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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, La (1971)

...aka: Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, The

Directed by:
Emilio P. Miraglia

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Nightbreed (1990)

...aka: Cabal
...aka: Clive Barker's Nightbreed

Directed by:
Clive Barker

Review coming soon.

★★★

Night Angel (1990)

...aka: Deliver Us from Evil
...aka: Hellborn

Directed by:
Dominique Othenin-Girard

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Ultimo treno della notte, L' (1975)

...aka: Don't Ride on Late Night Trains
...aka: Last Stop on the Night Train
...aka: Late Night Trains
...aka: New House on the Left
...aka: Night Train Murders
...aka: Second House on the Left
...aka: Torture Train

Directed by:
Aldo Lado

Review coming soon.

Score: 4 out of 10

Ninth Configuration, The (1979)

...aka: Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane

Directed by:
William Peter Blatty

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Extraño amor de los vampiros, El (1975)

...aka: Night of the Walking Dead
...aka: Noche de los vampiros, La
...aka: Strange Love of the Vampires
...aka: Vampiros también aman, Los

Directed by:
León Klimovsky

A very interesting, though difficult to find, Spanish vampire flick from León Klimovsky; the guy behind such titles as the Paul Naschy vehicle THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN (1970) and the village-full-of-bloodsuckers tale THE VAMPIRE'S NIGHT ORGY (1973), which is similar in many ways to this one. Night of the Walking Dead (whose original release title translates to The Strange Love of the Vampires) starts as a garden variety exploitation-horror before taking a more elegant, sophisticated and romantic turn, and it actually almost pulls it all off. Doctor Patrick ("L. Robled" / Lorenzo Robledo) has just moved to a small village where the superstitious townspeople believe vampirism runs rampant. A young girl named Marian has just died and the doctor thinks it's of natural causes, but is shocked when he attends the funeral and finds part of the ceremony involves driving a stake through her heart. Marian's body eventually turns up missing and her sickly, lonely, sad-eyed sister Catherine (Emma Cohen) seems to think that she'll become the next victim. There's an abandoned castle on a hilltop that's supposedly been vacant for over a century. Local legend has it that it was occupied by gray-haired Count Rudolph van Windberg ("Charles Balest" / Carlos Ballesteros), who allowed a stranded traveler and his two female companions to spend the night one evening, was seduced by one of the women and then was bitten. When he awoke he found his family and servant slaughtered and his guests gone before he himself fled the castle never to return.

One evening while her parents are out of town, Catherine has an uninvited guest. Guess who? Yep, Count Rudolph. He's returned to the village because every so often the local vampire populace will rise from their graves to throw a bloody good party before returning to their crypts by morning. Rudolph seems to fancy Catherine, and she returns his affections. After all, Catherine has just been stabbed in the back by the only man she loved (who is caught cheating and bad-mouthing her) and knows she is dying, so what the hell does she have to lose? So the vampires run around town claiming victims, while Rudolph tries to decide whether or not he actually wants to grant Catherine her wish for immortality.

What does a film like this the most damage (and makes it a bit difficult to assign any kind of rating to) is how it was released. The only English-language version I'm aware of was issued on VHS by a European company called Sunrise Tapes, which is in English but with burnt-in Dutch subs. Unfortunately, their release is way too dark. Nearly every scene taking place at night is difficult to make out. Whoever dubbed the film also did a negligible job and hired some truly awful voice actors. So in my estimation it really says something that the good aspects of the film manage to shine through regardless of the print quality. For starters, the remote village location and art direction are both good, particularly the latter. There are some nice designs on the all-white master bedroom in the castle and the room where the vampire party takes place. Speaking of the party, it's a great scene where Catherine and Rudolph descend the stairs and enter a room decked out in balloons, candelabras, sheets of see-through fabric and celebratory vampires dressed in Victorian era clothing dancing around. There's even a vampire violin player! The film's score is also excellent. Also in the cast are Rafael Hernández, Vicky (Viky) Lussón, "Bartha Barry"/Barta Barri, José Lifante as a vampire, Robert (Roberto) Camardiel and Tota Alba as Catherine's mother.

The film provides enough nudity and blood to please the exploitation fans while also attempting a more mature love story between the "living dead;" a young woman who's already resigned herself to death and a man who's technically already dead. I could easily see my score going up a point if a better version of this ever gets released.

Nightmare Weekend (1986) [filmed in 1982]

Directed by:
H. (Henry) Sala

Even though this film isn't well known, it should be! It's easily one of the worst, yet most hilarious, horror films of the 80s. "You may look innocent, but you're a slut...just like your mother!" That's a snippet of choice dialogue delivered by the evil, ball-busting lady assistant (Debbie Laster) of a famous scientist to her prim maid just before she lures three incredibly dumb college girls to a mansion for behavior modification experiments. Meanwhile, at the local bar, people drink and dance to lame 80s rock songs. A biker punk has sex with a cycle slut on a pinball table in front of a crowd of people, then tries to rape the scientist's virginal daughter Jessica (Debra Hunter), who is in love with another biker (Dale Midkiff, the dad from PET SEMATARY), who, in turn, is in cohorts with the assistant! Back at the house, the sorority bimbos swim, shower, change clothes and have sex with men from the bar. A small silver ball (part of the experiment) flies into victims mouths and turns them into drooling, killer zombies. If that isn't enough to entertain you, there's a hilarious theme song ("Nightmare Fantasy"), roller skating, some serious daisy dukes and a psychic hand puppet (!?) that warns "DANGER! DANGER!" just like the "Lost in Space" robot and recommends hitchhiking as one of the best ways to pick up men (??)

