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, July 8, 2012

Evil Sister 2 (2001)

... aka: Evil Sister II
... aka: Evil Sister II: Bound by Blood

Directed by:
Brad Sykes

Producer David S. Sterling and director / scripter Brad Sykes deliver another camcorder catastrophe in a eye-catching video box to skip out on. Shot on the cheap in Arizona, this follows blonde teen psychic Tamara (Heather Branch) and her stern, overprotective, incestuously-inclined father Frank (Joseph Haggerty) on a road trip through the Mojave desert looking for Frank's missing daughter Lorna (also played by Branch, wearing a red wig). The two spend most of their time fighting, cruising down the road in a van, making pit stops at hotels (where Frank handcuffs his daughter to the bed and watches her shower) and crossing paths with a tarot-card reading drifter (Tisha Draft) and a homeless punk named Widow (Jarrod Robbins).

Meanwhile, Lorna (who is mute) is hiding out in an abandoned junkyard preying on stray travelers. Wearing only a cape, she strolls around fully nude, seducing men onto a mattress in the floor of a junked-up trailer, who she then proceeds to viciously stab to death. Lorna turns out to be the victim of a brutal rape (by...guess who?) that has driven her crazy. The attack scenes are very, very bloody and reasonably well done (rapid fire editing is employed) considering the low-grade quality of the rest of this production, which was dedicated to Jean Rollin. Also with Susannah Devereux (the only person in this film who can act) as a woman who briefly befriends Lorna and the director as a photographer.

I don't know much about the rare original EVIL SISTER aside from the fact it's a slasher that was shot on video and has absolutely nothing to do with this "sequel."

1/2

Eyes of the Werewolf (1999)

Directed by:
Tim Sullivan

A group of hunters track down a werewolf, kill it, decapitate it and then sell the head to unethical Dr. Atwill (played by director / writer Sullivan), who runs a private clinic specializing in corneal transplants. Research chemist Rich Stevens (Mark Sawyer), whose eyes were destroyed when acid flew into his face during a lab explosion, is the unlucky recipient of the werewolf's eyeballs. It takes awhile to get to the first full moon, so first we get a tender love story between Rich and his compassionate, big-breasted nurse Sondra Gard (Stephanie Beaton). Sondra is so compassionate that she strips off her clothing and starts riding Rich in bed before he even has a chance to remove his bandages! After a month in the hospital, Rich returns home to icy wife Rita (Deborah Huber), who promptly tells him "You look pretty ugly" before speeding off in her Kia. Our hero soon discovers that Rita is not only a bitch, but an adulterous skank who's been carrying on an affair with his supposed friend Craig (Lyndon Johnson). Finally, the full moon rises and Rich finds himself in a hairy predicament as he transforms into a (very silly looking) werewolf creature. Predictable carnage ensues.

After ripping out Craig's throat on a beach, Rich wakes up in the brush the next morning with his clothes tattered and vague recollections of the evening's events. He makes friends with dwarf psychic / occult expert Andros (Kurt Levi) and is hassled by both local author Siodmak (Jason Clark) and lesbian-police-detective-in-a-pants-suit Justine Evers (Tarri Markel). When Rich confronts Dr. Atwill, the doctor sends his sadistic bald henchman Kass (Eric Mestressat), who gets a kick out of dismembering corpses with a machete at the clinic, after him. With help from Sondra, Rich manages to escape. Sondra takes him back to her place and basically rapes him on the couch during an overlong sex scene that lasts about five minutes. Will Rich be able to control his lycanthropy or find a cure for it before he claims more victims?

Shot on the cheap with a camcorder, this homemade werewolf flick has a somewhat unique premise with the eye transplant angle, but trots out cliché after cliché otherwise. The sets are sub porn level - the clinic scenes seem to have been filmed inside someone's home or apartment. The wolf transformation scenes don't even look as good as the time lapse photography used way back in the 1940s. Instead, they employ ragged editing. Throw some hair on the actor. Cut. Throw some more on. Cut. More fur... and fill his mouth full of white gunk he can spit out. Cut. No need to worry about continuity! There's no fade, no dissolve, nothing. It's pretty sloppy. Once fully transformed, the werewolf costume (designed by Jeff Leroy, who also edited and shot the movie) is pretty awful. It has red, glowing Christmas bulb eyes, fur that looks like shag carpet and a plastic face that's almost completely immobile. There are several times you can see the cameraman's fingers in front of the camera lens, and does the moon really stay full five nights in a row? As far as the cast is concerned, they're amateurish, but tolerable. And as far as B horror flicks are concerned, there are worse out there. This one is paced fairly well, is only 70 minutes long and does provide plenty of the red stuff during the attack scenes, as well as the aforementioned T&A from Ms. Beaton.

It was produced by David S. Sterling (CAMP BLOOD), who was one of the first to ride the wave of digital video right when it was first starting to dominate the low-budget/independent horror genre scene back in the mid/late 90s. Many of his notoriously awful productions were released by Brain Damage Films, a label to avoid like the plague for the most part. Fx guy Leroy (who is listed as co-director on IMDb, but not in the film's actual credits) and Vinnie Bilancio (who appears in a small role as one of the hunters) went on to make the much more fun and polished exploitation flick WEREWOLF IN A WOMEN'S PRISON in 2006, which had a similar-looking creature on display (red glowing eyes and all).

★★

Skinned Alive (2008)

... aka: Eat Your Heart Out

Directed by:
James Tucker

Depressed, lonely insurance agent Jeffrey (Jack Dillon) lives alone in a huge house he inherited from his late mother. Striking out with every single woman he tries to ask out, Jeffrey becomes desperate enough to start arranging "dates" with women from an escort agency. None of them want anything to do with him once services are rendered, but things change once the mysterious Pandora (Melissa Bacelar) shows up at his doorstep. The two have an immediate emotional connection, but Pandora is harboring a deep, dark secret that will test their blossoming love... she's actually a cannibal who enjoys eating people alive! Will Jeffrey still stand by his new girl once the truth is revealed? Or will their union be cut short by thug brother of one of her victims (Joshua Nelson, also the writer), who's looking for revenge.

