Time-killing tomatoes…

These two silly sci-fi comedy “monster” movies ensure the death of your precious time and are still as bad as ever. I actually think this is the first time I’ve truly sat down to watch them all the way through…and I have one of them in my movie collection (no thanks to a 4-film collection).

The 1978 cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! is so bad it’s worse, and it becomes obvious pretty quickly why it sux so bad…

It focuses completely on the military and the government rather than everyday people taking on the tomatoes. Yawn. There’s simply no one to relate to in this film.

A preface about the movie The Birds turning into a reality—suggesting this could, too—sets the tone of slapstick stupidity of the film. While not nearly as funny, the humor reminds me of the Airplane brand of comedy. Tomatoes on a Plane? Oops, I better not even put that out in the universe lest it become reality.

I’m shocked this movie had budget enough for even a major helicopter scene.

While the main cast is all military and government, the everyday victims are attacked in kitchens, in the water for a Jaws spoof, in grocery stores, in the woods, and on the streets.

There’s an awesome theme song…

 

…and musical numbers! Ugh. But I must say, the lead singer of the military musical number totally rocks his performance. Also keep an ear out for a weird talking dog moment.

For me, the highlight of this piece of trash is a totally dated joke: a commercial for a K-tel album called “Dead Beat”, which includes all original hits by original dead stars. So wrong.

Ten years later the original director brought the tomatoes back for the 1988 film Return of the Killer Tomatoes! The best thing about the sequel is probably the revised version of the theme song with lyrics spoofing the first song.

 

The Addams Family alum John Astin plays a mad scientist.

If I followed correctly, he can turn killer tomatoes into mortals…most of them hunky shirtless military men.

He also creates a bombshell woman out of a tomato, but she breaks free of his insanity, taking her furry pet tomato with her.

Honestly, this film is so bad even by 80s standards I couldn’t totally commit to paying attention to it. At least this time the focus is on two horny, ordinary 80s guys—Anthony Starke of Repossessed and George Clooney, who appears to have had time to star in this disaster between getting eaten by the shark that The Facts of Life jumped and his short-lived inclusion on Roseanne.

Starke and Clooney work at a tomato-free pizza parlor, because tomatoes have been banned by law since the first attack. Starke sets his sights on Astin’s bombshell creation, they begin dating, and he starts noticing she’s rather odd.

As he falls in love with her, he and his buddy Clooney realize they have to infiltrate Astin’s lab and get control of his conversion machine to save her from her tomato existence. This machine appears to run with the help of music, and the song of choice dictates what the human looks like. For instance, play the theme to Miami Vice and you get Don Johnson. Okay, I’ll give this part props for its 80s indulgence.

And hey, I’m a fan of self-deprecation, but by the the time this film admits it has no money left so the characters start talking to the camera with product placement (Pepsi, Nestle Crunch, Crest, beer brands), all it manages to do is demonstrate that you can’t save an unfunny movie by being even less funny.

Aside from the theme song and the hunks, the biggest highlight for me in this mess is a Tane Cain poster hanging on the guys’ wall, six years after her awesome album failed to become a hit.

 

The original director returned with Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! in 1991 and Killer Tomatoes Eat France! in 1992, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to watch another of these films.

Okay, I’m lying. I simply couldn’t find them on any streaming service.

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STREAM QUEEN: Furry Nights vs. What the Waters Left Behind

Once again it’s time to take a wrong turn into uncharted territories. At least uncharted by the characters in these movies. We’ve been there before…but which flick held its own for me? Let’s find out.

FURRY NIGHTS (2016)

Furry fetishists rejoice! You finally get your own backwoods slasher! The down side? You’re totally painted as the psychos.

This fuzzy wuzzy flick starts with a bit of a Race With the Devil vibe. A group of friends is out in the woods. One guy witnesses a bunch of furries dancing around a fire and films it. They hear him and he runs away.

But that night, a furry comes to their camp…and things don’t end well. Now the rest of the furry cult is out for revenge!

This film’s tone is surprisingly mostly serious, the furries are menacing, and the kills are violent and brutal although there’s no explicit gore. And the forest setting is perfectly lighted to feel naturally dark, with plenty of bouncing flashlight beams as the chase kicks into high gear.

Of course you can’t make a movie about killer furries without some campy humor. It all lands on the shoulders of the main guy in this movie. His reactions to everything he goes through are classic. I’m shocked that the entire cast is left to play the “straight man” while he gets to steal the show.

By the time he dons a furry costume himself, speaks in squeaky cute furry voice, and gets in a fight with one of the bad furries, I was laughing out loud.

His performance alone would be reason enough for me to add this movie to my DVD collection.

WHAT THE WATERS LEFT BEHIND (2017)

I think I have backwoods/wilderness/cannibal family/torture horror movie burnout. While this film is sleek and technically right on target, I just wasn’t blown away by it, wasn’t scared or on the edge of my seat, and actually started to get bored during the most gruesome torture scenes. But if you love this subgenre or have never seen movies like Wolf Creek, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Frontier(s), The Hills Have Eyes…I could go on all day with this list…you may just find this one a winner.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that although this is a Spanish language film, it follows the template of every American horror movie ever made in this genre.

