Monday, October 20, 2014

Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993)

Director: Ted Nicolaou

Writers: Charles Band, Ted Nicolaou

Composers: Richard Kosinski, William Levine, Michael Partis, John Zeretzke

Starring: Anders Hove, Denice Duff, Kevin Spirtas, Melanie Shatner, Michael Denish, Pamela Gordon, Ion Haiduc, Tudorel Filimon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Some things are better left Undead

Plot: A woman who has just become a vampire tries to escape the evil vampire, Radu, who seeks her as his love interest. But she has taken the vampire family's bloodstone, and now Radu must find her to get it back. While her sister comes to Romania to save her soul. It might be to late.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This first sequel takes up where the last film left off. Like that film the production values are higher than a lot of other Full Moon pictures and a lot of that has to do with the shooting locations and the gore effects. The subspecies guys are back but only at the beginning and they've got very little screen time at that which is a shame because they're super cool.  There are a couple of scenes with some fantastic shadow work like you would find in the 1920s and 30s German expressionism films.  As nice and unexpected as they are it's not enough to make this any better than the first film but it's not really worse, either.  The music score is, as with a lot of Full Moon films, practically a footnote to the rest of the production, often just getting by in the background.  The ending is kind of cheap because it stops just like the end of a TV episode in that you'll have to come back next week to find out.  If you see it you'll know what I'm talking about. It doesn't end like a movie would.  It's as if it ended halfway through the movie.  There's a reason for that as it was filmed back to back with the sequel.  The only extra is a ten minute Videozone behind the scenes making of featurette which is fantastic.  It kind of makes me like the movie more.  They've convinced me to watch the third one now.

Willard (1971)

Director: Daniel Man

Writers: Gilbert Ralston, Stephen Gilbert

Composer: Alex North

Starring: Bruce Davison, Sondra Locke, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Dante, Jody Gilbert, Williams Hansen, John Myhers, J. Pat O'Malley, Joan Shawlee

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Where your nightmares end...WILLARD begins.

Plot: A social misfit, Willard is made fun of by his co-workers, and squeezed out of the company started by his deceased father by his boss. His only friends are a couple of rats he raised at home, Ben and Socrates. (And their increasing number of friends) However, when one of them is killed at work, he goes on a rampage using his rats to attack those who have been tormenting him.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

I've been wanting to see this for probably more than thirty years.  Worth the wait?  Nope.  It's all that interesting except that I've seen the remake, WILLARD (2003), and it's neat to compare.  The remake is better.  The original isn't compelling, it's too leisurely paced and the payoff is minimal.  The actors do a good job (and what a great cast, too) but they don't go far enough and I'm talking mostly about Davison (Willard) and Borgnine (Mr. Martin).  This is where the remake got it right.  In the '71 film Willard isn't sympathetic enough and Martin isn't harsh enough.  I would really liked to have seen Borgnine a fierce and brutal man which he's certainly capable of.  He's too jolly and soft on Willard to make it believable and Willard doesn't seem as mentally screwed up as you'd think he would be to be pushed over the edge to do what he does.  It actually gives me more of an appreciation for the 2003 flick.  I was, though, taken aback that Alex North wrote the score.  He's one of my top favorite film composers and I completely forgot that this one was in his catalog.  It's pretty impressive that this picture had a guy like that writing the music. It makes sense, though, that he and the director worked on a few pictures together.  Even though I didn't dig this flick as much as I'd hoped, I'll still check out the sequel, BEN (1972).  And by the way, where the hell are these films on DVD?  The only way you can find them is on VHS.  It's a shame.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Subspecies (1991)

Director: Ted Nicolaou

Writers: Charles Band, Jackson Barr, David Pabian

Composers: Stuart Brotman, Richard Kosinski, William Levine, Michael Portis, John Zeretzke

Starring: Angus Scrimm, Anders Hove, Irina Movila, Laura Mae Tate, Michelle McBride, Ivan J. Rado, Mara Grigore, Adrian Valcu, Michael Watson, Lili Dumitrescu, Ion Besoiu

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The night has fangs.

