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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Directed by:
Tom McLoughlin

Jason (C.J. Graham) is revived by lightning after Horshack digs up his grave and then heads back to his old stomping grounds at Crystal Lake (renamed Forest Green here) for more of the same. In this entry, the camp is actually open and running, so there are lots of little kids running around, but only the adults die. Tommy Jarvis (played by RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD's Thom Mathews) is senselessly blamed for the killings - What? Isn't this like second time, now? - by asshole Sheriff Garris (David Kagen), but Garris' daughter Megan (Jennifer C. Cooke) believes he's innocent and helps spring him from jail so the two can take on Jason during the finale. A few of the murders are creative, such as girl getting her face indented on the wall of a moving RV and three heads simultaneously whacked off with one swing of a machete. This entry doesn't take itself as seriously as the others and has some tongue-in-cheek humor, which has led to some people calling it the best of the sequels. I personally don't agree with that sentiment (aren't the others humorous enough without obvious jokes and forced comedy elements added?) and think this is one of the lesser entries. Director McLoughlin had previously made ONE DARK NIGHT. Alice Cooper contributes a song at the end.

★★

Fortress (1986) (TV)

Directed by:
Arch Nicholson

Review coming soon.

Score: 7 out of 10

Faces of Death IV (1990)

Directed by:
John Alan Schwartz
Susumu Saegusa
Andrew Theopolis

There's a new host this time ("Dr. Louis Flellis"), actually played by the director's brother James Schwartz, but this is the most ridiculous entry yet. Actually it's downright insulting. I'm not a fan of these "real death" movies, but to advertise something as such and promise your audience actual death, then proceed to fake your way through a bunch of badly-staged scenes is another. If you can't tell the magician getting his face smashed during an act-gone-awry is fake, then you really need to have your vision checked. A guy parachutes into an alligator pit. An amusing idea... but real? Give me a break. Another guy gets his leg cut off in a junkyard after a car supposedly falls on him. Why exactly would one be lying down on the ground with one leg stuck under an old rusty car so that could even happen? Some girl takes off her bikini top and laughs before getting a giant atomic leech stuck (?) on her arm. If they wanted to pull any of this off as being "real" then they should have hired better actors. Mondo fake-o. Listen for the hilarious theme song at the end, though.

NO STARS!

Faces of Death III (1985)

...aka: Fear

Directed by:
John Alan Schwartz

Review coming soon.

NO STARS!

Evils of the Night (1984)

Directed by:
Mardi Rustam

You'd figure with such a stellar trash movie cast, this would at least be watchable. Nope! All of the adults are evil and all of the "kids" are victims in this totally worthless movie, sort of a remake of the directors’ own EVIL TOWN, which was filmed before, but released after, this one. A "space vampire," played by John Carradine (who else?), sends out his two female minions to extract blood from overage teenagers who hang around a large lake. It's all because his home planet is in dire need of the red stuff. I guess the filmmakers are fans of NOT OF THIS EARTH. Two of the main teens are played by CHOPPING MALL stars Karrie Emerson and Tony O'Dell. Many of the others who frequently appear in gratuitous T&A or timid soft-core sex scenes (which often seem to have been pointlessly tacked onto the film at a later date) are played by hardcore stars such as Amber Lynn, Jody Swafford, Jerry Butler (using his real name - Paul Siederman here) and Crystal Breeze, most of whom ditch their nom de porn for this film. Julie Newmar (Catwoman from Batman) and Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligan's Island) help run the sinister clinic and who else but real-life war vets turned schlock movie regulars Aldo Ray and Neville Brand (in his final film role) play two borderline-retarded garage mechanic henchmen who constantly search for new victims. The director also produced Tobe Hooper's EATEN ALIVE (which starred Brand) and THE PSYCHIC KILLER (which also featured Brand, as well as Ray). Dawn Wildsmith made her (uncredited) film debut here.

Evils is a very lame film from the bygone sex 'n' violence video boom era that Shriek Show was cruel enough to recently put on DVD so a new generation could suffer. The acting is terrible, the plot and dialogue are both ridiculous, the name stars aren't given much to do and the movie isn't even a really good bad movie; just senseless, tedious and boring.

Il bosco 1 (1988)

... aka: Evil Clutch
... aka: Evil Clutch: Return of the Demon
... aka: Il bosco
... aka: Horror Queen
... aka: Night in the Woods, A

Directed by:
Andreas Marfori

During the charming opening sequence, a possessed female demon (Elena Cantarone) seduces a guy then rips his dick off. The next day a young vacationing couple (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni and Diego Ribon) arrive in the same nearly-deserted town. They encounter a strange man with a voice box who warns them to get away before it's too late and of course don't listen, as the same female demon from the beginning (wearing a leather duster) lures them through the woods to a abandoned house. A zombie (Stefano Molinari), who I'm pretty sure is the same poor emasculated guy from the first scene, shows up to torment them and the killer seductress also returns. She sprouts fangs and a three-clawed hand emerges from between her legs to do more damage! I guess that's the "Clutch" the American title is referring to. The voice-box man (Luciano Crovato) shows up again to get killed and return as a zombie, too. After the boyfriend gets his hands cut off, his loving girlfriend screams "Is there any end to all of this?" and runs away, leaving her helpless, handless boyfriend there as easy demon prey.

Originally titled Il bosco and most commonly known as Evil Clutch (other alternate titles include Horror Queen and A Night in the Woods), this pretty blatant Evil Dead copy has some lighting problems, absolutely zero logic, a minimal plot and overkill Raimi-style camerawork, but the make-up effects and musical score are good, it's pretty gory and the beautiful Alps mountains and an authentic old Italian town provide a very arresting backdrop to the action. There are only five actors in the entire movie. Leading lady Tassoni was also in DEMONS 2 (1986) and three Dario Argento movies; Opera (1987), his (pretty awful) remake of Phantom of the Opera (1998) and his last release Mother of Tears (2007). Rhino released the video, and it was later acquired by the folks at Troma for DVD release.

★★

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Directed by:
Tim Burton

Review coming soon.

