Back in Black Christmas

I had a sneaking suspicion that as soon as the latest iteration of Black Christmas hit theaters and got completely trashed by virtually everyone, I would probably love it. And so I can now say that I don’t even slightly regret blind buying it on Blu-ray to add to my complete Black Christmas collection (my blog about the previous films here).

It’s astounding that at just about the same time Joe Bob Briggs was being destroyed on social media for making a comment most felt was offensively false—that horror was fun in the old days because it wasn’t political—people reamed this film for being in-your-face political instead of just a remake of the original, non-political movie!

You know who I think was probably most repulsed by this movie and its blatant message? White, straight, male horror fans. Which just demonstrates the film’s entire uncomfortable point; toxic white male privilege and power can’t handle being negatively stereotyped and feeling marginalized by all the groups that have actually been its victims since the beginning of time. The mere fact that anything involving the equality and worth of anyone who isn’t a white straight man is attacked as being “political” makes it quite clear that treating others as equals is seen as giving them power—political power. In other words, white straight men assume treating others equally will give them the power to control how white straight men should live their lives. And the fact that I usually loathe “politics” in my horror and I thought the plot points here were awesome makes it clear to me that people wanting to be shown respect by the oppressive party in power is absolutely not a political issue but an issue of humanity. Hey, maybe the film would have been better received if it had been called WHITE Christmas…

The director of New Year, New You, the January 2018 installment of Hulu’s Into the Dark and one of the better films in the series IMO, brings us a totally different Black Christmas experience while making sure to give us nods to the original film’s iconic moments. Interior shots of the empty sorority house at Christmastime alone capture the atmosphere of the original, but the plot is refreshingly, entirely different.

Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Fright Night remake, Green Room) is great as a girl suffering from PTSD after having been sexually assaulted on campus and not believed. The movie does an incredibly timely, unsettling job of portraying just what women still go through to this day in a society fully controlled by white men. And while some may consider the whole thing preachy, I personally thought it was interwoven naturally into the fabric of the plot and what the characters are currently going through in their lives—what, in essence, women go through every single day of their lives to some degree.

On top of that, the film at first delivers what I found to be an excellent, taut, sleek thrill ride reminiscent of late-90s/early 2000s slashers. Yet it’s when the film veers off to become much more about the hierarchy of college campus constructs that it takes on a new life and becomes pretty damn insane for a totally fun and wacky final act.

There’s an appearance by Cary Elwes, a scene that so wants to be an homage to the one good scene from ridiculously overrated Exorcist III but simply rushes the pacing too much to be even vaguely as effective, and a scene with the girls doing a Christmas song performance that may be a nod to Mean Girls.

I personally love that this was in no way a rehash of the previous films, although I can’t deny it felt weird not having Andrea Martin pop up for even a minuscule cameo. I’m also shocked that an ideal opportunity to cast a female turncoat as a blue-eyed blonde who looks like she’d vote for Trump was completely missed.

My only huge disappointment is that there was an R rated cut running 20 minutes longer that was edited down to make the film PG-13, but they didn’t include it on the Blu-ray! WTF? Why wouldn’t they try to breathe extra life into such a maligned film by giving us more of the gore? Some of that gore can be seen in the deleted and extended bonus features, but they make up not even five more minutes of footage, so there’s a whole lot still lost on the cutting room floor. Bummer.

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PRIME TIME: hitting the road for some camping and killing

This foursome of road trip/backwoods flix is a mixed bag. Let’s take brief looks at The Cool Kids, Restricted Area, Animal Among Us, and Darkslide.

THE COOL KIDS (2016)

The title of this 62-minute movie speaks volumes, because the first fifteen are filled with nothing but a group of pretty, bitchy white snobs goofing off while waiting to go on a road trip.

But once the partying montage kicks in at a house in the woods, this becomes a rather unique little slasher.

There’s plenty of sex and hot bods, and in an odd turn of events, after the killer “accidentally” murders someone (we know from the start who the killer is so I can’t show any juicy pix without giving it all away), the others are momentarily horrified when they find the body…and then just go on with their weekend.

That includes the killer, who virtually takes out victims while everyone else is a room away. It’s all quite intriguing and oddly comical! I can’t see why anyone with an hour to kill and a love of slashers wouldn’t check this one out.

RESTRICTED AREA (2019)

I knew I was most likely burdening myself with a tedious time starting a 112-minute film about a bunch of steel workers that goes camping in the woods and gets terrorized by a masked cult. But, you know, it’s about a bunch of sweaty steal workers, so there was payoff there, because the guys are cute and there’s a nice variety of types both thick and thin. Which means this is one for my sausage fest scares page.

The bad news is that as is often the case, this is a film in which an indie director thinks making a backwoods horror flick is as simple as sending a group of people out to the woods with a barely discernible script to be chased by people in masks with machetes. Sigh.

