PRIME TIME: witches and demons and the occult, oh my

Nothing ever seems to go right when evil is channeled from another place and time, as in these four flicks. Let’s take a look at this lineup of indie films.

BODY KEEPERS (2018)

Body Keepers is clearly an indie from the start, with obvious budget limitations, so don’t expect any visually spectacular horror elements.

The reason this one deserves some recognition is because a gay guy proves to play a vital role in the events that unfold. He also lands this one on the does the gay guy die? page.

The plot is just weird. The group has to work as a team on a school project. They need a wheelbarrow, so they break into a creepy shed where one of the kids tells a story of a dead body being kept on ice in there, along with a legend of a serial killer that harvested children’s souls.

They end up unleashing some sort of evil, there are ghost kiddies, they go to a psychic, they play strip Jenga…yes, it’s all kind of a mess.

The creepiest scene is some footage a detective shows the survivors at the end.

IT’S JUST A GAME (2018)

This one comes from the director of Camp Massacre, and for an indie, it almost hits the mark. However, it strays from its basic, satisfying premise, causing it to lose its potency and change tones, which really cheapens the second half.

A group of mean girls plays a series of pranks on their “friends” involving urban legends in the vein of Bloody Mary.

One of the victims is so affected by the prank that she conjures a witch and a cult of crazies that begin to pick off the girls one by one.

The film at first feels like a nice sleazy, low budget home invasion flick, with a psycho sex couple, a killer in a skull mask, and some lowbrow lesbianism, and I was feeling it (especially the freaky sex guy).

Unfortunately, it totally lost me when it brought in a bunch of downright silly cult characters (including the director) that felt like they were from a totally different movie. As a result, the film just fizzled out for me.

OUIJA CRAFT (2020)

When I saw this one was from Aaron Mirtes, director of Clowntergeist and Curse of the Nun, I had to check it out. I’m a fan of his simple, straightforward horror movies tinted with a touch of 80s cheese.

A trio of girls and a guy are pretty darn talented witches, but before they can take their power to the next level, a spell goes horribly wrong and one of them dies.

Then they hatch a plan to bring their dead friend back. Taking a page right out of the AHS: Coven playbook.

A Ouija board, a graveyard, and a magic potion seem to do the trick, but there’s a catch…the dead girl is now a crazy killer witch! It’s up to her three friends to figure out a magical way too finish her off.

There’s plenty of running through the woods as they play cat and mouse with the witch while wielding their Ouija board, the cast is fun (the girls rock), there are some funny moments (again, the girls rock), and the finger lightning bolt magic action is like something right out of the eighties.

Personally, I could have done without the backstory from colonial days, which involves period piece costumes and even a silly ghost appearance.

HERE COMES HELL (2019)

I’m always up for a horror comedy that goes the Evil Dead route. Here Comes Evil takes a different approach, though, crafting an “old school” full screen black and white film.

It initially feels quite authentic, including costumes, a gothic mansion set, melodramatic music, and the dialogue between characters gathered for a dinner party.

One fresh face in the crowd of friends is quickly singled out, and she admits to being a writer, which launches the group into telling scary stories. Next, they call in a medium to do a séance—who looks right out of Drag Me To Hell.

The film totally delivers on people going all Deadite. It’s what I live for. However, I will say that so many good gore effects and makeup effects go to waste on account of the black and white film.

Considering even the tone changes from classic to quite contemporary once the evil enters the picture, I think it would have been wicked cool if they pulled a Wizard of Oz stunt and switched the film to full color once the evil permeated the house.

Also a little annoying to me is that the film moves from Evil Dead territory into the Army of Darkness zone. Blech. Slapstick silliness ensues at points (like one character shrinking in size), and it even goes for that portal to another dimension feel. Ugh. I hate to even be reminded of how Army of Darkness ruined a franchise for decades before Ash vs. Evil Dead saved it.

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Time for a foursome of Scout Taylor-Compton horror flicks!

When two Scout Taylor-Compton films ended up on my streaming watchlist, I became curious as to how many of her horror movies I hadn’t seen yet. Turns out only four. So I watched them all…and ended up buying two of them on DVD. Let’s find out which two I felt were worth having in my collection.

STAR LIGHT (2020)

Star Light is the first film of this foursome that I ordered on DVD before I’d even reached the end of the stream. Basically I hit the buy button moments after the first awesome demon flashed her nasty yellows.

Horror queen Tiffany Shepis has a disappointingly small role (as usual) as the single mother of a cute young man. After they get into an argument, he heads off to a party with his friends.