★★★

Evil Spirits (1990)

Directed by:
Gary Graver

The ubiquitous Karen Black (giving a delightfully campy performance here) stars as Ella Purdy, an insane boarding house owner who talks to the skeletal remains of her long-dead husband and slaughters her elderly tenants so she can cash their social security checks. Death is caused by knife to the eye, a (hilariously wobbly) hatchet to the head, a nail hammered into an eyeball and a machete slashing. Ella buries the dead bodies in her backyard, and nosy neighbor Yvette Vickers (ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES) is always bitching about the smell. There's even a rabid elderly man chained up in the basement who rips people apart and eats them! This low-budget, but kind of fun horror comedy has some good scenes and a surprising and familiar cast of classic era film stars and horror veterans, some of whom haven't acted for upwards of two decades! They're all welcome change of pace in the current company of so many horror movie teenagers, but in case you disagree with me, a mute Debra Lamb is here too to dance topless. The director (who sadly passed away a few years back) was in his fourth decade of exploitation filmmaking and also served as cinematographer.
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The great supporting cast includes Virginia Mayo (in her first screen appearance since the late 70s) as a miserable, spoiled old bat who used to have it all but is now forced to live off meager retirement checks, Bert Remsen as her henpecked husband, Michael Berryman as a voyeuristic weirdo, Martine Beswick as a psychic, Arte Johnson as a Social Security fraud investigator, Robert Quarry as a doctor, Mikel Angel (who wrote the screenplay) as a drunk, Hoke Howell as a mailman and Anthony Eisley as a police detective.

★★

Day the World Ended (1955)

Directed by:
Roger Corman

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Eraserhead (1977)

Directed by:
David Lynch

Review coming soon.

Score: 7 out of 10

Day of the Nightmare (1965)

...aka: Don't Scream, Doris Mays

Directed by:
John A. Bushelman

An impotent transvestite chihuahua killer! If that doesn't pique your interest, I don't know what will. DAY OF THE NIGHTMARE is basically a mix between a nudie and PSYCHO, with a pinch of HOMICIDAL thrown in for good measure. I think it's a bit better and more entertaining than the 4.1 rating on IMDb might suggest. I liked it. The unknown Cliff Fields delivers an outrageously OTT performance as deranged painter Jonathan Crane. He's impotent because his parents were swingers and as a child he walked in on mom doing one of her lovers, who then spanked the voyeuristic little weirdo. Now Johnny gets his jollies by tying up topless models and smacking their bums with a belt until he, uh, well you know. If that isn't entertaining enough, Jonathan is also a schizo who slaps on a cone bra, trench-coat, pageboy wig and sunglasses and goes on a murder spree under his secondary persona, "Doris Mays." Neighbors who spot Doris leaving her apartment think she's just your run-of-the-mill "bull dyke" but no one seems to be able to put two and two together that Cliff and Doris are actually the same person.

Jonathan is married to the sweet but very naive Barbara (Barbara Bain) and she tries to be understanding that her husband is always away on "business." Little does she know, but "business" equals putting on ladies under things, hiring lesbian prostitutes and murdering women who remind him of his impotence! Sometimes when hubby is gone, Barbara is stalked by "Doris," who hangs around outside the home spying on her and eventually sneaks inside her home, attacks her with a knife and chases her around in the woods for about five minutes. Here and there, the film throws in a gratuitous nude scene, such as when three swinger couples put on blindfolds, spin around until they're disoriented and then feel/crawl around the room looking for members of the opposite sex they can start groping (!) Oh yeah, and for some reason "Doris" slays a chihuahua because its barking is annoying her. I can't stand yippy little ankle biters either, so this didn't bother me. The movie is very funny at times and seems just as confused about what it wants to be as Jonathan. There are lots of crazy flashbacks attempting to explain Jonathan's behavior, obligatory psycho-babble and even several surprisingly creepy moments and a bit of suspense. I'm convinced Mr. De Palma watched this before he made DRESSED TO KILL (1980). Both obviously take their cue from PSYCHO, but have a lot in common otherwise, right down to the killer's disguise (the wig, trench coat and sunglasses).

Top-billed John Ireland (an Oscar nominee just fifteen years earlier) "stars" as the lead detective on the case, but his performance is forgettable, and his scenes are boring. John Hart (BLACKENSTEIN) is pretty awful as Jonathan's self-centered psychiatrist father, who sleeps with his female patients. Legendary Liz Renay (of John Waters' DESPERATE LIVING fame) has an uncredited one-scene cameo as one of the dad's lascivious patients. Bette Treadville (who looks like she belongs in a Waters movie) is the 300-pound black maid. And Elena Verdugo (HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN) has just one scene as an art agent. Bain was pretty good as the female lead, but the movie is dominated by Fields, who gets to act like an arrogant, eye-rolling jerk as Jonathan, gets to scream and cry when recalling a traumatic childhood with two oversexed parents, and (with help from a female dub-over) gets to act dainty, mannered and feminine as "Doris." It's a shame he didn't get any other starring roles.

The DVD is from Something Weird, who have paired it with another movie called SCREAM OF THE BUTTERFLY (1965). I started watching Scream the other night and it seemed like it might be decent enough to merit a purchase of this disc. It's about an adulterous platinum blonde bikini-clad tramp named Marla (Nelida Lobato) who conspires with her lover to kill her wealthy tycoon husband, who married her after a week-long fling. Seems more noir/thriller than horror, but I'll try to finish it and write a review. It's well shot by Ray Dennis Steckler (R.I.P.) and seems to have pretty amusing dialogue, nude scenes from the busty leading lady, plus a hilarious rip-off of the FROM HERE TO ETERNITY beach scene.

★★1/2

Il plenilunio delle vergini (1973)

...aka: Devil's Wedding Night, The
...aka: Full Moon of the Virgins

Directed by:
Luigi Batzella

There's really not much to gain from seeking out this boring, nudity-filled remake of Hammer's COUNTESS DRACULA. Sometime in the 1800s, twin brothers Karl and Franz Schiller (both of whom are played by Mark Damon) discuss vampires and the legendary ruby red "Ring of Niebelonion." Legend has it the ring had passed down supernatural abilities to such historical figures as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun and Ivan the Terrible. Anyway, Franz the bad boy (who wears heavy eyeliner, has slicked back hair, gambling debts and quotes Edgar Allan Poe) decides to take his horse down the road to visit Castle Dracula and complete his "architectural studies." First he stops by an inn to ignore the locals' warnings and seduce the innkeeper's daughter Tania (Francesca Romana Davila). Once in the castle, he meets a zombie-like maid named Lara (Esmeralda Barros) and then the owner of the castle, seductive Countess Dracula (Rosalba Neri as "Sara Bay). Even though he finds the behavior of both ladies a little strange and off-putting (hell, he even catches Lara lounging in a casket at one point!), that doesn't distract him from the feminine wiles of Mrs. Dracula, as he's easily seduced, vampirized and stuck in a coffin.

When bookish Karl shows up later looking for his missing bro, he's encouraged to spend the night, his wine is drugged and he trips out to creepy sculptures, laughing, a soft-focus lesbian scene and (the best bit) Neri being coated with blood and emerging naked from a fog-enshrouded crypt. He also figures out that the Countess is in possession of the ring and plans on using its powers to lure five virginal village girls to her castle to sacrifice; bathing in their blood helping her maintain her beauty and youth. She also wants Satan to possess the body of Franz or something to that effect (it's all a little muddled). There's a a fairly well done ritual ceremony at the end where five naked girls are prepared to be sacrificed by hooded cultists, but otherwise it's just a very slow trip where the rewards are few and far between.

