Cut (2000)

directed by kimble rendall
beyond films/mushroom pictures/mbp/south australian film corporation

Another Australian horror comedy? Okay, sure, why not. Dispensing with overt laffs in favor of a general mood that isn’t all too serious, this filming-of-a-film-within-a-film is about the attempt to finish, uh, filming a film. Which was never finished. Said celluloid seems to be cursed, you see, as mayhem and terror ensues whenever anyone even tries screening the reels that remain of the initial endeavor. Despite that, some plucky young film students are determined to make a go of it, their professor’s objections notwithstanding. For a largely unheralded picture languishing in smaller-foreign-film obscurity, this flick is a pretty good time, even if saddled with a pretty ridiculous underlying concept. (To be fair, it’s generally internally consistent, which is always a plus in my book.) Molly Ringwald has a meta role as a onetime name actress who agrees to take a scream-queen part in a DIY indie production.

why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s Australian, a condition I usually find signifies a certain reliability. After making the selection, however, I held off for a while because the whole “horror film shoot or equivalent plagued by slasher or equivalent” isn’t the                                                                             most innovative idea.

should you watch this movie?

Ultimately, it doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. If you’re looking for cinematic entertainment you don’t have to get too involved with, though, this’ll do.

highlight and low point

Really, the fact that the director was a founding member of the quirky rave-up combo (Le) Hoodoo Gurus leads this category. How random is that? The script could’ve worked harder to create misdirection about the killer’s identity, and it feels as though some opportunities were missed in observing the lineage of the fateful film.

rating from outer space: C+

Ladrones de tumbas aka Grave Robbers (1989)

directed by ruben galindo jr.
producciones torrente s.a.

A gleefully gory tale of demonic retribution (or something) that somehow keeps a straight face throughout its often surprisingly effective graveyard-campsite-and-church assault, this Mexican extravaganza has a little bit of everything you’d expect: lustful Inquisition monks, young people up to no good, stalwart lawmen, holy writ, and a whole lot of shrill screaming. Despite the obviously unreal nature of the proceedings – we are, after all, dealing with the undead, unless one considers that condition differently when Satanic possession is in play – only a few moments provoke disbelieving laughter, and even the evil rejuvenated monk’s makeup job works pretty well. And for all the hints of or nods to well-worn potboiler themes or tactics, well … I’m not sure where else you could reasonably expect to go with this material. Call it “classically themed” and move on.

 
why did i watch this movie?

My previous selection was known as “Grave Secrets,” and was released the same year as this one. Plus, a Mexican production felt like a good idea.

should you watch this movie?

Right from the start, it hits all the notes. You more or less know what you’re going to be getting, and you get it. Plus some nifty depictions of attacks from la hacha.

highlight and low point

There’s an interesting twist to the method of dealing with the supernatural fiend, which is especially welcome given the prevalence of so many other standard-issue tropes. Sociologically, you’d have to go with the quartet of young adults who pursue grave robbing as, like, their career choice, because how else are they supposed to earn a living? The occasional melding of diverse genre elements is also fun. A glaring continuity error provoked a literal double take on my part.

rating from outer space: B

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka No profanar el sueño de los muertos aka Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti aka Don’t Open The Window (1974)

directed by jorge grau
star films s.a./flaminia produzioni cinematografiche

So, after multiple examples of movies not living up to whatever (fair or unfair) expectations I had, here we have one that wildly exceeded them. This Spanish-Italian production sets its eldritch tale of the undead – rejuvenated by a newfangled agricultural invention utilizing radiation for pest control – in the British countryside, and boasts some truly intimidating zombies. They can’t be stopped, and they waste no time in disemboweling their prey, to dine with zeal and relish. Of course, no self-respecting story of the unexplainable would be complete without the dismissive lead investigator and obstructionist local gendarmes, and for a special bonus, these immediately pin the blame on those damn longhaired kids and their drugs and free love. Stupendous.

why did i watch this movie?

Not totally certain, but I was looking for 1970s product and the title I found announced this one as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.” So I gave it a whirl.


should you watch this movie?

“Couple of drug-crazy maniacs.”
“Oh, worse than that, sergeant. Have you ever come across any of these Satanists … in your investigations?”

