X (2022)

Written and Directed by Ti West
A24/Little Lamb/Mad Solar Productions

I had no intention of watching this picture … until I saw that it (simultaneously) spawned a pre/sequel (and an upcoming coda), and then I grew intrigued. A pseudo-hommage delivering more period-specific frisson à la director Ti West’s earlier House of the Devil, albeit with more T ‘n’ A and a few more gory killings, the setup was what initially failed to impress me: a film crew goes to a remote farm to shoot a porno and slaughter ensues. But once the action proper began, I found myself wondering about the psychology underlying the operation – most prominently, the conceit that director R.J. envisions making an aesthetic statement. I would argue that by 1979 – when this picture is set – the “porno chic” era had lapsed, and therefore imagined a poignancy underpinning the attempt. Poignancy reigns, of course, once we find out more about Pearl (the sequel’s namesake). Ultimately, however – ironically – this largely successful venture is not as “artistic” as one might imagine Mr. West believes it to be.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I already addressed that!


Should You Watch This Movie?

As implied above, its auteur really wants to showcase his carefully curated inspirations.


Highlight and Low Point

Themes of female agency or the lack thereof are explored, alongside some dismissal of what could be termed Middle Class Values. Speaking of which, I’m no America Firster, but I am somewhat disturbed that this production took place entirely in New Zealand. Economically speaking, that seems troublesome to me as a patron and erstwhile progenitor of The Arts. Producer Wayne predicts the home-video boom, which seems a little prescient … and adds another soupçon of pathos to his director’s plight (and perhaps further shading to his painful naïveté).

Rating From Outer Space: B

Le regine aka Queens of Evil aka Il delitto del diavolo (1970)

Directed by Tonino Cervi
Flavia Cinematografica/Carlton Film Export/Labrador Film

Oh, those damn hippies. Redolent of a bygone era in many different ways, this possibly satirical and occasionally symbolic cautionary tale rarely overcomes its internal obsession with seductive mod accoutrements. Some sorta ill-defined supernatural mystickal powers are also haphazardly invoked from time to time, and some of the soundtrack is given over to the folksy croonings and strummings of Ray Lovelock, who plays David, our carefree guide to pastoral Italian livin’. And absolutely nothing happens, for the most part, although David becomes a plaything for each of three witches in turn, and also eats like a complete pig whenever they supply him with a sumptuous repast. (Seriously, this guy chows down like an ill-mannered slob; this revolting lack of refinement is probably intended to illumine how his devotion to What Feels Good, Man, is leading him down the primrose path.) P.S. Evil wins.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I have to presume it’s the usual boring reason of nomenclature, although in this instance it also may have reminded me of something else as well.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Honestly, in its own way it has an interesting take on what could constitute certain philosophical musings … but it’s also 50-some years beyond its immediate relevance, and in case you haven’t noticed, notions of debating materialism, etc., rarely enter anyone’s mind these days.

Highlight and Low Point

This film begins with one of my least favorite types of openings, in this case a solitary motorcyclist riding endlessly through scenic vistas while the credits roll on endlessly. The decor of the evil queens’ little country hideaway is utterly fabulous, especially the humongous portraits of the three of them that dominate the walls. David, that’s a clue, bro.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Beyond the Darkness aka The Devil’s Female aka Magdalena, vom Teufel besessen aka Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil (1974)

Directed by “Michael Walter”
TV 13

There’s exploitation, and there’s EXPLOITATION, and then there’s this feckless Exorcist parallel, which shows little regard for any aspect of its story that isn’t related to the nude form of Dagmar Hedrich, the comely lass who plays the title role. After around 75 minutes of wallowing in the gutter with little pretense of doing anything else, it’s possible that the film produces its most legitimately shocking moment when the director remembers to wedge the unequaled anticlimax of a half-assed exorcism into the final few minutes. Appropriately enough, Hedrich seems to have said “to Hell with this profession” after making this picture. (Not that this performance was going to be topped.) Highly entertaining, shamefully inexcusable, and amazingly crude and crass in more ways than one – not the least of which is that there’s almost no semblance of a storyline at all. Then again, helmer Walter Boos boasts a list of credits including such highbrow material as “Intimate Teenager” and “Train Station Pickups,” so …


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

You know I cannot turn away from a film titled “The Devil’s Female.”


Should You Watch This Movie?

The website Film Dienst classifies this as follows: Sex movie. (Its brief synopsis concludes, “We advise against it.”)


Highlight and Low Point

I will admit to a sense of befuddlement that the members of the cast take their jobs seriously and comport themselves professionally throughout this picture. The foulmouthed manner in which Magdalena requests Holy Communion has to be heard to be believed, though one might well wonder how or why it was so easy for her to convince her housemother to escort her to Church in the first place, given her immediately preceding histrionics. Hedrich does an ace job of simulating sexual congress with phantoms.

