September 19, 2017


Here we go again, folks. October is just around the corner and as tradition mandates, that means another 31 Days of Horror Blog-a-Thon is about to kick off. Last year, I looked at Hammer horror, a batch of "classics" from Full Moon Entertainment, and an assortment of tales of madness and mayhem. This year, I'll be reviewing films spread across five unique themes, including (almost) the entire horror output from two cult directors. So keep on scrolling down. Feast your eyes on this year's ghoulish offerings.


Oct. 1 – BLOOD DINER (Dir: Jackie Kong; 1987)
Oct. 2 – THE GATE (Dir: Tibor Takacs; 1987)
Oct. 3 – DEAD & BURIED (Dir: Gary Sherman; 1981)
Oct. 4 – SLAUGHTER HIGH (Dir: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Peter Litten; 1986)
Oct. 5 – THE UNHOLY (Dir: Camilo Vila; 1988)
Oct. 6 – THE MAJORETTES (Dir: Bill Hinzman; 1987)
Oct. 7 – WAXWORK (Dir: Anthony Hickox; 1988)


Oct. 8 – FORCED ENTRY (Dir: Shaun Costello; 1973)
Oct. 9 – NECROMANIA (Dir: Ed Wood Jr.; 1971)
Oct. 10 – APOCALIPSIS SEXUAL (Dir: Carlos Aured, Sergio Bergonzelli; 1982)
Oct. 11 – PORNO HOLOCAUST (Dir: Joe D'Amato; 1981)
Oct. 12 – BABY ROSEMARY (Dir: John Hayes; 1976)
Oct. 13 – SATAN'S BABY DOLL (Dir: Mario Bianchi; 1982)
Oct. 14 – SEX WISH (Dir: Victor Milt; 1976)



Oct. 15 – BLOOD FEAST (Dir: Herschell Gordon Lewis; 1963)
Oct. 16 – TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (Dir: Herschell Gordon Lewis; 1964)
Oct. 17 – COLOR ME BLOOD RED (Dir: Herschell Gordon Lewis; 1965)
Oct. 18 – THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (Dir: Herschell Gordon Lewis; 1967)
Oct. 19 – A TASTE OF BLOOD (Dir: Herschell Gordon Lewis; 1967)
Oct. 20 – THE WIZARD OF GORE (Dir: Herschell Gordon Lewis; 1970)
Oct. 21 – THE GORE GORE GIRLS (Dir: Herschell Gordon Lewis; 1972)


Oct. 22 – NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (Dir: Fred Dekker; 1986)
Oct. 23 – THE BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (Dir: Piers Haggard; 1970)
Oct. 24 – MICROWAVE MASSACRE (Dir: Wayne Berwick; 1983)
Oct. 25 – THE VISITOR (Dir: Giulio Paradisi; 1979)
Oct. 26 – NIGHT OF THE COMET (Dir: Thom Eberhardt; 1984)
Oct. 27 – SLUGS (Dir: Juan Piquer Simon; 1988)
Oct. 28 – THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE (Dir: Terry Lofton; 1985)


Oct. 29 – THE EVICTORS (Dir: Charles B. Pierce; 1979)
Oct. 30 – THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (Dir: Charles B. Pierce; 1976)

The work fun kicks off starts Sunday, October 1st. There might not be a review between now and then. September is always a busy non-internet month for me and I have plenty of shit to get done before October rolls around. So if we don't talk between now and then, take care of yourself and stay safe. See you in a week or two. Love you. Get off my lawn.

September 17, 2017


Larry Thomas' 1986 sci-fi horror flick MUTILATIONS exists somewhere between THE GALAXY INVADER and EQUINOX. It begins with a 3 minute credit sequence of stock space photography and Casio music before introducing us to our characters, all of whom played by actors clearly reading their lines off of cue cards. The dialogue is forced and unnatural. It sounds like someone reading from a Wikipedia article. For example, after one of his students remarks that people look at him funny when he mentions aliens, Professor McFarland, our brave and learned hero, opines: 

PROFESSOR: “Roger, people react that way one, because they're ignorant and two, because many are frightened of the possibility that intelligent life may exist.” 

That leads to the following exchange. 

FEMALE STUDENT: “But NASA has made it more acceptable in popular thinking by sending out space probes to prove or disprove the existence of life on other planets in our own solar system.”

