Posts Tagged ‘B-riffic

08
Dec
14

Screamtime (1986)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

In the aftermath 0f 31 Days of Horror, we’ve continued to watch horror movies. We were getting a bit wary of the pre-determined pile we’d set aside, though, so we turned to Netflix, where we found Screamtime, an ’80s horror anthology.

sc3Apparently, Screamtime was made in 1983 as a British/American co-production, but not released until 1986. Also, apparently, one of the anthology segments dates back to 1981. It’s hard to imagine that a 1986 audience would have seen much appeal in material that seems to have already passed its expiration date as cash-in cultural ephemera; this screams out as a Night Train to Terror-esque effort to just dump some already-canned footage on the market. From 2014, though, its generically, amorphously  1980s aesthetics seem charmingly “period” rather than glaringly, unfasionably just-out-of-date. All said, though, there’s nothing here that’s better than a middling episode of Tales From the Darkside.

The frame story is set in the pre-Giuliani/Disney grimey New York City, where a pair of ne’er-do-wells shoplift some horror titles from a video store for an afternoon’s jollies, and then take them to a friend’s house to watch. The friend is a shapely lady, who we first find in the shower… Screamtime puts its skin in the first few moments, in the hopes that it won’t immediately lose its audience–seldom a promising tactic. Unlike the frame, which screams its “Noo Yawk” American-ness, the shorts themselves are all decidely British. The first segment concerns a beleaguered puppeteer who has no support from his wife, and is actively terrorized by his bratty teenage stepson. After the boy burns down his stepfather’s puppet stand, the Punch puppet begins to dispatch his master’s enemies… Next, a newlywed couple moves into a house, but the wife has increasingly gruesome hallucinations that no one seems to understand… Finally, in what is simultaneously the most delightful and most conceptually negligent segment, another band of ne’er-do-wells (this time, they’re motorcross enthusiasts) decide to rob a pair of old ladies who claim their great wealth is protected by fairies (and garden gnomes). The pleasures come there more or less exactly as you’d expect (though, sadly, if you connected the dots to gnomes on motorbikes as I iniitally did, you may be disappointed). The closing of the frame story was just as easy, but all the more delightful for it.

The belle of the ball here (aside from the climax of the fairy/gnome story) is the short bit at the beginning in the video store — having recently watched the documentaries Be Kind Rewind and Video Nasties, it was nice to see the Wild West-inside of a 1980s video store as though it was no big deal, and to have the shorts presented herein as though they were, in fact, in-story the fly-by-night cheapies that they really were. There was a clear implication that the filmmakers saw their prospective audience as the slimeballs they showed watching the stuff — the lowest denominator they could imagine. While I admire the honesty, if you’re in the mood for a lovably schlocky ’80s horror anthology, you’d be better served by Deadtime Stories or even the aforementioned Night Train to Terror than by what’s offered here.

27
Nov
14

Blood Car (2007)

There is a great and varied selection of films that start with the word Blood. Some are drama films, like Blood Diamond or Blood Simple. Others still are nothing but muscle, like Bloodsport. More often than not, though, a film starting with blood is pretty likely to be a horror movie. And even more often still, it’s probably a shitty horror movie: Blood and DonutsBlood Diner, and Blood Feast immediately come to mind. I am happy to add Blood Car to the latter list: it is indeed a shitty horror-comedy that delivers just about what you’d expect; a movie about a car that runs on blood.

BloodCarTheVegTable

There’s always wheat grass aplenty at the Veg-Table!

Sometime in the very near future, gas prices have sky-rocketed to $50/gal. No one can afford to drive anymore, but there’s a young man out there who’s trying his darndest to change all that! Meet Archie (Mike Brune), a proud vegan pacifist who teaches elementary school by day and works tirelessly on his wheat grass car engine by night. He is a faithful customer of the Veg-Table, a vegan stand in an empty parking lot (because all parking lots are empty, get it?) specializing in wheat grass and other crunchy goodies. Lorraine (Anna Chlumsky) runs the stand and has a devastating crush on Archie, but he’s so focused on his engine he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Either way, Lorraine always enthusiastically asks Archie how his engine is coming along, and the answer is usually a half-hearted ‘harumph.’

BloodCarMeat

Denise. Meat. Flesh. Desire.

