Four from the 90 through 93 now on Blu-ray

Three out of four of these films reminded me that there actually was some watchable 90s horror—you just had to dig really deep to find it. So let’s look at which of these Blu-rays is worth adding to your collection.

NIGHT KILLER (1990)

Director Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2) and Bruno Mattei (The Other Hell), who was brought in to add gore (thankfully) even though Claudio hated that he did, deliver an awful slice of Euro horror no matter how you cut it.

Night Killer is an absolute must-own for 80s horror fans. Although it was released in 1990, I would swear this film was made in 1982. It begins with an aerobics class set to awful 80s muzak. We get boobs and killer POV, then the killer punch fucks his victim to death through the stomach. I don’t know how, because he’s just a guy in a mask that looks like late 80s Jason face sans hockey mask. The killer also wears matching monster gloves.

While every single kill has him punch fucking stomachs, occasionally he adds something original to the mix, like when he dunks a victim in what looks like a big bucket of cum. Not that I have any idea what a big bucket of cum looks like.

Meanwhile, between kills there’s the story of one victim who got away but can’t remember. Tara Buckman (Silent Night, Deadly Night, Xtro II, Never Too Young To Die) plays the part so awfully melodramatic that she’s perfect. She even whips out her tits and feels them up in a mirror just so that there’s a scene of her whipping out her tits and feeling them up.

So much for being the one that got away. A psycho abducts her and keeps taunting her, not wanting to kill her until she finally remembers the attack. Their scenes together are so bad it’s laughable as he teases her by eating chicken and stuff like that.

However I had no problem when she temporarily has the upper hand and makes him strip down to his Speedo.

I can’t decide which is worse: the twist or the final frame.

I would suggest you buy this one at all costs if you’re a fan of 80s horror.

STRAYS (1991)

Cats have been pitted against humans in horror since the beginning of horror time, and Strays just completely goes for it with no explanation as to why. A family moves into a house inhabited by a pack of killer strays living in the basement. This despite the fact that the mom and daughter treat the damn things like pets!

Timothy Busfield of 30 Something is the dad, who isn’t too happy that the cats are hanging around…especially after they brutalize the family dog. Although it’s not shown as it happens, the aftermath scene did not sit well with me.

There aren’t loads of kills, although there are a few simple casualties that mostly get subjected to kitty POV and confused cats being thrown at them from off screen.

But what makes this otherwise typical killer animals movie sort of kick ass is the super long battle between the cats and the mom, played by Kathleen Quinlan. It’s fast-paced, brutal, and takes us straight through to the end of the film, complete with thunder, lightning, and the house getting totally trashed.

And you have to love the evil looking cat that looks like it just crawled out of the pet sematary.

HELLMASTER (1992)

Douglas Schulz, the director of Mimesis and Dark Fields has only done a handful of movies in his career over the past three decades, but I do want to see the others I haven’t seen yet, because I’ve like most of his that I’ve already seen. 

I, the hater of so many 90s horror films, love this one, which seems to get a lot of hate from everyone else. The only thing that ruins it for me is the role of John Saxon, who plays the Hellmaster. He uses this fucked up, multi-needle syringe to inject people and turn them into these sort of infected zombie/demons. They are fricking freaky. Him not so much.

There are some creepy as hell scenes of these things—which come in the form of a nun, a child, a schoolgirl that could have been the inspiration for The Grudge—chasing and terrorizing various victims. They even speak with demonic voices, and by the time they’ve got the core group of college students trapped in an old building, this feels reminiscent of Night of the Demons.

As a bonus, David Emge of the original Dawn of the Dead appears as a crossbow wielding hero. The first scene with him actually reminded me of Dawn of the Dead, at least in the theatrical cut. There is an alternate opener on the shorter director’s recut on the Blu-ray.

Despite the plot being rather messy and characters roaming around like chickens with their heads cut off, the tone is quite eerie, from the music to the always effective use of Argento red lighting, and there’s also plenty of icky stuff like blood and puss.

