Evil Ed (1995)

directed by anders jacobsson
smart egg pictures
“An evil ed production”

An over-the-top satirical spoof, this Swedish production ladles on the cartoonish violence and gore to an extent its most obvious influence, Evil Dead 2, scarcely dared dream. A multilayered, multi-level meta statement about cinematic sex and violence and censorship thereof, it could just as easily be taken to represent the flipside of its intended aim. I call that effective satire, don’t know about you. Focused on the deteriorating mental condition of the editor charged with abridging the “Loose Limbs” franchise, this flick should entertain splatter fans, people with questionable taste, opponents of moral crusades, moral crusaders who don’t understand irony, and so forth. The last 20 minutes or so drag significantly … turns out the filmmakers thought they were done, only the runtime wasn’t nearly sufficient. Revamped, it ends with a bang and a whimper.

why did i watch this movie?

“Guy goes nuts from too much exposure to gore films, mayhem ensues,” is a pretty good come-on.

should you watch this movie?

Depends how you view the shibboleth of horror fandom. Director also made 2010’s Insane, which was … not very good.

highlight and low point

I mean, look, Ed’s boss, the head of the “Splatter & Gore” division, is named “Sam Campbell” and a couple scenes basically replicate ones from “Dead By Dawn.” The soundtrack similarly imitates those of animated films. Ed himself is originally                                                                              outraged:

Ninety minutes of condensed sex and violence! Do you call that a great movie? Do you have the slightest idea of what a moral and ethical principle is?

Later, Ed ONLY includes the sex and violence in one of his edits. A “wife and child” subplot is the first indication they may have been making this up as they went along.

rating from outer space: B

Mosquito (1994)

directed by gary jones
acme films, ltd./excalibur motion pictures/antibes, inc.

The sort of low-budget affair during which you’re never not acutely aware you’re watching a movie made on a shoestring, this off-brand extravaganza survives on the chutzpah of its gigantic insect puppets and a game cast of people who seem as though they’ve never acted before. At least on film – the irrepressible Mike Hard plays a small role as part of a criminal element, for instance. Meanwhile, as a major character, late-career sometime actor Ron Asheton does a credible job, especially by the standards of the surrounding evidence. The typically absurdist plot – alien spaceship crashes in swamp, mosquito sucks alien blood, mosquito grows humongous, everyone dies – was thankfully pared down by fiscal realities. “That’s some science fiction bullshit,” Asheton’s character Hendricks accuses. “No,” he’s told. “You are living in science FACT.” This picture allegedly has become a cult favorite, and if so, that cult must really be starved for entertainment.

why did i watch this movie?

I had just finished Jim Jarmusch‘s Stooges documentary Gimme Danger, noticed the billing here and thought, “That’s one hell of a coincidence.”

should you watch this movie?

It’s really lousy, but if you’re in the right frame of mind you might not care much.

highlight and low point

Not that it was a concern to begin with, but the closer this production gets to its grand finale the less anyone involved even winks at verisimilitude. Case in point: our heroes jump off the roof of a house to escape the teeming parasitic horde, suffering no ill effects from a conspicuously soft landing. Plus, a certain lack of passion and effort becomes more noticeable as things … progress. Rebuttal: “Just as I expected – those mosquitoes are making these bodies radioactive.”

rating from outer space: D+

Mirror Mirror (1990)

directed by marina sargenti
orphan eyes

It’s not too promising that I must point out that this film is all right up to the point the EVIL starts to run amok. After that it spirals downward in a big hurry, and it almost seems as though the filmmakers didn’t really have a plan for handling that portion of the script. That this flick manages to be any good at all is sort of a minor miracle, given that it’s burdened with plot tendrils that don’t go anywhere in particular, and boasts a lead role consisting largely of a Winona Ryder impersonation. Additional performances are supplied by the erstwhile Lily Munster and the guy who at the time was widely known for playing a yokel on Newhart. (The world was smaller then.) Also, a death-by-hot-shower scene reminiscent of that in Island of Blood occurs concurrently with one of the water polo gym classes, so that’s covered. This movie has three sequels, and although maybe you could see the cockamamie ending of this one meriting a follow-up were you to squint your eyes and hit yourself over the head repeatedly, the serials seem to have little in common save the presence of a demonic looking-glass. (Installment 2, “Raven Dance,” at least appears to share stylistic elements.)

why did i watch this movie?

