From The Pile Roundup!

MAY-JUNE, 2022


I haven't been slipping too much with my "pile" watching, but I *have* been slacking off when it comes to actually writing up the reviews after. Between Overlook, my growing obsession with Jurassic World Evolution 2, and the damn heat making me not really want to do much of anything, it's been hard to get motivated to sit at the computer any longer than necessary (i.e. for work). But alas, the site needs content or you'll all abandon it forever, and I have no idea when the next big horror movie comes out in theaters. Is it Nope? That's a month away!

So here are some of the pile movies I've watched over the past month, with even briefer thoughts than the "From the Pile" reviews offer to begin with. Sorry!

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969)
My friend Joe Canistro told me about this movie all the way back in college, but while I can't remember his exact wording, he quickly tempered my excitement (based on the title and the box art) with, more or less, "don't get too excited." But I didn't think it'd take another twenty plus years to finally watch it! Anyway he was right, it's nowhere near as fun as you might think based on the poster, but to be fair the title was changed from La venganza del sexo, as was the name of the character who'd become Dr. Humpp (it was Dr. Zoid or something). The producers also added in a lot of sex footage, not always (read: basically never) successfully matched to the original scenes/actors, but also recut it to be a little less plodding.

Well, neither version of the movie (both are on the Vinegar Syndrome release) is particularly good, so it's like a Halloween 6 thing where whichever version you watch you'll likely be missing things from the other one. But it's got some solid insanity here and there (the plot concerns a mad scientist who believes a healthy libido can make you immortal, which... you know, is certainly an idea worth researching either way) and the creature mask is effectively unnerving even now, so it was probably triply so in the late '60s. A fine curiosity, to be sure, but never quite hits the "batshit crazy" levels I hoped for.

Necromancer (1988)
Another Vinegar Syndrome release, this one a late '80s supernaturally charged rape revenge film. Elizabeth Kaitan from F13 New Blood is the unfortunate victim of an attack by a trio of frat bros, and there's a local witch who can help get back at them - all of this is fine. The problem is a. Kaitan doesn't seem particularly interested in dishing out revenge (her big plan is to just tell on them to the dean), so you get the unpleasant rape but none of the triumphant/deserved action where she fights back - she saves most of her rage for the damn witch lady! The other issue is that the rapists are largely forgotten (the main one is dealt with at the halfway point) in favor of focusing on her gross acting teacher, played by Russ Tamblyn. She's been having an affair with him, but he's also sleeping with other students, so yeah he sucks, but the movie treats him as its primary villain when at best he should have been another example of how men are awful. So it's just kind of wonky, with some truly terrible FX for the supernatural scenes.

Hell or High Water (2016)
This isn't a horror movie but it was in the pile. Good stuff! Chris Pine and Ben Foster are bank robbers with a noble cause - they're stealing from the bank chain that is trying to repossess their family farm, in order to give them their own money to save their land. That's awesome! Jeff Bridges is the "three days from retirement" type lawman who is on their trail, doing his usual thing from the past decade. It's not particularly inventive, but it's a solid watch all the same; has a No Country for Old Men kinda vibe in its final reel that I enjoyed more than the traditional showdown I was expecting. Kind of funny that the best movie from the pile wasn't horror, heh.

Dreamscape (1984)
One of those mid 80s cable staples that I somehow never actually watched, but I'm glad I waited until we had things like the internet and blu-ray bonus features. Why? Because as a kid I wouldn't have been able to quickly determine that the producers clearly got hold of Wes Craven's Nightmare on Elm St script (which he famously shopped around town for years before finally securing financing, i.e. lots of people saw it and perhaps stole from it). Even if I was tempted to chalk it up to coincidence that, for example, the film's villain suddenly attacks with razor fingers during the climax despite never having them before, the producers themselves admit to rewriting the film just before it finally went into production after its own lengthy wait to get it going. And one of those rewriters was none other than Chuck Russell, who'd go on to direct Dream Warriors.

All of this is more interesting than the majority of the film, which has some fun scenes and assuredly provided many a kid with nightmare fuel throughout their adolescence, though it for the most part sticks to action/fantasy than horror. Dennis Quaid is fun as the hero, but the plot of a slimy business guy (Christopher Plummer) using Quaid and the dream sharing tech to manipulate the President into nuclear war never rings true due to the film's low budget, where the President comes off more as a local congressman than the leader of the free world. The FX are inventive, sure, but they don't look all that great either, so that also makes it harder to buy into what the movie is selling. I'm sure if I saw it when I was 6 I'd love it and look past all these flaws as an adult, but alas. A fun enough one time watch and nothing more.

Dementia (2015)
A few years back I saw Dementia Part II at a festival, but was assured it had nothing to do with this film beyond sharing a couple cast members (in different roles) and producers. And they were right! Where that film was a splatterific weirdo gem, this is a straight psychological thriller about an older guy (Gene Jones) who has a stroke and possibly, yes, dementia, forcing his son and granddaughter to hire a live-in nurse to care for him. But it's clear the nurse (Kristine Klebe) is up to no good, and over the next 70 minutes or so you just have to accept about a million coincidences and lapses in logic (for starters, the son apparently doesn't even check if this random woman who showed up at their house actually works for the hospital like she claims) if you want to enjoy the solid performances and admirable approach of making Jones deserve the torture. Picture Misery if Paul Sheldon was a MeToo predator or something and you'd be on the right track. If they had just worked on the script a bit more (not to mention the sound editing, oof - keep the subtitles on!) this could be a minor little gem, but instead it's mostly just funny to think about people who saw this and then went into "Part II" expecting a legitimate sequel.

I think that catches me up, and I promise to do better in the future!

What say you?


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