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+

Zibahkhana aka ذبح خانہ aka Hell’s Ground (2007)

directed by omar ali khan
bubonic films/boum productions ltd/mondo macabro movies

All right now, this is what I’m talking about. A terrific little number with barely an original idea in its head – though that appears to have been the filmmaker’s intent – this Pakistani flick ultimately surpasses its bare-bones budget and its bare-cupboard storyline to produce a thoroughly enjoyable picture. Much of the proceedings are a recasting of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there’s an obvious nod or two to Night of the Living Dead, and there’s some camerawork and atmosphere courtesy of The Evil Dead as well (plus the final girl’s name, Ayesha, often is rendered as, yes, “Ash”). Well-paced, and clearly made with the right attitude and healthy amounts of appreciation for the endeavor, its DIY sheen only adds to the entertainment value. Really pretty rewarding, given that it’s “Pakistan’s First Gore Film.”

why did i watch this movie?

Dude, it’s Pakistan’s first gore film. I couldn’t resist that kind of come-on. (It helped that I was able to locate subtitles for it.)

should you watch this movie?

If you actually read this palaver, you are presumably at some level a devotee of this art form, if not an aficionado per se. If you are also of a certain bent, you just may appreciate this presentation precisely because of its … familiarity.

Or you won’t.

highlight and low point

The weapon of choice for the unrelenting maniacal stalker quite amused me, as did the transliteration of the stock young adult characters into a South Asian disposition. “Yah, let’s get STONED, and get that damned radio on, yah?” as Rubya Chaudhry’s Roxy memorably puts it. At times, depictions here reminded me of the original attempt at All Cheerleaders Die. The élan involved is definitely similar, anyway.

rating from outer space: B+

Halloween II (2009)

written and directed by rob zombie
dimension films/trancas international films/spectacle entertainment group

In a way the definitive Rob Zombie picture, this sequel to his remake of the first Carpenter horror classic basically only makes a dent because of that lineage. I mean, if this were only a movie about just some random psycho killing people for no real reason most of the time – and it is, only that character happens to be dubbed “Michael Myers” – it would not be particularly compelling, nor memorable. Brutal and dismal throughout, it ends without redemption, and Zombie’s juvenile obsession with titties-and-beer doesn’t particularly help. His ongoing attempt to inject metaphysical compulsion (or something) into the Myers saga via hallucinatory visions is categorically odd, and his characters, as usual, are often rehashed caricatures. But for all that, it definitely establishes and holds a mood. Why it bothers is a different question.


why did i watch this movie?

This was strictly stunt programming, piggybacking on the previous selection.


should you watch this movie?

Are you really enamored of extended scenes of cruelly barbaric murder, or hopelessly trapped in hidebound fascination with music of the 1960s and ’70s? (“Laurie’s” Black Flag and Government Issue t-shirts notwithstanding.)

highlight and low point

It may be unfair to point out, as I watched the “Director’s Cut,” but a lot of moments here are just Zombie indulging his own tastes, to the point of self-parody. One might prefer to think he’s self-aware enough to give W. Al Yankovic a cameo role for just that reason, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It would appear he just thinks these stylistic touchpoints are, like, bitchin’. Yeah, you can identify his work as his own – after a fashion, anyway – but the effect can be pretty grating.

rating from outer space: C

Wendigo (2001)

written, directed, edited by larry fessenden
glass eye pix/antidote films

I had to more or less force myself to finish watching this tale of a weekend trip gone bad. I don’t think it was this picture’s fault, though, even if I neither found it particularly interesting nor would agree that it’s affecting and frightening. Maybe it’s a trend – the last couple films covered here haven’t really delivered the goods I have sought, plus it’s “baseball season” after a fashion, and I have a bunch of other stuff I gotta worry about, and, and, and. I know that’s a bit unfair. One thing I will say for this Larry Fessenden production: he got terrific acting jobs outta pretty much his entire cast. The naturalistic nature of most of the story really works, and paradoxically, therein lies some of the problem. The supernatural stuff, which eventually strives to establish a presence, doesn’t carry enough weight and mainly feels like an intrusion. I’m not at all sure the story even needed it.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d like to say because it’s under Fessenden’s imprimatur and leave it at that, but that’s only partially the reason. It was the primary factor I paid attention to its inclusion in that same Fangoria book, however.

should you watch this movie?

