Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992)

Directed by Mick Garris
Ion Pictures/Victor & Grais

In case you thought the problem with movies made from S. King novels and stories was the difficulty in translating to the silver screen either their length and heft (IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone, etc.) or their sometimes dodgy supernatural motifs (Christine, say), I have bad news to report. This budget B flick was written FOR the cinema, not adapted from a story, and it, too, has some serious issues preventing it from being taken very seriously. I’m not even talking about the $2 FX, either, although those don’t help out a whole lot. And I’m not even talking about the army of darling kittycats that wind up being the main oppositional force to the, um … the quasi-vampire things. (Diehard King aficionados, oops, I mean “Constant Readers,” will recognize the energy-sucking conceit later employed by Doc Sleep.) Hack director Mick Garris – King’s handpicked fave – takes a tale with promise and lets it devolve into gimcrackery over its latter third. Consider (blame) the source, I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Cats and the oeuvre of Stephen King: two things for which I have a soft spot in my heart (if not my head).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Look, I just don’t know what to tell you. I mean, I watched Stephen King’s The Night Flier, too, you know.


Highlight and Low Point

My notes for this picture – yes, really – include that the “deputy sheriff” cruises around happily singing Garry Lee and Showdown’s immortal “The Rodeo Song,” which I first heard about from a friend in, like,  fifth grade, disbelieving such a song could really exist until he proved it. My notes also indicate that apparently one can blow up a cop car by merely shooting it.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Pale Blood (1990)

Directed By V.V. Dachin Hsu
Noble Entertainment Group

I was completely shocked when the credits rolled on this baby and the copyright read “1990” … though perhaps that’s just the result of my own myopia. See, Agent Orange is in this film, for no particular reason that I can discern, and since the tunes they’re playing are all from their 1986 release This Is The Voice, I presumed it was a little older. (To be fair, it was lensed in ’88.) In a way, that only heightens the weirdness of this little oddity, a vampire flick with several shifts in motive and narration (and incrimination) – one of which was completely unforeseen, at least for me. This was apparently a straight-to-video picture, which makes sense when viewed from the perspective of its production values, but doesn’t much jibe with its fairly accomplished narrative. (In its own way, it’s a hardboiled noir story – just with, you know, immortal bloodsuckers.) I could see this film having been fairly successful with a few alterations and a big-screen existence. Of course, Agent Orange probably wouldn’t have been involved then.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Although I dearly love the early portion of Agent Orange’s career, this was just a happy accident – another one from that endless Internet Archive vid haul.



Should You Watch This Movie?

Even if late-’80s nostalgia doesn’t interest or inspire you, it’s worth a look-see. I don’t even think you’d necessarily have to be all that impressed by vampires, though it couldn’t hurt.


Highlight and Low Point

The tone of this picture varies unpredictably, as it contains significant amounts of basically deadpan humor interspersed with dismal pathos and the like. Wings Hauser’s filmmaker character contributes to the furtive ’80s vibe, and Hong Kong apparently stands in for L.A. at times.

Rating from Outer Space: B

M.D.C – Maschera di cera aka La Máscara de Cera aka The Wax Mask (1997)

directed by sergio stivaletti
Cine 2000/mediaset/france film international

Dedicated to Lucio Fulci by its production team, due to some convoluted backstory (“Dario Argento Presenta”), this very mannered extravaganza boasts a visual sheen not quite in keeping with its turn-of-the-20th-century period setting, and spins a tale that, while engaging enough as it unspools, is somewhat undermined by a gaggle of absurdities at its center. The enigma that compels it doesn’t stay very mysterious for very long, despite the labored attempts by virtually everyone in the cast to vamp it up as much as possible, and the sumptuous costuming is somewhat hilariously at odds with what one must term the futurism at its core. (Were one inclined to be unkind, it could be called anachronistic, but as it’s a horror fable, what would even be the point.) At heart, it’s just kind of silly, another victim of the genre’s inability to stop rewriting stories that weren’t that interesting the first time around. See, it takes place in a WAX MUSEUM, would you believe. And what’s more!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’d have to guess at this point, but it’s most likely the release date, and maybe the intrigue underlying its production. (Argento wanted to help Fulci make a film, but Fulci died before filming began.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s nearly interesting at times.


