3 anthologies with terror in the title…

But is there TERROR in the tales? I take a look at Terror 5, Terror Tales, and Terror Telly.

TERROR 5 (2016)

Running only 76 minutes long, Terror 5 is sort of an anthology tied to an overarching story of politicians on trial, accused of being responsible for the collapse of a building in a city.

None of it made much sense to me, and the tales weren’t exactly cohesive stories…just “situations”. After a while I couldn’t tell when one tale ended and another began.

In one story, a young couple goes on a date at their school at night, where students are enacting revenge on their teachers.

Next, a guy dressed as Gene Simmons plays mind games with some young people about snuff films being real. Meanwhile, a couple at a hotel is actually being filmed having sex. It’s sort of like two situations that eventually come together.

Just when you think thing can’t get any weirder, zombies with glowing eyes show up and begin terrorizing the city during a vigil for those who died in the building collapse.

The film is well produced, but I just couldn’t find enough to enjoy about it.

TERROR TALES (2016)

This is a pretty lofty undertaking that is, however, clearly made on an indie budget. For that reason alone, some of the budget could have been reallocated for quality over quantity; the film runs two unnecessary hours long! Horror movies in general should not be two hours long, even more so if it’s an anthology that only has three stories.

The wraparound is about a nut who car jacks a guy then tells him horror stories…

1st story – Lynn Lowry stars in a tale that’s sort of like A Christmas Carol if Ebenezer were a woman who lost her son and the three ghosts were a single demon that came to fuck with her head. I didn’t totally understand the story, but the demon was cool and would have been even freakier if it were in dark lighting rather than bright light.

2nd story – this one looks like it was shot on video in an actual holdover video store still in business since the 80s. That’s part of its charm. It takes place in the 80s, and I think the extras were probably also holdovers from the 80s who never grew out of their high school existence, because they look genuinely 80s.

Anyway, it’s a tale about a sledgehammer killer pounding the fuck out of the heads of video store customers. The practical gore kicks ass, and Jonathan Tiersten of Sleepaway Camp makes an appearance.

3rd story – the last tale is all over the place, but there’s so much horror packed into it I don’t even care. We get a possessed girl, an exorcism, a possessed woman chained up in a basement, Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp as an awesome witch, and a giant demon. Fun fun fun.

The conclusion of the wraparound is also loaded with midnight movie horror insanity. The guy who plays the nut in the wraparound gives one of the strongest performances in the entire movie. Plus I want to like his pecs for a few hours.

TERROR TELLY (2012)

This is merely a bonus anthology in this blog because I almost turned it off. However, because it only runs 59 minutes, I sat through it.

A Bon Jovi goes goth dude hosts in black and white, and there are also some really bad mock commercial interruptions.

1st story – Also black and white, this is a campy story about a mad scientist who creates  a Frankenstein monster that becomes possessed and needs an exorcism. It’s silly dumb with some shit humor, but the possessed monster did make me laugh.

2nd story – I think this is supposed to be an outer space story, but it’s really just three people standing around talking with no plot.

3rd story – WTF? This one begins with a dude metal detecting on a beach and then the host cuts in and says it is too scary a story to finish. Not funny or cute and just an absurd way to fill an already short run time.

4th story – WTF? A dude takes a drink and gets sick in the bathroom sink. That’s it.

5th story – It’s supposed to be Halloween. A cute dude is home alone and enters a creepy, small closet door, where he finds some scary tools. From there we get a series of macabre images flashing on screen and I didn’t understand any of it.

Honestly, the most entertaining scene to me is a final clip of a dude using the hand of a severed arm to jerk himself off while chewing on the shoulder end. it’s disgusting for sure, but it gets points simply for being fucked up clever.

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Exploring some familiar territory with 3 backwoods horror slashers

I was due for a good dose of satisfying slashers, and Scathing, Bride of Scarecrow, and Spiker definitely satisfied in a comfort food kind of way.

SCATHING (2016)

 

Since this one comes from the director of Halloween at Aunt Ethel’s, one of my recent faves, I figured I was in good hands, and I was right as far as the quality of the horror that’s delivered. In its best moments, Scathing is a fantastically gruesome and grisly backwoods horror flick that uses practical effects spectacularly.

Having said that, I can’t deny that the film is also about as derivative as it gets. It’s every backwoods horror flick you’ve seen blended with a touch of High Tension and Penny Dreadful.

A young woman sneaks out of the house to meet her boyfriend, and they go parking in an isolated area.

The next morning their car won’t start, so they go into a shed they spot nearby for tools. Naturally it’s the lair of a big, slimy, ominous dude who wears a welding mask and carries a brutal pronged weapon.

Basically, he keeps them trapped in their car and sits in the shed watching them like Cujo salivating over Dee Wallace. That’s the most frustrating thing about this film. The boy and girl have endless opportunity to just get out of the car and run for their lives, but they never do.

Only a few other people come into the picture to be heinously mutilated, but it’s more than enough to totally satisfy and keep the movie going.

And despite the predictability, attention to minor details gives this some really strong, unique moments that you don’t see in just any backwoods horror flick, including the killer doing some deliciously messed up stuff to fuck with his victims.

BRIDE OF SCARECROW (2018)

I was waiting for Bride of Scarecrow to hit Prime after having seen Curse of the Scarecrow. This sequel takes the same basic approach of the original and simply creates a more complex backstory for the scarecrow…he had a bride who was also killed by angry locals.

