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!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween Havoc: The "Never Got Made" Files #32 - #36

Given Hollyweird’s propensity to roll out a sequel to any horror film that made over $5.50, it is always surprising to hear about high profile follow-ups that got announced but never actually got made.  Today we’ll take a look at some of the products that never made it to market that will be sure to leave you with a great sense of whatcouldabeen.


I know what you are thinking – “CREEPSHOW 3 did get made in 2006!”  Well, those leech hacks at Taurus Entertainment don’t count.  I’m talking about a version made by the original folks involved.  Laurel Entertainment certainly had high hopes when they announced a slew of upcoming projects in 1987.  Squeezed in between adaptations of THE STAND and PET SEMATARY (both George Romero projects at Laurel before he split) was the simple announcement of CREEPSHOW 3 offering the tagline “the series continues..”  The film never got made, perhaps due to the poor box office of CREEPSHOW 2 around the same time.  From my understanding, the stories that were to be featured in this third entry ended up being used for Laurel's TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990), so you can think of that as the legit CREEPSHOW 3.


Producer Sean Cunningham knew a good profit when he saw one and I’m shocked it took him over a decade to attempt a sequel to the Wes Craven film that put him on the map.  A sequel (sometimes also called BEYOND THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) was announced in 1985 with Vestron offering the funding as the original LAST  HOUSE had been a huge video hit for them.  Director Danny Steinman, coming off FRIDAY THE 13th PART V, was chosen to direct.  Original star David Hess confirmed he was supposed to be in the sequel and it was going to be set at a summer camp (how original!).  Despite taking out full pages ads promising the sequel, Vestron never got it made.


Now here’s one that saw various variations over the years.  Bill Lustig’s seminal slasher MANIAC (1980) was a big enough hit that star Joe Spinell felt a sequel should be made.  An ill-advised move seeing as his character was killed at the end of the first one, but you gotta get that money.  Even more ill-advised given one script I read (from story by Spinell himself) that had him as a disco pumping DJ who attacks while on rollerskates (really!).

Perhaps the best know variation is Buddy Giovinazzo’s MANIAC 2: MR. ROBBIE.  This short was lensed in 1986 and featured Spinell as Mr. Robbie, a kid’s TV host who punishes the parents of abused kids (the plot bearing more than a striking resemblance to the Larry Brown’s 1975 horror flick THE PSYCHOPATH).  Buddy G. made the short available on extended copies of his AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (aka COMBAT SHOCK) for all to see.  Here is the video:

Manley Productions, Inc. ran ads for MANIAC II in Variety in 1988 and 1989.  We're not quite sure who was involved in the creative team at this point.

In quite possibly the worst timing ever, they ran a slick ad announcing the film as being in pre-production in the February 1989 American Film Market issue of the magazine (Spinell died in mid-January of that year).  I’m sure they had the ad printed and submitted just before Spinell’s passing.

Also before his death, Spinell was developing LONE STAR MANIAC with FX coordinator Tom Rainone.  According to what Rainone told me back at a Fango show in 1996, the script was to have Spinell haunting the Alamo and he (Rainone) was to direct the script he co-wrote with Spinell.  Sadly, Spinell died before this version (or any version) of MANIAC II could get made.

Now here is a real rarity sent into us by MANIAC historian Adam Beck.  This is one of several buttons that Spinell had personally made up while MANIAC II was in pre-production:

Despite Spinell's untimely passing, MPI continued to plug the sequel.  Here is an ad from the November 1989 mentioning the production:

Even a year after Spinell's death, MPI was still trying to get a MANIAC II off the ground.  In 1990 they advertised a MANIAC ROCK (aka MANIAC II) in Variety.  Uh, no.

Variety article on MPI 
w/a brief MANIAC II mention:


Director William Malone made his feature debut with the low budget shocker SCARED TO DEATH (1981).  The film wasn’t much, but it did boast a pretty cool looking monster and probably did enough business to warrant a sequel. Schlock producer Helen Sarlui (ATOR) ran this ad in April 1984 promising a Malone helmed sequel.  Despite the number of names listed, nearly all the credits don’t lead to real people outside of credited co-writer Robert Short.  Chances are the project died early as Malone went on to make CREATURE (1985).  Short is credited as the technical advisor on that one.  A proper sequel, SYNGENOR (1990), did appear a few years later but without Malone’s involvement.  


