Director Bruce Wemple thrilled me with a Wendigo flick with a queer slant (The Retreat), and intrigued me with a lesbian thriller with a Bigfoot slant (Monstrous). So of course I was going to check out two more of his films when they showed up on my streaming services.
DAWN OF THE BEAST (2021)
I purchased Dawn of the Beast on DVD before I was even done streaming it because damn, Wemple sure knows how to make zany horror movies that blend subgenres. This fricking flick has Wendigos, Bigfoot, and a crawling demon girl!
The bizarre mashup aside, Wemple is just so good at creating suspenseful, atmospheric scenes and delivers fantastic creatures without the use of CGI.
So in this film, a group of students and their professor go to a cabin in the woods to search for Bigfoot. Sure there’s some minor drama between the characters, but it isn’t long before we are immersed in nonstop monster action.
Between Wendigos outside, Bigfoot stomping around the woods, and a possessed girl crawling around the cabin, it’s total horror chaos and I’m living for it.
The film totally ramps up into new territory in the final act when the final boy strips down to his underwear to deal with everything being thrown at him.
I was getting some serious Evil Dead vibes by the end. This is just pure fun and so my kind of horror flick.
LAKE ARTIFACT (2019)
Several familiar faces from other Wemple films appear in this one, which is a good thing, because these guys and girls sure give good horror.
Lake Artifact differs from all his others in that there isn’t a killer creature in sight. Instead, we get a more complex plot that for me personally didn’t quite iron out its own details enough. For instance, there are “interview” segments about a cult that just distracted me, but the film still delivered a pretty wild ride.
Our friends heading to a cabin in the woods this time around get help from a drifter when their car breaks down. So, they invite him to hang out at their cabin. But, some of them find him a bit shady and suspect…
A few odd occurrences complicate matters, like a photo appearing of all of them that no one took, and some old dude lurking in the bushes outside.
When he doesn’t tell you he’s a virgin.
There really are some interesting aspects here as the group discovers they are stuck in some sort of time loop.
I was particularly intrigued by the drifter being picked up by two guys that seemed kind of gay for him, but just like several crucial plot points presented, it’s whipped up in a sudden whirlwind of events that didn’t feel fully developed and also made the main story arc a bit convoluted. But it is rather delightful when everyone starts turning on…themselves…
Joey Lawrence is the “star” even though he’s barely in the film. He is heading to meet his family at their beach house, but a storm keeps holding him back. Meanwhile, mom, grandpa, daughter, and son get to the house. The acting is kind of awful, but I also have a feeling the cast may have had to re-record their dialogue at the beginning of the film because it feels really off, like an English dubbed foreign language movie.
The son and his girlfriend go swimming and are targeted by a horrible CGI shark. Immediately I couldn’t get past the fact that despite the film being called Swim, half the time when the characters are supposed to be swimming in deep water, it’s beyond obvious that they are just standing in shallow water until the moment they are supposed to swim.
The action is as typical as these films get. The ocean floods the land, the shark gets into the basement first, the family moves up to the main floor, and eventually the water rises to that level. And in all that time, with the ocean as its fish tank, the shark never leaves the vicinity of the house.
The funniest part is when grandpa tries to fight the shark with his cane after the main floor floods in front of some of the worst green screen ever.
Eventually, Joey shows up as a poor man’s Roy Schneider in Jaws 2. If you simply must see every horrible shark movie there is or just want to close out your summer with a shark film, then check it out for free on Tubi.
THE DEVIL BELOW (2021)
The director of Chernobyl Diaries brings us a movie that is basically a mashup of Chernobyl Diaries and the true life town on which the Silent Hill movie is based.
A group of researchers heads to a deserted town under which coal mines have been burning for years.
There are some signs from strangers that they should stay away from the place, but they find it anyway. There is a lot of talk and little else for a good part of the film until the group gets separated when some of them end up down in a hole.
There are fleeting hints of a monster (mostly during a night vision scene), but it’s not until 67 minutes in that we finally see what is living underground.
These creatures are pretty cool, and for about 15 minutes there’s some monster excitement. You decide if you want to sit through over an hour of forgettable film to get to it.
BEAST WITHIN (2020)
This simple indie horror takes a classic werewolf movie concept and gives it an update—people trapped in a mansion/castle are murdered one by one until they determine that one of them must be a werewolf.
In this situation, it’s a group gathered together for a launch party of a werewolf game app.
Much of the film is soap opera antics as characters clash and bicker over sex, love, money, and success. Meanwhile, someone occasionally makes the mistake of going outside alone and encountering the bloodthirsty werewolf.
Eventually they realize the game is coming to life and distrust mounts. Some believe the killer is a human, others think it’s actually a werewolf.
Thankfully, it’s a werewolf. The creature doesn’t get loads of screen time, but when it does, it’s a good old fashioned costume and not CGI.
And the actor playing the human version of the werewolf is perfect, and the boys are pretty.
NIGHT CLAWS (2012)
This one mixes good old 80s style monster suit horror with a touch of SyFy creature feature camp to deliver a pretty entertaining Bigfoot flick.
Even better, it starts with a couple having sex in a car and then getting torn limb from limb. Yay!