As should be expected, this is a tighter, more polished film, and you don’t even need to see the first film to dive into it. A radio show host learns she has inherited an old farm, so she and her friends go on a road trip to check it out.

The group soon begins to unravel the legend of the scarecrow and becomes convinced the main girl is the reincarnation of the bride of scarecrow. I’m convinced she’s the reincarnation of Alexis Arquette.

There’s plenty of atmosphere in the barn as the scarecrow hides in the shadows watching the friends explore and have a séance.

But the best show he gets is when the main girl has sex with her sizzling hot boyfriend.

And that is when the scarecrow gets jealous enough to finally start killing people. It’s very late in the movie, problem being there just aren’t enough victims to kill any of them any earlier.

The most ridiculous thing is that as soon as the friends begin suspecting something is really wrong, they all split up! And things get kind of goofy when they become mesmerized by a creepy organ music record that plays by itself and serves as the soundtrack. As a child of the vinyl age, I couldn’t help notice this hit song is on the Epic record label…

The kills are good and the scarecrow even sets up a unique body party, but the battle between the scarecrow and the boyfriend is unintentionally funny, with the entire sequence being absurdly melodramatic.

SPIKER (2007)

This one was filmed and takes place on my home turf of Long Island. And while it starts out a little rough, the final act kind of kicks ass for a lost film from the conveyor belt of slashers from the beginning of the millennium.

Spiker, who uses train track spikes to kill victims and looks like an albino, escapes while being transferred to a new facility. Most frustrating is that first impressions are everything, so it’s inexcusable that CGI blood splashes are used for the first kill. I immediately assumed that would be the case for the whole film, but it actually does use plenty of practical effects later on.

Tell me if you’ve just heard this one before. A girl is inheriting a house so brings her friends there to check it out.

Wouldn’t you know, they soon discover she looks just like the lover of Spiker. Indeed, we have another killer who wants his bitch back!

In classic slasher style, there’s a creepy dude who warms them to leave. He looks like Mark McGrath dressed as Johnny Depp at his dirtiest.

These kids also have a séance…and then the main girl starts seeing the ghost of the woman she looks like.

Yeah, this supernatural element really spoils the otherwise effective slasher plot. As do the cheesy melodramatic flashbacks to the love story of the killer and his woman.

But once the slashing kicks in, it’s gory fun, loaded with chase scenes and body reveals, and even delivers some unique kills. And the tight spaces in the house setting make for some great camera angles. There’s also a good twist and Spiker is relentless once he gets started.

Too bad about that supernatural aspect, which of course comes back into play at the end.

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Some guy who kills people on Slaughter Drive

If you’re looking for something that strays from the typical slasher formula but still has a body count, juicy gore, and quirky dark humor, you might want to check out Slaughter Drive or Some Guy Who Kills People. Which one gets my vote? Let’s take a look.

SLAUGHTER DRIVE (2017)

Ben Dietels, director and star of Slaughter Drive, appeared in indie horror flick Everyone Must Die! and CarousHELL, so Steve Rudzinski, director of those films, returns the favor and makes a cameo in Ben’s movie.

The basic premise of Slaughter Drive is unique thanks to some odd twists and turns, and the practical gore effects are fantastic. A wannabe filmmaker accidentally films a killer in action in the park, and now the killer is after him. The filmmaker and his friends are determined to figure out whodunit and put a stop to the murders before it’s too late.

Unfortunately, like many indie slashers, there’s a frustratingly weak thread holding the film together. Despite the lack of respect slashers get, plot, pacing, and the script really do matter. A killer, victims, and attempts at goofy humor simply aren’t enough to make a horror comedy a standout.

Slaughter Drive feels virtually like everyone ad-libbed their lines. Problem is, aside from the sound mix making it hard to hear much of the dialogue, the banter between the group of friends—and there’s tons of it—just isn’t funny very often. It kind of feels like you’re sitting in a basement for 102 minutes with nerds who all think they’re funny but are mostly just funny in their own heads.

And 102 minutes? No. Just…NO. Especially when all the dialogue filling the gaps between kills does nothing to entertain or propel the story forward. I implore aspiring horror directors who don’t have a strong background in writing to collaborate with actual writers when making their films. If you have a plot idea, that’s great. Just let a genuine writer compose all the details that bring it together. Narrative and dialogue matter. They really do. Narrative creates the pace and defines the story. Dialogue sets the tone and is crucial for developing characters and making them people we want to love or hate.

There’s not much more I can say here. The kill scenes aren’t atmospheric or scary, but the gore is outstanding. There are knife, axe, and drill kills, plus a bear gets hammered in the eye socket. I’ve always wanted to say that.

And just when you think the messily staged final battle in the woods is the end, there’s a totally bizarre revenge finale that is about as weird as it gets.

SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE (2011)

The director of the silly creature comedy Monster Island takes a whole new approach to horror with Some Guy Who Kills People. While it delivers some humor and kick ass kills, it’s actually character driven, with an unusual and totally engrossing plot.

I don’t frequently enjoy films presented from the perspective of the lunatic, but here it’s endearing because the main character, played by Kevin Corrigan (of sitcom Grounded for Life), is such a nice fricking guy.

