Monsters of the 1960s

Every once in a while, it’s fun to revisit the films that introduced me to the genre – films I was allowed to watch on TV at an age when I was still too young to see the hard stuff my older brothers were seeing in the theaters. Most often they were films from the 1960s, the decade that led to my glorious birth in 69! Like these four monstrous movies.

THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN (1960)

amazing transparent man cover

I love how these old films would use positive adjectives like “amazing” and “incredible” to describe what were actually sinister villains or creatures. Clocking in at only an hour long, this black and white The Invisible Man rip-off isn’t even worth a watch.

amazing transparent man head

A crazy ex-Army major holds a scientist’s daughter hostage to force the scientist to make a machine that turns people invisible. But to perfect the machine, more resources are needed. So he busts a thief out of jail to steal the materials with the advantage of invisibility. But naturally, there’s a side effect…not to mention an invisible bad guy.

amazing transparent man attack

Just watch The Invisible Man. Hell, just watch The Invisible Man Returns. It’s got Vincent Price.

TERROR-CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE (1965)

 terror creatures from grave cover

Not quite one of Barbara Steele’s classics of her finest era, Terror-Creatures from the Grave starts off chillingly enough, but pretty much falls apart.

terror creatures from the grave lawyer

A handsome lawyer is called to a castle to handle an estate, only to learn from the dead man’s wife (Steele) that he has been dead for a year. But the man’s daughter from a first marriage is basically hysterical and insists that her father must be sending a message from beyond, and that he was involved with the occult.

terror creatures from the grave steele and daughter

Creepy gothic atmosphere and eerie music abound, but as people begin dying, this often feels more like a mystery the lawyer is trying to solve.

terror creatures from grave dead doc

There are some corpse-like hands that offer the promise of ghoulish creatures, but we never get to see any!

terror creatures from the grave hand

Eventually there’s a rather laughable “séance” circle confrontation with the dead man that’s a huge disappointment after all the promising monster hands that came, well, beforehand, and this turns into a simple “ghost gets revenge” flick.

THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (1966)

plague of the zombies cover

Hammer Films does zombies! A couple of years before Romero changed the concept forever, this film used the old school voodoo technique to bring them back from the dead in this period piece set in the late 1800s.

A doctor and his daughter come to a small town when a disease begins killing locals at a rapid rate. The audience is already tuned in to what the cause could be considering the film opens with a tribal voodoo ritual scene. So much for mystery. Now we just have to sit back and wait for the first zombie to appear.

plague of zombies daughter

The first zombie appearance is the best part of this entire film! The daughter has this whole scary adventure when she follows a friend through the woods and is then harassed by a gang of men, but it’s as she’s heading home that the fricking horrific zombie on the poster art pops up and throws her dead friend at her!

plague of the zombies zombie

If only this zombie’s presence were felt throughout the film, but alas, it’s way underutilized.

plague of the zombies girl zombie

There’s a good scene of the doctor and some other men doing a coffin stakeout and hitting the jackpot when the corpse inside reanimates, plus another awesome zombie attack that turns out to be a cheap dream sequence (damn things have been around forever, haven’t they?), but other than that, the film focuses more on the doctor investigating the possibility of someone practicing the black arts to bring the dead back to life. Yawn.

plague of the zombies cult

NIGHT FRIGHT (1967)

night fright cover

There’s nothing I love more than old b-movies that are the blueprints for every teen horror flick that exists to this day. Check this one out:

– Intro scene has a couple parked in the woods, a radio news story of a fiery crash nearby, and monster POV

– Kids driving to the scene to check out what happened before heading to a cabin to play records (awesome) and BBQ are told to go back by the sheriff.

night fright sheriff and kids

– Fuck that. They totally don’t listen to his advice and go anyway.

– There’s a dance montage by the lake. The music is the worst because they couldn’t afford to spring for actual 60s pop hits.

night fright dance

While there’s nothing in the way of gore, Night Fright is filled with various chase and attack scenes leading up to the full Monty. The Bigfoot type monster is hard to see because the film is really dark, but that adds to the monstrous presence and keeps it from looking like a cheesy rubber suit. And the mere fact that this is the most contemporary feeling film of the bunch makes it my favorite. Here’s a pic I found on the Internet of the monster. Someone seemed to be able to really lighten up the image. They shouldn’t have…

night fright monster

 

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The survival horror game that should have been sent to the moon

matian gothic cover

Released for the PC just at the turn of the millennium and ported to the Playstation 1 a year later (and a year after the Playstation 2 was released), Martian Gothic is one of the worst Resident Evil rip-off games ever. I don’t know how I got through it the first time, and I barely made it through a replay for this blog. It took me months. MONTHS. There were weekends I made excuses not to play. There were weekends I started and gave up just because it’s that unpleasant. And it’s not even scary. It’s just fucking annoying. Even the music, which seems scary at first, becomes obnoxious because it’s not used with purpose—it plays randomly instead of to intensify jump scares or to create atmosphere at given moments.

The plot is simple. You are a team of three people sent to investigate a base on Mars that has fallen silent. Once there, you discover everyone has been turned into zombies, you are now all infected, and you need to find a cure and get the hell of that base.

martian gothic desert grave

Back in the days when classic survival horror was all the rage (before Resident Evil 4 ruined survival horror forever) I scooped up every game I could get, including this one. First I got the PS1 version, but before even playing it, I scored a copy of the PC version knowing it would have tighter graphics. Problem is the PC version essentially never worked. There were patches released, but even trying to get it to run properly with those was a headache, so I never managed to play it through on a computer. Which is a shame, because it really did look way better on the PC, and supposedly there is much more of an ending that is completely left off the PS1 version (which is absolutely atrocious as is).

martian gothic hotel area

So what makes this game so bad? EVERYTHING. First of all, I can guarantee you will not get through this game without a walkthrough telling you what to do at all times, for so many different reasons. Second, you will probably not get through it without a GameShark. Remember GameShark? There’s a reason they made cheat systems back in the days of the PS1 and PS2. Hell, they’d even release codes that you could simply punch in with your controller because PS1 & PS2 games were made so poorly that many of them were virtually impossible to complete without cheating. Which is also why the games were designed with vast amounts of saves and let you save at your discretion. These days, there are no cheat systems, usually no save systems (just “checkpoints”) and I’m still usually able to complete most games in a weekend.

martian gothic spaceship hall

Now back to the game I played for six months. The interesting thing is that Martian Gothic had you alternating between multiple characters a couple of years before Resident Evil Zero. Difference is, in this game, your characters are NEVER allowed to meet. That’s right. Because of the technicalities of the infection, you have to make sure that as you run around this base, you never accidentally run into the same room another character is already in or you die immediately and it’s game over (until you load the last save).

Some of the many other reasons this game sucks include:

– Trying to stay out of each other’s way isn’t easy because every hallway looks pretty much the same, whether you’re in the spaceship-like area or the one that’s more like a hotel (there are essentially only two areas you will be in for most of the game). On top of that, there’s a “map” that appears to have been drawn with crayons by a sixth grader.

martian gothic map

It does not show the current location of you or any of your other characters. There’s no map key to provide any information such as locked doors vs. unlocked doors, and while there are “street” names, they are of no help since there are no “street” signs in the hallways of the base.

