Thursday, February 04, 2016

Seagal! Van Dam! Olen Ray! It's the SNIPER: SPECIAL OPS Trailer!

In the late 80s and early 90s there were few things I loved as much as Steven Seagal movies and Fred Olen Ray movies. Today, those worlds officially collided in a collaboration that has me almost as excited as BATMAN V SUPERMAN or the Flash appearing on Supergirl.

I give you the trailer for SNIPER: SPECIAL OPS starring Steven Seagal, a boatload of black hair dye, Rob Van Dam and a lot of explosives.

POD (2015) Directed by Mickey Keating

I'd love to tell you that the dearth of posts of late are due to me furiously working away on our latest print installment (that'd be ER 53 coming... "soon"). Unfortunately, the holidays, holiday illness, ennui, freelance projects, record snowstorms and an unscheduled six days home from school for the little one all translate into next to nothing getting done. But that doesn't mean we're short on hot, fresh content for you! In fact, as the review stack teeters behind me I'm happy to welcome our neighbor to the north, Devin Kelly, to the contributor roster. This is the first of Devin's reviews being published to the site but you'll be seeing much more from him in the weeks and months to come and in our bulging 30th Anniversary Issue. – DT

That old adage of "less is more" is one to live by where the horror and science-fiction genres of filmmaking are concerned. Far too often today – with the ability to pretty much do it all through technology and the like – the idea that seemingly everything and anything goes has never been more apparent. Then films like Mickey Keating's POD (2015) come around, and we're reminded what one can do when stripping things down to the bare essentials, regardless of whether budget constraints sometimes force that hand or not.

In Keating's film (set primarily within the wintery confines of an old family lake house), we've essentially got three central characters to focus on, all siblings. Second-born Ed (Dean Cates) sets things in motion after receiving a disturbing and eerily incoherent voicemail from estranged older brother Martin (Brian Morvant). Knowing of his elder kin's state of mind and deep personal struggles since returning from the war, the message is enough to send Ed into damage control-mode, with the idea that a small intervention might be appropriate before things spiral further ("...and I am not up for burying both my parents and my brother on the same side of this decade!"). Unbeknownst to everyone, however, this ordeal escalated and unravelled long, long ago.

Enter the third and youngest sibling (as well as the only girl of the three) – combative and rebellious sister Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter). Ed hopes to bring her along as a way to quell some of the expected fury and resentment Martin is likely to elicit, with little sis being much closer to her older brother than the up-down relationship he has with Ed. Closeness aside, neither of the two have any inkling of the madness that lies ahead at the old lakeside retreat once regularly and fondly visited upon by their late-mother and father ("If Dad saw this place he'd be spinnin' in his grave"). This is something more than a mental breakdown induced by the monstrosities of combat in the service, however. Ed and Lyla have only to discover it.

As the determined Ed pulls up to the place through the white-covered woods showing the season, with sister in tow, it doesn't take much more than a glance to see that things are immediately off. Doors and windows completely plastered with tinfoil and waste bag plastic, a frenzied knock at the front renders zero response. With spare key put to use and the loud announcement of worried family members on the property, younger brother's voice soon trails off as his eyes slowly survey the deplorable conditions Martin has allowed a place of memories to stoop to. When a rampaging, psycho-gazed Martin comes storming in with hunting rifle ready to unload, the intensity factor goes from one to ten in a hurry (primarily through a wonderfully unhinged performance from Morvant). Ranting violently about takeovers and "pods", Ed and Lyla are left only to look on in bewilderment and terror. And when Martin speaks quite matter-of-factly about a certain something he's encountered, captured, and left captive in a heavily door-bolted room connecting to the basement, they can only conclude that he's slipped beyond any possibility of recovery or help ("No! Stop! Listen to me! Look at me! Do not under any circumstances go into that back room! Do you understand?! ANSWER ME!!"). Or has he? What has in fact triggered this talk of pods and who else is aware of it? Grab yourself a copy of POD and maybe you'll get your answers!

Much of what makes POD great is the believability of three relative unknowns in Lauren Ashley Carter (THE WOMAN, JUG FACE), Brian Morvant (THE BIG BAD), and Dean Cates (RITUAL). Morvant excels as the wildly unbalanced, internally-menaced Martin. Even in the lengthier moments of dialogue exchange, no moment or movement is wasted in Morvant's portrayal ("Oswald, Whitman, Timothy fuckin' McVeigh! What did they have in common? Huh?! Tell me what they had in common! They were all soldiers. They were all brainwashed fall guys who took the hit! And then, what happened to them? They got fuckin' nailed to the cross for it!"). Of the two, it is young Lyla who suggests that perhaps there's a sliver of something to what big bro is trying to get through to them. "What if he really does have something trapped in the basement?! What if he found something in the woods?!" she proposes. Always putting supposed common sense forward, Ed the skeptic shuts her down with sarcastic anger ("Jesus Christ, what if he's got the fuckin' mailman down there, Lyla?!"). As an added bonus for horror hounds is the presence of genre journeyman, Larry Fessenden (THE LAST WINTER, I SELL THE DEAD, WE ARE STILL HERE), who turns up in the third act as a mysterious government man called 'Smith'.

