Careful what you wish upon and don’t hang up or your call could go viral

In honor of teens fucking rocking our world right now, I decided to watch a bunch of mainstream flix about teens…getting killed. Hey, it’s a horror site, what do you want from me? Now on to Don’t Hang Up, Viral, and Wish Upon.

DON’T HANG UP (2016)

The opening scene of Don’t Hang Up puts an intense twist on the When A Stranger Calls concept…

And then we meet our very cute, total asshole leading boys. That’s right, there’s barely a girl in this film, let alone a main one…although the poster art most favored for marketing is one showing a woman on a phone.

Amazing how afraid of males the horror market is.

Our two male leads get their kicks prank calling people, recording it, and then posting the audio to their online video channel for viral fame.

 Now that’s what I call phone sex.

One night when one kid’s parents are away, they decide to have some fun. But then THEY start getting calls…from someone who knows what they do, can see they’re every move, and has video showing exactly what will be done to the ones they love if they don’t do exactly what they’re told (like hanging up).

The reverse When a Stranger Calls is suspenseful enough, there are plenty of twists, and the caller deliciously teaches these assholes a lesson that involves turning them against each other to survive (it’s like the home edition of Saw—fun for the whole family!).

However, the entire premise sort of completely falls apart due to the fact that these kids play really cruel pranks, post the videos online without ANY anonymity (they literally laugh and mock the victim on camera), yet we are supposed to buy that they’ve never paid any consequences until now.

It’s a major detail you really have to digest if you’re going to enjoy the film for what it is.

VIRAL (2016)

The directing team of the awesome thriller Nerve and Paranormal Activity 3 and 4 brings us a teen parasitic worm/zombie film that is confoundingly slow before finally getting to the good stuff in the last 20 minutes or so.

Our main girl is a regular teen just going about her day. Conveniently, her dad teaches a class on parasites at school. Next thing you know, the town is under quarantine and she and her sister are stuck at home with the sister’s boyfriend while her father is inconveniently out.

No supervision means—party time! There’s an okay suspense scene in which a crazy infected kid infiltrates the party the girls go to, but then they end up back at home, this time with a guy the main girl likes.

However, the movie is more about the relationship between the two sisters, which plays out most intensely when the horror itself becomes most intense in the final act.

Crazies bust into the house, wormy things come out of their ears, and the sisters have to make extreme decisions to stay alive using the knowledge they’ve gained from their father on parasites.

 

WISH UPON (2017)

The director of Wolves at the Door and Annabelle offers up a straightforward tale of the price you pay for getting what you wish for.

A not-so-popular teen is still haunted by the loss of her mom to suicide. She spends her days fending off the high school bitches while also trying to avoid being embarrassed by her quirky dad, who likes to dig through other people’s trash, but happens to be hot (because he’s Ryan Phillippe).

When garbage picking scores the teen a mysterious box, she soon discovers it will grant her wishes. Like any teen, she wishes for awesome stuff, like returned affection from a crush, popularity, money…

But then she starts to notice a trend; every time she gets her wish, someone suffers a gruesome death. When she calls on her limited number of friends to help stop the madness, it’s impossible not to notice that this film takes a rather hokey turn into Final Destination territory.

What I’m saying is, it sure is fun even if it’s not a masterpiece. I just wish it had the guts to, well, show the guts. It’s not gory at all. Just a splash of blood here and there.

It does happen to have a cool soundtrack featuring plenty of modern wave artists like The Wayfarers, Hey Violet, and Royal Cinema.

 

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What in 80s hell?

Sometimes you just need to take a trip back to the 80s, when we watched fucked up movies loaded with violence, sex, and gore, didn’t have God or prayer in school…yet never shot up our classmates. Having said that, it’s time to delve into the rape and dismemberment in these four from the innocent 80s. 

DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE! (1980)

 dont answer the phone cover

Beyond the psycho killer in this film being beary hunk Nicholas Worth, I was never a fan. While its VHS popularity scored on both the “Don’t” title and slasher crazes of the early 80s, it really just epitomizes the sleazy city rape/murder movies that led the transition from the 1970s to the 1980s. And it’s about as cliché as it gets.

dont answer the phone killer hunk

We know who the killer is all along. He works out shirtless and shows signs of religious fanaticism. See, in the 80s horror educated us properly—beware God lovers and religious freaks because they’re the true psycho killers and rapists.

dont answer the phone bondage

The killer is briefly profiled as having mommy issues. He’s a photographer who uses that as a way to lure female victims into modeling for him. He wears a stocking over his face. He strangles his victims.

dont answer the phone daddy

There are two detectives on the case. Their big cheesy scene has them going to a whore house and laughing at the various prostitutes and johns that run out for fear of a raid…including this big queen…

dont answer the phone queen

There’s also a female radio psychologist who ends up becoming involved in the case.

dont answer the phone radio reporter

Her big scene is when the killer has a chick he just fucked call her and then kills the chick while she’s live on the air.

dont answer the phone prostitute

Meanwhile, the film attempts to be “scary” by giving us killer POV and heavy breathing during kill scenes. But just like Maniac, another 1980 sleazefest, sudden shifts to this POV fail to create suspense considering we already know who the killer is while having no connection to the women who come on screen just to serve as victims.

dont answer the phone handcuffs

Meanwhile, this is the only time a victim ever answers a phone in the movie, and clearly it’s not the killer on the other end. The movie should have just been called, Don’t Be a Woman.

dont answer the phone phone call

Nicholas Worth really is the best part of the film. Aside from his endless shirtless scenes, he also plays a dominant pervy daddy so perfectly you kind of wish he was starring in a porn, not a horror movie in which he horribly assaults and kills women. He also delivers a monologue loaded with derogatory racial slurs and sentiments, proving good Christians never change.

PANIC (1982)

 panic cover

This is just good old early 80s cheesy sleazy Euro horror. The monster parts are fun, everything in between is boring.

