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

Sebelum Iblis Menjemput aka May The Devil Take You (2018)

written and directed by timo tjahjanto
screenplay films/legacy pictures

An Indonesian fright flick from one of the Mo Brothers – the one who also co-directed the bonkers “Safe Haven” segment of V/H/S/2 – this number doesn’t exactly charge out of the gates with much subtlety. Infused with some severe family drama, hinted at during the opening-credits montage of scrapbooked newspaper headlines, the affinity to Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell has been noted, and the picture also contains more than a healthy dose of Evil Dead referents. But for all that, the film is often flat-out terrifying. I suppose the ending’s a bit of a letdown, but you can’t have everything, right?

why did i watch this movie?

Macabre instantly became a new favorite when I saw it, and its credits led me here. (I didn’t see the comparisons to the other flicks until after I’d made my decision.)

should you watch this movie?

Okay, so I have seen this described as both an “homage to” and a “knockoff of” the Raimi oeuvre, and I suppose either take is valid depending on one’s perspective. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

highlight and low point

Ordinarily, a feature with such imitative qualities would engender some disdain – and it has, with others – but the sheer enthusiasm its director infuses into this affair renders such matters moot, at least for me. As mentioned, I coulda used a different ending, but again, that’s merely my viewpoint – and by that time, I just may have been expecting something more divergent. What was especially noteworthy about this production was that even when I KNEW something in particular was about to occur, it still gave me the creeps when it transpired. I enjoyed the extra helpings of malevolence on display as well.

rating from outer space: a−

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)

directed by curtis harrington
landers-roberts-zeitman productions

Man, I do NOT remember there being any made-for-TV movies like this when I was a kid – though admittedly, in 1978 my parents most likely would not have let me stay up late enough even on Halloween night, when this aired. (They weren’t that restrictive on content, for the most part, although how they would have felt about a possessed dog is anybody’s guess.) For such an offbeat premise, unfortunately, the product can be a little underwhelming. True, I didn’t expect the main character to wind up going to Quito, Ecuador, to consult a shaman in order to defeat the Barghest his family’s unwittingly adopted, because why would anyone mix up their various mythologies that way. Ultimately, the picture is saved by suchlike casual idiocy, managing to be thoroughly entertaining despite its limitations.

why did i watch this movie?

The power of Zoltan compelled me.

should you watch this movie?

You know, I’ve often thought of the made-for-TV horror picture as kind of a lesser creation, figuring it couldn’t possibly compete with its large-screen brethren and sistren, but it turns out this isn’t always the case.

highlight and low point

“It’s a monstrous thing, a goblin dog,” the occult bookseller tells Richard Crenna’s Mike Barry – “A man … hounded by his dog,” as he described himself to her with an abashed chuckle – and boy, she ain’t kidding.

The climactic and climatic final battle between Mike and Lucky the hellhound is a marvel of multiple-exposure imagery, and the portrayals of Betty, Bonnie and Charlie Barry as they slip toward infernal fealty are quite amusing. Unfortunately, we aren’t treated to nearly enough Satanic goings-on, especially given the promising opening.

rating from outer space: c−

Spellcaster (1991)

directed by rafal zielinski
empire pictures/taryn productions, inc.

I don’t know if you have any idea who Richard Blade is or was, and any way I could try to explain it seems as though it would be impossible to understand, so let’s just say he was a “New Wave” media personality, a Briton based in L.A., and leave it at that. In some of his earliest scenes in this movie, he’s wearing a shirt with his own name on it.

I don’t know if you have any idea who Adam Ant is or was, but to me, it makes perfect sense that he’s in this movie with Richard Blade, though they have no scenes together.

This movie actually was made in 1988, but it seems culturally anachronistic even so. Adam Ant had no cultural cachet in 1988, and for that matter, “New Wave” was itself long dead.

Oh, the flick? It’s some sorta quasi-fantasy tale of a “Rock TV” contest set in a castle in Italy. Two of the characters hail from Cleveland.

why did i watch this movie?

Again, this blog is lacking in ’90s content, and while I was seeking to correct that I came across this title, which I gladly would have ignored save for the casting.

should you watch this movie?

This picture was dumped onto the VHS market three years after it was made.

highlight and low point

I got a big kick out of mismatched Italian “CHiPs” here, if that counts:

I think this film was intended to be some kinda FX showcase, what with the theme of diabolical magic, but that doesn’t really work out so well.

