Woodyanders

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Krampus: The Reckoning
(2015)

Watch out for Krampus
Strange little girl Zoe Weaver (nicely played to the annoying bratty hilt by Amelia Haberman) unleashes the infamous Christmas devil Krampus on a small town during the yuletide season.

Writer/director Robert Conway relates the enjoyable story at a steady pace, delivers a handy helping of nasty gore, generates a reasonable amount of creepy atmosphere, offers a neat little twist at the end, and tosses in some yummy bare female flesh and two pretty hot simulated softcore sex scenes for trashy good measure. Moreover, the acting from the competent no-name cast is generally passable, with especially solid work from Monica Engresser as perky child psychiatrist Dr. Rachel Stewart and James Ray as the weary Detective Miles O'Connor. The CGI Krampus monster looks kinda hokey, but still makes for a gnarly beast just the same. A fun piece of low-budget horror junk.

Crying Wolf
(2015)

A wacky werewolf comedy that'll have you howling with laughter
Pandemonium ensues in the heretofore sleepy town of Deddington after a local girl gets killed by a werewolf.

Directed with considerable aplomb by Tony Japia, with a groovy James Bond-style opening credits sequence, an amusing array of colorful and quirky characters, gnarly werewolves, an often uproarious sense of zany humor, oodles of outrageously excessive gore, and a satisfying smattering of tasty bare female skin, this honey overall rates as a whole lot of wild fun. Moreover, it's acted with zest by an enthusiastic no-name cast, with especially lively contributions from Gabriella Alexandra as the snarky Millie, Kristofer Dayne as the angry Andy, Rosie Pearson as the perky Emma, Kimberly Jaraij as the sassy Kim, Marco Radice as rough'n'tumble monster hunter Rickie Hellsong, and Ian Donnelly as the dorky Mark. Caroline Munro has a spirited cameo as a fiery shopkeeper. A total hoot.

The Recall
(2017)

The aliens are coming
A group of friends vacationing at a remote lake house in the woods are warned about an impending alien invasion by an eccentric hunter (a fine and intense performance by Wesley Snipes). The group laughs off said warning until weird and unsettling stuff starts happening.

Director Mauro Borrelli relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a constant pace, adroitly crafts an ominous atmosphere, makes neat use of the breathtaking sylvan locations, and generates a good deal of tension. The solid acting by the capable cast keeps this movie humming: RJ Mitte as the easygoing Brendon, Jedidiah Goodacre as the mopey Charlie, Laura Bilgeri as the sweet Annie, Niko Pepaj as the excitable Rob, and Hannah Rose May as perky redhead Kara. Moreover, the CGI effects are really good considering the modest budget while the characters are drawn with some depth. A cool sci-fi flick.

Scream, Pretty Peggy
(1973)

Don't ask about Jenny
Sweet and perky college student and aspiring artist Peggy Johns (a delightfully spunky portrayal by the adorable Sian Barbara Allen) takes a job as a housekeeper at a mansion where sculptor Jeffrey Elliott (an excellent and engaging performance by Ted Bessell) lives with his elderly mother (a splendidly snippy turn by Bette Davis). It turns out that there's a third secret resident in the form of Jeffrey's insane sister Jennifer.

Director Gordon Hessler relates the absorbing story at a steady pace, adroitly crafts a spot-on spooky atmosphere along with an intriguing aura of mystery, and makes good use of the sprawling estate main location. The clever script by Jimmy Sangster and Arthur Hoffe offers a pretty predictable, but sill effective twist at the end along with exceptionally well-drawn characters. The three leads all do top work, with sturdy support from Charles Drake as a devoted father looking for his missing daughter. A solid 70's made-for-TV thriller.

Anybody's Woman
(1981)

Nice time capsule of early 80's NYC
This 24-minute short offers lots of choice footage of New York City and especially Times Square in all its gloriously seedy early 1980's glory complete with sleazy porn theaters and sex shops advertising various hardcore movies on the marques and live nude girls. Moreover, Spalding Gray tells a priceless filthy story about seeing some scuzzy porn flick in a cheap adult movie theater. In addition, this short serves as an interesting precursor to Bette Gordon's full-length feature "Variety," which covers a lot of the same ground in more through detail. A cool little romp on the wild side.

