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.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mad Mutilator (1983)

... aka: Axe Monster, The
... aka: Ogroff

Directed by:
Norbert Georges Mount

If you're a fan of the horrid 1980 American slasher DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (yes that film does have fans) you might get a kick out of this completely awful French Texas Chainsaw Massacre wanna-be, which is so inept it almost makes DON'T look like a masterpiece by comparison. OGROFF was filmed so cheaply they couldn't even afford sound, so it was all dubbed in later. There's hardly any dialogue, but what they did add is terribly recorded and edited in. People slam car doors, shoot guns and move their lips and nothing is heard. The almost non-stop synthesizer soundtrack even drops out every time a noise is added! Music plays. Music suddenly stops. Scream is inserted. Music starts up again. Music stops. Sound of bird chirping is inserted. Almost the entire movie is like this! Not only is the sound quality abysmal, but every aspect of this film is home movie quality, from scenes going from day to night back to day again, underlit night scenes, overlit day scenes, no scene continuity whatsoever, people who barely react to getting attacked, gratutious cheap/cheesy gore effects, etc. It doesn't make a lick of sense and is basically little more than 90 minutes of bad actors getting chased through the woods and killed. I'm not even sure what Ogroff means. Maybe it means insanely awful. I actually had to look it up. Apparently it's the name of the killer even though I don't remember the name being uttered a single time here.

A couple pull their car over to the side of the road so dad can take a leak. Mom steps outside for a smoke. Their little boy (who looks about eight years old and is decked out in a hot pink outfit!!) runs off into the woods with the dog. A psycho dressed in boots, a toboggan, a fluffy sweater vest and a brown leather mask with some metal studs on it pops out from behind a tree and axes the kid. Then he chops off the dad's head. Mom runs away through the woods, is ignored by a passing car and is then tricked into the clutches of the killer. Well actually, after being chased around in the middle of nowhere she sees the killer walking away from her and basically just runs right up to him! He tries to tie her up. She escapes again, and makes it back to a shack in the woods. Uh oh. It's the killer's home! He gets her again, ties her to a cross with three skulls on it, dismembers her son with a hacksaw right in front of her, takes a bite of the flesh, then cuts out her tongue and feeds it to his dog. Meanwhile, a young woman finds the families abandoned car and goes to the cops. At least, I think she goes to the cops. She actually just walks up a sidewalk, they show a shot of a building reading "Gendarmerie Nationale" and then she's shown walking back toward her car. That same lady goes back to the spot of the abandoned car by herself and then starts walking through the woods for no apparent reason. She finds a dead man hanging from a tree, cuts him down and then realizes the man in actually a zombie (?!) She ties the noose to her bumper and rips its head off. OooooooK...

Just like in the aforementioned DON'T GO IN THE WOODS, random people seem to be doing completely random things in the middle of the woods. Two men sit outside playing chess. One gets axed in the face. The other gets his leg cut off. Their female friend tries to hide in the car but she gets her hand smashed in the door, which is then whacked off with a sledgehammer. The killer goes back home and chops up the tied-up mom with an axe, making her arm fall off. Then he decides to sink the woman's car. We see him pushing the car and suddenly a Matchbox car is seen falling into a puddle. Another woman pulls her car off to the side of the road and goes to open her trunk. The killer suddenly pops out (?!) and axes her. He sticks a knife all the way through a woman kneeling down picking flowers and then licks the knife. He also gets into a hatchet vs. chainsaw duel with a guy, takes the chainsaw from him, cuts off his legs and then guts him. They throw a lot of blood around in this one, but it's cheap, badly done and never convincing.

Anyway, the woman who found the car eventually shows up again. The killer kidnaps her, takes her back home and ties her to a chair. He realizes she looks like a woman in a picture frame I'm assuming is his mother. Then the girl has under-the-covers sex with the psycho and, get this, moves in with him! She even starts cleaning up all the scattered body parts lying around in the front yard. So it's an hour into this mess and it seems like your garden variety talent-free home video, before suddenly pulling the 'we know this is lame so we'll try to be irreverent and campy so people will think our crappy rip-off is a cult movie' routine during the final 20 minutes. Zombie start popping up everywhere, the killer starts riding around on a motorcycle dismembering them and a vampire priest (played by guest star Howard Vernon) shows up at the very end. It's not nearly as good as it may sound. In fact, it's all incredibly boring and annoying. Even a scene of the killer getting pleasure from "stroking" his hatchet is boring and stupid. I kind of liked the music, though. One song sounds like a disco version of the organ tune from Carnival of Souls.

Though never officially released here in the U.S. - We already have plenty of our own cruddy shot-with-a-camcorder "horrors" over here, thank you very much, France! - the film apparently received two VHS releases in Europe. One time it was called Mad Mutilator and the other time it was called Ogroff: The Axe Monster. A DVD-R is also available from Video Screams, and the film can be found on several torrent sites. Still, not many people have shown interest in seeing it (can't say I blame them!) and it only has racked up a measly 8 votes over on IMDb.

NO STARS!

