Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Creators Unite, Women in Power Issue

Over the past 20 years, two horror film characters have emerged as my favorites. Kate Beckinsale's Selene from the "Underworld" franchise, and Milla Jovovich's Alice from the "Resident Evil" franchise. Perhaps, as a strident and proud individualist, my attraction for these very strong women differs from many. As male characters have become more sensitive (...neutered?), a rough, tough, no-nonsense hero has eluded films, of least on the male side. We used to have Clint Eastwood and his "Dirty Harry" films or John Wayne in his Oaters, now we have highly metro-sexual and flawed portrayals of male characters who aren't afraid to show vulnerability. With the disappearance of the lone wolf heroes, in their place the Alices and Selenes of horror have moved in.

Hence Creators Unite, The Women Power issue is out. Guess what! Yep, I am in it. The privilege was all mine to contribute an introduction to an interview of Kelli Moroney. The babe from "Chopping Mall" and "Night of the Comet." Excuse my crass description, babe is hardly a fair or complete description of the women who made this issue. Strong and powerful women abound, not only in today's filmdom, but over the course of Hollywood history. Sure, the portrayals have changed. Myrna Loy may have looked diminutive in her portrayal of Nora Charles in the 1930s, but a closer look at "The Thin Man" films showed her brains, wit, and charm essential in catching killers. Kelli Maroney? Yep her depiction of a ditzy cheerleader and mall rat in the aforementioned films of the 1980s was a lot deeper than a teen-aged audience would notice.  Click on the link above to read more about that.

Okay, I'm a heel. I'm a guy, so I'm a pig too. I like the tight leather bodysuits, babes armed with weapons, high-heeled boots, and a seductive glance in my heroines. Fortunately, my buddy Emilie, Kelli Maroney, and scores of powerful and talented actresses have given my heroines that are smart, determined, and who refuse to be the victim. These women and the characters they give us are an inspiration to young women and a powerful statement of the evolution of how us men look at the fairer sex (...excuse that term.)  To view this magazine, click on the above, or below link
Creators Unite

Death Walks on High Heels, Exotic Dancer vs. Slasher

Oh, to be a beautiful woman in an Italian horror film. This never ends well.  And if a razor is available...well...the demise will be tortuous and humiliating. Today we look at Luciano Ercoli's "Death Walks on High Heels," from 1971. Stripper...exotic dancer...striptease her what you will, but in films like this, she will eventually be known as a corpse. Will this one be different? After all, the director was married to the beautiful star, Nieves Navarro.  Or perhaps that will be reason for an even gorier death.
She is the best at what she does...we'll call it exotic dancing. Uh oh, her dad, a jewel thief, has just been murdered. Whoever murdered dad didn't find the stolen jewels and now is making threatening calls to our damsel, Nicole (Navarro). The calls are threatening in nature and one night the fiend sneaks into Nicole's apartment, seizes her, cuts off her underwear, and threatens to scar her for life unless she turns over the jewels.  Nicole has no idea where the jewels are and runs to her boyfriend, Michel (Simon Andreau). He is of very little help as Nicole quickly finds clues to suggest that he is the razor wielding maniac.  What is a working girl to do in this instance?
Right!  This probably isn't a good idea, but a stripper pursued by a psycho is bound to have judgment issues. Nicole takes up with a perverted old man, Robert (Frank Wolff). He gawks at her at all her shows and wouldn't you know it...he's a wealthy surgeon. He whisks Nicole off to his seaside English villa and there they fall in love and have lots of kinky and very erotic sex. In fact, Nicole has many gratuitous strip scenes in this film featuring very sheen lingerie and thigh high boots. Uh oh...a killer...or killers, move in to disrupt Nicole's apparent safe haven, and so does Robert's wife, the sultry Vanessa (Claudia Lange). Stop!  This is the point where a whole lot happens which will have you saying "Whoa...wait a minute, what just happened! That can't be."
The second half of this film features lots of gory death and a brilliant police investigation headed by Inspector Baxter (Carlo Gentili) of Scotland Yard. Will our exotic dancer's beauty save her from a horrible disfigurement?  Might the killer be a woman, not even after the jewels? Is the wealthy Robert too good to be true? This Italian Euro-Trash gem has gratuitous strip scenes featuring Ms. Navarro, gory kills, and a terrific police story mixed in. For fans of Italian horror, enjoy "Death Walks on High Heels."