PROFESSOR: “And there is a group in Washington known as SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence that's conducting all sorts of reports into and investigations of UFO incidents and the possible communication of radio telescopes.” 

MALE STUDENT: “But didn't the US Air Force just begins receiving UF reports in 1947?”

*** NOTE: And yes, that is a 100% accurate transcription. I didn't fuck up. They did. ***

And on and on it goes for several minutes, offering up all the exposition it deems necessary in an attempt to make its slim plot seem credible. It soon becomes apparent that even though we are inside an astronomy classroom, scientific rigor isn't the Professor's strong suit. We hear all about ancient aliens, weird luminous lights in the night skies and cattle mutilations. All this talk of little green men prompts the Professor and his class to take a field trip to a place called Berry Hill, a farming town beset by alleged extra terrestrial hooligans.

Once our crew arrives in Berry Hill, MUTILATIONS stops being a slow and disastrous mess of a sci-fi flick and becomes… well, it never stops being disastrous, but it does become a hell of a lot of fun. Even more surprisingly, it becomes quite impressive. Unlike the Galaxy Invaders of Don Dohler, the aliens in MUTILATIONS are largely presented as giant stop motion animated beasties (with the occasional use of puppetry). It's DIY Harryhausen stuff and while it certainly isn't convincing, I was impressed by how much effort Thomas and Co. put into the man vs. alien battle scenes. Most filmmakers on a micro budget would have just thrown together a cheap costume for their creatures and called it a day.

I'm of the opinion that a bad practical effect will always be infinitely better than a bad digital effect, if only because that bad practical effect existed in reality. Someone had to make the appliance, glue it down, put paint all over it, etc. Someone had to build the spacecraft, design the model, manipulate it on camera, etc. There's a charm to practical special effects, especially the less than stellar kind. I love 1950s sci-fi B movies with their obvious plastic flying saucers and rubber suit aliens. I love it when I can see the zipper, although I love it even more when I can't. Digital effects will never have that charm. These days, you can create massive space battles or epic war scenes with thousands and thousands of ships, planes, orcs, humans, aliens, whatever the hell you want with computers. The only limiting factor it seems is the imagination of the filmmakers and the patience of the people doing the programming. But while digital effects can be stunning, transformative and even transcendent bits of movie magic… there's nothing really there.

That's why watching a rubber suit monster feels different than watching a CGI creation. One is actually on screen, actually walking through sets, actually existing. The other is just polygons and meshes and textures. So when MUTILATIONS starts throwing plastic spacecraft at the house our heroes are currently hiding in, I smiled like an idiot. When Professor McFarland faced off against a stop motion alien monster (in poorly composited fashion, no less), I was giddy with nerdy joy. There's a terrific scene where an alien punches through a woman's back, it's scaly claw like hand erupting from her stomach. Instead of pulling the woman free, the Professor proceeds to cut the alien's arm off at the elbow. THEN they pull the appendage from the woman's stomach. It's corny, not very well executed and all around fucking great.

The final act of the film happens in tunnels that resemble, probably not coincidentally, the sets from PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. All the lighting becomes gelled, just blues, pinks and reds. The camera work become hyperactive, real Raimi-esque with sharp whips and pans punctuated by unexpected close-ups. I stopped caring about the crappy dialogue and crappier performances. I didn't care that they didn't just buy a mouse from a pet shop and instead used an oversized stuffed rat from a toy store. I didn't care anymore that the film was cheap and sloppy.

More effort went into making MUTILATIONS than probably went into making half of all slasher films. You can tell that the people making this film gave a shit about it and were actually trying to produce something worthy of an audience. This film would never win any awards. It won't be mentioned in the same breath as ALIEN or THE THING. Well, fuck accolades. This movie has heart and a mountain of low budget charm. The effects work might not be Hollywood caliber, but it is certainly far more ambitious than what you would normally see in a super low budget sci-fi B flick from the 1980s. It's a shame that Larry Thomas never made another film (hell, most people involved with MUTILATIONS never worked again on a film). This was a damn good start. He could have been a cult favorite by now.

September 14, 2017


MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS, a 1973 joint effort from writer/directors Alex Stevens and Chester Fox, wears many hats. On the surface, it's a simplistic, largely anti-climatic, detective story involving two hard-nosed cops (both of whom have soft spots for hookers massage parlor workers) on the trail of a serial killer. Visually, the film is a proto-slasher, replete with POV shots, gloved hands carrying out violent acts, and lingering shots of nude and butchered female flesh.

