And Soon The Darkness (1970)

directed by robert fuest
associated british productions ltd.

The sort of very British suspense film wherein almost nothing is revealed straightaway until very far along in the programme, where events suggest the audience’s guesswork is the main impetus, the most effective thing this production had going for it was that its tale of English ladies touring the French countryside exhibited no translation. Hence, the viewer was not to be informed of what the natives were saying, rendering that viewer as helpless – and perhaps as clueless – as the protagonist. Unless said viewer were to possess some command of the French language, that is, in which case he or she likely deduced where this case of mysterious identities and shifting suspicions would conclude. Pacing presented the major problem – though establishing a setting and a mood is important, those factors probably didn’t need quite so much development, especially in the interminably plodding final third. I mean, here’s the plot: A girl goes missing.

why did i watch this movie?

A while back I was scanning blurbs for ’70s flicks and saw this one described as an atmospheric something something with a chilling blah blah blah, and I was persuaded.

should you watch this movie?

I did not find it particularly noteworthy.

highlight and low point

I’ll tip my cap to the almost completely pointless diversion in the middle of this muddle, where the lead encounters a deaf war veteran in a farmyard of sorts, to no apparent purpose. It was also intriguing that for a movie contrived around birds on a bicycle trip, neither young lady seemed particularly adept at riding. The ongoing attempts to cast doubt as to the perpetrator’s identity eventually approached crisis proportions. A potent moment: when the whereabouts of the missing companion were revealed.

rating from outer space: C+

Baby Blood aka The Evil Within (1990)

directed by alain robak
partner’s productions/exo 7 productions

Not many of these movies tend to wow me, because let’s be honest, not a whole lot of them bring much of anything particularly new to the table, but you can go right ahead and put this deranged romp into its own category entirely. Simultaneously dismal, brutal, grotesque, and somehow funny as hell, this French meditation on the pains and perils of impending motherhood is a delightfully distasteful monster movie of sorts, although nearly every moment in the picture belongs almost solely to Bianca (or “Yanka,” according to the credits), played with élan (et plus que un peu je ne sais quoi) by Emmanuelle Escourrou. Farcical at times, and on an occasion or two somewhat predictable, la ciné nevertheless is never overtaken by what nearly becomes complete overkill. Est-ce formidable? Absolument.

why did i watch this movie?

The title called to me as I once again sought for ’90s material. I made sure not to spoil the plot by reading any synopses, though I figured I was in for some sort of tale of demonic possession or devil worship or witchcraft or what-have-you.

should you watch this movie?

It does not concern demonic possession or devil worship, etc., etc., should that be what your little heart desires. It is, however, a bloodbath.

hlight and low point

You know me, the delirious passion imbued in some (okay, most) of the kill scenes had me at the very precipice of giddiness, but there’s plenty for everyone to appreciate here. Our protagonist’s mostly unobserved ability to jump from situation to situation is quite entertaining, especially as she begins to thrive in any variety of circumstances, and the ongoing, uh, internal dialogue is blackly enjoyable. A sequel is reputedly less ingenious.

rating from outer space: a

The Washing Machine aka Vortice Mortale (1993)

directed by ruggero deodato
eurogroup film/esse c1

Only epistemologically a horror movie until late in the proceedings, this noirish sexcapade does eventually manage to induce a chill or three … but most viewers will hardly care, as the goings-on are so dementedly entertaining. Caveat: the preceding clause may imply traditional male viewers, as this video concerns three maybe-sisters who are attempting to outdo one another in the femme fatale sweepstakes, and who are not at all shy about employing all of their, er, assets. Technically a giallo, the whos, wheres and whats revolve at the drop of a hat – and there are actually plenty of hats, no kidding. A very amusing, very ’90s erotic thriller, filmed in Budapest a little over a year after Soviet withdrawal concluded.

“What’s happened to the people in this country? They used to respect our authority. Hmm, I’m beginning to think political change isn’t always so positive.”

why did i watch this movie?

