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.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eglima sto Kavouri (1974)

...aka: Death Kiss
...aka: He Murdered His Wife
...aka: Rape Killer, The

Directed by:
Kostas Karagiannis

Similar in many ways to Italian gialli (particularly the 1975 title THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN), this Greek horror-thriller is worth checking out. Jim Preston (Lakis Komninos, as "Larry Daniels") has just gotten married to the older Helen (played by an Angie Dickinson look-a-like who goes by the probably-fake name of Dorothy Moore). Since Helen has a load of money and runs her own business and Jim's just a meager oil rig worker handsome enough to get whatever woman he wants, you can guess where this thing's headed. Yep, it's another of those kill-her-for-her-will tales where the greedy people get just what's coming to them in the end. However, this one has enough violence and sex, and enough interesting twists and turns in the storyline to keep it surprisingly watchable throughout. A little far-fetched at times, for sure, but it's not boring. A big part of that has to do with Mike ("Angelo Cilento"/Vagelis Seilinos), a sadistic, drug-addicted sex maniac, who chloroforms, rapes and murders women. The actor who plays Mike is very convincing in the role.

Anyway, Jim strikes up a deal with the psycho. He'll give him Helen to do as he pleases with (as long as she ends up dead) in exchange for part of the inheritance. To keep the cops off his tail, Jim also allows Mike to shoot him in a non-fatal way (the psycho also decides to give him a few whacks over the head with a rock when he's out cold just for fun!) to make it look like he'd also been attacked. Thinking he needs some added insurance since Jim is a less than savory character, Mike drugs, kidnaps and murders a woman who looks exactly like Helen (and is played by the same actress). He substitutes her body for Helen's corpse, and keeps Helen prisoner in the cellar of his home until he gets what Jim promised him. Adding extra complications are a doctor friend of Helen's, who's in love with her and aids the police in finding her, and Jim's blonde mistress Laura (Jane Paterson), who's sick of being treated like his whore.

There's a load of female nudity, some sex, some rape, some violence, a nightmare sequence, a flashback and a long and gratuitous "Lord of the Dance" style sequence at a restaurant. I liked it for the most part. The director, who made around 130 films (!) in Greece before his death in 1993, also made the terrible LAND OF THE MINOTAUR (1976).

★★1/2

Graveyard Shift (1990)

...aka: Stephen King's Graveyard Shift

Directed by:
Ralph S. Singleton

Based on a short story by Stephen King, this dark, dreary misfire is one of the worst of the King adaptations, though I'd take it any day over MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1985), THE LANGOLIERS (1995) or THE TOMMY- KNOCKERS (1993). Bland hunk David Andrews stars as a drifter who likes to keep to himself and starts the late shift at Bachman Mills, a grimy textile factory headed over by sleazeball boss (an over-the-top Stephen Macht). The basement work crew start falling prey to a giant rat monster that lurks undergound. Real rats are all over the place too, to clean up the bodies. The gore effects are mostly top-notch, the sets are good and there's plenty of violence and action, but this movie is still one big unpleasant cliché thanks to poor direction and scripting (by John Esposito), plus uneven performances. Everyone yells and screams a lot, but Kelly Wolf (as a tough female worker who can hold her own) and Brad Dourif (appearing in a small role as a 'Nam vet pest exterminator named Tucker Cleveland) are the only two who bring any spark to their roles. The director wisely went on to production jobs after this. With Andrew Divoff (the evil djinn from the first two WISHMASTER films), Richard France (from Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD) and Vic Polizos (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS).

1/2

Notte al cimitero, Una (1987)

...aka: Brivido giallo - Una notte al cimitero
...aka: Graveyard Disturbance
...aka: Gruft, Die
...aka: Outre-tombe

Directed by:
Lamberto Bava

After pulling off a supermarket job (stealing... candy bars???) and busting through a police barricade, five teens - hunky Robin (Gregory Lech Thaddeus), pretty Mikki (Beatrice Ring), her brother David (Karl Zinny), brainy Tina (Lea Martino) and their getaway driver Johnny (Gianmarco Tognazzi) end up passing through a thick blanket of fog and from then on out find themselves lost in the middle of nowhere. After getting their van stuck trying to drive over a creek, they grab their camping gear and decide to hike to the nearest town by foot. As night falls, they stumble upon a huge crumbling church where they decide to spend the night and also discover a spooky tavern located on the other side, go in and find it populated by a bunch of strange, ghoulish people with red glowing eyes. The deformed tavern keeper (Lino Salemme) promises them a treasure if they're able to survive the night in an underground catacomb of crypts located beneath the church, and like all moronic horror movie teenagers, the five take up the challenge. Yeah, like allowing yourselves to be locked up in a dark, spooky place by creepy and, from all indications, inhuman strangers is ever going to have a good outcome...

So after cracking a lame American Werewolf in London joke, down below they go, finding themselves even more lost than they were before in an Escher-style maze of staircases, ladders and various tombs and crypts. Other than encountering the expected cobwebs, gravestones, coffins, spiders and rats, there are also zombies, an animated eyeball, some kind of large wolf creature and a skull-faced Grim Reaper complete with a scythe he never uses. Unfortunately, the zombies never come off in a threatening way and are used mostly for pathetically unfunny and completely out-of-place comic scenes (such as when a male zombie grabs a female zombies boob and she slaps him) and the werewolf itself is never once shown. Boo! In fact, this entire movie, which I believe was made for Italian TV, is virtually gore free.

On the plus side, the art direction and sets are (surprisingly) quite good, and mix that with the cinematography, score and liberal use of a fog machine, and the film manages to be fairly atmospheric at times. I found myself really enjoying the first half, but soon after the teens enter the crypt, the film becomes annoying, repetitive and even more illogical than it already was. After encountering various creatures, I seriously doubt you'd be giggling, cracking jokes or even lying down to take a nap if you only have to survive until dawn. The characters are extremely annoying and do consistently stupid things, the dialogue and English-dubbing are both terrible and the tone uneasily fluctuates between being jokey to wanting to be taken seriously. A senseless twist ending drives the final nail in the coffin, relegating this potentially good film to failed opportunity status. And do they really serve Miller Beer in hell? I always kind of figured it would be Milwaukee's Best.

★★

Gate, The (1987)

Directed by:
Tibor Takács

Excellent and imaginative stop-motion monsters are really the sole point of interest in this otherwise forgettable Canadian horror film. Curious kid Glen (a very young Stephen Dorff, in his film debut) and his nerdy buddy Terry (Louis Tripp) accidentally open the gates of hell in their suburban backyard after playing a heavy metal record backwards (groan) and reciting a demonic chant (double groan). Soon some creatures come crawling out of the ground and terrorize both of them and Dorff's babysitting teen sister Al (Christa Denton). You don't care about the stupid plot once the monsters show up, though it takes some patience to get to all the good stuff. THE GATE was an unexpected box office hit (the PG-13 rating likely helped), so the director (who also did the memorable - and much better - I, MADMAN next) got to make a sequel in 1989.

