August 25, 2017


It happens from time to time.

A movie long forgotten will be released on DVD or Blu-ray, usually for a stupidly high price, and go on to be proclaimed a “lost masterpiece” by horror fans everywhere. It isn't unheard of. Strange thing is, most of the time those long forgotten movies were long forgotten for a reason. I was genuinely confused when THE MUTILATOR was released by Arrow and went on to become everyone's new favorite slasher movie. Same thing happened when CATHY'S CURSE, an abysmal demonic kid flick from Canada, was released earlier this year on Blu-ray. That little garbage movie was heralded by the horror community as a lost gem, a real shining example of under appreciated horror films. 

If the same thing happens with SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN, I'll swallow my own tongue in protest.

Because SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN isn't just a bad movie. It's a bad shot on video horror movie with a cast primarily composed of children. That's a recipe for suicidal ideation if I ever saw one. The release of SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN comes courtesy of Severin and their Intervision Picture line, purveyors of such fine releases as DREAM STALKER and DARK HARVEST, two films that should have been left to rot in the cellars of VHS collectors. This is NOT an early review of their release. I was not sent a screener to review nor did I get my hands on an early copy. If I did, I wouldn't have watched it. I would have burned it in my backyard.

The flavor text on the Severin website states that SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN was “refused a rating” by the BBFC, a claim for which I can find no evidence. There's no mention of it on the BBFC website archives. It states that the “British tabloid press called for it to be banned among the furor of the Video Nasty witch hunts”. I can find no evidence for that claim either outside of a few articles written by attention seeking hacks. In fact, the “Video Nasty witch hunt” was all but gone by the time this film received a VHS release from Films Galore Ltd. in 1985. The next bit of text reads that “many of the children involved in its production were never seen nor heard from again”. I'm not surprised. They probably went into hiding to avoid the shame of it all.

The text on the website goes on to repeat the bullshit “based on a true story” nonsense that starts the film as if it were fact and not just bullshit nonsense. I suppose when you're dealing with such a loathsome and dull flick like this, you have to stretch the truth (if not outright lie) to get people to watch it. That's what Severin wants you to do, fork over an insultingly high cost of 20 dollars to watch someone's lousy home movie from 1983. And yes, for a film like this, 20 dollars is $19.99 too high a price to pay.  

SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN takes place at the Sullivan Children's Home, an orphanage staffed by two people, a man with questionable taste in sweaters named Maurice and his attractive friend Jenny, a woman with a clear aversion to bras. A young, mute girl named Elizabeth is left on their doorstep one Sunday morning. Though her outward appearance would lead you to believe that Elizabeth is just another child from a broken home, the young girl is actually a demonic little nightmare, possibly even the physical incarnation of the devil himself. Another visitor to the orphanage is Mick, a rock star whose childhood was spent living at the Home. Mick takes a shine to Jenny, much to the chagrin of Maurice. But that is of little concern to us. No, what we're interested in is how Elizabeth seems to be driving the other children to commit terrible acts of violence.

That's the set up of the film. Elizabeth is the devil, the children are her minions, and the adults are their targets. The final ten minutes of SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN are the only minutes worth watching. The kids, all armed with kitchen knives, stab and slice some adults to ribbons. If there truly was any real controversy in the British press, it was likely about those scenes. And truth be told, if this were any other film, those scenes would have been memorable. Watching kids commit a wholesale slaughter of adults often is a memorable experience. That's why the opening of CHILDREN OF THE CORN is better than everything else that follows it. 

You would expect, of course, for there to be a reversal of the violence at the end of the film. You might even wonder if it would go as far, if not further, than BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY. Alas, it doesn't. In the final five minutes, SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN suddenly becomes quite religious. The adults don't overcome Elizabeth through violence or sheer will. No, Jesus shows up and wags his finger at Elizabeth. Yes, that is literally what happens here. Jesus, complete with his crown of thorns (you would think he'd take that off), shows up and finger wags the antagonist to death.

I know, I know, that sounds great. You're probably thinking about pre-ordering the DVD right now, but wait, Dear Reader, because that is the only entertainment this film has to offer.

