Wednesday, April 25, 2018

BATH SALT ZOMBIES (2012) Directed by Dustin Wayde Mills

I miss the days of topical exploitation and horror cinema, when filmmakers would rip their storylines right from the headlines to offer up slightly (or more than slightly) fictionalized tales of the day’s news events. Whether they were showing us the horrors of marijuana (REEFER MADNESS), teen pregnancy (TEENAGE MOTHER), cults (GUAYAN: CULT OF THE DAMNED) or savage dictators (THE RISE AND FALL OF IDI AMIN), trash filmmakers could often be counted upon to scare up some sort of cinematic boogieman that would make our own lives seem safe and tame by comparison.

Then again, after watching BATH SALT ZOMBIES maybe it’s just a whole hell of a lot easier to rip-off the SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY flicks.

Inspired by a wave of “bath salt”-related violent crimes and cannibalistic behavior, BATH SALT ZOMBIES feels like it wants to be this generation’s answer to the aforementioned REEFER MADNESS. It even starts with a faux bath salts health class propaganda video, though I don’t recall any of the 16mm flicks I saw in high school being peppered with profanity, face-eating and an appearance by Satan himself.

Once that’s out of the way (and it’s not half as funny as you’d hope a profane parody complete with Satanic cameo would be) the plot jumps to present day NYC where it appears that about twenty people live. Ritchie (Brandon Salkil) and his bitchy, busty girlfriend Angel (Erin Ryan) are strung-out junkies in search of their next high until Ritchie scores some new smokeable bath salts from Bubbles (Ethan Holey), a biz-savvy dealer willing to give away that first pack for free.

Little does Ritchie know that he’ll not only be instantly hooked on the junk, but the military-grade designer drug will also turn him into a twitchy, super-strong monster with a proclivity for killing gals with big, natural boobs.

From there BSZ ping-pongs from Ritchie and his killing sprees to the DEA agent on his tail, to Bubbles and drug designer Sal (affably played by director Dustin Wayde Mills) complete with headache-inducing shaky-cam, comically grotesque makeup that gets more outrageous as the flick progresses and a couple flashes of not-quite-brilliance that made me wonder what could have been.

Made for less than a day’s catering on TWILIGHT, the micro-budget strains the production at the seams, highlighting both its pluses (a couple good performances, some inspired stylized mayhem) and minuses (a handful of bad performances, video-gamey CGI, flat script). Salkil makes a fine, twitchy junkie-monster and seems to be having a good time, especially during two over-the-top slaughter rampages that highlight the flick. Unfortunately, much of the flick’s 70-minute running time is monopolized by Josh Eal’s shouting DEA agent, who lays waste to drug cookers and doughnuts with equal aplomb.

With its mix of punk rock music (and filmmaking), face-ripping gore, “real” actors, junkie atmosphere and zero budget, BATH SALT ZOMBIES comes off like some bastard lovechild of the Cinema of Transgression and HG Lewis. Luckily, I enjoyed BATH SALT ZOMBIES just enough to give Mills' SKINLESS (2013) a whirl and was amply rewarded for my optimism. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. This review originally appeared in ER #52, available from Amazon and direct from the publisher.

BATH SALT ZOMBIES is available from Amazon.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

DIRTY HARRY #1: DUEL FOR CANNONS (1981)

After three flicks cementing Spaghetti Western vet Clint Eastwood in the role of San Francisco Homicide Inspector Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan, the versatile actor/director declared that his relationship with the .44 Magnum-brandishing cop was over.

Looking for ways to wring more cash from one of their most bankable creations – and establish their own line of men’s action novels to rival Pinnacle’s stars like The Executioner and The Destroyer – Warner Bros. launched ‘Men of Action’ featuring original Dirty Harry novels alongside such pulpier titles as The Ninja Master , S-Com, The Hook (a “gentleman detective with a talent for violence and a taste for sex”), and Ben Slayton: T-Man.

Ghost-written by pulp and non-fiction vet Ric Meyers under the pseudonym “Dean Hartman”, the first Dirty Harry adventure seamlessly flows from silver screen to printed page. Mimicking the beats and pacing of the original films, DUEL opens with a bloodbath at a cheap California amusement park as a hired gunman hunts down San Antonio sheriff – and Friend of Callahan – Boris Tucker. Though misguided officials would blame the deaths of Tucker and some local teens on the stressed Texas cop, Dirty Harry knows better and heads to the Lone Star State to settle the score.

Texas isn’t very welcoming to Harry, with corrupt cops, local businessmen, street gangs, muscle-bound hit men and two-bit hoods hassling him at every turn. The SOBs even go so far as to slice up Harry’s wardrobe and keep him from getting a cab. Soon, Callahan finds allies among Tucker’s few  remaining friends on the force – as well as a rival determined to kill him by book’s end – and they look to disrupt the corruption flowing through town.