The Screaming Woman
(1972)

Nicely done made-for-TV thriller
Wealthy former mental patient Laura Wynant (a splendid performance by Olivia de Havilland) goes back to her estate in order to rest and recover from a nervous breakdown. When Laura hears screams from a woman who's been buried under the ground, everyone she tells doesn't believe her and questions her sanity instead.

Director Jack Smight relates the simple, but still absorbing and engaging story in a steady and straightforward manner, generates a good deal of tension, and adroitly crafts an eerie mood (the shots of the woman buried beneath the ground are genuinely unsettling). Moreover, de Havilland brings a lovely elegance and gravitas to her juicy lead role; she receives sturdy support from Ed Nelson as no-count neighbor Carl Nesbitt, Joesph Cotton as loyal friend George Tresvant, Walter Pidgeon as kindly psychiatrist Dr. Amos Lark, Charles Robinson as greedy son Howard, Laraine Stephens as Howard's conniving wife Caroline, Lonny Chapman as a gruff police sergeant, and Alexandra Hay as Carl's foxy paramour Evie Carson. Well worth a watch.

Monolith
(2016)

Solid little thriller
Mother Sandra (well played with spunky charm to spare by Katrina Bowden) must race against time to get her infant son out of a fancy state-of-the-art super car that he's trapped inside of in the middle of nowhere.

Director/cowriter Ivan Silvestrini relates the gripping story at a brisk pace, takes time to develop the main character of Sandra, makes good use of the desolate and isolated desert central location, and generates a good deal of tension. Moreover, Bowden astutely captures the raw desperation and fierce determination of her character. A real nail biter.

Cucuy: The Boogeyman
(2018)

Being a bad kid comes at a price
A boogeyman creature known as the Cucuy (Morgana Jones in gnarly make-up) snatches up misbehaving kids in a small town. It's up to rebellious teenager Sofia Martin (a fine and appealing performance by Jearnest Corchado) to find the Cucuy's cave and destroy the beast before it's too late.

Writer/director Peter Sullivan relates the enjoyable and absorbing story at a constant pace, ably crafts a creepy and unsettling mood, presents a nice sleepy small town atmosphere, and puts a welcome and refreshing emphasis on plot and characters over gore and cheap scares. The sound acting from the capable cast keeps this movie humming: Marisol Nichols as struggling single mother Rebecca, Brian Krause as earnest sheriff Kieran, Bella Stine as sweet little sister Amelia, Pedro Correa as likeable hunk Milo Murphy, and Jack Erdie as suspicious weirdo neighbor Boyd. The titular monster is both freaky and frightening in equal measure while the Mexican mythology pertaining to the Cucuy is novel and interesting. A cool creature feature.

Frenzy
(2018)

Stranded in the ocean with three sharks
A daredevil group of young friends find themselves surrounded by a trio of fierce and frenzied man-eating great white sharks after the plane they were in crashes into the sea.

Director Jose Montesinos relates the gripping and enjoyable story at a zippy time, takes time to flesh out the characters, delivers some decent gore, and generates a good deal of pulse-pounding tension. Moreover, Aubrey Reynolds makes for an appealing and resourceful damsel in distress as the perky Lindsey while Gina Vitori lends sturdy support as Paige's spunky older sister Paige. However, the painfully cheap and unconvincing subpar CGI shark effects leave a lot to be desired. So overall a pretty good shark horror flick that could have benefitted from better special effects.

The Jericho Mile
(1979)

You can't cage the human spirit
Lifer convict Larry "Rain" Murphy (superbly played with tremendous passion and conviction by Peter Strauss) ventilates his frustration by running around the yard. When Murphy shows potential as an Olympic runner, he gets a chance to actually be sprung from prison.

Director/co-writer Michael Mann brings a refreshingly stark and unsentimental sensibility to this gripping and potent tale of redemption and thwarted unrealized talent that also serves as an astute exploration of racial tension and power plays behind bars, with Murphy's final act of quiet defiance standing out as a strong example of the triumph of the human spirit against impossible odds. Moreover, it's an especially nice and inspired touch to have almost everyone who helps Murphy out have their own agendas for doing so.

