Thursday, August 30, 2012

Splatter University (1984)

The 80's brought us several things to be nostalgic about. A time in which the zombie concept still felt somewhat fresh. A time that gave us the rise of Thrash Metal, Hip Hop and bands such as The Smiths and New Order. A time where everyone was into the Rubik's cube for some odd reason. Then there's things that most aren't nostalgic for. Things like "Splatter University."

The plot is nothing new: someone escapes an insane asylum,  kills of a professor (here at a Catholic school), and the next semester, decides to go on a killing spree. Can new professor Julie Parker (Francine Forbes, who went on to do a lot of infomercial work) stop him before it's too late?

Nothing about "Splatter University" works. The kills are often bloody, but are mostly standard stabbings. The acting is bad. The droning synthesizer score is your typical "Bad horror movie from the 80's" music. The whole thing is riddled with plot holes, lazy writing, bad attempts at humor and painful writing. The direction is flat and lifeless. There's even a bad twist at the end. In short, it's typical of the kind of bad mid 80's slasher movies that polluted video shelves in a time where the genre was showing signs of wear, only somehow worse than usual.

Most of this has to do with the fact that the movie gives you no reason whatsoever to care about anything on display. Sure, there's gore, but you saw better in "Friday the 13th Par IV" and "Maniac." Most of the victims are women, yet none of the male characters seem to give a shit. They just treat it all like it's a minor inconvenience and move on as if nothing happened. In fact, nobody here is likable at all. It all feels like something made by people who had no interest in pleasing their intended audience, and like the movie at hand, seems to view them in a less than satisfactory manner.

I'm sure that some will find something to enjoy in this, but not me. This is the definition of bottom of the barrel bullshit, and offers nothing redeeming or fun. It's just plain bad.

Rating: 0/10

Director Richard W. Haines went on the serve as co-director for a much better movie in "Class of Nuke 'Em High." He then directed the not available on DVD "Alien Space Avenger", as well as the forgotten by everyone "Head Games" (Seriously, does anybody know something about this movie other than its premise?) and "What Really Frightens You?" He was also an editor for "The Toxic Avenger", and an assistant editor for "Mother's Day" and "Igor and the Lunatics.

Co-Writer John Elias Michalakis went on to direct "I Was a Teenage Zombie." He also was a sound editor for "The Toxic Avenger." He has since quit directing and is now a monk.

Fellow co-writer Mijan Peter Illich also co-produced this film. He was also an executive producer of "I Was a Teenage Zombie" and a producer for "Flesh Eating Mothers."

I'm not sure, but I think Troma distributed this in theaters (Lloyd Kaufman even served as a creative consultant.) It was released on DVD by Elite Entertainment, but the rights have probably expired. Also, like many titles Elite released in the past, it has gone out of print, but unlike "House on Sorority Row" or "Re-Animator", it hasn't found a new distributor. Not that it's worth seeking.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lovely Molly (2011)

To say "The Blair Witch Project" was a hit would be an understatement. "Blair Witch" was a pop culture phenomenon that took the world by storm. In a summer that gave us "The Phantom Menace" and "The Mummy", a little horror film that came out of nowhere became the most talked about movie of that season. It was mentioned by stand up comics, late night talk show hosts, news networks, praised by critics and even made the cover of Time magazine.

Then the inevitable backlash (remember that bad putdown from "Family Guy"?), spoofs, imitators (remember "The Saint Francisville Experiment"? Of course you don't), controversies (the creators of "The Last Broadcast" saying they did it first-"Cannibal Holocaust" would like to have a word with them) and failed future projects (a disastrously bad sequel and the show "FreakyLinks" only lasting one season) helped cause the directors from being the next big thing to people nobody cared about. Nonetheless, they're still making movies, such as today's entry, "Lovely Molly" from director Eduardo Sanchez.

Molly (Gretchen Lodge) couldn't be happier. She just got married to Tim (Johnny Lewis) and is moving into her dads countryside house. However, she soon starts to loose her mind, and begins to see haunting visions. However, is this the presence of a supernatural force, or the trauma of an abusive father coming back?