Now this one really brings tears to our eyes.  Wacky Spanish director Juan Piquer Simon will always have a place in our hearts for the amazing PIECES (1982).  He also delivered by far the world’s best toxic slug movie in SLUGS: THE MOVIE (1988), an adaptation of British horror author Shaun Hutson’s 1982 novel.  Simon ran the following ad in Variety promising a sequel, but, alas, it never arrived.  Hutson did do a sequel to his SLUGS book called BREEDING GROUND, which it appears it would have been based on.  So if you a glimpse of what the follow-up might have looked like, check that out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween Havoc: CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988)

In high-level competitions between highly skilled athletes or artists, it’s not so much who wins, so much as who loses. The winner is the person who made the fewest mistakes. In the realm of scouring the basement level below the bottom of the barrel it is much the same, except in reverse. The awfulness of the movie is determined by the smallest details. So if there are a couple glimmering moments of entertainment, it may be elevated above the tooth-grinding tedium of the egregiously uneventful.

CANNIBAL CAMPOUT is one of those movies, much like the previously reviewed LUNCH MEAT (1987), that sucked me in back in the day. The lurid cover promised some random dude in a t-shirt ripping out a co-ed’s throat with his teeth with a campfire roaring in the background. On the other hand, it was a Camp Video release, so I knew it meant trouble. I rented it back in the late ‘80s and after watching it, couldn’t decide whether I wanted to throw it at the clerk or demand my money back, or both. I guess I can’t get any sympathy for sitting through this movie a second time but in the spirit of our Halloween cinematic self-flagellation, I did it. Can't say I'm a better man for it either. Granted it's got gore and nudity, so that sets it up a notch from somnia-inducing time-wasters like TERROR AT TENKILLER (1986), but not by a whole hell of a lot. Don’t let the hipster kids fool ya with their raving blurbs on IMDb, while there is a moment or two, most of the heavily padded 89 minutes are just painfully uninteresting.

Made with a home video camera, a few locals and a couple of cut-out machetes over a series of weekends, CANNIBAL CAMPOUT stumbles through a plot about a quartet of college “kids” who head out ot a campsite in Redston (while singing a folksong written for the film and flubbing the lyrics). A chubby “kid” in a Cro-Mags jacket (Ray Angelic) warns of impending doom by telling them that there was a massacre in them thar woods with the intent of scaring the crap out of them with his ill-fated friend. As it turns out, the Cro-Mags dude’s made-up story is true! Fortunately, as Jon tells his friends, there are four of them, so they will be perfectly safe, even though they weren’t smart enough to bring enough beverages to last the drive out to the site, much less the entire camping trip.

The group is accosted by a couple of Lincoln-driving yokels, one of whom looks like Ken Wahl (Gene Robbins) and the other (Richard Markus) is so skinny that he cannot walk or move. Clearly there is some medical issue here, so I can’t beat him up about it, but damn, he sure ain’t much of a villain. After the campers get away (by simply driving around the land-yacht roadblock), we get a black and white flashback as the alleged oakies reminisce about a particularly good kill. Why it’s in black and white, I have no idea as they appear to be exactly the same age and are even wearing the same clothes so it can’t be that long ago. After killing a topless girl, who should have probably kept her top on, (you will get really tired of seeing that damn cut-out machete), Gene licks the blade of the machete and says “mmmmm… just like momma used to make”. What? Your momma made machetes?

Most of the movie is the campers traipsing through the woods (or rather someone’s overgrown back yard), talking about how the well-lit woods are creepy (they aren’t), and worse, having long personal relationship conversations (reading lines off of cue cards) including a cringe inducing “I’m pregnant bit”. C’mon guys, I realize you are trying to make a “real” movie, but let’s be honest here: you have no costumes, no sets, no actors and no production values whatsoever. H.G. Lewis was in the same boat, but pulled it off by going straight for exploitation value. He had no pretensions about what he was doing and that made his films successful. Here even the much ballyhooed gore gets pretty redundant when it’s just lots of cut-aways to splashing red karo syrup and that damned cut-out machete.

