PRIME TIME: dabbling in the occult and bringing out the beasts

Despite being very different in plot and tone, these three films kind of worked together due to some common threads. They made for an absolutely unintentional, logical weekend triple feature–I was merely knocking off the next three flicks on my Prime watchlist.

THE BELIEVER (2021)

This is a film I probably should have walked away from the minute the philosophical and theological babble began—which was like, the first minute—but I didn’t. So I’ll just make this quick to warn away those who despise religious horror as much as I do.

A scientist believes his health is deteriorating. His wife aborted a baby without consulting him. They talk to each other like members of two different cults. They can’t have intimate relations. They shouldn’t even be together, let alone living in the same house.

Billy Zane has a small role as his therapist.

The husband thinks the wife believes she’s possessed. She thinks he’s possessed. He thinks she’s messing with him when he starts to hear noises related to a baby. He starts to have scary delusions.

Things eventually go into Misery territory.

I had only a vague idea of what was going on.

The final few minutes were kind of creepy and interesting even though I didn’t have a full grasp on what was unfolding. The ending did kind of give you that, “Oh, so that’s what was going on the whole time” light bulb turning on over your head feeling, though.

FLESH (2021)

Running a sweet 70 minutes long, this little indie doesn’t break new ground, but it does combine body horror and the occult and wrap them up in a practical effects feast for the eyes.

It’s all quite simple. It begins with a young woman tied up as part of some sort of ritual in the middle of the woods. She gets away from the man who abducted her, and as soon as she’s safe and in a shower, her body begins to fall apart.

As she struggles to figure out what’s wrong with her, she spends most of the film walking city streets drenched in red light while being followed by a horned demon shadow. She also has what she thinks at first are gruesome delusions or nightmares.

As her body continues to morph, her friend tries to track her down to help her.

The final act is definitely the money shot, with some delicious monster effects that gave me flashbacks to 80s horror.

THE MANOR (2021)

This Prime original runs only 81 minutes long, but considering it’s rather tame and there aren’t that many chills or thrills before stakes are raised in the final act, it easily could have been a short in an anthology and given us a more concise flow and better pacing.

The atmosphere and tone deliver the usual spooky house feel of typical Hollywood horror of the past decade, so don’t expect to be on the edge of your seat. Perfect example—the first “jump scare” is a loud orchestral stab because a worker at the nursing home Barbara Hershey has just been admitted to comes up behind her. Ugh.

What makes the film unnerving in a less manufactured way is the circumstances—when Hershey begins to see freaky things in the shadows at night, no one believes her, and staff, doctors, and her own family assume she’s showing signs of dementia.

Yes, it’s becoming a more common theme in horror movies as of late, so it’s probably no coincidence that none other than the leading lady from The Taking of Deborah Logan plays one of the residents of the home. In contrast to that film, this one is horror lite in its take on old age and how we treat the elderly.

While fairly predictable as it progresses, The Manor still manages to entertain and has a few creepy monster moments, but the final act gets downright goofy, and some very good actors seem to just lose control of their craft. I felt like I was suddenly watching a totally different movie. Weird.

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Time for some pseudo found footage flicks

It’s a triple feature with filmed footage, but the intent is to take different approaches to how and why the characters are filming the footage. Let’s see how that worked out for these horror flicks.

CURSE OF AURORE (2020)

If you love found footage films, you should probably check this one out. It sort of combines the long-winded storytelling style of The Blair Witch Project with the cult themes presented later in the Paranormal Activity franchise.

Curse of Aurore is book-ended with a dude who has an internet show in which he covers murder mysteries and such. It’s a pointless gimmick beyond perhaps trying to make the creators feel like they weren’t doing just another paint-by-numbers found footage film.

Anyway, this dude receives a USB drive in the mail, plugs it in, and then the found footage begins. Three young filmmakers—a girl and two guys—travel to her (uninhabited) family home to get inspiration for a script. Seems there’s a story of a young girl in the town who was tortured and murdered by her family, but no one was ever held accountable.

Thing is, the main girl’s house is haunted enough for them to never even have to go to the dead little girl’s house (which they eventually do). Therein lies the problem with this film. While there’s plenty of mystery unfolding along the way, none of it ever adds up or even logically links to what becomes of the trio by the end. Before they even delve into the past of the little girl, they’re being terrorized by something, and we never learn why.

