Soul to Keep (2018)

directed by david allensworth and moniÈre
shady tree films/cineque pictures

“Not bad,” I thought to myself as this one finished. I mean, it wasn’t great, not by any means, don’t get me wrong – but it overcame a few significant faults to pass the time well enough. The repeatedly used FX was pretty lousy and didn’t play well, and the production felt like a low-budget friends-and-family affair, but the slowly developing storyline held some promise. Okay, sure, it involves a group of young people that find an EVIL BOOK in a MYSTERIOUS BASEMENT (festooned with blood!) on an OLD FARM, and so naturally decide to try to summon a demon – that might provoke an eyeroll, as may the telegraphed minor twist at the very end. Ah, but what to make of all those relationships, anyway? (Psst – that’s a clue.)

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t remember. Perhaps invoking the heady name of Beelzebub did the trick.

should you watch this movie?

How hypercritical are you? I’ve seen a lot of hot takes about this picture from people I can only presume don’t realize how hard it is to make one of these features.

highlight and low point

This picture probably coulda used clearer direction and a less derivative conclusion, yes, but again, I kinda grade on a curve ’round these parts, and a flick like this – made well beyond the fringes of the famous names and fancy catering of the celluloid industry – benefits greatly from that position. Things could be better, as a few problems insist: some of the acting isn’t up to snuff and eventually one gets the feeling the screenplay tried to stuff in a few too many twists ‘n’ turns. The mostly obnoxious college-age kids seem to be accurately portrayed, though.

rating from outer space: c−

Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

written, produced & directed by jack weis

It takes a special kind of vision to make a tribute or hommage to a notoriously fly-by-night production such as Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast by seemingly attempting to replicate that movie’s infamously wooden acting, but such is the attention doted upon this awesomely ’70s affair. I mean, one of the characters obviously reads his lines from the important papers he carries, just as one did in the original. Now that’s dedication. This picture is also replete with practically nonstop boogie music, a lot of which kinda sounds not unlike disco variations of Steely Dan’s oeuvre. Oh, and buckets of sleaze, don’t forget that. Practically every other scene features strippers or naked prostitutes; if the latter, they’re subject to the sacrificial ritual that is deliberately repeated, step by step, each and every time. Now that’s dedication.

why did i watch this movie?

This is yet another title that I’ve thought about checking out many, many times; this time around I just decided to finally go ahead with it.

should you watch this movie?

I’m not sure how to respond to that. On one hand, it’s fairly fascinating for a number of different reasons, but on the other hand, none of those reasons correlates to anything particularly admirable.


highlight and low point

As the lead weirdo, credit must be given William Metzo for never deviating from his modulated speech and mannerisms, a performance truly reminiscent of Mal Arnold as “Fuad Ramses” in the 1963 precursor. (Did I unfairly discredit the 2016 version, or was it jumping the same claim?) The scenes of heart removal are pretty gnarly. A significant sequence takes place during an actual Mardi Gras parade, and it’s amusing to watch the people who notice the camera mugging for it.

rating from outer space: c

The Mangler (1995)

directed by tobe hooper
distant horizon/filmex (pty) ltd/allied film productions

You’d THINK that a story about a bloodthirsty industrial laundry machine – Box Office Mojo: “A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies” – would be a premise stupid enough to satisfy most people, but Tobe Hooper apparently wasn’t most people, as it seems it wasn’t stupid enough for him. No, he must have decided – having cowritten the damn thing – that the presentation would have to be dumbed down in order to make an inexcusably brain-dead travesty of a feature. It’s a chore merely to make it past the first couple minutes, which I attest having had to try more than once. Everything looks abysmally fake, most of the acting is atrocious, the embellishments to the plotline of S. King’s originating short story are idiotic, and holy contrivance, Robert Englund’s character. He – it – they … stammering, reduced to, me. Bleah.

why did i watch this movie?

Besides my S. King obsessiveness, I had just finished Hooper’s Funhouse and fumbled my way into the realization that he directed (and cowrote) this crap.

should you watch this movie?

Plenty of terrible adaptations of S. King material are out there, just waiting for you. (Thinner, for example – I couldn’t make it through that one the first time I tried, either.)

highlight and low point

Look, the story itself (which you can read in the Night Shift collection) ends with the industrial speed-ironer wrenching itself from its moorings and stalking humanity, and I’ll grant that would be a difficult occurrence to film. That being said, the animated Mangler at this picture’s apogee is deliriously spurious. The filmic resemblance to portions of Graveyard Shift (story also from aforementioned source) do not lend this production any additional credibility.

rating from outer space: 0

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.)

