STREAM QUEEN: three streams and a couple of queens

My latest triple viewing is a mixed bag of subgenres, and there’s nothing here worth adding to my movie collection, but I did find something to like about each of these films.

PYEWACKET (2017)

After seeing the trailer for Pyewacket when it was getting hyped a few months ago, I had so little interest in it that I didn’t even put it on my “to see” list. But when it showed up on Hulu there was no excuse not to check it out.

The boring as fuck trailer completely does the film justice.

I can’t even wrap my head around how what should have been a 30-minute horror short in an anthology at most was stretched into a 90-minute slow burn that burns until it just fizzles out.

There’s this teen who hangs out in the woods with her goth friends reading occult shit. Following her father’s death, she has a rocky relationship with her mother, played by Andrea from The Walking Dead.

So bad that the she goes into the woods during a moment of anger and wishes something awful on her mother.

The movie tries desperately for the rest of its runtime to convince us something terrifying is coming for her mother through the use of some encroaching camerawork and banging in the attic.

It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.

On the bright side, I found a couple of modern wave bands to play on my Future Flashbacks Show: Weeknight and Rey Pila.

 

 

GHOST STORIES (2017)

Ghost Stories is a movie about a skeptic who debunks supernatural scam artists. It plays out like a polished horror anthology, as he speaks to three different people who share their tales of terror…

1st story – we’ve seen this one numerous times before. A night security guard is terrorized by ghosts while on duty. He walks around with just a flashlight, and we see a freaky ghost child, but the story ends just when it seems like it’s about to deliver.

2nd story – this is my favorite in the bunch. A young man driving back from a party on a desolate road is terrorized by a satanic beast creature. In the age of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, this one nails the fun of the occult.

3rd story – I was really feeling this one at first, as it appears some dude is being haunted by a baby ghost in a playpen. I just don’t understand why it throws all that away to slap us with a cliché screaming ghost woman whose face is then treated to the demon app to add insult to injury. WTF?

As for the wraparound, there are some engrossing points to the main guy’s story, but an obvious makeup job spoils half the surprise, and the conclusion to his story is a twist we’ve seen before.

The bigger unexpected twist is that the closing credits roll to Bobby Boris Pickett’s Halloween classic “Monster Mash.”

THE KAOS BRIEF (2017)

The KAOS Brief is about as paint-by-numbers as a found footage film gets—with all the usual flaws and plot holes—so if you’re not tired of the genre yet, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Our notably attractive foursome features a gay vlogger who goes camping with his boyfriend, his sister, and her boyfriend.

While out in the woods, they experience a couple of creepy things that immediately scream, “ALIENS!”

But we don’t get stuck in the Blair Witch zone with aliens.

The kids actually leave the woods. It’s at the house of the brother and sister, whose parents are away, that all the terror begins. It’s Paranormal Activity with aliens…and men in black.

Seriously, it’s basically Men In Black if they were the bad guys in a found footage film. All you get to see of the actual alien threat is spaceship lights and a conveniently loaded and cued video tape the kids discover of a silhouette of an alien. Hey, it’s still more of a payoff than The Blair Witch Project.

The most significant part of this film for me is the fact that the gay characters are completely integrated into and integral to the plot…not just novelties.

And they even get a charming kiss scene. Considering the leading man is gay and half the cast is gay, I’m going to file this one with my homo horror movies instead of my die, gay guy, die! movies.

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5 new Christmas horror flicks for 2018

Another holiday season, another onslaught of Christmas horror coming our way for me to add to my complete list of holiday horror movies. My first marathon of season’s screamings even includes more than just slashers.

AMERICAN EXORCIST (2018)

Since this one comes from the directors of Alpha Girls, I had high hopes for it.

It starts off with an office Christmas party gone horribly wrong. This awesome scene is a reminder that mass shootings should only happen in movies.

Next, a tough chick and a goody-goody girl enter a house to perform an exorcism on a gnarly possessed girl. This duo and their demon friend promise one kick ass holiday exorcism movie.

But then…WTF? The movie becomes solely about the goody-goody girl, who is a paranormal skeptic. She goes into an office building at Christmas time to debunk all its tall tales of ghostly action. Bill Moseley has a brief role as a maintenance guy, but other than that it’s an entire movie about this girl exploring the building.

It’s agonizing. Every time she witnesses something scary, she’s temporarily shocked, and then makes a sort of “fake news!” face and just continues exploring. Another fake news dumb ass. And all this while an annoying, pulsing score plays incessantly.

She uses a Ouija board, she decorates a Christmas tree, there are a couple of demon attack scenes that never pan out, and there’s even an entire Lights Out hallway rip-off scene.

The directors really need to go back to the drawing board and make the movie about the two exorcist girls.

KRAMPUS ORIGINS (2018)

Hey, I’ve watched a lot of disappointing, low budget Krampus films (and even more Krampus films) over the last few Decembers, but this one, which is titled in a way that positions it to sneakily be misjudged as a prequel to any of them, is virtually void of any Christmas or any Krampus.

