Back to the middle of the 00s for a triple feature of killers and creatures

I was a major impulse buyer of horror DVDs in the first ten years of their existence, so I have a soft spot for indie horror from the era. These three passed me by back then, but upon watching them, I made up for lost time and added them to my collection.

SILENT SCREAM (2005)

If you need a post-Scream era slasher fix, here’s one you may not have seen before, and it’s loaded with tropes that will make you nostalgic and bring you some retro comfort.

It’s all about the death scenes as someone in an Urban Legend parka runs around the woods killing kids.

To get the ball rolling, we see a quick cut of an early kill, but this is one of those annoying tricks used in slashers that simply don’t have an opening kill idea, so they show us a kill from later in the movie that we end up seeing again…later.

Then we get a group of kids in class agreeing to go on a research retreat with their teacher. They show up at a cabin in the woods and get killed off in a rapid-fire session while hanging out by a campfire. Quite satisfying.

Then another group of kids shows up late, can’t figure out where the first group of kids is, and then they start getting killed off. Double the fun.

That’s all there is to it. We see where the opening kill scene actually lands in the timeline, deaths scenes are replayed in sepia tone every time someone finds a body, and the kids start making really stupid decisions. However, those choices lead to some of the best battles with the killer, which does get you rooting for the kids.

The real “unique” part is the surprise twist at the end. It also might really piss you off. So I’d suggest that as you watch the movie, just keep telling yourself “it’s all about the slasher kills”.

THE SHADOW WALKERS (2006)

How I miss cheesy mid-2000s direct to DVD flicks that even found their way to SyFy once in a while. The revealing lighting in this one makes it obvious it’s a low budget flick from those days.

That bright lighting also exposes the low budget makeup work on the mutants in this silly flick—men in latex masks with the edges glued down to their faces and the “gnarly” colors and textures of their masks just ending at the neckline, where standard human flesh is on display.

But who cares? It’s cheesy mid-2000s horror! And the plot is as basic as it gets.

After an opening massacre scene in an underground facility, the survivors awake and have to go on a mission to escape—travel deeper down to reach an exit that leads back up, all the while battling humans that have transformed into monsters.

There are low budget chase scenes, battles, deaths, sex, and an occasional switch to all red lighting or all green lighting to create variation in the horror atmosphere.

Honestly, you don’t watch this if you’re looking for a thrilling horror experience. You watch this for a nostalgic fix.

FROSTBITTEN (aka: Frost Bite) (2006)

A year before 30 Days of Night hit U.S. theaters, this Swedish horror comedy focused on a small town overrun by vampires during the winter period in which there’s no sunlight for 30 days. Well, what do you know?

It begins with military men encountering vampires in a cabin in the woods during World War II—a scene that definitely sets the icy cold horror tone.

In the current day, we meet a mother and her teen daughter, who come to a small town so the mother, a medical doctor, can work in a hospital with a genetic scientist she admires.

Turns out the scientist is doing testing with a pill that turns people into vampires! Unfortunately, one of the med students thinks these red pills are fun stuff to bring to a party, so you know where this is heading. And of course, the mother’s daughter is going to be at the party.

There’s just enough dark comedy to keep this one mostly focused on the horror elements, and it sort of takes on two parallel stories as the kids become vampires at the party while the mother has to contend with a way cool boss vampire at the hospital.

This is one of those indie horror flicks that totally delivers on the fun, especially if you like creepy crawly vamp monsters that walk on walls and ceilings.

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Holiday horrors for 2022: three for Halloween and one for Christmas

I continue to add to the complete holiday horror page with four more holiday themed horror flicks for the 2022 season.

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER (2021)

This Irish film creates a compelling, haunting slow burn while managing to combine folk horror, Halloween horror, and the recent trend of exploring family dysfunction and mental illness within the realm of the horror genre.

A teen girl named Char is driven to school one day by her mother, who is having one of her depressive episodes. After school, Char finds her mother’s car abandoned.

The police don’t express much concern with the case of the missing mother because it’s the week leading up to Halloween and they are inundated with pranks calls.

As Char remembers Halloweens past and has nightmares about her mother, the mother returns with no recollection of where she was. Her spirits are high, but Char soon begins to notice she’s…different. A scene when her mother enters her bedroom is so understated but absolutely chilling to me.

As the mother begins to transition from creepy to crazy, we’re left wondering if she is simply suffering from dementia or if something has actually possessed her.

Thankfully this movie doesn’t stay in metaphorical hell…it ignites into full horror mode, with some body horror, terror on the streets as kids trick or treat, and the unraveling of the folklore that seems to have immersed Char in an invasion of the body snatcher situation with her mother.

It’s not a high energy horror flick, but I really do love the way it builds up the suspense concerning the mother’s condition, and it does a fantastic job of interweaving the Halloween season into the situation.

UNBOXED (2022)

Running only a short 72-minutes long and clearly a low budget endeavor, Unboxed really gets points for taking a different approach to Halloween horror.

A young influencer is doing a Halloween special in which she unboxes gifts her viewers have sent her.

Things get mysterious fast when she begins receiving texts and videos from a masked figure that is holding her boyfriend captive and will slowly torture him if she doesn’t do what is described in each box she opens live on her stream.

