The Craft Legacy (2020)

written and directed by zoe lister-jones
blumhouse productions/columbia pictures/red wagon entertainment

Man (cue ironic sound effect) is there a lot to unpack here. Less a legitimate horror picture, or even a reboot of the 1996 teen scream queen forerunner, than a thinly disguised manifesto of sorts about inclusion and acceptance, this high-school witchery drama occasionally tries a little too hard to be young, hip and NOW, but you know what? Were I a misfit teen I’d probably be able to look past its afterschool-special veneer, its glossy luster and its sanded-down edges to just enjoy the message lurking beneath. That not-so-subtle message is, of course, that the world ordered by traditional white men is being usurped by the rainbow coalition. And I say, even as a no-longer-young white male, just go right ahead and strictly populate every movie from now on with nothing but mixed races and every nonconforming gender variant you can goddamn conjure up, maybe all the reactionary bigots and proud boys will have brain hemorrhages from the bile backing up as their outrage boils. Can’t happen soon enough.

why did i watch this movie?

I read a gushing review and was all like, wait, they remade THAT?
(Saw the original in the theater.)
(Yep, it’s another one of those.)


should you watch this movie?

Those that cower in mortal fear of the woke brigades should steer clear. And there isn’t even any overt BLM messaging!

highlight and low point

This is the second flick featuring a trans girl I’ve seen in five months; in the first she’s a vampire and here she’s a witch. I’ll give you the following million-dollar idea for free: A slasher movie where the trans character breaks the usual archetype. You’re welcome. (At least thank me in the credits.)

rating from outer space: B−

The Killer Snakes aka 手 殺 蛇 (1974)

directed by kuei chi hung
shaw brothers

Unusually wistful for an exploitation movie with multiple rapes and plenty of animal abuse – plus more than one guy slapping around more than one woman – this product of the Hong Kong studios of Runme and Run Run Shaw certainly provides plenty of fodder for your rumination. That doesn’t much excuse most of what goes on here, but at least there’s a plot and a story, more or less, to provide some underpinning. And oh man, the snakes. SO many snakes, so often very clearly being hurled across the length of the shot so as to emulate leaping or springing. The secondary plotline concerns what we now call “human trafficking” but just used to call “prostitution.” Plus probably the relationship between greed and rapacity. Boy howdy, is that reading too much into a picture called “The Killer Snakes.”

why did i watch this movie?

I won’t lie, it promised to be both lurid and somewhat preposterous. I may have expected more sheer lunacy and less slice-of-life grittiness, however. With the sadism confined to humans.

should you watch this movie?

Although it’s kind of amusing when our protagonist, “Keto,” urges his serpent friends to bite and kill his enemies or oppressors, this is a largely downbeat and depressing feature. Who’d’ve guessed that from a tale of a (literally) beaten-down loser who enlists an army of ophidians to avenge him, and even to perform what he claims is a mercy killing?

highlight and low point

Snakes get mutilated, tortured and killed. Maybe I need to vet these pictures better, potential spoilers be damned. Keto’s one outfit keeps reassembling itself, Hulk-like, no matter what happens to him. At one point, he springs monitor lizards on his victim. Those aren’t even snakes, man.

rating from outer space: c−

Horror High (1973)

directed by larry n. stouffer
jamieson film company

What great fun this cheap little ripoff drive-in picture is! Not even making any bones about deriving its plot from (the Strange Case of) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this no-budget quickie for some reason features several then-NFL stars in cameo roles, mainly as cops. A few skulls are bandied about, along with copious amounts of very fake blood, the makeup FX are even more minimal than in The Prey, and I’m a little abashed that I didn’t recognize Rosie Holotik from Don’t Look in the Basement. Groovy soundtrack song – “Vernon’s Theme,” so earnest and so redolent of its era I laughed out loud – and a whole lotta folks WAY too old to be playing high schoolers round out this gritty drama, devotedly infused with as much pathos as could conceivably be concocted … in a Chemistry lab, say. Put it on your list of overlooked cut-rate gems, it’s worth it.

why did i watch this movie?