Virtually an hour is filled with the guys simply walking around constantly getting separated and looking for each other while a relentless, ominous chord plays to fully numb our senses to any promise of something scary.

That continues for the second hour, only now they’re being chased by the masked cult members. The entire film takes place in washed out daylight, and kill scenes are cut away then cut back to reveal the bloody damage (practical blood effects, thankfully).

General editing goes something like this: cut to snake on rock, cut to girl looking spooked by it, cut back to snake, cut back to girl, cut to snake, cut to girl suddenly walking in the middle of three guys with no more reference to the snake.

The group eventually has to battle the cult. There’s definitely an attempt here to make a deeper plot come forward as the truth of the cult unfolds, but for me personally, all I was about was a scene in which the cult leader strips off a hot guy’s shirt for a fight. And the biggest head-scratcher for me is how once up and coming horror hottie Randy Wayne ended up in this…for  a fleeting moment. You really can’t go from up and coming to star cameo recognition without ever actually coming up all the way—although it did make my my homo horror whore senses tingle.

ANIMAL AMONG US (2019)

This is one hell of a confusing backwoods movie, so you better pay close attention if you want to make sense of it before the big denouement.

I can’t even say I loved it because it was too exhausting for me to remain focused. I’m exhausted just at the thought of writing about it, so I’ll make this short.

Two people were killed at a campground, and it was believed to be the work of an animal.

Now a bunch of people converge on the location, including a Bigfoot hunter, park ranger, a teacher that specializes in courses about masks (duhn duhn duhn!), and a daddy bear with a sizzling sexy mustache.

There’s even some found footage of a run-in with the “animal”—and you have to love when the person viewing it says “enough with the shaky camera”.

There are several effective jump scares along the way as all these scattered plots converge, and there is a point to the title, which is probably why the film feels less focused on the horror than on the characters. Be prepared; the big series of twists in the end are…I’ll say it again…exhausting.

DARKSLIDE (2020)

Argh! This is so frustrating. Darkslide is a beautifully shot film that wants so badly to capture the mood and plight of its protagonist, but it takes 2 hours and 2 minutes to do so, and I kid you not…the true horror elements only transpire in the final 22 minutes.

For over an hour we get visually stunning footage of a group of friends skateboarding and surfing.

In between there are short segments of the group sitting around listening to the main guy discussing his ruined sporting career and the loss of his brother.

Eventually the group falls into a big crevasse in the ground while doing their sporty lifestyle thing. It becomes sort of like The Descent…with rats? I seriously thought this was going to be a killer rat movie for a while.

After the group walks around in circles for forty minutes, the true horror is revealed. The final segment is good…it’s really good.

And it even has some religious imagery buried underground, to the point that I was feeling this film really could have fucked all our belief systems up with a Jesus meets evolution theme.

If it had explored that concept (or maybe it was?), had been shorter, and had more evenly paced the horror throughout, it could have been one hell of a movie. But instead the creators intent here was to make a movie about one man’s journey through grief and guilt.

 

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PRIME TIME: a trio of slashers

Which of these three films scratched my slasher itch…or did they all? Let’s take a look at Pickaxe, Scream For Summer, and The Stalker Club.

PICKAXE (2014)

If you just want a good trashy slasher that plays by the most basic old school rules—kids have sex, masked killer hacks them up—Pickaxe is perfect.

It’s that simple: sex scenes and slashing after an infamous killer is resurrected from the dead.

As a bonus, Tiffany Shepis is excellent in her role as an alcoholic mess, and she gets to play opposite A. Michael Baldwin from the Phantasm franchise, who plays the sheriff.

Meanwhile, a bunch of kids goes to a cabin in the woods, drinks, parties, and fucks.

There are big tits and a dude’s bare ass getting spanked with a pancake flipper. Pass the maple syrup.

Most importantly, the gore is done with practical effects…which go into full effect during a massive massacre when the killer shows up at a skanky metal club.

SCREAM FOR SUMMER (2017)

This is one of those indie slasher that delivers on the late 90s slasher vibe with vicious kills and a creepy masked killer (and that headshot lineup on the poster art, of course). But it also shows the first-time director/writer’s overall lack of experience in terms of writing and editing.

Plodding dialogue attempting to establish storyline leaves us with a nearly two-hour movie, forcing us to decide if the kick-ass kills are enough to keep us watching. Even what we don’t see but is implied is rather disturbing, especially one girl’s performance during a lengthy chase and kill scene. But in exchange, we have to sit through unnecessary scenes, such as the main girl being brought down to the police station for questioning.

The film is about a group of friends in a small town getting killed in between partying. Over a series of days.

That’s right. They just keep hanging out, partying, and talking excessively about their relationships to establish characters and eventually a killer motivation.

Despite the cheesy denouement, the kill scenes are so good that if this had been trimmed by twenty minutes it would have been a much more satisfying slasher.

