Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ritual of Death, The (1990)

Directed by:
Fauzi Mansur

After attending a lecture on ancient Indians, actor Brad (Olair Coan) exits the theater, smoke fills the hallways, strong gusts of wind start from nowhere and he sees four Indians running under the stage. When he goes down to take a look, the Indians are doing some kind of ceremony which involves blowing smoke on each other and a well-dressed older man (Sérgio Hingst) in a bowler hat appears, tells him he wants "the book" and then his hand suddenly starts oozing green blood. One of the Indians grabs Brad's arm, and his hand starts oozing white blood. Then everyone disappears. Brad's weird friend Jim (Michael Kelly) shows up, brushes off his crazy story and tells him he wants to translate an Egyptian parchment for a theatre play ("a real exotic horror show!") he plans on writing and producing. The only problem is that the sacred text he wants to use as the basis is in the possession of the lecturer / librarian (Serafim Gonzales) and he supposedly keeps it hidden in the attic of the library. Brad's friend / the play's director Mickey (Tião Hoover) sneaks in, manages to find it and steals it. Supposedly, by altering the original text, you unleash a curse, Brad, Jim, Mickey and their friends all ignore that and go ahead with whipping up a script, anyway.

Next thing ya know, all kinds of weird shit starts going down. Jim and his female friend (Graça Costa) drizzle blood all over themselves from a (real) goat head and have sex in a blood-filled bathtub. Brad starts freaking out and begins eating raw meat. Frogs appear in his bedroom and then he starts bleeding and mutating. After squeezing a puss-filled boil that appears, his face completely starts to fall apart. He also starts having homicidal impulses, which become increasingly more difficult to control. While enacting a scene from the play, Brad gets a little too into a strangling scene with one of the actresses and has to fight off the urge to slit his girlfriend Carol's (Carina Palatinik) throat with a sickle. Before too long, he's completely possessed and has no control over what he does. What's to come is an extremely gory killing spree that puts most other slashers to shame in the blood and guts department.

Brad visits one of his cast mates, Liza (Lilian Ramos), who makes extra money working as a hooker, and proceeds to stab her in the stomach. As she lies on the ground, suddenly a train (!!!) rolls over her and cuts her in half! He returns to the theater, where another girl tries to help him and is repaid by getting stabbed in the mouth. Another actress (who is in the middle of hanging pictures in the theater hallway wearing nothing but a t-shirt and thong [?]) gets her stomach beat in and guts yanked out with a hammer. There's also a strangulation with a chain, a drowning, eyeballs poked out, a knife through the throat and a guy getting crushed by a piece of heavy machinery until his guts pour out. In one of the more memorable scenes, a man has battery acid thrown in his face and then get chopped to pieces by the propeller of a wind machine. There are also zombies. As it turns out, the old man, Mr. Parker, is actually a ghost wanting to return to life and is planning on possessing Brad to do so. Jim and Carol, with help from the librarian, must find a way to stop him.

It’s really not too bad as far as these things go. The storyline is thin and often confusing, the acting and dialogue are both terrible (it's English-dubbed) and the low budget is evident in the flat 16mm photography, poor lighting and schizo editing cuts, but the whole point is to be uber gory, and this delivers the gooods on that front. In fact, it's so violent it had to be released unrated in the U.S. (the distributor was Complete Entertainment). The director, best known in his native country as a porn director, also made SATANIC ATTRACTION (1990) for the direct-to-video market. Lead actor Coan died in a car accident in 2007.


Return of the Family Man (1988)

Directed by:
John Murlowski

"Kink's Pizza" delivery boy Alden (Liam Cundill) shows up at a hotel to drop off a pizza. A shady-looking guy opens the door and tells him to come inside, where he sees money and guns laid out on a table and a bunch of Italian and Asian men measuring out cocaine! Oh, no criminal could be THAT stupid to casually expose their criminal activity to a bloody pizza delivery boy, this must just be a dream... Then, a bunch of excited, scantily-clad ladies come out from another room and start nuzzling up to him. Or a sex fantasy... Suddenly an Asian man busts through the door, a gunfight breaks out, nearly everyone is shot and killed and the assassin then points his gun at delivery boy's boys head and tries to shoot, but the clip is dry. Make that a nightmare... Nope, believe it or not, this is all supposed to be real. The killer threatens to return and kill Alden before he takes off running. Alden high tails it out of there, the maid sees him fleeing the room and by the time Alden flips on the TV set, he's in the news. His friends; couple Brian (Terence Reis) and Vickie (Michelle Constant), are about ready to take a trip and have managed to rent out a mansion dirt cheap. Despite the fact that Brian hates Alden, Vickie talks him into letting Alden him tag along with them so he can hide out and let his experience blow over.

