Let’s play good cop, bad cop…bad cop….bad cop

Known for directing some classic horror/horror comedy trash (It’s Alive, The Stuff, God Told Me To, Full Moon High, The Ambulance, Q: The Winged Serpent, Wicked Stepmother, A Return to Salem’s Lot), Larry Cohen actually pens the Maniac Cop trilogy, while William Lustig (Uncle Sam, 1980’s Maniac) handles the directing duties. They totally feel like Cohen films.

MANIAC COP (1988)

Maniac Cop is a fun time killer from the late 80s, but I think many fans—including myself—are guilty of giving it more love than it deserves simply because both Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell are in it.

Truth is, neither icon is at the top of his horror game here or bothering to give it his all. Even more disappointing is that they don’t work together. In an odd move, Atkins is on the case for the first part of the film and then Campbell takes over the takedown of Maniac Cop in the second part.

Maniac Cop goes around the city killing people, but Robocop he isn’t. He kills innocent people! In an interesting reflection on a still troubling issue in our society, people begin distrusting the police as a result of the  serial killer cop on the loose.

We do get a prison shower scene that explains what killed Maniac Cop in the first place and why he’s so angry, but that still doesn’t excuse who he chooses to kill.

This is not a scary film or even humorous (again, our two leading men are a total letdown), and the kills aren’t particularly hardcore (except the shower scene which is brutal), but it does at least move at a fast pace, and there’s a thrilling car chase with Bruce and his love interest detective against Maniac Cop at the end.

Keep an eye out for Blanche’s sister Virginia from The Golden Girls.

MANIAC COP 2 (1990)

After a quick recap of the first film, Bruce and his lady are sent to therapy for believing that the Maniac Cop came back from the dead in the first place.

Meanwhile, it’s Christmas time, strippers are being killed, and veteran actor Robert Davi is on the case. Just like the first film, the detecting duties are handed off; Bruce is out not too far into the film, and Davi is in. It’s kind of a clever move once you get into it being a thing for the series.

The plot is sloppy and disjointed, with Leo Rossi (Halloween II, Relentless movies) playing the stripper killer while Maniac Cop has a new tactic; he kills innocent people who are falling victim of petty crimes and sets it up to look like the bad guy killed them.

Will this cop ever get on the right side of the law?

At some point, Rossi joins forces with him, ruining his mystique.

Part 2 is definitely more fun than the first in terms of violence, and overall I enjoy it more. What wins it for me is a long scene in which the therapist is handcuffed to a steering wheel during a chase…while hanging on to the outside of the car! I couldn’t help but be reminded of the car chase scene in Larry Cohen’s film The Ambulance.

Maniac Cop also gets a hip hop theme song during the closing credits.

 

MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE (1993)

This one makes the second film look well written. It’s so bad I had to dig deeper to find out why. Turns out the movie clocked in at 50 minutes when Lustig was done filming, so the studio beefed up the running time by incorporating unused scenes from the second film and adding some new scenes Lustig didn’t direct.

The film begins with Maniac Cop being resurrected by some voodoo dude. Ugh. The series has definitely been infected by the 90s horror disease. It’s all downhill from there, with a large chunk of the film taking place in a hospital, which just lost me. There’s also some reporter dude running around filming everything just to add to the mess, plus that voodoo dude.

Most disappointing is that Robert Davi is the focus of the entire movie instead of it being handed off to someone else as in the other films. I guess Michael Ironside wasn’t available.

Meanwhile, it’s beyond me how this horrible sequel also includes numerous well-known actors, including Doug Savant, Robert Forster, and Mr. Vernon from The Breakfast Club.

The only thing I really liked about the third and final film is the mandatory car chase…with Maniac Cop on fire throughout the whole scene!

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5 movies—3 decades of horror nostalgia

A slasher, a big rat sequel, aliens, a vampire, a mummy, and even some man hotness along the way. I take a look back five ranging from 1982 through 2006.

ISLAND OF BLOOD (1982)

An 80s slasher so obscure I didn’t even know it existed. Seriously, if there’s a movie we didn’t have in the video store I worked in, which opened in 1981, that shit is way obscure.

Island of Blood ticks off all the right boxes for 80s slashers, but it’s not a very good movie. However, it’s a pretty awesome flick if you missed it the first time around because it gives you the early 80s video store trip feels big time.

A low budget film crew heads to an isolated island to film a movie, then a killer we never see (so there’s no mask) starts killing them off, leaving a Walkman playing a horrible attempt at new wave. Seriously, they should have spent the whole budget licensing a song by The Knack or The Romantics.

While the opening kill has a great 80s POV setup with a good horror score, it’s a fricking gun kill! What the hell?

Luckily the kills get better—acid, hot water, machete, chainsaw—but everything in between is just filler. I seriously had no idea what was going on, and the terrible lighting leaves everything dark, which didn’t help. However, there is a long final girl chase, body reveals, and a knife through glass jump scare that fails miserably to scare.

I must say though, the fact that the killer throws the Walkman in a pool in one of the first kills and then it still works for every other kill is pretty damn impressive. They just don’t make shit like they used to.

