A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

directed by larry cohen
larco Productions/420 demons

As this picture began to unspool, I didn’t know if I’d be able to stand it, because once we reach the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, the production quality (acting, costumes, props, makeup) takes a severe nosedive – and it was iffy from the get-go. I persevered, however, and was amply rewarded by general weirdness. (I also greatly enjoyed the credit “Based on characters created by Stephen King,” as the only way in which that is true is if one considers the town of “Salem’s Lot” itself to be a character.) Okay, look, in terms of actual credibility, this flick is nowheresville; it plays more like a made-for-TV movie than the 1978 Tobe Hooper-directed Salem’s Lot CBS “miniseries” and is chock-full of several stripes of bad acting that run the gamut from half-baked to hammy. Throw in a Nazi hunter to save the day, and you’ve got everything you always wanted in a fear, and less! This is where sequencing can be important: after watching Scarecrows, this flick wound up being highly enjoyable.

why did i watch this movie?

As acknowledged, I am a bit of an S. King obsessive, so I’ve wanted to investigate this one for quite a while, especially after having viewed Cohen’s Special Effects.

should you watch this movie?

It depends on how SERIOUSLY you take “Salem’s Lot” to be a “gripping masterwork of horror,” or whatever people consider King’s (or Hooper’s) Dracula redux to be, because this is a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the (purported) source material.

highlight and low point

The last time I watched a vampire flick I learned how to revive a bloodsucker; this time I found out a mortal can impregnate one and that its ashy remains may spontaneously combust. This is the terrifying leader of the hemovores:

rating from outer space: D

Scarecrows (1988)

directed by william wesley
effigy films

I would be inclined to call this picture “comically inept” except for the fact that nothing about it is funny – especially not the hour and a half or so I wasted watching it. Laborious, idiotic and pointless, this film has three characteristics in preponderance:

  1. voiceovers, to the point that it seems as though large swaths of the flick were shot without any dialogue whatsoever
  2. a repeated closeup* of one of the appellative dummies so prevalent it lends itself to disbelief
  3. blatantly obvious continuity problems for roughly the first third of its running time, which also return at the end

The latter involves an aircraft out of which hijackers are parachuting in pursuit of their heist money, for which they’ve been double-crossed. When the paratroopers land – allegedly this flick is known as “Paratroopers” on the German DVD market – they’re in pitch-dark night, but all shots of the airplane flying are in varying levels of daylight (early twilight at worst). As for the narration, one of the voices illuminates the turncoat’s thoughts, except that when he actually speaks, it’s … in a different, accented voice. As to the “action,” you may reasonably inquire why the scarecrows are killing people. Well might you wonder: no one knows. “I think this place is possessed by demonic demons,” one annoying character says to another. And they can’t be stopped! Except for when they can.

why did i watch this movie?

I have lousy decision-making skills, apparently.

should you watch this movie?

Bake a cake. Ride a bike. “Mail” a “letter.” Take a long walk off a short pier. Write poetry, even!

Highlight and low point

Paced as poorly as the rest of this venture, the credits last more than seven full minutes.

rating from outer space: f

*this one

Blood Bound aka The Dark Rite aka Bloodline (2019)

written and Directed by richard lemay
southern fried filmworks/film mode entertainment/garden house entertainment/bloodline productions

It CAN’T be a good omen that a film’s own production company’s website doesn’t have its title of record updated, or that its “release” schedule on IMDb only lists “(internet),” but truth will out, and this movie is, like, an emo vampire picture. Even if the brooding deep dark character isn’t a vampire. Know what else isn’t a good sign? This explanation: “Two hundred years ago a distant cousin of mine made a pact with a demon to give our family unlimited power. He was greedy and didn’t realize he was binding our whole family to darkness. In exchange, every 25 years we must sacrifice four human lives, one being a member of our own family.” (SHHHH! THAT’S AN IMPORTANT HINT!) This is a teen-soap-opera horror of a type I wasn’t aware they were still making, and it’s got more angst than you could hit with a stake. Even if the demi-magical evildoers aren’t vampires. Note to all aspiring screenwriters out there: Just recycle some shit, that’s how you’ll get your script into “development.”

why did i watch this movie?

Hey, ’19,” I thought. “That’s, like, a new release.”

should you watch this movie?

It is really hard to take seriously.

highlight and low point

That the demon who eats still-beating hearts from human chests is not one of the most labored – pun inevitable – plot points in this picture should clue you in on the level of creativity we’re dealing with here. Also, a detail crucial to the SHOCKING twist at the end impossibly evades the notice of the character it will directly affect. Eden Brolin does a passable job with her thankless role, I guess.

rating from outer space: c–

Sebelum Iblis Menjemput aka May The Devil Take You (2018)

written and directed by timo tjahjanto
screenplay films/legacy pictures

An Indonesian fright flick from one of the Mo Brothers – the one who also co-directed the bonkers “Safe Haven” segment of V/H/S/2 – this number doesn’t exactly charge out of the gates with much subtlety. Infused with some severe family drama, hinted at during the opening-credits montage of scrapbooked newspaper headlines, the affinity to Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell has been noted, and the picture also contains more than a healthy dose of Evil Dead referents. But for all that, the film is often flat-out terrifying. I suppose the ending’s a bit of a letdown, but you can’t have everything, right?

why did i watch this movie?

Macabre instantly became a new favorite when I saw it, and its credits led me here. (I didn’t see the comparisons to the other flicks until after I’d made my decision.)

should you watch this movie?

