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Brain Smasher... A Love Story

Dice vs. Monks
Who are we to say that Andrew "Dice" Clay and Teri Hatcher could not be a couple?

Anyways, the Diceman was not on the top of the world in 1993 - a proposed network series was canceled and he started honing down the edge in his stand-up routine. But somehow, he played a near superheroic bouncer that battles martial artists over a rare lotus flower and when I say, "Yeah, Albert Pyun directed and wrote this," that pretty much explains it all.

The bad guys are not ninjas - they will say this often - but Chinese Shaolin monks who believe that eating the lotus flower will give them infinite life. It's in the orbit of the Brain Smasher (Clay) because Cammy Crain (Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Jackie on Too Close for Comfort and, of course, The Warriors) has sent the flower to her supermodel sister (Hatcher).

Wu, the leader of The Shaolin Monks, is played by Yuji Okumoto. As Chozen in The Karate Kid Part II, he is the best bad guy ever as even in the face of a hurricane, he will not redeem himself.

This film also packs on the character actors, with Brion James, Charles Rocket, Nicholas Guest and Tim Thomerson as detectives, Liz Sheridan as Brain Smasher's mother (meaning that Sheridan played mother to Jerry Seinfeld and Andrew "Dice" Clay in the very same year), Dee "Matilda the Hun" Booher and Liz Shaye.

This only came out on VHS in the U. S. and never even made it to DVD. I mean, who doesn't want to see Dice punch a man into his brain? The title does not lie. This does happen.

Proyecto Fantasma

Phantom Project
Pablo (Juan Cano) dreams of being an actor but until that happens, he's paying the bills doing the only acting role he can find, playing a patient that medical school students can practice on, as well as taking part as a paid member of alternative therapy sessions.

Much of this movie -- well, maybe not the ghost but who knows -- comes from the life of Chilean filmmaker and screenwriter Roberto Doveri, whose friends make up much of the cast.

Pablo had been just surviving when his roommate leaves, which leaves behind back rent, some clothes, lots of plants, a dog and, yes, that ghost that we see entangle itself in everyone's life by way of incredibly effective animation.

Your mileage may vary on this as it's talky and meandering, but then again, a ghost has sex with a guy and you don't see that all that often, so it is something.


Originally a web series, each segment of this tool two months to make, created by Canadian YouTuber and animator u m a m i, whose real name is Justin Tomchuk.

I guess the thing to realize is that The Philadelphia Experiment is a real event and it caused a phenomenon called Cerebral Energy to be revealed, changing the color of the sky and unleashing ghosts and giving the blue guy named Henryk immortality. He's joined by a character called Mischief, who is kind of a trickster god who likes to go on about man's nature and then transform himself into something silly.

There's also something about ghost stories and myths becoming reality, all while numerous pieces of famous art form the cartoon that you are downloading through your eyes. You'll get to see everything from René Magritte's "The Son of Man," Dali's "Birth of The Geopoliticus Child" and Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks at the Diner" and dialogue like "If what you want is to live with the memories you cherish most, live here within the Interface" is read in monotone.

It's not for everybody. I mean, your chance of loving it is just as high as hating it. But you should at least check it out.


Leader (Destini Stewart), Willow (Sophie Bawks-Smith), Jules (Jillian Frank), Vicky (Mari Geraghty) and Millie (Rowan Wales) have gone all Lord of the Flies Canada edition and leave behind parents and boyfriends to live in the woods all on their own with their own rules and things go about exactly as well as you'd expect when five teenage girls lose their minds.

The girls live under a rule of suitable revenge, which means if someone upsets you, you get to go after them with all the force and madness that an 18-year-old girl who has never left home before can muster which is a metric ton if you were worried about the conversion.

First-time director Avalon Fast and co-writer Emmett Roiko have put together an interesting script, but the performances are stilted and near-student level -- I love reading reviews that claim this is intended and makes it a better movie, film people will forgive anything -- while the editing is not the best and the sound quality is borderline static at best in some scenes. That said, there are moments that look gorgeous, which stand out and make you wish the same care was delivered throughout the movie.

