The Hills Run Red (2009)

directed by dave parker
Warner premiere/dark castle home entertainment/fever dreams llc/ludovico technique

Maybe I’ve seen a few too many of these damn things, but a premise that seemed alluring as this story grew legs – obsessive fan seeks mythical lost slasher film – garnered much tarnish once a few too many knowing references were manifest. Having recovered from its initial fascination with a patently obligatory sleaze factor, this film established a promising story arc only to undermine it with too much that was too familiar. And though it seemed Hills wanted to be playing in the same self-referential league as other “postmodern” fright flicks, I began to get the uneasy feeling that it wasn’t all that clever. Enough glints of inventiveness peek through to keep the goings-on mostly interesting, and the rote gruesome tortures on display aren’t overdone or brandished as proof of, I dunno, transgressive merit or something. But maybe my initial impression was correct and there just isn’t a whole lot of nuance left to wring out of this particular genre, especially if one isn’t willing to get past giving a backwoods killer a spooky mask. ‘Tis a pity, as the sadistic-creep-preys-on-hapless-unfortunates paradigm has always been a personal preference.

why did i watch this movie?

Hills was one of the small handful of pictures Schlock Treatment recommended as actually worthwhile.

should you watch this movie?

Fun fact: Several video games and Leatherface rank among the other accomplishments of this film’s writers.

highlight and low point

Ultimately – unfortunately – I think this production is more of a ripoff than a mashup, but as I’ve hinted before, most horror pix suffer if one goes ahead and thinks about them. This flick had a chance to be really special. Unlike its protagonists, though, it chose to play it safe.

rating from outer space: C+

The Terror Within (1989)

directed by thierry notz
CONCORDE

The kind of picture wherein a lot of the action takes place inside massive “air vents,” this absolutely marvelous archetypal B movie was produced by none other than Roger Corman, and it gloriously suggests any number of ’50s and ’60s drive-in wonders. From the minimal casting to the plastic-fantastic sets, this SF horror pic pulls out all the stops. You got your overly obvious dialogue, you got your laughable rubber creature suit, you got your broadly drawn characters, you got your … dog. The tale of mankind’s last few (?) survivors after an unspecified disaster, besieged by mutants apparently spawned by … well, never mind making any sense of that, why bother. Terrific fun, couldn’t ask for anything more.

why did i watch this movie?

This has to have been a result of looking for more George Kennedy vehicles, I’d imagine. You may have noticed I’m a big fan of those. (Someday, you’ll understand.)

should you watch this movie?

Not if you dislike having a good time.

highlight and low point

Virtually everything about the set design is simply magnificent. The research station or whatever it is has a staff of six, yet the elevators are boldly designated with signage. They’re monitoring life outside and doing complicated experiments inside, yet when they need to reproduce sound, they have to resort to using a reel-to-reel recorder. They have banks of complicated computer equipment, but their video feed and lights constantly malfunction. And they’ve got a bitchin’ logo for some reason. Also, this is the only SF horror pic I can think of that might inspire abortion debates, as it’s the only one I can think of offhand that features a self-induced rejection of an alien-hybrid fetus. (Trust me, that’s not a spoiler.)

rating from outer space: “B” (of course)

Don’t Look in the Basement aka The Forgotten (1973)

produced and directed by s. f. brownrigg
camera 2 productions/century studios

A slowly creeping, thoroughly Seventies sense of the dramatic infuses this tale of mysterious goings-on in a shabby private sanitarium, and although that setup veritably screams “overacting,” the mostly unknown thespians gathered here generally do a pretty good job portraying their variously afflicted characters. Of course, as the action gains momentum, masks begin to slip, until eventually psychoses are on full florid display. Even if one is unaware of the secrets that eventually will be revealed, after just beyond the halfway point the production doesn’t even bother to feign much interest in keeping mum, and from there it’s more or less a matter of seeing how things will be resolved. An unexpected finale may raise some eyebrows, and the final scene is much more poignant than any of the proceedings may have led one to expect.

why did i watch this movie?

It’s a “classic,” is it not? Well, in any case, I’d been hearing about it for as long as I can remember, as it’s one of my brother’s faves.

should you watch this movie?

Didn’t I just say it’s a “classic”? Really, it suggests the transition between a more old-fashioned sense of the horror film and the newer aesthetic to come.

highlight and low point

The first half or so of this picture mainly concentrates on the doings of several of the patients at the hospital, as well as newly arrived Nurse Charlotte’s attempts to get her bearings, and doesn’t suggest a whole lot of structure … although this proves to be purposive, of course. That it overcomes its dubious opening scenes and builds up enough momentum to be affecting is no small feat. Which characters are being referenced is sometimes difficult to decipher.

rating from outer space: B+

Shriek of the Mutilated (1974)

directed by mike findlay
An ed adlum and mike findlay production

Glacially paced, predictable, and of little apparent budget, this feckless outing flaunts its amateur nature consistently throughout its 84 minutes. Ham-fisted edits! Complete disregard for continuity! (Events often appear to take place simultaneously in daylight and at nighttime.) Unconvincing “acting”! Also: what amounts to this film’s signature flair, a catch-as-catch-can wardrobe department. Many reviewers have remarked on the absurd depiction of the flick’s “yeti,” but nowhere near enough attention has been paid to the “Indian” getup sported by the actor allegedly portraying such an individual. It’s also not very difficult to see where all the “action” is heading from very early on, and even the trappings of the wild ‘n’ wacky ’70s that are sort-of hinted at don’t receive enough attention to serve any fascination lo these many years. Ordinarily, this kind of self-financed production would make one wonder how it could have been anyone’s best idea, but as Findlay was primarily a sexploitation provocateur, it’s mostly just surprising it wasn’t more lurid.

why did i watch this movie?