GNAW: FOOD OF THE GODS II (1989)

Can’t imagine why they would decide to make a movie based on a title from almost 15 years prior, but it was the end of the 80s, the height of the anything goes horror era. And this silly fun movie just lets it all go.

Forget the island from the original Food of the Gods, not to mention the origin of how the rats grew. This is a fresh story revolving around experiments in a college lab and a bunch of student animal rights activists.

The hot leading man is trying to help a scientist woman who accidentally created a growth hormone that turned a little boy into a bit of a giant. Naturally, that stuff is so going to get to the lab animals. Sadly, there’s no animal variety here as in the original. It’s ALL giant rats. And the animal protestors accidentally unleash them while braking into the lab to trash it. This includes smashing a case of floppy discs. I seriously still have the exact same case.

While there’s some good rat attack fun, what makes this one even better is that it’s totally late 80s crap and doesn’t take itself seriously. Some of my favorite scenes include a dude doing the penguin walk to get away from a rat that just bit him in the ass…

A fricking synchronized swimming montage that turns into a massive rat attack in a gym…

And an amazing sex scene in which the dude proves to be a major grower while he’s inside a girl.

PROGENY (1998)

Director Brian Yuzna offers up an alien abduction film that doesn’t go for the unnerving, frightening tone of films like Communion or Fire in the Sky, but for a simple cheesy, sexualized, icky, exploitative tale of invasion and violation.

Sexy Arnold Vosloo (Brendan Frasier’s mummy buddy) shows plenty of his fantastic ass…

I mean, he plays a doctor who has a lot of sex with his wife. Eventually she gets pregnant.

But both of them are having disturbing PTSD about—this is so awesome—him being lifted out and off of her mid-coitus so that aliens can do nasty things to her.

Much of the alien stuff is shown through hypnosis sessions at a therapist, and they really are just drive-in trashy fun.

Eventually Vosloo enlists the help of an alien expert, played by Brad Dourif, to, well…let’s just say this is an alien abduction abortion flick.

Is it a mind-blowing film? No. Is it super scary? No. It’s a fairly standard 90s direct-to-video film. but the invasion scenes are disturbing and, well, there’s that ass.

COLD & DARK (2005)

Luke Goss has carved quite a career as a horror hunk post-Bros music career. This is one of his earlier films, but it delivers both the horror (with some awesome gore and mutant man hand), and the hunk (Luke’s pert nipples on display during his soaking bath tub scenes).

Too bad the plot is such a drag.

The concept is cool. Goss is a detective who teams up with another detective to fight crime using the partner’s secret weapon…the worm with teeth that springs from his palm to suck the blood he needs from victims to stay alive.

So what better way to kill two birds with one stone than to feed on evil bad guys?

Of course, something is bound to go wrong with that plan…

That’s all totally awesome, but what gets in the way is that I have no idea what the fuck was going on between the kills. And I swear it wasn’t because of my attention span’s extreme demands—I watched it with my hubba hubba and he was asking me if I could explain what the hell was going on.

It just feels like random, disjointed confrontations with unrelated bad guys go on with no clear story arc, and each scene is super boring. Even Goss learning of his partner’s issue was weakly presented and underplayed, especially considering we learn of it in a rockin’ glory hole scene!

Watch it for the great horror scenes, but be prepared to be bored between them.

PETRIFIED (2006)

It’s crazy that I’m now nostalgic for bad Charles Band Full Moon movies from the early 2000s. I think it’s a result of craving the vibe of any time before the awful state of this country now—a time when there was hope for all and we weren’t quickly heading towards a Christian led dictatorship spearheaded by one of the biggest enemies of the U.S.

Therefore, this ridiculous movie is essentially getting a heavily skewered appreciation from me. An attempt to illegally sell a mummy goes wrong when the mummy comes to life in a blaze of green light.

Next, a bunch of people end up at the home of a not so scary evil scientist trying to perfect immorality using sexuality. In this case sexuality refers strictly to all the lesbians running around his home hooking up.

it’s trashy, it’s not scary, the pacing is terrible, and there’s too much talking…not to mention way too many lesbians…but the mummy looks way cool, and there’s a great line about muff diving an old hag.

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Beware 3 masked killers of the last ten years

Sometimes you just need a break from smart horror (personally, I need a permanent break). So, are these three slasher worth a watch? Let’s take a quick look.

GNAW (2008)

It’s baffling that a backwoods cannibal family movie could be so derivative from start to finish…and still keep me totally entertained. Yeah right. Not baffling at all.

There isn’t a single moment of Gnaw that you won’t predict. Friends go to a house in the woods. The nice but weird lady who rents it to them bakes very special pies. And they eat them! Idiots. I won’t even eat food people I know make, let alone a stranger who looks like this.

The kids have interpersonal relationship drama. Then they start falling into the hands of a masked psychotic whenever they leave the house and go into the woods solo.

There’s a torture and dismemberment lair.

The killer’s identity is no secret because he only wears his mask during the kills. There’s even a bear trap.

But hey, the death scenes are brutal and awesome without too much in the way of torture porn. Plus, more than one character fights back big time, which is quite refreshing.