I confess, I have no idea. Maybe the fact that I’ve seen 1987’s completely unrelated (and also quite enjoyable!) Return to Horror High played a subconscious role. WHO can say.

Should you watch this movie?

While offering the usual caveat that semipro flicks like this played a major rôle in this blög’s very genesis, I must answer that query in the affirmative.

highlight and low point

A certain economy of scripting is something of a marvelous feat. Why or how can Vernon always be sneaking into the school building at any hour, one wonders … well, see, his mother’s dead and his dad travels for work a lot. The studying vignette with Robin, a bunch of books and a bowl of ice cream, is affecting. The paper cutter demanded more usage, though.

rating from outer space: B+

Trick or Treat (1986)

directed by charles martin smith
de laurentiis entertainment group

Growing up in the Rust Belt, my older brother and I were metalheads with questionable taste – redundant! – so we saw this picture in the theatre of pain, probably compelled by the presence of Gene $immon$ in the cast. Then as now, my impression of this flick is that it drags something terrible before it finally hits its final note, but I was suitably impressed by at least the first half or so of this ridiculous metal exploitation feature. Marc Price acquits himself pretty nicely in his star turn of “lead role for forgotten character actor from ’80s sitcom,” abetted by Large Marge and a dancer from Solid Gold. All of those things really existed, kids. So did heavy metal!

why did i watch this movie?

I had been contemplating revisiting this film for a while, and the time finally seemed right.

should you watch this movie?

I’d like to say it’s a fascinating look back at a specific era of moral hysteria in American culture, but it doesn’t really make that point especially well … so it’s just more of a nostalgia trip, really. But as a period piece, it isn’t flamboyant enough, either – ultimately it takes itself too seriously.

highlight and low point

Once “Sammi Curr” returns from the dead as an embodied electrical force or radio wave or whatever, the script is well past its peak and mainly delivers equal amounts of schlock and standard-issue shriek fare. This pic does occasionally attempt moments of humor, but they are likely to go unnoticed. The irony is thick, though, especially given that our hero is constantly dumped on because he’s a headbanger, but once the undead metal star returns, everyone likes his catchy song. But who wouldn’t:

rating from outer space: b−

 

Halloween II (2009)

written and directed by rob zombie
dimension films/trancas international films/spectacle entertainment group

In a way the definitive Rob Zombie picture, this sequel to his remake of the first Carpenter horror classic basically only makes a dent because of that lineage. I mean, if this were only a movie about just some random psycho killing people for no real reason most of the time – and it is, only that character happens to be dubbed “Michael Myers” – it would not be particularly compelling, nor memorable. Brutal and dismal throughout, it ends without redemption, and Zombie’s juvenile obsession with titties-and-beer doesn’t particularly help. His ongoing attempt to inject metaphysical compulsion (or something) into the Myers saga via hallucinatory visions is categorically odd, and his characters, as usual, are often rehashed caricatures. But for all that, it definitely establishes and holds a mood. Why it bothers is a different question.


why did i watch this movie?

This was strictly stunt programming, piggybacking on the previous selection.


should you watch this movie?

Are you really enamored of extended scenes of cruelly barbaric murder, or hopelessly trapped in hidebound fascination with music of the 1960s and ’70s? (“Laurie’s” Black Flag and Government Issue t-shirts notwithstanding.)

highlight and low point

It may be unfair to point out, as I watched the “Director’s Cut,” but a lot of moments here are just Zombie indulging his own tastes, to the point of self-parody. One might prefer to think he’s self-aware enough to give W. Al Yankovic a cameo role for just that reason, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It would appear he just thinks these stylistic touchpoints are, like, bitchin’. Yeah, you can identify his work as his own – after a fashion, anyway – but the effect can be pretty grating.

rating from outer space: C

Day of the Nightmare (1965)

directed by JOhn bushelman
screen group, inc.

