STREAM QUEEN: teens in trouble

This mini marathon of flix about kids in peril offers a variety of subgenres, but are any of them worth a watch?

ROADSIDE MASSACRE (2012)

If you’re itching for a backwoods cannibal family slasher but feel like you’ve seen them all,  you still might feel like you’ve seen them all as you watch Roadside Massacre.

Kids road trip through a rural area. They have a convo with an attendant at a gas station. They make a pit stop at a restaurant that is actually run by a family of cannibals using people for meat.

This is the usual case of an aspiring filmmaker essentially just making a copycat of some favorite horror classics (hint: the original title of the film was The Texas Roadside Massacre). However, a) there is one aspect concerning what happens to certain victims that is unique, and b) the film is competently made with some effective scenes, plus likable characters and actors that do a decent job.

The well thought out sequences here make this feel like more than just another low budget hack job, but considering the subject matter, there’s no blood, gore, or grisly scenes. Also, the film is moving along pretty smoothly for a while, but then falls into a repetitive rut of the main girl being captured, escaping, running, and being captured again.

I think the problem is that even with the film running (smartly) just over 80 minutes long, the number of victims is limited, so the cannibals just ran out of things to do!

CRUSH (2013)

No, it’s not The Crush with Alicia Silverstone, but it’s the same kind of fatal attraction, giving it that old 90s thriller vibe.

Lucas Till of MacGyver is the main boy.

His girlfriend is Sarah Bolger of The Lazarus Effect. The weird girl at school who seems obsessed with him is Crystal Reed of Teen Wolf. And even Leigh Whannell of Saw makes an appearance.

This one seems as basic as can be. Weird girl acts weird, people close to main boy start getting hurt.

It even has a mini Misery section. Nothing suspenseful, scary, or gory here. However, it’s the fun little twists near the end that make it stand out from the pack.

DEADLY DETENTION (2017)

I purposely watched this one on Netflix because I heard it was horrible. It managed to defy the odds of me always loving what everyone else hates, because it was awful.

The most obvious group of kids (the bitch, the religious freak and black dude rolled into one, the pretty boy, the outsider edgy girl, the goody goody girl, the geek) gets bused to detention…at an old prison. Holy tough love.

They meet their icy principal there, she locks them in a room, and then we get a bunch of clique banter right out of The Breakfast Club.

The bitch is the only salvageable aspect of this film, giving us a good dose of campy horror comedy with her lines and delivery. All the other characters are uninteresting, except the black Bible dude simply because he comes across as super gay. I can’t believe they didn’t write it into his story.

I guess this is supposed to be somewhat of a comedy slasher considering the characters’ reactions when bodies start piling up are ridiculously unconcerned. I can see why. The killer (who finally shows up 44 minutes in) is barely ominous or threatening and the deaths are tame lame. The laughable dialogue that comes over a loudspeaker threatening the kids is basically someone reciting Jigsaw’s lines from the Saw franchise.

The only good news? The bitch sticks around through the whole film to keep us entertained.

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Give it a rest…stop

Inching closer and closer to completing my goal of blogging about every horror movie in my collection (short of major horror films that have been talked to death), I’m focusing on franchises. So it’s time to take on the Rest Stop franchise, which only scored one sequel.

REST STOP (2006)

Revisiting this one for only the second time in the decade plus that it’s been in my collection, I’d say the best thing about it is the numerous wrenches thrown into an otherwise generic plot.

A young woman runs away from home with her boyfriend, and after an awesome sex scene you just don’t see in horror anymore, they take a pee break at a rest stop.

But when the girl comes out of the bathroom, her boyfriend is gone, and so is their car.

Then an unseen nut in a pickup truck starts to terrorize her. She’s in the middle of nowhere, so it’s a cat and mouse game around the rest stop bathroom and a small parks office.

To complicate matters, a few equally terrorized people show up, which adds a body count, and even Joey Lawrence scores a role in the film.

But the most gruesome scenes come through flashbacks and conveniently accessible videos of the killer torturing victims.

There’s one thing that makes this film stand out—the psycho family in an RV that the main girl encounters, whose matriarch is the sorely overlooked horror queen Diane Salinger (Creature, Dark House, Slay Belles). Her freaky family includes her Bible thumping husband, a couple of psychosexual boy twins, and a deformed little person in a wheelchair. Awesome.

