Monday, October 28, 2019

Exhumed Films Horrorthon XIII: The Final (?!) Cut Recap

It was a bittersweet weekend spent at the International House in Philly. Not only was this the last Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon at the venue but it was also the first event after the death of my old movie-loving pal Lou Goncey and he would have dug this year’s lineup. Here's a quick recap with capsule reviews and trailers or other videos of interest.

THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – Excellent remake of the classic 1950s tale featuring San Francisco residents being replaced by pod people that grow from alien plants. Terrific cast featuring Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Art Hindle, Jeff Goldblum and a cameo by original BODY SNATCHERS star Kevin McCarthy. If you're a fan of these flicks – which seem more timely now than ever – don't sleep on Abel Ferrara's 1993 version but I have admittedly never seen the 2007 version with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (THE INVASION).

THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975) – Fun adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel is helped along by a great William Goldman script and performances by Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss as new residents of Stepford, CT who are weirded out by the behavior of the locals. The influential flick spawned a handful of made-for-tv sequels (REVENGE OF THE STEPFORD WIVES, THE STEPFORD HUSBANDS and THE STEPFORD CHILDREN) as well as a big-budget reboot starring Nicole Kidman (again)!

CONTAMINATION (1980) – Gory Italian language print of Luigi Cozzi’s Eurotrash ALIEN rip-off with Ian MacCullouch, Louise Marleau and Marino Mase on the trail of exploding eggs from Mars. This was a favorite VHS from the days spent drinking beer and watching movies at Lou’s house but it sure looks a hell of a lot better than it ever did on those rental tapes.

GODZILLA (1977) – aka COZILLA, this oddball mishmash from director Luigi Cozzi showcases (??) a colorized, edited print of GODZILLA which the Italian director infuses with unsettling atomic bomb aftermath footage. I typically love Cozzi but this was arguably the worst Godzilla movie I've ever seen. And that's saying something.

BASKET CASE (1982) – Frank Henenlotter’s outrageous, funny, over-the-top horror masterpiece is an awesome time capsule featuring vintage Times Square footage and good old practical effects. Pretty flawless.

TWINKLE, TWINKLE KILLER KANE (1980) – aka THE NINTH CONFIGURAION, William Peter Blatty directed and adapted the screenplay from his novel. An all-star cast led by Stacy Keach and Scott Wilson star in this tale of a psychiatrist (Keach) sent to run a military mental asylum located in a remote castle. An underrated early 80s psychological thriller that never really found the audience it deserves.

RATMAN (1988) – A creepy rat/monkey man (Nelson de la Rosa) terrorizes models on a Caribbean island while a mystery writer (David Warbeck) and a senator’s daughter (Janet Agren) try to locate her missing sister. It’s gory, sleazy and stupid and I never expected to see it on the big screen but here it was.

JD’s REVENGE (1976) – Glynn Turman turns in a tour de force performance as a mild-mannered cabbie/law student who gets possessed by a dead 1940s mobster with a penchant for flashy duds, racy language and rough sex. Also starring Lou Gossett, Jr. as a hood-turned-preacher but this is all Turman's show. It's no wonder he went on to a lengthy career with recurring roles on such shows as THE WIRE and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, just to name two.

BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968) – plane crash survivors have to deal with each other and blob-like aliens. This was definitely the most tired I was all night and the whole flick is a bit of a blur. All I remember is a bomb threat, a oddball psychiatrist and metallic goo coming out of the heads of the affected survivors. I was expecting more from this one but should probably give it another watch under better conditions.

CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1972) – always felt like this one was too talky and took too damn long to get going but I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for it after Lou and I watched it back in October of 1985 during my first trip to hang out with him at college (other flicks we caught that night included THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN). The Gonster often quipped that filmmaking was about creating likable characters and then threatening to kill them. Alas, I wish CHILDREN SHOULDN'T... had any likable characters.