THE STALKER CLUB (2017)

After this nightmarish week of non-stop Coronavirus shit (holy blog timestamp), this sleek slasher inspired by Scream era horror was an extremely satisfying diversion. It even has a slow-mo cool cast  walk sequence.

Most shocking of all—it’s a movie made for the Lifetime channel! I’d heard they’ve been making some pretty good thrillers, but I didn’t realize they tapped into the old school horror vibe so well.

Suspense and style is at the forefront as a group of friends begins playing a “stalker club” game.

Naturally, they soon begin getting picked off for real. Shades of TAG: The Assassination Game blend with an I Know What You Did last Summer feel as they are stalked and sliced by someone in a hoodie and a plain white mask.

As a bonus, there’s just enough hokey stuff going on—like a fun library chase scene and the final frame—to remind us that the film is meant to feel like a PG-13 teen horror flick and not taken too seriously.

And finally, like most late 90s slashers, there’s a major whodunit component to the film…that will most likely have you rolling your eyes.

 

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horror lite, holiday lite

It happened on Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and Mardi Gras, so there are more films to add to my holiday horror page, but I simply didn’t get enough from this trio of films—not enough horror fun, not enough holiday spirit. Let’s take a brief look at each.

THE MAN IN THE TRUNK (2019)

Horror hottie Ace Marrero stars in this initially intriguing horror thriller as a man who’s just trying to have a baby with his wife at Christmastime when he’s visited by his old friend, who needs a favor…

There’s a man in the trunk of his car that needs to be buried.

Naturally it’s the setup for a suspenseful film, particularly since Ace refrains from demanding answers to all the questions we have, instead getting dressed (bummer) and going along for the ride.

Things get even more complicated when someone else shows up for the “funeral”.

Ace is not even sure why his friend had a dead body in his car or who they were burying, yet he’s suddenly the one in hot water and on the run from someone who wants answers…and wants him dead.

The film plays out in a pretty predictable way for a while.

Yet just when it seems to be nearing the end it takes a different course to essentially explain what the hell was going on.

The truth really didn’t do much for me, but at least it’s oddly unique.

INTO THE DARK: CRAWLERS (2020)

Don’t get your hopes up…“crawlers” isn’t referencing any kind of creatures in the movie. The title refers to a bunch of college kids doing a bar crawl on St. Patrick’s Day.

This March 2020 installment of Hulu’s Into the Dark holiday horror movie series is generally a playful teen flick sort of along the lines of Zombieland—a young woman narrates and describes the events of the St. Patrick’s Day when she and her friends went bar-hopping and ended up being chased by a bunch of NOT ZOMBIES, as she clarifies quite adamantly in her voiceovers.

The main girl believes the infected humans they take on—the very few they take on—are aliens inhabiting human bodies.

I’d agree since at one point the kids even do a test on each other to make sure their blood is pure, which gave me some serious The Faculty vibes.

This derivative film has funny moments and a good cast, but it’s surprisingly low-key and simply never builds up enough to propel itself forward. You’ve seen the plot before—the kids eventually have to destroy the nest, but even a huge opportunity for a wild battle with the not zombies in the chaos of flashing strobes at a club is passed over due to what seems like a lack of extras to play a horde of not zombies.

Seriously, there are barely any not zombies in this whole damn movie, so it’s quite anti-climactic. But there sure are plenty of cute guys, including a Leprechaun dude with a great ass.

GOTHIC HARVEST (2019)

Sexy director Ashley Hamilton is also an actor and makes an appearance in this Mardi Gras/crazy family voodoo curse film that goes absolutely nowhere.

I had high hopes when the film started with a dominatrix putting a guy through hell.

We then meet a handful of girls partying at a bar when one of their friends goes missing (this is literally the same setup for Crawlers).

Bill Moseley steps in as a cop and is just about the most entertaining part of the film, particularly when he’s doing a stakeout with one of the girls.

Lin Shaye essentially reprises her role from 2001 Maniacs as the matriarch of a family that has been cursed for centuries, but all she does is sit in a wheelchair the whole time and babble on and on. A tragic waste.

The family has abducted the girl, but they are one of the lamest crazy families of all time. The abducted girl mostly just chills in the bed she’s tied to while Lin is sitting in her wheelchair nearby taunting her and telling her all about the family curse in flashbacks.

There was so much to work with here—the dominatrix, the curse, a voodoo woman, Mardi Gras, a crazy family, Lin Shaye, Bill Moseley—yet the movie doesn’t fully utilize any of it. Never daring to be sadistic (the meanest thing Lin Shaye does to her captive is inject her with something that gives her a burning sensation), Gothic Harvest at least tries to be humorous and quirky at points, but everything thing about it just falls flat—except Bill Moseley and the sexy guy the dominatrix ties up.

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I want your skin! Give me your skiiiiiin!

Always up for some good skin flicks, I never thought I’d be a fan of no skin flicks, but this was my kind of accidental double feature—two films about being terrorized by skinless beings! Let’s get right into Shed and Winterskin.

