Girls Nite Out aka The Scaremaker (1982)

directed by robert deubel
anthony n. gurvis/concepts unlimited

Jeez but the “girls” in this flick got some foul mouths on ’em, buddy. Although a copycat movie about a copycat killer – or IS it – WHOMEVER it may be – some surprisingly nuanced characterizations give this slasher ripoff a bit of its own personality, at least. The actors are all too old (of course), but I gotta say, those writing for ’em captured that peculiar tinge of collegiate life, where personas can get a little cloying and foibles are more apparent than their wielders probably ever dream. You will recognize elements exhibited in Graduation Day and replicated by Happy Death Day, and maybe even recollect The Prowler, if you’re that unlucky. Plus many more! All told, it’s passably entertaining, though.

why did i watch this movie?

Uh … yeah, I watched some of these pictures I’m now posting so long ago that I’m gonna hafta guess my motives in some cases. This one I think was because it’s an early-’80s slasher that was unknown
to me and the screenshots looked interesting,
maybe.

should you watch this movie?

If, like me, you remain fascinated by just how many different ways people could think of to make essentially the same movie, many during the exact same time period – and you’re also enamored of the
ongoing permutations of same – well,
possibly you already have.

highlight and low point

There’s a kind of lost-in-time aspect to this film’s setting, where you can kinda glimpse all manner of pop-culture references endemic to its era … but that don’t seem purposeful. By which I mean, as the ’70s was transforming into the ’80s, there was a lot of bleed between period-specific touchstones. Can these productions serve as literal depictions of life-as-lived? Or is it cinematic artifice?

rating from outer space: B−

Mute Witness (1995)

written and directed by anthony waller
a buchman/claus/soentgen/waller production

A suspense-driven exercise in communication problems, this picture is in Russian and English, and its title character spends a lot of its duration desperately trying to stay a step or two ahead of what appear to be some murderous thugs and maybe a criminal conspiracy. Ah, but see, the main players here are all working on a film set, and can you really trust what you’re seeing? Or whether people really are who they say they are? Et cetera. Mordantly funny at times, and a little better than it deserved to be. Maybe the language barrier(s) helped?

why did i watch this movie?

The time-honored setup of the observer of a crime who cannot for one reason or another convince anyone what she’s seen, along with a recurring trend often encountered here of late, ye olde picture-within-a-picture gimmick, I suppose.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a bit of an oddball take, really, but the blurbs aren’t lying – there are extended moments of high suspense throughout. Past a certain point, exactly what the bad guys are up to gets a little unnecessarily complicated, but that’s hardly the focus anyway.

highlight and low point

I’ll tell ya what’s NOT a highlight, trying to determine who’s responsible for these multi-studio, triple-nation co-productions. The differing methods of connection used within, however, are kinda fascinating. Marina Zudina’s portrayal of a deaf-mute  is pretty convincing, at least as far as I could tell. (I was not actually comparing it with the deaf actors in either Soul to Keep or A Quiet Place, or even those playing deaf-mutes in the dialogue-free Mercury, but was instead weighing it against Jennifer Jason Leigh’s blind character in Eyes of a Stranger. Don’t ask me why.)

rating from outer space: B+

Frankenhooker (1990)

directed by frank henenlotter
ievins/henenlotter

Sometime in the ’80s, someone had the following idea for a movie: “So this guy, he’s, like, a science nerd, and his girlfriend gets chopped up by this souped-up remote-control lawnmower he rigs up for her dad, see, and then he invents supercrack and explodes a bunch of prostitutes and uses their body parts to, uh, make a new body for his dead girlfriend’s head, which he’s kept in this … estrogen-rich fluid.” When people lament the elements of life that “cancel culture” and its devotees are out to deny us, they’re forgetting that creations on the order of this one would be among those deprivations. And while we’d inarguably be poorer for lack of hybrids of films like Re-Animator and those released by Troma, the most commendable feature here is that it’s played more or less straight-faced, with a matter-of-fact tone, despite the increasingly ludicrous scriptwriting. (“There wasn’t enough left of you to fry an egg with” was a particular favorite line.) I dunno if exploitative sleaze is really that crucial a societal component.

why did i watch this movie?

