Saturday, October 31, 2015

Literature Review #16: Sugar is Sweet

Last month I reviewed Carrie Green's Roses are Red , a collection of horror stories which reminds us of the works of O'Henry.  Today we look at Sugar is Sweet (2011).  More horror stories that show us why Ms. Green is more often compared to Stephen King. So for this Halloween, there will be plenty to laugh and joke about, but if you want some horror of a more ominous nature....this is the work for you.
"Playing for Keeps": An innocent child in peril.  A little girl, on the surface, the epitome of innocence.  The type of kid who would don a princess costume tonight. However tumultuous the world around her seems to us, for Dawn....it is the only reality she knows.  Hiding under blankets, clutching dolls, or playing make-believe are not only past-times of children, but havens of safety for Dawn.  Like Stephen King, we know right away Dawn is in mortal danger.  Helpless and pure existing in a world of violence and hate...does she stand a chance?  As the plot spirals to what we believe an inevitable conclusion, Ms. Green increases the horror as she masterfully shows us the unfolding plot through Dawn's eyes.  No spoilers here, but this one will stick with those who have little children or who harbor painful memories of childhood.  Perhaps a warning from Ms. Green of the importance of nurturing the ones most helpless.
"Loved": In what I also interpreted as a science fiction tale, this story actually leaves us with some important questions.  What is love?  More importantly, is your definition of love in tune with the definition of love of your loved ones?  If not....what might happen?  In a metaphorical sense, Nick's fate awaits us all if we do not constantly look at love unselfishly.  Finally, what I consider the most horrific short story I have read in awhile, "Christmas in Stripes."  Douglas is our protagonist here, and he has just left prison after an eight year sentence (....which should have been a life sentence).  Does he deserve a second chance?  You will make a decision on that one (...perhaps an uncomfortable decision). A new chapter for Douglas?  Definitely!  Out of jail, or is he?  As his bittersweet (mostly bitter, I'm afraid) reunion with the outside world unfolds before us, Ms. Green reminds us that the horror which we try to escape, never leaves.  For Douglas, the horrific episode of eight years ago may turn our protagonist into something very evil.  Forgiveness and personal growth are concepts that seem noble, but each has their own reality that may turn a nice Sunday school sermon into a vicious horror story.  
Much of Halloween has ben reduced to politically correct make-believe and fraternity parties.  Click on the links above and download "Sugar is Sweet" on your Kindle for a true horrific experience.  In other words....put the horror back into Halloween.  The three stories discussed above will leave no room for laughs and revelry....rather, ominousness and fear will rule the day.  Perhaps that is what Halloween should be....at least, on occasion.   

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Eerie 20s

From Germany, nearly a century ago, came 1920's "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."  One of the first classic horror flicks? .....Or....a foretelling of the Nationalist Socialist reign in Germany which would sweep the country over the next couple of decades? In either case, this is a most eerie film from the silent era. Though writer Carl Mayer, or director Robert Weine, may not have heard of Adolph Hitler back when they made this film, both men hit on the power of seduction and what evils may befall men when free will is hijacked or poisoned.  Fans of "Casablanca" may remember Conrad Veidt as the National Socialist general.  In our horror film today, Mr. Veidt plays the creature in Dr. Caligari's cabinet.
A carnival enters a small German village.  On their arrival, Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) is ridiculed by the town clerk upon requesting a permit for his act.  His act?  Inside a small coffin like cabinet is a somnambulist. This creature is 23 years old and has been asleep since birth.  Dr. Caligari has the power to awaken him, and at that time, the being will tell the future of the spectators at the act.  Uh-oh...that night, the town clerk is stabbed to death.  Francis (Fiedrich Feher) and Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) go see the act, and Alan asks the zombie like creature "How long will I live?" Not a smart move.  The somnambulist answers...." 'til dawn."  Guess what...at dawn, the somnambulist sneaks into Alan's home and stabs him to death while in bed.  
The police and Francis suspect Dr. Caligari but can't prove it.  Caligari is smart and knows he is being watched. The evil doctor then sets his sights on Francis' main squeeze, and the thing is sent to kill her. Instead of killing her, the ever asleep zombie falls in love with the vision of loveliness and tries to carry her away.  With the cops and Francis on it's tail, Jane (Lil Dagover) is apparently rescued. Now, the cavalry rushes to Dr. Caligari's carnival trailer....but the evil doctor is cunning.  The ending is chilling, and the sets and photography are creepy.  Who is Caligari, and where did he come from? What will be the fate of the somnambulist?  Is Jane really safe after her rescue, or are powers out of our control also at work?  
The ending is most unnerving, and this film's influence on modern horror is obvious.  Whether the makers had social commentary in mind when they made "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is uncertain, but this film works so well as a horror movie either in 1920 or 2015.  This classic is available on Netflix.   

