One gay teen, so many monsters…

closet monster cover

2015 film Closet Monster is worth covering on Boys, Bears & Scares because it not only intertwines some gruesome horror imagery into a tale of gay-bashing and a teen coming to terms with his sexuality, but the main character’s escape from the horrors of reality is the horror genre.

closet monster stake as teen

This is a wonderfully acted and heart-achingly real, emotional story of a teen who is not short of self-confidence in his identity as gay despite all the negativity that has swirled around him in his young life, including the usual societal attitudes towards homosexuality. There are very authentic details about how different types of people deal with the notion of sexual orientation, making this a very relatable film for gay viewers.

closet monster dad

We first get a glimpse of the teen’s childhood. He has a close relationship with his father, whose bedtime stories of creatures of the night seem to be what draw him into the world of horror.

closet monster stake

The boy is left with a single dad when the mother is shockingly removed from their life, plus the boy witnesses a horrific gay bashing in a cemetery.

closet monster cemetery

As a coping mechanism for these traumatic experiences, he has conversations with his hamster Buffy (wink wink), which is voiced by Isabella Rossellini.

closet monster hampster

We then pick up with him as a teen. He has big dreams of using horror to escape his small town life; he wants to move to the city and become a special effects makeup artist.

closet monster makeup work

He practices his horror makeup on his best female friend, and they do photo shoots of his work to build his portfolio.

closet monster horror makeup

But when a new boy enters the high school, it awakens his sexual urges.

closet monster kiss

While he begins to explore those feelings with the new kid, he is also plagued by horrific sexual nightmares that seem to be morally challenging his desires.

closet monster impale

His once loving relationship with his father has grown volatile, and it only begins to worsen as he discovers more about himself and sees how his father might respond to the truth. Both characters are flawed, making the dynamics between them that much more genuine and their clashes quite sad.

closet monster final blow

Everything comes to a head – from emotional hurt to imagined horror – on the night the teen flees reality for the comfort of his favorite fantasy.

closet monster come on at party

He attends a Friday the 13th costume party with his new male friend, but even his safe zone is haunted by the ghosts of judgment.

closet monster partypuke

Refreshingly, while this isn’t exactly an uplifting film, it also isn’t like the gay tragedies of the past. However, you won’t get a tidy, happy ending, nor will there be answers to every question you might have about what becomes of the characters. Closet Monster really is just a snapshot of a tough time in the life of a horror-loving gay boy.

closet monster main guys

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Son of a witch! It came from the 80s…and just won’t die

witchcraft 1 cover

I was working in the video store back in the late 80s when Witchcraft (1988) hit the shelves. I was on the verge of leaving my teen years behind to become a man, so the sinister satanic sacrificial cover art on the VHS tape couldn’t fool me. I knew this was going to be as bad as all the other direct-to-video crap that was ruining the horror genre as we moved towards the 1990s.

And yet…we are now up to SIXTEEN Witchcraft films. My OCD is letting me down, because I have absolutely no interest in watching every single film to write a massive blog about all of them. So I am just going to stick briefly to the two films released in the 80s, and throw in a bonus stud stalking segment for the rest of the films.

Witchcraft is directed by Rob Spera, who would go on to direct Leprechaun in the Hood and Bloody Murder 2. Use that information in whatever way you must to judge whether this film fits your taste in horror (I own both of those films…use that information in whatever way you must to judge my taste in horror).

witchcraft 1 couple

While giving birth to her baby, a woman has nightmares of a man and woman being burned at the stake (their faces get nice and crispy).

witchcraft 1 witches

After she delivers, she goes to recover in her mother-in-law’s mansion, where she experiences a cheesy 1980s version of Rosemary’s Baby.

witchcraft 1 hang

Approximately 2 exciting horror things happen in this film: the priest who comes to bless the baby ends up hung outside the house with his face a rotted mess, and the new mom’s best friend comes to visit, her head is hacked off, and it then levitates and spins in circles.

witchcraft 1 head spin

Okay, exactly 2 exciting horror things happen in this film. But that’s like 2 more than happen in that snoozefest Rosemary’s Baby. I mean…Rosemary’s Baby is a brilliant, terrifying classic and no one better dare ever suggest this film is more entertaining…

witchcraft 2 cover

Witchcraft II: The Temptress (1989) is the Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby of the franchise. Or perhaps it’s the first of them, because from what I’ve heard, a bunch of them are about the continuing story of the little baby from the first film as a grown man. Here he’s a horny teen who can’t get any from his girlfriend.

witchcraft 2 main guy sleep

Witchcraft II: The Temptress is as bad-good as every non-Freddy focused Freddy’s Nightmares episode, which makes sense considering they both come from the exact same (tragic) moment in horror history. After an 80s leather mistress living next door starts making moves on our main guy, he learns from his dad that he’s adopted, and his adoptive parents have been keeping him hidden from the evil witch coven. This 80s leather mistress is determined to seduce him so he will impregnate her with a hell baby.

witchcraft 2 knife

Witchcraft II has it all – numerous sexual seduction scenes, the 80s leather mistress going all primitive and simply stabbing people with a knife slasher style, and one intense scene of a chick being harassed by an unseen incubus.

witchcraft 2 witch

Sure, it’s a bad movie, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – 80s horror is just better when it’s about teenagers.

witchcraft 2 stake

And that’s about as much as I can take of the Witchcraft franchise. But since this series ends up going the erotic horror route, I did scour as many of the film as I could to find some hunky action.

WITCHCRAFT III: THE KISS OF DEATH (1991)witchcraft 3 cover

WITCHCRAFT IV: THE VIRGIN HEART (1992) witchcraft 4 coverLet the gay 90s begin…

WITCHCRAFT V: DANCE WITH THE DEVIL (1993)witchcraft 5 cover

WITCHCRAFT 8: SALEM’S GHOST (1996) witchcraft 8

(un)Holy false advertising! But at least the guy in the movie is as sexy as the guy on the poster.

WITCHCRAFT XII: IN THE LAIR OF THE SERPENT (2002) witchcraft 12 coverWarlock of the Nipple Rings.

WITCHCRAFT 13: BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN (2008)witchcraft 13 cover

Am I the only one fantasizing that he’s winding up to administer some warlock whacks in that pic on the left?

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Scare Wars: witches, a slasher, and body horror

After months of being so far behind in life in general, I think I’m getting back on track—especially with horror since Halloween is on the way. So I’ll be chipping away at my aging “must-see” list to discover which titles really should not have been on there. Let’s see how the first three did.

THE COVEN (2015)

coven cover

I was itching to see this one for quite a while. I should have just put some Hydrocortisone on that shit and moved on with my life.

How could another movie about witches be made that is as excruciatingly boring as The Blair Witch Project?

