Sadistic Intentions (2019)

written & directed by eric pennycoff
midnight treehouse/feast & bourbon films/alexander groupe/79th & Broadway entertainment

Plot twists, or maybe thematic twists, are pretty much this film’s modus operandi, and for the most part, they’re not all that predictable – and even the ones that are receive a little tweak. At about three-quarters of the way through this fable, I thought that what may have been intended to be some sort of dark comedy was about to veer into a disturbing realm that few films ever broach. Such a move would have been disheartening, nay, dispiriting, and it was with a palpable sense of dread that I waited to see if the director had chosen that path. Nope. He didn’t entirely cop out, either, however, so that was refreshing. But – this could have become a really remarkable examination of how things can spiral out of control and seemingly ordinary people can become trapped by circumstances and wind up making absolutely terrible, life-shattering decisions. In one sense, it still is, only the profound lack of empathy at its core finishes much differently. The actual ending is disconcertingly funny in its own special way.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, the trailer was intriguing, though I wavered for quite a while because I had envisioned something more ironic and postmodern.

should you watch this movie?

A guy invites over his bandmate and a prospective drug buyer; they don’t know each other. And where is he, anyway?

highlight and low point

Right, there’s only three people in this picture, and two of them are tremendous. The third, however, basically channels Crispin Glover, which is fairly distracting. This T-shirt, however, was jaw-dropping:

I haven’t been so envious in a long time. Oh, yeah – this movie involves death metal, mostly as a framing device.

rating from outer space: B+

Evil Ed (1995)

directed by anders jacobsson
smart egg pictures
“An evil ed production”

An over-the-top satirical spoof, this Swedish production ladles on the cartoonish violence and gore to an extent its most obvious influence, Evil Dead 2, scarcely dared dream. A multilayered, multi-level meta statement about cinematic sex and violence and censorship thereof, it could just as easily be taken to represent the flipside of its intended aim. I call that effective satire, don’t know about you. Focused on the deteriorating mental condition of the editor charged with abridging the “Loose Limbs” franchise, this flick should entertain splatter fans, people with questionable taste, opponents of moral crusades, moral crusaders who don’t understand irony, and so forth. The last 20 minutes or so drag significantly … turns out the filmmakers thought they were done, only the runtime wasn’t nearly sufficient. Revamped, it ends with a bang and a whimper.

why did i watch this movie?

“Guy goes nuts from too much exposure to gore films, mayhem ensues,” is a pretty good come-on.


should you watch this movie?

Depends how you view the shibboleth of horror fandom. Director also made 2010’s Insane, which was … not very good.


highlight and low point

I mean, look, Ed’s boss, the head of the “Splatter & Gore” division, is named “Sam Campbell” and a couple scenes basically replicate ones from “Dead By Dawn.” The soundtrack similarly imitates those of animated films. Ed himself is originally                                                                              outraged:

Ninety minutes of condensed sex and violence! Do you call that a great movie? Do you have the slightest idea of what a moral and ethical principle is?

Later, Ed ONLY includes the sex and violence in one of his edits. A “wife and child” subplot is the first indication they may have been making this up as they went along.

rating from outer space: B

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−

I Dismember Mama aka Poor Albert and Little Annie aka Crazed (1972)

directed by paul leder
romal films

Although much more of a serious psychodrama than I had expected, this eerie picture contains in the early going some pretty grating moments; later events become tinged with some sobering unease. There’s even a kind of bitter, defeatist humor on the part of the lead detective character, although I suppose that may be projection on my part. At a certain point, this venture nearly goes off the rails completely, and had it done so, it would probably now be much more well known than it remains. But as a friend of mine once admonished, “Notorious is not the same as famous, Billy.” And had the inscrutable relationship that’s established between a twentysomething guy and a nine- or 10-year-old girl proceeded much differently, that discernment would be starkly pronounced. All in all, an effectively unsettling little flick about an institutionalized individual who breaks out and heads home to see his dear mother. Wisely, very little is ultimately explained; those questions, and the perplexing motives, lend an enigmatic nature to the murk.

why did i watch this movie?

Naturally, I found the title provocative. Plus, it was Mother’s Day weekend.

should you watch this movie?

I must warn you, no maternal figures are discerped in the course of this film.

highlight and low point

So, seriously, another one of Leder’s movies (The Eleventh Commandment) bears the following tagline:
“A murderous psycho breaks out of a mental hospital and goes after his uncle.” Now, I wouldn’t want to suggest that this filmmaker is content to revisit old territory – gosh, no – but in 1994 he also produced a sequel to Mama called Killing Obsession. We will of course be screening that one in good time, though I
don’t have high hopes for its credibility.

rating from outer space: B

American Nightmare (1983)

directed by don mcbrearty
mano films limited/manesco films ltd.

