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+

The Killer Snakes aka 手 殺 蛇 (1974)

directed by kuei chi hung
shaw brothers

Unusually wistful for an exploitation movie with multiple rapes and plenty of animal abuse – plus more than one guy slapping around more than one woman – this product of the Hong Kong studios of Runme and Run Run Shaw certainly provides plenty of fodder for your rumination. That doesn’t much excuse most of what goes on here, but at least there’s a plot and a story, more or less, to provide some underpinning. And oh man, the snakes. SO many snakes, so often very clearly being hurled across the length of the shot so as to emulate leaping or springing. The secondary plotline concerns what we now call “human trafficking” but just used to call “prostitution.” Plus probably the relationship between greed and rapacity. Boy howdy, is that reading too much into a picture called “The Killer Snakes.”

why did i watch this movie?

I won’t lie, it promised to be both lurid and somewhat preposterous. I may have expected more sheer lunacy and less slice-of-life grittiness, however. With the sadism confined to humans.

should you watch this movie?

Although it’s kind of amusing when our protagonist, “Keto,” urges his serpent friends to bite and kill his enemies or oppressors, this is a largely downbeat and depressing feature. Who’d’ve guessed that from a tale of a (literally) beaten-down loser who enlists an army of ophidians to avenge him, and even to perform what he claims is a mercy killing?

highlight and low point

Snakes get mutilated, tortured and killed. Maybe I need to vet these pictures better, potential spoilers be damned. Keto’s one outfit keeps reassembling itself, Hulk-like, no matter what happens to him. At one point, he springs monitor lizards on his victim. Those aren’t even snakes, man.

rating from outer space: c−

Horror High (1973)

directed by larry n. stouffer
jamieson film company

What great fun this cheap little ripoff drive-in picture is! Not even making any bones about deriving its plot from (the Strange Case of) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this no-budget quickie for some reason features several then-NFL stars in cameo roles, mainly as cops. A few skulls are bandied about, along with copious amounts of very fake blood, the makeup FX are even more minimal than in The Prey, and I’m a little abashed that I didn’t recognize Rosie Holotik from Don’t Look in the Basement. Groovy soundtrack song – “Vernon’s Theme,” so earnest and so redolent of its era I laughed out loud – and a whole lotta folks WAY too old to be playing high schoolers round out this gritty drama, devotedly infused with as much pathos as could conceivably be concocted … in a Chemistry lab, say. Put it on your list of overlooked cut-rate gems, it’s worth it.

why did i watch this movie?

I confess, I have no idea. Maybe the fact that I’ve seen 1987’s completely unrelated (and also quite enjoyable!) Return to Horror High played a subconscious role. WHO can say.

Should you watch this movie?

While offering the usual caveat that semipro flicks like this played a major rôle in this blög’s very genesis, I must answer that query in the affirmative.

highlight and low point

A certain economy of scripting is something of a marvelous feat. Why or how can Vernon always be sneaking into the school building at any hour, one wonders … well, see, his mother’s dead and his dad travels for work a lot. The studying vignette with Robin, a bunch of books and a bowl of ice cream, is affecting. The paper cutter demanded more usage, though.

rating from outer space: B+

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

Halloween II (1981)

directed by rick rosenthal
dino de laurentiis corporation

One of those movies where I recognize certain scenes but don’t remember much else besides, this once-and-future sequel – for now, it’s been written out of the canon – is mainly notable for introducing Michael M. to the cinematic world of the bored spree killer who begins to get creative in his methods of destruction, along with its clumsy attempt to hang some sort of meaningful framework onto a story better left unexplained. And no, I don’t mean the “Laurie’s his sister” angle, I mean that “Samhain” silliness, a direction which of course reached its apogee in “Season of the Witch.” It’s good enough, I guess – but strictly as a sequel, as its formulaic nature probably wouldn’t have sustained it as a standalone. Not that thousands of its ilk haven’t been churned out anyway, of course. I will give it some credit for taking place immediately following the events of the first feature, as a continuation of the same story; that’s pretty crafty.

why did i watch this movie?

A) it’s the last week of October
B) see the first sentence of the lede

Should you watch this movie?

Dude, it’s not canon. You’re waiting breathlessly for Halloween Kills, correct?

highlight and low point

Though it’s something of a staple in this genre, Mike’s experimentation with different approaches to killing becomes sublimely absurd. Messing with the thermostat? Man, in my house growing up, that’d GET a guy killed, not prove lethal to others. One of his means of dispatch doesn’t even seem as though it’d work! An empty syringe to the temple, quickly in and out? Pshaw. Not to mention, subtleties of slaughter and the aforementioned nod to the rites of sacrificial hoo-haw kinda undermine the big guy’s mythos.