As previously mentioned, SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN is a shot on video horror film. It is also quite heavy on the dialogue. Those two things do not mix well. In some scenes, I could only make out every third or fourth line of dialogue. Then there were the long stretches of conversation, sometimes running for a full three minutes, where I couldn't make out a single word, let alone a complete sentence. There were times when characters would react to something happening off screen, but I couldn't hear what they were reacting to. The film devotes quite a bit of time to the burgeoning relationship of Jenny and Mick, but without subtitles, those scenes were total wastes of time.

And that's because SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN plays the same stupid game as virtually every other shot on video movie in existence. Because it's so goddamn cheap, it can't be atmospheric, and because it cannot be atmospheric, it feels the need to compensate by scoring every single fucking minute of the film. The score (if you can call it that) for this film drones over 99% of the film. Worse, it is twice as loud as the dialogue. The only time you'll be able to hear a character speak clearly is during the 30 seconds of silence between track looping. The most basic principle of sound in film is ignored here. What good is dialogue if you can't hear it?

Not that it would have made much of a difference. The entire film is a garbage fire. It was the brainchild of director Alan Briggs and screenwriter Meg Shanks, the latter being the owner and operator of a drama school in Britain, aka the production company behind this film. That should be enough to warn you off. The height of its acting is an unblinking, smiling child wearing eye liner. The height of its visual prowess involves a single stupid strobe light. I mean, it's a home movie, after all, confined largely to a single house. At one point, two characters are attacked by a desk and you can plainly see the person crouching beneath it as it moves. A character commits suicide by stabbing herself in the leg. Scenes don't conclude, they just end abruptly. When the film starts, there's an inter title telling us that the day of the week is “Sunday”, but there no further indications of time passing. Does the whole movie take place on Sunday? Clearly not, but if the film isn't going to play the RINGU game of counting down to some hazy mid-week end point, why bother telling us that it begins on a Sunday?

I could go on and on about the gaffs and the fuck ups and the inconsistencies and the illogic of the narrative, but why bother? I've said too much as it is. This is a home movie made by people who probably never intended it to be seen by the world. And now here we are with its digital home video release date looming while countless better REAL movies languish in VHS hell. There is no justice in the world, folks. It's all fucked. If there is a god, he's probably wagging his finger at us right now.

August 21, 2017

THE BLOB (1958) & THE BLOB (1988)

Something has crash landed in the woods outside a small Pennsylvania town. It isn't a space ship or some interplanetary probe. It's a meteorite, a small chunk of stone that just so happens to be filled with a sentient, viscous nightmare. In other words, a Blob. Its reign of terror begins simple enough, slowly devouring an old hermit. It then sloppily eats a nurse, then a doctor, then a mechanic before finally gobbling down a dozen or so late night moviegoers at the town cinema. Its ravenous appetite is limitless. Unfortunately, the only people aware of its presence are Steve and Jane, two teenage lovebirds unable to convince the townsfolk that their lives are in danger. 

THE BLOB fits nicely into the Red Scare sci-fi b-movie trend of the 1950s. The setting is small town America where the coppers are all stand-up guys and the kids are viewed as delinquents in need of stricter parental supervision. Everything looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. Introduced into this environment is the “outsider”, the Blob, an entity that doesn't just kill the hapless denizens of Bumblefuck, PA, but assimilates them. Every body it absorbs makes it larger, more indestructible and, to fit the “fear the Russians” allegory, every ounce of flesh consumed makes it more and more Red. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS played a more sophisticated game with its Red Scare paranoia, with alien pods that replace everyday Americans with mindless (Communist) clones, but the underlying threat in THE BLOB isn't that much different. The more it consumes, the more it grows. Each flag waving individual it devours only makes it a more dangerous, more complicated threat to handle.