Like the preceding selection, this movie features a lot of footage of strippers, but this Canadian picture manages to do so without it feeling particularly sleazy or exploitative. (Of course, the synopsis “mysterious killer preys on strippers” probably didn’t hurt with potential investors.) There’s more of a working-class focus, really, but portrayed within usually seedy locales. This viewpoint may be especially evident in contrast with the moneyed interests represented across a wide family divide. Our moody pianist protagonist doggedly pursues faint clues until he uncovers a terrible secret, which ultimately serves to mask a sociopathy masquerading as altruism. Along the way, two damaged people learn a little bit about love. WILL they survive the experience.

why did i watch this movie?

I wanted to throw another ’80s picture into the mix, and I’d been putting this one off.

should you watch this movie?

It doesn’t especially stand out, though its sociological perspective on affluence (or the lack of same) is pretty interesting, given that it actually was produced in 1981. Plus its disdain for the American ruse, of course.

highlight and low point

As is often the case in this genre, after the big reveal, you’d be best served not to think about any of the ramifications of what you’ve learned. Canadian film fans might enjoy another pairing of Michael Ironside and Lenore Zann, though the former’s role is surprisingly unimportant in the long run and the latter’s only serves to propel a plot device. And for a flick in which the main character inquires, “Did your reports tell you that she’s living in a SLUM? Surrounded by DEGENERATES?” the treatment of its sex workers and other assorted misfits or marginal types is in large part nonjudgmental.

rating from outer space: C

Uncle Sam (1996)

directed by WILLIAM LUSTIG
gable productions

You kinda have to admire the chutzpah of a flick that doesn’t even bother to give any sort of reason how or why the titular dead soldier is wandering around killing “America’s” enemies – that’s just how it is. And, really, when you are as uninspired as this picture, why bother going that extra foot. When I stumbled across this title, I found myself wondering how I’d never previously heard of it. Having watched it, I now know: it’s terribly bland. Proceeding in a kind of somnolent daze, everything feels mistimed or disjointed, as if every scene was shot separately and then assembled in postproduction. (It’s doubtful a deeper, more complex story fell victim to budget constraints.) A couple of the killings are relatively imaginative, I guess. From the creative team behind the equally humdrum Maniac Cop.

why did i watch this movie?

The title. Plus, from all appearances it appeared to be a chintzy production with a paint-by-numbers concept. I didn’t even know Larry Cohen was involved until the credits rolled. (He “wrote” it.)

should you watch this movie?

Assuredly so, presuming you have a predilection for really bad acting and general inanity.

highlight and low point

My preferred moment was when it was clearly obvious that multiple Sams were lined up to produce the EERIE effect in a scene where the local teenage lout has gotten wildly off course from the Independence Day town festival sack race but for some reason continues hopping along in the sack instead of taking the damn thing off and, you know, walking or running or something. The prepubescent burn victim in the wheelchair who establishes some sorta psychic link with Undead Sam (also horribly charred) is a close second.

rating from outer space: D−

NOT Joe Biden

Daddy’s Deadly Darling (1984) aka Pigs (1973), etc., etc.

produced and directed (and likely written) by marc lawrence
safia s.a.

Untangling which of the many edits or releases this particular edition represented of what was intended to be called “The 13th Pig” took me some sleuthing, as this oft-rejiggered should-be cult classic’s tangle of different owners and distributors practically redefines the term “exploitation.” The picture itself wasn’t what I’d expected, either, even if I’d be hard-pressed to explicate exactly what that might have been; instead, this little oddity is a somewhat insightful meditation on mental illness, child sex abuse, codependency, and other fun, happy stuff. Oh, yeah, and multiple bodies get fed to (or are “turned into”) pigs, hence the ostensible original title. Nothing terribly graphic occurs herein until just before this version’s tacked-on coda, but a creepy, unsettling vibe sustains itself via many little details. One big detail: the two main actors were father and daughter, only enhancing the oddity. Ah, the movie business.

why did i watch this movie?

The title – “Pigs,” that is – and given year (which in this case was ’72), along with a brief synopsis, granted me visions of misbegotten bloody backwoods savagery, thematically aligning with whatever tangent I was pursuing.

should you watch this movie?

Well, now that I think I’ve tracked down the director’s preferred version of his movie, I’m planning to watch it again, if that tells you anything.

highlight and low point

As “Zambrini,” Lawrence portrays a cunning expediency in a manner suggesting a deranged hybrid of Michael Richards as Kramer and Christopher Lloyd’s Jim Ignatowski from Taxi. His daughter Toni seemingly perfected the oblivious affect of the dangerously disordered mind. Charles Bernstein’s ridiculous period-perfect pop ditty is a marvel.

