It’s rare that I don’t automatically buy sequels and reboots to franchises already in my collection, so the third Malevolenceand reboot of Puppet Masterwere both release day purchases. And if it weren’t for my damn OCD, I would re-evaluate my obligations to franchises.
MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)
For me personally, Steve Mena’s trilogy, planned from the start, just never found its footing after the fantastic first film. Part 2, Bereavement, which was actually a prequel, was an entirely different film rather than the amazing love letter to 80s slashers that the first film was. Instead it was too much of a repetitive torture porn for me and I struggled to get through it.
Part 3, like Halloween II 1981, is a direct sequel that picks up right where the first film left off, complete with a flashback clip to the end of Malevolence and the killer escaping to continue his bloodbath.
But instead of Halloween II, what we get is more like the messy installment known as Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. The good news is that the intense suspense and classic slasher vibe Mena brought to his first film is back, making the kill scenes stylistically like the original Halloween and Friday the 13th films right down to the camera angles, setup shots, and music score. Yep, still love Mena’s talent for horror atmosphere.
However, a series of victims we never get to connect with is tossed at us left and right as the killer mostly targets a bunch of kids who conveniently pass in and out of one house. Their “plot lines” are virtually nonexistent, and they somehow never realize that people are being murdered in like every room.
Meanwhile, detectives searching for the killer end up at the house of Adrienne Barbeau, whose cameo does nothing to elevate the film. She’s simply a vessel to get the detectives aimed in the right direction.
Making the film even more disappointing is that the killer isn’t an ominous, mysterious presence. We know his entire backstory from the previous films, and we know what he looks like because he doesn’t wear a mask. He’s simply a jerk with a knife who could as easily have played the role of one of the victims as the killer.
To add insult to injury, the overly long final scare scene is a dream sequence! Ugh!
PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)
If ever there was a reboot that left you wondering “What the hell was the point?”, this one is it. Although the tone makes this one dark and gory instead of campy and fun like the original, the basic plot could as easily have been yet another weak sequel to the long running franchise.
From an exploitative angle, the absolutely delicious, viciously gory and brutal kills are about the only place things get as campy as the original films. They’re also the only aspect of this film that could make me believe it comes from the creative force behind two favorites of mine—Wither and Blood Runs Cold.
Comic actor Thomas Lennon is the unexpected main guy, who returns home to live with his parents and comes across a creepy doll in his deceased brother’s room.
Pretty soon all the puppets are out and slaughtering the fuck out of a hotel full of people.
The ongoing Nazi plot of the series continues, with the puppets clearly targeting based on those groups Nazis hate (gays, Jews, etc.).
The onslaught of random, mostly unsavory people in the hotel is about as close to the formula of the original films as this one gets. Well, that and the fact that you can pretty much watch this crappy movie multiple times and still be oddly entertained.
The puppets are a mix of redesigned versions of some of the originals and new ones, but they simply have no personalities like the originals. Hey, at least they make the kills absolutely horrific and exploitative, especially the death of a pregnant woman.
Even so, I personally think the trophy should go to the pissing scene…
And I did kind of like the unexpected battle with something other than the puppets…
Look for appearances by Udo Kier, Barbara Crampton, and Michael Pare.
It’s time for a mini smorgasbord of new stuff that just hit Prime. What do they have in common? They all recently hit Prime. Otherwise, it’s a variety: an 80s critter flick spoof, a home invasion flick, and a backwoods slasher. And I was entertained by all of it.
The director of Raiders of the Lost Shark and Attack of the Jurassic Shark brings us a goofy fun throwback to the 80s era of Gremlins, Critters, Ghoulies,Munchies, and Hobgoblins. This movie is exactly what it’s supposed to be, so if you watch it and think it’s awful or stupid, then there’s really no hope for you.
This is how you start a movie. A cult is doing a ritual sacrifice in a barn when a spacious from another planet lands nearby…
When we’re informed that it’s “present day,” we are immediately catapulted back to the 80s, from the music to a chick doing aerobics and referencing Jane Fonda while wearing a “Let’s get physical” top. So it’s no surprise the entire score is 80s synthtastic.
A group of girls goes to a cabin in the woods.
Naturally, the boys show up, and naturally they all begin getting attacked by funny little creatures that I would describe as Munchies meets Fraggle Rock.
Their little giggles of glee cracked me up, and the attacks are just as funny, especially thanks to the reactions of the actors.
And while it’s goofy spoofy as the puppets snack on victims, the movie even dares to throw in some campy good gore.
Highlights include a nod to an iconic Gremlins moment, a girl saying “gag me with a spoon,” and a hottie in his undies.
If you’re a home invasion fan, this one is short but sweet, just like my thoughts on it.
There’s a very The Strangers vibe as a couple vacations in a house and we get to see that they are being watched.
It is the girl who first starts to become uneasy, and the slow build up is quite effective and tense.
Plus you get to see the guy shirtless during a sex scene that results in what I found to be the most unnerving moment of the film.
But what makes this standout and gives it a unique twist is that you actually get to experience the home invasion from the perspective of two different characters, which ensures two very different interpretations of the events that unfold.
LET’S NOT MEET (2018)
As indie horror films go, this one has a lot going for it…with one major flaw. It’s an hour and 54 fricking minutes long. Argh! I want to sob. Just another of many otherwise good indie efforts that is going to lose people before it’s over because it simply wasn’t reevaluated for length and pacing before release. Eliminating the “dead air” moments between scenes and dialogue exchanges alone could have tightened up the flow.