★★

Gremlins (1984)

Directed by:
Joe Dante

It’s more comic horror from director Joe Dante (PIRANHA and THE HOWLING) and executive producer Steven Spielberg (JAWS, of course). Everyone who was a child of the 80s knows the plot... Fumbling inventor Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) purchases a extremely cute, lovable and furry "mogwai" from Chinatown and gives it to his son Billy (Zach Galligan) as a Christmas present. When three rules (avoid bright light, don't get wet and don't feed after midnight) are ignored, the docile critter spawns vicious, evil, green, slimy, scaly monsters that terrorize and kill denizens of the picture-postcard small town right out of Norman Rockwell. Phoebe Cates is a bank employee who tells a very morbid story (for a kids movie, anyway) about her dad falling down the chimney on Christmas Eve and breaking his neck to add to the holiday spirit. Axton is great fun toying around with his botched inventions and Frances Lee McCain, as his wife, is involved in some of the more memorably nasty sequences when she freaks out and kills Gremlins using a blender and a microwave oven. Polly Holliday (the sassy diner waitress Flo from the Alice TV series) is great as crotchety old bitch Mrs. Deagle and also has the best death scene. Dick Miller is hilarious as a war vet neighbor who gets run over by a snow plow.
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Also in the stellar supporting cast are Scott Brady as the town sheriff, Keye Luke as the wise shopkeeper, Jackie Joseph (Audrey from the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) as Miller's wife, Corey Feldman (who'd just faced off against Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER) as a neighborhood kid, Belinda Balaski (from Dante's THE HOWLING), Glynn Turman, Judge Reinhold as a jerk bank employee, Kenneth Tobey (who is uncredited) as a gas station worker who gets one of the dad's smokeless ashtrays, as well as Spielberg and Robbie the Robot in brief cameos. Chris Walas did the excellent special effects, Jerry Goldsmith scored and Howie Mandel is the voice of Gizmo. This was a huge moneymaker, raking in over 148 million domestic gross during its initial theatrical release, and up until the mid-90s was listed as one of the top five highest-grossing horror films of all time (it's now just outside the top ten).
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Followed by GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990), which was nearly as good but was a box-office disappointment, and countless low-grade imitations (GHOULIES, CRITTERS and MUNCHIES to name a few) that were mostly made for the video market. GREMLINS should, and probably will, remain a holiday classic for many of us.

★★★1/2

Spasms (1981)

...aka: Death Bite

Directed by:
William Fruet

Review coming soon.

★★

Shanks (1974)

Directed by:
William Castle

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Strange Invaders (1983)

Directed by:
Michael Laughlin

Here’s a surprisingly enjoyable, fast-paced and good-natured comic spin on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (or any one of a dozen or so other 1950s science fiction films), whose sense of humor only enhances, and does not get in the way of, the alien-invasion story. In the small town of Centerville, Illinois, a race of big-eyed, lizard-faced, green-blooded aliens have taken over the appearance of the entire populace. The comic catch is, that they've been there since the 1950s and are stuck there in both mannerism and appearance, having not caved in to the peer pressure of cultural advancement. With their mission about complete after a 25-year placement, the race plan to head back to their home planet in a couple of days. In New York City, a college entomology professor (Paul Le Mat) discovers his ex-wife (Diane Scarwid) is actually one of those aliens and their young daughter is half-alien and destined to join the rest of her extended extraterrestrial family in space. Nancy Allen is a chain-smoking tabloid reporter who becomes an alien target for using a picture of a real alien in her article Strange Invaders. She teams up with Le Mat and a silver-haired fella hiding out as a mental patient (Michael Lerner) to infiltrate the town and rescue the daughter when she's kidnapped.
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50s sci-fi star Kenneth Tobey has one of his more notable (and sizable) roles of the 1980s as the main alien. He disguises himself as an unfriendly rooming house owner, but is able to suck victims dry by twisting his hand (the bodies shrivel up and their souls spill out in the form of glowing, floating spheres). Also along for the fun are Louise Fletcher as head of a government agency who (surprise!) actually know about the aliens and help hide their presence on Earth, Fiona Lewis, who shows up on an assassination mission dressed as the Avon lady, Wallace Shawn in a bit, June Lockhart as Le Mat's mom, Charles Lane, Dey Young and Mark Goddard. Many of them (including Fletcher and Lewis) were also in Laughlin's equally fun - but ignored - horror-comedy DEAD KIDS (1981; aka STRANGE BEHAVIOR). The casting of Lockhart and Goddard is obviously meant to bring to mind Lost in Space.
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STRANGE INVADERS has spirited acting, fun nods to science fiction classics past and present, the right visual look and very good make-up design and visual effects. There are several ingenious ideas in the uneven, but generally entertaining, screenplay by Laughlin and Bill Condon. Worth a look.
★★★

Shock Waves (1975)

...aka: Almost Human
...aka: Death Corps

Directed by:
Ken Wiederhorn

A boat with various vacationing characters on board ends up being damaged after a run-in with a ghost ship, forcing the survivors to make their way to a small, seemingly unpopulated island. There they find both an abandoned mansion and who they believe to be the island's sole occupant (Peter Cushing), but having adequate shelter is the last thing on their mind when members of their group start disappearing or turning up dead. As it turns out, Cushing is actually a former SS Commander who was part of a top secret German experiment thirty years ago (during WWII) whose chief objective was to create unstoppable zombie soldiers. The undead soldiers - pale, wrinkly, blonde-haired and decked out in goggles - don't require food or oxygen, can stay submerged underwater for however long they need, are nearly impossible to kill and have only one purpose - to kill. Now they have all the fodder they need.
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This movie terrified a lot of kids back in the 70s and I think it holds up pretty well today. The violence and gore are very tame by today's standards (it was originally rated PG) and the very slow pace isn't going to be to everyone's liking, but the zombies themselves are scary looking and scenes of them emerging from the water CARNIVAL OF SOULS-style still deliver the creepy goods. The tropical island atmosphere is a nice backdrop and putting the characters far away from civilization helps to establish a feeling of hopelessness i.e. you can't kill these things, and you can't get away from them, so what are you really supposed to do?
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The always-likable Brooke Adams (from the INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS remake) has one of her first lead roles here. Luke Halpin (from Flipper) has a major role, as well. Cushing is a bit underused, though, and doesn't even show up until later in the film and John Carradine is pretty much wasted as the ship's captain, who's one of the first to be killed off. Alan Ormsby did the minor, though effective, zombie designs and future director Fred Olen Ray receives a still photography credit. A couple of awful Eurotrash zombie movies - OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981) and ZOMBIE LAKE (1980) specifically - would later reuse the 'zombie soldier' theme. Director Wiederhorn also made RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, PART 2, which had more violence and gore, but less chills.

