Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jay's Review: Skills Like This

Wrapping up a wonderful year reviewing for with a a fun little indie comedy worth checking out...



An exhilarating and humorous study of youthful anomie, Skills Like This revolves around a group of close-knit friends whose shiftless lives go topsy-turvy when wild-haired Max (Spencer Berger) drops his failed writing career and takes up something he believes he's really good at: stealing. His first bank heist plunges him into an unlikely but thrilling romance with sexy bank teller Lucy (Kerry Knuppe), who, after handing over a bag stuffed with cash, finds herself torn between Max and the law.

Faced with their friend's new career path, the doltish but impossibly upbeat Tommy (Brian D. Phelan) is primed for adventure, while straitlaced Dave (Gabriel Tigerman), ever the adult, worries about the consequences. As Max steps up his crime spree, the friends have to make hard- if not hilariously awkward- choices about the direction of their lives.

Artfully directed by Monty Miranda, Skills Like This shows "considerable intelligence and chemistry" (Variety) and bristles with rock'n'roll energy - underscored by the sounds of Denver's music scene. A comedy for anyone who's ever wanted to find something they're really good at, Skills Like This is as smart as it is funny.


Ever do something impulsive after a really bad day? I myself bit a neighbor's head off after a particular lousy morning. Max decided to rob a bank after his play's disastrous premier and dropping his wallet in the toilet. Well, we all have bad days...

Skills Like This is charming, a fast-moving and never overly-quirky Indie comedy about three aimless pals who find some purpose and renewed excitement in life when they decide on a whim to become bank robbers. Spencer Berger both wrote the film and plays Max, and does a good job of selling the idea that you can stumble into something you’re really good, never mind the repercussions, with humor. The romance with robbery victim Lucy doesn‘t feel forced, as Kerry Knuppe is charming (reminiscent of Jennifer Garner and Heather Graham) and you happily go along with her on the romantic ride in the film. Most “meet-cute” and “outsider” comedies work hard at what Skills Like This pulls off with ease.

Well-photographed (in HD video, except for bank robberies shot on film), fast-paced, and marvelously scored, Skills Like This is relateable to anyone who’s been through or are going through their awkward 20s. I found this film a pleasure, frequently flashing back on it’s early 90s outsider comedy forebears.

The disc features 13 minutes of Extended/Deleted Scenes, 16 minutes of Interviews, 2 Trailers for the film and a clip of the director Monty Miranda's SXSW Award Acceptance Speech. Other extras include the Tommy character's Resume (as a .pdf file) along with text information about the director, the film, and it's soundtrack. Skills Like This is presented in widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and closed captioning available on the disc, though no subtitles.

Skills Like This
is an utterly charming Indie-film-bank-robbery-romantic-comedy that feels pretty timeless to anyone who’s ever felt a little aimless. Unrated, but okay for teens and up, it’s a real pleasure infused with an energy reminiscent of the best of early 90s Independent film.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jay's Review: Train

A better-than-average Goreno reviewed for dvdsnapshot. This one's a pleasant surprise.


Touring Eastern Europe with her college wrestling team, Alex (Thora Birch) attends a debauched late-night party that causes Alex and several teammates to miss their train to Odessa. Her coach is furious, but a mysterious woman offers the coach and wrestlers a ride on an alternate train. The coach agrees, and the athletes, exhausted and hung over, gratefully climb aboard. But the train harbors a deadly secret, and for Alex and her fellow passengers, a blood-soaked nightmare is just beginning.

The probable American target audience for Train probably isn't going to have much experience with traveling by them. It's a far more European and old-school method of travel. That sense of the alien comes in handily when watching this film, originally supposed to be a remake of Terror Train. It morphed into something significantly more akin to Hostel on wheels.

Near the beginning of the film the lead character stops and frowns at a train. One can assume it's part of setting up a sense of dread having more to do with Xenophobia than anything really ominous. Stupid American college students and their coach wind up missing their scheduled train and hook a ride on a second one that turns out to be a rolling abattoir. From the creepy woman who invites them to a pair of grimy, sleazy "conductors" and a burn victim passenger, Train is less than a love letter to the Eastern Europeans. Thankfully, they quickly show their true, creepy colors lest we think there may be anyone nice on the entire continent.

As the American students make their first impression on most of the passengers when one runs through the dining car in only a jock strap, it's really kind of hard to fault them for the gory organ harvesting that follows. The killing starts quickly and stays grotesque, so torture porn fans are going to be delighted with this one. Skin is sliced off and eyeballs plucked in graphic detail. In fact things move so quickly that at the halfway mark most of the protagonists are out for the count. Thora Birch is talented enough to keep the second half of the film grounded and the atmosphere is tense throughout. Train is well-photographed but in many places the cinematography is so dark you can barely make anything out. For some of the gore scenes, that's almost a blessing.


This disc features trailers for Frontier(s), Captivity, the third After Dark Horrorfest 8 Films To Die For III collection, a set of Ghost House Pictures titles,, and Train is presented in Widescreen with English and Spanish Subtitles. Audio is offered in English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital. There's a behind-the-scenes featurette that clocks in at nearly 14 minutes.


"Torture Porn" isn't everyone's cup of tea, and the Xenophobia runs thick in Train to boot, but on the whole, it's a satisfying and very nasty story of, shall we say, "medical capitalism" in post-Soviet Russia. Not for the kids, the squeamish, or the optimistic, this is 94 surprisingly well-done minutes for the Gorehounds who don't mind a little hopelessness to their travelogues.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jay's Review: Sand Serpents

Another fun Saturday night Drive-In style monster flick reviewed for, enjoy!


On a final mission in Afghanistan, a small U.S. military unit confronts an astonishing, new enemy: a legion of prehistoric, six-story-tall sand serpents unearthed from the pit a thousand feet below ground. With the help of an Afghani refugee, Lieutenant Stanley (Jason Gedrick) leads his tiny band of soldiers on a terrifying invasion deep into the desert's vast underground tunnels for a war against terror they never imagined.

Sand Serpents is another of the "Creature Features" from the "Maneater" series, and was a SciFi/SyFy Channel Original. This one's taking it's inspiration from Tremors and Dune with it's desert-dwelling super-worms.

Even for a straight-to-DVD film of this caliber, this one gets rolling in a pretty paint-by-numbers fashion. A group of actors-barely-playing-soldiers, incredibly clean for being in the deserts of Afghanistan, claim to have "a bad feeling about this" within the first three minutes. At the six minute mark they're in a firefight (shoulda listened to those instincts, kids) that leads to the awakening of the titular sand serpents. You can't fault a movie for not wasting any time in getting the plot moving. From that point it's either attack by Earthworms or Taliban as they keep moving while their herd gets thinned. It's a good thing they keep it rolling, since it's the kind of flick with enough plot holes and military mistakes that if they slow-down, you may start paying attention.

Judged to the standards of the modern nature-amok creature feature, though, this one isn't bad. It rolls efficiently, if not always smoothly, and is actually pretty engaging even if it is a bit generic. Thankfully, when it slows it doesn't drag, and that's a big plus for this sort of film. The CGI works, and on the whole it's a smooth, low-budget entertainment. The biggest complaint I may have is that for a film of this type the gore is pretty minimal. There's a good body count, but it's almost dry as the desert.


