TUBI TERRORS: a shark, a werewolf, and giant maggots!

It’s killer creature time in my latest marathon on Tubi.

BLOOD BITE (2020)

This Asian shark film feels like a cheesy SyFy mashup of Jaws 3D and Deep Blue Sea. I couldn’t wait to type that sentence.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t live up to that description. Or…maybe it does. This is just 76 minutes of terrible CGI shark that’s always glowing red while everything around it is blue, plus people who look like they are suspended in harnesses and pretending they’re swimming underwater, with the blue background added later. It’s so bad it had me and the hubby giggling.

Anyway, you’ve heard this plot before. An underwater aquarium with glass tunnels in the ocean is run by a hot, evil man who has a mad scientist creating a genetically mutated great white.

The great white totally snaps, shatters the glass window, floods the facility, and leaves our small cast gasping for air as they try to stay above water while dodging this maneater.

There’s plenty of shark action, but every moment is filled with such silly visuals that it’s impossible to enjoy Blood Bite even for camp value.

THE HUNTING (2021)

I love me some low budget werewolf action, so I was totally into this one, especially when the opening kill created stunning werewolf atmosphere with moonlit woods, and a fishermen getting killed by a good old cheesy wolf man in the style of Big Bad Wolf.

As for the other good stuff, this small town horror movie really has some beautiful fall settings, and although it’s not specifically Halloween, there are several shots of decorative pumpkins to add to the autumnal tone. I really love the vibe of the film, including the 80s-esque synth score interludes.

Another visual bonus is leading man Peyton Hillis, a former football player whose hunky muscle bod we immediately get to see shirtless. He plays a cop in the town working on a bunch of missing persons cases.

Now here’s the problem. This movie is bogged down by dialogue as Peyton, his cute bearded cub partner, a wolf expert, and a Native American man try to solve the case together. This all takes place in one day, which means after the opening werewolf attacks, there are absolutely no other werewolf attacks until the final act. This is a huge misstep in the writing.

Eventually the town is placed under curfew, but two girls and a gay guy who has a hard-on for Peyton’s ass sneak off into the woods. This setup should have come earlier, there should have been a larger group of friends, and we should have been treated to a long segment with them running through the woods being subjected to werewolf attacks.

Would you believe these three characters are killed within the course of two minutes…two of them at the same time? Sigh.

It’s unfortunate that the structure of the plot is so weak, because I have to say that the film takes a turn at the end that I totally didn’t see coming and is so fricking good it deserved to be attached to a much better paced film. I even like the setup for a sequel in the final frame.

MAGGOTS (2019)

Running only 76 minutes long, Maggots is the perfect throwback to nasty, slimy, giant critter flicks of the 90s like Ticks and Mosquito.

A college dude and his classmates go camping in the woods so he can research his belief that fracking pollution is causing wildlife mutations.

We’re immediately treated to some sex and titties, an obnoxious dude who is undeniably funny, and a tough chick with a taser who won’t take any shit from him. Taser girl fricking rox and is one of the best parts of the film as it progresses.

Once the group is settled into camp, the icky maggots strike. This is truly classic gross-out madness, with everyone screaming, maggots flying through the air and latching onto people, and of course, maggots being squished into gooey messes. These maggots with teeth are very reminiscent of the Killer Condom.

The cast lives up to the comedic craziness with the help of horror indie king Edward X Young. It’s astounding how he can be in so many movies, be so damn good in them, and still not be a household horror name.

The only odd thing for me is that Maggots seems to consist predominantly of practical effects (yay!), which makes it glaringly horrible when there’s a sudden shift to a daylight scene and we get a terrible CGI maggot moment. It feels so out of place in this otherwise traditional, old school creature feature.

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These wicked women are woke!

Yay! It’s four films to drive white straight male wingnuts even crazier—explorations of women’s issues, women’s feelings, and the way women are treated in a patriarchal society.

SOUND OF VIOLENCE (2021)

This is a trippy, almost psychedelic and artsy horror flick that delves into how a young woman’s past with violence as a child shapes her present…and her homicidal tendencies. Don’t expect a simple slasher flick. There are plenty of brutal kills along the way, but the focus is on this young woman awakening to the realization that the sound of pain brings her pleasure.

A young deaf girl witnessed her family being brutally murdered, and the incident somehow triggered her to regain her hearing.

As an adult, she now teaches music and explores the psychological effects sounds have on moving her mind and soul. She begins sampling sounds to create her own experimental music. It begins as recording sessions of people participating in S&M, but escalates from there.

Soon, the main girl is recording the agonizing screams of people as she kills them and turning those sounds into music in scenes that are presented like a DJ experiencing a good drug high at a club.

It’s weird and somewhat vicious, and the final act is quite tragic as her female roommate, who is actually in love with her, is drawn into her “music”.

The funny thing is that as with every film featuring people of color and/or queer characters these days, the white supremacists are all butt sore and can say nothing online about Sound of Violence beyond it being “woke”. I even saw it bashed for being a whole movie about a Black girl getting sexually aroused by killing white men. Hm. I lived through the eighties and never heard any white guys complaining that every slasher was about a white guy in a mask getting sexually aroused by killing half naked women. Not to mention that if white supremacists want to see a bright side to this “woke” movie, it’s actually the people they hate who should be complaining about it considering it depicts a Black gay female as a psycho killer. They’re so damn hateful they would prefer that people just like them are the psychos killing people just like them.