Monday, January 29, 2018

In the Folds of the Flesh, Decapitations and Acid Baths

Yep...decapitations and acid baths.  Also cyanide baths, Nazi gas chambers, and more decapitations. Oh so many decapitated heads popping up in such weird places! Today, from Spain and Italy, and set in Switzerland, we have 1970's "In the Folds of the Flesh," directed by Sergio Bergonzelli. Seedy, perverted, and quite gruesome, we take a look at another film that shouldn't be discussed in polite company. Did I mention rampant incest?
Three nympho-psychos dwell in a Swiss villa (not necessarily a bad thing). The sultry Lucille (Eleanora Rosa Drago) is the governess, looking over the perky and amorous Falesse (Pier Angeli) and the perverted Colin (Emilio Gutierrez Caba). One fateful day a dangerous felon, Pascal (Fernando Sancho), running from the cops enters the villa grounds and witnesses Lucille buring a corpse (...or does he?). 13 years later, he will return, but not after the nympho-trio kills a few unwanted visitors and dissolves them in acid baths. Not knowing this, Pascal returns to the castle to blackmail the trio and threatening to tell the cops about the corpse.  He rapes the girls and humiliates Colin...but the maniacs have plans for him.
What happens to Pascal is predictable, and not the major part of the story. See, Falesse is incredibly unstable. She seduces any man who enters the house and knifes them during pre-marital sex. Oh yes, Lucille...a death camp survivor, has a penchant for cyanide gas (we all have our hang-ups). Colin, loves sex with Falesse...but are they related? Oh yes, that corpse Lucille buried? He comes back, to the surprise of these three unstable nympho-maniacs. Falesse's insanity may have been caused by being raped by her dad, which resulted in his of many in this film. When you watch this film, you will be confused as to who exactly is who. Don't are the main characters. When the end credits roll, you'll know...and it won't have you feeling good about the human race.
Who, or what, did Lucille bury on the villa estate 13 years ago? After raping his daughter, is it wise for the corpse to return to life to reconnect with his now insane daughter? What a question that is! Will Colin's affection and intimacy for Falesse turn out to be a perverted blasphemy? Pure Euro-Trash, but definitely different. If you are sick of Hollywood's cookie-cutter films, enjoy "In the Folds of the Flesh."

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Night Hunter, Vampires vs. Kick Boxer

Don "The Dragon" Wilson! No other name has reeked with so much potency since the heyday of Fabio Testi. Women swoon at the sight or whiff of this kick-boxing legend. Who better equipped to neutralize a horde of invading vampires than Don "The Dragon" Wilson? Though he never did commercials for Jai Karate, he would be their perfect spokes-model. Today we look at 1996's "Night Hunter."
As a boy, Jack (Wilson) watched his parents torn apart by vampires. Jack escaped and now, as an adult, is an adept vampire hunter. He senses vampires better than sharks smell blood and in the second scene of the film he barges into a four-star restaurant and eliminates several bloodsuckers sitting at Table 6. No stakes or holy water here, those are mere myths,  but in a film featuring Don "The Dragon" Wilson, vampires can only be killed if their backs are broken by a kick-boxer. Killing a slew of vampires brings perilous scrutiny. One of the vamps Jack slew was Carmella (Sophia Crawford). Carmella is a sultry lesbian and her vampire lover Tournier (Maria Ford) vows vengeance.
Raimy and Jack
In addition to a ticked off lesbian vampire beauty, Jack is now also pursued by the police (as they believe he is a mass murderer), and the vampire king who killed his parents (Nicholas Guest). To complicate matters, a beautiful reporterette, Raimy (Melanie Smith), inadvertently falls into his life while she is doing a story on the murder of the schmucks at Table 6. As the creatures stalk Jack and Raimy, Jack hunts the remaining clan before they can breed again. The vampire king wants to end the lineage of his vampire hunting foe and Tournier desires passion with the lovely Raimy.
Tournier and Raimy
Will Jack succeed in his quest to avenge the murder of his parents and also wipe out the last of the toothy menaces? Will Raimy and Jack emerge as lovers, or will Tournier make the reporterette her new vampire lover? If Van Helsing knew kick-boxing, would there have been any sequels to "Dracula"? You women out there will need a cold shower after watching "Don "The Dragon" Wilson for 90 minutes. Directed by Rick Jacobson, "Night Hunter" is some fine entertainment from the 90s.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Twisted Nightmare, Babes and Hunks Shredded and Impaled

