You’ll have to pry your intestines out of their cold, living dead Nazi hands

Like Evil Dead, the Dead Snow movies can be watched as one continuous story. In fact, if these were video games, you could say they were built using the Evil Dead engine.

DEAD SNOW (2009)

This double feature comes to us from the director of the mainstream Hollywood horror action flick Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, but you wouldn’t know it. Of course it makes sense if you consider that Sam Raimi went on to make Spider-Man movies after Evil Dead

Just like Evil Dead, this series starts by going for scares, not laughs. Of course I’m never thrilled when the first scare in a movie is a dream sequence, but at least it’s a cute guy dreaming while shirtless here.

Friends travel to a cabin in the woods, even talk about Evil Dead on the way there, and find a very special box in the cabin…

Zombie Nazis want what’s in the box, and it’s very Leprechaun in nature.

There’s some great dark, snowy winter atmosphere leading up to the zombies first appearing. There’s also a scene I didn’t understand the need for the first time I saw this movie and still don’t understand nor find funny (if that’s what they were going for).

Yes, the infamous outhouse scene. A guy goes out to take a crap, a girl follows him, and it leads to a short but particularly vile moment that is supposed to be sexual in nature…I guess. It adds nothing to the movie, the plot, or the characters, and it’s not funny.

Good thing the zombie fun hits after that, beginning with an awesome intro moment to the cabin under siege sequence, as well as a great gore scene of a head being ripped open.

From that point on it’s a zany zombie battle splatterfest loaded with action, blood, and macabre visual humor, much of it involving intestines.

And then two dudes head to the shed to prepare for a fight to the death, Evil Dead style. Would you believe a dude even has to hack off his arm? It’s a total blast that leaves us with what could easily be considered a cliffhanger….

DEAD SNOW 2: RED vs. DEAD (2014)

Which is where the sequel picks up. The main guy is taken to the hospital and also accused of killing all his friends. The situation seems to have aged him five years because he lost all his hair. Oh wait…the movie was made five years after the first.

While he’s unconscious losing his hair, the doctors do something awful. They reattach his arm, which had been bitten by a zombie. That’s right. Our main guy has a hand with an evil mind of its own, as well as supernatural powers.

Escaping the hospital in a scene that establishes this sequel is going to be all about the over-the-top comedy, the main man first teams up with a gay goth dude. Despite this being a recent film and him being rather flamboyant, he acts oddly guarded about his sexuality. Even so, he still scores the film a place on my die, gay guy, die! page.

They team up with a group of zombie hunting geeks that enlists them to create an army of zombies…to fight the army of Nazombies, which have even scored a military tank!

The comedy and gore stakes are raised big time (as they were in Evil Dead 2). The Nazombies mutilate townsfolk, and no one is immune—kids, the disabled, and even a couple in their bathroom with the guy taking a shit while the woman bathes. There comes a point when you start to think a director might have a fetish…

Going for all out farce, Dead Snow 2 has the two zombie armies clash in a splatastic field battle.

There’s even a living dead love story thrown in at the last second to the strains of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. And if you stick around after the credits, there’s a tag that hints we may even get an Army of Dark Snow someday…

The only real issue I have with this wild sequel…how can it be Dead Snow 2 when there is no snow???

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If you can see, you have the advantage over these zombies

I inherited the Blind Dead series as part of my late brother’s collection, and although it looked like it was going to be some lame Euro horror Night of the Living Dead knockoff with too much period piece crap thrown in, I forced myself to watch.

It’s mostly a lame Euro horror Night of the Living Dead knockoff with too much period piece crap thrown in. But there’s a lot to appreciate here, especially some unique ideas that probably influenced a lot of later films.

TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1972)

Generally, each installment gets the ancient history shit over with right away—and personally, I don’t even see why it’s necessary. In this first one, evil medieval cult dudes tie a woman up then slice her to drink her blood. Just to be clear, despite what I just described, this is a bloodless movie. Use your imagination. I had to.

In the modern day, vacationers go on a train trip. One chick jumps off for no clear reason then crashes overnight on the floor in a cold, old building. The friends don’t understand why, and neither do I.

Seriously??? THAT seems like a good place to set up camp?

But…the robed, skeletal zombies rise from their graves slowly with no music and chase her.

Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand…

This movie seriously lacks music and is also the only one in which a victim returns from the dead in traditional zombie style; she specifically pursues her friends.

Eventually we get a Night of the Living Dead style building under siege thing.

The zombies also use swords. This film needed a score so bad to enhance the visual atmosphere.

RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD (1973)

They’re blind, but somehow they found their way back again. The second film opens with another female sacrifice back in the day, but at least there’s blood. It doesn’t play coy like the first movie—there’s gore, sex, and music. Well, one constant sustained chord at least.

