Ratings Key



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

Friday, June 12, 2009

Plague of the Zombies, The (1966)

...aka: Zombies, The

Directed by:
John Gilling

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

...aka: Grave Robbers from Outer Space

Directed by:
Edward D. Wood, Jr.

The notorious standard by which all other inept films are judged by. What's most surprising is just how dull the film actually is. Review coming soon.

Score: 1 out of 10

Play Misty for Me (1971)

Directed by:
Clint Eastwood

Eastwood (also making his directorial debut here) is a late-night radio DJ who is seduced and then stalked by a psychotic one-night-stand (Jessica Walter). Aside from a maudlin romantic collage set to Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” this is a very good thriller and the prototype for FATAL ATTRACTION and its series of countless clones. Director Don Siegel, who directed many of Clint's best projects from this period (including THE BEGUILED), has a cameo as a bartender.

★★★

Playroom (1990)

...aka: Schizo

Directed by:
Manny Coto

An archeologist (Christopher McDonald) returns to the castle where his parents were murdered when he was a kid. Fueled by his father's unfinished work and bizarre nightmares, McDonald eventually discovers that a demon/zombie former child prince (Aron Eisenberg - THE HORROR SHOW) is responsible, and starts a new string of murders. His girlfriend (Lisa Aliff) and another couple (James Purcell and Jamie Rose) are also along for the ride. There are a few imaginative murders, I guess, but this comic horror film is pretty juvenile, annoying and dull. One scene has the ghoul-kid pulling a long slimy booger out of his nose, so that should clue you in to the maturity level that this movie approaches. It was shot on location in Belgrade, so at least there's some nice scenery. DR. GIGGLES (1992), which sucked just as badly as this one, was next up for the director. Vincent Schiavelli (who had a memorable role in GHOST - which was the #1 box office hit of 1990... the same year this was released) has a small role, as does Kimberly Beck (FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER) plays a secretary.

Score: 3 out of 10

Possession: Until Death Do You Part (1987)

...aka: Possession

Directed by:
Michael Mazo
Lloyd A. Simandl

Review coming soon.

Pledge Night (1988)

...aka: Hazing in Hell, A
...aka: Pledge Class

Directed by:
Paul Ziller

The acid-scarred victim of a fraternity prank gone wrong returns years later as a vengeance-seeking ghost to kill off frat house boyz who live in the same house where he died. There's plenty of cheap gore being thrown around, but the demeaning look at frat house hazing takes up too much of the time (and is far from amusing), it's illogical, juvenile, filled with irritating characters, is cheap-looking and lapses into the a rather mundane killing spree after awhile. Oh yeah, and the ending is awful and embarrassing. Much of the "comedy" centers around various bodily functions, and not surprisingly (since this involves frat guys), lots of things go up asses, including a cherry bomb during the stirring (?) conclusion. Then again, I guess one shouldn't expect much from a video featuring a hand emerging from a urinal on the cover.
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It was filmed around Rutgers University in winter of 1988 but not released until 1990. The director (who started out doing porno movies) went on to take the direct-to-video action movie route later in his career and is still directing to this day. Co-star Joey Belladonna is a member of the metal band Anthrax, who contributed songs to the film's soundtrack. The cast also includes James Davies, Shannon McMahon (from BLOOD SISTERS, another awful college-themed horror flick), Arthur Lundquist (THE REGENERATED MAN) and Cecilia Wilde (PSYCHOS IN LOVE).

Popcorn (1989)

...aka: Phantom of the Cinema
...aka: Skinner

Directed by:
Mark Herrier
Alan Ormsby (uncredited)

