Demons (1985)

directed by lamberto bava
dacfilm, rome

A couple days ago, my brother says to me, “I was just thinking about the video for [Mötley Crüe’s] ‘Too Young to Fall in Love’ … what the hell WAS that? It made no sense.”

I thought for a moment. “That was the one with the ninjas, right?” I asked.
(It was. But maybe they were “samurai.”)

Well, sub out the ninjas for zombies – wait, sorry, “demons” – and exchange the “Asian” setting for a fortress-like movie theater in the middle of Berlin, add a lot of screaming … and it still might be more coherent than this Italian splatterfest. Clearly scripted with its eye firmly set on the teenage metalhead demographic (a key rampage is set to “Fast as a Shark” by Accept, and so forth), this blaring mess managed to give me a headache while also inducing boredom. Seriously, I was metaphorically glancing at my watch while enduring this nonsense. The ending sequence somehow manages to make even less sense than the rest of the film … in which Nostradamus is to blame for demonic carnage.

why did i watch this movie?

It sounded as though it would be a lot of fun. The novelty wore off quickly.

should you watch this movie?

It felt REALLY dated, and not just because I was watching a murky VHS upload. Too redolent of MTV, perhaps.

highlight and low point

This is the sort of flick wherein the language barrier makes the dialogue sound like phrases read from a textbook, and where the characters narrate all the action and describe everything they’re doing. Example: Three characters are watching a demon claw its way out of a woman’s back. One of them exclaims, “Look at her back!” They are all already looking at her back.

rating from outer space: D+

La novia ensangrentada aka The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

escrita y dirigida por vicente aranda
morgana films

Part of the early-to-mid-’70s lesbian vampire movie mini-craze, this Spanish offering is actually a very stylish affair, even as it doesn’t skimp on some more questionable themes or visuals. One of many retellings of important Dracula precursor Carmilla, the tale follows a newlywed couple back to the groom’s palatial ancestral home, where strange occurrences soon are afoot. And at hand. Namely, the young bride begins having eerie, violent dreams that involve a mystery woman she has glimpsed more than once while awake. Her chauvinistic husband is dubious. A doctor who apparently doubles as a detective of sorts is downright dismissive. The caretakers’ strange little girl … is strange. An accomplished piece of art, despite its exploitative carnality.

why did i watch this movie?

It was in my queue for so long, I couldn’t possibly tell you, but at some point I was stockpiling turn-of-the-’70s vampire flicks, so …

should you watch this movie?

“You mean the two women were howling?”
“Mm-hm, like two cats in heat – that’s when I ran away. They sounded … like vampires.”

highlight and low point

Should you need proof of how mores have changed in male/female relationship dynamics since the early ’70s – or, perhaps, seek illustration of the difference between Spain and the USA in terms of attitudes toward such things – you’ll be delighted by how Susan’s new husband treats her. If you’re of a certain bent, you’ll also appreciate her eventual response. If you’re like me, you’ll love exchanges such as this:

“How many times does something have to be repeated before it ceases to be a coincidence?”

“Some cases, twice would be sufficient.”

Performances are very deliberate. Maribel Martín, in her inaugural star vehicle, delectably transforms a moue into a death stare, often.

rating from outer space: B+

Us (2019)

written, produced and directed by jordan peele
monkeypaw productions/perfect world pictures

First off, this film was not what I’d expected – which was basically another version of The Strangers and its ilk. It’s much weirder than that, however; Us is one strange flick. Unlike Peele’s first production, Get Out, this one kinda clutters the frame with signifier draped on allusion wrapped in metaphor, and it’s a bit of a muddle. (One could put almost any spin on what it “means” and find a way to support the claim.) It’s also too often funny to be as scary as it wants to be, though at multiple times it conveys a great unease vividly laced with desperation. Laden with references to a smattering of other movies, though, this picture is yet another example of that apparently inescapable factor of contemporary culture. Guess we just can’t not do that any more, even with so much original creative spark seemingly on hand. For me personally, not being much of a cinephile, yawn, whatever.

why did i watch this movie?

Get Out was not only terrific, but thought-provoking, a rare combination. So although the early media campaign for this one didn’t make it appear to be anything out of the ordinary, I figured I’d be viewing it at some point.

should you watch this movie?

The running time is a very long ≈ two hours. The ending particularly drags.

highlight and low point

Despite its being a little unwieldy and bearing a few untidy loose ends, there’s a lot to like here. The initial appearance of the doppelgängers is both amusing and frightening, which isn’t the easiest trick to pull off, and a sudden revelation that there’s a lot more to the story than has theretofore been presented is powerful yet understated.

rating from outer space: B+

The New York Ripper aka Lo squartatore di New York (1982)

directed by lucio fulci
fulvia film s.r.l.

“The violence here is ugly, demeaning and frightfully pathological,” the author proclaims, adding that the film “features long, lingering and loving shots of gratuitous sex, nudity and horrific violence.” He further contends that the picture is “reviled for its rampant misogyny, unspeakably deranged mutilation of women; and its duck-voiced, interminably quacking psychokiller” and “remains a hollow, forced, uninspired effort that very few have rallied to support.”

Well, sure, you think, but everyone’s a critic, and you crane your neck to see the title … and discover that those quotes are taken from the 1996 book Lucio Fulci: Beyond the Gates – A Tribute to the Maestro by Chas Balun.

I don’t have much to add, but allow me to correct a misspelling from Mr. Balun’s tome: when describing the scene with the prostitute and the razor blade and the eye and the nipple, the erstwhile scribe meant to write “bisected.”

why did i watch this movie?

Its notoriety, I guess. I also kept running across it while looking for blog fodder, so I figured I might as well just get it over with already.

should you watch this movie?

I suppose it depends on just how much you want to see that bisection alluded to up above. Trust me, you can live happily without hearing the maniacally quacking killer.

highlight and low point

The sheer overkill of most of the slashing, which favors closeups for emphasis, is kind of breathtaking in its appalling level of sadism. Also often filmed in extreme closeup: Yes, people’s eyes, the both of ’em. Five, six times, at least. The “psychological insights” are probably some sort of attempt to lend this picture a feeble justification for its existence, to no avail. The anachronistic music’s pretty groovy.

rating from outer space: F

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+