Plot: The evil vampire villain Radu returns to his hometown Prejnar, after spending years in exile. He steals the precious blood stone which is said to be bleeding from all saints, from his father and kills him. Meanwhile two American schoolgirls team up with a local girl for work on Romanian culture. Radu becomes attracted to them but runs into trouble when his brother Stephan helps the girls.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No. 

I've had a lot of love and respect for Full Moon since I discovered them in the mid-to-late 80s.  This low budget horror/sci-fi film making studio has put out some really fun film but they've also made some stinkers.  This one's been on my radar for over twenty years and here we are. It's not quite what I expected but then I didn't know anything about the picture except for the poster/video cover box which prominently features these neat little demon dudes. One thing I LOVE about Full Moon is their use of stop motion animation.  It's a costly technique but it's really effective, even when used sparingly as they do.  The demons are really neat but they're not given much screen time and I suppose that's largely due to the cost of animating them.  Filming this in Romania goes a long way the establishing a nice atmosphere.  But what really hurts this is not shooting this on film.  And it doesn't help that the score sometimes feels like an afterthought as if the composers, director or studio (or all) weren't sure what to do.  Story wise its a variation on the Dracula tale.  You're not getting anything all that new here but the Bloodstone is cool as are the little red guys.  Even at about 90 minutes it feels twenty two long.  I've got the box set and I'll bang through the next two sequels.  The fullscreen image is accompanied by a behind the scenes Videozone that's about ten minutes.  These are welcome extras on Full Moon's releases.  In such a short time you find out a lot including seeing footage of the original subspecies as humans in costume.  It's clear why they went with stop motion and puppetry after that.  The only other extras are trailers (all anamorphic widescreen) for EVIL BONG 3, GINGERDEAD MAN 3, KILLJOY 3, SKULL HEADS, DEMONIC TOYS 2, PUPPET MASTER: AXIS OF EVIL.

Killer's Moon (1978)

Director: Alan Birkinshaw

Writers: Alan Birkinshaw, Fay Weldon

Composers: John Shakespeare, Derek Warne

Starring: Anthony Forrest, Tom Marshal, Georgina Kean, Alison Elliott, Jane Hayden, Nigel Gregory, David Jackson, Paul Rattee, Peter Spraggon, Joanne Good, Jayne Lester, Lisa Vanderpump, Debbie Martyn, Christine Winter

More info: IMDb

Tagline: One endless night of terror!

Plot: Four mental patients - who, due to unauthorized experiments, believe they're living in a dream and have shed all moral imperatives - escape and find their way to the nearest bus-load of stranded schoolgirls.

My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Anyone who knows me knows I really digs some British horror, especially that of the 60s and 70s variety.  Unfortunately this one doesn't cut it.  It teases you with a bit of gore, a dusting of nudity, and the rest is all about teen girls surviving a night of terror from some guys who look like they were Droogs lifted from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971).  But it's not the kills or the body count that help make this picture watchable.  It's the dialogue and it's the best thing in the picture.  It's peculiar, quick and funny. 

Killer: [with a shotgun ready to fire] I hate you because you understand me.
Victim: But I don't understand you. 
Killer: [sad face] No one does. 

The delivery setups are serious and then you get that throwaway line that just kills.  I laughed a few times.  Unfortunately that's the only reaction I had when I wasn't fighting falling asleep.  At times it's dreary and dull and that's a one two punch in the guts for a recipe for boring.   Even with some really great and funny lines I can't recommend this.  There are better ways to kill an hour and a half.  It's currently on Netflix streaming if you dare.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chopping Mall (1986)

Director: Jim Wynorski

Writers: Jim Wynorski, Steve Mitchell

Composer: Chuck Cirino

Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O'Dell, Russel Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky, Suzee Slater, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Dick Miller, Angus Scrimm

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Tonight Park Plaza Mall switches on the world's toughest security force. Absolutely nothing can go wrong.

