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

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

TERROR TOONS 3 (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

DEMON SQUAD (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

STRIGOI (2009)

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

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

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

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

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

BUTCHER THE BAKERS (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

BAD BEN 7: THE HAUNTED HIGHWAY (2019)

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

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

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

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

KILLER CAMERA MONSTERS (2020)

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

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

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

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

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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