Thursday, April 17, 2014

ER Lives, Upcoming Shout Factory Action Double Bill, Weng's Chop 5 and More

While waiting out a torrential downpour here on vacation I decided to use my free time to check on the ER blog and discovered it had been a shocking two-plus months since I'd posted an update.

Granted, I have the usual annual excuses like my January through April work schedule to go along with some personal events, but I'm still surprised I hadn't posted anything in more than two months.

Things seem to be starting to return to "normal" and ER 52 is even nearing completion despite an intended release date of Fall 2013 (I always tend to be a little optimistic on those print dates) – hopefully you'll all think it was worth wait.

Anyway, just wanted to pop in, let you know we're still kicking and drop a few pieces of news and notes while I drain some PBR and watch the really large palm tree outside wave back and forth in the storm...

Brian Harris, Tim Paxton and Co. have released another issue volume of the mighty Weng's Chop and it's a doozy. But don't take my word for it. Jason Beck of Post-Modern Trashaeology has a great review of the new issue (complete with a nice shout out to ER and his review of issue 51).

Speaking of Tim Paxton, the longtime zine fixture has relaunched his MONSTER! zine and has already produced not one, not two, but three (!) installments of the latest incarnation of the influential and informative publication.

Need a little action in your life this summer? Shout Factory has announced a Blu-Ray featuring Jim Brown and Christopher George in I ESCAPED FROM DEVIL'S ISLAND plus the Lewis Collins SAS vehicle THE FINAL OPTION which I remember from its days in heavy rotation on PRISM. The flicks will be available as a Blu-Ray double bill or part of a DVD quadruple feature which also includes SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL and Tony Anthony's TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

January 2014 Watchlist

Nothing like getting the cinematic year off to a good start. Watched 16 flicks during the month including two rewatches (BATMAN BEGINS and KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK) and not one flick that made me question my sanity as a movie lover.

There were more than a few pleasant surprises including the low-budget customed caper ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE, Arnold's comeback vehicle THE LAST STAND and AFTERSHOCK (with Eli Roth as an American tourist in Chile who must survive the aftermath of an earthquake... and worse) plus a couple flicks that totally lived up to their reps (Duke Mitchell's jaw-dropping MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE, the Linda Blair revenge-a-thon SAVAGE STREETS and REWIND THIS!, the first of several VHS-related documentaries I hope to catch this year).

The most pleasant surprise of all may have been 2013's HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, which I had dismissed as an uninspired VAN HELSING rip-off, if such a thing is even possible. Turns out it was actually gory fun as the titular characters and their monster-fighting pals stomped heads and, well, hunted witches with glee.

Here's the running list for January... and the new year so far...

  1. DESPICABLE ME 2 (2013)
  2. MASSACE MAFIA STYLE (1974)
  3. SAVING MR BANKS (2013)
  4. ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE (2011)
  5. RUSH (2013)
  6. THE LAST STAND (2013)
  7. AFTERSHOCK (2012)
  8. HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (2013)
  9. BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013)
  10. SAVAGE STREETS (1984)
  11. BATMAN BEGINS (2008)
  12. THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX (2013)
  13. ARCTIC BLAST (2010)
  14. KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978)
  15. REWIND THIS! (2013)
  16. CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (2013)


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Every Town Has Its Legends..."

"Every town has its legends... Bigfoot, Chupacabra, Loch Ness Monster. We have a Snow Shark."

When I was an adolescent my brother and his buddy took me to a dollar theater for a screening of JAWS (they simply wanted to see my reaction to the head popping out of the boat hull) and since that day I've been a sucker for "nature run amok" cinema. Doesn't matter if it's land or sea, real or cryptozoological, I am all in when man's hubris, ecological tampering or misplaced curiosity comes back to bite us in the ass.

Thanks to the unquenchable thirst of outlets like SyFy Channel, Redbox, Netflix and Amazon, "when nature attacks" cinema is back with a vengeance.  Whether it's a deep psychological exploration of an urban legend (2011's THE BARRENS in which Canada poorly apes the Garden State), a boobified remake of a trash classic (I'm looking at you PIRANHA 3D franchise), or a high-concept "you had me at the title" schlockfest like last summer's SHARKNADO (starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid!), nothing catches my eye quite like a cover that suggests I'll be watching some washed-up 80s pop star get eaten by a creature with the body of a crab and the head of a social worker.