When "Lovely Molly" works, it really works. The acting is mostly great, especially Lodge. She fully commits herself to the role, and manages to make Molly both a sympathetic and terrifying figure at the same time. Sanchez also manages to almost perfectly capture the disintegration of a romantic relationship, making the fate of Molly and her husband both tragic and creepy. Best of all, he never over uses the found footage concept, and only relies on it fleetingly. By limiting the amount of caught on camera scenes to only a few, he's able to capture the drama of the situation at hand without making it feel artificial.

At the same time, it's flaws are very glaring. For one thing, it should at least have five minutes cut from it. at an hour and forty minutes, it tends to drag a little. It's also unintentionally amusing at times, especially a scene where Molly tries to seduce a reverend. These moments sour the movie some, as does the conclusion, which offers more questions than it does answers. Granted, it thankfully doesn't lend itself to a sequel, but it left me thinking "Wait, that's it?"

"Lovely Molly" isn't a bad, movie. It's mostly watchable, and has moments that damn near raise goosebumps. Still, it ends up feeling like a missed opportunity, and that Sanchez and his co-writer should have polished the script a little.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, August 26, 2012

From Beyond (1986)

After the success of "Re-Animator" cemented the careers of those involved, the next follow up should have been easy. It was supposed to be "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"*, but Empire Pictures thought it was too weird. So, what was the follow up? It was "From Beyond", which turned out to be even weirder than that movie.

Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) has been sent to the nuthouse. Why? Because he was found covered in blood, next to the decapitated head of Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel.) However, the Doctor was up to no good because this is a horror movie, and doctors always meddle. In this case, it was a device that stimulates the pineal gland, which opens up a sixth sense and awakens a parallel universe. His doctor, Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) wants to experience this device, and with the help of Tillinghast and cop Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), she goes to the lair of Pretorious and decides to meddle. This leads to all kinds of beasts, the pineal gland of Tillinghast gets activated in the worst way, and the return of Pretorious, whose no longer human.

First things first: this is not as great as "Re-Animator." That's just fine though, as it doesn't have to be. Plus, it has all the black humor, great direction and writing and nastiness that you'd hope for on display. It's also well acted, with Combs playing a nice inverse of his Herbert West character, Crampton playing her descent into madness without overplaying things, and Sorel doing a great job under tons of latex. Then there's the score by Richard Band. Out of all the movie music he's done, this one's the best, managing to add eerie strings and ethereal synthesizers perfectly, and fitting the events of the film like a glove. It's one of the best horror scores of the 80's, and deserves all kinds of love.

So, what about what you want to know about? You know, the three B's (beasts, blood and boobs)? Well, it's all good. The practical creature and gore effects are awesome, from Pretorious' transformations and the various Lovecraftian beasts to brain eating and eyeball sucking, fans of gore and monsters will be in heaven. Oh, and Barbara Crampton does don a leather dominatrix getup, so for those hoping for t&a will be happy as well.

"From Beyond" is just awesome. It's got everything you love about 80's horror done right, with no filler and a whole lot of love behind it. If you say you love 80's horror and you haven't seen this, then come on, what the hell are you waiting for?

Rating: 9/10

*"Shadow" did eventually get made-it came out a decade ago under the name "Dagon."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Father's Day (2011)

It's hard to mention "Father's Day" without talking about the controversy surrounding it. It all started in 2010, when it was announced that Troma was going to help finance a movie based on a mock trailer made by a Canadian collective known as Astron 6. The movie eventually got released in festivals and midnight screenings-and when it came time for a DVD/Blu-Ray release, word got out that there were problems between the two. Apparently, Lloyd was selling bootleg copies of the movie, and that the Astron 6 logo was not included on the poster. I don't know if this is true, but if it is, then that really sucks. Especially when the end result is probably my favorite Troma movie, and is the best thing they've done in forever (I'm not a "Citizen Toxie", "Terror Firmer" or "Poultrygeist" fan to be honest.)

