Sunday, November 22, 2015

What I Watched - November 15-21 2015


Don't Go in the House (1979) DVD
- I've owned this as part of a Shriek Show triple-feature boxset, (alongside a couple of low budget crime actioners - Cop Killers and Tenement) for a few years now but never got around to watching it. I'm glad I finally did, because this is an awesome gritty old school urban horror/exploitation film along the lines of Maniac. The story itself has elements of Psycho - a guy with mommy issues killing young ladies (although Norman never used a flamethrower!). There's actually some quite creepy moments involving burned bodies coming back to life. One for fans of sleazy late 70s, early 80s grindhouse horror flicks!

Diamonds of Kilimandjaro (1983) DVD
- I own this in another Shriek Show box set that I got at the same time as the aforementioned one, this one called "Jungle Girls". It's actually a Jess Franco movie but is pretty tame by his standards. Essentially Tarzan with a female in the vine-swinging role, this one has little in the way of gore and a lot in the way of nudity. It's pretty run of the mill - kind of like a Lenzi/Deodato jungle movie without any of the gut-munching or torture. Watchable but hard to recommend.

Stryker (1983) DVD
- Since I was trawling through long-neglected boxsets on my shelves, I pulled out one called Grindhouse Experience 2, which has something like 10 movies of various drive-in fare. The name of this one, plus the artwork, made it an easy choice to begin making my way through this set. I do love a good cheesy 80s Mad Max-ripoff, and that's what you get here from Filipino director Cirio H Santiago. While this one's not terrible, there are better examples of the genre out there. The final battle is pretty cool, but the lead-up to it is sloppy and quite frankly boring in a lot of places. The highlight is a band of "little people" who dress like Jawas and sound way too much like animated penguin Pingu. Sadly they are on screen for far too little time - if they'd been around more I might have enjoyed this more. A good time-waster, but probably only for the hardcore fan of low budget post-apocalyptic fare.

Blazing Magnum (1976) DVD
- Next up in Grindhouse Experience is this is a movie also known as Shadows in an Empty Room, although that name makes it sound like a giallo, and it's definitely not. Blazing Magnum is a more apt name, because what we have here is an Italian/Canadian production that is clearly influenced by Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry flicks (one of the sequels of course being Magnum Force). Like Harry Callahan, the main cop in this one uses "unorthodox" methods to get what he needs. With a great cast that includes Martin Landau, John Saxon and Tisa Farrow, and containing one of the best car chase scenes I've seen in a long time, this is great stuff. Definitely recommended.

Slavers (1978) DVD
- Continuing down the Grindhouse Experience 2 road, we move from police action to pure exploitation. Coming in the wake of the highly-successful mini series Roots, this trods over similar ground, telling unflinching stories of the slave trade in Africa in the 1800s. An African couple who are separated by the bad guys are part of the focus, but most of the time is spent on the various white men and women (including Britt Ekland), most of which are completely reprehensible. One scene in particular - involving target practice on swimming natives - is quite shocking. My biggest complaint is that the racist villains in this for the most part don't get a satisfactory comeuppance. Obviously this is never comfortable viewing, but is a good reminder of a dark period in man's history.

Deathgasm (2015) AVI
- I watched this a couple of weeks ago as part of 31 Nights of Terror and enjoyed it so much I had to watch it again, this time with my girlfriend. Check out my review here:

Three Supermen Against Godfather (1979) DVD
- Back into the Grindhouse Experience 2 boxset, and next up we have an all-together odd little movie otherwise known as Supermenler. Apparently the 9th of 11 Three Supermen movies which ranged from 1967 to 1986, this is a goofy comedy set in Turkey that feels like a low budget episode of the 1960s Batman TV series. Most of the intended comedy falls flat, while there are unintentional laughs (one guy's whiney dubbed voice is hilarious). The theme song that plays constantly throughout the climax is so, so annoying. The setting is apt, because this is one big turkey.

Mister Deathman (1977) DVD
- The last of the Grindhouse 2 movies for a while (there are others I haven't seen, but I'll save them for another time) is this very poor excuse for a blaxploitation movie. Filmed in South Africa, it stars the main guy from Zombie Island Massacre who tries to play a suave Bond-like superspy but his acting is beyond terrible. The bad guys are boring, our hero seemingly gets captured every few minutes, and the plot is groan-worthy. If there was a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of this movie I'd watch it - it would be interesting to hear how the main black actor found filming in apartheid-era South Africa - and let's face it, it would have to be better than the actual movie itself.

