Thursday, October 25, 2007

Severance (2006)

Dir: Christopher Smith

Starring: A handful of Brits

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Another bloody office outing.

Plot: A team-building weekend in the mountains of Eastern Europe goes horribly wrong for the sales division of the multi-national weapons company Palisade Defence when they become the victims of a group of crazed killers who will stop at nothing to see them dead.

My Rating: 8/10
Would I watch it again? Yep.

Boy, oh boy was this fun. Smith did a great job balancing humor and horror. Every single one of these characters is likable; some more than others. And that's probably the biggest reason I liked this film. Not only are they likeable but they're all fun. Many of the jokes are sharp and the director takes a lot of the horror cliches and takes them to places we haven't seen. I REALLY like it when that happens. It's fresh.

"The Dancing With The Stars competition has been cancelled for the evening."

Is it scary? Coming from a guy that doesn't scare easily when it comes to movies, it kind of is. Well, more then most are anyway. It has a few intense moments which is something you really don't expect from a film like this. For example, you often know the killer is there but you don't see him/them which heightens the suspense unlike WRONG TURN 2 where we get to see the killers way too much AND they're laughablely stupid-looking. Less is more in this case.

I almost forgot the music. Christian Henson's score is downrighty hysterical! There are the necessary mood cues but the highlight is his light, European, fluffy Viennese waltz theme that completely goes against the action on the screen. Beautifully funny. Absolutely beautiful.

The ending is great and very satisfying with how it ties together the film's opening. Fun stuff. I highly recommend this one.

Planet Terror (2007)

Dir: Robert Rodriguez

Starring: Freddy Rodriquez, Rose McGowan, Josh Brolin, MICHAEL PARKS, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Bruce Willis, Quentin "My Acting Sucks" Tarantino

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Humanity's last hope... Rests on a high power machine gun

Plot: After an experimental bio-weapon is released, turning thousands into zombie-like creatures, it's up to a rag-tag group of survivors to stop the infected and those behind its release.

My Rating: 9/10
Would I watch it again? Hell, yeah!

"She's got legs...and she knows how to use them."
IT'S GOT A GO-GO DANCER WITH A MACHINE GUN FOR A LEG! Do I really need to say more?

I dig me some Grindhouse and when I saw this with friends in its theatrical release earlier this year as Grindhouse the whole experience was too good to be true. This is the first time I've watched it since then and this time it's the new "extended" DVD. I couldn't remember what wasn't there before but the film still holds a tremendous amount of fun. Everyone did an awesome job and the only real beef I have with any of the acting (which is otherwise tops) is that from Fergie!?! She's hideous. Perhaps if she'd worn a paper sack with the eyes and mouth cut out like the Unknown Comic that would have helped. But you'd still have to hear her voice.

The effects are great. The music is great (a nod to John Carpenter's music), especially the main "grindhouse" theme. Awesome! The story, albeit not the most original (does it really need to be?), works. Great dialogue. Lots of old school patter like, "Lt. Muldoon: You want the story? I'll spin it for you quick." and "Cherry Darling: Name's Cherry Darling... El Wray: Sounds like a stripper name. Cherry Darling: No, it sounds like a go-go dancer name. There's a difference."

"She's choppin' Broccoli...broccoli...she's choppin' brocco..lahhhh."
Planet Terror moves at a pretty good clip, especially when the zombie shit hits the fan. Lots of gore, lots of laughs and even some skin. Hubba hubba. But for me one of the neatest and most effective aspects of this thing is how much it looks like an old, well-worn, beat-up print. That just adds to the fun. As far as pure entertainment this is probably my favorite from Rodriguez.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Slither (2006)

Dir: James Gunn

Starring: Nathan Fillion (that guy from FIREFLY/SERENITY), Michael Rooker, Elizabeth "I chose not to get naked in this picture" Banks, Tania "I chose to get naked in this picture - not enough for you to really see much but still enough for you to remember and be thankful for" Saulnier

Plot: A small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Slug it out.

My Rating: 8/10
Would I watch it again? Sure, it was fun.

To set this up, some friends and I had just finished watching THE BLOB (1958) and put this one in for the second half of the double feature. It didn't take long before we all start yelling out, "Hey, that's from THE BLOB" every few minutes. That certainly didn't hurt the film. It was fun seeing the similarities. Sometimes that can piss you off but then when somebody starts paying homage to THE BLOB and to NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (a fun horror flick from the 80s) it can't be all that bad, can it? Not this time.

"Singin' in the bathtub..."
Rooker was creepy. He's just that way; especially with that shaved head. Don Thompson was a riot as the un-PC mayor. Fillion was great as the goofy sheriff. Gunn did a great job with the humor. There were lots of great gags/moments that send-up the cliches that you find in horror movies. There was one where so much had been made (introduced early on) about a hand grenade. When it's finally about to be used to destroy the creature (Rooker) it bounces into the pool and explodes leaving Fillion with nothing but a "this isn't my day - now what?" smirk on his face. So then he has to improvise a new plan. It's a real gas.

All-in-all it's fun and with the plethora of funny characters it's definitely worth a look.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Dir: John Fawcett

Starring: Emily Perkins, Katherine Isabelle

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: She's got the curse

Plot: Ginger is 16, edgy, tough, and, with her younger sister, into staging and photographing scenes of death. They've made a pact about dying together. In early October, on the night she has her first period, which is also the night of a full moon, a werewolf bites Ginger. Within a few days, some serious changes happen to her body and her temperament. Her sister Brigitte, 15, tries to find a cure with the help of Sam, a local doper. As Brigitte races against the clock, Halloween and another full moon approach, Ginger gets scarier, and it isn't just local dogs that begin to die.