As always, a science experiment goes horribly wrong. A scientist is disgustingly mutated and hits the streets to terrorize a city in the shadows of the night.

panic sex couple

He kills random people: a couple having sex in a car; a woman in a shower; a priest and all his, um, choirboys; and a woman in a movie theater who makes the mistake of stepping into Argento lighting.

panic argento lighting

Cops and detectives are on the case, giving us the really slow parts, and eventually track the monster to the sewer tunnels for the final confrontation.

panic monster

Nothing original here. Just watch it for the slimy monster and the kills.

SEEDING OF A GHOST (1983)

seeding of a ghost cover

As odd as this Asian flick is, and considering its title means exactly what it implies, I found it to be slow and long-winded as it moved towards its eventual zany finale.

seeding of a ghost seeding

After a taxi driver gives a ride to an old man being chased by authorities for digging up graves, we get a drawn out love affair between two married people. Why the chick is fucking the guy is beyond me, because her husband—the taxi driver—is super sexy.

seeding of a ghost leading man

The wife is then gang raped and murdered, so the taxi driver husband seeks the old man’s help in exacting revenge with black magic. The long, weird, drawn out ritual using her corpse causes all the guys in the gang to experience horrible visions before being killed, often with a messed up sexual component involved.

seeding of a ghost dead wife

In the momentous, weird climax, the leader of the baddies gets the nastiest payback during his pregnant wife’s labor. You feel kind of cheated by everything that came prior to this scene, because none of it lives up to this insanity.

seeding of a ghost monster

SLEDGEHAMMER (1983)

Sledgehammer cover

Since I recently blogged about Zombie Wars, a new millennium flick from Killer Workout director David A. Prior, I thought I’d dig out his very first, direct-to-video film for this 80s blog.

It’s hand-cam and super synths in the opening scene as a mother angrily locks her kid in the closet so she can cheat on her husband with her boy toy. We all know what becomes of little boys who get forced into the closet because of the sin of sex in 80s horror movies—but you can’t imagine how cheesy slo-mo gory good it is unless you lived through the 80s.

sledgehammer headbash

This is as indie as it gets, from the corny moments when the sledgehammer makes contact with no oomph whatsoever to the ridiculously long still shots in between scenes of the house in which the action is taking place.

Ten years later, we meet a group of friends doing a party weekend at the house.

sledgehammer pants fall

Out from a van pops a load of beefy boys, including one shirtless muscle head and a delicious slab of dumb hairy beef I’m absolutely in love with.

After a hilarious montage of the muscle boy and his woman walking through a field to sappy music, the gang goofs around. There are pranks, beer drinking, food fights, and my slab of dumb hairy beef queening out.

sledgehammer gay games

sledgehammer butch bend

Then they decide to have a séance…

The muscle boy recounts the story of the intro kill—so we see it again to fill time—and then everyone goes off to have sex…

sledgehammer man ass

…and to get killed off by a masked dude wielding a sledgehammer.

sledgehammer killer mask

The set is super low budget—just empty rooms with the minimal furniture and totally bare hallways. And once the kids realize they are being killed off, well, they all go to sleep!

sledgehammer hanging guy

Except the slab of dumb hairy beef.

sledgehammer butch with knife

He roams around the house with a knife and soon lets us in on the weird twist…people can be teleported into a locked room, where they get to meet the little boy from the closet.

sledgehammer butch back 2

It is fricking hilarious when the little boy bitch slaps the muscle boy. It’s even more hilarious when the little boy begins to grown and stretch to morph into the killer.

sledgehammer mask POV hunk

There is eventually a final girl, but it’s the muscle boy who saves the day…while shirtless, of course.

sledgehammer hunk with hammer

I fricking love the 80s.

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Rounding out my Zack Ward horror viewing experience

zack ward beard

A couple of recent films super handsex…I mean, handsome…Zack Ward appeared in and also helped create have been on my “to see” list for a while. They finally hit Prime, igniting my OCD. So I checked out any and all horror films he’s been in that I hadn’t yet seen. That only amounted to two other films, both of which were also on Prime! So let’s get to these four, taking it chronologically.

THE CLUB (1994)

club 1994 cover

The Club is like a cross between a Full Moon film and Night of the Demons. In other words, a great gothic set is wasted on a lot of silly nonsense…and also used perfectly for some awesome demon scenes. Ah, mid-90s horror.

club 1994 candles

We are dropped right into the middle of a pretty damn amazing prom. It’s like something out of The Masque of the Red Death. The kids are all having their own personal dramas, and Zack in particular is a total dick, not having yet escaped his Scut Farkus past.

club 1994 urinal

Then the totally inappropriate guidance counselor (horror veteran Kim Coates) clashes with a mysterious outsider, causing time to stand still and most of the students to disappear, leaving a handful trapped in the building. The mysterious outsider begins to mess with their minds, subjecting them to supernatural experiences.

club 1994 cast

The problem is, most of the time we don’t see shit! Honestly, I had no idea exactly what these kids were running and screaming from for a majority of the film. Eventually, the mysterious outsider, played by actor JH Wyman (Prom Night IV) camps it up fantastically as he reveals his evil intentions.

club 1994 tongue

This is also when Zack goes totally demon…and shirtless! Linnea Quigley’s demon tits have nothing on Zack’s. Someone hand me the lipstick.

club 1994 demon zack

I can’t believe how long it takes for someone to turn demon, how extreme the demon design goes, how awesome a demon role reversal twist is…and that the film does not stick with a clear, concise demon concept.

club 1994 demon chick

Instead, it’s the usual convoluted 90s mess of uneven tone, terrible pacing, and schizo narrative.

END OF THE ROAD (aka: 1,2, 3…Scream!) (2011)

endof the road cover

End of the Road was on my “to see” list for ages and never seemed to hit any streaming service. Little did I know it was on Amazon Prime…under the title 1, 2, 3…Scream!

Consider this one a bonus in this blog because Zack is only in the opening scene…for about 2 minutes. He plays Zack playing a role in a movie being shot. I so want to lick that red-dyed corn syrup off his head.

end of the road zack

The rest of the movie is about a couple of guys from that film set who head off to work on a ghost hunter reality show at a supposedly haunted house.

end of the road house

Honesty, it’s hard to even call this a horror film.

end of the road ouija

After boring introductions of all the characters staying in the house, the movie is about a crazy person on the show’s crew forcing them at gunpoint to exploit tragedy to make the show a hit.

end of the road shot

What I’m saying is, there are no ghosts in this film. It’s lame. It’s really lame. The twist ending isn’t enough to save it.

