PRIME TIME: crazed killers, ghosts, demons, and a real home invasion

Only one of these four films got some notoriety in horror news…because it’s about the Manson family. But does that make it most worth the watch? Let’s take a look.

TWELVE POLE MANOR (2017)

     

Twelve Pole Manor begins with a gritty and realistic hanging and suicide, then focuses on some beary hicks that buy a derelict house to renovate and flip.

The very indie feel and look of the old house and the totally 80s music cues had me hoping for something along the lines of Dead Dudes in the House.

Unfortunately, despite some early promise, Twelve Pole Manor takes some odd turns and doesn’t deliver any demons or monsters.

The first early kill seems supernatural, then the next kill seems like straight up slasher, with a whole lot of guts, a creepy killer silhouette and fog machines in the woods, and an awesome one-handed axe hacking.

There’s what seems to be more supernatural stuff happening in the house, including an eerie scene of something or someone standing behind a guy in the shadows. However, the suspense is hampered by an overload of jump scare music stingers.

The dialogue is somewhat lost in the sound mix, which becomes a problem when a good chunk of the film drags with all talk between the characters as they work on the house!  Blah.

We are made to believe there is some sort of possession in the works, but instead of any demon fun, the guys eventually just begin turning on each other in a murderous free-for-all. I was kind of disappointed by the lack of any classic scary stuff, but the gore definitely picks back up in the final act.

PURGATORY ROAD (2017)

Purgatory Road is not your ordinary horror film. This isn’t a cheap scares flick or even an atmospheric chiller. It’s a sort of macabre and morbid tale of two brothers—one of them a priest—who kill very specific types of sinners.

As children, the pair watched their dad shoot himself after a robbery. The priest brother is all kinds of fucked up. They drive around in an RV in which he hears people’s confessions. If the person is a thief, the priest brutally kills them!

Other than that, sins are okay—including a gay bear that spy cams on his neighbor!

I guess it’s easy to overlook butt sex when you’re a priest with necrophilia issues.

Meanwhile, somehow dad, who blew his brains out, is still alive! And for reasons unknown, he’s turned into a sort of basement-dwelling monster!

That’s the meat of the plot. It’s dark, dreary, and satisfyingly icky, and the religious BS is handled in a nice and nasty way that kept me from groaning, “UGH! Religious horror!” I can’t say I loved the film or would ever watch it again, but it was definitely engrossing and just sleazy and offensive enough to satisfy my horror tastes.

ROSA LEIGH (2018)

This is a short full-length film…that feels like it should have been a much shorter film. It presents one form of scare and then just smacks us over the head with it non-stop for the entire film.

The plot is familiar—a group sneaks into an abandoned school with a dark past to investigate. That’s about as deep as it gets.

They walk around with cameras acting scared, and we are absolutely bombarded by quick flashes of ghostly apparitions (even though the characters aren’t seeing them) as musical stingers blast in our ears to scare us.

The ghostly clips then get shocked by static because that’s the one cool effect the editor appears to have learned on a computer.

THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE (2019)

It never seemed like a good idea to make the real-life massacre of Sharon Tate and friends by the Manson family into a horror movie, but that is exactly what this film does.

Sharon, played by Hilary Duff, begins having terrible nightmares as soon as Roman Polanski moves them into their new house and then leaves her alone. Her “dreams” are brutal reenactments of the family killing everyone.

Every time she wakes up, she tries to warn the friends staying with her that something is very wrong and they need to leave the house. So the movie presents the murders of Sharon Tate as premonitions that could have saved her friends, her, and her unborn baby if only they had listened to her.

It plays out like a suspenseful home invasion film in the end. However, they could have just made a fictional home invasion film about a pregnant woman who has premonitions so as not to make entertainment out of a real-life massacre. But, I mean, is it hypocritical to judge when we’ve all, for instance, watched about fifty movies or so based on the murder spree of Ed Gein?

Most shocking to me is how many almost naked guys Sharon had running around her house…

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ReQueered Tales brings us something scary and steamy

Originally published in 1991, Steam by Jay B. Laws is a gay horror novel that was timely in its day, could be read today as a throwback by horror fans who were around back then, and would probably have to be consumed as a time capsule by horror fans born post-80s.

Gay horror author Hal Bodner writes the new intro, in which he references several times that the book might be foreign to modern readers because it deals with AIDS and bathhouses. On top of that, it regularly drops the names of seventies disco songs and is comfortingly retro for Gen-Xers like me, because characters don’t have the convenience of cellphones and even experience the horrors of phone booths. Eek! But seriously, it shouldn’t be considered “foreign” to modern readers—it should be looked at as an entertaining fictional horror story that offers a view of our gay past to a new generation of gay men, who should know where we came from to know where we could be heading.

