Four from the end of the 90s

This proved to be an entertaining selection of four films from between 1997 and 1999 that are a bit of a departure from the sleek, post-Scream craze going on at the time.

THE WAX MASK (1997)

Fulci and Argento worked together writing this story, which in a long-winded way I don’t feel like explaining is incorrectly credited as being based on a story by Gaston Leroux, when it is in actuality just their Euro version of the House of Wax plot. However…it does have moments reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera!

A young woman comes to work at a wickedly macabre wax museum as a costume designer after a young man is found murdered there. The plan is to create scenes exploiting real life murders.

Suddenly, a whole bunch of new murders begin racking up like a supply and demand situation. They also cause the main girl to have flashbacks of hiding while witnessing a murder by metal-fingered hands when she was younger.

As is to be expected when these two masters of horror are involved, loads of weird situations keep us entertained and dumbfounded. Wait until you see the major contraption used to turn living people into wax…and just exactly what the killer is hiding behind that mask.

The film has its charms, but not as many charms as the films of Fulci’s and Argento’s heydays. Maybe because neither of them directed?

THE RELIC (1997)

Penelope Ann Miller is a scientist at a museum and Tom Sizemore is a detective on the case when a security guard is torn to pieces in a bathroom stall. Would you believe they made it a black security guard smoking a joint while he’s supposed to be working? Have to wonder if they would make that same “creative” decision over twenty years later.

This is a typical creature feature of the 90s that uses the improving CGI effects of the time. However, it is a loooooong stretch of movie before we get to see the creature in this 110-minute feature. Much of the focus is on the museum preparing for a big gala and Sizemore’s team exploring underground tunnels looking for what they assume is a human killer.

This one finally picks up when a body drops into the middle of the gala and a chaotic mass exodus leaves a handful of people trapped inside with the pretty awesome CGI monster.

Their only way out…go through the underground sewers. Eek! Plenty of frustratingly dark scenes of the monster emerging from under the water ensue, but we finally get to see it full force when Penelope comes up with a one-woman plan to defeat it…and gets a nasty tongue bath in the process.

JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES (1998)

Vampires is like John Carpenter making up for not thinking of Near Dark, Subspecies, and From Dusk Till Dawn first, and therefore combining them into one feature of his own.

James Woods and Daniel Baldwin are an unlikely pair of vampire hunters in the desert. At least it’s better than Woods and Stephen Baldwin, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to stomach all the right wing illness on screen at once. On the bright side, Carpenter and his writers actually make Woods seem cool in this movie.

The most original idea presented is that the gang of hunters goes into vampire nests and harpoons vampires to drag them out into the sun. Since Carpenter knows that’s the most he’s got going on here, he milks it for all it’s worth right from the start in a long opening scene. As a result, by the time it happens again during the final battle, it not as impressive.

The film is still quite enthralling immediately after that opener. While the hunters party in a motel room, the place is invaded by the suave vampire master, who sure knows how to make an entrance.

Lone survivors Baldwin and Woods drag a vamp infected woman (reminiscent of Glory from Byffy) along with them because she has a psychic connection to the master, and they team up with a priest to hunt down the master.

There’s a lot of religious background and flashbacks to ancient times, and I grew bored until the final act, when the action kicks back in. Not even “cool” James Woods could help the pacing problems of this lesser-loved Carpenter flick. And a constant twanging country music score didn’t help. Ugh.

KNOCKING ON DEATH’S DOOR (1999)

The opener of this film feels like 80s Euro horror—cops enter a house, find a dead woman in bed, and then get attacked by a flying axe.

The tone changes drastically after that. Twenty years later a couple that is also a parapsychology team gets married, moves into a new home, and immediately begins fighting while doing ghost hunting.

The husband is convinced the wife is contacting a male ghost that is jealous of their relationship. He also holds some resentment for past indiscretions.

For me, the film never lives up to the opener. It is intriguingly stylized and flashy to the point of weird, which makes it effectively eerie and disorienting as much as it makes it annoying. That’s what kept me watching for a while, but my attention began to flounder.

The film slows down drastically as the couple works to unravel the mystery of what happened to the ghost in the house. It gets less and less compelling as it progresses, with the most interesting angle being that the ghost always strikes during the couple’s sexy times.

Despite some creepy moments, the ghost is quite tame, so I have no idea what supernatural force was throwing an axe at cops at the beginning or why.

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I needed throwbacks to Crocodile and Crocodile 2 in my isolating life right now

I never would have imagined that by 2000, the man who brought us the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre would make a movie of SyFy original quality…which happens to be oodles of ridiculous fun that screams end of the 20th century.

