Tuesday, October 06, 2015

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Necronos – Tower of Doom (2010)

"Throw a mortal into the zombie vaults."

Those Germans know a thing or two about beer and over-the-top gore flicks, so it was with great anticipation that I matched up a Schneider Weisse Aventinus Wheat Dopplebock Ale with NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM (2010). And while one is rich and bold and filled with ripe fruit flavors the other is, well, an insane two-hour gorefest.

Opening centuries ago, NECRONOS tells the story – if I understood the borderline incoherent, occasionally Germanic title cards correctly – of a wizard who makes a fatal pact with The Devil. After he has been captured, tortured, killed, chopped up AND burned, the wizard toils in Hell until he rises to the rank of head demon.

Sent back to Earth by Satan – whom he communicates with in a tour de force of forced perspective – the wizard aka Necronos is charged with the task of plunging the world of humans into darkness via a berserker but he'll need to send his monstrous assistant Goran (Timo Fuchs) around to collect a pretty complex list of ingredients in order to carry out the recipe. To be quite frank, I'm not sure Goran is up to the task.

What follows is one of the grimiest gore flicks you'll ever witness as Goran makes his way through fishermen, trysting campers, metalhead snuff film auteurs and "the chosen one" in an attempt to get Necronos the ingredients he needs.

Thomas Sender – who also worked as the set decorator for the flick – cuts an impressive figure as the titular demon wizard. For my money there are few things more terrifying than some hooded dude in black face and black teeth barking German. He could be reciting the words to the 'Sofia The First' theme and it'd still make my skin crawl.

There's not much story but Rohnstock and his Infernal Films comrades pack every second of NECRONOS' 127-minute running time (!) with enough decapitations, bone gnawing, naked nubiles, mouth hammering and fountains of blood, gore and nastiness that - like the accompanying beer – you won't want it to end.

I'm not sure NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is for everybody. Clearly, if you're looking for story to go with your horror imagery, you may want to take your entertainment dollars elsewhere. But if you dig the rocking, shocking wave of Teutonic Terrors a la Andreas Schnaas and Timo Rose (both of whom appear in NECRONOS) you won't regret checking into this particular tower. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect. You can read hundreds of reviews like this one at our website and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates and exclusive content.

NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is available from Amazon.

Friday, October 02, 2015

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: That Time Scooby and the Gang Fought Real Monsters

While the recently reviewed SCOOBY-DOO AND THE RELUCTANT WEREWOLF magnified the original show's comedic roots and matchedthem with the absurdist elements often typical of Hanna-Barbera fare, 1998's SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND turned those roots upside down and thankfully ditched ancillary characters like annoying nephew Scrappy and non-Velma galpal Googie while reuniting the old gang in the process.

Tired of chasing down spooks only to uncover hologram projectors and bad guys in masks, the Mystery, Inc. gang has gone their separate ways. Shaggy (voiced by one-time Howard Stern regular Billy West) and Scooby are customs inspectors, Velma owns a bookstore specializing in mysteries ('natch), and Daphne (with the help of cameraman/producer Fred) is an investigative journalist with a syndicated television show. When she announces her plan to track down and chronicle real supernatural events, Fred gets everybody back together for a road trip that takes them deep into the Louisiana bayou.

The first of more than twenty direct-to-video movies that capitalized upon and eventually boosted renewed interest in the property, ZOMBIE ISLAND not only features a palatable 77-minute running time but also introduced famous (or somewhat famous) actors in supporting roles. (The latest video adventure finds the gang teaming up with KISS to solve a rock and roll mystery in what is basically an animated sequel to KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM.)

Frustrated by a familiar parade of charlatans and paranormal hoaxes (set to a tune that gently mocks the original series), the reunited Mystery, Inc. end up as guests of Lena (Tara Charendoff) and Simone (Adrienne Barbeau), the cook and proprietor of a resort on isolated Moonscar Island. Built upon the grounds of an old hot pepper plantation (cue whacky hot sauce gags), the site is haunted by a ghostly pirate, roamed by zombies that are far more than simple animatronic spooks, and inhabited by a couple of moon-worshipping cat creatures intent on sucking the lifeforce from our heroes.