We get to see some bod and a hint of butt crack when he hooks up with a girl, and eventually he stumbles upon a woman in peril—Scout—and brings her into the house.

That’s when shit gets weird for him and his friends. A creepy, fantastically over-the-top devil dude shows up at their door, demanding the girl back. As he skulks around outside, all hell is unleashed as we get into Evil Dead territory.

While I’m not a fan of the title, Star Light is a fricking popcorn horror movie blast! Likable cast, fun demon effects, some gore, quick pacing, and familiar concepts yet a never predictable plot make this a great one to show at a horror movie party or Halloween party…someday.

THE LURKER (2019)

If you dare to read the first sentence of most reviews of The Lurker on IMDb or Amazon, you’ll likely notice they’re totally bashing Scout for looking like a 30-year old high school student. I didn’t hear any complaints when 30-something Danielle Harris played Scout’s high school friend in Rob Zombie’s Halloween….

I don’t find Scout’s age the issue here. There are some fun kills and a cool killer mask, but this film just has a weird vibe and a sloppily presented plot—that wasn’t, however, convoluted enough to keep me from figuring out who the killer was almost immediately.

Pepper from American Horror Story: Freak Show draws us in playing the first victim in the opening scene. Horror king Adam Huss comes in as a detective asking questions about the murder, which took place in Scout’s high school.

Scout is the lead in the school production of Romeo and Juliet. Offstage drama unfolds between her and her friends (and frenemies), poorly segued flashbacks reveal a “prank” in which they were all involved, and then they get together for a party, which is when the killer starts working overtime.

This evolves into a cat and mouse game between the cast of kids and the killer that relocates to the school for the final act and the weird denouement. Despite all its quirks, the film has its charms, especially if your thirsty for a slasher—any slasher—during this drought.

GETAWAY (2020)

I expected nothing going into this one, and it turned out to be such a suspenseful little film with familiar themes yet plenty of unexpected turns. It’s sort of like a crazy backwoods family movie with a rape/revenge edge and occult/witchcraft elements.

I was hooked by the opening scene, which presents us with a disturbing and unique perspective on a classic death scene.

Then we meet our bodacious main girl. A sexy cop is the new man in her life, but she’s off on an excursion with a couple of friends—Scout and her girlfriend (Scout once again playing gay as she did in Feral).

The foreboding tone is established immediately as the main girl is on her way to their place then builds as the trio goes to a bar to party. There’s drinking and drugging, and our main girl gets entangled with a trio of male religious nuts that need a new sacrifice. But she’s no victim, so she mind fucks them, suggesting that she will use magic powers to destroy them. I always wondered why the accused witches in Salem didn’t play the same dastardly trick.

Weird shit starts happening to the men, and it seems something has invaded their property. Is the main girl a witch, or are the ghosts of previous female victims back for revenge? And with two awesome lesbian friends and a hot cop in her life, will anyone come rescue our main girl?

The sense that something is very off as events unfold makes this a fun guessing game for the audience, and I fricking loved the three female leads by the time the film concluded.

CYNTHIA (2018)

Take the It’s Alive concept and make it into a comedy laced with gross-out horror humor, and you have this fun little film.

Scout plays a young woman trying to get pregnant through fertility injections. When it finally takes, she immediately starts having crazy horror dreams.

And then the baby is born—well, one normal baby and another one no one realizes has been set free. Fresh out of the hoohoo hole, the deformed baby delivers baby POV and nasty noises as it runs around the hospital causing chaos. This movie even delivers the kind of raunchy sex scene tragically absent from most modern horror films, and offers some man flesh that scores this one a spot on the stud stalking page.

Once Scout and family return home, naturally the forgotten baby finds a way back to them. But this isn’t your usual killer deformed baby movie, so there are surprising turns as it races towards the campy final act. All I’m going to say is that a hot gay couple absolutely makes this movie and lands Cynthia on the does the gay guy die? page.

Adding to the fun are a load of horror veterans, including Sid Haig, Lynn Lowry, Robert LaSardo, James Karen, and Bill Moseley…in drag!

Needless to say, this is the second Scout film of this foursome that I’ve added to my DVD collection.

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AFTER DARK ORIGINALS PART 2

The time has come to blog about the final three After Dark films I had yet to see: Seconds Apart, Housekeeping, and 51. I’ll keep this one brief…

SECONDS APART (2011)

This trippy psychological horror flick is like Dead Ringers with telekinesis.

Teen twin brothers have telekinesis and use their powers for evil, making people do awful things that end in death.

