Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blood Lake (1987)

Directed by:
Tim Boggs

The VHS box promises us "a blood bath of horror!" This not only doesn't deliver on that, but it also doesn't deliver a film in the traditional sense of the word. This thing actually reminds me a lot of the videos I and a small group of friends used to shoot after school in the early 90s. We always used my grandmother's VHS camcorder, which I was only able to get my hands on under the guise of doing "school projects." We'd set the camera down on a tripod, pop a tape in, then sit around a table and ad lib our way through a "plot" we just made up as we went along. We had no idea what the word "continuity" meant, constantly talked over one another because there was no script and thought we were hilarious and cool because we cursed and talked about sex a lot. Many scenes ended with one of us saying something like "Hey, I've gotta use the bathroom!" or "Is that the phone ringing?" and then getting up and walking right past the camera so we could turn it off because there was no one else around to do it. And since we loved horror flicks, each video - regardless of what we'd been talking about earlier - ended with a killer murdering everyone with the biggest knife we could find in the kitchen or whatever gardening tools we could find at the farm we often filmed at as someone squirted ketchup all over the place.

I only mention my own dumb little childhood videos above because that's the same level of professionalism you'll find in this regional production from Oklahoma, which has the same plot, production values, acting talent and makeup fx as the videos I was making as a 10 year old. The only real differences are that we didn't have a second rate hair band ("Voyager") to do songs for us, didn't torture the world at large by getting our home movies into video stores and, when we filmed outside at night, we actually set up lights so you could at least see what was going on. Aside from that, this is virtually the same thing. At first, I was feeling nostalgic and amused by the terrible acting, awful clothes, twangy Midwest accents and just how lame the whole thing was. Unfortunately, that feeling lasted all of five minutes before boredom set in and then I just couldn't wait to be put out of my misery. There are generally two types of bad horror movies: bizarrely inept and entertaining ones that often acquire cult followings and ones that are just tedious, amateurish, forgettable, derivative and utterly boring. This falls completely into that second category.

There's not much plot here to speak of, but for the record... Two hick couples - Mike (Doug Barry) and Becky (Angela Darter) & Bryan (Mike Kaufman) and Kim (Andrea Adsms) - as well as a 'tween' couple - Mike's kid brother Tony (Travis Krassner) and Susan (Christie Willoughby) - who look to be about 10-11 years old, go to Becky's parents lakeside house for a three day weekend. While there, they sit around and talk endlessly about nothing in particular, drink beer, smoke weed, go water skiing for what feels like an eternity and play quarters for, you guessed it, what feels like an eternity. All the while, a 280 lb. "uglier than hell" psycho named Jed (Tiny Frazier), whose motive for killing is about the lamest ever conceived for one of these things, stalks around preparing to slaughter everyone. Unfortunately, it takes him about an hour to kill a few people in scenes that are too dark to even see.

Just to give you a general idea of this film's lameness I will discuss one scene in particular. A couple of neighborhood boys who've been hanging out with the main teens end up getting murdered after a night of partying. The next morning, some old guy wearing a flannel shirt, a cowboy hat and jeans (their neighbor?) knocks on the door, takes one of the guys outside and nonchalantly shows him the boys' corpses just lying around in the front yard. The guy then says in a monotone voice "I'll be up at the house if you need anything" and goes back inside. Not only do we never see any cops actually at the scene but the teens refuse to leave and, later that night, one of the couples goes outside to have sex in a boat just a few feet from where one of the bodies were found. I suppose that's really not any dumber than what you'll see in many other slasher flicks, but this one doesn't even have nudity, gore or adequate production values as compensation for the moronic writing. The editing, lighting, videography, audio recording (which is often inaudible) and everything else is absolutely terrible.

This was shot around Cedar Lake, Oklahoma, which dried up soon after this wrapped production. Taking advantage of the situation, the filmmakers then tacked-on an end scene of the killer's ghost standing around the dried-up lake bed.

Despite what some say, this film wasn't really all that rare during the 80s / 90s video craze; at least not on the East Coast. The distributor was United Home Video, who also released the shot-on- video films Blood Cult (1985), The Ripper (1985) starring Tom Savini, Revenge (1986) starring John Carradine and THE LAST SLUMBER PARTY (1988). All of those, as well as this one, were in nearly every video store I visited as a kid in the six different states I lived in growing up. Though the box says it runs 90 minutes and IMDb claims 82, the full running time is just 76 minutes. There's no DVD and I doubt it's on anyone's high list of priorities for a major release.