I went into this with no knowledge about the plot or any of the people who made it and was surprised to see some genuine promise here. It's entertaining and a much more ambitious film than most micro-budget horror films I've seen. There's plenty of blood and nudity, the acting from the leads is OK, some of the dialogue is well-written and, compared to other films in its budget range, the sound and photography aren't too bad. The main thing I had a problem with was the fluctuation in tone. The film starts out being a dark and serious character study with an almost somber mood, but once Pandora reveals her secret to Jeffrey it becomes a little too camp for my tastes. Some of the humor works, but other times it falls flat or seems out of place.

The filmmakers also toy around with keeping things ambiguous. We're never sure what exactly Pandora is. Is she a non-supernatural cannibal who just happens to crave human flesh, or some kind of monster? A vampire? A zombie? A demon? I liked this aspect of the film because slapping some kind of label on the character isn't even necessary. The film also introduces the idea that Pandora doesn't even exist and Jeffrey is just going mad, but that possibility is pretty much a waste of time since we've already spent part of the film watching "The Stalker" tracking down Pandora. The concept also isn't supported by the ending.

Jeremy Selenfriend's gore fx are pretty good (especially a decapitation at the end) and there's a great Nine Inch Nails-style song over the opening credits, plus small roles for Jeanette Bonner as Jeffrey's concerned sister, Alan Rowe Kelly (I'LL BURY YOU TOMORROW) as a madam, Erika Smith (BITE ME!) as a prostitute and Peter Stickles ("The Lair") as a victim. It's set in New York City and has some decent aerial photography of the city.

Worth a look.

★★1/2

Dorm of the Dead (2006)

Directed by:
Donald Farmer

After a Criswell-like introduction (featuring "Dukey Flyswatter" / Michael D. Sonye, a veteran of several notable 80s B movies), the action cuts to Arkham Hall Girls' Dormitory, where some strange things are afoot. A sorority girl and her boyfriend are both killed by zombies; one of whom does a back flip for no apparent reason. Tiffany Shepis then puts in a cameo and manages to make it through a long lesbian scene without losing any of her clothing. I know, I'm as surprised as you are. She and her abusive boyfriend, as well as her friend Jane (Amanda Barnett), are killed by more zombies in a parking garage. After wasting about 15 minutes on basically nothing, the film finally gets to the meat of the story. Two best friends, the more straight-laced "geek" Allison Gellar (Adrianna Eder) and goth vegetarian Sarah Hannigan (Ciara Richards) want to do "something cool" so they go visit a cemetery to do some charcoal tracings of tombstones. Afterward, they encounter Southern fried campus bitch queen Clare Ryan (Jackey Hall), who looks and sounds like a less-talented version of Tara Reid. Yes, that is possible. All three girls attend science class, where their hunky professor Dr. Xander (ugh, kill it with the "Buffy" references already...) talks about death and claims he has a vial of zombie blood he acquired on a trip to Haiti two years earlier. Clare observes in her monotone voice "Someone's been watching too many crappy movies." Tell me about it, sister. Double billing this flick with POT ZOMBIES tonight has almost turned ME into a zombie.

Well, Sarah is called to the financial aid office and is told her tuition check has bounced and she has three days to come up with 4 thousand dollars. She's kicked out of her dorm room and forced to go to dreaded Arkham Hall, a run-down building used for "charity case students" who have no money. Arkham is also the hot spot for zombie activity since Dr. Xander (Christopher Slade) had already used his blood sample to turn a female student who tried to blackmail him into a zombie. Since then, things have spiraled out of control and the zombie girl has infected several other students (including Ms. Shepis) who lurk around in the house.

Meanwhile, Clare coerces her bimbo friend Julie (Andrea Brooke Owneby, who apparently is "America's Dumbest Stripper" after her IQ score came back near the mental retardation bracket during her appearance on The Howard Stern Show) into helping her break into Dr. Xander's lab to steal his zombie blood. Julie wusses out (and promptly disappears from the rest of the film despite her star billing on the DVD cover), but Clare gets the vial after the doc is killed by zombies. Being the nice girl she is, Clare goes to Arkham Hall and dribbles some of the blood into Sarah's mouth while she's sleeping. That next morning, Sarah awakens in a daze and soon she's feasting on rare meat before graduating to human flesh. It's at this point, nearly an hour into the film, that the films gets slightly better for about ten minutes as Sarah goes on a mild rampage around town. She chews on a dummy head that's supposed to look like Kimberly Lynn Cole and kills the dean's wife. She also hitches a ride from a guy (played by Jim O'Rear) who takes her to a drive-in playing SEE NO EVIL and SILENT HILL. Poor girl. Then it's off to a bar to get back at a drunken Clare, and then to a carnival. There are a few OK metal songs that sounds a lot like White Zombie that play during her feeding frenzies.

Director Donald Farmer is a name somewhat familiar to fans of horrible horror films. He's been making no budget movies like this since the mid 1980s, but sadly doesn't seem to have improved much over the past two decades. Dorm was shot on digital and the picture quality is decent for the format. However, it's otherwise full of technical goofs usually attributed to amateur first-time filmmakers. There are tons of continuity errors, it's badly paced, it's padded, the attempts at humor almost always miss the mark and the editing, acting, script, gore fx and sound are all pretty lousy. The Clare character is only seen in close-up and doesn't interact with most of the rest of the cast, which makes it seem like all of her scenes were shot separately. The zombie make-up is almost nonexistent. A little dab of faint green paint and a little blood is all there is to it. There are three instances of T&A in the film, which is basically all it has to offer its target audience.

Tomb of the Werewolf (2003)

... aka: Unliving, The

Directed by:
Fred Olen Ray

Elizabeth Bathory (Michelle Bauer) sells her soul to Satan for eternal youth and (as most of us know) must bathe in the blood of young women (not just virgins, as you will later see!) to retain her youth. She is also responsible for periodically sending her dark lord Lucifer some damned souls by making human sacrifices. Somewhere along the years she crosses paths with Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), a nobleman in love with Lady Eleanor Daninsky (Stephanie Bentley). When the black plague ravages Eleanor, Elizabeth strikes a deal with Waldemar to return her to life. She does, but then Waldemar is transformed into a werewolf, kills the newly-revived Eleanor and is captured by townspeople who drive a silver cross through his chest. He's then laid to rest in a hidden crypt in the Daninsky family castle and forgotten. (By the way, the time and place of these events are never given.)