Lorraine isn’t the only one monitoring Archie’s success: we get an occasional glimpse of FBI Agents who are keeping close watch on Archie’s progress. They’ll be ready to pounce as soon as his engine starts showing some positive results; after all, who could be more interested in an alternative energy source than the American government? Though his efforts have thus far been largely unsuccessful, Archie tirelessly pushes forward. One night while working feverishly to make his engine work, he accidentally cuts himself, and his spilled blood makes it into his wheat grass mixture. Right away, the engine starts working; it seems blood was the missing element all along! Archie feels an enormous rush of success when he starts up his car and drives it to the Veg-Table to pick up some more wheat grass. But when he gets there he sees Lorraine has some competition: a painted whore named Denise has opened up a stand right across from the Veg-Table, simply called MEAT. Denise doesn’t give a crap about Archie’s ideals, morals or politics, she just likes riding cars and will put out to no end just to be a passenger. Now Archie knows he needs a constant supply of blood to keep his new girlfriend interested, but how can this vegan pacifist reconcile his desire for fame and sex with his reverence for all living things?

BloodCarArchieandLorraine

Lorraine (Anna Chlumsky) is so excited to finally be alone with Archie!

Blood Car is definitely one of the most irreverent and offensive movies I’ve ever seen. It’s loaded with bare breasts, curse words, blood, guts and violence against children: in short, don’t watch it with mom and dad. Fortunately, it is also rather smart, and that’s what makes it a movie worth seeing. Without its intelligence it would be easy to pop this movie into the Troma-esque category of purposeless trash. Unlike so many of the Troma trash films I’ve seen that have nothing to say, Blood Car obviously has very strong opinions and is unabashed about sharing them with its audience.

BloodCarArchieAndGirlfriend

Archie begins to lose it.

What I like most about Blood Car is Archie’s transformation. It is easy for a person to tout their ideals and display them loudly to the world, and Archie is no different. He wears his political beliefs on his shirts, one day loudly exclaiming his veganism and the next assuring us that dolphins have feelings, too. All the while though, Archie is completely disinterested in the Lorraine, the woman who shares his politics 100%, and instead runs wild with Denise the pure-id MEAT girl. Worse still, of course, is Archie’s thirst for blood. Early on in the film we see him roaming around town with a baseball bat, weeping as he murders small dogs and wild animals to harvest their blood. Later on, after Archie’s murders have moved into the human realm, he stuffs his face with meat while crying “I’m a vegan! I’m a vegan,” like a loud vegetarian who still wears leather. At the very end, Archie’s hypocrisy reaches its pinnacle when (spoiler alert) he agrees to sell his engine to the US Government, knowing full well all of his friends will likely become victims used to feed his thirsty cars.

The biggest problem with Blood Car, aside from its sometimes too-irreverent irreverence, is it kind of flags a little towards the end. It could probably safely shave 20 or so minutes off of its running time and greatly improve its audience’s overall experience without losing any of its punch. And, if you ask me, its punch is all in its display of the idealist losing sight of his ideals. When your identity is so wrapped up in your politics, what happens when you abandon them?

02
Nov
14

The Evil Dead (1981)

TheEvilDeadposterAfter giving the recent remake of The Evil Dead a fair chance, I had no choice but to pop in the original. It had been a long while sine I’d seen it, or even Evil Dead II, and I needed to refresh my memory before really making a final judgement call on the glossy makeover version. So we dedicated the 27th day of our 31 Days of Horror to the mother of all cabin-in-the-woods horror movies, and it should come as no surprise to anyone on the planet that it far outshines its expensive remake.

A group of friends are taking a little trip into the unknown: a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Ash (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend Linda and sister Cheryl accompany another couple, Scott and Shelly, for what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend. If only that damn Cheryl wasn’t so uptight, and didn’t freak out when they played this tape recording they found in the basement of an academic reading aloud some weird, old book, they could have had more fun. Or maybe Cheryl was right to be creeped out by the mysterious tape recording…

Indeed, not long after they shut the recording off, there’s a strange rustling out in the woods. What could it be? Perhaps the awakening of a sleeping evil that wants to take the happy-go-lucky-campers’ souls? It would seem so. At the very least there is no doubt it has some pretty nasty intentions once we see

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

it tree-rape Cheryl. When she comes back to the cabin, she seems a little off. It isn’t long before the rest of the group realizes something has possessed her, so they throw her into the basement from whence she can spout vindictive, raspy comments in her I’m-possessed voice! Will the group be able to survive the spreading evil?

