Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Havoc: OFFERINGS (1989)

I love me some 80s slashers but the late-to-the game slasher OFFERINGS always eluded me.  I’d seen the amazing artwork of some psycho’s hands gripping a present dripping blood so many times that my mind probably built it up better than the film could ever be. There has to be a severed head in that box, right?  I mean, the dimensions match and everything.  So when I finally got a hold of a copy of this bad boy during the great video store raids of 2008 (“all VHS 50 cents each”) I felt my life as a slasher geek was finally complete.

I eventually got around to watching it this Halloween season and I was disappointed after finally seeing it because I had seen it before - under the title HALLOWEEN! Seriously, this rips off so much of John Carpenter's ground breaking classic that I was surprised it didn't say "a Rob Zombie film" in the opening credits. Everything from Carpenter's film is in here from the heavy breathing guy standing behind trees to the boarded up killer's house (where someone apparently still does the lawn). Hell, the musical score is Carpenter's work but played at a different tempo. The only major difference is the girls in this speak in a Valley Girl tone. I guess the fad finally hit Oklahoma, where this was lensed, in the late 80s.

Mute kid Johnny lives with his abusive mother (who likes to put the ashes of her cigarettes in his scrambled eggs).  The docs say he is smart, but homeboy won’t talk and he likes to torture animals. “You’re siiiiiiiiiiick,” screams mom as she says he will grow up to be like his “good for nothing father” who tried to slit her throat. Gee, I wonder why he tried to do that to this screeching witch.  Whatever, mom, take it to Jerry Springer. Johnny’s only friend is Gretchen and she shows up to play just in time to get him away from his mom’s tongue lashing. Johnny and Gretchen are taunted by some neighborhood kids and he accidentally falls down a well and cracks his skull (off screen).  Okay, looks like director Christopher Reynolds also saw PROM NIGHT (1980) during his research.

Insert "Ten Years Later" title card. The grown Johnny is now housed in a mental institution after having killed and eaten his mother following his Jackie Chan skull smack.  Damn, I guess his mom was right.  He is supposed to be kept under constant sedation but the nurse is distracted and pays for it by getting a syringe in the forehead. Apparently that will kill you.  Johnny escapes from the institution by climbing over the electric fence and heads back to his hometown to get revenge on the kids who tormented him. Totally bad news as the grown Gretchen (Loretta Leigh Bowman) and Kacy (Elizabeth Greene) are, like, totally having a sleepover. Ohmygawd! Slowly on Johnny’s trail are Sheriff Chisum (G. Michael Smith) and Prof. Sam Loomis, er, Jim Paxton (Jerry Brewer).

If you want the rest of the plot, just replay HALLOWEEN in your head.  This contains each and every bit from Carpenter’s film.  So much so that I created this handy checklist for the more discerning cinemasochists:

So, as you can see, OFFERINGS tops HALLOWEEN in the “kid busted reading porn mags” department (and they don’t have the decency to show us any of the nudie pics).  Director Christopher Reynolds mimics Carpenter’s film from beginning to end, but does add his own “creative” inventions in order to make some claim of ownership.  The biggest one is that Michael, er, Johnny keeps making offerings to his beloved Gretchen like a love-sick puppy. Apparently the part of his brain responsible for romance took the biggest hit because my experience has shown chicks never react favorable to gifts of human body parts.  Well, severed human body parts.  It does result in a howler of a line from the Sheriff as the girls call him and he shows up and says, “What’s all this I hear about an ear?”  Even funnier is he says he can’t determine if it is real until “the lab analyzes it.” Director Reynolds cameos in a hospital scene as a doctor. He also delivers the film's most memorable lines: "The one you need to look out for is Mr. Franks. Every time he craps, he thinks he is having an abortion. Man, he sure has had some ugly kids." The film’s biggest disappointment?  No bloody birthday box.  I’m pissed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Havoc: HELL NIGHT (1981)

After the landscape-altering success of FRIDAY THE 13th (1980), horror movies changed in a lot of ways. Most of the significant changes occurred after the introduction of the sequels, but ‘81 and ‘82 saw a slew of deformed or inbred killers hit the drive-ins. At first glance you’d think FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1981) would take the credit for cementing the deformed, animalistic killer motif (particularly with the backwoods slant as Jason wears denim overalls and a plaid shirt). Interestingly Tobe Hooper’s THE FUNHOUSE (1981) actually predated Steve Miner’s first sequel and HELL NIGHT (1981) came out three months afterwards. Other notable films such as HUMONGOUS (1982) and JUST BEFORE DAWN (1982) are equally inspired by Jason Voorhees, but you could also make a case that THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980) played equally important roles in both the FRIDAY series and it’s subsequent offspring.