My Rating: 7.5/10
Would I watch it again? Yeah

"Don't Fence Me In"

Years ago when I worked at Blockbuster part-time I looked at the DVD box and laughed at how stupid it must be. It looked like another average, dumb-as-hell, teenage monster movie. And even though the customers and co-workers said it was great I still passed because, knowing their taste in movies, I figured their standards were low to begin with. What a nice surprise.

The director (who also co-wrote the film) does a fabulous job of making a very serious film and getting the tired cliches work. The acting is quite good. Perkins as the younger sister was fantastic and out-shined Isabelle playing her sister. I'm still not sure if it's Isabelle's performance I'm not crazy about or if it's her character. I'll need to see her in something else to figure it out. I notice that they're both in the two sequels that follow (actually the first sequel IS a sequel with the third film being a prequel). With that and that I enjoyed this one so much I'll have to check out the other two at some point. See the picture below? Perkins has that look throughout the entire picture and it's perfect. She nails the "withdrawn-did-somebody-just-fart" look to the wall. She's a hottie.


Great camera-work and great effects, though minimal (which helps), are not hurt by the low budget of $5 million. The less money you have the more creative you need to be. Fawcett did a remarkable job with what he had.

Oh, and the ending was great and very satisfying. Sometimes, when watching a genre film that has a good start, I start thinking they're going to screw up the ending somehow. That's worse than watching a shit film because they had something good going and they blew it. Anybody can make a shitty picture. But not this time. And there was much rejoicing....yeah....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Blob (1958)

Dir: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.

Starring: Steve McQueen

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: It crawls.... It creeps.... It eats you alive!

Plot: An alien life form consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows.

My Rating: 8/10
Would I watch it again? Yeah

Gosh this was neat! You've got killer Jello, a 28-year-old McQueen playing a 17-year-old, great "gee-whiz" dialogue, about every goofy facial expression McQueen could muster, a movie theater filled with those hip 1950s kids and an open-ended finale that leaves room for a sequel that never happened. Ahhhhh...those were the days.

This really is a fun film and I was blown away by the stunning print on the Criterion DVD. Nice. It's got a ton of 50s era monster movie cliches but it puts them together so so well all in one nifty package. Probably the biggest reason to see it is for McQueen. It's bizarre watching this knowing he's just two years away from making THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), the film that put him on the map. What makes it fun watching him here is not that he brings anything astonishing to the role but that IT'S STEVE MCQUEEN doing a fun, goofy movie just before he hit the big time in Coolsville.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona "I'll Take It" Ryder, Keanu "Duh" Reeves

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Love Never Dies.

Plot: Dracula comes to England to seduce a visitor's fiance and inflict havoc in the foreign land.

My Rating: 9/10
Would I watch it again? Chyeah!

This is easily one of my favorite Dracula movies of all time (NOSFERATU (1922) still reigns king). The acting (except for Reeves and, to a much lesser extent, Ryder), story, special effects, set design, wardrobe, cinematography, and the score are supurb. This film has style oozing off the frame. Absolutely beautiful to just look at.

Coppola's Dracula is different. He's not the dashing Count with the tux and cape we've seen a billion times before. He really looks like a victim of his own doing, doomed to live eternally in the shadows. I dig it. Gary Oldman sells the character without question. It's nice to have a REAL ACTOR playing Dracula, not that the others who've played him haven't been, but Oldman is one of the greatest actors of his generation.

And then there's Keanu Reeves. Reeves is a horrible actor except when it comes to playing bonehead stoners or surfers. I'm willing to bet that Amos & Andy could have produced a better British accent than Reeves. It makes me cringe to even think about it. Fortunately, everything else in this movie is pitch-perfect and allows me to tolerate Reeves. It's most painful when there's someone else on the screen opposite him that can actually act and when you've got Hopkins or Oldman on with him Reeves looks like a bad popsicle in comparrison. Woof.

The special effects are jaw-dropping. Coppola had wanted to make this film using only techniques that were available to film makers in the 1920's. The result is un-freaking-believable. That's a real tribute to the film makers for being able to compete with movies of its time (only 15 years ago) using ancient (by today's standards) techiniques. It's almost a big "fuck you" to CGI. Today's kids might think it's cheap looking since they're growing up in a world of CGI. I really admire the craftmanship that goes into these things and the beauty of the result.

AND THE SCORE!!! WOW!!! Polish classical/film composer Wojciech Kilar knocked this one out of the park. I cannot think of anyone who would have produced such a tragically beautifull and haunting score as he did. This was my first encounter with Kilar's name and work and since then I've sought out everything I can get my hands on that he's done. I've watched films he's scored ONLY because he scored them. This guy is good. One of the best. How pleased I was to have found out about him. He instantaly became one of my top favorite film composers. And just when I thought there wasn't anything exciting in film music...

I can go on and on but this movie is simply tops with me. Maybe someday someone will create some technology to allow us to replace Reeves with someone else. Hell, even re-dubbing his lines would help. His cornball head would still be there but that fake-ass accent wouldn't be. Then I'd have no choice but to give it 10/10.

Mystics in Bali (1981)

Dir: H. Tjut Djalil

Starring: Indonesians

More Info: IMDB

Plot: The true Story of an AUSTRALIA girl who learns the magic of LEAK BALI. Strange things happen. Yawn.

My Rating: 3/10
Would I Watch it again? I'm sorry I watched it the first time

Damn, this was painful. If you watch the clip from the link above you've seen the best part of the movie. And it's just about the only thing in the movie worth watching. When there aren't any flying heads cruising about eating the babies out of pregnant women (COOL!!!) there's nothing for these characters to do but talk and repeat themselves. What's worse is that there is a lot of dead air between what's spoken. If you can imaging putting in 2 seconds of silence between what you say and wait for someone else you've got a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about. It's painful.