Steam has to be read carefully because it jumps from one seemingly unconnected character and story to the other. The trick is to realize there are two different “realities” occurring. David, the main character, is dealing with a friend dying of AIDS in 1980s San Francisco when he begins to experience inexplicable, supernatural occurrences. Meanwhile, happily partnered Mick is being terrorized by an obscene phone caller, and a chain of events leads him to believe the caller has infected him with some sort of disease.

As David and Mick are haunted by nightmarish men and monsters, their connection becomes clear—in a twist right out of Stephen King, one of the two men has spawned from the creative mind of the other. The two realities must come together to conquer the hideous sexual predator that is drawing men into its bathhouse of horrors.

Along with similarities to Stephen King, Steam delivers surreal “other realms” and hellish, psychosexual situations in an openly gay context that should appeal to fans of Clive Barker as well.

Steam by Jay B. Laws is now available in paperback and ebook format from ReQueered Tales.

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DIRECT TO DVD and Streaming: the horror of Michael Crum

A while back I blogged about Michael Crum’s film Lake Fear. I also covered Lake Fear 2, but it was not a true sequel, and Crum had nothing to do with it. But when I stumbled upon part 3, his official sequel, as well as his demonic doll movie Anna and his exorcism movie Fall of Grace, I just had to check them out. And I can definitely say I am a huge fan of his style…and the fact that he sure knows how to cast sexy guys.

Crum is the type of talent I would want to bring the script of my gay slasher novella Scream, Queen! to celluloid if he ever wanted to dabble in gay horror. Are there any gay Michael Crum’s out there looking to make a good slasher?

I wasn’t even through with this marathon of his films before I jumped on Amazon to order all his movies on DVD.

ANNA (2017)

I think this is why I keep coming back for more Michael Crum films. He takes chances and doesn’t give you the mere rip-offs of better-known titles you expect. For instance, Anna might be the first part of Annabelle, and it might be another indie movie with a creepy doll on the poster, but this is a weird blend of trippy, Silent Hill type visual horror combined with a comedy duo film.

I actually was not feeling it at first. As our two paranormal investigators try to steal a doll from a museum and then hype its horror history, the humor wasn’t quite there for me, and nothing was really happening.

Then suddenly everything clicked for me…once the cute guys got naked. Pure coincidence, I swear.

Okay, it started a little before that, but the naked scene was the springboard for the meat of the movie, and lands this film on my stud stalking page. One of the leads is Gerald Crum, Michael’s brother—who also works on many of the behind the scenes aspects of the films (like special effects and writing!), so they are truly a horror duo.

A paranormal medium makes the guys get naked to do a ritual on the doll. The guys become increasingly funnier…and sexier, although there’s only the one butt shot after which our naked boys are always carefully hidden behind props.

At the same time, the surreal horror aspects become freakier!

It’s odd and disjointed (a Crum staple), and there might be a bit of jump scare overkill, but I just love the Crum style. They have a true grasp of nightmarish visuals—the looks of the hellish creatures, the eerie set designs, and the overall creepiness create the kind of horror atmosphere I love. Not to mention…I dare say they are both sCRUMptious…

LAKE FEAR 3 (2018)

This film picks up where the first film left off. The hero from the cabin is now on the run from demons that have chased him, so things start off with some grotesque demon fun.

Meanwhile, a girl and her friend are on the hunt for her missing sister. They ask a popular psychic at a convention for help. This guy is super sexy in just a vest and tight pants he wears so well.

Oh. He’s also really funny.

Once the trio meets the main hero, the demon insanity kicks in and never lets up.

So much of it is in slow motion and there’s very little dialogue. This is what I call a monster movie. We are bombarded by non-stop demons and other hideous and weird creatures that are so Crum.

The conclusion leaves us hanging for another sequel…plus an Anna tie-in if you stick around for the end credits. Awesome. 

FALL OF GRACE (2017)

Compared to Crum’s humor-laden films, Fall Of Grace is sadistic and dark. And despite a news reporter comparing the situation in the movie to The Amityville Horror at the beginning, once again this film follows its own unique course, making it hard to compare it to other films.

When it begins, a wife is home with her shirtless, full-lipped lover.

Her daughter is upstairs speaking with a demon in the closet and her husband—the leading man from Lake Fear—is out at some sort of fight club. He finally shows us his beef, getting shirtless while fighting the hot guy from Lake Fear 3!

The daughter gets taken to hell, and the father delves into the occult to capture a demon to use as a bargaining chip to get her back.

The demon that hangs around the house is similar to the Jackal in the box in the Thir13en Ghosts remake. Eek!

