Haunts (1976)

directed by herb freed
american general pictures/entertainment services international

An oddity, this number is mostly a small-town slice-of-life crime thriller until its misleading, byzantine conclusion. Apparently issued on DVD without restoration, it looks terrible, and I was amused to find out its washed-out palette was allegedly purposeful. Aldo Ray as the sheriff is believable in his role, but anything else that’s noteworthy here merely relates to the presentation of a time and a way of life that are both long gone. Its weary, lived-in 1970s feeling kept it interesting for longer than was probably warranted. By the time the goings-on start getting sorted out, they get tangled up again, and you will have lost your patience by this point, particularly with the main character. She’s being stalked! Or maybe she isn’t. The local Casanova is a rapist, perhaps worse! Or IS he. “Better not book him just yet, we got the killer cornered down at the sawmill,” one character telephones. But what of the local parson, the uncle, the goat? The ending, like much of the rest, is a muddle.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, it should have been entertaining.

should you watch this movie?

If you are fascinated by forgotten stars of yesteryear, the requisite also-rans and the never-weres, you may appreciate it.

highlight and low point

This feature flaunts a flashback format that is supposed to give its audience some insight into what is happening – presumably, anyway – but said flashbacks are too fragmented to supply much information. Furthermore, what little can be gleaned from them is more or less shunted aside by what is shown more directly, so nothing is gained. An amusing scene in the local watering hole serves little purpose in the story structure and stands out for that reason alone.

rating from outer space: C−

Blood Feast (2016)

directed by marcel walz
gundo entertainment

This lousy endeavor became an endurance test of sorts, as I could hardly wait for it to finish taking up my valuable time with its lousy acting, unnatural dialogue, odd tempo and beginner’s camerawork. This insipid remake of the 1963 Herschell Gordon Lewis offering is proof positive that just because you have a camera and a script, it doesn’t mean you should make a movie. Possibly, parts of this “effort” were supposed to be funny, but I didn’t notice until it was almost over because nobody that appears in it can deliver a line. An odd lack of incidental music doesn’t help. And for a flick about a taboo subject like cannibalism, it’s really tame in its approach to gore and downright moralistic with its nudity. I began watching this by mistake; the bigger mistake was not stopping. Makes 1987’s Blood Diner – inspired by the same source material – look like a real movie. (Well, sorta.)

why did i watch this movie?

The synopsis was irresistibly farcical; I shoulda realized its progeniture. Maybe I could start paying attention to film releases.

should you watch this movie?

No. It’s awful.

highlight and low point

The highlight of this disaster came during the opening credits: “Sadie Katz as Ishtar.” Everything about this picture just seems a little off. The dialogue sounds as though the cast members are seeing it for the first time and never rehearsed together, the pacing is too sluggish, and not one actor is even reasonably convincing. The photography is laughable, the set design halfhearted and the color iffy. It is allegedly a professional production.

rating from outer space: d−

Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

directed by j. lee thompson
the canadian film development corporation/famous players ltd.

Rather preposterously set in a “high school” (none of the major student roles is played by anyone under 18, or particularly close), this picture presents an extremely convoluted resolution to an otherwise straightforward, standard horror movie. Sure, as you watch, you know you’re being set up for the SHOCKING ending – hell, the filmmakers tease you with various false reveals along the way – but even so, once all the layers are peeled away, you feel a little incredulous. Skeptical, even. I mean, it all seems like WAY too much trouble for a touch of retribution. The red herrings from the production team combine with similar trickery from the characters themselves to create a film that overall is a bit too intricate. It’s also a bit too long. And in spite of all that, to pull off the ruse, they still had to cheat.

why did i watch this movie?

I felt as though I had a general notion of this flick’s plot and setting, but this turned out not to be the case. Maybe I was thinking of April Fool’s Day? Wait, maybe that’s not much different.

should you watch this movie?

After a certain point, revealing that these ’80s flicks have a quintessential Eighties nature to them isn’t really enough, is it.

highlight and low point

I won’t say the ending is a letdown, exactly, but it’s so, so contrived that it does come as a disappointment, especially given how long it takes to get there and all the different options it discards as it develops.  Nothing in the film notably presents itself as an asset, either.

rating from outer space: c−

Evilspeak (1981)

directed by eric weston
leisure investment company/coronet film corporation

The rare film with Clint Howard in the lead role, this ridiculous affair resurrects Satan in the guise of “[Father] Estaban” via the use of an Apple III, which in all honestly is fairly prescient, given everything that’s transpired since the rise of the personal computer. (I do not know whether medieval texts have also been involved, as they are in this movie.) Set in a military academy, which oddly enough appears to be affiliated with a religious order, and in orientation not unlike contemporary teen romps such as Meatballs or Porky’s (or Sleepaway Camp, for that matter), this picture is way more entertaining and enjoyable than should have been possible. A major factor in this phenomenon may be Howard’s general ineptitude. Also inept: the terrible editing during the second half of this picture.

why did i watch this movie?

A movie made right around the time that home computing and video game systems were becoming a big deal, using that cultural moment to evoke SATAN, was too inviting to ignore.

should you watch this movie?

It’s utterly ludicrous, so of course you should.

highlight and low point

As an alumnus of a private school for boys, I thought the characterization of Howard’s character Coopersmith’s bullying was spot-on, as throughout the entirety of the action he’s referred to as “Cooperdick.” Too, the incredible computer grafx were quite the visual treat. The cop-out ending was perfectly indicative of its era, as was the absolutely unnecessary nude shower scene featuring the buxom secretary.

rating from outer space: B

now you know