The short runtime lends itself to a brisk pace as the influencer is forced not only to do some nasty things on camera, but also forced to catch everything on camera as she subjects trick or treaters to some of the boxes. Although there’s no notable performance here, a few of the visitors that come ringing her doorbell are actually kind of funny. Plus, we get a hot daddy…

As for the horror aspects, had this been a bigger production, it could have gone a nastier and more brutal Saw-esque route, but it is clearly limited by its budget.

Even so, in the end our main girl is drawn into a brief cat and mouse game with the killer in her house. The film most definitely demonstrates that the pair that directed it has promise, and I would love to see them given the opportunity to redo this film with more backing. I had a lot of Halloween fun with it.

THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN (2022)

This is described as The Hangover done Halloween style, but while it seem like it’s simply going to be a dark, non-PC, tasteless comedy for its duration, it takes a surprising horror turn at the end—and I wish that surprise had come sooner.

When they wake up the day after a Halloween party with a dead body in their tub and “Welcome to the world of AIDS” written on their bathroom mirror, two slackers have to piece together what happened the night before.

Anyone who is hyper sensitive to the ignorance of straight white male humor might take offense to the comedy here. It’s fairly light in terms of how offensive it goes, but it does lean on typical, tired topics, including a few gay jokes, Swastika humor, misogyny, and a flirtation with the N word.

What’s rather ironic about those cheap jokes being delivered by the straight white male characters is that the funniest, most genuinely humorous lines are saved for the two female leads.

We never do find out what the point is of the AIDS message beyond being an urban legend steeped in hetero paranoia of homosexuality, but we do get confusing timeline jumps that make this feel more like a series of situations than an actual plot at times. This includes the guys running a drive-in theater, their separate relationship issues with women, how they decide to deal with the body in the tub, a hypothetical police interrogation scene, and some flashbacks to their past that don’t add much to the story.

Some of it feels like pure filler, even if it might give us a little chuckle now and then, but despite the distractions (including one of the leading guys being particularly cute as he shows off a variety of looks thanks to the flashbacks), I still couldn’t wait to find out what the deal was with the body in the tub.

With only about ten minutes to spare, The Day After Halloween does something shocking—it throws in a horror twist.

I won’t spoil it, but it’s fun and satisfying and I so wish the twist had come a bit earlier so the buddies in this buddy movie would have had a chance to interact while contending with an actual horror threat.

HELLBLAZERS (2022)

This little indie has a great vibe and cast, but it is a little restrained in the horror department.

Billy Zane starts off the proceedings with his special style of comedic delivery, leading a satanic cult in a ritual sacrifice in the woods. Bruce Dern is a crazy old veteran who happens to witness the unleashing of a big demon from the ground.

Next we meet our cast living in a small town. There’s a new sheriff, played perfectly by actor Ed Morrone, and his deputy, played by cutie Crash Buist, who has the most awesome name ever.

We also get a load of horror veterans: Courtney Gains (aka: Malachai from Children of the Corn); John Kassir (best known as the voice of the Crypt Keeper); 80s queen Meg Foster; Candyman Tony Todd; and Adrienne Barbeau (who plays the local DJ of course).

Along with the great cast, the movie takes place at Christmastime. There are loads of Christmas lights, plus the demon makes a Christmas tree lot its new home.

The film is described on IMDb as taking place in the 80s. We do get a quick faux 80s music montage scene featuring a boom box and classic arcade games, and Barbeau’s adult son name drops Elvira and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. But what’s weird is that twice the sheriff references horror names that were a major mark on 80s era horror—Michael Myers and Cujo—and his two young officers have no idea what he’s talking about. It almost feels like a gag meant for a contemporary film attempting to show the age gap between sheriff and the younger generation, but it doesn’t make sense in the 80s, when the young people would be more likely to know the names than the older sheriff.

Everyone is fun and entertaining, and the creature is not CGI, but there are only a few demon attack moments. Most of the film focuses on the cult members stalking and killing locals, which I think is the biggest flaw here. The cult battles are a blast, but to offer a scene establishing the release of a big demon right from the start and to then underutilize his presence is quite a letdown, especially since he’s wicked cool looking.

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Young and queer and trapped in a horror movie

It’s two more films for the homo horror movies page, and I found this queer double feature much more satisfying than the one I watched and posted about a week ago.

CUTIES (2020)

This low budget indie directed by Joshua Gratton manages to combine early 1970s acid trip horror, late 70s/early 80s Euro horror, and early 80s American slasher vibes to create an odd, rough around the edges but undeniably watchable gay horror slasher that had me mesmerized.

The peculiar plot sees a bunch of school kids that hang out together and appear to be predominantly queer getting picked off one by one by a killer.

One dude named Micah seems to be off in his own world. He’s desperate to have a boyfriend but too shy to go for it, and idolizes one gay couple he considers to be perfect.

Most of the other kids tend to shun Micah in one way or the other, and one really bizarre girl chips away at his gay ego while insisting he’s going to be her man someday.

But it’s not just her who is weird. Everyone is weird, and the quirky, almost disconnected performances add to the strange overall tone. For instance, I was seriously convinced for a while that the girl that’s preying on Micah was a ghost, because her presence just seemed otherworldly.

The kids hang out in the woods and smoke pot a lot, and any one of them could be the killer…right up until that moment when they get killed. Even their teacher is weird, and it’s not quite clear what class she’s teaching. I’d swear it’s a class on using a yarn spinning wheel, which is predominantly featured in several scenes.

