Saturday, May 25, 2019

Shreck (1993) [copyright 1990]

Directed by:
Don Adams (on VHS box; closing credits)
"Carl Denham" (opening credits)
Harry James Picardi (on VHS box; closing credits)
Anthony Van Deuren (closing credits)

Sometime after World War II, a Nazi madman made his way to America, took on the new name of Max Shreck and settled in the small rural town of Harvest, Wisconsin. Soon after, townsfolk started disappearing. In the spring of 1958, police received a phone call from a whispering voice uttering just three words, "death," "Shreck" and "house." Upon paying a visit to Shreck's home, police shot him in the head after discovering the body of a high school majorette killed with a nail-lined helmet. Further investigation of the house uncovered a "torture dungeon" in the cellar complete with various torture devises and an oven Shreck used to burn up his victims' bodies. The remains of at least eleven victims were found. Somehow, this house of horrors was left standing and is currently inhabited by teenager Roger Drake ("William Lantry"), who's a huge horror movie fan and Nazi fetishist who couldn't be happier to live there. He's so into the story that he's even made his own amateur documentary on Shreck.

With his mother out of town and left all alone for a spell, Roger decides to take things a step further. Not content with hanging a swastika made of Christmas lights, listening to Hitler speeches on TV, making his own life-sized Max Shreck doll complete with gas mask and camouflage attire and baking a Nazi pizza with a pepperoni swastika (!!) Roger comes up with the brilliant idea to hold a séance to resurrect Max's spirit. Along with his "Dogs of Gore" horror-loving buddies Neil (Van Deuren) and Mike ("T.K. Malone"), the trio recite some generic Satanic chant and fake offer up blood as a joke but instead end up actually unleashing Shreck's spirit, who promptly inhabits the doll.

Shreck (Big Joe Mueller) goes outside and flattens all of the tires on the car, trapping them there, then digs up corpses of previous undiscovered victims in the front yard and resurrects them as sheet-covered helper ghosts. An attempt to call the police fails as only Nazi speeches come through the receiver and bullets from a rifle and a knife to the back don't slow down the undead Nazi. Even worse, the guys seem to have also managed to transport themselves back in time to 1958, more specifically to the exact night of Shreck's human death. Everything inside the home disappears, while Nazi curtains, Shreck's special dagger, a May 1958 calendar, older furniture, a movie projector (with a reel of Nosferatu) and even the former last victim, Karen (Sharon Wozniak), all reappear.

Like nearly every zero budget homegrown camcorder production, there's a whole lotta downright awful here. The acting's terrible, much of the dialogue is bad, the videography is consistently poor (especially the blue-tinted night scenes) and there's choppy editing, laughable public access fx, poorly choreographed attack scenes and a glacial pacing during most of the first half. If you make it past the first ten minutes where the star walks around on train tracks, makes Shreck t-shirts, listens to music and does absolutely nothing of interest you at least deserve a participation ribbon. Throwing in actual Nazi and concentration camp footage at points is tasteless, too, and not in any good way. But, dammit, I still somehow ended up enjoying this!

Surprisingly, there are some imaginative and really interesting ideas in here. I especially liked the traveling-back-in-time aspect coupled with the séance / resurrection spell. There are also some other amusing little touches, like the killer extracting a gold tooth from a victim and a couple of silly torture devises, including one that features a seesaw sending someone higher and higher up until they're decapitated by a swastika ceiling fan. We also get a pitchfork to the face, a hand cut off and fed to a tarantula (?!) and some kind of jagged metal weapon the killer slides over both feet and attempts to stomp someone to death with as he heads towards them on crutches!

The VHS release came in 1993 courtesy of Video Outlaw, a subdivision of Akron, Ohio-based Tempe Video. That label seemed to release exclusively shot-on-video junk (probably stuff that Tempe was embarrassed to issue on their main label) like The Zombie Army (1991), Snuff Perversions (1998), Necro Maniac (2000), Slave Girls on Auction Block 1313 (2001) and a bunch of Todd Sheets films. I don't think anyone has even bothered resurrecting Shreck since the initial VHS release. Even a later obscenely popular DreamWorks animated film series starring an ogre with an extremely similar name didn't help this film's plight any.

The opening credits list "Carl Denham" as director, though the end credits say this is "A movie by" Don Adams, Harry James Picardi (the two credited writers) and co-star Van Deuren. However, the video box lists just Adams and Picardi as the directors. Two of the stars, "William Lantry" and "T.K. Malone" are, in fact, also Adams and Picardi. I'm just not sure which is whom. Due to a pseudonymous "Arch Stanton" being billed as videographer, Jim Wynorski (who sometimes also used the same alias) has been assigned the credit, though he had nothing at all to do with this production.

Adams and Picardi went on to make a few other films, including Vengeance of the Dead (2001) and Jigsaw (2002) for Charles Band's Full Moon, as well as Dozers, which was filmed back in 2008 but has yet to be released over a decade later.

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