Legend has it that the Garth Manor was the scene of a grizzly crime back in the ‘50s. The Garth family’s children were all born deformed or one case so mentally retarded that he was like an animal. One night Mr. Garth snapped and killed his entire family and hung himself. When the police came and collected the bodies, there was one that they couldn’t find and it is believed that Andrew still lives somewhere in the mansion to this very day. Of course, you know what that means. The local fraternity and sorority chapters decide to use it for a pledge initiation! Apparently they’ve never heard of a pledge paddle.

Is somebody missing an Osmond?
Four pledges Seth (Vincent Van Patten), Denise (Suki Goodwin), Jeff (Peter Barton) and Marti (Linda Blair) are locked in the mansion and all they have to do is stay the entire night. Sounds simple enough, right? The frat boys have the house rigged with a variety of scares, including self-locking doors, phantom sounds, ghosts and dummies. And I’m not just talking about the Van Patten kid. During the night Fraternity presidents Peter and Scott (Kevin Brophy and Jimmy Sturtevant) and Sorority sister May (Jenny Neumann) skulk around outside the mansion and in its elaborate subterranean tunnels setting off the elaborate tricks they have set up. Unfortunately this Hell Night, the legends of the missing Garth boy are about to be proven true.

HELL NIGHT could easily be written off as just another Canadian slasher flick riding on the coat-tails of FRIDAY THE 13th, but this is head and shoulders above the rest largely in part to infamous gay porn director Tom DeSimone (who also gave us the 1972 3D soft-core flick PRISON GIRLS). DeSimone made a handful of mainstream movies after semi-retiring from porn and before moving on to directing TV and with HELL NIGHT he shows a real talent for blending an old fashioned haunted house thriller with a post-FRIDAY sensibility. His use of light and shadow, clever editing and masterful camera work makes it all the more of a shame that he didn’t continue in this vein. Unlike many other slasher films that came along later, the suspense sequences actually work and some of them work extremely well. While I’m handing out kudos, there would be no small oversight if I failed to mention that the score was composed by John Carpenter alum Dan Wyman and the producer is none other than Irwin Yablans. Yablans has been described as a workman-like producer who has had his mitts on some damn fine horror films including (most famously) Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978), not to mention TOURIST TRAP (1979), PARASITE (1982) and TANK (1984)... Yeah, well ok, point taken. But he’s still cool.

DeSimone’s predilections are fairly obvious here as the film starts out with the weakest wet t-shirt scene in the history of cinema where the girls are wearing heavy, dark colored t-shirts. Boat officially missed. Also, Linda Blair’s assets are safely tucked away and for that matter the most amount of flesh on display is from the Van Patten kid who spends an awful lot of screen time running around in nothing but his boxer shorts. Linda Blair fans (that’s like everybody, right?), won’t be totally disappointed as, in spite of the fact that she is supposed to be a car-fixin’ tomboy, she is gussied up to the nines in her turn of the century Halloween costume which leaves room for many bosom-heaving scenes of terror. Also, the costume is an interesting choice as it reflects the theme of film; that of an actual gothic horror film with a modern twist.

Now this is a lair!
If made today, the thought process for the very creative shots and lighting, the careful crafting of the atmosphere and suspense and the thoughtful costuming of the characters wouldn’t even make it to the table. If it sounds like I’m waxing a little too poetic about this film, go watch the recent remake NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (2010). There isn’t an ounce of subtlety to be found, not even any attempt at anything other than shrill characters who do nothing but act as crass as possible, except for the virtuous, virginal heroine. That’s all you got? Catty “bitches” who have loud conversations about how their crotches itch because of a bad wax job? After that cynical, half-assed crap, it should be easy to appreciate how DeSimone does so much with so little and does it really well.

I will admit that some of the comic relief comes across as a bit forced, in part due to the fact that some of the supporting cast isn’t quite up to the task. On the other hand, there’s a few moments that are pretty unintentionally amusing too. When Seth escapes and finally makes it to the police department, they think he’s pulling a frat prank and tell him to take a hike. Noticing that a hall door is open, unguarded and right in the middle is a table with several shotguns lying on it. Seth sneaks in, steals one and jumps out the window. Whaaaaa? Not only is the room empty except for a table full of shotguns, but nobody is watching it and the window isn’t barred? Oh, those wacky Canadians! Even so, this movie is definitely worthy of classic status and it’s a damn shame DeSimone’s only subsequent horror efforts were for the agonizing FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES TV series. That show that managed to kick the legs out from under the most talented horror filmmakers in the industry, so I’m not holding it against him. I’m sure it sounded good on paper... Four times.