It also has a cast that just warms a GenXer’s horror heart. Reb Brown, who showed his hot ass in Sssssss, is now a daddy and plays the sheriff. His love interest and deputy was in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight and the gay flick Play Dead. The pretty anthropologist that rolls into town in search of Bigfoot was Sharon Stone’s girlfriend in Basic Instinct. Another guy was in Surf Nazis Must Die. And another guy was in Killer Workout and Scarecrows. Even jerk-off Frank Stallone has a role.
The plot is typical. Sheriff wants to solve case, outsider scientist comes in to call the shots, various groups of people get attacked by Bigfoot to keep pace going, eventually a team is sent out to hunt creature.
It’s kind of silly, kind of cheesy, and delivers plenty of bloody body parts and full monster Monty. Sometimes that’s all I really need.
There is some typical scarecrow slashing to be had in this trio of films I checked out on Prime and Tubi, but each one definitely has its own unique aspects, including a taxidermy cult, Amityville, and a gay spin!
What a relief to stumble upon something so refreshingly different than all the cookie cutter horror that hits the mainstream these days. C.O.R.N. is the kind of out there stuff that leaves commenters online saying generic shit like “worst movie ever”.
The movie reminds me of the kind of anything goes horror of the late 80s that was too absurd to comprehend if you took the time to actually think about it. Back then we didn’t want to think about it. We just wanted an experience that fucked us up by forcing the main characters into trippy, weird situations from which there seemed to be no escape.
The opening scene has perfect horror atmosphere as some girls have fun in a haunted maze at night…before one is dragged down to a lair to get a little scarecrow treatment.
Next we meet a teen brother and sister traveling with a family friend through a rural area when their car breaks down. The family friend tells them to wait in the car while he walks back to the nearest town for help.
Once alone, the siblings immediately get out and enter a nearby cornfield. The boy makes lots of scarecrow jokes. They encounter and befriend another teen.
It’s not Christmas, but do you see what I see?
They go to a party where the kids seem way too cool to live in the middle of bumfuck. Not trying to be a jerk here, but are there actually trendy kids in bumfuck? Hell, there’s even a Black girl. Are there Black people in bumfuck?
Not for long, because of course the Black girl is the first to get snatched when they all go to the haunted maze together.
The movie wanders into head-scratching territory when the main kids stay overnight, and we can’t help but wonder what happened to their M.I.A. family friend. Next day, they go out to party again and walk right into the thick of the plot—a secret society of “taxidermists”. Yay! And…eek!
It’s almost like backwoods horror with sophisticated folk running the show instead of inbreeds as the kids try to uncrash this horror party.
I kind of adored the film, even if there is a little slowdown in the middle that could have been tightened up to help with temporary pacing issues.
AMITYVILLE SCARECROW (2021)
There are so many scarecrow slashers out there, do these indie filmmakers really think they need to slap the name Amityville on their title to garner an audience?
I totally watched this movie because it had the word Amityville in the title.
Okay, so there’s more to it than that. I love watching bogus “Amityville” movies to see how much of an effort they make to in any way connect the story to the Amityville canon. I also love me some scarecrow slashers.
I can now say the endless efforts to make this simple, fun slasher an Amityville movie is a distraction, especially for someone like me who grew up in the U.S. on Long Island where Amityville is located, yet half the actors in this Amityville film have British accents. Yeah, they weave that into their Amityville backstory, but it was too much of a stretch.
Anyway, the opener sets the scene, with a couple having sex in a conveniently located trailer home in a cornfield at night, only to be mistaken for crows by a creepy scarecrow with a scythe. However, this is like a PG-13 slasher, so there’s nothing in the way of gore. But there is a nice beefy man bod.
Then two estranged sisters arrive with their families. Various conversations give us an Amityville backstory that flirts with aspects of the DeFeo case while changing the name, then breaks off into how the property was sold and is now owned by these two sisters. One wants to sell it because she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the other sister, who wants to bury the hatchet and work together to do something productive with the land.
There’s even some talk around a campfire about the stories of the Amityville evil escaping and how it could jump into objects like toys. It’s always nice to see these Amityville movies relying on the Amityville: The Evil Escapes book from decades ago to justify their movies. Author John G. Jones deserves major royalties.
Anyway, none of it matters. The scarecrow comes to life and starts going after the family. It’s all in the darkness of night, and it’s all about bringing the families back together to fight for their lives. The best part for me is when the scarecrow busts into the trailer home and the sisters start beating it up with pots and pans.
SCARECROW COUNTY (2019)
If you don’t like indie films without high production value or professional actors, you might as well just steer clear of this little scarecrow slasher. However, it gives us something we don’t get every day in scarecrow slashers—a gay scarecrow killer! Yes!
As rough as it is around the edges, for a simple scarecrow slasher that runs a lean 75 minutes long, the film explores the challenges of small town life for those who are different, and how the privileged “ruling class” stays in power and protects its own. I’m pretty sure if this were a polished project that had a bunch of money thrown at it for production, it would be getting a whole lot of recognition for its social themes.
There are two very edgy sisters, neither conforming to the usual standards of femininity, which is cool. One works at a library, the other is agoraphobic and just stays inside drawing comics of a gothic character that talks to her. She also has a very Lena Dunham vibe going on.
When a woman cleaning out her family home drops off some books to donate, a drunk guy in the library makes reference to her deceased gay brother and she isn’t very happy. Uh-oh.
The library girl then finds the brother’s diary in the box of books and begins reading it.
