Nielsen Ratings: it’s Dracula Dead and Loving It vs. Repossessed

Leslie Nielsen was around for ages before he hit the peak of his popularity, making his mark on both slapstick 80s comedies and horror movies with films like Airplane!, Naked Gun, Prom Night, and Creepshow.

Conveniently, he also mixed both genres, starting with the goofy Naked Space. His impact on the horror spoof genre would even drag him all the way into the new millennium with appearances in the Scary Movie franchise.

But the height of his horror spoofs came with Repossessed and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. So which one is my fave?

DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995)

It seems logical that Mel Brooks would both a) take on Dracula, and b) do a horror spoof with Leslie Nielsen since the actor made a late career out of the same type of slapstick comedies for which Mel Brooks is known.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It is no Young Frankenstein or Naked Gun, but it has its charms. With Brooks and Nielsen joining forces, it just seems the level of humor should have been a bit stronger than it is.

Attempting to deliver the brand of comedy that both men are known for, Dracula: Dead and Loving It sticks fairly close to the original Bram Stoker plot (while also poking fun at that ridiculous hair Drac had in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola film).

Thanks to a great cast that also includes Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks, Peter MacNichol of Ally McBeal, Steven Weber, and Lysette Anthony, it semi-succeeds, but it isn’t a nonstop laugh riot. Notable moments include Steven Weber and Mel Brooks trying to stake a vampire, Harvey Korman’s character having an obsession with enemas (which could have pushed the envelope more than it does), and Peter MacNichols’s wacky take on Renfield (virtually a nod to Marty Feldman as sidekick Igor in Young Frankenstein).

Still, most of the funniest shtick in the film comes from Nielsen, including his numerous failed attempts to properly glamour victims (priceless), his mishaps while in bat form (so goofy you have to laugh), and his (drawn out) dance scene at a ball, in which he’s dancing with a woman but everyone sees just her being tossed around in a reflection in a mirror.

REPOSSESSED (1990)

Repossessed begins a lot better than it ends, making this Nielsen battle a toss up for me. I revel in this film’s comic take on The Exorcist, which hugely benefits from the fact that Linda Blair gets to spoof her own movie and role. She does it brilliantly, both when she’s being funny and when she’s perfectly nailing the nuances of her original performance as a demon child.

Blair totally outshines Nielsen here, having the advantage not only in her connection to the original film, but also because the comedy scenes with Nielsen simply aren’t on par with the quality of his famous 80s shtick. The writing definitely tries to capture that tone of stupid humor and “literal” comedy (for instance, “cue the announcer” sees a guy poking an announcer with a pool stick). However, it goes off the rails in creating absurd setups to force that brand of humor into the plot, which inevitably causes it to stray too far from its goal of lampooning The Exorcist.

Here’s the good. The first few scenes start in 1973 with some great mimicry of the original movie.

The flash ahead to Blair’s adult life as a mother keeps with the spirit, and she becomes repossessed after seeing televangelists talking about the devil on TV.

Now for the bad. A whole lot of it. A young priest sets out to convince Nielsen, who exorcised Blair the first time, to…um…re-exorcise the repossessed. This is where the film is a mess! For instance, a scene of the young priest stalking and harassing Nielsen at a gym is milked to death, the funniest part being some campy gay humor that even Body by Jake gets drawn into.

I live for the nostalgia, so it’s easy for me to overlook that many aspects of the film suffer from being so of their time. Along with Body by Jake, Ed Beatty and his wife are clearly caricatures of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, there’s mention of the Rob Lowe sex tape and Sean Penn beating up paparazzi, and wrestler Jesse Ventura makes a cameo. Plus, the Repossessed theme song is late 80s Latin freestyle, another track is an intentional knockoff of “Devi Inside” by INXS, and the young priest does a brief, horribly unnecessary rap.

 

Worst of all, Nielsen spoofs the famous Robert Palmer “bouncy babes” videos, in which he also impersonates other famous pop stars of the time—all while singing “Devil With The Blue Dress.”

It’s this musical number that exorcises the demon from Blair and brings the movie to an end. Ugh. Making the finale worse? It takes place at a TV studio, because Beatty had convinced them to televise the exorcism. Disaster. The film should have just stuck to the original source material. 

Finally, for a little 90s foreshadowing, Stanford from Sex and the City makes an appearance!

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It happened at the end of the first decade of the new millennium

Vampires, ghosts, demons, zombies, slashers… For me, there’s one film worth digging out of this wreckage of films from 2007 and 2008.

REVERB (2008)

I like the premise of this one a lot. It’s the execution that ruins it for me, as it uses every trick in the early 2000s horror book to be “scary.” Most notable are constant manipulative zinger flashes of something horrific, all in hopes of making you jump when there’s actually nothing happening.

The story is about a band that stays in a recording studio overnight to come up with new music. One girl notices voices on a sample they use on their own recording, so she starts to research the record they sampled.

They find a secret room right out of the original Saw, and then a sort of occult ritual possession plot unfolds.

Kind of a unique approach to the “sell your soul to the devil for a hit record” scenario.

Unfortunately, the endless choppy edits in the style of The Ring video insulted my horror veteran status as they attempt to convince what could only be a naïve audience that the movie is actually scary.

BROTHERHOOD OF BLOOD (2007)

This one comes from the directing duo of Alone in the Dark II…which means I probably shouldn’t have blind bought the DVD years ago. Having watched it again for this blog, I can say it is not worth revisiting, and therefore I’m going to put it in the discard pile to open up a space on my movie shelf.

It’s a cheap vampires vs. slayers movie with lots of talking, Sid Haig in a flat role as a vampire, and Ken Foree as the high strung vampire who is tortured by the vampire hunters yet relishes every minute of taunting them. It’s on par with the some of the weakest TV shows that have aired on SyFy (for only a season or less) over the years.

The hunters infiltrate the vamps’ lair and do lots of exploring, occasionally battle some vamps, and then capture and torture Foree (the bulk of the running time). A vampire legend unfolds through dialogue, and eventually the film ends with the main hunter woman leaving us with an “I’m going to go hunt them down” revenge line, appearing to promise a sequel that would finally kick the story into gear. But a second movie never materialized.

BOTCHED (2007)

I’ve never been able to get into horror comedy Botched and really don’t remember a thing about it until I watch it again. From now on, I’ll always have this handy dandy blog to remind me.

Thieves led by Stephen Dorff take a bunch of equally unlikable hostages in a building and then get stuck on a single floor. Slowly but surely, they begin to find icky evidence there’s a killer among them, but the elevator is jammed and they can’t get off the floor.

There are some moments that definitely gave me a good laugh, but overall, rather than dark horror humor, the film is too farcical for my tastes.

For instance, when we finally see the killer, he’s this goofy dude in medieval attire who jumps and leaps around with joy whenever he’s attacking someone. At least his gory lair adds some horror to the mix, but that’s negated by the final battle, which takes the humor to the stratosphere of slapstick.

Most of the characters are absurdly over the top cartoonish (think the movie Clue), and yet Dorff plays a totally serious straight man, causing a huge clash in tone.

THE MESSENGERS (2007)

The director of the original Asian version of The Eye franchise must have been enlisted to bring the then popular Asian horror ghost girl theme to the countryside. The casting of Dylan McDermott, Kristen Stewart, Penelope Ann Miller, and John Corbett can’t save this disastrous mainstream film. And yet it got a sequel, which I blog about here.

The Messengers throws random shit in for no clear reason yet still manages to go nowhere, completely fails to explain anything when all is said and done, and is an embarrassingly melodramatic family drama while it’s at it.