Oh and just like no Halloween is complete without Linda Blair, no discussion of Linda Blair is complete with out... well, a couple of things. For those who only read this write-up in the hopes of seeing some of Blair’s bodaciousness, here ya go. Best. Issue. EVER.

Ok, so it doesn't have much to do with the movie other than sharing the title, but every time I see the title this song gets stuck in my head.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Havoc: FIEND (1980)

True story: when I was a kid, the VHS cover for Don Dohler’s FIEND scared the hell out of me.  I only glimpsed it once at a video store (never got to rent it) and the combination of green cracking skin and drooping eyelids sent my mind reeling.  What happened to that guy?  Is he in pain?  Does he have a desire to peel that scaly skin? And will someone touch the exposed pink flesh under his eyeballs (my biggest worry)? And, most importantly, who would win in a fight – FIEND or THE GRIM REAPER (aka ANTHROPOPHAGUS)?

The image was cheap, but oh so effective and that sums up the career of Don Dohler perfectly.  Dohler was a regional filmmaker based in Maryland who started making feature length in the late 70s.  They were generally short on plot (usually just involving an alien crash landing in, of course, Maryland), but high on enthusiasm and creativity.    

FIEND, Dohler’s second feature length effort, is no exception.  The film opens with a random red orb flying into a graveyard and zapping into the ground.  It enters the plot’s occupant (Don Leifert), who rises from the dead decomposing but with a red glow.  Amazingly, there is a couple cuddling among the tombstones (“Hey, at least it’s quiet” says the romantically-challenged boyfriend).  With the beau off to get a blanket, Fiend strikes and sucks the lifeforce from the girl, resulting in him having a renewed, normal appearance.  So in order to live, Fiend must kill every now and then.  No biggie I guess as he moves into a vacant house in a cul-de-sac (apparently you can just pull out the “for sale” sign and no one will ask questions).

George Stover: Fashion Icon
Cut to 6 months later and Fiend is doing quite well for himself. He has taken the name Eric Longfellow and established a successful music lesson studio (!) with assistant Dennis Fry (the great George Stover).  And being an undead, soul sucking monster isn’t his scariest attribute as he is also a wine connoisseur and cat lover.  He is also a pretty lousy neighbor as Gary Kender (Richard Nelson) is tired of hearing that violin screeching at all hours.  His wife Marsha (Elaine White) doesn’t want Gary to makes waves with the new neighbor, but it is bad enough that Gary wishes the Johnsons hadn’t moved out.  And y’all remember how bad the Johnsons were!  Of course, the violin playing would be the least of the neighborhood’s worries if they knew about Longfellow’s two most recent murders.

The horror hits home though when Longfellow kills a young girl behind the Kender’s home.  No one in the neighborhood was home when it happened except Longfellow, who told the police he was listening to music with his assistant. Boy, if I had a dime for every time I got out a major crime with the “listening to music” excuse.  Gary ain’t buying it and goes to confront Longfellow about it.  Longfellow invites him into his damp basement (“I prefer it that way”) and, while his host is preparing drinks, Gary snoops and finds a strange altar, knife and witchcraft books hidden in the corner.  I knew there was something wrong with guys who play the violin!

Intrigued by what he saw, Gary digs deeper by getting a “Witchcraft & Demonology” book (while buying his wife multiple copies of Dohler’s “Film Magic” for her Boy Scout den; nice plug, Don).  He reads the section on a “Fiend” and slowly starts putting it all together.  Didn’t his wife say the Johnsons had a relative whose grave was robbed? Gary should check that out.  He does and finds the world’s most resourceful cemetery caretaker who just happens to have the dead man’s obituary in his wallet!  No newspaper microfiche montages for Dohler.  OH…MY…GOD…the man whose body disappeared, one William Dorian, is a dead ringer for Eric Longfellow.  Gary must stop him now because he continues to kill and a kid (Greg Dohler) witnessed his latest crime.  What Gary doesn’t know is Longfellow now has his sights set on Gary’s wife and lures her over by calling to ask for a “mild pain killer.”  Boy, if I had another dime for every time a neighbor used that line on me.

