Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)

...aka: Dead That Walk, The
...aka: Secret of Mora Tau, The

Directed by:
Edward L. Cahn

In the darkness of an ancient world -- on a shore that time has forgotten -- there is a twilight between life and death. Here dwell those nameless creatures who are condemned to prowl the land eternally - The Walking Dead. And so begins one of the earliest zombie flicks we'll be covering on this blog. Nope, these aren't zombies who rise up from cemeteries, eat people and go down with a shot to the head. They're also not like the voodoo-entranced, docile dead of the 30s and 40s either. These guys, though technically zombies, are more like phantom figures. They look pretty much human aside from some strategically placed seaweed and their sole purpose is to guard a cache of diamonds that's hidden somewhere on the ocean floor. The zombies are actually the ten men who died when their ship sank sixty years earlier and now reside in open caskets in a nearby mausoleum. Anyone who goes looking for the treasure face death at the hands of the seaweed-covered undead sailors.
.
Despite their presence, wealthy tycoon George Harrison (Joel Ashley) organizes a trip to Africa to search for the diamonds. He brings along expert diver Jeff Clark (Gregg Palmer, who'd just faced off against another underwater fiend in the previous year's THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US), scientist Dr. Jonathan Eggert (Morris Arkrum) and a small crew. He also drags along his sarcastic, sexpot wife Mona (ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN's Allison Hayes) to lounge around on the ship in a bikini and make bitchy comments. Everyone stays at the plantation home of elderly widow Mrs. Peters (Marjorie Eaton), who knows all about the zombie legend since her husband is one of them. Also thrown into the mix is Grandma Peters' blonde granddaughter Jan (Autumn Russell), who clearly picked the wrong time for a visit.
.
Talky, slow, darkly photographed, almost entirely devoid of chills and thrills and all-around silly, this isn't what I'd consider a must-see, but it's a mildly enjoyable 70-minute curio if you're interested in the development of the zombie film. The subgenre as we know it today, as well as the characteristics we usually associate with zombies, are mostly derived from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). Interestingly though, the zombies in Night and the zombies here do at least share a couple of similarities; namely their fear of fire and, though it's never shown or explained how they're able to do it here, their ability to turn humans into zombies. Then again, if you want to get technical about it, the underwater scenes are unconvincing, the generic stock music score is a bore, the film basically just peters out by the end and most of the performances are flat, though Hayes does try to her best to liven things up a little bit. Well, while she still has a pulse, at least.
.
Sony Pictures released this as part of the Sam Katzman Collection; a two disc set that also includes the Katzman productions CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (1955), THE WEREWOLF (1956) and THE GIANT CLAW (1957).
.
★★

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hollow Gate (1988)

Directed by:
Ray Di Zazzo

An alcoholic tries to drown his young son after he fails at the bobbing-for-apple game (!) at a Halloween party. Ten years later, the now grown boy – Mark (Addison Randall) – is a mentally disturbed guy who seems to go bonkers every year when All Hallow’s Ever rolls around. He blows up an obnoxious guy and his date in their car (by putting her panties in the gas tank and lighting them right before they drive off!) and then two years later attacks a girl who won’t go on a date with him. He’s placed in an institution briefly before being released into the care of his wealthy widowed grandmother, Mrs. Nelson (Pat Shalsant), who owns a large country estate called Hollowgate. Granny keeps him insolated in a secure room but makes the mistake of letting him out on Halloween when he hasn’t taken his medication. He murders her with a pair of scissors and then sets about stalking and killing four teenagers; Kim (Katrina Alexy), Allen (Richard Dry), Mandy (Patricia Jacques) and Billy (J.J. Miller), who he traps on his grounds with an electric fence that surrounds the property. Mark dons different costumes and personas (soldier, hunter, doctor, etc.) and kills with axe, shotgun, combine harvester and a pair of killer Golden Retrievers (!?) while overacting and spouting off various silly one-liners.
.
Goofy, cheap, highly dumb cheese? Absolutely. But in comparison to other shot-on-video titles of the 80s, it's surprisingly fun and watchable, with decent cinematography, settings and an enthusiastic cast. Randall plays the killer for high camp, and the rest of the cast are adequate. The victims are all amusingly sensitive, touchy-feely and overly emotional. Producers Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin also made the horror EPITAPH, before finding their niche in the direct-to-video action market.