Much as we’ve all personally wondered so many times, the blurb ponders, “Is the mirror a reflection of Megan’s own inner demons … or has she unwittingly opened the doorway of the damned?”

should you watch this movie?

One character informs another, “We have to close the opening.”

highlight and low point

The blue-filtered shots from the mirror’s POV are pretty nifty. The FX invoking an ill wind are the opposite. Most characters are but mere ciphers.

rating from outer space: C

Bats (1999)

directed by louis morneau
destination films

A typically dunderheaded nature horror predicated on an “accident,” this flick features not one believable element. You will not believe that Dina Meyer’s character is a bat expert with a Ph.D., you will not believe that Lou Diamond Phillips makes a creditable sheriff, “Leon” doesn’t even always seem to believe he’s supposed to recite his character’s lines, and you certainly won’t believe the BATS are real for even a second. In other words, it’s quite the enjoyable waste of time. The BATS, of course, “escaped” from some sorta experiment-cum-military project. (Maybe.) A wannabe Halloween blockbuster that somehow made money, it would’ve been perfect brainless summer fare. Oh, by the way, the predetermined ending isn’t believable, either.

why did i watch this movie?

I was in the mood for just this type of highbrow feature. Actually, by my standards, I was veritably giddy with anticipation.

should you watch this movie?

What ELSE are you doing?

highlight and low point

The BATS. Oh my my my, the BATS. Some are animated. Some are animatronic! Some are bat size. Some are, like, scary-movie-bat size. And once in a while, for effect I assume, one or two are the size of goddamn turkey vultures. Plus, the very first time the BATS kill anyone, they rip ’em to shreds. After that, they … don’t. These facts more or less encapsulate the professionalism imbued in this endeavor. Also quite humorous: the ongoing “hints” that the obviously nefarious scientific foil is concealing a dark secret. Stock military footage is thrown in for good measure, along with a rather remarkably turgid action sequence. Somewhat surprisingly, few overt attempts at comedy are present. But as Steven Wright observed, you can’t have everything – where would you put it?

rating from outer space: C+

Skinner (1993)

directed by ivan nagy
cinequanon pictures international/5 kidd productions

Hey, betcha can’t guess the pathology of this movie’s title character …

Get this: he skins people! Like, no way, right!? Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to admit that despite some obvious shortcomings, this is a strangely effective independent horror, with a cast that includes Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake and Traci Lords. Right, it’s very ’90s – that’s one of the shortcomings. But there’s very little of significance to gripe about here, even if some of the picture’s more potentially symbolic fascinations go more or less unexamined. The ending really could’ve used a better (and less derivative) concept, and like execution, but after the title character has finally shown his inner self, so to speak, that’s forgivable. I cannot stress enough, however, that even were you initially unaware, you’d immediately be able to peg the era of release.

why did i watch this movie?

As a longtime scourer of budget bins of all stripes and a onetime video-store regular, I felt as though I’d neglected this title too often. And Ted Raimi, of course.

should you watch this movie?