SHED (2019)

Shed is unlike anything you’ll see in horror these days, so if you’re bored with mainstream films and want a psychosexual otherworldly Halloween horror flick reminiscent of weird, low budget cult horror of the 1970s, I’d highly advise checking this one out.

I was immediately drawn in when a phone sex threesome is followed by an old guy dressed like Santa putting a “Keep Out” sign on his shed…right before having a bunch of young people over for a Halloween party.

That’s where the weirdness begins. I know I would never go to a Halloween party thrown by an old man with a fluffy white Santa beard. Oh…shit. I am the old man with a fluffy white Santa beard who throws Halloween parties.

Anyway, despite the Santa costume, this one lands in the Halloween section of my holiday horror page, not the Christmas section.

A choppy, trippy visual style and sustained suspense music give this film such an authentic gritty, dark, old school vibe that even the actors and their performances don’t feel contemporary.

Adding to the awesome oddness, Shed dares to unapologetically present a diverse group of weirdoes that likes partying with an old man, including a gay couple. They land the film on my does the gay guy die? page, but I wish they’d been in it more. Instead, the focus is on an interracial throuple having sex in a bedroom (2 girls, 1 guy). It’s like Ma with an edge.

Actually, it’s much more than that—and much different. It isn’t long before a couple decides to go out to the shed and see what’s inside. The film quickly establishes that whatever is in there needs skin…

If anything, I think Shed blows its load too soon then goes off on what feels like a drug-induced tangent. That definitely makes it unique, but it also puts an abrupt stop to the sense of dread and leads to rather repetitive and drawn out exposition. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still total insanity and delivers plenty of practical effects gore, it just starts to lose the sense of intrigue after a while.

WINTERSKIN (2018)

Going into Winterskin I didn’t even realize it’s from Charlie Steeds, director of Escape from Cannibal Farm, but it’s not surprising considering it kept me just as enthralled. What’s fascinating about this film is that it could easily be presented on stage as a play, because it focuses specifically on two people trapped in a house in the snowy woods by a frightening presence outdoors.

As with Shed, Winterskin is also a little guilty of blowing its load too soon, for it shows us the skinless creeper in the kick ass opener. Of course, the foreplay also made me keep watching because I wanted to see more.

Next, a young man and his father hunting in the woods become separated due to the inclement weather. All that fur won’t help you now, daddy.

A woman who lives alone in a house in the forest takes the young man in for the night. Actress Rowena Bentley, who also starred in Cannibal Farm, seriously needs to become a household horror name. She’s fantastically witchy here and reminds me of a cross between horror queen Alice Krige and Jennifer Saunders of Ab Fab!

This crazy old bat is convinced something lurks outside the house at night—the skinless being we’ve already seen, of course. As she attempts to convince the young man of the threat on her doorstep, he suspects it’s more dangerous being stuck inside with her.

As their battle of wits rages on, the young man eventually sees for himself that there is indeed major validity to what the woman has been telling him. The segment when it finally infiltrates the house is so perfect that it reminded me of something right out of a Tales from the Crypt episode.

In fact, the entire story reminds me of a tale the Crypt Keeper might tell, and this easily could have been a 30-minute short. That’s not saying it runs too long, because it works just as well as is—and gets pretty damn gruesome, with quite a few surprises along the way.

If you’re looking for a different kind of double feature, both of these films are on Prime at the time of this writing.

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Making a Nightwish for the Laughing Dead to do a Slash Dance

I lived through the 80s, when cable TV was everything and I worked in a video store with a huge horror section, yet there are still films I’ve never seen. Like these three…

SLASH DANCE (1989)

It’s surprising that it took six years after Flashdance for someone to make a movie with this title.

Being a low budget, straight-to-video indie, this is visually the epitome of what the 80s looked like—women with high hair in tacky jazzercise clothing. Oh how I miss that decade.

It’s a cheesy story of female dancers getting killed by a masked psycho in between countless rehearsal montages at a theater.

One female is an undercover detective. There are a couple of female wrestlers. There’s a perv who flashes women yet is clearly being portrayed as a feminine gay man.

I will say that the score during killer POV moments is 80s slasher perfection, but that’s about it. Actually, I also felt warm and fuzzy longing for the decade of my teens when the detective walks the streets…past tons of neon lights advertising adult entertainment.

NIGHTWISH (1989)

The opener of Nightwish is classic 80s horror, with a young woman being chased by a zombie on a desolate street at night.

Then we discover what’s really going on. This is like Flatliners if it were a sleazy 80s horror video rental. A college professor and his handful of students are doing visualization experiments that allow each of them to essentially experience a horror movie death.

The group heads to a house in the woods to investigate its paranormal history. Among the kids is 80s butch boy Brian Thompson and cutie Clayton Roehner (I Madman, April Fool’s Day).

The bad news is that the film is extremely slow for quite a while as the group performs various experiments and unleashes just some minor, silly ectoplasmic snake nonsense.