It is all the quirky elements, including the hypnotizing, nagging score, that make this low energy movie (as in—stoned energy) so incredibly compelling and distinctly reminiscent of Euro horror. Most of the kills are somehow basic yet feature a little something extra unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, bringing to mind the execution of death scenes in giallos. Even the dialogue feels at times like it’s dubbed—just like the bad English dubbing in 70s and 80s Euro horror that gives those old films all their cheesy charm.

But the key ingredient that sets this apart from typical slashers is that Micah’s lack of self-worth is deepened by the fact that he becomes convinced the killer isn’t interested in taking his life because he’s not a “cutie” like all his friends that are dying off. It’s quite an interesting commentary on the pressure many feel in the gay community.

It should also be noted that a majority of the kills take place in gray daylight (very 1970s), and there’s no sexual exploitation at all. A butt during a skinny-dipping scene is as far as it goes.

Even the cast is very simple looking, without any stress on beauty or on objectification. They’re just normal looking high school kids.

This is how you do something different in the slasher genre while clearly revealing the types of movies that have inspired you without relying on constant meta cues. And the fact that it’s done with a queer cast of characters makes Cuties one I really want in my movie collection. As of now there’s no distribution deal for it, and we can only hope it can find its way to a wider audience and onto my horror shelves in either DVD or Blu-ray format.

SO VAM (2021)

Directed by Alice Maio Mackay, this short, 72-minute vampire movie is a perfect example of the kind of cathartic experience queer horror focused on bullied and bashed queers can be—unlike They/Them, which I just posted about the other day.

Triggering its plot with a gay bashing of our main male character, this film quickly establishes itself as a satisfying queer revenge horror flick. The main kid is saved by a group of young queer vampires that simply nourish themselves by targeting bigots. Awesome.

Rich with 80s Euro horror color lighting and swapping out montage scenes for drag performances, So Vam is like a queer horror Mean Girls.

Picked on by a bunch of tough girls at school, our main kid gets his chance for vengeance when he is turned into a vampire.

His new vamp clan, led by a trans girl with an emotionless, almost mechanical attitude (she brings to mind the singer Poppy), shows him the ropes of being a bigot killing vampire, making this an undeniably fun and darkly humorous film.

And just like Cuties, this is not a sexualized cast—everyone looks like a normal, everyday high school kid.

Intentionally self-aware of its “wokeness”, the movie also throws in some commentary on the traditional notion that queers identify with the monster in horror, with some dialogue that reflects on the classics Frankenstein and Dracula.

Even more satisfying for this queer positive film is that the main kid’s dad is not only a delicious daddy bear, he’s also not a total dick.

This makes two queer horror movies in one shot that I definitely want to add to my collection if they make it to physical media.

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TUBI TERRORS: a trio of Tubi originals

It’s a zombie snoozefest, a shark winner, and a killer tow truck driver that takes too many wrong turns to reach his destination.

SHARK BAIT (2022)

After just complaining in a recent post about another typical shark movie with an Open Water setup, I decided it was safe to go back in the water.

Glad I did, because Shark Bait rises above its generic plot by delivering on the shark terror! I was most definitely on the edge of my seat during this one and even jumped a few times.

First I’ll get the annoying aspect out of the way—the need for these movies to create some sort of conflict to serve as character development. In this case, it’s the usual cheating partner/love triangle crap. Ugh. Why don’t these movies just look to the movie that started this whole young people trapped at sea with a shark concept—Jaws 2, the best shark movie ever. There were no glaring character flaws with those kids. They were all likable, they all got along, they all cared for each other, and as a result, we cared about all of them, which made the shark that much more terrifying.

But, in this day and age you can’t expect to ever watch a horror movie that’s going to allow you to fully root for the cast, so expect a redemption plot line. Yawn.

However, the shark action is most definitely not a yawn. Partying kids at the beach steal jet skis and go for a joy ride. There’s your character flaw. Why did we need anything else?

Anyway, they end up crashing into each other, someone is hurt, and before long a shark shows up and starts picking them off on by one.

Some unique attack scenes and gruesome and gory kills make this one of the best shark flicks I’ve seen in a while, but of course there are also several frustratingly tense scenes in which these characters make the dumbest decision of all, thinking going back in the water for various reasons is somehow the solution to saving themselves.

DEAD ZONE (2022)

I’m absolutely dumbfounded that this movie was planned, filmed, edited, and released as is. This is such a soulless zombie film—it lacks suspense, thrills, scares, clearly defined characters, or any hint of a plot.

A team of men with high tech gear and equipment is sent into a radiation soaked town on a mission.

They encounter fast running zombies that are just people with blood on their faces. The absence of makeup is masked by dark shadows, quick editing, and flashing light effects throughout the whole movie.

I’m not even sure what the details of their mission are, nor do I understand why such high tech gear isn’t impenetrable—zombies can bite right through this shit.

What we end up with is the armed guys walking around buildings in stealth mode, occasionally getting attacked by an onslaught of zombies despite their stealth, with a whole lot of footage inside their special helmets.

They eventually encounter a boss zombie with a whip-like tongue, and fight him to the death.

That’s it. That’s the movie. It was so uninspired the hubby and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

TOW (2022)

A while ago, Kane Hodder played a killer ambulance driver in Old 37. Now he plays a killer tow truck driver.