Fiend no like kickball!
I’ll be honest and say FIEND is no great shakes when it comes to plot. In terms of Dohler’s filmography, I prefer it less to his “aliens fight rednecks” trilogy (THE ALIEN FACTOR; NIGHTBEAST; GALAXY INVADER).  The film is pretty slow and suffers from moments of nothingness.  Had the script been fleshed out a little bit more (why not make the little girl the leads daughter, for example), it could have been more intriguing.  Dohler was also slow to embrace the more exploitive elements that the genre (and distributors) demanded from him so you don’t get any gore or nudity.  It does, however, benefit from a great, working class do-it-yourself feel.  As with all of Dohler’s early films, you can almost sense the amount of passion that went into making the film.  And Dohler takes risks (the child killing; the death of the wife) that most filmmakers would shy away from.  This is also definitely for you if you are a fan of 80s cul-de-sacs replete with games of kickball and lawn mowing (who isn’t).  Sadly, my first viewing was prompted by the news of lead Don Leifert’s passing this month.  He appeared in a few Dohler features and is good in his part.  Rest in peace Fiend.  I hope no red blobs hit your grave.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Havoc: MOSQUITO (1995)

Since the days of THEM (1954), the killer insect subgenre has been a strictly niche audience thing. There really are no break-out hits. There was never any film called MANDIBLES in the ‘70s that elevated the giant insect type film to the level of art and had patrons lining up around the block to see it. If you are going to make a giant insect movie you have to know the consequences, you have to make it out of a passion for the subject matter. Within the genre there are classics such as Bill Rebane’s THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975), but you can hardly call them cinematic spectacles, at least not with a straight face.

The indy horror boom of the late ‘80s saw some great killer insect movies following the box office success of William Fruet’s highly entertaining BLUE MONKEY (1987) and led to other classics such as the Julie Corman produced THE NEST (1988). This bled into the early ‘90s and gave us a pair of killer mosquito flicks made only a few years and worlds apart. Seriously, what would be the most horrifying bug to take on massive proportions? Something that stabs your flesh and sucks your blood, right?

In 1993, bit actor and occasional director Clark Brandon saw fit to shockingly waste an amazing cast of cult actors (Charles Napier, William Sanderson, Michael J. Pollard, George 'Buck' Flower, etc) and a solid, if somewhat muddled, premise with SKEETER. The almost incomprehensible “plot” is about an evil corporate dude who looks like Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man (Jay Robinson), a perpetually crying woman, soppy romance, Indian rituals as imagined by a white suburbanite, funerals, drama, more drama, completely nonsensical dialogue, more drama… oh, and some giant mosquitoes. In addition to the male lead, Jim Youngs, riding around on a motorcycle with his shirt open and mirror-shades looking like George Michael (except, presumably, not gay), Tracy Griffith’s non-stop sobbing will wear thin so fast that you will forget all about the damn mozzies. The “horror” elements are so few and far between and the soft-focus drama is so protracted, that it makes the made-for-SyFy flicks seem like the pinnacle of cinematic rollercoaster thrills. Even poor Micky J.’s abject lunacy can’t save this tedious turkey.

Seemingly inspired by the movie within a movie titled MOSQUITO in the under-appreciated homage-laden POPCORN (1991), director Gary Jones unleashed the seemingly appropriately titled MOSQUITO on the public in 1995.

A pod from a space ship flying past earth crash-lands in front of some farmers, presumably in a nod to the asteroid incident in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space.” A mosquito lands on the alien hand that has fallen out of the wreckage and that is all the setup we need for a giant mozzie invasion! Ok, maybe a little more... A couple, Ray and Meg (Tim Lovelace, Rachel Loiselle) have moved out to the area for Meg’s new job as Park Ranger. After running into a giant bug and ending up with a stinger in their radiator, they know that something strange is afoot at the Circle K. Meanwhile the Chief Ranger (Guy Sanville), who sports an office full of taxedermied wildlife, sends out pervo Ranger Hendricks (Ron Asheton of Iggy and the Stooges fame) to do some mosquito population control. Meanwhile (again), a trio of severely over-acting bank robbers lead by Earl (Gunnar “I’m not a horror actor” Hansen) are running around in the woods after pulling off a bank heist that is all over the news. Why they are dressed for a company sponsored paint-ball team-building exercise, I have no idea. Also out in the woods is one meteorologist Parks (Steve Dixon), who is looking for the crash-site with his un-used GHOSTBUSTERS prop. When asked if he is a weather man, Parks replies “no a real meteorologist… one that studies meteors” Ummm… you mean “astronomer”, right?

Look at the bones!
Naturally all three groups collide while a swarm of giant, bloodthirsty insects go on a rampage killing fishermen, campers, and really anyone they can stick their proboscis in. The plot runs sort of like NIGHT OF THE LIVING MOSQUITOS, with non-stop skeeter attacks that boast a wide array of special effects including full-size puppets, stop motion animation, blue screen composites, hand-drawn animation and animatronics. Made for what appears to be the trade-in value of a ’79 Winnebago (ok, about $200,000), Jones makes the most of his meager budget and struggling cast, shoveling most of the funds into the special effects. Making up for a lack of acting talent (most of the cast never did anything, or very little, before and after this) Jones goes for the gusto with scenes such as a climactic moment where a bankrobber is skewered right in the forehead and having his brains sucked out, which causes his eyes to explode. Better still is the homage to HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980) where a giant mosquito invades the tent of a buck-nekkid co-ed who feels the mosquito’s antennae on her thighs and thinks it’s her boyfriend saying “what are you doing big boy? Playing mosquito again?” What?! As Harvey Korman once said “kiiiinky, I like it!”