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day Watch, Moscow in Peril

I have never been to Russia, but I have a great desire to visit.  Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Vladivostok are all on my list of top 10 cities I must travel to.  This blog has been remiss for not including films from this great country.  So today we look at 2006's "Day Watch."  The apocalypse, vampires, shape-shifters, and demons all wreak havoc on Moscow,  Big budget, lots of great f/x, and an ambitious story are all assets to this Timur Bekmambetov film. This epic, filmed in Russia and Kazakhstan, runs over two hours, and throws a lot at us.
Anton (Konstantin Khabenskiy) and Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina) are kinda supernatural cops.  These two, with some supernatural abilities, are tasked with keeping an eye on "The Dark Ones." The Dark Ones, and The Light Others are enjoying a truce in Moscow, though neither side trusts the other.  If the truce is broken, the end of the world will ruin everyone's day.  Each side has "Great Ones" who will keep them powerful.  Uh-oh....Anton's son is just one soul....but he has joined the dark side.  The beautiful Svetlana, Anton's hot partner, is destined to be a Great One on the Light side.  Poor Anton, he desires a rekindled relationship with his son, and also a more carnal one with Svetlana. 
Anton's son has taken up with the boss of the dark side, Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitskiy).  Zavulon has a vixen wife, Alisha (Zhanna Friske, pictured above, sadly died of cancer earlier this year) who also has some neat abilities, especially with red sports cars. Alisha enlists the help of Anton's neighbor, who is a vampire, and together they assist in framing Anton for a murder of a schmuck from the dark side.  Zavulon intends to use this frame as an excuse to start a war between light and dark, which will end the planet as we know it (...perhaps not a bad idea).  Oh yes, Olga (Galina Tyunina) also tries to help Anton.  Olga is a psychic, who at one point changes bodies with Anton.  This body switching leads to one of the weirdest love scenes, technically between Anton and Svetlana....or is it Olga and Svetlana....you figure it out.  All sound confusing?  It is....until the end.  When you watch this film, don't worry about understanding every scene.  Before the final credits roll, you'll understand.
Will light prevail over dark?  After centuries of fighting, has the line between light and dark faded? Will Svetlana and Anton end up together?  Will Moscow survive?  This epic feature has a comic book feel to it.  "Day Watch" may look complicated, but if you just relax and enjoy the ride, all will make sense.  Available on Netflix, enjoy this end-of-the-world epic from our Russian and Kazakh friends.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dark was the Night, Monsters in Long Island

Since the "Amityville Horror" in the 1970s, Long Island has had an eerie reputation.  With the loss of the Islanders, it is likely that more horrific films will emanate from this tax-burdened locale.  Last summer we looked at a werewolf infestation in this region (see my review of "The Big Bad"  http://zisiemporium.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-big-bad-werewolves-do-long-island.html ). Though our film today, 2014's "Dark was the Night" is set, probably, in the Pacific northwest, it was filmed in Long Island.  Perhaps this is a cautionary tale to cities who are in danger of losing their hockey teams.
As our film begins, a logging crew is torn to shreds by a monster.  With the deforestation of the region, something migrates 90 miles south to a small town where Paul (Kevin Durand) is the Sheriff. Paul is a tortured soul...he lost one of his sons to a freak accident which he blames himself for, and his wife, Susan (Bianca Kajlich), left him. Uh-oh...something has been munching on the town's livestock and been leaving strange hoof-like footprints all over town. The townspeople are spooked, and our sheriff is busy trying to be a single father to his surviving son, and cope with his failed marriage to Susan.  Susan is very good looking, otherwise we would not tolerate this plot device. Now some hunters are getting eaten and the beast seems to be staking claim to the neighborhoods, not just the woods.
Struggling over his torment of not being able to protect his deceased son, Paul must answer the call and protect the entire town from a toothy monster.  A blizzard cuts the town off from the rest of the world, and the fiend prepares for a human buffet line.  With support from Deputy Donny (Lukas Haas, "Witness"), Paul realizes that protecting his people may enable him to put his family back together, as Susan and his son are eager to get him back in the fold.  Whether it be his own demons or the one coming out of the woods, Paul has a herculean task ahead as the creature is very fast and might be bulletproof.  
The acting is great as Mr. Durand, Ms. Kajlich, and Mr. Haas do fine jobs.  Some may complain this is too much a story about Paul and not enough about the monster....I disagree.  The two stories are perfect parallels which do meet up at the end.  Will Paul put his family back together? Will Lukas Haas find romance which eluded him so well in "Witness" (...I know, he was just a tyke in that film)? Directed by Jack Heller, this film is effectively shot with what looks like a filter on a creepy setting. Available on Netflix, see "Dark was the Night."  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Relic, A Stan Winston Creature attacks Chicago