It's also downright brilliant in the way it fucks with your expectations. With a title like MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS (previously known as MASSAGE PARLOR HOOKERS), you would expect the film to be more or less dripping with sleaze. But while the film is certainly far from puritanical, it isn't as deviant as you would expect. Stevens and Fox seem to be having a good time devising ways to frustrate their male audience. The film begins with your standard porno set-up, with an attractive, sexually aggressive woman subtly manipulating/seducing a soft spoken guy. As she strips off more and more of her clothing, we brace ourselves for the inevitable vicarious pleasures of dirty 1970s low budget sex. But nothing ever comes of it. The man gets cold feet, apologizes profusely for wasting the girl's time and leaves. Cue the opening credits.

This is how most of the film plays out. What little sex there is in the film is kept largely off screen. When we finally do get to indulge our voyeurism, Stevens and Fox give us ridiculous fetish porn instead of good old fashioned banging. They know we want to see two attractive people going at it. What they give us instead is a bizarre bit of amateur ballet theater, just two barely dressed people dancing clumsily in a room. Even a naked pool party is reduced down to absurdist, anti-sexual nonsense here.

And if we move away from the weird sex stuff, we don't get any closer to normality. The naked pool party gives way to a car chase that seems to all be happening in the same 30 foot stretch of New York City. As tradition dictates, a produce stand needs to be destroyed in the chase. As the filmmakers clearly couldn't afford a permit to shoot in the busy streets, that produce stand mysteriously appears in a truck depot right off the filthiest pier in all of New York. Late in the film, our two coppers, O'Mara and Rizotti, pay a visit to a New Age German quack, an older man that we meet mid-soliloquy, just a weirdo whining about how his sleeping pills are messing with his horoscope.

Even our cop leads feel out of place in the world, like transplants from some alternate reality. Rizotti is so hyper-masculine and prone to violent assault that he feels like a cartoon. O'Mara is a hapless dolt whose faulty intuition somehow always turns out to be a net positive, the exact opposite of how that shit would work in real life. Only the women are treated with any kind of realistic touch. They're the tether that keeps this dumb fucking balloon from floating away.

Unfortunately for those women, they're taking part in the only bit of the film not written to be absurdist or just plain laughable. The slasher bit.

There's nothing funny at all about the violence meted out towards women in this film. The special make-up effects are certainly not anything to write home about and more often than not, the actresses playing corpses still breathe and blink like everyone else, but because the violence is treated very matter-of-factly, it hits a hell of a lot harder than you would expect it to. Everything else about the film is either strange, unintentionally funny, or highly hyperbolic. But the murder scenes… The tone is serious and the impact is undeniable because of it.

The violence towards women defines the serious side of the film. Even though we have a supporting female lead (played by Sandra Cassell of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT fame), her entire purpose in the film is to die, to spur her lover into action, to serve as the final straw. The film uses its female characters as victims and objects, playthings that will eventually get broken by someone, usually a man. Both Rizotti and O'Mara fall in love with hookers massage parlor workers and both of those hookers massage parlor workers end up dead. Do they mourn the loss of their lovers? Not really. They're both just angry that they didn't do their jobs well enough to catch the killer in time. Showing emotion over the loss of their lovers would break the film.

It's a strange (I feel like I've said that 1,000 times by now) angle for the film to play, but it largely works as a self reflective bit of genre filmmaking. The men in the film all act like they're playing some kind of game. The masculine men are hyper-masculine. The weirdos and the sex pests are dialed up to 11. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad, man's world, bathed in male lust and manly heroism, testosterone screaming through it's veins. The fact that this world is built on the bodies of women, bloodied and broken, used and neglected… Well, let's not dwell on that too much. It might ruin the fantasy. And yes, the film does often frustrate both the men trapped inside of it and the men sitting in the audience, but it more than makes up for those frustrations by punishing their source. The women.

Or maybe I'm thinking too much here. Maybe this isn't a slice of meta-exploitation. Maybe it's just a cheap, lousy thriller. Maybe.

But I
honestly don't believe that. The film works too well as a kind of critical self aware bit of exploitation. That can't be a mistake. It can't be.