A journey through my recent 1980s purchases on Blu-ray

Now I feel like I’m just getting desperate to remain as immersed in the best decade of my life as much as possible, considering a majority of my recent “80s horror” purchases barely qualify as horror. Let’s see if any of these five flicks satisfied.

A DAY OF JUDGEMENT (1981)

It’s kind of frustrating that so many good horror labels are bringing titles to Blu-ray that are barely worthy of the genre when there are still so many surefire horror flicks that have yet to make it to physical media. But I get that movies like A Day of Judgement may have been passed off as horror in mom and pop video stores in the 80s, and kids who saw it then will today only remember the few moments of horror and snatch it up for the nostalgia.

I snatched it up because it’s one of those rare 80s movies I didn’t know existed back then. As I was watching my new Blu-ray, I was reading the trivia on IMDb, where it specifically explains that this wasn’t a horror film so the studio releasing it forced the creators to insert some horror scenes for marketing. Ugh.

This is a religious film about a reverend deserting his town because its residents have deserted him. No one comes to church anymore, and various stories unfold of how money, greed, sexual sin, and violence have consumed the motivations of the townsfolk.

There’s supposed to be a new reverend arriving to replace the one that’s skipping town, and every once in a while we get glimpses of some sort of reaper approaching, cloaked in Argento lighting and fog machines. Uh-oh.

It almost seems like we’re finally going to get a hellish descent at the end of the film, but the film’s hopeful religious colors take over instead…

Avoid this film. Seriously. Don’t bother watching it, and even if you’re an 80s horror film completist like me, think twice about spending money on it unless you can get it used for at least half the price.

POSSESSION (1981)

It’s interesting to see this 1981 film for the first time over 40 years later and spot movies it may have influenced or may have been influenced by. Possession is a weird one many compare to David Lynch creations, and with a 2-hour run time it takes a while to get going, but it sure does have a freaky climax.

It’s just really hard to get through most of the film’s focus on the strained relationship between Sam Neill and his wife. Sam, learning she has been cheating on him, becomes extremely violent, so we are subject to a whole lot of spousal abuse.

However, the wife is definitely off, because she kind of goes with the flow. When it comes down to it, the plot feels like it’s about a woman whose husband sucks in bed, so she lures in other much more passionate men to dote on her. But, if you ask me, they also seem to be kind of…scratch that…really gay for Sam.

I was getting major Hellraiser vibes from much of what goes on here as the wife’s story unfold.

At the same time, there’s a scene of a seeming possession that feels like a rip-off of a scene from the 1974 The Exorcist rip-off The Eerie Midnight Horror Show. Not to mention, I think the film may pay homage to Divine’s lobster scene in Multiple Maniacs….

DEVIL STORY (1986)

This French film laughs in the face of the convoluted creations of Italian horror directors of the 80s, giving us a series of unfocused, virtually unrelated events on a horror road to nowhere then calling it a movie.

Devil Story even jumps right into the aftermath of a massacre in the middle of the woods as a deformed killer “cleans up”.

Then he takes down a couple that runs out of gas on the road.

Then our main couple stops at a house at night during a rain storm. Classic horror organ music plays, the couple is welcomed in by an older man and woman who tell tales of ships that go missing in the water and a woman and her misshapen son who live nearby.

Suddenly the visiting female is outside by herself being chased by a black horse. There’s a shipwrecked boat breaking through rocks on the shore (actually, a toy busting through a pile of sand).

There’s a King Tut tomb out of which a mummy pops to start pursuing the main girl. A woman in a white nightgown appears from a coffin and teams up with the mummy to pursue the main girl.

The original deformed killer and his mother pursue the main girl. The deformed killer starts to deform even more.

And all the while the black horse just keeps running in circles nearby.

I have no idea what this movie is supposed to be about, if anything.

SHALLOW GRAVE (1987)

More a suspense thriller than a horror film, Shallow Grave is still so perfectly eighties and begins with an awesome re-enactment of the Psycho shower scene—although it has the very 80s addition of big boobs and bush.

Next, four totally 80s girls go on a road trip to the south. It’s so totally racist when they get to a diner and are spooked by a big Black guy passing by their car. They’re in the south, and it’s a Black guy that scares them???

Anyway, they get a flat, one girl goes to piss in the woods…and she sees a beefy shirtless dude with fantastic 80s hair and a furry chest kill a woman.

Soon the girls are on the run from the psycho, who knows they know too much, and they begin getting picked off one by one.

The film plays out like a psycho stalker action road trip movie.

AMERICAN RICKSHAW (1989)

American Rickshaw is another weird movie that has a hint of horror and therefore got a Blu-ray release marketed to fans of 80s horror. Quite honestly, this movie about a rickshaw operator in Miami has less charm and less horror than Big Trouble in Little China, but at least it’s just as 80s.

After his breakout role in American Anthem, Olympian hottie Mitch Gaylord finished the decade with another movie in which he could take his shirt off a lot.

He plays the rickshaw driver, encounters a mysterious Asian woman with a cat, and then finds himself on the run from the law and organized crime after some dude filming him having sex with a stripper ends up dead.

This is 80s cable trash at its finest. Gaylord bangs the stripper various times. She’s working for a baddie played by the hunky lead from Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.

Donald Pleasence is a televangelist, but barely in the movie.

And Gaylord just continuously dodges trouble, for the Asian woman is some sort of witch leaving dead guys in Gaylord’s path by magically setting fire to them. This shit is so silly.

