STREAM QUEEN: 6 more degrees of Bill Oberst Jr.

After my first marathon, it’s time for another round of six flix featuring an appearance by Bill Oberst Jr., one of my favorite indie horror actors.

DEADLY REVISIONS (2013)

This is one of those films that as a whole wasn’t as much fun as its big surprise reveal and final act twist. But to make up for that, it is solely about Oberst in a house by himself experiencing creepy stuff, much of it in nightmare form.

He plays a horror director/writer suffering from memory loss after a stay in the hospital, so he goes to recover in a friend’s secluded cabin, where he works with a hypnotherapist to try to remember what happened. It’s mostly cliché, familiar scare tactics that get us through most of the film, like visuals of demon dolls, a faceless being, and executioners.

Much of the focus is around the day he got dumped by his woman, with some flashbacks in between his visions and nightmares.

Deadly Revisions didn’t really grab me until the end, which was the most compelling part because it finally takes us out of his head to deliver some action.

ZOMBIEWORLD (2015)

The wild opener of this zombthology sucks you in, with a bunch of frantic people, including a guy dressed as Santa, being chased through the woods by zombies in first person mode.

The wraparound, which links the unrelated stories, features Oberst as a news reporter keeping viewers abreast of the situation during a zombie apocalypse.

—a wild exploitation grindhouse story of Jesus fighting…zombie cowboys? This funny splatterfest is a blast.

—this segment is a “how to” of surviving the apocalypse, which pokes fun at the genre and returns for a few continuing segments throughout the movie. Sometimes it instead looks like a warning sign at a leather bar…

—funny monologue as a guy discovers his best friend has been eaten and laments being left all alone.

—this one consists simply of security footage of a cop trying to help a woman trapped in her car at a gas station.

—a woman is out on her own in the woods surviving the apocalypse. Pretty basic.

—chaotic first person footage of guys trying to get away from zombies. I’ve seen it done in full-length films, so while it’s always entertaining, it’s nothing new to me.

—love this quickie of a guy getting sucked into the zombie light gun game he’s playing.

—bookending the stories pretty well is another action gorefest grindhouse segment.

A loser on a beach becomes the hero when zombies come out of the water.

AYLA (2017)

Ayla is engrossing, tragic, and haunting, yet I’d never watch it again. Aka: it’s not really a horror movie.

Essentially it’s the story of a guy who is basically mentally ill because he lost his sister when she was four and has spent his entire life believing he sees her…which is a notion exacerbated by his mother (played by Dee Wallace), who does the same thing.

The weird and creepy part? The dude believes that he wills his sister back into being…as an adult…and takes a road trip with this person, who never talks. And their times bonding at hotels are oddly bordering on sexual.

It’s a very strange and ultimately sad film that also doesn’t exactly explain anything.

Oberst has a brief role as a hotel clerk…and I think he is actually supposed to be playing two different parts because he’s wearing a bad disguise the next morning and acting differently.

DISMAL (2009)

Dismal is basically a low budget version of other low budget backwoods horror films I’ve seen (even though it takes place in swamplands). I was convinced I’d already seen this film, because I repeatedly knew exactly what was going to happen next. It was a major case of déjà view.

Derivation aside, it still has its moments for fans of the subgenre. The opening scene was one of the best parts for me in the way it set up the horror that we are to expect later out in the swamps.

Then we meet a group of kids going on a field trip with their teacher into the swamps. It’s familiar, comfortable territory. They go off to have sex and start getting killed by a big man in a mask with some hardcore weapons.

Oberst shows up as the local sheriff, and eventually the kids end up in the lair of a backwoods family with the usual checklist of situations.

However there are some unexpected and almost weird twists that also give the film some fun surprises in the last few minutes. Just be prepared for a few bad CGI effects, including one of those body slice moments that were so much fun in the 2000s (and always looked like bad CGI regardless of budget).

Finally, I couldn’t help but notice that the killer looks like Bub from Dawn of the Dead when he’s unmasked.

THE CHAIR (2017)

Coming from the director of Someone’s Knocking At The Door and Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!, The Chair had me expecting something just as wild and over the top. It’s definitely as vicious as those two films, but gone is the levity of any sort of grindhouse exploitation—or horror elements for that matter. This is simply a torture film with an angle.

Oberst plays the head warden at a prison in which he and his henchman (including Roddy Piper and Zach Galligan) torture and sodomize death row inmates (to death) so they’ll know how the people they victimized felt.

It definitely challenges your loyalties, because you know the men being tortured are bad, yet the guys doing it aren’t painted as heroes.

They seem more like the evil criminals because we see their cold and Inhumane behavior towards other humans.

On top of that, we also get to see the atrocities the main inmate experienced in his past, which makes him a somewhat sympathetic character, so you are hoping he will be able to fight back and get revenge, which is where this film heads. If nothing else, it’s definitely a mind fuck of a revenge film.

CHILDREN OF SORROW (2012)

This isn’t your typical horror film, so unless you’re in the right mindset, you may not appreciate just how frightening and disturbing it is.

Presented as found footage (which doesn’t quite always make sense, but you just have to go with it), it focuses on Oberst as a cult leader converting a group of young people at his secret property on the US-Mexico border. His latest inductees include one undercover girl trying to find out what happened to her sister.

It’s a mesmerizing unfolding of conversion from start to finish. This might be the best Oberst performance I’ve seen as he slowly goes from comforting and coddling his children to breaking them by taking them to dark places, and eventually making them “transition” while the others watch.

It’s really chilling to see how these already fragile young people searching for some kind of acceptance and support could fall for his deception…and to see how their devotion eventually turns to fear with no hope of escape. And when the transition process begins, the kills are vicious and brutal.

Adding even more depth to the story, two of the boys fall in love, and not surprisingly, Oberst targets them first for their sins, which includes forcing one boy to molest a girl to set him straight. Yet, it appears Oberst makes the other boy have sex with him!

There are some good, dark surprises at the end, but you’re definitely left with a question as to how the cult doesn’t get caught or stopped.

About Daniel

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