Terror (1978)

directed by norman j. warren
crystal film productions

I swear, I didn’t even realize when I selected this picture for review that I’d previously seen and written about this director’s two immediately preceding numbers – Satan’s Slave and Prey. The display of a “Satan’s Slave” poster in the office suite of this flick’s film-producer character tipped me off, though. Closer in feeling and execution to “Slave” than “Prey,” there isn’t really a whole lot of the title condition represented here, except as experienced by a victim or two, maybe. Additionally, there’s neither much rhyme nor reason to the goings-on, but there IS a moment that appears to be a direct progenitor to S. King’s novel Christine. I mean, portions of the scene are lifted lock, stock and barrel. Another fanciful depiction later turns up in Christmas Evil (and eventually Repo Man). Other than that, this saga of an accused witch haunting and/or hunting her descendants sees the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of a bunch of people, and then ends in a puff of smoke.


why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s called “Terror.” So succinct!



should you watch this movie?

Among Norman J. Warren spectaculars, I’d recommend “Satan’s Slave” over this one. Mind you, I haven’t tried “Inseminoid.” Yet.

highlight and low point

Given Norman J. Warren’s oeuvre, it’s probably ridiculous to lament lost opportunities potentially glimpsed herein, but there’s a whole angle about the world of cinema that’s touched on but dismissed, even given the “film within a film” opening scenes. A gaggle of hopeful actresses live together in a hostel, an arrangement allegedly modeled after a real-world nurses’ colony. Hey, why not. Most of those slain in the course of this production come across as being targeted solely because some action is necessary.

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

Beloved Beast (2018)

written & directed by jonathan holbrook
chronicle factory

An independently produced horror picture with a complex if not exactly visionary storyline, this film suffers a bit from some copycat conceptualization, but more from abysmal pacing. It’s not that it’s nearly three (3!) hours long – 2:53:15 – but that the delivery of the dialogue is too deliberate by half. There’s no rhythm or carry to the conversations; everyone seems to be a half-beat off and a second too slow. This abets some scenes, as a hazy, dark undercurrent runs through much of the operation, but otherwise it can be a bit off-putting. Also, the cinematography often looks cut-rate, too digital, too sharp. And if you wanted, I guess you could quibble with some of the performers’ chops. But! It’s an impressive accomplishment nonetheless: A little girl is orphaned by drunk driving, goes to live with her aunt who couldn’t possibly care less, befriends an escaped mental patient with a proclivity for massacring every living person he encounters. Oh, and there’s a fairy-tale conceit and a nasty crime ring involved, plus a weather-worn and sardonic sense of naturalism. Don’t let my faint praise be too damning.

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t recall; it’s been waiting on the list for nigh on a year.

should you watch this movie?

Not if you have an attention deficit.


highlight and low point

The filmmakers – cast, crew and production staff intermingle – delve ever deeper into the more awful side of the oxymoronic term “humankind” without seeming to revel in it for the sake of spectacle. That being said, what should be an unrelentingly bleak experience never quite plunges that low, prodding to the fore some potentially unsettling ruminations on one’s conceptions of compassion and moral judgment. Contains a few passably witty allusions.

rating from outer space: B−

The Edge of Hell aka Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

directed by john fasano
thunder films inc.
music by “the tritonz”

That this is somehow not the worst movie I’ve ever seen is really rather remarkable – and should probably be kind of embarrassing – given that not one single aspect of filmmaking is presented here with even the barest glimmer of competence. When the ending decides to play explicitly for humor, it underscores just how terrible the acting, pacing, delivery and screenwriting has been all along. Basically an extended music video for a fake band displaying most of the worst traits of the nadir of the hair metal era, this production also boasts some of the stupidest demonic puppetry imaginable and a surprise denouement that beggars belief nearly as strongly as it punches holes through whatever scant structure allegedly had been supporting the ramshackle works. And the songs! Maybe they were supposed to be humor as well, I don’t know, but “We Accept The Challenge” alone nearly had me weeping with incredulous near-hysteria.

why did i watch this movie?

Yeah, I was wondering that, too, until I remembered that the director also helmed the following year’s Black Roses.

should you watch this movie?
highlight and low point

After the interminable opening scene(s) of this shot-on-video, uh, epic, its audience is treated to one of “John Triton” (“Jon Mikl Thor”) driving a van, from various angles and vantage points, for four solid minutes. “Holy crow,” I thought to myself, “this barely rises to the level of ‘inept.’” Was I ever in for a treat. The band rocking out is unintentionally (?) hilarious, the multiple sex scenes are absurd, the wandering “cinematography” is often pointless, the FX are silly, the “story” is inane (what there is of it), and the “acting” is cover-your-eyes awful. The music’s the BEST part!

rating from outer space: D+

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.)

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

written and directed by david durston
a Jerry gross presentation

A dyed-in-the-wool exploitation quickie, the only thing surprising about this little absurdity is its relative restraint. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plentiful wallowing in sleaze here, but it’s kinda presented as an afterthought. Sure, limbs (and a head) are hacked off, and multiple animals are slaughtered, but the sexual assault happens off camera and minimal nudity is shown, even when it’s implied that an entire construction crew runs a train on an overly willing female. True, the sleepy little town goes haywire after a young boy injects meat pies with rabies-infected blood and sells them to a roving band of hippies … hmmm. Perhaps this reviewer has grown jaded. BE THAT AS IT MAY, this film mainly revels in its presentation of the idiotic “satanic” pretensions of the ill-defined “cult” at the center of the action, and dwells lovingly on its ensuing violent insanity. Ultimately, the picture descends into a disjointed and haphazardly edited sequence of uncompelling chase scenes. Those where the survivors defend themselves with water display a highly entertaining ignorance of why the deadly disease was once known as “hydrophobia.”

why did i watch this movie?