A teacher talks to his students about the Wiccan religion and mentions the history of a coven that used to meet in the woods near their town. So on Halloween night, three girls decide to go look for the spot where the coven used to meet.

coven lucifer tomb

There’s a “Lucifer” tombstone in the woods. The girls hang out in a tent and party. They have a Jack O’ Lantern with them to at least give us some holiday spirit.

coven pumpkin

They keep seeing a fleeting figure in the woods.

coven hoodie

Meanwhile, two boys also enter the woods. They are attacked by a bat and one of them is hurt, so the other goes to get help.

coven spotlight

Eventually, they all start having run-ins with a headlight that I can only assume is attached to a ghostly motorcycle? Seriously, I can’t with this movie.

RITES OF PASSAGE (2012)

rites of passage cover

I barely even know where to begin with this one. I’m not sure I would tell anyone not to watch it because the fact that it’s such a mess is what makes it such a curiosity and oddly entertaining—although it still should have been shaved down from 102 minutes to about 85.

So…Stephen Dorff (Blade, Jackals, Botched, Alone in the Dark, Feardotcom, Cold Creek Manor) is a college professor taking his class to an old ranch that was once a burial ground to do an ancient Native American ceremony.

Meanwhile, Wes Bentley is the fucked up brother of one of the students, who hangs out in a huge greenhouse on the ranch and does a whole lot of psychotropic drugs, which causes him to see every girl he looks at dressed in a slutty Indian outfit. He also has a buddy hanging out on the property with him – Christian Slater giving a local theater community performance as a rifle-toting hobo character who converses with a sock puppet that talks like Speedy Gonzales.

rites of passage slater

This is sort of a slasher. Before the trip, the kids party – the hot guy gets shirtless a lot and even walks in on another guy jerking off.

rites of passage jerkoff

Wes stumbles into the party all messed up on his drugs, but the brother swears he’s harmless.

Is he? It’s hard to tell. Once the kids arrive at the ranch, there’s conveniently a beach right there. Stephen Dorff acts just like one of the kids as he joins in on a total war of words between a bunch of girls. Then some other chick runs into Wes and Slater and goes on this huge anti-gay rant. It’s quite satisfying when Slater punches the bitch in the face.

Other than that, quite often the kids die accidentally. Not that Slater doesn’t want to kill them. He runs around with his gun in the greenhouse, while Wes runs around trying to stop him from killing anyone…sort of. It’s just a mess of running and screaming with what I’m convinced are absolutely intentional laughs thrown in. The absurdity here can’t possibly be accidental. I mean, one guy steps in a bear trap and spends the rest of the movie dragging the bear trap around on his foot in the greenhouse as he tries to stay alive…even when he bursts in to play the hero. There’s no way to not laugh at that.

rites of passage fire

A few things could have made this more of an actual horror film. First, Stephen Dorff’s unauthoritative teacher role could have been cut completely – when everyone’s at the house getting chased and killed, he’s out on the beach by himself doing the fricking Native American ritual (which in no way plays any kind of supernatural role in the film). Next, just get rid of Slater and make Wes the intoxicated psycho killer. He’s much more convincing as an ominous threat than Slater with his bad wig, bad false rotting teeth, and sock puppet.

rites of passage wes and briana

Even with a drastic need for an overhaul to make it a better movie, there is one scene that nearly has me leaning toward adding this film to my collection. The always awesome Briana Evigan (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Paranormal Island, The Devil’s Carnival, Mine Games, Mother’s Day remake, House of the Damned, Sorority Row) gets one of the best fucking chase scenes EVER. I find it hard to believe that it even comes from the same movie, because it sets a bar that the rest of the movie can never even get near. Yep…I have to go buy the film now.

BITE (2015)

bite 2015 cover

Girls go on a tropical bachelorette party weekend. Bride-to-be gets bitten by something while swimming. When she gets home, she begins to feel…different. Pretty soon, she begins to look really fucking different. EEK!

bite 2015 changing

Bite is about as straightforward as body horror can get and is virtually a clone of some of the major titles you’ve seen in the past few years, complete with moral messages about pre-marital sex, infidelity, and STDs. Not to mention, the mother of the girl’s fiancé is virtually a cartoon rendition of the hateful mother-in-law stereotype.

bite blonde

The thing is, the film is also so fricking accessible and pretty damn perfectly follows the template of “metamorphosis” horror flicks.

bite beads

It does just what you want it to do (aka: expect it to do), is just gross enough and scary enough, and puts you in that uncomfortable position of feeling bad for basically everyone affected by the situation, despite their flaws.

bite 2015 boyfriend

And what’s best is, while the girls in those other body horror films kind of just rot away in their apartments and it’s kind of incidental when they kill those who wander into their world, this chick turns monstrous and embraces that shit.

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It’s back to the woods for some brutal kills

One’s just a hiking dude. Another is a masked psycho. And the third is…well, we still don’t know what he is, but he’s pissed. I take a look at backwoods slashers Capps Crossing, Bastard, and Playing with Dolls: Havoc.

CAPPS CROSSING (2017)

capps crossing cover

Think about movies like the second and third Sleepaway Camp films. You know from the start Angela is the killer. She’s not a particularly threatening looking figure. The plot is, she has all these victims who didn’t do shit to her at her disposal in the woods. I mean, who really cares about the other characters? We’re just watching to see how they’re going to die. Those two absolutely hollow films with no characters to connect with, no scares, deaths that are more laughable than disturbing, and “humor” that couldn’t trick you into a giggle if the Family Ties laugh track was dropped in are cult favorites.

Having said that, if you claim Capps Crossing is “the worst movie ever,” I will roll my eyes so hard the wind power created by them will pick you up and throw you off a cliff. At least David, the all-American looking kid in Capps Crossing, means business when he stabs the fuck out of the people he comes across in the woods.

capps crossing hand

While Angela was so angry because she had her balls cut off by her aunt, David is angry because he had his balls figuratively removed by his girlfriend when she dumped him. Now he just hangs out in the area where the breakup occurred and kills anyone who happens by.

capps crossing spear

Meanwhile, the group of friends that comes camping in the woods is dealing with some drama involving half the group hating the guy that one of the girls is going to marry. So they all decide to split up…making things much easier for David.

capps crossing knife bend
KILLER ASS.

Capps Crossing has a few montages with some slammin’ dance music, and the guys are cute as hell.

capps crossing pretty boy 2

Look at those eyes, those lips…those pits. But I’d trade you three pieces of that lean meat for this one slab of beefcake. Pass the BBQ sauce…and the cherry cola, because that’s a lot of man to swallow and I’m going to need something to wash him down.

capps crossing beefcake

capps crossing pink shirt
Real men wear pink…and have nipple erections.