So much a ripoff of Psycho that the main character and culprit’s last name is “Crane,” this no-budget sleazeball melodrama somehow manages to be fairly entertaining, probably because it’s so utterly half-assed. Reminiscent of the artless stylings of other dimestore auteurs (you will see Ed Wood’s name invoked if you decide to read reviews of this production), at least this picture barely bothers with the armchair psychology – especially noteworthy given that one of the characters is a headshrinker. You know, I watched this alongside the preceding film based merely on the similarity of the nonsensical names, yet they share a weirdly similar predilection besides. For a fun parlor game, try to construct a meaningful diagnosis of Jonathan’s paraphilias, I dast ya.


why did i watch this movie?

“Day of the Nightmare?” I asked myself. Obscure, black-and-white, obviously some stripe of exploitation, check.


should you watch this movie?

It aspires to bare competence. Maybe. Usually with drivel such as this, I wind up wishing I could spend some time living in the milieu represented. In this case, though, everything is suspiciously antiseptic. Maybe that only heightens the allure.

highlight and low point

At one point, a sexpot “patient” is making the move on her “doctor,” and she exclaims, “I don’t need a psychiatrist” – which she pronounces sick-eye-a-tryst – “I need a MAN,” this latter in a breathy stage whisper. Doc replies, “All right, all right … just this once.” Given the carryings-on in this picture, that is likely a bald-faced lie, of course, but with such deft handling of dramaturgy, what else could you reasonably expect. Another poignant moment comes during the thrilling conclusion, when our intrepid investigators pronounce of their quarry, “He’s heading for the amusement pavilion!”

Aren’t we all.

rating from outer space: D

Night Warning aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)

directed by william asher
s2d associates

Yeah, “Night Warning” makes no sense as a title, especially for this flick, but look how bad that original title was. Despite the nomenclature, this is a surprisingly chilling, thrilling little affair, though I haven’t heard the word “fag” so much since, like, third grade (which, coincidentally, would’ve been circa 1981). See, the lead detective has a bit of a problem with “fags,” and also appears to be at least somewhat racist, along with being a lousy coworker and a blowhard. Anyway, there’s this kid, Billy – promising scripting – who lives with his aunt, since his parents died when he was but a mere toddler. His aunt, she seems a little off, ya dig. But she sure likes Billy, a whole lot. Maybe TOO MUCH … and she really doesn’t like Billy’s girlfriend. They really coulda used a nocturnal alert or something. Imagine that.

why did i watch this movie?

I was selecting options based solely on title and era, and this caught my eye. That it featured ’70s teen idol Jimmy McNichol in an incestuous storyline sealed the deal.


should you watch this movie?

Not quite suitable for a time capsule due to a seeming lack of universality in some of its particulars, it apparently instead has become a bit of a cause célèbre for its inclusion of non-stereotypical homosexual characters.

highlight and low point

Lest you think I’m exaggerating about Bo Svenson’s Det. Joe Carlson, to Billy’s semi-closeted basketball coach he states, “I suggest you resign … If you don’t, chances are you’re gonna get yourself lynched.” Later, he tells his PD’s officers “I want all these fuckin’ deviants off the street – pronto!” Svenson’s tight-lipped copper and Billy’s histrionic aunt, as portrayed by Susan Tyrrell, are both rather, uh, outsize characters.

rating from outer space: B−

Devil Fetus aka Mo Tai aka 魔胎 (1983)

directed by lau hung-chuen
lo wei motion picture company

So what’s in a name? You think you know what you’re gonna get from a flick called “Devil Fetus,” but maybe you overlooked the fact that it was made in Hong Kong in the 1980s and you didn’t realize you were actually going to get one of the most inexplicable and incoherent pictures you’ve ever “enjoyed.” But what about the devil fetus, you demand. I wish I could tell you. Somehow, despite being sealed within the coffin of the dead woman whose uterus spawns it, eventually – many years later – the demonic spirit of the DEVIL FETUS (which does not have anything to do with, you know, “the devil”) inhabits the family dog … whose name, naturally, is “Bobby.” That’s all I’m going to tell you. You can figure out for yourself what in the hell Grandma was doing with that eagle blood.


why did i watch this movie?

Those of you familiar with my blathering on these pages know the reason.


should you watch this movie?