Altered Skin (2018)

written and directed by adnan ahmed
indiecan entertainment/federgreen entertainment/empirical films/md productions

The first film I’ve ever seen lensed in Karachi, Pakistan, this Canadian production tells a tale of a drug company withholding research on a potential cure for a rapidly spreading virus in order to maximize profits on its patent treatment, and also probably to enhance the corporation’s market value prior to its sale. So while the premise is hardly farfetched, the disease in question, which produces implacable cannibal hordes reminiscent of those in 28 Days Later (but much slower, of course), stretches the bounds of credulity a bit. Disclaimer: I am not a molecular biologist or immunologist or whatever, so hey, maybe quickly mutating viruses could have such an effect. Anyway, it’s all enmeshed in a conspiracy to prevent the Liberal Media from interfering with Big Pharma’s imprimatur. I may be putting my own spin on that, sorry.

why did i watch this movie?

“While caring for his ailing wife, an American engineer in Pakistan stumbles upon a deadly pharmaceutical conspiracy.”

should you watch this movie?

Though the zombie approximation of the mysterious illness isn’t the freshest concept, given the corporate American drug/healthcare/insurance complex, along with the questionable government administration or oversight of same, themes here may be of interest nonetheless.

highlight and low point

Authority barely exists in this pic’s verisimilitude, which I will accept as representative of actual reality. A telling quotation: “You know, if you could ever fix a problem by denying it ever existed, this place? Would be a fucking Utopia.” The unshakeable probity of the protagonist might be a touch overdone, but as a questionably allied henchman of the curative cartel accuses, he IS essentially acting out of selfish interest, so that’s really just a bit more food for thought.

rating from outer space: B+

Darlin’ (2019)

written & directed by pollyanna mcintosh
hood river entertainment

Oh, man, THIS is why sequels have such a bad reputation. Wilfully destroying the disturbing mythos and gripping power of Offspring and The Woman (not to mention Off Season, the Jack Ketchum novel that started the series), Darlin’ is a dispiritingly transparent and simplistic reexamination of some of the same themes as Lucky McKee‘s “Woman,” only without much of anything to recommend it in any way. Oddly, it was created and helmed by Pollyanna McIntosh, who one would presume to have more of an investment in extending the character’s draw. Poorly conceived, unconvincingly executed, predictable, and incongruously sentimental, I am really at a loss as to why on earth this movie was produced.

why did i watch this movie?

I‘m a sucker. for some reason thought a follow-up to The Woman would be a fascinating study of the ongoing attempts of primitive cannibals to survive in modern society, plus who hasn’t pondered how former members of that society might adapt to devolution in the aftermath of all they’d experienced?

should you watch this movie?

It does not address any of the above concerns.

highlight and low point

The word that springs to mind for this film’s treatment of religious institutions and the priesthood is “facile.” It’s maddeningly stereotypical, and the main target is two-dimensional and untrustworthy from his first moments onscreen. Also, the only sympathetic male character is gay, just in case you were somehow missing the incisive social commentary. Such lack of nuance really detracts from whatever the hell the point is supposed to be. Furthermore, the structure of the film very closely parallels that of The Woman, only with an extremely dubious subtheme of awakening or self-reliance or self-preservation or some such. Ridiculous.

rating from outer space: d−

Nattevagten aka Nightwatch (1994)

written and directed by ole Bornedal
thura film/danish film institute/danmarks radio

This melodramatic Norwegian thriller unspools very slowly, a study of the intertwined and dissipated lives of two college friends and their girlfriends. Martin, a law student, takes a late-night watchman’s job in a mortuary; his friend Jens seems mainly intent on drinking and causing problems. Meanwhile, a killer’s on the loose. INTERESTING, isn’t it. Little development of the story takes place until very late, at which point we are intended to wonder which of the main characters we are supposed to distrust. The requisite twist is effective enough, as it’s nurtured and revealed with subtlety, and it’s only somewhat after the fact that one realizes one could drive a goddamn truck through the very significant hole in the plot. The movie ends in laughter – on the screen, I mean; it has a happy ending. Bornedal remade it three years later in English.

why did i watch this movie?

This is yet another title I’ve mulled over many a time. I went ahead with it because it’s a ’90s production, and from Scandinavia.

should you watch this movie?

This is not the film to watch if you demand a lot of exciting action, though eventually significant unease does mount.

highlight and low point

An excruciatingly uncomfortable scene in a restaurant bests a similarly embarrassing moment in a church, and the unraveling of the mystery at the picture’s heart is downplayed to such an extent that its solution is presented in a winningly matter-of-fact sequence. Wondrously anticlimactic, it is. In the main role, Nikolaj Coster Waldau did not impress me much as a thespian. I mentioned the inexplicable plot issue, which is nearly as bad as the one that derailed the otherwise excellent Haute tension in 2003.

rating from outer space: B−