As with Crum’s other films, dialogue is minimal, there’s loads of shaky cam and freaky editing, the color palette is minimal and horror classic, the monsters are hellish, the gore is created with practical effects that are effectively nasty, and everything feels trippy and surreal. Plus, Gerald Crum from Anna is back.

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HULU HORROR: school scares from K through college

This month’s Into The Dark finally goes simple high school slasher, while my other two choices for this Hulu triple feature deal with little kiddies and college kids. Only one of the three kept me vaguely entertained. Let’s see which one. 

ASTRAL (2018)

Despite the title and the subject matter, the protagonist never actually astral projects.

If Frank Dillane left Fear the Walking Dead to do this movie, he shouldn’t have. Especially since he’s more miserable in this movie than he was on that show. His character is a mopey college kid who becomes obsessed with the possibility of using astral projection to meet his dead mother on a different plane.

He does a lot of researching, he films himself sleeping Paranormal Activity style, he sees a dark image on the footage, there are a couple of Lights Out moments, he moves from focusing on astral projection to researching shadow people, we get two glimpses of a demon face and then…

…this is suddenly a possession movie for a few minutes at the end. The big question for me is, why does a spiritual psychic who uses Tarot cards and a Ouija board suddenly convert to Christianity to combat a demon?

THE SCHOOL (2018)

The opening scene of The School feels like an homage to Kristen stuck in the Elm Street dream world, but before long it becomes a confusing take on Silent Hill

A mother is trapped in a derelict netherworld school looking for her son. I have no idea why. She teams up with two children in this nightmarish setting and has to keep them safe as they are chased by, well, mostly what looks like a teen version of the baddies from Mad Max.

There is one creepy-crawly girl creature and a few eerie scenes, but honestly, this is just derivative horror-lite. Just watch Silent Hill again.

INTO THE DARK: SCHOOL SPIRIT (2019)

At last, Hulu’s Into the Dark series goes for a straightforward teen slasher.

If you’re a fan of Scream era slashers, definitely watch this one for the kill scenes.

As for the plot, if you’ve seen The Breakfast Club, just imagine it with kills every now and then.

I’m not talking homage. This film virtually lifts dialogue and simply rephrases it. Not only is that not very original, but there already is a slasher movie that pays homage to The Breakfast Club.

But back to the kills. For me, two scenes rise above all the generic crap going on here.

One is nasty good, the other is quite creepy because it uses silence instead of music to set the eerie tone in a red-lit hallway.

As a bonus, there’s a good old body reveal party at the end. It’s my favorite aspect of the denouement, because when the killer unmasks and the motive is revealed, it’s rather lame and cliché other than the fact that the killer chooses “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo as the soundtrack to the insanity.

 

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PRIME TIME: 3 zombie flicks with the word “dead” in the title

It’s been a while since I binged some zombie flix, but I scrounged up three from my watchlist. Each one delivered something for me to like…but I only actually liked two of them. Let’s find out which two.

DEADWALKER INFERNO (2015)

There is nothing not to like about this German zomcom. Adorable guys go camping, everyone at the camp passes out around a bonfire, and when they wake up, most of them turn into zombies and begin some serious gut munching without CGI.

A small survival group is formed, including some standout characters, like a burly bear daddy who immediately assumes two of the pretty boys are a couple, and a sexually charged little guy and his woman.

As the group trains to kick zombie ass, there’s another problem…psychotic Nazis!

There’s even an unexpected torture scene that feels oddly out of place in a zombedy. But it’s not extensive, and we soon get back to the original tone as the group kicks Nazi ass.

Bonuses include the cuties showing their asses while taking a pee break, and a muscle Nazi deciding to strip off his shirt to fight.

THE DEMONIC DEAD (2017)

This is a messy little zombie film that waits until the last minute to deliver much in the way of zombies, but I’ll give it credit for having a whole bunch of other horror stuff going on and treating us to a pretty boy and a hot daddy.

Eric Roberts appears in the prologue scene for about ten seconds before disappearing for good in a puff of CGI fire. Then we move to the present day, where I was quickly left dazed and confused. There’s a possessed woman and an exorcism.

The pretty boy comes to save the day, and he’s sort of a religious freak, which was kind of annoying (there are more flashes of Jesus than I need to see in an hour), especially since I was convinced his character was going to be gay.

How to make priests forget they’re in the middle of an exorcism…

There are various other characters, but I didn’t quite follow what they were all about. The main focus is on the pretty boy and the ridiculously cheesy rekindling of his relationship with his ex. There’s like a ten-minute montage of this shit set to an 80s style ballad, reminding us that girl names were the in thing in the 80s…Gloria, Roseanna, Carrie, Billie Jean, Amanda, Oh Sherrie, Oh Sheila, Angelia, Eileen, Jenny Jenny, etc.

