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The Godsend (1980)
"Hello... social services..."
While on a country walk, the Marlowe family -- mother Kate (Cyd Hayman), father Alan (Malcolm Stoddard) and their four children -- meet a mysterious pregnant woman (played by Angela Pleasence, who definitely has her father Donald's creepiness about her) and invite her back to their home, where she stays for a drink. As she is finally about to leave, the woman goes into labour and gives birth to a baby girl. The next day, the Marlowes discover that the woman has gone, but has left her newborn daughter behind.
Now this is where the film really starts to get improbable: rather than contact the authorities to have the baby taken into care, Kate and Alan decide to raise her as their own, naming her Bonnie. Silly billies! The cute blonde kid turns out to be a 'cuckoo in the nest' i.e., she starts to bump off the couple's children, starting with infant Matthew, smothering him in his cot. No sooner has mother Kate started to get over her grief, the evil moppet is at it again, drowning son Davy in a river. Still, the couple are none the wiser, although Alan is concerned about the strange fingermarks on Bonnie's wrist.
Give this film credit, it's not afraid to give Kate and Alan a serious emotional pummelling: dead child number three is Sam, who falls to his death in a barn while playing hide and seek. Alan finds Bonnie's blue ribbon by his son's body, further fuelling his suspicions. But it is when he sees Bonnie in action with his own eyes that he knows he is not being paranoid: the killer kiddie tries to send daughter Lucy flying off her swing, the nasty accident narrowly avoided by her father's quick actions.
Try as he might, Alan is unable to convince his wife of Bonnie's true nature, so decides to deal with her in his own way before she can get to Lucy again. However, in a 'strewth, did they really go there?' moment, Lucy is pushed to her death out of a window. All four kids dead! I didn't expect the whole brood to buy the farm, but Bonnie's evil kid credentials sure are impressive.
Admittedly, it's all a little far-fetched, especially the ending, which sees Kate steadfastly refusing to believe ill of Bonnie, and Alan witnessing the mysterious woman, pregnant again, befriending another family. But it's kinda fun regardless. So many dead kids...
One in four people will experience mental illness in their lifetime, but only a very small percentage of those will pose any sort of danger to anyone other than themselves. Hopefully, as more people talk about openly about mental health, stigma will decrease, and all those in need of help will get the treatment they require.
There will, of course, always be cases that slip through the net with tragic results, people like Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), whose fragile psyche is the result of a lifetime of hurt: a victim of child abuse, a victim of violence, a victim of intolerance, a victim of circumstance, a victim of inequality, and a victim of a society that doesn't care. No longer functioning as a rational human being (his access to meds having been taken away), Fleck confuses reality and fantasy, is prone to outbursts of extreme violence, and dances wildly to inappropriate pop music from the '70s.
With a tour-de-force performance from Phoenix, whose turn as the green-haired villain is both sympathetic and terrifying, plus stylish direction from Todd Phillips, and an intelligent script that is, by turns, funny, sad, exciting, and horrific, Joker is a refreshingly bold attempt to do something with a well known comic-book character that doesn't involve expensive CGI-laden battles.
9/10. The only part that I didn't like was where it is revealed that Arthur's relationship with his pretty neighbour has been a figment of his imagination. I think most people would have got this without the need to spell it out for them.
Combat Shock (1984)
Passable Troma Shoestring Downer.
Mentally scarred by a horrific massacre during the Vietnam war, poisoned by chemical warfare, and tortured by the enemy, Frankie Dunlan (Rick Giovinazzo) now suffers from PTSD, gory images plaguing his dreams every night. During the day, he is harangued by his wife Cathy (Veronica Stork), hassled by loan sharks, pestered by junkies, and rejected by employment agencies. In his dingy apartment, his deformed baby son cries for food. Caught in a hopeless downward spiral, Frankie finally snaps, putting an end to his pain and misery with a gun.
Combat Shock's very low budget is both a blessing and a curse: the very real urban decay of Staten Island and the grainy lo-fi aesthetic only adds to the bleak, nihilistic nature of the movie, making it a genuinely uncomfortable experience at times, but often the weak acting from the amateur cast pulls the viewer out of the film, while certain technical aspects would also have benefited from a more professional polish (the dreadful music is incongruous and the mutant baby is too rubbery to take seriously).
The relentlessly grim subject matter ensures that a good time will not be had by all, with a suitably downbeat ending driving home director Buddy Giovinazzo's message: life can be pretty crap. If that sounds like your cup of spoiled milk, have at it -- it's not terrible, just not as powerful as others might lead you to believe.
