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Blair Witch

An OK rehash... but it won't make you forget the first.
I still very vividly remember seeing the original with friends back in '99 as a teenager. We were at one of those outdoor shopping malls. It was summer, very hot and very bright out and we were worn out from walking around in the heat for hours. Seemed like the best thing to do was sit back and relax in a dark, air conditioned movie theater for a few hours, right? This happened to be our choice that day and I don't think any of us really expected what hit us. We all left the theater a bit rattled and I think I can say the same for everyone else watching it in the packed theater that day. I'd never exited a theater to so much universal silence before in my life.

I remember my girlfriend's sister later asking "That wasn't REAL, was it?" "Of course not!" I said back. However, it truly did feel real, or like it could be real. It was completely different than anything else we'd ever seen before. The film was novel in execution; being told entirely from the POV of its protagonists and their cameras, but it was also completely different in tone. It dared being deadly serious at a time when jokey Scream clones / parodies were ruling the box office. But this one rightfully ended up beating them all in revenue.

So after about 10,000 found footage copycats, here we are nearly twenty years later with a new one for a new generation. Even though this is technically a sequel, it doesn't so much feel like one as it does a less creative, less effective remake. It doesn't benefit from novelty value since most of us have been down this same path countless times before. It doesn't have a brilliant internet ad campaign. It doesn't have that same gritty, homemade, raw feel to it, though they do try. It doesn't seem new, fresh or different because, well, it's not new, fresh or different. And needless to say it didn't give me the same memorable experience the original did. That may be asking too much of it, but it didn't really add anything all that interesting to the Blair Witch mythology either.

There's a very minimalist set-up about James (James Allen McCune) hoping to find out what happened to his missing sister (the Heather character from the original). The fact he thinks there's a possibility she may still be hanging out in the woods two decades later is almost too ridiculous for words but I'll just leave that one alone. James talks his pseudo-girlfriend Lisa (Callie Hernandez) and their friends Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott) into going with him to Burkittsville, Maryland to investigate. Curious locals Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), who claim to know a little about the forest they'll be going to, join them. They hike for a few miles, set up their camp and then a bunch of strange / freaky things begin happening.

This is all updated to the times, with characters using GPS, tablets, cell phones and all kinds of different, fancy cameras, including an aerial one that lifts off the ground like a helicopter and can give them a view of the forest from high up. Other than that aspect and a few other minor alterations (like a nasty foot infection), this hits most of the same notes as the first. There are strange, faint noises / moans / screams and snapping branches at night, strange symbols fashioned from branches and rope hanging from trees, the witch's old creepy house, the standing in the corner, etc. Visually, there's constant disorienting, jerky camera-work and intentionally bad editing from where it's supposedly been pieced together later from footage someone had found.

Unlike with the original, we actually do get a few glimpses of the witch. She's tall, skinny, naked and has stretched out arms and legs from being strung up in a tree with rocks tied to her arms and legs long ago when townsfolk left her there to die. Even though I much preferred the approach of never seeing the witch, it's actually done fairly responsibly here. She's never seen for more than a flash and some of these moments are actually quite effective. The acting is decent enough (the lead male is strangely the worst of the bunch) and this also builds up to some wonderfully tense / scary moments in the final thirty minutes.

What takes the entire film down a few notches is the first half, which is less about making the creepy forest atmosphere feel ominous and threatening and more about setting up one false alarm "scare" after another. That quickly begins wearing thin and one gets the impression they're just killing time to get to the better material at the end. This also is heavily reliant on an often gratingly loud sound design to try to generate cheap jump scares.

The Big Snatch

It Came from the Gutter
Young Rene (Ginnie Kindall) is kidnapped off a playground swing set. Right after flying into town, lesbian Lillian (Tracy Handfuss) is forced at gun point into the back of a truck. Housewife Colette ("Barbara Que" / Uschi Digard) is out watering the lawn in broad daylight when she gets swiped right off her front yard. Innocent 18-year-old virgin Bernice ("Rita Book" / Peggy Church) is snacking on Lays (foreshadowing?) chips when she's snatched off the street. And finally, leggy blonde party girl Pamela ("Nancy Nice" / Jane Tsentas) is abducted immediately after leaving a bar. All five girls don't know it yet but they've all fallen into the clutches of whiny long-haired perv Bart.

Bart, who's played by the butt ugly "Harry Chest" and incidentally has no hair on his chest, drives them out miles into the desert to his remote home and then gives them the scoop on what's going on. They're to be his sex slaves and obey his every wish. They're to call him "master" while he calls them "pig." They'll eat... when and if he wants them to. They're to stick to a strenuous exercise routine to keep in good shape. If any of them try to escape they've been warned that the grounds are surrounded by trained, savage dogs who will eat them alive. And if they disobey or are caught doing something they aren't supposed to do, the other girls will have to whip the disobedient one.

Bart is assisted by his bigger and perhaps even uglier mute sidekick Momo (played by Momo), who carries around a piece of hose to whip the girls with. Bart even bosses poor Momo around and refuses to let any of the girls have sex with him, causing the frustrated Momo to try to rape whatever girl he can get his hands on. Because he found Pamela at a nightclub and she's wearing a short skirt, Bart decides to "rape" her first but she goes along with it simply because she'll do anything to survive. The girls are then taken to a drained out swimming pool and are forced to do in-place jogging, push ups, leg lifts and topless toe touches. One girl is forced to get on all fours and is used as a step stool. While Bart is having his way with Colette, the lesbian takes the virgin out into the brush and helps her "relax" by rubbing her shoulders and then going down on her. When it's time for the virgin to give it up, she refuses so Bart has her tied to a running truck motor to "steam your clam open" so that he'll have "one well-basted bird."

After being raped, beaten and tortured for nearly an hour, the girls finally decide they've had enough and plot their revenge. One of the girls seduces Momo, the others hold him down and then castrate him with a pair of vise grip pliers (!) They then manage to get the upper hand on Bart and decide to give him a taste of his own medicine by forcing him to go through everything they went through. He gets his dick squeezed with the pliers, is forced to dance and exercise naked and is then beat with the hose. for an encore the girls decide to "sock it to him night and day nonstop" (i.e. screw him) until he's dead. I've got to admit, I've never seen a man gang raped to death by five women before. Now I have. Thank you Big Snatch for enriching my life.

There are trashy movies and then there are movies so trashy the sleaze goes right through the roof into the stratosphere. This is one of *those* movies. It looks extremely cheap (not surprising since the budget was just 11 thousand dollars), has awful acting and photography and much of the time the "rapes" seem a little too enjoyable for the "victim," but this is amusing enough to pass the time, most of the females look good and there's a mean-spirited twist at the end that's kind of good. Everyone was so embarrassed by this they used fake names and the credits are hilarious. The cameraman is "Otto Focus," the sound was done by "Less Noise" and the grip was "Jim Nasium." Something Weird distribute this on DVD-R and it's certainly worth a gander if you like this kind of stuff.

Die teuflischen Schwestern

Twisted Sisters
Raven-haired, sexually-aggressive Edna (Pamela Stanford) picks up a guy named Joe (Kurt Meinicke) in a club and takes him back to her oceanfront villa. There, things take an admittedly strange turn as she has her maid Sarah (Esther Moser) disrobe both on them on the living room sofa. But before things can get too hot and heavy, Edna excuses herself to the bedroom so she can have a word with her sister Millie (Karine Gambier). Millie turns out to be such a "dangerous nymphomaniac" she must be chained up to her bed in a room that doubles as a jail cell (!) where she writhes in agony until she can get some. Edna calls to her male visitor to come in and offers him up "a fantastic surprise" of her sister's body to use any way he wants. However, Millie has first instructed Edie to "...stay and watch us, the way you always do!" As Millie and the male visitor go to town, Edie hides behind a beaded curtain and takes care of herself with a candle (!?) No, this is not going to be your everyday run-of-the-mill sex film, folks.

Millie hasn't left her room in six long months and is on drugs that are supposed to help temper her schizophrenic delusions. She also has traumatic flashbacks to her childhood when she used to hide and watch all of her sister's kinky sexual proclivities. In an effort to pacify her, the live-in nurse Maria (Marianne Graf) gives her a vibrator and tries to do other *a-hem* nice things for her, while Edna doesn't help matters any by going into town, picking up a white-haired male gigolo (who also happens to be the same guy who raped her as a child!) and letting him have his way with her as long as he doesn't "leave any bruises." Edna seeks advice from world-renowned psychotherapist Dr. Milton Arcos, who recommends Millie be denied stimulants of any kind (including sex) if she's ever to make a recovery. However, there's the possibility some people don't actually WANT her to get better because there's a 12 million dollar inheritance the troubled girl is set to collect on her 21st birthday. Well, granted she's of sound mind when the time comes...

Though this sounds - and kind of IS - pretty twisted, there's something oddly charming about this one that I can't quite put my finger on. I think a lot of that has to do with the goofy English-language dub-over done by a group of cheeky people who obviously had a hard time stifling laughter saying things like "What a terrific tool!" And then there's the head-scratching exchange, "Have you ever seen how the fish make love?" "No." "Neither have I, but I can imagine how they would do it. If I were a male fish and you were a female I would want to make love to you." The story itself really isn't too bad (it's surprisingly coherent by the director's standards) though the ending falls completely flat. But hey, not many people are going to watch this for the story anyway, are they? The good news is that the entire cast - female and male alike - spend the majority of their scenes sans clothing and engaging in near X-rated sex and most of them look pretty good doing it.

Aside from the ladies, there are two male exploitation regulars of note on hand. The first is Jack Taylor as Millie's physician Dr. Charles Barnes, who gets to shove a thermometer up Millie's ass in his very first scene and basically lounge around in bed in the nude with several of the other ladies in all his scenes thereafter. The second is Erik Falk (best known for the kung fu biker rapist 'Stiletto' in the sleaze gem MAD FOXES) as one of the sleazy studs hired to service Millie. Being part of Franco's late 70s series for Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich, the photography, music and overall production values are decent for this kind of film. Even the villa interior has a cool decor, with blown-up black-and-white photos of cats gracing all the walls.