Otherwise, there’s plenty of positive going on here, including some tight slasher sequences as well as a unique approach to the usual kids in woods get chased by killer plot.
It seems rather random when a group of friends has pizza delivered by a girl they knew back in school—and didn’t exactly get along with—before they go camping in the woods. After they sit around a fire talking about a local legend of a cult killer back from the dead, it’s no surprise that a dark form starts terrorizing them.
Meanwhile, the pizza girl is still delivering pizzas. She happens upon a home invasion in a tense scene, and is soon being hunted by the invader.
So how the hell is this all going to come together? You find out eventually, and it’s a pretty clever twist to have two threats causing the main cast problems, but there is a lot of filler before we get to the point.
However, there are also some good chills and thrills along the way. The film is light on the gore, and there are moments where you really have to suspended disbelief (for instance, they get away from the girl and take shelter in…a tent???), but there are also some nicely effective scenes, like one in which the cutie of the group gets out of a bear trap that is suddenly dragged away as he’s nursing his wound.
Seriously, actor Carmine Giordano, the cutie of the group, is a fricking doll and no stranger to indie horror.
Plus, the reveal of the face of the dark figure chasing them in the woods is unexpected and awesome.
Sure there are already loads of Halloween horror flicks to choose from on my holiday horror page, but it wouldn’t be October without a bunch of new ones to add to the list. So here are three that have recently hit streaming and Blu-ray.
The intro credits get you in the mood with a montage of clips from classic black and white horror flix.
Then things get kind of Halloween as a psycho killer is on trial…and gets off free on a technicality, à la A Nightmare on Elm a Street. Next, the cops who arrested him take vengeance into their own hands in true Dark Night of the Scarecrow style.
A year later, the scarecrow comes back for revenge…
This is a pretty generic slasher affair, as victims are killed off with a pitchfork, a rolling pin, knife, etc., while the main detective from the case tries to hunt him down.
One of my favorite moments is when two guys are talking about jerking off, and one goes into a whole story about the lengths he went through to convince a drunk buddy he got banged by a guy.
Plus, the Halloween season vibe and spirit is perfect throughout.
Giving it that low budget 80s vibe, there’s a Halloween costume party and a montage of a surf rock band on stage while everyone dances in their costumes.
The scarecrow at last shows up, says “trick or treat” in virtually the same voice as the little demon from the “Halloween Candy” episode of Tales from the Darkside, and then starts massacring the guests at the party. And of course there’s a cheesy battle to the death. You need to hear the overblown dramatic music…and underblown gunshot sound effects.
And shame on you if you don’t see the nod to Carrie coming.
INTO THE DARK: THE BODY (2018)
The first “episode” of the Hulu series in which every episode will revolve around a holiday takes place on Halloween and runs 82 minutes long. So…it’s a movie.
It’s also a movie that immediately felt like something I’d seen recently, and a little research revealed why. It’s based on the director’s short film from the anthology film Patient Seven, which I blog about here.
There’s no forgetting the opener. A psycho killer drags a wrapped up body down the street on Halloween and everyone thinks it’s a prop for his costume.
This full length veers drastically from the original. I think. That’s the only part I remember from the original.
Here the hot hot killer (who was also in gay horror flick B&B) takes the body to a party, and pretty soon he has a group of young people working as his bitches, dragging the body all over the city.
One of the kids happens to be Ray Santiago, so you get these weird Ash vs. Evil Dead flashbacks along the way.
Also, the gay bashing football player from Glee appears as a cop.
It’s a wild and often illogical ride, with plenty of gore and suspense along the way, even if it kind of doesn’t always make sense. But the final battle between psycho and kids is INSANE!
BLOOD FEST (2018)
This was a blind buy on Blu-ray because I could tell from the trailer it was going to be one I’d want to keep.
The opening kill on Halloween told me immediately I was right, and fricking Tate Donovan appears as the husband of the victim!
The main kid is obsessed with horror and works at a video store with the largest inventory I’ve ever seen. However, the film takes place in the modem day, not the 80s.
Despite his father forbidding it, the main boy heads to the Blood Fest festival with his female buddy and his virgin guy friend.
Yes it’s a totally meta movie, to the point (as with most meta movies these days) that the dialogue they have about horror feels forced just so they can drop as many references as possible.
Soon, the vibe at Blood Fest becomes clear. It’s basically a park of horror setups so you can relieve scenes from the classics.
Turns out the kids have no choice but to experience every subgenre, because the purpose of this park is to film the best horror movie ever…by actually killing everyone at the park!
The massive massacre that kicks it off is worth the price of admission.
Basically, this is Cabin in the Woods meets Waxwork.
The main kids are manipulated into fighting zombies, a masked killer, vampires, demons, chainsaw maniacs, a Saw torture lair, dolls, clowns, a sexy bearded backwoods killer…
Humor, gore, scares, a brief cameo by Zachary Levi of Chuck, and a likable cast make this one a great Halloween party movie.
It’s flashback time to the end of the 80s for some witch flix—a comedy spoof and a creepy family movie.
LOVE AT STAKE (1987)
When I worked at the video store in the late 80s, I used to play this one every year during my light Halloween marathons while at work (with movies like Elvira, Ghostbusters, High Spirits, etc.).
The spoof humor is sort of like that of the Airplane/Naked Gun style of comedy, which makes sense since it’s directed by one of the creators of Fridays and written by writers of MADtv and Saturday Night Live. It’s just not as quick and constant as in those films.
With the cast of veteran comedy actors in it, it really should be funnier than it is. It doesn’t quite hold up or keep me laughing these days, with gags like the main couple running past each other numerous times in a field of tall weeds, a guy being cursed with a case of the farts at church, or an old lady who sings a song all about her pussy…as in, her cat.