★★1/2

Demons of the Mind (1971)

...aka: Blood Evil
...aka: Blood Will Have Blood
...aka: Nightmare on Terror

Directed by:
Peter Sykes

Haunted by memories of driving his wife insane, mad Baron Zorn (Robert Hardy) is obsessed with the "heritage of disorder" that he thinks might afflict his two grown children, Elisabeth (Gillian Hills) and Emil (Shane Briant, in his film debut), whom he keeps locked up in his beautiful Bavarian castle home, searching for a "cure." With the help of bald manservant Klaas (Kenneth J. Warren, who played similar in several other Hammer productions) and stern aunt Hilda (Yvonne Mitchell), he drains their blood to keep them weak, forbids them to see each other (there's incest involved) and ignores the expert opinions of a doctor (played by one of my all-time favorite character actors Patrick Magee). Meanwhile, there's a rapist/murderer on the loose terrorizing a quaint neighboring village. This psychological horror story is a fine deviation from Hammer's cycle of monster movies, highlighted by excellent period costumes and sets (especially the castle) and Christopher Wicking's provocative, complex screenplay (which resembles V.C. Andrews' later novel Flowers in the Attic). Only the finale, with a mob of torch-carrying villagers hunting Hardy down a la Frankenstein, really detracts from this well above par production. Filmed in 1971, this was released the following year on a double-bill with TOWER OF EVIL (1972).

There were numerous casting problems that plagued this production. The Baron role was turned down by both Paul Scofield and James Mason before Eric Porter signed on to play it. He also backed out to take the lead role in HANDS OF THE RIPPER (also a very good film) instead and was eventually replaced by Hardy, who admittedly overdoes it a little bit here. The role of Elisabeth also had to be recast after Marianne Faithful dropped out.

★★★

Destroyer (1988)

...aka: Edison Effect, The
...aka: Shadow of Death

Directed by:
Robert Kirk

A closed-down prison is the setting for this above average shocker (pun intended) about an executed mass murderer (muscleman Lyle Alzado) returning from the dead to kill off the cast and crew of a low budget movie shooting in the same prison he met a electrifying demise (ok, I'll stop now) years earlier. Deborah Foreman (WAXWORK) is her usual fun and enthusiastic self as our tomboy stuntwoman heroine and Anthony Perkins seems to have a blast as the harried director of "Death House Dolls," the women-in-prison exploitation movie in question. Alzado (who passed away in 1992) attacks his role with gusto, and manages to make his character alternately campy and menacing. It's an entertaining thriller, the film-within-a-film format is used well and there are good performances, a few clever murders and several good electric chair scenes to keep your interest. The video box it comes in though is ridiculous, and usually ended up in the action section of video stores. Also in the cast are 80s heartthrob Clayton Rohner (who had already appeared with Foreman in APRIL FOOL'S DAY) and Jim Turner. It's not on DVD yet, but certainly deserves to be.

★★1/2

Don't Go in the Woods (1981)

... aka: Don't Go in the Woods... Alone!
... aka: Forest 2, The

Directed by:
James Bryan

Is this some kind of bad joke? That's what I'm still trying to figure out after watching this annoying and hopelessly inept mess; easily one of the worst American slasher flicks from the busy early 80s. It's hard to tell whether it's accidentally terrible or the filmmakers went out of their way to make it as bad as possible. Even though it's against my better judgment having seen several of the director's other films (Lady Street Fighter, anyone?), I'm tempted to think it was all on purpose. Just listen to the dialogue and the irritating, whiny, dubbed over voices. They couldn't possibly be serious, could they? I'm still not sure. All I know is that I'd personally rather watch a terrible film that was made by people with good intentions than one that was horribly done on purpose. There's just something really snide and cynical about doing that. Either way, this is terrible regardless of the original intention, so I guess you could say they met their goal if indeed that was their goal. Congratulations, I guess... The entire 82 minute run time seems to consist of three things. 1.) shots of trees 2.) shots of people running around and 3.) shots of people getting killed. The editing is terrible, it's full of continuity errors and the sound seems post synch, as if they couldn't afford sound and had to dub it all in later (and boy did they chose the most nasally and annoying voice actors ever). There's some blood and the body count is relatively high. The photography and Utah locations aren't bad either; apparently the director had also worked for National Geographic in the '60s. Still, it's hard to appreciate the good stuff when every other filmmaking sin occurs before your very eyes.

Almost every scene is set up the same way. Miscellaneous shots of the forest (mainly trees, mountain tops, streams and a waterfall), followed by shots of people walking around in the woods, followed by the obligatory "someone's watching you" POV shot and capped off with the murder. There's no attention paid to developing tension and even less attention paid to trying to build any kind of suspense. Just a random series of people entering the woods and getting killed. The killer is a fat, grungy, spear-chucking mountain man dressed in animal furs and wearing some strange beaded headdress that goes around his face. He growls, stares wide-eyed at the camera and has no motivation whatsoever for killing. Just your run of the mill boogeyman, but that's expected for one of these movies. There's no attempt at characterization for anyone else either; it only loosely follows four people; two guys and two girls, the latter both sporting butch haircuts. As they goof off and hike around aimlessly, other people (mostly a bunch of middle-aged Dick and Jane's dressed up like tourists) show up just long enough to get killed. Arms are chopped off, heads are chopped off, people are impaled or knocked off rock ledges, a woman's van exploded after being pushed down a steep embankment and (best of all) a guy gets a bear trap to the face. So if all you want a senseless succession of murder scenes done with little talent or imagination, this may do the trick.

Code Red went all out with their 20th Anniversary DVD release, though. There's an excellent featurette with interviews from most of the cast and crew, a poster and still gallery, a talk show appearance and two commentary tracks; one with director Bryan by himself, and one with Bryan, female star Mary Gail Artz (who went on to become one of the top independent casting agents in Hollywood) and fan Deron Miller (from the band CKY), who also provides an intro for the movie.

NO STARS!

Don't Mess With My Sister (1985)

...aka: American Junkyard
...aka: Family and Honor

Directed by:
Meri Zarchi

The director of the notorious I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) returns with a... New York-set romantic dramedy meets urban revenge flick? Yep, strange as it sounds, this effort is usually categorized as horror, but it actually has very little content that could be classified as a genre picture aside from a few violent moments. Even more surprising is that this is a much better film than I Spit. The acting, writing and direction are all superior to that film and it even has echoes of early Scorsese.

