Nightmare Castle

NOVEMBER 30, 2007


When I was like 4 or 5 I saw a movie on Cinemax that involved a haunted castle. I am pretty sure it was near the ocean, and the ending, which occurred (I think) at sunrise, involved a woman turning into sand/dust. I don’t think she was a vampire though, more of a mummy. Numerous submissions to “Help with this movie title?” threads on horror movie forums have been fruitless, probably due to my terribly vague recollection. So every time I see a movie about a castle, I hope that it might be it.

Nightmare Castle is not it.

But it’s actually pretty good, much better than the 90 or so movies it reminded me of while I was watching it (such as The Ghost, which also starred Barbara Steele, and Dementia 13, which didn't). And a big part of that is, for once, it’s an actual fucking ghost! While the usual inheritance/drive someone mad type plot elements are in play, there is a legitimate resurrection, thus making this an actual horror movie, unlike some of those others.

Hell there’s even some makeup/gore!

Not that it’s a masterpiece. The dubbing is atrocious, and is seemingly not limited to the dialogue (a guy pats a horse and the sound is not only not completely out of sync, but it sounds like some wood is involved). Also, the villain guy has a strange sense of urgency. At one point he hears his wife screaming, and acts panicked, but then barely speed-walks through the house to go find her. Later, his mistress cuts herself, and he spends 30 seconds explaining why she needs to be bandaged immediately (and again, just walks out of the scene. Use your feet buddy!

But the fact that, for once in these movies, the ghosts are actually fucking GHOSTS means that stuff actually happens. There’s a couple of kills along the way, including a poor butler who is electrocuted in the most convoluted way possible. And the climax is awesome. Hell, there’s even a light ‘torture porn’ scene, as the crazed husband whips his wife and the guy she’s nailing on the side. Speaking of her affair, I am pretty sure at some point in the film that every male character is seen at least making out with every female character. By the end I couldn’t tell which ones were the actual couples and which were just fucking around. But hey, all part of the fun.

Steele plays two roles, which makes the film a bit confusing at times (especially when they are said to be “Step-sisters”) but that’s OK. And one character is named Lady Aerosmith. “Amazing”, indeed.

What say you?


Bloodlust (1961)

NOVEMBER 29, 2007


Bland Guy: “Theres no ammo!”
Other Bland Guy: ”There’s gotta be, THESE guns are useless without it!”

Ah, Bloodlust; a film that apparently takes place in a world where certain guns don’t require ammo. I should note, for no reason other than the fact that whenever I review a movie without mentioning a particular actor someone gets on my ass about it, that Bland Guy #1 is Robert Reed, aka Mike Brady. That’s all I have to say on the matter.

Mill Creek bills this as an early example of a “Teen Scream” movie, but none of the teens die, so I can’t quite say it counts. The only corpses are that of older folks and bad guys (also older folks). But it’s kind of fun, in that “Oh man, can you imagine back when this was considered top notch entertainment” type of way. It’s just the umpteenth ripoff of "Most Dangerous Game", with a Powers Boothe-y guy stalking humans on his island, which Reed and his pals come across while sailing with a drunk. There’s a fairly decent use of foreshadow (they are skeet shooting off the boat in the first scene) and even some gore.

Plus this guy looks like Julian Riching’s character from Wrong Turn.

On the other hand, the acting is uniformly terrible, and the aforementioned ripping off of the Connell story leaves little excitement to the proceedings. There’s also a strange sequence where we watch the bad guy looking around the jungle for the heroes, and then they pan up to a tree showing the heroes watching him, accompanied by “Dun dun DUNNNNN” music. Are we supposed to fear for the bad guy here?

And what the hell is the meaning of this???

This makes me think that in every other movie ever, when they say THE END, they mean for EVERYTHING, but the Bloodlust filmmakers would like to assure you that, while their film has concluded, everything else, including other films, continue to exist.

This one was watched on MST3k, and I’m sure the episode is a hoot. The whole thing’s on Youtube, maybe I’ll check it out in a bit. I’d like to hear Servo let out a few trademark “hmm?”s during certain scenes. Still, as "MDG" ripoffs starring future TV icons go, it’s one of the top 10 or so.

What say you?


Bluebeard (1944)

NOVEMBER 28, 2007


Is there anything more upsetting than when you watch a movie thinking it’s about a killer pirate and it turns out to be a movie about a “romantic” killer, filmed in the days before things like graphic violence or blood were shown on screen? Such was the case with Bluebeard, which I watched without reading the description, since many of the Mill Creek synopsii spoil parts of the film.

I dunno if it was a stylish choice, or if that the woman just couldn’t be bothered to act, but one of the film’s highlights was a pretty chilling murder scene, filmed in a Dutch angle, where Bluebeard (John Carradine) strangles a woman. She doesn’t do ANYTHING as he lunges, and doesn’t struggle or anything as he squeezes her throat. Very odd. Speaking of Carradine, I had long thought that the greatest thing to ever pass from his lips (in a film*) would be the haunting theme to Red Zone Cuba: “Night Train To Mundo Fine”. But Bluebeard dispelled that notion, when he asks a woman he just met “Would you let me make a puppet in your image?” Now, like many of you I'm sure, I get this request all the time from near total strangers, but somehow when Carradine says it, it becomes all the more upsetting.

And it’s good to know that the 1940’s had their own Michael Jeter.

There is also a lot of stuff with puppets, including what seems like 5 straight minutes of a puppet show at the beginning of the film. Sadly, this plot device is more or less dropped from the film after 20 minutes or so. Which is a bummer, for I enjoy marionettes. I’d be all for it if they decided to keep cutting to puppet shows throughout the film apropos of nothing, sort of like all the musical numbers in Horror Of Party Beach.

