Friday, July 30, 2010

Slugs (1988)

Juan Piquer Simón is not a name that's equated with quality horror. His best movie ("Pieces") is a laughable but still highly entertaining and all around sleazy slasher movie with giallo undertones. His movie "Pod People" (originally intended to be an R-rated "Alien" rip-off until the producers intervened and made him do an "E.T." rip-off) was on "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (I recommend that episode too.) Plus, other movies of his range from incredibly inept ("Cthulhu Mansion") to outright dull ("Endless Descent.") To be fair, I haven't seen his movie "Satan's Blood", which I've heard good things about, so hey, what do I know? Anyways, though not as fun as "Pieces", his entry in the nature-run-amok cycle "Slugs" is a nice diversion of exploitation goofiness.

People are dying in mysterious ways in a local rural community, with bloody corpses showing up with open chest wounds, missing eyes, and other nasty details? So, who's the culprit? Why it's mutated, killer slugs with teeth! Can Mike Brady (heh) (played by Michael Garfield) save the day?

Based on a novel by Shaun Huston, "Slugs" is all around goofy and amusing nature-run-amok fair. It offers some memorable moments of gore and nasty effects work, including and exploding face, a man having to chop his hand off, and a really stomach churning moment involving the slugs and a naked couple. It also offers some really bad but entertaining dialogue ("You don't have the authority to declare Happy Birthday!") and an unapologetic embrace of genre cliches (dumb teens, cruel farmers, rapists and more) to help you keep your interest.

If the movie falls short, it's that the characters aren't as memorably loopy or over the top sleazy like they were in "Pieces." Sure, it's unfair to compare movies, but everyone here is dumb and uninteresting. In fact, if it weren't for the aforementioned nasty scenes, there really wouldn't be any reason to remember it. Also, not a complaint, but is everybody in this movie stupid? *Spoiler* The hero saves the day (or does he?) but destroys much of the town in the process, and casually gets over his best buddy dying in the process.

As it stands, "Slugs" is anything but a classic. That out of the way, it should make for a fun time if you enjoy stupid but fun horror garbage.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hard Ride To Hell (2010)

Bikers and horror are two things that has been done several times. One of the best loved examples is the 1975 classic "Race With The Devil" starring Peter Fonda, with the British oddity "Psychomania" right behind it. It makes sense really-hot rides and horror elements mixed together sounds like a fun mix, and in the right hands it can be. Unfortunately, "Hard Ride to Hell" isn't a fun movie at all.

A group of family and friends (including "Ginger Snaps" star and all around attractive lady Katherine Isabelle) are on an camping trip through Texas. Well, it seems that buddy Dirk (Brandon Jay McLaren) witnesses a ritual being performed by a Satanic Biker Gang led by a one eyed creep named Jefé (Miguel Ferrer), and the next thing you know, they are being pursued by these heretic hog-riders.

"Hard Ride to Hell" comes from Vivendi, a studio that gave us the already reviewed "Backwoods." Unlike that movie, this movie actually delivers in the gore and nudity department, with hunks of flesh being bitten off, arms being lopped off with a chainsaw, and more nasty surprises. Sadly, that's all it has going for it. Like what? Well, at least "Backwoods" had passable performances. Ferrer, who is usually a great actor, here phones it in, looking like he's about to fall asleep at any given moment, and seems like he's only there for a paycheck. Isabelle does a fine job for a while-until the third act comes in, and she inexplicably becomes a cowardly comic relief character. There's no reason given as to why-it just happens, and it's so abrupt that it comes off a really lazy writing.

The biggest problem though, is that director Penelope Buitenhuis (herself a veteran of directing TV productions) and the writers have no idea what made the movies they are paying tribute to (the aforementioned "Race With the Devil" in particular) so great. They think "Hey, tits and violence is what the people want!" However, they forget it takes more than that for a movie like this to work. You need something that really stands out, and this has almost nothing that stands out. The third act gives the viewer a few fun moments, but it ends up feeling like "From Dusk Till Dawn"-if that movie was really bad and felt like it was made for the ScyFy channel.

It's too bad, because with better direction, acting and writing, this could have been a fun time. Instead, it's nothing but a pretender to the throne. Skip it.