The late 1990s were not friendly to horror films.  Movie audiences were not looking to go see them, and box offices were not inflated when one came to town.  Director Peter Hyams, fortunately for us, made one anyway.  In an age when Tom Sizemore was still Tom Sizemore, and Penelope Ann Miller was a big name, 1997's "The Relic" emerged.  This film also boasted of more big name cast members such as Linda Hunt, James Whitmore, and Audra Lindley.  Best of all, "The Relic" delivered to us, a Stan Winston creature.  Maligned in 1997, a look at this film in 2015 demonstrates that "The Relic" has aged well.  Oh yes, this film was produced by Gale Anne Hurd, the executive producer for "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead."
A derelict freighter is towed to the Chicago docks.  The eerie ship is deserted except for some decapitated crewmen in the bilge.  Lt. D'Agosta of the Chicago PD (Sizemore) is on the case. When a decapitated corpse shows up a week later at the Chicago Natural History Museum, the good detective heads over there.  The freighter arrived from Brazil, and the museum just received some mysterious crates, also from Brazil.  Dr. Margo Green (Miller) and Dr. Frock (Whitmore) discover some weird biological attributes about the contents of the crates.  As the museum preps for a very important fundraiser, D'Agosta believes the killer is still loose somewhere in the museum.  Uh-oh!  Something is growing and eating brains in the bowels of the museum.
Oh yes, some other strange species also pop up.  In one scene, Margo is attacked by a giant beetle/reptile hybrid.  Something in the crates is causing species to mutate and send forth vicious hybrids.  More attacks occur, but D'Agosta cannot convince the mayor and his department to cancel the fundraiser.  As the filthy rich show up in tuxes and gowns, and the champagne and fancy hors d' ouvres are prepared, a giant reptile/human/insect/and-who-knows-what-else (..but created by Stan Winston, complete with mandibles) makes it's way over to the party. Many of the filthy rich and political hacks will lose their heads, and all out panic will set in.  Now D'Agosta and Margo (clad in a black, slinky party dress) must work together to figure out what this thing is and find a way to kill it.
Good creature! Good Gore! Good horror!  Also, perhaps this film serves nicely as a metaphor for our friends in ChiTown illustrating how out of touch the ruling political class of that city has become. A word of warning to Chicago pols and their financial backers.....we find ourselves cheering at their demise.  Available on Netflix, enjoy a good monster film in "The Relic."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Brainiac, No One Ever Expects the Mexican Inquisition...

From Mexico comes a nifty horror story containing a cool monster and lots of beautiful senoritas in much peril.  1962's "Brainiac" (aka "El Baron del Terror") is our feature today. Abel Salazar has the title role, and he also produced this work.  Senor Salazar is no stranger to playing a monster, as he was the vampire in "The Vampire's Coffin," also a Mexican horror story. Just like the aforementioned vampire tale, this one is a classic plot strengthened by some neat performances, special effects, and muchas chicas bonitas.
In 1661, the Mexican Inquisition burned Baron Vitelius d' Estera at the stake for the crimes of necromancing, withcraft, heresy, and seducing women (married or not). To the credit of the Inquisitors, the Baron was indeed guilty.  Upon his death by fire, the Baron swore to return in 300 years in order to kill the descendants of the Inquisitors and end their blood lines.  Oh yes, a mysterious comet appears in the skies above the execution site.  300 years in the future, the same comet returns and releases an asteroid that crashes into Mexico City.  Out of the debris walks a monster who quickly transforms into the Baron. The monster feeds on brains, usually of beautiful women.  To do this, he transforms into a monster and sticks his tongue through the victim's skull and sucks out the gray matter.
The Baron then begins his task and tracks down several of the descendants. If they're female, he seduces them before doing the dirty deed.  In some quite heartbreaking scenes, he disperses his carnage all over the city.  In one horrific and erotic scene, he bursts into the honeymoon suite and drains a beautiful bride, who is clad in wedding night lingerie, of brain fluid after murdering her new groom.  Uh oh, the beautiful Victoria (Ariadna Welter), an astronomer wannabe, is also a descendant. To make matters more complicated, the Baron has fallen in love with Victoria.  To make matters doubly complicated, Victoria's modern day BF is the descendant of the only witness who testified to the Baron's innocence in 1661.  Now the Baron/monster must decide whether to kill or abduct Victoria.  This will put him at odds with Reynoldo, the descendant of his only friend.
With an appetite for the lovelies, our monster/Baron possesses the most deadly tongue in movie history.  Will the voluptuous Victoria survive the Baron?  Will the Baron's tongue be cut down to size? Tons of fun, and some good old fashioned damsels in peril scenes highlight this horror story.  Available on Netflix, treat yourself to a very noir Mexican classic.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Strangler of the Tower, The Whipping and Torture of Miss Austria

Christa Linder, Miss Austria of 1962, is the star of today's feature, 1966's "Strangler of the Tower" (aka Der Wurger vom Tower). The beautiful Austrian actress will be brutalized, stripped, whipped, tortured and humiliated by a crazed cult operating in London. Just like last month's review of "Monster of London-City" (see my review http://zisiemporium.blogspot.com/2015/09/monster-of-london-city-jack-ripper.html ) this is a German film set in London.  This film is also stylish, erotic, and has a jazzy score. 
Jane (Linder) arrives in London after her mother is strangled for a valuable emerald.  Unfortunately for Jane, her mom wore a copy of the jewel, and Jane wears the original.  A cult called Brothers of the Holy Order of Righteousness have begun operation Strike it Rich.  They soon find out that Jane possesses the genuine stone.  They abduct her and bring her to a secret lair where they whip and torture her and force her to sign over her inherited estate to them.  Just for good measure, they continue the beatings.  Our cult desires to reacquire five more emeralds which they believe rightly belong to some mysterious goddess.  Most of these stones are worn by glamorous Londoners.  The fiends find these lovely women and murder them.  In the case of London's most famous mystery writer, the lovely Grace Harrison (Kai Fischer), they also con her into signing over her entire estate to them before they strangle her.
With Jane's disappearance, Scotland Yard is on the case.  Inspector Harvey (Hans Reiser) has traced the stolen jewels to a mysterious jeweler in London.  All of the emeralds were either sold or set by Mr. Clifton (Charles Regnier). Time is short as more lovelies are strangled to death and the cult readies Jane for some barbaric sacrifice. Uh oh, the good inspector believes a strangler, still on the loose, who disappeared in the Tower of London many years ago, is involved.  Will Scotland Yard put enough clues together in order to rescue Jane before the cult cuts her into pieces?  What connection does the cult have to the monster strangler still on the loose?
Quirky and quick moving, "Strangler of the Tower" is a good looking thriller.  The performances are great, especially by Linder and Reiser.  Lots of beautiful damsels in much distress and some nifty roof-top police chases enhance this work.  Many will die tortuous deaths before the film ends, but we really pull for Jane to survive....after all...she is Miss Austria.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Krampus in the Closet, Help Make it Happen

