STREAM QUEEN: three oddities

I went a little off the beaten path with my latest selection of films, and honestly, I wasn’t all that into most of them.

BEAUTY QUEEN BUTCHER (1991)

Beauty Queen Butcher comes from the 90s, when many indie directors believed you could just score total cult camp cred by having a guy in drag playing a female character in your movie. The gimmick absolutely fails in this cheapo slasher comedy that runs way too long.

An overweight girl is tormented by all the mean girls in school, yet ends up in a beauty pageant with them…because they have a plan to humiliate her. This is the part where I would just advise you to re-watch Carrie instead.

This movie drags more than the guy in drag. Nothing funny or entertaining enough happens to fill the first 70 minutes before the first kill. The cliché characters aren’t that interesting mostly because they don’t have much in the way of humorous dialogue at all.

The girls torment the overweight girl and the pageant goes on forever and very little of it is even vaguely funny. It’s mostly just annoying and boring.

Finally, the overweight girl snaps and goes on a killing spree. All of a sudden, the tone, atmosphere, and even the score sound like total 80s slasher goodness. It all could have saved the film, but unfortunately, the girl is annoying as the killer, so it ruins even the “good part” of this 2-hour long film.

VAMPIRE DAD (2020)

This silly little vampire comedy has a pretty simple plot that lends itself to a low budget, and it also capture the spirit of more traditional horror fun perfectly, right down to the comic book art transitions.

It starts with dad getting bit by a vamp on Halloween, which had me excited, but sadly it doesn’t take place entirely during the holiday. It really would have added to the charm if the entire film had stuck with a Halloween night theme.

This is a throwback to the Leave It to Beaver/Father Knows Best days of television, focusing on an all-American family in the early 1960s.

It’s a comedy of errors as dad and mom try to keep dad’s bloody appetite a secret from their teenage daughter and the neighbors…while dad is tasked with being the therapist for other classic monsters. In essence it’s reminiscent of The Munsters.

There are cute, campy jokes, sizzling hot Jackson Hurst of Drop Dead Diva is adorable as the dad, the guy playing the mortician uncle who helps keep his secret is funny, and the vamptastic woman playing the goddess of the underworld also handles double duties as the horror hostess of the film.

The movie even has the perfect ending to summarize the tone; the cast dances and lip-syncs to “The Monster Mash”.

FRIED BARRY (2020)

This is a film that definitely appeals to a particular mindset. It’s visually artistic and flashy and trippy, and the content is sleazy with some nasty scenes. On top of that, it’s a spectacle that doesn’t concern itself too much with a flowing narrative. This is essentially a stream of thought film.

Barry is a druggy in the city, and he is one skanky looking dude played fantastically by lead actor Gary Green, who actually does very little speaking throughout the film. And that’s because…

Barry gets beamed up by a spaceship at the very beginning of the movie. This is by far my favorite scene in the film. It’s freaky and bizarre and visually arresting. Also, some awful probing is done to Barry, and I’m not just talking through the opening in his butt. Eek!

After that, he’s taken over by an alien, returns to Earth, and spends the movie just walking around touring the city and dealing with the slimiest characters cities have to offer…if it were like 1983.

Barry witnesses and then also experiences gay action in a bathroom stall. Barry gets high at a rave. Barry gets taken home by a few women, including a prostitute—who experiences one of life’s beautiful and nasty miracles. Barry witnesses a murder and responds oddly. Barry gets harassed by thugs. Barry gets abducted and tortured. Barry gets arrested. Barry gets thrown in a loony bin.

This is a movie that goes everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. For me personally, it wore thin after a while, and what makes it worse is that nothing else in the film lives up to the horrific promise of the alien abduction scene at the beginning. Alien Barry isn’t really an ominous threat to humans…he’s kind of like a stoner who has no idea what the fuck is going on for the whole film. It’s the humans that are the real problem.

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Cheap thrills and kills from the 1950s through the 1990s

It’s a smorgasbord of oddities from a variety of decades dating all the way back to 1958, so let’s see if any of them had any memorable moments.

I BURY THE LIVING (1958)

Albert Band, director of the Prehysteria movies and Ghoulies II, and also the father of Full Moon Features founder Charles Band, began his horror career way back in 1958 with this film that should have been an episode of The Twilight Zone…and still would have been 20 minutes too long.

The concept is cool. A guy takes a job as a cemetery director and begins to notice that whenever he places black “occupied” pins on an empty plot on the cemetery map, the person who owns that plot dies.

He tries to tell numerous people of his odd power, and every time he does, they are skeptical and tell him to prove it. So he jabs another plot with a black pin and kills another person. WTF?

Problem is we don’t get to see people dying left and right. This shit all takes place in one office, making it as agonizingly boring as that Pontypool disaster that so many people inexplicably think is a masterpiece of terrifying horror.

Finally, it seems like the film will be saved. He wonders what will happen if he puts the white “empty” pins on the graves of the people he already killed. Will it bring them back to life?

If it does, we can only hope they return as zombies that come for him, but I won’t spoil it. However, I will tell you this. The truth of what is going on makes this movie even worse. I discovered this one because Stephen King mentions it as the inspiration for a story he wrote in a collection of his I just read…where he also warns readers that the ending sucks.

BERSERK! (1967)

As we all (hopefully) know, controversial and infamous Joan Crawford sold her soul to horror late in her career, and Berserk! was the only one I had yet to cover on my site. It is a pretty sleazy template for the slasher genre.

Joan owns a circus, and in the very first scene, her tightrope walker dies in front of a live audience. The notoriety brings detectives sniffing around…along with a whole new audience in it for the morbidity of visiting the scene of a death. And Joan is all about the money it’s making her.

Meanwhile, a handsome stud shows up to fill those tightrope-walking shoes. Every woman at the circus wants him, including Joan.

He takes his shirt off a lot, women catfight over him, and someone begins killing off circus folk. Specifically, men! Awesome.

There aren’t loads of kills, but they are nicely gruesome for the time period, and there’s a good stalking scene involving Joan. However, there are also way too many looooong scenes with complete circus performances. Ugh. Not to mention, the reveal of the killer at the end is really lame.

THE AMUSEMENT PARK (1973)

Look, obviously if there was a lost Romero film it had to be released. But does it need to be seen by horror fans? Probably, out of obligation. Will they like it? They might praise it as brilliant…out of obligation.

The Amusement Park is a 50-minute movie that looks like a film school project. Not only because of how shoddy it is visually, but because it literally hits you over the head with its points about how we treat the elderly. Romero might as well just have made a documentary instead. There’s nothing subtle here. It’s almost like another movie I saw once from the seventies with a social message that kept slapping me in the face. I think it was called…Dawn of the something or other.

Anyway, the film has an old man going through an amusement park experiencing all the horrible things we must endure when we grow old, including having our licenses taken away, food insecurity, housing insecurity, being considered creepy and perverted, being targeted physically because we’re vulnerable, and inevitably, being targeted because we’re old and need to die.

Most importantly, other than being about the horrors of being old, this isn’t a “horror” movie in any traditional sense.