I like to imagine when people say they enjoy gory horror movies, it’s movies like The Evil Dead they are talking about. As the movie progresses, each scene gets gorier, nastier and bloodier, but its tone is never really mean-spirited. It certainly doesn’t fall under the torture-porn category that is so popular these days; it isn’t watching people suffer for suffering’s sake. Instead, it seems a lot more like a showcase of the

Linda is so pretty!

Linda is so pretty!

special effects and make-up talent behind this movie. The stuff looks great, and what’s so great about it? One, it’s real. I know, I know, you’ve heard it a million times before, but get used to it, because you’re just going to keep hearing it: CG sucks and this movie is prime example of why. Nothing takes the audience out of a movie more than shitty special effects, and there is shitty CG and there is shitty claymation and there is shitty make-up, but of the three I’ll take the latter two over the former any day. Shitty CG is just so lazy, at least I feel if it’s something someone has touched with their hands they at least gave a shit. There is just nothing better than watching real, material special effects unfold in a movie like this. It’s glorious. And it’s even more glorious when the filmmakers manage to make it look good on a low budget; that’s when the true imagination, innovation and talent shines through, and it’s all over The Evil Dead. It’s quite clear why this movie set the template for so many that came after it.

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Just as I felt silly writing up Evil Dead II, I feel silly writing this one up. If this is a movie you should see, you have already seen it. Though, now that I’m all old and out of touch with the young kids, I wonder – what horror movies are those kids watching? Are movies like The Evil Dead even on their radar? If they aren’t, should I be thankful for the remake in hopes that it piques their interest? I guess the answer is yes. I don’t want horror to die! I want a special-effects and claymation renaissance! Get on it, kids!

23
Oct
14

The Tingler (1959)

TheTinglerPerceptoHalloween is without a doubt the best time of the year! Not only does it give me an excuse to watch nothing but horror movies for a month (or let’s face it, longer), it means everyone else is watching horror flicks, too! I’m lucky enough to live near a theater that plays old-timey horror flicks in October, and also lucky enough to have friends that want to go! For day 22 of 31 Days of Horror, we ventured out into the real world to experience William Castle’s The Tingler.

The film starts off with a warning from Mr. Castle himself, in which he informs his audience the film they are about to watch will be frightening. Some of us in the audience are, apparently, much more sensitive than others. Those sensitive types, should they feel the urge to, must scream, for it may be a scream that saves their lives! And now it’s time for the show to begin…

Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) is used to performing autopsies on criminals who’ve been killed by the electric chair, and he’s noticed they all have one strange thing in common: their spines are broken! It doesn’t seem as though the electricity is what killed these men, it’s almost as if fear itself had a hand in their deaths! Casually chatting with Oliver Higgins, brother-in-law of the very criminal he is dissecting as he speaks, the good Doctor posits we all have a creature living inside us… let’s call it the Tingler… that lies in wait and strikes when we feel fear! If we don’t have an outlet for the fear we feel, the Tingler takes hold of our spine, crushing it and killing us to death!

Sounds like questionable science, but that’s such a 21st century thing to say. Naysayers be damned, Dr. Chapin and his faithful assistant David are hellbent on proving their theory. They know they’ll need cold, hard evidence: but how to get it? First they try frightening alley cats; the x-rays show something strange indeed, but is it enough to prove their position? No, no first the doctor must trip on LSD and scare himself shitless, all in the name of science! Yes, yes that’s it – trip on acid, don’t scream, and maybe you’ll be confronted with your own tingler! Trouble is, it doesn’t work; the doctor couldn’t control himself and screams! Now if only he knew someone who was born without vocal cords… ah yes, of course! Oliver Higgins’ wife, Martha! She is not only a mute, but also very easily scared! Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from her…

TheTinglerPhotoWow. Just, wow. The Tingler is one hilarious, entertaining experience! During its original theater run, seats in the audience were rigged to vibrate at a certain point in the film when the screen goes black and Price shouts for everyone to “scream for your lives!” It’s a shame the gimmick (dubbed “Percepto”) isn’t something we can experience in the theaters for ourselves these days, though watching it in a theater filled with movie dorks was still pretty great!