The story is one we all know well: As a kid, Ahab saw his father become raped and murdered by serial killer Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdoch), who has a thing for dads. Years later, the spree continues, and Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy) and a gay street hustler named Twink (Conner Sweeney) want a now adult Ahab (Adam Brooks) to stop this father rapist once and for all. However, things are going to be hard, as Fuchman also has his eyes set on Ahab's sister Chelsea (Amy Groening.) To make matter worse, it turns out that this killer isn't all he seems to be.

First things first: This is not a movie for the squeamish. There's multiple scenes of male rape, tons of male nudity (some of it comical, though there's also plenty of female nudity to go with it), graphic gore and even genital mutilation. In spite of all that, this is actually a comedy that serves as both a homage and a satire of exploitation films. Think what would happen if a Canadian sketch comedy troupe like The Kids in the Hall did a horror/comedy, and you might be close. Thankfully, it's also frequently funny, with at least 98% of the jokes hitting their target. Next to "Black Dynamite", this is the funniest Neo-Grindhouse movie I've seen. Plus, it has the best Lloyd Kaufman cameo ever, as he shows up as both God and Satan.

On top of that, it's also very well made. The direction is top notch throughout, and actually manages to do what most micro-budget (this cost $10,000) movies can't do and makes it look at least 10 times it's budget. The acting is also good, with everyone hitting the right tone and managing to make their characters interesting (Twink is my favorite. Dude's hilarious.) Add a dead on score, great make-up and gore effects, great one liners and tons of enthusiasm and literal blood, sweat and tears to make it, and you have yourself a winner.

"Father's Day" will not be for everyone. Those who are easily grossed out or offended (hell, even those of hardened sensibilities will find themselves cringing) will most likely avoid it. For me though, this is one of the best exploitation tributes I've ever seen, and is a must for fans of Troma or warped comedy in general.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Beyond the Dunwich Horror (2008) and The Disco Exorcist (2011)

I like the idea of Richard Griffin's movies more than I do the actually movies. Many of them ("Nun of That", "Pretty Dead Things" and "Splatter Disco" for example) are heavily-and I mean heavily-influenced by classic exploitation. He's been doing this whole Neo-Grindhouse thing before Tarantino and Rodriguez did it. Yet, I ultimately find his movies to be interesting experiments that should be fun, but ultimately don't work out in the end.

Our first example is 2008's "Beyond the Dunwich Horror." Here, Kenny Crawford (Michael Reed) has come to Dunwich after finding out that his brother Andrew (Jason McCormick) has been sent to an insane asylum. Why? Because Andy has been accused of several disappearances and violent murders that have been happening in the town. With the help of reporter Marsha Halloway (Ruth Sullivan), he uncovers a conspiracy that involves a cult that worships worships Yog Sothoth.

Though billed as an unofficial sequel to Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror", this film owes more to the atmospheric gore flicks of Lucio Fulci, especially with it's inclination towards ocular damage and a score that owes heavily to the likes of Fabio Frizzi. However, the movie is kind of a mess due to the schizophrenic tone of the film. At one moment, it wants to be a creepy tale of occult conspiracy, but the next it wants to be a tongue in cheek comedy. It unfortunately doesn't do either that well, and in spite of a few nice touches (a small role from Lynn Lowry for example) is feels like a chore to sit through.

Better but also not too successful is 2011's "The Disco Exorcist", which tells the story of Rex Romanski (Reed.) It's the 70's baby, and Rex is the king of swingers. He ends up biting off more than he can chew though, when he loves and leaves black magic practitioner Rita Marie (Sullivan), who brings forth a wave of death and horror in her wake. Can Rex Rita? Can he save the soul of porn star Amoreena Jones (Sarah Nicklin)?

I will say that this is a better movie than "Beyond." The acting and direction are better, it's shorter, a few of the jokes are funny and some of the retro touches (like the disco version of "Tubular Bells") are kinda fun. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite make it work. It's obvious that the movie is influenced by the horror/porn movies of the 70's, as well as the horror/sexploitation hybrids of José Ramón Larraz, Jean Rollin and Juan Piquer Simón, but here the constant sex scenes and cocaine bumps start to get boring. The humorous tone also doesn't always work. Sure, it works better than it did in "Beyond", but after a while the joke starts to get old. The biggest problem though, is that the thing ends up owing too much to old exploitation movies for its own good. It's fun at first, but eventually you realize the main thing the movie has going for it is the fact that Griffin loves these kinds of movies. By the time it was over, it didn't feel like I wasted my time, but I couldn't help but think "I could have just watched "Vampyres" again."