Enthusiastic California film students put on a midnight, horror/sci-fi triple feature at a soon to be closed down theater. The grounds are haunted by a Phantom of the Opera-style killer who lurks around in the shadows, kills people, and through the magic of latex and molds, is able to impersonate victims. Late 80s Scream Queen Jill Schoelen (THE STEPFATHER) is a young woman whose nightmares about a satanic killer tie into a creepy and mysterious 16mm film found on the grounds. The highlight of this otherwise derivative slasher movie are some excellent, hilarious black-and-white parodies of 50s schlock films and William Castle gimmicks including "Mosquito" (giant bug flies at audience), "The Amazing Electrified Man" (wired audience seats) and "The Stench" (putrid fumes pumped into theater). These little gems were directed by Alan Ormsby, and co-scripted by Ormsby and Bob Clark (collaborators on DERANGED and CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, among others); both of whose efforts went uncredited. In fact, Ormsby was supposed to direct the whole film but was fired three weeks into production. Unfortunately credited director Mark Herrier (best known for acting in the PORKY'S series) gives us a framework that is contrived, monotonous and choppy, not to mention frequently senseless. And what's the point of editing horror scenes together with an annoying reggae band? On the plus side, the characters are at least likable and upbeat and the make-up effects are pretty good.
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Ray Walston (theater showman) and Tony Roberts (teacher) show up briefly and Dee Wallace has a supporting role as Schoelen's troubled mom, who's hiding something from her daughter. Hmm... Also with Tom Villard (pretty good as a very dedicated film buff in one of his final roles), Derek Rydall (NIGHT VISITOR), Malcolm Danare (THE CURSE), Kelly Jo Minter, Karen Witter and Bruce Glover.
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It was filmed in 1989 but not released until 1991. Despite a great ad campaign ("Buy a bag... Go home in a box.") it was a box office flop.

★★

Predator 2 (1990)

Directed by:
Stephen Hopkins

Review coming soon.

★★

Prince of Darkness (1987)

...aka: John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness

Directed by:
John Carpenter

Muddled, jaggedly edited, sometimes unintentionally hilarious and frequently incoherent horror slop from a man who should really know better. Carpenter, who also scripted (using the alias "Martin Quartermass"), co-produced and did the excellent electronic music score, seems to have bit off more than he could chew with this one. Just as I always suspected, the ectoplasmic essence of Satan himself is being kept in the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles ghetto church, imprisoned inside a giant lava lamp that looks like it was filled by Slimer from GHOSTBUSTERS. Priest Donald Pleasence notices some weird stuff is afoot and contacts a college professor (Victor Wong), who puts together a team of multi-ethnic brainiacs (biochemists, radiologists, computer experts, mathematicians, theologists and various other scientist types) to investigate. When some ancient text is decoded, it reveals that the gunk is actually the liquefied remains of old scratch, put there by his own father seven million years ago. The container springs a leak, spits out a stream of slime into a young woman's mouth and then the fun and games begin as people trapped inside the old church are killed off (or possessed) one by one. People share nightmares (actually video transmissions from the future?!), others commit suicide, a black zombie sings "Amazing Grace," a head falls off, a neck is cracked, a throat is slashed, demonic messages show up on a computer screen, there's an infestation of bugs, worms and maggots and a cult of schizophrenic street people lurking the alleyways and killing off anyone who tries to leave.
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Granted, this is an ambitious and sometimes interesting film, but it's also needlessly cluttered and excessively talky. The latter wouldn't even matter so much if the dialogue was well-written, but it's not. Carpenter certainly means well, but he seems to be trying too hard to capture the academic setting when he clearly doesn't have the ear for it. The constant stream of science, theory and speculation heaved at us from various mediocre to bad actors playing pseudo-intellectual characters who behave as though any every random casual conversation is a dissertation becomes downright annoying after awhile. The production values are decent and there are a few genuinely creepy moments in the film, but the acting and script (as well as a rotten ending) really drag it down. And for a movie that obviously wants to be taken seriously, such high camp moments as rocker Alice Cooper (as the pale-faced leader of the killer bums) impaling a nerd with a bicycle seems a bit out of place. I much preferred Carpenter's follow-up film - the clever, politically charged sci-fi film THEY LIVE (1988) - to this one.
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Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount (an 80s actress I definitely miss - come back, Lisa!) star, along with Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, Dirk Blocker, Peter Jason and Thom Bray.