Neri (LADY FRANKENSTEIN) looks great as the Countess, especially in the black wedding gown, but this film isn't a very good showcase for her talents (which, unlike many starlets of the era, extended much further than her nude scenes). Barros (the Brazilian-born star of 1968's KING OF KONG ISLAND) is also pretty good as Lady Dracula's stern lesbian handmaiden. "Ciro"/Xiro Papas has a small, but fun, role as a big bald unibrow-sporting vampire who shows up near the end. Damon, is tolerable, but a bit on the dull side as he usually is. There's only a minimal amount of atmosphere thanks to cheap-looking set design and Joe D'Amato's flat-looking photography. It's based on the story "The Brides of Countess Dracula" by Ian Danby and Ralph Zucker.
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The DVD from Shout! Factory is a bad print of the film with lots of damage and bad jumps in both picture and sound. There's an optional version taken from Elvira's "Movie Macabre" show, where she interrupts the film from time to time to make her trademark cheesy wisecracks.

1/2

Plus longue nuit du diable, La (1971)

...aka: Castle of Death
...aka: Devil's Longest Night, The
...aka: Devil's Nightmare, The
...aka: Devil Walks at Midnight, The
...aka: Nightmare of Terror
...aka: Succubus

Directed by:
Jean Brismée

During a memorably nasty sepia tone tinted opening, a Nazi stabs his newborn baby girl after his wife dies during childbirth. Many years later, seven people (a young priest, an obese tour guide, a promiscuous bisexual woman, a lethargic innocent blonde, a married man with eyes for other women, his bitter wife and an old crank) show up at the castle home of alchemist Baron von Rhoneberg (Jean Servais). They’re invited inside, creeped out by the weird butler Hans (who hilariously plays a sinister tune on the organ during dinner) and hear all kinds of ghastly things about the legendary Rhoneberg family curse. After a tour of the home, lots and lots of talk and a pretty long soft-focus lesbian seduction scene to provide some gratuitous nudity, the ‘curse’ finally takes shape as a sexy, flame-haired succubus (Erika Blanc) who starts seducing them and then using her supernatural powers to kill them all off (each victim representing one of the seven deadly sins). There is death by poisoned wine, spiked sarcophagus, guillotine, snakes, drowning in gold powder and more, plus atmospheric cinematography and a fantastic music score to keep things humming along through the less interesting stuff. There’s also an effective surprise ending featuring a supremely creepy (but underused) Daniel Emilfork as a skeleton-like version of Satan.

However, what really puts this film a notch or two above your standard Euro-trash effort is actress Erika Blanc herself, who delivers an incredibly sensuous and sinister performance as the femme fatale. Her professionalism and mastery of facial expressions (plus clever use of facial controtionism to give her a more horrific look when she transforms) as she slinks around in an incredibly kinky wardrobe selection will stay in the mind long after the rest of the film is forgotten. The cast also includes Ivana Novak (who appeared in SWEET SPIRITS that same year, along with Blanc) and Shirley Corrigan (CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT), both of whom have nude scenes here, and Lucien Raimbourg.
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The Redemption Video release has a completely pointless intro featuring British Scream Queen Eileen Daly and a couple of blood-soaked topless blondes who fight over a human heart in front of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST stills (!?) that you're best off fast-forwarding past. This is also one of the rare movies whose public domain status hasn't harmed it. Even the cheap multi-packs this is usually contained on (released by Mill Creek, et al) use an excellent quality print of the film.

★★1/2

L'assassino ha le mani pulite (1968)

... aka: Deadly Inheritance
... aka: Murder by Vocation
... aka: Omicidio per vocazione
... aka: Tödliches Erbe (Deadly Heritage)

Directed by:
Vittorio Sindoni

Deaf widower Oscar Marot (Arnaldo De Angelis) is run over by a train, leaving behind three pretty daughters; loner Simone (Femi Benussi), married Rosalie ("Jeanette Len" / Giovanna Lenzi) and naive Colette (Valeria Ciangottini), as well as an adopted invalid / semi-retarded son Janot (Ernesto Colli), who he seemed even more fond of than his own girls. Afterward, a will reader shows up and reveals that even though Oscar worked at a train station, he was something of a closet financial wiz who invested wisely enough to save back a million franks. However, a stipulation in his will is that the family has to wait three long years until Janot reaches his 21st birthday to collect their inheritance. Guess what happens next? You got it... people start mysteriously dying. First up is Janot, who gets splattered into about a dozen pieces after someone pushes him front of a moving train. Many others will follow.

There are a lot of characters and they all pretty much have a motive to murder. Simone's married lover Jules Didier (Isarco Ravaioli) owns a popular dance club, but doesn't make enough to pay off his wife Natalie (Alessandra Moravia), who is demanding he give her 50,000 franks or else she won't give him a divorce. Rosalie's pushy, much-hated metal worker husband Leon (Ivo Garrani) is drowning in debt and urgently needs to pay off some debtors or else he'll lose everything. Throw in investigating police Commissioner Etienne (Virgilio Gazzolo) and Chief Inspector Gerard (Tom Drake) and you have a standard, though sturdy enough, foundation for an enjoyable giallo. Though much less stylish than the films brought to us by the likes of Argento, Bava or Martino, I have to give this one some extra credit for a decent screenplay, which will adequately throw most viewers off track with lots of twists and turns, especially toward the end. I also give it credit for sensibly tying up all the loose ends by the finale. Overall it's probably one of the better-plotted films in this genre.

Various interior and exterior locations are fairly well used here with several nice pan shots of a picturesque old city and some brief scenes taking place in a crumbling old building, around a lake with tall weeds and a field of dead corn stalks. Since this is one of the first of its kind, don't expect a whole lot of gore or nudity. Most of the murders are committed off-screen (including one committed with a golf club) so there's just a little bit of blood and Benussi has only brief partial nude scene taking a shower. The acting and direction are fairly good, as are the score by Stefano Torossi and cinematography by Ascenzio Rossi.

The ZDD Visual Media disc is a sharp and good-looking print of this film, but the English-dubbing is quite bad at times (particular the person who did the Janot character). Also the actor cast as Janot role looks at least ten years too old to be playing an 18-year-old. Minor gripes, I know. Fans of giallo or mysteries with more of an emphasis on story over exploitation should still enjoy this one quite a bit.