I’d prefer to be more positive here, because as often noted, I strongly support the independent film community. This offering doesn’t present a compelling argument, though.

highlight and low point

The family members (mom, dad, youth) are completely convincing as a unit. It’s a really finely wrought set of performances. The student-film camerawork had me rolling my eyes. And again, there’s a seeming dichotomy of purpose here, and the feature never seems to commit one way or another.

rating from outer space: C

Lady Blood aka Insane Blood Massacre (2008)

directed by jean-marc vincent
alterego films/eifel tech/canal+/cinÉcinÉma/Fonds national de soutien à la production audiovisuelle du grand duchÉ du luxembourg

Boy howdy, you’d think that if you were going to wait 15 years to come up with a sequel to – oh, wait, I just used that opening. But yikes, Dave, does it ever apply here. Now, on one hand, it’s commendable to follow up the rampant insanity and psychotic humor of Baby Blood with a movie that’s altogether serious; not playing to expectations can be a strong artistic move. Grafting the referential portion of the script onto a confusing subplot involving vicious gangsters, however, makes less than no sense at all, it actively makes for unnecessary confusion. (I mean, the gangland subplot doesn’t even make much sense on its own, let alone intermingled with the body-jumping murderous horror that was Yanka’s beastly baby the first time around.) Oh, yeah, Yanka’s a police captain now, just in case her evading all suspicion and capture throughout the first flick wasn’t unbelievable enough. And she’s got a human baby, too … BUT FOR HOW LONG.


why did i watch this movie?

I loved the demented original, and I’m a fool.


should you watch this movie?

I cannot urge you too many times to watch 1990’s precursor instead.


highlight and low point

Seriously, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about other aspects of this movie that are either confusing or pointless or just don’t work. Aside from one especially nifty detail near the very finish that you’ll miss if you blink – the camera ignores it almost entirely – nothing much stands out. (That it appears to be an unconscious design afterthought is stunningly effective.) All the action, drama and horror takes place in that same brief scene as some ends are loosely tied.

rating from outer space: D

The Hills Run Red (2009)

directed by dave parker
Warner premiere/dark castle home entertainment/fever dreams llc/ludovico technique

Maybe I’ve seen a few too many of these damn things, but a premise that seemed alluring as this story grew legs – obsessive fan seeks mythical lost slasher film – garnered much tarnish once a few too many knowing references were manifest. Having recovered from its initial fascination with a patently obligatory sleaze factor, this film established a promising story arc only to undermine it with too much that was too familiar. And though it seemed Hills wanted to be playing in the same self-referential league as other “postmodern” fright flicks, I began to get the uneasy feeling that it wasn’t all that clever. Enough glints of inventiveness peek through to keep the goings-on mostly interesting, and the rote gruesome tortures on display aren’t overdone or brandished as proof of, I dunno, transgressive merit or something. But maybe my initial impression was correct and there just isn’t a whole lot of nuance left to wring out of this particular genre, especially if one isn’t willing to get past giving a backwoods killer a spooky mask. ‘Tis a pity, as the sadistic-creep-preys-on-hapless-unfortunates paradigm has always been a personal preference.

why did i watch this movie?

Hills was one of the small handful of pictures Schlock Treatment recommended as actually worthwhile.

should you watch this movie?

Fun fact: Several video games and Leatherface rank among the other accomplishments of this film’s writers.

highlight and low point

Ultimately – unfortunately – I think this production is more of a ripoff than a mashup, but as I’ve hinted before, most horror pix suffer if one goes ahead and thinks about them. This flick had a chance to be really special. Unlike its protagonists, though, it chose to play it safe.

rating from outer space: C+

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

written and directed by Michael Dougherty
bad hat harry productions/legendary pictures

Taking a cue from what seemed a trustworthy source, I made this pic my Halloween viewing this year and was not disappointed. A hearty romp through four (sort of) interrelated stories, spun out in nonchronological fashion and represented in the guise of a comic book, this seasonal offering has a little bit of something for just about everybody: unsuspected killers, party girls, junior pranksters, misbehaving adults, a sour old man, werewolves. Not terribly beholden of any particular era or genre, it manages to tiptoe between reverence and mockery, retro appeal and modern trappings, and is all the better for it. I suppose some could quibble that it’s a little tame, and while that may be a fair assessment, this is good, wholesome family entertainment, so don’t let it dissuade you. (You’d be advised to have a passably peculiar family, though.)

why did i watch this movie?

I needed appropriate Hallows’ Eve entertainment, and the ebook Schlock Treatment by “Duane Bradley” – whose opinion of many other films resonated with me, and who clearly shares my exquisite taste – singled out this production as an accomplished affair that deserved more attention.

should you watch this movie?

I could find little fault with it; it was thoroughly enjoyable.

highlight and low point

Described as an anthology-style picture, it doesn’t much present as one, to its credit. Several layers of subtle misdirection serve the proceedings exceedingly well, as does the filmmaker’s apparent discretion to avoid cheap scares in favor of slower and more evocative development. The humor, too, is more implicit than upfront. The final major portion of the story we’re shown contains what seemed to me a monumental continuity issue, though it doesn’t bear much actual import.

rating from outer space: A−

All Cheerleaders Die (2001)

written and directed by lucky mckee and chris sivertson
mckee, sivertson, shelli merrill, jeff rimmer, kevin sparks et al.

So, this is essentially a home movie, you know, shot on video during daylight hours, with a game but novice cast, beginner FX, and an interesting storyline that devolves into standard zombie fare. It’s also wildly ambitious and somewhat unconventional in structure, particularly for the type of amateur production it is, and for what it’s worth also flaunts an independent and presumably localized soundtrack. If I said I could tell from this beginning where co-director McKee’s career would head – or for that matter, that of his co-director – I’d be blatantly lying to you, because it only occasionally evinces any hint that its makers even had such a goal in mind, much less the abilities to achieve it. They must at least have had motivation and perseverance, though.

why did i watch this movie?

I have admired some of McKee’s other work, and as I pondered seeing the 2013 version of this film, discovered that it was possible to track down this artifact.

should you watch this movie?

It’s kinda interesting as a historical artifact, but that status doesn’t make the sophomoric moments any more palatable – nor the lack of production values.

highlight and low point

As hinted above, the setup is pretty interesting, especially as it takes time to take effect – a significant delay is involved, giving the filmmakers more time for character and story development. The scene that eventually triggers the mayhem is also quite unexpected, and amongst less successful thespians, Shelli Merrill stands out for her concerted efforts. The cheerleading, however, is atrocious and unconvincing. Other drawbacks have been covered, and although the “bloodthirsty undead” angle is pretty tired, I won’t fault that here.

rating from outer space: C−

Martyrs (2008)

written and directed by pascal laugier
eskwad/wild bunch/tcb film/canal+/cinÉcinÉma

After this film finally ended, I started writing a polemic on what I condemned as its senseless brutality, its transgressive excesses flaunted purely for their own sake, its purposeless exhibition of sickening abuse, its obscenity.

Morning found me still pondering what I’d seen, contemplating the motive behind the disturbing displays, so I read a lot about it, including an enlightening interview with the director. Along the way, I realized a positive critical appraisal of “New French Extremity” films, several of which I’d enjoyed, had suckered me into seeing a picture I’d scrupulously avoided for a decade,

Martyrs is a vile movie, full of sadistic horrors and irredeemable suffering and graphically unsettling trauma and grievous bodily harm inflicted upon a guileless young woman. The first half is only intermittently assaultive – nothing too out of the ordinary – but as the second half began, I had a sinking feeling, which proved prescient. It definitely goes too far, and it’s hard to find justification for what occurs. What reason could there be for grotesquely prolonged images of torture of an innocent, you might wonder.

The Laugier interview helped. Some things are indelible, though.

why did i watch this movie?

Mea culpa. I tend to favor productions that feature people doing horrible things to others. This selection has me questioning myself.

should you watch this movie?

Look, this picture’s culminating moment is a woman being flayed alive … but by that point the savagery inflicted upon her has been so objectionable it may barely register. You have been warned.

highlight and low point

It’s provocative, I’ll give it that. As to my charge of “obscenity,” French film commissars originally concurred, rating it 18+, though it was lowered to 16+ after intervention from a filmmakers society, a journalists’ union and the Minister of Culture.

rating from outer space: B

Rumah Dara aka Macabre aka Darah (2009)

directed by the mo brothers
gorylah pictures/merah productions/guerilla visual movement/nation pictures/mediacorp raintree pictures

Good Lord. If you want blood, you’ve got it with this insane Indonesian production. I barely even know where to begin talking about this gonzoid picture, other than to say I’ve got a new entry on my list of favorites. The setup isn’t anything special – a group of friends gives a stranger a ride home, and she invites them in so her mother can thank them – but the direction is. Unrelenting, intense and horrific and bleak and sadistic, it only begins to let in a little air after it reaches a sort of tipping point later in the proceedings and inevitably skews toward the blackly humorous – likely because little other option existed. Be forewarned, however, that before that happens it’s little but a trip through a special hell, with something to appall just about everyone. A masterpiece of the sick and twisted little corner of the film world it inhabits, this one’s gonna stick around the old memory banks for a while.

why did i watch this movie?

When I was reading up on Kuntilanak, I noticed this title, as Julie Estelle stars in both.

should you watch this movie?

I enthusiastically encourage everyone to watch this movie immediately. You will, however, need a strong stomach and an unhealthy appetite for, yes, the macabre.

highlight and low point

Shareefa Daanish and Arifin Putra are ridiculously evil as Dara and Adam, respectively, but picking my favorite aspects of this flick would entail a really long list. So I guess I’ll just say PROJECT: IMMORTAL SNAKE and leave it at that, unless you’d like me to laud the superlative chainsaw usage. The biggest drawback I can think of offhand is that I found myself wondering when I last saw such an excessively blood-soaked celluloid marvel. Dead Alive, maybe.

rating from outer space: a