Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992)

Directed by Mick Garris
Ion Pictures/Victor & Grais

In case you thought the problem with movies made from S. King novels and stories was the difficulty in translating to the silver screen either their length and heft (IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone, etc.) or their sometimes dodgy supernatural motifs (Christine, say), I have bad news to report. This budget B flick was written FOR the cinema, not adapted from a story, and it, too, has some serious issues preventing it from being taken very seriously. I’m not even talking about the $2 FX, either, although those don’t help out a whole lot. And I’m not even talking about the army of darling kittycats that wind up being the main oppositional force to the, um … the quasi-vampire things. (Diehard King aficionados, oops, I mean “Constant Readers,” will recognize the energy-sucking conceit later employed by Doc Sleep.) Hack director Mick Garris – King’s handpicked fave – takes a tale with promise and lets it devolve into gimcrackery over its latter third. Consider (blame) the source, I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Cats and the oeuvre of Stephen King: two things for which I have a soft spot in my heart (if not my head).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Look, I just don’t know what to tell you. I mean, I watched Stephen King’s The Night Flier, too, you know.


Highlight and Low Point

My notes for this picture – yes, really – include that the “deputy sheriff” cruises around happily singing Garry Lee and Showdown’s immortal “The Rodeo Song,” which I first heard about from a friend in, like,  fifth grade, disbelieving such a song could really exist until he proved it. My notes also indicate that apparently one can blow up a cop car by merely shooting it.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

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−

Le regine aka Queens of Evil aka Il delitto del diavolo (1970)

Directed by Tonino Cervi
Flavia Cinematografica/Carlton Film Export/Labrador Film

Oh, those damn hippies. Redolent of a bygone era in many different ways, this possibly satirical and occasionally symbolic cautionary tale rarely overcomes its internal obsession with seductive mod accoutrements. Some sorta ill-defined supernatural mystickal powers are also haphazardly invoked from time to time, and some of the soundtrack is given over to the folksy croonings and strummings of Ray Lovelock, who plays David, our carefree guide to pastoral Italian livin’. And absolutely nothing happens, for the most part, although David becomes a plaything for each of three witches in turn, and also eats like a complete pig whenever they supply him with a sumptuous repast. (Seriously, this guy chows down like an ill-mannered slob; this revolting lack of refinement is probably intended to illumine how his devotion to What Feels Good, Man, is leading him down the primrose path.) P.S. Evil wins.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I have to presume it’s the usual boring reason of nomenclature, although in this instance it also may have reminded me of something else as well.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Honestly, in its own way it has an interesting take on what could constitute certain philosophical musings … but it’s also 50-some years beyond its immediate relevance, and in case you haven’t noticed, notions of debating materialism, etc., rarely enter anyone’s mind these days.

Highlight and Low Point

This film begins with one of my least favorite types of openings, in this case a solitary motorcyclist riding endlessly through scenic vistas while the credits roll on endlessly. The decor of the evil queens’ little country hideaway is utterly fabulous, especially the humongous portraits of the three of them that dominate the walls. David, that’s a clue, bro.

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

Slugs aka Slugs: muerte viscosa aka Slugs – The Movie (1988)

Directed by J.P. Simon
Dister Productions

“Based on the novel ‘SLUGS’ by Shaun Hutson.” No, I haven’t read it, but you better believe I’m going to try to track THAT baby down. This entertaining piece of dreck is the sort of film so unconcerned with “verisimilitude” – there we go again – that it sticks a desk and a flag in a room and decides, “Okay! Sheriff’s office.” Said sheriff’s big scene, being dismissive of our well-meaning protagonist (“Mike Brady,” for crying out loud), may remind certain informed viewers of John Vernon’s similar scene in Killer Klowns from Outer Space … which came out the very same year. What a golden age of cinema THAT was! I also got a big “Pieces”* vibe from this picture, mainly due to the utter disregard for any sort of credibility whatsoever – for characters, motivations, acting ability, dialogue, etc. At the end the sewers blow up, which should remind you of … other movies. You get the drift. MIndless fun, and as a bonus, the slugs are kind of unnerving, even seeming threatening. And there’s a LOT of them.