If you look at the comments on imdb you'd think this was a classic crappy B-movie from Indonesia. It is but it's only a crappy B-movie from Indonesia. Want to have some REAL fun watching a goofy film from Indonesia then check out THE DEVIL'S SWORD (1984). It's a blast of hilarity from beginning to end.

I would have given this film less of a rating but the "baby-eating flying head" is worth a 3 out of 10. Save some time and money, watch the clip and move along 'cause there's nothing to see here.

Pumpkinhead (1989)

Dir: Stan Winston

Starring: Lance Henriksen

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Cruel, devious, pure as venom. All hell's broken loose.

Plot: A man conjures up a gigantic vengeance demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy the teenagers who accidentally killed his son.

My Rating: 6/10
Would I watch it again? Nope.

Lance Henriksen was really the only reason I wanted to see this. He's usually great and is in this except when he gets REALLY upset and tries to maintain some Southern accent and it just doesn't work. Other than that he's tops and loads of fun. The setup & premise were good as were the kills by Pumpkinhead. He's a gas.

One kill has Pumpkinhead 30 feet up in a tree with some chick and then he drops her onto a large rock in front of her friends. Cool! The blue light show you get everytime Pumpkinhead shows up gives you the idea that he works for the Pink Floyd concert tour; lights flashing all over the place looking oh so cool.

Overall it's a decent, better-than-average, horror flick with GREAT special effects (no surprise since the director has been a top SP FX guy in his field for many years) and fun kills but it seems to go on much too long. With a good beginning and ending the middle could have been trimmed of some fat to tighten it up. I'm glad I finally saw it so now I can move onto something else.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blood On Satan's Claw (1971)

Director: Piers Haggard

Starring: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Satan

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: A living nightmare of black magic... and unspeakable evil!

Plot: Horror thriller set in 17th century England about the remains of the devil being discovered causing the children of a village to each grow hideous body parts and large tufts of animal hair to be used to make him whole again.

My Rating: 8/10
Would I watch it again? Most definitely

#83 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

This one was quite unexpected. The first thing that sat me up, so to speak, was the music. It's beautifully hypnotic and serves the film very well. The filmmakers did an excellent job establishing time and place. It feels damp. It feels dreary. You're there with them.

There's something about children killing people (especially other children) that adds so much more to the creepiness and horror of it all. Perhaps it's because we look at them as innocents but I also think, to a lessor degree, that it has to do with the lack of films portraying them as evil or killers. If we saw more of them I'm sure we would become more and more desensitized to the idea. I keep coming back to the film WHO COULD KILL A CHILD?, which I'll review at some point this month, which is one of the best examples of its kind. Shocking. And much like the murders in WCKaC, the children are playful and delightful with it as if it were a game which adds to the horror.

And for those of you who need it...there's plenty of young female, Satan-worshiping, Georgian England nudity. Hubba hubba.

Kudos to Anchor Bay for releasing a great DVD loaded with extras including several featurettes and TWO commentaries!!! I haven't listened to the commentaries yet but the featurettes were enjoyable. I'm looking forward to a second and third look of the film with the commentaries. Highly recommended.

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Dir: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Don't Dare See It...Alone!

Plot: After Jonathan Harker attacks Dracula at his castle (apparently somewhere in Germany), the vampire travels to a nearby city, where he preys on the family of Harker's fiancée. The only one who may be able to protect them is Dr. van Helsing, Harker's friend and fellow-student of vampires, who is determined to destroy Dracula, whatever the cost.

My Rating: 8/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, yeah.

#05 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

The Hammer Studio horror films of the late 50s and throughout the 60s were, for the most part, all quite good. Their Dracula films started with this one (with Lee as the Count) and ended with THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1974 - Lee's last in the title roll) and THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974 - kung fu vs. vampires!). In all, Lee played him 6 times for Hammer. If my memory serves me he has more dialogue in HORROR OF DRACULA than he does in any subsequent Hammer Dracula film and possibly more than the rest combined.

The story is different than the classic telling. This time Harker goes to Dracula's castle with the intent on killing the vampire. I'm cool with changing things up as long as it's not distracting and it isn't. Lee is fun as well as Cushing. I can't recall a film where I didn't like Cushing's performance. He always manages to bring everything to the table and then some.

One of the things I like about Hammer's horror pictures is the lush, rich, vibrant set design and camerawork. It just leaps off the screen. The atmosphere is thick to the point you can almost smell it. Even the mediocre Hammer horrors are elevated by these elements alone to the point that they hold my attention longer than any other studio's films would with the same plot/dialogue.

One standout scene for me has always been Van Helsing's dash across a

large table, leaping onto the drapes, pulling them down to expose the morning sunlight on Dracula thereby killing him. The action is quick but we See the deterioration of Dracula and we feel, as Van Helsing does, some pity for Dracula. Quite unexpected.

Are these films scary? No. But you couldn't do much better if you want well-crafted, fun, Gothic eye candy in your horror.

Oh, and the music! WOW! James Bernard's score is one of the all-time greats. The dark richness he gets out of his orchestra is one of the most important layers to these Gothic horror films and any of these films would suffer greatly without it.

Last year around this time I watched 5 of Lee's 6 Hammer Dracula pictures and I can hardly distinguish them from each other. That's mostly why I'm jotting all of this down so I can at least try to remember them long after I've seen them.