I’m going to say this right from the start—there is a thrilling suspense/stalker/slasher flick embedded in this move about a woman towed away in her car and brought to the killer’s lair (a junkyard I think), where she then plays a game of cat and mouse with him.

Unfortunately, the writers tried to add layers to that simple horror plot, and we are left with a mess that time jumps, vacillates between dreams and reality, and bounces back and forth between the stories of two sisters so much that there’s simply no way to comprehend what the narrative trajectory is.

In short, the twins watched their parents get killed by the murderer years before. Now he is about to be executed, but one of the sisters is convinced he’s using occult magic to come for them again.

Good luck piecing together how all that interweaves logically into the best part of the film, because I couldn’t.

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80s oddities: beginning, middle, and end

It’s a trio of lesser-known films from the best horror decade ever–although you wouldn’t know that by watching these three movies.

FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND (1981)

I cannot process that this film was made in 1981 and not 1961, beginning with the hokey opening music and following through with the cheesy overall tone. There is a smorgasbord of so much silliness going on here that it’s hard to believe it could be so boring.

These guys in hot air balloons crash land on a tropical island. They meet some Amazonian babes in fur bikinis (who turn out to be aliens) as well as some pirates.

They are brought to meet Cameron Mitchell, who is locked in a cage and treated with injections to keep him tame—which seem to cause him to quote Edgar Allan Poe on a regular basis.

They meet Sheila Frankenstein, but that’s her married name. She is actually a Van Helsing. However, Dr. Frankenstein is still somehow around in the form of John Carradine as a hologram. This movie can’t even keep its classic horror literature straight.

Sheila has been doing lab work to keep some 200-year-old relative alive and needs the help of the men…and perhaps more. She has already created a load of zombified men that wear goggles due to sensitivity to light.

That’s just the setup. Then this movie goes on and on and on as Sheila F. tries to put her plans into place. Eventually, for reasons I don’t understand, the Frankenstein monster appears as well, and there’s a huge brawl in the lab involving like the entire cast—including the dog the men in the balloons brought with them.

As a GenXer who has made it his goal to have every horror movie from the 80s in his collection, I can safely say I will be making an exception with this film.

MURDER-ROCK (1984)

Stepping away from his streak of gory early 80s horror, Lucio Fulci perhaps marks another turning point in his filmography with Murder-Rock, which is like a giallo with Flashdance splash. It takes place at a dance school, where students begin getting killed off soon after it is announced that talent agents are coming to visit.

Right from the start we are treated to 80s dance music videos with women in leotards, leg warmers, and head bands. One girl even gets a wet solo dance number. Is it live, is it Memorex, or is it Jennifer Beals’ stand-in?

Hell, after the first murder, the dance teacher even goes for the Fame speech…with a dead friend twist. The dialogue might as well have been, “Fame costs, and here is where you start paying…in blood.”

As for the death scenes, it’s just a little prick and you’ll hardly feel it. Literally. Every kill is the same. The unseen killer chloroforms the female victim, whips out her boobs, and then slowly sticks a hairpin into her heart.

Adding to the fun is a tough detective who likes to slap around the guys he interrogates.

I guess the killer reveal has somewhat of a classic giallo element to it, but overall this feels like a pale imitation of Italian horror classics…and one that’s desperately trying to cash in on the American dance movie craze of the era. I won’t deny it’s that cheesiness that saves it for me!

HIGH DESERT KILL (1989)

This is one weird made-for-TV movie that also happens to be a good addition to the sausage fest scares page.

It opens with a possibility of a mystical Native American angle, but the intro scene ends up totally forgotten once we get to the meat of the movie.

A year after the loss of their friend, Luke of General Hospital Luke and Laura fame and Marc Singer bring a young hottie (nephew of their dead friend) on a yearly hunting trip with them.

They meet up with veteran actor Chuck Connors, who tells them the wilderness is mysteriously void of all wildlife.

Then things get really weird. The guys meet a couple of camping babes, they all seem to get entranced after a visitation by a paranormal force (signified by a negative effect applied to the film), they have a made-for-TV version of a lustful orgy around the campfire, people disappear, the dead friend makes appearances, animals are found slaughtered, the men turn on each other, there’s a sort of Stonehenge rock formation that seems to be the heart of the problem…

I really have no idea what this movie is about, but it definitely has a creepy vibe, and surprisingly the young dude gets shirtless a lot, but Marc Singer doesn’t.

The only horror money shot is a brief appearance of some sort of weird green alien life form near the end of the film.

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A double feature of gay horror for 2022

So glad to see two new queer films hit streaming in one month, neither of which shies away from queer sex content, but don’t go into these expecting fun midnight popcorn movies for your big gay sleepovers.

THEY/THEM (2022)

If you’re looking for a fun slasher starring queer people, look elsewhere. This is yet another commentary on the struggles of queer people that focuses on tortured young gay people being further tortured. Ugh.

I don’t know who the target audience is supposed to be for this movie. Gay audiences know about these real-life horrors and some might even be seriously triggered by them, straight audiences most likely don’t want to know and will be screaming, “woke woke woke!”, and lovers of slashers will be left wondering why the first of approximately only two major kill scenes doesn’t occur until an hour and 22 minutes into this hour and 44-minute movie.