The disc features trailers for other RHI Entertainment titles: Carny, Rise of the Gargoyles, Sea Beast, and Backwoods. Presented in a Widescreen format with English Dolby Digital 5.1.

Not sure how tactful it is to use the Taliban as a plot-point in a generic creature feature. Anyhow, for a rather generic "nature's revenge" creature feature, you'll find this an engaging enough way to spend a Saturday night. (They even say "I have a bad feeling about this" twice.) Grab the popcorn and a friend and "thrill" to giant equal-opportunity sandworms eating terrorists and soldiers alike.

However, it's possibly 88 minutes of sheer torture for anyone who's a stickler for military authenticity.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jay's Review: Last Of The Living

a review, this time it's an end-of-the-world frolic from New Zealand! Check it out!



A deadly virus has turned humankind into flesh-eating zombies, slackers Morgan, Ash, and Johnny spend their days lounging in their skivvies, drifting from one vacant house to another. When the three stumble upon a hot girl who may have a cure for the outbreak, the three decide it's finally time to step up to the plate and save the world - and the girl. Zomedy fans will unite for this campy, "breakneck zombie film that injects a high dose of hilarity!" (Revenant Magazine)

Zombie movies have been done to death (pardon the pun) by this point. Serious horror, mockumentary, and the "zomedy," they maintain to make some statement on society while simultaneously being an excellent excuse to exercise our desire to kick the crap out of one another. Last of the Living has shades of 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead as a trio of slackers play "band of survivors," bantering cute while making their way through the zombie hordes.

We've seen it all before. The red-eyes crazies, shuffling hordes, the abandoned cityscapes and shopping malls. Thankfully, Last of the Living starts out keeping it pretty light (even if, in the end, an apocalypse is never a bubbly affair). The low-budget and sense of "friends getting together to make a movie" actually works in the film's favor here (Watch for the child zombie who can't contain his grinning). There's a sense of humor in almost every New Zealand horror film I've seen, from Dead Alive to Body Melt, and it's present here, greasing the wheels for the character scenes, if not always informing the gore bits. As you can expect the boys argue amongst themselves more than they fight to survive, and adding a smart, no-nonsense-type girl to the mix only increases our heroes bumbling over one another. One thing you can note is that he transient, slacker lifestyle would seem to mesh nicely with that of the Zombie-fighters. I started out cynical and wound up engaged, which is alright by me.

The disc offers the trailer for the film and a seven-minute-plus "Cast Interview" featurette where they discuss the making of the film. There's no audio or subtitle options.


An amiable buddy-flick, Last of the Living is low-budget horror suitable for a night with friends. Not rated, but possibly too gory for the teens, though. Charming, but it's time for a zombie moratorium.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Jay's Review: Night Watcher sent me this lovely little number... better'n I expected...


Following the unexpected suicide of her mother, Angela finds comfort in her new friendship with Brian. One day she receives a terrifying package containing a voyeuristic tape. The tape chronicles her mother's final days and reveals that someone had been following... watching... stalking her. As the death toll around town rises, it becomes clear that this is no mere coincidence. The deaths were thought to be suicides, but the truth is far worse.

Night Watcher
has a terrific aesthetic, full of blown-out lighting and stylized editing, and I‘d love to see what the production team could do with a bigger budget. It also has what looks to be an unusually soft and muddy transfer to DVD. However, when the reviewer opens with how the movie looks, you know what's coming next.

This one is something of a throwback to Scream and the rest of the 90's "Attractive Teens in Peril" movies. A pair of High School students meet in a support group for people losing family members to suicide. When they compare a set of mysterious videotapes of her mother and his father before their deaths, they quickly make some perilous leaps of logic and unwisely ignore involving the cops as they try and piece together the mystery of who's staging suicides.

Night Watcher would be a more engaging film if it wasn't the type of low-budget, small cast production where the instant characters appear you can label them "Killer," "Red Herring," or "Victim." Call it "I Know What You Did Last Summer Because There Only Seems To Be 7 or 8 People In This Whole Flick." The pace is a little leisurely, but the style of the film makes that quite tolerable. With limited blood, only one fairly graphic murder scene, and a little topless action, this one is a fairly light R.

Trailers for Reborn, Summer's Moon, The Last Resort, and a cracking good one for Night Watcher itself. The disc has a set of 8 deleted/extended scenes collection with optional commentary by director Will Gordh. Presented in Widescreen in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, the film also has optional English and Spanish subtitles.


Nothing you haven't seen before, Night Watcher at least gets points for style. A fairly reserved slasher flick with a hint of flasher in it, it's a stylish throwback to the 90s spawns of Scream. A popcorn flick perfect for people who don't watch many murder mysteries, but not that memorable.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jay's Review: The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter

I I got a foursome of reviews up at Check 'em out, why don't you?


The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter
is a hauntingly unique retelling of the notorious Manson Family Murders. With original Mason Family music recordings, rare vintage photos of the story's major players, and never-before-seen autopsy reports, viewers are taken on an insightful exploration of over 40 key locations associated with the spree that rocked Los Angeles - and shocked the world - in August 1969.


The story of seven murdered people, one a glamorous movie star, and the cult who killed them is well known to most people whether you were to seek it out or not. For those who were alive in 1969 and everyone who came after, the Manson family “Helter Skelter” murders are a sad, fascinating cultural touchstone.

This documentary is a pile of scraps, skirting the periphery of the events that made up "Helter Skelter." The narrator and host, Scott Michaels, is the owner of and Dearly Departed Tours, and is a celebrity death aficionado. This should give you an idea of the caliber of this documentary. He calls living in LA being in the "Set" of where it all took place. That's not a healthy point of view. This documentary is practically a Dearly Departed Tour - be it the Ranch or stops by the homes of Patty Duke and Mama Cass. Morbid and bland. There's meanderings into Dennis Wilson's encounters with The Family, a visit to Jay Sebring’s house that’s apropos of nothing, and a trip to the Spahn ranch so we can be shown hubcaps laying on the ground. There's something sad about visiting a rock because it was the location of a Mason follower photograph. It’s the groupie behavior of morbid Fanboys.

The ghoulish pouring over of autopsy files and death scene photos make this is especially lurid and exploitive. Big, full-color blow-up photos of the naked, bloody Sharon Tate and Leno LaBianca's carved torso shown repeatedly aren't educational in this context. An aside about a gas station also being where James Dean last gassed up only makes you think "you're really reaching now." It’s also somewhat dull as it covers the events up to the arrests of The Family through field-trips and free-association.

This ground has been covered a million times before, and half of those were on television and narrated by Bill Kurtis. If you’ve seen those, you’ve pretty much seen this.

None, beyond chapter selection. Presented in widescreen and Not Rated but obviously not for kids.