But hey, at least Gaylord has a non-judgmental conversation with a gay gym bunny coworker. He better with a name like Gaylord. That shit was a go-to insult hurled at the “different” boys in school back in the day.

The film plays out like a cheap action flick until Gaylord finally meets the Asian woman again and she explains the more occult aspects of what is going on.

All I’ll say is that in the end, Donald Pleasence tries to outdo Dee Wallace’s final scene in The Howling, and it’s the best and also most out of place moment in an otherwise horrorless movie.

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STREAM QUEEN: a big clown letdown?

I saw clown faces popping up in my watchlists, so I thought I had a common blog theme ready once again. But it wasn’t quite what it seemed with these three…

IT’S HERE (2019)

It’s Here is another one of those “anthologies” that appears to be just a bunch of short films assembled together for exposure and perhaps a quick streaming buck, this time under the guise of a “clown” collection. For starters, some of these stories don’t even fit the theme, and second, I think I’ve covered a few of them in other anthologies in the past.

Anyway, after a fun animated horror intro that gets us in the mood for some spooky tales, we jump right in with no wraparound:

1st story – after putting her whiny kid to bed, a woman has a date with a guy that turns into something demonic, but it’s not really a clown.

2nd story – a campy tale, this one is actually about a killer mime terrorizing a guy and girl as they watch horror movies.

3rd story – is there some sort of film class that requires students to simply remake the clown/babysitter tale from the anthology Amusement? If you want to be a filmmaker, stop doing this and come up with something of your own. Seriously, just stop.

4th story – a clown…clowns himself to death?

5th story – imagine if Samara escaped The Ring video dressed as a clown and you’ve got this tale.

6th story – a radio host has a psychic on his show. God calls. The Devil calls. No clowns call.

7th story – reporters accompany a couple into the woods to do an exchange to get their daughter back…from something we don’t see.

There’s a quick clown scene in a circus tent at the end of the movie, but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be the end of the 7th story or just a standalone clip, which is a typical problem with these movies that are comprised of underdeveloped short films and don’t drop even a segment title card between each story to signify that one has ended and a new one is beginning.

CLOWNFACE (2019)

I see a theme forming to my blog about clown horror…which is that these movies are not clown horror movies.

This killer is called Clownface, but he’s really just a hillbilly in a tank top using human skin for a face. Not sure I can complain though, because let’s face it, that always makes for an awesome killer.

The story is a little odd and a little different for a slasher, and I don’t know whether that works for or against the movie. There are two female friends. The main girl leaves their place, the other is abducted by Clownface.

The film feels disjointed to me. I don’t know why Clownface decides to keep this one girl prisoner when he’s just killing everyone else. There’s another dude who comes to town and is investigating the kills because he encountered Clownface in the woods when he was a kid, so Clownface has apparently been hanging around for quite a while.

The main girl wants to figure out what happened to her missing friend, but that doesn’t stop her from going to a party, which is the most satisfying sequence because it’s when all the good old fashioned slashing starts. And I’m talking major bloody massacre. Kind of made me forget that the plot was confusing.

CRISPY’S CURSE (2017)

The general horror comedy concept of a Christian heavy metal band joining forces with a couple of ghost hunters and a gay psychic to take down a killer clown ghost seems like a treasure trove of fun. Unfortunately, Crispy’s Curse is anything but.

An agonizing 105 minutes long, this plodding film feels like endless disjointed skits that hold no relevance to any kind of plot and mostly fail to deliver any semblance of humor in the process. There are glimmers of golden opportunities and a few chuckles to be had, but they are spread so far apart it’s a chore just waiting for the next one. And before the various characters finally end up with one focused goal in the final act, some of the characters’ stories are just more entertaining and interesting than others—which kind of signals to me that those other characters weren’t even necessary and losing them could have vastly improved the pace and cut the runtime.

As for the killer clown, I guess he’s a campy jokester, but I honestly could not make out anything he was saying whenever he spoke. I think he’s supposed to be a drunk clown or something.

I give credit to the actors, who gave it their all and are definitely talented comic performers who could have done a lot with funnier material. Plus, we at least get plenty of goofy gore pay-off near the end when the clown goes crazy on a concert audience with a chainsaw. And of course the gay psychic lands this one on the does the gay guy die? page.

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STREAM QUEEN: if you miss the days of nature striking back on SyFy…

This foursome of flicks I found on Amazon Prime includes the kind of shark, big bug, and crocodile horror you might leave on if you accidentally stumbled upon it while channel surfing during a boring weekend about fifteen years ago. Does that make any of these worthy of your selective streaming time today?

CENTIPEDE (2004)

I figured I’d start with the real deal. You know it’s some serious made for SyFy creature feature nonsense from 2004 when it’s a full-frame aspect ratio.

Centipede is just goofy. After a quick opening attack scene, we’re off to a caving trip in India with a bunch of young people. They are partying for a friend about to get married, so there’s a silly dance montage that makes me long for happier times. And by that I mean a time not too long ago when we were generally happier as a society—or at least we believe there was hope that there might be a future.

Anyway, after a load of cave exploration and typical young partying people nonsense (except sex), there’s finally an attack about 50 minutes in, after which all the fight for survival action begins.

There’s really no gore or suspense, and the giant centipedes are what you’d expect from a SyFy creature feature. This is about as memorable as any other SyFy flick you watched fifteen years ago.