Also, for a production that kinda emulates a fable, there’s no moral: nobody wins or loses, not even the outfoxed Count Diablo or whatever the hell his name is.

rating from outer space: d

Nightshift (2018)

written & directed by stephen hall
greenflash pictures/blue shadows films/grump films

Maybe a little over halfway through the 75 or so minutes of this production, it veers into a psychologically tormenting sequence that elevates what already had been an interesting picture into a compelling one. The effect isn’t really sustained, but nonetheless this is one film that understands the dynamics of parceling out its particulars. Often, the moments in between events carry the most weight in this tale of weird happenings in an Irish hotel. At times more than a little reminiscent of 1408, for at least one example, what works best here is that nothing ever seems too surreal to accept. Not exactly unpredictable, this presentation of a truly terrible first shift at a new job still manages to defy the norm to some degree, although that mostly may be a matter of style rather than substance. Whatever the case, the end result is another effective exhibition from Ireland.

why did i watch this movie?

The description didn’t exactly dazzle me, but something about it made the flick seem worth a look. Maybe it was the Irish thing; as noted, I generally seem to enjoy output from those shores.

should you watch this movie?

While acknowledging there’s only so much one can do with the whole place-where-something-terrible-happened angle, this one at least tweaks it a bit.

highlight and low point

I cannot stress enough that I was greatly impressed by how much this flick does with its scenes where nothing actually winds up happening. The aura and suspense generated in those scenes is masterful. Also, during the mind- and time-bending sequence, a few instances work wonders for the picture’s chill factor. As for the downside, surprise isn’t notably in abundance here, despite the fact that it avoids becoming overly formulaic.

rating from outer space: B

Zhǒng guǐ aka Seeding of a Ghost aka 种鬼 (1983)

directed by Yang chuan
shaw brothers

I think this flick must have been intended to be a horror-comedy, but as it’s a Hong Kong production I couldn’t honestly say. If Shaw Brothers didn’t intend for it to be humorous, then something was definitely lost in the translation, whether linguistic or cultural. Granted, one wouldn’t presume that a film with a rape as its central action was meant to be funny, but certainly some elements of even that particular scene don’t seem to be played completely straight. Plus, I mean, a mouldering reanimated corpse copulates with a wraith while levitating during part of the black magic ritual that adds the “revenge” component to this business, and the company that brought the DVD to the U.S. market bills it as the “mind-melting Asian answer to The Evil Dead.” The picture also features a kung fu fight scene, an exploding pregnancy, and some kind of evil spawn that looks something like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, only as a crawling, tentacled Lovecraftian nightmare. So you tell me.

why did i watch this movie?

I was reading somewhere about how over-the-top Hong Kong cinema can be, and then elsewhere saw similar references to a variety of its horror films. This was one of them.

should you watch this movie?

The next time you’re in the mood for something outrageously ridiculous, Ghost will fit the bill nicely.

highlight and low point

Almost every character reacts with incredulity to something or another at some point or another in the course of this movie, which neatly aligns with the viewing experience. I suppose any number of questionable sequences or developments could be assessed unfavorably, but let’s be realistic here: this is exploitation-level trash, the foreign equivalent of a Troma venture.

rating from outer space: c+


The Evil Dead (1981)

Directed by sam raimi
renaissance pictures

First. let me just put it out there: This is one of my favorite movies in this genre. Not only do I still find it to be way above average every time I watch it, but it still blows my mind that it’s as good as it is given that it was what it was. That some Three Stooges nerds from suburban Detroit could just decide, “Hey, you know what would sell? A horror movie,” and go ahead and produce an epochal achievement still defies description and belief. You know, a whole lotta people through the ages have had the thought that they could make a movie, and a great many of those people thought they could make a fright flick, and some of them did, and some of them even did a halfway decent job … but this crew made a bona fide classic. Reading about the process, particularly in Bruce Campbell’s If Chins Could Kill, is almost as much fun as immersing oneself in the films, but nothing compares to what transpires once the Kandarian spirits begin their inhabitations.

why did i watch this movie?

This time, because it’s number seven on the Johnny Ramone list. The first time was because I’d already seen its follow-up.

should you watch this movie?

OK, look, I’ve seen this, 2, Army of Darkness, a fan edit combining all three and clarifying the chronology, the remake, and I loved the recently concluded three-season run of Ash vs Evil Dead. Mine may not be the opinion to seek.

highlight and low point

So much here still holds up today: Raimi’s inventive camerawork, the creeped-out nature of the Deadites, some gruesome injuries that remain discomforting. The makeup, on the other hand, is pretty bad, and Ash exaggeratedly slapping his girlfriend around makes for a cringeworthy moment in the modern clime.

rating from outer space: A−