One thing that kept me from enjoying the movie as much as I might have otherwise was the NONSTOP FUCKING MUSIC. Not only does it literally never stop once during the entire movie (at times even slightly drowning out the dialogue), but it’s never really appropriate to the scene for the most part. A scene of Bluebeard talking to some cops has what sounds like the theme to a daytime soap playing over the entire thing, for example. What the hell were they thinking back then? It’s one thing for a silent film, but when people are trying to talk (and nothing is happening), shut the fucking score off! Even if it was Broken Arrow, which contains the finest score for an action movie ever, I’d start getting sick of it. You gotta leave ‘em wanting more!!

What say you?

*Carradine once said in an interview: “I am a ham! And the ham in an actor is what makes him interesting.” We need more actors who admit that they are in fact cold cuts.


Species III

NOVEMBER 27, 2007


Was there really a demand for Species III? It’s hard to find anyone who likes the original, and NO ONE likes the 2nd one. So why bother with a 3rd entry, especially if they can’t even get Michael Madsen back? Well, surprisingly enough, it’s not all that bad. It’s certainly better than the last one, though that wouldn’t exactly be difficult.

Like yesterday's Teeth, the Species films seemingly exist primarily to scare men out of wanting have sex. The aliens in these films are beautiful, sexually aggressive women who will fuck the shit out of you and then ram a tentacle through your goddamn head (make your own "climax" joke). Yet I feel compelled to keep watching them, if mainly for the eye candy. Natasha Henstridge is one of the most beautiful women in the world, so you gotta give them props for finding a replacement that not only could theoretically pass for her daughter, but is almost just as hot. Sunny Mabrey does just that, and yes, follows her cinematic mother’s footsteps where it counts (i.e. disrobes a few times). Plus, this one gives us another hot alien chick, Amelia Moore, who ALSO gets nude whenever the mood strikes her. God bless these films.

The film itself isn’t too bad either, for a DTV production anyway. Robert Knepper (T-Bag!!!) and some guy who looks the mutant offspring of Pacey and Scott Speedman (or Scott Foley; I can never tell those dudes apart) team up to do some science shit, while Mabrey runs around knocking frat guys about. It’s more complicated than that, involving viruses, clones, embryos, and what I believe is cinema’s first alien incest rape scene, and to be honest, even though the film is close to 2 hrs long, it moves along nicely.

And even though I hated the movie, I liked how Species II wasn’t ignored. I notice a lot of sequels lately tend to forget the other sequels existed and only reference the first one (especially if the sequel(s) tanked and/or sucked, which is certainly the case here). But no, while one doesn’t need to have seen either one of them to understand this film (I’ve only seen the other ones once, during their theatrical run, so fuck if I can remember a damn thing about them), both are mentioned in about equal portions, which is nice of them. The oft-mentioned “Dr Fitch” was Ben Kingsley’s character, that’s about the only refresher you need.

One scene in particular stuck out. Hot bad alien chick stops at a gas station, and demands full service. For some reason, we get numerous close-ups of the gas pump, as if it was foreshadowing something (an explosion perhaps). We get a close up of the tank being opened, the pump going in, the ‘auto-pump’ lever being activated, the auto-pump shutting off, the pump being removed, and then two other shots of the pump on the ground. What the fuck? None of this is interesting! All it does is take away from the scene’s REAL highlight, which is the hot alien chick fucking the shit out of some greasy dude in the filthy gas station bathroom.

The scene also offers a fake Rex Linn.

The DVD has a decent amount of extras too, though perhaps it SHOULDN’T, since the picture quality is pretty poor (everything is washed out, with blacks appearing gray. Ugh). There’s about an hour of making of stuff, and a commentary. So for those keeping score – Species III has lots of information about the film’s creation and production, and a full length commentary, plus some other superfluous stuff; Kill Bill has a trailer.

There really should be some sort of DVD Extra Police.

What say you?


Teeth (2007)

NOVEMBER 26, 2007


Contrary to the belief of anyone who’s ever read a BC-penned review of a Bruce Willis movie, I am a straight man. So watching Teeth, a film in which the horror elements are strictly limited to men getting their genitalia severed by “Vagina Dentata” (it’s exactly what you think it might be), may possibly leave me with permanent mental scars, or worse... certain, uh... dysfunctions.

For women, and men who can separate cinema from reality, it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of dry humor, which is right up my alley, and each of the... attack(?) scenes are punctuated with a gag or two. I appreciate this; no one wants to see a movie about a girl with a biting vagina and not have a good time. Plus, the idea itself is unique, and combining it with some light damnation of the whole “Celibate Christians” movement is a laudable concept.

The only thing that kind of bummed me out about the film was how little it did with the concept beyond the obvious. In the final act, the girl begins to sort of control her “power”, which livened things up a bit, but even then, it’s sort of obvious where it will go from there. Maybe another girl who had the same problem or something could have helped complicate the film a bit and give it some needed oomph. But still, it’s not like this subject matter is well worn... Halloween didn’t really do much beyond the basic description either. Maybe in 10 years, there will be a vagina dentata sub-genre, with sequels and parodies and all that good stuff. Not to mention its own Horror Movie A Day tag!

This is the first film from writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein (though he has made a short film, and according to the IMDb, that film deals with Alcoholics, Monkeys, Goats, and Mother Love. Something tells me it might be a little weird too), and the cast is entirely unknown to me. The main girl looks a bit like Heather Graham, but I don’t think that counts as someone famous. So it’s safe to assume this one won’t be crowding the multiplexes, but if you can find it, I think you should check it out.

And if anyone can explain why they continually frame shots to include two giant smokestacks, please let me know.

What say you?


Altered States (1981)

NOVEMBER 25, 2007


Well, after Gothic, I was certainly not clamoring for more Ken Russell movies, but I always heard good things about Altered States, and any movie with William Hurt AND Bob Balaban can’t be altogether bad, so I gave it a shot. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I loved it, it was certainly enjoyable for the most part, if totally fucked up and at times just utterly baffling.