Meanwhile, infamous mass murderer Mark Allen Schecter aka The Family Man (Ron Smerczak), is in the middle of being transferred to another nuthouse when one of the guards unwisely decides to get a little rough with him. The psycho then pokes out an officer's eyeballs with his own fingers, gets his hand on a gun and then shoots the rest of the cops. The transport bus crashes and Family Man picks his handcuffs, shoots the rest of the prisoners and then escapes into the woods. Alden, Brian and Vickie arrive at their destination and discover they've been had. The place is a complete dump. To make matters worse, the realtor didn't bother to tell them that he's also rented the place out to another group. Snooty blonde Libby (Debra Kaye), a tour guide working for the travel company "American Adventures," has just arrived with four foreigners in town; Sylvie (Dominique Moser) from France, Marty (Kurt Egelhof) from India, Evelyn (Vicki Bawcombe) from Ireland and British punk rocker Weasel (Adrian Galley). Libby has already managed to alienate the entire town by accidentally running over their satellite dish, so everyone is given a chilly reception by the locals. And did I mention the name of the place they're staying at is "The Schecter Estate?"

Before The Family Man arrives, he decides to crash a family's cookout long enough to knock the dad's face into the fireplace and beat mom to death with a frying pan and meat tenderizer (the children are also killed off screen). He then sinks a broken beer bottle into a drunk's stomach and steals his car. There's a rumor that he killed his parents for the insurance money and possibly has millions of dollars hidden somewhere on the grounds of his estate. One morning, the vacationers wake to find that one of the girls has disappeared. A few of them head into town to try to get help, but the policemen is a prick and tells them to come back in 24 hours. While looking in the cellar, Brian finds a hidden room in the basement that's been bricked up. Inside are family pictures, candles, teddy bears, skeletons and dead animals... plus a trunk loaded with cash. Before he can share his good fortune with his buddies, he's beat to death with a hammer. When everyone else returns, they discover Brian's body and realize that the killer is lurking around, but by that point they find themselves stuck after the psycho sinks their car in a lake. And by stuck, I mean slasher movie stuck. Not like really stuck. They could always, you know, walk somewhere instead of hanging around the house and getting killed.

The first half really isn't much worse than most other 80s slasher flicks. Some (not all) of the acting is terrible, but there are also a couple of decent scenes, plenty of murders and some scattered (sometimes intentional) laughs. Unfortunately, the final half hour is so incredibly stupid that you get the impression the filmmakers just gave up after awhile. By that point, all of the characters are well aware there's a killer around, but continue to wander off by themselves to get killed. They also decide to create their own weapons to fight back. The Indian guy MacGiver's a bomb out of wire and a camera (?!) and the blonde makes a torch out of her hairspray cans. The latter manages to torch the killer (giving him a charred appearance from there on out) before getting her face diced by a blender (!) Another is hung from a ceiling fan, there's a drowning and the finale features the killer trapped in the well trying to pull the heroine down there with him as a propane tank wired to explode rolls down a hill toward them. Also pay close attention to how many times characters mention that this is taking place in the United States. Only a film shot elsewhere would have to reassure us over and over again that we're in America, so it figures that this was shot in South Africa.

The American VHS release was from Raedon Video, a label that became known for distributing some of the worst low-budget trash available at the time. Amongst their releases: the lame living dead pot-harvesters flick TOXIC ZOMBIES (1980), Andy Milligan's wacky THE WEIRDO (1986), ALIEN PRIVATE EYE (1987), THE BRAINSUCKER (1988; which I'll be reviewing here soon), the terrible shot-on-video slasher HOLLYWOOD'S NEW BLOOD (1988) and a pair of OK efforts from Dennis Devine: DEAD GIRLS, probably the best of the Raedon releases, and HELL SPA (both 1990).