THE MANITOU (1978) – Tony Curtis steals the show as a cheesy psychic whose girlfriend starts growing a 400-year-old Native American demon – that looks like Wee-man – on her back. There are not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but SIX titles in Graham Masterson's series of 'Manitou' books yet there has never been some kind of direct-to-video sequel/reboot. I find this preposterous.

EVIL CAT (1987) – batshit crazy Hong Kong horror comedy (?) about a family who has spent their lives protecting the planet from a demonic cat who is on the last of its nine lives. This flick is hard enough to follow but it's especially hard to follow at whatever ungodly time it was. Reminded me of the late night flicks Lou and I would check out with fellow trash hounds at the old Franklin Mills movie theater.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007) – Hadn’t seen this since it came out but still dig this tale of survivors battling a gang of vampires that have invaded their remote town that is dealing with its annual month of darkness. I had an easier time buying a gang of roving vampires than I did the idea of Josh Hartnett as the sheriff of a hardscrabble Alaskan mining town and I need to check out the Melissa George-less direct-to-video sequel though word of mouth is not positive.

KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (1974) – great, mid-70s tv movie that spawned a sequel, a tv series, a reboot, comics and more. (One can only hope we'll be spared the long-rumored Johnny Depp version.) Darren McGavin is crusty and lovable as the former big city reporter doing time in Las Vegas when he stumbles upon a string of murders that sound a lot like the work of a vampire. Perhaps the most shocking part of the movie is when they describe Claude Akins' character as being in his early 50s!

NIGHTBREED (1990) – recently watched this Clive Barker monster flick so we bailed in order to get home at a more reasonable time. It would have been great to see it on the big screen again but waking up at 3:30 AM on Saturday was not ideal and the trip back to Baltimore beckoned.

In all, yet another great 24 Hour Horrorthon from the guys at Exhumed Films. I've been seeing flicks at International House since I started attending Drexel University in 1984 and I'll never forget the literally hundreds of flicks I've watched unspool on its screen! – Dan Taylor

Friday, October 18, 2019

Farewell, Gonster

It's a sad day here at ER HQ. Our longtime friend and ER co-founder Lou "The Gonster" Goncey died yesterday. We met over Thanksgiving break in 1984 and immediately hit it off. A viewing of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT cemented our friendship and pretty soon we were hanging out, eating Chinese food, drinking cheap beer and consuming cheaper movies.

At some point we decided to create ER, the name picked on a South Jersey tennis court because it sounded vaguely pretentious. Lou had an amazing memory and a laser sharp wit to go with a raucous laugh that was contagious, even if you were the target of his latest good-natured rant. I'd say we were like brothers, but brothers fight and have issues. If we disagreed – which was rare – we'd attribute it to the other's idiocy and move on.

 Our lives took us down different paths over the years and even though we only saw each other about once a year it was always like we never stopped chatting endlessly about movies at the video store, sneaking beer into the drive-in, or catching some band we loved at a dive bar in Philly.

 Take care, big fella. I hope wherever you are there's a Bo's Wok and a 24-hour rental store.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

REMOTE CONTROL (1988) directed by Jeff Lieberman

Happy 72nd birthday to underrated genre helmer Jeff Lieberman who has written and directed a handful of offbeat classics like SQUIRM (1976), BLUE SUNSHINE (1977), JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981), and 2004's weird and wonderful SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER, which was discussed at length in the first episode of the late CINESLUDGE podcast (RIP). With today being a VHS Wednesday it seemed like a good opportunity to dig up this review of 1988's REMOTE CONTROL starring a pre-ENTOURAGE Kevin Dillon as a video store clerk. A slightly different version of this review appeared in Exploitation Retrospect #18 from September 1988.

Long before he was a critical darling on ENTOURAGE Kevin Dillon starred in this cable/videotape classic from Jeff Lieberman.

The story, such that it is, concerns a videotape from outer space that takes over people's minds and turns the viewers into homicidal maniacs. When two video store workers are accused of one of the murders they begin to unravel the mystery and take on the evil aliens bent on man's destruction.