The tip-top cast helps a lot: Richard Lawson as Murphy's easygoing pal R. C. Stiles, Roger E. Mosley as the formidable Cotton Crown, Geoffrey Lewis as compassionate psychologist Dr. Bill Janowski, Brian Dennehy as cocky top con Dr. D, Billy Green Bush as the cagey Warden Earl Gulliver, Ed Lauter as no-nonsense coach Jerry Beloit, Richard Moll as hulking brute Joker Gibb, William Prince as a smarmy race official, Miguel Pinero as the shrewd Rubio, and Burton Gilliam as wormy flunky Jimmy-Jack. Filmed at Folsom Prison with inmates as extras, this superior TV movie has a gritty authenticity and wrenching poignancy that's as powerful as it is undeniable.

Death Kiss
(2018)

An on the money revenge action opus
A vigilante (a perfectly stoic portrayal by Charles Bronson lookalike Robert "Bronzi" Kovacs) with a mysterious past arrives in a crime-infested neighborhood to clean up the streets. The man not only helps out single mother Ana (a solid and appealing performance by the fetching Eva Hamilton), but also takes on the evil Tyrell (Richard Tyson in fine nasty form) and his gang.

Writer/director Rene Perez relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a zippy pace, delivers a handy helping of graphic blood-spurting violence, maintains a tough gritty tone throughout, stages the exciting action with skill and aplomb, and tosses in some tasty gratuitous female nudity for trashy good measure. Moreover, the assortment of sleazy no-count villains are a deliciously despicable bunch. Daniel Baldwin contributes a stand-out turn as angry and outspoken talk radio show host Dan Forthright. The funky synthesizer score hits the get-down groovy spot. A really cool flick.

Abominable
(2020)

Watch out for the yeti
A research team who are looking for a rare magical plant in the Himalayas run afoul of a lethal predatory yeti (Timothy Schultz in a funky suit).

Director Samaal Burden keeps the enjoyably inane story zipping along at a snappy pace, makes nice use of the snowy sylvan landscape, delivers a handy helping of graphic gore, and stages the brutal murders with grisly go-for-it aplomb. Moreover, the acting from the competent no-name cast is generally acceptable while the tight 72 minute running time ensures that this flick never gets dull or overstays its welcome. A fun Grade-B creature feature.

The Redwood Massacre
(2014)

Savage slasher
A bunch of campers run afoul of a brutal killer (hulking Benjamin Selway) in the woods.

Writer/director David Ryan Smith relates the familiar, but still enjoyable story at a brisk pace, maintains an unsparingly harsh'n'gritty tone throughout, makes good use of the backwoods setting, delivers oodles of unflinchingly nasty and graphic in-your-face blood-spitting gore, and stages the ferocious murder set pieces with considerable sadistic aplomb. Moreover, the hooded psycho is both creepy and vicious in equal measure. However, this movie does suffer a bit from unlikeable and underdeveloped characters as well as a serious lack of tension. A worthy slice'n'dice flick.

Covenant
(2018)

Cool supernatural horror shocker
Traumatized former army lieutenant Ian Parker (a fine and credible performance by Nick Smyth) runs afoul of a evil demonic cult in the Pacific Northwest while investigating the mysterious disappearance of his mother.

Director Manuel H. DaSilva relates the absorbing story at a steady pace, adroitly crafts a creepy gloom-doom atmosphere, makes nice use of the backwoods locations, stages the demon attack scenes with aplomb, and tosses in a little tasty gratuitous female nudity for trashy good measure. Moreover, this movie earns extra points for presenting Parker as a surly and sarcastic unlikeable jerk. Margaryta Soldatova contributes a spot-on feisty turn as the tough Jayde while Peter Valdron registers well as the browbeating Sheriff Malloy. The surprise grim ending packs a jolting punch. An on the money fright flick.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio
(2019)

Nifty horror anthology
Radio disc jockey Rod Wilson (smmothly played by James Wright) hosts a popular horror-themed late night show. On a dark and stormy night Rod receives strange calls from a scared little boy who desperately asks for help.

The stories featured herein are as follows: An invisible woman goes on a rampage (strong opener), a little girl takes a photograph of a dead girl (marvelously unsettling), a vain celebrity gets special treatment from a hair stylist (spot-on nasty punchline), a Spanish dancer is terrorized by a demon (solid), a little girl encounters a creepy smiling monster in her kitchen (another supremely unnerving tale), a redneck hunts a naked woman in the woods (great gory twist at the end), a young woman faces off against a demonic home invader (strictly so-so), and Rod Wilson turns out to be a very bad man (cool and genuinely surprising). A gnarly omnibus opus.