Tacky, reprehensible in places, and not that engaging, Six Degrees of Helter Skelter is a collection of dross around the sidelines of the tragedies of 1969 and only informative to those who new to these events. But you have to wonder, must every little ephemeral connection be examined and belabored? I think not. If you want to learn about some trivia surrounding the crimes, feel free. But if you don't wind up alienated or bored, you'll want to wash the sleaze off afterwards.


El Stinkero!

Jay's Review: Summer's Moon

Part of my recent four-pack of reviews over at, this one features a Twilight star and a lot of ick...



Eager to find her estranged father, Summer sets out on a cross-country journey and is soon rescued from a slight run-in with the law by a local handyman. It's an unusual connection, but she is quickly charmed and accepts his invitation to spend the night. Knocked unconscious, she awakes the next morning to find herself trapped in the basement. Now taken prisoner, Summer's dream has come to a bitter end and her real-life nightmare has only just begun.

Summer's Moon
is probably most notable for how many "Summer's Eve" jokes it'll drive you towards. A jumbled mess of parts of The Collector, Motel Hell, Silence of the Lambs, and every back-woods crazy killer-family flick out over the last 10 years, I don't think I've ever been more bored by a jumbled story of incest, serial killing, and familial secrets.

When our unlikable heroine winds up falling afoul of a creepy mother-son murderin' duo, this glacial slab of a story slowly starts to move. Meandering from basement-captive "Garden Angels" to a "Stockholm Syndrome" go-along-to-get-along kidnap victim, Summer's Moon culminates in a final grand "family that slays together" third act. After the meandering A-story, there's a B-story of a father trying to find his kidnapped daughter (their previous captive) but it's more of an F as it barely registers.

Things also stay pretty predictable with this film. You know where they're heading about 20 minutes before they get there. You're a little nauseated by the idea, but no worries. By the time you get to the big reveal, you'll be too bored to barf. The lead actress is wooden and the actors playing the killers overact the "Calmly Crazy" shtick. The only thing really striking about this film is the cinematography and score. It looks and sounds much better than it has any right to.

There is a nearly 9 minute long Behind the Scenes Featurette (where they describe themselves as "not a horror movie.") Trailers for Summer's Moon, Night Watcher, Reborn, The Last Resort, the Ghost House Underground series (Thaw, The Children, Offspring, and Seventh Moon) . The film is presented in Widescreen format with English Dolby 5.1 Digital Audio. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.


Slow-paced and overlong at 91 minutes, Summer's Moon is a bit of an over-baked Southern Gothic. You'll be two steps ahead of the plot, then nauseated. There's really little here to recommend beyond the cinematography.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jay's Review: Mirageman

A super-hero yarn of questionable heroism is the subject of my latest review on Check it out, why don't you?


Maco, a young man orphaned after his parents and surviving younger brother were brutally attacked, lives a solitary life as a nightclub security guard. One day, he intervenes in a violent robbery, rescuing a television reporter who later reports on her masked hero. Hearing of this new superhero, Maco's institutionalized brother's mental health improves. Encouraged by this improvement, Maco takes on the secret life of the superhero known as Mirageman.


reminds one of nothing so much as an old 1970s TV show, particularly the live action Spider-man complete with montages of standing and striking poses in between beating bad-guys to "bow chicka wow" music. Cheesy and off-kilter, this is a Chilean superhero origin story filled with stagy martial arts and telegraphed plot points, it features the story of a crime victim who's withdrawn into learning martial arts in order to, one would assume, compensate for that event in his life.

Complete with a Lois Lane-like girl reporter he repeatedly saves from crime and a withdrawn little brother who needs inspiring, this is a pretty basic superhero “origin” arc. He saves her from criminals and sees that her report helps his brother start to emerge from his shell. There begins the birth of a hero. Fighting purse-snatchers and child-grabbers, Mirageman becomes a folk hero.

There’s an awkward tone that comes from this which really keeps the whole film off-kilter and stilted. There's some tongue-in-cheek moments involving costumes then reality to some of the physical repercussions of combat. The other problem is it's just not that engaging. The fights are either painfully choreographed or these are some polite and patient "wait yer turn"-type criminals. The lead is an amazingly fit fighter but humorless; nearly a cypher. His brooding blankness conflicts with humorous “Magazine cover” montages and the comic-relief “Pseudo-Robin” character. The visuals want to be inspired one moment but wind up dull the next. Also for a martial arts film, the pacing is glacial in places. Towards the end, this for the most part "light" film gets a little heavy on the gunplay and one VERY non-heroic bit of knife-play, which are always a point of contention for superheroes.

It’s a fun enough B-movie, but there’s not much “there” there. However, if made 20 years ago, it would have totally starred Dolph Lundgren...

The disc includes trailers for Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, Not Quite Hollywood, The Canyon, and the HDNET television network. There is also a three minute "Behind the Scenes of Mirageman" featurette, focusing on fight-scene choreography. Audio is available in both 5.1 and 2.0 Original Spanish or English Dubbed Dolby and Subtitles in both English and "English Narrative," which seems to only translate Spanish text shown in the film but not the dialogue . The film itself is 86 minutes and presented in a Widescreen format.


is a predictable comic book movie that seems less dynamic than an actual comic book would. It’s fairly harmless for teens on up and does have humor ready-made for a night with the guys. You’ll just be wishing this superhero was more inspired by his “origin story” and more inspiring in his first film.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jay's Review: Angel and the Badman (2009) VERY overdue review that finally got turned into Have you been there lately? The fact that they publish me is only one of the reasons they're such a great site. Check 'em out!



This John Wayne remake tells the story of a notorious gunfighter, Quirt Evans (Lou Diamond Phillips), who is wounded and seeks shelter with a Quaker family. Attracted to the family's beautiful, loving, and widowed daughter Temperance (Deborah Kara Unger), the hard-bitten gunfighter is transformed from a man with a history of violence into a man of peace. Unfortunately, the leader of the outlaws, Laredo (Luke Perry), won't let his past die.


I've never seen the original version of Angel and the Badman, so I was able to come to this film with fresh eyes. In fact, my experience with John Wayne films and Westerns in general is pretty minimal, so when I do watch them they're always pretty fresh to me.

Our wounded "Bad Man," Quirt, suffering from a gunshot wound, winds up at the house of a Quaker family and nursed by Temperance, begins to find inner peace. (The fact that they seem to have pretty good sexual chemistry doesn't hurt any, either.) While he fights it and his life of crime slowly catches up to him, it's pretty obvious how things will turn out in the end.

The casting here is decent. Lou Diamond Phillips and Deborah Kara Unger are two very talented actors who never seem to get the high profile work that often. They star in the roles of a gunslinger and the daughter of a Quaker played by Wayne and Jane Russell in the original movie. Unger is especially good here. She conveys tension and fear as a woman sure from the beginning this "Bad Man" is the right one for her. Known for her dangerous sex-bombs and damaged characters in films like Crash and Whispers in the Dark, her simple Quaker was something of a surprise. Phillips is mostly hard when he needs to be and convincing as he opens up, but some of his lines sure die on the vine though.