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cementerio del terror (1985)

... aka: Cemetery of Satan
... aka: Cemetery of Terror
... aka: Cemetery of Zombies
... aka: Zombie Apocalypse

Directed by:
Rubén Galindo Jr.

It's Halloween, and some college medical students decide to dissuade their girlfriends from going to a rock concert by promising them an evening at a "jet set party" instead. Little do the ladies know, but instead of hobnobbing with celebrities, doing photo ops for the press and spending their evening sipping martinis in a luxurious setting, they'll be fending off their horny loser boyfriends in a dusty old abandoned mansion instead. Meanwhile, nightmare-plagued head-shrinker Dr. Camilo Cardan (Hugo Stiglitz) gets word that one of the patients he's been treating has just died. The patient - Devlon (José Gomez Parcero) - had killed seventeen people, including his own parents, and is rumored to be into the black arts. Camilo insists the patient be cremated because Devlon is actually a demon, but his superiors overrule him and decide on a burial instead. Guess whose mansion the teens decide to break into? The ladies are too pissed off about being tricked to comply with their boyfriends wishes, so one of the guys - Jorge (Cervando Manzetti) - goes to the attic and finds a book with the name "Devlon" etched on front. He brings it downstairs, then comes up with a brilliant idea: How about they steal a corpse and then try to resurrect it using the Satanic book?

The guys amazingly manage to sneak into the morgue undetected and even more amazingly (and randomly) manage to snatch Devlon's corpse. They then take it to a cemetery and begin reading from the book, but a sudden rainstorm puts a damper on their plans and they take off, leaving the body behind. Devlon (who has supernatural abilities) rises from the grave and decides to head on home to quickly kill off all six of the teenagers. They're clawed, have their guts ripped out, one is forced to sink an axe into his own head and another is disemboweled with a broken bottle. With who we thought were going to be our main characters all dead at around the one hour mark, the movie suddenly switches its attention over to five young trick-or-treaters, two of whom are the children of Police Captain Adam Ancira (Raúl Meraz), who's been palling around with Dr. Cardan trying to locate the missing stiff (and the kids). The little ones have been out too late, and make the unwise decision to go to the foggy graveyard... just as a bunch of zombies are rising from their tombs; called forth by Devlon and his big black Satanic book.

Definitely not for those who are sticklers for realism (or details). Though it takes place on Halloween night, supposedly the resurrection spell read from the book only work on the sixth day of the sixth month. It's stated early on that Devlon must be cremated, but then that switches over to simply burning his book by the end (one of many ideas swiped directly from THE EVIL DEAD). I also wasn't quite sure why Devlon had stubby, webbed fingers. The tone might also be an issue for some people. It begins as a teen supernatural slasher flick with a decent amount of gore and ends as a much-less-violent zombie movie with little kids running around the foggy cemetery and house trying to avoid being killed. Dr. Cardan eventually shows up to help them.

It seems the reaction to this one is pretty mixed. People seem to either love it or hate it. Me? Well, I had a blast with it. The film actually takes itself pretty seriously, but it's inescapably silly, regardless. I much prefer that effect to something like, say, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, PART 2 (1988), where the cartoonish comedy is in your face the entire time. The dead-rising-from-their-graves sequence, with zombies crawling out of the ground and busting through tombs, all accompanied by lots of fog and red light shining up from under the ground, had this wonderful funhouse feel to it. There's plenty of blood (particularly in the first half), the zombie designs are very good, it's fast-paced, oddly charming, full of action and, though the acting isn't spectacular, the whole cast really seem to be into it. Hell, I didn't even mind the kid characters in this one!

René Cardona III (the son of René Cardona Jr., and grandson of René Cardona; both prolific Mexican directors) and Andrés García Jr. (son of actor and Mexi heartthrob Andrés García) are also in the cast. Three of the actresses (Edna Bolkan, Erika Buenfil and María Rebeca) would also appear in director Galindo's GRAVE ROBBERS (1990). Galindo (who now produces reality TV in Mexico) also made the OUIJA board chiller DON'T PANIC (1988) and the toxic mutated vermin sci-fi/horror DEMON RAT (1992). All of the above were released to DVD by Deimos on their Crypt of Terror line.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde (1967)

