Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not of This Earth (1988)

It's funny: while some people discovered by Roger Corman (Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and James Cameron) went on to do greater things, Jim Wynorski hasn't gone on to do greater things, and that's most likely his intention. According to the commentary he and star Traci Lords have for his 1988 remake of Corman's "Not of This Earth", he would rather continue to make movies with beasts, babes who flash their breasts at the drop of a hat, blood and other exploitable elements. Gotta like that honesty. Now, onto the review.

Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts) is here for one purpose: to feed on the souls and blood of people-preferably buxom women. You see, he's a vampire from space, and his planet is in peril, so he decides this one is good enough. One lady he takes particular interest in is Nurse Nadine Story (Lords, in her first movie role after her other...ahem, career), and decides to take her in. However, she's not just some dumb blonde-she's been doing some investigating, and knows something's up with this guy...

Made on a bet with producer Roger Corman, "Not of This Earth" is cheap, undemanding exploitation fluff, which doesn't warrant much thought, and exists solely as disposable junk food. To be fair, that's pretty much all of Wynorski's oeuvre, but at least he doesn't do anything too offensive here. In fact, unless you are upset by the sight of heavily endowed (and usually surgically enhanced) women prancing around topless, there really isn't anything particularly harsh in this movie.

So, while it's a pretty slight movie that I'll probably forget in oh, about six months, I still found it rather enjoyable in it's own way. The humor is pretty amusing at times (Monique Potter and Becky LeBeau in particular have great cameo appearances), Lords does a surprisingly good job in her role, and at 82 minutes, very little of the movie feels like a waste of time. I also really liked the electronic score by Wynorski vet Chuck Cirino, which captures the campy tone of the film perfectly.

In a way, I admire Jim Wynorski: Sure, he's delivered some serious bullshit (though I'm sure he'll be the first to admit that), but it's refreshing to see a director working to this day that has no pretensions about what he's doing. That's what I like about this movie the most: it lacks pretension as well, and that's certainly for the best. I'm not the biggest fan of the term "turn your mind off and enjoy", but in this case...

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dead-End Drive In (1986)

The drive in theater is pretty much dead. Sure, there's still some in existence, but they seem to be going away in droves. One thing that's most certainly dead is the old school drive in. The theaters that showed what Hollywood has to offer, as well as the latest in horror and exploitation thrills. From the likes of "Attack of the Giant Leeches" to harder fair such as "Eaten Alive", there was a time in which such movies were the regular thing. That's all gone, though people have paid tribute to these theaters of old, such as Joe R. Lansdale with his book "The Drive In." For those who want a tribute to those theaters with a darker edge like that book, then Brian-Trechard Smith's 1986 film "Dead-End Drive In" may be for you.

The unfortunately named "Crabs" (Ned Manning) and his gal Carmen (Natalie McCurry) decide to go on a date at the local drive in theater, only to find themselves trapped in. You see, in a world with a crippling economy, violence, cold sex and other such unpleasantness, many of the youth are now considered a danger, and are contained in prisons that double as drive in theaters. Thing is, Crabs doesn't really belong in this heap, and he must find a way out.

To be fair, Smith never really considered this movie an exploitation movie, and I can see his point. Those expecting the lurid thrills of his movie "Turkey Shoot" will be let down (though you do see it playing in the theater), as there isn't as much focus on such a thing. In fact, "Drive In" is more of a social commentary on the horrors of fascism, the emptiness of anarchy, and the dullness and soft security of suburbia, and it's not a bad one at that. Crabs himself isn't the kind of rowdy kid that the drive in usually collects. He's actually you're typical, suburban guy who ends up finding himself in dire straits as he ends up in a world he's not used to, and must now face the facts and reality of a world he's ignored his whole life. He's not a bourgeoisie type of character, but he is a higher class kid who comes to meet the lower class head on, thus giving the film some surprising insight.

Fortunately, Smith and writer's Peter Carey and Smalley know their audience, and they do give you some of what you want. The punk kids trapped in the drive in really don't seem to mind all that much, and are the kind of over-the-top delinquent kids you'd expect, which brought a smile to my face. Oh, and while there isn't any graphic gore, you do get some fun explosions and a really over the top ending that's a real crowd pleaser.