I was prowling for a ’90s title per some questionable aggregator, and it didn’t occur to me I was stacking up Italian pictures.

should you watch this movie?

I’m not often one to note symbolism, so you might get more out of this flick than I did in that respect. Either way, it’s loony fun, keeping in mind above admonitions.

highlight and low point

This feature builds in intensity and insanity as it rolls along, perhaps culminating in a drugged-dream sequence with melting faces, mixed identities and misinformation … but perhaps not. To wit, this early establishing assessment:

“In a jealous rage, you have a fight with your boyfriend. Then your sister tells us he was violently murdered. It’s to your benefit there’s no corpse to be found … but then again, we’re dealing with the hallucinations of an alcoholic.”

rating from outer space: B+

I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale aka Torso aka Carnal Violence (1973)

regia di sergio martino
compagnia cinematografica champion s.p.a.

When you select una giallo for your viewing pleasure, you might reasonably expect a stylish (and quite possibly stylized) engagement, with at least a veneer of sleek sophistication, plus of course sex appeal and suspense and suspicious activity in some proportion. This offering from “Island of the Fishmen” regista Martino tries to achieve most of these, failing for the most part to derive much brivido, lacking as his film is in that other important category, any actual story. While it’s not uncommon for the whodunit part of these films to conclude with headscratchers, this time around the unveiling of the culprit provokes mostly confusion as to the identity of the character. Once he’s placed, it scarcely suffices to validate the operation. In addition, little is done to asperse alternate potential perpetrators, although at least one other excellent option is extant. È quello che è.

why did i watch this movie?

I’m kinda a sucker for gialli, although they often irritate me. Their air of absurdist mystery always beckons, however.

should you watch this movie?

If you’re in dire need of visions of nubile actresses either in spogliarsi or in vestaglia – or in moda 1970s chic, for that matter – you might appreciate it.

highlight and low point

Well, the title translates to “The bodies display signs of carnal violence,” and that may be my favorite thing about this flick … even though it’s kind of misleading in and of itself. What appear to be squalid ruins host some sort of bacchanal. An extended section where our unknown malefactor decides he needs to hacksaw the corpses of three of his female victims, which action was unimportant to him with prior unfortunates, is typical of this feature’s scattershot approach.

rating from outer space: c−

American Nightmare (1983)

directed by don mcbrearty
mano films limited/manesco films ltd.

Like the preceding selection, this movie features a lot of footage of strippers, but this Canadian picture manages to do so without it feeling particularly sleazy or exploitative. (Of course, the synopsis “mysterious killer preys on strippers” probably didn’t hurt with potential investors.) There’s more of a working-class focus, really, but portrayed within usually seedy locales. This viewpoint may be especially evident in contrast with the moneyed interests represented across a wide family divide. Our moody pianist protagonist doggedly pursues faint clues until he uncovers a terrible secret, which ultimately serves to mask a sociopathy masquerading as altruism. Along the way, two damaged people learn a little bit about love. WILL they survive the experience.

why did i watch this movie?

I wanted to throw another ’80s picture into the mix, and I’d been putting this one off.

should you watch this movie?

It doesn’t especially stand out, though its sociological perspective on affluence (or the lack of same) is pretty interesting, given that it actually was produced in 1981. Plus its disdain for the American ruse, of course.

highlight and low point

As is often the case in this genre, after the big reveal, you’d be best served not to think about any of the ramifications of what you’ve learned. Canadian film fans might enjoy another pairing of Michael Ironside and Lenore Zann, though the former’s role is surprisingly unimportant in the long run and the latter’s only serves to propel a plot device. And for a flick in which the main character inquires, “Did your reports tell you that she’s living in a SLUM? Surrounded by DEGENERATES?” the treatment of its sex workers and other assorted misfits or marginal types is in large part nonjudgmental.