FROM THE DEPTHS (2020)

What the hell did I just make my hubby watch? I figured I was getting him into another bad shark attack movie. Nope. This is a very different kind of shark movie…

Look. If you go into this one with a really open mind and an understanding of what it’s about, you might be able to enjoy it for its silliness. Just don’t expect a shark movie.

This is a movie about a girl spiraling into madness because she was the sole survivor of a shark attack that killed her boyfriend and her sister. She sees this shark everywhere—swimming down her hall, popping out of puddles, floating past her therapist’s office window…

Meanwhile, this girl is a lesbian, is having intimacy issues with her girlfriend, and is convinced the shark is the crotch block.

WTF?

You only start to realize this is sort of a comedy when the main girl’s dead sister shows up as a corpse and starts cracking one-liners in between trying to convince her to kill her girlfriend. The sister corpse is actually the best part of the movie, especially when she pokes fun at bad shark movies on SyFy.

APEX PREDATORS (2021)

If you’re not even going to show anything but some stock footage of real sharks swimming through the water in your shark movie, don’t make a shark movie.

Not even tossing a bunch of B-movie horror faves like Brinke Stevens, Shawn C. Phillips, Peter Stickles, and Maria Olsen into the mix can camouflage a non-existent film structure.

It’s implied that people are being killed in the water by sharks. Brinke Stevens is a scientist on the verge of figuring out that sharks are evolving…into what we never find out because we never actually see anything but a couple of stock footage shark clips. The man in power wants to keep the beaches open. He has a contentious relationship with his hunky son, who spends most of the movie driving around in a car.

At least he shows off the beef in the last few minutes when he agrees to be human bait…and then wakes up from a dream and sees a cloud shaped like a shark? I have no idea what this move was about.

SALTWATER: THE BATTLE FOR RAMREE ISLAND (2021)

“Based on true events” should have told me all I needed to know about this killer crocodile movie that’s mostly about monologues being delivered on what’s clearly a sound stage that’s supposed to be swamps at night.

American soldiers are trying to get the better of the Japanese during World War II. Their guide through the jungle is a Middle Eastern guy who sounds like a 7-Eleven character from The Simpsons and is not surprisingly used as the only comic relief in the film.

Like I said, there are a lot of character monologues…and yet…there are barely any characters. Despite us seeing virtually no crocodile attacks and their being no suspense whatsoever, the movie just dwindles quickly to only two characters. It’s simply not worth sitting through this one just for a few shots of croc snouts. Really, it’s not worth it, not even for the postscript explaining what the true events were that inspired the movie.

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Bingo Hell vs. Black As Night

It’s old people vs. young people in these two horror flicks about groups in communities of color. It seems Amazon is trying to tap into the “people of color horror” market following the release of the newest Candyman, but they’re succeeding mostly only in the casting department.

BINGO HELL (2021)

In Bingo Hell, we meet Lupita, an older woman who is sort of the self-crowned queen of her community. Problem for me is she’s presented as so unlikable by her behavior the moment we meet her that I found it hard to even connect with her. There’s a difference between being a feisty old lady and just being a nasty old bitch.

Anyway, the Bingo hall where she hangs with her older friends is under new management, and they’re not happy about it. The man running the show is one of those sleazy creeps that comes into town in horror movies and seems to promise people riches beyond their wildest dreams.

The movie becomes a cycle of different characters dying in gruesome ways and then Lupita showing up to find the body. There are also supernatural bingo balls rolling around everywhere.

A horror movie about geriatrics banning together to take down a crazy bingo leader should be loads of fun, but this just isn’t. It’s uninspired, with a plot that has a muddled trajectory and bland, flat characters. It tries really hard to make them sympathetic in the second half, but by then it was too late for me.

BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)

This Amazon original doesn’t feel so much like a movie as it does merely an okay attempt at a pilot movie for a series.

An awkward Black teen living in New Orleans is slowly coming out of her shell with the help of her gay BFF (landing this one on the does the gay guy die? page). But everything changes one night when she slips out of a party and has a vampire encounter on her way home.

Realizing there’s a band of vamps targeting homeless people, she begins to assemble her own little slaying team to hunt down the master and save her community from the threat.

While the vampires are nice and snarly and the cast is quite likable, Black as Night doesn’t quite have the pacing or energy necessary to pack a punch, and fails to even stir up any suspense or scares. It may be Prime’s answer to the Netflix movie Vampires vs. the Bronx, but at most it feels more like a cute attempt at another teen horror show that might last for two seasons on the CW.

It does delve into social commentary about the Black community a bit near the end, but that’s all shoehorned in with exposition through a monologue to be as simplistic as possible with no need for the audience to put any thought into the ideas being presented.

Also, considering this is a Black horror film, it’s kind of a bummer that a decision was made to make another marginalized main character the only one in the group that doesn’t quite make it to the end. Although that could change if there’s a sequel, which seems to be promised…

 

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A feast of fiction for your October reading pleasure

Just in time for the Halloween season, author Steve Berman has released a collection of stories that will reveal just which gays have the biggest appetites…and the strongest stomachs. Eating goes from erotic to icky in this literary smorgasbord of thirteen stories. Here’s a tease of each tale:

“In Summer Broken” – four young men learn that life isn’t always a joyride, and the desolate roads we travel are strewn with ghosts of the past and the future.