There’s also plenty of relationship drama, and the super slow zombies do the classic grave rising. Then they hop on their zombie horses, which make them move faster, but the film chooses to take that away from them immediately by presenting the footage in slow motion.

The characters here master the art of doing dumb shit, like standing by windows with the blind dead right outside.

The zombies crash an outdoor party on their living dead horses and wreak havoc with their swords, and then the survivors hole up in a church.

It wouldn’t be much of a movie if they didn’t manage to find a reason to go outside one after the other to get killed.

The final escape of the remaining survivors is quite reminiscent of The Birds. The film makes a better effort at taking advantage of the blind dead part here—the zombies can’t see you and don’t move unless they hear you. Silent Hill nurses anyone?

The only way to keep a child quiet and from getting scared by the sight of the zombies is to blindfold her. Blind Box?

Not a very compelling zombie flick, but better than the first.

THE GHOST GALLEON (1974)

Gregorian chant opens this film, which has one of the best dumb premises of the series. In an effort to drum up publicity for their models, an agency sends two of them out on a boat…but have arranged for it to get stuck out at sea so that their frightening experience will make the news!

The girls are “rescued” when they board an old ship that floats by. The plot of this movie proves to be very The Fog.

I love the atmosphere, and the creepy old ship setting is great. There’s also one super long scene of a chick being dragged into a crypt by the zombies.

That’s what I call dragging out a scene, but it ends with some gore, and it’s actually effective that there is no music in the scene, just her screams.

Unfortunately, it’s kind of down hill from there. The people who got the girls into the predicament in the first place come looking for them, and it’s the same old slow zombie cult chasing after them. To change things up slightly, a dude tries to perform an exorcism with a burning cross. Not gonna work, dude. That’s what racists use to vanquish black folk.

However, it all leads to a beach scene during the day in which the zombies come out of the water. Awesome.

That shit would happen again a few years later in Shock Waves. Why are zombies coming out of water so much more terrifying to me?

NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS (1975)

The medieval cult is at it again for the opener, but the series is getting edgier, so they expose the victim’s tits and graphically stab her between them.

Having shifted to the ocean side in the previous film, the series stays there for this final sequel. A doctor and his wife come to work on an isolated island and are immediately warned to leave…by the only guy in town who will talk to them. Yes, it’s a classic creepy townsfolk plot.

It took me until this final film to actually realize that each installment has its own backstory for how the zombies became the blind dead. If I’d paid more attention I probably would have determined that they are not supposed to be the same blind dead in each movie, but I can’t verify that.

In this film, the blind dead come out nightly to drag females to the beach to stab them. This seems to cause seagulls to squawk, hence the title. However, we see more crabs than seagulls in the film.

The series is numbingly repetitive at this point, with the main couple running all over the island being chased by the blind dead on their horses.

Finally, it goes once again for the Night of the Living Dead house under siege approach. Dare I say the series is just beating a dead horse at this point?

If they had just taken all the best parts of each of the four films, they could have made one kick ass film that would be as classic as Night of the Living Dead, but instead we get a fairly generic franchise.

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It’s a slasher, the supernatural, and a little of both in this triple feature

An impulse buy, a Prime flick, and a premium channel feature made this a marathon that was all over the map. So let’s get to it.

HELL FEST (2018)

The director of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension goes for a sleek, post-Scream era teen slasher, and as obvious as it all is, I can’t get enough of this type of retro thrill ride.

Truth is, despite the polish, this movie is a carbon copy of numerous low budget indies about kids going to a Halloween haunted attraction. In other words, between the fun kills we get an excessive number of cheap scares courtesy of footage of the kids going through the attraction. Even the first introduction to the park feels like the attraction intro scene in Blood Fest.

The bonus here is that what could easily be a tween PG-13 flick ups the ante with some kick ass, brutal and gory death scenes. And going against the usual template, Hell Fest surprises by making the bitch the main girl instead of who we’d expect—Bex Taylor-Klaus of MTV’s Scream.

Yeah, I was bummed, but if I want to see her kicking killer ass, I might as well just watch Scream again, including season 2 if they would release that fucker on DVD finally.

The final girl does have some horror experience though, because it’s Amy Forsyth of Channel Zero, Torment, and A Christmas Horror Story. Also on hand is horror hottie Christian James of Dorchester’s Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head. We even get a little Tony Todd action.

The only thing that’s missing, considering Halloween is mentioned at the beginning, is any sign of the holiday! If you reference Halloween as the time of year in your movie, it’s a requirement that you prove it, dammit. This one barely deserves to be on the holiday horror page.

FAMILY POSSESSIONS (2016)

Tommy Faircloth, the director of the Crinoline Head movies and Generation Ax, takes a more serious tone with Family Possessions…sort of.

The main plot is a haunted house movie.