After an opening kill, a diverse group of queer people is brought to a conversion camp, where they are warmly welcomed by the camp leader, Kevin Bacon, his counselors, and his wife, played by Arlene from True Blood. Bacon promises the camp is only for people who are unhappy and want to change, not conversion and not God based, but you can tell it’s just a matter of time before Bacon simply reprises his sadistic role from White Water Summer.

The problem with the film (aside from forgetting it’s supposed to be a horror movie for the majority of its runtime) is that scenes are drawn out in an effort to go deep and check every box of gender and orientation issues from both sides, including the hypocrisy of the converters. You end up sitting there praying someone will die soon, and that hopefully it will be one of the hateful counselors so you’ll feel some sense of vindication for having watched the film. I mean, you know a slasher is poorly paced when even the sex scenes bore you (there are two—pussy-eating girls, and ass-fucking guys).

Hell, there’s a “straight” sex scenes that’s more compelling than the queer sex scenes.

Some of the in-between filler includes a montage of the kids singing P!nk’s “Fuckin’ Perfect”, a forgettable red herring encounter that leads to one quick death early on, an excessively long shooting range scene that involves killing a dog, a reference to Friday the 13th (a necessity since Kevin Bacon was in the original), and an aversion therapy sequence.

Forget scares, suspense, chase scenes, or intense, violent and gory kills, because there’s not much of any of that—what few kills we get are super rushed. And to be honest, if you’re in it for a whodunit, you’ll probably be disappointed as well. I guessed who the killer was within the first 30-minutes.

If you want a slasher in which happily gay people get killed off by a masked killer, there are other options on the homo horror movies page…or you could also read my sexy scary campy gay Halloween novel Scream, Queen! in my book Wet Screams. Heh heh.

HYPOCHONDRIAC (2022)

Once again, it’s a movie you don’t go into if you’re looking for a gay horror romp. And once again, this is a deep dive—even deeper than They/Them—into the mental state of a troubled queer character that could very well bring down viewers who have had similar personal experiences in real life. It’s a wonderfully made film, and the lead actor is great, but this is some heavy content that tackles a whole lot of aspects of mental illness and how it affects both the person suffering with it and the people around that person.

As for the horror, this is all metaphorical, so don’t expect any concrete scares here. The shock moments are embedded in the main character’s delusions, hallucinations, dreams…in other words, it’s all faux scares created through blaring sounds and sudden flashes of fear on the screen—the kind of cheap scares tween horror of the last decade has relied on so heavily.

The main character even gets his own version of a Donnie Darko mascot, which is initially quite creepy, but knowing it’s not real and all in his mind just sucks the scares right out of it rather quickly.

It was kind of a bummer for me, because when we first meet our main man he seems happy and stable. He has a great relationship, a good job that he loves, and a cool boss, played by little Gracie from The Nanny.

Then he gets a package and audio recording from his mentally ill mother, and that unleashes all the issues whirling around in his mind.

The description of the film on IMDb suggests that he is haunted by physical manifestations of his past trauma, but that’s not correct; this is a tale about a man who is haunted by the darkness clouding his own mind.

In the past this might have been considered an art house film, but these days we have upgraded that label, and this one could easily be slapped with an “elevated horror” label. Definitely only go into this one if you’re in the right frame of mind for it and you know what you’re getting into.

Why does that monster butt munch scene seem so familiar? Oh, yeah…because I starred in a similar scene for the promo for my book Screams of Laughter and a Shock of Hair. Heh heh.

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BOUGHT ON BLU: 1970s horror makes its way to Blu-ray

It’s a trio of flicks from the 1970s that recently got the HD treatment for the physical market. But are these three titles worth the purchase?

HORROR HIGH (1973)

The sappy ballad that opens Horror High tells you immediately you’re in the early 1970s—as does the funky 70s score that ruins almost every damn horror scene by making you feel like Starsky & Hutch are going to pull up in their red and white car at any minute to save the day. Someone with a load of motivation should seriously start re-cutting old horror films that have shitty, dated, non-horror scores with new scores that complement the horror happening on screen so we could appreciate how effective the scenes could have been.

Anyway, back to Horror High. It all begins with some blatant foreshadowing—kids are watching Jekyll and Hyde in English class.

Then we meet the lead geek, who is working on a science experiment to genetically change life forms. Everyone torments this kid, including teachers, the janitor, and the students.

The geek ends up drinking his own potion. He immediately starts getting revenge on everyone who has wronged him. In other words, he gets revenge on everyone.

The kills are super gruesome and gory, and for some reason each victim conveniently ends up at school alone at night to be killed off. Great atmosphere…except that awful funk muzak.

However, there are two standout scenes. The first is the death of the gym teacher, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it inspired the coach scene in Elm Street 2.

And second, the main girl gets a chase scene, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it inspired Wendy’s chase scene in Prom Night. You know one thing these two scenes have in common that makes them so much better than every other kill scene? NO MUSIC.

SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974)

The infamy of this title made it a no hesitation buy for me. I just love a movie with a reputation from name alone.

As I began watching, I was suspecting the reputation was undeserved, predominantly because the “Yeti” was just a guy in a ridiculous costume. But there is so much more going on here that elevates this to classic 1970s stoner horror.