rating from outer space: C

The Mangler (1995)

directed by tobe hooper
distant horizon/filmex (pty) ltd/allied film productions

You’d THINK that a story about a bloodthirsty industrial laundry machine – Box Office Mojo: “A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies” – would be a premise stupid enough to satisfy most people, but Tobe Hooper apparently wasn’t most people, as it seems it wasn’t stupid enough for him. No, he must have decided – having cowritten the damn thing – that the presentation would have to be dumbed down in order to make an inexcusably brain-dead travesty of a feature. It’s a chore merely to make it past the first couple minutes, which I attest having had to try more than once. Everything looks abysmally fake, most of the acting is atrocious, the embellishments to the plotline of S. King’s originating short story are idiotic, and holy contrivance, Robert Englund’s character. He – it – they … stammering, reduced to, me. Bleah.

why did i watch this movie?

Besides my S. King obsessiveness, I had just finished Hooper’s Funhouse and fumbled my way into the realization that he directed (and cowrote) this crap.

should you watch this movie?

Plenty of terrible adaptations of S. King material are out there, just waiting for you. (Thinner, for example – I couldn’t make it through that one the first time I tried, either.)

highlight and low point

Look, the story itself (which you can read in the Night Shift collection) ends with the industrial speed-ironer wrenching itself from its moorings and stalking humanity, and I’ll grant that would be a difficult occurrence to film. That being said, the animated Mangler at this picture’s apogee is deliriously spurious. The filmic resemblance to portions of Graveyard Shift (story also from aforementioned source) do not lend this production any additional credibility.

rating from outer space: 0

Deadly Manor aka Savage Lust (1990)

written and directed by jose larraz
filmworld international productions, inc./castor films s.a.

The kind of picture that would’ve been better off not explaining the what or why of its anonymous slayings, this unexceptional slasher potboiler nonetheless manages to do quite a bit with almost nothing. It’s generic, sure, and its cast of unknowns could’ve done a much better job delivering their lines convincingly, but the air of menace is effective enough that the deceptive clues don’t displease too much. Surprisingly low on exploitation factor, given that there’s a nude dead female lavished across the screen at the 1:39 mark, this film revels in setting scenes in fumbling darkness, and boldly employs the ruse of the faux savior for good measure. Its ensemble of young adult characters, however, don’t quite match the usual stereotypes, and law enforcement is neither pointlessly obstructive nor dismissively inept. The story is no more ridiculous than you’d guess, probably.

why did i watch this movie?

The director, who was known to have used three or four pseudonyms, has quite a record of exploitation horrors to his credit … one of which I’d unwittingly previously reviewed!

should you watch this movie?

Despite its lack of ambition, it was actually pretty entertaining for the most part.

highlight and low point

The constant smirking of the red herring character adds a mischievous touch, and some of the pathos on display is almost convincing at times. The hallucinatory sex scene dream sequence is rather a surprise, in that it’s not one of the main cast’s young ladies that gets naked, and the fact that the group of meddling kids weary travelers stays in the title abode despite its appearance – and one of their own’s premonition – is the staff of life for this entire genre.

rating from outer space: b−

(note license plate)

La noche de los mil gatos aka The Night of 1,000 Cats aka The Night of a Thousand Cats aka Blood Feast (1972)

directed by rene cardona jr.
avant films, s.a.

This determinedly incomprehensible Mexican disaster will really try your patience, especially with its maddening, repetitive, interminable shots of the main character flying around and hovering over potential paramours in his … helicopter. After a certain point, I couldn’t keep track of which woman was which, a problem compounded by the sudden intrusion of a variety of flashbacks. It may be that some sort of attempted symbolism was intended at some point, but it may just have been a deluded stab at attempting to imply the existence of some sort of deeper meaning. Trying to suss out why anyone’s doing what he or she is doing in this picture is a fool’s errand at best, but I have to admit that the climax of the picture is one of a kind. I dispute that anywhere near 1,000 felines appear in this film, however.

why did i watch this movie?

As though the title “Night of a 1,000 Cats” doesn’t pique your interest.

should you watch this movie?