... aka: Castle of Bloody Lust
... aka: Castle of Lust
... aka: Castle of the Creeping Flesh
... aka: Das Schloß der Gehenkten
... aka: In the Castle of Bloody Lust

Directed by:
"Percy G. Parker" (Adrian Hoven)

A poor example of Euro Gothic horror; even fans of the subgenre might want to skip this tedious West German production. At a party, handsome and wealthy Baron Brack (Michel Lemoine) invites some of the others to take a horseback ride and continue the festivities back at his beautiful country home. Coming along are lascivious redhead Vera Lagrange (Janine Reynaud) and her raven-haired sister Elena (Elvira Berndorff), along with Elena's fiancé Roger (Pier A. Caminnecci, one of the producers), the Baron's virginal fiancée Marion (Claudia Butenuth) and Marion's brother George (Jan Hendriks). The Baron and Elena decide to ride ahead of the others, which turns out to be a big mistake on her part when the insatiable Baron decides to rape her ("You're disgusting, you dirty swine!").

When the others show up, Elena doesn't mention the rape at all and Marion tells them a story about the mysterious Earl of Saxon, who lives in a remote castle with his beautiful daughter, Katharina. Several days earlier, Katharina was attacked and raped, prompting the Earl to release his pet bear into the wild. Distraught over what happened to her and annoyed by a comment made by Roger (who claims the Earl's daughter possibly enjoyed getting raped), Elena decides to take off on a horse. Brack, Roger and Vera head out after her. As night falls, they arrive at the Saxon castle... just as the Earl's daughter has passed away from injuries inflicted upon her by her attacker. They're brought inside by manservant Alecos (Vladimir Medar, from the wonderful TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM) and come inside to meet the Earl (THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF's Howard Vernon), a physician who offers them a place to stay. Elena's there already - having a rest in one of the bedrooms.

Graf Saxon tells everyone a tale about his cursed family lineage. Many years ago, marauders invaded the castle and raped and killed the daughter of his forefather as his wicked mistress (a "nasty, mischievous little bawdy bitch!" according to her lover) watched and did nothing to help. The King then slaughtered his daughter's attackers, stabbed his mistress and tried to revive his daughter with her blood. When the authorities caught on, they beheaded him. George and Marion (injured after hitting her head on a low-hanging tree branch) eventually show up at the castle looking for their friends. And wouldn't ya know it, Vera is a dead ringer for the devious mistress (and seems to be just as lacking in the moral department) and Marion is a dead ringer for both the King and Earl's ill-fated daughters. While giving a tour, Alecos even shows the visitors a room where the original crimes are reenacted by mannequins! Downstairs in the secret laboratory, the Earl and his assistant cut open Katharina's body. It looks like they used a pig carcass for the scalpel cutting flesh effect, but then swiped some actual surgery footage for the operation (which we see about 50 flashes of throughout the film).

While the other two ladies sleep, Vera decides to take this opportunity to try to seduce both Marion's fiancé and her own sister's fiancé, finally having some luck with the latter. She also has a lengthy nightmare (lasting almost fifteen minutes!) recounting the earlier crime, which is completely unnecessary since we're already had it described to use in detail twice earlier. Alecos scoops up a sleeping Marion and takes her downstairs to the lab, where the Earl and his assistant plot to do a brain switcheroo to revive his daughter. Meanwhile, Brack gets scared and leaves the castle to go get the car, but gets lost and is mauled by a man in a bear suit. He stumbles back just in time for the insufficient finale.

It's cheap-looking, bland, unoriginal, slow-moving, has continuity issues and none of the poorly-developed characters (including Vernon's rather restrained mad doctor) manage to spark even the slightest bit of interest. The violence is mild (aside from a brief decapitation), but there's a generous helping of female flesh - most provided by Reynaud - and that seems to be the real point of this entire piece. According to the opening credits, the screenplay is based on an idea by Eric Martin Schnitzler and "Percy G. Parker" (the director). However, many sources claim the was actually written by Jesus Franco; not difficult to believe since Hoven, Reynaud and Lemoine had all starred in Franco's "Red Lips" female detective films made around the same time and all three of them, plus Vernon and Caminnecci, were in Franco's well-regarded SUCCUBUS, also from 1967.

Never officially released to DVD, this was however issued on VHS by both Magnum and Sinister Cinema.


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