Orlando Jones of the Sleepy Hollow TV show is a detective that’s on to them, causing the brothers to switch focus. They begin mind manipulating people who know too much into gruesomely killing themselves.

When everything happening drives a wedge between the brothers, their breakdown allows Orlando to get closer to the truth of what they’ve done, and it’s some pretty sick and twisted shit.

HOUSEKEEPING (2015)

I didn’t love this film, but I can really appreciate its fresh approach to storytelling. When all is said and done, it’s more of a suspense thriller than a horror film, although it always feels very much like something super horror movie-ish is going to happen at any moment.

The story is told entirely through notes and answering machine messages, and features only one character on screen at all times. It’s about a female med student that completely ditches all her crucial requirements for school to take a temp job as a maid to bail her brother out of trouble.

The creepy part is that when she arrives at the house, all her duties are written out in a very brusque tone. And it only gets worse as she returns each day to find harsh criticisms of her work on post its.

And then there are the repeated jobs that demand she clean up blood. Lots of blood.

Desperate for money, she struggles to do her job and not ask questions. She’s also harassed by her school in phone messages and gets messages from her panicked brother, so she really begins to unravel.

Be warned, it’s all very repetitive and slow moving. There are also mysterious flashes of another incident throughout the film, and they are explained in the final act when she (and we) finds out the reason she’s really there.

51 (2011)

When an After Dark title gets rebranded as a SyFy original, you know how things are going to go.

Granted, the aliens and effects here are a step above SyFy CGI. They’re even a little better than the movie they’re supporting. It’s not a bad film, it’s just a pale imitation of so many other alien horror flicks.

A small group of reporters is permitted to explore Area 51 with military chaperone. They’re only supposed to get limited looks at what goes on, but the aliens start running amok and it becomes a battle to the death in a military facility, with aliens traveling through vents, lashing out with surprise tentacle attacks, and even going in disguise as humans so that the humans begin distrusting each other.

What takes it down a notch is a silly “buddy” alien that speaks our language and is chummy with the humans. He’s a slap in the face to the freaky cool bad aliens presented here.

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Welcome to the new Silent Hill

It may not actually be a Silent Hill game, but Little Hope for PS4 is as close to the feel of that series that I’ve experienced in a while playing a video game. Based on the “choose your own adventure” style of the hit horror game Until Dawn, this is the follow up to Man of Medan and the second game in the Dark Pictures trilogy.

Until Dawn featured Hayden Panettiere, Man of Medan had Shawn Ashmore, and the main character in Little Hope is modeled after and voiced by Will Poulter of Midsommar. He is on a bus with a handful of other passengers when it crashes on a dark road at night.

The group decides to walk to the nearest town, which requires passing through thick fog. As they try to find any sign of life or someone to help them, little do they know (at first) that hellish creatures are lurking in the woods…and they are about to be players in the town’s witch trials of 1692. There are some nods to The Blair Witch Project, as well as plenty of jump scares that scare the shit out of you the first few times but then lose their power because they use a repetitive tactic—sort of like much of the supernatural PG-13 horror movies that have been terrifying tweens for the past decade.

You control various characters as the game progresses, and your goal is to keep as many of them alive as possible by the end of the game. You get to choose how to react in various situations, which changes the personality traits of each character and affects their relationships with each other. And if you’ve played Man of Medan, you’ll be familiar with the “host” of the game, who appears in between chapters to comment on how you’re doing (he’s so judgmental) and offer up hints as to what you should or maybe shouldn’t do next.

The characters move with basic third-person survival horror controls, but there’s no traditional combat here. You can interact with shiny objects you see, which fill in details of the story and sometimes give premonitions of how certain characters may die if you’re not careful. That’s the easy part.

The interactive game aspects are trickier and thrown at you so fast with no tutorial that you are likely to screw up a few times before you get the hang of it. All your responses are time-based. For instance, when you have to choose what to say to another character, a dial symbol marked with three choices pops up on the screen. Instinct will tell you to rotate your thumb stick to choose, but actually you just have to push either right, left, or up to select one of the three choices and then hold the stick in place until the selection is accepted. But believe me, the time you have to do that is short, so make it quick.

There are also QuickTime events, such as running or climbing, which means an X, O, square, or triangle will flash on screen and you must press the corresponding button on your controller quickly before the next symbol appears. So nerve-racking. Even worse are the moments when you “battle” creatures, which requires moving a reticle into a circle that appears randomly somewhere on screen and then pressing a button before the circle closes. The movement of the reticle is ridiculously unwieldy for a game mechanic that requires precision and accuracy. Every fricking character I lost died due to this horrible aspect of the game—and all right near the end of the game, which is just a slap in the face to all my previous expertise at…um…choosing to say the right thing at the right time. Infuriating.