After some thought, I’d have to classify this picture as being of the sort you’d likely find fairly interesting and enjoyable should you happen across it, but not one worth any arduous journey to experience.

highlight and low point

Ricki Lake is delightful, per usual, and David Warshofsky’s bootleg rendition of post-1987 Anthony Michael Hall amused me for no particular reason, as did the fact that his character is named “Geoff Tate.” (It’s irrelevant whether that was intentional.) The explicit scene where a prostitute is flayed is technically astounding. Traci Lords plays a character who for no
pertinent reason is perpetually underdressed. SHOCKING, I know.

rating from outer space: B

Baby Blood aka The Evil Within (1990)

directed by alain robak
partner’s productions/exo 7 productions

Not many of these movies tend to wow me, because let’s be honest, not a whole lot of them bring much of anything particularly new to the table, but you can go right ahead and put this deranged romp into its own category entirely. Simultaneously dismal, brutal, grotesque, and somehow funny as hell, this French meditation on the pains and perils of impending motherhood is a delightfully distasteful monster movie of sorts, although nearly every moment in the picture belongs almost solely to Bianca (or “Yanka,” according to the credits), played with élan (et plus que un peu je ne sais quoi) by Emmanuelle Escourrou. Farcical at times, and on an occasion or two somewhat predictable, la ciné nevertheless is never overtaken by what nearly becomes complete overkill. Est-ce formidable? Absolument.

why did i watch this movie?

The title called to me as I once again sought for ’90s material. I made sure not to spoil the plot by reading any synopses, though I figured I was in for some sort of tale of demonic possession or devil worship or witchcraft or what-have-you.

should you watch this movie?

It does not concern demonic possession or devil worship, etc., etc., should that be what your little heart desires. It is, however, a bloodbath.

hlight and low point

You know me, the delirious passion imbued in some (okay, most) of the kill scenes had me at the very precipice of giddiness, but there’s plenty for everyone to appreciate here. Our protagonist’s mostly unobserved ability to jump from situation to situation is quite entertaining, especially as she begins to thrive in any variety of circumstances, and the ongoing, uh, internal dialogue is blackly enjoyable. A sequel is reputedly less ingenious.

rating from outer space: a

The Washing Machine aka Vortice Mortale (1993)

directed by ruggero deodato
eurogroup film/esse c1

Only epistemologically a horror movie until late in the proceedings, this noirish sexcapade does eventually manage to induce a chill or three … but most viewers will hardly care, as the goings-on are so dementedly entertaining. Caveat: the preceding clause may imply traditional male viewers, as this video concerns three maybe-sisters who are attempting to outdo one another in the femme fatale sweepstakes, and who are not at all shy about employing all of their, er, assets. Technically a giallo, the whos, wheres and whats revolve at the drop of a hat – and there are actually plenty of hats, no kidding. A very amusing, very ’90s erotic thriller, filmed in Budapest a little over a year after Soviet withdrawal concluded.

“What’s happened to the people in this country? They used to respect our authority. Hmm, I’m beginning to think political change isn’t always so positive.”

why did i watch this movie?

I was prowling for a ’90s title per some questionable aggregator, and it didn’t occur to me I was stacking up Italian pictures.

should you watch this movie?

I’m not often one to note symbolism, so you might get more out of this flick than I did in that respect. Either way, it’s loony fun, keeping in mind above admonitions.

highlight and low point

This feature builds in intensity and insanity as it rolls along, perhaps culminating in a drugged-dream sequence with melting faces, mixed identities and misinformation … but perhaps not. To wit, this early establishing assessment:

“In a jealous rage, you have a fight with your boyfriend. Then your sister tells us he was violently murdered. It’s to your benefit there’s no corpse to be found … but then again, we’re dealing with the hallucinations of an alcoholic.”

rating from outer space: B+

The Mangler (1995)

directed by tobe hooper
distant horizon/filmex (pty) ltd/allied film productions

You’d THINK that a story about a bloodthirsty industrial laundry machine – Box Office Mojo: “A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies” – would be a premise stupid enough to satisfy most people, but Tobe Hooper apparently wasn’t most people, as it seems it wasn’t stupid enough for him. No, he must have decided – having cowritten the damn thing – that the presentation would have to be dumbed down in order to make an inexcusably brain-dead travesty of a feature. It’s a chore merely to make it past the first couple minutes, which I attest having had to try more than once. Everything looks abysmally fake, most of the acting is atrocious, the embellishments to the plotline of S. King’s originating short story are idiotic, and holy contrivance, Robert Englund’s character. He – it – they … stammering, reduced to, me. Bleah.

why did i watch this movie?