We get a brief prologue about military men finding an amulet during World War I.

Then we move to an orphanage run by nuns, and for an hour we are subjected to every typical situation you could imagine arising at an orphanage short of them bursting into “It’s the Hard Knock Life.” If only.

Finally the kids do a ritual that brings Krampus, who is virtually nothing more than a still shot for a majority of his short appearance in the film.

His robotic design also makes it look like this movie should perhaps be called Krampus in Space.

DEAD BY CHRISTMAS (2018)

Now onto the good stuff. Christmas slashers. Director Armand Petri, whose other films I cover here, brings us the first one, a short, 60-minute film.

This isn’t the usual killer Santa flick. It’s actually a killer in a Santa mask, yet the style in which the killer is presented makes it seem there’s a supernatural element to its existence. But that isn’t the case when all is said and done.

But before I get into it, let’s begin with the tasty holiday treats…

While the death scenes are big on Christmas horror spirit, the focus is more on the back story of the characters. A group of friends that grew up together in an orphanage returns for a reunion at the home of the nun that raised them (a more interesting orphanage than the one in Krampus Origins). They are still haunted by a dark secret from their childhood, so there’s a lot of dialogue to fill us in on the details, as well as numerous flashbacks.

Essentially, the slasher elements are a side story to the deeper plot. They’re visually striking and sometimes gory good, but they often feel somewhat rushed without enough suspenseful buildup before the killer strikes.

There are no chase scenes, and the final girl is never highlighted, so we don’t get a chance to become attached to her—she suddenly becomes the final girl simply because she’s the only one left.

ELVES (2018)

I’m not even sure if this odd film is a sequel to the movie The Elf that I blogged about last year, but it definitely stands on its own. It offers a unique premise rather than a predictable killer elf slasher.

A group of friends is basically cursed by an elf doll…as in, they each begin getting possessed by it and their faces morph into the elf!

Awesome. But  hell, I make that face all the time and I’m not even possessed.

The rule is that when the “elf” tells you what to do, you must do it or die.

But this totally confusing movie also features a killer in a Krampus mask, plus there are what seem like supernatural kills, like a guy being attacked by a string of Christmas lights.

And of course the elf doll keeps popping up, although it rarely does the dirty work itself.

In between the fun and sometimes brutal kills, the main characters basically just sit around trying to figure out who’s next and arguing over whether the elf is real. So I wouldn’t watch this one for the story, just the cool creeps and kills.

MRS. CLAUS (2018)

Indie director Troy Escamilla is carving a niche for himself in the low budget slasher genre. I’m a fan of his first film Party Night, which goes for that throwback video store rental vibe.

Mrs. Claus follows generally the same classic 80s slasher template: a bunch of friends gets together to party and have sex, and soon a masked killer starts hacking and slashing.

It’s a Christmas party at a sorority house where a hazing ended in tragedy years before. Christmas atmosphere abounds, there’s some T&A, and there’s even a gay character.

But the bigger standouts include the gory, practical effect kills and the creepy Mrs. Claus mask. It’s refreshing to have the Misses doing the naughty work for a change.

We also get horror queen Brinke Stevens as a cop who spends most of her camera time on the outskirts of the actual plot. It was sort of déjà vu for me, as her role was similar to the one she played in the film Axeman.

Stringing the plot along between kills is the usual melodrama between characters. It’s hard to make shallow character development interesting in slashers, so don’t expect anything all that engrossing on that front.

The basic motivation of the killer at the end is about as thin and simple as it gets, which is definitely a staple of many 80s slashers.


Just coincidence that the guy’s lips are built to take on a big black phallus? 

I like some of the edgier moments here (like an exploitative hazing scene), the vicious kills, and the holiday spirit, but I do think Party Night delivered a grittier, suspenseful experience overall with more old school horror atmosphere. The killer was more ominous, there were better scares, and the final girl took it up a notch. However, that film was left open-ended and the killer never unmasked.

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Holidays on Hulu: it happened before and after Christmas

My latest streaming double feature on Hulu was holiday themed—one Thanksgiving horror and one New Year’s horror. They made it to my holiday horror page by default, but did they make the season bright…I mean…dark?

INTO THE DARK: FLESH & BLOOD (2018)

This Thanksgiving installment of the holiday themed horror movie series on Hulu comes from the director of the My Bloody Valentine remake, of which I’m a big fan, so I was psyched going into it.

Damn! My hopes for a good Thanksgiving horror flick were dashed. For starters, while the film takes place on the holiday and the days after, don’t expect any celebration or even a turkey short of a brief flashback.

A teen girl who suffers from agoraphobia since the unsolved murder of her mother is trapped in her house with her father, played by Dermot Mulroney.