It really is John Saxon as the dark, brooding (more like bored) Hellmaster in black leather—which would normally turn me on—who feels completely out of place, coming across as a failed attempt to make a 90s horror icon. He walks around treating the creeps he’s created as his bitches, and unfortunately, he takes over as the main baddie for the final battle. In other words, Hellmaster starts off much better then it concludes.

THE CHILL FACTOR (1993)

This one never came up on my radar back in the 90s, but the description sounded awesome, so I blind purchased the Blu-ray.

What a disaster. And not in the usual sense that most 90s horror films are. This one feels like the worst of direct-to-video 1980s horror. Even the music used during snowmobile riding montages sounds like crappy synth score from action TV shows circa 1985. And I can’t imagine what they were thinking having voiceovers of the characters talking about their lives and relationships. Not to mention the weird need to point out several times that one relationship is interracial.

A group of friends goes snowmobiling in the wilderness, one guy smashes his head into a tree during a race, they find a cabin with a crucifix on the roof to crash in over night, and then…mostly nothing happens for most of the movie.

I can’t even process how astoundingly bad this is. They find and use a Ouija board, but nothing continues to happen.

Some couples have sex. One girl gets killed by a shadow puppet of a hooded demon.

A guy gets an icicle to the eye, which is the only good moment in the whole film.

Then a final girl gets chased by…nothing. I’m not quite sure what she was running from.

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The VelociPastor isn’t the only one making an American Killing

One of these upcoming films follows the making of a psycho killer, the other the making of…well…a dino priest. So which should you be looking forward to more? That depends on your tastes. Here’s a hint of what you can expect from each.

AMERICAN KILLING (aka: Wichita) (2016)

While films with the killer as the protagonist are not my kind of horror, American Killing may very well appeal to those who like the “portrait of a serial killer” genre, as it follows a TV show creator as he quickly unravels and goes on a murdering spree.

To me his transition period felt hasty and disjointed, while the film feeds us information that is sort of irrelevant…namely, the minor backstories of a bunch of television creatives he is forced to go on a country retreat with and secretly records in their private moments.

There’s nothing very compelling or suspenseful about any of it. Then just when it seems things are about to finally go somewhere, he’s booted from the house.

We finally get a glimpse at why he’s a bit of a weirdo when he returns home to mommy. Things are as bad as you can imagine for this mama’s boy, kicking off the massacre as he at last snaps and takes care of killing business.

However, it’s not scary or suspenseful, and this isn’t a fun slasher situation. The final act is more like a mean-spirited home invasion film.

American Killing comes to DVD and digital in August from High Octane Pictures.

THE VELOCIPASTOR (2018)

Story goes that this was a faux movie trailer that went viral and was therefore made into a full-length feature. The good news is that it only runs 75 minutes long, which is also the bad news. 45 minutes at most would have sufficed.

Thanks to SyFy and movies like the Sharknado franchise, movies so unintentionally bad they’re good are a thing of the past. Now it’s all about manufactured so bad they’re good movies that are mostly just bad.

So if the title didn’t clue you in to what you should expect, the tone of the very first scene should. It’s clear right away that this is bad, indie farce, so how much you like it depends on how much you can handle student film quality movies.

The Velocipastor sees his parents die, goes to China for about two seconds to get over his grief, gets scratched by a mystical tooth, and then comes back home and turns raptor whenever he gets mad.

A prostitute he saves convinces him to use his power for good.

But he doesn’t get to do much of that because he has to take on a bunch of ninjas that are after him.

The leading man is sizzling hot and plenty of reason to stick with it. I just wish he’d been wearing tighter whities during his fight scene with ninjas—although they do look pretty nice in still shots.

His full raptor form isn’t shown until the final fight, and although it’s just a guy in a terribly cheesy costume, the slapstick fight scene is actually pretty funny.

However, for me personally, the flashes of Velocipastor earlier in the film are much more entertaining in a more subtle, campy way.

Obviously all the hot man action makes this the one for me if I had to choose between these two films.