Pretty people head out on a boat for spring break to the strains of pop rock that will catapult you back to the beginning of the millennium—unknown music reminiscent of the kind of stuff that packed the NOW CDs back then.

Same goes for the fact that all the boys look like they’re supposed to be in a boy band. 90s nostalgia is done…long live Y2k memories.

The kids catch some rays, we get to see boy butt…

…they tell campfire stories, there’s a little dog that constantly appears ready to be croc food…

and…the kids end up with a croc egg in their possession just like something out of Jurassic Park 3.

Croc attacks and single-serving kills are a load of fun if you gather some friends around for a movie marathon. The croc even seems to taunt the kids as it gobbles down their friends.

You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you still won’t believe that Tobe Hooper made this movie. Except…it ends up kind of feeling like a remake or re-imagining of Tobe’s Eaten Alive!

Tobe isn’t back for Crocodile 2: Death Swamp from 2002, but the big time croc chomping is. This sequel is handled by Gary Jones, director of Jolly Roger, Boogeyman 3, and Axe Giant.

The story is totally different. Armed robbers hold up a bank, get on a plane, create major chaos in the air, and cause the plane to crash land in a swamp.

What I’m saying is it takes quite a while before the croc comes out to play (about 30 minutes). But once it does, it’s feeding time, and there’s plenty on the menu. And even some scissor sister action…

The good guys and bad guys battle it out in the swamp, and the leader of the robbers pre-dates Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane attitude by like four year, and Janet Jackson’s nip slip by two.

He has no patience for everyone getting gulped down nonstop.

Adding a little more excitement to the mix, the boyfriend of the main girl comes looking for her with the help of 80s hunk and Ralph Macchio nemesis Martin Kove.

The men might not get shirtless like the boys did in the first film, but there’s something very sensual about their interactions.

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STREAM QUEEN: demons be damned

I love me some demon movies…when they’re worth loving. Did any of these four make my heart beat faster? Let’s find out.

THE MIDNIGHT MAN (2016)

The Midnight Man begins with three children playing a supernatural game in the dark in a gorgeous old house in 1953. They’ve unleashed a cloaked creep shrouded in shadow and need to stay safe from him for a certain amount of time. It doesn’t go well.

Much like the child-centric scene that opens Darkness Falls, this scene sets your expectations up then doesn’t deliver. The Midnight Man just gets worse as it progresses.

In the current day, a young woman who never bothers to turn on a light is living in the house with her grandmother, who has dementia and is really creepy. So who do you get for this type of part to add cliché name recognition to your horror film? Lin Shaye, of course.

As freaky as Lin is in this dark house, it doesn’t seem to spook her granddaughter at all. Actually, little seems to, because other than Lin, the acting in this film is absolute cardboard. The lack of expression from the other characters sucks the life out of…life.

Two of the main girl’s friends come over, they find the Midnight Man game, and they spend the rest of the movie running around in the dark trying to keep candles lit so the Midnight Man won’t get them. Robert Englund, playing Lin’s doctor and giving us an Elm Street 1 and New Nightmare reunion in the process, stops in a few times to pick up a paycheck.

All the gory “kills” don’t really happen because the Midnight Man is just messing with them, using their deepest fears to scare them. Good luck trying to decipher what exactly most of their deepest fears are because little is concrete here. Would you believe this rabbit actually makes the most sense?

This would have been a better film if it focused on young children entirely, because this is a boogeyman character that is actually quite frightening as the stuff of youthful nightmares.

DEVIL’S REVENGE (2019)

Director Jared Cohn (The Horde, Hold Your Breath, Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill!, Little Dead a Rotting Hood) gives us a movie with William Shatner that doesn’t even rise to the level of SyFy bad. For starters, Shatner is there just to do the Shatner shtick while throwing around the F bomb as much as possible. It seems funny at first, but it wears thin fast.

Shatner’s son is trying to hunt down an ancient relic for him in a cave. When things go horribly wrong, he comes home and is haunted by demons. The demons are the highlight of the film…in a cheesy SyFy way.

Shatner’s son walks around in a daze for a while, Shatner tells him to go back for the relic again, and so he packs up the whole family to travel there in an RV. The dude is being terrorized by supernatural demons after leaving the cave, so he brings his whole family back there???

This is a movie in which one long stretch of nothing happening is followed by another long stretch of nothing happening. On top of that, when it’s all over, it makes no sense.

DEVIL’S GATE (2017)

Devil’s Gate starts with a bang. A man approaches a farmhouse for help after his car breaks down, and things go gruesomely wrong.