THE STYLIST (2020)

This is a brooding and depressing film that follows the life of a lonely, sociopathic hair stylist who lives her life vicariously through the stories she’s told by her clients.

Oh…she also imagines what it’s like to be them by killing them, scalping them, and wearing their hair as wigs.

While it’s a tragic character study, it’s also a major commentary on the pressures put on women—to get married, to look beautiful, to compete with other women, to support one another, to cope with being torn down by other women instead of lifted up by them.

It’s good to see horror exploring these issues, but for me the movie was too low energy and too long at 105 minutes, although that did manage to make me as a viewer feel as dragged down by life as the main girl.

The other problem was that this is as predictable a film as you can get when it comes to these “portrait of a serial killer” movies. Naturally she has a female friend who is open to embracing her, yet the friend also tends to be self-centered and uses her at times. She of course becomes drawn to the girl and increasingly psycho stalkerish. If you’ve seen these types of films before, you know exactly how it’s going to end. If you haven’t, then the finale might leave an impression.

What had me most intrigued was that she keeps killing these women to take their scalps, yet we never learn what becomes of the hairless bodies.

THE COLUMNIST (2019)

This is such a cathartic film for those of us who have just wanted to reach our hands through social media and choke all the anonymous fuckers that say awful, nasty things to hurt people.

Through a psycho killer lens, it explores online anonymity, how those anonymous people are or aren’t different when you actually meet them offline, why they bully online, and how online bullying deeply affects individuals, consuming their emotions and pushing them to take extreme actions.

A writer with an opinion column becomes obsessed with the negative attacks she receives in comments online. She starts spending every waking hour doom scrolling to see what new, awful things are being said about her to destroy her reputation.

And then she begins fighting back, tracking down those who attack her most, killing them, and keeping one of their fingers as a souvenir. These aren’t the most original kill scenes, but they are so damn satisfying. You really feel this woman’s emotional instability as her confidence and self-worth are eroded, and she becomes a weird kind of hero as she turns into a literal social justice warrior.

In an ironic contrast, her daughter, who is becoming controversial as a writer at school, is on a crusade defending free speech, so this isn’t totally a one-sided look at the problem of social media. And the final act is most definitely a reminder of how fucking tragic this whole phenomenon has become and the damage it has done to everyone entangled in it.

WITCH HUNT (2021)

This wingnut head-exploder makes you think about social issues plaguing the U.S., like suppression of women, government control, immigration, authoritarianism, and racism.

In current day U.S., witchcraft is illegal, and women are being burned at the stake for practicing it.

Conveniently, one of the stars of The Craft: Legacy plays a girl whose mother is keeping the daughters of a burned witch hidden in her home, echoing the realities of Anne Frank while establishing a concept of women taking their lives into their own hands and protecting each other.

The main girl begins to have frightening experiences in her house due to the practices of the two young witch refugees. She also befriends one of them and starts getting sucked into witchcraft herself. In terms of horror, Witch Hunt relies heavily on annoying orchestral stinger scares even when nothing scary is actually happening.

Think of this more as a frightening take on the horrors of The Crucible if played out in modern society. It explores illegally transporting witches across the border to Mexico to help them escape the tyrannical U.S. government. It incorporates elements of racial profiling and the terror Black men experience when pulled over by cops. And most importantly, it highlights the push to make women second class citizens and to portray them as the root of all evil.

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STREAM QUEEN: infected around the world

It’s a trio of infection films from three different countries—Argentina, Australia, and the U.S. So which one did I like the best?

WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE (2021)

Sequel time! The leading brother and sister from the first Wyrmwood are back as the Australian apocalypse continues.

However, the first part of the film focuses on a different hunky dude who spends his time catching and delivering zombies to the military to experiment on in hopes of finding a cure. At least that’s what he thinks they’re doing.

Instead there’s a nefarious underground plot, led by a big bald hottie. As compared to the first film, the good news here is that all the hotties don’t die off immediately.

On the other hand, while there’s some over-the-top gore and silliness as in the first film, this sequel just didn’t keep me engaged for a majority of its runtime. It’s was very run-of-the-mill, and the zombie action wasn’t fun enough to save it.

Only the final act, when the brother, his hybrid sister, who can telepathically control zombies, and the new main hunk hero team up and invade the underground lab that things get back to the wacky excitement of the first film, complete with a big mutant boss.

ERADICATION (2022)

This Tubi original made for like 5000 dollars is yet another film that highlights the lockdown era. Be warned that there are essentially two cast members…and two zombies. It’s still an interesting enough concept, but perhaps it would have been easier to sit through as a 70-minute movie instead of an unnecessary 90-minute film.

During some sort of outbreak, an infected dude without symptoms is in quarantine in a cabin in the woods. He speaks regularly with his wife, a scientist, who is helping research his blood to see if they can come up with a cure. Even though he is being monitored by modern day drones, for whatever reason their video calls look like they’re being done using dial-up modems on 1991 computers.

Anyway, the main guy eventually encounters one zombie in the wilderness and is saved by a person in a hazmat suit with a bow and arrow. The only real suspense is as we wait for him to eventually encounter this person and find out who it is.

Not surprisingly, this is a fatalistic film with no happy ending, and although it’s never referenced as a zombie film, the two infected he encounters look like zombies. However, they appear to lust after blood, fear daylight, and burn to a crisp in the sun. So I’m thinking this is more like a vampire infection situation.