The family moves to this isolated, dilapidated farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and immediately some realtor dude comes around, determined to convince Dylan to sell the house. He’s so persistent it seems he has an ulterior motive, but nope, it’s just a reason for Penelope to get pissed at Dylan later for not telling her about the opportunity.

Meanwhile, John Corbett is a drifter who asks for a job. In a moment of total realism, these jaded city folk decide to invite this strange man in the middle of bumfuck to come live with them, and even leave their teen daughter and toddler alone with him as soon as they hire him!

Kristen is terrorized by a ghost girl that tries desperately to drag her into the basement, and also sees mass destruction of the house only to discover it didn’t actually happen. A ghost girl who can cause delusions?

As a bonus, crows keep attacking the house in very The Birds inspired scenes. They eventually attack Corbett, which seems to…possess him? Or is he somehow related to the tragedy that happened to the previous owners? What’s the significance of the crows? Don’t know. None of it is explained. Don’t care. Another one for my discard pile.

JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER (2007)

From Jon Knautz, director of The Shrine and Girl House (two of thousands of faves of mine), Jack Brooks has a lot going for it. It stars Robert Englund and sizzling hot Trevor Mathews (of The Shrine). The Evil Dead demon vibe and gore are totally awesome. And it’s funny.

There’s one downside. It takes 55 minutes before the rockin’ horror action and demon transformations kick in, and it’s over way too fast. But it is absolutely worth sticking with it for the payoff (no, not Jack naked).

Jack Brooks is a student and a plumber with anger issues. Robert Englund is his teacher, who asks him to come over and fix a plumbing problem.

In doing so, Jack unknowingly unleashes an ancient evil…that first possesses Englund before eventually making its way to his class (you know, 55 minutes in).

Englund is great, Mathews is delicious, and the old man he learns much of his horror history from is hilarious.

If only Jack’s classmates had been given more time to get chased by demons…or are they zombies? It’s hard to tell, but they are bloody, gnarly fun.

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Sometimes zombies make me laugh, sometimes they don’t

Each of the four films in my latest zombie marathon had a different effect on me…and perhaps not always the effect the filmmakers were going for.

BETTER OFF ZED (2018)

If you caught my video the other day on Boys, Bears & Scares social media, you’ll know I bought this movie because it comes with a bonus DVD that includes the long out of print 80s Halloween slasher spoof Wacko. It also includes the 2000 Full Moon flick Sideshow.

Both of those films are more worth the purchase than Better Off Zed. I imagine the reason two random bonus movies were thrown in with the ten-dollar price tag was to improve the chances of it selling.

The title and poster art make this look like some sort of zomcom. I can’t stress how not funny this film. On top of that, beyond arms reaching through a fence, there are barely any zombies for a majority of the film.

This is the story of a couple that doesn’t take advantage of rescue crews occasionally sweeping through their town, which becomes a subject of contention between the pair.

Aside from fighting about that, they spend the movie simply doing household tasks and indulging in their hobbies. He paints. She looks through shopping catalogs. He says hello to his zombified neighbors each morning, and occasionally fends one off. They fix a gas outage. They argue over whether or not to watch TV while eating dinner. They eat dinner. They have sex.

In other words, nothing interesting happens. With only two characters, it isn’t even an entertaining social commentary on the undying habitual habitation of white suburbia. If your statement on white people being so privileged they can still enjoy a perfect home life during a zombie apocalypse proves to be really boring, maybe you should find a more interesting way to deliver that message.

It’s not until only 15 minutes remain that a zombie horde breaks in. And here is where I point out how I would have rewritten the ending, with major ***SPOILERS***.

Predictably, one character gets bit, forcing the other into a mercy kill. The survivor is immediately mistaken for a zombie when a rescue team breaks into the house. This movie could have done something a little different with this Night of the Living Dead finale cliché, making an ironic social statement that would be so timely. The opportunity is virtually spelled out by what does happen. Three rescuers walk into the house, and the first one makes the kill shot. The last to walk in is a black guy. Light bulb moment. The cleanup crew in NOTLD was a bunch of white rednecks that killed a black guy like he was just another monster, Better Off Zed could have been the film in which the cleanup crew is a team of black guys that kills off the white privilege monster to save civilization.

My favorite part of the film? The rocking closing credits song “Dance of the Dead” by longtime punk band Anti-Nowhere League.

 

FETISH FACTORY (aka: Cabaret of the Dead) (2017)

More and more indie films seem to be made by horror fans who want to celebrate their favorite movies, right down to character dialogue specifically expounding on those movies. But a movie is more than how meta it can be. We’re living in an age of fan film fever—people who love horror movies more than they love the art of directing or writing, so they just get a camera and film their idea…without really having an idea. Just think of how much money is thrown at numerous unworthy kickstarters when it could all be directed toward projects that really deserve to be made.

Take Fetish Factory. Girls—and one guy in drag—hang out in their dressing room getting ready to perform at an underground club.

They do loads of talking that in no way creates a story or progresses a plot.

In between we are subjected to pointless, unfunny, unentertaining acts—a singer, a ventriloquist, dancers, etc. A majority of the 70-minute running time is like watching auditions at a local talent show!

Next section, individual clients go off with women to private rooms. Again, nothing funny happens, and there isn’t even sex. If you set your zombie movie in a fetish club, shouldn’t you show some edge and push boundaries? This film doesn’t get exploitative from either an erotic or humorous angle.

40 minutes in, these pale people that are supposed to be zombies start breaking in. Some have blood on them, some have white eyes for at least a little more effect.

There are goreless attacks, and the women run around the house acting halfheartedly scared of the zombies. They also make numerous references to other zombie movies, but it never feels naturally slipped into the conversation. It’s more like someone specifically forced as many mentions of horror movies into the writing as possible and called it dialogue.

Just when you think nothing else is going to happen, the focus shifts to a bunch of cowering male clients trying to escape the house. The possibilities for comic gold are infinite. Forget it. They are attacked within minutes.

Please, please, please, creators. Start either taking writing and film courses, or pay much more attention to what makes the movies you love so successful at what they achieved.

NOXIOUS (2018)

Platoon is 120 minutes long.

The Exorcist runs 122 minutes.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is 133 minutes.

West Side Story clocks in at 153 minutes.

Your low budget zombie film should absolutely not be 132 minutes.

Now that I got that out of the way, Noxious is about a beach town filled with shirtless muscle heads that all seem to be into some sort of organized crime. I’m pretty convinced the filmmakers went to a beach town and approached every muscle head they saw and said, “Hey, wanna be in a movie?”

That’s one of the things I like most about the film.

Another thing I like about it is the leading man.

This goofy cute older guy is apparently some sort of beach patrolman assigned the massive job of solving the mystery of toxic shit dumped into the water. For a straight character interested in the main female scientist, this dude is so carefree with amazing campy gay style. He even changes the color of his white hair in like every scene. And befitting to his character, he has a theme song just like the whimsical whistling tune that plays relentlessly throughout the survival horror game Deadly Premonition.

Because of the excessive running time, Noxious suffers from huge stretches of talking. It’s not even interesting talking. It’s just talking. I’m not sure there was an actual script. It feels like they just filmed locals at a beach town…talking. There’s even a bizarre music montage on the beach, complete with a sort of wannabe Jimmy Buffett playing right on the sand.

If only they had cut all that shit out, this could have been a better paced cheesy zomcom, even if there is only one zombie, whose first kill doesn’t happen until an hour and 12 minutes into the film. Holy fuck.

Hey, he looks pretty cool, he swims in underwater scenes (impressive for a low budget film), and several of his kills are nice and bloody. There’s even a really clever jump scare on the beach.