All in all, director Keating (RITUAL) has something solid here to be proud of. POD is a fun and sometimes eerie little backwoods sci-fi-horror with tried-and-true elements combined with a subtle vagueness that creates an additional air of mystery. When things finally come to a head, there are some jump-worthy moments and a somewhat unnerving Giona Ostinelli original score doesn't hurt things either.

An Official Selection of the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival, POD makes the most of its short screen time and left this viewer quite satisfied. Although not a 'Found Footage' entry, the picture might make a diverting Double Feature with the same year's not so dissimilar THE ENCOUNTER (2015). – Devin Kelly

This is Devin's first review for ER's online outlets. Previously a contributor to Cinema Nocturna, Devin is a Canadian purveyor and surveyor of all things exploitative and you'll be seeing much more from him at the blog and website as well as in the pages of the upcoming ER 53. You can follow him on Facebook.

POD is available from Amazon


Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Watch List and a Happy 2016 Filled with Trash and Sleaze

The other day I came to a conclusion... I had done a crappy job of keeping track of my movie watching in 2015. Despite a strong start to catalog my wallowing in the cinesludge, somewhere around oh movie #12 I stopped updating my spreadsheet and fell into a deep sinematic funk.

But, thanks to piles of notes, social media posts and streaming services that track my activity, I was able to cobble together what is a completely incomplete snapshot of my 2015 Movie Watching. As expected, the list features numerous anthology flicks (due to the upcoming issue of ER) and documentaries (which are easy to flip on in the background while I work).

What's surprisingly missing are re-visits with old favorites like RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, DEMONS, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH and LIFEFORCE, so I clearly anticipate catching up with all of them over the coming months.

Having just pulled this list together I won't impulsively pick out a Top 10 Favorites as I often do but I will make a note to swing back around in the next week and highlight some flicks that entertained me in what was an unmotivated year.

Here's hoping your 2016 is safe, happy, healthy and filled with all the action, sleaze, gore and horror you wish!

[REC]3
[REC]4
30 FOR 30: TROJAN WAR
A CHRISTMAS DETOUR
ALTERED STATES
AN HONEST LIAR
ATARI: GAME OVER
BACK ISSUES: THE HUSTER MAGAZINE STORY
BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM
BIG HERO 6
BLOODSPORT
BRAIN DAMAGE
CANNIBAL FEROX
CHANNEL 13
THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
DEADTIME STORIES
DEATH BY VHS
DIRE WOLF
DISASTER ON THE COASTLINER
ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
ELVES
ENEMIES CLOSER
THE EQUALIZER
FAST 7
FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY
FUTURE JUSTICE
GODZILLA 1985
GONE WITH THE POPE
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
GOON
HI-8
HOMEFRONT
HORROR OF PARTY BEACH
HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD
HOW TO SAVE US
INSIDE/OUT
ISIS RISING: CURSE OF THE LADY MUMMY
ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD
JACK REACHER
JOHN WICK
JUNK FOOD HORRORFEST
KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING
LIFE ITSELF
LOST SOUL
MARTIN
MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE
THE MINION
NEAR DARK
NEVER LAKE
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS
NIGHT TERRORS
NIGHTFALL
NIGHTHAWKS
THE OCTAGON
OUT OF FOCUS
PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING
QUARANTINE
QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL
RAGE
RISE OF THE BLACK BAT
SCAREWAVES
SCOOBY-DOO & KISS: ROCK & ROLL MYSTERY
THE SHIEK
SHOCK VALUE
SILENT RAGE
SPECTRE
STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE
STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI
STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
SUPERSTITION
TALES FROM THE CRYPT
TERROR VISION
TORTURE GARDEN
THE UNLIVING
VAULT OF HORROR
WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU
THE WRECKING CREW
ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN (2015)

Hello and happy holidays, dear readers! It's hard to believe that Christmas has already passed us by and the end of 2015 will be here in just a couple days. I'm hoping that Santa or Krampus brought you everything your evil little hearts desired this holiday season. Me? I got a nasty case of bronchitis that I should completely shake just in time for the return to work and school. Yay. But the good news is that work continues on issue 53 and our review stack is teetering to the point that I'm happy to welcome another reviewer to the fold. Please welcome Evan Romero and hope that he sticks around despite me sticking him with a dog like CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN right off the bat. Take it away, Evan...