I don't want to discourage anyone who wants to do a tribute to old exploitation movies. Go ahead, do it. I've liked some of them before, and I'm sure I'll like some in the future. Just remember that sometimes, nostalgia and love for those movies can only get you so far.

Ratings:

Beyond the Dunwich Horror: 3/10
The Disco Exorcist: 5/10

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ghoul School (1990) and Bong of the Dead (2011)

Everyone whose watched movies for a long time that certain people have a lot to answer for, whether they mean to or not. Michael Moore needs to answer for the wave of bad political documentaries that came after "Bowling For Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11." Or in this case, Lloyd Kaufman has a lot to answer for when it comes to the wave of bad horror comedies in the wake of "The Toxic Avenger." Granted, movies like that and "Class of Nuke 'Em High" are actually really fun movies that offer some genuine laughs. Many of the movies to come since are clearly inspired by Troma's "Dumb and we know it" brand, but few of them actually get what makes those movies work.

Out first case in point: Timothy O'Rawe and his 1990 film "Ghoul School." Steve (William Friedman) and Jeff (Scott Gordon) are just two guys trying to get through the pressures and rigors of high school. However, a toxic pollutant has reached the water supply, turning the student body into flesh hungry zombies. There's also a terrible hair metal band and an appearance from Jackie Martling from "The Howard Stern Show", but they add nothing to the paper thin plot.

They're the heroes this...actually, they aren't worthy of anything. Not even a bad play on a "Dark Knight" quote.

Clearly influenced by "Class of Nuke Em High", "Return of the Living Dead" and "Demons", "Ghoul School" plays out the way you'd expect, and not in a good way. Gore is plentiful, but none of it is particularly interesting. Attempts at humor bomb worse than a Dane Cook wannabe on open mic night. People do stupid things and mug for the camera. All of the actors playing high school students are clearly in their 30's. The presence of Martling doesn't help matters, and neither does that of VH1 Classic personality Joe Franklin and "Slime City" actress Nancy Sirianni. Life's too short for bullshit like this.

Slightly better is 2011's "Bong of the Dead." Here, the zombie apocalypse has happened, and all Tommy (Jy Harris) and Edwin (Mark Wynn) just wanna get high, man. Well there's some good news for them, as it turns out that zombie brains make a potent fertilizer, as well as a new girl to hang out with in Leah (Simone Bailly.) On the minus side, there's that whole zombie apocalypse that puts a damper on things.

On the plus side, "Bong of the Dead" actually looks good for a movie that cost almost nothing to make, and unlike "Ghoul School", has some great gore effects and kills. On the minus side, most of this movie is fucking boring to sit through. Much of it is made up of people talking, getting high, talking some more, farting, getting high again, drinking beer, talking...you get the point. This would probably be mildly amusing if I were stoned, but I wasn't, so none of that was funny, and much of the film feels like a pot head taking forever to tell a joke who keeps cracking up in the process. Granted, the final act is gory as hell and kind of fun-up to a point. As it lurches towards its conclusion, you just wish the damn thing would end already.

As they stand, these are two movies that serve as nothing more than wastes of time. Sure, there's an audience for these kinds of movies, but that doesn't mean that I need to sit through them.

Ratings:

Ghoul School: 0.5/10
Bong of the Dead: 3/10

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"First, there was..." 8 Movies that gave birth to sub-genres and imitators

First thing's first: Yes, this is inspired by a recent list put up on the AV Club. Anyways, here's a look at genre movies that helped create sub-genres and unintentionally spawned many pale imitations. *Note, I'm leaving out "Blair Witch", "Jaws" and "Jurassic Park" because they are mentioned in the article.

