Biohazard (1985)

written, produced and directed by fred olen ray
viking films international

Oh, hey, look – it’s Aldo Ray again. Taking part in this ridiculous picture for exactly the reasons you’d surmise – he desperately needed some cash – he infuses his lines with all the believability of, say, a parrot. Not that authenticity is an important factor to a movie such as this, which more than anything else calls to mind the SF epics of the Atomic Age, made for as little money as possible, with whatever was lying around. The story revolves around a scientist tapping psychic powers to something something, and now there’s an alien life form. (It’s the director’s child in a costume that isn’t half bad, somehow.) This is the type of flick that features scenes in high desert areas because there’s no need for any sort of permits, the kind where all the various members of the “U.S. Army” sport mismatched “uniforms.” For its concluding statement, this production doesn’t even bother pretending it’s serious at all, leading one to reflect as to whether it ever had been. Pretending, that is.


why did i watch this movie?

My brother sent me a picture of the VHS box.


should you watch this movie?

Allegedly, Fred O. Ray made his first feature on a budget of $298. (And the white mouse will not explode, either.) And he allegedly paid A. Ray a thou for this one.


highlight and low point

I should stress that I’m unsure this movie is deliberately crummy by means of emulating the good ol’ days. I mean, I think the dialogue is as bad as it is without undue pretense, and the acting, too. That it wasn’t aiming any higher is a given, but the nonnegotiable parameters involved
pretty much guaranteed the outcome.

rating from outer space: D+

C.H.U.D. (1984)

directed by douglas cheek
bonime associates, ltd.

Well, it’s obviously a disgraceful admission on my part that I didn’t see this the way it was clearly meant to be seen, on videocassette rented from the mom ‘n’ pop (actually, it was just “pop”) establishment down the street from where I lived as a kid. Or anytime since. Somebody should’ve told me it was this rewarding. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I never saw it, except that as a young person I didn’t actually watch many horror movies at all, and maybe because the title eliminates any suspense? Whatever the case, this is low-budget, low-grade horror at a peak, a Reagan-era relic of nuclear panic. Shot under the streets of NYC and laden with intransigent officials, it’s the gritty story of one plucky little guy’s quest to find out why everyone’s disappearing and a truly terrible battle plan hatched far too late to eradicate a horde of deadly mutants. And more! (It’s actually several guys.) Just today I had to defend my pronouncement that this flick is “good.” People, man.

why did i watch this movie?

I owed it to myself.

should you watch this movie?

Act now – don’t hesitate!

highlight and low point

Though this picture is ostensibly about hideous freaks coming outta the sewers, having been spawned there due to government negligence, what makes it enjoyable are the various interactions the normal people have. The scene where The Reverend initially spots the C.H.U.D. participating in what appears to be some sort of rite is intriguing, if scant. (More could have been done with it.) And as a former resident of New York City, I swear, when characters first start winding through the subway tunnels, I could conjure the smell. Now that’s olfactory memory.

rating from outer space: B+

Prophecy (1979)

directed by john frankenheimer
paramount pictures
a robert l. rosen production

Boy, does this one feel like a missed opportunity. Compelling despite itself for the majority of its running time, this cautionary eco-terror tale collapses drastically once the “monster” is revealed. Because it’s a bear. Sure, it’s an ursine that appears kinda acid-damaged (no, not that kind), but it’s a bear nonetheless. Which is quite a letdown, given all the Science-y gobbledygook promising mutations and devastation of the food chain and so forth, and renders this production not unlike a handful of other such endeavors about rampaging animals. Until that reveal, however, it’s an engrossing flick that works pretty well. The usual caveat applies about giving the details of the story too much thought. Especially those that are glossed over in the first place.

why did i watch this movie?

I had just finished the David Seltzer novel and felt it must have been filmed at some point. It turns out he wrote the script first.

should you watch this movie?

If you plan to, I’d recommend reading the novelization beforehand. It helps fill in a lot of backstory. Of course, it may also contribute to a feeling of disappointment with the screen version.

highlight and low point

The bear monster is supposed to be humongous – some of the promotional material specifies “15 feet tall” – and it isn’t. It’s, you know, bear-sized. Except when it’s smaller, because it’s a guy in a bear monster suit. Other than that, this picture’s biggest problem is that it pares away the relationships intended to give events their gravitas. The allusion to Minamata disease is indeed frightening, even if the source material fails to note the outbreak amongst First Nations people in Ontario, Canada, that must have inspired the proceedings.

rating from outer space: C−

Bats (1999)

directed by louis morneau
destination films

A typically dunderheaded nature horror predicated on an “accident,” this flick features not one believable element. You will not believe that Dina Meyer’s character is a bat expert with a Ph.D., you will not believe that Lou Diamond Phillips makes a creditable sheriff, “Leon” doesn’t even always seem to believe he’s supposed to recite his character’s lines, and you certainly won’t believe the BATS are real for even a second. In other words, it’s quite the enjoyable waste of time. The BATS, of course, “escaped” from some sorta experiment-cum-military project. (Maybe.) A wannabe Halloween blockbuster that somehow made money, it would’ve been perfect brainless summer fare. Oh, by the way, the predetermined ending isn’t believable, either.

why did i watch this movie?

