Was a trip to Boggy Creek fun enough to go back for seconds?

Born in 1969, I was a wee child when my mother and older brothers subjected me to the horrors of UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, and the occult, which were all the rage during the 1970s. So it’s time to stroll down memory lane with a movie that cashed in on the Bigfoot craze, along with its official sequel from over a decade later.

THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972)

A classic of the 1970s, The Legend of a Boggy Creek has recently been remastered on Blu-ray for the first time. It scared the heck out of me when I was a single-digit age back then, especially considering I spent my childhood being dragged into the woods for dirt bike races by my motorcycle riding father. Viewing the movie again 5 decades later, I see it as mostly a few highly effective moments surrounded by a whole lot of filler.

In the opening scene, a little kid runs to a bunch of old men in some godforsaken hillbilly state to tell them he saw a hairy beast. They laugh at him.

That kid serves as the adult narrator describing his sleepy town and the cloud of darkness the legend casts over it (it felt like I was watching Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). About an hour of the film consists of mostly hunters out alone spotting a dark Bigfoot figure standing off in the distance in the woods. The first time it’s creepy as hell and perfectly captures that infamous footage of Bigfoot running through the woods, but then the movie becomes just one sighting after another with no actual physical encounters. And very often the scenes are set to a cute hillbilly theme song about the creature that sounds like it could be from a Rankin/Bass holiday special. WTF?

Finally, there are some cool Bigfoot POV shots around a derelict cabin…I mean, some hillbilly’s home…at night, and I would swear it’s the kind shot that inspired Raimi’s Evil Dead style. Very effective.

The climactic Bigfoot battle takes place at the house at night when Bigfoot reaches its arm in through a window while a guy is taking a shit. There’s a lot of shooting and a quick physical altercation between man and Bigfoot, but the HD resolution doesn’t help camouflage the fleeting glimpse of the gorilla mask that serves as the creature costume. Personally, I wasn’t very scared because I was too distracted wondering if the guy actually started dropping shit bombs when he was interrupted…and the fact that he ran from the bathroom without even wiping.

BOGGY CREEK II: AND THE LEGEND CONTINUES (1984)

Over a decade after the original was released, the director returns and stars in a sequel. He plays a teacher that takes a handful of students to hunt for the Bigfoot.

He also rocks the 80s shorts.

He even narrates the film, so it has that same sleepy feel as the original, and he tells one tale after the other of people that encountered the Bigfoot. I thought it was going to be the same cycle of scenes of hunters staring at a Bigfoot in the woods, but there’s actually variety here, including a goofy scene, an attack scene, and a baby Bigfoot attack scene! Awesome.

The other difference is that we see plenty of Bigfoot face. I think it may just be a doctored gorilla mask, but it looks much better than in the first film and gives this a good, cheesy 80s creature feature feel.

In actuality, the scariest scene in the film involves a wild dog that chases the group, but it does not end in a way that animal lovers will like. Not. At. All.

The group eventually shacks up (literally stays in a shack) with a hairy hillbilly, setting the stage for a final scene similar to that of the first film. Damn. This hillbilly was a trendsetter. I bought fashions like this from the International Male catalog to wear to New York City clubs in the 1990s.

The little surprise twist isn’t so much of a twist these days, but it does distinguish this one from its predecessor. I’m hoping this sequel also gets remastered onto Blu-ray.

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Will these scary creatures make you scream?

Aliens, a tentacle, a giant croc, and a demon. So which ones deliver on the chills and thrills?

ATTACK OF THE UNKNOWN (2020)

If SyFy bothered to show anything other than Harry Potter movies these days, this film would be in heavy rotation on alien invasion movie marathon days. Oh how I miss those days.

The thing about this movie is that there’s an hour of mostly pointless nonsense before getting to the good stuff.

First a mob hiding out in a warehouse has a shootout with law enforcement. The whole mob aspect adds nothing to the plot other than a lot of gunfire.

Richard Grieco, who looks too exhausted to even act these days, is a member of  a SWAT team. After a gratuitous strip club scene, he finds out tragic news about himself. Then his team has to transport a criminal to prison.

Meanwhile, a ship crashes to earth, a mother ship hovers over the city, and an eclectic group of people trying to escape in a car is introduced. They are more entertaining than the entire SWAT plot. Too bad they are incinerated within minutes.

The awesome aliens first walk around in spacesuits and kill people with their black appendages. Then the prisoner randomly tells a story about his family’s history with “vampires from the sky”. This out of place flashback to western days features an odd cameo by Tara Reid.