Friday the 13th helps spur the 80's slasher

Though one could argue that "Friday the 13th" was essentially an imitation of "Halloween" with added gore, it's success led to the flourish of slasher movies throughout the 80's. At first, there were some duds, but there were also plenty of classics ("Happy Birthday to Me", "The Burning" and "Silent Scream" for example.) However, as the decade wore on, less classics came out, and the more noticeable it was that many of these movies couldn't compete with the greats. The genre essentially died by the end of the 80's, though one still had unintended side effects...

A Nightmare on Elm Street gives us supernatural slashers

Looking back, it's easy to see why the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is so beloved-it has great performances, a great villain, wonderful direction, and best of all, it's scary as hell. Well, the movies it spawned rarely lived up to that. Sure, something like "Brainscan" is a cult favorite, and everyone should see the Bollywood answer "Mahakaal: The Monster" at least once, but we didn't need the likes of "Asylum." The worst of them though, is "Ghost in the Machine", which took the idea of a supernatural killer (here he possesses technology) and diminishes all of the goodwill brought forth by Craven's film. Even the director is to fault, as "Shocker" was just a mediocre attempt at trying to reuse an old formula.

Scream gives us a new wave of teen centric horror

Granted, the term "teen centric horror" seems like a bit of an oxymoron, as many horror films tend to gear themselves more towards the youth market. However, after "Scream" became a surprise hit, Hollywood was quick to capitalize. Granted, this was a blessing and a curse. On one hand, horror was finally marketable again, and we got some good stuff ("Ginger Snaps" and "The Faculty", as well as the underrated "Cherry Falls.") On the downside, we got a lot of horror movies that tried to capitalize on the success of said movie ("Urban Legend" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer"), yet most of them lacked what made "Scream" the classic that it is. It pretty much went kaput in 2002, and few are hoping for a sequel to "The Forsaken." Granted, we got a new generation of teen centric horror movies soon after, but most of them weren't interested in capitalizing on the success of "Scream" as much as they were trying to get a buck from remaking classics or catering to the newer generation, the latter in which has always existed and will never die.

Zombie gives us a wave of Italian zombie films

Let it be known that there were Italian zombie movies before this movie-they just didn't have the same impact. Anyways, Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" was released as an unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead" (titled "Zombi 2") in Italy-and proved to be an even bigger hit than Romero's classic in it's home country. There's a funny thing about Italian exploitation-if something was a hit, then there will be imitators. And while the likes of "Burial Ground", "Zombie Apocalypse" and "Hell of the Living Dead" are fun in their own right, they pale in comparison to Fulci's zombie movies. As the 80's continued, the sub-genre began to take it's toll. The first blow was the sequel "Zombi 3", which was at first directed by Fulci, but then done by Bruno Mattei, and was mostly met with confusion and frustration. Films like "Killing Birds"(also released as "Zombi 5"), "Evil Clutch" and "After Death" (also released as "Zombi 4") didn't help matters, and while "Cemetery Man" came out in the 90's, it proved to be the best of the Italian zombie films. However, the Italian horror market was nearly D.O.A. at that point, and while we still got (and still get) Italian zombie movies, most of the public has ceased to care.

That being said, "Zombie" is now more popular than it was about a decade or two ago. Today, it's often mentioned in the discussion of great zombie movies (and great horror movies in general), has gotten serious critical examinations and was even featured on a Windows commercial. It's interesting to see a movie lambasted by critics and was known mostly by the hardest of horror fans has now become a pulp culture institution.

Resident Evil and 28 Days Later give us a zombie resurgence

Like it or not, "Resident Evil" was the first movie to help re-spark the public's interest in the walking dead, and "28 Days Later" helped. Since then, you can't seem to turn on your TV or go to your Netflix account/Redbox/Local Video rental without seeing something zombie related. This has been both good and bad. On one hand, it's great to have the TV series "The Walking Dead", and people still make good zombie movies, but for the large part, it mostly feels like overkill to me. There's too much of a good thing, and at this point, I'd like something besides zombies for the most part. However, the U.S. and Italy aren't the only countries who have the zombie market tapped...