The film reminded me of old school Cronenberg (The Brood and Videodrome in particular) in which a ridiculous concept was taken deadly serious and paced very deliberately, favoring dialogue and a cerebral tone over typical action and horror. There’s also a lot of religious imagery (particularly in the first half hour or so, thankfully weeded out as the film progressed in favor of just discussing God rather than show dream sequences of blood pouring on a Bible), so crazy Catholics be wary.

The effects work is pretty phenomenal (then again, it’s Dick Smith, so that’s sort of a given), most of it holding up even today. The utterly baffling finale features a lot of truly horrible greenscreen/matte compositing, but the “ApeMan” suit as well as the frequent bulging muscles on Hurt’s arms and head are just as good as anything we see nowadays. I’m not sure if it’s really Hurt inside the ape getup, but the extended sequence is the most exciting in the film, and features the rare sight of a guy punching an elephant in the face.

I must admit I was pretty bummed that a good chunk of the film is supposedly set in Boston, yet they don’t even bother using an establishing shot to “prove” they were there (according to the IMDb they really did film there, but damned if I recognize any of it). Christ, there’s not even a shot of some rowers on the Charles, a Boston movie staple! I would love to see a full blown, legit horror movie in my beloved home capital, but until then, stuff like this and the Concord set House By The Cemetery will have to suffice.

And if you’re a Blair Brown fan, she gets frequently nude in this film. Keep in mind that the film was made in 1980, so it’s a lot more appealing than you might think if you only know her from her appearances on Law and Order or CSI. Also, Drew Barrymore pops up (not nude) as one of their daughters.

This movie came out on Christmas Day. I go the movies every Christmas, and even though one year’s movie was the roller coaster thrill ride that is Munich, I can’t imagine how this talky, brainy, strange film played to a crowd on such a festive day (especially considering that one character is described as wanting to fuck God). Fun for the whole family!

What say you?


Stir Of Echoes: The Homecoming

NOVEMBER 24, 2007


I was one of the 9 people who went to see Stir Of Echoes when it came out in theaters in the fall of 1999. I really dug the film, and would get enraged when someone would say it was a Sixth Sense wannabe, since that film came out about 5 weeks before. Yes, David Koepp quickly wrote, directed, edited, and released a film in a month or so to capitalize on the success of a movie that also featured ghosts and otherwise had absolutely nothing to do with his film. Fucking idiots.

Anyway, even though I knew it had zero relation to the original (though it seems the characters live in the same neighborhood) and that none of the cast and crew were returning, I was pretty interested to see the sequel: Stir Of Echoes: The Homecoming (the “2” only appears on the DVD case, for some reason). And while it was no masterpiece, it’s certainly a step above other “in name only” sequels I have checked out recently, like Mangler 2. And it at least retained the goddamn concept, unlike Open Water 2 (which I actually liked, despite the TOTAL LACK OF SHARKS).

For starters, the film is shot scope, which is rare for a DTV movie. It’s not much, but it shows effort (shooting scope is much more difficult than the standard 1.85:1), which puts the film in my “respect” column right from the start. And the acting is good, particularly the Cynthia Nixon-y woman who plays Rob Lowe’s wife. Lowe himself is better suited to smarmy yuppies than battlescarred war vets, but he does OK. The makeup/CG is also better than expected (hell, why didn’t Lionsgate just at least give this a limited release? Christ, they put out fucking Condemned, one of the lousiest, half-assed movies I’ve seen all year).

However, for all its merits, the movie blunders in presenting the mystery angle. For an hour or so, Lowe simply gets scared and sees freaky things. With only 20 minutes to go, he finally finds a clue, which results in him immediately going to some town and then immediately solving the crime behind the visions that have plagued him. One of the things I loved about the original was how the backstory was slowly and carefully dealt out throughout the film (the scene of Bacon frantically going through his records trying to place “Paint It Black” is a gem in itself), but here its almost literally thrown in at the last minute.

That said, the finale is pretty surprising, as we discover the identity of the “bad guy” and also deal with the deaths of several sympathetic, “thought they would be safe” characters. Some horrible music aside (not to mention a much better coda on the deleted scenes than the one used in the actual film), the ending almost completely makes up for a lot of the pacing problems.

Speaking of the deleted scenes, in one of the strangest presentations of them yet on DVD, they are edited together with absolutely no pause or fading to black in between. And since some are simply a deleted shot, it makes for an odd viewing experience (they also fail to put them in context with the finished film). I suggest watching them IMMEDIATELY after watching the film, and perhaps selecting them one by one rather than use the “Play all” option.

Writer/Director Ernie Barbarash also did Cube Zero, which more than made up for the execrable Cube 2 (which he also worked on), so I guess he’s the go-to guy for making “better than expected” DTV sequels to cult horror movies. Hopefully, should they ever get around to greenlighting Dr Giggles 2, they will give him a call.

What say you?


Welcome To The Jungle

NOVEMBER 23, 2007


Earlier this year (or maybe late last year), there was some brouhaha over the nature of Welcome To The Jungle, with some folks reporting it was a remake of Ruggero Deodato's masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust, and Welcome writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh (a man who will forever be in my OK book due to his myriad Bruckheimer contributions, including my beloved Armageddon) claiming his film nothing to do with that film. Well, now that I’ve seen it, they’re both right.

On one hand, yeah, it’s incredibly similar to Holocaust. Some folks making a documentary run afoul of cannibals; the film being their found footage (something that actually only made up the 2nd half of Deodato’s film, but whatever). On the other hand, it’s absolutely nothing like that film, because in that one, SOMETHING ACTUALLY FUCKING HAPPENED.

In what is becoming the standard for Dimension EXTREME releases, the film is barely R rated, and would take minimal editing to secure a PG-13 (also see, or don’t: Buried Alive). Now, for that movie, that’s fine, because who cares about the 10 millionth teens in an old cabin movie. But when you are making a goddamn cannibal movie that is rumored to be a remake of one of the most graphic and intense films of all time (at least, of those that are somewhat well-known), you should at least deliver SOMETHING.