Sam Qualiana's SNOW SHARK – in which an earthquake unleashes the long dormant titular creature from its icy tomb – barely attempts to disguise its ultra-high-concept ("JAWS In The Snow"). After a trio of university researchers disappear in 1999 – presumably eaten by the computer-generated-looking monster – we fast forward to the present day when another snow shark has reared its ugly head. After the monster makes a late-night snack of the local sheriff's son, things get personal and it's up to the cops, a trio of experts, and a cadre of armed hicks led by Mike (writer / director / director of photography / star) Qualiana to destroy the creature.

I have to give SNOW SHARK points for playing the ridiculous material totally straight. While the sight of the creature's dorsal fin cutting through the snow is occasionally guffaw-inducing, the flick never succumbs to the desire to wallow in parody (like the wretched, almost-unwatchable GUMS starring Brother Theodore) and never had me scrambling for the remote. And though he looks like he's late for his gig as a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator, C.J. Qualiana (the director's father) lends the proceedings a certain somber tone and gravitas as the widowed sheriff who has just lost his ne'er do well son to the creature.

Like MACHETE, MACHETE KILLS, THANKSKILLING 3 and other faux grindhouse concepts, SNOW SHARK is probably an idea that plays better as a two-minute trailer or short than a fleshed-out feature. There's perhaps a couple lead characters too many and despite its 79-minute running time I found my interest starting to wander during multiple viewings. But, like a cheap fast food meal grabbed during a long road trip, SNOW SHARK knows what it is and never raises your expectations too high, and there's something to be said for that.

The 27-year-old Qualiana -– who won the Filmmaker to Watch Award at the 2010 Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival – is currently back in the writer/director/actor chair for the upcoming found footage monster flick THE LEGEND OF SIX FINGERS. Based on what he accomplished with SNOW SHARK I'll certainly give it a look.

SNOW SHARK is available from Amazon.

Friday, January 17, 2014

THE SNAKE GOD Will Slither Its Way Into Your Heart

Happy Friday trash fans! While yours truly plugs away on fun stuff (like final layout duties on ER #52 which will be available for pre-order soon) and not as fun stuff (the jobs that pay the bills) our good pal David Zuzelo takes over the review reins for a look at the latest from Mondo Macabro. It's THE SNAKE GOD... and if ever there was a flick that has "Damn You, David Z!" potential, this is it!

Mondo Macabro sure knows how to grab my attention! Promising me "AN EXOTIC INFERNO OF SEX AND VOODOO" with the release of the hard-to-find THE SNAKE GOD certainly makes me eager to pop that disc into the player. Add in that it stars the beautiful Nadia Cassini and the instantly recognizable allure of Beryl Cunningham (Bruno Mattei's ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN aka SCREAMERS) and I'm doubly there. But the main thing I was interested in was seeing another film directed by Piero Vivarelli!  Vivarelli was behind the camera for the fumetti-inspired films SATANIK and MR. X so expectations ran high, but what I got was far more than expected. THE SNAKE GOD was definitely an inspiration for several Italian sleaze films to come (Joe D'Amato fans should take note), but it's got some decidedly different flavors mixed into its witches brew of voodoo, allegory and bare bodies.

Paola (Cassini) is married to Bernard Lucas, a very wealthy man who brings her to the Caribbean for what at first seems like romance, but it quickly becomes obvious that he wants her as another possession to show off to his high society pals. Once he promises her that all the beauty she sees will be hers, "if she plays her cards right" then it is definitely trouble. The pair frolic for a bit in the exotic locations, slurping J&B and eventually stumbling upon a voyeuristic opportunity to watch what appears to be some natives engaged in sex and shimmying in the sand. Paola is definitely curious to learn more and Lucas tells her about Stella (Cunningham), the woman she is admiring. After assuming that she was "just" a native, she learns that not only was she her husband's secretary at one point, but that she was a teacher. After a few days he leaves her on the island to her own devices; Paola is immediately drawn to Stella and the pair become fast friends.  Where Paola is seemingly naïve, Stella is centered and one with the island culture around them. With Stella's astro sign medallion wisdom and carefree attitude, Paola can't help but want to know not just her, but all about the island, and opens up about herself in the process. Paola left her fiancé to marry the wealthy industrialist and has been batted about by what she thinks is her own "luck." But luck may not be on her side any longer, or is it?