Shawn Ashmore is the town deputy working with an FBI agent after the wife and son of a religious nut that lives in the farmhouse go missing.

Milo Ventimiglia is the religious nut. And he really seems nuts. He has the house boarded up and the basement door bolted. When the authorities come to the house to talk to him, the shit hits the fan.

Milo believes he is holding a demon captive, but this film quickly takes a turn that reminded me of Dark Skies starring Keri Russell, which I feel like revisiting now—I wasn’t a fan when I first saw it.

As for Devil’s Gate, it turns out to be a surprise creature feature. The creatures look great, the effects are excellent, and the visual presentation is tight. It does, however, get a bit repetitive as it continuously drives its point home. I liked it, but didn’t love it.

THE EVIL DOWN THE STREET (2019)

I should have just walked away when the words “inspired by true events” came up on the screen, because when it comes to possession and demons, if it’s based on true events, it means nothing truly frightening happens…unless it’s based on the bullshit stories of those scam artists the Warrens, and then its tween scares galore.

So, yeah. Nothing happens.

A family moves into a new house. They find a Ouija board.

The mother uses it. The mother starts acting odd.

They talk to a priest. She still acts weird. They bring in an exorcist. She still acts weird. No special effects, no demon voices, no nothing. Just…a knife.

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STREAM QUEEN: silly stupid scares or just stupid?

I didn’t exactly laugh my head off with this foursome, but did they have anything else to offer? Let’s find out.

VILLAINS (2019)

Bill Skarsgard of It and Maika Monroe of It Follows (pretty sneaky, casting director) are deliciously funny as a couple of bumbling robbers…or should I say villains. They are both more animated and whimsical than I’ve ever seen them. Well, Skarsgard was animated in It, but that was computer animation.

The opening act really drew me in and had me anticipating a fun, dark horror comedy. Especially when they break into an isolated house after their car runs out of gas and find a little girl chained up in the basement.

Their plan to rescue her goes awry when they meet the man and woman of the house, played by Jeffrey Donovan of Blair Witch 2 (who is a blast in this film) and Kyra Sedgwick.

The couple is creepy and freaky, and they aren’t going to make an escape easy for the home invaders. There are plenty of funny moments, but ultimately the cat and mouse/escape/recaptured game gets tired after a while, and there isn’t much here we haven’t seen before in movies like Misery (Skarsgard’s crotch aside).

Most of all, we sit patiently waiting to find out what’s really going on with the little girl chained up in the basement. I for one was totally disappointed when the truth came out.

BUTT BOY (2019)

Writer and director Tyler Cornack stars in this anal retentive film that will leave you just wanting to go back and watch Bad Milo again for some good anal.

Of course a movie is going to gain notoriety when it’s called Butt Boy and is about a guy who gets hooked on sticking stuff up his ass, including animals and children. Sounds like it’s going to be a totally over-the-top exploitation flick, right?

Nope. It’s a dark, depressing film about addiction and taking those things that are important to others and making them vanish…up your ass. It’s such a downer the only way to make this blog more uplifting is to post pix of the guy’s ass (the best part of the film).

Don’t expect explicit scenes of things going up the butt.

After a rectal exam ignites the main guy’s love of anal, the only reason we know he’s somehow sticking huge, living things up his ass is because there are a whole lot of missing persons and pets cases opening up around him.

He gets involved in AA and becomes the sponsor of the alcoholic detective investigating the case, and the trail of clues ends with his end. No, this isn’t exactly Mom.

There are a few minor humorous lines, and it’s kind of funny the few times the dude bends over and pulls his cheeks apart to do things like suck a car up his ass, but this movie is just so boring in between the cheek moments.

When the detective finally gets to the bottom of everything, the film at last revels in its exploitative properties. But by that time, it was just too late for me.

NINA FOREVER (2015)

It’s another dark comedy that’s not much of a comedy, but I really like the premise.

A guy strikes up a conversation with his female coworker, and soon they go to his place and have sex. Yeah, the Butt Boy guy’s ass is bigger and juicier.

This. Scene. Rox. And not because it’s a sex scene…because it’s a horror scene. In a bloody living dead moment, the guy’s late girlfriend merges from the bed like it’s a grave.

This begins the rocky relationship between the guy and his new girl, because every time they have sex, his former girlfriend joins them.

This is where the dark comedy comes in—the dead girlfriend has a dry sense of humor and just loves to annoy the fuck out of the new girlfriend.

The film is basically about the variety of ways in which they try to rid themselves of the dead girlfriend, from going to dinner with her parents to fucking on her grave.