Here's the list of the Hammer Dracula films:

Horror of Dracula (1958)
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)
Scars of Dracula (1970)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Asphyx (1973)

Director: Peter Newbrook

Starring: Robert Stephens and lots of Brits who really know how to act

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: If It Were In Your Power...Would You Sacrifice Your Wife...Your Children For Immortality? This Is The Story Of A Man Who Did!

Plot: A Victorian scientist, Sir Hugo Cunningham, and his assistant discover the secret of death: everybody has a kind of personal "death spirit", the "asphyx"; when somebody is about to die, this "asphyx" comes in to claim his victim. If it can be caught at the right moment, immortality follows! The scientist succeeds in capturing his own asphyx, but when he starts experimenting on his daughter, he accidentally kills her. The assistant, his daughter's fiance, commits suicide; Cunningham has no reason to live but has no way to die. He is doomed to live forever ...

My Rating: 5/10

Would I watch it again? Nah

#90 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

"The original Ghostbusters"

Watching the first fifteen minutes was a chore. When Sir Hugo was developing his theory of a death spirit and by capturing it you can make yourself immortal, I about laughed myself onto the floor. Seriously. I honestly didn't think I'd make it to the end. But, as I stayed with it and the outrageousness of the whole thing subsided, I really started to get into it. However, I must say that the biggest reason I have against recommending it is that it really almost bored me to tears. It would have been far better served as part of an anthology film (which were very popular in the early 70s) since it's essentially a short story stretched to feature length.

The acting is quite good (go Britain) and the story (only after you've accepted the idea of there being an "asphyx" to begin with) is very engaging. The score seemed totally inappropriate by having a classic Hollywood sound (1940's-heavy-on-the-strings). The ending was a downer (which I dig) but I couldn't help feel that all Sir Hugo had to do to destroy his asphyx (and the asphyx of his hamster!!!) so he could die would be to....oh, I don't know....break down the door to the cellar where it was kept? How about leveling the estate? Fire? I know they had it in 1870 'cause I saw QUEST FOR FIRE which took place 80,000 years ago. If he really wanted to get at it he could have. I'm just sayin'.
Rod Serling could've tightened this up and have served it as a classic instead of as an over the video counter sedative.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Re-Animator (1985)

Dir: Stuart Gordon

Starring: Jeffrey Combs

More Info: IMDB

Tagline:  H.P. Lovecraft's classic tale of horror

Plot: A medical student and his girlfriend become involved in a bizarre experiment into reanimating the dead conducted by the student's incorrigible housemate in this campy sendup of an H.P. Lovecraft story. The emphasis is on humour but once the dead walk, there is gore aplenty.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Sure, why not?

My only real bitch with this this otherwise fun movie is composer Richard Band's blatant Bernard Herrman Psycho score ripoff. For me, the big film music freak, it's a real distraction. Poor taste to the extreme. Not only that but it's done with a synthesizer. Talk about putting salt on the wound.

"I ain't got nobody..."

With that out of the way the movie was just a gas to watch. It's not as frenetic and fast-paced like another horror/comedy I watched recently, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD but it is funny in a dark way. Combs as Herbert West has some great lines ("Get a job in a side show"). When Dr. Hill is creeping everybody out when he starts coming onto Megan and her father (on the other side of the large looney bin glass window) suddenly bangs up against it - hysterical.

Animated body parts all over the place, lots of blood, sick jokes, boobs (hubba hubba), decapitations, it's alive - it's dead - it's alive - it's dead cat. West says as he's about to re-animate (for the second time) the cat whose bashed up pretty badly, "Don't expect it to tango; it has a broken back." This thing's got "family fun" written all over it.

Spider Baby (1968)

Dir: Jack Hill

Starring: Lon Cheney Jr. & Sid Haig

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Come into my parlor, said the spider to the...

Plot: In a dilapidated rural mansion, the last generation of the degenerate, inbred Merry family lives with the inherited curse of a disease that causes them to mentally regress from the age of 10 or so on as they physically develop. The family chauffeur looks out for them and covers up their indiscretions. Trouble comes when greedy distant relatives and their lawyer arrive to dispossess the family of its home.

My Rating: 4/10
Would I watch it again?

I don't get it. I just don't get it. Looking at the comments on imdb you'd think this was a masterpiece. Glowing review after glowing review elevates this thing into "genius" territory. WTF? It's slow, slow, slow. I'm going to do my damnedest not to bash it. I went into this thing looking for a hidden gem of a B movie. I'd even called some friends over to witness a buried classic and what I ended up with was nearly having to find replacements for the friends I almost lost.

The theme song at the beginning (sung by Cheney) was awesome. It kind of had a Monster Mash feel to it. It's catchy and kooky. I'm on board. Then we get to meet the young girls of the family and their caretaker, Cheney. OK, so far I'm with it even though it starting to really drag and do absolutely nothing. Then we get to meet the "bitch" and her brother (Peter, played with a delightful playfulness by Quinn K. Redeker) and then their lawyer and his assistant (she's pretty cool, too). The lawyer's acting is WAY over the top - the worst acting of the bunch. Peter is awesome. His sister (bitch) has forced him to go with her against his will and so he's just going to make the best of it by encouraging anything she doesn't like. Everyone watching this with me loved his performance. He was the only thing we really enjoyed.

Poor Lon. I didn't know he was an alcoholic but at one point I made the comment that he seemed really sad as if there was someone behind the camera teasing him with a bottle of whiskey to get him through a scene. There might have been some truth in that. I don't know.