“No, but I’ve heard about them. Here, you don’t think –”
“They vandalize cemeteries. They profane tombs. And, you know, hold black masses … that’s why you’ve got your cross. Looks to me like a pretty typical case.”

highlight and low point

The  plot here takes a while to unfold, which proves to be gratifying. The experimental agronomics are tremendously unconvincing. The doctor is remarkably placid. Nearly everyone hates the youthful on sight. But Arthur Kennedy‘s Inspector can’t be topped. Seriously: “You’re all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes … drugs, sex, every sort of filth. And you hate the police, don’t ya.”

rating from outer space: A−

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−

Zibahkhana aka ذبح خانہ aka Hell’s Ground (2007)

directed by omar ali khan
bubonic films/boum productions ltd/mondo macabro movies

All right now, this is what I’m talking about. A terrific little number with barely an original idea in its head – though that appears to have been the filmmaker’s intent – this Pakistani flick ultimately surpasses its bare-bones budget and its bare-cupboard storyline to produce a thoroughly enjoyable picture. Much of the proceedings are a recasting of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there’s an obvious nod or two to Night of the Living Dead, and there’s some camerawork and atmosphere courtesy of The Evil Dead as well (plus the final girl’s name, Ayesha, often is rendered as, yes, “Ash”). Well-paced, and clearly made with the right attitude and healthy amounts of appreciation for the endeavor, its DIY sheen only adds to the entertainment value. Really pretty rewarding, given that it’s “Pakistan’s First Gore Film.”

why did i watch this movie?

Dude, it’s Pakistan’s first gore film. I couldn’t resist that kind of come-on. (It helped that I was able to locate subtitles for it.)

should you watch this movie?

If you actually read this palaver, you are presumably at some level a devotee of this art form, if not an aficionado per se. If you are also of a certain bent, you just may appreciate this presentation precisely because of its … familiarity.

Or you won’t.

highlight and low point

The weapon of choice for the unrelenting maniacal stalker quite amused me, as did the transliteration of the stock young adult characters into a South Asian disposition. “Yah, let’s get STONED, and get that damned radio on, yah?” as Rubya Chaudhry’s Roxy memorably puts it. At times, depictions here reminded me of the original attempt at All Cheerleaders Die. The élan involved is definitely similar, anyway.

rating from outer space: B+

The Relic (1997)

directed by peter hyams
pacific western, cloud nine entertainment, polygram filmed entertainment, marubeni, toho-towa, tele-münchen, bbc et al.

The sort of well-budgeted Hollywood horror thriller that eventually must become just another iteration of Alien, this vehicle for nobody in particular boasts, above anything else, a bland technical competence as its calling card. You can pick which stock character is your fave, but I vote for “the Mayor” (pun definitely intended) throwing his weight around as if “Chicago” is his personal fiefdom. You will recognize the outline: anthropologist mysteriously doesn’t return from an expedition, but a RELIC (which by the way has almost nothing to do with anything else that happens here) does, and then a creature you barely see for most of the picture slaughters a bunch of people, in the dark. WHAT’S the connection? WILL the day be saved? The End. Wait, let’s at least give ’em credit for not jamming in a subplot featuring a developing love story.

why did i watch this movie?

Long ago, I saw this flick in the theater, much as I did many of its ilk*, and I remembered almost nothing about it. For good reason, as it turns out.

*Species! Species 2! Mimic! The Faculty! It was the ’90s, man!
Creepy monsters were all around us!

should you watch this movie?

See that list of entities responsible for cobbling this feature together? That’s a focus group, and the result was this bland consensus.

highlight and low point

The most interesting thing about this production is how remarkably generic it is. From the opening scenes of the scientist’s “fieldwork” (featuring “natives”) all the way to the – “spoiler alert” – preposterous death throes of the mutant-DNA monster, it just follows the template. Through tunnels, and occasionally through glass.

rating from outer space: D


©1972 E.C. Publications, Inc.

 

Trick or Treat (1986)

directed by charles martin smith
de laurentiis entertainment group

Growing up in the Rust Belt, my older brother and I were metalheads with questionable taste – redundant! – so we saw this picture in the theatre of pain, probably compelled by the presence of Gene $immon$ in the cast. Then as now, my impression of this flick is that it drags something terrible before it finally hits its final note, but I was suitably impressed by at least the first half or so of this ridiculous metal exploitation feature. Marc Price acquits himself pretty nicely in his star turn of “lead role for forgotten character actor from ’80s sitcom,” abetted by Large Marge and a dancer from Solid Gold. All of those things really existed, kids. So did heavy metal!

why did i watch this movie?