Well … it probably offers you a unique viewing experience. Sadly, it’s actually a little too restrained given the outsize expectations provoked by the title.

highlight and low point

You know, there are bad FX and unconvincing FX … and whatever the hell these FX are. Most of director Lau’s career credits are in cinematography (such as his work on 1980’s We’re Going to Eat You), and given that many of the “tricks” used here are double exposures and “substitution splicing,” that isn’t the greatest endorsement. At least one flying possessed person sports a noticeable wire. Oh! I almost forgot to mention the birthday dance party and the evocations of Beyond the Door! “You’re too proud, man,” as a friend once advised. “People slip.”

rating from outer space: ?

El día de la bestia aka The Day of the Beast (1995)

directed by Alex de la iglesia
sogetel/iberoamericana films producciÓn/m.g. srl/canal+ (EspaÑa)

I’m not certain this Spanish production qualifies as “horror,” even if the plot consists of a seemingly fallen priest committing violent crimes in the hopes of negating the birth of the Antichrist. Alongside a slacker “death metal” adherent and a bullshit mystic television seer. On Christmas Eve. (The tale takes a little longer to cohere than that synopsis might indicate, or at least it did for me.) Although a bloody account, any terror involved is confined mainly to the implicit realm, or attributable to a mysterious roving gang destroying property and killing people while urging the authorities – presumably – to “limpia Madrid.” (“Clean it up.”) Drugs, semiserious bodily harm, mayhem and some second-tier FX complete the recipe. It’s fun, the comedy is deadpanned about as well as possible, and certain juxtapositions add just the right touch. Alongside the sacrilege. Make it a holiday tradition!

why did i watch this movie?

See previous entry, and sprinkle liberally with Luciferian intrigue. Plus, I’ve been learning Spanish for over a year, and every little bit helps.

should you watch this movie?

Where ELSE are you gonna see the Three Wise Men gunned down by police? (You don’t have to answer this question if you’re in the “United” States, for fear of reprisal.)

highlight and low point

This is no game. Ángel (the priest, of course) and José María (the ne’er-do-well metaller) make for a great duo, and the uneasy triumvirate they form with “Professor” Cavan also is fruitful. The intricate layers of symbols and references belie the film’s breezy, slapstick nature, as does what ultimately proves to be a rather somber final series of notes. Many, many aspects of modernist commercial existence are targeted for commentary, however oblique.

rating from outer space: B

Scare Package (2019)

directed by emily hagins, aaron b. koontz, chris mcinroy, noah segan, courtney & Hillary andujar, anthony cousins, baron vaughn
paper street pictures

So this is a kind of anthology, a parodic meta horror potpourri, almost certainly bearing a superfluous section or two but still wildly entertaining. If you love horror movies (and lampooning them) even a little bit as much as these folks do, it’s a fair enough diversion. Personally, I thought the “One Time in the Woods” segment was going to cause me brain damage, plumbing the depths of inspired idiocy on a dadaistic level I’ve rarely experienced since meeting Snake ‘N’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret 20 years ago. I was nearly in hysterics. “The NIght He Came Back Again! Part IV – The Final Kill,” meanwhile, is almost as good, absurdly reducing its depiction of a July 4th-themed holiday slasher to the barest essence. Sure, it’s more than occasionally too obvious, and The Cabin in the Woods exists, but Joe Bob Briggs playing himself at a critical moment suggests a certain acknowledgement. An unsubtle picture that must unfortunately wait to meet its true fate until people can gather en masse at frightfests again.

why did i watch this movie?

The trailer juiced the passé concept.

should you watch this movie?

If you think I specialize in missing the point, the reviewer at rogerebert.com prattles on about how this flick “has no good answers” to whatever postulation he’s imagined, dismissing “this sort of pandering humor” while unapologetically using the term “janky.”

highlight and low point

Undead Roger Ebert there misquotes Briggs’s observation that the character Rad Chad is “the personification of what the internet did to film criticism” while decrying this film’s burlesque. It’s a send-up, pal. Amazon Women on the Moon didn’t resolve the B-movie, either.


rating from outer space: B