Direct to DVD and Streaming: Jason Mills

I have to say, no streaming service introduces me to more indie directors whose work I end up following than Amazon Prime…which makes it kind of frustrating when Prime only has some of that director’s films! As is the case with Jason Mills. And he has the kind of filmography I love – every time he makes a new film, he taps into a different horror subgenre. So I simply had to blind buy his first movie on DVD after seeing a few of his titles on Prime.

ABOVE US LIVES EVIL (aka: They Came From the Attic) (2009)

above us lives evil cover

Mills sticks to the most basic premise of 1970s and 1980s horror for his first film – a family moves into a house and one of the kids becomes convinced there’s something living in the attic. One of my favorite plots, which is another reason I didn’t hesitate in buying this one.

above us lives evil family

The family – mother, (cute) father, teen daughter, and young son – is still coming to terms with the loss of the son’s twin brother, so emotions are already high. The son, who is mute, soon becomes terrified of the house, convinced something is living in the attic.

above us lives evil boy looks up attic

While the film only runs 73 minutes long, there are so many thrills crammed into the very end that the “slow burn” leading up to it doesn’t quite prepare you for how explosive things are going to get all of a sudden. There aren’t enough early signs of just how dangerous the threat is, and most of what does happen adds little to develop a story behind what exactly is living in the attic.

above us lives evil monster at door

It’s when the sister stays home one night to babysit the brother that all hell breaks loose. The guy she likes drops by, the lights go out in the house, the mist rolls in, and from the darkness crawl the awesomely freaky creatures.

above us lives evil 3monsters

The focus staying on the sister, her visitor, and the little brother would have been more than enough to deliver on the horror and scares, but instead, a bunch of random people suddenly come on the scene to be slaughtered in a matter of minutes.

above us lives evil dead face

Not exactly the strongest script, but the horror action in this low budget indie is so cool I would have sought out more of Mills’s films even if this had been the first I’d seen.
 above us lives evil monster on steps

THE CHANGING OF BEN MOORE (2015)

changing of ben moore cover

With The Changing of Ben Moore, Mills uses the basic found footage formula to take on the possession resurgence. All the found footage clichés are in place and some of the minor performances aren’t even vaguely convincing, but this one really managed to keep my attention because it focuses on just a few people in one house in Paranormal Activity style.

changing of ben moore main guy and girlfriend

When a guy begins having blackouts at night, he decides to have his buddy keep a video journal of what exactly he’s doing during that time.

changing of ben moore behind girl

He’s sleepwalking…and standing in corners with his back to the camera. You know the drill. That seems to be the extent, until the buddy, who is following him around at night with a camera, witnesses him kill a neighbor’s cat. Not to mention, his eyes start doing that black demon thing.

changing of ben moore guys at party

In between consulting an exorcist (a really gay exorcist) and partying with friends, who get in on making the video, the nightly filming gets even creepier.

changing of ben moore filming friend

The guy gets more and more demonic, and there are some cool visual effects when his face morphs. But naturally, you have to wonder why his friends continue to have sleepovers and follow him around with a camera in the dark when he is so clearly not of this earth anymore.

changing of ben moore mouth

Just like Paranormal Activity, the film is really all about that final money shot. There are some surprise twists before we get to it, and when we finally do, the horror of it all is much more my speed than anything the Paranormal Activity franchise ever delivered.

3 HOURS TILL DEAD (2016)

3 hours till dead cover

There are plenty of zombie fans out there always looking for another zombie flick to watch, no matter how redundant the plot. What matters is the zombie action! Well, there’s one such fan, at least. And Mills shows here that if you’re going to do a subgenre as oversaturated as zombies, you need to deliver the chills and thrills.

3 hours till dead zombie in car

3 Hours Till Dead is gritty and intense with a strong cast and excellent effects. A group of friends is hiding out in a rural area with one of their friends, who has skipped out on the military. But when they witness something gruesome on the road, they are compelled to stop and get help.

3 hours till dead car pin

They end up at a farmhouse that appears to be abandoned.

3 hours till dead women

As they explore the property the atmosphere is perfectly unsettling…right up to the point when they find a woman trapped inside a car. Oh fuck…

3 hours till dead in car

Once that car door is open, shit gets crazy immediately. They are dealing with an almost instantaneous infection and the zombies are fast and acrobatic, but there’s a catch…the infections only lasts for 3 hours and then the zombie dies.

3 hours till dead first zomb

It would be enough for them to have to contend with time-limit zombies, but of course other humans come on the scene to complicate matters.

3 hours till dead gun in face

The film doesn’t let up, and it’s quite claustrophobic at times, especially thanks to the old school dark lighting and choppy editing.

3 hours till deda zombie doorway

Those techniques might make it hard to see what’s going on during an attack scene in a small room, but the heinous sounds tell you more than you want to know. 3 Hours Till Dead is my kind of indie zombie flick.

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Scare Wars: slashers, home invasion, a musical, and an anthology

Knocked 5 more films off my must-see list…which, after I’ve completed the task of depleting it, I’m probably going to rename my “curious to see” list going forward…

THE DEAD INSIDE (2011)

dead inside 2011 cover

Director Travis Betz, who brought us the bizarre horror flick Joshua  and the horror musical Lo, does musical horror again with The Dead Inside.

dead inside hands

This isn’t as light and playful a musical as the opening number suggests. It’s actually quite a tragedy in the end and has a strong horror tone both in atmosphere and look. It focuses solely on one couple, which means a whole lot of duets.

The awesome Sarah Lassez (Mad Cowgirl, The Wicked Within, Lo, The Clown at Midnight) is a horror writer, and her man is a wedding photographer. Both are creatively burnt out. At first, the film seems to be bouncing between reality and her fictional zombie story as she writes.

dead inside zombies

But then she begins to change and the film gets very dark. She appears to be suffering from a mental disorder at first.

dead inside scissors

She becomes dangerous to others and herself, so the husband locks her in her room. He starts to suspect maybe she’s possessed. She keeps reverting back to the story she’s writing. They break into song.

dead inside male lead

There’s a lot going on in this 2-person show and the twists get even more complex as it progresses. It’s intriguing for sure, but it does get overly long after a while. And as with most horror musicals, the music doesn’t enhance the narrative for me personally.