Rating: 2/10

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Oh, where would so many people be without Roger Corman? His reputation is well known, so talking about his accomplishments is redundant at this point. So with that out of the way, it's well known that if there's a hit movie, he will probably produce a low-budget knock off of it. "Jurassic Park" a hit? Give the world "Dinosaur Island" and the "Carnosaur" movies. "Star Wars?" Produce "Battle Beyond the Stars" and "Starcrash" (featuring David Hasselhoff.) "Jaws" bringing in the big bucks? Time for "Piranha" and "Up From The Depths." So what about "Alien?" Then you offer audiences "Forbidden World" and the 1981 flick "Galaxy of Terror," in which it's all fun and games until somebody gets raped by a giant space maggot.

The crew of a lone spaceship finds something odd in space-a pyramid like formation. Well, shock soon turns into terror as alien beings show up, and to make matters worse, their worse fears and nightmares begin to manifest themselves in reality.

So yeah, "Galaxy of Terror" does have a plot that's a little reminiscent of Paul W.S. Anderson's creepy cult fave "Event Horizon", only with more gore and trashy exploitation elements. It's also a lot of fun, with some nice gore and creature effects, moments of genuine suspense, an effective old school electronic score by Barry Schrader, and some really enjoyable performances from legendary character actors like Sid Haig, Robert Englund, Ray Walston and Grace Zebriskie.

Oh, and one can't review "Galaxy of Terror" without mentioning the infamous scene in which Taafe O'Connell is raped by a slimy, giant space maggot. The scene is about as tasteless and disgusting as you can imagine, even with the actress moving it's legs around to try and make it look more threatening than it actually is (like in Ed Wood's "Bride of the Monster.") That out of the way, it's kind of hard to be really offended by the scene to be honest. Yes, it's horrible, but it's done in such a deliberately over the top manner ala "Re-Animator" and "The Evil Dead" that it's essentially unrealistic and blackly comic.

If the movie does run into any problems, it's in the leads. Edward Albert is normally a reliable actor, but here he just can't cut it, coming off as a bit wooden in his performance. He's nowhere near as bad as Erin Moran (aka Joanie from "Happy Days"), who overacts, makes weird facial expressions and all around kills the mood whenever she opens her mouth. It's really annoying, and almost took me out of it all.

Still, "Galaxy of Terror" is a sleazy, fun time for fans of Sci-Fi/Horror trash who are in the mood for sick thrills. For that, I salute you Roger.

Rating: 8/10
Oh, since Corman is known for discovering talent, among the people who worked on the movie include David ("Creepazoids", "Sorority Babes in the Slime-Ball-Bowl-O-Rama") DeCoteau, Allan (the "Iron Man" movies, among many others) Apone, and some guy called James Cameron. I wonder what happened to him...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Classic Poster Art: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)

Not Yet On DVD Pt. 2

There are plenty of horror titles available on DVD that you should check out, but there also plenty of titles not yet available on DVD. Here's some movies that should be on digital.

Death Laid An Egg (1968)

Goofy title aside, this is a little know, psychedelic and all around strange Giallo film involving a man who owns a chicken factory. This needs to be on DVD for the premise alone.

Death Ship (1980)

A cult favorite from Canada, with a fun cast (George Kennedy! Saul Rubinek! Richard Crenna!) with a poster that "Ghost Ship" ripped off. The directors cut supposedly has some gruesome moments.

Berserk (1967)

Joan Crawford overacts as only she can in this movie about murders in a traveling circus. With some fun deaths and an all around (unintetionally) campy tone, this one is lost for reasons beyond me.

Curtains (1983)

A blend of Slasher and Giallo sub-genres involving a group of actresses being killed at a remote cabin by a slasher with a creepy old woman mask.

The Keep (1983)

Based on the acclaimed novel by F. Paul Wilson, and directed by Michael Mann, "The Keep" is one of those creepy 80's sleepers that deserves a DVD release. Plus, it has a score from Tangerine Dream!

Deadly Intruder (1985)

Actually, this sucks , but it has Danny Bonaduce having his head shoved through a TV, so for that it gets a minor pass.

Rampage (1987)

William Friedkin directed this Horror/Drama about a liberal attorney (Michael Biehn) caught in a case with an insane serial killer (Alex McArther.) Not a particularly gory feature, but one that has should spark some interesting debate.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

An Arkansas town is terrorized by a killer wearing a white hood in this Charles ("The Legend of Boggy Creek") B. Pierce cult favorite staring Ben Johnson and cult icon Andrew Prine.

