Deadly Manor aka Savage Lust (1990)

written and directed by jose larraz
filmworld international productions, inc./castor films s.a.

The kind of picture that would’ve been better off not explaining the what or why of its anonymous slayings, this unexceptional slasher potboiler nonetheless manages to do quite a bit with almost nothing. It’s generic, sure, and its cast of unknowns could’ve done a much better job delivering their lines convincingly, but the air of menace is effective enough that the deceptive clues don’t displease too much. Surprisingly low on exploitation factor, given that there’s a nude dead female lavished across the screen at the 1:39 mark, this film revels in setting scenes in fumbling darkness, and boldly employs the ruse of the faux savior for good measure. Its ensemble of young adult characters, however, don’t quite match the usual stereotypes, and law enforcement is neither pointlessly obstructive nor dismissively inept. The story is no more ridiculous than you’d guess, probably.

why did i watch this movie?

The director, who was known to have used three or four pseudonyms, has quite a record of exploitation horrors to his credit … one of which I’d unwittingly previously reviewed!

should you watch this movie?

Despite its lack of ambition, it was actually pretty entertaining for the most part.

highlight and low point

The constant smirking of the red herring character adds a mischievous touch, and some of the pathos on display is almost convincing at times. The hallucinatory sex scene dream sequence is rather a surprise, in that it’s not one of the main cast’s young ladies that gets naked, and the fact that the group of meddling kids weary travelers stays in the title abode despite its appearance – and one of their own’s premonition – is the staff of life for this entire genre.

rating from outer space: b−

(note license plate)

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

written and directed by quentin tarantino
heyday films

I actually found this picture to be in extremely poor taste. It culminates with a presumptively humorous (and ultra-violent) reversion of the infamous Manson Family slaughter that took place at the Altobelli estate on Cielo Drive in 1969, wherein a change of plans leads to Tex, Katie and Sadie being killed in various ways by Brad Pitt’s stuntman and Leo DiCaprio’s imported Italian wife and then by Leo’s washed-up cowboy actor himself, in the pool, with a flamethrower. Yeah, I just ruined it for you; I don’t much care. See, I’m not sure this production had any greater purpose than flaunting its creator’s persona, so its turning tragedy into japery just for the sake of that ego – or whatever – is inappropriate. ’Twas less of a waste of casting than Reservoir Horses The Hateful Eight, I guess.

why did i watch this movie?

As I hinted earlier, I needed a break from watching, like, five or six consecutive Friday the 13th flicks.

should you watch this movie?

This is a movie about The Movies – I mean, even more than most of Tarantino’s overly obsessive oeuvre – and it has provoked peevish observation about its obliviousness to different societal issues and how such ignorance, wilful or genuine, continues to propagate injustice. (Its seeming adoration of a lily-white world filled with the privileged exploiting that privilege contributed mightily.)

highlight and low point

DiCaprio is terrific throughout, his natural and often understated performance bordering on the truly sublime at times … so of course Pitt won the Oscar, while being strangely reminiscent of a wizened Chevy Chase. The Bruce Lee scene feels breathtakingly awkward, and dammit, I’ll just say it, this whole affair is an exercise in whitewashing. It’s an unfortunate hue of nostalgia.

rating from outer space: C−

God Bless America (2011)

written and directed by bobcat goldthwait
darko entertainment/jerkschool productions

I’ll admit, I laughed heartily throughout this not-terribly-original flick, an entertaining mashup of source material such as Falling Down, Idiocracy, Natural Born Killers, Albert Brooks’s Lost in America, hell, probably Network, and so on. A few of the harangues and spiels and much of the invective plays a little too much like a script reading, but Goldthwait’s bile is certainly in the right place, at least to this eremitic misanthropist radical. Yes, it’s maybe a little too pat, a little too obvious at times, but the director evades cliché as much as embraces it. The ending is almost beautiful somehow, even though the absurd impossibility that buttresses the whole structure is blatant and a few nagging questions are never countenanced. This auteur’s failings often provide as much to contemplate as his successes, so I’m not inclined to argue much.

why did i watch this movie?

I find the arc of Goldthwait’s career fascinating, and his 2013 Bigfoot picture, Willow Creek, was absolutely phenomenal.

should you watch this movie?

If you’re at all an outsider, outlier, an elitist, or at the very least somewhat pretentious, I’d wager you’d enjoy the premise and its setup. To make it very clear, the main target of opprobrium here is the “American Idol” entertainment model and its ardent supporters … along with a very broad swath of workaday existence and the type of populace that determined itself “populist” for the 2016 election.

highlight and low point

The  speech the jailbait character gives about her love for, like, Alice Cooper, doesn’t really come across too believably, and oh yeah – one of the two main characters is a Lolita analogue, which presents multivarious uncomfortable connotations. (Which largely has been Goldthwait’s stock in trade as a filmmaker.)

rating from outer space: B+

Villains (2019)

written & directed by dan berk & robert olsen
the realm/star thrower entertainment/creative wealth media

A black comedy that delights in turning the tables on its characters, storyline, viewers – you name it – this twist on the home-invaders-find-more-than-they-bargained-for setup also tosses a couple other variations into the mix, at times feeling not unlike a particularly deranged sitcom. There isn’t much in the way of outright scares here, but enough tension builds up at different times to keep one wondering. Not necessarily what a hack reviewer might term “a gritty slice of life!” it unveils more like a fairy tale, and one rather of the Grimm variety. The emotional tenor of this venture also seesaws as much as its perspective, so it never quite sinks into familiar territory even as it dances all around its edges. And would you believe, at heart it’s a picture about … Love?

why did i watch this movie?