I had been contemplating revisiting this film for a while, and the time finally seemed right.

should you watch this movie?

I’d like to say it’s a fascinating look back at a specific era of moral hysteria in American culture, but it doesn’t really make that point especially well … so it’s just more of a nostalgia trip, really. But as a period piece, it isn’t flamboyant enough, either – ultimately it takes itself too seriously.

highlight and low point

Once “Sammi Curr” returns from the dead as an embodied electrical force or radio wave or whatever, the script is well past its peak and mainly delivers equal amounts of schlock and standard-issue shriek fare. This pic does occasionally attempt moments of humor, but they are likely to go unnoticed. The irony is thick, though, especially given that our hero is constantly dumped on because he’s a headbanger, but once the undead metal star returns, everyone likes his catchy song. But who wouldn’t:

rating from outer space: b−

 

Halloween II (2009)

written and directed by rob zombie
dimension films/trancas international films/spectacle entertainment group

In a way the definitive Rob Zombie picture, this sequel to his remake of the first Carpenter horror classic basically only makes a dent because of that lineage. I mean, if this were only a movie about just some random psycho killing people for no real reason most of the time – and it is, only that character happens to be dubbed “Michael Myers” – it would not be particularly compelling, nor memorable. Brutal and dismal throughout, it ends without redemption, and Zombie’s juvenile obsession with titties-and-beer doesn’t particularly help. His ongoing attempt to inject metaphysical compulsion (or something) into the Myers saga via hallucinatory visions is categorically odd, and his characters, as usual, are often rehashed caricatures. But for all that, it definitely establishes and holds a mood. Why it bothers is a different question.


why did i watch this movie?

This was strictly stunt programming, piggybacking on the previous selection.


should you watch this movie?

Are you really enamored of extended scenes of cruelly barbaric murder, or hopelessly trapped in hidebound fascination with music of the 1960s and ’70s? (“Laurie’s” Black Flag and Government Issue t-shirts notwithstanding.)

highlight and low point

It may be unfair to point out, as I watched the “Director’s Cut,” but a lot of moments here are just Zombie indulging his own tastes, to the point of self-parody. One might prefer to think he’s self-aware enough to give W. Al Yankovic a cameo role for just that reason, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It would appear he just thinks these stylistic touchpoints are, like, bitchin’. Yeah, you can identify his work as his own – after a fashion, anyway – but the effect can be pretty grating.

rating from outer space: C

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: ?

Def by Temptation (1990)

written, produced and directed by james bond iii
orpheus pictures/bonded filmworks

It was difficult for me to sit through this, for two reasons not particularly indicative of overall quality, or lack thereof. One was the low-budget 1990s vibe, which … there’s a look and a feel to a lot of ’90s movies, particularly horror movies, that I find off-putting, and don’t enjoy revisiting. (That whole decade had a lot of aesthetic issues.) The other is I didn’t find the evil seductress character – allegedly irresistible to men – attractive, rendering that part of the storyline inscrutable. Then there were the peculiar edits, at times muddling plot points. That plot? Ancient evil targets family, for some reason. Strong points include the relationship between K and Joel, and many effective moments of humor. A thematic pivot also provides support. Unfortunately, a few instances that are presumably intended to be frightening instead come across nearer to camp. A mixed bag, to be sure, though it surprises me the auteur seemingly never did a whole lot of anything else. I mean, this production showed promise; surely he warranted another shot.

why did i watch this movie?

I needed to balance out the recent spate of ’80s pix, and this appeared in that “Fangoria” book I mentioned. I really must vet my sources better, apparently.


should you watch this movie?

The type of feature perfect for basic cable, it’s coincidentally available on youtube in a version not unlike a USA Network edit.


highlight and low point

A hilarious and unexpected splatter of gore is eye-opening, and again, the interpersonal relationships really are finely limned. Too many would-be seduction scenes and a general lack of chills ‘n’ thrills slow things down a little too much, though. More than one scene features the boom mike.

rating from outer space: c−