Ticks (1993)

It involves giant ticks, it was directed by Tony ("Hellbound: Hellraiser II") Randel, it was produced by Brian Yuzna, and it stars Clint Howard, Seth Green and Alfonso Riberio. Need I say more?

Wild Beasts (1984)

I haven't seen this one, but the premise (zoo animals on PCP go on a bloody rampage) is too great to pass up. And it's Italian!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Primal Rage (1988)

Remember "28 Days Later"? You know, that movie in which a viral outbreak is caused by a diseased primate and dumb environmentalists? Well, it seems like Italy got there first with the 1988 movie "Primal Rage."

Dr. Ethridge (Bo Svenson) has been working on a new experiment on baboons that's supposed to heal damaged brain tissue. There's a bit of a problem though-said baboons carry a deadly virus that can cause people to be the victim of uncontrollable, murderous rage. Well, idiot/self proclaimed "gonzo journalist" Duffy (Mitch Wilson aka unknown actor with a generic name # 2061) decides to investigate, only to get infected. And he's spreading said infection. Can dull hero Sam Ashe (Patrick Lowe) protect his new love interest Lauren (Cheryl Arutt)? Will all hell break loose? Will bad 80's fashion and hair prevail?

An Italian/North American co-production directed by Vittorio Rambaldi and written by exploitation jack of all trades Umberto Lenzi, "Primal Rage" (which has nothing to do with the video game I played religiously back in the day) is a cheap little movie made in the ass end days of Italian exploitation. At this point, only guys like Dario Argento and Michel Soavi were doing anything worthwhile. Lucio Fulci's best days were behind him, Lamberto Bava never managed to do a good follow up to his "Demons" films, Lenzi had been regulated to bad straight to video and television fair-the list goes on. So while "Primal Rage" is a bad movie (complete with bad acting, questionable direction and logic, and horrible pop songs that make it feel like one of those old TGIF sitcoms) that hasn't aged well at all, it's at least an entertaining bad movie.

The movie manages to be one of the more graphic Italian horror movies from this part of the decade, which manages to help quite a bit. The viewer gets to see a scalping, torn out throats, crushed heads, gouged out eyes and more, especially in the last 20 something minutes at a Halloween party. It's also never boring, and moves at a reasonable clip for a 91 minute movie thanks to the fact that those behind it know what it is-dumb exploitation-and for the most part delivers what the viewer wants out of it. Also, Claudio Simmnetti's score is a lot of fun, and at times reminded me of his work for Bava's "Demons", and the the climax itself offers most of what one expects from a movie like this.

It may not be a great (or good) movie, but "Primal Rage" is a nice hunk of Italian Cheese made for a Saturday night with friends and some beer.

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flashback (2002)

It's strange how much German horror has changed over the years. The era of genius works such as "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" seems so at odds at what came much later-many really bad, shot on video gore movies. Then we got "Anatomy", a surprisingly effective little movie that caused a bit of a stir in horror circles (this was before the internet was what it was today mind you) and several other films that helped breathe new life into German horror fair. "Flashback" almost manages to be a nice addition to this cannon-"almost" sadly being the key word.

Jeanette (as an adult played by Valerie Niehaus) witnessed something awful as a child-she saw her parents being killed by a psychopathic killer (who was also a transvestite.) Years later, she's ready to move on, becomes a live-in tutor for a wealthy family, and even meets a boy. So things aren't too bad. Thing is, the past won't let go.

Adapted from an unused script written by Hammer horror veteran Jimmy Sangster, "Flashback" could best be described as a slasher movie with strong giallo like undertones. There are certainly some things to really enjoy about the movie: The performances are largely good, it has several of the old slasher movie clichés (including the always welcome asshole/bitch who gets theirs) that are actually more welcome than usual, some of the kills are well done, there are some wonderfully eccentric characters (Elke Somner is really fun as the strict housekeeper) and an undercurrent of black humor.

Sounds great so far. So where does it go wrong?

Well, two gore gags try to come off as comedy, but fall flat because they clash with the tone of the rest of the movie. In fact, only one running gag (involving a victim in a car) works-the rest of the jokes are awful, especially anything involving two obnoxious policemen. The movie is more interesting when it's a straight up slasher and not a tongue in cheek one. The score by Stefan Ziethen is another weakness, as it lifts far too liberally from Marco Beltrami's brilliant score for "Scream." You wouldn't blame him if he sued for copyright infringement. The biggest kick to the balls is the awful twist nearing the end. You can see it coming a mile away, yet it still really sucks. Remember the awful twist in the ending of the otherwise excellent "High Tension"? Well, multiply that by five, and this is what you get.