Highlight and Low Point

Despite its efforts, this production doesn’t do a very effective job of making it appear to be 1900 – it is too obvious that you are looking at sets and costumes. (The steampunk Re-Animator setup doesn’t much help in that regard, either.) The gore and pseudogore FX are pretty good, befitting the nominal director’s usual professional pursuits. The absurdly blatant ripoff of The Terminator, on the other hand …

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Slugs aka Slugs: muerte viscosa aka Slugs – The Movie (1988)

Directed by J.P. Simon
Dister Productions

“Based on the novel ‘SLUGS’ by Shaun Hutson.” No, I haven’t read it, but you better believe I’m going to try to track THAT baby down. This entertaining piece of dreck is the sort of film so unconcerned with “verisimilitude” – there we go again – that it sticks a desk and a flag in a room and decides, “Okay! Sheriff’s office.” Said sheriff’s big scene, being dismissive of our well-meaning protagonist (“Mike Brady,” for crying out loud), may remind certain informed viewers of John Vernon’s similar scene in Killer Klowns from Outer Space … which came out the very same year. What a golden age of cinema THAT was! I also got a big “Pieces”* vibe from this picture, mainly due to the utter disregard for any sort of credibility whatsoever – for characters, motivations, acting ability, dialogue, etc. At the end the sewers blow up, which should remind you of … other movies. You get the drift. MIndless fun, and as a bonus, the slugs are kind of unnerving, even seeming threatening. And there’s a LOT of them.

*It happens to be from the same director, which I swear I didn’t know beforehand

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Of course you know the real mystery is why I hadn’t already seen it.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It is a testament to the undying power of schlock cinema.


Highlight and Low Point

WOULD this flick be even better if instead of a toxic waste repository, the underlying explanation given for the presence of rampaging mutant killer slugs was alien involvement, or maybe that the town was built on an “Indian burial ground”? That’s debatable. Use the phrase “You ain’t got the authority to declare happy birthday!” during your next workplace dispute.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Scream for Help (1984)

Produced and Directed by Michael Winner

This “British horror film” (set in … New Rochelle, New York?) could have gone any number of ways – and for a while indeed seems unsure where it may be going – before ultimately becoming an almost-suspenseful yarn about a resourceful mother and daughter surviving what is in effect a multifaceted home invasion. There’s actually a surprising amount of prurience and some notable lapses in taste here, which I guess are supposed to lend verisimilitude, even if not much evidence of any concern for that notion is present in the early going. Once the action gets up a head of steam, it’s passable entertainment; prior to that, it’s a sometimes amusing, often annoying spectacle of irritating adolescent flights of fancy. The heroine’s soundtrack song – written by John Paul Jones and sung by Jon Anderson – from “Led Zeppelin” and “Yes,” respectively, for anyone reading this who somehow ISN’T an old white person – is highly amusing maudlin treacle.

Don’t just take my word for it, tho!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

This title, too, was posted for posterity in the annals of the Internet Archive.


Should You Watch This Movie?

The way things keep escalating throughout is pretty gratifying, really, once the plot finally reveals itself.