Problem is, we’re not talking Rent here. Horror isn’t where I generally go to explore my inner feelings about other human beings or the human condition. Music moves my heart, horror stops it. Combining the two rarely works for me. I need a number as magical as “Suddenly Seymour” in between all the flesh eating, you know?

SCAREWAVES (2014)

scarewaves cover

The director of low budget Halloween slasher Babysitter Massacre returns with an anthology featuring a wraparound about a radio host who tells his own chilling stories after taking some calls that fail to impress.

scarewaves DJ

These are tales with Twilight Zone-esque twists, but overall, they don’t deliver enough punch to keep you riveted as they work towards their conclusions. Low budget in look and feel and loaded with female nudity, they bring to mind the direct-to-video days of the 80s.

1st story – While the story itself drags a bit, the horror ending makes this one my favorite. An artist paints naked female models…with a horrific, ulterior motive.

scarewave photog monster

2nd story – Greedy rednecks commit a robbery…and then turn on each other so they won’t have to split the money. It’s a “back from the dead” scenario that’s been done before, and much more effectively.

3rd story – This is a very repetitive tale of a crooked cop who shoots criminals regardless of how little threat they pose to him. He learns his lesson, but I didn’t quite understand who or what was teaching it to him…

scarewaves cop

4th story – A cheater tries to get his woman out of the way so he can be with his lover, but jealousy lives beyond the grave. Cliché but okay for a low budget rendition of the plot.

SUSPENSION (aka: Dead of Night) (2015)

suspension cover

Jeffery Scott Lando (Insecticidal, Boogeyman 2012, Haunted High, Goblin, House of Bones) manages to bring us a slasher that’s exhilaratingly brutal…yet mostly boring, tells a tale of cruel bullying…yet offers oddly dark moments to those that don’t deserve them, creates a narrative that is incredibly confusing…yet so blatantly obvious it’s ridiculous.

We meet a high school teen who is constantly mocked and bullied by her classmates because her dad was a serial killer who is now locked away, and she spends all her time drawing comics of him committing gruesome murders.

suspension drawing

She’s also kind of dumb. I mean, she knows these kids hate her, a chick approaches her in the hall and so obviously spills/tosses a drink all over her on purpose, and then drags her to the bathroom, claiming she’s going to help her clean it off. I’m not saying we should ever blame the victim, but it’s the dumb bitch’s fault her head ends up in a toilet bowl.

Anyway, her one friend decides to go to a party to hang out with all the cool kids, so she stays home and babysits her little brother. She also does a whole lot of horror drawing…pictures of her father escaping and coming home to kill some more. And it appears everything she draws actually happens…eventually.

suspension mask

There are a couple of scenes with the killer causing trouble around the girl’s house early on, but mostly significant happens until the last 20 minutes of the film, when everyone shows up at her house.

suspension killer hand

Then the slaughtering begins, and it’s good old school masked killer fun. But seriously, if you know horror and know reading comprehension, you can probably figure out the twist just from reading this blog.

KILL GAME (2017)

kill game cover

You know how the best slashers start—a prank gone horribly wrong. Well, in Kill Game, so many have gone wrong – on purpose – anyone could be the killer.

It’s quickly established that our core group of friends is a bunch of privileged, racist white assholes. How I long for the 80s, when white kids were cool, edgy new wavers.

Anyway, in high school they made a game out of playing really vicious “pranks” on classmates. And then they accidentally killed one. And they covered it up to make it look like an accident. Now someone in a mask is making them suffer horrible, painful deaths.

kill game guts

Initially, someone starts playing pranks on them. Then they start dying. It also turns out the kid they killed has an estranged twin brother who is suddenly back in town. He’s so fricking hot. But is he a killer?

kill game pretty boy machete

The kills are cruel and vicious, but there’s nothing scary or suspenseful here. It doesn’t help that this is one of those slasher flicks that is all over the map in the literal sense. These kids run around town trying to figure out whodunit. Lack of isolation or claustrophobic setting – a slasher killer for sure.

kill game killer

What I’ll remember most about Kill Game is the flashbacks of a naked guy with a rockin’ bod bound and dangling upside down. Well, that and the frustratingly inconclusive ending.

kill games fry guy

JACKALS (2017)

jackals cover

After this one, I think it’s time for home invasion films to just stop being a thing.

Kevin Greutert, director of Saw VI, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, and Jessabelle, takes everything he learned…as the editor on The Strangers…to retell that story, I don’t know…his way?

jackals female mask

It’s 1983 (it’s irrelevant and doesn’t look like it), and Johnathon Schaech and Deborah Kara Unger (Dahlia in the Silent Hill movies) have hired Stephen Dorff to kidnap their son from the cult he has joined, bring him to a cabin in the woods, and deprogram him. Present for the fun is their son’s baby mama and baby, as well as their other son.

jackals cast

Masked cult members show up, standing out in the woods watching the cabin like something out of…The Strangers. Stephen Dorff goes out to, well, I’d say kick them off the property, but you can imagine what really happens.

jackals johnathan

Next, the family inside does absolutely nothing to prepare themselves to fight back once the cult members begin busting in, even though they have way more of a heads-up about what is going to go down any minute than the characters in The Strangers did. So honestly, I couldn’t give two shits when everything you can predict is going to happen (especially if you’ve seen The Strangers) begins happening.

jackals deborah kara unger

Jackals is a bit more vicious than The Strangers and the “good guys” are even dumber. That’s all I got.

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O Holy Night, I’m doing a horror comedy showdown!

I originally intended to save Massacre on Aisle 12 for a roundup blog of Christmas horror for 2017, but after watching OMG…We’re in a Horror Movie and seeing the similarities – and drastic differences – between the two films, I decided to pair them together instead.

Both are indie horror comedies about a group of people who land in horror scenarios that are mostly of their own making. So why does one film work spectacularly while the other one was a chore to get through? 

OMG…WE’RE IN A HORROR MOVIE (2016)

omg horror movie cover

The cheeky title of this film tells you right off that it intends to be a self-aware, self-referential experience. Therefore, it is unfortunate that running jokes about horror tropes never stop running. Actually, they don’t run, they drag…on and on and on as if concerned that the audience just might not get the joke yet. A huge suggestion to all writers – if your horror movie runs longer than 90 minutes (this one is 107 minutes), chances are it is not because everything needs to be there. It’s more likely because a) there are too many redundancies, and/or b) you like the sound of your own creativity. Believe me, I know. Which is why I really need to try to make this blog brief.

