Sadistic Intentions (2019)

written & directed by eric pennycoff
midnight treehouse/feast & bourbon films/alexander groupe/79th & Broadway entertainment

Plot twists, or maybe thematic twists, are pretty much this film’s modus operandi, and for the most part, they’re not all that predictable – and even the ones that are receive a little tweak. At about three-quarters of the way through this fable, I thought that what may have been intended to be some sort of dark comedy was about to veer into a disturbing realm that few films ever broach. Such a move would have been disheartening, nay, dispiriting, and it was with a palpable sense of dread that I waited to see if the director had chosen that path. Nope. He didn’t entirely cop out, either, however, so that was refreshing. But – this could have become a really remarkable examination of how things can spiral out of control and seemingly ordinary people can become trapped by circumstances and wind up making absolutely terrible, life-shattering decisions. In one sense, it still is, only the profound lack of empathy at its core finishes much differently. The actual ending is disconcertingly funny in its own special way.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, the trailer was intriguing, though I wavered for quite a while because I had envisioned something more ironic and postmodern.

should you watch this movie?

A guy invites over his bandmate and a prospective drug buyer; they don’t know each other. And where is he, anyway?

highlight and low point

Right, there’s only three people in this picture, and two of them are tremendous. The third, however, basically channels Crispin Glover, which is fairly distracting. This T-shirt, however, was jaw-dropping:

I haven’t been so envious in a long time. Oh, yeah – this movie involves death metal, mostly as a framing device.

rating from outer space: B+

Evil Ed (1995)

directed by anders jacobsson
smart egg pictures
“An evil ed production”

An over-the-top satirical spoof, this Swedish production ladles on the cartoonish violence and gore to an extent its most obvious influence, Evil Dead 2, scarcely dared dream. A multilayered, multi-level meta statement about cinematic sex and violence and censorship thereof, it could just as easily be taken to represent the flipside of its intended aim. I call that effective satire, don’t know about you. Focused on the deteriorating mental condition of the editor charged with abridging the “Loose Limbs” franchise, this flick should entertain splatter fans, people with questionable taste, opponents of moral crusades, moral crusaders who don’t understand irony, and so forth. The last 20 minutes or so drag significantly … turns out the filmmakers thought they were done, only the runtime wasn’t nearly sufficient. Revamped, it ends with a bang and a whimper.

why did i watch this movie?

“Guy goes nuts from too much exposure to gore films, mayhem ensues,” is a pretty good come-on.


should you watch this movie?

Depends how you view the shibboleth of horror fandom. Director also made 2010’s Insane, which was … not very good.


highlight and low point

I mean, look, Ed’s boss, the head of the “Splatter & Gore” division, is named “Sam Campbell” and a couple scenes basically replicate ones from “Dead By Dawn.” The soundtrack similarly imitates those of animated films. Ed himself is originally                                                                              outraged:

Ninety minutes of condensed sex and violence! Do you call that a great movie? Do you have the slightest idea of what a moral and ethical principle is?

Later, Ed ONLY includes the sex and violence in one of his edits. A “wife and child” subplot is the first indication they may have been making this up as they went along.

rating from outer space: B

Beware My Brethren aka The Fiend (1972)

produced and directed by robert hartford-davis
world arts media (uk) Ltd.

Allegedly expurgated of at least 10 minutes of footage, this not very convincing religious psychodrama actually gets better as it goes along, which I’ve found is often a rarity in this field. Then again, it couldn’t have gotten much worse without being rejected, so that’s maybe not such a compliment, all told. Often reminiscent of a stage play in its dialogue and blocking and static cinematography, there’s a paradox at work here. Before the script opens up to encompass more than the stultifying world of the religious cult at its center, it’s tiresome, but without focusing more clearly on the dynamics within that cult later in the picture, it wouldn’t have been able to reach any sort of definitive point. Taken altogether – the proof of the pudding, perhaps, as regards the purported excisions – it’s a feature with a few loose ends and not a whole lot to say. Middling, at best.

why did i watch this movie?