Being
(2019)

Neat sci-fi/horror movie
A dysfunctional family have their gathering at a secluded farmhouse interrupted by a mysterious burst of light that's followed by a power outage. Could it be aliens or demons behind this?

Director/co-writer Douglas C. Williams relates the absorbing story at a constant pace, takes time to develop the characters, ably crafts a creepy and enigmatic atmosphere, generates a good deal of tension, and adds a heavy religious subtext that gives this picture an extra potent and provocative edge.

The sound acting by the capable cast keeps this movie humming: James St. Vincent as the wayward Joseph, Brian Foyster as the cruel Carl, Jason Iannacone as the protective Dale, Ben Browder as the sarcastic Agent Dixon, Danielle Skraastad as brash tramp Tanya, Stephen Dexter as jerky bully Alan, Kaylyn Scardefield as the sweet Grace, and James Patrick Nelson as the meek Dennis. Popping up in smaller roles are Robert John Burke as the hard-nosed Sheriff Campbell and Lance Henriksen as fire and brimstone preacher Reverend Campbell. Worth a watch.

Stockholm
(2018)

Offbeat and enjoyable comic thriller
Inspired from a real-life incident from 1973. Bank teller Bianca Lind Ia fine and appealing portrayal by Noomi Rapace) falls for crazy American outlaw Lars Nystorm (an excellent and engaging performance by Ethan Hawke), who takes several people hostage at a bank in Stockholm, Sweden.

Writer/director Robert Brudreau relates the entertainingly off-the-wall story at a constant pace, maintains an amiably breezy tone throughout, elicits plenty of laughs from an amusing sense of quirky dark humor, and generates a good deal of tension. Hawke and Rapace strike up a nice chemistry in the lead roles; they receive sturdy support from Mark Strong as Nystorm's more sensible partner Gunnar Sorensson, Christopher Heyerdahl as the no-nonsense Chief Masterson, Bea Santos as the antsy Klara Mardh, and Ian Matthews as the gruff Detective Halsten Vinter. A really cool flick.

Dead Voices
(2020)

Nothing new, but not half bad
Sisters Emily and Sara are shooting a documentary about mediums for a college final. The pair discover a deadly dark secret about Sara's supposedly dead fiance Lucas while working on said documentary.

While director William Butler relates the okay story at a reasonable pace and takes time to develop the characters, he crucially fails to generate much in the way of any essential tension or creepy atmosphere. Fortunately, the genuinely jolting surprise grim ending goes a long way in compensating for this. Lauren Albo and Angelica Briones do solid work as the sisters while Lochlyn Munro only appears for a few minutes in a minor role as a medium. A perfectly passable diversion.

Omnibus: Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision
(1978)
Episode 8, Season 12

Nice portrait of the legendary gonzo journalist
This 51-minute episode of the British TV series Omnibus follows both Hunter S. Thompson and his illustrator friend Ralph Steadman around as they revisit Las Vegas and take a trip to Hollywood. As this appropriately scrappy chronicle points out, the key subject of Thompson's work is the death of the American Dream, with violence and paranoia as key recurring motifs. Thompson admits that he specifically created the wildman persona of Raoul Duke as a means of being able to say things he otherwise would be unable to say and confesses that said persona has caused him more than a little trouble in his life. Naturally, Thompson has some choice harsh remarks to make about Nixon and has a good conversation with Nixon informant John Dean. It's also cool to see glimpses of Thompson's wife, kid, and pet ostrich on his ranch in Colorado, which provides a little insight into the average and grounded side of Thompson. In addition, there's also an eerily accurate prediction of Thompson's actual funeral. Recommended viewing for Thompson fans.

Haunting Inside
(2019)

Nifty supernatural horror item
Autistic agoraphobe Sylvia (a fine and moving performance by Joni Durian) summons up spirits with an ouija board that turn out to be less than friendly.

Director Henrique Couto relates the absorbing story at a steady pace, takes time to develop the characters, ground the fantastic premise in a believable everyday reality, and ably crafts a spooky mood. The solid acting from the capable cast helps a lot: John Bradley Hambrick as Sylvia's loyal, but long-suffering brother Sammy, Erin P. Ryan as the sweet Rebecca, and Adam Scott Clevenger as kindly shrink Theodore. Moreover, Sylvie's deep-seated need for friendship and connection makes her sympathetic while the spirits are a lot of colorful fun. Worth a watch.