While enjoying a game night together, a group of friends – a mix of white, black, Asian, straight, gay – is suddenly shocked to hear a voiceover for a movie trailer…the trailer for a horror movie that stars them.

 omg horror movie glowindark

Quickly coming to terms with their new reality, they begin recognizing their undoubted roles in the film – the white guy and girl know they will be the stars, three black friends realize there’s no way they are all lasting until the end, etc. And so they formulate plans for survival based on the rules of horror.

OMG horror movie drag

There is a masked killer, but that’s the least of their concerns. They all decide that the only way to stay alive is to make sure that the characters most likely to stay alive in a horror movie die first! So they begin turning on each other.

ong horror movie dance

I love the concept, the guys are cute, there’s some gay camp, and there are glimmers of comic gold. And the cast, which includes director/writer/star Ajale Bandele, makes an incredibly valiant effort to elevate the material to the level of quick and quirky that is its intent. But there’s too much material for it to be quick, and there are some great moments, there’s not enough wickedly clever material for it to be consistently quirky. An entire movie meant to be a horror cliché spoof becomes predominantly a stream of horror cliché spoof clichés. Are you following me here?

OMG horror movie mask

And like I said, the jokes go on forever. The black guys continuously debate the roles of black people in horror movies. The white guy persistently tries to convince the Asian lesbian that she’ll survive longer if they bump off the white girl and she sleeps with him.

omg horror movie drive

When two of the survivors make a getaway in a vehicle, the drive goes on for soooooo long that the part of my brain that loves to be entertained jumped in a getaway vehicle and took off without me, leaving me to die a slow, painful death.

omg horror movie zombie

But I’ll tell you who wouldn’t die: the cast. Because those who are killed come back…as zombies, which in itself adds some new fun and humor to the mix. If only the mixing had gone on for about 80 minutes instead of 107.

Damn, that was longer than I planned. But it’s so fricking good I’m not editing out a single word.

MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 (2016)

massacre on aisle 12 cover

It’s safe to say that I must see the upcoming film 6:66 P.M., because it involves virtually the same team that made this film, and this one is an instant classic for me.

massacre on aisle 12 santa

What does horror-based comedy Massacre on Aisle 12 do right? It has a smart, funny as hell script with no lag. Attention is given to every aspect of the humor, from over-the-top moments to the subtlest nuances. And the cast is flawless—everyone gets comedy and does it right.

massacre on aisle 12 lead

On Christmas Eve, a fricking adorable as hell young man comes to work at a hardware store.

massacre on aisle 12 manager

The zany manager (the film’s co-writer Chad Ridgely, who needs to be a comedy star ASAP) introduces him to all the quirky employees, including the store Santa and his slutty elf, the war damaged janitor, the resident bitchy girl, the obligatory black guy, the druggy, and the queenie head honcho in charge.

massacre on aisle 12 santa

Shit gets out of hand fast after closing, when they discover a big toolbox in aisle 12 filled with money…and a dead body.

massacre on aisle 12 scream

Members of the staff immediately begin vacillating between suspecting each other of being the murderer and plotting to cover it up and keep the money.

massacre on aisle 12 cast

This ignites a comedy of errors as paranoia leads to catastrophe, all trust is broken, and everyone is plunged into a bloody – and hilarious – game of cat and mouse.

massacre on aisle 12 black guy

masacre on aisle 12 janitor

Plus, we get to see the hottie leading man’s ass that seems to be about gay predatory behavior but is more about gay panic.

massacre on aisle 12 leadback

I’m counting the minutes until 6.66 P.M.

There. Now that is how you get to the point in a movie blog.

Posted in Johnny You ARE Queer - Gay Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, Scared Silly - Horror Comedy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

One gay teen, so many monsters…

closet monster cover

2015 film Closet Monster is worth covering on Boys, Bears & Scares because it not only intertwines some gruesome horror imagery into a tale of gay-bashing and a teen coming to terms with his sexuality, but the main character’s escape from the horrors of reality is the horror genre.

closet monster stake as teen

This is a wonderfully acted and heart-achingly real, emotional story of a teen who is not short of self-confidence in his identity as gay despite all the negativity that has swirled around him in his young life, including the usual societal attitudes towards homosexuality. There are very authentic details about how different types of people deal with the notion of sexual orientation, making this a very relatable film for gay viewers.

closet monster dad

We first get a glimpse of the teen’s childhood. He has a close relationship with his father, whose bedtime stories of creatures of the night seem to be what draw him into the world of horror.

closet monster stake

The boy is left with a single dad when the mother is shockingly removed from their life, plus the boy witnesses a horrific gay bashing in a cemetery.

closet monster cemetery

As a coping mechanism for these traumatic experiences, he has conversations with his hamster Buffy (wink wink), which is voiced by Isabella Rossellini.

closet monster hampster

We then pick up with him as a teen. He has big dreams of using horror to escape his small town life; he wants to move to the city and become a special effects makeup artist.

closet monster makeup work

He practices his horror makeup on his best female friend, and they do photo shoots of his work to build his portfolio.

closet monster horror makeup

But when a new boy enters the high school, it awakens his sexual urges.

closet monster kiss

While he begins to explore those feelings with the new kid, he is also plagued by horrific sexual nightmares that seem to be morally challenging his desires.

closet monster impale

His once loving relationship with his father has grown volatile, and it only begins to worsen as he discovers more about himself and sees how his father might respond to the truth. Both characters are flawed, making the dynamics between them that much more genuine and their clashes quite sad.

closet monster final blow

Everything comes to a head – from emotional hurt to imagined horror – on the night the teen flees reality for the comfort of his favorite fantasy.

closet monster come on at party

He attends a Friday the 13th costume party with his new male friend, but even his safe zone is haunted by the ghosts of judgment.

closet monster partypuke

Refreshingly, while this isn’t exactly an uplifting film, it also isn’t like the gay tragedies of the past. However, you won’t get a tidy, happy ending, nor will there be answers to every question you might have about what becomes of the characters. Closet Monster really is just a snapshot of a tough time in the life of a horror-loving gay boy.

closet monster main guys

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Son of a witch! It came from the 80s…and just won’t die

witchcraft 1 cover

I was working in the video store back in the late 80s when Witchcraft (1988) hit the shelves. I was on the verge of leaving my teen years behind to become a man, so the sinister satanic sacrificial cover art on the VHS tape couldn’t fool me. I knew this was going to be as bad as all the other direct-to-video crap that was ruining the horror genre as we moved towards the 1990s.