– Since you can’t meet up, when you discover you need an item someone else has, you have to use “vac tubes” to send the items to each other. Juggling inventory is a nightmare. There are various types of storage units all over the place, but none of them holds many items. Each character has a lot of inventory slots, but even that fills up quickly, so unless you use a walkthrough and know exactly what to pass to who at what time and what to hold onto, you will be misplacing or storing away crucial items, then running all over the place to find them later which isn’t going to be easy, not only because you don’t want to accidentally run into one of your friends, but also because…

martian gothic zombie get up

– Zombies don’t die. EVER. It takes numerous bullets to knock them down, but after a few minutes, if you pass by them, they get up again. FOR THE ENTIRE GAME. And you have to go through these same halls continuously. And the controls are horribly unresponsive. And you get stuck in vicious attack cycles with these zombies that you can’t get out of, with them grabbing you over and over again as you struggle to shake them off and run away or at least back away enough to raise your gun to shoot them. This is where you need a GameShark, otherwise you will run out of health and bullets. GUARANTEED. When you shoot the zombies enough or shake them off enough, they will fall down for a while, then you can search them to see if they have any items on them, but if you stay near them for long, they will get back up. There are also other annoying little critters that are sort of like spider crabs. Some of them leap on your face, while others can sting you and poison you, so you’ll need the antitoxin instead of the health (the antitoxin I used was GAMESHARK).

martian gothic spider

– The other thing about zombies—they pace set areas. It’s like there are invisible barriers they won’t pass, making for “safe spots” you’ll figure out after a while. These are areas you’ll actually be able to just leave your character standing for long periods of time to switch to other characters. It feels really scary—for instance, you can leave one guy behind a desk in a room with about 3 zombies and they’ll never touch him, no matter how long you play as one of the other characters. However, you can’t do that in places where those little spider crab critters are roaming about. They can go anywhere. If one of your characters does get attacked while you’re playing as another character, you get a warning message so you can switch over and save them from the threat.

martian gothic deskDude, save the bullets. Just go stand behind the desk.

– Entering your inventory pauses gameplay, and you can also switch between character inventories while in the inventory screen. Using vac tubes or accessing storage boxes also pauses gameplay, which is important, because many times they are located in areas or rooms where zombies are present.

– Computers are crucial because they have files that offer story, give clues to puzzles, control machines you need to solve puzzles, give you access to see the contents of all the storage units in the base if you’ve misplaced an item you need, and most importantly, allow you to save. But here is the catch. Every computer you find only allows you to save 12 times (on the PS1 version…I’ve heard you can only save a few times on each computer on the PC version. I would cry). Thankfully, the game pauses while you are on the computer, because annoyingly, sometimes, the computer isn’t always in a safe room. Very often, there’s a fricking zombie in there! You just can’t get a break in this damn game!

martian gothic zombie grabJust get the frick off so I can get to that computer and save before I die.

martian gothic zombie grab 2DUDE!

However, one cool thing is that even if you are playing as a character about to do something dangerous but are nowhere near a computer, you can switch quickly to a character that is near one, save, and then switch back. Finally, near the end of the game, you do find a laptop that you can carry with you so you can save anywhere (up to 12 times).

– Surprisingly, there’s no actual “boss” battle, but there are a couple of times when you have to contend with these big monsters that are at first invulnerable. You actually need to use (a walkthrough and GameShark) two characters and your wits to figure out how to get past them.

martian gothic big monster

Near the end of the game, you do get a special gun that kills them in one shot. Only problem is, the controls and aiming are so bad on these old PS1 games that you will die multiple times trying to get that one shot every time you have to kill one of these things (there go the 12 saves on that portable computer).

– Making matters worse, midway through the game, you at one point do some sort of science experiment in a room with a big monster statue thing taking up most of the space and a zombie on the floor in the middle of the room. You literally have to run back and forth from one machine to another in this small room, and every time you do, the zombie gets you.

martian gothic statue room zombie

But that’s not even the bad part. After you’re done with your science project, you kind of awaken this monster statue, and for the rest of the game, it periodically unleashes something that sucks some life out of your characters! WTF? You’ll be in the middle of playing, it will cut to this statue breathing, and then your character will get a dizzy spell and down will go your health meter. My GameShark flipped that monster statue the middle fin.

– Just when you think the game can’t get any worse, the final section takes you underground to an area that takes full advantage of the shitty camera angles of survival horror to ensure that you plummet to your death multiple times thanks to pits that you can’t see because of a camera angle change. Not to mention, this area will have you running in circles for hours. Plus, the zombies down here enjoy getting glitched right in FRONT of the camera when you are being attacked by another zombie further back so that you can’t see the fight and have no way of getting away from the zombie or running in the right direction to change the camera angle away from the glitched zombie.

martian gothic underground cathedral

– A majority of the remainder of the game plays out underground, and eventually one character has to plant some dynamite down here and gets five minutes to meet up with the others at a location you will have no memory of how to get to by this point in the game. And this dick game even has the computer system in the base talk to you and taunt you…while your character stands in place, unmovable, and listens but the timer doesn’t stop going down!

Once you reach your getaway rocket, the computer informs you that you won’t be getting away that easy, and have one minute to go out and hit a switch on a wall on the other side. Well, I don’t even remember if I made it the first time I played the game through years ago. But this time I ran out, around the rocket, saw the switch, tried to dodge a zombie, failed miserably, and started wrestling free of him with 36 seconds remaining. As I tried to shake him off, the computer voice started to mock me, and the game wouldn’t let me play any longer. I just had to sit there and watch the 36 seconds of precious escape seconds count down to zero. What the fuck is the purpose of giving me one minute to hit the switch if the actual rule is “you have a minute not to get grabbed by a zombie”? What kind of bullshit is that? And I didn’t even get to see myself EXPLODE. The credits just rolled after the timer ended.

martian gothic ceiling monster

And because there’s Internet, I did NOT load my previous save to give it a try all the way back from the and do the whole bomb drop dash. I simply went on YouTube and watched someone succeed in pulling the switch and the rocket shoot away from the base before the credits rolled. It wasn’t much more exciting than my death ending.

I REALLY should just get rid of this game so I never make the mistake of playing it again in a moment of nostalgic weakness combined with forgetfulness of just how horrible it is.

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When I’m lonely, I look upon The Evil Within with The Eyes of My Mother

It wasn’t my intention to watch two films in a row about deeply disturbed individuals whose need to kill was fueled in part by aching loneliness, but that’s how it worked out with The Eyes of My Mother and The Evil Within. While the films are uniquely different in style and plot, they’re also tragically similar at heart and really like nothing else going on in the fun but generally derivative world of indie horror these days.

