Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TROMA TUESDAY: TROMA'S WAR (1988) directed by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz

Welcome to the first installment of Troma Tuesday, a new blog feature chronicling some of the highs and lows of the 40+ year old independent studio and their long list of productions and releases. First up, contributor Evan Romero takes a look at Troma's ambitious "epic" TROMA'S WAR.

TROMA'S WAR is Troma's most expensive movie to date with a budget of three million bucks. It's also the one that put the company in dire financial straits as the heavily-cut release (trimmed from 104 minutes to 87 to meet MPAA demands) was poorly received and wound up a box-office flop. But now, thanks to Blu-ray and DVD, the director's cut can be viewed by everyone.

But can it be enjoyed?

A plane crashes on an island, stranding the survivors. With no way of getting back to the mainland, the group, led by Taylor (Sean Bowen), must figure out how they're going to survive. But they have bigger problems: a group of terrorists have taken up residence on the island with diabolical plans to take over America be it via drugs or an AIDS epidemic started by "Señor Sida" (Paolo Frassanito)! With freedom at stake, the group must gear up and go kick some terrorist ass. Will they succeed in stopping the terrorist's plans? Or will freedom as we know it be a thing of the past?

When Troma shoots they either score big, or miss by a mile. In the case of TROMA'S WAR, the Troma team empty an AK-47 at point-blank range and fail to hit a single bullseye. An action flick made by Troma!? How can that fail to entertain?

Simple – by lacking all the ingredients that make a Troma movie, a Troma movie.

Over the top sex and violence? You won't find it here. Most of the violence comes from gunshot wounds that aren't much more violent than your average action flick. One would expect to find people LITERALLY machine gunned in half, people LITERALLY blown apart by shotguns, body parts galore flying about as terrorists meet death via rockets and grenades, and so on. Sure, it DOES have moments when a bit more of the red stuff is shown, such as when Siamese twins joined at the head are separated via machete, but the makeup effects are so laughably bad that it hardly matters. A makeup low-light comes when what appears to be cherry pie filling is used to simulate, I'm guessing, brain matter – and it is oh-so-obvious. A notch above that is a scene in which a guy commits seppuku: the guy's guts don't even spill out. Come on Troma, you're better than this.

How about humor? There are plenty of OPPORTUNITIES for it, but those opportunities are passed by in exchange for more shoot-outs. You can tell they were trying to be funny, but the comedy is just plain desperate. The highlight of the humor is a scene when a terrorist hiding amongst the trees farts, thus giving away his position and is promptly blown away. Come on now: my kid brother can think of better jokes than that.

But surely Troma wouldn't let us down in tastelessness! Unfortunately, tastelessness seems to have found some dignity: aside from the minor AIDS subplot, there's very little in TROMA'S WAR to anger the PC elite – I mean, unless a gag about a blind girl missing her targets counts. But when a baby makes it through a Troma movie COMPLETELY UNSCATHED, that Troma movie has failed.

Let's move on to the most important thing: entertainment. Is TROMA'S WAR, despite the lack of essential Tromatic ingredients, entertaining? Sadly, no. Everything is just dull and brings nothing new to the table, not to mention that shootouts are overlong and unexciting. I found myself yawning, checking the remaining runtime and being distracted by my front lawn all too often. The only reason I kept watching – aside from having to write this review – is because I wanted to see if one particular character, Marshall (Steve Crossley), the only character I found interesting, would make it through to the end. I won't tell you whether he did or not.

TROMA'S WAR is an utterly Troma-tose production. Lacking all the essential ingredients, WAR is comparable to O'Douls: only for those who can't handle, or don't want, the real stuff.

The Blu-ray release features audio commentary, an introduction by Lloyd Kaufman, an interview with Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Hertz, and more. – Evan Romero

Evan Romero spends much of his time reading morally-questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined). You can read more of his reviews at ReelAtrocities.com or at PopHorror.com.



TROMA'S WAR is available from Amazon.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Desperately In Need of Some Trash... STAT!

A sampling of the "watch" stack that continues
to grow and teeter behind me in my office.
Wish me luck.
So, uh, four posts in the first five months and eight days of 2016?

Bravo, Dan, bravo.

It's actually even worse when you realize that: a) I didn't write two of them; and, b) one is a share of a trailer. So I've really only produced one blog post. In 160 days. And that was a list of what I watched in 2015.

Not exactly what I would call "heavy lifting" on my part.