My gosh, what isn’t great about this movie? First, there’s the ridiculous premise and Dr. Chapin’s relentless attempts to document this so-called Tingler. Everyone from his assistant to an average Joe who just walked into his laboratory simply believes such a theory would be true! Then there’s the actual Tingler itself, which strongly resembles a lobster with huge pincers and, when it moves, is very obviously pulled by threads the audience can plainly see. It is just so unabashedly, gloriously low budget and absurd it is impossible to resist. Then there are the one-note characters: Dr. Chapin, who cares only about finding the Tingler. There’s his wife Isabel, a promiscuous drunk to whom he must stay married, because it’s her money that funds his silly little experiments. There’s Oliver Higgins, the put-out husband of the deaf-mute who only wants a beer, for chrissakes. There’s Mrs. Higgins (Judith Evelyn) herself, who manages to do a pretty damn good job acting in this film given what she had to work with! I absolutely loved this movie. A total riot, I highly recommend for Halloween or any time of year!

22
Oct
14

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has such a good cover, we bought it twice.  Maybe that’s not true; maybe my pal Grant had given me a copy at some point in the past, and I’d forgotten about it. But, whatever the reason, we ended up with two copies right around when we figured out what we’d be watching for this Fall’s 31 Days of Horror, and into the running it went. We watched it as title 20 of the series.

the-night-evelyn-came-out-of-the-grave-3Before I tell you about how it fared, check out that cover! It’s great! It’s got most of what you’d want in horror packaging: a scantily-dressed lady–a scantily-dressed lady with a skull head — holding an almost tasteful severed head. When I was a kid (much like Panos Cosmatos) I was fascinated by the jackets to the VHS horror films my parents wouldn’t let me watch. Because of my rather limited frame of reference, I often imagined them as more intense Scooby Doo episodes — lots of pursuit by monsters. When I was older and able to pursue such things myself, I realized that most weren’t like that (the closest I’ve gotten to that platonic childhood sense is Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse). Why am I sharing all of this? Because the jacket art to Evelyn is really great, and looks exactly like the sort of movie I’d like to watch.

Unfortuntely, the movie itself isn’t much to write home about.

To cut right to the chase, Evelyn in practice isn’t too far from Scooby Doo in the broadest strokes of its plot — I’m going to be spoiler-y here since I don’t think the reveals are all that shocking — we’re in territory that was well-explored, and better, by the likes of Dominique is Dead or, perhaps most exceptionally, by Henri Cluzot’s Les Diaboliques: a plot to frighten a lightweight into being scared to death. We get there in Evelyn by way of a by-the-numbers ’70s giallo, with all of the misogyny that entails.

Killing some braod, like you do. Though it's not impossible to have a libale protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn't even try.

Killing some broad, like you do. Though it’s not impossible to have a viable protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn’t even try.

In this case, the movie begins with our “hero,” the decadent and troubled Lord Alan Cunningham, bringing a comely redhead to his rotting Gothic estate somewhere outside of London. He takes her down to his torture chamber and tortures and kills her. Hey! Wow! Can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance! (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t). Seems sometime in the past, Lord Alan had a redhead — his late wife Evelyn — cheat on him, and he killed her for it. Now, he’s trapped in a terrible cycle of finding and killing more redheads to somehw assuage/amplify his guilt. Everyone in his life — his psychiatrist/childhood best friend, his playboy cousin, his crippled, very young aunt, his lawyer — knows he’s got this problem, and while they’re all troubled by it to varying degrees, the only one who seems to hold him at all accountable is Albert, the estate’s groundskeeper and Lord Alan’s brother-in-law. Albert is always there, watching Lord Alan’s murderous dalliances, sneeringly taking Lord Alan’s pay-offs to keep quiet. It seems only a matter of time before he gets his revenge…

Meanwhile, Aunt Agatha holds a seance to bring back Evelyn’s spirit — and it works! This is all too much for Alan. The doctor says he needs regularity in his life — he should consider marriage. Maybe that will let him work his issues out.

His cousin takes him to a fancy-dress party where Alan is immediately smitten by yet another redhead, whom he proposes to before they’ve even left. Everyone in Alan’s life takes this in stride; they think she’s awfully well-mannered indeed. That, i guess, is the only qualification that need be had to marry the lunatic patriarch.

Evelyn's come out  of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! ...Or was it?

Evelyn’s come out of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! …Or was it?

