Friday, December 13, 2019

Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio (1988)

... aka: Alice Broke the Mirror
... aka: La sombra de Lester (Lester's Shadow)
... aka: Licia ha rotto lo specchio (Licia Has Broken the Mirror)
... aka: Soupçons de mort (Suspicions of Death)
... aka: Touch of Death
... aka: When Alice Broke the Mirror

Directed by:
Lucio Fulci

Lester Parson (Brett Halsey) is a middle-aged gambling addict always indebted to brutish loan shark Randy (Al Cliver, billed under his real name Pier Luigi Conti) who has an interesting way of clearing his debts: Scouring the "Lonely Hearts" personal ads, meeting highly flawed (i.e. desperate) wealthy widows and then murdering them for their money and jewelry. He's first seen sharing a fine roast with his cat Reginald and watching a home video of a homely, scrawny woman taking her top off. Immediately afterward he walks into a room with a dead, naked female corpse laid out on a table (the same woman from the video) that's missing a huge chunk of flesh from her thigh. Guess we know where that juicy rump roast came from. The body is then lovingly dismembered with a chainsaw and, in typical Fulci fashion, we get close-ups of all four of her limbs, her torso and her head being sliced off (the gore make-up is actually pretty good in this one). He grinds up her flesh into hamburger meat, slops his pigs with her guts and dumps the remaining body parts elsewhere.

Lester meets a second rich woman (Sacha Darwin) who's got a facial hair problem and hairy moles on her breasts. He gets her drunk and tries to poison her in an amusing scene where nothing goes his way. She mixes up her drink with his and then, when she's given a second poisoned cocktail, she immediately runs into the bathroom and starts puking it up. He barges in and bashes her over the head with a stick. As blood pours out of her wound, she flees in terror and is bashed over the head several more times until blood is gushing out everywhere and her eyeball falls out. Still not dead, he sticks her head in the oven and roasts her until her flesh starts melting off. Her body is dumped at a construction site in a hole full of wet concrete.

A bum (Marco Di Stefano) sees him disposing of a corpse and tries to blackmail him, but Lester runs him over with about a dozen times him with his car until his body is ripped in half. Next up is an obnoxious, shrill soprano named Alice (Ria De Simone) who never stops singing and likes to be slapped around. I'm guessing this is where the silly original title comes from, which translates to "When Alice Broke the Mirror." Lester finally shuts her up with a whip strangulation and dumps her body. The police and TV news seem to be keeping up with the crimes even though Lester appears to be doing a sufficient job of disposing of the bodies. But how?

Well, there's something weird afoot and a copycat killer at work, who seems to be murdering people in the same exact fashion Lester is. In addition, the second killer is harassing him over the phone and leaving behind evidence at crime scenes to implicate him. It's either a living shadow / doppelganger a la The Student of Prague or it's all in Lester's disturbed mind. I honestly found it hard to care about this story angle at all as it's confusing, half-assed and far less satisfying than the simple over-the-top murder / gore set pieces that are unfortunately all relegated to the first half. The plot also makes room for a mysterious woman with a bad harelip named Virginia (Zora Kerova), who enters Lester's life and seems a little more aggressive than the other victims. Wonder what she's up to?

There's an all-too-obvious attempt to make the grisly goings-on blackly humorous by inserting lighthearted music during the gruesome murders and such but the writing isn't smart enough, and Fulci isn't a skilled or subtle enough director, to pull most of this off for laughs. The most prominent running gag is Lester's difficulty in disposing of the bodies. A corpse in a trunk has legs that keep popping out so, of course, they must then be hacked off, a dead body won't sit straight up in his car and keeps falling over when he's pulled over by a cop for speeding, etc. etc. None of this is particularly clever.

Originally produced as part of a package deal between production company Alpha Cinematografica and distributor Reteitalia, this was one of nine gory horror films that union created specifically for the home video and TV markets. It doesn't appear to have been released until 1991 in Italy but may have turned up on VHS in Japan prior to that. Production lasted about a month (Fulci started shooting just three days after he wrapped Il fantasma di Sodoma), the budget was low (it was shot on 16mm for around 200 thousand dollars) and it all looks pretty murky and grainy because the only surviving prints later distributors had on hand were from video sources. Like most of the others from the series, this didn't get an official U.S. release until much later on when Shriek Show finally put it out on DVD in 2005. Their release came with English and Italian language options, an audio interview with Fulci, a photo gallery, a trailer, four unrelated trailers and two filmed interviews with actress Kerova and Fulci historian Paolo Albiero.

Note: There were Blu-ray releases in 2017 (from 88 Films in the UK) and 2019 (from Raro in the U.S.) which I assume look better than the copy I viewed, though I've not had a chance to check 'em out yet.