Flashing ahead to today, descendant Richard Daninsky (Jay Richardson) learns he has just inherited a huge castle reputed to have a treasure hidden somewhere inside. He travels to Europe with the crew from the television series "Current Mysteries" in tow. Amongst the group are arrogant TV reporter Melanie Charles (Kennedy Johnston), her producer boyfriend Tony (Leland Jay), script supervisor Leslie (Beverly Lynne), beefcake cameraman Steve (Frankie C. Cullen) and make-up artist Christie (Jacy Andrews). The group also hire psychic Amanda Collins (Stephanie Bentley again), who is a dead-ringer for the long- dead Eleanor because she is actually a ghost. And wouldn't you know it, there in the castle alive and well-preserved is Elizabeth, who is posing as the caretaker and housekeeper, but is naturally up to other devious things.

Elizabeth leads Richard down into the dungeon / crypt and tricks him into removing the cross from the corpse of Waldemar. Waldemar returns to life, kills Richard, gets outside and starts biting chunks out of villagers. Meanwhile, the TV crew goof off and get off in assorted combinations. The sex scenes for the video release (including the expected girl-girl encounter) cut to black before they get too racy, suggesting there may be an unrated version out there somewhere. If one does indeed exist, it will probably end up on Cinemax at 3 a.m.; this film is perfect for late-night trash-film fanatics. Director Fred Olen Ray does an OK good job with the return of Naschy's famous Spanish horror character. He's added a little fog, a little ambiance, a little blood and some romanticism to this tale in intentional reverence to the El Hombre Lobo movies of the 1970s. He also stuck pretty closely with the original werewolf design and special effects. The only major difference is that the cheesy time-lapse werewolf transformations of yesteryear have been replaced by the cheesy computer morphing werewolf transformations of today. The film is nowhere near as atmospheric as the original Spanish productions, but there's plenty of nudity / sex and even a decent amount of blood to keep B movie fans mildly entertained.

The period details (aside from the castle and some costumes) are not convincing in the least and neither are the performances from most of the younger cast (Beverly Lynne and Jacy Andrews excluded), but having three veterans in the pivotal roles makes a big difference here. Jay Richardson dies pretty early on, but he's an-always reliable character actor and does just fine here. It's great to see Paul Naschy in an American movie and playing Waldemar again. He has a few English-language lines with his thick Spanish accent, but spends most of the film in make-up or standing off in the background watching the action from afar. But the real star of this one is Michelle Bauer, who is menacing, sexy, sardonic, wickedly funny and delivers her dialog with great camp relish. Pay careful attention to her facial expressions. She never just stands around waiting to say her line; she's always active in what's going on while others around here often seem to be drifting off. It is one of her best performances and largest roles... and none too soon! The 44-year-old (who seems to be growing old gracefully with no signs of reconstruction or Botox face-freeze) is surrounded here by girls who are young, attractive and refreshingly devoid of silicone. Never mind that, Michelle steals the spotlight away from all of them.

★★

Undertow, The (2003)

Directed by:
Jeremy Wallace

I'm a patient guy and have no problem with slow-moving horror films if the slow-moving parts actually serve some kind of purpose, such as helping to define characters, setting up an interesting storyline, creating atmosphere or mood and/or helping to build suspense. However, when a simple shot-on-video slasher/gore film spends the first 45 minutes (!) completely gore or murder free you know you've got a problem. Aside from briefly establishing the back-story of the killer, the film spends the majority of the first two-thirds of its run-time showing a bunch of obnoxious "friends" screaming profanities at one another as they drive around in the boonies, visit a general store, go canoing and set up their camp. Again, I have no problem with dialogue as long as the dialogue is interesting and serves some purpose. Here it's not the least bit interesting and creates tedium right from the start. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that the majority of the dialogue in this film was just made up on the spot. Characters frequently and awkwardly talk over top one another like it's some kind of improv class from hell, and there's no attempt whatsoever at characterization. It's a real endurance test to even make it to the first murder scenes as the film the film doesn't even really hit any kind of stride until the final 20 minutes, when nearly the entire cast thankfully gets butchered.

In the small town of Old Mines, Missouri, the townspeople are hiding a deep dark secret. The religious fanatic mayor (Ed Belt) hates people from out of town visiting the area. He views them as being impure and thinks they are possessed by demons and wants no part of them. When tourists can't take the hint to high tail it out of there, the mayor unleashes his incest-bred mongoloid son on them. The son - named Dewey or just "The Boy" - is a big, hulking, mentally-retarded behemoth dressed in overalls and a pillow case over his head, who's kept locked up in a shed until he's needed to get to "work" killing off anyone dumb enough to refuse to leave the area. In come six people; Eli (Jason Christ), Carol Anne (Julie Farrar), Buster (Chris Grega), Mia (Emily Haack), Judy (Robin Garrels) and Tim (Todd Tevlin), who fumble through their awkward scenes seemingly in a contest to see who can throw out the "f bomb" the most times. The people in town, including the sheriff (Joseph Palermo) and the killer's sister (Trudy Bequette) try to scare them off, but they don't listen. "The Boy" is then set free and goes on a rampage, also killing some other people in town along the way. "The Boy" doesn't like to use weapons much of the time and uses his bare hands to rip open heads and chests.

The movie does eventually provide some gore, but most of it is at the very end. For a 75-minute film, that's otherwise pretty worthless, to wait that long to start flinging around the red stuff, is pretty much unforgivable. If you've read this far, know the basic plot already and still feel like you must watch for whatever reason, I'd recommend fast forwarding until the first murder scene occurs. The rest is a waste of time.

1/2

Rockville Slayer, The (2003)

... aka: Hidden Fears
... aka: Unaware

Directed by:
Marc Selz

With this low budget film, you know you're in trouble right from the beginning. It's your typical slasher movie set-up featuring two football players and two cheerleaders getting killed, but what makes this grueling to sit through isn't the amateurish acting (which I expected anyway), but the absolutely pathetic dialogue the characters are given. The guys communicate via walkie talkies from separate cars as they prepare to get laid, using (ugh) football lingo ("I'm at the ten yard line!" ... "I'm going for a touchdown.") The filmmakers could have at least given us a cheap jump scare or a bloody murder as compensation. Nope! Just a quartet of off-screen kills that are tame, boring and poorly staged.

