Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Severe Injuries (2003)

Directed by:
Amy Lynn Best

Happy Cloud Pictures in conjunction with Sub Rosa Studios (and co-producer Ron Bonk) deliver to us horror-fiends yet another (yawn) amateurish videotaped slasher movie parody. Though far from a great accomplishment, this one at least provides a few dumb laughs for the less-discriminating genre fans out there simply looking for a silly, lightweight horror-comedy. Faint praise that be, I know, but I've also seen much worse and the film does muster up some energy in spots. It's not quite as lifeless as most other efforts from the zero budget school of genre filmmaking. And it does not take the easy way out by resorting to cheap, sub-John Waters shock tactics and bodily fluids (well, other than tiny bit blood) for laughs, and that in itself is to be commended. Melvin Hubble (Charlie Fleming) is a tubby aspiring serial killer in a jump-suit and welding helmet who wants to carry on in the footsteps of his insane family members past. Unfortunately the entire Hubble family, though certifiably loony, are still entirely inept at the ways of mass murder and have collectively been unable to snare a single victim. Melvin hopes to change this after accidentally coaxing his father (Bill Watt) into stabbing a toaster with a fork and electrocuting himself.

Nearby, the weekend is rolling around at the Rho Rho Rho sorority house and the bubble-brained bimbo 'sisters' are naturally planning on having a party. Suzie (Robyn Griggs), Tina (Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gyms), Amber (Jenna Bull-Trombold), Tracy (Robin H. Green) and the rest of the gals can't wait to have the guys over, but all have somehow been talked into stayed celibate for the night to help pass a class. The house mother (played by Tim Gross, a man with a beard) is oblivious to what is going on, but Lauren (Amy Lynn Best), a 29-year-old graduate student staying in the house while in between apartments, is not impressed. The airheads thoroughly grate on her nerves, but she is friends with fellow out-of-place goth girl Holly (Lilith Stabs), who proves to be the biggest slut in the house during a marathon S&M sex session with some guy. During the middle of the nights festivities (and a chick-flick-from-hell movie line-up) Melvin shows up and starts killing everyone off one by one. There's also a second (hooded) killer lurking around in the house, who turns out to be one of the party guests traumatized by repeat childhood viewings of BAMBI, OLD YELLER and THE YEARLING!

Death is caused by knife, machete and chainsaw, there's a decapitation (where the head continues to scream), a slipping-in-the-blood gag, some cell phone satire (one funny bit at the beginning and another one poking fun at the irritating "Can You Hear Me Now?" wireless phone commercials). The ending is in blatant reference to HALLOWEEN, but is still pretty funny. There are many low-budget horror film regulars in the cast worth noting. Jasi Lanier is Linda, a sister who shows up briefly to do laundry, strip down to her underwear (sorry folks, this film is nudity free) and die. Debbie Rochon, playing an uber-feminist college professor, is seen sitting in front of a generic yellow wall a few times and talks about how her female students should refrain from sex and how disgusting the male anatomy is. She's wearing a Troma TV shirt and seems to have been ambushed in the middle of a horror convention to do the small role. Speaking of Troma, Lloyd Kaufman is also here and in one scene. He's a doctor walking down a corridor whose foot is run over by a guy in a wheelchair. Brinke Stevens has a five-second cameo at the very end. She's seen in a shower fully-dressed holding an umbrella and saying, "This is the last time I'm doing a shower scene!" Touché!

Since the barely feature-length film only clocks in at sixty-six minutes, the DVD tries to make up for it. Extras include the short WERE-GRRL (2002), which features Jasi Lanier, Lilith Stabs, Debbie Rochon and many others from Injuries, plus trailers, outtakes, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Best where she insists that the fact she directed, produced and starred in this film does not make it a 'vanity production.' Best’s husband Mike Watt, who was also scripted and co-produced, conducted the interview.