A family inherits a house from the husband’s mother, but it’s actually left solely to our main girl…his daughter. She doesn’t even want to live there, especially when she begins having cheap scare encounters with a corpse-like granny.

EEK! But I actually think her little brother gets the more effective scare scene (especially since hers are repetitive “dream” or hallucination sequences).

She begins to unravel a mystery of her grandmother with the help of a new friend she makes. It seems a ghost has an axe to grind. Actually, a meat cleaver to grind.

It’s a turn I didn’t mind the film taking since I’m just not into all the ghost movies these days that are about as scary as an episode of Scooby Doo.

Meanwhile, the horror cameos add the humor. Felissa Rose is fun as the white trash mother of the friend, and Mark Patton of Elm Street 2 is a hoot as a bitchy queen at the coffee shop, landing this one on my die, gay guy, die! page. Watch out for the total tongue and scream nod to his most famous horror role.

The kills are cheesy, gory fun, but the film definitely could lose about 25 minutes of run time. 110 minutes wasn’t necessary for this type of midnight movie (okay, for most movies—you know me), and hacking off a nice chunk of it would have really tightened up the pacing.

DOWN A DARK HALL (2018)

I’m always excited for a movie adaptation of one of the books from Lois Duncan, my favorite teen author (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Summer of Fear, Killing Mr. Griffin). Down a Dark Hall is one of my favorite books by her, and was actually the first one I read back in junior high. It’s my least favorite movie adaptation.

A juvenile delinquent still not over the death of her father is sent to a school for girls by her mother. This huge school building in the middle of nowhere has a minimal staff…and only five students! Plus, head mistress Uma Thurman says a particular hall to the other end of the building is off limits (aka: runaway from that school as fast as you can).

A majority of the film is about the girls honing their artistic skills while the main girl becomes convinced something weird is going on. She’s right.

Despite the movie mostly boring me, it’s a remarkably faithful adaptation of the awesome source material plot…minus the cheesy modern day possession faces they throw in at the end of the film, which actually save it from being a totally boring film.

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The Chair needs to take a seat because the Necromancer is queen

Well, Necromancer is at least the film I liked better of these two lost flicks from 1988 that I dug out of my DVD collection.

THE CHAIR (1988)

There were a handful of fun prison/electric chair horror films released in the late 80s. The Chair isn’t one of them, despite having a cast of familiar faces.

And even though it’s about a newly reopened prison that is haunted, the most we get is some cheesy 80s electric spark effects, a few deaths by electrocution, and this apparition.

This movie goes NOWHERE. Veteran actor James Coco runs the show, Trini Alvarado of The Frighteners is the in-house psychologist who gets attached to a cute young inmate (and does nothing else really).

Stephen Geoffreys of Fright Night is  one of the prisoners, but I don’t even know why he is in this film in which he has a minuscule role, considering he was busy working on some higher profile horror at this time.

When it comes down to it, only Paul Warden, the token white guy on The Jeffersons, experiences the supernatural occurrences, and they sort of drive him mad.

The two highlights of this film that grabbed my attention were a spread your cheeks cavity search moment and a black prisoner who is essentially trans, although back then I imagine they were just trying to imply a very effeminate gay man.

NECROMANCER (1988)

Necromancer is like I Spit On Your Grave meets Mausoleum. Now that’s my kind of late 80s sexploitation horror shit show.

As soon as the score begins and sounds like an outtake from the Miami Vice soundtrack, you know you’re in for an 80s flashback from hell. It gets even better when a witch wearing a magnificent 80s headband…I mean, gypsy scarf…uses her magic axe to do some head splitting.

Then we get to the juicy stuff. A young woman working at her school at night is terrorized by three classmates in masks. They chase her around the building, catch her, and the leader of the pack rapes her while the others chicken out.

Not knowing where to turn, she seeks help from the witch.

And so begins a series of seduction attacks as a doppelganger of the main girl shows up whenever one of the guys is in just tight little underwear or less. Makes me love this dumb movie even more, and not only does it get a place on my stud stalking page, it should get a stud stalking award.

The lights magically turn 80s horror red, then out comes the cheesy demon hand!

The demon face eventually makes an appearance for the final battle, but it’s definitely no Mausoleum face. Also making an appearance in a porn stache and perm is Russ Tamblyn of West Side Story.

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Beware what’s on either side of the skyline…

Looking for a “safe” movie I could enjoy with the hubba hubba over the weekend that would still give me some horror thrills, I stumbled upon Beyond Skyline, not even knowing it was a sequel. After it was over, we were hyped to see the first film. I’m actually glad we saw the second film first, because they are very different films.

SKYLINE (2010)

Skyline is an intense alien invasion flick for a good portion of its run time.

It stars Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel of Club Dreadand even Crystal Reed of Teen Wolf.