I guess the allure of a religious cult leading to madness and death? I seem to recall thinking this flick would be more lurid than it was, though I don’t know where I got that idea.

should you watch this movie?

On websites that cater to low-budget productions that nobody remembers, you may occasionally find testimony to this film’s worthiness. But I don’t know.

highlight and low point

During services, the proceedings occasionally suggest it’s about to turn into a musical, which is definitely a different feel. The Brethren don’t feel all that outrageous to me in their demands, but I myself was raised in a religious cult (the Roman Catholic Church), so my perspective may be skewed. Certainly, ensuing sectarian events would make their actions seem tame.

rating from outer space: C

Diabolicamente… Letizia aka Sex, Demons and Death (1975)

directed by salvatore bugnatelli
b.r.c. international films

An incoherent mess, badly restored from scraps and thus chock-full of abrupt transitions and missing moments – and clumsily subtitled to boot – it’s doubtful this picture could have been any better in pristine original condition. Letizia is supposed to be a boarding school student; she clearly isn’t. She exercises some sort of nefarious mind control, mainly to direct others’ sexual urges while someone takes blackmail photos, but also occasionally to create terrifying visions to torment her prey. Not even a hint of why she may be doing any of this is given until the very end, and it seems made up out of whole cloth. Despite the titillating alternate title, no demons seem to be involved, and the deaths are all extremely unconvincing. Sex there’s plenty of, and we could have a healthy debate about the apparent (offscreen) gangbang scene, how it may tie into the leitmotif of Letizia’s methods of control, and whether it’s related to the climactic niteclub dosing … but that would be giving this rubbish way more credit – and thought – than it deserves, by a long chalk. One may as well have a semiotic debate centered on Bert & Ernie.

why did i watch this movie?

Look, I try to keep things as high-minded as possible around here, given that all I do is scribble out 300-word capsule reviews of the products of a typically lowbrow art form, but you know I’m not ignoring a title like this one.


should you watch this movie?

I mean, I can’t stop you.


highlight and low point

The delicate interplay between Magda Konopka’s overacting and Franca Gonella’s somnambulant performance is a study in contrasts. Fittingly, that sentence means nothing. Oh, I neglected to mention Letizia’s occultist trainer? That’s too bad.

rating from outer space: f

Mirror Mirror (1990)

directed by marina sargenti
orphan eyes

It’s not too promising that I must point out that this film is all right up to the point the EVIL starts to run amok. After that it spirals downward in a big hurry, and it almost seems as though the filmmakers didn’t really have a plan for handling that portion of the script. That this flick manages to be any good at all is sort of a minor miracle, given that it’s burdened with plot tendrils that don’t go anywhere in particular, and boasts a lead role consisting largely of a Winona Ryder impersonation. Additional performances are supplied by the erstwhile Lily Munster and the guy who at the time was widely known for playing a yokel on Newhart. (The world was smaller then.) Also, a death-by-hot-shower scene reminiscent of that in Island of Blood occurs concurrently with one of the water polo gym classes, so that’s covered. This movie has three sequels, and although maybe you could see the cockamamie ending of this one meriting a follow-up were you to squint your eyes and hit yourself over the head repeatedly, the serials seem to have little in common save the presence of a demonic looking-glass. (Installment 2, “Raven Dance,” at least appears to share stylistic elements.)

why did i watch this movie?

Much as we’ve all personally wondered so many times, the blurb ponders, “Is the mirror a reflection of Megan’s own inner demons … or has she unwittingly opened the doorway of the damned?”


should you watch this movie?