★★

Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1989)

Directed by:
Ron Oliver
Peter R. Simpson

Ghostly Mary Lou Maloney (Courtney Taylor this time) returns from beyond the grave to use her supernatural powers to kill off both students and staff at Hamilton High. This time her target is high school senior Alex (Tim Conlon), whom Mary Lou has seduced and then fallen in love with. Sure Ms. Maloney comes in handy when you need help with your football skills and grades, but what good is that when she can't resist killing off all your teachers, friends and anyone else that rubs her the wrong way? This entry ignores the serious slasher mentality of the first PROM NIGHT to concentrate on the campy fun of the second (the ads even promise "a romantic comedy from hell"), but just emerges as a mixed bag of silly gore murders, unlikable characters and low-brow, juvenile teen comedy. Taylor, while certainly attractive, is inferior to both Lisa Schrage and Wendy Lyon from Part II when it comes to acting skills and trying to pull off a sexy and menacing performance.
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The cast includes Cyndy Preston, an overlooked, attractive and very appealing actress who was excellent in PIN but pretty much wasted here, as Alex's girlfriend Sarah, David Stratton as best friend Shane, Jeremy Rathford (JUNIOR), former Canadian heavyweight boxing champion George Chuvalo, Lesley Kelly (from the GRAVEYARD SHIFT films) and Brock Simpson (who appears in all four of the original Prom Night titles).

1/2

Psychos in Love (1986)

Directed by:
Gorman Bechard

Joe (Carmine Capobianco) is a pudgy, bearded, outgoing bartender who likes to slit the necks of scantily clad women. Kate (Debi Thibeault) is a cheerful manicurist with a Molly Ringwald haircut who enjoys chopping up her obnoxious dates with a chainsaw. Naturally, when these two meet - and can bond over their shared love for blood and equally passionate dislike for grapes (?) - it's love at first sight in this very gory and sometimes hilarious low-budget horror-comedy from Waterbury, Connecticut. Frank Stewart co-stars as Herman, a deranged cannibal plumber, who eats ladyfingers and severed hands, and in one scene, cuts open a woman with a saw and lets the blood squirt directly into his mouth. Loaded with cheap (but mostly pretty good) gore including slashed throats, shootings, stabbings, a bloody sink drain, decapitated heads, severed limbs, blood vomiting, diced up chunks of skin and much more. A lot of people get killed in this film.
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And if the gore's not enough, this one's also loaded with nudity. Cecilia Wilde (PLEDGE NIGHT) and Ruth Collins (PRIME EVIL) as strippers, Lee Anne Baker (NECROPOLIS) as a slutty rocker chick and Penthouse Pet of the Year Angela Nicholas (aka Angela Davies in soft porn films) are just some of the topless victims. There's also a PSYCHO-inspired shower scene homage, a nod to EATING RAOUL (an obvious influence) and a hilarious theme song. Although some unfunny bits may make you wince and the film clearly runs out of steam toward the end, this is still the kind of energetic, enjoyably crude and over-the-top tasteless regional production I can recommend to fans of this stuff. Next up for the director was the moronic (and sometimes very funny) rape-victims-strike-back vigilante picture CEMETERY HIGH (1987) and the sci-fi exploitation comedy GALACTIC GIGOLO (1988).

★★1/2

Pulse (1988)

Directed by:
Paul Golding

Something evil in electric currents is causing death and destruction. Good production design and macro-photography help, but it’s frustrating to discover that this film has no decent resolution. Review coming soon.

★★

Prom Night (1980)

Directed by:
Paul Lynch

Watch what happens when a slasher film and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER merge into one trendy package! Watch Leslie Nielsen in one of his pre-NAKED GUN "serious" roles (see also: DAY OF THE ANIMALS)! Watch Jamie Lee Curtis cut it loose to bad disco songs on the same dance floor where, later, a severed head will roll! Watch the killer's motive being spoon fed to viewers as harmless childhood games lead to death! Watch Cronenberg movie regular Robert Silverman as the weird-o school janitor, who dukes it out with numerous other suspects as the identity of the ridiculous mystery killer! Watch director Paul Lynch and writer William Gray rip-off classics like HALLOWEEN and CARRIE while gleefully regurgitating every other cliche in the book in the slasher movie handbook.
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It's a tacky, stupid, slowly-paced, talky, tame slasher-mystery whose inexplicable popularity must stem from the fact Jamie Lee is the star. I don't know why else a film this ordinary has any kind of notoriety whatsoever. In fact, it was easily the worst film on Mrs. Curtis' genre resume until HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION came along over twenty years later, and even then it's agruably still the worst. Around the same time, JLC also headlined another Canadian slasher movie called TERROR TRAIN (1979), which is pretty mediocre but still much better than this one.
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PROM NIGHT was followed by three unrelated sequels; the surprisingly good HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987), which dealt with ghostly prom queen Mary Lou Maloney coming back from the dead for revenge, the silly PROM NIGHT 3: THE LAST KISS (1989), which also featured Mary Lou going on a supernatural killing spree, and PROM NIGHT 4: DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1991), which featured a killer priest coming after four teenagers in a remote house after they attend the titular school dance. It was also (horribly) remade in 2008. Time for this franchise to die already.
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Anne-Marie Martin (going by "Eddie Benton" here), Antoinette Bower, Jeff Wincott (who'd become a big direct-to-video action movie star in the 90s) and Brock Simpson (who appeared in all four films in this series) co-star.