This next part made me butter my popcorn. One of the hottest gay-baiting duos ever…

capps crossing rub

So…oh yeah. The movie. David doesn’t hold back or try to be inventive when he kills. He just uses as much fury and force as necessary to get the job done.

capps crossing brains

He’s also plagued by various flashbacks, some of which I didn’t totally understand. And finally, there’s a twist at the end, but veteran horror fans will probably figure it out.

BASTARD (2015)

bastardcover

Bastard is an oddity in the world of backwoods slashers in that there’s a single part of it (near the end) that is about as typical as the formula gets, yet everything that happens around that simple slasher scenario is so fricking weird and sprinkled with wicked gore and oddly, darkly humorous moments that you can’t go into it expecting just another slasher flick.

bastardhammer to head

The unique approach here is that the “group” that comes to a place in the woods – a bed & breakfast this time – consists of people who are strangers to each other. We learn just enough about all of them to know they have issues. One couple is a pair of murderous psychos. Seriously. A young teen and his quiet female companion have run away from home. And a guy on his own is a suicidal gay cop who was trying to hang himself while in partial drag when his hot man walked in on him.

bastardhang

There’s also a killer in a hoodie and mask that brings to mind The Hills Run Red or Valentine.

bastard mask

After all the character development, the first major kill fricking rox – a hot bartender is about to get pegged by his strap-on girlfriend on the beach when they’re interrupted. I wish I could say it was by the gay cop, knocking that bitch off the bartender for trying to do a man’s job. But sadly, there’s no further exploration of the gay cop’s gayness. But there is deeper exploration of the bartender’s posterior. Ouch.

bastardgag

Following that initial kill, the film pretty much goes into its mini-slasher segment, with all the kills coming on fast. The score is very Carpenter-esque, there’s great gore, and the killer reveal is just completely out there, opening the film up for a final bizarre act.

bastardspine pull

Bastard makes you feel like you’re continuously leaving one movie and entering another. That approach definitely leaves your head spinning and a lot of questions unanswered, but damned if it isn’t one entertaining mess that delivers the horror like few slashers do these days.

PLAYING WITH DOLLS HAVOC (2017)

playing with dolls havoc cover

It’s here! The third film in Rene Perez’s slasher franchise has arrived, and the freaky killer is at it again in a house in the woods. Who’s not at it is the boss that sets this beast free for fun – Richard Tyson. While he doesn’t appear in the film this time, he’s mentioned, so he’s still the mastermind behind the massacres.

playing with dolls havoc doll

If you’ve seen the first two films, the blueprint stays the same. Perez’s formula of heart-stopping jump scares and horrendously savage kills without CGI are what it’s all about.

playing with dolls havoc military gut

Really, this franchise is essentially Friday the 13th for the new millennium. People come to a cabin or house in the woods and are savagely murdered by an unearthly, powerhouse figure. Every. Time. And I just keep coming back for more.

playing with dolls havoc male friend splatter

The plot does have a dastardly catch in this installment – a woman comes to her weekend getaway home to surprise her husband, who is staying there while on business. But both husband and wife are in for an even bigger surprise when an unexpected guest shows up…and I’m not talking about the killer. Of course, he complicates matters even more.

playing with dolls other girl in snow

Just like the Friday the 13th franchise, with all the familiar slasher situations in Playing with Dolls: Havoc, there are some standout moments. This one has a kick ass “hide under the bed” scene and a chase through the snow that puts both the main girl and the killer in a predicament I’ve never seen before in a slasher. Fricking AWESOME. Dammit, this series needs to be on DVD like yesterday.

playing with dolls havoc main girl drag

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Killer clowns from a torture chamber…and a coffin…and an app…

Big nose, painted face, flaming orange hair, nasty grin. The plot to desensitize the world to scary clowns is never-ending. And you can’t get away from them in horror flicks either – killer dolls, slashers, zombies, anthologies, Halloween films… They’re everywhere! Including this trio of films.

CIRCUS OF THE DEAD (2014)

circus of the dead cover

No, they’re not zombie clowns. It’s Cirxploitation! If you attempt to read between the lines, Circus of the Dead is a story of a man learning a brutal lesson about the importance of family. But the lines are one big run-on of torture, rape, necrophilia, and mutilation. Done quite effectively I’ll admit, but I personally can only endure so much before I need more compelling horror stimulation.

circus of the dead oberst

Most compelling here is indie actor Bill Oberst Jr., who will hopefully go down in horror history as an icon someday. His performance as the psycho gang leader of the killer clowns elevates the film above mere shock for shock’s sake.

circus of the dead boob squeeze

He and his cronies keep people stored away in a vault in their circus tent and torture the fuck out of them between shows (gorehounds take note – it’s brutal) and in their shows as part of the act.

circus of the dead volunteer

When a man (Parrish Randall, another indie horror actor who gives a notable performance) brings his wife and two daughters to the circus, the clowns take a shine to him.

circus of the dead leading man

Soon after, they go to his house and take a shine to his whole family.

The film reaches new levels of depravity when Oberst makes the guy watch while he does the unthinkable to the wife (really, it’s worse than you think).

circus of the dead clown gang

And then…the clowns take the guy on a sadistic raping, torturing, and killing spree around town.

circus of the dead wife head

This goes on for most of the movie, and he only fights back when Oberst shows him his dick. Go figure.

THE NIGHT WATCHMEN (2016)

night watchmen cover

Mitchell Altieri, part of the duo behind The Violent Kind, The Hamiltons, The Thompsons, Holy Ghost People, and the April Fool’s Day remake, goes it alone with this vampire comedy. It’s also co-written by two of the film’s stars, Dan Deluca and horror stud Ken Arnold (ParaAbnormal, Lovely Molly, The Haunting of Pearson Place, The Legend of the Mad Axeman). He’s the dude with his fist around wood in the pic below.

night watchmen leads

The same night three security guards at an office have to train the young new guy, a coffin is accidentally delivered to the building. While the trio is busy goofing off, showing the new guy the ropes and trying to flirt with the female office workers, the office perv (Samantha’s mature man from Sex and the City) wanders into the loading area and opens the coffin.

night watchmen clown in coffin

CLOWN. Fucking clowning. Fucking vampire clown. What the fuck with a vampire clown in a coffin? Wasn’t that a Carly Simon song? I had some dreams they were clowns in my coffin, clowns in my coffin…

night watchmen cast with young guy

The initial banter between the characters before the coffin is open had me thinking the comedy wasn’t going to amount to much in this film. However, once the clown comes out, the vicious vampirism spreads quickly and the humor blows up.

night watchmen vamp girl

I was laughing out loud as these guys face an onslaught of snarling vamps…or more often, run from them screaming in terror.

night watchmen screams

The cast is great and it’s a perfect balance of campy and tasteless humor, suspense, action, gore, and horror with no lag.

night watchmen more cast

Plus, Tiffany Shepis makes a brief appearance, the vampire clown horror multiplies, and I could watch Ken Arnold running around screaming in a tight uniform for hours. Look at those wood poking muscles…

night watchmen stake

BEDEVILED (2016)

bedeviled cover

Pennywise…the app?

