Johnny Gruesome is the face of evil in the basement

I finally took a moment to watch some up and coming movies (they might be out by now for all I know), so the only common theme between these three is that they are recent releases. We have a torture thriller, a demon-zombie-infected “sort of” comedy, and an all-out teen supernatural slasher comedy. So, which are worth a watch?

THE BASEMENT (2018)

Someone decided there just hasn’t been enough torture porn lately, and the best way to get people back into it is to throw Mischa Barton into the mix while she’s still riding high on her The O.C. fame from 12 years ago. Hey, pick on her all you want (I am), but she’s been in tons of horror movies since then, and I watch them every time I see her name in the credits.

This is an hour and a half of a guy strapped to a desk in a basement being tortured by some serial killer dude, while occasional clips injected throughout the running time show Mischa at home waiting for her man’s return.

But at least there’s an interesting twist to the torture. Whenever the killer uses a new form of torture (teeth bashing, finger severing, blow torching, etc.), he’s dressed as a different “character”: doctor, a prison inmate, a lawyer, a cop, a priest, a woman…

Yet my favorite part is when a pizza delivery guy hears grunting and groaning in the house, and the killer scares him away fast by inviting him to join in on some role-play.

So where does Mischa fit in to all this? Does she ever get anywhere near a basement? If you ask me, by the final scene it feels like someone came up with a good twist for a movie and then went back and filled in an hour and twenty-five minutes of time to get to it.

FACE OF EVIL (2016)

Based on the trailer for Face Of Evil, I thought I was in for an Evil Dead influenced zomcom. I thought I was going to love this movie. I really wanted to love this movie. I tried to love this movie. But the movie had a plan that didn’t include me.

A young military man returns from the Middle East and is welcomed with a barbecue thrown by his friends. When someone drinks some “Arab” liquor, it suddenly turns into an Evil Dead type demon-zombie-infected outbreak.

This first segment definitely delivers some good, suspenseful, and creepy moments in the dark house that kept me clinging to hope that this would be a new fave. And I felt like the film was also trying to offer us fun, quirky characters while capturing the horror humor of Evil Dead, but the vibe and the rhythm is just…off. And not in the intentional offbeat way. Neither the characters nor the comedy quite clicked for me.

When the main guy runs away from the house, the film really runs away from me. Oddly, it seems to be approaching the sensitive subject of PTSD through a not quite funny zomcom. And to the easily offended it can be interpreted (whether intentional or not) as playing into the “patriotic” biases that have infected our nation as a result of the last few wars (and current president). For instance, our main guy’s symptoms seem to be triggered by the type of people he dealt with while away at war—if you know what I mean—who are also painted as the root of the evil infection.

He teams up with some redneck dude who’s also supposed to be a quirk, funny, memorable sidekick (I think). Their motivation for the rest of the film is to run from the government because they know too much…with the military guy spiraling into a haze of paranoia the entire time.

The overall plot is just not my thing personally…or at least it didn’t work for me as presented.

JOHNNY GRUESOME (2018)

Longtime cult director Gregory Lamberson (Slime City, Slime City Massacre, Killer Rack) makes a surprisingly straightforward teen horror comedy, and I liked the hell out of it.

Without falling into a heavy metal overload trap, the movie focuses on headbanger Johnny and his trio of friends—his girlfriend, a pretty boy muscle punk, and an unassuming black dude—and how things go horribly wrong one night when they’re out cruising and Johnny drives way too fast.

Rebellious Johnny had problems with a number of people, including the high school jocks and his dad (played by Michael DeLorenzo, who I’ll always remember as one of the dancers on Fame, but who was also on Head of the Class and New York Undercover).

And therefore, Johnny comes back for revenge…

Gory kills, horror rock music, and campy moments abound as corpse ghost Johnny confronts and kills each person who wronged him.

While he has some funny moments, the one who really steals the show for me is his muscle punk buddy, whose reactions to every new clue revealing the truth behind Johnny’s death are priceless.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s also the perfect blend of pretty boy and butch.

He even gets shirtless for a sex scene that also shows girl boobs. It brings me back to the glory days of gratuitous nudity in horror.

Definitely going to add this one to my collection if it hits DVD.

 

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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