That said, I do love parts of this, like the letters the girls write to loved ones before they leave, like Leader telling her boyfriend, "When I want you, I'll come get you." This feels like trial run -- like your teen years -- for something better, remembering the rough edges yet knowing how to imbue them with the honey of experience.

Can't wait to see what happens next.


Jennifer Pan's parents left Vietnam for Canada where they toiled at Magna International, an auto parts manufacturer in Ontario, working hard at car part manufacturing so that their children would have a much better life than they did.

They were also incredibly strict and had extremely high expectations. Jennifer was already training to be an Olympic-level figure skater and concert pianist by the age of 4. Jennifer was dropped off at school and picked up, monitored even when not home and not allowed to date boys or go to school dances. By the time she was 22, she had never been drunk, never gone on vacation without her family and never even been to a club.

All along, her parents thought that she had good grades. The truth was, other than music, she was a C-average student. To get around that, she continually forged her report cards and she even secretly taught piano and worked in a restaurant to earn money that she told them was a scholarship for her to study in the pharmacology program at the University of Toronto. She even bought textbooks and faked notes from YouTube classes to further allow her parents to think she was in school.

The truth? She was living with her mixed heritage -- a big issue with her family -- marijuana dealing and Boston Pizza-employee boyfriend. Her parents eventually found out when the deceptions grew too big to explain and it was discovered that she never even graduated high school. She was forced to break up with the guy, who got a new and younger girlfriend, and she went off the deep end, claiming that he had hired a gang of men to assault her and she was mailed one bullet by her lover's new girlfriend.

After trying to pay a goth kid to kill her parents, she got back with the old boyfriend and they spent $10,000 to hire real hitmen to kill mom and dad, knowing that she'd get $500,000 in the will. That's what we call business sense. Well, the killers did get her mother, but her father survived and when the case fell apart, she was convicted for 25 years in jail, never permitted to contact her family or lover again.

That story inspired Munkie, in which Stephen Chow directs the tale of Rose (Xana Tang), a young woman rebelling against her tiger parents. And by that, I mean paying to get them killed. Yet in the way that the film is made, you feel for her and understand perhaps what drove her to this point. You still understand that she's not a good person, but again, she didn't get to this point by herself.


Just one shot
Director and writer Alexandra Pechman (who wrote an episode of the lamented Channel Zero, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night") has an audacious idea here: film Kate Adams (who was also in her film Thumb) for nearly four minutes in the same unmoving shot as she loses her mind at the sound of home invaders just feet away from her.

Bonus - many bonus - points given for ending this as a variation of the urban legend of the licking dog, yet adding plenty more to that tale. No spoilers - this is an inspired film that truly could only work as a short. Well done.

What Happened to the Others?

I want more!
With just 7 minutes and $6,000 in the budget to tell the story, Douglas Wicker (Bang the Drum: The Life & Death of a Small Town Music Scene, Bad People) deals with a family's trauma by way of mysterious creatures that they're been worrying about since grandfather first saw them fifty years ago. Now, it seems as if those things - whatever they are - have returned.

The best part of seeing this as part of the Chattanooga Film Festival was getting to see Wicker interact and explain more of the film, including behind the scenes shots. He said that the film is "a love letter to films with amazing folklore and creature biologists like Alien and Pumpkinhead, but also channeling a lot of emotional conflict and concepts I've struggled with in my life."

I'd love to see him expand this story and get to make this as a larger and longer film, because what is in this short has enough for three movies worth of effects-driven horror.


Six minutes, two characters and incredibly unsettling, Smile is a simple metaphor for depression told in an incredibly stunning way.

Anna (Konstantina Mantelos, who was in one of my favorite recent horror films, Anything for Jackson) is the only human we see in this movie -- we hear Ashley Laurence (Kristy from the Hellraiser films) as the voice of her mother -- and we're with her as she struggles to smile and then deals with Moros (Tyler Williams), who in Greek mythology is the living and personification of impending doom and a demon destroys mortals fated to die.

Director and writer Joanna Tsanis has made several shorts, but this is the first of her work that I've seen. She also has the benefit of great cinematography by Jason Han and magical special effects makeup by Carlos Henriques.