In addition to the complete and total lack of production values, the “actors” stumble over the simplest of lines and apparently just don’t care to re-shoot the scenes to get them right. I understand the old exploitation hacks and masters would often shun retakes, but they were shooting on film! This is freakin’ video fer cryin’ out loud, it doesn’t cost you one thin dime to reset a scene where you are singing in a car or walking through the woods. If you don’t care about your movie, why should I? The alleged comedy isn’t even worth a groan. Lines like “you axed for it” and “leaf me alone” are just plain lame. That said, some of the idiocy is mildly amusing, such as a bit in which one of the guys says “I’m going to go check out some of these neat old cabins over there” and promptly walks off into the horizon which not only has nothing “neat”, but no freakin’ cabins, either!

Answering the question,
"what has this guy been smokin'?"
Starting out with an opening credit claiming it to be based on real events experienced by fictional characters, then moving into a lengthy shoe-tying and jogging sequence, this is a strictly amateur horror-comedy non-event that is too easy to bash. I’d love to give it props in a scant few areas, but it becomes really difficult to do that when the director and cast break their arms in interviews blathering on about what a seminal movie it was, how it was totally ahead of its time, how it was “the goriest movie ever” and how it featured moments that had “never been done in a horror movie before”. These people are totally fucking delusional. One of the things that they claim was never done before is a scene in which they kill a pregnant girl and dig into her stomach (or rather under her shirt) and pull out a piece of hotdog - err, I mean “fetus”, that they then take bites out of. It’s far less offensive than it sounds and doesn’t even lay a glove on the truly shocking fetus eating scene from Joe D’Amato’s immortal classic ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980) that came out eight years previously! To add to the irritation factor, Markus claims to be this huge horror movie fan who has seen it all. I guess he’s got some brushing up to do. Then again, what do you expect from Jon McBride, a director of awful no-budget movies who states that “the reason I made CANNIBAL CAMPOUT was because I wanted to make a movie.” Yeah, that's a period at the end of that sentence. Thanks for that insight Jon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halloween Havoc: DEATH ROW DINER (1988)

We didn’t want it to be like this.  Honestly.  But our quest to review stuff that hasn’t been done to death (do you really need us to tell you THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a classic?) has resulting in Video Junkie focusing on the worst of the worst.  And in the horror genre that usually means shot-on-video (SOV) productions that somehow managed to escape from their creators video players and get national releases.

Outside of the porno industry, the low budget horror filmmakers were foremost in utilizing the video revolution. The terrible BOARDING HOUSE (1982) is considered the first feature length horror film to use the burgeoning video medium and the floodgates were open. Soon enough the video store shelves were overflowing with poorly made SOV productions with promising titles like David Prior’s SLEDGEHAMMER (1983) and the aforementioned Bill Blair’s BLOOD CULT (1985), which had a selling point that it was made exclusively for the home video market (oh, lucky us). Personally, I lost my SOV virginity in 1990 with the Pericles Lewnes’ entertaining and obscenely gory REDNECK ZOMBIES (1987). It was all pretty much downhill from there.

DEATH ROW DINER opens in 1948 with imprisoned movie studio exec Otis Wilcox (John Content) heading to the electric chair after being framed for his wife’s murder.  His biggest beef, however, is that he hasn’t received his last meal and gets juiced while screaming “I’m hungry!” Fast forward 40 years and a low budget film crew is using the now defunct prison as a shooting location (isn’t that the same plot as the Lyle Alzado and Anthony Perkins starrer DESTROYER from the same year?).  Bill Weston (Jay Richardson), the director, is looking to exploit the fact that his lead lady and wife, Julia (Michelle Bauer), is the granddaughter of Otis.  She is sensitive to the fact and doesn’t take kindly to the subject matter.  The fact that she loathes Bill and is having an affair with the leading man also helps.

Naturally, a freak (they’re always freak) electrical storm brings the fried Otis back from the dead and he proceeds to kill the various crew members. First up is the electrical guy who gets zapped. Then he strangles a make up girl with some bodacious tatas (sadly they remain clothed, one of the film’s biggest weak points). Next up is the twitchy Elvis caterer, who dies from ingesting Otis’ noxious gas (really).  The guy playing Otis in the movie within the movie then gets zapped while sitting in the old electric chair.  Then a crew member playing ping pong gets the eyeballs smacked out of his head. Two more techies are killed by Otis before the film finally wraps up with him getting revenge on Weston with the help of his granddaughter.  Oh yeah, the sleazy Italian producer is killed in there at some point too.