I'm just gonna come out and say it straight: This. Movie. Sucks.

What movie you ask? Why, it's CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN, a parody horror flick that forgot the main ingredient in a parody: the humor. A little bit of research on IMDb reveals that this is the THIRD full-length Caesar and Otto horror spoof flick. Now, I can't speak about the other two because I've never seen them, but just who in the hell gave this movie the greenlight and what were they smoking? Obviously nothing good if they thought this was worthy of production.

Oh... it was produced by director / writer / star Dave Campfield's own Fourth Horizon Cinema. Well, that explains a lot.

Anyways, after dressing in drag and stopping crazed killer Michael Myles, Otto (Paul Chomicki) and Caesar (Dave Campfield, also writer and director) are asked by Governor Jerry Grayson (Ken MacFarlane) to watch over his summer home for him while he's away (even though he never leaves). Joined by their father Fred (Scott Aguilar), they go to the house and meet some of the people living therein. While there, strange things start to happen for the sole purpose of parodying (and failing) famous horror films like THE SHINING, THE EXORCIST, POLTERGEIST, HALLOWEEN, THE CONJURING, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and God knows what else. There's also some bullshit plot threads about Otto discovering his mother being alive as well as Governor Grayson declaring martial law and Caesar attempting to write a screenplay, but those just seem to be there for failed attempts at humor/parody.

The film seems to think that parody is little more than taking a trope and doing something dumb with it. But it forgets that successful parodies need to be clever and intelligent, neither of which this film is though it likes to THINK it is.

Let me give you some examples of the "comedy" on display here:
  • In one scene, Otto is skateboarding down a hallway and is confronted by twin women (Brinke Stevens). They tell him, "Come play with us, Otto"-flash to scene of them lying dead in the hallway covered in blood-"forever"-flash again with a cymbal crash-"and ever"-flash again with a cartoonish car horn-"and ever"-flash again to women having been replaced by a rubber duck complete with quacking sound. Otto agrees to play with them-and they sit and play video games. When they disappear, they take his wallet (a gag used twice and isn't funny either time). Ho ho.
  • Or, how about two priests trying to educate another in what Frisbee is. It's not funny for the first 5 seconds, and it's not funny for the remaining 45 seconds.
  • Or, how about when Fred is getting irritated with Otto and Caesar for arguing in the car, threatens to jump out of the moving vehicle, and then does so. Hardy-fricken-har!
  • How about another parody of THE SHINING? They parody the "give me the bat" scene which ends with Otto handing over the bat and Caesar suggesting they go outside and hit some balls. Hahaha – not!
  • Another scene involves a screenwriting professor who appears and tells Caesar everything that is wrong with his romantic comedy/horror script. Everything the professor says about Caesar's script can be applied to this movie. Of course the gag isn't funny and reeks of desperation, but I have to applaud the film for crapping on itself.
But I have to give credit where credit is due. And that credit goes to Scott Aguilar. He's the only one whose line deliveries/antics conjure a mild chuckle. In fact, most of the time he's on screen I was guaranteed at least one. He's basically doing the best he can with the lame material given. And the film DOES have one really funny bit (at least to me). At a Halloween party, Fred tells Caesar that the best way to drink wine is to drink it real fast. He then proceeds to down the bottle while Caesar quips, "You might wanna put AA on your speed dial." I actually laughed at that one and made the fatal mistake of thinking that the movie gets better. It doesn't.

Oh, you DO get a shot of some nice tits. So that's a bonus.

But real horror comes at the end when another Caesar and Otto horror spoof movie is threatened. Cinema Gods, do NOT let this happen!

The DVD includes director commentary, cast and crew commentary, gag reel (just as unfunny as the movie), the Son of Piggyzilla trilogy (three unfunny shorts about a giant guinea pig), a short look behind-the-scenes (useless), a tribute to the late Robert Z'Dar (the best bit on here), and some other crap.

I'd been looking forward to watching this when I received it, hoping to have another horror/comedy to add to my list of good ones. As you can see it won't be going on that list. But at least the disc will make an excellent coaster. – Evan Romero

Evan Romero spends much of his time reading morally-questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the (currently) two man punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined) and is currently working on getting his own website/blog, Reel Atrocities (dedicated to reviews of horror, exploitation, and schlocky films), up and running.