Things finally get good an hour in when the aliens remove the helmets and wreak havoc in the prison. It should not have taken an hour to get to this. The aliens are cool, plus there’s some gore, plenty of action, and even some humor that never quite lets the otherwise serious movie find its tone.

INTO THE DARK: TENTACLES (2021)

Hulu’s Into the Dark series returns and once again manages to ruin the holiday of the month by not actually being about the holiday of the month. If you consider “Valentine horror” to be any horror movie in which there’s a love relationship, then I guess this qualifies. It doesn’t for me.

It’s also not scary or suspenseful. A girl and guy meet at an open house and, I kid not, immediately get sexy together and decide to live together.

Their relationship is just unnaturally weird from the start, which I guess is kind of the point. The movie is all about their relationship. The female is also keeping secrets about an ex, while the guy keeps bleeding from his ear.

At the end, there’s a tentacle that really gets in the middle of their relationship for a brief moment. The end.

ROGUE (2007)

This killer croc movie is plenty suspenseful all along, but only sets itself apart by delivering  a fricking fantastic final scene.

Just as a warning, the first scene plays out like a clip from a National Geographic show, with a croc dragging a bull into the water. And the animal insensitivity comes back for more later when ***SPOILER*** a dog is shown being gobbled down by the croc after the incident was already implied from off screen with one of those whimpering dog sound effects. ***END SPOILER***

Michael Vartan plays an American journalist in Australia. He goes on a boat tour of gorgeous Australian landscapes with horror queen Radha Mitchell as the tour guide. We get to see some boy booty when two locals come by in a boat and moon the tourists.

The tour boat eventually springs a leak and is grounded on a tiny piece of land, and a good chunk of the movie focuses on the group of tourists trying to get to higher land across the way because the water is starting to rise.

Plenty of suspenseful scenes abound, but there’s a surprisingly low body count for a killer croc movie.

But that final scene is one of the best croc horror sequences ever!

THEY REACH (2020)

This little indie is getting compared to Stranger Things because it’s about a group of tweens experiencing the supernatural in a small town in another decade. The film really feels like it takes place in a small town because there’s an oddly low energy vibe that even affects the pacing.

It’s 1979, but the people look like they haven’t left 1972, missed out on the disco era, and have no idea the early 80s new wave movement is breathing down their necks. I guess that’s why to this day women in small towns still have butch 1982 hairstyles. It was a relief when the main kids busted out a chord of “I Wanna Be Sedated” to show that at least they’re moving forward even if the adults aren’t.

The story is about a girl that scores an old tape recorder at a thrift shop. While trying to get it to work with her dad, she is cut and bleeds on it. Uh-oh.

A demon is released and the kids have to figure out how to send it back. It takes a while, but the film finally finds a light, humorous vibe…just as the demon comes out to play. It’s actually just demon hands. That’s all we ever see until one brief shot of the face near the end, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when and how the demon appears. It just seems to reach out of dark spaces wherever and whenever it wants to. Supposedly it jumps from body to body, but that aspect doesn’t play out quite clearly.

The likable characters, funny moments, and lack of intense creature action make this more of a family horror film. It even ends light…with a cover of the band Bread’s soft rock classic “Everything I Own”.

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For the love of holiday horror: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve

Will this smorgasbord of horror movies covering a variety of holidays make the off-season bright? Let’s get a taste of each one as I add them to the holiday horror page.

TRICK OR TREAT (2019)

The big trick here is that this is not a horror film and has mostly nothing to do with Halloween short of two trick or treaters and some pumpkins.

It’s mostly a movie about two less than straight and narrow brothers getting entangled with a handful of mobsters.

One brother shows up at his other brother’s house on Halloween and tells him he accidentally hit a guy on the road and has the body in the trunk of his car. Turns out that guy was the son of a lady mobster, and the two brothers spend the night trying to avoid them while getting rid of the body.

While it could be considered a thriller, there’s not much here that is actually suspenseful, but there are plenty of questions that need answering as the movie unfolds.

Near the end it looks like there’s going to be a twist that indeed steers this into horror territory, but it turns out to be a false alarm.

I’d have to say this is kind of like a Roseanne Halloween episode gone horribly wrong…

ARCHAON: THE HALLOWEEN SUMMONING (2020)

I appreciate the effort put into building a horror movie around Halloween legend, but this film was apparently low on resources, so it’s mostly about a bunch of people hanging out in a house and occasionally putting on a cursed mask.

A guy buys a mask steeped in the history of Samhain, and immediately gets ragged out by a peer as a geek and a gay (he’s not a gay).