RESTORATION (2016)

restoration cover

For this ghost film, Zack gets behind the camera (sure wish I was a camera), but he also has a role in the film. However, he isn’t the lead. He’s just the neighbor of the main couple that moves into a new home.

restoration zack couple

Zack and his wife are the welcome wagon and give the couple some minor background on what happened in the house before they moved in. But there’s more to the story, which the couple learns from a little girl’s diary they find in the walls.

restoration ghost girl

The little girl starts to appear to them. They both start to snap. Their marriage becomes strained. They research the history of the house. They visit a crazy old lady in a home who may shed some light on the sinister truth.

restoration crazy lady

It all seems about as derivative and predictable as these supernatural/haunting films get…but then come the twists.

restoration mask

Restoration even steps into home invasion territory and gets surprisingly violent!

restoration mouth knife

Plus, Zack, whose role was minimal throughout the film, takes charge to amp up the intensity of the final act, which elevates this one above the heap of forgettable films about young couples moving into haunted homes.

restoration zack

BETHANY (2017)

bethany cover

Zack is the co-writer of Bethany with the film’s director, James Cullen Bressack (of To Jennifer fame). Zack seems to be on a role, making seemingly generic haunted house flix that take wickedly fucked up turns at the end.

bethany couple

This time, Zack is the leading man, moving with his wife into her childhood home. His wife is played by Stefanie Estes (The Chosen, Slit Mouth Woman in LA, Apocalypse LA, The Bunnyman Massacre). She suffers from some serious PTSD being back in the house.

bethany wife face morph

Memories of her mentally abusive mother (played by Shannon Doherty) haunt her. And freaky hallucinations and supernatural occurrences convince her that her imaginary childhood friend Bethany is somehow manifesting in the house.

bethany face

A majority of the horror comes down to the usual—visions the wife has of things that aren’t really there, from bugs in food to Grudge girl rip-off territory.

bethany ceiling crawlOh, fuck me on a crawl space ceiling…

But it’s important to pay attention to the slowly building backstory of her childhood as shown in flashbacks and visions, because it all comes together when the really fucked up truth comes out.

bethany ghost choke

Just as in Restoration, Zack delivers a great performance that magnifies the intensity of the final act. What I’m saying is, Zack always gives me a happy horror ending.

zack naked

While we all contemplate why Zack hasn’t made a CHRISTMAS horror movie yet, here are a bunch of other Zack flix I’ve blogged about:

Alone in the Dark II

Blood Lake

Dark House

The Devil’s Tomb

Don’t Blink

 

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I heard the Slit-Mouthed Woman was in LA, so I had to pay her a visit

The output of Slit-Mouthed Woman movies in the past decade fascinates me as much as the legend itself. I think 2007’s Carved: A Slit-Mouthed Woman, which I already blogged about, is the original film. There is one from 2008 called Slit Mouth Woman that I’ve not found yet, but from what I’ve read, it’s like softcore porn with killings in between. There’s also a 2008 prequel to Carved called The Slit-Mouthed Woman 0: The Beginning, which I have yet to track down. However, after stumbling upon the 2014 film Slit Mouth Woman in LA, which apparently isn’t an official sequel to anything, I discovered that 2008 also brought the sequel to Carved, which is called The Scissors Massacre (aka: A Slit-Mouthed Woman 2), so I checked that one out, too. Essentially, every film could be considered a “sequel,” because none of them are connected beyond the legend of the Slit-Mouthed Woman.

A SLIT-MOUTHED WOMAN 2 (The Scissors Massacre) (2008)

slit mouthed woman 2 cover

While my biggest complaint about Carved was Slit-Mouthed Woman overkill that made her less scary as the film progressed, this sequel reverses that problem. She’s barely in it at all!

The story focuses on a popular high school girl who lives with her dad, mom, and two sisters on a farm. One night, a twisted tragedy leaves the girl with a facial deformity.

slit mouthed woman 2 mouth stab

The movie spends a whole lot of time dealing with her sense of misery and isolation as she is shunned by everyone at school.

slit mouthed woman 2 main girl mask

She keeps her face hidden behind a mouth mask, and her home life spirals downward as the whole family feels the repercussions of the tragedy.

slit mouthe woman 2 in house

The girl starts getting glimpses of a scary woman in red. It’s Slit-Mouthed Woman! Plus, a rash of brutal murders rocks the town. Too bad we don’t see any of them happening.

slit mouthed woman 2 murder

The most disturbing and creepy part of this film comes near the end, when a really messed up twist demonstrates just how much the girl has in common with Slit-Mouthed Woman. It’s just disappointing that all the fun was packed into the last few minutes.

SLIT MOUTH WOMAN IN LA (2014)

slit mouth woman in la cover

Supposedly an Asian horror creation, this film is soooo American. It’s entirely in English aside from a few subtitled moments with a few characters, and it stars blonde, blue-eyed Lauren Taylor from the Disney show Best Friends Whenever…yet did this horror movie before being on that show. Girl, you’re going backwards in your career.

slit mouth woman in la the woman

This film delivers great freaky encounters with Slit-Mouthed Woman right from the start. The main girl is having nightmares about her…and seeing visions of her. Conveniently, her older sister’s college professor is an expert on the legend, so he comes over to talk about its power to cause actual murders…along with the many other Asian urban legends that have the same effect!