VIRUS: 32 (2022)

We have a winner. I have such zombie burnout, and every new film is most definitely riddled with familiar situations, but it’s still possible to deliver a thrill ride if you do it right, and Virus: 32 is high intensity.

The opening establishing shots carry you along with sweeping camera work that gives the illusion of being a single take as it tours a town.

Then we meet a woman who works as the night security guard at a sports club and has no choice but to bring her young daughter to work with her.

Many have compared this film to 28 Days Later, but I’d have to disagree because I find that film to be a tedious mess and this one to be a superb cat and mouse zombie film that keeps limited characters confined within one building.

Okay, I will admit there’s a point when some of the score sounds like a total rip-off of the 28 Days Later music.

Anyway, by the time the mother realizes something unnatural has infiltrated the building, she has been separated from her daughter. Her goal is to weave her way through the rooms and halls to save her daughter before the zombies can get to her.

Like I said, as with most new zombie films, we are treated to predominantly predictable zombie situations, but they are presented with so much edge-of-your-seat suspense I was riveted. And the underplayed but notable difference here is the notion that the zombies periodically go into a temporary state of repose for 32-second intervals, which gives the characters brief chances to make a run for it. It also gives us a sequence that feels right out of the scene with the nurses in Silent Hill.

The highlight for me, however, is a nightmarish chase scene near the end when zombies start flooding into the gym from all sides. Holy shit!

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Hate spreads misery throughout the holiday season

One masked killer scores spots on both the Halloween and Christmas sections of the holiday horror page with this double feature.

HAUNTED HAY RIDE: THE MOVIE (2008)

This New Jersey film definitely has its cheap homemade movie charm.

The plot is nearly non-existent beyond a group of friends getting ready for Halloween night while the killer is busy hacking up tons of random people at Halloween stores, pumpkin patches, and haunted attractions. Considering the main characters don’t arrive at the scene of the crimes until there are only about 20 minutes left, their biggest dilemma for a majority of the film is that they flushed some good drugs down the toilet.

The killer calls himself Hate, screws a metal skull mask to his face, and tells his first victim, a cop, that he hates all people and feels they should all die. The description of the film references him as a “supernatural killer”, but good luck finding any explanation of that notion in the movie itself. There’s no legend built behind Hate by any of the characters—he’s sort of just there from the beginning killing anyone and everyone.

And that’s about it. There are several montages, mostly set to metal music (always a clear sign a film is made locally), and the montages include shots of the hay ride tour, a girl doing her best Britney Spears impersonation dance, and Hate chasing victims through the woods.

The lack of a cohesive plot or standout characters to carry a story makes the movie drag, even though there are plenty of cheesy death scenes. These are by far the highlight, but they’re not scary. They’re actually kind of funny and it never gets old, because most deaths feature Hate whacking a victim in the head with a machete to what sounds like the snap of a clap board. This is how you give your film a memorable element.

But as entertaining as the repetitive kills are, there’s definitely a money shot—Hate going for a total massacre on the hay ride. Awesome.

HATE’S HAUNTED SLAY RIDE (2010)

It’s a great follow-up title, but there’s no literal sleigh ride in this one—it’s all slay ride.

Picking up during the same holiday season when the first film left off, this sequel has some fun concepts and indie horror moments buried in an unnecessary two-hour running time.

A main girl and main old man that survived the first film are in the hospital. The girl’s mother is running around with a gun looking for justice for what happened to her daughter. The old man is desperate to break free of the hospital to get revenge for what happened to everyone at his Halloween attraction.

Meanwhile, a rabbi is visited by Hate (making this a semi-Chanukah horror flick as well), and he then spends the movie trying to convince the cops that they are dealing with a supernatural killer. They think the killer is the son of the cop murdered in the opening scene of the first film.

Like the first film, this one drags with not much memorable meat in terms of story. It’s unfortunate, because there’s a clever, underdeveloped plot here—Hate is pissed that Halloween is over and everyone is busy getting ready for Christmas. Awesome.

As a result, he spends the final act (aka: not enough of the film) hacking up sidewalk Santas and shoppers rushing home with their treasures. The kills are much gorier this time, but I do miss the constant clap sound of the machete striking victims, which has been replaced with a more natural, mushy sound in this sequel.

Sadly, only the string of kills at the end entertained me, and Hate even makes a flamer joke when lighting one victim on fire. He really is a hater…but at least he has a sense of camp.

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Time for another Amityville marathon…sort of…

The bogus Amityville movies are being pumped out fast these days, and I found four of them on Tubi, so naturally I had to subject myself to the torture.

AMITYVILLE IN THE HOOD (2021)

I’m hoping perhaps indie director Dustin Ferguson is concluding an Amityville trilogy with this third go at a movie focusing on the infamous house.

Look. I liked Ferguson’s first film Amityville Toybox, which even featured gay characters. I actually purchased it on DVD. The next film, Amityville Clownhouse, was a curious tie-in/departure that included some extra footage not used in the first film. This 70-minute third film is…I don’t even know where to start.

Drug dealers steal pot from the Amityville house.

It is implied that those who buy and smoke the pot become possessed, but we only see this once, and that possession is clearly generated using a face morphing app.

A detective is put on the case and at some point talks about the dangers of the house—the perfect excuse to pad the film with clips from Ferguson’s first two Amityville movies.

There’s barely a plot to cling to and no horror action, but the detective does decide to end the Amityville curse once and for all by destroying the house.