A group of friends falls asleep after a party and is awoken by a blinding blue light beaming through the apartment window…that sucks you away if you look at it!

The light is coming from huge, cockroach-like spaceships…that harbor bug-like aliens with tentacles.

This group of friends also has to avoid giant, 2-legged aliens that can somehow spot them wherever they hide in the giant apartment building.

The most suspenseful and scary scenes are the ones in which the group is chased when trying to escape the building. This is actually a pretty frightening film about what would happen if super powerful aliens came to snatch us all and whisk us away to their ship. Eek!

But as the movie reaches its climax, it does detour into a wild ride of alien battling action, with military planes swooping in for a sky chase and the survivors putting up a battle to the death with the aliens. This last minute shift in tone is the perfect segue into the very different sequel.

BEYOND SKYLINE (2017)

I think if I had seen Beyond Skyline first I would have been a bit disappointed in the over-the-top action tone this follow-up takes, so I can see why people might be hard on it and unwilling to just go with it and enjoy it for the fun flick it is. Horror hottie Frank Grillo of The Purge movies (I so want to get all up in his Grillo) stars as the action hero in this epic alien action sequel. It’s like the original Cloverfield meets Pacific Rim.

When the alien invasion hits, Grillo and a small group of people escape through a subway tunnel, where some of them meet an awesomely gruesome ending at the tentacles and the giant vajayjay-like orifice of the smaller walking aliens. The alien models definitely look a bit different despite the simultaneous timeline…the films are supposed to be happening concurrently.

The “sequel” part really hits when the survivors get beamed up into the massive spaceship! Awesome. There’s a very cool crossover with the first film here, but sadly, even though their appearance is brief, the characters from the original film were recast for the sequel.

A suspenseful segment of the film takes place on the ship, but this massive alien outing crash lands back on earth…in Asia! Grillo and friends then team up to fight the aliens in a wild ride of nonstop melee battles and martial arts fights with the smaller aliens.

And it all leads up to the major battles between the giant aliens, which we learn are actually just shells controlled by the smaller aliens inside.

The silly sci-fi fun that ensues is as visually stunning as some of the much more popular sci-fi flicks that come out these days.

 

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STREAM QUEEN double feature: the ghosts of Halloween

Halloween is a few months behind us, and yet two Halloween films snuck their way onto Prime. So is it worth putting these on your list of flicks to watch 10 months from now?

DYSMORPHIA (2014)

This is an odd title for a Halloween anthology. It’s also odd that only the wraparound and one tale take place during the holiday. None of that even matters though, because this is really a bit of a mess.

A guy and girl find a box full of videotapes while digging out the Halloween decorations. Yeah, that’s nothing new for an anthology wraparound, but honestly, the most entertaining part of this film is the guy in it.

He’s naturally funny and deserves to be in a much better movie. As for the “stories”, they all feel very amateur and sloppy…

1st story – a weird, arsty rape/revenge short of sex and violence with mind-numbing editing, filters, etc.

2nd story – indie king Shawn C. Phillips and another dude accept a dare to live together in a bathroom. Silly stuff with a horrorish ending.

3rd story – This is a gross out video about a religious chick going door-to-door to force her beliefs on people. She gets into a twisted, perverse standoff with one dude.

4th story – this is the most tightly plotted and clever of these low budget shorts. A woman makes all her man’s wishes come true on his birthday…whether he meant them or not.

5th story – saturated color and tinted shaky footage make this one hard to watch. On Halloween, two dudes film their work as they go around killing people. None of that did anything for me. However, there are some underlying gay themes (homophobia, drag), and I appreciate that it takes place on Halloween, plus I enjoyed the odd scene of this cutie in a G-string.

6th story – geeks make a program that brings whatever they create on their computer into the real world. What do they conjure up? A goofy bad CGI monster! This feels like a student film you would find on YouTube.

At least there’s some silly demon payoff in the conclusion of the wraparound.

HALLOWEEN AT AUNT ETHEL’S (2018)

I was feeling the title of this one, and the classic pumpkin intro credits got me even more in the Halloween spirit.

That feeling just continues with a good old “couple parked in the dark” setup that leads to a suspenseful kill scene with all the right camera angles, creepy atmosphere, a chase, and the first appearance of Aunt Ethel!

Then we’re informed that we’re in Florida! Ugh. What a way to kill the Halloween mood!

But I’ll forgive, because Aunt Ethel—a witchy weird neighbor rumored to turn trick or treaters into Halloween candy—is a hoot. She’s reminiscent of the campy slasher killers of the 90s, like Ice Cream Man, The Dentist, and Dr. Giggles.

The main kids are just as much fun as Aunt Ethel as they have relationship drama, break out their slow-mo dance moves during a Halloween party montage, and get into all kinds of sexual hi-jinx.

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Good hair and good fuck face.