★★★

Don't Go in the House (1979)

...aka: Burning, The
...aka: Pyromaniac

Directed by:
Joseph Ellison

Donny (Dan Grimaldi, later a regular on the popular HBO series The Sopranos) is a weird, fire-obsessed loner who lives in a large house with his domineering, sickly old mother (Ruth Dardick). Childhood flashbacks reveal that when his momma got pissed ("You're a bad boy, you're evil and you must be punished!") she roasted his hands over the stovetop. Donny starts hearing voices, is taunted by his boss for failing to help out a co-worker who almost burned to death and then his mom dies, so it comes as no surprise when he finally snaps and goes on a killing spree. Female victims are lured back to his home, stripped nude and chained up in a specially equipped, fire-proof room with metal walls where they're coated with gasoline and then set ablaze with a flamethrower. This grisly murder technique, while only shown one time in its entirety, is very effective and surprisingly convincing looking since the fx employ optical trickery instead of a stuntman in a padded suit. After three women are killed (charred bodies arranged upstairs offsetting the otherwise bland, hotel room-like decor), Donny takes some time off trying to be normal again while being haunted by visions/voices of the dead. Meanwhile, Donny's concerned friend from work (Robert Osth), a decidedly odd choice for hero duties since he's basically an obnoxious jerk who cheats on his wife, and the local priest (Ralph D. Bowman) starts getting suspicious.
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Acting is average at best, it's derivative as hell, misogynistic as hell (there's no female role of substance and every woman in portrayed as being abusive, drunken, stupid and/or bitchy) and not really worth going out of your way to see but oh well; I still kind of liked it. It's heavily influenced by the disco movement to ensure plenty of tacky, dated entertainment value. Donny decides to celebrate his first free minutes of freedom from mum by blasting a disco record, there's a long scene where Donny tries to pick out the right outfit for the "disco scene," "Shot by Boogie Lightning" is the end credits theme and there's a hilarious bit at a club where Donny smashes a candle in a woman's face and sets her hair on fire when she tries to make him get up and boogie down to the disco beat! It was a Video Nasty and criticized at the time for being misogynistic, even though overall it's actually much tamer than many other efforts from the period. The ending seems somewhat similar to the end of MANIAC (1980).

★★

Day of the Animals (1977)

...aka: Future Animals
...aka: Something Is Out There

Directed by:
William Girdler

"In June 1974, Drs. F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina of the University of California startled the scientific world with their finding that fluorocarbon gases used in aerosol spray cans are seriously damaging the Earth's protective ozone layer. Thus, potentially dangerous amounts of ultra-violent rays are reaching the surface of our planet, adversely affecting all living things. This motion picture dramatizes what COULD happen in the near future IF we continue to do nothing to stop this damage to nature's protective shield for life on this planet." Not only is this a fairly enjoyable killer animal flick, but as you can tell from the opening credits scroll, also a warning to us all about the dangers of fucking over Mother Nature. Nowadays, the ozone layer depletion and Global Warming are hot button political issues, but thirty years ago it was a fairly fresh concept people were just starting to take seriously. Day of the Animals isn't really concerned with scientific theory, though. Global Warming is mostly used an easy, timely excuse to show a bunch of animals going buck wild and killing off a bunch of humans. Overall, I think this is a more enjoyable movie than the same director's more popular Jaws rip-off GRIZZLY (1976). Like fellow nature-runs-amok effort FROGS (1972), it doesn't limit itself to one killer beast, but a whole forest full - rats, wolves, snakes, dogs, cougars, bears, falcons, tarantulas and others get to join in on the fun and terrorize the cast. Speaking of which, boy do we have a nice little crew here...

Christopher George leads the group of backpackers through the picturesque Sierra Nevada mountains. Included on the journey are journalist Lynda Day George (who appeared alongside her hubby on numerous occasions), bespeckled professor Richard Jaeckel (who had appeared with Chris George in Grizzly), pampered and overprotective mom Ruth Roman, wise Indian guide Michael Ansara, one little boy and a couple of other lesser-defined men and women (including a young Andrew Stevens). The character most people remember is an insufferable, controlling upper-crust asshole played so obnoxiously over-the-top by Leslie Nielsen you can't wait for him to die. Stranded deep into the woods, these characters are picked off one by one by the radiation-crazed forest animals, bicker a lot while they hike around and eventually split up into two groups. Sure it's silly at times, but it's a fairly well made movie with some well-edited horror and action sequences, decent cinematography and some nice outdoor locations. The attack sequences themselves range from unintentionally hilarious (the leapin' rat attack) to surprisingly potent (particularly one girl's cliff-side avian encounter and a man besieged by a rabid domestic dog and some rattlesnakes by a car).

There are two DVD releases this film. The first is from DVD Ltd., which should be avoided. It's the flat, VHS quality full-screen print of the film and comes with no extras. The release from Shriek Show contains both the letterboxed TV master print and a letterboxed theatrical release print under the alternate title Something Is Out There. There's also a poorly recorded, completely disorganized commentary track from star Lynda Day George (who claims this was actually filmed in 1974), Jon Cedar, "horror icon" Scott Spiegel and some other guy talking over each other the entire time (I listened to half of it before turning it off), interviews with co-stars Cedar, Paul Mantee and Susan Backlinie, a still gallery and two original trailers.

★★1/2

Deadtime Stories (1985)

...aka: Freaky Fairy Tales
...aka: Griebels, The
...aka: Griebels from Deadtime Stories

Directed by:
Jeffrey Delman

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Directed by:
George Barry

You want strange? You get strange with this off-the-wall cult item about an accursed bed that consumes human flesh via acid. Filming on this project began in 1972, but it wasn't officially released until 2003. Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Deathdream (1972)

... aka: Dead of Night
... aka: Night Andy Came Home, The
... aka: Night Walk
... aka: Veteran, The
... aka: Whispers

Directed by:
Bob Clark

Upon hearing the tragic news that her beloved son Andy has just been killed while serving in the Vietnam War, grieving mother Christine (Lynn Carlin) wishes for his safe return, anyway. As the old adage says "You better be careful what you wish for" just as one obscenely popular writer who shall remain nameless once intoned, "Sometimes dead is better." In this particular case, dead is definitely better. Andy (Richard Backus) does indeed return home, but the family's joy is short-lived upon the slow realization that their once kind, outgoing and upstanding young son has transformed into another beast entirely. Sure he may look the same (well... sometimes), but he's suddenly quiet, withdrawn, emotionless... and downright creepy. Andy spends his days and nights sitting in his room slowly rocking back and forth in a rocking chair and has a devilish grimace plastered on his face for no good reason. Andy's father Charles (John Marley), who has something of a drinking problem, gets fed up and frustrated in no short time, but Christine demands patience from the entire family. After all, who knows what kind of terrible things he witnessed in the war. Christine thinks with a little time and  understanding that Andy will eventually snap out of it. Little does she or anyone else realize, but Andy has somehow turned into a remorseless vampire-like fiend who needs fresh human blood to sustain himself. Without it, he rapidly starts to age and will die.