Eventually the college professor’s determination turns to extremism and things begin to spiral out of control. Everyone is forced to become part of his ritualistic plan to release the entity he believes inhabits the house.

The absolute 80s horror insanity begins when one of the girls gets lost in underground caves and experiences ooey-gooey, nightmarish horror and gore reminiscent of the insanity of Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptations of the time.

Essentially, just when the film feels like a waste of time, it kicks into high gear and delivers everything that made 80s horror a blast.

THE LAUGHING DEAD (1990)

The Laughing Dead has the distinction of starring sci-fi and horror writers rather than actors. Perhaps that is the reason it plays out like a campy horror comedy…unless the comedy was intended, which would explain the title. Either way, it has the feel of a badly dubbed 80s Euro horror film even though it’s in English.

The plot is equally as messy and wacky as an 80s Euro horror flick. A priest takes a bunch of people on an archeological tour of Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebration and they begin experiencing one unrelated horror situation after another.

A zombie basketball game…

  A possessed girl…

Demon dinosaurs?

What the fuck did I just watch? And why isn’t it on DVD?

Adding to all the absurdity, the priest has to deal with an ex-nun he screwed years before…who boards his bus with their son! Seriously, there’s a heartwarming family side story that even delivers a happy ending.

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Mirror Mirror 2, 3, and 4…

Leave it to 90s horror to make a 4-film franchise out of an already unimpressive movie from 1990 (my blog here) and drag it through the decade, even after Scream reinvigorated the genre. Here’s what you can expect from the three sequels.

MIRROR MIRROR 2: RAVEN DANCE (1994)

If you remember Tracy Wells of the awful Mr. Belvedere sitcom of the late 80s, here she is as the lead girl, who comes to live at a Catholic orphanage. She becomes enamored with a mirror in her room because it is the only thing she can see following a punk rock band being zapped into oblivion after they tease her and she wishes them gone.

And that is the last we ever hear of the boys.

Veronica Cartwright is a nun who was also blinded by the killer mirror, but she’s still around and for whatever reason has not put a stop to the mirror. Sally Kellerman is Tracy’s evil stepsister (say what???), who teams up with Roddy McDowall to make this as cheesy and campy as possible.

Tracy is now a blind dancer, and every time she twirls around to a song that sounds like it came from 1989, bad things happen. At all other times, she’s roaming the orphanage to a whimsical horror score that sounds like it was stolen from a Full Moon feature.

Mark Ruffalo appears and befriends Tracy, plus we get a spider scene, a killer crow scene, a bloody mirror scene, and laser-shooting toys coming to life. At the very end, a cool demon climbs out of the mirror for a moment and almost makes this worth a watch.

Of note is that character actor William Sanderson, who appeared in the first film, is in this sequel as a different character.

MIRROR MIRROR 3: THE VOYEUR (1995)

Thing start out okay. A witchy woman does some sort of ritual, and a Rico Suave/Richard Grieco fusion (anyone post-Gen X…look them up) dressed like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction comes face to reflection with the bleeding mirror.

Next, character actor Billy Drago is thrust into the first of many sex dream sequences, for this installment is more about erotica than horror.

Drago plays an artist moving into a new home…where he finds the mirror.

Turns out the house is where the witchy woman lived, and she’s still around, banging Drago and dragging him into the flashback story with her Rico Grieco man.

It’s bad. It’s really bad. The mirror feels like it’s lost its importance as the star of the franchise. Don’t expect a demon to appear in the last few minutes, but do expect to see Mark Ruffalo return…as a different character. I’m noticing a trend here.

Also, David Naughton appears in a minor role as a detective, clinging to the hope that An American Werewolf London will get a reboot someday and make him a star once again.

MIRROR MIRROR 4: REFLECTIONS (2000)

Brace yourself, because this is going to blow your mind. Billy Drago stars in this sequel…playing a different character than in the last film. That means that every single movie in the Mirror Mirror franchise is somewhat of a reflection of the film before it.

On the bright side, the fourth film takes its cue from the post-Scream “teen” horror craze, focusing strictly on five kids trapped in a haunted attraction at a masquerade party. The dull side is everything else.

It is dumbfounding that a script this bad could be green-lighted, but here we are. A girl and her guy sneak into some sort of shop(?) to try on costumes. In another part of the place, a worker finds a mirror and playfully does the “mirror, mirror, on the wall” shtick from Snow White. She gets torched by the mirror, the couple finds her remains, an angry force shaky cams after them as they run, and…

…the girl wakes up a year later. She is still not over the death of her boyfriend, sooooo…she goes to the same masquerade party at the same place from the year before. Is it Halloween? Why this location for the party? Why the haunted tour thrown in? Why do all the other guests just suddenly disappear for the rest of the film?

Anyway, the five leads get lost in the attraction, the main girl has a nightmare that reveals her boyfriend was killed by some sort of zombie guy the year before, and Billy Drago shows up as a homeless guy who becomes the devil on her shoulder.