The DVD is packaged as "Sexy Sisters" but the on-screen title calls it "Satanic Sisters." Under any name, this is a decent Eurotrash flick.

Scum of the Earth

Easy to "swaller" no budget hicksploitation.
In 1956, Peter Graves starred in a swampland drama called BAYOU, which ended up tanking in theaters... that is until 1961 when M.A. Ripps got his hands on it and then re-released it under the new title POOR WHITE TRASH in 1961. What's in a title? A lot it seems, as the new moniker turned what was a bomb into a moneymaking workhorse that played Southern drive-ins for years as a second feature. Nearly two decades later the same marketing technique was applied to S.F. Brownrigg's SCUM OF THE EARTH. While "Scum" is a great title on its own, it was already used for a 1963 Herschell Gordon Lewis flick about a nudie photography racket and didn't quite pack 'em in on that name alone. To boost ticket sales for the reissue (and perhaps trick people into either watching it a second time or assuming it was a follow-up to the first), it was given the new title "Poor White Trash Part II." The film also retained that same title when it finally appeared on VHS and is pretty much solely known under the "Trash" title these days.

Soon after arriving at her vacation cabin, newlywed Helen Fraser (Norma Moore) finds her husband Paul (Joel Colodner) dead with an axe buried in his chest. Someone has also stolen their car keys so she's forced to flee into the woods. The first person she comes across is slovenly drunk Odis Pickett (Gene Ross), who claims he doesn't know anything about the murder and puts her mind at ease by informing her "I ain't killed nobody... lately." Having no other choice, Helen follows Odis back to his shack to call the police. When she gets there, she meets the rest of the Pickett clan: Odis' very pregnant wife Emmy (Ann Stafford), his hateful / slutty daughter Sarah (Camilla Carr) and his incredibly dumb son Bo (Charlie Dell), who talks kind of like Forrest Gump. Tensions are already high in the family for a variety of reasons and things get even worse when they discover the same psycho who killed Paul is lurking around outside.

This has all of the necessary ingredients for a good hillbilly horror flick: grubby rednecks in overalls spouting terrible grammar ("Looky here what I done brung home for supper!"), filthy living conditions, incest, moonshine drunk directly from mason jars, rape, possum for din din and a series of bloody murders including a neck pierced on an iron fence, a strangulation with barbed wire and a gunshot to the eyeball. If the director has one notable strength compared to his contemporaries, it's the ability to get good performances from his actors. He did it with his previous film DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973) and he's done it again here with a solid group of performers all well-cast in their roles. But what really puts this a notch above similar efforts is the low key and somewhat eerie backwoods atmosphere (achieved in part to the no budget minimalism and lack of location change) and the attention paid to characters. Quite a tasteless and tactless group we have here!

The Odis character is an immensely unlikable brute who guzzles 'shine the entire time and constantly berates his kids and poor knocked-up wife; justifying his eventual rape of Helen by telling his old lady that he "don't want to poke an old blowed-up balloon like you." I would call the daughter character a 5 dollar whore, but instead she's more of a 1 dollar whore who spreads her legs for all the local guys for pocket change so she can buy things like lipstick and glamour magazines. However, she's tight enough with her pa to give it to him for free! The son is a slow-speaking half-wit who talks like Forrest Gump and mostly elicits feelings of annoyance from the entire family. The big surprise is the unknown Stafford as Emmy the wife; a dumb but good-hearted door mat who was traded off to Odis by her own father to relieve a debt and who eventually becomes a bit motherly toward Norma. Stafford provides a perfect counter-balance to the over-the-top antics of the rest of the family and creates a surprisingly warm character.

On the down side, there's next to no plot, the music score is a little inappropriate and annoying at times and the surprise twist at the end is pretty ludicrous, but it's all entertaining enough and has a great cheap regional feel to it that Hollywood films frequently try and normally fail to capture.

Dr. Jekyll & Mistress Hyde

Does what it sets out to do for the most part.
Feminist scientist Dr. Jacqueline Stevenson (Julian Wells) has written a controversial new book called "The Repression Syndrome," which details how women are usually forced into two categories: the virginal ("pure") and the slutty ("lustful"). As a result, widespread sexual repression has run rampant and the doctor has created a new serum called "Euphoria" that she hopes will help to release women's inhibitions. Suicidal and sexually repressed Martine Flagstone (Misty Mundae in a black wig) shows up in Jacqueline's office and volunteers to be her first guinea pig, but the drug works TOO well on her and she ends up in an insane asylum, driven crazy by lust. Jacqueline reformulates the drug and ends up taking it herself, transforming into the insatiable Heidi Hyde. She picks up a Catholic schoolgirl / teen runaway named Dawn (Mundae with her normal hair) who's a dead ringer for Martine, and ends up falling for her. Meanwhile, Jacqueline's chauvinist pig husband Richard (Boz Tennyson) is keeping himself busy with their maid Paula (Ruby LaRocca). Things come full circle at the end.

This is an erotic spin on "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and really not bad by Seduction Cinema standards. All of the females in the cast (particularly the two leads) are attractive, frequently nude and there's plenty of soft-core girl-girl scenes throughout. I expected all that but what I didn't really expect was for this to be fairly well made and serious-minded. With an obviously tiny budget at his disposal, the director attempts to turn all of his limitations into assets. Care was obviously put into the screenplay (courtesy of Bruce G. Hallenbeck), editing and sound and, while the sets are all blank and vacant, they're also carefully lit to give them a bold, sort of 'color noir' appearance. It's minimalism in the extreme but it's also about as stylish as the budget would allow. And this is certainly no worse than a lot of more acclaimed erotica people like Jess Franco or Jean Rollin were cranking out in the 70s and 80s.

As per usual with these sort of films, the story often drags, but that's pretty much par for the course. The absence of much comedy (this is more a psychological drama despite the spoof-like title) also makes it stand out from most other Seduction Cinema offerings, as do the two leads, who deserve credit for adequately enacting out the scenario and taking their roles seriously. My favorite was Wells, who is really hot, especially with minimal makeup and in her business suit and glasses, and also a decent actress. There's also a pretty good - albeit grim - twist at the end.

Killer Party

College horror / slasher starts out fun but ultimately fails to deliver in the end.
A bitter woman attending her mother's funeral gets pulled into a casket by her dearly departed and is accidentally incinerated, which turns out to be a movie playing at a drive-in where a girl goes to a snack bar, encounters dancing zombies and then a rock band, which turns out to be a music music video being watched by one of our heroines. This bizarre film-within-a-film-within- a-film opening is probably the most appropriate way to start out a film originally called "The April Fools" and set among a group of joke- playing college students in the midst of Hell Week. Shy Jennifer (Joanna Johnson), vivacious Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes) and geeky Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch) are the three newest pledges of the prestigious sorority Sigma Alpha Phi ("the wet dream of this college!") where they must endure such rush week indignities as paddling, having raw eggs cracked into their mouths, being fed goat eyeballs (!) and being forced to say "I myself prefer a big, fat cucumber" in the middle of class.

Thankfully, all that's about to come to an end as the girls approach the end of their hazing period, only they're about to trade the feelings of embarrassment and humiliation for the feelings of death and bodily possession instead. Bitchy sorority head Veronica (Alicia Fleer) unwisely decides to hold the sorority's annual April Fool's masquerade ball - held in conjunction with a male house known as the Beta Tau - in a long-abandoned frat house haunted by the vengeful spirit of a guy named Alan who was accidentally killed there twenty years earlier. As the party is underway, someone decked out in a diver's costume decides to kill everyone off in a variety of ways that include a trident, knife, hammer, guillotine, drowning and that old standby, a harpoon shot up an ass. By the end, the guilty party (whose identity is poorly telegraphed in advance) is sporting white contacts, an EXORCIST tongue and a husky voice and literally climbing the walls.

This actually begins surprisingly well. The production values and photography are both good, there are some fun songs, the performances are competent from most of the cast, the actors and actresses are likable and the dialogue isn't half bad either (the script was from Friday THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER writer Barney Cohen). We get a good look at college life to start things out, but the movie wastes way too much time on that and the various pranks going on on campus, including bees unleashed upon a bunch of topless girls in a hot tub. For the first hour plus the film is almost completely bereft of horror so by the time it does reach the finale it has no other choice but to rush through it in a haphazard fashion completely devoid of either suspense or gory payoff.

Hampering the film even further is that ALL of the kills take place off- screen. You simply get to see an already-killed victim or the killer approaching behind someone with a weapon before it abruptly cuts to something else. Apparently the MPAA forced them to eliminate every bit of blood and there doesn't appear to have been a lot to begin with. The only real gore moment they allowed to pass through was a decapitation and that's only because it turns out to be a prank!

Martin Hewitt receives top billing for his supporting role because he was in the hit ENDLESS LOVE (1981) a few years earlier. (Terrible movie but it got him some attention at the time). Cult legend Paul Bartel has a small role as an uptight professor and other small parts are played by Ralph Seymour (JUST BEFORE DAWN), Terri Hawkes (PROM NIGHT II) and Woody Brown (ALLIGATOR II). By the way, the current "trivia" on here about this movie starting production in 1978 and being mostly filmed then is complete bs. This was actually filmed in 1984.

Lord of the Flies

A technically imperfect but faithful and mostly effective adaptation.
William Golding's 1954 novel "Lord of the Flies" has gone down as one of the most widely-read and acclaimed books of the 20th Century and beyond thanks to the author's melding of solid, though deceptively straight- forward storytelling with allegory, making it an excellent tool to introduce various literary devices to students (hence why it is usually a staple of high school and college English curriculum). TIME Magazine even included it on their list of the 100 Best English-Language Novels written between 1923 and 2005. The novel itself can be enjoyed on many fronts. If nothing else, it's a fascinating premise: What WOULD a bunch of young boys do if stranded somewhere with no adults around, no rules, no laws, no structure or discipline and left to their own devices? The fact it also happens to rich as an allegory on human nature and societal structure is just the icing on top. Golding himself summed up his intent rather simply by stating it's "... about the problem of evil and the problem of how people are to live together in society." That basic concept is put front and center in director Peter Brook's film adaptation and relayed with power despite some obvious technical issues that arise.