It is slow in its dreary morbidity, but it does keep you watching this macabre, non-platonic Three’s Company scenario.

30 NIGHTS OF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY WITH THE DEVIL INSIDE THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2013)

Remember when Scary Movie came out and nobody paid any mind to the inferior Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th? Well, this film might as well be a sequel to that movie. Who chose which movies to cram into the title? The Devil Inside? Really? Non-horror Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? And I’m not sure if that is supposed to be a reference to 30 Days of Night, because it’s never referenced in the film.

The film mostly mocks the Paranormal Activity movies. It also mocks general pop culture like The Bachelor, Paula Deen, Adele, and the “honey badger don’t care” viral videos.

French Stewart makes a minor appearance, I guess because he quickly discovered he was just an extra on the new hit show Mom, and not an actual full-time cast member. Whoa. Two Mom references in one blog.

A family moves into a new house, gets a big bull dyke security woman to set up cameras, and is soon being terrorized by ghosts. There are some humorous satirical moments, but it all quickly becomes uninspired and too stupid to be funny for 80 minutes.

The adolescent, raunchy sex moments really are the highlight, including the main couple caught in an S&M act, two ghost hunter dudes having fun with a camera in their van, and the ridiculously stereotypical gay, Latin manny who dances in a tutu at night and eventually becomes a ghost, at which point he teabags a furry dude.

The manny is a ghost at that point, so no, you don’t see his balls.

But he does land this one on the does the gay guy die? page.

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Scanned for life

I’ve never been a fan of Scanners (I blog about it here), yet after recently discovering a Blu-ray double feature of Scanners 2 and 3, neither of which I knew existed, I had to complete my collection. Only days later I discovered I had to order two more DVDs from Poland to do so—Scanner Cop 1 and 2. Dare I say mind blown?

SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER (1991)

Whatever the reason for making this into a franchise ten years after the original was released, the directing duties were handed over to the same guy for both parts 2 and 3.

Part 2 is really more of the same thing the original gave us, but it has that early 90s direct-to-video vibe that makes me all nostalgic for my years working in the video store all day then going clubbing all night.

The film begins in an arcade, where a crazy scanner guy controls a light gun game before blowing real shit up.

In the meantime, while witnessing an armed robbery a young veterinarian student discovers he can blow up heads.

Pretty soon he is embroiled in a cop’s plot to gain control of the city. When the scanner decides he wants no part of it, he becomes a bit of a fugitive, being chased by everyone, including the crazy scanner guy from the beginning.

Silly movies like this are all over the map, for the whole point is to keep the character on the run. But I’m just in it for exploding heads, and we get some good juicy ones in this sequel. It definitely could have used some trimming, because at 105 minutes long, it starts to drag.

SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER (1993)

Now this is how you start a Scanners movie. Guests at a Christmas party don’t believe scanners are real, so one guy dressed as a Santa convinces his scanner buddy to show them his powers. Things go horribly wrong, and let’s just say that isn’t the real Santa flying outside the apartment building window.

The scanner immediately takes off to Asia to learn how to better control his powers…

Meanwhile, a young woman in the city discovers she’s a scanner when typical direct-to-video evil punk rockers jump her in an alley. She goes home to her scientist father, who is working on an experimental drug to curb the side effects for scanners, but it isn’t ready for human consumption yet. Sooooo…she steals some.

The side effects of the medication meant to stop side effects is that it makes her power hungry. First she makes a dude strip for her in a restaurant (sadly she throws him into a piano before he goes full Monty). Then she becomes even more evil and starts blowing people up in gory detail.

Once she begins using her powers for sexual purposes, I was sold on this being the best Scanners movie in the series so far. This is pure 90s VHS erotic thriller territory…with exploding heads. Wahoo!

Of course the scanner dude in Asia returns to go after her when he realizes she intends to control the world! It’s as ridiculously insane as it sounds and I love it. This is the only time a female scanner takes center stage in the series and I was so there for it.

SCANNER COP (1994)

Scanner Cop is definitely a direct-to-video production of the 90s, but it doesn’t skimp on the gory scanner effects. It also makes the smart move of casting Richard Lynch as the baddie, which was a good way to add b-movie horror and sci-fi cred back then.

The story is also fresh. As a child, the cute main guy used his own scanning power to save a cop from getting scanned to death. And so, he grows up to be…

SCANNER COP! Dunh dunh dunh!

He’s on the case when normal citizens start killing cops! His job is to find out why, but we already know…scanner Richard Lynch is manipulating their minds so they see cops as hideous monsters that threaten their lives (I shall make no reference to how this metaphorically reflects current times).