Highlight and Low Point

This picture has some elements of humor in it, but they’re more or less attendant to having a teenage girl as the protagonist, rather than overtly comedic. More purposeful are the various ramifications of sexuality on display, which at one point find Christie swearing off physical relationships forever. At a particularly dramatic juncture, a character declaims “I have my whole life in front of me” and is immediately struck from behind by a car, and killed. That’s fairly indicative of the tenor throughout.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

My Brother Has Bad Dreams aka Scream Bloody Murder (1972)

produced and directed by bob emery
Original Screenplay by Bob Emery
American Pictures Corporation

A movie so obscure it doesn’t even seem to have a Wikipedia entry – imagine! – this is a disturbed, and fairly disturbing, picture of mental instability, family secrets, and, of course, MURRRRRDER. It also features a unique ending, although that’s getting rather ahead of the topic here. The fun begins with obvious shadings of Psycho, but instead of keeping the Oedipal tendencies a secret, they’re right out front, along with some mannequin (“store dummy”) obsession which presages Maniac – well, at least for me. Hints of incestual longing AND some vaguely homoerotic developments make it fun for the whole – sorry, let’s just say there’s a little something for everyone. A fairly interesting curiosity, in my opinion, with fairly high production values given its low profile, including title music and suchlike. You may well wonder why the titular brother’s sibling puts up with him at all, and the attempts at obfuscating motives don’t really help or hinder in that regard.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It’s another of the Internet Archive VHS gleanings, dunno if I’d’ve ever found it otherwise.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I would guess that depends on how deep you are into esoterica, arcana, trivia, that sorta thing.


Highlight and Low Point

Well, the highlight has to be the highly unusual ending, which may or may not be intended to invoke some sort of symbolic something-or-another. As hinted at earlier, brother Karl is highly irritating; Nick Kleinholz does a convincing job in one of his two roles prior to his untimely death. Marlena Lustik, who plays his sister Anna, also appeared in/on “NBC Special Treat,” which … sure. Cleveland native Paul Vincent plays the unfortunate patsy who tries to help.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Curse of the Devil aka El retorno de Walpurgis (1973)

Directed By Charles Aured
Lotus Films/Scorpion Productions

Golly, I wouldn’t have expected this ridiculous piece of trash could get even better, but it turns out it’s the SEVENTH in a series – and according to Wikipedia, “This film ignored the events in all of the earlier films.” Same actor as the werewolf, though! (Paul Naschy.) And what was the next installment? You guessed right – Night of the Howling Beast! I knew I recognized la bestia. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure what the most farcical part of this production is, but all of a sudden all of the villagers simultaneously decide it must be a locally roaming werewolf that’s responsible for a string of gruesome crimes, so that might have to be considered. There are 12 of these! TWELVE. The title that preceded this one in the series was Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo. I have no words.

 

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

See, it’s called “Curse of the Devil” – this release is, anyway – and this is the IMDb description: “A man whose ancestors executed a witch is turned into a werewolf by modern-day descendants of the executed witch.”

Should You Watch This Movie?

See, the thing is, I don’t even particularly care for werewolf pictures. Even for a dubious genre such as horror, the theme stretches the bounds of credulity for me.

Highlight and Low Point

This is another of several recently watched flicks whose English dubbing and subtitles don’t match at all, leading me to wonder which one deviates more from the original scripting. (It’s extra fun when there’s more than one English subtitle track, and they’re different!) The story here starts out with some ambition but goes nowhere in particular, and the genesis of the curse doesn’t make much sense.

Rating From Outer Space: D

Deathmoon (1978)

Directed by Bruce Kessler
A Roger Gimbel Production
For EMI Television Programs, Inc.

A plodding would-be potboiler that could serve as a one-item time capsule, this made-for-TV werewolf picture doesn’t have a lot to offer aside from its woefully inadequate scenes of hinted-at transformations … until it eventually deigns to try to depict said transformation, and hoo boy. For the most part, this is basically a blasé romantic drama, with a bunch of quasi-flashbacks and some ancient-cursed-missionary mumbo-jumbo about the, uh, Ileoha-kapuatiki. (It’s set in Hawaii.) A pointless subplot involves someone robbing guests of the luxury resort during a weeklong business conference, along with some attendant job tension between security personnel. Questions might plague you were you to give any of this rot a second thought – I mean, questions besides “why the hell am I watching this?” Like, our suffering shape-changer bears the curse via his grandfather, but … was the family unaware of this condition in the interim, between generations? Does it only affect him/them when in Hawaii? At the source, as it were? And how long does a full moon last, anyway? It keeps happening!