Pretty Poison (1968)

...aka: She Let Him Continue

Directed by:
Noel Black

Dennis Pitt (Anthony Perkins) fantasizes his way through a humdrum existence as factory worker by day and accomplished arsonist by night, but he’s about to learn a true lesson in sociopathic tendencies from an unlikely source; chirpy blonde high school majorette Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld), who turns out to be even more disturbed than he is! This timeless and corrosive black comic thriller toys with our perceptions, our assumptive nature and, especially, our eagerness to reflect on and allude to the notion of small town American ideals that probably never even existed in the first place. In that regard, this can be seen as a precursor to David Lynch's critically acclaimed BLUE VELVET. Perkins and Weld deliver knockout performances, Beverly Garland contributes a great character bit as Sue Ann’s bitchy, ice-cold mother and it’s sharply and insightfully scripted by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. A winner.

★★★1/2

Power, The (1968)

Directed by:
Byron Haskin

A madman with telekinetic powers bumps off characters one by one to conceal a secret. This George Pal production is based on a novel by Frank Robinson. Never officially released to DVD or video. More review coming soon.

★★★

Prey, The (1980)

Directed by:
Edwin Scott Brown

Six teen campers (including former Playgirl centerfold Steve Bond and BLOODY BIRTHDAY star Lori Lethin) are stalked and killed by a deformed psycho. People are offed off in various ways, like sleeping bag strangulation, decapitation, ripped-out throat and falling off a mountain. In between we get enough nature and wildlife footage to put a National Geographic special to shame. It's fairly well photographed (especially shots of the Colorado Rockies) but that doesn't do much other than to help pad out a film that would otherwise be way too short for feature-length status. There's absolutely nothing here to help elevate this above the norm. In fact, calling this the "norm," as in average, is being far too kind. It sucks. Interesting though to find big guy Carel Struycken (Lurch from the 1990s THE ADDAMS FAMILY movie series) and Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester from the original 1960s The Addams Family TV show) in the same movie. The make-up fx are passable, but nothing special. The director is best known for his adult movies (he made the hit IRRESISTIBLE starring Marilyn Chambers). Not released until 1984.

Please Don't Eat Me Mother! (1972)

...aka: Glump
...aka: Hungry Pets
...aka: Please, Not My Mother!
...aka: Sexpot Swingers

Directed by:
Carl Monson

Review coming soon.

Kaibyô Otama-ga-ike (1960)


... aka: Ghost Cat of Otama Pond, The
... aka: Kaibyo Otamaga-Ike

Directed by:
Yoshihiro Ishikawa

Based on the story "Sotoo Tachibana" by director Ishikawa and Jiro Fujishima, this opens with a great shot of the camera pulling back from a foggy marsh to reveal a young couple and then a hissing black cat on a tree branch. Tadahiko (Shôzaburô Date) and Keiko (Noriko Kitazawa), set the be married the following day, become lost in the woods and discover that no matter which direction they walk, they end up back at the same exact spot near a pond. Exhausted, and with both nightfall and and approaching thunderstorm heading their way, the two decide to follow a black cat back to a seemingly-abandoned home where they can spend the night. There, Keiko encounters an old woman (who may be a witch), passes out and comes down with a fever. Tadahiko and Keiko promptly leave, but a visit to a doctor reveals Keiko has the "mark of death" and has been somehow cursed by the cat. After an exorcism, the doctor explains to Tadahiko how the curse came about in the first place, and then we go into flashback mode, which takes up the bulk of the run-time.

The flashback scenes center around a pair of star-crossed lovers; samurai Yachimaru (also Date) and maid Kozaso (also Kitazawa), whose families are sworn enemies. Kozaso's father (Akira Nakamura) is not only abusive and controlling, he's also carrying on a not-too-secret affair with his mistress and has sided with the corrupt village magistrate; arranging for for his daughter to marry the magistrate's brother against her wishes. While Yachimaru is away, Kozaso's father, the magistrate and the magistrate's brother murder his father and grandmother, burn down his home and attempt to rape his sister Akino (Namiji Matsuura), who chooses to kill herself with a hairpin instead of being shamed. Yachimaru returns, learns his entire family is dead and then is murdered himself. Naturally, all the victims return in ghost form to settle the score by tricking those responsible for their murders into killing each other and those around them. So what part does the wronged family's pet kitty Tama play in all this? Best I could make of it is that she serves as the conveyance between the natural world and spirit world.

If you're familiar with Japanese horror of the 50s and 60s, this film doesn't really offer up anything new or different. You can see the same exact characters going through the same murdered-innocents- return-as-vengeance -seeking-ghosts plot in dozens of other films from this time period. The cat angle also isn't anything new. Do a title search and you'll see at least a dozen 'Ghost Cat' films were made in Japan between 1953 and 1968. However, judged as a separate entity or from the viewpoint of someone not familiar with these kind of films, this isn't bad at all. The art direction, camera-work and lighting are all good, and if the script isn't particularly insightful or layered, it's at least competent. I still prefer what I've seen from Nobuo Nakagawa thus far, as his films tend to be better written, paced and acted than this one, but Ishikawa (who wrote several of Nakagawa's films) does a fairly good job orchestrating the action. Cinematographer Kikuzo Kawasaki also does a good job; utilizing brown / muddy earth tones that makes the key supernatural images; a pond full of bright red blood, green-lit ghosts, a black cat's yellow eyes, etc., stand out.