Adding to the fun, Lynch has a perfectly villainous sidekick…the enthusiastic aerobics instructor that tried to sell Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche expensive workout attire.

The gore is delicious, there are some hellish visuals, and the final battle between scanner cop and Lynch in an operating room is a hoot.

SCANNER COP 2 (1995)

The series goes out with a cheesy bang in this final film, which brings back the scanner cop from the previous film but does nothing to advance his story beyond him growing out his hair.

He’s hunting down an escaped, evil scanner that is sucking the scanning powers from others to make himself a super scanner, and is also out for revenge because the scanner cop killed his brother—which I at first assumed was Richard Lynch from the first movie. BUT…both characters have the same first name, not last. We eventually learn in black and white flashbacks that these brothers have nothing to do with Richard Lynch’s character.

The movie is all about action, gun fights, and gory scanning battles, as it should be. You’ll even see Kane Hodder get scanned in the ear if you pay attention…or check out the still shot I’ve supplied below.

Horror, sci-fi, and action hunk Patrick Kilpatrick is the perfect baddie to bring the series to its over-the-top climax. He just goes around for the whole movie making silly faces and using hypnotic music…I mean…his powers to get what he wants as he gruesomely sucks the scanning life out of others. And he’s a blast in the final battle of goofy faces with the main guy.

But most importantly, he starts calling the main man “Scanner cop” with delicious disdain. Yeah, the franchise had to end on this low high note…and with Kilpatrick’s furry ta-tas. Is it just me, or is there a penis shadow puppet show going on over his head?

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STREAM QUEEN: back on the slasher scene

If you’re as quickly tiring of all the artistically crafted “smart horror” that’s pervading the genre these days and you just need some mindless slasher fun, there might a film or two in this foursome that will give you the much needed brain break.

LITTLE ERIN MERRYWEATHER (2003)

I can’t believe how many years it took me to finally get around to watching this. I didn’t even remember why I had added it to my “to see” list and actually expected a totally different kind of movie than…a post-Scream slasher revolving around a classic fairy tale.

I was so there for it. Despite the fact that the killer is obvious right from the start (not sure why they spelled it out, right down to the title), the tone and style of this little indie reminded me of Urban Legend, one of my favorites from that era.

When male college students begin getting slaughtered in the woods by someone in a red cape, three guys from the school newspaper investigate with the help of one of their teachers.

The eerie kill scenes are perfectly orchestrated in late 90s slasher style, and the atmosphere and vibe reminded me oddly of the horror video game Deadly Premonition.

Considering the kill scenes are so cool, the other downside here is that there isn’t enough of a body count.

But the final chase, with a final boy for a change, takes place in a library and it’s a goodie.

EARLY GRAVE (2013)

It’s I Know What You Did Last Summer with no budget.

A group of friends hits someone with their car. They bury the body. Years later they reunite at a cabin in the woods. A really fricking nice cabin. I love this cabin. Imagine this cabin decorated for Halloween.

One womanizer is a horror author, there are a couple of secret lesbians, one guy is more annoying than Dwight on The Office, and the most interesting character, a hunky porn star, dies first…52 minutes in. Would you believe that he’s black? Sigh.

The killer wears a ski mask and kills with a knife, the music is melodramatic, the denouement and killer reveal are awkward.

While I appreciated some of the stylized kill scenes (some smart ideas here), this was not overall a fulfilling slasher for me.

TERROR IN WOODS CREEK (2017)

The black and white intro of a little girl being enticed with a puppy by a stranger in the park is by far the creepiest, most compelling part of this indie.

The next scene of kids telling campfire stories and being attacked by a killer wearing a sack mask and wielding an axe is a close second.

The concept is intriguing enough, but the execution is just too low budget cheesy to take seriously.

We meet a bunch of redneck characters.

A drifter comes to town, and murders spike—with the supernatural drifter being the catalyst for all the chaos. Aside from the sack wearing killer, there’s also a zombie, but I have no idea why. It’s almost interesting, but the slow pacing just causes the mind to wander.

The drifter, however, is a devilish delight.

CABAL (2020)

If you’ve seen the Metalface/Playing With Dolls movies you’ll be very familiar with this film from Rene Perez. While it’s not an official sequel, he’s doing something that I don’t quite understand. I would think a director would want to explore other creative ideas, but he is now just rehashing the same concept with a different killer.

While I became a fan of Rene’s films because the first few were cabin in the woods slashers with some great jump scares and kills, the Playing With Dolls series watered down to one plot by the most recent film Cry Havoc; the killer stalks, tortures and kills women in the woods during daylight hours while military men and one hero try to put a stop to him.