Sorry if that all seems a bit rushed, but you can’t really say much about this 68-minute production. Otis dies --> Otis comes back 40 years later --> Otis kills --> the end.  This is by far the least offensive SOV piece I’ve endured as it tries to be an actual film, but that isn’t really saying much. Director B. Dennis Wood delivers a truly baffling product.  There are good performances from Richardson (always a pro) and Bauer.  And the little jabs at the z-grade movie industry are fun. At the very least it would have been a good snapshot of the 80s and low budget filmmaking.  Unfortunately, they used video, so it is a time capsule but in the worst way.

The production score points for featuring some decent make-up and lots of gore. Unfortunately, like I said, it is all SOV so the porn-like productions values let the effects down. Here’s Otis taking out a skateboarding film grip:  

Now try to imagine that exact same scene, only shot on film.  It probably would have been pretty fun, right? They did have some nice locations and it looks like they filmed on the same prison set that John Saxon and Fred Olen Ray used for ZOMBIE DEATH HOUSE (1987). The comedy is pretty abysmal for the most part.  I will admit I did get a kick out of the cursing film producer Tony Milano and found this exchange to be gold.

Techie: “You want to play some ping pong later?”
Milano: “You out of your fuckin’ mind?”

The biggest head scratcher is the complete lack of nudity.  This is really surprising because Michelle Bauer was more than willing to pop her top in other B-movie productions around the same time (and had done porn previous to this). Please don’t tell me Wood thought this was a “classy” production. I’m not kidding, had this been shot on film and included some nudity, I could see it being an endearing and maybe even entertaining film.  Not in a good kind of way, but along the lines of stuff like EVIL SPAWN (1987) or HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (1988), something Richardson starred in the same year.  Yeah, I’m that easy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Halloween Havoc: HILLBILLY MONSTER (2003)

Not to sound like a bad movie elitist, but I hate running into fellow “movie buffs” who declare Ed Wood’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1958) to be the worst movie of all-time.  It usually tells me one very important thing: they haven’t truly seen a lot of movies.  To hold onto the banal belief that PLAN 9 is the nadir of cinema is like saying Jess Franco didn’t make a lot of movies or Nic Cage has nice hair.  It just ain’t true.  Moviedom is littered with thousands of films worse that Wood’s seminal work and if you dig deep enough you will find them.  Oddly enough, one of worst contributors to the cinematic gutter is Conrad Brooks, the only surviving cast member of Wood’s magnum opus.

A native of Maryland, Brooks headed to the West Coast in the late 1940s with his two brothers to make it big on the silver screen. Instead, they met up with Edward D. Wood, Jr. and starred in a short for him.  Legend has it they actually paid Wood to be in the film. Whatever the truth, Wood ended up casting Conrad in small roles in a total of 5 of his feature length presentations.  Following a period of nearly 25 years off the big screen, Brooks returned to the industry in the mid-80s with a vengeance.  He parlayed his minuscule claim to fame into roles in more no budget films and convention appearances. In the mid-90s Brooks figured it was time to cash in even harder by directing his own video features.  One such title is HILLBILLY MONSTER.

The “film” opens with burly freakshow owner Jake (Joe McCabe) and his walking stick/friend with a turtle mounted on it (he calls him Mr. Turtle) wandering around some fairgrounds (including a drive in with a marquee offering PLAN 9 starring Conrad Brooks and Bela Lugosi).  Apparently his star attraction (we are never shown the inside of the freakshow) is the Hillbilly Monster (Michael T. Burns), a half-man, half-ape offered to the show by its adoptive father Zeke (Bruce Lindsay, who is Redskin Hogette Porkchop in "real" life).  Around the 11 minute mark (which feels like years), the beast – who looks like a hunched over goth singer – escapes and heads into the woods.  This sends Jake into action as he gets Dirty Harry (Conrad Brooks) on the job and we get 15 minutes of him running all over the carnival, asking everyone if he has seen the monster as the same stolen carnival music loops over and over (listen for some Alice in Chains in the background too).

While in the woods, the monster gets his leg caught in a bear trap.  Luckily for him, the sanitarium of Dr. Love (George Romley) is nearby.  Yes, you read that right.  Dr. Love.  The good doc and his assistant Jennifer (Jennifer Wells) take care of mental patients who think they are Civil War generals or Mae West.  So a man-ape will fit right in.  They take the freak in, fix his leg in surgery (off screen) and decide to keep him.  Hillbilly forms some kind of bond with the gardener while working as the monster looks on and the same acoustic guitar drones endlessly.  But the bromance is short lived as the cops “got a tip” the monster might be here so the administrators release him back into the wild (with a plastic bag of bananas).  Zeke, who has been trying to defend the monster in the press, shows up at the sanitarium and is told his boy is gone.  “You did the right thing, doc” he says. The film then ends with Jake still searching for his prized possession in the woods.