Supermodels and hunks beware, when a slasher is introduced into this game of life, you may only be a few seconds away from resembling a hairy ball of strawberry ice cream. 1987's "Twisted Nightmare" is a weird one, and no doubt will compile some hostile reviews, but for what we look for on this blog, this is a minor classic. The kills will be numerous and any time you see a beautiful woman or handsome hunk...well...get ready for blood splattered carnage.  Pitchforks, axes, antlers, and machetes will all aid in impalement and murder.
Laura begins her cutting ritual
Plot? All right, if you insist.  The nubile Laura (Rhonda Gray) and a dozen of her pals have all been mysteriously summoned to Camp Paradise under the ruse that they have won a vacation week-end. This is odd as all these great looking peeps vacationed there two years ago. Oh yeah, that vacation didn't go well as Laura's mentally retarded brother Mathew (Cleve Hall) died after some of the babes humiliated him. Now they are all back and Laura has brought her new BF, Shawn (Brad Bartram). Uh oh, a stalker begins picking the guests off. Sylvia (Donna Correa) will be strung up in a barn and her main squeeze Gus (Phillip Bardewell) will join her after a monster rips off his arm.
She'll die horribly
The killings will continue. An amorous couple engaging in pre-marital sex will be impaled together, and a babe will be impaled on some antlers. Electrocution and machete carnage will also take care of a couple of beauties. But wait! What gives with Laura?  She seems to know something and likes to strip nude and cut herself while taking aroma baths...okay...who doesn't?  As the monster gets bolder and hunts down each member of the party, Laura remains calm and begins having cryptic conversations with her boy toy.
The monster
What exactly happened to Mathew, two years ago? Is Laura involved in the murder of her friends? Is this monster related in anyway to the beautiful cutter? Will any of the bold and beautiful guests survive this mysterious wrath.  Gore, gratuitous nudity, and lots of pre-marital sex fill up this lesser known slasher film. For some titillating and blood-soaked fun, enjoy "Twisted Nightmare," directed by Paul Hunt.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Castle Freak, Lovecraft...Crampton...Combs, Oh my!

H.P. Lovecraft!  Barbara Crampton!  Jeffrey Combs! Need I say more?  Okay, if I must. This trio has already given us "From Beyond" and "ReAnimator," and now 1995's "Castle Freak." Filmed largely in Italy, this film also will throw lots of gore at us. Oh, I forgot to mention, this horror film is directed by Stuart Gordon. No laboratories in this one, and no alternate more horrible awaits...a bad marriage.
Bad news for John (Combs). He is married to the sultry Susan (Crampton) and she has banned him from the bedroom and other husband duties. See, Susan blames John for the death of their son. The blame is well placed as the little boy died as a result of John's drunkenness. In that same drunken accident, the couple's beautiful daughter was blinded. Now the unhappy trio head to Italy where John has inherited a very old Gothic castle. this will turn out well.  As their blind daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) learns to cope with her new handicap, John must cope with the lack of sex from his beautiful wife.  Rebecca will cope better.
But wait!  As Rebecca finds out the hard way, they are not alone in the castle.  A freak (Jonathan Fuller) has just broken out of the castle's dungeon and has fallen in love with Rebecca. This won't play well for our blind sweetheart. After witnessing John nail a prostitute in the wine cellar, our deformed mutant freak has the urge for sexual relations.  After eating the prostitute (literally and figuratively), the freak desires sex with Rebecca.  After John is blamed for the prostitute's murder, as no one knows of this freak's existence, the monster busts loose and stalks our beautiful damsels.  Uh oh, we are let in on the backstory of this freak, and this will force John to come face to face with some horrible truths about his own past.
Will John be able to shake himself of this bum rap and return to the castle to defend his two of which hates his guts? After messing up the prostitute, will the freak refine his love-making technique in order to leave Rebecca in one piece...and still breathing?  Will a very feisty Susan turn the freak's attention away from Rebecca?  This is a bloody one and some very ghastly kills await you, the viewer.  Perhaps not as cerebral as the aforementioned Lovecraft films, but the backstory is seedy enough to satisfy Lovecraft fans.  Great acting and gory scares make "Castle Freak" a very worthwhile take.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Don't Go in the House, Flamethrower Carnage

Alas, poor Kathy (Johanna Brushay). No doubt, Kathy's demise help fuel the anti-slasher film propaganda which accompanied these films in the 80s. A strong independent woman, cut down by a deranged maniac for the pleasure of an audience of impressionable young boys. This death was heartbreaking. A beautiful florist is abducted by a maniac, stripped and strung up in a specially built fire room. As she begs for her life and some mercy, our maniac broods over her for several seconds and then activates his flamethrower. As Kathy is engulfed in flames, we hear her screams for several more seconds. Hence 1979's "Don't Go in the House" (aka "Pyromaniac").
Kathy, well done
Donny (Dan Grimaldi) is a poor man's Norman Bates. With severe mother issues, he takes his mom's corpse and props it up in a chair where she continues to torment him. As a child, Donny was tortured by his mom with fire, and he has the scars to prove it. Now voices in Donny's head guide him to take out his vengeance on every attractive gal in New Jersey...with his flamethrower. Now Donny cruises the Garden State and abducts babes (a rarity in New Jersey...okay, stop it! I'm kidding!). But after Donny gets through with them, well, they're not pretty anymore. Their burnt corpses now make up a twisted menagerie in Donny's home.
As his mom still appears as a walking corpse, Donny continues to abuse his collection of babes even after their deaths.  As the voices in Donny's head increase in intensity, he gets bolder in his quest to collect NJ vixens.  This results in a priceless scene in a disco where he lights a gal named Farrah's (Nikki Kollins) head on fire...sort of an anti- Alberto VO5 commercial. With Donny's psychosis getting more and more deadly, a final fiery scene which includes more of the most beautiful New Jersey has to offer, probably tourists...(okay, I'm kidding again), a flamethrower, a priest on fire for the Lord, and charred ghosts will unfold before your eyes.
Awkward and uncomfortable, "Don't Go In the House" is not a date movie, unless you are dating a gal from Jersey...kidding!  Everything about Donny will make you cringe almost as much as a drive on the New Jersey Turnpike.  For a disturbing and heartbreaking horror film, enjoy "Don't Go in the House," directed by Joseph Ellison. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fangs of the Living Dead, Vampire Lusts for Anita Ekberg