★★1/2

Die Marquise von Sade (1976)

... aka: Bildnis der Doriana Gray, Das
... aka: Dirty Dracula
... aka: Doriana Grey
... aka: Marquise de Sade
... aka: Portrait de Doriana Gray, Le
... aka: Portrait of Doriana Gray, The

Directed by:
Jesus Franco

Spoiled lesbian millionairess Doriana Grey (Lina Romay) lives a secluded, lonely existence in a huge chateau, with only her mute servant Ziros (Raymond Hardy) - who had his tongue removed - to keep her company. A women's lib journalist from New York (Monica Swinn), doing an article on "extraordinary women," shows up wanting to learn more about the mysterious Lady Grey and can't help but be put under the spell of her hostesses seductive charms (I guess she's into chicks who are sullen and hopelessly self-absorbed). Meanwhile, Doriana's insane identical twin sister (also played by Romay, of course) is kept locked away in a sanitarium where she spends the majority of her time engaging in frenzied masturbation sessions and trying to seduce people with not-so-subtle come-on lines such as "I have a valley as deep as the village well and breasts you can crack eggs on." Doriana reveals that she and her twin were actually born conjoined, but were separated soon after at birth and in the process, she lost her sexual sensitivity, while her sister lost her mind. The two also share some kind of link with one another; with the insane sister receiving all of the sexual pleasure and the other reduced to sucking the life force out of male and female victims during sex (which was about the same storyline Franco used for FEMALE VAMPIRE).

It's essentially an artsy, indulgent, explicit play on Oscar Wilde's famous horror story The Picture of Dorian Gray. Where the original story featured a man who never seemed to age while a portrait of him did, this one features a woman who can't achieve sexual pleasure while her double can. The film utilizes lots of voice-over narration to tell its story (pretentiously waxing poetic about the pitfalls of beauty and such) and runs the gamut from being boring to being unintentionally hilarious to being strangely intoxicating. It's also full of the director's trademark "style," which includes gratuitous shots of people walking directly into the camera, zooms back and forth on nearly everything (sailboats, plants, etc.), out-of-focus shots, filming the same things from different camera angles, etc. While the sex is hardcore, it's not exactly erotic. Franco really seems to do better with softer erotica, as his use of over-lighting and extreme, gynecological-level close-up shots seem to wring every last ounce of potential eroticism from his explicit sex scenes. Does anyone really want to see hair follicles and razor stubble? Then again, just because a film has graphic sex doesn't mean it was ever even intended to be erotic, which seems to be the case here. The sex scenes range from uncomfortable to labored to clinical. Though people are frequently having sex, they don't normally seem to be enjoying it. And the ones who do seem to be enjoying it are really only being set-up to have their, uh, juices drained.

Romay spends basically the entire film naked, and when she's clothed it's usually in a sheer pink dress that leaves nothing to the imagination. In a way, she's essentially playing her Irina character from Female Vampire all over again; a moody, depressed young woman who seems tired of her boring life. For what it's worth, her performance here is better than her more famous portrayal of the vampiress Irina. The rest of the cast is full of familiar faces from other Franco films, and they deserve some credit for saying their silly lines with a straight face. There's also an appearance from the Dr. Orloff character (he runs the clinic). Pretty good music score from Walter Baumgartner, including some sitar music, and the quality of the cinematography is excellent for an adult feature. With Peggy Markoff (Women Without Innocence) and Martine Stedil (Barbed Wire Dolls).

★★

Drive-In Madness (1987)

...aka: Screen Scaries

Directed by:
Tim Ferrante

James Karen (who mentions his appearances in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER and POLTERGEIST) narrates this 82-minute documentary, which centers around drive-in style exploitation and horror features of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Included are many coming attractions, brief interviews with eight genre luminaries who share their own drive-in memories and talk about their careers, concession stand commercials and some 50s-style new footage shot at a drive-in. Linnea Quigley (Mr. Karen's co-star in THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) describes her early work on sexploitation films, the unexpected controversy of SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT and how awful the prosthetic makeups were for Return. After a preview for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, John A. Russo and Russell Streiner discuss the film, its budget and its impact. Later they discuss their ultra rare sex comedy THE BOOBY HATCH (1976), complete with clips and a trailer, and a trailer for Russo's MIDNIGHT (1981) is also shown.
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Bobbie Bresee gives us a brief history of drive-ins and talks about how they're being replaced by late night TV and video. She also talks about her first lead role in MAUSOLEUM (1981), her appearance in GHOULIES (1984) followed by a trailer for that film and her then-new starring role in DEADLY STING (which would eventually be released as EVIL SPAWN), complete with behind-the-scenes footage from that film.
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Next up is an "intermission," which is basically a valentine to Samuel M. Sherman's crucial drive-in supplier Independent International Films. Throughout this documentary we gets loads of trailers for films distributed through his company. In fact, nearly everything Al Adamson ever directed gets some face time, from the very successful biker opus SATAN'S SADISTS (1969) to DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (which they say was originally called Blood Freaks and then The Blood Seekers) to GIRLS FOR RENT ("What you see on the screen in Girls for Rent is actually happening in the United States today! It was too hot to tell before, but now the lid is off!") We get coming attractions for HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS, BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR, NURSE SHERRI, BLAZING STEWARDESSES, etc., as well as some of Independent International's foreign acquisitions, such as FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR (1968) and HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN (1972). Sherman himself is interviewed, talks about how the company came to be, his work with Adamson, trying to hunt down Angelo Rossitto and shows us the Frankenstein mask used in DvsF.
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Forrest J. Ackerman ("Greetings from Horrorwood Karloffornia!") pops in next to talk to us from inside his Ackermansion. He mostly talks about acting role in DvsF and having to do his own stunt with a broken arm. George A. Romero and Tom Savini are next up and discuss Pitssburgh area drive-ins and again say home video will destroy it all (when this was made only 2000 drive-in theaters remained... as of 2007 there were less than 500). Savini talks about how he was influenced by the Lon Chaney bio THE MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES (1957). Romero discusses his change-of-pace romantic drama THERE'S ALWAYS VANILLA (1971) and how it was doomed to failure because the original distributor botched the release by only opening it in a couple of theaters.
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Drive-in trailers for the 4-hour "Blood-O-Rama Shock Festival," the early mondo movie MACABRO (1958), DON'T OPEN THE WINDOW, VAMPYRES (1974) and others are shown. There also double feature trailers for THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS / MUTINY IN OUTER SPACE, a black-and-white one for DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS and PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (where an announcer promises free vampire fangs for boys and zombie eyes for girls who attend!) and BLOOD BATH / QUEEN OF BLOOD ("She turned the Milky Way into a galaxy of gore!") There are also trailers for then-recent Empire/Wizard releases such as TROLL, DEADTIME STORIES, FROM BEYOND, PSYCHOS IN LOVE and others.
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Released on several separate occasions under two different titles. The listed title is the full length version, which was released on DVD by Sub Rosa Studios in 2008. The second version is titled SCREEN SCARIES, which was released to VHS only and has been reduced down to just 40 minutes.
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★★1/2

Driller Killer, The (1979)

Directed by:
Abel Ferrara

Review coming soon.