This was another fetching title prompted by Duane Bradley’s Schlock Treatment ebook.

should you watch this movie?

I’d like to think of something pithy to say here, but this picture is just tiresome.

highlight and low point

“This could never be of any use to Tom anymore.”

The acting is pretty dreadful throughout, and the fatuous notions of the secret society presented at the piece’s conclusion don’t make a whole lot of sense. Come to think of it, the major foreshadowing in the script doesn’t make much sense once all is said and done, either. The scenes that randomly switch from daylight to dark are pretty great, and the opening shot is of my alma mater.

rating from outer space: D−

Uninvited (1988)

“Written, produced, & directed by Greydon clark”
copyright © greydon clark productions, inc.
heritage entertainment

About three-quarters of the way through this inestimable SF/horror hybrid it begins to seem it was forced into its final form via a harried editing process, because scenes come and go abruptly and transitions cease to matter. It’s also around this time that one begins to notice certain amusing facets of the production, such as the repetitious establishing shots and the obvious discrepancies between the dimensions of the yacht we are to understand the characters are aboard and those of the ship we actually see them aboard. And of course, there are the many, many, many images of the cat. The terrifying, deadly, seemingly ordinary tabby cat. Now, budgetary constraints obviously played some role in this tomfoolery, but that can’t explain everything. Whatever the reasons, this hokey straight-to-video picture could have been a whole lot more satisfying. It just never goes quite far enough in any particular direction – much like the malfunctioning vessel that becomes a virtual … DEATH SHIP.

why did i watch this movie?

Without Warning was interesting enough, but I don’t think it led me here. There’s always the George Kennedy connection.

should you watch this movie?

I’d like to say it’s good for laffs, but its unintentional humor can’t overcome the sense of tedium.

highlight and low point

The overacted yet undersold deaths are priceless – as are the pics of the toy boat representing the seafaring watercraft – but I cannot overemphasize how many scenes in this film feature an ordinary cat doing ordinary cat things. Now, I happen to love the furry little demons the human race unwisely invited to share their homes, but such cinematography is incongruous with the desire to create an atmosphere of ill portent.

rating from outer space: D+

Island of the Fishmen aka L’isola degli uomini pesce (1979)

directed by sergio martino
dania film/medusa cinematografica

This contemplative, philosophical inquiry into the underpinnings of theories of evolution and the turmoil that can result when ruling classes oppose their implications ultimately wrests from its labors a few hard-won victories for what is best labeled “truth.” Hahaha, no – this is an Italian Island of Dr. Moreau crossed with an adventure serial, featuring some FX we’d later see improved by Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Coincidentally, it also features the pursuit of treasure from an ancient land.) Also featured is a voodoo cult, for some reason that either wasn’t provided or to which I wasn’t paying enough attention. Overall, it was a labor to get through this contrivance, but at times it almost approaches B-movie apotheosis. All it lacks is anything interesting or titillating or engaging or exciting!

why did i watch this movie?

I really don’t remember, so let’s presume it was the ridiculous title and Italian origin.

should you watch this movie?

Not unless you have to, which I’d wager is unlikely.

(Note: L’isola was also released for U.S. consumption under the titles “Something Waits in the Dark” and “Screamers,” both of which were altered to some considerable degree.)

highlight and low point

The stock volcano footage is gratifying, as are the obvious miniatures used for various shots such as that immediately above. Other FX are worthy of derision at best – but the “fishmen” themselves aren’t half bad. As is customary, the dubbed dialogue provides many great moments, such as this revelatory soliloquy:

Now I remember! He’s the geneticist who was condemned for his experiments … transplanting animal organs into human beings.

Oh, yeah, him. The above reminiscence leads to the equally appealing accusation, “You’re not a scientist! You’re a madman, an insane criminal!”  Gripe, gripe.

Rating from outer space: c−

3 From Hell (2019)

written and directed by rob zombie
spookshow international/capital arts entertainment

In the rock ‘n’ roll world, bands sometimes hit a home run with their first release because it’s the culmination of everything they’ve spent their lives working toward, all their passion and labor and inspiration and insanity and their most finely honed materal in one definitive document. Then they’ve got, like, eight months to follow it up, and that’s where the magic often ends. That didn’t happen with Rob Zombie’s music career; it took White Zombie years to claw their way out of the NYC underground and hit it big in the early ’90s with La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One, and he still enjoys a musical following. The template does describe his directorial career, however. House of 1000 Corpses, if not exactly original, seemed to presage the existence of a new horror auteur … but the bloom has faded from that rose. This sequel to the underwhelming Corpses sequel The Devil’s Rejects is a Tarantino-lite quasi-comedic misstep that more than ever showcases little save its writer’s underdeveloped vocabulary and lack of interesting ideas.

why did i watch this movie?

I greatly enjoyed Corpses, and liked Rejects the first time.

should you watch this movie?

It’s rather insipid.

highlight and low point

A moment or two in this picture works all right, but that’s about it. The setup is pretty dumb, the dialogue is godawful, it’s imitative, and it tiredly rehashes some stylistic elements from the last film, only stretched beyond parodic. Oh, and adds a new family member to provide the crucial deliverance. This chapter should’ve followed Tiny, last seen shortly before the ending of Rejects, and Dr. Satan, who’s still presumably out there somewhere, too.

rating from outer space: D−

These clowns liked it, apparently.
Photo from imdb (Tasia Wells)