As a Gen-Xer who grew up on 80s teen flix and slashers, I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see some teen sexploitation humor, which is so lacking in modern film.

Most importantly, the kids hatch a plan to spy on Aunt Ethel for kicks. And the surprise twist is delicious.

The big problem with this smart and entertaining indie film is that it only runs about 65 minutes long! When the kids get to Aunt Ethel’s house, everything unfolds way too fast.

A slasher comedy this competent needed more victims—there was a fricking party full of potential pretty people to hack up. Aunt Ethel is just getting going when it all comes to an end. Man, was I sad.

But do stick around after the credits roll, because there’s an Aunt Ethel rap video and bloopers. Aunt Ethel really needs to come back for some Halloween sequels. I know her Blu-ray is already on order and on its way to my house.

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Taking zombies to a whole new level in the 90s

Before the traditional zombie film revival that began in the mid-2000s and still won’t go away, one of the few good things the 90s brought the horror genre is two of the most over-the-top zombie gorefests we could worship…that I would say are both hugely inspired by Evil Dead.

DEAD ALIVE (1992)

Peter Jackson made a major leap forward going from the crapfest Bad Taste to one of the most icky, awesome zomcoms ever. Production value alone makes all the difference here, but his equally wacky yet more coherent plot demonstrates how much he grew as a horror director in a few years.

Our main man is a reminder of just how much of an archetype Hitchcock created with Norman Bates and his relationship with his mother. He starts dating a young woman who works at a local store, but when they go on a date to the zoo, mother shows up…and gets bit by an exotic rat-like creature that is cheesy stop motion perfection.

Before long, mother’s skin starts to fall off in one of the most disgusting dinner scenes ever, with some putrid closeups of mouths eating more than just food.

Because the main guy tries to hide the rotting problem instead of immediately calling for medical help, it is quickly established that this is a farcical film.

It’s also an ooey gooey, bloody good time. Along with awesome undead, there’s a campy ninja priest battle, grave robbers, plenty of zombies drenched in neon light, a goofy zombie baby, gut munching as well as reanimated guts, and the most awesome lawnmower zombie splatterfest scene ever.


The lawnmower scene.

Indeed, when our main man goes on a zombie killing rampage, he is intent on one-upping Bruce Campbell’s blood soaked battle against Deadites in Evil Dead 2.

And taking it an even more to the extreme, there’s the unforgettable return of…mother.

CEMETERY MAN (1994)

When Cemetery Man first hit the shelves back in the early 90s while I was working in the video store, it was a refreshing break from all the American crap being released and absolutely ruining the horror genre.

it’s no surprise this comes to us from the director of The Church, The Sect, and StageFright, because it definitely has that quirky, surreal Euro horror tone and style. Watching it again reminded me of how quickly it made me an immediate fan of Rupert Everett, who is sizzling hot here. This film is basically also where that fandom stopped once he transitioned into mainstream Hollywood films.

What surprises me is that Cemetery Man never got slapped with an Evil Dead 4 title in any markets around the world. I simply can’t watch this movie without thinking it could easily be an alternate timeline in the Ash saga in which he becomes guardian of the dead, living in a cabin in the cemetery and re-killing Deadites as they are resurrected after seven days. Hell, first time I saw the film, Everett totally gave me young Bruce vibes.

A visually gothic and macabre treat, the film begins right in the cemetery in the heat of Everett’s ghastly job of returning the dead to the grave…in only a towel. He has a corpulent sidekick who doesn’t speak, and local rumor is that Everett is impotent.

This really is a weird movie, especially because it’s essentially entirely about necrophilia. Everett falls in love with a grieving widow and they have sex on her husband’s grave. The dead hubby comes back to teach his bitch a lesson. Then she comes back to resume her fuck session with Everett.

Meanwhile, his assistant is off falling in love with a disembodied head he digs up. And…another woman awaits the return of her man, who died in a splatastic motorcycle accident.

it’s gory, campy, and keeps going more and more off the deep end as it progresses, but I definitely prefer the first half of the film over the second half. Making it even more odd (and confusing) is that Everett ends up falling for two other women before the film is over…and the same actress plays all three girls.

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STREAM QUEEN: slashers, zombies, and an experiment in torture

For a change, I managed to do a long weekend of streaming that didn’t include the worst of the worst horror that streaming services have to offer. Okay, I have to admit—there was a sixth film that was supposed to be included, but I really am trying to save myself precious time and completely avoid movies I know are going to be the absolute worst right from the start, so I opted not to finish watching that z-grade movie, which left me with these five.

THE ROW (2018)

There’s a difference between wanting to make a movie in the style of the slashers you grew up on and basically remaking them without bringing anything new to the mix.

I guess The Row would be original if you didn’t live through 80s slashers and the slasher revival of the late 90s. But if you did, The Row is essentially Pieces meets the Sorority Row remake.