I still appreciate it for the nostalgia and the fun it pokes at the Salem witch trials. Kelly Preston is the leading lady. The leading man is cutie Patrick Cassidy (Mr. Anthony on that awful attempt at a hair salon sitcom spinoff on The Nanny. Oh…and also, you know, a Cassidy).
Dave Thomas of Strange Brew is the mayor, and Barbara Carrera (Wicked Stepmother, Embryo, Island of Dr. Moreau) is the actual witch who comes into town to stir up trouble while innocent women are being found guilty of witchcraft.
Barbara Carrera’s hi-jinx making everyone look guilty and fucking with their heads using her spells is by far the highlight…as is the scene in which she becomes devilishly dominatrix and magically tears off Cassidy’s clothes. He’s definitely hotter than Shaun or David if you ask me.
Other silly gags include a dance to a rap song called “Don’t Keep Satan Waiting,” and Dr. Joyce Brothers playing herself and giving a frighteningly always relevant defense during the trial about oppressive religion causing repressed sexuality that turns people evil and causes them to act out against others.
The icing on the cake? The witch finally reveals her true self…
THE WITCHES (1990)
I never realized until it was time to write this blog that The Witches comes from Nicholas Roeg, director of the 1973 shocker Don’t Look Now with Donald Sutherand.
What I’ve also never realized is why, despite this classic having Anjelica Huston as one for the most hideous witches in a family movie ever, I simply can never remember much about it and don’t rank it as high as I should in films of this type. So, I absolutely forced myself to pay attention all the way through this time instead of allowing my interest to be derailed at whatever point it is that it always gets derailed.
Things begin in a cozy little house, where a grandmother tells her grandson the history of actual witches, their taste for children, and how to recognize one when he encounters one. Soon after comes what I’d say is the most chilling scene in the whole fricking movie.
The boy is outside playing in a tree when a creepy, witchy woman with a snake tries to entice him down, even going as far as to offer him chocolate. Eek! He’s too smart for her witchy ways, she hurries away, and we never see her again! And no, she’s not Martha Plimpton.
The boy and his grandmother end up staying at a hotel where the curious boy spies on a convention—of witches!
Their leader, Anjelica Huston, reveals her true horrific self, the witches demonstrate their power to turn little children into mice, and…
…they spot the little boy. EEK!
DERAIL! DERAIL! This is right where the film just gets messy and chaotic. First, there are just way too many witches!
Aside from Anjelica and her assistant witch, played by Ab Fab‘s Bubble, all the other witches are just a sea of forgettable faces. Consider this compared to the Hocus Pocus trio, which gives the movie hocus focus! Three witches are simply a more distinct and memorable threat than an entire conference room full of them.
The other thing that never gripped me—and the part I always block out—is that the witches turn the main boy into a talking mouse who has a talking mouse buddy.
They have to help the grandmother take down the witches. The major battle takes place in the hotel’s dining hall, and for me, all the menacing, witchy darkness is obliterated. This shit starts to feel like Ratatouille or some charming family friendly crap. Blah.
Although I must say, there’s a part in which the mice go up the chef’s pants that is pretty damn funny, thanks in part to the reaction of Mr. Bean, who plays the hotel manager.
It’s like the horror fates lead me to similar movies to blog about, so I had no choice but to cover drug-themed backwoods slashers Young, High and Dead and 4/20 Massacre in a single post. They also have something else in common, an issue I talk about often in indie horror these days—between the really cool horror moments, the writers often have no idea how to create a story or successfully develop characters to which we can connect.
YOUNG, HIGH AND DEAD (2013)
I was quite drawn in by the raw, low budget feel of this film’s opening scene. It’s just a first person POV and heavy breathing traveling through an ominous situation in a basement, but it’s quite effective, and segues right into a throwback black and white animated credit sequence with creepy music. I was pumped.
Plus, sprinkled throughout the movie are gritty, disturbing clips in a basement lair involving a little girl and sharp tools, and while it doesn’t explicitly show anything, the implications are horrific. It has that old school “why does this feel uncomfortably real?” vibe of underground classics.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the movie aside from that is tedious to get through. A group of friends travels into the woods to camp and party.
After a tense scene of the group hiking right near a plot where a killer is burying a body in the woods, this movie simply goes nowhere for almost an hour.
The group sits around a campfire drinking, drugging, and talking, and due to sound issues I could barely understand most of the dialogue. This just goes on and on and on.
But I’d suggest you stick with it (or fast forward through it), because finally we get somewhere.
After what I believe is just a super creepy dream sequence reminiscent of found footage films, the group wakes up the next morning to find several of them have been chained to the ground overnight while they were sleeping in their tents. EEK! Unfortunately, this leads to some agonizing time watching them just try to break the chains.
The group splits up and things just get more and more confusing and hard to see, with lots of dark footage of characters running through the woods.
Then…all of a sudden…the film somehow finds clear, concrete ground to deliver a chain of wild situations as the final survivors get into one whacked situation after another leading up to the final battle to the death.
It’s like you stepped into a 1970s grindhouse revenge flick and I kind of fricking loved it. Just don’t expect any of the components fed to us throughout the film to really come together or make sense.
It is just dumbfounding how a filmmaker can make something this damn stylized and entertaining but have no idea how to make everything leading up it worthy of it.
4/20 MASSACRE (2018)
4/20 Massacre starts off with a great jump scare and kill, so I had really high hopes. Yeah, I just realized the pun, but it was totally unintentional (I’m so much better than that when I’m trying).