1/2

Pit and the Pendulum, The (1990)

...aka: Inquisitor, The

Directed by:
Stuart Gordon

The same team behind the cult hits RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and FROM BEYOND (1986) take on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name (well, sort of) with surprisingly good results. Though the film does indeed have a both pit and a pendulum, as well as the same lead character, so many things have been changed from the original text that this is nearly an original work. Thankfully it's scripted (by Dennis Paoli) in a way that makes it work, both a stand alone horror film as well as an an indictment of the rampant religious hypocrisy that occured during the Spanish Inquisition. The best thing about this film, though, is Lance Henriksen's excellent, intense central performance as sadistic inquisitor Torquemada. More review coming soon.

★★★

Puppet Master 2 (1990)

...aka: Puppet Master 2: His Unholy Creations

Directed by:
David Allen

More psychics at the picturesque Bodega Bay Hotel bite it when Andre Toulon (played by Steve Welles and dressed from head-to-toe in bandages to look like THE INVISIBLE MAN) returns from the dead and sends his reanimated puppets after them. This time they are seeking fresh human brains to mix into some green goo elixir that helps to keep them alive and killing. The female lead (Elizabeth Maclellan) seems to be the reincarnation of someone from Toulon's past. The little killers do similar things to their victims (all five - Blade, Jester, Tunneller, etc. - return from the original), but when Leech Woman is thrown into the fireplace, she's replaced by Torch, a puppet with a flame-thrower arm. Again, the doll designs and David Allen stop motion special effects (Allen also directed this entry) are superb and this first sequel is a little gorier than the original. The cast includes Collin Bernsen (the brother of Corbin) as the leading ladies love interest, Nita Talbot as a psychic (she doesn't last very long), sexy Scream Queen Charlie Spradling (who is nice enough to provide a little T&A) and great character actor George "Buck" Flower in a cameo as an ill-fated backwoods yahoo (talk about typecasting). It pulled in plenty of money on video, so the sequels kept a coming, starting with David DeCoteau's surprisingly good PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE in 1991.

There's a Full Moon "Video Magazine" at the end of the original VHS tape where you can order CDs, T-Shirts, dolls, trading cards, comic books and other mumbo jumbo. It was hosted by the director and Spradling.

★★

Pin (1988)

...aka: Pin... A Plastic Nightmare
...aka: Schizo Dream

Directed by:
Sandor Stern

Seldom is this film spoken of and that's a shame. Impressively written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Sandor Stern (who is probably best known for scripting the lousy-but-successful box office smash THE AMITYVILLE HORROR), this creepy and effectively low-key psychological thriller comes as a rare and welcome surprise, especially at a time when Freddy, Michael Myers and Jason were hacking their way through theaters (and sadly, hogging most of the attention). The prosperous Linden family live in tight household headed over by a very stern doctor father (Terry O'Quinn) and an obsessive-compulsive mother (Bronwen Mantel) so extreme she keeps plastic slip-covers over all the furniture. When their sheltered children, Leon and Ursula, begin to start inquiring about the birds and bees, O'Quinn uses his ventriloquist skills to bring a medical display dummy named Pin (short for Pinocchio) to life to answer their questions. The film then jumps ahead ten or so years when the parents are killed in a car crash and Leon (David Hewlett) begins to display schizophrenic tendencies. He still believes Pin is alive, insists others treat the dummy like a real person and is eventually reduced to using Pin to murder his "enemies" to keep his sister (Cyndy Preston) in his life.
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A film as subtle and quiet as this one requires solid, serious dramatic performances to work and Hewlett, Preston (both excellent) and O'Quinn (great as usual, but not in the film too long) don't disappoint in this thoughtful and eerie film. A real sleeper. Don't miss it! Based on a novel by Andrew Niederman (who also wrote the novel the film THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE was based on). The cast includes John Pyper-Ferguson as Ursula's sweet new boyfriend (who Leon can't stand), Helene Udy and Patricia Collins as an aunt. Jonathan Banks provides the voice of PIN.