An airplane full of young British schoolboys - ranging from about 6 years old to early teens - crashes somewhere on an uninhabited island. Ralph (James Aubrey), the son of a Navy commander who thinks the paternal figure he idolizes will soon come find them, stumbles upon the chubby, insecure, bespectacled, talkative Piggy (Hugh Edwards) first and the two make their way down the beach, discovering more of their schoolmates as they go. Along the beach come a second and smaller group of slightly older boys, led by Jack (Tom Chapin). Things begin harmlessly enough, with the kids essentially viewing the experience as some extended camping trip. They play games, laugh, play pranks, gather fruit, start a fire and build a shelter from branches as they await rescue. Using a majority rules vote to establish a new leader in Ralph, the group set down a few basic ground rules at the outset to maintain order, like using a conch shell as a platform to speak without interruption and keeping a fire going at the island's highest peak so a passing aircraft may see it, but things quickly go to hell.

Once one of the boys claims to see a "snake-like" shape-shifting beast stirring among the bushes at night (which later turns into a mythical sea beast), a seed of superstition and paranoia encroaches on the new society and things escalate from there. Jack and his group deem themselves "the hunters," sharpen spears, paint their faces, dress in animal rags, leave pig heads on stakes as an offering to their perceived new God and quickly descend into a life of violent tribal savagery, while Ralph loses his power and his numbers once his rival proves he can provide better and has no issue using deadly force as a means to silence those who oppose the new way. After having swayed the majority of others over to his side, Jack and his few remaining allies realize their own lives are in grave danger.

Filmed in 1961 in Puerto Rico, this low budget production had numerous technical issues that needed tended to before it could finally be released in 1963. The major problem was the audio, most of which was not actually recorded on location due to various natural noises the filmmakers really couldn't do anything about. As a result, most of the dialogue was dubbed in later and, sadly, they didn't do a very good job of it. Audio levels really seem off throughout. Many seem to have issues with the casting of inexperienced boys instead of trained child actors in all of the roles, which results in some wooden, amateurish and / or stilted dialogue readings. Personally it didn't bother me all that much, but it will some viewers. If you can ignore the above issues, this is a visually splendid film that's atmospherically photographed on beautiful locations and it manages to generate a great desolate feel apart from the 'civilized' world.

Most importantly of all, Brook actually does the source novel justice. Very little of importance was left out and the director conveys exactly what the book is trying to say. That's especially impressive considering he had to narrow down around 60 hours (!) of total filmed footage to just 90 minutes for the theatrical release. Supposedly a 100-minute version was initially released to Cannes, but I don't believe that cut has ever been made commercially available. A more polished and bigger- budgeted color remake was made in 1990 by director Harry Hook. Though it's not a terrible movie, it lacks the character and artistry of this original version.

Shoot the Girls

What the hell is this? Some gunshot fetish video?
I'm always amused by the weird fetishes people have and the videos made to cater to said fetishes. This one appears to be a fetish video for people REALLY into seeing nude women being shot repeatedly because that's ALL it is. There's no real plot and barely even any dialogue. The same company who helped to make this (William Hellfire's Factory 2000) also made fetish movies about duct tape, chloroform, blood, rape, snuff videos, strangulation, necrophilia, bondage, cannibalism, etc. so I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised something like this exists. Some people have strange tastes, eh? Though I've not seen any of the other F2000 productions, this was so painfully boring and horribly made it was more than enough to soil me on their 'brand' for life.

Veteran hit woman Tonya ("Mia Copia" / Tina Krause) is instructed by her boss DOM (Yioti Floris) to snuff out rival hit man C.D.'s (C.D. Smith) nubile young daughter Judy. The only problem is that until now Tonya has refused to kill another woman and doesn't want to start now. It doesn't help that Judy is played by very-young-looking soft-core star Misty Mundae, who wears pigtails and is constantly clutching a stuffed bunny rabbit to show how innocent she is. Before Tonya can get to work, we first see a long series of flashbacks showing C.D. shooting various female victims. There are around a dozen different women (played by "The Girls of Perfect Shots Video") who end up filled with lead. The gunshot effects are REALLY bad CGI, all of the "girls" just so happen to be nude or topless when the hit man kills them and they all look like they were pulled right off a street corner (or a donut shop judging by the FUPA and cellulite on some of these chicks) to take part in this pathetic excuse for a film.

The same shots are repeated over and over again throughout. Tina walks into Misty's bedroom with a gun and prepares to shoot her. Turns out to be a bad dream. Misty walks into Tina's bedroom and prepares to shoot HER. Another bad dream. That's all repeated three different times so by the time Tina and Misty finally do meet you're like "Meh." The big finale has a topless Misty in bed, rubbing a gun on her crotch. Tina walks in with her gun, joins her in bed, rips off her top and both girls start rubbing their guns on each other's crotches. That goes on for 15 whole minutes with, again, numerous repeated shots and shots put in slow motion. I don't care how good-looking the stars are, this is just boring to sit through. It was shot with a camcorder, the audio is terrible and sounds filtered through a tin can and the same generic rock riff is looped over and over again.

For the record, the on-screen title is actually "Shoot the Girls, Make Them Die" and the film's full run-time is just 48 minutes, not 70 minutes as currently listed here. Hell, it may as well have been 48 HOURS because that's how long it felt to watch the whole damn thing. In the end credits it's revealed that much of the footage seen here was taken from OTHER videos from this same company ("Machinegun." "Selina 1," "Hat Trick" and "Scorpion"), none of which are currently listed on IMDb and probably never will be. I'm sure at one point they were sold via specialty mail order for the dozen or so extreme gun freaks who'd be interested in something like this.

Abunômaru: Ingyaku

Sex, violence and snuff.
First and foremost, this is a sex flick that was made primarily for that purpose. However, as is customary with this particular director, you're given a more interesting and better quality film than is the norm for the erotica genre... not to mention something darker and more twisted! An "Underground Video Film" (snuff tape) is found in a trash heap along with the dismembered remains of its "star." A detective takes it home and watches it with his girlfriend (Kiyomi Ito) only to be surprised to find she gets turned on by it and wants him to break out the handcuffs afterward. Meanwhile, at a local sex shop, another snuff tape is dropped off anonymously and falls into the hands of Akira, one of the workers there who's also studying film in college. Akira takes the tape home and tries to watch it but is interrupted by his sister Tomoe, who plops down on his bed and says "Come on. Let's commit incest." And, for what's it's worth, that they do. Upon later inspection, Akira begins to believe the murder depicted on the tape is the real deal.

Akira eventually crosses paths with the detective's girlfriend, a self- proclaimed "crime hunter" who's strangely fascinated with this particular case and decides to launch a freelance investigation of her own. Posing as a magazine reporter, the girlfriend (who refuses to ever give out her real name and goes only by "The Crime Hunter" for reasons we will later discover) starts snooping around and begins to suspect that a mysterious former TV producer turned underground filmmaker named Cross, as well as Cross' lover Mari, a former actress who now works alongside Akira in the porn shop, may somehow be involved with the tapes and a shady company called 'Studio Omega.' Whoever is doing the killings is using a specially-equipped camera with a retractable blade hidden near the lens to provide a POV of each death in what's a clear reference to Michael Powell's classic PEEPING TOM (1960).

"Abunômaru: Ingyaku" (which has been making the bootleg rounds for years now under such titles as "Abnormal," "Celluloid Nightmares" and "Re- wind") is an evocatively gritty and bleak mixture of sex and horror- thriller filtered through a fuzzy 80s video aesthetic. Director Satô caters to nearly every sexual fetish / perversity under the sun - S&M, rape, pantyhose, lesbians, incest, you name it - while simultaneously delivering some pretty vicious gore / murder scenes as well as a central theme about a filmmaker's sociopathic detachment tendencies whilst hidden behind a camera lens. This is also one of the director's more accessible works. I've seen a handful of his other films - like MUSCLE (1989) and NAKED BLOOD (1996), and this is by far the least-confusing and easiest to follow of the ones I've watched.

The sex in this film is about as graphic as a non-hardcore film can get but, sticking with Japanese censorship rules, there's no frontal nudity and the director tries to make up for it by showing pretty much everything BUT it. There's tons of T&A, lots of simulated sex, crotch rubbing and licking, long close-ups of French kissing, nipple and tongue sucking, etc. There are also a handful of pretty gruesome moments to go along with that, including an arm being sliced open and spewing blood, a fingernail getting ripped off with a knife, numerous bloody stabbings, a plate of spaghetti festering with maggots and a head bashed in with a tripod. There's certainly more than enough here to please exploitation fans. The fact it's well made and doesn't wear out its welcome at just 65 minutes are just added bonuses.

To nisi tis amartias

How Stamatis Got His Groove Back
A movie with such alternate titles as "Violent Rape," "Hostages of Lust" and "Island of 1000 Rapes" sure has its work cut out for it. I'll be counting. A pair of criminals - impotent blonde Stamatis (Giorgos Stratigakis) and Charles Manson look-a-like Stefano (Petros Zarkadis) - escape from prison and hide out in some rocky cliffs near the ocean until the police are forced to temporarily call off their search. They watch from some overgrown weeds as a woman strips off and goes for a nude swim and then watch some stud named Dimitri (Yannis Petrakis) have awkward sex with a blonde in the water and THEN have even-more-awkward sex with the girl's bitchy nympho sister Aliki (Lia Flessa) on his boat, which ends with the two getting into an argument and him throwing her off into the water. The thugs follow the guy and girls back to their rich family's vacation home and decide that would be the ideal place to both hide out for a bit and get their hands on some much- needed money.

This falls into that sub-category of "terror" films made in response to the success of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), all of which feature criminals kidnapping, terrorizing and usually raping and murdering members of well-to-do families, only this time the violence is almost completely de-emphasized in favor of the sex. Once the escapees get their hands on a gun and a knife and start holding the family hostage they don't even really actually terrorize them. One of the girls gets slapped and a few of the guys are tied up and that's pretty much it until the very last scene.