He’s fresh out of the loony bin and living with his mom. He’s scored a job at an ice cream parlor, works with a good friend, reconnects with his young daughter, and begins dating a nice woman (fricking Aunt Hilda from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina).

He seems to be getting his life together, but he’s still haunted by a past that gives him a vengeful streak…

And that’s when the bodies start piling up. Barry Bostwick is the sheriff on the case, and to complicate matters, he takes a shine to the main guy’s mother, played by the one and only Karen Black.

The story keeps you watching, and the kills are just icing on the cake. They’re well orchestrated and campy gory good, with Bostwick bringing his shtick to the crime scene after each murder. On top of that, the daughter inserting herself into the main guy’s life adds a refreshing complexity to the usual portrait of a serial killer plot.

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Facing inner demons – Bloody Ballet, The Harrowing, and The Demon Inside

A mix of slasher and the supernatural, Bloody Ballet, The Harrowing, and The Demon Inside really worked as a triple feature for me. Each film has protagonists struggling with their inner demons while the bodies pile up around them, and all three movies are drenched in a rainbow of colorful horror lighting.

BLOODY BALLET (2018)

The director of Bombshell Bloodbath pays homage to the 80s giallo era and wraps it in the neon glow of Suspiria with a splash of Dressed to Kill to enhance the flavor.

A young woman finally gets the lead in The Nutcracker at her dance school, but that’s when a killer in a freaky drag mask and wig starts slicing and dicing all the students with a straight razor.

And in true Euro horror fashion, just because there’s a killer in a mask doesn’t mean there can’t be demons and zombie corpses…

Along with the rich reds, blues, and purples, there’s an 80s synth score, a string of seemingly disjointed sequences that are all effectively menacing, creepy random objects tossed in—like a music box and a scary doll, and camera work that would remind Argento of just how influential he is.

And the murder scenes are gorrific. Don’t expect any CGI, because Bloody Ballet delivers classic 80s practical effects that will make you cringe.

Plus there are appearances by scream queens Caroline Williams and Debbie Rochon. The only thing missing is bad dubbing.

THE HARROWING (2017)

Since this one is from the director of the Halloween horror flick Hallow’s End, I made sure to put it in my watchlist.

This is about as “inner demons” as a movie gets, with the concept molding the entire plot.

A super hot, Henry Rollins type daddy detective experiences what he believes is a supernatural confrontation during a case, and it begins to affect his personal and professional life. Him bound and gagged has definitely affected mine…

His boss, icon Michael Ironside, sends him undercover to an insane asylum, where he is under the watchful eye of the lead doctor, icon Arnold Vosloo.

He has grisly and colorful Silent Hill-esque nightmares, but unfortunately these sequence are about all the horror we get, which isn’t quite enough to move the 110-minute running time along.

The Harrowing plays out mostly like a mystery as the detective tries to investigate strange happenings and disappearances of patients that he believes have something to do with demons.

The movie keeps you watching, but there is absolutely nothing here that isn’t cliché, and you will know right rom the start what the “twist” is going to be.

At least the final scene has some fun demon moments. Plus, our hot dick gets shirtless.

THE DEMON INSIDE (2017)

This one has a lot of “demon in the closet” potential, beginning with a mother’s chilling first encounter with the creature in her child’s bedroom.

There are even several nods to Poltergeist, so it caught my attention. As did the lips of her husband, our leading man.

The movie quickly takes a surprising turn into more campy territory when the wife decides she wants to contact the hunky guys from a ghost hunter show.

And I was fine with that shift in tone. I just feel like it didn’t shift enough, for it could have been a lot more fun and funny than it is.

The crew starts to steal the show right away with some wickedly humorous moments, but just as quickly, the film weirdly skips ahead to after they’ve all been killed or possessed by the demon! WTF?

So much missed opportunity for the bulk of this movie, which then returns focus to the main guy who, despite those luscious lips, simply does not bring on the charismatic hero vibe you would expect. My hopes for an Evil Dead clone were dashed.

Not to mention, despite plenty of red and blue lighting, a plot similar to the closet traveling entity in the Boogeyman 2005, and the characters getting possessed and turning on each other, there are virtually no special effects or horror makeup to deliver any visual chills and thrills.

The Demon Inside is a movie that simply never fully delivers on anything it promises.

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Flashback to the days of V/H/S

They’re the only anthologies in my collection that I haven’t blogged about, so I thought it was time to revisit the V/H/S franchise and remind myself of which tales are my favorites.

I think the series does a fantastic job of reinvigorating the found footage genre by making it an anthology in which every story, including the wraparound, is first person. So let’s get to the breakdown.

V/H/S (2012)

The wraparound in the first film has a bunch of scummy guys hired to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. They find a dead dude sitting in front of a bunch of TV monitors. So what’s on the monitors?…

1st story – this is the one that gave the franchise its reputation, scored its own spinoff movie SiREN, and is still one of my faves. Guys pick up some girls and take them to a hotel room to party. But one girl with freaky eyes just keeps repeating “I like you” to one of the guys who happens to be wearing glasses with a hidden camera built in.

When the other guys try to gang bang the weird girl, we get to see just why she’s so freaky, genitalia goes flying, and we even get to see a cutie naked (before the flying genitalia part…).