The Velocipastor hits digital in August and Blu-ray in September from Wild Eye Releasing.

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Four 1970s b-horrors from a DVD multipack…and some are not all that bad

My multipack madness continues! I’d never seen any of these, so I was in for some surprises, and only one major disappointment.

STANLEY (1972)

Stanley is Willard in the Everglades with snakes.

This goofy movie is all about a Native-American man striking back at those who wrong him or are less than respectful of nature and wildlife. He simply sics his pet snakes on them, including Jo’s dad from The Facts of Life, who gets a laughable airborne kill scene.

It’s a cheesy, dated film running way too long at 105 minutes. Bad music sets a silly tone, which is fine because it’s the perfect complement to stupid shit like a hunter getting bit in his ass by a snake and the main guy flinging snakes into the bed of a stripper that uses snakes in her show.

I really don’t know if this film expected viewers to take it seriously, but if it was being tongue-in-cheek, it definitely hit the mark.

SATAN’S SLAVE (1976)

Norman J. Warren, the director of Bloody New Year, Prey, and Inseminoid, offers a fairly generic film about a woman who comes to stay at her extended family’s home after her parent’s die, not realizing they plan to use her for a satanic ritual.

The gothic setting and tone bring to mind Hammer films, but what gives this melodramatic horror flick a more modern feel is the nudity (including va-jay-jay during numerous ritual sacrifice scenes) and the gore, which actually gets better and more gruesome as the film progresses.

The head of the beast worn by the leader of the cult during sacrifice scenes is cool, and there’s an awesome eye piercing scene. These also happen to be the two most memorable parts of this otherwise forgettable film.

TERROR (1978)

Another one from Norman J. Warren, I think this is one of his best even though the plot is a sloppy excuse just to kill a bunch of random people. Or perhaps that’s why I think it’s the best.

A descendant of a family that was cursed by a witch as she was being burned at the stake makes a movie about the situation and shows it to a group of people at his home. They then play a hypnosis game that leads to one girl going after them with a decorative sword.

From then on, it’s impossible to care much about any of the victims or why they’re being killed. And really, they are just victims, because there’s no storyline here, just a string of awesome murders that makes this an early entry in the supernatural slasher genre.

The kills are the star of this one. There are several very long and meandering chase scenes that suffer wonderfully from too much darkness, creating an eerie atmosphere and heightening the suspense. They also have a classic Argento feel, complete with false horror moments leading up to the real thing.

The gore is graphic and brutal, with knife stabs, impalement, beheading, and a car kill.

There are also some whacked supernatural kills, like a guy being attacked by a tornado of filmstrip, as well as a crazy scene of a car being lifted and twirled through the air.

There’s even some male beefcake.

Plus, Terror doesn’t even bother to conclude. It just kills everyone then rolls the credits.

TRIP WITH THE TEACHER (1975)

The only thing that spoils this otherwise awesome exploitation flick is the worst fucking 1970s pop muzak playing incessantly throughout most of the film, killing the raw grit of some of the most brutal moments. It’s like putting “Afternoon Delight” on repeat while watching The Exorcist.

Babes on a bus trip through the desert with their teacher have a flirtatious exchange with three guys on motorcycles. But when their bus breaks down and the bikers show up, they quickly discover one of the bikers is a fricking psycho.

It’s as exploitation as exploitation gets. Not gory, but plenty of misogyny as girls are stripped, get raped, are killed trying to escape, attempt to use seduction to save themselves…the nonstop action works despite the shitty music, because the guy in the role of the psycho plays one perfectly.

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Sometimes it takes a dark passenger to bring the boys together

Missed this 2004 film when it came out over a decade ago, but when Landers landed on Prime as Dark Passenger, I checked it out because, well, there were cute shirtless guys in the trailer.

That also got me to convince my hubby to watch it, and he actually stuck with me through the whole thing because a) this little indie is bizarrely engrossing, and b) the guys aren’t shirtless until near the end.

