Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Horrors Returns with HOME SWEET HOME (1981)

Be careful what you wish for this holiday season, my friends.

Longtime readers of ER are well aware of my love for "holiday horrors" – heck, a screening of the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT over Thanksgiving weekend in 1984 is what set co-founder Lou Goncey and me on the wild and crazy path to zine publishing/blogging/podcasting.

And while you can't swing a dead elf without hitting a half-dozen Christmas-themed horror flicks, other holidays – like Thanksgiving – aren't quite as well represented. Oh sure, there's 1987's classic BLOOD RAGE (aka NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS) in which a Thanksgiving meal touches off a killing spree as an escaped mental patient tries to clear his name, but there's not many more.

The most well known example of on-screen Thanksgiving slaughter is probably 1981's HOME SWEET HOME, long unavailable on domestic video in any legit form and the subject of a lengthy flea market and thrift store hunt by yours truly. Thanks to Cinesludge's very own Evil Monk #2 I was able to get my hands on a copy for Thanksgiving Eve viewing.

Uh... thanks?

For those of you that loathe any kind of set up, HOME SWEET HOME will be right in your wheelhouse as a pre-credit radio bulletin alerts us to the presence of a homicidal maniac – yep, that's BIG BROTHER JAKE star Jake Steinfeld – who has escaped from a home for the criminally insane eight years after bludgeoning his parents to death. As if the sight of the ripped, curly-haired, hulking "Body By Jake" pitchman isn't enough to strike terror in your hearts, well, he might also be on PCP.

After stealing a station wagon and running over an old woman TRUTH OR DARE style, Body By Jake finds himself in the vicinity of the home of Bradley, a failed record executive played by Don Edmonds (yes, the same Don Edmonds who brought us ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS and ILSA, HARMER KEEPER OF THE OIL SHIEKS). With friends and family gathered for a Thanksgiving meal, Bradley and Co. make easy pickings for Body By Jake (billed as The Killer) as he crushes, strangles and bludgeons his way through the guest list.

Unfortunately – like some Thanksgiving recipes I've encountered over the years – HOME SWEET HOME sounds much better on paper than it does in reality. The presentation certainly doesn't help as the transfer is dark-bordering-on-incomprehensible while cars break down, people walk around the woods and Body By Jake cackles like, well, a lunatic on PCP as he thins the herd.

As for the Thanksgiving setting, I'm not even positive the holiday is actually mentioned. There's a turkey on the table and one guest is incensed when the power goes out, thus limiting his access to the big game he has a bet on, but for all the talk of the Thanksgiving theme it could really be any weekend during the fall.

But no review of HOME SWEET HOME would be complete without a nod to Peter De Paula as The Mistake – simultaneously the best and worst thing about the flick. Dressed like a new wave mime (?!), the cruelly nicknamed Mistake bops around the proceedings playing riffs on his portable electric guitar and doing magic tricks to amuse Angel (a young Vinessa Shaw who would go on to a lengthy career in film and TV including Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT). The Mistake – who seems to be Bradley's son from an earlier marriage? – even gets pegged as the killer when bodies start piling up. You can't wait for him to get killed but when he's not on screen you'll be begging for him to relieve the boredom.

And that may be HOME SWEET HOME's most egregious sin. Like a bone-dry Thanksgiving turkey, HOME SWEET HOME takes the high concept of a Thanksgiving murder spree and dumbs it down to the level of your most generic slasher.

Do yourself a favor... if you're truly in the mood for a Turkey Day terror treat yourself to the truly whacked out BLOOD RAGE instead. You'll thank me later. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor of Exploitation Retrospect and the food and drink-themed zine/website The Hungover Gourmet. A contributor to such publications as Weng's Chop and Monster! (both available at Amazon) he is also the co-host of Cinesludge: A Mangled Media Podcast with David Zuzelo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Batter Up! Slash, Dash and BILLY CLUB Bash with the Evil Monks of Cinesludge

Baseball may be over but it's always Slasher Season for the Evil Monks of Cinesludge!

In the latest episode, David Zuzelo of TOMB IT MAY CONCERN and I wax nostalgic about our discovery of and love for the much-maligned slasher genre and even offer up a list of some of the genre faves we return to again and again and again. (Hint: None of them are HALLOWEEN flicks and at least three include Edmund Purdom... THREE!)

Plus, we take a largely spoiler-free look at the newly-minted-but-feels-like-the-90s baseball-themed slasher neo-classic BILLY CLUB, in which a tormented tween comes back to wreak havoc on the Little Leaguers whose hijinks landed him in the loony bin. Where they appear to have no intramural baseball team.

So grab some stale popcorn, an overpriced beverage and your nail-filled Louisville slugger and listen in as two HorrorDads take a break from their daily routine to chat about their favorite cinematic comfort food.

Cinesludge: The Mangled Media Podcast is available via as well as on iTunes.

If you have any questions for the Evil Monks, comment below or drop us a line at and we'll be happy to answer them in an upcoming episode.

For the latest Cinesludge news and giveaways, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter via @CinesludgeMedia.

Friday, October 31, 2014

31 Days of Fright Feature 2: Troma Does Giallo with EYES OF THE CHAMELEON

It wouldn't be the final day of 31 Days of Fright without a post from longtime ER contributor and tireless curator of trash, Doug Waltz. Be sure to check out the latest issue of Doug's zine Divine Exploitation at CreateSpace.

EYES OF THE CHAMELEON starts with a psychotic older man screaming at a boy in a pit. We are informed that it is the 70s. The man is so foul that you really feel for the kid even though he never comes in to the pit after the kid.