We can only hope that means Ferguson is giving up the Amityville game.

AMITYVILLE COP (2021)

Quite honestly, as far as I can remember (and I just watched this movie), Amityville isn’t mentioned once in this film. But that in no way works against it, because for me it stands on its own and has a lot going for it.

So what did I like about it? For starters, it’s only 68 minutes long. And this is one of those rare cases when I would have taken a longer runtime if it meant more action and a bigger body count.

Simply put, this is a Maniac Cop rip-off in which the super fun zombie cop was Black before he was killed and resurrected during a satanic ritual.

The main cop brings a comedic edge to the role. Actor Jason Toler is cute and funny, so I definitely want to seek out his other horror films (I’m talking to you, Crack House of the Dead).

Because the film is short, the zombie cop’s killing spree on the streets doesn’t last long before he sets his sights on a very specific event: the New Year’s Eve party at the police precinct. Awesome!

It’s a New Year’s Eve horror flick, landing it on my complete holiday horror page.

The action at the party is the meat of the movie and I had a good time with it. It definitely has that late 80s/early 90s horror flick vibe.

AMITYVILLE CULT (2021)

Well, the good news is that this film at least takes place in Amityville and even throws in an Easter egg…the main guy’s last name is DeFeo. Unfortunately, Amityville is in New York, but the film was shot in Texas, and at one point you see the name of the state etched into the door of a diner. Oops.

As for the movie, it’s a mostly dialogue driven plot.

DeFeo learns he’s been left his grandmother’s house in her will. He goes to the house, finds a diary, and then we learn how she dumped her husband after moving into the house, hooked up with a cult leader with a freaky smile, and had his child…DeFeo’s mother.

In current times, DeFeo meets the man his grandmother dumped, who is determined to get revenge on the cult that stole her from him, He gives DeFeo more of the backstory—in a long-winded monologue.

Eventually the cult shows up at the house, the grandmother magically reappears, and a “demon” that is just a guy in Halloween makeup and ram horns makes an appearance. It’s pure low budget silliness.

AN AMITYVILLE POLTERGEIST (2020)

It’s another basic indie slapped with an Amityville title for distribution, so there’s no mention of the town or the house at all.

This is the story of a college kid who takes a job house sitting for a woman who warns him there’s something bad in the house. The confusing part for me is that I assumed no one was going to be home, hence the need for a house sitter, yet as far as I can tell, she’s living in the house while he’s there.

He has two friends visit him frequently—a female and a Justin Timberlake clone. And he has numerous encounters with…The Grudge girl. That’s the meat of what this movie is…a rip-off of The Grudge.

There’s even a blend of The Ring thrown in, including a crawl from the television, which is odd considering TVs of the 2020s don’t ever present us with a screen full of snow…

The film is loaded with annoying, cheap and cheesy jump scares created with in-your-face ghost encounters accompanied by loud orchestral stings. The atmosphere is created by lighting the house in red and blue, and every encounter fails to reach a conclusion. The ghost will be coming for the main guy, the scene will cut away, and we’ll have no closure as to how he escaped the predicament.

Just watch The Grudge…or if you were in it for Amityville, watch an Amityville movie made before the year 2000.

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STREAM QUEEN: time for a zombie triple feature

I dipped into my Prime, Netflix, and Tubi lists for this trio of zombie flicks. Did any of them satisfy my hunger for some fresh zombie horror?

ZOMBIES (2017)

Tony Todd opens this flick as a detective who releases some prisoners from a cell during a zombie outbreak. The immediate action is pretty cool as they make their way out of the building fighting off the undead.

Then the movie focuses on one of the guys Tony Todd released, who has made it his goal to scavenge for survivors to bring back to their fortress.

There’s not much of a story here, just a bunch of missions. The zombies and corpses are gnarly good and the lighting is dreary and effective during indoor scenes, plus we get some gut munching, but the repetitive scenarios wear thin fast.

The highlight for me is an early scene in which the main guy has to save a woman who has been chased into a cornfield by zombies.

I really like the way the sequence is shot—the action and thrills almost feel like being immersed in a video game.

I guess the only other point to make is that one of the main plot points is that the main guy ends up reconnecting with an old flame. Even so, that detail doesn’t help give either of their characters any dimension. Note that Romero’s son gets slammed for having produced it.

VALLEY OF THE DEAD (2020)

Despite this Spanish movie being about war, despite it being a period piece, and despite it being about the military, I still gave it a chance because it’s about zombies.

Even overlooking all that, I simply could not get into this. Everything about it is derivative. If you’re going to make a cliché zombie movie, which most are these days anyway, it has to be a thrill ride, and this just isn’t at all.

A military dude and a young driver are forced to take on a dangerous mission and end up in enemy hands. I didn’t care about any of that, but at least people started turning into zombies almost immediately. Naturally the two men are forced to work with their enemies to take on this mysterious threat.

The humans quickly figure out you need to shoot the new enemies in the head, which goes to show we’ve known since the Spanish Civil War how to kill a zombie.

That doesn’t make this any more exciting. It’s just so typical. Sure the zombies look cool, but it’s all run and gun as the team of soldiers travels from one location to another. Worst of all, the big hunky bald hottie in the group seems like he’s going to be a main character, but instead his heroism gets the best of him—meaning, the zombies get the best of the movie. Blah.