Despite the dull opening sequence and despite the fact this film was packaged and re-titled (it was originally called Unaware) to be a slasher film, it's anything but. I'm even hard pressed to even call this a horror film because it's seriously lacking in anything horrific. What it really is is an old-fashioned mystery-thriller with geeky small town deputy Charlie (Circus-Szalewski) teaming up with attractive female detective Amy (Nicole Buehrer) to investigate the aforementioned crimes. What's eventually uncovered is a secret from Charlie's own childhood that turns out to be the key to solving the mystery. Not that you'll really be all that interested in the mystery elements of this film because the whole thing is just so monotonous, derivative and uninteresting.

The highly variable acting and unimaginative direction don't help but the screenplay is what really does this film in. There is literally no original idea to be had in this entire film. Everything is a painfully worn out cliché, from the character interactions to the flashbacks to plot twists we've all seen used many times before. The explanation behind the slaying of the four teens at the beginning is downright absurd at best. Silly red herrings (including your token mental home escapee) are synthetically injected into the film to try to throw you off, but they really don't do much other than kill time. The three guest stars in the cast; Joe Estevez as a sheriff, Linnea Quigley as a batty harlot and a campy Robert Z'Dar as her sadistic partner, all do their jobs in an entertaining way.

Some people mentioned the music drove them up the wall, but it really didn't bother me much. What *did* bother me a lot was the sound quality on the DVD. I constantly had to fumble with the remote turning the volume up or down throughout the entire film. I'm not sure if this is incompetence on the filmmakers part or just a poorly and cheaply distributed DVD. The picture quality is surprisingly good for a film of this budget range and DP Joseph Farris deserves a shout out for a job very well done.

1/2

Death Factory Bloodletting, The (2008)

Directed by:
Sean Tretta

DEATH FACTORY (2002) was a super-cheap shot-on-video effort from Brad Sykes that starred Scream Queen Tiffany Shepis as a woman exposed to some kind of chemical who turned into a white-faced, S&M clad, zombie-like killing machine (obviously patterned after the zombie femme fatale from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III) who stalked teenagers in an abandoned factory. Though mildly watchable, the film didn't make much of a ripple of the indy horror scene and isn't very well known, so it's a surprise to see that someone even bothered to make a sequel.

Hard-edged Ana Romero (Claudia Vargas) is a depressed junkie looking for revenge against the killer(s) of her young daughter; who ended up starring in some sick pervert's snuff tape. The footage somehow ended up online on a website catering to criminals, killers and degenerates. Ana has spent the last two years infiltrating the group to find out where the tape came from and who made it. Through the site, she finds out about a special event called "The Bloodletting;" where for two thousand dollars site members can witness someone being murdered before their very eyes. Since the man she suspects of killing her little girl will be there, Ana decides to attend the event so she can bust a cap in his ass.

After passing a frisking (having tucked a gun and bullets safely away ... in her vagina!) she's thrown into a van and shipped off to a brick-making plant where she meets a bunch of sickos from the site; a white supremacist who likes rape and snuff films (Shane Dean), a black pimp (Kareem McRoy), a blonde hooker (Jeanna Coker), a kinky goth chick (Nadine) who walks her slave (Joth Andrews) around on a leash, a fat pedophile (David C. Hayes) and a nerdy budding terrorist (Josh Bingenheimer). Little do they know but they've actually been lured there under false pretenses by religious fanatic Denny (Noah Todd), who wants to punish them for being degenerates and make a little money on the side by making a snuff video of it. Denny doesn't even have to get his hands dirty since he's the brother of Alexa, the mutant killer from the first film. Alexa (Michelle Mousel) has steel claws, metal teeth, is dressed in some kind of leather harness / bikini outfit and needs injections of some kind of special chemical to keep her alive.

For what it is, nudity and blood quotients are all adequately met, the leading lady gives a decent enough performance, the film starts out strongly, there are a few decent twists here and there and it all looks a hell of a lot more professional than the first.

The film's undoing comes at the hands of a director who seems to have been badly influenced by nearly every single hack horror filmmaker currently flooding the market with their dreary torture-filled, heavy metal-soundtracked, shakycam-riddled, cliché-ridden crap. The premise of people paying to see someone getting killed in a secret facility is obviously copied from HOSTEL. The jittery camera-work and bursts of metal music during nearly every single kill scene is swiped directly from the SAW series. When the characters are first introduced, their names and nicknames, along with their deviant interests, are written out on the screen exactly as it's done in FEAST. There's also numerous pointless freeze frames which Rob Zombie uses in nearly all of his films. I know imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery, but why anyone would go out of their way to copycat so many mediocre films and filmmakers shows a general lack of taste, as well as talent.

★★

Hoodoo for Voodoo (2005)

... aka: Hoodoo 4 Voodoo

Directed by:
Steven Shea

Radio contest winners Danielle (Brunhilda Zekthi), bringing along her friend Asia (Sacha Crutchfield), Squid (Chris McDaniel), bringing along his best friend Blake (Garrett Harrison) and Bones (Valensky Sylvain), bringing along his girlfriend Sasha (Aaliyah Madyun) are off for an all-expense paid four day trip to Louisiana to attend Mardi Gras. Also along for the trip are pilot John (Kian O'Grady), radio DJ Eddy (Forest Crumpler) and his girlfriend Candi (Brittany Messina). The nine stop off in a small town about 20 miles from their destination to explore the Louisiana swamplands (hey, it's cheaper!) and attend a backwoods ceremony and virgin sacrifice conducted by voodoo queen Marie Laveau (Linnea Quigley). Soon after, the guests start dying in mysterious ways that may or may not actually tie into the voodoo ceremony and involve possession and the use of zombie powder.

Hoodoo is a pretty low-budget (20K) offering that sadly doesn't do a very good job balancing the horror and comedy. The horror scenes are silly, usually played for laughs and almost completely drowned out by all the goofy comedy elements, which unfortunately miss the mark more often than they hit. The cinematography also is rather flat at times and some of the night and interior scenes are badly shot. And I've noticed that when watching these ultra low-budget regional films shot on digital video it's best to keep your remote close by and your trigger finger on the volume button because the dialogue here often seems soft in comparison to the music, so you'll need to adjust the sound a few times here and there.