It occurred to me that I’d somehow skipped this essential cinematic experience. I think I used to confuse it with other flicks, none of which seemed all that compelling.

should you watch this movie?

It’s fairly diverting, though it does seem pretty dated. Then again, it was proffered under the Shapiro Glickenhaus entertainment banner.

highlight and low point

If the pimp, “Zorro,” isn’t where the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force got the inspiration for “Carl,” well … that’s some sorta implication of a terrifying convergence. Main character Jeffrey’s plainspoken yet unhinged manner is oddly endearing, though you may have questions about his self-trepanation. Body horror – and perhaps gynophobia – ultimately reigns.

rating from outer space: B

The Banana Splits Movie (2019)

directed by danishka esterhazy
blue ribbon content/blue ice pictures

You know, I gave up drugs about nine years ago, and watching this insane production, I realize I either never needed them or they caused permanent brain damage. Holy cats. Based in some sort of madcap reality where The Banana Splits are still a popular and ongoing concern, this flick – which was for some reason filmed entirely in South Africa, even though the cast and crew are dominated by Canadians, and “Blue Ribbon Content” is a TV production subsidiary of Warner Bros. – conjures a pernicious mashup of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Meet the Feebles. Obviously, with that setup, this is ostensibly a horror comedy, but I am not even kidding you, it’s a whole lot creepier than you’d think. Part of that is due to the cinéma vérité effect provided by the production values, but its humor is all pretty black, if not bleak, anyway. Tremendous. Stupendous! A mess of fun, indeed.

why did i watch this movie?

Periodically, I contemplate acquiring the music from the original television series (you’ll recall I mentioned brain damage), and the most recent time, the welter of information accompanying my “research” mentioned the existence of this film. Fait accompli.


should you watch this movie?

I’m trying to determine this picture’s probable impact on those with no personal relationship with/foreknowledge of the nostalgia-tinged frippery upon which it is based, but ultimately I don’t think lacking the background should matter that much.


highlight and low point

The fact that almost none of the characters involved actually like The Banana Splits is both jocose and, in my opinion, keenly observant. After hinting that the action might stay somewhat tame, it proceeds to tear limb from limb – literally, in some cases.

rating from outer space: A−

Blood and Roses (1960)

directed by roger vadim
documento film/films ege

Let’s be honest here, this is a fairly half-hearted rendition of the “Carmilla” saga, with an added wrinkle or two that don’t do much to improve the tale being told – but also with a brisk, at times nearly impatient pacing that obscures or confuses other details. And after poncing its way through a mock-Victorian costume drama’s story arc, it abruptly veers into what I can only guess is an approximation of German Expressionist cinema for a truly bewildering and bemusing effect. Then the army blows up a castle and we’re teased with a silly coda that doesn’t bother to honestly follow the plot points. Even the sensuality expected from notorious Svengali wannabe Vadim is stilted. It doesn’t wear out its welcome, clocking in around a brief hour and a quarter, so there’s that.

why did i watch this movie?

Let’s be honest here – it’s because of this:

(Just four guys from somewheres in New Jersey.)

As an aside, the movie industry through various guises sure has churned out a massive clutch of vampire pictures. I sorta wanna trace the development thereof, but on the other hand …

Should you watch this movie?