Bitch, at one point, dressed to kill for a lingerie party, is raped by Sid Haig and ENJOYS IT!!! Just like in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN a few years later only it was much more effecting in YF. We did get a chuckle out of it, though. Despite its short 81 minute run time it was still 20 minutes too long. I was fearful that people might start throwing things at my TV. It's so rare I have to apologize for showing a movie. I want my dignity back...and my 81 minutes. See that image above of the two girls? Throughout the entire film all of us had the expression on the blonde.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Deranged (1974)

Dir: Jeff Gillen & Alan Ormsby

Starring: Roberts Blossom and a cast of actors that, any one of which, could act their balls/ovaries off far better than anyone in WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END (see review)

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Pretty Sally Mae died a very unnatural death! ... But the worst hasn't happened to her yet! DERANGED ... confessions of a necrophile

Plot: A man living in rural Wisconsin takes care of his bed-ridden mother, who is very domineering and teaches him that all women are evil. After she dies he misses her, so a year later he digs her up and takes her home. He learns about taxidermy and begins robbing graves to get materials to patch her up, and inevitably begins looking for fresher sources of materials. Based closely on the true story of Ed Gein.

My Rating: 9/10

Would I watch it again? YES!!!

#207 on Drive-In Delirium Vol. 1 (Part of the Trailer Trash Project)

Damn I love movies. After searching futilely for some rat poison to mix in with my Crunch & Munch after just watching WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END I popped in this little curiosity. I had a hunch busting out something I'd never heard of from the 70's would destroy WT2:DE. And boy did it ever.

I think anyone who wants to make a movie with very little money, one that people will watch, should see this before getting the first shot. There is a kinda cheesy narrator that pops in and out but PLEASE don't think of it as being corny or silly. If you simply go along and accept the low budget-ness of the film and take it seriously you will come away from it far better. I did. With every film I watch I try to put myself into the time it was made, throwing out everything that may have come after it - basically clearing my mind and just being in the moment.

Assuming you read the plot you probably thought it sounded familiar. Well it is. The Ed Gein case has generated countless movies with similar themes, PSYCHO (1960) being probably the most well-known. Once you get past the dying mother's overlong speech where she repeats herself to the point of you wanting to call Dr. Kevorkian, the movie moves at a nice pace. We know Ezra (beautifully played by Roberts Blossom - you know, the old man at the end of Home Alone?) is nuts and everyone around him just thinks he's eccentric and feels sorry for him for the death of his mother. He's in his own little world and you know what he does? HE ACTS HIS BALLS OFF! There's a great bar scene where Ezra meets his next victim, a smokin' sexy waitress, Mary, and a hysterical old drunk who's nuts about her, too. She pays attention to him and that's what he needs but she's not fake about it. For example, she's flirtatious but without substance and when she gets Ezra to buy a drink (his first ever) he gives $5 for the .75 drink and tells her to keep it. She compassionately asks Ezra if he's sure he doesn't need it he says no and she, with a cute smile, accepts it and continues the playful game. It's moments like this that give these characters much more depth than films of today. Naturally he mistakes her "friendliness" for meaning more than what it really is and he starts plotting. Several minutes later she's tied to a chair at the dinner table surrounded by corpses of old ladies in dresses (sound familiar?). She's petrified but she realizes that she has to play it cool in order to survive. How she reacts to Ezra is real and believable. She's scared but does everything she can to keep her cool. Terrific performance.

Before I get to the last part of the film I have to say the acting from everyone in this movie is superb. It's people talking and doing things like regular folks. Nothing's forced. Words just happen. I found it very refreshing. It was almost distracting because I found myself marveled by the sheer naturalness of the actors. You don't see that often. It pulls you into the story.

Now then, the last act. Stunning. I had chills (and that's not easy). In fact, the last time I had chills I was naked and spilled a bowl of cereal in my lap and the dog was nowhere around to clean it up. Ezra seizes upon a moment of opportunity to take another victim. I cannot go any further because what happens in the last...say...10 minutes was astonishing. The shot of the two hunters (Ezra's friends) pulling up to his barn in their truck and discovering what's inside is a great moment and image mainly because it's filmed from about 70 feet away

The music by Carl Zittrer (BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) & A CHRISTMAS STORY) is minimalistic and very atmospheric. There are times when it's just droning beneath the surface and it works very well. The re-occurring theme for Mother can be a little intrusive but overall it's effective. And ther is humor in the film but it's very subtle, dark and delicious.

Filmmakers of the late 60s through the late 70s took chances with their films and dared audiences to watch them. I'm grateful we have them because it really seems that few people in the last 20 years have dared their audiences, to show them something they haven't seen before or least in a different way. DERANGED does that with no-name actors and with a tiny (even for 1974) budget of $200,000. They did more with what they had than what the makers of the latest RESIDENT EVIL film ($45 million) and ALIEN VS PREDATOR ($45 million) can do with dozens of millions of dollars - and that's deliver the goods.

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

Director: Joe Lynch

Writers: Turi Meyer, Al Septien

Composer: Bear McCreary

Starring: Henry Rollins, Erica Leerhsen, Texas Battle, Aleksa Palladino, Daniella Alonso, Steve Braun, Matthew Currie Holmes, Crystal "If I get naked and die in the forest, do I make a sound? Does anybody care?" Lowe

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: In the Forest, Only They Can Hear You Scream.

Plot: Retired military commander Colonel Dale Murphy (Rollins) hosts the simulated post-apocalyptic reality show where participants are challenged to survive a remote West Virginia wasteland. But the show turns into a nightmarish showdown when each realizes they are being hunted by an inbred family of cannibals determined to make them all dinner!

My Rating: 4/10
Would I watch it again? Hell, no! I'd rather synchronize-swim in a pool of my own sick.