Meanwhile, the scarecrow starts killing people off left and right. Wahoo! The kills are standard and there’s no gore, but the setup shots, atmosphere and lighting are perfectly 1980s horror in style, especially closer to the end of the film.
The denouement is a funny little surprise, if not a little cheesy in how it’s presented. In fact, it’s quite campy, which is sort of apropos in an indie horror movie about a gay killer scarecrow.
The most confusing part of the film for me is that although no holiday is referenced as far as I can recall and it is about a scarecrow, which immediately puts me in the autumn mindset, near the end of the film the agoraphobic sister opens her door and there are Christmas decorations adorning the front of her house! What the heck? Maybe she was just too afraid to go outside to remove them the previous December?
It’s a variety of horror comedies in my latest movie marathon, and I actually had fun with three out of four, so let’s find out which ones.
IT CUTS DEEP (2020)
Featuring one of those mostly self-contained scenarios with limited characters, It Cuts Deep is a Christmas horror comedy, so it’s another on for the holiday horror movie page.
The intro scene grabbed my horror attention, with two young teens in a bedroom being interrupted by someone with a machete.
Then we meet a guy taking his girl to his old family home for a quiet Christmas vacation to evaluate their relationship. She wants to get married and have kids, he wants anal sex. And I so did laugh at the adolescent jokes that ensued.
Yes, he’s a goofy dude who hasn’t quite grown up, but he also definitely has experienced something traumatic in his past that’s holding him back.
And then they run into his creepy as hell childhood friend who inserts himself into their private time together. The girlfriend welcomes it, but the main guy clearly doesn’t trust his old friend.
Things begin to escalate as the main guy becomes paranoid about the old friend’s erratic, psychotic behavior, but the girlfriend never witnesses any of it.
There’s plenty of humor mixed with some odd situations that keep you wondering where this is all leading, which, naturally, is a bloody finale.
BENNY LOVES YOU (2019)
Imagine if Elmo ran around gleefully slashing people up with a knife and you have this silly little horror comedy.
The opening scene is deliciously dark, and involves a little girl terrified of her teddy bear, and a mother who just doesn’t have the patience for it.
Then we meet a dude in his thirties who still lives with his parents, plays video games, and is a failure at work.
But that all changes when he wakes up one day to discover that someone has murdered all his teddy bears overnight. Teehee.
It’s Benny, his favorite childhood toy! And Benny doesn’t stop there. Benny murders anyone he feels is stunting the main guy’s growth.
The fun thing about Benny Loves You is that this isn’t your usual killer doll movie. Benny isn’t a mean, scary, or wise-cracking killer doll. He is totally joyful and naive to the evil he’s doing as he bounces around cheerfully hacking up his victims. I guess that’s why it’s so hard for our main guy to put any effort into stopping the insanity…
It’s unfortunate that so many indie horror comedies get lost in the shuffle, because there are plenty of charming and funny little gems out there, and zomcom Ahockalypse is one of them for me.
The opening scene is the perfect warmup. A big daddy bear tough guy working late at the office whips out his hockey stick when his building is infiltrated by zombies.
Next we meet dudes on a hockey team. After a quick game, they celebrate in a hotel. We get some hot man ass, some hot man bod, and then the team learns quickly that there are zombies running amok outside.
It’s hockey hotties and funny guys vs. zombies, landing this one on the sausage fest scares page. One dude in particular is a fantastic comic actor, and it’s hinted at that his character is itching to go gay, but surprisingly, he never comes to terms with it.
But as they battle zombies, the guys do run around in just their undies for a while, and are forced by a guy who owns a strip club to get up and dance for him, and the never admittedly gay guy goes all out.
Sadly, two of the hunkiest and hottest guys, one who is quite funny in a burnout surfer dude kind of way, are killed way too early in the film in my big gay opinion.
There are some funny girls along for the ride, and even a girl-on-girl kiss, and the gang has to battle a variety of zombies in different situations (taking on zombie kids is the best). It all leads to a final battle on the ice rink at the end.
Polterheist is labeled as a horror comedy, but the moments of good British humor are few and far between. On top of that, it’s just horrendously boring despite a promising premise and likable characters.
Two mobsters are almost killed by another bunch of mobsters their boss stole money from. They cut a deal…find the money and return it by a specific deadline or else.
Problem is they killed their boss!
Sooo…they go to a medium and force her to make contact with their boss so they can ask him where he hid the money.
The boss hops into the medium and goes on an excursion with them to find the money.
Sounds like fun, right? I don’t know what went wrong here, but the film just lacks, like…everything. After some super promising moments early on, it is astonishingly bland. I feel like maybe it would be more appealing to mob movie fans than, well, me.
Don’t expect to use these horror flicks as an escape from the horrors of reality, because they are all about the shit making the world miserable these days. Let’s get it over with.
WARNING: if you hate what you consider “political” or “libtard” messages in your horror movies, then definitely don’t watch this movie about a struggling farming family that gets screwed over in more ways than one after leasing their property to a giant oil company for fracking.
Mostly a drama that turns horror very late in the game, this is a good example of how not to do a slow burn horror movie. For a slow burn to work effectively, it has to create a sense of dread about the horror to come, and this simply doesn’t. At all.
On one farm is cutie Riley from Buffy, his wife, their college age daughter, and their teen mom high school daughter and her baby. On the other farm is Adrienne Barbeau, her son, his wife, and their grown daughter. The two families are intertwined in a variety of ways, including an affair and even lesbian desire.