I didn’t expect things to begin with an outer space scene. Something is jettisoned to earth and released into the desert. Sure there’s some bad CGI here, but it’s brief and gets the point across. The scene also psyches out the viewer, because you immediately begin anticipating things that don’t exactly transpire.

We learn there is a serial killer going after victims in restroom stalls. Then we meet our two leading men. One is a loser/ex-druggy who reconnects with his successful baseball player buddy. They take a road trip together on a desolate road at night and pick up a strange hitchhiker dude.

While the film is a slow burn, the tight acting really carries it, and you can’t help but watch to see if this creepy hitchhiker dude is going to go all alien on their asses—and how their story is going to tie in with the serial killer subplot that’s always lurking in the background.

This is truly a film you have to pay attention to for it to all make sense at the end. Luckily, I really did pay attention for a change, and together with my hubby, deciphered what we think it all meant when the film came to an abrupt ending. It’s definitely a bit different than your usual horror film and doesn’t spell everything out for you.

There is another intriguing aspect of this film that I may have been reading into simply because I’m ScareBearDan and watch horror from a gay POV (it’s not a choice—I was born that way). There are several instances that had me wondering if it was being subtly implied that the police are contending with a gay serial killer. For starters, at one point the news on the radio reports that the killer is targeting mostly truck drivers in rest stop bathrooms, which immediately made me think of kinky closeted men looking for anonymous sex.

When we first see a victim in a bathroom stall after the police find the body, it’s very easy to be distracted by the gore in the quick glimpse we get. But upon going back to grab screenshots for this blog, I noticed that the body, sitting on a toilet with pants down to its ankles, appears to have hairy legs, but seems to be wearing a frilly female top!

Later, when the three guys take a break at a rest stop, the hitchhiker makes things very uncomfortable by standing between the two leads as they’re at the urinals, with his arms around their shoulders…and then latches their hands together while they’re still pissing.

Minutes after he walks away, we see someone leaving one of the stalls in which there is a dead body once again on the toilet, pants down to ankles. In another oddly intimate moment, the hitchhiker notices the ex-druggy has his nails painted black, asks to borrow the nail polish, and begins painting his own nails as they talk about embracing their own unique identities.

Hey, I could be totally wrong on the gay vibe I was getting, but the gay vibes down below were real when I saw the two leads shirtless. It’s always sexy to see a guy sniffing his sweaty shirt…

And I couldn’t get enough of the cutie with the thick head of hair.

I thought him ridiculously adorable and sexy, especially when he was crawling around on the ground with his jeans hanging off his hips.

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A transgender woman in the house of murderers

I stumbled upon this 70-minute Italian movie about a transgender woman living in a haunted house completely by accident on Prime.

Erika has escaped an abusive relationship and goes to stay at an old house in a country village. We first officially learn that she is trans when she’s speaking with a female friend over video chat and references her man parts.

Attempting to recuperate, Erika soon begins experiencing supernatural occurrences, like slamming doors and sightings of a little girl.

As the scares continue, she and a friend call in a psychic medium to help discover exactly who or what is haunting Erika.

While The House of Murderers has some creepy moments and creepy atmosphere, it’s clearly a low budget effort, drags a bit due to rather drab delivery of lots of dialogue, and doesn’t quite ramp up the suspense or scares enough, so it comes across as more of a supernatural drama. Even though it only runs 70 minutes long, since it does not build the intensity of the ghost attacks to the level of more mainstream ghost movies these days, it might have been more effective as a shorter horror film, especially since it has the kind of zinger ending you’d expect from an episode of a horror anthology series.

As for the transgender subject matter, Erika is a fully realized character who just happens to be trans, which some will applaud, but depending on the sensitivity level of viewers, her portrayal could also be criticized for its darker, edgier aspects.

For instance, she doesn’t exactly have an easy life. She works in the sex industry, doing video performances for clients from the comfort of her own bedroom—so she could be seen as being presented as a sexual fetish or as having a sexualized identity.

However, she befriends and has a sexual relationship with an older man she meets on the street. They spend time quality together, he complements her on being more of a woman than most women in his village, but then…he suddenly becomes violent with her! WTF?