FleshEater (1988)

... aka: Flesh Eater
... aka: FleshEater: Revenge of the Living Dead
... aka: Revenge of the Living Dead
... aka: Revenge of the Living Zombies
... aka: Zombie Flesh Eater
... aka: Zombie Flesh Eater: Revenge of the Living Dead
... aka: Zombie Nosh

Directed by:
Bill (S. William) Hinzman

"I think you've seen just one too many cheesy zombie flicks, paaaaal." - Actual line of dialogue from film spoken by a drunken vampire

If you're anything like me, you can't fully hate a movie with a zombie in a chicken suit or one featuring a scene where a zombie thrusts its hand inside a girl's lower stomach and pulls out her heart. FleshEater (originally released on home video in 1989 by Magnum Entertainment, who used the new title Revenge of the Living Zombies) is the type of low budget (60K) regional horror movie you need to put your brain in neutral to fully enjoy. The good news is that it delivers in spades if you like fast-paced exploitation horror with a high body count and lots of gore, nudity and cheap laughs. The bad news is if you're looking for competent filmmaking, you're best off looking elsewhere. The acting couldn't possibly be any worse, the plot is nearly nonexistent, the dialogue is horrendous and the movie is choppy and poorly edited, with little attention paid to continuity. However, I found this entertaining and likable nonetheless, so I give it a mild recommendation to all the B movie fans in the house.

Flesh was the brainchild of director, writer, producer and editor Samuel William Hinzman, who will forever be best known for playing the tall graveyard zombie who kills Johnny and chases Barbara around in the beginning of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). He also served as an assistant cameraman on that classic and went on to do further work for both Romero and Night co-writer John A. Russo. One thing that amuses me about Hinzman is that I always assumed he was much older than he actually was. Based solely on his physical appearance, I would have guessed he was at least in his mid 50s when he appeared in Night when in fact he was barely into his 30s! And he really looks no different here twenty years later playing basically the same role, though this time he's some kind of an Satanic zombie or something to that effect. While that's a potentially interesting idea, it's something the script never goes into any real detail about.

A farmer out in the middle of the woods removes a tree stump with his tractor, brushes a few leaves aside, finds a stone burial marker with a foreboding message inscribed on it, ignores said message, removes some chains and then opens the coffin (with a pentagram on it) underneath. Inside is Bill, who wastes no time immediately springing to life, jerking the guy into the coffin and biting his neck. When he throws the dead body out, you can easily see a cable attached to the actor's back pulling him.

Ten "college kids," who are all hilariously dressed in the ugliest flannel / stone washed jeans / jean jacket ensembles of the day, are on a Halloween hayride. The driver drops them off in the middle of the woods so they can drink, smoke pot and mess around. One of the girls says "I feel like dancin'!" and all the women in the group suddenly jump up and start barely moving to some generic supermarket music, trying to pull the guys up while they groan and guzzle their Iron City beer. Aside from one guy who is kind of a jerk / prankster, these "kids" are given no personality whatsoever. One girl flashes the camera for random boob shot number one. There will be many more of these. Another woman (who looks about 20 years too old to be in college) puts in a gratuitous topless scene in a barn where she virtually date rapes the guy she's with before Bill's zombie bursts in, sinks a pitchfork into the guy's chest and rips the girl's heart out and eats it. Two farmers are then killed and everyone returns as zombies to attack the others. The survivors make it to a farmhouse and try to barricade themselves in but the living dead attack and kill just about everyone inside except for one couple (John Mowod and Leslie Ann Wick) who hide out in basement. And this is only the first half hour!

All of the dead teens, plus the farmers, plus Bill, then descend on a small town and kill even more people, including several children. We also get random boob shots #3 and #4, plus random gratuitous fully naked girl who will become a fully naked zombie. What's funny is that despite all of the zombie madness going on, Bill's the only one who gets to wrestle around with and kill the naked girls and he even gets to bite one right on the breast! The best scene takes place at a Halloween keg party. While the zombies feast on the guys, all the girls screech and huddle in the corner for several minutes until it's their turn. One girl in a hula outfit tries to climb up a ladder and a zombie sticks a hook in her leg and jerks her back down. Another guy has his nose bitten off. The best gore effect though is when Bill impales a topless girl with his arm, sticking it through her back and out her chest.

The special effects are surprisingly well done at times, especially for the budget range, and there's plenty of guts, an axe to the head, impalements, pitchforkings, heads blown off with shotguns, zombies with eaten off faces and much more. In fact, this is easily one of the goriest zombie movies of the entire decade. The ending is directly "inspired" by the ending of NOTLD (i.e. ripped off), but at least our desires for the surviving Brad Paisley look-a-like and his girl are finally fulfilled. The cast also includes Kevin Kindlin and "Theresa Marie" / Terrie Godfrey (the stars of Hinzman's previous film THE MAJORETTES), Rik Billock (GORGASM), Vincent Survinski (reprising his role as posse member Vince from the original Night), Heidi Hinzman (Bill's daughter), Bonnie Mastandrea (Bill's wife) and the voice of Michael Gornick.

The DVD and Blu-ray from Media Blasters/Shriek Show (which uses the title Flesh Eater) is a decent enough print with some good extras, including a photo gallery, a Bill Hinzman zombie pizza commercial and a 35-minute documentary featurette called Back Into the Woods featuring interviews with Hinzman and make-up artist Jerry Gergely.

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