The film’s sub-climax is a great sequence where the group find what appears to be a ’79 Winnebago and try to escape the woods while the mosquitoes attack from all directions like the tanker scene from THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981). In spite of his low budget, Jones makes this sequence and the final NOTLD farmhouse sequence highly entertaining throwing giant animatronic mosquitoes at the cast from every direction. Unfortunately, the cast is definitely the weak point here, with the trio of bankrobbers scraping the bottom of the barrel. In the past Hansen has enjoyed talking himself up as a Shakespearian actor in interviews while decrying being pigeon-holed as a “horror actor” (perish the thought!). Looking like he’s wearing a silver Joan Crawford wig, poodle-mulleted Hansen proves here that just because you have performed Shakespeare doesn’t mean you are actually any good at it. You’d think Hansen could at least muster up a little bit of creative delivery when he finds a giant chainsaw and says “I haven’t handled one of these things in 20 years.” Ok, maybe his heart wasn’t in it, but he subsequently can’t seem to break through a balsa-wood door either, so I’m saying maybe it’s just a general lack of ambition. There are some actors who, no matter how low-rent, under-talented or genuinely inept the production is, give it 110% often rising above the material. Then there are actors who just don’t give a crap. Either Hansen falls in the latter category or he is not nearly as good of an actor as his bloated ego would have him believe.

Either way, this is a movie that has held up well for those of us who enjoy this sort of thing, particularly in the special effects department. Granted it's not in any danger of winning any awards, but the filmmakers actually try to make it as good as they can with limited means and it is a lot of fun because of it. Hell, I’m now inclined to see what Jones has been up 10 years later... Ummmm... it isn’t going to be pretty, is it?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Havoc: OFFICIAL FRIDAY THE 13th PARODY (2010)

It may have taken 25 years, but the porn industry finally took the idea of spoofing seriously in the new millennium and it is big business.  According to this Newsweek (yes, Newsweek covering porn in a positive light) article, the porn parody genre got its first real boost in 2005 when Larry Flynt’s Hustler released BRITNEY REARS, which became their highest selling title at that time.  Thank you pedophilic America!  So anything that was a pop culture memory for baby boomers suddenly became porn parody fodder, from THE BRADY BUNCH (eeewww) to THE FLINTSTONES (shudders) to SEINFELD (“Why…are you sucking…my penis?”).  The mimicry exists in more ways than one as Hustler just released their AVATAR spoof, one of the more costly productions in the adult industry thanks to actual prosthetic make-up. The level of commitment to these productions is admirable as they really seem intent on copying the source subject beyond just a double entendre title.

Surprisingly, the horror genre – once again in the “hot” column – has gotten off (pardon the pun) lightly.  Slasher stalwarts like Chucky, Freddy, Jigsaw, Leatherface and Michael Myers have yet to see parody latch on to their image in this current, super-glossy boon (Freddy and Leatherface have been spoofed in the porn past).  Veteran killer Jason Voorhees, however, can finally forgive the industry for the in-name-only FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 as he got his long due proper send-up with Zero Tolerance’s OFFICIAL FRIDAY THE 13th PARODY, which hit DVD this month just in time for Halloween.    

The film opens with Susie (Sara Sloane) hitchhiking into town and walking into a bar to get directions to Crystal Lake Nudist Camp.  Local crazy Ralph warns her of the place and the bartender (Tabitha Stevens, in a non-sex role) fills her in on the back story.  Seems a young man named Jason drowned in the lake because – how do I put this delicately – his huge penis “sunk him like a boat anchor” and his waterlogged existence has caused his sperm to ferment into “flesh eating jizz.” And we are off!

Susie gets to the camp and meets the rest of the victims, er, counselors who are there to help get the place ready to open. There is Kyle (Kris Slater), whose grandmother left him the place; Asian Asia (Asa Akira) and bug-aphobe Ricardo (Rocco Reed); events coordinator Manny (Mark Wood), who is only seen with Rita (Brooklyn Lee) and never cooking chef Kendra (Brooke Lee Adams); and S&M couple Connie (Courtney Cummz) and Billy (Mr. Pete). As the others explore the grounds, Connie and Billy proceed to get it on. Post-coital cuddling is kept to a minimum as Jason appears with his monster cock and squirts them with his septic semen.  Guess they didn’t see that coming. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week. Next up on the chopping block are Asia and Ricardo.  They get it on in a dilapidated shack and – in the film’s truest Xerox moment – Ricardo gets the Kevin Bacon treatment with an arrow coming up in his neck.  Asia goes to take a bath and becomes the third victim of Jason’s lethal load (off screen).