Versus births a wave of Japanese zombie movies

In 2000, Ryuhei Kitamura unleashed "Versus" on the world, mixing hyper-kinetic action, portals, gun fights, demigods and zombies in a mix that was more style than substance, but God damn what style! In the wake of this, Japan found a new interest in zombies. Granted, there were zombie movies before ("Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay") and the success of the "Resident Evil" games probably helped, but after "Versus" we got the likes of "Junk" (which played out like a Tarantino imitator melded with an homage to Italian zombie movies), "Stacy" (which-well, good luck explaining that) and the Nihombie Trilogy (which played out like the Japanese answer to Troma movies.) To this day, the wave of Japanese zombie movies hasn't died, as it's latest entry comes from "Machine Girl" and "Robo-Geisha" director Noboru Iguchi. Also, it's called "Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead." Why? Because if there's anything that's universal, it's bad taste.

Alien gives us a bunch of movies that want to be Alien

To say Ridley Scott's "Alien" had an impact on pop culture would be an understatement. Like "Jaws", "Night of the Living Dead", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Friday the 13th" and "The Exorcist", it's ripples can still be felt today. That's because ever since it's release, there were films that tried to capitalize on it's release. While a few are worth watching ("Galaxy of Terror" and "Forbidden World") or serve as guilty pleasures ("Contamination"), most are pretty awful. Yet, like "Jaws", these imitations never took a break. While poor man's versions of "Chainsaw" and "The Exorcist" mostly stopped for a while, there hasn't been a decade or a year without someone trying to get that "Alien" or "Aliens" buck. It and "Jaws" are the movies whose legacy will never die, for better and sadly for worse.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sundown: The Vampires in Retreat (1989)

One of the great things about movie packs is that they usually contain movies that are always worth watching. Sure, there might be a a few (or in most cases, many) clunkers to be found, but it's those little movies that make them worth getting. In this case, it's the Anthony Hickox film "Sundown: The Vampires in Retreat." Granted, it's also available in a fun special edition, but since I'm a cheap kind of guy, getting it with a six movie pack for five bucks seemed like a smarter idea.

Welcome to Purgatory. No, not the actual one, but a town with that name. It's a nice place and all, except for the fact that a family of four has decided to stop by, and the whole town is made up of vampires. Oh, but these aren't all bad vampires. In fact, much of the town doesn't want to hurt people, and are drinking synthetic blood thanks to some scientists and Marulak (David Carradine.) However, other vampires don't want to drink synthetic blood and would rather drink the real thing. Vampires like Jefferson (John Ireland), who has an angry mob ready for war with the town. Add a descendant of Van Helsing (Bruce Campbell), and you've got shit ready to hit the fan.

While it does have a few problems (a few uneven performances and the fact that it runs a little too long), "Sundown" is a lot of fun and stands as the best thing Hickox directed. For a horror comedy, its actually pretty funny, with plenty of amusing gags and performances (Campbell is hilarious), as well as likable characters and solid direction and writing throughout. It also boasts an intriguing little premise. The idea of vampires trying not to behave like vampires has been done before, but here the topic is handled without the usual boring angst. It's a movie that manages to avoid taking the usual road and is a lot of fun to boot.

That out of the way, those hoping for lots of blood and gore might be disappointed. Sure, there's some minor stuff (charred vampires and an amusing bit with an umbrella), but this isn't a splatter movie. That's just fine however, as tons of grue would have hurt this. This is a movie that runs on tons of heart and enthusiasm, and doesn't need tons of splatter to work.

For those looking for a funny and original take on the vampire tale, then "Sundown" is absolutely worth checking out. If only more hybrids of comedy and vampires were like this (apart from this, "From Dusk Til Dawn" and especially "The Fearless Vampire Killers", there aren't many great vampire comedies IMO.)

Rating: 8/10

Friday, August 10, 2012

Flesh for the Beast (2003)

In the last decade, Media Blasters was one of the most beloved names for genre fans. Sure, they were releasing plenty of anime, as well as the cult animated series "Invader Zim" on DVD, but for the rest of us, the fact that movies from all kinds of sub-genres (zombies, cannibals, post-apocalyptic science-fiction-you name it, they put it out) and directors (Fulci, D'Amato and Lenzi for example) was almost like a God send. So, it made sense for them to, if I could paraphrase Lloyd Kaufman for a moment, "Make Their Own Damn Movie." So, 2003 brought us their first official film, "Flesh for the Beast."