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (2016)

eyes of my mother cover

You would never know Nicolas Pesce is a first time director. In a 76-minute black and white film, he dissects the mind of Francisca, somewhat of a female Norman Bates, better and more definitely than her male counterpart has been in half-a-dozen films and a TV series over the course of nearly 60 years.

 eyes of my mother saw

But this is no cheap knock-off. The Eyes Of My Mother feels more like it could stem from the chilling reality of Psycho’s source material – Ed Gein. Francisca is mind-fuckingly terrifying, thanks in large part to the performance by actress Kika Magalhães. Her blank, emotionless responses to everything around her gave me flashbacks to how uncomfortable Angela’s creepy silence and stony responses to other humans made me feel in Sleepaway Camp when I was a kid.

eyes of my mother lead

At the same time, Francisca is a tragic victim of her circumstances (just like Norman Bates…and Angela…and Ed Gein). The film begins with her as a child, living on a very isolated farm with her parents, where they use farm animals to teach her about the more simplistic aspects of death.

eyes of my mother cow

When she’s faced with a horrific situation, it becomes clear Francisca suffers from a major disconnect between anatomy and humanity…which gets worse as she matures and leads to a lonely existence of her own making without her grasping why.

eyes of my mother dance

Her morbid, gruesome practices the likes of psychos both fiction (think Leatherface) and fact (think Dahmer) make her absolutely terrifying, but what’s tragic is that she’s luring victims in a desperate attempt to cure her loneliness.

eyes of my mother tub

She doesn’t even understand that what she’s doing to them is awful—and it is. It’s AWFUL.

eyes of my mother female eyes

And it gets more awful as the film progresses, and not even in a torture porn way. Very often we don’t actually see the nasty deed being done. It’s the psychological aspects of what these victims are going through that fucked me up but good.

eyes of my mother male victim

Seriously, this is no cheap thrills scary movie. You have to brace yourself for The Eyes Of My Mother, and you’ll probably never want to revisit it. But I highly recommend being royally messed up by it once.

THE EVIL WITHIN (2017)

evil within cover

Once again I can say you wouldn’t know you were watching a film from a first time director. Tragically, The Evil Within would also be Andrew Getty’s only film. After years of working on production, he died before final editing was completed. I’m not sure if he would be happy with the end result, but it definitely struck a nerve with me as is.

evil within mother

Sort of a combination of styles and genres, it’s a bit commercial, deeply disturbing, and wickedly artsy all at once. It also has an excellent cast of horror alum, including Dina Meyer (Saw franchise, The Crooked Man, Piranha 3D, Bats), Brianna Brown (Night of the Living Dead 3D, Timber Falls, The Lost Tribe), icon Kim Darby (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), and Sean Patrick Flanery (Demon Hunter, The Insatiable, Kaw, The Devil’s Carnival).

evil within berryman crawl

Then there’s horror legend Michael Berryman of The Hills Have Eyes fame. He has become such a fan favorite over the decades that he’s seen as a bit of a Teddy bear these days, but not in this film. He has been revitalized as a truly horrific presence not unlike that of Freddy Krueger (back in 1984), appearing in some of the most nightmarish visual sequences I’ve seen in a horror film in ages. I couldn’t get enough of him.

evil within 2017 berryman

And in the starring role is Frederick Koehler. He recently appeared in few episodes of American Horror Story: Roanoke, but GenXers will best know him as Chip, Jane Curtain’s son on the 80s sitcom Kate & Allie. He is fantastic in this film, essentially playing a split personality. Living with a mental disability and under the care of his brother (Flanery), who is trying to build a life with his girlfriend, Koehler feels alone and isolated in their house and is plagued by nightmares (of Berryman). When Flanery gives him an antique mirror for his room, he soon befriends his own reflection. Before long, his mentally dominant mirror image begins to convince him that those around him think less of him because of his disability and need to be dealt with accordingly.

evil within lead

This film is such a rollercoaster of horror and emotion. It’s at first trippy as fuck and visually terrifying. Then you begin to feel for the main character because he is so sad and lonely. Then you watch in horror as he is manipulated into heading down the path to becoming a serial killer…beginning with killing neighborhood pets. I tensed up, but we don’t see anything happening on screen. But I have to confess, I did have little eyegasms as a result of Koehler’s heartbreaking performance when he first reacts to what his reflection is making him do to innocent victims. This movie gets really upsetting for a while.

evil within puppet

And then it swings into fucked up, awesome horror territory, with some wacky shit going on as the reflection persona takes over and goes on a killing spree like some sort of warped slasher. There’s even some bizarrely hokey, 1990s direct-to-video suspense/thriller melodrama whenever the story shifts over to Flanery’s cluelessness as to how insane his mentally challenged brother is becoming, despite the awful smell coming from the basement and all the videos his brother all of a sudden has on taxidermy.

evil within flanery

By the end of the film, Koehler is running a one-man house of horrors, grisly gore and all – without any help from Michael Berryman. How does one movie get so jam-packed with so much awesomeness?

evil within spider

It’s tragic that director Andrew Getty is no longer with us. There’s no telling what else he could have brought to the horror genre, and he deserved to be around to get noticed for just this film alone, which I really hope gets an audience. There’s no one doing horror like this these days—it’s original, unpredictable, scary, emotional, in a league all its own, and totally Priming its way in two days to my house on DVD.

 

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When a video game character keeps you up Until Dawn

until dawn cover

Finally got around to playing Until Dawn, and it truly is like “playing” a traditional horror movie in which teens do the typical stupid thing—they return to the house in the woods where they played an awful prank a year before and something awful happened as a result. Sigh.

until dawn cast

The difference here is, you get to play every character and either make more dumb decisions that get them killed or, being the seasoned horror veteran that you are, make smart ones that will keep them alive. Live or die…make your choice.

until dawn saw

And speaking of Saw, another cool thing about this game is that while the general plot devices borrow from decades of horror movies, many of the in-jokes, meta moments, and visual horror references are to recent horror films and independent horror rather than the usual classics. Of course that could have something to do with the fact that many of those references are to movies to which the makers of this game are connected. Anyway, on to the game.

GAME MECHANICS

Until Dawn really is as great as you’ve heard, provided you know not to expect the gameplay of most modern horror survival games. In fact, reflecting back on the experience now that I’ve completed it, I feel like I barely “played” the game in a traditional sense. This is no Resident Evil. Forget collecting bullets or herbs. There’s virtually no combat, and there’s no healing yourself. When you die, you die…because you have a whole bunch of other characters to see through to the end. And only much later in the game are there a few instance when you have a gun and can target and shoot threats, but even then the game doesn’t complicate combat with worries about equipping, reloading, switching weapons, blah, blah, blah.

until dawn dont move

See, this is mostly like a “chose your own adventure” game. For a majority of the game, when you are being chased by an unseen threat, you are prompted on screen to choose an action to take, such as “run” or “hide,” or “take the more dangerous shortcut” or “take the safer long way.” Which one you do determines the fate of your character. Also, you get choices in the way you respond to other characters at times, which can also affect the outcome of the game or your character’s fate (or that of another character!).

until dawn bear trapThat’s going to leave a mark…on your finger, over there on the floor…

There are also simple actions like picking up and examining objects, opening doors, operating switches, and examining totems you find. These totems actually show you “visions” of a possible future event—essentially offering hints of what decision is best to make later in the game to keep a character alive. But that requires remembering what you saw in that vision and quickly deciphering what it means in the moment when that moment arrives.

until dawn ouija

The only other button pushing you’ll be doing is for…brace yourself…quick time events! I know, I know. I hate quick time events, too, but believe me, this game is filled with them, and they aren’t that bad. For starters, the QTEs only use the triangle, circle, and square buttons on the PS4 controller, so that narrows your focus considerably. Second, there isn’t always the added pressure of do or die. For instance, many times the QTE isjust a means of getting handholds to climb a low wall. While the button symbols do flash quickly on screen, if you screw up, you don’t die. You just have to start over.

until dawn climb

Annoying yes, but generally these are short sequences, easily memorized, and only take a few tries. The odd thing is, they often come with choices that make one approach sound harder than the other, yet I’ve at times tried both approaches and the quick time events were equally as challenging. As for time sensitive QTEs, well, there are chase scenes in which you have to hit buttons to dodge obstacles that will slow you down, inevitably getting you killed if you’re not fast enough.