There’s definitely a tug of war with how Erika is portrayed, but in the end, although she’s a victim in various ways, she also has some fight in her…

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Three more from the Into the Dark series

The longer this Hulu “holiday” movie series lingers, the harder it is for me to commit to watching one each month. They just aren’t very compelling to me…and now the series has been picked up for another season. In the meantime, I finally got around to watching May, June, and July, so let’s see how it went.

ALL THAT WE DESTROY (2019)

This one really shouldn’t have been more than a 30-minute segment of an anthology.

Samantha Mathis, the city councilman on the series The Strain, plays a mother who believes her son is doomed to be a serial killer, so she clones a girl for him to kill over and over again in an effort to cure him.

Her son is played by Israel Broussard, the love interest in Happy Death Day. Oh…and the clone girl, played by Dora Madison (Exists, The Honor Farm, Humans vs. Zombies), starts to remember the previous murders after a while.

In other words, it’s Happy Death Day if it wasn’t fun or funny, he were the killer all along, and there wasn’t a rocking’ horror diva main girl. The only bright side is that the song playing every time the girl dies is “Every Time I Think Of You” by John Waite’s 1970s band The Babys.

 

Brings me back to my K-tel Circuit Breaker album from 79.

The crushing blow? The girl in the movie says something along the lines of “My grandmother used to listen to this song all the time.”

THEY COME KNOCKING (2019)

The Father’s Day installment is a little creepier than most of the others…as long as you hang in there for the looooong character development full of flashbacks focusing on a father and his two daughters losing their mother/wife from cancer.

They go on a road trip with a camper, and eventually this turns into The Strangers on wheels for a while (They come knocking on our trailer home door?). The creeps in hoodies that terrorize the family are reminiscent of the kiddies in The Brood, just bigger.

And that’s the best part of the film—the conflict with the creeps in the final act. There’s also a plot point reminiscent of one of the most disturbing aspects of the original Pet Sematary, and it reminds us that the family is still haunted by the death of the mother.

My one big gripe is a standard ScareBearDan pet peeve—stop using “Mockingbird” as the creepy lullaby symbolizing mother/child relationships. No fricking mothers sing that song to their kids anymore.

CULTURE SHOCK (2019)

It was with much trepidation that I went into this one, which is ripped right from today’s immigration headlines. The state of my country and the world weighs so heavy on my soul these days that I avoid news and social media as much as possible—and I still can’t sleep at night. But while this film about a young pregnant woman trying to sneak into the U.S. hits upon many of the most sensitive complexities of the issue, what I’m glad it isn’t is a simple plot of her getting to the U.S. only to be terrorized and tortured by a bunch of white psycho conservatives.

Instead, a good third of the film explores how badly she’s treated by her own people as she makes her journey. While any conservative horror fans that even bother trying to watch this film will blast it as “liberal agenda” (and lose their shit because at least half the film is in Spanish with subtitles), anyone who actually pays attention instead of immediately getting their Bible belt in knots will see that Mexicans are not painted as completely innocent here, and also get some of the blame for their own decisions. For instance, one woman tries to give a younger woman birth control because a baby is the last thing she needs under the conditions in which they’re living, but the girl refuses because she’s a Christian. See, crazy white Christians? Your religion is fucked up even in Spanish.

The premise beyond that is very unique. The main girl gets caught at the border, but wakes up in what is essentially Pleasantville, where white people are lovingly introducing immigrants into the world of white American culture, with the likes of horror veterans Barbara Crampton and Shawn Ashmore leading the charge.

Of course nothing is as rosy as it seems and white people are as foreign and frightening to Mexicans as Americans have been brainwashed to believe Mexicans are, which is what makes this one a unique approach to the subject matter. Not a traditional “scary movie”, Culture Shock nevertheless has a cool concept with some thought-provoking twists. It’s just so topical that it could “trigger” just about anyone on either side of the Divided States of America.