I didn't see Ron Jeremy's name in the credits
Susie, meanwhile, has just been wandering around the camp and runs into Kyle in a cabin he is decking out for rubber fetishists.  He proceeds to tell Susie the story of what happened at the camp at a sex party way back in 1972.  You know what that means – flashback!  Kagney (Kagney Lynn Carter), inexplicably not dressed in 70s garb, comes down to the basement to find Jason (Cheyne Collins) sulking by himself.  She offers to fuck him to cheer him up (just like real life) and he says he has a problem in that his penis continues to grow after sex.  “It’s not a gift, it’s a curse,” he says before she decides to take the plunge anyway.  Naturally, she screams in ecstasy during the sex and in horror post-sex when his member continues to grow.  This embarrassment is what caused him to run off to his watery grave.  Dude seriously needed a pep talk from John Holmes.  As the flashback ends, Susie and Kyle hear something and decide to go explore in the basement. In a bit of self referential horror humor, Susie states it is “horror movie mistake no. 7” to go look for something in the dark.  Kyle assures her they are safe because, after all, “we haven’t had sex yet.”  Ha!

Back in their isolated cabin, Manny and his girls decide to bust out the Stripopoly (another nice F13 nod) before getting it on in a threesome.  Jason pops up post-pop shot (“Dude, this is a 3-way, not a 4-way”) and squirts them with his murderous man-milk. Meanwhile, Susie and Kyle have discovered Jason’s secret lair (a true let down in production design: a room with a mattress on the floor and the word “Mommy” scrawled tiny on the wall).  Jason pops up and chases the couple for about 3 seconds before his 100% all-beef meat thermometer (thank you gets stuck in the door.  Kyle grabs a handy axe and lops the thing off (off screen).  Whew, we’re safe!  It’s time to call the cops, right?  No way!  “Victory sex is always the best sex!” Our heroic duo gets it on in the film’s final sex scene before we end on a shot of Jason walking down the hallway toward their room.

Let’s start off with the good as this parody does a lot of things right.  The biggest plus is director Gary Orona actually apes the first FRIDAY THE 13th quite well as the plots unfold basically the same.  Yeah, not much for plot, I know but you have to appreciate his attention to detail like the hitchhiker opening and having a Ralph character (more on him in a bit). Sure, the slasher nerds will point out Jason wasn’t the killer in the original F13, but if you are sending up the series, you obviously need the hockey mask man.  The production values are actually top notch too.  Shot on digital video, this actually looks better than some direct-to-video horror flicks I’ve seen. In addition, the crew actually went to a real location to shoot the exterior camp footage.  Shocking, I know!  Finally, the biggest shock is they got a decent cast in terms of acting.  Female lead Sara Sloane is actually a pretty good actress with great comic timing and face reactions.  Kris Slater, previously seen in the earlier reviewed CAMP CUDDLY PINES POWERTOOL MASSACRE, also does well in his lead role.  In fact, everyone acquits themselves well in their parts.
Unfortunately, there is a downside.  The sex is rather bland. The girls are definitely hot, but I swear it looks like they use the same positions in nearly every scene and it comes off as robotic.  Also, the Connie/Billy and Manny/Kendra/Rita bits are completely removed from everyone else.  They never interact with the main players.  Another big letdown is, like the aforementioned CAMP CUDDLY, the filmmakers pretty much skimp on the actual horror part.  I mean, they had the “arrow in the throat” gag, but didn’t extend themselves much beyond that.  For example, when Asia is killed, it happens off screen and the aftermath consists of a tiny streak of blood shown in the bathtub.  What I’m trying to say is if you are going to have “flesh eating jizz” you might as well go all out. And consider me disappointed that Jason never impaled someone with his monster cock.  I mean like stab, you perverts. Seriously, how much can it cost to get some fake blood and create a fake torso for a moment that would definitely be show stopping?  I can understand the hesitation to mix sex and gore, but c’mon, just go for it.  The end chase is a bit of a letdown as it is literally over in seconds.  I mean, no scene where Susie tries to seduce Jason by acting like his mom ("That's a good boy. Good Jason.")?  That would have been amusing.  This all leads me to my biggest pet peeve: how can you have the brains to include a Ralph character, but not have the wherewithal to film a death scene for him?  That is REQUIRED by law when spoofing the FRIDAY THE 13th series.   And, yes, I am complaining about the lack of death of a minor character in a porn film, which officially makes me a horror nerd.  One day someone will get it right.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halloween Havoc: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1989)

Back in the ‘80s I worked in a video store. Yeah, I know, it seems like every geekoid jackass with a blog, a video camera or a multi-million dollar studio contract has done time in that quintessential ‘80s phenomenon. It was a mom and pop industry and it was harder to find a gas station than a freakin’ video store in those days.