-friends driving in van to location of tragic incident.

-one of the girls was a child and lived through the tragedy.

-they make a pit stop and the people running the place are creepy.

-girl goes to the restroom and the bowl is a disgusting mess…yet she still uses it. Why do people always use overflowing shit bowls in these movies when the miles of wilderness right outside is nature’s bathroom?

-there are clippings of missing people.

-girl does a sexy dance for a guy in the middle of nowhere then they have sex.

-their van breaks down.

-someone goes for help.

-someone suffers a wound and becomes a huge burden on the others.

-they all get chased, killed, and abducted by masked crazies.

-there’s a bear trap. There simply has to be a bear trap.

-the survivors are raped and tortured in a lair.

-the family grinds the dead into meat.

-the family feeds the dead meat to the living during a macabre dinner party.

Even the big surprise twist isn’t so unusual. The one thing that actually makes this film timely to an American audience is that it’s kind of a cautionary tale about why Dump should think twice about continuously not sending relief and rescue to areas devastated by natural disasters.

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Christmas is coming, so it’s time to look at horror for other holidays!

Don’t blame me. I can’t be responsible for when holiday horror movies hit streaming services. This trio covers Independence Day, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, with two slashers and a zombie flick.

ATTACK OF THE TATTIE-BOGLE (2017)

It’s a 60-minute Fourth of July cabin in the woods slasher with a weird name. I also don’t totally understand the bigger picture, but the smaller picture—a group of friends sliced and diced in the woods—is all I ever need. On that it totally delivers, and it’s refreshingly not the usual cookie cutter approach, but has a style all its own.

They drive to the cabin, they hang out, they swim in a lake, there’s some blossoming romance, and there’s some timely, uncomfortable conversation between a liberal couple and a redneck asshole who looks pretty sexy holding his beer…

Then without warning a masked killer—the tattie-bogle (aka: scarecrow)—with an axe walks right into their lives and goes to town on them! Those that survive scatter. Some end up in another cabin, some try to get away, others are in a lookout tower in a tree in the woods.

What makes this film so compelling is that the kills are just so matter of fact. There’s no sleek slasher production, so the murders feel raw and real. And the score isn’t the usual manipulative horror movie music that tries to convince you to be scared. It’s distinctly compelling and atmospheric of its own merits. The film also combines predominantly natural dark and flashlight beams, which is always a truly effective way to set the tone of horror in the woods.

The final scenes of escape and confrontation are highly unusual for a slasher film, making this one quite unique…while explaining nothing and ending on a very odd note. It’s one of those rare cases when I would have liked more of the horror, for just as the momentum is picking up it feels like the film stops short, almost as if incomplete.

Finally, despite its dark tone, the film closes with bloopers during the end credits! Feels out of place and jolts you out of the zone.

SAMHAIN: A HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE (2018)

It’s another short holiday horror film, running only 67 minutes long. Yet it’s amazing how much the film is stretched just to get to that length.

The opener takes place in 1968, but don’t expect it to connect to the main story.

In the modern day, our main girl house sits on Halloween night. We know it’s Halloween because it’s mentioned a few times, but there are no visual signs of the holiday.

To fill the time, we watch the girl make and eat a sandwich, we watch her shower, we watch her sleep…literally the camera just focuses on her for an agonizing amount of time as she sleeps. Still shots are held unnaturally long, such as exterior shots of the house between scenes. We sit through footage of both a true crime show and a horror movie she watches.

She also gets a few visitors, including an ex-boyfriend and her best friend. It’s during this time that there are some good 80s style killer POV shots and an excellent 80s synth score.

When the masked killer invades, it begins with a relentless beating scene with a bat that I guarantee would see a person not only dead but mutilated beyond recognition…yet the victim later gets up and walks away without a bruise in sight. What the hell? Even a whiffle bat would leave marks.

There’s no body count because there are no deaths. And as for the climax, well, if you’ve seen Ti West’s The House of the Devil you’ll be in familiar territory, although I guess there’s a twist at the end to keep this from being an exact replica.

VALENTINE DAYZ (2018)

This zomromcom is quirky, confusing, and loaded with enough gore and zombie action to satisfy me despite its shortcomings. It gets bonus points for reminding me of the tone of the awesome zombie flick It Stains the Sands Red.

It begins with news reports and interviews with zombie experts to give us the background of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, a man and woman meet at a bar, fall in love, and get engaged. This is where this film is oddly lacking. That all happens so fast we never get to see their romance blossom. The film is more concerned with details of the guy’s day job than their relationship.

Their Valentine’s Day plans are derailed when one of them turns into a zombie. They end up in the desert with the mortal keeping the zombie restrained while trying to figure out what to do about their dilemma.

Meanwhile, there are what feel like random, unrelated scenes of a few other characters having run-ins with zombies, but some of them are dang cool. A scene of a woman having a birthday party for her creepy doll when a zombie comes calling is eerily effective.

The film gets exploitation gruesome when the zombie/human couple battles it out, and the great practical effects make me wish the film had delivered more of it.

After a pretty unique twist about why the zombies are attacking the living, the film soon comes to an end, and I just couldn’t help thinking it felt like the plot never quite came together.