BLOOD SLAUGHTER MASSACRE (2013)

Let’s just get the usual issue out of the way. Indie slashers should not be nearly 2 hours long. How could that be fixed here? Remove the painfully cliché main detective character portrait. He clashes with his ex, clashes with his partner, has a drinking problem, fucks up and gets kicked off the case, goes rogue and tackles it anyway. Cringe. Slashers are a beginning to end cliché as it is, why would you try to make yours different by adding the most overused storyline ever?

Otherwise, this is a serviceable low budget slasher. It starts on what seems to be Halloween at a costume party. There’s some major slaughter and then it’s…

10 years later.

There are sporadic kills, police procedural scenes after each kill, an 80s heavy metal dude who literally calls a girl a harlot, a video store scene with a perv harassing two girls, and finally…

A rapid fire slasher at a house party, loaded with sex, gore, and a masked killer.

Not taking that photo into account, is it worth sitting through most of the movie to get to the fun? I guess it depends on how much you love low budget indies.

HE’S OUT THERE (2019)

I was really expecting this to be some sort of hokey family horror movie with lame supernatural shit or backwoods occult shit going on. For a while it felt like that was exactly where it was headed.

A mother and her daughters go to a house in the woods for a getaway, with the dad planning to meet them shortly after.

The girls immediately start acting mysterious and suspicious…why do kids in horror movies always start acting creepy out of nowhere, yet the parent never says, “Why the hell are you suddenly acting like Children of the Corn?”

All these weird sounds and weird findings panic the mom, who decides they need to flee the place immediately, which makes it feel like she know something we don’t, but either that was a red herring or I was just trying to read into it too much.

Their failed attempt at escape is the first moment that made me go, “Whoa! Didn’t expect that to happen!” And that’s exactly how the rest of the film unfolds.

It’s super creepy and suspenseful as this turns into a home invasion/backwoods slasher hybrid, with a masked killer plus some shockingly brutal and gory kill scenes.

And the whole setup of mom protecting the kids totally falls apart, in a totally awesome way. It’s simple, it’s familiar, but it sure is fun thanks to unexpected twists.

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1970s horror: my formative years

With a shrinking number of movies left in my collection to blog about, I figured it was time to finish off the 1970s stuff. So, here goes. Eight of them. And since it’s the 70s, dare I say eight is enough?

MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971)

I kind of like the concept of this reimagining of the classic Poe story. The always welcome Jason Robards and his wife are putting on a theater production of the Poe classic when someone starts killing people via acid to the face.

The problem with the film is that it’s slow and boring and goes nowhere until the twist ending.

Straying completely away from Poe, this is more like Gaston LeRoux; its essentially The Phantom of the Opera, and there’s even a tinge of elusive serial killer Jack the Ripper thrown in.

The whole point is to find out why the wife has nightmares about an axe killer. Again, an interesting plot could have unfolded if only the film were, you know, interesting instead of boring.

BLACULA (1972)

The title alone makes Blacula sound like a campy 1970s blaxploitation flick, but it’s actually a classic vampire film with some genuinely frightening scenes. The only thing not scary is the character of Blacula!

Back in 1780, Dracula welcomes an African prince and wife into his home…then turns the prince vamp and locks the couple away in a tomb.

In the modern day, a gay couple gets hold of an antique coffin and inadvertently releases the prince…now known as Blacula! It’s amazing how society works and has always worked. While this is hailed as one of the first urban horror flicks focusing on people of color, the two gay dudes are totally considered “lesser than” by everyone. Detectives call them fags, and it’s said that fags all look alike. Odd considering one is blond and looks like Tommy Shaw of Styx, and the other looks like Squiggy of Laverne & Shirley with an Afro.

The gay guys become the scapegoats for Blacula’s wrongdoings. Hell, it’s their fault he’s unleashed on the world at all.

But all Blacula really wants is to woo the modern day reincarnation of his wife he runs into on the street. Small world.

Aside from the awful 1970s instrumental funk theme during the opening credits, Blacula delivers some very freaky vamp minions as Blacula converts more and more people.

Some standout scenes include one female vamp running down a hall in slow motion (I’m convinced it was borrowed for the roller skating scene in Fright Night 2), and a cemetery scene that was clearly the inspiration for a major jump scare in Salem’s Lot a few years later.

SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM (1973)

Thanks to a double feature DVD we move on to the sequel. While it’s kind of more of the same, this is not a bad sequel. It propels Blacula’s story forward and doesn’t have any anti-gay stuff.

Some jive turkey (I can’t believe we used to call each other that as kids) does a ritual and resurrects Blacula, who then sets up camp in his house.

Blacula sets his sights on Pam Grier, who is familiar with voodoo, because he wants her to do a ritual that will make him mortal.

There’s awful intro music again (sounds like early 1970s instrumental TV theme music), and freaky minions again. And this time, even Blacula’s first appearance is quite frightening, with some floaty action and eerie uplighting.

RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975)

Overlooking the absolute worst, typical whimsical 70s muzak score at the very beginning, this one, which stars Peter Fonda and Loretta Swit, still holds up and is so clearly an influence on many films that came after it.