And with that, this odd movie becomes an anthology of sorts. And half the shorts are comedic in tone! What the frick? It sure is entertaining, but I didn’t see it coming. Each of the stories is supposedly a nightmare that the main girl has:

—3 dudes get embroiled in a lesbian love triangle curse…and a dead girl comes back to get them.

slit mouth woman in la scared guys

—A mystic/martial arts guy comes to LA from Asia to track down the Slit-Mouthed Woman, and battles a wizard dude who turns people into zombies. WTF?

slit mouth woman in la wizard guys

slit mouth woman in la martial arts

—The longest story in the bunch is pretty fucked up. A guy helps a dude stranded on the road, so the dude insists he come home with him for dinner…and to meet his sister. The sister is a long-haired weirdo, and before long she and the brother are terrorizing the guy and his girlfriend. This one definitely delivers the most intense horror of the trio.

slit mouth woman in la ghost girl

The return to the “wraparound” about our main girl Lauren Taylor takes a really good turn involving the Slit-Mouthed Woman. This silly mess of a film is probably my favorite of the three I’ve seen so far. But I have to wonder who the hell thought it was good idea to have the closing credits roll to this totally out of place pop ditty by star Lauren Taylor.

 

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Everyone’s going to a cabin in the woods…except the deadly doughnuts

This foursome delivers a whole range of humor and horror, and I liked them all for different reasons. 3 of them take place at cabins in the woods and, well, the doughnut flick is just dessert.

KILL ME NOW (2012)

Director Travis Long and writer Michael Swaim (also a star of Kill Me Now), smartly change up the approach to slasher comedies.

The setup is familiar—kids head to a cabin in the woods for a party weekend and are soon hunted down by a psycho…the driller killer! 

We get plenty of shenanigans as the jerks in the group antagonize the two main guys they didn’t invite.

The cast delivers on the comedy, and what’s so refreshing is that the film doesn’t distract with any pointless horror icon cameos.

This is a cast of relatively fresh faces.

Um, I wouldn’t be sticking that out the window with a killer on the prowl.

At least, they were fresh faces when the film was made. It can be credited for featuring the likes of Saturday Night Live regulars Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney “before they were stars.”

But my favorite performance here is by the killer! Actor Brett Fancy is not your usual meanie in a mask. He’s a cool, calm, and collected serial killer whose patience is truly tested when he comes up against this group of goof-offs.

There lies the brilliance of the script. This isn’t a predictable spoof of slasher clichés. Instead, nothing goes as planned for the killer simply because the kids react in totally unexpected ways to their situation, as in, not at all the way they do in slashers.

There is no “final” anyone smart or capable enough to outwit the killer, which means the killer is always being bombarded by surprises and never prepared for what the kids might do next, thereby turning the slasher and slasher comedy formulas on their heads.

ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE (2014)

 

Little did I know when I recently blogged about the killer asshole short “Roid Rage” in the anthology Minutes Past Midnight that it was by the director of All the Devils Are Here, which has been on my “to see” list for a while.

Considering what a gross out situation “Roid Rage” is, I’m surprised at how straightforward this film is as a sort of zomcom with a touch of The Descent above ground.

A group of friends—complete with this hunk—comes to a cabin in the woods.

At the same time, a couple of convicts escapes a transport van after an accident.

As the zombies slowly begin to creep into the town, the cabiners and convicts eventually have to collude harder than Trussia to not only stop people who have turned zombie, but to stop freaky naked humanoids that come from the woods and surround the cabin.

All the Devils Are Here delivers an 80s style score, some early zombie attacks, awesome 80s gay club songs like “I can’t Get Enough” by Prime Time and “Shot in the Night” by Robert Parker, and great modern wave by Lesands.

 

 

 

However, it also takes a surprisingly long time to really get going. But once it finally does, it is my kind of fast-paced, comedy-monster-gore fun.

And actor Doo-Doo Brown, who plays one of the convicts, absolutely steals the show, delivering comedy like nobody’s business.

Actually, porn star dale DaBone also steals the show. He may have been a straight porn star, but he sure looks like a natural in this position.

And he even arches his back when surrounded by guys…

ATTACK OF THE KILLER DONUTS (2016)

If memory serves me correct, this is probably my favorite spoof since Killer Piñata.

Thanks to the title, you already know what you’re getting before watching. A mad scientist’s chemical accidentally gets into the fryer at a local doughnut shop where his nephew works. His nephew happens to be one of my horror hottie crushes, adorable and funny Justin Ray (Club Dead, Apocalypse LA, Crush the Skull).

Pretty soon, doughnuts are bouncing and rolling around town attacking people.

Meanwhile, anyone who munches on a one before it animates suffers a serious stomach problem…toxic green goop shooting out both ends! Ew!

What elevates this contribution to the inanimate-objects-come-to-life-to-kill genre is the cast. Everyone plays it totally straight despite the concept, delivering the comedy perfectly while battling doughnuts with gnashing teeth.

Justin Ray is joined by his best buddy and the cute girl who works at the shop with him, plus there are two cops pulled into the massacre, one of them being C. Thomas Howell. He’s been preparing for a role this terrifying since The Hitcher.

Goofy comedy abounds, but for me the scene that takes the cake—sorry, I mean, doughnuts–is when the lead characters arm themselves with kitchen utensils and manage not to burst out laughing as people off screen pelt them with a never-ending supply of doughnuts.

TONIGHT SHE COMES (2016)

I find many of the most entertaining indies these days are the ones in which the filmmaker tosses various horror inspirations in a blender to create a movie that spices up familiar flavor with a dash of WTFery.

They also happen to be the types of movies that lead less versed horror viewers to say uninformed shit like “this movie tried to be Friday the 13th but failed miserably.” For the record, kids staying at a cabin by a lake does not validate such an accusation in any way. Otherwise, Zombeavers are Jason wannabes.

Here, we’re introduced to some guys and girls on the way to a cabin in the woods. The quirkiness is made clear from the start—these are some odd and edgy characters, not your usual cookie cutters, from some nasty period talk between the girls to a dude who jerk offs at the drop of a….well…dead body.

Their weirdness heightens the weirdness going on around them. The friend they came to see isn’t there, so they can’t get in the cabin. There’s killer POV as someone watches them. There’s an awesome 80s style score. Things seem out of the ordinary (like a sudden odd scream in the woods), yet the kids just ignore it and go on having fun.