Raptor (2001)

Directed by:
"Jay Andrews" (Jim Wynorski)

A gut-ripping baby T-Rex - not a raptor - is on the loose in a small Western town, prompting sheriff Eric Roberts and animal control agent Melissa Brasselle to get to the bottom of things. They discover that a mad scientist (Corbin Bernsen) is, unbeknownst to the govern-ment sponsorship, continuing on with a long-abandoned US research project called Operation Jurassic Storm (ha!) by creating an army of dinosaurs in a secluded underground lab facility. Before long, our heroes become trapped inside, the marines are called in, the power goes out and the dinos are set free to make a quick lunch of everyone. Despite an often infuriatingly inept script full of plot holes, character inconsistencies, continuity errors and loose ends (explained in the second paragraph), this direct-to-video copy of both the big-budget JURASSIC PARK and low-budget CARNOSAUR series' is fairly digestible bad movie trash, thanks to decent production values, passable (mostly recycled) special effects, the occasional laugh and plenty of brainless action. The cast is littered with second string 'B'movie regulars including Tim Abell, Harrison Page, Grant Cramer, Richard Gabai, Lenny Juliano and skin flick queen Lorissa McComas providing a little nudity. Wynorski himself has an uncredited cameo.

As many reviews have already pointed out, the opening scene was directly lifted from 1993's CARNOSAUR and scenes from CARNOSAUR 2 (1995), CARNOSAUR 3: PRIMAL SPECIES (1996) and the HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP remake (1996) are also spliced in throughout. Anyone used to watching Roger Corman productions knows he allows directors to liberally reuse clips from his early films to save both time and money, but Wynorski may have taken it just a little too far here. Nearly all of the special effects and most of the death scenes were stolen. I almost said "At least it wasn't space footage from BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS again!" until I realized that this movie stole the James Horner score from that film!


Hell Asylum (2001)

... aka: Prison of the Dead 2

Directed by:
Danny Draven

Originally planned as a sequel to PRISON OF THE DEAD (a completely worthless film from David DeCoteau released the year prior), this videotaped Full Moon release is an uneven, but OK view. Five young ladies; Paige (Debra Mayer), Amber (Tanya Dempsey), Rainbow (Sunny Lombardo), Stacey (Stacey Scowley) and Marti (Olimpia Fernandez) are selected to take part in a reality TV series ("Chill Challenge") where spending the night locked away in an abandoned asylum could win them a million dollar prize. The place has been equipped with cameras and booby traps to try to scare them off, but murderous ghosts of former inmates eventually show up and do a much better job of it. Parts are atmospheric and reasonably well done given the extremely low budget, but the film is neither original nor interesting enough to entirely overcome its low budget limitations. And the special effects are pretty poor. Why the hell do the intestines look like cooked spaghetti noodles?! Brinke Stevens plays the "head spectre" here, but you will have a next-to-impossible task trying to locate her here. She is in minimal ghost make-up and wears a shrouded costume that obscures her face, but I think I spotted her maybe twice on close-up shots.

Joe Estevez pops up briefly in a pre-credits sequence as a TV investor and the cast also includes plenty of people who will be well-covered on this web-site by the time I finish expanding my index, including Timothy Muskatell (star of THE GHOULS), Paul Darrigo (co-star of WITCHOUSE 3: DEMON FIRE), Devin Hamilton (director of BLEED, BIRTH RITE and DELTA DELTA DIE!), Trent Haaga (who also scripted and served as line producer), Tammi Sutton (director of KILLJOY 2, also the producer) and Jason Paul Collum (director of the documentary SOMETHING TO SCREAM ABOUT and some other films with Scream Queen Stevens). It barely runs over an hour and you'll forget everything about it within 24 hours of watching it. Charles Band was the executive producer and it was originally released through his company Full Moon. It's also available on DVD from Tempe.


Shiryô no wana (1988)

... aka: Dead Soul Trap
... aka: Evil Dead Trap
... aka: Evil's Dead Trap
... aka: Tokyo Snuff

Directed by:
Toshiharu Ikeda

Nami (Miyuki Ono), who hosts a late night TV program where she shows viewer-submitted homemade videos, is going through her mail when she comes across something shocking. A viewer has sent her what appears to be a genuine snuff tape. In it, a tied-up woman is sliced up with a knife and has her eyeball gouged out. It eerily ends with an image of Nami. Nami goes to her producer, who thinks the video is just an elaborate sick prank and airing it would "encourage sick behavior." Still, Nami suggests he allow her and some of her co-workers to go to the location depicted in the video - an abandoned factory - to investigate. She gets a half-hearted approval and takes along three of her female colleagues; Masako (Aya Katsuragi), Rya (Eriko Nakagawa) and Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi), and one guy, Kondô (Masahiko Abe), as their "chaperone." When they arrive at the large, gated factory, they notice it's strangely not listed on their map. A vacant field should be there instead. And that's not even the strangest thing. The padlock on the gate hasn't been secured and all of the vegetation inside the fence appears to be dead or dying.