The only difference with Cabal is that the killer has a rockin’ bod, his cool and creepy mask is comprised of the faces of humans, and there’s actually a unique reason for why he’s roaming around in the woods killing women this time, which we don’t find out until near the end.

No scares here, but the kills are good and gory as is usually the case with his films (the water scene is a fave for me), and Rene goes for the grindhouse look and feel this time around.

Plus, the score is so totally 80s synth awesome, as is the track “Neon Dreams” by The Darkest Machine.

 

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PRIME TIME: a gay horror double feature

It’s not often that I get treated to two gay horrors that deliver both the gay and the horror, especially on the same streaming platform. So let’s get into this pairing of Rapture in Blue and Triggered, which offer a good balance of dark and campy when paired together.

RAPTURE IN BLUE (2020)

This short, 49-minute film is the perfect foreplay to the full-length feature. It’s a metaphorical, gay-themed horror flick beautifully and eerily crafted, with fantastic use of effects to capture the distress and turmoil of the main character while creating a true horror experience.

The story focuses on a young man who brings his girlfriend to see the house he grew up in. There’s a new young man living there…and the main guy becomes immediately and unnervingly drawn to him.

This is a compelling dive into the fear of coming out and the shock of feeling same-sex desire for the first time. Concepts of self-loathing and the closet are presented as horrifying specters that terrorize the main guy to his very core.

The foreboding encounters keeps us wondering what’s really going on as the horror escalates, and I was actually reminded of the eerie feel of Carnival of Souls. Every scene has an ominous and surreal feel to it, right down to a club scene featuring a haunting song by an artist that gives off a total Poppy vibe.

Rapture in Blue is sleek and sinister for sure, and loaded with symbolism—you can notice things of significance you didn’t the first time if you watch it more than once.

TRIGGERED (2019)

I’ll say right off the bat that Triggered gets an honorary spot on the homo horror movies page because it focuses heavily on a gay character (who becomes the final boy) and is loaded with male nudity and gay sex scenes. Yummy.

As a fan of Chris Moore’s films (I interviewed him here a while back), I adore him for not catering to the mainstream horror crowd, instead giving voice to the much needed gay horror canon.

Chris just keeps getting better and better at crafting suspense and kill scenes. This is what I’m talking about when I say indie filmmakers shouldn’t be getting it wrong if they’ve been taking lessons from the horror that has impacted them; Chris knows horror and has clearly paid attention to all the films he’s watched in his lifetime, therefore he knows how to deliver the scares. The first scene alone demonstrates his ability to set up effective shots, capture the right camera angles, use shadows, light, sounds, and score to amplify the atmosphere, and time the jumps just right.

After the opening scene, there’s a bit of a jolting shift in tone. Being familiar with his work and his style, I know Chris appreciates b-movie camp and satire of decades past, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to me that it comes on strong as we meet a teenage social justice warrior—she’s over-the-top obsessed with political correctness, cancel culture, and being woke and easily offended at everything to the point of hyperbole.

While some of the mockery is funny, it is excessively demonstrated for a while and the character becomes annoying, but it is the catalyst to her making a major, tragic mistake.

Call in the gay BFF to help her cover up the accidental crime. Borrowing from both Scream and Scream 4, they craft a story of being the victims of a killer, and she becomes addicted to the notoriety of being a survivor.

Meanwhile, the gay guy starts embracing his sexual desires (I can see why)…

…and someone in a mask is brutally killing people. Once the slasher elements kick in, you get all the gay and gore you could ask for.

As a bonus, Amanda Wyss of Elm Street fame guest stars.

Despite my usual quibble about almost every movie I watch—the film is a bit too long, clocking in at 105 minutes—this is definitely one I will be adding to the gay horror section of my film collection.

 

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Willard and Ben…friends to the end?

Time to take on the famous killer rat franchise since I finally added all three to my collection.

WILLARD (1971)

Willard is not the crazy killer rat movie you might expect or remember. It’s more a character study of how a stunted young man is pushed to snapping as his life crumbles down around him. It’s a sort of fictionalized take on some of the typical profiles of the most notorious killers in true crime history.

While the tone and style are painfully dated, featuring remnants of melodramatic 1960s horror music and an inappropriately whimsical score at times, you can overlook that if you focus on the performance of young Bruce Davison, who carries the film as Willard, a young man whose social life consists of his elderly mother and her nagging old friends. He’s also treated like shit at work by his boss, played by Ernest Borgnine.

