Shock ‘Em Dead (1991)

directed by mark freed
noma productions

It wasn’t until I’d finished this redoubtable inanity that it occurred to me that “1991” seemed to be an inaccurate release date. Surely, I thought, it must’ve been filmed years earlier and languished until it found a video-shelf release date. Allegedly, however, it was committed to celluloid in 1990. Well, these folks must have been living in a wormhole or something, because it sure looks and sounds a lot more like 1988 or so. Splitting hairs, you might think – but wait until you see the fright wig “Angel” sports. “Angel,” of course, for some reason wants to join a horrible band with a singer wearing Richard Simmons’ castoff outfits, so he makes a deal with a voodoo queen (!) to become a demonic guitar hero or some such. Traci Lords plays the non-bimbo in the cast, and all you readers of “Hit Parader” from ye olden daze will be delighted to know that “Michael Angelo” is the stunt stand-in for all the SHREDDING. This is purportedly the last role on the long downslope of the career of blogfriend Aldo Ray.

why did i watch this movie?

It sounded stupid as hell. But how, I wondered, would it match up with, say, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare or Black Roses, or even Rocktober Blood? And do I need a new hobby, or what?


should you watch this movie?

Somehow, someway, it’s actually watchable – acceptable, even. Maybe it’s even more tongue-in-cheek than it seems. Maybe it’s that self-aware. The songs, unfortunately (?), don’t actually approximate the hair era’s so-called “metal.”

highlight and low point

The production values basically don’t exist at all, though we are treated to green glowing eyes at times of … uh, manifestation. The band members cannot act, at all. The period decorations are choice.

rating from outer space: B+

The Killer Snakes aka 手 殺 蛇 (1974)

directed by kuei chi hung
shaw brothers

Unusually wistful for an exploitation movie with multiple rapes and plenty of animal abuse – plus more than one guy slapping around more than one woman – this product of the Hong Kong studios of Runme and Run Run Shaw certainly provides plenty of fodder for your rumination. That doesn’t much excuse most of what goes on here, but at least there’s a plot and a story, more or less, to provide some underpinning. And oh man, the snakes. SO many snakes, so often very clearly being hurled across the length of the shot so as to emulate leaping or springing. The secondary plotline concerns what we now call “human trafficking” but just used to call “prostitution.” Plus probably the relationship between greed and rapacity. Boy howdy, is that reading too much into a picture called “The Killer Snakes.”

why did i watch this movie?

I won’t lie, it promised to be both lurid and somewhat preposterous. I may have expected more sheer lunacy and less slice-of-life grittiness, however. With the sadism confined to humans.

should you watch this movie?

Although it’s kind of amusing when our protagonist, “Keto,” urges his serpent friends to bite and kill his enemies or oppressors, this is a largely downbeat and depressing feature. Who’d’ve guessed that from a tale of a (literally) beaten-down loser who enlists an army of ophidians to avenge him, and even to perform what he claims is a mercy killing?

highlight and low point

Snakes get mutilated, tortured and killed. Maybe I need to vet these pictures better, potential spoilers be damned. Keto’s one outfit keeps reassembling itself, Hulk-like, no matter what happens to him. At one point, he springs monitor lizards on his victim. Those aren’t even snakes, man.

rating from outer space: c−

Zibahkhana aka ذبح خانہ aka Hell’s Ground (2007)

directed by omar ali khan
bubonic films/boum productions ltd/mondo macabro movies

All right now, this is what I’m talking about. A terrific little number with barely an original idea in its head – though that appears to have been the filmmaker’s intent – this Pakistani flick ultimately surpasses its bare-bones budget and its bare-cupboard storyline to produce a thoroughly enjoyable picture. Much of the proceedings are a recasting of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there’s an obvious nod or two to Night of the Living Dead, and there’s some camerawork and atmosphere courtesy of The Evil Dead as well (plus the final girl’s name, Ayesha, often is rendered as, yes, “Ash”). Well-paced, and clearly made with the right attitude and healthy amounts of appreciation for the endeavor, its DIY sheen only adds to the entertainment value. Really pretty rewarding, given that it’s “Pakistan’s First Gore Film.”

why did i watch this movie?

Dude, it’s Pakistan’s first gore film. I couldn’t resist that kind of come-on. (It helped that I was able to locate subtitles for it.)

should you watch this movie?

If you actually read this palaver, you are presumably at some level a devotee of this art form, if not an aficionado per se. If you are also of a certain bent, you just may appreciate this presentation precisely because of its … familiarity.

Or you won’t.

highlight and low point

The weapon of choice for the unrelenting maniacal stalker quite amused me, as did the transliteration of the stock young adult characters into a South Asian disposition. “Yah, let’s get STONED, and get that damned radio on, yah?” as Rubya Chaudhry’s Roxy memorably puts it. At times, depictions here reminded me of the original attempt at All Cheerleaders Die. The élan involved is definitely similar, anyway.

rating from outer space: B+

The Relic (1997)

directed by peter hyams
pacific western, cloud nine entertainment, polygram filmed entertainment, marubeni, toho-towa, tele-münchen, bbc et al.

The sort of well-budgeted Hollywood horror thriller that eventually must become just another iteration of Alien, this vehicle for nobody in particular boasts, above anything else, a bland technical competence as its calling card. You can pick which stock character is your fave, but I vote for “the Mayor” (pun definitely intended) throwing his weight around as if “Chicago” is his personal fiefdom. You will recognize the outline: anthropologist mysteriously doesn’t return from an expedition, but a RELIC (which by the way has almost nothing to do with anything else that happens here) does, and then a creature you barely see for most of the picture slaughters a bunch of people, in the dark. WHAT’S the connection? WILL the day be saved? The End. Wait, let’s at least give ’em credit for not jamming in a subplot featuring a developing love story.

why did i watch this movie?

Long ago, I saw this flick in the theater, much as I did many of its ilk*, and I remembered almost nothing about it. For good reason, as it turns out.

*Species! Species 2! Mimic! The Faculty! It was the ’90s, man!
Creepy monsters were all around us!

should you watch this movie?

See that list of entities responsible for cobbling this feature together? That’s a focus group, and the result was this bland consensus.

highlight and low point

The most interesting thing about this production is how remarkably generic it is. From the opening scenes of the scientist’s “fieldwork” (featuring “natives”) all the way to the – “spoiler alert” – preposterous death throes of the mutant-DNA monster, it just follows the template. Through tunnels, and occasionally through glass.

rating from outer space: D


©1972 E.C. Publications, Inc.

 

Horror High (1973)

directed by larry n. stouffer
jamieson film company

What great fun this cheap little ripoff drive-in picture is! Not even making any bones about deriving its plot from (the Strange Case of) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this no-budget quickie for some reason features several then-NFL stars in cameo roles, mainly as cops. A few skulls are bandied about, along with copious amounts of very fake blood, the makeup FX are even more minimal than in The Prey, and I’m a little abashed that I didn’t recognize Rosie Holotik from Don’t Look in the Basement. Groovy soundtrack song – “Vernon’s Theme,” so earnest and so redolent of its era I laughed out loud – and a whole lotta folks WAY too old to be playing high schoolers round out this gritty drama, devotedly infused with as much pathos as could conceivably be concocted … in a Chemistry lab, say. Put it on your list of overlooked cut-rate gems, it’s worth it.

why did i watch this movie?

I confess, I have no idea. Maybe the fact that I’ve seen 1987’s completely unrelated (and also quite enjoyable!) Return to Horror High played a subconscious role. WHO can say.

Should you watch this movie?

While offering the usual caveat that semipro flicks like this played a major rôle in this blög’s very genesis, I must answer that query in the affirmative.

highlight and low point

A certain economy of scripting is something of a marvelous feat. Why or how can Vernon always be sneaking into the school building at any hour, one wonders … well, see, his mother’s dead and his dad travels for work a lot. The studying vignette with Robin, a bunch of books and a bowl of ice cream, is affecting. The paper cutter demanded more usage, though.

rating from outer space: B+

Halloween II (2009)

written and directed by rob zombie
dimension films/trancas international films/spectacle entertainment group

In a way the definitive Rob Zombie picture, this sequel to his remake of the first Carpenter horror classic basically only makes a dent because of that lineage. I mean, if this were only a movie about just some random psycho killing people for no real reason most of the time – and it is, only that character happens to be dubbed “Michael Myers” – it would not be particularly compelling, nor memorable. Brutal and dismal throughout, it ends without redemption, and Zombie’s juvenile obsession with titties-and-beer doesn’t particularly help. His ongoing attempt to inject metaphysical compulsion (or something) into the Myers saga via hallucinatory visions is categorically odd, and his characters, as usual, are often rehashed caricatures. But for all that, it definitely establishes and holds a mood. Why it bothers is a different question.


why did i watch this movie?

This was strictly stunt programming, piggybacking on the previous selection.


should you watch this movie?

Are you really enamored of extended scenes of cruelly barbaric murder, or hopelessly trapped in hidebound fascination with music of the 1960s and ’70s? (“Laurie’s” Black Flag and Government Issue t-shirts notwithstanding.)

highlight and low point

It may be unfair to point out, as I watched the “Director’s Cut,” but a lot of moments here are just Zombie indulging his own tastes, to the point of self-parody. One might prefer to think he’s self-aware enough to give W. Al Yankovic a cameo role for just that reason, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It would appear he just thinks these stylistic touchpoints are, like, bitchin’. Yeah, you can identify his work as his own – after a fashion, anyway – but the effect can be pretty grating.