Cow: No one will see this, right?
You know the only thing worse than guys in their 20s running around with a video camera and thinking they are film directors?  It is guys who do it in their 70s.  Words can’t describe how terrible this film is.  There is nothing of value on display here.  No deaths, no gore, no nudity, no nothing!  Technically the film is a total disaster.  I’m not kidding – I’ve seen amateur porn with better production values.  The videography (with the Beast actor himself credited as cameraman) is full of awkward pans, focus problems and strained framing. Audio wise, you get the standard wind blowing hard into the mic and sounds of people fiddling off camera.  At one point I think I even heard someone breathing heavy behind the camera.  The best, however, are the everyday folks at the carnival who always stare into the camera.  Brooks’ idea of permits was probably buying his crew tickets to the carnival (and probably haggling for his senior citizen discount).  Everyone glances into the camera as they walk by. Hell, in one scene some freakin’ cows stop grazing to stare into the camera!

Yes, you are really in a Conrad Brooks film
Equaling the shoddy production values is everything else in the film.  Filmed in the wilds of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the filmmakers apparently sent out a casting call for the worst actors ever and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. I don't know what it is about the power of a video camera, but you get folks giving the most stilted dialog you can ever imagine.  I'm talking deer frozen in headlights, slowly pronouncing each syllable type madness on display.  You know something is wrong when your best actor is Conrad Brooks. How bad are these guys?  This bad (are they even speaking proper English?):

You also have to love the brain-dead gaffes like their sanitarium filled with mental patients (really a suburban house) with swords on the walls. Or the bit where Jake calls the sheriff and you can clearly see his phone is unplugged. The end with Jake wandering the woods sees him comment on the frozen river, only to have subsequent shots of the river flowing behind him. I’d love to declare that Brooks is some sort of film deconstructionist genius who is challenging the conventions of film. He’s not. He is just a really bad filmmaker. Sadly, he seems to crap on his benefactor as Brooks hides behind the pretext of his films being “in the >tradition of Ed Wood.” Believe it or not, this is actually the third part in a series of films Brooks made about a crazed caveman named Jan-Gel, who apparently had sex with an ape to produce the title monster. I definitely won’t be seeking out the first two as one IMDb user suggests this is an improvement upon the earlier ones. One can only imagine. The HILLBILLY MONSTER DVD actually has a “bonus” for Brooks “fans” as you also get his 30-minute short GRANDPARENTS FROM OUTER SPACE (aka OUT OF THIS WORLD). Conrad and Ruth Brooks star as two aliens who crash land on earth while looking for their runaway grand kids. They are welcomed into the home of a tiny horse jockey (!) but Conrad does a serious faux paus when he sucks all of the town's electricity through a wall socket (it is his source of food you see). Thankfully, the cops are on the job (!) and arrest the duo. While walking to the jail, the grandparents see their grand kids with a young hippie couple. When the cop decides to grab a soda, they split and track down the hippies (the dad was wearing a t-shirt advertising the apartment complex he lives in!). The family is reunited and the hippies drive them to the woods where they fly away in their ship. YAY! The film's biggest highlight is a cameo by Don Dohler staple George Stover.  The rest is so awful that you'll feel like kicking your dog afterwards. SEE Earth as an out of focus globe! SEE Brooks have a discussion with a horse! SEE Ruth Brooks eat a napkin! SEE yourself begin to question your sanity.  SEE your eyeballs melt at the sight of Conrad Brooks in a tight silver space suit!

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the Celluloid Chopping Block: RETRIBUTION (1987)

Pop quiz hotshot – who was the most prolific slasher of the 1980s?  Jason Voorhees?  Nope.  Freddy Kruger? Nah.  The killer with the biggest body count was the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), a non-profit regulatory body founded in the 1920s that killed indie filmmakers’ hopes every day.  The MPAA founded a ‘voluntary’ ratings system in the 1960s under Jack Valenti and they went on a rampage against any and all horror film in 1980s.  This was bad news for independent producers (the MPAA counted all major studios as “members”) because if you wanted your film advertised in papers and booked in lots of theaters, you needed an MPAA rating.