Though never really blatantly discussed, the anti-war sentiment rings loud and clear in this clever little film, which uses post traumatic stress as a metaphoric means to fuel its horror. After all, many soldiers who serve and are exposed to the misery, inhumanity and death of war clearly don't return home the same person. Just in Andy's case, he doesn't really return as the same species. No explanation is ever even given for Andy's return, what Andy has become or how Andy became that way, and none is really necessary. The film doesn't shy away from including the entire family in on the suffering either, as families are often left with the task of healing their physically and / or psychologically crippled children / siblings who return from overseas having seen too much. Even supporting characters - such as Andy's sister Cathy (Anya Ormsby), who is clearly not favored by the mother despite being a sweet girl - and Andy's former girlfriend Joanne (Jane Daly), who is still in love with him after all his time away, drive home the point that the atrocities of war affect many, many lives on the home front. This material certainly could have been taken a step or two further than what it actually is, but nonetheless it gets the job done as both a horror film and an indictment on the horrific fallout of war.

Originally titled Dead of Night and also known as The Night Andy Came Home and by several other titles, Deathdream may not have enough action for some tastes and, despite boasting early makeup effects from Tom Savini (who was assisted by screenwriter Alan Ormsby), the film is fairly restrained when it comes to gore. There are certainly a few bloody sequences though, including Andy stabbing a psychiatrist (Henderson Forsythe) to death with a syringe and feasting on his blood. The design of the more monstrous Andy is highly effective and there are several genuinely disturbing moments, including a scene where Andy strangles the family dog to death in front of a bunch of neighborhood children. The performances are mostly solid, with particularly impressive contributions from Carlin and, most especially, Backus in a very difficult-to-play part. It was filmed in 1972 but not released until two years later.

This same team of filmmakers (director Clark, writer Ormsby) plus several of the actresses, had previously teamed up for the bizarre zombie film CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1972). Ormsby and Jeff Gillen (who appears here as a bartender) would make the terrific DERANGED (1973), based on real life killer and necrophile Ed Gein, the following year. Clark graduated to the much-loved trend-setting proto slasher BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). Every single one of these films is worthwhile.

★★★

Death Row Diner (1988)

Directed by:
B. Dennis Wood

1940s movie mogul Otis Wilcox (John Content) is fried in the electric chair for a crime he didn't commit... and worse yet, on an empty stomach! Many years later, a group of people show up in the same exact prison to shoot a horror movie and are plagued by the inconvenient disappearances of both cast and crew. Yup, Otis has returned from the grave as a cannibal zombie and seeks revenge against the filmmakers for turning his once prosperous movie studio into a B-grade sleaze factory. If you think this sounds sort of like Destroyer (1987) or a dozen or so other electric chair/prison horror flicks, you're exactly right. Only this one is shot-on-video, has no nudity, mediocre-at-best acting, phony gore effects (like a guy whose eyeballs pop out after a thud to the back of the head with a ping pong paddle), an annoying Elvis-impersonating caterer and plugs for Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Fangoria magazine. Whatever fun there is to be had is limited to watching B grade stalwarts Jay Richardson and Michelle Bauer (playing a slimy movie director and his actress wife, who happen to hate each other's guts) gamely ad-libbing their way through the proceedings.

Scraped from the bottom of the Camp Motion Pictures barrel (then again, about 80 percent of their releases were awful), but it gives hope to all amateur filmmakers out there. If this thing can get a video release then anything can! The cast includes Tom Shell (Surf Nazis Must Die) as an actor and no less than four actors who'd just appeared in ZOMBIE DEATH HOUSE (1987) - Salvatore Richichi (who co-wrote, executive produced and was the stunt coordinator), Frank Sarcinello, Jr., Dana Lis Mason and Dennis T. Mooney - another horror with a prison setting.

Death Nurse (1987)

Directed by:
Nick Millard

You've seen her as an obese murderess who goes nutzoid when people threaten to take her precious food away in the campy, Z-grade minor cult effort CRIMINALLY INSANE (1973) as well as its belated camcorder follow-up CRAZY FAT ETHEL 2 (1987), and now you can see "Queen of Camp" Priscilla Alden at it again playing an almost identical role. The three films are so similar, they should have just called this one Criminally Insane 3... or better yet, Crazy Fat Edith. Like Crazy Fat 2, the film is shot with a consumer-grade camcorder, runs barely an hour, has some of the absolute worst amateur acting you'll ever see, is full of lame attempts at tasteless comedy (including plenty of groaner one-liners) and opens with an inserted title card and then just recycles the opening credits from the very first film, nevermind the fact they're mostly erroneous. Like its predecesor, it also pads out much of the time by reusing clips from numerous other Millard films (passing them off as Edith's nightmares); including the aforementioned Criminally Insane and SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1974). It truly doesn't get much worse than this, folks.



Alden portrays a portly, hard-drinking and amazingly grumpy nurse named Edith Mortley who, along with her equally disturbed doctor brother Gordon (Albert Eskinazi), run the Shady Palms Clinic out of their home. They take in patients with different medical problems, murder them, bury them in their backyard and then fraudulently bill Medicare for their services. After killing a guy on the operating table, tuberculosis patient John Davis (played by director "Nick Phillips" aka Nick Millard) is admitted and Edith immediately murders him by putting a pillow over his head and then laying on top of it. When elderly social worked Faith Chandler (whom may be Frances Millard, the producer and director's mother) shows up to check up on him, they dig up his body, clean it off with a water hose, put him back in his bed and then fake that he's alive by waving his hand.



There are several other patients at the facility, including Louise Kagel (Irmgard Millard, who I assume is the director's wife), an alcoholic who's secretly sleeping with Gordon and has a bad habit of getting into Edith's sherry, which really pisses her off. Another guy shows up with a heart-condition. They saw him open and plot to transplant a dog's heart (!) into him, but a cat runs off with the heart instead. When a health inspector threatens to shut them down because of Edith's flesh-eating pet rats in the basement, she stabs him to death. The social worker checks herself into the facility and Edith gives her human flesh for dinner before killing her. As the film ends, we're left hanging as Lt. Carl Bedowski shows up there looking for his missing nephew Charlie (the dead heart patient). But have no fear, the Crazy Fat saga continues on with DEATH NURSE 2.



Millard's horror-o-graphy also includes the ultra-obscure (and barely released) DOCTOR BLOODBATH (1987) and CEMETERY SISTERS (1987), both of which are were also shot-on-video, as well as later ventures into the genre such as DRACULA IN VEGAS (1999) and the Henry James adaptation (!) THE TURN OF THE SCREW (2003). His producer mom Frances switched career paths in her twilight years, becoming "the oldest living porn actress" at the ripe age of 83 in such films as 92 AND STILL BANGING (2000) and HEY, MY GRANDMA IS A WHORE 8 (2002)!

