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+

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 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−

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

written and directed by Michael Dougherty
bad hat harry productions/legendary pictures

Taking a cue from what seemed a trustworthy source, I made this pic my Halloween viewing this year and was not disappointed. A hearty romp through four (sort of) interrelated stories, spun out in nonchronological fashion and represented in the guise of a comic book, this seasonal offering has a little bit of something for just about everybody: unsuspected killers, party girls, junior pranksters, misbehaving adults, a sour old man, werewolves. Not terribly beholden of any particular era or genre, it manages to tiptoe between reverence and mockery, retro appeal and modern trappings, and is all the better for it. I suppose some could quibble that it’s a little tame, and while that may be a fair assessment, this is good, wholesome family entertainment, so don’t let it dissuade you. (You’d be advised to have a passably peculiar family, though.)

why did i watch this movie?

I needed appropriate Hallows’ Eve entertainment, and the ebook Schlock Treatment by “Duane Bradley” – whose opinion of many other films resonated with me, and who clearly shares my exquisite taste – singled out this production as an accomplished affair that deserved more attention.

should you watch this movie?

I could find little fault with it; it was thoroughly enjoyable.

highlight and low point

Described as an anthology-style picture, it doesn’t much present as one, to its credit. Several layers of subtle misdirection serve the proceedings exceedingly well, as does the filmmaker’s apparent discretion to avoid cheap scares in favor of slower and more evocative development. The humor, too, is more implicit than upfront. The final major portion of the story we’re shown contains what seemed to me a monumental continuity issue, though it doesn’t bear much actual import.

rating from outer space: A−