That aside, the game is scary, suspenseful, engrossing, and has a fantastic story and creepy as hell creatures, plus it’s short, so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience from start to finish in one sitting. It should only take you about six hours to complete, so if you don’t love the outcome or want to save more characters, you can play through it again quickly and make better choices…or less mistakes with that damn targeting system.

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Four horror flix and thrillers from the 1980s

A killer knight, a big bug, a sexy psycho, and even a gay stalker in my latest marathon of films from the 1980s. Let’s get right into them.

PANIC BEATS (1983)

Director/writer/actor Paul Naschy pumped out Euro horror flicks for decades. Here he stars as a man who brings his sick wife to convalesce in his family’s home.

Right from the start things go wrong, putting the wife’s health at further risk. She gets mugged, she finds a snake in her bed, she sees body parts in her food. And all along, other members of the family talk about the curse of a descendant—a violent man who rises from the grave once a year in knight armor and seeks revenge on family members.

Naturally, despite his wife’s psychotic meltdowns, the husband has to go away for a short period of time, which is when things get even worse for her. Is the knight all in her head or is there really a supernatural presence after her?

If you can’t see the truth from the very start of the film, you’re definitely a horror movie amateur. Yet as routine as this film is, I do like how everyone in the family is terrorized by the end.

INSECT! (aka: Blue Monkey) (1987)

The director of Funeral Home, Spasms, and Killer Party doesn’t disappoint with this creature feature about a giant, mutant praying mantis running rampant in a hospital.

Even better, horror king Steve Railsback is awesome as the detective on site when all hell breaks loose.

I won’t deny the film takes a looooong time to get going. A man is brought to the hospital after being bitten by something in his garden. When a nasty worm thing crawls from his mouth, doctors plan to study it.

Don’t ask me why the hell sick children are allowed to just run rampant around the hospital, but sick little shits fuck around in the lab (yes, children can somehow get in the lab) and cause the worm thing to morph into a giant praying mantis.

The giant killer bug and the awesome 80s horror lighting are everything. Total classic, despite the ridiculous alternate title Blue Monkey.

THE PHONE CALL (1989)

Yay! A gay thriller from the ultimate era of thrillers that gets a spot on the homo horror movies page.

It’s easy to dismiss The Phone Call as a) a complete rip-off of Fatal Attraction, and b) just another movie that paints gays as sex perverts out to destroy perfect heterosexual life, tear apart families, and target children.

Overlooking the fact that the gay guy just got out of jail, takes a job at a gay phone sex line, and then stalks a white collar straight man, I think this film is actually a metaphor for being a gay, closeted, married man.

The entire focus is on a dirty secret the main straight man is keeping. He calls a sex line (obviously his straight life isn’t so perfect), and when he discovers the major mo mistake he made, he ends the call by hurling anti-gay slurs. The crazy gay guy just trying to do his job tracks the straight guy down and makes a big gay dramatic scene that causes the straight man’s career to spin into turmoil.

And that’s when the audience gets a heterosexual safe zone break, with the straight man running home to his wife to embrace her and reassert his orientation.

Then the gay man paints a revelatory message on the straight guy’s fence, so the straight guy hunts him down, beats him, chokes him on a bed…and then apologizes to him. Right after that, the straight man cleans off the gay again by making love to his wife.

When the gay guy shows up as a painter to fix the fence issue, the straight man still doesn’t confess to his wife, totally leaving their daughter in harm’s way as a result. At this point it would be a lot less shameful for a straight man to just admit he slipped up and called a gay sex line, yet straight pride prevents him from coming clean with the wife. 

When things get really bad, the straight man finally tells the wife everything and they call the police, who are like, “you accidentally called this gay sex line, the guy stalked you, so you hired him to paint your fence???” It’s a classic example of how the police don’t take seriously any crime committed against someone they so much as presume is gay.

The movie is literally figuratively about how being gay could ruin a man’s life back then.

During the inevitable battle between gay and straight, the gay guy takes a verbal jab at the straight guy’s masculinity, and it all ends with a good old symbolic, phallic horror movie impalement and a close, intimate embrace between the two men.

MIND GAMES (1989)

After The Boys Next Door, Maxwell Caulfield once again played psycho in this typical thriller of the late 80s/early 90s era.

Predominantly predictable, this is about a family—husband, wife, son—that goes on a road trip in an RV. When the son meets young, handsome Caulfield in a park, he takes a shine to him, and pretty soon Caulfield is tagging along with them family against the mother’s wishes.