Off Limits

Well done
I live in the sticks, the literal south of Southwestern Pennsylvania and I've taken under five rideshares in my life. And I'm also a stocky and furrowed-brow-looking guy. But this movie made me realize the sheer terror women face getting a ride -- hell, even just trying to exist -- every single day.

Every driver that Charlotte "Charlie" Wilson (Mallory Rose Diekmann, who wrote the film) interacts with demands more -- where do you live, what do you do, who do you date, why are you afraid -- and her space remains invaded from the very opening of this short.

Director Megan Gorman does a great job of compounding that terror in every single successive scene until the worry feels oppressive. But isn't that the point? Off Limits made me consider how women feel in the world and how lucky I am to never experience these feelings, all within the confines of a low budget short.

Well done and I am sorry.

Streamer Stalker

Supreme cringe
Look, I know that we do a streaming show every Saturday night but man, I still don't get Twitch streamers. Maybe I grew up in the 70s when video games were new and we wanted to fight people for the chance to be up next, but I despise watching anyone else play, much less talk nonsense the entire time. But hey, media changes and grows and gets dumber, so who am I to be an elitist?

Touchmytoaster (Connor Del Rio, who co-wrote the script) is a streamer so popular that people track down his house, ask for his blood and pay him money to even watch him sleep. Somehow, he still has an interesting partner named Meghan (Allison Landi), even if she sleeps in the guest room now that those streamers watch every single snore of her man.

Can fans go too far? Trust me, as someone who has been a pro wrestler -- even on the indy and Japan level -- for a quarter of a decade, yes, a thousand times yes. None of them have ever come to my house and ask if they can take a dump or get a hug, however.

There's so much cringe in this in the best way, cringe becoming part of horror, the fact that we have to leave behind our screens to actually interact with humans and then remember exactly why we hide behind screens. Yes, I'm connecting with you, but please leave me alone.

Director and co-writer Gaelan Connell has somehow made a better movie in 14 minutes than the Tubi exclusive First Person Shooter did about the same idea and they had 90 minutes. And yet both films feature a very awkward bathroom scene.

That said -- this has the most frightening use of a toaster ever.

Livin' After Midnight

Vampiric love
Robyn Carmack (Robyn Carmack as Audrey DeRossett) is a non-binary vampire who is preparing for their next date, brushing their fangs and prepping themselves for not just romance, but the hunt.

They soon meet Tyler Cates (Evan Vihlen) but for most of the date, all they can think about is the time afterward, scratching and clawing and biting through Tyler's flesh to his lifegiving blood underneath.

The problem? Tyler has the same plan. What happens when two vampires meet cute -- or bloody -- and have so many past romantic issues to work through? Can they at least enjoy a great meal -- of sorts -- together?

Directed by Tom von Dohlen and written by Brant Lewis, this has some twists you can see coming and a few you can't. It's certainly got some cute ideas and could lend itself to way more than just a short. With some more budget and time, I'd love to see that happen.


Two sisters -- Sam (Sophia Capasso, East Enders) and Caitlin (Annie Knox) -- end up battling one another as a leech creature begins to influence and control them both from within. Is it a metaphor for how real world events cast a wedge between families or just an opportunity to have horrifying creatures and no small amount of muck, bile and whatever fluids can be spit and puked up?

I mean, in a perfect world and in a great movie -- like this short -- it can be both.

Director and writer Alix Austin has done just about every job you can in film -- acting, directing, producing, on the crew, second unit, casting, editing, writing and more -- and if this film is any indication, we'll soon be seeing a lot more of her talented work.

Killer Crocodile 2

Wonderful ridiculousness
Shot at the same time as Killer Crocodile and directed by Giannetto De Rossi (who also directed Cy Warrior but is mainly known for special effects on films like Zombi, The Humanoid, Dune, High Tension and more than sixty other movies. He co-wrote the film with the producer - and director of the original - Fabrizio De Angelis and Dardano Sacchetti.