Soon he’s becoming drawn to the mask, which is mostly just a sack that the movie rarely shows in full because there’s nothing scary about it. When he gives into temptation and puts it on, horror lighting and some vines in the hall of the house signify he’s crossed into another reality.

Same thing happens to anyone that puts the mask on…but then they all simply just take it off and come back to reality. The movie just doesn’t offer much. There’s a Halloween house party with little in the way of Halloween spirit beyond guests in costumes. A white dude that looks like Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs performs a rap as part of an in-house band.

Later a Black guy raps to a rock song played by a white band. This movie confused me.

Eventually the group figures out a demon has escaped from another dimension and needs to be sent back. They perform a ritual with candles in one of the most uninteresting, uninspired climaxes ever.

DERELICTS (2017)

Beyond House of 1000 Corpses (one of my many favorite horror movies), I have no use for Rob Zombie’s brand of white trash horror. If only he’d put some thought and focus into his murderous family movies like simple little Thanksgiving horror flick Derelicts does, I could say what I’m about to say about this one. This isn’t my type of horror film at all, I would never watch it again, but this film is totally awesome.

It’s like a dysfunctional middle class white family invites the Texas Chainsaw family to their house for Thanksgiving dinner, and it’s a perfect juxtaposition.

After carjacking guests heading to the family’s house, the crazies follow the GPS and crash Thanksgiving dinner. They terrorize and torture the family, naturally, all while managing to out each family member’s dirty little secret.

The main family consists of a creepy father, a jaded mother, an asshole son with no social graces, a daughter that had a mental breakdown, a horny grandfather, and his horny girlfriend.

The crazies include an old former military man and what almost seems like his Black “life companion”, a hillbilly girl, a hillbilly guy, and a freak that wears a Teddy bear as a mask.

Stylized camerawork shows that director Brett Glassberg carefully orchestrated the visual presentation of the story he is telling, and despite the crazy white trash family subgenre not being my thing, I would watch another horror film by him in a second. The creative use of a dick pump alone is reason enough to expect big things from him…

ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD (2020)

 

This New Year’s Eve dark killer party comedy gets huge props for being one of few moves that has Christmas décor everywhere, recognizing that for many people, New Year’s Eve decorations are Christmas decorations. I hate when I see neighbors’ Christmas trees at the curb on December 26th.

Playing out mostly like a teen sex comedy, the film focuses predominantly on loads of privileged pretty people of various persuasions having conversations about dating or trying to score.

Personally, I didn’t find the humor funny enough to carry the movie, and the pacing was slooooooow.

Not even the sex humor held my interest, although some gay stuff was funny circa 1997, and does land this one on the does the gay guy die? page.

The highlight for me was the use of songs like Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”.

Eventually an accidental death ignites a comedy of errors that leads to a whole lot of kills. The money shot is in the last twenty minutes when the clock strikes twelve.

It might be a tedious New Year’s Eve party to sit through, but damn the payoff is worth it. Choreographed to a rockin’ metal track, the massacre scene is one of the best mass killing sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie.

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PRIME TIME: infected vs. ghosts

Ravers get infected and robbers get ghosted. So which one of these two indie films showed me a better time?

RAVERS (2018)

 

Now this is how you do a tight little indie infected film. Ravers is smartly written and directed and deserves recognition for featuring a lesbian and a bearish guy as the heroes. On the flip side, at a rave full of white people, a Black guy is portrayed as the immoral drug dealer to the bitter end. Bummer.

Things start strong and sexy, with a 7′ 2″ tall muscle hunk going insane at a soda factory and attacking everyone with gory results. This scene literally made me want a Dr. Pepper and a man.

Then we meet our main girl, a germaphobic lesbian reporter forced to go on site to do a story about the factory murders. Her stocky buddy takes her to an illegal rave being thrown at the now defunct warehouse.

The drugs come out…and so do cases of old soda still tucked away in storage. Pretty soon the dance floor is filled with ravers with raging eyes.

The movie smartly uses techno that matches the moment as the pace picks up. The vibe starts off chill, becomes hypnotic as the ravers begin to feel the effect of the drug, and then intensifies in beats-per-minute as the drug takes hold and the infected become aggressive.

The concept is also cool. The infected don’t really attack as long as they’re getting some sort of stimulation: drugs, dancing, sex, etc. And the longer the infection inhabits their bodies, the more gnarly their eyes begin to look. Not to mention, there’s most definitely an understated commentary on toxic masculinity running throughout the film.

One of my favorite visual moments has the doped up club kids focusing on the allure of a catwalk above them, and deciding to climb up there to dance. The infected action ramps up as the crazies get even more fucked up in the face for the final act.