So while it's not the over the top exploitation movie some may be hoping for, "Dead-End Drive In" does make for a lot of fun with a little more food for thought than one usually gets. Check it out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Neon Maniacs (1986)

How much do you love the 80's? I mean really, are you nostalgic about every cheesy horror movie from the 80's? Me, I like several cheesy horror flicks from the 80's, but not all of them. My memories of the 80's are pretty much "Transformers and Monster in my Pocket were cool, I still love Godzilla, and Michael Jackson and Michael J. Fox were the coolest." I was born in the 80's, but I'm more of one of those kids from the 90's. I say all of this because even I have my limits when it comes to 80's cheese, as "Neon Maniacs" proves.

Natalie (Leilani Sarelle) is the only survivor of an attack from a group of killers that are monsters in various outfits (A Samurai, a Cop, a Surgeon*, etc.) However, they aren't done yet, and they soon start coming after her and others. So, it's up to Natalie, her boyfriend Steven (Clyde Hayes) and camcorder carrying horror fan Paula (Donna Locke) to try and stop them.

In some ways, "Neon Maniacs" kind of reminded me of "Primal Rage" (the movie, not the game-no, there was not a movie version of the game), only without the lively direction, over the top gore, cool score or all around dumb fun of that movie. The score from Kendall Schmidt sounds more appropriate for an 80's sitcom-fitting considering the fact that he apparently scored several Olsen Twins movies back in the day, and few of the characters are all that interesting. Plus there isn't a whole lot going on in the gore department, so fans of splatter will be disappointed. Also, these things can only be stopped with water, yet they live under the Golden Gate Bridge? Did the writers or director think this script over before filming?

Then there's the maniacs themselves. I know that fans of the movie love the cheesy, campy approach to the events and especially the maniacs themselves, but I just couldn't get into what essentially are some kind of Village People of horror. By the time it came to the final attack, we get a battle of the bands that's so over the top 80's that I couldn't help but feel like I was watching a parody of the 80's than the real thing.

I've seen worse as far as 80's cheese is concerned, and those that crave all things hokey from that decade who are nostalgic for everything might enjoy it. I however, wasn't very impressed with this movie, as If found it too goofy and dumb for it's own good.

Rating: 3/10
*That's Andrew Divoff as the Surgeon.

This marks the only directorial effort from Joseph Mangine, a cinematographer whose credits include "Alligator" and it's sequel, "The Sword and the Sorcerer", "Mother's Day", "Squirm", "I Drink Your Blood" and the "Swamp Thing" TV series.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shadow: Dead Riot (2006)

One of my absolute least favorite movies of last year was "Bitch Slap." A film that professed to be a tribute to old school exploitation movies with hot women, the film itself was chaotic, stupid, loud, obnoxious, etc. It also tried to do something that's impossible to do-it tried to recreate the experience of watching old exploitation and Grindhouse movies. Even movies I love like "Grindhouse" tried to do so, and couldn't. The reason for that is because those movies were very much a thing of their time, and that's what's so fascinating about them. You can't recreate movies like "Death Game", "Turkey Shoot" and "Nightmare City", no matter how hard you try. Yet, the likes of "Bitch Slap", "Blood Moon Rising", "The Bleeding" and "Hard Ride to Hell" keep trying. While 2006's "Shadow: Dead Riot" is better than those movies, it still fails in what it tries to accomplish-among other things.

Years ago, notorious murderer and rapist Shadow (Tony Todd) is executed in prison, though his practicing of the black arts leads to him exploding, his blood causing chaos and other bad mojo occurring. Years later, Solitaire (Carla Green) goes to the old prison, now for women, and she's not to be messed with, because she knows martial arts, and can kick ass. She also has something of a link to Shadow, and what do you know, he comes back with an army of flesh hungry zombies. Also, Dr. Swann (Michael Quinlann) has been using Shadow's blood for some gnarly experiments.