It's a shame too, as I really was warming up to "Flashback." Too bad it ends up sabotaging itself in the halfway mark. Still, it could have been a whole lot worse, so I guess that counts for something.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The House of Seven Corpses (1974)

The movie within a movie horror film is older than most probably know. Many audiences probably know it from dreadful movies like "Scream 3" (still love the first one) and "Urban Legend: Final Cut" (The original-the less said the better), while horror fans know it from movies like Lamberto Bava's awesome "Demons" and Bigas Luna's 1987 Spanish horror outing 'Anguish." Yet it goes even earlier than that, with movies like Bob Clark's "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" and 1974's "The House of Seven Corpses" paving the way for future films of this style.

"House" opens with promise, as the viewer is witness to several murders from an unseen figure. We then cut to a cast of actors and a cash strapped director (John Ireland) shooting a low budget horror movie in an old, supposedly cursed house. One of the actors finds the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and after including a passage of it into the script and reading from it (it's in Spanish-who knew?) a cadaver rises to knock the bozos off.

There's some good points to "The House of Seven Corpses." The cast of character actors (Ireland, John Carradine, Faith Domergue and several others) are a lot of fun, with Carradine playing his stock "Strange Old Man" character, and Ireland being quite entertaining as the director, delivering lines like "You're supposed to be going into a trance, not an orgasm!" There's also a pervading sense of atmosphere to the proceedings, as well as the obligatory zombie (done with the old "cheap pancake make-up" style effects) that adds a nice, nostalgic feeling.

The satire of the pitfalls of making low budget horror is too hit and miss though. Sometimes it gets plenty right (difficult to work with veterans, production problems, angry directors) and other times it misses the mark (it feels like it leaves too much out-it would have been nice to see younger cast member's in the movie within a movie.) The direction is also flat, with too many scenes of dialogue and chatter going nowhere, and even using the same shot of a zombie walking repeated three or for times. That's the kind of thing you'd expect from somebody like Ed Wood. Also, while I'm all for a slow pace, the pace here is almost snail like, and by the time the zombie starts to get to work, you'll be lucky if you are still awake. Finally, there's the score by Bob Emenegger, which is really annoying, and uses the same obnoxious choral music cues to the point of numbing the viewer.

"The House of Seven Corpses" is almost impossible to recommend. It's too slow for casual viewers, too light on blood for gore-hounds, and too dull and uneventful for huge horror fans. It feels like an old Television movie and nothing more.

Rating: 3.5/10

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (2009)

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's the case, then Tobe Hooper's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" must be a very proud man. Many a movie has tried to imitate that movie for a while now, to the point of it becoming more than a little tiresome. Sure, some have managed to succeed in this regard, but many, many more have failed. Though nowhere near as bad as others, "Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre" just can't pull it off in the end.

In Iceland, a motley group of friends and strangers decide "Hey, we should go whale watching!" This is all great at first. Then an all around annoying alcoholic Frenchman named Jean-Francois (Aymen Hamdouchi) start's goofing off, leading to the boat breaking down and the captain ("Chainsaw's" own Gunner Hansen, here advertised in top billing yet regulated to a cameo) dying. Fortunately, they end up being picked up by a whale fishing vessel. Too bad that it's run by a group of sadistic "Fishbillies" who have some harsh plans.

From the get go, you can tell that "Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre" wants desperately to be the Icelandic answer to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." To it's credit, it does manage to get a few things right. The movie is rather tongue in cheek to say the least, and some of the humor on display got me to laugh a few times. There's also a great, eerie score by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, as well as some choice cinematography. Oh, and the kills and gore are pretty fun at times too, with one near the end that made even jaded old me applaud.

But it still comes up short. I know that this isn't going to be the most original movie, but this is an instance in which familiarity doesn't breed contempt, but boredom instead. This kind of horror movie has been done so many times, and here there just isn't enough to make it stand out. I don't care how crazy these sea-faring hillbillies are, it's still rather annoying. From a social standpoint, the film seems to be making some kind of statement about the whaling industry and it's effect on nature and economy, yet the movie likes to have it both ways, portraying anti-whaling types as selfish, unlikable hippies (though that is true in some cases-look as "Whale Wars.")