It also really messed me up when I watched it on TV as a kid, because it focuses on people traveling in an RV and motorcycle riding in the wilderness. This is exactly what I was dragged around by my parents doing every weekend when I wanted to be back in civilization, listening to my Abba and Andy Gibb records and watching The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries on Sundays. Seriously, you have no idea how many Sundays of my youth I spent sobbing in a camper knowing we would never get home in time for me to watch my favorite show.

While camped in the woods at night, two couples witness a satanic cult sacrifice a woman around a fire. And…they’re spotted. EEK! They are then chased and terrorized across country by the cult.

Race With the Devil is loaded with action and suspense, vehicle chases, foreboding encounters with rednecks, and an unforgettable ending that still rox.

Plus, any movie that works Kraft Mac & Cheese product placement into a snake attack scene is my kind of film.

THE FOOD OF THE GODS (1976)

The Food of the Gods will always remind me of the “Nature Strikes Back” week on the 4:30 movie. You had to be there.

Based loosely on the writing of H.G. Wells, it’s directed by b-movie king Bert I. Gordon (The Cyclops, Empire of the Ants, Village of the Giants) and doesn’t waste a moment in getting to its loony giant animal attacks.

Familiar 70s/80s film and TV face Marjoe Gortner (Earthquake, Mausoleum) comes to a remote island, rides a horse, and finds a dude dead with a swollen face who got attacked by giant bees.

Within minutes, Gortner is battling a giant rooster (a hilarious soulless mask), and meets a crazy religious freak who says god sent them a special food to feed the animals. I guess his average size horse hasn’t eaten the food.

A random cast of people cycles in to battle the beehives, icky giant rubber caterpillars, and most importantly…rats. This is mostly a giant rat movie. The odd thing about it is the close-up attacks on humans look awesome and are nice and gory, but the far shots of rats covering houses and cars look awful.

It’s so clear normal sized rats have been released to wreak havoc on little mini model sets that it detracts from just how awesome the death scenes are.

ORCA (1977)

Yes, it was the name of the boat in Jaws two years before. What’s interesting about this killer whale film is that I saw it in the theater at age 8 and was fine, but a year later when I saw Jaws 2 in the theater, I had a nightmare attack once I went to sleep that you don’t even want the gory details of.

It probably has to do with my sensitive little gay gene leading me to side with animals when they’re being mistreated. Orca is about a fucking fisherman asshole who decides he’s going to capture a killer whale after it saves his friend from a fucking great white. Yeah, poor whitey still gets a bad rap in this film.

Richard Harris (not just an actor—he had a hit with “MacArthur Park” a decade before Donna Summer) is the fuck face who decides to capture the whale.

Things go horribly wrong in one of the most disturbing scenes a gay boy of a tender age who loves animals has to endure watching. I’m talking about me now.

This is where Orca turns into Jaws: The Revenge. Veteran actress Charlotte Rampling and a local Native American man who lives in the fishing village warn Harris that killer whales are geniuses…and unforgiving. They’re right.

This whale finds ways to bring the entire town to its knees without ever leaving the water. I’m talking setting it on fire and shit. Eventually the town can’t take it anymore and Harris is assigned to go all Captain Ahab on its ass fin. Hell, there’s even a nod to Ahab’s lost leg when the whale enacts early revenge by taking down Harris’s entire house…which hovers over the water’s edge on stilts that look like fricking tree branches.

There are plenty of kills during the conflict, with us rooting for the whale the whole time. And don’t ask me how, but this fight ends up in glacier territory.

It’s a really a dark and dreary film, not a summer fun popcorn flick like the Jaws franchise.

THE CAR (1977)

This classic brings me right back to my hometown theater, where my mom would take us to see PG horror movies all summer long because she didn’t drive and the theater that showed Disney flicks was a town away. My mom ruled.

In my mind, this movie about a killer car was totally ripped off several years later by…ahem…a horror author who was quickly growing in popularity.

It’s also the movie that gave me kiddie wood for James Brolin, who plays the sheriff in the film. Watching it now, I also realize every horror film patterned itself after Jaws following that film’s huge success in 75.

The first kill scene is amazing—a couple on bikes gets creamed. The cool thing about this sexy black demon car is that it always beeps furiously when it’s coming for you, and it has red-tinted killer windshield POV.

Brolin’s two kids are played by childhood scream queens Kim and Kyle Richards, his awesome girlfriend is Kathleen Lloyd (It’s Alive II), and the “town” they live in seems to be nothing but a vast wasteland of desert.

While I still enjoy The Car, the thrilling attack scenes last only so long before the film has its “let’s get that fucker once and for all” final act that just bores the hell out of me. I’m talking Jaws men on a boat final act boring. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve said it before and I say it again. The second half of Jaws sux. I’ll take the nonstop thrills of Jaws 2 over that shit any day.

As for this film, is it just me, or is there some sort of snake demon forming in the fiery explosion at the end?

Oh fuck you and your spoiler alert whining. You know there’s no other way for this film to end.

DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (1979)

Racing towards the 80s slashers explosion, this one is obviously influenced by Psycho. It has a notable touch of Maniac in it. However, not only did it come first, but for me it’s a better movie if I have to choose between films in a subgenre I hate: the portrait of a serial killer.

This dude works at a warehouse, and a bad burn accident immediately lets us know he has an issue with fire…and that these were the days when faggot was the go to word of choice to degrade another man.