THE SNAKE GOD co-starring A Bottle of J&B
After persuading Stella to take her to a local ritual that involves a whole lot of sexy voodoo possession dancing and gyrating, Paola begins to have dreams and visions of snakes and sex and they begin to affect the island world around her. As she starts to miss her husband he turns up dead thanks to a bizarre plane crash witnessed by a local fisherman. In a last ditch effort to stay connected to her previous life she brings the man she had ditched to the island. What poor Tony doesn't realize is that Stella has already met him...in a VOODOO VISION! The situation spirals out of control as things go from a lover's triangle of the flesh between the three and into an unearthly love square that features Djamballa, The Snake God and the lines between civilization, magic and reality bend and blur.

Honestly, this has a happy ending all said... at least I think so. Everyone finds satisfaction and a place in the world.  At least the weird world of Il dio serpente!

THE SNAKE GOD is a film that works fairly well as a guide for some later sun and sex exploitations from Italy, but its interest goes much deeper. Where D'Amato would indulge in surfside sapphic grinding (on a log!), this goes further explores its characters and works as a surreal drama that wears its weightier aspirations to talk about the expectations of "civilized" characters when placed in an exotic environment where danger and desire seem to mix magically with darker forces. The script is playing with the stereotypical "white girl goes native" tropes in the best possible way by making her foil – the incredibly dark-skinned and beautiful Beryl Cunningham – the more intelligent and educated of the two. When the Island God and the people make their choices it brings a great balance to the film as everyone gets what they desire, though one ends up in slightly stranger circumstances than they could have imagined.

That's one elegantly composed shot... is 7:16 AM too early for some J&B?
But it isn't all just allegory and deeper meaning! There is some groovy music composed by Augusto Martelli and many soundtrack enthusiasts will know the theme as soon as the first bass note has you (island) grooving on your couch. Fans of sexy women are well served; Beryl Cunningham will make you want to book your next vacation to the Caribbean for sure, and Nadia Cassini goes from playful and hopping on a bed to sweaty solo gyrations under the influence of the snake god. And hey, you get a snake wiggling about in the sand. Snakes are cool by me. Vivarelli put together a film that will definitely tickle the brain while never neglecting to get behind your zipper for a few snake tongue licks as well!  An achievement for sure, and a film that every fan of trashy European cinema will enjoy as both a film and a nice bit of Italian genre film archeology.

The DVD from Mondo Macabro is a gem as usual. There is an interview with Piero Vivarelli (oh, please get me a double feature of those earlier fumetti films!!), a really strong essay on the film's production and history and a nice widescreen transfer that lets us focus on every drop of sweat that rolls off the nose of Nadia Cassini!

And if you like spotting J&B bottles then I assure you that you will LOVE this film. Vivarelli shoots some scenes featuring the familiar yellow label like a true advertising artist would.

It's sexual liberation for all...and the liberation of a hard-to-find film for all connoisseurs of exotic sex films. THE SNAKE GOD has slithered its way into my heart! – David Zuzelo

THE SNAKE GOD is available from Amazon and Diabolik DVD.

Want to know more about the exploitation roots of the man I affectionately call 'Damn You, David Z!'... check out this interview in The Cape Cod Examiner.




Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2013 Watch List: Ninjas, Night Trains, and Draculas Oh My!

I'm not sure when I've ever actually posted a favorite flicks of the year list on January 1, but what the hell?!

Please note that what appears on the Favorites list below is only what is a new watch for me in that calendar year.

Not sure the list below is totally complete (my Facebook list includes 128 flicks while this one includes 126) but I'm good with what made my list of Fave Flicks for 2013.

TOP 20 FAVORITES (Alphabetical Order)
==================================
ADAM CHAPLIN: VIOLENT AVENGER
ARGENTO'S DRACULA
ARGO
THE BRAIN
COMMAND PERFORMANCE
DEATH GAME
DEATH RACE 2
FAST AND FURIOUS 6
THE FLESH EATER
GI JOE: RETALIATION
MIAMI CONNECTION
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR
NINJA 2: SHADOW OF A TEAR
NO CONTEST
THE PACKAGE
SHARKNADO
SKYFALL
TURKEY SHOOT
WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK
X-RAY