Characters keep ending up in a cornfield, so there’s some major metaphor going on there. I’m not saying I know what it is, I’m just saying it’s there.
Eventually, members of each family start getting sick in a variety of ways, bringing elements of body horror to the last 30 minutes or so, along with a hint of people going a little bit The Crazies on each other…all due to whatever the fracking has unleashed into the environment.
How I miss the days of 80s environmental message horror, when some sort of chemical was inflicted on nature in the first 5 minutes of a movie to get the point across and then people were mutilated by some sort of mutated monster for the next 85 minutes to get the horror across.
THE HUNT (2020)
I was putting this one off for a while because a) it isn’t really my kind of “horror” film, and b) it’s a political plot. But I finally went for it, and it’s really just a fun, funny, satirical kill or be killed flick that comes to somewhat of a Kill Bill climax.
The movie description alone manages to raise a lot of questions about hardcore beliefs on both sides.
Anyone paying attention knows that liberals lose their shit over the slightest edgy joke these days, virtually making the art of camp extinct. However, when it comes to horror, we libtards live for city kids traveling into the woods only to be hacked, slashed, raped, and eaten by religious extremists and conservative wing nuts that hate us.
Here’s the irony. Those same films often get bashed by conservative horror fans, who gripe that they are always being portrayed as the evil ones. So it’s kind of surprising that there was backlash against The Hunt when it was released because conservatives saw it as an offensive film about liberals hunting down rednecks for the thrill of it. Wait. What?
The liberals are the bad guys! The conservatives are the heroes! Watch the damn movie! It challenges both the libs and the cons. If you’re a liberal who watches this film and roots for the psychotic liberals, then you better rethink your values. The whole point is that no one deserves to be hunted down and killed by someone else for fun. Not to mention, the main girl is so bad ass it’s impossible not to root for her.
Could the conservative hero being a woman be a part of the problem for conservatives? Hmmm…
The film creates a brilliant conundrum for everyone involved. It blatantly mocks plenty of liberal talking points. It demonstrates that not all conservatives are ready to throw down with a gun and kick liberal ass when faced with a civil war. It pokes fun at gender identity and sexual orientation, conspiracy theories, free speech, race, and the military…showing that even conservatives will turn on those who have served their country in an instant.
Yet despite all those “thought-provoking” concepts, this movie is simply a blood-soaked action flick with plenty of humor. I can’t imagine anyone from either side of the aisle not having a blast with it.
The plot is as simple as this. Snooty liberals abduct rednecks, drop them off in the middle of the wilderness, and then start taking them out in gruesome ways. But the rednecks are not all going to be taken out that easily. It’s fun fun fun leading up to Hilary Swank and the main girl going all Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman on each other.
CORONA ZOMBIES (2020)
Made within a matter of weeks after COVID overtook the world in the spring of 2020, this is Full Moon at its absolute worst. I would have been fine with a terrible low budget original zombie film about the virus coming from Full Moon, but that’s not what this is.
This movie, clocking in at just over an hour long, features one character as a wraparound, acting all ditzy about the seriousness of COVID with a friend on the phone when there’s a zombie outbreak. So she turns on the news and…
The film is comprised entirely of clips from the 1980 Euro horror flick Hell of the Living Dead with new COVID gag joke dialogue dubbed over it, combined with clips from the 2012 Full Moon film Zombies vs. Strippers. The COVID humor is as timely and as cliché as it gets, and to make matters worse, they insert actual footage of Dump giving speeches about the disease. Ugh.
It’s back to the late 00s for a bunch of direct-to-SyFy flicks starring a variety of familiar faces. Let’s just get this over with.
EYE OF THE BEAST (2007)
This is generally a more polished outing than the usual SyFy creature features…mostly because you barely see the creature, so there’s little chance for it to suffer from bad CGI.
In other words, this shit is boring.
In the first scene, a couple making out in a boat at night is attacked by tentacles. Cool.
Then James Van Der Beek comes to town as a scientist. He hooks up with the pretty sheriff. They clash with the local fishermen. There are racial tensions. A few more people die.
Eventually they go out on a boat to hunt the creature…a big squid. At last we get to see the squid face up close. Looks cool. Reminds of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. They kill it. The end.
It’s another generic, nature gone mad SyFy original. Original is really the wrong word for these films since there’s nothing original about the cookie cutter plots.
Snakes have been genetically enhanced in a lab by Corbin Bernsen. They escape. They end up in a small town. They kill a variety of people, You know it’s bad when the gore looks cool, but the CGI snakes overlaid on top of it ruins it.
Then a bunch of different locals band together to stop the snakes while running all over town. Tara Reid leads the charge. I was hoping Mercedes McNab, Harmony of Buffy fame, who usually brings a load of fun to any horror movie she’s in, would do the same here.
Instead, she literally comes in for a sex scene and gets killed while the guy is showering after. What a waste of a Buffy alum.
RISE OF THE GARGOYLES (2009)
Hottie Eric Balfour has a rather impressive horror film and television resume, but SyFy original Rise of the Gargoyles is the bottom of the barrel. Not because it’s a SyFy original, but because it is beyond uninspired.