One character informs another, “We have to close the opening.”


highlight and low point

The blue-filtered shots from the mirror’s POV are pretty nifty. The FX invoking an ill wind are the opposite. Most characters are but mere ciphers.

rating from outer space: C

Beloved Beast (2018)

written & directed by jonathan holbrook
chronicle factory

An independently produced horror picture with a complex if not exactly visionary storyline, this film suffers a bit from some copycat conceptualization, but more from abysmal pacing. It’s not that it’s nearly three (3!) hours long – 2:53:15 – but that the delivery of the dialogue is too deliberate by half. There’s no rhythm or carry to the conversations; everyone seems to be a half-beat off and a second too slow. This abets some scenes, as a hazy, dark undercurrent runs through much of the operation, but otherwise it can be a bit off-putting. Also, the cinematography often looks cut-rate, too digital, too sharp. And if you wanted, I guess you could quibble with some of the performers’ chops. But! It’s an impressive accomplishment nonetheless: A little girl is orphaned by drunk driving, goes to live with her aunt who couldn’t possibly care less, befriends an escaped mental patient with a proclivity for massacring every living person he encounters. Oh, and there’s a fairy-tale conceit and a nasty crime ring involved, plus a weather-worn and sardonic sense of naturalism. Don’t let my faint praise be too damning.

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t recall; it’s been waiting on the list for nigh on a year.

should you watch this movie?

Not if you have an attention deficit.


highlight and low point

The filmmakers – cast, crew and production staff intermingle – delve ever deeper into the more awful side of the oxymoronic term “humankind” without seeming to revel in it for the sake of spectacle. That being said, what should be an unrelentingly bleak experience never quite plunges that low, prodding to the fore some potentially unsettling ruminations on one’s conceptions of compassion and moral judgment. Contains a few passably witty allusions.

rating from outer space: B−

The Old Dark House (1932)

directed by JAMES WHALE
universal pictures

This really happened: nearing the climactic point of this frankly rather goofy haunted-house yarn, I was thinking to myself, “this is kinda reminding me a bit of Burnt Offerings” … and almost immediately a character in the film says, “He wanted, he said, to … to make this house a burnt offering.” Based on a novel that’s claimed to be about “post-WWI disillusionment,” this picture concerns two groups of weary travelers forced by a cataclysmic rainstorm to beg refuge from, yes, an old dark house. (When the initial group knocks on the door, I expected Riff Raff to answer, of course.) From that point on it’s gothic intrigue and highly amusing characterizations, with a little passion and violence tossed in as seasoning. Can you ever judge an artifact such as this without seeing it through the filter of all that’s come since? Maybe, maybe not; either way, and irrespective of whether it’s the first horror-comedy, it’s a blast.

why did i watch this movie?

I came across a reference to the 1963 remake, which sounds terrible but piqued my interest in the original.

should you watch this movie?

It’s about 72 minutes long and easily accessible in the, uh, “public domain.”

highlight and low point

Ernest Thesiger as Horace Femm is worth the price of admission all by himself, and it’s informative to espy the genesis of the many references made to aspects of this adventure across multiple forms of visual media over the decades. (Such as the aforementioned Rocky Horror nod.)  It’s pre-Code, too – another reason I chose it – and there’s at least one exchange of racy innuendo that might surprise. For trivia buffs, it’s Charles Laughton’s first Tinseltown feature and allegedly the source of an unceasing enmity between Karloff and Whale.

rating from outer space: B+

C.H.U.D. (1984)

directed by douglas cheek
bonime associates, ltd.

Well, it’s obviously a disgraceful admission on my part that I didn’t see this the way it was clearly meant to be seen, on videocassette rented from the mom ‘n’ pop (actually, it was just “pop”) establishment down the street from where I lived as a kid. Or anytime since. Somebody should’ve told me it was this rewarding. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I never saw it, except that as a young person I didn’t actually watch many horror movies at all, and maybe because the title eliminates any suspense? Whatever the case, this is low-budget, low-grade horror at a peak, a Reagan-era relic of nuclear panic. Shot under the streets of NYC and laden with intransigent officials, it’s the gritty story of one plucky little guy’s quest to find out why everyone’s disappearing and a truly terrible battle plan hatched far too late to eradicate a horde of deadly mutants. And more! (It’s actually several guys.) Just today I had to defend my pronouncement that this flick is “good.” People, man.

why did i watch this movie?