While he’s out one day, she may have forgotten to take her meds…and becomes convinced he not only killed her mother, but a whole bunch of other girls.

This makes for one of the most awkward family holiday conversations ever that doesn’t involve politics.

It’s dumbfounding to me that this dissolves into a completely templated thriller right out of the late 80s/early 90s. It’s virtually The Stepfather, hold the step. I’m convinced the script is attempting to make you think there’s going to be a really obvious twist…but then doesn’t deliver the obvious twist, instead sticking with the initial obvious plot as if that is supposed to be the twist.

MIDNIGHTERS (2017)

Midnighters is an apt name for this New Year’s Eve/Day movie, which turns out to be yet another holiday thriller, not a horror movie. This was a huge disappointment for me since it comes from IFC Midnight, and I usually really like their movies.

I’m not saying this is a bad film, it’s just not one I would have watched had I known what it was about. Once again, it’s essentially modeled after late 80s/early 90s thrillers, with some torture porn and home invasion elements thrown in to make it feel modern.

After leaving a New Year’s Eve party, a couple gets sexy while driving and accidentally makes roadkill out of someone. The surprising part is that they try to do the right thing and not just hide the body or cover up what happened, but eventually…they hide the body and cover up what happened.

They return to their house in the middle of nowhere, and pretty soon some new characters come into the picture. A tale of intrigue and deception is introduced, and one twist after another is thrown at us as everyone seems to be backstabbing the other.

There’s an endless loop of people getting knocked out, tied up with tape over their mouths, and tortured, then the tables getting turned as loyalties switch back and forth. So…we just wait to see who’s going to be the last person standing.

Eh.

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Time-killing tomatoes…

These two silly sci-fi comedy “monster” movies ensure the death of your precious time and are still as bad as ever. I actually think this is the first time I’ve truly sat down to watch them all the way through…and I have one of them in my movie collection (no thanks to a 4-film collection).

The 1978 cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! is so bad it’s worse, and it becomes obvious pretty quickly why it sux so bad…

It focuses completely on the military and the government rather than everyday people taking on the tomatoes. Yawn. There’s simply no one to relate to in this film.

A preface about the movie The Birds turning into a reality—suggesting this could, too—sets the tone of slapstick stupidity of the film. While not nearly as funny, the humor reminds me of the Airplane brand of comedy. Tomatoes on a Plane? Oops, I better not even put that out in the universe lest it become reality.

I’m shocked this movie had budget enough for even a major helicopter scene.

While the main cast is all military and government, the everyday victims are attacked in kitchens, in the water for a Jaws spoof, in grocery stores, in the woods, and on the streets.

There’s an awesome theme song…

 

…and musical numbers! Ugh. But I must say, the lead singer of the military musical number totally rocks his performance. Also keep an ear out for a weird talking dog moment.

For me, the highlight of this piece of trash is a totally dated joke: a commercial for a K-tel album called “Dead Beat”, which includes all original hits by original dead stars. So wrong.

Ten years later the original director brought the tomatoes back for the 1988 film Return of the Killer Tomatoes! The best thing about the sequel is probably the revised version of the theme song with lyrics spoofing the first song.

 

The Addams Family alum John Astin plays a mad scientist.

If I followed correctly, he can turn killer tomatoes into mortals…most of them hunky shirtless military men.

He also creates a bombshell woman out of a tomato, but she breaks free of his insanity, taking her furry pet tomato with her.

Honestly, this film is so bad even by 80s standards I couldn’t totally commit to paying attention to it. At least this time the focus is on two horny, ordinary 80s guys—Anthony Starke of Repossessed and George Clooney, who appears to have had time to star in this disaster between getting eaten by the shark that The Facts of Life jumped and his short-lived inclusion on Roseanne.

Starke and Clooney work at a tomato-free pizza parlor, because tomatoes have been banned by law since the first attack. Starke sets his sights on Astin’s bombshell creation, they begin dating, and he starts noticing she’s rather odd.

As he falls in love with her, he and his buddy Clooney realize they have to infiltrate Astin’s lab and get control of his conversion machine to save her from her tomato existence. This machine appears to run with the help of music, and the song of choice dictates what the human looks like. For instance, play the theme to Miami Vice and you get Don Johnson. Okay, I’ll give this part props for its 80s indulgence.

And hey, I’m a fan of self-deprecation, but by the the time this film admits it has no money left so the characters start talking to the camera with product placement (Pepsi, Nestle Crunch, Crest, beer brands), all it manages to do is demonstrate that you can’t save an unfunny movie by being even less funny.

Aside from the theme song and the hunks, the biggest highlight for me in this mess is a Tane Cain poster hanging on the guys’ wall, six years after her awesome album failed to become a hit.

 

The original director returned with Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! in 1991 and Killer Tomatoes Eat France! in 1992, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to watch another of these films.

Okay, I’m lying. I simply couldn’t find them on any streaming service.

