Baba Yaga aka Baba Yaga, The Devil Witch aka The Devil Witch aka Kiss Me, Kill Me aka Black Magic (1973)

directed by corrado farina
14 luglio cinematografica s.r.l./simone allouche productions

Definitely the first film I’ve seen based on the erotically charged comics of Guido Crepax, this Italian tale of intrigue – and, you know, deadly puppets dressed in S&M gear that can manifest in fleshly human form – is, first and foremost, an examination of artful-nude studio photography vis-à-vis commercial filmmaking. And an attempted meditation on taste and the merits of artistic forms. Plus, of course, chic fashion, lots of chic fashion. Events never get very frightening, although the ending scenes contain some interesting and eerie moments, and the big reveal that sets them up isn’t without impact. The way things wrap up renders much of the story really kind of pointless, though because of the multiple erotic death dream sequences, at least you could toss “questions of conscience” into the list up above. Don’t know what to make of the Nazis or the other military imagery.

why did i watch this movie?

I mean, I saw the title “Baba Yaga, The Devil Witch.” I didn’t even know about the Crepax connection until the title cards showed.


should you watch this movie?

It’s amusing in a kitschy way, but apparently impossible to see in its intended form. (Footage that may or may not contribute to the film’s cohesion was excised without the director’s consent.) The version I watched contained some scenes inserted from work prints.

highlight and low point

There are dandy pseudophilosophical musings such as “If you don’t use the means that the system provides, what other possibilities have you got?” Mind you, the characters sharing this exchange are pretty far from revolutionary types. It’s also pretty moving when the pseudo heroine, Valentina, icily exclaims, “I couldn’t care less about … power and riches and your cosmic secrets!”

rating from outer space: C−

Mercy Black (2019)

written and directed by owen egerton
divide/conquer

Oh, for crying out loud … here we go again with this bushwah. I try really hard not to sound like a broken record in these pages, which is sometimes a chore, but I may have no choice this time. What we have here is a spook film with a checklist, making sure it gives audiences exactly what they’ve already gotten so many times before – albeit one that for a brief, barely glimpsed moment has a fleeting chance to offer something different, to head somewhere that might be more than routine. But it doesn’t do that; at right about that same moment, it dives into the usual trough. Then it throws the ol’ SHOCKING reveal at you before copping out completely. Refusing to commit to any of its conceits, this Netflix offering exemplifies the perhaps apocryphal adage “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Dissatisfying at best.

why did i watch this movie?

Uh, yeah … I must have been asleep at the switch, because the description that accompanies this flick really doesn’t sound all that stimulating.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a blatant recasting of the 2014 “Slender Man” stabbing from Wisconsin, and it really isn’t worth your time.


highlight and low point

Maybe the most polite way I could put it is to posit that at no point in this parade of platitudinous pusillanimity do events rise above or plummet beneath a plateau. (That is, it may be tired and unimaginative throughout, but hey, at least it’s consistent.) Everything that could be worthwhile about this experience lies solely within your ability to imagine it, which, mirabile dictu, happens to align with one of this picture’s insufficiently addressed themes. It is also directed clumsily.

rating from outer space: D

Baby Blood aka The Evil Within (1990)

directed by alain robak
partner’s productions/exo 7 productions

Not many of these movies tend to wow me, because let’s be honest, not a whole lot of them bring much of anything particularly new to the table, but you can go right ahead and put this deranged romp into its own category entirely. Simultaneously dismal, brutal, grotesque, and somehow funny as hell, this French meditation on the pains and perils of impending motherhood is a delightfully distasteful monster movie of sorts, although nearly every moment in the picture belongs almost solely to Bianca (or “Yanka,” according to the credits), played with élan (et plus que un peu je ne sais quoi) by Emmanuelle Escourrou. Farcical at times, and on an occasion or two somewhat predictable, la ciné nevertheless is never overtaken by what nearly becomes complete overkill. Est-ce formidable? Absolument.

why did i watch this movie?

The title called to me as I once again sought for ’90s material. I made sure not to spoil the plot by reading any synopses, though I figured I was in for some sort of tale of demonic possession or devil worship or witchcraft or what-have-you.

should you watch this movie?

It does not concern demonic possession or devil worship, etc., etc., should that be what your little heart desires. It is, however, a bloodbath.


hig
hlight and low point

You know me, the delirious passion imbued in some (okay, most) of the kill scenes had me at the very precipice of giddiness, but there’s plenty for everyone to appreciate here. Our protagonist’s mostly unobserved ability to jump from situation to situation is quite entertaining, especially as she begins to thrive in any variety of circumstances, and the ongoing, uh, internal dialogue is blackly enjoyable. A sequel is reputedly less ingenious.

rating from outer space: a

The Lamp aka The Outing (1987)

directed by tom daley
written and produced by warren chaney
h.i.t. films/skouras pictures

Cheezy hack work, to be sure, but ultimately a witless good time, this preposterous time capsule of best-forgotten ’80s fashions and quick-buck hucksterism boasts a confused mythology, brutal edits, continuity issues, and a general lack of coherent purpose. What it does have are some ridiculous stock characters and flimsy FX, including the always welcome glowing eyes of the possessed. But in the great tradition of films in which terrible things happen in museums because of ancient relics – such as in, oh, say, The Relic – once the dubiously vengeful evil genie is conjured, it … well, actually, that happens a bunch of times, isn’t confined to the museum, only vaguely seems to involve the LAMP and, uh, see …


why did i watch this movie?

When I see a title mentioned more’n once on lists with names such as “Worst Movies Ever,” I usually gotta know more.

should you watch this movie?

Oh, absolutely. The heights of absurdity you will scale will reward you immensely.


highlight and low point

The fetching ensemble worn by our lead actress, Andra St. Ivanyi, as the “teenage” Alex Wallace, is itself enough of a marvel to demand viewership. (Don’t discount the “new wave” getup preferred by major human antagonist Mark Mitchell as privileged baddie Mike Daley, however.) For my money, it’s hard to top the scene in which one of the girls is taking a bath in the specimen room at the museum (don’t ask) and is set upon by what appear to be revivified cobras, although the computer sequence when our heroes search for their salvation is also top-notch. And the genie itself – sorry, “Jinn,” we need to remain historically accurate here – is incredible, in the truest sense.

rating from outer space: D+

 

Soul to Keep (2018)

directed by david allensworth and moniÈre
shady tree films/cineque pictures

“Not bad,” I thought to myself as this one finished. I mean, it wasn’t great, not by any means, don’t get me wrong – but it overcame a few significant faults to pass the time well enough. The repeatedly used FX was pretty lousy and didn’t play well, and the production felt like a low-budget friends-and-family affair, but the slowly developing storyline held some promise. Okay, sure, it involves a group of young people that find an EVIL BOOK in a MYSTERIOUS BASEMENT (festooned with blood!) on an OLD FARM, and so naturally decide to try to summon a demon – that might provoke an eyeroll, as may the telegraphed minor twist at the very end. Ah, but what to make of all those relationships, anyway? (Psst – that’s a clue.)

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t remember. Perhaps invoking the heady name of Beelzebub did the trick.

should you watch this movie?

How hypercritical are you? I’ve seen a lot of hot takes about this picture from people I can only presume don’t realize how hard it is to make one of these features.

highlight and low point

This picture probably coulda used clearer direction and a less derivative conclusion, yes, but again, I kinda grade on a curve ’round these parts, and a flick like this – made well beyond the fringes of the famous names and fancy catering of the celluloid industry – benefits greatly from that position. Things could be better, as a few problems insist: some of the acting isn’t up to snuff and eventually one gets the feeling the screenplay tried to stuff in a few too many twists ‘n’ turns. The mostly obnoxious college-age kids seem to be accurately portrayed, though.

rating from outer space: c−

Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

written, produced & directed by jack weis

It takes a special kind of vision to make a tribute or hommage to a notoriously fly-by-night production such as Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast by seemingly attempting to replicate that movie’s infamously wooden acting, but such is the attention doted upon this awesomely ’70s affair. I mean, one of the characters obviously reads his lines from the important papers he carries, just as one did in the original. Now that’s dedication. This picture is also replete with practically nonstop boogie music, a lot of which kinda sounds not unlike disco variations of Steely Dan’s oeuvre. Oh, and buckets of sleaze, don’t forget that. Practically every other scene features strippers or naked prostitutes; if the latter, they’re subject to the sacrificial ritual that is deliberately repeated, step by step, each and every time. Now that’s dedication.

why did i watch this movie?

This is yet another title that I’ve thought about checking out many, many times; this time around I just decided to finally go ahead with it.

should you watch this movie?

I’m not sure how to respond to that. On one hand, it’s fairly fascinating for a number of different reasons, but on the other hand, none of those reasons correlates to anything particularly admirable.


highlight and low point

As the lead weirdo, credit must be given William Metzo for never deviating from his modulated speech and mannerisms, a performance truly reminiscent of Mal Arnold as “Fuad Ramses” in the 1963 precursor. (Did I unfairly discredit the 2016 version, or was it jumping the same claim?) The scenes of heart removal are pretty gnarly. A significant sequence takes place during an actual Mardi Gras parade, and it’s amusing to watch the people who notice the camera mugging for it.

rating from outer space: c

The Mangler (1995)

directed by tobe hooper
distant horizon/filmex (pty) ltd/allied film productions

You’d THINK that a story about a bloodthirsty industrial laundry machine – Box Office Mojo: “A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies” – would be a premise stupid enough to satisfy most people, but Tobe Hooper apparently wasn’t most people, as it seems it wasn’t stupid enough for him. No, he must have decided – having cowritten the damn thing – that the presentation would have to be dumbed down in order to make an inexcusably brain-dead travesty of a feature. It’s a chore merely to make it past the first couple minutes, which I attest having had to try more than once. Everything looks abysmally fake, most of the acting is atrocious, the embellishments to the plotline of S. King’s originating short story are idiotic, and holy contrivance, Robert Englund’s character. He – it – they … stammering, reduced to, me. Bleah.

why did i watch this movie?

Besides my S. King obsessiveness, I had just finished Hooper’s Funhouse and fumbled my way into the realization that he directed (and cowrote) this crap.

should you watch this movie?

Plenty of terrible adaptations of S. King material are out there, just waiting for you. (Thinner, for example – I couldn’t make it through that one the first time I tried, either.)

highlight and low point

Look, the story itself (which you can read in the Night Shift collection) ends with the industrial speed-ironer wrenching itself from its moorings and stalking humanity, and I’ll grant that would be a difficult occurrence to film. That being said, the animated Mangler at this picture’s apogee is deliriously spurious. The filmic resemblance to portions of Graveyard Shift (story also from aforementioned source) do not lend this production any additional credibility.

rating from outer space: 0