A film that tries to mix elements of martial arts, women and prison and Italian zombie movies, "Shadow" is something of a mess. To be fair, the make-up and gore effects are great, the female nudity as ample, a few performances (namely Erin Brown, who brings an element of sympathy to her role as a passed around prisoner) that hit the mark, and the direction and fight choreography are all great. However, the whole thing tries way too hard. There are too many nods-both visual ("Burial Ground", "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Zombi 2" are among the films given tribute) and verbal (Dr. Swann? Elsa Thorn? Really?) nods to classic exploitation fair that it gets really annoying after awhile. Plus, it's attempts at trying to recapture the feeling of those movies rings hollow. I'm sorry, but all the gratuitous, sex, gore and lesbian shower scenes in the world aren't going to fool me.

Also, while a few performances work, most don't. Carla Green is too bland as our heroine, spouting bad one liners and like most of the cast seems more like she's rehearsing for a movie than they are acting. Then there's Shadow himself. While Todd does a fine job as the villain, he looks too goofy to be threatening. Here's a guy with dreadlocks and sharpened teeth. That doesn't look like something that should strike fear into a viewers heart. That looks like a satanic Lee "Scratch" Perry or some guy you'd see at an Insane Clown Posse concert.

To be honest, if it had been made in Italy in the early 80's, I'd probably be more forgiving to this movie. In this case I'd rather watch the real deal instead of a well meaning but ultimately uneven tribute.

Rating: 4.5/10

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hanger (2009)

In today's realm of horror films, one director who I'm not a particularly big fan of is Ryan Nicholson. A part of the newer generation so to speak, he's an effects man (whose worked on the infamous "August Underground" series) turned director whose movies seem to take a juvenile approach to shocking and offending people with nasty gore and all kinds of depraved behavior. In all honesty, I'm making his efforts sound much better than they actually are, when in reality, they are very difficult to watch, and not in the "this is disturbing" way. I mean in the "why the hell am I wasting my time on this bullshit?" way. Case in point: "Hanger", which may be his worst effort at trying to offend viewers yet.

The film starts with a pregnant prostitute named Rose (Debbie Rochon), who becomes a hooker (remember, that's what they become when they are dead-or at least the show "Archer" says so) and has said fetus aborted via wire hanger. Well, said fetus actually survived, and years later, is a has grown up as "Hanger" (Nathan Dashwood.) He's also a bloodthirsty maniac out for revenge, and a man named "The John" (Dan Ellis) believes he's the killer mutant's dad.

That's the plot to "Hanger" in a nutshell. In case you're thinking "that's it?", then you are not alone. In actuality, the movie is essentially an excuse for Nicholson and his cast to get away with all kinds of gross and all around perverse behavior, which would be fine if it weren't akin to a kid putting on a geek show to shock and offend us. Look, I'm all for shocking movies, but this tries way too hard to be shocking and all around disgusting, and it's clear that's all it has going for it. I know Nicholson is making something for a niche audience, but me? I don't have time for a movie that has things like an grotesque, racist Asian stereotype, tampon fetishes, graphic masturbation, and plenty of rape, mud and nastiness and nothing else. If trying to gross out and offend audiences in an attempt to be subversive is all you have, then get out of here, because I want nothing to do with you.

It also doesn't help that nobody here-not even genre vet Debbie Rochon-does a good job here. The whole cast basically either mails in their performance, or goes over the top to the point of sheer banality. I know, these are all supposed to be unlikable characters, but come on, at least give us some decent performance amidst all the filth. Also, there's a Lloyd Kaufman cameo. Look Lloyd: I love ya man. I love what you've done for independent cinema, and I know that you are always willing to appear in someone's movie. That out of the way, come on man, can't you at least say "no" to appearing in a movie once in your life?

Speaking of which, "no" is what this movie gets. There is no reason to see this piece of shit. I'm sorry, but all the filth and ugly behavior in the world does not make for an entertaining movie. In fact, it makes for a tedious and godawful one. Seriously, this movie can go to hell.

Rating:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Not on DVD Week: Demonoid: Messenger of Death (1981)

As "Not on DVD Week" comes to a close, I think it's time to remember why I did this. I didn't do this to celebrate or condemn movies because they aren't on DVD. No, I did it because I wanted to take a look at these movies, especially if they had a little something, be it good or bad. Well, that's exactly what "Demonoid: Messenger of Death" has-something. Granted, that something (a demon that possesses people's left hands) which is pretty stupid, but it at least stands out as different.