“The Balm of Sperrgebiet Is the Krokodil” – there’s no telling what monsters man can create when food and water are no longer a convenience and he must resort to unthinkable alternatives.

“Capturing Jove Lunge” – when a man is called to a mansion to do a job, he doesn’t know if the work is going to involve pleasure, pain, posing…or something that’s living in the barn….

“Poetaster” – what could possibly go wrong when you run with a cannibal crowd?

“He’s So Tender” – you’ll never look at a hot dog the same way again.

“The Letter That Doomed Nosferatu” – despite the finality of the title, this story is more of a love letter to Bram Stoker.

“Unwelcome Boys” – a young gay wrestler can’t fight his urges for another boy, but he soon discovers there are boys with different kinds of cravings.

“The Haferbrautigam” – a man boards a train with an alluring young man who is more than he seems.

“D is for Delicious” – a school nurse learns about the witchy art of curing children of what ails them.

“The Unsolved ‘Case of the Club Tarrare'” – a writer reflects on the inspiration for and process of writing a story.

“Passion, Like a Voice That Buds” – a dark take on the bug chasing theme.

“His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl” – gay desire is ignited with the dark side of hazing serving as a backdrop.

“Bottom of the Menu” – for the main course of the collection, a man is salivating over what’s on his birthday plate.

Fit for Consumption is now available from Lethe Press.

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DIRECT TO STREAMING: 4 from Scott Jeffrey

Director Scott Jeffrey is so prolific I suddenly found I had fallen behind in keeping up with his filmography, so I quickly delved into his four latest. Here’s how the marathon turned out for me.

THE CURSE OF HUMPTY DUMPTY (2021)

As usual, Jeffrey takes a basic horror concept—in this case a killer doll—and infuses a little more intrigue with a plot that isn’t too complicated but also not totally typical.

Many movies in recent years have made horror out of dementia, but The Curse of Humpty Dumpty does it with the added fun of a fucking doll from hell!

When a woman begins suffering memory loss after her husband runs off, her two daughters struggle to help her cope.

They take her to an antique store, where she becomes attached to a human-sized Humpty Dumpty doll she insists she remembers her husband giving to her. However, the store owner won’t sell it to them.

But then it shows up on their doorstep. Eek!

There’s a clever nod to Chucky if you pay attention, Mom has some horrific nightmares about this damn doll walking around and opening its mouth of multilayered teeth at night, and mom also has flashbacks hinting of a tragic occurrence in the past.

Meanwhile, her sister-in-law starts poking around the house to uncover what really happened to her brother. And we all know what happens to people that poke around a house where an evil doll just sits on a chair in a corner watching everything…

The final act sure does deliver on the doll action, and brings several surprises to what could otherwise be an obvious conclusion.

BATS (2021)

Scott co-directs this creature feature with his frequent collaborator Rebecca Matthews. Despite having the same title as the 1999 flick starring Lou Diamond Phillips, this isn’t about swarms of killer bats.

It’s about a man-sized mutant bat living in a family’s attic. Double eek!

This is classic creature feature costume stuff, so naturally there’s some review on IMDb whining about it and calling it the worst movie ever. You young whippersnappers today, I don’t know how you would have survived growing up on horror that came before CGI.

This bat man is awesome and I would be terrified if he showed up in my fricking attic (hence the double eek).

Amazingly, the film manages to stay confined to the claustrophobic space of the house. The problem I had was that when someone gets bit by the bat man, they get a sort of rabies thing going on and start to mutate, yet it always feels like there’s only one bat man running around. This easily could have been a sort of Evil Dead situation with bat people instead of Deadites.

I was liking the closing song called “A Devil & The Harem” by Greg Birkumshaw, so it’s going to end up on my Future Flashbacks show for sure.

 

CANNIBAL TROLL (2021)

Scott again teams up with Rebecca Matthews for this backwoods horror flick, which jumps right into the horror action.

A couple is trying to escape the cannibal troll’s cabin, but things don’t totally work out for them thanks to some sharp objects…

Next we meet a bunch of girls on a camping trip. There’s chick flick drama like secret lesbian love and a mother-to-be, plus a priest that tries to warn them to stay out of the woods.

And of course the cannibal troll starts wreaking havoc.

It’s standard backwoods slasher fun, with a few icky, involuntary cannibalism moments and the most intense scene in the movie for me…the birth. My only disappointment was the key to killing the cannibal troll.

CONJURING THE GENIE (2021)

Scott sort of made a Djinn movie but avoided using the word in the title because there already are movies that have utilized it.

This demonic little genie is way cool, but, ok…I’ll accept that this costume might be a little problematic since the genie talks and the mouth barely moves.

This is also a rather odd wish granting demon movie.

A girl doing research on an urban legend gets her friends to join her in summoning a genie. When it suddenly starts appearing to each of them demanding they make a wish, the results are barely even figurative. Basically he turns everyone into some sort of creature.

The reason is explained near the end as him “playing with your wishes”, but it’s really a stretch that kind of spoils the plot, but I still had fun because this genie is just so devilish with his big, toothy smile, demonic voice, and evil laugh.

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STREAM QUEEN: various levels of laughter in this foursome

If you like humor with your horror…you might not be totally satisfied with the majority of these four. Let’s get into them.