Besides my S. King obsessiveness, I had just finished Hooper’s Funhouse and fumbled my way into the realization that he directed (and cowrote) this crap.

should you watch this movie?

Plenty of terrible adaptations of S. King material are out there, just waiting for you. (Thinner, for example – I couldn’t make it through that one the first time I tried, either.)

highlight and low point

Look, the story itself (which you can read in the Night Shift collection) ends with the industrial speed-ironer wrenching itself from its moorings and stalking humanity, and I’ll grant that would be a difficult occurrence to film. That being said, the animated Mangler at this picture’s apogee is deliriously spurious. The filmic resemblance to portions of Graveyard Shift (story also from aforementioned source) do not lend this production any additional credibility.

rating from outer space: 0

Uncle Sam (1996)

directed by WILLIAM LUSTIG
gable productions

You kinda have to admire the chutzpah of a flick that doesn’t even bother to give any sort of reason how or why the titular dead soldier is wandering around killing “America’s” enemies – that’s just how it is. And, really, when you are as uninspired as this picture, why bother going that extra foot. When I stumbled across this title, I found myself wondering how I’d never previously heard of it. Having watched it, I now know: it’s terribly bland. Proceeding in a kind of somnolent daze, everything feels mistimed or disjointed, as if every scene was shot separately and then assembled in postproduction. (It’s doubtful a deeper, more complex story fell victim to budget constraints.) A couple of the killings are relatively imaginative, I guess. From the creative team behind the equally humdrum Maniac Cop.

why did i watch this movie?

The title. Plus, from all appearances it appeared to be a chintzy production with a paint-by-numbers concept. I didn’t even know Larry Cohen was involved until the credits rolled. (He “wrote” it.)

should you watch this movie?

Assuredly so, presuming you have a predilection for really bad acting and general inanity.

highlight and low point

My preferred moment was when it was clearly obvious that multiple Sams were lined up to produce the EERIE effect in a scene where the local teenage lout has gotten wildly off course from the Independence Day town festival sack race but for some reason continues hopping along in the sack instead of taking the damn thing off and, you know, walking or running or something. The prepubescent burn victim in the wheelchair who establishes some sorta psychic link with Undead Sam (also horribly charred) is a close second.

rating from outer space: D−

NOT Joe Biden

The Coroner (1999)

directed by juan a. mas

An aggressively dreadful straight-to-video experience, this dross somehow didn’t make me start laughing out loud until the 49-minute mark … which was shortly after I began to wonder if maybe I was just imagining what I was seeing, mainly due to an assemblage of such oddly juxtaposed scenes and camera shots and visual styles that I actually voiced the question, “What is going ON?” The very next scene was when the main character revealed herself dressed in cat burglar getup, creeping down the side of THE CORONER’s house to plant some plastic explosives. I shoulda mentioned, she’s a lawyer. Well, by this point she’s presumably a former lawyer, but some vital exposition goes lacking. By the ensuing scene I noticed there was somehow still a half-hour to go.

why did i watch this movie?

It promised to be ridiculously bad. I win?

should you watch this movie?

Once the unintentional comedy really sets in, it’s a hoot, but it requires major tolerance. You could watch it to glimpse the kernel of a powerful concept underneath the incompetence and use that revelation for your own purposes, I suppose.

highlight and low point

How I imagine directors talk actresses into nude scenes for productions like this one: “Hey, we’re making one of the most unrealistic horror thrillers any of the few who’re actually gonna see it will ever witness, and it unnecessarily opens in a strip club, and we’ll need some egregiously pointless sex scenes. You in?” Sadly, this was a tremendous opportunity to make a really disturbing and upsetting statement on multiple levels – if merely by inspiring debate over the main character’s true motives and/or culpability – but instead it’s a rape revenge picture with a flimsy ending given away long beforehand.

Rating from outer space: D−