And: “It seems as though dead people just don’t have any civil rights at all.”

rating from outer space: C+

Slaughterhouse (1987)

written and directed by rick roessler
american artists

From the very beginning of this picture, I was pleasantly surprised. Well, scratch that – the very beginning of this picture is actual footage of a pork-processing plant, complete with pig massacre, and your faithful correspondent is a vegan animal lover – but once the movie proper began, it outdid my expectations. It hadn’t sounded promising, from the overly obvious title to the mentally challenged hillbilly character to the billing as a “horror comedy,” but it’s a fairly well-made slasher pic. As it turns out, the deranged Bacon scion (uh-huh, I know) is effectively unsettling, the humor is … well, “subtle” isn’t the right word, but there’s no mugging or slapstick and no awful punmanship, either. The kids are just regular kids, it doesn’t quite follow the usual trite template, and even the gore is reasonably presented, and fairly minimal. Color me impressed.

why did i watch this movie?

This one’s been in the queue for so long I have no idea. I saw a reference to it somewhere and thought, that sounds as though it could be terrible, I should watch it.

should you watch this movie?

With the acknowledgment that it wasn’t ever gonna win too many awards for originality, you could make much worse choices for overlooked ’80s numbers.

highlight and low point

That this picture could have degenerated into a cartoonish farce but didn’t ranks as among its best features. It does include the widely lampooned “let the villain talk long enough for help to arrive” shtick, though, along with the timeworn device of a freeze-frame ending – which here proved doubly pointless, as a sequel never materialized because this production failed to attract a lucrative distribution offer. The delightfully generic synthpop tunes contribute sporadic bonus contemporizing.

rating from outer space: B

Deadly Manor aka Savage Lust (1990)

written and directed by jose larraz
filmworld international productions, inc./castor films s.a.

The kind of picture that would’ve been better off not explaining the what or why of its anonymous slayings, this unexceptional slasher potboiler nonetheless manages to do quite a bit with almost nothing. It’s generic, sure, and its cast of unknowns could’ve done a much better job delivering their lines convincingly, but the air of menace is effective enough that the deceptive clues don’t displease too much. Surprisingly low on exploitation factor, given that there’s a nude dead female lavished across the screen at the 1:39 mark, this film revels in setting scenes in fumbling darkness, and boldly employs the ruse of the faux savior for good measure. Its ensemble of young adult characters, however, don’t quite match the usual stereotypes, and law enforcement is neither pointlessly obstructive nor dismissively inept. The story is no more ridiculous than you’d guess, probably.

why did i watch this movie?

The director, who was known to have used three or four pseudonyms, has quite a record of exploitation horrors to his credit … one of which I’d unwittingly previously reviewed!

should you watch this movie?

Despite its lack of ambition, it was actually pretty entertaining for the most part.

highlight and low point

The constant smirking of the red herring character adds a mischievous touch, and some of the pathos on display is almost convincing at times. The hallucinatory sex scene dream sequence is rather a surprise, in that it’s not one of the main cast’s young ladies that gets naked, and the fact that the group of meddling kids weary travelers stays in the title abode despite its appearance – and one of their own’s premonition – is the staff of life for this entire genre.

rating from outer space: b−

(note license plate)

God Bless America (2011)

written and directed by bobcat goldthwait
darko entertainment/jerkschool productions

I’ll admit, I laughed heartily throughout this not-terribly-original flick, an entertaining mashup of source material such as Falling Down, Idiocracy, Natural Born Killers, Albert Brooks’s Lost in America, hell, probably Network, and so on. A few of the harangues and spiels and much of the invective plays a little too much like a script reading, but Goldthwait’s bile is certainly in the right place, at least to this eremitic misanthropist radical. Yes, it’s maybe a little too pat, a little too obvious at times, but the director evades cliché as much as embraces it. The ending is almost beautiful somehow, even though the absurd impossibility that buttresses the whole structure is blatant and a few nagging questions are never countenanced. This auteur’s failings often provide as much to contemplate as his successes, so I’m not inclined to argue much.

why did i watch this movie?

I find the arc of Goldthwait’s career fascinating, and his 2013 Bigfoot picture, Willow Creek, was absolutely phenomenal.

should you watch this movie?

If you’re at all an outsider, outlier, an elitist, or at the very least somewhat pretentious, I’d wager you’d enjoy the premise and its setup. To make it very clear, the main target of opprobrium here is the “American Idol” entertainment model and its ardent supporters … along with a very broad swath of workaday existence and the type of populace that determined itself “populist” for the 2016 election.

highlight and low point

The  speech the jailbait character gives about her love for, like, Alice Cooper, doesn’t really come across too believably, and oh yeah – one of the two main characters is a Lolita analogue, which presents multivarious uncomfortable connotations. (Which largely has been Goldthwait’s stock in trade as a filmmaker.)

rating from outer space: B+