Like other 1950s sci-fi flicks, THE BLOB isn't just a great bit of sociopolitical commentary, it's also a great bit of fun. It had a smaller budget than most films of its kind and one would imagine that budget would have constrained the imagination of its director, Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. The fact that the film is as impressive as it is visually is a minor miracle. The Blob of THE BLOB is not your typical 1950s sci-fi monster. It isn't humanoid in design. It couldn't be faked through miniatures or puppets. Today, the effects are as expected, not mind blowing or even very convincing, but the sheer level of ingenuity on display in the film is definitely worthy of respect. By choosing not to use your average, ordinary alien beastie in their film, Yeaworth, Jr. and Co. created a schlocky shocker that feels unique within the pantheon of Alien Invasion flicks.

Of course, THE BLOB is also well known for being the feature film debut of Steve McQueen. He delivers a fine performance in the film (though no one would ever confuse the 28 year old actor for a teenager), understated and immediately likeable. In fact, the entire film is well acted, well scored, well filmed and well directed. It's a thoroughly enjoyable flick, one completely deserving of its cult status. But I think the most remarkable thing about THE BLOB is how refreshing it feels to watch. 

There are no military men in THE BLOB. Not a single Army vehicle rolls into town to stop the menace. There's no cornball humor either, relying instead on subtle (and not so subtle) reversals of popular sci-fi tropes for its humor. It's also remarkably playful at times. I can imagine what it must have been like to sit in the glorious Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, PA, and watch the film play out. After all, the Colonial was the theater used for the famous scene of the Blob, massive and blood red, pouring from the projectionist booth into the auditorium, hungrily devouring every person it touches. It's a gag William Castle would have been envious of and it must have been quite the fright for the filmgoers catching a light night showing of the film.

At the climax, it isn't the military or a team of scientists that save the town from the great Red Scare. It's a collection of teenagers, cops, firefighters and other ordinary citizens. The only thing missing is a shot of Old Glory blowing in the breeze.

In 1988, Chuck Russell was brought aboard to helm a remake of THE BLOB by studio execs at TriStar. Russell had proven himself capable of helming large scale, effects driven films, even though he was still a newcomer to the director's chair. His previous film was his first, the mega money making A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS. He was a good choice and he turned in good work, but just like John Carpenter's re-imagining of Christian Nyby and Howard Hawk's THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, success was not in the cards for 1988's THE BLOB.

The remake begins by feeling an awful lot like the original. In fact, were it not for the hair styles sported by the cast, you might think this film was set in the 1950s. The boys all walk around in their varsity jackets with “gee golly” expressions on their faces. They're embarrassed to buy condoms in front of a priest and awkwardly meet their girlfriend's parents before going out on dates. They even go up to lookout point to neck and fool around. The film feels odd, especially for a sci-fi horror flick from the late 1980s. For the first third of the film, it feels drenched in the same quaint, quiet atmosphere of its forebear.

But the 1980s doesn't stay off the screen for long. While the film does follow the original almost beat for beat, the graphic violence that was the hallmark of 1980s horror shows up in full force once the Blob takes its first victim. And it doesn't let up. Thanks to advancements in special effects (and a nearly 19 million dollar budget, a massive increase from 110,000 spent on the original), the Blob of this THE BLOB is a much more terrifying beast. Yeaworth, Jr. was happy to give us a few glimpses of a man covered in slime from time to time, but Russell and his effects crew really put on a nasty show here. A man is pulled headfirst into a sink drain. A woman is crushed inside a telephone booth. A child is dissolved before our eyes. It's a wonderfully grotesque film with a monster that is far more proactive in its rampage, slinging tendrils through the air, slamming itself down on people running through the streets and even, in a scene that makes no logical sense, exploding out of the corpse of a young Erika Eleniak.

The graphic violence isn't the only bit of 1980s horror to worm its way inside the film. The cynicism that ran rampant through the decade is here in full force as well. Unlike the original, the Blob of this film isn't a space entity that accidentally crashed on Earth. It's a government experiment, a nasty bit of biological warfare that was shot into space because it was too dangerous to be kept on Earth. When it finally makes its return, the organism has been mutated by its time orbiting the planet. A group of military and government scientists show up, quarantine the town and go about trying to capture the Blob. Not for humanitarian reasons, of course. No, they want to use it again as a weapon. As a result, this small town with its small people is to be considered expendable.