I owed it to myself.

should you watch this movie?

Act now – don’t hesitate!

highlight and low point

Though this picture is ostensibly about hideous freaks coming outta the sewers, having been spawned there due to government negligence, what makes it enjoyable are the various interactions the normal people have. The scene where The Reverend initially spots the C.H.U.D. participating in what appears to be some sort of rite is intriguing, if scant. (More could have been done with it.) And as a former resident of New York City, I swear, when characters first start winding through the subway tunnels, I could conjure the smell. Now that’s olfactory memory.

rating from outer space: B+

Die, Monster, Die! aka Monster of Terror (1965)

directed by daniel haller
american international pictures/alta vista film productions

For the first half-hour or so, this sumptuously appointed fable seems as though it’s going to be a vastly rewarding romp through B-movie silliness, complete with Boris Karloff adding plenty of dramatic intrigue. Unfortunately, it soon descends into choppy pointlessness, though the inane and repetitious dialogue might bolster things for a while if you’re in the right mood. The story kinda feels cobbled together as it goes along, and even the requisite expository scenes don’t much help to clarify matters. A few startling moments crop up here and there, though only the first earns its reaction, and it goes nowhere. Based on “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft, though how or why Arkham, MA, is transplanted to England is a question best left to others.

why did i watch this movie?

I found it under the title “Monster of Terror,” which … I mean, what more do you need? The presence of Boris Karloff and some glowing (pun definitely intended) nostalgia offered by commenters sealed the deal.

should you watch this movie?

I will table that question until I’ve watched a couple other filmed interpretations of the classic story.

highlight and low point

Boris Karloff’s clearly dissembling patriarch and his myopic assistant Merwyn are a hoot, and our hero Reinhart’s difficulties with the locals in Arkham set the picture up rather nicely. By far the best effects are achieved when Stephen and Susan are creeping downstairs in the dark guided by one lighted candle … which brightly illumines absolutely everything in the vicinity, and looks suspiciously like a spotlight trained right on them. Again, there are a few genuinely unsettling moments, but they’re wasted  – along with the lavish set dressing – by a flimsy screenplay.

rating from outer space: C−

Skinner (1993)

directed by ivan nagy
cinequanon pictures international/5 kidd productions

Hey, betcha can’t guess the pathology of this movie’s title character …

Get this: he skins people! Like, no way, right!? Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to admit that despite some obvious shortcomings, this is a strangely effective independent horror, with a cast that includes Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake and Traci Lords. Right, it’s very ’90s – that’s one of the shortcomings. But there’s very little of significance to gripe about here, even if some of the picture’s more potentially symbolic fascinations go more or less unexamined. The ending really could’ve used a better (and less derivative) concept, and like execution, but after the title character has finally shown his inner self, so to speak, that’s forgivable. I cannot stress enough, however, that even were you initially unaware, you’d immediately be able to peg the era of release.


why did i watch this movie?

As a longtime scourer of budget bins of all stripes and a onetime video-store regular, I felt as though I’d neglected this title too often. And Ted Raimi, of course.

should you watch this movie?

After some thought, I’d have to classify this picture as being of the sort you’d likely find fairly interesting and enjoyable should you happen across it, but not one worth any arduous journey to experience.

highlight and low point

Ricki Lake is delightful, per usual, and David Warshofsky’s bootleg rendition of post-1987 Anthony Michael Hall amused me for no particular reason, as did the fact that his character is named “Geoff Tate.” (It’s irrelevant whether that was intentional.) The explicit scene where a prostitute is flayed is technically astounding. Traci Lords plays a character who for no
pertinent reason is perpetually underdressed. SHOCKING, I know.

rating from outer space: B