The biggest problem though, is that it doesn't seem to know who should be the main character. First you think it's going to be Annette (Pihla Viitala), but the next thing you know it's Mary-Anne (Miranda Hennessy) and Leon (Terence Anderson) and then it's a female Japanese tourist named Endo (Nae.) Not only do we have nobody to root for, but we also have no real main character. Films like this need a major character to hope for, and this offers none of that.

I will say again that in the world of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" tributes and rip-offs, this is far from one of the worst. At the same time though, it offers very little else, and feels like a wasted opportunity. Oh well, chalk up another one.

Rating: 4/10

Interesting fact: Apart from writing the screenplay for this movie, Sjón Sigurdsson also wrote songs for Lars Von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark." Quite a difference to say the least.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Driller Killer (1979)

We've all had neighbors/roommates from hell. I had to deal with shitty roommates in College, as well as neighbors. Said roommates drank heavily and streaked, destroyed things, and stole my food. Said neighbors blared their televisions at night while they were gone and played the same songs on repeat. We've all wanted to do something about that, but we can't. Well, somebody up and goes too far with that in Abel Ferrara's debut "The Driller Killer."

Reno Miller (Ferrara, under the pseudonym Jimmy Laine-I knew a guy in high-school named that!) has a shitty life. His girlfriend Carol Slaughter (Carolyn Marz) doesn't like him much. He's a struggling artist. A terrible punk rock band called The Roosters rehearse and play non-stop upstairs. His landlord is a dick. Homelessness and poverty is driving him crazy. The cops or the dealers, who's got the juice? The street bender's peddling their boiled goose! Well, this is a movie called "The Driller Killer", not a Saturday Night Live Digital Short with a song I can't get out of my head at the moment, so he doesn't have a boombox. Nope, he buys a certain power tool to "relieve stress", if you catch my drift.

"The Driller Killer" is an interesting case in the fact that it gained notoriety in England in the 1980's due to it landing on the infamous "video nasties" list, or horror movies that certain people (Mary Whitehouse and Margret Thatcher) felt were destroying the youth. I'd go in length about it, but I won't. So, having that kind of notority, horror fans were most likely intrigued as to what kind of unbridled sadism and evil awaited them, only for some to be disappointed that it wasn't the kind of psycho-killer-chasing-a-naked-girl style depravity they were expecting (we don't see any girls die in the movie in fact.) Nope, "The Driller Killer" is an attempt at mixing art house/indie sensibilities with horror. Sure, there's plenty of power drill related mayhem (some of it is memorably vicious), but it's not interested in satiating gore-hounds.

If anything, it's an interesting if not always successful take on "Taxi Driver" and it's theme of Urban Malaise taking it's toll on the protagonists psyche. On that level it succeeds to a degree, as it perfectly captures the decay and rot of late 70's New York to a T. Here, the Big Apple is depicted almost like a modern day Sodom, with cheap sex, junkies and really bad punk rock populating the air. It's a disgusting place, and you almost can't blame him for snapping. Also, as I mentioned, the kills are plentiful, and at times outright ugly and memorable. Also, the score by Joe Delia is a fitting, low rent electronic score that perfectly fits the dour atmosphere, with brief blasts of free jazz style saxophone.

Ferrara does a fine job as the protagonist, but everyone else involved is rather unconvincing and flat, making you wish for something better than community theater level acting. The biggest problem though is that it doesn't really succeed as an art-house film, feeling a bit too much like a student film. In fact, apart from the obligatory power drill murders, there isn't a whole lot to appeal to horror fans, and art-house aficionados will be left scratching their heads.

As a whole, "The Driller Killer" is an interesting but in the end not completely satisfying attempt at mixing art-house ambitions with slasher movie gore. It's a movie that's easier to appreciate than enjoy.

Rating: 6/10

Abel Ferrara would go on to direct the rape-revenge classic "Ms. 45" and several straight to video movies, as well as episodes of "Miami Vice." Then in the 90's, he finally found credibility from critics and the like with movies such as "The King of New York" (starring Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne and Wesley Snipes), "The Bad Lieutenant" (staring Harvey Keitel in one of his finest performances) and "The Funeral" (starring Walken, Chris Penn Vincent Gallo,Isabella Rossellini, Gretchen Mol and Benicio Del Toro.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Classic Poster and VHS Box Art: The Driller Killer (1979)






































Black Water (2007)

Crocodiles and alligators are tend to be popular animals in genre fair. Come on, look at John Sayles scripted "Alligator", Greg McLean's "Rogue" and Arch Nicholsons' "Dark Age" for good examples. Okay, then there's "Alligator 2", "Dinocroc", "Supergator" and um, "Dinocroc vs. Supergator", but hey, the point still stands. Fortunately, the David Nerlich/Andrew Traucki Aussie flick "Black Water" manages to be one of the good entries.