Which brings us to our regularly scheduled – though later than usual – apology for the dearth of activity here over the first, well, half of 2016. (If you'd like to read a more food and drink oriented version of this apology please hop on over to our sister blog The Hungover Gourmet.)

Feel free to insert whatever excuse works best for you. Choices include writer's block, laziness, ennui, freelance projects, home life, watching too much NHL and/or college basketball, volunteering at school and dealer's choice. Any of the above – and certainly a few I'm forgetting – are all acceptable.

But now that school's out and the NHL is on the verge of crowning a new Stanley Cup champ that is once again not my beloved Flyers, the worm is ready to turn. Work will resume on the long-delayed – but now very timely – 30th anniversary issue of ER as well as an ongoing site update and regular blog posts.

In an effort to clear the cobwebs created by too many viewings of MINIONS and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 (hey, it's what happens when you put together an 8-year-old and unlimited streaming) I plan to embark on a recovery program that includes a rapid infusion of trash in the coming days.

In the meantime, look for some more contributor posts while I get my act together. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. He needs to get out of the comfy chair and back to watching some trash. Immediately. Ok, well not immediately because The Chamber of Horrors (aka the family room) is filled with stuff from his daughter's room and it's tough to watch Tinto Brass's THE VOYEUR with a fourth grader running around.

Monday, February 15, 2016

EXTREME JUKEBOX (2013) Directed by Alberto Bogo

I hope everybody is enjoying the long Prez Day weekend. I'm trapped in the office working on a freelance project while a wintry mix peppers ER HQ (again) so Evan Romero has kindly chipped in and taken the promising looking EXTREME JUKEBOX off the teetering review stack. Take it away, Evan...

An Italian horror flick!? There was no lumberyard that could compete with the amount of wood I was sporting. But wait – released by Troma!? Ho ho! NOW we're talkin'! Firing EXTREME JUKEBOX up, I anticipated my TV screen to be running with glorious scarlet and Tromatic hilarity of overdose proportions.

So imagine my and my woody's disappointment when EXTREME JUKEBOX turned out to be a pretty mediocre flick, flatter than the disc it comes on.

Jessie Cake (Alessio Cherubini), lead singer of metal band Grave Tomba, idolizes singer David Crystal (Maurizio Lastrico) who vanished twenty years ago. Breaking into Crystal's house in Nova Springs, Jessie finds an unreleased single of Crystal's called "Emily Palmer Was Alive." Playing it awakens a masked killer who – you guessed it – begins offing people left and right. There's another killer, dubbed "Naughty Rocky Boy" by the police, who's slaughtering people as well. And there's also a third one that pops up once. Now, it's up to Jessie and his friends to stop the killers... even though none of them seem particularly alarmed about the killers killing people...

First off, I have to take issue with Lloyd Kaufman's introduction to this movie where he claims that EXTREME JUKEBOX is the most demented Italian film since DEEP RED. Um, no. There are FAR more demented Italian films than DEEP RED, and far more demented Italian films than EXTREME JUKEBOX. Come on, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST anyone?

Okay, moving on to the movie itself. EXTREME JUKEBOX is a bit hard to follow and feels like a rough cut. It doesn't seem to have any goal in mind, instead preferring to just be a collection of scenes loosely tied together to form a semblance of a plot. Many times I found myself wondering what exactly was going on. And it's not helped by the fact that several scenes in the movie serve no purpose. What was the purpose of the two guys browsing in a record store shown at various points throughout the movie? What about the discussion between Don Kappa (Pino Scotto) and Terrance Holler (himself) talking about rock 'n' roll? These scenes don't serve the "plot" in any way (at least no way I could discern), so it's safe to conclude they're just here to pad the runtime.

"But are the kills any good?" I hear you asking. Aside from one they're all pretty lackluster and a few even happen off-screen. So those looking for kills in the Grand Italian Tradition will be sorely disappointed. Your average American slasher contains more on-screen deaths (and more violent ones at that) than EXTREME JUKEBOX.

And for a horror film with heavy metal and rock 'n' roll pumping through its veins, the soundtrack is pretty weak. The heavy metal heard throughout is more like aluminum and we don't even get the benefit of a thumpin' and rockin' Italian synth score. So yeah, nothin' here will find its way onto your iPod or MP3 player.

But the biggest problem with EXTREME JUKEBOX is that it completely lacks energy and vitality. But that kind of seems to be the case with fanboy films: all passion but no clue how to channel it properly. And, though it's billed as a "comedy/horror," it isn't the slightest bit funny.