And yet…we are now up to SIXTEEN Witchcraft films. My OCD is letting me down, because I have absolutely no interest in watching every single film to write a massive blog about all of them. So I am just going to stick briefly to the two films released in the 80s, and throw in a bonus stud stalking segment for the rest of the films.

Witchcraft is directed by Rob Spera, who would go on to direct Leprechaun in the Hood and Bloody Murder 2. Use that information in whatever way you must to judge whether this film fits your taste in horror (I own both of those films…use that information in whatever way you must to judge my taste in horror).

witchcraft 1 couple

While giving birth to her baby, a woman has nightmares of a man and woman being burned at the stake (their faces get nice and crispy).

witchcraft 1 witches

After she delivers, she goes to recover in her mother-in-law’s mansion, where she experiences a cheesy 1980s version of Rosemary’s Baby.

witchcraft 1 hang

Approximately 2 exciting horror things happen in this film: the priest who comes to bless the baby ends up hung outside the house with his face a rotted mess, and the new mom’s best friend comes to visit, her head is hacked off, and it then levitates and spins in circles.

witchcraft 1 head spin

Okay, exactly 2 exciting horror things happen in this film. But that’s like 2 more than happen in that snoozefest Rosemary’s Baby. I mean…Rosemary’s Baby is a brilliant, terrifying classic and no one better dare ever suggest this film is more entertaining…

witchcraft 2 cover

Witchcraft II: The Temptress (1989) is the Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby of the franchise. Or perhaps it’s the first of them, because from what I’ve heard, a bunch of them are about the continuing story of the little baby from the first film as a grown man. Here he’s a horny teen who can’t get any from his girlfriend.

witchcraft 2 main guy sleep

Witchcraft II: The Temptress is as bad-good as every non-Freddy focused Freddy’s Nightmares episode, which makes sense considering they both come from the exact same (tragic) moment in horror history. After an 80s leather mistress living next door starts making moves on our main guy, he learns from his dad that he’s adopted, and his adoptive parents have been keeping him hidden from the evil witch coven. This 80s leather mistress is determined to seduce him so he will impregnate her with a hell baby.

witchcraft 2 knife

Witchcraft II has it all – numerous sexual seduction scenes, the 80s leather mistress going all primitive and simply stabbing people with a knife slasher style, and one intense scene of a chick being harassed by an unseen incubus.

witchcraft 2 witch

Sure, it’s a bad movie, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – 80s horror is just better when it’s about teenagers.

witchcraft 2 stake

And that’s about as much as I can take of the Witchcraft franchise. But since this series ends up going the erotic horror route, I did scour as many of the film as I could to find some hunky action.

WITCHCRAFT III: THE KISS OF DEATH (1991)witchcraft 3 cover

WITCHCRAFT IV: THE VIRGIN HEART (1992) witchcraft 4 coverLet the gay 90s begin…

WITCHCRAFT V: DANCE WITH THE DEVIL (1993)witchcraft 5 cover

WITCHCRAFT 8: SALEM’S GHOST (1996) witchcraft 8

(un)Holy false advertising! But at least the guy in the movie is as sexy as the guy on the poster.

WITCHCRAFT XII: IN THE LAIR OF THE SERPENT (2002) witchcraft 12 coverWarlock of the Nipple Rings.

WITCHCRAFT 13: BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN (2008)witchcraft 13 cover

Am I the only one fantasizing that he’s winding up to administer some warlock whacks in that pic on the left?

Posted in Living in the 80s - forever, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Scare Wars: witches, a slasher, and body horror

After months of being so far behind in life in general, I think I’m getting back on track—especially with horror since Halloween is on the way. So I’ll be chipping away at my aging “must-see” list to discover which titles really should not have been on there. Let’s see how the first three did.

THE COVEN (2015)

coven cover

I was itching to see this one for quite a while. I should have just put some Hydrocortisone on that shit and moved on with my life.

How could another movie about witches be made that is as excruciatingly boring as The Blair Witch Project?

A teacher talks to his students about the Wiccan religion and mentions the history of a coven that used to meet in the woods near their town. So on Halloween night, three girls decide to go look for the spot where the coven used to meet.

coven lucifer tomb

There’s a “Lucifer” tombstone in the woods. The girls hang out in a tent and party. They have a Jack O’ Lantern with them to at least give us some holiday spirit.

coven pumpkin

They keep seeing a fleeting figure in the woods.

coven hoodie

Meanwhile, two boys also enter the woods. They are attacked by a bat and one of them is hurt, so the other goes to get help.

coven spotlight

Eventually, they all start having run-ins with a headlight that I can only assume is attached to a ghostly motorcycle? Seriously, I can’t with this movie.

RITES OF PASSAGE (2012)

rites of passage cover

I barely even know where to begin with this one. I’m not sure I would tell anyone not to watch it because the fact that it’s such a mess is what makes it such a curiosity and oddly entertaining—although it still should have been shaved down from 102 minutes to about 85.

So…Stephen Dorff (Blade, Jackals, Botched, Alone in the Dark, Feardotcom, Cold Creek Manor) is a college professor taking his class to an old ranch that was once a burial ground to do an ancient Native American ceremony.

Meanwhile, Wes Bentley is the fucked up brother of one of the students, who hangs out in a huge greenhouse on the ranch and does a whole lot of psychotropic drugs, which causes him to see every girl he looks at dressed in a slutty Indian outfit. He also has a buddy hanging out on the property with him – Christian Slater giving a local theater community performance as a rifle-toting hobo character who converses with a sock puppet that talks like Speedy Gonzales.

rites of passage slater

This is sort of a slasher. Before the trip, the kids party – the hot guy gets shirtless a lot and even walks in on another guy jerking off.

rites of passage jerkoff

Wes stumbles into the party all messed up on his drugs, but the brother swears he’s harmless.