Flash forward to the present where we meet Sara who has a dead end job in a casino in Vegas. She feels like her life is a waste of time so she spends a lot of time drinking, smoking dope and snorting cocaine.

Then a bizarre, violent encounter with a gypsy palm reader starts sending Sara's world out of control. Casual sex coupled with increasing drug use would be enough to bring anyone down that spiral, but Sara has a kicker to all that.

Someone is slaughtering everyone she knows: from her boyfriend to the corner deli guy. A person, hidden from view, is cutting them all to ribbons. And Sara could be next.

EYES OF THE CHAMELEON gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling when someone gets it right. This flick would fit into the Something Weird catalog without missing a beat. It shows us a grimier side of Vegas and Anne Teal (Sara) takes over the screen whenever she's on it. But, she does it in a clever way. At the beginning of the flick we just see this girl, but as the film goes on she becomes this unstoppable presence.

The fact that this micro-budget flick has some of the hardest softcore sex scenes I have seen in quite sometime is amazing. And when the movie is over it leaves you with a 'What did I just watch?' feeling. I'm still not sure and I might have to go back and check it out with the commentary.

The gore effects are well done. Anne Teal makes this her picture and Vegas looks more down to Earth than ever before. This isn't about what happens on the strip. This is about the people who inhabit the tourist trap and how things can be a little rotten beneath the shiny veneer.

The only extras are a slide show and a commentary by director Ron Atkins which I will definitely be listening to on a second viewing. Troma puts their usual block of fun filled nonsense on the disc and they designed the DVD case to make it look like an old school giallo, which I thought was cool.

EYES OF THE CHAMELEON is one of the sexiest, goriest, kinkiest flicks I've seen in recent years and Ron Atkins is a guy who gets the most out of a tiny budget and a very well done script. – Doug Waltz

Doug Waltz is a longtime contributor to Exploitation Retrospect and contributed a variety of reviews to ER #52 (available from our website).

EYES OF THE CHAMELEON is available from Amazon.

31 Days of Fright Feature 1: You Don't Have to Go to David Zuzelo for a PORN SHOOT MASSACRE

I hope you've had time to settle into your seats now that the trailers are over. And speaking of coming attractions, who better to see if PORN SHOOT MASSACRE delivers on its title than Cinesludge's own Evil Monk #2 (cue the "Mwuhahahaha!"), David Zuzelo...

"What the hell is that? It's not a sex toy... It's a weapon. Oh, God."  

With a title like PORN SHOOT MASSACRE I went in expecting a little sex, a little violence and hopefully a few chuckles. Not exactly popshotting for the moon, I put the disc in and right away got a pleasant surprise. Wrestling fans and Goth Chick aficionados may remember Ariel (Shelly Martinez) from WWE's iteration of ECW fondly. Maybe her role as Salinas in TNA? Or how about Cle-Ho-Patra in Womens Erotic Wrestling? Ahem...well, you get LOTS of nude n' sudsy Shelly to start the flick off right and I'll cop to it, I was one happy viewer. And then...THEY KILL HER! Lamely. That means there's more talking, gesturing, acting and stuff to come.


But like the cool jock-strappy masked maniac of the film, I took this line of dialog to heart: "Brute...finish the task."

Once we watch Martinez blow off a porn producer for a new guy in town, it's time to get to it. A variety of attractive women show up for a porn shoot (I saw that coming) and they end up getting massacred in a variety of ways. I saw that coming, too. From the bitchy dominatrix to the hot woman told to really make LOVE to her companion, nobody is safe as brutish Brute pops up to off the ladies.

The story does get a little more complicated as we go along, especially the character of the false mustachioed director who looks like he jumped out of a spankhouse special of the 70s such as THE SEXUALIST. There is a final girl (and you have to watch for her almost final walk alone as a crew member attempts to hide behind a fence!) and she's accompanied by the repentant cinema generating scuzzbag to the final battle with BRUTE. It's here where the film actually works for a few scenes as the duo come up with the best possible slasher plan I'd never thought of. Yes, our sexy siren comes up with this line... "OK, I'll shoot him while he's killing you!"  

Now that is a plan! And it works... kind of. You have to watch it to find out.

PORN SHOOT MASSACRE benefits by delivering enough skin and sin blended with a few really silly stalkings and off-screen deaths that look solid on the technical level. The editing actually generates some tension and the score by Mark Palmieri gets props for balancing out the sexy sounds and the screamy electrobooping with a pretty even hand.

If you WANT to watch PORN SHOOT MASSACRE, I have faith that you will be satiated by the stuff you come for. If you are in the mood for a themed massacre, I'd stick with Texas, or a Sorority House or Slumber Party. But if you're like me, you finally got to see Kevin Thorn's valet naked... and that is good enough for this viewer! – David Zuzelo

David Zuzelo is the titan of TOMB IT MAY CONCERN and one of the muck-wallowing monks of CINESLUDGE. You can find his media mangling at both those spots as well as here at Exploitation Retrospect, where he is a regular contributor. Check out our latest issue for David Z's look at a handful of installments of the Nikkatsu Erotic Film Collection as well as other slices of sinema.

PORN SHOOT MASSACRE is available from Amazon.

No Tricks, Just Treats... New Horror Anthology Has Ties to New Episode of CINESLUDGE

While bouncing around the web this morning I ran across some exciting news about TALES OF HALLOWEEN, a new horror anthology flick that will start shooting next month.

I love horror anthology flicks and it's a topic we'll be covering in Exploitation Retrospect #53 (slated for next fall), but the talent involved with this one gets my juices flowing even more than usual.