Strange things start happening — the new wife discovers Evelyn isn’t in the family crypt, Albert is killed by a venomous snake by a mysterious assailant, Aunt Agatha gets up and walks without explanation, and then is killed and thrown to Alan’s pet foxes by a mysterious assailant… Some one, or some group of someones has something afoot, though damned if any of the pieces seem to fit together (Spoiler alert: they don’t).

This movie does have some wonderfully atmospheric locations and sets to play with — the aforementioned torture chamber and fancy-dress party both look stellar, as does the rotting family crypt and gardens around it. The fashions and hairstyles of both sexes are top-of-the-line mod/psychedelic, and reflect a vision of Swinging London that we here at Schlockwave find almost irresistably alluring. That’s not to say exactly that the movie looks good — the camera placements are a mess, and a series of bad decisions were made in the editing room that manage to squander what seems to be this movie’s only real resource. It’s hard to believe this movie was handled behind the camera by folks who’d  made anything professionally before.

I’d say that’s a pity, but this movie left me awfully frustrated. Beyond the first act, we seem to have been meant to view Lord Alan sympathetically… which is awfully hard to do once he’s mercilessly killed a few redheads. When he’s driven to madness and death, I wasn’t sad at all to see him go. And, when his death turns out to be a ruse to expose the plot that had been cooked up by the new wife, one of the redheads we thought was dead (?), and the playboy cousin, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Their “sins” pretty well pale in comparison to his… and in the reactionary logic of horror generally and giallo specifically, doesn’t that emminently qualify Lord Alan for a really juicy bit of narrative justice? Not here, it doesn’t.

So, should you run across a copy of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, take a moment and drink in that cover art. It looks so good! But, you can safely skip watching it, not to mention buying it — let alone buying it twice.

22
Oct
14

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

For day 19 of 31 Days of Horror, we decided to keep it Corman, only this time we watched one he actually directed: A Bucket of Blood. Starring Dick Miller as an aspiring artist, A Bucket of Blood takes a deep look into the underground world of the 1950’s beatnik. Okay, not really; it’s just a thoroughly silly but totally enjoyable exploitation flick.

It ain't easy being an artist, man...

It ain’t easy being an artist, man…

Walter Paisley (Miller) is a broke-ass busboy at The Yellow Door, the hip hangout for all the local beatniks. Poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, you name it: they all hang here, man. Sometimes, Walter gets a little too wrapped up in the poets’ pondering and forgets to bus the coffee cups. His boss Leonard is always on his ass about it. Carla, Leonard’s girlfriend/business partner/something is less tough on Walter, which may be why he harbors a devastating crush on her.

Anyway, another tough night at The Yellow Door is over, and Walter comes home to a can of cold beans and a screeching cat. But tonight is slightly different than most nights, because he’s also come home to a virgin package of clay, just waiting for his talentless hands to mold it into art. Unfortunately, Walter quickly discovers that he’s no artist at all. In his frustration, he blindly stabs at the wall in his apartment, accidentally killing the kindly cat he and his landlady care for. Suddenly Walter thinks of a great way to use all that clay he just got…

What lies beneath Walter's Art?

What lies beneath Walter’s Art?

Having created a wonderful masterpiece out of clay and cat corpse, Walter excitedly brings his art to The Yellow Door. Leonard is suspicious of the piece, but Carla just loves it and so they put it on display. Suddenly, the Beats start seeing Walter in a different light; they have real conversations with him instead of just asking him to take away their dirty dishes! But Leonard won’t be convinced until he creates another work of art, and that’s when the real carnage begins.

A Bucket of Blood is a short and sweet little exploitation horror movie. Its jabs at beat poetry are hilarious and spot-on; “Life is an obscure hobo bumming a ride on the omnibus of Art” Maxwell, one of The Yellow Door’s resident poets bellows. Walter takes those words, and everything else the artists utter, to heart. As he slathers clay onto his dead victims, he mutters the words verbatim. He wants so badly to be one of them, he goes to lethal lengths to achieve what they would consider greatness. And who wouldn’t want to graduate from forgotten busboy to revered artist?

I honestly don’t think a film like this would accidentally fall into the wrong hands. If you’ve rented or bought A Bucket

Walter is King of the Yellow Door!