I have no idea what was going on. There are lots of flashbacks to her in bed with her boyfriend, the kids split up, a “countess” suddenly makes an entrance for reasons that are beyond me, and 54 minutes in one of the kids is finally attacked by a demon.

At least there are visual elements of horror in the final 30 minutes. As far as plot…I have no idea.

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PRIME TIME: which of these six gets my last laugh?

It was a quirky horror marathon for me in a variety of subgenres, including cartoon crazies, a demon detective, a killer camera, reaper hunters, Halloween found footage, and a village of vamps. So which one entertained me most?

TERROR TOONS 3 (2015)

The Terror Toons franchise makes a massive shift in this sequel. Whereas the first two films were quite wacky, cartoonish slashers, the third film—which ignores the second and picks up where the first left off—is even more cartoonish, and is essentially just a surreal exploitation showcase of director Joe Castro’s over-the-top practical and CGI special effects talent. If you’re familiar with his work you’ll feel right at home.

The Terror Toons critters basically infiltrate every aspect of a hospital, from patients to doctors to equipment, and use it all to unleash cartoonish chaos on the world.

That’s the most I could make of a plot. It’s just pure visual insanity after that, with plenty of gore. To confuse matters even more, Herschell Gordon Lewis makes an appearance reading a tale from a storybook (something he’s done in movies before) which becomes the core of the rest of the film, as two cute guys get caught up in the bizarre Castro universe.

The Terror Toons critters are mostly replaced by the otherworldly monsters they create. There’s also a delicious segment involving shirtless men, as well as some wiener.

While I have the first two films on DVD, the third isn’t available as of this writing, but even with me being an OCD completist, this installment is a little too abstract for my tastes.

DEMON SQUAD (2019)

In the tradition of Buffy and Angel, Demon Squad is a film about a paranormal investigator who has to deal with various creatures and monsters that exist in everyday life as he tries to track down a powerful artifact before otherworldly baddies can get their hands on it.

Helping the detective out is his female assistant, a psychic determined to be a more important part of the business.

The film has some good monster designs and old school special effects, but it is extremely dialogue heavy, and runs too long at almost 100 minutes.

While it has quirky, humorous moments, they are low-key and few and far between. I think perhaps the film takes itself too seriously.

It just isn’t fun or energetic enough to suck you in, and it has the clunky flow of a web series that has been brought together as a full movie.

STRIGOI (2009)

Despite the title and the story taking place in Romania, Strigio is an English language film. While the tone reminds me of the small town werewolf horror film Attack of the Werewolves, this film is a grueling hour and forty-five minutes of bland.

A cute young man comes back from a trip to Italy and notices things feel odd in town and with the locals. He becomes convinced there’s a vampire epidemic and begins delving into the lives and relationships of his neighbors to uncover the truth.

And it drags on and on and on. There are a few funny moments, like a sick guy wanting the main guy to stick a finger up his ass, but most of the humor is flat, and not even a charming cast managed to keep me engaged.

And despite a dark look and feel and creepy growls that come from the ominous infected, there are no scares and no gore.

There is an unexpected turn of events well before the movie ends, but the fact that things pick up only slightly even after that is a strong reminder that the film could have easily been trimmed by fifteen minutes to tighten the pace.

BUTCHER THE BAKERS (2017)

When a guy in a trench coat and scraggly hair appears and beats a bunch of girls having a slumber party to death, I’m in.

But the opening scene isn’t indicative of the remainder of this horror comedy. That guy is a grim reaper who has gone rogue and is stealing souls, so his bald bear boss hires two dudes that own a bakery shop to hunt him down and kill him. Yes, this is one of those absurd plots you just have to go with.

With the help of their geeky friend and a couple of amateur witches, the guys set out to do the job, not realizing the grim reaper has assembled a motley crew of creeps to hunt them down.

Sort of like one of those silly buddy comedies from the 90s, Butcher the Bakers has a strong cast that knows how to do comedy, and they definitely deliver the best funny moments in the film.

But like many of these quirky, low budget horror comedies, the non-stop humor in the trailer is spaced apart by lots of filler in the full feature, so it simply isn’t as quick-witted as you might hope. It’s mostly a lot of long-winded goofiness with occasional playful gore.

However, Butcher the Bakers is a promising demonstration of what the director can do. I particularly thought a spontaneous music video performance by the hipster main character was a blast, and the Butcher the Bakers theme song by Hot Dad is absolutely going to be on my Future Flashbacks now wave show…and not just because the artist is named Hot Dad.

BAD BEN 7: THE HAUNTED HIGHWAY (2019)

I don’t know what the Bad Ben series is and don’t feel the need to find out, but I watched this short found footage feature (66 minutes) because it takes place on Halloween.