A lot of other options exist if it’s the source material that interests you.

highlight and low point

The sequence during which Carmilla prefers to get drunk and listen to beat music instead of getting ready to attend the preposterous masquerade ball heralding her “cousin” Leopoldo’s upcoming nuptials is unexpectedly amusing. And of course the bizarre detour into artiness (if not artifice) will make you sit up and take notice. Even then, however, the production fails to capitalize fully on its own mythology. Some minor characters flesh out the running time without adding anything to the storyline.

rating from outer space: C−

Cut (2000)

directed by kimble rendall
beyond films/mushroom pictures/mbp/south australian film corporation

Another Australian horror comedy? Okay, sure, why not. Dispensing with overt laffs in favor of a general mood that isn’t all too serious, this filming-of-a-film-within-a-film is about the attempt to finish, uh, filming a film. Which was never finished. Said celluloid seems to be cursed, you see, as mayhem and terror ensues whenever anyone even tries screening the reels that remain of the initial endeavor. Despite that, some plucky young film students are determined to make a go of it, their professor’s objections notwithstanding. For a largely unheralded picture languishing in smaller-foreign-film obscurity, this flick is a pretty good time, even if saddled with a pretty ridiculous underlying concept. (To be fair, it’s generally internally consistent, which is always a plus in my book.) Molly Ringwald has a meta role as a onetime name actress who agrees to take a scream-queen part in a DIY indie production.

why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s Australian, a condition I usually find signifies a certain reliability. After making the selection, however, I held off for a while because the whole “horror film shoot or equivalent plagued by slasher or equivalent” isn’t the                                                                             most innovative idea.

should you watch this movie?

Ultimately, it doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. If you’re looking for cinematic entertainment you don’t have to get too involved with, though, this’ll do.

highlight and low point

Really, the fact that the director was a founding member of the quirky rave-up combo (Le) Hoodoo Gurus leads this category. How random is that? The script could’ve worked harder to create misdirection about the killer’s identity, and it feels as though some opportunities were missed in observing the lineage of the fateful film.

rating from outer space: C+

Coma (1978)

directed by michael crichton
produced by martin erlichman

Man, did the ad campaign for this novel and movie combo strike very young me as eerie back in the day. And this film is well creepy enough, though what seemed to be the most troubling aspect when I was 6 or whatever pales in comparison to the REAL HORROR to be found in this science fiction medical thriller from the lens of noted bestselling author and petulant crank Michael Crichton. (The novel was penned by Robin Cook, however, and that was not a Crichton pseudonym.) Genevieve Bujold plays a Boston Memorial hospital resident surgeon who becomes Suspicious of inexplicable goings-on, which she doggedly investigates at her own growing peril. Michael Douglas plays her unsympathetic boyfriend who seems enmeshed in the machinations. Conspiracy, malpractice, Brahmin rants, technological obsession, it’s all there. Credulity may be strained.


why did i watch this movie?

Basically, because I’d never seen it. I was in an indecisive mood, came across this title and thought, yeah, seems like the right time.


should you watch this movie?

Why not enjoy a blockbuster hit of yesteryear? I myself “like” being reminded of how wonderful the U.S. healthcare industrial complex was, is, and always shall be.

highlight and low point

I’m told the mysterious “Jefferson Institute” is an example of “Brutalist” architecture, but I was distracted by debating how certain 1970s visual aesthetics in this picture related to those in cinematic adaptations of Crichton material that he didn’t himself film. Along with presumed similarities between Crichton material and this production’s source. (I haven’t read the Cook novel.) It was hard not to contemplate the fact that Crichton was, of course, trained as a medical doctor. Michael Douglas is really good playing a jerk, no big surprise there.

rating from outer space: B+

The Night Flier aka Stephen King’s The Night Flier (1997)

directed by Mark Pavia
New Amsterdam Entertainment™ Incorporated/Stardust International Ltd./Medusa Film S.p.A

Based on an S. King short story I hadn’t read – it’s in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, the titles of which mainly don’t ring a bell, with the exception of “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band,” which I recall detesting – this archetypal B movie was financed by European concerns and tells a tale of Richard Dees and the tabloid “Inside View,” both names I will go ahead and presume you recall from The Dead Zone, by which I mean the novel, not the dreadful film adaptation directed by David Cronenberg and starring Christopher Walken. The titular “flier” – and why the heck isn’t it “flyer,” anyway? – is a vampire airman going by the meta name “Dwight Renfield.” That’s it, that’s the story. With oh-so-subtle parallels drawn to the journalistic pursuit of. Some form of the twist ending you will likely foresee.

why did i watch this movie?