I was in the mood for just this type of highbrow feature. Actually, by my standards, I was veritably giddy with anticipation.

should you watch this movie?

What ELSE are you doing?


highlight and low point

The BATS. Oh my my my, the BATS. Some are animated. Some are animatronic! Some are bat size. Some are, like, scary-movie-bat size. And once in a while, for effect I assume, one or two are the size of goddamn turkey vultures. Plus, the very first time the BATS kill anyone, they rip ’em to shreds. After that, they … don’t. These facts more or less encapsulate the professionalism imbued in this endeavor. Also quite humorous: the ongoing “hints” that the obviously nefarious scientific foil is concealing a dark secret. Stock military footage is thrown in for good measure, along with a rather remarkably turgid action sequence. Somewhat surprisingly, few overt attempts at comedy are present. But as Steven Wright observed, you can’t have everything – where would you put it?

rating from outer space: C+

Die, Monster, Die! aka Monster of Terror (1965)

directed by daniel haller
american international pictures/alta vista film productions

For the first half-hour or so, this sumptuously appointed fable seems as though it’s going to be a vastly rewarding romp through B-movie silliness, complete with Boris Karloff adding plenty of dramatic intrigue. Unfortunately, it soon descends into choppy pointlessness, though the inane and repetitious dialogue might bolster things for a while if you’re in the right mood. The story kinda feels cobbled together as it goes along, and even the requisite expository scenes don’t much help to clarify matters. A few startling moments crop up here and there, though only the first earns its reaction, and it goes nowhere. Based on “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft, though how or why Arkham, MA, is transplanted to England is a question best left to others.

why did i watch this movie?

I found it under the title “Monster of Terror,” which … I mean, what more do you need? The presence of Boris Karloff and some glowing (pun definitely intended) nostalgia offered by commenters sealed the deal.

should you watch this movie?

I will table that question until I’ve watched a couple other filmed interpretations of the classic story.

highlight and low point

Boris Karloff’s clearly dissembling patriarch and his myopic assistant Merwyn are a hoot, and our hero Reinhart’s difficulties with the locals in Arkham set the picture up rather nicely. By far the best effects are achieved when Stephen and Susan are creeping downstairs in the dark guided by one lighted candle … which brightly illumines absolutely everything in the vicinity, and looks suspiciously like a spotlight trained right on them. Again, there are a few genuinely unsettling moments, but they’re wasted  – along with the lavish set dressing – by a flimsy screenplay.

rating from outer space: C−

Contagion aka John Lechago’s Contagion aka Alien Contagion aka Bio Slime (2010)

written and directed by john lechago
forward motion entertainment/lechago entertainment

A digital-video delight, the sort of very independent production whose cast largely doubles as its crew, and the fitfully heroic tale of a dissipated artist with some dissolute acquaintances, this particular “Contagion” likely ranks as the first SF horror epic in which humanity would appear to be saved by a meth-lab explosion. (Should you not be aware that the next sentence would read … OR IS IT, apply immediately for Remedial Thriller 101.) Dubious fun from start to finish, with most of the action occurring within a down-at-its-heels tenement populated by the aforementioned meth lab, the drunken artist’s “live-work space,” a pornographer, and various hangers-on and ne’er-do-wells, the story is set in motion by a mysterious criminal transaction and some poor decision-making skills, and mutates from there. A SHOCKING ending is included at no extra charge.

why did i watch this movie?

I found this picture under the title “Bio Slime,” and naturally thought I needed to take a gander at it – a wise choice.

should you watch this movie?