Just like several other Japanese horror films from this period, the amount of violence and actual blood, as well as the body count, far exceed what was going on in horror cinema in most other countries during the same time. This was, after all, made three years before H.G. Lewis created the "first gore film" with Blood Feast, and there are other Japanese movies made years before this one with just as much violence and blood. I'm not saying they're to the extreme of Lewis' films or were designed specifically to be gross like Lewis' films, but this still has lots of the red stuff, slashings, stabbings, grueling prolonged deaths, gashed faces, impalements, burnt corpses and other things that may surprise those used to tamer films from this era.

★★1/2

Greedy Terror (1985) (TV)

...aka: Deadly Pursuit
...aka: Shock Chamber

Directed by:
Steve DiMarco

Review coming soon.

Lycanthropus (1961)

...aka: Bei Vollmond Mord
...aka: Ghoul in a Girl's Dormitory
...aka: Ghoul in School, The
...aka: I Married a Werewolf
...aka: Monster Among the Girls
...aka: Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory

Directed by:
Paolo Heusch

Surprisingly competent and enjoyable little low-budget Austrian/Italian werewolf flick (best known here in the states as WEREWOLF IN A GIRL'S DORMITORY). The stunningly gorgeous Barbara Lass (who was once married to Roman Polanski and then to PEEPING TOM star Carl Boehm!) is Priscilla, one of many young women doing time at a "dormitory" (actually an all-girl juvenile detention center). Priscilla starts getting suspicious when a chum of hers named Mary is found viciously murdered; the wounds inflicted looking strangely beast-like. Turns out Mary had been carrying on affair with a married teacher (Maurice Marsac) and then tried to blackmail him, which may or may not actually have something to do with her death. Add to the mystery a suspiciously stern headmaster (Curt Lowens), newly-arrived science teacher Julian Olcott (Carl Schell), who gets the hots for Priscilla, a female professor (Maureen O'Connor) who may have the hots for Julian and Luciano Pigozzi (credited as "Alan Collins") getting a jump start on his horror career playing the strange Peter Lorre-ish caretaker at the school. It plays out like a mystery with nearly the entire school staff suspect of being the killer. Make-up effects are minor but passable. Though the dubbing is sketchy, the performances aren't too bad. And then there's that great theme song called "The Ghoul in School..."

★★

Wasp Woman, The (1959)

...aka: Bee Girl, The
...aka: Insect Woman, The

Directed by:Roger CormanReview coming soon.

★★1/2

La casa 4 (Witchcraft) (1988)

...aka: Evil Dead 4
...aka: Evil Encounters
...aka: Ghosthouse 2
...aka: Malefiche presenze
...aka: Return of the Exorcist
...aka: Witchcraft
...aka: Witchery

Directed by:
Fabrizio Laurenti

There are many different versions of this one floating around, so make sure you can locate one of the unrated copies, otherwise some gore and one scene of nudity might be missing. Some versions also omit most of the opening sequence and other bits here and there. The cut I saw has the on-screen title WITCHCRAFT: EVIL ENCOUNTERS and was released by Shriek Show, who maintain the original US release title WITCHERY for the DVD release. It's a nice-looking print and seems to have all of the footage, but has some cropping/aspect ratio issues. In Italy, it was released as LA CASA 4 (WITCHCRAFT). The first two LA CASA releases were actually the first two EVIL DEAD films (retitled) and the third LA CASA was another film by the same production company (Filmirage), which is best known here in America as GHOSTHOUSE. To make matters even more confusing, WITCHERY was also released elsewhere as GHOSTHOUSE 2. Except in Germany, where GHOSTHOUSE 2 is actually THE OGRE: DEMONS 3. OK, I better just shut up now. I'm starting to confuse myself!

Regardless of the title, this is a very hit-or-miss horror effort. Some of it is good, some of it isn't. I actually was into this film for the first half or so, but toward the end it became a senseless mess. A large, vacant hotel located on an island about 50 miles from Boston is the setting, as various people get picked off one-by-one by a German- speaking witch (Hildegard Knef). Photographer Gary (David Hasselhoff), who wants to capture "Witch Light," and his virginal writer girlfriend (Leslie Cumming), who is studying witchcraft, are shacking up at the hotel without permission. Along comes real estate agent Jerry (Rick Farnsworth), who's showing off the property to potential buyers Rose (Annie Ross) and Freddie (Robert Champagne) Brooks. Also tagging along are their children; pregnant grown daughter Jane (Linda Blair) and very young son Tommy (Michael Manchester), as well as oversexed architect Linda Sullivan (Catherine Hickland - Hasselhoff's wife at the time). Once everyone is inside, their boat driver is killed (hung) and the boat disappears, so they find themselves trapped and basically at the mercy of the "Lady in Black."