Little Monsters (2019)
If you're a zombie and you know it, eat some guts.
Slacker Dave (Alexander England) has just split up with his girlfriend of nine years and is sleeping on the couch at his sister's place. When Dave takes his five-year-old nephew Felix to school and meets pretty teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong'o), he volunteers to help on a school trip to a petting zoo in order to try and hit on her. But things go awry when there is a breach at a nearby U.S. Army testing facility, and the farm becomes over-run by flesh-eating zombies.
Zombie movies are a dime a dozen, so film-makers are constantly having to come up with new ways to keep things fresh. Little Monsters' attempt at originality involves Miss Caroline and David having to keep the little kids safe during the zombie outbreak, stopping them from being frightened by pretending that everything is a game. It's a nice try, but ultimately descends into cliché, especially with Dave's character arc: over the course of the movie, he changes from foul-mouthed loser to responsible guardian, and wins the heart of Miss Caroline. Didn't see that coming.
Fortunately, despite the ultimate predictability of the script, there's enough good stuff to make this worth a watch: there are some genuinely funny moments, many in bad taste (Dave cranking one out to a picture of Miss Caroline is hilarious, the camera pulling out to reveal that his masturbatory aid is a school photo of the teacher with her class); we get plenty of gore and the zombies are cool; the kids are actually pretty good (not as annoying as they might well have been); and Josh Gad is a blast as loathsome children's show entertainer Teddy McGiggle, who only has his best interests at heart and meets a suitably grisly fate.
All told, not a classic of the zombie genre, but I enjoyed it more than Nyong'o's other, more lauded horror, Jordan Peele's Us.
All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
Gimme an 'S', gimme an 'H', gimme an 'I'.....aaw, you know where I'm going with this.
Take equal parts The Craft, Jennifer's Body, Ginger Snaps, Mean Girls and Bring It On, and filter through the mind of a horny teenage boy, and what you have is All Cheerleaders Die, from writers/directors Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson (directors of May and I Know Who Killed Me respectively).
It's got lesbian teenage cheerleaders whose regulation outfit is a skimpy wet-look two-piece, so there's that, but it's also incredibly dumb, with obnoxious characters, horrible dialogue, and visual effects that would have been considered poor a decade earlier (including that scourge of many a modern horror movie, CGI blood).
The plot sees a group of high-school cheerleaders crash into a river after being run off the road by their jock boyfriends. Outcast Wiccan Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) pulls their corpses from the wreck and uses magick to bring them back to life and heal their wounds (which makes one wonder why she didn't use her obvious unlimited powers to make herself more attractive/popular). The downside is that the reanimated pom-pom shakers now need blood to stop themselves from going all manky.
With teenagers who all look like they're in their twenties and speak like gangstas, oversaturated and bleached out cinematography, a really pointless use of non-linear narrative, and those horrible special effects, this would have been a 1/10 from me if it wasn't for hot cheerleaders, which can make almost any film a little bit more bearable.
Criminal Act (1989)
Rat, singular. And normal sized.
Four years after hanging up her Daisy Dukes, Catherine Bach starred in this incoherent mess of a movie of the type that makes one wonder what they were putting in the water back in the '80s. How anyone could write a script so utterly inane and not immediately consign it to the shredder is beyond me.
The plot summary on IMDb promises giant rats, as investigated by intrepid reporter Pam Weiss (Bach) and her photographer Sharon (Charlene Dallas). The ladies find no evidence of over-sized rodents (the only rat in the whole film is regular sized and very dead), but they do discover a scheme by unscrupulous property developers to rid a planned site of down and outs by abducting them, using an old network of tunnels to smuggle the bums onto a ship at the city's docks.
Other reviews mention the appearance of a 'rat-man' who lives in the sewers, but don't get too excited: he's just a regular guy with lanky hair (Scott McKay) who, with the help of old vagrant Apple Bob (Syd Beard), helps to rescue the roving reporters with a well-aimed Braeburn.
Although listed here as a thriller/horror, thrills and frights are in short supply; boredom and exasperation, on the other hand, are never far away. The biggest shock is seeing poor John Saxon (Enter The Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street) wasted in the pointless role of newspaper editor.
Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)
CGI blood galore.
I've been known to enjoy films with sword-swinging Japanese girls, and I like vampires, so Blood: The Last Vampire, based on the animé of the same name, seemed like a no-brainer. But while I have no problem with the basic premise-half-demon Saya (Ji-hyun Jun) seeks revenge on Onegin, the monster who killed her father, her quest aided by a secretive order called The Council-I really didn't like the execution.