I’ve got a reputation to uphold.

should you watch this movie?

Do you like drugs? Do you like killin’? Do you like listenin’ to “Boogie Chillen’”?

highlight and low point

The cult leader’s opening oration includes “Satan was an acidhead” and “together we’ll all FREAK OUT!” Additional period dialogue adds this observation: “He’s not drunk, stupid, he’s been doped – with that stuff that they call ‘LSD.’” The sometimes alarming soundtrack often alternates between hypnotic monotony and electronic experimentations.  Bonus points were granted for a character using the phrases “the colored boy” and “the fuzz” in the same conversation.

rating from outer space: c−

Beyond the Door aka Chi sei? aka The Devil Within Her aka Behind the Door aka Who Are You? etc. (1974)

directed by o. hellman and r. barrett
a. erre cinematografica, s.r.L.

SUCH a ripoff of The Exorcist (and Rosemary’s Baby) that  … oh, God help us, maybe this isn’t fiction at all! Maybe it’s – A WARNING! (In an ordinary horror flick, right about now you’d get some clamorous sounds, maybe piercing strings, I dunno, but herein you get, like, afro-jazz-funk.) You’re not even going to believe this, but I recognized the name of one of the cameraman in the credits, Maurizio Maggi, because he also worked on L’occhio nel Labirinto. Was he the entity responsible for all the double exposures here? How much overtime did the sound guys have to put in to create all the overdubs? That was quite the feat of editing, let me tell you. This foreign-market plagiarism is occasionally almost scary, even.

why did i watch this movie?

Redd Kross is entirely to blame.

should you watch this movie?

It manages to be intermittently entertaining, with scads of bizarre minor details, but mostly due to its utter shamelessness. The dubbed script is of course masterful:

“No doctor can possibly explain her pregnancy.”
“What do you mean?”
“It is not … explainable.”

(Luckily for the devil’s surrogate, her condition arises post-Roe v. Wade, so she is advised by her doctor that she can terminate the diabolic fetus “should we come to the conclusion that your pregnancy creates a definite hazard to your … physical, or mental health.” She demurs, however.)

Oh, and the sound design really is pretty effective.

highlight and low point

When the character named after one of the directors is hassled by a street musician emulating Rahsaan Roland Kirk, well, that’s something you sure don’t see every day. A sequence that transforms the (human) children’s bedroom into a dangerous funhouse is impressive.

rating from outer space: d

La Terrificante Notte Del Demonio aka La Plus Longue Nuit du Diable aka The Devil’s Nightmare aka Au Service du Diable aka The Devil Walks at Midnight (1971)

directed by jean brisme’e (sic)
delfino film/cetelci s.a.

Literally titled “The Terrifying Night of the Devil” in its native Italian and “The Longest Night of the Devil” in French (it was an Italian and Belgian co-production), one might immediately suspect that in “The Devil’s Nightmare” they’d find a mishandled feature in which nobody was too invested, but this classic European sleaze actually impressed me no end. Well, at least the middle portion did, as for a while this tale of seven travelers unwillingly spending a fateful night in an eerie castle became intriguing and stylish. The latter third is less trashy than the first third and more pedestrian than that which precedes it, though it does at least introduce some priceless camp elements. On the whole, the picture surpasses reasonable expectations. Oh, and it disproves the widely held notion that castles don’t have phones, for those keeping score at home.

why did i watch this movie?

Whilst I was scouring sources for stuff to screen, I saw the English sobriquet for this picture and was immediately agog. “The devil’s nightmare?” I wondered, suspecting linguistic malfeasance. Ergo …

should you watch this movie?

A good time would be had by all, assuredly.

highlight and low point

Somewhat surprisingly, given the overall mood and orientation of this affair, it boasts the least passionate “lesbian” scene one may ever witness. (To call it “tepid” would be a wild exaggeration.) It counterbalances this shortcoming, however, with the most floridly literal depiction possible of signing a contract with the devil. Somewhere in between these extremes, it presents a panoply of themes and settings familiar from such fare as House on Haunted Hill, Clue and Se7en, to name just the most obvious. Erika Blanc’s succubine Lisa Müller is a particular treat throughout.

rating from outer space: B+

Invitation to Hell (1984)

directed by wes craven
moonlight productions, II

I don’t think I realized this was a made-for-TV picture when I opted to watch it, and I’m kinda glad, as that’s where a lot of what passes for its charm resides. Well, that and the oh-so-’80s themes and vibe, from its stars (Robert Urich! Soleil Moon Frye!) to its heavy-handed insistence on conformity and social climbing – “The last 10 years haven’t been easy on us, Matt … and I want a piece of the pie” – and let’s not overlook that it’s centered around a company called “Micro-Digitech” and a mysteriously affiliated country club. It couldn’t have been more of the moment. Unfortunately, aside from its high kitsch quotient, this flick doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Nothing about it will surprise you, and it probably could’ve done with less content restriction than primetime viewing would allow.

note: NOT product placement

why did i watch this movie?

By now you probably know the answer to that question.

should you watch this movie?

Though it’s the kind of thing that should’ve just been sealed in a time capsule, not used for actual entertainment purposes, this production is rather amusing, if quite lightweight.

highlight and low point

For a forgettable and mostly ridiculous period piece, it must be noted that taken piecemeal it offers high value. From Susan Lucci’s vampy society hostess to Kevin McCarthy’s telling inclusion, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. (I particularly enjoyed that the location of the veterinarian’s home business was highly reminiscent of that of the Devil Dog kennels, much as the Winslow family’s house appears to be located in the same neighborhood.) The ludicrously rudimentary FX leading into the finale would have to be seen to be believed.

Rating from outer space: C−