This filmed-in-Florida mess is so mind-numbingly awful that multiple viewings are recommended to soak it all in. And, hey isn't that NYPD Blue's Detective Jill Kirkendall turned CNN newscaster Andrea Thompson as one of the oft-nude bimbos? Sure is! It was also the starting point for both future Hal Hartley favorite Robert John Burke (who also starred in 1992's well-regarded Dust Devil and the Stephen King adaptation Thinner), not to mention B movie regular Karen Mayo Chandler (OUT OF THE DARK). According to people who worked on the film, French and UK backers pulled half the budget at the last minute, the script was rewritten multiple times, much of the crew didn't even speak English and the producers tried to flee the country before paying everyone. Production began in 1982 and new footage was added sometime later for the video release in 1986. Troma now pawns it off on people in cheap sets.

SBIG

Incubo sulla città contaminata (1980)

...aka: City of the Walking Dead
...aka: Invasion by the Atomic Zombies
...aka: Invasión de los zombies atómicos, La
...aka: Nightmare City
...aka: Zombie 3

Directed by:
Umberto Lenzi

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Near Dark (1987)

Directed by:
Kathryn Bigelow

Review coming soon.

★★★

Gli amanti d'oltretomba (1965)

... aka: Faceless Monster, The
... aka: Lovers Beyond the Tomb
... aka: Lovers from Beyond the Tomb
... aka: Nightmare Castle
... aka: Night of the Doomed
... aka: Orgasmo

Directed by:
Mario Caiano

In this interesting, dark and very atmospheric black and white Gothic chiller, Euro horror goddess Barbara Steele again displays her versatility by playing a dual role similar to what she played in Black Sunday (1960). Her first role is that of a manipulative, wealthy and unfaithful woman named Muriel Arrowsmith. Muriel's frequent taunts directed at her scientist husband Stephen (played by Paul Muller) don't go unnoticed. And neither does her affair with the hunky castle stable boy David (Rik Battaglia). When Stephen finds out what's afoot, he chains Muriel and David up, whips them, electrocutes them to death, removes their hearts and seals their corpses in a downstairs crypt. Too bad for him Muriel left all her funds and her large estate to her fragile, mentally unbalanced and very naive sister Jenny (Steele's second role, in a blonde wig). Stephen decides to court and marry Jenny and then plots to drive her crazy for the inheritance with help from a bizarre female accomplice played by Helga Liné, who gives a good performance in an interesting role as an elderly maid whose youth and beauty are restored by blood transfusions administered by Stephen. And did I mention the vengeful ghosts who eventually show up? Well, it's probably better I don't even get into that.

Simply put: If you like Gothic horror, you'll most likely enjoy this movie. The plot is typical of the genre but entertaining nonetheless, the sets are nicely detailed, the score by Ennio Morricone is gorgeous and the whole cast is certainly up to task. Muller is excellent and oozes evil as the murderous husband, Marino Masé (billed as "Laurence Clift") is likable as a compassionate doctor who takes a liking to Jenny. Liné, whose sleek nose and regal demeanor perfectly contrast the more uncommon look of the other female star, proves herself again to be one of the top female talents in Euro-horror. And Steele, well, she basically owns this entire movie with her unusual looks, mannerisms and acting versatility. She's convincing as the terrorized heroine, but I much prefer her cackling with glee, shooting out devilish facial expressions while she plays the piano awaiting her lover to arrive and emerging from the grave looking for revenge; pale, dead-eyed and with hair covering half her burnt face.

The movie opens well and has a great last ten minutes or so, but does sag a bit with a melodramatic, uneven mid-section. My favorite scene, by far, is an outstanding, wonderfully photographed out-of-body nightmare sequence with a painting being flooded with white light, a spinning camera going around an eyeball and a ceiling light and Jenny being led from a coffin into a greenhouse by David, where a figure in an expressionless white mask (hence the alt. title The Faceless Monster) shows up. It's a very cool sequence and reminiscent of silent era German expressionism.

★★

Night Warning (1982)

...aka: Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker
...aka: Evil Protege, The
...aka: Momma's Boy
...aka: Mrs. Lynch
...aka: Nightmare Maker
...aka: Thrilled to Death

Directed by:
William Asher

Mix one part psycho-thriller, one part horror film and one part twisted family drama, and you get this fascinating, thoughtful and unfortunately mostly forgotten film that deserves a decent DVD release (and may actually get one here soon from what I've heard). A young couple leave their 3 year old son Billy in the care of the wife's eccentric, lonely, doting sister Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell) while they go out of town. Thanks to the brakes mysteriously going out, the couple end up dying in a grisly car accident and Cheryl is rewarded sole custody of the child. Fourteen years later, Billy (played by Jimmy McNichol, the brother of Kristy) is now a high school senior with a promising future. He has a sweet, pretty, patient photographer girlfriend (Julia Duffy), he's the star player on the basketball team and he's on his way to winning a scholarship to the University of Colorado. Unfortunately for him, his love-hungry and overly strict spinster aunt isn't quite ready to sever the ties and her reasoning seems a little on the perverse side. Not only does she have a crippling fear of being left alone, but she's in fact gotten a little bit too close to Billy over the years. I mean, on a romantic level. Out of desperation, she unsuccessfully tries to seduce a TV repairman and ends up stabbing the man to death in their kitchen, claiming he tried to rape her. She even gets Billy to lie for her when an investigation begins. The cops aren't buying the story, especially when it's revealed that the victim was gay, and was romantically involved with Billy's basketball coach. This sparks the obsessive interest of extremely homophobic police detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson), who has it in his mind that Billy actually committed the crime.