Grace (Diana Glenn), her boyfriend Adam (Andy Rodoreda) and her sister Lee (Maeve Dermody) have decided to take the Blackwater Barry tour. When their tour guide decides to stop, they are attacked by a large, hungry crocodile. Now stranded, Grace, Adam and Lee must find a way to survive.

Using a small cast and practical effects (including a real crocodile) instead of CGI, "Black Water" is an effective little movie that isn't interested in bombarding the viewer with massive amounts of gore. If anything, the movie is reminiscent of "Open Waters" in that it uses the natural world and it's predators as a threat in a very minimalist way. Thankfully, it uses this very well, as Nerlich and Traucki manage to use moments of silence and a menace that doesn't show itself all the time to create a sense of pure dread and atmosphere, all while making it work. The two know the importance of using dread and having a great payoff, which is something a lot of low budget horror movies fail to do these days. It also helps that it uses plenty of character interaction, which helps the viewer grow attached to their dilemma. The fact that Glenn and Dermody manage to deliver fine performances helps oodles.

There are a few things that keep it from becoming great though. For one thing, Rodoreda is a little uninteresting as Adam, while Ben Oxenbould is a bit too bland as Jim-at least you are given a reason to care about Adam. Jim's just there to be killed off. Also, while it manages to make long moments of silence and character interaction work for the large part, there are moments in which it feels too slow for it's own good. I'm all for the slow burn, but there's times in which you want a little more happening.

Still, "Black Water" is a pleasant surprise that utilizes suspense and tension over gore and shocks. Check it out sometime, especially if you want a good killer croc movie.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blood Harvest (1987)

Sometimes a movie confounds you not because it's strange or mind numbingly bad, but because of it's casting choice. Many of them are just actors in roles before they got big (Mark Ruffalo in "Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance", Tom Hanks in "He Know You're Alone"), but some are puzzling not because of stature, but because of who it is. The Amazing Kreskin in "Horror", Uri Geller in "Sanitarium" and David Copperfield in "Terror Train" are examples of this, but none are as confounding as Tiny Tim in Bill Rebane's final movie, the 1987 slasher film "Blood Harvest."

Poor Jill Robinson (Itonia Salchek) isn't having the best time coming back home. Her parents are missing, her house has been defaced, everyone hates her father and nobody likes her. Well, one person likes her. Unfortunately, it's a 50 something creep in clown make-up named "The Marvelous Mero" (Tim). And if that wasn't bad enough, somebody has been killing people in a barn.

On the plus side, we do get some decent gore considering it was most likely shot for less than $100,000, and Tim does a decent (not great) job at being creepy, which isn't saying much because he's Tiny Tim. Everything about him was creepy. It also manages to capture a somewhat creepy atmosphere at times, which is shocking considering that this is from the director of such "classics" like "The Giant Spider Invasion", "The Demons of Ludlow" and "Monster A Go-Go."

That's all it's got going for it. While it has some creepy moments, most of the film is poorly edited and directed, with little flare or skill showing at all as if the director is uninterested in the whole affair. It also doesn't help that nobody in this can act worth a damn. Sure, Itonia can get naked, but she can't deliver any of her lines with conviction. Hell, none of the characters in the movie are likable, especially Mero. I'm sorry, but it's hard to like someone whose a middle age stalker in clown make-up. The biggest problem though is that it seems caught between eras. It certainly feels like a bad 80's slasher movie, it's also a little reminiscent of the kind of cheap regional exploitation fair Rebane and co. made back in the day. The problem though, is that it can't capture the feeling of the latter as well, making it feel a bit dated by the standards of the time. Most people had moved on past this kind of fair in the day, yet Rebane doesn't seem to realize it.

Apart from a few creepy moments and the novelty of casting Tiny Tim, there's nothing to recommend, as it's too dull and generic to enjoy. For 80's compilists only.

