Saturday, June 12, 2021

Dropping old IMDb slasher reviews Here

The Prey (1983) November 2009

Backwoods horror concerning three couples, friends who decide to back pack through the mountainous wilderness, unaware that a killer lives within, seeking a mate.

This nonsense about The Prey being the worst film every made is rather silly..sure it has a devastating slow pace which causes the movie to lag unforgivably, weighing on the patience of even the most tolerant viewer.

I didn't consider the performances too unpleasant, nor the characters(..except for the pretty gal, always glamming up, despite the fact the gang's in the middle of the wilderness)that aggravating.

It's the main fact that there's no sense of timing or development of a film such as this, I think it's of vital importance to continually establish the menace, but in a more expedient fashion where the audience isn't lulled into a coma.

That said, the Utah location is a definite plus, the wilderness during the day and at night. To be honest, I didn't really have a problem, as others, with the additional nature footage because I recognized that the filmmakers desire to establish the surroundings, the different creatures living within the setting, lurking about like the badly burnt gypsy killer.

While the filmmakers have some music(..reminiscent of The Shining, with some music also akin to Halloween)scored in the film, they mostly use natural sounds. A lot of the time, they shoot POV for the killer, accompanied by a heartbeat and heavy breathing, keeping him fresh in our minds when we start to doze off.

Some recognizable faces in the cast include the handsome Steve Bond(General Hospital soap opera)and Lori Lethin(Bloody Birthday;Return to Horror High), as members of the group pursued by the killer, and a nice supporting turn from Jackie Coogan( his final film)as head over the Forest Service. Jackson Bostwick is ranger, Mark O'Brien, who sets out to look for the couple attacked by the killer in the opening frame.

The scene when Mark finds a body picked away at by buzzards is pretty chilling. And, probably one of the better sequences has a character in peril as he climbs down a mountain not knowing the killer has sinister plans for him up above. The final 17 or so minutes are rather intense, which may be too little too late, with a rather downbeat twist at the end. The gore is limited(..a throat ripping by far the most effective other the discovery of a dead body which had been supplying nourishment to the buzzards), but the attacks are still quite violent in nature. The film gives you glimpses of the killers charred visage, and we also are made aware of his gigantic presence when he lifts young men in the air with relative ease.

 Hide and Go Shriek (1988) June 2007

Group of teens(forming four boyfriend-girlfriend couple), just recently graduated from high school, decide to stay overnight in a furniture store to have a little sex, but have no clue that a killer awaits them..a transvestite psycho at that! The film opens the door that a recently released con, who needed a job and place to stay, is bedding in a room on the bottom floor. John(Sean Kanan)is the son of the furniture store's owner and takes the rest on a tour of the massive multi-floored building with it's bevy full of mannequins creating a creepy decor. When asked why his father would have all these mannequins stored throughout, John says it makes the customers feel that someone's always at home. So anytime a teen bumps into a mannequin, they jump because you never know if it is someone with flesh not plastic. They keep the lights off so that no one will spot them inside fooling around which even increases the danger and scary-factor of the mannequins for they are always there popping up when the characters come around corners. They decide to play a game of hide-and-seek within the furniture store while also taking time out to have sexual relations in the numerous beds on the different floors available to them. This furniture store becomes a playground for the killer as he can come upon them unannounced, often hiding within the mannequins in the darkness. What's his purpose for killing them? You have to see it to believe it! It's absolutely an outrageous reason.

Gloriously lame late-80's cheese-ball slasher with hammy overacting by the young cast made with style thanks to the darkened, enormous setting inside the huge furniture store. Multi-levels provides plenty of room for the killer to hide and attack his prey. The idea that he is amongst them without their knowledge also allows a slow build-up until he strikes. Not very gory, but still a blast if you go in not expecting much. I probably enjoyed this one a bit more than I should have.