Ennio Girolami is back as the hunter known as Joe and Richard Anthony Crenna is on hand again as Kevin, the environmentalist turned croc killer, as a second mutated reptile starts eating everyone it can get its jaws on.

They've come to the swamps of the Caribbean with reporter Liza (Debra Karr) as she investigates bad businessman Mr. Baxter, who doesn't see why radioactive waste is a detriment to the holiday resort he's just opened.

This one is filled with padding - lots of flashbacks to the first movie - but it makes up for that by having the titular monster go through the wall of a house to get at people, then eat a nun and top that by snacking on a whole bunch of kids. Nobody is safe and the body count comes in at 21, which is pretty respectable.

The Sweet Spot

Really good and needs expanded!
This is a well-shot film, directed and written by Evan Enderle. It's his first short and he's acted in a bunch of things -- a Law and Order apperance, four episodes of the show The Walker -- but this proves that he definitely has an affinity for setting up tension and drama.

He also takes two of the biggest no no's -- don't put kids or animals in your movies -- and says screw it and makes something really great. It has a young girl staying overnight at a rural daycare and coming up against something horrifying. It also really demands to be expanded to a full movie, because there's so much more here to explore.

Community Service

You like spaghetti?
Dan (Dan O'Brien) gets arrested for being drunk in the streets and that means community service wherever he can get it, the easier the better. His lawyer (Ken Forman) tells him to try and find something where he can just get someone to sign that he was there and to get on with his life.

That job ends up being delivering spaghetti. So much spaghetti. Spaghetti hasn't had a horror role like this since The Lost Boys. "You're eating maggots. How do they taste?" Oh Michael...

Anyways, Grayson Tyler Johnson has directed and written a strange little morality tale here, particularly when Shecky (Angelo Muto) closes the door telling Dan that he's her favorite for now. Maybe drink at home from now on, huh?

Blood on Méliès' Moon

Cozzi, you wonderful maniac!
Man, Luigi Cozzi. Starcrash, Contamination, Paganini Horror, Cannon's Hercules, his remix of Godzilla, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, the remix remake ripoff weirdness that is Demons 6 De Profundis, The Killer Must Kill Again, writing Four Flies on Grey Velvet and even just being a fan of film and running Argento's Profondo Rosso store and museum -- I just love the man. Like, I wish I could buy him dinner and drinks and just pick his brain for hours about the history of film.

I think this is as close as I'm going to get.

Cozzi originally came up with the idea -- or at least the title -- for Blood on Méliès' Moon when he was working for Cannon in the 80s, but had no idea how it could be made. As much as we hate on modern technology, it did make this happen, as the Cozzi said that it was like when he "decided to become a publisher, until then, to publish a book you had to print at least one or two thousand copies. That meant a lot of money and often your storehouses were full of unsold copies. After the advent of digital, you could print even only thirty copies of a book and so I decided to start publishing books and novels."

Let me try and summarize this absolutely berserk movie.

Inventor Louis Le Prince -- a real artist could possibly have been the first person to shoot a movie of any length using a single lens camera and a strip of film; he also disappeared after boarding a train in September of 1890 on his way to demonstrate the camera, but there are theories that he was killed by Edison, disappeared to start a new life and celebrate his homosexuality where he would not be judged, that he committed suicide due to multiple failures or that his brother killed him to get their mother's will. The case has never been solved -- create a device that the Lumière Brothers would eventually call The Cinematographer.

Luigi Cozzi, playing himself, finds a book called The Roaming Universe that was left for him when Barbara (Barbara Magnolfi!) is killed by the statue of the Blood and Black Lace killer within Profondo Rosso's Argento museum basement, a book that she received during a seance during which an old woman violently puked it into existence.

A man has also sent Cozzi a lamp fashioned after Le Voyage dans la Lune and claims that a shadow version of La Prince in the guise of a masked magician has left the doorway open to a dark dimension that will soon doom our reality using film as his weapon.

It's a little like La rage du Démon, in that one of Méliès' movies causes chaos, but it's also a lot like a conspiracy tract you would have found in the 80s all Xeroxed and left in a payphone booth or a strange YouTube channel that at first you giggle about but then you say, "Well, that makes sense." It's baffling and brilliant and corny and silly all at the same time, a messy final message from an auteur who can't help but be entertaining no matter what he does.