NEW WATCHES
=================
500 MPH STORM
A RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT
AMOK TRAIN
BAD MEAT
BARRACUDA
BATH SALT ZOMBIES
BREAKING NEWS
CAESAR & OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS
CAT O' NINE TAILS
CATCH THE HEAT
THE COLLECTION
THE COOK
CRACKERJACK
THE DARK DEALER
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PT 2
DEATH RACE 3: INFERNO
DREDD
EL GRINGO
EVERYTHING OR NOTHING
EYES OF THE WOODS
FIRECRACKER
FRIGHT NIGHT PART II
FROZEN
GET DOWN AND BOOGIE
GUMS
HALLOWEEN NIGHT
HAYWIRE
THE HUNGER GAMES
HUNT TO KILL
INITIATION: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4
IRON MAN 3
JOHN DIES AT THE END
KILL BILL THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR
LOCKOUT
MAN OF STEEL
MOLD
MUSKETEERS FOREVER
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
OUR MAN IN MARRAKESH
THE PACK
PICK-UP SUMMER
PITCH PERFECT
THE PROWLER
PROPHECY
QUARANTINE 2
THE ROAD KILLERS
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
SAFE
SANTA CLAUS (1959)
SCREAMTIME
SEXCULA
THE SILENCER
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT
SLAUGHTER TALES
SPY AROUND THE WORLD
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME
SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY
SURVIVORS OF THE BOUNTY
THANKSKILLING 3
THE TOWER
THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY
THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA
THIS IS 40
TOKYO DRIFT
TOMB OF TERROR
TOXIC ZOMBIES
VHS 2
VIGILANTE
WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE

REWATCHES
============
2 FAST 2 FURIOUS
ALIEN CONTAMINATION
CREATURE aka THE TITAN FIND
CREEPSHOW 2
CREEPOZOIDS
DARKMAN
DEMON KNIGHT
DEMONS 2
DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS
FAST AND FURIOUS
FAST FIVE
GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD
HEAVEN CAN WAIT
HORROR EXPRESS
HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW
THE HUNTED
INFERNO
JASON GOES TO HELL
JASON X
LEGEND OF THE WOLF WOMAN
LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH
MANHUNTER
MANSION OF THE DOOMED
MONKEY SHINES
NOSFERATU: PHANTOM DER NACHT
POINT BREAK
RADIOACTIVE DREAMS
SCHIZOID
SNOW SHARK
TERROR TRAIN
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PT 1
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
THEY CAME FROM WITHIN
TINTORERA
VHS


Thursday, December 26, 2013

HOLIDAY HORRORS: The Turds in the Punchbowl

Ahhh yes, the day after Christmas. The presents are unwrapped, the delicious stuffed filet of beef has been consumed (except for that piece worth fighting over at lunch) and it's time to figure out what you're keeping, what's being sold on eBay and what you're just flat out returning for store credit. In other words it's time for the sorting of the crap.

Anytime you undertake an, er, undertaking like watching a dozen holiday horror flicks in a couple weeks there's bound to be a couple turds in the punchbowl.

Today's the day for a couple of those turds... sorry folks.

First up is SANTA CLAUS (1959), a hallucinogenic nightmare of a "children's" film courtesy of Rene Cardona and K. Gordon Murray.

I can't imagine being a kid and getting dropped into some kind of freaking nightmare where Santa lives on a cloud in space and Satan sends his chief demon – a hyperactive freak named Pitch – to make all the kids on Earth do evil. Or he'll be forced to eat chocolate ice cream.

Which we all know is bad for his digestion.

On Christmas Eve, Santa leaves his Multi-National Intergalactic Sweatshop run by Merlin the Magician (?!) and drives his team of terrifying, teeth-chattering wind-up reindeer that turn to dust if Santa's not back to his space shack by sunrise around the globe to deliver presents to good girls and boys.

Most of the brain-bending flick revolves around a trio of kids and their quest for holiday joy: there's Lupita the poor girl who never gets anything from Santa; the rich boy whose parents ignore him until they drink the "Cocktail of Remembrance"; and, the three hooligans who plan to jump Santa, stuff him in a sack and make him their slave!

Like other South of the Border abominations such as LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS (1962), the concept behind SANTA CLAUS seems sorta cute and benign. Until you have to sit down and suffer through every one of its excruciating 90 minutes!

The end result is so completely tedious and moronic that it makes it perfect fodder for creating an insulting MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER episode. Approach at your own risk.