2nd story – eh. This one is about a couple that goes on a road trip, not realizing that someone is coming into their hotel room at night and filming them sleeping. The twist at the end is the payoff, but it’s a forgettable tale overall. It’s even more of a letdown because it comes from director Ti West. For a while there, he had many of us expecting something good every time he got behind a camera.

3rd story – another naked cute guy, plus there’s some great gore.

A group of friends goes into the woods, where anyone who looks through the camera ends up dying at the hands of a killer that only appears through the lens.

4th story- an odd mix of subgenres, this one has a girl video chatting with her boyfriend nightly because she keeps hearing someone in her apartment. She also has a weird growth on her arm…

5th story – it’s a Halloween tale! Guys go to what they think is a house party, but end up interrupting some sort of ritual. They rescue a girl and try to escape, which leads to some creepy shit happening.

Cool story, but just as it’s going somewhere even more thrilling, a fricking train enters the picture and ruins everything.

V/H/S 2 (2013)

Most of the wraparound in this one is lame—except when the two investigators spy on a cheater and we see his dick. They then go to the house of a missing college boy and watch videos…

1st story – this weak warm-up is the familiar story of a guy who gets a transplant and then starts experiencing weird things. This time it’s the eye, and it sees dead people.

2nd story – this is one of my faves, about a guy wearing a GoPro while bike riding on trails. Zombies attack and it becomes a zombie POV flick! When it came time to eat, I’d so be the zombie below…

3rd story – this one has a slow build…And subtitles! Ugh. I really hate when movies aren’t consistent. If I don’t know from the start I’m going to be dealing with subtitles, I don’t want to deal with them. Luckily, this turns into an insane horror flick, with documentary filmmakers visiting a religious cult that unleashes demon/zombie things and the ultimate devil beast.

4th story – it would be just another alien invasion story done found footage style if not for the fact that the camera is attached to a little dog! Unique approach to a house full of unsupervised kids being terrorized, but it goes too far when the dog gets dragged into it.

Finally, the wraparound redeems itself with loads of horror fun. I’m not saying it makes sense, just that it’s fun.

V/H/S VIRAL (2014)

Breaking away from the theme of people entering a house and finding videotapes to watch, this wraparound has a guy chasing and filming a crime in progress. So it just randomly cuts to each story. Considering the filmmakers couldn’t even come up with a cohesive wraparound, the series was clearly losing its way by this final film.

1st story – this shit is way too Harry Potter for me, with a magician turning evil when he puts on a supernatural cloak. The cheap final jump scare is insulting.

2nd story – another one with subtitle interruptions, but again it is one of the strongest stories. A dude creates a machine that lets him swap places with an alternate reality version of himself. When he realizes this a sexually fucked up existence, his wife inviting two guys over to play is the vanilla stuff….

This is like a modern day Frank Henenlotter film.

3rd story – this is just pure, mindless, gore and action horror madness. A bunch of skater dudes finds a private place to goof off. Suddenly they’re being attacked by a walking corpse cult and it becomes a bloody battle to the death.

A whole lot of weird shit happens in the wraparound before the film is through, and it’s a mess. Really kills the series. Guess that’s why the “TV series” is an exclusive…on SNAPCHAT…

 

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Fear Effect won’t scare you, but it will raise your blood pressure

A game so popular it spawned a sequel…or a game so torturous a second was made to inflict more pain? With its Asian mysticism and supernatural storylines, Fear Effect probably has an intriguing, immersive plot, but I spent so much time struggling to get through the games that I didn’t even bother paying much attention to the stories. And I’ve played them twice…

FEAR EFFECT

Fear Effect was hyped back in the day on PlayStation 1 because it used advanced cell shading graphics. This required spreading the game across 4 discs.

Aside from the fact that the cell shading resembles a 1970s cartoon, the graphics are actually so bad I can’t believe we were ever wowed by visuals like this. They’re really only a little less static than the original Resident Evil games.

The controls are RE tank type with some added features—quick turn, crouch, dodge roll left or right, and the ability to shoot as you move. While they allow for more flexibility, they aren’t enough to make gameplay manageable, because this is a fast-paced action game that needs much more precision than the controls offer. It’s no surprise that punch-in cheat codes are available for it. When I first played the game years ago, I caved by the very first boss, which is a shooting maniac in a super tight space…and the whole fight is viewed from an awful top down perspective.

Unlike RE, you have infinite storage space, and cycling through your items is a simple square or circle press to go in either direction. The problem with this is that you often need to do this while being attacked by enemies, and timing is crucial. Not only do you have to cycle to the item you want to use, but then you have to hit triangle to use it, usually making sure there is a “Use” prompt onscreen for the object you need to interact with—for instance, there are random safe spots along your way, but you have to cycle to the cellphone when you reach one then quickly hit the use button to start the process. If you don’t within a few seconds, it fails to work, so you then have to cycle all the way through to the cellphone again. It’s great that saves are unlimited, but it is easy to run right by a save prompt—they are not visible on screen like the typewriter in Resident Evil. You just randomly stumble upon them if you’re lucky enough to run past just the right spots during your journey. Personally I think you shouldn’t have to access an object in such a hectic game like this. If you choose to “use” a save spot, it should just automatically use it!