Director Chris Nahon (who also helmed the disappointing Jet Li movie Kiss Of The Dragon) uses awful rapid editing and shaky camera work during the fight scenes, making the action difficult to follow, but worse still, he relies on really really bad CGI for all of the blood. Dodgy digital effects are also used to realise some of the crappy demons and to save on dangerous stunts (at times, Saya looks like a computer game character).
The cast are more than adequate and some of the cinematography looks great--a fight against numerous ninjas in a lush green forest, and the neon-lit streets of a busy city are particularly aesthetically pleasing-but with all that frenetic editing, wild camerawork, crappy computer generated claret and those terrible creatures, I can't bring myself to rate this film any higher than a 4.
Blood Theatre (1984)
From the genius who gave us Hobgoblins and the Vice Academy series.
Howling wind, crashing thunder, honking car horns, and a strange whooshing sound: if the repeated use of these terrible sound effects don't drive you to turn off this no-expense-spent horror spoof, then there's a good chance that the diabolical acting, lame humour, dreadful direction and crap editing will.
For those intrepid viewers who insist on going the distance, here's some of the utter garbage that the film has in store...
An opening scene that proves that, despite what the old adage claims, there is indeed smoke without fire.
Hugely irritating tannoy announcements ("Four screens, no waiting").
Cameltoe par excellence courtesy of Joanna Foxx, who slips into a pair of too-tight gold spandex trousers as theatre employee Selena (Foxx also provides the film with a spot of topless nudity).
A soundtrack played on a cheap Casio organ.
Mary Woronov's gams (the best things about this whole sorry mess).
A terribly staged and utterly pointless mugging scene.
A disintegrating telephone receiver.
Selena killed by a spotlight and a wind machine.
A wholly unconvincing decapitation.
Produced, written, directed, scored, photographed and edited by Rick Sloane (who also provided visual effects, special effects, animation, and lunchtime nibbles for cast and crew), I think we all know who to hold responsible for this colossal waste of time.
After Midnight (1989)
Scared? I doubt it, but you might still be entertained.
Late '80s horror anthology After Midnight suffers from a weak collection of stories that doesn't offer much in the way of originality, but the film still manages to be a reasonably fun time-waster thanks to good performances, a decent pace, and a wraparound that at tries to do something a little different, even though it eventually descends into absurdity and finishes in a trite cyclical style.
The film opens as Allison (Jillian McWhirter) and Cheryl (Pamela Adlon) head for their first class with Professor Edward Derek (Ramy Zada), whose methods are a little unorthodox: his class on 'The Psychology of Fear' involves holding a loaded gun to the head of brash student Russ (Ed Monaghan), scaring him so much that he pees himself. This doesn't go down well with the dean, who insists that Derek tones down his teaching style. To get around these restrictions, he invites students to a private seminar at his home, where they tell scary stories in the dark.
Story number one sees a married couple taking the scenic coastal road home when their car gets a flat tire. On seeing a light in a nearby creepy house (purportedly the site of five murders), the pair decide to seek help, but get no answer when they ring the doorbell (I half expected Riff Raff to answer the door). Not one to give up easily, wife Joan (Nadine Van der Velde) climbs in through a window and tries to find a phone. But when husband Kevin (Mark McClure) finally enters the house, his wife is nowhere to be seen...
Story two follows a group of four teenage girls - Amy (Tracy Wells), Kelly (Penelope Sudrow), Lisa (Monique Salcido) and Jennifer (Judie Aronson) - as they drive around town trying to find a nightclub that won't refuse them entry. Inevitably, they get lost and run low on fuel, and when they try to locate a phone to call for assistance, find themselves threatened by a dirty old psycho (Luis Contreras) and his pack of vicious dogs.
The final story stars Marg Helgenberger as Alex, who fields calls from a stalker while she is working the night shift alone at a phone answering service. When the loony realises that his messages aren't being forwarded to the object of his obsession (a famous actress), he gets very upset and vows to make sure Alex is never able to deceive him again.
This trio of supposedly true tales holds very few real surprises, but directors Jim and Ken Wheat successfully keep boredom at bay with a reasonable amount of tension and a spot of well executed action.
After the stories have been told, the film comes to a crazy climax as Russ, armed with an axe, sneaks into Derek's house intent on revenge. The closing minutes see Derek, on fire, repeatedly axing Russ in front of the scared students, before Allison is sucked into the stories, pursued by Derek's axe-wielding skeleton (stop-motion courtesy of Doug Beswick). The ultimate scene sees Allison waking from this nightmare, and setting off for her new psychology class with pal Cheryl ***groan***.