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Small town spiders vs. big city spiders

It seems for the last 3 decades we’ve been getting a great, silly spider movie every 10 years or so. We had Arachnophobia in 1990, then we moved into a new millennium and got spider flicks in 2002 and 2013. So let’s take a look at both.

EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS (2002)

The director of Return of the Living Dead sequels Rave to the Grave and Necropolis (I’m a fan of both) delivers one of my all-time favorite campy, funny, creepy crawlie big spider movies with a great cast.

A celebration of classic giant bug movies (yeah, I know, spiders aren’t technically bugs, but they sure bug me when they get near me), Eight Legged Freaks gets right into it after a young boy hangs with his spider expert friend. Unfortunately, the expert’s critters escape and go on a rampage of killing and cocooning.

Scream queen Kari Wuhrer is the little boy’s mother and town sheriff, and her older daughter is a young Scarlett Johansson.

On top of the spider invasion, Kari has to contend with her old flame coming back to town—played by David Arquette, who does a perfect David Arquette.

It’s great spider action from start to finish, with the spiders starting off small enough to crawl through walls—the cartoonish battle with a cat in the walls is a hoot, but don’t get all up in arms, cat lovers, because a dog gets it, too.

Eventually the spiders enter and nest inside human bodies, grow bigger, and drag people back to their underground tunnels to cocoon them in webs.

The fact that these are computer-generated spiders doesn’t detract, instead managing to give them distinct personality expressed through their movement and the way they react to human beings (their responses are almost human at times).

There’s a big attack on a group of motorcycle riders, but the major action takes place once everyone in town moves to the local mall for safety but ends up battling the spiders right out on the streets.

And naturally, our cast of main characters makes its way to the spiders’ lair underneath the ground…

BIG ASS SPIDER! (2013)

Mike Mendez (Lavalantula, The Last Heist, Don’t Kill It, The Gravedancers, The Convent) delivers what almost feels like a sequel to Eight Legged Freaks because it’s so similar in tone and style, with the same kind of CGI spiders. However these critters grow into big ass spiders!

Adorabear Greg Grunberg plays an exterminator who has a run-in with Lin Shaye and some critters giving her a problem, then ends up at a hospital, which is where the spider outbreak begins.

There he scores a security guard sidekick, and together they must take on ever-growing swarms of spiders.

Eventually they team up with the military (including horror veterans like Ray Wise and Clare Kramer of Glory fame on Buffy) to battle a super big spider that goes all King Kong, climbing a skyscraper in the city for some fun time with military planes.

The only way to defeat it? Shoot it in its big ass, of course.

But the big ass highlight for me is definitely when the giant spider massacres a park full of picnicking people.

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When the classic monsters got the last laugh

Once Freddy, Jason, and Michael raised the horror bar in the 80s, the original monsters kind of lost their fear factor…so they gnaw on our funny bones instead! But do these six flix still hold up?

TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 (1985)

Director Rudy de Luca wrote several Mel Brooks movies, so you would think this comedy captured that vibe. And at first it does. Unfortunately it quickly falls apart into an unfunny mess, which is shocking considering the writer and the great comic cast. They simply don’t have good material to work with.

Norman Fell sends reporters Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Goldblum to Transylvania to look for Frankenstein. Everyone there laughs at them…but it turns out there really is a Frankenstein…and a vampire…and a werewolf…

The cast includes the likes of Michael Richards, Carol Kane, and Geena Davis as a slutty vampire (it’s how she hooked Goldblum, I guess), but the movie goes absolutely nowhere.

Eventually, the townsfolk hunt down the Frankenstein monster, leading to the lame climax.

With all the good bad horror spoofs I watched over and over on cable in the 80s when I was a teen, this one simply doesn’t stand out as one of them.

TEEN WOLF (1985)

Revisiting this 80s classic, I determined the modern day TV show reboot is so much better.

Holy crap. Teen Wolf is such a dumb film right from the beginning when Michael J. Fox plucks a mutant hair in a totally nudity free locker room scene. Why even have a locker room scene in an 80s movie if there’s not even going to be some man butt?

Fox begins to show signs of being a wolf. He even, I don’t know…glams an old man at a liquor store with his animal eyes? That’s a new power for a werewolf (well, old now).

Eventually he feels forced to tell his friends he’s a werewolf, beginning with his best buddy Stiles, who says he won’t be able to handle it if Fox is about to reveal he’s a fag. Wow. We really have come a long way in thirty years, and so has Stiles, who loved the gays in the TV show.

Once Fox’s secret is out—which is when we get full Fox shtick—everyone at school begins to exploit his new identity, from his basketball coach to the director of the school play.

There are montages galore, including two “Surfin USA” montages while characters surf on top of a truck, a dance montage at a party, a “Stayin’ Alive” montage while Fox gets ready for his high school dance, a “Big Bad Wolf” dance track montage in the gym, and a cool 80s song montage during the final basketball game, when Fox tears off the shirt of the hot guy on the opposing team…

But none of that goodness can save this from being an unfunny film with a terribly thin plot.

TEEN WOLF TOO (1987)

The only thing I remembered about this movie, which I really haven’t seen since I first watched it at the video store back in the 80s, is that I was thrilled that “Send Me An Angel,” which had only gotten minor exposure on MTV a few years before, was featured in a montage.