There's also a trickster named Pierpoljakos (Philippe Beun-Garbe) who takes Cozzi through other dimensions, a severed head that can speak, Cozzi's wife reacting to him telling her that he has to save the world by just rolling over and going back to sleep, Cozzi in fuzzy pajamas, Ben Cooper level masks, monsters and effects, as well as Lamberto Bava showing off his dad's book collection, Dario Argento at an autograph signing and a nightmare that has critic Paolo Zelati claim that Cozzi is the Italian Ed Wood, which should upset him, but just ends up making him happy.

There's also a discussion of the volcano sequence that Cozzi ripped off for Hercules and asks, "Did Cozzi choose the images or did the images choose him?" He also gets to fly on a rocket and when he lands, gets a smile from his own creation, Stella Starr from Starcrash.

This movie reminds me of the Profondo Rosso store itself, a cramped small place with a few books, some DVDs and goofy masks, all standing above a shrine to the genius that is Italian exploitation cinema in the catacombs below. It doesn't make a lot of sense, it doesn't have to and it's wonderful.

I have in my office a Profondo Rosso mug and it's one of my prized possessions. It's like some alchemical object, something I hold and hope that the inspiration and madness and love of cinema that Cozzi has always had stays within me. I also am happy to report that when I mentioned his name to Caroline Munro, she lit up and said, "He really is the most wonderful man."

Killer Crocodile

Fabrizio De Angelis -- who directed, co-wrote with Dardano Sacchetti and produced this movie -- was so sure of its success that he made the sequel immediately afterward. You know, De Angelis doesn't get mentioned all that often when people bring up Italian sleaze merchants, but the guy made three Thunder movies and six Karate Warrior movies, so he knew how to replicate a successful formula. He also produced so much great junk, such as The Last Match, The Beyond, Cop Target, Emanuelle Around the World and so much more.

Kevin (Richard Anthony Crenna, son of Richard, providing his own wardrobe and also getting dysentery while making this), Jennifer (Ann Douglas), foxy Pam (Sherrie Rose, Summer Job), Bob (John Harper) and Mark (Pietro Genuardi) are sailing down a river in Santo Domingo to report on the water's radioactivity. What happens if that radioactivity also gets into a crocodile? You won't have to wait forever to find out.

For a while, they're guided by Conchita and her dog Candy, but when that mutated reptile rises and destroys her, instead of the local government led by Judge (Van Johnson) figuring it all out, they frame the youngsters for murder, as Judge and Foley (Wohrman Williams) are the reasons why the town is in this whole mess.

There's also Joe (Ennio Girolami, Viking from Sinbad of the Seven Seas), a hunter who knows the truth and is the Robert Shaw to no one's Roy Scheider. The real star of the whole show is the gator, who pops up repeatedly and wipes out man -- and spoiler warning -- canine alike, but Joe is also man enough to literally surf on the thing.

If Becca and I ever get out to the Amazon, after watching this, Cubby is staying home.


Lots of chunks
Hey do you like to eat during movies?

Emesis el amor mata (Love Kills) or PussyCake as it's known in the U. S. has more vomit in one movie than in every other film this year put together.

Argentina, you're crazy.

PussyCake is also the name of the all girl band in this film. Elle Cake (Maca Suarez), Sara Cake (Aldana Ruberto), Juli Cake (Sofia Rossi) and Sofi Cake (Anahi Politi, who was also in Crystal Eyes) are struggling to get noticed, so their manager Pato gets them a show where a record label promises to show up. Yet when they get to town, it's empty. And then, as these things go, zombies show up. Or aliens. Or something.

Look, it doesn't really matter. This is the kind of movie that teenage me would run out of breath yelling about to anyone who would listen. It's four fashionable rockstars against all manner of creatures who bleed, barf and otherwise defile the screen with a buffet of bile. It's also 75 minutes long and has no interest in explaining to you why this is happening, who most of the people are and what the rules are of the infection.