Sweet 16 (1983) March 2009

Bo Hopkins stars as a small town sheriff, Dan Burke, trying to uncover the one responsible for a series of murders towards young men surrounding fifteen year old Melissa Morgan(Aleisa Shirley)whose "sweet sixteen" is approaching. A number of suspects emerge including two Native Americans, elderly Greyfeather(Henry Wilcoxon)and his grandson, Jason Longshadow(Don Shanks), but they could be smokescreens of another, whose long buried past has awakened and those who attempt to get involved with Melissa pay the price. Susan Strasberg(..still quite beautiful at this time)is Melissa's mother, Joanne, and screen veteran Patrick Macnee is her father, archaeologist Dr. John Morgan, excavating old Indian grounds for artifacts. Don Stroud is a rowdy racist cowboy, Billy Franklin, often hanging around with goofy hoodlum, Jimmy(Logan Clarke)teasing and abusing Greyfeather when he enters their juke joint for a beer. Billy and Longshadow are mortal enemies and a destined showdown is imminent. Dana Kimmell is Dan's inquisitive daughter Marci and Steve Antin is his son Hank, whose attraction to Melissa puts him in potential danger. The horror escalates at Melissa's sweet sixteen birthday party, put together as a way for the town to meet the Morgan family..the killer will be revealed and Billy, along with Jimmy(..his shadow, pretty much)will attempt to have a little fun with Melissa when she goes skinny dipping with Hank.

The film carves a psychological path as Dan soon discovers the history of a certain character whose traumatic past could have developed a disturbed personality willing to kill those who pose a fictional danger to Melissa who represents someone else symbolically. The director, Jim Sotos, mentions that they were working from an unfinished script, during an interview with Hopkins admitting to ab-libbing some lines(..and a funny story mentions how Macnee was confused with the twist regarding why the killer was committing such grisly knife murders). Aleisa Shirley, a very pretty girl, has some nude shower sequences that left me rather a fifteen year old character, I didn't know whether to be mortified as the camera embraced her naked flesh, or jovial because it's obvious she was a much older woman than the Melissa she was portraying. Sharon Farrell has a nice supporting role as Kathy Hopkins, a forensics expert carrying a torch for widower Dan, who proposes marriage to him all the time. A great asset to the movie was the camaraderie between Hopkins and his fictional family, Kimmell and Antin..their chemistry together is quite fundamental to the overall success of this rural slasher. They will become embroiled within the developing situation just as much as their father investigating the case, just in a different way. Fans of Macnee will be rather disappointed in his rather lackluster role's nice to see him, but not much is demanded from him since the character isn't too strongly involved within the major plot. Strasberg, however, has an interesting development since it's revealed that she was born in the town setting of this movie..and has friction with Michael Pataki's citizen, George Martin, an obvious history between these two is apparent. The violence isn't too gruesome, with carefully edited attacks showing the knife stabbing torsos up close..not that extreme for dye-in-the-wool slasher fans used to gratuitous gore. Hopkins is as appealing and laid back as ever, a dominating presence of the plot, his authority convincing in a small town atmosphere, dealing with confrontational cases appropriately and realistically. I particularly liked how his sheriff handles his kids who respect their father, even if they disobey him sometimes..unlike today's children who resist parental guidance, Dan's children know their place and don't cross him. Kimmell, who would go on to star as the lead final girl in Friday THE 13TH III, is adorable, always studiously involved in dad Dan's cases.

The Final Terror (1983) December 2006

A group of fire-men and some ladies who accompany them fall prey to a killer living within the woods..she's a mental ward escapee with a shed that contains lots of grotesque things in jars.

A standard(if worse)backwoods horror flick suffers most from minimalist lighting which sure makes the supposed terror especially hard to see. The film isn't that gory because everything's so damned dark. The photography seems dirty and cheap as if the day-time is anything but bright. Within the woods this, at times, provides some creepiness, but when you need to see the horror on people's faces or the killer doing her worst, the film just simply fails.

You can vaguely see images of what seems to be people and occasionally faces of those running can be transmitted, but over all the film disappoints. Some weird music helps a bit as well, but the film just fails to really deliver where it matters most..true thrills.

This is more of a curio piece for those familiar with director Andrew Davis(who is better known for directing solid action fare such as "Above the Law", "Code of Silence", & "The Fugitive")and actors in early roles such as Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah, and Joe Pantoliano.

Sorority House Massacre (1986) March 2007

Beth(Angela O'Neill)has been battling recurring nightmares since moving back to her sorority after her beloved aunt passed away. There's a man who has just murdered an entire family and seems to be coming for her. Director Carol Frank juxtaposes Beth returning home to her sorority with a man named Bobby(John C Russell)trying to free himself from the cell of a psycho ward. What does happen over time is that Beth will find that the images that occur in her mind and dreams(not just that one recurring nightmare, but various images of Bobby trying at her with a long curving knife)are repressed memories from her childhood resurfacing because they are awakened as she comes to the sorority which was once that very home Bobby killed in. Bobby will break from his cell when he attacks a nurse and return to the scene of the crime to finish what he started..killing Beth, the one that got away. But, other sorority friends of Beth's will unfortunately bear her burden as they fall individually to his twisted wrath once he takes from a hardware store a knife he used to kill the owner.