Night of Horror (1981)

Directed by:
Tony Malanowski

"The film you are about to see is a depiction of an actual event, well documented in the annals of the paranormal..." Mmm hmm.

This... this right here, folks, is one of the worst horror flicks ever made. Rock musician Steve (Steve Sandkuhler) has hit the bottle hard after experiencing a traumatic recent event that "blew my mind away so bad." Desperate to get to work on their new album and sick of "playing warm ups for over-the-hill rock groups," his band mate Chris ("Tony Stark" / the director) tries to get to the bottom of things. We're soon in narrated flashback mode as Steve tells his pathetic and terribly uninteresting little tale of the supernatural, which details what happened when his father passed away and he and his half-brother Jeff (Jeff Canfield) inherited 25 acres of land and a cabin out in the boonies of Virginia. After the dad's funeral, Steve, Jeff, Jeff's whiny wife Colleen (Gae Schmitt) and Colleen's monotone sister Susan (Rebecca Bach) all load up in an RV and hit the road to go check out the property. While traveling through the country, they spot a figure dressed in gray and "wearing a country kind of a hat" and then their van breaks down so they're forced to spend the night camping.

Around a campfire, Colleen, who's been picking up bad "vibrations" ever since the funeral, decides to hold a séance and manages to call forth the ghosts of a half dozen Confederate soldiers. So what do the soldiers do? Attack them? Possess them? Kill them? Nope! They stand around in the fog where they're barely even visible while one tells a long and excruciatingly boring story in his distorted echo voice about how they all died in the war, which is then shown for us in the form of generic stock footage (again narrated) from some Civil War reenactment. That goes on for what feels like an eternity and the campers are finally informed the ghost army's captain had been decapitated. In a trance, Colleen (who is revealed to be the reincarnation of the captain's dead wife for what it's worth - not much!) leads the others to a plot of land and dig up the captain's skull. The end. And that's what has ruined poor Steve's life?! What the hell?

I'd previously seen the director's other movie CURSE OF THE SCREAMING DEAD aka Curse of the Cannibal Confederates (1982), which was a remake of this one with zombies instead of ghosts and received a much-deserved "NO STARS" rating here. This one does the impossible by somehow managing to be infinitely worse. There's nothing at all good about this film. It's not scary. It's not entertaining. It's not even unintentionally funny. It's just boring and torturous to sit through. If there's a filmmaking sin not present and accounted for here, it's because it hadn't been invented yet. One thing that's not wise to do when you have an inexperienced cast is to make your entire film talk, but that's what happens here. It's ALL talk and the "actors" flub their way through and constantly pause in between words as they scurry to improvise their way through the plot (apparently there was never a completed script). The only way I could get through this was to envision a hamster on a wheel turning inside each of their heads.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this one - which has stiff competition from the inept direction, awful cast, trite non-story, nonexistent continuity and hack job editing - is the photography. Every daytime shot is overexposed, every nighttime shot is too dark, every shot whether light or dark is blurry and sometimes it goes from day to night back to day again for no apparent reason. I've never seen anything quite like it before. There's not a single frame that looks passable. It's also one of the most hideously ugly films ever, with a saturated yellow and brown color scheme that makes it look like someone tossed the print negative into an outhouse toilet before transferring it to tape. There's also a large, MST3K-style smudge on the bottom of the frame present for over 5 consecutive minutes.

The director (who shot this on 16mm for 4000 bucks) was a University of Maryland film school dropout who was mentored by Baltimore-based schlock director Don Dohler (given a special thanks in the end credits) before the two had a falling out. If you wonder why the lead female suddenly starts sketching pictures of ape men during one of the film's biggest WTF moments, it's because before this was made the director and part of the cast had been working on a Planet of the Apes sequel!

I seriously have no clue how this retch received any kind of distribution deal, but it did. Not only was it released, but it was actually released twice on two different labels (Genesis Home Video and Star Classics Video)! Both releases used the same exact zombie for the cover art... a zombie that makes no appearance whatsoever in the film.

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