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Back to the 1930s, the 1950s, and the 1960s

Holy crap. The next four oldies I’m covering from my multipack DVD sets go back as far as 1934…which is less than two decades away from being 100 years old! So which were my favorites from this batch? Here’s the rundown.

MANIAC (1934)

Maniac is a perfect example of why I love watching early horror films even if they aren’t going to scare or shock me these days.

Running only 50 minutes long (another reason I love watching old movies), this is an interesting twist on the evil scientist re-animation genre—all the way back in 1934! The evil scientist’s assistant is an ex-entertainer who decides to impersonate the mad scientist and soon becomes an even madder, unlicensed mad scientist! Awesome.

As his dastardly plan spirals out of control, he discovers he’s not the only lunatic in the world, so he draws others into his sinister plot to gather bodies for his experiments.

It might be a sloppy, cheap film, but there are some moments that really struck me. First, there’s what appears to be a total nod to a couple of Edgar Allan Poe tales—the maniac bricks a body up in a wall, and a black cat leaps in with it!

There’s also a shockingly edgy, early take on the horror movie all-girl slumber party scene, with girls giggling and talking while wearing lingerie, one girl soaking in a bathtub with the bathroom door open, and one using a fat burning band machine on her jiggly butt!

THE SCREAMING SKULL (1958)

Coincidently, I recently watched Point of Terror, another film made by this movie’s director over ten years later, but I can definitely say this is more my kind of film, and the kind of black and white horror I love.

It’s shocking that this came out a year before The House on Haunted Hill, because this is very similar in style to the William Castle classic, from long, panning shots of dark rooms and corridors, to the plot of a woman being terrorize by supernatural occurrences only she seems to experience in the house. There’s even a very William Castle intro voiceover warning that the film may kill you! The plot of the film also brought to mind Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, which didn’t hit until 1964!

A newlywed couple moves into the husband’s old home…where his previous wife died in a pond in the yard. Soon the new wife is being terrorized by a screaming skull! This fricking bonehead even comes knocking on the door at night. Eek!

But is the wife really seeing anything at all? Because the husband never sees it, and the wife has formally been away at a “hospital”.

There are some twists and turns leading up to the final chase through the house and a relentless pursuit by the floating skull in this atmospheric classic.

ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO (1961)

It might have the word psycho in the title, but it’s a real stretch to include this one in a horror movie multipack. It’s just a crime drama turned court drama that has way too much going on.

A dude starts to lose his shit after his brother is given the death penalty for murder. He’s positive his brother is innocent, but his own sister even believes the guilty verdict.

While he begins to snap, convinced everyone is against him (they basically are), there are all kinds of jerks going around doing bad things…like guys with sacks over their heads beating up the son of the D.A., and literally everyone having some connection to the murder case.

Eventually the main guy kills one person, sort of by accident, sort of on purpose, before going on trial. Yawn.

TORMENTED (1960)

Bert I. Gordon, a b-movie horror king for decades, directs this rather cheesy take on the vengeful ghost plot.

The life of an engaged man is turned upside down when his ex comes and threatens to never give him up…before sort of accidentally falling off a lighthouse…

He finds her body the next day. She turns to seaweed. He sees her footprints appearing in the sand. She plays records when he’s trying to play the piano. His new bride finds seaweed on her wedding gown. And finally, the ex’s disembodied head (even though she wasn’t decapitated) starts harassing him and having conversations with him.

This is a mess, with no scares or atmosphere, and while I appreciate the use of that creepy windy whistle music used in so many horror films of the era, an attempt at a scary nightmare sequence is a disaster thanks to some jazzy, West Side Story sounding score.

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Christmas in July: ‘Twas the night of The Night Sitter

Yay! It’s another Christmas horror movie to add to my holiday horror page! Although the title doesn’t acknowledge it, the house in The Night Sitter is aglow with holiday lights. Actually, the characters don’t even acknowledge it. Christmas is just festive background noise.