Next comes a gaggle of girls going hiking in the woods. Holy crap and damn it all to hell! This movie turns into a chick flick interspersed with kills. Argh!
I can’t believe how much talking and sitting around fills the time between kills. Actually, yes I can, because I just blogged about Young, High and Dead.
I simply could not stay focused on anything these girls were talking about. To spice things up, there’s lesbian attraction… some that doesn’t work out, some that does, which leads to lesbian action, making this suddenly a lesbian chick flick. Why can’t any of the damn sausage fest flix I watch turn into gay sausage fest flix? I guess that’s why I write gay horror that takes place in an all-male city…to fill a void in my horror life.
Anyway, when the girls first set off into the woods, they run into the sheriff, who warns them not to go into the mountains because crazy violent pot growers reside there. Personally, to me the mountains and the woods are the same shit, so I would stop dead in my tracks and walk right back out of those damn woods at that very moment. But I wouldn’t have to, because I’d still be at home in my Dan Cave, having turned down my friends’ invitation to go camping in the first place.
Considering like half these girls turn out to be lesbians, they’ve got more balls than me, so they don’t even give killer pot growers a second thought. Naturally, someone has come down from the mountains, and the kills absolutely rock. However, this is one of those slashers in which random characters pass through just so they can be killed off, therefore nothing is integral to the plot…or integral to moving it forward. It’s really just a movie for the sake of people being slashed.
The film is at its best when the killer finally targets the girls, with suspense, chases, and a great battle to the death, at which point things even get rather funny.
I also get the impression that 4/20 Massacre is supposed to take place in the 80s, considering there are no cell phones and the girls have a cassette player. As a bonus, the soundtrack is loaded with tracks by now wave artist Sleeping Wolf, who I will definitely be playing on my Future Flashbacks show. Damn. I sure do know how to make a blog about horror movies all about me.
A while back, I blogged about two books by author Alexander S. Brown and also did a Q&A with him. I had a third book of his in my “to read” pile, but I wanted to wait until the right time of year to read it because it’s an anthology of short stories called The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out! It’s a quick read with a perfect 13 tales of Halloween scares, broken down by different time periods. Here’s a brief look at what you can expect when you curl up next to your freshly carved pumpkin to read this one:
Outhouse – As if outhouses aren’t scary enough already, a dad tells his little girl about monsters…right before she needs to go take care of business.
Faceless – Eek! A mother makes faceless cornhusk dolls based on folklore, but then her child says her doll is demanding the mom make a face for it…
Old Souls – A group of servants has a séance, inviting ghosts to dine with them on Halloween.
The Fire Watcher – A father reveals to his son that their family is cursed and must therefore keep a bonfire burning all night on Halloween to keep “Old Cleft Foot” away.
Lord of the Dragon – To keep his crops thriving, a man is forced to feed flesh to his scarecrow.
The Spell Collector – Three boys sneak out to the creepy house of a woman rumored to be a witch on Halloween night.
Old Wife’s Tale – On Halloween, the grim reaper comes knocking on a couple’s door. They just don’t know which one of them it’s there for.
Following the Leader – A teacher brings her young students to a Halloween parade, but they end up taking an unexpected detour.
Haunted House – A couple becomes unwitting participants in a haunted attraction.
The Night the Jack ‘O Lantern Went Out – A young prankster’s worst fears about pumpkins come true.
Luck – A disliked teacher makes the mistake of crossing a black cat just before Halloween.
Mean Spirited – A group of boys insists a girl is afraid to go up to a serial killer’s grave on Halloween. She proves them dead wrong.
Owls – Two children are terrified when their sick grandfather tells them that owls eat old sick people on Halloween night.
The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out by Alexander S. Brown is available in both ebook and paperback on Amazon.
Here it is—a blog covering the six final 80s era anthologies in my movie collection that I haven’t yet covered. It’s mostly the biggies, so I’m going to call out my favorite stories from each anthology.
The classic that launched the anthology resurgence of the 80s, Creepshow sees George Romero directing and Stephen King writing to recreate the vibe of the Tales from the Crypt comics of the 1950s.
While it’s not an overall Halloween movie, the wraparound has a Jack o’ lantern in the window of a house where Tom Atkins punishes his son for reading Creepshow comics.
This intro turns to animation, and each story is entered and exited as a comic panel. Adding to the fun and to capture the spirit of reading a comic, the stories themselves are filled with campy comic panel frames.
1st story – the classic “I want my cake” tale is still a favorite. A snotty rich family reunites on the birthday of the dead patriarch, but his corpse crawls from the grave to hunt for his cake. It’s macabre, loaded with 80s neon lighting, and features a young Ed Harris.
2nd story – I’ve never liked this goofy tale. Stephen King stars as a dumb redneck who daydreams about becoming rich when a meteor lands on his farm. He soon discovers its radiation is slowly turning him into a plant. This movie could have lost this story and been stronger (and shorter than 2 fricking hours) without it.
3rd story – this perfectly directed classic has Leslie Nielsen getting revenge on Ted Danson for sleeping with his woman…only to learn the dead seek revenge, too. The horror atmosphere is chilling when Nielsen is alone in his house and the dead shuffle in.
4th story – another unforgettable classic, this is the longest tale in the film, with Hal Holbrook as the husband of an overbearing drunk, played by Adrienne Barbeau. When Holbrook is dragged into a situation concerning a killer creature found in a crate under the stairwell at a college, he sees a way to shut his wife up once and for all. It’s gory, funny, and features an iconic monster.