★★★1/2

Pieces of Darkness (1988)

Directed by:
George Bonilla
J.J. Johnson III

Pieces of shit, more like it. You think sitting through granny's home movies is boring? This is someone's home movie... someone you don't know. It's a shot-with-a-camcorder horror anthology with linking segments that could easily be the worst of its type. We're talkin' bottom of the barrel here folks, since it's not even enjoyable in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way. The first story concerns a disturbed Vietnam vet on the brink of sanity. It includes some of the least convincing Nam footage committed to videotape (which was obviously just shot in someone's backyard), zombie soldiers and eventually a shotgun murder. Yep, that's all the pay off you get... Part 2 concerns a pair of butchers and a contrived woman-who-comes-between-two-brothers plot. Finally, there's a clichéd (and nearly incomprehensible) tale of a starving actor who sells his soul to the devil for a successful career. No, his name ain't Guy Woodhouse, but you'll wish it was. In between, there's a living dead host who makes idiotic wisecracks. All three tales are slow, talky, have awful acting, choppy editing and terrible dialogue, too-harsh lighting, plus some unbelievable continuity errors. I guess the middle segment is the best by default since at least it has a brief topless scene and a decapitated head.

The non-existent budget wouldn't bother me as much as it did if they had tried to come up with something at least half way decent, but the fact it's unimaginative, boring and technically abysmal makes it doubly hard to get through. On the plus side, this seems to have been barely released to video twenty years ago (by Legacy) so you're not likely to run across a copy anyway unless you're actively looking for it. I just saw one on ebay the other day for 60 dollars. Trust me, it ain't worth it!

NO STARS!

Phantom of the Opera, The (1989)

...aka: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera
...aka: Phantom of the Opera: The Motion Picture

Directed by:
Dwight H. Little

With Robert Englund cast as the love struck Phantom you know this isn't going to be high art, but it's an OK effort with good cinematography, decent production values, fine art direction and period detail and, of course, plenty of gory make-up effects to keep Bob's legion of Elm Street fans happy. The story is about the same as the classic Gaston Leroux adaptations as beautiful opera understudy Christine (Jill Schoelen, who's quite appealing here) is unwillingly helped out by the evil Phantom/Erik; he's out to both avenge those who have mocked him and advance her budding career. The biggest differences between this and other versions is that the title character stitches the skin of his victims onto his face, has made a pact with Satan and dispatches the supporting cast in more violent ways (including substituting a decaptiation for the famous chandelier dropping scene). Englund doesn't seem to know whether to be menacing or campy here, and in a movie like this it's hard to have it both ways. The supporting cast includes Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy and a pre-Saturday Night Live Molly Shannon making her film debut in the bookmarking scenes set in New York City.
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The "sequel" to this film isn't actually a sequel. It's the 1991 film DANCE MACABRE, which was filmed in Russia by director Greydon Clark, features Englund in a dual role as a choreographer and an elderly wheelchair-bound female ballerina (!) and was re-titled PHANTOM OF THE OPERA II for some markets.

★★★

Último deseo (1976)

...aka: Last Desire
...aka: People Who Own the Dark
...aka: Planeta ciego

Directed by:
León Klimovsky

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Parents (1989)

Directed by:
Bob Balaban

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Paperhouse (1988)

Directed by:
Bernard Rose

Review coming soon.

★★★

Pale Blood (1990)

Directed by:
V.V. Dachin Hsu

A pretty good direct-to-video vampire tale that has an intriguing premise but doesn't completely live up to its potential. L.A. is the backdrop for a series of brutal murders, where female victims have every drop of blood drained from their bodies. Director Hsu (who was born in Hong Kong, moved to the U.S. and graduated from UCLA's film program; she also co-scripted) flips the roles seen in your standard vampire film by making a mere mortal (Wings Hauser) responsible for the murders and our hero (George Chakiris) a sullen and understated vampire who flies in from London to team up with a female private investigator (Pamela Ludwig) to try to catch the killer. Hauser's character is a deranged would-be "video artist" who kidnaps women, punctures their necks with vampire bat teeth and then drains them of their blood, hoping his actions will attract a real vampire that he can then photograph. There's quite a bit of talk in this one, but there's also a good sense of humor and Hauser contributes a memorably (and appropriately) overwrought performance. The other two leads were good also.
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Also in the cast are French actress Diana Frank (who'd later appear in the vampire films DEAD OF NIGHT/DARK HUNGER and CLUB VAMPIRE) and Darcy DeMoss (who was dating Hauser at the time) as vamp victims (both also provide the nude scenes), Frazer Smith and an uncredited walk-on by Sybil Danning. The band Agent Orange performs during a club scene.