SHANKS (1974)

Released in 1974 when he was well past his heyday, the final horror movie by legend William Castle really has him moving out of his classic horror comfort zone. The film is really odd, uses silent film title cards during scene changes, has a Punch and Judy vibe, and is scored with very whimsical music.

Shanks is a mute puppeteer who lives with his nasty sister and her husband. His only friend is a young blonde girl. He starts working for a mad scientist who figures out how to bring animals back to life.

Then the scientist dies, so Shanks uses his own experiments on him to bring his corpse back to life and control it like a puppet.

The human puppet starts to kill people. Then those dead people become Shanks’s puppets. Shanks uses them as servants to throw a party for the blonde girl.

And then a motorcycle gang just shows up out of nowhere and starts terrorizing them. WTF? Will the puppets save the day?

This is one weird movie, but in a weird way, it kind of seems like it may have been the inspiration for the film Dolls.

CALENDAR GIRL MURDERS (1984)

Vinegar Syndrome recently released Televised Terror Volume 1, a collection of three made-for-TV thrillers on Blu-ray. I blogged about Are You In The House Alone? a while back since I had the DVD, so I’ll take on the two other films in this blog.

Calendar Girl Murders is appealing simply because it’s so badly eighties that it’s awesome. It is the perfect example of mainstream television trying to cash in on how cool the year 1984 was by combining MTV flash with slasher thrills.

Robert Culp, fresh off his brief time on the TV show The Greatest American Hero, plays the man producing a sexy calendar. When the models start getting killed off by the month they are featured in the calendar, Tom Skerritt is the detective on the case, and Sharon Stone becomes the woman he focuses on protecting.

There are some bad eighties variety show dance numbers (a reminder of how androgynous we could be back then) set to cheesy electronic dance music, and even Rip Torn makes a cameo as a host.

There are a couple of tame kills with an 80s vibe, including killer POV and a shot of a knife, but as was usually the case with made-for-TV “slashers” back then, this turns into a bad detective story with very few death scenes. Honestly, it’s not worth the time.

CHILD IN THE NIGHT (1990)

A young Elijah Wood stars with some horror royalty in this silly slasher thriller from 1990, the third film from the Vinegar Syndrome Televised Terror Volume 1 collection.

It’s my kind of take your kid to work day. Elijah’s dad takes Elijah to his office at night, which is right next to the docks. Before long, Elijah witnesses his dad being hooked by what seems like an early template for the I Know What You Did Last Summer movie killer.

Tom Skerritt is once again the detective on the case, Darren McGavin is Elijah’s grandfather, and because little Elijah has blocked out any memory of what he saw, JoBeth Williams steps in as a psychologist to work with him.

The film focuses mostly on JoBeth dealing with her own past demons and using that to better connect with Elijah to get him to face his fear…which turns into him having visions of Captain Hook while under hypnosis.

Of course Skerritt and Williams get hot for each other, JoBeth gets a good body reveal scene, JoBeth gets a killer spotting, and JoBeth gets a cool chase. Indeed, JoBeth is a 40-year old final girl.

 

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The Banana Splits vs. Willy’s Wonderland

It’s animatronic animals gone gory! Time to take a look at two films about lovable children’s characters that turn into psycho killers.

THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE (2019)

Oddly, I was sure I blogged about this one when it was on SyFy two Octobers ago, but when I saw the Blu-ray for a good price and went to refresh my memory on what I thought about it and whether or not it was worth a purchase, there was no post on my site. So I just bought it.

It’s pretty much what I (barely) remembered—a fairly generic gimmick slasher that has its moments, but even those aren’t good enough to make it very memorable. It essentially reminds me of all the nudity-free slashers we were bombarded with in the wake of the Scream craze at the end of the 90s.

Why someone even decided to resurrect The Banana Splits to turn them into a horror movie is a real head-scratcher, but it is what it is.

So there’s this family—mother, older rebellious son, douche bag stepdad who hates the older son but has a hot bod, and young son who loves The Banana Splits. So for his birthday they all go to see the show being filmed live.

Unfortunately, the show is being canceled (despite the fact that it actually was like fifty years ago) and someone isn’t happy. So the Splits, a musical band comprised of cartoonish animals that are actually robots, is programmed to go on a killing spree. The victims are the unlucky people that have scored backstage passes after the show.

There are some gory kills and one or two campy moments, but this movie is surprisingly bland. There are no scares, there’s no suspense, attempts at atmosphere fail, and the characters are cliché and 2 dimensional.

No wonder I didn’t bother to blog about it two years ago.

WILLY’S WONDERLAND (2021)

It’s almost like the makers of Willy’s Wonderland decided to show The Banana Splits Movie how animatronic animal horror should be done even without a brand name to back it up. They even managed to do the unthinkable…they found a use for Nicholas Cage as an actor by casting him as a character that never speaks.

We never learn anything about Cage. He’s sort of a mute drifter driving down an isolated road when he gets a flat. A mechanic picks him up but will only repair his vehicle for cash. So Cage has to take a job cleaning up an abandoned family attraction.

The characters, just like The Banana Splits, play instruments and have a theme song. However, the Willy’s Wonderland theme song is an awesome 80s new wave throwback.

 

As Cage works, he quickly realizes the animatronic animals are coming to life and trying to kill him. So, in between cleaning and taking breaks (when he drinks soda and plays pinball), he kicks animatronic ass while raucous rock music plays. Totally Cage’s best role since Valley Girl (aka: only good role since…).

Meanwhile, a bunch of kids sneaks into the building to take on the killer animatronics, which gives us the more traditional slasher aspects of the film.

Willy’s Wonderland has everything The Banana Splits Movie is missing. The animatronic animals range from funnier to freakier, and when they’re creepy, they’re really creepy—and savage. There’s a sex scene. The atmosphere and tone are both better. There are some suspenseful encounters with the animals, including a fricking vent scene.

The animals have a much better horror backstory beyond being programmed to kill. And Cage’s fight scenes totally rock. And speaking of rock, his final theme song is “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Personally, I think we need a Banana Splits in Willy’s Wonderland mashup sequel.

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Boys will be bad….and there will be blood

It doesn’t get much more exciting than digging through my Prime watchlist and finding not one but three different films about men getting themselves into sexy scary (and even silly) situations. I was quite satisfied with this triple feature and added two of them to my personal movie collection, so let’s take a look.

DARK TOURIST (2012)

A couple of years before he showed up as the red bear of our wet dreams on The Walking Dead, Michael Cudlitz starred in this psychosexual horror movie/gay man’s meat-beating material.

However, once you look past all the scenes of Cudlitz showing off his shirt, his ass, and his delicious fire crotch, Dark Tourist could also be just as problematic to some queer horror fans as some horror films of the past are these days.

Cudlitz plays a man taking a trip to a small town to tour the scenes of a serial killer’s crimes and to visit the shack where the killer ended his life. He reads about the killer, he ponders the killer’s every move, he analyzes the killer’s sexual issues stemming from being gang raped as a child, and he talks about the killer to anyone who will listen, including a local waitress at a diner, played by Melanie Griffith.