Amazingly, this glorified home movie has been issued on VHS no less than four different times, by Chop-Em-Ups Video, Incredibly Strange Filmworks, Video City Productions and Video Treasures. It has yet to pop up on DVD, though that's really something of a blessing.

Delusion (1980)

...aka: House Where Death Lives, The

Directed by:
Alan Beattie

Patricia Pearcy (from the memorable killer worm movie SQUIRM) stars as Meredith Stone, a woman who becomes the live-in nurse for the crippled, elderly Ivar Langrock (Joseph Cotten). When Ivar's teenage grandson Gregory (John Dukakis) shows up at the house, Meredith falls for him and they start a sexual relationship, then suddenly a series of unexplained murders occur. A dog is impaled and victims are beat to death with table legs. The acting is decent and it's generally well made, but long stretches of boredom try viewer patience and it's not as shocking as it's original title (THE HOUSE WHERE DEATH LIVES) and ad art suggested. I don't know whether or not I liked the surprise conclusion or not. It's narrated by Pearcy. The director also co-scripted and co-produced. Also in the cast are David Hayward, Leon Charles (who died shortly after this was made), Alice Nunn (FANGS), Simone Griffeth (DEATH RACE 2000), James Purcell and Shelby Leverington. The Embassy video release wasn't until 1984 and this film has yet to see the light of day on DVD.

Score: 5 out of 10

Dèmoni 2: L'incubo ritorna (1986)

...aka: Dance of the Demons 2
...aka: Demoni 2
...aka: Demons 2
...aka: Demons 2: The Nightmare Is Back
...aka: Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns

Directed by:
Lamberto Bava

During a birthday party, a demon emerges from a TV set that's playing the same film that was screened in the original film, and possesses a whiny teenage girl (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) who will soon have more to worry about than her hair and dress. One by one, tenants living in the same highrise apartment building (who naturally become trapped inside) are transformed into the same ugly, possessed killers with fangs and claws that we saw in the first film. The large building undoubtedly makes a great setting for this type of film (as it did for Cronenberg's SHIVERS), with scenes taking place in long hallways, vent shafts, the elevator shaft, a parking garage, a TV studio and even a gym full of muscleheads, it's well photographed and the gore make-up (by Rosario Prestopino and others) and special effects are also above average. Unfortunately, that doesn't save this from being a subpar and childish rehash of the first film. There are lots of silly characters doing silly things throughout, all atrociously dubbed, of course, plus a demon dog, a miniature demon puppet monster (for some GREMLINS-like action), throats ripped out, bodies thrown off rooftops and impalements. It ends with "Here Comes the Rain" by The Cult and also features music by Dead Can Dance, Simon Boswell, The Smiths and Love and Rockets.
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Dario Argento co-wrote (with Bava and two others again) and produced. Over five minutes were cut from the initial American release to get an R rating, making some of the scenes seem choppy, even incomprehensible in the VHS version. The gore scenes have been restored for the DVD release. David Knight and Nancy Brilli star, along with a young Asia Argento (in her first horror film), Virginia Bryant (from one of the other sequels), Davide Marotta (who played the little killer in Argento's PHENOMENA) and Antonio Cantafora. Many cast members from the original (Bobby Rhodes, Lino Salemme, Eliana Hoppe...) also return, but play different characters here.
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Other Demons movies, some of which aren't even related and were just retitled for international distribution, include: DEMONS 3, which was the proposed title for LA CHIESA (aka THE CHURCH, 1989), but was instead used for THE OGRE (1988) and BLACK DEMONS (1991). DEMONS 4 is Soavi's LA SETTA (aka THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER, 1990) and DEMONS 5: THE DEVIL'S VEIL is LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO (1989), which was also made by Lamberto Bava. And DEMONS '96 was a production title for CEMETERY MAN.

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Demon Lust (1980)

...aka: Savage Encounter

Directed by:
Bernard Buys

A woman who was sexually molester as a child, and her husband, are harassed by a couple of backwoods psychos. Originally released as SAVAGE ENCOUNTER at 86 minutes, the U.S. video release from Genesis (released in 1988 under the title DEMON LUST) is missing ten minutes. Review coming soon.

Demonic Toys (1992)

...aka: Dangerous Toys

Directed by:
Peter Manoogian

Irritating, childish and brainless just about sum up this Full Moon release, which was filmed in 1990 but not released until 1992. Attractive Tracy Scoggins stars as a pregnant undercover policewoman who, along with the thugs (Barry Lynch and Michael Russo) who just killed her partner/ lover (Jeff Weston), a fast-food delivery guy (Bentley Mitchum, Gregory's son), a homeless girl (Ellen Weston) and a security guard, becomes trapped in a closed-down toy warehouse. Since the warehouse was built on top of a burial mound where a demon was emtombed, and one of the characters is injured, a splash of blood is all it takes to awaken a demon kid (Daniel Cerny), who wants to possess Scoggins' unborn child and also brings an assortment of toys to murderous life to kill off the rest of the cast. There's a killer jack-in-the-box, teddy bear, robot and a foul-mouthed demon baby doll ("Baby Oopsie Daisy") that spouts some of the lamest wise cracks you'll ever hear. The special effects are OK, and I guess this'll do the trick if you're in the mood for a stupid, cheesy killer toy/doll flick full of infantile humor.
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Scoggins (and the horny baby doll) returned in DOLLMAN VS. DEMONIC TOYS (1993), a direct-to-video "sequel," and there was also PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS (2004), which was filmed in Bulgaria. The fourth installment (DEMONIC TOYS: PERSONAL DEMONS), which was filmed in Italy, is slated for release sometime this year. All four were produced by Charles Band.

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Deliberate Stranger, The (1986) (TV)

Directed by:
Marvin J. Chomsky

Well-done, engrossing made-for-TV biopic (originally a two-part miniseries) about real-life serial killer Ted Bundy features a cleverly-cast Mark Harmon, People Magazine's "Sexiest Man of the Year" back then, as the suave mass murderer who used his looks and clean-cut image to lure lots of women to their deaths. Based on the novel "Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger" by Richard W. Larsen; a journalist, real-life-friend and one-time-defender of Bundy's, who is played here by George Grizzard. Frederick Forrest, John Ashton, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush all play various detective or police officers working on the case, Glynnis O'Connor is Bundy's girlfriend, Deborah Goodrich (APRIL FOOL'S DAY) as Bundy's co-worker, Terry Farrell and Starr Andreeff as victims and many other familiar faces. Bundy was only charged with a few actual murders (when he fled to Florida), but was suspected in at least 25 others and himself claimed to have killed "over 200" women. He was executed in 1989.
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It's not on DVD yet, but an unrated (which would probably get no worse than a PG-13 rating), 192-minute video was released by Warner Bros. back in the day.