Not only will we get segments from Neil Marshall (THE DESCENT, DOG SOLDIERS), Mike Mendez (THE CONVENT, BIG ASS SPIDER!) and Axelle Carolyn (whose Marshall-produced SOULMATE is one of our current DVD giveaways), but John Skipp – whose 'The Light At The End' is one of my fave horror novels – is teaming up with Andrew Kasch.

And Joe Begos – whose entertaining "lumberjack on a murderous rampage" flick ALMOST HUMAN is discussed on the new episode of CINESLUDGE – is also directing a story. Swing on over to Podbean or check us out on iTunes to give it a listen as Evil Monk #1 and Evil Monk #2 talk Mack Bolan, men's adventure novels, ALMOST HUMAN and the recent Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon VIII.

31 Days of Fright: Trailer Trash or Essential Comp? A Look at GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS VOLUME 1

Happy Halloween to all you creeps, maniacs and things that go bump in the night! Though over horror coverage continues all year, today marks the end of our annual 31 Days of Fright feature and we'll be celebrating with a triple bill of terror, a pulsing trio of sinema to scare the pants off you... or, if you're lucky, your date! But no screaming, er, I mean "screening" is complete without some coming attractions, right? So let Chuck Francisco walk you to your seat while he shares some thoughts on the recently released GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS VOLUME 1... 

The boulevard of retro trash cinema trailers is a brightly lit thoroughfare of promises. Those gravelly voiced storefronts promise action in spades and explosions by the baker's dozen. Ladies of the night, the day, the jungle, the prison, the basement, and the dark alley pry at the wallet with their supple skins. Evocative displays exploit plate glass propositions in promises so fantastical as to defy expectations. These two-minute movie muffins offer all of the calories of a full filmatic meal without the filler of an additional eighty minutes' content. And in many cases we're better off simply strolling this lane of loud promises, well-to-do and dapper, without ever being taken for a ride by a false siren's call. Ninety minutes of wall-to-wall trailers is an hour and a half of non-stop action, titillation, perversion, laughs, and exploitation.

But this has also been an amazingly well-traveled avenue over the past decade or so. If an overwhelming feeling of "been there, done that" pervades the new GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS VOLUME 1 compilation, it's probably because we have walked these streets a million times, seeking the short stack of thrills offered by competing maple syrup sweet discs. It's not that Grindhouse Trailers Classics chose poor trailers, put them in unfortunate arrangements, or neglected some specific spice of schlock in assembling their trashy offerings. On the contrary, everything is button-up tails and top hats to the nines, but it's a borrowed ensemble, worn better by trailer compilations who beat Intervision Picture Corp to the punch by many years' time. The highly successful 42ND STREET FOREVER series is a much more solid proof of concept, as is the ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE'S TRAILER WARS release, both of which include HD Blu-Ray versions as a tremendous step up.

Another scuff on the fancy wing tipped shoes of GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS VOLUME 1 is obvious pixilation scattered about the run time. It doesn't effect all of the trailers, but more than a few deteriorated into the tell tale signs of low-resolution posers, those detestable wanna-be fancy gentlemen trying to put on the Ritz, sadly failing to pull it off. About the only brightly luminescent streetlight along this boulevard is the lengthy Grindhouse expose, BUMP 'N GRIND, a wonderfully wicked and snarky slide down the sleazy cinema aisle of indulgence. This feels fresh and fun, while being whip smart and spot on.

I'd like to stress that this isn't a bad release, only that full-on exploitation fans have already paid to visit these attractions many times, and likely still own the forbearers to this release. Newcomers to the slime bowl of schlock will find this to be a solid adventure that potentially unlocks a world of disgusting and weird in their brainpans. Longstanding perverts and weirdoes need not apply, though, as you likely already live here (and have for some time). – Chuck Francisco

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for, writing Shock-O-Rama. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. An avid beer brewer, rock climber, and video gamer, you can hear him drop nerd knowledge on the weekly podcast You've Got Geek, and follow him on twitter @CyanideRush. He recently wrote about Nazi Zombies, Spaghetti Westerns and American Hippies for Exploitation Retrospect 52 (available from our website).


CONTEST: What's In Your Horror Movie Survival Crate?

We've all been there... you're watching a horror flick and you simply can't believe what the characters on the big (or little) screen are doing.

Whether they're going back into the creepy house or deciding to explore that "strange noise" coming from the shed where all the power tools are, we all think we're smarter than the victims du jour.

But would you really survive an encounter with a knife-wielding maniac, possessed prom queen or alien-inhabited lumberjack? Maybe if you had a chance to plan ahead, imagine what you'd need to last till the end and get it all in a big crate that would arrive at an opportune moment?

Here's your chance to show how much smarter than stock horror movie characters you are! Use the comments section below to name up to five things you'd want to receive if you were a character in a horror movie. They can be as creative or practical as you want (like a really slow sidekick or maybe some extra gas for that chainsaw you just know is going to konk out at the wrong time).

On Wednesday, November 5, 2014 we'll select a comment at random to receive a crate of goodies from ER HQ. Okay, "crate" might be the wrong word. How about a "box" of goodies including the new films INSIDE, SOULMATE (executive produced by Neil Marshall) and ZOMBIE HOOD, copies of Exploitation Retrospect 51 and 52 and more.

And speaking of crates, check out the cool gifts available at that inspired this contest. I once spent a summer working in a warehouse opening crates of sheet music with a crowbar. If you've never opened a crate with a crowbar, you're missing out on one of life's little pleasures.

Unfortunately, all the crates we opened had sheet music in them. And the occasional slice of geriatric porn somebody at the other warehouse stuck in there to "shock" us. They never contained anything cool like bacon, old school toys, or everything you'd need to survive a few extra days in the coming zombie-pocalypse.

