Ever heard of Rolfe Kanefsky? I hadn’t either, until I discovered that I have not one but FOUR of his horror movies in my collection. So I guess that means I’m a fan.
THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE (1992)
Funny thing about Rolfe, he had a huge window for a lawsuit when Scream premiered in 1996. Four years before Randy gave us lessons on the rules of slasher films, there was David, the lead character in There’s Nothing Out There, who spouted the rules of surviving a horror movie every chance he got. That’s right kiddies. Randy the video store clerk is a total poser.
Speaking of video stores (still hot in the 90s), let’s start with the opening of There’s Nothing Out There. A blonde chick in a hot pink miniskirt and tank top is working in a video store and is suddenly attacked by a crazed killer. As she writhes and crawls with pouted lips and heaving chest across the floor of the video store (make love to the camera, baby!), we are bombarded by the cover art of VHS tapes on the shelves—classic horror titles that feature artistic drawings of curvy, busty, scantily clad women looking somehow horrified and horny at the same time (hornified?). Keep that in mind—because Rolfe likes to make films that are, in part, a discourse about the intercourse between sex and horror.
Turns out video store blondie is only dreaming. She’s actually asleep in her car—and is immediately attacked by some sort of alien with octopus arms! She drives until she crashes…
Dissolve to David…and his teenage friends. They are headed off for a weekend at a summer home. When they see police investigating a crashed car on the side of the road, David immediately pipes up worriedly, claiming this is a clear warning sign telling teenagers on their way to party and have sex that they should really go back. When they arrive at the summer home, Randy…um…I mean…David, warns them not to skinny dip, not to go off into the woods alone, not to go in the basement, to beware the cheap cat scare tactic…you get the picture. David is Randy, four years before. David’s character tries continuously to warn the others that they are in the midst of a horror movie, but they don’t listen until most of them have been slaughtered at the hands of an alien that looks kind of like the lovechild of Basket Case and that big pile of talking poo from Weird Science. David has all the answers. He’s the one who knows how to survive a horror movie. Hell, not even Randy made it past the first sequel.
Even though it was released in 92, I have a feeling There’s Nothing Out There was completed at the tail end of the 80s, because it’s more 80s than 90s. Most of the songs used in the soundtrack are very new wave sounding (nothing famous), punks come to skinny dip in the water behind the summer home, and all the girls look like members of Poison, only, you know, not as pretty…
There’s Nothing Out There is low budget, extremely funny in all its familiarity, and clearly made by a lover of the genre. Rolfe also serves up the sex—and based on his imdb page, it appears he’s no stranger to “non-mainstream” movies, if you will. In fact, several of the actors in this, his first film, appear in some of them. Here we get a gratuitous shower scene with a blonde chick and sex scenes galore. And Rolfe gives us a nice bit of balance when the cutest guy in the film tears of all his clothes to go skinny dipping at night. And boy is there a full moon out!
There are plenty of nods to other horror films. The slapstick humor, which is laugh out loud at times, is straight up Evil Dead, as is a face melting scene. Random blue and red lighting is thrown in that has Dario Argento written all over it. There are abundant references to stomach bursting scenes from alien horror films. And they even try to burn the alien in the oven in a very Trilogy of Terror moment. Not to mention, there’s a watery basement scene that I would swear is an ode to the film Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn.
To add to the fun, there’s one guy who has total gay face. I’m sure this dude has to be gay in real life, because every line he delivers sounds somewhat queeny, not to mention that his only other credit on imdb is as a dancer in the original 1988 Hairspray. And not once, but TWICE in this film he lashes out against pussy—first he throws a poor little pussycat to the alien to save himself, and second, he knees his “girlfriend” in the va-jay-jay when she is possessed by the alien after it shoots green lasers at her eyes. Yeah, There’s Nothing Out There is definitely my kind of horror film.
THE HAZING (2004)
12 years after his first horror film (and clearly a fun time making adult entertainment), Rolfe returned to the genre where he got his start with another goody. This time around, the major inspiration seems to be Night of the Demons.
College kids, including b-movie scream queen Tiffany Shepis, are involved in a hazing (imagine that) on Halloween night that involves them stealing a demonic book for a scavenger hunt from their crazy teacher (scream king Brad Dourif—you know, the guy whose soul jumps into Chucky), then spending a night in a creepy mansion.
Well, the demonic book ends up in the basement, Dourif ends up in a coma, and the kids end up getting possessed by his spirit one by one when the hole to hell opens. Hole-y Night of the Demons! The long shots of dark hallways, the glowing fire in the main room where the kids are hanging out, and the zooming camera signifying the rampant demonic spirit looking for a new body to inhabit are straight out of my favorite horror film of 1988.
Again, Rolfe loves camp and comedy in his horror, and there are plenty of good one-liners in this film, the kids battling each other as they turn into demons—only one at a time in this film compared to the demon party in Night of the Demons. Tiffany Shepis gets some awesome support from the blonde “bimbo” in the bunny costume, who has a few surprises up her sleeve. And then there’s the absolutely adorable Parry Shen in the male lead, and he totally rules.
On top of all that, there are also creepy mannequins, men in women’s clothing, Tiffany Shepis’s boobs and butt, a chainsaw, a long tongue, a creepy floating red balloon, darts, and a picture perfect Bruce Campbell cameo. And then there’s the basement hell hole ending, which is like something out of Amityville-3D.