And while the title suggests another stalked babysitter movie, this one comes with a twist. The darkly comic tone reminds me very much of the Christmas horror flick Better Watch Out, but for me personally, this is a way better film, especially since the character that hasn’t been good for goodness sake isn’t a creepy douche.

A young woman comes to babysit a boy and his friend while their single parents go out on a date together. The boy’s dad, who fancies himself a paranormal investigator, warns the babysitter that his office is off limits. There’s also a kind of nice, kind of odd dude living next door who tries his best to buddy up to her once she’s alone.

But the babysitter has other problems…and plans. When the boy of the house begs her to believe him that something sinister is after him, she does her best to calm his worries and then puts him to bed.

She then invites friends over, people go off to have sex…and wouldn’t you know, the boys sneak into the office and mess with things they shouldn’t, unleashing three witchy entities.

YES! The Night Sitter becomes a blend demon possession movie and supernatural slasher, with bloody kills, likable characters, a good body count, and a fun, subtle sense of humor as the group of kids takes on these evil bitches.

I will definitely be adding this one to my collection when Uncork’d Entertainment releases it on DVD later this summer.

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STREAM QUEEN: rashes and puking, zombie animals, and rockin’ demons

This threesome of random flicks I checked out tickled my horror bone just enough to keep me watching. Here’s a quick rundown of each.

WEAVERFISH (2013)

Weaverfish is such a difficult movie to pigeonhole. Based on the plot, it should logically be considered a horror film, but to even imply it’s a slow burn horror film will leave many horror fans disappointed, because it’s virtually just a melancholy character study with very little happening until the last moment.

The main character narrates the film, and it’s all poetic and meaningful, setting the glum tone that carries all the way through. He and his friends take a boat trip down a river that is known to be contaminated…and then they go swimming in it. Yet they’re surprised when they smell something gross. Well, at least there are no toxic barrels laying around. Oh…

Unlike your usual kids become infected in the woods film, there are no gross transformations, attacks, or flesh eating here. There are loads of conversations, a weird karaoke scene by the campfire, and the main kid coming across as a total closet case every time he’s alone with one of his male friends.

Adding to that impression is the fact that he totally reminded me of Love, Simon.

As for “horror”, we occasionally see glimpses of a masked figure in the background, which keeps us anticipating all hell finally breaking loose. It never does. The kids puke, they get rashes (offering the single ickiest moment in the film), and yet they still just hang around and talk.

I don’t know why I didn’t give up on the film at some point. I just always feel like something simply has to happen in a slow film eventually, and with only minutes left here, there’s finally a turn of events. It jarringly takes us to a whole different situation, but the subtle, understated way in which the final zinger comes on is so compelling I wish that at least something slightly more interesting had happened throughout the film to keep viewers riveted.

ZOOMBIES 2 (2019)

   

The director of The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, one of my faves, handles this sequel to the SyFy original. Now if you’ve seen the first Zoombies and go into a sequel that went virtually unnoticed expecting some sort of work of horror art or at least something that even vaguely lives up to the cheap entertainment value of the first film, you came to the sequel for all the wrong reasons.

It’s as lowbrow as you should expect (although there was a huge anal penetration moment right there after the perfect setup), and I’m surprised it doesn’t get heavy rotation on SyFy.

The CGI effects are as bad as you’d expect, and the zombie zoo animals are hilariously cartoonish. But this is the quality that SyFy has built its brand on, so if you spend boring Sundays just watching endless marathons of their ridiculous nature strikes back creature features, you’ll be more than satisfied with this one when there is nothing else to watch.

Set up is simple…poachers and park rangers team up to survive when the zombie animals attack.

The men are sizzling hot, the kills are hilariously bad, and the scene of the women being terrorized by the CGI zombie porcupines is comedy gold.

THE 27 CLUB (2019)

This is a fun little rock star “demon” indie that takes a fascinating real phenomenon of the music industry and builds it into a fictional horror film. The 27 Club refers to famous rock musicians that have all died at the age of 27—pretty much all the iconic ones you can think of.