Cheryl, pretty much off the hook for the first murder because the cops have no solid evidence of what really happened, concentrates her energies back on her nephew, and goes to great lengths to insure his opportunities don't come to fruition. When her emotional outbursts start to drive him further away, she resorts to slipping drugs into his milk, at first to make him destroy his chances at impressing recruiters at an important basketball game, but eventually to keep him sickly enough to where he won't even want to leave his bed. And just wait and see what happens when she really gets backed into a corner! One of the chief reasons this movie works so well is the go-for-broke central performance from the always interesting Tyrrell. It's an extremely well-modulated performance with the actress going from flighty, slightly overbearing and eccentric to full blown psycho over the course of the movie. She does a great job with the quieter, more subtle moments, such as the eerily romantic looks, gentle touches/kisses and baby talk directed toward her nephew, and does equally well when she's completely out of her mind, chops off her hair and is running around outside swinging a machete like a madwoman. I've read some reviews stating that Tyrrell is overacting here, but I completely disagree with that notion. She does go bat-shit crazy eventually, but the whole time she was easing her way into this final state of hysteria. I was very impressive with her work here. I think it's on par with the performances Bette Davis was delivering in the 1960s in her psycho roles. Great stuff.

In addition, the film moves along at a brisk pace, the script is good, the performances (also including Marcia Lewis as a neighbor, Britt Leach as a level-headed police sergeant and Steve Eastin as the basketball coach/gym teacher) are all good and there's a pretty hectic and violent finale, which I thought was a bit overdone, but I can live with it. Another aspect that makes this film stand out is Svenson's character; Det. Carlson. It's made quite clear he has a deep, almost consuming hatred of homosexuals (as well as being casually racist), which is completely clouding his judgment and getting in his way of him being objective about any evidence he has on hand. Some people seem to be perplexed by the finale, but it makes perfect sense when you think about what self-loathing can do to some people.

Named Best Horror Film of 1982 by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror ("Saturn Awards").

★★★1/2

Microwave Massacre (1983) [filmed in 1979]

Directed by:
Wayne Berwick

The late Jackie Vernon (a former Vegas lounge comedian probably best known as the voice of Frosty the Snowman in that kid's holiday special they run every single year) comes off like a poor man's Rodney Dangerfield in the lead role, in part because of the awful and seldom-amusing dialogue. He's Donald, a dullard construction worker who hasn't been laid in fifteen years by his overbearing wanna-be gourmet chef wife May (Claire Ginsberg). One evening Donald stumbles in drunk after a night at the bar, gets in a confrontation with May and ends up strangling her. He chops up her body, wraps her remains in aluminum foil, stores the parts in the freezer and accidentally mixes a piece of her in with the 'regular' meat. After chowing down on a raw hunk that turns out to be his former wife's hand, Donald decides he can't get enough of the taste of human flesh. Even his hardhat buddies Philip (Al Troupe) and Roosevelt (Loren Schein) love the taste. Well, when they aren't being distracted by random buxom women who stick their breasts through convenient breast-sized cutouts on the safety partition. The only problem is that May tasted "old and tough," so now he's in the mood for something a little more "young and tender" if you get my drift. Thus begins a long and seemingly never-ending succession of bosomy bar whores, streetwalkers and even a woman in a chicken suit being lured back to his home for sex and slaughter. They are promptly killed, chopped up and cooked in a silly-looking refrigerator-sized microwave oven in effects scenes utilizing dime-store rubber limbs and mannequin parts that wouldn't even pass muster in an Andy Milligan or Herschell Gordon Lewis film. Quite a bit of bare breastage in this one, too, including a nude woman on a giant slice of foam bread being smeared with globs of mayonnaise. Robert A. Burns (the art director for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Howling, Re-Animator and other noteworthy genre films) has an uncredited cameo as a bum. It was filmed in 1979 but not released until 1983.

Any film that boasts right on the box that it's the "worst horror movie of all time" has a mighty big barrel to scrape. However, it needs to be said that there's a huge difference between accidentally making a film so awful that it's hilarious and intentionally going out of your way to try to do so. Movies like this, with their intentional bad acting, stupid dialogue, awful one-liners and pea brained visual gags, usually lack the charm and humor of films made by people who went in with good intentions but didn't quite have the talent to pull it off. And that's basically what I found to be this film's undoing. The cast obviously know this is moronic and proceed to overact, mug, look at or talk to the camera, do ridiculous double-takes and / or flub lines. As far as the director (who is the son of Irvin Berwick) is concerned, what exactly are you supposed to say? "Wow! That truly was stupid and awful! Congratulations on making your movie so stupid and awful!"

Don't get me wrong, there are many good examples of films that have been able to successfully incorporate some of that wink-wink, nudge-nudge style of self-parody. This just isn't one of them. The supposedly amusing one-liners aren't usually very clever, nor are they funny in a stupid way. The film is also badly paced, sorely lacking in the kind of energy needed for this type of film and grows extremely repetitive and tiresome about midway through. As far as being "the worst horror movie of all time" is concerned... I think this wishes it were the worst. But it's not. It's simply below average wannabe camp. A few moments here and there did actually make me laugh, but films that don't actually try to be juvenile and stupid are more deserving of the title of "worst," not something that wears the fact its awful like a badge of honor from the first frame to the last.

Quite a disappointment I must day, especially since I have fond memories of being just a wee tyke and spotting that cool over-sized VHS box with a decapitated-head-in-a-microwave on it that I was never able to rent. Maybe I would have liked it more back then. You know, when I was six.

1/2

Lost Boys, The (1986)

Directed by:
Joel Schumacher

Newly divorced single mom Dianne Wiest moves her two rebellious sons; teenager Michael (Jason Patric) and younger Sam (Corey Haim), to live with their grandpa (Barnard Hughes) in the quiet ocean side town of Santa Carla. It's not so quiet when Michael gets involved with the wrong crowd; some leather-clad bikers (led by Kiefer Sutherland) who turn out to be murderous vampires (and eternally youthful like the Peter Pan inspired title implies). Meanwhile, Sam strikes up a friendship with a pair of comic book-loving brothers (Corey Feldman as Edgar and Jamison Newlander as Alan) who know the town is infested with vampires and are eventually called in to help exterminate them. Mom also gets herself into a predicament of her own when she starts dating her boss (played by Edward Herrmann), who Sam suspects is also a vampire. It's well-budgeted and flashy, and was very popular during its day; wisely marketed directly toward an 80s teen audiences ("It's fun to be a vampire") just getting into MTV-like stylistics. An immediate sequel was even planned and scripted, but never happened. The good news is that it has aged pretty well over the years and little of the shimmer has diminished. The bad news is that it strives so hard to be hip and witty that much of the actual horror becomes lost in the shuffle, something the bloody finale eventually tries to make up for.