Willard sees a rat in his yard, and before long he’s fricking breeding them in his basement. He befriends coworker Sondra Locke, who gives him a cat to keep him company. Thankfully he gives it away immediately, because we know it wouldn’t have worked out for the cat…

One thing after another pushes Willard to the edge, but sadly he only subjects a few of his enemies to rat scares until the very end of the film. Finally, Willard unleashes his rats on one of his main enemies, and it’s a pretty darn good scene. If only Bob Crachit had thought of this, he could have saved three ghosts a lot of time.

 Unfortunately, the first rat attack is also one of the last. Willard freaks out over what he’s had his rats do and tries to put a stop to it. I just hope no rats were harmed in the making of this movie, because there are a few disturbing scenes of rat abuse.

BEN (1972)

Picking up right where the first film left off, this sequel has Willard’s rat Ben run away from home to take up residence with a little kid down the block.

Before he was an 80s hottie in movies like Girls Just Want to Have Fun and The Midnight Hour, little Lee Montgomery appeared in horror flicks like Burnt Offerings, Dead of Night, and this film. His sister is played by young Meredith Baxter, and it is just about the oddest thing you’ll see when his character composes the theme song to Ben on the spot and sings it to her and their mother.

The theme song was a huge hit for Michael Jackson, solidifying his connection to horror a decade before “Thriller”!

Also in the film is the guy who appeared as a detective Dorothy falls for on an episode of The Golden Girls. Here he plays…a detective.

Not surprisingly, the rat and kill counts are higher in this sequel, yet because it’s about a lonely little kid (who gets called a sissy and accused of playing with dolls), it feels somehow like a “children’s movie”. The kid doesn’t call the shots—the rats attack of their own volition to protect him.

And to make us totally feel for the rats, an evil plan is implemented to fry them all in the sewers, which is where the movie heads for the finale. And if you wonder why “Ben” is a melancholy ballad that makes you feel sad for the rat, just wait until you see the final scene of the film.

WILLARD (2003)

The director of the Black Christmas remake scraps the slow unraveling of the main character in the original Willard to go for the jugular with the rat horror, while pretty much following the same core plot points.

With Crispin Glover in the role of Willard, the character starts off full throttle crazy, immediately befriending the rats in his basement, and battling Ben for dominance…for the entire movie.

His mother, meanwhile, isn’t just a nag in this remake…she’s scarier than the rats. She gets sick to the point of being very reminiscent of sister Zelda in the original Pet Sematary.

And just for fun, pics of his deceased father around the house are a wink wink to the original…because it’s Bruce Davison! Awesome.

The boss is played by R. Lee Ermey, the sheriff from the Texas Chainsaw remakes. And when the female friend at work gives Willard the cat this time, not surprisingly he keeps it.

The scene of the rats going for the cat was the most disturbing part of the film for me. And to make matters worse, the excessively long scene is accompanied by Michael Jackson’s original version of “Ben”.

 

And speaking of Ben, this film should have been called Willard vs. Ben since Ben plays a much bigger role than he did in the original film.

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STREAM QUEEN: Ouija board horror or Ouija bored horror?

Having knocked out all the doll, clown, and nun horrors cashing in on trendy subgenres lately on Prime, it was time to take on any Ouija movies I hadn’t seen. So let’s get into these four.

OUIJA DEATH TRAP (2014)

A Ouija board is used for about two minutes tops in this found footage film. I imagine the title was changed merely to cash in on the Ouija movie craze. It didn’t help any.

This is as badly basic as found footage gets. Kids go into a building with cameras because it’s supposedly haunted. They meet a creepy janitor.

They see a scary doll that seems to follow them around the place. They use the board. And then…

They run around shrieking endlessly at things we never see because it’s all dark, spastic footage. Near the end, the final girl gives her big Heather “I’m sorry” speech to the camera. You’ve seen it all before, done better.

OUIJA ROOM (2019)

The director of Babysitter Massacre, Amityville: No Escape, and Scarewaves takes on adult autism and agoraphobia in one character and wraps it in a Ouija bow.

In a sense it reminds me of the awesome film The Evil Within, but this has a quirky, low budget feel.

An autistic young woman lives with her brother, who brings home board games for them to play…including a Ouija board. The sister uses it on her own and unleashes a variety of “friendly” spirit buddies that act as the devil on her shoulder in a mostly goofy and campy way.

It’s an odd choice of tone when taking on rather serious subjects, and it’s not a “scary” movie, but I actually liked the genuine feel of the camaraderie between the brother and the sister he cares for. A visitation by their well-meaning deceased mother proves to be the creepiest part of the film!

OUIJA EXORCISM (2015)

I’d say the opener is the most compelling part of this film, with kids using a Ouija board in a tent during an indoor sleepover.