The workers at a Mexican mine don't exactly want to go there because of a curse. Well, Jennifer (Samantha Eggar) and Mark Baines (Roy Jones) go in anyways, and accidentally unleash a demonic force that has a fondness for possessing people's left hands. I guess Ned Flanders was wrong when he said "Lord Love a Leftie." Anyways, the only way a person can free themselves from committing acts of evil is severing said hand-which will then go after someone else and kill or possess them. Can Jennifer and Father Cunningham (Stuart Whitman) stop this handy horror?

As you can tell from the premise, "Demoniod" is about as goofy as they get. The plot really doesn't hold up to scrutiny, most of the performances are lackluster, and the film is loaded with moments that are unintentionally hilarious. The highlight of those goofy moments is a police officer demanding "cut my hand off or you die!"

In spite of it's problems, I found myself kind of enjoying this movie. It's not really good, but the whole concept is so daffy that you can't help but go along with it. It's like "Death Bed: The Bed That Eats" or "I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle", only played straight and without evil inanimate objects. Apart from that, Eggar and Whitman aren't great, but do their best carrying the material, and there's something perversely amusing about seeing people finding different ways of getting their hands severed, providing some fun bloody moments. Add a great score by Richard Gillis, plenty of (unintentional) laughs and a downbeat (though predictable) conclusion, and you've got yourself an amusing little piece of trash cinema. It's amazing that a movie this offbeat hasn't gotten a DVD release yet, as it's the kind of cult oddity fans of trash live for.

And with that, "Not on DVD Week" comes to an end, and with a pleasant surprise. I hope you had fun, and with luck, some of these will receive a proper release some day.

Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not on DVD Week: Sorceress (1982)

With the success of "Conan the Barbarian", "The Beast Master" and "The Sword and the Sorcerer", Sword n' Sorcery movies became a new flavor, and nobody was filling rental chains with these movies like Roger Corman. Sure, Joe D'Amato gave the world "Ator", but Corman produced plenty of movies filled with muscular men, swords, beasts, boobs, blood, more boobs, and more. In short, they were the kind of thing he has been doing for a while, just set in newer, more fantastical settings. He even let Jack Hill get in on it with 1982's "Sorcererss", which has a bit of a bad rep, and was Hill's last movie to boot. So, is it as bad as they say it is?

To keep his powers, the nefarious wizard Traigon (Roberto Ballesteros) must sacrifice his firstborn to the god Caligara. His wife though, isn't cool with this, so she gives birth to twins, and gives them to the warrior Krona (Martin LaSalle.) Twenty years later, Mira and Mara (former Playboy playmates Leigh and Lynette Harris) are hot twins who have powers, and tend to get naked. Well, Traigon returns to hunt the twins down, but they aren't going down without a fight. So, with the help of the Barbarians Erlick (Bob Nelson) and Valdar (Bruno Rey), as well as the creature Pando (David Millbern), it's time to fight back.

To be honest, "Sorceress" is not a good movie, and isn't exactly the best way for the director of classics like "Foxy Brown", "The Big Doll House" and "Spider Baby" to end his career. The acting is all around terrible, with Ballesteros in particular feeling like he's auditioning for a movie filmed in somebody's backyard. The film also feels cut, as if there were certain, possibly key scenes were left out. Then there's the terrible special effects, with a rather lackluster scene with two gods, and all the unbelievably fake beards on display.

That out of the way, at least it's not a boring movie, and it's far from Hill's worst movie (hello "Island of the Snake People.") The main thing that helps is the writing from future exploitation jack-of-all-trades Jim Wynorski, who adds enough humor to the proceedings. Though there are moments that fall flat in this department, there's still enough chuckles and genuine laughs (such as the twins not knowing the difference between men and women) to help it move along. There's also a genuine sense of fun to the proceedings, like the people behind this were having a genuinely good time making it, and you can even see that with the bad performances, which are at least earnest. Oh, and there's zombie soldiers nearing the end that are actually kinda creepy, and gave me an almost Italian Zombie movie vibe.

So yes, "Sorceress" is a bad movie. However, it knows it's not a particularly good movie, and for a rainy Saturday afternoon, you could do worse. Good luck finding it though, as legal reasons are apparently the reason this sucker hasn't made it on DVD yet. Then again, there's always the chance of Shout Factory releasing it, as they have other Corman related titles...