★★1/2

Pacific Heights (1990)

Directed by:
John Schlesinger

Young married couple Patty (Melanie Griffith) and Drake (Matthew Modine) buy a big Victorian style house in San Francisco and, being seriously in debt, decide to remodel the place into three apartments; one for them and two to rent. An older Asian couple (Mako and Nobu McCarthy) move into one apartment and Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton) moves into another. Carter turns out to be a psycho who hides out in the parking garage in shades and won't pay the rent. He also lets cockroaches loose in the building, starts seriously damaging the property and eventually starts to harass the couple, which leads to violence and murder. This solid and well-made suspense thriller is very entertaining, well-paced and has a credible premise, as well as credible performances from the entire cast. Keaton is particularly good. Griffith's mother, Tippi Hedren (of THE BIRDS fame) pops up in a cameo, as does the director (who can be seen riding an elevator).
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The excellent supporting cast includes the always watchable Laurie Metcalf, Luca Bercovici (the director of GHOULIES and ROCKULA), Dan Hedaya, Beverly D'Angelo, Nicholas Pryor, Guy Boyd, Tracey Walter as a pest exterminator and Dabbs Greer.

★★★

Bad Dreams (1988)

Directed by:
Andrew Fleming

Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin, having bad dreams yet again) is the only surviving member of a 70's hippie cult after everyone else took a bath in gasoline and then set themselves on fire. She awakens from a thirteen year coma only to be haunted by nightmares of demented cult guru Harris (Richard Lynch). When members of her therapy group (populated by the usual assortment of histrionic weirdos) start dying, presumably by suicide, she thinks his ghost might be responsible. But a more human monster - in the form of either a questionable doctor played by Harris Yulin or one of several unhinged patients - may actually be responsible. This one's little more than an irritating major studio production that synthetically rips off successful recent hits, particularly the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise. In fact, there are many similarities between this one and the third installment of the series, including the ghostly villain with a charred face, a psychiatric hospital setting, victims who are written off as suicides and Ruben herself (who had played Taryn in Dream Warriors). Though derivative, often times silly and gimmicky with the murder scenes (with uneven special effects), it's equipped with decent enough production values (Gale-Anne Hurd had also produced several of James Cameron's biggest hits) and a good enough cast (Lynch and Yulin are especially good and give it their all) to keep it watchable. Not great or even particularly good, but passable for the most part.
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It's the freshman effort from NYU-graduate Andrew Fleming (also co-scripter on the film along with Steven E. de Souza), who'd go on to find some success with the indy comedy THREESOME (1994) and the teen horror hit THE CRAFT (1995). "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses is the end theme song. The supporting cast includes Bruce Abbott (RE-ANIMATOR) as a compassionate doctor, Dean Cameron and his amazing eyebrows as chief red herring Ralph, Elizabeth (E.G.) Daily and Susan Ruttan (TV's "L.A. Law") as patients, Sy Richardson as a detective and Charles Fleischer (who was also in the original Elm Street) as a pharmacist.

★★

Night God Screamed, The (1971)

...aka: Scream

Directed by:
Lee Madden

Not a bad little shocker. In fact, it's better (and much more original) than a good number of inexplicably more-famous '80s slashers and probably would have a better reputation amongst genre fans if it weren't so obscure. The version I saw released by the Canadian label Marquis Video (it was also released on VHS by Guild Home Video in the UK and Trans-World in the US) is very dark and scratchy, which only adds to the gritty and creepy feel of the film. It would still be nice to see a company clean this one up and release it to DVD sometime in the near future but it's hard to tell if that's actually going to happen or not. SCREAMED is home to quite a few tried-and-true genre conventions. The first half deals mostly with religious fanaticism, a backwoods hippie cult (a then-popular theme because of the Manson murders) and psychological torment, while the second half turns into more of a home invasion thriller/slasher flick with some telephone terror thrown in. However, the film manages to pull it all off fairly well and even throws in a few genuine surprises along the way.