Hey, man, don’t judge. The only reason I’m outing myself here is because when I worked at said video store we carried the Caballero adult video line and there was one movie that caused quite a bit of confusion. This was a time when the porno parody became a pretty hot commodity. Capitalizing on the titles of mainstream films promising a sexed up version and delivering, well, pretty much nothing but sex and bad acting. Some titles, such as DRIVING MISS DAISY CRAZY (1990), were a bit too close to the original, but nothing caused confusion like FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2.

You can imagine the kinds of complaints we got when people got the wrong FRIDAY. Horror fans were pissed because they got some stupid porno (no, seriously) and guys with hookers (one of our locations was right across the street from a seedy motel) were pissed because they got some stupid horror flick. Seriously, what was Caballero Video thinking anyway? Oh yeah, they were thinking payola! As in cash in their coffers, not as in paying off on advertising promises, that’s for sure. I’m pretty sure this video started life under a different title as aside from a title card and a dime-store hockey mask used as set dressing, this ain’t got shit to do with the Paramount series.

Jessica (Barbii) is turning 21 today and her uncle Merlin (director Fred J. Lincoln sporting some serious Gunnar Hansen hair) is giving her a cake, a butcher knife and some really bad news. The news being that she was born in hell and since it is her 21st birthday, her mother’s evil powers are somehow sending her back to hell to be with her brother Jason (Tom Byron). Once in hell (or what is basically somebody's pool room; a lava-rock wall covered in K-Mart's finest Halloween decorations), Jessica takes the news rather well, all things considered, and falls in with her brother’s plans. See, they are in hell, but they can get into the real world for brief periods of time, but only to corrupt the humans once there.

Jason’s big plan is a competition-slash-partnership where bro and sis will go out into the real world and see who can commit the biggest corruptions (ie: get laid a lot). Better still, to use those corrupted individuals to achieve world domination… or rather put a pimp (the eternally sleazy Billy Dee) in the Whitehouse. This is essentially an excuse to appear in the same tiny bar and seduce people who forward their ambitions including a stockbroker (Sharon Mitchell), a marketing expert (Porsche Lynn) and a politician (Mike Horner). These seductions are basically just scenes of these stars having sex in someone's house (bedroom and living room) and in one case the bar and a motel room. If you are looking for any sort of production values, you will not find any here.

The big twist at the end is Jessica seduces Jason to win the corruption competition, but Jason plays his trump card informing her that he is actually her father. Cue evil laugh. The End. Yep, that's it. No Whitehouse pimp, not even the damn campaign trail! I guess they were leaving the “story” open for FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3. Oh, we should be so lucky.

Some vague attempts at comedy are made such as Jessica unsuccessfully trying to transport herself back to hell by folding her arms and nodding her head ala “I Dream of Jeannie”. Plus there is a completely gratuitous scene in which Joey Silvera plays a TV ministry preacher named Jimmy Braggart, who finds himself in a motel room surrounded by newspapers headlining his sex scandal which is mildly amusing at best. Mostly it’s just Byron in an assload of eye-makeup, hamming it up with his ludicrous lisp and bulging eyes. You can practically see the cocaine oozing from his pores. I think Jessica sums it up perfectly when she complains “god, it's boring, stupid, [and] unimaginative!” Can I get an “amen”?!

To add insult to injury the sex scenes, while effective, are nothing to write home about. They get the job done, with only Barbii and Mitchell’s brief girl-on-girl scene actually looking like there’s some genuine excitement going down. And even then I think that's just on Mitchell's end. She's clearly diggin' on Barbii, but like her namesake, Barbii is almost totally void of emotion other than a fake smile. Honestly, there is no reason to waste time actually watching this movie. That is, unless you worked in a video store back in the day and were amused by the non-stop confusion the title caused, then you might want to sit down with it again. Maybe.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween Havoc: ISLAND OF BLOOD (1982)

“Hurt me, hurt me, hurt me
  face to face, face to face.”

-VIDEO JUNKIE HQ, Aurora, Illinois circa 1999

Coming down with a serious case of withdrawal after seeing BATS and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH in the theater, anonymous addicts TS and WW are looking for anything to cure the pain of modern Hollywood films. Diving into TS’s extensive inventory, they discover a film called ISLAND OF BLOOD.  “This has to rock” they both surmise from the cover featuring an island in the shape of a face.  Or is it a face in the shape of an island?  Regardless, they throw it in and it rocks alright thanks to the film’s odd gimmick (more on that in a bit).