Cudlitz also begins to become sexually stimulated by envisioning everything that the killer experienced, the killer becomes somewhat of a devil on his shoulder, and religion and the church are painted as the real devil.

Things get quite fucked up sexually, and without spoiling anything, I’ll just warn you—this film can very easily be interpreted as aligning serial killers with gay experiences, and transgender women are referred to as transsexuals.

CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU (2014)

Having no loyalty whatsoever to HP Lovecraft, I don’t care if this sleazy movie is a disgrace to the source material, because it is a perfectly nasty, gory, goofy, sexually perverse monster movie that reminded me of classic Frank Henenlotter films.

A weird, virginal artist living in a skanky apartment building hires a call girl to pose for one of his drawings. Little does he know she has the mark of Cthulhu on her body, and there’s a cult of weirdos hunting for her.

This is one of those sloppy films in which there are a bunch of branching situations filling the time. The cult, which wears funny cloth Cthulhu “masks”, has a mansion where prostitutes-turned-demons are kept in cages. A guy’s penis turns into a monster.

A girl’s boobs turn into monsters. There’s a militant group of women trying to stop the cult from its plan to end the world and release Cthulhu.

 And at last, an awesome, practical effects Cthulhu monster is conjured.

This one really feels like an old school goodie from the direct-to-video days.

SCARY BRIDE (2020)

Damn, this was one dirty little triple feature and it left me so satisfied. Along with Call Girl of Cthulhu, Scary Bride is the second film in this post that I ordered for my collection of movies.

Running only 73 minutes long, this film comes from Russia. It is dubbed in English on Prime, and I am dumbfounded at how many negative reviews reference turning the movie off because of the bad dubbing. Sigh. Clearly these people are too young to have grown up in the 1970s and 1980s, when we lived for badly dubbed horror movies that we consider classics now.

In Scary Bride, a lonely young man is all bummed after being dumped by his wife. He can’t seem to attract any women, so his buddy suggests he go to Russia because there are loads of hot women there. What is this, a Russian horror comedy propaganda film to lure straight boys to Russia?

It works on this guy. He heads to Russia, he goes to a club, he meets a pretty girl there, she brings him home…and she turns into a nasty witch!

He escapes and spends much of the movie running away from her naked. Yay! However, all the hot spots on this cutie are strategically covered. Such a tease.

The film is raunchy and somewhat perverted with plenty of humor and a ghastly good witch, plus once the chase starts it doesn’t let up.

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THE HORROR PRIDE CHALLENGE with seven queer creators

While I was revising the first few novels in my Comfort Cove series to bring some homo horror pride to the month of June, I thought I’d also get some of the gay horror creators I’ve followed for quite some time to join in. I asked them all to tell us a little bit about 1 or 2 of their favorite queer horror movies and/or novels—with a catch. These days, when queer horror analysts are slapping a queer horror label on every piece of horror the way gay guys used to convince themselves every straight man was gay (I seriously just saw someone post that a Stephen King classic about an inanimate object is queer), I requested that everyone aim to make their selections specifically queer, with queer content and queer characters, not merely something that could be interpreted as queer. I must thank everyone, because they made this blog a goodie, so let’s see what they came up.

BRYAN ELLIS is a fellow Long Islander and an absolute lover of the slasher genre (we’ve had plenty of discussions about gay horror and gay slashers), so it’s no surprise that his first novel, Season’s Bleedings, is a gay slasher, which I cover here.

I’ve known Dan for quite a few years now. When he asked if I wanted a part in this I couldn’t say no. I’m a gay horror fan, so to talk about queer horror, that’s heaven. I was trying to think of a few I love. While I love Hellbent and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Mark Patton is Daddy), they are the most talked about. I want to introduce everyone to a few lesser known works. I’ve chosen two novels and two movies to discuss. The two novels I’ve chosen are Asylum by Mark Allan Gunnells, and Camp Carnage by Elliot Arthur Cross and Joshua Winning. These are two of my favorite gay horror novels. Asylum is a short novel about the undead rising while a group of LGBT adults takes hold in a gay bar. It’s very reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead (my favorite zombie film). The characters are delightful, interesting, and super likable. The novel is even sexy in places. This was my introduction to Gunnells as a write and I’ve gone on to read much more of his works. Asylum stands out to me because it is so unapologetically gay and fun, while still being scary. And again it’s set in a gay bar so there are tons of hot men, including strippers in thongs. What’s not to love?

Camp Carnage is a slasher novel set in a gay conversion camp. The funny thing is I was writing a camp conversion slasher novel as well when I discovered this book. I put mine on hold to work on other stories but I did sit down and read Camp Carnage. The novel was a quick read. I could not put it down. The characters were tons of fun and the deaths were gory and brutal. There are a couple surprises along the way. What really works for me is the final boy. I won’t state who as it is a fun twist on things. The final boy isn’t your generic virginal type. He’s sexy, bitchy, and witty. I absolutely loved every scene with him. Camp Carnage was very 80s inspired (my favorite decade) and also made a statement on the terror that LGBT people face day to day.

I had to think long and hard on gay movies, before deciding on Teacher Shortage. I absolutely love slashers and this is a recent one that I just love to pieces. It was written by, directed by, and starred a couple of gay male actors playing gay men, including the final boy. The film is fun and gory and has a great lead in Ryan. He is cute, funny, and his scenes with Roger Conners are incredibly sexy. I was very happy that him being gay had nothing to do with his personality or the plot. He wasn’t “the gay character”. It wasn’t his entire personality. It was just who he was. When looking at how to write gay characters, I look to Ryan as an example.

One last movie I want to bring up is the low budget zombie effort Dead Don’t Die in Dallas, also known as Kicking Zombie Ass for Jesus (I wish they stuck with this title). This movie is another take on Night of the Living Dead but it’s about a mixture of LGBT people and straight Bible-thumping Christians. The movie is a fantastic blend of horror, comedy, and just a bit of camp, and it all works perfectly for me. Our final girl is a drag queen played by the great Willam Belli. While the film is fun and gory, it also has a bit of heart and something to say. There is a reverend who speaks God’s gospel, but he ends up being the most evil person. He blames everything on LGBT people, but the LGBT characters are the ones helping him. How ironic. This film is very underrated and definitely inspired me in a zombie story I want to write.

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MARK ALLAN GUNNELLS pumps out queer fiction in all our favorite subgenres, such as ghosts, slashers, and zombies, so I’ve covered quite a few of his books, interviewed him here, and covered his book 324 Abercorn from last year. Meanwhile, he already has a new one out called Before He Wakes.

I didn’t even have to stop to consider my favorite two gay horror novels. I’ve read many great ones by a lot of great writers, but two immediately come to my mind.

The first is Drawing Blood by trans writer Poppy Z. Brite which came out in 1993. I had read his debut novel Lost Souls shortly after it came out, and I noted the queer representation, mostly of the bi variety. This did not prepare me for the beautiful queerness of Brite’s follow up. Drawing Blood is an exciting story of the past haunting a person, but it is also a hot and heavy gay romance. He didn’t shy away from being explicit at times and showing a gay relationship in all its glory. It was almost a revelation to me to see this presently so frankly and unapologetically.

