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−

Scare Package (2019)

directed by emily hagins, aaron b. koontz, chris mcinroy, noah segan, courtney & Hillary andujar, anthony cousins, baron vaughn
paper street pictures

So this is a kind of anthology, a parodic meta horror potpourri, almost certainly bearing a superfluous section or two but still wildly entertaining. If you love horror movies (and lampooning them) even a little bit as much as these folks do, it’s a fair enough diversion. Personally, I thought the “One Time in the Woods” segment was going to cause me brain damage, plumbing the depths of inspired idiocy on a dadaistic level I’ve rarely experienced since meeting Snake ‘N’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret 20 years ago. I was nearly in hysterics. “The NIght He Came Back Again! Part IV – The Final Kill,” meanwhile, is almost as good, absurdly reducing its depiction of a July 4th-themed holiday slasher to the barest essence. Sure, it’s more than occasionally too obvious, and The Cabin in the Woods exists, but Joe Bob Briggs playing himself at a critical moment suggests a certain acknowledgement. An unsubtle picture that must unfortunately wait to meet its true fate until people can gather en masse at frightfests again.

why did i watch this movie?

The trailer juiced the passé concept.

should you watch this movie?

If you think I specialize in missing the point, the reviewer at rogerebert.com prattles on about how this flick “has no good answers” to whatever postulation he’s imagined, dismissing “this sort of pandering humor” while unapologetically using the term “janky.”

highlight and low point

Undead Roger Ebert there misquotes Briggs’s observation that the character Rad Chad is “the personification of what the internet did to film criticism” while decrying this film’s burlesque. It’s a send-up, pal. Amazon Women on the Moon didn’t resolve the B-movie, either.


rating from outer space: B

Blood Massacre (1987)

directed by don dohler
a don dohler film
don dohler entertainment

For more than half of its 73 minutes, this podunk feature is mired in an extended, irritating look into the lives of murderous, infighting petty criminals whose favorite word is “bitch.” (This latter point never varies.) Eventually, however, this crew winds up at some seemingly random family’s farmhouse – after robbing a video store for 720 dollars, thus firmly establishing their felonious acumen – and though you think you’ve got an inkling of what’s going to transpire, by the time all’s said and done, this production has gone a couple steps beyond your imagination. That alone doesn’t really make this any better of a film or anything like that, but the gleeful overcompensation is worth an approving nod and a smile, at least.

why did i watch this movie?

Having just reviewed a flick whose alternate title purportedly is “Insane Blood Massacre,” it seemed only natural to make the decision to check this one out, at long last.

should you watch this movie?

On one hand, it’s shot poorly and the dialogue is subpar. On the other, it still might be worth it just for the final two-fifths or so. The escalation is that unexpected.

highlight and low point

“Jimmy” sports a Kim Carnes “Mistaken Identity Summer Tour 81” concert shirt. No, really. Later in the action a character is repeatedly violently knifed while hanging from a tree, and as I laughed in appreciation, I wondered what my enjoyment of such depictions might indicate about my psychological well-being. Maybe the fact that it’s not exactly credibly realistic is a saving grace. Among others, an unforeseen plot development is a sequence that emulates First Blood. Unprecedented scripting: “Doesn’t sound like a cop car, it sounds like a … Chrysler New Yorker.”

rating from outer space: C−

Bit (2019)

written and directed by brad michael elmore
provocator/thirty 06 productions

So, the general premise here – young person seeking definition finds group of vampire peers – may not sound very fresh and exciting, but … the hook is that the young person is transgender, and the vampires are militant feminist lesbians. Hey, you got your polemics in my genre picture! (Men in particular take it on the chin here.) And I almost skipped over it just because that description sounds like a bit of a forced narrative. As I’m a cis male, though, maybe my perspective is skewed. But I AM gonna grumble that it’s set in L.A.. How come no young person can find fulfillment in a coming-of-age tale of self-discovery set in, like, Dubuque? Or Des Moines, perfect example. Ultimately, there’s no real empowerment message here, and in fact I’d wager there’s an anti-defamation group or two out there just stewing, alongside the fundamentalists. Hell, in one reading, the transgender arc can be spun as negative . Either way, the conversation happened, ya dig. This picture did remind me of The Lost Boys, though, which could be a troubling sign since I’ve never even seen it.


why did i watch this movie?

A spot of banter in the trailer.


should you watch this movie?

No fooling, if you like to debate coded messages, you could have a fun time with this one.


highlight and low point

Despite the clunky and perhaps cliché setup, and pointedly misandrist diatribes notwithstanding, the LGBTQIA+ bent didn’t strike me as a contrivance … because it isn’t presented as such. That the embodiment of the central metaphor is allowed to have personality flaws instead of bearing the standard of wishcasting idealism is instructive. Which doesn’t preclude the potential for friendly fire from obstinate axegrinders, unfortunately.