But the ultimate moment is when the muscle bound zombie gets into a fight with every guest at a beach party at once. He really does just pick guys and girls up left and right and toss them across the sand. Hilarious. As is the moment when the muscle zombie is sprayed in the face with a killer chemical.

FAIRFIELD (2014)

This little teen zombie indie started out okay…and ended up being a film I want to add to my collection if it comes to DVD. Glad there was one in this bunch.

The story is as basic as movies like Detention of the Dead and the Hulu show Freakish—kids trapped in a high school with zombies.

*

After an effective opener featuring a zombie attack in a house, a high school sophomore goes hunting for his girlfriend at the high school, where he meets up with a group of seniors that don’t know him but know his more popular older brother.

The first part of the film focuses more on a Breakfast Club vibe, with some humor, the group getting to know each other, talking about their sex lives, and even finding a record player just in time for a dance montage (that looks sort of like they’re reenacting “Let’s Bowl” from Grease 2).

They even run into some teachers, including Drusilla from Buffy!

Eventually the time for fun is over and the group has to find a way out of the school, with creatures baiting and luring zombies away from the hot spots.

There aren’t loads of zombies and it’s not gory, but it’s well-made with some thrills, chill, and chases. And the reference to The Blair Witch Project is the only thing I’ve ever found to like about The Blair Witch Project. Yes, it’s meta used to good effect.

And of course, the hottie is sizzling hot—played by Chris Riggi of spoof film Vampires Suck.

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Enjoying ZombiU was impossible due to its reputation…

I was thrilled when the first person zombie game ZombiU, originally released exclusively for the Wii U, was ported to Playstation 4. Aside from Dead Rising 3, I’ve so far been able to play every horror game I’ve wanted to play on this generation of consoles without having to buy anything other than a PS4 (if I ever get a new, faster computer, I’ll definitely play Dead Rising 3 on that).

After hurriedly buying Zombi, I was immediately discouraged to learn that the original Nintendo version was riddled with game breaking glitches…that were all ported over to the PS4 version without being fixed! Ugh.

For that reason, it took me a while to commit to playing the game. I researched and printed out all the glitch moments I could find in hopes of avoiding them. Unfortunately, the general rule for every spot in the game that glitches is this: if you die in this part, when you load your last save you will not have the item you just picked up, which is required to move forward in the game, and it will not be where you originally got it, so you have to start the game over.

WTF?

This is exactly why this generation of autosave that saves over the previous save is total bullshit. The online breakdown of possible game glitches in Zombi extends all the way through the final mission. Can you imagine getting to the end of the game and hitting a glitch snag that would force you to start all over again in order to finish?

I went through this whole game in a state of fear—fear that I was going to have to start all over again. It had nothing to do with the game being scary. I was too distracted to enjoy actual scares. I fumbled with printouts as I played, trying to figure out when I was nearing a moment on the glitch list.

 

And wouldn’t you know it? My game never glitched. Not once. And I died pretty much every time I was warned not to simply due to panic that my game would be over if I died. Man, I suck under pressure. Either I got lucky, or a patch was released at some point for PS4.

So with that issue/warning out of the way, let me focus on the game. I had read that this game is super hard, and all I can say to that is, it’s totally not. Here’s way (aside from the fact that I played on easy). You essentially have unlimited lives. UNLIMITED. You start at this safe house in a train station. You go out to different parts of the city doing your thing, but if you die, you immediately wake up back in the safe house as a different character, picking up the game from right where you left off. The catch is, you have to work your way back to where you died in the city and mission, and then loot the dead version of you (which is just laying there) for all your stuff, but that’s it. You die, you regenerate but just look different. Of course since this is a first person game, you mostly never see yourself, so you don’t even notice that you’re different. Seriously, you can die right in the middle of a major battle with a swarm of zombies, and when you regenerate, you go back to the area, rush to your dead body since it has all your weapons, and then just continue the fight. Say there were ten zombies swarming you and you killed four of them before dying. When you return to the area as the new you, there are only six zombies waiting for you. Now that’s my kind of game.

As far as game play goes, this really isn’t unlike your usual classic third person survival horror game played first person. You are tasked with various missions including finding key items, completing tasks for other characters, and very rarely saving someone. You are in communication with a guy who knows the lay of the land and gives you helpful hints, plus you’re equipped with a scanner that you can use to identify all items and objects in an area, mark doors you reach on your map,  and reveal secret codes on walls to open doors. Later on it can even open doors and acquires a radar that tells you where enemies are as you approach. The only downside to this scanner is that it’s sort of like night vision goggles when you bring it up (I’m not sure how it worked with the Wii U controller), and you can only move the camera perspective while using it. You can’t walk and use it at the same time. Considering you have a flashlight that needs time to recharge after some use, it would be helpful if you could use the scanner to see and move through dark areas when your flashlight is temporarily dead.

As for weapons, you begin with a plank of wood that, other than eventually upgrading to a spiked bat, is the major weapon you will use throughout the game. Guns attract more zombies, are clumsy to aim, and are generally empty because ammo is scarce. Even so, you get a shitload of guns by the end of the game, and each one can be made more powerful at a workbench in the safe house with upgrades you find along the way. It’s also a pain in the ass to switch through every gun in your cycling buttons (d-pad on PS4 controller) and hard to determine if you’ve just selected a gun with bullets in it when you’re in the midst of a heated battle. There are also Molotov cocktails, which rule, and mines, which so don’t rule. I simply never used them right. You’re supposed to put them down and let the zombies step over them, but every single time I put one down, I would step backwards to avoid stepping on it myself (since you can’t actually see it in first person view) and I’d fucking blow up. EVERY TIME.

If you’d rather just sneak around zombies, you can throw a flare, but I really never needed to use them (I think there may have been one spot where it was basically required). You can also find stacks of planks that you can use to blockade a door, but if you are actually running from zombies, you don’t have the time to first close the door behind you and then put them up before the zombies are already through. Not to mention, the zombies eventually break through them anyway. Just kill the damn zombies.

There are different types of health, some more powerful than others. But here’s a nice bonus. If you’re low on health you can shortcut warp back to the safe house (more on how to do so below) and “save” by going to sleep (yes, it saves over your previous autosave). When you wake up from sleep, your health is fully recovered. Also in the safe house is an item box (holy Resident Evil) in which you can dump items, but I rarely needed to use it other than to dump off shit I never used (like flares). After all, key items you need for a mission are not taken up in the item slots you have available in your supply bag (which gets upgraded to more slots later), so the only things you carry with you are weapons, ammo, and health. And conveniently, you can drop items you don’t want. Just note…going into your inventory doesn’t halt the game, so zombies can still attack you while you’re in there. Also of note is that there are a few “safe” rooms in other areas of the city, but they are limited in usage. You can sleep/save/heal in them and once in a while there’s a workbench, but there is never an item box. That’s only in the main safe house.

Zombies aren’t all that unique. There are the typical dumb slow zombies, pain in the ass zombies that spit at you from afar to fuck up your vision momentarily, zombies that scream at you to fuck up your senses, zombies with bombs strapped to their bodies (pains in the fucking ass), zombies on fire who are not so scary because they just die on their own if you avoid them, zombies that jam your frequency so you temporarily lose connections to all your scanner stuff, and zombies with helmets on, requiring you to first beat them until the helmet falls off and then beat them again until their heads, you know, fall off. Later on there are some flickering fast zombie ghost things that go temporarily invisible, but they are surprisingly easy to beat. However, the first time you meet one it’s in a near pitch dark basement and that was just not fun. AT ALL. That’s it for enemies. No mutant anything else here, and no “boss” battles. The only time zombies are actually hard is when you’re surrounded by a ton of them, which is what’s considered a “boss” battle. And it’s so not cool that there are a couple of times where these fuckers show up in vents you’re crawling through and drag your ass out of the vents to fight you! EEK!