Walter is King of the Yellow Door!

of Blood the chances are you know exactly what you’re in for: a silly little horror flick. That being said, it is a tad smarter than I’d usually expect out of such films, and that makes it all the more enjoyable. On top of all that, Dick Miller is so much fun to watch as Walter! Poor Walter just does not get it; he doesn’t understand what talent is, what art is, and hell, why would he when all he does is watch talentless, navel-gazing hacks stroke each-others’ egos?

Anyway, if this sounds like your bag, dig it, man. It is bad. Unlike Walter’s art, it knows it’s bad. And it is so damn good at being bad. Thank you, Mr. Corman.

07
Oct
14

Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

On this, the 7th day of 31 Days of Horror, we bring to you only the best: a $1 purchase from an antique mall starring William Shatner! Believe it or not, after over 300 posts we still haven’t made it to a Shatner movie. How is that even possible? No better time to remedy the situation than during 31 Days of Horror.  So, without further ado, I present a masterpiece of 1970’s sci-fi horror: Kingdom of the Spiders.

The town of Verde Valley, Arizona is a sleepy little place. The weeks before the county fair are the most exciting for everyone in the town, and farmer Walter Colby is sure that his prized calf will take home first place! That is until the healthy calf suddenly falls ill without explanation or warning. Frantic, Colby calls in Rack (yes, his name is Rack; don’t worry, there’s a story behind that!) Hansen (Shatner) for help.

Little diddy 'bout Rack & Diane...

Little diddy ’bout Rack & Diane…

Unable to save the calf, the best Hansen can do is send samples to the university in Flagstaff. Worried that he’ll be quarantined, Colby can only sit and wait to hear the fate of the rest of his livestock. Hansen doesn’t seem too worried about that; he thinks his calf’s illness is an isolated, though strange, incident. All that changes when sexy, blonde out-of-towner Diane Ashley comes zipping into town in her flashy car and snazzy big-city suit! She comes from the university with the news that the calf was killed by… wait for it… SPIDER VENOM!

Hansen is incredulous: first of all, a woman is trying to tell him that one spider killed a cow? Silly, silly women; what has the world come to making women scientists?! Everyone knows women are meant to be subdued, and Hansen will surely have his way with Miss Ashley. After all, what woman wouldn’t eventually fall prey to Dr. Rack Hansen’s charms? But I digress; back to the matter at hand: spiders. Yeah, okay so our smart city lady posits that spiders, no longer able to subsist on their normal meal of insects due to the overuse of insecticides like DDT, have now banned together to attack livestock and humans in order to survive. Armed with the knowledge of the enemy, can Hansen & Ashley save Verde Valley from the spiders’ evil web?!

This pilot is covered in spiders!

This pilot is covered in spiders!

Kingdom of the Spiders might be the best buck I’ve ever spent. As surely most of you are aware, movies like this are almost always a gamble, and very rarely does the viewer come out on top. I knew that we’d be in for some enjoyment; Shatner is almost always entertaining, and he definitely lives up to his reputation here as over-actor extraordinaire. But Shatner isn’t the only thing entertaining about Kingdom, it offers the whole kit and caboodle of b-horror fun; cheesy special effects, ridiculous storyline, all sorts of distressed damsels, and some of the slowest-moving villains on screen.

Perhaps the best part about Kingdom is that it’s a 50’s movie made in 1977. If it had been in black and white and had a different star, I totally would have mistaken it for something of that era. Is it an homage to the creepy crawler flicks from the 1950’s, or is it just totally behind the time? Perhaps its concerns over environmentalism update it a bit, but its attitudes towards women and the way it is filmed make it seem like it came from another time. And that is another reason why it is such a joy to watch.

This girl's bed is covered in spiders!

This girl’s bed is covered in spiders!

This is a really dumb movie. The dialog is dumb, the story is dumb, and the people in the film are pretty dumb. But it is an absolute pleasure to watch; the pacing is just right, and in a movie like this that is typically what either saves the day or squashes its potential. It’s the perfect drive-in movie, or heck, the perfect Halloween movie! I’ll confess to being afraid of spiders; I’ve even woken up several times with night terrors caused by a dream where spiders were flying at my face, and this movie didn’t even scare me. It was just sheer, dumb fun. Next time you’re in the mood for some mind-numbing sci-fi horror, this is your movie!