But then their missing friend appears…naked…bloody…and carrying a sharp object. The surreal and creepy tone definitely has you braced for the unexpected, but after a few minutes of the shit hitting the fan, the movie detours into a whole new level of wackiness.

New characters are introduced and the tone shifts into campy and wickedly tasteless territory as the kids delve into the occult to stop the supernatural madness.

Even with all the gore and gross outs, I will say this segment drastically slows down the pace the film had been building towards, so it takes some adjusting to get into the new groove. Once you do, it all clicks again and you can ride the film out to the end in this new “zone” it has entered.

 

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DIRECT TO STREAM: 2 from Sevé Schelenz

The horror career of director Sevé Schelenz is still in its infancy, but I figured I’d cover his first two films because they’re so completely different from each other, which always gets me to pay attention to a director’s output. So here’s a quick look at found footage flick Skew and zombedy Peelers.

SKEW (2011)

It’s not unusual these days for directors to break into the horror genre with found footage films. But having watched Peelers first, I can tell you, Schelenz is so much better than this film would have you think.

As a low budget found footage film, it checks off all the boxes. Friends go on a road trip, heading for a wedding. They have a camera and film everything. There’s interpersonal drama, but they also keep experiencing weird shit, like hitting a coyote on the road, witnessing a car accident, and being present when someone gets shot during one of their stops.

Then the guy filming starts to not only see people with fucked up eyes appearing only through his lens but not in the real world, he also sees the faces of actual people getting all warped on camera; think the photos of people taken in The Ring.

Everything starts off engrossing and intriguing enough, but honestly, nothing comes together here—or perhaps the deeper meaning is a bit too abstract to come across within the narrative limitations of a found footage film. It’s never quite clear why all this strange shit is happening or why the characters lose their shit in the usual “shocker” scenes at the end. Were these camera apparitions ghosts, demons, or angels of death? Is possession involved? Why are these kids targeted/victims? Not sure.

With so many found footage films out there and so few of them actually worth watching, Skew is a perfect example of why directors who are clearly much better than this trendy subgenre should go straight for making the kind of movie they are more than capable of pulling off. Like Peelers, for instance…

PEELERS (2016)

When the premise for Peelers was established in the first few minutes—a chick is about to lose her strip club to a greedy asshole—I was like, “Holy shit! It’s Burlesque with zombies!”

In a way, Peelers is a better-controlled version of Zombie Strippers. While that film was loads of trashy fun, it kind of runs away with itself in its effort to be totally over-the-top.

Peelers, on the other hand, is perfectly trashy (squirting and queefing strippers, for instance), but we get stronger main characters as well as very distinct zombies.

Some are characters in their own right, because these nasty fuckers are smart and even use weapons to do some disgusting damage! So shit gets quite personal as they hunt down our heroes.

The gore is great, the guys are hot, the girls kick ass, and the action never lets up once the first zombie starts puking up nasty black shit in the restroom

Peelers immediately got added to my “must add to my collection” list. hell, it even managed to deliver a female lap dance scene that had some action I could enjoy.

My only criticism…this guy never takes his short off.

Which is why I’m just going to have to check him out in the David DeCoteau film Evil Exhumed.

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STREAM QUEEN: back to the woods

I never know what I’ll run into in the woods, so that’s why I keep going back for more (but only in horror films). Let’s see what I encountered this time.

AMERICAN BIGFOOT (aka Kampout) (2017)

american bigfoot cover

I get that someone like cutie Zach Galligan of Gremlins needs to take roles to stay relevant in the horror industry (and until Gremlins 3 is made), but more often than not, indie filmmakers offer familiar faces roles in less than stellar movies.

american bigfoot guys

American Bigfoot is an agonizing 93 minutes long. I don’t even know if cutting it down to 65 minutes would have helped.

american bigfoot little bigfoot

After we initially see an oddly innocent looking Bigfoot in full (sort of looks like caveman makeup) the first hour of the film is just endless scenes of white trash and rednecks, from hunters to military dudes.

american bigfoot arm off

Virtually nothing of any value happens. It’s torture. Finally one white trash dude shoots a Bigfoot. Another Bigfoot abducts a kid. Zach Galligan is the sheriff on the case. Clint Howard is a scientist. There’s a really hot park ranger.

american bigfoot kids

With only 30 minutes to go, a group of camping kids is introduced. WTF? That’s barely enough time to do drugs and have sex! When Bigfoot attacks, Zach and crew attempt to come to the rescue. But don’t expect any sort of concrete conclusion to the film. It ends with everyone still stuck up in the mountains and Bigfoot still out there. WTF?

WILD MEN (2017)

wild men cover

This mockumentary Bigfoot hunting reality show found footage horror comedy is one of so many these days demonstrating that simply filming your footage and having your actors deliver their lines to the camera in the style of The Office does not make it brilliant comedy. The humor actually has to start with the written dialogue.

wild men monitors

Indeed, it’s another 90 minutes of Bigfoot comedy to struggle through. However, unlike American Bigfoot, I do think Wild Men may have worked a bit better if it were drastically edited. There are some funny, quirky moments here, they are just way too far apart to keep the momentum going, and the film starts to drag.

wild men blurred man

wild men menkiss

The plot focuses on a reality show crew that heads into an area known for lots of Bigfoot activity. They interview the locals, they head to a cabin where a Bigfoot incident supposedly took place…and they set up fake Bigfoot discoveries.

wild men fake encounter

Meanwhile, rogue crewmembers decide to sabotage the show and expose it as a fraud by planting more fake evidence to make the others think there really is a Bigfoot.

wild men body hang

It just doesn’t hold up for the 65 minutes it takes to get to the actual Bigfoot action. Once we do reach that point, it’s the usual found footage chaos, shaky and jumpy camera, choppy editing, and excessively dark footage as the crew is torn apart by Bigfoot—which sure does change the tone of the previous wannabe horror comedy.

wild men real bigfoot

It’s the best part of the film, and had it come about a half hour earlier, it could have made this a much more enjoyable film.