until dawn chase

As for exploration, you can move the character you’re currently controlling pretty freely around an area you are in to explore nooks and crannies for hidden clues in the game. However, you are almost always on a set course, and often accompanied by another character (thank goodness, because this shit is scary and loaded with cruel jump scares!), so this is essentially a linear experience that always propels the story forward with no backtracking. There are only a few times when you explore locations that are pretty vast and reminiscent of games like Resident Evil, requiring you to find certain objects to open new areas before moving on. I must say that when I reached these sections of the game, they felt unwelcome! They made me feel quite vulnerable considering I was suddenly in an old school survival horror environment without the security of fricking guns and healing herbs. Plus, they seemed to slow down the momentum of the game drastically.

until dawn building

That’s because this is a cinematic experience. Events continuously unfold at a fast pace. You just keep playing, never having to repeat a section because you “died.” If you fuck up and a character dies, the body just stays where it is (unless the killer drags it off), and the game cuts to a new scene with another character. In fact, even if you don’t die, the game regularly leaves characters in the midst of cliffhangers to jump to a new scene with another character, so you truly do feel like you are watching a movie. And there’s no saving. The game saves continuously since everything you do rewrites the story and that updated information needs to be recorded, so you can quit at any time and it will pick up right where you left off next time you play. Heaven.

until dawn mask

But here’s the catch. If you get someone killed you wanted to keep alive, or notice a sparkling object in the background just before triggering a cutscene…HISTORY. That’s it. No going back. No loading the last save because there are no saves. In fact, it’s quite possible to complete the game without finding every clue. And get this. If you don’t find every one, you don’t get the full backstory. Considering the game is pretty short and so engrossing you practically want to play through in one sitting, you could easily start all over to look for all the clues you missed and right all the wrongs you did the first time. Plus, BEFORE playing through again, you also have the option of replaying specific chapters. For instance, I replayed the last chapter immediately after finishing because I wanted to save a character that I unintentionally got killed the first time. In the process, I accidentally saved a character I didn’t even realize I could, plus I found a clue I missed the first time—a clue so fucking crucial to the story making sense it should have been the headline in a newspaper clipping the characters found pinned on the entrance to the killer’s lair at the end.

until dawn explore

And finally, it should be noted that there is an option to play the game using motion controls. As described on the Playstation website: “simply move your DUALSHOCK 4 Wireless Controller to match the on-screen prompts.” Having barely survived the nightmare that was using the Wii controllers to play Cursed Mountain, I can tell you right now, the motion controls can yank my crank.

THE PLAYERS/CHARACTERS

until dawn couple

This visually stunning game looks so in part because the characters are rendered from and voiced by actual actors—including plenty of familiar faces. And since you are playing every single character and partially forming their identities by deciding how each one behaves, you will become very attached to some of them. Others you’ll want to push in front of a moving chainsaw. Great news is, you can!

Here are the celebrities counting on you to keep them alive so they can come back for the sequel:

LARRY FESSENDEN – No stranger to horror (Hypothermia, You’re Next, I Sell The Dead, The Battery), Fessenden has a cameo in the game and wrote the screenplay.

until dawn fessenden

 

PETER STORMARE – You get up and personal in the game with this character actor, who has appeared in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, 8MM, Bruiser, Constantine, 2001 Maniacs, Dylan Dog, Bad Milo, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and on, and on, and on.

until dawn stormare

 

HAYDEN PANETTIERE – Holy crap, Kirby lives. At least, you have the opportunity to keep her alive, as Hayden is pretty much the final girl if you play your QTEs right.

until dawn hayden

 

RAMI MALEK – Rami has been an Egyptian Pharaoh in the Night at the Museum films and is part of an Egyptian coven in the Twilight saga. He’s not Egyptian in Until Dawn.

until dawn malek

 

NOAH FLEISS – This cutie appeared in horror flix Mother’s Day Massacre, Red Canyon, and Dead Souls.

until dawn noah

 

MEAGHAN MARTIN – Meaghan was in the Camp Rock movies, Mean Girls 2, and the LGBTQ film Geography Club.

until dawn meaghan martin

 

GALADRIEL STINEMAN – Aside from being Axl’s girlfriend on The Middle, Galadriel appeared in the horror film Junkyard Dog, the horror short Knock Knock, and in episodes of True Blood.

until dawn galadriel

 

 NICHOLE BLOOM – Nichole Bloom of TV shows Superstore and Shameless also appeared on a couple of episodes of Teen Wolf.

until dawn nichole bloom

 

JORDAN FISHER – Jordan also appeared on a couple of episodes of Teen Wolf, adding to the pretty boy icing on the creature cake that makes that show so much fun.

 until dawn jordan

 

BRETT DALTON – Finally, the reason I wrote this blog. Brett Dalton as Mike. Ah, Mike. The video game character that kept me up until dawn. The hot asshole who could charm the pants off any girl in the house if it weren’t for that damn killer.

until dawn brett 1

And I had the option to make him a self-centered prick who saved himself or the studly hero. Why do you think I had to replay the final chapter? And…I did the unforgivable. I sacrificed Kirby. I DID! I sacrificed Kirby to make this beauty the final boy. And I’ll probably do it again…and again…and again…

until dawn brett 2

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STREAM QUEEN: Spoofing the Scares

Some horror comedies have plenty of laughs but also intend to scare you. Not this trio of films—although things sure do get gory at times.

CHIP & BERNIE’S ZOMANCE (2015)

 chip and bernies zomance cover

This curious movie runs 70 minutes long and feels more like a throwback to 1970s skit comedy television than a modern zomcom. Therefore, it’s not surprising that legend Tim Conway of The Carol Burnett Show fame appears in a role that shadows his shtick from the classic variety show.

chip and bernies zomance conway

But his appearance is very minor. Chip & Bernie’s Zomance is pretty much carried by writer/director Pasquale Murena as Chip and Marc Robert as his goofy punch line punching bag Bernie.

chip and bernie leads

The “plot” is about a competition show in which teams have to survive the zombie apocalypse.

chip and bernie other team

Mostly, it’s a bunch of sketches of Chip, Bernie, and friends interacting with zombies.

chip and bernie warehouse attack

The old school slapstick comedy has its moments, but it may not hold the attention of a modern audience for long.

chip and bernie eat

What impressed me most is that as hokey as the comedy is, the zombie action is pretty damn good and puts the quality of many independent zombie horror flicks to shame.

chip and bernie car attack

Eventually, the plot has Chip and Bernie arguing and going their separate ways. Only the zombie apocalypse can make them realize how much they mean to each other…

And speaking of male bonding, there are also some gay situations, but not between Chip and Bernie…

chip and bernie kiss

They end up with a redneck simpleton sidekick who regularly makes homoerotic suggestions, and eventually expresses his true feelings for Bernie.