05
Oct
14

Society (1989)

In keeping with the golly-gee-80’s-horror-movies-had-great-special-effects theme, Day 5 of 31 Days of Horror continues with Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut, Society. Usually when I hear Yuzna’s name, I cringe just a little bit. I haven’t seen too much of his stuff, and judging by the internet’s opinion, what I have seen is not the good stuff. The Dentist comes to mind as one big fat mistake. But hey, we all make mistakes, and everyone deserves a second (third, fourth) chance, right?
The perfect Beverly Hills family

The perfect Beverly Hills family

Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) is a rich teen living in Beverly Hills, but he’s always had the sense that he doesn’t quite belong there – not amongst his friends, and especially not his family. The older he gets, the more he starts to believe that he’s adopted. His parents seem to have a special affinity with his sister Jenny that they just don’t share with him. Right around the time of Jenny’s coming-out party, the situation seems to come to a head. His shrink doesn’t really have much advice to offer him, except to pump him full of drugs and tell him that he’s paranoid. All that paranoia starts to gel when a friend of his takes a tape recording of his family, where they say some very strange and shocking things to one another, alluding to family orgies and cannibalism! But when Bill plays the tape for his therapist, it just sounds like a normal, wholesome family conversation about how sad everyone is Bill can’t make Jenny’s party. Either there’s an intricate conspiracy going on or young Bill is losing his mind!

Hell-bent on discovering the truth, Bill charges home unexpectedly only to find his family involved in some very outrageous behavior. This movie has one of the most surprising and bizarre endings I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know too much about what to expect when I started watching it, so its desire to shock worked 100% on me. What starts off as a pretty normal teen coming-of-age movie ends with one of the most gloriously gooey and disgusting scenes I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t want to spoil too much, but if you are sensitive to viscous fluids you might want to keep a blindfold handy. 
Mama's got a brand new hand

Mama’s got a brand new hand

It’s difficult to continue writing about Society without giving away some of its best secrets, so if you haven’t seen it and you like surprises, read no further. What Bill finds at this party is all of Beverly Hills’ most elite nouveau riche preparing to dine upon the lower classes, literally sucking the life out of the poor. Screaming Mad George’s special effects are a sight to behold; something like twenty minutes of pure gross-out slimy excess that makes the whole film worth watching (because admittedly, the first half of the film seems to drag a bit). Turns out his parents aren’t his parents at all, and that Bill was reared from childhood to serve as a special feast for the rich. Comparisons to John Carpenter’s They Live are not unfounded; it’s basically the same message, only here the rich are simply a different, superior species than you and me instead of aliens! 

It probably comes as no surprise to those of you acquainted with my politics that I loved the ending. Just like They Live, the film’s commentary on life in Reagan’s America is just as relevant today; perhaps even more so. We live in a

I'm glad she's not *my* sister

I’m glad she’s not *my* sister

time where corporations merge and grow to gargantuan, powerful proportions, paying their CEOs 300 times what they pay the automatons that work on the bottom rung. The idea that behind closed doors these privileged assholes literally feast on our flesh is depressing and hilarious at the same time. I think that particularly is what I like so much about its presentation: it is so gloriously excessive that we can’t help but laugh, even if the meaning behind it is painfully true. 

Though the special effects are awesome, the rest of the movie is weighed down by its inherent b-ness; the acting leaves something to be desired, the pacing is a bit frustrating and the soundtrack is noticeably shitty – in fact, I think a new score would improve this movie a whole bunch. But the film’s ultimate message and special effects make up for all of this. Another aspect I really liked about this movie is that it is a coming-of-age film from a boy’s perspective. For some reason, it seems all the coming-of-age stuff I’ve seen in the last few years revolves around girls and their first period, so a boy finding out he was born into a family of flesh-eaters is refreshing, to say the least. 
04
Oct
14

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

What better way to follow-up Elvira’s Haunted Hills than with another old-horror parody flick? No better way, I say, and so Day 4 of 31 Days of Horror is dedicated to Killer Klowns from Outer Space. This time instead of Elvira’s Poe and Price fixation, Klowns rethinks alien invasion movies from the 1950’s! Only these aliens aren’t like any we’ve ever seen, in the 50’s or otherwise! They are, well, you guessed it, Klowns. You know, with a K. I think that means they’re kooky.