Really it could have taken place on any night, but October 31st does set the tone as a ride share driver picks up one customer after another, drops them off, experiences something supernatural at the location, and then gets in the car and moves on to another call, almost like he’s the thread connecting stories in an anthology. I found it to be a clever concept.

Mostly just a series of unrelated sequences, the film has some effectively situations as well as funny moments—enough of both to keep you entertained in between way too much footage of the road and of the driver talking to customers.

There are vampires, murderers, and masked freaks, and the driver’s reaction to each of them is a load of fun. I just wish there had been a little more Halloween spirit and less driving.

KILLER CAMERA MONSTERS (2020)

This is such a fun little indie horror comedy that benefits from humorous performances and fast pacing.

A cute, struggling photographer buys a new camera from some dude selling shit out of the trunk of his car. Soon the photographer discovers that anyone he takes a picture of turns into a man-eating demon!

That’s it. It’s as simple as that. The demons are pretty savage, the main guy’s reaction to them is hilarious, and the sexy detective on the case is also a hoot.

The movie even manages to squeeze in an ass-eating scene. But I swear that is not the reason this one wins this round of streaming wars for me…especially considering the butt-licker is a woman.

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Back to the 80s—four from 85 to 90

The 80s vaults just keep swinging open, between indie companies digging up lost films for Blu-ray release, streaming services offering poor quality sources of old movies, and even owners of VHS tapes from back in the day uploading them to YouTube. So let’s take a look at four of the latest I finally get the chance to blog about.

CUT AND RUN (1985)

Don’t let this “cannibal” movie being by director Ruggero Deodato of Cannibal Holocaust fame fool you…it’s a drug war movie that takes place in the jungle, where occasionally a bunch of native cannibals attack and mostly just stab white guys in the neck with pointy weapons. The fact that horror icon Michael Berryman and Willie Ames of Eight is Enough and Charles in Charge are in a movie together in 1985 should tell you everything you need to know.

Berryman, who is one of few oddly white tribe members in the cannibal bunch, appears very few times, but he actually delivers the only two effective scares in the entire film, at the very beginning and very end.

Ames has been chained…

I mean, Ames has been kidnapped by the drug cartel and is being kept in a hut.

A reporter played by Lisa Blount (Dead and Buried, Prince of Darkness) comes to the jungle, and they all try to escape the drug thugs. Once in a while they fight cannibals—that only actually do some disappointingly sterile eating in one scene. Yawn.

Richard Lynch and Karen Black also have minor roles, some corpses pop out of the water and fall from trees, but still…not much of a horror movie, and that’s right down to the late 80s action movie soundtrack.

NIGHTFLYERS (1987)

Nightflyers is based on a novella by popular sci-fi author George RR Martin, and while it’s a rather drawn out adaptation that’s more sci-fi than horror, I can appreciate how insanely 1980s it is.

Catherine Mary Stewart (Night of the Comet) sports Frida “I Know There’s Something Going On” hair a few years before Hellraiser made it an outdated mom hairdo. She and a small group of scientists are on a mission to track down an alien life form on a spaceship.

Turns out this spaceship has a mind of its own…and a hologram captain. The captain takes a shine to Catherine.

80s pop non-star Michael Des Barres (Ghoulies, Waxwork II) is on board as a mind-reading druggy, and a battle between him and Catherine is as 80s as my soul could hope for, and one of the few sci-fi/horror moments in the film.

There are also plenty of spaceship scenes and laser fights that cement the film as the epitome of late-80s cable TV fodder.

EDGE OF THE AXE (1988)

It was always fun when Euro horror took on the 80s slasher genre, because the result would be a weird murder mystery/giallo-esque mess attempting to tap into the U.S. horror market of the time.

Edge of the Axe is a Spanish film in English that delivers brutal, odd kill sequences, beginning with a kill in a car wash! An axe murderer wearing a creepy white mask is hacking up seemingly random people in a small town, and detectives are on the case.

People pop up just to be sliced and diced in some thrilling scenes set to classic 80s horror music. There are chase scenes, body and body part reveals, and even some tragic animal slaughter.

In between the kills, a main guy and girl have a budding relationship. She becomes intrigued by his computer and begins to use the futuristic technology to investigate the murders herself.

And like any good bad Euro horror, things spiral into silly melodrama as the twists start coming on the way to the cheesy reveal of the killer and motivation.

DEADLY MANOR (1990)

The director of Edge of the Axe is back for another slasher just in time to close out the 80s era. This is a fully English language film that starts off looking like Dead Dudes in the House. Sadly, it doesn’t play out like it.

After an opener with totally naked bodies lying around after a car accident, totally 80s kids pick up a totally 80s hitchhiker and together they arrive at a totally creepy old house. This is where we immediately know how bad this is going to be; there’s a crashed car on display on a platform in the yard.

The kids decide to stay in the house for the night. There are coffins in the basement, shrines with pictures of a totally 80s woman all over the house, a crack in the wall, a collection of scalps, a sex scene dream, glimpses of someone wearing a white mask, and shots of a murderer’s lower half.

There are also murders, but most of them happen off screen. In fact, it feels like more bodies turn up than the number of people who get implied death scenes. Tragic.

Eventually there’s a final girl and one of the most ludicrous killer motivation reveals ever. And the final jump scare after the cops show up is laughable…as is the killer.

 

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Death Drop Gorgeous—the title is the only headline needed for this gay slasher

I’ve been following this upcoming drag slasher for quite some time, and at last it is on its way to being unveiled to the world—and hopefully released on DVD so I can add it to my gay horror collection (I’ve already added it to the full homo horror movies page on the site).

Death Drop Gorgeous is co-written and co-directed by trio Michael J. Ahern, Christopher Dalpe, and Brandon Perras. Brandon even plays a mob boss type who owns the drag club where the movie takes place…and where he keeps a (big beary leather daddy son of a) bitch on a leash just for the fun of it.

Our cute main guy (who nails the comic timing) gets his old job back at the drag club, where the queer crowd is dealing with the ageism, racism, and femme-phobia that run rampant in the community…plenty of reasons for someone to want to start killing off a bunch of queens!

Perhaps because there are three creators behind the scenes, there’s a lot going on here. Death Drop Gorgeous has hints of 80s slashers (a masked killer and CGI-free gore), giallo elements (detectives on the case and scenes drenched in pink/purple lighting), and a 90s club scene vibe (bitchy drag queens performing thumping house tracks). It’s like recent gay horror flicks Killer Unicorn and Knife + Heart were placed in a meat grinder with RuPaul’s Drag Race.

It’s a lot to juggle, and like most giallos, it delivers a convoluted plot and scattered subplots, as well as numerous extraneous characters, which makes it hard to pinpoint the ones we need to focus on to carry us through the story. For the most part, the film is just what you’d expect from an indie drag slasher—there’s loads of fun to have here as long as you can overlook rookie mistakes. You can’t go into Death Drop Gorgeous expecting a sleek mainstream production, but if you love VHS-era slashers and also good, trashy drag performances, this is a movie for you.

Let’s start off with the showstoppers—literally. The film runs 103 minutes long, a dangerous length for a slasher (consider that both Halloween 1978 and Friday the 13th 1980 hover around 90 minutes). Naturally if you’re going to cast drag queens in your horror movie and they get dolled up for the camera, they’re all going to expect a moment in the spotlight. With the number of drag queens in this film, that makes for a lot of moments. While there’s clearly a need to showcase some drag performances, they work best for the flow of the film when they’re interspersed with or serve as the background for a scene (or death scene) that propels the film forward. Even slashers of the eighties that felt the need to highlight some struggling new wave, power pop, or metal band often only gave them one full number.

The other issues that slow down the pacing are two common problems we see in indie films all the time. First there are irrelevant scenes that pad the run time without helping to tell the story or develop characters and aren’t entertaining enough to keep the audience engaged while waiting for the next kill. And then there’s character response time. It’s that feeling of actors taking a few seconds too long to react, almost as if they’re trying to remember their next line, waiting to make sure the other actor is completely done speaking, or waiting for someone to call “action!”. Some of that could have been fixed if split seconds had been edited out between the camera cutting from one character to another, and some of it could have been smoothed over if the directors had lightly coached some of the actors to pick up the pace and not fall off the beat.

There. I covered the film’s problems so you’re prepared for them. Let’s get to the good stuff (including the butt above). There are bearded, bearish guys, like co-creator Brandon, if that’s you’re thing (mmmm, papa!).

The drag queens look fantastic—one even reminds me of Gaga. There are good songs, and early on one queen performs a “Death Drop Gorgeous” theme song that sounds like a 90s club track. Awesome. The horror score is drenched in 80s synth vibes, and the soundtrack includes some great “now wave” artists I’ve either played on my Future Flashbacks show (Boy Hasher, Bright Light Bright Light) or plan to now that this movie introduced them to me (Beta Motel, Sapphic Lasers).

 

 

There’s just enough bod, butt, and dick to prove the film has the balls to be unapologetically gay without leaning entirely on sex and nudity to captivate its niche audience.

Even more captivating are the vicious kills. I wouldn’t change a thing about them, and I would have gladly welcomed more, as well as a chase scene or two, which we don’t get here. We do, however, experience what is probably my favorite horror scene in the film—a tarp maze that is right out of Argento and perfectly demonstrates the creative vision these filmmakers have in them.

In fact, the final act is when we are hit with the bulk of the horror. There are some unexpected plot twists, an iconic scream queen makes a brief cameo without distracting us, and the killer’s performance is an absolute hoot, rising to the occasion for this gay slasher comedy’s campy tone.

I’ll keep you posted as the film becomes available to watch, but do check out the deathdropgorgeous.com website and follow them on social media.

Posted in Johnny You ARE Queer - Gay Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, Scared Silly - Horror Comedy, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment