Devil Fetus aka Mo Tai aka 魔胎 (1983)

directed by lau hung-chuen
lo wei motion picture company

So what’s in a name? You think you know what you’re gonna get from a flick called “Devil Fetus,” but maybe you overlooked the fact that it was made in Hong Kong in the 1980s and you didn’t realize you were actually going to get one of the most inexplicable and incoherent pictures you’ve ever “enjoyed.” But what about the devil fetus, you demand. I wish I could tell you. Somehow, despite being sealed within the coffin of the dead woman whose uterus spawns it, eventually – many years later – the demonic spirit of the DEVIL FETUS (which does not have anything to do with, you know, “the devil”) inhabits the family dog … whose name, naturally, is “Bobby.” That’s all I’m going to tell you. You can figure out for yourself what in the hell Grandma was doing with that eagle blood.


why did i watch this movie?

Those of you familiar with my blathering on these pages know the reason.


should you watch this movie?

Well … it probably offers you a unique viewing experience. Sadly, it’s actually a little too restrained given the outsize expectations provoked by the title.

highlight and low point

You know, there are bad FX and unconvincing FX … and whatever the hell these FX are. Most of director Lau’s career credits are in cinematography (such as his work on 1980’s We’re Going to Eat You), and given that many of the “tricks” used here are double exposures and “substitution splicing,” that isn’t the greatest endorsement. At least one flying possessed person sports a noticeable wire. Oh! I almost forgot to mention the birthday dance party and the evocations of Beyond the Door! “You’re too proud, man,” as a friend once advised. “People slip.”

rating from outer space: ?

Dark Waters aka Dead Waters (1993)

directed by mariano baino
victor zuev productions

So, this picture is both chock full of symbolism and laden with dream sequences, to the point where you might be excused for thinking it’s a Russian David Lynch flick. Now, I have mentioned repeatedly that I don’t usually get a lot out of symbolism, and it’s particularly true in a production such as this, wherein the signs and signifiers often aren’t particularly representative of anything. Instead, this film is mainly concerned with building and expanding on a mood, which it does effectively enough. Ultimately, though, it’s kinda silly, and good luck trying to decipher anything about the incomprehensible storyline. (Woman travels to remote location, discovers abbey rife with ominous intrigue while hoping to learn more about her childhood.) This feature probably should’ve held my interest better than it did, judging by its general critical reception. Mea culpa – it’s been a tough month.

why did i watch this movie?

Multiple sources insisted that this “atmospheric” offering possesses an enigmatic power or some such. I was leery, and held off for quite a while. I just kept seeing mention of it, though.

should you watch this movie?

You know what it’s “like,” really? A spooky old folk tale. With nuns and a demon.

highlight and low point

One hangup I will admit to is that I generally feel that if your flick is going to be laden with dream imagery, that dream imagery ideally will relate in some sense to the overall thrust. I did not feel that was the case here, and neither could I follow how the main character attained her revelation(s) of The Truth behind The Mystery. And while I may have had a hard time paying attention, I don’t think that’s why I was confused.

rating from outer space: C

Terror (1978)

directed by norman j. warren
crystal film productions

I swear, I didn’t even realize when I selected this picture for review that I’d previously seen and written about this director’s two immediately preceding numbers – Satan’s Slave and Prey. The display of a “Satan’s Slave” poster in the office suite of this flick’s film-producer character tipped me off, though. Closer in feeling and execution to “Slave” than “Prey,” there isn’t really a whole lot of the title condition represented here, except as experienced by a victim or two, maybe. Additionally, there’s neither much rhyme nor reason to the goings-on, but there IS a moment that appears to be a direct progenitor to S. King’s novel Christine. I mean, portions of the scene are lifted lock, stock and barrel. Another fanciful depiction later turns up in Christmas Evil (and eventually Repo Man). Other than that, this saga of an accused witch haunting and/or hunting her descendants sees the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of a bunch of people, and then ends in a puff of smoke.


why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s called “Terror.” So succinct!



should you watch this movie?

