Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984)

directed by ray cameron
wildwood productions

This intermittently amusing English spoof may well have struck me funnier were I British, or approximately 10 years old. (I believe you call an affair such as this one a “broad farce.”) The production is rife with personalities and/or characters that did not resonate with me, and the less said about much of its sense of humour, the better. That being said, it had its good points, with Vincent Price’s absurdly campy centuries-old malevolent priest being a particular highlight. Although a few gags are repeated until maddening, and the overall story – once it eventually (almost) coheres – appears to belie its original aim, this film might hold dimwitted appeal to fans of … lowbrow British television. Not really my spot of tea.

why did i watch this movie?

By now you know I will watch anything with a title such as this.

should you watch this movie?

Anglophiles might enjoy placing the various performers in context of their larger careers, I guess.

highlight and low point

Vincent Price’s initial monologue is so delightfully overwrought it surpasses parody and becomes a true work of comic art; indeed, it is hilarious enough a moment that it sustained me throughout the rest of the film, which is largely lazy and witless. A few other vignettes – an S&M-tinged religious flashback and a scene involving phantom sex among them – are curious enough to add further impetus to the viewing urge, but even the more successful tropes feel halfhearted at times, and a handful of random contemporary allusions (among them Star Wars and E.T. ) either feel misguided, serve little purpose, or frankly are just kind of baffling. Oh, and the ending curries (sorry) more than a bit of a Rocky Horror vibe as well.

Rating from outer space: D+

“ha, ha, very droll”

Without Warning (1980)

directed by greydon clark
a greydon clark production/heritage enterprises

The kind of movie that plays as though it was made for TV, this tale of inscrutable attack by unknown airborne sources is likable enough, though it can’t offer very much in terms of thrillng, fast-paced action. Really, this is the sort of eerie offering that would suffer greatly with the advent of the slasher craze. It also suffers greatly from some narrative confusion, although I will be honest and tell you that doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. (You’ll catch on.) As is often the case in films of this ilk, much of the tension and action is generated by the interactions between the townfolk and the kids with the crazy story and the few strange locals who might be inclined to listen and might just know something, and so forth.

why did i watch this movie?

I can’t tell you it wasn’t because the title didn’t make me not think of this number.

should you watch this movie?

Highly redolent of its era, it also seemingly harks back to SF films of the ’50s. It did not have much of a budget. I do not seem to be answering the question.

highlight and low point

Though his character eventually wears out his welcome, Martin Landau invests his PTSD-laden “Sarge” with much conviction, and as “Sandy” and “Greg,” two actors who wouldn’t find much work past 1982 (“Tarah Nutter” and “Christopher S. Nelson,” respectively) do a reasonably convincing job. This is also future NYPD Blue/CSI: Miami star David Caruso’s first credited role, albeit a disposable one. Some of the creatures deployed are more amusing than frightening, though they do lead to the wondrous exclamation, “It’s eating the windshield!”

windshield, being eaten


rating from outer space: C+

Event Horizon (1997)

directed by paul anderson
golar productions/impact productions/paramount pictures

I’m allowed to say I’m not impressed by the résumé of a guy who mostly makes video-game movies, right? ‘Cause, see, the thing is, I don’t give a fig about video games, or gaming, or anything related to video games and gaming. Know what else apparently doesn’t interest me much? Space horror …  at least of this ilk. This movie is basically The Shining-meets-The Thing on board the Nostromo. Everything that happens in this movie happens in every other movie like this one. It coulda used Jason Voorhees, or at least a wisecracking robot.

why did i watch this movie?

I needed to watch something from the ’90s again, and SOME people I know have a soft spot for this production, so I gave it a shot.

should you watch this movie?

If you’ve seen enough space terror epics, you already have, man, you already have.

highlight and low point

Okay, like, I have a really hard time suspending my disbelief, you know – which I grant is kinda ridiculous given that I watch all these pictures that aren’t exactly grounded in reality – and a certain sequence in this film absolutely could not happen, for any variety of reasons. (Note: I am not talking about the obligatory “people manage not to get sucked out of a spaceship despite a breach in the hull” scene; at this point, one learns to expect this trope, and rolls with it.) Now, sure, you wish to note that this production concerns a spaceship that can generate its own black hole in order to bend/fold/spindle/mutilate space/time, so neither could any of the rest of it, and you’re right, you’re right, and … and where in the hell was I?

rating from outer space: c−

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

written and directed by jim jarmusch
animal kingdom/film i väst

When I heard about this one, my initial reaction was, “Why’s Jarmusch doing a zombie picture?” Then I remembered that prior to Paterson, his most recent non-documentary project (which reminds me, I wanted to see that), he made a vampire film. (“Only Lovers Left Alive.”) So maybe he’s on some sorta retro monster kick, or maybe he’s Tarantinoing his way through vanity projects. Whatever (maaaan) the case, this likable but lightweight romp appears to be a Statement film, and it becomes a bit explicit toward that end as it approaches its finale, largely thanks to Tom Waits’s expository. It also refers to the existence of its own script (or lack therof), flogs Sturgill Simpson’s title track, links Adam Driver’s character to Star Wars, and of course mentions Cleveland. Bill Murray is better in this than he was in Dead Flowers, as if that means anything.

why did i watch this movie?

Jim Jarmusch has made some damn good movies. I’m partial to Down By Law and Dead Man myself.

should you watch this movie?