SEVEN DORMS OF DEATH (2015)

seven dorms of death cover

This slasher spoof comes from prolific horror comedy director Richard Griffin (I have an extensive blog about many of his films here). Framed with a horror host introducing it is a lost film called Seven Dorms of Death (clearly from the 1980s) and occasionally interrupted by faux movie trailers, this particular film is virtually a spoof of spoofs.

seven dorms of death host

The opening kill – horny college kid chased by killer in ski mask through auditorium – sets the tone of the horror spoof aspects of the film.

seven dorms of death stalk

There are close-up stabs of a knife into a clearly fake chest and excessive shots of blood splashing on the victim’s face that mock practical effects of 80s horror…yet still look better than CGI of today.

seven dorms of death drill

As students are rehearsing for a play in the supposedly haunted auditorium (a crazy old janitor tries to warn them), two detectives investigate the murder…murders.

seven dorms of death janitor

Yes, the body count begins to rise. The campy kills are fun and capture the horror spirit, but for me, the first part of the film strays too far into a comedy silliness that just isn’t my thing, especially because it isn’t rooted in the horror theme. Scenes of the detectives doing their shtick and the kids rehearsing their play did nothing for me.

seven dorms of death cops

However, there’s a notable shift after an intermission with some of my favorite faux film trailers. There’s one about sadistic bloodsuckers…

seven dorms of death vamps

And one about hunky hero “Biff Bruiser,” who loses a hand and replaces it with a Nintendo controller. Now that’s a spoof flick I want to see…

seven dorms of death biff bruiser

Following these trailers, the characters become immersed in the threat when they attend a heavy metal concert. The tone feels more like old school horror. A girl who sees visions of the kills (as well as some gay S&M) dies a hilarious death.

seven dorms of death leather

A metal head unleashes the devil with a Commodore computer.

seven dorms of death commodore

 A dude is left vulnerable during sex games.

seven dorms of death bind

There’s a dinner table of death.

seven dorms of death dinner

This is the horror spoof I was waiting for, and in general feels more like the Richard Griffin horror flicks I love.

KILLER PINATA (2015)

killer pinata cover

I finally caved and watched it. I totally expected a goofy, low budget hack job, so I was amazed to find this is a smartly written and directed mock slasher played predominantly straight by the actors, making it that much funnier.

killer pinata leads

After all, a bunch of kids is terrorized by a rainbow confetti donkey that’s not even two feet tall.

killer pinata in store

When a clerk at a party supply store accidentally sells a possessed piñata to a customer, the woman who owns the shop – and has a hook for a hand – goes on a rampage to get it back. She’s a hoot, as are the reactions of party guests, and she’s not even the killer.

killer pinata hook lady

The family that bought the piñata is going away for Thanksgiving weekend and leaves the piñata behind, but the oldest daughter decides to stay home. Naturally, she has friends over to party! And that can only mean one thing. Killer piñata!

killer pinata in face

It’s such a relief to see a movie that should be an insult to our intelligence presented with so much more creativity, style, and cleverness than anything Troma or Full Moon has put out in years. The use of subtle, dry humor and genuine horror atmosphere are the perfect balance for the absurd concept of a vengeful piñata…and the visual presentation of it bouncing around, often on the side of the frame so that someone off screen can manipulate it.

killer pinata trash

The campiness is apparent mostly in the kills, from a guy choking on candy the piñata poops out for him, to another guy being strung up like a piñata and beaten with a bat. I laughed out loud most to how a couple reacts when attacked by the piñata during sex. Not to mention, the hunk looks delicious wearing a nipple chain.

killer pinata hunk 2

Or not wearing one.

killer pinata hunk1

For the most part, the film refrains from any Troma-like exploitation, but there is one prolonged puke scene, and there’s a shockingly bloody genital scene (that’s also really funny).

killer pinata bite

Other highlights include an awesome battle prep montage set to 80s-style synth rock, and an animated flashback to the origins of the possessed piñata. This one seriously deserves to become a cult classic if you ask me.

killer pinata animation

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When a triple feature blind buy goes totally right

I rarely buy DVDs/Blu-rays these days without seeing the films first. I’m done wasting valuable shelf space on movies I don’t love and will probably never watch again. I’m done spending full price for subpar movies, which is even more insulting these days since most of the time they are not even genuine DVDs or Blu-rays, but simply distributors taking the cheap route and burning that shit onto recordable media with a computer. And most importantly, I’m done wasting valuable money on movies that shouldn’t have been made.

Even with a strong gut feeling about these three films, I still held off for quite some time in buying them, waiting to see if they’d hit one of the streaming services. But impatience finally got the best of me and I caved, and in one week they all arrived in my mailbox, and it was a popcorn movie party weekend for sure.

THE BARN (2016)

barn cover

Whatever it is that continues to motivate filmmakers to try to recapture the spirit of the 80s horror era in their films, director Justin M. Seaman (tasty last name) does a nicely understated job of it with his indie Halloween horror flick The Barn. There are nostalgic nods to the era, but they never become a one-note gimmick or distract from the fact that it’s the actual plot that feels like an 80s horror film.

We get into the holiday spirit with a Halloween night trick or treat kill at “the barn” in 1959. Flash ahead to October 1989 (as all good 1989 films would), and the tone is set with faux 80s metal music, arcade machines, Walkmans, boom boxes, and a heavy metal TV show hosted by original young Jason Voorhees Ari Lehman.

barn rock show

Kids going to a rock concert on Halloween night detour to the infamous barn where the murders took place 30 years ago and unwittingly unleash a trio of demonic killers—a miner, a scarecrow, and a pumpkin head—on the town!

barn in front of barn

The Barn is like a Halloween slasher combined with Neon Maniacs  since there’s more than one killer and each has its own specific look and identity.

barn scarecrow

As in that film, the kids become the heroes and have to formulate a plan to save the town.

barn miner

There’s a certain charm to the characters and the humor, making it reminiscent of 80s classics like Night of the Comet and Night of the Creeps, but it also delivers genuine horror atmosphere, oodles of gooey gore (there’s a Halloween party massacre), some nudity, and a great score mimicking John Carpenter’s best.

barn pumpkin head

There are also some notable visual homages to 80s horror flicks for diehard fans, plus scream queen Linnea Quigley makes a brief appearance in a really refreshing transitional role as an uptight churchgoing type.

barn linnea

And most importantly, it nails the Halloween atmosphere, making it a perfect addition to your annual October viewing list.

barn halloween spirit

Just want to note that I have the extended cut DVD (available on the film’s website and not a DVD-R), which runs 97 minutes compared to the original 90-minutes. For me, the film started to lose some steam in the final act, and the plot got a bit more convoluted than it needed to be, but there were some bonus creatures thrown in as a result.

barn eye gore

I am curious as to what is missing from the 90-minute version – I imagine the 7 minutes were edited out for good reason, perhaps to amend the pacing problem near the end – so if it shows up on streaming, I’ll check it out to compare. Of course, I would never want to own the shorter version or else I’d feel like something was being denied me, so go figure. Anyway, Seaman has another flick called Cryptids in the works and I’m so there when it’s released.

NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016)

night of something strange cover

Night of Something Strange starts with a bang – a janitor fucking a corpse in a morgue. Essentially, this film takes the concept of body horror flick Contracted and turns it into a gross-out horror zombedy.

night of something strange janitor zombie

I’ll say right off the bat that I totally love the skanky, sleazy, icky concept of an STD zombie flick, and when Night of Something Strange hits its stride, it totally rox the plot. But in a sheer coincidence, the uncensored version of this film also runs 97 minutes, and I would have welcomed a slightly edited version. Actually, I think it should have perhaps been released only in an edited version without any mention of an uncensored version, ever. And here is why.

night of something strange girl zombie

The first part of the film strays too far from the very theme that makes it naturally gross. Sure, there are plenty of nasty genital and sexual fluid gags to make us gag. But Night of Something Strange throws in a heap of other completely unnecessary crap, sometimes literally, such as one dude sharting on another guy’s face as a prank, along with loads of other bodily discharge scenes, including puking and vile public restroom scenarios, that are completely unrelated to the zombies themselves. It stoops to Troma levels at times.