CAESAR AND OTTO'S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN is available on Amazon.


Friday, December 18, 2015

HOLIDAY HORRORS: You Think Your Mom is Bad or I Just Watched ELVES (1989)

"When there's no more room in Hell, the Elves will walk the Earth."

While video companies continue to scrap and scrape to find genre titles suitable for feature-packed special editions that leave fan boys eager to open their wallets (Really? DISTURBING BEHAVIOR?), lovers of holiday horror and sick sinema alike wait patiently for somebody to get off their asses and give 1989's ELVES the video release it so truly deserves.

I'm an admitted Danny-come-lately as far as ELVES is concerned. At one point dismissive because I assumed it was some sort of cut-rate kids flick, I finally settled in one night when the Krampus outing I was intent upon watching wouldn't load off my thumb drive. "Damn you, Krampus!," I bellowed in my Suburban Chamber of Horrors, only to thank Santa's surly holiday pal after I picked my jaw up off the floor about 90 minutes later.

A trio of ditzy girls get things rolling when their "Sisters of Anti-Christmas" ceremony goes horribly wrong and unleashes an elf from the forest floor. Chicks. And, yes, despite a title that suggests more than one elf creating holiday chaos, ELVES appears to feature a singular – albeit supremely sinister – creature. Unfortunately, I say "appears to feature" because the VHS print that I got my hands on is so dark and occasionally indecipherable that I had to verify the fact with outside sources (like ER contributor Mitch Lovell who writes about his love for the flick here).

Ceremony botched, Kirsten (Julie Austin) returns to her horrible home life which features a wheelchair-bound grandfather (Borah Silver) who hordes creepy tomes and slaps her around, a pervy younger brother ("I'm not a pervert... I like seeing naked girls!") and an uber-bitch of a Mom (LAND OF THE GIANTS star Deanna Lund) who drains Kirsten's savings account and – in an especially wicked moment – drowns her cat in the toilet!

As if that's not bad enough, Kirsten's workplace isn't much better as the department store Santa solicits oral from her but gets his when the elf stabs the faux Kris Kringle while he's in the midst of doing some blow.

If the flick amounted to little more than this set-up and 45 minutes of Elf Cam as the merry marauder slashed his way through the Naughty List, ELVES would still get a Holiday Horrors recommendation from yours truly. But once you insert chain smoking ex-cop turned store detective turned Store Santa Mike McGavin (Dan Haggerty, TV's 'Grizzly Adams' who is still alive despite smoking 18 cartons of cigarettes during ELVES), writer/director Jeffrey Mandel elevates the proceedings to another level, packing the remainder of the flick with enough offbeat ideas and far out revelations to push ELVES onto the short list of Must Watch Holiday Horrors populated by the likes of CHRISTMAS EVIL, DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (original recipe).

So, Severin, Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome... if you're out there reading this, give genre fans a reel gift and bring us ELVES for Christmas one of these years! You'll forever be on my Nice List. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor of Exploitation Retrospect and loves Christmas, whether it's sweet or sinister. Watch for details about our upcoming issue and follow ER on Facebook and Twitter for news, notes and the latest reviews.

ELVES is a rare find on VHS so you'll pay a pretty penny for it on the secondary market. But you can bypass all that and just watch the same print in all its glory on YouTube (see below).

Friday, December 04, 2015

HOLIDAY HORRORS: Welcome to the Year of Krampus

"Mom? There's a drunk cop at the door."

Forget Michael Meyers, Jason, Freddy and Evil Santa.

The hot face of horror this holiday season is Krampus, the fire and brimstone bad cop to Santa's ripe jolly old elf-cop. A horned Hell-spawn tasked with punishing bad European kids on the terrifying sounding Krampusnacht, he (it?) even has a festival in which torch-bearing drunks dress up and scare the bejeezus out of kids and grownups alike.

Who says the holidays are no fun?!

All but forgotten in America, Krampus is making a comeback of Red Sox-like proportions thanks to a bevy of Krampus-related movies infesting your local multiplex, Redbox and streaming service.

Naturally, the big gun is KRAMPUS, the PG-13 horror comedy being released theatrically today. Complete with a not quite all-star cast (Adam Scott, Toni Collette and Champ Kind... whammy!), KRAMPUS looks to deliver family-friendly Holiday Horror big screen chills the likes of which we haven't seen since – what? – 1984's GREMLINS?

But in the best horror fashion, low-budget filmmakers have hopped on the Krampus Karavan and delivered decidedly non-family friendly fare like the Arizona-lensed KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015), not to be confused with KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL (2013), even though Google clearly has the two mixed up. (Don't worry, we'll get to KRAMPUS: TCD in a few days.)