The soundtrack (including the theme song "Cry Little Sister" by Gerard McMann and covers of "People Are Strange" by Echo and the Bunnymen and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" by Roger Daltry) is pretty great. So are the makeup and special effects from Greg Cannom, Steve LaPorte and Ve Neill. Camerawork is effective with stylish cinematography and very good use made of wide angles. The cast is also good. I'm not a big fan of the Corey's, but they are both pretty good here. Wiest is great (as usual), Sutherland is effectively menacing and charismatic as the chief vampire and Hughes (in a role originally intended for John Carradine, who was too ill to play it) all but steals the film as the spirited grandpa. Followed by a terrible direct-to-DVD sequel - LOST BOYS 2: THE TRIBE - in 2008.

★★1/2

Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

...aka: Secret Beneath the Lake, The
...aka: Who Killed Sam Dorker?

Directed by:
John D. Hancock

Review coming soon.

Score: 8 out of 10

Let's Play Dead (1973)

...aka: Abducted
...aka: Come Play with Us
...aka: Girls in Chains
...aka: Schoolgirls in Chains

Directed by:
Donald M. Jones

Two very disturbed brothers kidnap women, take them to their secluded farmhouse and lock them in the basement. They seemingly do it for their sickly mother, who is only seen from behind, sits on a rocking chair and says, "Ah, it's good to have two fine boys!" Johnny (John Stoglin) is the mentally adolescent one in overalls who bounces up and down, likes to be pushed around in a wheelbarrow and, more importantly, likes to play "games". The sick games include doctor (where women are stripped naked, fondled and get a syringe stuck in their ass) and topless leap-frog. John is also a voyeur who watches a young couple have sex, then kidnaps the girl. The other brother is Frank (Gary Kent), who is depressed, impotent and sits around a lot. He seems fairly normal and well-adjusted except during scenes where he rants about his mother, kills and tries to rape a captive. In one scene he relates an outrageous flashback to how his mom drove his fiancé away by telling her that "We make love! We make love like two lovers!". The sickly chained up women in the basement have rats crawling on them while they sleep, are beat, sometimes killed and subjected to the sick "games" of brother Johnny. They're referred to as "pets", "toys" and "playmates" by their captors. Yes, this is totally offensive and misogynistic, but cult movie fans will love the depravity. Stafford Morgan (as "Robert Matthews"), Cheryl Waters (as "Leah Tate"), Merrie Lynn Ross (as "Lynn Ross") and Tim O'Kelly (the killer from TARGETS) round out the cast.

This originally played theaters under the title SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS and was released on VHS at least two times; once as ABDUCTED (by the British company Astra Video) and once in one of those nifty large size VHS display boxes (by World Premiere Video) as LET'S PLAY DEAD. Jones (who also made THE LOVE BUTCHER, THE FOREST and other very low-budget horrors) also scripted and produced, exploitation starlet Maria Lease served as editor and script supervisor, Ronald Víctor García ("Twin Peaks") shot it and star Kent was the production manager. It had slipped into obscurity over the years, until Code Red put out a DVD in 2008 under the title GIRLS IN CHAINS.

★★1/2

Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1971)

...aka: Lady Dracula
...aka: Lemora
...aka: Lemora, the Lady Dracula
...aka: Legendary Curse of Lemora, The

Directed by:
Richard Blackburn

Review coming soon.

Score: 5 out of 10

Lupa mannara, La (1976)

...aka: Daughter of a Werewolf
...aka: Legend of the Wolf Woman, The
...aka: Naked Werewolf Woman
...aka: She-Wolf
...aka: Terror of the She Wolf
...aka: Werewolf Woman
...aka: Wolf Woman, The

Directed by:
Rino Di Silvestro

Review coming soon.

★★

Chôjin densetsu Urotsukidôji (1989)

...aka: Legend of the Overfiend
...aka: Urotsukidôji
...aka: Urotsukidôji I: Legend of the Overfiend
...aka: Wandering Kid, The

Directed by:
Hideki Takayama

Every 3000 years the monstrous “overfiend” emerges to destroy every species in existence so the Earth can start anew. Graphic sex and gore are selling points of this cult classic Japanese anime, which is based on the comic by Toshio Maeda. After awhile it seems like it hops from one crude horror/sex set-piece to another. It gets far too repetitive before the climax finally tries to throw some kindergarten-level message our way. More review coming soon.

★★

Legend of Hell House, The (1973)

Directed by:
John Hough

Review coming soon.

Score: 7 out of 10

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1989)

...aka: Leatherface
...aka: TCM3
...aka: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3

Directed by:
Jeff Burr

Review coming soon.

★★

Last Woman on Earth (1960)

Directed by:
Roger Corman

Review coming soon.

Score: 4 out of 10

Last Horror Film, The (1981)

...aka: Fanatic
...aka: Fanatical Extremes
...aka: Love to Kill
...aka: Maniac 2: Love to Kill

Directed by:
David Winters

Review coming soon.