SUPER HOT (2021)

If you’re looking for an action-packed, fast-paced horror comedy with tons of blood, look elsewhere. But if you like a change of pace and indulged in the geek-friendly, chill, dry humor comedy of Clerks in the 1990s, Super Hot is definitely one not to be missed.

This is a perfect example of how inexcusable it is for indie filmmakers to cast people that can’t act in their films. Virtually every starring role in Super Hot is filled by someone with little to no other acting credits on IMDb, yet it feels like they should be starring in more mainstream Hollywood flicks already.

Our main girl, who reminds me of Laura Prepon of That 70s Show, is a lesbian geek pizza delivery girl who loves horror films and Star Wars. Her best buddies are also geeks and one of them is clearly gay although his sexuality is never discussed.

When our main girl’s lady friend scores a boyfriend and decides to move into a sorority house at Christmas time (landing this on the holiday horror page), she decides to check the place out by delivering a pizza. Meanwhile, one of her buddies snoops around the sorority house and sees unnerving signs of murder….

Now our main girl and her friends realize they have to bust her love interest out of the place…with the help of the new boyfriend and another unexpected ally—Van Helsing! Indeed, it turns out these sorority babes are vampires!

It’s the charm of the performances and the chemistry of the characters that carry the movie, which might bore some but will have others just enjoying the mellow but quite funny ride.

LILLITH (2019)

Coming off Super Hot, it’s glaringly obvious that Lillith is an indie film that doesn’t have the cast or smart enough script to support the chill pacing. It just did not work for me and my hubba hubba, who actually liked the hell out of Super Hot.

There have been plenty of sex romp horror comedies about teens that summon a succubus, so Lillith really needed to push some buttons to live up to its predecessors.

Our main girl gets dumped by her cheating boyfriend. She wants revenge. Her Wiccan lesbian friend suggests a spell to give him a succubus STD or something.

Lillith is conjured but kind of misinterprets her purpose after reinventing herself as a hot goth redhead. She is on the prowl for boys to kill, and it’s up to our main girl and friends to stop the succubus.

There are a few funny moments here, and the girl playing Lillith would have totally been up to the campy task if given better material. As it is, she shines in the minimal number of kill scenes she gets. None of the actors really have any juicy material to work with, so there’s only so much entertainment they can bring to the low-key script.

DEAD AGAIN (2021)

I guess it was a bad sign when this zomcom started with real news footage of world leaders talking about a viral outbreak…including Trump. Ugh.

But I’m a sucker for buddy zombedies, so I plowed on. However, this film just doesn’t give us much of anything that all the best buddy zomcoms do.

The “buddies” are cops. One is a young guy, the other a cute bear who is unfortunately rendered annoying by the excessively overplayed meta movie dialogue shtick. It’s virtually unbearable at this point.

There’s also a young couple that sneaks onto abandoned property and gets attacked by a zombie. Eventually the two duos and some others come together and must fight to survivor a zombie apocalypse with little in the way of zombies…or laughs.

There are simply no standout moments in this short, 75-minute movie at all. Although, it does have a little something extra, which might leave you intrigued…

CUT AND CHOP (2020)

I don’t know if Cut and Chop would even be considered a dark comedy, despite the IMDb labels. It’s odd and quirky for sure, but also mostly just a portrait of a man pushed to madness for his art. The plot could have been condensed into a 30-minute short in an anthology.

The star is also the writer and director. He plays a method actor who becomes obsessed with the art of being a butcher for a role. He stops at a butcher shop and liquor store regularly (where Ron Jeremy plays the owner).

His girlfriend notices him getting progressively weirder, and he begins biting her hard during sex. Problem for the audience is that we never see him not weird, so it’s hard to go along for his ride as the antagonistic protagonist.

Eventually he takes his love of butchering too far, and it involves his girlfriend, a couple she knows, a dinner party, and cannibalism.

There’s gore, disturbing imagery, and bizarre situations, but where it is all leading is rather inevitable…

However, the hunky leading man definitely delivers the goods in other ways…

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The weirdest depths of 90s horror

My video store career started at the end of the 80s, and I spent most of the 90s working both there and at a bookstore part time to pay my way through college to eventually get my master’s degree (I was on the 10-year plan…). I can now say in hindsight that while our store’s horror section was about as thorough as it gets from the 80s backwards, my boss barely scratched the surface of getting in the more obscure titles released throughout the 90s, because there are still many that I’ve never even heard of let alone seen. That includes these six I’ve finally discovered.

I BOUGHT A VAMPIRE MOTORCYCLE (1990)

This film is everything you could hope for from a movie with this title.

An occult ritual in the woods goes horribly wrong when a biker gang interrupts and blood ends up in the gas tank of a motorcycle.

The motorcycle lands in the hands of a regular everyday guy, but immediately causes trouble for him. His friend who helps him work on it turns up dead. The motorcycle steers him right into a game of chicken with the biker gang. He begins to have horrific nightmares. And his motorcycle begins killing people.

With the biker gang an imminent threat and constantly on his tail, he has to figure out how to avoid them while getting his motorcycle exorcised…by C-fricking Anthony Daniels-3PO.

There’s gore, goofy comedy, and wacky demonic motorcycle scenes leading up to the final exorcism segment.

My favorite part is totally when the vampire motorcycle busts into a hospital to wreak havoc.

THE BORROWER (1991)

You would never guess that this film comes from the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. That film is so not my kind of horror so I don’t remember a thing about it, having seen it only once when it first came out on video back in the day.