As Christmas quickly approaches, we are reminded that we need some films that have monsters in order to keep us horror fans balanced.  A steady diet of Frosty, Rudolph, and Tiny Tim will ware us down if we are not careful.  My friend Amanda Christine is attempting to do just that, but needs help. Tapping in on Austrian folklore, she is trying to gather funds to create a film about a little monster that accompanies Santa, who revels in punishing children that aren't quite good. This campaign is designed to heighten the marketability of this horror flick by producing hundreds of these creatures for sale in stores.  This is what the cute little thing will look like.
I think we can all agree that this beats G.I. Joe or Barby.  Amanda's Kickstarter campaign goes through October 30th. So, with 11 days to go, please help Amanda and the Krampus with this very worthy goal.  I look forward to reviewing this film, once it is made, on this blog....and also convincing my wife to buy me a Krampus doll for Christmas  Please visit the Krampus' Kickstarter sight today at Krampus .  If you give, let me know (my email is christopherzisi@gmail.com) and I will review a film of your choice on my blog....unless it is a Rated G film...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

3-Headed Shark Attack, Monster Eats Babes in Bikinis

Our friends at The Asylum have always had a sense of social consciousness. Today we look at one of their most altruistic efforts, 2015's "3-Headed Shark Attack." As the world's peoples grow immune to warnings of cataclysmic events, this film reminds us of dangers more dire than global warming.  Yes...pollution!  Not just any pollution....beer cans thrown into the ocean are causing species to mutate, grow more heads, and become insane.  In our film today, a 100 foot shark guzzling beer cans, grows two extra heads, becomes insane, and starts feasting on women in bikinis.  Never fear....Danny Trejo is on his way with machetes and machine guns.
As our story commences, some very great looking teens are partying on an atoll.  They begin engaging in pre-marital sex and skinny dipping.  Yep...you guessed it, they are all then torn to shreds by the teeth of the above pictured monster. Next, Maggie (Karrueche Tran), an intern, arrives at an undersea lab to study under the voluptuous Dr. Laura Thomas (Jena Sims).  We first meet the good doctor as she strips out of her SCUBA outfit...it's a shame she'll be eaten.  After Maggie and Laura bond, Earth Pact arrives.  These idiots want to save the planet, but their decision making prowess will eventually get lot's of beautiful women killed.  On cue, our monster arrives and attacks the undersea lab, killing everyone except Maggie, Laura, and Earth Pact. Our survivors come up with a brilliant game plan....leave land...swim out to a small boat...and try to outrun a mega-shark. This is where Dr.Laura is pureed.  
As our shark chases Maggie and Earth Pact, it veers off to attack a booze-cruise.  Hundreds more bikini babes are now thrown into peril, many won't fare well.  Earth Pact sends out a mayday, and Danny Trejo receives it.  Of course Trejo has a trusty machete and machine guns, but will he be on time to save Maggie (we hope so), Earth Pact (we hope not), and the bouncy gals on the booze cruise (could go either way on that one)?
This is a made for Syfy Channel film, which means you will have to tolerate some subtle imperfections....which is no different than any George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson big-budget bore-athon.  For one...Earth Pact, when fleeing the monster shark, in their boat, are never more than 100 yards from the shore..yet they never think of heading toward land.  Bad decisions lead to getting eaten, which may be the most important point of "3-Headed Shark Attack."  Available on Netflix, this is a fun one.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Man Crates, Gifts for real Men