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STREAM QUEEN: Furry Nights vs. What the Waters Left Behind

Once again it’s time to take a wrong turn into uncharted territories. At least uncharted by the characters in these movies. We’ve been there before…but which flick held its own for me? Let’s find out.

FURRY NIGHTS (2016)

Furry fetishists rejoice! You finally get your own backwoods slasher! The down side? You’re totally painted as the psychos.

This fuzzy wuzzy flick starts with a bit of a Race With the Devil vibe. A group of friends is out in the woods. One guy witnesses a bunch of furries dancing around a fire and films it. They hear him and he runs away.

But that night, a furry comes to their camp…and things don’t end well. Now the rest of the furry cult is out for revenge!

This film’s tone is surprisingly mostly serious, the furries are menacing, and the kills are violent and brutal although there’s no explicit gore. And the forest setting is perfectly lighted to feel naturally dark, with plenty of bouncing flashlight beams as the chase kicks into high gear.

Of course you can’t make a movie about killer furries without some campy humor. It all lands on the shoulders of the main guy in this movie. His reactions to everything he goes through are classic. I’m shocked that the entire cast is left to play the “straight man” while he gets to steal the show.

By the time he dons a furry costume himself, speaks in squeaky cute furry voice, and gets in a fight with one of the bad furries, I was laughing out loud.

His performance alone would be reason enough for me to add this movie to my DVD collection.

WHAT THE WATERS LEFT BEHIND (2017)

I think I have backwoods/wilderness/cannibal family/torture horror movie burnout. While this film is sleek and technically right on target, I just wasn’t blown away by it, wasn’t scared or on the edge of my seat, and actually started to get bored during the most gruesome torture scenes. But if you love this subgenre or have never seen movies like Wolf Creek, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Frontier(s), The Hills Have Eyes…I could go on all day with this list…you may just find this one a winner.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that although this is a Spanish language film, it follows the template of every American horror movie ever made in this genre.

-friends driving in van to location of tragic incident.

-one of the girls was a child and lived through the tragedy.

-they make a pit stop and the people running the place are creepy.

-girl goes to the restroom and the bowl is a disgusting mess…yet she still uses it. Why do people always use overflowing shit bowls in these movies when the miles of wilderness right outside is nature’s bathroom?

-there are clippings of missing people.

-girl does a sexy dance for a guy in the middle of nowhere then they have sex.

-their van breaks down.

-someone goes for help.

-someone suffers a wound and becomes a huge burden on the others.

-they all get chased, killed, and abducted by masked crazies.

-there’s a bear trap. There simply has to be a bear trap.

-the survivors are raped and tortured in a lair.

-the family grinds the dead into meat.

-the family feeds the dead meat to the living during a macabre dinner party.

Even the big surprise twist isn’t so unusual. The one thing that actually makes this film timely to an American audience is that it’s kind of a cautionary tale about why Dump should think twice about continuously not sending relief and rescue to areas devastated by natural disasters.

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Christmas is coming, so it’s time to look at horror for other holidays!

Don’t blame me. I can’t be responsible for when holiday horror movies hit streaming services. This trio covers Independence Day, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, with two slashers and a zombie flick.

ATTACK OF THE TATTIE-BOGLE (2017)

It’s a 60-minute Fourth of July cabin in the woods slasher with a weird name. I also don’t totally understand the bigger picture, but the smaller picture—a group of friends sliced and diced in the woods—is all I ever need. On that it totally delivers, and it’s refreshingly not the usual cookie cutter approach, but has a style all its own.

They drive to the cabin, they hang out, they swim in a lake, there’s some blossoming romance, and there’s some timely, uncomfortable conversation between a liberal couple and a redneck asshole who looks pretty sexy holding his beer…

Then without warning a masked killer—the tattie-bogle (aka: scarecrow)—with an axe walks right into their lives and goes to town on them! Those that survive scatter. Some end up in another cabin, some try to get away, others are in a lookout tower in a tree in the woods.

What makes this film so compelling is that the kills are just so matter of fact. There’s no sleek slasher production, so the murders feel raw and real. And the score isn’t the usual manipulative horror movie music that tries to convince you to be scared. It’s distinctly compelling and atmospheric of its own merits. The film also combines predominantly natural dark and flashlight beams, which is always a truly effective way to set the tone of horror in the woods.

The final scenes of escape and confrontation are highly unusual for a slasher film, making this one quite unique…while explaining nothing and ending on a very odd note. It’s one of those rare cases when I would have liked more of the horror, for just as the momentum is picking up it feels like the film stops short, almost as if incomplete.

Finally, despite its dark tone, the film closes with bloopers during the end credits! Feels out of place and jolts you out of the zone.

SAMHAIN: A HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE (2018)

It’s another short holiday horror film, running only 67 minutes long. Yet it’s amazing how much the film is stretched just to get to that length.

The opener takes place in 1968, but don’t expect it to connect to the main story.

