Ratings Key



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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Evil Laugh (1986)

Directed by:
Dominick Brascia

Jerry (Gary Hays) purchases a large, secluded house that used to be an orphanage and plans to restore it to use as a children's medical clinic. He calls up some friends, all of whom are in health related studies, and asks them to come up for the weekend to help him straighten the place up. Before everyone gets there, Jerry is killed and has his heart cut out. Delivery boy Donald (Tom Shell) also gets it with a drill. The weekend rolls along and the friends - mature Connie (Kim McKamy aka Ashlyn Gere), bimbo Tina (Jody Gibson, who'd go on to become a real-life "Hollywood Super Madam"), horror movie-loving Barney (Jerold Pearson, who acts exactly like Randy in SCREAM... only 10 years earlier), Scott Baio's lookalike brother Steven Baio (who co-wrote and co-produced with the director), blonde hunk Mark (Myles O'Brien) and snobby couple Sammy (Tony Griffin) and Betty (Karyn O'Bryan) - show up and get to work. Connie relates the sordid history of the home and how years earlier an orderly named Martin was framed for child molestion, which caused his father to commit suicide. Not long after Connie clues everyone in to why they got the place at a discounted rate, the killer starts doing his/her thing until the mask finally comes off.

The title alludes to the killer's penchant for laughter during most of the murder scenes, an idea that would be repeated in DR. GIGGLES (1992) a few years later. Here, the evil laugh sounds more like a silly giggle and it's a rather stupid and pointless way to try to differentiate this otherwise very hokey, run-of-the-mill 80s slasher from others of its type. There's some blood (though not much in the way of actual gore), some skin (though the lead actress - who'd become a porno superstar a few years down the line - amusingly used a body double for her shower scene!), some horror references, some unintended cannibalism (where the leads eat a victims heart, liver and even his - gasp - rocky mountain oysters) and some comedy. Well, a whole lot of comedy. In fact, the filmmakers obviously aren't taking any of this seriously. They couldn't be, could they? I mean, a guy getting his head roasted in a microwave oven with the door wide open? Muahahahahaha! See now, there's an evil laugh for ya. And I didn't even mention the God awful 80s pop tunes about partying the night away or the supremely cheesy music montage complete with close-ups of shaking butts. Where's Jesse Walsh when you need him?

Director/co-writer/co-producer Brascia (who also plays the Evil Laugher here) is best known to us horror geeks as the chubby, chocolate-smeared axe victim Joey in FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING (1985) and, as a inside joke, Mr. Brascia even managed to squeeze an issue of Fangoria dedicated to that film in here. Brascia also played small roles in the Sybil Danning psycho-sexual thriller THEY'RE PLAYING WITH FIRE (1984), the vampire comedy ONCE BITTEN (1985) and the campus slasher RUSH WEEK (1989), and directed the ultra-rare heavy metal werewolf flick HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE (1988), before moving on to a career as a radio host. Hal Shafer (SATAN'S STORYBOOK) and Johnny Venocur (SAVAGE STREETS) play cops.

Filmed in 1986 and not released until 1988. The DVD - a decent quality print - is from Lucky 13.

★1/2

Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars (1982, 1992)

...aka: Case of Harry Billings, The
...aka: Scream Your Head Off

Directed by:
John Carr

This weird, disjointed and obviously patched-together film has a long, troubled production history that (sort of) explains things. Director John Carr, working with a screenplay from Oscar-winner Philip Yordan, began shooting the gory SCREAM YOUR HEAD OFF back in 1982. The film was never completed at the time but an abridged version turned up as one of the stories in the notoriously - and hilariously - awful anthology NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985). Some time in the early 90s, Carr returned to the project, shooting brand new framing scenes starring John Phillip Law (returning from the unfinished 1982 film in the same role to link it all together) and Francine York (as Marilyn Monroe!) and releasing the film under the Marilyn Alive moniker, which made its way to DVD - via Trinity Home Entertainment - in 2006. To make matters even more confusing, someone managed to splice together all the 1982 footage and crib a separate feature out of that, which was released to video only (below) in 1997 under the Scream title.
Right now I can't vouch the SYHO release (I'll review it here eventually), but the Marilyn cut of the film is fun ride if you don't mind mismatched clips (the original was shot on film while the new footage was clearly shot on video) and a lead actor who ages considerably right before your very eyes. The original plot is left more or less intact. Harry Billings (Law) accidentally kills his wife while driving drunk. Guilt-stricken, he attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge, but awakens to find himself a patient at Pinewood Sanitarium. Two corrupt physicians; Dr. Fargo (Sharon Ratcliff) and Dr. Brewer (Arthur Braham), run the joint with help from Richard Moll as sadistic orderly Otto, and use a special drug to make Harry do their bidding. They convince him he's actually world famous lover Casanova and then send him out to kidnap attractive women, who are then sold to black market slave dealers helping Middle Eastern shieks fill out their harems!