At home, the dude finds his emasculating mother dead, and then hears voices telling him he’s free—to start luring women to his house to strap up naked in a metal room then set on fire with a blow torch.

Generally the kills aren’t convincing enough to be horrific (neither is the acting), which I’m totally fine with because torture porn isn’t my thing. What is my thing is the macabre horror.

He may not have mannequins like Maniac, but this guy is terrorized by visions of the burned living dead corpses of his victims throughout his house. It would actually be eerie and scary if we didn’t feel this guy deserves to be tortured by burned corpses.

Adding to the sleazy feel of the film is the excessive amount of disco montages. But I have to say, disco can really kill a horror movie just as much as heavy metal.

One other interesting thing to note. Despite the gay slur at the beginning, the main guy seems totally non-judgmental about the clearly gay guy who helps him when he goes to buy new threads for a night at the disco.

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You’ll have to pry your intestines out of their cold, living dead Nazi hands

Like Evil Dead, the Dead Snow movies can be watched as one continuous story. In fact, if these were video games, you could say they were built using the Evil Dead engine.

DEAD SNOW (2009)

This double feature comes to us from the director of the mainstream Hollywood horror action flick Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, but you wouldn’t know it. Of course it makes sense if you consider that Sam Raimi went on to make Spider-Man movies after Evil Dead

Just like Evil Dead, this series starts by going for scares, not laughs. Of course I’m never thrilled when the first scare in a movie is a dream sequence, but at least it’s a cute guy dreaming while shirtless here.

Friends travel to a cabin in the woods, even talk about Evil Dead on the way there, and find a very special box in the cabin…

Zombie Nazis want what’s in the box, and it’s very Leprechaun in nature.

There’s some great dark, snowy winter atmosphere leading up to the zombies first appearing. There’s also a scene I didn’t understand the need for the first time I saw this movie and still don’t understand nor find funny (if that’s what they were going for).

Yes, the infamous outhouse scene. A guy goes out to take a crap, a girl follows him, and it leads to a short but particularly vile moment that is supposed to be sexual in nature…I guess. It adds nothing to the movie, the plot, or the characters, and it’s not funny.

Good thing the zombie fun hits after that, beginning with an awesome intro moment to the cabin under siege sequence, as well as a great gore scene of a head being ripped open.

From that point on it’s a zany zombie battle splatterfest loaded with action, blood, and macabre visual humor, much of it involving intestines.

And then two dudes head to the shed to prepare for a fight to the death, Evil Dead style. Would you believe a dude even has to hack off his arm? It’s a total blast that leaves us with what could easily be considered a cliffhanger….

DEAD SNOW 2: RED vs. DEAD (2014)

Which is where the sequel picks up. The main guy is taken to the hospital and also accused of killing all his friends. The situation seems to have aged him five years because he lost all his hair. Oh wait…the movie was made five years after the first.

While he’s unconscious losing his hair, the doctors do something awful. They reattach his arm, which had been bitten by a zombie. That’s right. Our main guy has a hand with an evil mind of its own, as well as supernatural powers.

Escaping the hospital in a scene that establishes this sequel is going to be all about the over-the-top comedy, the main man first teams up with a gay goth dude. Despite this being a recent film and him being rather flamboyant, he acts oddly guarded about his sexuality. Even so, he still scores the film a place on my die, gay guy, die! page.

They team up with a group of zombie hunting geeks that enlists them to create an army of zombies…to fight the army of Nazombies, which have even scored a military tank!

The comedy and gore stakes are raised big time (as they were in Evil Dead 2). The Nazombies mutilate townsfolk, and no one is immune—kids, the disabled, and even a couple in their bathroom with the guy taking a shit while the woman bathes. There comes a point when you start to think a director might have a fetish…

Going for all out farce, Dead Snow 2 has the two zombie armies clash in a splatastic field battle.

There’s even a living dead love story thrown in at the last second to the strains of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. And if you stick around after the credits, there’s a tag that hints we may even get an Army of Dark Snow someday…

The only real issue I have with this wild sequel…how can it be Dead Snow 2 when there is no snow???

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If you can see, you have the advantage over these zombies

I inherited the Blind Dead series as part of my late brother’s collection, and although it looked like it was going to be some lame Euro horror Night of the Living Dead knockoff with too much period piece crap thrown in, I forced myself to watch.

It’s mostly a lame Euro horror Night of the Living Dead knockoff with too much period piece crap thrown in. But there’s a lot to appreciate here, especially some unique ideas that probably influenced a lot of later films.

TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1972)

Generally, each installment gets the ancient history shit over with right away—and personally, I don’t even see why it’s necessary. In this first one, evil medieval cult dudes tie a woman up then slice her to drink her blood. Just to be clear, despite what I just described, this is a bloodless movie. Use your imagination. I had to.

In the modern day, vacationers go on a train trip. One chick jumps off for no clear reason then crashes overnight on the floor in a cold, old building. The friends don’t understand why, and neither do I.

Seriously??? THAT seems like a good place to set up camp?

But…the robed, skeletal zombies rise from their graves slowly with no music and chase her.

Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand…

This movie seriously lacks music and is also the only one in which a victim returns from the dead in traditional zombie style; she specifically pursues her friends.

