Black Roses (1988)

directed by john fasano
shapiro glickenhaus entertainment/rayvan productions

I’m laughing just thinking about how to discuss this picture with you, so that’s a pretty good indication of its … strengths. About as completely ridiculous a flick as you could hope for, adding a little over-the-top gore might’ve propelled this one into true cult-classic status. As it is, it falls a little short of that mark, but it does bring a whole lot of mind-bending goodness to the table. And omigod, if you’re hankering for a healthy chunk-a ’80s cheese, queue this one up immediately. You will NOT regret it. Well, all right, you may very well regret it, but you’ll still probably have a “good” time.

why did i watch this movie?

It sounded like the kind of feature that was the inspiration for this blog in the first place.

should you watch this movie?

It’s idiotically entertaining. As I was viewing it, I simultaneously planned to see Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, an earlier but equally ambitious offering from the same director.

highlight and low point

I personally always enjoy obvious body double scenes. The FX render pitiful or insipid what were probably intended to be threatening or imposing demonic characters and monsters, one of which ends up not dissimilar in appearance from the title beasts on the early ’90s sitcom Dinosaurs. It’s Howard the Duck-level bad, albeit obviously not on anywhere near the same scale. Being that the “plot” concerns the then-timely concern of EVIL “metal” bands warping the minds of impressionable youths, the soundtrack will floor you, presuming you miss the likes of Bang Tango, King Kobra and Lizzy Borden.

Yeah, that’s basically the movie right there. You just saved almost 1.5 hours!

rating from outer space:

Maniac Cop (1988)

directed by william lustig
shapiro-glickenhaus entertainment

One does not decide to watch a flick with a title like “Maniac Cop” thinking he or she is in for a deep, thought-provoking vehicle for highly skilled thespians featuring a trenchant, thinking-man’s script. And if one did, he or she would most likely be disappointed by this feature produced by the estimable Larry Cohen (and directed by the same guy behind the camera for Maniac, Lustig, a man clearly in need of a thesaurus). In all honesty, this feature is of a slightly higher quality than I’d expected, which probably does it a disfavor. With a sense of restraint belying its name, it never feels like anything more than what it is: a tossed-off cheapie thriller, made for off nights on off-brand cable channels. It’s dumb, occasionally amusing, and doesn’t care a whit about conveying any realism whatsoever – a picture drawn in such broad strokes it may as well involve fingerpaint. The ending is beyond banal.

why did i watch this movie?

After experiencing the previous couple Cohen productions, and having enjoyed my first exposure to Lustig’s work, and wondering why I’d never before bothered to watch this succinctly titled pic, it just seemed an obvious choice.

should you watch this movie?

Do you feel as though there’s a void in your life that can only be filled by the incisive philosophy that must buttress a filmic exploration entitled “Maniac Cop”?

highlight and low point

So, this production makes a point of focusing on Maniac Cop’s mutilated left hand, to identify the character and also reveal his … condition. In one such shot later in the film, the hand looks completely normal. Such utter disregard for continuity is always amusing. Tom Atkins plays Resolute Cop, Bruce Campbell plays Bruce Campbell Wrongfully Accused Patsy, and the script plays dead.

rating from outer space: C−

Scarecrows (1988)

directed by william wesley
effigy films

I would be inclined to call this picture “comically inept” except for the fact that nothing about it is funny – especially not the hour and a half or so I wasted watching it. Laborious, idiotic and pointless, this film has three characteristics in preponderance:

  1. voiceovers, to the point that it seems as though large swaths of the flick were shot without any dialogue whatsoever
  2. a repeated closeup* of one of the appellative dummies so prevalent it lends itself to disbelief
  3. blatantly obvious continuity problems for roughly the first third of its running time, which also return at the end

The latter involves an aircraft out of which hijackers are parachuting in pursuit of their heist money, for which they’ve been double-crossed. When the paratroopers land – allegedly this flick is known as “Paratroopers” on the German DVD market – they’re in pitch-dark night, but all shots of the airplane flying are in varying levels of daylight (early twilight at worst). As for the narration, one of the voices illuminates the turncoat’s thoughts, except that when he actually speaks, it’s … in a different, accented voice. As to the “action,” you may reasonably inquire why the scarecrows are killing people. Well might you wonder: no one knows. “I think this place is possessed by demonic demons,” one annoying character says to another. And they can’t be stopped! Except for when they can.

why did i watch this movie?

I have lousy decision-making skills, apparently.

should you watch this movie?

Bake a cake. Ride a bike. “Mail” a “letter.” Take a long walk off a short pier. Write poetry, even!

Highlight and low point

Paced as poorly as the rest of this venture, the credits last more than seven full minutes.

rating from outer space: f

*this one

Blood Relations (1988)

directed by graeme campbell
sc entertainment

For the majority of its 90 minutes or so, this is more of a sex farce than a horror movie. Indeed, at times it reminded me of such bygone classics as Clue, as well as such bygone duds as the Sly Stallone vehicle Oscar. Numerous suspicious or threatening characters abound and … actually, all of the characters are suspicious, as it becomes increasingly more unclear who is trying to kill whom, or why. At long length, it does eventually swing into scary movie mode, but its overweening hucksterism is never superseded. It’s possible this film slipped through the cracks because it has a few moments that are too gory for what is essentially a noirish comedy of manners. As is often the case with such madcap romps, the story doesn’t wind up making a whole lot of sense, either.

why did i watch this movie?

I was under the misguided impression that it was a horror movie, with a larger cast of characters and a little more action amid the intrigue. I did have my doubts.

should you watch this movie?

Although normally I wouldn’t factor in such a consideration, I would say that this kind of film has seen its day, and revisiting it isn’t very edifying. It plays almost like a parody of a Universal picture, with a Vincent Price vibe. This could have been intentional, I suppose.

highlight and low point

The proper atmosphere is concocted and maintained throughout and the performers chew their scenery with aplomb. Unfortunately, the script lets them down, meandering redundantly to the SHOCKING conclusion, which cannot properly succeed in a setting wherein nobody is to be trusted and no one is likable.

rating from outer space: c-

Cellar Dweller (1988)

directed by john carl buechler
empire pictures/dove corporation ltd.

Short and inconsequential, this straight-to-video (and laserdisc!) offering is also kind of derivative, although there we go again … horror film, blab blah, &c. Not obviously reprising any particular movie – faint praise, perhaps, but it’s something –  Dweller doesn’t seem sure what niche it wants to occupy. It’s not quite campy, not very funny or scary, and not nearly as outré as it seemingly wants to be. Jeffrey Combs has what amounts to a cameo setting up the action as a comic-book artist whose hideous creation comes to life, quite in keeping with his erstwhile cottage industry of acting in Lovecraftian roles. Also appearing for some reason: a cavalcade of onetime TV stars including those who played Lily Munster, Ben Casey and “Eric” from Head of the Class. One interesting thing this flick has going for it is its bummer ending, which seems especially odd in such an essentially lighthearted affair. Kinda not really worth it.

why did i watch this movie?

You’ve got me there.

should you watch this movie?

Let’s imagine people still watch cable television the old-fashioned way. Say you were channel-surfing some evening because you were mired in ennui or killing time before doing something more active or exciting, and you happened upon this little number on “USA” or … some other channel that might be showing random movies. You’d keep it on for at least a few minutes. Probably.

highlight and low point

The animation, both of the comic-book art and what appears to be a good old-fashioned stop-motion creature, is a welcome effect. The other special effects are not so impressive, and neither are the generic character types.

rating from outer space: c-