The Stamatis character has frequent orange-tinted flashbacks about his cruel, large-breasted ex-wife Katia (Mary Moshoviti), who runs around all over the place naked, makes him scrub her ass with a sponge while laughing at him and flaunts her infidelities in his face because he can't get it up until he finally loses it and shoots her dead. This all leads up to a jaw- dropping climax (probably the film's only truly interesting moment) where Stamatis finally gets his mojo back by making an unwelcome rear entry on one of the ladies, followed by him beating his chest like Tarzan and leaping and clicking his heels together in celebration (!?)

Because of the "1000 Rapes" alt. title I thought I'd have to get out my calculator to keep tabs on the depravity I was about to see. And while I figured this new title would be a huge exaggeration (I mean, 1000 rapes in 80 minutes is kind of impossible, right?), I didn't figure the movie would have just ONE rape scene which is debatable as rape to begin with and over in a matter of about 10 seconds. All of the rest of the sex is non-violent and consensual and that's what takes up the vast majority of the run-time. The sex itself is depicted in a rather strange and frenzied fashion with several instances of armpit licking, which must have been the rage in Greece in the 70s. The guys are all butt ugly, though several of the female cast members are hot and show graphic full frontal nudity throughout. That may explain why this was seldom released outside of Greece and doesn't appear to have ever been dubbed for release in any other country. The good thing is the movie isn't hard to follow at all even if you don't understand the dialogue.

Massage Parlor Murders!

One of the most useless films ever made.
A religious-fanatic psycho targets frequently-nude massage parlor girls who give new meaning to the term "table service" if the money is right. How can one possible screw that up that gold exploitation scenario? Just ask the makers of MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS, because they manage to turn it all into one big, colossal bore with an aimless and meandering plot, endless filler, padded scenes, lethargic pacing, a mostly dull cast, a sleep-inducing light jazz score akin to what you'd hear in a waiting room and a surprisingly conservative hand when it comes to dishing out the sleaze. Sure, a dozen or so chicks get naked and there are moments of (mild and poorly executed) violence, but you can see better elsewhere in hundreds of other more entertaining films from this era. I always wondered how a film like this could have possibly bypassed the entire video revolution of the 80s and 90s without ever getting released on home video but now I fully understand why: It's boring as hell!

Police Lt. Jimmy Rizotti (George Spencer) and Det. Danny O'Hara (John Moser) are on the case when a topless masseuse named Rosie (Chris Jordan) has her face smashed into a mirror and is then strangled with her own bra. Numerous other ladies soon bite the dust as the cops try to get to the bottom of things, Jimmy deals with his nagging / uptight wife Emily (Marlene Kallevig) and Danny starts getting cozy with Rosie's more straight-laced roommate Gwen (Sandra "I never appeared in another film after LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT" Peabody / Cassell). Though we hear numerous eyewitness accounts of the killer being a clean cut businessman, the investigators spend most of their time interrogating scumball types like a pervy parlor owner who sits around reading Screw Magazine and Rosie's sugar daddy "Mr. Creepy" (George Dzunda in his film debut). They also pay a visit to an insane astrologer, who's played by the inimitable Brother Theodore. He rants and raves about a bunch of nonsense ("My sleeping pills are messing up my horoscope and when I listen to rock n roll my eardrums bleed!") until one of the cops can't take it any more and punches him in the gut!

Some of the victims have acid poured on their bodies and one is sliced up, but these scenes really aren't gory and every scene involving action of any kind is clumsily directed and edited as to remove any possibility of them having any impact whatsoever. There's also an extended car chase, long scenes of people walking around in the streets accompanied by pointless narration or voice over, lots of theater marquees (which are at least fun to look at), a male customer stripping down to a one-piece leotard and doing ballet (?!) and an even more WTF scene set at a swinger's party where everyone frolics around nude and have chicken fights in a swimming pool filled with balloons. There were just two scenes I found amusing in this one. The first is the opening bit showing one of the girls (Annie Gaybis) fleecing every red cent she can out of a guilty married man and the second was a scene where a bunch of the girls sit around knitting, bitching about how weird their customers are and talking about going to see SHAFT'S BIG SCORE. Other than that, I found my attention focusing on the clock counting down the minutes until it would finally end.

This was filmed under the title "The Seven Deadly Sins" (a concept that eventually helps the detectives unravel the mystery... although it makes no sense whatsoever!) and was reissued to theaters under the title "Massage Parlor Hookers" with the tagline "If you've never been to a massage parlor, this is a visit you'll NEVER forget!" Ironically, I doubt I'll remember a thing about this one a week from now. Keep your eyes peeled for Frank Henenlotter movie regular Beverly Bonner (BASKET CASE), who can be spotted for all of five seconds as a massage girl in a red dress.


Cats rule. This movie drools.
I love cats. I love horror. Well then I should just eat up a horror film centered primarily around killer cats, right? Well, I was hoping that'd be the case but sadly it wasn't meant to be. STRAYS is neither good, nor campy, nor entertainingly bad. It's sometimes slightly amusing in a "Well that's ridiculous / stupid..." kind of way but mostly it's just a bland, talky TV movie about a bickering yuppie couple, their lame marital / financial problems and their "precious" and "adorable" 4-year-old daughter, who is neither precious nor adorable and will have you hoping and praying she's bitten and clawed to death by the end of the film. I have a 4-year-old niece and she's beautiful, awesome and smart, unlike the stupid little troll featured in this movie, who gives all 4-year-olds a bad name. During one of the few "scary" moments, the surprised mother walks into the girl's nursery and sees her crib (why is a 4-year-old still sleeping in a damn crib?!) filled with about twenty cats. Initially I burst out laughing and said "Yes!" but my joy was stripped away little by little as each cat was removed and there was no sign of a bloodied, shredded child's corpse underneath. Does that make me a bad person?

Things open with an amusing low-level cat's POV shot (done in just two takes) that begins outside, trails through the woods, moves all the way around a house, up a flight of stairs and through a doggy door. It then heads through a kitchen up to an empty food bowl, under a chair and under a table, then leaps up on an ottoman and finally onto a fireplace mantle. It's actually a pretty cool shot but alas it's also the best part of the entire movie. We then meet an old cat lady (Eve Brenner) who lives in a large country home with her dozens of "babies." Something eventually rushes up to her as she's exiting the cellar and kills her. The house is put up for sale and purchased by divorce lawyer Paul Jarrett (Timothy Busfield) and his unsuccessful writer wife Lindsay (Kathleen Quinlan), who want out of the big city so they can raise their little brat Tessa (Heather and Jessica Lilly) in the safety and tranquility of the country. That little fantasy doesn't last long.

Due to neglect and being forced to resort to their natural instincts in order to survive, the cat lady's once-docile fur-balls have transformed into an army of feral felines who aren't above attacking and killing people who invade their territory. In a silly twist, the cats are all seemingly led by a gray "Alpha Cat" that hunkers over, does that low growl a lot and looks just like the cat who played Church in PET SEMATARY. In between the few attack scenes, we have to listen to the dad whine about wrecking his car after a cat bounces off the windshield, whine about his allergies flaring up, whine about his wife wanting to keep a nice mama cat and a kitten she finds in the attic and whine about their supposed financial problems. Said financial problems seem to end a scene after they're discussed when the husband tries to smooth things over with his wife by buying her a piece of expensive jewelry. A vet (William Boyett) shows up long enough to stupidly claim that feral tabbies are more dangerous than wildcats and, to buffer out the slim story line, the film's major drama doesn't even involve the cats at all, but Lindsay's divorcée sister Claire (Claudia Christian), who seems to be making sexual advances on her brother-in-law because, well, she's pretty much a backstabbing slut.

All of the major characters in this one are thoroughly unlikable (due more to the script than the actors themselves) and any time a movie like this casts a small child, I automatically cringe because I know two things are gonna happen: 1. They'll use the kid to try to be cutesy and that will make me want to puke, and 2. The child will undoubtedly do moronic things to put the adults in danger. And boy does this kid ever do the dumbest kid thing imaginable at the finale: going right back into the cat-infested house that she was almost killed in minutes earlier for no apparent reason. Ugh. The cats themselves are amusing when they're on screen but the director has no clue how to really make them menacing so they're always just cute... even when they are killing and "attacking" people. That's not a good sign.

Zombie '90: Extreme Pestilence

Gratuitous gore has seldom been more boring.
A military plane carrying a top secret chemical crashes and unleashes a toxin (the "extreme pestilence" of the title) into the woods. Soon after, people are infected and zombies are running amok killing and eating anybody in their path. A doctor and his colleague set out to uncover what's going on and put a stop to it. Though I wish I could provide a more in-depth plot synopsis, that IS the whole plot. There's no real story, no dialogue worth listening to, no character development, no narrative push leading anywhere, nada. This film was made for one reason and one reason only: to showcase as much splatter as possible. It - along with the same director's first feature VIOLENT SH*T - developed a minor reputation among extreme gore fans in the early days of home video. Nowadays, well, they just don't hold up all that well, especially considering we've had tons of professionally made movies since with ample and much more convincing-looking gore. The novelty of something like this is now pretty much gone.

Instead of playing out like an actual film, this is more a series of blood-drenched vignettes of zombies killing people and people killing zombies repeated ad nauseum. A zombie comes barreling out of the woods carrying a chainsaw and cuts a guy in two before he rips out his guts. A fat woman is attacked in a sauna and has her tit cut off and eaten. When her friend goes to check up on her, she has her back sliced open and all her organs cut out. A woman in a wheelchair holding a baby gets decapitated and then a zombie grabs her newborn, tears off its head and then rips it in two. Zombies are chopped to pieces with machetes and axes and chainsaws. Heads are knocked or shot clean off, stabbed and hacked in half both ways. Fingers are bitten and chopped off. Eyeballs are poked out with fingers. LOTS of guts are pulled out of stomachs. And during nearly every single scene an almost comical amount of exaggerated blood (which is usually runny and almost pink in color) sprays out all over the place. The zombie makeups aren't good at all and the other fx, bloody as they may be, usually look cheap and unconvincing.