IMPORTANT! Anonymous comments will be removed since we have no way of contacting you if you win!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Days of Fright: Slashers, Sleaze and Losing My Milligan Virginity, or, An Exhumed Horrorthon VIII Recap

For the last eight years, the holidays have arrived early here at ER HQ. And no, I don't mean Christmas or Thanksgiving – though I do love the opportunities they present to eat, drink and gather with family and friends (and maybe even offer up some Holiday Horrors).

No, I'm talking about Halloween, or, more precisely, the annual Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon. Launched back in 2007 to celebrate the DelVal film group's 10th anniversary, they have treated (and occasionally tricked) us with eight 'round-the-clock cinefests designed to delight, shock, scare and enthrall us... and 2014's edition was no exception. (For more on Exhumed VIII including some live sound check out Cinesludge episode 3.)

After spending Friday evening handing out hundreds of pieces of candy – and winning the pumpkin carving contest – at my daughter's grade school Boo Bash (think Trunk or Treat held inside), I downed a few beers and hit the hay to embrace the last sleep I'd get until late Sunday afternoon. With Horrorthon partner-in-crime Bruce Holecheck (of Cinema Arcana) along for the ride we made our way to Philly, ditched the car in the over-priced hotel garage, though secure in the knowledge it would be there for a quick, painless departure the next day.

Our approach to the show has changed over the years. The first year was truly uncharted territory and friends called us "crazy" for going. Until we reported back how fun the event was and, oh yeah, that we saw PIECES, BURIAL GROUND, DEMONS and PHANTASM – just to name a few – on the big screen. I remember drinking gargantuan amounts of coffee and Mt. Dew that first year and stashing a small pizza under my seat for late nite noshing.

These days my "go bag" is packed with bottles of water, Cliff Bars and 100 calorie packets of roasted almonds for when hunger hits at an inopportune time. Even my beloved Wawa Italian hoagie has been replaced with a chicken salad sandwich on rye with bacon and I drink more water than coffee. But it certainly paid off this year as the urge to doze was far less frequent and I only snuck out for fresh air and caffeine twice, but more on that later.

The pre-show line is always fun as you end up chatting with the folks around you about the event's secret lineup – films are not announced in advance and a program (and ballot) with vague clues is your only insight into what's in store. After seven years of pathetic shots in the dark I've given up on making guesses and handed my ballot over to Bruce. I've seen a lot (A LOT) of movies in my day, but I don't possess an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure gore and insane slashers... plus, I tend to convince myself that every clue is really going to finally for reals mean a showing of a beloved flick like LIFEFORCE, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS or NIGHT OF THE CREEPS.

Quick "hellos" to pals like Doc Terror and Chuck Francisco complete, we're in our seats for announcements (Most Important: No talking! This isn't your living room and, despite what you may think, you're not a writer for MST3K.) and door prizes, anxiously awaiting the first of – gulp – 15 flicks over the next 24 hours and change.

1. THE KEEP (1983)
Previous fests have typically launched with more of a straight horror flick, so this atmospheric slice of WWII horror/sci-fi from writer/director Michael Mann was a bit of a departure. I hadn't seen THE KEEP since the days when it played PRISM (Philly's local movie/sports pay cable channel) but I remembered it had a rocky road to the big screen and online reports suggest that about half its original running time was chopped for theatrical release. While the studio interference certainly shows, the cast is great, the Tangerine Dream score is haunting and brought to mind Mann's MANHUNTER, and it features a somewhat good guy-esque role for the usually villainous Jurgen Prochnow. Available on what looks like a grey market DVD.

2. BLACK MAGIC (1975)
Martial arts star Ti Lung headlines this 1975 Shaw Brothers classic complete with battling magicians, countless potions, erect talisman, a supporting German Shepherd and rice-encased privates. A rich schemer sets her eyes on a young, engaged engineer and hires a sinister magician to cast a love spell. Followed a year later by the even crazier sequel, BLACK MAGIC 2 (aka REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES). Available on DVD.

I vaguely recall having seen this kiddie-oriented Godzilla flick when it aired on UHF back in the 1970s, but doubt I've seen it since. A latchkey kid daydreams of trips to Monster Island, where Godzilla lives with his son Minira and a bevy of other kaiju critters. The kids and a subplot about some bank robbers are a little annoying but even recycled Godzilla flick footage is a treat on the big screen. The flick's moral seems to be that the path to happiness is fighting and pulling pranks, and that just seems odd. Available on DVD.

I've never been a fan of Tobe Hooper's over-the-top, Cannon-financed sequel, much preferring Jeff Burr's take on the family of cannibal killers roaming the dark back roads of the Lone Star State. Featuring Viggo Mortensen, Ken Foree and Kate Hodge in her first starring role, LEATHERFACE is a perfect example of late 80s/early 90s horror cinema, complete with dated styles, quippy dialogue, a hard rock soundtrack (Laaz Rocket!) and – unfortunately – harsh MPAA cuts to achieve an R rating. Still, even when neutered this is a fast-paced and occasionally harrowing minor classic. Available on DVD with R-rated and Unrated versions.

5. BLUE MONKEY (1987)
Each Exhumed Horrorthon contains at least a couple flicks I simply never, ever expected to see on the big screen. This year featured several of those "Whoa!" moments, the first of which was William Fruet's 1987 paean to the big bug monster flicks of the Atomic Era (reviewed on our website many years ago). An innocent finger prick ends up producing a monstrous bug – thanks to a growth agent added by some too cute kids – and it's up to off-duty cop Jim Bishop (Steve Railsback) to save the day with the help of an ER doc and her entomologist pal. Shifting effortlessly between comedy, action and goo-drenched horror, BLUE MONKEY also features SCTV regulars Joe Flaherty and Robin Duke as comic relief and a pre-teen Sarah Polley (DAWN OF THE DEAD remake) as one of the kids. Available on VHS only.

