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, September 21, 2011

CreepTales (1989)

Directed by:
Tim Boxell
Stephen Hegyes
Ken Mandel
Greg Middleton
Roger Nygard
James Salisbury
Rod Slane


Here's a horror anthology you may have missed. The title, of course, is clearly meant to allude to another anthology hit directed by some guy you may have heard of named George A. Romero. While all five tales contained within Mr. Romero's CREEPSHOW (1982) were lensed specifically for that film, here the director (Mandel) has gathered together six short films from other filmmakers and shot a silly framing device to tie them all together. In the linking scenes, a couple of retarded-acting hunchbacks (played by writer / producers Michael Minton and Jess Sherman) stop by a video store on Halloween night to pick up a copy of a horror movie called "CreepTales," but the owner has just closed shop. They go to a graveyard, dig up the corpse of their undead Uncle Munger (Tim Choate) and steal his copy of "CreepTales" (which he was buried with) instead. They then go to a party full of mutants and monsters, scarf down popcorn and chips, scare off some pizza delivery guys and watch the movie, while Uncle Munger rises from the grave and heads toward the party.




"Warped" (by Nygard) is one of the longest segments and begins with a flash-forward of a woman driving after another woman and chasing her with a pitchfork. Pretty blonde Elizabeth (Jennifer Barlow) has just spent a few months at an insane asylum after suffering from an emotional breakdown. To recover, she goes to stay at a farmhouse with her homely spinster cousin Viola (Frances Marshall-Labyorteaux) and senile, elderly old Aunt Grace (Kay Bonner Nee). Elizabeth finds Viola's diary, which details her getting pregnant as a teenager and her father forcing her to wear a corset, which resulted in her baby being stillborn. Elizabeth goes to explore the locked attic, gets into a fight with Viola, is knocked out with a vase and is tied up in bed. A sheriff who weighs at least 500 pounds eventually stops by. Viola stabs him but it takes a half dozen shots to put him out. There are flashbacks and family secrets involving rape, incest and suicide come forth. This short was also released as part of the 1990 anthology TALES OF THE UNKNOWN.




"Snatcher" (by Boxell) is about a purse snatcher (Tom Kenny, who'd go on to become a stand up comedian and is best known as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants) who picks the wrong purse to steal (it's some kind of monster). It runs about ten minutes, half of which is a purse stealing montage set to some punk song called The House of Skulls. With J. Renee Gilbert (THE DEVIL'S GIFT). "The Closet" (by Hegyel and Middleton) runs just a couple of minutes and is pretty useless. It's the old kid thinks there's a monster in his closet chestnut, which has been filmed numerous other times and all probably better than this one. Salisbury's "Groovy Ghoulie Garage" is up next and it's a pretty fun story. On Halloween night, friends Marvin (Peter Ortell) and Ed (Christopher Prestia) decide to go pick up his sister after she's kicked out of school. They stop by a diner where everyone warns them to stay away from a small town called Tower Springs. Unfortunately, their car breaks down and they're picked up by a truck driver dressed like a clown who ends up taking them to, you guessed it, Tower Springs. While ghoulish garage mechanic Rob Ghoulie (Todd Toon, an award-winning sound editor) works on their car, the guys borrow Fred Flintstone and Popeye the Sailor Man masks and go to a neighborhood party. There, a 60s style garage rock band plays and people seem a little on the dated side. The twist was swiped from TWO-THOUSAND MANIACS! (1964).




The basically worthless "Howling Nightmare" (from "Steve Hegyi," who I'm assuming is the same guy who did "The Closet" segment) is up next. This one involves a posse of hunters headed out into the woods at night to hunt down a man in a rubber werewolf mask. There's a ripped out throat, a cheesy wolf costume and the acting is terrible. Thankfully, things end on a high note with Slane's amusing, imaginative "Sucker" (easily the best of the stories). Frumpy housewife Dora Duffy (Melanie Fry) lives in a pig sty of a home with who she claims to be a terrible and abusive husband named Roy (Greg Roach). At midnight, there's a knock on her door. Thinking it's her husband, she goes downstairs to find bespeckled, fast-talking vacuum salesman Feldon Broom (Bill Orton) at her doorstep. He offers to leave her a powerful "Dirt Demon" mini-vac that she can use for 24 hours to clean up her life. The vacuum has the miraculous ability to clean everything. Just point and shoot and trash disappears, drapes are cleaned, blankets are folded, dishes are washed, etc. He tells her he'll be back the next evening to pick it up, but warns her to not use the vacuum for longer than 30 seconds at a time and to never, ever point it at another person. So what'll happen when Roy finally comes home? This segment has a great performance from Orton, as well as a good twist at the end.