There’s a demon witch whose high hair makes it appear she wished there were an 80s song named after her, she has a sort of scarecrow killer sidekick, and everyone seems to be hunting her.

Finally in the last ten minutes or so, she summons zombies.

Just when a handful lumber onto the screen in the daylight and it feels like some good old Euro zombie action is about to happen, the movie kind of ends. Doh!

WITHIN THE WOODS OF UNDEAD COUNTY (2016)

This little indie doesn’t get much love based on the star rating on Amazon. Personally, it’s my kind of zombie film. For starters, there’s the running time of only 77 minutes…with little in the way of padding once the action starts.

It’s also as simple as a zombie movie needs to be. There’s a breakout, there’s news coverage, and we meet our main girl. After a quick but hugely effective peephole scene, she hits the streets.

Everything about this initial zombie carnage scene kicks ass for an indie, including the music.

Not to mention, the film, shot in washed out daylight, is one of my favorite kinds of zombie films. There’s something so much creepier about zombies when you’re reminded that they don’t just disappear into the shadows once the sun rises. It’s risky not to hide things in the cloak of darkness, especially when you don’t have much in the way of makeup, but the zombie scenes are so tight it actually took me a while to realize that the only thing cluing us in to them being zombies is that they’re smeared with blood and, you know, walk funny.

The main girl meets a girl and two guys, one of which must be a fan of The Walking Dead, because he decides it will be safer to hide out in the woods. Hence the title. Awesome.

There is a brief period that I worried was getting into Blair Witch territory. In other words, they were just walking around the woods and nothing happened. But that didn’t last long. Once the zombies come rushing in, it is fast, intense, suspenseful, and bloody.

Granted, as they attempt to stay alive, it’s the usual zombie plot points—someone is bit, doesn’t want to turn into one of “those things”, someone has to suck it up and kill that person, they run into a psycho who was born to just rape and pillage even when the world is overcome by zombies (Dumpsters. Sigh), and characters make self-centered decisions.

It’s the little details that matter. The scene with the psycho, for instance, doesn’t stick to ridiculous movie clichés, instead going for a surprisingly realistic outcome. A scene of the main girl running away shot in first-person POV is so unnerving I wanted more of it. Footage of devoured corpses in a field at dawn is chillingly morbid. And the final scene is an eerie reminder of how instantly your identity as a human can vanish during a zombie outbreak.

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PRIME TIME: a horror comedy triple feature…or not?

This latest trio of flicks in my Amazon Prime watchlist was a 1 out of 3 ain’t bad situation for me. I thought I was getting a horror comedy triple feature, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

DOCTOR SPINE (2015)

Darkly comic horror Doctor Spine might be a little drawn out (would you believe me if I said I would have preferred 90 minutes over 102 minutes?), but I have to admit this bizarre indie had enough of what I like to keep me watching and is my favorite of this bunch.

Crisply presented with a comic book art filter and featuring comic book panels in the tradition of Creepshow, Doctor Spine is drenched in 80s neon horror colors as it tells the story of a chiropractor who snaps and goes on a killing spree.

His troubles stem from childhood trauma involving his father, played by Joe Estevez, who is now the voice in his brain telling him what to do, and has a visitor in the form of Reggie Bannister, because horror cameos matter more than logic.

Also passing through as one of the doctor’s patients is Tiffany Shepis who, as usual, is relegated to a name recognition cameo. Is she ever going to actually star in a horror movie again?

Highlights include a funny Batman TV show style bar fight in which no one is safe, a heavy metal montage of women being abducted, tortured, and killed, body reveals, and a pointless Judy Tenuta cameo.

Most importantly, there’s a muscle man who believes he is Thor and steps in to battle Doctor Spine in the end.

Thor always wants to get naked, and thankfully, he gives us a happy ending by showing off his muscle ass.

DEVIL MUSIC (aka: 61: Highway to Hell) (2017)

When this film begins, title cards introduce us to the conspiracy theory that Dylan and Clapton are believed to have sold their souls to the devil, following in the footsteps of their blues idol. The title card isn’t even necessary, because minutes later, the manager of the fictional band this movie is about repeats the same exact details to them!

Unfortunately, that’s not the only unnecessary thing about this film. Naturally I was into the intriguing satanic concept as related to two actual legends of the rock n’ roll era, thinking this might be similar to The 27 Club, which I recently watched, but mostly everything about this film is unnecessary. And boring. The cast even seems bored acting in it.