Energetic photography, potent nightmarish images of Bobby and his mean blade in Beth's mind, and a likable performance from cute O'Neill as heroine Beth lend a helping hand in another of those run-of-the-mill college slashers where young adults are simply enjoying life until they walk unknowingly into the knife of a sicko. There are jump-scares aplenty, over and over. The film pretty much is predictable and the screenplay provides ways for Beth's poor college mates to perish. This has those wonderful 80's items we cherish, the lousy fashion, lots of posters of musicians hot at the time, and those glorious hairstyles. The film also shows lots of cleavage..nearly all the females(..but, Beth, of course, who appears to be the pure virginal innocent)show their breasts. The boyfriends are all goof balls(and most of the gals,as well)so that might be another reason to check this slasher flick out. Just don't expect originality, because this sticks pretty close to formula except the added angle of repressed memories.

Gimme a K. Gimme an I. Gimme a L. Gimme another L. What does that Spell?!

 This was just a quick and easy watch. Cheerleader Camp (1988) has all the gratuitous (and oft-expected) tropes of late 80s slashers: heavy set character (Travis McKenna) whose weight is the butt of jokes, the female cast members in the film just to show their breasts, cheerleaders wearing barely anything but uniforms to show off their athletic (or heavy diet and workout regimen) figures, the ditsy blond (Lorie Griffin) with a lot of appeal and personality (but not a lot of brains), the unstable but very sexy lead (Betsy Russell) having strange and often disturbing dreams that ask us if she is the killer, the former magazine pop culture heartthrob trying to hold onto his past glory (Leif Garrett) but given a flattering male lead with young beauties desiring him, the creepy older guys ogling the girls (Buck Flower), and authority figure often antagonizing the film's established group (Vickie Benson, with lots of makeup, lipstick, and bright dresses, along with an obnoxious personality suitable for a character we're supposed to find annoying and laughable). The sole purpose for the story is to parade a lot of cheerleaders across the screen at a summer camp style setting. By the late 80s, the slasher genre had fallen on hard times, and while I'm sure Cheerleader Camp has its admirers, I believe you can tell that the bloom was off the rose. This was a popular slasher review for my blog back in 2013. It is still very much of its era so anyone that grew up with it (and that poster with the cheerleader leaping into the air with a skull face) and watched it countless times in their youth might be unable to remove the nostalgia goggles and see it for what it is: VHS rental store and USA Up All Night mainstay with very attractive cast and predictable killer. The collection of personalities, particularly Benson and Russell (doing her best "barely keeping her shit together" performance while looking very desirable), might boost this flick enough. There is grisly violence, with guts spilling out of a stomach ax wound and van crash stomach destruction, slit wrists and garden sheers through a head and out the mouth, so that, too, might help keep Cheerleader Camp just above the lower tier of the slasher hierarchy.

Although she mostly plays second fiddle to Russell, Lucinda Dickey gets the last laugh and, despite being relegated to a mascot uniform, deserved to wear that cheerleader uniform (and does so very, very well) as much as the rest. McKenna really lets that damn camera get him into a lot of trouble, including at the end when a fucking killer has already left a substantial body count. Garrett, to me, is in the film for his name value, because he doesn't exactly light up the screen with much star power.

And Back to the Sorority Again...BACK...


Okay, I went back to look and I have dedicated some very popular blog posts to House on Sorority Row (1982) in the past, so I'm free to ramble a bit. So I noticed this was on Tubi this month, and I have been looking out for it to show up on the streamer for the last few months. This was essential for the weekend, but I was sort of wishy-washy about when to watch it. In the past, I would have given a Friday to the film. When you watch a movie shouldn't be such an ordeal or anything significant. For whatever reason, I've attached more significance than necessary to when to watch this or that movie. At any rate, a good kick off to Saturday after a somewhat entertaining Friday triple feature, The House on Sorority Row was one of the classier (if that is such a word for slasher films)  slashers in its era of the early 80s, going more of a thriller route despite plenty of bird-handle cane stab action (the tail as much a threat of gouging and impaling as the cane itself). The house mother and her graduating girls, their complex relationship eventually leading to accidental death, the past psychopathic offspring seeking revenge, a coverup, a house party, and doctor trying to correct a mistake from long ago...slasher films have worked off a lot less. This is about the killings, sure, but at least there was a foundation. I was trying to explain my own complex relationship with this film to my daughter who asked me about whether or not I liked it. I once wrote a rather unflattering review about it for my IMDb account, giving it a 4/10, later viewings improving upon that rating. I think the photography and music for the film give it a sophistication other slashers didn't have, and there is something about how the film opens with the happy young women preparing for life outside college that resonates with me. And there is just something about 1980 - 1985 era of the genre that I'm particularly drawn to. Trying to conceal a crime while each one among the group falling prey to someone who knows about it is at least a slab to build a house on. I think this one does well enough with its slab.