Rating From Outer Space:

Scream Bloody Murder aka Matthew aka The Captive Female (1972)

Produced & Directed by Marc B. Ray
First American Films/Alan Roberts Productions/University Film Company

Honestly, this might be one of the more demented offerings I’ve yet watched. Here’s a synopsis: A young boy kills his father with a tractor, losing a hand in the process. When he’s 18 he’s released from the loony bin and kills his brand-new stepfather with an axe, then accidentally kills his mom, then basically kills everyone else he comes across for the rest of the film except for the hooker he decides to kidnap BECAUSE HE WANTS TO BE FRIENDS. Rampant moments of complete insanity dominate, highlighted by “psychedelic” hallucinatory passages and wacked-out soundscaping. To be honest, it gets pretty harrowing, even as it’s more than ludicrous more often than not. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “good” movie, but when our confused young man lashes out and slashes with his prosthetic hook hand, it’s … okay, I already used the word “ludicrous.”


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I found this flick whilst researching the previous entry, due to the shared title.


Should You Watch This Movie?

“See what I do for you? I get groceries and clothes and art stuff, and kill people, and do you appreciate it? NO.”


Highlight and Low Point

So, the hooker is a painter in her spare time, see, and Matthew is convinced that an easel is the key to her satisfaction with his completely normal plan to hold her hostage in the mansion he usurped from its elderly owner that he killed. As hung up as he is about sex in general – mind you, we have no idea “why,” since the picture begins with the inchoate Oedipal act – he’s REALLY fixated on the easel he procures. Angus Scrimm shows up at one point.

Rating From Outer Space: B−

My Brother Has Bad Dreams aka Scream Bloody Murder (1972)

produced and directed by bob emery
Original Screenplay by Bob Emery
American Pictures Corporation

A movie so obscure it doesn’t even seem to have a Wikipedia entry – imagine! – this is a disturbed, and fairly disturbing, picture of mental instability, family secrets, and, of course, MURRRRRDER. It also features a unique ending, although that’s getting rather ahead of the topic here. The fun begins with obvious shadings of Psycho, but instead of keeping the Oedipal tendencies a secret, they’re right out front, along with some mannequin (“store dummy”) obsession which presages Maniac – well, at least for me. Hints of incestual longing AND some vaguely homoerotic developments make it fun for the whole – sorry, let’s just say there’s a little something for everyone. A fairly interesting curiosity, in my opinion, with fairly high production values given its low profile, including title music and suchlike. You may well wonder why the titular brother’s sibling puts up with him at all, and the attempts at obfuscating motives don’t really help or hinder in that regard.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It’s another of the Internet Archive VHS gleanings, dunno if I’d’ve ever found it otherwise.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I would guess that depends on how deep you are into esoterica, arcana, trivia, that sorta thing.


Highlight and Low Point

Well, the highlight has to be the highly unusual ending, which may or may not be intended to invoke some sort of symbolic something-or-another. As hinted at earlier, brother Karl is highly irritating; Nick Kleinholz does a convincing job in one of his two roles prior to his untimely death. Marlena Lustik, who plays his sister Anna, also appeared in/on “NBC Special Treat,” which … sure. Cleveland native Paul Vincent plays the unfortunate patsy who tries to help.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Curse of the Devil aka El retorno de Walpurgis (1973)

Directed By Charles Aured
Lotus Films/Scorpion Productions

Golly, I wouldn’t have expected this ridiculous piece of trash could get even better, but it turns out it’s the SEVENTH in a series – and according to Wikipedia, “This film ignored the events in all of the earlier films.” Same actor as the werewolf, though! (Paul Naschy.) And what was the next installment? You guessed right – Night of the Howling Beast! I knew I recognized la bestia. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure what the most farcical part of this production is, but all of a sudden all of the villagers simultaneously decide it must be a locally roaming werewolf that’s responsible for a string of gruesome crimes, so that might have to be considered. There are 12 of these! TWELVE. The title that preceded this one in the series was Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo. I have no words.

 

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

See, it’s called “Curse of the Devil” – this release is, anyway – and this is the IMDb description: “A man whose ancestors executed a witch is turned into a werewolf by modern-day descendants of the executed witch.”

Should You Watch This Movie?

See, the thing is, I don’t even particularly care for werewolf pictures. Even for a dubious genre such as horror, the theme stretches the bounds of credulity for me.

Highlight and Low Point

This is another of several recently watched flicks whose English dubbing and subtitles don’t match at all, leading me to wonder which one deviates more from the original scripting. (It’s extra fun when there’s more than one English subtitle track, and they’re different!) The story here starts out with some ambition but goes nowhere in particular, and the genesis of the curse doesn’t make much sense.

Rating From Outer Space: D

Deathmoon (1978)

Directed by Bruce Kessler
A Roger Gimbel Production
For EMI Television Programs, Inc.