1/2

Die Sister, Die! (1972)

...aka: Companion, The

Directed by:
Randall Hood

Really a nice little surprise we have here, despite the little attention it was given and the mediocre to bad reviews I've read pretty much everywhere. Edith Atwater is the very troubled Amanda Price, a depressed, repressed old spinster who has just attempted her second unsuccessful suicide ("I'm alive... Oh damn!"), but was saved in the nick of time by the family doctor (Kent Taylor). It turns out that Amanda has an even worse enemy than herself to deal with; as her outwardly caring sibling Edward (Jack Ging) is conspiring against her in a big way. While at a bar, Ed meets Esther (Antoinette Bower), a desperate, discredited nurse now working as a waitress, who had been cheated out of a load of money when her 90-year-old sugar daddy died. Edward offers her 25,000 dollars to 'keep Amanda company' (i.e. speed along her death so he can get the inheritance) in a large mansion home full of locked cupboards and doors. Once Esther is hired on as the nurse, she inadvertently starts to appreciate and enjoy the company of the eccentric Amanda, and refuses to continue conspiring against her. But by the time she has a change of heart, she discovers that there's more than one skeleton in this families closet…and one of them is behind a cracked wall in the basement!

The screenplay (by Tony Sawyer, from a William Hersey story) has its share of unexpected twists and turns and most of the acting (especially the amusingly self-deprecating Atwater) is very good. There's also an effectively nasty flashback (which I won't spoil, but it's actually pretty shocking) and a great nightmare sequence involving birds, incest, severed limbs and a decapitation! If you don't mind slower paced thrillers, you can do much worse than this one.

★★1/2

Odio a mi cuerpo (1974)

...aka: I Hate My Body
...aka: Super Sexy Vamp

Directed by:
León Klimovsky

What the heck is this? The ad art proudly proclaims it's "the sexual horror story of our time!" but to me it seemed more like The Mary Tyler Show meets Frankenstein! Combining elements of basically every genre under the sun, plus a heavy dose of man-hate and dueling sexual identities makes this bizarre, amusing and hard-to-find Chilean/ Spanish/ Swiss comedy/ sci-fi/ horror/ drama well worth the search. I've actually liked everything I've seen from director León Klimovsky so far, and this may well be his most interesting concoction yet. The first 20 minutes are an unintentional comedy goldmine, due in no part to the horrendous dubbing. A playboy engineer and his swinger best friend's wife leave a disco drunk and end up getting in one of the most hilarious car accidents I've ever seen in a film as their car very gently bumps into a wall and then suddenly explodes! Both corpses are rushed off to a hospital where the guy in charge turns out to be a former Nazi who wants to apply what he learned working in concentration camps (!) to his new specimens. Thankfully the fresh corpse of a beautiful young woman named Lita Schmidt has arrived at around the same time as the car crash victims. The mad doc decides to stick the male engineer's brain into Lita's body. This leads to a power struggle between the male and female components of the new creation as he/she tries to adapt to the real world. So basically you have a man's mind trapped inside a woman's body type of set-up. I guess I'll refer to this new being as a "he" so this doesn't get even more confusing than it already is.

After Lita (played by the gorgeous Alexandra Bastedo) realizes he is basically being held prisoner in the hospital, he starts a fire, kills the doctor and then escapes and tries to reclaim his life. Lita first tries to return to the lucrative engineering job but finds the sexist boss now refuses to take him seriously, despite having all the right qualifications for the position, simply because he's now in a female's body. Lita is then forced to walk in the woman's shoes and seek less fulfilling jobs as a secretary, factory worker and at a seedy dance club where the women are expected to "entertain" the male customers. Unfortunately, Lita discovers that oversexed men are ruining all of her opportunities along the way. As we all know, men can just never keep their dirty paws off of hot women, and the men in power in this film are always trying to grope and molest poor Lita. When he doesn't cave in to their advances, he's promptly fired. The lack of employment eventually leads him to a life of crime, where he tries to blackmail his former wife into giving him half of the 1 million dollar insurance policy she collected upon his passing. Hey, it's only fair to be able to collect on your own death, right?

Though the role is primarily played by Bastedo, during the "romantic" moments the director cleverly cuts the male actor who played the engineer into the action, so the visual is of two men kissing and pawing each other. No wonder this wasn't distributed very well! On the flip side, whenever Lita tries to get intimate with a woman, the female half kicks in and makes her equally repulsed and disinterested in that person. Bastedo (who some may remember from THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE or the Tyburn film THE GHOUL) looks very striking with her short haircut and traditionally masculine outfits (though the character also wears wigs and dresses to appear more feminine, depending on the job) and also gives a great performance here. The film is heavy-handed and obvious at times, plus the feminist elements are poorly dated (were things really ever this bad for women?), but there are plenty of laughs to be had here (many of them intentional), some pretty nasty scenes and even some surprisingly thoughtful and insightful moments commenting on the male/female power play, as well as a surprisingly tragic ending I didn't see coming in all. The whole film is extremely entertaining, fairly original, a lot of fun and manages to easily hold your interest throughout.

To my knowledge, the only time this was released in America was on VHS in 1994 (from Something Weird Video). Though the print quality of their video is watchable, this really deserves to be picked up by another company and put on DVD. It has huge potential for a cult following.
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The cast includes Luis Ciges (from the director's VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES), Gemma Cuervo, Manuel de Blas (from the director's VAMPIRE'S NIGHT ORGY), Blanca Estrada, Narciso Ibáñez Menta, Eva León, American actor and director Byron Mabe, Maria Silva and Manuel Zarzo.

★★★

In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro (1984)

Directed by:
Raju Patel

In Kenya (where this was filmed) a drought has driven “90,000” baboons to desperate measures, leading them to attack, kill and consume human victims. Supposedly based on true incident that occured there sometime in the early 80s. The baboons are great and the attack scenes sometimes pack a gory punch, but the acting, dialogue, editing and characterization leave a lot to be desired. John Rhys-Davies and Timothy Bottoms star, along with Irene Miracle (Argento's INFERNO), Michele Carey (the daughter of Macdonald) and Calvin Jung.