5th story – bug movies are a dime a dozen (that’s a phrase that made sense in the 80s), so this one to me is also a throwaway. A germaphobe living in a sterile environment ends up battling a horde of cockroaches that somehow infiltrates. The final gross out scene makes this one memorable.
In the wraparound conclusion, the son gets voodoo revenge on his dad using something he ordered from an ad in the Creepshow magazine.
TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983)
Directors John Landis, Joe Dante, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg bring us this 80s classic that spawned the reboot of the series in the mid-80s.
Like the show, these aren’t strictly horror stories. And considering Spielberg is involved, watching it now, it reminds me of the short-lived 80s anthology show Amazing Stories.
Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks serve as the wraparound, singing old TV theme songs as they drive on a dark road at night. They bring up The Twilight Zone TV show and deliver a horror scare, which kicks off the stories…
1st story – after losing a promotion, a dude at a bar goes off on Jews, blacks, and “Orientals”…this shit is so old the loathsome gays aren’t even mentioned. Anyway, he then falls down a rabbit hole of being treated exactly as each minority he despises has throughout history. Keep an eye out for John Larroquette as a member of the KKK.
2nd story – this is a totally obvious—and cringeworthy—Spielberg production of the 80s, complete with manipulative heartstring-tugging music and a Cocoon vibe. Seniors in a home are magically transformed into kids again by Scatman Crothers, who plays a sort of Peter Pan figure.
3rd story – after accidentally knocking him off his bicycle with her car, Kathleen Quinlan takes a little boy to his home—a cartoonish environment that becomes a cartoon nightmare. It’s the first horror story we get, but in the end it’s a sloppy tale. Keep an eye out for a Tempest arcade game, as well as an appearance by Nancy Cartwright pre-The Simpsons fame and Cherrie Currie of Joan Jett’s old band The Runaways.
4th story – John Lithgow wipes the floor with everything that comes before this remake of a classic from the original show, which starred William Shatner in the role. Deathly afraid of flying, Lithgow’s terror is magnified when he sees a little creature out on the wing during a storm, tearing apart pieces of the plane.
This is the tale that put this one on the map, as most of the others are totally forgettable. Along with Dan Aykroyd in the wraparound, it also put this film on the horror map.
CAT’S EYE (1985)
Lewis Teague, director of Cujo, takes on Stephen King again with this anthology of short stories based on the horror writer’s works—mostly from the Night Shift collection.
The cat wraparound immediately makes this feel more like Castle Rock than the Castle Rock Hulu show did, with the cat being chased by Cujo and almost getting run over by Christine.
When I saw this as a teen, I was so into it because all the stories I’d read were brought to life. Watching it now, it’s easier to see that these are horror lite shorts and could have worked just as well as TV episodes of Tales from the Darkside. They’re good for what they are, but they’re no Creepshow.
1st story – as much as I liked the nasty little twist on this one about an organization with an extreme program for helping people quit smoking, it’s ruined for me now because that douche James Woods stars in it. King’s story is chilling, but this adaptation is given a bit of a campy edge. Adding to the King references, Woods watches The Dead Zone on TV.
2nd story – in this tale, Robert Hays…that’s all I really need to say. He’s one of my childhood wet dreams…or, dry dreams considering my age when he was on the sitcom Angie. Anyway, the husband of the woman Hays is cheating with says he can have her on one condition…he has to walk all the way around a huge building on a shallow ledge. Eek!
3rd story – the final tale focuses on the cat from the wraparound, and it’s so precious that it really could have been a Stephen Spielberg creation. Little Drew Barrymore falls in love with a stray cat that tries to protect her from a silly little troll…that’s clearly a full-sized human shot on green screen.
For the love of the 80s, it should be noted that “Every Breath You Take” is featured more than once in the film…as a cover version! But even better is the “Cat’s Eye” theme song by Ray Śtephens, who was not only on the kids’ show The Great Space Coaster, but also took over lead singing duties for The Village People in 1985 (yes they were still making records at that point).
CREEPSHOW 2 (1987)
At only 90 minutes long, the sequel is a tighter collection, featuring only three stories (what the first could have been without the two lame tales). Romero and King both get writing credits this time, but Romero doesn’t direct. It’s also of note that it definitely has underlying themes of social issues and social status.
Tom Savini plays “The Creep,” a sort of Crypt Keeper host—but quickly turns into a cartoon version that introduces each tale.
1st story – George Kennedy owns a little store with a big Indian chief statue in front. The store is robbed by a trio of thieves led by a Native American kid who doesn’t give a shit about his own heritage, so the statue comes to life for revenge. It’s basically a fun enough slasher, but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
2nd story – this absolute classic is based faithfully on one of my favorite Stephen King short stories. Four kids swim out to a raft in the middle of a lake and are trapped by a weird “oil slick” that eats human flesh.
It’s horrific when victims cry at how much it hurts as they’re being devoured. And holy shit, when it’s down to only two survivors, the “nice boy” fricking #MeToos the girl while she’s sleeping!
3rd story – completing this flawless trio, this tale is about a rich white bitch who leaves her hot male escort’s place and hits an African-American hitchhiker while trying to speed home before her husband gets home. She leaves the scene and is then terrorized by his mutilated body on a dark deserted road, with him continuously coming back and croaking, “Thanks for the ride, lady!” In retrospect, a scene of a bunch of passers by finding the body (including Stephen King as a truck driver) lessens the effect of the corpse instantly returning from the dead to seek revenge on the isolated road.
The cartoon wraparound interspersed between each story is more involved than the one in the first film. It’s a tale of a young boy getting revenge on bullies using something he ordered from the back of the Creepshow comic.