Among Norman J. Warren spectaculars, I’d recommend “Satan’s Slave” over this one. Mind you, I haven’t tried “Inseminoid.” Yet.

highlight and low point

Given Norman J. Warren’s oeuvre, it’s probably ridiculous to lament lost opportunities potentially glimpsed herein, but there’s a whole angle about the world of cinema that’s touched on but dismissed, even given the “film within a film” opening scenes. A gaggle of hopeful actresses live together in a hostel, an arrangement allegedly modeled after a real-world nurses’ colony. Hey, why not. Most of those slain in the course of this production come across as being targeted solely because some action is necessary.

rating FROM OUTER SPACE: C−

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+

Wendigo (2001)

written, directed, edited by larry fessenden
glass eye pix/antidote films

I had to more or less force myself to finish watching this tale of a weekend trip gone bad. I don’t think it was this picture’s fault, though, even if I neither found it particularly interesting nor would agree that it’s affecting and frightening. Maybe it’s a trend – the last couple films covered here haven’t really delivered the goods I have sought, plus it’s “baseball season” after a fashion, and I have a bunch of other stuff I gotta worry about, and, and, and. I know that’s a bit unfair. One thing I will say for this Larry Fessenden production: he got terrific acting jobs outta pretty much his entire cast. The naturalistic nature of most of the story really works, and paradoxically, therein lies some of the problem. The supernatural stuff, which eventually strives to establish a presence, doesn’t carry enough weight and mainly feels like an intrusion. I’m not at all sure the story even needed it.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d like to say because it’s under Fessenden’s imprimatur and leave it at that, but that’s only partially the reason. It was the primary factor I paid attention to its inclusion in that same Fangoria book, however.

should you watch this movie?

I’d prefer to be more positive here, because as often noted, I strongly support the independent film community. This offering doesn’t present a compelling argument, though.

highlight and low point

The family members (mom, dad, youth) are completely convincing as a unit. It’s a really finely wrought set of performances. The student-film camerawork had me rolling my eyes. And again, there’s a seeming dichotomy of purpose here, and the feature never seems to commit one way or another.

rating from outer space: C

El día de la bestia aka The Day of the Beast (1995)

directed by Alex de la iglesia
sogetel/iberoamericana films producciÓn/m.g. srl/canal+ (EspaÑa)

I’m not certain this Spanish production qualifies as “horror,” even if the plot consists of a seemingly fallen priest committing violent crimes in the hopes of negating the birth of the Antichrist. Alongside a slacker “death metal” adherent and a bullshit mystic television seer. On Christmas Eve. (The tale takes a little longer to cohere than that synopsis might indicate, or at least it did for me.) Although a bloody account, any terror involved is confined mainly to the implicit realm, or attributable to a mysterious roving gang destroying property and killing people while urging the authorities – presumably – to “limpia Madrid.” (“Clean it up.”) Drugs, semiserious bodily harm, mayhem and some second-tier FX complete the recipe. It’s fun, the comedy is deadpanned about as well as possible, and certain juxtapositions add just the right touch. Alongside the sacrilege. Make it a holiday tradition!

why did i watch this movie?

See previous entry, and sprinkle liberally with Luciferian intrigue. Plus, I’ve been learning Spanish for over a year, and every little bit helps.

should you watch this movie?

Where ELSE are you gonna see the Three Wise Men gunned down by police? (You don’t have to answer this question if you’re in the “United” States, for fear of reprisal.)

highlight and low point

This is no game. Ángel (the priest, of course) and José María (the ne’er-do-well metaller) make for a great duo, and the uneasy triumvirate they form with “Professor” Cavan also is fruitful. The intricate layers of symbols and references belie the film’s breezy, slapstick nature, as does what ultimately proves to be a rather somber final series of notes. Many, many aspects of modernist commercial existence are targeted for commentary, however oblique.

rating from outer space: B

Def by Temptation (1990)

written, produced and directed by james bond iii
orpheus pictures/bonded filmworks

It was difficult for me to sit through this, for two reasons not particularly indicative of overall quality, or lack thereof. One was the low-budget 1990s vibe, which … there’s a look and a feel to a lot of ’90s movies, particularly horror movies, that I find off-putting, and don’t enjoy revisiting. (That whole decade had a lot of aesthetic issues.) The other is I didn’t find the evil seductress character – allegedly irresistible to men – attractive, rendering that part of the storyline inscrutable. Then there were the peculiar edits, at times muddling plot points. That plot? Ancient evil targets family, for some reason. Strong points include the relationship between K and Joel, and many effective moments of humor. A thematic pivot also provides support. Unfortunately, a few instances that are presumably intended to be frightening instead come across nearer to camp. A mixed bag, to be sure, though it surprises me the auteur seemingly never did a whole lot of anything else. I mean, this production showed promise; surely he warranted another shot.

why did i watch this movie?