I can’t imagine a script this bland and cliché with the most flat characters being picked up for production, but here it is. Balfour plays a teacher who wrote a failed book about gargoyles. Imagine his luck when he and his girl sneak into a church to explore and accidentally release a gargoyle locked in the basement.
The CGI gargoyle isn’t even that bad, but we just don’t get enough of it, and there are barely any kills.
The plot goes nowhere, and basically comes down to Balfour and his small team of gargoyle hunters, including a priest, needing to send the gargoyle back to where it came from. There’s simply nothing here for me to talk about. Balfour doesn’t even take his shirt off.
HOUSE OF BONES (2010)
House of Bones is cheesy SyFy original silliness and I’m so here for it. Going for the trends of its time, it enlists Charisma Carpenter of Angel and Buffy fame as its star, and it’s about a ghost hunting show that explores an infamous haunted house.
The first scene is the perfect cliché–a kid’s ball goes into the house and he goes in after it. Yay!
Then we meet all our ghost hunters–a bunch of guys and Charisma, the psychic. Hey, I love me some Charisma, and she’s the reason I bought this one, but man is she phoning this one in.
Typical shit happens early on, mostly involving the crew setting up and exploring, as well as bugs appearing in unexpected places that are totally expected to horror veterans.
There are a couple of kills and disappearances that are entertaining enough, but nothing all that spooky happens as a series of sloppy events unfolds just to fill time. However, the premise is fun despite being unoriginal–the house is alive! And that’s because someone buried bodies in the walls for occult reasons in the past. Awesome.
Oozing holes, people getting pulled into and crawling out of them, and other enjoyable horror elements take place in the final act, when the pace at last picks up as the crew goes on a hunt for the blueprints of the house.
I’m always up for a turn-of-the-millennium, post-Scream indie slasher from the early 00s, so when I watched Harvest of Fear thanks to a 2-on-1 Blu-ray I purchased for the other movie, I immediately ordered the sequel The Path of Evil (because why would they ever consider putting a movie and its sequel together on the same Blu-ray instead?).
HARVEST OF FEAR (2004)
Clearly an indie labor of slasher love, this one is a little heavy-handed on the red herring and the silly main character clashes, but it does the most crucial thing right—evenly spaced, well-executed kill scenes.
The premise is also classic slasher simplicity. 20 years ago there were a bunch of murders during Harvest Fest in a small town. Now it seems like the murders are starting up again.
The kills deliver blood, chases, tits, and atmosphere. The killer, wearing a mask and a hoodie, looks strikingly like one of the scary figures I crafted for the front lawn of my property for Halloween years ago that finally bit the dust just last season after weathering the weather for so long.
We even get a main group of friends. They talk about the original murders taking place in the eighties, reference hair bands, and have what appears to be a Halloween costume party even though the holiday is never mentioned.
There’s also soap opera drama between the main girl, the new guy in town, and the douche bag deputy she used to date.
It’s the climax and killer motivation that are a bit messy—sort of like the denouement of a Scream sequel.
THE PATH OF EVIL (2005)
For a sequel to a low budget indie slasher, this is a lofty undertaking, but even though it’s nearly two hours long, it scores some major points from me for delivering fantastic old school kills.
Director Brad Goodman gets much of his cast back to continue the story and actually expands on the back stories of the characters. For that reason, there is a lot of drama in between the great kill scenes, but honestly, I was never bored with it.
The only real problem is that at the end of the first film we find out who the killer is, and that character returns for the sequel, sooooo…despite the killer hiding behind a disguise that is notably going for a Michael Myers vibe instead of a ScareBearDan’s Halloween lawn décor vibe this time around, we know for the entire time who the killer is! No surprises here. Of course, there also aren’t any when the killer is Michael, or Jason, or Freddy, Chucky, or…well, you get the picture.
The love triangle from the first film is still in full effect, and a couple of new characters are introduced, but what shines here are the kill sequences. It’s a shame Brad Goodman never added another horror movie to his filmography, because he does everything right in terms of fear factor.
The death scenes are perfectly paced, suspenseful, scary, atmospheric, gory, violent, and even deliver some T & A, plus there are chase scenes. The film even sets us up for another sequel, but it never happened.
For someone who isn’t even a huge fan of the subgenre, I somehow ended up watching three found footage films in a row, and each one is a subgenre within the subgenre, including possession horror, a comedy creature feature, and some torture porn.
If you need a found footage fix with some of the cliché elements that make the better films of the subgenre fun, this little indie is a good choice.
It goes right for the rip-off from the start with an oscillating camera right out of Paranormal Activity 3. It also has an inspiring model/influencer and her boyfriend moving into a new place, in this case a city apartment building.
There is a creepy mannequin left behind in the living space that delivers plenty of cheap scares over the course of the film. The couple immediately begins to experience plumbing problems. Of course they keep a camera rolling at all times because they are influencers. Not sure why that includes having one focused on their bed at night, but at least it lets us see a scary situation unfold…
The model basically morphs into an Asian horror flick ghost girl, all in white with her long black hair down over her face.
She spends a lot of time passing by the camera in the shadows to freak us out, and eventually we get to the running and screaming climax when the boyfriend brings in some friends to help him cleanse the house. As derivative as it all is, it totally delivers on the cheap thrills.
THE LEGEND OF SIX FINGERS (2013)
This silly little found footage horror comedy doesn’t try too hard to be anything more than a cute and somewhat entertaining film. It has funny moments, but no one went out of their way to write a comedy masterpiece.