As the ZOMBIE ISLAND trailer promises, "this time the monsters are REAL!" and the gang soon find themselves up to their necks in ghostly messages, levitating Velmas, bayou zombies and voodoo dolls. Oh sure, there are the de rigeur Scooby-Doo elements such as the multiple red herrings (including Mark Hammil as woogy-eyed swamp fisherman Snakebite Scruggs) and the outrageous eating disorders of both Shaggy and Scooby, but the script by Glenn Leopold (who co-wrote the 1981 slasher THE PROWLER!) leans a bit more on the supernatural elements and gets downright spooky at times with monstrous transformations, pirate massacres and disembodied moans I had to promise to turn down during a recent screening.

In other words, it's no surprise that to this day my daughter refuses to watch ZOMBIE ISLAND after an initial viewing that gave her nightmares and led to a brief but strict Scooby-Doo moratorium.

Alas, after SCOOBY-DOO AND THE WITCH'S GHOST (featuring Tim Curry) and SCOOBY-DOO AND THE ALIEN INVADERS (in which visiting aliens dress up like hippies thanks to 1960s television shows) the remaining direct-to-video movies have resorted to more familiar territory complete with faux phantoms and thieving carnies.

Scooby and the gang return to Cartoon Network in the series 'Be Cool, Scooby-Doo' (see trailer below) in which the recent high school grads live it up while encountering monsters and mayhem. No word on whether those monsters will be real or of the "greedy scientist masquerading as a Mayan cat creature" variety, but the show definitely features a new take on the trademark animation – critics have compared to a 'Family Guy' cutaway gag – and apparently ditches the relationships and serial story arc format that highlighted the recent 'Mystery, Inc.' show. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and has watched more Scooby-Doo in the last 6 years than any grown man should admit. Be sure to catch all the 31 Days of Fright posts by following ER on Facebook and liking ER on Twitter.

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is available from Amazon

Thursday, October 01, 2015

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT Part VIII: A Tradition Like No Other

It's hard to believe I've been doing the 31 Days of Fright feature here every October since 2008.

Then again, it's hard to believe 2015 marks the 29th anniversary of ER's debut, but that's another topic for another day.

Though I've given myself the added pressure of editing, writing and assembling the biggest issue in our history, I'm determined to make this the best 31 Days of Fright ever.

Okay, I'll settle for Top 3.

But before we go any further it's time for what has become a bit of a tradition on October 1st around these parts. It might not be The Stanley Cup or a green jacket given to the Masters winner, but I loves me some Happy Halloween from Michael McDonald...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Before we turn the calendar to October and kick off the 2015 installment of 31 Days of Fright, I wanted to dash off some thoughts on Mark Hartley's latest doc, a look at the legendary Cannon Films that seems to have divided fans of the wildly hit or miss studio.

Few flicks have been as highly anticipated by yours truly as Mark Hartley's warts and all look at the wild world of Golan, Globus and Cannon films as told by the people who were there.

I was there, too, but as a passionate fan of the company who willingly plunked down cash I frequently didn't have an abundance of and time I probably could have been putting to better, more productive use. But none of that mattered when there were Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff, Jean Claude Van Damme and Charles Bronson movies to watch!

Notorious for their penny pinching and passionate hucksterism, movie-loving Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus didn't invent the exploitation film sales model but, for a brief time, they certainly appeared to have it perfected. Films with nary a word of script would be sold to territories around the world (usually based on a poster of one of their stars holding a machine gun or samurai sword it seems) in order to finance operations and productions.

Unfortunately, what began as a truly low budget, seat of your pants operation churning out content for the multiplexes and video stores of the 80s somehow lost its way. A company that once blanched at the thought of a $30 million budget became notorious for throwing money at everyone from Sylvester Stallone (OVER THE TOP, COBRA) and Christopher Reeve (SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE) to the Dereks (BOLERO) and director Tobe Hooper, whose trio of flawed but beloved flops – LIFEFORCE (1985), TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986) and INVADERS FROM MARS (1986) – helped set the company on the course to financial disaster.