6. PET SEMATARY (1989)
The Stephen King novel that inspired this stiff, stagey flick may have been the last book I read from the prolific author – and I recall not being able to put it down. Maybe that's why I've never warmed up to this adaptation and always preferred the way over-the-top sequel featuring Clancy Brown as the world's craziest living dead sheriff. At least that flick knows what it is and embraces it... PET SEMATARY wants to be taken seriously (Dale Midkiff is ponderous as the lead) while its attempts at horror produce more titters than terror. Sometimes, Wawa is better and once I was sure we were getting this overrated entry I made my way down the street for coffee and fresh air, knowing I'd get back in time for the meat of the flick and that killer title tune from the Ramones that plays over the end credits. "I don't wanna be buried... in a pet cemetery..." Available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

7. THE GATE 2 (1990)
The festival's 80s block comes to a conclusion with Tibor Takacs' follow-up to his 1987 metal-and-monsters original (which opened the 2012 Horrorthon). Louis Tripp returns as Terry, the metal-loving teen intent on giving another go at conjuring the demons that emerged from the titular gate in his friend's backyard years earlier. When he's joined by a trio of delinquents, they find themselves able to grant wishes... until it all turns (literally) to shit. Co-star/love interest Pamela Adlon (billed here as Pamela Seagall) went on to a prolific career as a voiceover actor, even winning an Emmy for her work as Bobby Hill on the beloved KING OF THE HILL. "All sloppy... and no joe." Available on VHS only.

With the Horrothon nearing its halfway point, the tone shifted dramatically from the more innocent late 80s/early 90s to the dank, dark and dangerous 1970s thanks to the very "WTF?!" LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET, an orgy of sleaze and violence that makes Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT look like a Disney flick. Directing as Victor Janos and starring under the name Steven Harrison, gutter auteur Roger Watkins packs this surreal head-scratcher with images of sex and pseudo-snuff that put it miles ahead of similarly "controversial" flicks like SNUFF. I'd be hard pressed to synopsize LAST HOUSE but suffice it to say that it kept the audience in stunned silence for its mercifully short running time (and I mean that in the best way possible). Available on DVD.

To be frank, I'm not sure exactly what could provide an adequate palette-cleanser after the sensory onslaught of DEAD END STREET, but this Andy Millgan "period piece" was probably as good a choice as any. Surprisingly, despite wallowing in the cinemuck for 40 years (?!) I have never had the "pleasure" of watching an Andy Milligan film. Oh sure, I've read about his work in everything from FILM THREAT to SLEAZOID EXPRESS, but I never pulled the trigger on one of his polarizing, anachronistic epics. As Bruce put it while the credits rolled, "it's like a filmed stage play put on by insane people". I'm not sure I can do GURU more justice than that – and I'm not sure I'll be seeking out more Milligan in the future – but I'm glad I can finally say that I'm no longer a Milligan virgin. Available on DVD.

10. BOG (1983)
Looking every bit like it was filmed in the 1970s – because it was! – BOG has the dubious distinction of being the one flick that desperately wanted to seduce me into a late night snooze. I wasn't sure if it was the timeslot or the movie itself (Bruce insisted on the latter), but BOG's long takes, geriatric love story and deliberate pacing kept wanting me to accept sleep's sweet embrace. "Be gone, harlot!," my brain screamed as I fought to stay awake and cross the threshold from that dangerous 2 AM to 5 AM slot into the sinematic homestretch. And once BOG's creature was defeated – or was it? – I got a second (or, perhaps, third) wind. Available on DVD.

11. MOTHER'S DAY (1980)
People have asked me if the Exhumed Horrorthon features breaks to grab dinner, use the bathroom or simply stretch your legs from the International House's not quite comfortable seating. And while the answer used to be a qualified "yes", recent years have seen the show feature little more than five to ten minutes of trailers jammed between flicks. In other words, just enough time to use the john, grab a smoke or hike down to the nearby Wawa for a sandwich and coffee. Naturally, it's wise to wait and see what film begins next, so when the trailer reel after BOG suggested that the "satirical" horror on tap was from the folks at Troma, I waited with bated breath. Was this the year that my beloved BLOODSUCKING FREAKS would finally appear on that big ol' screen? Or, was it going to be a more likely candidate such as the mean-spirited, though at times intentionally funny, MOTHER'S DAY. Unfortunately, it ended up being the latter so I waited through the opening 20 minutes or so and ducked out for some invigorating 5 AM in Philly air, returning in just enough time to see the trio of gals from the "Rat Pack" take their revenge on mama and her boys. Available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

The homestretch of any Exhumed Horrorthon is always dicey. At that point you've fought off sleep, rounded the corner towards home, gotten your xth wind and can kinda see that finish line. But will you sprint across, propelled by the power of LADY TERMINATOR, THE CHILDREN, PIRANHA and RE-ANIMATOR (a la 2009) or be dragged kicking and screaming like 2011's quartet of BLOOD DINER, THE BURNING, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE and MEET THE FEEBLES? (Full disclosure, that was the only year I actually left the event before the last film was over, embracing a hazy ride home over Peter Jackson's ho-hum puppet flick.) This year's closing quartet definitely delivered the goods, kicked off by this supernatural – and in my opinion – superior sequel to the more ballyhooed original (recently reviewed by Chuck Francisco). Barbecued prom queen Mary Lou Maloney possesses the body of good girl Vicki Carpenter (who may be afraid of what's happening to her but isn't afraid of some full frontal nudity) and even sets her sights on former beau Billy Nordham (Michael Ironside), now the school's principal and the father of Vicki's boyfriend. This flick is absolutely 80s and absolutely one of my underrated faves, though I can't believe there are two more PROM NIGHT flicks! Available on DVD.