Some of the directors went on to do other things. Boxell made the entertaining killer gecko flick ABERRATION (1997), Hegyes became a successful producer (WHITE NOISE and it's sequel are among his credits), Mandel directed documentaries on blues music, polio and artist Frida Kahlo and Nygard made the successful Star Trek documentary TREKKIES and is a prolific filmmaker and editor. Slane had previously done music for a few early shot-on-video hits; BLOOD CULT (1985) and FOREVER EVIL (1987) among them. Forrest J. Ackerman received a creative consultant credit here, as well.


CreepTales was not very well distributed on VHS, despite not being too bad overall. That was remedied by a 2004 DVD release through BCI/Eclipse. The film (which was in production from 1986-1989) is erroneously listed as a 2004 title on IMDb.

★★

Jiang shi xian sheng xu ji (1986)

... aka: Geung si sin saang juk jaap
... aka: Mr. Vampire II
... aka: Return of Mr. Vampire, The

Directed by:
Ricky Lau


An immediate, mostly unrelated and from all indications rushed follow-up to the 1985 horror-comedy hit MR. VAMPIRE, this one moves to a modern day setting and unwisely concentrates on crude adult-oriented comedy, cutesy / cloying kid humor and syrupy sentimentaility than it does on the action and horror. Despite being made by the same people and featuring much of the same cast, this fails to pull off the impressive balancing act the original film did. Professor Kwok (Fat Chung) and two of his bumbling students (Billy Lau and Lee Fung) stumble upon a bunch of centuries-old remains. They then discover a cave, some jewels and the surprisingly well-preserved corpses of a couple and their young son; all of whom have the yellow spell paper attached to their forehead... at least for the time being. They're taken back to the lab. The professor and one of his flunkies decide to head out to try to sell the little boy's corpse and, on their way to their destination, the paper blows off the kid's head and he manages to escape into the woods. Meanwhile back at the lab, the other guy removes the paper from the adult corpses and they're resurrected as vampires. One bites him before the professor returns to help contain them. They're re-papered, wrapped in aluminum foil and put in shipping crates.




The bitten guy's infected arm gets worse, so he goes to medicine shoppe owner Cheng-ying Lin (Ching-Ying Lam, still rocking an impressive unibrow) to help. Noticing his injuries are in line with a vampire attack, Cheng-ying decides to investigate with help from his soon-to-be son-in-law Jen (Biao Yuen), a reporter and annoying camera fetishist who can't stop taking pictures of everything. Jen stupidly decides to break into the lab, removes the corpses from their crates to take a picture with them and removes the yellow papers. The vampires return to life yet again. Mr. Lin and his daughter Gigi (Moon Lee) show up for a long slow-motion fight scene when a jar of "retarder" is busted and sedates everyone.




Meanwhile, the little boy vampire ends up hiding out near the home of Mr. Hu (Fung Woo), a widower with two cherubic (read: chubby) kids. His young daughter Chia-Chia discovers the vampire boy hiding out in their greenhouse and, after watching a TV news program about illegal immigrant children, decides to sneak him into her bedroom. He hides out in her closet and makes her toys float. Chia-Chia introduces the docile undead boy (who they nickname "OK Kid") to her brother and then to her other friends (who the subtitles tell us have names like "Glutinous Rice Chicken" and "Trussed Duck Feet" [??]). The next day, they slap a pair of sunglasses on the vampi-kid, wrap his head in a scarf and take him to a playground where he does funky things on the slide and teeter totter, protects them from bullies and sneaks over to a blood bank for a little afternoon snack. By the way, these scenes are clearly meant to parody E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982).




The film then devolves into a lame fight over the vampire couple; with Mr. Lin and Jen wanting to kill them before things get out of hand and Professor Kwok and his assistants wanting to capture and sell them. One thing leads to another and the vampire couple manage to burst out of a burning truck and wreak a little havoc on some motorists and police officers on their way down the road. Watching a live news broadcast of the vampire couples rampage, their boy begins to wail because he misses them. His vamparents hear his call and head toward Mr. Hu's house to get him back. Touching it is not.




All of this seems more geared toward children than adults, but the occasional off-color joke about necrophilia, virginity or AIDS (plus a scene where a snake gets in a guy's pants and looks like a hard-on) should really keep this out of the reach of the wee ones. There's still some decent fight choreography and good stuntwork here (including a great scene of the vampires hopping from car roof to car roof and then over a wall), but the humor is extremely juvenile and misses the mark for the most part, the characters are more annoying than endearing and it's not near as smoothly directed or imaginative as Lau's first entry.



After being pleasantly surprised by the thoroughly enjoyable original, I was really stoked about watching the rest of this series. All Part 2 managed to do was send me crashing back down to Earth and to the reality that most sequels fail miserably at recapturing the magic of their predecessor... even when they're filmed immediate after by the exact same people.

★★
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