You are constantly in gun battles, because for a majority of the game the enemies are not monsters but armed humans! You need tons of bullets, so luckily every time you kill a guy he drops some. You never have to manually reload, which helps. On the downside, there is no “health.” The game is called Fear Effect because you have a fear meter. The longer you’re in danger, the quicker your meter drops. If you don’t escape or run from the threat fast enough, you die. Only being in a safe zone replenishes your meter. Cheat codes here I come.

Although you pick up different weapons along the way, you change characters numerous times throughout the game, and your weapons don’t carry across characters.

The main character is a bombshell babe who is totally sexualized—skimpy outfits, a shower scene, playing one segment in just a towel, and even male counterparts that practically #metoo her.

Boss battles can be infuriating. First of all, you never actually know what you’re supposed to do to defeat them. Many times there’s something you simply have to avoid hitting during the battle or it’s instant death, be it an innocent bystander or an explosive tank. Making this hard not to do is the fact that the auto aim system locks the reticules on the nearest object. Argh! That’s really challenging to pay attention to in the heat of a battle. Very often the only way to guarantee you hit your target is to get so close to it that you have to just take the shots being fired back at you (which you probably can’t if you don’t cheat like I did).

Also making battles hard is the fact that the camera is fixed as in Resident Evil, so these crazed shooters are blasting away at you but you can’t even see them to shoot back.

Confusing cut scenes barely prepare you for what you need to do the instant they end, like climbing a ladder that has become accessible before you get shot, racing across the top of a train that is about to go off a cliff, or racing to a knife that has been dropped in the middle of a room and is the only thing that will save your unarmed ass from a gun toting baddie. Prepare to die a lot right after cut scenes.

Just like Resident Evil, there’s a lot of backtracking to collect items and solve puzzles. Puzzles can be annoying to figure out. There are also some frustrating balancing act scenes. As is common with these games, pushing directly forward on the stick somehow makes you stray at an angle, so it’s not a cut and dry process getting across beams and platforms. To fuck you up even more, camera angles keep shifting as you proceed. What also makes this whole balancing act silly is that you can fall off the edge during these segments, yet you don’t fall off the edge of narrow paths when you go to hell…

Oh yes, you do go to hell eventually, which leads me to the horror aspects of the game. The first disc is short, and right after you switch discs you’re on an island full of zombies. Don’t be scared, because the cut scene introducing them is like something out of a Scooby Doo episode. And so are they. They’re not scary, but they are infuriating, because they absolutely surround you in tight corners throughout this section. Don’t plan on getting through it without cheat codes.

Some of the more annoying moments along the way include a death trap moment right after you do an annoying 12-code puzzle. With no save right before the death trap, you have to redo the damn code over and over every time you die. There’s also a ridiculous crouching segment. You have to get past chefs on either side of a kitchen, but they keep turning around. If you aren’t crouching at the right time, instant death. Thing is, you’re walking between them on a completely open floor plan. They would see you no matter how high or low you are. Worse, you have to repeatedly hit crouch because you cant crouch and move at the same time.

The best horror segment of the game comes right as you move on to the fourth and final disc (oddly you have to switch back to the second disc before the game is through). This is when you face off against various demons in the creepy, cavernous hell. The place looks cool and the demons are cool, but here is where the cheat codes call your name again. Everything you need—weapons, ammo, keys—are collected as paper versions (no, I don’t know why) that need to be burned at a fire source before they can be used. With few fires available, this means constant back and forth. Plus, there are so many demons attacking you all the time that you desperately need to keep going back to the fire to burn ammo they’ve dropped. Enemies are endless, they swarm you, and they respawn in sections. Cheat codes.

You’ll also want those codes for an annoying boss that keeps taking away platforms as you fight. Invincibility lets you walk on water. Fuck you, boss.

And fuck the final boss—he bombards you with killer magic beams, and you have to run back and forth shooting baddies that drop to collect paper money, which you then have to select and use at torches in the arena to make the boss vulnerable for a matter of seconds before you start the process over.

At least, that was my final boss. You get to save right before the end, which is good, because there are like five endings depending on a choice you make. I just didn’t have the patience to try them all.

FEAR EFFECT 2: RETRO HELIX

It’s heartbreaking that there aren’t punch-in cheat codes for Fear Effect 2, because it is only slightly less difficult than the first—and at times, nearly impossible. Worse…the various Gameshark codes available for it do not work. No infinite fear meter in this game. I’m still astounded that I ever made it through. One part seriously took me months to pass. I’d play it over and over to exhaustion, quit, and then not go back to the game for a week.

The good news is, when you play through a second time, you unlock a computer terminal that you can punch codes in for all weapons and infinite ammo. The bad news? You can only do this if you play the game on hard. Or as I like to call it, impossible.

This game is infuriating. There are too many times when you have to do a series of extremely hard tasks before you get to another save. There are monsters that take way too many bullets to kill. An item collecting section that required constant teleporting to different realms was so hard that I would go in, kill a monster, run back to save, go kill the next monster, go back to save, etc. This relatively short segment could have been done in no time took, but instead took me hours because of this tactic. Of course if I hadn’t saved between each monster, I would have died numerous times and had to do each teleporting step over and over and over again. Even worse, each time you teleport, do your task in another realm (earth, fire, water…), and come back, the fucking monsters have respawned!