Getting around is a mix of quick and slow. When you first begin venturing into the city, it’s quite eerie because you don’t want to run into a load of zombies at once, but the good news is, most of the time when you clear an area, it remains clear (I noticed later in the game if I accidentally went back to areas I really didn’t need to, some zombies would respawn). Travel becomes quicker as you begin finding “man holes” that you can open (hehe) to give yourself a shortcut back to the safe house or any other man hole you’ve already been in (again, hehe). Annoyingly, these man holes are usually off the beaten path, so you can easily miss them. For instance, if you don’t happen to try turning left in a hall before going right, you inadvertently bypassed a long and winding path that leads you to the man hole shortcut. And the paths are usually down numerous flights of stairs, so you start to wonder, how the hell much of a shortcut is this? Not to mention, the paths to these man holes look virtually identical. You’ve seen one man hole path, you’ve seen them all. But seriously, it is a shortcut because the game isn’t exactly designed so that you can easily find your way to an area just by walking from the train station. For example, for no apparent reason other than to be a pain in the ass, before the final mission the game suddenly relocks all man holes. Helpful hints online highly suggest you go and reopen every single one of them before the end of the game. Problem is, it would take so fricking long to walk to each area from the train station and actually find them, plus there are those respawning zombies, so it seemed pointless. Not to mention, I tried to reopen one and the game wouldn’t let me! WTF? Maybe my timing was off and I was past the point of no return. Not sure. But the only reason it’s suggested you open them is because there is a flight task near the end of the game that requires you to run a long distance if you don’t have access to the man holes. And I’m not kidding when I tell you that you absolutely have no idea where you’re trying to run to. There’s a color blob on your map in the upper corner of your screen that is supposed to help you target the right direction, but it doesn’t take into account different levels in areas…so you could be running in circle trying to head for that dot because you’re actually on the wrong floor of a building. Argh!

While a majority of the game is linear in terms of completing a mission then moving on to the next, there is one mission that—without letting you know—can’t be completed until you reach later missions! You are given a task of finding 7 letters to bring back to a scientist, but some of the letters are in areas you haven’t even reached yet, can’t reach until later in the game, or can’t get to because you haven’t yet upgraded your scanner. Honestly, if I hadn’t been reading a walkthru, I would have been ripping my hair out trying to find these damn things.

And finally, I get to the end of the game. Would you be shocked to learn that this is a zombie game in which you need to reach a helicopter to escape the infected city? Here’s the really shitty part. Well, first of all, there are apparently 3 different endings depending on a choice you make earlier. I’m not sure if I actually got an official ending…because I didn’t fucking get away! WTF? So the helpful voice on your transmitter system tells you to get to the shore to meet the helicopter that will whisk you the hell away from there. But note this. Unlike most moments like this in these games, there is no COUNTDOWN. No timer. You’re just running and trying to avoid zombies everywhere as you go. And again that damn map is useless, because you’re trying to target the blob of color, but there is no way of knowing if you’re on the right level. Which is where I got fucked up.

I made it to the docks, and there are a bunch of them on different levels. I was getting swarmed by zombies, so there’s no time to stop, so I just kept running up and down ladders and stairs on these docks trying to find the right route to the helicopter. Suddenly I was fricking underneath a dock with a bunch of zombies right behind me, and I reached a ladder that was a dead end because it wouldn’t let me climb it! And I’m braced to be eaten—or blown up because there’s a damn exploding zombie right behind me—when all of a sudden there’s a cut scene and the helicopter flies off without me. Roll credits. What the hell? I mean, they didn’t even show me die. And I needn’t even point out that I couldn’t load the last save and try again because, yep, you guessed it. The game autosaves as soon as the helicopter takes off.

Honestly, I am left feeling like I didn’t actually complete Zombi, and that just pisses me off.

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STREAM QUEEN: 2 dead, a cleanse, and the inoperable

A 4-movie streaming session. So what did the roll of the dice deliver this time? Here’s a quick rundown of Dead House, Dead List, Inoperable, and The Cleanse.

DEAD HOUSE (2014)

Running only 70 minutes long, Dead House takes a significant amount of time to unleash the guts of the horror, because it’s essentially an exploitative home invasion film and zombie film combined.

Despite the gratuitous sexual nature of the home invasion segment going on way too long, the bigger disappointment for me is that the film shows us within the first ten minutes that there are zombies imprisoned somewhere.

Sure it’s a quick and deliciously gory scene, but its inclusion feels like the filmmakers tipping us off about the zombies to make sure we sit through the less compelling human-on-human brutality that fills most of the running time.

For me, it dilutes the impact of the eventual horror reveal—imagine if From Dusk Till Dawn had started with a brief vampire attack before the initial hijacking of Keitel’s RV?

You know this is going to end up with the baddies getting what they deserve from zombies in the basement, but I personally didn’t love sitting through vile sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of a family to get there.

Although I didn’t mind the big burly bald abuser getting lots of screen time.

Once the zombie action finally kicks in, I had a fricking blast. It’s fast, furious, and gory, and goes beyond simple zombies before all is said and done. And I love me some zombie action that takes place during the daytime…even if it does seem to just magically turn from night to day in an instant in this film.

THE CLEANSE (2016)

It’s sort of a darker, gloomier version of Bad Milo…without all the ass humor.

Having lost his fiancée and his job, Johnny Galecki goes on a “cleansing” retreat in the woods to expel the negative energy.

The only others there are a girl he is interested in, a couple (one of which is Kyle Gallner of Jennifer’s Body), and the two people running the retreat: Anjelica Huston and her sidekick, played by horror weirdo Kevin J. O’Connor.

Not a lot happens here. They’re all given special drinks to guzzle, “something” comes out of each of them, they are not all that freaked by it, and they each start bonding with theirs like they got a gremlin for Christmas.

There seems to be a threat that these cute little critters are going to get bigger and start attacking them, but forget it. Just when the film seems to be turning suspenseful…it ends! And with a sort of positive conclusion!

INOPERABLE (2017)

Happy Death Day plots are becoming all the rage, and in this film, Danielle Harris gets herself into the repetitive predicament. She wakes up in a hospital where everyone is either acting weird, unable to see her at all, or chasing her down to kill or mutilate her.

Each time she has an experience in the hospital it’s completely different than the time before, then she passes out, wakes up in her car stuck in traffic before the accident (which we never see), passes out again, and then wakes up in the hospital again. After a while you can’t help wonder why she doesn’t just get OUT of the car so that she can avoid being in the accident at all! You also have to wonder…why the hell does she have a flip phone?

With the help of two people she meets every time she comes back, she begins to figure out the truth of what’s going on and how to escape the hospital.

If you love Harris, you’ll love that you get her nonstop in this one, even if she is just her running in circles.

And if you love horror movies, chances are you’ll guess the twist at the end before you reach it.

DEAD LIST (2018)

This fun little film has some good ideas wrapped up in a lot of familiar territory, so you’re not going to find anything new or incredibly memorable here, even if you are entertained in the moment.

A bunch of young male actors is always auditioning for the same role, but one lucky guy is given the upper hand when a Death Note…um…I mean…magic book falls from the sky…and starts killing off the competition.

The film plays out almost as an anthology, with each guy getting his own death “story”.

There’s a timely and topical “black lives matter” story, a look at how phones are taking over our lives, a virtually illogical but effectively creepy tale about two guys that pick up a hitchhiking witch, and (hot) body horror (gross).

