So I picked up some of those Troma boxed sets of low budget horror movies because they contained particular movies I wanted. But naturally I had to subject myself to the torture of watching every movie included in each box. So now I pass that pain on to you, including the best of them, the worst of them, and the surprise appearances of familiar faces….
HORROR OF THE HUNGRY HUMONGOUS HUNGAN (1991)
I don’t know what a humongous hungan is, but it sounds dirty. This film catapults me back to the late 80s/early 90s because it looks like a bunch of friends got out their VHS recorder and filmed a movie. I can almost smell the time period.
Shockingly, Jack Palance does a (pointless) voice-over during the opening that totally reminds me of the Tales from the Darkside intro. There’s a plot about a scientist/doctor guy who put together a person from body parts; it’s already complete when the movie begins and ready to be re-animated.
Meanwhile, a bunch of kids is going on a camping trip. But they don’t set out on the trip until an hour into the movie! Instead, they have a going away party that consists of a garage band called Cry Wolf playing while kids dance…and a Pee-wee Herman impersonator momentarily interrupts. This goes on forever.
The zombie is a guy in a creepy mask. He has a bizarre forked hand that doesn’t look human and keeps his arms raised in classic Frankenstein fashion as he chases kids around the woods during the day. It’s bad homemade quality action, but all the guys are shirtless and have sexy mullets. And a young kid takes the zombie down with what looks like a gun he made out of a July 4th Roman candle.
I really like the trippy, echoing monster groans and the fog machine used in the cemetery. Spooky.
Epitaph is about a family with a crazy mother who kills people, forcing them to stay on the move. But this time when they settle in to a new house, it seems mom has really gone off the deep end, because even family members aren’t safe from her killing nymphomania.
There’s really only one reason to watch this movie, and it was the only thing I remember about the movie—and the reason I bought the Troma “Toxie’s Blood Bank” boxed set. Actually, there’s another classic moment when the painter rejects the mother’s advances, and only after she’s stabbed him dozens of times does she slap him across the face as if offended.
But the infamous scene is when the mother straps a woman up, puts a rat in a bucket against the woman’s belly, and then heats the bucket with a blow torch, causing the rat to gnaw through the woman to get to safety. This vicious scene has always stayed with me.
PLAY DEAD (1983)
Yvonne De Carlo has a killer pet, and it’s not a pet dragon named Spot hiding under the stairs. It’s a Rottweiler she controls with black magic. She also gets it to kill her relatives in unique ways—frying a chick in a tub, choking a guy with a leash, poisoning a detective. There’s no biting going on here and the dog is the only one who doesn’t play dead.
Really bad detectives investigate the murders, there are long love scenes made to feel more 1970s than 1980s thanks to the cheesy music (and they all happen while the dog watches), and dog lovers will hate what Lily Munster does to the dog at the end. But on the bright side, some guys go jogging in 80s shorts and tube socks. Takes me back.
DEATH BY DIALOGUE (1988)
Death by Dialogue is the kind of rough in the rough you would find in the horror section of the video store back in 88. I’d never seen it, but watching it made me really nostalgic for the type of garbage my family would sit down to on the weekends and make fun of as we watched.
It’s about a movie script that kills! A kid brings his friends to his wheelchair-bound uncle’s home, they find the script, and when they start reading it, they start dying the way it happens in the script. If you think about it, this plot would be stolen for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare six years later.
Funny I should say that, because fricking Kinkaid from Elm Street 3 is in this film! Oh how the mighty have fallen. The director clearly told actor Ken Sagoes, “Just act like Kinkaid again.” Ironically, one of the chicks in the film looks like Roseanna Arquette, whose sister is Patricia Arquette, who was in Elm Street 3 with Ken Sagoes! Okay. Maybe I’m grasping at six-degrees-of-Elm-Street-straws.
I’ll admit that some of the intentionally funny banter between the friends is humorous. There’s a new wave girl group song that opens the movie, a long volleyball montage, a great boob showcase during sex in a barn before the chick gets flung out the window, and a dude killed…um…by a heavy metal band that suddenly appears in the forest (after they perform their whole song, of course).
This is my kind of late 80s direct-to-VHS low-budget crap. There’s a big zombie swordsman who summons guys on motorcycles to help do his killing, Kincaid repeatedly calls them faggots, the kids try to rewrite the script but get stopped by a rubber monster, and eventually, they read a spell over a fire just as the zombie swordsman is about to get them. It works and he simply vanishes from the screen in the blink of an eye. Love those 80s low-budget special effects.
A film from 1999 feels a bit out of place amongst a collection of junk from the VHS heyday. Nightfall doesn’t even have the camp value of the other movies. It’s a simple, serious vampire story shot as a low-budget film. A detective’s young partner is killed hunting down what he believes is a vampire, so the detective investigates.
Jeff Rector, the lead actor, is quite cute, and the vampire dude does what he needs to do to be dark and dangerous, but the film has a very “white trash” feel, like the creator asked all the friends he grew up with who never left his hometown to be victims in his movie. Which kind of works, because only white trash can look naturally like they come from 1985 in a 1999 film.
The movie simply follows the detective as he finds clues and pieces together the mystery of what really happened to his partner, so we just sit there waiting for him to figure it out since we already know it was a vampire. We’re treated to a psychic named Voorhees (so clever) and random white trash sporadically appears for a few seconds to serve as the vampire’s meals, but that doesn’t help make this a thrilling flick in any way.
SCREAM, BABY, SCREAM (1969)
For the end of this blog, we go back to the end of the 60s with Scream, Baby, Scream. This one was written by Larry Cohen, who would go on to direct movies like It’s Alive, Q – The Winged Serpent, The Stuff, and A Return to Salem’s Lot. Even though this one only runs an hour and 20 minutes, it would have been better as a one-hour episode of some television horror series (52 minutes with commercials).
A majority of the film is about an art student couple that has sex and fights constantly. The guy is really jealous because this weird artist man who does macabre portraits of people with deformed faces gives his chick a lot of attention. The couple also hangs out with their friends, so we get a very long acid trip montage and a very long standup comedian/bar band montage.
Sprinkled throughout, the chick keeps seeing a guy with a freaky face. There are elements of Carnival of Souls here, minus the creepy atmosphere and pacing. Eventually, she runs around the beach in the dark chasing her runaway pussy and gets swarmed by freaky faces.
Considering the shocking “twist” ending that you see coming from a mile away these days, this indeed could have been shortened to an episode of The Twilight Zone. Too much tedious boredom spoils the frightening aspects of the film. But I must say, it’s definitely more of a quality horror film than the other trash you find in these collections.
And to think, this is just the end of part 1 of this blog. More Troma trash talk to come after I waste another 10 hours of my life watching the rest of the movies in these boxed sets….