Horror fans heard lots of stories about the MPAA slicing films left and right. Usually in the pages of Fangoria you’d hear FX artists from the latest FRIDAY THE 13TH or ELM STREET flick bemoan the loss of their work.  But for every well-known example of truncation, there were probably ten more that fans never heard about.  One such case is the film RETRIBUTION, a low budget supernatural revenge flick.  Taurus Entertainment actually got this one into a few theaters in 1987 (back when horror flicks like this could hover in the bottom half of the Top 50 at the box office).  A theatrical run meant a rating and the filmmakers got one but at the cost of some relatively innocuous gore.

The film centers on George (Dennis Lipscomb), a starving artist who decides to end his life by jumping off his apartment building on Halloween night. As he lies dying in the street, George’s body receives the spirit of a man who shares his birthday and is killed at the exact same time (confused?).  He makes a full recovery and begins tackling his issues with psychiatrist Dr. Curtis (Leslie Wing).  He also begins seeing Angel (Suzanne Snyder), the hooker with a heart of gold who lives in the same building.  But George starts having bad dreams at night as he sees himself meeting and killing people he doesn’t know.  Yes, George is possessed by the spirit of the dead criminal and goes about murdering everyone who was involved in burning him alive (Freddy who?).  Of course, his psychiatrist Dr. Curtis (Leslie Wing) thinks he's crazy and Lt. Ashley (Hoyt Axton) thinks he is the killer.

This is a pretty solid horror flick that I liked even more watching it now than back in the 80s. Sure, it isn’t very original and you can practically hear the filmmakers whisper, "It is like ELM STREET, kids" (the burned villain even looks like Freddy), but writer-director Guy Magar does enough to make it stand apart.  There is some great camera work and interesting use of lighting. Magar cut his teeth on TV work and this was his first feature. He went on to do THE STEPFATHER III and one of the CHILDREN OF THE CORN sequels.  Poor Guy!  Lipscomb, looking like a nerdy Christopher Walken, is an interesting choice for a leading man and I like that casting.  The only misfire is a visit to one Doctor Rasta, a Rastafarian voodoo doctor. Oh, and lots of 80s neon. Was it really that prevalent?

Of course, we’re here to talk about the excised gore.  There are three major murder sequences and all of them are cut down for the US release.  The first one is the death of the floozy that George picks up in a bar.  After making her kitchen explode with his glowing green eyes, George forces the woman to plunge the knife she is brandishing into her stomach.  The uncut version features three extra shots in the quick montage.  One shows her finishing the cut across her belly while the other two a quick shots of her intestines spilling out.  Total extra time is marginal, but the sequence is much more effective.

The murder of the grease monkey in his garage is next and suffered the most egregious editing.  Possessed George forces the man to light a welding torch and cut his own right hand off with it.  In the R-rated cut, you see the beginning of the hand cutting and the film abruptly cuts to the man’s dog barking and George then psychically slamming the man against the wall on the garage’s far side.  How the hell did that guy get over there?  Well, in the uncut version you find out.  The man proceeds to cut off his own hand and there is a shot of him pulling the bloody stump off the worktable as the severed appendage lays there.

The man falls to his knees and crawls away from George, all the while holding his bloody stump.  He then makes it to the wall and climbs up it and George slams him.

In total, the sequence lasts roughly 42 seconds and pales in comparison to anything shown in the first 20 minutes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998).  Of course, we can’t have the kids watch a guy with no hand crawl on the ground.

After the guy gets to the wall, George gets into lift and pushes the cage against the man’s face.  In the cut version, you see it press against his face (first pic), his head start to collapse and then the ever reliable cut away to the dog barking. The uncut version continues the squashing as you see his head explode as it is crushed.  It is shown from two separate angles (forward and side), but oddly the effect is not too good as the guy’s head seems to explode with some white stuff rather than red gore.  Still, the MPAA just felt it was too much for the kids.  Did they forget they passed the famous head explosion in SCANNERS?

The final revenge murder is the guy killed in the meat packing plant.  George traps the guy inside a meat carcass and sends him down the conveyor belt to a giant saw.  In the censored version, the film abruptly cuts as the saw starts slicing into the meat.  The uncut version continues to follow the blade down the meat in close up as lots of blood sprays out. The scene is roughly 7 seconds longer and, believe it or not, that is a lot of time for some spraying blood.