ARE WE DEAD YET (aka: The Living Dead) (2019)

In this horror comedy, a group of bumbling robbers screws up and then has to hide out in an old mansion.

Right away it feels like the actors are trying their best to deliver laughs, but they don’t often have the material to support their skills, so they overcompensate through their delivery and actions. Sometimes it works, other times it falls flat.

At first the robbers experience sightings of various ghosts, but before a genuine haunting plot can get off the ground, we are introduced to the ghosts, and things get silly.

There are at least a dozen ghosts from colonial times living in the mansion, all of them in the bloody state they were in when they died. They spend their time chatting and lamenting that they will be stuck in the mansion until someone finally buys it.

The dialogue of the dead and the conversations they have feel more like a play performance than a movie, but they do inject a little more humor that works.

In no way a scary film, this turns into a ghost adventure, with the robbers trying to help the ghosts escape the hold the mansion has on them. It’s…cute…but it didn’t work enough as a ghost comedy for me to truly hold my interest. On the bright side, there’s a zombie segment at the end that showed me a good time!

If you’re looking for the film, just know that it is under the title The Living Dead on Prime. Who the hell decided on that awful, generic name change?

 

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STREAM QUEEN: a croc, road kill, an electric girl, and a mind jumper

I hit up Hulu, Prime, and even Crackle for my latest movie marathon, so let’s get right into them.

BLACK WATER: ABYSS (2020)

The director of Black Water is back for the sequel—a Crackle exclusive.

The first time around it was a croc holding a group of people captive in a tree. This time the setting is an underground cavern pool.

You come to these types of movies for the cheap thrills, so don’t be surprised that every moment of this film, right down to the stupid mistakes made by characters as well as the plot twist, is completely predictable.

The main guy is hot, the croc is smartly shown very little beyond quick flashes, and the suspense and claustrophobia are suffocating. And the muddy underwater footage just makes it all the more unnerving.

ALONE (2020)

In the tradition of movies like The Hitcher and Road Games, this film has a young widow going on a road trip and quickly being shadowed by a guy in a black SUV.

From the very start, the film establishes a sense of dread as this guy pops up at every rest stop she hits, and once the chase starts, it doesn’t let up.

The actor playing the psycho gives a fantastically unnerving performance.

The fact that the main girl tries to always stay one step ahead of him, putting herself in precarious predicaments in the process, will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. Even some seemingly cliché situations take unexpected turns.

Most importantly, the final battle to the death rox.

REBORN (2018)

The director of the film The Last Horror Movie, which is surprisingly never mentioned at all on horror social media, brings us a simple little sci-fi horror thriller with a familiar cast.

Chaz Bono, notably good in the few small parts he’s given in movies, plays a mortician that witnesses a stillborn infant come back to life as a result of an electrical accident.

Sixteen years later, that baby is a young woman who can control electricity with her mind. She sets out to find her birth mother, using her powers to take down anyone who gets in her way.

Meanwhile, horror queen Barbara Crampton plays an actress struggling to overcome the loss of her child when she was younger. Uh-oh. So her agent, played by Rae Dawn Chong, sets her on a course to finding closure.

Michael Pare is the detective on the case when people start turning up dead and all (electrically charged) roads lead to Crampton.

There are some suspenseful moments, and the film moves at a good pace (with a running time of only 75 minutes), and the main girl playing the electrified daughter is freaky good as a lost soul with deadly powers. There are also some fun kills along the way. And quite honestly, despite being a sci-fi/horror b movie, the storyline is quite tragic.

My only real issue is a moment near the end of the film when the main girl seems to not only have the power to control electric with her mind, but suddenly has superpowers. It’s a nagging distraction during the denouement of the film.

POSSESSOR (2020)

Possessor makes me think David Cronenberg’s son watched nothing but his father’s films growing up and finally made one of his own. In other words, if you love Cronenberg, you’ll probably get into this wordy sci-fi drama from his son.

The story is about a female assassin whose mind can be harvested and implanted into ordinary, everyday people to commit murders. All she has to do when she’s done doing a hit job is commit suicide to return to herself.

Most of the focus is on her time as a gorgeous man (who shows wiener because naturally it’s the first thing she checks out), and his relationship with his fiancé—causing this film to dabble in gender identity exploration. While she’s waiting for the right moment to do her hit, she begins to experience distressing flashes of crossover between her reality and the time she spends in the heads of others.