5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
The Evictors (1979)
Show it the door.
1928: bailiffs serve an eviction notice on the occupants of a farmhouse, who refuse to go without a fight. A gunfight with the police ensues, and the occupants are cut down in a hail of bullets.
1942: married couple Ben and Ruth move into the old farmhouse, but someone doesn't want them there. While Ben is at work, Ruth is terrorised by a hulking maniac with a big knife.
As soon as The Evictors introduced its wheelchair bound character, neighbour Olie Gibson (Sue Ane Langdon), I knew where the story was heading; after all, they'd shown us a woman being shot in the leg in the bullet-riddled opening credits sequence, and Olie's hair-in-a-bun is patently a wig. It's not too hard to put two and two together.
This predictability, plus a languorous approach by director Charles B. Pierce (The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Legend of Boggy Creek), makes for a dull experience, despite solid performances from the lovely Jessica Harper as wife-in-peril Ruth Watkins, Michael Parks as her husband, and Vic Morrow as realtor Jake Rudd.
Pierce mounts one or two moments of workmanlike suspense, and offs a couple of characters that one might reasonably expect to survive till the end, but botches many other scenes: the sepia-toned flashbacks are horribly tacky, the murders are lame (only the axing of a pedlar delivers any gore), and the final scene is utterly ridiculous.
Baba Yaga (1973)
In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a ferocious, cannibalistic witch who lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs (as seen in Neil Marshall's 2019 flop Hellboy). In director Corrado Farina's Baba Yaga, the titular character is a reasonably attractive middle-aged lesbian played by Carroll Baker. There are no-chicken-legged domiciles to be seen. More's the pity.
What we do get is an hour and a half of incomprehensible and interminably dull psychedelic '70s Euro arthouse twaddle in which photographer Valentina Rosselli (Isabelle De Funès) falls under the spell of Baba Yaga. Valentina suffers from strange nightmares involving Nazis, her cursed camera causes friends and acquaintances to drop dead, and an S&M doll comes to life to treat the snapper to a spot of sado-masochistic flogging.
I'm no stranger to Euro-arthouse horror, and have even been known to enjoy a couple (Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos and Jean Rollin's The Shiver of the Vampires), but Baba Yaga is down there with the worst of them (Franco's A Virgin Among The Living Dead and Mario Bava's Lisa and the Devil). It's incredibly slow, frequently baffling, and utterly boring, despite being loaded with naked women. Isabelle De Funès looks like Sandra Bullock's uglier sister with a bad hair-do.
The film would be completely worthless if it wasn't for the following:
Nudity from Angela Covello (Torso) as gorgeous model Toni and pretty blonde Ely Galleani (Five Dolls for an August Moon) as sexy living-doll Annette -- both are way hotter than De Funès.
And an incredibly un-PC and consequently rather funny scene in which a white man in a white suit chases a black man in a black suit, turning him into a pile of black ash by throwing some white powder at him. It turns out that the whole thing is a commercial being filmed by Valentina's boyfriend Arno (George Eastman of 'Anthropophagous: The Beast' fame). The product: a detergent that destroys dirt! Hmmm...
Dead Heat (1988)
A buddy cop film with a difference: one of them doesn't have a pulse (his name is a 'dead' giveaway).
A string of violent robberies are being committed by criminals who won't stay dead. Cops Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo) investigate, their enquiries leading them to the headquarters of Dante Pharmaceuticals, where Roger is killed, but resurrected shortly after by a machine that gives him approximately ten hours to find out who is behind the crimes.
Any film that features the contents of a butcher's shop coming to life is okay by me. As well as reanimated duck's heads, a lively pig carcass, aggressive offal, zombie chickens and a belligerent hunk of beef, this film also delivers a disfigured overweight zombie with an attitude problem, a terrific scene in which someone decays to putrid mush in seconds (kudos to FX man Steve Johnson), lots and lots of shootouts with plenty of juicy bullet squibs, and genre legend Vincent Price in one of his last screen roles. Fans of film-noir will note the similarities with classic D.O.A. (1949), a snippet of which appears in this film on a TV screen; fans of bad 80s fashion will enjoy Joe Piscopo's mullet and leather blouson jacket; and fans of aquariums will be delighted by the film's many fish tanks.
7/10. From the opening bloody shootout, to the mid movie shootout, to the final shootout, Dead Heat is a lot of fun.
Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)
I thought it might be a good idea to catch up on some of the Puppet Master films. In hindsight...