The second is Sacrament by Clive Barker. I’m a huge Barker fan, and this one actually isn’t in my top ten of his novels, and yet it is perhaps the one that had the greatest impact on me. This book came out in 1996 shortly after Barker came out publicly in an Advocate article, and I can’t stress enough the profundity of a huge New York publisher putting out a major hardcover mainstream release by an openly gay author that had a gay protagonist and dealt deeply with gay themes. I know now that the publisher initially balked but all I knew at the time was that I was seeing a doorway opening for me. I saw a place at the table for gay writers in the horror field.

I haven’t experienced much in the way of gay horror cinema I must admit, not like I have in the world of literature. However, one immediately comes to mind. The Hunger, the 1983 film based on the Whitney Strieber novel. When I saw that as a young person, I was struck by the lesbian relationship that developed between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon’s characters. It was presented as something romantic and heartfelt, not something meant to be perverse or titillating. It was just two people falling for one another and wanting one another. Normalizing same-sex relationships helped me feel normal even when the world around me was telling me I was abnormal.

This is why entertainment and representation in stories are important.

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VINCE LIAGUNO is a prolific queer horror writer, and like Mark Allan Gunnells and myself, enjoys dropping queers into popular horror situations, which is why all three of us ended up in my gay slasher fiction post several years ago! And I know Vince has a man, but I sometimes think he might swing the other way for Jamie Lee Curtis if given the chance. Check out Vince’s website.

One of my favorite queer horror novels is The Living One by Lewis Garnett. This was a strange but captivating little slice of spooky gothic gayness that was published in 1992 and not well reviewed at the time. The story concerns a handsome teen named Torrance who’s summoned home from California to his kooky father’s coastal New England mansion, where he learns of a centuries-old family curse. There’s a weirdly emotionless manservant named Pip, a dozen vicious dogs, psychics, coming-out angst, and some downright creepy voyeurism with cameras—oh, and some lusty sex between Torrance and a fellow swim team member. Modernizing elements of the epistolary novel popularized in Dracula, Gannett tells his story through the creative use of videotape transcripts, diary entries, and historical records. But the eternal youth angle here leans closer to The Portrait of Dorian Gray than Stoker’s classic bloodsucker.

The novel was Gannet’s debut; he’d go on to pen one more novel—1996’s Magazine Beach—and then fade into literary oblivion. Despite not often getting mentioned in the pantheon of LGBTQ horror,  The Living One was a remarkable undertaking considering its time and the national discourse over gay rights in general, given fuel and fury over the ongoing AIDS epidemic.

Switching over to film, category is: Slasher extravaganza! I’m an unabashed slasher movie aficionado and, while Hellbent is the standard go-to for queer slasher fans, I’m actually a big fan of Glenn Douglas Packard’s Pitchfork, the writer-director’s ambitious 2017 debut. Final boy Hunter (Brian Raetz), who’s just come out to his parents over the phone, returns to the Michigan farm where he grew up. Unsure of how his homecoming with his conservative parents will be received, he brings along a gaggle of slasher fodder friends for moral support. Like the best slasher films of the early 80s golden age, Pitchfork is filled with stock characters spewing wonderfully bad dialogue, a miniscule budget, and incohesion to spare. The titular killer has the identifying garden implement surgically attached to his arm and wears an animal mask in a weird mash-up of Leslie Vernon and Leatherface. Still, the film’s barn dance and fully-choreographed dance sequence(!) are worth the price of admission alone. Pitchfork manages to give us homage, rip-off, and a little something different all at the same time.

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JEREMY LOWE (aka: Germ T. Ripper) is a media and creative slut! Comedian, author, member of a punk band, and writer for horror sites, he’s asked me to contribute several times to his own “best of” horror lists for his publications. His first published short story mixes punk and horror in the collection Kids of the Black Hole, and he even created a playlist to go along with it.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of slasher films. The suspense, gore, and brutality brought me back again and again. Films like Terror Train (1980), The Prowler (1981), and My Bloody Valentine (1981) quenched my appetite for violence. 

I think like any young nerd that didn’t quite fit in, I identified more with the killer of these films. Of course, at the time, I didn’t think much of it. Now looking back, subconsciously I found joy in the tearing down of heteronormative society. The dances, parties, and coming-of-age rituals that I never fully took part in were torn down right there on the television for me to celebrate. 

I think I was probably sixteen when I first saw Cruising (1980). I couldn’t sleep, turned on the television, and there it was. At the time, I didn’t quite understand what it was about the film that appealed to me so much. As I got older, and came to terms with my sexuality, Cruising made a lot more sense. The level of realism is shockingly accurate, and I think that it is why it was off-putting to a lot of the queer audience at the time of its initial release. Nobody likes a mirror held up to the ugly side of their culture. The mixture of American slasher and Italian giallo make Cruising so unique. Combining the two textures elevated the film. Cruising was the first openly queer horror film I ever saw, and arguably the best.

More recently, Hellbent (2004) stands out as a gay slasher film that not only supplies great kills, but also plays up the campy roots of the slasher film. When I originally saw it in the theater it was only because my boyfriend at the time believed “we need to support the gay arts“. He dragged me to every gay indie film that would play in the theater. Most gay indie films are horrible, and I was expecting the same from Hellbent. Luckily, I was wrong. Instead of a bunch of bubbly bimbos showing off their tits and getting hacked up, the audience is treated to bare-chested hunky boys getting torn to pieces.  Hellbent has a great cast, and a killer soundtrack that keeps the film feeling modern. At the same time, it captures the realism and giallo aspects of Cruising while adding facets of high camp that bring to mind the later entries of the A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises. It’s a definite stand out in queer horror. 

Now in my forties, and far from the age I was when I first started watching slasher films, I’m happy to see characters and situations reflect the queer community regularly. It’s all thanks to films like Cruising and Hellbent. Representation matters, even in violence and gore.

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ARMANDO D. MUÑOZ is a horror fiction writer and horror filmmaker, and I’ve covered his films and his novels on my site. If you follow him on social media, you know he totally lives and breathes horror.

I tend to treat Pride Month like I do every other theme day – with marathon viewings of body count horror films centered on the special occasion, a marathon thirty days long under the umbrella of Pride. This means cramming in every film I can find that can be classified as “gay horror”, the majority in which queerness is through a secondary character, or hidden beneath the surface and only for those who know the community’s secret code words and signals. Gay Freddy may be my favorite of the series, but can A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge really be classified as a Pride film? What about Night Warning, Cruising, The Hunger, or Deliverance? Nightbreed, well, an argument can be made that it is. But the subject of Pride seems to be curiously absent from most films in the queer horror universe.