Anita Ekberg. Many will remember her as Sylvia, the babe in the fountain, in 1960's "La Dolce Vita." I saw that film...which makes me sound smart, probably because its an artsy-fartsy film with subtitles. In an even more gratuitous role, in 1969, Ms. Ekberg again plays Sylvia, this time in Amando de Ossorio's (the "Tombs of the Blind Dead" director) "Fangs of the Living Dead" (aka "Malenka").  This Italian horror work is best known for campy acting, vampire carnage, and cleavage.
Swimsuit model Sylvia has just learned that she has inherited a castle due to her mom's death. She leaves her fiance, Piero (Gianni Medici) temporarily to travel to rural Italy and claim the estate. Once she arrives she is met by her uncle, Count Wolbrooke (Julian Ugarte). Unbeknownst to the sultry super-model, the Count is a vampire. Uh oh...Sylvia is a spitting image of her grandmother, Malenka. Malenka was burned at the steak after dabbling in the occult and creating vampires. Townspeople can be so judgmental. The Count brainwashes Sylvia to believe she must succomb to the family curse and become a bloodsucker, herself. The count has pretty good taste and intends to bite Sylvia. In the meantime, the Count drinks the blood of the beautiful barmaid, Bertha (Diana Lorys).
Forced to send a letter to Piero breaking off the engagement, the cleavage queen...I mean Sylvia seems to be defeated.  But wait!  Sylvia may have a friend. The beautiful Blinka (Adriana Ambesi) is willing to help her escape, as she does not want a rival for the Count's affections. Now Piero rushes to the castle to help save his buxom swimsuit model, as well.  The Count is smart and won't be easy to deal with. As Sylvia seems increasingly under the spell of The Count, Blinka and Bertha may also spell doom for her.  By the way, in true Italian exploitation fashion, the buxom Blinka and buxom Bertha will spar in a rather nice cat-fight.
Will Sylvia fall victim to the century old family curse?  What does The Count plan to do with three buxom vampire babes? Er...okay...that's an easy one.  Can Piero fight off the vampire vixens and get a stake through the heart of his nemesis?  Anita Ekberg is wonderful in this and has some great one-liners. With gratuitous carnage, living and undead, lots of fangs, and Gothic castle terror, "Fangs of the Living Dead" will please any vampire film fan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Slash Dance, G.L.O.W. does Slasher

The most famous bout in G.L.O.W. (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) occurred as The Southern Bells were humiliated and tortured and forced to bark like dogs and beg for their lives...and also do dog tricks to avoid being marred by fire. Gratuitous, I know. The second most famous G.L.O.W. bout was a tag team event in which the shapely Suzie Spirit, clad in a shiny red leotard, was destroyed...literally. We all remember her scream as her ulna and radius were dislocated leaving her arm a contorted mess.  The bout was stopped and Suzie was taken out on a stretcher...and this wasn't staged. The peril to the G.L.O.W. talent would continue as Americana, a sometimes partner of Suzie, would be put in deadly peril as she played a sultry policewoman in 1989's "Slash Dance."
Americana pummels Spanish Red in a GLOW match
Beautiful dancers are being murdered as they show up at an old theater to audition for a dance show. Undercover cop, Tori (Cindy Ferda, aka Americana), is tough and ambitious. We first meet her in a gratuitous bikini scene. After hearing of a whole bunch of missing beauties, she starts investigating. Tori determines that the young actress/dancers all showed up for an audition at the same theater. Now undercover, Tori does the same and joins the revue.  Now part of the show, Tori falls in love with Logan (James Carroll Jordan). They will suck face and have pre-marital sex. Tori's main subject is the pervert Amos (J. Buzz Van Ornsteiner), a prop hand. Amos loves drooling over the dancers as they shake their stuff clad in skimpy 1980s aerobic garb.
Dancer assumes room temperature
As Tori and her new friends perform lots of gratuitous dance routines, the killer stalks them. Fortunately for Tori, she has two friends (Beastie and Queen Kong of G.L.O.W. fame) watching her back. As Tori and friends shake more of their stuff, and Amos drools over them, Logan contemplates more sex with her. Tori must not only identify the killer, but also keep her new friends alive as the killer stalks them all.
Tori to the rescue
The ending will have Tori in mortal peril. Will Tori be beaten to a pulp as Americana was in her G.L.O.W. matches? Is Logan too suave and debonair to be real?  Is Amos too easy a suspect? Fans of G.L.O.W. will enjoy this one and also identify a few other wrestlers in this cast. A minor horror yarn with minimal gore, "Slash Dance" is heavy on gratuitous dance scenes. Though a sultry wrestler by trade, Ms. Ferda is a better actress than Mila Kunis or Megan Fox.
Click this link to see the Southern Bells humiliated Southern Bells Destroyed
Click this link to see Suzie Spirit's arm ripped out of socket Suzie Spirit Destroyed