rating from outer space: C

Halloween II (1981)

directed by rick rosenthal
dino de laurentiis corporation

One of those movies where I recognize certain scenes but don’t remember much else besides, this once-and-future sequel – for now, it’s been written out of the canon – is mainly notable for introducing Michael M. to the cinematic world of the bored spree killer who begins to get creative in his methods of destruction, along with its clumsy attempt to hang some sort of meaningful framework onto a story better left unexplained. And no, I don’t mean the “Laurie’s his sister” angle, I mean that “Samhain” silliness, a direction which of course reached its apogee in “Season of the Witch.” It’s good enough, I guess – but strictly as a sequel, as its formulaic nature probably wouldn’t have sustained it as a standalone. Not that thousands of its ilk haven’t been churned out anyway, of course. I will give it some credit for taking place immediately following the events of the first feature, as a continuation of the same story; that’s pretty crafty.

why did i watch this movie?

A) it’s the last week of October
B) see the first sentence of the lede

Should you watch this movie?

Dude, it’s not canon. You’re waiting breathlessly for Halloween Kills, correct?

highlight and low point

Though it’s something of a staple in this genre, Mike’s experimentation with different approaches to killing becomes sublimely absurd. Messing with the thermostat? Man, in my house growing up, that’d GET a guy killed, not prove lethal to others. One of his means of dispatch doesn’t even seem as though it’d work! An empty syringe to the temple, quickly in and out? Pshaw. Not to mention, subtleties of slaughter and the aforementioned nod to the rites of sacrificial hoo-haw kinda undermine the big guy’s mythos.

rating from outer space: C

Day of the Nightmare (1965)

directed by JOhn bushelman
screen group, inc.

So much a ripoff of Psycho that the main character and culprit’s last name is “Crane,” this no-budget sleazeball melodrama somehow manages to be fairly entertaining, probably because it’s so utterly half-assed. Reminiscent of the artless stylings of other dimestore auteurs (you will see Ed Wood’s name invoked if you decide to read reviews of this production), at least this picture barely bothers with the armchair psychology – especially noteworthy given that one of the characters is a headshrinker. You know, I watched this alongside the preceding film based merely on the similarity of the nonsensical names, yet they share a weirdly similar predilection besides. For a fun parlor game, try to construct a meaningful diagnosis of Jonathan’s paraphilias, I dast ya.


why did i watch this movie?

“Day of the Nightmare?” I asked myself. Obscure, black-and-white, obviously some stripe of exploitation, check.


should you watch this movie?

It aspires to bare competence. Maybe. Usually with drivel such as this, I wind up wishing I could spend some time living in the milieu represented. In this case, though, everything is suspiciously antiseptic. Maybe that only heightens the allure.

highlight and low point

At one point, a sexpot “patient” is making the move on her “doctor,” and she exclaims, “I don’t need a psychiatrist” – which she pronounces sick-eye-a-tryst – “I need a MAN,” this latter in a breathy stage whisper. Doc replies, “All right, all right … just this once.” Given the carryings-on in this picture, that is likely a bald-faced lie, of course, but with such deft handling of dramaturgy, what else could you reasonably expect. Another poignant moment comes during the thrilling conclusion, when our intrepid investigators pronounce of their quarry, “He’s heading for the amusement pavilion!”

Aren’t we all.

rating from outer space: D

Night Warning aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)

directed by william asher
s2d associates

Yeah, “Night Warning” makes no sense as a title, especially for this flick, but look how bad that original title was. Despite the nomenclature, this is a surprisingly chilling, thrilling little affair, though I haven’t heard the word “fag” so much since, like, third grade (which, coincidentally, would’ve been circa 1981). See, the lead detective has a bit of a problem with “fags,” and also appears to be at least somewhat racist, along with being a lousy coworker and a blowhard. Anyway, there’s this kid, Billy – promising scripting – who lives with his aunt, since his parents died when he was but a mere toddler. His aunt, she seems a little off, ya dig. But she sure likes Billy, a whole lot. Maybe TOO MUCH … and she really doesn’t like Billy’s girlfriend. They really coulda used a nocturnal alert or something. Imagine that.

why did i watch this movie?

I was selecting options based solely on title and era, and this caught my eye. That it featured ’70s teen idol Jimmy McNichol in an incestuous storyline sealed the deal.


should you watch this movie?

Not quite suitable for a time capsule due to a seeming lack of universality in some of its particulars, it apparently instead has become a bit of a cause célèbre for its inclusion of non-stereotypical homosexual characters.

highlight and low point

Lest you think I’m exaggerating about Bo Svenson’s Det. Joe Carlson, to Billy’s semi-closeted basketball coach he states, “I suggest you resign … If you don’t, chances are you’re gonna get yourself lynched.” Later, he tells his PD’s officers “I want all these fuckin’ deviants off the street – pronto!” Svenson’s tight-lipped copper and Billy’s histrionic aunt, as portrayed by Susan Tyrrell, are both rather, uh, outsize characters.

rating from outer space: B−

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: ?