Sebelum Iblis Menjemput aka May The Devil Take You (2018)

written and directed by timo tjahjanto
screenplay films/legacy pictures

An Indonesian fright flick from one of the Mo Brothers – the one who also co-directed the bonkers “Safe Haven” segment of V/H/S/2 – this number doesn’t exactly charge out of the gates with much subtlety. Infused with some severe family drama, hinted at during the opening-credits montage of scrapbooked newspaper headlines, the affinity to Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell has been noted, and the picture also contains more than a healthy dose of Evil Dead referents. But for all that, the film is often flat-out terrifying. I suppose the ending’s a bit of a letdown, but you can’t have everything, right?

why did i watch this movie?

Macabre instantly became a new favorite when I saw it, and its credits led me here. (I didn’t see the comparisons to the other flicks until after I’d made my decision.)

should you watch this movie?

Okay, so I have seen this described as both an “homage to” and a “knockoff of” the Raimi oeuvre, and I suppose either take is valid depending on one’s perspective. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

highlight and low point

Ordinarily, a feature with such imitative qualities would engender some disdain – and it has, with others – but the sheer enthusiasm its director infuses into this affair renders such matters moot, at least for me. As mentioned, I coulda used a different ending, but again, that’s merely my viewpoint – and by that time, I just may have been expecting something more divergent. What was especially noteworthy about this production was that even when I KNEW something in particular was about to occur, it still gave me the creeps when it transpired. I enjoyed the extra helpings of malevolence on display as well.

rating from outer space: a−

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)

directed by curtis harrington
landers-roberts-zeitman productions

Man, I do NOT remember there being any made-for-TV movies like this when I was a kid – though admittedly, in 1978 my parents most likely would not have let me stay up late enough even on Halloween night, when this aired. (They weren’t that restrictive on content, for the most part, although how they would have felt about a possessed dog is anybody’s guess.) For such an offbeat premise, unfortunately, the product can be a little underwhelming. True, I didn’t expect the main character to wind up going to Quito, Ecuador, to consult a shaman in order to defeat the Barghest his family’s unwittingly adopted, because why would anyone mix up their various mythologies that way. Ultimately, the picture is saved by suchlike casual idiocy, managing to be thoroughly entertaining despite its limitations.

why did i watch this movie?

The power of Zoltan compelled me.

should you watch this movie?

You know, I’ve often thought of the made-for-TV horror picture as kind of a lesser creation, figuring it couldn’t possibly compete with its large-screen brethren and sistren, but it turns out this isn’t always the case.


highlight and low point

“It’s a monstrous thing, a goblin dog,” the occult bookseller tells Richard Crenna’s Mike Barry – “A man … hounded by his dog,” as he described himself to her with an abashed chuckle – and boy, she ain’t kidding.

The climactic and climatic final battle between Mike and Lucky the hellhound is a marvel of multiple-exposure imagery, and the portrayals of Betty, Bonnie and Charlie Barry as they slip toward infernal fealty are quite amusing. Unfortunately, we aren’t treated to nearly enough Satanic goings-on, especially given the promising opening.


rating from outer space: c−

The Dark Side of the Moon aka Parasite (1990)

directed by d.J. webster
wildstreet pictures

If you had, like, a minimal straight-to-video budget, one might wonder why “space epic” would be the kind of production you’d attempt. Music video director D.J. Webster ignored these constraints and the results are visually reminiscent of John Carpenter’s debut Dark Star, along with the inspired stagecraft of Plan 9 From Outer Space. This ripoff mashup of Star Trek: Voyager, 2001, The Thing, Aliens et cetera also features shots cribbed directly from Star Wars and some acting laughable enough to compete with the output of its costume department. I haven’t even mentioned the questionable theory advanced, which somehow links “Centrus B-40” (the title location) with the Bermuda Triangle – I’m not an astrophysicist, but that seems dubious to me. It does, however, set up a pretty great ending to this otherwise turgid melodrama. Oh, and lest I forget, Satan.

why did i watch this movie?

The search for ’90s fodder led me here, with the bonus that this picture was completely unknown to me.

should you watch this movie?

Though I have no idea why you’d want to try, one note of interest may be that this script is by Chad and Carey Hayes, who eventually would write The Conjuring, among many other credits. (So, kids, if at first you don’t succeed … )

highlight and low point

For starters, the captain of the spacecraft smokes a lot of cigarettes, and sports a leather baseball cap. The onboard computer is a female … android, I guess, which for some reason is dressed like this:

It’s set in 2022, and its dialogue includes the statement “It looks like the Shuttle … Discovery … from the old NASA probe,” answered with the observation that “NASA hasn’t been flying for 30 years.” And then there’s this graphic:

rating from outer space: d+

 

Atração Satânica aka Satanic Attraction (1989)

directed by fauzi mansur
j. davila enterprises

This picture straight from the Brazilian scrapheap is almost completely incoherent. With less than 15 minutes left, the chief of police exclaims – and not for the first time – “but none of this makes any sense!” He is correct. “Satanic Attraction” rivals Maya with its puzzles about who some characters are and what exactly their role is. (Unlike that headscratcher, however, this one isn’t any fun.) Is that a police boat? Why is the heavily pregnant Reporter always wearing a bikini top? Wait, did they just forget that character’s identity? Who is that guy, and what in the hell is he doing here? Possibly the drollest element of this nonsense is its radio-show narration, part of the convoluted sense of SOCIETAL TERROR and OFFICIAL OUTRAGE that you won’t buy for even a minute. But most amusing is that this picture was filmed in Portuguese in Brazil, and the version I watched was dubbed in English but subtitled in … Portuguese. Which doesn’t appear to agree directly with the dubbed dialogue. Which per the usual doesn’t equal the “drama.”

why did i watch this movie?