The controls are virtually exactly the same as the first game, which is great for your learning curve, and you can turn ON the “save beacon” option, which shows a target mark where there is a save instead of making you look for them in thin air. None of that makes up for the fact that the fear level meter is ridiculously disadvantageous. It runs out in seconds and if you get shot just once, you’re dead. Plus the baddies are relentless and way stronger than you. Supposedly, succeeding in a challenge or killing baddies will make it rise, but that never happens. I spent the majority of the game on the verge of death.

In terms of bang for your buck, this game is massive and super long, with a load of gameplay variation. But it also drags in segments because it makes you literally do the same exact challenges over with a different character. And one puzzle segment from hell is a fricking chess game you have to win four damn times before continuing.

The sequel also introduces the lesbian love interest of our main girl, so now we get two girls totally sexualized…with improved graphics!

Once again, there are numerous quick run scenes that you are tossed into directly out of cutscenes, where you’re suddenly being chased by a big baddie and can’t let it catch up with you. You don’t know where you’re going, you can’t predict turns, you get stuck on things, and the controls, which are tight and accurate during regular gameplay, suddenly feel as if your controller is broken and not responding to the directions in which you are pushing it. These events became the ONLY part of the game I would play in a single sitting, after which I’d quit for the night because they were that tedious.

Fear Effect 2 is also loaded with back tracking and using items in your inventory without having any idea what to use or in what order. You’ll never figure it out without a walkthrough. That includes a huge party scene in which you have to avoid getting too close to guards while doing your backtracking. If you get too close to them, your gun sets off their metal detectors, and you are immediately tossed out of the party and forced to start the section over again.

And this being a game with super hard enemies, it is unforgivable that even after you’ve used a keycard to open a door, every time you need to get through that door again, even when fleeing, you have to flip through your real time inventory to find the keycard to use it again.

The only upside here is that the sequel delves more into horror enemies, with big zombies, demons, and invincible ghosts (argh!) sprinkled throughout the game. But it’s still an action game—these monsters are never frightening beyond the fact that you’re terrified when you encounter them because your fear meter is in the red and you barely have any ammo. I get it. Games should be challenging, but not to the point that they are no fun and a chore to complete.

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Will the Primal Rage at Blood Lake leave you Scared Stiff?

It’s so satisfying that so many obscure films of the 80s are still being released on DVD and Blu-ray—with plenty more I’m still waiting for. So how important are these three to my extensive 80s horror collection? Well duh…super important because they’re from the 80s. But let’s look at them anyway.

PRIMAL RAGE (1988)

 

Primal Rage may just be the best 80s horror disaster you’ve never seen (if you don’t already worship it).

Right from the start we get a college campus montage complete with girls doing aerobics, and we’re treated to the theme song “Say The Word” by The Facade Band, a dance song so sugary sweet 80s that it even gets a major credit call-out in the intro credits.

Primal Rage has the vibe of some of the best of hokey Euro horror of the 80s, with so much more than a straightforward plot.

A scientist on campus is experimenting on a monkey (beware: the scene is disturbingly harsh for animal lovers). A school reporter investigates by breaking into the lab and gets bit by the monkey. The cheesy action music is astoundingly 80s Euro horror.

Before long, this turns into an infected film, with the guy going crazy on people and eventually looking like a zombie.

He infects a girl. She starts to go crazy.

He and his friends have a run-in with campus bullies that want to rape the girl. This is turning into a hot mess.

And then comes the Halloween dance. What the frick? This slice of infected heaven turns into a Halloween slasher flick, with a dance montage that amounts to a slasher-themed music video.

Someone in a skeleton costume is running around slicing and dicing people up right on the dance floor with some gory good fun. Plus, a girl gets chased through the halls by the killer…and the infected.

And just when you think the battle is won and it’s all over, there’s a scene involving the infected and a lawn sprinkler that catapults this film into 80s horror camp history. So why does no one talk about this classic?

BLOOD LAKE (1987)

Blood Lake is proof that even back in the 80s everyone with a video camera thought they could make a horror movie if they just gathered their friends at a house by the lake and found a big guy to carry a knife.

This goes beyond lost cult slasher. It’s an absolutely terrible film that fills most of its time with heavy metal montages of kids driving, talking, water skiing, talking more, water skiing again, back to talking, smoking pot, swimming. WTF? I’d rather go to a house by the lake with my own friends then sit through this pointless film.

There’s some repetitive 80s style horror music during the few kill scenes, most of which take place near the end, there’s a laugh out loud moment when one of the non-actors “falls” off the dock, and the killer POV is just the screen turning red—even though the killer isn’t some sort of cyborg or alien, just a dude in a hat.

The final scene tries its best to be backwoods horror, with the killer tying a few people up after chasing them through the house.

Everything after the ambulance comes for survivors brings the energy to a new low.

SCARED STIFF (1987)

The director of Doom Asylum and Phantom of the Mall was definitely a pro at making halfway decent 80s horror for the direct to video market. As in…about half of the movie is decent. In this case it’s the second half.

Andrew Stevens, his girlfriend, and her son move into an old plantation home. She’s a singer, so we get a couple of bad music video filming moments. Andrew finds an old diary from back in the slave days. And soon, his girl begins being haunted by visions of the slave owner of the house.

Her son’s toys move on their own. They house has a pigeon problem. Andrew finds a box in the attic with corpses in it.

A gardener dies on the property. A creepy mask gets a vector treatment in the kid’s computer and then projects into the middle of the room. Both Andrew Stevens and the slave owner appear shirtless.