As the holidays approach I am reminded of 1983’s  “A Christmas Story.”  There is one scene when the dad (Darren McGavin) is opening up his prize. He is soooo very happy, not only because a surprise awaits, but because he gets to pry the wooden crate open with a crowbar.  In short….he gets to behave like a man…un-neutered.  Readers of my blog know that I appreciate films that men enjoy.  No romantic comedies here.  Men are men and women are their objects.  As Halloween approaches, let us all endeavor to put masculinity back into the holiday season. My friends at  Man Crates   have taken a huge step to do just that.  They have packaged dozens of combos of  Gifts for Men  in wooden crates, that must be opened with a crowbar...and, oh yes...the gifts are definitely ones that will get the testosterone going. 
 Pipe smokers, cigar smokers, beer drinkers, and of course avid sports fans (…past times of real men) are all tailored to by Man Crates.  I know my friends there are plotting to conjure up a crate filled with essential survival tools if you should ever find yourself in a horror film.  Silver bullets, garlic cloves, and crucifixes will surely be included, but a true survival kit will also have a spare copy of The Necromonicon.  This elusive tome, bound in human skin, caters to those trying to tame or survive evil beings from dimensions unknown to most humans.  In “The Evil Dead” movies, Ash undergoes great hardships (..which includes losing his main squeeze to demonic possession) when the Necromonicon in his grasp is swindled away by grotesque demons.  What follows is a lot of blood spurting and casualties.  In the classic from 1970, “The Dunwich Horror,” Sandra Dee is subject to all sorts of unspeakable violations when Dean Stockwell steals her professor’s edition of The Necromonicon.  In every case, The Necromonicon is possessed by well-meaning humans, and then stolen by evil intended creatures, spelling fates worse than doom for  the pure among us. Wouldn’t it be nice if after the monsters take The Necromonicon away from us (which they surely will do), that we can just pull out our spare copy?
As late as the early 1990s, The Necromonicon graced the card catalogues in some of the finest university libraries.  Wouldn’t you know it, the editions all seemed to be missing.  Not one library had a spare copy. This nefarious work, created by H.P. Lovecraft way back in the 1920s has taken on a life of it’s own.  In every case, in these H.P. Lovecraft stories, the possessor of this thing has access to great powers.  Also, in every instance, the poor sap who has the thing purloined from him, suffers a fate worse than death.  Real men protect their women, especially from demonic forces seeking to mate with them.  To keep your main squeezes pure, you should definitely include a copy of The Necromonicon in your scary movie survival kit.


By the way, fans seeking to win my favor, I would love a Man Crate for Christmas. The Oktoberfest Stein one or the Whiskey Drinkers one are my two top choices.  Don’t forget to enjoy my film reviews, mostly horror, on my blog Zisi Emporium for B Movies at  http://zisiemporium.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hobo with a Trash Can, A Dollar's Worth of Carnage

From Bloody Brit Productions comes a fun, comic-book type anthology horror fest.  As in most horror, there are rules, and our friends at Bloody Pit set down some neat ones.  Film makers were paid a dollar each and asked to create a short film based on a piece of trash in the titular trash can. Oh yes, the stories must also fit under the archway of a guiding tale of a hobo, molested by the cops and an alien conspiracy.  I'm told this film cost $700 to make....which shows all of us the gargantuan waste that the major Hollywood studios revel in.
Bo (Christopher Kahler), our hobo, is trying to lead a noble hobo existence.  Pesky dogs, judgmental citizens, a corrupt cop, and some aliens have other ideas.  As he dumpster dives and forages through trash cans, his discoveries come alive in the plots to five stories which ultimately will be inter-related. Our first piece of trash is a frying pan, but not just any frying pan.  Elliot (Marc Arturi) seems to be an alien with a goal of conquering the human race by putting his alien frying pan in the hands of every housewife.  Mindy (Claire "Fluff" Llewellyn) plays his wife who is ultimately more spunky than the stereotypical housewife.  From there we delve into a story of a discarded paper bag which is actually the evil lair for some creature.  An evil little man (Mike Rocha) lures unsuspecting peeps to their gory demise with some ironic twists.
A used condom, a bitten apple, and some discarded fast-food waste are the remaining pieces of trash which serve as building blocks to an ultimate scifi-conspiracy caper.  In a story about a carnivorous apple, some Russian spy intrigue is added in to mix with the horror and scifi.  Oh yes, from the morality department comes an old staple of horror....if you have premarital sex...you die.  Hence a story of a deadly condom made from recycled latex.  In many ways, we in "decent" society fear hobos.  They are probably on drugs, mentally unstable, and packing some sort of blade.  On the other extreme, we must be very frightening to the hobo.  We are also violent and armed with smart phones which can call the cops to have them removed.  Throw in mysterious villains, who may or may not be human, and we have a terrific base for this anthology film.
Though ultimately a fun movie, be warned the very end has some horrific elements which are anything but lite.  A neat team of young directors worked on this film, and include Claire Llewellyn. Fast moving and at times tongue and cheek, this film always remembers that it is a horror work, which leads to some nice gore.  With virtually no budget, the effects, acting, and direction are superb. Catch "Hobo with a Trash Can" this Halloween season.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Women's Prison Massacre, Emanuelle Behind Bars

A true Italian classic exploitation film from Bruno Mattei is our feature today.  Gracing the screen in the 1970s into the early 1980s was Emannuelle.  She was everyone's favorite liberated nymphomaniac, having carnal relations with everyone (male and female) while jaunting around the globe.  In 1983's "Women's Prison Massacre" (aka "Emanuelle Escapes From Hell") Laura Gemser stars as our beauty, incarcerated with lesbian prisoners, guards, and warden.
Investigative reporter Emanuelle is thrown into prison after getting too close to uncovering a dirty district attorney.  As our film begins she gets into a cat-fight with fellow inmate, Albina (Ursula Flores).  Her rival is a bully and bent on controlling the inmates through fear and brutality.  Emanuelle and her clash and engage in more cat-fights as the warden tries to get Albina to kill our protagonist.  Uh-oh, four psychos are temporarily sent to this women's prison, led by Crazy Boy (Gabriele Tinti).  They immediately overpower the women guards and warden, either killing them or raping them.  Albina strikes a deal with the quartet, which puts Emanuelle in their cross-hairs.
In the midst of gratuitous shower scenes, Emanuelle is forced to care for a wounded hostage, a cop As our psychos go through our female prisoners like crap through a goose, Emanuelle's friend decides to sacrifice herself for the cause.  Laura (Maria Romano) shoves a razor blade up her [CENSORED} and seduces one of the psychos.  Unfortunately for her, he is into necrophilia and kills Laura before the deed.  Unfortunately for him, his intimacy with Laura's corpse spells castration and much blood loss.  After raping Emanuelle and forcing her to play Russian Roulette, Crazy Boy makes Emanuelle a hostage for his getaway.  Does Emanuelle have a plan for defeating her tormentor?  Will Crazy Boy also be castrated?  
Ms. Gemser is exotic and mysterious in the title role.  Emanuelle films are exploitation and not afraid to push the envelope.  Being set in a women's prison, you can imagine the content of many of the sex scenes.  In the guilty pleasure department, a sexploitation film from Italy, enjoy "Women's Prison Massacre."

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Haunted Sea, Spirited Rip-Off of Death Ship

Perhaps a rip-off of the 1980's classic with George Kennedy, "Death Ship" ( http://zisiemporium.blogspot.com/2014/09/death-ship-and-bloodiest-shower-scene.html ), 1997's "The Haunted Sea" is a good one.  A derelict freighter with no crew aboard, a mysterious cargo, an ancient Aztec monster, and two babes with machine guns in peril are all elements that make our film today worth watching. A big name cast including James Brolin, Joanna Pacula, and Krista Allen (Baywatch) enhance this film even though it is reminiscent of either a drive-in or a straight-to-DVD release.
The crew of the Patna, captained by Ramsey (Brolin) comes across a derelict freighter. With a salvage commission in mind, a boarding party is sent to this ghost ship to investigate.  Medina (Allen) the beautiful 2nd Mate looks more like an NFL cheerleader than an old salt is quite the contrast from the salty 1st Mate Bergren (Pacula), and both are sent to investigate with other crew members (monster bait).  A couple of minutes into the film, a gratuitous shower scene featuring Medina captures our attention.  Oh yes, Medina begins having visions that she was a sacrificial virgin to an old Aztec god....in each of these visions she is nude.  Remnants of a torn up crew and a cargo of artifacts from the Aztec empire are found.  After a crew member touches a statue of an old god, he turns into a monster and begins shredding other crew members.
As the monster continues to eat the salvage crew, Medina and Bergren find machine guns and explosives.  Because of her visions, Medina is able to explain what they're up against and the two women formulate a plan.  Now on the run, as the bullets seem to have no effect on our fiend, the two beauties must act fast.  Meanwhile, on the Patna, Cpt. Ramsey and the remaining crew are mystified that the derelict vessel has seemed to have vanished.  
Will our mates defeat the monster and send the haunted treasure to the bottom of the sea?  Will we be witness to a cat-fight between these two rivals for the next promotion to Captain?  Available on YouTube, tune in for the answers to these important questions.  Both Ms. Allen and Ms. Pacula do a fine job and present a neat contrast as they team up to fight the Aztec monster.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Carrier, Curse of the Cat People meets Street Trash

This is the most interesting film you have never seen.  I speak of 1988's "The Carrier." After reading about it in the most recent issue of Rue Morgue, I just had to see it, so off to YouTube I went.  Filmed in Michigan, dog lovers will cheer as the fate of the cat population meets a very unceremonious demise.  Lovers of Civil War films will also see similarities between this horror flick and 'Gettysburg," as some great battle scenes occur between rival gangs of Michiganders.  Intrigued yet?  Let's head to this film.
A lot happens in this 100 minute flick, so forgive me for leaving many important plot aspects out. Know this..Jake (Gregory Fortescue) is attacked by a monster. Because of his wounds, he now carries some weird virus.  Whoever he touches melts away to a puddle of sizzling liquid.  Even worse, anything he touches holds the virus, and if someone else also touches it...they melt.  Jake is the town outcast, and only two females like him (...so what's the problem?).  One is Jane (DeLancy Provencher), who's pride in her new breast implants puts her at odds with the town's religious right.  Unfortunately, her implants will come into contact with the virus and...well...very sad.  The other is Treva (Stevie Lee), also a bit of an outcast. The town figures out the virus, but not who the carrier is. Jake finally realizes he is the carrier after bugs flying around him all disintegrate. Because of a storm, the town is cut off from the rest of civilization and paranoia set in.
Two sets of survivors form.  The religious right armed with faith and clad in clear plastic wrap (oh yes, everyone has wrapped themselves in plastic to avoid touching anything that may be contaminated) fortify themselves in a large farmhouse.  The other is the more aggressive sort, clad in black Hefty trash bags.  The town doctor (Steve Dixon) has turned his home into a triage center, similar to the ones found in Civil War battlefields, in which he performs lots of amputations of infected limbs. As more paranoia sets in, both sides search the town for cats. The felines will be used as canaries were used in mines.  Set a cat loose and if it doesn't liquefy...you know the ground is safe. Many die in the search for cats, including children in this most brutal film.  A final, bloody confrontation is in store between the increasingly unstable Jake, the clear wrap clan, and the Hefty clan.
Ignored through the ages, "The Carrier" will have your jaw dropping.  Filled with much social commentary and religious imagery (...feel free to ignore that), we can see influences here for "Platoon" and "Fear the Walking Dead."  Head to YouTube today for something very much different.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Stranger, Eli Roth gives us Vampires in Chile