That all changed for me in 2019 when I saw Yann Gonzalez’s French giallo Knife+Heart. This is the Pride horror film I’ve long been waiting for. What makes it stand out and stand supreme is its level of community representation. We have a cast of protagonists in equal parts lesbian, gay, trans, and bisexual. These groups have their own history, aims, and desires, and must band together as one joined queer unit. They become political in their art and their actions to get equal protection from the straight society that rejects them. Our heroes are fighting for their rights as they try to solve the mystery of the masked killer targeting them for their sexuality. Success is achieved only through unity and visibility. Pride is required for our community’s survival.

Knife+Heart also takes a stab at wide age representation within its community, which is distinctly adult here, eighteen and over only. The one thing Knife+Heart is not is a story of youth coming out. For that topic, I’ll stick with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Knife+Heart is my new Pride horror high standard that all others will be compared against.

***

JOSHUA SKYE has written numerous queer horror and speculative fiction novels and collections, several of which I’ve covered on my site, along with an interview I did with him here. And I will just say in advance that his selections were purely his own; I exchanged neither money nor sexual favors to influence his opinions.

As Pride month swings around once again, my husband and I plan our celebrations quietly. We don’t get out much these days, being parents and all, so home is where the heart is, and home is where we most often celebrate. Pride and Halloween are my favorite times of the year, the flamboyantly gay and the profoundly scary in equal measure. So it’s only natural that I think about gay horror films to watch with my husband for our own little Pride revelry, and LGBTQ+ genre novels for my own private celebration.

There’s a virtual ocean of queer-coded horror films out there, but few that actually are unquestionably LGBTQ+. One of my personal favorites is a stylish gay slasher comedy called You’re Killing Me (2016). The charmingly oblivious George falls for a disturbingly honest serial killer. The mutual affection has devastating consequences for George’s friends. The comedy is spot-on, the deaths are shocking and gory, You’re Killing Me is an absolute winner and one I will definitely be watching two or three times this month.

Another film I can wholeheartedly recommend is Cthulhu (2007). Returning home after his mother’s death, a gay professor finds himself tangled in an esoteric cult’s web. This modern noir has some beautifully stark imagery, but don’t look for a special effects extravaganza. Director Dan Gildark goes for a ‘less is more’ approach and it works. Taut, tense, and boasting a strong presence/performance by its lead, Cthulu is often overlooked and criminally underrated.

When it comes to the written word, I love Daniel W. Kelly’s work, of course, but chances are, since you’re here, you’re already aware of his openly and unapologetically gay horror outings. That being said, I still have to sing his praises. Like movies, it’s not so easy to find unrepentantly queer horror stories out there, ones that don’t reduce us to cardboard caricatures. Most of the mainstream stuff skews homophobic, while much of the indie fare just isn’t very good. With Kelly, you know you’re getting characters you can relate to and cheer for, not just fodder for murder or killer stereotypes. I would have to recommend his Comfort Cove series, with No Place for Little Ones being my favorite. Kelly may have wanted something a bit different here, but he should know he’s a standout in queer horror and deserves the recognition. Besides, it’s definitely time for a return visit to Comfort Cove for me. Check out the series, you won’t be disappointed.

***

H.L. SUDLER and I bonded while spending hours at book fairs in New York City whoring out our goods (and by that I mean our books). He writes a variety of genres, so I was flattered when he asked me to write the foreword for his collection The Looking Glass: Tales of Light and Dark. He also has a story in the anthology Darker Than Night, which I cover here.

One of my favorite debates is whether or not A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is a gay film, and more specifically, a gay horror film. In it, Freddy possesses a teenaged boy, a kid whose family moves into the house that was the primary location of the first film. The movie starts by showing the boy waking, nearly naked, in nightly sweats, screaming at the top of his lungs. Later in the film he wanders through the rain into an underground bar, where he finds his high school coach dressed in leather. What follows is a bit of S&M before the bloody death of the coach, and later still the birth of Freddy from the body of the teenager. By the end of the film, the viewer is left wondering if Freddy is symbolic of the teen’s budding/repressed sexuality, despite him having a girlfriend, and having killed, as Freddy, his very good-looking, also nearly naked, best friend. This makes this one of my favorite Freddy films for this question it poses.

My second favorite debate is whether or not Sleepaway Camp can be considered a gay horror film. The last three seconds of the film is a jaw-dropping revelation, but does it classify it as a gay horror film? It is also one of my favorite horror films for this question it poses, and which horror fanatics like myself debate over constantly.

With my works, I enjoy posing questions and not answering them. I want debates! Often, my works that feature primary characters from the LGBTQ community get slammed. Not for the story. Not for pacing. People love that in my work. Heterosexuals—especially women—cannot get beyond gay characters in primary roles in horror, describing them as “different” or “disgusting”. However, films like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Sleepaway Camp gave me license to write horror that features LGBTQ characters. Characters that should be given just as much play as cis characters, good or bad.

My only wish is that there are more modern films that do for horror what A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Sleepaway Camp have done. Not just the featuring of gay characters, but putting them in groundbreaking situations and exploring groundbreaking themes. The LGBTQ community is not a peripheral community. The LGBTQ community is indivisible of the mainstream community. And we need more LGBTQ characters in horror. Happy scares! Happy Pride!

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Demons, aliens, ghosts, and big bugs

It’s a mixed bag of subgenres and a mixed bag of satisfying with this foursome of flicks I checked out. Let’s get into them.

I AM FEAR (2020)

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been seeing so many movies these days with a really good concept that the creators don’t quite find a way to work smoothly into a horror environment, and I Am Fear is another one of those cases.

For starters, this is a film with a very controversial and sensitive political plot. Horror queen Kristina Klebe plays a celebrity news reporter that scores the exclusive opportunity to interview the leader of a terrorist organization.

In other words, brace yourself, because this film is predominantly about terrorists. However, it poses a very strong question that I’ve often thought of myself—basically, how do these people who do everything they do in the name of their god not realize the absolute evil they’re doing and how antithetical it is to the concept of god, how do they live with themselves, and would they really recognize evil if they stared it in the face considering they are the epitome of evil?

Suuuuch a great concept.

The film sets up the perfect scenario. Klebe is covered in a hood and brought to an undisclosed location to meet the leader and is then held captive. Eventually…and I mean eventually…an evil is unleashed and terrorizes the terrorists.

But, a majority of the film jumps all over the place non-sequentially, hitting us over the head with political talking points and social commentary, introducing us to too many characters to follow or connect with, and switching from color to black and white film. It’s so bogged down by its own philosophy that it fails to get its most basic points across clearly or while keeping us interested and engrossed…and even resorts to the old dream sequence when it realizes it’s failing to deliver any horror.

Which really sucks, because once the evil presence is finally revealed, the twist is perfect (and might possibly insult those of particular political perspectives), and we are at last delivered a cool demonic horror movie. All this film had to do was focus on a handful of terrorists with varying levels of moral compasses in the single setting, remain chronological, have the evil get out earlier, and let the men confront their psychological struggles through their battles with the demon.

SKYLINES (2020)

This is the third film in a series that began a decade ago as a cool alien invasion film, and was followed up by another cool alien invasion film that resulted in a hybrid alien/human baby, which is all summed up at the beginning of Skylines.