Because this has all the gore in the world and yet still manages to be incredibly boring and monotonous, it does provide a valuable lesson to future horror directors about the importance of paying attention to everything else that's going on in your film. Look at something like George Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD. Even if you took away all the gore, it would STILL be worth watching for many other reasons, unlike this film, which isn't even worth watching FOR the gore because you can only watch so many limbs whacked off and chests torn open before it becomes tiresome. And that's precisely why "Day" has a large cult following and is highly regarded and respected after all these years and this film is only watched by a small number of die-hard horror buffs like myself who'll watch pretty much anything.

It goes without saying that the camcorder photography is pretty blah and washed-out looking and the acting is awful but the latter is made even worse thanks to a horrid English dub job done by a couple of guys who are clearly making a big joke of the whole thing and more or less mocking the entire movie as it goes along. Ironically, this comic spin turned out to be a wise decision because it at least provides a few dumb laughs to help get your through. I couldn't imagine how difficult it would be to sit through this whole thing had it played out seriously.

Sorority Babes in the Dance-A-Thon of Death

There are times when one can only point and laugh.
In 1988, David DeCoteau directed SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O- RAMA, a cheesy horror-comedy about sorority girls and nerds facing off against an evil wish-granting imp in a bowling alley. Though not what most would consider a genre classic, it went on to a minor cult following thanks primarily to its memorable title plus the fact it was a reasonably fun B-movie with enthusiastic actors, lots of nudity, lots of bad jokes, a cheesy-looking monster and pretty solid production values. Though it was not exactly clamoring for a sequel, DeCoteau himself made NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1988), another college horror-comedy heavy on the T&A and featuring the same three female stars, as a companion piece. He should have just stopped right there. Unfortunately, he did not and decided to throw a little money at Kansas City filmmaker Todd Sheets so he could make this unofficial "sequel." While the budget of "Slimeball" was a modest but sufficient 90 thousand dollars (enough to afford professional film equipment), I'd be surprised if the budget of this one exceeded 90 dollars (enough to purchase blank VHS tapes to feed into the camcorder it was shot with).

Our leads are a hideous group of college girl eyesores with fried hair, dumpy bodies and the ugliest clothes the 80s had to offer who decide to open their own sorority house after being rejected from "The Felta Deltas." They paint, clean, dance, play Twister and pinball and talk about throwing a housewarming party for the opening of their new house. Suddenly, something strange and unusual happens... and I'm not talking about the incident during a séance where a crystal ball spits out smoke that knocks all of the girls unconscious. I'm talking about the fact the director completely forgets about the plot he just set up. Without warning, the girls all suddenly become sorority PLEDGES still trying to get into that snobby house with no mention of the sorority house they'd just opened. None of this makes a lick of sense and all seems like it was made up as they go along, probably because it WAS.

After the smoke clears, so to speak, one of the girls becomes "sexy" and starts acting weird. As part of an initiation rite, five of the girls are forced to go spend the night in a reputedly haunted building where possessed girl pulls out her eyeballs and then puts them back in and then kills a couple of guys who happen to be there admiring their "garbonzas." Characters walk around the building in scenes that never seem to end and are so poorly lit you can't tell what's even going on. The possessed girl then chases the survivors back into town to a bar and the elderly couple who accidentally sold them the crystal ball show up to perform a lame exorcism. The old guy also informs them that the crystal had previously been used by a witch who "conjured up an exorcism" with it. Say whaaa? There's no blood, no gore, no nudity, no special effects and no entertainment value to speak of to any of this except to laugh at how cheap and amateurish the whole thing is. Most disappointingly, there's not even a damn "Dance-A-Thon" like the title promises!

The best part of this movie happens when the whole thing is over and the hilariously obnoxious end credits roll. There's a special "No Thanks" to "the K.C. Film Commission," "the close-minded folks here in K.C." and "anyone who thinks we make porno films." And then a "Big Rot in Hell" section for "Jack Valenti and the Nazi lovers at the M.P.A.A., all fat, lying abusive ministers who accuse us of being porno makers." That is followed by what is pretty much an insult to anyone who just wasted their time viewing this worthless tape ("Turn the damned thing off... don't you have any better things to do?") The copyright say 1994, but this thing was clearly filmed sometime before that. Everything about it screams the 80s.

A few more notes: The "technical specs" for this movie currently claim it was filmed on 35mm (they wish!). It also doesn't run 75 minutes, but just 69 and that's including the VERY slow-moving end credits.

Mind Twister

Standard issue erotic thriller
A naked woman with a ball gag in her mouth is found beaten to death in an abandoned building. Lt. Richard Howland (a slumming Telly Savalas in one of his final roles) and a couple of detectives (Angel Ashley, Richard Roundtree) are on the case. Meanwhile, a well-endowed blonde named Heather (Suzanne Slater) shows up at the office of handsome psychiatrist Daniel Strahten (Gary Hudson) complaining of long blackout periods where she can't remember what she's done for hours at a time. All of that turns out to be a ruse however as Heather is actually there investigating the death of her friend, who was one of the doctor's patients. Another friend, Melanie (Maria Ford), has even secured a job at the clinic as a secretary to help dig up some dirt. While the shrink was indeed involved, it's not quite in the way the ladies were expecting. Daniel's wife Lisa (Erika Nann) turns out to be a psychotic nymphomaniac who flaunts her trysts in her spouse's face and has a taste for kinky and sometimes lethal sex, which her husband likes to videotape to add to their private collection.

This is a standard direct-to-video erotic mystery thriller that's pretty typical of its time. As one user already pointed out, it has more-or-less the same plot as Jim Wynorski's SINS OF DESIRE (1993). Both were shot in 1992 (though released a year apart), both were written by Mark Thomas McGee and both center around a murderous, affluent couple who prey on vulnerable patients to feed their sick desires. The only real difference is that the couple here have a special S&M chamber they call "The Game Room" inside their own home where they lure the patients instead of working out of a clinic. The room is pretty hilarious and cheap looking. The walls are painted black, there are candles burning everywhere, Gothic statues, chains and even a disco ball (!?) hanging from the ceiling. During the most memorable bit, Heather is lured into the room for "sex therapy," which somehow involves lesbian sex with the doctor's wife and fluorescent body paint. There's are a few other straight sex scenes thrown in as well to fulfill the quota for this type of film.

Surprisingly enough, most of the acting is fine. Hudson and Ford both do their jobs competently enough. Nann is given the showiest role as the murderous sociopath and gets to go over-the-top in scenes where she casually strolls up to someone's front door dressed in a miniskirt and brandishing a switchblade, fist-fights the leading lady, bludgeons a woman to death with a telephone and then pushes her body out the window and rambles on about about how good it made her feel when she "crushed that little idiot's skull." Savalas and Roundtree are wasted in minor roles, given little to do and are clearly just there for name value (and a paycheck). In fact, all of the scenes featuring the cops prove to be utterly pointless since the film mostly just follows the freelance investigation being conducted by the girls. There's not really enough plot for this to ever become all that interesting, but at least some of the dialogue is witty and there's plenty of nudity.

No one's bothered putting this on DVD despite the presence of Savalas. It was released only on video by the company VCI in an unrated edition and has since fallen off the face of the Earth.

Evil Toons

Reasonably fun and entertaining if you don't expect too much.
This has a LOT in common with Jim Wynorski's SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II. They were filmed in the same house at around the same time (1990) and have the same basic plot about a handful of buxom, lingerie-clad babes trapped in an old house where one becomes possessed by an evil spirit and starts killing off the others. Both films are also filled with tongue-in-cheek humor and endless in-jokes that you can only appreciate if you've seen your fair share of exploitation / horror / trash movies as well as a weird next door neighbor who is always lurking around outside and appears to be stalking the girls. Oh yeah, and let's not forget a generous helping of T&A, as that's one of the chief reasons these movies were made in the first place. Wynorski's film is the better of the two because the dialogue is funnier and it somehow works as both a horror/slasher flick (with plenty of the expected bloodshed) as well as a send-up of such films, whereas this one is doesn't work at all as a horror film and is more straight-up camp comedy. Still, if you know what you're getting yourself into and are familiar with the director and cast, EVIL TOONS is a pleasant enough way to kill 83 minutes of your time.

The home where a sorcerer (David Carradine) hung himself because of an evil, talking book many years earlier is now being sold by Burt (Dick Miller), who's in need of a clean-up crew pronto before the new owners can move in. Enter Terry (Suzanne Ager), Megan (Monique Gabrielle), Roxanne (Madison Stone) and Jan (Barbara Dare), who apparently all work for some cleaning company but show up for work dressed like Hollywood Blvd hookers in cut-off Daisy Dukes and spandex. The girls are paid a whopping 100 dollars each to spend the weekend there and tidy the place up, but after some exploring around and an impromptu strip-tease, Carradine's character shows up at the front door to deliver a special package. Inside is the evil book and the nerdy Megan picks the wrong passage to translate; unleashing a wolf-like cartoon demon in the process. It promptly possesses Roxanne and she begins killing everyone off with eventual plans on releasing other demons from the book after she's harvested a few souls for Satan.

While this was heavily-promoted as a Roger Rabbit-style merging of cartoon and live action in a horror-comedy context, you'll be extremely disappointed if you expect too much. There are only two toon sequences in the film lasting just a few minutes apiece and only in one of them does the demon actually interact with one of the actors. The less said about the plot the better, but in lieu of that we get some spirited bad acting, lots of dumb jokes (only some of which are funny), a few semi- famous stars in small roles (Arte Johnson is also on hand as the pervert neighbor) and nude scenes provided by each of the female stars. Miller ends up with the most amusing bit and has a very funny scene watching himself in A BUCKET OF BLOOD on TV and then spurning the sexual advances of his sexpot wife ("Special Guest Star" Michelle Bauer), who then is forced to retreat to her bedroom alone with her chainsaw. If you know anything about Ray, you'll know just what film he's alluding to there.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the cast is hardcore porn actress Stone, who's extremely lively and animated in her role. Her over-the-top campy performance and bizarre Valley Girl dialogue delivery make for a welcome contrast next to the more wooden performances from many of her co-stars and it's actually kind of a shame she didn't end up in more R-rated B- movies. Gabrielle is not a great actress either but she's oddly endearing playing a shy / innocent character for a change (plus her 'mirror scene' is probably the most memorable moment in the entire film). All in all, this hits and misses about equally, but it's at least upbeat, fun and made in good spirits.