Is he? It’s hard to tell. Once the kids arrive at the ranch, there’s conveniently a beach right there. Stephen Dorff acts just like one of the kids as he joins in on a total war of words between a bunch of girls. Then some other chick runs into Wes and Slater and goes on this huge anti-gay rant. It’s quite satisfying when Slater punches the bitch in the face.

Other than that, quite often the kids die accidentally. Not that Slater doesn’t want to kill them. He runs around with his gun in the greenhouse, while Wes runs around trying to stop him from killing anyone…sort of. It’s just a mess of running and screaming with what I’m convinced are absolutely intentional laughs thrown in. The absurdity here can’t possibly be accidental. I mean, one guy steps in a bear trap and spends the rest of the movie dragging the bear trap around on his foot in the greenhouse as he tries to stay alive…even when he bursts in to play the hero. There’s no way to not laugh at that.

rites of passage fire

A few things could have made this more of an actual horror film. First, Stephen Dorff’s unauthoritative teacher role could have been cut completely – when everyone’s at the house getting chased and killed, he’s out on the beach by himself doing the fricking Native American ritual (which in no way plays any kind of supernatural role in the film). Next, just get rid of Slater and make Wes the intoxicated psycho killer. He’s much more convincing as an ominous threat than Slater with his bad wig, bad false rotting teeth, and sock puppet.

rites of passage wes and briana

Even with a drastic need for an overhaul to make it a better movie, there is one scene that nearly has me leaning toward adding this film to my collection. The always awesome Briana Evigan (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Paranormal Island, The Devil’s Carnival, Mine Games, Mother’s Day remake, House of the Damned, Sorority Row) gets one of the best fucking chase scenes EVER. I find it hard to believe that it even comes from the same movie, because it sets a bar that the rest of the movie can never even get near. Yep…I have to go buy the film now.

BITE (2015)

bite 2015 cover

Girls go on a tropical bachelorette party weekend. Bride-to-be gets bitten by something while swimming. When she gets home, she begins to feel…different. Pretty soon, she begins to look really fucking different. EEK!

bite 2015 changing

Bite is about as straightforward as body horror can get and is virtually a clone of some of the major titles you’ve seen in the past few years, complete with moral messages about pre-marital sex, infidelity, and STDs. Not to mention, the mother of the girl’s fiancé is virtually a cartoon rendition of the hateful mother-in-law stereotype.

bite blonde

The thing is, the film is also so fricking accessible and pretty damn perfectly follows the template of “metamorphosis” horror flicks.

bite beads

It does just what you want it to do (aka: expect it to do), is just gross enough and scary enough, and puts you in that uncomfortable position of feeling bad for basically everyone affected by the situation, despite their flaws.

bite 2015 boyfriend

And what’s best is, while the girls in those other body horror films kind of just rot away in their apartments and it’s kind of incidental when they kill those who wander into their world, this chick turns monstrous and embraces that shit.

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It’s back to the woods for some brutal kills

One’s just a hiking dude. Another is a masked psycho. And the third is…well, we still don’t know what he is, but he’s pissed. I take a look at backwoods slashers Capps Crossing, Bastard, and Playing with Dolls: Havoc.

CAPPS CROSSING (2017)

capps crossing cover

Think about movies like the second and third Sleepaway Camp films. You know from the start Angela is the killer. She’s not a particularly threatening looking figure. The plot is, she has all these victims who didn’t do shit to her at her disposal in the woods. I mean, who really cares about the other characters? We’re just watching to see how they’re going to die. Those two absolutely hollow films with no characters to connect with, no scares, deaths that are more laughable than disturbing, and “humor” that couldn’t trick you into a giggle if the Family Ties laugh track was dropped in are cult favorites.

Having said that, if you claim Capps Crossing is “the worst movie ever,” I will roll my eyes so hard the wind power created by them will pick you up and throw you off a cliff. At least David, the all-American looking kid in Capps Crossing, means business when he stabs the fuck out of the people he comes across in the woods.

capps crossing hand

While Angela was so angry because she had her balls cut off by her aunt, David is angry because he had his balls figuratively removed by his girlfriend when she dumped him. Now he just hangs out in the area where the breakup occurred and kills anyone who happens by.

capps crossing spear

Meanwhile, the group of friends that comes camping in the woods is dealing with some drama involving half the group hating the guy that one of the girls is going to marry. So they all decide to split up…making things much easier for David.

capps crossing knife bend
KILLER ASS.

Capps Crossing has a few montages with some slammin’ dance music, and the guys are cute as hell.

capps crossing pretty boy 2

Look at those eyes, those lips…those pits. But I’d trade you three pieces of that lean meat for this one slab of beefcake. Pass the BBQ sauce…and the cherry cola, because that’s a lot of man to swallow and I’m going to need something to wash him down.

capps crossing beefcake

capps crossing pink shirt
Real men wear pink…and have nipple erections.

This next part made me butter my popcorn. One of the hottest gay-baiting duos ever…

capps crossing rub

So…oh yeah. The movie. David doesn’t hold back or try to be inventive when he kills. He just uses as much fury and force as necessary to get the job done.

capps crossing brains

He’s also plagued by various flashbacks, some of which I didn’t totally understand. And finally, there’s a twist at the end, but veteran horror fans will probably figure it out.

BASTARD (2015)

bastardcover

Bastard is an oddity in the world of backwoods slashers in that there’s a single part of it (near the end) that is about as typical as the formula gets, yet everything that happens around that simple slasher scenario is so fricking weird and sprinkled with wicked gore and oddly, darkly humorous moments that you can’t go into it expecting just another slasher flick.

bastardhammer to head

The unique approach here is that the “group” that comes to a place in the woods – a bed & breakfast this time – consists of people who are strangers to each other. We learn just enough about all of them to know they have issues. One couple is a pair of murderous psychos. Seriously. A young teen and his quiet female companion have run away from home. And a guy on his own is a suicidal gay cop who was trying to hang himself while in partial drag when his hot man walked in on him.

bastardhang

There’s also a killer in a hoodie and mask that brings to mind The Hills Run Red or Valentine.

bastard mask

After all the character development, the first major kill fricking rox – a hot bartender is about to get pegged by his strap-on girlfriend on the beach when they’re interrupted. I wish I could say it was by the gay cop, knocking that bitch off the bartender for trying to do a man’s job. But sadly, there’s no further exploration of the gay cop’s gayness. But there is deeper exploration of the bartender’s posterior. Ouch.

bastardgag

Following that initial kill, the film pretty much goes into its mini-slasher segment, with all the kills coming on fast. The score is very Carpenter-esque, there’s great gore, and the killer reveal is just completely out there, opening the film up for a final bizarre act.

bastardspine pull

Bastard makes you feel like you’re continuously leaving one movie and entering another. That approach definitely leaves your head spinning and a lot of questions unanswered, but damned if it isn’t one entertaining mess that delivers the horror like few slashers do these days.