Oddly, the husband thinks the wife doesn’t love the son, yet she is constantly concerned for the boy’s safety while the father is always like, “Let him just go be alone in the woods with the strange man.”

That’s the one place in which this film differs from other psycho/stalker flicks of the time. It dares to go to icky, uncomfortable places with the relationship between Caulfield and the kid. Caulfield tells the family he’s studying abnormal psychology, so he uses that to woo and manipulate the boy into doing anything he wants. While it never crosses the line into pedophelia, there is a point at which Caulfield brags that he could turn the son homosexual if he wanted. Here’s where I should argue that it’s offensive to say kids can just be turned gay, but I’d be a hypocrite considering Caulfield turned me gay when he slipped on a leather jacket in Grease 2 seven years before this film…

Mind Games is painfully slow, the couple makes ridiculously bad decisions, and a rip-off of the Bruce Hornsby and The Range 1987 pop hit “The Way It Is” plays constantly. The only thing the film has going for it is Maxwell Caulfield in a Speedo.

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Faces of gays in a novel by a mainstream horror author

A prolific horror/thriller author for over 30 years, John Saul at some point during his career came out of the closet, and as far as I know, Faces of Fear, one of his final fiction titles, is the only one with gay characters. Correct me if I’m wrong, because it’s the only novel of his I’ve read.

So just how integral are the gays to the plot?

I don’t know if this novel is indicative of Saul’s general style, but I found it quite enjoyable in a comfort read kind of way. With a majority of female characters and POVs, it reminded me of the horror and suspense novels I devoured as a teen in the 80s by the likes of Mary Higgins Clark and Clare McNally. I aspired to write horror novels like those authors. I don’t know where I went right, but I ended up penning sexy gay horror novels instead! Heh heh.

Of course being similar to novels of that era also means this one is ridiculously formulaic and predictable. “Whodunit” seems way too obvious right from the start, so you assume that’s just a red herring and there will be twists galore. Nope. It plays out exactly like you’d imagine.

It’s also a tried and true horror cliché plot about a psycho assembling female body parts to craft the perfect woman. It’s kind of astounding that a bestselling author with three decades of work behind him would be satisfied writing something this derivative.

A high school girl has to adjust to high society life when her mother remarries, and she is soon drawn into the temptation of making herself perfect like all her new rich, snobby friends…using plastic surgery.

Meanwhile, a reporter that works with the teen’s gay father is following and trying to break a story about a serial killer that is gathering female body parts. There are a handful of grisly murders along the way, but they’re just the backdrop to a story of about female self-worth, social standing, and objectification.

Of course there’s the welcome inclusion of not one but two gay men. While they aren’t copiously present throughout the novel, they are absolutely crucial to the events that play out in the final few chapters.

Also of note is that if I read right, one character is trans, but the references are surprisingly cryptic and used as an attack on the character (think deadnaming).

And finally, the funny thing about the novel is that so much of the story revolves around the killer using MySpace to find victims. Wow. That sure does date a book fast.

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PRIME TIME: don’t go in the woods

There’s no telling what lurks behind the trees in this foursome that includes a variety of subgenres.

CREATURE CABIN (2017)

This goofy film is the only one in this bunch that I purchased on DVD as soon as I was finished streaming it. Why?

Because it’s a wacky combination of Evil Dead and Dead Alive with bizarro creatures and shirtless studs turned demon!

When our main girl is dumped by her boyfriend and kicked out of her band, she goes to a cabin in the woods with some friends.

Within minutes there are some sex scenes that go icky bad, including a wiener scene that is not for the squeamish. Just thinking about it gives me the willies.

The main girl soon finds herself battling possessed friends, a flying unicorn humanoid, a head that looks like Belial from Basket Case, and a boxing kangaroo demon.

Neon lighting and fog machines deliver good old 80s horror atmosphere, and there’s even an Evil Dead poster in the cabin.

High on humor, this one moves at a quick pace, but it does go off the rails in the final act, even featuring a rap battle in the woods. But I’ll gladly subject myself to that for this….

 

ARE WE THE WAITING (2017)

The director of Night Howl brings us a low budget slasher that didn’t quite satisfy my cabin in the woods craving. Even so, I appreciate the homebrewed look of his indie films, which seem like personal endeavors by someone that loves the genre.

After a dude learns he’s being drafted, he decides to skip town (aka: country) with a bunch of friends to party at an isolated house.

The gang just hangs around playing an online video game, and then someone in a black mask with glowing neon accents stars killing them off.