Plot: Eight teenagers are trapped after hours in a high tech shopping mall and pursued by three murderous security robots out of control.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

At first I thought this was a ripping off ROBOCOP (1988) until I realized this came two years before ROBOCOP.  Nice.  The film opens with one of the security bots doing its job.  After a couple of minutes you realize it's a demonstration video.  Then you've got the bots attacking the teens that stay late in the store.  A lot of this feels like ROBOCOP in small ways.  There are some great kills like the head exploding from a laser blast .  There's also a nice bit of nudity that's all in one spot just before the shit hits the mall fan.  Again, nice.  Seeing Bartel, Woronov and Miller in any film is a plus.  Too bad they're not in it more but I'll take what I can get from those kids.  It gets a little draggy in the last half but it's still kinda fun.  I enjoyed it.  The ending was as expected except there's no way the last person standing would have lasted that long before the bot would have lasered their ass.  Yeah, that's right, I'd like to see at least a little bit of realism and logic in the dumb ass movies I watch.

Demon Witch Child (1975)

Original title: La Endemoniada

AKA: The Possessed

Director: Amando de Ossorio

Writer: Amando de Ossorio

Composers: Diego, Victor

Starring: Julian Mateos, Marian Salgado, Fernando Sancho, Lone Fleming, Angel del Pozo, Kali Hansa, Daniel Martin, Tota Alba, Roberto Camardiel, Maria Kosty, Fernando Hilbeck

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Good and evil battle for possession of the innocent!

Plot: An old witch seeks vengence through the daughter of the politician who had her thrown in jail. Soon the little girl's head is spinning around, and an old priest is called in to perform an exorcism.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Ya know, watching all of the movies from the Fortune 5 Grindhouse Experience set is a real chore.  The prints are lousy (most of them are VHS fullscreen transfers) and so are most of the films, this one is no exception.  I'm not a huge fan of THE EXORCIST (1973) but I do like the film...just not as much as most people seem to.  So that pretty much means that I'm probably not going to like the countless Exorcist clones that followed in the tremendous wake of that film's success.  This one is one of several that came out of Spain, which makes sense considering the country is heavily Catholic, and it's directed by the same cat that did the BLIND DEAD series in the early to mid 70s. Those films I dig and I can handle the casual pacing he delivers but that's probably because they have a Gothic vibe to them and the blind dead guys are fucking badass looking.  This film is just plain slow.  The poor English dubbing doesn't help, either.  Who cares when it's loaded with smokin' hot chicks!!!

It hits a lot of the beats THE EXORCIST did like the girl getting possessed, the concerned parents, the doctors that try to help and so on.  BUT there's a catch, and it's this part that makes this stand apart from THE EXORCIST.  It's a satanic cult that's causing her possession.  They need her for a ceremony of sorts.  One cool thing they do is sacrifice a baby.  Nice!  I don't have kids...can you tell?  You don't see that much in movies.  That's the biggest difference between this film and the one it's cashing in on and it ends as you would expect.  There's only so much you can do with devil possession and this is one of many variations on a theme for a tune I'm only luke warm about.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)

Director: Curtis Harrington

Writers: David D. Osborn, Robert Blees, Jimmy Sangster, Gavin Lambert

Composer: Kenneth V. Jones

Starring: Shelley Winters, Mark Lester, Chloe Franks, Ralph Richardson, Lionel Jeffries, Hugh Griffith, Rosalie Crutchley, Pat Heywood, Judy Cornwell, Michael Gothard, Jacqueline Cowper, Richard Beaumont, Charlotte Sayse, Marianne Stone

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She's Taking A STAB At Motherhood!

Plot: A demented widow lures unsuspecting children into her mansion in a bizarre "Hansel and Gretel" twist.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

It's a neat little take on Hansel & Gretal but it's really hard to take a short story and turn it into a feature length movie as this one proves.  The last few minutes are pretty cool but it's the 80 that preceded it that has problems. The setup is good even though it takes an hour (love the guillotine, by the way - VERY effective scene) before it you start to see Mrs. Forrest (Winters) unravelling and kind of begin to lose her shit and start to resemble the witch in the fairy tale even if she's far tamer than the Grimm character.  The performances are good but it's the script that's been forced to stretch a penny into a quarter that's the real culprit.  Fans of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) will get a treat out of seeing a much younger  Michael Gothard (the octagonal glasses guy from FYEO).  And OMFG I did not recognize Judy Cornwell in this at all.  She's best known to me for playing Daisy in KEEPING UP APPEARANCES (1990-95).  I should have recognized her voice.  Sorry, Daisy.