John Stoker (Sergio Jones) has invited a team of paranormal investigators to check out the notorious Fischer Manor, where the evil Albert Fischer (Aldo Sambrell) practiced black magic. Since this is a horror movie, this turns out to be a great idea, as nothing bad happens. By that, I mean that the investigators find themselves being attacked by a trio of Succubus, as well as zombies and the dark past of the house coming to the present.

It's clear that "Flesh for the Beast" was made by people who love the genre, right down the the names of some of it's characters (Stoker, Ketchum, etc.) and the fact that it tries to squeeze every ounce of bent eroticism, splatter happy gore and atmospheric settings on display. Well, apart from a good score from Buckethead and a fun cameos from Sambrell and Caroline Munro, there's nothing here to write home about. None of the other performances are up to task-in fact, they are downright dreadful, as you just wish that everyone in it would die already. It's also poorly directed by softcore vet Terry West, who doesn't seem to understand how to shoot scenes or build anything resembling atmosphere. He just films the whole thing in a dull, lackluster way.

This leads me to my biggest problem with the movie: for all the love of European genre films (Fulci and Rollin in particular seem to be influences), it feels more like a synthetic imitation than a serious homage. You can tell that writer and director West loves those films, but watching this, it feels like he doesn't understand what it is that makes them so appealing. You have to do more than throw in tons of sex, nudity and gore to make an effective horror movie of this type. You need at least the vaguest sense of a plot, gore that doesn't look fake and an atmosphere of hopelessness and fear to make it work. This has none of that.

In the end, fans of European genre films will feel cheated by "Flesh for the Beast", while more casual genre fans will more than likely be bored. Just watch something like "Demons" or "Anthropophagus" instead.

Rating: 2/10

As for Media Blasters-they're still kicking around. In fact, they just picked up the latest from Noboru Iguchi, which is called "Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead." They aren't releasing as many older genre movies these days apart from "The Story of Ricky", some Godzilla movies and re-releasing some of their older titles ("Burial Ground" and "Beyond the Darkness") on Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Inkubus (2011)

Robert Englund's career in cinema will forever be tied to his role as Freddy Krueger. Sure, his credits also include the mini-series "Dead and Buried", the miniseries "V" and Tobe Hooper's "Eaten Alive", but the fedora wearing, glove-with-blades wielding supernatural killer is the main thing he'll be remembered for. Granted, I'm sure he doesn't mind this, as its led to a pretty lengthy career. Even a crappy remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" couldn't unseat him in the eyes of even today's kids. Plus, it helps get him roles in movies like "Inkubus."

Opening with Detective Tom Caretti (Joey Fatone, who also serves as an executive producer) in a straightjacket, telling another detective about the events that led to him being in the nuthouse. Earlier, he was with an skeleton crew minding their own business in a police station when a mysterious killer who calls himself "Inkubus" (Englund), who has in possession the severed head of the girlfriend of a suspect. Meanwhile, a former detective (William Forsythe) with a past connection with the killer wants closure, and it turns out that there's more to the killer than meets the eye.

Trying to mix of "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "Rosemary's Baby", your average slasher film and maybe "The Incubus" and "It's Alive", "Inkubus" does feature a strong performance from Englund. He acts his ass off here, managing to be threatening, darkly comic and best of all fascinating in his role as the demon. There's also some choice gore, with evisceration, disembowelment and even a ripped out spine serving as the highlights.

And that's where the good ends. Everyone else is either bad (Fatone is pretty laughable here, though there is something amusing about seeing a guy who was once in one of the biggest musical groups in the world doing this) to uninterested (Forsythe looks like he's rather be back on "Boardwalk Empire.") Also, while the villain is fascinating, the movie never really explores him. We know he's nearly 100 years old, has a history of evil and that the retired detective wants justice, but that's about it. You don't really get to know him. Then there's the production values. Look, I know that this is a straight to video movie, and that high production costs aren't something you expect, but it looks cheap. Watching it at times feels like your watching an extended YouTube video.