★★

Tras el cristal (1987)

...aka: In a Glass Cage

Directed by:
Agustí Villaronga

A former Nazi doctor (played by Günter Meisner), who tortured and sexually molested young boys in a concentration camp, is confined in his home to an iron lung. One of his victims (David Sust) shows up for revenge. This was banned in several countries and has been called one of the most disturbing movies ever made. It's beautifully made, very well acted (especially by Sust) and thought provoking. Not released in America until 1992. I'll do a more in-depth view when I get a chance.

★★★1/2

I'm Dangerous Tonight (1990) (TV)

Directed by:
Tobe Hooper

Review coming soon.

★★

House of Wax (1953)

...aka: Wax Works, The

Directed by:
André De Toth

Review coming soon.

★★★

Inseminoid (1981)

...aka: Horror Planet

Directed by:
Norman J. Warren

Male and female scientists set up a research lab on a distant planet and encounter a giant, bug-eyed alien monster. It kills several people, rapes Judy Geeson and disappears, but the horrors are just beginning. Geeson becomes a hard-to-kill, hysterical madwoman with super strength who kills for blood to feed the alien's mutant offspring, which she's now carrying. This British ALIEN clone is often inept and entirely contrived, but not completely without entertainment value. Special effects are mediocre, but it's bloody, fast-paced and there's a great electric score from John Scott. Geeson is excellent in a role that requires a hell of a lot of merciless ranting and screaming. With Stephanie Beacham, Jennifer Ashley and Victoria Tennant. It was written by special effects artist Nick Maley, who worked on makeup fx on the original Superman and Star Wars films, and his wife, actress Gloria Maley (SATAN'S SLAVE).
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HORROR PLANET refers to the original U.S. release of the film, which was cut for both theaters and video. The title INSEMINOID refers to the uncut, letterboxed DVD and cable version.

★★

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

...aka: Blood Angel
...aka: Day of the Woman
...aka: I Hate Your Guts
...aka: Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill

Directed by:
Meir Zarchi

When I was in elementary school, I distinctly remember certain students daring others to watch this film. I never got to see it back then, but watching it as adult (after having already seen many better-made films of this type) left me unimpressed. Maybe if I'd seen it at a younger age, it would have had more of a lasting impact on me? Camille Keaton (the great niece of Buster who'd previously been in some Italian horror films) stars as Jennifer, a writer on vacation at a secluded lakeside cabin. Four jerks show up, taunt her, harass her, attack her, beat her and rape her. All bloody and bruised, she crawls back toward her house, but when she gets there the same guys are waiting for her, and it's round two. They beat her up really badly this time and leave her for dead. Two weeks later, the still very much alive Jennifer recovers and plots to get her revenge. And boy does she ever! One of the attackers (a retarded guy) is seduced, then hung. The most famous death is the repulsive bathtub castration scene. The two others get it too (by a hatchet to the back and outboard motor to the stomach). And that's basically all she wrote.
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You may be asking why I give this socially irredeemable movie any stars. Because, well, it's does an effective job of making the audience feel as victimized and dirty as our "heroine." Whether or not you want to feel that way is up to you. The film isn't particularly well made, there's almost no background music and some of the acting is terrible. Most videos are unrated or X (running 102 minutes), but an R rated cut (running 98 minutes) was also released. DON'T MESS WITH MY SISTER! (1985) was next up for the director.
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A "sequel" (I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, TOO) was actually a no-budget camcorder-shot movie looking to cash-in. Donald Farmer's SAVAGE VENGEANCE (which was filmed in 1989 but not released until 1993) was also announced as a sequel and featured Keaton playing a character named Jennifer who also kills rapists. It was part of a video series called "I Will Dance on Your Grave" that also included the films CANNIBAL HOOKERS (1987), KILLING SPREE (1987) and W.A.R.: WOMEN AGAINST RAPE (1987).

1/2

It (1990) (TV)

...aka: Stephen King's It

Directed by:
Tommy Lee Wallace

An evil, shape-shifting clown named Pennywise (Tim Curry, who does an excellent job) terrorizes rural Maine kids in this umpteenth version of a Stephen King novel shown originally in two parts on ABC. The first part with the kids is actually compelling and scary, though the second, with the adults returning "30 years later" to face their fears again, is weak by comparison. Warner Bros. initially released the R-rated video to single and double tapes. It was shot in Vancouver, Canada by the director of FRIGHT NIGHT 2 and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. More review coming soon.

★★1/2

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

...aka: Blood Suckers
...aka: Phobia
...aka: State Farm

Directed by:
David Durston

Rabies-infected hippies go on a killing spree. Originally played on a memorable cannibalism double bill with the boring b/w zombie movie I EAT YOUR SKIN (aka ZOMBIES). Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Highway to Hell (1990)

Directed by:
Ate de Jong

Review coming soon.

★★

Haunting of Morella, The (1989)

Directed by:
Jim Wynorski

Review coming soon.

★★

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

...aka: Hellraiser II

Directed by:
Tony Randel

Review coming soon.

★★

Haunts (1977)

...aka: Veil, The

Directed by:
Herb Freed

Basically here we have an obscure, almost completely forgotten, poorly distributed and unfairly maligned low-budget regional horror film. Though the version I viewed, one of the "50 Chilling Classics" from Mill Creek Entertainment, is a seriously washed out print, this is a very interesting, and ultimately transfixing, backwoods psychological horror film and one of the few films on the entire collection that would be worth the trouble of re-mastering if you ask me. Unfortunately, it's been misleadingly packaged in the past and people wanting to see the obvious sex and violence the box promised were disappointed and the bad word of mouth spread... So let this be a warning - If you only want gore, exploitation, jump scares and nudity in your horror film, this is not your movie. 'Haunts' is a grim, slow, psychological profile along the lines of REPULSION with Swedish actress May Britt (who was briefly in the spotlight during the 1950s) as Ingrid Swenson, a lonely, frigid, religious farm girl who is generally liked by the townspeople, sings in the church choir, spends much of her time tending to her farm animals and avoids contact with members of the opposite sex. In her small town, women are being sexually assaulted and murdered (with scissors) by a masked killer and she becomes one of the main suspects when a victim's body turns up in her chicken coop. In the meantime, we get the occasional quickly-edited insight into Ingrid's very screwed up childhood. But has her traumatic past turned her into a vicious killer? Things are decidedly not what they seem here.

Cameron Mitchell, as Ingrid's elusive uncle Carl who is visiting from out of town and "keeps to himself a lot," Aldo Ray as the friendly town sheriff, William Gray Espy as the neighborhood butcher (and town stud) and others filter in and out and make for an interesting line-up of suspects. The acting is generally good and the story (conceived by the director and Anne Marisse) holds many surprises, plot twists and unexpected sick edges. Though it's flawed in spots, it emerges as a quietly disturbing and sometimes oddly moving film, aided immeasurably to Britt's strong, sympathetic, complex lead performance and Pino Donaggio's haunting score. There's also a long and surprising exposition at the end that is fairly well thought out. Now only if we could get a better-looking/sounding version of the film.