Turns out the soundtrack, which also includes tracks by Oingo Boingo, is the best part.

Now I can see why Michael J. Fox didn’t want to do the sequel (let alone the first one). But his dad and one teammate from the first movie return, as does the character of Stiles, although he’s recast here.

Jason Bateman plays Fox’s cousin, who gets driven to college by his uncle (Fox’s dad), where he rooms with Stiles.

And…same plot, only this time he becomes a kick ass werewolf boxer.

The wolf also does a song and dance number to “Do You Love Me” by The Contours and Kim Darby and John Astin have minor roles.

MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE (1987)

The director of early 80s slasher Final Exam gives us a Once Bitten rip-off starring Robert Sean Leonard two years before his biggest movie, Dead Poet’s Society

The soundtrack alone, including songs by Blondie, Oingo Boingo, and Timbuk 3, gives me the 80s nostalgia feels, and overall it’s a charming, lite teen comedy. The locker room sex dream opener that ends in castration by nun hooks you immediately.

Our main boy delivers groceries to a supposedly abandoned house where a beautiful woman greets him. She seduces him, she bites him, and pretty soon he gets an anti-Giles guide who teaches him how to survive as a vampire!

As he discovers all the side effects of vampirism (like his parents assuming he’s gay since he’s acting so shady), he tries to date the Molly Ringwald wannabe he likes in school (classic when he attempts to glam her).

The odd thing is, despite the film’s title, he doesn’t tell his buddy he’s a vamp until 55 minutes into the movie! It’s pretty late in the game considering the buddy’s kidnapping by vampire hunters becomes the focus of the entire final act, with the vampire and his new girl trying to save him.

There’s also a future star spotting—the girlfriend’s mother is Kathy Bates!

THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)

The director of Night of the Creeps brings us a kids’ film that could be the Hocus Pocus of a just slightly younger generation if only it was set on Halloween! To this day I can’t imagine why it wasn’t, especially considering Dracula plots to take over the world by enlisting the help of the Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Luckily, a group of young boys runs a monster club in their treehouse and are the only ones equipped with the knowledge to take on the classic movie monsters.

Naturally the film is adorable and so 1980s in its formula, with a cute dog, an annoying little sister who wants in on the action, a man in a creepy house who ends up becoming an ally, and a bunch of bullies as foils.

There are some notably frightening moments that might freak out little kids. There is also a good amount of cursing and the classic line “Wolf Man’s got nards!”, plus the boys are required to find a female virgin to help thwart Dracula’s plans. I totally just used the word thwart and it felt so good.

As for the soundtrack (they were everything in the 80s), an awesome monster fighting montage is set to a song called “Rock Until You Drop” by Michael Sembello of “Maniac” fame, and an awesomely 80s theme song that’s perfect for a Halloween playlist closes the film.

One final note—in this kid’s movie from 30 years ago, the bullies relentlessly call the monster club kids fags! It’s shocking to think now that the term would’ve been used so freely by kids in a movie for kids as a derogatory attack, even if it was a common slur outside of films in those days.

MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK (1993)

Moving into the 90s, the teen monster trend was nearing its end with My Boyfriend’s Back from the director of Parents.

A young man in love with a girl since he was a kid decides to ask her to the prom after she breaks up with her jock boyfriend, played by pre-Party of Five hottie Matthew Fox…whose buddy is Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Before he can ask her, he dies and comes back as a zombie.

She starts dating him, body parts begin falling off, he learns that he needs to eat people (from undead expert Cloris Leachman, who works her way into every movie), and then he has to try to avoid people in the community who want to kill him again.


Hey Ziggy, if you need a job, The Conners miss you.

It has its moments, but overall, My Boyfriend’s Back is not quite as charming or funny as other teen monster comedies of the period and only succeeds in making me nostalgic for the days when I worked at the video store.

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An indie sequel, a portrait of a serial killer, and an 80s throwback

My latest marathon of a trio of films from the past two years was fairly derivative, making it a rather “been there done that” experience.

THE OUIJA RESURRECTION (2017)

The “sequel” to The Ouija Experiment is an entire meta premise in which the actors from the first film are running a haunted attraction at an old theater after a screening of the film.

The cast may be back, but the Ouija board isn’t—other than a few obligatory moments due to the title. The movie is not about a Ouija board, it’s about some sort of scary, ghostly woman demon that haunts the place.

This is a simple haunted attraction slasher flick with some humor thrown in and some standout scenes. Highlights include a tight homage to Exorcist III and a suspenseful scene involving a guy wearing special glasses (very reminiscent of the Thirteen Ghosts remake).

The freaky woman killer is awesome—and perhaps underutilized, as the movie kind of meanders rather than having a clear-cut trajectory.

Also of note is that there’s an openly gay character, the final girl kicks ass, and director Israel Luna has a cameo as the seller in the ticket booth. This is actually my favorite film in this triple feature (I also own the DVD).

WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER (2017)

I never quite felt compelled to watch this film based on the trailer, and my instinct was right—it just isn’t my thing.

Essentially it’s Psycho meets Maniac…and I’ve already seen those films, so it wasn’t imperative to sit through this one.