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Not on DVD Week: House of Dark Shadows (1970)

Before there was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "True Blood" and "The Vampire Diaries", there was "Dark Shadows." A Gothic soap opera, the show has since endeared thanks to better than usual acting, a pervaiding Gothic atmosphere, and dark romanticism. Whilst the show is on DVD, the two spin-off movies-"House" and "Night of Dark Shadows"-remain conspicuously absent. Well, I think it's time we took a look a the first film.

In Collinsport, Maine, the Collins family are settling down at a mansion, where they meet lost relative Barnabis (Jonathan Frid), who looks mysteriously like his 19th century counterpart of the same name. Well, he is that man, and a vampire to boot, and he starts to take interest in Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott), who looks like his lost love Josette Du Prez. Carolyn Stoddard (Nancy Barrett) soon becomes jealous of Maggie, and in the midst of a fight with Maggie, is bitten by Barnabis. Now, she's and Barnabis are preying on people, and Barney decides it's time to marry Maggie...

Easily the best of the movies reviewed for "Not on DVD Week" thus far, "House of Dark Shadows" is something of a lost classic of Gothic Horror that at times stands with the Vampire films Hammer was releasing, what with it's evocative score, bared fangs, and fog permeating the whole film. It's also strikingly violent for a film that's rated PG, with plenty of bloody vampire bites and nasty stake impaling scenes that would garner the film an R rating these days. The films is also very well acted, with Frid making for a creepy but tragic presence, and Barrett holding onto a Gothic sexuality that's gives goosebumps. Add some fine direction from Dan Curtis (who also produces, "Shadows", as well as "Trilogy of Terror", "The Night Stalker" and more) and an energetic and satisfying conclusion, and you have a real winner.

Well, there is one thing that doesn't quite work, and that's the more "soap opera" aspects of the film. Whilst such things may have translated well on television, here they just feel out of place and goofy, especially scenes in which Barnabis reacts to betrayal, which got a few unintended chuckles out of me.

Still, "House of Dark Shadows" is a must for fans of Gothic horror, and it's a shame the film isn't on DVD. However, with Tim Burton doing a film version of the show soon, there may be hope yet.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not on DVD Week: Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

The dramatic pause. It's something we all know of, mostly due to William Shatner. Who in their lives hasn't tried to talk like the man, saying things like "Tonight, on...Rescue...911!" to themselves or friends? Well, another performance that could be said to be a master work of dramatic pausing and over-acting is Bill Mezto's performance in the 1978 Video Nasty "Mardi Gras Massacre."

Mezto plays a creepy man who likes to pick up loose women. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Oh, and he also likes to sacrifice said women to the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Now that's going a bit far if you ask me. So, can anybody stop him? Why are we supposed to care about Sgt Mike Abraham (Curt Dawson) and his relationship with Sherry (Gwen Arment) the prostitute (I'd say hooker, but as the show "Archer" told us, they're only hookers when they're dead.)

As you can tell, "Mardi Gras Massacre" is nothing more than a knock-off of Herschel Gordon Lewis' "Blood Feast." If there is any real reason to watch this, it's because of Mezto as the villain. I can't tell if the actor is being really earnest with his performance, or if he realizes that this is crap, so he might as well have fun with the performance. Also, if you really treasure low, low budget regional horror from back in the day, then this might tickle your fancy. If you don't however, then I've got bad news for ya-this is not a very fun movie.

Throughout the whole thing, the other performances, cheap disco soundtrack, bad dancing and padding make the whole thing tedious to sit through. In fact, though there aren't any actual sex scenes, the whole thing has the atmosphere and feel of one of those 70's horror/porn hybrids, and we all know how boring porn can be without the sex. Sure, there's gore, but the kills and sacrifice scenes are all repetitive and boring, and by the time the second woman is offed, you'll start to get bored. Add an abrupt conclusion, a very uninteresting romance sub-plot and a final shot that nearly caused me to do a spit take, and you've got a movie that's more interesting on paper than it is on screen.

