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

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 rogerebert.com 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+

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

We Summon the Darkness (2019)

directed by marc meyers
fyzz pictures/common enemy/nightshade entertainment

I’m not sure it makes any sense that this film is set in “1988,” at least not for contemporary viewers who don’t remember the era. The “Satanic Panic” that gripped media and for a time engulfed the practitioners and fans of heavy metal isn’t really represented here, and hardly any attention is paid to the actual sights and sounds of the moment, either. So what you have is a story that primes the audience for what it hopes is an unexpected reveal, and after that it becomes just another survival saga. The setup: three chicks head to a metal concert (where a band pretends they’re performing “Black Funeral” by Mercyful Fate), meet three dudes, and proceed to a big house for an afterparty. But someone’s been ritually slaughtering people, oh no. Elements of humor suggest themselves but don’t really go anywhere, and if you cannot predict several of the events in this flick … Hey! Welcome to the world of horror cinema!

why did i watch this movie?

I hadn’t been too interested, but positive acclaim persisted.


should you watch this movie?

The female trio consists of Texas Chainsaw 3D‘s Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson from God Bless America (not that I recognized her), and Amy Forsyth from Hell Fest, which yet awaits its own compelling campaign to stoke enough
interest in me.

highlight and low point

Once the maleficent plan starts to leak and burn oil, it should probably be a lot funnier than it is. Once the grand scheme is revealed, you will likely not be surprised to hear, it contains some serious gaps in logic. A key moment from the conclusion also beggars belief. This is not a retro ’80s picture; it’s just (nominally) set then.

rating from outer space: C

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−

Night School aka Terror Eyes (1981)

directed by kenneth hughes
a resource production

Although it’s a would-be suspense thriller featuring a mysterious, black-clad killer stalking (mainly) lissome coeds in Boston, the creative team behind this picture unfortunately forgot to include any of the suspense, and skimped on the mystery as well. What’s left is the kind of flick where to entertain yourself you can proclaim “He’s the killer!” or “She’s the killer!” just about any time a new character of any import whatsoever is introduced. This is largely because it isn’t very hard to discern who the killer really is, especially after the script completely gives it away with maybe 25 minutes left to go. The oddball police procedural segments are almost interesting enough. The glimpses into local diner life should’ve been a bigger focus. The slashings and killings are staged abysmally, nearly becoming pantomime.


why did i watch this movie?

You know me, I’m a sucker for a billing such as “Terror Eyes aka Night School,” the moniker under which I found it.

should you watch this movie?

It’s … okay, but it’s more like a made-for-TV feature than a theatrical release. Actually, it’s more like a Very Special two-part episode of a small-screen police drama.

highlight and low point

The scene wherein the killer reveals the reasoning behind the string of crimes is high comedy, as the audience theoretically isn’t supposed to know that it’s the murderer speaking. The level of precision involved in the speech leaves little doubt, however. The casually offhand Sapphic shaming presented in an irrelevant subplot invites questioning. It’s not alone, either; this production is not what one might term “progressive” in, really, any of its particulars. So, maybe treat it as a window into the past, I guess. There still isn’t a whole lot to espy.

rating from outer space: D+