★★★

Haunting, The (1963)

Directed by:
Robert Wise

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Directed by:
Dominique Othenin-Girard

Michael (played by Donald L. Shanks this time) is back for more of the same, still after his young niece (Danielle Harris), who this time has ESP powers and senses when he's about to kill; going into some kind of epileptic fit each time he does. When Michael starts to target some of her teenaged friends, Donald Pleasence returns, still ranting and raving and camping it up in his inimitable style, to put a stop to the killing spree. Ellie Cornell (as cousin Rachel) and Beau Starr (the sheriff) return from the previous entry, The director does a fairly good job adding some stylish touches to the works and, again, it's a technically well-made, well-budgeted slasher movie... But we've already seen this stuff a hundred times before so there's really no need to discuss it any great detail here.

★★

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Directed by:
Dwight H. Little

Unstoppable killer Michael Myers returns (after sitting out the completely unrelated HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH) to kill off his young niece Jamie (Danielle Harris) in this fairly well-made, but hopelessly cliched, sequel. As much as this is missing in originality and plot concept, it remains watchable for franchise fans thanks to decent performances, a few well timed shocks, some bloody make-up effects provided by John Carl Buechler and decent production values. Myers, played by George P. Wilbur in this outing, has a slightly redesigned mask. Donald Pleasence reprises his role as nutty, dedicated doc Sam Loomis. The cast also includes Ellie Cornell as Jamie's teenage cousin, Michael Pataki as a doctor, Kathleen Kinmont as the sheriff's daughter, Sasha Jensen, Beau Starr, Gene Ross and Raymond O'Connor. Characters are stabbed, axed, impaled with a gun through the chest and Michael sticks his hand into someone’s neck. The concluding scenes are pretty suspenseful but it all ends with a very lame set-up for Part 5. Alan Howarth took over the music score for this and the next two entries.

★★

Helter Skelter (1976) (TV)

...aka: Massacre in Hollywood

Directed by:
Tom Gries

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Directed by:
John McNaughton

Review coming soong.

★★★★

Hidden, The (1987)

Directed by:
Jack Sholder

Review coming soon.

★★★

Homicidal (1961)

Directed by:
William Castle

Review coming soon.

★★★

Driller (1984)

Directed by:
Joyce James

"Thriller" (directed by John Landis), from the best-selling album by Michael Jackson, is considered by most to be the best music video of all time. It was popular enough to influence many horror films from the era and here is another direct, feature length copy. It's complete with an effeminate Michael Jackson clone (played by "Mr. J") with a sequined glove, dancing zombies, a pretty close copy of the Rick Baker-designed werewolf creature and confused female lead Louise (Taija Rae). And geesh, wouldn't you know it, it's also a hardcore 80s porno. After Rae whines her way through sex with her dorky boyfriend, she fantasizes about her hero turning into a werewolf and raping her with a long, flexible, mutant penis that spews green slime all over her. Zombies show up, and most of the rest of this tape is too dark, unappealing hardcore on a dungeon set intercut with Mr. J and some of his living dead minions doing a hilariously bad dance routine. A woman masturbates in front of a monster that must be related to The Toxic Avenger, who urges her on. Two gold-painted women use glowing vibrators. Louise watches until she finally joins in on a long orgy featuring zombies (one with an EXORCIST tongue), wolf creatures, the gold women and men with Nixon, Reagen and Abraham Lincoln masks on. It's actually pretty disturbing! The dialogue seems like it was all dubbed in later, but the film was shot on 35MM, so at least it looks halfway decent. The cast includes George Payne, Renee Summers and Esmeralda as "the spurting girl" (don't ask).
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It's hard to imagine just who this was supposed to appeal to, but what the hell, the 80s can now officially rest in peace. Recent revelations that linked Michael Jackson to several hardcore filmmakers give this a little unintentional subtext now. I've also read that Mr. Jackson tried to sue the makers of this film at one point to try to stop distribution, but haven't been able to verify it. Roger Watkins (director of the notorious LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET) was the production manager.

Horny Vampire, The (1971)

Directed by:
Ray Dennis Steckler

Count Dracula's bearded, overacting nephew Count Talcum (?) skulks around Las Vegas in a suit, cape and bow-tie spying on and trying to pick up (some pretty haggard-looking) women. He acts like a third-rate lounge comedian and reads aloud from "1001 Ways to Seduce Women" while doing annoying double takes, running into doors and talking to the camera with his forced Lugosi accent. Meanwhile, people in the Vegas street scenes look at the camera in disbelief and we're subjected to more lame gags, terrible dialogue and irritating overacting. The vampire is played by Victor Alexander, who would go on to play El Sharif in ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS (1976) and Dr. Ivan Cock-Luv (!) in something called NAZI SEX EXPERIMENTS. Now here's the confusing part of this short subject. Apparently there are two versions of it that were released to video. The first has hardcore sex scenes and the second version does not. I saw the latter and judging by the actors and actresses in this film, that's a blessing.
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The longest cut of this film with the sex scenes intact is only 45 minutes. At one time the X-rated version was on a double tape with THE MAD LOVE LIFE OF A HOT VAMPIRE (which runs only 50 minutes). Both are from Las Vegas-based cult director Ray Dennis Steckler (billed under his usual porn alias "Sven Christian" here) of THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES THAT STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES fame and were released by Something Weird Video.

NO STARS!

Vargtimmen (1968)

...aka: Hour of the Wolf

Directed by:
Ingmar Bergman

Review coming soon.

★★★

10 Rillington Place (1970)

Directed by:
Richard Fleischer

Richard Attenborough is bald, bespeckled John Reginald Christie, a real-life serial killer who ran a boardinghouse, drugged, raped and murdered eight female boarders in 1940s England and buried the bodies in his yard. John Hurt is Timothy Evans, a male boarder who is blamed and wrongfully hanged for one of the murders, an event that led to the abolishment of the death penalty in England. The atmosphere is grim, the period details are good and the acting is excellent. Director Fleischer made at least three other movies about real-life murder cases; THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING (1955), COMPULSION (1959) and THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968).

★★★1/2

God Told Me To (1976)

...aka: Demon

Directed by:
Larry Cohen

Review coming soon.

