From the team that brought you The Disco Exorcist comes this fucked up, demonic, nunsploitation tale that has a real Lucio Fulci vibe to it. Our story kicks off in 1999 when a kiddy fiddling priest at St. Christopher Middle School is confronted by the nuns who know what he’s been doing. Things don’t quite go as planned though and once Mother Superior is dispatched with, our errant priest does an Edgar Allen Poe and walls the nuns up in the basement! Jump to 2015 and a local church youth group come along to spend a weekend cleaning up the now derelict school. Continue reading
The Blood Shed is a horror-comedy about a hillbilly/cannibal family from New Jersey called the Bullions. Beefteena Bullion (director Alan Rowe Kelly) is turning 12, and her family are organising a birthday party for her. Beefteena is really an overweight old man, with Shirley Temple curls, Mary-Jane shoes, and a fashion sense derived from the 1930’s comic Little Lulu. Her brothers Hubcap and Butternut are just as messed up as Beefteena, and their pastimes include shooting squirrels, drinking beef broth and running around in bear and pig suits. Other family members include Papa Elvis Bullion and the catatonic Grandma Bullion.The Bullions are a bunch of murderous cannibals, with no morals or values. Continue reading
A low budget homage to the splatter/stalker pics of the 80s from director Manny Serrano, this film has its faults, mostly due to budget restraints, but somehow it still works.
The movie kicks off with a pre-credit birthday party for a local judge whilst a mysterious ‘someone’ lurks in the bushes. When two cops (Jim and Walter) check on an anonymous call about screams at the party they stumble onto a massacre and poor old Jim gets knifed by the maniac. Roll the opening credits and we now find ourselves 10 years into the future (the 80s!) where Jim and Walter are now detectives and someone has started carving up teenagers and taking bits of them. Teenagers who are related to the original massacre victims. It seems ‘The Ripper’ is back and stalking new victims. It also seems that the town officials whitewashed the original massacre, claiming a house fire killed everyone at the party.
Another entry into the continuing series of flicks starring failed actor Caesar (director/writer Dave Campfield) and his half brother Otto (Paul Chomicki), all of which take a stab at the horror genre but with genuine love and understanding.
All good except for Osiris’ bro Set, who is jealous of the couple and kills Osiris then chops him up so that Isis can’t use black magic to revive the corpse.
Roll the opening credits and bring us up to the modern day where the usual suspects – the meathead jock, the stoner, the nerds, the hot blonde, the professor, the security guard and the visiting archaeologist show up and are put in a museum overnight where they are researching some ancient artifacts and of course uncover the hieroglyphic spell that revives Isis.
There are some nice twists to the characters, the nerdy gal has a thing going on with the professor for a start but overall it is the same ol’ same ol’ but then that’s what we pay for ain’t it? And to be fair, this lot can, for the main part, act which in itself is a nice change. The big problem though is that in an effort to provide some character development and to build them up the movie is bogged down and too slow for the average horror fan. Which is an odd thing to say I know considering how often characters are there just to be killed but sometimes a little goes a long way and the very slow and steady decimation of our ‘heroes’ as Isis sets about putting Osiris back together piece by piece does get a little grating at times.
There’s also the problem of special fx. These days everyone seems to be relying on digital fx and I don’t care what people say, digital sucks!!! Big budget or small budget, it ain’t no replacement for the latex and goo and ingenuity of the old days and in fact the digital fx this time around are jarring and in my opinion (and that is all it is after all) really ruin the film. Pity because there’s a lot of potential here, some great lines and some good ideas but the film just doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Oh and in case you were wondering, Priya keeps her kit on!! I mean, what the hell? No boobs and no spraying of fake blood, what is wrong here people? Very disappointing.
That said I must also point out that this was director Lisa Palenica’s first feature film and she helped write and produce the film as well as starring in it and from what I’ve read online she basically jumped in at the deep end after initially signing on just as an actress. So I can’t be too harsh, she is definitely going to be a name to watch in the future. As soon as she realizes we don’t care about character development, we want boobs and we want blood!
Available on DVD from MVD Visual.