But what sets it apart is that while Troma films have given up on even trying to mask as horror films, Night of Something Strange plows through its early, excessive exploitation – which might unfortunately make some horror fans turn it off prematurely – to eventually deliver a fast-paced, humorous, just gross enough horror flick that could easily find itself scoring one of those “a modern day Evil Dead” callouts from more respected horror sources than, you know, me.

Naturally, the janitor turns into a gnarly zombie soon after nut-busting in corpse cooch, grabs his old lady by the pussy, and begins the chain reaction of zombie STDs. To add fuel to the burning crotch, a group of horny teens heading to the beach for the weekend stops at a seedy motel for the night.

night of something strange main guy undies

Night of Something Strange has it all: a cameo by scream queen Brinke Stevens, a chain-smoking white trash zombie, dripping zombie vajayjay, tampon-eating zombies, a huge dick pic in a text, a weirdo redneck hotel clerk that brings much of the comic relief, buckets of zombie cum, a long zomdick, and a talking zompussy.

night-of-something-strange-wiener resize

The film really hits its stride when the main guy and main girl get together and become the heroes. The main guy is a hottie and strips down to just his tighty-whities a few times. Actually, the janitor zombie does it for him one of those time.

night of something strange janitor hump

And speaking of gay sex, there’s a character with “homosexual tendencies,” to say the least, which is where the film’s willingness to be perversely exploitative comes in handy.

night of something strange butt

Seriously, there’s a man-on-man ass-eating scene and anal sex scene that leads to a very long, humorous sequence involving one guy’s dick stuck in another guy’s asshole. Not to mention, there is a super clever twist in the film poking fun at another horror subgenre.

night-of-something-strange-maing-cutie resize

Even if you can’t stomach gross-out humor or exploitation but love films in the tradition of Evil Dead and Return of the Living Dead, I would urge you to stick with this one, because the second part is classic. And for collectors, the great news is that the limited edition Blu-ray is available through the film’s website, and it is indeed a genuine pressed Blu-ray disc, not a BD-R.

SUMMER CAMP (2015)

summer camp cover

There is only one thing that sux about this film, and that’s the title. In horror, the words “summer camp” are synonymous with Jason Voorhees or Friday the 13th rip-offs. It’s as simple as that. Summer Camp, on the other hand, landed on my list of all-time favorite “in the tradition of Evil Dead and Night of the Demons” films after the first viewing.

summer camp curly girl

That’s right. Ignoring the dumb ass reviews (the few reviews there are) that say this movie sucks, I blind bought it because it looked that much like my kind of movie. And it so far exceeded my expectations it boggles my mind. This movie is pretty much exactly what a horror movie – even if it’s going to be derivative – should be at this point in time.

summer camp guy attack

It’s scary. It’s clever. It’s darkly humorous. It’s fast-paced. It’s full of surprises. It has a simple, straightforward plot. It takes predictable tropes and gives them a purple nurple. It has very few characters yet very likeable characters, and it doesn’t weigh down the action with bullshit character drama or romance. It’s a horror flick that is in the moment at every moment.

summer camp dog

Four Americans are in Europe to work as counselors at a summer camp. Just days before opening, one of the four is bitten by a violent dog infected with what appears to be some sort of disease. Before long, the four friends begin going all wild-eyed and veiny-faced and start to turn on each other in murderous rages!

summer camp house of devil demon

Here’s the catch…they seem to just be demonic episodes that come and go, so there’s never any telling who to trust at any given moment.

summer camp rv

This shit is insane and insanely fun, and stars hottie Diego Boneta from Scream Queens and Rock of Ages…

summer camp main man shirtless

…horror queen Jocelin Donahue of The House of The Devil, The Burrowers, Dead Awake, Insidious: Chapter 2, and Holidays, and Maiara Walsh, who has only appeared in a few minor parts on horror TV shows (The Vampire Diaries, Zombieland pilot) but needs to be in more horror flicks because she rox.

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STREAM QUEEN: 3 from the mid-2000s

Remember a decade ago when Netflix would send you a DVD, you would watch it, then mail it back, then be sent another one, and so on? Imagine all that work if you weren’t even guaranteed a great viewing experience every time, and could end up sitting through a bad b-movie and have to wait for snail mail to run its course before you could cleanse your palate with another movie.

Now think of the impact all that hassle could have on a blogger’s opinion when it came time to write about a movie. I didn’t have any of that hassle when I streamed this trio from that era – a horror anthology, a vampire comedy, and a zombie flick. So did that give them an advantage?

FRIGHT CLUB (2006)

fright club cover

An African-American guy, a Latina girl, and an Asian guy walk into an art gallery….

fright club trio

No, it’s not the setup for a joke. It’s the wraparound of indie anthology film Fright Club. The three friends are looking to join a rumored “fright club,” and to do so, they are required to tell the eldest member of the group – a hooded figure in the basement of the building – a scary story.

fright club gimp

Each story is focused on a particular racial group living in the urban jungle, which is a cool, contemporary approach to a horror anthology. Of course, it could also be argued that the tales totally play up to racial stereotypes as well.

Despite coming out in 2006, Fright Club doesn’t have the sleek, polished, CGI feel of mainstream horror of that era. This has a low budget throwback feel that will probably appeal more to those who grew up on direct-to-VHS horror of the 80s and 90s. Here’s the breakdown of the stories:

“Little Red Riding in the Hood” – The Latina girl’s story begins with a trippy dream sequence loaded with sex, boobs, and horror visuals. Then, a young woman is off to visit her sick grandmother. She has run-ins with her bad boy ex, an FBI agent, and a psychic before finally getting to her grandmother’s house, which is really the only good part of this segment. The werewolf doesn’t look much like a werewolf. It’s more just a cheesy monster face, but in a fun, hokey, 80s scary way.

fright club wolf

“The Boy Who Cried Vamp” – The African-American guy’s story reminds me of the classic 80s flick Vamp. It begins with a long strip club montage. A young man hangs out there because he’s trying to make connections to get a record deal…and because he’s mesmerized by one of the women. The vampiric stuff is pretty basic.

fright club vamp

“Spare Parts” – The Asian guy’s story focuses on two brothers. One is a successful detective about to get promoted, the other a failing university scientist who loses his funding because of his questionable experiments in reanimation. But their two careers collide in a most horrific way when one brother’s failure suddenly becomes the other’s macabre success.

fright club mask

All three stories are a bit too long and uneventful before getting to the good stuff, and while the first two stories have a more classic 80s vibe with traditional werewolf/themes, the final story is definitely the most disturbing and contemporary in terms of plot. And finally, the conclusion of the wraparound is pretty much just what you expect, in a good old campy, gothic horror exclamation point way.

fright club wraparoun monster 

NETHERBEAST INCORPORATED (2007)

netherbeast incorporated cover

A comedy about a company at which all the employees are vampires, but suddenly, mere mortals begin infiltrating the office space. The cast includes the likes of Darrell Hammond of SNL, Steve Burns of Blue’s Clues, Judd Nelson of The Breakfast Club, Dave Foley of The Kids in The Hall, Jason Mewes of Jay & Silent Bob, Amy Davidson of 8 Simple Rules, and Robert Wagner of who pushed Natalie Wood off a boat?

netherbeast incorporated stab

I so expected this one to be really good, but it’s not very funny at all. For such a great ensemble, the script gives them little to bounce off each other.

netherbeast incorporated shirtup

Even the vampire plot is weak, and there’s way too much narrative via the Blue’s Clues guy, who gives us tons of history on this clan of vampires—and how they’re pretty much nothing like the vampires of folklore.

netherbeast incorporated flashback

Fact is, the vampires are scared the humans are going to expose their secret. But when someone begins killing off the humans, the vampires play detective to figure out who it is.

netherbeast incorporated judd

Blue’s Clues guy has begun dating one of the mortal girls, so there’s a little romance thrown in with what plays out like a murder mystery. Aside from being short on laughs, it’s disappointingly slow-paced. For such a clever concept with such a great cast, this could have been a total winner.

