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, January 2, 2013

Chainsaw Cheerleaders (2008)

Directed by:
Donald Farmer

Farmer (DEMON QUEEN [1986], CANNIBAL HOOKERS [1987], SCREAM DREAM [1989], VAMPIRE COP [1990], etc. etc.) carries on his dubious tradition of having never made a good film in his entire career with this digitally-shot, fully-intentional cheese-fest. However, I must admit something I'm almost ashamed to admit: I was actually (gasp!) entertained by this, for a change. Dawn (Michele Grey, also the associate producer) is about to "go all Black and Decker on someone," but first - a flashback. It's 1508 and somewhere in Europe when sorceress Lucinda (Tiffany Shepis) is interrupted cutting out a virgin's heart by a pair of witch hunter monks. They tie her to trees and set her on fire, but first she promises that her spirit will "wander through the ages." Cut to present day and we're in an antique shop that looks like it's housing leftovers from your elderly neighbor's yard sale. A high school girl looking for a prop for her role as a witch in Macbeth is accosted by the purple-haired, pierced owner Angelique (Harmony Xanix), who wants to use her blood to resurrect Lucinda using a 500-year-old dagger. She and her drooling henchman Klove (Rudy Ownbey) drag the girl off.








We now get to peak in on the life of maladjusted 17-year-old Goth chick Dawn, who will soon have more problems on her hands than her mother finding the amateur porn tape she made with her boyfriend ("I don't want to be some porn slut!"). Dawn is basically a slightly older version of the angry delinquent 13-year-old hos featured on every other episode of The Maury Povich Show. She hates her parents, applies her eyeliner with a spatula and gets revenge on her cheating boyfriend by kneeing him in the balls and then kicking his nose over and over again until it breaks in three places. The boyfriend threatens to put her in jail unless she follows the orders of guidance counselor Dr. Lacey (Debbie Rochon). Lacey diagnoses her with I.E.D. ("Intermittent Explosive Disorder") and feels an attitude adjustment is in order, so she forces Dawn to attend cheerleading camp. Since this is a no budget production, "camp" consists of three cheerleaders and their butch instructor standing around in a field for a few minutes.







Needless to say, Dawn doesn't get along too well with Bambi (Misty Marie), Chassy (Jackey Hall) or Jessica (Rabecca Lee); a trio of large-breasted bottle blonde bimbos, and says "I almost wish I was Anna Nicole Smith, cause dead people don't get sent to cheerleading camp" (?!?) While out selling magazine subscriptions, all four end up at Angelique's home just in time to see her sacrifice a victim, open up a portal to another time and bring Lucinda into the present day. Probably because Farmer could only afford Shepis for a few days, she promptly possesses head cheerleader Bambi's body. Bambi sprouts horns, talks in an echo voice and starts running around slaughtering people and eating their flesh. For some reason she also wants to implicate Dawn in her killings. She targets people Dawn knows, including her shrink, her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend and a couple of detectives investigating the murders.







As dumb and as poorly made as this whole thing is, I was entertained. Most of the acting is terrible, but it's thankfully a fun and enthusiastic terrible that kind of gels with the intentional campy tone this is striving for. There's plenty of medicore demon and gore makeups, low grade CGI fx, cheap laughs and bad one-liners (plus the occasional intentionally amusing one). The only thing this really could have used some more of is nudity. Only one of the cheerleaders and Rochon show their breasts and I'm sure someone who'd be apt to get this in the first place would probably be expecting wall-to-wall T&A. Oh well, at least they got the over-the-top camp feel right...








The two big drawing cards are undoubtedly low-budget / schlock horror vets Shepis and Rochon. Shepis does her usual fine job in a small role that plays to her strengths; seductive, evil and tough, and is one of the only cast members with any noticable talent. Rochon has a small supporting role herself and is involved in this film's most tasteless scene. After her rape fantasy gets ruined, she kicks her lover (Jim O'Rear) out and then opts to just take care of herself. She accidentally grabs a CGI animated worm monster (don't ask) instead of her vibrator, which then goes inside of her and pops out of her neck. Lead actress Grey, who reminded me a lot of Clea Duvall, shows some acting promise. Ciara Richards (who appeared in Farmer's DORM OF THE DEAD [2006] along with Shepis, Hall and O'Rear) plays Dawn's best friend and Farmer himself shows up in a cameo as her father.

