Yellowbrickroad (2010)

written and directed by andy mitton & jesse holland
points north

It is inevitable that this picture will make viewers think of The Blair Witch Project, even those like me who haven’t seen the precursory feature. Truth be told, this production brought to mind a passel of other films as well, although largely as vague hints or impressions, mainly evoked by the hallucinatory effects of people losing their grips on reality as they head into the hills. (One such flick that I’ve reviewed here would be Cold Ground.) Philosophical implications abound – especially the metaphysical – and the fact that everyone winds up alone in his or her struggle for life, though perhaps not so profound, reveals itself gradually enough to be quietly impressive. The ending, not so much … but points are awarded for the overall lack of any explanation of the events. Sometimes a mystery just is, and as forest service representative “Cy” points out, one needn’t go seeking answers for every question. (“These questions … never needed to be fuckin’ asked” is how he more colorfully puts it.)


why did i watch this movie?

It was recommended to me in an online forum.


should you watch this movie?

That isn’t the worst idea, though you may not be convinced for a little while. But for such a deceptively simple story, there’s a lot to ponder.


highlight and low point

When we meet a new character – a potentially suspicious one, at that – and discover that her name is “Liv.” I’m laughing right now thinking about it. The sound FX, and occasional lack thereof, often can be quite stunning. This feature also maintains a bit of a mockumentary feel without resorting to the “found footage” canard. The “Wizard of Oz” link is debatable; other moments of referentialism suggest themselves.

rating from outer space: B+

Sisters (1972)

directed by brian de palma
pressman-williams enterprises

I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a film buff, so all Brian De Palma’s tedious re-creations of vintage Alfred Hitchcock themes and scenes do for me is make me think that he should try writing his own material once in a while. Seriously, man, making movies to show off your fascination with your own taste in movies does not impress me. (Ahem, Tarantino, cough.) Neither am I much taken with utilizing the cinematic medium to heavy-hand some tendentious social theory of your own device – or perhaps to encourage navel-gazing critics to make the argument for you, so powerful is your erudite composition. This picture is a murder mystery of sorts, except that we know who the culprit is all along, and much of it comprises escapades that wouldn’t pass muster for a cop-show farce. Margot Kidder’s convincing as the primary sibling and Jennifer Salt plays the uppity early-’70s New Career Woman to the hilt. The remainder is mostly balderdash that you literally have seen before.

why did i watch this movie?

As a “horror-movie critic,” I was duty-bound. And Jennifer Salt played Eunice Tate on Soap.


should you watch this movie?

That might depend on how you feel about De Palma’s work. I wouldn’t regard this one as any sort of necessity, frankly.

highlight and low point

Kidder’s outredgeous Frunch acksont is fascinating, accomplished and musical, and Salt portrays her character’s frustrations believably. (“Are you on diet pills again?” her mother inquires at one point.) Many of the other characters strive to attain replacement level, and the plot is at once intricately detailed and slipshod, painstaking to a degree yet managing to trail off anyway. The extended scene containing the bulk of the revelations is protracted, tedious and silly.

rating from outer space: C

Hell Night (1981)

directed by tom de simone
blt productions

Kicking things off with a wild frat-party scene that seems to promise lusty young-adult hijnks, this flick instead transforms into an old-school closed-room gothic mystery of a sort. Focusing on two quasi-couples (with Linda Blair and Vincent Van Patten among them) and a small coterie of pranks-players, this fairly ambitious feature soon treats its audience to secret passageways, mouldering intrigue and some unforeseen developments – and even finds time for the type of hoary scene wherein disdainful local cops refuse to buy the wild story related by the crazy kid begging for their assistance. Along with providing some of its characters with impactful backstories, this film also offers actually suspenseful moments of pulse-pounding pursuit. A few scenes could’ve been trimmed for the sake of pacing, and it wouldn’t have hurt any for the underlying scenario to have been further elucidated – either along the way or by means of synopsis – but these are petty concerns.

why did i watch this movie?

I’m not entirely sure, but I just read Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen, and it’s in there. (Don’t get TOO excited; so’s Beyond the Door.)

should you watch this movie?