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2009) DVD
- I really have to stop choosing movies to watch based on the actors involved. That bit me on the ass with Old 37 and it kind of did again here, and Bill Moseley is involved again (along with horror fan darling Danielle Harris). Bill's the definite highlight here, as he's in full Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th mode (he even dresses the same, so it's obviously a homage). The movie starts off pretty well with a good opening murder and some time in an asylum, but when it switches to the present day and turns the spotlight on various annoying teens, things break down. I couldn't wait for these douchebags to get dead, and unfortunately it took so long to happen, with endless teen partying bogging things down. Sloppy editing and the fact that it looks like it was shot on a handicam (not in terms of shakiness, but of quality - it feels like a home movie, not a film) make this one a pretty unbearable mess.

- November is of course the month when men grow all shapes and sizes of mustachios in the name of charity (not me, I'm be-goateed all year round, gotta hide those double chins somehow). So, with that in mind, I decided to find movies featuring standout supporting performances by upper-lip caterpillars.

Turkey Shoot (1982) DVD
- First up is Roger Ward's menacing mo-and-eyebrows combo from this Australian exploitation (Oz-ploitation) classic. I've always loved this movie - it's beautifully shot, has plenty of action and its simple storyline is essentially Most Dangerous Game mixed with 1984. But it also has plenty of tasty cheese to stop it from being too mainstream, like the hairy "freak" hunter, the woman's exploding arrows, the weird futuristic vehicles and the pre-requisite smatterings of T&A and attempted rape. Steve Railsback is a weird choice for a leading man - the guy who would go on to play an uber-creepy Ed Gein is hardly charismatic pin-up material. But that's not to take away from this movie, which is a must for any fans of exploitation flicks.

Witchfinder General (1968) DVD
- As a huge Vincent Price fan (I collect his movies on DVD) this is one that had managed to slip through the cracks, until now. Price's facial hair isn't anything too special, but hey, it's there, so it makes this movie count for this moviethon! Okay, so I was just looking for an excuse to include this one. Vincent is great as always, although rather subdued by his standards (after watching a doco on director Michael Reeves it seems he told the legendary actor to tone down his performance). The supporting cast is great (Ian Ogilvy is always good to watch) and this gets quite brutal in places (like the burning of the witch at the stake - my DVD has a lot of the cut violence restored). This is essentially a western set in ye olde England, and it's a good one! Definite recommendation.

The Big Lebowski (1998) AVI
- I'm sure everyone has a movie or two that it seems EVERYONE has seen and enjoyed, but which they've managed to miss somehow. Rather embarrassingly, this is that movie for me. I know it's a cult classic and I do enjoy the Coen brothers, but this one just never found its way in front of my eyes. I had it on my list on Netflix to watch a few months ago, but now when I went to watch it... it's not on Netflix anymore. Don't you hate that? Anyway, a quick acquisition from an "alternative source" and now I can finally say I've seen The Big Lebowski and now know what all the memes and quotes are in reference to. Oh yeah, obviously the mustache in this one belongs to Sam Elliott's The Stranger, although there are a couple of other commendable face-hair efforts in this movie. As for the movie itself, it is as good as everyone makes it out to be. The Dude abides man!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What I Watched - November 8-14 2015


Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell (1981) Amazon
- I've just signed up for a trial period of Amazon Prime and while perusing the free streaming video on the site I came across a bunch of obscure regional horror movies that I haven't seen anywhere else, this one included. Also known as "Rana: Legend of Shadow Lake" it is from renowned Wisconsin-based schlockmeister Bill Rebane (Blood Harvest, Giant Spider Invasion etc) and is purely for the lovers of bad, low-budget cinema. With narration that makes it sound like an episode of Wonderful World of Disney and laughable man-in-suit monster effects, this flick is pretty dire, but at the same time has a cheesy charm that I enjoyed somewhat.

Old 37 (2015) AVI
- I was pretty excited to check this one out, since its two main stars are horror legends Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley. Who could pass up the chance to see Jason Vorhees and ChopTop in action together, right? Unfortunately, while it's good to see these two legends in action together, the story (brothers pretend to be paramedics and pick up victims in their old No 37 ambulance - hence the name) leaves a lot to be desired. It's badly lit, the music is horrible loud rock music (I'm a metaller, but in this case the music doesn't suit the movie) and there's bugger all gore (or its impossible to see because of the shitty lighting). A bunch of flashbacks also kill what atmosphere there is. I've since learned that Moseley and Hodder have starred in quite a few movies together in recent years (including Charlie's Farm and Smothered) - hopefully they're better than this.

