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

Bits & Pieces (1985)

directed by leland thomas
created and written by michael koby
trans world entertainment/the celluloid conspiracy

We may have discovered a new unintentional comedy champion. For a while, said unintentional comedy is confined mainly to the ridiculous attempt at portraying the schizoid tendencies of our deranged Maniac killer, and oh yes, those responsible for this film obviously saw that one. Then romance blossoms! With a particularly unwarranted and superficially crafted meet cute that sees our unlikely love connection detour on a date to the beach to the jacuzzi to the fireplace in what could be a Time Life infomercial … while a citywide manhunt is going on, mind you, with bodies of nubile bleach-blondes piling up. Patently amateurish in most aspects, that sense of dizzy irresponsibility saves this picture from total ignominity. Credit must be granted for skirting several of many possible cliché endings.

why did i watch this movie?

Maybe it reminded me of this. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did, as it made for a nice mother-themed double feature with our antecedent selection (which, by the way, was often teamed with La novia ensangrentada in a dubious double feature of its own).

should you watch this movie?

An unattributed factoid on this picture’s IMDb page claims it was written in five days and shot in 10, and I’d be inclined to believe those were concurrent spans. Plus, it features naturalistic dialogue:


Rosie
: “Tanya! The psycho! She’s dead! Murdered!”

Rosie’s mom: “Let’s call the police.”

highlight and low point

I would be remiss not to mention the original songs that highlight some key moments here, such as one of the male strip club scenes and the aforementioned romantic interlude. Unfortunately, these incredible numbers receive no attribution in the credits of this production. You should be dismayed.

rating from outer space: D

Contagion aka John Lechago’s Contagion aka Alien Contagion aka Bio Slime (2010)

written and directed by john lechago
forward motion entertainment/lechago entertainment

A digital-video delight, the sort of very independent production whose cast largely doubles as its crew, and the fitfully heroic tale of a dissipated artist with some dissolute acquaintances, this particular “Contagion” likely ranks as the first SF horror epic in which humanity would appear to be saved by a meth-lab explosion. (Should you not be aware that the next sentence would read … OR IS IT, apply immediately for Remedial Thriller 101.) Dubious fun from start to finish, with most of the action occurring within a down-at-its-heels tenement populated by the aforementioned meth lab, the drunken artist’s “live-work space,” a pornographer, and various hangers-on and ne’er-do-wells, the story is set in motion by a mysterious criminal transaction and some poor decision-making skills, and mutates from there. A SHOCKING ending is included at no extra charge.

why did i watch this movie?

I found this picture under the title “Bio Slime,” and naturally thought I needed to take a gander at it – a wise choice.

should you watch this movie?

Why the hell not?

highlight and low point

Honestly, Vinnie Bilancio’s depiction of the dipsomaniac struck a chord, thanks to my extensive personal research on the condition. I particularly enjoyed it when he decided to go ahead and start drinking the denatured alcohol he kept around to clean his brushes or remove paint or whatever. That’s some quality realism there. The FX are a mixed bag, mainly consisting of a lot of latex and some lights and hoses, but the deft characterizations of the different personalities and the mysterious nature and affiliation of the “specimen” from the “Teratology Division” are spot-on. The film also brandishes just the right amount of excessive taboo sleaze and black (bleak?) humor.

rating from outer space: A−

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

written and directed by quentin tarantino
heyday films

I actually found this picture to be in extremely poor taste. It culminates with a presumptively humorous (and ultra-violent) reversion of the infamous Manson Family slaughter that took place at the Altobelli estate on Cielo Drive in 1969, wherein a change of plans leads to Tex, Katie and Sadie being killed in various ways by Brad Pitt’s stuntman and Leo DiCaprio’s imported Italian wife and then by Leo’s washed-up cowboy actor himself, in the pool, with a flamethrower. Yeah, I just ruined it for you; I don’t much care. See, I’m not sure this production had any greater purpose than flaunting its creator’s persona, so its turning tragedy into japery just for the sake of that ego – or whatever – is inappropriate. ’Twas less of a waste of casting than Reservoir Horses The Hateful Eight, I guess.

why did i watch this movie?

As I hinted earlier, I needed a break from watching, like, five or six consecutive Friday the 13th flicks.

should you watch this movie?