A geeky weirdo has a twisted relationship with his mother over video chat. Of course you immediately start to wonder if she’s actually there or if it’s all in his head. Bringing them closer together is some incestuous masturbation and voyeurism. Yay.

The biggest issue with the film is that this pretty girl in the park starts making moves on him despite the fact that anyone could tell just by looking at him that he’s a psycho killer whose mother makes him masturbate for her while she watches.

And there lies his big conflict. Can he fight his mother’s urges to kill so that he can actually have a relationship?

SUMMER OF 84 (2018)

The obsession with the best horror decade ever just won’t stop, even though there’s one blatant fact that makes these throwbacks films virtually pointless…if you want to truly experience what horror was like in the 80s, you should just watch 80s horror.

There are plenty of 80s references—an Asteroids arcade game, GI Joe walkie talkies, Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”, etc.

Plus, the adventures of the group of four main boys capture the spirit of Stephen King’s It, Stand By Me, ET, etc., but the film is unforgivably 105 minutes long, with an excessive amount of time focused on letting us get to know the individual personalities of each boy…which can easily be done in tighter storytelling while they are actually on their adventure, not before.

The film is reminiscent of plots you’ve seen plenty of times before (The Lady in White, Silver Bullet, Death Valley): boys vs. killers.

These kids become convinced a cop who lives next door is responsible for a rash of murders of young boys in town. So they start their own little investigation to prove it’s him.

There are some suspenseful moments, but mostly this film is super slow with not much going on, including no body count…because it’s not a slasher movie. It’s more like a kids’ thriller film. Only in the final act do we actually get to see some murder that will slightly satisfy a horror audience.

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When masked killers target gay subcultures

The gay slasher genre has gotten a good dose of new entries in the past few years, and here are two more to add to my homo horror movies pages.

THE GETAWAY (2018)

Imagine a low budget David DeCoteau indie with a more mature, black, out and proud cast of characters, deliciously explicit gay sex scenes, and an actual slasher plot, and you have The Getaway.

Low budget indie aspect aside, everything else makes this a more enjoyable gay horror experience than the softcore footage DeCoteau slaps together of pretty white boys pleasuring themselves in their white undies…and then markets as horror movies.

The Getaway starts with a super hot sex scene drenched in red horror light, which leads to the first appearance of the masked killer.

The good horror score is a plus, although it is overused in scenes in which it doesn’t really belong, causing it to forget its purpose at times.

Next we meet all our sexy couples. It’s incredibly satisfying to see a bunch of gay couples portrayed as both loving and sexually realized partners.

The couples get invited to a retreat at a house in the woods, where they are welcomed by a REALLY out of place old white man in colonial attire. His presence is a head-scratcher.

For quite a while, the film focuses solely on developing characters and their connections through dialogue driven exposition void of any kills or even cheap faux scare moments, a common indie slasher pacing problem. But it’s worth sitting through to get to the good parts. Actually, the best part.

A gorgeous muscle hunk goes to town on a cutie in a softcore sex scene of fingering…

spanking…

ass eating…

fricking closer ass eating in case we questioned the authenticity…

and pounding…

plus there’s a nice thick cock shot.

I felt like I’d stepped into one of my own sexually charged horror novels all of a sudden. What I’m saying is, despite any flaws, I applaud this film for not wimping out. It’s a gay slasher that revels in what makes gay horror different than straight horror—sexuality.  

The issue even gets addressed in a meta conversation between two characters about the typical portrayals of gay men in TV and film…one of them being oversexualization. The characters might be complaining, but I’m not.

After the sex scene (that I kind of wish was a hardcore porn because it’s that hot), we get into classic slasher territory. What the film lacks in chilling atmosphere, gore effects, or jump scares, it makes up for with crucial staples of the genre—body reveals, chases, a final confrontation, and an unmasking. 

The unmasking monologue is another strong point of the film, as it deals directly with issues of sexuality, particularly those that impact the African-American community.

You can rent The Getaway on vimeo or watch it on Signal23tv.

KILLER UNICORN (2018)

Killer Unicorn is another bold and unapologetic gay slasher that focuses on a completely different gay subculture: drag queens and club kids. 20 to 30 years ago I could see this campy portrayal of club debauchery being an underground cult classic, but these days I’m not so sure it will be as fully embraced by the current climate in our incredibly divided “gay community.”

Killer Unicorn is essentially the antithesis of The Getaway. Whereas that film features assimilated couples quite reflective of many gay relationships today, this one strikes me as a throwback to 1990s gay life, with clubbing, drugging, and promiscuous sex galore (such fun was ruined in New York City when they closed down all the clubs).

This is essentially a full-fledged drag queen slasher, and even those few characters that aren’t in drag are so affected in their behaviors and conversation (it’s strictly nonstop bitchy quips to the point of overkill) it might not quite strike a chord with some gay hardcore horror fans. It’s as gay as a film gets with a side order of horror rather than a horror film that just happens to revolve around gay characters.