Finally, we get a tale of a creepy clown with a red balloon, because, you know, It

And that’s the part that disappoints me most. It’s a cheap cop out that for no logical reason, the clown ends up representing for the book in the conclusion of the wraparound.

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Five that are all over the 80s map

I can practically smell the dusty shelves at my video store when I drudge up some of these older titles to write about, so nostalgia alone makes me cherish them all…no matter how bad some may be.

DISCONNECTED (1984)

I never checked this one out when I worked at the video store because it looked like a cheap thriller from the box art…so that’s the section I shelved it in.

Watching it now, I was initially sucked into the 80s of it all, beginning with opening credits featuring one of my faves by Hunters & Collectors.

 

The soundtrack also includes some XTC and Haysi Fantayzee, so the film gets points for using less obvious new wave.

Second bonus—the main girl works at a video store.

She is convinced her dick boyfriend and asshole sister (perfect pair) are having an affair, so she accepts a date with a strange but nice guy who asks her out at the video store.

Unfortunately, the weird outweighs the nice, because little does she know that he’s the psycho responsible for a rash of murders.

She starts receiving raucous phone calls, he wants to kill her but keeps missing his opportunity, and there’s a weird old dude who shows up inexplicably at the beginning and end of the film, but we’re never led to understand his purpose.

What I’m saying is, after an intriguing setup, this movie turns into an unwatchable mess.

FROM BEYOND (1986)

Stuart Gordon loves his Lovecraft, so he followed up Re-Animator with another adaptation starring Jeffrey Combs as a naive scientist who helps a more dangerously motivated and sexually warped scientist.

The pair creates a machine capable of revealing hideous creatures that are all around us all the time on a different plane. Of course their invention does them one better and pulls the creatures into our existence.

The mad scientist becomes an even madder scientist/deformed monster as a result.

Combs, Ken Foree, and Barbara Crampton team up to investigate the machine, making matters worse.

From Beyond (1986) Blu-ray Screenshot

As is typical with these trippy late 80s horror flicks, the plot is a mess, not much makes sense, and it isn’t scary, but all the creatures and mutations are practical effects heaven, neon lighting abounds, and the sexual sleaziness is 80s perfection.

Plus, Ken Foree gifts us with a long scene in his briefs.

MONKEY SHINES (1988)

George Romero went horror-lite with this popular thriller from the late 80s. Viewing it now, I realize it’s kind of like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? meets Misery…with a crazy monkey running the show.

If you were a gay boy back in the 80s, chances are you drooled over leading man Jason Beghe on the HBO show First and Ten starring Delta Burke (seriously, I have no interest in football, but I tuned in every week).

Which means you were super thrilled that this Romero flick opened with this scene.

He gets into a tragic accident, becomes paraplegic, and can’t do anything for himself…until Cousin Ira from Mad About You, who is his scientist buddy, hooks him up with a brilliant monkey that can do everything for him.

But then man and monkey seem to become telepathically linked, so every time man gets pissed at someone (like his ridiculous caricature of a pain in the ass mother), monkey gets even!

Monkey Shines isn’t gory and not particularly scary, and like most thrillers of the late 80s video era, it is quite formulaic. You can guess where it’s going every step of the way. The one big surprise aside from Jason’s ass is that you get to see Stanley Tucci shirtless.

We also learn how a paraplegic man has sex. And most importantly, Jason’s final battle with the monkey is nice and vicious.

THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988)

Take a novel by Bram Stoker and mix it up in a blender with director Ken Russell’s craziness and you get this confusing and campy late 80s horror flick.

I didn’t love it back in the day, and I can’t say the messy story is any easier to follow after giving the movie more attention now. What thrills me about it is the insane sequences of sex, horror, and religion.

I mean, Jesus being attacked by a giant snake on the crucifix while topless nuns are raped by Roman soldiers? They don’t make movies this offensive anymore.

The general plot is about this vampire/snake woman who comes to town looking for sacrifices to feed to some sort of worm monster from hell. She sets her sights on her neighbor Hugh Grant and a couple of archaeologists he befriends.

The vamp-snake woman carries the movie, from her seduction of a young hitchhiker in a hot tub to her bitchy hissing and venom spitting at a crucifix.

Not to mention it’s a kick watching Hugh Grant hack a vampire in half with a sword.

THE VINEYARD (1989)

It’s like actor James Hong (Blade Runner, The Golden Child, Big Trouble in Little China) realized by the end of the 80s that movies were getting so fricking ridiculous he could write, direct, and star in a bad horror movie and get some more mileage out of his cult career.

In the process it feels like he basically created the template for every Charles Band/Full Moon movie of the 90s.

Hong plays a mad scientist/winery owner who stays young by draining buxom young women’s blood to create a youth serum wine.

I’d say that should tell you all you need to know…but it so doesn’t.

He invites a group of pretty people to his home who think they’re there to audition for a movie.

This leads to a big party with some of the guys in drag, while most of them are in some of the best skimpy athletic clothes the 80s gifted us with.

And if that weren’t an 80s gay horror kid’s wet dream enough, there’s this…

There are also martial arts henchman, voodoo dolls, a witch in the attic, and zombies out in the woods.

It’s pure 80s video store gold just under the wire.

 

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STREAM QUEEN: when a triple feature gets unexpectedly queer

I guess my gaydar was working overtime not only when I tossed these three into my watchlist, but also when I randomly watched them one after the other. They’ve all landed places on both my die, gay guy die! list and my homo horror movies list, so let’s get into them.

TERROR ON DEAD ISLAND (2010)

Lately I find myself rewriting movies in my head…and then blogging about it. So here goes another one.

This is a 70-minute found footage home invasion film that doesn’t do much until the invasion finally hits near the end. While there are hints of creepiness that seem to be building to an intriguing outcome, pretty much everything about this low budget film goes nowhere. The plot sort of just bottoms out, which could have been remedied using what was right at the heart of the script.

This husband, wife, daughter, and son move to a new house on an island (that gets its name because it is home to a dead volcano that has no bearing on the movie whatsoever). The kids constantly film with their phones (which begs the question, why do scenes fade when footage on a camera phone simply cuts once you hit the stop button?). They keep seeing a creepy neighbor watching them. Ew! Look at that creepy neighbor watching us film him…

They are immediately accosted by the friendliest girl in school on their first day, who won’t leave them alone. They film their entire first meeting with the principal and he never complains, yet their teacher immediately takes the phones from them and says the school has a zero tolerance policy for phones. Huh?

Interestingly, when the brother and sister are hanging out filming each other, several times she questions his sexuality and references him hooking up with a guy. He (undecidedly) says he’s not gay, but admits he hooked up with the guy, never denies his attraction to guys, and later rejects a girl’s advances. I mean, are we even supposed to question the possibility that nature wasted these lips on a straight guy?

I assumed his sexuality was going to have some major bearing on how the film unfolds…but it absolutely doesn’t.

It’s totally obvious who will be responsible for the home invasion, which is where this dangling gay subplot is frustrating, along with several other things the siblings film. While it kind of comes across as the invasion happening just because the invaders felt like it and the new folks were there (The Strangers approach is just not enough for me anymore), the kids’ footage actually provides motivation that could have been used as a weapon against the family during the invasion.

Their phones are confiscated at school more than once. The invaders actually use the phones during those periods. All the kids’ dirty secrets are on videos on the phones, from his sexuality issues to their snotty attitudes about their new town and the people in it. So I simply can’t understand why this one didn’t allow the invaders to have a little more character motivation by expounding on their reasons for targeting this family.