So what can you expect to find here? Plenty of unpleasantries! One of the characters has their lips sewn shut and is then hung upside down in the fireplace and accidentally slow-roasted by the rest of the cast. There's also a crucifixion, witches eating a dead baby, a swordfish through the head, someone set on fire, a possession, a Sesame Street tape recorder, the virgin getting raped by some demon, a guys veins bulging and exploding thanks to voodoo doll pokes and some other stuff. From a technical standpoint, it's a nice-looking film with pretty good cinematography, a decent score and good gore effects. The hotel/island setting is also pretty nice. Blair (particularly at the end) and Ross both seem like they're having fun and Knef is great as the evil witch. Even though people like to ridicule Hasselhoff these days, he's not bad in his role, either.

On the down side, despite all the gore, the film seems somewhat dull and it gets monotonous after about an hour. The supernatural themes are muddled and confusing, too. When characters are being swept into the witches lair to be tortured and killed, the filmmakers unwisely decided to superimpose the screaming actors over some silly looking red spiral vortex effect that looks supremely cheesy. And the witch lair itself is vacant and cheaply designed with unfinished lumber. And while most of the cast is at least decent, a few of the performances (particularly the "actress" who plays Hasselhoff's girlfriend and the kid) are so bad they're constantly distracting.

★★

Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, The (1966)

...aka: Beach Party In a Haunted House
...aka: Bikini Party in a Haunted House
...aka: Girl in the Glass Bikini, The
...aka: Pajama Party in a Haunted House
...aka: Slumber Party in a Haunted House

Directed by:
Don Weis

Originally conceived as another Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello romp (both of whom would later drop out of this project, along with The Supremes), this was both the last Beach Party movie and the only Beach Party movie not set on a beach. The only reason I was even remotely interested in watching this one was for the "guest appearances" from Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. Karloff plays Hiram Stokely, a "corpse" who is awaken in his coffin by "ghost" Cecily (Susan Hart), his former girlfriend who died at a young age while he aged. She informs him that he has just 24 hours to do a good deed so he can spend eternity in heaven with her. As an added bonus, if Hiram is successful then he'll regain his youth. And even better, since Hiram cannot leave his crypt, Cecily will actually do the leg work for him as they communicate through a crystal ball. Hiram decides the good deed should involve making sure the heirs to his estate - Chuck (Tommy Kirk), Lili (Deborah Walley) and Myrtle (Patsy Kelly) - actually receive their inheritance. The problem lies with his crooked attorney Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone) and his "sinister sidekick" J. Sinister Hulk (Jesse White), who conspire to swindle the million dollar estate away from its rightful owners.

The three heirs show up at Hiram's mansion, along with the attorney, and must remain there until midnight for the reading of the will. Myrtle's nephew Bobby (Aron Kincaid) and about a hundred brainless, grinning teens pop by in a bus and head straight for the pool. A band starts playing, Nancy Sinatra starts singing "Geronimo" and suddenly we're suddenly in musical hell as a bunch of rhythm-deficient young folks in bathing suits start bouncing around. Throw in more supporting characters (Quinn O'Hara as Rathbone's daughter, Francis X. Bushman as the groundskeeper, Benny Rubin as an embarrassing chicken truck driver, Harvey Lembeck as a biker, etc.) then was needed, pile on lame "comic" gags and sound effects and pad things out with around a half-dozen lame and (mostly) badly-performed musical numbers and you've basically got this labored and unfunny would-be dark house comedy from AIP. It's always nice to see Karloff and Rathbone - even in something like this - but most of the rest of the cast either annoyingly overacts or mugs, are talent and charisma free (I'm looking at you, Kirk and Walley) or look as if they'd rather be off doing something else. I've not seen many other "Beach Party" films before this one but they were basically little more than thin excuses for mainstream audiences back in the day to watch barely clad teens wiggling around in bathing suits and that's about it.

The opening sequence is wonderfully atmospheric, with lots of fog and a red-cloaked figure walking through a graveyard toward a crypt, but that just goes to show what a waste this really is. The film seems to have had something of a budget. It's colorful, has a big cast, the shooting locations are nice and the cinematography by Stanley Cortez is excellent. Some reviewers might find this campy and enjoyably dated, but sorry to say, I didn't care much for it.

1/2

Amityville II: The Possession (1981)

Directed by:
Damiano Damiani

If you want to see some pretty well-known character actors delivering overwrought performances they should be embarrassed of, then don’t miss this movie! Otherwise, it’s a pretty loud, nasty, boring and unenjoyable prequel to the big AIP hit of 1979, complete with all the expected haunted house clichés. Here, devoutly Catholic dad Anthony Montelli (Burt Young, best known for the ROCKY films) starts berating and beating up his children, dedicated mom Dolores (Rutanya Alda - who actually received a Razzie nod for this film) mopes around like your typical abused housewife and eldest son Sonny (Jack Magner) is contacted by a demon on his Walkman, becomes possessed, develops some bubbly facial lesions, beds his own sister (Diane Franklin) and does us all a favor by blowing holes in his thoroughly obnoxious and stupid Italian-American family with a shotgun at the very end. Sleaze movie staple Andrew Prine has the Rod Steiger role as a man-of-the-cloth trying to warn everyone (in vain, of course) to get the hell outta Dodge. The tone of the whole film is pretty bleak and dreary, and it has some tasteless moments, so that elevates it slightly above the lousy original. Why the hell is that film considered a horror classic again? This one was scripted by Tommy Lee Wallace, (based on the book "Murder in Amityville" by Hans Holzer), who would go on to direct HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982), FRIGHT NIGHT 2 (1988), IT (1990) and others. THE INQUIRY (1987) was the next film (non-genre) for the Italian director.