★★

Qualcosa striscia nel buio (1971)

... aka: Shadows in the Dark
... aka: Something Creeping in the Dark
... aka: Something Is Crawling in the Dark

Directed by:
Mario Colocci

Professor Lawrence: "When will this nightmare end?"
BPOH Spokesperson: "97 grueling minutes, to be exact."

After a brief car chase, a pair of police detectives; Inspector Wright (Dino Fazio) and his partner Sam (Frank Beltramme), apprehend smarmy homicidal maniac Spike (top-billed Farley Granger). Coming up right behind them on the road are wealthy, bickering couple Donald (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) and Sylvia (Lucia Bosé) Forrest, who are on their way to a party. A bad rainstorm has washed out a bridge ahead, so everyone attempts to backtrack and discover that fast-approaching flood waters have washed out the road leading back into town. Along with old, knowledgeable Professor Lawrence (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino), Doctor Williams ("Stan Cooper" / Stelvio Rosi), who's answering an emergency call, and his nurse assistant Susan West (Mia Genberg), the eight stranded travelers find themselves in the same predicament: stuck out in the country late into the night with no place to go. Thankfully, there's a creepy old mansion located nearby.







Joe ("John Hamilton" / Gianni Medici) now lives in the home and he's less-than-friendly to his unwelcome visitors but lets them stay the night there because the Chief Inspector gives him no other choice. For some reason Joe also keeps his nameless, scantily-clad girlfriend (Giulia Rovai) basically quarantined in their bedroom and doesn't want her to socialize with anyone else. The rain keeps coming, the phone is out because of the bad weather, eventually they lose electricity and then they learn the sordid back history of the place. It's former owner - Sheila Marlowe - was as eccentric woman who was rumored to have had an interest in the occult, may have murdered her husband but was acquitted of all charges and died under mysterious circumstances. And some of this group will also soon die under mysterious circumstances, especially after Sylvia gets bored and decides to hold a séance to contact Sheila's restless spirit.






Despite being given enough tranquilizers "to put a horse to sleep," the neurotic Donald becomes possessed (twice), frees the dangerous killer, kills his nasty wife (after she has a roughie sex fantasy about Spike chasing her around and beating her) and then kills himself. In a bit that goes absolutely nowhere, the reserved Susan also becomes possessed, climbs into bed with her boss for some hanky panky and somehow manages to not even get naked. Moaning spirits float around in the hallways. Lights flicker. Footsteps are heard. Doors creak open. Shadows form on the walls. Boxes fall over. A few people have hallucinations. Wind blows through the trees. Ticking clocking lining the hallways start and stop. Spikes lurks around outside, gets in a fist fight with one of the cops and finally bashes in his head with a rock. And the finale - which is pretty much a rip-off of THE HAUNTING - features the survivors standing around in a room as a door rattles and shakes.






Sounds like your typical old dark house set-up with a dash of Ten Little Indians, right? Unfortunately, this painfully dull and utterly pointless dud - perhaps an attempt at a 'classier' old-fashioned film - goes absolutely nowhere. There's zero suspense, the characters are unlikable, the dialogue is awful, the storyline is unfocused, exploitation elements are almost non-existent (there's no gore and one brief nude scene), it takes a full hour to get to the first murder sequence and it just kind of peters out with a non-thrilling non-ending. Even the presentation of this material is completely flat. This could very well be the least atmospheric Italian Gothic horror film of the 60s and 70s. There's hardly any good camerawork and the drab sets are sparsely decorated just like a porno movie set. I kept playing "Where's Waldo?" scouring the rooms for a potted plant just to help pass the time.







The version I viewed (titled Something Creeping in the Dark) was the Japanese release through Midnight Video. It's widescreen and English-dubbed. The one second flash of female frontal nudity is scrambled but I'm afraid a million and one singing, dancing hoo-ha's twirling flaming batons couldn't save this one.

1/2
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