Once inside, they split up into groups to explore around. Nami bumps into a mysterious man (Yûji Honma) wearing sunglasses who tells her to be careful and to keep her guard up before he wanders off. The slutty Rei uses her opportunity there to have sex with Kondô. Afterward she discovers a corpse and is impaled by three large steel blades that emerge from the floor and wall. The whole place is full of lethal booby traps but that's not all they have to contend with. A masked killer is lurking the grounds as well as the killer's obedient slave, who likes to take his time raping and killing whoever he can get his hands on. The slave gets him hands on Rya and has his way with her before getting killed himself. When Rya tries to get away she's lassoed with a razor sharp wire around her neck and pulled over their jeep. Kondô doesn't make it much longer, as he's decapitated (off-screen) and Masako disappears. She'll later turn up in a death trap wired to a crossbow and a huge machete blade that our heroine accidentally sets off. All of Nami's friends are dead and there's still about an hour left to go. So how ridiculous do things get to stretch this one out? Pretty ridiculous.

Nami runs across the mysterious man yet again, who claims he's there searching for his missing brother, Hideki. The man (who is never named in the subtitles) has some serious heart problems and also a bad habit of coming and going without notice, leaving poor Nami terrified and alone. However, he is nice enough to help her find an underground tunnel to escape through. She makes it to the gate and... closes it and goes back in (!) because she feels responsible for all of her friends dying and wants to avenge them. Mmm hmm. So now here's your warning folks, if you don't want this movie spoiled then go ahead and skip down to the next paragraph. The big revelation here is that the mysterious man actually is the killer. Well, sort of. He's being controlled by his talking, giggling infant brother, who's been living inside of him and makes him kill. Once the man is mortally wounded, the baby decides to pop out, uses its umbilical cord to try to strangle Nami and exhibits supernatural powers by making everything explode.

First things first, this movie isn't a gore-fest despite having a reputation as being one. There are a few gruesome moments (especially the eyeball bit at the beginning) but not as many as one might imagine. Most of the bloodshed is relegated to the first half of the film. It's also made clear that the director is a huge fan of SUSPIRIA (1977). Not just because this is a super-stylish and colorfully-lit film, but also because certain moments are lifted wholesale from Suspiria, such as a scene of maggots dropping on a victim's head from the ceiling. And not just scenes are copied. So is Goblin's score, not to mention Goblin's score from ZOMBI 2 (1979). Whoever did the music for this one made about as many alterations to the original music he was copying as Vanilla Ice did with "Under Pressure" for "Ice Ice Baby." Evil Dead Trap also has a problem ending when it should. This has one of the most drawn-out finales ever. All that aside, this is still a notch above your usual slasher flick simply because it's a well made, really beautifully photographed film that offers up a few genuine surprises.

And just because this is derivative of several other well-known movies doesn't mean it wasn't influential in its own right. Clearly James Wan and his SAW franchise owe this film a huge debt of gratitute. This features a killer who uses multiple television sets to trick, taunt, trap or showcase his "work," includes several elaborate death traps and has a scene where a camera flash is used to see in the dark. The finale takes place in a tiled kitchen, which mirrors the tiled bathroom where much of Saw takes place, and when one of the victims pops up on a video monitor with their face painted white and red it can instantly be connected to the Jigsaw dummy. Not just that, but the "industrial" look and feel, the flashy editing, some clangy metallic noises and some of the camerawork were also copied. I was actually pretty startled by how much Saw ripped off from this movie. Of course, it won't ever be given credit for this, but it should.

Evil Dead Trap was one of the few 80s horror flicks from Japan to get a decent VHS release in the United States. Synapse now offer it on DVD and it's an excellent quality print. It was popular enough to spawn a sequel in 1992.

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