Friday, October 24, 2014

Shrunken Heads (1994)

Director: Richard Elfman

Writers: Charles Band, Matthew Bright

Composer: Danny Elfman (theme only), Richard Band

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They're superheroes from the their necks.

Plot: When three N.Y. kids are murdered, the local Hatiian voodoo priest re-animates their shrunken heads to exact revenge. Complications arise between one of the heads and his former girlfriend.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I guess I'm glad I watched it.  The big reason I did was because it was directed by Richard FORBIDDEN ZONE (1980) Elfman (brother of composer and Oingo Boingo god, Danny).  There's A LOT of setup before you get to the shrunken head action.  It's an odd film but it is kinda fun.  The kids look like they're out of a 50s juvenile delinquent picture and the score apes WEST SIDE STORY () which is hilarious.  It's obviously shot on a studio backlot but it moves quickly and it's not boring.  You may be put off (like I was) by the ridiculously broad characters that are meant to bring the funny but don't because it's so over the top.  The big selling point of course is the shrunken heads and their killing rampage.  It's not too gory and the effects are cheap even for twenty years ago but that's not necessarily a detriment to the picture.  It's playful and it's geared toward a younger audience.  My forty-something crowd saw it for the cheesefest it was.  The dialogue is pretty bad.  If you want to make a drinking game out of taking a shot after any character says another character's name then you'll be hammered in seconds.  That's right, seconds.  Incredible, you say?  Watch the movie and find out for yourself.  It's amazing how many times two people, alone, in conversation mention the other person's name.  Who the fuck does that in real life?  It reminded me of THE EDGE (1997) and how insane it was to hear Alec Baldwin say "Charles" a gazillion times.  There used to be a video out there of it but I can't find it. Life is hard.

Race with the Devil (1975)

Director: Jack Starrett

Writers: Lee Frost, Wes Bishop

Composer: Leonard Rosenman

Starring: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker, R.G. Armstrong, Clay Tanner, Carol Blodgett, Phil Hoover, Ricci Ware, Jack Starrett

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Peter Fonda and Warren Oates are burning their bridges and a lot of rubber... on the deadliest stretch of road in the country!

Plot: Two couples vacationing together in an R.V. from Texas to Colorado are terrorized after they witness a murder during a Satanic ritual.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

HOKEY SMOKE, BULLWINKLE!  What a fantastic flick!  I loved it!  Hell, all of us watching it did.  The less said, the better.  Hell, don't even watch the trailer.  Read the plot outline and watch it.  It'll keep you guessing until the end and the finale will blow your mind.  Starrett (who you'll see pop up in a lot of early biker flicks) crafted one hell of a great ride.  The performances are solid but it's the writing and the direction that elevate this beyond what a film like this would normally be.  The Anchor Bay DVD looks fantastic and it's got some great extras including an 18 minute making of, a commentary track with producer Paul Maslansky, actress Lara Parker and DVD producer Perry Martin, the anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer, radio spots, poster & still gallery, behind the scenes photo gallery and trailers for THE ENTITY (anamorphic widescreen), QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY and GHOST IN THE MACHINE (both fullscreen).  This is a great flick and a great release. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Director: Charles B. Pierce

Writer: Earl E. Smith

Composer: Jaime Mendoza-Nava

Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem, Jim Citty, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Aquino, Cindy Butler, Christine Ellsworth, Earl E. Smith, Steve Lyons, Joe Catalanotto, Roy Lee Brown

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Not Everyone Who Comes to This Lover's Lane Has the Same Thing on Their Mind.

Plot: A Texas Ranger hunts for a hooded serial killer terrorizing the residents of a small town, set in 1946 Arkansas. Loosely based on a true story.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

I've got to say that I would love to see this in a drive-in theater. It's ideal and not only because of the nature of the horror aspect with the killings but because it's centered in and around (and filmed on location) Texarkana, Texas and the outdoorsyness of it all looks like it'd be fun watching outdoors.  I really dig the acting. There seem to be a lot of people who either aren't actors or have little feature credit.  That works great in selling this docudrama.  Ben Johnson isn't doing anything different than he's done before but he brings a lot of gravitas to the production.  He's not too far from playing the same character he did in DILLINGER (1973) but a little lighter and with more fun.  Speaking of fun, Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) is fantastic. I need to check out more of her pictures because she really blew me away with how she handled her part.  It was completely believable. Prine is good, too.  I don't want to leave him out or he'll come kick my ass with that awesome Texas accent.  The one big issue I have with this is the silly slapstick comedy crap that's all from the director who plays Patrolman Benson, the cop who drives Johnson and Prine around.  Benson isn't the brightest bulb on the tree and the stupid shit he does makes you want to cringe.  It's completely uncalled for.  It's like director Pierce wanted to also make this a hybrid drive-in horror and rednexploitatoin picture.  The horror and police procedural aspect is great and the broad comedy really hurts the film.  If you're familiar with the true story (I wasn't) then you'll dig the ending.  I did.  No spoilers here but it satisfies both the ending of the real events and movie making.  I really dug this picture and I can see slapping this in one night on my backyard screen.  I wish I had done it last night. 

My Sweet Satan (1994)

Director: Jim Van Bebber

Writer: Jim Van Bebber

Composer: ???