For starters, college kids have a party and the song playing is the classic synth pop hit “Popcorn” by Hot Butter. Then, in a scene you’d never see coming, a drunk dude and his woman go home and kill each other in one of the most bizarre, way out there scenes ever.

As if that never even happened, the film just goes on. The college kids are invited by their teacher to hunt a Yeti at a cabin in the woods. This is when we’re subjected to the horrible Yeti costume, shrill screams from the girls, hunting and exploration scenes in the woods set to horrible 70s music, and an “Indian” house keeper dude lurking around the house making weird faces (the white dude who owns the place literally says “that’s my Indian”).

Yet despite the horrendous acting and one of the most disappointing slaps ever administered to an annoying hysterical chick, Shriek of the Mutilated is also packed with oodles of bright red bloody bodies popping up all over the place…but not for reasons you’d expect. It takes such a 1970s drug trip visual and narrative approach that when a bizarre turn comes in the final act, I realized this crazy shit is actually a precursor to a whole lot of “nothing is as it seems” hybrid subgenre horror to come after it. I’m almost convinced this movie may very well have been the inspiration for Monstrous, one of my favorite more recent Bigfoot films.

The macabre and freaky conclusion even makes me wonder if all the terrible reviews on IMDb whining about the shitty Yeti costume come from people that didn’t bother watching the movie to the end.

ANTS (1977)

Not to be overshadowed by the killer bees craze of the 70s, killer ants demanded their own feature film, and they got it in this made-for-TV movie that will definitely make your skin crawl.

The plot is simple enough. Construction is being done next to a hotel. The foreman, played by blue-eyed, bearded 70s hottie Robert Foxworth of Prophecy, is dating Linda Day George, who owns the hotel with her elderly mother.

A sleazy businessman and his woman, played by then overnight sensation Suzanne Somers thanks to Three’s Company, plan to lowball them on buying the place.

Unfortunately, all the digging on the construction site has angered a colony of attack ants.

People start turning up dead at the hotel. The foreman figures out the ants are the culprit. The authorities don’t believe him. People continue to die. When it’s just about too late, guests from the hotel are air lifted out by rescue helicopters…that unintentionally blow killer ants all over spectators. Awesome.

It’s typical killer bug stuff, but it definitely gives you the heebie-jeebies by the final act, when the stars of the film become trapped in the overrun hotel and are eventually covered in ants and breathing through tubes in an effort not to move. It’s the part that has stuck with me since I was a little kid and first saw it on television, not only because all I could think was that the ants were going to crawl through the straws and into their mouths, but also because these are no CGI ants…the actors are actually covered in real ants. Eek!

Important to note is the sexualization of the two blonde female stars, even in a 1970s made-for-TV movie. Somers is covered in ants while naked and holding a sheet over her boobs, and Lynda Day George is wearing a skirt, so the camera spends a great deal of time focusing on her sexy legs and the ants crawling towards the hem.

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Killers and creatures of the 60s and I got them on Blu-ray

This foursome of flicks I’ve just added to my library spans from 1959 to 1965 and delivers a masked killer, big creatures, and even vampire aliens.

CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959)

There’s some question as to whether horror master Mario Bava actually directed this black and white creature feature or just worked on cinematography. Considering this is just a rip-off of The Blob from a year before, I don’t know that he would willingly take credit for it.

If you love 50s sci-fi horror flicks, this one definitely fits the bill. An archaeological team exploring ruins in Mexico discover a statue of a Mayan deity with a pool of water in front of it. When a big blob pops out of the water, it attaches to the arm of one dude, who they manage to rescue before killing the blob. However, he still has a piece of blob attached to his arm.

As scientists study the specimen, they learn it thrives on radiation. Conveniently, a comet that releases radiation and passes earth like once every 1000 years is on its way.

It turns into a case of multiple big blobs! At the same time, the dude who had the blob stuck on his arm loses his shit and becomes homicidal, creating a secondary threat to our main characters.

There are plenty of mini models of buildings and such being invaded by blobs, but we only really get one scene of a blob devouring a human, and of course the military steps in, sucking the scary right out of the film.

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964)

This is a Mario Bava film that you can’t help thinking was most likely the inspiration for much of Dario Argento’s work that was just around the corner.

Granted, this movie screams 1960s. While I hate the jazzy 60s score, I love the atmospheric horror sets, statues, architecture, and lighting colors Argento would exploit to great effect just a decade later.

Just as Argento loved a good house filled with pretty young women, Bava’s film takes place in a fashion house loaded with models.

They begin getting knocked off by a killer in a faceless mask, fedora, and trench coat, a detective investigates, everyone becomes obsessed with getting their hands on the first victim’s diary, and everyone seems like a suspect.

While most of the murders are fairly basic, there are a delicious number of body reveals, and there is one fantastically orchestrated chase and kill scene in an antique store that is most assuredly the one that motivated Argento to come up with some of his most visually stunning kill sequences ever. This whole movie is worth seeing for that scene alone if you are a fan of giallos.

THE FLESH EATERS (1964)

Despite its title, The Flesh Eaters will probably never get its recognition as a ground-breaker in the icky, flesh-eating bacteria horror subgenre.

The first few minutes immediately made me think of the Stephen King tale “The Raft”, adapted for Creepshow 2. A couple is swimming when a black cloud in the water surrounds them and starts devouring their flesh.