I needed to balance out the recent spate of ’80s pix, and this appeared in that “Fangoria” book I mentioned. I really must vet my sources better, apparently.


should you watch this movie?

The type of feature perfect for basic cable, it’s coincidentally available on youtube in a version not unlike a USA Network edit.


highlight and low point

A hilarious and unexpected splatter of gore is eye-opening, and again, the interpersonal relationships really are finely limned. Too many would-be seduction scenes and a general lack of chills ‘n’ thrills slow things down a little too much, though. More than one scene features the boom mike.

rating from outer space: c−

Blood Massacre (1987)

directed by don dohler
a don dohler film
don dohler entertainment

For more than half of its 73 minutes, this podunk feature is mired in an extended, irritating look into the lives of murderous, infighting petty criminals whose favorite word is “bitch.” (This latter point never varies.) Eventually, however, this crew winds up at some seemingly random family’s farmhouse – after robbing a video store for 720 dollars, thus firmly establishing their felonious acumen – and though you think you’ve got an inkling of what’s going to transpire, by the time all’s said and done, this production has gone a couple steps beyond your imagination. That alone doesn’t really make this any better of a film or anything like that, but the gleeful overcompensation is worth an approving nod and a smile, at least.

why did i watch this movie?

Having just reviewed a flick whose alternate title purportedly is “Insane Blood Massacre,” it seemed only natural to make the decision to check this one out, at long last.

should you watch this movie?

On one hand, it’s shot poorly and the dialogue is subpar. On the other, it still might be worth it just for the final two-fifths or so. The escalation is that unexpected.

highlight and low point

“Jimmy” sports a Kim Carnes “Mistaken Identity Summer Tour 81” concert shirt. No, really. Later in the action a character is repeatedly violently knifed while hanging from a tree, and as I laughed in appreciation, I wondered what my enjoyment of such depictions might indicate about my psychological well-being. Maybe the fact that it’s not exactly credibly realistic is a saving grace. Among others, an unforeseen plot development is a sequence that emulates First Blood. Unprecedented scripting: “Doesn’t sound like a cop car, it sounds like a … Chrysler New Yorker.”

rating from outer space: C−

The Slayer aka Nightmare Island (1982)

directed by j. s. cardone
the international picture show company

For a flick with a ridiculously uninspired setup – two couples go to a remote island, where someone or something is bumping them off one by one – this small-time production winds up delivering a lot more than one would expect. I don’t think I’d go quite so far as to believe the claim that cineastes have long debated the manifold interpretations available to the ambiguous ending – how many people have even heard of this picture? – but although one’s immediate reaction to the final scene might be to feel a bit cheated, further reflection possibly may assuage such a response. It could also exacerbate it, of course, and hey, now I’m merging with those ca(s)hiers du cinéma(rt). Better than it should have been.


why did i watch this movie?

It’s called “The Slayer,” and it’s from 1982. Quod erat demonstrandum.


should you watch this movie?

It’s really more  of a character study than you’d be excused for expecting from a 1982 film called “The Slayer,” and kept reminding me of The Mutilator – which it predates – most likely because of the beachfront property.

highlight and low point

As Kay, Sarah Kendall gives audiences a pretty good indication of why they would never see her in anything ever again, but either her blank stares and flatness of affect eventually begin to seem more suitable or the dramatics of the rest of the movie overpower the urge to keep laughing. Kay’s an artist, which makes for an indefensibly inane analogy: though the plot here is akin to a paint-by-numbers kit, the end result is pleasing to the eye. The relationships between and among the couples are convincingly natural, and the final two minutes of this feature are a veritable tour de force.

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−