On the plus side, there are a few amusing moments, the cast seems to be having a good time and the songs on the soundtrack are surprisingly good. The film also benefits from some good location work, such as airboat rides through the swamps and footage actually shot at Mardi Gras. They seemed to have stretched their budget about as far as they could. I also appreciate the fact that the premise itself is something a bit different in an age where endless remakes and torture flicks seem to be at the forefront of the genre. No, the movie isn't all that successful in what it's trying to do, but I still like the fact some people out there are at least trying to do something a bit different.

The director has also hired three top Scream Queens to play roles and that certainly helps. Not surprisingly, the aforementioned Quigley does about the most professional job in the cast in her supporting role. Unfortunately, Debbie Rochon has just one brief scene selling tickets to the ceremony. Tiffany Shepis is also in a couple of scenes, dancing and then providing some T&A during a lesbian soft-core scene right before she and her girlfriend get killed with what appears to be a weed whacker. Troma's Lloyd Kaufman also gets a few seconds of screen time playing a crack head during the Mardi Gras scenes. Other than them and a couple of others, the cast is pretty amateurish.

★★

Haunting Desires (2003)

Directed by:
"Nicholas Medina" (Fred Olen Ray)

Many blame Jim Wynorski, David DeCoteau and this film's director, Fred Olen Ray (using the alias "Nicholas Medina" here), for turning the low-budget horror industry into one big, dull, plot less soft-core sex romp. All three have some enjoyable flicks under their belt, but this one's unfortunately a prime example of their detractors' gripe; a vampire movie with awful acting, lame writing and a tired, boring plot about bloodsuckers working out of a strip club.

Beverly Lynne, a short-haired blonde who used to be a pro football cheerleader and frequently acts in these things, is Jill, a struggling reporter for "Crime Beat" magazine. She goes undercover in the club to investigate a murder. Jay Richardson virtually replays his HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS part as an aged detective who calls everyone around him "kid." The owner of the exclusive "Underground" strip club is played by long-haired Fabio-esque porno actor Evan Stone, who proves he's an old-fashioned kind of vampire by keeping his pants on during his sex scenes. He talks softly, wears a frilly shirt, mascara and black fingernail polish, is seen for about two seconds as a winged monster, claims to be two-thousand years old and presides over a live sex show where everyone wears masks. One evening, he shows up at Jill's place and tells her to "give into the darkness," which results in an aerobic sex romp that seems more like a professional wrestling bout than a piece of erotica. Jill is bit (on her breast), but never becomes a vampire.

There are at least half a dozen time-devouring topless strip sequences and just as many sex scenes. We also get some S&M, a threesome, two token lesbian scenes, some awful computer effects (the slow-motion bullet is hilarious), typical Ray movie in-jokes and a supporting cast (Jenna West, Maya Divine, Eric Masterson) drafted in from the hardcore industry. The ending is as mundane as they get. I've also seen enough of these things by now to recognize that the music itself was even reused scores from HAUNTING FEAR (1989) and SORCERESS (1994). The composer of those scores is a guy be the name of Chuck Cirino, who has been contributing great, catchy theme music to B films for twenty years and deserves some recognition for it. He's given a "special thanks" in the end credits, along with B-film regulars Gail Harris (the great star of Wynorski's 'Hard to Die' and 'Sorority House Massacre II') Richard Gabai and George Stover.

Gutterballs (2008)

Directed by:
Ryan Nicholson

The plot - A woman is brutally beaten and gang raped in a bowling alley by four guys, culminating in her getting a bowling pin shoved into her nether regions. The next night while two rival teams (loud-mouthed frat jocks vs. emo / punk / new waver types) are facing off after hours, a killer starts hacking everyone up in gory detail. Typically simplistic slasher movie set-up, but fair enough. I can live with it. The film had some potential. I loved the idea of a slasher flick set in a bowling alley, and the idea of bowling props being used to kill. The synthesizer-sounding music and the neon blue credits reminded me of that wonderfully cheesy 80's staple SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA too, as did the ball polisher gag. I guess that's an off-the-wall movie to pay tribute to. There was plenty of gore also. Eyes are gouged out, private parts are mangled, people are raped with bowling pins, heads are smashed in, etc. The movie does deliver in that aspect. It also delivers some rather graphic nudity. We're talking porn level close-ups of female anatomy, as well as a brief, but X-rated, oral sex scene that seems to come out of nowhere (and may employ rubber parts, anyway).

So why didn't I like this very much? Mainly because the characters were so bloody annoying, and the dialogue was so incredibly awful (was there even a script?), that the movie became irritating and monotonous right out of the gate. Non-stop profane / vulgar whining coming from a bunch of terrible actors screaming everything at the top of their lungs just simply got on my nerves. The one-liners and pseudo-insults were neither clever nor funny; "You're a stupid fucking cunt!" ... "Go get me a beer you fucking whore!" ... "I'm gonna kick your fucking ass you faggot!" Soooo witty, huh? On and on it goes, with no relief in sight. Seemed more like a bunch of adults running around acting like a bunch of misbehaved 12-year-old potty-mouthed brats who think the "f" word in and of itself is high comedy. And it got old right from the beginning. There's not a single likable, amusing or even slightly interesting character to be found in this entire movie. All I wanted to do after awhile was fast-forward to the gore, which is basically what I'd recommend doing since this film offers little else of interest.

The sad thing is that it could have been a lot of fun. The initial mood and the neon lights and the setting were the proper groundwork laid out for a fun time. At first I thought I might just like this. But everyone in this movie was so hateful, loud, one-dimensional, obnoxious and over-the-top, that the fun quickly vanished and it actually became kind of depressing to watch. The actors in this film don't seem like a talented bunch to begin with, but I can hardly blame them for coming off badly if what they are reciting here is actual scripted dialogue. I didn't care what happened to any of these idiots. All I wanted was for them to shut up. They didn't die soon enough. Even the "good" guys weren't the least bit likable. I also took little guilty pleasure in the rape-revenge aspect because three times as many innocent people were killed than the attackers, and many of the death scenes reserved for the uninvolved parties were far more sadistic and torturous than what was dished out to the actual rapists. Of course, the movie tries to provide an explanation for this at the very end but like every other aspect of the script, it's basically rubbish.