Although black and white, The Flesh Eaters dared to deliver more gore than most horror flicks of its time. It also shows a lot of flesh in a sexy, non-eaten way as well.

Next we meet an alcoholic actress and her female assistant, who hire a handsome pilot for a private flight. The plane is forced down onto a desolate island by bad weather. The group meets a scientist who offers them shelter, and they soon discover skeletons, both fish and human, are washing onto the shore. EEK!

Turns out there’s a flesh-eating bacteria in the water, and the small group will be trapped on the island if they can’t figure out a safe way off the island or how to kill the bacteria. Naturally, the bacteria starts…um…picking people off as drama ensues, and the more it eats the more it grows, until this turns into a giant creature feature by the end. It’s really a total classic.

Important to note is that the new Blu-ray release from Shout Factory includes an alternate cut of the film in standard definition in which a scene that has the scientist merely describing Nazi experiments in the original cut actually shows a sequence of the twisted experiments. It’s a shame it wasn’t spliced into a master HD extended cut instead, because it adds even more to the edginess of the film.

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965)

Ground-breaking horror director Bava is back, doing the kind of blatant cross-subgenre move here that wouldn’t become trendy until well into the 1990s. The title says it all.

Although some of the scenes on the ship may be reminiscent of Star Trek sets, the overall look of this film is quite striking for the time at which it was released.

It takes place on two separate ships and a planet on which they land after receiving a distress signal from it. The planet is covered with rocks, fog, and red sci-fi light. Awesome.

The crew of one ship discovers that the crew of the other ship has been slaughtered. They bury the dead on the planet…but the dead don’t stay dead.

I’m not usually spooked by spaceship movies because I just can’t relate to the idea of being on a spaceship to begin with, but Bava brings a genuine horror look and feel to outer space, from the creepy scene of the astronauts rising from their graves, to encounters with the somewhat grotesquely morphed victims who have become space vampires.

Due to limitations in budget and filmmaking techniques of the time, this definitely isn’t a high octane action/horror/sci-fi film, but if you appreciate the vibe of sci-fi films from the 1960s, this is a cut above the rest and a good precursor of horrors yet to come. There’s even a laser gun shootout at one point.

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SHUDDER AND SHRIEK: women in peril

It’s girls gone wild with sharks, demons, and aliens.

THE REEF: STALKED (2022)

A sequel to the 2010 film The Reef in name only, The Reef: Stalked is a reminder that the shark subgenre of movies started by the Open Water films years ago is running out of oxygen. There’s simply nothing new that can be done with the idea of a few people stranded on a tiny piece of something in the middle of the ocean while surrounded by a shark or sharks.

Making matters worse is the main character’s struggle in this one. Her sister was drowned in a bathtub, so now…SHE has PTSD consisting of visions of the drowning event even though she was not there when it happened.

The fact is, the shark is a metaphor for the main character finding the courage to stand up to her sister’s abuser.

I really can’t with this movie.

As she struggles to deal with her grief, she goes kayaking with four friends. The shark shows up. People fall off kayaks. Some die. The surprise here is that the girls get safely to an isolated island. But then they decide to take a tiny motorboat to another island. The boat has a leak. The motor dies. The girls have to fight the shark…with a fishing net and a machete.

Like seriously, how many times in one movie can you watch scenes of a shark nearly chomping on someone’s legs just as they’re pulled back on a boat and still feel a sense of dread?

REVEALER (2022)

It cracks me up that so many reviews on IMDb accuse this film of being a poor attempt at cashing in on the way Stranger Things captured the glory days of 80s horror. News flash—horror movies have been doing the retro 80s thing for like the past 20 years…the responsibility for that does not land solely on the shoulders of a show that had one good season before becoming an increasingly bloated, self-indulgent mess that mostly deserves credit for merely reigniting interest in a handful of cool 80s songs. I mean, when every episode in a season of your show is a 90 to 120 minute movie, you’ve really started to think way too highly of your creation.

As for Revealer, it is pleasantly understated in its immersion in the 80s. It takes place in the 80s, there are a few 80s style songs (including a track by Gun Ship), the movie CHUD is mentioned in passing, and there’s plenty of 80s horror lighting, but there is no over-the-top attempt at the 80s look that plagues many films that try to go for authenticity but end up coming across like a bad mockery of the decade.

Having said that, this is also an understated horror flick that focuses on just two female characters. In a way it reminds me of Night of the Comet, but it’s more about two girls from opposite ends of the morality spectrum coming together to fight a demonic presence while learning to respect each other.

One is a stripper, the other is a religious protestor who always harasses the stripper outside her place of business. When an apocalyptic event takes place, the two girls become trapped together in a peep booth, where they are terrorized mostly by demonic snakes, but occasionally by a big devilish looking dude that we barely get a glimpse of.

There are definitely some fun phallic snake moments here, but this is notably character driven as it explores the growth of these two characters and their eventual understanding of each other as they try to survive their horrific circumstances. It’s kind of like a chick flick with demons.

THE SEED (2021)

The Seed goes for a trendy girls vs. alien life forms horror comedy vibe. It’s entertaining enough, however, it isn’t a very original film, and it’s also incredibly slow in getting to the guts of the horror—54 minutes before things really take off.