Rating from outer space: B

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

Baba Yaga aka Baba Yaga, The Devil Witch aka The Devil Witch aka Kiss Me, Kill Me aka Black Magic (1973)

directed by corrado farina
14 luglio cinematografica s.r.l./simone allouche productions

Definitely the first film I’ve seen based on the erotically charged comics of Guido Crepax, this Italian tale of intrigue – and, you know, deadly puppets dressed in S&M gear that can manifest in fleshly human form – is, first and foremost, an examination of artful-nude studio photography vis-à-vis commercial filmmaking. And an attempted meditation on taste and the merits of artistic forms. Plus, of course, chic fashion, lots of chic fashion. Events never get very frightening, although the ending scenes contain some interesting and eerie moments, and the big reveal that sets them up isn’t without impact. The way things wrap up renders much of the story really kind of pointless, though because of the multiple erotic death dream sequences, at least you could toss “questions of conscience” into the list up above. Don’t know what to make of the Nazis or the other military imagery.

why did i watch this movie?

I mean, I saw the title “Baba Yaga, The Devil Witch.” I didn’t even know about the Crepax connection until the title cards showed.


should you watch this movie?

It’s amusing in a kitschy way, but apparently impossible to see in its intended form. (Footage that may or may not contribute to the film’s cohesion was excised without the director’s consent.) The version I watched contained some scenes inserted from work prints.

highlight and low point

There are dandy pseudophilosophical musings such as “If you don’t use the means that the system provides, what other possibilities have you got?” Mind you, the characters sharing this exchange are pretty far from revolutionary types. It’s also pretty moving when the pseudo heroine, Valentina, icily exclaims, “I couldn’t care less about … power and riches and your cosmic secrets!”

rating from outer space: C−

Mercy Black (2019)

written and directed by owen egerton
divide/conquer

Oh, for crying out loud … here we go again with this bushwah. I try really hard not to sound like a broken record in these pages, which is sometimes a chore, but I may have no choice this time. What we have here is a spook film with a checklist, making sure it gives audiences exactly what they’ve already gotten so many times before – albeit one that for a brief, barely glimpsed moment has a fleeting chance to offer something different, to head somewhere that might be more than routine. But it doesn’t do that; at right about that same moment, it dives into the usual trough. Then it throws the ol’ SHOCKING reveal at you before copping out completely. Refusing to commit to any of its conceits, this Netflix offering exemplifies the perhaps apocryphal adage “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Dissatisfying at best.

why did i watch this movie?

Uh, yeah … I must have been asleep at the switch, because the description that accompanies this flick really doesn’t sound all that stimulating.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a blatant recasting of the 2014 “Slender Man” stabbing from Wisconsin, and it really isn’t worth your time.


highlight and low point

Maybe the most polite way I could put it is to posit that at no point in this parade of platitudinous pusillanimity do events rise above or plummet beneath a plateau. (That is, it may be tired and unimaginative throughout, but hey, at least it’s consistent.) Everything that could be worthwhile about this experience lies solely within your ability to imagine it, which, mirabile dictu, happens to align with one of this picture’s insufficiently addressed themes. It is also directed clumsily.

rating from outer space: D

The Lamp aka The Outing (1987)

directed by tom daley
written and produced by warren chaney
h.i.t. films/skouras pictures

Cheezy hack work, to be sure, but ultimately a witless good time, this preposterous time capsule of best-forgotten ’80s fashions and quick-buck hucksterism boasts a confused mythology, brutal edits, continuity issues, and a general lack of coherent purpose. What it does have are some ridiculous stock characters and flimsy FX, including the always welcome glowing eyes of the possessed. But in the great tradition of films in which terrible things happen in museums because of ancient relics – such as in, oh, say, The Relic – once the dubiously vengeful evil genie is conjured, it … well, actually, that happens a bunch of times, isn’t confined to the museum, only vaguely seems to involve the LAMP and, uh, see …


why did i watch this movie?

When I see a title mentioned more’n once on lists with names such as “Worst Movies Ever,” I usually gotta know more.

should you watch this movie?

Oh, absolutely. The heights of absurdity you will scale will reward you immensely.


highlight and low point

The fetching ensemble worn by our lead actress, Andra St. Ivanyi, as the “teenage” Alex Wallace, is itself enough of a marvel to demand viewership. (Don’t discount the “new wave” getup preferred by major human antagonist Mark Mitchell as privileged baddie Mike Daley, however.) For my money, it’s hard to top the scene in which one of the girls is taking a bath in the specimen room at the museum (don’t ask) and is set upon by what appear to be revivified cobras, although the computer sequence when our heroes search for their salvation is also top-notch. And the genie itself – sorry, “Jinn,” we need to remain historically accurate here – is incredible, in the truest sense.

rating from outer space: D+

 

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−