Izbavitelj aka The Rat Savior aka Der Rattengott aka The Redeemer (1976)

directed by krsto papić
jadran film/croatia film

A political allegory from Croatia, then situated in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which won the equivalent of Best Picture in Portugal’s Fantasporto festival in 1982, and which has been noted for being reminiscent to modern viewers of both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and They Live. Set in a failed economy grasping for answered prayers, this is kind of a slow-developing picture, a fact more notable due to its relative brevity; the version I watched ran about 76 minutes, and I’ve seen evidence of versions ranging from two minutes longer to eight. Eventually, however, it reaches its peak, of what is essentially a terrible hopelessness. Based on a story by Russian writer Aleksandr Grin called something like “The Rat-Catcher,” this film ultimately hinges on a similar observation to the terrifying underlying theme of 1984: you can’t trust anybody, especially yourself.

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t have any idea what led me to this one … some rabbit (rat?) hole or other, presumably.

should you watch this movie?

As mentioned, it won’t take up too much of your time, and if you have any interest whatsoever in political themes – or, for that matter, historical ones – yeah, put it on your list.

highlight and low point

This production is lensed in such a way as to mute out its colors, which has the effect of making it appear much older than it actually is. Coupled with the subtitling and the stilted nature of much of the action, it comes across a lot like a silent movie at times, an impression only strengthened by the soundtrack. Locating some of the most important moments of the story in what is purportedly the abandoned “central bank” building is a masterful touch.

rating from outer space: B

La novia ensangrentada aka The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

escrita y dirigida por vicente aranda
morgana films

Part of the early-to-mid-’70s lesbian vampire movie mini-craze, this Spanish offering is actually a very stylish affair, even as it doesn’t skimp on some more questionable themes or visuals. One of many retellings of important Dracula precursor Carmilla, the tale follows a newlywed couple back to the groom’s palatial ancestral home, where strange occurrences soon are afoot. And at hand. Namely, the young bride begins having eerie, violent dreams that involve a mystery woman she has glimpsed more than once while awake. Her chauvinistic husband is dubious. A doctor who apparently doubles as a detective of sorts is downright dismissive. The caretakers’ strange little girl … is strange. An accomplished piece of art, despite its exploitative carnality.

why did i watch this movie?

It was in my queue for so long, I couldn’t possibly tell you, but at some point I was stockpiling turn-of-the-’70s vampire flicks, so …

should you watch this movie?

“You mean the two women were howling?”
“Mm-hm, like two cats in heat – that’s when I ran away. They sounded … like vampires.”

highlight and low point

Should you need proof of how mores have changed in male/female relationship dynamics since the early ’70s – or, perhaps, seek illustration of the difference between Spain and the USA in terms of attitudes toward such things – you’ll be delighted by how Susan’s new husband treats her. If you’re of a certain bent, you’ll also appreciate her eventual response. If you’re like me, you’ll love exchanges such as this:

“How many times does something have to be repeated before it ceases to be a coincidence?”

“Some cases, twice would be sufficient.”

Performances are very deliberate. Maribel Martín, in her inaugural star vehicle, delectably transforms a moue into a death stare, often.

rating from outer space: B+

Us (2019)

written, produced and directed by jordan peele
monkeypaw productions/perfect world pictures

First off, this film was not what I’d expected – which was basically another version of The Strangers and its ilk. It’s much weirder than that, however; Us is one strange flick. Unlike Peele’s first production, Get Out, this one kinda clutters the frame with signifier draped on allusion wrapped in metaphor, and it’s a bit of a muddle. (One could put almost any spin on what it “means” and find a way to support the claim.) It’s also too often funny to be as scary as it wants to be, though at multiple times it conveys a great unease vividly laced with desperation. Laden with references to a smattering of other movies, though, this picture is yet another example of that apparently inescapable factor of contemporary culture. Guess we just can’t not do that any more, even with so much original creative spark seemingly on hand. For me personally, not being much of a cinephile, yawn, whatever.

why did i watch this movie?

Get Out was not only terrific, but thought-provoking, a rare combination. So although the early media campaign for this one didn’t make it appear to be anything out of the ordinary, I figured I’d be viewing it at some point.

should you watch this movie?

The running time is a very long ≈ two hours. The ending particularly drags.

highlight and low point

Despite its being a little unwieldy and bearing a few untidy loose ends, there’s a lot to like here. The initial appearance of the doppelgängers is both amusing and frightening, which isn’t the easiest trick to pull off, and a sudden revelation that there’s a lot more to the story than has theretofore been presented is powerful yet understated.

rating from outer space: B+

The New York Ripper aka Lo squartatore di New York (1982)

directed by lucio fulci
fulvia film s.r.l.

“The violence here is ugly, demeaning and frightfully pathological,” the author proclaims, adding that the film “features long, lingering and loving shots of gratuitous sex, nudity and horrific violence.” He further contends that the picture is “reviled for its rampant misogyny, unspeakably deranged mutilation of women; and its duck-voiced, interminably quacking psychokiller” and “remains a hollow, forced, uninspired effort that very few have rallied to support.”

Well, sure, you think, but everyone’s a critic, and you crane your neck to see the title … and discover that those quotes are taken from the 1996 book Lucio Fulci: Beyond the Gates – A Tribute to the Maestro by Chas Balun.

I don’t have much to add, but allow me to correct a misspelling from Mr. Balun’s tome: when describing the scene with the prostitute and the razor blade and the eye and the nipple, the erstwhile scribe meant to write “bisected.”

why did i watch this movie?