And I take SERIOUS issue with the fact that heavy metal babes are plentiful yet there is not ONE bare breast, ass, or beaver in sight. UNACCEPTABLE!

Overall, EXTREME JUKEBOX is more like MILD JUKEBOX. No comedy, minimal gore, aluminum instead of heavy metal, no bangin' Italian soundtrack and the energy level of a rock earns EXTREME JUKEBOX a place in the Dust Collector pile.

EXTREME JUKEBOX is presented in Italian with English subtitles and the Blu-ray extras include a trailer, a Making Of featurette (which is as dull as the movie), information on the Rainbow Project (a charity started by Pino Scutto and his fiancée), some "Tromatic Extras," and a photo gallery. – Evan Romero

Evan Romero spends much of his time reading morally-questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined). You can read more of his reviews at ReelAtrocities.com, or at PopHorror.com.

EXTREME JUKEBOX is available at Amazon.



Thursday, February 04, 2016

Seagal! Van Dam! Olen Ray! It's the SNIPER: SPECIAL OPS Trailer!

In the late 80s and early 90s there were few things I loved as much as Steven Seagal movies and Fred Olen Ray movies. Today, those worlds officially collided in a collaboration that has me almost as excited as BATMAN V SUPERMAN or the Flash appearing on Supergirl.

I give you the trailer for SNIPER: SPECIAL OPS starring Steven Seagal, a boatload of black hair dye, Rob Van Dam and a lot of explosives.

POD (2015) Directed by Mickey Keating

I'd love to tell you that the dearth of posts of late are due to me furiously working away on our latest print installment (that'd be ER 53 coming... "soon"). Unfortunately, the holidays, holiday illness, ennui, freelance projects, record snowstorms and an unscheduled six days home from school for the little one all translate into next to nothing getting done. But that doesn't mean we're short on hot, fresh content for you! In fact, as the review stack teeters behind me I'm happy to welcome our neighbor to the north, Devin Kelly, to the contributor roster. This is the first of Devin's reviews being published to the site but you'll be seeing much more from him in the weeks and months to come and in our bulging 30th Anniversary Issue. – DT

That old adage of "less is more" is one to live by where the horror and science-fiction genres of filmmaking are concerned. Far too often today – with the ability to pretty much do it all through technology and the like – the idea that seemingly everything and anything goes has never been more apparent. Then films like Mickey Keating's POD (2015) come around, and we're reminded what one can do when stripping things down to the bare essentials, regardless of whether budget constraints sometimes force that hand or not.

In Keating's film (set primarily within the wintery confines of an old family lake house), we've essentially got three central characters to focus on, all siblings. Second-born Ed (Dean Cates) sets things in motion after receiving a disturbing and eerily incoherent voicemail from estranged older brother Martin (Brian Morvant). Knowing of his elder kin's state of mind and deep personal struggles since returning from the war, the message is enough to send Ed into damage control-mode, with the idea that a small intervention might be appropriate before things spiral further ("...and I am not up for burying both my parents and my brother on the same side of this decade!"). Unbeknownst to everyone, however, this ordeal escalated and unravelled long, long ago.

Enter the third and youngest sibling (as well as the only girl of the three) – combative and rebellious sister Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter). Ed hopes to bring her along as a way to quell some of the expected fury and resentment Martin is likely to elicit, with little sis being much closer to her older brother than the up-down relationship he has with Ed. Closeness aside, neither of the two have any inkling of the madness that lies ahead at the old lakeside retreat once regularly and fondly visited upon by their late-mother and father ("If Dad saw this place he'd be spinnin' in his grave"). This is something more than a mental breakdown induced by the monstrosities of combat in the service, however. Ed and Lyla have only to discover it.

As the determined Ed pulls up to the place through the white-covered woods showing the season, with sister in tow, it doesn't take much more than a glance to see that things are immediately off. Doors and windows completely plastered with tinfoil and waste bag plastic, a frenzied knock at the front renders zero response. With spare key put to use and the loud announcement of worried family members on the property, younger brother's voice soon trails off as his eyes slowly survey the deplorable conditions Martin has allowed a place of memories to stoop to. When a rampaging, psycho-gazed Martin comes storming in with hunting rifle ready to unload, the intensity factor goes from one to ten in a hurry (primarily through a wonderfully unhinged performance from Morvant). Ranting violently about takeovers and "pods", Ed and Lyla are left only to look on in bewilderment and terror. And when Martin speaks quite matter-of-factly about a certain something he's encountered, captured, and left captive in a heavily door-bolted room connecting to the basement, they can only conclude that he's slipped beyond any possibility of recovery or help ("No! Stop! Listen to me! Look at me! Do not under any circumstances go into that back room! Do you understand?! ANSWER ME!!"). Or has he? What has in fact triggered this talk of pods and who else is aware of it? Grab yourself a copy of POD and maybe you'll get your answers!