In a mountain town reminiscent of the one in "Twilight" comes a mysterious stranger.  Unfortunately, there'll be no twinkling and games, rather gory carnage and death.  From producer Eli Roth comes 2014's "The Stranger," an unusual vampire tale set in the fictional town of Grey Mountain but shot in Chile.  Grim and creepy, this film starts with a pall of dread and proceeds to cascade downward as our visiting vampire proves that he cannot gel with the society of the living.
Martin (Cristobal Tapia Montt) arrives by sea one night.  He is looking for his wife, Ana (Lorenza Izzo).  The two split when Martin tried a murder/suicide (usually a relationship buster) thing as he realized Ana could not control her urge for human blood.  Interrupted by a gang of the living, Ana escaped. He finds his old house occupied by Monica (Alessandra Guerzoni), a nurse, and her son Peter (Nicolas Duran).  Peter tells him Ana is buried in the graveyard.  Martin departs, heartbroken, and is quickly pummeled by a gang of youths.  Peter saves him and brings him back to his house where Monica tries to administer first-aid.  Peter warns her to stay away from him, as his blood will kill her.  Uh-oh, the thugs set their sight on Peter, and they beat him up, but Martin returns the favor and dispatches them.
The town cop (Luis Gnecco) now has Martin and Peter in his cross-hairs, as the head thug, Caleb (Ariel Levy) is his son.  The cop tortures Peter and burns him beyond recognition.  Once again, Martin to the rescue as his blood is used to heal Peter.  Now the cop is really mad and will stop at nothing to kill Peter and Martin.  We are let in on the backstory of Ana and her death.  No spoilers here, but we understand why Martin is hanging around.  As Martin tries to stay in the shadow (...this never works), bloody carnage awaits a lot of innocent people.  Too late to slip away quietly, Martin and Peter will have to confront their tormentors.  Oh yes, Caleb is back...and he ain't quite human...or sympathetic to the ones who put him in the hospital.
Directed masterfully by Guillermo Amoedo, "The Stranger" is a perfect vampire film for those who thought the genre could give us nothing unique anymore.  Not the feel good movie of the decade, and invading certain taboos, this Eli Roth produced film will surely please those that love their horror dark.  Available on Netflix, enjoy this one over the Halloween season.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Beast of X Moor, Cryptozoologists in Much Peril

Being a certified cryptozoologist I can say with certainty that finding undocumented critters has hazards most lay people don't think about.  In today's film, 2014's "The Beast of XMoor" (aka "X Moor"), this is the case for pretty cryptozoologist, Georgia (Melia Kreiling) and her cameraman. Shot beautifully in Norther Ireland, the perils of the moors become something much larger than we ever imagined. Directed by Luke Hyams, this film has a cold and dark feel to it...appropriate for the expansive and lonely moors it portrays.
Lots of cattle are being ripped to shred in southwestern England and the town has posted a big reward for anyone who can document or kill whatever is responsible. Enter Georgia and her vulgar BF cameraman, Matt (Nick Blood). Georgia deserves so much better and we secretly hope Matt assumes the same fate as the sheep in the village.  Uh-oh, especially for Matt, Fox (Mark Bonnar), a world renowned big-game hunter.  Coy Georgia forgot to tell Matt about this move, ticking off Matt as Fox actually looks like a human being with a clue.  The jealous Mark and capable Fox don't gel, I'm afraid.  Fox has found a witness, Kara (Sophie Harkness).  Hardly reliable, Sophie is a meth-head claiming she was attacked by a large critter.  After many difficulties and drama, Georgia, Fox and Matt head out into the moor.
Just like any suave and exotic man....they're usually something different than we originally shot.  Fox leads them to the lair of the beast...or did he lure them there?  How do we know it's the beast's lair? Fine tracker work....or the presence of dozens of torn up bodies.  But did a big panther-like creature do this handiwork?  All the bodies are young females and some are tied up.  Indications are that Fox may be the culprit as he {CENSORED] over one of the corpses.  Fox levels with our duet...he knew this was the lair of a serial killer and desires to trap him on camera.  Georgia and Matt are appalled...but when one of the victims pops up alive, Fox may have more explaining to do.  Bloody carnage awaits and Georgia and Matt will endure a most unspeakable evening.  Surprises will abound as our team awaits the killer's appearance, that is, if Fox is not the killer.
Is Fox really the killer?  How about the monster panther, might it show up, as well? In addition to surviving, Georgia will undergo a metamorphosis in which she will turn homicidal herself in order to survive. Nature present plenty of hazards for our team, but so does the concept of what happens to man when he reverts to his most basest instincts to survive.  So before grabbing a camera crew and before venturing out to film an elusive sea-monster....beware.....as man may be the most dangerous critter out there.....unless the real monster decides to appear.  "The Beast of X Moor" is available on Netflix.      