In true Blair Witch mode, film students head into the woods to do a documentary. They interview the likes of Debbie Rochon and Lynn Lowry–total horror veteran stunt casting considering the actresses don’t get a chance to shine with what little material they’re given.
In fact, the standouts of the film would be these two funny guys, but sadly they’re just passing by…
The monster first appears 30 minutes in, and the confrontations are all quite casual. There’s really no aggressive horror action here, and the monster clearly doesn’t want to be bothered, and just looks bored by the filmmakers’ taunts.
There’s a tent scene to add to the Blair Witch nods, and things finally get physical, leading to a totally unexpected, out of place, and always welcome gory scene at the end. Yay!
This hybrid found footage film runs just over an hour, which is fine, because it gets straight to the point. There’s very little plot and it’s not a high end production, but damn! If you’re just looking for some seriously nasty practical gore effects and some gritty, grisly atmosphere, this movie nails it.
I have to warn you, the gore is gory and repulsive. I don’t know what the powers that be are trying to tell me, but after I just watched a film from the 80s featuring a horrifically explicit vaginal impalement with a poker (Patrick Still Lives), the first few minutes of this film subjected me to an unapologetic in your face drilling of a vagina with a power tool.
In order to establish the back story of murders at a derelict hospital, clips of some guy with his own sensationalism show talking about the building and its horrible history are interspersed between the setup of the main couple’s story.
So what’s the couple’s story?
They are on a road trip. They take a detour. The guy is filming their trip and wants to go to check out the old hospital building.
It is when they enter the building that the film is at its roughest as it poorly transitions from found footage to standard third person during a switch from an exterior shoot to an interior shoot. It’s bright daylight outside, but when the perspective cuts to a fixed camera inside showing the guy enter the building, the set is drenched in gloomy horror tinting and there is no daylight pouring in through the door. Then we jump back to the guy’s camera perspective, and he points it down a stairway inside the building and there is bright daylight at the bottom of the steps! WTF? Some bad editing here for sure.
But it’s easy to look past that, because in just a matter of minutes, all hell breaks loose. There is some brutal slicing and dicing, flashbacks to the killer’s raping ways from years before, some sort of masked slave lurking in the darkness, a psycho in a creepy red mask and hoodie, a chase scene, and a battle to the death.
And that’s it. That’s the whole movie. It’s like so many movies we’ve seen compressed into a quickie that simply cuts outs all the excess victims.
I’m always filling in the gaps in my horror collection, especially any holes that show in the decades of my younger years. So here is a look at four I’ve recently added to my collection from the 70s and 80s.
When you realize that Spielberg’s first film was a made-for-TV movie that was then released to theaters after the studio requested he extended it in length, it’s no surprise now that he had a big future ahead of him. Heck, Jaws was only four years away.
Duel is written by horror master Richard Matheson. If you don’t know the name, look it up, because this fiction and screenplay writer has written many of the classics.
The plot is simple. Dennis Weaver of Gunsmoke and McCloud TV fame is on a business road trip on a desolate strip when he gets dragged into a long, drawn out case of road rage with a mysterious driver in an oil truck.
The opening scene, which was added for the theatrical release, is pure perfection, with a car POV as it backs out of a driveway and begins its journey. This goes on for five minutes while the credits role and various news stories play on the radio before we finally see Weaver driving the car.
What’s quite interesting is that this scene feels very much like something from the 1977 film The Car, which was like Jaws on wheels. So actually, The Car was more like Duel on wheels again.
Duel also feels like it could have been the inspiration for numerous road terror films over the decades, including The Hitcher, Road Games, and even Jeepers Creepers. Just look at the front of this truck.
Weaver really carries the film, for we never see the driver of the truck, and there’s very little interaction with other characters. While the road rage sequences could easily get repetitive, there are some great pit stops along the way, like one in which Weaver is at a diner playing out the possible scenarios if the driver walked in, and one in which the truck goes after Weaver when he’s in this old school thing called a phone booth.
And naturally, the final battle is just…explosive.
THE DARK (1979)
Tobe Hooper started directing this film, but was supposedly replaced quite quickly. So basically he didn’t direct it. And according to IMDb, the killer was originally an autistic guy locked in an attic since childhood who escapes when the house burns down, and then goes on a killing spree in which he knocks the head right off his victims’ bodies.
But after Alien became a success, it was decided that some alterations would be made to the film so that the killer would be an alien instead…so they added cheesy laser beam eye effects and explosion kills.
It is those effects that make an otherwise freaky humanoid monster into a disaster. His stalking scenes are really the only creepy good part of this messy film.
The whispering monster effects that accompany every death scene are the bomb.
We have Cathy Lee Crosby of 1980s TV show That’s Incredible as a reporter. William Devane of Knots Landing is her love interest and father of one of the victims.
There’s a detective. There’s a psychic. And there are so many details about the murders left in place that aren’t about an alien making people burst with his laser eyes that it’s not even worth trying to follow the plot. Just watch it for all the kill scenes that always start off eerie and end up hilarious thanks not only to the awful special effects added in later but also the way this alien just tosses men around.
This is an odd little film from the director of the Omen installment The Final Conflict and Alien Nation.
A small town experiences a minor quake. Soon after, Meg Tilly and her man—Tim Matheson, one of my many adolescent crushes—are forced to come to the town because Meg’s mother called her ranting like a lunatic before doing something awful to herself.