But no. In 80 minutes, the sum total of onscreen violence is about 12 seconds. There’s also some assorted gore (via body parts – these cannibals don’t seem to have a problem with wasting a lot of their food), but nothing particularly interesting or different. And yes, there’s an homage to CH’s most memorable image, that of a woman who is impaled thru her ass and out of her mouth, except here it’s through the back of her head. Top the original? It doesn’t even try. I just don’t see the sense in making this type of movie, knowing that it would likely not be a 2,000 screen big studio release, and not at least go all out for the finale. Gale Anne Hurd produced this movie for Christ’s sake, it’s not like they didn’t have any money for some decent makeup gags.

Plus, the cameraperson, who is a friend of the deceased, for some reason films the wounds in perfect close up. Some folks had a problem with the “too good” camerawork in Diary of the Dead; those folks would be utterly disgraced by the footage here. At one point, the characters seemingly cut back and forth (with one camera) to film both sides of their benign conversation!!!

So the film doesn’t deliver on the cannibalism, gore, or violence. Does it at least entertain? No. The four characters are wholly annoying, making the film’s refusal to kill even one of them until the final few minutes all the more ridiculous. I don’t want to spend any time with these people at all, let alone lots of time where they’re not even doing anything interesting (yet filming it all). Plus, they opt NOT to film the only thing they actually DO during the course of the film, which is build a raft. Christ, after a half an hour I was hoping one of the cannibals would put a fake fire hydrant outside their tent to set them up for adultery.

I also checked out the commentary track by Hensleigh, who sounds like Vince Vaughn. He reveals that the four actors were chosen from thousands of auditions. I cannot IMAGINE how fucking bad the others must have been. They’re not horrible actors per se, but in a film like this, where the actors are improvising a good deal of the time, you gotta wonder why they would choose to be this annoying/uninteresting, acting or not.

Dimension is really overreaching with this whole “extreme” nonsense. Say what you want about Rob Zombie’s Halloween (Christ knows I have), but at least it delivered on its promise to be graphically violent. The Mist (also Dimension) contains one of the most brutal endings ever seen in a studio film. Now I know that neither Buried or Jungle were actually produced by Dimension, only distributed by them, but why are they making a whole new label for the seeming purpose of simply overselling movies that are so goddamn tame? Just put them out on the regular Dimension label, same as whatever Hellraiser or Children of the Corn sequel they are releasing that week, rather than dupe the audience. Because, the fact is, neither of these films would have any troubles playing in theaters due to their subject matter or content, it’s just that no theater would want to bother showing them because they fucking suck. At least I know that 3 of their upcoming movies deliver on the promise (Inside, Automaton Transfusion, and Storm Warning), as none of them would be able to play as is in the multiplexes, and feature genuine disturbing moments (emergency C-section with a kitchen knife, fetus torn from pregnant woman, and a “rape prevention device”, respectively) that would never escape the MPAA’s wrath (plus, they are actually good movies to boot).

I’d also like to point out that my buddy Devin was so enraged by this film that he wrote an open letter to Hensleigh on his site, CHUD (an article that will link you right back to HMAD!). I didn’t hate it as much as him (if I did scores, I’d give it a 3 out of 10, mainly due to the quite nice looking HD photography), but it’s still worth a read. It also contains information about a pretty good LA bar that Hensleigh apparently owns.

What say you?


Non Canon Review: End Of Days

NOVEMBER 22, 2007


One of my stranger holiday traditions is always taking in a viewing of one of the last Schwarzenegger spectacles (and the only one of his films that could be considered horror, and please do not make a Batman and Robin, Junior, or Jingle All The Way joke in response to that), End Of Days. I saw it for the first time on Thanksgiving, in 1999, and have rewatched it every Thanksgiving since. But the viewing comes with a challenge: I have never ONCE stayed awake through the entire film, sometimes barely seeing half of it. So every year I become determined to break this “curse”, and every year, I fail.

Obviously, this is due to the fact that I just had an assload of turkey, which is filled with delicious tryptophan, aka sleepy time juice. It could be any goddamn movie and I would probably still pass out. But since this year I had turducken instead of standard turkey, my trypto-intake was reduced by 1/3, and thus I am proud to say that while I still fell asleep, I saw more of the movie than ever, having only dozed for about 10 minutes.

Oddly, the part I slept through was one of the few scenes I somehow always manage to be awake during, which is when Kevin Pollak’s character turns traitor and leaves Arnold to get the shit beat out of him in an alley. See, until now, I was convinced that there were parts of the film I had never actually seen, having slept through them every time. But now I know I have seen the whole thing, though there were a couple sequences I saw for only the 2nd or 3rd time (out of what, 9 viewings now?) this time around. So hurrah!

On to the movie itself, it’s not all that bad. Sure, it was instantly dated due to all of the Y2K talk (LOL), and the guy playing Arnold in the stunt scenes resembles Nathan Fillion more than my governor, but hey. And some may point out the ridiculous concept, but Arnold beats them to the punch, as he makes fun of it in the film itself (Rod Steiger: “The Devil has to impregnate her by midnight!” Arnold: “Is that eastern time?” HAHAHAHAH amazing). Some of the CG is pretty bad too.

OK, maybe it’s actually NOT very good. But it’s fun, dammit. At the time, it had been a while since Arnold had done a movie, so it was a blast to see him come back fighting the Devil, and Gabriel Byrne is one of my all time favorite onscreen Lucifers, particularly due to the fact that he gets a mom and daughter in a threeway, melding the two of them into one in the process. Hot. Also, his argument against God is pretty hilarious (“something good happens, it’s ‘his will’, something bad happens, ‘he works in mysterious ways’?”). And when he takes on demon form, he looks like the thing on the Bat out of Hell album cover, so that’s certainly a big plus for me.

On top of that, there’s some actually funny lines from Pollak (“It ends in a football score?”), and a really obscure Usual Suspects reference I always got a kick out of – there’s a scene with Byrne and Pollak (who were both in Suspects), where Byrne’s urine stream is used to ignite a fire. In Suspects, Byrne is trying to set off an explosion and he is thwarted by Keyser Soze’s urine putting the fire out. John Debney’s score even homages a bit of the Suspects’ theme at this point. Well played. And the scene where Arnold puts a coffee, some booze, some Chinese food, a slice of pizza, and Pepto Bismol into a blender is one of my favorites, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not tempted to make my own, similar concoction someday.

Obviously, as this is a Peter Hyams film, one must have good eyesight and a better home theater in order to see half of the imagery (my attempts to rent the HD version for this year’s viewing were foiled via a “Long Wait” mark on Netflix), though to be fair this is one of his better efforts. There are a few daytime scenes, and only a few of the night ones will result in a “What the FUCK am I actually looking at here?” reaction, something that plagued The Relic (and worse, his action movie Sudden Death, a film that I am convinced was shot partially through the lens cap). Originally the film was going to be directed by Marcus Nispel (who went on to direct the Chainsaw remake), but he was removed (if I remember correctly, Nispel said no one could look him in the eye or something?). Since I fucking LOVE how the TCM remake looks (though half the credit goes to Daniel Pearl, obviously), I can’t help but wonder what the film would have looked like had he stayed on board. I also often wonder how much better the film would be if it starred someone who could act. Arnold’s never been the best actor in the world, and there’s a reason why a lot of his movies are sort of light (True Lies, Last Action Hero) or he plays a robot. Here, the subject matter gets pretty dark, and he can’t quite pull off a grieving father who contemplates suicide as well as Stallone or Willis could have. Oh well.

Oh hey did you notice, every paragraph begins with an O? It was coincidence for the first 3 but then I did it on purpose. It’s meaningless.

What say you?


Bubba Ho-Tep

NOVEMBER 22, 2007


I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to seeing Bubba Ho-Tep. I love Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm films, I love odd comic/horror blends, and I love movies that feature old people stealing other old people’s glasses. Bubba has all of these and more! Yet, I was kind of left “meh” afterwards. Not that it was bad, but it wasn’t as funny as I was expecting.

Part of the problem is the odd pace. The mummy thing goes absent for a long stretch while we learn how Elvis came to be in the old folk’s home. This is something that should have been used in like, a comic book prequel or something, not on screen. I want mummy action, not lengthy “So I met him at a gig and we switched clothes and hoped no one noticed the different sideburns” sequences. In fact, if anything, the movie would have worked better if they never explained whether or not it really WAS Elvis, or maybe saved it for a quick visual reference at the end that proved it was him.

The score, however, is fucking fantastic. That’s not something you can usually say about a limited/DTV release, but damn, I loved it. Very western-y. I dunno if it’s on CD but if so, I will be buying it next time I remember to look for it.

I also enjoyed how much of a relative downer the ending was. I won’t give it away, but suffice to say I didn’t expect it to end as it did. It’s interesting how it both goes against and yet totally fits the film’s vibe, which is goofy but yet oddly touching at times (love the scene where Elvis retrieves his former roommate’s purple heart). And it makes it even odder that everyone I have talked to about this movie for the past 5 years have marveled at how funny it was. I giggled a few times, but for the most part, the movie worked more as a really odd drama than a comedy. But maybe (obviously) that’s just me. I also think Caddyshack II is funny, so whatever.

I wish I had seen it on DVD so I could enjoy the extras (Coscarelli is always interesting to listen to), but oh well. If anyone out there has seen the DVD and thinks the extras are worth my time, let me know!

What say you?


The Corpse Vanishes

NOVEMBER 21, 2007


Like quite a few of the movies on the Horror Classics set, The Corpse Vanishes is probably best known as an episode of MST3k than anything else. But I haven’t seen that episode, since it wasn’t on Sci-Fi (I never had Comedy Central until the show made the switch). And it must be a “short” episode, since the movie’s only an hour long.

Well it starts off promisingly, with a bride dying just before saying “I do”, which momentarily had me thinking the film was a fantasy and not a horror movie. But then Bela Lugosi showed up, so my fears were abated. He plays a guy who poisons brides and uses their blood to restore beauty to his own wife. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think they ever explain why he had to go to such lengths to get only brides at the altar. I say again, do these cities not have homeless people?

There’s a few highlights, particularly a “chase” scene in which the bad guy follows the heroine, all the while gnawing at a giant chicken drumstick. How fucking awesome would it be if, in the middle of chasing some bimbo through the woods, Jason Voorhees suddenly took a huge bite out of a hamburger? Amazing.

Speaking of the heroine, she is the most resilient woman I have ever seen. So driven in her quest to get a good story (she’s a reporter), she never seems fazed by any of the bad things that happen to her; often going right back into reporter mode as soon as she wakes up from being drugged or knocked out. It’s pretty admirable. Or badly written.

The ending of the film is pretty hilarious. Like many an old tyme movie, there is little to no epilogue or wrapup. Instead, after the villains are dispatched, we fade to the heroine getting married, while her boss announces that she is retiring from the paper. Then her photographer smells the poison orchid that all the brides died from, and presumably dies. The end. What the?

So far the Horror Classics set has underwhelmed me (and, bad news for HMAD readers, I have already seen a lot of the good ones, like White Zombie, Carnival of Souls, and Nosferatu, not to mention public domain horror collection staple Night of the Living Dead). Granted I don’t expect much from these things, but I’d like a couple on par with the inanity and lovably terrible nature of your Scream Bloody Murders and Devil Times Fives. I might have to jump onto Decrepit Crypt sooner than planned.

What say you?



NOVEMBER 20, 2007


“It’s bad enough to accept a musician in this family, but a jazz musician is just asking too damn much!”

You gotta hand it to George Yates, writing a film around his desire to slam jazz musicians. That has to be the film’s reason for existing, because otherwise Tormented is pretty pointless, and even at 75 minutes, feels padded and repetitive.

Much like Hands of a Stranger, we have a musician who has murderous intent toward a little kid. Except at least in that movie, he totally killed the kid. We’re not so lucky here. That said, the finale is still pretty grand, but it’s a chore to get that far, since the rest of the movie is just a never ending cycle of the guy thinking he sees the ghost of his mistress (who doesn’t want him to marry some other bland n’ blond woman), only to discover that it’s just a plant or something. I expect more from Bert Gordon, who also bestowed upon us Amazing Colossal Man.

The film also offers us one of the most puzzlingly useless lines ever uttered: “There’s a light in the lighthouse!” They seem pretty excited and surprised by it, whereas I tend to get pretty blasé about things doing the one thing they exist to actually do. Maybe I should rethink my position on the matter, and start walking around exclaiming things like “That clock is telling the time!” and “That Mr. Coffee made coffee!”

I’d also like to point out that the film print itself seems to be haunted, as quite a few times during the film we see a gray shadow moving across the image, as if someone was walking in front of the projector in a theater. Spooky. Or lazy.

To be fair it’s not a total waste. The ghost effects are pretty impressive given the time period and obvious low budget, and as said, the finale is pretty awesome (I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say that it’s probably the only ‘happy’ ending in history that involves some folks drowning). Sort of a mixed bag I guess.

What say you?


He Knows You're Alone

NOVEMBER 19, 2007


How’s this for weird: As I go to put in the He Knows You’re Alone DVD, I see that the Al Pacino movie Scent of a Woman is on. I watch it for a few minutes, and I see an actor who is one of those guys that’s in every movie ever, but you don’t know his name and probably would have trouble actually NAMING one of the movies if you saw him on the street. His most memorable turn is probably in ID4, as the Secretary of Defense who constantly wants to nuke everything and confesses to the President that Area 51 is real. Anyway, not thinking much of it, I begin Alone, and not 20 minutes into the damn thing, the very same guy shows up as a professor who is fucking one of the main girl’s friends! Now his name shall never be forgotten: James Rebhorn.


Anyway, that is just one of the many, many things I would like to mention in this review (it’s gonna be a long one folks. Might want to grab a magazine. Oh wait, no, never mind.). I’d also like to point out that this makes two films in a row that ripped off the Halloween score.

For starters (not counting what I already said at least), I find it kind of odd that the film is relatively unknown. It gets mentioned a lot due to the appearance of a future star, but otherwise it’s been totally overshadowed by the other films of the era, and I am really not sure why. It’s definitely pretty unique. While I have trouble telling some of the eras lesser known slasher movies apart, this one sticks out right from the start, with a slasher movie within a slasher movie sequence that was later copied in Scream 2. Then Paul Gleason shows up as, yes, a cop, who abruptly disappears from the film (in mid-sentence no less!) a few scenes later.

Plus, the movie has a record number of “Worsts” for a horror movie.

Worst greenscreen ever:

Worst dummy head ever:

Worst killer’s mask ever:

And, I guess this would apply to all movies; worst advice from a cop ever:

Our targets are brides to be, which is pretty sweet (in one of the film’s many odd moments, all the horny guys are sent off to a bachelor party in the first 10 minutes, and apart from a quick cutaway to one of them making a phone call, are never heard from again), putting the film in the same jilted lover slasher subgenre that is comprised of pretty much just Valentine and My Bloody Valentine. And speaking of MBV, this film has a song that’s almost as amazing: a ditty called “It’s The Night Again” that plays over one of the kill scenes. It sounds like a lost Air Supply number, but sadly I can find no copies or even basic info about the song online (the first Google match for the artist’s name is just another HKYA review that bemoans the lack of info about the artist). Someone needs to put out a compilation CD of slasher movie ballads. It’d be the greatest CD ever compiled by someone who wasn’t me (I make killer mix CDs, at least as far as I am concerned).

Off-kilter seems to be the order of the day for this movie. Granted, any movie that casts Don Scardino (“God I love antiques!!!”) as a romantic hero/lead is pretty odd, but they go to extremes, especially with the editing. I already mentioned Gleason’s non-final final scene, but there’s also a jump cut in the middle of an establishing shot, and another abrupt edit when Scardino is presumably about to use some slang for a homosexual man, leaving us with only “He’s a closet!” OK, movie.

But there’s also a lot of originality, considering the time period. For example, the killer’s motive is literally revealed as the end credits roll. Granted it’s not exactly mind-bending, and you can probably figure it out long before, but there’s something sort of charming about literally waiting till the last second to give the audience a bit of explanation for why the guy was killing everyone.

And yes, of course, as I mentioned, the film is famous nowadays primarily for being the first appearance of a future star. I speak of course of Dana Barron, who went on to be the first Audrey Griswold (and the only one to play her twice, as she appeared in the otherwise worthless TV movie Christmas Vacation 2). She plays Final Girl’s little sister, and it’s good casting, as they DO look alike. Her biggest scene takes place at a carnival with her sister, her sister’s friend, and an average looking guy who is given, in keeping with the rest of the movie, the oddest pick up line in history (he trips the girl as she jogs so he could guarantee she would stop). For some reason he doesn’t get killed, but maybe he will pop up in something else someday.

There’s a commentary track on the DVD, but that aforementioned review said it was boring and filled with gaps. And I’m not in the mood for that. I’m sure it will never get a better release, but if you can find it cheap (perhaps via a small ad a few lines below? :) ), it’s definitely worth a purchase. Putting it in its proper context, writer Scott Parker and director Armand Mastroianni should be commended for being as different as they could while strictly adhering to the standard slasher formula of the time.

What say you?


Rise Of The Dead

NOVEMBER 18, 2007


OK, let’s get something out of the way. Rise Of The Dead, despite its very zombie sounding title, not to mention rotten zombie guy on the cover, OR the fact that it’s called a “Frightening Zombie Thriller!” on the back, is NOT A FUCKING ZOMBIE MOVIE. A ghost possesses some folks, and when they are possessed they drool and get that dazed look on their face you might expect from a zombie, but once the possession is over they go back to normal. The people who are killed never come back either.

That said, this movie is an unparalleled, amazing piece of “what the FUCK?”ity. I’m gonna have to spoil the ending in a bit, but I hope you all go check this out. It’s only 72 minutes long, and the ending redeems every bad thing about the movie and then some. Spoilers begin now.

So OK, the people in the film are possessed by the ghost of a little baby who accidentally put a gun in its mouth and pulled the trigger (pretty impressive for a kid, I can see one or the other, but doing both? If he wasn’t dead, that kid would be ready for advanced Lego sets by the time he was 3). We learn that he was adopted, because the birth mother was only like 17 and didn’t have the means to take care of him. So throughout the movie, people involved (the adopted parents, the father, the doctor who delivered him, etc) with his birth keep dying or killing other folks. She figures out that it’s her son’s ghost like 40 min into the movie (but due to the length, that’s also with only 30 to go) and tries to warn everyone, but they don’t believe her. Fine.

Here’s where it gets weird. She realizes that the ghost is simply trying to be with his mother again. So to solve this problem, when her boyfriend (not the father) is possessed, she almost knocks him out, then pulls his pants off, says “come to mommy”, and proceeds to more or less rape him.

Now, for those of you following: yes, via possession, she essentially fucks her own son in order to get pregnant again so he can be reborn with the “right” family. Holy fucking shit. You think Shock or Ghost Son got a little weird??? Found it odd when the girl in Big Bad Wolf blew her boyfriend’s dad to get his DNA? This eclipses all of them, easily.

It’s almost like writers Joshua and Jeffrey Crook and Kris Scotto wanted to make a film that served as a metaphor for living up to your responsibilities as a parent, but somehow got forced to make it into a horror movie. The horror elements seem fairly shoehorned in (and the music is just a straight up ripoff of the Halloween score, for good measure), and hell, the movie doesn’t even end on a “scary” note, which makes the DVD’s excessive attempts to sell it as a zombie movie all the more puzzling. Granted, I have no idea how you can sell such a concept otherwise, but still. I wish they provided the commentary instead of the director and star doing typical “this is my friend, we shot this in blah blah” boring crap (however, they do point out a co-star who is now dead. A quick Google revealed she had like 3 DUIs and died of “suffocation”, which probably means “choked on her own vomit”.).

So yeah, I urge you to check this out, if only for the fact that 65 minutes of not very interesting stuff results in a scene that would make Freud himself go “What the FUCK?”

The film also features a supercute naked chick walking out into the cold and axing a guy.

What say you?


Rise: Blood Hunter (2007)

NOVEMBER 17, 2007


Have you seen Innocent Blood? Good, you’ve also seen Rise: Blood Hunter. The differences are barely worth mentioning, but since I already wrote a Blood review, I guess I gotta write something. Far be it from me to be lazy (despite the fact that the only reason I rented the movie at all was because it was right next to another movie that I was renting called Rise Of The Dead).

Yes, the film offers precious little new to the genre: a female vampire (Lucy Liu) who doesn’t WANT to be a vampire begrudgingly teams up with a cop who thinks she’s just a killer in order to take out a group of bad guys. Some flashbacks add a bit of brain work add muted interest to the proceedings, but it’s not enough to really make it stick out.

Two things DO stick out though. One is the film’s excessive length. 122 minutes for a movie with barely any plot other than what I described above? At first I was baffled by the claim that 25 minutes of never before seen footage was added to the film, since I thought it was direct to DVD, but apparently it played for a week or so last June (so, along with Fido, was I even fucking awake in June? Christ). By my math, that would make the theatrical version a much more manageable 97 minutes, though I couldn’t care less about what was removed/added. I’ll just say, if the 97 minute version IS available, I urge you to stick with that, the added stuff can’t possibly have made the film any better.

The other thing that caught my attention was the ridiculous amount of one scene turns in the film by people who are relatively well-known, but aren’t quite yet in the cameo stage of their careers. Marilyn Manson and Robert Forster are one thing (actually, two), but Elden Henson? Holt McCallany? Zach Gilford? Simon Fucking Rex? According to the IMDb, Nick Lachey also shows up, but I can’t place him. Not to mention how little Michael Chiklis, Carla Gugino, and Mako are in the film. No, this is almost all Liu, all the time, and since she’s really not that great of an actress, that’s kind of a bummer. At least offer more Gugino, you monsters!

Dammit Saracen, get out of this crap and back on the field!

I will point out that the film thankfully includes very few instances of Liu being all "grrrl"ish, nor does she seemingly hate every character with a penis for no reason (at least not as much compared to Tank Girl or whatever). I was talking the other day with a (female) friend about how much we wish that more action/horror films with females in the lead functioned more as actual movies of their genre and less as feminist fantasy. So in that department, for what it's worth, it does OK enough.

I dunno. Technically the film is fine, and there are nice set pieces here and there, but damned if I’ll remember a goddamn thing about it by the time I finish posting this review.

What say you?


Bad Taste (1988)

NOVEMBER 16, 2007


One of the biggest surprise titles on the Chilling Classics set was Peter Jackson’s debut film, Bad Taste. Like Deep Red and Driller Killer, it was a film I had actually heard of before, due to the fact that it wasn’t a public domain curio from the 70s like 90% of the rest of the set. And unlike some of the other “big” titles, it didn’t seem to be an edited version. Obviously I didn’t remember much about the film from the one time I saw it back in high school, or else it wouldn’t be eligible for HMAD, but the gore seems intact and the running time is the same, so it’s kind of puzzling how Mill Creek got it on there.

Anyway, like Evil Dead, the film is a bittersweet reminder of how inventive and borderline insane the director used to be. Considering that the opening weekend of any of the LOTR films outgrossed all of Jackson’s other films combined, I think it’s not entirely ignorant to assume I was one of the few people going to see Fellowship because I was a fan of the director, not the material. While not bad films by any means, I much prefer his older films, where the inventiveness and sheer joy of making films was evident in every frame. Sure, the visuals in LOTR and Kong (a film I barely like at all) are spectacular, but it will always be more impressed with a well done beheading in a film that cost about 10 grand than to see a dinosaur in a film that cost 200 million.

Yet it took 15 years for him to win an Oscar.

Plus the movie is just funny as hell. The scene where Jackson (playing one of two characters) runs around shooting aliens while making the "Neh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh" sound of the machine gun is just one of many laugh out loud moments. There’s also some brilliant off-kilter dialogue (“We are here to fight any threat to the planet Earth!” “And the moon!”). And of course, the gore itself is played for laughs. Fuck, the movie is just fun. As was Dead Alive, and Meet The Feebles, and even The Frighteners for the most part. Then he got all serious and shit. Now he’s making a movie about a 13 year old who gets raped and killed. Yay?

Like Raimi, it’s great that Jackson has gone from making movies with his friends, for no money, in his backyard, to helming the biggest films of all time, but damn if I don’t wish they would return to their roots every now and then. His Hollywood films might be flawless in their presentation, but technical wizardry doesn’t replace genuine inventiveness.

I should also note that this marks the end of my affair with the Chilling Classics set. You may notice that there are only 45 reviews for the 50 film set, but Medusa, Death Rage, War of the Robots, and The Bloody Brood contain no horror elements whatsoever, and Legend of Big Foot is a documentary. I think it was just about exactly one year ago that I bought this little bundle of joy, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of sad to be ‘retiring’ it. While nothing ever matched the amazingness of Cathy’s Curse or Scream Bloody Murder (two of the earliest selections), I was almost always entertained with the films, if not for the intended reasons, and I can only hope that Horror Classics and Decrepit Crypt sets will live up to Chilling’s legacy.

RIP Chilling Classics: November 2006 – November 2007.

What say you?


Little Shop Of Horrors (1960)

NOVEMBER 15, 2007


One of my favorite movies growing up was the musical version of Little Shop Of Horrors. I had the film taped off of HBO (complete with the “Feature Presentation” music, which I still “miss” when I watch the film on DVD), as well as the soundtrack, which used to bug me because some of the songs were different. I even went to a stage production in Massachusetts a few years back. Yet, it took me like 20 years to finally see the source film.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the 1960 version. Notoriously shot in only 2 days, I think the movie’s pretty well done, considering. I miss the songs (the dentist just isn’t as hilarious without “You’ll be a DENNNNNNNNTIST!”), and obviously the climax isn’t as exciting, but it more than makes up for it in black humor and just plain weird nonsense that finds its way into the film.

Principal among the film’s strange highlights is Dick Miller’s character. He plays a guy who eats flowers as if it was the most natural thing in the world. When Seymour brings up his new project plant, Miller tries to entice Mushnick to let Seymour display the plant in the shop, beginning his argument with “I’ve eaten in flower shops all over the world...”. Then, a bit later, he exits a scene by claiming he has to get home, for his wife “is making gardenias for dinner.” Hahahah what? Awesome.

The film is very similar in structure to A Bucket of Blood, complete with an ending in which our “hero” is chased for a bit before becoming part of the very thing he became known for in the first place. But what do you expect from Corman? It’s a wonder he didn’t use the same set.

MST3k fans might like to know that Mike Nelson has recorded a commentary for this film, on the DVD released via Legend Films. I have bought a few of his other releases (Plan 9, Night of the Living Dead, Reefer Madness, etc) and for whatever reason, they aren’t nearly as funny as his Rifftrax commentaries. So I haven’t checked this one out yet, but I am sure I will someday. If anyone reading this has already done so, let me know how it is, maybe I’ll fast-track it.

Also, I’d like to mention that I do a damn good rendition of “Suddenly Seymour” if I do say so my damn self.

What say you?


Virus (1980)

NOVEMBER 14, 2007


Well, I think it’s safe to say that I will never stretch the term “Horror” as much as I did for today’s movie, Virus (like everything else in existence, do not confuse it for the 1998 Jamie Lee Curtis movie set on a boat haunted by robotic spiders). While it certainly SOUNDS horror-y, in reality, other than the somewhat scary notion of the end of the world, this isn’t a horror movie at all. No, it’s more a sci-fi version of Fail Safe or something, with most of the film played out in rooms with lots and lots of cranky old men.

That said, it’s actually a pretty decent movie. We follow the stories of several different groups of characters, many of them played by old school genre faves like George Kennedy and Robert Vaughn. Hell, even Sonny Chiba shows up. True, they are mostly just standing around talking while the unknown/minor stars do all the action stuff, but hey, what are you gonna do?

What was surprising about the film was how much of a downer it is. President Pa Kent and his staff die like 20 min into the movie, and by the end just about everything and everyone else is dead too, giving the film TWO armageddons, so to speak. Also, it’s amazing what stats are given for the survivors: “855 men, and 8 women.” Of course, for the women, this means an incredibly varied selection from whom they can begin repopulating the world, but for the guys – that’s fucking HARSH.

Messiest Oval Office ever.

Apparently, close to 50 min of the film has been removed for this version, most of it dealing with Japan. I would like to see the whole version of the film, not to mention in widescreen format, since the pan and scan job was atrocious at times (see below).

It’s far from a great film, but it’s certainly one of the more professional films in the set. Also, it’s pretty eerie that, in a montage of major cities and their death tolls (displayed onscreen with the lamest titles I’ve ever seen in a film), New York’s number is shown in a shot that begins with a closeup of the World Trade Center.

Favorite line of dialogue: “You gave me a goddamn PLACEBO?!?!?”, yelled by one of the film’s many crusty old guys. Man, I really am gonna miss the Chilling Classics set.

What say you?


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