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−

Gutterballs (2008)

Written And Directed By Ryan nicholson
Plotdigger Films

Actually proud of how many times its script uses the F-word and its derivatives – the writing makes Rob Zombie screenplays seem eloquent – this deliberately tasteless and mordantly abusive curiosity also boasts some of the absolute worst acting you may ever experience. (Don’t bother wondering why the high-stakes showdown takes place in an all-but-deserted kegling center.) Though most of the gore is so over-the-top as to be ludicrous – along with the amounts of “blood” spilt – there are a scene or two of impressively sickening brutality, if that’s your (bowling) bag. Crass, sleazy, and pornographic (in a bordering-on-obscene legal sense), it’s kind of hard to defend this picture for any kind of “artistic merit,” but by the, uh, redemptive ending, a sort of humorous acceptance may surface. Either that, or by that point the proceedings may just have become too grim (or too stupid) to shock you any more. But there IS a sequel called “Balls Deep,” so at least things could probably get worse.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I like bowling and independent horror productions, and I’ve got extremely questionable taste.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I really wish Nicholson could’ve found slightly more competent thespians for most of the cast, and that he’d have had a script editor to make the language less egregious.

Highlight and Low Point

The bowling pin gang rape scene is pretty bad, I guess, though at no time will you be worried whether it’s too realistic. The casual misogyny displayed throughout is a lot more grating, in my opinion. The antagonists in this story are truly despicable and unlikable, so I guess you can give the actors credit for accomplished something. Conjuring up the suffocation-death-by-69 scene also took some creativity.

Rating From Outer Space: C

Rest in Pieces aka Descanse en piezas (1987)

Directed by “Joseph Braunstein” aka Jose Ramon Larraz
Jose Frade Producciones Cinematograficas aka “Calepas International INC.”

Terrible editing, acting that runs the gamut from A to B, a nonsensical plot about a life-after-death society and an inheritance, and the longest delayed appearance of a guaranteed nude scene in the history of cinema – oh, and credits that don’t even bother to name the cast, just the crew. Truly, this is a highlight of the 1980s video wasteland. Director Larraz (whose offerings Savage Lust and The House That Vanished were previously featured here) loves his mysterious deadly plots, but this production is so slapdash it plays more like a comedy. It can only be described as terribly entertaining, and I believe you probably know which word in that phrase should receive the emphasis. Now, why the hell haven’t I (yet) seen his British lesbian horror Vampyres? I gotta step up my game.

WHy Did I Watch This Movie?

See previous entry. You know, I’m fairly certain I could waste MORE of my precious time if I really tried … but here’s hoping I don’t decide to test that hypothesis.

 

Should You Watch This Movie?

Don’t you ever wonder how much of your precious time you could waste, should you really try?


Highlight and Low Point

The lead actress, Lorin Jean Vail, also had roles in an action movie (“Flex”) about a bodybuilder; an action movie whose description according to Wikipedia/IMDb is “A tough Arizona cop is teamed with a lesbian cop to catch a serial killer who is murdering police officers” (Arizona Heat); a movie called “The Patriot” (action! again); and played Bikini Girl #7 on a two-part episode of The Love Boat. Oh, and she portrayed herself in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Dead Girls (1990)

Directed by Dennis Devine
Bovine Productions

The type of movie that’s all about an obviously atrocious “band” – dreamt up by someone who clearly has no idea how things do or don’t work in the music industry – but doesn’t feature a single moment of the “band” performing or practicing (or even any of their alleged music), this substandard wannabe slasher flick features a confused mulligatawny of checklist concepts but little in the way of convincing thespians, believable script or acceptable motivations. I will give it credit for the very unexpected ending – especially coming as it does after nearly two hours of a story that really feels as though the author kept thinking, “okay, this sort of thing happens in horror movies,” only to continually revise his opus because it just didn’t feature enough broadly sketched stock roles. Absurdly unbelievable, by which I mean “unrealistic,” in whatever sense you care to interpret that.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Some nefarious individual posted literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of videotaped movies to the Internet Archive, almost none of which seemed to have registered culturally – like, say, this one. I culled all the horror and horror-adjacent titles, and this is the first one I chose to “enjoy.”

Should You Watch this Movie?

I mean, I suppose it could convince you that you could make a movie, too! Why not!


HIghlight and Low Point

Not only do the Dead Girls have ridiculous names – Nancy Napalm, Bertha Beirut, etc. – only one of them looks as though she might ever consider being in any sort of band at all. Their manager is an offensive caricature, and Asian, though how much those factors are related is theoretically debatable. The “religious” angle seemed farcical, though I’m no longer so sure these days.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

I Blame Society (2020)

Directed by Gillian Wallace Horvat
Nowhere

While I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess there may be a lot of people who wouldn’t find this picture very funny. Maybe those folks would misconstrue the satirical nature of the meta commentary, remarked upon with such satisfaction by those living and working within its filmmaking milieu. It’s also probable that some people just don’t find murder to have much comedic value. If your taste runs toward extremely dark humor, however, and you’ve ever spent any time dallying with the art world, this should strike the correct nerve. A mockumentary of sorts that translates its anger into absurdities, the narrative follows Horvat as she embarks on a very special personal project. At first, her tentativeness and some awkward situations she establishes may evoke thoughts of Creep, but eventually this production abandons what little restraint it has demonstrated, perhaps to emphasize the lunacy lurking in its heart. Does it lose a bit of verisimilitude with this shift? Possibly, but there’s too much fun to be had for that to matter much.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’ve used this exact phrase for years in attempts at arch commentary.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s one of the most enjoyable pictures I’ve seen since I started this blög, which as of this post has 335 reviews. (There are an additional 117 or so horror flix that have yet to be honored here, too.)

Highlight and Low Point

The filmmaker meets with some production bros twice along the way, and for anyone oblivious to her thesis, these scenes hammer it home. (The second session includes an aptly revealing indictment.) The various references to her
omnipresent cameras are also amply rewarding.

Rating From Outer Space: A