With mom in the hospital, Meg and Tim stay with Meg’s father and weird brother, played by the one and only Bill Paxton. And every time they go out on the town, people act out, stealing, fighting, inflicting harm on themselves, and inflicting harm on others.
It’s just a mild case of the crazies, so it’s not exactly the most suspenseful or fast-paced film, but it does keep you wondering what’s going on, and there is a definitive sense of isolation in the small town.
The final act, involving Meg and Tim being directly affected by the weirdness just as they’re learning what may be causing it, is somewhat of a gloom and doom scenario. What’s really funny is that in this day and age when all the “woke” hating horror fans bitch about any horror flick that has a message, this little film is a reminder that horror films big and small have always been woke. The message in this film is that we’re fucking up the environment, and if we do, we’re all going to go nuts and start turning on each other out of desperation. Silly horror movies from 40 years ago thinking they could predict the future….
MASK OF MURDER (1988)
Mask of Murder definitely has all the sleaze and slashing necessary to get a bad 80s video rental reputation, but it tries too hard to be a serious detective story to be much fun as a horror movie. And Christopher Lee feels bizarrely out of place, which may explain why his detective character gets shot at the beginning and spends most of the film in a hospital bed just giving out advice, leaving the starring detective role to hottie Rod Taylor of The Birds.
Opening on a cold snowy day in a small town, the film notifies us on screen of two kills within a couple of hours of each other as we see two different women get their throats sliced by a killer in a mask that’s practically a paper bag. And I’m not talking strong brown grocery bag. This is more like cheap, thin white fast food paper bag.
After a dinner party in which we learn Rod Taylor’s wife is played by Valerie Perrine, known for her role in the Village People classic Can’t Stop the Music, our detectives go on a man hunt that goes horribly wrong when law enforcement gets trigger happy.
Then for most of the movie Rod walks around talking to himself as he follows clues while we get more of the same uninspired kills. The most intriguing death scene has the killer going home with a stripper after she performs a whole dance number onscreen, and then after he kills her, he just walks casually by her young son on the way out the door.
That one scene leads to a very bizarre finale involving the detective nonchalantly exposing the kid to some fucked up shit in his effort to stop the killer. This movie is just weird and fails on every level, from not delivering any true thrills, suspense, or scares, to poorly attempting to create a profile of a sexually inadequate killer.
It suddenly hit me that I needed to make sure I had every horror flick John Saxon starred in. The missing tally came to seven, I got them, so let’s get into him.
THE EVIL EYE (aka: The Girl Who Knew Too Much) (1963)
This film is not only sexy Saxon’s first dip into murder and mayhem, but it also acknowledges director Mario Bava for creating a template for the giallo subgenre.
A young woman who loves mystery novels comes to Italy to visit her aging aunt, meets her aunt’s sexy doctor (guess who) and is then left alone for the horror to start. Bava’s mastery is apparent immediately as thunder crashes, the house is enveloped in shadows, the aunt drops dead, and an irritated cat brings even more tension to the atmosphere.
It only gets worse from there in a fantastically eerie scene on the street. Our main girl runs from the house only to face another horrific event, and then witnesses a murder through bleary eyes, complete with the killer wrestling a knife out of the victim’s back.
Her account of what happened is doubted the next morning, so she teams up with sexy Saxon to uncover the truth…which seems to point to an “alphabet killer” from a decade ago that may be after her now.
Someone seems to be messing with her mind as she gets closer to the truth, but this film doesn’t pile on the kills. It’s mostly about the budding romance between her and sexy Saxon as they investigate. In a way too short scene on the beach that shows way too little of sexy Saxon in tight, skimpy swimming trunks, he still manages to make me feel like I just watched the best porn ever.
And in a curiously familiar sequence, the main girl is so spooked by the possibility of being stalked by a killer that she sets booby traps much like the ones Nancy sets for Freddy in the original Elm Street. Considering sexy Saxon plays Nancy’s father in that film, you have to wonder if this was a little wink-wink from Wes Craven.
While the film doesn’t quite ever live up to the creepy first scene of death and murder, there is a spooky segment in the final act right before the killer is revealed.
NIGHT CALLER FROM OUTER SPACE (aka: Blood Beast from Outer Space) (1965)
This film gets a lot of praise online, but personally I thought it was mostly a boring mess, with a plot and tone that go in two totally different directions.
A round globe about the size of a medicine ball hits the earth. Sexy Saxon is among the scientists that show up on the scene to whisk it away to a lab.
The amount of technical scientific mumbo jumbo that follows is absolutely agonizing, and it pervades this entire film. What were they thinking?
We at least get a good scene of a woman left alone in the lab and being terrified by a (rubber) monster hand that reaches through a door.
After a while, they determine something humanesque is in the lab…but it escapes.
Then women start disappearing after answering an ad in a bikini magazine. Yes, the horny alien is luring women by promising them a career modeling bikinis. Yet there’s nothing sexy or campy about this movie at all.
The only good scene is when the woman from the lab decides to serve as the bait and answer the ad so they can catch the alien. That goes terribly wrong.
In the end, the alien stands in a burning building and explains its whole evil plot to the scientists as they stand in the street nearby. It then reveals its face, and I got major flashbacks to the woman in drag in Homicidal.