Dillon plays "Cosmo", a video store clerk so-nicknamed because of his affinity for sci-fi flicks. Along the way he broods, smokes, wears a leather jacket and metal shinguards, and I'm pretty sure he sports an earring as well. In other words, he acts like he does in every single film he's been in. You have to admire someone who is so sure of their own ability that they refuse to alter their basic portrayal in any way!

Film starts out with a good weirdo-Yuppie S&M demise, and manages to throw a few fun-filled deaths into the proceedings (however, a fight at the videotape factory is beyond dull). Lieberman's not-so-subtle use of 50's kitsch set design and clothing reminiscent of old sci-fi flicks is cute at first, but ends up getting on your nerves after a while. The female lead is played by the lovely Deborah Goodrich (APRIL FOOL'S DAY, SURVIVAL GAME), a woman who could get on my nerves, or any part of my body whenever she wants!

To their credit, the filmmakers give the flick a fairly winning sense of humor and the proceedings aren't taken very seriously. In other words, REMOTE CONTROL is better than it has any right to be. Thumbs up for an entertaining premise, some good humor, and the welcome chance to look at Deborah Goodrich in tight costumes. – Dan Taylor

After a long time out of print, director Jeff Lieberman released a 25th anniversary Blu-Ray back in 2013. It appears to still be available from his website in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

HOLIDAY HORRORS with THE ELF (2017) and ELVES (2018)

"That thing is creepy as shit, by the way."

Simple is often better, but don't tell that to the team behind THE ELF (2017, not to be confused with the Jon Favreau/Will Ferrel holiday comedy). An excruciating holiday horror that took me four (!) viewings to get through, THE ELF is the tale of a depressing dude who inherits an old toy shop where he unleashes an evil elf who shows up at the cabin where he's stuck with his annoying fiancee and her horrible family.

Mayhem and convoluted backstories ensue while the knife-wielding porcelain elf wreaks havoc. You'd think a movie about a killer elf might move a bit faster but this thing is perfect viewing for those nights when you just can't fall asleep.

"This chick at the bar – she looked all elfy."

And because I'm a TOTAL sucker I couldn't help but check out the sequel ELVES (2019, not to be confused with the superior Dan Haggerty classic reviewed here). Surprisingly, this one gets off to a promising start by having a group of horrible people gather for a party and write down something bad they had done in their past.

For some reason they're really honest and write down some REALLY BAD stuff they'd done. Guess what? Such honesty starts blowing up in their faces.

Unfortunately, what starts off as a halfway decent idea is so ham-fistedly executed that it's hard to follow or really dig, despite crappy CGI eye violence, death by Xmas lights, possessed elf girl, and random Krampus guy.

Not good, not horrible but at least ELVES is violent, a little gory and moves way faster than THE ELF. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is ready for the temperatures to drop and the leaves to fall, ushering in some serious horror viewing.

THE ELF and ELVES are both available from Amazon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

VHS WEDNESDAY RETURNS with NIGHT LIFE (1989) | Review by Dan Taylor

Archie (Scott Grimes of CRITTERS) is a teenage funeral home assistant for his uncle (John Astin). After some over-the-top bullying by high school jocks, a mortuary prank goes awry and Archie gets canned.

But when an accident turns his jocko adversaries and their big-haired gal pals into zombies it's up to Archie and his tomboy grease-monkey friend Charly (Chery Pollak of tv's THE HEIGHTS and MELROSE PLACE) to save the day.

NIGHT LIFE (aka GRAVE MISDEMEANOURS) takes its fine time getting going and fails to deliver on the horror while most of the comedy falls flat on its face. While it's certainly not the worst slice of 80s zombie horror comedy I've ever seen, it doesn't hold up favorably to similar "teens fight zombies" efforts like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS.

However, we will give bonus points for a completely gratuitous appearance by Tony Geary as a skinny-tie wearing, fast car driving smooth talker who tries to bed Charly. – Dan Taylor

Thanks to Bruce Holecheck of CINEMA ARCANA for popping by with this slab of VHS sinema for our enjoyment. And don't be fooled by the trailer (below) that kinda tries to make it look like a vampire flick.

