Special Effects (1984)

directed by larry cohen
hemdale film corporation/larjan

More of a suspenseful meta dramedy than a horror film as such, this flick made me wonder how insufferable Eric Bogosian is in real life, as he was really, really good at portraying a total asshole here in his first cinematic lead role, as he also would prove to be a few years hence in Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio – adapted from the stage play Bogosian himself wrote. It also made me wonder what I would feel if I set foot in New York City again, since it’s been so long and so many things have changed so much since last I felt at home there. This tale of a murder disguised (hopefully) as a movie thinks it’s making all sorts of statements about the film industry and aspirant lives shooting for stardom and, you know, Art, and probably a bunch of other stuff, too, but I’m pretty sure the filmmaker just wanted to be clever about his Art. He sort of succeeds in making everything exponentially self-referential, but ultimately, nothing here really walks up and introduces itself. The exception may be the domicile of artist Lowell Nesbitt, where a lot of the action is filmed. Damn but the Art Scene in New York was a profitable one.

«no entiendes»

why did i watch this movie?

A reference to Cohen’s concurrent release Perfect Strangers opined this was a better option. And I’ve been meaning to watch his A Return to Salem’s Lot.

should you watch this movie?

Cohen has a bizarre and somewhat notorious filmography that may interest you.

highlight and low point

The actress who plays the dual lead female role, credited here as Zoe Tamerlis, dominates this category once you realize she was something of an advocate for heroin. (A bold stance, to be sure.)

She died two months after her 37th birthday.

Rating from outer space: B−

but do they have the Miss Piggy

The Werewolf and the Yeti aka La maldición de la bestia aka Night of the Howling Beast aka Horror of the Werewolf aka The Curse of the Beast (1975)

directed by m. i. bonns
profilmes, s. a.

I learned something important from this movie, which could one day save my life: Chaining a werewolf to a tree won’t control it. In addition, I was reminded of something completely different, which is that movies that have dubbed English dialogue can be a lot of fun. This Spanish offering is so undoubtedly below the level of even a B picture that it’s fairly incredible it’s from as late as ’75; you’d be forgiven for thinking it a decade older than that. Set largely in “Tibet,” it can’t even attempt to disguise the fact that most of the picture is filmed outdoors in Spain. The casting, meanwhile, does proud by that of John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror.


Whenever he’s onscreen, the werewolf sports a mod outfit he shares with his human self, which no one seems to notice for far too long. The werewolf is also fond of pro wrestling leaps and suplexes and carries and such. Despite at least one of its many monikers, this extravaganza features no yeti until it has fewer than seven minutes left to run. 

why did i watch this movie?

I couldn’t not watch something known as “Night of the Howling Beast,” especially after a brief glance at its particulars.

should you watch this movie?

Really, you owe it to yourself to appreciate this fine, fine feature.

highlight and low point

Expert: “I would say it’s an anthropoid biped, of a powerful structure and characteristics of a man … but at the same time, the thumb doesn’t form a grip with the other fingers as it does with a simian.”

Colleague: “It also has long, heavy claws – which makes me think of some enormous canine.”

Bonus Travelogue: “Here in Tibet are hidden mysteries and secrets, enigmas most profound and indescribable.”

rating from outer space: C−

an enigma most profound and indescribable

Curtains (1983)


Actually directed by Alan Smithee cinematographer Richard Ciupka, this portentous Canadian romp isn’t dull, as it contains enough quirks to amuse viewers while they’re wondering who’s doing all the killing. It is a bit more restrained – or sedate, both being apropos with the mental health subcontext – than one may anticipate when perusing the plotline: six female actors (or two actors, a comedian, a musician or perhaps model, a dancer and an … ice skater) are summoned to a remote, sprawling manor to audition for a plum role at the behest of a paternalistic, prurient director named – could you believe – Jonathan Stryker, smugly played by John Vernon as an overblown, imperious caricature. Exactly why this desirable role is up for grabs is more or less the driving force behind the inscrutable developments, the explanation of which dovetails nicely with the poignant conclusion. More of an old-fashioned drawing room mystery than a contemporary ’80s slasher, even if it retains many stylistic elements of the latter. All told, it presents (to me, anyway) an etymological quandary: Screwball, or “oddball”?


Wow, have I watched a lotta Canuck films lately.


Somewhat uneven and a bit of a farce (by design, that is, not through ineptitude per se), it would most likely be a change of pace.


The blasé manner with which one of the characters presents her misdeeds is fetching, and the discontinuous structure is noteworthy, as it randomly presents what appear to be two solo performance scenes, but I wasn’t kidding about the ending … and there’s the downside. Troubled throughout its production, the core of a really splendid achievement instead lies strewn about the remnants of its shell.



The Driller Killer (1979)

directed by abel ferrara
navaron films

Abel Ferrara’s non-pornographic feature-length directorial debut, in which he also stars under a pseudonym as the main character, a struggling-artist type in the Big City. With two female roommates – one of whom is apparently married and affluent, the other of which is, like, spaced out, man. (The roommates have a shower scene, because it’s very important to the plot.) Of the plot, it must be said, there is one: Reno, the artist, is working on a painting he hopes to sell to the gay art dealer he dislikes but nonetheless depends on, because Reno has no money. Meanwhile, a band called Roosters moves into his same tenement building and practices their discordant off-key blues-influenced new wave at all hours. Naturally, he starts killing derelicts with a power drill. Then things start to go awry. The best parts of this movie are the Roosters, whose music is chaotic and senseless and not “good,” and the utter zeal with which the drill killings are performed. Abel Ferrara: we need filmmakers like him.

why did i watch this movie?

I actually started watching this movie because I wasn’t sure if I’d already seen it. Was I confusing it with The Toolbox Murders? Maybe.

should you watch this movie?

Personally, I always find it instructive to watch slice-of-life features set in New York City in the 1970s. The gritty realism permeates the glamorous façade.

highlight and low point

A compelling scene involving the three roommates and a pizza pie foreshadows a lot of the movie’s falling action, much as it clarifies the nature of their relationships. (I may be bullshitting you, true, but I did find it fascinating.) Some of the character development stereotypes or is otherwise less than charitable.

rating from outer space: c+

Last House on Dead End Street (1977)

Produced & Directed by roger watkins
cinematic releasing corporation

This early faux snuff film (initially screened under different titles in 1973 and 1975) is a chore to sit through, honestly, mostly due to the dialogue and the “experimental” camera usage. The story of a ne’er-do-well jailbird who decides to become an auteur filmmaker, and to utilize, uh, excessive realism – either to show up pretension in the movie world or just because people are jerks and deserve it, man – Last House boasts recurring scenes as well as at least one scene that goes on for way too long. Even for a fairly short film, elements of this one drag. The lead actor/director’s performance is eerily reminiscent of Meat Loaf’s as “Eddie” in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, however, and if people still use “samples” in their music or multimedia, one of his repetitious rants would make a great one.

Why did I watch this movie?

Historical interest in the genre(s) of faux snuff films and exploitation movies.

Should you watch this movie?

If you have an interest in this fascinating subcategory or you enjoy student films, sure. The (long) scene of supposed middle-class decadence is also a hoot.

Highlight and low point

The notorious kill scene that led to the whole “snuff” allegation is fantastically over-the-top. (For one thing, it utilizes a hand saw.) I chortled as it unspooled even as I found it somewhat difficult to understand how anyone might have been confused as to whether it was REAL. Red paint is red paint, ya know?

Rating from outer space: C-