Curse of the Puppet Master, the sixth film in the long running horror franchise, sees Toulon's tiny terrors in the possession of Dr. Magrew (George Peck ), owner of The House of Marvels, a small-town roadside attraction that he runs with the help of his pretty daughter Jane (Emily Harrison). When Magrew meets gas station attendant Robert 'Tank' Winsley (Josh Green), who likes to carve with wood, he offers him a job at his place, creating the many parts for a new living puppet, into which he secretly plans to transfer Robert's soul.
Director David DeCoteau (as Victoria Sloan) starts things off well enough, introducing his characters and setting up a few deserving victims along the way: a gang of local bullies, led by Joey Carp (Michael Guerin), and a nasty sheriff (Robert Donavan). So far, so good, but then it all goes pear-shaped: there's too much use of archival footage of the puppets, the boom mic makes an appearance, very little effort is made to make the puppets move as though they're alive, the gore is disappointing (just some blood splashed around), DeCoteau provides lots of shots of shirtless hunks (no surprises there) but no T&A from Harrison, there is an overuse of lightning and smoke to the point where it is distracting, and worse of all, the ending is ridiculously abrupt. The film simply stops mid-action, leaving the viewer to ponder whether they fell asleep and missed something. We should be so lucky.
3.5/10, rounded up to 4 for IMDb.
Amazingly, not the last in the series.
Just how silly does tongue-in-cheek horror Prom Night III get? Well, ghostly antagonist Mary Lou pins a mans hands to a counter-top with ice-cream cornets and pushes a whisk through his skull, That stupid enough for you? Or howsabout the scene in which she throws a football, the ball turning into a drill that screws her victim to the goalposts? The Last Kiss is full of such nonsense, making it a mindless way to pass the time, but not a scary one, nor a particularly funny one.
Courtney Taylor plays malevolent spirit Mary Lou Maloney, who falls for high school jock Alex Grey (Tim Conlon), killing anyone who upsets her beau or threatens to get in the way of their relationship. Alex takes to burying the bodies under the football field, but is soon found out and arrested for murder. Alex's girlfriend Sarah believes that he is innocent and tries to free him from the sexy ghost's grasp.
Directors Ron Oliver and Peter R. Simpson keep a brisk pace and manage a few impressive shots (I love the camera careening down corridors), but they're unable to get the balance of horror and comedy right, with the gags falling flat (the announcements over the school tannoy are cringeworthy) and the supposed scares too comical to ever be disturbing. It all flashes past the eyes easy enough, but the film's frivolous nature and an ending that feels like an afterthought leaves one wondering 'what was the point?'.
Night Screams (1987)
A largely forgotten slasher -- for a reason.
Behind the uninspired title lies an equally uninspired slasher that fails to deliver those essential ingredients of any good trashy horror: gratuitous nudity and gore. Initially, the film shows promise, opening with a girl getting topless in a changing room before being attacked by a masked maniac, but then it becomes apparent that this is actually a scene from 1981 slasher Graduation Day, as watched by two of this movie's characters before they are stabbed to death. Nudity borrowed from another film doesn't count (which also negates some T&A later on, which comes from a porn film being watched at a party), and the subsequent stabbings are lame.
The rest of the film continues in this disappointing fashion as a group of friends at a post-graduation party are bumped off in tame and uninventive ways off by an unseen maniac. Suspects include the escaped lunatics hiding in the basement, and football star David (Joseph Paul Manno), who is prone to outbursts of violence if he stops taking his meds. Of course, these turn out to be red herrings, but the real identity of the killer isn't hard to guess.
Of the numerous murders that occur in the house, we get a guy skewered with a fire poker, poisoning in a sauna, an axe in the head, a guy barbecued on a stove and stabbed in the neck, strangulation, suffocation, electrocution in a hot-tub, and choking with a pool cue, none of which are likely to satisfy gore-hounds. The best part of the film comes earlier on, when the escaped criminals are involved in a shootout with some cops and kill the staff of a diner in cold-blood: it's a surprisingly brutal scene, with some bloody squib-work.
2.5/10, rounded down to 2 for diabolical dance troupe The Sweetheart Dancers, whose terrible moves would get them four 'NOs' on America's Got Talent.
Sweeney supplies the meat; Slaughter delivers the ham.