It almost felt like this movie was trying to imply that this alien is gender fluid or non-binary without saying it. If that’s the case, that would have been the coolest most progressive thing about it, adding a whole new dimension to the plot about a horny alien luring women in bikinis to bring to its planet.
QUEEN OF BLOOD (1966)
It’s a futuristic movie that takes place in 1990…doh!
Sexy Saxon works at the space technology institute. when aliens make contact, a team of astronauts is assembled to go to Mars, including Dennis Hopper and Saxon’s woman.
The outer space footage is all apparently taken from another movie, and it’s kind of obvious. The sound effects are like something out of an Atari game circa 1982, but the planet Mars shots are hot.
They find what they think is a dead female alien, but she eventually comes to life aboard their ship. She looks longingly at the men and glares at the woman. And leave it to Dennis Hopper to teach her how to suck.
However, all the fun doesn’t start until 40 minutes into this 78-minute movie, when the alien starts sucking the blood of the men when they sleep.
Not only is she fricking creepy (her smile is so sinister), but there are some classic sci-fi horror elements, like a buzzing sound whenever she’s about to attack, suggesting she’s some sort of bug, and a bunch of gooey eggs found around the ship.
THE BEES (1978)
I thought I’d seen every killer bees movie of the 1970s, but somehow I missed this one, which I have to assume is intentionally supposed to be somewhat of a comedy. Otherwise it’s a disaster. Actually, even as a comedy it’s a disaster. But damn, Saxon is at his sexiest.
A white privileged beekeeper in South America is killed by the locals and then his wife comes to the U.S. with some of his bees to meet with her father, played by John Carradine, and fellow scientist John Saxon.
We are then treated to one hilarious bee kill scene after another, along with Saxon, the woman, and Carradine just acting goofy as they attempt to figure out how to stop the bees.
What do I mean by goofy? Like, Saxon and the woman at one point barely escape the bees with their life by jumping in a vehicle…and then smile at each other and begin passionately making out.
What had me smiling is a moment that has sexy Saxon starring right at the camera and throwing kissy lips over Carradine’s shoulder. Swoon.
And dare I mention they learn how to talk to the bees?
CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980)
My history with this film goes all the way back to 1982 when I was just 13. My mother took me to the theater two blocks away from our home to see The Sword and The Sorcerer because she assumed it was going to be a fun fantasy movie. It was a rated R film with gore and nudity, and before it started, a very gory trailer was shown for Cannibal Apocalypse, and my mother was mortified. And yet…we stayed for the whole movie. I love my mother.
So having said all that, would you believe purchasing the Blu-ray to complete my John Saxon horror collection made it the first time I ever saw this film?
The good news is this is classic trashy Euro horror from 1980, filled with bad leftover sounds of generic disco serving as the score.
The letdown is that this isn’t much of a flesh-eater film. It’s literally just cannibal behavior by regular people. No zombies or crazies. Sexy Saxon and his military team rescue some prisoners of war in the jungle only to find them pigging out on human flesh…including Saxon’s. I don’t blame them.
Back home, he has nightmares about that day, which means waking up shirtless and sweaty. Yay!
Turns out his fellow military men are now snapping and biting people. There’s plenty of gory nibbling around the city, and eventually the chaos brings the infected individuals together. These mild-mannered cannibals simply plot to escape any repercussions for their eating actions, which leads to a battle with guns and flamethrowers in a sewer.
This is about as silly as Euro horror of that time period gets, but it has a delicious zinger ending.
BLOOD SALVAGE (1990)
Someone has taken their love of Tobe Hooper films too far. This trashy little film actually has a few surprises. Along with John Saxon (who virtually makes a cameo), even Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High makes an appearance.
So the story goes like this. There’s some sort of redneck talent show in which Saxon’s daughter performs. Then the family jumps in an RV, gets a flat, and gets towed by a redneck to…Leatherface’s house?
The young son wanders off, sees a crocodile wandering around, probably wonders if he’s in Tobe Hooper’s movie Eaten Alive, and then gets abducted by members of the redneck family.
Saxon goes to look for him. He gets abducted.
The wife goes to look for them both. Guess what happens to her.
The rest of the movie features the daughter trying to outsmart the all-male family of weirdos, who are merely organ harvesters selling body parts to Mr. Hand.
It’s a pretty bad movie, and I wish like hell it would get a Blu-ray release, because the DVD release is virtually a bootleg sourced from a VHS tape.
The first part of the film is genuinely creepy. During an older man’s birthday party, a comet hits the earth. The man ends up in the hospital with a strange blood issue that magically reverses itself, and he ends up feeling better than ever.
Once home with his family, he has haunting nightmares, fixates on the other members of the family, and sleepwalks at night. But he begins to suspect something is not right with him and believes he is a killer, so he runs away.
When bodies start turning up with their blood drained, Saxon steps in as the detective and follows leads to the older man. Damn. He it’s even hot as hell when he leans over other another man’s shoulder.
However, while the old man is on the run killing victims, he grows youthful.
The movie simply doesn’t stay scary, because the alien vampire is painted as a sympathetic and tragic character, so we don’t even feel any remorse for the random victims, and the kills are very tame.
Eventually the alien vampire man gets into a relationship with a young woman…just as Saxon closes in on him. The Arrival really started off thrilling and intriguing, but it turned a little hokey for me.