I can't really say that I hated "Inkubus", but that's mostly because it's more forgettable than it is worthy of scorn. The end result is something that could have been pretty fun, but doesn't have the guts to fully commit to itself.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Vengeance of the Zombies (1973)

And the winner for best "Death by small can" scene in a horror movie goes to "Vengeance of the Zombies." Not that there was a whole lot of competition outside of "Undead."

Anyways, there have been many a times in which horror movies seem to forgo anything resembling logic in their quest to scare or entertain. Sometimes this works (The films of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci for example), sometimes it doesn't (the films of Dante Tomaselli), and then there are goes films that aren't good and make little sense, but you find yourself enjoying them anyway. Leon Klimovsky achieved this in 1973 with the Paul Naschy vehicle "Vengeance of the Zombies."

Indian Mystic Krisna (Naschy) has things going his way. He's pretty popular, the ladies love him (Yep, this is a Paul Naschy film alright!) and nothing bad seems to be happening. That is, until his girlfriend Elvire (Romy) starts having nightmares involving Satanic rites (with Naschy playing Satan), a masked killer being on the loose, and a group of vengeful female zombies roaming around. Oh, and Krisna's deformed brother (Naschy again.)

There are numerous flaws to be found here (plot holes, a completely inappropriate lounge score, mediocre direction and acting), but "Vengeance of the Zombies" manages to be pretty fun for what it is: dumb exploitation made for undemanding viewers. In a way, the ultimately silly nature of the whole thing works more than it doesn't. There's just something nice about a movie that has such a "let's put on a show" attitude, and the added nudity and gore (including a nifty decapitation) adds to the experience.

Another reason the thing works better than it should is because it basically throws in everything but the kitchen sink to entertain viewers. Satanic rituals? Check. Sexploitation? Check. Voodoo spells? Check. Zombies? Check. Black gloved killer? You get the point. It's like watching a smorgasbord/greatest hits collection of Euro exploitation from the period, and it's hard not to smile at most of it. Plus, how many times to you see someone get killed with a small can in horror movies?

"Vengeance of the Zombies" is anything but a good movie, and more serious minded genre aficionados will probably cringe through most of it. Those who love dumb exploitation and "so-bad-it's-good" movies will be more forgiving, and probably enjoy the stupid enterprise on display.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tomb of Torture (1963)

Ah, the 60's. It was at this time where many a thing was changing in horror. Among them was the rise of Italian horror films. We got many a classic from that era-"Blood and Black Lace", "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage", "Black Sunday" and "Mill of the Stone Woman." Then we got things like today's entry.

Somewhere in Italy, there is a castle where a murdered countess tortured and killed many a person. Anna (Annie Alberti) believes she is a descendent of this woman, and travels there with her father (Adriano Micantoni), and tries to solve the mysterious case surrounding the death of the countess. However, not all is what it seems. Not only is Anna starting to have nightmares, but there seems to be something up with Elizabeth (Flora Carosello), as well as a deformed man/monster living in the basement.

In the first act, "Tomb" is actually fun. The kills aren't gory, but they are strong stuff for the period. There's a mood of Gothic despair looming over the proceedings, which is amplified by the eerie castle. It even feels like the kind of atmospheric horror gems you were getting at the time. Yep, things are pretty good.

Then the plot really kicks in, and it becomes boring. It goes from being an enjoyable Gothic yarn to a talky, plodding mess in an instant. You know, the kind of movie where everyone has to constantly explain what's going on almost all the time, while poor attempts at characterization and next to nothing happens on the screen. It also doesn't help that there's no mystery or suspense on display. You know from the get go whose carrying on the legacy of the countess, so as the movie drags on, there's no reason to care. Granted, it does pick up a little at the end, but by then you'll probably be asleep.

I can't say that I hate this movie, but that's because of the brief promise it shows. At best, it serves as an example of how not every 60's Italian title is worth your time.

Rating: 3.5/10   


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Classic VHS Art: The Deadly Spawn (1983)

I remember being freaked out and fascinated by this one back when I was like 5.