Score: 7 out of 10

Def-Con 4 (1983)

...aka: Defense Condition 4

Directed by:
Paul Donovan

Bleak sci-fi begins with three astronauts (Tim Choate, Kate Lynch and Maury Chaykin) who are forced to crashland on post-nuke earth after a nuclear holocaust. Much of the population has been wiped out, but those who remain are either savage mutant cannibals (who are first seen carving meat slices off of a severed leg) or unbelievably sadistic cretins who imprison innocent people in a slave camp and are led by a fascist Hitler clone (Kevin King). Some of the special effects (especially the space scenes at the beginning) are good, the cast try their best and a couple of interesting things happen, but overall this is grim, dull and just extremely, needlessly unpleasant. Recommend only to those who enjoy people wallowing around in their own filth. The director also scripted and the cast includes Lenore Zann and John Walsch.

Score: 3.5 out of 10

Deepstar Six (1988)

...aka: Deep Six
...aka: Deep Star Six

Directed by:
Sean S. Cunningham

I wonder what was going on in the late 80s to prompt so many ALIEN-inspired films set underwater? We not only got this one, but also THE ABYSS, LEVIATHAN, LORDS OF THE DEEP, ENDLESS DESCENT and others. Set sometime in the near future, a slew of scientists and others down deep in the ocean at an underwater military base face off against a giant, mutant crab monster. Doesn't hold up until the end, but it's OK entertainment and the monster designed by Chris Walas and Mark Shostrom in pretty good.

★★

Demon Wind (1990)

Directed by:
Charles Philip Moore

Review coming soon.

Score: 4.5 out of 10

Devil Rides Out, The (1968)

...aka: Devil's Bride, The

Directed by:
Terence Fisher

Christopher Lee and friends battle an evil Satanist bent on possessing innocent victims. Based on a Dennis Wheatley's novel of the same name, it was originally released in the U.S. as THE DEVIL’S BRIDE. Review coming soon.

★★★

Minaccia d'amore (1988)

...aka: Dial: Help
...aka: Love Threat
...aka: Ragno gelido

Directed by:
Ruggero Deodato

An "erotic thriller," or so says the video box, about a beautiful fashion model (Charlotte Lewis) in Rome who has the misfortune of dialing the wrong telephone number one day when she's trying to get ahold of her long-distance lover. Soon after, she's threatened by mysterious calls, then some kind of malevolent spirit starts using phones and phone cords to attack her and her friends. The storyline makes absolutely no sense, it's stupid, it's tame, the murders are unintentionally hilarious (such as a payphone firing coins at someone) and there's even a ridiculous theme song ("Baby, Don't Answer the Telephone"), but the movie at least looks decent thanks to cinematographer Renato Tafuri, has a good Claudio Simonetti score and seems to have been filmed in English, though the best special effect is undoubtedly the stunning Lewis lounging around in her lingerie or in a bathtub. With Marcello Modugno (DEMONS), Carola Stagnaro (TENEBRE) and William Berger as a paranormal expert.

Score: 3 out of 10

Disturbed (1990)

Directed by:
Charles Winkler

Mediocre, unpleasant black comic horror thriller features Malcolm McDowell (in a knockout performance) playing sex-crazed mental hospital psychiatrist Dr. Derek Russell, who gets his kicks by drugging and raping his better looking female patients. Sandy (Pamela Gidley, also good), a sex-obsessed, bitchy, suicidal ex-model arrives on the grounds, and strikes McDowell's fancy. But unexpected complications lead him to enlist the help of patient Michael (Geoffrey Lewis) to kill her, resulting in questionable sanity for Dr. Russell when Sandy's ghost seemingly returns to haunt him. I guess all of the imaginative, but overwhelming, camerawork is a plus (like following a flying needle through the air and a POV shot from a penis!), but a senseless ending is tacked on and the movie suffers from unlikable characters and standard institutionalized horror cliches. With Priscilla Pointer, Irwin Keyes, Clint Howard, Adam Rifkin and Dean Cameron as a singing telegram.

★★

Don't Answer the Phone! (1980)

...aka: Hollywood Strangler, The

Directed by:
Robert Hammer

A greasy, slobbering Vietnam Vet (Nicholas Worth - who must be seen to be believed) kills women. Avoid the DVD release distributed by Rhino and several other bargain companies, which is the horribly butchered 85 minute version missing most of the violence and all of the nudity. Unfortunately, that's what I ended up watching by accident. The full version, which runs 94 minutes, has been released by BCI Eclipse (on a double bill with PRIME EVIL). The original VHS release from Media is also uncut. Since I only saw the cut version, I'm going to hold off on doing a full review until I see the unedited one. Hopefully that will be an improvement.

Score: 2 out of 10 (cut version)

Don't Go Near the Park (1979)

...aka: Curse of the Living Dead
...aka: Nightstalker, The
...aka: Sanctuary for Evil

Directed by:
Lawrence D. Foldes

Review coming soon.

Document of the Dead (1985)

Directed by:
Roy Frumkes

If you loved DAWN OF THE DEAD or like the work of director George A. Romero or special effects artist Tom Savini (and if you don't then I donwannaknowya!), then do yourself a favor and watch this well made and informative documentary. It mostly covers the productions of Dawn and (then jumping ahead around ten year) TWO EVIL EYES, but also touches on other Romero films. I was very surprised to see a commercial for Calgon soap (a clever FANTASTIC VOYAGE take off) that Romero and his crew worked on in between films. In a telling scene, Romero and Savini spend all day on the set (of Two Evil Eyes) to make sure a special effects scene comes out just right. It is that kind of dedication that always shines through with the finished product. Susan Tyrrell narrates the early footage and many actors and production people are seen hard at work or being interviewed. I liked it quite a bit, and if you're interested in horror filmmaking, FX make-up, or film production, then you'll probably like it, too.
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It's been released numerous times to video and DVD and is now one of the features on the four-disc "Ultimate Edition" of Dawn (released by Anchor Bay). DARIO ARGENTO'S WORLD OF HORROR (1985) briefly touches on Argento's association with Dawn, and is another recommended documentary. Frumkes returned to write and produce the very gory and tasteless STREET TRASH (1987).

★★★

Dolls (1986)

Directed by:
Stuart Gordon

Minor but passable little killer doll film isn't nearly as successful as director Stuart Gordon's breakthrough hit RE-ANIMATOR (1985), but is nonetheless watchable, fairly well-made and should please those who enjoy these kind of things. A sweet-natured overweight "big kid" type (Stephen Lee), truly wicked stepparents (the director's wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and Ian Patrick Williams), their cherubic young daughter (Carrie Lorraine) and two obnoxious new wave party girls (Cassie Stuart and Bunty Bailey) become stranded at a remote mansion during a thunderstorm. Inside, a seemingly nice and very hospitable elderly couple (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason) craft beautiful handmaid dolls that magically come to life and kill them off one by one. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who's going to survive the night and the plot is pretty nonexistent, but it's atmospherically set and photographed in a nice looking old house, the special effects (a mix of doll models and some wonderful stop-motion animation) are convincing and the production values are good enough to rate this right below TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975) and CHILD'S PLAY (1988) in the killer doll department. Gordon also made the (much better) FROM BEYOND that same year.