Girl goes to college. Girl’s overprotective hot detective dad is Randy Couture of The Expendables movies and Range 15. There are parties, and girls start getting hacked up in sleek, goreless PG-13 post-Scream fashion by a killer in a hoodie and weird mask.

The bodies are found left and right, each with a part missing (so we know more than the stumped police how this is going to end), girls just keep partying despite all their friends dying, and overprotective dad detective doesn’t bother to yank his girl out of school.

His daughter starts to learn about something awful her mother was involved in when she was a sister in the same sorority, and as soon as the killer walks into her life, we totally know this person is the killer. The only shocking thing about it is the incomprehensible age difference that links the killer to her mother.

The other non-surprise—you know in the end the hot dad is going to finally feel vindicated for something that happened to his partner that he believes was his fault.

As for the kill scenes, although they’re mostly underwhelming, the best for me was a double whammy shower scene. Yet my favorite moment is the Jawbreaker slo-mo mean girls walk

THE HIVE (2015)

This film tries to be a lot more complicated than it needs to be, especially when you strip it down to its most basic premise…the Evil Dead remake with a love story.

A cute young guy awakes in a bunker not sure how he got there or why he looks like a zombie.

There’s a dead zombie girl nearby, so the truth slowly comes back to him.

On the one hand, he has these major flashbacks that make him think he is a young scientist, but it’s best just ignoring those because they tend to muddle the story until we finally get an explanation near the end as to why they happen.

Take this as a movie about four young people trapped in a bunker slowly going all Evil Dead remake infected/demon on each other and you’ll be able to enjoy it for what it is and not the epic apocalyptic movie it deceivingly portends to be.

DATE OF THE DEAD (2015)

If you’re going to make a cheesy low budget horror movie, try to at least give it some charm, originality, and silly entertainment value…and watch Date of the Dead for an example of what I’m talking about. This goofy little anthology gave me a lot to enjoy from the very first date gone wrong gore opener.

The wraparound, which is a story on its own, is about a guy and girl staying at home for their first date. Little do they know their friends are plotting a home invasion prank.

Since there’s a lot of horror memorabilia around the house and the couple makes references to horror movies we love left and right, they start telling scary stories.

1st story – Just like the wraparound couple, the couple in this story is on a date in a house, but the creepers outside their doors are zombies! But when he realizes it, the guy tries to keep it a secret from the girl. There’s also a secret about his dating history that he’s trying to keep from her as well…

2nd story – This is a simple but really clever satirical take on the “I know what you did” plot. A year after they humiliated the high school geek by tricking him into kissing a boy, a bunch of mean cheerleaders hardly remembers what they did and has a slumber party.

For slasher fiends, Date of the Dead is worth watching for this tale alone.

EXTREMITY (2018)

Anthony DiBlasi, director of Cassadaga, Last Shift, Dread, and Most Likely To Die, uses the haunted attraction theme for something other than a Halloween slasher.

Delving into extreme haunts (the types that require you to sign a release form because you get manhandled and experience sexual situations), this is a film about a woman who needs to confront her unspoken fear and decides an extreme haunt is the cure.

Her horror journey finds her teamed up with a cute young man.

In a barrage of red and neon light, we watch them experience all kinds of terror we know isn’t going to actually hurt them at the hands of people in skull masks. At one point someone even takes off the mask and checks on her when she has a panic attack.

In other words, a majority of the movie does little to create scares or suspense because we know it’s all fake. But we do get flashbacks of her troubled relationship with her girlfriend, so there are hints that this is all going to lead to something…

I’m just going to say, if you’ve seen Catacombs or The Houses October Built 2, you’ve seen a similar plot. If you haven’t seen any of these three, I would recommend you just watch Catacombs.

THE END? (2017)

Now this is my kind of unique take on zombie films, rather than the usual The Walking Dead rip-off that is all the rage in indie living dead flix these days.

Like the movie Stalled, this Italian film is about one guy trapped in a confined space during the zombie outbreak. Rather than a bathroom stall at an office, it’s an elevator stuck between floors, with the doors slightly opened…just enough for zombies to poke their heads through.

Although he’s cute, the main guy is actually a bit of a douche. But the zombies are fricking awesome. Great makeup.

The film smartly tells its story all from within the elevator, and anything we learn about what’s going on beyond the elevator is through what little contact the main guy makes with the outside world.

And just when you think things might get boring and repetitive, a hot bear cop shows up to help him out of his predicament. Good stuff.

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Four flix from horror kings of the 90s

John Carpenter, Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Williamson. It was a nostalgic trip back to the 90s for me when I revisited these four flicks in my collection. So which ones are my faves?