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)
The stories in this film are better than most episodes in the series…possibly because this movie is essentially what would have been Creepshow 3, with participation of many of the same team, including Stephen King and George Romero. The director did numerous episodes of the Tales from the Darkside show as well as a few Tales from the Crypt episodes.
It opens with a sped up synth version of the TV show theme that sux all the eeriness out of it, but the wraparound is campy delicious. Debbie Harry is preparing Joey Lawrence’s little brother for dinner! The boy stalls her by telling her scary stories…
1st story – based on the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Homes fame, this one does an amazing job of not only capturing the gothic spirit of Hammer films, but the wicked fun of Creepshow. The likes of Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, and Christian Slater are gruesomely hunted down and slaughtered by a mummy on a college campus. Awesome.
2nd story – this tale can easily leave an impression because of the gory end, but it’s the lamest and most predictable one in my opinion. David Johansen makes up for disgracing his New York Dolls glam rock reputation with that absurd Buster Poindexter persona by perfectly playing a hitman hired to kill a black cat believed to be responsible for the murders of various people.
3rd story – Best story ever! It takes a while to go anywhere after the initial horror, but it’s so worth it for the twist at the end. James Remar, Samantha’s sexy mature man from Sex and the City, is a struggling artist who witnesses a gargoyle monster gruesomely mutilating a man in an alley.
The creature tells him it will spare him if he never ever tells anyone what he saw. He makes the promise, gets away, and moves on with his life, eventually marrying Rae Dawn Chong. They fall in love and he at last opens up to Rae with disastrous results.
Hell, when the story is done even Debbie Harry says, “You saved the best for last.”
THE WILLIES (1990)
Brian Peck, one of the main kids from The Last American Virgin, who was also been in minor roles in the first three Return of the Living Dead films, directed just this one film that’s as scary innocent as an episode of Tales from the Darkside and just as much fun. It’s really the epitome of 80s VHS horror, and the first main story was apparently made in 1985, which explains why it looks so 1985.
The wraparound features Sean Astin and two other boys telling scary stories in a tent at night. Totally encapsulating the 80s era, they mention video game cartridges, grosser than gross jokes are told, and meta references are made about Aston’s movie The Goonies.
We first get super brief warm up stories: a fast food gross out story, an old man going through a haunted attraction, and a poodle in the microwave tale.
After that there are only two main stories, and the first is better. A little boy who has no friends in school beyond the janitor (James Karen of Return of the Living Dead) has to go to the bathroom during class.
When he gets there, what he finds in the bathroom stall makes this story kind of similar to “The Crate” story in Creepshow. Aside from the story itself being so entertaining, the geeky looking main kid is a hoot.
Plus, Ben Seaver of the Growing Pains family also stars…which explains why his sitcom siblings appear on a TV screen in the next story.
The second story has a fun ending but it goes on way too long, and unfortunately, the protagonist is a freak so it’s hard to relate.
He collects and plays with dead flies…and even uses them to terrorize others. This long-winded, icky bug tale finally pays off when the flies get revenge.
Personally my vote would have been to cut the second story in half and include a third one. Preferably one made in 1985 and not 1990…
After my first marathon, it’s time for another round of six flix featuring an appearance by Bill Oberst Jr., one of my favorite indie horror actors.
DEADLY REVISIONS (2013)
This is one of those films that as a whole wasn’t as much fun as its big surprise reveal and final act twist. But to make up for that, it is solely about Oberst in a house by himself experiencing creepy stuff, much of it in nightmare form.
He plays a horror director/writer suffering from memory loss after a stay in the hospital, so he goes to recover in a friend’s secluded cabin, where he works with a hypnotherapist to try to remember what happened. It’s mostly cliché, familiar scare tactics that get us through most of the film, like visuals of demon dolls, a faceless being, and executioners.
Much of the focus is around the day he got dumped by his woman, with some flashbacks in between his visions and nightmares.
Deadly Revisions didn’t really grab me until the end, which was the most compelling part because it finally takes us out of his head to deliver some action.
The wild opener of this zombthology sucks you in, with a bunch of frantic people, including a guy dressed as Santa, being chased through the woods by zombies in first person mode.
The wraparound, which links the unrelated stories, features Oberst as a news reporter keeping viewers abreast of the situation during a zombie apocalypse.
—a wild exploitation grindhouse story of Jesus fighting…zombie cowboys? This funny splatterfest is a blast.
—this segment is a “how to” of surviving the apocalypse, which pokes fun at the genre and returns for a few continuing segments throughout the movie. Sometimes it instead looks like a warning sign at a leather bar…
—funny monologue as a guy discovers his best friend has been eaten and laments being left all alone.
—this one consists simply of security footage of a cop trying to help a woman trapped in her car at a gas station.
—a woman is out on her own in the woods surviving the apocalypse. Pretty basic.
—chaotic first person footage of guys trying to get away from zombies. I’ve seen it done in full-length films, so while it’s always entertaining, it’s nothing new to me.
—love this quickie of a guy getting sucked into the zombie light gun game he’s playing.
—bookending the stories pretty well is another action gorefest grindhouse segment.
A loser on a beach becomes the hero when zombies come out of the water.
Ayla is engrossing, tragic, and haunting, yet I’d never watch it again. Aka: it’s not really a horror movie.
Essentially it’s the story of a guy who is basically mentally ill because he lost his sister when she was four and has spent his entire life believing he sees her…which is a notion exacerbated by his mother (played by Dee Wallace), who does the same thing.