It’s quite amusing throughout, but it’s kind of a trifle, to be forthright.

highlight and low point

Well, Larry Fessenden‘s in it, and I got a kick out of that, and RZA’s entrance is priceless. Honestly, though, a lot of this feature feels pretty lazy, and few of the characters are given much of any chance to establish themselves. The basic premise is a good one for anyone who believes in Science, but the analysis of the zombies’ behavior becomes a little too obvious. The dialogue writing is mostly sharp, though, and the cops play their parts with aplomb. A deus ex machina, meanwhile, is out of this world.

rating from outer space: B-

The Deadly Spawn aka The Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn (1983)

written and directed by douglas mckeown
filmline communications

“A real meteorite! It’s red hot!”
What?”
“I gotta get a picture of this!”
“Don’t forget the flash attachment.”

Now, THIS is how ya do the independent lower-budget horror film thing, people. Cheesy, knowing, and with a surprisingly interesting screenplay, this magnificent homage to space-invader creature features of days of yore is a total winner. From the classic gambit of the opening scenes that set the tone by employing characters unrelated to the action that follows, to the legitimately SHOCKING moment at film’s end, this production flirts with excellence throughout. True, the acting skills on display may not show much polish, the monstrous alien marauders are very obviously puppets and rubber props, and some of the fatal injuries inflicted are unconvincing, but the purity of intent delivers with delightful effect.

why did i watch this movie?

I’m not certain, but I think I came across this fetching title when I was randomly browsing through horror compendia, as I periodically do.

should you watch this movie?

With the stipulation that you need to be in the mood for a picture of this type, I do recommend viewing this inspired presentation.


highlight and low point

Truthfully, I greatly admired the lengthy, lively discussions about the scientific method amongst the college students, and the detailed attention paid to the décor of monster aficionado Charles’s bedroom. Too, the fact that the filmmakers did not shy away from exposing – nay, flaunting – their extraterrestrial creation is to their ultimate credit. The only real gripe I have is that the identity of some of the characters is a bit confusing initially, but that’s quickly resolved. Oh, and the camera lingers a little too long on some shots, particularly of Charles, to no discernible purpose.

rating from outer space: A−

The Dark Side of the Moon aka Parasite (1990)

directed by d.J. webster
wildstreet pictures

If you had, like, a minimal straight-to-video budget, one might wonder why “space epic” would be the kind of production you’d attempt. Music video director D.J. Webster ignored these constraints and the results are visually reminiscent of John Carpenter’s debut Dark Star, along with the inspired stagecraft of Plan 9 From Outer Space. This ripoff mashup of Star Trek: Voyager, 2001, The Thing, Aliens et cetera also features shots cribbed directly from Star Wars and some acting laughable enough to compete with the output of its costume department. I haven’t even mentioned the questionable theory advanced, which somehow links “Centrus B-40” (the title location) with the Bermuda Triangle – I’m not an astrophysicist, but that seems dubious to me. It does, however, set up a pretty great ending to this otherwise turgid melodrama. Oh, and lest I forget, Satan.

why did i watch this movie?

The search for ’90s fodder led me here, with the bonus that this picture was completely unknown to me.

should you watch this movie?

Though I have no idea why you’d want to try, one note of interest may be that this script is by Chad and Carey Hayes, who eventually would write The Conjuring, among many other credits. (So, kids, if at first you don’t succeed … )

highlight and low point

For starters, the captain of the spacecraft smokes a lot of cigarettes, and sports a leather baseball cap. The onboard computer is a female … android, I guess, which for some reason is dressed like this:

It’s set in 2022, and its dialogue includes the statement “It looks like the Shuttle … Discovery … from the old NASA probe,” answered with the observation that “NASA hasn’t been flying for 30 years.” And then there’s this graphic:

rating from outer space: d+

 

Prey aka Alien Prey (1977)

directed by norman j. warren
tymar film productions limited

I’ll admit it, I enjoy it a little too much – trotting out the jejune sally that “the REAL horror here is blah blah blah” and so forth – but dig it, man, that foolishness is perfectly suitable for this bonkers English presentation. Oh, don’t get me wrong, this film is for the most part shoddy and boring, but holy cats does it contain some absolutely bizarre goings-on. For one thing, it’s only around 84 minutes long, but it manages to contain a four-minute-plus lesbian scene that is frankly a lot more explicit than I would’ve supposed. For another thing, at a certain point – for no discernible reason – everything goes slo-mo as the soundtrack suddenly becomes extremely psychedelic and discordant. And no kidding, even though the story concerns a space alien who’s on Earth scouting for new “protein sources” (“spoiler”!), heavens to Murgatroyd but that isn’t the REAL horror here. I watched the climactic action of this picture jaws literally agape.

why did i watch this movie?

This is the film Mr. Warren made right after the widely acclaimed cerebral exercise Satan’s Slave.

should you watch this movie?

I don’t think I really have an answer for that question. You’re on your own.

highlight and low point

The makeup and/or “FX” are, uh, minimally invasive, shall we say.

But seriously, one thing I did find laudable about this very strange flick is that it contains all of six actors. This film’s shortcomings are not a result of its minimal casting or financing, though the latter probably doesn’t help. ’Tis a pity they never made the sequel.  ’Tis also a pity some critics have identified all sorts of subtextual sociological signifiers that were almost certainly tangential to this preposterous undertaking. Sure, sure, I get it, “microaggressions,” I hear ya. [Backs away]

rating from outer space: C−

that’s a switchblade, would you believe