On paper, it may not sound like much, but it’s a pretty good time, really. A few goofy (and admittedly often minor) details add some color, and the core group is resourceful in a reasonably realistic manner.

highlight and low point

Well, there’s a scene with a “ghost” that’s straight outta the Scooby-Doo playbook, which never fails to provide bemusement. Before we discover some of the diabolical secrets of the old house, we’re also treated to a couple of legitimately frightening moments. The grounds of the
estate also provide some valuable settings.
Humor’s occasionally implied, not overt.

rating from outer space: B+

Lady Blood aka Insane Blood Massacre (2008)

directed by jean-marc vincent
alterego films/eifel tech/canal+/cinÉcinÉma/Fonds national de soutien à la production audiovisuelle du grand duchÉ du luxembourg

Boy howdy, you’d think that if you were going to wait 15 years to come up with a sequel to – oh, wait, I just used that opening. But yikes, Dave, does it ever apply here. Now, on one hand, it’s commendable to follow up the rampant insanity and psychotic humor of Baby Blood with a movie that’s altogether serious; not playing to expectations can be a strong artistic move. Grafting the referential portion of the script onto a confusing subplot involving vicious gangsters, however, makes less than no sense at all, it actively makes for unnecessary confusion. (I mean, the gangland subplot doesn’t even make much sense on its own, let alone intermingled with the body-jumping murderous horror that was Yanka’s beastly baby the first time around.) Oh, yeah, Yanka’s a police captain now, just in case her evading all suspicion and capture throughout the first flick wasn’t unbelievable enough. And she’s got a human baby, too … BUT FOR HOW LONG.


why did i watch this movie?

I loved the demented original, and I’m a fool.


should you watch this movie?

I cannot urge you too many times to watch 1990’s precursor instead.


highlight and low point

Seriously, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about other aspects of this movie that are either confusing or pointless or just don’t work. Aside from one especially nifty detail near the very finish that you’ll miss if you blink – the camera ignores it almost entirely – nothing much stands out. (That it appears to be an unconscious design afterthought is stunningly effective.) All the action, drama and horror takes place in that same brief scene as some ends are loosely tied.

rating from outer space: D

Killing Obsession (1994)

produced, written & directed by paul leder
poor robert productions

You’d think, were a filmmaker to wait 21 years to come up with a sequel to an earlier triumph, some care and concern would be evident in the production, that it wouldn’t appear to have been written and shot in less than a week. This revisiting of the saga of “Poor Albert and Little Annie,” however, trades the original’s malevolence, transference and, yes, obsessiveness, for the trappings of a wannabe standard-issue “erotic thriller.” (Even that’s an overreach; “some naked torsos” do not equate to “eroticism.”) “Albert,” meanwhile, is so obviously played by – if not as – a different person than in the first film that maybe it’s less important that the character devolution is reductionism at its most evident. As a straight-to-video offering, maybe the budget can be blamed for some of the disinterested, misguided direction offered here. Formulaic and instantly forgettable.


why did i watch this movie?

Well, I saw Part I, and I’ve seen another Leder outing, so it seemed worth a stab. (Sorry.) I did have my doubts, though.



should you watch this movie?

I’m trying to imagine what people who never saw I Dismember Mama would think of this … but if they’re lucky, they wouldn’t.


highlight and low point

Shown a police photo, the long-lost “Annie” observes that “Albert” has “hardly changed at all.” As has already been established, the character is being played by a different actor, with little resemblance to the first. Albert has allegedly been “analyzed, lobotomized, and institutionalized for the past 21 years,” which I guess is to account for his one-note depiction throughout … but whether that much thought went into any of this seems debatable. Hallucinations and re-creations of key scenes from the first go-round don’t abet the cause.

rating from outer space: D−

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

Nightmares (1983)

directed by joseph sargent
universal

Allegedly produced for NBC TV, though for what, or which anthology series, seems to be in dispute – you can’t trust Wikipedia and I’ve noticed IMDb is far from infallible as well, but let’s ignore for the moment any debate about notions of authority in this exciting modern age – this set of four short vignettes isn’t bereft of effective moments, even if nothing gets visceral or even very threatening, in keeping with its origins. (Aside from the third segment, “The Benediction,” which features some intense moments courtesy of its classic tale of a “duel” on the highway with an unidentified motorized antagonist.) Otherwise, the first segment is piffle, and too short to build any momentum, the second features Emilio Estevez echoing notions of Tron with a ripping punk soundtrack, and the final chapter – which further makes use of Black Flag’s “Louie Louie” – is capped with wild-kingdom FX highly reminiscent of the end of Devil Dog. Strictly for nostalgists.


why did i watch this movie?

