Wednesday, April 24, 2019

VHS WEDNESDAY RETURNS with NIGHT LIFE (1989) | Review by Dan Taylor

Archie (Scott Grimes of CRITTERS) is a teenage funeral home assistant for his uncle (John Astin). After some over-the-top bullying by high school jocks, a mortuary prank goes awry and Archie gets canned.

But when an accident turns his jocko adversaries and their big-haired gal pals into zombies it's up to Archie and his tomboy grease-monkey friend Charly (Chery Pollak of tv's THE HEIGHTS and MELROSE PLACE) to save the day.

NIGHT LIFE (aka GRAVE MISDEMEANOURS) takes its fine time getting going and fails to deliver on the horror while most of the comedy falls flat on its face. While it's certainly not the worst slice of 80s zombie horror comedy I've ever seen, it doesn't hold up favorably to similar "teens fight zombies" efforts like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS.

However, we will give bonus points for a completely gratuitous appearance by Tony Geary as a skinny-tie wearing, fast car driving smooth talker who tries to bed Charly. – Dan Taylor

Thanks to Bruce Holecheck of CINEMA ARCANA for popping by with this slab of VHS sinema for our enjoyment. And don't be fooled by the trailer (below) that kinda tries to make it look like a vampire flick.

Friday, February 15, 2019

FLESH FOR THE INFERNO (2015) directed by Richard Griffin | Review by Louis Fowler

In a story that feels largely ripped from the headlines, a scummy Catholic priest is accused of flagrant molestation by a handful of seemingly decent nuns. However, instead of just relocating him to a different parish and hoping enterprising journalists never find out about it, said priest takes out a gun and shoots one of the nuns right in the head.

The rest of the crew he seals in a brick-strewn wall down in the basement – it's a bit more work, as he probably could've shot all of them and been done with it, but whatever – prompting the nuns to renounce God and, in a broad turn of events, accept Satan in a twenty-year bid for unholy vengeance.

And here is where the movie start to make no sense: the bloody day finally comes when a grotesque band of teens, with all stereotypes represented and overplayed, accidentally discover and get slaughtered individually by the demon-possessed nuns. The kids, as annoying as they are, really had nothing to do with the molestations of years past, so to rip them apart seems like going a little too far in the nuns' bid for revenge.

Directed by Richard Griffin (SPLATTER DISCO, MURDER UNIVERSITY), FLESH... moves from point A to point B about as well as you'd expect, more inclined to deliver a message of anger against the church than a storyline that really makes much sense; but, in light of certain Catholic crimes, I can respect that. What hurts the film more is the devilishly poor acting, but, for an ultra low-budget flick, what can you really expect?

FLESH FOR THE INFERNO, if this was 1995, would've been a great Saturday night rental. And while I'm not sure who this neo-nunsploitation is truly for these days, if it happens to cross your black path of entertainment options somewhere, don't damn it to Hell immediately. – Louis Fowler

Louis Fowler is a longtime contributor to ER and The Hungover Gourmet as well as The Lost Ogle, Bookgasm and The Impulsive Buy

FLESH FOR THE INFERNO is available from Amazon.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

THE PURGING HOUR (2016) | Review by Louis Fowler

Found footage films – forever mingling a totally valid plot point with fourth wall-breaking budgetary concerns, natch – have replaced zombie flicks as the low-budget go-to and, while I personally am already tired of them, I couldn't be happier for hungry filmmakers on a less-than-shoestring to create their cinematic dreams.

That being said, at first glance I expected THE PURGING HOUR (2016) to be a rip-off of, well, THE PURGE (2013), instead of, well, I'm really not quite sure, but it is a found footage film, so that's something. The amount of non-existent overhead here really leads me to not only believe the film was shot in the late afternoon the one Sunday everyone had off from their jobs, but everything from dialog to the effects were made up as they went along for 80 minutes.

That's not really a bad thing here, though.

While talking heads go on and on about a vague crime, we're treated to footage of an extremely decent Latino family driving in a car on a barren road or setting up the grill in their new home. While these scenes do tend to go on for a while, in today's anti-Mexican culture where usually Caucasian writers fill us in as undocumented immigrants, gang-members or, even worse, hotel maids, I appreciated what THE PURGING HOUR (aka HOME VIDEO) was trying to do and would've loved a whole movie of it, no final ten minutes of horror needed.

And really, it's all in about the final ten minutes when the unspeakable horror takes place, an unseen force slashing throats and stabbing hearts and all kinds of heavy grue. Who's doing it and why? A few theories are expressed, including a take on la Llorona that, for the most part, peters out. Just keep guessing, I suppose.

While THE PURGING HOUR is definitely a good-enough effort by director Emmanuel Giorgio Sandoval and his crew, still, I'm kind of thinking that maybe horror isn't his strong suit the way possibly a family comedy or even drama might be. Either way, hopefully he'll continue to keep Latinos not only in the front of the camera, but especially behind it as well. – Louis Fowler

Louis Fowler is a longtime contributor to ER and The Hungover Gourmet as well as The Lost Ogle, Bookgasm and The Impulsive Buy

THE PURGING HOUR is available from Amazon.