Friday, February 15, 2019

FLESH FOR THE INFERNO (2015) directed by Richard Griffin | Review by Louis Fowler

In a story that feels largely ripped from the headlines, a scummy Catholic priest is accused of flagrant molestation by a handful of seemingly decent nuns. However, instead of just relocating him to a different parish and hoping enterprising journalists never find out about it, said priest takes out a gun and shoots one of the nuns right in the head.

The rest of the crew he seals in a brick-strewn wall down in the basement – it's a bit more work, as he probably could've shot all of them and been done with it, but whatever – prompting the nuns to renounce God and, in a broad turn of events, accept Satan in a twenty-year bid for unholy vengeance.

And here is where the movie start to make no sense: the bloody day finally comes when a grotesque band of teens, with all stereotypes represented and overplayed, accidentally discover and get slaughtered individually by the demon-possessed nuns. The kids, as annoying as they are, really had nothing to do with the molestations of years past, so to rip them apart seems like going a little too far in the nuns' bid for revenge.

Directed by Richard Griffin (SPLATTER DISCO, MURDER UNIVERSITY), FLESH... moves from point A to point B about as well as you'd expect, more inclined to deliver a message of anger against the church than a storyline that really makes much sense; but, in light of certain Catholic crimes, I can respect that. What hurts the film more is the devilishly poor acting, but, for an ultra low-budget flick, what can you really expect?

FLESH FOR THE INFERNO, if this was 1995, would've been a great Saturday night rental. And while I'm not sure who this neo-nunsploitation is truly for these days, if it happens to cross your black path of entertainment options somewhere, don't damn it to Hell immediately. – Louis Fowler

Louis Fowler is a longtime contributor to ER and The Hungover Gourmet as well as The Lost Ogle, Bookgasm and The Impulsive Buy

FLESH FOR THE INFERNO is available from Amazon.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

THE PURGING HOUR (2016) | Review by Louis Fowler

Found footage films – forever mingling a totally valid plot point with fourth wall-breaking budgetary concerns, natch – have replaced zombie flicks as the low-budget go-to and, while I personally am already tired of them, I couldn't be happier for hungry filmmakers on a less-than-shoestring to create their cinematic dreams.

That being said, at first glance I expected THE PURGING HOUR (2016) to be a rip-off of, well, THE PURGE (2013), instead of, well, I'm really not quite sure, but it is a found footage film, so that's something. The amount of non-existent overhead here really leads me to not only believe the film was shot in the late afternoon the one Sunday everyone had off from their jobs, but everything from dialog to the effects were made up as they went along for 80 minutes.

That's not really a bad thing here, though.

While talking heads go on and on about a vague crime, we're treated to footage of an extremely decent Latino family driving in a car on a barren road or setting up the grill in their new home. While these scenes do tend to go on for a while, in today's anti-Mexican culture where usually Caucasian writers fill us in as undocumented immigrants, gang-members or, even worse, hotel maids, I appreciated what THE PURGING HOUR (aka HOME VIDEO) was trying to do and would've loved a whole movie of it, no final ten minutes of horror needed.

And really, it's all in about the final ten minutes when the unspeakable horror takes place, an unseen force slashing throats and stabbing hearts and all kinds of heavy grue. Who's doing it and why? A few theories are expressed, including a take on la Llorona that, for the most part, peters out. Just keep guessing, I suppose.

While THE PURGING HOUR is definitely a good-enough effort by director Emmanuel Giorgio Sandoval and his crew, still, I'm kind of thinking that maybe horror isn't his strong suit the way possibly a family comedy or even drama might be. Either way, hopefully he'll continue to keep Latinos not only in the front of the camera, but especially behind it as well. – Louis Fowler

Louis Fowler is a longtime contributor to ER and The Hungover Gourmet as well as The Lost Ogle, Bookgasm and The Impulsive Buy

THE PURGING HOUR is available from Amazon.