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Vault, A Paranormal Dog Day Afternoon

A sure proof plan to rob a bank. Yep, nothing could go wrong. Just ask Al Pacino. Lots of guns, a small army, brains, brawn, and determination. The cops are nitwits and the bank employees are wimps.  There is a big problem looming, however. When criminals come up with a sure fire plan, we then find out that they weren't as smart as they first appeared.  It always starts out as burlap sacks being filled with small denominations, but ends up with hostages and a police barricade. Oh yeah...if you're really unlucky, a paranormal entity might show up.  Hence 2017's "The Vault."
Leah (Francesca Eastwood) is a no nonsense mastermind type.  Her sister, the ex-con Vee (Taryn Manning) is hot tempered and very unstable. These two sisters join forces with their dolt brother Michael (Scott Haze). Michael is in deep with some hoodlums and when he can't pay his debt, they force him to rob a bank. The hoodlums send a few henchmen with the trio. The invasion takes place at closing and seven bank employees are tied up and only a few shots are fired resulting in death and other carnage. Uh oh...where's all the money? Vee isn't amused at the slim pickings in the vault and is about to start executing employees. Michael develops a soft spot for head teller Susan (Q'orianka Kilcher) and promises no one will get hurt...he should've checked with Vee first.
In fright, an apparent assistant manager, Ed (James Franco) pleads for calm and lets Leah know there are millions in the subterranean vault. What? He explains where the vault is and the carnage is temporarily suspended as the team heads to a mysterious underground vault. This won't go well because waiting in the vault are...well...ghosts. Violent and ticked off ghosts! They start killing the bank robbers in horrible, gory fashion. Wait! All the bills in the vault are dated 1982. Leah remembers that Susan and the bank manager alluded the bank was haunted but she dismissed this drivel. Susan lets Vee and Leah in on a bloody backstory about a previous bank robbery in 1982 resulting in many murders. Oh yeah, that culprit in 1982?  He got away and no one ever saw his face. As bank robber heads are blown off and eyes gouged out, Ed pleads with Leah to keep calm and not hurt anyone. Oh yes, no surprise here, the cops have the place surrounded.
As the bank robbers are now the victims, Leah must figure out what exactly is going on and survive the evil specters.  Just what happened in 1982, and who was that mysterious bank robber? Does Ed have an ulterior motive for helping Leah?  Is "The Vault" a metaphor for unforeseen consequences of the ever increasing automated banking at our local branches?  New on Netflix, "The Vault" (directed by Dan Bush) is a minor but effective and well-acted ghost/horror story with some nice gore.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

My Bloody Valentine 3D, Pick Axe Carnage

"My Bloody Valentine" hit the silver screen in 1981 and is known as one of the best slasher films ever made. Beautiful dames, including the sultry Cynthia Dale in her red party dress, and their hunk beaus were ripped apart by a pick axe wielding maniac.  Every teen who was shafted by Valentine's Day found some sort of satisfaction with this flick. Then in 2009, this classic was remade.  Could a slasher classic be remade? Instead of Moosehead Beer and dying Canadians, the new one offers a modern day hunk (Jensen Ackles) and one of the most gratuitous slasher deaths ever put on film.
Sarah better run fast
Harry Warden wakes from a coma, kills dozens of nurses, orderlies, and doctors and then murders some great looking teens having a Valentine's Day bash in an old mine.  What a beautiful beginning. With dozens already shredded by a maniac, and the film not yet ten minutes old, we know that a classic can indeed be remade! Okay...ten years later. Survivors of the massacre are now adults. Sarah (Jaime King) is now married to Axel (Kerr Smith), who is the town's police chief.  Uh oh, one guy didn't hang around after the massacre...Sarah's old flame, Tom (Jensen Ackles).  But wait, out of nowhere, Tom returns...but from where? No one knows. He is back to sell the mine which he inherited after his dad died.
Jaw dropping terror
After Tom returns, and him and Jaime make lots of goo-goo eyes at each other (to Axel's dismay) more pick axe murders occur.  The townspeople are scared and believe the maniac is back and think Tom is the maniac...or is this too easy?  Then Axel's old flame, the skank Irene (Betsy Rue) gets it...and boy does she get it.  After some passionate pre-marital sex in a not-tell motel, she gets humiliated by a trucker and runs out after him, totally nude except for high heals and a gun.  This won't end well as our maniac pick-axes both of them in blood splattering fashion.  Axel believes Tom is responsible as video puts Tom at the crime scene just before the murders.  Uh oh, Axel may have some sanity issues as circumstances unfold that indicate he may be the maniac.  A bunch more killings and hearts plucked out and the buxom Sarah emerges as a victim-to-be.
Irene loses her heart
This film is in 3D and eyeballs will fly at you and so will a big pick-axe.  A sub-plot about a revenge scheme, years ago, undertaken by town elders against Harry Warden, plays well in enhancing the mystery of who exactly is the modern day maniac.  If you like gratuity of the nude and gory kind, you will love the scene depicting Irene's demise.  Directed by Patrick Lussier, and a  gratuitous acting effort by Betsy Rue, enhance 2009's "My Bloody Valentine" as a worthy remake to a beloved classic.
For my review of 1981's "My Bloody Valentine," click on this link 1981 My Bloody Valentine