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Executive Koala (2005)

Is there any director in Japan crazier than Minoru Kawasaki? An idiosyncratic director to say the least (the least?!), Kawasaki is mostly know for his unique, satirical view of Japanese culture. And by unique, I mean "holy shit what is this?" While other directors may take a darker, more cynical approach, Kawasaki does something else. Like what? Well, there's

  • "The Calamari Wrestler", in which a large squid becomes a professional wrestler
  • "The Rug Cop", in which a cop is able to use is toupee as a weapon
  • "Beetle: The Horn King", in which a large beetle becomes a professional wrestler
  • "The Whole World Sinks Except Japan", which doesn't need a summary
And the movie you are about to read about, 2005's utterly indescribable "Executive Koala."

Meet Mr. Tamura. He's an Average Joe who's becoming big in a pickle distribution company. He's got a gorgeous wife. He's been accused of murder, and must find out who's behind it all.

Oh, and he's a Koala Bear.

You may have noticed the "What The Hell Did I Just Watch?" tag in the past. I say this because "Executive Koala" defines this tag. In the span of 80+ minutes, the viewer sees: a musical number, axe murders, talking animals (there's also a White Bunny Rabbit and a Frog) holding respectable to high maintenance jobs, women being horribly mistreated (the sole drawback, as it doesn't fit with the tone of the rest of the movie, and is quite unpleasant to watch to say the least), breaking of the fourth wall and so much more. It's like an episode of "The Office" made feature length by a Japanese director on LSD.

So apart from the sheer "what the hell" factor, what else is there? Well, it's a pretty well directed and acted (the cast deserves awards for saying things like "Justice is Gray like the fur of a Koala" with a straight face) satire of Japanese corporate culture with slasher movie undertones. Maybe there's a cultural significance to the various species of animals and the jobs that they hold. Maybe it's commenting on the doldrums of office jobs and the constant ass kissing and dumb speeches that goes along. Maybe it's a commentary on corporate greed and malpractice. Or maybe it's just a movie about a Koala Bear accused of murder, with brief nods to "The Evil Dead" and Brian De Palma. Whatever it is, I've never seen anything quite like this before.

Can I recommend it? Yes, especially if you want an insane experience that differs from 99% of what you watch. I can guarantee this-you've never seen anything else like it, and it may change the way you look at those cute little marsupials forever.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Motor Home Massacre (2005)

I can't really understand how someone could be angry at Lionsgate. Sure, they aren't the haven for awesome horror movies that they once were, and that is disappointing. To complain about them releasing forgettable to awful horror movies in a constant barrage is dumb though, considering hat 95% of those are direct to DVD anyways. Plus, they've been releasing direct to DVD crap for a while now. Anyone remember "Ripper: Letter From Hell" and "Attack of the Sabertooth" for example? Things haven't changed much, and continue to stay the same. One of the movies released straight to DVD during the "golden days" is the terrible slasher movie "Motor Home Massacre."

Claiming to be based on true events, "Motor Home Massacre" tells the heartwarming story of seven really obnoxious friends who find themselves an abandoned RV. This seems like a good idea to them because they are idiots in a slasher movie, and lo and behold, they run into a psychopath wearing night vision goggles with death on the mind.

Bearing a title reminiscent of all of those other post "Texas Chainsaw" movies that added the "Massacre" to their title ("Mountain Top Massacre" for example), "Motor Home Massacre" clearly wants to be a slasher movie in the vain of the 80's ones. That's all fine and dandy, but the movie in itself is godawful. The gore effects are incredibly poor, and the kills accompanying them are the standard "He's got a machete!" variety-a bit of a ripoff considering the chainsaw on the DVD box. While all the girls are as they say "stacked", there is no nudity or sex on display, which would have helped the movie a little. It also doesn't help that the sole black girl in the film is so poorly treated, and even called "tar baby." And let's not forget the reveal of the killer at the end, which is a real head smacker. I could go on and on, but this is awful.

That out of the way, the final 20 or so minutes of the movie are so inept, they somehow bring the movie to levels of laughably bad instead of the painfully bad bullshit we had to put up with before. The viewer is bombarded with a barrage of terrible plot twists, even more laughable dialogue and acting, erratic direction and more. In fact, all of insanity on display almost makes it feel like a slasher movie version of something like "The Steve Wilkos Show" in that you can't believe you are watching it. Hell, while the reveal is as I said a head smacker, at least it's gutsy in it's outright stupidity.

In the end, while it's final 20 something minutes are amusing in how bad they are, they can't make up for just plain bad events prior to it. It's like going through a tooth extraction, then getting the laughing gas nearing it's completion.

