Tuesday, June 30, 2015

GHOSTHOUSE (1988) and WITCHERY (1988) Blu-ray Review



GhostHouse (1988) d. Umberto Lenzi (as Humphrey Humbert) (Italy)
Witchery (1988) d. Fabrizio Laurenti (as Martin Newlin) (Italy)

When Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead and Evil Dead II were released in Italy, they came out under the foreign titles of La Casa and La Casa II. Considering this is the same country that had the enterprising notion of coming up with a movie called Zombi 2 as an unofficial sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (released locally as Zombi), you can probably guess what happened next. Yep, notorious exploitation artist Joe D’Amato decided to produce a couple quick (and completely unrelated) haunted house flicks and put them out as La Casa 3 and La Casa 4 in an attempt to separate suckers from their hard-earned lira. Imagine their surprise when instead of Bruce Campbell, moviegoers found themselves face-to-face with a bunch of no-name Italian actors for the first and the comedy team of Linda Blair and David Hasselhoff (in between Knight Rider and Baywatch TV gigs at the time) for the second!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

HORSEHEAD (2014) Blu-ray Review



Horsehead (2014) d. (France)

Estranged from her mother (Catriona MacColl) for many years, Jessica (Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux) is called home for her grandmother’s wake. The reception is chilly to say the least, made all the more so by the young university student being placed in the room adjacent to her late relative’s corpse, but her current professor and beau sees this as an opportunity to confront some long-standing emotional issues. You see, Jessica hasn’t had a peaceful night’s sleep in many years, haunted by nightmares featuring an enormous, malevolent horse-headed figure bedecked in long robes with clawed digits clutching an enormous papal staff. As a disciple of oneirology – the study of dreams – Jessica has identified the symbolism of her equine phantom as that of a ferryman, poised to travel back and forth between the realm of the living and dead. In slumber, she is now visited by the spirit of her grandmother Rose (Gala Besson), young and frightened, seeking help from the gathering darkness....

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DOG SOLDIERS (2002) Blu-ray Review



Dog Soldiers (2002) d. Neil Marshall (UK)

Dispatched to the Scottish Highlands, a half-dozen soldiers find their special training maneuver exercises interrupted by a S.O.S. signal flare. Upon arrival at the distress site, they discover the sole remaining member of a Special Ops team, Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham), raving and bleeding profusely. Moments later, the team is besieged by mysterious, snarling assailants that decimate one of their number and leave their leader, Sgt. Harry G. Wells (Sean Pertwee), grievously wounded. Their panicked retreat under the command of Pvt. Cooper (Kevin McKidd) leads to a chance encounter with a local woman, Megan (Emma Cleasby), who helps them escape to a secluded cabin in the woods. Low on ammo and facing periodic but increasingly effective attacks, the pinned-down troops must use their every resource to combat the lycanthropic menace until the full moon sets.


Monday, June 22, 2015

LET US PREY (2014) Blu-ray review



Let Us Prey (2014) d. Brian O’Malley (UK/Ireland)

Her first night in the sleepy burg to which she’s been reassigned, Constable Rachel Heggie (Pollyanna McIntosh) arrives just in time to witness a hit-and-run accident in the street; as she approaches to arrest the perpetrator (Brian Vernel), it quickly becomes apparent that the victim has somehow disappeared. She brings the young hoodlum to the police station regardless, encountering a none-too-welcoming committee in the form of staff sergeant Macready (Douglas Russell) and his two on-duty comrades in blue, the emotionally entwined Warnock (Bryan Larkin) and Mundie (Hannah Stanbridge). Our hit-and-run punching bag is ultimately discovered and recovered, sporting a superficial wound to the forehead and a decided unwillingness to chat about his identity or purpose. After the local twitchy sawbones is nearly driven mad by the very presence of the stranger, Macready locks the nameless bearded gent in the cells to keep company with his vehicular assailant, a wife-beating schoolteacher, and the now-bonkers doc. The night is off to a grand start, and as the clock ticks down toward midnight, things only get weirder and wilder as each of the inhabitants – on both sides of the bars – find their deepest, darkest secrets laid bare by the man in Cell Six....