A low budget, psychological, sci-fi thriller, Memory Lane follows Nick Boxer (Michael Guy Allen), an orphaned American war veteran who has returned home and encounters an enigmatic girl, Kayla M. (Meg Braden), who he saves from jumping off a bridge and then begins a whirlwind romance with. Despite this she remains secretive about her past and refuses to even let him know her last name and then mysteriously kills herself. The distraught Nick soon after realises that he can be with her in another state when he temporarily kills himself, an act he routinely undertakes which also helps him to understand the mystery of what actually happened to Kayla.
Reportedly made for a mind-boggling $300, this film has all the shortcomings you’d expect. The cinematography of the film is surprisingly strong considering such a measly budget would suggest you’d be witnessing little better than first-year film student fare. The screenplay is by far the weakest aspect of the film with abysmal, paper-thin dialogue which can’t even yield one redeeming good line and when coupled with a narrative that isn’t properly explained enough, the film can be a pretty confusing and bland watch.
The acting is nothing to write home about although a strong convincing performance by the main actor playing Nick (Michael Guy Allen) shows some potential. Pity the dialogue he is given is uninteresting and totally cheesy in most parts (the bedroom scene dialogues are particularly cringe-y). The soundtrack is touch and go, well-placed in some scenes, in others, coming across as pointless and over-the-top (i.e. the ‘epic classical’ soundtrack in rather banal points of the film).
Overall it seems this is a rather damning review of the film, but when you take into account the limited resources it must have been made with then it is almost rather successful in that it comes across as lackluster rather than a truly horrendous watch. What could have saved this film was less trying to tug at the coattails of epics like Memento and more embracing of its lo-fi quality. It makes such an obvious attempt to be a big-time ‘deep’ film that this is where it fails the hardest, especially when poor screenwriting brings down anything good this movie does to begin with.
A pretty forgettable film that tries but mostly ends up dead in the water, pardon the pun.
- Director’s commentary
- Deleted scenes
- Short films
- Promotional videos
- Screen tests
Available on DVD from MVD Visual.
Released by SGL Entertainment, The Killer 4 Pack presents us with a quartet of micro-budget American horror films produced between 2000 – 2011. There’s no thematic similarities tying the films together, other than their ultra lo-fi production values. While many genre film buffs dismiss these kind of do it yourself (DIY) productions as nothing more than glorified home movies, the current nostalgia amongst some horror fans for the days of grainy VHS releases of the 1980’s, along with the recent series of V/H/S anthology films, and the publication of terrific genre study books like Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik’s Bleeding Skull: A 1980’s Trash-Horror Odyssey (Headpress, 2013), shows that there is still a degree of support out there for these kind of backyard and media school productions.
The lead-off film, Richard Islas’ The Day of the Dead (2007), is the highlight of the bunch here. Taking a scenario that has been reflected both in recent fiction and fact, the film focuses on a gang of affluent suburban youngsters who indulge in the thrill of killing homeless people purely for entertainment and kicks. When they decide to torture and kill a young Mexican girl working in the country illegally, things start to get a little spooky and strange for our arrogant thrill-killers, as the girl’s body mysteriously disappears from the morgue, and her father arrives in town on a 15 day humanitarian visa, eager to take the investigation and justice into his own hands.
Considering its budget, The Day of the Dead is fairly well put together. It has its expected rough patches, but the performances (by a group of young and mostly unknowns) lift the material, and the Mexican Day of the Dead angle to its plot helps give it an atmosphere of pervading creepiness and black magic.
Directed by Damien Dante and filmed in and around Chicago, Jezebeth (2011) plays like an overlong 1990’s hard rock/metal music video (a soundtrack CD featuring various local metal and goth bands was released by Dark Star Records). Starring Bree Michaels in the title role, a disassociated and God-hating young woman who discovers a 19th century diary which unlocks the satanic codes for summoning a demon, Jezebeth has some moments of nice style and the odd atmospheric sequence, as well as some female nudity, but overall it’s too muddled and long to be engaging or hold the interest throughout. A sequel, Jezebeth 2: Hour of the Gun has recently been completed and is expected to be released in the US in mid-2015.
Carnage: The Legend of Quiltface (aka Carnage Road), directed by Massimiliano Cerchi in 2000, is the most amateurish of the films on The Killer 4 Pack, and looks not much better than a bunch of kids fooling around with an old video camera on a weekend road trip. A riff on 70s films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), as well as the later slasher films of the early-80s, Carnage: The Legend of Quiltface has a group of photography students heading into the desert and being picked off by a machete-wielding killer known as Quiltface. With terrible effects and shaky camerawork, there’s not much of interest or entertainment here, although the mask which Quiltface wears, combining several faces of his victims which have been stitched together, looks kinda cool and is clearly Leatherface inspired.
The final film on this set is 2010’s Hellweek – Grindhouse Edition, directed by Eddie Lengyel. Seeming to play homage to the sorority horror movies of the early-80s (Hell Night, Splatter University, the Sorority House Massacre series, etc.), Hellweek has a typically obnoxious fraternity head (played by Rob Jaeger) who wants to organise a particularly memorable hell week induction for his incoming new freshmen. This he accomplishes by stupidly locking them in an old warehouse in which several people have mysteriously died. He sends some of his henchmen ahead to prepare some funhouse-style surprises for the newbies, only to see them run into a group of strange, masked homicidal maniacs who call the warehouse their home. Though it’s better, and a little better acted, than Jezebeth and Carnage: The Legend of Quiltface, there’s still not much in terms of tension, style or effects to distinguish Hellweek on any level. It uses artificial enhancement to give the video-shot production a fake grindhouse look (scratches, lines, jumping frames, fading and overexposure, etc.), but it’s not convincing or beneficial to the film in any way. When it comes to that classic 1970s grindhouse look, there is simply no substitute for the real thing.
The Killer 4 Pack is not recommended for anyone looking for production values or polish. It’s aimed squarely at that small but fairly devoted subgroup of horror movie fans who love and support the DIY genre filmmaking scene, in much the same way as many of us supported the roughly laid-out and badly-photocopied fanzines of days gone by.
Available on DVD from MVD Visual.
The final years in the life and career of notorious cult filmmaker Ed Wood (1924 – 1978) remains one of the most depressing yet intriguing stories in the strange and wonderful history of exploitation cinema. By the mid-1960’s, his days of making low-budget genre movies like Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1953) and the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) were far behind him, and Wood’s life was rapidly spiraling down into a whirlpool of alcoholism, low-rent Hollywood dives, and diminishing work options.
To help eek out a living, and keep himself tenuously connected to the business he loved so dearly, the eccentric Wood took to writing unique, smutty adult paperbacks and screenplays for softcore sex films like Stephen C. Apostolof’s strange and surreal classic Orgy of the Dead (1963). As the sixties came to a close, and softcore turned hard, Wood also found himself taking on work in the emerging X and XXX industries. Released by After Hours Cinema, Ed Wood’s Dirty Movies gathers together three long-lost sex films from the bottom end of Wood’s career. The main feature and highlight here is The Young Marrieds (1972), Wood’s final film as a writer/director, a 16mm print of which was discovered and acquired by adult film historian Dimitrios Otis during a search of the vaults of the Venus Theatre in Vancouver in 2004 (previous to its discovery, 1971’s quasi-horror themed porno Necromania was long thought to be Wood’s directorial swan song ).
In The Young Marrieds, Ben (Louis Wolf) hangs out at a strip bar with his work buddy, watching the gals dance while lamenting the frigidity of his wife Ginny (Patti Kramer). After picking up a female hitchhiker in his beach buggy and stopping for a quick dalliance in the bushes, Ben returns home and complains to Ginny that “You don’t get all steamed up”. Ginny, sick of her husband spending his time ogling strippers, slowly starts to loosen herself up, taking her clothes off while the lights are still on (gasp!), baring herself for Ben’s camera, and finally agreeing to participate in a partner-swapping orgy. While Ginny is initially nervous at the prospect, it is the very homophobic Ben who ultimately finds himself being tested, protesting his wife’s tryst with another woman, only to be told that part of the rules of this orgy is that everything and everyone is to be shared with one another (“What’s the matter Ben, haven’t you ever sucked cock before?”). The film ends with a freeze-frame of Ben locking lips with another of the males at the party.
Easily the most explicit of Wood’s sex films, you can certainly see traces of the filmmaker’s unique personality and perspective shining through in the dialogue and, in particular, the overtly serious and portentous narration (‘The very head of trouble that Ben feared lifts itself through the gay veil and confronts him with its presence’). Wood almost appears to be going back to some of the ideas he worked with in Glen or Glenda here, confronting the spectre of prejudice and making a plea for understanding. In a moment of almost cinema verite, a cheaply-mounted framed picture unintentionally falls from the wall and onto the couch during the orgy sequence, and ingratiates its way into the action, clearly moving its position between cuts and being idly played with by the actors as they initiate foreplay.
Next up is Nympho Cycler (1971), in which poor Ed not only writes and directs (both uncredited) but also appears, playing basically himself, an alcohol-bloated middle-aged pornographer in lipstick and false eyelashes, cavorting with his onscreen wife Misty (the lovely Casey Larrain) in a hot tub, taking nude snapshots of her to sell, and hooking her out to all of his friends and associates. When Misty has enough, she takes off on her motorbike to broaden her horizons, getting abused, seduced or raped by a procession of grotty men and women, and seemingly enjoying all of it. Clearly the main interest here is getting the chance to see Wood in front of the camera, as sad a spectacle as it may be (it’s hard to relate what he had become to the almost matinee-star handsome young man of two decades earlier).
The final film on Ed Wood’s Dirty Movies is Shot on Location (1972). With writing and direction credited to John Donne, Wood’s involvement in this film is the subject of much debate and contention amongst his fans. While no claim is made that Wood actually directed Shot on Location, Dimitrios Otis, in his four pages of liner notes included with the DVD, outlines his reasons why he believes the movie had at least some kind of involvement from him (such as the name-dropping of Wood’s close friend, the infamous television psychic Criswell, and similarities in character names and dialogue with The Young Marrieds). Whether Wood was involved or not, Shot on Location is a rather fun title about the making of some strange nudie western film, and is worth watching for the cast alone, which includes real-life couple Ric Lutze and the legendary Rene Bond (both of whom starred in Necromania) and the lovely, late Sandy Demspey (billed here as Tiffany Stewart).
As expected, the quality of the prints of these three films is scratchy, faded, jumpy and washed-out, just as adult sinema from this era should be. The sex is clumsy yet psychologically and historically fascinating, though mostly unarousing, with dicks half-limp at best, and some girls who don’t look very keen at all with some of the acts which they are being asked to perform. Of the three films, only The Young Marrieds would really classify as hardcore, the others hard-R or soft-X at best. Perverts probably need not apply – they will be far better off elsewhere. This one is something to be enjoyed and examined by the Wood purists, and those with an historical interest in this particular period of adult filmmaking.
After Hour’s release of Ed Wood’s Dirty Movies also includes the original trailer for The Young Marrieds (courtesy of Rudolph Grey, whose definitive biography of Wood, Nightmare of Ecstasy, was published by Feral House in 1992). The disc also features trailers for other classic XXX scuzz such as Pleasure Palace, Punk Rock (“Explores the seamy underside of the New York rock scene”), The Love Couch and Teenage Twins.
- Trailer Vault
- Booklet/Liner Notes by Dimitrios Otis
Available on DVD.
Eyes Of The Woods seems to have been a short flick with incredibly bad acting but a great monster that was then expanded into a full length film with not so bad acting and a great monster. Trouble is, you’ve seen the monster so there’s no longer a surprise. Which is a pity because the real movie has some great potential even if it doesn’t have a particularly new storyline. But let’s get back to the start.
Our film kicks off in 1547 with a bunch of incredibly bad actors pretending to be Puritans. After the death of his child, Christopher Wicker makes a pact with the devil, trying to get his kid back. Of course things don’t quite go to plan and Wicker is possessed by one kick arse demon and proceeds to decimate the little village of Knob’s Creek.
All this is in Sepia and while the demon is awesome, the acting is high school amateur hour. Cue modern day and colour. Now I’m assuming this is the ‘completion” stage but since I couldn’t access the special features, which include producer and director commentary, it is just a calculated guess.
We follow five teenagers in a van who get lost on the back roads and find themselves stranded in the woods. Making the best of a bad situation they camp for the night but one of them (Kelly) goes missing when a dead girl summons her into the night (as they do). Being city kids the teens spend the following day wandering around lost until they realize the landscape itself is changing on them. Lakes disappear, roads are gone, the woods are playing games with them. There are other campers out here too and when a topless blood splattered blonde drops in on one couple we soon realize that Wicker is still out there, still seeking revenge and still picking people off (just very bloody slowly). In a nice twist the heroic boy, the one you think is going to save them, gets picked off early which makes it at least a little more interesting while you try and navigate the confusion. The kids keep discovering strange things, blood soaked campsites, a tree with pictures all over it of missing kids, a monster chowing down, all the sort of stuff you expect when you are out in the woods. Meanwhile Kelly and the dead girl are trying to put daddy’s soul to rest and Kelly has to perform the same ritual that Wicker did all those centuries ago.
I’m guessing the surprise ending won’t be a surprise to most of you.
This is a film that shouldn’t work but for some strange reason, once you’ve forgotten the intro that is, it somehow does. Helped by the great over the top acting and comedic chops of Johnny Merino as Winter, a rich city braggart who is totally out of his element in the wild and by Elizabeth O’Brick (The Shadows) as Alison the obligatory tough chick. It’s a confusing film, disorientating and jumbled and the plot holes are huge but it all adds to the feel of the film and hell that Wicker monster is worth it alone.
We are talking old school fx here, no CGI or computers, just good old fashioned, let’s design a monster suit territory. And for that if nothing else we should be thankful. Pity that the disc wouldn’t allow me to access the extras and that there were ‘glitches’ along the way and I’ve gathered from other online reviews it’s a common thing. Hopefully Lost Empire can fix the problem.
Available on R1 DVD from MVD Visual.
A homage to the days of Tales From the Crypt and b-grade horror hosts, Hillbilly Horror Show has our trailer trash hosts, Bo, Cephus and cousin Lulu (Bo Keister, Scott Geiter & Rachel Faulkner respectively) playing up the redneck stereotypes in their camper trailer whilst offering 4 short horror flicks for your viewing pleasure.
There’s maybe a little too much of them (except for Lulu, you can never get too much of her!) but the films make it worth your while. Kicking off with Franky And The Ant (D: Billy Hayes) a short, sharp story of revenge and a jealous husband with a sweet moment or two of “whoa, didn’t see that coming”, we then have Doppelganger, (Theo Stephanski) a very short short that is a tribute to the glory days of Harryhausen with REAL stop motion skeletons doing what they do best. Makes an old man’s heart flutter. Our third film has a real 70’s look to it, like a lost vhs tape discovered in the back of the cupboard. Amused (Cuyle Carvin) is the story of one woman stumbling in on a murder and then having to flee the deranged killer. The tension builds nicely as she hides from the killer, eventually escaping to the next house only to discover he wasn’t alone! A nice twist and like I said, a great 70s feel to it all.
And now onto our main feature – The Nest (D: Tim Zwica) At around half hour this is the pick of the bunch. Eleanore makes award winning honey which she sells from her country town diner. What no one realizes is that her bees are fed a ‘special’ diet. It’s no secret to us, the viewer but the locals don’t know about it. Along with her halfwit mute son she keeps her mutant giant killer bees fed with strays, drunks, runaways and goth chicks who shoplift but when local rancher Hank and government inspector Ray join forces to find out what’s been attacking the local livestock well let’s just say things get messy. And yes I did say giant killer bees but that should say low budget CGI giant killer flesh eating bees!! Now we’re talkin’. This is great fun and at half hour it’s just right. I’m not a big fan of CGI but in this case, I’ll forgive Tim because hell the real thing would have taken ages to train and it’s still low budget so it’s all good.
An interesting idea and a great way to show short films, Hillbilly Horror Show Vol 2 and 3 are not far behind. Grab ‘em, enjoy ‘em and tell the boys we want more of Lulu!
Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1 is available on R0 DVD from MVD Visual.