That hybrid child is now a woman, there are a bunch more hybrids, and there’s a virus that turns hybrids against humans. So, they need a cure…that can be found on the planet of the aliens.

Hybrid girl is our hero, along with her alien brother and a bunch of human military types.

This is pure action sci-fi special effects extravaganza silliness. It has its cool scenes and it’s absurdly CGI scenes that might as well just be a video game.

There are some awesome battles, some nice splatter moments, some hunky guy, some…

Eh. It’s a CGI alien action movie. You either like them or you don’t. I’m done talking about this one.

INNER GHOSTS (2018)

Considering the latest installment of The Conjuring hit HBO Max the weekend I watched Inner Ghosts, I would say this is definitely one to give a chance if you are a fan of franchises like that and Insidious.

The focus is on a psychic medium that gave up the practice after the death of her child. But now she wants to try communicating with those whose brains have stopped functioning, and she believes to do so involves taking a detour through the spirit realm.


She’s sending a message…I think she’s saying, “I am not Lin Shaye.”

Armed with a machine left to her by the woman who taught her everything she knows about ghosts, she sets out to prove her theory with the help of her assistant and a young woman being haunted by otherworldly entities.

This is predominantly a film that takes place in one room, with the three women around the machine, conjuring up a pretty freaky demon now and then. Great creature effects, some good atmosphere, and some cheap jump scares keep the film moving forward, and it takes an unexpected turn near the end that delivers one super gory moment. But you definitely have to be into ghost and spirit movies to truly appreciate this one.

LOVE AND MONSTERS (2020)

This was a good one to watch with the hubby, because it has monsters, humor, cutie Dylan O’Brien of the Teen Wolf series, and his faithful dog companion. In other words, it’s a family-friendly flick!

And yet we still get some gratuitous O’Brien bod.

And it’s also a gooey onslaught of giant squirmy wormy creatures. Ick!

The apocalypse happened, it turned the planet’s bugs into giant mutants, and the remaining humans have gone underground for safety. In Dylan’s bunker, he is the cook because he freezes up when danger is near, so he is useless as a fighter. However, he wants to travel to the colony where his girlfriend from before the apocalypse is living. So he sets out alone. He meets a dog. They battle various big mutant bugs in scenes that reminded me of moments out of the likes of Star Wars, Tremors, and Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

If there’s any problem with the film, it’s one I’m having with all kinds of movie genres these days. There seems to be a push to make everything two hours long again, but the filmmakers don’t seem to know how to fill that time usefully, leading to some agonizingly slow patches that serve no purpose, which is what happens here. But you have to love the take that robots are useless in the future instead of controlling the planet.

Then, all of a sudden, Dylan arrives at the other colony to reunite with his girl, and a new plot line is rushed in the final act …right after the movie busts out a retro throwback with everyone partying to Lakeside’s funk classic “Fantastic Voyage”. Fun final act, just should have been longer and come a little sooner.

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The gays give some Road Head to a muscle hunk…

Okay, so Road Head starts with a straight kill—a girl giving her man a BJ in their car on a dark road when they, um, come across the killer.

However, our main characters consist of a tough girl and a gay couple! The girl brings along a figment of her imagination…the boyfriend she just broke up with and loathes…so all the expressions of love are between the gay couple!

The odd setup has the trio heading to a lake getaway in their van, only to find the lake has dried up, so they’re basically driving through a desert. Within minutes they are being terrorized by the muscle hunk killer!

As fun and funny as this film is due in part to great comic performances, the most notable letdown is that there are only three main characters running around a flat expanse of nothingness, which doesn’t provide much opportunity for anything unexpected. Quite a bit of dialogue pads significant stretches of the film, an issue that could have easily been eradicated if there had been just two more friends on the trip with them. That would have allowed for nicely paced kills and a body count, which we just don’t get here.

To mix things up after a variety of chase scenes, the friends end up at a sort of junkyard. The hunky killer is part of this movie’s version of a backwoods family—in this case just a bunch of random goofy guys and a drag queen. There’s a shift in tone from standard horror comedy to a totally campy farce for a little while, so you sort of have to be prepared to go with it. The drag queen gets some funny moments but is underutilized in my opinion.

Surprising is the fact that the film doesn’t live up to the promise of its title. There was a golden opportunity to establish a modus operandi for the killer—he beheads people who give and get blowjobs in cars. Yet despite the presentation of that scenario twice, it simply couldn’t be expanded upon because of that whole issue with their being so few characters. There are also some wonky green screen moments that reveal limitations in the budget, but they also add to the indie charm.

Even without the blowjobs, the climax totally rocks. The main girl gets in some I Spit On Your Grave exploitative moments, but it’s one of the gay guys who really steps up his game to become the hero. It’s at this moment that you realize that as funny as much of the script is, it simply isn’t structured in a way that can fully take advantage of what a great gay character he is. However, he definitely takes advantage of the great material he’s given at the end and absolutely shines, making Road Head a crucial addition to the homo horror movies page.

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Four flicks taking us from 79 through 90

More scrounging around has scored me three more flicks to add to my collection, and one I checked out thanks to a tip from a follower of my site. So let’s get into them.

THE MEATEATER (aka: Blood Theatre) (1979)

This film, which a reader of my post clued me into, is better served by the Blood Theatre title. The Meateater doesn’t apply at all unless you count a moment that shows the killer munching on a rat.

Sort of like Blood Theatre 1984, which I just blogged about, Blood Theatre 1979 is about the reopening of an abandoned movie theater. This time a family buys a theater and plans to show only family-friendly G-rated shit. Yawn.

So naturally the previous psycho owner, believed to have been run out of business for showing perverse movies (aka: the good stuff), is still lurking in the building. There’s also a stuttering weirdo who keeps coming around to warn the new owners not to reopen.

There’s plenty of suspenseful music and camerawork, but mostly nothing of significance happens for most of the film. There’s one kill early on, a corpse is found, and then there’s loads of filler as moviegoers come flocking to the new theater. One woman even mentions that her kids have nothing to do since the Donny & Marie show went off the air. Awesome timestamp. Another one is the main family singing “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener” in the car.

Seriously, there’s no body count here. The “killer”, who is pretty creepy, has a slightly deformed face, abducts one girl because she looks like a movie star, and then the family has to save her, which leads to the one super gory moment in the whole movie. That’s it, yet as bland as it is, this Blood Theatre is actually creepier than the other Blood Theatre, and so is its killer.

THE MAJORETTES (1987)

I guess this “slasher” was sorely overlooked in the eighties because it takes a detour in the final 30 minutes and becomes somewhat of a vigilante revenge flick. However, that a) makes it unique, and b) doesn’t detract from the fact that the first hour is totally awesome 80s slasher goodness.

Also totally cool is that the film is directed by horror royalty—Bill Hinzman, the very first zombie from Night of the Living Dead, who would go on to direct his own zombie movie FleshEater a year after The Majorettes.

Things start off perfect, with majorettes practicing a routine to a bad eighties pop song, and then getting photographed by a creep hiding in a vent in the locker room.