The aptly named Tod Slaughter stars as legendary barber Sweeney Todd, who 'polishes off' his customers in order to steal their valuables, while at the same time supplying baker Mrs. Lovatt (Stella Rho) with plenty of filling for her tasty meat pies. Investing his ill-gotten gains in the latest project of ship-builder Stephen Oakley, Sweeney uses his financial leverage to force the businessman's daughter Johanna into marrying him. When Johanna's seafaring fella Mark returns to England a rich man, and goes for a shave at Todd's establishment before meeting his girl, the wicked barber sees an opportunity to get even richer whilst removing an awkward obstacle.
Although the plot for this version of Sweeney Todd is fairly predictable Victorian-style melodrama, the film is still a lot of fun thanks to Slaughter, who gleefully hams it up with a memorable lead performance that positively invites boos and hisses from the audience. Cackling like a maniac as he goes about his work, dumping unsuspecting victims into his cellar with the aid of a special booby-trapped chair, slapping about his 12-year-old apprentice (his 8th, the previous seven having mysteriously disappeared), and lusting after Johanna, Todd is a truly loathsome character, Slaughter's over-the-top mannerisms perfect for the role.
Admittedly, it's a fairly repetitive film and all gets very silly towards the end, with Johanna going to Sweeney's shop in disguise as a young lad (Todd failing to recognise the woman thanks to her clothing and a few cinders rubbed on her face), and the barber failing to make good his escape, instead re-entering his blazing barber shop to deal with Mark, but to be honest, any film that features the word 'Lumme' is fine by me. Look out too for an African native called Snowdrop (I'm surprised that the PC brigade hasn't 'fixed' the film for a modern audience).
4.5/10, rounded up to 5 for IMDb.
The Himalayas are 'Alive' with the sound of yetis.
Remember the 1993 survival drama Alive, in which survivors of an air crash in the Andes avoid starvation by eating the flesh of the dead? Of course you do, and so do the makers of this trash, who copy that film's basic premise but throw in a manky moth-eaten mountain monster for good measure.
Instead of the Andes, Yeti: Curse Of The Snow Demon takes place in the Himalayas, where the air crash survivors -- members of an American football team (in Alive, it was a rugby team) -- find themselves not just faced with a moral dilemma, but with a monstrous ape-man as well, the snow-beast taking advantage of the disaster by restocking his cave larder, starting with the frozen corpses, but later turning its attention to the living.
Apparently made for TV (which explains the intermittent fades to black, presumably for commercial breaks), this is complete and utter Z-grade trash, from the hilariously bad plane crash during a raging storm, to the bloody finale, in which the yeti gets messy. It's shoddily written, poorly acted and features some of the worst CGI I have ever seen, but despite all of these factors (or, perhaps, because of them) the result is strangely watchable. It's hard to completely hate a film that is so blatantly unoriginal, incredibly daft, and surprisingly gory at times.
Watch in amazement as one of the characters splints his broken leg with a severed arm, laugh as the yeti cosies up to survivor Sarah (Carly Pope) in its cave, scratch your head in confusion as the characters search for matches amidst burning wreckage, and cheer in delight as the monster goes kill crazy at the end, crushing heads, ripping out throats and tearing off limbs. Yeti is far from great movie-making (some might say it's abominable), but it definitely has its moments.
Check this out for a goofy plot...
A man with metal plates holding his face together (the bloke having been gored by a stuffed turtle brought to life by a glowing crystal) uses his hot dead daughter (played by Abigail Wolcott in her one and only film appearance) to lure unsuspecting travellers to an untimely death at ghost-town Hellgate, which is occupied by a variety of ghosts and ghouls. Two couples vacationing in a nearby cabin attempt to defeat the evil.
Don't look for any semblance of narrative cohesion in Hellgate: there isn't any. What we have here is a film that runs on the kind of 'dream-logic' prevalent in many a horror movie from the '80s/early '90s -- films such as Demon Wind (1990), Nightmare Weekend (1986) and Graveyard Disturbance (1988); in other words, it makes no sense whatsoever. It's as though someone wrote a bunch of random ideas (exploding mutant fish, zombie in a car, decapitation by metal sign, Cockney ghost introducing can can dancers, talking severed head in a fridge, crystal laser blasts) on scraps of paper, arranged them using a leaf-blower, and wrote a script around the resulting mess.
With its 'all-over-the-place' plot, terrible acting and weak special effects, Hellgate isn't going to appeal to most people, but fans of slapdash '80s cheeze will no-doubt get a few laughs from the craziness, which also includes two pairs of breasts (one pair of pancakes, one pair silicon enhanced), an axe in a head, a full body burn stunt, and a character called Zonk (who is made to look old by putting 'white' in the actor's hair).