A plodding would-be potboiler that could serve as a one-item time capsule, this made-for-TV werewolf picture doesn’t have a lot to offer aside from its woefully inadequate scenes of hinted-at transformations … until it eventually deigns to try to depict said transformation, and hoo boy. For the most part, this is basically a blasé romantic drama, with a bunch of quasi-flashbacks and some ancient-cursed-missionary mumbo-jumbo about the, uh, Ileoha-kapuatiki. (It’s set in Hawaii.) A pointless subplot involves someone robbing guests of the luxury resort during a weeklong business conference, along with some attendant job tension between security personnel. Questions might plague you were you to give any of this rot a second thought – I mean, questions besides “why the hell am I watching this?” Like, our suffering shape-changer bears the curse via his grandfather, but … was the family unaware of this condition in the interim, between generations? Does it only affect him/them when in Hawaii? At the source, as it were? And how long does a full moon last, anyway? It keeps happening!


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Boy, I wish I had a good answer for that question. (It was part of the Internet Archive VHS “haul.”)



Should You Watch This Movie?

There is no reason you should ever do such a thing.


Highlight and Low Point

Seriously, when dude went to Hawaii, had there been no full moon, would he ever have known he bore the curse? Doesn’t the moon have the same effect everywhere? The moment when the security underling tells his chief that his diligent legwork has suggested that they’re dealing with a werewolf, and gets laughed at because that’s a ridiculous suggestion, was appreciated by this viewer.

Rating From Outer Space: F

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 Living Dead at Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka No profanar el sueño de los muertos aka Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti aka Don’t Open The Window (1974)

directed by jorge grau
star films s.a./flaminia produzioni cinematografiche

So, after multiple examples of movies not living up to whatever (fair or unfair) expectations I had, here we have one that wildly exceeded them. This Spanish-Italian production sets its eldritch tale of the undead – rejuvenated by a newfangled agricultural invention utilizing radiation for pest control – in the British countryside, and boasts some truly intimidating zombies. They can’t be stopped, and they waste no time in disemboweling their prey, to dine with zeal and relish. Of course, no self-respecting story of the unexplainable would be complete without the dismissive lead investigator and obstructionist local gendarmes, and for a special bonus, these immediately pin the blame on those damn longhaired kids and their drugs and free love. Stupendous.

why did i watch this movie?

Not totally certain, but I was looking for 1970s product and the title I found announced this one as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.” So I gave it a whirl.


should you watch this movie?

“Couple of drug-crazy maniacs.”
“Oh, worse than that, sergeant. Have you ever come across any of these Satanists … in your investigations?”

“No, but I’ve heard about them. Here, you don’t think –”
“They vandalize cemeteries. They profane tombs. And, you know, hold black masses … that’s why you’ve got your cross. Looks to me like a pretty typical case.”

highlight and low point

The  plot here takes a while to unfold, which proves to be gratifying. The experimental agronomics are tremendously unconvincing. The doctor is remarkably placid. Nearly everyone hates the youthful on sight. But Arthur Kennedy‘s Inspector can’t be topped. Seriously: “You’re all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes … drugs, sex, every sort of filth. And you hate the police, don’t ya.”

rating from outer space: A−

The Killer Snakes aka 手 殺 蛇 (1974)

directed by kuei chi hung
shaw brothers

Unusually wistful for an exploitation movie with multiple rapes and plenty of animal abuse – plus more than one guy slapping around more than one woman – this product of the Hong Kong studios of Runme and Run Run Shaw certainly provides plenty of fodder for your rumination. That doesn’t much excuse most of what goes on here, but at least there’s a plot and a story, more or less, to provide some underpinning. And oh man, the snakes. SO many snakes, so often very clearly being hurled across the length of the shot so as to emulate leaping or springing. The secondary plotline concerns what we now call “human trafficking” but just used to call “prostitution.” Plus probably the relationship between greed and rapacity. Boy howdy, is that reading too much into a picture called “The Killer Snakes.”

why did i watch this movie?

I won’t lie, it promised to be both lurid and somewhat preposterous. I may have expected more sheer lunacy and less slice-of-life grittiness, however. With the sadism confined to humans.

should you watch this movie?

Although it’s kind of amusing when our protagonist, “Keto,” urges his serpent friends to bite and kill his enemies or oppressors, this is a largely downbeat and depressing feature. Who’d’ve guessed that from a tale of a (literally) beaten-down loser who enlists an army of ophidians to avenge him, and even to perform what he claims is a mercy killing?

highlight and low point

Snakes get mutilated, tortured and killed. Maybe I need to vet these pictures better, potential spoilers be damned. Keto’s one outfit keeps reassembling itself, Hulk-like, no matter what happens to him. At one point, he springs monitor lizards on his victim. Those aren’t even snakes, man.

rating from outer space: c−