There are really only two reasons to watch this movie. 1) Henry Rollins is fantastic and 2) That stuck-up bitch you see at the beginning of the trailer? In the first 6 minutes of the movie she gets cut in half - VERTICALLY! Rollins gets 3 of my points and the cool death gets the other.

I haven't seen the first one. I only watched this one because I heard it was way better than the first. I've already wasted 90 minutes watching the damn thing so I really don't want to spend any more time by talking about it except that my future self will read this just before he (I) pops it into the player because his memory is shit and he'll probably think to himself, "I like Henry Rollins. He kicked ass in that movie. Oh, and then there's the broad with the split personality (as he laughs at himself for the retarded pun he just thought up only he didn't "just" think it up because I thought of it first just now)." This written testament will serve as a warning so that he (I) will not waste any more of his (my) life.

I've got just one word for this movie...WTF? The hillbillies looked like mutated pigs let out of their jars. It would have been way better to at least make them but slightly screwed-up humans. And where the hell was the acting in this thing? When the best acting in your movie is by an aging punk rocker...that tells me one thing. You at least were smart enough to hire an aging punk rocker to star in your film. Henry Rollins owns this picture. He's got talent which is more than any of the others can say. Oh, it's so so bad. A couple of good kills and some gore and that's it. At one point I was almost envious of one of the victims at the time of their demise!

And what the hell is it with the survivors of these things that seconds after going to hell and back and almost being killed and seeing all this vicious crap they, after everything's now OK, suddenly find some stupid witty repartee to throw around like they're fucking James Bond or something? I hurt like Lindsay Lohan at a basketball game after party.

Two people live to the end of this thing and that's two-too-many!

Zombi 2 (1979)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Writers: Elisa Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti

Composers: Giorgio Cascio, Fabio Frizzi, Andriano Giordanella, Maurizio Guarini

Starring: Ian McCulloch, Tisa "Mia's Sister that doesn't take her clothes off in this movie which would have really helped A LOT" Farrow

More info: IMDB

Tagline: We Are Going To Eat You!

Plot: Strangers looking for a woman's father arrive at a tropical island where a doctor desperately searches for the cause and cure of a recent epidemic of the undead.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? You betcha

Man, this was fun! GREAT zombie flick. Despite its title it's not a sequel. You can find out why at the link. The opening with the boat is awesome. You KNOW something's amiss as you wait patiently as the credits roll by to find out. It takes a little while to get our heroes (Peter, a reporter and Anne, the daughter of the missing father) out of Dodge and on an island. Now it gets REALLY cool. They hook up with adventurers Brian and his gal, Susan. I can't go on without mentioning how STUNNING she is - especially when she let's it all hang out, strips down and straps on her scuba gear for a nice little swim. Hubba hubba. While underwater she encounters a shark. OK, we've all seen that but what you haven't seen is an UNDERWATER ZOMBIE FIGHT WITH A SHARK? How friggin' cool is that? I'll tell ya. It's friggin' cool. His arm gets chewed-off. Suddenly with the scuba-diving naked chick and the underwater zombie fight this movie just catapulted itself into cool as crap territory. Who cares where it goes from here.

Fortunately there's a lot more nudity and zombies as our heroes fight to stay alive. This has some of the best zombie special effects I've seen. Many of them looked real. I should know. I dated one. Whoooooooa. The music by Giorgio Cascio and Fabio Frizzi could have been better. It sounded like it wanted to be like the music from CANNIBAL FEROX but since that movie didn't come out until 1981 they would have had a tough time trying to figure that one out. The ending, although cool in it's way of setting up a sequel, over-did it a bit by beating you over the head with the, "Lookie, zombies all over the place. Lookie lookie." A great ride. I'm looking forward to more Italian zombie pictures.

Private Parts (1972)

Director: Paul Bartel

Writers: Philip Kearney, Les Rendelstein

Composer: Hugo Friedhofer

Starring: Ayn Ruymen, Lucille Benson, John Ventantonio, Laurie Main, Stanley Livingston, Charles Woolf, Ann Gibbs

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: A most bizarre voyage into the psycho sexual!

Plot: Curious teenager Cheryl moves into her Aunt Martha's skid-row hotel in downtown L.A.. The lodgers are odd. Cheryl wants nothing more than to be treated as an adult/woman and finds that one of the lodgers, George the photographer, will do just that. She likes that he spies on her while she baths. Will she end up dead like some that came before her? Hmmmm.

My Rating: 6/10

Would I watch it again? No. I liked it but there's no need to see it again.

I had some expectation going into this one since it's Bartel's (Deathrace 2000) first movie. I guess I just expected more. The set-up is great. In the first 5 minutes you discover all you need to know about Cheryl and where that's probably going to lead her. This is a good thing. Bartel then spends the rest of the film showing us the other tenants of the hotel and how they fit into the big picture. They're the fun ones, including Aunt Martha who's obsessed with the funerals of strangers. We know George is bad news (they all are to a point) and that something will happen in the last 10 minutes that might make Cheryl scream. Giggity. The pacing is fine, if sometimes slow, and the camera work is nicely composed. I just couldn't quite get into the film even though I was diggin' what I was seeing; it's just that it wasn't a whole heck of a lot. The big surprise at the end was pretty cool but you could sorta see it coming. Giggity. It's worth a look. You will recognize a few faces. Lucille Benson (Aunt Martha) showed up in Spielberg's DUEL and 1941 (gas station attendant) and Stanley "hey, look, it's Chip from My Three Sons" Livingston has a pretty good part as Cheryl's teen love interest. Come for the curiosity. Stay for the nudity. Very nice...