Eventually we get a Night of the Living Dead style building under siege thing.

The zombies also use swords. This film needed a score so bad to enhance the visual atmosphere.

RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD (1973)

They’re blind, but somehow they found their way back again. The second film opens with another female sacrifice back in the day, but at least there’s blood. It doesn’t play coy like the first movie—there’s gore, sex, and music. Well, one constant sustained chord at least.

There’s also plenty of relationship drama, and the super slow zombies do the classic grave rising. Then they hop on their zombie horses, which make them move faster, but the film chooses to take that away from them immediately by presenting the footage in slow motion.

The characters here master the art of doing dumb shit, like standing by windows with the blind dead right outside.

The zombies crash an outdoor party on their living dead horses and wreak havoc with their swords, and then the survivors hole up in a church.

It wouldn’t be much of a movie if they didn’t manage to find a reason to go outside one after the other to get killed.

The final escape of the remaining survivors is quite reminiscent of The Birds. The film makes a better effort at taking advantage of the blind dead part here—the zombies can’t see you and don’t move unless they hear you. Silent Hill nurses anyone?

The only way to keep a child quiet and from getting scared by the sight of the zombies is to blindfold her. Blind Box?

Not a very compelling zombie flick, but better than the first.

THE GHOST GALLEON (1974)

Gregorian chant opens this film, which has one of the best dumb premises of the series. In an effort to drum up publicity for their models, an agency sends two of them out on a boat…but have arranged for it to get stuck out at sea so that their frightening experience will make the news!

The girls are “rescued” when they board an old ship that floats by. The plot of this movie proves to be very The Fog.

I love the atmosphere, and the creepy old ship setting is great. There’s also one super long scene of a chick being dragged into a crypt by the zombies.

That’s what I call dragging out a scene, but it ends with some gore, and it’s actually effective that there is no music in the scene, just her screams.

Unfortunately, it’s kind of down hill from there. The people who got the girls into the predicament in the first place come looking for them, and it’s the same old slow zombie cult chasing after them. To change things up slightly, a dude tries to perform an exorcism with a burning cross. Not gonna work, dude. That’s what racists use to vanquish black folk.

However, it all leads to a beach scene during the day in which the zombies come out of the water. Awesome.

That shit would happen again a few years later in Shock Waves. Why are zombies coming out of water so much more terrifying to me?

NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS (1975)

The medieval cult is at it again for the opener, but the series is getting edgier, so they expose the victim’s tits and graphically stab her between them.

Having shifted to the ocean side in the previous film, the series stays there for this final sequel. A doctor and his wife come to work on an isolated island and are immediately warned to leave…by the only guy in town who will talk to them. Yes, it’s a classic creepy townsfolk plot.

It took me until this final film to actually realize that each installment has its own backstory for how the zombies became the blind dead. If I’d paid more attention I probably would have determined that they are not supposed to be the same blind dead in each movie, but I can’t verify that.

In this film, the blind dead come out nightly to drag females to the beach to stab them. This seems to cause seagulls to squawk, hence the title. However, we see more crabs than seagulls in the film.

The series is numbingly repetitive at this point, with the main couple running all over the island being chased by the blind dead on their horses.

Finally, it goes once again for the Night of the Living Dead house under siege approach. Dare I say the series is just beating a dead horse at this point?

If they had just taken all the best parts of each of the four films, they could have made one kick ass film that would be as classic as Night of the Living Dead, but instead we get a fairly generic franchise.

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It’s a slasher, the supernatural, and a little of both in this triple feature

An impulse buy, a Prime flick, and a premium channel feature made this a marathon that was all over the map. So let’s get to it.

HELL FEST (2018)

The director of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension goes for a sleek, post-Scream era teen slasher, and as obvious as it all is, I can’t get enough of this type of retro thrill ride.

Truth is, despite the polish, this movie is a carbon copy of numerous low budget indies about kids going to a Halloween haunted attraction. In other words, between the fun kills we get an excessive number of cheap scares courtesy of footage of the kids going through the attraction. Even the first introduction to the park feels like the attraction intro scene in Blood Fest.

The bonus here is that what could easily be a tween PG-13 flick ups the ante with some kick ass, brutal and gory death scenes. And going against the usual template, Hell Fest surprises by making the bitch the main girl instead of who we’d expect—Bex Taylor-Klaus of MTV’s Scream.

Yeah, I was bummed, but if I want to see her kicking killer ass, I might as well just watch Scream again, including season 2 if they would release that fucker on DVD finally.

The final girl does have some horror experience though, because it’s Amy Forsyth of Channel Zero, Torment, and A Christmas Horror Story. Also on hand is horror hottie Christian James of Dorchester’s Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head. We even get a little Tony Todd action.

The only thing that’s missing, considering Halloween is mentioned at the beginning, is any sign of the holiday! If you reference Halloween as the time of year in your movie, it’s a requirement that you prove it, dammit. This one barely deserves to be on the holiday horror page.

FAMILY POSSESSIONS (2016)

Tommy Faircloth, the director of the Crinoline Head movies and Generation Ax, takes a more serious tone with Family Possessions…sort of.