It’s a mess and not very entertaining, until finally this demon dude appears and starts chasing the girlfriend and her son around the house.

A bunch of other ghouls pop out, and a dude unzips his head to expose his brains, making the last twenty minutes feel like a fun house of horror.

There’s even a Miami Vice sounding score during a car crash scene.

What I’m saying is, in the end, 80s horror rarely lets me down.

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Wicked witches and good girls gone bad

Going as far back as the 90s to cover this foursome of disastrous films…

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN (1991)

Because it was released during the peak of my days working at the video store, I have a soft spot for this type of pseudo horror/erotic thriller starring familiar faces just past their prime. In this case, Mark Hamill (after defeating the Empire), Apollonia (post purple reign), and Amanda Wyss (who made a wrong turn on Elm Street).

Unfortunately, this ends up feeling like an episode of the HBO series The Hitchhiker stretched into a 90-minute movie. The very final, delicious twist comes too late to make up for everything that didn’t happen before it.

Hamill and his sort of girlfriend/business partner Wyss run an art gallery that needs a boost. In walks mysterious and sexy Apollonia, who bangs Hamill and promises to send success his way.

She works her magic with great success, but then Hamill tosses her aside. For the rest of the movie he basically keeps finding a mix of blood and little animals in his bed. He starts to harass Apollonia demanding she back off, and it makes him look like the crazy one! Matters get worse for him when a few people in his life start turning up dead.

It’s a good plot, but the big disappointment is that Apollonia virtually disappears from the story for a majority of the movie when all you really want to see is her being the evil witch you know she can be. And the reason she doesn’t whip out cauldrons, brooms, and black cats isn’t revealed until that final clever twist. Definitely should have been a 30-minute episode of The Hitchhiker.

THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999)

The director of the Stripped to Kill movies and Poison Ivy jumps on the bandwagon of making blasphemous 90s sequels to horror classics. The main girl’s name isn’t even Carrie!

Gone is DePalma’s style and slow buildup that makes your stomach turn. Gone is the pitiful Carrie that breaks our heart, replaced by a trendy looking chick who could be the lead singer of a 90s alternative band. Present is Sue Snell as Carrie 2’s guidance counselor, because Amy Irving chose a paycheck over being out of work…and standing by the integrity of the movie that launched her career.

Carrie 2’s religious nut mom was sent to a nut house (mental hospital, not church). Her adoptive father is abusive. The jocks at school, including Brad from Home Improvement, play a fucked up game of fucking and dumping girls. When they do it to Carrie 2’s friend, Carrie 2 is determined to take them down.

But suddenly the guys seem to have a change of heart and invite her to a big party and she falls for it! WTF? Didn’t she ever see the movie Carrie?

Carrie 2 gets humiliated, and her powers come out full force…in the form of her heart and vein tattoo turning into a spider web of black marker all over her skin. What the fuck were they thinking?

No split screen, but some of the kills are gory good, a gym teacher pulls an Elm Street and gets hot for one jock’s ass, and you’ll never believe who Sue Snell learns is Carrie 2’s father…

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 (2000)

In a quick attempt to cash in on the first film’s success, the makers of the sequel decide that as long as it was anything other than an hour and a half of people filming leaves on the ground, it would be a better movie. They were right, yet this is still a piece of garbage.

However it’s also awesomely 90s, with Marilyn Manson’s “Disposable Teens”, a goth girl, a Wiccan girl, cute boys, nudity, and a lot of drugs.

In a meta move, fans are flocking to the woods where the first movie took place. Our main group goes to the remains of one of the houses from the original viral documentary, camps there for the night, and wakes up with no recollection of what happened the night before.

A messy hodge-podge of ghost kids, flashes of murder, and visions of witchcraft begin to haunt the group as the plot just spirals out of control. Plus, they all start acting weird after discovering they have witch symbols on their bodies.

It feels like the script was written while on drugs, but at least that means way more trippy stuff happens than in the first film. And the footage they take is more exciting because it reveals actual witchcraft rituals that prove a witch is really fucking with them.

The worst part of the movie? It’s told as flashbacks while the survivors are being interrogated by police.

KILLER BASH (2005)

David DeCoteau does the Tamara/Carrie girl strikes back thing in a way only he can–with boys running around in their undies just for the hell of it.

This is from the period when DeCoteau went from making semi-genuine horror films loaded with pretty boys to his pure softcover homoerotic porn horror, so the horror is pretty cheesy.

An unpopular girl at college finds an old school ring, becomes possessed, and starts using her new red eyes to kill boys in their underwear after gawking at them and lusting over for them for a nice period of time, allowing us to get a good gander.

No real blood here, but the late Cory Monteith plays the nice guy who hangs with her while they’re stuck at school for Christmas break.

He also sniffs his own shirt, because that’s what college boys do in public.

Jason’s replacement mom from Freddy vs. Jason plays her therapist, there’s a Ouija board session, and the boys have a vodka shower party.

 

There’s also a bad house music soundtrack that sounds like something from 1994.

Am I saying any of this goodness makes it worth a watch? Absolutely not.

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Gay horror Stephen King approves and gay horror he wrote

It was completely unintentional that I read two books in a row featuring gay couples—I just randomly picked the shortest books off the massive pile I still need to read to shrink it a bit faster. But this happy accident makes the perfect double feature blog.

THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Paul Tremblay

Because there was so much hype about this book, as well as praise because it focuses on gay characters, my hubba hubba got it for me for Christmas.

What I didn’t expect was for this to feel like a rather generic home invasion film in book form. No monsters, aliens, or crazy backwoods cannibals near this cabin, simply a weird cult of people convinced that a gay couple and their daughter are the key to stopping the end of the world.

The book starts right in with the crazy crew showing up at the cabin and trying to gently explain the situation to the couple—which kicks off the home invasion.

The plot felt fairly predictable beyond the gay angle, so this was not a page-turner for me. And perhaps it’s because I spend so much of my time immersed in the world of the wacky gay guys in my own horror series, but the two guys here feel very flat to me, with no distinct personalities, despite plenty of flashback scenes in place in an attempt to further develop their characters. I know they are in a dire situation so it’s hard to paint a more complex emotional side of either of them, but that perhaps would be reason enough to present them before the home invaders show up. I just never quite felt their devotion to each other or their daughter.

And the driving force pushing the story forward—is there really an apocalypse? Are these just anti-gay religious nuts?—fizzles out then leaves us with an open ending.

Ironically, Stephen King has a quote on The Cabin At The End of the World book jacket:

“A tremendous book—thought-provoking and terrifying, with tension that winds up like a chain.”

Despite his glowing approval, I found this one couldn’t compete with his own short book centering around a gay couple.

ELEVATION by Stephen King

It has been decades since I’ve been drawn into page-turning territory by a Stephen King book, but this novella had me at the first chapter thanks to it being small (in height and width!), only 146 pages, and presenting a premise that is sort of Thinner with lesbians.

However, this isn’t so much a horror story as an episode of Amazing Stories. It’s King at his best, for it is just as much about interpersonal relationships in a small town as it is about a man who is mysteriously registering as losing loads of weight on the scale despite still remaining visually overweight.

It’s the story about the biggest loser’s new lesbian neighbors being ostracized by townsfolk that made me want this one to be longer than it is. Him being one of few who sees and feels the injustice they’re experiencing and the stubborn streak that keeps the lesbians from appreciating it are the stuff of classic King.

Yet, while King does a great job of giving various perspectives on both progressive and regressive people, in the end the plot is tidy and Kumbaya rather than allowing the clashing social and political issues to create the kind of harsh and horrific material we expect from the iconic author. It’s almost like he wanted to be kinder and gentler with the conflict to reshape the conversation on strife that is going on in this country right now.

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VAMPS: Sunset Society vs. Bloodrunners

A metal head and a hip hop icon each runs a vampire club. Who throws the better horror party?

SUNSET SOCIETY (2018)

Rolfe Kanefsky, one of my favorite directors of sexy, trashy, comic horror, does collaborative duties on this heavy metal vampire horror starring the late Lemme of Motorhead, with appearances by members of Guns n Roses and LA Guns and Ron Jeremy, and even a cameo by Steve-O of Jackass.

This is a little rougher than Kanefsky’s films, so I’m not sure how much “collaborative” effort he put into it, because it doesn’t quite feel like one of his films. However, this is an undeniably watchable piece of horror sleaze that does an astounding job of appearing like it was made in the 80s more than those films that actually are trying to come across as such. I have a sneaking suspicion (always wanted to say that) it looks so genuine because the extras in the film are probably groupies of the bands from the actual 80s that simply got stuck in that decade as many are apt to do (yours truly excluded…like, totally).

Begin your horror movie with animation propelling the story and then use animation to segue between scenes throughout and you’ve already got me hooked. Lemme makes an awesome cartoon. He runs a club that lures partiers for vampires to feed on. One of his vamps is tired of being a vamp and wants to become human again. Another is a blood addict making risky moves that could expose the vampires, and one of the victims he turned longs to die.

But the biggest problem is that someone has made a snuff video exposing the vampires and is selling it on the street, so Lemme puts some vamps on the case, including camptastic Brian Cranston lookalike Robert Donavan. Others stealing the show include a guy whose body gets possessed by a vamp, as well as the leading vampire woman.

There’s plenty of cheesy vampire feeding, one vamp gets his gnarly teeth sanded off, a muscle stud vamp bursts out of a woman, and Ron Jeremy gets his dick burned by a Star of David. Plus the Cranston clone rocks out to Ratt’s “Round and Round.”

BLOODRUNNERS (2017)

What a striking contrast in these similarly themed films. Bloodrunners is more polished with a tighter script, yet the first hour is agonizingly boring, before the vamp fun finally kicks in.

Ice-T is the bandleader at a club during 1933 prohibition. He also happens to be a vampire leader. Unfortunately, most of the film is more of a drama about a bunch of corrupt cops extorting money from the club owner.

Vamp action count during this time? One scene of a vamp biting a woman at a whorehouse, and a fight between cops and vamps…that’s handled with guns! Yawn.

I can’t fathom why the filmmakers would pack all the interesting stuff, both character and vamp focused, into the last half hour. We finally learn several interesting things about the main cop that make him more human, and the vampire action that hits finally shows that the higher budget and more polished look pays off, with some good gore, cool shifty movement vamps, and smoking staked vamp effects.

It’s no From Dusk Till Dawn, but if only we had gotten more of this vampire battle action throughout the film, this could have at least landed itself on the SyFy channel.

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