Apart from Mezto and the fact that lovers of all things 70's no-budget schlock will eat this up, there isn't really anything that makes this worth watching. Those that do love the movie should be happy to know that Code Red DVD should be releasing it this year, but for me, this was the most dull Mardi Gras Festival ever.

Rating: 2.5/10

Monday, March 7, 2011

Not on DVD Week: 'Gator Bait (1974)

After the success of John Boorman's "Deliverance", the world of Hicksploitation game about. For a while, films like "God's Bloody Acre" (1975), "Sixpack Annie" (1975) and "Scum of the Earth" (1974) became regular in Drive-In theaters, with more emphasis on white trash rednecks and their unwholesome worlds. It's easy to see the appeal of these movies-whilst the likes of "Deliverance" gave us more of the "city folk" protagonists, these movies were all about showing audiences a world in sensationalistic manner. One of the most well known entries in this sub-genre of exploitation is husband-wife exploitation team Beverly and Ferd Sebastian's 1974 flick "'Gator Bait", which as of now isn't available on DVD.

Desiree Thibodeau (former Playboy playmate and exploitation vet Claudia Jennings) lives deep in the swamps, poaching alligators to support herself and her siblings. When Billy Boy (Clyde Ventura) and Ben Bracken (Ben Sebastian) try to kidnap her for sexual purposes, she outsmarts them-and causes Billy to accidentally shoot Ben dead. Ben tells Sheriff Joe Bob Thomas (Bill Thurman) that Desiree did it, so Ben's dad and sons start a search party to stop her once and for all. Well, it leads to her sister Julie (Janit Baldwin) almost getting gang raped and then killed, and when Desiree finds out, the hunters become the hunted.

If there are any problems with "'Gator Bait", they would be that everyone other than Claudia Jennings is a pretty terrible actor, and it ultimately feels like it doesn't live up to its full potential. This is a movie set in the swamps, yet the directors rarely manage to make it the eerie place it should be. Also, Desiree's revenge is satisfying, but it feels like they could have gone a little further with it.

That out of the way, while it certainly could have been better, it's still a decent little slice of exploitation that makes for a good weekend afternoon viewing. Jennings, while not exactly an award worthy performance, is actually not bad as far as Playboy playmates turned actresses are concerned, delivering her dialogue with the proper amount of conviction for a movie like this. Also, while some might complain about the movie being slow paced, I rather like the deliberate pacing, which makes the revenge aspect of the film work just fine. There's also been talk among some that the film has something of a feminist subtext. Personally, I don't see it, but I can see why some would thing that. Desiree is pretty much the smartest and most likable character in the movie, and all of the men are idiotic pigs who want her to be a servant and nothing more. I guess her actions could be seen as the female sex lashing out against white male oppression, and even if that's not the case, it's impossible not to root for her.

So as it stands, "'Gator Bait" isn't exactly a classic work of exploitation, but makes for a fun but slight little time waster. Interestingly enough, a sequel came out fourteen years later, and while it's also not on DVD, I hear it's pretty bad, and by the time it came out, the hicksploitation bandwagon had all but ended.

Rating: 6.5/10


And now, something for the fellas:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not on DVD Week: Time Walker (1982)

Like many, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" played an integral part of my teen years and beyond. A show about a man who, along with two robots, must sit through and rip apart the cheesiest and often times worst B-Movie garbage imaginable, MST3K helped shape my sense of humor and in some cases, what B-Movies I should and shouldn't bother with. There are of course, conundrums to this: 1.) That any guy could immediately think they are as bright as the creators when it comes to ripping on movies, and 2.) When you happen to come across a movie the guys watched without them. Well, that's what happened to me when I saw Tom Kennedy's 1982 alien/mummy hybrid flick "Time Walker" (shown on the show as "Being From Another World") for Not on DVD Week. The things I do sometimes...

Prof. Douglas McCadden (Ben Murphy) has unveiled a special something at a college campus: a 3'000 year old mummy found in King Tut's tomb. However, due to x-rays and student technician Peter Sharpe (Ken Brophy) stealing the mummy's crystals, the mummy awakens and causes murderous havoc to get them back, alien fungus spreading be damned? "Alien fungus" you say? Well, this mummy isn't of human origin.