DOOMED (2007)

doomed cover

I assume this was made for TV…perhaps SyFy? I never saw it back then so I’m not sure. The premise is basically The Running Man on an island with zombies. It’s a reality show on which criminals compete to get to the other side of the island alive. Winner walks free.

After a few contestants immediately off each other, the race begins. Within minutes, super fast zombies attack! This movie is pretty much total crap. It takes place completely in the daylight (they sleep safely overnight). It’s all fast shaky cam and choppy editing, so you rarely get close-ups of the zombies. Probably because they appear to be mostly in just basic green face paint.

doomed mountain attack

When the contestants aren’t hiding out (which they do a lot of), the action scenes are extremely repetitive. Their battles with the zombies are also plagued by freeze-frames highlighted with onscreen kill points for the “television audience,” in video game fashion. Basically, this film should have just been marketed as House of the Dead 3.

doomed points

There’s no gut munching or gore, but there is a sequence in the final act that I thought was okay.

doomed bunker

The remaining survivors have to make their way through a bunker, and it brought to mind the original Day of the Dead. Plus, the lone survivor’s getaway scene is “delicious.”

Finally, the hunk of the group is actually recognizable as the guy who always played the scary baddie on segments of Scare Tactics.

doomed hunk

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STREAM QUEEN: trying to get a grip on reality

If you’re in the mood to just kick back on the couch, lights out, a big bowl of popcorn and a 2-liter of cherry cola in hand, and be scared silly with some mindless horror fun, then this is not the double feature for you. Your mind will need to be totally functioning to get through these two, both of which dabble in the supernatural…and torture porn!

Pinwheel (2017)

pinwheel cover

I’ve seen various artwork for this film – but the visual with a masked guy holding an axe on Amazon suckered in this lover of cheesy slashers.

pinwheel main girl

Not surprisingly, in the world of deceptive marketing, this isn’t a slasher…despite the fact that the opening scene has a woman being chased, stabbed, strung up, and tortured by a masked killer. And it’s awesomely gory, I might add.

pinwheel intro scene

Pinwheel is actually about a woman who comes back to her hometown a decade after her mother’s murder. She immediately runs into her old boyfriend at a gas station. Her old boyfriend with the hot bod.

pinwheel boyfriend

They reconnect (do you blame her?), and he starts hanging around her family’s farmhouse as she deals with the fact that her father – a carnival worker – has gone missing.

The farm is filled with a bunch of odd characters. Her uncle has rented a room to a writer doing a story on the carnival, its mysterious occult past, and the six weird carnival performers that are now living in the barn. Also hanging around is the detective working on finding her father.

pinwheel pinwheel

Everyone is mesmerized by an old metal pinwheel the father stuck in a field in the yard years before, and the main girl, her boyfriend, and the writer all have disturbing nightmares, which convinces them something quite sinister has happened to the father.

pinwheel red blue light

I guess you could call this one a slow burn, because it’s kind of slow…and quite melodramatic. It feels very much like the bizarre, trippy occult films of the 1970s, especially since so much of what takes place is hard to follow and often turns out to be either a dream or hallucination.

pinwheel crawler

In fact, that’s when most of the horror elements take place, usually involving gruesome torture by masked creeps in the barn.

pinwheel barn

It all plays out like a supernatural mystery, and while not a lot of it makes sense, it all kind of makes sense, because inevitably, when the big twist comes around at the end, you pretty much know exactly what that twist is going to be. At least, you do if you’re old like me and have been watching these kinds of films since you were like six years old in the 1970s….

IT WATCHES (2016)

it watches cover

I wouldn’t have left this one sitting in my Prime watchlist for as long as I did had I known it was from Dave Parker, director of The Dead Hate the Living! and The Hills Run Red, zombie and slasher fun, respectively, from the 2000s.

It Watches is neither of those. It’s actually a very different kind of film for Dave Parker, who co-wrote the film with its star, cutie Ivan Djurovic. Djurovic is more often the monster in movies (Zoombies, Under the Bed, 51), but here, he virtually carries the film as a one-man show. He plays a (cute) guy who agrees to house-sit in place of a friend while recovering from an accident.

it watches sheet

As a psychological part of his recovery, he is keeping a video diary, plus there are cameras set up around the house, which gives the film a bit of a Paranormal Activity vibe. Especially since there are creepy mannequins covered in sheets all around the house, as well as freaky busts not covered in sheets.

Like Paranormal Activity, this one starts slowly at first, with Djurovic exploring the place and not much else happening—other than a very tantalizing shot of him showering.

it watches shower

It’s when a girlfriend comes over for date night that things take off and get really weird real fast, starting with one of those damn mannequins.

it watches with girlfriend

Shit gets even weirder when the neighbor stops by…Mr. Kea-no Reeves himself, James Duval.

it watches keano

Things get WTF is happening weird and I kind of got totally sucked in – and not just because Djuorvic has a scene in nothing but tighty-whities.

it watches whitesStills from my movie Dan Watches

Once again, we head into trippy territory, not sure of what’s real and what’s not, walking the line between supernatural occurrences and torture porn.

it watches tid up

And just for good measure, Carnival of Souls plays on a TV and gets effectively integrated into the film’s atmosphere.

it watches behind him

By the time the film reaches a conventional found footage climax, with Djurovic running from some sort of terrifying presence in a blur of shaky cam, we are bombarded with flashes of exposition revealing the truth of what’s really happening in the house. It’s a pretty interesting twist that feels like it simultaneously creates an 80-minute plot hole. Or maybe it totally doesn’t at all. I’m not sure. Either way, out of these two films, neither of which is really my kind of “go to” horror, this one is more my speed.

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Don’t fuck in the woods or you’ll turn blood redd

Here are two examples of why I watch so many indie horror films. There are filmmakers out there who have the vision, the ideas, the talent, the stories to tell, and perhaps just plain old fun fear to put on film, even if they don’t have all the money in the world to do it. And I like to see how they pull it off despite limitations in budget and resources. And that’s not easy when you’re taking on a creature feature.

BLOOD REDD (2015)

blood redd cover

This is a very different kind of low budget creature feature. It’s actually a character driven, mostly psychological werewolf film that still manages to deliver a few highly intense suspense scenes and some moments of excellent gore, beginning with an icky autopsy scene to establish that there’s a case involving what appears to be a killer setting a wolf loose on teen female victims.

blood redd autopsy

In the meantime, a teen girl is gong to visit her grandmother for the weekend. Before she even gets there, the grandmother’s young, flamboyant gay friend comes over and says he’ll cook dinner for them.

blood redd main guy

In an otherwise very intriguing film, I think what happens next really takes so much of the surprise and mystery out of everything that comes after. But I won’t give it away.