Russell's THE BLOB feels a bit too angry at times, or at the very least, a bit too bitter. The inclusion of government conspiracies and military men willing to let men, women and children die horrible deaths to secure the Blob… I would be lying if I said that the 1988 version of the film is far less enjoyable than the original, at least on a narrative level. There was a charming simplicity to the original film and that simplicity is gone here. The government boys and military men show up too late in the film to ever feel like more than just another plot complication. 1980s horror was rife with anti-authoritarian sentiment, but I'm not sure I can ever fully equate government men with a sloppy ball of acidic slime. That's what the film wants me to do. It wants to me to think that there are not two monsters in the film, the government and the Blob. There's just one. Anything government related is monstrous.

The film even ends with a psychotic preacher holding a bit of the Blob hostage in a glass container, waiting for the moment when God instructs him to unleash it once again on the world. All authorities are corrupt, all institutions evil. This is par for the course with many 80s horror films and really, by turning the Blob into just another man-made monstrosity, that's ultimately what Russell's film becomes. Just a horror movie. The sci-fi elements go by the wayside and the humor largely goes with it. I do enjoy the 1988 version of THE BLOB. I think it's a gross, gooey, great time. I just don't think the underlying cynicism is earned. It feels forced and predictable, slapped on as an extra bit of edgy social commentary. The Red Scare allegory of the original worked because it felt organic. The remake is just angry for the sake of being angry.

While the original film went on to make a lot of money, Russell's film sank at the box office. Both films have since become cult classics and the reason for that lies squarely with their antagonists. The Blob of THE BLOB is a unique, semi-Lovecraftian nightmare, one of the most unique hostile lifeforms ever seen on screen. It wasn't just an oversized bug or a humanoid creature. It's something different, something not easily categorized. A giant, blood red, acidic amoeba with a bad case of the munchies, the Blob has lived on in popular culture for a damn good reason. It's too cool of a creature, too hideous and repulsive, to easily ignore. It sticks in your memory as easily as it sticks to tender flesh. And once it grabs hold, it's nigh impossible to remove. It sticks to your brain. Once seen, it isn't easily forgotten.

August 17, 2017


THE FINAL TERROR, a 1983 slasher film from future THE FUGITIVE director Andrew Davis, has all the hallmarks of your typical 80s slasher film. It features a group of horny men, all forest rangers, heading off to some remote part of the woods for some quality time with their weekend girlfriends. It gives us a possibly insane, often bullied, doomsaying weirdo in Eggar, a mechanic with every reason to want these people dead. We get the usual campfire story about an evil urban legend, in this case an insane woman roaming the woods, looking for fresh blood. We get a dilapidated cabin, complete with body parts in glass jars. For the first 50 minutes of this 82 minute movie, everything goes according to plan.

It's the last half hour or so of this film that sets it apart from other 1980s killer in the woods flicks. What makes THE FINAL TERROR worth seeing, what makes it memorable within the pantheon of lazy, xeroxed cash grabs, isn't what it does in accordance with the rules of the slasher film. It's what it doesn't do. Shortly after the killer bumps off what we would presume to be our lead characters, the film shifts in tone. It ceases to be a routine slasher and becomes more of a survivalist thriller. We leave the comfortable waters of JUST BEFORE DAWN and descend into the rapids of SOUTHERN COMFORT.

Our surviving characters choose a leader from their ranks, a Vietnam vet named Zorich. They smear their faces with mud and ditch their white shirts for more easily camouflaged browns and greens. They organize a raid on the rundown cabin in the woods, hoping to catch the killer off guard. They become proactive in their survival instead of waiting to die at the hands of a raving lunatic. There is no Final Girl in THE FINAL TERROR. There are no cops coming to the rescue. There is no long and drawn out climatic chase scene. Our characters become the hunters, the killer becomes the prey.