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)

 

John Carpenter’s light was starting to dim in the 90s. The second half was really bad, but the first part was okay with Body Bags segments, the Village of the Damned remake, and In the Mouth of Madness.

 

I can appreciate why people like this one, but personally, I’ve never been a huge fan beyond some super creepy visuals. It’s one of those Lovecraft-esque messes comprised of nightmares, dreams within dreams, horrific visions, things that are there then aren’t there, etc. You are simply bombarded by “stuff” instead of a concrete plot.

Okay, there’s a plot. Sam Neill is an insurance investigator that Charlton Heston (blech) puts on the case of a famous horror author who is causing quite a controversial stir. Neill is partnered with the female vampire from the original Fright Night 2, and together they travel to a fictional town from the author’s books because…people who read them somehow become part of a living version of the stories.

Cool plot, but then there’s that whole Lovecraft angle—an onslaught of monsters and surreal situations. I’m a huge fan of particular moments—my favorites being the old man on the bike on a dark road, a spider crawl scene, and grotesque children—but I have little patience for movies that never let us know when we’re actually in reality and not just in someone’s head.

Eventually Neill is dragged into some sort of hellish dimension and chased by freaky monsters, so to me this feels like Carpenter trying to reinvent himself…by totally mimicking Stuart Gordon’s style.

THE FRIGHTENERS (1996)

If you read my blog regularly, you know I twitch trying to watch long movies, and I’ve never been a huge fan of The Frighteners, yet…I own the two plus hour director’s cut.

Before becoming a huge Hollywood director, Peter Jackson made a “trilogy” of horror movies. Bad Taste was his low budget, stupid shlockfest, Dead Alive was his more polished shlock/gorefest, and The Frighteners was his sleek, mainstream horror comedy.

Dead Alive is my favorite Peter Jackson film.

Despite having a great cast and some super cartoonish CGI fun, The Frighteners is, in typical Peter Jackson horror fashion, a nonstop roller coaster ride of sloppiness. It’s Ghostbusters on speed. Confession: I was never a fan of Ghostbusters. Another confession: I’m a huge fan of the all-female remake.

The Frighteners has Michael J. Fox, Dee Wallace, Jeffrey Combs, Peter Dobson, and Jake Busey. Fox is a ghostbuster who uses his goofy ghost friends to scam people into calling him for his services after the ghosts scare them.

Dee Wallace is a woman held captive in her mother’s house ever since she fell in love with serial killer Jake Busey when she was 15. Peter Dobson is the husband of a doctor put on Dee’s case. Jeffrey Combs is a weird FBI agent set on exposing Fox as a fraud.

A good chunk of the film is about a Fox trying to protect the doctor from a grim reaper hellbent on getting her. The second part of the film is about Jake Busey’s ghost coming back to terrorize Dee’s home.

The nonstop frantic action feels to me like being on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney. It’s mostly just a series of ghostly scenes strung together to keep you entertained until you get to the end of the ride…which is a cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” during the closing credits in this case.

THE FACULTY (1998)

The Faculty is one of my favorite films from the post-Scream/pretty WB actors splashed across the poster art era. Directed by Robert Rodriguez with a script so obviously tweaked by Kevin Williamson (it’s very meta), this is an homage to many of the sci-fi horror body takeover flix from the 60s through the 80s. I’d say it most closely resembles Invaders From Mars.

What’s amazing about the film is that it manages to keep all the action revolving around the high school. In a fantastic first scene, the takeover begins with…the faculty, of course.

The cast of teachers includes the likes of Jon Stewart, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, and Robert Patrick.

We meet our group of teens with name card freeze-frames while a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” plays. And this cast is just as great as the teachers, with clear clique types as outlined in The Breakfast Club: Elijah Wood (Anthony Michael Hall), Jordana Brewster (Molly Ringwald), Clea DuVall (Ally Sheedy), Josh Hartnett (Judd Nelson), and Shawn Hatosy (Emilio Estevez). Even young Usher makes a minor appearance but, you know, there were no black people in The Breakfast Club. Also keep an eye out for a brief scene with Danny Masterson just before he hit it big on That ‘70s Show.

This is classic body snatching fun, with loads of great tentacle creepers, action, suspense, scares, a “who can you trust?” scene right out of The Thing, and a kick ass final boss.

TEACHING MRS. TINGLE (1999)

It confounds me that other than the love for Scream, Kevin Williamson movies seem to get a lot of hate. He practically defined youth culture films of the late 90s the way John Hughes did in the 80s, with the added bonus of doing it through some super fun horror and thrillers.

Just as I’ve heard about Cursed, supposedly there’s a version of this movie’s script or different cut of the film or something that makes it much better. And once again I consider the actual released version of the film perfect as is.

Starring Katie Holmes, 7th Heaven hottie Barry Watson, and Marisa Coughlin, who should have been a much bigger star, Teaching Mrs. Tingle also has a great adult cast.