DYING BREED (2008)

dying breed cover

While it’s rather derivative of most wilderness/backwoods cannibal films out there and kind of throws in some confusing plot points at the end, Dying Breed definitely delivers on the nasty gore and brutal deaths. Plus, it stars Nathan Phillips of Wolf Creek and Leigh Whannell of Saw.

Some chick’s sister died in a terrible “accident” in an area known as both the location of an historic case of cannibalism and as the habitat of a now supposedly extinct tiger, which she believes may have been the killer of her sister. Sooooo…she decides to go there with her friends.

Blah blah blah, someone messes with their car, MAN BUTT at 27 MINUTES!…

dying breed man butt

…blah blah blah, they finally hike into the woods, the main girl has…“visions” of what happened to her sister? Is she supposed to be psychic or is she just somehow imagining exactly what actually happened to her sister? Seriously, if you need to break up the slow pacing of your film with some horror, just give us the usual cheap pussy scare or asshole prankster of the group scare.

dying breed body hang

Needless to say, it wasn’t the extinct tiger that got her sister. The kill scenes (and sometimes not quite dead but in agonizing pain scenes) totally rule.

dying breed arrow

But, like I said, I didn’t quite get the backwoods family twist this time, and that includes why some old man feels up Leigh Whannell’s tit.

dying breed tit feel

ARBOR DEMON (2016)

arbor demon cover

Under normal circumstances, a movie like Arbor Demon would really bore me.

Okay, it was a normal circumstance for approximately the first half hour. A troubled couple goes camping in the woods. Their thoughts about their future together are going in opposite directions. She’s keeping a secret from him. He’s got a sizzling hot body.

arbor demon stuf

They camp. And they camp some more.

arbor demon couple

Then in the middle of the night, a group of redneck hunters battles a howling beast nearby. The couple rescues one of the still alive but wounded hunters. It’s Jake Busey. Now the three are trapped in the tent with the beast lurking right outside.

MCDARDE EC013

Here’s where I ran into the usual problem with Jake Busey.

arbor demon jake

It’s virtually impossible to assume he’s a good guy because he pretty much comes across as a mentally unstable serial rapist no matter what the role. I started to feel the couple might be better off risking being outside with the beast…or that the woman should just leave the tent…

Anyway, eventually the threesome has to come out of the tent to fight for survival. The action is packed into the final act, when we do get to see the creature at last. Let’s just say the name of the movie literally tells you what it is, so the film has an oddly fantastical, fairy tale quality to it…complete with violence and gore.

arbor demon behind tree

It’s not exactly a movie I would watch a second time, but it’s definitely engrossing and intriguing enough to see once.

LYCAN (2017)

lycan cover

Lycan will most likely get tons of backlash because it isn’t a straight up werewolf film. Instead, it deals with the legend, folklore, and mythology of lycanthropy while introducing just enough transformation to deliver what is essentially a slasher film. In fact, you’re best off approaching it with a slasher mindset if you want to get a little more out of it.

lycan horse ride

It’s a familiar formula—college kids go camping in the woods to do a class project and get picked off one by one in between partying. The film is supposed to take place in the 80s, but there’s no distracting exaggeration of the decade in fashions, music, pop culture references, or anything like that. The stereotypes are about as predictable as it gets, from the bitchy girl to the weird outsider main girl and the pretty boy popular guy who is oddly drawn to her.

lycan boys

Hell, this film even throws in a big burly bear having sex in a barn for the opening scene.

lycan bear 1

As much as all that is good enough for me, Lycan adds unique atmosphere and mystique thanks to the werewolf angle. The score for the film beautifully suits the visual footage of the country landscapes. And stepping outside of the focal point of the kids being kids, a mystical mood is created establishing a perspective of being in another life form’s terrain, from the techniques used to show the animal presence and POV (I was reminded of the 1981 film Wolfen) to the grisly lair-like locations the kids eventually stumble upon.

lycan shed

I say eventually because there is a lot of weirdness going on in the middle of the film. One of the girls goes missing from her tent, so the group decides to pack up and get out of there (WHAT???). There’s a lot of trekking through the woods, lots of talking and bickering, and bizarre occurrences for everyone as they split up and then get, you know…split up.

lycan main girl

The various tangents make this a sort of mystery, which works to an extent, except for two things. First, you kind of know from the very beginning where this is all headed. Second, there aren’t really any clues dropped along the way, simply a Scooby Doo unmasking moment at the end hurriedly explaining an entire backstory that simply couldn’t be developed throughout the course of the film without giving away the twist. But it does follow standard procedure for a horror movie climax.

 

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STREAM QUEEN: 2 zomcoms and a zombie anthology

As usual, I’ve turned my attention to lesser-known zombie films on streaming services, including KL Zombie, Dimension X, and one I’d been hoping to see for a while called Stag Night of the Dead. I had put it in one of my streaming service watchlists, but by the time I circled back to that watchlist, it was gone. I finally located it on SnagFilms, one of those free services that shows uncut films but has commercials. I kind of live for those services, because I can often find obscure, lost stuff I’m looking for that never seems to make it to Prime, Hulu, or Netflix. But enough of my rambling about free streaming services. On to rambling about the movies. 

STAG NIGHT OF THE DEAD (2010)

stag night of the dead cover

After leaving a strip club with a stripper in tow on the night of their buddy’s bachelor party, a bunch of guys take him to “Zomball,” a place that lets you run wild and kill zombies with hardcore laser guns. The one rule…never humiliate a zombie. What could go wrong?

stag night of the dead laser guns

With a title like Stag Night of the Dead and the premise it’s working with, this simply should have been a lot more fun than it is. I definitely enjoyed the opening scene, which features the bachelor hung upside down, wearing nothing but a thong and being whipped by a mistress, plus plenty of the guys are cute in this sausage fest.

stag night of the dead hanging boy

stag night of the dead hanging boy 2

Even the zombies are pretty cool looking, and there’s plenty of action, but the film just doesn’t revel in its concept.

stag night of the dead zombies

stag night of the dead zombies red

This should be a film about boys being bad, and while it has its moments, it is way too restrained. For instance, one guy falls for a naked zombie girl, but when he thinks she’s about to blow him…well, you can guess what happens. And you’ll have to, because the film doesn’t go for the gonads, cutting away instead.

stag night of the dead zombie friend

Stag Night of the Dead ends up being…”cute,” where I was prepared for something funnier, quirkier, and more over-the-top. I mean, look at the poster art! Hell, I’m not even straight and I’d say these dudes seriously don’t know how to throw a bachelor party.

stag night of the dead cast

This could have been the “getting married” equivalent of the “getting divorced” party that is Doghouse. Instead, it’s nothing more than your average SyFy Network zombie flick with a couple of pairs of tits.