The tent's first victim: good ol' boy Royal Dano

The tent’s first victim: good ol’ boy Royal Dano

The action centers around a wooded area in a college town; the kind of place those krazy kidz go to make out and do the nasty! Mike and Debbie are just having some fun when they see something like a shooting star touch down in the woods. Like any inquisitive pair of horny teenagers, they decide to check it out. The last thing they expected, of course, was to see a giant circus tent in the middle of the woods! Of course it could mean nothing but innocent fun, right? WRONG! Inside the tent are grotesque clowns who spin humans into cotton candy and suck out the blood with a silly straw! If only they had a friend in the police department…

Oh but they do! Seems Debbie’s ex is the only reasonable cop in town, and he’ll do anything to win her back – even if it means scouring the town for Killer Klowns! The only other cop at the station, Mooney (John Vernon), is having none of it! He doesn’t trust these out-of-town college kids a lick, and he’ll be damned if any damn kid will

Mooney ain't gonna buy any of that shit them kids are sellin'...

Mooney ain’t gonna buy any of that shit them kids are sellin’…

get him to believe in the invasion of the Killer Klowns!

This is a gleefully stupid horror movie and I love it so fucking much! What’s not to love? The plot is ludicrous, and so enjoyable to watch. The special effects and make-up are totally stellar; the Chiodo Brothers know what they’re doing, I only wish they did it more often. Watching a movie like Killer Klowns today, when there is so much CG bullshit flying around, makes me appreciate their talents that much more. I sure as hell hope the fabled sequel to Klowns, supposedly due out in 2016, will feature the same beautiful make-up work. Above all, shitty CG is the biggest movie-ruiner for me these days, so it would be nice to see some real gooey make-up action on the big screen again.

FREAKLY KLOWNS Y'ALL!

FREAKLY KLOWNS Y’ALL!

Another great thing about Killer Klowns from Outer Space is it’s a relatively tame movie. Sure, it’s a horror movie with terrifying clowns and it features a few make-out sessions, but I don’t think there’s any serious gore or nudity. The tone is very light-hearted, even if the clownish antics of the aliens (puppet shows, marionettes, pies in the face) all turn out to be very deadly! All in all this is a hilariously goofy way to spend an hour and a half. It’s pretty much a must-see for anyone interested in boning up on their b-horror canon, and always worth another viewing for those already in the know.

20
Jul
14

Double Trouble (1992)

I’m embarrassed to report that up until yesterday, I’d never even heard of The Barbarian Brothers. Can you believe it! Who would have thought I’d have Paste Magazine to thank for the introduction. Actually, I’ve only seen about a quarter of their selections for the 100 Best B-movies of all time. On one hand, this makes me feel like a b-movie failure; I totally failed the Paste Magazine shit movie test! On the other hand, it gets me super pumped to add 75 movies to my to-watch list.

Trouble goes riding.

Trouble goes riding.

If you too are new to the Barbarian Brothers, allow me to introduce Peter and David Paul; muscle-bound twins hungry for Hollywood fame. The two of them are on opposite sides of the law in Double Trouble; one a hard-working cop in a cropped Raiders sweatshirt, the other a womanizing diamond thief recently released from jail for good behavior. The bad twin doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of stealing diamonds, and when crime magnate Philip Chamberlain (Roddy McDowall) sees his ugly mug on surveillance footage from the International Diamond Exchange, he and his goons are hot on his tail.

Roddy turns you on.

Roddy turns you on.

But the lying, thieving twin has always got tricks up his sleeve, and promises to give the cops some inside information if they protect him rather than prosecute him for his diamond thievery. This drives the cop twin insane of course, because now: surprise! Their partners in law! The two beefcakes now run all over town looking for Chamberlain and his crew, all the while bickering and getting up to They Live-length fight scenes. Can the two brothers set their differences aside and work together for once?

"Pop" art.

“Pop” art.

I’ve seen a hefty handful of dumb shit in my day, but this movie is most certainly one of the dumbest out there. The plot is as thin as can be, and thank god for it; I certainly wouldn’t want anyone picking up a movie like this and expecting any kind of depth whatsoever. This is exactly what you want it to be: empty, stupid, ridiculous, and most importantly, gloriously entertaining. As if a film about two bodybuilding twin brothers fighting a crime ring wasn’t enough incentive to get you interested, how about this: the film is directed by John Paragon, the man we have to thank for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark among other things I’m sure to investigate further. The three together make pure comedy gold worthy of an elaborate thieving scheme!

 

 




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