Not that it makes much sense, but there’s a whole lot of scary clown action when a group of friends starts using this app that can somehow do anything for you – from turning on your washing machine to turning off your lights.

bedeviled clown reach

Yeah, you really don’t want it to turn off your lights.

bedeviled behind him

Pretty soon, the kids start seeing manifestations of scary figures in the shadows or out of the corner of their eyes, from freaky clowns to a freaky contortionist granny.

bedeviled crawling granny

That’s the cool thing about Bedeviled – there’s a whole lot of freaky things lurking in the shadows…even a psycho Teddy bear at one point. Awesome. But with that comes endless jolting music cues to make tweens scream. It’s loads of fun, but just know that’s about as deep as it gets here.

bedeviled clown boss

The latest in a growing list of movies adapting to current technology to scare the younger horror generation, Bedeviled reminds me of films from the mid-2000s, the era of Pulse, Darkness Falls, The Boogeyman, etc. There’s no denying it’s good clean scary fun when you’re really in the mood for a bowl of popcorn and a cherry cola.

bedeviled soo hoo

The cast includes Brandon Soo Hoo of the From Dusk Till Dawn series, Saxon Sharbino (Poltergeist remake, I Spit On Your Grave remake), and sexy Mitchell Edwards (Gorenos). Trying to find a photo of him shirtless wasn’t easy. This one on his Twitter profile was the best I could do…

mitchell edwards collage

And finally, just to add a little commentary about race, horror clichés, and how they could have been handled differently in this film, ***SPOILERS*** considering “the black guy” makes a quip about how proud he is that he lasted longer than he’s supposed to when it’s down to the final two, it would have been a really refreshing twist if he had been the one to survive instead of the blonde, blue-eyed white girl…

bedeviled leads

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Now on Blu-ray: a flashback foursome spanning a decade

The hits and obscurities just keep coming to Blu-ray – in many cases films that never even made it to DVD – thanks to some great companies digging into the vaults. And if it came from the 80s or 90s, for me it’s a must-buy, so I look at 4 recent releases that take us from 1982 – 1991: The Slayer thanks to Arrow Video; Tenement thanks to Shriek Show; Amsterdamned thanks to Blue Underground; The Resurrected thanks to Shout! Factory.

THE SLAYER (1982)

slayer 1982 cover

Prolific horror screenplay writer JS Cardone, who also did some horror directing over the decades (Shadowzone, The Forsaken, Wicked Little Things) got his start in both with the film The Slayer.

slayer monster hand

The film is a hodgepodge of horror clichés of the time – people stranded on an island are killed off slasher style by an unseen creature as one woman has paranoid premonitions about the danger.

slayer guy corpse

Actually, she’s the reason they’re there. The excursion is supposed to be a form of therapy. Why she doesn’t run screaming when she enters the very cabin she dreamed about being attacked in during the opening scene is beyond me. Whatever. But hey, the hideous claw in that opener is what kept me watching.

slayer head kiss

The island is isolated and creepy. The atmosphere is great. There’s killer POV. There are gruesome body reveals. There are some unique and gory kills, like a head severed by a trap door and a chick stabbed through the tits…from behind.

slayer tit kill

On the downside, the boring characters are forgettable (80s horror should never be about middle-aged people), a huge chunk of time is spent looking for the first victim, and the main girl is such a mess you can’t connect with her. I mean, after she sees all her friends dead (which includes her husband and her brother), she runs back to the cabin to have a ciggie and a cup of tea.

slayer tea and ciggie

Plus, you would think her premonitions would have clued her in to the fact that the monster is going to come get her when she’s alone in the cabin.

slayer dead woman body

And finally, The Slayer does something so obnoxiously 80s I don’t know how I put up with it for a decade…the second you finally see the monster you’ve been waiting the whole film to see, the movie ends.

TENEMENT (1985)

tenement cover

Director Roberta Findlay will probably never get recognized for playing hardball in the male dominated world of exploitation cinema from the 1960s through the 1980s, but I give her even more credit for exploiting the 80s so perfectly in Tenement, beginning with the wannabe Grandmaster Flash theme song.

tenement stab

And as always in the 80s, no matter how vicious a street gang was supposed to be, they all looked really, really gay.

tenement gang leader

This particular gang decides to terrorize the tenants of a big apartment building. They kill a guy’s pet, cut the phone wires and then…well…what begins as a gang rape gets really ugly when the woman fights back – with a knife to the eye. In return, she gets…a broom handle…

tenement tenants

The weird thing about watching movies like this now is that exploitation cinema has gotten so detailed in its depiction of violence since back then that a scene like this feels terribly amateur. From the camera angles to the audio to the quick execution, it’s so clear the act is simulated that it feels like the film is afraid to dwell on just how horrific it would actually be to do such a thing. Which is why 80s movies were so much fun! You know, even when a chick gets fucked to death by a broom handle, it still kind of feels like you are just watching The Outsiders.

tenement cute guy dead

The gore and violence do ramp up as the tenants – from little kids with pots of boiling water to an old lady with a bat – start to fight back, setting wicked booby traps for the baddies. And the baddies show their bizarre sadistic sides as they revel in spilling blood and even rubbing it all over themselves during sex.

tenement bloody face

But like I said, even with some gruesome kills, the cheesy 80s low budget feel (like a falling lady’s scream continuing even after you hear the thud of her hitting the ground) makes Tenement seem pretty campy these days.

AMSTERDAMNED (1988)

amsterdamned cover

Dick Maas is another filmmaker who has been making horror for decades, beginning with his 1983 killer elevator film The Lift to the visually stunning 2010 Christmas horror flick Saint Nick.

amsterdamned underwater corpse

Amsterdamned is really cool because it blatantly rips off Jaws…in a slasher. See, the killer wears a diving suit and mask and swims around the canal of Amsterdam (there’s literally Jaws POV) yanking people into the water.

amsterdamned float crotch

The kills are highly entertaining, and the body reveals the next morning are even better, but it is the same thing over and over. Murder, body reveal, detective on case does some investigating. Rinse and repeat.

amsterdamned boat tour

Occasionally this is interrupted with a high-speed chase on a motorcycle or speedboat, plus a few diving scenes with Jaws copycat scares (copyshark?), but having the detective as main character constantly takes you away from the horror.

amsterdamned boat chase

Even with many kills, body reveals, and a masked killer with a knife, this doesn’t feel like a slasher because there’s no set group of targets (aka: kids partying and having sex), and I didn’t care one way or the other about the woman shoehorned into a “final girl” scenario.

amsterdamned body part drag

There is a hideous reveal when the mask is finally removed, but it comes with a lot more exposition than I generally need from a 1980s flick about a killer in a mask.