The Changeling (1980)

Director: Peter Medak

Writers: Russell Hunter, William Gray, Diana Maddox

Composer: Rick Wilkins

Starring: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas, Jean Marsh, John Colicos, Barry Morse

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Whatever you do...DON'T GO INTO THE ATTIC.

Plot: A man whose family is killed in a road accident retires to a lonely mansion and begins to experience supernatural occurrences linked to the house's mysterious past and its previous owners.

View the "Ball Drop" scene

My Rating: 8/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, hell yes

Featured on Stephen Romano Presents Shock Festival (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

I don't get creeped out much by movies anymore but this picture was much better at it than most. The acting was right on target. Scott, as usual, does one hell of a job and it's his performance that grounds the film and keeps the audience with him. There are no eye-rolling moments. The story moves just at the tempo it wants and needs to. Too slow for today's audiences. But screw 'em. This is a damn fine haunted house story that doesn't jump the rails for even a moment.

There is a scene where Scott tosses his dead child's ball into a river only to have it bouncing down the stairs (and wet) as he enters the house. In any other film it would have probably been laughable. The director allows Scott's character to breathe a little longer than most as well as many of the scenes. They linger just long enough for you to relax and familiarize yourself with the room/characters/situations while he's slowly delivering the goods. This is easily the best haunted house movie I've seen. Intelligent, emotional and chilling. I even teared-up a couple of times - Scott is THAT good.

The House That Screamed (1969)

AKA: La Residencia

Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador

Writers: Narciso Ibanez Serrador, Juan Tebar

Composer: Waldo de los Rios

Starring: Lilli Palmer and lots of young pubescent girls you've never heard of

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: One By One They Will Die!

Plot: Mme. Fourneau (Palmer) owns and runs a school for troubled girls in France (around 1900). Her absolute discipline has fostered a social order among the girls with rampant sex, lesbianism and torture the norm. Fourneau also has an adolescent son that she tries to keep isolated from the young women lest he be tainted by sexual relations. Meanwhile, girls are "running away" (murdered) one by one, with their corpses and any evidence of their outcome not to be found.

My Rating: 7/10
Would I watch it again? Only for the throat-cutting scene to the end (about 15 min)

This creeped along very slowly but with reason. Much like the slow twisting of a rubber band you feel something is happening but don't realize it until you've gone past the point-of-no-return. At that point you're committed to the rest of the film until finally the rubber band snaps. Tension builds and it makes you feel slightly on edge. This is the result of the slow, deliberate pacing of the director. This guy's good. More on that later. The kills are good and suspenseful but don't look for a lot of them or for any real gore. It's the build-up and execution that grab you.

There's one in particular that I ended up going back and watching many times, each time I had the same cringing reaction. It's dark. A hand reaches from behind a girl and pulls her head back, all the while the music builds to a crescendo like in every other horror movie. You now expect this to be just like every other horror movie when it comes to this type of kill. Music builds. The knife is pulled, shown with the blade resting on the girl's tender neck. A quick close-up of the knife/neck at the very abrupt cut-off of the music. Silence as the shot is frozen for a second or two with a single frame of film. Now there's the slow PAINFUL motion of the knife cutting her neck as you hear only the cutting of the skin and the muted gargling of her soft-spoken scream. No music. I squirmed like Madonna at an ethics hearing. It's an extremely powerful image that will linger with me for years. If I should ever make a film, this scene will be in it and a story built around it. It's THAT good. I later discovered the director was also responsible for one of my favorite horror films, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976). I'll be watching that one again this month. It's chilling and it's the best I've seen of that type of horror.

The score is good and effective for the most part. When it works, it really works well and when it doesn't? Well, it's much too much. The little twist at the end is pretty good. Overall, it's a very good film. My only complaint, really, is it's a bit too slow even though it's in the slow pacing that builds you up to the film's climax. Giggity. And I really appreciate that.

Oh, for those of you who are wondering about the boob quotient? There's a shower scene, alright, but a women-in-prison shower scene it ain't.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Director: Dan O'Bannon

Writers: Dan O'Bannon, Rudy Ricci, John A. Russo, Russell Streiner

Composer: Matt Clifford

Starring: a bunch of faces you'll recognize but have names you won't. Oh, and Linnea "Trash is taking her clothes off again" Quigley

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: They're Back From The Grave and Ready To Party!

Plot: When a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to re-animate as they go on a rampage through Louisville, Kentucky seeking their favorite food, brains.

My Rating: 9/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, hell yes!

Holy crap! I haven't seen this since high school around the time of its initial release. I remembered very little until I started watching it and then it all came gushing back to me. This is a friggin' laugh-riot! The effects are great. Standout moments? Trash (Linnea Quigley)dancing naked, un-dead half-dog, Trash still dancing naked, un-dead guy from the opened canister, Trash being attacked by zombies naked (but will she come back?), Burt, Ernie & Frank's dialogue throughout the entire film, OH, YEAH...Trash coming back as a naked zombie. It was also really cool seeing older guys as heroes (40s/50s). Usually it's the stupid kids that can't act. Great script, story, gore, effects, acting, photography, the works. Fun! Fun! Fun! Easily one of the best horror-comedies to come down the Pike.

Don't Look Now (1973)

Director: Nicholas Roeg

Writers: Daphne Du Maurier, Allan Scott, Chris Bryant

Composer: Pino Donaggio

Starring: Donald "I get so naked in this movie you can almost see my keifer" Sutherland and Julie "I got to see Donald's keifer" Christie

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: A psychic thriller.

Plot: John and Laura Baxter are living in Venice when they meet a pair of elderly sisters, one of whom claims to be psychic. She insists that she sees the spirit of the Baxters' daughter, who recently drowned. Laura is intrigued, but John resists the idea. Ever the skeptic, John tries to cope with his wife slipping away and the death of their daughter. Spooky things happen.

