The Craft Legacy (2020)

written and directed by zoe lister-jones
blumhouse productions/columbia pictures/red wagon entertainment

Man (cue ironic sound effect) is there a lot to unpack here. Less a legitimate horror picture, or even a reboot of the 1996 teen scream queen forerunner, than a thinly disguised manifesto of sorts about inclusion and acceptance, this high-school witchery drama occasionally tries a little too hard to be young, hip and NOW, but you know what? Were I a misfit teen I’d probably be able to look past its afterschool-special veneer, its glossy luster and its sanded-down edges to just enjoy the message lurking beneath. That not-so-subtle message is, of course, that the world ordered by traditional white men is being usurped by the rainbow coalition. And I say, even as a no-longer-young white male, just go right ahead and strictly populate every movie from now on with nothing but mixed races and every nonconforming gender variant you can goddamn conjure up, maybe all the reactionary bigots and proud boys will have brain hemorrhages from the bile backing up as their outrage boils. Can’t happen soon enough.

why did i watch this movie?

I read a gushing review and was all like, wait, they remade THAT?
(Saw the original in the theater.)
(Yep, it’s another one of those.)


should you watch this movie?

Those that cower in mortal fear of the woke brigades should steer clear. And there isn’t even any overt BLM messaging!

highlight and low point

This is the second flick featuring a trans girl I’ve seen in five months; in the first she’s a vampire and here she’s a witch. I’ll give you the following million-dollar idea for free: A slasher movie where the trans character breaks the usual archetype. You’re welcome. (At least thank me in the credits.)

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: ?

Dark Waters aka Dead Waters (1993)

directed by mariano baino
victor zuev productions

So, this picture is both chock full of symbolism and laden with dream sequences, to the point where you might be excused for thinking it’s a Russian David Lynch flick. Now, I have mentioned repeatedly that I don’t usually get a lot out of symbolism, and it’s particularly true in a production such as this, wherein the signs and signifiers often aren’t particularly representative of anything. Instead, this film is mainly concerned with building and expanding on a mood, which it does effectively enough. Ultimately, though, it’s kinda silly, and good luck trying to decipher anything about the incomprehensible storyline. (Woman travels to remote location, discovers abbey rife with ominous intrigue while hoping to learn more about her childhood.) This feature probably should’ve held my interest better than it did, judging by its general critical reception. Mea culpa – it’s been a tough month.

why did i watch this movie?

Multiple sources insisted that this “atmospheric” offering possesses an enigmatic power or some such. I was leery, and held off for quite a while. I just kept seeing mention of it, though.

should you watch this movie?

You know what it’s “like,” really? A spooky old folk tale. With nuns and a demon.

highlight and low point

One hangup I will admit to is that I generally feel that if your flick is going to be laden with dream imagery, that dream imagery ideally will relate in some sense to the overall thrust. I did not feel that was the case here, and neither could I follow how the main character attained her revelation(s) of The Truth behind The Mystery. And while I may have had a hard time paying attention, I don’t think that’s why I was confused.

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

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

Beware My Brethren aka The Fiend (1972)

produced and directed by robert hartford-davis
world arts media (uk) Ltd.

Allegedly expurgated of at least 10 minutes of footage, this not very convincing religious psychodrama actually gets better as it goes along, which I’ve found is often a rarity in this field. Then again, it couldn’t have gotten much worse without being rejected, so that’s maybe not such a compliment, all told. Often reminiscent of a stage play in its dialogue and blocking and static cinematography, there’s a paradox at work here. Before the script opens up to encompass more than the stultifying world of the religious cult at its center, it’s tiresome, but without focusing more clearly on the dynamics within that cult later in the picture, it wouldn’t have been able to reach any sort of definitive point. Taken altogether – the proof of the pudding, perhaps, as regards the purported excisions – it’s a feature with a few loose ends and not a whole lot to say. Middling, at best.

why did i watch this movie?

I guess the allure of a religious cult leading to madness and death? I seem to recall thinking this flick would be more lurid than it was, though I don’t know where I got that idea.

should you watch this movie?

On websites that cater to low-budget productions that nobody remembers, you may occasionally find testimony to this film’s worthiness. But I don’t know.

highlight and low point

During services, the proceedings occasionally suggest it’s about to turn into a musical, which is definitely a different feel. The Brethren don’t feel all that outrageous to me in their demands, but I myself was raised in a religious cult (the Roman Catholic Church), so my perspective may be skewed. Certainly, ensuing sectarian events would make their actions seem tame.

rating from outer space: C

Nightmares (1983)

directed by joseph sargent
universal

Allegedly produced for NBC TV, though for what, or which anthology series, seems to be in dispute – you can’t trust Wikipedia and I’ve noticed IMDb is far from infallible as well, but let’s ignore for the moment any debate about notions of authority in this exciting modern age – this set of four short vignettes isn’t bereft of effective moments, even if nothing gets visceral or even very threatening, in keeping with its origins. (Aside from the third segment, “The Benediction,” which features some intense moments courtesy of its classic tale of a “duel” on the highway with an unidentified motorized antagonist.) Otherwise, the first segment is piffle, and too short to build any momentum, the second features Emilio Estevez echoing notions of Tron with a ripping punk soundtrack, and the final chapter – which further makes use of Black Flag’s “Louie Louie” – is capped with wild-kingdom FX highly reminiscent of the end of Devil Dog. Strictly for nostalgists.


why did i watch this movie?

It’s one of the “roles” on Lee Ving’s dossier.


should you watch this movie?

The renditions of classic FEAR tunes heard during “The Bishop of Battle” are not the versions from The Record. That’s what I thought upon hearing them, anyway, and the end credits appear to bear out my impression.

highlight and low point

This picture really isn’t that bad, but even for episodic horror it feels slight. None of the tales have any kind of staying power, regardless of content or execution. Honestly, it would have worked far better delivered by cathode ray tube. Estevez is pretty good, Lance Henriksen is solid, Richard Masur is convincing, and the late Bridgette Anderson turns in one of the better
performances you’re likely to see by a 7-year-old.

rating from outer space: C−

Mirror Mirror (1990)

directed by marina sargenti
orphan eyes

It’s not too promising that I must point out that this film is all right up to the point the EVIL starts to run amok. After that it spirals downward in a big hurry, and it almost seems as though the filmmakers didn’t really have a plan for handling that portion of the script. That this flick manages to be any good at all is sort of a minor miracle, given that it’s burdened with plot tendrils that don’t go anywhere in particular, and boasts a lead role consisting largely of a Winona Ryder impersonation. Additional performances are supplied by the erstwhile Lily Munster and the guy who at the time was widely known for playing a yokel on Newhart. (The world was smaller then.) Also, a death-by-hot-shower scene reminiscent of that in Island of Blood occurs concurrently with one of the water polo gym classes, so that’s covered. This movie has three sequels, and although maybe you could see the cockamamie ending of this one meriting a follow-up were you to squint your eyes and hit yourself over the head repeatedly, the serials seem to have little in common save the presence of a demonic looking-glass. (Installment 2, “Raven Dance,” at least appears to share stylistic elements.)

why did i watch this movie?

Much as we’ve all personally wondered so many times, the blurb ponders, “Is the mirror a reflection of Megan’s own inner demons … or has she unwittingly opened the doorway of the damned?”


should you watch this movie?

One character informs another, “We have to close the opening.”


highlight and low point

The blue-filtered shots from the mirror’s POV are pretty nifty. The FX invoking an ill wind are the opposite. Most characters are but mere ciphers.

rating from outer space: C

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