The main plot is a haunted house movie.

A family inherits a house from the husband’s mother, but it’s actually left solely to our main girl…his daughter. She doesn’t even want to live there, especially when she begins having cheap scare encounters with a corpse-like granny.

EEK! But I actually think her little brother gets the more effective scare scene (especially since hers are repetitive “dream” or hallucination sequences).

She begins to unravel a mystery of her grandmother with the help of a new friend she makes. It seems a ghost has an axe to grind. Actually, a meat cleaver to grind.

It’s a turn I didn’t mind the film taking since I’m just not into all the ghost movies these days that are about as scary as an episode of Scooby Doo.

Meanwhile, the horror cameos add the humor. Felissa Rose is fun as the white trash mother of the friend, and Mark Patton of Elm Street 2 is a hoot as a bitchy queen at the coffee shop, landing this one on my die, gay guy, die! page. Watch out for the total tongue and scream nod to his most famous horror role.

The kills are cheesy, gory fun, but the film definitely could lose about 25 minutes of run time. 110 minutes wasn’t necessary for this type of midnight movie (okay, for most movies—you know me), and hacking off a nice chunk of it would have really tightened up the pacing.

DOWN A DARK HALL (2018)

I’m always excited for a movie adaptation of one of the books from Lois Duncan, my favorite teen author (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Summer of Fear, Killing Mr. Griffin). Down a Dark Hall is one of my favorite books by her, and was actually the first one I read back in junior high. It’s my least favorite movie adaptation.

A juvenile delinquent still not over the death of her father is sent to a school for girls by her mother. This huge school building in the middle of nowhere has a minimal staff…and only five students! Plus, head mistress Uma Thurman says a particular hall to the other end of the building is off limits (aka: runaway from that school as fast as you can).

A majority of the film is about the girls honing their artistic skills while the main girl becomes convinced something weird is going on. She’s right.

Despite the movie mostly boring me, it’s a remarkably faithful adaptation of the awesome source material plot…minus the cheesy modern day possession faces they throw in at the end of the film, which actually save it from being a totally boring film.

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The Chair needs to take a seat because the Necromancer is queen

Well, Necromancer is at least the film I liked better of these two lost flicks from 1988 that I dug out of my DVD collection.

THE CHAIR (1988)

There were a handful of fun prison/electric chair horror films released in the late 80s. The Chair isn’t one of them, despite having a cast of familiar faces.

And even though it’s about a newly reopened prison that is haunted, the most we get is some cheesy 80s electric spark effects, a few deaths by electrocution, and this apparition.

This movie goes NOWHERE. Veteran actor James Coco runs the show, Trini Alvarado of The Frighteners is the in-house psychologist who gets attached to a cute young inmate (and does nothing else really).

Stephen Geoffreys of Fright Night is  one of the prisoners, but I don’t even know why he is in this film in which he has a minuscule role, considering he was busy working on some higher profile horror at this time.

When it comes down to it, only Paul Warden, the token white guy on The Jeffersons, experiences the supernatural occurrences, and they sort of drive him mad.

The two highlights of this film that grabbed my attention were a spread your cheeks cavity search moment and a black prisoner who is essentially trans, although back then I imagine they were just trying to imply a very effeminate gay man.

NECROMANCER (1988)

Necromancer is like I Spit On Your Grave meets Mausoleum. Now that’s my kind of late 80s sexploitation horror shit show.

As soon as the score begins and sounds like an outtake from the Miami Vice soundtrack, you know you’re in for an 80s flashback from hell. It gets even better when a witch wearing a magnificent 80s headband…I mean, gypsy scarf…uses her magic axe to do some head splitting.

Then we get to the juicy stuff. A young woman working at her school at night is terrorized by three classmates in masks. They chase her around the building, catch her, and the leader of the pack rapes her while the others chicken out.

Not knowing where to turn, she seeks help from the witch.

And so begins a series of seduction attacks as a doppelganger of the main girl shows up whenever one of the guys is in just tight little underwear or less. Makes me love this dumb movie even more, and not only does it get a place on my stud stalking page, it should get a stud stalking award.

The lights magically turn 80s horror red, then out comes the cheesy demon hand!

The demon face eventually makes an appearance for the final battle, but it’s definitely no Mausoleum face. Also making an appearance in a porn stache and perm is Russ Tamblyn of West Side Story.

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Beware what’s on either side of the skyline…

Looking for a “safe” movie I could enjoy with the hubba hubba over the weekend that would still give me some horror thrills, I stumbled upon Beyond Skyline, not even knowing it was a sequel. After it was over, we were hyped to see the first film. I’m actually glad we saw the second film first, because they are very different films.

SKYLINE (2010)

Skyline is an intense alien invasion flick for a good portion of its run time.

It stars Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel of Club Dreadand even Crystal Reed of Teen Wolf.

A group of friends falls asleep after a party and is awoken by a blinding blue light beaming through the apartment window…that sucks you away if you look at it!

The light is coming from huge, cockroach-like spaceships…that harbor bug-like aliens with tentacles.

This group of friends also has to avoid giant, 2-legged aliens that can somehow spot them wherever they hide in the giant apartment building.