Score: 4 out of 10

Lair of the White Worm, The (1988)

Directed by:
Ken Russell

Ken Russell was undoubtedly the right person to bring Bram (DRACULA) Stoker's final novel to the big screen. Stoker penned LAIR in 1911, while he was in the throes of Bright’s Disease; a horrible illness whose two chief symptoms are madness and fevered hallucinations. You can imagine how bizarre the book is. The movie is bizarre, too. Things begin in a small town in Scotland. An archeologist (Peter Capaldi) unearths a strange, monstrous skull on the farm of Mary Trent (Sammi Davis) and her sexy virginal sister Eve (Catherine Oxenberg), whose father had just recently disappeared. Meanwhile, various characters unwisely get involved with the evil, seductive, worm-worshipping priestess Sylvia Marsh (an excellent Amanda Donohoe), who has a giant, prehistoric, worm-like creature dwelling inside her gothic castle home. A pre-star (and pre-mumbling, bumbling idiot) Hugh Grant is among those investigating. Russell also adds plenty of comedy and some typically surreal and/or blasphemous nightmare sequences (crucified nuns and such) to this well-made film, but the rampant flashy weirdness (undercut only by some incredibly boring, talky sequences) gets tiresome before the lively finale picks the film back up again. I could go more into plot detail, but it's best to let you take your chances with this one; some will love it and others will hate it, and both will have just cause for their reaction to it.

Score: 6 out of 10

Lunch Meat (1987)

...aka: Cannibales!
...aka: Lunchmeat

Directed by:
Kirk Alex

Here's a Texas Chainsaw-inspired backwoods cannibal cheapie you may have missed the first time around. Shot primarily outdoors, entirely in broad daylight, and with a small cast, the film seems to consist mostly of people running around in the woods and sliding down hills, though there are some fun moments here and there if you like this kind of stuff. Six friends pass through Hollywood on the way to snobby asshole Cary's California vacation home. Cary (Rick Lorentz) and nice guy Frank (Joe Ricciardella) both seem to want to win over the affection of big-haired beauty Roxy (Kim McKamy), but other than that there's a distinct lack of characterization on the victims part. Somewhere along the way, the gang get lost out in the sticks, pull over their jeep to help who they think is an injured guy and are immediately ambushed by cannibal Paw (Elroy Wiese) and his three insane sons, including obese, mentally retarded Benny (Chuck Ellis), who actually looks nothing like the guy on the cover art pictured above. One of the guys has his throat ripped out and one of the girls is decapitated, sending Roxy and Frank scurrying in one direction and Cary and Sue (Patricia Christie) scurrying in another. The rednecks them begin hunting them down, using machetes, hooks and rope to take down their prey.

Nothing spectacular, the bickering cannibal clan grate on the nerves and it gets a little boring and repetitive about midway through, but this still has that pleasantly nostalgiac 80s direct-to-video feel to it that's going to appeal to some people. It's also far from the worst example of its type. The only person who seemed to move on to much else afterward was lead actress McKamy, who started making a name for herself in low-budget horror films (she also starred in DREAMANIAC, CREEPOZOIDS and EVIL LAUGH) before switching to hardcore adult features under the name Ashlyn Gere.

No official DVD release as of yet, though the film is available on some bootleg sites. Believe it or not, a sequel was recently announced.

★★

Luther the Geek (1990)

...aka: Freak, The

Directed by:
Carlton J. Albright

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Last House on the Left, The (1972)

...aka: Grim Company
...aka: Krug and Company
...aka: Night of Vengeance
...aka: Sex Crime of the Century

Directed by:
Wes Craven

Review coming soon.

★★★

Nothing But the Night (1973)

...aka: Devil Night
...aka: Devil's Undead, The
...aka: Resurrection Syndicate, The

Directed by:
Peter Sasdy

Best known as the one and only film from producer Anthony Nelson-Keys and co-star / (uncredited) executive producer Christopher Lee's Charlemagne Productions, this project was intended to usher in a return to serious horror films, but was such a flop it single-handedly killed off the company. Despite that, and despite the fact this generally receives awful reviews, I didn't think it was bad at all. The only survivor of a fiery bus crash that killed everyone else on board, little Mary (Gwyneth Strong) is forced to remember the details of the accident via hypnosis while also getting involved in a bitter custody battle with her crazed mother Anna Harb (Diana Dors in likely her best genre performance), a former criminal and prostitute. Meanwhile, elderly trustees of an orphanage are being murdered one by one. Clues lead back to a large orphanage on a Scottish island, where a secret cult seeks immortality. Colonel Charles Bingham (Lee), pathologist Sir Mark Ashley (Peter Cushing) and a female reporter (an excellent Georgia Brown) team up to uncover and hopefully stop the evil plot. Though a bit meandering and overly complicated, the film does manage to bring it all together during a finale that brings to mind the same one in THE WICKER MAN (1973). The strong cast also includes Michael Gambon as an inspector and Keith Barron, Kathleen Byron and Duncan Lamont as doctors.

Originally released to video in the States by Monterrey under the title The Devil's Undead, but it makes the cable rounds under its original title (also the name of the John Blackburn novel from which it is based). As of this writing, the film has only received a DVD release in Japan, under the title Devil Night.

★★1/2

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

...aka: Nosferatu - fantôme de la nuit
...aka: Nosferatu the Vampyre
...aka: Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night

Directed by:
Werner Herzog

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Nanny, The (1965)

Directed by:
Seth Holt

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Night of the Comet (1984)