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TENTACLES (1977) Blu-ray Review



Tentacles (1977) d. Ovidio G. Assonitis (Italy/USA)

A drunk old fisherman and a 10-month-old infant both go mysteriously missing in separate incidents in the same week near Solana Beach, a seaside tourist community, later turning up completely drained of fluids (including the bone marrow). Investigative reporter Ned Turner (John Huston) smells a story in the offing, suspecting a connection to moneybags developer Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda) and his Trojan Construction company’s underwater tunnel project off the coast. In an effort to find out what could be causing the deaths, Turner seeks out the assistance of renowned marine biologist Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins), presently stationed at a Sea World-type outfit training killer whales. Gleason theorizes that it could be a giant octopus, up in arms (cue rimshot) over Trojan’s disturbance of the ocean floor fauna. But will they be able to stop the grotesque grabber before the summer’s big tourist event (a massive sailboat race) or will the suckers get suckered?


Monday, June 15, 2015

REPTILICUS (1961) Blu-ray Review



Reptilicus (1961) d. Sidney W. Pink (Denmark/USA)

A copper drilling expedition “somewhere in the forbidding tundra mountains of Lapland, above the Arctic Circle” unearths the bloody remains of a prehistoric organism. The massive frozen fossil is brought to Copenhagen for study, but when it is accidentally thawed out, the scientific collective is amazed to discover that the drill wound is beginning to heal itself. In other words, the slab of flesh is alive! The eggheads theorize the creature is akin to a starfish, and that from its severed limb it will regrow an entirely new organism. So they do what anyone would do: Name it “Reptilicus,” build a big tank, toss it in, and wait to see what it grows up to be. Unfortunately, the results are a green-skinned, acid-spewing dragonian menace that proceeds to break out of its institutional fetters, bobbing and weaving its way across the Danish countryside.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

SPIDER BABY (1967) Blu-ray Review



Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1967) d. Jack Hill (USA)

Horror fans only familiar with Sid Haig from his millennial Rob Zombie flicks or with Lon Chaney, Jr. from his hairy heyday of The Wolf Man should do themselves the favor of experiencing these two genre legends toward the beginning and end of their respective careers. Writer/director Hill’s fascinating blend of macabre humor and bizarre chills revolves around the Merrye family, stricken with a “progressive age regression” disease that leads to childlike behavior and cannibalism. (This was Hill’s first credited feature directing gig, even though it didn’t come out for several years after principal photography had wrapped in 1964.)


Thursday, June 11, 2015

SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND (1989) Blu-ray Review



Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) d. Michael A. Simpson (USA)

The second sequel to 1983’s Sleepaway Camp – shot back to back with its immediate predecessor (reviewed here) – sees Angela (Pamela Springsteen back again) bumping off a trampy NYC chick with a garbage truck in order to take her place at an experimental outfit where rich and poor teenagers attempt to discover common (camp)ground. If you’re thinking that Camp New Horizons’ “experience in sharing” probably won’t work out so hot, you’re on the right track. But it serves as the ideal setting for Angela to do what she does best, i.e. thin “immoral” teenagers from the herd, which is what we came here for.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS (1988) Blu-ray Review



Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) d. Michael A. Simpson (USA)

Five years after the tragic events of the first film, Angela Baker, er, Johnson (Pamela Springsteen) is back in action, having finally been released from the mental asylum where she was committed for her crimes. With her new identity (and a rumored sex change), she is enjoying her first summer of freedom by becoming an uber-positive counselor at Camp Rolling Hills (located just down the road from Camp Arawak). Angela thrives on healthy, wholesome pursuits like crafting and nature trails, and is disappointed when her fellow Rollers decide they’d rather engage in sex, drugs, sex, trash talk, sex, and sex. Hoping to keep her woodland sanctuary clean and pure, she sunnily dispenses with the deviants with a smile on her face, the “I’m a Happy Camper” song in her heart, and a variety of sharp implements in hand.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

DER SAMURAI (2014) Blu-ray Review



Der Samurai (2014) d.Till Kleinert (Germany)

Police officer Jakob (Michel Diercks) feels trapped in the small rural village he reluctantly calls home. Nights are spent playing cards with his dementia-affected grandmother, days are spent patrolling the sleepy burg where he commands no respect from the local troublemakers. His only duty of personal significance consists of carting bags of meat out to the woods in an attempt to keep a newly reported wolf from drifting too close to town. He’s also a deeply, deeply closeted homosexual, so mortified at the potential disapproval of the locals that he lives in a perpetual state of social catatonia. The arrival of a mysterious package at the police station – and a subsequent phone call from its owner – sends Jakob in pursuit of a flamboyant, well-muscled transvestite psychopath (Pit Bukowski), the mirror image of the young lawman’s isolated existence, an existence that will likely never survive the night.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

THE HOUSE WITH 100 EYES (2013) DVD Review



The House with 100 Eyes (2013) d. Jay Lee / Jim Roof (USA)

Susan (Shannon Malone) and Ed (Jim Roof) are a happily married, all-American couple with a dream: to make the ultimate snuff film. They desire to not only deliver an ambitious, quality product (their latest challenge is to produce a “triple feature” – a three-way sex/murder sequence – “Three stars, three kills”), but also create supplemental materials, behind-the-scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, etc. But as we soon discover, this whole serial killer thing isn’t as easy as it looks, and our enterprising self-taught auteurs are far from infallible, both on and off camera.


Friday, June 5, 2015

SAMURAI AVENGER: THE BLIND WOLF (2009) Blu-ray review



Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf (2009) d. Kurando Mitsutake (USA)

A mysterious blind Samurai-With-No-Name (producer/director/co-writer Mitsutake) ventures to a desert prison to greet Nathan Flesher (Domiziano Arcangeli) on the day of the criminal’s release. As the title might indicate, this is no social call: Flesher is the man who murdered his wife and daughter before his eyes before taking those as well. En route, the swordsman must do battle with no less than seven of Flesher’s deadly hired assassins, each more cunning and dangerous than the last. A drifter, appropriately named Drifter (Jeffrey James Lippold), accompanies him along the way, seeking personal revenge against Flesher as well. Friendship will be tested, skill and strength will wrestle, and arterial blood will spray.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

SCARECROWS (1988) Blu-ray review



Scarecrows (1988) d. William Wesley (USA)

A small group of military mercenaries decide to rip off the government, making off with $3.5 million and hijacking a small aircraft to Mexico. When one of their own, Bert (B.J. Turner), decides to double-cross his partners by parachuting out of the plane with the loot, they pursue him to the ground, following him to an abandoned farmhouse near a field of scarecrows. Unfortunately for the crooks, these straw-filled dummies have the nasty tendency of climbing down off their crosses and picking up sharp implements with which to plunge and dice and slice.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1971) Blu-ray Review



She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) d. Jess Franco (West Germany/Spain)

For his daring experiments in genetically modifying human embryos to eliminate birth defects and disease, an ambitious young doctor (Fred Williams) is disbarred and hounded from the medical community. Despite the efforts of his beautiful wife (Soledad Miranda), he lapses into inconsolable depression and eventually takes his own life. Driven mad with grief, she swears vengeance on the quartet of doctors who destroyed her husband’s career (played by Howard Vernon, Ewa Strömberg, Paul Muller, and writer/director Franco), seducing and murdering them one by one.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

VAMPYROS LESBOS (1971) Blu-ray review



Vampyros Lesbos (1971) d. Jess Franco (West Germany/Spain)

Lesbianism in horror films had been teased at as early as Dracula’s Daughter (1936), becoming slightly more overt in the ’60s with Claire Bloom’s bisexual medium Theo in The Haunting before baring it all in 1970 with a flood of Sapphic bloodsuckers led by the box office suck-sess of Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers. Once the luscious Ingrid Pitt had stepped out of the bathtub in her altogether and chased young Madeline Smith around the room, the fanged femmes launched an all-out cinematic assault, with titles such as Daughters of Darkness, The Blood-Spattered Bride, Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural, Vampyres, and Jean Rollin’s art-house horror efforts titillating the hearts and wallets of red-blooded hetero men (and a few women, no doubt) with a lethal combo of same-sex flesh and blood.


Monday, June 1, 2015

LATE PHASES (2014) Blu-ray Review



Late Phases (2014) d. Adrian Garcia Bogliano (USA)

Retired Vietnam War veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) has a disability and a problem. The disability? He’s blind. The problem? He’s been “reassigned” to a retirement community, or, in less politically correct parlance, an old folks’ neighborhood. As Ambrose puts it, “This isn’t where you go to live, it’s where you go to die.” Unfortunately, a bigger problem lies within the first, issuing forth once a month like a wolf in human’s clothing. Yes, Crescent Bay has become the favorite feeding spot of an insatiable lycanthrope, and the old soldier’s new neighbors are being picked off like so many sheep, quite possibly by one of their own. Will he be able to pick out/pick off the shapeshifter in time, or will the cycle of death and mutilation continue?


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

ISLAND OF DEATH (1976) Blu-ray Review



Island of Death (1976) d. Nico Mastorakis (Greece)

This glorious masterpiece of prurient behavior gleefully dances across every line of good taste laid out by polite society, then goes further. Incest, public telephone booth sex, adultery, homosexuality, murder, rape, bestiality... and that’s just in the first 20 minutes! For another 80, we follow the exploits of a sociopathic American Christopher (Robert Behling) and his Brit “wife” Celia(Jane Lyle) as they work their way through the populace of the small Greek isle of Mykonos, doling out their own special brand of morality and punishment. Mastorakis juxtaposes jaw-dropping onscreen events with gorgeous locales, all set to a groovy soundtrack courtesy of Nikos Lavranos and repeatedly punctuated by the catchy vocal tunes “Do You Love Me Like I Love You” and “Destination”. With golden showers, drug use, and death by makeshift blowtorch, samurai sword, bulldozer blades, and DIY crucifixion, it's a parade of sleaze well worth the time for fans who’ve seen it all.


Monday, May 25, 2015

LONG WEEKEND (1978) Blu-ray Review



Long Weekend (1978) d. Colin Eggleston (Australia)

“A bickering young couple’s weekend at an isolated beach resort turns into a nightmarish struggle between Man and Nature.” With that description, and considering the time-stamp and the genre, one might be forgiven for expecting another run-of-the-mill “When Animals Attack” flick, full of egregiously over-the-top warnings of how the human species has run its course as top of the food chain, thanks to centuries of ecological abuse and neglect. While American ex-pat screenwriter Everett de Roche (Patrick, Razorback) isn’t averse to hammering home the point on occasion through scenes of reckless use of weaponry and thoughtless littering, the casually caustic behavior seems somehow more authentic than, say, Frogs’ opening credits shots of beer cans floating in the Florida swamps. Rather than broadly drawn clichés, with our top-billed hero providing the requisite liberal voice of reason, Roche’s bipedal characters are fragile, careless, bullying, insecure, and genuinely confused as to how their choices led them here. In other words, human.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE (1981) Blu-ray Review



The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981) d. Walerian Borowczyk (France/West Germany)

A young girl is violently bludgeoned to death in a dead-end alley. A few blocks away, the opulent festivities surrounding the engagement of rebellious scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) and vibrant debutante Fanny Osbourne (Marino Pierro) are in full swing. In attendance are a decorated war hero (Patrick Magee), his intemperate daughter, the esteemed Dr. Lanyon (Howard Vernon), and the betrothed’s respective and respected mothers. Religion also has a place at the table, in the form of Reverend Guest (Clement Harari), who vocally opposes Jekyll’s notions of “transcendental medicine.” The news of the murdered youth casts a pall upon the happy occasion, but soon the bloodshed touches the moneyed inhabitants inside, sweeping through the upper crust like (and often with) a sharp blade, and always when the young doc just happens to be out of the room….


Saturday, May 23, 2015

JAWS OF SATAN (1981) Blu-ray Review



Jaws of Satan (1981) d. Bob Claver (USA)

By the late '70s, there wasn’t a movie fan around who hadn’t seen the two “instant classic” horror flicks Jaws and The Exorcist. Similarly, there wasn’t a thriving and/or conniving independent film producer who hadn’t contemplated cutting off a slice of that sweet, sweet exploitation gold, as countless "animals attack" and "demonic possession" flicks followed the suit (and, quite often, the script) of their Oscar-winning Hollywood forerunners. But what screenwriter Gerry Holland (working from a story idea by James Callaway) came up with was nothing short of pure genius: Why not combine the two into a killer creature feature where the beasts are driven to murder by The Beast Himself!