Battalion
(2018)

Thrilling alien invasion opus
A squad of U. S. marines take a stand against a horde of evil alien invaders in the South Pacific.

Writer/director Michael Miller relates the gripping story at a brisk pace, takes time to develop the characters, maintains a grimly serious take-no-prisoners tone throughout (there are a surprisingly large number of characters who get killed in this movie), and stages the exciting action with skill and flair. Moreover, the acting by the game no-name cast is pretty decent, with especially commendable contributions from Jesse Richardson as the likeable John Blake, Ellen Williams as the eager Tracey Gleeson, Michael Thomson as the hard-nosed Chris Jackson, James Storer as the spunky Pete Dreyfus, Leigh Walker as the pragmatic Major Atkins, and Katie Anderson as the sassy Jackie Lewis. The way the tough battle against the aliens breaks down morale amongst the marines gives this picture a substantial amount of additional dramatic punch. A cracking good film.

Rings
(2017)

Beware of the ghost girl
College student Julia (a fine and appealing performance by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) has only seven days to figure out the mystery behind deadly ghost girl Samara (a creepy portrayal by Bonnie Morgan) or else she will become Samara's next victim.

Director Javier Gutierrez relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a constant pace, ably crafts a spooky gloom-doom atmosphere, stages the fright set pieces with flair (the harrowing opening sequence on a plane is a corker), and generates a good deal of tension. The sound acting from the sturdy cast helps a lot: Alex Roe as Julia's hunky boyfriend Holt, Johnny Galecki as easygoing professor Gabriel, Vincent D'Onofrio as helpful blind guy Burke, and Aimee Teegarden as the rattled Skye. The backstory for Samara proves to be unexpectedly poignant while the surprise grim ending packs a jolting punch. A solid scarefest.

Termination
(2019)

Cool, but disjointed sci-fi anthology romp
A series of random vignettes with a science fiction bent: A mission to Mars goes awry, things get hairy on a space station, toxic red dust wipes people out, folks are used as an involuntary energy score by some creep, weird stuff happens on a space train, a gal gets taken over by a computer program in futuristic Japan, and a woman gets replaced by a double.

The problem with this omnibus affair is that the stories tend to be too short and hence don't pack much in the way of punch. Moreover, there's a serious lack of cohesion, so everything doesn't add up to much. Fortunately, things unfold at a cracking pace, the CGI effects are pretty good considering the modest budget, and there's a wealth of funky visuals evident throughout, so overall this item rates as a perfectly acceptable diversion.

Curse of the Witch's Doll
(2018)

A nicely done slow burner
England in the early 1940's. Adeline Gray (a fine and appealing portrayal by Helen Crevel) and her daughter Chloe (a solid performance by Layla Watts) seek shelter in an old rundown manor. After Chloe suddenly goes missing, Adeline suspects that a scary doll possessed by the vengeful spirit of a witch (a creepy portrayal by Claire Carreno) is responsible.

Writer/director Lawrence Fowler relates the absorbing and intricate story at a deliberate pace, offers a flavorsome period atmosphere, ably crafts a spooky and unsettling ooga-booga mood, and delivers a few neat twists, with one especially tragic twist adding some unexpected depth and poignancy to the proceedings. Philip Ridout lends sturdy support as kindly neighbor Arthur Harper. A nifty little fright flick.

Betta Fish
(2020)

Playing for keeps
Brash gambling prodigy Danny Bishop (a fine and likeable performance by Joshua Ungaretti, who also wrote the compact script) gets sprung after serving three years in the joint and finds himself back in the game due to a large debt over his protection in prison. Danny cons his way into a high stakes poker game against his venomous arch rival Alex (well played with lip-smacking relish by Megan McNamara).

Director Bill Copper relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a quick pace, maintains a breezy hip tone throughout, further spices things up with an amusing sense of flip humor, presents a fun array of colorful characters, and stages the big poker game with flair. The sturdy acting by the capable cast keeps this movie humming: Ava Justin as sassy teen Lisa, Mike Bredon as Danny's fed-up older brother Arthur, Al Saks as shrewd mentor Merchant, and Brett Myrand as cocky card player Frank. Spot-on stirring bluesy'n'funky score, too. A cool little flick.

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