The girls are killed off in some absolutely fantastic death sequences by a big killer in camouflage, there’s a sort of religious cult subplot, there’s a white trash gang subplot, there’s an elderly old lady subplot, there’s a hairy mustached detective on the case, there’s a Rick Springfield poster sighting, there’s a sleazy strip club scene, and there’s a cute main boy determined to stop the killer.

And then comes the awesome little twist in the slasher plot.

And that is followed by the main boy arming himself with a gun to go have a shootout with the white trash gang while they’re hanging out in their trailer home.

This shit is eighties perfection.

HELL HIGH (1989)

This late 80s film really needs a proper Blu-ray release. The DVD from years ago is not anamorphic and there was a mistake in the mastering—about five minutes are missing from the film right when the plot is taking a major turn, and the company that released the disc never bothered to fix the problem. Sigh.

Anyway, this one starts perfectly for a low budget 80s horror flick. A little girl is warned by her mother not to go down to the “swamps” to play. The swamps look more like a shed in a cornfield, but we can overlook that, because a couple on a motorcycle comes to the shed to have sex, and there’s a horrible accident….

18 years later, the girl is a teacher at a high school where the kids act like the Class of 1984. A bad ass and his thugs harass a clean-cut football player until they convince him to play a prank on the teacher.

The film progresses very slowly with a lot of footage of a football game, but finally the kids show up at the teacher’s house at night wearing scary masks to terrorize her.

Things go horribly wrong, and the teacher’s PTSD from her childhood kicks in. It’s unfortunate that it takes sooooo long to get to the point of the plot, because all the horror fun is rushed.

In a way this is a revenge slasher, with the teacher going batty and killing the kids one by one. There are a few violent death scenes with some eerily effective visuals, it just all happens so fast, as does the denouement. It’s a bummer that they blew the chance to deliver some great scares and suspense, considering the scenes they pulled off totally delivered.

HAUNTING FEAR (1990)

It doesn’t get much more retro than an Edgar Allan Poe adaptation directed by Fred Olen Ray and starring Brinke Stevens. Based on the short story “The Premature Burial”, as Haunting Fear progresses, it becomes clear it should have been a short story, too. There simply isn’t enough plot to fill the near 90 minutes. Would’ve been cool if Ray had perhaps done a Poe anthology instead.

Brinke plays a woman having nightmares about being buried alive. Her husband is fucking his bombshell secretary and they totally want Brinke dead. They see her fragile mental state as their chance to bump her off.

Filling up the time is Jan-Michael Vincent in a totally pointless role as a detective (he basically sits in a car doing a stakeout for the little time he’s in the film), Michael Berryman as a creepy mortician in a dream sequence, and Karen Black as a hypnotist in another pointless role.

The best part of the film is the payoff, when hubby and ho do indeed bury Brinke alive…and she comes back looking all maniacal with a knife to get revenge. The final act and Brinke’s dedication to her performance are the highlight of the film.

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STREAM QUEEN: all kinds of bloodthirsty creatures

Plenty of monstrous mayhem in my latest marathon of horror flicks on a variety of streaming services, so let’s get into them.

PULL (2019)

Pull is a little odd, a little disjointed, a little amateur feeling at times, and runs a little too long, but I have to admit I was quite satisfied with all the horror it delivered by the time the final credits rolled.

It’s sort of a case of me liking many of its scenes better than the film as a whole, right from the very intense opener, which has a guy dragged into a hole by the chain attached to him…internally. Eek!

We then meet a small group of agents working on missing persons cases. They track down one young woman at…um…Christmas dinner, and the truth of what’s actually going on is worse than they could imagine.

Yes, this is a Christmas horror movie, with gloomy renditions of carols often playing as victims are tortured in a dungeon lair. So of course it goes on the holiday horror page.

And the “serial killer” they’re hunting is less than human…and more than one. There are some gnarly looking creatures in this hybrid horror flick, so our team of agents battles it out with a grisly gaggle of hideous horrors before the final act.

It really is a load of fun with good makeup effects and gore if you can stick with it through some of the slower sections.

SHORTCUT (2020)

If you just need a fix of teens being terrorized by a monster, Shortcut is the way to go.

The journey of a small group of kids on a bus takes an unexpected detour when a creep with a gun hijacks the bus, and one of the kids recognizes the him as “the tongue eater”. EEK!

But the hijacker is just the start of their problems. When the bus stops in a dark tunnel, the group trapped on the bus soon finds out there’s something lurking in the dark. I feared an early dream sequence might be a bad sign that the pacing was desperate for filler scares, but it wasn’t necessary at all because the film takes off once the creature action kicks in. And while this initially feels like it’s going to turn into Jeepers Creepers 2, the creators make the smart move of getting the group off the bus rather quickly…and into the maze of tunnels.

This isn’t a gory flick, so it does have more of a PG-13 suspense vibe, with a likable group of kids you can root for and a cool looking monster. It deviates oddly from its momentum at one point for a backstory totally unrelated to the cast of characters, but it gets back on track for a pretty cool final escape effort.

ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)

Supposedly director Zack Snyder wanted to make a follow-up to the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake (one of my faves) ages ago. If this film is any indication of his initial vision, everything that was original when he thought of it came to fruition in a myriad of zombie movies and television shows he didn’t make over the last 17 years, because there simply isn’t a moment of this film that isn’t derivative.

I can’t fathom why he thought it was worth telling this story at this point. Are even the most diehard zombie fans (I was once one of them) craving these same clichés again? Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fun zombie moments. They simply would have been better if at least 45 minutes had been cut from this bloated, 150-minute film, especially considering the most satisfying clichés are packed into the last 40 minutes.

Honestly, any zombie film aficionado could sit through Army of the Dead and literally identify which zombie movies from the last two decades each scene and plot point appears to be mimicking, from the Resident Evil series right down to the zombie tiger from the SyFy original Zombie Apocalypse with Ving Rhames.

A cool opener lets us know there are strong, fast zombies creating a zombie army, but doesn’t in any way imply that this is connected to Dawn of the Dead (sorry, not an official sequel). A cool intro credits sequence catches us up quickly on how we got where we are in the zombie apocalypse, and since much of this film features CGI footage and effects, the action has a video game look and feel.

Next we meet our main man, played by Dave Bautista. Dave was in the military. Dave had to kill his zombie wife. Dave now works in a diner. Dave is hired to go into a quarantine zone to retrieve a load of money. This is the plot of Train to Busan 2. Dave assembles a team to help him. Dave meets them one at a time to establish each character for us. This part of the film goes on forever.

There are several hot and hunky guys, all the usual character stereotypes, including a sort of gay guy never fully realized as gay so we don’t know if he’s really gay even if he does seem to be hot for a couple of the other guys, characters looking for redemption, characters with no redeeming qualities, occasional light humor, exciting but typical zombie fight sequences, and even a song choice with a title so obvious no other director ever even bothered considering it: “Zombie” by The Cranberries.

And like I said, the last forty minutes deliver all the zombie fun. Of course it is also the part that feels exactly like you’re playing a Resident Evil game straight through to the final cutscene of the escape in a helicopter as the quarantine zone is nuked.