The picture painted by Hartley's documentary is one of chaos, with the cousins making seat of their pants decisions, combining disparate concepts into head-scratching wholes, chowing down off of Styrofoam plates in their offices, confusing films and people yet never acknowledging their errors, and loving today what they hated yesterday. In other words, probably what was going on at a lot of low budget film companies struggling to stay relevant as the film world slowly changed during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Filled with often hysterical, sometimes bitter anecdotes about the company and its leaders, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is packed with appearances from those in front of and behind the cameras who produced some of the best – and admittedly worst – sinema of my youth, including the aforementioned Hooper, MGM CEO Frank Yablans (who clearly hated the "garbage" Cannon gave him to distribute), Dolph Lundgren, script reader David Del Valle, Michael Dudikoff, Lucinda Dickey, Franco Nero, Cassandra Peterson, Richard Chamberlin, Oliver Tobias and directors Sam Firstenberg, Albert Pyun and Boaz Davidson, just to name a few. Alas, Golan, Globus, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme and Sly Stallone are conspicuous by their absence. (The cousins, in true Golan-Globus fashion, produced a rival doc called THE GO-GO BOYS and completed it first, much like the battling break dancing flicks discussed in ELECTRIC BOOGALOO.)

I've read complaints that ELECTRIC BOOGALOO doesn't adequately celebrate what Golan and Globus accomplished, nor does it champion the love fans have for the likes of COBRA (1986) or Hooper's over-the-top horror efforts. But that's not what the picture is about and, quite frankly, it didn't bother me as it's not meant to be a love letter to the admittedly hit or miss studio.

I'm 100% comfortable in my appreciation of stuff like MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, the violently cartoonish DEATH WISH sequels and LIFEFORCE – my wife can attest that I blurted out "I LOVE that movie!" about 20 times during our screening – even in the face of those involved telling me what a flat out disaster the filmmaking process was. But that's okay, I love what I love and no amount of anyone telling me how bad it is or what a horrible experience it was will change my mind.

BOOGALOO marks the third major behind-the-scenes documentary from Hartley after the revelatory NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION! (2008) and 2010's MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! (which I found sorta "fun but meh"). Unfortunately, I don't see the uninitiated coming away from the flick with a laundry list of titles they want to track down a la NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. In fact, seeing clips from Cannon flicks I'd never bothered to watch like SAHARA (an epically awful looking Brooke Shields vehicle), MATA HARI (with Sylvia Kristel and her boobs) or BOLERO (a then controversial skin flick from John and Bo Derek) did nothing to convince me I needed to watch them, though I did just drop $3 on a VHS of the insane looking GOING BANANAS starring Deep Roy in a role original pitched to Clyde the Orangutan from the Clint Eastwood flicks.

If I have any complaint about BOOGLOO it's that I would have liked to have heard more about Cannon productions that never happened – like SPIDER-MAN or GOLEM starring Charles Bronson – but that's a minor beef and maybe somebody out there is toiling away on a definitive oral history of such projects.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Bonus features on the disc – which I got dirt cheap from Amazon – include 25 minutes of deleted scenes (fingers crossed for more interviews with The Dude) and a half-hour of Cannon trailers. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and is currently working on what looks to be a massive new issue due out later this year. He loves LIFEFORCE, AVENGING FORCE and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE but hates, Hates, HATES Tobe Hooper's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. Check out more reviews at the website and follow ER on Facebook and Twitter.

ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is available as standalone disc or as part of a Cannon 10-Pack featuring such films as INVASION USA, COBRA, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and BLOODSPORT.

Friday, September 25, 2015


After reading the story about the tarantula escaping from a plane in nearby Baltimore, I knew it was time to give the furry stars of the 1977 tv movie TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO (Frematle Media) some exposure.

Filmed before he became a tv star via WKRP IN CINCINATTI, TARANTULAS briefly features Howard Hessman and dependable Tom Atkins (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, THE FOG, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH) as a couple of gringoes with heads full of get-rich-quick dreams. So when they pour out of a taxi at a South American airport looking drunk and hanging all over some slatterns, the Federales eye them up as easy marks for an “export tax” on their cargo of Ecuadorian coffee beans.