In the modern day, our main girl house sits on Halloween night. We know it’s Halloween because it’s mentioned a few times, but there are no visual signs of the holiday.

To fill the time, we watch the girl make and eat a sandwich, we watch her shower, we watch her sleep…literally the camera just focuses on her for an agonizing amount of time as she sleeps. Still shots are held unnaturally long, such as exterior shots of the house between scenes. We sit through footage of both a true crime show and a horror movie she watches.

She also gets a few visitors, including an ex-boyfriend and her best friend. It’s during this time that there are some good 80s style killer POV shots and an excellent 80s synth score.

When the masked killer invades, it begins with a relentless beating scene with a bat that I guarantee would see a person not only dead but mutilated beyond recognition…yet the victim later gets up and walks away without a bruise in sight. What the hell? Even a whiffle bat would leave marks.

There’s no body count because there are no deaths. And as for the climax, well, if you’ve seen Ti West’s The House of the Devil you’ll be in familiar territory, although I guess there’s a twist at the end to keep this from being an exact replica.

VALENTINE DAYZ (2018)

This zomromcom is quirky, confusing, and loaded with enough gore and zombie action to satisfy me despite its shortcomings. It gets bonus points for reminding me of the tone of the awesome zombie flick It Stains the Sands Red.

It begins with news reports and interviews with zombie experts to give us the background of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, a man and woman meet at a bar, fall in love, and get engaged. This is where this film is oddly lacking. That all happens so fast we never get to see their romance blossom. The film is more concerned with details of the guy’s day job than their relationship.

Their Valentine’s Day plans are derailed when one of them turns into a zombie. They end up in the desert with the mortal keeping the zombie restrained while trying to figure out what to do about their dilemma.

Meanwhile, there are what feel like random, unrelated scenes of a few other characters having run-ins with zombies, but some of them are dang cool. A scene of a woman having a birthday party for her creepy doll when a zombie comes calling is eerily effective.

The film gets exploitation gruesome when the zombie/human couple battles it out, and the great practical effects make me wish the film had delivered more of it.

After a pretty unique twist about why the zombies are attacking the living, the film soon comes to an end, and I just couldn’t help thinking it felt like the plot never quite came together.

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Small town spiders vs. big city spiders

It seems for the last 3 decades we’ve been getting a great, silly spider movie every 10 years or so. We had Arachnophobia in 1990, then we moved into a new millennium and got spider flicks in 2002 and 2013. So let’s take a look at both.

EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS (2002)

The director of Return of the Living Dead sequels Rave to the Grave and Necropolis (I’m a fan of both) delivers one of my all-time favorite campy, funny, creepy crawlie big spider movies with a great cast.

A celebration of classic giant bug movies (yeah, I know, spiders aren’t technically bugs, but they sure bug me when they get near me), Eight Legged Freaks gets right into it after a young boy hangs with his spider expert friend. Unfortunately, the expert’s critters escape and go on a rampage of killing and cocooning.

Scream queen Kari Wuhrer is the little boy’s mother and town sheriff, and her older daughter is a young Scarlett Johansson.

On top of the spider invasion, Kari has to contend with her old flame coming back to town—played by David Arquette, who does a perfect David Arquette.

It’s great spider action from start to finish, with the spiders starting off small enough to crawl through walls—the cartoonish battle with a cat in the walls is a hoot, but don’t get all up in arms, cat lovers, because a dog gets it, too.

Eventually the spiders enter and nest inside human bodies, grow bigger, and drag people back to their underground tunnels to cocoon them in webs.

The fact that these are computer-generated spiders doesn’t detract, instead managing to give them distinct personality expressed through their movement and the way they react to human beings (their responses are almost human at times).

There’s a big attack on a group of motorcycle riders, but the major action takes place once everyone in town moves to the local mall for safety but ends up battling the spiders right out on the streets.

And naturally, our cast of main characters makes its way to the spiders’ lair underneath the ground…

BIG ASS SPIDER! (2013)

Mike Mendez (Lavalantula, The Last Heist, Don’t Kill It, The Gravedancers, The Convent) delivers what almost feels like a sequel to Eight Legged Freaks because it’s so similar in tone and style, with the same kind of CGI spiders. However these critters grow into big ass spiders!

Adorabear Greg Grunberg plays an exterminator who has a run-in with Lin Shaye and some critters giving her a problem, then ends up at a hospital, which is where the spider outbreak begins.

There he scores a security guard sidekick, and together they must take on ever-growing swarms of spiders.

Eventually they team up with the military (including horror veterans like Ray Wise and Clare Kramer of Glory fame on Buffy) to battle a super big spider that goes all King Kong, climbing a skyscraper in the city for some fun time with military planes.

The only way to defeat it? Shoot it in its big ass, of course.

But the big ass highlight for me is definitely when the giant spider massacres a park full of picnicking people.