It’s very much a character study, but the kill scenes are fantastically gory and brutal, and as her reality and those of the bodies she inhabits begin to blend and the lines blur, things get quite freaky and quite Cronenberg.

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Here piggy, piggy!

What are the chances there would be two movies about mutant pig people on Amazon Prime at the same time? They’re so slim I simply had to watch them both.

BARNEY BURMAN’S WILD BOAR (2020)

Think The Hills Have Eyes meets Planet of the Apes and you’ll know what you’re in for with this one.

After a weird stop motion intro, we meet a group of treasure hunters. They discuss a hot location that also happens to have a history of radiation, but they decide it’s safe these days…

They arrive at a derelict building in the middle of a desert area, they find a hole in the wall inside the building, one woman points out this would be a really bad idea in a horror movie…so they go in.

Within minutes, the pig people are hunting them down. This will be very familiar territory to horror veterans. It’s a commentary on how humans treat animals.

The focus is on one girl thrown into a cage full of mud, forced to watch as the others are handled like pigs at the slaughterhouse, and forced to eat against her will. Ugh. The “feeding” scene. Now that’s horror.

The film is quite gritty and grisly, and delivers on gore as the main girl attempts to make her escape, but it does start to lose steam in the second half, a problem that could have been rectified had the 109-minute runtime been trimmed down a bit. For a while the film stalls and I felt like I was watching a Star Wars spinoff about a family of Gamorrean Guards.

Refreshingly, there’s nothing predictable in the final act. However, it does get totally bizarre and a bit confusing as it heads for the good zinger ending.

BULLETS OF JUSTICE (2019)

I don’t even care that I once again didn’t understand what the hell was going on by the end of a mutant pig people movie, because the director of Re-Kill and Wrong Turn 6 gives us a gory grindhouse action horror flick that’s totally queer…I think. I just wish it had a better title. Hell, Sex Pigs would have been perfect.

Smartly running 79 minutes long (take note, Wild Boar), this film thrusts us right into the midst of the grindhouse zaniness. During World War 3, humans and pigs were mated for use as warriors…warriors that ended up being at the top of the food chain.

As our sexy main man and his mustached female sidekick try to find the location of the “mother” of the pig people, high-speed action sequences, dark humor, and surprisingly explicit sex scenes abound. Mmm…pig in a blanket.

Danny Trejo makes a fleeting, completely unnecessary cameo, and his appearance is completely forgotten by the time the good guys get to “the farm” where humans are harvested.

Bullets of Justice delivers on the gross-out goodness. And the queer stuff?

Our main man is obsessed with his own ass and highly jealous of a flamboyantly queer, long-haired pretty boy in a G-string that plays a major role in the plot and eventually does a provocative dance. You can almost smell the sexual tension between them. This definitely earns an honorary spot on the complete homo horror movies page.

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The House of the Dead game I didn’t know existed

I’m not sure what made my mind stray to this series (okay, it was the lack of stimulation I was getting from one of the boring movies I recently blogged about), but I was shocked to discover that House of the Dead 4 was released for PS3 in 2012. I thought Overkill was the only HOTD released on the system, and I can’t believe it took 8 years for me to even learn about this game…or that the PS3 is already so old.

I quickly dug out my neglected PS3 system and hooked it up to download the game from the PlayStation Store. That’s right…no physical release. This is a 10 dollar download only. It took me quite some time to even remember how to use the PS3. Seriously, I forgot there was an on/off switch in back.

Once the game was installed, I realized I couldn’t remember how to use the Eye camera and Move controller. Once I got them working, I did remember just how fricking awful the calibration is on these damn Move controllers.

No worries, though, because HOTD 4 is a snap if you choose the settings as such: very easy, 9 lives, 9 credits.

The story…is the same old story. Two agents travel through a city killing zombies and other mutants to get to a final boss.

Other than the trigger for shooting, you can use the X, square, circle, or triangle buttons to throw grenades, and there are times when you need to shake the controller to do things like open doors or push baddies off when they grab you. There are also background items you can shoot to get special bullets, more grenades, extra lives, extra credits, etc., but as usual, they tend to pass by just long enough for you to shoot a canister or box open and then get tripped up by a “reload” warning before you can shoot the actually goodie inside.

Ugh. Reload. You go through bullets so fast you’re constantly reloading…or if you’re me, just totally tuning out the incessant “reload, reload, reload” verbal warning and then wondering why you can’t shoot. To reload you have to shake the controller vigorously, which I seriously believe causes you to shake the damn thing out of calibration. The calibration is so bad that even with all my wicked easy options in place, I still constantly ranked at C or below on each chapter, and was constantly told by the game that I suck on the results screen (not exactly in those words, but it still hurts).