Dr. Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) is a psychiatrist tasked with breaking down the barriers to Zoe (Amelia Haberman), a surly adolescent whose foster parents were burnt to cinders after a night of sex, drugs and booze. While cliché-riddled detective Miles O'Connor (James Ray) ponders the connection between Zoe, her foster parents and a dead kiddie-porn dealing hospital nurse (played by co-writer/co-producer Owen Conway), Stewart traces Zoe through the state's foster care system and unearths far more questions than answers.

Unfortunately, for a movie called KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING we get very little, well, Krampus. Like those HELLRAISER movies that play like a generic horror script with Pinhead jammed in every twenty minutes, KRAMPUS feels like a random ghost revenge tale with "Vengeful Spirit" crossed out and "Krampus" pencilled in. And even when he does show up, what we get is frustratingly dark CGI and fleeting gore/burning fx courtesy of Borja Ortiz. (In the flick's defense the Redbox DVD I rented seemed to be darker than the retail one that Evil Monk #2 David Zuzelo picked up.)

That said, director Robert Conway delivers the low-budget goods even if the movie does come off at times like an episode of LAW & ORDER: KRAMPUS VICTIMS UNIT. There's a surprising amount of female nudity that I wasn't expecting (Happy Krampusnacht... I got you boobs!) and you can't help but like Engesser and Ray as they boozily flirt their way through the flick like a liquored up, D-grade Mulder and Scully.

Where does KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING stack up in the pantheon of Krampus sinema? We'll have to wait a few weeks to decide that but for return on investment ($1.29 at Redbox) I'd give the flick two-and-a-half candy canes. – Dan Taylor

When he's not watching the endless parade of horror anthologies and working on the new issue of Exploitation Retrospect, Dan Taylor can be found slicing and dicing his way through holiday horror flicks. Stay tuned for more Holiday Horrors in the coming weeks and be sure to follow ER on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and reviews.

KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING is available at Redbox and Amazon.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Farewell Leatherface

Sorry to hear about the passing of Gunnar Hansen after a bout with cancer.

The original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was one of the first things I ever rented on VHS and it immediately became part of the heavy rotation that also included THE EVIL DEAD, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS and RE-ANIMATOR.

Many nights after my pals and I had pulled an all-nighter of trash film viewing we'd head outside to get some much needed fresh air and do "The Leatherface Dance" under the streetlights. RIP.

And, oh yeah, cancer sucks.

Friday, November 06, 2015

BLACK EMANUELLE, WHITE EMANUELLE aka VELLUTO NERO (1976)

I have to give credit to Brunello Rondi for somehow keeping me watching 1976's BLACK EMANUELLE, WHITE EMANUELLE (aka VELLUTO NERO) a plotless softcore romp through Egypt. It's hard to even classify this as an Emanuelle flick as star Laura Gemser isn't playing the same photo-journalist character as in EMANUELLE IN AMERICA or EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE.

This time out she's "the world's most famous model" and is in Egypt for some reason with boyfriend / photographer Carlo (played by real life husband Gabriele Tinti), a repugnant douchebag who verbally, physically and sexually assaults Laura when he's not making her pose next to rotting dog corpses or piles of dead bodies. And, if that's not enough to make you hate him, in one scene he wears a Boston Bruins shirt!

On the plus side all four of the female leads including a nympho mother and her two daughters – one a borderline psychotic, the another a manipulative minx with Annie Lennox's haircut – all get nude. Frequently.

Al Cliver (ZOMBIE, DEVIL HUNTER) shows up as some kind of mystical deep thinker who gets oral from the mom then gets it on with her and the oldest daughter (the oddly hot Ziggy Zanger) while an aging Hollywood queen caresses them all. The whole perplexing thing climaxes at some Egyptian ruins, though Laura is nowhere to be found, probably exhausted from the previous night's hypnotism and goat sacrificing.

While the flick has a beginning, a middle and an end that's about the only things it shares with, you know, movies. The story meanders along at its own head-scratching "pace", teasing the viewer with the thought that something of consequence might happen, only to toss in some nudity and then move on. By the end I found myself so fascinated by this non-film that I couldn't turn it off or guess what happens.

A wildly different type of flick than Joe D'Amato's EMANUELLE IN AMERICA, though I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect. He is old enough to remember when Emmanuelle had two m's in her name and was played by Sylvia Kristel. For more reviews check out the ER website, like us on the Facebook and follow us on the Twitter.

BLACK EMMANUELLE, WHITE EMMANUELLE is available from Amazon.