It’s no surprise that Meyers nails what we’d come to love about the Dirty Harry flicks, from Eastwood’s mannerisms and fighting style to his minimalist dialogue. The book’s cover art does nothing to suggest Harry isn’t Eastwood and there’s little attempt to describe him from a physical standpoint, so Meyers takes every opportunity to make you think Clint is delivering each pistol blast and flying fist during DUEL’s many action scenes.

Though the tale veers dangerously close to going wildly over-the-top and is a bit too neatly wrapped up (a common problem with men’s action tales of the day), DUEL feels more like a legit Dirty Harry installment than SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) or THE DEAD POOL (1988) featuring Liam Neeson (as a horror film director) and a pre-stardom Jim Carrey. Meyers’ attention to detail and inclusion of characters and events from DIRTY HARRY (1971), MAGNUM FORCE (1973) and THE ENFORCER (1976) go a long way towards drawing us into this cinematic world.

DIRTY HARRY #1: DUEL FOR CANNONS landed on bookstore shelves in 1981, the first of a dozen entries in which “The Magnum Enforcer” would battle corrupt cops, serial killers, “dope-running sea pirates”, terrorists, arms dealers (look for our upcoming review of DIRTY HARRY #10: THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS), a renegade government scientist and a killer looking to frame Inspector 71. The books can currently be found on thrift store shelves, flea market tables and boxed up at garage sales near grandpop’s musty back issues of PLAYBOY (and the occasional OUI). – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and has way too many men's action novels on his bookshelf. This review originally appeared in Exploitation Retrospect #52 available from Amazon and direct from the publisher.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Return of The KISS Poster Magazine

Talk about your Flashback Friday!

KISS poster and pin-up mags were all the rage when I was about 10 years old. Word would spread on the school playground like wildfire and we'd hit the local 7-11 or nearby newsstand for our own copy.

Because my house had been declared a KISS-Free Zone by my parents – well, really just my Mom – I got great at hiding such contraband, a skill that would serve me well later in life!

My friends and I would gather on the playground and pass around our copies, debating if Gene was really a demon (or Satanist) and even pretending to breathe "fire" if the air was cool enough.

Who knew that over three decades later my 10 year old daughter would be able to get her very own KISS poster magazine – "Complete with 8 Giant Pull-Out Posters"!

Coming soon from FANTASM Media the book promises "new, exclusive and unseen photos from KISS's past and present, brand new interviews and features as well as eight giant foldout posters, perfect for framing and hanging on whatever wall you want".

Stay tuned to the FANTASM website for pre-order info and check out the poster mag's Facebook page.

#kiss #genesimmons #paulstanley

And for your Friday viewing pleasure here's Lynda Carter performing "I Was Made for Loving You" with faux KISS backup dancers...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy Shirts from FrightRags.com


No Fruit Brute or Yummy Mummy on the cereal aisle shelves this year but don't fret... FrightRags.com has got you covered with shirts and baseball tees for both flavors.

Check out the Fright Rags store for these as well as some limited edition masks and shirts featuring Frankenberry, Chocula and Boo Berry.

#fruitbrute #monstercereal #yummymummy #halloween #halloween2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

What's New at Our eBay Store?

Searching for cool and hard-to-find collectibles for your shelves?

Look no further and swing by our ever-growing ebay store.

New items are being added daily and we're in the process of photographing and prepping tons of soundtrack CDs, original theatrical posters and much more for the coming months.

Check out some of these recent additions to the store. We offer discounts for combined purchases on select items and will consider all reasonable offers.

New Issue of LIQUID CHEESE Arrives with Tributes to Hooper, Romero

It's turning into a regular Fanzine Friday here at ER!

Check out the latest issue of Liquid Cheese Fanzine from our friend Dave Kosanke.

Issue number 44 features 56 full color pages of music and movies to warp your fragile little mind, complete with tributes to late greats like Tobe Hooper and George Romero plus reviews galore and much, much more.

Chas. Balun's DEEP RED Mag is Back and In Excellent Hands!

I'm not big on endorsing Kickstarter campaigns but knowing the folks involved with this one makes it a no brainer.

If you're like me, the work of Chas. Balun and his books and mags were highly influential in terms of what I watched as well as my expectations of what genre books and mags could be (or, at least, aspire to be).

Well, Balun's sorely missed DEEP RED magazine is back and in good hands (and authorized by the Balun estate).

XEROX FEROX author John Szpunar is at the editorial helm and he's being joined by DEEP RED vets like Kris Gilpin (who recently wrote for Exploitation Retrospect 53), Greg Goodsell and Steve Bissette as well as such new blood as good pal and fellow 24 Horrorthoner Bruce Holecheck of Cinema Arcana, ER contributors David Zuzelo and Chris Poggiali, Nick Cato (an old friend from the 80s zine trenches), ULTRA VIOLENT's Art Ettinger and more.