Too bad Tiffany Shepis was too young to be in movies in 1992 when There’s Nothing Out There was made, otherwise she would have been in EVERY Rolfe Kanefsky film. Corpses, while campy and low budget, runs a little long in my opinion, but it still has its moments—and plenty of Argento lighting, gore, and undead. In fact, it starts immediately with disembowelment—on a baseball field—which leaves you with a lot of high hopes.
An evil undertaker is bringing the dead back to life in the basement of his funeral home using a special embalming fluid. His assistant happens to be Tiffany Shepis’s cute boyfriend (whose nipples she likes to squeeze—hard—after sex in a coffin). Tiffany happens to be the daughter of the Sheriff. The sheriff happens to now be marrying the ex-wife of the evil undertaker, and the ex-wife is trying to get his funeral home shut down so the city can build a mall there (and yes, there’s a reference made to Dawn of the Dead). So the undertaker is going to use the undead to fight the powers that be and get his ex-wife back. But that’s when things get gory and the undead wreak havoc.
This film seems to draw its inspiration from Re-Animator as well as Dead Alive and, of course, Evil Dead. Fun moments include a horny zombie with a constant erection because he died of a Viagra overdose, and a bunch of zombies ripping off Tiffany Shepis’s clothes, to which she comment “Is that really necessary?”
Jeff Fahey takes a Bruce Campbell stance to battle the undead, but the real comedy show is the MILF playing the stepmother. She totally steals the show.
Just note that there are approximately 15 minutes of alternate scenes and endings tacked to the end of the movie after the credits! WTF?
NIGHTMARE MAN (2006)
Moving on up to the big time, Rolfe’s 2006 film Nightmare Man landed in the Afterdark Horrorfest. And people HATE this movie, which shocks me, because I think it has everything going for it. It’s scary, creepy, suspenseful, laugh-out-loud funny, gory, and has Tiffany Shepis in her best scream queen role ever. This time around, Rolfe deeply explores the fine line between hard-ons and horror.
The first half hour is like a mini horror film in itself, with fantastic directing that keeps you on the edge of your seat. A woman having problems getting pregnant with her suave Italian boyfriend orders a fertility mask, but instead gets a seriously hideous looking black mask with gnarly teeth, evil eyes, and devil horns. She plans to return it. When she hears someone in the house, the lights go out and she goes to look for her Italian Stallion, who calls to her from the attic. She goes up there…and…EEK!!! Fricking scary scene.
Next thing you know, Italian Stallion is driving her to some sort of nut house. Their car runs out of fuel so he offers to leave her all alone in the middle of nowhere while he walks back to a gas station. It just so happens that, to help with her therapy, one of her doctors has told the Italian Stallion to bring along the mask she thinks is coming to life as the “nightmare man” when she doesn’t take her medication. So now the mask is in the trunk of the car, it turns to night, and we are treated to another fricking SCARY scene. This is what a horror movie is supposed to be. Our infertile femme fatale runs off into the woods, being chased by Nightmare Man.
At the same time, Tiffany Shepis and her friends are partying it up at a summer home in the woods (sound familiar?). It’s only Tiffany, her boyfriend, her female friend (with whom she’s had a secret lesbian relationship), and her now hetero girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Believe me, this hottie could turn anyone from dyke lover to dick lover. Anyway, this group is playing truth or dare, and when the ex-lesbian is dared to do demonstrate having an orgasm, Rolfe juxtaposes her gasping and moaning performance over the infertile femme fatale’s screams and gasps for air in the woods, once again exploring the sex and horror theme he first considered way back at the beginning of There’s Nothing Out There.
Naturally, our infertile femme fatale makes it to the house, beginning the reign of terror on this gang of friends. But is Nightmare Man real, or just a figment of this crazy be-otch’s imagination? Is he a symbol of man’s power over women’s bodies? Is he just her husband in a mask? Is he her physical manifestation of everything she fears about men? Well, whatever he is, it’s up to Tiffany Shepis to take on the infertile femme fatale. This is where Tiffany shines. Her dialogue exchanges with the crazy bitch are perfect, bringing in the camp and comedy aspects of this film. And just when you think the twist (a lame one) has been revealed, the film delivers a perfectly demonic second twist that’s like something out of Evil Dead or Night of the Demons.
These aren’t the only films Rolfe celebrates again. He also throws in Argento lighting and…in fact…totally celebrates his own movie There’s Nothing Out There. For starters, one of the characters is wearing a t-shirt that says… “There’s Nothing Out There.” Awesome. There’s another gratuitous shower scene, and also a blatant close-up of a big glass jar of M&Ms being smashed during a fight, something that also happens blatantly in There’s Nothing Out There! On top of that, there’s a bit of dialogue in which Tiffany Shepis references a mysterious sound being the cat, but when another character asks her if she has a cat, she says no. I’m telling you, Nightmare Man is for There’s Nothing Out There fans what the self-referential Was Craven’s New Nightmare was for A Nightmare on Elm Street fans. But even if you haven’t seen Rolfe’s first movie, Nightmare Man is a rollercoaster ride of horror fun that has sadly fallen victim to the negative free-publicity that the online world offers awesome horror films way too often. For me personally, Nightmare Man has me hoping for another Rolfe Kanefsky horror film to come along.