The most suspenseful and scary scenes are the ones in which the group is chased when trying to escape the building. This is actually a pretty frightening film about what would happen if super powerful aliens came to snatch us all and whisk us away to their ship. Eek!

But as the movie reaches its climax, it does detour into a wild ride of alien battling action, with military planes swooping in for a sky chase and the survivors putting up a battle to the death with the aliens. This last minute shift in tone is the perfect segue into the very different sequel.

BEYOND SKYLINE (2017)

I think if I had seen Beyond Skyline first I would have been a bit disappointed in the over-the-top action tone this follow-up takes, so I can see why people might be hard on it and unwilling to just go with it and enjoy it for the fun flick it is. Horror hottie Frank Grillo of The Purge movies (I so want to get all up in his Grillo) stars as the action hero in this epic alien action sequel. It’s like the original Cloverfield meets Pacific Rim.

When the alien invasion hits, Grillo and a small group of people escape through a subway tunnel, where some of them meet an awesomely gruesome ending at the tentacles and the giant vajayjay-like orifice of the smaller walking aliens. The alien models definitely look a bit different despite the simultaneous timeline…the films are supposed to be happening concurrently.

The “sequel” part really hits when the survivors get beamed up into the massive spaceship! Awesome. There’s a very cool crossover with the first film here, but sadly, even though their appearance is brief, the characters from the original film were recast for the sequel.

A suspenseful segment of the film takes place on the ship, but this massive alien outing crash lands back on earth…in Asia! Grillo and friends then team up to fight the aliens in a wild ride of nonstop melee battles and martial arts fights with the smaller aliens.

And it all leads up to the major battles between the giant aliens, which we learn are actually just shells controlled by the smaller aliens inside.

The silly sci-fi fun that ensues is as visually stunning as some of the much more popular sci-fi flicks that come out these days.

 

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STREAM QUEEN double feature: the ghosts of Halloween

Halloween is a few months behind us, and yet two Halloween films snuck their way onto Prime. So is it worth putting these on your list of flicks to watch 10 months from now?

DYSMORPHIA (2014)

This is an odd title for a Halloween anthology. It’s also odd that only the wraparound and one tale take place during the holiday. None of that even matters though, because this is really a bit of a mess.

A guy and girl find a box full of videotapes while digging out the Halloween decorations. Yeah, that’s nothing new for an anthology wraparound, but honestly, the most entertaining part of this film is the guy in it.

He’s naturally funny and deserves to be in a much better movie. As for the “stories”, they all feel very amateur and sloppy…

1st story – a weird, arsty rape/revenge short of sex and violence with mind-numbing editing, filters, etc.

2nd story – indie king Shawn C. Phillips and another dude accept a dare to live together in a bathroom. Silly stuff with a horrorish ending.

3rd story – This is a gross out video about a religious chick going door-to-door to force her beliefs on people. She gets into a twisted, perverse standoff with one dude.

4th story – this is the most tightly plotted and clever of these low budget shorts. A woman makes all her man’s wishes come true on his birthday…whether he meant them or not.

5th story – saturated color and tinted shaky footage make this one hard to watch. On Halloween, two dudes film their work as they go around killing people. None of that did anything for me. However, there are some underlying gay themes (homophobia, drag), and I appreciate that it takes place on Halloween, plus I enjoyed the odd scene of this cutie in a G-string.

6th story – geeks make a program that brings whatever they create on their computer into the real world. What do they conjure up? A goofy bad CGI monster! This feels like a student film you would find on YouTube.

At least there’s some silly demon payoff in the conclusion of the wraparound.

HALLOWEEN AT AUNT ETHEL’S (2018)

I was feeling the title of this one, and the classic pumpkin intro credits got me even more in the Halloween spirit.

That feeling just continues with a good old “couple parked in the dark” setup that leads to a suspenseful kill scene with all the right camera angles, creepy atmosphere, a chase, and the first appearance of Aunt Ethel!

Then we’re informed that we’re in Florida! Ugh. What a way to kill the Halloween mood!

But I’ll forgive, because Aunt Ethel—a witchy weird neighbor rumored to turn trick or treaters into Halloween candy—is a hoot. She’s reminiscent of the campy slasher killers of the 90s, like Ice Cream Man, The Dentist, and Dr. Giggles.

The main kids are just as much fun as Aunt Ethel as they have relationship drama, break out their slow-mo dance moves during a Halloween party montage, and get into all kinds of sexual hi-jinx.

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Good hair and good fuck face.

As a Gen-Xer who grew up on 80s teen flix and slashers, I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see some teen sexploitation humor, which is so lacking in modern film.

Most importantly, the kids hatch a plan to spy on Aunt Ethel for kicks. And the surprise twist is delicious.

The big problem with this smart and entertaining indie film is that it only runs about 65 minutes long! When the kids get to Aunt Ethel’s house, everything unfolds way too fast.

A slasher comedy this competent needed more victims—there was a fricking party full of potential pretty people to hack up. Aunt Ethel is just getting going when it all comes to an end. Man, was I sad.

But do stick around after the credits roll, because there’s an Aunt Ethel rap video and bloopers. Aunt Ethel really needs to come back for some Halloween sequels. I know her Blu-ray is already on order and on its way to my house.

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