to all a GOODNIGHT (1980)

Directed by David Hess
Intercontinental Worldwide Distributing Corporation/Four Features Partners

Utterly disjointed, this train wreck of a prototype slasher flick is somehow largely enjoyable, albeit mainly on dubious grounds. A gaggle of coeds and their imported beaux are being slaughtered for Some Reason by an Unknown Assailant – who the viewer knows is dressed as Santa Claus. The initial reveal is no surprise, but the SHOCKING twist that immediately follows is … actually fairly unexpected. Most of the killings are absurdly unconvincing, the gore as well, and trying to keep abreast of the film’s botched continuity is an ongoing challenge. (The distinct majority of the acting, meanwhile, is on par with the gore and the killings.) The “action” drags significantly as the conclusion nears, to boot. Still and all, fans of dreck should be delighted.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Well, it was Christmas week. (I’m a little behind.) I was pointed in this direction by The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies by Peter Normanton, but this is as good a place as any to point out that director Hess (of The Last House on the Left repute) also co-wrote and recorded a song called
“Speedy Gonzalez” (among other lesser creations).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you persist in considering a lack of redeeming qualities a detriment.


Highlight and Low Point

The story holds that the original version of this picture available on VHS featured that time-honored pitfall of low-budget terror, scenes that are too dark to be able to discern what may or may not be occurring (such as in, say, Island of Blood, for just one pertinent example). That is not a problem in the Blu-ray release, which brandishes an unfettered “day for night” technique that doesn’t even bother with the pretense.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Directed by Edmund Purdom
Additional scenes written and directed by Al McGoohan
Spectacular International Films

Wow, here’s a distressed downer of a flick for ya. I know, I know, a Christmas-themed slasher that’s a downer? What a sorry state of affairs. Not unlike Christmas Evil in its backstory – and to be honest, not unlike dozens of other horror films in that backstory, either, except for the “Santa Claus” angle – this London-based film gives you a lot of disheveled or otherwise distasteful Santas, some cheesy killings, a little T ‘n’ A, and few survivors. Plus some 1984 British Punks stealing a drunken Santa’s bicycle. The filmmakers (at least three directors at various times!) don’t seem to invest a whole lot in any of the red herrings, and overall there’s kind of a lack of urgency about the whole affair. It’s not half bad, though, even if it does meander a bit too much.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was the yuletide, so I was duty-bound … although I see I apparently never posted a review of the exemplary Black Christmas, so I’ll have to rectify that eventually.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This flick’s credits include ‘Experience’ Santa Claus, Theatre Santa Claus, Dungeon Santa Claus, Store Santa Claus, Market Santa Claus, Drunken Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus (yes, two), and “Santa Claus in car.” They all seem kinda grubby, as does everything else in the picture.

Highlight and Low Point

I appreciated the scene that takes place within the London Dungeon tourist trap, serving as it does as a kind of signifier of the genre’s lingua franca. (Hey, one can semioticize anything, should one wish to do so.) A scene wherein a lonely middle-aged Herbert visits a peep show confers an incongruous subtlety.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Black Friday (2021)

Directed by Casey Tebo
MFW Manufacturing/Warner Davis Company

I selected this picture because it figured to be light entertainment, and because it was appropriately holiday-themed … and when you set your aim that low, it isn’t hard to hit your target. I mean, presuming the target is also low – which in this case, it was. Laid-back for the most part – I mean, considering it concerns devastating destruction visited upon a toy store – and somewhat reminiscent of The Banana Splits Movie, it doesn’t feature anything visceral enough to make it too interesting. It isn’t particularly scary, or bloody, or funny, despite the presence of Bruce Campbell as a retail lifer. I guess if anything is supposed to be its calling card, it’s the “revelatory” exchange of personal information among staffers deciding how to cope with their situation. Ironically – given the tension among the employees and the setting – it does its job. I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

As you may be aware, I relish the opportunity to watch holiday-themed horror flix at their designated times – and I watched this Thanksgiving week, despite my tardiness in posting this review. It’s been a time, I’ll just say. (Just for the record, I wrote the entry for Halloween Kills on October 17.)

Should you Watch This Movie?