Probably better known under the title BLOOD RAGE (which apparently sports a different cut of the film), SHADOW WOODS is a rare Holiday Horror set on Thanksgiving. Set off by seeing his mother (Louise Lasser) hook up at the drive-in, a young boy murders another patron with an axe and promptly blames his twin brother, who gets locked away for the crime. Fast forward to Thanksgiving night when the locked up (but innocent) brother escapes from the mental facility and mom announces her engagement to Brad the apartment complex manager. Evil twin Terry – now a college student – is set off by the announcement and begins butchering his way through friends, family and hospital staff sent to retrieve his brother. Never quite by the numbers, SHADOW WOODS benefits from performances by the quirky Lasser and Mark Soper (as both of the a bit bonkers brothers), plentiful gore, some nudity, early 80s fashion crimes (it was filmed in 1983 but not released until 1987) and a script that isn't afraid to repeatedly use a blood/cranberry sauce gag. I'd love to see this obscure gem get a nice release. Available on VHS.

I still remember my skin crawling when I watched this NIGHT GALLERY-worthy tale of aggressive spiders attacking a remote Arizona town when it hit UHF back in the late 1970s. And unlike some horrors of the period, KINGDOM holds up extremely well, benefitted greatly by a top-notch B-cast headlined by William Shatner, Woody Strode and David McLean. Shatner – as veterinarian Rack Hansen – never overdoes it as the horseback riding hero and the whole cast plays the grim tale straight. The final shot is haunting and reminds you of a time when ending horror flicks on a down note was a-ok. Available on DVD.

"Thrill me." I've been waiting almost 30 years to see Det. Cameron (Tom Atkins in a movie-stealing performance) utter those words on the big screen and the wait was totally worth it. Part of a personal 80s Trinity that also includes RE-ANIMATOR and DEMONS, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS remains one of my favorite horror films ever made and – for me, at least – one of the few horror-comedies that deftly juggles exploding heads and one-liners with equal aplomb. I rated it five stars upon seeing the VHS back in the 80s and it ranks that high to this day. And, thanks to the guys at Exhumed Films, I can cross another masterpiece off my Theatrical Bucket List. Available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

So there you have it – a quickie recap of a great event featuring one of the most solid Horrorthon lineups to date. Kudos to the entire Exhumed Films crew who bring together a great annual event that comes off almost seamlessly, though I know that there are probably plenty of hiccups along the way.

I just have one request for next year or the next or even the next. BLOOD! SUCKING! FREAKS! In the meantime I suppose I can settle for the new Blu-Ray...!

Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Days of Fright: It's a Slasher Mash-Up With CAMP QUILTFACE: FIRST CARNAGE... Or Something

Better late than never, I always say, and with my daughter's grade school BOO BASH tonight and the Exhumed Horrorthon in the morning I just hope I can keep things straight. Better to give out the skull rings and happy monster stickers tonight, not the copies of ER and NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR Blu-Ray! Here's your Friday dose of slasher fun ... times two!

I have not seen what is referred to as the "CAMP BLOOD trilogy" and – after reading a synopsis – I'm not entirely convinced the makers of 2014's CAMP BLOOD 3 (sic) have either.

According to online sources, 1999's CAMP BLOOD features a group of campers on the run from a killer clown in the woods. One member of the group survives for CAMP BLOOD 2 (2000) and is hired for a movie-within-the-movie about the original massacre.  Five years later, series creator Brad Sykes mined the "reality show trope" by having contestants line up to spend the night in the infamous woods for a shot at a million dollars, only to have their ranks thinned by a bloodthirsty killer who may or may not be the "legendary" clown of the original flick. Titled WITHIN THE WOODS – not to be confused with the EVIL DEAD precursor of the same name – the flick seemingly brought the FRIDAY THE 13TH-inspired series to a conclusion.

Or so we thought.

Enter the prolific Polonia Brothers and the recently released CAMP BLOOD: FIRST SLAUGHTER (MVD), inexplicably also known as CAMP BLOOD 3. In a nutshell, students in a one-credit urban legend class at a local college are tasked with proving whether or not the "Clown of Camp Blood" is real... or bullshit.

And, like so many before and after them, the dim-witted, unprepared victims students head off into the woods. Will they discover the location of the legendary "Camp Blood"? Probably, because it seems like every character in the movie discovers the sign at some point. Will they find evidence of the murderous mountebank? Probably not, because in a first reel twist the "Clown of Camp Blood" gets offed by another deep woods stalker, this one decked out in camouflage and sporting a mask that looks like it was left over from the EMPIRE OF THE APES shoot.

Students wander off, the seemingly out of shape killer wheezes after them and... news flash! It's three months later and the students have disappeared, leaving only video evidence that will reveal their collective fate. Yep, CAMP BLOOD: FIRST SLAUGHTER has turned into a found footage slasherfest, thanks in part to the camcorder the killer wore on the side of their mask.

From here on out writer/director Mark Polonia (SPLATTER FARM, PETER ROTTENTAIL, EMPIRE OF THE APES [see ER #52 for my review]) delivers pretty much what you'd expect from a low budget slasher riff that looks like it was filmed in SNOW SHARK's backyard. There's campfire fun, horny hijinks, students wandering off to get killed, more finding of the "Camp Blood" sign and priceless dialogue like "a broken down cemetery, a broken down church and a broken down car... man, I hope this isn't an omen".