BRAIN FREEZE (2021)

Brain Freeze is just what you’ve been looking for if you are going through a zombie dry spell. Checking all the right boxes for zombie flicks, it’s familiar while offering a little something new.

The social commentary set forth as we meet the main players in a pretentious, wealthy community is that they are all faux rich liberal snobs.

So how does the zombie outbreak start? A chemical company has created a fertilizer that keeps the grass lush and green at the community golf club even in the winter.

That chemical leaks into the water supply, and before long both people and pets are turning zombie.

Once the fast-running zombies bust loose, it’s nonstop action and suspense with a good dose of light humor. And what’s really cool is that the main character is a teen kid who has to navigate the zombie hordes with his baby sibling strapped to his chest.

The zombies are intense and get more and more gnarly as the film progresses…because it turns out they begin growing grass on their bodies. Ew!

To complicate matters even more for the main kid, he has to contend with twin women that work for the chemical company and are causing even more havoc as the community is quarantined. But don’t try to make too much sense of the evil corporation subplot, because it doesn’t totally add up, so just get on board for the fun zombie roller coaster ride.

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The hunt for Halloween horror for 2022 begins

I’m already on a mad hunt for Halloween horror flicks I hadn’t yet seen to add to the complete Halloween horror page, because sometimes they’re really hard to track down. For instance, with this trio I had to buy two on used DVD and rent the other one on Prime. Let’s see how much Halloween spirit they delivered.

THE FANGLYS (2004)

Although it pains me to give Texas props for anything, I have to give this low budget film made in Texas major props. Wannabe indie directors should look to films like this for an example of how to do it as right as you possibly can on a low budget. This is a movie that gets to the point, delivers the horror and Halloween atmosphere, keeps the pace going without any excessive, extraneous scenes of dialogue, and demonstrates a director actually planning out setup shots rather than just sticking actors in front of a camera.

Notably, The Fanglys gives me the warm and fuzzy feels because it’s a reminder of the direct-to-DVD days of the early 2000s. I miss movies like this from that era.

The opener sets the Halloween tone with a scary voice-over reciting a creepy limerick, as well as a Wolfman Jack vocal clone DJ dude hyping the spirit of the season while we are treated to festive shots of a town all ready for the holiday.

And of course there’s a first kill scene. A couple driving on a deserted road stops when they hear something scraping along their pickup truck. This scene just teases us with a glimpse of a witch’s hands and a warped witch POV.

Then we meet our main guy, who is totally preparing for Halloween night and planning a trip to a cemetery with his friends. I felt so noticed when he jokes on the phone about a friend’s taste in mail-order horror sequels. Yay!

There are plenty of classic cheap scares to get us in the mood, as well as a heavy metal strip tease dance in a second witch attack before our main group arrives at the cemetery. Then we learn the legend of the killer witch, known as the Fang Lady, and her intellectually disabled son, who skins and eats her victims. This is accompanied by some nasty visuals of him actually doing it.

The hillbilly son also keeps some sort of creature in a cage, but we only ever see that from the POV inside the cage. That might perhaps be the biggest letdown. The second letdown is that the witch herself is not as effective as she could be. The majority of her presence is simply her sitting in a chair and barking orders to her son. She kind of sounds like Norman Bates’ mother.

The hillbilly son is the horror star. He gives a great, icky performance as he runs around the woods in blue lighting and fog machine mist killing and collecting the cast to bring back to his and the witch’s isolated house in the forest. It’s during the final battle that the filmmaker does something I was kind of waiting for all along considering this film was made in the redneck of the woods—tosses in a derogatory slur. The shocker? It’s one of the main characters calling the hillbilly son a “tard”.

Interesting to note is that the deleted scenes on the DVD virtually all contain some sort of fart or shit humor. It was definitely a smart move to cut these scenes from the film, because they would have felt ridiculously out of place and cheapened the serious tone of the film.

DEATH ON DEMAND (2008)

This camera POV supernatural slasher starts on Thanksgiving and ends on Halloween! The first scene shows a man carving up his whole family on Thanksgiving instead of the turkey, and then 20 years later a reality web show contest takes place in that house on Halloween.

Essentially, this is a low budget indie take on the Halloween Resurrection concept, complete with inserts of a group of kids at a Halloween party reacting as they watch it. This would be a good time for me to reveal that I don’t hate Halloween Resurrection. I don’t hate it at all. I actually think it’s a blast.

I also thought Death On Demand was kind of fun, too, in a post-Scream era low budget slasher way.

For the setup, pretty people prepare to go on the show while the guys behind the scenes plot their production. We get the usual adolescent behavior meant to appeal mostly to straight male viewers—tits, sex, lipstick lesbians, fat jokes, guys farting. You know, the stuff that appeals to the people running this world and trying to control the moral fiber of the masses. And we wonder why we’re in such a mess.

The show starts, the kids, all in Halloween costumes, use a Ouija board to summon the dead murderer, they all go off to have sex, and pretty soon the murderer is back and hacking them up—no mask, just a psychotic looking dude.

The rundown house is a classic setting and works well here with the help of traditional horror lighting, plus, the kills are nice and gory and rely solely on practical effects. Awesome.

The kills start piling up in the final act, and we are whittled down to a final girl (yay!) that holds her own.

It’s definitely comfort food for fans of simple slashers from the 2000s, plus it takes place on Halloween, so I had a good time with it. The only bizarre aspect is that the killer’s backstory features this sudden, out of left field reveal about him snapping and killing his family because of the Abominable Snowman. Huh?