Though sporting a far fetched but amusing and original premise and a sequence in an elevator that's kinda neat, "Time Walker" should have been called "Sleep Walker", because it's so bad and dull. The acting from many B-Movie vets is uninspired, especially Murphy. The actor had success on the TV show "Alias Smith and Jones", but you can tell watching this why he wasn't that successful in the movie world. Even "Return of the Living Dead" actor James Karen can't do anything worth a damn here. It also doesn't help that, while the film cost at least $750,000 to make, most of the budget seems to have been centered on effects work that looks dated even by the standards of the time (the big reveal at the end is laughable) and an overabundance on fog machine.

Then there's the script. Not only is all of the dialogue given to the actors bad, but it doesn't seem to know what kind of movie it is. It tries to be a mix of things-alien monster movie, mummy flick, wacky college comedy, killer on the loose movie, etc.-but it suffers from this, becoming a case of putting too many eggs in one basket. The whole thing-no matter if there's brief moments of things like female nudity-isn't worth watching whatsoever, unless Joel and the Bots are tearing it to shreds.

As of now, "Time Walker" is unavailable on DVD. I could see someone like Troma or Code Red giving it a DVD release, but the most likely one is making it on one of those budget DVD packs with shitty public domain fodder.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Not on DVD Week: Night of the Demon (1980)

When I decided to do "Not on DVD Week", I thought a while on what movies I could focus on. Surely, Ken Russell's "The Devils" deserves a look...except that every horror fan well aware of the classics knows about that movie, and I didn't want to focus on movies that are widely considered classics. So instead, I decided to spend more time devoting a large part of it to the obscure, the grimy, the scuzzy and the forgotten. And they don't get any scuzzier than James C. Watson's infamous 1980 Bigfoot movie "Night of the Demon." Written and directed by people you'd never hear from again, the movie has amassed a sizable enough cult following, and it's easy to see why-this is the sleaziest, goriest and all around ugliest of the Bigfoot movies, and it's inclusion in the UK's notorious "Video Nasties" list most likely helped.

Opening in a hospital bed, where Professor Nugent* lies in bed, disfigured by Cat Scratch Fever-okay, by Bigfoot. You see, he and some of his students decided to venture into the wilderness to track down the beast, as one of his students believes that her father was killed by the beast. As they tell stories of other alleged incidents with the beast (all shown in gory detail), they run into some strange occurrences, such as a cult that worships the beast, weird symbols made of tree branches (this aspect went on to be an influence on "The Blair Witch Project" believe it or not) and a woman named Crazy Wanda (Melanie Graham), who says she was raped by Bigfoot and bore it's child. This all leads to a gory climax, where the Nuge and his students have themselves a little Wango Tango with Bigfoot.

To be honest, "Night of the Demon" is not really a great movie. The direction is iffy, the gore effects usually aren't too convincing, the acting is terrible (save for Graham), and the score is made up of oddball synthesizer sounds and inappropriate easy listening music. That out of the way, as a piece of mean spirited exploitation, it more than succeeds. The most notable thing about the movie is how ugly the kills are, including
  • A man being swung around in his sleeping bag and impaled on a branch
  • Bigfoot killing two women with their own knives-as they hold them!
  • A man having his intestine torn out, and then being whipped with them
  • And, in the most infamous moment, a man taking a leak has his penis torn off, with a close up of the bloody stump spurting out blood and urine.
I think you get the idea. There's a nasty sense of humor pervading such scenes, as you can tell this is from a director and screenwriter who are more interested in grossing people out instead of scaring them. In spite of that, there are moments in which the film captures an oppressive atmosphere of dread, especially in the scene revolving around the cult, which feels like a regional tribute to the eerie atmosphere of British Occult Horror. That's not the reason most people love this though. This is a movie made to show gratuitous female nudity, creative kills, and nauseating gore that's meant to appeal to trash loving, lurid sensibilities that watched horror movies with friends and frequented exploitation movies for ugly thrills, and in that matter, it's a roaring (pun intended) success.

As of now, "Night of the Demon" isn't available on DVD in the U.S. There was a bootleg release, but that doesn't really count. However, fans will get their fill later this year, as Code Red is supposed to give it an official DVD release. In the end, I guess you could say Sasquatch gets the last laugh.