Much of what makes POD great is the believability of three relative unknowns in Lauren Ashley Carter (THE WOMAN, JUG FACE), Brian Morvant (THE BIG BAD), and Dean Cates (RITUAL). Morvant excels as the wildly unbalanced, internally-menaced Martin. Even in the lengthier moments of dialogue exchange, no moment or movement is wasted in Morvant's portrayal ("Oswald, Whitman, Timothy fuckin' McVeigh! What did they have in common? Huh?! Tell me what they had in common! They were all soldiers. They were all brainwashed fall guys who took the hit! And then, what happened to them? They got fuckin' nailed to the cross for it!"). Of the two, it is young Lyla who suggests that perhaps there's a sliver of something to what big bro is trying to get through to them. "What if he really does have something trapped in the basement?! What if he found something in the woods?!" she proposes. Always putting supposed common sense forward, Ed the skeptic shuts her down with sarcastic anger ("Jesus Christ, what if he's got the fuckin' mailman down there, Lyla?!"). As an added bonus for horror hounds is the presence of genre journeyman, Larry Fessenden (THE LAST WINTER, I SELL THE DEAD, WE ARE STILL HERE), who turns up in the third act as a mysterious government man called 'Smith'.

All in all, director Keating (RITUAL) has something solid here to be proud of. POD is a fun and sometimes eerie little backwoods sci-fi-horror with tried-and-true elements combined with a subtle vagueness that creates an additional air of mystery. When things finally come to a head, there are some jump-worthy moments and a somewhat unnerving Giona Ostinelli original score doesn't hurt things either.

An Official Selection of the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival, POD makes the most of its short screen time and left this viewer quite satisfied. Although not a 'Found Footage' entry, the picture might make a diverting Double Feature with the same year's not so dissimilar THE ENCOUNTER (2015). – Devin Kelly

This is Devin's first review for ER's online outlets. Previously a contributor to Cinema Nocturna, Devin is a Canadian purveyor and surveyor of all things exploitative and you'll be seeing much more from him at the blog and website as well as in the pages of the upcoming ER 53. You can follow him on Facebook.

POD is available from Amazon


Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Watch List and a Happy 2016 Filled with Trash and Sleaze

The other day I came to a conclusion... I had done a crappy job of keeping track of my movie watching in 2015. Despite a strong start to catalog my wallowing in the cinesludge, somewhere around oh movie #12 I stopped updating my spreadsheet and fell into a deep sinematic funk.

But, thanks to piles of notes, social media posts and streaming services that track my activity, I was able to cobble together what is a completely incomplete snapshot of my 2015 Movie Watching. As expected, the list features numerous anthology flicks (due to the upcoming issue of ER) and documentaries (which are easy to flip on in the background while I work).

What's surprisingly missing are re-visits with old favorites like RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, DEMONS, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH and LIFEFORCE, so I clearly anticipate catching up with all of them over the coming months.

Having just pulled this list together I won't impulsively pick out a Top 10 Favorites as I often do but I will make a note to swing back around in the next week and highlight some flicks that entertained me in what was an unmotivated year.

Here's hoping your 2016 is safe, happy, healthy and filled with all the action, sleaze, gore and horror you wish!

[REC]3
[REC]4
30 FOR 30: TROJAN WAR
A CHRISTMAS DETOUR
ALTERED STATES
AN HONEST LIAR
ATARI: GAME OVER
BACK ISSUES: THE HUSTER MAGAZINE STORY
BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM
BIG HERO 6
BLOODSPORT
BRAIN DAMAGE
CANNIBAL FEROX
CHANNEL 13
THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
DEADTIME STORIES
DEATH BY VHS
DIRE WOLF
DISASTER ON THE COASTLINER
ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
ELVES
ENEMIES CLOSER
THE EQUALIZER
FAST 7
FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY
FUTURE JUSTICE
GODZILLA 1985
GONE WITH THE POPE
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
GOON
HI-8
HOMEFRONT
HORROR OF PARTY BEACH
HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD
HOW TO SAVE US
INSIDE/OUT
ISIS RISING: CURSE OF THE LADY MUMMY
ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD
JACK REACHER
JOHN WICK
JUNK FOOD HORRORFEST
KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING
LIFE ITSELF
LOST SOUL
MARTIN
MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE
THE MINION
NEAR DARK
NEVER LAKE
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS
NIGHT TERRORS
NIGHTFALL
NIGHTHAWKS
THE OCTAGON
OUT OF FOCUS
PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING
QUARANTINE
QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL
RAGE
RISE OF THE BLACK BAT
SCAREWAVES
SCOOBY-DOO & KISS: ROCK & ROLL MYSTERY
THE SHIEK
SHOCK VALUE
SILENT RAGE
SPECTRE
STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE
STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI
STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
SUPERSTITION
TALES FROM THE CRYPT
TERROR VISION
TORTURE GARDEN
THE UNLIVING
VAULT OF HORROR
WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU
THE WRECKING CREW
ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN (2015)

Hello and happy holidays, dear readers! It's hard to believe that Christmas has already passed us by and the end of 2015 will be here in just a couple days. I'm hoping that Santa or Krampus brought you everything your evil little hearts desired this holiday season. Me? I got a nasty case of bronchitis that I should completely shake just in time for the return to work and school. Yay. But the good news is that work continues on issue 53 and our review stack is teetering to the point that I'm happy to welcome another reviewer to the fold. Please welcome Evan Romero and hope that he sticks around despite me sticking him with a dog like CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN right off the bat. Take it away, Evan...

I'm just gonna come out and say it straight: This. Movie. Sucks.

What movie you ask? Why, it's CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN, a parody horror flick that forgot the main ingredient in a parody: the humor. A little bit of research on IMDb reveals that this is the THIRD full-length Caesar and Otto horror spoof flick. Now, I can't speak about the other two because I've never seen them, but just who in the hell gave this movie the greenlight and what were they smoking? Obviously nothing good if they thought this was worthy of production.

Oh... it was produced by director / writer / star Dave Campfield's own Fourth Horizon Cinema. Well, that explains a lot.

Anyways, after dressing in drag and stopping crazed killer Michael Myles, Otto (Paul Chomicki) and Caesar (Dave Campfield, also writer and director) are asked by Governor Jerry Grayson (Ken MacFarlane) to watch over his summer home for him while he's away (even though he never leaves). Joined by their father Fred (Scott Aguilar), they go to the house and meet some of the people living therein. While there, strange things start to happen for the sole purpose of parodying (and failing) famous horror films like THE SHINING, THE EXORCIST, POLTERGEIST, HALLOWEEN, THE CONJURING, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and God knows what else. There's also some bullshit plot threads about Otto discovering his mother being alive as well as Governor Grayson declaring martial law and Caesar attempting to write a screenplay, but those just seem to be there for failed attempts at humor/parody.

The film seems to think that parody is little more than taking a trope and doing something dumb with it. But it forgets that successful parodies need to be clever and intelligent, neither of which this film is though it likes to THINK it is.

Let me give you some examples of the "comedy" on display here:
  • In one scene, Otto is skateboarding down a hallway and is confronted by twin women (Brinke Stevens). They tell him, "Come play with us, Otto"-flash to scene of them lying dead in the hallway covered in blood-"forever"-flash again with a cymbal crash-"and ever"-flash again with a cartoonish car horn-"and ever"-flash again to women having been replaced by a rubber duck complete with quacking sound. Otto agrees to play with them-and they sit and play video games. When they disappear, they take his wallet (a gag used twice and isn't funny either time). Ho ho.
  • Or, how about two priests trying to educate another in what Frisbee is. It's not funny for the first 5 seconds, and it's not funny for the remaining 45 seconds.
  • Or, how about when Fred is getting irritated with Otto and Caesar for arguing in the car, threatens to jump out of the moving vehicle, and then does so. Hardy-fricken-har!
  • How about another parody of THE SHINING? They parody the "give me the bat" scene which ends with Otto handing over the bat and Caesar suggesting they go outside and hit some balls. Hahaha – not!
  • Another scene involves a screenwriting professor who appears and tells Caesar everything that is wrong with his romantic comedy/horror script. Everything the professor says about Caesar's script can be applied to this movie. Of course the gag isn't funny and reeks of desperation, but I have to applaud the film for crapping on itself.
But I have to give credit where credit is due. And that credit goes to Scott Aguilar. He's the only one whose line deliveries/antics conjure a mild chuckle. In fact, most of the time he's on screen I was guaranteed at least one. He's basically doing the best he can with the lame material given. And the film DOES have one really funny bit (at least to me). At a Halloween party, Fred tells Caesar that the best way to drink wine is to drink it real fast. He then proceeds to down the bottle while Caesar quips, "You might wanna put AA on your speed dial." I actually laughed at that one and made the fatal mistake of thinking that the movie gets better. It doesn't.