While the family’s appearance is disappointingly not a major plot point, the creators seemed to realize just how compelling they are, because the DVD includes a segment showing us exactly what goes on in their RV when no one is watching. It’s shocking to me that these creeps never got their own full-length feature. Their presence on the DVD is the only thing that made this one—originally an impulse buy—a movie that I kept in my horror collection. What solidified it remaining there was the sequel…

REST STOP: DON’T LOOK BACK (2008)

They’re not the total focus of the film, but the freaky family is back and more concisely woven into the story of the pickup truck nut.

Fully tying into the first film and the freaky family bonus material on the DVD, everything about this sequel is more entertaining—despite it making the backstory an overblown mess.

Seriously, this sequel morphs the story into a backwoods supernatural slasher ghost torture porn that even tosses in some humor. Holy shit, someone deserves a medal for pulling it off.

An absolute god back from serving our country is the brother of the boyfriend from the first movie, who is still missing.

So the god sets out with his girlfriend and goofy buddy to retrace the route his brother and girlfriend took.

Pretty soon the trio gets separated at the rest stop, where they are each terrorized by the pickup nut and the freaky family. But it gets even more insane than that.

The main girl from the first film is back but played by a pretty good look-alike. The original boyfriend is back, played by the same actor.

There’s a gross-out Porta Potty scene, a ghost fuck session, and grisly mutilation and torture in a lair.

And the final battle feels like something out of The Hills Have Eyes. This ridiculous movie saves the series, so it’s unfortunate it never got the sequel the ending promises, especially since the god’s acting career pretty much ended after this film.

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I can’t keep the truth hidden any longer

You know my basic belief—90s sequels destroy 80s classics. Well, revisiting The Hidden movies challenged everything I thought I believed…about the 90s and myself.

THE HIDDEN (1987)

In my mind this is one of the classics my favorite decade—just like every other 80s film.

 

The Hidden has an awesome alternative soundtrack, including music from The Lords of the New Church, Hunters & Collectors, Concrete Blonde, and The Truth. It’s directed by Jack Sholder, who brought us Elm Street 2, Wishmaster 2, and Alone in the Dark 1982. It stars 80s cuties Michael Nouri and Kyle MacLachlan.

And it’s one of the most uninspired, generic sci-fi horror flicks of the decade, with very little sci-fi or horror. It’s actually more action movie. In essence it’s The Terminator with a slug parasite we get to see about twice.

The parasite passes from person to person, and each person commits a bunch of crimes and murders as they go. Nouri is a cop on the case. MacLachlan is his new partner…who also happens to be an alien trying to stop the parasite.

Basically it just jumps from car chase to foot chase throughout the film, with a whole lot of shootouts and a visit to a strip club to solidify that it’s an 80s movie.

Even Danny Trejo is tossed into the mix for a second as…what else? A convict.

And this is a New Line Cinema film so a) keep an eye out for Lin Shaye and

b) it therefore should have been a better horror film.

THE HIDDEN II (1993)

You can fast forward through the first ten minutes of the sequel because it’s literally the last ten minutes of the first film. One star immediately earned because that makes this film only 80 minutes long.

A dog that leaves the scene of the first film’s conclusion now has the parasite, which gives the dog gore from The Thing a run for its money and makes this a better film than the first already.

Sure the plot is mostly the same, but the focus is on lots of slug special effects rather than shootouts. Awesome. Yes, a 90s horror sequel is actually more satisfying than the 80s original.

This time Nouri’s character appears briefly, played by another actor.

15 years haven’t been kind to Michael Nouri

Then the film focuses on his daughter, now grown, teaming up with another alien man to stop the parasite.

They even attend a rave club to solidify that this is a 90s movie…and that’s where a good chunk of sex and parasite horror takes place. Awesome.

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STREAM QUEEN: vamps, a satanic cult, and an anthology

A little gritty, a bit of humor, a bevy of horror scenarios—these may not be for the casual horror fan or those looking for CGI extravaganzas, but this trio of indie films has a little something for every hardcore horror fan.

EKIMMU: THE DEAD LUST (2017)

I really like the old school vibe of this film, even if it goes on a bit too long. Despite being low budget, it actually reminded me of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death for various reasons. Not to mention, the main guy is cute!

A couple on a dark road at night stops to help a creepy young woman in distress. They end up losing her, but after they get home, she reappears.