My Rating: 9/10
Would I watch it again? Yep

This is my first experience watching a Nicholas Roeg film and I really like his style. Like M. Night Shyamalan and Narciso Ibanez Serrador (see review of THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED) he takes his dear sweet time and unravels tiny pieces of the story one by one leading you down all different kinds of avenues but still staying focused on a single idea/task. Then all of the sudden it hits you A) in the build-up to the end (minutes from the "what did I miss?" moment), B) the actual event at the end, C) after the movie, or D) still after the movie but you went to to read about what the hell just happened so you can move on with your life. I picked D. I have moved on.

Now back to the beginning. I'm not going to ruin anything by telling you how incredibly AWSOME the little girl's drowning death is in the opening minutes of the film. From the moment you see her (and it takes several minutes until her death) you feel nothing but dread and you know she's going to die and it's not a matter of how just a matter of when. Roeg cuts between the young daughter (and her younger brother) and the parents (Sutherland and Christie). It's almost painful to watch because of the impending disaster that's about to happen but it keeps going past the point where you think it's going to happen several times. Agonizing and masterful on Roeg's part. I'm hooked.

If you've read the above plot I can skip all of that jazz. Say, did you know that Donald Sutherland can really act? I don't think I've seen an awful lot of his work outside of MASH, THE DIRTY DOZEN, KELLY'S HEROES, SPACE COWBOYS and the odd small roles he did like in his butt-cameo in ANIMAL HOUSE. I was impressed watching him...uh...act instead of being some whacked-out-stoner-hippie.

OK, so far Roeg knocked me out with that super-tense begining. Then he's got a sex scene between the two that wow'd me not because of how explicit it was but how damn sensual it felt. You really feel the deep love these two shared. I'm not being silly here; I'm serious. I was really taken aback by the whole thing. And because of all of that it was HOT! I'm normally indifferent when it comes to a love/sex scene because they usually are there to spice things up and sell tickets. Roeg gives us the skin, sure, but it's not what you see that makes it work but what you feel and sense. THAT'S the difference. It's much like a photograph of a strawberry that is so good that you can literally smell/taste it. It's not easy to do and I don't think, when it comes to a love scene, I've seen it done so well before.

Then there's the ending. I won't spoil anything because I hate it when people do that. I will say this; it's good. Very good. So good I couldn't put all the pieces together at once because I'm still soaking up the rest of the film. It's like I said before, I chose D. I'm glad I did, too, because even though I was partly on target, I found many more possibilities from other viewers that gave it more depth. I'm looking forward to watching it again with that knowledge in mind.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971)

Original Title: Mais ne nous Deliverez pas du mal

Director: Joel Seria

Writer: Joel Seria

Composers: Claude Germain, Dominique Ney

Starring: Jeanne Goupil & Catherine Wagener

More info: IMDB

Tagline: At First It Was Just a Game

Plot: Anne and Lore, neighbors and best friends, barely into their teens, board at a convent school where they have taken a vow to sin and to serve Satan. Anne keeps a secret diary, they read a salacious novel, they get a classmate in trouble, they spy on the nuns, they set aside their communion wafers; they make a pact of devotion. Summer vacation starts: Anne's parents leave her alone with the servants for two months at the family château. She and Lore are free to make mischief. They are cruel as well and play games of seduction. As summer ends and fall term begins, things come to a head.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Would I watch it again? DEFINITELY!

WOW! Where to begin... I've heard of this movie for quite sometime and I finally got around to it. I'm kicking myself in the pants for not seeing it sooner. You think Hannibal Lector is evil? Hitler & pals? Dick Cheney? Rosie O'Donnell? They've got nothing on these two girls, particularly Anne. At first all their little "games" they play on people are forgivable as teens but then they start to really show you their dark side. Darth Vader is a space pussy compared to Anne & Lore. Every single act of cruelty they engage in gets worse than the previous one, building to a climax that will have you absolutely horrified. They tease men, sexually, to the brink of insanity. They like to kill things.

In the first scene of this kind Lore is about to put poisonous seeds in all of the bird (finches, parakeets and such) cages of Anne's dim-witted gardener. Anne stops her. "Don't. If you poison all of them then he will feel sad all at once. If we poison one per week then we can drag out his pain."!!! How do ya like them apples? And that's just the first of the "I can't believe they're doing this" moments. The first bird they kill? You see it (it's really tranquillized but it looks absolutely real) happen in real time. The camera stays on that bird through all of its struggle. It's difficult to watch. Naturally, they're giggling which makes it even worse. Everything builds to the point of no return for them - a murder. The shocks don't stop there. The last five minutes will have you utterly paralyzed. It's been several days since I saw this and I'm still affected by it. It has to be seen. It's rare thing for a film to get this kind of reaction out of me. I can't really describe it. Maybe if I put it into song...."Hello ma baby, hello ma honey, hello my ragtime gal...". Nope that won't do either. The score, by the way (by Claude Germain & Dominique Ney), is pitch-perfect in its execution.

The extras on this disc include: Exclusive interviews with writer/director Joel Seira, star Jeanne Goupil, and British crime expert Paul Buck (who discusses the film’s real-life inspiration and the issue of female murderers and couples who kill.)

A couple more things to point out. This DVD is released by Mondo Macabro ( and is outstanding. I HIGHLY recommend just about everything in their catalog. If you've been over for one of my movie nights there's a chance you've seen at least one of their releases. Oh, and this story is based on a real life pair of best friends in New Zealand in 1954. Peter Jackson's film, HEAVENLY CREATURES, follows that story.