...aka: Teenage Mutant Comet Zombies

Directed by:
Thom Eberhardt

End-of-the-world/apocalyptic scare films were big in the early 1980s. There was the Emmy-winning ratings champ THE DAY AFTER and the Oscar-nominated TESTAMENT in 1983, then the BAFTA-winning THREADS in 1984. We were just coming out of a large international wave of zombie films still trying to cash in on the success of DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), and science fiction was still big because of the original STAR WARS series (1977-1983). Combining all three? Not a bad idea at all, and this is not a bad little movie. Because they both managed to spend the night in steel enclosed buildings, Valley Girl sisters Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart), a thoughtful, level-headed and introspective type who works at a movie theater and likes video games, and Samantha (Kelli Maroney), a spoiled, quick-witted cheerleader, manage to survive a passing comet that turns the majority of the Earth's population into piles of orange dust. Everyone else wasn't so lucky. Some have been turned into violent, zombie-like killers. The girls visit the mall (cue "Girls Just Want to Have Fun") and a radio station and eventually run across a guy Hector (Robert Beltran - who had appeared with Woronov in the wonderful EATING RAOUL just two years earlier), as well as some scientists (led by Mary Woronov and Geoffrey Lewis) who promise to help but are actually after fresh blood because they've been infected and will eventually die without it.
.
Director Eberhardt (who had previously made SOLE SURVIVOR, which is said to have been a big influence on the FINAL DESTINATION films) does a commendable job combining genres and infusing what's essentially a grim apocalyptic story with upbeat humor, gets spirited performances from his cast and throws in plenty of in-jokes and nods to B-movies of the past (have fun linking movie posters with various cast members). The film made over four times its 3 million dollar budget on its initial released and is still much-loved by 80s movie afficianados. And it took awhile, but it finally got its well-deserved DVD released in 2007. Sharon Farrell has a funny supporting role as a bitchy stepmother and Michael Bowen (VALLEY GIRL) is also in it. The original title was TEENAGE MUTANT COMET ZOMBIES. It's rated PG-13.

★★1/2

Night of the Creeps (1986)

...aka: Homecoming Night

Directed by:
Fred Dekker

In a black-and-white prologue set in 1958, something falls from the sky and a slug-like alien organism enters a man's mouth, causing him to go crazy and chop up his date with an axe. He's captured, frozen and forgotten. In 1986, some college kids at "Corman University" decide to break into a secluded lab and steal a corpse as part of frat initiation. Guess which corpse they steal? After the body and what is contained within thaws out, the slugs (which breed inside the human brain) are all over the place, flying into people's mouths and turning them into murderous zombies. An extremely dry cop (Tom Atkins, who's great in the role and makes the most of the good one-liners) teams up with three students (unpopular geek Jason Lively, his sarcastic, crippled roommate Steve Marshall and pretty/popular sorority girl Jill Whitlow) to stop them. Dekker's film debut is a smart, lively, scary and funny homage to old B horror films and sci-fi flicks made by someone who obviously knows and loves the genre. There are in-joke character names (most of the characters are named after famous directors [Cronenberg, Romero, etc]; a touch that has gotten old over the years), clips from PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE on a TV set, good special effects, lots of gore and some witty dialogue.

Several members of the KNB Fx group (Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman) get to play frat jock zombies and legendary cult actor Dick Miller has a fun (though brief) cameo as a police armorer named Walter. The cast also includes Allan Kayser (from the "Mama's Family" TV series) as the asshole B.M.O.C., Wally Taylor, Bruce Solomon and Robert Kerman as policemen, Vic Polizos as a coroner, David Paymer as a scientist at the cryogenic's lab and Suzanne Snyder as a sorority girl. THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987) was the next film by the director, who also scripted. As of this writing, despite being popular and having a decent-sized cult following, this film has never been released to DVD and is one of the most anticipated titles for a release.

Score: 7 out of 10

Horror Express (1972)

...aka: Pánico en el Transiberiano
...aka: Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train

Directed by:
Eugenio Martín

Great fun's to be had in this British/Spanish co-production, which might as well be called The Thing From Another World on the Orient Express. Anthropologist Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) discovers an ape-like prehistoric fossil in China circa 1906 that he believes to be the missing link and decides to ship it back to England on the Trans-Siberian Express. Unfortunately for all on board, the "fossil" turns out to be something evil indeed; an intelligent soul-sucking alien creature capable of retaining the memory and knowledge of its victims by simply staring at them. Anyone exposed to the ghoul dies and during autopsies are revealed to have bloodshot ping pong eyeballs and smooth brains (from where their knowledge and memory have been erased). The science is downright silly (viewed under a microscope, fluid from the creature's eye reveals photo captures from its victims' POV), but that really doesn't stop this from being a highly entertaining and sometimes pretty eerie little film. The script is generally well-written and the great international cast includes Peter Cushing as Dr. Wells, Lee's urbane scientific rival, the late Telly Savalas as a crazed Cossack captain, Helga Liné as a sexy stowaway/spy, George Riguad and Silvia Tortosa as a count and his beautiful daughter, Victor Israel as a luggage worker and Julio Peña as an inspector. Strangely though, Alberto de Mendoza all but steals the entire movies as a Rasputin inspired (mad)man of the cloth.

Now in the public domain, HORROR EXPRESS has been released by just about every budget DVD label out there. Most of these prints are actually viewable, but reportedly the two best quality releases are the ones from Cinema Deluxe and Euroshock.

Pointless Trivia Note #45902: Supposedly, the idea for this film came about because producer Bernard Gordon owned the model train used during the production of NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDER (1971). He also re-used both the model train and train interiors for his production of PANCHO VILLA (1972).

★★★

El espanto surge de la tumba (1973)

... aka: Horror from the Tomb
... aka: Horror Rises from the Tomb
... aka: Mark of the Devil 4
... aka: Terrore sorge dalla tomba, Il

Directed by:
Carlos Aured

The dubbing is awful, the story is all over the place and the editing is often choppy in this hard-to-follow, disjointed Spanish horror effort, but Tomb is still entertaining, stylish, fun and has a lot to offer diehard Euro horror buffs. In mid-15th Century France (a time when, as the narrator informs us "superstition and ignorance reigned almighty across the land"), a long procession led by Armand du Marnac (Paul Naschy, who also wrote the script) and Andre Roland (Víctor Alcázar, as "Vic Winner") is strolling along the countryside to a tree where two victims will be executed for indulging in the black arts. In tow is Armand's evil witchcraft-practicing twin brother, Ulric du Marnac (also Naschy, looking rough with wild hair and a beard) and his equally sinister mistress Mabille de Lancré (Helga Liné). Both are accused of drinking human blood, eating human flesh (of both the living and the dead) and sacrificing both women and children. Ulric is decapitated with a sword and it's ordered that his head and body be entombed separately (so his soul will never rest in peace) and Mabille is stripped naked, hung upside down, whipped and killed. Cut to modern-day Spain (Madrid, I think). Rich, skeptical, egotistical businessman Hugo du Marnac (a cleaned-up and shaved Naschy) and his handsome, troubled painter friend Maurice Roland (Alcázar again), both direct descendants of the 1454 executioners, plus their girlfriends, Silvia (Betsabé Ruiz) and Paola (Cristina Suriana), who have no character but do have different hair colors so you don't confuse them, are bored, so they decide to accompany an older couple to a séance.