Friday, January 11, 2019

MRS. CLAUS (2018) Slasher Friday Holiday Horrors | Review by Dan Taylor

“I pray that this Christmas fills you – with anguish!”

Remember the good ole days when you could count the number of Christmas-themed horror movies on two hands? BLACK CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS EVIL, the SILENT NIGHT flicks, ELVES, DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS, SANTA’S SLAY and a handful of others provided horror fans jonesing for seasonal fright flicks after Halloween with enough tinsel and gore to make it through all those cookie swaps, holiday parties, and family gatherings.

Thanks (?) to cut-rate budgets, significantly lowered expectations and streaming outlets simply screaming for content, Christmas has become THE destination holiday for horror filmmakers. Take a cursory look at any streaming service and you’ll find yourself knee deep in titles like SLAY BELLES, CHRISTMAS SLAY, RED CHRISTMAS, ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, CHRISTMAS BLOOD, SECRET SANTA, CHRISTMAS WITH COOKIE: LOCKED AWAY, GOOD TIDINGS and enough Krampus-inspired fright flicks to fill the Manson Family’s stockings.

Troy Escamilla's MRS. CLAUS (2018) – not to be confused with 1996’s MRS. SANTA CLAUS starring Angela Lansbury, Charles Durning and Michael Jeter – finds the horribly annoying sisters of Delta Sigma Sigma celebrating Christmas, bitch, and not any of those made-up holidays.

When the president of the sorority decides to remind one of the newbies “who’s in charge” it all goes horribly wrong and ends with a murder by dong (sorta) and suicide by rope (totally).

No tears were shed by the survivors.

Fast forward a decade and the gals of Delta Sig Squared are back at it, including Danielle (Hailey Strader), the sister of the dead sorority president from earlier in the film. Now, you might be asking yourself, why would she pledge the same sorority where her sister was murdered? And you would not be alone, as one character asks the exact same question.

Danielle, who is dating the brother of sorority sister Kayla (Heather Bounds), continually forgets that her sister was a serious bitch and doesn’t seem capable of handling stories about her dead sibling. Who, may I remind you, was a serious and total bitch.

Once again, “why would you pledge the same sorority where your sister was murdered? I don’t get that.” None of us do, none of us do.

Eventually, the titular Mrs. C starts sending cryptic e-mails and the poorly attended Delta Sig holiday party turns into a D-grade BLACK CHRISTMAS as sorority gals, weirdoes, potheads, horny jocks and a campus rent-a-cop (genre vet Brinke Stevens) become victims and/or suspects in this Yuletide slasher.

Admittedly, I absolutely HATED this flick upon first viewing and wasn’t even going to bother giving it a review. But the holiday spirit – is that you, Mrs. Claus?! – moved me and I gave it another shot. A second viewing made me feel slightly more charitable to the proceedings and I’d give it a grudging recommendation as long as you know what kind of low-budget holiday hell you’re wading into.

I’d also recommend being slightly buzzed. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. He is determined to finish up reviews of the other holiday horrors he watched. 

MRS. CLAUS is available from Amazon.

Friday, January 04, 2019

THE ZODIAC KILLER (1971) Directed by Tom Hanson | Review by Louis Fowler

The sheer balls these 70s filmmakers had, to exploit a serial killer while the bodies were still warm, all under the guise of "helping" to catch the bloodthirsty deviant.

Still, with no disrespect to the actual victims, 1971's THE ZODIAC KILLER (now available on Blu-Ray from AGFA and Something Weird) is an enjoyable piece of trash, for all the wrong reasons. Starting off with a title card practically saying this film was not made for awards and, instead, in the public interest, well, you mostly succeeded.

In a particle-board California community where every single man is apparently a misogynistic pig with a "bitch" ex-wife, a woman gets stabbed in the broad daylight as young children watch. I'm not really sure if this is the startling opening of the movie or a California tourism advertisement, but it's pretty effective on both counts.

As the supposed murderer reads off a generically psychopathic litany of stereotyped weirdness, the audience is meant to perpetually guess who the killer is; running through the large list of red herrings, is it the bitter postman put upon by harridans, the divorced daddy with a shrewish ex-wife or the one seemingly normal dude with a need to rant on about his future zombie slaves from the lost continent of Atlantis or some such junk.

Like a MGTOW spank-bank come to life, David Fincher it's not.

Still, when the Zodiac does appear on-screen, clad in his remarkably clean uniform with crosshairs on the front, it's darkly chilling to know that the acclaimed killer was probably in the theater, pleasuring himself to the clumsy filmmaking on bad film stock, languishing in the fictionalized outings of his silver screen alter-ego. That's gotta be a bigger rush than a double-murder on Lover's Lane, I'd suppose.

In addition to THE ZODIAC KILLER, included as a bonus feature is ANOTHER SON OF SAM (1977, written and directed by Dave Adams), which I know sounds like a wacky summer comedy about an inept serial killer and his dog pal going on a dingy New York murder spree, but instead is an equally garbage flick about a mental patient who knows some sweet speedboat stunts.

