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: ?

Two Heads Creek (2019)

directed by jesse o’brien
dicentium films/hummingbird films/storm vision entertainment

You know, it’s hard to make a good comedy, and it’s at least equally as hard to make a good horror picture, so you’d have to imagine that the odds of producing a good horror-comedy (comedy horror?) aren’t very good. Now, the snarky side of me wants to add, “And neither is this film!” but that wouldn’t be entirely fair, or accurate. It’s … all right. Weighing more heavily on the “comedy” side of the ledger, this likable Australian feature throws a few new twists into a perhaps hackneyed setup. Siblings head Down Under to find The Truth about their lineage (didn’t we just DO this?), only to discover drama, intrigue, bloody gore – you know the drill. One of which tools isn’t involved, to the best of my recollection. Mostly fun, occasionally delightful, nothing too important.

why did i watch this movie?

Took a chance on the trailer and thought it promised madcap fun such as I’ve enjoyed from some other pictures from the Southern Hemisphere.

should you watch this movie?

Yeah, you know, sometimes a light and frothy offering isn’t a bad call.

highlight and low point

I watched this just after having found out that AC/DC have a “new” record coming out, and I’m not going to say that didn’t influence my choice. The soundtrack to this extravaganza features a couple bands I only know about from reading books about Australia’s heaviest musical export – Skyhooks and Sherbet. (The Skyhooks tune, “Horror Movie,” briefly invokes the ol’ Richard O’Brien spirit.) The running gag about “Australia Day” and so forth may be funnier to non-Americans, there’s a somewhat subtle jab at the United Kingdom’s “populist” backlash, and the two main characters are allegedly Polish. I can sympathize.

rating from outer space: C+

Scare Package (2019)

directed by emily hagins, aaron b. koontz, chris mcinroy, noah segan, courtney & Hillary andujar, anthony cousins, baron vaughn
paper street pictures

So this is a kind of anthology, a parodic meta horror potpourri, almost certainly bearing a superfluous section or two but still wildly entertaining. If you love horror movies (and lampooning them) even a little bit as much as these folks do, it’s a fair enough diversion. Personally, I thought the “One Time in the Woods” segment was going to cause me brain damage, plumbing the depths of inspired idiocy on a dadaistic level I’ve rarely experienced since meeting Snake ‘N’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret 20 years ago. I was nearly in hysterics. “The NIght He Came Back Again! Part IV – The Final Kill,” meanwhile, is almost as good, absurdly reducing its depiction of a July 4th-themed holiday slasher to the barest essence. Sure, it’s more than occasionally too obvious, and The Cabin in the Woods exists, but Joe Bob Briggs playing himself at a critical moment suggests a certain acknowledgement. An unsubtle picture that must unfortunately wait to meet its true fate until people can gather en masse at frightfests again.

why did i watch this movie?

The trailer juiced the passé concept.

should you watch this movie?

If you think I specialize in missing the point, the reviewer at prattles on about how this flick “has no good answers” to whatever postulation he’s imagined, dismissing “this sort of pandering humor” while unapologetically using the term “janky.”

highlight and low point

Undead Roger Ebert there misquotes Briggs’s observation that the character Rad Chad is “the personification of what the internet did to film criticism” while decrying this film’s burlesque. It’s a send-up, pal. Amazon Women on the Moon didn’t resolve the B-movie, either.

rating from outer space: B

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−

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+

Blood Frenzy (1987)

produced and directed by hal freeman
a hal freeman production

At times a completely labored study of character archetypes, enhanced by some incredibly hambone acting, this picture takes a questionable setup – therapy group camps out in remote location – and combines it with a one-at-a-time death count rampantly insulted by a red, red herring, only to wrap things up with a generic SHOCKER at the climax. (A bit of a bait-and-switch, at that.) When it remembers to stop telegraphing its characters’ traits and just concentrates on what passes for its action, this production occasionally approaches entertainment value, almost despite its own shoddy efforts. Being largely unremarkable, it’s nearly interesting that this flick would seem to aspire to a certain level of sleaze, but never goes far enough … although boasting a “nymphomaniac” character. In addition to a PTSD veteran, a drunk, a haphephobic, a he-man woman-hater, a bitter lesbian and, of course, the shrink.

why did i watch this movie?

You know, a name like “Blood Frenzy” just speaks to me, man.

should you watch this movie?

If you find the video in a pile of stuff in a house you’re cleaning out, and you actually still have a VCR, it’s good for a lark.

highlight and low point

What kind of creative genius are we dealing with here, you wonder. The site chosen for the therapeutic camping trip is situated off “the old ghost town road.” A location to which one of the characters leads them. Where abandoned mines abound.  “Some setup,” you think. Precisely. Also, I am not a medical pathologist, but I’m pretty certain that people who are in the process of having their throats cut with large knives cannot actually continue screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the procedure and afterward.

rating from outer space: D+

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

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly aka Girly (1970)

directed by freddie francis
ronald j. kahn productions/fitzroy films ltd.

Crikey, guv’nor, but I was completely unprepared for this daft family affair. A madcap mansion full of boarded-up rooms and determinedly whimsical antics, this glimpse of roles assumed and roles played trips merrily along almost without stopping to take a breath. It’s difficult at times to decipher just which character is the maddest or the most amusing: arch and imperious Mumsy; stolid, staunch Nanny; mercurial and vindictive Girly; or resolute, sadistic Sonny. Sonny and Girly’s arrested adolescence romps uneasily under the deliberately blurred depiction of Mumsy and Nanny’s relationship; meanwhile, the whole lot is murderous. Acquiring and discarding “new playmates” is the order of every day, and just what comprises the Rules that must be followed is up for debate. A certain sense of propriety – strange, considering the preoccupations – guides the engagements.

why did i watch this movie?

If I could recall the path I followed to this picture, I might be able to answer that question. Maybe it just sounded … different.

should you watch this movie?

It struck me as something like Alice’s trip to Wonderland as conflated with Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, represented in a stately British country manor house.

highlight and low point

As “Mumsy,” Ursula Howells is utterly charming and clearly disturbed in equal measure, while Vanessa Howard’s “Girly” eventually betrays much more depth of character than meets the eye … given that she spends almost the entirety of the film wearing a schoolgirl outfit several inches too short in the skirt. Once some of the mayhem starts clearing up, well along in the adventure, comes the intimation that the relationships betwixt the denizens of the house may be more fluid than one theretofore had guessed. It’s the merest hint, but potent.

rating from outer space: A

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−