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Boy, I wish I had a good answer for that question. (It was part of the Internet Archive VHS “haul.”)



Should You Watch This Movie?

There is no reason you should ever do such a thing.


Highlight and Low Point

Seriously, when dude went to Hawaii, had there been no full moon, would he ever have known he bore the curse? Doesn’t the moon have the same effect everywhere? The moment when the security underling tells his chief that his diligent legwork has suggested that they’re dealing with a werewolf, and gets laughed at because that’s a ridiculous suggestion, was appreciated by this viewer.

Rating From Outer Space: F

‘Salem’s Lot (2004)

Directed by Mikael Salomon
A Mark M. Wolper Production
in Association with Warner Bros. Television

Had I been aware this existed? I didn’t think so, but one scene convinced me I’d at least read about it somewhere before, and I have the sneaking suspicion it must have been a commentary by S. King himself. (I cannot confirm this.) Whatever the case, when I chanced upon it a few days prior to its viewing, a quick scan of its synopsis led me to think it would be nigh unwatchable, but that turned out to be far from the truth. Actually, one could argue the amendments made to the source text actually improve things, since it becomes a little bit less of a blatant rewrite of Dracula in this iteration. Hampered a bit by the need to be palatable enough to serve a basic-cable television audience, and also by the curious handling of the Barlow character, the three-hour runtime felt appropriate. Bringing the story into a more contemporary setting didn’t hurt, either, although I would argue it didn’t resemble “Maine” in the least … were it not for the fact I’ve never been to Maine, so how would I know.

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

As I’ve never posted a review of Tobe Hooper’s CBS-TV version of this story, I had planned to rewatch that, but at a certain point in the proceedings I became aware of this one and switched allegiances.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I’ll say this, it wasn’t the easiest thing to find.


Highlight and Low Point

The casting is sometimes questionable. Rob Lowe’s a pretty good Ben Mears, but Donald Sutherland’s Straker may require a period of adjustment and Rutger Hauer’s Barlow is just odd. The intro and outro present a quandary.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Jaws Of Satan (1981)

Directed by Bob Claver
A Bill Wilson Production

This entertaining incompetence spotlights an endearing and enduring theme enrapturing schlock filmmakers since time immemorial – the Giant Deadly Snake that strangely resembles … an ordinary snake. (Decidedly not a giant one, either.) By the end of this ridiculous romp, we are supposed to believe the snake – a defanged cobra whose subordinate serpents get to be represented by blatantly superimposed hissing on the soundtrack – is actually Satan Himself. We are never told why, just as we never learn anything about the supposed familial curse dogging our beleaguered priest. But at least we get an analogue for our current times, as the local business big shot and his mayoral pal do their damnedest to circumvent a curfew that local health officials try to impose. “There have always been snakes in this area,” the dog track proprietor grumbles. But when his daughter, Christina Applegate, is bitten, well, his wife changes his tune tout de suite. Longtime TV producer/director Claver (Charles in Charge! The Munsters Today! Small Wonder!) applies his small-screen acumen to what appears to be his only feature-film directorial credit.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

A picture about a GDS that invokes Satan ain’t getting ignored around here.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Do you enjoy laughing at snakes? I’d recommend it if you like laughing at snakes.


Highlight and Low Point

Small Wonder somehow lasted for 96 episodes. The world is a strange and awful place sometimes. This production, meanwhile, features a burgeoning romance between the local doctor and her imported herpetologist as a subplot. The facial snakebite makeup is appealingly grotesque, the priest seems to smirk a lot, and dammit, that dog track means revenue, and it’s gonna open. Whatever scene he’s in, the sheriff is marvelously unconvincing.

Rating From Outer Space: D+