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−

The Terror Within (1989)

directed by thierry notz
CONCORDE

The kind of picture wherein a lot of the action takes place inside massive “air vents,” this absolutely marvelous archetypal B movie was produced by none other than Roger Corman, and it gloriously suggests any number of ’50s and ’60s drive-in wonders. From the minimal casting to the plastic-fantastic sets, this SF horror pic pulls out all the stops. You got your overly obvious dialogue, you got your laughable rubber creature suit, you got your broadly drawn characters, you got your … dog. The tale of mankind’s last few (?) survivors after an unspecified disaster, besieged by mutants apparently spawned by … well, never mind making any sense of that, why bother. Terrific fun, couldn’t ask for anything more.

why did i watch this movie?

This has to have been a result of looking for more George Kennedy vehicles, I’d imagine. You may have noticed I’m a big fan of those. (Someday, you’ll understand.)

should you watch this movie?

Not if you dislike having a good time.

highlight and low point

Virtually everything about the set design is simply magnificent. The research station or whatever it is has a staff of six, yet the elevators are boldly designated with signage. They’re monitoring life outside and doing complicated experiments inside, yet when they need to reproduce sound, they have to resort to using a reel-to-reel recorder. They have banks of complicated computer equipment, but their video feed and lights constantly malfunction. And they’ve got a bitchin’ logo for some reason. Also, this is the only SF horror pic I can think of that might inspire abortion debates, as it’s the only one I can think of offhand that features a self-induced rejection of an alien-hybrid fetus. (Trust me, that’s not a spoiler.)

rating from outer space: “B” (of course)

Atração Satânica aka Satanic Attraction (1989)

directed by fauzi mansur
j. davila enterprises

This picture straight from the Brazilian scrapheap is almost completely incoherent. With less than 15 minutes left, the chief of police exclaims – and not for the first time – “but none of this makes any sense!” He is correct. “Satanic Attraction” rivals Maya with its puzzles about who some characters are and what exactly their role is. (Unlike that headscratcher, however, this one isn’t any fun.) Is that a police boat? Why is the heavily pregnant Reporter always wearing a bikini top? Wait, did they just forget that character’s identity? Who is that guy, and what in the hell is he doing here? Possibly the drollest element of this nonsense is its radio-show narration, part of the convoluted sense of SOCIETAL TERROR and OFFICIAL OUTRAGE that you won’t buy for even a minute. But most amusing is that this picture was filmed in Portuguese in Brazil, and the version I watched was dubbed in English but subtitled in … Portuguese. Which doesn’t appear to agree directly with the dubbed dialogue. Which per the usual doesn’t equal the “drama.”

why did i watch this movie?

Well, I WANTED to watch a different Brazilian picture, Shock, but apparently no subtitles for that one exist. This hot mess was suggested as a fill-in, and rightly so.

should you watch this movie?

I know there’s a lot of fans of bad, bad movies out there … maybe you’re one of them.

highlight and low point

The “police work” in this film is really something. This may be excusable, as the victims’ bodies are never anywhere to be found – though somehow the victims are still identified as such. One such casualty, who naturally is taking a bubble bath, fails to realize that a razor blade has been embedded in her bar of soap.

rating from outer space: D

 

Maya (1989)

directed by marcello avellone
reteitalia/trio film

Hahahahaha. Only tangentially a horror movie, this beaut is a “thriller” of the sort Cannon Films churned out for so many years, except without the finer qualities for which that studio was so widely admired. Set in “Mexico” (filmed largely in Venezuela), this cheerfully idiotic film is concerned with some sorta Entity of the ancient Mayan culture that … okay, the thing is, people are dying because – there’s this guy, see, he’s a, he’s a … archeologist? Anthropologist? Or is that the other guy, no, wait, that guy’s a folklore expert and a mystic, never mind. Anyway, the dead guy’s daughter comes down to, uh, okay, she … Let’s take stock: There’s the dead guy’s daughter, the gringo gambling man, his jealous local ex, the bar owner, unreliable locals, the planned ritual sacrifice of a village child – I’m probably forgetting some pertinent details – and finally, glowing eyes. Man, watch out for those glowing eyes. No, Doctor, I have no idea.

why did i watch this movie?

I read a few descriptions of it that described it as deliriously incoherent fun – pretty accurately, as it turns out.

should you watch this movie?

Do you miss the sorts of classics you’d find at random in days of yore by scanning “premium” cable movie channels in the wee hours?

highlight and low point

On top of everything else this fable has to offer, it’s overdubbed for the English-speaking market, which only adds drama to the meaningful dialogue. The portrayal of the locals is in keeping with its era and origin.

rating from outer space: C