After drowning a girl during a forced baptism, cult leader Billy Joe (Michael Sugich) and his motorcycle-riding Jesus Freak followers break into a church and crucify preacher Willis Pierce (Alex Nicol) when he won't give up the donation box without a fight. Willis' reserved wife Fanny (Jeanne Crain) witnesses the brutal murder from a hiding spot and later testifies to convict Billy Joe and put him on death row. Billy Joe promises he'll get revenge before being taken away and as Fanny leaves the court house, she's given an evil stare-down by some of the other followers. From then on out Fanny becomes increasingly more paranoid and emotionally fragile. She starts hearing the echoing threats of cultists in her mind and believes she's being followed. The judge from the trial asks Fanny if she'll babysit his four "teenage" children; Peter (Dan Spelling - who co-wrote this along with producer Gil Lasky), Nancy (Barbara Hancock), Sharon (Dawn Cleary) and Jimmy (Gary Morgan), for the weekend while he and wife go on vacation. Fanny reluctantly agrees and arrives at the secluded country home only to find her charges harboring hostility toward her because the parents insist they all stay home for the entire weekend.

At nightfall, Fanny starts receiving heavy-breathing phone calls, which soon turn into threatening ones as the voice on the other line utters some very familiar sayings; the same ones she heard from Billy Joe at the trial. Not long after, a dummy is left in the yard with a death threat attached, the (25-year-old-looking) "kids" start seeing glimpses of hooded people sneaking around outside from the window, the phone goes out and the power goes on and off. It seems that the surviving cult members have followed Fanny to the home and are now going to get the revenge. Even worse, some of the cultists have managed to sneak inside the home and start murdering the kids one by one... Everything leads up to a twist ending that I personally didn't see coming at all.

Not a particularly violent film, this relies more on suspense, twists and exploiting hard-to-see or barely-glimpsed images in the pitch dark to achieve its horror. It also benefits from a quality lead actress in the main role. Crain (an Oscar nominee in 1950) does a very good job and helps to offset some of the weaker performances from the lesser-known actors/actresses in the cast. Apparently this title rubbed some people the wrong way, so the film had to be retitled simply SCREAM to play in more conservative areas. Check it out if you can find it.

★★1/2

Nutzoids at Cannibal Cove, The (1989)

Directed by:
Louis Ferriol

I've got to hand it some people. They sure know how to title movies to get people to watch them. Who do you know that could pass up a title like this one? Regardless, this 30-minute zero-budget shot-with-a-not-so-great-camcorder spoof will be grueling as hell to sit through for most viewers. It opens with picture credits introducing the cast, along with an episode title card calling it "Let's Roast Little Kathy For Dinner." Sounds promising enough. Door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman Jim Henderson (Bob Rose) has just arrived home from a long day at work. His three bratty kids; teen cheerleader daughter Betty (Kim French), mullet-sporting teen son Budd (Gerard Maccioli) and younger daughter Kathy (Dana Michele), who is worried about missing communion, immediately start nagging him. Mom Chizelda (Bev Francis) keeps threatening to wash everyone's mouth out with Formula 409 with ammonia. Well, the son's car broke down somewhere along the highway and the family all pile into their car and go looking for it, picking up a prostitute named Bitsy (Meadow Williams) on their way there. After an hour of driving they run across an elderly clairvoyant (Jane De Leeuw) lying in the middle of the road. They exit the car and walk into the woods where they find a sign on the ground warning of "Necromanions;" which are zombies from the dark side who want human blood to drink and human flesh to devour. Everyone gets lost in the woods and end up at a cabin, where they decide to spend the night.

The next morning Betty and Bitsy wake up to find themselves all alone in the cabin. Betty takes a peak outside and sees her parents and brother have been turned into zombies. And poor little Kathy sits in a giant cauldron being slowly cooked while the old psychic lady does the "Cook a Little Girl Polka" (?) dance around her. A hem. Is it real or all a dream? Jokes are made about Jerry's Kids, The Wizard of Oz, greedy nuns and public access TV (where this seems to have come from). The music is familiar theme songs from Father Knows Best, The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Green Acres, The Andy Griffith Show and Gilligan's Island. It's short. It's stupid. It looks terrible and was mostly filmed in semi darkness. But for the budget range (which is basically nothing), it at least has a few amusing moments and the actors are, surprisingly, not too bad.