IN SEARCH OF LOVECRAFT (2008)

This curious combination of subgenres mixes Lovecraft with found footage and Halloween horror, resulting in a film that feels more like something from the late 90s than 2008.

All the Halloween aspects are focused on the first scene…and the song during the closing credits. A reporter is on the street for Halloween, interviewing people dressed in costume for a Halloween story about HP Lovecraft. It sets us up nicely for the holiday. Unfortunately, after that the only other real indulgence in the holiday is during the end credits, which roll to the sounds of a rockin’ track called “Halloween in Hollywood”.

As for our reporter, she and her crew, including a hot cameraman and an assistant who dresses like a Catholic schoolgirl, expand their research into Lovecraft. They talk to a college professor, join forces with an expert on the occult, and eventually add a practicing witch to their entourage.

The film is way too long at 97 minutes, so much of the movie is uninspired exposition about them trying to determine if there’s a cult that is trying to bring the creatures of Lovecraft’s writing into the real world. In an odd twist to the found footage concept, the lost film they discover that holds some of the answers is worn out black and white footage from a mid-1900s camera!

It’s not until there are only about 30 minutes left that the film finally settles down and finds its groove, which should have happened much sooner. The team stays in a house where a cult was believed to perform their rituals. They then begin to encounter cheesy, CGI, otherworldly creatures, which leads to my favorite part—the survivors entering a pentagram to fend off the various supernatural threats crawling their way. It’s cheap looking, but it’s still a fun finale shrouded in loads of fog machine mist.

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Five from Christopher Lee—the scary, the silly, and the sexual

The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Volume 2 just hit Blu-ray and virtually filled in the remaining gaps in my collection. With the purchase of one other film that I also didn’t have before, there’s now only one Christopher Lee horror movie that isn’t yet on a legit DVD or Blu-ray. However I checked that one out online so I can wrap up my Christopher Lee horror film viewing experience at last with this post.

UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE (1959)

Hot on the heels of his role as Dracula for Hammer studios, Christopher Lee perfectly plays the straight man vampire in this charming little Italian vampire comedy.

Renato Rascel is the real star here, and the pairing of him and Lee made me think of none other than the shenanigans of Abbott and Costello.

Rascel is a baron forced to sell off his family castle, which is turned into a hotel. However, he stays on as a bellboy and soon learns a distant uncle is coming to stay with him.

That uncle proves to be Christopher Lee, delivered in a coffin and absolutely dying of thirst.

The interactions between the pair are quite funny, and once Rascel realizes his uncle is a vampire, his reactions and plans to take care of his familial problem give him the chance to shine. In fact, Lee is written out of the film for a majority of the running time, and despite it being a bummer that the pair doesn’t share more back and forth comedy shtick, Rascel absolutely holds his own.

If you loved The Munsters, The Addams Family, and the movies in which Abbott & Costello met famous movie monsters, you’ll definitely appreciate this one.

THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1960)

A tale as old as horror time and one that has resurfaced again and again, The Hands of Orlac (the only film not on disc yet) stars Mel Ferrer as a master pianist who needs his hands transplanted after a plane crash. Conveniently this happens at the same time that a strangler is about to be executed.

Needless to say, once the pianist is back on his feet (hands?) and his girlfriend’s cat is found strangled to death, he begins to suspect he has become a monster unable to control his new murderous hands.

Disappointingly, he doesn’t go on a killing spree. Instead, Christopher Lee plays an evil magician who hatches a blackmail plan involving Ferrer’s hand issue.

It’s a rather slow film that lacks any suspense, but Lee is fun, and there is (finally) one now common kill scene right at the end. But not even a death scene can serve as a Band-Aid for the disappointing truth behind the mystery of the killer hands. What a letdown.

THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963)

Mario Bava proves with this film that he truly was a ground-breaker back in the day, pushing the envelope by reimagining horror as distasteful, sexual, misogynistic exploitation!

Herschell Gordon Lewis still gets plenty of credit for making nasty gore the star of horror in the 60s, but that’s not what this film is about. This is a fricking sadomasochistic incubus romance that totally objectifies women and paints them as sexual whores that love to be abused. And it does it all under the guise of a gothic ghost story, with plenty of visually arresting settings and without any nudity.

The family in a coastal castle is in total turmoil, all due to evil Christopher Lee. One of the servants worships a bloody dagger she keeps in a protective glass case…because it’s the knife her daughter committed suicide with after an affair with Lee ended in him dumping her. That’s because he was engaged to the woman who has now become his brother’s wife. This all led to Lee being banished by his father.

It’s clear upon Lee’s return that he has a psychological hold on his whole family. He intimidates them with his words and they quickly agree to let him stay.

Along with the beautiful scenery and romantic score, we are suddenly treated to an encounter on the beach between Lee and his ex while she is out horseback riding. They kiss and then…he uses her horsewhip to viciously beat her, degrading her by telling her she hasn’t changed and still loves violence. All the while, she cries out and whimpers lustfully. Wow.

The film then takes a turn you don’t expect. Lee hears ghostly voices in his bedroom at night, appears to be attacked by the window curtain, and ends up dead!

He’s gone but he’s not forgotten. For the remainder of the film, his ex sees visions of him, hears the sounds of a whip in every tree branch, and is visited by him at night for more beatings. Again…wow.

Is Lee really dead? Is he a ghost? Or is his ex just losing her mind? It all plays out as an elegant gothic horror complete with creepy corridors, dark rooms lit only by lightning outside, muddy footprints, a crypt, a corpse…it’s absolutely delicious. And so is the guy who plays Lee’s brother.

DARK PLACES (1974)

This odd little movie of deception and thievery infuses some haunted house elements and ends with a bang in a series of murders (the best part).

A man inherits an old mansion from another man who happens to have looked just liked him…which makes the unclear time jumps super confusing.

Christopher Lee and Joan Collins play a brother and sister team that wants to find money hidden inside the mansion. So not only does Joan start a romantic relationship with the new owner, but the pair decides they are going to scare him out of the house by convincing him it’s haunted.

Little do they know that the dude was recently released from an asylum and has some serious mental issues.

As he begins to hear laughter and voices in the house, he seems to also experience flashbacks to the life of the man he inherited the mansion from…a life that led to a murderous tragedy. And that tragedy has dire effects on the new owner’s fragile mental stability, which isn’t good news for Lee or Collins.

It really isn’t a compelling movie until the final act, and Lee and Collins are woefully underutilized, appearing only at the beginning and end.

DRACULA AND SON (1976)

Christopher Lee got the last laugh after playing Dracula for decades. Not only did he do a comedy version of the character right at the beginning of his run with Uncle is a Vampire, he did it once again at the end of his run with Dracula and Son.

I preferred the humor and pacing of Uncle is a Vampire over this film in its original French version, which is slow and spotty in its humor. However, Lee gets the funnier moments here—about the only moments that shine—and it’s a treat to see a smile on his vampire face every once in a while.

A lot is packed into this plot. First, the vampire impregnates a woman. After she has the baby, she turns into a vampire and accidentally fries herself in the sun. Now the vamp is a single dad. We watch as his little terror grows up, and then father and son are run out of town by the angry villagers.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the vampire ends up in London and his son ends up in Paris.

The vampire decides to take advantage of his dark allure and becomes a horror movie star. Teehee. Lee is most definitely used to good effect in this sense.

His son’s story, on the other hand, is rather lame. It’s mostly about him trying to survive as a vampire in the real world as he looks for work and…food.

The film finally takes a bit of a more interesting turn when father and son reunite. But their joy is short-lived. Before long, they fall for the same woman…who looks just like the son’s deceased mother.

You would think that plotline would make for some great comedy. It just doesn’t. It’s astonishing to me that a) this movie is even considered a comedy in its original 100-minute French version, and b) that people hate the U.S. cut. See, here’s what happened. For its U.S. release, the film was edited down to 80 minutes (yay!) and redubbed with an entirely different script that makes it a true horror spoof in the style of the Leslie Nielsen comedies of the 1980s with cheap gags, pop culture references, dirty sex jokes, and a narrator. There’s even some queer humor. 

Watching it right after watching the original cut, I think it is a bloody brilliant revamp. So glad both versions are included in the Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Volume 2 Blu-ray release.

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Witch possession, an evil neighbor, and a Halloween haunt slasher

This trio of low budget indies in varying subgenres covers a lot of familiar territory, but does that outweigh the fun to be had?

REAWAKENED (2020)

This hokey little witch/possession/teen slasher feels like a cheap film you might see on SyFy around Halloween time, so don’t expect any suspense or even any cheap jump scares.

A young woman wakes up in a hospital bed and a detective is there waiting to interrogate her as to why all her friends are dead. That kind of setup always kills a majority of the suspense instantly because once the flashbacks start, there are no surprises—we know exactly who’s going to die and who’s going to be the final girl.

Anyway, we flash back.

The main girl and her friends go hiking. They come across an empty house. They find witchcraft paraphernalia inside.

One friend puts on a necklace she finds. She has flashbacks to a witch being tried and persecuted in the past and then becomes possessed by her. That possession comes in the form of white face paint, color contacts, and a hoodie.

This all drags on for almost an hour before she begins killing all her friends, occasionally using 1980s era computer generated supernatural magic effects.

Once they’re all dead and we get back to the final girl telling her story in the hospital, the witch has somehow followed her there and the killing continues for a few more minutes.

DAY 13 (2020)

This film started off feeling like Rear Window meets Disturbia meets Fright Night, and I was okay with all those derivative comparisons meshed together.

Left alone to watch his younger sister when their single mother goes away on vacation, a teen boy immediately begins to spy on a house across the street as a man and his daughter move in.

Then the teen boy gets ridiculously obsessed with the new girl’s business even though she’s standoffish to him at first. He’s persistent and tries to warn her that a) her dad is doing weird things at night, and b) her house is suspicious because it’s the oldest house on the block.

Various elements of this movie seriously cause plot holes. Plus, despite the teen boy realizing the dad is delving into satanic ritual shit and keeping his daughter prisoner, which leads to the teen boy and his buddy sneaking into the house numerous times, it’s just not as suspenseful as it should be…perhaps because it’s so predictable.

That is until the final scene. Let me clarify. The twist at the end is predictable also, but the final scene is something that has to be seen to be believed. I’ll give the filmmakers credit—if you’re going to try to make your derivative film as different as can be at the last possible second, this is the way to do it.

HURT (2018)

This is such an odd approach to a slasher/Halloween haunted attraction flick. It also sprinkles in a dash of backwoods horror and incorporates a commentary on military PTSD. There are moments that work, but just know that you are not getting into a heart-pounding joy ride of horror here. This is a moody slow burn that only really ramps up the thrills in the last twenty minutes or so.

A crucial point to make first is that if low budget movies that are shot so dark you can barely see anything drive you nuts, you will not be happy with this one. I was really frustrated by it because I so wanted to be able to better immerse myself in what was being offered here, especially considering that Halloween themed horror flicks make me giddy. Naturally, this one earns a spot on the holiday horror page.

I was immediately confused by the opening and how it’s supposed to relate to the remainder of the film—a general disconnect that plagues this movie right through to the final scene.

We meet a straight couple living in a sleepy town. He has just returned from serving active duty, she’s trying to embrace his return and support him while getting into the holiday spirit. But her love for Halloween at first makes her out to be somewhat of a psycho due to the dark approach she has to celebrating the season. This is one of those disconnects I was talking about, although in the end I feel like this film is passing judgement on those who live for the horrors of Halloween!

Anyway, after way too much time is spent demonstrating to us just how low-key the couple’s life is, they decide to go to their favorite Halloween haunted hayride event. She is much more enthralled with the morbid entertainment than he is, and it clearly has a negative effect on him.

This is when the film gets even weirder. The couple gets separated due to them having a fight, and the female eventually returns home…which is where all the horror truly begins as she is eventually chased for the final act by someone in a mask. Despite the minimal number of characters, we do at least get several bodies to count, but while this final sequence saves the movie by at last delivering some suspense and intense situations, it’s still a challenge to add all the pieces together—and the excessive darkness only amplifies that challenge. Good news is that the final sequence actually takes place the next morning during daylight hours….

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TUBI TERROR: car creeps, backwoods freaks, and urban exploitation

I found a hint of satisfaction from each of these flicks, but I’ve also been down all these roads before.

NO SUCH THING AS MONSTERS (2019)

The title No Such Thing As Monsters is deceptive—makes it sound like it’s going to be about a kid with night terrors or something like that. Instead, this is actually one for fans of psycho backwoods family horror movies. It checks all the right boxes.

It definitely had me on the edge of my seat at first, as it did a fantastic job setting up the tension. Inevitably, however, it did fall back on all the usual tropes, so it began to lose steam halfway through.

What’s notable is that the female member of the main straight couple is missing an arm and wears a mechanical arm most of the time. She’s also reticent about going camping with her man to a spot in the woods where his family would go when he was young. As with much of what goes on here, we never get clarification or reason behind why she’s so paranoid.

Soon after they arrive, a van full of people shows up, one of them a grown woman in a dress and wearing a mask. I don’t care how friendly the other members of the group seem to be at first, when you’re camping in the woods, the arrival of a “mask girl” is all you need to know to get the fuck out of there.

Instead, the couple starts to hang out with them. That leaves us just waiting for that moment when the group turns on them. This is the good stuff that keeps me twitching.

Like I said, it’s kind of typical after that. The virile young couple is separated, kept in chains, used for the purpose of expanding the family…you know the backwoods drill. It’s not gory or particularly violent or disturbing, but even so, if you need a fix of this kind of horror, I think this one is worth a watch.

THE DARKNESS OF THE ROAD (2021)

This particular type of twist ending film was becoming common about ten years ago to the point that every new one thrown our way was obvious from the start, but I realized when this one started that I suddenly hadn’t seen one in a while. Yet they’re still as obvious as they always were if you’ve seen a bunch of them before.

I guess you could consider this a surreal, slow burn, psychological horror flick. I’d describe it as Silent Hill in a car.

A woman wakes on a desolate road after having a nightmare that she blew her brains out with a gun. She’s in her car with her young daughter. We know nothing about their backstory.

When she arrives at a gas station and experiences some odd and creepy occurrences, we immediately start wondering if she stepped (or drove) into the Twilight Zone. She picks up a female hitchhiker she meets there. Is she inviting the hitchhiker into her nightmare, or vice versa?

Once on the road, they get into a car accident and fall unconscious after almost hitting something that darts across the road. When they awake, the main woman’s daughter is missing and some sort of neon blue humanoid being seems to be pursuing them as they look for her.

The film traps us in a disjointed loop of odd things happening to the two women as they repeatedly get in and out of the car. The rare appearances of their supernatural stalker are creepy cool, and the inside of the car even goes through Silent Hill-esque transformations, but if you pretty much guess what’s going on all along as I did, it essentially waters down much of the dread you feel for the characters.

CHICAGO ROT (2016)

This supernatural revenge exploitation flick doesn’t have much in the way of plot, but it definitely delivers on the grind house sleaze, violence, and gore.

A not quite human guy known as The Ghoul, a vigilante seeking revenge for the death of his mother, goes on a brutal rampage while being pursued by a detective. That’s about it. So what kind of debauchery do we get as The Ghoul takes a journey through a seedy city to wreak havoc?

–Weird music video segments that set the tone in the heat of the action.

–a visit to a gay sex party bring thrown by The Ghouls sleazy, psychotic buddy (scoring this film a spot on the does the gay guy die? page)

–a consultation with a drag queen psychic.

–a nasty, internal viewpoint of a guy being stabbed with a knife…and then the guy’s knife wound being fucked with a dildo.

–a vicious fight with a guy wearing an elephant mask…or is that a woolly mammoth?

And finally, by the end of this bizarre flick, which totally reminds me of the splatterfest Adam Chaplin, it started to feel like a Mad Max/Tron mashup.

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