Flash ahead thirty years, one of the kids is now grown, it’s his father’s funeral, and he can’t remember what happened that night with the Ouija board. But he’s invited to a weekend getaway with friends at a cabin.

Although this film is slow, it’s oddly compelling. The actors are quirky and bring a subtle dry humor to the situation. Situation being…a sexy bear is cheating on his woman with a female shaman, and his woman has the hots for the main guy.

What’s most notable here is that the main man is Jewish, which plays a part in the supernatural story. There’s also minor mention of the gender-bending aspects of shamanism.

Meanwhile, it’s not until almost an hour in that someone uses the Ouija board. This becomes a fairly typical film about the evil spirit jumping from person to person, and the final exorcism is quite tame.

OUIJA SEANCE: THE FINAL GAME (2018)

This one just falls completely flat. A young woman inherits a home and goes there with her friends.

After the obligatory warning from a creepy caretaker not to go in the attic…they go in the attic.

They use a Ouija board, and the main girl pushes the caretaker to tell her more about what really happened to her deceased mother.

Eventually someone becomes sort of possessed, the caretaker runs around with an axe, there are flashbacks about the main girl’s mother, and I really had no idea what was happening at all, because I wasn’t entertained enough to stay focused.

 

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I’ll take the 80s triple feature with extra cheese on a Blu-ray

The 80s hits (and misses) just keep going Blu thanks to all the indie companies digging them out of the vaults, so it’s time to take on three I just added to my collection: a giallo, a giant snake film, and a zom-mom flick.

DELIRIUM (1987)

Lamberto Bava approaches horror in the same way his father and other Italian greats did in the 80s, so if you’re a fan of giallos and Euro horror of the era and haven’t seen this one yet, it will give you a little fix even if it isn’t a masterpiece.

A former model who owns a magazine is regularly spied on by her crazy, wheelchair-bound neighbor. She’s also in a bitch battle of Melrose Place proportions with a woman who wants to buy the magazine from her. And those are just two of the numerous possible killers in this whodunit.

It all revolves around the modeling world, for as female victims are killed in various ways (pitchfork, bee attack, etc.), the killer takes photos of the disfigured bodies in front of old modeling pics of the leading lady and sends them her way.

As a result, her magazine starts selling better!

There are plenty of neon-drenched 80s horror moments, chases, body reveals, T & A, and even a disembodied, childish voice terrorizing the leading lady, but the film is rather slow nonetheless. The very first kill has a completely inexplicable killer POV seeing the victim with the cyclops face on the cover art of the Blu-ray. I have no idea what it means, but it promises something bigger and freakier than what we get.

And in a really odd turn…

**SPOILER** the killer wears a wig at the very end when finally revealed, but swears he’s not a transvestite.

SPASMS (1983)

The director of Killer Party brings us a giant snake flick years before Anaconda spawned a franchise.

This silly movie features Oliver Reed as a hunter who was bitten by the giant snake in the jungle and is now telepathically connected to it. So he has it captured and brought to a college where Peter Fonda studies ESP.

Meanwhile, there’s a cult that wants possession of the snake to worship as their god, so they send their men to the lab to steal it.

Nothing too exciting happens for much of this film, and snake attacks are relegated to blue-tinted snake POV, then all of a sudden the snake escapes…and heads right to a sorority house to give us a good look at it….and a naked chick in the shower.

It’s as if the movie realized it’s the fricking 80s and shit needs to be fun, gory, and cheesy. Best sequence in the whole film, seconded only by a scene of a guy’s face mutating after he gets bit.

Ah, practical effects. Those were the days.

FLESH-EATING MOTHERS (1988)

This is my kind of 80s direct-to-video horror. It doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is—a low budget, campy flick about teens being terrified by their mothers, who have become raving mad cannibals. Mombies! EEK!

This is one of those productions that feels like it could have cast kids and parents you went to school with in the 1980s then filmed right in your town. No Hollywood “middle class” houses in this one. Just classic white trash suburbia.

The kids are fun enough, but the women playing the mad mothers absolutely steal the show. They totally go for it, and with the bonus of the psychotic looking makeup, they are as freaky as they are funny.

The music, both score and pop tunes, is totally 80s, the gore is great, the lighting is as 80s as it get, and the cheese factor is top-notch. Or should I say top-nacho?

As goofy as it all is, it actually takes on themes of sleazy husbands and the bond between children and their mothers. Just be warned, there’s an over-the-top scene of two moms having a cat fight. As in…they fight for a cat. It doesn’t turn out well for the cat.

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