It's an interesting change of pace, to be sure, and the gorgeous forest scenery makes for a beautifully claustrophobic setting. Yes, the film ends with a moment of credulity shattering nonsense, the kind of action set piece you would see in some ludicrous 80s action flick, but for the majority of the last third, THE FINAL TERROR is a remarkably effective thriller, far more satisfying than the slasher bits that came before.

In terms of viscera, the film is sorely lacking. For sheer sexual gratuity, you would be better off looking elsewhere. I imagine for audiences in 1983, THE FINAL TERROR must have felt like a disappointing bit of bait and switch. It's generic title promises generic scares. The fact that the film has become a bit of a cult classic doesn't surprise me. The way it plays with slasher tropes and circumvents expectations makes it feel like a bit more unique than its contemporaries, even 34 years after the fact. It would be a gross exaggeration to claim that THE FINAL TERROR is a masterpiece of 1980s horror, but I think it's a film that should be seen by fans of the slasher film, if only to serve as an example of how little variation actually existed within the sub-genre back in the 1980s. It would have been easier for Davis and Co. to just make yet another simplistic, by the numbers slasher film. Hell, it probably would have made them more money. 

But THE FINAL TERROR decided to ditch orthodoxy for unconventionality. At the end of the day, the film might not be much more than a skillfully crafted bit of 1980s exploitation, but I thoroughly enjoyed its company over those 82 minutes. The fact that it's a generally well acted and oftentimes gorgeous film was just icing on the cake. There's pleasure to be had here, folks, and if you're the kind of person who adores the heyday of stalk and slash thrillers, you really do owe yourself the opportunity to experience just what can happen when a filmmaker throws out the rule book. THE FINAL TERROR is a curve ball of a slasher film and that, more than anything else, is reason enough to watch it.

August 12, 2017


A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL takes place in a small, quaint village in Spain, so inconsequential that it doesn't even have a police force. Somewhere near the center of the village sits an old hotel, owned and operated by two sisters, Marta and Veronica. The village feels like a place stuck in time, not too dissimilar from the town of Accendura in Lucio Fulci's DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING. Though there are a few young men roaming the streets, the women we see are mostly older, middle aged at best. Into this setting, several younger women are introduced, all products of the women's liberation movement. Their bare midriffs, outgoing nature and flirtatious personalities are all greatly appreciated by the men in the village. The women, however… That's a different story.

Marta in particular has no patience for these city women and their newfangled sexual liberties. She shows no hesitation in putting them in their place using all manner of implements from kitchen knives to axes. Marta believes her actions to be the result of “divine providence”, that she is to carry out “God's hand of justice”. While struggling a bit more with the consequences than her sister, Veronica enables her sister's “justice”, even helping her with the disposal of the bodies, a nasty bit of business that involves dismembering the corpses before dumping them in an unused vat of red wine in the cellar.

The arrival of Laura, a well mannered British woman, begins the downward spiral. She's in town to meet her sister, May, one of the many victims of the sisters. Though Marta insists that May skipped town, Laura is unconvinced. As more and more of the hotel guests, all of whom are younger women, begin to disappear, Laura starts to suspect that the sisters are up to no good.

If you're a fan of budget DVDs and VHS lots, chances are you've come by A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL once or twice in its butchered US form, IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN. While the title is far more appropriate, the treatment Eugenio Martin's 1973 shocker received in the US is a damn crime. Most of the quiet moments were removed, much of the dialogue shortened. Gone were many moments of religious symbolism, the emphasis placed instead on the film's multiple and oftentimes gruesome acts of violence. It may have helped a bit with the pace, but it definitely blunted the impact of the film.

A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL is a slow moving, character oriented film. There is no grand moment where everything falls apart, no tremendous display of explosive violence to cap it all off. The film is all crescendo with no bombast. The narrative doesn't build and descend quickly like a roller coaster. It slowly and methodically crumbles to pieces right alongside the lives of its characters. It is, shall we say, more than a little anti-climatic, but I feel that the quiet, almost melancholic ending feels appropriate. This is an understated film, through and through, and surprisingly so given its exploitation underpinnings.

The film touches a bit on ageism. Marta was left at the altar, her finance having run off with a younger woman. Veronica is having a love affair with Luis, a man half her age who sometimes works at the hotel. When Laura arrives to find her sister, Veronica forbids Luis to talk to her, worried that she too may be left behind for a younger woman. Marta, pumped full of religious fervor, still stops off to spy on Luis and some boys prancing around naked in stream. After gazing at the genitals of what appears to be a prepubescent boy, Marta walks through bristles, effectively scourging herself for her sin of lust. They are women who feel betrayed by their age, swept aside by the sexual revolution, slowly (if not already) made disposable by time.

This feeling of neglect and jealousy becomes mixed with fire and brimstone Catholicism creating a dangerous concoction. Again like Fulci's DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING, people are killed for the supposed sin of youthful sexuality. May must die because men look at her with lustful eyes. A visiting free spirited girl must be killed because she drinks and flirts with men. The only woman Marta shows kindness to is a mother traveling abroad with her infant child. When they first meet, the woman tells Marta that she is married, but a simple bit of harmless banter with a grocer comes back to bite her on the ass. Marta is told that the woman staying under her roof is looking for husband, not married to one. So she too must die. As the sisters clean up the mess, Veronica finds a letter written by the woman's husband. She was in fact married but unhappily so. Her child was not a bastard, as Marta feared, just an unfortunate party to a collapsing union between a man and a woman. No matter, Marta tells her sister. It doesn't matter if she was married. She was seeking a divorce. She was wishing for liberation. Moreover, she was young and Marta, her mind warped by both jealousy and religious fervor, views both as sin.

A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL is a film drowning in jealousy, repression and Catholic guilt. It is full of religious symbolism and reductive moralism. While it never becomes as pointed in its criticism of the strict religious mind set as DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING, the film never shies away from calling out hypocrisy when it sees it. It never makes heroes out of its murderous leads, nor does it ever once condone the homicidal fury they carry out. But A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL isn't really all that interested in moralizing or lecturing. There are no moments when a character looks at the camera and says “this is a perversion of moral thinking and theology”. It lets the characters act according to their natures and trusts us to form our own condemnations as the film goes along. It clearly has an opinion of its own, that's for damn sure, but I appreciated the film never grand standing or screaming that opinion in my face. I could just sit back and watch these characters destroy themselves under the weight of their own poisonous and misguided attitudes.

Visually, the film is a treat, but the oftentimes free form nature of the narrative does make the film drag a bit, especially in the second act. Top billed star Judy Geeson feels superfluous, because even though Laura does eventually get around to snooping and talking with the police, it isn't her investigation that brings the sisters down. It's a simple (but grotesque) oversight that does that. Her character brings little to the film, except maybe a bit of overseas marketability. But that is all that I can find wrong with the film. For all its seriousness, there is a bit of black comedy to be found here and more than enough moments of delicious irony (much of the on-screen nudity is provided by our morally righteous antagonists). It's pleasant in its unpleasantness, a nice tall glass of exploitation goodness that I can't recommend highly enough.

August 9, 2017


Robert Kirk's 1988 slasher film DESTROYER is equal parts PRISON and RETURN TO HORROR HIGH. It's a simple little tale. A film company is currently shooting their sleazy women in prison flick, Death House Dolls, in an abandoned penitentiary. Although everything looks pristine, the old jailhouse was the site of a riot, 1,000+ prisoners strong, only 18 months prior, a riot that occurred on the night serial rapist and murderer Ivan Moser was sentenced to die. Thanks to a faulty bit of wiring, the electric chair Moser was strapped into caused a blackout, locking the coppers and the prison staff in with the frenzied inmates. When the lights finally came on and the riot was contained, Moser's body was nowhere to be found.

We meet our bevy of stereotypical characters. Robert Edwards, the suffering director, and Sharon Fox, the bitter diva actress who pines for the earlier days of her career. There's Rewire, the hippie technician charged with pulling off the special effects, and Russell, the night watchman left in charge of the prison. Our leads are David, the screenwriter of the film, and Susan, his stunt woman girlfriend. As the film goes on and more and more people go missing, Susan begins to see messages scrawled in blood on the walls, all directed towards her. Whoever is behind the killings has a serious fixation on our stunt woman lead, a fixation that places David directly in harm's way.

And this is where the problems with DESTROYER begin. The film opens with Moser's execution and the beginning of the riot. After somehow surviving 200+ volts to the brain, Moser, a hulking wad of bug eyes and muscle, breaks out of his restraints, attacking the guards in the room, one of whom is revealed to be Susan. This is, of course, nothing more than a nightmare sequence, but it also seems to indicate some kind of connection, psychic or otherwise, between Moser and Susan. As the film progresses and the bloody messages begin to appear, this subtle psychic insinuation becomes more and more explicit, right down to the messages disappearing whenever Susan calls someone over to witness them. The film feels like it's building to some grand reveal, that maybe Susan and Moser share a past and that by killing Moser, his spirit is somehow free to assault her from beyond the grave.

But no, that isn't what the film is doing at all. Turns out, Moser isn't dead. He's simply been living in the prison for the past 18 months, helped and cared for by a secret accomplice, someone involved with the filming. So why exactly does the film ladle on the supernaturalism? Why exactly is Moser targeting Susan through all of this? As I've said, the film goes through a lot to establish some kind of unexplained connection between the two characters. It's a little bit frustrating that nothing ever comes of it, making much of the first half feel like little more than a lazy bit of bait-and-switch.

There are other unexplored or under explained bits of plot here too, like why the old warden of the prison feels threatened by David investigating the riot. Hell, even the riot itself is a bit confusing. 1,000 plus prisoners rampaged through the place, apparently causing enough damage and loss of life that they were… what? Transferred to another prison? Why? The place looks pretty much spotless, easily the most livable abandoned building in the history of abandoned buildings. The way the old warden reacts to David's questions about the riot and the way the townsfolk speak in hushed tones about the violence… Again, the film seems to promise something more, something a bit less natural than simple inmate violence, and again, it fails to ever deliver on that promise.

But enough about what DESTROYER doesn't do. What about the stuff that it does do? How does that turn out?

Well, believe it or not, DESTROYER is actually rather fun once it settles down into familiar slasher territory. Unfortunately, it requires quite a bit of patience on your part to get there. The film is virtually slasher trope free for the first 45 minutes. Thankfully, watching a sardonic Anthony Perkins direct a squawking Lannie Garrett makes the wait less torturous. The filmmaking sequences in the film are all great fun to watch, especially the scenes dealing with special effects, like the one in which an important stand-in mannequin accidentally melts when Rewire can't turn off the juice to the electric chair. Scenes like that highlight the aggravation and mishaps that come with independent, low budget filmmaking. As someone who has engaged in that sort of thing in the past, I found the filmmaking scenes in DESTROYER strangely cathartic, maybe even a little bit nostalgic.

As for the slasher film stuff, watching ex-NFL defensive end Lyle Alzado, smash, bludgeon and manhandle people is surprisingly fun. Alzado's performance as Moser is pretty damn far from subtle. There's a bit of Freddy in his performance, all one liners and exaggerated threats, and while I generally prefer my slasher villains to be a bit more on the serious side of the spectrum, Alzado's hyperbolic acting fits well within the cheesy world of the film. The violence is a major letdown though. I don't know whose decision it was to have the massacre of a handful of naked women take place off screen, but that person clearly doesn't know their audience very well. The bodies of those actresses are never found either. We don't see the execution or the aftermath. That should have been a set piece on the level of THE BURNING raft massacre. Instead, we only hear the sound recording of the killings, captured by the sound engineer's boom mic. Kind of a bummer.

But DESTROYER does go out with a bang (literally) and doesn't leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth, more than can be said for other cheap-o slasher movies made in the late 1980s. This isn't a groundbreaking work of art or even a particularly great horror movie. It's a pleasant diversion and a fun enough way to spend 90 minutes. If all you want is a decent time waster, DESTROYER won't disappoint, even if it will cause you moments of severe frustration along the way. I suppose that's the highest praise one can give a slasher film from the late 1980s.