THE RESURRECTED (1991)

 resurrected cover

Dan O’Bannon wrote a bunch of horror screenplays in the 80s, but also did some directing. Actually, he only directed two films, which is shocking considering one of them is the cult classic The Return of the Living Dead.

resurrected leads

The other was this film, based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. There’s almost a film noir tone to it as Ross Geller’s lesbian ex-wife hires and works with a detective (who narrates) to find out why her husband has run away from home and locked himself up in a family cabin.

resurrected chris sarandon

Chris Sarandon plays the husband and spends most of his time acting like he’s the vampire from Fright Night once again. The film is rather slow – he becomes noticeably more decrepit each time they visit, while the detective is distracted by some grisly murders around town and his assistant (that jerk who knocked up Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fast Times) is uncovering links to the occult.

resurrected deformity

For me, the film is worth watching for the final act, when the detective, his assistant, and his client discover tunnels beneath the cabin. This is when the horror really begins (and ends too soon).

resurrected naked

They learn the grisly truth of what the husband is up to (complete with cheesy period piece flashbacks), and finally encounter the monstrous mutations that have resulted from his experimentation.

resurrected monster

And the nightmarish scenario is all played out between desperate attempts to keep striking matches so they’ll have some light by which to see in the dark. EEK!

resurrected laser effects

On top of that, there’s a fun twist at the end.

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Three degrees of horror separation

Maxine Bahns, John Schneider, Andrew Bowen. Scarred, Smothered, Conjurer. Three names, three movies, and the horror ties that bind them together! 

SCARRED (2005)

scarred 2005 cover

It always comes back to me getting my jollies from the most simplistic, trashiest horror selections in the bunch. This time, it’s a crazy, faceless woman in the woods!

scared 2005 mud pack

After the initial sex and scares intro scene, we meet a family – dad, Maxine Bahns as the stepmom , son, daughter, and her friend – heading into the woods for a weekend of camping.

scarred 2005 cast

A cute park ranger stops by their campfire to say hello, and launches into a gruesome tale of the legend of the scar-faced woman.

scarred 2005 ranger

And that’s all there is to it. The family members retire to their tents, but of course the kids sneak out to go have some fun. Pretty soon, the slashing and screaming begin.

scarred 2005 lipstick

Scar-faced chick is cheesy creepy awesome, is a pro at making surprise appearances to scare her victims, has a lair filled with human masks, and grotesquely likes to try them on.

scarred 2005 lair face

While the first few face peels are only shown after the deed is done, we get to witness a fully detailed procedure near the end of the film. It is fucking heinous.

scarred 2005 face peel

And finally, I fricking love how the main girl handles her confrontation with scar-faced woman, plus the final scare might seem so hokey if you’re watching the film at home, but I’ll bet it was the perfect ending to liven up an audience at film festivals.

CONJURER (2008)

conjurer cover

8 years after co-directing the cult favorite anthology Terror Tract, Clint Hutchinson returned with his own full-length feature about a couple that moves into a house in the country—and for a change, it’s the husband that begins to believe some seriously weird shit is going on.

conjurer creepy shed

This film is the glue that holds this blog together thanks to its cast. Andrew Bowen (Holidays, Big Bad Wolf) is the husband and Maxine Bahns is the wife, with Hazzard hottie John Schneider in a minor role as the brother who hooks her up with the place.

conjurer cast

While exploring a creepy shed/cabin on their property, Bowen gets cut on teeth stuck in the doorframe, and begins having nightmares about the structure.

conjurer tooth

As he experiences more and more strange occurrences, he learns about a Civil War-era history of witchcraft on the land, making his daytime sighting of a witchy figure in the woods the most chilling scene in the movie.

conjurer witch in weeds

Sadly.

conjurer witch hand grab

On the positive side, it’s more witch than we get in that Blair Witch mess from back in the day, but after that brief glimpse filled me with so much dread for what was to come, Bowen spends most of the movie fighting crows and losing his shit.

conjurer crow fight

I think maybe if I took that sighting in the woods scene and slapped it onto the end of Blair Witch, the result might actually be one full witch movie worth watching.

conjurer rocking chair

But seriously, there is one other brief encounter with the witch in full force during the climatic moments of the film, but by then it feels sort of obligatory.

SMOTHERED (2016)

smothered cover

And finally, there’s Smothered. I have no idea what sparked John Schneider of all people to create such a project. Sure, he’s gotten into some cheeky SyFy horror in recent years, but he isn’t exactly ingrained in the genre.

smothered schneider

Damn, I just want to hang from that nipple by my teeth for the rest of my life. Well, unless John dies before me. There’s no air six feet under.

John writes and directs this film about a group of very specific horror names ditching a horror convention and taking a job working at a trailer park haunt. It’s kind of like The Expendables of horror pre-Death House, the self-proclaimed one that’s on its way.

smothered look down

If only it were as fun as it sounds.

On board the RV for this road trip is Kane Hodder (Jason in Friday the 13th films), R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), Bill Moseley (Chop-Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre II), Don Shanks (unmasked Michael Myers in Halloween V), and Malcolm Danare, who spends the film arguing that he’s not really a horror icon because he only appeared in Christine (although he actually also appeared in Popcorn and made a major impression in The Curse when he showed off his hairy buns).

smothere RA

As a bonus, Andrew Bowen makes a brief appearance shirtless in a sex scene at the beginning of the film. Delicious. I guess he owed John some sort of favor after they appeared together in Conjurer…

smothered shanks

While it’s fun watching the playful banter and self-deprecating humor as these guys all basically play themselves, it’s incomprehensible that Schneider made a film with such a potential-loaded plot that goes absolutely nowhere.

After a couple of pit stops on the way to the trailer park haunting location, the crew spends all their time hanging at the RV doing I don’t even know what.

smothered picnic table

Honestly, they never even get to the haunting part. I got so bored, I couldn’t even stay focused. Okay, the boredom added to my inability to stay focused…

Not helping matters is the fact that this non-story also pulls the time shift stunt, so when people eventually start dying, shit gets really confusing because suddenly they’re alive again…then dead again…then alive again.

It’s over an hour into the movie before someone is actually killed directly by the murderer on screen – I think…unless I missed something while I was busy wondering what I should watch next while trying to swat this gnat that has been in my house all summer and seems to find the front of my face no matter what room I’m in. At least the kill pays off, because it involves use of a wire and it is gnarly.

smothered mask and moseley

Only Kane Hodder gets a chance to play like he’s in an actual horror movie, facing off against the killer in the end. If only the rest of the film could have captured the spirit of Kane’s big final guy scene.

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STREAM QUEEN: guys and dolls

It’s another mish-mosh of flicks I just tossed into my Prime watchlist and watched because, you know, they’re just sitting there. So are any of them worth checking out?