Maybe a bit too ambitious for what was surely a miniscule budget (it feels like the prop department had one cutaway machete that's used repeatedly), CAMP BLOOD: FIRST SLAUGHTER is enjoyable on a casual viewing level. Neither outrageous nor super gory, it's best recommended for slasher completists and lovers of low-budget horror only.

And this story would end right there had I not picked up THE KILLER 4-PACK (MVD) the next day and glanced at the back cover. Only to find that one flick – CARNAGE: THE LEGEND OF QUILTFACE (2000) – was directed by none other than HELLINGER helmer Max Cerchi. (FYI, David Zuzelo and I talk at length about Cerchi's HELLINGER, HOLY TERROR and, yes, QUILTFACE in the first episode of CINESLUDGE available here and at iTunes.)

Written by John Polonia (who died in 2008 after working on countless low-budget flicks with his brother – and CAMP BLOOD 3 director – Mark), CARNAGE: THE LEGEND OF QUILTFACE (aka CARNAGE ROAD) mines much of the same territory as CAMP BLOOD: FIRST SLAUGHTER, though in much more straightforward slasher fashion.

This time out our intrepid urban legend detectives have been replaced by a quartet of college photography students instructed to head out to the desert and take photos, unaware that the disfigured, machete-wielding veteran known as "Quiltface" stalks the dust-swept wasteland. Luckily, a chatty van driver (the scene-stealing Max Hail) is only too happy to inform the students about the legend before dropping off the "idiots wanting to go to the desert".

Unlike HELLINGER and HOLY TERROR – available on a double feature disc from MVD – QUILTFACE lacks the quirky charm that made those flicks so jaw droppingly enjoyable. Oh sure, Quiltface gets all put off by one student's bra and eats the money she tries to bribe him with (and then does a little dance), but he lacks the charisma that Wayne Petricelli brought to the titular role of Hellinger. And although Nick Armas from HOLY TERROR shows up for a blessedly brief role as a horny shutterbug who gets Quiltfaced during the opening sequence, any goodwill engendered by his death is negated by Dean Paul as the shriekiest final guy-girl in the history of horror cinema.

Resembling a poor man's David Walton (tv's ABOUT A BOY), Paul screams, shrieks, panics, cries and all but wets his pants during the flick's 70-minutes-though-it-feels-longer running time. You'll be rooting for Quiltface to drop his character like a three foot putt thanks to one of the single most annoying performances in horror history.

That said, there's enough strangeness about CARNAGE: THE LEGEND OF QUILTFACE under any name for me to recommend it to lovers of cinesludge and other slices of oddball sinema, but all others beware!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 Days of Fright: Countdown to Exhumed VIII

While sitting around the fire pit the other night, my daughter and her best friend began treating us to renditions of Christmas carols. On October 18th. It was all a little much for me until I realized that my own personal Christmas was arriving exactly two months early.

Yes, I'm talking about the Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon, the eighth installment of which will be taking place this coming weekend at Philly's International House on my old college stomping grounds.

Longtime readers are probably already familiar with Exhumed Films and the annual Horrorthon, but in case any new readers have landed here thanks to our new issue (available from our website) or CINESLUDGE (our new podcast venture) here's a quick recap...

Started in the late 1990s in the South Jersey/Philly region, Exhumed Films began reviving big screen horror in area theaters. Screening actual prints of the flicks (no video projection here), the group arranged spectacular double bills, zombie flick marathons and other events over the years. Best of all, Exhumed audiences treated the films like the fans they were, with MST3K nonsense and (largely) unfunny catcalls discouraged.

When the group's tenth anniversary rolled around in 2007 they rolled out their biggest event yet – a 24 hour horrorthon in which none of the titles would be announced prior to them hitting the screen. And what a lineup it was, starting with John Carpenter's classic HALLOWEEN and ending 24 hours later (give or take) with Lucio Fulci's gory GATES OF HELL, with detours into slashers (PIECES), WTF classics (PHANTASM), giant monsters (GODZILLA VS THE COSMIC MONSTER) and more along the way. (You can read a recap of Horrorthons I thru VI here.)

Unlike that first year, the Horrorthon is now an almost instant sell-out, with people still clamoring for extra tickets on the event's Facebook page.

And as in previous years, Cinema Arcana editor Bruce Holecheck is the only man brave enough to wallow in such an unhealthy dose of sinema and join us in our fight against sleep and the noxious combination of bologna and feet.

Last year's lineup was a solid, consistent show filled with some first time viewings, a couple welcome surprises that I'd not seen in years and one eye-violence-filled grimefest that had me squirming in my chair for 90 minutes...
  • the original HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW
  • DEMONS 2
What does 2014 have in store? And, as Exhumed likes to say, who will survive and what will be left of them?!

Watch the ER blog for a post-Horrorthon recap and stay tuned to CINESLUDGE for an on-the-ground report from the trenches!

Exploitation Retrospect Goes Wading in the CINESLUDGE!

Since their debut more than a decade ago I've always wanted to do a podcast.

I suppose it stems from the enjoyment I got from my years as a college radio DJ combined with the fun I still get from sitting down and talking with friends about the movies, books and other "stuff" we love.

For years, my friends and I would would retire to a diner, theater lobby, somebody's back patio or even the woods (where we'd be accompanied by a case of beer) and spend hours talking about the flicks we'd been watching, zines and comics we were reading or music we were listening to.