Pablo Parés, who co-wrote this with Maxi Ferzzola and Hernán Moyano, has also directed Daemonium: Soldier of the Underworld, Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante: Revolución Tóxica and a whole bunch of shorts that are all filled with liters -- I did the metric for this -- and liters of blood, viscera and half-eaten innards.

I want to see this in a crowded theater or at the drive-in and just hear an audience go wild for this. I can only imagine the hot water and fresh towel budget that this film had.


Evil Eye
Evil Eye was made in Italy and stars Mexican exploitation hero Jorge Rivero, oddball cowboy icon Anthony Steffen and an American actor known best for being in The Godfather, Richard Conte.

Rivero - who of course was Mace in Fulci's fog-obsessed Mexican vacation Conquest - is a playboy whose sleeping hours are filled with nightmarish visions of occult rituals and nude dead women who come screaming back to life. One evening, during a loud thunderstorm, he ends up meeting one of these women, Yvonne (Lone Fleming, Tombs of the Blind Dead) and their evening climaxes with him choking her into oblivion.

Or did he? Ah yes, that giallo chestnut - a murderer who may not be a murderer and then the body turns up. More people show up in Peter's deadly dreams, then die and he may be an avenging angel of sorts from the world of the shadows. Or maybe he just needs to stay in that insane asylum.

There's a gorgeous cast - Pia Giancaro (The Red Queen Kills Seven Times), Daniela Giordano (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key), Pilar Velázquez (Naked Girl Murdered in the Park) and Eva Vanicek - along with stalwart Eurohorror talents like Luciano Pigozzi and Eduardo Fajardo.

There's also a crazy scene in which Peter tries to save a woman from a mob only for a crane to drop a load of bricks directly on her in a kind of low rent proto-The Omen. That's also one of the few moments in this movie without full frontal nudity, as this movie goes all in on the sleazier side of Satanic splendor. It also has Fajardo throwing up a frog in one of the most disgustingly wild things I've seen before a possessed gun blow him away. And yes, the ending makes no sense, but I kind of demand that.

Director Mario Siciliano also made Alleluja & Sartana Are Sons... Sons of God and Trinity and Sartana Are Coming as well as Erotic Family and Orgasmo non-stop, so you know you're in good, if not slightly filthy hands. It also has a score by Stelvio Cipriani that makes hippie devil worship nightmare logic feel free and breezy.


Five scientists -- 001 the enginner (Curt Doussett), 002 the psychologist (Jyllian Petrie), 003 the biochemist (Morgan Gunter), 004 the soldier (Mason D. David) and 005 the doctor (Emily Marie Palmer) -- wake from cryosleep with no memories of who they are, how they got where they are and even how long they've been asleep. They soon learn that 000 the inventor (Michael Flynn) is gone, they're sealed on the other side of an airlock and a killer -- who may be one of them -- is hunting everyone.

A student film by director Barrett Burgin and co-writer Mason D. Davis, this looks better than 90% of the movies that come my way for review. It also has a stronger plot, better tension and moments where I genuinely was surprised by the turns that the film makes.

After exporing the area they are trapped in, objects that change reality show up, such as a bloody machete and a copy of The Divine Comedy. Some of the crew starts to hear sermons in their head. It seems as if the inventor is nearly a god to them as they debate how they can find his presence. And as they have no idea what has happened outside, they fear leaving the security of these four walls, even if they contain a killer.

That said -- the movie could lose thirty minutes and not suffer for it. But for a first effort, it looks beyond polished and I'd have no idea that it was a freshman effort were I not informerd. Can't wait to see what's next!

Breathing Happy

Breathing Happy
This film follows the journey of Dylan Brady, who is played for most of the film by director and writer Shane Brady (Ballers, Dr. Sleep) and Owen Atlas when he is young, a man who is struggling to achieve his first year of sobriety.

It goes deep, not just showing his journey, but how his extended family deals with him, which is all caused by the death of his father (John D'Aquino) when he was young. As Christmas approaches and he's cut off from his family -- they had to finally give him the tough love that it took to make him reach out for help -- and must go through this next stage of his recovery alone.