DIMENSION Z (2017)

 dimension z cover

Patrick Rea, director of Nailbiter, brings us a 70-minute zombie anthology. Actually, I’m wondering if this isn’t just a compilation of some of his short films because it is not listed under his filmography on imdb, but he has a load of shorts on there. Plus, when you watch the film, you sort of have absolutely no idea it’s anthology until you get to about the third or fourth story. There’s no wraparound and no breaks between tales, so it flows continuously like one long film.

dimension z hall

That’s what causes the initial jarring shifts.

dimension z halloween guy

For instance, the first “story” is simply a chaotic, confusing first person scenario in a house, and then the next thing you know, we’re in regular third person mode and plunged into an entirely unrelated situation in the woods.

dimension z tub 

Many of the tales here are so short and fragmented that there’s not much of a story. It’s more like you caught one scene from a longer horror movie so you have no way of establishing context of the moment.

dimension z friend

But other tales are better self-contained and entertaining, including: a campy one about a young woman whose friend decides to come back from the dead after committing suicide; a Halloween tale of revenge from the grave; and what is essentially “opposite day” in the zombie universe. Awesome.

dimension z zombie family

KL ZOMBI (2013)

kl zombi cover

This zomcom comes to us from Malaysia, and it’s about as lighthearted as you can get—aside from all the stuff with the zombies biting people. It’s sort of like Shaun of the Dead meets The Stuff.

The stuff this time is a miracle cream. Flashy commercials with the spokesman for the cream seem to be riffing off the “Gangnam Style” craze that was infecting every nation at the time this film was made.

kl zombie cream man

As the popularity of the cream spreads, so does the zombie outbreak. People begin eating ravenously and spitting up blood.

kl zombie delivery

Meanwhile, our nerdy hero is busy delivering pizzas on his motorcycle, totally oblivious to the fact that all hell is breaking loose. After some shenanigans with his best bud, including a trip to the cemetery and mistakenly thinking the guy is trying to take his virginity, it really does appear this will be a zombedy buddy movie.

kl zombie fight

But it becomes a little less predictable than that, and our lovable hero teams up with a couple of school kids as he sets out to save some of his friends. The young girl doesn’t speak but kicks zombutt. However, the young boy has great chemistry with the lead and steals the show with his funny lines and goofy reactions. He looks like he’s having so much fun being in a zombie movie.

kl zombie kid attacked

Plenty of action, some light comedy, and an unexpected twist make this a charming little film that reminds me of the more playful horror films of the 80s like Night of the Creeps and Return of the Living Dead.

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Gay, away, and afraid

With Rift and B&B, we have two very different gay suspense thrillers about two very different couples who fall into mysterious situations while on “vacation.”

RIFT (2017)

 

I’m a huge fan of director Erlingur Thoroddsen’s horror flick Child Eater, as well as the anthology Patient Seven, in which he has a story, so I was looking forward to his gay thriller.

This is not the usual “erotic” gay film, and no sex is shoehorned in just to give gay viewers a cheap thrill. Also, the film runs almost 2 hours long and is not a nonstop thrill ride. It actually reminds me more of combination of slow-burning 1970s thrillers like Don’t Look Now that wait until the last minute to throw the hard punch, and haunting, surreal films such as Let’s Scare Jessica to Death that keep you constantly in the state of confusion and disorientation that the protagonist in the film is experiencing.

On a concrete level, the film is about a man named Gunnar, who gets a mysterious, brief call from his ex, Einar, in the middle of the night at Christmastime. Einar simply mentions being at his parents’ vacation home and feeling like he’s not alone…that there’s someone there with him.

Gunnar is compelled to go check on him. The foreboding signs start immediately in a dark road scene reminiscent of In the Mouth of Madness.

But Gunnar forges ahead. When he arrives at the house, the focus of much of the film becomes on his past relationship with Einar, the oddly intimate relationship they still have, and the surprising amount of information they didn’t know about one another.

Meanwhile, the house is located in a very desolate area, so there are eerie instances of someone lurking outside and knocking on the door at night.

Plus the two experience creepy situations at an abandoned building that suggest someone might be hiding out there.

Also, Gunnar is drawn to a large rift in the ground nearby, and Einar recounts creepy tales of people going missing there and his own fears of the place when he was a child.

The focus on the couple’s relationship and what transpired between them unfolds gradually, and while all the conversation might just seem to be revealing the details of their past, it’s actually delivering clues to something darker and more complex.

It’s not until the final half hour that things become quite bone-chilling, also delivering twists that might surprise you, confound you, and leave you either convinced you know exactly what the conclusion means or frustrated that there really were no clear answers.

B&B (2017)

B&B is a dark gay thriller that takes on the “we shouldn’t have to serve your kind here” madness going on in nations that promise all “men” are created equal, yet put those just trying to create their own happiness at the mercy of those who use their religion of choice as a weapon to make others miserable while anointing their fragile egos as superior.

However, the film takes a position that paints the gays as a couple of vindictive assholes from the very start—or at least one of them—and manages to present a good argument for my personal feelings about this whole fiasco. Why the fuck would I ever want to give my business to someone who’d sooner see me dead?


“Good Lord, I wish they were dead.”

The story here begins a year after a gay couple sued the God-fearing owner of a B&B who refused to give them a room. They won the case and have now come to stay at his B&B. He is forced to give them a room by law. One of the gay guys doesn’t even want to stay there, but the other is relishing it, so you have no choice but to consider him a fricking douche.

Their interactions with the man who owns the place are quite intriguing in a passive-aggressive/cold war sort of way, and the man’s young son, who works as his assistant, complicates matters.