In an unfortunate turn of events, Detective Cameron listens to Johnny Fever and his plan to get the money they need to get back to the States. And that’s the first sign of trouble. Well, that and the tarantulas that have crawled into the bags of beans. Oh, and the three illegals who get on board and promptly fall ill and get bitten by the spiders that spring from the bags during a storm. Other than that it’s a great plan.

After the plane crash lands in a small town filled with orange groves, the tarantulas – actually the Wandering or Banana Spider – make life a living hell in very JAWS-esque fashion, threatening the local industry (oranges instead of tourism) and turning Pat Hingle into Roy Schieder’s character.

Unfortunately, TARANTULAS is as slow moving as the titular characters and nowhere near as much fun as DISASTER ON THE COASTLINER, a 1979 made for tv flick also co-starring Hingle that I caught via Netflix earlier this week.

Oh sure, there are minor moments of hilarity like the woman who mistakes a tarantula for her boyfriend (in her defense his chest was pretty hairy) and lines like “hey you punk kid, get away from there” but most of the 96-minute running time is devoted to watching 70s tv stars wander around a warehouse shoveling up spiders – did I mention they’re motionless spiders – while wasp sounds buzz through the speakers.

If that sounds like your idea of a good flick then by all means run out and grab TARANTULAS from the cheapie DVD rack at your local supermarket. If not, do yourself a favor and watch the genuinely creepy KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS instead. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet (where this review originally appeared in a slightly different form). Spiders give him the heebie jeebies, but not as much as eye violence.

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo is available from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Reviews and Best of the Blog at Exploitation Retrospect

Fall is here which means we'll be kicking into 31 Days of Fright, Exhumed Horrorthon IX and Halloween 2015 mode at any moment.

But before we do that – and begin finalizing Exploitation Retrospect #53 for its Fall/Winter publication date – the ER website at Dantenet.com was overdue for some updating.

While work continues on a master review index for the website (as well as some other housekeeping issues) I did take the opportunity to add some new reviews and a couple popular blog reviews that you might have missed.

Dr. Peter Peel has a few problems. There's Dr. Alice Cross, the roommate/researcher he's carrying a torch for and Neil the Financier who wants results from the research he's been funding since the pair were fresh out of college. Oh, yeah, and there's that personal pan pizza-sized melanoma growing on his shoulder. But things are looking up. He's had a breakthrough in his cancer research and plans to synthesize the enzymes of a cancer-eating parasite in order for the serum to attack and eat cancer cells. What could go wrong...?

Now there's a title for a skin flick, one that conjures up Sapphic ménages, perhaps some bush league money shots... which, given that this is an early '80s Japanese skin flick probably won't materialize (despite the noble membership in the Nikkatsu Roman Porno Collection). It's still a pretty little ditty however, one that Japanese Film Scholar Jasper Sharp informs us in the liner notes belongs to that "most curious" of genres, "the ama or 'girl diver' film." And it's about...

As convoluted as THE LICKERISH QUARTET is, and Roger Ebert certainly pointed it out in his original review, it's still a delectable piece of surreal family drama sandwiched between two slices of bare-chested erotica. It flourishes in its own logic and makes its own broken rules. In short, it's superb.

ZOOM UP: THE BEAVER BOOK GIRL isn't structurally complex. The characters don't develop exponentially. The revelations aren't mind-blowing. Yet, almost every scene remains surprising. It's as if you don't expect to see any of it and when you do, you still don't believe what you just saw.

1988's tv movie SCOOBY-DOO AND THE RELUCTANT WEREWOLF emerged at a time when the Scooby-Doo franchise was at a bit of a crossroads. Fans of the original series were all grown up, ironic appreciation of the series was a few years off, and newer fans had boosted flagging ratings only after the introduction of Scrappy-Doo, the brave, energetic and highly annoying nephew of the star pooch. RELUCTANT WEREWOLF jettisons Fred, Daphne and Velma in favor of Shaggy (voiced by the one and only Casey Kasem) and his "adoring but liberated girlfriend" Googie. Now an accomplished race car driver (?!), Shaggy becomes the object of desire of none other than Count Dracula himself. 