THE CURSED (2010)

cursed 2010 cover

The Cursed boils down to your basic 21st century supernatural slasher, with a shadowy, transporting killer terrorizing a small town. With a 2010 release date, it feels more like it would have been a direct-to-DVD release around 2005 followed by a few airings on SyFy (where I think it actually has landed on occasion).

cursed 2010 killer transform

The Mandylor brothers – two cute guidos who have been around for years and you’ll totally recognize if you see them – finally play brothers in a movie (if they haven’t before and I just don’t know it). One is the sheriff, the other is his deputy. Sounds like the setup for a really disgusting porn flick, but they don’t have time for fun because they have a case of slaughtered cows on their hands.

cursed 2010 brothersHow do I tell him we don’t need to be messing with those pigs in the barn when we have each other?

Meanwhile, some hot dude comes to town to bang the librarian…I mean, do some research. He’s so cute he also catches the attention of the supernatural killer, which seems to set its sights on him.

cursed 2010 lead

There’s plenty of back lighting in the woods and fog machines, but only sporadic kills as the main players bounce from one location to another trying to piece together exactly why there are pieces of locals turning up around town.

cursed 2010 killerface

It’s not until all the gun crazy hillbillies have a town meeting and decide to take matters into their own hands to stop the killer that the body count rises. Finally we get to sit back and watch some good slaughter before the main characters face off against the killer at the end. If you were around in 2005, you’ve seen this all before, but it’s a serviceable time killer if there’s nothing else to watch. What I’m saying is, in this day of streaming technology, there’s always something to watch…

ZERPES (2013)

 zerpes cover

If you’re looking for a gross out horror comedy about a zombie STD, watch Night of Something Strange.

Zerpes is almost entirely comprised of two kids (one of them the director/writer) walking the streets at night talking while they try to figure out how to cure one kid of his STD zombie infection, while occasionally being joined by some girl they know.

zerpes credits

This is as minimalistic as horror gets. The intro credits in an 80s font and the awesome 80s-inspired music used throughout the movie were the highlight for me. Some funny lines and moments are virtually lost in an endless stream of dialogue.

zerpes guys

It’s one kid’s eighteenth birthday. The other kid walks with him to an apartment building where his gift awaits – a prostitute so he can become a man. The kid goes inside, gets fucked (we don’t see the prostitute or sex) then comes out and begins groaning a bit, dragging his feet a bit, and randomly saying the word “brains” every now and then.

zerpes with girl

The guys eventually conclude he got a zombie STD and, like I said, spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to cure him of it…by walking and talking.

zerpes vamp

There are a few distractions (a vampire boy, a burial), but believe me, they aren’t distracting enough, despite this being a really charming attempt at a cute premise.

THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS (2016)

unkindness of ravens cover

There’s so much I could really like about The Unkindness of Ravens: gore, disturbing visuals and eerie encounters like something out of Silent Hill, and what would be some bone-chilling tension and suspense if not for one thing…

unkindness of ravens tub

We know from the very start that everything that is happening is all in the head of the main character, a war veteran suffering PTSD. Staying in a cabin in the mountains and keeping a journal to cope with his mental state, he’s plagued by continuous horror hallucinations, nightmarish visions, gruesome flashbacks of the war, and an antagonizing version of himself.

unkindness of ravens self

There’s plenty of imagery and metaphorical scenarios abound, but the attention to detail in creating each one with techniques used to scare horror audiences feels bizarrely misplaced to me.

unkindness of ravens stalker

For instance, guy hears sounds outside his bedroom, ominous music plays as he slowly approaches door to peek out, then music crescendos to raucous stabs to send fear through the viewer as we see there are some sort of robed figures roaming his cabin. Problem is, we know this insanity is all in his head so there’s really no danger. And with this happening over and over again, there’s just nothing for a fear seeker like me to cling to.

And just when we step into a scene that started to get my heart pounding…it ended up getting things throbbing instead. I’m sick.

unkindness of ravens zombie

unkindness of ravens hall guys resized

unkindness of ravens shower bear

Plus, the movie takes a turn into hallucinatory war battles in the woods, which is where I completely check out.

unkindess of ravens army guy

I do think fans of Jacob’s Ladder and other films that draw parallels between war and horror should give this one a look though, because it goes really deep into the psyche and the horror segments are pretty damn good.

CHARLOTTE (2017)

charlotte cover

How to cash in on the Annabelle craze? Put together an anthology film with a doll on the poster art and in the wraparound. But hey, she’s a pretty fun doll, enslaving and torturing a babysitter while making her watch a bunch of scary short films on TV…

charlotte wraparound

There are quite a few fun stories in this one, and a few I’ve seen before (I know I just said this recently in another anthology blog, but because I’m so backed up in my blogs, I got my notes mixed up), such as a story about a guy terrorized by two Girl Scouts selling cookies at Christmas time, which was also on one of the Hillbilly Horror Show volumes.

charlotte trick or treater

And speaking of holidays, while this isn’t specifically a holiday anthology, there are a couple of goodies that take place on Halloween, one about a guy who makes the mistake of bringing a trick or treater’s purse to her address after she leaves it at his house, the other a gruesome creature feature about a babysitter who tells a story of Tic Tac, the (foot-stealing) tickler. EEK!

charlotte foot

A Saw-like torture lair short has a dark, disturbing (Saw-like) twist.

charlotte salw lair guy

there’s an awesome little tale of a young girl who wants to get into a theatre to see a horror movie…and even mistakes Frozen of Idina Menzel fame for the Adam Green horror flick.

charlotte theater girl

Plus we get a stand-alone (if cliché) doll story.

THE CURSE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2016)

 curse of robert the doll cover

While we’re on the subject of killer dolls, Andrew Jones (director of The Last House on Cemetery Lane) brings us a killer doll flick which is a sequel to his other killer doll flick, which I haven’t seen and didn’t even feel all OCDed about seeing before writing this blog, because apparently it’s “based on a true story” and nothing like the hack & slash trash blast this one is.

curse of robert glass case

Yep, truth is not better than fiction. Whatever the doll did to terrorize a family in the first movie, he now ends up in a museum at the same time as a young woman comes to work the nightshift. While she’s busy falling for the cute security guard…

curse of robert lead lower

Whoops! I mean…

curse of robert male lead

…creepy Robert begins to leave signs that he isn’t exactly sitting still in his display case.

curse of robert doll

If you’ve devoured six Chucky movies and eagerly await the new one, just shut the fuck up with any criticism and watch this shit. Robert lurks in dark shadows and fucks people up good.

curse of robert scream

That’s all that matters in a fucking killer doll movie. That and some good jump scares, which The Curse of Robert The Doll delivers.

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WELL I’LL BE DAMNED: an 8-movie binge

Take a ride on the dark side with me as I look at 8 films loaded with demons, possession, exorcists, satanic rituals, witches, hostile ghosts, and devil only knows what else.