There’s a hint of a home invasion feel here, but there isn’t anything in the way of scares or suspense. And the killer reveal and motivation are quite underwhelming, a little out of left field, and little cringy.

THE NIGHT THEY KNOCKED (2019)

If you love home invasion flicks and don’t care that they’re all the same as long they are well made and have some intense scenes, you’ll find The Night They Knocked pretty darn satisfying. The only really glaring issue is how long it takes before anything of significance truly happens.

A guy brings his friends to his family’s house in the woods…where his hot brother, recently released from jail, has already set up shop.

There’s tension between them, and all the friends have their own drama to contend with for the first 45 minutes.

And then the shit hits the fan. Guys dressed as clowns start terrorizing them. The lead clown gives a devilishly good performance, and there are some satisfying suspense scenes and a handful of brutal kills.

SLEEPAWAY SLASHER (2020)

Big Hollywood studios can rarely pull off horror films longer than 90 minutes, so indie filmmakers really need to start reviewing their 90-minute plus movies and take note of the pacing before releasing them to the public. Better yet, gather a small test audience and ask for honest reactions.

So, this 100-minute slasher has a lot going on and a lot of characters, both of which work against it.

A dude whose father made a horror film in the 80s but never completed it is holding a film-making competition at the location of the original shoot…which is believed to be haunted.

We’re bombarded by clips of various groups in the competition filming their movies (I’d advise them all to keep them under 90 minutes long). There’s lots of running around in the woods. History starts repeating itself. Some scenes get the found footage treatment. Bodies turn up. Everyone starts losing it. They don’t trust each other. They turn on each other. There’s even word of a ghost.

There’s also no “slasher” killer here, making the title a little confusing, and by the end it becomes a boys vs. girls battle, the part of the film I appreciated most. There are some good ideas presented, they just don’t quite work together to form a clear narrative.

 

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Creatures and crazies of the early 1970s

Ah. The early 1970s, when I was just a wee toddler and a few short years away from my first dose of horror movies. I wish I could remember what the first genuine horror movie was that I actually watched. I imagine it was something made for television. Anyway, let’s look at these four, which it took me fifty years to get to…

OCTAMAN (1971)

I’m all about lots of creature action in my horror and loads of rubber monster fun, but Octaman has little else to offer.

The writer of the original The Creature from the Black Lagoon directs this film and seems to be making up for not having the creature on the screen at every moment of that film. We never get a fricking break from Octaman. Octadude, if you hang around our camp all the time, you’re just the nasty douche bag in our group, not a scary sea monster.

Researchers in Mexico find a bunch of little squealing octopus creatures, and within minutes the full grown Octaman is infiltrating their camp.

And that’s it. 78 minutes of Octaman attacking the research team. There’s plenty of dark lighting to capture the horror spirit, plus multi-eye Octaman POV, as well as numerous attacks with some nice gore and the obligatory damsel in distress, but there’s no suspense to be had because there are no highs and lows in this film. There’s also little in the way of plot.

THE CORPSE GRINDERS (1971)

When a film starts on a stormy night with a meowing kitty—that attacks a woman viciously when she opens the door for it—I’m so in.

And then the rest of this gritty little flick happened.

The epitome of low budget early 70s sleaze, this hot mess is about a cat food company that has run out of resources. So they start paying a dude to supply them with bodies from the cemetery to use as their meat.

There are several nice and nasty kitty cat attacks over the course of the film, loads of weird characters that seem like they just escaped from an insane asylum, and a skanky doctor/nurse couple looking into why cats are suddenly craving human flesh.

However, this goofy movie is more about the battle between the guy at the cat food company and the guy at the cemetery as their business deal goes sour. Hell, it even ends with a gun fight instead of a cat fight.

THE CREEPING FLESH (1973)

This movie follows the same formula as Hammer films from the tail end of the Cushing/Lee period piece horror era. It would have been better than most Hammer films if it had been edited down to 30 minutes and used as a short in an anthology film.

Cushing is a scientist who finds a large skeleton during an expedition and discovers its skin grows back when it gets wet. Research convinces him it is evil manifested in physical form, so he uses it to create a serum to cure evil.

A whole lot of extraneous shit happens involving his deceased wife, his daughter, and a mental institution run by his brother, played by Christopher Lee. None of it adds anything to the main plot, which eventually cuts to the chase in the final act.

The skeleton eventually gets wet, transforms into a hideous creature, and goes to reclaim something Cushing took from it (only genuine horror scene of the film). This is followed by the kind of zinger ending that would have been perfect for a short in an anthology, but is not worth an extra hour of nonsense to get to.

MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973)

It’s odd when a film can have a generally simple setup yet little continuity. This freaky little low budget movie is loaded with creepy, trippy scenes and settings, but nothing ever seems to really come together.

A husband, wife, and daughter take jobs at a dilapidated amusement park that seems to lack any crowds whatsoever, but they’re secretly there for a different reason anyway—the son went missing at the park and never came home.

What could possibly have happened to him? Did the weird janitor with the gray face get him? Did he lose his head on the guillotine roller coaster? Did the cannibalistic ghouls that live under the park watching black and white movies get him? Did he get lost in the room full of eerie hanging dolls? Did the drag queen fortune teller get him? Or was he shot by Tattoo from Fantasy Island, who runs around the park waving a shotgun?

Visually it’s a nightmarish experience, just don’t look for any logic.

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Digging around for some fresh slashers

I bought the biggie in this bunch on Blu, and the other three I watched on Amazon Prime. Surprise, surprise–the one I bought is the best of the bunch. Let’s get into them.

FAT TUESDAY (2018)

Filmed during the actual days of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Fat Tuesday definitely has the realistic feel that it’s going for, right down to the most terrifying moment of all–footage of a Make America Great Again Trump float. Like who the fuck would want their creation permanently branded with that shit?

The film itself starts off intriguing. A seemingly nice young woman comes to Mardi Gras alone and starts to see the sites.

But then she beats in the head of the first person she meets with a hammer!

After that she hooks up with a group of friends that lives in New Orleans. She then proceeds to get each of them into an isolated spot one by one and kills them.

That’s it. That’s the whole movie. Nothing suspenseful or scary at all.

FREAKY (2021)


Obviously due to copyright infringement issues, this recent slasher hit couldn’t be titled Freaky Friday the 13th, but that’s exactly what it is. And it comes to us from the director of the Happy Death Day movies, so it’s no surprise it’s a lot of fun.

The plot is simple. A high school girl is attacked by an infamous masked killer with a supernatural knife that causes them to switch bodies. It’s up to her (in his body) to convince her friends she’s really her, and then do what needs to be done before midnight to switch their bodies back.

Plenty of humor and some gory kills are the icing on the cake of…the cake being Vince Vaughn. Just as Jamie Lee Curtis did in the remake of Freaky Friday, Vince absolutely steals the show here as the female teen trapped in a killer’s body. Sure, the supporting cast holds their own, but he definitely elevates the film.

The good news is there’s a gay character, and he does get one of the funniest scenes later in the film.

As for how he’ll be embraced by gay horror fans, I can guaranteed there will be at least two sides: a) the “Yay! A gay lives to see another day!” crowd, and b) the “why does he have to be so stereotypically gay?” crowd. You can’t please everyone, but you can please me when you deliver a movie to add to the does the gay guy die? horror movie list.

REDWOOD MASSACRE: ANNIHILATION (2020)

Coming six years after The Redwood Massacre, this sequel doesn’t require a viewing of the first film unless you’re anal about stuff like that like I am. I think the first one is overall a better traditional slasher, especially since this one opts to go in a different direction rather than continue with the classic slasher formula.

A hunk with some information about the Redwood killer connects with a man that lost one of his daughters to the killer and wrote a book about it.

The author’s other daughter is Danielle Harris, so they gather together a small group of friends to head into the woods to investigate their new lead.

They end up in an old facility. The horror atmosphere is strong because of the dark setting, but things just plod along for about 54 minutes as the group explores, finding some gruesome signs of it being the killer’s lair along the way. Some edits could have shortened the running time and fixed the pacing.

The next 40 minutes offer up cat and mouse games and some gory death scenes as the masked killer finally appears and hunts down members of the group, but it feels very low energy. Plus, it kind of goes the “manufactured killer” route, changing the mystique of the killer entirely.

ALPINE LAKE (2020)

This isn’t really a movie to turn to if you’re looking for a slasher fix. A lot of heart is put into checking off all the cabin in the woods expectations, but the film simply doesn’t deliver on any juicy slasher action.

It is clear how unsatisfying this is going to be right from the super generic opening scene of a woman running and being killed in the woods at night.

Next, a group of friends heads to a cabin in the woods. Naturally they have a run-in with a crazy person along the way.

I was psyched that one of the guys is nice and thick and doesn’t hide it, wearing snug jeans and a T-shirt to show off his cuddle bod.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a sex scene. I need to see that big booty in the buff.

There is an old caretaker lurking around, and there’s a great intro shot of the killer that’s like a classic VHS cover, complete with a backlit silhouette of a crazed killer carrying a machete.