June Carryl, who plays Dylan's mother, is incredible in this, a woman striving to keep her adopted family together despite years of hardship. The love that she has for her son shines through even when it's impossible to feel anything for him. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, who made The Endless and Spring, also do great voice work as some of the characters that live inside Dylan's head.

The rest of the strong cast includes Katelyn Nacon (The Walking Dead), Augie Duke (Spring), Brittney Escalante, Jim O'Heir (Parks and Recreation) and even NHL Hall of Famer Phil Esposito, who plays the future that Dylan could become. Hockey -- and magic -- have a major role in this movie, so seeing Esposito be the perfect older Dylan is a great idea.

Breathing Happy takes you on a journey that's not always comfortable, but the filmmakers were committed to telling what this story is truly like, for good and bad.

El escapulario

Catholic fright
As María Pérez (Ofelia Guilmáin) receives last rites, she tells Father Andrés (Enrique Aguilar) about the influence that a religious medal - The Scalpular - had on her sons' - Julián (Carlos Cardán) and Pedro (Enrique Lizalde) - lives. Meanwhile, two robbers wait outside to attack and rob the priest.

Julián is a soldier who soon deserts the army to join the rebels - the film takes place during the Mexican Revolution - blowing up a train before he's arrested. A sympathetic soldier helps him escape, yet Julián denies the power of the medal - denying God - and is shot and badly wounded.

Pedro falls for a woman well above his social status, Rosario (Alicia Bonnet's), and narrowly avoids being killed thanks to the power of the medal. It turns out her uncle wants their relationship stopped at all costs, so he sends a letter about an evening rendezvous from Rosario while hiring bandits to kill him.

Andrés and Federico, the other two sons, have been lost since being kidnapped by a gang, but perhaps the priest will soon meet them and they will all learn how the power of the scapular binds them all. And that strangely, the old woman has been dead for seven years.

Director Servando González makes a whimsical yet melancholy fantastic film here, powered by a script by Jorge Durán Chavez and Rafael García Travesi, who wrote 94 movies, including several Santo films and The Mummies of Guanajuato.

This movie looks beyond gorgeous, even as it shows scenes of condemned and hung men swinging after their deaths. Somehow uniting multiple genre and countries of cinema, as well as being folk horror by way of Mexican Catholicism, this movie finds death everywhere and still finds a reason to smile (and by frightened at the same time).

El monstruo resucitado

Classic Mexican fright
Miroslava was born Miroslava Sternova Bekova in Prague, Czechoslovakia and in 1941, er family moved to Mexico to escape the war. After she won a national beauty contest, she made tons of movies in her adopted country and three in America - Adventures of Casanova, The Brave Bulls and Stranger on Horseback - and her final movie was Luis Buñuel's Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal for a Crime).

A few months ater making that movie, she took sleeping pills and died, being found in the morning clutching a photo of bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín. The rumor is that she really was holding a photo of actor and comedian Cantinflas, but to stop any scandal, the photo was switched.

In this film she plays a reporter named Nora who becomes invoved with plastic surgeon Dr. Ling (José María Linares-Rivas), who is truly a monstrous shape of a man who quickly falls in love with her. He then decides that she can never love him and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by bringing a suicidal man named Ariel (Carlos Navarro) back from the dead, just in time for that man to fall in love with Nora.

Directed by Chano Urueta (El Baron del Terror), this movie was based on the Universal Frankenstein movies while adding in surgical scenes, which had to inspire René Cardona, who made so many movies around doctors conducting bloody experiments. There's some great makeup in this, lots of dark and foreboding mood and a pretty good story as well. If you like classic American black and white horror, you'll like this too.

Curse of the Stone Hand

The remix
Alright, I know this isn't a Mexican movie, it's American, but it was a remix and reedit by Jerry Warren, who brought so many South of the Border movies to America. He shot new footage with John Carradine - who else? - and Katherine Victor to freshen up two twenty-year-old Chilean films, La Casa está Vacía (The House is Empty) and La Dama de la Muerte (The Lady of Death).

