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.

Friday, January 11, 2019

MRS. CLAUS (2018) Slasher Friday Holiday Horrors | Review by Dan Taylor

“I pray that this Christmas fills you – with anguish!”

Remember the good ole days when you could count the number of Christmas-themed horror movies on two hands? BLACK CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS EVIL, the SILENT NIGHT flicks, ELVES, DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS, SANTA’S SLAY and a handful of others provided horror fans jonesing for seasonal fright flicks after Halloween with enough tinsel and gore to make it through all those cookie swaps, holiday parties, and family gatherings.

Thanks (?) to cut-rate budgets, significantly lowered expectations and streaming outlets simply screaming for content, Christmas has become THE destination holiday for horror filmmakers. Take a cursory look at any streaming service and you’ll find yourself knee deep in titles like SLAY BELLES, CHRISTMAS SLAY, RED CHRISTMAS, ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, CHRISTMAS BLOOD, SECRET SANTA, CHRISTMAS WITH COOKIE: LOCKED AWAY, GOOD TIDINGS and enough Krampus-inspired fright flicks to fill the Manson Family’s stockings.

Troy Escamilla's MRS. CLAUS (2018) – not to be confused with 1996’s MRS. SANTA CLAUS starring Angela Lansbury, Charles Durning and Michael Jeter – finds the horribly annoying sisters of Delta Sigma Sigma celebrating Christmas, bitch, and not any of those made-up holidays.

When the president of the sorority decides to remind one of the newbies “who’s in charge” it all goes horribly wrong and ends with a murder by dong (sorta) and suicide by rope (totally).

No tears were shed by the survivors.

Fast forward a decade and the gals of Delta Sig Squared are back at it, including Danielle (Hailey Strader), the sister of the dead sorority president from earlier in the film. Now, you might be asking yourself, why would she pledge the same sorority where her sister was murdered? And you would not be alone, as one character asks the exact same question.

Danielle, who is dating the brother of sorority sister Kayla (Heather Bounds), continually forgets that her sister was a serious bitch and doesn’t seem capable of handling stories about her dead sibling. Who, may I remind you, was a serious and total bitch.

Once again, “why would you pledge the same sorority where your sister was murdered? I don’t get that.” None of us do, none of us do.

Eventually, the titular Mrs. C starts sending cryptic e-mails and the poorly attended Delta Sig holiday party turns into a D-grade BLACK CHRISTMAS as sorority gals, weirdoes, potheads, horny jocks and a campus rent-a-cop (genre vet Brinke Stevens) become victims and/or suspects in this Yuletide slasher.

Admittedly, I absolutely HATED this flick upon first viewing and wasn’t even going to bother giving it a review. But the holiday spirit – is that you, Mrs. Claus?! – moved me and I gave it another shot. A second viewing made me feel slightly more charitable to the proceedings and I’d give it a grudging recommendation as long as you know what kind of low-budget holiday hell you’re wading into.

I’d also recommend being slightly buzzed. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. He is determined to finish up reviews of the other holiday horrors he watched. 

MRS. CLAUS is available from Amazon.