The way things play out, it feels like we’re just to assume the invaders chose them simply because they were outsiders. Although, there is a sort of underlying suggestion that the invaders were also enthralled by the big city technology these kids had in the palms of their hands, which I think (?) could be the intended takeaway.

BLOOD IS BLOOD (2018)

Argh. Blood is Blood feels too invested in its own bombardment of plot devices to allow viewers (or at least this one) to make any sense of it or enjoy it. Everything that’s chilling, disturbing, and engrossing is absolutely swallowed up whole by time shifts, questions of reality vs. mental states, excessive secrets and dark sides of every single character, and preconceived notions each character has about the other.

So let me cut straight through it all as cleanly as possible to outline the basics. Two brothers, two sisters. One Johnathon Schaech looking brother is engaged and secretly likes to wear a creepy mask.

The sisters hate the fiancée, but the other brother, a cross-dresser who loves origami, has the hots for her.

The masked brother goes psycho and chases his sisters, which results in…one of the sisters ending up in a mental institution!

And that all happens within the first fifteen minutes. Perhaps everything that transpires after is all in the mind of the institutionalized sister (played by Brad Dourif’s daughter Fiona). Maybe she has split personality and there are no siblings. I have no idea.

But she’s still being terrorized by the masked brother even in the hospital, so she escapes, returns to her sister, and they are chased and terrorized by both the masked brother and the drag brother, who seem to be psycho killers that torture the ones they love down in a basement lair.

And honestly, I would swear from the start that the two brothers might be having an incestuous relationship.

CUPID’S GUILLOTINE (2017)

Hold on to your genitals before entering this haunted attraction. I never would have guessed this would be my favorite film of this trio.

I really had no idea what I was in for when I began watching Cupid’s Guillotine. It begins with a guy setting up the haunted house with a friend so that he can later show the new changes they’ve made to his fiancée. He reminds me of Hal Sparks, she reminds me of that actress who reminds me of Helen Hunt. You’d know who I’m talking about if you saw her…or if you’ve seen Joyride.

The film initially had me cringing, with the actors delivering dialogue in a passionless and halting manner that got on my nerves fast. However, some video tour guide then came up on a screen in the attraction and I was thinking, “This guy’s got gay face (gay 80s face, to be more specific). What’s going on here?” So I continued watching.

At first I felt that a really fascinating and thought-provoking look at how transgenderism changes lives and relationships was being disastrously wasted in a terribly low budget production, but by the end of the film I realized that this could easily be a cult classic in another place and time because its bad aspects are what make it so mesmerizing and consumable.

Along with its serious and challenging assessment of transgender identity, it is actually campy as hell, whether intentional or not, and should be treated as such to be appreciated. Unfortunately, in this day and age of hypersensitivity, what is actually a very positive outlook on trans acceptance will most likely be judged as some sort of exploitation of or mockery of the subject—as the forced sex change action film The Assignment with Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver was.

So the guy takes his woman through the attraction, but something goes horribly wrong. The sets have been changed and are even more grotesque and morbid than he created. Suddenly they’re running for their lives…but only one of them gets out.

The other is captured…and given a sex change operation before being released! WTF?

This crazy movie then delves into the couple trying to cope with this irreversible change right before their wedding. In fact, it’s virtually preachy in its demand for recognition and acceptance of gender identity. Can their love survive a person being the same on the inside but different on the outside?

Will they ever be able to have sexual relations that challenge gender norms?

Will the people in their lives—parents, gay best friend, therapist—help them come together or just make matters worse?

And why does this virtual tour guide at the haunted attraction have so much power over them and keep calling them back to the house to experience more horror?

We get a trans catfight, hilariously odd parents that are surprisingly open to the possibilities of transgender love, a ridiculous flooding scene in the house, and yes, there’s a guillotine, so no heads are safe…

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Werewolf flix that make me howl with laughter in between screams

I’ll never forget back in 1981 when An American Werewolf in London and The Howling changed the werewolf genre forever, from the transformation effects of both to the comedy of An American Werewolf in London and the bipedal wolves of The Howling.

Since then I’ve built up a list of favorites, including Big Bad Wolf, Ginger Snaps, The Beast of Bray Road, Howl, Wolf Moonand these five…

STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET (1985)

Based on the illustrated Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf, this 80s classic is a faithful adaptation that logically casts young Corey Haim in the lead role.

I loved the novella when it was released, and the movie perfectly captures the spirit of King’s tale of a small town frozen in fear as a new victim is massacred each month—and the crafty young boy in a wheelchair who figures out the killer is a werewolf.

With Gary Busey as the free-spirited uncle who helps the boy and his older sister hunt down the werewolf, the film has plenty of 80s kid-focused charm and suspense in the style of E.T., Cloak & Dagger, and Stand By Me.

The only things that really made me cringe watching it now are the Desperate Housewives Mary Alice-esque narrative by the sister as an adult, and the terribly cheesy, whimsical 80s instrumental that plays whenever Corey rides around in a souped-up wheelchair car his uncle makes for him.

The werewolf attacks hold up, from the gore to the look of the werewolf, which is in the style of The Howling. But for some reason, during the final battle with the family, the werewolf looks a little different to me…and a little goofier.

Aside from Corey being such a good little actor, Megan Follows, who plays the older sister, is a fantastic actress who helps carry the film. It still astonishes me that she didn’t have a bigger career, if just for a short time in the 80s.

BAD MOON (1996)

It’s kind of crazy that director Eric Red has made so few horror movies in the past three decades considering he started with Body Parts and this one.

It’s also hard to believe Bad Moon came out in 1996, because everything about it screams 1980s. It stars Michael Pare, a portion of his peen, and Mariel Hemingway.

It has a werewolf right out of The Howling. And despite major gore, a sex scene, and some great scares, it has a young boy and his super protective dog as a hero, giving it a classic Spielberg feel…with a good dose of Silver Bullet on the side.

It smartly takes place within the confines of the family’s house and the plot is simple—the family dog becomes immediately suspect of a guest who turns out to be a werewolf, making this mostly a werewolf vs. dog plot. But just be warned if you’re easily triggered. There are several scenes of the dog in distress, and the dog is a really convincing actor.

As awesome as the werewolf looks, the transformation is not entirely practical effects, so the mid-90s CGI is a bit dated.

DOG SOLDIERS (2002)

This werewolf cult fave comes from the director of The Descent. As I watched my DVD for the first time in over a decade, for the first 20 minutes or so I was wondering why I was such a fan…because it’s about a bunch of asshole military men in the woods. I guess I really do detest toxic masculinity.

My worries were unfounded though, because once the werewolves start attacking, it’s a blast and more campy and funny than I remembered. And since it runs 105 minutes long, it sure would have been great if 10 or 15 of those military men minutes were edited out.

The fun really begins with the first jump scare at their campfire. It’s super effective, especially since it happens as you’re being lulled to sleep by their boring conversation. Soon cool, ferocious 2-legged type werewolves are attacking.

The group hops in a military vehicle, and after a brief encounter with a werewolf while driving, they hole themselves up in a house in the woods.

With the windows all boarded up, this becomes Night of the Living Dead with werewolves, right down to the main group hatching a plan to use a getaway vehicle car outside if they can reach it safely.

Gore galore, great werewolf design, and plenty of funny moments abound, and the final battle using every household item the guys can get their hands on totally rocks.

And like Bad Moon, a dog gets in on the action…

CURSED (2005)

Nearly a decade after first teaming up for Scream, writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven brought their sleek, scary, campy teen Hollywood horror vibe to the werewolf genre for one of my favorite werewolf flix. To this day I do not understand why there’s so much hate for Cursed. The only issue I have with it is some of the goofy CGI during werewolf transformation and running scenes—especially the weredog.