Its notoriety, I guess. I also kept running across it while looking for blog fodder, so I figured I might as well just get it over with already.

should you watch this movie?

I suppose it depends on just how much you want to see that bisection alluded to up above. Trust me, you can live happily without hearing the maniacally quacking killer.

highlight and low point

The sheer overkill of most of the slashing, which favors closeups for emphasis, is kind of breathtaking in its appalling level of sadism. Also often filmed in extreme closeup: Yes, people’s eyes, the both of ’em. Five, six times, at least. The “psychological insights” are probably some sort of attempt to lend this picture a feeble justification for its existence, to no avail. The anachronistic music’s pretty groovy.

rating from outer space: F

Lovely Molly (2011)

written, directed, and edited by eduardo sanchez
haxan films/amber entertainment

Man, you just can’t please some people. After finishing this highly disturbing picture, I decided to survey its popular acclaim, only to find that it doesn’t have much. And while I can definitely accept that rhetorical devices at play here – the videotaping, the “paranormal activity” and whatnot – might provoke a sense of ennui in some viewers, the vast majority of this film plays as a character study of a woman seemingly losing her mind, potentially becoming a danger to herself and others. That the climax suggests (and, to my mind, somewhat abruptly) a rather different explanation doesn’t much detract from the tense atmosphere created and explored throughout. For the resolution, I might’ve preferred something a bit less Shyamalanesque, because the nature of the characters’ unravelings had been intense and unsettling, but I’ll admit I disregarded plentiful cues.

why did i watch this movie?

Sometimes, I just idly browse through synopses of horror flicks and randomly winnow down a passel of choices until I select a few titles that sound interesting.

should you watch this movie?

You know what, I liked it. Now, keep in mind I’ve neither seen “Blair Witch” nor Paranormal Activity, so maybe that helped. Your tolerance level for “found footage” presented as though real-time documentation may be of import.

highlight and low point

Credit must be given for a distressing scene of person-to-person violence that was truly shocking, and not for the squeamish – hackles-raising stuff. Gretchen Lodge’s performance of the title role is splendid, and pretty fearless to boot. The murky backstory helps rather than hinders, but the most important clue is literally buried and one may well attach no importance whatsoever to it. (The working title was “The Possession,” hint hint.)

rating from outer space: B+

The Hills Run Red (2009)

directed by dave parker
Warner premiere/dark castle home entertainment/fever dreams llc/ludovico technique

Maybe I’ve seen a few too many of these damn things, but a premise that seemed alluring as this story grew legs – obsessive fan seeks mythical lost slasher film – garnered much tarnish once a few too many knowing references were manifest. Having recovered from its initial fascination with a patently obligatory sleaze factor, this film established a promising story arc only to undermine it with too much that was too familiar. And though it seemed Hills wanted to be playing in the same self-referential league as other “postmodern” fright flicks, I began to get the uneasy feeling that it wasn’t all that clever. Enough glints of inventiveness peek through to keep the goings-on mostly interesting, and the rote gruesome tortures on display aren’t overdone or brandished as proof of, I dunno, transgressive merit or something. But maybe my initial impression was correct and there just isn’t a whole lot of nuance left to wring out of this particular genre, especially if one isn’t willing to get past giving a backwoods killer a spooky mask. ‘Tis a pity, as the sadistic-creep-preys-on-hapless-unfortunates paradigm has always been a personal preference.

why did i watch this movie?

Hills was one of the small handful of pictures Schlock Treatment recommended as actually worthwhile.

should you watch this movie?

Fun fact: Several video games and Leatherface rank among the other accomplishments of this film’s writers.

highlight and low point

Ultimately – unfortunately – I think this production is more of a ripoff than a mashup, but as I’ve hinted before, most horror pix suffer if one goes ahead and thinks about them. This flick had a chance to be really special. Unlike its protagonists, though, it chose to play it safe.

rating from outer space: C+

Island of the Fishmen aka L’isola degli uomini pesce (1979)

directed by sergio martino
dania film/medusa cinematografica

This contemplative, philosophical inquiry into the underpinnings of theories of evolution and the turmoil that can result when ruling classes oppose their implications ultimately wrests from its labors a few hard-won victories for what is best labeled “truth.” Hahaha, no – this is an Italian Island of Dr. Moreau crossed with an adventure serial, featuring some FX we’d later see improved by Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Coincidentally, it also features the pursuit of treasure from an ancient land.) Also featured is a voodoo cult, for some reason that either wasn’t provided or to which I wasn’t paying enough attention. Overall, it was a labor to get through this contrivance, but at times it almost approaches B-movie apotheosis. All it lacks is anything interesting or titillating or engaging or exciting!

why did i watch this movie?

I really don’t remember, so let’s presume it was the ridiculous title and Italian origin.

should you watch this movie?

Not unless you have to, which I’d wager is unlikely.

(Note: L’isola was also released for U.S. consumption under the titles “Something Waits in the Dark” and “Screamers,” both of which were altered to some considerable degree.)

highlight and low point

The stock volcano footage is gratifying, as are the obvious miniatures used for various shots such as that immediately above. Other FX are worthy of derision at best – but the “fishmen” themselves aren’t half bad. As is customary, the dubbed dialogue provides many great moments, such as this revelatory soliloquy:

Now I remember! He’s the geneticist who was condemned for his experiments … transplanting animal organs into human beings.

Oh, yeah, him. The above reminiscence leads to the equally appealing accusation, “You’re not a scientist! You’re a madman, an insane criminal!”  Gripe, gripe.

Rating from outer space: c−