Okay, so I have seen this described as both an “homage to” and a “knockoff of” the Raimi oeuvre, and I suppose either take is valid depending on one’s perspective. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

highlight and low point

Ordinarily, a feature with such imitative qualities would engender some disdain – and it has, with others – but the sheer enthusiasm its director infuses into this affair renders such matters moot, at least for me. As mentioned, I coulda used a different ending, but again, that’s merely my viewpoint – and by that time, I just may have been expecting something more divergent. What was especially noteworthy about this production was that even when I KNEW something in particular was about to occur, it still gave me the creeps when it transpired. I enjoyed the extra helpings of malevolence on display as well.

rating from outer space: a−

Mandy (2018)

directed by panos cosmatos
piccadilly pictures/spectrevision/umedia/xyz films/legion m/sqn capital/wallimage

Judging by the consensus opinion of this recycled action/revenge picture, people apparently were delighted that someone decided to combine the filmmaking styles of Rob Zombie and Quentin Tarantino, and to augment that daring celluloid fusion with Nicolas Cage in full-on latter-day Bill Murray mode, mainly staring blankly into the camera and conserving his energy as much as possible. Hmm, that sounds really negative … Sorry, I don’t mean to diminish completely the achievements of this occasionally entertaining waste of your precious dwindling time on this dying planet. It’s just that I didn’t think anything about this flick was especially original, or even terribly interesting. The religious cult cliché is uninspired enough, but once the focus shifts to Cage’s pursuit of his quarry, it literally is nothing you haven’t seen many times before. Overblown, overcooked, overhyped, and underwhelming.

This fabulous line runs later in the credits:

Supported by the Tax Shelter of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF BELGIUM
and the Tax Shelter investors

why did i watch this movie?

Boy howdy, it sure got some good ink, didn’t it.

should you watch this movie?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
highlight and low point

It’s fun to look at, I guess, what with the liberal use of p*S*y*C*h*E*d**l*Ι*c visual FX and intervals of animation and hallucinatory FREAKOUTS and so forth. I mean, like, whoo, trippy, man. Oh, and Cage does have one mostly laudable scene. Seriously, though, it’s just too imitative to appreciate and doesn’t have much of a tale to tell. I would’ve thought more people might’ve noticed, but that’s my problem, I suppose.

rating from outer space: D

Tumbbad (2018)

directed by rahi anil barve with adesh prasad
sohum shah films/colour yellow productions/eros international/film i vÄst/filmgate films

This period piece spans the era when India transitioned into independence, presenting a kind of fable steeped in mythology and the dark underbelly – the womb, actually – of religion. As much a fantastical work as anything else, it’s surprising to find it took six years to complete, because it’s of a unified vision and weaves its story powerfully. I guess the best way to describe its genre would be “magical realism,” as its tale of several generations of one family’s struggle with and against a curse of sorts remains grounded in actuality while having at its core a bizarre relationship with the otherworldly. It’s engrossing throughout, captivating even, despite (or in spite of) its capricious and largely unlikable main character – a bit like There Will Be Blood, perhaps. At worst, it’s intriguing, and at its best it can be spectacular.

why did i watch this movie?

Described as a story about a goddess who created the universe and the problems that arose when people unwisely began to worship her firstborn son, who is effectively exiled and imprisoned, it sounded like a unique experience … and it is, even as at least part of that description isn’t altogether accurate.

should you watch this movie?

You’ll need to set aside some time, as it’s an immersive experience.

highlight and low point

I didn’t particularly care for the ending, as it doesn’t seem to hew closely enough to the depiction of the essential powers at play throughout the rest of the picture – and I like it even less now that I have learned that a sequel is planned. (Sigh.) The film looks great overall, I mean it’s visually arresting, and it carries various of its conceits to their full extent.

rating from outer space: B+

 

 

Don’t Go in the Woods aka Don’t Go in the Woods … Alone! (1981)

directed by james bryan
jbf

This picture is almost breathtakingly incompetent. It features possibly the most ersatz blood I have ever seen, its soundtrack is a wildly inappropriate symphony of treated electronic squawks and bleeps – and it is also a vivid reminder of a time when independent horror features could carve out their own niche at the nation’s “nabes” and drive-ins. As such, despite its excessive documentary-style nature shots, unnecessary scenes, continuity problems, clearly overdubbed dialogue, utterly superfluous moments, endless stream of unidentified cast members, and overly linear “plot,” this flick demands a place at the cult-classic table with the likes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Midnight movie weekends should definitely feature people screaming nonsensical audience-participation crap at this epic.


why did i watch this movie?

I don’t know about you, but I’m almost always up for a film with a title warning “DON’T GO IN” this, “DON’T GO NEAR” that, and so forth.

should you watch this movie?

If you had a venue where you could screen this as part of some event or other, or project it as a sideline feature or during an interlude or something, it would probably go over pretty well. Otherwise?

No.

highlight and low point

The best part of this adventure, hands down, is the incredible scenery of the beautiful location in which they filmed, which may be Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

This isn’t even one of the good shots

Whatever it is, I wanna go there, even if it’s inhabited by a deranged mountain man or any survivors of related massacres. Honestly, though, I also enjoyed the completely unpretentious portrayals of the members of the sheriff’s department. Managing to stand out even in a completely haphazard production, the bewildering parade of random characters is sui generis.

rating from outer space: D+