The bad guy (as opposed to the "Bad Man") is played by Luke Perry. While serviceable enough, he still seems less hard and grizzled than Dylan McKay playing dress-up. He fits in with the ridiculously tidy Western settings and well-pressed "Working girls." There's moments of humor in with the occasional shoot-out and slow-burn romantic plot. I've read it hews pretty closely to the original version of the film and I wouldn't be a bit surprised. On the whole, Angel and the Badman is as old-fashioned and patient as courting. That's not a bad thing.


This was a screener copy. The disc should have English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo with Spanish subtitles. It's presented in Widescreen format.

Kind, clean, and classy - though not a classic - this remake of Angel and the Badman is just as family-friendly as one would expect from a Hallmark Channel production. It's not spicy, but it sticks to good-old fashioned western tropes. A throwback or one for the parents and grandparents, it's a very pleasant watch for a gray Fall afternoon.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy, Happy Halloween

Thanks again for joining me for "The Yucky Movies of October." It was a fun challenge for me - at one point I thought I'd never make it, but thanks to a few sick days I did catch up (heh). Next year I think I'll plan a little further ahead and pick 31 truly yucky movies. This was a total whim when it started and a lot of fun for me. You'll probably see many more reviews on this site, but there's going to be some brain-scrubbers and palate-cleansers come November, that's for sure.

One parting gift:


Friday, October 30, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Patrick Still Lives

31) Patrick Still Lives

I'd heard of Patrick vive ancora (in the original Italian) before, but I wasn't really motivated to watch it until I saw the bit done about it in the terrific documentary Not Quite Hollywood.

A rip-off sequel, in the grand Italian cinema tradition, to the not-really-that-successful "psychic coma patient with Marty Feldman eyes" Australian film Patrick, this is a not-really-that-good sequel done in perfect "just redo the same damn story and add some breasts" manner.

In this version, Patrick winds up comatose after a passing driver throws a bottle out the window and it hits him in the head. His surgeon father is involved in the surgery that saves his life, but he's still "locked in."

We then go to a clinic set in the same mansion used in the film Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, and meet two couples and a single guest, along with a skeleton staff and some grouchy guard dogs. These guests seem to have been blackmailed into attendance and are quickly given (ahem) "spa treatments" that turn out to be very deadly. This sparse clinic seems to be rather stylish - a minimal budget means it's sparsely furnished, but heavy on the green and purple lighting to make up for that. They also decorate with lead actresses constantly exposing their breasts. (Well, it's better than the wallpaper.) One plays an entire scene in a nipples-exposing bra while teasing her blackmailed husband that she'll screw them out of the situation. Such a classy flick.

The new assistant is seeing green visions of floating pale-blue eyes (seems the "Patrick" in this one was cast for having big, light eyes like the actor in the original.) The doctor is pushing his medical services hardcore, and in general, something is up that makes everyone nervous.

Well, next thing you know the secretary has been compelled to visit Patrick in the night and the politician is boiled in the swimming pool (there was a similar pool scene in the original Patrick). What's brilliant is that his boiling is attributed to his body having an unusual reaction to his alcoholism.

This is the type of movie where the spooky effects are typewriter keys that move on their own, as do skirts. (Amazingly this is not Zapped Again!) The actors rage, disrobe, and smack one another in perfect Italian passion. They try hard to make this flick seem less boring than it actually is, but don't succeed that well. People die off, but frankly not nearly quickly enough to spice up this bland potboiler. There's no spice in the pasta sauce. About the only thrill to be had is if you've seen Burial Ground, and care to compare the scenes in each film that happen in various rooms of the house.

There's a few "yuck" moments to be had in this one. The parboiling make up isn't bad. A beheading by car window goes the extra mile as it essentially "saws" the head off. There's a "violation" scene that's fairly grotesque and a precursor of the one more disturbingly executed in Mother of Tears. The actress here is the one who famously gets her nipple bitten off by young zombie son in Burial Ground, himself played by a creepy adult dwarf. This film has very little going for it beyond a few gross outs and a quartet of very naked Italian actresses. Proceed with caution as this one is probably only for Italian horror junkies, schlock connoisseurs, and people really hard up to see some naked breasts.

And with that I wrap up the 31 Yucky Movies of October. I did it all on a whim really and if I repeat myself next year I think I'll be a little more discerning in the titles I pick. Planning ahead will help us avoid those awkward 13 Frightened Girls and She-Wolf of London moments.
Thanks for playing along, boys and girls. I appreciate you joining me. Now, we're going to watch some palate cleansers. I'm thinking Indie Gay romances, Bollywood Musicals, and harmless comedies of old Hollywood.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Masters of Horror: The Black Cat

30: Masters of Horror: The Black Cat

This Stuart Gordon episode of Masters of Horror starts out more like a character study. Edgar Allen Poe has a young wife who's dying, unsympathetic editors, and a drinking problem. Jeffrey Combs is excellent, though barely recognizable in makeup that makes him greatly resemble Poe. He's another case of "an actor who should be 'huge' and in just about everything."

Things really pick up about 15 minutes in, when Virginia (though he calls her "Sissy"), his wife, starts coughing up blood. It's really disturbing... especially when you develop a tickle in your throat about the same time. When he starts losing his grip because of these pressures, she implores him to start writing again. Unfortunately, there's a black cat named Pluto distracting him. Even from beyond the eventual grave, Pluto remains a problem. The film kinda posits that these were the influences on his greatest fiction. What happens with his wife would certainly drive anyone to madness... and the audience to nausea. Seriously, it ranks up there with the "Animal Trap scene" in Pelts.

Visually, this one works great. There's a muted color scheme where red blood, black ink, and a canary and goldfish get to "pop" - it lends a sense of surrealism to a film that looks "realistic." This isn't one of those "clean" movies set in the past. There's dust and dirt and texture everywhere. There's some surprising moments of animal cruelty in this one. Certainly helps escalate it from "Character Study" to "Horror." The storytelling here is subtle, well-paced, pretty excellent. When the "yucky" scenes show up, they do so in grand (guignol) style. This is one of the creams of the Masters of Horror crop and highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: 13 Frightened Girls

29) 13 Frightened Girls

William Castle was the producer who always had a gimmick. He gave us the electrified seats for The Tingler and fright-breaks in his movies. You could vote on the fate of and ending to Mister Sardonicus, who was such a jerk that there was only one ending (and it didn't end well for him). 13 Ghosts required special glasses to see the ghosts presented in Illusion-O! His films are always simple pleasures. Mannered thrillers and horror films filled with hammy actors and good production values for low-budget pictures. I'm sure they're not the same now that you can watch them at home, but they still provide a lot of pleasure.

Miss Pittford's Academy is home to 13 daughters of men who make the world move, Ambassadors and the like. Each is from a different country and our lead is, of course, the American girl. Candace, the daughter of an American diplomat, decides to become "The Kitten," her spy identity as she tries to solve a murder that was clearly set up to frame her father. Mostly, her plan is to flirt her way to an answer though...


I was really hoping for skeletons on strings and axe murderers with a title like 13 Frightened Girls but instead got a tarantula and a limp, family-friendly Cold-War-era murder mystery. The girls are bland and their behavior is beyond stereotypical, which lends it that quaint air of fun. We're really introduced to them through a sequence involving the girls and a series of phone calls. America and China are friends but not "officially" as their countries aren't supposed to recognize one another. Russia is frosty and won't see eye to eye. This is very much a time capsule of the times... the sexist, gender-roled times.

The biggest - or, rather, ONLY- "yuck" is that the 16 year old Candace is all crushed out for her father's assistant, a man who looks to be pushing 40. (I wanna turn you over and spank you til my hand falls off. -Shudder) That said, it's fun to watch children play grown-ups at the "Spy Game." I'd never heard of this one before the new Castle set came out. I can see why. It's a family-friendly programmer but without the creaking gimmickry that made him so cherished by moviegoers everywhere.

(The other feature on this particular disc is Castle's original 13 Ghosts. I've seen that one several times over the years and wanted to review something new for my month of "Yucky" movies. Seems I steered a bit wrong.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Way Back Machine

Erik, Diane, and I -- circa 1992 or so. We were beautiful... and if we'd been a band this would be our album cover. Jim took this picture. He always takes the best pictures. I've alwasy loved this one and had to share.

The Yucky Movies of October, sidetracked: Friday the 13th: The Series, Season One

28) Friday The 13th: The Series

This show was a well-remembered Saturday afternoon TV creep-fest for me as a kid. Being that it premiered in 1987, I'm dating myself, but there was really nothing like it on TV during my formative years.

Especially well-remembered are a few of the antiques from shows in the first season. I remembered the Scarecrow as I think it was the first time I ever saw a beheading bit in a horror program, and a weird chair with needles that would tap and exchange spinal fluid between two people (I vividly remember watching this one on tape and then an episode of Just The Ten of Us. God, what a wasted childhood.)

I'm happy to say the show holds up pretty well. Sure the effects are dated and the quality of the actual episodes vary in storyline and look, but a good time is had by all. Every week, cousins Ryan and Micki would team with the older Jack, more experienced in the ways of the occult, and try to track down antiques their uncle had sold on behalf of the devil. Each one had a unique curse and what I consider to be a pretty impressive body count. They really blow Supernatural out of the water week after week in that department. Evil porcelain dolls, cursed comic books, cradles of filth (couldn't resist), and uncomforting quilts keep getting the trio of leads into situations that would lead to prison terms just based on the circumstantial evidence time and time again.

The shows isn't great, but each episode is a pretty decent time-capsule of 1980s Canadian syndicated television production. Robey's hair (ah, Robey, why do you forsake us?) alone is worth a view. Sprayed into ringlets, brushed out, pulled into something that's more construct than ponytail, her hairstyles vary as often as Mrs. Slocombe's do on Are You Being Served? (She also gets to be a lovely 29 year old actress who's beautiful and still has lines around her eyes. No one has expressions on TV anymore...)

The characters actually seem to grow a little over the course of the series, though most episodes could be watched in any order. Micki especially gets to be fearful and squeamish but still face that and get the work done. Most characters now are just cocky in the face of danger without conveying any real fear. She's not afraid to be afraid, and sure starts the series out as a helpless "Screaming Mimi." The characters remember that people are dying around them and show a sense of loss and stakes to what's going on. It's a surprisingly good content for what is, admittedly, a cheeseball show. That made it all the more entertaining to discover episodes directed by David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan in the series. If you like this sort of anthology program you can't go wrong by picking these up, they're sturdy and still make for a good watch... all these (aak- 22?!?!) years later.

Final thought: I just don't understand why anyone would live in that incredibly smokey, dusty store... much less who would shop there. Seriously, there's a constant miasma floating around. That can NOT be healthy...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Roadgames

27) Roadgames

Yowza! I have memories of this 1981 creeper being on cable when I was younger and the scenes of hanging sides of meat (mostly pork) stuck with me permanently. I've seen it in plenty of other films from to, heck, even The Midnight Meat Train to, heck, even Coma, but this is the film that carved out that particular horror for me for life. The pale, cold, bloodless sides of beef here are most memorable.

A Hitchcock homage about 2 Americans in the Australian outback, a truck driver who is slowly putting together that he's encountered a murderer and a hitchhiker (conveniently nicknamed "Hitch," it's Jamie Lee Curtis playing the same character she did in The Fog) who helps him work out the clues even as she becomes a pawn in the cat and mouse game... which tends to end with people getting garroted.

It's well known that this is something of a mobile homage to Hitchcock's Rear Window, with our essentially stationary driver Stacy Keach slowly working through the clues. The neighbors this time aren't in the next apartment building, but in the cars he passes and those who pass him. (Robert Thompson, the googly-eyed, silent star of Patrick shows up as a red leather-clad biker.) Mostly thought it's about keeping an eye on the van. The one with the suspicious cooler in the front seat. Roadgames is an amazingly well-structured flick, not afraid to take it's time to develop the plot while never being "slow"when doing so. Keach is excellent as a character who spends more time delivering monologues than anything else. Be it into a phone or to his pet Dingo, he always sounds more like he's really talking to himself than delivering lines.

There's some pretty thrilling car chase scenes. My recent viewing of Not Quite Hollywood inspired me to put this at the top of my Netflix queue and, as pointed out in that doc with this and several other films, car chases seem to be a specialty in Australian cinema. They're also great on big vistas of Aussie outback which makes for some beautiful cinematography.

My one big complaint is that when Keach and Curtis first get together they immediately start in on his murder theory. Telling a hitchhiker this would have her thinking "gee, it's awfully nice of him to warn me through this flimsy third-person story that he's crazy as a fruitbat." Instead she's game to plot along with him. I just don't buy it.

There's a few incidences of levity to lighten the mood but things are mostly tense and stay that way. The meat is a yuck but the tension is high. This one's an under-seen classic and worth a viewing. It's good to the last shot.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Grace

26) Grace

Subtle, creepy, and nauseating, Grace is a monsterous, undead (zombie?) flip-side of It's Alive.

Madeline Matheson has a history of difficult, unsuccessful pregnancies and decides she's not going to let the in-utero death of number three stop her from being a good mom. She loses the baby in a car crash that kills her husband (an alternate universe slips off here with the movie Inside) and in her pain she decides to carry to baby she lost to term. Even though the midwife says you can't will a baby back to life... well, she kinda does.

From there things get a little creepy and maddening. Sure, this mom only seems to watch shows about slaughterhouses and bloodclots on TV. (I shudder to think the TV I watch is as heavy-handed and thematic as what she does - that wouldn't bode well for me at all.) The baby's hair is coming out and she's showing bruising... and sure, there's a few flies in the babies room. But that doesn't mean there's anything wrong... hmm, except that you're feeding the baby blood...

Why doesn't the baby have that "new baby" smell?

Samantha Ferris (the obsessive Midwife who's obviously leaving her implied girlfriend because the chick can't act) and Jordan Ladd (Madeline) turn out to both be excellent actresses, and the direction is such that the birthing scene will have you tearing up. Ladd is much more nuanced and given more to work with that Bijou Phillips was in It's Alive. Some of the revelations are the same, but they unfold here at a measured pace that makes it the creepier of the two. Seeing an actual baby with (fake) blood on it's chin is more disturbing than the CGI creature in the It's Alive remake(or the papier mache babies in the original).

The counter-story with the Mother-in-Law having trouble dealing with the loss of her son by deciding to essentially "snatch" her granddaughter makes for fascinating but equally unsettling viewing. Nice to see an older woman acting out in a movie though, it's terribly rare. Gabrielle Rose has guts, that's for sure. It's kind of a cheat in both the A & B story as they seem to be asking because that's kind of a moot question. Of course, people would do these things, go around these bends. We'd like to think we wouldn't be "How far would a mother go for her child?" but we would go to these lengths, around these bends. People would love to think they wouldn't, but we would be this crazy. It only adds to the creepy. I question if any grandmother would go as far as she does. Trying to get the law on her side to get the baby I can see, but trying to induce lactation seems a bit of a stretch.

I think my favorite bit is that Madeline has to wear sweatshirts and shivers because she's running the air conditioning in the house at full blast. When the baby is cold she keeps better? It's a creepy touch when you process it. The very end goes a little off the rails, I think. I'm not a fan of codas that leave the mail location the story has taken place at for a two minute button on the proceedings. There's a lot of padding around some excellent moments in this film, but everything ends on a perfectly dark note.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Best. Endorsement. EVER.

The lovely and talented Patrick Walsh (@RedMenaceNYC on the Twitter) said the nicest thing to me that any man has in over a month:

There's really no way to sugarcoat this, but I have a Long Distance Blog Boner
(L.D.B.B.) for your site.

Seriously. I may get that printed on T-Shirts. It's good for the ego.

Jay's Review: Not Quite Hollywood

This was fantastic - bears rewatching with the commentary track, and then again just for funsies... I want to see about 85% of the titles featured here. Check out my review from!



Free-wheeling sex romps! Blood-soaked terror tales! High-octane extravaganzas! Welcome to Not Quite Hollywood, the wild, wonderful story of "Ozploitation" films. Join Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dennis Hopper, and many others as they take you on an irreverent journey through the 70's and 80's, an era when Australian cinema got its gear off and showed the world a full-frontal explosion of sex, violence, horror and foot-to-the-floor action.

Not Quite Hollywood
is a gem of a documentary taking a look at twenty years of genre film production in Australia. Starting with sex comedies in the late sixties and moving through a horror film boom in the seventies to the action filled eighties, what looks to be a who's who of Australian cinema veterans reminisce in an anecdote-filled love letter to B-picture goodies. Classic titles like Picnic At Hanging Rock, Walkabout, Breaker Morant, and Dead Calm aren't here, but, oh, the films that are...

The film clips are beautifully remastered and there's fantastic animation sprinkled throughout to keep us moving between interviews with the filmmakers and actors. Those of us unfamiliar with these films aren't going to recognize some of the charming directors and still-stunning actresses highlighted in the talking head segments, however, a lot of very famous people show up here. Quentin Tarantino may be the most-featured interviewee, but Jamie Lee Curtis, Stacy Keach, Dennis Hopper, Steve Railsback, and Barry Humphries (out of his Dame Edna regalia) compliment directors like George Miller, Fred Schepisi, and Richard Franklin.

Americans may be familiar with films like Razorback, Mad Max, and perhaps the lesser-known Road Games, Patrick, and Fantasm (they sure do like showing that John Holmes shot - Australian cinema leaves nothing to the imagination). You'll want to track down titles like Turkey Shoot (they like that exploding head shot, too), Alvin Purple, Long Weekend (recently remade as Nature's Grave), Snapshot, Dead End Drive-In, Thirst, Mad Dog Morgan, Stunt Rock, and The Man From Hong Kong. Just about every title shown looks like a drive-in gem and perfect for viewing parties with friends. There looks to be a very unique language to these titles, from the ease of the sex comedies to the violence of the road chase pictures.

As a primer to Australian genre films, this is a documentary worth your time and attention. Not Quite Hollywood is worth checking out.

The Special Features on this disc are a garden of delights:
-Audio Commentary with the director and a round table of 9 "Ozploitation Auteurs"
-A wealth of Deleted & Extended scenes
-Quentin Tarantino interviews writer director Brian Trenchard-Smith (13 minutes)
-a 22 minute audio interview with Director Richard Franklin
-"Funding Pitches" with Quentin Tarantino and John D. Lamond
-An Image Gallery
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Trailers for Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, The Canyon, World's Greatest Dad, and the HD NET Television network
-an Easter Egg with the cantankerous Bob Ellis trashing Peter Weir.
Spanish Subtitles are available along with English audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1.

While perhaps not for the kiddies as it's awash in nudity, gore and stunts you shouldn't try at home, Not Quite Hollywood is an affectionate look at genre movies from Australia by the people who made them and love them. With the proverbial "Treasure Trove" of clips, it'll have you filling your Netflix queue like a gateway drug to trash movie goodness. When the 102 minute feature is over, you're just going to want more.

Highly Recommended!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October (Jay's Review Edition): Staunton Hill

The movie's a bit of a trifle but it seems I had a lot to say in this review I wrote for


It's the fall of 1969, and winds of change are blowing across America. but on a remote family farm in the hills of Virginia, a storm of evil has been brewing for years. Now for a group of young people hitchhiking to a rally in Washington DC, a detour to the nightmare homestead of the Staunton's will rip apart their young lives forever. A grisly secret is waiting. The raw terror is growing. And the clan's brutal harvest is about to begin. Kathy Lamkin (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Kiko Ellsworth (Dexter), Cooper Huckabee (The Funhouse), Cristen Coppen and David Rountree star in this extreme shocker from Pittsburgh filmmaker Cameron Romero - son of legendary Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero - that unleashes a new generation of graphic horror.

Cameron Romero presents a well-made slasher movie in the vein of (perhaps aping is more exact) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Staunton Hill. Another entry in the "Crazy Backwoods Killer Family" genre, here a group of optimistic hippie teens meet a horrible fate at the hands of a rural clan who turn out to have an agenda. Namely, one that involves mutilation and some weird recurring bits with feet. (Just like in TTCM, someone shockingly loses half a leg when you least expect it.)

Honestly. My backwoods relatives fight and act up, but there's nary an organ farmer among them.

Also, what is it with baby dolls in these movies? Lately, these films have to be filled with broken, dirty children's toys laying around cluttered, neglected homes. Be it the remakes of TTCM, Friday the 13th, or the recent The Hills Run Red, sepia-toned junk-room neglect and filth seems to be the name of the game. Along with that we get some very odd cinematography, credits from the "Seven school of movie titles", and effective gore. Though it starts slow, a speedy killing and skinning a smidge over half-way through the movie matter-of-factly shifts the tone and kicks things off. Before long, limbs and scalps are flying and the body-count mounts.

You've seen the story and aesthetics before, but when things get grisly, they get grisly. (A quick bit with a body and a pig pen is downright upsetting.) Romero name check's his daddy's Night of the Living Dead, though seems to have learned the family trade. The black comedy is here as is the skill to coax pretty good performances from unknown actors, the standout being Kathy Lamkin. With a resume of bit parts, a featured role in TTCM and a heart-breakingly memorable appearance on "Nip/Tuck," she's paid her dues and has the chops. She's refreshingly real. The rest of the cast seems inexperienced, but they're game.

Staunton Hill is one of those "a little of column A, little from column B" kind of movies. If you don't see the plot twists coming from the beginning, you need to watch more horror films. This doesn't mean it's not worth a watch. Romero has a promising future and Staunton Hill is a production that proves it.

Pretty much nil. English subtitles are available along with chapter selections and a trailer for Edges of Darkness. Audio is English Dolby 5.1 Surround and the film is in a 1.78:1 Widescreen Presentation.

Unrated and only 89 minutes long, this "Texas Foot-Fetishist's Massacre" shows that Cameron Romero can make a decent horror movie that shocks, appalls, and moves at a fair clip. You've seen this stuff before, but this is a nice watch for enthusiasts and the curious. Those newer to this kind of genre film will find even more to enjoy.

Mostly, you'll be campaigning for Romero to helm a remake of Motel Hell with Kathy Lamkin as the one saying "Meat's meat, and man's gotta eat."


The Yucky Movies of October: Revenge of the Living Dead Girls

24) Revenge of the Living Dead Girls

Evidently in France, pouty farmgirls will sit around and have breakfasts with their mothers while wearing really elaborate underwear... well, they do according to this movie.

A total piece of junk about girls who die from drinking poisoned milk and wind up coming back to life when more of the poison is dumped at the graveyard, there's little to redeem this one beyond it's sheer eighties-ness. When blackmailing a businessman, a woman has to bring in a huge video camera with a separate deck to record the tape on. Everyone's hair has that huge, puffy quality you only find from actually having chlorofluorocarbons in your hairspray.

I have a few questions. How could these girls have totally dessicated in, what, two days? They all have drawn, wrinkled gray faces, though only one has hands that have also withered (meaning she has these overdone, superlong gloved fingers that look veiny and knotted). Also, why're these girls stilted zombies one minute and totally spry the next? Of course, it's obvious the only character effects in this film are some rubber gray rubber masks, because they didn't even bother with body make-up. The naked zombies with giant rubber heads are a real hoot.

For that matter, why does the female exec blackmail her boss with video and make a big deal out of showing her bra to her corporate scientist? What ever happened to good, hard, old-fashioned work? Why do the zombies have different hair in death than they do in life? Why do they decide to go swimming? How big a pig is the scientist that he banged a zombie? Ugh, don't think about it too hard. You'll go stupid.

This is also one of those badly dubbed foreign movies of a certain vintage where all the voices are vaguely familiar. Is anyone aware of whatever group of people dubbed all these flicks? These same voices show up in just about every 70s and 80s horror and naughty flick to come out of continental Europe. The acting is bad, the character motivations are worse, but much is (unintentionally?) hysterical. There's a scene with a sword and another with a pregnant woman that are also in more bad taste than I'm used to... and I just watched Gutterballs.

I can only recommend this one to people trying to hone their audition to be the next "MST3K" -- because there's a lot here to mock and wince through... though you will file away the idea of breaking off your high heel in someone's eye socket for later use.

C'est merde.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jay's Movie Reviews: Jack Brown, Genius

Check out my dvdsnapshot review of the Peter Jackson produced film:



A thousand years ago in England, the crazy monk Elmer (Stuart Devenie) wears a pair of wings and tries to fly from a high tower. He dies, and his soul is doomed to an eternity in hell for committing suicide. Now, in New Zealand, Elmer has one last chance to prove that men can fly and save his soul: his spirit enters into the mind of a very intelligent inventor, Jack Brown (Timothy Balme), and forces him to try to fly. Jack uses his latest creation, an amplifier in a tape recorder, to help him succeed in the attempt, but his invention is coveted by his former boss and his lover, who want to sell it to a Chinese investor.

Jack Brown Genius
is a 1994 New Zealand comedy finally getting released in the States. The reason looks to have more to do with the fact that Peter Jackson is a writer and producer on this title, teaming back up with Timothy Balme, the star of his film Dead Alive (aka Brain-Dead).

This is a pleasant fun comedy with dashes of adventure and slapstick, but it's otherwise pretty slight. A few sequences have some good, simple special effects (a dream of hell, the flying scenes) and it's technically accomplished all-around. There's just not much "there" there. The villains of the piece, Jack's boss and his masseuse girlfriend, are practically Boris and Natasha. The romantic triangle isn't much to invest in since it's pretty clear pretty quick who lands with who.

Beyond that, there's not much more to say about it. It felt like a late 80's offering from Hollywood Pictures and would make a good double bill with something like The Year of the Comet or The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag. Come to think of it, the lead actress here did remind me of Penelope Ann Miller...


Jack Brown Genius is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 and 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio. Special features include stills gallery. Subtitles.

PG-13 and pretty appropriate for teens on up, Jack Brown Genius is a perfectly passible lark you'll want to see if you're a Peter Jackson fan. It's a bit of fluff for a rainy day, not much to it though.


The Yucky Movies of October: Drag Me To Hell

Seriously, this is like horror movie bukkake...

23) Drag Me To Hell

Okay, that first fight in the car, scary old lady versus scared girl, filled with hair-pulling, teeth-knocking, and car-crashing, was pretty damn good. Who hasn't wanted to kick an evil old gypsy woman in the ribs?

Well, I never had, but it sounded funny... after actually watching this movie, I'm giving old gypsies the respect they deserve, myself. Especially ones who may vomit cockroaches into your mouth...

They can also spill bile into your mouth and cause you to spit up blood and flies. These are not people to be scorned. Actually it's amazing what winds up in people's mouths in this flick. (Seriously, this is like horror movie bukkake.) A black comedy full of wet, slushy red stuff (mostly CGI) about a girl trying to get out from under a curse before she winds up -obviously- dragged to hell, this is a blast from beginning to end. It also feels very much like a heavily transformed remake of Night of the Demon (Curse of the Demon), but maybe that's just to me. From the "passing of the runes" to the appearance of the train station, there's some similarities. Of course, that's such a good movie, I'm totally okay with that.

One thing I've always wondered. Just how long would it take one person to dig out a grave. Especially one unaccustomed to a lot of exercise? Because the movies make it look like it'd take all of twenty minutes...

Sit back and enjoy the ride... and the flying eyeballs. This ain't a classic film, or a serious one. It's just good, yucky fun.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Popcorn

22) Popcorn

A love-letter to the sweetly quaint, brilliant marketing campaigns and (secondarily) films of William Castle. Also, a time capsule of where horror films were circa 1991 complete with bad effects, a teleporting killer, and musical montage.

Anyhow, this is a Slasher film where the set-up is that you've got a group of film students throwing a movie night horror-thon and find a reel of film that's the work of a director who went berserk and killed his family. Of course, we're wondering if this can be related to our lead's nightmares of childhood events? Of course it turns out that Maggie (Jill Schoelen) was the daughter of the loony director, Lanyard, and now he's maybe back to wear disguises and finish off the family... and all her friends accordingly.

Whatever happened to Jill Schoelen? Evidently she retired and raised kids, but in the '80's she was one of the true scream queens; the lead in this and The Stepfather, The Phantom of the Opera, When a Stranger Calls Back, and Cutting Class (sadly, more people remember her now for her engagement to co-star Brad Pitt than her movies). Tony Roberts, Ray Walston, Dee Wallace, and Kelly Jo Minter also star here - so, let me reiterate, Time Capsule.

Things I wondered:
-Do tasks go faster if they can be done as a musical montage?
-How does the killer get the marquee to spit all it's letters at Dee Wallace when she shows up?
-As with all horror movies, why here, why now? Better to get a grudge out of your system when it's fresh than spend 10 years or so dwelling before you finally decide to do something about it? Was he just waiting, as a director, for film-makeup "technology" to improve so he could make his masks?
-Did Joe Dante know this movie was made already when he whipped up Matinee?
-Dressing up in costumes to go to a horror movie marathon is one thing, but who the hell would really keep wearing giant heads for the duration of the evening?
-Doesn't Tony Roberts kind of deserve to die if he's going to use a prop as dangerous as the Mosquito in a crowded theatre?
-did they just crib the makeup from The Abominable Doctor Phibes entirely for this flick or what?
-Why am I asking such banal questions? (Oh, yeah, this is a crap flick?)

Not a classic, I did read up that both the original director and lead were replaced during production. This is generally what you call a movie "born under a bad sign." But the faux-Fifties films are fun (even if they really didn't bother to do 'em right. No lead actress would have hair that fly-away in a Fifties flick). By 38 minutes in, not only had I figured out who the real killer was but I would have been willing to lay money on it.

It's crap, in a crap transfer with crap sound, but I enjoyed it. It's a yuck for it's gore attempts, a yuck for it's quality, but anyone bringing back the "Tingler" effect and making it a movie plot-point is okay in my book. Also, any killer who commits murder by toilet bowl really should be shown some love...

The Yucky Movies of October: Masters of Horror: Dream Cruise

21) Masters of Horror: Dream Cruise

I gave another "Masters of Horror" a spin - this time with the season two closer, "Dream Cruise." This outing is J-Horror, complete with the de rigeur stringy-haired female ghost.

An American lawyer living in Japan winds up stupidly accepting the invitation of his best client to go out on the boat with him. It's stupid because a) as a child, he was unable to save his brother from drowning in open water and b) he's shtupping the client's wife. He's haunted by visions of his brother from the get-go, all water-related. Unfortunately, the client's on to their affair and plans to dispose of the pair of them out at sea... just like he did with his first wife.

Turns out, she's less than amused by events.

I can only assume that what the Japanese are scared of, based on the J-Horror films I've seen, is conditioner. The stringy-haired female ghost is this time green instead of white, with fab bloody teeth and covered in goo. (Over at "Masters of Horror," they do seem to love their goo.)

Our horror "Master" this time out is Norio Turuta, director of J-horror Theatre titles and Ring 0. He's joined by the lead actor from Audition, Ryo Ishibashi, and the film's based on a short story by Koji Suzuki, author of the "Ring" series of novels and "Dark Water." Needless to say then that this is the J-horror pedigree to have. I think the "Imprint" episode of "Masters of Horror" is more in that nightmarish vein, while this is pretty linear, but on the whole, it's an okay flick.

I had a few good jumps and a genuine "eww, look away" moment, so that's a "Yucky" movie keeper in my book!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Masters of Horror: We All Scream For Ice Cream

20) Masters of Horror: We All Scream For Ice Cream

I am not a subscriber to Showtime. In fact, I cut off my cable back in January when I realized that between Netflix and the Library I could totally get my fix of visual entertainments on DVD and not deal with nary a commercial or Kardashian while getting it. Therefore, I'm still chipping my way through the "Masters of Horror" series. Yes, I know, "Bad Fanboy!"

Well, I wish I could have watched one to blog about that was one of the highlights, like "Imprint" or "Cigarette Burns" or even just over the top gore (the nauseating "Pelts" and "Jenifer," anyone?) but instead I have a middle of the road selection for you.

"We All Scream For Ice Cream" feels more like an entry in the "Tales from the Crypt" series. The director for this entry is Tom Holland, who also gave us the classics "Fright Night" and "Child's Play," along with three "Tales," come to think of it. This particular episode is a morality play about a group of men who, as children, played a prank on a mentally disabled clown who drives an ice cream van that wound up killing him. Now, Buster the clown is back and feeding cursed popsicles to their children. When the kids bite them, these men dissolve into Neopolitan goo.

...and it is fabulous goo. Thick white and pink and brown, it looks just like melted ice cream... though filled with chunks of bone. There's a big melting scene that's also fabulously '80's with a skeleton bobbing around in a tub of water, dripping big viscous streams of the aforementioned man-ice-cream.

I really need to come up with a better term for that.

It's a bit of a two-fer since you have "Ice Cream Vans" and "Clowns" - a pair of easily corruptible childhood icons. While based on a John Farris short story that I have not read (he is an excellent author, though), as a TV program it feels very reminiscent of "It." Featuring William Forsythe as a sweet-natured clown doesn't help either. He works as the evil ghost clown, but it's William bloody Forsythe. I've never put him in the warm 'n' fuzzy category, personally. The other lead here is Lee Tergesen. He's playing a stoic dad part, but I've got him typecast from "Oz." When he confronts a bad seed type from their youth while the guys in his tub, I more'n half expect him to climb in.

So far I've never been bored by one of the "Masters of Horror" programs, and recommend them, this entry included. "Dance of the Dead" was long-winded, and both "Homecoming" and "Deer Woman" also felt like "Tales from the Crypt." Some entries are more genius, some are just good. This was a just good. Like "Right to Die," it's a perfectly passable hour I enjoyed immensely... but won't remember much of in another two.

Hmm, maybe I'll try another one for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: The Brotherhood of Satan

19) The Brotherhood of Satan

A very low-budget 1971 movie about a coven taking over a small town for very nefarious reasons I won't spoil here, The Brotherhood of Satan is seriously full of win. With a leisurely pace that does a good job of building tension, the film switches between small-town creeps and silly, set-bound robes and cobwebs satanism.

In the end it works, though. Pretty well in fact. There's a couple genuinely disturbing and dream-like nightmare scenes and a few cheesy effects, but the overall air is truly that of a small community under siege. A surprising beheading and what I could only infer as "attack-by-child's-toy" wind up being scenes that work well when there's no reason why they should.

I've seen the story's central twist before but it doesn't undermine just how effective this movie winds up being. The flat TV-movie cinematography actually adds to the overall creep factor as well, because it gives such an air of normalcy to the proceedings. The last ten minutes should veer into silliness but instead have you absorbed.

This one is a well-made gem I can't believe I'm just now seeing for the first time. The Brotherhood of Satan should have a much stronger following - it's like a flat, Californian Wicker Man - and I highly recommend it.