★★★

Frankenhooker (1990)

Directed by:
Frank Henenlotter

After his chubby girlfriend Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) is killed after being run over by the remote-control-operated power lawnmower that he invented, novice New Jersey mad scientist Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) comes up with a plan. He keeps his beloved's head back at his garage / lab on ice and takes a trip over to 42nd Street in New York City to search for the perfect body to attach it to. He also invents "supercrack;" a drug that makes anyone who smokes it blow up. A slew of topless hookers get it, smoke it and explode, giving Jeffrey all the spare body parts he needs. Once stitched together and brought to life with lightning, Frankenhooker is born and manages to escape to the streets for a series of low-brow adventures that usually end with someone dead. You may wonder how a movie with a premise like this could possibly miss out on the laughs, but this one just doesn't always strike the right chord. The humor itself is hit-or-miss and it's simply hard to buy silly, lighthearted, colorfully-presented slapstick one minute and then dehumanizing, tasteless gags directed at homeless people, prostitutes and drug addicts the next.

However, several of the cast members help to elevate the material a notch and keep it worth watching. Mullen (Penthouse Magazine's 1987 "Pet of the Year") gives a fantastic comic performance and shows a gift for physical comedy as the pieced together new girlfriend, complete with super strength, the memory of a hooker and the ability to make men's heads spin... literally. It's too bad her acting career didn't amount to much (she was previously seen in the obscure 1987 supernatural slasher Doom Asylum and little else) because she seemed to have a lot of natural comic potential and screen presence. Lorinz is also a big plus and perfects his sighs, grimaces, double takes and comic screams with a great Jersey accent and humorous over-the-top panache. He also had a small, scene-stealing role in STREET TRASH (1987), another very gory film shot in New York City that was in very bad taste.

Louise Lasser (Jeffrey's mom), Shirley Stoler (bartender) and John Zacherle (TV weatherman) all put in cameo appearances, as do Henenlotter film regulars Beverly Bonner (who has appeared in all six of the director's films) and Joe Gonzales (as Zorro, the pimp) and Vicki Darnell (as a hooker), both of whom had memorable roles in BRAIN DAMAGE. Some of the other hookers are played by Jennifer Delora (SAVAGE LUST), Playboy Playmate Charlotte J. Helmcamp, Penthouse models Kimberly Taylor and Susan Napoli and adult film actress Heather Hunter.

It was threatened with an X rating due to gratuitous nudity and gore, so it was released unrated instead. The original video box, which has actor Bill Murray's endorsement, had a button you could push that said one of two Frankenhooker catch phrases; "Wanna date" or "Lookin' for some action."

★★1/2

Evil Spawn (1986)

...aka: Alien Within, The
...aka: Alive by Night
...aka: Deadly Sting
...aka: Metamorphosis

Directed by:
Kenneth J. Hall
Ted Newsom (new footage)
Fred Olen Ray (uncredited)

A mindlessly entertaining, often hilarious play on THE WASP WOMAN (1960). Bitchy, aging actress Lynn Roman's (Bobbie Bresee) career isn't what it used to be. All the choice roles are going to ladies in their 20s and the only offers rolling in to Lynn's agent Harry ("Jerry Fox" aka Fox Harris) are in B-grade schlock... just like this film! But everything's about to change when scientist's assistant - and closet obsessed fan - Evelyn Avery ("Donna Shock" aka Dawn Wildsmith) comes to her patio with a special serum devised by Dr. Emil Zeitman (John Carradine) that promises to restore her youth and beauty. Reluctant, Lynn shrugs off the offer, but Evelyn leaves a sample at her home anyway just in case. Lynn breaks down, starts injecting the stuff and finds herself looking and feeling years younger. Well, if you discount the part where her eyes glow red and she blacks out, pukes up white foam, grows a set of oversized plastic fangs and morphs into a killer insectoid monster that goes after those she feels have betrayed her, including her sexpot personal secretary (Pamela Gilbert) and her unfaithful gigolo boyfriend (John Terrence). Drew Godderis (BLOOD DINER) co-stars as Ross, Lynn's friend and biographer, who narrates the film a la SUNSET BOULEVARD and Forrest J. Ackerman can be seen cleaning out a pool.
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While far from good in the traditional sense, I still quite enjoyed EVIL SPAWN. It's highly entertaining and well-paced, many of the main actors (especially Bresee, Harris and Wildsmith) perform with gusto, there's some amusing dialogue, plenty of nudity, a hilarious dance sequence, a mock awards nightmare sequence where Lynn receives an Oscar (!) before turning into the bug monster and lots of supremely cheesy Z-grade special effects to sink your teeth into. It's precisely what one of these things should be; good, brainless late night fun.
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The footage of Carradine (looking distressingly ill) and Wildsmith interacting was intentionally generic footage shot a year earlier by producer Fred Olen Ray for use in future productions. The rest was done by Kenneth J. Hall; much of which was filmed at Bresee's actual home. There's also a very rare alternate version of the film titled THE ALIEN WITHIN which was released to video in 1991 by a company called MNTEX Entertainment. It contains 35 minutes of brand new footage shot on video by Ted Newsom and starring Jay Richardson, Suzanne Ager, Richard Harrison, Melissa Moore and Gordon Mitchell. I own that tape and will be doing a separate review for it eventually.

★★ SBIG

Evil Toons (1990)

Directed by:
Fred Olen Ray

Review coming soon.

★★

Evil Within, The (1990)

...aka: Baby Blood

Directed by:
Alain Robak

Emmanuelle Escourrou, an unknown actress here in America who probably wouldn't past muster as a leading lady because she's gap-toothed and a very voluptuous (what most people would probably refer to as "fat" these days), stars as Yanka. Yanka works for a traveling circus and is miserable thanks to a horrible relationship with an abusive, unfaithful and controlling boyfriend (Christian Sinniger). Thankfully she manages to get away from her no-good lover, but unfortunately it takes a mutant snake-like creature to enter her between the legs and force her to flee to another city to make that happen. The parasitic monster in her womb talks to her and forces her to kill so it can drink the blood. It's basically just using her body to be reborn, but despite the situation, the two form a strange kind of bond. Lots of victims are beat to death or stabbed, and the creature informs Yanka that it's been around along as the Earth has and that one day its species will take over. Although slow going at times, this builds up to an exciting climax and if you can accept the plot, it's a pretty fascinating premise that has something to say about maternal instincts, male-female relationships, resentment about unwanted pregnancies and even evolution! It's generally well made, stylish at times, has some pretty good camerawork and there's enough nudity, blood and gory special effects to easily hold your interest.
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The Anchor Bay DVD release is a nice quality print with two audio options. One is the original French language track with English subtitles and the other is the same English-dubbed track used in the original video release. The good news is that the dubbing is actually quite good. And as an added bonus, Gary Oldman (!) does the voice work for the creature in this version.
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And good news for fans of this one (well, maybe): A sequel - LADY BLOOD (2008) - has been made and is awaiting distribution. There's a new director, but the leading lady is back and she even co-wrote the screenplay.

★★★
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