And then the real 1970s trippy shit begins. This young woman seems to be supernatural, and she starts to fuck with the minds of the couple and turning them against each other. And naturally, that means a lesbian shower scene.

There are also fast, choppy, eerie and disturbing clips that never quite come together in any cohesive way.

You’re never quite sure if there’s a cult, a vampire horde, or if it’s all just a series of macabre hallucinations….

What I’m saying is, you have to be a fan of surreal 1970s horror to really appreciate what the director is going for here.

GRACE’S ROOM (2016)

When a movie begins with a video store and an Asteroids arcade game, I’m in.

From there a group of friends goes to a carnival, does a bunch of meta talk about movies kids their age wouldn’t even know exist, then head to the home of one girl’s uncle to housesit.

This quick and quirky comedy (think of the days of indies like Clerks) starts off strong with a cast that knows how to deliver the humor. And it ramps up when they decide to raid the bedroom of the main girl’s teen cousin…and make some discoveries that are horrific (goat body) and hilarious (a vagina bed).

The initial chaos after they determine the cousin is into something evil is spot on horror comedy, but after they realize they’re being targeted by a satanic cult, things really start to drag and the humor just isn’t sustained. The middle of the movie could have been trimmed by a good fifteen to twenty minutes to tighten it up, because the run time is nearly an hour and forty minutes long!

Grace’s Room needed to get to the confrontation with the cousin sooner.

For a while the situation barely feels like horror, but the cousin’s appearance brings the fun and a witchy good time back to save the faltering film.

LAST AMERICAN HORROR SHOW (2018)

This trio of short films bookended by a wraparound does what we’ve come to expect from many anthologies—it delivers one story that makes the other tales virtually forgettable.

For the wraparound, scream queen Felissa Rose has a first date with horror hunk Marv Blauvelt, and suggests they watch horror movies together. Funny how in anthologies with this basic wraparound premise, the horror films only last about 15-30 minutes long…

1st story – There’s really not a lot going on here beyond this being a home invasion film that ends with violence and gore.

2nd story – The absolute winner of this anthology, this one has a definite Creepshow throwback vibe, right down to some comic book graphics during scene changes. A young boy orders some sea monkeys to raise. What could go wrong? There’s creature POV, a nasty little critter, horror queen Lynn Lowry giving a fabulously campy performance, and horror bear Joe Mannetti shirtless.

A fun interlude focusing on the wraparound features a pizza guy wearing an American Guinea Pig shirt who wants to join in on the horror action. Awesome.

3rd story – After his car breaks down, a dude walks into the wrong bar asking for help. This is like a backwoods horror flick without the woods, as he is subjected to nightmarish captivity by a hungry horde of people.

Finally, the wraparound conclusion adds some bonus horror, which is always a good thing.

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STREAM QUEEN: a double dose of the undead

This was almost a perfect double feature of new zombie films, which is hard to come by these days. Only one flaw has to be strongly overlooked for full enjoyment…

DEAD SQUAD: TEMPLE OF THE UNDEAD (2018)

I never know when I’m going to stumble upon a new favorite movie to add to my DVD collection while streaming. So I can only hope Dead Squad: Temple of the Undead becomes available on physical media.

The average star level of reviews on Prime was low, so I expected a bad SyFy quality movie when I sat down to watch this one with my hubby.

To me, Dead Squad is like the Hatchet of zombie movies. The gore, the over-the-top horror humor, the goofy characters, and the fantastic monster makeup are everything I could ask for in a party zomcom.

You know filmmakers are confident in their effects when they dare to brightly light scenes to capture every detail. I couldn’t get enough of what I was seeing here, and the filmmakers seemed to know that was the case, because once the zombies strike, it just keeps coming.

As a temple movie, Dead Squad is like the universe’s apology to me for tricking me into sitting through that atrocity The Ruins. Ugh. Ten years later and I’m still traumatized by the time lost.

After a Sin City opener (black and white with red accents) set in the mid-1900s introduces us to sinister military experiments, we meet a group of modern day pretty people that goes rafting in the jungle and ends up in an old temple.

Among the group is a guy with a rockin’ bod and a bimbo with a barking bag.