★★

A Reencarnação do Sexo (1982)

... aka: Mortal Possession: The Reincarnation of Sex
... aka: Posesión Mortal: La reencarnación del sexo
... aka: Reincarnation of Sex, The

Directed by:
Luiz Castellini

According to the Coffin Joe bio "Maldito," written by Andre Marcinski and Ivan Finolli, the Brazilian film industry was on its last legs by the time the 1980s rolled around. The only way the industry could keep going was to shift its attentions away from mainstream films and focus its attentions on X-rated adult features. In fact, of the 679 films produced in the country during the decade, 425 were actually hardcore porno. While Reincarnation seems to be among the non-hardcore Brazilian films of the time (unless I saw a censored version that excludes close-ups) it's still loaded to the gills with sex, sex and, you guessed it, even more sex. The scenes are technically soft and about as graphic as what you might find late at night on Cinemax, except for one scene involving a sex toy (I'll be getting to that later...) and some full frontal male nudity (which is still pretty taboo on U.S. cable channels for some strange reason).

At a secluded farmhouse, teen Patricia (Patricia Scalvi) and a farmhand named Antonio (Artur Rovedeer) have loud sex, which seems to really piss off the girl’s father (Roque Rodrigues). The next day, dad lures the lover out into the woods, chops him up with an axe and then buries the body. The lover’s vengeful spirit then calls out to the girl at night, leading her to his body. She's possessed, goes bonkers and starts rubbing blood all over her body. The film then cuts to “Dez Anos Depois” as another young couple – Celia (Celia Santos) and Fabio (Fabio Vilalonga) – purchase the same home and move in. Celia hears the lover's voice, becomes possessed and turns into a nympho who’s always running around the house naked and demanding rough sex. She also has visions of Patricia floating outside her window a la the vampire kid in Salem's Lot. While most men might be in heaven, Fabio becomes concerned that his wife isn't quite herself and contacts his friend Roberto (Roberto Miranda) for help. Before Roberto gets there, Celia manages to get her hubby into bed and stabs him to death during sex. But you think that's gonna stop her? Ha! She just keeps on going on top of Fabio's corpse and then decapitates him when she's done! Sharon Stone, eat your heart out.

Next up, an older man in a wheelchair (who I think is the real estate agent) lets his daughter Ligia (Ligia de Paula) move into the home despite the previous events. Thanks dad! Ligia’s hairy-armpitted lesbian friend Ana Maria (Ana Maria Kriesler) shows up and the two ladies do some major rubdowns in the shower before moving on to even more graphic things. Yep, this thing looks like it's about to cross into X territory when Ana Maria whips out a dildo and starts simulating oral sex on it while it’s rested in between Ligia’s thighs. But then the ghost of Patricia shows up to help reassure us this is a horror film by slamming Anna Maria’s head onto the sex toy until she’s dead. Death by deep throating a dildo? Yup. Some of the victims are later seen in a nuthouse and the last half hour mostly eschews the sex for plot. Too bad there are no subs on this rarity so I had no clue what any of them were saying.

All in all, adequate sleaze.

★★

Il maestro del terrore (1988)

... aka: Alta tensione - Il maestro del terrore
... aka: Prince of Terror, The

Directed by:
Lamberto Bava

One of the rarest of Lamberto Bava’s 80s horrors, this – sort of a home invasion thriller with a supernatural twist - has never been officially released anywhere to my knowledge; not even in Italy. Bootleg copies exist though, and the one I obtained had a “Not For Commercial Use” warning at the bottom of the screen the entire time. It’s silly, farfetched and confusing, but entertaining and surprisingly well made. The “Prince of Terror” is the name the media has given to famous Romanian horror movie director Vincent Omen (Tomas Arana). Omen is having problems on the set of his latest zombie movie and decices, along with the film’s producer Philip Moses (Pascal Druant), to fire scriptwriter Paul Hillary (David Brandon), whom he claims is a plagiarist (“It’s a tribute, not a ripoff!”). While being interviewed, Omen tells a reporter (Virginia Bryant) “I am the devil” and plays with golf ball with “666” on it. Hints are also made that he may be ageless, or not quite human. Though he may be more than he seems, Vincent lives a relatively normal life in an ultra-modern gated mansion (complete with horror movie props) with his wife Betty (Carole Andre), their teenage daughter Susan (Joyce Pitti) and their pet pooch Demon (!)

After hosting a dinner for Philip and an airhead actress named Magda (Marina Viro), strange and horrifying things begin happening. The toilet overflows with blood and pages of Paul’s script are found stuffed inside. In an unintentionally hilarious scene, the daughter goes to pick up her dog and removes only the skin. After the dog is placed in a garbage can outside, someone heaves it back through a window. The power goes out and before long, a bald maniac breaks into the home and starts terrorizing everyone. The killer turns out to be Eddie Felson (Ulisse Minervini), a former actor burned on a movie set over a decade earlier who blames Omen for ruining his career. He may or may not be acting alone. And there’s more to the story than just that. The film also makes room for bear trap and chainsaw usage, a hand getting impaled with a shard of glass, a Poe moment of someone getting bricked up behind a wall, a decapitation, a robot (!) and a killer golf ball (!!) that explodes an eyeball on contact!