Unless you want to compare the decaying castle-like structure lived in by Hugo Stiglitz’s character – coincidentally named “Hugo” – with similar edifices that serve similar purposes in flicks such as The night Evelyn came out of the grave or The Blood Spattered Bride or The Devil’s Nightmare, I shouldn’t think so … though maybe I’m giving the evocative character “Dorgo” short shrift.

highlight and low point

Honestly, the best thing about this production for me was finding out that the director is also responsible for a “killer shark” movie (Tintorera), but the ending to which I alluded above merits mention. (It involves cats very obviously being hurled through the air.) Other scenes of animal cruelty abound also, in addition to a pair involving a quasi-burlesque revue.

rating from outer space: D

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

written and directed by quentin tarantino
heyday films

I actually found this picture to be in extremely poor taste. It culminates with a presumptively humorous (and ultra-violent) reversion of the infamous Manson Family slaughter that took place at the Altobelli estate on Cielo Drive in 1969, wherein a change of plans leads to Tex, Katie and Sadie being killed in various ways by Brad Pitt’s stuntman and Leo DiCaprio’s imported Italian wife and then by Leo’s washed-up cowboy actor himself, in the pool, with a flamethrower. Yeah, I just ruined it for you; I don’t much care. See, I’m not sure this production had any greater purpose than flaunting its creator’s persona, so its turning tragedy into japery just for the sake of that ego – or whatever – is inappropriate. ’Twas less of a waste of casting than Reservoir Horses The Hateful Eight, I guess.

why did i watch this movie?

As I hinted earlier, I needed a break from watching, like, five or six consecutive Friday the 13th flicks.

should you watch this movie?

This is a movie about The Movies – I mean, even more than most of Tarantino’s overly obsessive oeuvre – and it has provoked peevish observation about its obliviousness to different societal issues and how such ignorance, wilful or genuine, continues to propagate injustice. (Its seeming adoration of a lily-white world filled with the privileged exploiting that privilege contributed mightily.)

highlight and low point

DiCaprio is terrific throughout, his natural and often understated performance bordering on the truly sublime at times … so of course Pitt won the Oscar, while being strangely reminiscent of a wizened Chevy Chase. The Bruce Lee scene feels breathtakingly awkward, and dammit, I’ll just say it, this whole affair is an exercise in whitewashing. It’s an unfortunate hue of nostalgia.

rating from outer space: C−

The Edge of Hell aka Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

directed by john fasano
thunder films inc.
music by “the tritonz”

That this is somehow not the worst movie I’ve ever seen is really rather remarkable – and should probably be kind of embarrassing – given that not one single aspect of filmmaking is presented here with even the barest glimmer of competence. When the ending decides to play explicitly for humor, it underscores just how terrible the acting, pacing, delivery and screenwriting has been all along. Basically an extended music video for a fake band displaying most of the worst traits of the nadir of the hair metal era, this production also boasts some of the stupidest demonic puppetry imaginable and a surprise denouement that beggars belief nearly as strongly as it punches holes through whatever scant structure allegedly had been supporting the ramshackle works. And the songs! Maybe they were supposed to be humor as well, I don’t know, but “We Accept The Challenge” alone nearly had me weeping with incredulous near-hysteria.

why did i watch this movie?

Yeah, I was wondering that, too, until I remembered that the director also helmed the following year’s Black Roses.

should you watch this movie?
highlight and low point

After the interminable opening scene(s) of this shot-on-video, uh, epic, its audience is treated to one of “John Triton” (“Jon Mikl Thor”) driving a van, from various angles and vantage points, for four solid minutes. “Holy crow,” I thought to myself, “this barely rises to the level of ‘inept.’” Was I ever in for a treat. The band rocking out is unintentionally (?) hilarious, the multiple sex scenes are absurd, the wandering “cinematography” is often pointless, the FX are silly, the “story” is inane (what there is of it), and the “acting” is cover-your-eyes awful. The music’s the BEST part!

rating from outer space: D+