After they’re convince to sell their souls to the devil for fame, the band goes on a road trip in an RV to meet the devil to make the deal at the same mythical crossroads as other musicians. That’s it. They head to a place referenced by Dylan and Clapton. No rituals, no sacrifices, no summoning demons. Just a road trip. Oh…and a dead skunk.

There is constant derogatory use of the word gay and pejorative references to being gay, the dudes only seem interested in meeting up with a bunch of underage teen girl (and they do), there’s fart and shit talk, and nothing is funny if it was meant to be (I’m not sure because everyone is too bored to try to make the lines funny).

Finally the band meets the devil. It’s Tobin Bell, looking less scary than he did in Saw. In fact, I thought the film was interrupted by a clip of Jason Mewes in the upcoming Jay and Bob sequel.

I can’t imagine how anyone convinced him to appear in this film. His monologue goes on and on, and he’s just as bored as everyone else.

Most important to note—this is not a horror movie or even a devil themed comedy.

B-NEGATIVE (2019)

WHAT has happened to British humor? It feels like every time I turn on a British horror comedy these days, I am absolutely bored by a movie that goes nowhere and delivers no laughs. For me personally, this one was even more agonizingly unfunny and unhorror than Eat Locals.

A drab dude mopes because he is shooting blanks and can’t have kids, so his friend invites him to some secret society of immortality.

He eventually learns the members are vampires, he wants in on their eternal gig, he tries to help them in their search for pure blood, and he accidentally puts those close to him in jeopardy.

There are approximately three sets of fangs, there’s no blood, and there was nothing that made me laugh. So much talking yet so few jokes.

I had to grab a screen of this cute dog that appears in the film for about 30 seconds because he was my favorite part.

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PRIME TIME: Slashing and torturing through the holidays

The latest self-made triple feature I checked out from my Prime watchlist includes a Halloween clown slasher anthology, a Halloween haunted attraction slasher, and a killer Christmas party flick. They all make it to my holiday horror page, but which ones are worthy of holiday viewing?

CLOWNS OF HALLOWEEN (2019)

This 60-minute anthology has no wraparound, but it delivers on the promise of its title—all three stories take place on Halloween and feature clown killers. The intro credits look and sound right out of the early 80s, which totally got me in the mood.

1st story – I was psyched to see my buddy Dan Peters as one of the leads in this tale (wearing the lipstick on the right!).

There’s a montage at an actual Spirit Halloween pop-up store as friends prepare for a Halloween party, then a great nod to Halloween III: Season of the Witch that fans of the film will pick up on immediately.

Soon it’s on to the party, with perhaps the greatest dance montage since the one in Evil Laugh, set to an electro hip hop tune that sounds right out of 1983.

The fun, cheesy killings don’t have much blood or guts, but they really capture the vibe of 80s slashers. There’s a séance and scary storytelling, and the clown killer is quite creepy. There’s even a surprise gay twist that is more of a twist if you happen to personally know Dan Peters. Either way, it lands this film on my die, gay guy, die! page.

Turns out this segment is actually from a full 1-hour film called Night of the Clown that has been trimmed down to twenty minutes for this anthology. Considering it was by far my favorite of these three tales, I would actually love to see the full version. I’m not sure if the same goes for the other two tales, or if they are presented in their full lengths here.

2nd story – this one definitely captures the spirit of the holiday, complete with a montage of guys decorating a house for Halloween, but once the party starts, it sort of feels like a rehash of the first story. However, this time the killer is a clown doll, and the dance montage song is lame.

But the scene of the doll POV going up creepy steps while “Monster Mash” plays in the distance is a perfect example of how you don’t need a big budget to deliver a genuinely effective horror moment. There’s also sex, a Ouija board, body reveals, and a body count, but the tale is more tongue-in-cheek rather than going for scares.

3rd story  – the shortest of the trio, this is my least favorite. After an ominous warning from a fortune teller machine, a young woman stays home alone on Halloween, carving a pumpkin and watching some horror on TV.

Eventually she’s victim to a home invasion by someone in a clown mask, but the film doesn’t do much in the way of building suspense or tension before the nasty denouement.

CARNAGE FOR THE DESTROYER (2006)

This is about as indie as they get, with a bunch of young people playing over-the-top satirical characters.

The racist one is a little unnecessary after a while—the n word and f word are tossed around constantly, and if it is supposed to be funny, it fails, especially since there are no black or gay characters to rally against it.

The juvenile dialogue is almost predominantly raunchy, disgusting sex talk and activity, which carries this 50-minute film.

Meanwhile, although there is very little sign that it’s Halloween, the friends are setting up a Halloween haunted attraction while all this sexual activity is happening.