I thought the dog bag and hot boy bod were going to be the highlights, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The zombie freaks are phenomenal, the campy horror humor is delightful, the action fight scenes rule, there’s a twist at the end, and, well, there’s only one more thing I’m going to say…zomBJ…

CALL OF THE UNDEAD (2018)

I grew up on dubbed Euro horror, which was part of its charm, but the dubbing in this film is so horrendous that it mostly ruins what could otherwise be a pretty dang good zombie film.

It has all the gore, awesome zombie makeup, and perverse, nonsensical shit you could hope for in a twisted Asian horror film.

The opening scene is quite Resident Evil, with a woman waking in her car to find a city in shambles, and then being chased through a supermarket by shuffling zombies…that shuffle pretty damn fast.

There’s a mini Zombie Strippers segment with a nasty mob boss, tits, lesbianism, and of course, zombie strippers.

At this point the mob finds that the only way to survive the outbreak is to team up with the law enforcement that comes to raid the club.

Meanwhile, there’s a side story of a disgusting dude who actually looks like a zombie (I didn’t get it).

He abducts pretty young women and keeps them chained up in his basement until he’s ready to rape them.

Told you it’s fucked up. With nonstop action and great zombie sequences—plus that gross sex stuff, which is actually implied and never explicitly presented—this could be a great grindhouse flick if it weren’t for that awfully acted dubbing, which feels completely disjointed from the visual reactions of the onscreen actors. However, Call of the Undead gets bonus points for this distress signal scene…

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LGBTQ…Z?

There’s nothing like cracking open a collection of LGBTQ zombie stories and discovering a good chunk of them are by authors I know! Editor Bill Tucker’s gay zombie horror anthology gathers together 28 tales with plenty of variety in both living dead concept and LGBTQ representation. Here’s a brief teaser of each:

“Stonewall Rising” by Vince A. Liaguno – A reimagining of the night the police raided The Stonewall Inn in 1969.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Die” by Rob Rosen – The military discovers zombies, with a twist.

“Girl World” by Lisa Morton – Two tough lesbians kill zombies…and seek revenge.

“Just the Three of Them at the End of the World” by John Grover – A trio of gay guys preparing for a drag show must escape an apartment building overrun with zombies.

“Still Rolling” by Angelia Sparrow – A lesbian’s stream of thought as she tries to save her bitten wife.

“Unrest in Cowpat” by Stephanie Kincaid – a father’s protest over his gay son’s marriage leads to a clash with zombies in this clever, humorous tale.

“To Please” by Nicholas Alexander Hayes – A changing man wants more than just sex from his partner.

“Til’ The Last Beat” by Clancy Nacht – At a time when marriage is not legal, two men seek help from a mysterious woman, who vows to bond them together eternally.

“Zombie Fiction” by David Dunwoody – Zombie fiction gets meta.

“The Cairn” by Christopher Fletcher – A man keeps his lover, who refused to go for anti-zombie treatment, chained up and undead.

“Unholy Alliance” by Ben Langhinrichs – College kids get a Biblical lesson when zombies invade their dorm.

“Eating Peaches” by Rachel Green – A gay couple starts to turn without realizing it.

“Accepting Death” by Tony Schaab – Blog entries from a gay guy who determines zombies are targeting only a specific group.

“The Duval Crawl” by David E. Chrisom – Gays stuck in a Key West bar with zombies.

“Among the Living” by JR Rodriguez – A man finds out his dead boyfriend’s parents were keeping a secret from him.

“Cocktail Conversation” by Patrick F. Murphy – A proud gay zombie poet has a one-sided conversation with the meal he’s preparing.

“Walk Through The Fire” by Jennifer R. Povey – Transgender woman and the female lover she saved tackle the zombie world.

“ZOMB-malion” by Eric Andrews-Katz – A scientist couple brings a zombie home hoping to domesticate it.

“The Dead Walk in Brooklyn: A Performance Art Piece” by Molly Rydzel – A front row seat to a zombie performance art show.

“Dead Boy Number One” by Quinn Smythwood – The tale of an actual zombie actor.

“Quickened Wood” by Nathan Sims – A warrior on the hunt for an oracle finds himself hunted by the undead.

“World Without Snow” by Jesus Morales – Lesbian love will not be thwarted by zombies.

“Sweetness” by BC Edwards – Examines how it would feel to know you were turning zombie…and how society will allow you to still exist “humanely”.

“Food Chain” by CS Stephens – A world run by zombies who keep humans as pets.

“The Quick and the Undead” by Thomas Farringer-Logan – Lesbians take on the apocalypse.

“Meatbots: A Love Story” by Timothy Capehart – Humans find a way to use the undead to use for cheap labor.

“Humans Being Humans” by Patrick D’Orazio – Gays discover things don’t really change for them even after the zombie outbreak.

“Drag Queen vs. Zombies” by MP Johnson – the title says it all.

The paperback is out of print, so if you want one you’ll have to track down a used copy, but the ebook is still available on Amazon.

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Alpha Wolf vs. The Snarling. Which one will make you howl?

I love me some hairy humor, but one of these two werewolf horror comedies failed to make me laugh until I coughed up a furball, while the other made me laugh until I lifted my leg and peed.

THE SNARLING (2018)

The concept is so much fun. A cast and crew making a zombie film in the woods start getting attacked by a werewolf. Seriously, is it possible to screw up that kind of horror comedy premise?

Even the title is fun here, so I can’t fathom what went wrong, other than what I think did, in my opinion: a) any werewolf fun was left out in exchange for endless dialogue, and b) someone seemed to think that just writing a British comedy with dialogue spoken by British actors would automatically make it British humor gold.

There is barely anything to tickle my funny bone here (not even the two gay guys). The lead character, who is supposed to be an angry pampered film star, is abrasive in his non-stop shouting.

There’s a lot of talking on set. A lot of talking at a pub. And an absurd chunk of time is filled with men reacting to an attack video they’re reviewing. And rather than funny, their comments are basically a play-by-play description of what they’re seeing…but we never get to see!

The most thrilling parts of the film? A reference to actor Danny Dyer, some references to An American Werewolf in London, and the werewolf, which gets maybe two minutes of screen time at the end and at least looks like a costume borrowed from one of the better werewolf movies, such as The Howling or Bad Moon. This probably would have worked better as a short film…or a better long film…

ALPHA WOLF (2018)

I’m a sucker for cheesy werewolf midnight movies, and Alpha Dog is the ultimate. The director of Voodoo Moon brings us a film that simply must be watched at midnight with a bunch of friends, a big bowl of popcorn, and a couple of bottles of Cherry Coke, so you can get high on caffeine and laugh at how bad it is, mostly intentionally (I think).

We see the fully Monty in the opening kill, so there are no surprises here. It’s classic furry werewolf costume stuff, and the gore looks like they picked up a slab of meat at the grocery store and poured ketchup on it.

Casper Van Dien is at his over-the-top laughable best as he comes to a cabin in the woods with his wife and dog. He’s also at his sexy ripped best.

Things get hilarious when the werewolf crashes through their window and bites Casper, who runs off and leaves the dog to defend the wife.

Ah, the dog. I can’t even tell you what happens to the dog without spoiling the brilliantly absurd plot. But I can say his acting is just as bad as everyone else’s. Me and the hubby are very sensitive to scenes of dogs being hurt in movies, but when this pup gets knocked down and lays there with a big doggy smile on his face and his tongue hanging out of his mouth, we burst into laughter.


Hey trainer, I’m playing dead! Can I get that treat now?

Other highlights include sex scenes, a naked guy who shows up at the house and doesn’t exactly speak…um…English, and the most laughable werewolf car trap scene ever, partially because it’s the only werewolf car trap scene ever.

Alpha Dog is so bad it’s too good to be on the SyFy network. It’s definitely the winner of this duo of werewolf horror comedies.

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Critters: back to the beginning

Considering all the recent news of a Critters Shudder show and a new movie for SyFy, it was the perfect time to revisit my box set of the four original films in the Critters franchise. Let’s see just how bad they get as they multiply…

CRITTERS (1986)

It catapults me right back to the 80s when a movie opens with classic New Line Cinema logo that first messed up my world when A Nightmare on Elm Street came out. Naturally that means Lin Shaye also has a minor role in the film.

Critters isn’t exactly the same kind of horror movie, but it is the epitome of 80s cinema. The director of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead delivers a film that first feels like a really bad 80s sci-fi flick, suddenly feels like a genuine creature feature, and inevitably turns into a good old 80s comedy horror.

Critters has it all. Dee Wallace crying at the drop of a dime as the mother, complete with an E.T. in-joke.


Bad Cujo! Down!

Sibling rivalry between the main boy (a young Scott Grimes of Party of Five) and his older sister. Young Billy Zane as the sister’s boyfriend.

Tim Curry clone Terrence Mann, who went from starring in Cats on Broadway to starring in Critters movies for a decade as an alien bounty hunter. He even gets a pop rock music video in the movie.

Most importantly there are…Critters! They’ve escaped from space and are terrorizing a family’s farmhouse. We get Critters POV. They speak in their language and we get subtitles. They grow as they eat people (we don’t really see more than their shadows when they’re big). And they do campy things that would make Gremlins envious (eating firecrackers), and copycat the Ghoulies (cooling off in a toilet).

It’s a total cheesefest and rather dated for a modern audience as a result, but it’s an amazing timepiece. Especially since…it promises a sequel!

CRITTERS 2 (1988)

Veteran horror director Mick Garris handles the second film, which is a classic 80s sequel in that it is basically more of the exact same thing with even more 80s aspects thrown in…like huge tits. I seriously don’t understand why they needed to throw huge tits in.

We also get Eugene from the Grease movies.

Scott Grimes returns, a little bit older and coming back to town to visit his grandmother for Easter. Holy crap, this is an Easter horror flick. I had absolutely no recollection of that, but it official goes on my holiday horror page.

So this guy is selling these big, special eggs he found in his store. Grandma buys them to paint for an Easter egg hunt. You know where this is going. Easter Critters!

The Critters aren’t as funny this time, but they deliver more deaths and blood, a typical staple of 80s sequels. They also don’t grow this time, but they travel by turning into little flying furballs, which is the funniest thing they do this time around.

Terrence Mann and his bounty hunter partner are back, and a lot of the action takes place during the day this time. How else would we get to see the T&A of the new female bounty hunter that joins them…or the poor dude in an Easter bunny costume who gets Crittered in the crotch?

Lin Shaye returns with an expanded role, so she gets to fight the Critters herself, and a Freddy Krueger standee makes a cameo.

CRITTER 3 (1991)

So how do you change up a franchise when moving from the 80s to the 90s? Different location of course!

This time the Critters terrorize a rundown urban apartment building, making this a typical “apartment building terrorized by creatures” movie.

The main dad is a daddy, a young Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the leads, and the Critters shoot there porcupine needles a lot.


Rose! Just grab the stick…I promise, I’ll never let go…

They also have a kitchen raiding scene reminiscent of Gremlins 2. And the only original cast member that appears is Terrence Mann’s sidekick.

Make sure to watch the scene that plays during the closing credits, because Mann makes a short appearance, and it’s a direct setup for the next sequel.

CRITTERS 4 (1992)

When the 90s tried desperately to keep alive a horror franchise that should have been laid to rest, it ironically killed it for good…by sending it into space. Ugh. But I guess after experiencing a religious holiday on earth, the Critters needed to get back to a world of aliens…where smart people know life actually began.

Like just about every spaceship/space station horror flick ever, this is boring as fuck. And don’t tell me Alien movies are an exception, because I’ve never been able to get through one of those. Except Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. That movie rules.

This one picks up right where the last left off…yet it’s suddenly 2045. Brad Dourif, Angela Bassett, and a handful of other men are on a spaceship and land on an abandoned space station.

The film is mostly typical boring space ship crap as in all these movies: monitor watching, lit button pushing, running through halls that all look alike. And honestly, more Critter eggs appear in this film than actual Critters. The only good scene happens to be my favorite attack of the series. One dude gets deep throated by a Critter while entangled in chains. It’s a death that would make Pinhead jealous.

The only other good thing about the final film is the numerous nods to Star Wars.

Plus, Terrence Mann finally returns in the last 20 minutes. Gone is the awesome 80s hair—replaced with the hairstyle all the kids wore on Home Improvement, and he’s now kind of a dick, but he looks more like Tim Curry than ever.

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C, D and E horror from the early 2000-teens

As I near completion of blogging about all the movies in my collection, it was just obvious how I could group these three very different films from 2010 and 2012 into one blog. It’s all about being alphabetically OCD.

CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)

Chernobyl Diaries is one of those movies that bores me until the final amazing act. For starters, how fucking stupid are Americans that we would think going to a town destroyed by radiation is a good idea? Not to mention, who the hell would want to go to Russia…besides Putin-loving Republicans?


Seriously? I wouldn’t put my hands in that shit even without radiation!

Well, this stupid group of friends includes the hottie from Wolf Creek, flash in the pan teen heartthrob pop star Jesse McCartney, one of the cuties from the Friday the 13th remake…and some girls.

As they hop in a van for an extreme tour of the abandoned town, I couldn’t help but feel that this film has a found footage vibe even though it isn’t found footage. But all the boring stuff they do sure makes it feel like it. Most of the film is filled with them touring derelict buildings and encountering lame shit like a bear and wild dogs.

But when they start getting taken by the leftover inhabitants of the town with just 20 minutes remaining, shit gets wild fast!

It’s a nonstop chase from hell through grungy locations while freaky humanoids we never really get a good look at pursue them. It really gives me a Silent Hill vibe. Hell, there’s even a part where one dude finds a map just randomly hanging on a wall. WTF? Can I get a save point, too?


Well, you dumb bitches stuck your hand in the water, so naturally…

This last segment even feels like a linear video game, because no matter how far the survivors run through new locations or how many unexpected turns they make, they somehow keep stumbling upon bodies of their missing friends. How convenient.

DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010)

Based on a comic book series, Dylan Dog probably gets much of its hate from purists. Having never read the comics, I was able to just go with it. And by it, I mean a typical plot—monster hunter with a comic sidekick.

“Superman Returns” plays Dog, another reason this one received a lot of hate. My only issue with him here is that he has just one brief shirtless scene. Well, that and his annoying narration, which makes this feel like a bad attempt at old school film noir mystery.

His sidekick is Josh from Being Human, playing a zombie here instead of a werewolf. He gets all the funny parts, there just aren’t enough of them. Or maybe there are, but they’ve been spread too thin across the way too long 107-minute run time. Should’ve been 88 minutes tops. That’s right, I don’t even give it a full hour and a half. But back to Josh. As funny as he is here, his slapstick shtick borders on being shrill at times. Needed to be toned down a little.

A variety of cool monsters saves the films, including werewolves, vampires, zombies, and a mega zombie. It’s all very Buffy…or very Being Human. Personally, I think it would work better as a SyFy series based on the pacing and cheesy, goofy tone.

Other highlights include Taye Diggs as the king vampire, who is also disappointingly shirtless only briefly, and wrestler Kurt Angle (River of Darkness)…who disappointingly doesn’t get shirtless at all.

And of course there’s the final boss battle, visually comparable to something cool you might see in Van Helsing, The Brothers Grimm, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and other Hollywood monster movies of the early 2000s. In other words, this film was behind its time.

EXCISION (2012)

Take the teen angst of Ginger Snaps, the sexual awakening of Teeth, and the psychotic bitch from May, and you get Excision.

Richard Bates Jr, director of Suburban Gothic, goes for the gross, disturbing, and stylishly artistic with this bizarre film, which may seem immediately jarring because virtually every moment of dialogue delivery is shot head-on, so each character seems to be speaking directly to the camera.

The supporting cast features a bevy of horror and indie faves, including Traci Lords, Roger Bart, John Waters, Ray Wise, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, and even little Ariel Winter of Modern Family.

But it is AnnaLynne McCord (Day of the Dead 2008, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, 68 Kill, Scorned) who carries the whole movie, doing what she seems to do best—playing a psycho bitch from hell. Perhaps her career is overshadowed by her time on the 90210 reboot, but she deserves so much more recognition than she gets, especially in the horror genre.

Her performance is what makes this movie worth watching for me, because this isn’t conventional horror and really leaves me unsatisfied when all is said and done. McCord plays the weirdest girl you’d never want to know in high school. Her morbid obsession with becoming a surgeon makes her an outsider everywhere, from home to school. And she’s not the Carrie type, who you actually feel bad for. She is a straight up psycho not even a mother could love.

In a weird way, not much actually happens in the film beyond her interacting with characters and having gruesome dreams that blend sex and mutilation. The movie incorporates aspects of teen struggles, sexual identity, body image, body horror, and religion into the mind of one single character. Expect some of it to be quite repulsive.

The conclusion is as odd as the rest of the film. Despite her strange behavior throughout the film, it somehow feels like there’s no actual build-up to the extreme thing she suddenly does at the end. And considering that moment just works as an exclamation point on the rest of the film, you almost get this feeling of, “Wait! The horror just started!” and then it’s over.

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A creature feature, a supernatural urban legend, and an anthology

A little bit of everything in this trio of recent films I streamed and watched on cable. Are any of them worth a watch? Let’s find out.

STRANGE NATURE (2018)

Great title for this movie, which is strange in a good way. Reminiscent of eco horror/nature strikes back horror of the 1970s, it has an odd, underlying sense of humor even though it’s a serious film.

And even though it’s a slow burner and not significantly in-your-face horror until the last 15 minutes or so, the likable characters and slow unfolding of bizarre events sucks you in.

A woman comes back to her small hometown with her son to be there for her father. The place is loaded with rednecks, including hottie John Hennigan with a mullet sent from heaven. This dude is apparently a former Survivor contestant and wrestler.

Main actress Lisa Sheridan (of the short lived series Invasion) has a great dry delivery, and reminds me strongly of Mary Steenburgen, and her quirky father rox…probably because he’s the funny dude who was trapped in the building across the way in the Dawn of the Dead remake. Dad ends up helping daughter when she becomes determined to find out why deformed frogs are growing in number in the area.

Here immediate obsession as soon as she arrives, along with her back story—which is so far from scientific it makes her obsession even more bizarre, are exactly what make the movie so weird and keeps you watching. That and a couple of “attack” scenes that suggest something is out in the wilderness and preying on people like Tiffany Shepis in a cameo…

The leading lady goes through all the usual research and investigation to figure out what is causing the deformities. Meanwhile, mutilated animals are being found, people are disappearing, and eventually the townsfolk start getting affected by the situation.

It all leads up to a thrilling but way too short creature feature segment at the very end. And even though it’s short, it’s worth the wait for all the retro horror fun, gore, and practical monster effects.

SLENDER MAN (2018)

You have to know what you’re in for when you watch a Hollywood tween horror flick based on an urban legend soon after a shocking case revolving around the legend hit the news. If you don’t know, then you really shouldn’t bother criticizing the film, because it does exactly what it’s supposed to do to spook its target audience.

Really, Slender Man is just another take on the popular plot of teens being stalked by a boogeyman that haunts their dreams and then their reality. It’s impossible to ignore the similarities to the Freddy Krueger legend, with a good dose of The Ring thrown in.

Teen girls hear about Slender Man, they watch a creepy online video to summon him, they start disappearing one by one, the survivors scramble to figure out how to stop him. Tale as old as horror.

Most of the film is fun and eerie, with some great suspense scenes, including a library attack and a girl receiving a video call that shows the perspective of Slender Man as he enters her house and heads for her room. EEK!

It’s when the remaining girls are onto him in the final act that things just get too sloppy and chaotic, which is usually the case with this type of film. It ruins the movie. Slender Man even turns into, well, Spider Slender Man…

Not to mention it leaves a major plot hole concerning one girl who never died but just disappears from the script completely while in less than normal shape.

WELCOME TO HELL (2018)

The wraparound of this anthology looks as low budget as it gets, with a couple sitting in what appears to be an actual home, trying to figure out what to watch on TV when a video tape suddenly drops through their mailbox. Hmm…where have I seen this wraparound before?

As for the stories, they also all feel low budget, and some of them seem like incomplete concepts.

1st story – This is nothing more than something you’d find on YouTube—a thrown together plot leading to a nonsensical final scare. Horror king Bill Oberst Jr. plays a detective, but the role could have been given to anyone, because he spends most of his time sitting at a desk for way too long doing nothing but silently pondering his case.

2nd – This is basically an homage to Argento and an excuse to place two lesbians in a Suspiria setting.

3rd – Wow. This one impressed me simply because it dares to go for the totally subversive. It’s an entirely controversial plot about parent/child incest and murder.

4th – A dialogue heavy short about a support group for people affected by a zombie outbreak. There’s also a zombie baby that looks like the kind you buy at the Halloween store in October, perhaps just covered in a sticky gel.

5th – about a guy with a gun in the woods.

6th – Notable for starring a handful of b-horror faves, including Marv Blauvelt and Felissa Rose, this is truly the most horror classic of the bunch, as a group of hunky guys try to cover up the murder of a woman and get monstrous payback.

As for the conclusion of the wraparound, no one even bothered to put any thought into it. I was kind of dumbfounded.

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