The Doberman Gang (1972) AVI
- Another movie I watched simply because of it's rareness - as far as I can tell it has never been released on DVD. Apparently this one led to a string of sequels, all with the same basic premise - a team of five Doberman Pincer dogs are trained to carry out some kind of criminal task. In this case it's rob a bank. There's not much more to it than that, bar some squabbling among the thieves behind the plan. This is good, harmless fun in a 1970s TV movie kind of way (although it appears to have been a cinematic release), with goofy comedy and cheesy, cheesy music (dig the theme song: "They were the doggonest gang than man could ever see, all them animals just like you and me").

Evidence (2013) Netflix
- Part slasher movie, part CSI-type police procedural, Evidence's plot has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese, but if you look past that, it's entertaining, particularly if you like mysteries. A group of people who break down at a desert gas station end up being massacred by a mysterious killer wearing a welding mask, and police try to solve the case using footage from the victims' phones and cameras. There's not a great deal of gore (although seeing someone set alight by a welding-torch-wielding killer was kinda cool), so this leans heavily towards the mystery/police side rather than the horror side of things. The acting's pretty good (led by Silent Hill's Radha Mitchell and True Blood's Steven Moyer) and the twist ending actually caught me off-guard. Add in some pretty nifty camera effects and this one's a definite recommendation.

Requiem for a Dream (2000) DVD
- I picked this up for $1 from a video rental store closing down in my town, and my girlfriend had never seen it - so that had to be remedied. Of course this is a fantastic piece of cinema from Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, The Fountain, Black Swan etc) and the ultimate "don't do hard drugs" message. I love the split-screen camera work and the nifty editing, and there's top notch acting on display from Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn (who was rightfully nominated for an Oscar for her work). Easily one of the best movies released in the early 2000s.

Future-Kill (1985) AVI
- This is a movie that has been at the periphery of my consciousness since I first saw it on VHS in about 1986 (when I was 11 years old). A few scenes have stuck in my head ever since but I never got around to finding it again, until now. I wish I'd gotten around to it sooner - specifically before I met star Edwin Neal (more famous for his role as The Hitchhiker in the original TCM) at a horror convention in the early 2000s. I would have loved to have heard his thoughts on it. Plot-wise, Future-Kill is part Porkies (frat boy shenanigans) and part The Warriors (zany street gangs in outrageous costumes), with a main bad guy that looks like a cross between Robocop and The Humongous from The Road Warrior. As a piece of cinema this isn't anything great, but as a cheesy 80s scifi/horror it kicks ass.

Tick Tick Tick (1970) AVI
- Another from my list of "never been released on DVD" downloads, Tick Tick Tick is a fascinating look at racial relations in small-town America in the late 60s and early 70s. Jim Brown plays a black man voted in as sheriff of a town in the deep south, which of course causes a lot of tension with the white folk. George Kennedy is superb as always as the former sheriff who becomes a deputy to help him out. This isn't straight-up exploitation, although there's enough despicable racist behaviour to give it a hard edge.

Time Lapse (2014) Netflix
- I do love a good time travel movie, and while not perfect, Time Lapse has a great premise and enough plot twists to keep you thinking after the final credits roll. Just don't think about things too long, or you'll start to realise there are quite a few things that don't make sense, as is often the case with time travel stories. Danielle Panabaker from TV's The Flash leads a small cast of otherwise-unknowns in a tale about a camera that takes photos of the future. I won't say anymore than that - it's best to go in without knowing too much - but I did enjoy this one quite a bit.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What I Watched - November 1-7 2015


The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015) Youtube
- This is one I've been meaning to check out for a while now after reading Kevin Smith's latest autobiography, Tough Shit, a few months back. I honestly didn't know anything about this other than reading a few brief mentions about a failed Superman movie over the years. After watching this doco, I think I'm probably in the same boat as everyone else - I really, really wish Tim Burton had been allowed to make his movie with Nicolas Cage as Supes! Would it have been great? Probably not (I'm not a fan of anything non-animated that Burton has done in the last 15 years), but it would have been unique, that's for damn sure! This documentary is definitely worth checking out, whether you're a fan of superheroes or not.