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Surveillance, We'll Take it From Here Boys

In the film "Die Hard," the LAPD has Nakatomi Tower surrounded, then two FBI agents show up.  The two Agent Johnsons tell the LAPD, "We'll take it from here boys." I was an FBI agent for 25 years. At new agent training, we were shown that scene. Through the 1980s, this was the FBI's reputation among local law enforcement. Then we got a new Attorney General, Janet Reno. Ms. Reno made inner city drug gangs the priority of the FBI. New FBI Director, Louis Freeh implored all of us to work with our local partners. We did and relations between the FBI and the locals greatly improved. 9/11 happened and a national security minded director Robert Mueller did much damage to these relations and the uber arrogant James Comey destroyed many of these relationships beyond repair. Jennifer Lynch and Kent Harper give us 2008's "Surveillance." This horror thriller speaks to the heart of the tension that exists in the FBI's relationships with their local partners....or does it?
A horrible pair of serial killers are murdering their way through the Midwest.  As our film begins, two FBI agents, Elizabeth (Julia Ormond) and Hallaway (Bill Pullman) arrive to interview witnesses of the latest carnage. The local police force is problematic.  Their officers are sadists and their chief (Michael Ironside) is in denial.  With sensitivity, Elizabeth interviews a survivor of the murders. Stephanie's (Ryan Simpkins) family was offed by the killers as she stood by defenseless. Interviews of Officer Bennett (Kent Harper) indicate the police officers who happened on the scene may have a lot to conceal.  Our FBI agents are condescending and the locals seem to deserve that treatment. As Elizabeth and Hallaway pull more information from the survivors, not all adds up.  In flashbacks we are treated to blood splattering carnage and cruelty.  Cruelty from the cops and, as you will see, the killers.
The FBI agents will face numerous difficulties in piecing together the crime scenes. Their witnesses are sadistic cops, a frightened little girl, and a skank high on drugs (Pell James). They are all traumatized and have lost loved ones in horrible fashion.  Elizabeth appears to have what it takes to draw information out of traumatized Stephanie, but Hallaway seems cold and rigid.  As the witnesses become combative, Elizabeth makes great strides in gaining Stephanie's trust.  Uh oh...Stephanie is a lot smarter than most adults.
Director Jennifer Lynch and writer Kent Harper have some surprises in store, and they won't make you smile with glee.  Experienced horror fans will see through the obvious.  Are the locals that incompetent and sadistic?  Are the FBI agents really as pure as the snow in Saskatchewan (this film was shot there)?  Exactly what did little Stephanie see, and is she really out of peril as the FBI agents promise her?  Strictly from my perspective as a 25 year FBI agent, "Surveillance" is a terrific metaphor for the fragile relations between the FBI and local law enforcement.  Gritty, gory, and perhaps sadistic in tone...enjoy "Surveillance," a serial killer tale that is just a bit different.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Face of the Screaming Werewolf, Aztec Horror Meets Lon Chaney, Jr.

From Mexico, and bastardized in the U.S. comes our feature today....1964's "Face of the Screaming Werewolf." A wild and ambitious plot that seems like two movies pasted together to make one full length feature. This is not always a bad thing as "Jupiter Ascending" would have been a far better film if it was pasted together with "Cannonball Run." Besides, whose heartstrings are not tugged by seeing Lon Chaney, Jr. play a werewolf?
Okay, don't get too hung up on the plot...the makers of this film certainly didn't.  The sultry Ann (Rosita Arenas) is undergoing hypnotherapy. Dr. Edmund Redding (Ramon Gay) believes this therapy shows her to be a sacrificial virgin from an ancient Aztec culture. Later Ann leads a team to the Aztec pyramid in the Yucatan and finds a secret chamber where the sacrificial rite took place. Now the trouble starts!  In a tomb and mummified is Lon Chaney, Jr. Obviously not an Aztec. Also, guarding him is a zombie-like creature. The scientists subdue the zombie-thing and bring both it and Lon Chaney, Jr. back to America.
Lights out...Bang Bang...Lots of peeps dead, and chaos hits the streets. Lon Chaney, Jr. and the Aztec zombie have been stolen. Bad news, the scientists who stole Lon Chaney, Jr. knows that he is a werewolf and a full moon turns him into one. Now a werewolf is loose in the city looking for nubile babes and the Aztec-zombie searches for the beautiful Ann. Throw in an inept band of crooks and cynical cops and this becomes a very beautiful thing.
Will the nubile reincarnated virgin, Ann, be sacrificed by the Aztec-zombie?  What does Lon Chaney, Jr. have to do with any of this? Is this awkward mesh of Mexican and American film-making a metaphor for the lack of success of the Pancho Villa Restaurants?  A weird one, no doubt, but it is always good to see Lon Chaney, Jr. Directed by...well if you are Mexican Gilberto Martinez Solares, and if you are American Jerry Warren, "Face of the Screaming Werewolf" is a spirited, if not disjointed horror yarn.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Daughters of Virtue, Repent for Your Sins