The good news is there are definitely some creepy and chilling moments to keep us entertained, and the ending is a little more exciting than your average low budget found footage film (if not just as predictable).

And finally, as with most found footage films, a huge annoyance is that the guy with the camera never puts it down. It doesn’t even make sense because the characters are not shooting a film or hunting for ghosts or anything like that. So, for instance, when their car gets stuck in a ditch and they go to a stranger’s house for help, it is beyond disrespectful that this dude is welcomed inside and chooses to film the strangers and their home instead of turning off the camera. Ridiculous.

UNTITLED HORROR MOVIE (2021)

Horror movies that take place entirely through video conversations have become a thing in the past few years, in part thanks to COVID hitting. Some of them can be headache inducing, but Untitled Horror Movie is clean and simple, and I was pretty damn entertained.

It’s funny, it’s suspenseful, it has plenty of horror meta references, there are a few successful jump scares, the performances walk the perfect line between serious and campy, and it even features cameos by Kal Penn and Aisha Tyler.

Six actors get the heads-up that they are about to be fired from their television show. So they decide to make a low budget found footage film by simply filming their parts at home on their phones. Little do they know that when they each film an occult ritual scene, they actually conjure some sort of evil presence. Brilliant little concept.

Slowly but surely they begin to experience creepy situations, but no one is really sure if it’s real or if everyone is just acting. It has a found footage feel to it—you’re spooked by what you can’t see—but things ramp up in the last act, which really had me on the edge of my seat.

And the final scene pay-off is just silly plain horror fun.

SUPERHOST (2021)

This fun little movie is like a mashup of a found footage film, home invasion flick, and psycho stalker thriller of the early 1990s.

A straight couple has a travel vlogging channel online. They visit destinations then film videos of the experience, giving reviews of whether or not it’s worth vacationing there.

As they head to a villa in the woods, we learn that he secretly plans to propose to her on the show. As usual, it’s just irrelevant fluff added simply to make you feel something for the characters.

They can’t get into the villa once they arrive and have to call the owner of the place to help. She’s over-the-top, super enthusiastic, overbearing, has no filters, and quickly becomes a little intrusive. And when a woman shows up to give the couple a hard time because they gave her business a bad review (horror queen Barbara Crampton), the owner’s cheery demeanor turns frighteningly nasty in an instant.

In other words, she’s a psycho, and actress Gracie Gillam steals the show playing the part. She should be getting some major horror queen notice, with a long list of roles in TV shows like Z Nation, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and Scream Queens, plus movies like the Fright Night remake, Some Kind of Hate, Dark Summer, and Tales of Halloween.

Her manic, stalk and destroy performance in the final act definitely gives this one more life than similar films.

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Getting a head start on bad shark movies for the summer season

I couldn’t wait until Memorial Day weekend to kick off some summer style viewing, so I dived into a trio of goofy shark flicks. Let’s check them out.

TOXIC SHARK (2017)

This is how you do a cheesy CGI shark movie right. And even better? It’s a shark/zombie hybrid flick!

3 cute guys come to a resort island because one of them broke up with his girlfriend. 3 girls come to the resort island because one of them broke up with her boyfriend. You know what that means.

Meanwhile, the resort owner is tipped off that there might be something toxic in the water, but he ignores the warning. You know what that means….

The toxic shark starts attacking right away, and there is plenty of green goo spitting and over-the-top, full-body swallowing scenes. Eventually one girl is bit, survives…and becomes hungry for flesh. Teehee.

There’s not a ton of focus on people turning into zombies, but it’s just enough to complicate matters for the survivors trying to figure out how to get off the island.

This film has it all—silly kills, bad character choices, great underwater POV shots that are terrifying even in bad CGI shark movies, and a series of complications to make matters worse for the survivors (leading to even more bad decisions). And you gotta give props to a film that shows diversity…by featuring one lone Black guy on an entire island paradise filled with young people partying. Sigh.

AVALANCHE SHARKS (2014)

When I forced my hubby to make it a Saturday sharkathon, he warned me after Toxic Sharks that you can’t top the best bad shark movie ever and we should just call it quits. I pointed out that we’d never know if it was the best bad shark movie ever until we watched another one.

He was right, but I’m going to make sure he never reads this post and learns that he was right once in 29 years.

Avalanche Sharks has SyFy silliness written all over it. There’s not a lot to invest in the characters that come to a ski resort and get gulped down by CGI icicle sharks, which is fine, because the only reason to watch this film is for the gulps.

The sharks that swim through the snow came into being because they were summoned by a Native American man as part of a revenge plot. That’s all you really need to know. Just note that the kills and action are much more fun (and funnier) in the final act.

THE REQUIN (2022)

I heard this movie was bad, but I seriously can’t process what I watched. If my memory serves me correct, this would have to be the worst mainstream shark flick I’ve seen since The Shallows.

Alicia Silverstone and her man or on vacation and staying in a house on stilts. For incomprehensible reasons, they aren’t warned way in advance that a devastating storm is approaching that will assuredly wipe out all the houses on stilts near the water, so they are never ordered by authorities to evacuate.

Conveniently, theirs is the only house that is washed away.

Oddly, no search party is assembled to go look for it the next day.

Wouldn’t you know, Alicia’s man has a bleeding wound on his leg.

In order to get the attention of a far off ship, the couple decides to light a fire on what remains of their house. Needless to say, they accidentally burn their house down.

Just like Jack and Rose, they can’t both fit completely on the piece of driftwood, so when the sharks show up, the husband can no longer be all there for Alicia.

At this point I was convinced this is all a delusion that Alicia is having because she’s in shock, because it’s all so ridiculous. She makes it to a tiny piece of land, fights off a shark clamped to her leg with a piece of coral (this is after already killing another shark with a piece of wood), sees some drunk dude on a tiny fishing boat, goes back in the damn water to get on his boat, and is suddenly targeted by a mega shark that appears out of nowhere and is more determined to kill Alicia than the shark was to kill Ellen Brody in Jaws: The Revenge.

The action was so absurd at this point I was praying for either Alicia or myself to wake up from this nightmare. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all just a bad dream for either of us.

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Dog vs. monster: have you watched a Watchers movie recently?

Based on a Dean Koontz novel, Watchers spawned three sequels over a ten-year span, and it even featured various horror veterans throughout the decade. Let’s take a look at all four flicks.

WATCHERS (1988)

I haven’t seen Watchers in over 30 years, and all I really remembered about it was that Corey Haim becomes buddies with an awesome, super intelligent dog. The movie came out soon after I lost the pup I grew up with, so naturally the dog is what stuck with me.

Having never read the Koontz book, I can’t speak to how much it strays from the source material, but I can say that this is such a perfectly orchestrated creature feature from start to finish.

It doesn’t let excessive exposition get in the way of the whole point…a dog and a creature to which it is telepathically linked escape from a research facility, and the creature is set on hunting down and killing the dog and anyone that gets in its way.

A lot of people get in its way, including a young Jason Priestley in a wild bicycle chase scene in the woods. Another fantastic chase scene with a cop and the creature is more energetic than some of the best chase scenes out there.

This whole film is fast-paced and delivers creature POV, teaser glimpses of the creature throughout, classic horror camera angles, killer jump scares, and gory deaths galore. And I can’t forget to mention our dog’s ability to spell things out on a computer keyboard using a pencil.

Adding to the fun, sci-fi/horror icon Michael Ironside works for the research facility and is looking for the dog, too.

All the monstrous fun aside, there are some plot points that never get clarified or resolved, like why the creature plucks out the eyes of its victims. But who cares? The creature fricking plucks out the eyes of its victims.

WATCHERS II (1990)

Barely cracking into the next decade, and this sequel already can’t live up to its predecessor from the 80s. It fails in so many ways to deliver on the creature feature thrills of the first film despite showing way more of the creature.

We start in a lab, where the creature kills a few people in a red-drenched scene reminiscent of the Tasmanian devil tale in Creepshow.

The dog escapes, the creature escapes. They both stumble upon Marc Singer, who plays a delinquent military man being transported in an army jeep. The dog helps Marc escape the creature, and then this film just drags and drags. That’s why we needed a little of this to keep us watching…

The dog has been anointed with the name Einstein, which sticks with him for the rest of the series, and he once again shows off his typing skills with a pencil.

The Marc and dog scenes get annoyingly cutesy, and the creature kill scenes are drained of all excitement and tension. Not even the addition of the old infrared creature POV can intensify the horror.

The creature is also treated somewhat more sympathetically than in the original film, because clearly any monster that has an affection for teddy bears can’t be all bad.

WATCHERS III (1994)

This is actually a direct sequel to part 2, with Wings Hauser taking over the Marc Singer role. He is sent to the jungles of South America with a team of military criminals to capture another creature and coincidentally runs into his old buddy Einstein. What are the chances?

This is a perfect example of cheap milking of a franchise name for direct-to-VHS marketing in the 1990s. The team spends the whole movie running through the woods and plotting to capture the creature.

There’s some cheesy gore and a cheesy monster, and it’s all so bad I even laughed at both the creature and the reaction of a victim it was killing at one point.

Sadly, Einstein doesn’t get to show off his spelling talents, because there are no computers or pencils in the jungle.

Despite an ample number of attack scenes, this is still predominantly boring with nothing exciting happening. The infrared creature POV is ineffective once again, the dog isn’t as lovable as in the previous films, there’s a mute boy thrown into the mix to team up with Hauser to take on the creature at the end, and even though Hauser is the “good guy”, he still comes across as the type of psychopath he plays best.

WATCHER REBORN (1998)

It just seems so weird to see such a hokey franchise still clinging to life by the time the Scream franchise had already given the 90s horror scene a much needed reset, but here we are. I don’t know why part 4 goes by the Reborn title. It’s not like this is ten years after the previous sequel, plus the opening narrations and flashbacks directly reference the second and third films.

Once again the dog and creature escape a burning facility. Mark Hamill is a detective suffering PTSD due to several personal losses. When he first meets Einstein and talks to him, I felt like I was watching Luke chatting with R2, which was kind of trippy. I was waiting for a hologram of Leia to suddenly project from the dog’s mouth or something.

Lisa Wilcox of Elm Street 4 and 5 is a scientist from the lab, and she teams up with Mark to keep the dog from the creature.

The creature now looks like a 1980s werewolf…and it also talks. Sigh.

On the bright side, Einstein ups his game and uses his pencil skills to dial the phone, and even paw paints his name for Mark. There’s plenty of gnarly gore, and the infrared POV is gone, reminding us that standard creature POV is way better. And just for the hell of it, the creature hits up a strip club…but not during business hours. What’s the point of a strip club scene with no strippers in a movie from the 90s?

The filmmakers seem to be going for a film noire detective vibe, and a romance is ignited between Mark and Lisa, so there’s once again lots of boring talking between creature attacks. Nothing will ever beat the first film. Not to mention, after four films, it would have been nice to finally understand why the creature plucks out eyes and is attracted to teddy bears…

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PRIME TIME: the men behind the makeup

It’s a foursome of slashers I checked out on Prime, and it features crazed killers masked with makeup. Let’s get into them.

CLOWN MOTEL VACANCIES (2020)

I’m a fan of indie director Jason Mills. I own a couple his movies on DVD. Sadly, Clown Motel Vacancies is not going to be one of them.

Running a mere 71 minutes long, this one is as generic as a crazy clown movie gets, and it is heavy on the drama and light on the horror.

A pregnant woman tags along when her boyfriend goes on what is supposedly a business trip. They check into a place called Clown Motel that has a clown clerk, she isn’t comfortable about staying there, and yet her man decides to just leave her there while he goes to take care of business.

His “business” is a woman he’s been cheating with.

Other than that, the clown clerk and his crazy family of clowns start to terrorize the couple…at about 43 minutes into the movie. It’s all just so been there, done that—when there and that were done much better. I really was not feeling this soulless crazy clown flick at all.

DADDY: CLOWN MOTEL VACANCIES 2 (2021)

This sequel runs only 57 minutes long and picks up three years after the first one. I’ll say right up front that director Jason Mills should have edited both films down and combined them into one full-length feature that has one of those reset moments in the middle, taking the story in a whole new direction for the second half.

The pregnant woman from the first film is now living with her child and suffering from paranoia because an evil clown is on the loose and killing more people.

Naturally it’s the main clown from the first film, and he’s looking for her.

With a sleazy city setting replacing the backwoods location of the first film and just one clown instead of a family of them, this sequel has a different (and I’d say better) vibe than the first film.

The stalking clown plot is more focused, and the main girl gets a chance to really become an archetypal “final girl”. The only notable disappointment is the lack of a body count.

CHICKEN’S BLOOD (2019)

This is a redneck low budget horror flick trying to pass as a grindhouse film. It has some crass and nasty moments, gore, and a thin plot.

A wrestler and his friends are heading to an event when their vehicle breaks down… right after the old “missing reel” gimmick. Eye roll at this point.

A white trash gang abducts the group, but complicating matters for everyone, a killer in a hoodie and clown makeup is running around mutilating anyone who gets near him.

We get a corrupt sheriff that just wants to jerk off, a meth lab dude with a confederate flag, and between the two of them, a whole bunch of anti-gay rhetoric. There’s also a roadside sign spotted at one point with the ‘n’ word on it, but at least our redneck main gang of friends isn’t happy at the sight of it.

There’s also a really gross sodomy rape scene of a man by a woman with a razor-laced dildo, and since rednecks love sodomy so much, the clown killer also fucks a guy up the ass with a chainsaw. Sigh.

Other than that, the clown really goes to town on all the irrelevant characters running around the woods, so gore hounds should be totally satisfied.

THE RINGMASTER (2018)

This film manages to go from slow burn suspense thriller to torture fest before all is said and done. It revolves around two women working at a gas station on a slow night due to a major sporting event in Denmark.

They begin to notice weird occurrences, and a couple of creepy male customers come into the store…and then keep coming back.

It’s a super tense situation, and only one thing spoils it. Perhaps for fear of the slow burn boring the audience, the filmmakers have interspersed clips from the final half hour of the movie into the first hour to give us some “action”…which totally spoils what becomes of the main characters later in the film! Argh!

It robs the first part of the film of the sense of impending doom that it is being established so brilliantly.

As for that final half hour, this shit gets brutal—violence, gore, and torture abound as the girls are held captive by “the ringmaster”.

There is also a message here about how cameras are everywhere, watching our every move, and making everything that happens to us a possible slice of entertainment for the masses.

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These buff boys are the ones to call if you’re having problems with the big D

Demons, that is. It’s Demonhntr, a queer horror comedy web series from director/writer Tim O’Leary. If you loved Buffy and always wished for something similar, but with the sexy gayness of Dante’s Cove and The Lair, Demonhntr will make you feel all kinds of satisfied and nostalgic. The rockin’ guitar intro sequence alone is like a fun little homage to the Buffy opening…and then we jump right into the flirty sexiness of the supernatural gay episodes.

Season 1 features 5 short episodes:

Episode 1

This is our introduction to our demon hunters, a straight Black guy and a gay Asian guy. The show is notable for its diverse casting. Even so, it does lean towards white, hairless pretty boys (what do you expect? they’re everywhere) without much variation in terms of body types or ages.

The series doesn’t yet tap into any “bear” subcultures. Perhaps that will come to fruition in later seasons, but that just might not be what the creator is going for, and that’s okay (if you’re into burlier, more mature guys facing off against the supernatural, you can stick to my Comfort Cove novels for now).

The plot of the first episode sets the tone for the series, delivering wiener shots, sex demons, and a touch of camp as our two demon hunters break out their martial arts techniques.

Episode 2

The guys expand their business when they team up with a lesbian witch, and the trio takes on a straight ghost couple. The man ghost is a perfect example of the variation in body types I hope to see more of in the series. He’s a cutie with a cute booty.

Episode 3

In the sexiest, steamiest episode yet, the team tries to help a go-go boy being haunted by an incubus.

Episode 4

In perhaps the campiest episode of the bunch, an ancient female genie is under the impression that the demon hunters want to vanquish her.

Episode 5

You’re sure to be hooked just as the season comes to a close. The most serious episode, the finale has the gay demon hunter cozying up with his ex-boyfriend, a goth medium.

But a literal demon from his past comes to terrorize them, giving this episode a darker, creepier edge than all the rest.

However, totally bringing back the fun at the end of the episode is beautiful Darryl Stephens of Noah’s Arc as a future foil for the demon hunting gang.

And he has a hunky minion of color with him.

Yummy and wahoo! I can’t wait for next season.

Meanwhile, the show earns a spot on the homo hell-evision page.

The full season of Demonhntr is available on Here TV. Learn more about the show on Twitter, and watch the first episode on YouTube.

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Vincent Price takes on fish men and a movie of the week gets a sequel

It’s back to the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s in search of some old school horror thrills. But not even horror faves Vincent Price or Lynda Day George did much to make these more enjoyable.

WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP (aka: City in the Sea) (1965)

I had high hopes for a Vincent Price film that starts with underwater POV made famous later by Jaws.

It shows even more promise early on. A dead body is found on the shore.

Tab Hunter is a mining engineer staying at a hotel where he befriends a quirky artist with a pet chicken—and then a fish man sneaks in at night and abducts a young woman who is very interested in Tab. Little does she know he’s going to spend much of the movie buddying up to the artist…

Anyway, Tab and the artist find a secret entrance to a cave that leads them to an underwater city.

Vincent Price is the evil leader of a gang of smugglers that has lived there for ages thanks to a special oxygen that keeps them young. Vincent has also made those fish men his Creature from the Black Lagoon minions.

Unfortunately, this movie is all talk as Vincent spends much of the time explaining the origins of his city. There are a few near escapes for our heroes, but they keep getting recaptured. And only in the final act is there finally action involving the fish men. There’s a lot of it, it’s all underwater, and it’s all rather chaotic and doesn’t quite deliver any chills or thrills. Great footage though.

FEAR NO EVIL (1969)

Fear No Evil is the first of two made-for-TV movies focusing on the same supernatural investigator, and has a notable cast including Carroll O’Connor, Bradford Dillman, and most importantly, horror queen Lynda Day George—the reason I purchased this double feature disc.

This is one long and bland supernatural mystery movie. Lynda’s man purchases a mirror from a store after seeing a vision in it. He brings it home. He sees a vision in his rear view mirror while out for a drive with Lynda. They crash, she is thrown from the car, he dies.

Lynda is invited to stay at his mother’s house to grieve…and the mirror is brought along and placed in her room. Lynda begins to see visions of her man in the reflection and wants to die and go join him.

Their friend, a detective of the unexplained, begins investigating to find out what led to the purchase of the mirror. He slowly discovers it concerns a cult, a demon resurrection, and eventually, the car crash.

There are plenty of twists along the way that were probably much more surprising when the film came out. In this day and age, this feels very paint-by-numbers and I didn’t find it at all eerie or suspenseful. However, Lynda gets a pretty good chase scene.

RITUAL OF EVIL (1970)

The supernatural investigator from Fear No Evil is back for this sequel, investigating the death of a rich young heiress who was a member of a cult.

This follow-up is even duller than the first film. We have a family of dysfunctional elites, a Black guy who found the body and makes it very clear from the start that he feared for his life because he found a white woman dead (50 years later and it’s still the same), and a pretty blonde witch the investigator falls for who worships Satan.

Once again we get talk talk talk for a majority of the film, there’s an anticlimactic ritual scene at the end, and then the witch disappears from the investigator’s life.

It definitely seems to set this one up for another movie, but that never transpired. Instead, Kolchak took over with his much more thrilling horror investigations that scored him two movies of the week and a series.

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1970s horror: killer animals, a Mardi Gras murderer, and another nod to Ed Gein

I recently added this mish-mosh of bad movies from the 1970s to my collection, so let’s just get this over with.

THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1972)

Such a great nasty name for a totally disappointing film inspired by the Ed Gein story. If you’re expecting Texas Chainsaw Massacre level horror, forget about it. This movie is bogged down by filler montages drowning in bad early 70s muzak that ruins any chance of capturing the essence of its gritty look.

A group of girls goes on a road trip. Their car breaks down. A nice guy offers to let them stay at his farmhouse with him and his dad. When they arrive, the father makes it very clear to his son that it’s a bad idea.

In less than ten minutes, all the girls are murdered. The killer POV and heavy breathing shots are perfect foreshadowing of slashers to come, but two of four murders are by gunshot. Blah. Although quick, the other two murders are with sharp weapons and offer some serviceable gore for the time.

And then…the son leaves home so his dad can clean up the mess. There’s a huge chunk of the middle of the movie in which he walks around a city, watches a band play at a bar, then gets romantically involved with a waitress.

Eventually he brings her home to meet his dad, and she brings along a friend. They all frolic in a field, eat dinner with the dad, the girls reference the mysterious cut of meat he cooked for them (uh-oh), and then the final, brief murderous act begins.

It’s all pretty disappointing, totally predictable and doesn’t make much logical sense when the big twist is revealed. We also learn that the movie title spoils the big shocker moment of the film.

This is most definitely an unintentional segue film between Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre considering it shares elements of both due to extracting details from the Ed Gein true crime story.

DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)

The director of Three On a Meathook gives us a “nature strikes back” movie that’s as ecologically aware as horror of the seventies gets.

The opening title card literally explains that hairspray is burning a hole in the ozone layer and this movie depicts what the possible results could be.

By the way, what the hell ever happened to that hole? It’s taking as long to open as the killer bees are to get here from Africa.

So the deal is the environmental damage is making things quite wonky, especially in high altitudes. A group going out hiking is warned about the dangers but goes anyway.

And then the animals start attacking.

The cast includes 1970s horror power couple Christopher George and Lynda Day George, young Andrew Stevens, and Leslie Nielsen as a man who is the only one in the group that starts to go batty as a result of the sun’s rays.

Our cast is subjected to angry birds, mountain lions, wolves, dogs, and rats, plus crazy Leslie Nielsen infamously wrestles a bear while shirtless.

It’s definitely a cheesy film, but the attacks are notably gruesome and vicious, and I actually found some of them quite unsettling because it felt like real animals were being roughed up for the footage.

MARDI GRAS MASSACRE (1978)

I can’t believe I waited so long for this one to come back into print thinking I’d missed out on some crucial gem to add to my collection. I’m now so glad I didn’t spend a fortune buying it on eBay while it was out of print.

I won’t drag this out. This movie is atrocious. Forget any sense of atmosphere, tension, fear, or mystery. This is a painfully repetitive film about a dude who picks up prostitutes in a bar, takes them back to his place, straps them to a leather table, and then hacks out their hearts while wearing an Aztec mask.

Oh, and the entire time, generic 1970s disco plays. They couldn’t even spring for some Donna Summer or Village People.

The only side story in this disaster sees one of the cops on the case dating one of the prostitutes. He also ends up smacking her around. Women’s rights have come a long way…it’s scary how quickly conservatives are rolling them back and this will be seen as normal treatment of women again in movies soon.

 

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It came from the early 80s and I just bought it on Blu-ray

Bette Davis leads the charge as we enter the eighties with this trio of films I’ve finally added to my collection. Let’s have a look.

THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS (1980)

The most frightening scenes of this Disney supernatural film are the kick ass alternative opening in the Blu-ray extras consisting of POV approaching a little girl playing with her doll in the woods, and an alternate ending with a giant bug thing coming down to take away one of the main characters.

Thanks to what was left on the cutting room floor, we end up with a boring, repetitive film about a teenager trying to figure out what became of a girl who went missing years before.

A family, including a young Kyle Richards as one of the kids, comes to live in a home with Bette Davis. The older teen daughter immediately begins to get visions of a young woman wearing a blindfold.

As the story unfolds and is repeated over and over, we learn Bette’s daughter disappeared years before.

So the main teen starts to pick apart the puzzle pieces of what could have happened to her.

With the same info and same spooky gimmicks happening constantly, this short, 83-minute movie feels like it’s two hours long—and leads to a convoluted final act that’s painfully anti-climactic despite dabbling in witchcraft, the occult, aliens, and a secret supernatural society.

DEADLY GAMES (1982)

I’ve seen a lot of pseudo-slashers from the 80s, but this is perhaps one of the weirdest.

It begins with a woman being chased through her home by an intruder all in black and then dying without the intruder actually even touching her. Every decision this woman makes in this scene sets the women’s rights movement back like twenty years. And the way things are going in this country right now, that would put it at about 1930.

Her sister comes back to town and spends much of the movie getting reacquainted with old friends. She also starts a relationship with the hot detective on the case…who gets her to warm up to his odd friend, played by Steve Railsback, who runs a local theater.

The kills are few and far between, but this killer goes to some serious lengths to murder victims, like getting into a pool in full killer costume to tie a woman’s leg to a filter vent. WTF?

What makes this film so weak is that it glosses over the actual themes that are supposed to give it life. It’s basically about the psychological trauma of war, as well as bonds bordering on homosexual desire that can form between men who went through such life-altering experiences together.

The two male leads regularly play a horror board game together, and as the film progresses, they get into a weird sort of throuple relationship with the main girl, complete with a hokey montage set to a cheesy ballad. The problem is it is so obvious who the killer is and who the red herring is right from the start. It’s insulting if the film’s creators think they’re tricking us.

As dull as the film is, at least it ends with a chase scene, body reveal, and shocker final frame (that is not very shocking).

REVENGE OF THE DEAD (aka: Zeder) (1983)

The news is out that this movie is not a living dead zombie film despite the alternate title. So what kind of movie is it? It is an overly long Euro horror film that offers very little in the way of horror as the main man investigates some supernatural studies of the past.

A young journalist buys a used typewriter, and some words are still written on the ribbon. He learns they are about experiments in which the mad scientist believed there’s a non-plane of existence where death doesn’t exist and the dead can therefore return from it.

He spends almost 90 minutes meeting with various people to learn more about the experiments. The most exciting part of all this would be his swimsuit.

He eventually sneaks onto property surrounded by a fence and sees a video of a dude who sacrificed himself to prove the theory is true.

The dead dude suddenly pops up through some floorboards and the idiot main guy runs right over them in his attempt to escape. Does he get away? Hey, if you really want to sit through this yawnfest, I’m not going to spoil it by telling you the end.

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I saw it on cable: a dead mom, a dead husband, and a killer dress

I can basically just elevate my horror viewing experience by watching horror films on the cable channels rather than picking them off my watchlist on Prime, so here’s my latest excursion into the selection on Showtime and HBO.

THE DJINN (2021)

The directing duo of The Boy Behind the Door is clearly heavily influenced by 80s horror revolving around kids. In fact, this film takes place in 1989, has a synth score modeled after 80s horror movie music, and focuses on a mute boy trapped in his house with an evil entity.

In short, his mother committed suicide, his father leaves him alone for the night, and he then uses some magic to wish for his voice back. In doing so, he unleashes the Djinn, which first comes in a form that gave me flashbacks to The Ring.

Then to confuse matters, it takes on the forms of people unrelated to the boy who seem to have been past victims of the djinn.

Finally it starts showing as a demon version of his deceased mother, and he spends most of the time trying to avoid her. She’s cool in that big teeth/demon eyes kind of way, so that was satisfying.

Yet overall, just like The Boy Behind the Door, this one may seem more frightening and suspenseful to those who haven’t been around the horror block for five decades. I wasn’t bored, but it didn’t blow me away or terrify me at all.

IN FABRIC (2018)

Just because your film is visually beautiful and artsy doesn’t always mean it’s a masterpiece. And quiet honestly, if you’re going to make a movie about a killer dress, it might be better not to go for visually beautiful and artsy or even attempt to make a masterpiece.

This agonizing 2-hour long movie is basically two separate stories in one. First, a lonely middle-aged Black woman scores the dress from the weird clerk in a store, hopes it’s going to help her with her dating opportunities, and then becomes convinced it’s coming to life at night.

There’s plenty of weird stuff going on, including the store workers having a gang bang with a mannequin, the dress making a washing machine go haywire, and the Black woman spying on her son eating out his girlfriend (ew). Plus, the score is quite reminiscent of Mike Oldfield’s classic 1973 album Tubular Bells.

Eventually the dress ends up in the hands of some dude during a bachelor party. His friends make him wear it, he brings it home, and his woman becomes obsessed with the dress and the store. This segment is even weirder than the first…and just as lacking in pacing. If you really love high end horror, definitely check it out, especially if you’re into visual metaphors for feminine hygiene and monthly cycle issues, because this one is loaded with them. It was just way too focused on quality over thrilling horror content for my tastes.

THE NIGHT HOUSE (2020)

The director of The Signal and The Ritual likes the word “the”, so he now brings us The Night House.

This is a dark and heavy-handed tale of grief and depression wrapped around a supernatural mystery.

After her husband’s death at their lake house, a woman comes to the house to cope with the confusing reality of her loss—she was the one suffering from depression, yet he committed suicide.

She immediately becomes haunted by signs of him still being around…or are those just nightmares? Or is she sleepwalking? Or did he have a whole other life she didn’t know about?

As she forges ahead and digs through his belongings, she finds signs that he was dealing with his own demons, which only deepens her own anguish and makes her more determined to unravel the truth of what he was going through before his death.

Plenty of atmosphere and occult aspects make this one creepy, but it also has a bit of a pacing issue, so it starts to lose steam about halfway through. But the premise is intriguing and it’s worth sticking around, especially if you prefer emotional and psychological driven horror over cheap horror thrills.

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