Other than various types of zombies, there are the usual flying critters, annoying fast-moving monkey monsters, ghouls that throw weapons or explosives, and annoying little creepy-crawlies like slugs and spiders that jump at the screen and latch on to you…requiring you to once again shake the controller.

Most of the baddies aren’t too hard to take down, but they do come at you in hordes and tend to pop up just when you’re…you guessed it…out of bullets and have to reload, which leads to some cheap shots while you’re defenseless. It’s also quite annoying that you aren’t given the opportunity to get a jump on them. If you see them crawling out from under a table, hole in the wall, or sewer, don’t even bother shooting them. It doesn’t register until they are completely standing.

Then there are the bosses, like a cool giant spider and a big fat dude that fricking rolls over you. Most bosses are quite easy, giving you a diagram of their vulnerable spot before the fight begins and then circling that spot with a reticle during the battle. Of course there are those times where it doesn’t feel like you can actually hit the spot even though the reticle is blinking, such as a moment when a chainsaw wielding boss outside your train is passing by the windows. You shoot like crazy with no results then just have to suck it up and take the timed hit. I hate that crap.

And naturally there are those bosses that throw shit at you, almost ensuring a hit every time because there are numerous small objects flying across the screen that you need to shoot so they don’t hit you. But as I said at the beginning, it really doesn’t matter as long as you go very easy, 9 lives, 9 credits.

The game is short and can be completed in an hour, but you can play again and take different branches. There are several times when you get to choose the directions to go—left or right—so you can easily choose the left side every time through the first play then take the right side each time through the second play through to see what you missed. From what I can tell, the right side is always harder.

Most importantly, you unlock the HOTD 4 SP game once you complete all six chapters! You can finish this in fifteen minutes. It’s merely two chapters, and one of them repeats a boss from the full game. Aside from new locations, there are a few other new elements. For starters, you team up with G. from the original game (don’t come!). Yay!

Also, there are two weird challenge moments thrown in that you don’t even know are challenges until FAILED splashes across the screen. They come on so fast there’s no time to even register what you’re being told to do.

After you defeat the final boss, there’s one more thing to do…hit a box in his hand. I played through twice and thought I totally shot the box, but both times the word “bad end” splashed across the screen. Argh! I then watched the good end on YouTube and it turns out I totally wasn’t paying attention to the fleeting onscreen instructions because I was too busy panicking due to a timer counting down. What you’re supposed to do is throw a grenade at the boss box. Ugh.

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AFTER DARK ORIGINALS PART 1

Now that I’ve finished covering all the film festival titles I’d missed, I’m checking out the last of the After Dark Originals that I had yet to see, starting with Bedlam, Sanatorium, and Ritual.

BEDLAM (2015)

If watching helpless, mentally ill people being raped and tortured by equally mentally ill people in power is your idea of a horror movie, then you’ll love Bedlam.

Seeing these horrors play out on screen with no substantial plot serves no purpose—it’s not entertainment and it’s not effectively communicating awareness of the mental health and treatment problems that plague the world.

A combination of seeing how these people are treated and I guess tripping us out with chaotic abstractions of what it must be like in the mind of a mentally ill person (not to mention satirical clips of profiting off mental illness in advertising), the film focuses on a main guy who has all kinds of mental illnesses and puts all his faith in the same doctor that treated his late, mentally ill mother.

Every cliché in the mental illness and abuse book is thrown at us, most prominently being themes of homosexuality and pedophilia. It seems to be implying that the leading man is gay and his father used his orientation as an excuse to sexually abuse him.

My verdict? A tedious 102 minutes of torture porn.

SANATORIUM (2013)

What would compel filmmakers to keep making found footage movies about ghost hunting teams exploring old asylums that turn out to be haunted because doctors experimented on patients?

Oops! Did I spoil the plot? If so, you clearly don’t watch many horror movies.

They visit the asylum. They learn its history. They take a flashlight tour. They cheap scare each other. They find a doll. Then everything goes green as they switch to night vision.

There are noises. Things move. Doors slam. They run around a lot, shouting into walkie-talkies, screaming, and saying the same shit that has been said in dozens of other found footage films. Chaos ensues (finally) in the last act. Someone gets dragged away on camera.

Some cool scary and gory stuff happens at the very end, I’ll give it that much. I just don’t know that it’s ever worth sitting through the same old shit to get to it. (Hint…fast forward to the last ten minutes for the only thrills you’ll get).

RITUAL (2013)

An hysterical woman calls her estranged husband to a hotel, where he finds that she has a dead man in her room.

