Thursday, October 15, 2015


Challenge Totals to Date:

Movies Watched: 5
Total Movies Watched: 52
Total First Time Views: 26
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $1271.40

Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2015 (benefiting PLANNED PARENTHOOD and GREENHOUSE SHELTER) at any time, drop me an email at to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014) d. Lee, Spike (USA) (1st viewing) 123 min

African artifact enthusiast Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams), stabbed by an ancient ceremonial dagger by an unstable colleague (Elvis Nolasco), is stricken with an overwhelming need to consume human blood. When the colleague’s wife Ganja (Zaraah Abrahams) shows up looking for her estranged husband, she falls into a twisted relationship with the good doctor. It’s been a number of years since I first/last viewed Bill Gunn’s 1973 blaxploitation horror/art film Ganja and Hess (aka Blood Couple), but my main recollection is that it was well-acted, deliberately paced, and lengthy in running time. These attributes also can be applied to Mr. Lee’s Kickstarter-funded remake, all present in greater measure, and as with many remakes, one has to wonder what exactly the director was hoping to achieve by assaying this material again. Merely to put a personal stamp on an already personal film? Casual horror fans be warned: even though there is a fair amount of nudity and an abundance of red-hued Bosco chocolate syrup to be found, it’s all done with such a spirit of solemnity that cheap thrills are in short supply. The eclectic soundtrack is certainly worthy of note, and there are numerous memorable sequences (from the breakdancing opening credits to the enigmatic final tableau). Entertainment mileage will depend entirely on individual tastes, especially since the characters are hardly sympathetic or identifiable, with the exception of Hess’ beleaguered manservant Seneschal (Rami Malek).

Byzantium (2012) d. Jordan, Neil (UK/USA) (1st viewing) 118 min

The Irishman who helmed the screen version of Anne Rice’s bloodsucking sensation, Interview with a Vampire, has an undead go at it again with this handsomely mounted, well-conceived adaptation of Moira Buffini’s stage play, A Vampire Story. Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan star as a mother-daughter team of vampires with wildly differing worldviews, the former willing to destroy anyone or anything while the younger (strange using the term regarding a 200-year-old) only preys upon the aged and infirm, allowing them to depart this mortal coil with dignity and grace. Jordan and Buffini introduce several new elements into the existing undead mythology, such as extended, razor-sharp thumbnails designed for jugular puncturing and a ritualized transformation far more involved than the simple “bite and now you’re one of us” so often seen. The lead actresses are both marvelous, and are given fine support from Caleb Landry Jones, Jonny Lee Miller, and Daniel Mays. Rich storytelling and beautiful production value work in concert with splattery set-pieces, with results that should satisfy most fang lovers.

Gamera the Brave (2006) d. Tazaki, Ryuta (Japan) (1st viewing) 97 min

After Gamera sacrifices himself battling his arch enemy Gyaos in 1973, Japan’s “monster council” disbands and life goes on. Until 2006, that is, when little Toru (Ryo Tomioka) finds a baby turtle and adopts it, only to realize that his little reptile buddy has the ability to fly and breathe flames and is getting consistently larger. The scenes of little Toto (aka Baby Gamera, in case you hadn’t figured it out) ambling around the house and kitchen are genuinely cute and endearing, and effective enough that it’s unclear whether animatronics or CGI or a combination of the two are being employed. Of course, kaiju films rise and fall on the strength of their giant monsters, so Toto eventually grows into his former shell’s size, just in time to do battle with a nasty new nemesis, the dragon-like Zedus (created via scientific meddling, naturally), armed with a wicked stabbing purple tongue. The new Gamera design leaves something to be desired, his features rounded for calculated cuteness (and is that the 1977 King Kong roar he’s borrowing?), but he’s still the friend to all children, and this time, the kids get to help him as well in a magic pearlstone relay sequence guaranteed to tickle your tear ducts. It’s great to see The Other Big G back in action for this, his 12th and – until next year at least – final screen excursion. Produced by Kadokawa Pictures after purchasing a percentage of the remaining assets of Daiei Studios, creators of the original Showa-era films.

The Love Butcher (1975) d. Jones, Don / Angel, Mikel (USA) (1st viewing) 82 min

Weird, sleazy twist on the Psycho playbook, with Erik Stern playing Jekyll and Hyde as balding, crippled, myopic, mental deficient gardener Caleb and his literal ladykiller alter ego Lester (who has his own array of alter egos himself, complete with accents, hairpieces, and fake mustaches). The string of small town murders attracts the attention of an intrepid reporter (Jeremiah Beecher) who tries to help the police catch the killer as the brutal creative kills (stabbing, strangling, drowning by garden hose) pile up. Even with the uneven performances and Lester’s bizarre stream-of-consciousness monologues, the film’s biggest deficits are the jokey musical accents; jarring little melodies dropped into the mix at the most inappropriate moments. But if you can look past (or enjoy) these elements, this might be your slice of exploitation pie.

Sound of Horror (1966) d. Conde, Jose Antonio Nieves (Spain) (1st viewing) 90 min

The stars of two of the most celebrated lesbian vampire flicks, Soledad Miranda (Vampyros Lesbos) and Ingrid Pitt (The Vampire Lovers), being chased by an invisible prehistoric monster in between dance-offs? Sign me up. The plot? Right, that. A group of former army buddies seeking buried treasure in an Athenian cave stumble onto a petrified egg and a well-preserved mummy, but continue seeking gold rather than celebrate their anthropological find. The egg cracks open, “nothing” comes out, and proceeds to viciously shred the party to pieces one by one, wailing and screeching all the while. The notion of an unseen menace has often been chalked up to the filmmakers just trying to save a few bucks, but a sense of genuine creepiness is often conjured, especially in the third act – if anything, it’s the constant chatter about “the treasure” that grows tiresome. With a bit of trimming, this might have been a genuine contender instead of a mere curiosity.

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