Night of Horror

If you thought 'Cannibal Confederates' was bad...
"The film you are about to see is a depiction of an actual event, well documented in the annals of the paranormal..."

Rock musician Steve (Steve Sandkuhler) has hit the bottle hard after experiencing a traumatic recent event that "blew my mind away so bad." Desperate to get to work on their new album and sick of "playing warm ups for over-the-hill rock groups," his band mate Chris (played by the director) tries to get to the bottom of things. We're soon in narrated flashback mode as Steve tells his pathetic and terribly uninteresting little tale of the supernatural, which details what happened when his father passed away and he and his half-brother Jeff (Jeff Canfield) inherited 25 acres of land and a cabin out in the boonies of Virginia. After the dad's funeral, Steve, Jeff, Jeff's whiny wife Colleen (Gae Schmitt) and Colleen's monotone sister Susan (Rebecca Bach) all load up in an RV and hit the road to go check out the property. While traveling through the country, they spot a figure dressed in gray and "wearing a country kind of a hat" and then their van breaks down so they're forced to spend the night camping.

Around a campfire, Colleen, who's been picking up bad "vibrations" ever since the funeral, decides to hold a séance and manages to call forth the ghosts of a half dozen Confederate soldiers. So what do the soldiers do? Attack them? Possess them? Kill them? Nope! They stand around in the fog where they're barely even visible while one tells a long and boring story in his distorted echo voice about how they died in the war, which is then shown for us in the form of generic stock footage (again narrated) from some Civil War reenactment. That goes on for what feels like an eternity and the campers are finally informed the ghost army's captain had been decapitated. In a trance, Colleen (who is revealed to be the reincarnation of the captain's dead wife for what it's worth - not much!) leads the others to a plot of land and dig up the captain's skull. The end. And THAT'S what has ruined poor Steve's life?! What the hell?

I'd previously seen the director's other movie CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES (1982), which was a remake of "Night" with zombies instead of ghosts and received a hard-earned 1 rating from yours truly, but this one somehow manages to be infinitely worse. There's nothing at all good about this film. It's not scary. It's not entertaining. It's not even unintentionally funny. It's just boring and torturous to sit through. If there's a filmmaking sin not present and accounted for her, it's because it hadn't been invented yet. One thing that's not smart to do when you have an inexperienced cast is to make your entire film talk, but that's what happens here. It's ALL talk and the "actors" flub their way through and constantly pause in between words as they scurry to improvise their way through the plot (apparently there was never a complete script). The only way I could get through this was to envision a hamster on a wheel turning inside each of their heads.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this one - which has stiff competition from the cast, the plot, the continuity and the editing - is the photography. Every daytime shot is overexposed, every nighttime shot is too dark, every shot whether light or dark is blurry and sometimes it goes from day to night back to day again for no apparent reason. I've never seen anything quite like it before. There's not a single frame that looks passable. It's also one of the most hideously ugly films ever, with a saturated yellow and brown color scheme that makes it look like someone tossed the print negative into an outhouse toilet before transferring it to tape. There's also a large, MST3K-style smudge on the bottom of the frame present for over 5 consecutive minutes.

The director (who shot this on 16mm for 4000 bucks) was a University of Maryland film school dropout who was mentored by Baltimore-based schlock director Don Dohler before the two had a falling out. If you wonder why the lead female suddenly starts sketching pictures of ape men during one of the film's biggest WTF moments, it's because before this was made the director and part of the cast had been working on a PLANET OF THE APES sequel!


A definite contender for the title of "Worst Movie Ever Made."
Some guy who played bit roles in a few Fred Olen Ray movies decided to make a campy B horror movie of his own. He really shouldn't have bothered as this inept shot-on-video mess is a complete embarrassment. You may also notice a handful of 10-star reviews on here - clearly all written by the same person - trying to pawn this off as some cult film, but don't be fooled. This is as bad as it gets. Wheelchair- bound, constantly-twitching whiner Eugene (Ron Litman) and the woman he always thought was his mother (Mary Woronov under the name "Penny Arcade") go dumpster diving. She says "I should have aborted you!" but then confesses that she's not really his mother but his aunt and that his REAL mom (Ruth Collins) accidentally dropped him on his head when he an infant right before being gang raped and murdered by a set of Siamese twins. After the aunt disappears, Eugene goes to the rotten- toothed "King of the Bums" (David H. Sterry) for help, only to find out she's been raped and murdered, too. Already imbalanced and filled with rage to begin with, Eugene then sets out on a quest to "kick ass all over Hollywood" (i.e. go on a senseless killing spree).

Our paralyzed psycho briefly teams up with a mentally-retarded former film director named Donald (played by director Levinson) who was once "the Fellini of horror pictures in Tennessee." I've seen enough cheap horror films by now to realize the retarded director character is a dig at Donald Farmer. Just one month before this was released, Farmer released a documentary called INVASION OF THE SCREAM QUEENS (1992). Since it featured a photo of Michelle Bauer on the cover taken from this movie, Levinson and co-director Stuart Wall later took "Invasion" producer Sy Yudel on the TV show "The People's Court" (!!) and (unsuccessfully) sued him! So anyway, Eugene and Donald go to a gym and get revenge on a guy for calling Eugene a "crip" and throwing his wheelchair in a dumpster. Eugene then gets a knife from a woman and stabs her in the face with it. They then bust into the hotel room of world famous "model slut" Michelle Novak (Bauer), who's in town to promote her new line of swimsuits. During a scuffle, Eugene convinces Michelle to help him kill Donald and then turns around and guts her in the bathroom.

The lame murder spree continues as Eugene takes an axe to porn actress Hyapatia Lee after she dances, strips and showers, rams a broomstick through a pair of female muggers, kills a topless hooker by ironing her to death and rips out a guy's eyeballs. Sound gory? Sure, but I haven't yet mentioned that most of the victims aren't actually shown being killed, we just get to see the body afterward, including a hilarious moment where a dead woman holds an axe up to her chest to keep it in place. The staging and editing of these scenes is just pathetic. During the last few minutes, the killer goes to a mad doctor and has him whip up a special potion to turn normal people into bums but this idea goes absolutely nowhere. There are a few other useless subplots in here as well, mostly revolving around a couple of TV newscasters making dumb jokes about Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy and interviewing people saying degrading things about homeless people.

Aside from Bauer and Lee's nude scenes, the only other good thing about this movie is the surprisingly good music. Seeing how no one is credited with the score, they probably stole it from somewhere else. As far as the photography is concerned, it's so blurry and poorly lit you'd have to have no understanding of how to work a simple camera for it to end up looking this bad. I set up better-looking shots with a 100 camcorder and a lamp when I was 8 years old.

Blood Oath

Hurt more by lack of originality than lack of budget.
Here's yet another zero budget shot-on-digital backwoods slasher made by amateurs, this time from around the Nashville, Tennessee area. When watching movies made for peanuts I try to be a bit more lenient and forgiving than usual when it comes to poor camera-work, ragged editing, muffled sound, amateurish acting, awful writing, etc. What I can't forgive is a complete and utter lack of creativity. After all, why bother watching something like this in the first place if you've already seen the same exact thing done before by professionals who actually had a budget and talent to work with? BLOOD OATH fails simply because it doesn't do anything that hasn't already been done ten times better elsewhere. The fact it's flatly shot and ugly to look at, horribly acted and written and establishes a potentially interesting back story for the killer but then tosses it aside like an afterthought so it can concentrate on business as usual just makes matters worse. But hey, I'm sure everyone had fun making it and at least they managed to get their movie released on DVD, so at least that's something.

Things start out with a couple getting ready to have sex in a car out in the woods only to be interrupted by the guy's ex-girlfriend, who keeps calling him. The girl grabs the phone and tells the ex that all her man cares about is " hard his d*** is gonna be when he's f***ing me in the a**" before a killer shows up and does them both in. The girl is gutted and the guy has his head chopped off in what has to be one of the worst and most cartoonish CGI decapitations ever. We then meet two teen couples; Lisa (Natalie Hart) and Kevin (James Reynolds) and Beverly (Katie Vaughan) and Charlie (Roger Horn), who for some reason decide to investigate a local urban legend about a disfigured killer who supposedly lives in a cabin in the woods and pretty much get what they deserve in the process. Throw in a quartet of female college student campers who are around solely to provide a little T&A and then die and that's about all there is to this one.

The only other point of note is that they attempt to develop a mythology of sorts for the killer, which involves a couple making a pact with a beautiful witch, a set of female twins, a car crash, a magical "jewel- encrusted golden vial" and blood sacrifices. Unfortunately, after this story is related via flashbacks around a campfire, nothing further is done with the idea and this instead opts to play out like every other tired, generic slasher-in-the-woods flick. The killer; a hulking, fire- scarred, shaggy-haired woman (well... sort of) decked out in a patchwork dress, isn't the least bit scary or intimidating. Her motives for killing everyone she comes across also aren't made all that clear. Her parents made a "blood oath" and died as a result, but why exactly does she now need to make blood sacrifices? None of this is adequately fleshed out, which renders the killer's origin element utterly pointless. Ditto for the ridiculous reveal that one of the lead females is - surprise! - related to the killer and just happens to be there by sheer coincidence.

The names being used to sell this are Scream Queens Tiffany Shepis and Tina Krause. Both keep their clothes on and are killed after appearing for just a matter of minutes, but are being billed as the stars on the DVD cover. Don't be fooled. The rest of the cast is comprised of inexperienced amateurs who stand no chance of making it through looking good thanks to the awkward and unnatural-sounding dialogue they're forced to recite. A few of them have hick accents though, so at least that was funny.