I'm sure some out there will accuse me of being uptight or say I'm not "hardcore" (whatever the hell that means) enough because I thought this one sucked, but whatever. In reality, I don't mind bad language, bad taste, gore, rape or nudity in my exploitation films. That's fine and dandy. But there's a thing commonly referred to as overkill, and this film suffers from it. By allowing his cast to behave like obnoxious, shrieking cretins and giving them so much lousy, horribly-written dialogue (or allowing them to improvise too much), the director / writer single handedly killed off his intentions for a fun bowling-themed slasher flick. Instead of being entertaining, it's merely tedious. Either learn a little restraint or for the love of God put at least one character in your movie that isn't a shrill, cartoonish, foul-mouthed moron we have to sit and listen to scream for an hour before you finally show we the viewers some mercy by killing them off.

1/2

ROT: Reunion of Terror (2008)

... aka: Reunion of Terror

Directed by:
Michael Hoffman Jr.

Acronyms are fun! ROT is a POS. See! When I first penned this brief review, this had a somewhat respectable rating of 6.2 on IMDb, but I figured people directly involved in the production were responsible for boosting up the rating. I figured correct, because since this popped up as an Xbox Instant View, the rating quickly fell by several points. This is a sloppy low-budget slasher movie that doesn't deliver much of what anyone wants to see. Well, unless you love really bad acting, cringe-worthy terrible dialogue, irritating and unsympathetic characters, unoriginal murder scenes, some of the worst editing known to man and very poor use of slow motion in nearly every single scene.

Two lesbians are killed during the opening sequence. What they have to do with the rest of the movie (aside from providing the sole glimpse of nudity) is beyond me. Then we're introduced to five former classmates; Jimmy (Christian Anderson), Tyrone (L.J. Green), Michelle (Nori Jill Phillips), Amanda (Monique Barajas) and B.J. (Mark Carducci), who get together ten years after graduation for a camping trip. Judging by the hateful dialogue, these people can't stand being around one another so I have no clue why they'd even bother with a reunion in the first place. A sixth "friend" who organized the trip doesn't show up but the others, along with a young female runaway (Hallie Bird), decide to head to their rented cabin. Along the way they're hassled by a perverted park ranger (John Shumski), someone flattens their tires and the filmmakers attempt to be funny by making lame jokes about tampons, panty-sniffing, jail bait and bowel movements. Then (surprise!) a psycho shows up to do them all in.

After sitting through 70 some minutes of utter tripe, the film tries to introduce a twist at the end (hinted at in the abbreviated title), but it doesn't work at all. You can tell the filmmakers thought they were being provocative and shocking, but they fail to pull it off in any kind of meaningful or impactful way.

Production on this began in 2006 but the film didn't get a DVD release until four years later. I can see why no one was really chomping at the bit to get this out to the masses.

Pot Zombies (2009)

Directed by:
Justin Powers

"The makers of Pot Zombies do not condone the use of marijuana." They also don't condone using tripods for exterior shots, providing their film with a plot or employing real actors. Hell, they obviously didn't even bother tapping high school or college theater classes for their "talent." Regardless, I can tolerate zero budget films like this if they are done with some level of originality or enthusiasm. I can also tolerate terrible acting. I know when you're just getting started sometimes you have to draft friends and family to play roles. However, this film lacks virtually everything that goes into a decent comedy, a decent zombie film or even a decent no budget film. It's basically just lame grade school level pot humor combined with some of the worst special effects you will ever seen. There isn't even a plot. It jumps from one pitifully unfunny "vignette" to another, with nothing linking it all together aside from toxic weed. So basically you'll get a bunch of 5-10 minute scenes, featuring a bunch of horrible actors pretending to be stoners, who sit around smoking pot before turning into zombies and killing one another. This goes on for about an hour or so and then it ends. Really pathetic. It's like they didn't even try and thought whatever they slapped together would be sold by title and concept alone. Nevermind the fact that contaminated pot turning the users evil is hardly a new concept. Remember CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH from way back in 1986?

The film starts with three rednecks talking about the pleasures of cold beer and pulling tampons out with their teeth (yep, that's the level of humor you'll find here) while toking on a joint. Said joint turns them into green-faced zombies with glowing green eyes (horrid CG effect) who attack and start eating the others. Things cut to a classroom where a stoned student also transforms and rips his teacher's heart out of her chest. There are also scenes at a concert and at a party, as well as other places. Each bit is cut with really horrible computer graphics, such as the film logo and animated joints; one has boobs and the other farts... oh, how witty. There's also a mock news program, captions and a subpar trip sequence or two. Absolutely nothing even remotely funny or interesting happens in the entire film. Toward the end, the movie throws the viewer a bone by having a gratuitous T&A lesbian scene with two goth girls making out. They smoke pot and when one goes down on the other, she turns into a zombie and starts "eating" the other girl. Hee Hee. Groan. There's also a performance from a band where the lead male guitarist stands on stage buck naked before impaling someone with his guitar. The special effects are typical of home video product, but this movie takes it a step further and makes it seem even cheaper by employing some of the lamest CGI blood spurts you'll ever see.

The film was released by Troma and features some obligatory Troma in-jokes. There's a poster for TERROR FIRMER on a wall and Lloyd Kaufman shows up in a stupid cameo as a retarded pizza delivery man who is killed. Another clichéd touch is a clip from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD playing on a TV set in the background, which is ironically the only point of interest here.

Even if you're a zombie movie fanatic like I am, my advice is to skip this one. It's a rip-off and a waste of time.

NO STARS!