3/10 if I'm feeling grouchy; 6/10 if I'm in the mood for some seriously dumb trash. That's an average of 4.5/10, which I'll round up to 5 for IMDb.
Hell House LLC (2015)
LLC: Looks Like Crap.
Hell House LLC is a faux horror documentary (yes, another one) which feels like a mix of Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project, set in a Halloween haunted house attraction (the third Halloween haunt themed horror I have seen this month, the others being 2018's Hell Fest and this year's Haunt). As such, it feels incredibly stale, churning out all the clichés of the 'found footage' genre as though there hasn't been a gazillion similar films since the turn of the millennium.
The film sees a documentary crew investigating the Hell House tragedy in Abaddon, NY, where multiple injuries and fatalities occurred on the opening night of the Halloween attraction set up by Alex Taylor (Danny Bellin) and his crew. Interviewing survivor Sara (Ryan Jennifer Jones), the documentarians are given recordings filmed during the weeks leading up to the tragedy, tapes that reveal inexplicable creepy happenings that would have most rational people getting the hell out of Dodge ASAP (the name of the town would have been enough for me to stay well clear in the first place!).
Shaky camerawork, glitchy video recording, people behaving irrationally, inanimate stuff moving by itself, a final act in which all hell breaks loose: it's all there, and if you are one of the few who haven't grown completely bored of the format by now, the film should satisfy your yearning for more of the same. For me, the whole 'found footage' thing lost its appeal somewhere around the third Paranormal Activity film, and this film didn't reignite my interest.
BTW, LLC actually stands for Limited Liability Company.
Furry Nights (2016)
If you go down to the woods today, you're in furry big surprise.
Furry Nights is a horror film made by a bunch of amateurs about a bunch of amateurs making a horror film. While recording a swamp monster movie in the woods, a group of teens witness a gathering of 'furries' (people who get their kicks from dressing and acting like animals) on the opposite side of a lake. After one of the film-making friends accidentally shoots one of these furries, believing it to be a real bear, the rest of the 'animals' arm themselves and seek revenge.
Furry Nights could have been a truly demented and OTT effort - after all, furries are inherently creepy, allowing plenty of scope for oddball horror antics - but the extremely weak script, terrible acting, and an unwillingness to get really crazy means that the film fails to capitalise on its intriguing premise. Writer/director J. Zachary Thurman manages some reasonably impressive shots, but his storytelling leaves a lot to be desired, plot progression almost non-existent after the initial set-up, and a reliance on 'found-footage' style camerawork quickly becoming tiresome (a Blair Witch parody scene being the worst).
With minimal gore and only the merest hint of nudity, there is very little for fans of the absurd and outrageous to get excited about - unless you too get your jollies from animal masks and butt-plug tails.
1.5/10, rounded up to 2 for IMDb.
The Pyx (1973)
A Karen Black Mass Mess.
Karen Black plays smack-addict hooker Elizabeth Lucy, who falls to her death from a balcony. Christopher Plummer is Detective Jim Henderson, who investigates the hooker's untimely demise, the events leading up to her death told in a series of flashbacks intercut with Henderson's police-work.
I have two big problems with this film: 1) it's incredibly slow, with very little of interest happening for much of the time, and 2) it's not very thrilling since we know of Elizabeth's fate from the outset. Black and Plummer are fine in their roles, but they cannot make up for the sluggish pace and uneventful script.
Admittedly, the finalé, in which we see the hooker lured to her fate at the hands of a Satanic cult, is suitably atmospheric, with eerie chanting (a haunting mix of slow vocals and weird speeded-up chipmunk singing) and menacing robed figures, but Director Harvey Hart blows it with a confusing scene in which Plummer's cop is goaded by the lead Satanist into shooting him (by accusing Henderson of being happy when his wife died?). In the end, the film feels like a waste of talent and a waste of time.
3.5 out of 10, rounded down for the melancholic, hippie-style folk songs (sung by Black) that only add to the dreariness.
Ready or Not (2019)
Weaving's scream is the real horror.
After Grace (Samara Weaving) marries into a wealthy family who have made their fortune creating board games, she finds that she must participate in a game of hide and seek before she will be properly accepted as one of the clan. But as Grace hides in the sprawling family mansion, her new in-laws tool up with a variety of weapons and set out to find and kill the young woman as part of a Satanic ritual.
After watching Mayhem and The Babysitter, I found that I had developed a strong aversion to Samara Weaving's scream, a horrible warbling sound that sets my teeth in edge, but I was willing to try and put my animosity to one side for Ready or Not, the trailer for which looked like a lot of fun. I failed: her scream still got on my nerves, but as it happens, Weaving's warbling was just one of many reasons why I didn't enjoy this film.