This is a movie about The Movies – I mean, even more than most of Tarantino’s overly obsessive oeuvre – and it has provoked peevish observation about its obliviousness to different societal issues and how such ignorance, wilful or genuine, continues to propagate injustice. (Its seeming adoration of a lily-white world filled with the privileged exploiting that privilege contributed mightily.)

highlight and low point

DiCaprio is terrific throughout, his natural and often understated performance bordering on the truly sublime at times … so of course Pitt won the Oscar, while being strangely reminiscent of a wizened Chevy Chase. The Bruce Lee scene feels breathtakingly awkward, and dammit, I’ll just say it, this whole affair is an exercise in whitewashing. It’s an unfortunate hue of nostalgia.

rating from outer space: C−

Blood Theatre aka Movie House Massacre (1984)

written, directed, produced by alice raley
movie house productions

Oh, my. Technically speaking, this is a terrible movie … the kind in which the authorial credits intentionally may be misleading. (Purportedly, this is the directorial debut feature for Rick Sloane, and Alice Raley allegedly appears in it, but the title screens propose what’s reported up top, and who knows.) Honestly, it’s hard to say if this picture even aspires to being anything more than “terrible,” though it occasionally seems to think it’s attempting to ape the outrageous style of a John Waters film. (Among other factors, however, it lacks the élan of early Waters, along with the incisive writing.) The “acting” is perhaps middle-school level, the “humor” falls extremely flat, pacing is an afterthought, and even at barely 75 minutes it appears to contain an awful lot of padding. (The FX are intermittently effective, I’ll grant it that.) AND YET. Cliché though it may be, this heap transcends its ill-intentioned conception. If you “like” garbage cinema, that is – the standard disclaimer.

why did i watch this movie?

Its reputation preceded it.

should you watch this movie?

How much weight is borne by one man’s opinion, one man wonders.

highlight and low point

So this is where assessment gets tricky: throughout this tale of a cut-rate, scruple-free theater chain, several fake trailers – with names such as “Clown Whores of Hollywood” and “Nightmare of the Lost Whores” – are shown … and frankly, these may have been better ideas, even if they betray a certain lack of taste or deportment on behalf of their, uh, auteur. Who had previously screened the trailers. At which point we recall that this production is credited to somebody else. This particular faux film doesn’t have any actual ending or resolution; it just stops.

rating from outer space: D

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

written and directed by lucky mckee and chris sivertson
modernciné

Though troublesome in several ways – thematically, I mean – this unforeseen remake of the mostly unseen original kicks off with panache and fairly quickly vaults to a highly entertaining level before coming back to ground somewhat. But even as it slips gears a bit, it also manages to generate more tension than expected, deftly melding its comedic and horrific elements (mostly, anyway). Built on the framework of the earlier edition, it improves on the formula not only by dint of its professional production values, but also by revamping the script to make it less derivative. A worthy part of the McKee-Sivertson film family, definitely.

why did i watch this movie?

Look, man, I like most of McKee’s stuff, all right? Plus I had read good stuff about it.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a little slick, and carries a bit of the ’90s meta horror vibe, and I suppose that may dissuade some of you.

highlight and low point

The witchcraft angle in this version is a lot more front-and-center than in the first take; one of the characters is an out-and-proud witch, and that works well for both the high-school setting and a nice moment of self-actualization later in the picture. It also adds not a little fun ‘n’ games to the mix. The interplay between the cheerleaders is also entertaining, although the sapphic teensploitation is dubious, to say the least. The film also eventually touches on the uncomfortable topic of acquaintance rape, after having portrayed male-on-female battery and indicting a willful cultural ignorance of its import. (Remember, folks, this is a horror comedy!) The closing credits play over a hodgepodge of tunes, as they did in the premier version.

rating from outer space: B

hmmm … or IS it

Invitation to Hell (1984)

directed by wes craven
moonlight productions, II

I don’t think I realized this was a made-for-TV picture when I opted to watch it, and I’m kinda glad, as that’s where a lot of what passes for its charm resides. Well, that and the oh-so-’80s themes and vibe, from its stars (Robert Urich! Soleil Moon Frye!) to its heavy-handed insistence on conformity and social climbing – “The last 10 years haven’t been easy on us, Matt … and I want a piece of the pie” – and let’s not overlook that it’s centered around a company called “Micro-Digitech” and a mysteriously affiliated country club. It couldn’t have been more of the moment. Unfortunately, aside from its high kitsch quotient, this flick doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Nothing about it will surprise you, and it probably could’ve done with less content restriction than primetime viewing would allow.

note: NOT product placement

why did i watch this movie?

By now you probably know the answer to that question.

should you watch this movie?

Though it’s the kind of thing that should’ve just been sealed in a time capsule, not used for actual entertainment purposes, this production is rather amusing, if quite lightweight.

highlight and low point

For a forgettable and mostly ridiculous period piece, it must be noted that taken piecemeal it offers high value. From Susan Lucci’s vampy society hostess to Kevin McCarthy’s telling inclusion, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. (I particularly enjoyed that the location of the veterinarian’s home business was highly reminiscent of that of the Devil Dog kennels, much as the Winslow family’s house appears to be located in the same neighborhood.) The ludicrously rudimentary FX leading into the finale would have to be seen to be believed.

Rating from outer space: C−