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When the classic monsters got the last laugh

Once Freddy, Jason, and Michael raised the horror bar in the 80s, the original monsters kind of lost their fear factor…so they gnaw on our funny bones instead! But do these six flix still hold up?

TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 (1985)

Director Rudy de Luca wrote several Mel Brooks movies, so you would think this comedy captured that vibe. And at first it does. Unfortunately it quickly falls apart into an unfunny mess, which is shocking considering the writer and the great comic cast. They simply don’t have good material to work with.

Norman Fell sends reporters Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Goldblum to Transylvania to look for Frankenstein. Everyone there laughs at them…but it turns out there really is a Frankenstein…and a vampire…and a werewolf…

The cast includes the likes of Michael Richards, Carol Kane, and Geena Davis as a slutty vampire (it’s how she hooked Goldblum, I guess), but the movie goes absolutely nowhere.

Eventually, the townsfolk hunt down the Frankenstein monster, leading to the lame climax.

With all the good bad horror spoofs I watched over and over on cable in the 80s when I was a teen, this one simply doesn’t stand out as one of them.

TEEN WOLF (1985)

Revisiting this 80s classic, I determined the modern day TV show reboot is so much better.

Holy crap. Teen Wolf is such a dumb film right from the beginning when Michael J. Fox plucks a mutant hair in a totally nudity free locker room scene. Why even have a locker room scene in an 80s movie if there’s not even going to be some man butt?

Fox begins to show signs of being a wolf. He even, I don’t know…glams an old man at a liquor store with his animal eyes? That’s a new power for a werewolf (well, old now).

Eventually he feels forced to tell his friends he’s a werewolf, beginning with his best buddy Stiles, who says he won’t be able to handle it if Fox is about to reveal he’s a fag. Wow. We really have come a long way in thirty years, and so has Stiles, who loved the gays in the TV show.

Once Fox’s secret is out—which is when we get full Fox shtick—everyone at school begins to exploit his new identity, from his basketball coach to the director of the school play.

There are montages galore, including two “Surfin USA” montages while characters surf on top of a truck, a dance montage at a party, a “Stayin’ Alive” montage while Fox gets ready for his high school dance, a “Big Bad Wolf” dance track montage in the gym, and a cool 80s song montage during the final basketball game, when Fox tears off the shirt of the hot guy on the opposing team…

But none of that goodness can save this from being an unfunny film with a terribly thin plot.

TEEN WOLF TOO (1987)

The only thing I remembered about this movie, which I really haven’t seen since I first watched it at the video store back in the 80s, is that I was thrilled that “Send Me An Angel,” which had only gotten minor exposure on MTV a few years before, was featured in a montage.

Turns out the soundtrack, which also includes tracks by Oingo Boingo, is the best part.

Now I can see why Michael J. Fox didn’t want to do the sequel (let alone the first one). But his dad and one teammate from the first movie return, as does the character of Stiles, although he’s recast here.

Jason Bateman plays Fox’s cousin, who gets driven to college by his uncle (Fox’s dad), where he rooms with Stiles.

And…same plot, only this time he becomes a kick ass werewolf boxer.

The wolf also does a song and dance number to “Do You Love Me” by The Contours and Kim Darby and John Astin have minor roles.

MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE (1987)

The director of early 80s slasher Final Exam gives us a Once Bitten rip-off starring Robert Sean Leonard two years before his biggest movie, Dead Poet’s Society

The soundtrack alone, including songs by Blondie, Oingo Boingo, and Timbuk 3, gives me the 80s nostalgia feels, and overall it’s a charming, lite teen comedy. The locker room sex dream opener that ends in castration by nun hooks you immediately.

Our main boy delivers groceries to a supposedly abandoned house where a beautiful woman greets him. She seduces him, she bites him, and pretty soon he gets an anti-Giles guide who teaches him how to survive as a vampire!

As he discovers all the side effects of vampirism (like his parents assuming he’s gay since he’s acting so shady), he tries to date the Molly Ringwald wannabe he likes in school (classic when he attempts to glam her).

The odd thing is, despite the film’s title, he doesn’t tell his buddy he’s a vamp until 55 minutes into the movie! It’s pretty late in the game considering the buddy’s kidnapping by vampire hunters becomes the focus of the entire final act, with the vampire and his new girl trying to save him.

There’s also a future star spotting—the girlfriend’s mother is Kathy Bates!

THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)

The director of Night of the Creeps brings us a kids’ film that could be the Hocus Pocus of a just slightly younger generation if only it was set on Halloween! To this day I can’t imagine why it wasn’t, especially considering Dracula plots to take over the world by enlisting the help of the Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Luckily, a group of young boys runs a monster club in their treehouse and are the only ones equipped with the knowledge to take on the classic movie monsters.

Naturally the film is adorable and so 1980s in its formula, with a cute dog, an annoying little sister who wants in on the action, a man in a creepy house who ends up becoming an ally, and a bunch of bullies as foils.

