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).


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