The main kid is doing a college paper on the mystery, so references to those rockers are interwoven into the story, but it’s really just a background device, with the focus being on his investigation after a fictional rocker dies at the same age.

We happen to know from the start that it was the work of a cool demon, but it’s up to him to find out as the film progresses. He has a best buddy, he gets a sort of love interest, he tracks down another rocker who never quite hit stardom, there’s a satanic book, and rock legend Todd Rundgren appears as his college professor.

The plot is simple, just as it should be, and the demon action is fun, but I do wish it had kicked in sooner because there’s not enough of it for my tastes, and there aren’t enough victims.

But as a music maniac, I was totally feeling the reality-based approach to the music industry being turned into a demon flick. And the guys showed off their sleazy druggy rocker bods.

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Which witch is wickedest?

The kind of witch flicks I like are hard to come by, but I never stop hunting for them. Here’s how it turned out when I made a double feature out of Antidote and Wicked Witches.

ANTIDOTE (2018)

Killer Instinct is the only other horror movie the director of Antidote has made since 2001, and it kind of shows. I simply can’t imagine what he was going for with this movie. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a horror movie or an action flick, so instead tries to separate the two as much as possible, leaving us with two entirely different styles of film, both of which feel incomplete.

Adorable former wrestler Randy Couture is some sort of Indiana Jones treasure hunter in Mexico (so naturally the movie needs to be referenced in the dialogue). When he is first introduced in a bar, we get freeze-frame title intros (The Treasure Hunter, The Side Kick, The Love Interest, etc.) during a brawl. It’s a weird and unnecessary device to use in a movie that isn’t clever, exclusively action, or grindhouse at all.

Then we meet a couple trying to save pregnant women and children in a Mexican village from some sort of infection. They keep running into women who look at them with glowing red eyes and then whisper some sort of warning to them about the witch. Best part: the dude and his buddy get shirtless.

So the female lead tries to research witches. That’s about it. And when she goes all Beauty Shop attitude on another healthcare worker complete with the finger wave and head movements, I didn’t know if I was supposed to laugh or stop watching the film.

I probably should have stopped watching.

While wandering through the wilderness, Couture occasionally runs into the couple, warns them the witches are after them, and tells them he doesn’t give a shit and to deal with it themselves.

Nothing continues to happen, the two storylines eventually converge at a temple where we get a brief moment with the queen witch, and then the movie comes to an abrupt conclusion, the tone once again leaving me with no clue as to what this film was going for.

WICKED WITCHES (2019)

I was psyched for this one when I stumbled upon the trailer online. I was quite satisfied when it was all over, and not just because the film only runs a beautiful 75 minutes long.

Wicked Witches doesn’t try to be complicated, so it’s perfect for horror simpletons like me. It’s all about the crazy witch bitches tearing guys apart in the woods. Well, not quite. It does try to create atmosphere and a slow burn feel at first, but it’s not as enticing as it could be.

A really cute dude goes to hang out with his buddy at an old farmhouse from their youth. The friend is acting darkly mysterious from the start, so it’s not clear why the main guy isn’t like, “You’re fucked in the head. I’m outta here.”

Instead, he does drugs with the weird buddy and then immediately begins having creepy hallucinations. There are also pretty girls staring strangely at him wherever he goes, but I guess he thinks freaky girls are hot.

We at last get to the good stuff following a very long partying montage with the main guy’s buddies. His weird friend shows up and brings in a bunch of girls to join them, which is when all hell breaks loose.

For a moment I was worried this was going to get lame as hell, because the guys stumble upon a bunch of Blair Witch sticks in the woods, but Wicked Witches does what Blair Witch didn’t: it gets awesome after the sighting of the sticks.

Bloody slaughter, practical effects, crazy witch bitches running around the woods, snarling and flashing their gnarly demon teeth, one cute guy with an axe trying to stop the insanity…this is the kind of horror fun I live for.

In a way, the premise reminds me of Hulu’s Into the Dark installment Treehouse, only much more focused on delivering a midnight movie horror party than bog things down with details.

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