Phantugram ammahit (2004)

... aka: Devil Species
... aka: Doctor Snake

Directed by:
Poom-Opium

Boy, oh boy... After watching what could easily be the worst monster movie of the new millennium (it's so bad it makes SyFy Channel films look great by comparison!) I immediately went to IMDb looking for other reviews and sadly found the page as empty as the heads of the people who made this movie. As of this writing, the film only has the year, director, genre and original title listed here at IMDb. The only way I was even able to find it was because the director has one of the most ridiculous sounding names I've ever heard. Get this... Poom-Opium (!?) Yes, that's right, Poom-Opium. I cross-referenced google and found out that Devil Species (the film I just watched) was originally called Phantugram ammahit. It was also released under the title Doctor Snake, but no matter what title you see it under, I guarantee it'll be one of the worst movies you've ever seen. Take that as a recommendation if you want. It's often hysterically funny. I don't regret watching it. I laughed. A lot.

It starts with a senseless ten-minute pre-credit sequence I think is supposed to be set in America and features campers getting attacked and killed. The problem? For starters, the American campers are obviously played by Eastern Europeans who obviously don't speak of a lick of English and stumble over their sentences as they try to pronounce all the words phonetically. You can tell they have absolutely no clue what they're saying... and neither did I! One of the females in the group goes swimming in a lake, is bit by a snake and then turns into a red-eyed, fanged monster who kills all her friends. After that, the film cuts to some press conference in Switzerland where attractive doctor Diana and her father Dr. Rung have just received an award for their new snake bite serum. The two doctors return to their lab in Thailand. The female monster from the opening sequence is there floating in a tank and they talk about doing experiments on one of their Indonesian "devil snakes" which everyone refers to as "fierce." What, did Tyra write this or something?

Dr. Rung ends up getting sprayed in the face by the devil snake's venom and goes on to become a hilarious fanged snake-man monster that looks on par with some of the schlockier monster creations of the 1950s. He then basically spends the rest of the movie wandering the hallways and on occasion will grab one of the dozen odd female student lab techs working late as the camera cuts away long enough for someone to fling blood on the wall. And that's about all she wrote with this one. The fx, monster, acting and dialogue are all awful, it's full of continuity errors and some hilarious subtitles ("Why hasn't uncle Hem feeded it yet?") However I cannot give this film my lowest rating because even though it appears to have been shot on digital video, the cinematography is at times excellent. I kid you not. There are some excellently lit and composed shots, as well as decent art direction. Well, I don't know about that stuffed gazelle head hanging in the lab, but whatever... Oh yeah, and I wonder if they actually paid for the rights to have Blondie's "Call Me" on the soundtrack? If you like laughably bad monster movies, you'll find a lot to enjoy here.

SBIG

Nowhere Man (2002)

Directed by:
Tim McCann

Judging by the reviews online, this seems like a "love it or hate it" type of film. After watching it, I came away strongly indifferent to what I saw. It's put together fairly well for the budget range, the technical work (lighting, photography, sound, editing...) is above average for the format (digital video) and it is well acted by both indy horror queen Debbie Rochon and promising leading man Michael Rodrick. Unfortunately, there are some jarring tonal issues here; it fluctuates from intriguing and entertaining to monotonous and unfocused... sometimes within the confines of a single scene! It also seemed to drag on for about 20-30 minutes longer than it should have. With a run time of just 80 minutes (about ten of which consist of credits and some sorely misused closing credit outtakes), it is simply unforgivable for a film barely clocking in over an hour to drag and seem padded out. Simply put, there isn't enough material here for a feature film.

The structure of the plot doesn't intrigue as much as it annoys - jumping back-and-forth in time is becoming such a cliché now that it's almost expected in a film of this nature. But fracturing the time frame on a script does not add any additional depth to an already slim storyline. Nor does it automatically give it any kind of immediate artistic value. Nor does it heighten any of the suspense. This film would have played out much, much better had it taken place in real time with the events chronologically presented. If we could see the embitterment and desperation of the Rochon character grow and grow without being constantly interrupted, the impact would have been much greater and the violent retribution of her character much more believable. But the filmmakers have already chosen to present it in a certain way and it's too late to go back now. I'll go ahead and lay out the story chronologically to make the point that the layout of scenes is nowhere near as important as content contained within.

Nowhere Man, basically a black comic play-up on the John and Lorena Bobbitt castration story, deals with a middle class New Yorker named Conrad (Rodrick), presented flatly as a typical male with typical male hang ups, who seems to be in a fairly healthy relationship with his long-term girlfriend Jennifer (Debbie), who he wants to marry and have a family with. One day out of the blue an unmarked video ends up on the doorstep of their shared apartment a la David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY. But instead of the visions of a creepy voyeur, he sees his girlfriend in an amateur porn tape from many years earlier having sex with a well-endowed porn star named Daddy Mac (Frank Oliver). It is then that his jealously, machismo, ego, violent and sadistic temperament and abusiveness kick into gear and he puts Jennifer through a humiliating ordeal before throwing her out into the street. He shows the tape to all of his friends at a party, voices his opinion about what a worthless whore he thinks Jennifer is and, in the films most grueling scene, subjects her to the most impersonal rape-sex scenario imaginable where he refuses her any form of tenderness. Jennifer is thoroughly devastated, confused and dehumanized... so she sneaks into his bedroom one night and cuts off his penis with a pair of shears and runs away with it (one way to cure the male ego problem, eh?). The rest of the film details Conrad's attempt to retrieve his penis before it goes "bad." If he gets it back in a certain amount of time, it's salvageable. By the time it gets to that point, I seriously doubt many people will want him to get his way, so the director appeases his audience's desire for a fiery finish...

At best, the film offers a platform for the two lead actors to prove they deserve a shot at better roles in better quality productions. I've always felt that Rochon's talent has been shamefully wasted over the years on films that exploit her looks over her acting chops, so it's nice to see her in a juicier role that actually allows her opportunity to expand on a character. Rodrick is equally fine (not that I gave a f**k what happened to 'Conrad' after a half hour or so) and could hold his own in a more expensive production; he's good looking, appealing and delivers most of his lines believably and naturally. Much of the supporting cast (including Lloyd Kaufman in a brief cameo as a doctor) is amateurish and detract a little from the overall realism, but not enough for that to be an overall factor in this films overall quality.

But there is so much untapped potential here... unexplored subtext and worthwhile dramatic content about love, loss and adult relationships that is not even explored... The script doesn't seem to give the characters the right words at the right times... The camera doesn't stay where it should at crucial moments... A lot of it seems half-hearted and unfinished. There IS meat on these bones, but there's no real muscle or flesh. It's not terrible like some say, but it's also not a revelation like others would like you to believe. It's a case of being a watchable film that could have been so much more.