But from a gay underground film perspective it perfectly taps into the subversive side of gay culture and sex fetishes, dabbles in the fun of the RuPaul’s Draq Race era, and offers up several montages of drag performances. I saw the film at its New York City premiere, and the audience’s response highlighted just how gay it is. It truly is a gay film meant for gay consumption. Heck, the director even told a story of a screening in which a shocked 90-something old lady said after that it exposed her to a world she didn’t know existed. If you’re making a (im)purely gay film, that’s exactly the response you want…

Along with the fun and games, there are also notable commentaries on urban gay life, including homophobia, dangers of anonymous sex, and the creation of a support system within gay circles. Plus, we get a strong dose of diversity rather than a generic pretty white boy cast.

The film is big on camp, and while there are some intense kill scenes, to me they felt somewhat watered down due to the level of camp. I didn’t always feel a sense of horror or dread as the hot bodied killer in tiny shorts and a unicorn mask offed victims, because I was always anticipating the funny, campy quip or reaction from the victim.

For me, the strongest horror elements come during the major massacre sequence in the final act. The killer chases victims through a labyrinth of eerie halls in the back of a dance club as the lights strobe on and off quite slowly, leaving us in pitch darkness for more than a blink at a time. It’s not only creepy but manages to create quite a disorienting atmosphere. 

Most satisfying of all is that the finale mixes up expectations of the usual slasher formula and gay film formula. For instance, it seems almost predictable that despite this being a film filled with drag queens, the two final boys are non-drag love interests. However, it is the queens who absolutely step it up when it’s time to fight back against the killer.

What surprised me most is that with all the fresh and gory death scenes sprinkled throughout the film, the most obvious weapon is never used: the unicorn horn! This entire film could have taken on a new life if the whole point was that the killer used the horn to do all kinds of unthinkable damage. The horn instead looks like it is made of fabric. For unicorn horn deaths you’ll have to check out CarousHELL. Personally, I’d still watch this one again over that one.

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SEQUELIZED IN THE 90s!

You have to love all those disastrous sequels of the 90s…or do you? Let’s take a look at six of them.

PET SEMATARY II (1992)

This sequel to an adaptation of a Stephen King classic is the epitome of the shit show that was 90s horror completely desecrating the legacy of a film from the 80s. Even worse that Mary Lambert, director of the first film, returned to spit on her previous grave…I mean…work.

When a movie begins with a gothic situation that turns out to be a film being filmed within the movie, it’s usually a bad sign. This time Edward Furlong’s mother is an actress who gets gruesomely killed on set…while he’s there watching. The second bad sign? Pubescent Edward Furlong’s cracking falsetto scream.

Anyway, he moves to a new house with his dad—Anthony Edwards as a veterinarian. At school Furlong is tormented by a gang of bullies, but befriends one kid whose father is the sheriff.

The incident with the family from the first film is mentioned several times, but that doesn’t stop the two friends from burying a dead dog, which pops up to cause trouble every once in a while.

But the real re-animated problem is the sheriff, who dies on Halloween, is buried in the cemetery, and then terrorizes them for the rest of the movie.

Initial scenes with him are pretty damn creepy, but then the movie careens off a cliff and crashes down in the 90s. Characters are thrown into pointless scenes. Edwards has crazy horror sex dreams. The sheriff exhumes the mom’s body and buries her in the cemetery. Furlong has a shrine room dedicated to her. Everyone ends up there for an ooey gooey gory battle filled with pus and puke.

On the bright side, the alternative soundtrack includes the likes of Dramarama (“I’ve Got Spies”), The Jesus & Mary Chain (“Reverence”), and Ramones (“Poison Heart”).

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS (1997)

The director of Mute Witness takes a huge risk making a sequel to an iconic horror film of the 80s that would have forever changed the werewolf genre with its transformation special effect…if this film hadn’t then changed it again with awful CGI.

That’s not to say I think An American Werewolf in Paris is an atrocious film like most seem to.

I find it to be a fun and campy flick that is also a great nostalgic piece for its totally 90s vibe.

It also has a lovable cast including Tom Everett Scott (and his ass), and his adorable and sexy buddy who strips down to his undies.

And fricking Julie Bowen of Modern Family appears as one of the ghost corpses that ends up haunting the main guy (yes, there are more than one in the sequel).

Scott and his two buddies are in Paris on the Eiffel Tower when they see a pretty young woman about to jump. Scott saves her and before long, he’s drawn in to her crazy world of werewolves…a whole underground club full of them.

There’s plenty of 90s-style alt rock during the many chase scenes, loads of werewolf pack chaos, and a juicy werewolf on a subway scene…

And then…there’s that damn CGI. It looks so awful it unfortunately drags the film’s worth down painfully. What a bummer.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY (1999)

You know what you’re in for when two sequels to a huge film are made for the direct to video market in the same year. Even so, both From Dusk Till Dawn sequels have their moments.

The first comes from the eventual director of Hostel 3, and the opener incomprehensibly left my mind until I saw it again—it stars Bruce Campbell and Tiffani Thiessen in an awesome scene in which they’re attacked in an elevator by bats.

Seriously, this movie is oddly similar to the film Bats as far as the bat attack scenes are concerned.

It focuses on horror and sci-if icon Robert Patrick and a band of thieves planning to rob a bank.

Unfortunately, one of the guys stops at the titty bar after accidentally hitting a bat with his car. This leads Danny Trejo, a bartender, to ignite a new vamp outbreak.