The succinct title piqued my interest; its trailer convinced me it was worth a look.

should you watch this movie?

You know, sometimes I forget that it’s enjoyable to watch flicks in which everything’s done well.

highlight and low point

The excellent script revels in presenting cliché and convention only to coax them into surprisingly fresh characterizations, and even the artifice is adapted nicely into the affair. The protagonists are a surprisingly sweet but inarguably somewhat stupid – were we feeling charitable, we might term them “hopelessly naïve” – set of drug-addled petty criminals, and their foils are apparently an eccentric and oddly endearing – insane and murderous – older couple, and a certain parallelism is probably being suggested, but as this isn’t quite a meaning movie it never fully gels. The ending is by turns poignant, parodic, and perhaps predictable, but avoids making the mistake of explaining too much.

rating From outer space: B+

The Blind Dead aka Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

written and directed by amando de ossorio
plata films s.a./interfilme
english adaptation by robert oliver

Trifle with ME, will you! Upon finishing this often very creepy – if also easy to dismiss – Spanish/Portuguese “revenant” horror, I discovered that the 1998 version I’d just seen had been heavily edited to remove nearly 20 minutes of sex and gore … so naturally I have now obtained the original cut, and will gladly report back on it at a later time. For most of this edition’s 82 minutes, it doesn’t much cross the line into really frightening or even particularly troubling territory, but its climax almost makes up for that problem by developing an unforeseen new realm of terrorizing. A bit of a wavering focus detracts from the overall ambience, however, rendering it a little too camp to be truly effective.

why did i watch this Movie?

With a commendable title such as this one, it was probably inevitable.

should you watch this movie?

I am going to table that question until I watch the unexpurgated print.

highlight and low point

“Hark, O mighty one, our sacrifice begins! We commence … with the sacrifice.” As a statement of purpose by the “Knights Templar” who will hundreds of years later arise from their graves whenever some poor fool chances upon them, that one is … kind of redundant. Among the abridgments, a sexual assault is rather obviously excised. The blind dead are a terrific creation, presaging the album jackets of Mob Rules, the 2003 edition of Sleep’s Dopesmoker, and a million other \m/ memes. And they have (presumably also blind, dead) horses! How the hell does that work! Where are they buried!

rating from outer space: I [Incomplete]

(By the way, if you like “Satan Worshipping Doom,” you’ll love Chicago’s Bongripper, with whom I am affiliated in no way, shape or form.)

Graduation Day (1981)

directed by herb freed
ifi/scope iii

Sure, there are hundreds of movies just like this one, but this example manages to be more fun than a lot of them, even if it pushes some of the faults and foibles of its type to the extreme. As an example, the roller-skating scene, with the band “Felony” playing in the center: their song, “Gangster Rock,” goes on and on and on … and on, and on … and on, and we’re treated to the same shots of band members miming and the same closeups  of feet shod in roller skates over and over and over. (Although there are plenty of extras in the scene who don’t even bother with the skates!) And then there’s some of the frankly ridiculous methods of victim dispatch, the belabored attempts to draw attention to the wrong suspects, the fact that absolutely everybody repeatedly has to use the all-too-convenient woods path, and so forth. But for all that, what this flick really did for me was spur thoughts that #MeToo should probably have happened a loooong time ago.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d been contemplating checking this one out for a long time, as it’s from an estimable era for these types of flicks, and also because opinions of it seesaw.

should you watch this movie?

You were just saying how you needed to flesh out (sorry) Linnea Quigley‘s incipient scream-queen career. Or perhaps you’re an aficionado of “horror movies with generic rock bands.”

highlight and low point

Seriously, the unnecessary T&A in this picture is kind of … depressing. The depictions of women’s roles in the home and the workplace might be worse. And since the overall feel of the production is kinda skeevy besides, that’s all kinds of unappealing.

rating from outer space: b

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

written and directed by david durston
a Jerry gross presentation

A dyed-in-the-wool exploitation quickie, the only thing surprising about this little absurdity is its relative restraint. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plentiful wallowing in sleaze here, but it’s kinda presented as an afterthought. Sure, limbs (and a head) are hacked off, and multiple animals are slaughtered, but the sexual assault happens off camera and minimal nudity is shown, even when it’s implied that an entire construction crew runs a train on an overly willing female. True, the sleepy little town goes haywire after a young boy injects meat pies with rabies-infected blood and sells them to a roving band of hippies … hmmm. Perhaps this reviewer has grown jaded. BE THAT AS IT MAY, this film mainly revels in its presentation of the idiotic “satanic” pretensions of the ill-defined “cult” at the center of the action, and dwells lovingly on its ensuing violent insanity. Ultimately, the picture descends into a disjointed and haphazardly edited sequence of uncompelling chase scenes. Those where the survivors defend themselves with water display a highly entertaining ignorance of why the deadly disease was once known as “hydrophobia.”

why did i watch this movie?

I’ve got a reputation to uphold.

should you watch this movie?

Do you like drugs? Do you like killin’? Do you like listenin’ to “Boogie Chillen’”?

highlight and low point

The cult leader’s opening oration includes “Satan was an acidhead” and “together we’ll all FREAK OUT!” Additional period dialogue adds this observation: “He’s not drunk, stupid, he’s been doped – with that stuff that they call ‘LSD.’” The sometimes alarming soundtrack often alternates between hypnotic monotony and electronic experimentations.  Bonus points were granted for a character using the phrases “the colored boy” and “the fuzz” in the same conversation.

rating from outer space: c−