THE HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET (2016)

house on willow street cover

Indigenous director Alastair Orr thrusts final girl Sharni Vinson (You’re Next, Patrick, Bait) into the possession/demon genre, and oh what fun it is, if just for all the demon shit that goes on.

house on willow street captive

Sharni and a bunch of guys kidnap this young woman from her extravagant home (on Willow Street) and take her to some sort of warehouse (not on Willow Street). She looks damn sinister in a hoodie and shit in her house, so I’m not sure how they didn’t see trouble on the horizon.

They chain her up in a basement while they try to collect ransom from her family…and then she starts to get weird. And they don’t get any answer. Some of them head back to the house (because everyone’s so busy on their phones these days no one just visits anymore) and discover the reason no one’s answering…signs of an exorcism gone horribly wrong. And luckily, priests still use VHS tapes, because the truth is all revealed on a video.

house on willow street big monster

Meanwhile, back at the warehouse, the lights go out, Sharni is forced to go down to the basement to fiddle with the fuse box, and…well…yeah, that’s where they have the chick chained up.

house on willow street sharni

Now this is my kind of movie. All The Exorcist shit already took place and we just get little snippets of it on a video, so we’re left with more of a sleek, modernized Night of the Demons scenario as everyone starts going demon, levitating, and lashing out with slithery tongues.

house on willow street tongue

This little piggy went EEK! EEK! EEK! all the way home to the shelves of my movie collection.

SATANIC (2016)

satanic cover

With movies like Scary Movie 5, April Apocalypse, and Vampire Academy already under her belt, Sarah Hyland of Modern Family fame seems to be setting herself up for the scream queen period of her career. And it’s fine by me because she screams her lungs out in Satanic.

satanic steven krueger

Other familiar faces include cutie Steven Krueger of TV show The Originals and horror-ready Justin Chon (the Twilight franchise, Detention of the Dead), who played gay in horror flick Hack!

 satanic justin chon

Satanic is a simple little film that worked for me because it follows a really basic premise yet adds a bizarre touch of surrealism at the end that’s quite chilling. You just have to go with the notion that there’s no telling how the darker dimension will present itself when it comes for you. These warped planes of existence weren’t uncommon in horror a few decades ago, but there’s less willingness to embrace fantastical horror scenarios in the age of concrete horror (as in, it’s not horror unless someone’s head is bashed in with a piece of concrete).

So this group of four friends decides to take a tour of true crime locations (for instance, the home in which the Manson family massacred Sharon Tate and friends). They use a Ouija board to contact spirits in a hotel in which murders occurred, with no effect.

satanic ouija

It seems like the usual lame-assed hunt for cheap horror thrills…until they witness a satanic ritual at one location. It’s when they attempt to do the right thing and save one girl from being sacrificed that they really piss off the devil…

satanic ritual scene

Forget running into the light. These dimwits run directly into the dark, which seems to be nothing more than a maze of sheets with pentagrams painted on them. But holy fuck does shit get messed up before all is said and done. Sarah Hyland is officially initiated into the world of horror now, for sure.

INCARNATE (2016)

incarnate cover

Incarnate is more of a mainstream possession/exorcism film with a bit of a The Cell spin on it, which is a cool, fresh approach to this tired subgenre.

incarnate eckhart

Cutie Aaron Eckhart (I, Frankenstein) plays an exorcist who is not an exorcist, dammit. He doesn’t believe in all that religious bullshit. He is a scientist that can go into the minds of possessed people and fight their demons, or as he calls it, evicting their inner parasites (Screw you, Aaron! Don’t you ever call me a parasite…unless I’m sucking your dick).

incarnate fire demon

Considering he goes in and battles things that terrify the possessed person in fairly natural environments – a nightclub, carnival – it’s sort of like he’s just jumping into their nightmares. But the focus is on one boy, played by David Mazouz (The Darkness), whose behavior and blacked out eyes make it pretty clear he’s possessed.

incarnate kid

Fairly entertaining if not exactly hardcore demon/possession action here, but the scene in which the boy becomes possessed is sort of lame after starting off quite effective. Some demon bitch crawling on the ceiling drops down on top of him and…BAM. He decks her and he’s possessed.

DEATH NOTE (2017)

death note cover

I’m clueless about the Asian animated series, movies, whatever, so I’m going to take this film on its own merits. It comes to us from Adam Wingard – who first got my attention with his gory indie Home Sick before going big time with segments in the V/H/S franchise and films like You’re Next, Blair Witch, and The Guest.

death note the book

Like The Guest, Death Note isn’t a traditional “horror” movie, but has horror elements as it tells a wickedly engrossing story, something Wingard knows how to do like few others do these days. His movies bring me back to the days of cable faves from the 80s, which is why it’s no surprise the soundtrack includes songs like “Don’t Change” by INXS, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” by Chicago, and “The Power of Love” by Air Supply. Awesome.

death note party massacre

The story is about a bullied kid who scores big time when a book falls out of the sky and brings with it a demon that’s sort of like a genie…it gives him the power to kill off the fuckers who torture him.

death not demon behind him

All he has to do is write down exactly how he wants them to die in the book and it happens. But this kid decides to use his powers for good…to kill off evil criminal bastards.

death note first demon attack scream

There are some gory good Final Destination deaths early on, and the demon is initially freaky as hell.

death note head

But he becomes more of an evil pest (voiced by Wilem Dafoe), manipulating matters so the seemingly good deeds of taking out the bad guys backfire on the kid. The U.S. government proves to be much faster at gathering evidence that there’s some kid using a magic book and a demon to supernaturally kill criminals than they are at gathering the necessary evidence to throw a president in jail for handing the country over to Russia, which leads to the film shifting into action/thriller territory.

death note his assassin

ISLAMIC EXORCIST (2017)

islamic exorcist cover

When all is said and done, it seems this film just tosses the word “Islamic” into the title to be provocative, because it’s really just another demon/possession film. Actually, it has somewhat of a throwback feel to all the foreign knockoff films of The Exorcist from the 1970s, which alone makes it kind of fun.

islamic terrorist bloody prints

Confronting demonic possession in her own life, a reporter goes to the home of a woman whose hairy hot husband killed their adopted daughter in a case that the woman believes had to do with possession. The woman begins to tell her story of how it all went down…

islamic exorcist couple

This is a part ghost/part possession movie as the woman begins to see entities all over their new house, becomes attached to this girl that sort of just wanders into their life, and then begins exhibiting signs of demonic possession.

islamic exorcist little girl

It’s all entertaining enough with cheap scares and some cheesy good possession clichés, but there’s nothing new here…until the end!

islamic exorcist demon

The final moments deliver the real twist and set this story apart from all the other possession films out there.

