for the movie). Kathleen then tells Andrew that a network will pay him to go back to Honey Island Swamp to film a 48 HOURS-type crime documentary based on his book. Andrew doesn't want to go, but when he hears how much they are going to pay him, he jumps at the chance (like any good agent, Kathleen lies to him about the amount). Chloe, Adam and Rose are already at the swamp and they hire Dillon (a funny Dave Sheridan; AMIGO UNDEAD - 2015) as their guide. On the plane ride to Honey Island, Andrew sees that Sabrina is along for the ride, as are network reporter Casey (my girl Tiffany Shepis; THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME - 2010), technician Austin (Brian Quinn), Kathleen, and a few other people who work for the network. Needless to say, Andrew's plane crashes and I'll give you one guess where.
     The rest of the plot is inconsequential and as we all know, these films are all about the gory deaths (Effects by Robert Pendergraft & Aunt Molly's Garage) and this one doesn't disappoint. Here is a rundown on the methods of deaths:

     The film ends with the patented rushed ending. After watching Dillon and Crowley being sucked through the engine, Andrew yells, "Fuck!!!" and it instantly goes to the end credits, which are then interrupted by a breaking news report detailing the rescue effort at Honey Island Swamp, which is then interrupted by Marybeth (Danielle Harris; who starred in the previous two films), who cocks a shotgun and says, "I've been waiting for you, motherfucker!", giving us a preview to the fifth installment in the series (?).
     Played more as a broad comedy than the previous three entries, this film is still bloody as hell, yet many of the deaths are played for laughs (Kathleen's, for instance), softening the blow for people who get queasy at seeing gory violence. Whether you like it or not depends on your tolerance for comedy mixed with bloody gore. I happened to like it and laughed out loud on a few occasions. Director/screenwriter Adam Green dedicated this film to Wes Craven and George A. Romero, two titans who left us in 2017. An extra on the disc, titled "Raising The Dead...Again", has Green explaining why he dedicated  this film to the two masters of horror and it's touching. Green also tells us why it is so fun making these films and how having friends working with you is important in having a pleasant work environment (Apparently, Green was going through a dark time in his life when he was convinced to direct this). The film is only 83 minutes long, so it doesn't overstay its welcome. Green throws in some props from the previous film, especially the gas-powered belt sander, which doesn't even exist. If you like gore-drenched films with a good dose of humor, you can not do better than this. Also starring Tezz Yancey, Blake Woodruff, Whit Spurgeon and Kali Cook. Look for Joe Lynch (director of WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END - 2007) and Green as the pilot and co-pilot of the plane and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Tony Todd as Reverend Zombie. A Dark Sky Films combo DVD/Blu-Ray Release. Not Rated.

THE VIDEO DEAD (1987) - Have you ever watched a film that is awful in nearly every department, yet you end up liking it anyway? THE VIDEO DEAD is that type of film. Henry Jordan (Michael St. Michaels: THE GREASY STRANGLER - 2016) receives a delivery at his door one morning. Inside the wooden crate is an old TV set packed in hay. This is no ordinary TV set, though, as Henry soon finds out. When the delivery guys return to Henry's house (the package was supposed to be delivered to the "Institute For The Studies Of The Occult"), they find Henry dead in his living room, slaughtered with a bunch of household items impaled in his body (and a party hat on his head). Three months pass and Zoe Blair (Roxanna Augesen) and her brother Jeff (Rocky Duvall) move into the Jordan house. Jeff discovers the possessed TV in the attic and it's not long before bloody things begin to happen. The TV set only plays one movie (ZOMBIE BLOOD NIGHTMARE) where flesh-eating zombies shuffle around the woods and eventually crawl out of the set and begin killing the residents of Shady Lane. Also on the TV program is a beautiful woman (Jennifer Miro) who pops out of the TV and strips naked in front of Jeff, teases him sexually and then pops back into the TV. Jeff then sees the woman get her throat slit by a figure who calls himself The Garbage Man (Cliff Watts). He warns Jeff to bring the TV to the basement and attach a mirror to the TV screen so more zombies can't escape. In no time Zoe, Jeff and new girlfriend April (Vickie Bastel) are fighting a horde of hungry zombies, assisted by an occult institute employee, Joshua Daniels (Sam David McClelland). Expect lots of flying body parts and a few surprises along the way, like mirrors used as weapons ("The dead can't stand to look at themselves") and an unexpected chainsaw death.  The only level of professionalism the film displays are in the zombie makeups and gore effects. Everything else is pretty substandard, from the atrocious acting (by nearly everyone), the original rock music (which wouldn't get air play on any radio station), the photography (very static and flat) and the pretty poor attempts at humor (When Jeff asks his sister what her major in college is going to be, she replies, "Aerobics!"). I do give one-time director/producer/scripter Robert Scott major points for bypassing most of the character development and basically ladling on the gore from the get-go. Plenty of blood is spilled as zombies snap necks, eat dogs, chow down on human body parts as well as humans attacking zombies by planting an iron in one zombie's head (he walks around with it implanted in his skull for the rest of the film), shooting them with arrows, cutting them apart with a chainsaw (when one gets cut in half, live rats spill out as well as guts!) and decapitation by machete. There's also some ridiculous new folklore about zombies dying by normal means (i.e. guns, knives) if you can convince the zombies that they are really alive (huh?) and that bells ring whenever zombies are near (double huh?). While the story doesn't make an ounce of sense (Why would zombies be afraid of their own reflection to the point of dying? Why would a slow-moving zombie turn into a sprinter with a chainsaw in it's hands?), the fact that most of the major characters lose their lives due to their own stupidity is a major plus in my book. Besides, the ending is a real howler, as Zoe invites all the zombies into the house for dinner and drinks and traps them in the basement, where they are forced to eat each other (triple huh?). The final twist ending is a groaner. This is not for everyone, especially if you like coherence with your gore. It is mindless fun for those with short attention spans. A film that could only have been made during the coked-out 80's. Also starring Thaddeus Golas, Al Millan and Patrick Treadway. An Embassy Home Entertainment VHS Release. Originally announced as a DVD release by MGM Home Video in 2009, but financial difficulties within the company (How many owners has MGM had in the past ten years?) forced a permanent cancellation. Finally available on a beautiful double-feature Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack (with the colorful TERRORVISION - 1986) from Scream Factory. Not Rated.

VIOLENT SHIT (1989) - An utter piece of shit is more like it. This German-made, English-subtitled shot-on-video abomination has nothing to offer the viewer except extreme fake gore. A retarded man dubbed "Karl The Butcher" runs around and slaughters people with a meat cleaver. See a woman get her breasts cut off! See a man get his penis lopped off! See a man cut in two with electric hedge clippers! All of this is done without any imagination or tension and the special effects were probably done for the German equivalent of ten bucks and the discarded portions of a butcher shop. It’s all poorly shot (too much slo-mo and solarized shots) and deadly dull. I cannot believe some fanzine writers actually recommend this shit to their readers. This is the nadir if filmmaking (if you can call it that). Director Andreas Schnaas (who has made three sequels so far; VIOLENT SHIT II: MOTHER HOLD MY HAND [1992], VIOLENT SHIT III: INFANTRY OF DOOM [1999] and VIOLENT SHIT 4.0: KARL THE BUTCHER VS. AXE [2010; which Schnaas co-directed with Timo Rose of BARRICADE {2006} fame]) is so desperate for attention that he includes a scene of a woman being gutted from her vagina to her sternum. Hey Schnaas, ever hear of a plot? A Burning Moon Home Video Release. Not Rated for obvious reasons. The longest 8 hours I have ever experienced (The film is 73 minutes long. It just seemed like 8 hours.). Shooting films on video has got to stop. I’m tired of sitting through this type of crap.

VISITING HOURS (1981) - Controversial talk show host Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) speaks out for a battered woman's right to a fair trial, which disturbs her producer Gary Baylor (an unusually restrained William Shatner) and really pisses off studio janitor Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside), who rips the TV cable out of the wall in the Green Room. That night, Deborah goes home and is savagely slashed across her body by a waiting Colt (who wears a tiny bell around his neck). She manages to get away (after taking a nasty fall down a dumbwaiter) and is rushed to the hospital, where she is admitted for her wounds. Colt, whose apartment walls are filled with racist, hate-filled letters he has written to newspapers and TV programs, stuffs a switchblade in his back pocket and a camera on his belt and heads off to the hospital, where he intends to finish Deborah off. Nurse Sheila (Linda Purl), who acts as an "unofficial watchdog" for Deborah, keeping fans and reporters away from her room, also unintentionally runs afoul of Colt when he hears her badmouth him (this guy is way too sensitive!). Thinking that he has entered Deborah's room (she was moved a short time earlier), Colt cuts the hose of a respirator of an old woman. Seeing that he has made a mistake, he still takes advantage by taking photos of her taking her last dying breaths. He then stabs the nurse who comes to check up on her. Sheila finds the old lady and nurse's dead bodies and spots Colt leaving the scene. The police are called and Sheila stupidly declines police protection, leading to Colt following her home. Instead of killing her, Colt goes to a diner, picks up a young girl, brings her home and brutally rapes her while running his switchblade up and down her body. After another failed attempt on Deborah's life, the police beef up security at the hospital, making it very difficult for Colt to get near her. He retaliates by going to Sheila's house and calls Sheila at the hospital, taunting her. Thinking her young daughter and babysitter are in trouble, she races home. Colt is waiting for her and stabs her in the stomach. He then calls Deborah at the hospital and makes her listen to Sheila's cries of pain (as he repeatedly kicks her for maximum effect). Sheila survives and Colt devises a painful plan (involving breaking a beer bottle with his arm) that gets him admitted to the hospital so he can have a final stab at Deborah.  This extremely nasty Canadian production, directed by Jean-Claude Lord (THE VINDICATOR - 1984; MINDFIELD - 1989), got a huge release in theaters by 20th Century Fox, something usually unheard of in a film of this type. Fox was hoping to duplicate the success Paramount had with FRIDAY THE 13TH a year earlier. While they didn't succeed (it did moderate business), in many ways VISITING HOURS is a much better film. The script, by Brian Taggert, builds much more tension by delving into the backgrounds of Deborah, Sheila and, especially, Colt. These are characters we become invested in, which make the scenes of Colt stalking both Deborah and Sheila all the more disturbing. Colt's life is documented by a series of flashbacks, where each flashback gives us another little piece of his disturbing childhood. These flashbacks are usually triggered when he cares for his invalid father and we learn that, as a kid, his father physically (and, possibly, sexually) abused both him and his dead mother. It seems the only reason he wants to kill Deborah is because of her stance on violence and her championing a jailed battered wife who killed her husband (flashbacks show that Colt's mother threw a steaming pot of soup in his father's face, scarring him). Of course, the only way Deborah is going to get out of her predicament is to toss aside her anti-violence ways and get down and dirty. This film is full of little nuggets, like Colt riding a mini street sweeper while cleaning up Deborah's TV studio (the parallels are obvious), talkative Vinnie (Harvey Atkin), a hospital patient who plays a minor role in Deborah's survival and Colt's deathmask, made of photos he has taken of all his dying victims. While hardly gory by anyone's standards (a few bloody stabbings and slashings), the film has a mean streak that is quite undeniable (the girl's rape, while not fully shown, is still very hard to watch). Michael Ironside (still with some hair on top of his head) is his usual excellent self, as is Linda Purl. Lee Grant, on the other hand, overacts quite a bit and, believe it or not, it takes a subdued William Shatner to reel her in. Put this on your must-see list. Also starring Lenore Zann, Helen Hughes and Michael J. Reynolds. Originally released on VHS by 20th Century-Fox Video in 1982. Available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Also available on a double feature DVD & Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory, with the 1988 horror film BAD DREAMS (also set in a hospital). It would have made a better double bill with HOSPITAL MASSACRE, also produced in 1981.  Rated R.

VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1972) - One thousand years ago a Haitian prince is entombed alive for making love to another man's wife and for killing the man accidently during a fight. According to tribal law, the woman is beheaded while the prince watches. He is then drugged and placed in a sarcophagus, to spend all eternity not quite dead. During the present day, the prince's tomb is taken from a Cairo Museum and put on a luxury liner for shipment back to the States. During the cruise the prince returns to life and begins decapitating the passengers in revenge for the beheading of the woman he once loved. He has the ability to revert to a normal looking human being but every once in a while changes back to his mummified self. On the ship he meets a woman who is a dead ringer for his long-gone headless honey. She is an assistant to a scientist who is doing a study on voodoo. The prince and the scientist strike up a bargain: The prince will help in the scientist's research, giving him valuable information on voodooism, if the scientist can find a way to keep him from changing back to his decaying state. The scientist betrays the prince (he can't live with all the killings), so the prince kidnaps the woman and takes her to a cave located somewhere in Port O' Prince. It is in this cave that all three leads lose their lives in a rather abrupt (and silly) conclusion. This Spanish production (original title: VUDU SANGRIENTO) contains some of the worst dubbing you're ever likely to see and hear. The voices sound like they were recorded through tin cans and rarely match the actor's mouths. The quality of the print is also very scratchy. There is some blood and nudity, but not enough to keep your attention. This is a shame because this is a film I have always wanted to see since it was released to American theaters in 1975 (to cash in on THE EXORCIST craze). I happened to stumble across a video copy of it at a flea market  (price: $5.00)  and was very  excited since I had never seen it at any video store I frequent. I paid my five bucks and brought it home. After watching it I realized I was five dollars in the hole. Will I ever learn my lesson? Starring Aldo Sambrell, Tanyeka Stadler, Alexander Abrahan and Ferdinand Sancho  Directed by  Manuel Cano, who also made the Tarzan rip-off KING OF THE JUNGLE (1969) and the superior SWAMP OF THE RAVENS (1974). Screenwriter Santiago Moncada also wrote the screenplay to the extremely bloody Western CUT-THROATS NINE (1971) and Jose Ramon Larraz's REST IN PIECES (1987). A Dura Vision Video Release. Rated R. Also available in a slightly better transfer on a double feature DVD, with Jess Franco's THE MAN HUNTER (1980; under the name THE DEVIL HUNTER), on TERROR TALES FROM THE HOOD VOL. 4 from those thieving bastards at VideoAsia.

WARLOCK MOON (1973) - This is one of those films that turned up frequently on TV in the 70's and early 80's only to disappear into obscurity. It did get a limited VHS release by Unicorn Video in the 80's, but not many people saw it and that release gets high bids on eBay. But now, thanks to Media Blasters/Shriek Show, it gets the deluxe treatment on DVD. Hosted by Joe Bob Briggs (who also supplies an optional comedic commentary), WARLOCK MOON tells the story of a girl (Laurie Walters of TV's EIGHT IS ENOUGH [1977 - 1981]) and a guy (Joe Spano of HILL STREET BLUES [1981 - 1987]) who make a wrong turn while on a picnic and turn up at a nearly deserted spa in the middle of nowhere. They meet the mysterious Mrs. Abercrombie (Edna MacAfee), who offers them tea spiked with a mickey. The girl learns from a hunter (Harry Bauer) that the spa was the site of a grisly cannabalistic murder in the 1930's where a cook at the spa killed a girl, chopped her up, and served her to all the guests. She begins to have doubts about her sanity, as she sees the ghostly murdered girl and is chased by two bearded hippies with axes. All is not what it is cracked up to be as Spano has a hidden agenda, Mrs. Abercrombie (who was the cook in the 30's) has her eye on Walters for a very special ceremony and people begin to get hacked up by the axe-wielding hippies. And just what is hidden in the padlocked meat lockers? This low-budget film falters in the first 45 minutes, but picks up considerably after that. There are flashes of gore (that did not make it into the TV version), including chopped up body parts, shootings and stabbings. None of it is very graphic, but it is used for proper shock effect. It even comes with the obligatory surprise ending that a lot of 70's horror films were fond of. According to Briggs, Tobe Hooper was aware that this film was being made while he was filming THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and was worried that it followed his film too closely. He had nothing to worry about. While both films deal with cannabalism (as of lot of films did during this period, including THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN (1974) and WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH [1973; a.k.a. TENDER FLESH]), they differ dramatically in tone and content. It's not a bad little film, even if it does telegraph some of the surprises well in advance. Directed economically by William Herbert, who never made anything else. Also starring Steve Lolinsky, Richard Vielle and Ray K. Goman. WARLOCK MOON is also known as BLOODY SPA. A Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD Release. Some of the earlier pressings of this disc were defective. If your copy skips at Chapter 11, contact Media Blasters for a replacement (offer no longer available). Also available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Not Rated.

WATCHERS II (1990) - I'm probably going to catch some flak from the hardcore horror crowd for admitting that I'm a fan of the original WATCHERS (1988), which was loosely based on the novel with the same name by Dean R. Koontz. Sure, it starred Corey Haim and featured one of the most ridiculous-looking creatures this side of a Larry Buchanan film, but it had an infectious charm and winning performances by Michael Ironside as a sadistic government agent and a Golden Retriever as the super-intelligent canine Einstein. Part II may not be as enjoyable as the original, but it does have it's moments. It's not a sequel in the truest sense, but rather a "reimagining" of the first film. When the government tries to shut down a top-secret experiment called "The Aesop Project", involving The Outsider (a genetically created creature who exists solely to kill) and intelligent dog Einstein (who the Outsider is programmed to track and kill), lead scientist Dr. Steve Malceno (Jonathan Farwell) tips-off a bunch of animal rights activists, who raid the lab while Dr. Malceno tries to smuggle out the Outsider in the ensuing fracas. Things go horribly wrong and both Einstein and the Outsider escape. Einstein hitches himself to Paul Ferguson (Marc Singer; THE BEASTMASTER - 1982; DEAD SPACE - 1990), a soldier on the way to the brig for slugging his commanding officer. When the MPs transporting Ferguson are killed by the Outsider (The MP driving the jeep sees Einstein in the middle of the road and says, "Oh boy, two points!" as he steps on the gas and tries to run him over [a tip of the hat to DEATH RACE 2000 - 1975]), Ferguson is blamed by the police for their deaths. He goes on the lam with Einstein and tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Einstein convinces Ferguson to call his trainer, Barbara White (Tracy Scoggins; DAN TURNER: HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE - 1990, also with Singer), in a scene that has to be seen to be believed. Ferguson, Barbara and Einstein join forces while the Outsider goes on a killing spree, savagely murdering Ferguson's ex-wife Sarah (Irene Miracle) and then killing two horny teens in a motel room that was previously occupied by Ferguson and Einstein. Of course, the cops blame Ferguson for the murders, but he gets help from Einstein and Barbara to clear his name (Einstein types "paul nokilr" on Barbara's computer to convince her of Ferguson's innocence). Dr. Malceno recaptures the Outsider and tries to reprogram it but, once again, things go horribly wrong and the Outsider escapes. Dr. Malceno ends up severely injured (one of his eyes is torn out of it's socket, the Outsider's preferred method of killing), so it's up to Ferguson, Barbara and Einstein to kill the Outsider and clear Ferguson's good name.  A lot of this film rides on making us believe that Einstein is an intelligent dog and I'm glad to report that it succeeds (Einstein is played by a very talented dog named "Dakai"). Director Thierry Notz (THE TERROR WITHIN - 1988), working with a script by "Henry Dominic" (actually a pseudonym used by co-scripters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris), infuses the film with many comical moments, many dealing with Einstein's communication with Ferguson, including Einstein giving Ferguson a phone book and then laying white objects at his feet, a clue for Ferguson to start reading off last names that begin with "White" in the phone book until they get to Barbara's name. The sight of Einstein driving a car down the street and not registering with the pedestrians is also sure to bring a smile to your face. I also like the scene where Ferguson sends Barbara to a gun store with a laundry list of automatic weapons. When she questions if anyone would sell someone like her these guns, Ferguson looks at her and flatly says, "Why not? This is America." Funny and true at the same time. While not as gory as the first film, WATCHERS II has it's fair share of violent scenes and deaths. It's a little overlong, but this Roger Corman-produced horror film is never boring and does generate a good deal of suspense. The Outsider is still a pretty chintzy-looking creation, although this time it's at least not covered in hair from top-to-bottom as in the first film (although the creature would again sprout hair in WATCHERS REBORN [1998], the fourth and, so far, final film in the series). Unlike most horror films from this period, the Outsider's death in the finale is rather touching. Jeremy Stanford, who has a small role here as a policeman, went on to direct the god-awful WATCHERS III (1994), where Wings Hauser took over the role of Ferguson. Also starring Mary Woronov (well, she's in one scene), Don Pugsley, Joseph Hardin, John Lafayette, Diana James, Kip Addotta and Tom Poster as the Outsider. Originally released on VHS by I.V.E., Inc. and later on a double feature DVD (with the original WATCHERS) from Artisan Home Entertainment. Rated R.

WATCHERS III (1994) - I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I'm a big fan of the first WATCHERS (1988). I know that the monster is a ridiculous creation and that it stars Corey Haim, but the film has a goofy charm to it, not to mention a brutal performance by Michael Ironside and some outstanding gore. Hell, I'll even cop to liking WATCHERS II (1990), even if it's basically a retread of the first film. But, like all good things, Executive Producer Roger Corman goes to the well one too many times and milks the Dean R. Koontz source novel dry, turning it into a low-budget PREDATOR (1987) retread. When a plane carrying the Outsider (the creature) and Einstein (the super-intelligent dog) is shot down over the jungles of Central America, the American government sends five military prisoners, led by Ferguson (Wings Hauser, who plays the same character originated by Marc Singer in Part II), to eradicate all evidence from the plane off the face of the Earth in exchange for unconditional pardons. As they search the jungle for the evidence (the government conveniently forgot to tell Ferguson and his squad about the Outsider or Einstein), the prisoners stumble upon a rebel camp where everyone has been savagely slaughtered, either they are missing their heads or their eyes have been ripped from their sockets. Einstein finds a young mute boy in the jungle and becomes his protector, as the Outsider begins murdering members of Ferguson's squad one-by-one. It becomes clear after a short while that this whole situation was no accident at all. It is actually a controlled experiment being performed by the government to determine the effectiveness of the Outsider as a perfect military killing machine. Thankfully, Ferguson has knowledge of the project (again, watch Part II) and he and the remainder of his squad join up with Einstein to try and destroy the Outsider. They fail miserably and, in the finale, Ferguson, Einstein and the boy (the only ones left alive) create a fatal boobytrap to lure the Outsider to it's death by impalement and immolation. We will have to wait four more years for the fourth (and, so far, final) installment of the series, WATCHERS REBORN (1998).  Besides a few gory kills, where the Outsider (it still looks ridiculous) rips-off the heads or eyes of it's victims, this film is a chore to sit through. It's rather obvious that director Jeremy Stanford (STEPMONSTER - 1993) and screenwriter Michael Palmer (CARNOSAUR 2 - 1994) watched PREDATOR one too many times before making this, as the Outsider mimics the Predator's killing style, right down to skinning it's victims and hanging their bodies upside-down in trees. There is also a ton of macho theatrics (such as the scene where Ferguson puts a bullet in fellow squad member Nat's [Daryl Roach] brainpan rather than letting him die a slow, painful death after the Outsider thrusts it's hand through his chest and out his back), a near-rape and an insufferable amount of footage of people walking through the jungle. This isn't my idea of a good horror film and, unlike the first two films, Einstein doesn't come across as an intelligent dog, but rather a well-trained canine who can bark on demand (you can practically his trainer just off screen making hand signals to get him to bark, as the dog continually looks in one direction before performing a command). When he puts a stick in his mouth and writes "DANGER" in the dirt to warn the soldiers, it's obvious he's getting human help in moving the stick. This film is nothing but a waste of 80 minutes that not even the always-dependable Wings Hauser (NIGHTMARE AT NOON - 1987; THE ART OF DYING - 1991), who looks bored beyond tears, can redeem. You've been warned. Luis Llosa (SNIPER - 1993) was the Producer here. Also starring Gregory Scott Cummins (CARTEL - 1990), John K. Linton, Lolita Ronalds, Frank Novak and Ider Cifuentes Martin as the boy. Available on VHS & DVD from New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.