They spend a majority of the movie talking…how and why did she kill him and what are they going to do about it?

There’s a scary clown doll tossed in just for the hell of it…

They finally just leave the hotel, but have to go back because the husband left something behind. And then, finally, a cult in masks comes knocking.

It is astonishing that a script for a 90-minute movie that has over an hour of repetitive, boring dialogue with only a glimmer of tame suspense in the last fifteen minutes or so would be green-lit, but here it is. This movie fails to even live up to its name.

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Four 90s disappointments to add to the never-ending pile…

This mess of movies from the 1990s makes me wonder how the hell the video store I worked in lasted through the decade. Oh…that’s right. People kept re-renting 80s horror movies…

CTHULHU MANSION (1992)

I had high hopes for this film from the director of Pieces based on the setup—after committing a crime at a carnival, a group of thugs in leather jackets hides out in the creepy old house of the carnival magician and his sidekick daughter, holding them hostage.

Naturally the lights go out, which is when we learn the magician and daughter are have secrets locked away in the basement.

And then…the kids just hang around, listen to music, play darts, dance, have sex…. There are a couple of horror moments, like giant monster hands coming from a refrigerator and a guy drowning in a blood shower and showing of a whole lot of bush in the process, but it’s not enough horror to keep the pace going.

I’m a huge fan of horror flicks in which a bunch of kids invades a creepy house and ends up experiencing all kinds of weird shit, but I can’t believe how boring this film is.

A few things happen in the last half hour, the most thrilling being that one of the leather boys starts mutating, which is the catalyst for the final, disappointing act.

NIGHT TERRORS (1993)

With Tobe Hooper directing Robert Englund as Marquis de Sade, I would expect the horror of my lifetime. What I got was another cheesy, 1990s direct-to-video erotic thriller.

A young woman comes to visit her religious father in Egypt, where he’s doing an archaeological dig. He warns her to stay away from an alluring vixen she meets, so…she goes and parties with her. Of course there are lesbian undertones, but there’s also fleeting attention paid to some gender fluid partygoers.

The main girl also hooks up with a sexy as hell rich dude and has dreamy sex with him. In fact, most of this film is carried by dreamy sequences.

Caption: gives a whole new meaning to the term bareback…oh..wait…

The main girl is basically drawn into a drug-induced world of erotic pleasures where snake symbolism abounds. The visually titillating sequences are quite reminiscent of The Lair of the White Worm…without the subversion. This film that combines de Sade with religion fails to push the boundaries into the realm of offensive as much as Lair of the White Worm does. What a letdown.

Robert Englund finally hogs the screen in the final act, when he just drones on and on telling the main girl the awful things he’s going to do to her. Really, it’s hard for me to even consider this a horror film. It’s mostly sex with very little sadism.

CRUEL JAWS (1995)

This film is infamous for inserting footage from Jaws, Jaws 2, and a couple of other shark films that followed, so part of the fun is watching the chaotic editing during attack scenes to see if you recognize any of the clips. The other part of the fun is how hilariously bad the main actors’ reactions are when faced with the shark…that’s not actually there because it’s in another movie.

In this film, Great Whites are out and a Tiger Shark is king. Other than that, the movie follows all the shark movie rules.

  • opening scene with divers attacked
  • Couple gets it when they take a dip at dusk
  • There’s an aquarium and dolphins
  • A gory discovery is made on the beach

  • The mayor refuses to close the beach
  • A major beach event turns into a blood bath (best scene)
  • In a panic, a girl on a boat spills a gasoline can and someone else shoots a flare gun at the same time. Kaboom!

  • A helicopter gets dragged down by the shark
  • Helicopter pilot says “We need a bigger helicopter”

As bad as this damn movie is, I can’t deny it has its charms…particularly the fact that the spliced in footage from shark movies made up to 20 years before this one is totally different quality film. And if you’ve seen the 1981 film The Last Shark (which I just blogged about here), you’ll be shocked to see that not just fleeting clips, but full sequences are used, to the point that Cruel Jaws could just be considered a “different director’s cut” of The Last Shark. For this film, prolific horror director Bruno Mattei literally did shot for shot remakes of parts of The Last Shark with his own actors and edited the new scenes around all the original shark footage from The Last Shark.

NAKED FEAR (1999)

Hard to believe the director of icky 80s trash Slime City made this shot on video film, but one thing is clear—he failed to catch up with the nineties even with the whole decade behind him. This looks worse than an 80s direct-to-video movie, and all the actors look like burnouts from 1989 even though it’s a 1999 film.