Rating: 7.5/10

*I'm let down that there was no sequel to this, in which Ted Nugent hunts for Bigfoot.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Not on DVD Week

Starting tomorrow, I will be doing a seven day stretch of horror and genre titles that aren't available on DVD in the U.S. Here's the schedule

Sat: Night of the Demon (1980)-The infamously gory Bigfoot movie and all it's intestine whipping, penis ripping glory.

Sun: Time Walker (1982)-An alien mummy terrorizes a college in this movie that was ripped on by the folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000. Pray for mojo on this one.

Mon: Gator Bait (1974)-Former Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings stars in this hicksploitation tale of revenge.

Tues: Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)-Boobs, blood and really bad acting dominate this New Orleans Answer to "Blood Feast."

Wed: House of Dark Shadows (1970)-A spin off movie for the beloved television series goes under my scrutiny.

Thurs: Sorceress (1982)-The last film from legendary exploitation director Jack ("Foxy Brown", "Coffey", "Switchblade Sisters" and "Spider Baby") is a sword and sorcery flick with two twins who tend to get naked.

Fri: Demonoid: Messenger of Death (1981)-A demonic force comes back from it's tomb to possess people's left hands. I'm not making that part up.

So, hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Classic VHS Box Art: The Nesting (1981)

The Bleeding (2009)

When you look at the cast for "The Bleeding", aside from star Michael Matthias, this looks like a dream cast for people that watch direct to DVD garbage. Vinnie Jones! Rapper DMX! Michael Madsen! Armand Assante! Tony Schiena (here billed as "Johnny the Perv")! UFC host Rachael Leah! Reality star Kat Von D! It looks too good to be true, like the ultimate DVD movie cast. Well, it was actually released exclusively in New York as far as theatrical releases are concerned, so it's almost a straight to DVD movie. It's also bad-and I mean painfully so.

Shawn Black (Matthias, who also serves as a producer-this is essentially a vanity piece for the him) has returned from Afghanistan, with his parents murdered, and his brother dead in battle. Well, it turns out his brother is now a vampire named Cain (Jones), and that he is "the slayer", or a man who must vanquish such evil from the world. Aided by a rather gun happy, unorthodox priest (Madsen), Black must go to an abandoned factory turned nightclub, where Cain and his vampire brethren are hiding.

A pastiche picture mixing "Blade", "From Dusk 'till Dawn", "The Fast and the Furious", "Boondock Saints" as well as other obnoxious Tarantino knock-offs and at one point, a pinch of "Hostel", "The Bleeding" is symbolic of everything wrong with action/horror hybrids today. The editing is all over the place, the action scenes aren't all that exciting, the score is a strictly pro-tools affair, the direction is lacking, and you really don't care about anything that happens. In a lot of ways, this is also reminiscent of a lot of bad direct to DVD action movies, but this one takes it to different levels. The whole thing is lazy, and clearly made to be a breakout vehicle for poor man's Vin Diesel star Matthias. I mean sure, the gore and make-up effects are good, and there's boobs, but it isn't anything you haven't seen already.

To make things worse, nobody here really seems to give a damn. Several of the stars-Assante, DMX and Kat Von D-are merely given tiny roles and cameo appearances, with DMX only being there to provide crucial plot information and get killed off, Von D to get some blood on her after biting a girl's neck, and Assante being a poor man's version of an old western movie standard (he even calls the movie "a futuristic western" in an interview that serves as a special feature.)

The rest of the cast doesn't even seem to be trying for the most part. DMX is clearly just there for the paycheck, while even Matthias and the narration he provides seems to be screaming "get me out of here." Only Madsen and Jones seem to be trying, and even they can't do anything worth a damn due to the script-Jones in particular is given a goofy looking wig and bad American accent. The movie can't even work on an unintentional comedy level. One liners meant to be cleaver are just awkward, and even the sight of Vinnie Jones in a bad 70's exploitation hair style can't register.

"The Bleeding" is just bad, and even not on a camp level. It's just painfully awful on every conceivable level, and the kind of thing that usually get's dumped to DVD and forgotten and is not given a weekend long theatrical run. Avoid like a vampire shown a crucifix.

Rating: