PRIME TIME: monsters, mad men…and shirtless men!

I guess I should be upfront and admit that I added most of these films to my watchlist not just because there was blood in the trailers…but there were also shirtless men in them. However, I was happy to find that each film delivers something more than just men.

PLEDGES (2018)

A bunch of sorority and fraternity pledges is dumped in the woods for some hazing. But the group is not alone and begins getting picked off one by one…eventually.

Offering an eighties vibe (including short shorts), Pledges is not exactly as straightforward and fast-paced as it should be for a movie about sexy people being killed in the woods. For starters, they spend much too much time on their hazing challenges before anything really thrilling happens. Well not totally true. The guys in their undies are pretty thrilling.

While there is some “killer POV”, it’s never quite clear what is actually doing the killing. When horror things finally begin happening (much too late for a 75-minute movie), some people get sucked into a swirl of black smoke, there’s a random blue ghost face girl encounter, someone seems possessed, and best of all, there’s a big black, slimy monster.

None of it really makes sense, and most of it isn’t necessary. All we needed was pretty people having sex and getting killed off by the slime monster. Still, it’s short, has some sex and gore (much of which is bad CGI), and the cute shirtless guys and the underutilized monster kept me entertained.

MASKED MUTILATOR (2019)

I don’t know enough about wrestling to know if they were ever famous, but the director/star of this film and his costars were all wrestlers in the 90s when this film was made.

Until I read the movie’s trivia section on IMDb, I also didn’t know most of it was filmed in 1994, which is when it takes place. My snobby east coast mentality just assumed those involved were all friends from some small Midwestern town where everyone still wears 1990s fashions. And that opinion hasn’t even changed.

The new footage that creates a launching point for the plot has a radio host interviewing survivors of a massacre at a home for wayward kids. The place is run by an ex-wrestler whose career ended when he accidentally killed a guy in the ring.

It might be low budget, but because Masked Mutilator is a genuine 1994 indie, it gave me the nostalgic feels, plus it’s as simple as slashers get—kids have sex, kids get killed. And you won’t hear me criticizing camerawork that captures moments like this…

It takes a while, but once the murders start, a big guy in a wrestler’s mask brutally kills victims using practical fake blood. There are also boobs and wrestler beefcake. Best of all, these guys are serious wrestlers, and show off their skills in an epic wrestling battle at the end. And it all happens in only 75 minutes!

Masked Mutilator is old school horror cheese straight out of the 90s, so expect some disparaging gay and lesbian terms. And keep an eye out for a young James DeBello from Cabin Fever in a flashback scene.

OVERLORD (2018)

JJ Abrams produces this one, so it’s quite epic…yet it still makes the mistake of running too long at 110 minutes. It starts to drag on its way to the good stuff, especially since it combines two things I really have limited patience for in horror: it’s a period piece that focuses on the military.

Even so, Overlord turns into a gory good infected creature feature film.

A team of U.S. military men bails from a plane during a battle over enemy territory, making for one wild parachuting scene.

The guys hide from the Nazis is a French woman’s house. That doesn’t stop them from ending up in a laboratory where heinous experiments are being performed on people.

The plot is nothing new, but the infected people, the gore, and the action kick ass. If you’re a fan of survival horror video games, you are guaranteed to feel like you’re in the middle of one right down to the mutating final boss.

THE RAKE (2018)


This indie feature is a tight and sleek creature feature that starts off strong, with a nasty little murder/suicide scene during a very festive Christmas celebration.

Years later, a couple is having a gathering on a happy occasion, and the brother and sister whose parents were murdered years before are in attendance. The sister is a total mess suffering from freaky visions. She believes there was a creature in the house the night their parents died, and that it is coming for them.

It does. But first there’s a whole lot of talk and arguing among the guests. None of it was of much interest to me, but this film redeems itself in the final act when the friends start getting impaled on the huge claw hand of a creepy creature.

There’s a basement drenched in red light, the kills are gory good, and the monster money shot at the end is awesome.

CELL COUNT (2012)


This is rare for an indie film; Cell Count takes itself seriously and really focuses on characters and relationships before getting to the good stuff.

This is an emotional depiction of a couple that decides to become part of an experimental treatment that can save the dying wife. They are contained in a medical facility with several other sick patients, where things are very Big Brother.

A great deal of time is spent getting to know the characters, with only a few hints that something very wrong might be going on. But it’s clear it’s very, very wrong.

When we finally learn exactly how the people are being treated (think parasite), the action and horror build as the patients try to cope with the awful truth of what’s happening to them. This gruesome segment is the best part of the movie.

Unfortunately, it all falls apart at the last moment when Daniel Baldwin comes to rescue the patients…and the film ends as if it’s going to need a sequel that picks up right where it leaves off.

It’s seven years later, and the sequel is listed as “in development” on IMDb.

THE MERMAID: LAKE OF THE DEAD (2019)

Not your typical killer mermaid movie (not that there are many of them), this film’s mermaid is definitely an obsessed, vindictive lady of the lake who lures a man to be her lover…but she doesn’t have fins. As a result, this visually arresting, polished film will probably be more impressive to horror fans that haven’t seen every ghost girl movie released in the past two decades since The Ring made them trendy.

The film focuses on a couple about to get married. He goes to a bachelor party at his family’s summer home and decides to take a swim in the lake at night. Considering I wouldn’t even take a swim in a natural body of water in daylight, I’ll never understand how people in these movies do it at night.

Anyway, the mermaid seduces him, and then he and his fiancée spend the rest of the movie being terrorized by visions of her face and hands popping out from every side of the screen. You know the kind of cheap scares I’m talking about—the ones used in every ghost girl movie trailer…which turn out to be the scariest scenes in the entire film.

The film is drenched in the same eerie, dreary green tint as The Ring, and the mermaid’s hair ends up playing a major role in the story. And quite reminiscent of the various encounters with Samara in the water down in the well, the basement of the summer home is flooded, and something lurks just under the surface of the water.

While it’s all very predictable, when the mermaid finally shows her true form, she’s pretty dang freaky, and that was enough to satisfy me.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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