WATCHERS REBORN (1998) - In my review of WATCHERS III (1994), I stated that I thought Roger Corman went to Dean R. Koontz's source novel one too many times, turning the franchise into nothing but a cheapjack PREDATOR retread. Well, no one ever accused Corman (who was Executive Producer here) of being subtle, as he decided to give it one more try and commissioned this fourth and (so far) final installment in the series. While basically nothing more than a reboot of the first two films, at least it's head-and-shoulders above the abysmal third entry. As in all the other films, this one opens with the hideous creature called the Outsider and super-brainy dog Einstein escaping from a top-secret government laboratory. The Outsider, who is a non-stop killing machine, and Einstein are psychically linked and the Outsider is programmed to follow and kill Einstein (and anything or anyone else that gets in it's way). After Einstein escapes to a local zoo and the Outsider slaughters a zoo guard (by yanking out his eyes and ripping out his intestines), detectives Murphy (Mark Hamill) and Brody (Gary Collins) investigate the murder and Einstein attaches himself to Brody, who takes him home. When Brody is murdered by the Outsider that night (his hand is yanked off and his eyes ripped out), Murphy wants to handle the case, but his commanding officer, Captain Dekker (Floyd Levine), pulls him off the case when Agent Johnson (Stephen Macht), a brutal NSA agent, shows up at the crime scene and takes over. Murphy then discovers Einstein hiding in his car and takes him home, where he quickly finds out how intelligent Einstein really is (Einstein spells out his name with barbeque sauce on the kitchen floor!). Murphy contact a doctor named Grace (Lisa Wilcox), who he met at the zoo, not aware that she is actually a member of the top-secret experiment. When Murphy saves Grace from the clutches of the Outsider, she fesses-up to him about the whole sordid affair. Murphy, Grace and Einstein hide out in a remote mountain cabin until they can figure out their next move. Murphy, who lost his wife and young daughter in a tragic fire a short time before, becomes highly protective of Grace and Einstein (he considers them his new surrogate family) and it's not long before the trio is battling both Agent Johnson and the Outsider to keep their new family unit safe. I'm beginning to get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside me!  The first thing you'll notice about this film is that the Outsider has reverted back to the fur-covered creature of the first film, albeit with a more animatronic head (and it speaks this time!). Director John Carl Buechler (TROLL - 1986; CELLAR DWELLER - 1987; ICE CRAWLERS - 2002; MINER'S MASSACRE - 2002), who also supplied the Outsider costume and makeup effects through his Magical Media Industries (MMI) outfit, sprinkles gory bits of violence throughout the film (eye removals, limb-yanking, manual heart removal), but it's nothing more than the same rehashed plot of the first two films (The screenplay was written by Sean Dash, the director and scripter of the Tonya Harding-starring action abomination BREAKAWAY [1995]). The film really falters during the final third, when the Outsider kidnaps Grace and she leaves a trail of oranges (!) in the road so Einstein and Murphy can track her. Mark Hamill (my, how the mighty have fallen!) looks embarrassed working alongside a dog, but it couldn't possibly be any worse than acting next to a Wookie. Stephen Macht (GRAVEYARD SHIFT - 1990) is woefully underutilized, although it was great to see Gary Collins (of the early-70's TV series THE SIXTH SENSE) appear in something relatively recent other than late-night infomercials. Even though WATCHERS REBORN is one of Corman's better late-90's Concorde Films productions, it's still a routine horror flick that suffers from a severe case of deja-vu. Singer Lou Rawls and stuntman Kane Hodder have cameos as a medical examiner and a store clerk respectively. Other Dean Koontz novels made into films include: WHISPERS (1989), THE FACE OF FEAR (1990), SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT (1991), HIDEAWAY (1995), PHANTOMS (1998), BLACK RIVER (2001) and DEMON SEED (1977), by far the best film based on a Koontz novel. Also starring Tony Guma, Milton Kahn, Bob Clendenin, Shawn David Thompson and Larry Cedar. Available on VHS & DVD from New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.

WAX (2014) - It's wonderful to see Spain finally get back to making horror films again in the New Millennium, starting with Julio Fernandez/Brian Yuzna's Filmax Entertainment/Fantastic Factory, which gave us many films, including FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED (2000); ARACHNID (2001); DAGON (2001); BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003); ROTTWEILER (2004); one of my favorites TRANSSIBERIAN (2008) and many others (and still going strong) and continuing on to director Juame Belagero and Paco Plaza's four "found footage" [REC] films (2007 - 2104; although, to be fair, the fourth film wasn't found footage at all and, therefore, was my favorite of the four), which begat our own copy of the first film, the found footage QUARANTINE (2008; with a lousy DTV follow-up in 2011 called QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL, both of which I find painful to watch). And then there are films like this: Horror flicks which throw-in Spanish horror stars from the past (including Jack Taylor; THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY [1972]; Lone Fleming; A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL [1971]; Antonio Mayans; A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE [1973]; Geraldine Chaplin; INNOCENT BYSTANDERS [1972] and the voice of Paul Naschy [who passed away in 2009], which is a cheat to U.S. audiences because he is a wax figure that speaks in Spanish [in dialogue taken from other Spanish Films] and we are not even given any English translation!) and mix them in with modern-day gore, much of it the "torture porn" variety (no CGI here, which lifts it a peg in my book, even if I am not a fan of torture porn). The end result is mixed, but there is no doubt in my mind that Jack Taylor is still one scary dude and most of the other "old-timers" make this film worth watching. I can't say the same thing about the rest of the cast, who look like amateurs when compared to the people I just talked about. Director/co-screenwriter Víctor Matellano does a good job of making the few sets he works with as creepy as possible (he also just finished directing a remake of Jose Ramom Larraz's VAMPYRES [2015] and made the Spanish documentary CLAWING! A JOURNEY THROUGH THE SPANISH HORROR in 2013) and co-screenwriter Hugo Stuven Casasnovas has just directed/wrote his first horror film ANOMALOUS (2015). So, I will say that the state of Spanish horror films is now flourishing again. And that makes me happy. But, let's get back to this film (it is filmed in English with a few scenes in Spanish thrown in): A young writer named Mike (Jimmy Shaw) gets an assignment from his Producer (Geraldine Chaplin) to spend a night at the extremely eerie Vista Wax Museum, which she has outfitted with a bunch of hidden cameras, along with the wax museum's security system. A wax figure of notorious serial killer Dr Knox (Jack Taylor; PIECES - 1982, and too many other Spanish horror films to mention here. Let me just say this: It is good to still have him around) has just been introduced and even it gives me the willies looking at it. The problem may be that Mike is not the only one in the wax museum that night. Dr. Knox (who is due to be extradited to a U.S prison from a Barcelona prison, where he is to be executed immediately; he has a Charles Manson-like following) may also be in the museum and he gets off on graphically killing people in ways that are so disgusting, the DVD should have come with a barf bag for those with weak stomachs. The film actually starts with the following quote from French poet Christian Bobin: "It's a fact that life take out our heart, if not...this is not life." We them watch Dr. Knox pull a cover off a topless girl (her eyes seem to be glued shut with molten wax and her mouth and vagina region are covered with duct tape) as he removes one of her fingernails with Hemostats. The woman has a pleasant memory about her husband and son having a good time at the beach before reality takes her to the present as Dr. Knox kills her by cutting into her chest with a scalpel. We are shown how every wax figure got their own effigy in the museum (the film's best sequence) as Mike pushes the wheelchair-bound, eyepatch-wearing curator of the museum, Mr. Jarrod (Denis Rafter), through the museum, showing him how to use the security system and warning Mike that there are some "blind spots" in the security camera's system. He also tells Mike that there are three reasons why anyone would want to spend a night at a wax museum: 1) The money. 2) Because he's a sadist. and 3) He is totally crazy. Mr. Jarrod also mentions a similar incident that happened at this wax museum ten years ago, but refuses to tell Mike how it ended. A weird wax figure (which the curator calls an "automaton") that is able to turn its head and move its lips (and talks in the voice of Paul Naschy) speaks in Spanish and the curator says it is a quote from the Book Of Revelations and takes it to mean a bad omen for Mike to spend the night at the wax museum (he doesn't realize how right he is). He also shows Mike the Tunnel Of Terror and mentions that he must know who Dr, Knox is, because that is where his wax figure is kept (there a hidden camera on that figure at all times). We then see a flashback where Dr. Knox picks up a hooker in his black Mercedes, takes her to an undisclosed location and she strips. Dr. Knocks knocks her out and she wakes up tied to a table, while Dr. Knox cuts off her ear and cuts out one of her eyes. The flashback ends. Or was it a flashback at all? Mike's friend Steve (Alito Rogers) leaves him with a videotape and a cell phone and then leaves, locking the door behind him. Mike watches the videotape, which is of the Producer telling Mike he can't leave the wax museum until 8:00am the following morning and that the cell phone has been tinkered with so no outside calls can be made. Only she can call him and she plans on calling him at 4:00am to check-up on his progress. She then goes on to tell him something he doesn't know. Her company is making a show called "The Mysteries Of The Wax Museum". She goes on to explain that throughout the years strange and unexplainable events have happened at the Vista Wax Museum and that Steve has supplied him with bags of video cameras and batteries to record his exploits. It is at this time that the film partially becomes a "found footage" film, as Mike films his exploits, showing footage on a monitor next to the figure of Dr. Knox of some of his bloody exploits, but he stops it and puts another camera near the wax figure of Dr. Knox. Suddenly, the video begins playing on the monitor again, as we watch Dr. Knox pouring molten wax in a poor girl's eyes (the same girl we saw in the beginning and then eating his victim's internal organs while she is still alive. We then see another Dr. Knox flashback, where he cuts out a girl's eyes because he thinks there is a bird trapped behind them (I wonder if it was a hummingbird?). Mike begins to start experiencing strange things, such as a red rubber ball (the same type Dr, Knox used to gag his victims) disappearing from the hand of a wax Alfred Hitchcock. So many strange things happen, that when the Producer calls Mike at 4:00am to tell him Dr. Knox has escaped, Mike is not surprised. What does surprise him is that Dr. Knox escaped from prison long before Mike was trapped in the wax museum, so it looks as if Mike is being set up to be a victim for reality television (believe me, we are slowly getting there on real TV). When Mike discovers that the "wax" figure of Dr. Knox was actually the real Dr. Knox (a scene that is expertly done and sent shivers down my spine), a game of cat-and-mouse comes into play. Mike watches a video where Dr. Knox eats the rotting flesh of his dead wife Noria (Yolanda Font). It is at this point whether we must decide if Mike's Producer is staging all of this for ratings, especially since the electricity goes out and we have to watch everything happen in that sickly green night vision. Mike is captured by Dr. Knox, who says he is going to eat him. Dr. Knox says he will be enjoying this slices of Mike's liver, spleen and pancreas and as a refreshing beverage, he will extract some liquid from Mike's liver capsule and as an appetizer, he will be eating another rare part of Mike's body (Try as I might, I couldn't make this part out). We then see Dr. Knox cut open Mike's chest with a scalpel and then pull out pieces of Mike's body (Be aware that Mike is awake for all this!). Dr. Knox then puts his hand through Mike's sternum to pull out his liver. Dr. Knox then makes Mike eat his own body parts by shoving a funnel down his throat. Dr. Knox then puts a live rat into Mike's body, as Mike strikes Dr. Knox's face, revealing it was made of wax. When the Producer enters the wax museum in the morning and finds Mike dead (She was setting him up the whole time because she knew he was unstable since his wife's death), the coroner (Lone Fleming) pronounces him dead due to a heart attack. It makes sense except for the rather confusing ending (I think it helps if you are Spanish, but the thrust of the story is that most the bad things we saw happening was actually going through Mike's mind [the ones that weren't were supplied by the Producer] because he was mentally unstable and the Producer knew that and decided to make a hit reality show displaying his death). Believe me when I say that most reality show producers would kill (literally!) to have a chance like this in real life as long as they are not implicated or found legally responsible. I simply cannot stand torture porn (and I hate that term just as much as I hate the acts myself, but it has become genre venacular), but Jack Taylor is just so damned terrifying (director Víctor Matellano has said on record that WAX would not have been made if Taylor turned down this role), I was willing to overlook all the gore for gore's sake just to listen to Jack Taylor talk. His demeanor in this film is as a very soothing, even when he is cutting out a woman's eyes or cutting out a heart. Jack Taylor would have made a damn fine Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. Let's hope that Matellano breaks out of the torture porn & found footage mode and makes a regular horror film. He has a great eye for creating atmosphere but he needs to show gore (which I am not against) in a more traditional manner. You remember, like they use to do back in the 70's. Also starring Almudena León, Saturnino García, Vicky Luengo, Manuel M. Velasco and Ainhoa Blanco Ducar. A Full Moon Features DVD Release. Not Rated.

WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME (1991) - Sequel to the horror/comedy, punctuated by bits of gore and cameos by plenty of genre vets. It takes place immediately after the original, where the two survivors (Zach Galligan and Monika Schnarre, taking over Deborah Foreman's role in Part 1) escape the Waxwork inferno thinking everyone had perished and the threat is over. Little do they know that a disembodied hand had also escaped the fire and hitches a taxi ride to Schnarre's house, killing her alcoholic stepfather (George "Buck" Flower) with a few well-placed hammer blows. Schnarre is arrested and put on trial. When she tells her story on the stand, no one will believe her so she and Galligan travel through time (courtesy of a device found in Patrick Macnee's home) to prove her innocence. They travel to some well-known places and film parodies: Castle Frankenstein; an ALIEN take-off; Medieval England (the longest section of the film, where Alexanger Godunov is an evil count and Michael Des Barres is his effeminent lieutenant); and the film's best section, a parody of THE HAUNTING (1963), where Bruce Campbell, a psychic researcher, is strung up and has his ribcage torn open. This section is filmed in black and white and is hilarious as well as extremely gross. The last 15 minutes is also highly inventive (Jack the Ripper is attacked by Nosferatu!) but you will have to go through some stretches of boredom to get there. Although a bit overlong (the Godunov section could have been cut in half), this is an enjoyably comic outing with some bloody effects and unexpected cameos. The late John Ireland (THE INCUBUS - 1981) turns in one of his last film appearances here. Patrick Macnee, who died in Part 1, turns up briefly in a film-within-a-film, giving Galligan instructions on how to time travel and shows up later in the body of a raven! Juliet Mills (BEYOND THE DOOR - 1974) is Schnarre's attorney, David Carradine (TV's KUNG FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES [1993 - 1997]) plays Galligan's reincarnated father and Marina Sirtis (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION [1987 - 1994]) round out the roster. Anthony Hickox (the original WAXWORK - 1988; the sublime and underrated SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT - 1989) directs with a nice comic flair. Don't expect too much and you may have some fun. A LIVE Home Video VHS Release. Also available on DVD as a double feature with the first film from Artisan Home Entertainment.  Rated R.

WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) - Antonio Margheriti, better known as "Anthony M. Dawson", remakes his own black and white CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964), but with more of an adult '70s flair than his previous film (even though it contained a topless scene!) and in color, with a revised screenplay by the team of Bruno Corbucci (THE COP IN BLUE JEANS - 1976) and Giovanni Grimaldi (STARBLACK - 1966), who both wrote the screenplay to THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER (1963).
     Alan Foster (Anthony Franciosa; TENEBRE - 1982), an American journalist, arrives in London to interview Edgar Allan Poe (Klaus Kinski; DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER - 1973), finding Poe regaling a group of people with one of his stories about life after death (actually reciting verbatim from Poe's short story "Berenice"). Alan asks Poe why the majority of his stories always touch on that subject, because he couldn't possibly believe in life after death, it is not real. Poe looks at Alan and says it is, indeed, real, his stories are based on true-life incidents that happened to him. Alan thinks it is hogwash and he is interrupted by Lord Thomas Blackwood (Enrico Osterman; THE CHURCH - 1989), who tells Poe not to judge Alan too harshly because he comes from a new country that doesn't believe in ghosts, they only believe in what they can touch and feel. Lord Blackwood then wagers ten pounds (originally a hundred pounds, but Alan says that is too rich for him) that he could not spend one night in his Providence Castle, telling Alan that many have tried, but none of them were ever seen or heard from again. Alan takes him up on the bet, telling everyone that when you are dead, that is it, everything after death is nothing but blackness, so Alan, Lord Blackwood and Poe take a two hour carriage ride to Providence Castle, Lord Blackwell handing Alan a loaded pistol, saying he might have need for it. Once arriving at the castle, Lord Blackwood gives Alan the key to the castle's heavy iron gate, which is adorned with sharp talon-like spikes and Alan tells Lord Blackwood and Poe that he will see them at dawn, not knowing that he is about to experience a living nightmare that will shatter his belief system down to its core.
     As soon as Alan opens the gate, strange things begin to happen, like the gate slamming shut on its own. As Alan enters the castle with a torch, he can see that the castle hasn't been lived in for years, as the chandeliers and all the furniture are covered in thick cobwebs. He also notices that all the painting covering the walls are those of beautiful women, but one of them is not a painting at all, rather it's a flesh and blood (?) woman, who introduces herself to Alan as Elizabeth Blackwood Perkins (Michele Mercier; CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES - 1969), Lord Blackwood's sister (When Alan tells Elizabeth that Lord Blackwood told him that the castle was unoccupied, she says, "Oh, well, because, you see, as far as he's concerned...I'm dead."). She tells Alan that she has been living in the upper floors of the castle for years and to pardon the condition of the main floor because she hasn't had servants for quite some time. She also tells Alan that she prepared a room for him and he wants to know how she knew he was coming, but Elizabeth says nothing, leading him to his room. Once in the room, Elizabeth asks Alan if he would mind if she stays the night with him and Alan says no, so they lay on the bed together, Alan's head on Elizabeth's heaving bosom. Suddenly, Alan lifts his head and calls out Elizabeth's name, telling her that he couldn't hear her heart beating. Elizabeth tells him not to be ridiculous, but before she can say any more, the bedroom door swings open and Julia (Karin Field; CAVE OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1964; THE HUNCHBACK OF SOHO - 1966) appears, telling Elizabeth to leave Alan's room immediately, she knows what she is up to and it is not going to happen again. Both women leave the room (Alan recognizes Julia from her painting downstairs), but Alan, who is smitten, goes looking for Elizabeth and brings her back to his room. Just as they are about to make love, a man named Herbert (Raf Baldassarre; BLINDMAN - 1971) comes barging into the room, stabs Elizabeth in the stomach with a dagger (leaving it sticking out of her body) and runs out of the room. Alan grabs his pistol and gives chase, shooting Herbert in the back. Herbert falls down the stairs, but when his body falls on the main floor, it disappears, befuddling Alan. He then runs back to his room to check on Elizabeth, but she's not there, not even a drop of blood anywhere. Alan goes looking for Elizabeth, but finds Dr. Carmus (Peter Carsten; Margheriti's AND GOD SAID TO CAIN - 1970) instead. Dr. Carmus was a scientist and author of books on the subject of the metaphysical sciences, that one day just up and disappeared. He tells Alan, who has read his books (but disagrees with their conclusions), that he came to the castle to research how the human senses continue to survive long after death, which Alan finds unbelievable. Dr. Carmus then pulls out a box with a highly poisonous snake inside, cuts off its head and asks Alan if he believes the snake is dead. Alan says yes, so Dr. Carmus tells him to pick up the snakes severed head. When Alan tries to do it, the snake hisses at him, Dr. Carmus telling him that the snake's sense of self-preservation and danger outlives its death, proving to Alan that the senses outlive death. Alan still doesn't believe him, saying it may be true for simple animals, but not for human beings. Dr. Carmus then shows Alan more proof that will haunt Alan till the day he dies, which may not be very long.
     The cobweb-filled main floor of the castle suddenly becomes clean and active, as Alan watches Elizabeth throw a party welcoming her husband, William (Silvano Tranquilli; SMILE BEFORE DEATH - 1972), back to England after a long stay in America. William gives Elizabeth an expensive diamond necklace and promises her that he is back in England for good, no longer will he be making long trips to America because he sold all his business interests there, leaving him more time to spend with his wife. Elizabeth is happy to hear it, but by the look on her face something is bothering her. That something is Herbert, who works in the castle's stables and is having an affair with Elizabeth. Herbert refuses to give her up, secretly pulling her away from the party and telling Elizabeth that he wants her to tell her husband about the affair, but Elizabeth tells him the affair is over, she loves William. As Alan watches helplessly (every time he tries to intervene, a supernatural force holds him back, frozen in his tracks) as the night of happiness turns into a night of deception and death, making Alan finally believe in life after death. Everyone in the castle is cursed to relive this day over and over for all eternity, but does that also include Alan? As dawn approaches, Alan runs outside, while the ghosts of the castle say to him over and over, "Your blood is our life!", making it to the front gate and exclaiming that he has won the wager and is now ten pounds richer. Just as the sun is rising over the horizon, the iron gate slams shut, impaling Alan's body with its talon-like spikes, killing him. The carriage containing Poe and Lord Blackwood then arrives and when they see Alan's dead body standing upright on the iron gate, Poe says that Alan will now have an eternity to believe in life after death, as he now has no other choice.
     This atmospheric and rather creepy Gothic horror film works on many levels, the most obvious being the castle itself, which is a character all on its own. One never knows what is around any of its many dark and shadowy corners. Antonio Margheriti, who was no stranger to Gothic horror, directing the previously mentioned CASTLE OF BLOOD, as well as HORROR CASTLE (1963), THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (1964) and the Gothic giallo SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE (1973), certainly knows what he wants from a castle, making it so goosebump-inducing and deadly, the viewer can't help but be creeped out. Both Klaus Kinski and Anthony Franciosa are dubbed by other people and, at first, it is hard to relate to their characters (especially if you know what they actually sound like, as do I), but you will quickly forget about it and just enjoy the film for all its creepy excesses. The sequence where Elizabeth makes her initial appearance to Alan is so well done, you will rewind and play it several times to see where her portrait ends and she begins. As a matter of fact, this film is full of expertly handled sequences, making this film required viewing for all those who love supernatural horror. While not particularly bloody or violent and lacking nudity, this film doesn't really need it and I believe you will agree. Sometimes the scariest things are those you cannot see. This movie is all about giving you the chills, which it does in spades.
     Shot as NELLA STRETTA MORSADEL RAGNO ("In The Tight Grip Of The Spider") and also known as DRACULA IN THE CASTLE OF BLOOD, this film did get a theatrical release in the United States (under the review title) by Cinema Shares International, edited to get a PG Rating (originally GP). Strangely, this film never received a legitimate U.S. VHS or DVD release, falling to gray market sites like Something Weird Video and Sinister Cinema to release fullscreen PG cuts of the film on VHS and DVD-R. It wasn't until 2017 when upstart company Garagehouse Pictures found an uncut print of the film, releasing it on Blu-Ray in its OAR for the first time ever in the United States. This is the disc you need if you want to view the film the way it was meant to be seen. It's a little pricey, but worth it.  Even Amazon Prime only offers the cut fullscreen print streaming. Also starring Irina Malewa (KIDNAP SYNDICATE - 1975), Vittorio Fanfoni (BLACK MAGIC RITES - 1973), Omero Capanna (Margheriti's MR. HERCULES AGAINST KARATE - 1973) and the prolific Carla Mancini (THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK - 1974). All fullscreen prints are Rated PG and the Blu-Ray is Not Rated, but there's not much here that pushes past a PG-13 Rating, just plenty of creepy scares (Ignore the R-Rating on Garagehouse's poster. It was only put there to beef-up sales).

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (2006) - Boring "first-person" modern-day jungle cannibal flick that mixes fact with fiction which, ultimately, leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, the 23 year-old son of a rich and influential Vice President of the United States, disappeared while taking part in an expedition into the jungles of Papua New Guinea. After a long and exhaustive search with no expense spared, all hope was lost in finding him alive, the consensus being that he either drowned or was eaten by a tribe of primitive cannibals. That's the true part. What happens next is pure fiction. In the present day, Mandi (Sandi Gardiner), Colby (Callard Harris), Bijou (Veronica Sywak) and Mikey (Nickolas Richey), hear a rumor that a helicopter pilot spotted a 70 year-old white man living among a tribe of cannibals in the New Guinea jungle. Thinking that it could be Michael Rockefeller and they could get at least a million dollars for a video interview, the foursome take their video camera (which never seems to be turned off or run out of battery power) and head into the jungle to search for him. After spending entirely too much time documenting their personal and sexual lives, the foursome finally make it into the jungle, where they spend way too much time goofing off, either getting drunk, smoking pot or arguing amongst each other over petty things (They even run into a husband/wife team of Christian missionaries and Mikey hits on the wife!). Bijou and Mikey constantly hold-up the search, wasting too much time partying and getting up late, causing serious friction between them and Mandi and Colby. They fall five days behind schedule and, after Mikey steals a human skull from a cannibal graveyard and refuses to put it back (even after being warned by a brawny Australian chap that crosses their path), Mikey and Bijou break-off from the group, build a raft, steal the video camera and take off down river without Mindi and Colby. The angry cannibals follow the duo down river and capture them (after putting a couple of arrows into Mikey's back), as Mindi and Colby build their own raft and try to catch up (there's also a "surprise" development here that should have all the viewers raising their hands up in the air in total disbelief). They find Mikey and Bijou (not pretty sights), only to end up as cannibal chow themselves. The final shot shows an old white man picking up the camera and walking off into the jungle. Which raises two questions: Is it Michael Rockefeller? How did this footage find it's way to civilization? I'm afraid those are two questions (among many others) that are never answered. This CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST-wannabe (released under the title CANNIBALS in some foreign territories to avoid confusion with the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson film THE RUNDOWN [2003], which was also released under the title WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE), shot entirely through the lens of a hand-held digital video camera, suffers greatly from a cast of extremely unlikable characters and taking it's own sweet time getting to the good stuff. Nearly an hour passes before we even glimpse a cannibal and the film loses all credibility when it is revealed, after Mikey and Bijou are captured by the cannibals, that Mandi hid a second digital video camera in her backpack without anyone else knowing about it (I moaned so loud at this reveal that my neighbor thought I was in labor!). It's plot contrivances like this that sink the film and it never recovers. The majority of the film is nothing but four greedy, irresponsible people arguing with each other ad infinitum, with a quick, bloody final denouement. I don't know about you, but I'm growing extremely tired of these BLAIR WITCH-style productions. While it's not as herky-jerky or nausea-inducing as WITCH or CLOVERFIELD (2007), director/screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh (a long drop down from his first directorial effort, 2004's THE PUNISHER) offers nothing new to the cannibal genre, besides the Rockefeller plot device. Even the graphic, unrated gore in the film's final 25 minutes is nothing you haven't seen before (Mikey laying on the ground, still alive, with his arms and legs missing; Colby being eviscerated and eaten; a quick shot of Mindi's body cut in half) and the film's standout gore sequence, where Bijou is hanging in the air by a bamboo pole shoved through her mouth and out the back of her head, is nothing but a less-invasive take-off of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST's shot of a woman in a similar situation. About the only good aspect of this production is the beautiful location photography shot on the island of Fiji (substituting for New Guinea). Otherwise, you are going to have to slog through endless scenes of in-fighting from a cast of petty people in order to view a couple of minutes (maximum) of quick gore shots, making this 82 minute film seem twice as long than it really is. It's hard to believe that Gale Anne Hurd (THE TERMINATOR - 1984; ALIENS - 1986; THE ABYSS - 1989) produced this. The worst Italian cannibal flick is substantially more enjoyable than WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (And, before you ask, the Guns 'N' Roses song of the same name is nowhere to be heard. As a matter of fact, this film contains no music soundtrack at all.). Also starring Richard Morris, Carmen Alexis and Patrick Kiem. A Dimension Extreme Home Video DVD Release. Unrated, but believe me, the trip is not worth it to get there.

WENDIGO (1978) - For the few of us who suffered through director Paul W. Kener's SAVAGE WATER (1979), here's his first film, an equally inept and boring take on an old Native American folklore tale, that Kener wrote, directed (both using the pseudonym "Rodger Darbonne"), edited, photographed and co-produced (with Raymond H. Smith). The story structure is similar to SAVAGE WATER, only instead of a rafting trip, a group of outdoor types, headed by Frank Benson (Ron Berger, the star of SAVAGE WATER), take a helicopter into the Wyoming wilderness (filmed on location in Teton National Park) to go on a moose hunt. Once on the ground, Frank, Connie (Carole Cochrell) and Eric (Cameron Garnick) meet their guides, the bull-headed Cajun Defago (Van Washburn Jr.) and Indian Billy (Victor Lawrence), and they all watch the helicopter explode in mid-air, forcing the pilot, Mike (Robert Steffen), to jump into a lake. Defago and Billy grab a canoe and save Mike, who tells everyone that a mysterious wind suddenly appeared and destroyed the helicopter and it may be more than a week before a search party reaches them. Billy then tells everyone the legend of the Wendigo, the "Spirit of the Black Wind", and how it bodes badly for everyone in this neck of the woods. Defago elaborates on the story, telling the group over a campfire the story of an Indian chief named Wendigo (flashback alert!). Wendigo and his family are starving during a bad winter storm and resort to cannibalism, eating the corpses of members of other tribes who have frozen to death. When members from the other tribes find out, they tie Wendigo to a tree and burn him to death, with Wendigo cursing all those who enter his territory with bloody deaths with his dying breath. After hearing this campfire tale, the group decides to continue on their moose-hunting trip, with disastrous results. While Connie stays back at the camp with a concerned Billy (who performs an Indian ritual while Connie takes a nude dip in the river), the others go on their moose hunt, but the constant clicking of photographer Eric's camera chases away the only moose they see all day. Connie (who is quite the slut, sleeping with Frank and Billy) agrees to take a midnight canoe ride with Mike to a mysterious island in the middle of a lake that both Billy and Defago warned them to avoid, as it is believed to be the Wendigo's home. Connie ends up leaving Mike alone on the island when a mysterious wind blows in and Mike is killed  by the Wendigo (it's really too damn dark to see what's going on, though). One-by-one, everyone is killed, starting with Billy (hung upside down on a tree), then Eric (bloodlessly torn in half), then Frank (his rifle explodes in his face) and, finally, Defago (who is impaled on a tree branch in the film's only gory scene). Only Connie escapes, but at what price?  Just like SAVAGE WATER, the fault of WENDIGO is that it is just too damn talky and slow with very little action or horror to break-up the monotony. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against dialogue-heavy films, just as long as accomplished actors speak the words, but you'll find none of them in this film. Everyone here speaks in monotone, except for Van Washburn Jr. as Defago, who over-emotes constantly with his phony French Louisiana accent, spitting out lines like, "You no want sandweeech?" like everyone's life depended on it. Jack-of-all-trades Paul W. Kener (who disappeared into obscurity after this and SAVAGE WATER) is a master of none of them, as the direction is languid, the cinematography static, the editing sub-par and the screenplay bottom-of-the-barrel. The violence on display (when you see it, that is, as most of it happens at night under less than professional lighting) never arises above a PG rating level. There's nothing here that is remotely interesting or entertaining, including the reveal of the Wendigo monster during the finale (it's nothing but a superimposed mask being waved around on a double-exposed background). That's a shame, because this film has been one of those elusive rarities that has been on my "must see" list for over thirty years. Nothing is more disappointing than finding a film after a long, lengthy search only to discover that it is a boring piece of shit. I can't say I was surprised after watching Kener's SAVAGE WATER, but a little part of me was hoping for something better. Oh well, live and learn. Also starring Frank Lansing as the Wendigo. Other Wendigo-related films include GHOSTKEEPER (1980), FROSTBITER: WRATH OF THE WENDIGO (1996) and Larry Fessenden's excellent WENDIGO (2001). This did get a very small U.S. VHS release from Midwest Video Films (an outfit that was located in Puerto Rico) and finding a copy of that tape is like searching for a needle in a haystack.The print I viewed was sourced from a British VHS tape. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

WENDIGO (2001) - Outstanding horror film from independent director/writer Larry Fessenden, the last of his horror trilogy which includes NO TELLING (1991) and HABIT (1997). A family (Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber and MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE's [2000 - 2006]  Erik Per Sullivan) are driving to the Catskills to spend a quality time weekend in a rented house when their car hits a deer. This leads to an altercation with the creepy Otis (John Speredakos), a hunter who was tracking the deer. This altercation leaves an indelible impression on Miles (Sullivan) as psychiatrist mom Kim (Clarkson) and professional photographer dad George (Weber) try to make the best of what's left of their weekend which, as it progresses, turns bizarre and then tragic. Miles has a series of visions, some imagined and some prophetic, which leads him to meeting an old Indian in a drug store. This Indian gives him a carving of a Wendigo, tells Miles the legend of the angry spirit and then disappears into thin air. When George is shot while sledding with Miles, it leads to a chain of events that include the sudden, violent death of the sheriff (Christopher Wynkoop) and revenge against Otis by the Wendigo. This is by no means an ordinary horror film. Director Fessenden is also interested in the family dynamic and what small things, that most people would find insignificant, can do to the psyche of a child. Fessenden shoots the entire film with a sense of dread, which makes the shots of snowflakes even seem truly terrifying. He has a style all of his own as he uses complete silence and sped-up photography to creep you out and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention. Compare this film to the similarly-themed, but awful FROSTBITER (1996) and you'll really appreciate what Larry Fessenden has created here: A damn-good, thought-provoking horror film that chills you to the bone and contains more scares than a dozen horror films. One of the ten best films of 2001 and that includes all films, not just horror films. An Artisan Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R. NOTE: All three of Fessenden's early films, along with his creepy THE LAST WINTER (2006) are now available on Blu-Ray called THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION from Shout! Factory.

THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI (1975) - A scientist and his two assistants, who are searching for the Abominable Snowman  in the mountains of Katmandu, Nepal, are attacked and killed by the said creature (in one of the most threadbare Yeti costumes in film history) before their findings can be reported. Professor Lacombe, a friend of the scientist, acquires the dead scientist's satchel, which contains the scalp of a Yeti, as well as photos and papers dealing with the creature. The Professor plans on capturing a Yeti, so he travels to Katmandu with his daughter Sylvia (Grace Mills) and anthropologist Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), only to find heavy snows have blocked them from traveling up the mountain. Waldemar catches wind of a rumor of a secret pass in the mountains that is always open, so he hires an alcoholic guide (no sober guide would be caught dead doing this) and they head to the pass alone. The guide suddenly disappears (after rambling about "red devils" roaming the area), leaving Waldemar to wander the landscape hopelessly lost and running out of food. He miraculously stumbles upon a cave occupied by two beautiful women, who are lonely cannibalistic vampires! They nurse Waldemar back to health, make love to him and then bite him when he discovers them feasting on the body parts of his alcoholic guide. He manages to kill both of the women with a handy silver arrow (Why in the world would two cannibal vampires keep their only means of destruction so readily available?), but the bite on his chest has turned him into a werewolf (Don't question why, just go along with it!). Meanwhile, the Professor, Sylvia and their group abandon their search for the Yeti and concentrate on finding Waldemar, who is roaming the snowy countryside ripping-out the throats of anyone who crosses his path. The Professor and his men are captured by the notorious Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni), a vicious local warlord, and brought to his castle. Luckily, Sylvia escapes only to be nearly raped by three of Khan's men, but werewolf Waldemar kills them before they hurt her. The next morning, the human Waldemar hooks-up with Sylvia (who doesn't yet know that Waldemar is the werewolf she encountered earlier) and they go looking for the Professor, who Khan hopes can cure him of a fatal skin disease. When Waldemar and Sylvia stop at a monastery to rest, Waldemar learns of a magic plant with red flowers that will cure him of his affliction. He leaves without Sylvia to search for the plant, but not before she sees him transform into a werewolf (She's surprisingly unfazed!). Sylvia and Waldemar are then kidnapped by Khan and brought to his castle. After breaking free and escaping from Khan and his witch-woman assistant, Sylvia is abducted by a Yeti. Waldemar changes into his alter ego and battles the Yeti to the death. Sylvia finds the magic plant growing nearby and uses it to free Waldemar from his curse. Did you get all that?  This is the eighth in the series of werewolf films featuring Paul Naschy as the eternally-cursed Waldemar Daninsky (It follows CURSE OF THE DEVIL [1973; a.k.a. THE RETURN OF THE WEREWOLF]). The script, by Naschy (using his real name, Jacinto Molina), seems to try to toss-in every cliché in the book and see what sticks, making this an outlandish but, lesser, entry in the series. The plot is all over the place, giving us Yetis, werewolves, vampires, warlords, magic flowers and a mysterious woman named Wandesa (Silvia Solar), who has evil magic powers. As a result, there's not enough time spent on any given plot point for the viewer to get emotionally involved, making the entire film seem overly disjointed. The entire film seems like pieces are missing, like pages of the script were discarded during filming (especially during the search for the magic plant), even though the version I viewed is the complete, unedited print. Thankfully, after a slow first thirty minutes, director Miguel Iglasias Bonns (GREEN INFERNO - 1972; KILMA, QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS - 1975; RAPE - 1976) lets the blood and violence flow freely and there's also some decent nudity on view. Throats are ripped-out, body parts eaten, virgins sacrificed and people tortured. We watch Wandesa  skin the back of Melody (Veronica Miriel) and apply the flesh to the back of an ailing Sekkar Khan in the film's gory highlight. The werewolf transformation scenes are old school effects, straight out of THE WOLFMAN (1941), which Naschy pays tribute here by naming one of the characters "Larry Talbot". While THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI is not without it's charms, it's still an uneven entry in the continuing saga of Waldemar Daninsky, thanks to it's kitchen sink approach. Also known as NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST (released to U.S. theaters and home video under this title, editing out some of the nudity and the skinning scene), HORROR OF THE WEREWOLF and HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING (a VHS title that edits out all the blood and nudity!). THE CRAVING (1980; a.k.a. NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF) was the next installment in the series. Also starring Gil Vidal, Castillo Escalona, Ventura Oller, Juan Velilla, Carmen Cervera, Pepita Ferrer, Victor Israel and Eduardo Alcazar. The print I viewed, from the now-defunct Midnight Video, was taken from an unedited fullscreen Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

WEREWOLF SHADOW (1970) - When the coroner removes two silver bullets from the chest of Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) during a full moon, he comes back to life, turns into a werewolf and kills the coroner and his assistant as well as ripping out the throat of a young woman who is walking through the woods. Friends Elvira and Genevieve are looking for the body of an ancient Hungarian Countess named Wandesa, who legend says was a vampire witch who was killed when her lover plunged a silver cross into her heart. When their car runs low on gas, they meet Waldemar, who invites them to stay at his castle (no electricity or phone) for a few days until his butler returns with a car. At the castle, the girls meet Waldemar's slightly crazy sister Elizabeth, who warns them to leave as soon as possible. With the map the girls brought with them, Waldemar helps them locate Wandesa's grave. Genevieve removes the silver cross from the corpse and accidentally cuts her arm, the blood dripping into the open mouth of Wandesa's corpse. Elvira is attacked by a dead and rotting monk in the graveyard, but Waldemar saves her by stabbing it with the silver cross. Later that night, Genevieve is bitten by the revived Wandesa, become a vampire and tries to bite Elvira, but is saved once again by Waldemar and that damned silver cross. Waldemar begs Elvira to leave, but she refuses, saying that she loves him. Waldemar gives her the cross for protection. As Walpurgis Night approaches (the night the Devil rules the world), Elvira must not only defend herself from Wandesa, but also from werewolf Waldemar, who can only be cured of his affliction by being killed by someone who loves him. That silver cross is going to get a good workout tonight.  Better known on American shores as THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (in severely edited form; this version of the film has fallen into the Public Domain and has been released by many budget companies on both VHS and DVD), Anchor Bay has released a beautiful unedited widescreen print, restoring all the previously removed gore and nudity. This is the fourth in the series of the exploits of Waldemar Daninsky and is one of the best. The dubbing is surprisingly good for a Spanish feature (it actually looks as though some of the actors were speaking English) and the gore is pretty explicit for a feature made in 1970. There are torn throats, blood drinking, impalements, stakings, decapitations and other gruesome events. There's also plenty of nudity on view and a lot of it is mixed in with the violence. Director Leon Klimovsky, who also directed Naschy in DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN (1971), VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1972) and others, gives this film some nice atmospheric touches. The graveyard scenes are appropriately creepy and whenever vampires are on-screen, they move in an almost lyrical way that is greatly enhanced by the slow-motion photography. If you're a fan of barrel-chested Paul Naschy (who writes the screenplays, including this one, under his real name, Jacinto Molina), WEREWOLF SHADOW is bound to give you mucho pleasure. I'm a fan (have been since since 1974; see my reviews of HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB [1972] and HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE [1973]) and, if you have any taste, you should be too. Anchor Bay has done a commendable job in restoring this film to it's original running time. Since the restored footage was never dubbed into English, that footage is in the original Spanish language with English subtitles. The DVD also has an informative 15 minute interview with the late Paul Naschy, the (fake) theatrical and (real) TV trailers and a Naschy biography and photo gallery. This is an essential purchase for Naschy fans and lovers of Spanish horror. Also starring the lovely Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Andres Resino and Patty Shepard as Wandesa. Also known as BLOOD MOON (available on VHS under this title from AIR Video) and NIGHT OF THE WALPURGIS. An Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

WHERE EVIL LIVES (1994) - Everyone who reads this site knows I hate anthology films, but since this was Claude Akins' last film and it sat in the shelf from 1994 until Troma released it on DVD (in fullscreen, of course) in 2012, I said, "What the hell, lets give it a look." I wish I didn't. The film opens up with rich guy Blake Rutherford II (James Coffey) getting out of his vintage Rolls Royce with beautiful female realtor Brandy Wine (Faye McKenzie) to look at the very expensive Spencer Mansion, Brandy gets a call and has to beg off for a while and tells him to ask the groundskeeper to give him details. He meets groundskeeper Jack Devlin (Akins) as he is digging a hole with a shovel, who tells him that the mansion has a very sordid history. His first tale ("Hubert's Homecoming" by director and screenwriter Stephan A. Maier) starts off in 1969, when Hubert (Peter Zaff) walks into the Stafford Mansion (which was a college dormitory at the time) and indiscriminately shoots everyone he sees (he shoots a couple playing Twister and then finds a girl hiding in the bathroom, puts the gun in her mouth and pulls the trigger). When he runs out of bullets, he pulls a Marlin off the wall, says "Party's over!" and we see him stab a guy hiding behind a bed over and over with the Marlin's blade-like nose, the blood covering Hubert's face (We see a Yogi Bear lamp dripping with blood). He is sent to prison for life, but an asshole working for an Innocence-like project is able to get Hubert off on parole in the mid-80's. His parents left him a house and his old vintage Thunderbird, but no money, because they spent it all paying lawyers to defend him. The asshole guy leaves and says he will be back tomorrow to find him a job and Hubert pulls a female doll out of his pocket, who he calls "Betty", and combs her hair. He then washes his car for about two hours, which catches the attention of his neighbors, who are sitting together on a lawn. One of them walks over to Hubert to see what he is doing. He says, "I'm going back to college again!" and hands the doll over to the guy, telling him to "take good care of Betty!" Yes, Hubert is still as mad as a hatter and when he drives to the Spencer Mansion, he must have missed the big sign that says "Spencer House College Closed". Hubert finds the house empty, which upsets him, so he goes upstairs to take a look, all the while singing a song whose lyrics are "Fuck you Spencer College!" He begins hearing voices calling his name and suddenly he is surrounded by the ghosts of the people he killed in 1969. They challenge him to a game of "Quarters" (I don't think I have to explain the rules), but the rules have been changed slightly. If Hubert fails to get the quarter into the shotglass, one of the ghosts can shoot him anywhere on his body. Hubert fails at his first try and gets shot in the shoulder. He fails at his second try and gets shot in the other shoulder. He is then made to pick up the quarter with his mouth and make one final try. He fails and we hear a gunshot, but the next shot we see is Hubert being led away from Spencer Mansion in a strait-jacket (with no bullet wounds) rambling-on about ghosts. Looks like he will be spending the rest of his life in a loony bin, with the ghosts to keep him company (we see them dancing around in a circle at their victory). This tale has a pretty bloody beginning, but a poor ending). Jack Devlin keeps on digging while he tells Blake a second story about the mansion which includes the Davis children and vampires  (Titled "Midnight Date" by director and screenwriter Kevin G. Nunan). The entire tale is narrated by an adult Jamie Davis (Dawn Carlile, who was looped by someone else!) when she was a young pre-teen (Beth McKenzie), who, along with sister Lori (Carol Rice) and bothers Tommy (James Jackson) and Timmy (Thomas Crooms). sneak into the boarded-up Spencer Mansion. Timmy, who has raging hormones, gets involved with a beautiful vampire who lives there and is soon bitten and becomes a vampire himself. When the young Jamie tells the police what she saw, the police don't believe her and her parents send her to her room (The reasoning of why Timmy never returns home is never brought up, which makes this story exceptionally stupid). The police check out the Spencer Mansion just in case, but they do such a lousy job, they don't even notice blood dripping from one of the door locks. Jamie and Tommy decide to check out the house themselves, armed with garlic, wooden stakes, holy water and a .22 caliber rifle (Where is Lori? Another stupid omission). They find a bowl of Tim's blood with the words "Welcome Home Jamie" written in blood on a wall. Jamie and Tom become separated and Tim tries to bite Jamie, but she has a crucifix to keep him away. Tom shoots the female vampire with no effect, but Jamie stabs her in the back with a stake. The police arrive and kill Tom for carrying a rifle (Really?) and Jamie screams. Years later, we see the adult Jamie and suddenly we find out she has some special "gift" and kills Timmy in his coffin in the Spencer Mansion by hammering a stake in his heart. The family the slays together stays together (This short film is totally worthless for the main reason it totally lacks any cohesion. What about Jamie's parents? What about the reports of vampire murders over the years? It just makes no sense.).  Jack Devlin tells Blake one final story (Titled "Saved By The Spell" by director and screenwriter Richard L. Fox Jr.). Jack tells Blake that this mansion was recently called the "Gabriel Manor". Blake asks if this was the doctor with all kinds of awards that went off the deep end, but Jack tells him there is much more to the story. We open this tale with female detective Jessica Peters (Louise LeTorneau), who is also a white (good) witch, performing some type of ritual involving lots of candles in a circle and a small noose and soon the police find a notorious criminal hanging from his own garage. There is also another sadistic killer named Nico Moretti (Larry Quadagno, listed here as "Larry Q") roaming the area on a motorcycle that is killing women and stealing their internal organs, supplying them to Dr. Henry Gabriel (Dan Daly) for his nefarious experiments (he not running an illegal organ donor transplant operation). We watch as Nico (who is wearing surgical latex gloves) strangling a woman in her own home. He pulls out a scalpel and removes her kidney (or liver; it's not made clear) and puts it in a plastic sandwich bag, taking off on his motorcycle and handing it over to Dr. Gabriel for an envelope full of money. Dr. Gabriel tells Nico that he needs another organ and Nico agrees to do it if the price is right. The police and the FBI, who are working together, know that Dr. Gabriel and Nico are involved in these crimes but all they have is circumstantial evidence; not enough to arrest them. Nico kills another woman when she cuts him badly in the stomach and he dumps her in a lake. Witch Jessica has two of the three bodily fluids from Nico  (blood and urine), but she needs a third bodily fluid to give Nico what he deserves. She is lucky because her best friend is Chief Jim Thompson (Larry Silver), who is a firm believer in her powers. Nico wants out of the organ removal business, but Dr. Gabriel talks him into one more job for twice the money. He will not have to remove any organs, but bring an actual body to him. Nico accepts and goes to retrieve the "patient", but Jessica purposely runs his motorcycle off the road and takes his injured body to her house, where they make love in a shower (she collects his semen, the last bodily fluid she needs to make her spell work). Jim and the FBI go to Gabriel Manor and arrest Dr, Gabriel (after an FBI agent is shot and killed by Gabriel) and his assistant Miss Tessball (Arlee Hendricks), who has a thing for Nico. Unfortunately Jessica's spell makes Nico explode in his car, so it's bye, bye, Nico. (This is the best episode in the trio, but it is still very weak and full of implausible plot holes).  Blake tells Jack Devlin that this mansion certainly has a strange history and wants to know what the hole is for. Jack replies, "It's your grave!" and nearly decapitates Blake with the shovel as he pushes him into the hole. Brandy Wine returns and says, "Not bad, Jack!" (as we watch a still-alive Blake bleeding to death in the grave). Jack buries Blake alive while Brandy Wine says she is bringing another interested party to look at the house. Ah, the circle of life. Ain't life grand?  Be sure to stay through the end credits for a nice tribute to Claude Akins. The Troma DVD lists the release date as 1989; the IMDb lists it is 1991, while the copyright on the actual film lists it as 1994. This one makes more sense than the other ones because Claude Akins died on January 24. 1994 of cancer at 67 years-old and taking the post-production and editing processes into consideration, it would have to have been filmed then. If it wasn't, why the final tribute to Akins three or five years before he died? Maybe the three episodes were filmed at different times, but the Akins footage was definitely the latest footage in the film (and the most professional-looking). While I have seen worse anthology films out there, Akins is the only professional here and the rest are nothing but Florida locals, most who have never acted before (and it shows). I consider this film to be too cheap and boring to be thought of as entertainment, but it is an important document due to it being Akins' last film. I just wonder why it sat on the shelf for 18 years before finally being released? You should ask that question, too, before you put the DVD into your player. Fans of anthology films may have a better time with this movie than I did. It's all a matter of taste. Everyone's is different, which I why I very rarely condemn a film (Unless it's unredeemable trash like AMERIKAN HOLOKAUST - 2013)  Richard L. Fox Jr. was Assistant Director on DONNIE DARKO (2001) and First Assistant Director on THE EXPENDABLES (2010). Stephan A Maier was a bit actor on WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK (1989) before making another directorial film for Troma called MONDO ART (2013). Kevin G. Nunan never did another single thing in the filmmaking business. I can't say I'm surprised based on his episode in this film. Also starring Blaise Stevens, Melissa Coleman, James Jackson, Roberta McMillan, Wayne Chalifoux, Peggy Aydelotte and Rebecca Storrow. A Troma DVD Release. Not Rated.

THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963) - One thing that always surprised me about Italian Gothic horror films of the '60s is how adult they are in terms of sex, sadomasochism and other sexual perversions. Since this was the early-'60s, there was, of course, no nudity, but filmmakers found a way around that aspect to display their "perversions". No one was better at that than director Mario Bava (who uses his "John M. Old" pseudonym here for the first time), who also gave us such Gothic horror classics as BLACK SUNDAY (1960; the film that kick-started the Italian horror film industry), BLACK SABBATH (1963) and KILL, BABY...KILL! (1966) He was nearly the only one to wrap such sexual proclivities in a colorful, eerily atmospheric package, of which this film is a prime example.  It also doesn't hurt that this film has a cast who are well-versed in the Gothic horror genre, all who add their talents to a film that is so memorable and so sexually perverse, it had to be severely re-edited in many countries around the world, including the United States, before it could be released to theaters and then TV. What I will be reviewing is the uncut "European Version", because the U.S. edit eliminates all the 'perversions', leaving the film a shadow of its former self.
     The film opens with a man on horseback riding on the beach towards the Menliff Manor castle, as we see the castle's housekeeper, Giorgia (Harriet Medin White; THE GHOST - 1963), looking at a glass-encased dagger with dried blood on it and crying, telling maid Katia ("Isli Oberon" a.k.a. "Evelyn Stewart" a.k.a Ida Galli; Bava's HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD - 1961) that it has been ten years since her daughter Tanya committed suicide with the very same dagger, plunging it into her neck when Kurt Menliff (Christopher Lee; HORROR CASTLE - 1963), one of the sons of Count Vladimir Menliff ("Dean Ardow" a.k.a Gustavo DeNardo; Bava's EVIL EYE - 1963), left the castle, never to return, on the day he and Tanya were to be married. Giorgia says that if Kurt were ever to return to the castle, she would plunge the dagger into his neck as revenge for her daughter's death. Katia tells her not to say such things, Kurt will never return to the castle because the Count has banished and disowned him, taking everything of value away from him, leaving Kurt penniless and destitute.
     Never say never, because that man on horseback is none other than Kurt and when servant Losat ("Alan Collins" a.k.a. Luciano Pigozzi; LIBIDO - 1965) announces Kurt's return to the Count and Kurt's brother, Christian (Tony Kendall; THE HYENA OF LONDON - 1964), it is met with both horror and anger, but before anyone can say or do anything, Kurt appears and says he has only returned to congratulate Christian on his recent marriage to Nevenka (Daliah Lavi; THE DEMON - 1963; TEN LITTLE INDIANS - 1965), who was Kurt's true love before he left the castle. Right from the start we can see Kurt is a sadistic son-of-a-bitch, looking at Nevenka (who was playing the piano until she heard Kurt's name, but once she sees him, a look of both fear and passion envelopes her face) with lust in his eyes and it doesn't go unnoticed by the Count and Christian. The Count orders Kurt out of the castle, saying the only reason he returned was to get back everything that he took away from him, including his title and properties that go along with it. Kurt doesn't deny it, saying it was the second reason why he returned. The Count tells him that will never happen and Kurt mysteriously says, "We'll see." After being ordered out of the castle again by the Count, Christian says no, let him stay; he's not afraid of Kurt and knows his tricks all too well. The Count relents and lets Kurt stay, which makes Giorgia and Losat very angry because he abused servants when he was living at the castle (Tanya being one of them). Kurt stares directly at Giorgia and says it looks like she wants to kill him right now, but she says no, his death will be left up to karma and it will come very soon. Kurt then says he doesn't care what the "help" thinks and returns to his old room in the castle, which has been left unoccupied since the day he left ten years ago.
     That night, Kurt pays his father a visit in his bedroom using a secret passageway behind the fireplace, which he used as a child to wish his father a goodnight practically every night. The Count orders him out of his room and Kurt sarcastically says the Count had a totally different attitude when he visited him as a child. The Count replies that back then he was his son, but he no longer is, saying he is too old for such nonsense and he is very ill and close to death. Once he dies, Kurt will know what he thinks of him at the reading of his will. Kurt leaves the room the same way he came in, but this time with a sly smile on his face.
     The next morning, Nevenka takes a horseback ride on the beach, stopping to sit in the sand and contemplate her life. Kurt sneaks up behind her and tries to kiss her, saying he knows she still loves him, but Nevenka screams out "I hate you! I hate you!" and starts hitting Kurt with the horse's riding crop. Kurt angrily pulls the crop out of her hand and begins whipping Nevenka mercilessly, until the dress she is wearing is tattered and her back is raw and bloody, but she loves it (!), a look of sexual pleasure on her face. Kurt says she hasn't changed and wonders if Christian knows about her sexual perversions. Then he and Nevenka make love on the beach. As nighttime approaches, Nevenka hasn't returned to the castle. Kurt returns and Christian asks him if he has seen Nevenka and he says no, but he better look for her now because it will be impossible to locate her in the dark. Everyone but the Count and Kurt go looking for her and when Kurt is in his room, he hears a noise coming from his terrace window and goes to investigate. Someone hiding behind the curtains stabs Kurt in the neck with the very same dagger Tanya used to kill herself, killing him. Losat and Giorgia find Nevenka unconscious in the moors near the castle and carry her back to the castle. When Giorgia brings Kurt some nighttime tea, she discovers his dead body and screams. Everyone seems relieved that Kurt is dead and the Count takes the dagger and locks it in a drawer in his bedroom, saying no one should ever see the dagger again, it has served its purpose. So who killed Kurt?
     A few days later, as Nevenka is playing the piano (apparently, she only knows how to play one tune, but it's appropriately creepy), she sees Kurt staring at her through a window in the pouring rain and screams (the collar on Kurt's shirt is soaked in blood), but when everyone else looks out the window, Kurt is no longer there. That night, Kurt pays Nevenka a visit in her bedroom, his shoes all muddy, as if, according to Nevenka, "He just escaped from his grave", leaving muddy footprints on the floor. Kurt's hand reaches for Nevenka (A scene filmed so terrifyingly, it gave me nightmares as a kid when I watched it on TV in the mid-'60s) and she shrieks a blood curdling scream, everyone running to her bedroom. She tells Christian that Kurt was there and says to look at the muddy footprints on the floor, but there are none. Christian says it was nothing but a nightmare, but Nevenka is sure it wasn't and says that Kurt is still alive. It should be noted, that at Kurt's funeral, we see his body in a casket as it is carried by four people in red robes and placed in a tomb in the Menliff Family crypt. We also discover that Christian's marriage to Nevenka is one of convenience; he married her just to make the Count happy. Since they don't even sleep in the same bedroom, it's not much of a stretch to discern that they haven't even consummated the marriage (if you know what I mean), so Christian may have no idea of her sexual proclivities. Christian is really in love with Katia and she with him, but they can no longer do anything about it because he is now married (Oh, the 18th Century! Haven't they heard of adultery?).
     It's not long before everyone begins seeing muddy footprints on the floor, which lead to Kurt's tomb. They even hear laughter that sounds like it is coming from Kurt. When the Count ends up dead in his bed, stabbed in the neck and the dagger missing from the locked dresser drawer, some believe Kurt is alive, while others believe someone in the castle is responsible. One night, we see Kurt once again whipping Nevenka mercilessly in her bed until she reaches orgasm and when she ends up missing, Christian and Losat follow the muddy footprints in her bedroom that lead to Kurt's tomb. When they open the stone door to the tomb, they discover an unconscious Nevenka inside, very close to death. So is Kurt really alive or is he a ghost? Or is there another explanation?
     Christian begins to believe that his brother may actually be alive, so he and Losat go into Kurt's tomb, carry his casket outside and open it. Inside the coffin is a heavily decayed corpse, too far gone from the ravages of nature to identify as Kurt, although the corpse is wearing Kurt's clothes. Just in case Kurt is a ghost (he'll believe anything at this point), Christian douses the corpse with lamp oil and sets it on fire. He and Losat then hear Kurt's laugh and see a shadowy figure in the distance and run after it (Losat falls behind because he walks with a limp for reasons not revealed, but pay close attention to the corpse's twitching, burning feet at this moment if you want to be creeped out!). The fast moving shadowy figure manages to avoid Christian and escapes in the secret passageway in the Count's bedroom and locks it from the inside. Knowing the passage leads to the castle's chapel, Christian and Losat discover who the killer is. If you want to know who it is, you are going to have to watch the film, but I will say this: It may not come as a surprise to today's audiences, but I guarantee it was a surprise to audiences back in 1963. It's a conclusion used in many mystery and psychological thriller films up to this day, but in 1963 it was fairly new.
     You can never go wrong with a Mario Bava film (including PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES - 1965; FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON - 1970; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971; RABID DOGS - 1974 and SHOCK - 1977) and this one is no different. The atmosphere is thick enough to cut with a knife and the cinematography, by Ulbaldo Terzano (as "David Hamilton"; Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE - 1964) and an uncredited Bava, is sumptuous and beyond reproach, especially the scenes inside the castle and the crypt, where around every shadowy corner, danger could pop-out unexpectedly and sometimes does, putting the viewers on edge. There's a sequence in the film where Nevenka hears the sound of a cracking whip (it almost sounds like a dog growling) that will put your nerves on edge unlike any other film from that time period, as she searches for its origin. It is a sequence full of terror and pure beauty, as only Bava could pull it off (Nevenka has a look on her face as if she wishes the cracking whip was tearing at her back and is somewhat disappointed when she finds out what was causing the noise. A very telling scene). The screenplay, by Ernesto Gastaldi (as "Julian Berry"; THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH - 1964), Ugo Guerra (as "Robert Hugo"; A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL - 1969) and Luciano Martino (as "Martin Hardy"; THE MURDER CLINIC - 1966), doesn't cow-tow to the audience, something that should please fans of Gothic horror films. This was not a film for kids and was never meant to be, no matter what American and some foreign distributors thought (see next paragraph). The entire cast is excellent, especially Harriet Medin White and Luciano Pigozzi, who are usually assigned minor (but memorable) roles in films, but get a chance to shine here. Steven, my friend from across the pond, describes Pigozzi as Italy's answer to Peter Lorre and it's never truer than in this film. He looks like he could be Lorre's brother and I don't think it is a coincidence. Christopher Lee is also excellent as the sadist Kurt and although he doesn't dub his own voice here, the person who did (David Sturkie) does a very good job, sounding just like him (Lee, apparently, didn't agree, regretting not dubbing his voice for this film [he was a huge admirer of Bava] and made sure he dubbed his voice on all of his other foreign films from that point on). I'm a huge fan of Italian Gothic horror films and this is one of the best, thanks to Bava being in the director's chair, the cast and the adult material it addresses.
     Shot as LA FRUSTA E IL CORPO (a literal translation of the review title) and also known as THE WHIP AND THE FLESH, this film obtained a 1965 theatrical release in the United States under the idiotic title WHAT! by distribution company Futuramic Releasing, but it was missing all the whipping scenes because they didn't believe American audiences were ready for such adult material and it would play havoc with our psyches (The U.S. theatrical release only lasted for about a week and it was immediately dumped to U.S. TV, where it was cut even more, destroying the film. It was mainly shown very late at night, when children shouldn't even be awake, but I was!). VCI Home Video then released it on VHS under the review title, this time using the European Version, but still missing two short scenes. VCI also released it on DVD in 2000, but it was also slightly edited, missing the same two scenes as their VHS version. In 2013, Kino Lorber released the film totally uncut (in anamorphic widescreen, with the choice of watching it in its original Italian with English subtitles or English dubbed) on both DVD and Blu-Ray (my review is based on the Blu) as part of their "Mario Bava Collection". The colors pop and the print looks like it was shot yesterday. Amazon Prime members can find the film streaming, but it is tricky. It is part of their DOUBLE DOSES OF HORROR series, subtitled "Whips & Exorcists". The first film of this double feature is this one, which, on a cursory look, uses a nice anamorphic widescreen print bearing the Italian title, but it is English dubbed. From what I could tell, it was uncut. The second feature is director Michael Reeves' THE SHE BEAST (1966) also in widescreen. Not a bad double feature to watch if you have never seen them before (or even if you already have). Also featuring Jacques Herlin (PLOT OF FEAR - 1976) as the priest who performs Kurt's funeral service. Mel Welles, director of MANEATER OF HYDRA (1966) and LADY FRANKENSTEIN (1971), dubs the Count's voice in the English language version. Not Rated.

THE WICKED (1987) - While watching this offbeat Australian made horror comedy, I kept wondering what substances the filmmakers were abusing while they were making it. Two brothers, on their way to a rodeo, pick up a female hitchhiker who happens to be a professional knife thrower (a trait which will come in handy later on). Their car is sabotaged, so they walk to the town of Yarralumla which is presided over by Sir Alfred Terminus (John Doyle) and his deranged family of bloodsuckers. The townspeople, scared of becoming dinner, have struck a pact with Sir Alfred, waylaying travelers and delivering them to his strange house where he and his family drink their blood and can their flesh for consumption later on (Mmmmmm...canned flesh!). Our three travelers, trapped in the house, try to keep one step ahead of the vampire clan before they become the next feast. There is too much broad humor here for the film's own good: During one scene the action breaks away for a music video! One of the brothers breaks everything he touches and everyone rolls their eyes wildly. One of the vampires turns into a giant for no reason. Couple that with the thick Aussie accents, disjointed editing, no nudity and a restrained use of violence (a bloodless beheading, pool cue through the chest, a body explosion) and all this film has to offer is the zany humor (and that's hit or miss). Director Colin Eggleston also made the eerie LONG WEEKEND (1977) and CASSANDRA (1987) so I know he can do better than this. According to the end credits THE WICKED was originally titled TOMORROW'S NEWS (?) and is also known as OUTBACK VAMPIRES. The only way to really enjoy this is to tell your bartender to make the next one a double. Also starring Brett Climo, Richard Morgan, Angela Kennedy and Maggie Blinco. A Hemdale Home Video Release. Unrated.

WILD BEASTS (1983) - Director Franco Prosperi (FAREWELL UNCLE TOM - 1971) goes straight for the throat in this exceedingly gory film about zoo animals going berserk after drinking water tainted with PCP. Although low in the logic department, WILD BEASTS offers so much carnage and crazy setpieces that I doubt you’ll be worrying too much about the gaping plot holes in the storyline. Witness rats devouring a couple making love in a car, a seeing-eye dog attacking his blind master, a herd of elephants crushing a woman’s head like a grape, a cheetah chasing a woman in a Volkswagon Beetle, the same herd of elephants causing a plane crash after invading an airport runway (which results in a citywide blackout), a tiger chomping down on people in a stalled subway car and various other bits of brutality. When a bunch of bratty schoolkids drink the same tainted water (after surviving a polar bear attack!), things get even hairier. Prosperi’s use of real animals in the attack and stampede scenes greatly enhance the proceedings. I felt uneasy watching real animals hunting down people in a blood frenzy, kind of like witnessing a bad accident on the highway (my cats seemed to enjoy it, though, as they grinned at me whenever their overgrown cousins were tearing people apart on screen). Forget the acting here, it is not at all important. But if you want balls-to-the-wall gore (along with some car crashes and real animal mutilations, including live rats being set on fire with a flame-thrower), look no further than this baby. Those Italians. You gotta love’em! Starring Lorraine de Selle (HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK - 1979), John Aldrich (real name: Antonio Di Leo; He was an actual animal trainer who worked with a lot of the wild beasts in this film, which is why he looks so natural with them), Ugo Bologna (NIGHTMARE CITY - 1980), John Stacy (YETI: GIANT OF THE 20TH CENTURY - 1977), Monica Nickel (MANDINGA - 1976), Alessandro Freyberger (CALIGULA 2: THE UNTOLD STORY - 1982) and Louisa Lloyd as the wisecracking pre-teen Suzy. A Lightning Video Release. I picked up a widescreen duped copy of WILD BEASTS (Original title: LAS BESTIAS SALVAJES) in English with Italian subtitles at a Chiller Theatre convention. UPDATE: Now available on widescreen DVD from Severin Films. Not Rated.

WITCHERY (1988) - Remember Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND (1981), where there were seven doors of death? Well, in this, director Fabrizio Laurenti's (here using his "Martin Newlin" pseudonym) cut-rate version of the same story, there are only three doors of death, yet the