★★

Don't Look Now (1973)

...aka: A Venezia... un dicembre rosso shocking

Directed by:
Nicolas Roeg

Review coming soon.

Score: 5 out of 10

Deadly Friend (1986)

Directed by:
Wes Craven

Craven's follow-up to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) and the TV movie CHILLER (1985), is a well-meaning drama with a major horror twist. Matthew Laborteaux (best known as Albert from the Little House on the Prairie TV series) stars as Paul, a teen genius who has just moved into a new house in a new town with his mother (Anne Twomey), has developed a remarkable robot sidekick named B.B. and falls for troubled, pretty blonde next-door neighbor Samantha (Kristy Swanson). After the robot is destroyed by an unbelievably bitchy old woman down the street (the memorable Anne Ramsey, who'd get some attention that same year for THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN) and Samantha is killed by her abusive stepfather (Richard Marcus), the depressed teen revives his lost love by putting the robot's microchip in her brain. She returns to life and he's thrilled, but since this is called Deadly Friend, you can probably guess how long his glee will last. Many (mostly deserving) characters die and this has that famous decapitation by flying basketball death, which was actually inserted against the director's wishes but is ironically the most memorable part of the entire film! It's sweet-natured (well, for a horror movie...), but when Swanson starts flinging people through the air and jumping over police cars, you know that Craven has gone a little too far and compromised the serious content. The ending is especially disappointing.
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Based on Diana Henstell's novel "Friend", which was adapted by Bruce Joel Rubin (GHOST and BLOOD RAGE!). Charles Bernstein did the music for this Warner Bros. release. Michael Sharrett co-stars as Paul's friend and Charles Fleischer provided the robot voice.

★★

Deadly Embrace (1989)

Directed by:
David DeCoteau

I've had a strange fascination with the films of David DeCoteau since my pre-teen years tuning in to the USA network's Up All Night program, where I'd marvel at such lowbrow, upbeat offerings as NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1987; which actually had new "clothed" scenes shot specifically for airing on that program), SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA (1987) and DR. ALIEN (1989). Embrace is one of the director's only films from that era never to make the show's line-up; probably because when you remove all of the sex and nudity you're not left with much else. The film is one of the earliest examples of an erotic thriller made for the direct-to-video market and was made several years before the two Shannon's (Tweed and Whirry) began dominating late night cable and video erotica. Earlier mainstream films such as BODY HEAT (1981) and FATAL ATTRACTION (1987) laid down the groundwork for these types of films, but the genre itself wasn't really solidified as a formidable and profitable subgenre until the blockbuster BASIC INSTINCT (1992) hit theaters. The long-forgotten Embrace (which has yet to see the light of day on DVD) doesn't hold a candle to any of those bigger-budgeted films and unfortunately isn't even a good example of a low-budget erotic psycho-thriller. It's just bad. Plain and simple.

College student Chris Thompson (beefy Ken Abraham) gets a summer job as a live-in handyman for the Morland's; wealthy and almost always absent businessman Stewart (Jan-Michael Vincent) and his attractive, lonely, stay-at-home wife Charlotte (Ty Randolph). Stewart has been having an affair with his secretary (Ruth Collins) and wants a divorce from Charlotte once he can find a way out of the marriage and keep his considerable fortune in tact. In other words, he hopes to catch Chris and Charlotte in an affair so that he can use that to keep her from cashing in once they separate. It isn't long before Chris and Charlotte start crossing employer-employee boundaries but, strangely enough, it isn't Stewart who is monitoring things with hidden cameras placed around the home, but Charlotte herself. She uses a two-way mirror to keep tabs on her new boy toy and finally goes over the edge when Chris tries to call things off and invites his bubbly aspiring actress girlfriend Michelle (Linnea Quigley) over for a visit. A kidnapping and few deaths follow.

Utilizing a noir-ish framework featuring close-ups of hands holding cigarettes and gesturing and utterly redundant voice-overs to recount what is going on to pad out the slim-as-can-be storyline is really the least of this film's problems. The fact that none of the characters are adequately developed, the acting is highly uneven, the premise is anything but original and it's weakly scripted and directed are other clear problems, but the pacing being positively glacial is what really does the whole thing in. It drags so much and for so long that Charlotte's potentially entertaining psychotic breakdown is mostly relegated to the last 10 minutes (!) Even those scenes, with her tying up Quigley in the basement and threatening her with a gun, fail to build even the faintest amount of suspense. No one is really asking for depth in something like this, but is a tiny bit of excitement or tension really asking too much from a so-called "thriller?" Opting for filler instead doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Speaking of filler, numerous silent fantasy sequences featuring a fan-blown Michelle Bauer (the "Female Spirit of Sex" according to the credits) stripping off in slow-mo in an all-black room and having sex, plus some colorfully-lit clothes shedding from Quigley, were spliced in throughout the film. Even though these were clearly added to the mix as a way to pad out the time even further, I actually enjoyed these scenes more than the main storyline! Part of the reason could be that the voluptuous Bauer looks delectable sans clothing, but primarily because the scenes take on a bizarre and almost artsy-surreal quality after awhile. The film certainly does deliver on the promise of nudity; though this is one of the only films I've seen where Ruth Collins actually keeps her clothes on! And since this is a DeCoteau movie, ample time is also focused on the male star's physique, something not all that common in one of these things (though certainly common in the director's movies... even at this early stage in his career).

Though lead actress Randolph isn't given much at all to work with and is saddled with a poorly-written character, she at least manages to give a mature, somewhat subdued performance under the circumstances. Possibly best known for her bit as a horror movie actress in Brian De Palma's BODY DOUBLE (1984) - anyone who has seen that film remembers those closing credits quite fondly! - Randolph had a spotty career throughout the years in both exploitation and big budget Hollywood films, stretching back to the early 70s. According to some sources she also did a handful of X-rated films under the alias "Lisa Berenger." This is one of her only starring roles. All but one of top-billed Vincent's boring scenes take place in either his office or his attorney's (guest star Jack Carter) office, so his fans shouldn't really make this a priority. Abraham and Quigley also shared the screen in DeCoteau's low-budget ALIEN copy CREEPOZOIDS (1987) and in the Rick Sloane-directed comedy VICE ACADEMY (1988), another Up All Night staple.

The VHS was distributed through independent label Prism.

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