1/2

Neco z Alenky (1988)

...aka: Alice

Directed by:
Jan Svankmajer

One of Czech director Svankmajer's most popular films, this blending of live action with stop motion animation is an often imaginative, though drab and dramatically uneven, mixed bag "inspired by" (and containing many of the famous/important characters from) the Lewis Carroll children's classic. Wide-eyed Alice (Kristýna Kohoutová) is having a boring day. That is, until she catches sight of the White Rabbit. He's clumsy, noisy and has a little problem with his stuffing coming out of a hole in his belly that he tries to make up for with a steady diet of sawdust. Instead of a rabbit hole, we get a small dresser with a single drawer, as Alice follows the rabbit down into a drab, dirty, mean-spirited netherworld that isn't the least bit magical, beautiful or in any way pleasant. Instead, we get a grungy, claustrophobic world full of hideous, cruel creatures, grime-stained walls and muted, earthy color scheme.
.
Alice floods a room with her own tears, shrinks (well actually turns into a doll) when she drinks a potion and grows when she eats a tart. The White Rabbit turns out to be one mean bastard who, over the course of the film, smacks Alice's hands with a paddle, pummels her with rocks, dishes and pots, heads after her with a pair of scissors and an axe (!) and organizes a posse of skeletal critters (who arrive via a coach being driven by a skeletal jester) to hunt her down. The March Hare is wound up and butters stop watches. The Mad Hatter is controlled by puppet strings and demands "I want a clean cup!" about a dozen times. The Caterpillar is a worm-like sock that crawls through holes it bores into the floor. Animated cards have a sword fight and the Queen of Hearts (also a card) eventually arrives demanding her head.
.
Other odd things occur, the best of which is a bit where a mouse dressed in a sailor suit climbs onto Alice's head, sets up a kettle and begins making soup using her hair to start a fire. A loaf of bread grows nails, eggs hatch skulls, roaches emerge from a tin can, fish-faced guys in powdered wigs deliver an invitation and a piglet cries like a human baby. During the climactic game of croquet, the balls are pin cushions that transform into hedgehogs and the mallets are flamingos that transform into chickens. There's certainly no shortage of imagination here and the crude animation itself is both wonderfully done and wonderfully evocative of what one would envision being a child's nightmare world. The setpieces themselves specifically use props that directly relate to a young girl's life (the dollhouse, the tea set...). Still, there's something a little off about this entire production that keeps it from hitting a bullseye.
.
Could it be the repetitive and utterly pointless close-up shots of Alice's mouth repeating things we've just seen seconds earlier? 100 or so asides ("Sighed the white rabbit." "Thought Alice to herself." "Called the animals." "Screamed the queen." etc. etc.) following nearly every line of dialogue not only constantly remove us from the action but also lessen the intensity. The sound design (glass shattering, metal clanging, babies crying...) is also loud and borderline obnoxious throughout. Now that's I'm thinking about it, perhaps the movie might even be better viewed on mute? The animation and visuals themselves certainly are enough to hold one's attention. The motivation behind why an 'art director' would want to strip the merriment and clever wordplay away from the source material in favor of the ugly and banal (which is about the opposite of what many films based on classic fairy tales have done) doesn't really require comment.
.
★★1/2

Abby (1974)

...aka: Possess My Soul

Directed by:
William Girdler

After The Exorcist (1973) took the world by storm, Warner Bros. became sue happy to try to protect their critical and financial darling from imitators attempting to cash in on the demon possession theme. They filed a lawsuit against the makers of the Italian film Beyond the Door (1974), which was thrown out of court. They also filed one against A.I.P. for Abby. Despite the fact that Abby is actually less similar to the source material than Beyond, the lawsuit this time was successful and the film was yanked from theaters after about a month. Fortunately, the film managed to rake in 4 million dollars during that time on an initial investment of just 200K. Unfortunately, the lawsuit ate up all the profits and the film wasn't seen for years. During its time on the shelf, copyright went into limbo until the (bootleg) company Cinefear decided to release a murky, heavily-damanged 16mm print of the film on VHS. It was the first time the movie was available on a home viewing format, but Cinefear has really done a disservice with their DVD release, issuing an obvious tape-to-disc transfer that they claim has been remastered and cleaned up, though it looks no different than their scratchy VHS release. In 2007, the film was released by a second company called Televista on a double bill with the German Exorcist copy Devil's Female (1974). I haven't had a chance to check their copy yet, but one hopes it's an improvement.