All of the characters are unlikable (Grace included) and unbelievable (husband Alex does a 180-degree personality flip), the plot goes nowhere for most of the film, the intended dark comedy falls horribly flat, the ending is predictable (reminding me a little of Drag Me To Hell), the location is underused (the servants tunnels, in particular, are totally wasted), and for a film given an 18 certificate for 'bloody violence and strong scenes of gore', there's very little in the way of inventive or graphic kills. Also, try as hard as you can, but you'll never convince me that it is possible to saw through a solid piece of hardwood with the chain on a pair of handcuffs.
Save your money, save your time and save the strain on your ear drums (that scream!!!).
3.5/10, generously rounded up to 4 for the creepy Hide and Seek song.
Very dumb but a lot of fun.
Every now and then, I like to watch a randomly selected horror movie knowing absolutely nothing about it; most of the time, these 'blind watches' turn out to be junk, but occasionally I find a hidden gem, or at least a film that is dumb fun. Dead Squad is one such film: it's not a great film per se, but it is highly entertaining--a deliberately cheesy piece of schlock that delivers those staples of the genre, excessive gore and gratuitous nudity.
The directorial debut of movie musician Dominik Hauser, Dead Squad: Temple of the Dead (to give it it's full title) follows a group of backpackers who stray off the beaten path and discover an ancient temple where they decide to seek shelter for the night, unaware that the ruins are home to mutated flesh-eating zombie monsters, created by a Nazi scientist working for the C.I.A.
Hauser lays on the cheeze and the splatter from the word go, with a prologue set in 1958 that sees a man having his face pulled off. The action then moves to present day, but the craziness continues throughout, the bloody mayhem including an exploding stomach, mutant/zombie impalement, a jawbone ripped off, gut-munching, decapitation, and the hilarious sight of one of the backpackers having his skull pulled out of his abdomen! Busty Bianca Zouppas as sexy sightseer Tiffany provides most of the nudity, although a couple of female zombies also get flash their boobs. There's also a zombie-on-zombie blow-job and a dwarf zombie with his head buried in a female zombie's crotch!
The plot is formulaic, the acting is fairly diabolical, and the film has some of the worst scene transitions imaginable, but the plentiful blood and guts, the nekkidness, and some surprisingly effective set design all go to make Dead Squad an enjoyable time-waster--one of those rare times when taking pot luck actually payed off.
6.5/10 for the gore, rounded up to 7 for the flesh-eating dwarf (I'm a sucker for a horror film with a dwarf, even more-so if the little fellow is a zombie).
Eli Roth presents... another lousy film.
Eli Roth certainly has a knack for writing horrible characters and dreadful dialogue. In Aftershock's opening act, he introduces us to a bunch of vacuous party-goers so thoroughly unlikable that I was praying for the film's earthquake to kill them all as soon as possible. Thirty minutes of plot-free shenanigans pass before the quake finally hits, and it's not a moment too soon; unfortunately, the gang somehow survive the collapsing nightclub they are in when disaster strikes, leaving them to flee for their lives, but the streets are no safer, for vicious rapists and murderers from a local prison are on the prowl (at this point, I was cheering on the prisoners to do their worst).
What follows is suitably violent, but everything is so poorly written and badly acted that even some juicy gore cannot prevent the film from being a thoroughly annoying experience right up to the totally predictable twist ending (surely the only person who didn't see it coming was the last surviving character).
3/10. Please Mr. Roth, find another outlet for your creativity and leave cinema alone. Have you tried basket weaving?
The Boys: You Found Me (2019)
Hurry up with season two, please.
I've thoroughly enjoyed The Boys as a whole, but You Found Me isn't quite the all-out, slam-bang season finalé I had been hoping for. It starts off in fine fashion with Homelander (Antony Starr) flying to Syria where he kills everyone at a heroin processing factory, slicing them up with his laser eyes. It's a good 'n' gory way to kick things off, but remains the best part of the whole episode, nothing that follows matching it in terms of OTT fun.
A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) versus Starlight (Erin Moriarty) is reasonably entertaining, and Homelander dispatching of a major character by burning the eyes out of their skull is satisfyingly twisted, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed that it's all wrapped up in such an unexceptional fashion when compared to some of the craziness in previous episodes.
Hopefully season two isn't going to be too long in the offing, and I won't have lost the impetus to pick up where this one leaves off.
6.5/10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.