As if that wasn't ridiculous enough already, in the newly-added footage Harry pays visits to aged actress Marilyn Monroe, who isn't dead after all but instead being help prisoner in her own separate wing of the sanitarium! What we're told is that when Marilyn's contract was up, the studio murdered a look-a-like to fool the public and then shipped her off to Pinewood to rid themselves of her. Now she's just wasting away there; sometimes delusional thanks to a steady diet of drugs being fed to her by the staff. In one scene, she's seen lounging around in pigtails and grotesque, overdone makeup while clutching a teddy bear. York tries her very best breathless impersonation here, and the scenes she shares with Law have an odd charm to them. Of course, this is all completely absurd, but what I saw was harmless "what if..." fantasy fluff (complete with a happy ending for Harry and Marilyn) spliced into a horror film.

Strangely, all of the gore and nudity originally filmed in 1982 has been removed for the Marilyn cut of the film, which was given a PG-13 rating. Oh well, I still enjoyed it.

★★

Mo tai (1983)

...aka: Devil Fetus
...aka: Devil Foetus
...aka: Devil's Fetus
...aka: Moh toi

Directed by:
Hung Chuen Lau

A woman, who's staying with her well-to-do brother-in-law's family while her husband is out of town, purchases a jade vase at an auction that's supposed to bring good fortune. Instead, the vase unleashes an oily, horny, lizard-like demon that wastes no time spreading its seed. When the husband returns from a long business trip, he walks in on wifey making it with the demon, which leads him to rip the skin off his face to reveal a maggot infestation before jumping out the window. Immediately after, the wife is also killed when a possessed cat knocks her down the staircase. At their joint funeral, a priest realizes the woman is impregnated with an evil fetus and performs a special ritual to keep the curse from spreading. And it won't, as long as their shrines are never tampered with and the charms placed upon them are never removed.

Years later, the brother-in-law (Pak-Kwong Ho), his wife (San Leung), their now-teenage boys; popular and outgoing Ken (Eddie Chan) and shy and reserved Wai (Danny Lau), and granny (Shafei Ouyang), who's been keeping the shrines safe at her home, are living a peaceful life until Ken's new girlfriend Jo-Jo (Shirley Lu) accidentally removes a charm from one of the graves. The evil spirit is then unleashed once again. It first possesses their pet German Shepherd Bobby, who tries to get it on with a human woman before becoming rabid. After he's put down, the spirit enters into Wai and things get even stranger. And I'm not just talking about the 1980s birthday party where everyone dances horribly before eating worm-infested cake.

Wai exhumes the dog's corpse (which he keeps hidden under his bed) and eats its innards! Wai tries to drown Jo-Jo in the pool! Wai rapes the maid, kills her, puts her corpse under his bed, has sex with it and then starts eating it! Wai dresses in drag and jerks off to a poster of Farrah Fawcett! In addition, furniture starts moves around, dad gets squashed to a bloody mess in the sauna and Wai has a sorcerers duel with a priest that includes fire, smoke and cheesy teleportation and cartoon laser effects.

It's poorly directed, badly edited and completely incoherent throughout, but it all looks nice and colorful. The over-the-top tastelessness and ineptitude constantly on display will likely turn off just as many people as it pleases, though I found the whole thing entertaining in a crap movie kinda way.

SBIG
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