The Borrower, on the other hand, is totally my type of trash, especially since it was released in 1991…but filmed in 1988! Wahoo! Everything about it, from the clothes to the music, makes it so clear that it was.

A big alien bug informs another alien, already in the form of a man, that it is being sent down to earth for punishment for being a bad bad bug.

Two rednecks are unfortunate enough to witness its arrival on earth. The alien’s human body totally deforms and his head explodes. So, he does what he needs to do to attach a new head to his body.

And that’s the plot. This alien hangs out in the sleaziest part of a city swapping heads whenever one is about to expire, and the gore is just splatastic.

Rae Dawn Chong is the tough, street smart detective on the case, a lot of this movie takes place in alleys and a hospital, and there are some precious mess-ups. For instance, the alien swaps out a Black guy’s head one time…yet when he’s done putting it on the white body he’s had the whole time, the body is now black too. And then there’s the big question of how the surviving redneck from the beginning is suddenly locked up in a prison in the urban jungle.

Highlights include a horny nurse walking in on what she thinks is the man she’s hot for, as well as a heavy metal band rockin’ out in a house when the alien, now merged with a dog, busts through the gate and attacks. Awesome.

AUNTIE LEE’S MEAT PIES (1992)

The director of this film mostly did adult films, however, he managed to get Karen Black as the crazy aunt, Pat Morita of Happy Days and Karate Kid fame as the sheriff, and horror icon Michael Berryman to star in Aunt Lee’s Meat Pies.

The exploitation kicks right in, with a crazy dude killing a priest and raping a young girl…before she takes care of him and brings him home to auntie to bake into her pies.

Eventually, this film gets crazy backwoods weird fun, but the 100-minute length really kills the pace early on after a few enticing exploitation scenes. I guess if you’re into sexy girls there’s something to look at, but the typical cannibal family plot doesn’t offer anything interesting or new before we finally get to the, um, meat of the movie.

Auntie and the girls have a dinner party for a bunch of rocker dudes who have no idea what they’re in for. You’d think when the ladies roll out a high chair with a full grown young woman in it acting like a baby the boys would get the hint that they’re in backwoods trouble, but they’re too hot for the girls to be concerned.

And then the boys split off with each girl and enter trippy themed rooms drenched in neon, like a baby’s room and a big snake room. And naturally, the girls seduce them into total vulnerability for the kill.

It’s interesting to have Karen Black playing the matriarch role, because I’d almost guess this movie was Rob Zombie’s inspiration for having her play a similar role in House of 1000 Corpses. This sort of feels like a campy, sexy version of that kind of film.

The set is also a very familiar house. I probably have at least four films in my movie collection that were shot at this location.

UNINVITED (1993)

This is such a bizarre mixture of genres that it fails on all fronts I would imagine. I mean, I can’t exactly speak on the Western front, but as for the horror perspective, I’ll make this quick because it’s just not worth the time.

A group of people in the Old West—a priest, a prostitute, a couple, a member of the Donner party, etc.—is led by an old man to a mine with the promise of a fortune in gold.

We get tons of boring character development. They dig in the mine. They desecrate a burial ground in the process. They release angry Native American spirits. They hang a guy. They start turning on each other. There’s a shootout at the end.

The most interesting horror in this film comes from some nightmare sequences involving occult rituals. They look low budget, but they’re still effectively creepy.

FUNNY MAN (1994)

Funny Man only landed on my radar in recent months when I decided I had to finish what my late brother started—when I acquired his Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing horror films, it triggered the obsessive completist in me, and I had to fill in the blanks, getting any horror films either or both actors appeared in that weren’t in my own collection yet or the collection I inherited from my brother.

Turns out Christopher Lee is in this film for less than five minutes, but I am overjoyed to have discovered it and have it in my collection for the sheer 90s nostalgia. I’ve seen a whole lot of “worst movie ever” reviews online, which is dumbfounding to me. This is a film that should appeal to anyone who grew up not only on 80s Euro horror trash, but all the crappy, campy 90s slashers that came our way soon after, like Leprechaun, Rumpelstiltskin, The Dentist, Ice Cream Man, Dr. Giggles, etc.

Funny Man fits in perfectly with that bunch. This “horror comedy” is barely even stupid funny, is trippy as fuck, is gory, is not scary, and we barely care about any victims. You know…perfect 90s horror.

The story involves a music producer playing poker with Christopher Lee, a mysterious man who raises the stakes by betting his mansion. Big surprise, the music producer wins the game.

He goes to see the mansion with his family, and this film immediately gets points for having Funny Man kill the most unexpected first victim first. Oh, and the second victim? The most unexpected second victim.

Meanwhile, the music producer’s brother arrives with a bus load of people (no, I don’t understand it), including some sort of voodoo priestess who senses Funny Man’s existence, and a woman named Thelma who looks like a cosplay Velma from Scooby Doo.

The group immediately splits up and this becomes a fun house of what-the-fuckery. Funny Man gets so much joy out of killing off victims in bizarre, acid trip settings in a variety of gruesome ways. While his humor and the slapstick setups may seem really bad, they perfectly capture the spirit of the old Punch and Judy puppet shows, which are even mocked within the movie. The whole film exudes the old school vibe of this type of comedy, and for that reason alone, Christopher Lee, who spent most of his horror career doing period pieces, is the ideal iconic cameo for the movie.