I mean, there aren’t a lotta Thanksgiving-centered horrors.


Highlight and Low Point

Does ripping off the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man count as a highlight? Here’s the deal: this picture isn’t terrible, but the best thing I can say about it is that it’s suitable for those occasions where you don’t want to be too engaged in anything. It’s just sorta there, and once again I find myself wondering how anyone decided it was worth the effort to produce something with such little resonance.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Pale Blood (1990)

Directed By V.V. Dachin Hsu
Noble Entertainment Group

I was completely shocked when the credits rolled on this baby and the copyright read “1990” … though perhaps that’s just the result of my own myopia. See, Agent Orange is in this film, for no particular reason that I can discern, and since the tunes they’re playing are all from their 1986 release This Is The Voice, I presumed it was a little older. (To be fair, it was lensed in ’88.) In a way, that only heightens the weirdness of this little oddity, a vampire flick with several shifts in motive and narration (and incrimination) – one of which was completely unforeseen, at least for me. This was apparently a straight-to-video picture, which makes sense when viewed from the perspective of its production values, but doesn’t much jibe with its fairly accomplished narrative. (In its own way, it’s a hardboiled noir story – just with, you know, immortal bloodsuckers.) I could see this film having been fairly successful with a few alterations and a big-screen existence. Of course, Agent Orange probably wouldn’t have been involved then.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Although I dearly love the early portion of Agent Orange’s career, this was just a happy accident – another one from that endless Internet Archive vid haul.



Should You Watch This Movie?

Even if late-’80s nostalgia doesn’t interest or inspire you, it’s worth a look-see. I don’t even think you’d necessarily have to be all that impressed by vampires, though it couldn’t hurt.


Highlight and Low Point

The tone of this picture varies unpredictably, as it contains significant amounts of basically deadpan humor interspersed with dismal pathos and the like. Wings Hauser’s filmmaker character contributes to the furtive ’80s vibe, and Hong Kong apparently stands in for L.A. at times.

Rating from Outer Space: B

M.D.C – Maschera di cera aka La Máscara de Cera aka The Wax Mask (1997)

directed by sergio stivaletti
Cine 2000/mediaset/france film international

Dedicated to Lucio Fulci by its production team, due to some convoluted backstory (“Dario Argento Presenta”), this very mannered extravaganza boasts a visual sheen not quite in keeping with its turn-of-the-20th-century period setting, and spins a tale that, while engaging enough as it unspools, is somewhat undermined by a gaggle of absurdities at its center. The enigma that compels it doesn’t stay very mysterious for very long, despite the labored attempts by virtually everyone in the cast to vamp it up as much as possible, and the sumptuous costuming is somewhat hilariously at odds with what one must term the futurism at its core. (Were one inclined to be unkind, it could be called anachronistic, but as it’s a horror fable, what would even be the point.) At heart, it’s just kind of silly, another victim of the genre’s inability to stop rewriting stories that weren’t that interesting the first time around. See, it takes place in a WAX MUSEUM, would you believe. And what’s more!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’d have to guess at this point, but it’s most likely the release date, and maybe the intrigue underlying its production. (Argento wanted to help Fulci make a film, but Fulci died before filming began.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s nearly interesting at times.


Highlight and Low Point

Despite its efforts, this production doesn’t do a very effective job of making it appear to be 1900 – it is too obvious that you are looking at sets and costumes. (The steampunk Re-Animator setup doesn’t much help in that regard, either.) The gore and pseudogore FX are pretty good, befitting the nominal director’s usual professional pursuits. The absurdly blatant ripoff of The Terminator, on the other hand …

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:

Blood Tracks aka Heavy Metal (1985)

Directed by Mike Jackson AKA Mats Helge (Olsson)
“Associate Director: Derek Ford”
Smart Egg Pictures