Many of the leads seem to be speaking English and the acting is actually pretty good aside from the daughter, who looks older than her mother yet irritatingly acts like a whiny 7-year-old. There’s plenty of gore (by Sergio Stivaletti), the screenplay (from the prolific Dardano Sacchetti) offers up some genuine surprises along the way, the home it’s set in looks great and Gianfranco Transunto’s cinematography and Simon Boswell’s score are both fine. If only the whole thing weren’t so silly and it wasn’t saddled with such an annoyingly inconclusive ending… Oh well, Lamberto’s done much worse than this.

★★1/2

Kitchen Sink (1989)

Directed by:
Allison Maclean

This original, creepy, award-winning 14 minute short centers around a reclusive, possibly unstable young woman (Theresa Healey) who discovers something strange and horrific one day while she's cleaning out her kitchen sink and starts pulling on what she believes to be a simple hair caught in the drain. The less said by me the better here, but it's very well photographed (in black-and-white), has an effectively eerie music score (by The Headless Chickens), several surprises and is ambiguous enough to provoke thought. To me, it seemed to be about a woman looking for connection in a world of order and suburban alienation, though others have their own interpretations. Thanks in part to the success of this short (which won several awards in its home country New Zealand and was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes), Maclean was able to move on to a successful film (CRUSH, JESUS' SON, etc.), TV and music video career. It can be viewed either on YouTube or on the Strand Releasing CRUSH DVD.

★★★

Mondo cannibale (1980)

...aka: Barbarian Goddess
...aka: Cannibal Horror 3
...aka: Cannibals
...aka: Inferno der kannibalen
...aka: White Cannibal Queen

Directed by:
Jesus Franco
.
Eek! Caucasian cannibals in bikini briefs and clown makeup! Professor Jeremy Taylor (Al Cliver, of ZOMBI 2 fame), a specialist in tropical diseases, his wife Elisabeth (Pamela Stanford), their young daughter Lana (Anouchka) and some other guy are enjoying a relaxing trip on their yacht when they're attacked by a cannibal tribe. Mom is immediately killed and eaten (these cannibals apparently don't bother cooking their meat), the other guy is speared in the back and the good professor is clubbed unconscious, dragged back to the cannibal village and has his arm chopped off, but manages to escape into the jungle, is found by some hunters and rushed off to a hospital. As for little Lana, she's also located by the tribe and brought back to the village. Instead of eating her, they decide to start worshiping her. Why? I'm not really sure, but I'm presuming it's because of the luxurious bleach blonde hair the brown-haired child miraculously manages to sprout later on in the film.
.
Many years after the attack, Jeremy finally recovers from a long bout of temporary amnesia with help from his loyal nurse Ana (Lina Romay) and decides to organize a safari into the jungle to try to locate his now-grown daughter (Sabrina Siani). They, along with wealthy skeptic Charles Fenton (Olivier Mathot), pampered Barbara Shelton (Shirley Knight) and half a dozen other nondescript men and women, then venture into the jungle and end up getting picked off one by one. Though most of the dreadfully dubbed cast are done away with by poison arrow or spear, there are three cannibalism scenes - all of them involving topless women and all of them going on for what seems like an eternity... in slow motion... with the same shots of cannibals pulling out and chewing on organs and the same sounds of moans and slurping noises being repeated over and over again...
.
Trying to come up with a list of all the areas where this fails would far exceed the word limit allowed here, but where it's most inadequate is in the believability department. Some of the best cannibal movies work because they were actually filmed in tropical locales and managed to establish a sense of complete isolation far removed from "civilized" man. Here, the "jungle" looks like some kind of country club where the native vegetation and surroundings are just all wrong. It's hard to believe a cannibal tribe could thrive when there are modern houses with paved sidewalks a hop, skip and a jump away. During one hilarious scene, a couple of cannibals are even seen running down what appears to be a paved road! Speaking of the cannibals, they aren't the least bit believable either. Most are white/European and Spanish actors that have their faces painted in unnaturally bright blue, red and yellow clown colors. The shyer members of the tribe have also somehow managed to acquire some bikini briefs to wear under their loincloths. Siani gets her own specially made thong loincloth, though. I guess they felt she was special since she's just one of two women shown to be in the tribe.
.
As far as cannibal movies go, this one sits at the very bottom of the list next to DEVIL HUNTER (1980; another Franco bomb) and CANNIBAL TERROR (1981). All three came from a hack production company called Eurociné, who were also responsible for two of the worst zombie movies ever made; OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981; again by Franco... see a pattern here?) and ZOMBIE LAKE (1980).
.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...