While doing archeological research in Africa, Bishop Garnet Williams (Blacula star William Marshall) unleashes an evil sex demon named Eschu. The demon then decides to get back at Garnet by heading straight to Louisville, Kentucky and possessing his daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed), a happy church choir singer and marriage counselor. Abby slowly goes from prim and proper to lascivious, foul-mouthed and sex obsessed. She starts mutilating her body, speaks in a deep male voice, drools white foam, barks out hilariously vulgar comments, exerts super-human strength by flinging people around, makes an elderly woman have a heart attack by slapping her and eventually starts seducing and killing men at a local nightclub. Upon hearing the bad news, Garnet immediately returns from Africa and teams up with Abby's reverend husband Emmet (Terry Carter) and her detective brother Cass (Austin Stoker) to try to save Abby's soul. Also with Juanita Moore as Abby's mother and Girdler film regular Charles Kissinger as a doctor.

It's a pretty fun and entertaining film (regardless of the horrid print quality); well-acted by the leads and sometimes hilarious... especially when possessed Abby dishes out sex advice to her husband and a pair of newlyweds. Instead of full-fledged demon makeup, we get some eye contacts and chapped lips and flashes of a demon face. Speed (who is very animated in the lead role) also gets to perform her own song during a church scene.

★★1/2

Ice House, The (1978) (TV)

...aka: Ghost Story for Christmas: The Ice House

Directed by:
Derek Lister

Eighth and final entry in the British "Ghost Story for Christmas" series that ran on BBC around Christmastime every year from 1971 to 1978, It runs just 35 minutes, is the only entry that wasn't directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark and, like the previous years STIGMA, is set in contemporary times and wasn't based on a literary classic but instead on an original concept written specifically for the series. Paul (John Stride - who played Lee Remick's shrink in THE OMEN) attends an upscale vacation resort with a health spa and gym. Out back in the garden, there's an ice house covered with strange vines and two overwhelmingly fragrant flowers (one white, one red). The near-catatonic behavior of some of the other guests raises suspicions in Paul, as does masseur Bob's (David Beames) request for help getting away from the resort before he disappears. The unnaturally polite and proper resort owners - Jessica (Elizabeth Romilly) and Clovis (Geoffrey Burridge) - claim to be siblings but may not actually be, seem to be paying extra special attention to their new guest and keep mentioning how their advertisements will appeal only to a certain kind of person... The only common link to guests and workers alike is that everyone seems to have freezing cold hands.

If you want a cut-and-dry answer to know why Paul was seemingly lured there, who the resort owners are, what the resort owners want, what has happened to the other guests or what significance the flowers and ice house have, then you're out of luck with this very ambiguous tale. It's likely to be polarizing. I'd understand why one viewer may like while another wouldn't. Much is suggested or left to the imagination, which is something likely to appeal to fans of the other tales in this series, though this one isn't particularly scary or frightening, just a bit eerie instead.

★★

Ataque de los muertos sin ojos, El (1973)

...aka: Attack of the Blind Dead
...aka: Blind Dead 2
...aka: Mark of the Devil 5
...aka: Night of the Blind Dead
...aka: Return of the Blind Dead
...aka: Return of the Evil Dead

Directed by:
Amando de Ossorio

I've said it once and I'll say it again - Without the ghouls there's precious little else to recommend about most of the 'Blind Dead' series. Sure there's some atmosphere to be had and some lightweight fun if you approach these films with low expectations, but there's also that continual feeling that they could have (and should have) been so much better than they actually are. This one opens with a brief pre-credits sequence showing what those pesky Templar Knights were up to before becoming musty and undead; drinking the fresh warm blood of a female sacrifice. They're hunted down by angry townspeople a la FRANKENSTEIN, tied up and have their eyes burnt out with torches, which totally contradicts what we were told in the first film. One hisses "We are immortal!" and promises to come back some day to destroy everyone in the village. The Templars in their zombie knight form; lumbering, hooded bags of bones who shuffle about at an incredibly lethargic rate, aren't only slow when it comes to moving about. They're also slow arriving to get their revenge, as it takes them about five hundred years. But they've picked a mighty good time for it; during the village's annual centennial celebration. While everyone's dancing, drinking, eating, burning Templar dummies and setting off fireworks, the ghouls are quietly crawling out of their tombs, saddling up their zombie horses and making sure their swords are sharpened for their descent on the town.






It's a standard, but enjoyable set-up. Watching the Templar's chasing people around on their horses and entering the very busy city square and immediately starting to hack up everyone in sight is a fun concept. Like I said, though, it's not done in a way to make it as fun and effective as it could have been, which I blame on a combination of uninspired direction, piss poor editing and a general lacking of red stuff. When I see a massacre I expect to see a massacre, not some badly choreographed scenes of people frantically running around and falling over. Some guys eventually jump in with pitchforks to try to fight them but come to the conclusion that it's pointless fighting with reanimated corpses. Those who survive that battle unsuccessfully try to flee town, but end up barricading themselves inside a church instead for the remainder of the movie, making this switch gears and become a second rate rehash of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Well, except it's not chilling or compelling, and the principals continue to do the most boneheaded things imaginable.