The kids summon a Viking demon that is the theme of the attraction, which is just a guy in a mask who starts killing them off.

Based on the nasty and funny kill scenes, if the director wanted to make a comedy horror movie with a budget and found someone who could actually write a coherent script, it would probably be a pretty good flick.

THE CHICKEN PARTY (2018)

This is not your ordinary Christmas horror flick. It’s also not your ordinary horror flick. 50 minutes in, there’s a really timely social commentary horror flick buried under an agonizing number of “montages”: shopping, dancing, socializing at a party, etc. Only one montage really made the difference here, but I’ll get to that.

The short of the plot: two sisters come to the U.S. from Japan and get invited to a “chicken party”…a bunch of Americans hosting a culture party with people from all different countries to welcome them to the country.

As you can expect, everything isn’t exactly as it seems…

But first we get a long drama about these two sisters. If you want character and relationship development, this is the movie for you. Just note that a good chunk of the film features subtitles. They prepare the viewer for the chicken party, which features a myriad of different languages as the various guests have conversations with subtitles. The only conversation I found interesting was a one-sided convo from a goth girl who goes on a horror movie name-dropping rampage.

This party scene goes on forever so that we totally understand just what this chicken party is and get to know all the characters’ backstories. This is ironic, because just as the Americans reveal the real purpose of the party (50 minutes in), the movie focuses solely on what they do to the two sisters.

This is brilliantly the anti-thesis of your typical conservative religious extremist hillbilly family in the woods horror flick. These are young, pretty, educated, privileged city people. And they’re not all white or straight. The point is not to villainize white straight supremacy, it’s Americans vs. foreigners.

Surprisingly, despite an initial presentation of creepy masks and loads of weapons, plus moments of horror that feel right out of Hostel, the suspense is high but the violence and brutality are minimal.

There’s even a mind fuck that is absolutely campy—a muscular pretty boy steals the show by doing a hilarious strip tease to antagonize his victim.

That’s some package under the tree. And he lands this one on my stud stalking page.

Finally, I love the unconventional turn at the end…a montage in which we find out just what happened to all the other characters while the sisters were the focal point.

However, it would have made for more horror if it had been shown in sequence and in full…while cutting out much of the montage overkill in the first 50 minutes to trim the running time. My concern is that the excessive story before the horror begins might lead viewers to give up on the film before getting to the good stuff. I’ll confess, I did that 30 minutes into the movie the first night. I went back to it the next day only because I fast-forwarded the film just to see if anything ever started happening!

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Four from the 90 through 93 now on Blu-ray

Three out of four of these films reminded me that there actually was some watchable 90s horror—you just had to dig really deep to find it. So let’s look at which of these Blu-rays is worth adding to your collection.

NIGHT KILLER (1990)

Director Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2) and Bruno Mattei (The Other Hell), who was brought in to add gore (thankfully) even though Claudio hated that he did, deliver an awful slice of Euro horror no matter how you cut it.

Night Killer is an absolute must-own for 80s horror fans. Although it was released in 1990, I would swear this film was made in 1982. It begins with an aerobics class set to awful 80s muzak. We get boobs and killer POV, then the killer punch fucks his victim to death through the stomach. I don’t know how, because he’s just a guy in a mask that looks like late 80s Jason face sans hockey mask. The killer also wears matching monster gloves.

While every single kill has him punch fucking stomachs, occasionally he adds something original to the mix, like when he dunks a victim in what looks like a big bucket of cum. Not that I have any idea what a big bucket of cum looks like.

Meanwhile, between kills there’s the story of one victim who got away but can’t remember. Tara Buckman (Silent Night, Deadly Night, Xtro II, Never Too Young To Die) plays the part so awfully melodramatic that she’s perfect. She even whips out her tits and feels them up in a mirror just so that there’s a scene of her whipping out her tits and feeling them up.

So much for being the one that got away. A psycho abducts her and keeps taunting her, not wanting to kill her until she finally remembers the attack. Their scenes together are so bad it’s laughable as he teases her by eating chicken and stuff like that.

However I had no problem when she temporarily has the upper hand and makes him strip down to his Speedo.

I can’t decide which is worse: the twist or the final frame.

I would suggest you buy this one at all costs if you’re a fan of 80s horror.

STRAYS (1991)

Cats have been pitted against humans in horror since the beginning of horror time, and Strays just completely goes for it with no explanation as to why. A family moves into a house inhabited by a pack of killer strays living in the basement. This despite the fact that the mom and daughter treat the damn things like pets!

Timothy Busfield of 30 Something is the dad, who isn’t too happy that the cats are hanging around…especially after they brutalize the family dog. Although it’s not shown as it happens, the aftermath scene did not sit well with me.