So precious. Housewives banding together for prayer. They pray for their families.  They pray for each other.  They pray for forgiveness of their sins. These dedicated housewives, what sins? You know...perhaps they don't tend to their families like they should.  Or they slack off on house cleaning. You know, those sins.  They are prayer warriors, however.  Let us take a look at an exciting and frightening horror short "The Daughters of Virtue," winner of the Best Horror Short Award at the 2017 Nightmares Film Festival.
Five housewives make up a prayer group. Betty (Maria Olsen) leads the group, and she is a classic church lady.  Uh oh...Alice (Sylvia Panacione) has arrived and she doesn't look like she is into prayer at the moment.  Double uh oh...Rhonda (Brittany Samson) tearfully tells the group that her husband is cheating on her.  This is a shock to the of the group.  Alice doesn't look surprised and you can guess why.  Alice wonders if anyone knows of her cheating heart.  Betty then confronts  Alice as Alice hasn't really been confessing her sins like other group members have.  What follows is every mom's nightmare.  Alice's baby, asleep upstairs is abducted by the group as they coerce Alice to confess. 
Betty and her group are fanatical, true.  Religious fanatics are so unappealing and we feel for Alice despite her sinful nature.  We see Alice as a victim of the fanaticism.  The group claims Alice has a demon in her and intend to act on that presumption.  We see Alice as human, and someone we can relate to.  What began as a satire on prayer groups now is about to transition into a horrific nightmare. No spoilers here, but everything changes and in this 12 minute horror short, the final reveal will have you jumping across the room.
Is it right for us to see Alice as the victim? What horrors will result from the group's puritanical hatred of sin?  Are religious fanatics ever right, and if they are...well, never mind?  Michael Escobedo wrote and directed this compact horror tale which spirals from a soap opera drama into jarring horror. Mr. Escobedo, I'm told, will make a full length feature film based on this short...I can't wait! Kudos for this fine young director for creating a terrifying story based in a setting of apparent morality and safety.  For more information of "The Daughters of Virtue" click on the below links:
Daughters on Instagram
Daughters on Facebook

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pink Force Commando, Seductress and Killer

Jackal (Venus Lin, aka Brigitte Lin) is the most complex character ever put on film. Sultry and seductive, this vixen can make love to you in the morning and murder you that same morning. She'll be shot to death, have an arm cut off, shot to death again, fall off a thousand foot high bridge, and rebound nicely. With a machine-gun prosthetic arm, our heroine is ready to kill...again...and again! Hence today we look at, from Taiwan, 1982's "Pink Force Commando."
Take your favorite Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, mix in the final battle in "Zulu," add a lot of Kung Fu, lots of gore, and some very alluring gun-fighting beauties and this is "Pink Force Commando." Plot? Okay, if I must. Jackal, Rebel Angel (Hsueh-Fen Peng), and Cat (Elsa Yeung), escape with guns ablaze from the Chinese army (this would have made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid proud). In the ruckus, Jackal betrays her partners and makes off with the stolen gold. The gals will replace Jackal with Dynamite Susie (Sally Yeh). Long story short, Jackal will make up with her comrades in very gory fashion. Together again, the gunfighters are betrayed and run into an ambush. Jackal is shot to death...or so everyone thinks, and the woman in white (Chun-Chun Hsu) imprisons the other gals.
The Heartbroken Man (don't ask), nurses Jackal back to life and fits her with a prosthetic arm (lots of bits, including a machine gun, knife, and drill). Jackal then sets her sight on the aforementioned woman in white and her army in order to free her cohorts. Lots of decapitations, gratuitous Kung Fu, and machine gun battles will occur during all of this. The woman, when not going through warlords and armies like crap through a goose, will be put in much peril, and not all of them will survive.
Will Jackal run out of lives and finally assume room temperature? Is there any romance in store for these sexy gun fighters? Will our gals fare better than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did against the Bolivian Army?  Fans of spaghetti westerns will love this film, and so will fans of drive-in exploitation and Kung Fu film fans. This one has something for the whole family...if the family is demented and weird. If you like your films to have dozens of bullet-ridden corpses in every scene, then see "Pink Force Commando."