Characters trapped inside include American fireworks expert Jack (Tony Kendall) and his old flame Vivian (Esperanza Roy), who find time to rekindle their romance while everyone around them is getting slaughtered. There's also Mayor Duncan (Fernando Sancho), a jack-ass who tricks an idiot into going outside to get the car at one point, and his silver-haired assistant Howard (Frank Braña), who is obsessed with Vivian and attempts to rape her. And who could forget voyeuristic village idiot Murdo (José Canalejas), whose attempts to warn everyone earlier fell on deaf ears? And beautiful blonde Monica (Loreta Tovar), who was crafty enough to manage to escape from the Knights earlier on, but dumb enough to stick her head out a hole where someone was decapitated about five seconds earlier. There's also married couple Burt (Ramón Lillo) and Amalia (Lone Fleming), and last but not least, their little girl Nancy, who gives Cathy in BEAKS: THE MOVIE a run for her money when it comes to doing stupid little kid things that end up getting other people killed. At the very end of the film, Jack notes, "The legend of the Templar's says that they return to their graves by dawn." Maybe if he would have thrown that bit of trivia out a little earlier in the film everyone wouldn't have died by doing stupid things to try to escape. They were just fine where they were and the zombies never once tried to go inside the church. I know, I know, I know. It's just silly, escapist entertainment after all, but these things still annoy the piss outta me!







Putting common sense and general annoyance aside, this one comes in around average for me. The zombies sure do look great, the cinematography is decent (Anchor Bay's DVD release seems to have the best picture quality), the use of slow motion during the horse riding sequences is clever, stylish and eerie and there are a couple of OK gore fx (including one pretty good decapitation and a very well done hand-getting-chopped-off). Other aspects are fair (the performances) to below average (the script). The series seem to have a decent sized cult following, but after seeing three out of four of these I sure ain't jumpin' on the Blind Dead bandwagon anytime soon.

★★

Night Visitor (1989)

...aka: Never Cry Devil

Directed by:
Rupert Hitzig

High school student Billy Colton (Derek Rydall), living at home with single mom Brooke Bundy, develops a crush on sexy new next door neighbor Lisa (Shannon Tweed). Meanwhile, a hooded Satanist serial killer is offing prostitutes. The killer turns out to be an asshole high school science teacher (Allen Garfield), Lisa turns out to be a hooker and, because he has a history of lying and being a trouble-maker, no one believes Billy when he witnesses her getting killed. He finally convinces a cynical former detective (Elliott Gould) and a couple of his friends (Teresa Vander Woude, who is secretly in love with our hero, and Scott Fults, the nerdy third-wheel) to help. Michael J. Pollard is his usual weird ass self as Garfield's goofy Satanist brother, Richard Roundtree is the investigating police chief and Teri Weigel (who, like Tweed, started her career in the pages of Playboy magazine) gets some practice for her later descent into porn by playing a kidnapped topless hooker kept prisoner in the basement of Garfield's home. There's also a supremely cheesy teen love montage (complete with a matching groan-inducing ballad) and the horror music score is one of the most annoying, loud and overbearing Omen-type chanting scores imaginable.

Horror fans will probably be disappointed with a half-assed script that bounces from drippy teen romantic melodrama to high school comedy and back to horror with too much regularity; the latter being partially ruined when the aforementioned grating music is played. However, it's reasonably well acted (what a fantastic B-movie cast, huh?) and has a couple of good scenes and ideas.

★★

Nekromantik (1987)

Directed by:
Jörg Buttgereit

Even though there are hundreds of more graphic movies on the market, Nekromantik is still going to be very strong stuff to the majority of casual horror fans. The big difference between this one and the others is its availability. While most 'extreme' titles will forever remain in obscurity, only to be traded around between sick-movie devotees on dupe tapes and bootleg DVD-R's, this one has actually had several official releases on video and DVD. This not only makes it one of the sickest genre films widely available, but also ensures it a strong cult following and a reputation as one of the ultimate gross-out films. There's no doubting that by conventional standards this is about as repulsive and perverse as it gets. There's ample reason to condemn this film, yet at the same there's reason to defend it because it's effective, visually interesting and achieves exactly what it sets out to achieve. My mixed feelings aside, I'm giving it a positive score because on its own sick terms its a success. Rob (Daktari Lorenz) works days cleaning dead bodies up from fatal car crashes on the Autobahn, develops a sick fascination with death and collects body parts and internal organs which he stores in mason jars back at his cramped apartment. In order to spice up a rocky relationship with his equally disturbed necro girlfriend (Beatrice M), he brings home a rotten corpse for a ménage-a-trois, which backfires when she decides she prefers the, uh, stiff to him!

The grainy, low-budget photography adds to the oppressive, suffocating atmosphere and there is certainly enough depravity to go around, including one of the most twisted and memorable endings in horror history. Plus, a real rabbit is killed and skinned, a cat is fake killed (at least I hope it's fake), there are some mildly interesting arty indulgences and loads of full (often unappealing) nudity from both sexes. Film Threat was the first to release a subtitled and unrated (would certainly be X) version here in America and also handled distribution of the 1991 sequel; with both titles eventually being distributed on DVD by Barrel Entertainment. A documentary about this film's production called Corpse Fucking Art was also released.