But the tension, suspense, and mystery come in when the only other guest—a hot Russian dude who doesn’t speak English—sends the couple mixed signals. As in, one guy thinks he’s gay and hot for them, while the other believes he’s the usual hateful Russian who would love to kill them.


“You have no idea how badly I want to fuck you…to death.”

It’s when the Russian takes an interest in the owner’s son for unknown reasons that the terror begins to mount and the unexpected twists hit.

The gay guys turn Hardy Boys, snooping around to figure out his intentions, which opens a Pandora’s box of mayhem. Soon, there’s no telling whom they can trust.

The first part of B&B builds a great mystery thriller scenario. Midway through it looses focus, becoming a bit convoluted in its attempt to keep the twists coming, but the end refocuses to give us one of those do or die suspense climaxes.

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Slashing in the woods, at the water, and from beyond

I needed a hack ‘n slash break, so I rounded up a couple of sequels to movies I’d already blogged about…and then tossed in a mainstream flick that was on cable. So let’s see what I got out of Axeman 2, Lake Fear 2, and The Bye Bye Man.

AXEMAN 2: OVERKILL (2017)

It’s back to the cabin for this sequel to slasher Axeman, which I blogged about here. Director Joston Theney, also the star of the first film, is back, considering this film smoothly picks up exactly where the first one left off…after cleverly introducing us to a bunch of new characters that end up at the cabin just as things from the first film are wrapping up! Awesome.

A group of hiking religious extremists comes to the cabin to help one of the survivors from the first film. But before the Axeman can even get his hands on them, they are terrorized by a gang of criminals being led by a gender fluid fellow…with a partner. Both director Theney and actor Craig Partamian demonstrate how you can encompass gender identity and sexual orientation in fully realized characters rather than mere caricatures, even within the midst of a crazy slasher comedy.

Meanwhile, the local deputy, whose law enforcement family has a history with the Axeman, is determined to hunt him down herself.

Compared to the first film, the sequel has amped up kills, less sex, more comic quips (even the previously ominous and silent killer drops one-liners), and more chaos. Much more chaos.

There are so many characters that the plot isn’t quite as cohesive, so you’re sort of left just waiting for all the random people who have branched off in numerous directions to be killed off. There are also a whole load of twists thrown in even as an attempt is made to flesh out the legend of the Axeman.


This dude just got an unhappy ending…

In order to juggle everything that’s going on, the film runs 100 minutes long. Personally, in between all the fun moments—and there are plenty of them—I would have preferred if the film had lost at least 1/3 of the cast and if the story had been a bit more streamlined and simplified.

Now that it has gotten much more complex, there’s a third film on the way. And based on the ending of this one, it looks like it could be a prequel!

LAKE FEAR 2: THE SWAMP (2017)

      

Originally titled The Everglades Killings, this one was obviously renamed to ride the coattails of Lake Fear. However, the stories are completely unrelated, so you can watch it without having seen the “first” film.

This is a gruelingly deceiving movie. A good chunk of it is agonizing. After an opening kill scene, we head to spring break.

Along with hot man bod, there’s an eye-rolling, in-your-face female twerking contest, and a cameo by Linnea Quigley as a bartender.

I can’t believe what I had to sit through for at least the next half hour. Virtually free of actual written dialogue, the movie takes us on a journey on a boat to the everglades with a group of kids that can’t even be considered a cast because there are so many of them I couldn’t tell them apart.

Not only that, but all the talking is literally a cacophony of indistinguishable chatter between them, like the mash-up noise of every private conversation going on at an overcrowded public event.

And it doesn’t stop there. The boat dies, their driver dies, and they have to trudge through the swamp, again with barely any actual written dialogue. It’s constant shrill chirping of fear that feels like it’s never going to end. As a result, there’s a lack of any specific characters to connect with, which does a disservice to what comes later.

The kids arrive at what is basically Camp Crystal Lake on the water. They party, they have sex, there are boobs. And yeah…the boat driver is still dead back at the boat.

46 minutes into the film the killing begins. The tone completely shifts and it feels like an actual gritty “backwoods” horror flick (on a lake) as kids are terrorized and killed by the usual suspects—sleazy psycho hillbillies.

While it’s a little rough around the edges, this final half hour does deliver some nasty scenarios you wouldn’t have expected based on the cheesy spring break shit that came earlier, including a brutal head bashing, a surprise encounter with a force of nature, and some, um, Deliverance .

Plus, plenty of odd twists lead you to go from, “It’s just your usual backwoods psychos,” to “Oh! It’s those types of backwoods psychos…”

The messed up ending seems to come out of nowhere, but it definitely speaks to the issue of what kind of fucked up shit you can walk into in this world if you’re dumb enough to ever leave your house.

THE BYE BYE MAN (2017)

    

This one comes from Stacy Title, who has been directing a film once about every 5 to 10 years since the mid-90s. I get it. Filmmakers not only want to make films, they need jobs. This mainstream horror film is pretty much Stacy’s first since directing the trashy horror anthology Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror in 2006.

I’ll put it to you this way. I own Hood of Horror on DVD. I have no interest in ever seeing The Bye Bye Man a second time. What am I supposed to say that you haven’t heard before about every paint-by-numbers tween supernatural slasher that has been released in theaters since the beginning of the new millennium?

The Bye Bye Man

3 college kids, a straight couple and gorgeous Lucien Laviscount (Scream Queens)—you can literally spell “luscious” using the letters in his name—rent a house together off campus.

The, “Hi, hi, man!”

They find an old piece of furniture with the message “Don’t think it, don’t say it” inside, along with the name The Bye Bye Man. What the fuck? If you don’t want me to think it or say it, why the hell did you write it?

They have a séance. They say his name. They all start having weird visions. They research the history of the house. They run all over town in an effort to escape The Bye Bye Man, because that’s what always happens in these movies to keep the plot moving forward and give the illusion of excitement and action. You’ve seen it all before. Except, perhaps, this.

Oh, and the cameo by Faye Dunaway.

 

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