Anyway, when the granddaughter arrives, shit gets crazy pretty fast, and in an incredibly intense scene that plays out like an adult version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” she is nearly assaulted by a psycho.

blood redd girl

She passes out, and when she regains consciousness, the gay guy has been nearly mauled to death.

blood redd gaygore

He claims she turned into some sort of horrific beast and attacked him. Things gets really weird between them as the truth unfolds, giving this flick a much more layered plot than your usual werewolf on the loose horror film. It almost feels like it could be a stage play.

blood redd neck

Even so, there are some horrific sequences in the final act, including a werewolf transformation.

blood redd teeth

And I must say, it’s done with practical effects and is not half bad for an indie film.

DON’T FUCK IN THE WOODS (2016)

 dont fuck in the woods cover

If you expect any more than what you get with a title like Don’t Fuck in the Woods, it’s your own fault. The title says it all. This is an indie throwback to all the “Don’t…” horror titles of the late 70s and early 80s that were so popular in video stores, as well as a nod to one of the most obvious rules of horror for anyone who lived through the 80s VHS era. The biggest surprise here is that this is not a slasher. The monster is as splendidly rubbery as anything that crawled out of the swamps, sewers, or spaceship air vents between the 1970s and 1990s.

The plot: Kids go camping in the woods. Kids have sex. Kids get mutilated by creature.

What more could you ask for? Director Shawn Burkett has been making horror films since the beginning of this decade, and he’s gotten progressively better. This is a much tighter film that has the spirit of a low budget indie but also shows he knows what makes low budget indies work.

dont fuck in the woods first couple

After an intro kill, there are a few unexpected campy moments, including a homophobe on the street getting chased off by a gay guy who isn’t having any of it (played by one of my buddies, gay director Ryan Stacy, in a cameo!). We get a brief introduction to the main characters, including “the funny guy” of the group, played by one Roman Jossart, who’s actually really funny. He has also directed a couple of horror flicks of his own, so I think I’ll need to seek those out.

dont fuck in the woods roman jossart

Pretty soon, the group heads into the woods for the sex and violence. The pacing is fast – the film is exactly an hour long without the 13 minutes of closing credits and bloopers at the end. Now that’s my kind of movie.

The retro feel comes complete with monster POV, sustained music cues, and teased kills for a majority of the film – victims are dragged off screen and we see just splashes of blood. Plus, the monster is just teased in quick flashes of body parts to keep us curious until we finally see the full monster Monty later.

dont fuck in the woods kill

Speaking of body parts, there’s plenty of nudity, as you’d hope in a film called Don’t Fuck in the Woods. You even get some glimpses of beaver. Damn! The amount of sex lives up to the name. And so does the monster’s ways of mutilating victims near the end.

dont fuck in the woods monster

Just when I feared this was going to be a gore-free experience, shit gets messy! And this monster is going for the gonads, once again living up to the exploitative title. If you’re a fan of low budget throwback films, you’ll probably appreciate this one.

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Hey Easter Bunny, why are all the eggs red this year?

There was so much dying to be done this year that the Easter Bunny needed the whole weekend to take care of business. It’s my blog about two very different killer bunny slashers – The Night Before Easter and Easter Sunday. Yeah, I know. Easter was last month. It’s been a rough year so far.

THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER (2014)

night before easter cover

The Night Before Easter is a traditional slasher, featuring a silent masked killer stalking teens. It’s also not a full-length movie, running a little over 60 minutes.

The first scene has a gay couple getting hacked up while on a walk in the woods. Turns out it’s just a movie being watched by a straight couple on Easter Eve! They’re the ones who are really about to get hacked up…by a guy in a bunny costume. Well, that opener pulled me in.

night before easter hunk kill

Fifteen years later, and we are tossed into the middle of a really odd setup – a bunch of friends just standing around talking and drinking beers. This awkward scenario goes on too long for the audience’s attention span before one of the friends finally asks, “Why are we here?”

night before easter cast

Turns out they are there because one of the girls is moving and has thrown herself a going away party. But where exactly are they? Looks like a warehouse, but according to the film’s description, it’s a storage facility, which only becomes obvious a bit later.

The shallow “you can’t have him he’s mine” plot and plodding, flat dialogue that comes along with it is a bit agonizing. It’s 30 minutes of one-note drama that doesn’t make anyone particularly likeable, and we don’t even get any relief from it – no sex or kills to break up the monotony, which I fear might make people turn the film off and cause them to miss the best part – the kills.

night before easter chase

The kills and the horror are the film’s strong point…making The Night Before Easter another in a long list of modern indie films that demonstrate that there are a whole lot of talented horror directors out there who should not write their scripts.

night before easter hung guys

Like classics of the 80s slasher genre, the death scenes at first rely on off screen kills with splashes of blood on inanimate objects, as well as quick and choppy editing. The killer is an ominous presence, skulking through the halls and attacking victims viciously, which leads to more gruesome gore and body reveals as the film progresses.

night before easter gore

There’s also a strong performance by an actress recounting a terrifying encounter she had as a child, the bitch of the group gets the honor of the Wendy in Prom Night chase scene, and there’s a twist at the end once the killer takes on the final girl.

EASTER SUNDAY (2014)

easter sunday cover

Easter Sunday takes the killer bunny slasher in the opposite direction – total over-the-top exploitation slasher comedy.

It opens with an old school grindhouse look, feel, and synth score as the killer pulls A Nightmare On Elm Street, preparing for his slaughter at his workbench. The first kill had me worried I was about to get pure Troma-like garbage…both the victim and “The Bunny Masked Killer” have irritating, high-pitched speaking voices, and there’s fart humor.

easter sunday eye gore

But Easter Sunday keeps the fart humor to a minimum (I wish Troma would trademark that shit so no one else could ruin their movies with it), and I just put up with the annoying as fuck voice of The Bunny Masked Killer because everything else going on around him is too much fun to miss.

easter sunday lead

We next meet our adorable and hilarious main man, Jeremy Todd Morehead, who also happens to be the director of the film. Morehead is the kind of cutie who makes me wish I could come back as a zombie when I die so that I could eat his ass against his will without being judged as some kind of predatory gay, and not even care if some dumb God loving, sheet wearing, sister marrying, pig fucking, redneck ammosexual shoots me in the head once I’m done chowing down.

So Morehead has a band, and they all sit around a campfire one night as one bandmate admits that his dad was a legendary psycho who dressed up as a bunny on Easter and went on a killing spree. And then…they pull out a Ouija board.

easter sunday ouija

It’s horror comedy gold as the cast reacts to bringing the crazed killer’s spirit back from the dead.

easter sunday band mates

Not only is the cast fun and funny as they are hunted by the axe-wielding killer bunny, but the grindhouse gore is a blast, and the late Robert Z’Dar of Maniac Cop appears as the man who took down the killer the first time around.

easter sunday dzar

easter sunday edward x young

b-horror king Edward X Young appears as a demonologist, and even Ari Lehman, the original young Jason Voorhees, makes an appearance, with plenty of in-jokes.

easter sunday first jason

If you don’t mind holiday slashers that don’t take themselves seriously, you’ve got Easter covered with Easter Sunday. The one thing it does manage to do is stay away from any excessively sexual, sleazy, or perverse humor. There’s barely even any nudity. Honestly, there could have been a little more nudity. What I’m saying here is, Jeremy Todd Morehead should have been naked.

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