I wasn’t feeling the two pictures that formerly had been slated, possibly as a result of having just watched all nine “Episodes” of the Skywalker Saga triple trilogy, but I WAS in the mood for something based on the timeless works of S. King. The Under the Dome series wasn’t doing it for me and I had yet to discover the three seasons of Mr. Mercedes, so I went with this.


should you watch this movie?

If you’re an I’m-fine-sticking-with-basic-cable-and-terrestrial-channels type, go for it.

highlight and low point

The climactic scenes are pretty gratifying, especially given how ridiculous the vampire looks when finally we see its face. Some subsequent action even manages to atone for that. The rest is pretty standard low-budget middle-of-the-road mild
horror. It’s more of a character study, really …
which, you know, S. King.

rating from outer space: b−

Ladrones de tumbas aka Grave Robbers (1989)

directed by ruben galindo jr.
producciones torrente s.a.

A gleefully gory tale of demonic retribution (or something) that somehow keeps a straight face throughout its often surprisingly effective graveyard-campsite-and-church assault, this Mexican extravaganza has a little bit of everything you’d expect: lustful Inquisition monks, young people up to no good, stalwart lawmen, holy writ, and a whole lot of shrill screaming. Despite the obviously unreal nature of the proceedings – we are, after all, dealing with the undead, unless one considers that condition differently when Satanic possession is in play – only a few moments provoke disbelieving laughter, and even the evil rejuvenated monk’s makeup job works pretty well. And for all the hints of or nods to well-worn potboiler themes or tactics, well … I’m not sure where else you could reasonably expect to go with this material. Call it “classically themed” and move on.

 
why did i watch this movie?

My previous selection was known as “Grave Secrets,” and was released the same year as this one. Plus, a Mexican production felt like a good idea.

should you watch this movie?

Right from the start, it hits all the notes. You more or less know what you’re going to be getting, and you get it. Plus some nifty depictions of attacks from la hacha.

highlight and low point

There’s an interesting twist to the method of dealing with the supernatural fiend, which is especially welcome given the prevalence of so many other standard-issue tropes. Sociologically, you’d have to go with the quartet of young adults who pursue grave robbing as, like, their career choice, because how else are they supposed to earn a living? The occasional melding of diverse genre elements is also fun. A glaring continuity error provoked a literal double take on my part.

rating from outer space: B

Grave Secrets aka Secret Screams (1989)

directed by donald p. Borchers
a donald p. borchers production
in association with new sky communications, inc.

Whew! After the scarifying experience of watching a legitimate piece of cinema, we’re back to the land of good ol’ schlock here, folks. It’s an old-fashioned haunted-house yarn, mostly, dressed up with a parapsychology “professor” and some backwoods types … but, intertwined with the hokey FX – once again either reminiscent of or cribbed directly from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! – there’s a brief detour into seriously unspeakable horror, at least theoretically. That it’s subsumed within what is mostly a farcical, quasi-slapstick ghost story suggests (to me, at least) there originally may have been a different plan in mind here. I mean, first the backstory alluded to above gets uncomfortable, then tragic, then downright grisly. And then it’s right back to animated FX and goofy overdubs. It’s incongruous, to say the least. Oh – there’s a faux shock ending, too.


why did i watch this movie?

One answer to that question is that the very next film up is known as “Grave Robbers.”
An alternate possibility is that Lee Ving receives third billing.



should you watch this movie?

That’s not necessary.


highlight and low point

Oh, WHERE to begin … The “academic” uses some newfangled “computer” to detect the presence of the spirit, and as per the usual, it’s highly amusing to see just how far the technology has come. The “ghost” also provides some levity once it becomes visible, having been till that point seemingly content just to hang out. (It turns malevolent once the Mystery begins to be revealed, don’t you know.) This also turns out to be one of Mr. Ving’s better (and more competently acted) roles, even if (as per the usual) his screen time is fairly well limited.

rating from outer space: C−