But, for the price of admission, it also features the public domain ramblings of lounge-singer extraordinaire Johnny Charro, whose concert footage is a might scarier than both films combined. – Louis Fowler

Louis Fowler is a longtime contributor to ER and The Hungover Gourmet as well as The Lost Ogle, Bookgasm and The Impulsive Buy

THE ZODIAC KILLER is available from Amazon and Diabolik DVD

Thursday, December 13, 2018

HOLIDAY (Sorta) HORRORS: Tell Me a Christmas Story... That Rips Off Classic Horror Flicks

When I picked up NIGHT TERRORS (2014) at a horror convention I thought, "Cool... holiday horror meets anthology... sounds like my kinda flick". After screening it I'm reminded of the classic SOUTH PARK episode where Cartman insists that his hand is Jennifer Lopez (you have to see it to believe it).

When confronted by his pals (plus, um, a lovestruck Ben Affleck and the police) he admits his hand isn't J Lo but is actually a con man named Mitch Conner. After getting his pals to admit that what happened was possible he taunts Stan and Kyle by saying "I gotcha kinda... I gotcha kinda..."

This is how NIGHT TERRORS makes me feel.

Based around the old anthology flick chestnut of "world's worst babysitter tells kid horrific stories" a la BURNING MOON, NIGHT TERRORS valiantly tries to replicate the VHS experience of the 80s – complete with a warning that the VHS effect you're seeing is intended and that this is "not a defective product". Yeah, I'll be the judge of that.

The holiday horrors ball gets rolling as Maddie (Alyssa Benner) – stuck at home babysitting while her pal wants her to come out and party – complies with her little brother's request to "tell me a Christmas story". I'm guessing the kid did not have this poor man's SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT in mind but his twisted sister unspools the sordid tale of a savage Santa who butchers some heavy metal dude ringing a Salvation Army bell then heads to a squat where he hacks his way through a bunch of punks gearing up for a night of beer and Oi. One can only imagine the lengths Maddy had to go to in order to explain squatting punks and Oi to her little brother.

Despite the very obvious rubber dummy that Santa axes and the myriad of period details the segment – and the flick as a whole – gets wrong, at least you can have some fun looking at the classic hardcore show fliers that dot the squat's wall. Little did I know that '34th Street Massacre' would be the anthology's only "holiday horror" – and the evening's highlight.

'Baby Killer' mines more familiar territory as mad scientist Dr. Herbert Cain (Richard Hackel) must resort to boosting supplies from the ol' university lab in order to work on the cure for his daughter's disease. Not a big fan of kid peril or baby murder, so I'm pretty much out on this one despite the protestor in a Misfits shirt and the acid bath given to the janitor's face.

The flick wraps with 'Abstinence', which I'm sure was meant as a well-intentioned homage to Fred Dekker's classic NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (one of my all-time favorites). I'll use "homage" because nobody making a horror flick would be so blatant as to lift dialogue straight from the flick and have the nerve to use Tom Atkins' oft-quoted "Thrill me" and think they could get away with it. Unfortunately, the hijacked plot-line, woeful casting and period details pulled me right out of the story, no matter how many people puke blood and pull out their own teeth.

In a nutshell, NIGHT TERRORS – written and directed by Alex Lukens and Jason Zink – offers up watchable but largely forgettable Grade D riffs on three great slices of 80s horror. Granted, it isn't like those flicks cornered the market on evil Santas, mad scientists or college mayhem, and I've enjoyed countless variations on said themes. But if you're going to advance the premise that these segments – and the wraparound – are 80s-era artifacts, at least try and get the details and casting right. I understand that you take what you can get when casting a low-budget, straight-to-video horror flick (friends, relatives, people who will work for food), but nobody walking around a college campus in the 80s gauged their earlobes, the only people who had tattoos were bikers and veterans, and don't cast a "college frosh" who looks old enough to be some dad visiting for Parents Weekend.

Well played, NIGHT TERRORS. You got me kinda... you got me kinda... – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and he promises more Holiday Horrors before Christmas. This review previously appeared in ER #53 which is is available from AmazonNIGHT TERRORS is also available from Amazon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

David Allen's THE PRIMEVALS Finally Seeing the Light of Day?!

If you were a fan of Empire Pictures and Full Moon, you probably spent a good part of your life waiting around for films that may or may not have ever happened. Or were even started.

I myself waited for years from the time I saw the full-page ad in Variety for PULSE POUNDERS until the lost footage was finally discovered and released piecemeal on various Full Moon releases. (See our review of the surprisingly sleazy THE EVIL CLERGYMAN here.)

Of all the projects backed by Charles Band that never saw the light of day, the most anticipated may be legendary effect expert David Allen's THE PRIMEVALS. An epic undertaking (especially for Full Moon), the film was to combine stop-motion with live action and was Allen's passion project until his death in 1999.

The film's history is a recurring theme throughout the recent Full Moon tome IT CAME FROM THE VIDEO AISLE!, with what seemed like hundreds of the book's real-life characters toiling on it in some capacity over the years.

Now, reports that Band has assembled a team led by Chris Endecott (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, DEADPOOL) to finish the work Allen left behind after his death.

You can contribute to the project here and help THE PRIMEVALS finally see the light of day. – Dan Taylor