Cary Hill's SCREAM PARK takes the time honored (shopworn?) premise of the throwback slasher film for a spin with an entertaining 90 minutes that features masked maniacs, unleashed breasts and the occasional special effect to liven up the ride.  While it may not be the 5 Star Octopus Loop-Dee-Loop of modern slashers, it steers clear of ending up in the spinning tea cups section as well.

The 1980s was definitely an age of best-selling novels being adapted into major motion pictures – with varying degrees of success. For every THE SHINING (1980) there's a FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (1987). For every THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986) there's a BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (1988). For every THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1982) there's a trip to DUNE (1984). In other words, what happens when you yank the printed word from a reader's hands and splash it up on the big screen isn't always pretty. Or successful. George Roy Hill's boring 1984 adaptation of John Le Carre's 500-plus-page international bestseller THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL is no exception.

When Adam discovers that his wife has been killed by the local crime boss he sets out on a mission of revenge, hell bent on killing anyone that stands in his path. But what separates ADAM CHAPLIN from the endless stream of flicks with similar stories is that we're treated to an almost non-stop parade of insanely hyper-stylized supernatural action gore in which our frequently shirtless vigilante "hero" roams the fictitious town of Heaven Valley literally pulverizing anyone even remotely involved in his wife's demise.

I can save anyone that is not a hardcore fan of either director Joe D'Amato or a worshipper of Chinese nipples a little time right here. CHINA AND SEX may not be for you. However, this is a nice piece in the later career of D'Amato as he moved away from Filmirage cheap shockers such as CRAWLERS and into his final and ultra-prolific career as a full-time porn maven.

Friday, September 18, 2015


"Try as you may, you cannot 'out-bat' me!"

With all the attention being lavished upon the recent spate of DC Universe animated films – and rightly so as a number of them kick ass – I thought I'd circle back to an underrated favorite that's celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Plus, Halloween is right around the corner so the timing couldn't be better.

Spun off from the Saturday morning animated series THE BATMAN (2004-2008), the feature-length THE BATMAN VS. DRACULA finds The Caped Crusader not only matching wits with re-designed but familiar foes like The Penguin and The Joker, but the titular King of the Undead (voiced by Peter Stormare) as well.

Fresh off an escape from Arkham Asylum, Joker and Penguin head for a cache of loot supposedly buried in Gotham Cemetery. While Bats engages Joker, Penguin inadvertently stumbles upon and re-animates Dracula, whose coffin was plopped on a boat and ended up in Gotham after the events depicted in Stoker's novel.

Brought back to "life" by Penguin's blood, Dracula becomes intrigued by tales of The Batman and the influence his legacy has had on the vigilante. (I'm not sure how but Dracula even has cable and a big-screen tv in his crypt.) With eyewitness reports flowing in of a bat-like creature kidnapping citizens, The Batman falls under suspicion for the disappearances and must deal with the Gotham PD in addition to his undead foe, whom The World's Greatest Detective has deduced is Dracula by writing down the alias ALUCARD and looking at it in the mirror.

Debuting about a decade after the conclusion of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1992-1995), I always feel like THE BATMAN series gets overlooked. While nowhere near as dark, influential or artsy as its predecessor, THE BATMAN gets points for exploring the early days of the character – he's 26 in the first episode – and for bringing foes and supporting characters to life with a redesign that employs sharp angles and a more vibrant palette, courtesy of the folks behind THE JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES (which I may or may not have watched on a regular basis in the early part of this millennium).

Despite debuting on The Cartoon Network and sharing lineage with the Saturday morning show, the flick isn't for little kids. Animation screenwriting vet/JACKIE CHAN co-creator Duane Capizzi piles on the hoary old Dracula cliches (Vicki Vale resembles Drac's bride Carmilla for instance) but also tosses in shades of BATMAN: YEAR ONE and Tobe Hooper's LIFEFORCE to create a never dull mix of action and horror that keeps things moving at a nice clip. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. For more reviews check out our website and be sure to follow ER on Facebook and Twitter.

THE BATMAN VS. DRACULA is available from Amazon.