Killer's Moon

Poorly-made, boring and pretty much fails at everything.
A bus with eight young female choir singers and a pair of uptight, matronly chaperons on board breaks down on a country road, prompting the ladies to walk until they can find shelter. They eventually stumble upon a huge, unoccupied hotel and settle down for the night, but a quartet of recently-escaped psychos decked out like Droogs for God knows what reason are on the loose and show up there to terrorize them. Also thrown into the mix are a hotel keeper and her slutty daughter, a gamekeeper and his wife, two male campers and a, uh, three-legged dog. There's ONE potentially novel angle present in this cheap "thriller:" the killers were all subjected to an experimental drug back at the nut-house prior to escaping. The drug puts them in an alternate state of conscience where they believe everything that's going on is only a dream so they can indulge in their darkest fantasies guilt-free. Why this angle was introduced in the first place is anyone's guess as it's poorly handled and proves to be utterly pointless. The escapees are already deranged so it's not outside the realm of plausibility they'd indulge in these activities regardless, so why even bother with the drug scapegoat? It would have been far more interesting had this detailed the effect of the drug on NORMAL people.

I really wanted to like this one and expected to get at least something out of it considering many of the reviews here are positive. The initial set-up is serviceable (albeit overused), but the incompetent direction, terrible screenplay and a deadly slow pace quickly turn it into a repetitive bore. It falls into that uneasy gray area of B entertainment where it's too poorly-made to take seriously, too silly to ever be disturbing and far too tame to be a guilty pleasure. There are some mildly bloody moments, like an axe to the head and a knife through the throat, but the killings nearly all take place off screen and we just get to see the body afterward. The goriest moment is actually a throwaway WTF bit where one of the nuts chops off a cat's tail with a cleaver (!) Likewise, a few of the actresses go topless and there are a few rape scenes, but these moments are too brief, too tame and too poorly done to please sleaze hounds. You can see the same exact material handled far more compellingly and convincingly in dozens of other films of this type.

Another problem I had was that there are so many pointless characters wandering around that not even the director can keep track of all of them. People go off to do things and disappear for such long stretches of time you complete forget about them by the time it returns to them. Others are at one location one minute and somewhere completely different the next. None of the choir girls are given even the slightest glimpse of personality or individuality and the director refuses to ever settle on a protagonist to give us a focal point to ground the action. I can't really comment on the acting because even Laurence Olivier would have a hard time selling some of these lines. During the film's most jaw- dropping moment, one of the girls nonchalantly tells her recently- violated friend, "You were only raped. As long as you don't tell anyone about it you'll be alright. Pretend it never happened."

The final nail in the coffin is the laughably lazy visual presentation, which is so bad they can't even pull off something as simple as night convincingly! The exteriors set during the night were shot in the day with dark filters, but the sky ALWAYS looks sunny and bright. The indoor footage is perhaps even worse because they don't even bother with giving it a darker look or even closing the curtains so there's always bright light flooding in through doors and windows during the "night." For numerous scenes supposedly taking place inside a tent, they hang up a huge tarp behind a few of the actors that not only is five times bigger than it should be but not even the same color as the tent show in long shots! These scenes have clearly been filmed somewhere on a stage with ridiculously unconvincing matte backdrops, which had me wondering why they didn't just set up a few spotlights and use the nice Lake District locations already at their disposal.


Just say Noh.
This has got to be the best movie ever made about Japanese schoolgirls sitting around bickering and running through the woods whining that I've ever seen in my life. Never mind, scratch that. I'm sure there are probably better examples that aren't as boring and perhaps even have a point. As of this writing, there are just two reviews up on here: one spilling over with accolades and the other blasting it to high heavens. I'm in total agreement with the latter. Then again, glancing over the sole positive review and seeing things like "The point is, there is no point" and "At any point, we can cross the line into nothingness" I'm not at all surprised. I never noticed any sort of purpose to the events in this film nor did I gouge any meaning from this film. Actually, it colors almost completely within the lines of numerous other films I've already seen before. There's nothing at all new here. It's not exciting. It's not interesting. It's not scary. It's not entertaining. It's not some art film. And if there's really some kind of meaning behind all of it, it's lost in a sea of clichés and tedium.

Film students Ai (Chisato Morishita) and Maki (Yôko Mitsuya), along with a rich bitch wannabe actress, two of her friends, a teacher and a psychologically troubled girl who's tagging along seemingly for the sole purpose of providing a red herring, go to the secluded Yuai House to film a reenactment of a series of murders that occurred there seven years earlier. All of this somehow ties into a grainy 8mm movie one of the girls found at their school depicting a robed woman in a Noh mask hacking a guy on the head with a blade. The girls settle in to the home, fight, complain, disappear, reappear and thankfully start turning up dead eventually. After numerous bodies are found ritualistically slain, the girls idiotically continue to go off by themselves to get killed. There are several annoying instances where the characters are all in a room or together and by the very next scene are apart for no logical reason. If poor film and sound editing, inept and lazy plot structure and no attention paid to pacing or continuity whatsoever constitutes 'art' then I guess I'll take the alternative.

Do other things occur here other than walking, talking and dying? Sure, well, uh, someone steals all the food. Exciting, huh? Someone attempts to feed another girl poisoned mushrooms, which would count as interesting if it wasn't a senseless plot device used solely to shield the identity of the masked killer. During a few other scenes, little dolls fashioned from sticks are hung from trees just like in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT but I had no clue what that had to do with anything or what kind of significance they had. The part that really had me scratching my head though was when three of the girls sit against a wall wrapped in blankets singing "In the blowing wind, fresh and clean" before one decides to wander off for a bathroom break all by herself DESPITE knowing there's a killer on the loose.

If you're an exploitation fan, you're also s out of luck here since there's no sex or nudity, next to no gore and nearly every single death takes place off-screen. The only aspects I liked were some of the forest locations, some bits of the music score and the eerie look of the 8mm reel. Other than that this is utterly useless. And with so many great Japanese genre films currently not available on DVD in America, why the hell did Synapse waste plastic printing out copies of such a dumb, forgettable film like this? Considering their release was several years ago now and this has still not even amassed 50 votes, it appears not many were even interested. I don't blame 'em.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings

Bad writing, bad acting and dumb characters... but delivers what it should.
You get the impression the director is just checking boxes along the way with this one, but at least he knew what to do. It's a slasher film so of course it needs blood, gore, a remote location, a bunch of twenty and thirty somethings pretending to be teenagers to supply a body count and a little T&A, right? That's precisely what this delivers. The opening prologue at a secluded West Virginia mental asylum sets the stage as three deformed white trash children manage to bust out of their cell, unleash the other patients and then kill off the staff in gruesome ways that include biting off a security guard's nose, gouging out an eyeball and ripping all of the limbs off a doctor with barbed wire. The film then immediately cuts to present day at a college where we briefly meet a few students. Well, we don't exactly meet them since this film has no characterization to speak of, we just get to see a straight couple having sex and then a lesbian couple having sex... and they're in the same room watching each other the whole time! That's just... weird.

The above two couples, along with two other couples, then decide to take their snowmobiles out to a cabin to spend the weekend partying. On their way, they take a wrong turn, get lost and are then forced to spend the night in the now-abandoned asylum. Guess who's still living there? Yup, the three "inbred West Virginia hillbillies" from the opening sequence, now all grown up but none the nicer and now with a taste for human flesh. The rest plays out just as you expect with the "teens" running for their lives and doing incredibly stupid things while getting killed off one by one. Most of the characters are pretty irritating, especially our heroine, who is bossy, kind of bitchy and insists no one kill the cannibals once they have them trapped because she doesn't "want to be reduced to their level." Oh please. Of course that poor decision ends up biting them all in the ass later on, but it also requires the lookout guy to FALL ASLEEP so they can escape their cage. I don't know about you, but if I was just a few feet from a group of deformed psychos who've already killed and eaten a few of my friends, I seriously doubt I would nod off regardless of how tired I was!

I could spend an hour detailing all of the stupid things these people do over the course of the movie, but I'll just discuss the gore and nudity instead since that's the main reason this movie was made. I actually liked many of the kills. The fx work is a combination of good old school makeups with a bit of CGI that admittedly looks like crap in a few instances but overall does the job OK. There's a really bloody hanging via barbed wire, a guy getting chunks of flesh slowed sliced off and fried in hot oil (human fondue?), a head skewering, several decapitations, a comically huge drill being thrust through a body and more. The director is smart enough to make sure nearly everyone's death is shown on-screen. He was also smart enough to hire a hot black actress, a hot Asian actress and a hot white actress (each with all-natural bodies) to do the nude scenes so that we get a little variety. Flaws and all, this movie actually compares favorably to several big budget slasher remakes of recent years like the awful Friday THE 13TH and ELM STREET re-dos.

I also liked the filming location, some of the photography choices and camera placements and the snowy setting featuring (gasp!) REAL snow. That may not seem like a big deal, but I've recently seen several films with CGI snow and it looks absolutely terrible, so at least they went on location to Canada to film this instead of trying to fake it. And hey, considering the guy who made this also made the terrible previous entry - WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD (2009) - this at least is a marked improvement. He's even able to generate a little bit of excitement here.

Lucky Bastard

Not entirely successful, but interesting enough.
Smarmy, burnt out middle-aged porn king Mike (Don McManus) runs his own adult film empire in L.A. that specialize in things like live streaming rape-fantasy scenarios. One of their other sites - "Lucky Bastard" - offers subscribers a chance to come in and film a sex scene with one of their actresses. Site favorite Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue), a single mother of two who's not lived a charmed life and adopted a tough exterior as a result, decides to do the job for 1500 bucks. They screen a bunch of applicants who send in submission videos and finally settle on an awkward, geeky redhead named David G. (Jay Paulson), who claims to be well-educated and an army vet. Once David is picked up for the shoot, his odd behavior and constantly- changing stories raise some red flags for the perceptive porn queen, who's faced a dangerous stalker in the past and knows David fits the m.o., but her suspicions are all but ignored by everyone else. They - along with a few cameramen (David Wylde, Lanny Joon) - then go to a rented Hollywood hills mansion filled with surveillance cameras for the shoot and then things take a violent turn.