Sadly, there’s no payoff on that promise. We never really get any good look at the killer, there’s no gore, there are clumsily choreographed kills that show nothing, and it ends up being just a bunch of girls running around screaming.

And I honestly can’t even comprehend what the ending in a classroom was all about.

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Four horror flicks of the late 1970s

A killer puppet, occult orgies, a big walking fish, and even a gay guy in a backwoods horror. Let’s get into these four from the end of the 1970s.

RITUALS (1977)

Whether intended or not, Rituals comes across as a rip-off of Deliverance (it so totally intended to be). However, it gets credited as being more of a backwoods slasher these days (it’s really not).

Sure, there is eventually a crazy deformed hillbilly revealed, and several dead bodies pop up, but there’s no slashing at all. Any kills happen off-screen and the film is disappointingly tame in its execution.

Doctor friends hike into the woods for a vacation. They bicker about their specific specialties, which is only the beginning of the bickering that plagues the film, reminding us that toxic masculinity is not a new thing and has been glorified in film for decades. I guess it’s just one of those male rituals…

The “horror” begins when they wake up to find someone has stolen their shoes from their camp. A journey to safety triggers a series of events that gets one guy after another hurt or killed.

Almost like giving Deliverance the finger for its sodomy scene, Rituals features a gay dude who is just part of the gang. On the flip side, he’s also an alcoholic, gets called a faggot, and suffers some injuries then has to be carried around by the other men. Gays will do anything to be queen of the backwoods.

Hal Holbrook is the leading man that must finally face the backwoods psycho, in one of the only scenes that feels like a horror movie.

SATAN’S BLOOD (1978)

Look. I know swinging was big in the seventies, but I feel no sympathy for the dumb couple in this movie after they hook up with a pair that is obviously freaky in all the wrong ways from the start.

Driving around town with their dog, the good couple is drawn into conversation with the bad couple at a stoplight. The bad couple says “we know you,” and the good couple says “we have no idea who you are.”

Sooooo, the good couple goes home with the bad couple. Within minutes the dog goes missing, there’s a creepy doll and a suspiciously inaccurate photo, the bad woman ravages something bloody in the kitchen, and they delve into a Ouija board session.

Sooooo…the good couple stays overnight and has an orgy with the other couple. What’s refreshing here is how unabashedly soft core porn the sex scenes are.

Things just get worse and worse, sooooo…the good couple STAYS. With fourteen minutes left, the husband is finally like, “This is madness! What are we doing here?”

Dumbest movie ever. But damn is the ending a load of fucked up fun.

MAGIC (1978)

Magic director Richard Attenborough would go on to play John Hammond, the man who creates Jurassic Park, but he sure could have had a major influence on the horror genre if he had continued to direct films. Magic is an iconic killer puppet movie that impacted a generation of kids before killer dolls and killer puppets became a commercial cash cow. Rather than a body count film, it’s a slow burn psychological horror film.

Anthony Hopkins is fantastic as a man who clearly has issues from the start. A failed magician, he suddenly sees things turn around when he makes a puppet his sidekick. But when his agent, played by Burgess Meredith, offers him the opportunity of a lifetime, he chickens out and runs away to a house by a lake, where he reconnects with his high school crush, played by Ann-Margret.

Hopkins brings all the paranoid weirdness necessary to make it believable that he would become addicted to using his puppet as his crutch—a condition that is played out stunningly in a scene between him and Burgess.

Yet the creepiest parts are when Hopkins is alone having arguments with the puppet as it slowly takes control of his every thought and action. The detailed facial expressions of the puppet are the stuff of nightmares, which only intensify as the puppet and Hopkins begin to resemble each other. Eek!

BOG (1979)

Typical of low budget 1970s creature features, this film waits until the bitter end to show us the full monster Monty.

Two couples come to hang out near a lake, and before long both women disappear. The local authorities aren’t initially much help to the husbands, so they consult with a creepy witch in the woods.

Eventually we get to see a claw a few times as more people are attacked, and the cops become more involved. Meanwhile, a whole lot of science is presented concerning what the creature could be, for the female scientist on the case and the sheriff have a thing together.

Beware the scariest scene in the film, which is an icky, all-kissing love scene between the pair. Blech. Here’s just a taste of this “romantic” scene…

There are a couple of battles with the creature near the end, and we barely get to see the big, goofy rubber fish monster costume as it is sprayed with a chemical. I guess they camouflaged it as quickly as possible because it’s right out of a 1950s beach party horror movie. Personally, I think they should have embraced it and exploited it.

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