Oh, you DO get a shot of some nice tits. So that's a bonus.

But real horror comes at the end when another Caesar and Otto horror spoof movie is threatened. Cinema Gods, do NOT let this happen!

The DVD includes director commentary, cast and crew commentary, gag reel (just as unfunny as the movie), the Son of Piggyzilla trilogy (three unfunny shorts about a giant guinea pig), a short look behind-the-scenes (useless), a tribute to the late Robert Z'Dar (the best bit on here), and some other crap.

I'd been looking forward to watching this when I received it, hoping to have another horror/comedy to add to my list of good ones. As you can see it won't be going on that list. But at least the disc will make an excellent coaster. – Evan Romero

Evan Romero spends much of his time reading morally-questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the (currently) two man punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined) and is currently working on getting his own website/blog, Reel Atrocities (dedicated to reviews of horror, exploitation, and schlocky films), up and running.

CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN is available on Amazon.


Friday, December 18, 2015

HOLIDAY HORRORS: You Think Your Mom is Bad or I Just Watched ELVES (1989)

"When there's no more room in Hell, the Elves will walk the Earth."

While video companies continue to scrap and scrape to find genre titles suitable for feature-packed special editions that leave fan boys eager to open their wallets (Really? DISTURBING BEHAVIOR?), lovers of holiday horror and sick sinema alike wait patiently for somebody to get off their asses and give 1989's ELVES the video release it so truly deserves.

I'm an admitted Danny-come-lately as far as ELVES is concerned. At one point dismissive because I assumed it was some sort of cut-rate kids flick, I finally settled in one night when the Krampus outing I was intent upon watching wouldn't load off my thumb drive. "Damn you, Krampus!," I bellowed in my Suburban Chamber of Horrors, only to thank Santa's surly holiday pal after I picked my jaw up off the floor about 90 minutes later.

A trio of ditzy girls get things rolling when their "Sisters of Anti-Christmas" ceremony goes horribly wrong and unleashes an elf from the forest floor. Chicks. And, yes, despite a title that suggests more than one elf creating holiday chaos, ELVES appears to feature a singular – albeit supremely sinister – creature. Unfortunately, I say "appears to feature" because the VHS print that I got my hands on is so dark and occasionally indecipherable that I had to verify the fact with outside sources (like ER contributor Mitch Lovell who writes about his love for the flick here).

Ceremony botched, Kirsten (Julie Austin) returns to her horrible home life which features a wheelchair-bound grandfather (Borah Silver) who hordes creepy tomes and slaps her around, a pervy younger brother ("I'm not a pervert... I like seeing naked girls!") and an uber-bitch of a Mom (LAND OF THE GIANTS star Deanna Lund) who drains Kirsten's savings account and – in an especially wicked moment – drowns her cat in the toilet!

As if that's not bad enough, Kirsten's workplace isn't much better as the department store Santa solicits oral from her but gets his when the elf stabs the faux Kris Kringle while he's in the midst of doing some blow.

If the flick amounted to little more than this set-up and 45 minutes of Elf Cam as the merry marauder slashed his way through the Naughty List, ELVES would still get a Holiday Horrors recommendation from yours truly. But once you insert chain smoking ex-cop turned store detective turned Store Santa Mike McGavin (Dan Haggerty, TV's 'Grizzly Adams' who is still alive despite smoking 18 cartons of cigarettes during ELVES), writer/director Jeffrey Mandel elevates the proceedings to another level, packing the remainder of the flick with enough offbeat ideas and far out revelations to push ELVES onto the short list of Must Watch Holiday Horrors populated by the likes of CHRISTMAS EVIL, DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (original recipe).

So, Severin, Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome... if you're out there reading this, give genre fans a reel gift and bring us ELVES for Christmas one of these years! You'll forever be on my Nice List. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor of Exploitation Retrospect and loves Christmas, whether it's sweet or sinister. Watch for details about our upcoming issue and follow ER on Facebook and Twitter for news, notes and the latest reviews.

ELVES is a rare find on VHS so you'll pay a pretty penny for it on the secondary market. But you can bypass all that and just watch the same print in all its glory on YouTube (see below).