The weird and creepy part? The dude believes that he wills his sister back into being…as an adult…and takes a road trip with this person, who never talks. And their times bonding at hotels are oddly bordering on sexual.
It’s a very strange and ultimately sad film that also doesn’t exactly explain anything.
Oberst has a brief role as a hotel clerk…and I think he is actually supposed to be playing two different parts because he’s wearing a bad disguise the next morning and acting differently.
Dismal is basically a low budget version of other low budget backwoods horror films I’ve seen (even though it takes place in swamplands). I was convinced I’d already seen this film, because I repeatedly knew exactly what was going to happen next. It was a major case of déjà view.
Derivation aside, it still has its moments for fans of the subgenre. The opening scene was one of the best parts for me in the way it set up the horror that we are to expect later out in the swamps.
Then we meet a group of kids going on a field trip with their teacher into the swamps. It’s familiar, comfortable territory. They go off to have sex and start getting killed by a big man in a mask with some hardcore weapons.
Oberst shows up as the local sheriff, and eventually the kids end up in the lair of a backwoods family with the usual checklist of situations.
However there are some unexpected and almost weird twists that also give the film some fun surprises in the last few minutes. Just be prepared for a few bad CGI effects, including one of those body slice moments that were so much fun in the 2000s (and always looked like bad CGI regardless of budget).
Finally, I couldn’t help but notice that the killer looks like Bub from Dawn of the Dead when he’s unmasked.
THE CHAIR (2017)
Coming from the director of Someone’s Knocking At The Door and Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!, The Chair had me expecting something just as wild and over the top. It’s definitely as vicious as those two films, but gone is the levity of any sort of grindhouse exploitation—or horror elements for that matter. This is simply a torture film with an angle.
Oberst plays the head warden at a prison in which he and his henchman (including Roddy Piper and Zach Galligan) torture and sodomize death row inmates (to death) so they’ll know how the people they victimized felt.
It definitely challenges your loyalties, because you know the men being tortured are bad, yet the guys doing it aren’t painted as heroes.
They seem more like the evil criminals because we see their cold and Inhumane behavior towards other humans.
On top of that, we also get to see the atrocities the main inmate experienced in his past, which makes him a somewhat sympathetic character, so you are hoping he will be able to fight back and get revenge, which is where this film heads. If nothing else, it’s definitely a mind fuck of a revenge film.
CHILDREN OF SORROW (2012)
This isn’t your typical horror film, so unless you’re in the right mindset, you may not appreciate just how frightening and disturbing it is.
Presented as found footage (which doesn’t quite always make sense, but you just have to go with it), it focuses on Oberst as a cult leader converting a group of young people at his secret property on the US-Mexico border. His latest inductees include one undercover girl trying to find out what happened to her sister.
It’s a mesmerizing unfolding of conversion from start to finish. This might be the best Oberst performance I’ve seen as he slowly goes from comforting and coddling his children to breaking them by taking them to dark places, and eventually making them “transition” while the others watch.
It’s really chilling to see how these already fragile young people searching for some kind of acceptance and support could fall for his deception…and to see how their devotion eventually turns to fear with no hope of escape. And when the transition process begins, the kills are vicious and brutal.
Adding even more depth to the story, two of the boys fall in love, and not surprisingly, Oberst targets them first for their sins, which includes forcing one boy to molest a girl to set him straight. Yet, it appears Oberst makes the other boy have sex with him!
There are some good, dark surprises at the end, but you’re definitely left with a question as to how the cult doesn’t get caught or stopped.
It’s Tales from the Hood 2 vs. Terrortory 2! Are they worthy of their predecessors?
TERRORTORY 2 (2018)
I was psyched that a second Terrortory landed on Prime out of nowhere, and it’s just as satisfying as the first anthology with the added bonus of Halloween playing a role in several of the tales.
Rather than clear cut stories, at times the tales are woven into the wraparound, which involves two guys hiking in the infamously ominous woods we were introduced to in the first film. They begin sharing stories about the horrors that have gone on there…
1st story – Now this is awesome. A couple heading into the Terrortory stops to make wishes in a garden. Turns out her wish spawns his wish. Eek!
2nd story – The wraparound hikers meet up with some kids hunting for the pumpkin headed killer from the first film. All I can say is, stupid kids asked for it…
3rd story – Three old dudes discover a treasure trail in the Terrortory marked by a vine of pumpkins that eventually turn into killer Jack O’ lanterns! Awesomely cool and campy dismemberment ensues!
4th story – When a man goes looking for his missing wife and daughter in the woods, he stumbles upon a horrific Halloween “party”.
5th story – The wraparound becomes its own story as the two hikers encounter the killer clown from the first film.
Can’t wait for the third film, especially since the first two installments have introduced me to some awesome now wave music to play on my Future Flashbacks show. This time around it was Favorit89 with “Plastic Hearts,” and Freeweights with “Everybody Wants My Name.”
TALES FROM THE HOOD 2 (2018)
Everyone was so pumped for this sequel over 20 years later and from the same directors…including me. So I blind bought it. Before the Blu-ray even reached my house, I saw it getting trashed online.
Running 110 minutes and featuring 5 stories plus a wraparound, I found it impossible not to find something to like about it. Most impressive is how many of the social issues brought up resonate as if they were literally written in the past two weeks with all the bullshit that has been going on in politics. Of course there are no metaphors here; the issues are in your face and spelled out literally.
The wraparound has a privileged white rich dick harassing women and being totally racist as he hires our host to put life experiences into the programming of his robot police force. Our host obliges with some stories…
1st story – This is how you start a horror anthology. A trio of young people breaks into a museum of negrosity to steal a racist doll. Yep, it’s a killer doll story. It’s campy, gory, and even has a guest appearance by someone from the original film.