After the initial vamp attacks, aside from a sex scene with a hottie’s ass on display, most of this film turns into a shoot ‘em up cops and robbers standoff. Yawn.

The final act at last delivers some vamp fighting fun, but this is mostly more an action film.

 FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER (1999)

The eventual Director of Lost Boys: The Tribe (I’m seeing a pattern here) brings us my favorite of these two sequels, which is shocking since a) the first forty minutes are a boring as hell western film, and b) it’s a period piece.

A convict escapes execution and goes on the run with the hangman’s daughter, meets up with a Bible thumping couple, and eventually crashes at what turns out to be a vampire brothel.

The main guy is beautiful and an absolute prototype for the guy who played the lead in the series.

Rebecca Gayheart, hot on the heels of Urban Legend, plays one of the religious fanatics.

And Danny Trejo gets the honor of being in all three From Dusk Till Dawn films.

After we finally see vamps 45 minutes in, all hell breaks loose in the bar of the brothel, and this vamp battle takes us straight through the rest of the film, in ways outdoing the insanity of the original film.

Highlights include Rebecca Gayheart in a sepia tone dance montage, a snake head vampire, vampire tentacles, a hot Latin wannabe Indiana Jones, and even some goofy humor.

Plus, the lead vampire woman is like the reincarnation of the lead vampire woman from the original Fright Night 2.

POISON IVY II (1996)

Okay, for starters, Alyssa Milano’s character is named Lily, so shouldn’t this film be called Poison Lily?

This sequel is completely unrelated to the first film, and it’s mostly an erotic drama until the last 20 minutes or so, when it finally turns into a fatal attraction situation. But it’s not what you think. Poison Lily isn’t the psycho.

She comes to a new college as a frumpy chick, finds a notebook of a former female student in her dorm room, and decides she wants to be a slut, too. So she gives herself a makeover.

Then she hooks up with fellow classmate Johnathon Schaech…as well as her art teacher. This back and forth goes on for most of the agonizing near two-hour running time. How did someone look at this film in editing and not realize it needed to lose at least 20 minutes?

On the bright side, we see Schaech’s gorgeous bod and ass, there’s a Halloween party, and the soundtrack is an amazing array of rip-offs of more popular music of the day, including an Enigma thief during all the sex scenes.

Near the end there’s an absurdly melodramatic segment in which the art teacher’s wife invites Alyssa and Schaech over for a holiday dinner and the shit hits the fan.

And all of a sudden the teacher becomes a psycho stalker in like the last 15 minutes. Ridiculous, yet so awesomely 90s direct-to-video.

POISON IVY: THE NEW SEDUCTION (1997)

Amazingly, part 3 is essentially a direct sequel to the original film that sneakily includes a mini prequel to Ivy’s story.

That is part of what also makes it a better movie than part 2. Also making it better is that it’s only 94 minutes long.

It stars a young, sizzling hot Jaime Pressly as the main psycho girl. She goes to live with a childhood friend for a while, whose father is Michael Des Barres, and whose maid is Susan Tyrrell. Yep, this one rox the cult film cast.

Soon Pressly is messing with the minds of the family, seducing the father, seducing the childhood friend’s boyfriend…and going more and more insane as the movie progresses. She even gets into dominatrix mode before all is said and done.

Sure there’s sexy stuff, but the film eventually brings us classic 90s thriller clichés, like no gore, body reveals, a chase, and a final cat fight between the two girls. Not to mention, the final scene is totally a throwback to the end of the original film.

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A sequel, a reboot, and some retro vibes…but is that enough?

It’s rare that I don’t automatically buy sequels and reboots to franchises already in my collection, so the third Malevolence and reboot of Puppet Master were both release day purchases. And if it weren’t for my damn OCD, I would re-evaluate my obligations to franchises.

MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)

For me personally, Steve Mena’s trilogy, planned from the start, just never found its footing after the fantastic first film. Part 2, Bereavement, which was actually a prequel, was an entirely different film rather than the amazing love letter to 80s slashers that the first film was. Instead it was too much of a repetitive torture porn for me and I struggled to get through it.

Part 3, like Halloween II 1981, is a direct sequel that picks up right where the first film left off, complete with a flashback clip to the end of Malevolence and the killer escaping to continue his bloodbath.

But instead of Halloween II, what we get is more like the messy installment known as Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. The good news is that the intense suspense and classic slasher vibe Mena brought to his first film is back, making the kill scenes stylistically like the original Halloween and Friday the 13th films right down to the camera angles, setup shots, and music score. Yep, still love Mena’s talent for horror atmosphere.

However, a series of victims we never get to connect with is tossed at us left and right as the killer mostly targets a bunch of kids who conveniently pass in and out of one house. Their “plot lines” are virtually nonexistent, and they somehow never realize that people are being murdered in like every room.

Meanwhile, detectives searching for the killer end up at the house of Adrienne Barbeau, whose cameo does nothing to elevate the film. She’s simply a vessel to get the detectives aimed in the right direction.

Making the film even more disappointing is that the killer isn’t an ominous, mysterious presence. We know his entire backstory from the previous films, and we know what he looks like because he doesn’t wear a mask. He’s simply a jerk with a knife who could as easily have played the role of one of the victims as the killer.