And, with the inclusion of a recently announced interview with PSYCHOTRONIC author/publisher Michael Weldon this one is a must have for your genre bookshelf.

The publication has almost reached its Kickstarter goal and has a few weeks to go. Help get this welcome relaunch – scheduled for January 2018 – back into the hands of genre fans everywhere.

Click here to back the project. – Dan Taylor

Friday, September 08, 2017

1984's THE MASTER – Yes, That THE MASTER – Is Coming to Blu-Ray

From the "Never Thought I'd See The Day" Department comes the announcement that Kino Lorber will be releasing the 1984 martial arts action series THE MASTER on Blu-Ray.

Lasting a whopping 13 episodes from January to August during my senior year of high school, THE MASTER was must see TV in my household thanks to the presence of Lee Van Cleef and "Salami" from THE WHITE SHADOW. I'd watch on the big TV in our family room and chortle while my Dad read his paper and occasionally peered over the top to shake his head. Pretty sure he felt THE MASTER was no ROCKFORD FILES.

The 13 episodes are chock full of martial arts nonsense, ninja shtick and appearances from the likes of Demi Moore, Sho Kosugi, George Lazenby, Crystal Bernard, Doug McClure, Claude Akins, Clu Gulager, Edd Byrnes and George Maharis!

Check Out Italian Horror Week at DocTerror.com


Tired of Hurricane Irma coverage? Need something to do while you wait for IT to open at your local multiplex?

Pop on over to DocTerror.com for Doc Terror's Italian Horror Week (there's also a Facebook page for the event).

Created in honor of Jimmy "Doc Terror" Harris who passed away earlier this year after a courageous battle against cancer, Italian Horror Week continues the grand tradition that Doc ran on his website over the years. His friends and horror colleagues have put together giveaways, fresh content and some cool surprises that celebrate and keep his legacy of horror love and appreciation going so go check it out.

In the meantime, please note that I didn't mean to take the last four months off from blogging, it just sorta happened. Burnout after publishing the last issue (still available from Amazon and our website), the end of the school year (in which May has become as busy for people with kids as December), work, overseas travel, swim team and some lazy hazy summer days by the pool and ocean all conspired to keep me away from watching, reading and writing about trash as much as at any point over the last 30 years.

Hopefully, the falling temps and more structured schedule will get me back in the saddle soon!

Monday, May 01, 2017

"Filth is My Politics! Filth is My Life!" Or, A Wrap-Up of exFest 2017

John Waters introduces 1972's PINK FLAMINGOS at exFest.
So, I can check "seeing PINK FLAMINGOS on the big screen with an introduction by John Waters" off my cinematic bucket list.

Spent Saturday up in Philadelphia hanging out with pals and catching the annual Exhumed Films exFest, a 12-hour celebration of all things exploitation.

While I still refer to their 24 Hour Horrorthon each October as "my Christmas", exFest is always a highlight of the spring thanks to its complete anything goes grab bag of chop sockey, spaghetti western, bikers, sexploitation and whatever else they foist upon attendees.

After a quick trip to the city from Maryland we gathered provisions and settled into the steamy theater (temperatures were pushing 90 outside making for a sweltering viewing experience) for seven slices of sinema:

  • DYNASTY (period martial arts mayhem with lots of gratuitous 3D action);
  • DEATH RIDES A HORSE (quality revenge-driven Spaghetti western with Van Cleef and John Philip Law);
  • NEW BARBARIANS (aka Enzo Castellari's WARRIORS OF THE WASTELAND with Fred Williamson and "Timothy Brent" as they take on a band of gay post-apoc marauders led by George Eastman);
  • COMBAT COPS (aka ZEBRA KILLER which was like an odd DIRTY HARRY rip-off via blaxploitation with Austin Stoker from ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 as a no fucks given detective on the trail of a deranged killer);
  • Gregory Dark's STREET ASYLUM (a disappointing late 80s blend of action and sci-fi with Wings Hauser, G Gordon Liddy, Alex Cord and Sy Richardson that should have been MUCH better);
  • 1972's LOVE ME DEADLY (slow moving but sorta intriguing movie about necrophilia from 1972 starring Mary Wilcox and Lyle Waggoner!); 
  • and, finally, PINK FLAMINGOS with a surprise live intro from director John Waters. 
Alas, the whole experience was a tad bittersweet as it was the first Exhumed event after the tragic, way-too-soon loss of our friend James "Doc Terror" Harris. Seeing James' smiling face in line always brightened my mood at these events and we'd catch up as we browsed the offerings from Diabolik or poured over the mysterious lineup (Exhumed doesn't share the titles for the exFest or Horrothon in advance). Between flicks we'd share quick opinions on what we just saw (often accompanied by friendly debate) and guesses about what we'd see next. I'd like to think that just some of Doc's enthusiasm and love for sinema rubbed off on me over the years and made me a more forgiving cinephile and a better person.

RIP, Doc and oh, yeah, Fuck Cancer.