Friday, January 5, 2018

Boys in the Trees, Werewolves Stalk You

How many of you still suffer pangs of guilt from indiscretions or misbehavior in your earliest years. Sure, maybe you were a pre-teen or an adolescent engaging in misdeeds or cruelty. Fortunately, no one can rightly expect anything from those youngsters.  Maybe you betrayed a friend at the age of ten.  Perhaps you shoplifted at the age of 11.  Maybe you contributed to hurtful gossip at the age of 12.  Here is the good news.  If you still feel guilty about those have goodness in you.  The emergence of what you thought was adulthood conned you into betraying goodness.  Decades later, the guilt strikes out at you.  Here's a film for you, 2016's "Boys in Trees."
Corey (Toby Wallace) has dreams of leaving suburbia in Australia and go to college in New York. He is passionate about his photography.  Uh oh, he is a biggie in a skateboarding gang which bullies the vulnerable, smokes weed at will, and has no enemy to worry over.  The Wolves, they call themselves. Jango (Justin Holborow) is Corey's right-hand man, and also protector.  When Corey desires to grow wings and flee the coop...well, Jango pulls him back in.  Why would Corey want to leave all this? Ambition? Or maybe he needs to run away...but from what?
Halloween is here and youths are dressed in menacing costumes. The monsters seem to beckon Corey...but to what?  Here comes Jonah (Gulliver McGrath) uncool and meek lad who just invites scorn and bullying.  A long time ago, Corey and Jonah were best friends forever...then Corey became a cool kid.  By some bizarre events, Jonah and Corey are able to revisit their pasts and get many unanswered questions answered.  The Wolves see Jonah as a threat to their possession (Corey) and will do anything to separate these two former friends.
An ominous Halloween motif will guide Jonah and Corey through a most uncomfortable journey.  In this surreal tale, monsters (real and imagined) will snipe at our protagonists.  Uh oh...this tale doesn't seem to be heading to an ending filled with sunshine and lollipops.  Exactly what happened a long time ago that ended the friendship between Corey and Jonah?  Why has Jonah sought out his old friend at this point in time?  Are the horrific images that traipse throughout this film a foretelling of tragedy and fright?  Not the feel good film of the decade, "Boys in Trees" will take you on a journey through some of the more uncomfortably elements of your youth.  Beware...the world has forgiven you your youthful transgressions...but you have not.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Spawn of the Slithis, Radioactive Ooze Creature Finds Love

Poor Jennifer (Wendy Rastattar). This small town gal from North Dakota arrives in L.A. looking for fame and a good time. Stupid decision after stupid decision will then spell her humiliating doom. First, she hooks up with weird Doug (Stephen J. Hoag). He may be a Satanist and has an altar to himself adorned with his portrait on his houseboat. As the two begin to engage in pre-marital sex, a horny sea monster invades the houseboat and shreds Doug. Not done yet, the mini-skirt and suede boot clad Jennifer will then be stripped, ravished, raped, and torn to pieces by same creature. Today we look at 1978's "Spawn of Slithis."
The rape of Jennifer
A vicious creature is born out of mud infused with radioactivity from a leaky power-plant. The monster comes onto land, Venice, California, and begins shredding and feeding on humans. The cops are dolts and handsome high school teacher, Wayne (Alan Blanchard) takes on the case. Wayne is an awful teacher.  He hates his students, demeans them, and hates teaching.  Wayne is married to the lovely Jeff (Judy Motulsky)....Jeff?!? Just go with it. Jeff reads Cosmo a lot, presumably the articles on orgasms, and gives Wayne lots of goo-goo eyes. Wayne is uninterested in his beautiful wife, and starts visiting crime scenes.
Slithis food
After consulting some mad scientists, Wayne tries a couple of things that succeed in getting good people killed including the aforementioned Jennifer and her Anton Lavey wannabe stud. Now Wayne, enlists the help of a Quint-wannabe boat captain (Mello Alexandria) to flush out the monster. Uh oh, part of Wayne's idiotic scheme will have the lovely, and under-sexed Jeff, waiting at the canal for the creature to appear.  Will the amorous Slithis-thing be turned on by the sultry and afraid Jeff? Will any of the information Jeff read in Cosmo about relationships and erogenous zones help her tame the mud creature?
Slithis attacks
For the sake of the nubile babes of Venice, California, let us hope Wayne is a better monster hunter than he is a school teacher. Perhaps an inspiration for Roger Corman's "Humanoids from the Deep," "Spawn of Slithis" is a flawed but energetic sea creature film with erotic undertones. Slow at times, and surprisingly gory, this film can be forgiven its faults.  "Spawn of Slithis" is a fine companion to any Roger Corman film if you seek a Creature Feature double dip.