It’s one of the “roles” on Lee Ving’s dossier.


should you watch this movie?

The renditions of classic FEAR tunes heard during “The Bishop of Battle” are not the versions from The Record. That’s what I thought upon hearing them, anyway, and the end credits appear to bear out my impression.

highlight and low point

This picture really isn’t that bad, but even for episodic horror it feels slight. None of the tales have any kind of staying power, regardless of content or execution. Honestly, it would have worked far better delivered by cathode ray tube. Estevez is pretty good, Lance Henriksen is solid, Richard Masur is convincing, and the late Bridgette Anderson turns in one of the better
performances you’re likely to see by a 7-year-old.

rating from outer space: C−

Bit (2019)

written and directed by brad michael elmore
provocator/thirty 06 productions

So, the general premise here – young person seeking definition finds group of vampire peers – may not sound very fresh and exciting, but … the hook is that the young person is transgender, and the vampires are militant feminist lesbians. Hey, you got your polemics in my genre picture! (Men in particular take it on the chin here.) And I almost skipped over it just because that description sounds like a bit of a forced narrative. As I’m a cis male, though, maybe my perspective is skewed. But I AM gonna grumble that it’s set in L.A.. How come no young person can find fulfillment in a coming-of-age tale of self-discovery set in, like, Dubuque? Or Des Moines, perfect example. Ultimately, there’s no real empowerment message here, and in fact I’d wager there’s an anti-defamation group or two out there just stewing, alongside the fundamentalists. Hell, in one reading, the transgender arc can be spun as negative . Either way, the conversation happened, ya dig. This picture did remind me of The Lost Boys, though, which could be a troubling sign since I’ve never even seen it.


why did i watch this movie?

A spot of banter in the trailer.


should you watch this movie?

No fooling, if you like to debate coded messages, you could have a fun time with this one.


highlight and low point

Despite the clunky and perhaps cliché setup, and pointedly misandrist diatribes notwithstanding, the LGBTQIA+ bent didn’t strike me as a contrivance … because it isn’t presented as such. That the embodiment of the central metaphor is allowed to have personality flaws instead of bearing the standard of wishcasting idealism is instructive. Which doesn’t preclude the potential for friendly fire from obstinate axegrinders, unfortunately.

Rating from outer space: B

Mosquito (1994)

directed by gary jones
acme films, ltd./excalibur motion pictures/antibes, inc.

The sort of low-budget affair during which you’re never not acutely aware you’re watching a movie made on a shoestring, this off-brand extravaganza survives on the chutzpah of its gigantic insect puppets and a game cast of people who seem as though they’ve never acted before. At least on film – the irrepressible Mike Hard plays a small role as part of a criminal element, for instance. Meanwhile, as a major character, late-career sometime actor Ron Asheton does a credible job, especially by the standards of the surrounding evidence. The typically absurdist plot – alien spaceship crashes in swamp, mosquito sucks alien blood, mosquito grows humongous, everyone dies – was thankfully pared down by fiscal realities. “That’s some science fiction bullshit,” Asheton’s character Hendricks accuses. “No,” he’s told. “You are living in science FACT.” This picture allegedly has become a cult favorite, and if so, that cult must really be starved for entertainment.

why did i watch this movie?

I had just finished Jim Jarmusch‘s Stooges documentary Gimme Danger, noticed the billing here and thought, “That’s one hell of a coincidence.”


should you watch this movie?

It’s really lousy, but if you’re in the right frame of mind you might not care much.


highlight and low point

Not that it was a concern to begin with, but the closer this production gets to its grand finale the less anyone involved even winks at verisimilitude. Case in point: our heroes jump off the roof of a house to escape the teeming parasitic horde, suffering no ill effects from a conspicuously soft landing. Plus, a certain lack of passion and effort becomes more noticeable as things … progress. Rebuttal: “Just as I expected – those mosquitoes are making these bodies radioactive.”

rating from outer space: D+

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