There aren’t loads of kills, although there are a few simple casualties that mostly get subjected to kitty POV and confused cats being thrown at them from off screen.

But what makes this otherwise typical killer animals movie sort of kick ass is the super long battle between the cats and the mom, played by Kathleen Quinlan. It’s fast-paced, brutal, and takes us straight through to the end of the film, complete with thunder, lightning, and the house getting totally trashed.

And you have to love the evil looking cat that looks like it just crawled out of the pet sematary.

HELLMASTER (1992)

Douglas Schulz, the director of Mimesis and Dark Fields has only done a handful of movies in his career over the past three decades, but I do want to see the others I haven’t seen yet, because I’ve like most of his that I’ve already seen. 

I, the hater of so many 90s horror films, love this one, which seems to get a lot of hate from everyone else. The only thing that ruins it for me is the role of John Saxon, who plays the Hellmaster. He uses this fucked up, multi-needle syringe to inject people and turn them into these sort of infected zombie/demons. They are fricking freaky. Him not so much.

There are some creepy as hell scenes of these things—which come in the form of a nun, a child, a schoolgirl that could have been the inspiration for The Grudge—chasing and terrorizing various victims. They even speak with demonic voices, and by the time they’ve got the core group of college students trapped in an old building, this feels reminiscent of Night of the Demons.

As a bonus, David Emge of the original Dawn of the Dead appears as a crossbow wielding hero. The first scene with him actually reminded me of Dawn of the Dead, at least in the theatrical cut. There is an alternate opener on the shorter director’s recut on the Blu-ray.

Despite the plot being rather messy and characters roaming around like chickens with their heads cut off, the tone is quite eerie, from the music to the always effective use of Argento red lighting, and there’s also plenty of icky stuff like blood and puss.

It really is John Saxon as the dark, brooding (more like bored) Hellmaster in black leather—which would normally turn me on—who feels completely out of place, coming across as a failed attempt to make a 90s horror icon. He walks around treating the creeps he’s created as his bitches, and unfortunately, he takes over as the main baddie for the final battle. In other words, Hellmaster starts off much better then it concludes.

THE CHILL FACTOR (1993)

This one never came up on my radar back in the 90s, but the description sounded awesome, so I blind purchased the Blu-ray.

What a disaster. And not in the usual sense that most 90s horror films are. This one feels like the worst of direct-to-video 1980s horror. Even the music used during snowmobile riding montages sounds like crappy synth score from action TV shows circa 1985. And I can’t imagine what they were thinking having voiceovers of the characters talking about their lives and relationships. Not to mention the weird need to point out several times that one relationship is interracial.

A group of friends goes snowmobiling in the wilderness, one guy smashes his head into a tree during a race, they find a cabin with a crucifix on the roof to crash in over night, and then…mostly nothing happens for most of the movie.

I can’t even process how astoundingly bad this is. They find and use a Ouija board, but nothing continues to happen.

Some couples have sex. One girl gets killed by a shadow puppet of a hooded demon.

A guy gets an icicle to the eye, which is the only good moment in the whole film.

Then a final girl gets chased by…nothing. I’m not quite sure what she was running from.

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The VelociPastor isn’t the only one making an American Killing

One of these upcoming films follows the making of a psycho killer, the other the making of…well…a dino priest. So which should you be looking forward to more? That depends on your tastes. Here’s a hint of what you can expect from each.

AMERICAN KILLING (aka: Wichita) (2016)

While films with the killer as the protagonist are not my kind of horror, American Killing may very well appeal to those who like the “portrait of a serial killer” genre, as it follows a TV show creator as he quickly unravels and goes on a murdering spree.

To me his transition period felt hasty and disjointed, while the film feeds us information that is sort of irrelevant…namely, the minor backstories of a bunch of television creatives he is forced to go on a country retreat with and secretly records in their private moments.

There’s nothing very compelling or suspenseful about any of it. Then just when it seems things are about to finally go somewhere, he’s booted from the house.

We finally get a glimpse at why he’s a bit of a weirdo when he returns home to mommy. Things are as bad as you can imagine for this mama’s boy, kicking off the massacre as he at last snaps and takes care of killing business.

However, it’s not scary or suspenseful, and this isn’t a fun slasher situation. The final act is more like a mean-spirited home invasion film.

American Killing comes to DVD and digital in August from High Octane Pictures.

THE VELOCIPASTOR (2018)

Story goes that this was a faux movie trailer that went viral and was therefore made into a full-length feature. The good news is that it only runs 75 minutes long, which is also the bad news. 45 minutes at most would have sufficed.