Recently, most of that chatter came on-line, in Yahoo groups (like the European Trash Cinema Paradise), Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. But nothing replaced getting together with friends or chatting with them over the phone and sharing a laugh or the enthusiasm at some weird gem discovered during late night Netflix trawling.

The biggest challenge I faced was finding the right person to do a show with. I had plenty of potential podcast partners in mind, so when one of them – longtime buddy, ER scribe and TOMB IT MAY CONCERN head honcho David Zuzelo – eventually approached me with the same idea a few months back, it seemed like a sign.

The result is CINESLUDGE, a freshly minted podcast that mangles media and wades into a messed up morass of horror, action, sexploitation, kung fu, men's action, Eurotrash and more. If you're looking for in-depth analysis of cinema and a film's place within its history, we may not be right for you. But if you want passionate appreciations of everything from low-budget auteurs and direct-to-video sequels to streaming gems and D-grade knockoffs, have we got a show for you! (Down the road you might even encounter musings from The HorrorDads and a visit from The Hungover Gourmet... who knows?!)

Check out our "test" episode featuring such mind-benders as HELLINGER, HOLY TERROR and QUILTFACE (plus a little ER history from yours truly) as well as our first "official" episode extolling the virtues of Jim Wynorski flicks (love is shared for GILA!, HOUSE ON HOOTER HILL and HARD TO DIE), Jeff Lieberman's schizo Halloween gem SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER and the recent Vinegar Syndrome release of the kung-fu-zombie classic RAW FORCE.

CINESLUDGE is available at these fine outlets:

Friday, October 17, 2014

31 Days of Fright Goes on a Slasher Friday Date with PROM NIGHT (1980)

Funny story... I ended up marrying the girl who turned me down for the prom. I ended up not going, which left me feeling unqualified when it came to evaluating the authenticity of the 1980 slasher PROM NIGHT. Truth be told, I've always found the flick to be a bit of a bore, but maybe I'm just prejudiced. Luckily, Chuck Francisco was up to the task of picking up PROM NIGHT and taking it out for a spin on another Slasher Friday.

Prom Night – that whimsical evening where meaty chemical beakers, filled to spillage with hormones, pour themselves into the most absurd fashionable predilections of the day, practically guaranteeing cringeworthy corsaged portraits, that will only be good for a laugh looking back through time's rear view mirror. This magical evening also serves as the perfect window of vengeance for somehow slighted madmen, hellbent on grisly comeuppance. It's also the name of the middle movie in Jamie Lee Curtis's main slasher repertoire, before she punched the eject button to avoid typecasting (and ignoring her stint as Hitch in the excellent Aussie flick, ROAD GAMES – not precisely a slasher, per se).

PROM NIGHT is an example of what happens when wicked kids are left to their own devious whims in an abandoned convent. When hide and seek becomes so boring that it needs to be beefed up to include pretend killer and victims, perhaps the time has come to purchase little Johnny that Atari 2600 he so desperately craves. Once poor little Robin Hammond is scared backward out of a broken window and onward toward a grisly landing, the fates are all but aligned for mysterious revenge once these killer girls become nubile audience fodder. And so, flashing forward six years to high school prom night, it should shock no one when the four accidental OJ Simpsons receive ominous phone calls foreshadowing their certain doom.

MacGuffins multiply faster than bunnies at a carrot cocktail bar, in what may be PROM NIGHT's strongest feature – the mystery. The secret Santa slasher isn't obvious; there are several contenders for the crown. Could it be the escaped mental patient rapist, who was wrongly accused of Robin's murder, and horribly burned in the crash that resulted from the police pursuit? Could it be the Danny Zucco-flavored high school tough who has been kicked out of school by Principal Leslie Nielsen? Could it be Jamie Lee Curtis' Kim Hammond, because wouldn't that be novel? The killer-go-round is an entertaining endeavor punctuated by perforated teen flesh and a disco dance number.

PROM NIGHT belongs in the standard slasher tool belt among the tricks of the trade. Releases of the film have been plagued with muddy visuals and picture quality little better than VHS presentation levels (which was fine for the VHS release, but unacceptable thereafter). Synapse Films has worked tremendously hard to bring horror junkies a brand new 2k high definition transfer from the original camera negative that does this sleazy slasher proud. The picture quality isn't one hundred pristine, but that's very likely a fault of the condition of the materials available. (And honestly, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA this ain't.) Audio options include both a 5.1 surround mix created specifically for this Blu-ray, and the original mono for PROM NIGHT purists (if such beasts exist).

A bevy of special features have been included to sate the formal wear appointed lust of PROM NIGHT devotees (Prom Nighters?). The audio commentary track is an informational limo ride with director Paul Lynch and screenwriter William Grey. On tap for the after party is featurette THE HORRORS OF HAMILTON HIGH: The Making of PROM NIGHT, and a collection of extra scenes that were added for the TV broadcast. Exclusive to Synapse's Blu-Ray release are a sequence of never before seen outtakes, the original radio spots, and a motion still gallery.

Unlike many jockey football player prom dates, this PROM NIGHT special edition Blu-ray is the real deal, backing up its bravado with bona fide depth and bloody sincerity. It's easy to fall in love with this prom date – any horror fan would be proud to show it off.

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for, writing the Shock-O-Rama column. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. An avid beer brewer, rock climber, and video gamer, you can hear him drop nerd knowledge on the weekly podcast You've Got Geek, and follow him on twitter @CyanideRush. He recently wrote about Nazi Zombies, Spaghetti Westerns and American Hippies – just to name a few – in Exploitation Retrospect #52 (available from our website).

PROM NIGHT is available from Amazon.