Rating: 1/10

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Child (1978)

Harry Novak may not be known to most, but for hardcore exploitation fans, his name is synonymous with sexploitation. Movies like "Massage Parlor Wife", "Sexcapade in Mexico" and "Fandango" were all produced by the man, and gave audiences all the sex and sin such movies would allow at the time. In fact, he produced all kinds of exploitation genres and sub-genres, such as Blaxploitation ("The Black Connection") and of course, horror ("Axe", "Toys Are Not For Children", "Please Don't Eat My Mother" and "Rituals" to name a few.) Another horror title he produced is the 1977 film "The Child."

Alicianne (Laurel Barnett) has a new job-she has to help look after young Rosalie Nordon (Rosalie Cole.) Rosalie is going through some problems, seeing that her mother is dad, and she's mad at a lot of people. Oh, and she can talk to her mother from beyond the grave, move inanimate objects with her mind, and raise the dead to do her bidding. This being a horror movie, this can mean only one thing-she's not using said powers for good.

A mishmash of psychic goofiness, evil child and zombie films, "The Child" is an odd little movie to say the least. The world within the film lives by a fractured logic that has it's own rules. Not a whole lot makes any sense, but you just kind of go with it. None of the actors can act worth a damn (well, Barnett does a good job of acting scared), especially Cole, who is more bratty and obnoxious than she is scary or evil. Then there's the synthesizer score by Michael Quatro, which ranges from weird Moog squelches to over dramatic piano swirls.

That out of the way, it's not a bad movie. For one thing, it's an atmospheric little venture, with heavy use of fog machine and underlying menace throughout much of it. The zombie make-up is also top notch, especially considering the under $100,000 budget. Oh, and while not a splatter flick, there's some nice gore, with mutilated bodies and choice zombie kills making for a fun time. The highlight though, is the final 20 minutes, which becomes a zombie siege that brings pleasant memories of scenes from movies such as "Night of the Living Dead" and "The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue." It's not as good as those movies, but it's not bad either.

Can I recommend "The Child" to anyone? Well, if you're a fan of Harry Novak productions, then you've seen it. That out of the way, fans of off the beaten path, low budget regional horror will find this a fun experience. Just don't expect anything great.

Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dark Nature (2009)

There's nothing wrong with paying respect to your influences. Many a genre film past and present has done this, and sometimes to great success. It's usually for not though, as many directors trying to respect the directors and movies that they love end up coming off as immature fanboys or people without an original bone in their body. While Marc De Launay's "Dark Nature" doesn't fall for those traps, it's still a mess.

Somewhere in Scotland, a very dysfunctional family is on vacation. There's a bit of a problem though-there's a killer whose knocking people off. Oh, and some of the requisite oddball characters who exist only to be killed show up as well.

There are a few things "Dark Nature" get's right. The score is pretty good, some of the cinematography and footage of nature is beautiful, and the gore is pretty cool. That's where the fun ends though, as much of the movie is De Launay paying tribute to the likes of Dario Argento, Mario Bava ("Twitch of the Death Nerve" seems to be the primary influence here,) "Friday the 13th" and old ecological horror films like "Long Weekend." While he manages to thankfully do so without pilfering from said movies, he still gets a whole lot wrong.

For one thing, it's never that scary or intriguing. The aforementioned movies and directors managed to create a sense of dread and suspense to go with everything else. However, the director here seems clueless as to how to do that, as he can't even pull off a decent atmosphere. Also, all of the characters are extremely annoying. People like the entomologist and the psychic are supposed to be interesting in an odd way, but they are more annoying if anything. And don't get me started with the family, especially the daughter. So much time is spent with this obnoxious bitch that the viewer is left exhausted.

And then there's all of the talk. There's a lot of it here-and let it be known there is a difference between dialogue and talk. Dialogue is interesting and helps with the characters. This movie is so talky that there were moments in which I started to remember the films of Andy Milligan-and that's not a good thing. Oh, and let's not forget the whole ecological message in the movie, which in a shocking surprise falls flat. The film wants to be a commentary on man's mistreatment of nature, yet it can't make that work. It instead comes off as a poor man's mix of "Friday the 13th" and Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist."

It's a shame that I didn't like the movie, as there are a few neat things in it, and I do think that it had potential to be good. What I got though was a talky, boring mess of a movie. I expect better, and the audience deserves better too. At least it's better than the movies of Dante Tomaselli.

Rating: 2.5/10