Thanks to SyFy and movies like the Sharknado franchise, movies so unintentionally bad they’re good are a thing of the past. Now it’s all about manufactured so bad they’re good movies that are mostly just bad.

So if the title didn’t clue you in to what you should expect, the tone of the very first scene should. It’s clear right away that this is bad, indie farce, so how much you like it depends on how much you can handle student film quality movies.

The Velocipastor sees his parents die, goes to China for about two seconds to get over his grief, gets scratched by a mystical tooth, and then comes back home and turns raptor whenever he gets mad.

A prostitute he saves convinces him to use his power for good.

But he doesn’t get to do much of that because he has to take on a bunch of ninjas that are after him.

The leading man is sizzling hot and plenty of reason to stick with it. I just wish he’d been wearing tighter whities during his fight scene with ninjas—although they do look pretty nice in still shots.

His full raptor form isn’t shown until the final fight, and although it’s just a guy in a terribly cheesy costume, the slapstick fight scene is actually pretty funny.

However, for me personally, the flashes of Velocipastor earlier in the film are much more entertaining in a more subtle, campy way.

Obviously all the hot man action makes this the one for me if I had to choose between these two films.

The Velocipastor hits digital in August and Blu-ray in September from Wild Eye Releasing.

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Four 1970s b-horrors from a DVD multipack…and some are not all that bad

My multipack madness continues! I’d never seen any of these, so I was in for some surprises, and only one major disappointment.

STANLEY (1972)

Stanley is Willard in the Everglades with snakes.

This goofy movie is all about a Native-American man striking back at those who wrong him or are less than respectful of nature and wildlife. He simply sics his pet snakes on them, including Jo’s dad from The Facts of Life, who gets a laughable airborne kill scene.

It’s a cheesy, dated film running way too long at 105 minutes. Bad music sets a silly tone, which is fine because it’s the perfect complement to stupid shit like a hunter getting bit in his ass by a snake and the main guy flinging snakes into the bed of a stripper that uses snakes in her show.

I really don’t know if this film expected viewers to take it seriously, but if it was being tongue-in-cheek, it definitely hit the mark.

SATAN’S SLAVE (1976)

Norman J. Warren, the director of Bloody New Year, Prey, and Inseminoid, offers a fairly generic film about a woman who comes to stay at her extended family’s home after her parent’s die, not realizing they plan to use her for a satanic ritual.

The gothic setting and tone bring to mind Hammer films, but what gives this melodramatic horror flick a more modern feel is the nudity (including va-jay-jay during numerous ritual sacrifice scenes) and the gore, which actually gets better and more gruesome as the film progresses.

The head of the beast worn by the leader of the cult during sacrifice scenes is cool, and there’s an awesome eye piercing scene. These also happen to be the two most memorable parts of this otherwise forgettable film.

TERROR (1978)

Another one from Norman J. Warren, I think this is one of his best even though the plot is a sloppy excuse just to kill a bunch of random people. Or perhaps that’s why I think it’s the best.

A descendant of a family that was cursed by a witch as she was being burned at the stake makes a movie about the situation and shows it to a group of people at his home. They then play a hypnosis game that leads to one girl going after them with a decorative sword.

From then on, it’s impossible to care much about any of the victims or why they’re being killed. And really, they are just victims, because there’s no storyline here, just a string of awesome murders that makes this an early entry in the supernatural slasher genre.

The kills are the star of this one. There are several very long and meandering chase scenes that suffer wonderfully from too much darkness, creating an eerie atmosphere and heightening the suspense. They also have a classic Argento feel, complete with false horror moments leading up to the real thing.

The gore is graphic and brutal, with knife stabs, impalement, beheading, and a car kill.

There are also some whacked supernatural kills, like a guy being attacked by a tornado of filmstrip, as well as a crazy scene of a car being lifted and twirled through the air.

There’s even some male beefcake.

Plus, Terror doesn’t even bother to conclude. It just kills everyone then rolls the credits.

TRIP WITH THE TEACHER (1975)

The only thing that spoils this otherwise awesome exploitation flick is the worst fucking 1970s pop muzak playing incessantly throughout most of the film, killing the raw grit of some of the most brutal moments. It’s like putting “Afternoon Delight” on repeat while watching The Exorcist.

Babes on a bus trip through the desert with their teacher have a flirtatious exchange with three guys on motorcycles. But when their bus breaks down and the bikers show up, they quickly discover one of the bikers is a fricking psycho.

It’s as exploitation as exploitation gets. Not gory, but plenty of misogyny as girls are stripped, get raped, are killed trying to escape, attempt to use seduction to save themselves…the nonstop action works despite the shitty music, because the guy in the role of the psycho plays one perfectly.

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