★★1/2

La maldición de la bestia (1975)

... aka: Curse of the Beast, The
... aka: Hall of the Mountain King
... aka: Night of the Howling Beast
... aka: Werewolf
... aka: Werewolf and the Yeti, The
... aka: Werewolf vs. the Yeti, The

Directed by:
Miguel Iglesias

If you can pass up a film titled The Werewolf and the Yeti then you are a stronger man than I. An expedition in the Himalayas disappears, leaving behind a camera with photos of a Yeti (aka Abominable Snowman) on it. Despite tragedy befalling the other group, Professor Lacombe (Josep Castillo Escalona) decides to organize a follow-up expedition because he wants to locate the famed elusive beast and make "the most important anthropological discovery of the century." Also coming along for the trip are his daughter Sylvia (Grace Mills), anthropologist and psychologist Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy - who also scripted under his real name Jacinto Molina), Larry Talbot (Gil Vidal), Melody (Verónica Miriel), Norman (Juan Velilla), Ralph (Ventura Oller) and some locals. Once in Tibet, Waldemar hires guide Joel (Victor Irsael), who knows his way through the mountains, to get a head start on his colleagues. They become lost in the snowy mountains, Joel disappears and Waldemar takes refuge in a large cave. Inside are two barely-dressed women who (awkward threesome alert) seduce him and then reveal themselves to be cannibal vampire witches. Waldemar manages to kill them both, but not before being bit by one of them. He wanders outside where there's a full moon, falls to the ground and time lapses into a hairy werewolf with pearly white fangs. Not sure how vampires can turn someone into a werewolf, but I guess there's no point in over-analyzing.

Back at the home camp, the Professor and company decide to go looking for Waldemar. Would-be rapist Norman has his throat ripped out that night right after trying to assault Sylvia. The next day everyone is ambushed by bandits working for Sekkar (not Chaka) Khan, who manage to gun down Larry, Ralph and nearly everyone else except for the Professor and Melody, who they kidnap, and Sylvia, who manages to run off into the woods. Poor Sylvia is almost raped a second time by some other bandits, but Waldemar comes to the rescue and kills them. He and Sylvia then stumble upon a monk who knows how to cure the curse placed upon Waldemar by mixing a magical plant with the "blood of a young woman." Before they can get that far, they're tracked down by Sekkar (Luis Induni) and his henchmen and brought back to a temple. Said temple comes complete with a large torture chamber, cells where victims are chained to the wall and a pit of spikes. Also there is an evil witch named Wandesa (Silvia Solar), who is trying to cure Sekkar's skin affliction by giving him skin grafts from unwilling donors.

It's all a perfectly fine juvenile horror / adventure with some scenic outdoor locations, good sets, a fast pace and decent cinematography by by Tomàs Pladevall, complete with colorfully lit (purple, red, blue, orange) interiors. Unfortunately the film has yet to be remastered for an English-language release, so the DVD's available are simply taken directly from VHS masters and are a bit worn and too dark. However, there's certainly still enough blood, action, nudity and various crazy hi-jinks to make this worth watching. Both the Werewolf and the Yeti and Night of the Howling Beast versions are mostly complete, though the print titled Hall of the Mountain King (what the hell is that even supposed to mean?) reportedly has as much as seven minutes (mostly sex and violence, of course!) removed.

And before I sign off, I must express some slight disappointment in the Yeti aspect of this film. The Yeti only appears at the very beginning and very end and probably has about 3 minutes of total screen time. The werewolf and yeti do indeed meet and do get into a fight, but those scenes are brief and it's not even the best part of the movie, though it certainly should have been.

★★1/2

My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1987)

... aka: I Was a Teenage Vampire
... aka: Teenage Vampire

Directed by:
Jimmy Huston

Seldom talked about by horror fans and horror historians (and rightfully so), this belongs in the company of Teen Wolf, Teen Witch, My Mom's a Werewolf, The Invisible Kid (I can't go on!) and others as the late 80s reemergence of tame horror comedies marketed toward a teen audience. Hey, it happened once before in the late 1950s, spearheaded by the success of I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, and since Ronald Reagan was in office and this country was starting to regress back to "decent morals" and "family values" territory once again, it only seems fitting. While this isn't much, it's easily one of the best of the bunch thanks to an amiable lead performance from likable Robert Sean Leonard (one year before getting some critical attention for the syrupy melodrama Dead Poet's Society) and some amusing mugging from a solid supporting cast (Rene Auberjonois, David Warner and Paul Willson are especially funny). If being a teenager wasn't hard enough, young Jeremy Capello (Leonard) also has to cope with his newly acquired vampire traits after being bit by a sexy bloodsucker (played by Cecilia Peck, the daughter of Gregory). It's all harmless, silly comedy for the kiddies who should probably be watching stuff like this instead of movies like Friday the 13th. I didn't, and look how I turned out.

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS fans keep your eyes peeled for Mimi (now Amelia) Kinkade, who can be spotted in a bar.

★★
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