After visiting the psychic, Maurice begins having odd visions (of Ulric's laughing severed head, his painting bleeding, etc.), so the four friends decide to go to Hugo and Maurice's hometown; a small, secluded lakeside village in the middle of the country, to investigate their family history. In route to the village, they're assaulted by some thieves, but saved by some local hunters, who make goo-goo eyes when Hugo flashes a wad of cash to buy a new car and punish the carjackers by shooting one (then cutting off his ear) and hanging the other right on the spot! Only slightly disturbed by this spectacle, Hugo, Maurice and the girls venture on to the large home of family friend Gaston (Juan Cazalilla), who has two inexplicably sexy daughters, Chantal (Maria José Cantudo) and large-eyed brunette Elvira (Emma Cohen). One thing leads to another and Maurice has another psychic vision that leads him to a locked chest containing the head of Ulric. They're unable to open it right then (they need a blowtorch) and bring it back to the house. That night, some more thieves break in and manage to open it, where Ulric's perfectly-preserved and still-living (!) head possesses a scraggly-looking fellow with a sickle. He chops up both his accomplice and Gaston and takes off into the night... but he'll be back the next night to strip Chantal naked, slash her throat and rip out her heart and to kidnap Paola.

Meanwhile, Hugo and Elvira find time for a little romance, as Maurice and Paola are both turned into mindless slaves for Ulric (who is revived when his head is reunited with his bones) and Mabille (who is also brought back to life when Silvia is sacrificed on top of her corpse). Both ghouls pay Dracula-like nocturnal visits to people in the village, seduce them and then rip their hearts out of their chests. Bloody, white-eyed zombies attack, there's a sacred talisman that can protect whoever has it from being attacked and can also reverse possessions (Maurice is saved after Hugo is surprisingly killed off), and the survivors learn that the only way to defeat the heavies is by using a silver needle and decapitation. Yes… the story is needlessly complicated, but it also has some surprises, plenty of foggy atmosphere, plenty of gore and plenty of female nudity. It also benefits highly from the good cast; particularly Naschy and Line. When watching a dubbed horror film, it's often difficult to gouge the actual performance given, so one must watch the faces closely. While he's not really that interesting as Hugo, Naschy really nails his evil Ulric role and is genuinely eerie enough as the pale-face, mad-eyed, aristocratic warlock to elicit chills. Auburn-haired Liné (who has less screen time than Naschy) is also great as Mabille, who sweeps around in a black, flowing gown while giving off some wonderfully sinister-seductive facial expressions. She slices people open with her fingernails and, in a standout scene, rips open a chest with her bare hand and removes a still-beating heart.

It's important to note that there are lots of cheap prints floating around that don't do this movie justice. The 2 disc DVD release from Crash Cinema is the version you want to watch and it even contains two different prints of the film. The "Clothed Version" is a pretty good-looking wide-screen, re-mastered print with a few problems. First off, almost all of the nudity and some of the gore has been trimmed out. Secondly, a few of the frames have not been cleaned up and are grainy, plus a few scenes have German subtitles. The second version (the "Uncut Version") does not have the fine picture quality, but does restore a lot of the missing nudity (the female cast members all have nude scenes), the most striking scene being Silvia's death. In the cut version she's placed in a coffin fully clothed and stabbed. In the uncut version she's put in the coffin, stripped naked, stabbed, has blood rubbed all over her chest and is then kissed by Naschy. Other restored nude scenes include Line's fully frontal nude seduction of a village boy, a topless Naschy victim, a nude Emma Cohen nocturnal visit and Naschy and Line stripping Paola and caressing her nude body before killing her. The film was obviously shot with alternate footage for different markets across the globe.

★★1/2

Howling, The (1981)

Directed by:
Joe Dante

Review coming soon.

★★★

Regine, Le (1970)

...aka: Delitto del diavolo, Il
...aka: Queens of Evil
...aka: Sorcières du bord du lac, Les

Directed by:
Tonino Cervi

Review coming soon.

Score: 6 out of 10

Experiment in Terror (1962)

...aka: Grip of Fear, The

Directed by:
Blake Edwards

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Soul Snatcher, The (1965)

Directed by:
H.L. Zimmer

Wannabe photographer's model Kathy (Diane Webster) is having a hard time finding a job. She's sick of putting herself "up for exhibition" by showing off her body at auditions that lead nowhere, and as a result has a hard time paying her rent. She does have two understanding roommates, though. One of them ("nudie" movie regular Darlene Bennett) is first seen simultaneously painting a nude portrait and gabbing on the phone, while a fan on the floor between her legs blows up her skirt (?!) Kathy and her roommates attend a party where the painter roomie strips down to a bikini and Kathy pouts in the corner. Magically, a balding, goateed guy wearing heavy eyeliner, rouge and a tux appears out of nowhere. Yep, it's Satan himself, even though he's referred to as "The Stranger" (apparently the big "revelation" at the end was supposed to be a surprise... oops!) He's there to temporarily help out this "lost soul" by granting her wishes. The only condition is that she has to wear a pair of gold high heels at all times (?!) Desperate, Kathy agrees to the bargain. Some time passes and our gullible heroine has become a popular model with an understanding boyfriend named Cary. She should be happy, but everything seems so hollow. In frustration, she takes off the gold shoes and throws them across the floor. "The Stranger" then shows up to inform her that since she broke the contract, she owes him her soul. He disappears yet again and the next time he shows up will be the last we hear of poor Kathy. Yay!

