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

The Terror Within II (1991)

written and directed by andrew stevens
concorde
“based on characters created by thomas m. cleaver”

Wisely adding unnecessary nudity* to its winning formula of B-movie SF dreck, this highly amusing low-budget picture flaunts its status as a sequel in the truest time-honored fashion: it’s virtually the same as Part I in terms of its “plot,” but it dresses things up with some flashy new touches. You’ll be happy to know, however, that the air shafts are once again in play, and the elevator. The fetus, this time, survives, and grows too quickly, and where that particular part of the storyline goes should delight you. (It did me.) I wish there were, like, at least two more chapters of this shoddy adventure claptrap.

*Seductive female dialogue: “There’s nothing wrong with people needing each other. It’s OKAY. I need you … we need each other … and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

why did i watch this movie?

It was pure coincidence that I was enjoying this picture about the aftermath of a runaway mystery illness right as the panic and paranoia about the current pandemic was about to explode.

should you watch this movie?

It could give you hints about the fate that yet may befall us all. Or survival tips, perhaps!


highlight and low point

The screenwriting is pretty ridiculous, of necessity, and the FX used – especially when depicting what’s seen through mutant eyes – is dependably absurd. As the commander of the survival research laboratory, R. Lee Ermey is at times pointlessly gruff, and the foibles of the supporting cast get little attention or magnification. The pregnancy theme is revisited, and is probably weirder this time around. What becomes of the salvaged finger from one of the savage attackers is nearly unparalleled in both predictability and munificence.

rating from outer space: b−

Villains (2019)

written & directed by dan berk & robert olsen
the realm/star thrower entertainment/creative wealth media

A black comedy that delights in turning the tables on its characters, storyline, viewers – you name it – this twist on the home-invaders-find-more-than-they-bargained-for setup also tosses a couple other variations into the mix, at times feeling not unlike a particularly deranged sitcom. There isn’t much in the way of outright scares here, but enough tension builds up at different times to keep one wondering. Not necessarily what a hack reviewer might term “a gritty slice of life!” it unveils more like a fairy tale, and one rather of the Grimm variety. The emotional tenor of this venture also seesaws as much as its perspective, so it never quite sinks into familiar territory even as it dances all around its edges. And would you believe, at heart it’s a picture about … Love?

why did i watch this movie?

The succinct title piqued my interest; its trailer convinced me it was worth a look.

should you watch this movie?

You know, sometimes I forget that it’s enjoyable to watch flicks in which everything’s done well.

highlight and low point

The excellent script revels in presenting cliché and convention only to coax them into surprisingly fresh characterizations, and even the artifice is adapted nicely into the affair. The protagonists are a surprisingly sweet but inarguably somewhat stupid – were we feeling charitable, we might term them “hopelessly naïve” – set of drug-addled petty criminals, and their foils are apparently an eccentric and oddly endearing – insane and murderous – older couple, and a certain parallelism is probably being suggested, but as this isn’t quite a meaning movie it never fully gels. The ending is by turns poignant, parodic, and perhaps predictable, but avoids making the mistake of explaining too much.

rating From outer space: B+

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+

The Blind Dead aka Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

written and directed by amando de ossorio
plata films s.a./interfilme
english adaptation by robert oliver

Trifle with ME, will you! Upon finishing this often very creepy – if also easy to dismiss – Spanish/Portuguese “revenant” horror, I discovered that the 1998 version I’d just seen had been heavily edited to remove nearly 20 minutes of sex and gore … so naturally I have now obtained the original cut, and will gladly report back on it at a later time. For most of this edition’s 82 minutes, it doesn’t much cross the line into really frightening or even particularly troubling territory, but its climax almost makes up for that problem by developing an unforeseen new realm of terrorizing. A bit of a wavering focus detracts from the overall ambience, however, rendering it a little too camp to be truly effective.

why did i watch this Movie?

With a commendable title such as this one, it was probably inevitable.

should you watch this movie?

I am going to table that question until I watch the unexpurgated print.

highlight and low point

“Hark, O mighty one, our sacrifice begins! We commence … with the sacrifice.” As a statement of purpose by the “Knights Templar” who will hundreds of years later arise from their graves whenever some poor fool chances upon them, that one is … kind of redundant. Among the abridgments, a sexual assault is rather obviously excised. The blind dead are a terrific creation, presaging the album jackets of Mob Rules, the 2003 edition of Sleep’s Dopesmoker, and a million other \m/ memes. And they have (presumably also blind, dead) horses! How the hell does that work! Where are they buried!

rating from outer space: I [Incomplete]

(By the way, if you like “Satan Worshipping Doom,” you’ll love Chicago’s Bongripper, with whom I am affiliated in no way, shape or form.)

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

directed by roy ward baker
hammer film productions/american international productions

This soundstaged costume drama takes a while to build up any steam, but when it eventually does, it rips bodices with the best of ’em. Figuratively, I mean; despite the robust sapphic undertones of this first-of-a-loosely-formed-trilogy of films derived, again, from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, no clothes are torn away in any frenzies of lust. Suitably gothic, and chockablock with little details we all should recognize from the classic Dracula legends, the film shows admirable restraint in not unleashing the deadlier side of Ingrid Pitt’s enigmatic evil paramour until it’s nearing its torrid climax. That may make this picture sound a little more exciting than it is, but it does redeem itself rather nicely.

why did i watch this movie?

This is the picture I intended to see when I instead watched Kiss of the Vampire, which was probably provoked by my experience with Vampire Circus, which I viewed because of its name.

should you watch this movie?

It’s probably more faithful to the novel than The Blood Spattered Bride, should that matter to you. (I cannot confirm or deny that supposition, as I haven’t read the source material … yet.)

highlight and low point

Kate O’Mara’s governess and Madeline Smith’s Emma are delightfully rendered portrayals, and Kirsten “Betts” (Lindholm) gets the magnificent credit of “1st Vampire.” Scenes shift abruptly at times, some lack of communication is both unfortunate and somewhat unlikely, and there’s a mysterious, portentous onlooker whose role doesn’t amount to anything. As before, the revelation of the identity of the vampiress lends itself to mirth (her various names are anagrams, and it only dawns on folks after it’s far too late). The deaths of the familial vampires are remarkably easy to effect.

rating from outer space: B−