To add insult to injury, the overly long final scare scene is a dream sequence! Ugh!

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

If ever there was a reboot that left you wondering “What the hell was the point?”, this one is it. Although the tone makes this one dark and gory instead of campy and fun like the original, the basic plot could as easily have been yet another weak sequel to the long running franchise.

From an exploitative angle, the absolutely delicious, viciously gory and brutal kills are about the only place things get as campy as the original films. They’re also the only aspect of this film that could make me believe it comes from the creative force behind two favorites of mine—Wither and Blood Runs Cold.

Comic actor Thomas Lennon is the unexpected main guy, who returns home to live with his parents and comes across a creepy doll in his deceased brother’s room.

Pretty soon all the puppets are out and slaughtering the fuck out of a hotel full of people.

The ongoing Nazi plot of the series continues, with the puppets clearly targeting based on those groups Nazis hate (gays, Jews, etc.).

The onslaught of random, mostly unsavory people in the hotel is about as close to the formula of the original films as this one gets. Well, that and the fact that you can pretty much watch this crappy movie multiple times and still be oddly entertained.

The puppets are a mix of redesigned versions of some of the originals and new ones, but they simply have no personalities like the originals. Hey, at least they make the kills absolutely horrific and exploitative, especially the death of a pregnant woman.

Even so, I personally think the trophy should go to the pissing scene…

And I did kind of like the unexpected battle with something other than the puppets…

Look for appearances by Udo Kier, Barbara Crampton, and Michael Pare.

 

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PRIME TIME: Let’s Not Meet or we’ll get Fractured by the Ghastlies

It’s time for a mini smorgasbord of new stuff that just hit Prime. What do they have in common? They all recently hit Prime. Otherwise, it’s a variety: an 80s critter flick spoof, a home invasion flick, and a backwoods slasher. And I was entertained by all of it.

GHASTLIES (2016)

The director of Raiders of the Lost Shark and Attack of the Jurassic Shark brings us a goofy fun throwback to the 80s era of Gremlins, Critters, Ghoulies, Munchies, and Hobgoblins. This movie is exactly what it’s supposed to be, so if you watch it and think it’s awful or stupid, then there’s really no hope for you.

This is how you start a movie. A cult is doing a ritual sacrifice in a barn when a spacious from another planet lands nearby…

When we’re informed that it’s “present day,” we are immediately catapulted back to the 80s, from the music to a chick doing aerobics and referencing Jane Fonda while wearing a “Let’s get physical” top. So it’s no surprise the entire score is 80s synthtastic.

A group of girls goes to a cabin in the woods.

Naturally, the boys show up, and naturally they all begin getting attacked by funny little creatures that I would describe as Munchies meets Fraggle Rock.

Their little giggles of glee cracked me up, and the attacks are just as funny, especially thanks to the reactions of the actors.

And while it’s goofy spoofy as the puppets snack on victims, the movie even dares to throw in some campy good gore.

Highlights include a nod to an iconic Gremlins moment, a girl saying “gag me with a spoon,” and a hottie in his undies.

FRACTURED (2018)

If you’re a home invasion fan, this one is short but sweet, just like my thoughts on it.

There’s a very The Strangers vibe as a couple vacations in a house and we get to see that they are being watched.

It is the girl who first starts to become uneasy, and the slow build up is quite effective and tense.

Plus you get to see the guy shirtless during a sex scene that results in what I found to be the most unnerving moment of the film.

But what makes this standout and gives it a unique twist is that you actually get to experience the home invasion from the perspective of two different characters, which ensures two very different interpretations of the events that unfold.

LET’S NOT MEET (2018)

As indie horror films go, this one has a lot going for it…with one major flaw. It’s an hour and 54 fricking minutes long. Argh! I want to sob. Just another of many otherwise good indie efforts that is going to lose people before it’s over because it simply wasn’t reevaluated for length and pacing before release. Eliminating the “dead air” moments between scenes and dialogue exchanges alone could have tightened up the flow.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of positive going on here, including some tight slasher sequences as well as a unique approach to the usual kids in woods get chased by killer plot.

It seems rather random when a group of friends has pizza delivered by a girl they knew back in school—and didn’t exactly get along with—before they go camping in the woods. After they sit around a fire talking about a local legend of a cult killer back from the dead, it’s no surprise that a dark form starts terrorizing them.

Meanwhile, the pizza girl is still delivering pizzas. She happens upon a home invasion in a tense scene, and is soon being hunted by the invader.

So how the hell is this all going to come together? You find out eventually, and it’s a pretty clever twist to have two threats causing the main cast problems, but there is a lot of filler before we get to the point.

However, there are also some good chills and thrills along the way. The film is light on the gore, and there are moments where you really have to suspended disbelief (for instance, they get away from the girl and take shelter in…a tent???), but there are also some nicely effective scenes, like one in which the cutie of the group gets out of a bear trap that is suddenly dragged away as he’s nursing his wound.

Seriously, actor Carmine Giordano, the cutie of the group, is a fricking doll and no stranger to indie horror.

Plus, the reveal of the face of the dark figure chasing them in the woods is unexpected and awesome.

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