PLAYING WITH DOLLS HAVOC (2017)

playing with dolls havoc cover

It’s here! The third film in Rene Perez’s slasher franchise has arrived, and the freaky killer is at it again in a house in the woods. Who’s not at it is the boss that sets this beast free for fun – Richard Tyson. While he doesn’t appear in the film this time, he’s mentioned, so he’s still the mastermind behind the massacres.

playing with dolls havoc doll

If you’ve seen the first two films, the blueprint stays the same. Perez’s formula of heart-stopping jump scares and horrendously savage kills without CGI are what it’s all about.

playing with dolls havoc military gut

Really, this franchise is essentially Friday the 13th for the new millennium. People come to a cabin or house in the woods and are savagely murdered by an unearthly, powerhouse figure. Every. Time. And I just keep coming back for more.

playing with dolls havoc male friend splatter

The plot does have a dastardly catch in this installment – a woman comes to her weekend getaway home to surprise her husband, who is staying there while on business. But both husband and wife are in for an even bigger surprise when an unexpected guest shows up…and I’m not talking about the killer. Of course, he complicates matters even more.

playing with dolls other girl in snow

Just like the Friday the 13th franchise, with all the familiar slasher situations in Playing with Dolls: Havoc, there are some standout moments. This one has a kick ass “hide under the bed” scene and a chase through the snow that puts both the main girl and the killer in a predicament I’ve never seen before in a slasher. Fricking AWESOME. Dammit, this series needs to be on DVD like yesterday.

playing with dolls havoc main girl drag

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Killer clowns from a torture chamber…and a coffin…and an app…

Big nose, painted face, flaming orange hair, nasty grin. The plot to desensitize the world to scary clowns is never-ending. And you can’t get away from them in horror flicks either – killer dolls, slashers, zombies, anthologies, Halloween films… They’re everywhere! Including this trio of films.

CIRCUS OF THE DEAD (2014)

circus of the dead cover

No, they’re not zombie clowns. It’s Cirxploitation! If you attempt to read between the lines, Circus of the Dead is a story of a man learning a brutal lesson about the importance of family. But the lines are one big run-on of torture, rape, necrophilia, and mutilation. Done quite effectively I’ll admit, but I personally can only endure so much before I need more compelling horror stimulation.

circus of the dead oberst

Most compelling here is indie actor Bill Oberst Jr., who will hopefully go down in horror history as an icon someday. His performance as the psycho gang leader of the killer clowns elevates the film above mere shock for shock’s sake.

circus of the dead boob squeeze

He and his cronies keep people stored away in a vault in their circus tent and torture the fuck out of them between shows (gorehounds take note – it’s brutal) and in their shows as part of the act.

circus of the dead volunteer

When a man (Parrish Randall, another indie horror actor who gives a notable performance) brings his wife and two daughters to the circus, the clowns take a shine to him.

circus of the dead leading man

Soon after, they go to his house and take a shine to his whole family.

The film reaches new levels of depravity when Oberst makes the guy watch while he does the unthinkable to the wife (really, it’s worse than you think).

circus of the dead clown gang

And then…the clowns take the guy on a sadistic raping, torturing, and killing spree around town.

circus of the dead wife head

This goes on for most of the movie, and he only fights back when Oberst shows him his dick. Go figure.

THE NIGHT WATCHMEN (2016)

night watchmen cover

Mitchell Altieri, part of the duo behind The Violent Kind, The Hamiltons, The Thompsons, Holy Ghost People, and the April Fool’s Day remake, goes it alone with this vampire comedy. It’s also co-written by two of the film’s stars, Dan Deluca and horror stud Ken Arnold (ParaAbnormal, Lovely Molly, The Haunting of Pearson Place, The Legend of the Mad Axeman). He’s the dude with his fist around wood in the pic below.

night watchmen leads

The same night three security guards at an office have to train the young new guy, a coffin is accidentally delivered to the building. While the trio is busy goofing off, showing the new guy the ropes and trying to flirt with the female office workers, the office perv (Samantha’s mature man from Sex and the City) wanders into the loading area and opens the coffin.

night watchmen clown in coffin

CLOWN. Fucking clowning. Fucking vampire clown. What the fuck with a vampire clown in a coffin? Wasn’t that a Carly Simon song? I had some dreams they were clowns in my coffin, clowns in my coffin…

night watchmen cast with young guy

The initial banter between the characters before the coffin is open had me thinking the comedy wasn’t going to amount to much in this film. However, once the clown comes out, the vicious vampirism spreads quickly and the humor blows up.

night watchmen vamp girl

I was laughing out loud as these guys face an onslaught of snarling vamps…or more often, run from them screaming in terror.

night watchmen screams

The cast is great and it’s a perfect balance of campy and tasteless humor, suspense, action, gore, and horror with no lag.

night watchmen more cast

Plus, Tiffany Shepis makes a brief appearance, the vampire clown horror multiplies, and I could watch Ken Arnold running around screaming in a tight uniform for hours. Look at those wood poking muscles…

night watchmen stake

BEDEVILED (2016)

bedeviled cover

Pennywise…the app?