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 Frenzy (1987)

produced and directed by hal freeman
a hal freeman production

At times a completely labored study of character archetypes, enhanced by some incredibly hambone acting, this picture takes a questionable setup – therapy group camps out in remote location – and combines it with a one-at-a-time death count rampantly insulted by a red, red herring, only to wrap things up with a generic SHOCKER at the climax. (A bit of a bait-and-switch, at that.) When it remembers to stop telegraphing its characters’ traits and just concentrates on what passes for its action, this production occasionally approaches entertainment value, almost despite its own shoddy efforts. Being largely unremarkable, it’s nearly interesting that this flick would seem to aspire to a certain level of sleaze, but never goes far enough … although boasting a “nymphomaniac” character. In addition to a PTSD veteran, a drunk, a haphephobic, a he-man woman-hater, a bitter lesbian and, of course, the shrink.


why did i watch this movie?

You know, a name like “Blood Frenzy” just speaks to me, man.


should you watch this movie?

If you find the video in a pile of stuff in a house you’re cleaning out, and you actually still have a VCR, it’s good for a lark.


highlight and low point

What kind of creative genius are we dealing with here, you wonder. The site chosen for the therapeutic camping trip is situated off “the old ghost town road.” A location to which one of the characters leads them. Where abandoned mines abound.  “Some setup,” you think. Precisely. Also, I am not a medical pathologist, but I’m pretty certain that people who are in the process of having their throats cut with large knives cannot actually continue screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the procedure and afterward.

rating from outer space: D+

Lady Blood aka Insane Blood Massacre (2008)

directed by jean-marc vincent
alterego films/eifel tech/canal+/cinÉcinÉma/Fonds national de soutien à la production audiovisuelle du grand duchÉ du luxembourg

Boy howdy, you’d think that if you were going to wait 15 years to come up with a sequel to – oh, wait, I just used that opening. But yikes, Dave, does it ever apply here. Now, on one hand, it’s commendable to follow up the rampant insanity and psychotic humor of Baby Blood with a movie that’s altogether serious; not playing to expectations can be a strong artistic move. Grafting the referential portion of the script onto a confusing subplot involving vicious gangsters, however, makes less than no sense at all, it actively makes for unnecessary confusion. (I mean, the gangland subplot doesn’t even make much sense on its own, let alone intermingled with the body-jumping murderous horror that was Yanka’s beastly baby the first time around.) Oh, yeah, Yanka’s a police captain now, just in case her evading all suspicion and capture throughout the first flick wasn’t unbelievable enough. And she’s got a human baby, too … BUT FOR HOW LONG.


why did i watch this movie?

I loved the demented original, and I’m a fool.


should you watch this movie?

I cannot urge you too many times to watch 1990’s precursor instead.


highlight and low point

Seriously, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about other aspects of this movie that are either confusing or pointless or just don’t work. Aside from one especially nifty detail near the very finish that you’ll miss if you blink – the camera ignores it almost entirely – nothing much stands out. (That it appears to be an unconscious design afterthought is stunningly effective.) All the action, drama and horror takes place in that same brief scene as some ends are loosely tied.

rating from outer space: D

Killing Obsession (1994)

produced, written & directed by paul leder
poor robert productions

You’d think, were a filmmaker to wait 21 years to come up with a sequel to an earlier triumph, some care and concern would be evident in the production, that it wouldn’t appear to have been written and shot in less than a week. This revisiting of the saga of “Poor Albert and Little Annie,” however, trades the original’s malevolence, transference and, yes, obsessiveness, for the trappings of a wannabe standard-issue “erotic thriller.” (Even that’s an overreach; “some naked torsos” do not equate to “eroticism.”) “Albert,” meanwhile, is so obviously played by – if not as – a different person than in the first film that maybe it’s less important that the character devolution is reductionism at its most evident. As a straight-to-video offering, maybe the budget can be blamed for some of the disinterested, misguided direction offered here. Formulaic and instantly forgettable.


why did i watch this movie?

Well, I saw Part I, and I’ve seen another Leder outing, so it seemed worth a stab. (Sorry.) I did have my doubts, though.



should you watch this movie?

I’m trying to imagine what people who never saw I Dismember Mama would think of this … but if they’re lucky, they wouldn’t.


highlight and low point

Shown a police photo, the long-lost “Annie” observes that “Albert” has “hardly changed at all.” As has already been established, the character is being played by a different actor, with little resemblance to the first. Albert has allegedly been “analyzed, lobotomized, and institutionalized for the past 21 years,” which I guess is to account for his one-note depiction throughout … but whether that much thought went into any of this seems debatable. Hallucinations and re-creations of key scenes from the first go-round don’t abet the cause.

rating from outer space: D−