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

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