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dark Haul, What's in the Crate?

....Satan's beast...that's what's in the damned trunk!  Okay, this entry is for those of you who are like me and enjoy made for Syfy TV movies.  2014's "Dark Haul" has lots of plot holes, and bad decision making, but also is tons of fun.  Directed by Daniel Wise, we get some nice gore and terrific kills and a neat monster.  Romance?  Not here.  Disembowelment carnage? Yep...you are in the right place.
Almost 300 years ago, in New Jersey..the 13th son of a 13th son is born....the New Jersey Devil! It kills most of those present at the birth and is captured by a sect of Catholic priests.  These priests become 'The Keepers," and are charged with keeping the beast contained for eternity.  Oh yes, the beast has a twin, a girl.  This girl will have the power to keep the beast calm and she will also be kept prisoner.  Present day New Jersey, the beast has shown a proclivity to escape and kill Keepers.  Knicks (Tom Sizemore) and Damon (Rick Ravanello) are Keepers charged to transport this thing 100 miles to more holy ground.  These two tough guys will rely on Zib (Evalena Marie) to keep her brother behaved during the haul in an 18-wheeler.  Good plan,..no stops...get there fast.  You think they follow the plan? Nope!
One wonders how 'The Keepers' survived through the ages with all the poor decisions they tend to make.  Right out of the gate, they stop for gas.  Oh yes, the beast has psychic powers and can make Keepers hallucinate.  This translates with a couple dead Keepers and a blown up gas station before they hit the highway again.  Knicks threatens and tortures Zib so she will keep her brother in line.  Also a prisoner, Zib tries to keep the beast calm while biding her time until the right opportunity presents itself for escape.  Okay...no more stops right?  Wrong.  Similar stops producing much carnage will occur at a hotel and a diner.  Eventually, the beast gets loose and turns over the semi. Now, free, the beast hunts down the remaining keepers as Knicks and Damon hold it's sister. Trapped in the woods of New Jersey (the film is actually shot in Connecticut), the surviving Keepers will have to survive the night and find a way to trap the beast.
Though Zib comes across as a sympathetic character, what will her desire to free her brother spell for the residents of New Jersey?  Why didn't Knicks just kill Zib and her bro' when he had the chance? Is this film using the incompetence of 'The Keepers' as a metaphor for the reason the Catholic Church has fallen over the past 50 years?  Tom Sizemore is terrific as the heavy and Ms. Marie and Mr. Ravanello do fine jobs.  Instead of putting on a stale zombie film, give "Dark Haul" a view.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Dumplings, Planned Parenthood in your Kitchen

A good friend of mine studies China.  Yep....all we hear is how China is poised to be the sole superpower in the world.  As the U.S. falls from significance, the spot at the top will be seized by the biggest economy.  Not so fast!  My buddy had a different theory.  China will fall and die.  The one child policy will ensure each son (....or occasionally daughter), will be doted on by two parents and four grandparents.  As the spoiled brat enters adulthood, selfishness and entitlement will consume the world's most populated country.  Hence today's film, 2004's "Dumplings."  Be warned....this is horrific and sickening, feel free to stop reading here.
Mei (Bai Ling) was an abortionist thriving with China's one-child policy.  She performed over 30,000 abortions. Now she lives in Hong Kong...less tolerant of "choice."  Now she runs a dumpling shop from her apartment.  Her dumplings have rejuvenating power....they bring back youth.  Enter Mrs. Li (Miriam Chin Wah Yeung).  Li is 40, but her husband desires 20 somethings.  She visits Mei and begins a diet of dumplings.  What is the secret ingredient?  Do I have to tell you?  The dumplings work, but as Mrs. Li continues to lose her husband to a masseuse (Pauline Lau), she demands more potent dumplings.  Aborted fetuses are hard enough to get, but for a more potent batch, Mei needs a five or six month fetus, birthed live.  Be warned, she gets it...and yes we see it.  Do we also see the fetus minced up and put into dumplings?  Heed my warning from above, this will disturb many of you.
Watching fetuses chopped up for a delicacy is awful enough...but to see Mrs. Li floss the bones out of her teeth after eating...well...never mind.  The dumplings work, and Mrs. Li becomes addicted to them.  At first, Mrs. Li was sickened by this delicacy, but as she eats more and more, she craves it.  As the film opens, watching Mei chop up fetuses from the first trimester is tolerable...they look like shrimp.  Eventually we're watching her chop up little people (second trimester fetuses).  The depravity of Mrs. Li's transformation is horrific.  To make matters worse, there is the last ten minutes of this film.  No spoilers here, but the ending is appropriate for this story....and you will gasp.  If they're gonna be aborted anyway, what is so wrong with making fetuses into a rejuvenating delicacy? Where have we arrived as a species if we even ask that question?
A statement on China's one child policy? Perhaps.  Is Mrs. Li a metaphor for what we all have become?  God blesses the age 24 to 52 demographic, all others beware.  Heaven help us all if we are not in that demographic.  There is also a side story of a 15 year old girl raped by her father.  This will end in most gory fashion andh you will see in graphic detail how Mei tries to help the girl. Available on Netflix, made over a decade ago, but ripped out of today's headlines.