So there you have the extra gore footage from RETRIBUTION.  It is laughable to think the MPAA found this so extreme. Then again, it was the 1980s and the group definitely had a moral agenda.  No kidding, you can turn on cable nowadays and see stuff ten times worse that got an R-rating (I’m looking at you RAMBO).  Unfortunately the bad news is that this uncut version of RETRIBUTION has only surfaced in German with no English options.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Halloween Havoc: TERROR AT TENKILLER (1986)

Back in 1976 one of the first video cassette labels was brought to life by one Bill F. Blair. Oklahoma based VCI Entertainment released a slew of obscure, often low-budget or no-budget, films on to the video market and in the mid ‘80s were responsible for essentially creating the DTV market though his United Entertainment Pictures label. United Entertainment was a company Blair founded as an offshoot of his company United Pictures; an outfit that rented films and projectors for non-theatrical purposes (schools, libraries, hospitals, etc). In the mid-‘80s Blair realized that the demand for horror movies on video was so high that he could take a mere $27,000 and parlay it into a shot-on-video horror movie that he would release on video via his own label. BLOOD CULT (1985) was hugely successful and paved the way for future endeavors that included buying the rights to films that he was not actively involved in making, such as THE LAST SLUMBER PARTY (1980?) which he released in 1987. While there’s a lot to admire about the Blair’s entrepreneurial spirit and his desire to release great and not-so-great little films that would otherwise be lost to history, there is one sniggling little detail that presents a bit of a problem. The movies that bear his producer credit were terrible. Some really, really terrible. Case in point, TERROR AT TENKILLER.

Directed by Ken Meyer, an entertainment lawyer who clearly thought that making a movie wasn’t all that hard, the premise has two college girls headed down to a lake in a town so small that they only have one diner that seats about a dozen and is not even open for dinner. Matter of fact, I’m not sure there even is a town since the only thing we see of it is a road-sign pointing ahead and reading “Gore”. Lyin’ sonsabitches. There is definitely no gore to be found going forward. Anyway, apparently there has been a disappearance (which we see in the pre-credit sequence), but nobody is terribly concerned about it. There is actually mention of a sheriff, but for some bizarre reason, the writer didn't feel like that was an important character to figure into the story. Err, I mean “story”. Seriously, no sheriff? What kinda cheap-ass flick is this? You gotta have a sheriff! At the very least you can have a surprise ending showing the sheriff to be the killer! Oh wait, they already revealed who the killer is in the pre-credit sequence. So, no point in having a sheriff after all. Once by the lake the girls talk about an abusive boyfriend, go swimming, talk on the phone, talk about guys, take naps, talk on the phone, talk about relationships, read books, talk on the phone, talk about the lake, walk to the lake, sit by the lake, talk about how beautiful the (stock footage of) the lake is, did I mention talk on the phone? Jeezus! Shut the hell up already! A couple of people are killed, but you will be so bored shitless that the clumsy attempts at shocks will just add to the irritation factor. I think a more appropriate title would be TEDIUM AT FEWKILLER.

Produced independently in Blair’s home state of Oklahoma, Blair picked it up and released it in between his infamous, highly publicized SOV slasher film THE RIPPER (1985) starring Tom Savini and REVENGE (1986), his surprisingly (at one point) obscure sequel to BLOOD CULT. While it maintains the price tag that keeps it in line with Blair’s other offerings, it really has almost nothing to offer outside of excruciating boredom. The film starts out with a pre-credit sequence in which the killer is shown grabbing a girl and slashing her throat in Savini-esque fashion (complete with cut-away to a shot of the moon) while synth strings and piano warble in the back ground. Cut to a college a swimming pool and subsequent shower scene! Unfortunately the shower scene just hints at what our busty leading lady Leslie (Stacy Logan) has to offer and is rudely interrupted by her loud, pushy friend Jana (Michelle Merchant), who is almost just as abusive as Leslie’s jackasstic boyfriend Josh (Ken Meyer who shows that in spite of the awfulness of this movie, he is definitely better at directing than acting). Interestingly this movie was written by a female so the women are all reasonably level headed, though they do not make the best decisions about men. All of the male characters are abusers, letches, psycho killers, or all of the above! Remind me again what the opposite of “misogyny” is? Oh, yeah, right... “normal.”

Once on the road, the girls talk about how there are going to be hot guys in the less-than-one-horse town (which reminds me of the time one of my sous-chefs was convinced there were going to be hot chicks at the Boy Scout Camp he was going to spend the summer cooking at). And they drive. And they talk. And they drive… Once in town the visit the diner where they get jobs, they talk to Charlie. Hi Charlie! Then the walk to the lake and discuss it’s beauty:
Leslie: “It’s so nice.”
Jana: “It’s great.”
Leslie: “Isn’t it nice?”
Jana: “Yeah, it’s great.”
Are you ready to kill yourself yet? Don’t get comfy, there are more golden rays of brilliance where that came from!

The local muffin of studdage.
Once at the lake Mrs. Meyer decides that since we’ve suffered through 25 minutes of this stinker, it’s time for much needed plot exposition... thank Christ! Ok, so what is the deal with the friggin’ lake already? Apparently Jana would come up to this lake with her dad and Dad would tell her a story about how the lake got it’s name. The name comes from a beautiful Indian maiden who’s sister was kidnapped and savaged by another tribe. She got her revenge by killing ten of their best warriors, picking them off, one by one (cue ominous music). The last one she killed by dragging him to the bottom of the lake where they both drowned. “That’s not true, is it?” asks Leslie. To which Jana replies “nah, Dad just told me that because I was afraid of swimming.” What?! Dammit, if I hadn’t seen who the killer was in the pre-credit sequence, I’d be hoping for some sort of zombie Indian girl to rise out of the lake and… ok, ok, I can’t even think like that. Let’s get on with it.

Later the boat rental guy, Preacher (Dale Buckmaster) spies on the girls and Tor attacks him and cuts off his arms, in one of the three scenes in the film that sport any special effects. Tor throws them in the basement of the house in an attempt to provide a weak shock moment at the end of the film when Leslie is trying to hide from Tor.

After getting a cryptic message on their answering machine, you’d think that the plot would kick into gear and stuff would start going down with a vengeance. And you’d be wrong. Unless you were talking about more conversations! Yes, more phone call scenes, a picknick bench conversation about how Tor should come over for a beer (I guess since he’s the ONLY guy in town, that makes him an eligible bachelor), how Josh is a nutter, but he loves her and blah, blah, blah… Ok, now we will get something happening! Nope. Now Jana has a long walk out to the lake (more stock footage of the lake). Jana swims in the lake, Jana sits by the lake, Jana looks at the lake, Jana naps by the lake. Cue more soft music and stock footage of lake. If you ever said to yourself, “I’m in the mood for a horror movie that will help me get some sleep” this is exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Tor shows up at the house in shorts that no man outside of a St. Patrick’s day parade should ever be caught wearing and asks for a beer. Jana flirts with Tor. Tor acts creepy. Jana flirts some more. Leslie reads “The Stand” at the diner and has a phone conversation with Josh. Jana decides that since she has a man over, she needs to wash her hair in the sink. Thoroughly. For a really, really long time. Tor finally must have had enough of this worthless time filler and pulls the strings on Jana’s bikini top and you think “hey! Gratuitous nudity will wake me up!”, but no, we cut to an insert shot of a knife entering plastic flesh while Jana sounds rather concerned and tells Tor to “stop it!” Yep, I'm sure that's the first thing to say after someone stabs a sharp knife into my vertebrae.

There's your gore, enjoy.
The rest of the film is Josh travelling to the lake, Leslie running through the woods from Tor for an eternity and ending up right back where she started for no reason and finding Josh dead (so much for that character!). Leslie plays dead and Tor rows all the bodies out to the middle of the lake. Leslie takes this opportunity to hop out of the boat and swim for safety (she was swimming in a pool at the beginning of the film, remember? Clever, eh? Yeah, no, not so much), while we find that Tor doesn’t know how to swim and sinks like a stone. Of course now that he’s dead and Leslie is safe (in the voice over she actually explains how her swimming saved her, just in case the monotony of the film bludgeoned your short-term memory)... so naturally he pops back up for the credit roll.

Ugh! While some of Blair’s projects are pretty entertaining with the right expectations and mindset, TERROR AT TENKILLER is probably one of the most uninspired, uninteresting slasher films I have ever had to sit through. It offers little other than excruciatingly dull conversations that have not only no bearing on any sort of “plot” but are just tedious filler to pad what would be an insipid half-hour to a full 88 minutes. This is what happens when you let entertainment lawyers direct films. Let this be a lesson to the world.