Despite suffering through THANKSKILLING 3 and the aforementioned SANTA CLAUS, I was shocked to find I wasn't anywhere near done my Holiday Horror penance. Oh no. That chore would be left to what is easily the worst, most aggravating piece of Christmasploitation pie I've ever been served – the excruciating and completely worthless CAESAR AND OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS.

Okay, so maybe "completely worthless" is a bit harsh. But I'm not far off the mark. Maybe...

Ostensibly a jab at the whole "Killer Santa" genre, CAESAR & OTTO makes one classic miscalculation – it's sorta hard to parody a genre that has already begun to parody itself.

But that doesn't seem to bother this low-budget Abbott & Costello as Ceasar (the hyperactive and ceaselessly annoying Dave Campfield) and Otto (the kinda funny and somewhat charming Paul Chomicki) banter and argue about their lot in loserdom.

Like some of the latter day SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT sequels (see how I brought this full circle?), CAESAR & OTTO has waaaaayyyy more plot going for it than it really needs.

Sure, there's a killer Santa (the too good for this crap JACKASS grad Deron Miller aka CYK) and Caesar's holiday trauma (inspired by the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT complete with scene-chomping Lloyd Kaufman as Grandpa) but we're also forced to suffer through his desire to turn a quick buck by making a Christmas-themed horror movie and Otto's hunt for a long-lost love, not to mention an unwelcome Linnea Quigley cameo (shudder) and a Dr. Phil spoof that had me longing for the real deal.

The killer Santa/Christmasploitation genre may be ripe for a good tweaking. Unfortunately, this isn't it.

I'm going to spare you any links to where you can buy these flicks. If you search them out it's your own fault.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

HOLIDAY HORRORS: Don't Open Till Christmas ... Oh Wait, That's Today!

It's Christmas morning and time for more Holiday Horrors from yours truly! While SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT gets most of the Christmasploitation attention it's time to turn our gaze to a somewhat underappreciated classick slice of holiday sinema from some familiar faces... thanks to Bruce Holecheck of CINEMA ARCANA for turning me on to this one...

After enduring a plethora of sinister Santas in my holiday horror research it was definitely time for a change of pace. And who better to deliver it than the Mighty Men of PIECES, namely star Edmund Purdom and sleaze producer extraordinaire Dick Randall?

Purdom – doing double duty here as both star and director – portrays effete but ineffective Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Harris (cut from similar cloth as Purdom's effete but homicidal Dean from PIECES). Seems that merry old England has been beset by a series of murders in which a vicious killer is assaulting those dressed in the trademark red robes of Saint Nick.

Nobody is safe from this horrific holiday killing spree as men and women, young and old find themselves on the receiving end of knives, machetes, spiked gloves and – wink, wink – an open fire filled with chestnuts as the murderer continually evades Harris and fellow inspector Powell (Mark Jones) while the tabloids fan the flames of a psychopath on the loose.

With a shortage of suspects, our suspicion begins to fall upon Inspector Harris (he was The Dean in PIECES after all!), especially as he begins to pay an inordinate amount of attention to Kate (Belinda Mayne) and her street musician boyfriend Cliff (Gerry Sundquist) after Kate's father – dressed as Santa for a party – gets a spear through the back of his head. (I can't shake the feeling that Kate and Cliff were characters from some discarded Naked Eyes video.)

Helping things along in the "hey, maybe Harris is the killer department" is Giles (Alan Lake), a newspaperman who suggests that there might be more to the good inspector than meets the eye, though one wonders if there might be more to Giles than meets the eye, too.

It's all a rather trashy affair, but what would one expect from a flick whose DVD case loudly and proudly proclaims its kinship with PIECES? There's many bared boobies, a porno shoot, Father Christmas getting his willie whacked off, dripping dead Santa eyeball, exploding gifts, bike stealing "punks", the London Dungeon and even the lovely Caroline Munro (as herself) belting out a tune.

DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS may not be in the same ballpark as either PIECES or SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, but it's a nice and sleazy slice of Christmasploitation with the added bonus of mega-Purdom to pull you through any low points. You barely have to pay attention as the plot lurches from kill to kill and even when the whole thing ends you won't be able to shake the feeling that you've missed something.

The excellent DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS disc from Mondo Macabro also includes a vintage making of featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and is available from Amazon.