And if you watch this film and aren’t convinced that horror needs about a twenty-year break from zombies, you’re in luck. It appears this may be the launch of a series called Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas. And shut the fuck up. Of course I’m going to watch the hell out of it.

PSYCHO GOREMAN (2020)

Director Steven Kostanski (Leprechaun Returns, Manborg, The Void, Father’s Day) of the Astron-6 team is back and brings his buddy Adam Brooks along to play the father in this film that could be a 1980s family sci-fi movie…if it wasn’t also a gory horror comedy.

A brother and sister are playing in their yard when they dig up a glowing gem. Messing around with it, they accidentally release a violent, hateful alien creature from another planet that quickly shows how brutal he is by tearing up a bunch of lowlifes in a mess of practical effects.

But there’s a catch. Because the kids have the gem, they totally control this evil creature, so he has to obey their orders despite his loathing of them, which makes for a hilarious dynamic made even better thanks to great performances by the kids and the monster.

In a way, this is like a much darker and more gruesome version of the hilarious SyFy series Resident Alien. And the great thing about director Steven Kostanski is that he doesn’t try to emulate 80s horror—he just nails it. I can only assume he grew up on films from the decade.

The highlight for me is a montage featuring the kids rockin’ out in their garage (with Psycho Goreman on drums) as clips flash by of them having fun with him all over town…including the obligatory fashion show. There’s also a funny little moment where they bring up porn and unintentionally make Psycho question his sexuality.

The final act gets a bit hokey and is where the movie really goes into “family fun” territory as the family has to pick sides when Psycho is hunted down by his enemies—which kind of steps visually into Star Wars cantina territory.

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Five flicks from two indie horror directors of the 80s

My never-ending hunt for more obscure 80s horror flicks I had yet to add to my movie collection recently resulted in the addition of five from two directors I already have in my collection: Roberta Findlay, who was also a porn director, and Rick Sloane, who spent the 90s making Vice Academy after his 80s horror output movies. As a bonus, each director delivers a movie to add to the holiday horror page!

THE ORACLE (1985)

We’ll start with Roberta Findlay, the director of Prime Evil and Tenement, who beat Kevin Tenney to the Ouija board horror flick idea by a year…but apparently she couldn’t get the rights to use the actual board from Parker Brothers, so she had to craft an automatic writer for her movie. Quite frankly, it’s a lot cooler and more mysterious than a Ouija board.

The film takes place over the Christmas and New Year holiday week and features horror happenings at parties for both holidays.

It also has a big butch lesbian as a psycho who likes to do awful things to women. Eek!

Oh yes. This one is sleazy, offensive, cheap, gory, and silly. In other words, 80s awesome!

A woman and her husband move into a new apartment. She finds an automatic writer left behind, starts using it, and unleashes a ghostly presence in her apartment along with a whole lot of eighties nonsense.

Basically, the spirit is out for revenge from beyond the grave. As the main woman tries to figure out what is going on, there are some odd and totally eighties horror moments drenched in eighties horror lighting, like some weird claymation monster that comes out of the automatic writer to attack a maintenance man, and a corpse ghost that attacks near the end of the film. That’s enough to make this one a winner for me.

BLOOD SISTERS (1987)

With Blood Sisters, Roberta Findlay manages to tick off all the right boxes for an 80s horror movie plot, and even includes plenty of scenes that provide just enough clips for a great trailer when plucked out of the full film.

However, despite the fact that this one really propels you right back to the eighties, it is oddly flat and uninspired with no real tension or scares.

The opener has a prostitute and her client shot to death in the most beautiful whorehouse I’ve ever seen.

13 years later, a bunch of sorority pledges is sent to that very house for a scavenger hunt.

But first they hang out, party, and have sex with their boyfriends…while some guys are busy at the house rigging it to mess with the girls.

A majority of this film is simply cheap scares as the girls stumble upon one prank after another.

They sit around talking about the house’s history, there’s a flashback sequence to the whorehouse days, and one girl has visions of ghostly whores roaming the halls.

58 minutes in, the first girl gets murdered.

What few kill we get are quite weak with very little blood.

The girls run around screaming a lot, and the killer reveal is pretty lame. It really is hard to believe that the perfect setup for an 80s slasher is wasted this badly.

LURKERS (1988)

With this one, Roberta Findlay basically remakes The Sentinel with a 1980s vibe and less controversy.

The opener has a young girl forced by her bitch of a mother to go outside of her apartment building to play. Creepy girls wrap a jump rope around her neck, a mysterious woman lurks nearby, and then the girl somehow ends up safely in bed at night with zombie ghosts surrounding her.

15 years later, the girl is a woman living in the city. She is about to get married, but she is still haunted by her childhood. She sees creepy little girls and has nightmares of her evil mother. She consults a psychic. She tries to get help from her hot priest brother, sporting his best George Michael facial scruff, but he wants nothing to do with her—leading her boyfriend to assume the brother is probably a queer who hates women. I can work with that.

Things really don’t pick up until the couple decides to return to her old apartment building in hopes that confronting her past will help her move forward. This is when shit gets trippy.

She’s separated from the boyfriend and is subjected to a series of creeps and crazies doing sexual and psychotic things at a party where everyone is out to get her.

Seriously, if you’ve seen the 1977 film The Sentinel, this main girl experiences the same fate as the leading lady in that film…

BLOOD THEATRE (1984)

The first horror flick from Rick Sloane, the director of Hobgoblins, Blood Theatre is a sort of supernatural slasher spoof. It has a reputation as being a bad film. However, IF a) it’s from the 80s, b) it’s a bad horror movie from the 80s, and c) it’s a bad horror movie from the 80s starring Mary Woronov, THEN it’s an awesome movie.

The owner of a movie theater buys another movie theater that has been closed since a murder there years before.

He sends half his crew to the empty rundown theater to clean it up, and that’s when the killing begins.

Movie theater themed kills, silly humor, oddball characters, some tits, cat fights, plenty of red lighting, and Mary Woronov make for a cheesy retro 80s good time, but the killer is a pretty lame old dude in a tuxedo, and I’m really not sure if he was supernatural or just a lame old dude in a tuxedo.

THE VISITANTS (1986)

The Visitants is the second horror film from the director of Hobgoblins, and this just might be my favorite film by the director of Hobgoblins.

Going for a totally old school 1950s alien sci-fi flick feel, it’s about a high school kid who believes the man and woman living next door are aliens. So he breaks into their house and steals one of their alien guns to show his science teacher.

The couple is onto him and terrorizes him to get it back…coming for him at a totally awesome Halloween party. Yes, this is a Halloween alien sci-fi flick!

Campy and kooky, the film features animated intro credits and has plenty of Halloween spirit, a likable cast of kids, an 80s vibe, a totally 80s dance scene set to a surf punk rock song, and a sequence with the kids getting taken aboard a spaceship!

But best of all is the alien couple. The pair playing the parts look like they are having a blast doing it and bring a perfect cheesy 80s tone to their performances.

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