What starts out appearing to be merely a lighthearted, empty-headed (Swedish!) hair metal adventure turns out to be a plodding formulaic exercise beholden to dangers lurking in a poorly lit, seemingly abandoned building. Actually, back up … the adventure begins with an introductory vignette that makes little sense as it happens and manages to make even less sense later. (A woman fatally wounds her abusive … husband? Landlord? Prefect? Naturally, she and her children must hide from society forevermore.) This idea must have looked good to somebody on paper – rockin’ rock band, video hi-jinks, naked chixx, the aforementioned dangers lurking in a poorly lit, seemingly abandoned building, and so forth – but on film it quickly grows rather tedious. Neither the atrocious dubbing nor the copious gratuitous nudity provides any succor.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I was suckered in by the “promise” of yet another asinine “metal”-themed fright flick. (I’m not even sure if I was aware of the Swedish angle.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

I’ll say this: it’s no Black Roses or Rocktober Blood. Hell, it isn’t even “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.” I suppose if you’re really feeling nostalgic for images of purported glam-metal excess, this may suffice –but may I suggest seeking treatment instead?


Highlight and Low Point

It’s possible I’d be inclined to point out a creatively grisly murder or two, but at least one of them is unfortunately edited in such a way as to severely diminish its impact. The SPECIAL APPERANCE (sic) by EASY ACTION – not this one – who portray a band called “Solid Gold” – not this one – somehow manages to undermine the dignity of poseur glam.

Don’t just take my word for it, tho!

Rating From Outer Space: D

Scream for Help (1984)

Produced and Directed by Michael Winner

This “British horror film” (set in … New Rochelle, New York?) could have gone any number of ways – and for a while indeed seems unsure where it may be going – before ultimately becoming an almost-suspenseful yarn about a resourceful mother and daughter surviving what is in effect a multifaceted home invasion. There’s actually a surprising amount of prurience and some notable lapses in taste here, which I guess are supposed to lend verisimilitude, even if not much evidence of any concern for that notion is present in the early going. Once the action gets up a head of steam, it’s passable entertainment; prior to that, it’s a sometimes amusing, often annoying spectacle of irritating adolescent flights of fancy. The heroine’s soundtrack song – written by John Paul Jones and sung by Jon Anderson – from “Led Zeppelin” and “Yes,” respectively, for anyone reading this who somehow ISN’T an old white person – is highly amusing maudlin treacle.

Don’t just take my word for it, tho!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

This title, too, was posted for posterity in the annals of the Internet Archive.


Should You Watch This Movie?

The way things keep escalating throughout is pretty gratifying, really, once the plot finally reveals itself.


Highlight and Low Point

This picture has some elements of humor in it, but they’re more or less attendant to having a teenage girl as the protagonist, rather than overtly comedic. More purposeful are the various ramifications of sexuality on display, which at one point find Christie swearing off physical relationships forever. At a particularly dramatic juncture, a character declaims “I have my whole life in front of me” and is immediately struck from behind by a car, and killed. That’s fairly indicative of the tenor throughout.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

The Retreat (2021)

directed by pat mills
Alyson Richards Productions/Clique Pictures

I don’t wanna sound like a straight normal hetero guy, but if this picture didn’t concern a lesbian couple trying to avoid being killed by gay-hating militaristic dark-web content providers, it wouldn’t warrant much mention as anything other than just another genre exercise. As it is, however, it kinda reminded me of The Hills Run Red, at least for the filmed killings. Anyway, I guess you can’t dismiss the zeitgeist, so despite its fairly hackneyed presentation, it is going to attract some attention for what could be read as its sociopolitical statements. Which may be fair enough, but doesn’t ever go far enough, either. For the record, the most hateful character is a rural married woman.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Media commentary about it made the usual claims about it being some kinda subversion of the paradigm, or a similar combo of buzzwords.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Maybe you’d like to contemplate how tepidly this supposedly brash experiment approaches its homosexual themes. You can start with the fact that it focuses on a lesbian couple, of course, instead of two guys, and move right on into observing how remarkably dispassionate their relationship is. (The PR claims that relationship is “rocky,” but c’mon.)

Highlight and Low Point

Okay, seriously, there’s a scene in this flick – and this would constitute a SPOILER ALERT, were it not for what I’m about to “reveal” – where our intrepid heroine has to escape her dastardly bonds and does so by … can you guess? Huh? Can ya? DING DING DING! Yes! She breaks her own thumb so she can slide her hand free! WOW! Who could possibly have seen that coming!

Attn. directors: Please stop putting this scene in your movies.

Rating From Outer Space: C

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−