Lesley Ann Warren plays Katie’s mom, and just like The Faculty, the school staff is a who’s who, including Vivica A. Fox, Michael McKean, Molly Ringwald, and Jeffrey Tambor. And most importantly there’s Helen Mirren, who is amazing as the over-the-top villainous Mrs. Tingle.

Poor Katie just wants to be valedictorian so she can get out of her small town, but when Mrs. Tingle finds a way to totally ruin her chances, Katie and her two friends plan to stop her. They make Mrs. Tingle a prisoner in her own home, tying her to her bed until they can figure out what to do about her.

Things go horribly wrong and escalate, with the trio just digging themselves a deeper hole while devious Mrs. Tingle messes with their minds and turns them against one another.

It’s pure campy teen thriller fun, Barry Watson gets an unexpected gay kiss, and Marisa Coughlin does an unforgettable Linda Blair impression.

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Masked killers, a satanic cult, and some crazy bitches

With time to kill on the long New Year’s weekend, I lined up movies old and new…so here’s a look at four newer films I’d never seen before…including a New Year’s Eve flick to add to the holiday horror page!

TRIANGLE (2009)

Christopher Smith, the director of Severance and Creep, brings us a very different film with Triangle. Although there’s a killer wearing a sack, this isn’t merely a slasher. This is a major psychological thriller.

There are some slasher elements here—a group’s boat capsizes and they board what appears to be an abandoned cruise ship.

But someone is watching in the shadows, and pretty soon they’re being picked off one by one…mostly by a shotgun!

Disappointingly, the fast pace causes the intriguing premise to be revealed rather quickly, so we know what’s going on all along as one of the friends—horror queen Melissa George—is caught in a sort of Groundhog’s Day. Not that we understand why, which is what keeps us watching.

Problem is, continuing to watch just makes matters worse. A bunch of new stuff is suddenly thrown at us at the very end of the movie and it just left me scratching my head.

#SCREAMERS (2016)

This found footage film was a freebie on the Blu-ray of The Monster Project, so it wasn’t a film I sought out. On the bright side, it does have gay character, so I can add another one to the die, gay guy, die! page.

However, this is one of those found footage films in which absolutely nothing happens for the first hour. In fact it reminds me of To Jennifer, in that they’re both about a guy who drags his friends on a road trip to find a girl.

Here, two guys who run an Internet business become obsessed with finding out the origins of those cheap shocker videos that lull you into a false sense of security before scaring you with a screaming face. They also have a gay black dude filming the whole thing, most of which involves them watching more videos and following up on leads.

One guy narrows it down to trying to track down a girl walking through a peaceful cemetery in one of the videos. Wouldn’t you know it leads them to a seemingly abandoned house in the middle of nowhere.

You can basically predict exactly how it’s all going to go down in the last twenty minutes. There are okay moments of creepy atmosphere and jump scares, and I do like the twist on how those videos come to be. My big issue with the film is a scene in which one guy tells the cameraman to stay in a creepy room while he goes to check on something…and the cameraman waits! I’m sorry, but no black and/or gay guy would be dumb enough to do that.

THE DEMONOLOGIST (2018)

Oh boy. It kills me that, well, Brian Krause of the original Charmed is even in this one. Imagine the lamest and cheesiest of SyFy occult series…and it’s probably still better than this film.

I guess Krause’s name in the cast is what scored The Demonologist a distribution deal. There’s just nothing fresh, unique, or scary here.

It’s hard to take it seriously because the satanic cult he’s up against as a detective isn’t even slightly ominous (their scenes feel like something from a no budget, straight-to-video flick of the 90s).

The cult infiltrates Krause’s dreams and his life, but we’ve seen it before. He ends up in some cheesy CGI fire situations.

There’s is a pretty cool demon, and perhaps if there were more of him—and if the film was shorter—I would have been a bit more entertained.

Although this part held my attention.

I really think that only the performances of Krause and the guy playing his partner make this feel somewhat elevated above the level it comes in on. Unfortunately, the uninspired dialogue they are given takes it right back down.  

INTO THE DARK: NEW YEAR, NEW YOU (2018)

The latest installment of the Into the Dark series on Hulu is like the Mean Girls of New Year’s Eve thrillers.

A small group of female friends is gathering to ring in the New Year together, and while things seem fun at first—revelations about their successes and failures, talks about sex, partying, dancing—as soon as they start playing “Never Have I Ever,” the claws come out.

In fact, once the overly long girl talk ends (although it does clearly establish the deal with each girl), this turns into a nonstop, suspenseful catfight…with sharp objects.

Shit gets out of hand, the lights go out, and the girls turn on each other in a battle to the death. My kind of New Year’s Eve party, and probably one of the more entertaining episodes of the series so far.

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