Friday, May 29, 2009

Demon Queen (1986)

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Devil's Gift, The (1984)

Directed by:
Kenneth J. Berton

Return to sender! Susan (Vicki Saputo) buys a cymbal-playing toy monkey with glowing eyes at an antique store to give to her boyfriend's young son Michael (Struan Robertson) for his birthday. It turns out to be possessed by a demon, which means the electricity goes off, the plants wilt and Charlie the goldfish and Sparkle the dog are goners. Eventually it possesses Susan which puts dad David (Bob Mendlesohn) on a quest to find out what's going on. I think this was made by some Christian right-wing group to get back at the all the gory 80s slasher movies, because there's no violence, nudity or profanity. I can't think of a horror movie with more hugging, kissing, tickling, "knuckle sandwiches," back patting, good family values and platonic puppy-doggy lovey-dovey, and it's set in white bread middle class suburbia. David cheerfully tells his neighbor, "If there was a friend of the year award, you'd get it!" Even a psychic's home is littered with velvet paintings and statues of Jesus! Most of the running time is composed of the boring everyday events of boring everyday people, all set to bad elevator-style muzak. It copies Stephen King's short story "The Monkey" and is pure torture from start to finish.

The director's other 'film' Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders (1996) is a two-part fantasy / horror anthology hosted by Ernest Borgnine. One of the segments in that film is actually The Devil's Gift in a condensed form; so you can now experience this awful movie in two separate versions! Both films have been bobbing in and out of IMDb's Bottom 100 for ages and the latter was even ridiculed on a popular episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

Beyond the Door III (1989)

... aka: Amok Train
... aka: Dark Train
... aka: Death Train
... aka: Evil Train
... aka: Train, The
... aka: Winds of Evil

Directed by:
Jeff Kwitny

Seven L.A. coeds take a "once in a lifetime" trip to Yugoslavia to witness an ancient Balkan rite. Among them is the unsullied Beverly (Mary Kohnert) who has bad premonitions about the trip and the "sign of the pagan virgin" birthmark on her stomach. After arriving overseas, some evil Serbian residents in a small town they are staying at attack them. Beverly is felt up while sleeping by a white-eyed toothless old woman who cackles, "Virgin!" The survivors board a possessed train and are slaughtered en route to delivering Beverly to her destiny. Watchable and interesting in spots, with good cinematography and location work, but also horribly acted (I mean horribly acted), senseless and irritating. To make matters worse, most of the gore scenes have been carelessly trimmed out of the U.S. release (at least the VHS release; I haven't seen the DVD), resulting in some jagged editing cuts. On the plus side, there's an excellent steel beam decapitation (plus some other fairly good gore effects), a decent ending and Savina Gersak is fun in the film's sole standout performance as a cigar chomping stowaway. Name value star Bo Svenson is miscast as a Serbian professor, but does a fair job with his role (and accent).

Despite the title, this film has nothing to do with the other Beyond the Door films as they've all just been re-titled for American distribution. The first (made in 1974) was a standard Exorcist rip-off with Juliet Mills going the Linda Blair route, the second (made in 1977) was a Mario Bava possession shocker better known as Shock and starring Daria Nicolodi as mother to a child who seems to be possessed by the spirit of her dead husband. This one was originally called either Amok Train or just The Train and was re-named. Not surprisingly, Ovidio G. Assonitis (who was partially responsible for The Curse non-"series" of films, as well) was the executive producer.

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