The film centers on the slim premise of a group of actors and filmmakers converging on an isolated island to rehearse for film.  Participants include BJ, the bimbo female lead, and her two punk rocker assistants, Jim (Rick Dean) and Phil; cynical guitar strumming Taylor (his only lyric is “there’s a hole in the sky”); leg cast sporting Lyn; dancer Donna; requisite stud Rick; nerdy John; and producer Steve Faith and director Franklin Phlem (really).  The producer wants to make something “very positive” that shows the youth “what is right with the world.”  In other words, he wants to lose all of his money.  Along for the journey is cantankerous Bert, the boat captain and chef.  You want bitter?  This guy has got it, you punk!  “I don’t like nothing about your generation” he blurts out to some of the actors.  When asked what they did wrong, he says “so far, just showing up.” And, yes, this is the guy in charge of making their food.

Anyway, before you can scream Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (aka TEN LITTLE INDIANS), the victims start getting picked off one-by-one.  First to go is Phil, who is boiled to death in the swimming pool.  The production must go on though and Bert commits the faux paus of serving up boiled lobster for dinner.  Or maybe he is sadist?  Or is he the killer having fun? During the night, loner Taylor is speared on top of the house.  The next day, Bert opts to sail back to the mainland to get the authorities.  One the beach he gets sad and says he is reminded of the only thing he ever loved in his life.  The director asks how long he was married and Bert blurts out “I’m talking about my dog!”  Ha!  Well, I guess that love is rekindled sooner than he thought as his boat explodes en route to getting help.  Trapped on the island until the main crew arrives in a couple of days, the group decides to make the best of it while trying to figure our the killer in their midst.

Donna is the next to go thanks to a battery acid shower.  Oddly enough, no one in the house hears her loud screams. The power then goes out and BJ and the lecherous director (not to be confused with BJ AND THE BEAR) decide the best course of action is to rehearse the love scene.  Bad news as the director gets a machete from under the bed into his guts. Amazingly, no one has the bright idea to look under the bed to see who the killer is.  Everyone freaks out and starts getting killed now.  Jim and Rick are involved in an extended chase and all signs point to Jim being the killer.  In perhaps the films most graphic bit, Rick gets both his arms lopped off with a chainsaw. John the nerd is then decapitated and hobbled Lyn popped in the forehead with a nail gun (both off screen).  Final girl BJ is then chased around by Jim and when he finally catches her, he says “I know why you’ve been killing people.  It’s for the insurance.”  What?  So Jim ain’t our man.  Damn, you crafty filmmakers!  Steve the producer shows up in the nick of time to shoot Jim in the back with the nailgun and Jim throws a knife into the producer’s chest.

The next day the cops are there (how they got notified of this we never know) and find a mini-tape recorder with Jim confessing on it. That’s good enough for them.  Case closed.  The film then cuts to BJ and producer Steve hanging out in his fancy house.  “Sorry about your film” she tells him.  Uh, yeah.  But what she doesn’t know is shady Steve Faith got his film alright.  See, he gets an important phone call in his “I told you never to come down here” room and informs the person on the other end he has the best snuff films he could imagine.  Yes, seems our producer was lying to us about wanting to make a positive picture and Jim’s confession was actually an audition.  Now who exactly filmed them and where they hid is up to you.  Anyway, BJ shows him by blowing him…away with a shotgun (been waiting for that BJ joke, right?).  Whattatwist!

This is pretty standard slasher stuff.  I’m not sure what it is about this flick, but I dig the hell out of it.  Maybe it is the early 80s aesthetic? Or maybe it is the isolated island location (always a winner for me)? Or the fact I saw BATS around the same time?  Ah, who the hell am I kidding?  I know why I love it: it is the song gimmick that the killer uses. During each of the deaths, the killer inexplicably has a tape recorder blasting the way the person will die.  So the boiled guy gets the Ramones-esque band going “boil me, boil me, boil me, face to face, face to face” and the stabbed person gets “stab me, stab me, stab me, face to face, face to face.”  How genius is that?  This officially makes the killer the Mozart of murder (or the most anal retentive slasher in film history).  I’d love to see Jason try to “compose” his murders like this.  And did the killer have a back up plan in case he didn’t catch anyone in the prescribed method?  You know, like a b-side just in case his plans don’t work out?  That is what makes this film so special and there is no doubt you will be humming the song over and over afterward.  Is this a good film?  No.  Did I enjoy it for its 82 minute running time?  Hell yes!  If you don’t like it, you can sue me, sue me, sue, face to face, face to face.

UK poster which is better than the movie

Aussie VHS cover