Where to start, where to start... Even though characters move their lips there is no dialogue, which leads me to believe either the sound was lost or that it was shot silent and they planned to dub in the dialogue later. That didn't happen, so the whole film is narrated instead. Said narration is horribly written and monotonous in the extreme... and it never seems to end. Neither does the corny, sleep-inducing elevator music. There's no nudity, it's stupid, badly shot on 16mm and is very boring, with endless scenes of people sitting and or walking around for padding. The only thing even mildly amusing are the inappropriate facial expressions of the leading lady when she's supposed to exit worry and fear. I should point out that I only saw the reduced 30 minute short version that came as an extra on the ASYLUM OF SATAN/SATAN'S CHILDREN double feature. Apparently, the full-length version is 90 minutes! Will I ever watch THE SOUL SNATCHER is all its bloated glory? No. Freaking. Way.

NO STARS!

Straight Jacket (1982) [filmed in 1978]

...aka: Dark Sanity

Directed by:
Martin Green

A friendly insurance salesman (Chuck Jamison) and his recently de-institutionalized alcoholic blonde wife (Kory Clark) move into a new house in Los Angeles. She has bloody visions of an axe murderer and severed body parts lying around the house, but is it all in her head? Turns out that the same house was a former murder site and the killer was never found. Hmmm. This extremely obscure film (not to be confused with the Joan Crawford film Strait-Jacket, which is actually good) includes a slew of ridiculous suspects, including a balding, sweaty gardener who crushes snails in his hand, a nosy neighbor inspired by Ruth Gordon's character in Rosemary's Baby, her fat slob / pervert husband, a guy at a nuthouse and guest star Aldo Ray as a "retired" cop Larry Craig, who had similar visions of the house when he investigated the original murders. There's a pinch of low-budget charm in this rock-bottom budgeted chiller (also out on video as Dark Sanity), but it' slow moving, poorly made and pretty boring for the most part. Some videos say it was made in 1982 or 1987, but the actual production year was 1978. There are rumors that the director and producers skipped town and never paid any of the actors. Seems to be a common occurrence with these low budget regional horrors. Get your money up front, people!

1/2

Slaughterhouse Rock (1987)

...aka: Alcatraz Horror
...aka: Hell Island
...aka: Horror on Alcatraz
...aka: Slaughter House

Directed by:
Dimitri Logothetis

College student Alex Gardner (played by Nicholas Celozzi, who is likely the son of executive producer Nick Celozzi, Sr.) is plagued by nightmares of a cellar-dwelling ghoul at Alcatraz. He dreams of cutting off his own hand, spitting up a worm, a ghoul ripping open his chest and being roasted over an open fire. After his friends see him levitating "6 feet" over his bed, a helpful, occult-obsessed teacher (Donna Denton) suggests that they sneak into Alcatraz to face his fears. Of course they go in the middle of the night when no one is around to help when things get out of hand! The group become stranded, Alex's brother Richard (Tom Reilly) becomes possessed and starts killing everyone. Toni Basil of "Mickey" fame shows up as the helpful ghost of Sammy Mitchell, lead singer of the group "Bodybag". She teaches Alex how to levitate out of his body and does a rock music dance intercut with repeat nightmare footage to pad out the running time. Playboy Playmate Hope Marie Carlton is also on hand to provide some topless nudity. All of the victims show up as wisecracking ghosts a la the Griffin Dunne character in An American Werewolf in London.

The script is full of plot holes, cheesy dialogue and lame attempts at comedy. Decent FX work and cool opening credits (both provided by Ernest D. Farino) are the only things gaining any merit. Basil and Devo ("Whip It") do some songs on the soundtrack. It's one of the least enjoyable of around a dozen heavy metal / hard rock fueled horror efforts to come out during the 80s and early 90s.

1/2

Someone at the Top of the Stairs (1973) (TV)

...aka: Thriller: Someone at the Top of the Stairs

Directed by:
John Sichel

* I've decided to list certain episodes of the six-season British TV series "Thriller" on this website. Two reasons for this 1.) Each entry is feature length; all run between 60 and 80 minutes, and (most importantly) 2.) Many of these entries were released on tape as features. Recently, A&E released a Thriller Season 1 box set. I'm not going to review all of these episodes; just the ones to receive a VHS release before the box set came out. In the UK, only four titles qualify; but in the US fifteen were issued on tape as features/separate video releases. Only two were released in both the US and the UK, which brings the grand total up to seventeen. Some have been re-titled.*

Chrissie Morton (Donna Mills), an American studying abroad, and her Brit friend Gillian (Judy Carne) find a boarding house where the rent is only 24 pounds a month. Both being poor college students, they decide it's too good an offer to pass up and move in together. Strange things being happening. They find newspaper clippings from the 1800s lining a drawer and "Help Me Help Me" written on the inside of their closet door. The owner of the establishment, Mrs. Oxley (Alethea Charlton), seems a little sinister, and the other tenants are so chirpy and bizarre they wouldn't be out of place in Stepford. Everyone smiles, seems friendly, say marvelous a lot and do the same bizarre hand gestures. A cat Chrissie gets for a young boy ends up dead in a trash can the next day and someone is using peep holes to spy on the girls sleeping and taking showers, as well as sneaking into their room to steal their bras and panties. One man (Clifford Parrish) shows up looking for his missing daughter, who was last seen living there. The tenants claim they've never seen her, even though her locket is found in one of the rooms. And who is Mr. C? The oldest tenant in the home never seems to leave his room on the third floor of the house.

Though shot cheaply on videotape, limited to just a few set changes (the house, a cafe and a pub), talky and a little too expository at the end, this is well acted by the entire cast and has an interesting and incident packed script working well with small detail. This episode was released in the UK on VHS by ITC Entertainment and was paired with AN ECHO OF THERESA (called ANATOMY OF TERROR on US video).

Score: 6.5 out of 10
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