2nd story – Focusing on issues within the black community, this tale has a black guy killed by a group of black thieves come back for revenge…using the body of a fraud medium.
Bryan Batt (Scream Queens TV show, Kiss Me Guido, Jeffrey), the white guy playing the medium, is very funny when he “becomes” a black guy.
3rd story – This is a good old vampire quickie. A Tindr hookup goes wrong for everyone involved.
4th story – The longest story is about a black republican who drinks the Kool-Aid and defends all the racist shit heads in his party. Things go horribly wrong for him. It feels to me like an attempt to capture the Get Out vibe, but it just didn’t do much for me. And the rich white dude in the wraparound agreed, for he actually says it was the worst story!
5th story – The fifth story is the wraparound conclusion, and all I can say is that robots stomp around shooting laser bullets like something out of Battlestar Galactica 1978.
The stories were definitely more entrenched in straight up horror in the original film, which is my biggest gripe about this sequel. It’s more like Tales from the Hood lite…like these could be urban versions of Tales from the Darkside episodes.
Although I might not have loved them all, there was a good mix of subgenres in my latest deep dig into Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. So let’s get to these four.
LURKING WOODS (2015)
This is as straightforward as a backwoods slasher gets. Kids go to a house in the woods and are hunted down by a killer in a mask and hoodie.
The “unique” angle is that they’re playing a sort of scavenger hunt that will determine which guys hook up with which girls. That means lots of scavenger hunt footage to kill time between kills…
I won’t lie. It’s not all that interesting and not particularly scary or atmospheric (it takes place during the day, for instance), but there is one thing I really liked about Lurking Woods.
I mean aside from the guy bods. Most of the kills are nontraditional in that the killer often dashes by and quickly stabs the fuck out of victims, accompanied by some nasty, meaty sound effects not drowned out or spoiled by a soundtrack.
These kill scenes are so unexpected and fast that they score this one some serious bonus points.
As the name implies, this is sort of a modern take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with a trio of young pretty people running from the takeover of humans.
I was excited for a fresh spin on the theme, because the film begins very humorous, a cop—who steals the show—taking the threesome for a ride-along.
He offers a big, bold comic shtick, but the rest of the film refuses to live up to the comic bar he sets…
As soon as they encounter their first body snatch, the film changes completely and gets serious. It also becomes hugely disappointing. The kids are forced to go on the run when they are accused of killing someone and spend the rest of the movie avoiding the body snatched, who are much more like the infected from The Crazies.
The film is just not exciting and only picks up at the very end when they reach the…um…manufacturing plant.
Finally the attacks of the crazies ramp up for a few minutes before the film ends. But when crazies (or any horror enemy) use guns, it’s all over for me. And no, I don’t know what the purpose was of this guy in a mask beyond offering the opportunity for a promotional screenshot showing that there’s a guy in a mask in the movie.
Jennifer Lynch, the director of Chained and Boxing Helena, brings us a killer snake lady movie in the Hindi language.
I honestly can’t tell if Hisss is supposed to be taken seriously, because it made me laugh quite a bit. If it had been trimmed down about 20 minutes (it’s an hour and 40), I could have better appreciated it for its midnight movie cheese.
Some old dude with brain cancer wants to summon a snake goddess to heal him, so he captures a male snake as bait to lure her.
Her initial appearance in the jungle is an awesome transformation, and the film vacillates between fun, detailed monster makeup to laughable full monster CGI effects that look like something out of a 1960s dinosaur film. And all of that is okay with me, because it makes the snake segments that much more campy and entertaining.
The snake lady can appear in human form, and she goes around a small village making it her job to eat all the physically and sexually abusive men she can find. I wish she would visit the White House.
Meanwhile, a detective and his partner attempt to solve the mystery of who is committing the murders. That’s the boring part. I say cut 20 minutes of that shit to bring the snake scenes closer together, because they’re all that matters here.
HOUSE ON ELM LAKE (2017)
I was psyched that this film comes from the director of Mother Krampus, because I liked that one enough to purchase it. This one eventually paid off for me, but it really takes its time getting there.
A couple moves with their daughter into a house with a history. The daughter begins the usual befriending of an “imaginary” friend she can actually see. Not for nothing, but this kid looks like she’s told old to be thinking a ghost is a friend and not just a fricking ghost.
Clichés abound for a while. A friend brings over a Ouija board. A psychic is called in and runs off in terror. A mysterious notebook reveals some of what went on in the house. And worst of all, there are excessive moments where scary or screaming ghosts are right up in the characters’ faces, but only for the benefit of viewers, because the characters don’t see them. I really despise when movies make the audience clairvoyant. If only we could talk to the characters, we could warn them there’s a ghost making scary faces behind them and save them a lot of terror.
For me, all the fun comes from the hot dude becoming slowly possessed by a naked old man ghost.
There’s a great scene of the hottie being felt up on his bed by a bunch of hands, including man hands. Seriously, the man hand squeezes his nipple.
The naked old man absolutely rox as a scary naked demon ghost. The most frightening scenes would be nothing without him.
There are several other confusing ghost elements thrown in, including ghosts in masks, but it does all come together in the end. The movie kicks into high horror gear when the main girl is relentlessly chased by the possessed husband/old man during a gorefest of kills in the final act. It feels like a much better movie suddenly takes over. You know the drill…I say shave 16 minutes off the 96-minute length. But none of the scenes of naked possessed man or naked old man.