The cast is the perfect lineup of faces from that glorious commercial period of horror: both Joshua Jackson and Michael Rosenbaum of Urban Legend, Shannon Elizabeth of 13 Ghosts and Jack Frost, Judy Greer of Jawbreaker and The Village, then popular pop artist Mya, Portia de Rossi of Scream 2 and Dead & Breakfast, Scott Baio as himself (and as usual he’s so much cooler on celluloid than he is in real life), Milo Ventimiglia of Stay Alive, and as our lead brother and sister, Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci.

From the first attack when Shannon Elizabeth is trapped in a car to Mya’s chase in a parking garage, the initial werewolf scenes are scary and suspenseful, and the werewolf is a rockin’ modern bipedal beast.

Then come the campy aspects of Ricci and Eisenberg realizing they have both been bitten by a werewolf. Even campier is their major confrontation with the beast at a big Hollywood event.

But what I want to focus on is the gay storyline that’s both a nice touch and somewhat glossed over. Milo is the school jock who bullies Eisenberg with anti-gay rhetoric. There’s some hint of a romance possibly brewing between Eisenberg and Milo’s girl, but she’s a minor character forgotten for most of the film.

It’s Milo who plays the bigger role in Eisenberg’s story. Once Eisenberg begins to have powerful side effects of being bitten, he kicks Milo’s ass in wrestling, calling him out on being a closet case and throwing in a derogatory gay term of his own. It’s interesting that either way the dominance goes between these two, the stronger male in each situation uses gay slurs to humiliate the weaker one.

Eventually Milo does confess his sexuality to Eisenberg and tries to kiss him, expressing his relief at meeting someone just like him. So in Milo’s head, Eisenberg is not his natural choice for a partner, but his only option. Eisenberg passes, explaining that he is a werewolf and that his extra strong pheromones are the only reason Milo is attracted to him. He reassures Milo that gay is okay and all is fine between them now that they’ve both come out to each other as gay and werewolf.

In the end, Milo brings his now ex-girlfriend to Eisenberg, who gets a heterosexual kiss just under the wire of the film’s conclusion, while Milo is forced into the shadows as the awkward, third gay wheel whose chance at a kiss was denied. It’s kind of interesting that Williamson, gay himself, is forced into the Hollywood mold of suppressing the gay guy’s sexual desires while suddenly forcing heteronormativity onto the main straight guy with a virtually irrelevant female character. He might as well have grabbed some random cheerleader walking by and sucked face with her. Seriously, we didn’t get to know anything about this girl for the entire film and Eisenberg showed little interest in or time for romance because of what he was going through. If mainstream movies had more guts, the girl’s character could have been eliminated completely, and Eisenberg could have come out as gay in the end and walked off into the sunset with Milo. It would have been a much more natural progression for both characters and the plot itself.

ATTACK OF THE WEREWOLVES (Games of Werewolves) (2011)

And finally, I really woofed it up during this Spanish horror comedy. It’s just my style, with the added bonus of the main guy having an adorable dog that figures heavily in the film.

This writer comes back to his hometown to accept an award and stays in his creepy old empty house. Before long he’s joined by his local buddy and his “agent.”

They share stories about all the scary tales their elders used to tell them about the town. There’s a locked barn and underground caves…and naturally, they end up in them.

It’s nonstop fun from the moment they first encounter the werewolf in the caves and the unforgettable way they escape it. And the danger quickly multiplies, for it’s a whole pack of them.

They’re the good old Wolfman type werewolves, and they are mean, vicious, relentless, and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The cast is lovable and funny, and these guys are up there with some of the better comic teams of horror. It’s rare that I laugh out loud at movies as much as I did with this one (there are classic comic moments), and even more rare that I root for all the characters to live.

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STREAM QUEEN: when Prime time is prom time…

With this slasher double feature I was treated to one 80s throwback that takes place right after the prom, and one late 90s throwback about a prom reunion 8 years later.

PARTY NIGHT (2017)

This is one of those first time indie horror films that leaves me looking forward to what’s still to come from the director.

Party Night is safely obvious as a slasher—a bunch of friends goes to party at an isolated house after prom, has sex, and gets slaughtered by a masked killer. It even embeds plenty of meta moments, with the kids name dropping titles and mocking old 80s slashers.

However, director Troy Escamilla demonstrates what many wannabe horror directors don’t—that he studied and recognizes what makes the most effective slashers of the 80s work. On top of spectacular practical gore effects, the music cues, suspense, tension, atmosphere, jump scares, chases, body reveals, and unexpected surprises in seemingly obvious kill sequences (a different take on a shower scene, for instance) nail everything that made me a hardcore slasher fan back then.

What also stands out for me is that for a first time indie, Troy has also cast in the most crucial roles people who can act. When we’re down to one girl, she is such an emotionally strong character that I was catapulted right back to the days when we cheered on the final girl as she battled it out with the killer.

However, as is often the case with indie slashers, we aren’t quite aligned with who she is until she is suddenly anointed final girl simply because she’s the only one still alive. In the most successful slashers (Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th) we connect predominantly with one girl because it’s essentially her story, but we don’t get that specific narrative POV here.

Also, don’t expect much in way of a plot or character development. We learn that kids have gone missing, a group of friends goes to the home of one kid’s uncle after prom, we see some shots of a masked killer in his lair, he kills everyone…and the final girl battles him.

There’s no backstory, no explanation, no unmasking, and no clear clue as to who the killer was or why they killed. So in that sense, you have to enjoy it for what it is and not what it isn’t.

The only other real minor issue for me is that I personally think the outdoor scenes are actually too well lit! Lighting is a bitch, so I know there’s a risk of making things so dark we can’t see anything, but Party Night seems a bit oversaturated in outdoor nighttime scenes. Therefore, we don’t get that atmospheric grit and grain of some of the classics.

And finally, just from a queer perspective, it’s always refreshing when there are hints of homoerotic subtext, even if there are no gay characters. Here we get a montage of the boys bumping and grinding for the “girls,” and moments of sexually charged visuals of one particular hottie.

During his sex scene with a girl we don’t see any female nudity, but he spends the remainder of the film shirtless, and each frame he’s in walks that fine line of being a completely innocent shot of a guy who happens to have his shirt off, yet a subtly, totally erotic celebration of the male physique for an observant viewer.

FOX TRAP (2016)

This one screams Scream, with a complex plot, a load of suspects and red herring, a very drawn out denouement, and the polished look and feel of films from the slasher resurgence at the end of the 90s. There’s even a killer wearing a white mask and black hooded robe.

It all begins with a prank gone horribly wrong on prom night and everyone agreeing to never speak of their role in the tragedy that befalls the victim.

8 years later, the friends are called to an isolated house in the middle of nowhere for a reunion.

This is the first of many WTF moments in the film. Why would these kids, all guilty of doing something horrible, accept an invitation to a reunion surrounding an event they want to forget and distance themselves from?

As far as the slasher aspects of the film go, this is a definite winner. The kills are great, with plenty of suspense, scares, and brutality. One scene in particular involving use of a hammer is just about as explicitly cruel as I’ve seen in a basic slasher, making you feel exactly what the character is going through.

Chase scenes are great, body reveals rock, there’s a “dinner party” scene…it’s everything you’d want in a slasher.

Where as Party Night had little in the way of story, Fox Trap bombards us with details—which explains why it runs too long at 100 minutes—and most of them are never really carried through the narrative. It’s as if elements are tossed in at a moment’s notice because it’s a convenient plot device or something that worked in other slashers so…why not? Dolls scary. Put in dolls…

Even new characters are presented late in the game as flashbacks are inserted in an attempt to fill in the gaps and explain everything for us. Not to mention, new areas of the “house” seem to just open up or get discovered out of nowhere. It’s like you’re playing a survival horror video game and finally unlock that one door on the map that you couldn’t get in for the first half of the game.