★★

Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006)

... aka: House of the Dead 3D
... aka: Night of the Living Dead
... aka: Zombie 3D

Directed by:
Jeff Broadstreet

In my personal opinion, George Romero's original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) is one of the five best horror movies ever created, so any film that attempts to remake it has its work cut out for it. And yes, I'm one of those die hard horror fans who believe that remakes should be held up to the high standards of the original film. After all, why even make them in the first place if there's no real way to improve on the first? Are certain filmmakers arrogant enough to actually think they can do a better job? Do they feel modern special effects technology will somehow improve it? Do they feel hiring every other person frequently employed by the CW network will improve it? Or do they want to lazily and cheaply cash in on a name made bankable by another person? In the case of this film, I lean toward the latter. Either way, NOTLD '06 fails to justify its existence since it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. One could argue the 3D effects justify it, but it's not even the first zombie film shot in 3D and many people who watch it won't have 3D glasses on hand anyway, so that theory doesn't really cut it with me.

Even though I'm not even a huge fan of Tom Savini's 1990 remake (which also pales in comparison to the first film), I can still recognize it as a decent and fairly well made zombie film. This second remake is a further step down in quality. While usually teetering on average much of the time, it never once musters up any genuine tension, suspense, atmosphere or horror. The political/social subtext is now gone, the acting is very uneven, it's full of lame attempts at humor, the dialogue is mostly awful and the changes made to the original storyline are neither inventive or interesting. So what's different between this one and the original? Of course, it's in color. Of course, the zombie make-up is more elaborate. Ben (Joshua DesRoches) is now a white, motorcycle-riding college student with perfectly groomed hair throughout. Barb (Brianna Brown) doesn't go crazy and is actually kind of a bitch. The Coopers are friendly backwoods pot harvesters with an adopted daughter. Judy and Tom are limited to a barn sex scene and she runs around outside naked to provide some customary nudity. There's also a pothead handyman who I think is supposed to be funny. The fog machine never stops. There's also a subplot here involving a mortician (played by Sid Haig) who is responsible for the zombie outbreak.

Even though much has actually been changed, this material still isn't anything new and the whole thing is by-the-numbers, predictable and forgettable. Then again, I suppose those who don't hold the Romero film in such high regard might find it all brainlessly entertaining. It just didn't do much for me. I've seen it all done - and done much better - many times before.

1/2

Mondo cannibale (2003)

... aka: Cannibal Holocaust 2
... aka: Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Beginning
... aka: Cannibal Holocaust: The Beginning
... aka: Cannibal World
... aka: Horror Cannibal 2

Directed by:
"Vincent Dawn" (Bruno Mattei)

If you've already exhausted the entire series of Italian cannibal films from the 70s and 80s and are hoping this 2003 effort from Euro-schlock director Bruno Mattei might breath new life into the subgenre, think again! Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Beginning, the title I saw this under, is actually less a sequel to the first film than an almost scene-for-scene remake of it. Unfortunately, it has almost none of the impact of the original film, which makes it a bit pointless. The print I saw was dubbed into English. I would have preferred subs because the dubbing here is beyond awful. I don't expect the dialogue to match the lips or anything, but most of the voice actors sucked and the dialogue itself was so awful and unnatural-sounding (especially the lead actress' to-camera monologues) it was a constant annoyance. Furthermore, literally everything about this effort is toned down from the original. There's less gore, less nudity, fewer shocks and much less technical competence on display here. While the original had a haunting soundtrack and some fantastic grainy camera-work, this has a generic score and a very flat TV-movie look. They didn't even bother sticking with the "found footage" concept either, as many of the camera shots are obviously not taken from the perspective of the characters. One plus, at least from my perspective, is that there's far less actual violence directed toward animals. This being from 2003 and with certain laws now in place, I actually didn't expect to see ANY real animal violence, so I was surprised to see one scene here where a lizard has its throat cut and is gutted. I suppose they felt compelled to do that to somehow tie this in to the original, but I thought it was unnecessary.

The plot is almost identical to the original film, with a group of five people (the original had four, but they added a big-breasted blonde to the proceedings) setting out deep into the jungle to do a documentary on cannibal tribes. Led by ruthless, fame-hungry female reporter Grace Forsythe (Helena Wagner) and her reluctant-at-first former lover Bob Manson (Claudio Morales), also a reporter, the crew and a guide eventually resort to violence to spurn a reaction from the docile natives. Just like in the original, they push around, shoot, burn and rape the poor natives to try to get some "good" footage. Of course this ends up backfiring in a big way and one-by-one they're hunted down and killed off by a tribe that the dubbed dialogue refers to as "The Invisible People." The framework is about the same as in the first film, with the footage being intercut with people at a TV station viewing it all. One slight difference is that the footage is coming in via a live satellite feed instead of someone finding film cannisters and viewing them later. The material, and the format, actually could make a perfect comment on the sudden boom in "Reality TV" and how desperate it is becoming to try to shock viewers, but this film isn't ambitious enough to even attempt to exploit the obvious possibilities there. It's much too busy trying to poorly clone its source material.

Now the film does have some blood and some nudity, I'll give it that much. The two leading ladies appear topless one time apiece, but the men don't even remove their pants during a gang rape scene. The gore isn't nearly as effective as most other films in this genre either, though there's plenty of blood being flung around. Remember that female shish-ka-bob from the original CH? Here it's replaced by a woman merely tied to a pole, which isn't too shocking, though the film crew acts as if it is. The cannibal feasts look a bit ridiculous here, with the tribesmen behaving like mindless zombies who make sloppy messes of themselves as they chow down on guts and brains. They did manage to one-up the "abortion" scene by having the freshly removed fetus getting stomped on by the ladies who cut it out. The ending is a carbon copy of the ending of CH, though not nearly as effective.

Philippines shooting locations were acceptable, as were the native villages and costumes, which might make this best watched with liberal use of the mute button. It was filmed back-to-back with LAND OF DEATH (2003), another videotaped cannibal film which lifted wholesale from Holocaust.

1/2
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...