The Canal (2014) Netflix
- I'm writing this a couple of weeks after I watched this, and not much about it sticks in my mind, which probably says a lot. But I do remember liking it - the acting was good and the suspense was very well done. Not really horror, more psychological thriller, but one that'll keep you guessing and interested for the whole hour and a half.

The Keep (1983) VHS
- It's rare for me to watch VHS these days, having sold off most of my collection (which numbered in the many hundreds) over the past year or so. But this is one I found hidden away in a box in my garage and I had to give it a watch before putting it up for sale - especially since it has never been released on DVD. I love, love, love this movie! Sure, some of the effects are a bit cheesy, but the Tangerine Dream score is phenomenal and director Michael Mann brings a dream-like quality to proceedings. Damn I want to see this on a decent print - is a bluray really too much to ask?

Can't Hardly Wait (1998) Netflix
- A brief excursion into romantic comedy territory. But hey, this one is actually really good - it reminds me of the 1980s John Hughes teen comedies that I grew up on. 

V for Vendetta (2005) DVD
- Remember, remember the 5th of November. And what better movie to watch on Guy Fawkes Night? I do enjoy the look of this movie, it has some stellar cinematography, as you'd hope for when a comic book is adapted to the screen. The story has never been one that really resonates with me though, unfortunately. Call me a crotchety old man, but the "V" mask has lost its impact for me due to its use by the hacking group Anonymous in real life. Still, this is a good watch.


Bone Tomahawk (2015) AVI
- Boy did I love this movie! Obviously I love horror movies, and I do really enjoy westerns - the two are sadly not joined together very often in cinema. But that's now changed, because Bone Tomahawk is fantastic. Sure, it's more western than horror, but there's some genuine creepiness to the cannibal natives in this here yarn. The cinematography of the dusty, old west setting is excellent, the story is well written and the effects are top notch. But what really makes this stand out is the acting. A big thank you to whoever decided to cast Kurt Russell in the sheriff role - after the perfection ghtat is Tombstone I could watch Kurt act in westerns for the rest of my days. And the supporting cast (including The Conjuring's Patrick Wilson and a brief appearance by genre favourite Sid Haig) is great. More horror westerns please!

The Green Inferno (2015) AVI
- Ah yes, Eli Roth. The guy gets a lot of hate, but I'm not on board with that. He at least makes interesting movies, if not always great. I like to think of him as horror's answer to Quentin Tarantino (with no doubt a fraction the talent), and he's in full-on Tarantino-mode in this one. Whereas Tarantino has paid homage to the likes of blaxploitation, martial arts and spaghetti westerns in recent years, Roth chooses to make a love letter to 1970s Italian cannibal flicks. Thankfully the one thing he left out is the awful animal cruelty of those original offerings, so The Green Inferno has that going for it. Unfortunately the gore is also lacking in comparison (but still quite abundant) and there's no nudity, but there is some nice visuals (the natives in full red bodypaint are visually striking) and the acting is pretty good. You won't care about the characters, but that's beside the point in these movies I guess. Roth gets an A for effort and at least, unlike the animal-cruelty-filled 70s flicks, I can see myself watching this one again some time soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #40 - Goodnight Mommy (2014)

Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Director: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Starring: Susanne Wuest, Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz
Format: AVI

Plot: Twin boys move to a new home with their mother after she has face changing cosmetic surgery, but under her bandages is someone the children don't recognize.

And so the 2015 edition of 31 Nights of Terror comes to an end with the 40th entry, which I'm pretty sure is my best effort yet. I wanted to finish with something good, and I've been wanting to see Goodnight Mommy ever since I first started hearing buzz about it last year.

This German-language Austrian film is pure psychological horror. There's no body count and there's no gore, so if you're after that, look elsewhere. Instead Goodnight Mommy is a beautifully-shot slice of surreal and suspenseful mystery. The idea is that you're kept guessing the whole time as things unfold and the plot takes a bunch of twists and turns.

I say that because unfortunately I picked the plot twist right from the start, as I'm sure a lot of horror fans will. When you watch so many of these types of movies it happens. While I think not guessing the twist would add a lot to the viewing experience here, I did enjoy the movie anyway.

The directors do a fantastic job of capturing the absolute beauty of the remote countryside location, with some simply stunning cinematography. Simultaneously they use this isolation to build a atmosphere of complete and utter dread, without relying on lazy jump scares. Helped by some fantastic acting from the three leads (young twins Lukas and Elias are outstanding), this movie will have your skin crawling and the hairs on the back of your neck standing up for the whole ride. 

To say too much more would be to give too much away, but if you like slow-burning, suspenseful stories that will make you think, you can't go wrong with Goodnight Mommy.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #39 - Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Director: Dwight H Little
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris
Format: DVD

Plot: Ten years after his original massacre, the invalid Michael Myers awakens and returns to Haddonfield to kill his seven-year-old niece on Halloween. Can Dr. Loomis stop him?

Every Halloween night I like to watch one movie from either the Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween franchises. Having watched Halloweens 1, 2 and 3 in recent times I decided on this, the fourth entry and, as the name suggests, the one where Michael Myers returns (after being absent for part three, the producers decided they needed The Shape back).

As a movie in its own right, Halloween 4 isn't anything great. Most of the plot is rehashed from the first movie (Michael escapes and heads to Haddonfield, teenage babysitter, friend who's the Sheriff's daughter, Dr Loomis etc) and Little's direction lacks the artistic eye of John Carpenter. But on the other hand there's something infinitely rewarding about hearing that theme song and seeing Michael creep around killing people, like putting on a pair of well-worn pants.

Obviously we all know that Danielle Harris has turned into a modern scream queen and darling of the horror nerds, but even as a 10-year-old here she's pretty great. Her scared facial expressions are really effective. The rest of the acting is pretty much just there, although of course Donald Pleasance hams it up as the ever-more-crazy Loomis. Also worth a mention is a brief but funny appearance by Carmen Filpi, whose comedic performances in Wayne's World and The Wedding Singer ("I used to be much stronger") make him a legend in my book.

The kills are unfortunately pretty mundane and the gore factor is pretty low. What does make this movie stand out in the memory is the ending. It's a nice little twist and I wish they'd continued with it into the next movie, but of course they ignored it and went back to the tried and true.

Overall part 4 is nothing spectacular, but it's a helluva lot better than what was to come. Hey, at least there's no crappy rapper kung fu fighting Michael, right?

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #38 - Hocus Pocus (1993)

Hocus Pocus (1993)
Director: Kenny Ortega
Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
Format: Cinema

Plot: After three centuries, three witch sisters are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it is up to two teenagers, a young girl and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches' reign of terror once and for all.

As a treat to my girlfriend, I arranged for us to travel to our nearest city for a one-off screening of Hocus Pocus, a favourite Halloween movie from her childhood. With my five-year-old son along, we made a family trip of it, taking in a 1pm matinee.

I'm sure everyone reading this is familiar with the movie. As a family-friendly Halloween flick it's pretty good, and my girlfriend and son both really enjoyed seeing it on the big screen.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #37 - Juan of the Dead (2011)

Juan of the Dead (2011)
Director: Alejandro Brugués
Starring: Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andros Perugorría
Format: DVD

Plot: A group of slackers face an army of zombies. The Cuban government and media claim the living dead are dissidents revolting against the government.

Another recent pick up at the Armageddon convention, this is one I've been wanting to see for a while now. I'm a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead, and the name of this movie is obviously meant as a reference to that. And it's Cuban - not sure I've ever seen too many Cuban movies.

Juan of the Dead isn't some kind of remake of Shaun of the Dead. It shares a common starting point in that a zombie apocalypse breaks out and our protagonists are probably the last people you'd want to have to rely on to save you during it. 

Like Shaun and Ed in the English film, Juan and Lazaro are just coasting through life, but a point of difference is that they are always out to make a buck, and try to cash in on the zombie outbreak by setting up a "zombie exterminator" type business. Also, whereas Shaun of the Dead has a romance at its heart, here the "loved ones" trying to re-establish their relationship are Juan and his estranged daughter.

I loved the many references to the Cuban lifestyle, especially how the government tries to pass off the zombies as "dissidents" who are working with the Americans.

In terms of comedy, Juan of the Dead is funny. I didn't find it as hilarious as Shaun, but it's still got some golden moments. I do wonder if maybe some of the comedic timing is lost because it's in Spanish and you're busy reading subtitles (the characters talk damn fast). But overall it's funny and has heart (Juan and Lazaro have great chemistry, which is key to making this movie work).

The special effects are pretty good. There's some good blood and gore and while some of the CGI is a bit dodgy overall it works well.

If you're a fan of horror comedy along the lines of Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and Return of the Living Dead, you need to see this one.