Sticking to predictable stereotypes, we have three girls heading to a house in the desert to witness a meteor shower: two blonde bimbo social medial influencers and their geeky smart brunette friend. Another odd moment that’s either tone deaf or an intentional comment on just how tone deaf white people are is a dancing montage of these three white girls partying to a hip hop song that repeatedly drops the “n” word. If it was done to make a point, it failed miserably because it just ends up feeling really weird. Some sort of snarky comment about appropriation from the geek girl and oblivious offense at the accusation by the blondes may have made the point better…if there was a point trying to be made.

Is there some funny banter between the girls? Sure. Is it funny enough to carry us through 54 minutes without any true horror? Not quite. But at least we get some horror elements to help us along.

The meteor shower happens and a rock thing plops into their pool. Within a short time, a little baby creature pops out of it, but they can’t take advantage of their discovery and make themselves go viral because the meteor shower seems to have cut off their connection to the internet.

Eventually, the little baby creature starts telepathically controlling the girls one by one. With only three girls, it’s no wonder it took 54 minutes for this to happen in a 90-minute movie. The little baby creature runs out of girls to control fast considering it still needs to leave us with one final girl pretty.

There’s some gushy icky fluid stuff as the meaning of the title becomes clear (as if you couldn’t guess), and naturally the final girl has to make some major decisions concerning saving her friends and saving the world.

The Seed will keep you entertained, but you probably won’t feel the urge to revisit it.

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STREAM QUEEN: men in peril

It’s a gay stalker, alien possession, and man vs. psycho family.

THE GUEST HOUSE (2016)

Single White Female goes gay male in this low budget stalker flick  that lands a place on the homo horror movies page. It even features actress/Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Eileen Davis and her husband Vincent Van Patten in small roles.

The plot involves a kind of douchy dude who cheats on his wife, gets the boot, and moves into the guest house of a rich dude.

At first they bond and have a good time, drinking, watching ball games, and talking about girls. The landlord even gets close to the douche dude’s teenage daughter.

But then one night the douche comes home early and sees his landlord in the hot tub with another guy. Not surprisingly, the douche is a homophobe and immediately starts to distance himself from the landlord, which is of course where the trouble begins.

It’s about as predictable as these movies get if you grew up on erotic thrillers of the late 80s/early 90s, but it’s satisfying to see the plot involving two guys for a change—especially since it doesn’t play coy with the gay desire at all. Of course some might be offended that the gay dude is portrayed as a total psycho preying on a straight dude. For me, the only letdown is the fact that because only one man is gay, this film lacks any sense of sexual tension beyond a moment when the landlord grabs the douche from behind during a fight and says “this is what jail’s like”. Sigh.

There are two major problems with the film considering it’s molded after erotic thrillers of the past. First, the douche feels like too much of a racist/homophobic white asshole to be the object of anyone’s desire—the film could have upped the sexy factor if his much more likable Latin buddy had played the lead role.

On top of that, there are no good scares, and no good kill scenes…of humans. The most brutal scene is the killing of a dog! WTF?

The creepiest part of the film is actually the guy playing the landlord. He may not be the best actor, but his lack of emoting and blank expressions worked to great effect in making his character quite unnerving.

BLASTED (2022)

This Norwegian sci-fi/action/comedy feels like it’s going for the same vibe as the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost goodie The World’s End. It eventually hits its stride in that style, but it’s hindered for a while not only by a totally unnecessary, near 2-hour running time, but perhaps also by the comedic tone getting lost in translation a bit due to the dubbing.

A dude is having a bachelor party that is also, in part, a business trip, which is derailed by the arrival of his longtime slacker friend. Problem is that for quite a while all the talk between the group of guys lacks any charm or humor. The film really starts to drag until they begin playing laser-tag and encounter a dude with glowing green eyes in the woods.

From then on it’s totally action and thrills as the guys initially think they’ve got a zombie situation. However, it turns out that they’re instead dealing with people being possessed by green glowing blobs of alien life forms. Awesome.

It’s a fast-paced adventure as the guys use their laser guns to extract the green blobs and destroy them in bursts of green goo.

It morphs into buddy movie fun, with the guys eventually finding their way onto the alien ship to stop the madness…and take on an awesome final boss.

BLOODY HELL (2020)

It’s a backwoods comedy horror flick with violence, gore, and quirky time jumps reminiscent of Tarantino and Guy Ritchie films. To top it all off, hottie Ben O’Toole (Nekrotronic) carries the film in a dual role as his character and his character’s conscience…while bound and shirtless for a majority of the runtime (earning it a spot on the stud stalking page).

Ben takes a gamble when caught up in the middle of a bank robbery, which leads to him being a semi-celebrity for both good and bad reasons. To escape his unintended fame in the U.S., he escapes to Finland…and ends up in the basement of a psycho family from hell.

At first I was getting flashbacks to the 1989 classic Parents, but this film takes on a life of its own as our main man has to figure out a way to get out of his predicament. Luckily, he has his conscience by his side as his guide and cheerleader…and sometimes as the devil on his shoulder.

In between his banter with his conscience, he hopes to win over some members of the family to help him escape. Plus, we eventually get to see what really went on during that bank robbery to make him go down in infamy.

Naturally, the money shot is the final battle between our main man and the psycho family in the last act. If I have one gripe it’s that the sequence feels like it’s over way too fast…especially since there are some satisfying surprises thrown in that could have been milked a bit more to up the suspense, violence, and gore even more.

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