Not that it makes much sense, but there’s a whole lot of scary clown action when a group of friends starts using this app that can somehow do anything for you – from turning on your washing machine to turning off your lights.

bedeviled clown reach

Yeah, you really don’t want it to turn off your lights.

bedeviled behind him

Pretty soon, the kids start seeing manifestations of scary figures in the shadows or out of the corner of their eyes, from freaky clowns to a freaky contortionist granny.

bedeviled crawling granny

That’s the cool thing about Bedeviled – there’s a whole lot of freaky things lurking in the shadows…even a psycho Teddy bear at one point. Awesome. But with that comes endless jolting music cues to make tweens scream. It’s loads of fun, but just know that’s about as deep as it gets here.

bedeviled clown boss

The latest in a growing list of movies adapting to current technology to scare the younger horror generation, Bedeviled reminds me of films from the mid-2000s, the era of Pulse, Darkness Falls, The Boogeyman, etc. There’s no denying it’s good clean scary fun when you’re really in the mood for a bowl of popcorn and a cherry cola.

bedeviled soo hoo

The cast includes Brandon Soo Hoo of the From Dusk Till Dawn series, Saxon Sharbino (Poltergeist remake, I Spit On Your Grave remake), and sexy Mitchell Edwards (Gorenos). Trying to find a photo of him shirtless wasn’t easy. This one on his Twitter profile was the best I could do…

mitchell edwards collage

And finally, just to add a little commentary about race, horror clichés, and how they could have been handled differently in this film, ***SPOILERS*** considering “the black guy” makes a quip about how proud he is that he lasted longer than he’s supposed to when it’s down to the final two, it would have been a really refreshing twist if he had been the one to survive instead of the blonde, blue-eyed white girl…

bedeviled leads

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Now on Blu-ray: a flashback foursome spanning a decade

The hits and obscurities just keep coming to Blu-ray – in many cases films that never even made it to DVD – thanks to some great companies digging into the vaults. And if it came from the 80s or 90s, for me it’s a must-buy, so I look at 4 recent releases that take us from 1982 – 1991: The Slayer thanks to Arrow Video; Tenement thanks to Shriek Show; Amsterdamned thanks to Blue Underground; The Resurrected thanks to Shout! Factory.

THE SLAYER (1982)

slayer 1982 cover

Prolific horror screenplay writer JS Cardone, who also did some horror directing over the decades (Shadowzone, The Forsaken, Wicked Little Things) got his start in both with the film The Slayer.

slayer monster hand

The film is a hodgepodge of horror clichés of the time – people stranded on an island are killed off slasher style by an unseen creature as one woman has paranoid premonitions about the danger.

slayer guy corpse

Actually, she’s the reason they’re there. The excursion is supposed to be a form of therapy. Why she doesn’t run screaming when she enters the very cabin she dreamed about being attacked in during the opening scene is beyond me. Whatever. But hey, the hideous claw in that opener is what kept me watching.

slayer head kiss

The island is isolated and creepy. The atmosphere is great. There’s killer POV. There are gruesome body reveals. There are some unique and gory kills, like a head severed by a trap door and a chick stabbed through the tits…from behind.

slayer tit kill

On the downside, the boring characters are forgettable (80s horror should never be about middle-aged people), a huge chunk of time is spent looking for the first victim, and the main girl is such a mess you can’t connect with her. I mean, after she sees all her friends dead (which includes her husband and her brother), she runs back to the cabin to have a ciggie and a cup of tea.

slayer tea and ciggie

Plus, you would think her premonitions would have clued her in to the fact that the monster is going to come get her when she’s alone in the cabin.

slayer dead woman body

And finally, The Slayer does something so obnoxiously 80s I don’t know how I put up with it for a decade…the second you finally see the monster you’ve been waiting the whole film to see, the movie ends.

TENEMENT (1985)

tenement cover

Director Roberta Findlay will probably never get recognized for playing hardball in the male dominated world of exploitation cinema from the 1960s through the 1980s, but I give her even more credit for exploiting the 80s so perfectly in Tenement, beginning with the wannabe Grandmaster Flash theme song.

tenement stab

And as always in the 80s, no matter how vicious a street gang was supposed to be, they all looked really, really gay.

tenement gang leader

This particular gang decides to terrorize the tenants of a big apartment building. They kill a guy’s pet, cut the phone wires and then…well…what begins as a gang rape gets really ugly when the woman fights back – with a knife to the eye. In return, she gets…a broom handle…

tenement tenants

The weird thing about watching movies like this now is that exploitation cinema has gotten so detailed in its depiction of violence since back then that a scene like this feels terribly amateur. From the camera angles to the audio to the quick execution, it’s so clear the act is simulated that it feels like the film is afraid to dwell on just how horrific it would actually be to do such a thing. Which is why 80s movies were so much fun! You know, even when a chick gets fucked to death by a broom handle, it still kind of feels like you are just watching The Outsiders.

tenement cute guy dead

The gore and violence do ramp up as the tenants – from little kids with pots of boiling water to an old lady with a bat – start to fight back, setting wicked booby traps for the baddies. And the baddies show their bizarre sadistic sides as they revel in spilling blood and even rubbing it all over themselves during sex.

tenement bloody face

But like I said, even with some gruesome kills, the cheesy 80s low budget feel (like a falling lady’s scream continuing even after you hear the thud of her hitting the ground) makes Tenement seem pretty campy these days.

AMSTERDAMNED (1988)

amsterdamned cover

Dick Maas is another filmmaker who has been making horror for decades, beginning with his 1983 killer elevator film The Lift to the visually stunning 2010 Christmas horror flick Saint Nick.

amsterdamned underwater corpse

Amsterdamned is really cool because it blatantly rips off Jaws…in a slasher. See, the killer wears a diving suit and mask and swims around the canal of Amsterdam (there’s literally Jaws POV) yanking people into the water.

amsterdamned float crotch

The kills are highly entertaining, and the body reveals the next morning are even better, but it is the same thing over and over. Murder, body reveal, detective on case does some investigating. Rinse and repeat.

amsterdamned boat tour

Occasionally this is interrupted with a high-speed chase on a motorcycle or speedboat, plus a few diving scenes with Jaws copycat scares (copyshark?), but having the detective as main character constantly takes you away from the horror.

amsterdamned boat chase

Even with many kills, body reveals, and a masked killer with a knife, this doesn’t feel like a slasher because there’s no set group of targets (aka: kids partying and having sex), and I didn’t care one way or the other about the woman shoehorned into a “final girl” scenario.

amsterdamned body part drag

There is a hideous reveal when the mask is finally removed, but it comes with a lot more exposition than I generally need from a 1980s flick about a killer in a mask.