Why the hell not?

highlight and low point

Honestly, Vinnie Bilancio’s depiction of the dipsomaniac struck a chord, thanks to my extensive personal research on the condition. I particularly enjoyed it when he decided to go ahead and start drinking the denatured alcohol he kept around to clean his brushes or remove paint or whatever. That’s some quality realism there. The FX are a mixed bag, mainly consisting of a lot of latex and some lights and hoses, but the deft characterizations of the different personalities and the mysterious nature and affiliation of the “specimen” from the “Teratology Division” are spot-on. The film also brandishes just the right amount of excessive taboo sleaze and black (bleak?) humor.

rating from outer space: A−

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−

Altered Skin (2018)

written and directed by adnan ahmed
indiecan entertainment/federgreen entertainment/empirical films/md productions

The first film I’ve ever seen lensed in Karachi, Pakistan, this Canadian production tells a tale of a drug company withholding research on a potential cure for a rapidly spreading virus in order to maximize profits on its patent treatment, and also probably to enhance the corporation’s market value prior to its sale. So while the premise is hardly farfetched, the disease in question, which produces implacable cannibal hordes reminiscent of those in 28 Days Later (but much slower, of course), stretches the bounds of credulity a bit. Disclaimer: I am not a molecular biologist or immunologist or whatever, so hey, maybe quickly mutating viruses could have such an effect. Anyway, it’s all enmeshed in a conspiracy to prevent the Liberal Media from interfering with Big Pharma’s imprimatur. I may be putting my own spin on that, sorry.

why did i watch this movie?

“While caring for his ailing wife, an American engineer in Pakistan stumbles upon a deadly pharmaceutical conspiracy.”

should you watch this movie?

Though the zombie approximation of the mysterious illness isn’t the freshest concept, given the corporate American drug/healthcare/insurance complex, along with the questionable government administration or oversight of same, themes here may be of interest nonetheless.

highlight and low point

Authority barely exists in this pic’s verisimilitude, which I will accept as representative of actual reality. A telling quotation: “You know, if you could ever fix a problem by denying it ever existed, this place? Would be a fucking Utopia.” The unshakeable probity of the protagonist might be a touch overdone, but as a questionably allied henchman of the curative cartel accuses, he IS essentially acting out of selfish interest, so that’s really just a bit more food for thought.

rating from outer space: B+

Izbavitelj aka The Rat Savior aka Der Rattengott aka The Redeemer (1976)

directed by krsto papić
jadran film/croatia film

A political allegory from Croatia, then situated in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which won the equivalent of Best Picture in Portugal’s Fantasporto festival in 1982, and which has been noted for being reminiscent to modern viewers of both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and They Live. Set in a failed economy grasping for answered prayers, this is kind of a slow-developing picture, a fact more notable due to its relative brevity; the version I watched ran about 76 minutes, and I’ve seen evidence of versions ranging from two minutes longer to eight. Eventually, however, it reaches its peak, of what is essentially a terrible hopelessness. Based on a story by Russian writer Aleksandr Grin called something like “The Rat-Catcher,” this film ultimately hinges on a similar observation to the terrifying underlying theme of 1984: you can’t trust anybody, especially yourself.

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t have any idea what led me to this one … some rabbit (rat?) hole or other, presumably.

should you watch this movie?

As mentioned, it won’t take up too much of your time, and if you have any interest whatsoever in political themes – or, for that matter, historical ones – yeah, put it on your list.

highlight and low point

This production is lensed in such a way as to mute out its colors, which has the effect of making it appear much older than it actually is. Coupled with the subtitling and the stilted nature of much of the action, it comes across a lot like a silent movie at times, an impression only strengthened by the soundtrack. Locating some of the most important moments of the story in what is purportedly the abandoned “central bank” building is a masterful touch.

rating from outer space: B

Us (2019)

written, produced and directed by jordan peele
monkeypaw productions/perfect world pictures

First off, this film was not what I’d expected – which was basically another version of The Strangers and its ilk. It’s much weirder than that, however; Us is one strange flick. Unlike Peele’s first production, Get Out, this one kinda clutters the frame with signifier draped on allusion wrapped in metaphor, and it’s a bit of a muddle. (One could put almost any spin on what it “means” and find a way to support the claim.) It’s also too often funny to be as scary as it wants to be, though at multiple times it conveys a great unease vividly laced with desperation. Laden with references to a smattering of other movies, though, this picture is yet another example of that apparently inescapable factor of contemporary culture. Guess we just can’t not do that any more, even with so much original creative spark seemingly on hand. For me personally, not being much of a cinephile, yawn, whatever.

why did i watch this movie?

Get Out was not only terrific, but thought-provoking, a rare combination. So although the early media campaign for this one didn’t make it appear to be anything out of the ordinary, I figured I’d be viewing it at some point.

should you watch this movie?

The running time is a very long ≈ two hours. The ending particularly drags.

highlight and low point

Despite its being a little unwieldy and bearing a few untidy loose ends, there’s a lot to like here. The initial appearance of the doppelgängers is both amusing and frightening, which isn’t the easiest trick to pull off, and a sudden revelation that there’s a lot more to the story than has theretofore been presented is powerful yet understated.

rating from outer space: B+