There are some notably frightening moments that might freak out little kids. There is also a good amount of cursing and the classic line “Wolf Man’s got nards!”, plus the boys are required to find a female virgin to help thwart Dracula’s plans. I totally just used the word thwart and it felt so good.

As for the soundtrack (they were everything in the 80s), an awesome monster fighting montage is set to a song called “Rock Until You Drop” by Michael Sembello of “Maniac” fame, and an awesomely 80s theme song that’s perfect for a Halloween playlist closes the film.

One final note—in this kid’s movie from 30 years ago, the bullies relentlessly call the monster club kids fags! It’s shocking to think now that the term would’ve been used so freely by kids in a movie for kids as a derogatory attack, even if it was a common slur outside of films in those days.

MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK (1993)

Moving into the 90s, the teen monster trend was nearing its end with My Boyfriend’s Back from the director of Parents.

A young man in love with a girl since he was a kid decides to ask her to the prom after she breaks up with her jock boyfriend, played by pre-Party of Five hottie Matthew Fox…whose buddy is Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Before he can ask her, he dies and comes back as a zombie.

She starts dating him, body parts begin falling off, he learns that he needs to eat people (from undead expert Cloris Leachman, who works her way into every movie), and then he has to try to avoid people in the community who want to kill him again.


Hey Ziggy, if you need a job, The Conners miss you.

It has its moments, but overall, My Boyfriend’s Back is not quite as charming or funny as other teen monster comedies of the period and only succeeds in making me nostalgic for the days when I worked at the video store.

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An indie sequel, a portrait of a serial killer, and an 80s throwback

My latest marathon of a trio of films from the past two years was fairly derivative, making it a rather “been there done that” experience.

THE OUIJA RESURRECTION (2017)

The “sequel” to The Ouija Experiment is an entire meta premise in which the actors from the first film are running a haunted attraction at an old theater after a screening of the film.

The cast may be back, but the Ouija board isn’t—other than a few obligatory moments due to the title. The movie is not about a Ouija board, it’s about some sort of scary, ghostly woman demon that haunts the place.

This is a simple haunted attraction slasher flick with some humor thrown in and some standout scenes. Highlights include a tight homage to Exorcist III and a suspenseful scene involving a guy wearing special glasses (very reminiscent of the Thirteen Ghosts remake).

The freaky woman killer is awesome—and perhaps underutilized, as the movie kind of meanders rather than having a clear-cut trajectory.

Also of note is that there’s an openly gay character, the final girl kicks ass, and director Israel Luna has a cameo as the seller in the ticket booth. This is actually my favorite film in this triple feature (I also own the DVD).

WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER (2017)

I never quite felt compelled to watch this film based on the trailer, and my instinct was right—it just isn’t my thing.

Essentially it’s Psycho meets Maniac…and I’ve already seen those films, so it wasn’t imperative to sit through this one.

A geeky weirdo has a twisted relationship with his mother over video chat. Of course you immediately start to wonder if she’s actually there or if it’s all in his head. Bringing them closer together is some incestuous masturbation and voyeurism. Yay.

The biggest issue with the film is that this pretty girl in the park starts making moves on him despite the fact that anyone could tell just by looking at him that he’s a psycho killer whose mother makes him masturbate for her while she watches.

And there lies his big conflict. Can he fight his mother’s urges to kill so that he can actually have a relationship?

SUMMER OF 84 (2018)

The obsession with the best horror decade ever just won’t stop, even though there’s one blatant fact that makes these throwbacks films virtually pointless…if you want to truly experience what horror was like in the 80s, you should just watch 80s horror.

There are plenty of 80s references—an Asteroids arcade game, GI Joe walkie talkies, Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”, etc.

Plus, the adventures of the group of four main boys capture the spirit of Stephen King’s It, Stand By Me, ET, etc., but the film is unforgivably 105 minutes long, with an excessive amount of time focused on letting us get to know the individual personalities of each boy…which can easily be done in tighter storytelling while they are actually on their adventure, not before.

The film is reminiscent of plots you’ve seen plenty of times before (The Lady in White, Silver Bullet, Death Valley): boys vs. killers.

These kids become convinced a cop who lives next door is responsible for a rash of murders of young boys in town. So they start their own little investigation to prove it’s him.

There are some suspenseful moments, but mostly this film is super slow with not much going on, including no body count…because it’s not a slasher movie. It’s more like a kids’ thriller film. Only in the final act do we actually get to see some murder that will slightly satisfy a horror audience.

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When masked killers target gay subcultures

The gay slasher genre has gotten a good dose of new entries in the past few years, and here are two more to add to my homo horror movies pages.

THE GETAWAY (2018)

Imagine a low budget David DeCoteau indie with a more mature, black, out and proud cast of characters, deliciously explicit gay sex scenes, and an actual slasher plot, and you have The Getaway.