Always important to me is there is a strong female anchor for the film in Kate McNeil and a good antagonist in Eileen Davidson as the misbehaving leader-of-the-pack corralling her sorority sisters together to protect their secret. Lois Kelso Hunt has a great face and presence as the house mother stirring up her girls into playing a prank on her to get even for being such bone of contention for them, interfering with their efforts to have one last big party.

This Saturday viewing was enough to encourage picking the film up on pre-order for a DVD release.

Into the California Woods Where the Hag Awaits


So for my third foray into the 80s slasher genre, I sort of see-sawed back and forth between watching The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) and Andrew Davis' The Final Terror (1983). Because I wanted to take a detour from young folk stalked by a killer in a mall or at a sorority, I decided on the deep woods as the next location to spend some time. Now in the past I wasn't very fond with The Final Terror at all. But that previous view was back in 2006 and the print I was terrible. So dark and hard to see was the print, I was miserable. This version, the best we'll unfortunately probably ever have due to the inability of Shout Factory to find the direct materials (lost, sadly) needed for a quality print, at least was clear enough that I could see what was going on. And that improvement beats the alternative, a DVD I rented from Netflix that was less than ideal. God, I was so frustrated with that experience. I remember at the time on the IMDb Horror Message Board and some positive reviews building The Final Terror as quite a slasher gem right under the radar. So obviously I was interested in seeing it. Now after fifteen years I wasn't as reticent and Tubi had The Final Terror available so I decided to give it another shot. I'm glad I did. While I don't think the film is anything incredible, I was far more receptive to it as a survival wilderness thriller than a serious slasher film. It has some disturbing content. Joe Pantoliano's hag mom from a nearby mental institution (yes, it is a slasher if just for that trope) disguised in "forest attire", blending in with her environment like a chameleon, very much camouflaged, has this curved blade seemingly sewn into her sleeve so she can cut and slice someone at any point or time. Poor Daryl Hannah certainly learns this when she loses her friends while running into the darkened woods, the hag (actually a guy played by Tony Maccario) surfacing out of side of the screen, startling her with a vicious slice to the neck Rachel Ward has to sew before bleeding out all over the ground.

You will see Hannah, Ward, and Adrian Zmed in the credits and perhaps get all excited about the idea of seeing them in a wilderness slasher, but overall their roles never require a lot of substantive powerhouse acting. Mostly they sit around a fire, wash up in the river, listen to ghost stories, and eventually try to keep from winding up like Mark Metcalf and Metcalf's girlfriend, played by Cindy Harrell. Those two are just having great sex away from the others, enjoying their company, when the hag interrupts the passionate encounter by slashing Metcalf while on top of a horrified Harrell. Harrell is pulled away, eventually held captive under the floor of the hag's wooden shack (with lots of bottles containing body parts of animals), unable to call for help as that damned blade is held to her throat. Tragically, Harrell is let out of floor when they leave, her throat still slashed by the evil fucking hag and dropped in the inflatable raft to screw with their mental states...the hag seems to revel in the hunt and kill.

The California woods are incredible, just breathtaking. I think the ragged photography isn't really as much a problem, as long as, the night scenes are improved so we can just see the characters and action, especially on the bus when the remaining group just want to crash and rest. The hag seems to be everywhere, so familiar with the wilderness she can cover so much ground even as the group, in a raft, using oars, can't stay ahead of her.

As a wilderness adventure, Andrew Stevens really gets so much out of the setting. This backdrop, particularly when Stevens shoots so much coverage of the space, opens up the screen so much vastness. What that does is build on how dangerous the hag is. On top of her, the volatile and temperamental Pantoliano, responsible for busing the group to Mill Creek, turns on them, though his attempt to rope-strangle Zmed leaves him vulnerable; in turn, the hag is vulnerable as a result.

The body count is really low. Metcalf, the one in charge, taken out first, leaves his team having to band together in order to live. Busia takes the mushroom-influenced (and often unstable and unpredictable) Friedrich to task for his behavior, wanting the guys to get serious about their bad situation. Harden, Jr. seems to be the only one who can keep Friedrich under any control, while Smith, with a heavy Southern accent, tries to replace Metcalf as the level-headed leader. Friedrich seems to also attempt the role as leader, but he's too immature to get the job done. There's an incredible scene where a stuntman (as Lewis) climbs a giant redwood in order to survey the area. The rope trap triggering this spiked log with the camera rigged on it to show the hag impaled...Stevens really lays out how good he could be with action sequences. I loved how he shoots the team in a covert operation to surround and eventually enter the hag's shack. 3/5 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Back to the Sorority Again

 Except this time, there are no tasks to carry out for pledges or any big party. This is very much closer in spirit to The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) where a few young ladies at a sorority (no high school girls like in Slumber) spend the night at their sorority house, eventually under attack by a knife-wielding crazy who escaped from a lunatic asylum (of course). Sorority House Massacre (1986) features its Laurie Strode virgin as a traumatized Angela O'Neill, having lost her family (when she was a little five year old girl) to the very sicko looking to stab as many young people as he can, including the lead heroine of the film. Trapped inside the sorority house while John C Russell startles the college boyfriends with knife stabs, the remaining ladies try to fend him off and escape. Russell, though, seems to always be one step ahead of them each and every way, stabbing one body at a time as the number of victims adds to his tally. The past trauma resurfacing in dreams has been done before in the slasher genre. I just seen that put to use in the previous slasher film, The Initiation (1984). I like it a lot as a plot device as it can add dimension to the main character and even the killer. That O'Neill and Russell are brother and sister screams Halloween II (1982), I get that, but I personally didn't think it took too much away from my enjoyment of it. My problem with Russell is that the film makes him ridiculously impervious to a significant amount of shovel shots and, for whatever reason, Linda (Wendy Martel) just had to die. I'm not sure why slasher film directors and screenwriters refuse to allow the best friends of heroines to survive hardly ever. Considering how heroic and brave (and such a fighter) Linda is, you'd think the filmmakers would have a heart for a change and let the poor girl live! O'Neill's Beth is very much of that rich vein of final survivors of the slasher genre that is sweet, understated, and innocent to a fault. She's never hysterical, even when plagued by horrible nightmares regarding Russell. You know, the ladies of the film aren't of the overwrought variety, which I always appreciate unless the slasher film calls for such theatrics. This slasher, though, is very serious. It is directed sincerely, except for the nudity where boobs come and go as the ladies change out of clothes. I think that might be why a lot of slasher fans rejected it. You know, I don't mind this little slasher movie. It is VERY low budget and not particularly distinguishable from anything else of this genre. That can be a problem when you have a lot of fucking slashers in the decade. I think this is about a 2.5/5 for me.

Kicking off another 80s horror/slasher weekend...

 The Initiation (1984) was a film I FINALLY reviewed for the blog September 2020. I had meant to review the film as early as 2012, and again 2014 for "Slasher Summer" series I used to have back in the early days of the blog.

I kept wondering what this drink was

Just because Zuniga was gorgeous in black or...


Although at the very end, Zuniga was also a sicko sister

Professor begging for mother's help

Well, friends of Zuniga's won't fair well in a slasher movie

I was sort of debating what 80s horror film to kick off my weekend, another similar to last weekend. I settled on starting with The Initiation (1984) first. This is definitely a film I think works better much later in the evening, or especially late at night. I realized this as I was watching the film at around 5:30 in the afternoon. A slasher in a mall late at night as an initiation for a sorority, college girls have no idea -- their sorority "boss", her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's friends have no idea, either -- a killer is in their midst. The mall (a real mall in Dallas in 1983) has multiple floors, feeling similar in ways to Wynorski's Chopping Mall (1986). The multiple levels really are emphasized, too. You can really see how the killer could easily hide and move about, with her victims just lambs to the slaughter unknowingly. It was funny, because prior to The Initiation, I had watched Girl's Nite Out (1982) several months earlier in 2020 (January), and the similarities aren't necessarily significant but there were certain aspects that just popped out to me. Like a sorority, the big party, and all those early 80s vibes...but something was missing in Girl's Nite Out. I think the characters are just more relatable and likable in The Initiation. Zuniga's friends were just likable...I liked them and hated they were killed. And Zuniga is just so beautiful. I know, I know. Hunter Tylo, as the nymphomaniac never has sex in the film...I thought that was fascinating. Typically, the beauty who is fully nude or partially nude and genuinely likes sex, eventually making out with a guy, dies horribly. But Tylo is full of charm and personality, so lovable. So her death, with all those stabs to her body, is hard to watch for me. I've written about the synopsis aplenty last year, with two posts, so treading familiar ground isn't necessary. But the mall setting really adds to this film, and the angle with the memories and twin sister (and burned father, with additional back story involving adultery) were interesting to me. 

This is not a slasher favorite. It was critically maligned and a lot of my peers were unkind to it with their own writeups and reviews. But it is really a personal favorite of my own. I just really enjoy watching it.

Black Roses (1988)

 I just knew I was in for something quite unique when Troma was presenting Black Roses (1988) to us. Well, I was assured of that when the heavy metal band, Black Roses, led by Damian (Sal Viviano), were demons on stage, stirring up the crowd, a rowdy ballad that had everyone in the building rocking out.

I had watched Trick or Treat (1986) not too long ago for the first time, but as far as the heavy metal horror subgenre of the 80s, I haven't watched very many films. Because the music was my jam, growing up with hair metal and LA rock, all that stuff, films like Trick or Treat, and to a lesser extent, Black Roses, have some appeal. Trick or Treat is a film I plan to revisit and elaborate even more on in the future. As far as Black Roses goes, it has some of the heavy metal horror tropes I figure pop up in most of the films of the subgenre. The rock music will be misunderstood by certain adults, particularly those of an authority, and claims of potentially corrupted youth as a result of the lyrics, presentation, rebellious appeal, and sound perpetrated at the musicians/band responsible. And often those in the band are a threat, dangerous perhaps from certain supernatural powers or conduct typically visited upon teenagers or their parents/teachers/etc. In Black Roses, the lead singer and his band are indeed demonic and the concerns the townsfolk had in regards to a troubling influence actually turn out to be justified in this film's case!

At first, the town counsel and parents had some problems with Black Roses starting their eventual country-wide tour in Basin Mills, but the mayor feels this is a rush to judgment, similar to when Elvis or Chuck Berry, Little Richard or the Beatles were all considered potentially dangerous in terms of sexual/immoral influence music-wise. Eventually Damian convinces the adults his band isn't such a bad influence, waiting until they weren't in the building before really cranking up the heavy metal rock, possessing the minds of all teenagers in attendance.

Eventually one teenager lifts another into a full press and drops him. Another teenager shoots his barber father in the head with a gun after telling him he loved him! Another teenager beats her stepfather in the head with an ashtray, later slitting the throat of a rival for the affections of her teacher (lead hero, John Martin) while waiting in the back of the victim's car. Another teenager backs up his car, hitting his mother intentionally, the impact killing her right in her driveway! Another teenager pushes her high school principal out a multi-story window of his office when his back is turned! An insect-like creature emerges from a record player speaker (!!!) clamping its mouth of teeth down on the face of a seriously shocked Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos"), whose son was totally out of control. One father has a coronary when a teenage friend of his daughter's sits in his lap, turning him on! In one surreal moment, two hands of a teenager begins to fondle her own breasts for a good minute or so, while some figment in the form of a naked woman appears to a teenager, having sex with him, disappearing afterward from his bed. In a truly bizarre scene, during one of the band's performances, teenagers faces "flash" into skulls without skin. It goes on and on as Black Roses just gets more and more outrageous. 

The demon monster Damian turns into is particularly a hilarious sequence as Martin tries to find a way to throttle him with a drum stick before using gasoline to ignite the stage around it. Basically a rubber-suited stuntman, the main demon at the end cracked me up. The budget was definitely spent on monster makeup, prosthetics, rubber outfits. Shot mostly from the stomach up so the demons could be mobile without the effects team giving up their secrets, Martin actually has to fight off two demonic creatures. Martin's efforts to get through to his kids in high school proves difficult when the music alters their personalities causing mischief and mayhem. Soon the town is overrun with violence in streets, murders all over the place, and teenagers just not giving a fuck about rules and parental orders. One scene that had me rather amused featured the barber's son out and about on a lonely street with a girl he is interested in, just wanting to get into some trouble (and "paint the town red"), kvetching about nothing exciting ever happening, balking about the idea of cutting hair like his dad.

As was often the case in the 80s, teenagers were clearly in their mid to late 20s, and they weren't even remotely favorable to high school students. But, I guess, you just go with it. The film has one of those twists at the end, where Damian and his band just left the town despite everything that happened and began their tour without any repercussions for their actions!

This isn't a film you can really hold up with any scrutiny whatsoever or pick apart because the story and characters are over the top. That is the only way the film can work, I think. If you are going to go crazy, go off the rails bonkers. This film does. But it could have been a lot worse. It never quite gets too depraved nor does the film really knock you for a loop with any rough graphic violence. It rides that line without necessarily crossing it as the Italian directors would have. 

Martin's sincerity in the classroom and the students eventually overcome by the evil influence of the band are played straight to a degree, but the demonic possessions soon detour any seriousness established early on. Martin in a verbal spat with an old flame about his kids and not being anything more than a teacher in a small town clashes with all the record player speaker monster pulling Pastore into it, pulsating vinyl record, or demon band on stage content that throws any credibility out the window. 2/5

Thursday, June 10, 2021

White Zombie at Midnight


I just finished my write-up for Season of the Witch (1973) Wednesday night and was sort of going over an upcoming "Favorite films of the 30s" list for the blog, with posts dedicated also to single years much like my previous 1931 post not too long ago. I've been hung up on 1932 because of movies on the list I wanted to go back over again and revisit. I had not intention of revisiting White Zombie (1932) specifically at Midnight but I had been wanting to rewatch the Lugosi classic, so it felt right. And I'm glad I did. There are times when White Zombie just doesn't seem to captivate me. It could be what many classic film detractors hold against these movies from the "golden age" from the 30s - 60s...pace wasn't an issue and a short running time might feel a lot longer. Scenes don't feel rushed. Lugosi could have a ton of time on screen to build a sinister expression. This guy makes grabbing a wine glass with slithery fingers that seem like octopus tentacles sinister. If I'm Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) and Murder Legendre is handing me a glass of wine, no damn way I'm even taking a sip. Never is there a smile On Legendre's face that doesn't have malicious intent. He's quite methodical in every facial tic, with his words, that particular inflection. Legendre has the undead working sugar cane for a very medieval kind of machinery -- one of the workers walks right into the spinning-wheel grinder and the others continue as if nothing happens! -- and a particular few that forms an entourage he orders around to do his bidding. This entourage he tells Beaumont were particular people who opposed Legendre, were adversaries he now has under his control out of revenge. Beaumont going to Legendre, who openly practices voodoo and is notorious for causing those once dead to rise and listen to him, for anything seems dangerous...and proves dangerous!

This definitely looks like a Universal set

Great exterior "shot" of the castle overlooking the water

Madeline (Madge Bellamy) on the balcony

Worst guy to share a drink with!

Dead eyes Madeline, emptied mind by Legendre

I just decided to include all the images of the film from moments/scenes of the film that held my attention like Sammy Michaels (Peter Bogdanovich) drawn completely to Byron Orlock's (Karloff) sequence in "The Criminal Code" (1930)😨. All of that was contributed to Lugosi and just the setting. The quality of the print available on Shudder wasn't the greatest but this was the first time I got to watch White Zombie with captions. It was worth it. And the idea to watch the film in the dead of night...just the right vibes.

Precode Madeline without a dress in underwear

I really wish there was more information on this film. That actually goes with a lot of these horror films. The "fly on the wall" as the production was underway, its setbacks, how they secured sets and such. Lugosi from 1931 until 1935 is at his absolute best. Well, many of his fans think his best work is actually in 1939 with Son of Frankenstein, but I think prime Lugosi is right here in White Zombie. If anything, White Zombie plays on Lugosi's powerful magnetism from Dracula just a year before, capitalizing on his popularity. Lugosi's mistake with pay just haunted him throughout his life. This guy, regardless of how horror films were sneered at, should have been worth way more than he ultimately was at the end of his life. Granted, not everyone is or was high on Lugosi's acting style, way of talking, and presence as I am, but the fact that after Dracula (1931) he couldn't have been paid way more for White Zombie seems, in retrospect, to be such a calculated error on his part. He dominates this film, so overpowering, the remaining cast just serve as pawns in Legendre's game. The Halperins sure knew what they had, so lots of Lugosi in their film made sense. 

😨 Reference to the film, Targets (1968), directed by Bogdanovich at the end of Karloff's life. It was wonderful to know Karloff had the chance to see the finished product and know that his legacy was beautiful intact. I like to look at Targets as the legit final film of Karloff's career. It was certainly one of the best Karloff ever made in his long, storied career.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Season of the Witch (1973)

 Sort of following up on my Romero and Pittsburgh film scene, I watched another lesser known George Romero film from 1973 (same year as The Amusement Park), starring Jan White as a bored, disillusioned, lonely housewife, unfulfilled and unsatisfied with where life is because her husband is always away on business and daughter is off to school. The suburban wives gather together as a social circle, chat and giggle, with Jan clearly longing for something more. When one of her friends brings up a witch among them, Jan eventually is introduced to a practicing witch. Ann Muffly is one of Jan's friends feeling very vulnerable and insecure due to her age, responsible for introducing Jan to the witch. This witch tells Muffly about specific feelings, laying out insecurities she had while Jan listens on. What makes Jan's performance quite a knockout is you see the wheels turning, the curiosity, the frustrations, the yearning for more than what her husband (and friends) were offering. On top of that, Jan's daughter (Joedda McClain) brings home a college teacher she met (and has been sleeping with), played by Raymond Laine. Raymond is cocky, brash, blunt, manipulative, cunning, and confident "ladies man". Jan is attracted to him, really turned on when returning home after dropping off a drunken, broken Muffly home, while hearing her daughter and Laine having sex in the daughter's bedroom. That sets in motion Jan and Laine's affair, brief and over the course of a few visits, but eventually she ends it while he remarks it's "her loss". The lowest Laine gets is when he convinces Muffly that she's getting high from a rolled up cigarette, pretending it is marijuana, right in her face and encouraging her to believe a lie, proving a point to a disapproving Jan that he could cause someone to feel something that shouldn't through psychology. Watching Muffly being worked over like that by Laine isn't fun and games; he's a fucking asshole, so obviously he got kicks out of it. That Jan just had to hook up with him...that might get the conversation going. 

The film features Jan looking into the mirror, looking deep into her face at any "age marks", haunted by dreams of her husband "leaving her behind", with tree branches smacking her repeatedly (leaving marks), eventually hit in the chops with a paper and put into a cage like a dog. Also, Jan sees an older vision of herself, far more aged, stone-faced, miserable. So the sexual tension with a much younger man, left underwhelmed and very disappointed with her current sex life with her distant husband; so the young man willing to have sex with her, it eventually boosts her self-esteem, while she begins to suffer nightmares about a makes man in black (Bill Hinzman, the first zombie featured in Romero's 1968 classic) pursing her throughout her house.

Romero mentioned in an interview for Anchor Bay that he didn't have a lot of money and time, so he just worked with what he had through Latent Image in Pittsburgh, with the crew occupying a regular home with the owners remaining quite open and friendly to them. Those memorable close up shots in the dark of Night of the Living Dead (1968) really emerge in Season of the Witch as well, especially when Jan is pursued by the masked Hinzman inside the house. The quick edits, with all that movement, the terror of Jan, the silhouetting of the intruder, the urgency to find a place to hide or escape; this was Romero at his very best, even when the resources were not there to achieve the heights he desired as a filmmaker.

The shotgun blast by Jan towards who she thought was the intruder resulting in a tragedy that actually benefits her is that big twist leaving us to chew on the meat of how all her witchcraft, regardless of whether or not it was supposed to be real -- Romero, in that interview, says he just believes it was all in her head, that he doesn't believe in that religious stuff -- seemed to change her life. The results of the shotgun blast, considering how much worse it could have been for her, instead seems to indicate Jan's life will improve, leaving her to decide on a life with other witches, joining their cult, embracing the lifestyle. This is a film that was made with little to no money, with a cast of unknowns, and never distributed out there before a large audience. I had watched as many Romero films as I could as a teenager into adulthood, but Season of the Witch was obviously elusive. Unearthed films involving Romero surely are catnip to a horror fan like me. So when I watched it, I liked how unique it was. I'm not a housewife or a woman stuck in a marriage that yields a lot of misery, disappointment, and regret. But I think the film really gets that across to us. Performances and the use of dream logic to communicate all of that in Jan's life, Romero opened up his resume to included what he felt was a feminist film. It is now available on Shudder and other places. I'm glad it can be seen now, and I am sure plenty of women feel her situation, perhaps even understand her plight. And perhaps they joy in her "release", even if it was achieved through a nightmare believed to be real and outside the house, not realizing that the person isn't an intruder but your husband!

Dropping old IMDb slasher reviews Here

The Prey (1983) November 2009 Backwoods horror concerning three couples, friends who decide to back pack through the mountainous wilderness...