Even so, it’s still loads of fun with a whirlwind of chases and characters making the dumbest decisions constantly. And the bitch of the gang is just about as big a mean girl as it gets. I love her for her dedication to being a bitch until the bitter end.

Finally, it’s kind of a hoot how the killer’s devious plan just completely falls apart yet somehow totally comes together.

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The takeaway from horror between 72 and 82…sex bad!

Considering these are the kind of movies that educated me in my formative years, I’m proof positive that horror movies do not give rise to psycho murderers. However, they may spawn bratty gay guys with Peter Pan Syndrome who are more likely to be distracted by a red laser dot moving on the floor than a cat. And therefore…what the frick is my point? Oh yeah. Movies with wieners and boobs! Yay! No, wait. Horror movies that failed to convince me when I was a kid that sex and sin are bad.

BLOOD FREAK (1972)

Blood Freak is the ultimate example of why those trying to shove religious morality down our throats shouldn’t try with horror movies. However, as a timepiece of bad 1970s horror cinema, it’s an American treasure.

A biker (played by one of the directors) helps a young woman with a flat. She is a God freak…yet brings him to her sinful sister’s party filled with sluts and druggies. This shit is hilarious. While attempting to be all moral, the film repeatedly has men telling him how handsome and strong he is. Good sis reads him the Bible, and bad sis gives him drugs and fucks him while he tells her the whole time he wishes she were godly like her sister.

He also gets a job tasting meat at a turkey farm to see if it has side effects. It does.

After lots of horrible 70s music montages of live turkeys and him eating dead turkey, he turns into a fricking turkey head! And get this. The slutty druggy bad sister is the one in love with him who tries to help and care for him without judging him (she even sleeps with turkey head).

But the narrator—yes there’s a narrator, who constantly looks down to read off a script—regularly makes it clear that it’s the biker being tempted into a world of sex and drugs that destroys him, and that awful people just turn to and stop ridiculing God when life hits rock bottom. Don’t look at me. I’m a responsible human who will never try to deny my own faults and mistakes and shift the blame onto everyone and everything else by becoming a Born Again…so I’m allowed to ridicule vindictive spirit in the sky.

Turkey head suddenly starts going around at night killing people doing drugs and having sex in their cars. I cannot believe how many people in small towns go out at night to sit in their cars for drugs and sex. I guess it’s that whole opioid crisis thing. I also can’t believe how many vile sinners there are in the middle of nowhere. Actually, I can, which is why I will never visit a red state. 

Anyway, turkey head hangs them upside down and slits their throats so he can drink their blood. But this “slasher” segment happens all at once in just a short section of the film, and it’s done so poorly, with edits that are a perfect example of just how bad indie filmmakers can be. People just show up suddenly on screen in the dark to get grabbed by turkey head before it cuts to them dead. There’s even a hilarious scene in which some guy randomly appears to mourn over a dead body before leaping a fence to fight the turkey head.

And when the women scream, it seriously sounds like turkey’s screaming and it’s fricking annoying as hell. The one great exploitative kill has turkey head buzz sawing off a guy’s leg. That’s some good gore for a low budget religious mess.

The big twist leads to this one spiraling out of moral message control, but I do love the cleverness of the scene in which turkey head gets taken down. But beware—they throw in what appears to be actual footage of a turkey running around with its head cut off. Sick fricking Christian filmmakers.

TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES (1973)

Not quite a horror film—and not about a vampire or werewolves as the poster art and title might suggest—Tenderness of the Wolves is definitely a movie that plays into every gay panic phobia one could think of back in the early 1970s.

It’s also kind of boring.

The protagonist is this gay creeper dude guilty of just about every sleazy crime imaginable, including murder and cannibalism…and virtually pedophilia.

He targets young men between 18 and 20 who are out on the street. And he not only eats them for himself, he also feeds them to his neighbors.

There’s lots of full frontal nudity of boyish looking guys, a couple of feasting scenes, the killer in drag, and a focus on his jealous rage because he’s in love with one of the guys living with him, who is into girls…

And in the end, it’s about him being the tragic gay predator who hopes to find salvation with God! Ugh.

Everything about this is just way too dated for it to have any value as gay cinema these days beyond historical significance.

THE BROOD (1979)

This is the ultimate Cronenberg film for me. Sure it’s somewhat fantastical and bizarre in premise, as are all his movies, but it’s generally an easy plot to follow and delivers unforgettable baddies and brutal deaths.

Oliver Reed is an experimental therapist who makes all his patients call him daddy. Hot.

Anyway, he’s treating Samantha Eggar at his home. Her husband, adorable Art Hindle, becomes convinced Eggar is abusing their daughter during visits, so refuses to bring her anymore.

And that’s when these hideous little children in red hooded coats start going around and bashing in the brains of all the people in Eggar’s life.

There are plenty of disturbing scenes intertwined with a substantial plot as Hindle tries to figure out where these little children are coming from and what they want. And of course it all leads back to Reed’s home, mentally fucked up Eggar…and her birth canal. I can’t believe I went through one of those things once without puking. I will never go on that ride again.

It’s still a great film for fans of WTF scenarios in horror, and I’m shocked it hasn’t been remade.

THE ENTITY (1982)

This, not Beaches, is the first movie that pops into my mind when I think of Barbara Hershey…and a movie for which she deserves high acclaim.

Considering I try to avoid as many paranormal ghost movies as I can these days because I simply don’t find the subgenre effectively scary anymore, it amazes me that this film—based on the claims of an actual woman in the 1970s who believed she was repeatedly raped by a ghost—still makes my stomach turn right from the start.

The attack scenes stand the test of time as being absolutely disturbing and are reason enough to watch this one even today. Not only is the experience incredibly intense for a horror audience, but the creation of scenes depicting the fucked up twisting of passion and intimacy into sexual assault and violence should make anyone understand why rape victims in real life are devastatingly traumatized for the rest of their lives.

The isolating atmosphere creates a constant unsettling sense of dread. Hershey is a single mother living with her three children—an older teen boy and two young girls, one recognizable as the little daughter in The Amityville Horror. Within minutes of the film beginning, the first attack happens, and they just keep coming after that, with every scene being dark and silent as we are filled with anxiety waiting for the incubus to strike and shatter the calm.

Nothing is left to the imagination during the attacks, they even happen in front of the children, and the incubus beats off anyone who tries to intervene, further ruining our nerves. And that damn pulsing style soundtrack they just don’t use in films anymore is still gut churning and seriously needs to come back into vogue.

Adding to the relentless cruelty of the situation is the flippant attitudes of the doctors analyzing her, deconstructing her past with men and sex, and trying to make her fit into psychosexual molds in order to blame the victim, right down to suggesting that she is so lonely that she’s fantasizing about having sex with her ridiculously good looking son.

Not to mention…the damn entity follows her wherever she goes, so griping that she’s an idiot for not just leaving the house is wasted breath.

The cast also includes Jo Polniaczek’s dad as Hershey’s infrequent boyfriend and Ron Silver as a caring doctor whose fault is that he refuses to believe in the paranormal.

If there’s any downside to the film—aside from it running two hours and five minutes—it’s perhaps some cheesy effects that timestamp it, like electrical lightning bolts zapping the son.

And the plot moves into typical overblown 80s territory by the end, in a controlled lab with experts observing, which most definitely sucks out all the perfectly established atmosphere that carried us through the film.

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