Low budget indie aspect aside, everything else makes this a more enjoyable gay horror experience than the softcore footage DeCoteau slaps together of pretty white boys pleasuring themselves in their white undies…and then markets as horror movies.

The Getaway starts with a super hot sex scene drenched in red horror light, which leads to the first appearance of the masked killer.

The good horror score is a plus, although it is overused in scenes in which it doesn’t really belong, causing it to forget its purpose at times.

Next we meet all our sexy couples. It’s incredibly satisfying to see a bunch of gay couples portrayed as both loving and sexually realized partners.

The couples get invited to a retreat at a house in the woods, where they are welcomed by a REALLY out of place old white man in colonial attire. His presence is a head-scratcher.

For quite a while, the film focuses solely on developing characters and their connections through dialogue driven exposition void of any kills or even cheap faux scare moments, a common indie slasher pacing problem. But it’s worth sitting through to get to the good parts. Actually, the best part.

A gorgeous muscle hunk goes to town on a cutie in a softcore sex scene of fingering…

spanking…

ass eating…

fricking closer ass eating in case we questioned the authenticity…

and pounding…

plus there’s a nice thick cock shot.

I felt like I’d stepped into one of my own sexually charged horror novels all of a sudden. What I’m saying is, despite any flaws, I applaud this film for not wimping out. It’s a gay slasher that revels in what makes gay horror different than straight horror—sexuality.  

The issue even gets addressed in a meta conversation between two characters about the typical portrayals of gay men in TV and film…one of them being oversexualization. The characters might be complaining, but I’m not.

After the sex scene (that I kind of wish was a hardcore porn because it’s that hot), we get into classic slasher territory. What the film lacks in chilling atmosphere, gore effects, or jump scares, it makes up for with crucial staples of the genre—body reveals, chases, a final confrontation, and an unmasking. 

The unmasking monologue is another strong point of the film, as it deals directly with issues of sexuality, particularly those that impact the African-American community.

You can rent The Getaway on vimeo or watch it on Signal23tv.

KILLER UNICORN (2018)

Killer Unicorn is another bold and unapologetic gay slasher that focuses on a completely different gay subculture: drag queens and club kids. 20 to 30 years ago I could see this campy portrayal of club debauchery being an underground cult classic, but these days I’m not so sure it will be as fully embraced by the current climate in our incredibly divided “gay community.”

Killer Unicorn is essentially the antithesis of The Getaway. Whereas that film features assimilated couples quite reflective of many gay relationships today, this one strikes me as a throwback to 1990s gay life, with clubbing, drugging, and promiscuous sex galore (such fun was ruined in New York City when they closed down all the clubs).

This is essentially a full-fledged drag queen slasher, and even those few characters that aren’t in drag are so affected in their behaviors and conversation (it’s strictly nonstop bitchy quips to the point of overkill) it might not quite strike a chord with some gay hardcore horror fans. It’s as gay as a film gets with a side order of horror rather than a horror film that just happens to revolve around gay characters.

But from a gay underground film perspective it perfectly taps into the subversive side of gay culture and sex fetishes, dabbles in the fun of the RuPaul’s Draq Race era, and offers up several montages of drag performances. I saw the film at its New York City premiere, and the audience’s response highlighted just how gay it is. It truly is a gay film meant for gay consumption. Heck, the director even told a story of a screening in which a shocked 90-something old lady said after that it exposed her to a world she didn’t know existed. If you’re making a (im)purely gay film, that’s exactly the response you want…

Along with the fun and games, there are also notable commentaries on urban gay life, including homophobia, dangers of anonymous sex, and the creation of a support system within gay circles. Plus, we get a strong dose of diversity rather than a generic pretty white boy cast.

The film is big on camp, and while there are some intense kill scenes, to me they felt somewhat watered down due to the level of camp. I didn’t always feel a sense of horror or dread as the hot bodied killer in tiny shorts and a unicorn mask offed victims, because I was always anticipating the funny, campy quip or reaction from the victim.

For me, the strongest horror elements come during the major massacre sequence in the final act. The killer chases victims through a labyrinth of eerie halls in the back of a dance club as the lights strobe on and off quite slowly, leaving us in pitch darkness for more than a blink at a time. It’s not only creepy but manages to create quite a disorienting atmosphere. 

Most satisfying of all is that the finale mixes up expectations of the usual slasher formula and gay film formula. For instance, it seems almost predictable that despite this being a film filled with drag queens, the two final boys are non-drag love interests. However, it is the queens who absolutely step it up when it’s time to fight back against the killer.

What surprised me most is that with all the fresh and gory death scenes sprinkled throughout the film, the most obvious weapon is never used: the unicorn horn! This entire film could have taken on a new life if the whole point was that the killer used the horn to do all kinds of unthinkable damage. The horn instead looks like it is made of fabric. For unicorn horn deaths you’ll have to check out CarousHELL. Personally, I’d still watch this one again over that one.

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