The plot is about an agoraphobic dude named Camden who places an ad for a roommate and ends up with a weirdo named Randy. They get along well, but Camden eventually figures out Randy is a serial killer, and has to find the emotional strength to escape his own home.

The move is really awful, and feels like a home video. Endless montages of Camden doing nothing are set to power pop songs. There are a few random gay guys thrown in—one a queen that sends a videotaped interview in hopes of being Camden’s new roommate, the other a couple that walks in on a Randy in a public bathroom.

Camden watches a lot of phone sex commercials…that look exactly like the quality of the movie, which tells you just how low budget this movie looks. Meanwhile, Randy plays pimp to get Camden laid, and also targets various people who come to the apartment and do Camden wrong.

In a failed effort to introduce some suspense into the plot, Camden does get away and is tracked down by Randy. Chances are you will burst out laughing during the final battle to the death between them.

 

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Early 80s vs. late 80s horror

I went deep diving for my 80s fix with four in a variety of subgenres. So let’s get right to them.

THE LAST SHARK (1981)

Falling between Jaws 2 and Jaws 3, The Last Shark put in the effort to make a mechanical shark…at least half a shark. All shots of the fake shark are the same; the opened-mouthed head rising out of the water like something off the original Jaws poster. As limited in function as the shark is, this is a fairly fun and silly rip-off.

It stars the gorgeous leading man from Beneath the Planet of the Apes (left).

After a wind surfer disappears (the first kill), the leading man helps his daughter and her friends search for the guy, at which point he concludes there may be a shark in the waters.

Predictable scenes abound, from divers getting attacked to couples going out for evening swims. And when a wind surfing competition isn’t canceled (shocker), all hell breaks loose. There’s even a helicopter scene that—it kills me to say it—blows the helicopter scene from Jaws 2 out of the water.

Stay tuned for my upcoming 90s blog that covers a movie that was literally structured around scenes from this film and marketed as a new film…

BLOOD LINK (1982)

Not gory or scary, this psychological thriller reminds me of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers…with a touch of De Palma’s Sisters as well. Quirky 80s horror king Michael Moriarty playing a dual role as Siamese twins is reason enough to watch, even if the pacing is slow.

When good twin begins having visions of killing people, he decides to hunt down estranged bad twin…

It’s not until fifty minutes in that the brothers finally meet and things actually start happening. Moriarty plays bad twin wonderfully with subtle flamboyance.

Basically, bad twin swaps himself out for good twin in order to continue killing while good twin gets pinned for the crimes. A series of murders comes in the last half hour, but it’s nothing shocking or memorable.

The real haunting part of this film is what takes place right as we approach the final frame.

THE HOUSE OF USHER (1989)

Considering movies named after Poe tales are rarely adaptations by any stretch of the imagination, I won’t even address the issue here.

This is simply a woman held against her will movie. The lead actress from The Howling IV travels with her man to his uncle’s mansion. Before they can get there, they crash their car while avoiding ghost children on the road—ghost children that appear several times throughout the film but add nothing to it.

This movie is a mess. Following the accident, the leading lady wakes up inside the mansion. She’s told her man is at the hospital. Oliver Reed is the uncle, who has many rules and regulations she must follow, and his servants are nuts.

The main girl explores the gothic mansion at night and discovers the body of her man. Reed says they’ll have a funeral for him, but signs point to the possibility that he’s not dead. She also comes upon Reed’s brother, played by Donald Pleasence.

He wants her help in escaping the mad house, but she can’t even get away herself, because Reed and his mad doctor have plans for her.

It’s not much in the way of a horror film, with the only freaky part being when a starving rat is used to deprive a man of his manhood…

 

DARK TOWER (1989)

This film is oddly similar to the killer elevator flick The Lift. Michael Moriarty (he really was a horror king in the 80s) plays a clairvoyant investigator on the case when a window washer takes a huge dive from a newly constructed building.

The love interest from An American Werewolf in London stars as the building’s architect, and she seems to be haunted by a presence outside her office window…the window the washer was cleaning when he plunged to his death.

Moriarty has visions of her being killed. A security guard is killed. A shooter comes in and blows away a bunch of people. Moriarty calls in a parapsychologist who has a long conversation with the ghost. Kevin McCarthy (the actor, not the douche congressman) joins the investigative team near the end for no apparent reason.

It’s soooooo boring.

Only the final scene, in which American Werewolf woman is chased by a corpse, delivers any kind of worthwhile horror. Even Moriarty doesn’t seem to have the motivation to deliver his usual unusual performance.

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