*It happens to be from the same director, which I swear I didn’t know beforehand

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Of course you know the real mystery is why I hadn’t already seen it.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It is a testament to the undying power of schlock cinema.


Highlight and Low Point

WOULD this flick be even better if instead of a toxic waste repository, the underlying explanation given for the presence of rampaging mutant killer slugs was alien involvement, or maybe that the town was built on an “Indian burial ground”? That’s debatable. Use the phrase “You ain’t got the authority to declare happy birthday!” during your next workplace dispute.

Rating From Outer Space: B

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+

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−

My Brother Has Bad Dreams aka Scream Bloody Murder (1972)

produced and directed by bob emery
Original Screenplay by Bob Emery
American Pictures Corporation

A movie so obscure it doesn’t even seem to have a Wikipedia entry – imagine! – this is a disturbed, and fairly disturbing, picture of mental instability, family secrets, and, of course, MURRRRRDER. It also features a unique ending, although that’s getting rather ahead of the topic here. The fun begins with obvious shadings of Psycho, but instead of keeping the Oedipal tendencies a secret, they’re right out front, along with some mannequin (“store dummy”) obsession which presages Maniac – well, at least for me. Hints of incestual longing AND some vaguely homoerotic developments make it fun for the whole – sorry, let’s just say there’s a little something for everyone. A fairly interesting curiosity, in my opinion, with fairly high production values given its low profile, including title music and suchlike. You may well wonder why the titular brother’s sibling puts up with him at all, and the attempts at obfuscating motives don’t really help or hinder in that regard.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It’s another of the Internet Archive VHS gleanings, dunno if I’d’ve ever found it otherwise.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I would guess that depends on how deep you are into esoterica, arcana, trivia, that sorta thing.


Highlight and Low Point

Well, the highlight has to be the highly unusual ending, which may or may not be intended to invoke some sort of symbolic something-or-another. As hinted at earlier, brother Karl is highly irritating; Nick Kleinholz does a convincing job in one of his two roles prior to his untimely death. Marlena Lustik, who plays his sister Anna, also appeared in/on “NBC Special Treat,” which … sure. Cleveland native Paul Vincent plays the unfortunate patsy who tries to help.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Curse of the Devil aka El retorno de Walpurgis (1973)

Directed By Charles Aured
Lotus Films/Scorpion Productions

Golly, I wouldn’t have expected this ridiculous piece of trash could get even better, but it turns out it’s the SEVENTH in a series – and according to Wikipedia, “This film ignored the events in all of the earlier films.” Same actor as the werewolf, though! (Paul Naschy.) And what was the next installment? You guessed right – Night of the Howling Beast! I knew I recognized la bestia. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure what the most farcical part of this production is, but all of a sudden all of the villagers simultaneously decide it must be a locally roaming werewolf that’s responsible for a string of gruesome crimes, so that might have to be considered. There are 12 of these! TWELVE. The title that preceded this one in the series was Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo. I have no words.

 

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

See, it’s called “Curse of the Devil” – this release is, anyway – and this is the IMDb description: “A man whose ancestors executed a witch is turned into a werewolf by modern-day descendants of the executed witch.”

Should You Watch This Movie?

See, the thing is, I don’t even particularly care for werewolf pictures. Even for a dubious genre such as horror, the theme stretches the bounds of credulity for me.

Highlight and Low Point

This is another of several recently watched flicks whose English dubbing and subtitles don’t match at all, leading me to wonder which one deviates more from the original scripting. (It’s extra fun when there’s more than one English subtitle track, and they’re different!) The story here starts out with some ambition but goes nowhere in particular, and the genesis of the curse doesn’t make much sense.

Rating From Outer Space: D