Starring: Jim Van Bebber, Terek Puckett, Alydra Kelly, Sherri Rickman, Tamara Bell, Michael Capone, Pete Ludlow, Mike Moore, Gregory Charles

More info: IMDb

Plot: Ricky Kasslin hangs himself in prison. Flashbacks and discussions with friends trace his degeneracy into drugs and Satan worship that culminates in the crime that put him behind bars.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

After watching Van Bebber's short film he made back to back with this one, ROADKILL: THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN MARTIN (which I really dug), I was excited to see this one which runs about 19 minutes.  It's a vastly different horror short with only a little gore and more story.  It's more of a crime horror as it focuses on a young man who pays for his crimes after his stint dabbling in Satanism and the killing of a young follower.  He's ridden with guilt and punishes himself while in jail.  It's not all that bad.  You can tell it's a low budget flick but there are moments of quality that may surprise you.  The voice work could be better but this isn't coming from a studio so I can forgive pictures like this and overlook its shortcomings.  Tonight I'm going to watch one of his few features, THE MANSON FAMILY (2003).  I hope it's good. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ganja & Hess (1973)

Director: Bill Gunn

Writer: Bill Gunn

Composer: Sam Waymon

Starring: Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam Waymon, Leonard Jackson, Candece Tarpley, Richard Harrow, John Hoffmeister, Betty Barney, Mabel King, Betsy Thurman, Enrico Fales, Tommy Lane, Tara Fields

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Devil wanted their souls...She wanted their bodies and more!

Plot: Dr. Hess Green, an archaeologist overseeing an excavation at the ancient civilization of Myrthia, is stabbed by his research assistant, who then commits suicide. When Hess wakes up, he finds that his wounds have healed, but he now has an insatiable thirst for blood, due to the knife carrying ancient germs. Soon after, Hess meets his former assistant's wife, Ganja. Though Ganja is initially concerned about her missing husband, she soon falls for Hess. Though they are initially happy together, Ganja will eventually learn the truth about Hess, and about her husband. Will she survive the revelation? Will Hess?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I don't know.  See the newspaper advertising below?  Don't dare go into this expecting anything as exciting as that.  It's just not that kind of horror film.  It's slowly paced (which works), it's got nice visuals but it's more of a meditative kind of easy going horror drama.  Does it work? I'm not sure how well.  I think it'd take another viewing or two to really soak it all in before I can really say how much I liked it.  I'd like to believe I'd dig it more after another viewing but there are thousands of films I haven't seen and life is too short so that's probably not going to happen.  The acting is quite good.  A lot of the performances feel like you're a fly on the wall and you're hearing real life conversations.  I don't know if there was any improvisation with the script but it works nicely.  Watch the YouTube clip above and that'll give you an idea of what you're getting into before you decide to take the plunge. It's not a bad film but I can't exactly say for certain that it's a great one.  At least not yet. 

Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994)

Director: Jim Van Bebber

Writer: Mark Gillespie, Jim Van Bebber

Composer: ???

Starring: Mark Gillespie, Marc Pitman, Maureen Allisse

More info: IMDb

Plot: A John offers a couple with a broken-down car a ride to the nearest gas station, little do they know he's actually taking them back to his place for dinner.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

This is a short 15 minute gruesome film about a sick fuck who eats dead animals raw...

picks up a couple stranded on the highway, takes them back to his bachelor flat...

and kills them. 

There's not much story than that and it's all about blood, guts, killin' and nudity.  It's pretty fuckin' great and it's shot on 16 mm, looking like something made at least twenty years earlier.   The entire film is on YouTube (above).  This would be a fun short to play for a Halloween party between movies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994)

Director: Ted Nicolaou

Writer: Ted Nicolaou

Composers: Richard Kosinski, William Levine, Michael Portis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Love Bleeds

Plot: Still in the thrall of the evil vampire Radu, Michelle yearns to be taught the skills of the vampire. Meanwhile, her sister Becky tries to free her from his evil clutches, and this time, she's brought some help.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Since this was filmed back to back with the second film, it's pretty much more of the same except it's duller.  One thing I didn't cover in that review was that the acting by the two baddies, Radu (Hove) and his mother, Mummy (Gordon), is over the top but not so much that it ruins the picture.  That's a style choice that I don't dig where the grotesque, once-human, creatures have to behave all twisty and gruesome and their speech is filled with hisses, lots of air and the exaggerated facial expressions.  Even when Radu is talking one on one with his woman he's like that even if it is toned down for that scene just a little.  I can't stand it.  Wouldn't it be nice if the head vampire was more articulate (you can still have them look nasty and falling apart) instead of a gassy monster?  There's barely any stop motion animation (the first two films had a lot more) and the little subspecies  dudes on the fucking poster only show up at the end for mere seconds as if to get all in your face with it to remind you that they didn't forget about a big reason why you watched this to begin with.  Well, at least that's a reason why I watched it and I was very disappointed they were all but absent from the film.  Oh, and the music is a mixed bag.  The synth stuff is forgettable but the Romanian folk-influenced stuff was great.  The Full Moon DVD sports a fullscreen transfer with the only extra being a 7 minute behind the scenes making of featurette. If you saw the one for the second film it's just more of the same as this was filmed alongside the other.  You're really not getting much more from this one. I know there's another sequel but I'm done with this franchise.  I really want to see that badass little fuckers wreaking havoc in Romania.  I guess I'll have to sleep-induce that dream.