Don’t expect any of it to make any sense, and if you can score a copy of the Blu-ray set from Wicked-Vision (region free), make sure to check out the original short film in the bonus features. It was the basis for the full-length movie and is much more a traditional horror film in which Funny Man is fucking creepy.

THE DAY OF THE BEAST (1995)

This is actually a Christmas horror movie of sorts…because a priest is trying to prevent the anti-Christ from being born on the 25th. Therefore, it’s landing on the holiday horror page.

To do so, he has to become a total sinner, so he begins doing bad stuff. He also teams up with a heavy metal dude to kidnap an occult reality TV celebrity and beat him until he gives them all the specifics on how to perform a necessary ritual to prevent the coming of the anti-Christ.

This movie is definitely zany and brought to mind other horror flicks of the 90s like Cemetery Man and Dead Alive, but despite all the campy violence, I just wasn’t as enamored by it as many seem to be. It seems to me that if something finds its way to Shudder as this one has, everyone just automatically decides it’s a great movie.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun. It’s humorous at times. But it also drags quite a bit.

However, it is totally worth a watch, especially for the moment when they eventually have to contend with a horned beast in front of old school 1990s green screen.

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STREAM QUEEN: a foursome of Black horror flicks

There’s more modern Black horror out there than just Get Out, Us, and Candyman if you’re willing to go the indie route, and I dug up four flicks from my watchlists on Prime and Tubi, so let’s get into them.

RHYME SLAYA (2016)

 

This is a total hip hop street slasher that pays plenty of homage to Scream. Despite being a little too long, which causes the pacing to falter a bit, it definitely delivers on the kills.

The one problem I had with the film starts right at the first kill scene. A guy gets a very Ghost Face call asking “Who’s your favorite rapper?”, which would be fine. More than fine, actually.

But wouldn’t you know this shit goes right for the “You sound gay as fuck” line. Ugh. Look, you can argue that this is just the way rap culture is and it’s being real, but the film would have worked without going there for no reason other than to just go there, and it wouldn’t have isolated a bunch of Lil Nas X fans in the process. No one would be finishing up this film grumbling, “This is so unrealistic because none of these rappers used any anti-gay slurs!”. And this is just instance one. By the end of the film, the guys are throwing around the “d” word. Not that “d” word, but a word like that “d” word with a hard “ike”. So actually, it’s the complete opposite of that “d” word.

Anyway, our cast of characters is prepping for a small rap contest. There are plenty of performance montages, and there’s also a scummy gang of white dudes posing a threat to the club where the contest is being held.

In between all the drama (and some sexual comic relief about eating ass during a barbershop scene—don’t forget, kiddies, asses are only disgusting if they’re attached to the same gender), people get killed off by someone in a black ski mask and a hoodie with various sharp weapons. The best kill is by far when the killer “borrows” a machete from a Jason statue and slices open a dude who just came out of the shower.

By the end of the film, the killer is revealed, and the motivation is explained in a nasty little flashback scene. Then the final battle with the killer plays out more like a gang fight…in an alley…with guns.

DEATH RANCH (2020)

Director Charlie Steeds has brought me horror satisfaction with films like Escape from Cannibal Farm, The House of Violent Desire, and Winterskin, so I was looking forward to watching this one.

Taking place in Tennessee in 1971, Death Ranch starts off perfect in my book, with a shirtless hunk waiting for a ride after he escapes prison.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a hottie, but the bald daddy type who picks him up was really doing it for me. Especially when he shakes his booty during a dance montage.

Along with a woman, they go to a ranch where they think they can hide out.

But that night, our main hunk spots the fricking KKK getting ready to torture a woman at a fire. So he saves her and brings a whole lot of trouble his way.

That’s all the story you need. This is strictly a revenge flick, and the revenge is so sweet and over the top in true grindhouse style as our Black heroes fight to the death with these psychotic whites with a hunger for Black flesh.

The gore and violence never let up, so if you’re a splatter fan and want the therapeutic experience of seeing white supremacists getting what they deserve, this is one not to miss.

THE BLACK LIST ANTHOLOGY (2021)

Running just an hour long, this collection of indie shorts is a good blend of straight up horror stories, dark tales, and tales of the unexpected, with only some of them specifically tackling race issues. Stories include:

1st – this tale of a couple that stops by an abandoned building on a deserted highway for a pee break never shows the threat, but whether intended or not, it made me feel that the couple is even more vulnerable because they’re Black. It really felt like they were willingly stepping into a situation a Black couple would be too smart to get into. Had me on the edge of my seat.

2nd – this is a tale of two guys burying a body in a field after an “incident”.

3rd – a guy ponders his first time doing something awful.

4th – a girl working on her computer is having visions of a killer that looks like he should be stalking victims in a cornfield.

5th – a dude gives his girl a pep talk about their differences before taking her to meet his mom, but there are more differences than meet the eye.

6th – a young woman finds a mysterious gift marked “Don’t open till Christmas” by her tree…

7th – a guy gets more than he expected from a stripper.

8th – a woman envisions things going horrifically wrong with every guy she meets.

9th – a guy does an interview about breaking up with his girl over their differences. This feels like an extension of story 5.

10th – this tale echoes elements of stories 4 and 8.

11th – things are not what they seem when a woman gets abducted.

CALL TIME (2021)

Call Time is a slasher with pretty much no slashing. The biggest compliment I can give it is that all the guys are a bunch of cuties.

A small group of aspiring filmmakers comes to a house where a man has brought them to make the best horror movie ever. The house kind of looks like a leftover set piece from 2001 Maniacs, but there are absolutely no themes of crazy hillbillies or white supremacists here.

We spend most of the film feeling like we’re just hanging out with a bunch of people at a film workshop. I don’t understand what they were going for here, but everyone sits around talking about the craft of making movies. And talking. And talking. And talking.

There’s promise of weirdness. The man running the show is enthusiastic about making the film to the point of manic—and maybe crazy. His creepy old mother sits in a chair in a room upstairs. There’s a big butch woman with one zombie eye who tends to creep around the doors of the pretty girls.

The description of this film claims that people begin to go missing. You know when? An hour into this 90-minute movie. You know how many people? ONE. One person goes missing, killed by the most obvious choice for killer. Then everyone panics and runs around for a short time before we get the big confusing reveal of what’s really going on…or…not going on. There was a lot of opportunity here for a simple, fun film with loads of sex and slashing, but we get none of either.

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Witches and supernatural killers

Catching up on the more mainstream selections cable and streaming have to offer lately, I got a double dose of witchery, and two supernatural freaks. Let’s take a look.

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015)

The director of the rather mesmerizing Gretel & Hansel brings us a film that I didn’t find all that mesmerizing.

For me, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is one of those movies that is totally predictable in its effort to be unpredictable so as to blow your mind at the end. Nowadays I just sit with disinterest knowing eventually I’m going to find out nothing is as it seems.

So Sabrina from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and some other girl are left behind when winter break comes because their parents didn’t make it up to school to pick them up.

Meanwhile, Emma Roberts escapes a mental institution and is offered a ride by a man who is on the road with his wife.

Sure, our interest is captured by what exactly this man wants from Emma, what Emma’s story is, and why the man’s wife seems very standoffish.

And we’re also intrigued by Sabrina’s desperation to get in touch with her parents…and why the other girl is giving her the cold shoulder…and who the mysterious, unseen headmaster is that keeps getting mentioned…and why there’s a nun doing some sort of mysterious ritual by the boiler.

The film craaaaawls its way to the finish line, but at least there’s some murder, mayhem, and an exorcism (?) to keep us entertained in the final act. This really just isn’t my type of film, but If you’re looking for horror that challenges your mind rather than your bladder muscles, you should definitely check it out.

MALIGNANT (2021)

It’s the film everyone is talking about and everyone has an opinion about. Here’s mine.

The first hour of Malignant mostly bored me. Violent kill scenes and a creepy specter showed promise, but things became repetitive fast, and this felt like numerous supernatural slashers of the 00s meant to scare tweens (The BoogeymanThe Boogeyman 2The Boogeyman 3…).

A young woman experiences trauma that triggers visions of a freaky killer. Turns out the people she sees being murdered are being massacred in real life. So with the help of her sister, she tries to convince the police that she has some sort of connection to the killer and can assist in solving the case.

All I’ll say is that for me the turning point is the fire escape chase scene between the killer and one of the main detectives. The film kicks into high gear and changes tone, becoming action-packed and crazy fun more than dark and serious. It felt like a mashup of so many different movies, giving me hints of The Dark Half, The Ring, My Soul to Take, and many more.

The killer is fantastically eerie with its disjointed walk, long hair, long leather coat, golden dagger, and gnarly face. And when it gets a chance to bust out and become a savage horror villain that spins, jumps, and slashes its way through hordes of victims, I at last didn’t want the movie to end.

NIGHTBOOKS (2021)

The director of Brightburn and The Hive brings us a fun and scary family movie based on a book. If you’re looking for something that falls between Hocus Pocus and The Witches, look no further.

On Halloween, our main boy leaves his apartment and gets trapped in the apartment of a witch! More specifically, the B—- in apartment 23. Yes, Jessica Jones is the fabulously bitchy witch. And she has a proposition for the boy, who loves to write scary stories; he must read her a scary story every night if he wants to stay alive.

Problem is he kind of has writer’s block. Plus, the witch hates all his stories and is quite the nasty critic.

Meanwhile, the boy has to deal with her bald, tattle-tale cat that goes invisible at will.

But as comfort, he befriends a girl who is also being held captive and is forced to cook for the witch.

Together, the two try to concoct a magical plan to escape the apartment and all the scary situations it has in store for them. Naturally, it all leads to a pretty darn creepy confrontation with the witch in her true gnarly glory, and there are plenty of nods to Hansel & Gretel along the way.

COME PLAY (2020)

Yes, it’s another tween horror about a young child’s “imaginary friend” coming to life to terrorize everyone.

This time, the young child is autistic. He uses his phone and iPad to communicate which leaves him very isolated and bullied in school.

But he has also conjured up an urban legend named Larry…a sort of skeletal Slender Man that just wants a friend.

Sure, you can expect some creepy scenes in infuriatingly dark rooms considering this is about a scared kid, yet he never turns on a fucking light. Not that it would matter, I guess, because Larry likes to break the bulbs when they are turned on.

At times this is like playing the survival horror game Fatal Frame, in which you had to look through a special camera to see ghosts. In this film, the boy can only see Larry by scanning a room with the camera on his device. Makes for plenty of cliché but effective eek! moments ripped right from the computer software used to create effects in a myriad of short films by aspiring filmmakers on YouTube.

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