DARKSIDE WITCHES (2015)

darkside witches cover

Darkside Witches has so much going for it – softcore sex and nudity, super gore, a perverse combo of both, CGI creatures, totally demonic monster witches…

darkside witches demon feast

…and even a priest that does some hardcore exorcism work in Africa before going on a hunt for a gaggle of witches back from the past and ready for revenge.

darkside witches african demon

Then the movie makes a crucial mistake; it tries to tell a fucking story!

darkside witches burning demon

All this epic bullshit comes in about the past, there are too many characters and backstory, and shit turns into a major heaven and hell battle with fire and brimstone and all that crap.

darkside witches giant demon

Somehow this film forgets the promises it made when it opened with a chick running through the woods with her tits out and having her heart ripped out by a flying CGI witch…

darkside witches flying witch

…and a skanky bartender blowing a hunk before turning into a gnarly demon, biting off his dick, and then riding the bloody nub.

darkside witches sex 1

darkside witches sex2

darkside witches sex3

Come on. You don’t just throw away such a brilliant cum face performance by tacking a fricking story onto the film.

darkside witches BJ
Mmm, girl, I know it. Savor that pre-cum.

GHOSTS OF DARKNESS (2017)

ghosts of darkness cover

Director David Ryan Keith (The Redwood Massacre, Attack of the Herbals) offers an entertaining ghost hunting buddy movie that delivers some humor and plenty of freaky ghosts and demons.

ghosts of darkness team

Actually, these two guys, a psychic and a debunker, are not quite buddies at first. They are called to a house where a daughter killed her parents and are given an assignment: stay the night and prove the house is haunted. Naturally, there’s friction between them. The psychic is the snarky fun one.

ghosts of darkness exorcism

The debunker is cute, but he’s so serious and in no mood to play around. And even though his character is still grieving the loss of a wife, the guy really came across to me like a gay Matt Bomer. Yeah, I know exactly what I just said.

ghosts of darkness leading man

It is the debunker who begins seeing creepy ghosts first, and the haunting begins to escalate.

ghosts of darkness intro demon girl

These are no ordinary ghosts – they look all zombie-like and demon-like and shit.

ghosts of darkness zombie ghost

Good stuff. Especially the main bad ass demon/ghost/zombie whatever the frick he is.

ghosts of darkness cross eyes

Ghosts of Darkness pretty much just takes the whole overplayed, overrated Insidious/The Conjuring/Oculus horror trend and has some fun with it.

GORENOS (2016)

gorenos cover

Demon movie Gorenos doesn’t really have the budget to do much more than tell an entertaining story, so there’s no demon, making this essentially a ghost movie in which you never see the ghost, just people dying because of the ghost.

gorenos puke

A good time is had playing up the two main buddies’ love of horror films right from the start. Their opening scene talking about horror and then getting spooked makes it feel like this is going to be a horror comedy.

gorenos intro scare

However, it does eventually turn serious…after they hit up a strip joint and get some major booty in their faces.

gorenos bleeding eyes

Seems the one kid, who’s celebrating his eighteenth birthday, has a demon on his ass…and it’s killing all his friends.

gorenos kincaid

Ken Sagoes, best known as Kincaid in Elm Street 3, appears as a guy who knows a thing or two about demons and clues him in on the details of his problem and how to stop it.

And the main kid’s brother, although an asshole, is adorable.

gorenos brother

Thing is, with no special effects or actual demon, the plot plays out almost entirely in dialogue, making Gorenos neither a very suspenseful nor very scary experience.

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The one undead flick that shouldn’t get lost in the zombie shuffle

locked away cover small

I know, I know. Zombies have been done to undeath. But that’s the whole point. Zombies will never die! So I will keep watching every zombie movie that stumbles across my path, because there’s usually always some sort of cheap zombie thrill to be had even in the worst of them. And occasionally, a film rises above the horde for one reason or another. In the case of Locked Away, there are a variety of reasons.

Director Jason Morisette manages to do it all. In keeping with the character-centric trend in modern zombie celluloid, he tells a family-focused story with a distinct character study that throws an emotional punch. He offers a flashback feel to classic 1970s horror and zombie films both American and Euro, but also detours temporarily into the bizarr-o zone of 1980s midnight movies. He builds tension and atmosphere, yet also hits hard with zombie action, scares, and gore.

locked away shed intro

The creep factor grabs hold right from the start and creates that unnerving sense of dread that 1970s horror did by letting you know something really bad is up…without letting you actually see what that something is. All we know is that someone is keeping something in a shed. Man, I hate when someone keeps something in a shed.

locked away greeting

We then meet a young military man home from the war. Because he’s returning to his rustic, rural small town, the film manages to be almost timeless – the war in which he was serving could as easily be Vietnam as Iraq. The family dynamic is a mess: caring mom but dick dad; his girlfriend is like part of the family even though his relationship with her is strained; and his little brother is kind of distant because he went off and joined the army.

It’s when the little brother leaves to go meet a friend that the nightmare begins. This friend wants to show him something he discovered…in a shed.

locked away shed peer

Oh fuck. Every zombie plague has to begin somewhere, right?

locked away zombie at store

The entire film focuses on this one family as the older brother tries to keep them safe within the confines of their small town. A strange hack of a scientist gives them shelter…but has also been studying the zombies to see what makes them tick.

locked away scientist house

Adding to the character development, there’s an awkward reunion with a high school buddy of the older brother.

locked away school hall with friend

The final act brings on the zombie action and doesn’t let up. It begins with a bone-chilling encounter when a zombie invades the space in which the group is sleeping.

locked away sleep attack

Then there’s a heartbreaking scene in which the older brother has to make a decision that we’ve seen countless times in zombie films, but the characters’ responses to it this time are so different and raw as hell. It almost feels as if this film was shot sequentially, because the performances of the unknown actors go from quite stiff early on to much more natural, genuine, and fluid in the second half, as if they became more comfortable with each other, with the filmmaking process, and with the journey of their characters.

locked away restroom zombie

The final escape and battle will exhaust you almost as much as I imagine it did the actors. The younger brother is hurt, so the older brother is actually carrying him as they run from countless zombies through streets, into the woods, and up and down hills.

locked away zombie boy crawl

There’s something incredibly realistic about this entire flight scene in terms of the physical toll it takes on the people and their nonstop, instinctual responses to everything that is happening.

locked away chase

It is draining to watch, and it just keeps getting worse, leading to a relentless onslaught of zombies in an enclosed space. I think even Edward Furlong snuck onto set hoping to play a zombie…

locked away zombie at barn opening

Then comes the fucking zombie from hell. When it showed up on the scene, I pretty much made the same exact face as the main guy…

locked away master zombie

Even so, the chaos doesn’t distract from the connection you feel with the main character in his undying need to protect the family that has essentially elevated him to the status of superhero. I’m seriously hoping Locked Away gets a DVD or Blu release, because it’s a must-have for my collection.

locked away barn entry

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