THE RESURRECTED (1991)

 resurrected cover

Dan O’Bannon wrote a bunch of horror screenplays in the 80s, but also did some directing. Actually, he only directed two films, which is shocking considering one of them is the cult classic The Return of the Living Dead.

resurrected leads

The other was this film, based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. There’s almost a film noir tone to it as Ross Geller’s lesbian ex-wife hires and works with a detective (who narrates) to find out why her husband has run away from home and locked himself up in a family cabin.

resurrected chris sarandon

Chris Sarandon plays the husband and spends most of his time acting like he’s the vampire from Fright Night once again. The film is rather slow – he becomes noticeably more decrepit each time they visit, while the detective is distracted by some grisly murders around town and his assistant (that jerk who knocked up Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fast Times) is uncovering links to the occult.

resurrected deformity

For me, the film is worth watching for the final act, when the detective, his assistant, and his client discover tunnels beneath the cabin. This is when the horror really begins (and ends too soon).

resurrected naked

They learn the grisly truth of what the husband is up to (complete with cheesy period piece flashbacks), and finally encounter the monstrous mutations that have resulted from his experimentation.

resurrected monster

And the nightmarish scenario is all played out between desperate attempts to keep striking matches so they’ll have some light by which to see in the dark. EEK!

resurrected laser effects

On top of that, there’s a fun twist at the end.

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Three degrees of horror separation

Maxine Bahns, John Schneider, Andrew Bowen. Scarred, Smothered, Conjurer. Three names, three movies, and the horror ties that bind them together! 

SCARRED (2005)

scarred 2005 cover

It always comes back to me getting my jollies from the most simplistic, trashiest horror selections in the bunch. This time, it’s a crazy, faceless woman in the woods!

scared 2005 mud pack

After the initial sex and scares intro scene, we meet a family – dad, Maxine Bahns as the stepmom , son, daughter, and her friend – heading into the woods for a weekend of camping.

scarred 2005 cast

A cute park ranger stops by their campfire to say hello, and launches into a gruesome tale of the legend of the scar-faced woman.

scarred 2005 ranger

And that’s all there is to it. The family members retire to their tents, but of course the kids sneak out to go have some fun. Pretty soon, the slashing and screaming begin.

scarred 2005 lipstick

Scar-faced chick is cheesy creepy awesome, is a pro at making surprise appearances to scare her victims, has a lair filled with human masks, and grotesquely likes to try them on.

scarred 2005 lair face

While the first few face peels are only shown after the deed is done, we get to witness a fully detailed procedure near the end of the film. It is fucking heinous.

scarred 2005 face peel

And finally, I fricking love how the main girl handles her confrontation with scar-faced woman, plus the final scare might seem so hokey if you’re watching the film at home, but I’ll bet it was the perfect ending to liven up an audience at film festivals.

CONJURER (2008)

conjurer cover

8 years after co-directing the cult favorite anthology Terror Tract, Clint Hutchinson returned with his own full-length feature about a couple that moves into a house in the country—and for a change, it’s the husband that begins to believe some seriously weird shit is going on.

conjurer creepy shed

This film is the glue that holds this blog together thanks to its cast. Andrew Bowen (Holidays, Big Bad Wolf) is the husband and Maxine Bahns is the wife, with Hazzard hottie John Schneider in a minor role as the brother who hooks her up with the place.

conjurer cast

While exploring a creepy shed/cabin on their property, Bowen gets cut on teeth stuck in the doorframe, and begins having nightmares about the structure.

conjurer tooth

As he experiences more and more strange occurrences, he learns about a Civil War-era history of witchcraft on the land, making his daytime sighting of a witchy figure in the woods the most chilling scene in the movie.

conjurer witch in weeds

Sadly.

conjurer witch hand grab

On the positive side, it’s more witch than we get in that Blair Witch mess from back in the day, but after that brief glimpse filled me with so much dread for what was to come, Bowen spends most of the movie fighting crows and losing his shit.

conjurer crow fight

I think maybe if I took that sighting in the woods scene and slapped it onto the end of Blair Witch, the result might actually be one full witch movie worth watching.

conjurer rocking chair

But seriously, there is one other brief encounter with the witch in full force during the climatic moments of the film, but by then it feels sort of obligatory.

SMOTHERED (2016)

smothered cover

And finally, there’s Smothered. I have no idea what sparked John Schneider of all people to create such a project. Sure, he’s gotten into some cheeky SyFy horror in recent years, but he isn’t exactly ingrained in the genre.

smothered schneider

Damn, I just want to hang from that nipple by my teeth for the rest of my life. Well, unless John dies before me. There’s no air six feet under.

John writes and directs this film about a group of very specific horror names ditching a horror convention and taking a job working at a trailer park haunt. It’s kind of like The Expendables of horror pre-Death House, the self-proclaimed one that’s on its way.

smothered look down

If only it were as fun as it sounds.

On board the RV for this road trip is Kane Hodder (Jason in Friday the 13th films), R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), Bill Moseley (Chop-Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre II), Don Shanks (unmasked Michael Myers in Halloween V), and Malcolm Danare, who spends the film arguing that he’s not really a horror icon because he only appeared in Christine (although he actually also appeared in Popcorn and made a major impression in The Curse when he showed off his hairy buns).

smothere RA

As a bonus, Andrew Bowen makes a brief appearance shirtless in a sex scene at the beginning of the film. Delicious. I guess he owed John some sort of favor after they appeared together in Conjurer…

smothered shanks

While it’s fun watching the playful banter and self-deprecating humor as these guys all basically play themselves, it’s incomprehensible that Schneider made a film with such a potential-loaded plot that goes absolutely nowhere.

After a couple of pit stops on the way to the trailer park haunting location, the crew spends all their time hanging at the RV doing I don’t even know what.

smothered picnic table

Honestly, they never even get to the haunting part. I got so bored, I couldn’t even stay focused. Okay, the boredom added to my inability to stay focused…

Not helping matters is the fact that this non-story also pulls the time shift stunt, so when people eventually start dying, shit gets really confusing because suddenly they’re alive again…then dead again…then alive again.

It’s over an hour into the movie before someone is actually killed directly by the murderer on screen – I think…unless I missed something while I was busy wondering what I should watch next while trying to swat this gnat that has been in my house all summer and seems to find the front of my face no matter what room I’m in. At least the kill pays off, because it involves use of a wire and it is gnarly.

smothered mask and moseley

Only Kane Hodder gets a chance to play like he’s in an actual horror movie, facing off against the killer in the end. If only the rest of the film could have captured the spirit of Kane’s big final guy scene.

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