Seeing as how it's two films, Warren decided to turn this into an anthology, if two stories can really be an anthology. The same house is supposed to be the setting for both stories, one in which a gambler finds a set of stone hands in the cursed house and uses them to play curses before joining a suicide club. This is La Dama de la Muerte (The Lady of Death), as that movie was an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Suicide Club. The second story has another owner's son finding the hands - this is La Casa está Vacía (The House is Empty) - and using them to hypnotize his brother's fiancee.

This is the closest that Warren would stay to his source material and therefore lacks the utter drug-induced insanity of his Mexican remake remixes. The dubbing is horrible, yet we can directly trace Godfrey Ho and the wildness that he dropped on us several decades later to the way that Warren could take any movie and chop it to pieces.

Warren once said, " "I'd shoot one day on this stuff and throw it together. I was in the business to make money. I never ever tried in any way to compete or to make something worthwhile. I only did enough to get by, so they would buy it, so it would play, and so I'd get a few dollars. It's not very fair to the public, I guess, but that was my attitude. You didn't have to go all out and make a really good picture."

Know what you're getting into before you watch this!

Warren's American Distributors Productions, Inc. Teamed this up with another of his mixtape wonders, Face of the Screaming Werewolf, which is Mexican and is also two movies in one - La Casa del Terror and La Momia Azteca.

The Quick and the Dead

Why did I wait?
Why did I wait so long to see this movie?

Was I worried that it would disappoint me?

Did I need to explore the Italian west first?

I have no idea!

Simon Moore wrote this movie as a tribute to Sergio Leone and man, it comes through in every scene of the film. He had intended to direct his own script as an independent film and soot in either Spain or Italy when Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the script, got Sharon Stone as the lead and went with Sam Raimi after she was impressed with his work on Army of Darkness. She went so far as to tell the producers that if Raimi did not direct the film, she wouldn't be in it.

Raimi would blame himself for the film's failure, sayin "I was very confused after I made that movie. For a number of years I thought, I'm like a dinosaur. I couldn't change with the material." That said - it made $47 million on a $35 million budget and time has seen the movie be critically rethought.

The Lady (Stone) has come to the town of Redemption - a place where the only law is John Herod (Gene Hackman) - for a fast-draw single elimination shooting tournament in which no challenge can be refused and the gunfight goes on until a contestant yields or dies.

There are really only four people who can win the contest: The Lady, Herod, a former gangster turned preacher called Cort (Russell Crowe) - Herod's former right-hand man who abandoned his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life after Herod forced him to kill a priest - who is given one bullet per battle so he doesn't shoot his way out of town and The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), who just might be the best gunfighter of all time if you listen to what he has to say.

Each of them must battle their way through, however, as Herrod defeats Sergeant Clay Cantrell (Keith David), a killer hired by the town itself to murder him and The Lady kills Eugene Dred after he assaults the saloon owner's (Pat Hingle) daughter. Afraid that she won't be able to achieve her mission - which is more than the money in the tournament - she nearly runs away before Doc Wallace (Roberts Blossom, Old Man Marley in Home Alone) hands her her father's badge and tells her that she must clean up the town. At the same time, Cort must battle Spotted Horse (Jonothon Gill), a man who says that no bullet can kill him.

The flashback that follows - Herod caused her to kill her father (Gary Sinise) - sets up the reason why she must destroy not only the man who murdered her father but destroy his entire town, which won't be easy.

This is the kind of movie I love so much, packed with actors of true character, like Lance Henriksen as trick shot fighter "Ace" Hanlon, Tobin Bell as Dog Kelly, Sven-Ole Thorsen as "Swede" Gutzon, Evil Dead II writer Scott Spiegel as Gold Teeth Man and Italian western star Woody Strode as Charlie Moonlight. This was Strode's last role and the movie is dedicated to him.

This movie is full of not only amazing gunfights, incredible dialogue and plenty of tension but a bravura ending - daylight through a shadow! - that literally made me jump out of my seat. It's also packed with montages and a moment where there are so many extreme zooms and rack focus moments that I was sure that the ghosts of every beloved Italian director had risen from their graves and taken over the film.

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