Well, I WANTED to watch a different Brazilian picture, Shock, but apparently no subtitles for that one exist. This hot mess was suggested as a fill-in, and rightly so.

should you watch this movie?

I know there’s a lot of fans of bad, bad movies out there … maybe you’re one of them.

highlight and low point

The “police work” in this film is really something. This may be excusable, as the victims’ bodies are never anywhere to be found – though somehow the victims are still identified as such. One such casualty, who naturally is taking a bubble bath, fails to realize that a razor blade has been embedded in her bar of soap.

rating from outer space: D

 

Satan’s Slave aka Evil Heritage (1976)

directed by norman j. warren
crown international pictures/monumental pictures limited

Oh, Satan’s Slave, where have you been all my life? Sure, I’ve recently watched a movie with that very title, as well as one dubbed “Satan’s Slaves,” but as I accidentally stumbled into the oft-overlooked category of British exploitation horror, I finally found the REAL DEAL. All right, actually, for about the first hour this burlesque is akin to a rambling and mundane country-house tragicomedy of (ill) manners, spruced up here and there with wildly graphic, explicit inserts of sex and murder, and murderous sex, and sexual murder – allegedly for profitable rerelease in the Asian market, which I am unsure ever actually occurred. (Similary, Crown Int’l Pix ostensibly was responsible for this film’s domestic theatrical run, with the secondary title, though the version I watched retained the original handle.) Such chicanery lends itself to rather glaring differences in film stock, exposure and so forth in some of the edits. At one point, too, the action appears to advance ahead of our understanding for a few moments, as though we’ve missed something. But hoo boy, once Frances the secretary reveals the sinister plot, it gets real good real fast. The SHOCKING twists that comprise the ending follow one another in rapid succession and all the tawdry, lusty mania comes to fruition as the diabolical cult approaches its goal. Highly recommended!

why did i watch this movie?

We have now learned that if it’s titled “Satan’s Slave,” your man Peppers is interested.

should you watch this movie?

(click to enlarge)

Why WOULDN’T you.

highlight and low point

Yeah, OK, this is a dour and unlovely flick, I’ll grant you that, and I reckon some of the more gratuitous and arguably extraneous scenes are worthy of scorn and/or derision, but it’s the little things, you know?

rating from outer space: B

Pengabdi Setan aka Satan’s Slave (1980)

directed by sisworo gautama putra
rapi films

Isn’t it always rewarding to come across a production in which one literally can see the wires attached to objects in special FX shots? And shouldn’t more remakes or reboots or whatever you want to call them be handled like last year’s version of this Indonesian chestnut? Yes, they’re very similar, even containing some directly parallel scenes, but the overall story – and to some degree the theme – differs noticeably. I must concede that the newer version is more frightening, partly due to some assuredly unintentional camp here in the original. (Renditions of lurching undead are suitable for an elementary school talent show, for instance.) Still, it’s inarguably eldritch, and although a certain disregard for logical sequencing prevails, as a ghost yarn it’s effective and interesting. Less conspiratorial than the retelling, but with more apparent Muslim evangelism.

why did i watch this movie?

For purposes of comparison.

should you watch this movie?

I would say so, but as it has yet to see release for the English-language market, discrepancies between various encodings and media players may befuddle the subtitles.

highlight and low point

Great moments abound herein, to the extent that I considered making this review nothing but a screengrab essay of sorts. The main ghost, Mawarti, is more than disturbing enough, and the nefarious nature of Darminah, the diabolical agent of a housekeeper, is delightfully broadly drawn. Oh, and the soundtrack is terrific, blending elements of musique concrète with the principles of free jazz at times; along with the sounds of haunting and weather events and so forth, it’s a treat. Continuity is sometimes an issue: for instance, when the undead boyfriend Herman first reappears, he has fangs, but in his later return he does not, although at that point he begins to act vampiric. As alluded, the FX can be facile.

rating from outer space: B

Let Us Prey (2014)

DIRECTED BY BRIAN o’MALLEY
fantastic films/makar productions/greenhouse media investments/mr. significant films/creative scotland/bord scannÁn na hÉireann (irish film board)

No, Marsha, I did NOT expect that I would be watching a morality play when I dialed up this Scottish/Irish co-production set mainly in a single location, that being a police station or whatever the hell they call it in their peculiar dialect over on the Auld Sod, distinctions further muddled by their brogue so that occasional lines of dialogue flew right past these bewildered and dB-damaged American ears. A morality play this is, however, about the souls of the guilty being claimed by You Know, in this case with the able yet hitherto unsuspecting assistance of a human female, played by The Woman herself, Pollyanna McIntosh. Prey starts out weird and goes completely off the deep end, along the way calling to mind such other amusements as Ash vs. Evil Dead; Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias in Platoon crossed with Bobby Peru in Wild at Heart; The Canal (another Irish horror of the same vintage); and maybe an Australian or Kiwi film or two. If I can find any real complaint with this occasionally heavy-handed entertainment, it’s often a little too theatrical. The “morality play” identification is apt in multiple senses.

WHY did i watch this movie?

I found it while looking for something else and thought it sounded interesting, especially as I rather enjoyed the aforementioned Irish picture.

should you watch this movie?

If you do, see how many other films it conjures up for you, and we’ll compare.

highlight and low point

Escalating audaciously, the deliberately paced reveals of the various skeletons stashed in the characters’ closets match nicely with each’s slowly dawning realization of his or her predicament. One negative is the above-noted lack of verisimilitude; the action never surpasses masquerade.

rating from outer space: b−