After David finds himself unable to perform for the cameras (well, he actually "performs" a little too quickly if you catch my drift) and is exposed as a virgin, he's humiliated and mocked by the crew, Ashley refuses to "act" with him a second time and Mike kicks him out of the mansion. They'll all soon regret their cruel treatment of the already- unhinged amateur when he comes back armed and ready to kill in order to retrieve the embarrassing footage he did shoot. Also getting caught up in the crossfire are Casey (Catherine Annette), Mike's much-younger porn starlet girlfriend who's fighting a losing battle trying to prove she's more than just a piece of ass, as well as a bitchy real estate agent (Deborah Zoe) who apparently rents properties by the hour and the porn stud (Lee Kholafai) called in to replace David.

If you're sick of found footage movies and mockumentaries set in dreary abandoned asylums and dark haunted houses, this at least marks a change of pace to that played-out formula. Aside from some crime scene footage at the beginning telling the eventual fates of some of the characters, it's filmed entirely during the day in bright, sunny California. Unlike most other films of this type, there's fairly strong acting (especially from Rue and McManus) and a decent (though dialogue-heavy) screenplay. If you've ever seen any behind- the-scenes footage on adult film sets or documentaries about the people who make and act in these kinds of films, you'll realize just how well- researched this is. The characters in this one are believable personalities that are true to life and each are fairly well-defined and fleshed out. The thriller / horror elements and violent backlash of the psycho toward the end are, unfortunately, far less taut and disturbing than I think the filmmakers intended, mostly due to the shooting format. I'm not really sure the "found footage" route was the right way to go for this kind of material.

There's clearly a message being conveyed here, so at least this has a focused point of view and something to say. There's an opening text that tells us "For too long the adult entertainment industry has pushed the boundaries not only of obscenity but common sense. Those who play with fire... eventually get burned." That in itself sets this up as message movie meant to expose the dangers of the porn industry. Fair enough. The film does develop a sort of victim / victimizer parallel between the money-centered porn veterans who are completely resigned to what they do and the fresh faces in the industry who are treated as being disposable with no regard whatsoever for their feelings. Again, this seems somewhat true to the industry based on what I've heard from many - though not all - of the people who have worked in the industry.

One thing that did take me by surprise was that this was directed and co-written by an extremely successful TV producer with five Emmy nominations to his name and not an ambitious amateur like I initially thought. The producer was prolific B movie / soft corn porn king Jim Wynorski, and this is certainly more thoughtful than the brainless T&A films he's typically associated with. Because of full frontal male and female nudity, lots of raunchy dialogue and two simulated sex scenes (which are about on par with what you'll see late night on Cinemax these days), this earned itself an NC- 17 rating. That unintended irony there is that this rating is likely to draw in a crowd of viewers who might not like - or will even be offended by - what this has to say.

The Hills Have Eyes Part II

The Cravens Have Bills To Pay: Part Dud
Apparently desperately in need of money during his pre-Elm Street days, Craven agreed to write and direct this unnecessary follow-up to his 1977 cult success. After filming most - but not all - of the original script, the backers reneged and pulled funding before it could be completed, leaving the unfinished film to languish on a shelf somewhere for a spell. It wasn't until after Elm Street's success that the studio convinced Craven to finally finish it. And no, he wasn't given money to shoot the rest of the footage, he was simply left with the task of piecing together what WAS shot and then padding the rest out with "flashback" footage from the first. To tie it to the original, several cast members return to reprise their roles and the same basic premise and desert setting are retained, but the tone and the approach to the material is quite different this time out. In fact, it's almost impossible to believe the same man could possibly be responsible for both films. This sequel seems more like a second-rate cash-in made by an inept, inexperienced hack attempting to capitalize on the first film's success than an already-established filmmaker. It's no wonder Craven later disowned this film.

After the opening credit scroll informs us that "The following film is based on fact" (lol, please), we briefly catch up with original "Hills" survivor Bobby Carter (Robert Houston). Still traumatized by the events of the first movie, Bobby finds himself unable to accompany his buddies across the desert to a motocross competition to test out their new "Super Formula Racing Fuel." Going in his place is his friend Rachel (Janus Blythe), who, as "Ruby," was a member of the desert-dwelling family of the first film but is now a reformed ex-cannibal after having helped the Carter family put an end to her brood's murderous ways. Or so she thinks. Along with three racers, a mechanic, a few girlfriends and "Beast," the same German Shepherd from the first movie (don't ask), Rachel / Ruby soon finds herself back in familiar territory. Running short on time, the crew decide to venture off the main road and take a shortcut, their bus breaks down near an abandoned mine and then the rest plays out like business as usual as Pluto (Michael Berryman) and Papa Jupiter's hereunto unmentioned big brother "The Reaper" (John Bloom) start picking them off one by one.

Gone is the original film's intelligent subtext centered around two vastly different families clashing over harsh terrain and an ordinary, mild-mannered middle-class family forced to turn as vicious as their attackers in order to protect themselves. In its place we get a handful of obnoxious, ill-defined cardboard teenagers no one could possibly give two hoots about. While the first film was a tense, bleak survival film, this one is presented just like any number of other poorly-made slasher flicks with characters who continually do senseless and idiotic things, pitiful attempts at comedy and terrible dialogue ("You're not feeling psychic again are you like you sometimes do?"). The slasher feel is reinforced further by Harry Manfredini's rehashed music, which is nothing more than recycled bits and pieces from the Friday THE 13TH series. I could even live with all that, but this film is genuinely inept and filled with continuity errors and lapses in basic logic. It's almost mind-numbingly stupid... and the absurd moment the dog has his own flashback is really just the tip of the iceberg!

Early on, Rachel has a run-in with Pluto and uses karate (!) to defend herself. Immediately afterward she's shown laughing and joking along with the rest of the cast and accusing two guys who have disappeared of "playing pranks too hard" instead of, you know, putting two and two together they may have been killed by the psycho cannibal who'd just attacked her moments earlier. After she leaves the teens in her charge to go look around, they proceed to joke, play pranks on each other and and idiotically wander off by themselves so they can get killed. The movie probably reaches its low point when one of the cannibals steals a motorcycle, slaps on a helmet and starts driving around the rock cliffs while laughing maniacally. I wasn't even sure if this was supposed to be funny or not.

The murders themselves are rather tame. Someone's crushed by rocks and there are a couple of booby traps but most are just yanked off-screen and then found dead later on. The only gory moment is when one of the girls gets her throat cut and even that's not much. For what it's worth, our heroine (Tamara Stafford) ends up being a blind girl who has some kind of extrasensory perception, though the script doesn't really make novel use of that idea. The only thing this really has going for it are some nice-looking outdoor shooting locations and the underground lair the last few scenes take place in. Other than that, it's terrible.

Howling VI: The Freaks

"The world is full of freaks"
The sixth entry in this long-running werewolf series has nothing to do with Gary Brandner's book series or the previous five films bearing the same name and instead seems to take its greatest inspiration from Ray Bradbury's 1962 book "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Handsome British drifter Ian Richards (Brendan Hughes) arrives in the small, dying Southwest desert town of Canton Bluff with just 15 dollars in his pocket and a handful of papers he doesn't want anyone else to look at. Though the local sheriff (Carols Cervantes) initially tries to drive him away and others question his presence there, widowed pastor Dewey (Jered Barclay) agrees to give him room and board in exchange for helping to rebuild the communities run-down church. It isn't long before Ian's kind demeanor and hard work ethic manage to win over the town - not to mention the heart of the pastor's hot blonde daughter Lizzie (Michele Matheson) - but things are about to take a turn for the weird and horrific once a traveling carnival / freak show called Harker's World of Wonders strolls into town.

Headed by the charismatic and mysterious H.B. Harker (Bruce Payne), who is M.I.A. during the daylight hours (*wink*), the carnival boasts an array of oddities and human freaks. There's Mr. Bellamey (Antonio Fargas), the token geek who likes to bite off chicken heads, Mr. Toones (Deep Roy), a dwarf gambler with a tiny third arm he keeps tucked away in his jacket, transvestite stripper and torch singer Carl / Carlotta (Christopher Morley) and Winston Salem (Sean Gregory Sullivan), a meek, cat-loving burn victim whose scars are painted into scales so he can play "The Amazing Alligator Man." Ian turns out to be a "freak" himself and is in town with ulterior motives that coincide with the arrival of the carnival. Always on the lookout for a new monstrosity to add to his collection, Harker discovers that Ian is actually a werewolf. He has him captured, caged and then primed to be the new star attraction. Using a crystal and some chanting, the evil barker - who's also harboring a secret monstrous identity of his own - is able to make our hero transform whenever he wishes.

HOWLING VI suffers mostly from uneven writing. While the characters are surprisingly well-defined and the dialogue isn't bad, the story is unfocused and shapeless and there's next to no narrative drive to propel the plot forward. Thankfully, it has enough pluses to partially overcome that. For starters, I liked the fact the action centered around the same style of tortured werewolf from the Lon Chaney days, which is in stark contrast to the portrayal of the creatures in the first five "Howling" films. Not only is the wolf man sympathetic this time out, but it goes one step further by giving him partial control over his actions post transformation. While Chaney's Larry Talbot was a good guy turned murderous creature by the light of the full moon, the werewolf character here is pretty much a good guy in either his human or monster form. Though some people may be disappointed this doesn't feature a murderous werewolf, Payne's character more than makes up for it in villainy.

Another big plus is that the acting is vastly superior to most of the other films in this series. Lead Hughes not only does a fine job capturing both the mysterious and tender qualities of his character, but he's also physically perfect for this role because he has a gentle and kind look and non-threatening way about him. The well-spoken Payne is also very good playing the sinister and evil carnival barker, though he'd find himself being typecast in similar roles throughout his career because he played the bad guy so well. While some of the other actors aren't quite as good, no one really embarrasses themselves either like they do in most of the other "Howling" movies. The only real disappointment was them under-using Carol Lynley, who was once a star headlining major studio productions but has been reduced here to a small and rather pointless part.

For a low budget production, the sets are fairly good and the movie also delivers more in the way of makeup fx than the previous two films, which are well- executed by Todd Masters and the ever-reliable Steve Johnson (who also contributed to the scant fx in Part 4). The look of the werewolf here is somewhat old school in the face department (there's no wolf-like snout and the transformation scene is pretty weak), but it looks pretty cool regardless thanks to bipedal legs.

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