This is from the fine folks at Carlson International who also made THE NECROTIC (1978), THE NEW YORK CENTERFOLD MASSACRE (1985) and several other short features released to VHS by the obscure company Vidimax (and now apparently are on DVD through Questar Media).

1/2

Orca (1977)

...aka: Killer Whale, The
...aka: Orca: Killer Whale

Directed by:
Michael Anderson

Review coming soon.

★★

Night Life (1989)

...aka: Campus Spirits
...aka: Grave Misdemeanours
...aka: Zombie Academy

Directed by:
David Acomba

Review coming soon.

★★

Nightlife (1989) (TV)

Directed by:
Daniel Taplitz

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Nightmare on the 13th Floor (1990) (TV)

Directed by:
Walter Grauman

Review coming soon.

★★

Nightmare Sisters (1987)

...aka: Sorority Sisters
...aka: Sorority Succubus Sisters

Directed by:
David DeCoteau

Review coming soon.

★★

Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A (1988)

Directed by:
Renny Harlin

Review coming soon.

★★

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, A (1985)

Directed by:
Jack Sholder

Review coming soon.

★★

New Kids, The (1985)

...aka: Striking Back

Directed by:
Sean S. Cunningham

Review coming soon.

★★

Nest, The (1988)

Directed by:
Terence H. Winkless

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Night of the Lepus (1972)

...aka: Rabbits

Directed by:
William F. Claxton

Giant bunny rabbits (sounds utterly frightening, eh?) attack people on a farm. This low budget Bert Gordon-esque wonder has cheesy effects, corny performances and laughable bunny attack scenes. Most people have seen clips of this in NATURAL BORN KILLERS; and trust me, you don't want to see the whole picture. Pretty scary. I'll do a longer review when I get the chance.

976-EVIL (1988)

...aka: Dial the Devil
...aka: Horrorscope

Directed by:
Robert Englund

Review coming soon.

★★

Sender, The (1982)

Directed by:
Roger Christian

A disturbed young man (Zeljko Ivanek) is rushed off to a state run mental hospital after loading down his pockets with rocks and attempting to drown himself in a lake. Tough but compassionate psychiatrist Dr. Gail Farmer (Kathryn Harrold) is assigned his case and tries to break into the mind of the amnesia stricken man, now referred to as John Doe #83. Almost immediately she begins seeing strange things, beginning with the new patient breaking into her apartment and attempting to steal a necklace, when in fact he never even left the hospital. Turns out that John Doe #83 possesses some rather powerful telepathic abilities; so powerful in fact that he has no control over how his thoughts and nightmares effect those around him. And being a troubled guy with a traumatic past means his psychic abilities usually manifest themselves in ugly, scary ways. At first, Dr. Farmer has a tough time trying to convince her colleagues of John Doe's powers, but before long everyone at the hospital (doctors and patients alike) start being effected. Also lurking around the hospital is Jerolyn (Shirley Knight), Joe Doe's mother, who on the outside seems gentle, devoutly religious and concerned... So then why does her son want nothing to do with her?

This intelligently-written, well-made thriller is a bit confusing, but still manages to pull you in right from the opening scene and blends drama, fantasy, psychic horror and mystery together reasonably well. There's so much intrigue to the ambiguous John Doe character and his strange powers that it's almost disappointing when an explanation is finally worked out. Some of the "nightmares" are superbly directed, such as when Harrold finds herself being pursued on empty urban streets by a driverless truck, grass in the bathroom busting and bleeding and rats emerging from a mouth. It's very attractively photographed (when it comes to both shot composition and camera movement) and the actors are all very good. The cast includes Paul Freeman as a skeptical asshole doctor who wants tries to put John Doe through shock treatment (which is one of the more memorable scenes), Sean Hewitt as a mental patient who thinks he's the messiah, Al Matthews (ALIENS) as a mental patient who thinks Vietnam is still going on, Harry Ditson as a doctor, Marsha A. Hunt (HOWLING II) as a nurse and Angus MacInnes (HELLRAISER II) as a sheriff.

★★★
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