Word of Internet mouth can be a horror flick’s best friend or seriously oversell it. So here’s a look at two films that were getting major attention on the Web, leading to me blind buying both of them. Do I regret having either of them in my collection? No, but I definitely have a favorite.
THE VOID (2016)
The two men who brought us the Astron-6 exploitation flick Father’s Day go full-on horror flick with The Void. That alone raised my expectations even higher than the Internet alone could. This one had the potential to be a really wild throwback creature feature, but instead tosses in many different horror elements…then kind of pushes each aside to toss in more. It’s like a ride through a haunted attraction where, well, the scary shit you just saw…forget it ever happened, because there’s other scary stuff ahead.
That’s not to say there’s no plot. The reason for all the horror havoc eventually unfolds—or rather, it’s kind of force-fed to us by the party responsible for all the horror. This isn’t a movie in which the characters slowly discover the truth on their own. After we’re initially thrilled with some fantastic, fast and furious horror action, the presentation of all the facts is dumped on us in the middle of the movie, creating a stretch of exposition before the horror returns for a thrilling finale. Still, the formula remains the same: fleeting new horrors are presented then quickly forgotten.
Essentially, The Void is an alternate reality in the alternate reality that is Silent Hill—it could easily have been marketed as a third film in the franchise. There’s a hospital. There are gruesome, deformed creatures. There’s a husband looking for his wife. There’s a creepy cult. There’s a journey to a hellish basement, and a portal to another dimension. There’s a doctor delving into the occult to “rebirth” his daughter.
As a fan of everything Silent Hill, I welcome the similarities, but The Void initially promises something beyond that. A small group of people is trapped in a hospital and it appears individuals are suddenly going mad. Then all of a sudden shit reaches The Thing level insanity within seconds! It’s tentacle monster madness! WTF? Is everyone going to start turning into these thing? Nope. Now there’s a cult in white robes and hoods standing outside. Creepy and violent if challenged, but beyond making sure the characters remain in the hospital, they don’t pose much of a threat for most of the movie.
So as the characters try to determine their next move, there’s a lull in monster activity, and all plot points start pointing to a basement rescue mission. The mad doctor’s lair has some macabre surprises in it, but characters pretty much just need to turn a corner to leave them behind for good.
Even after the doctor finally unleashes his ultimate creation—what would be considered the final boss in a Silent Hill video game—it simply meanders out of the room to tussle with a couple of guys and the doctor is already on to a new dastardly plan. WTF?
His underwhelming reaction is infectious, for the climax takes an oddly hokey 80s sci-fi/horror route. The good news is, there’s so much going on here and it’s such a mixed bag of horrors that you’re bound to find something about it you like. Keep an eye out for an appearance by Art Hindle of the original Black Christmas, Invasion of the Body Snatchers 78, and The Brood.
BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL (2012)
With a title like Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell and described as “the Japanese Evil Dead,” this one delivers. What I didn’t expect was the history behind it. It was actually filmed in 1995 but didn’t reach full completion for release until 2009! It was just released on DVD by Terra Cotta in 2017. As of this writing, it’s for sale on amazon.co.uk and listed as a region 2 PAL DVD, but I reached out to Terra Cotta after reading somewhere that it is an all-region DVD, and they verified it is, which I can attest to having purchased it from Amazon UK. It plays without a problem on my U.S. Blu-ray player and PS3.
Never has a film been more right to the point than this 62-minute comic splatterfest. Ridiculously adorable director and writer Shinichi Fukazawa is also the star of the film.
He plays a weight-lifting cutie who takes his ex-girlfriend, a photographer researching haunted houses, to an old house once owned by his father.
Joining them is a psychic, who immediately picks up on a female presence with a grudge against the body builder.
Seriously, this film takes place in a grudge house and is about an evil female entity with a grudge, and it was filmed 5 years before Ju-On/The Grudge became a thing.
However, the pissed off chick in this one isn’t crawling around on the floor. Bloody Muscle Body Builder In Hell is a combination homage/spoof of Evil Dead that still manages to deliver a uniquely wacky and wild horror experience.
The psychic becomes possessed by the spirit of the body builder’s dead mother. The body builder’s father is able to send him a message from the other side informing him that the only way to defeat her is to chop the psychic up using a special weapon in the basement.
Unfortunately, when the blue-faced, blood-drooling psychic starts attacking, the bodybuilder and his ex-girlfriend slice and dice him using whatever weapons are handy, making for some hilarious and gory battles…which only get better when the psychic’s body parts begin to meld back together in any way they can.
The guy playing the psychic totally rules, camping it up to the max in his demonic possession form. He carries a majority of the film as the only demonic threat, but don’t worry. Although there are only 3 characters in the entire film and the production is simple, Fukazawa makes the most of the compound situation.
Shit gets crazier near the end, with more demonic monstrosities and our sexy muscle stud finally tapping into his inner horror hero and pulling out the big guns.
It’s nonstop midnight movie horror fun from start to finish, and a special treat for those who grew up on VHS horror of the 80s and 90s and fans of the Evil Dead franchise. There are references to the film and generous borrowing of Sam Raimi’s directing techniques and Bruce Campbell’s acting style by Shinichi Fukazawa.
The over-the-top gore and special effects are a cheesy combination of techniques, including stop motion, bad early 90s throwback computer effects, and classic practical effects. I can’t help but wonder how much of it was intentionally mocking the techniques…and if some of it was added much later in post-production, considering production wasn’t completed until almost 15 years after initial shooting.
I just wish this film had been released back when it was made, because 1990s horror really could haves used a movie like Bloody Muscle Body Builder In Hell. And I sure could have used seeing a lot more of Shinichi Fukazawa in horror films…