Yellowbrickroad (2010)

written and directed by andy mitton & jesse holland
points north

It is inevitable that this picture will make viewers think of The Blair Witch Project, even those like me who haven’t seen the precursory feature. Truth be told, this production brought to mind a passel of other films as well, although largely as vague hints or impressions, mainly evoked by the hallucinatory effects of people losing their grips on reality as they head into the hills. (One such flick that I’ve reviewed here would be Cold Ground.) Philosophical implications abound – especially the metaphysical – and the fact that everyone winds up alone in his or her struggle for life, though perhaps not so profound, reveals itself gradually enough to be quietly impressive. The ending, not so much … but points are awarded for the overall lack of any explanation of the events. Sometimes a mystery just is, and as forest service representative “Cy” points out, one needn’t go seeking answers for every question. (“These questions … never needed to be fuckin’ asked” is how he more colorfully puts it.)


why did i watch this movie?

It was recommended to me in an online forum.


should you watch this movie?

That isn’t the worst idea, though you may not be convinced for a little while. But for such a deceptively simple story, there’s a lot to ponder.


highlight and low point

When we meet a new character – a potentially suspicious one, at that – and discover that her name is “Liv.” I’m laughing right now thinking about it. The sound FX, and occasional lack thereof, often can be quite stunning. This feature also maintains a bit of a mockumentary feel without resorting to the “found footage” canard. The “Wizard of Oz” link is debatable; other moments of referentialism suggest themselves.

rating from outer space: B+

Wendigo (2001)

written, directed, edited by larry fessenden
glass eye pix/antidote films

I had to more or less force myself to finish watching this tale of a weekend trip gone bad. I don’t think it was this picture’s fault, though, even if I neither found it particularly interesting nor would agree that it’s affecting and frightening. Maybe it’s a trend – the last couple films covered here haven’t really delivered the goods I have sought, plus it’s “baseball season” after a fashion, and I have a bunch of other stuff I gotta worry about, and, and, and. I know that’s a bit unfair. One thing I will say for this Larry Fessenden production: he got terrific acting jobs outta pretty much his entire cast. The naturalistic nature of most of the story really works, and paradoxically, therein lies some of the problem. The supernatural stuff, which eventually strives to establish a presence, doesn’t carry enough weight and mainly feels like an intrusion. I’m not at all sure the story even needed it.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d like to say because it’s under Fessenden’s imprimatur and leave it at that, but that’s only partially the reason. It was the primary factor I paid attention to its inclusion in that same Fangoria book, however.

should you watch this movie?

I’d prefer to be more positive here, because as often noted, I strongly support the independent film community. This offering doesn’t present a compelling argument, though.

highlight and low point

The family members (mom, dad, youth) are completely convincing as a unit. It’s a really finely wrought set of performances. The student-film camerawork had me rolling my eyes. And again, there’s a seeming dichotomy of purpose here, and the feature never seems to commit one way or another.

rating from outer space: C

Blood Massacre (1987)

directed by don dohler
a don dohler film
don dohler entertainment

For more than half of its 73 minutes, this podunk feature is mired in an extended, irritating look into the lives of murderous, infighting petty criminals whose favorite word is “bitch.” (This latter point never varies.) Eventually, however, this crew winds up at some seemingly random family’s farmhouse – after robbing a video store for 720 dollars, thus firmly establishing their felonious acumen – and though you think you’ve got an inkling of what’s going to transpire, by the time all’s said and done, this production has gone a couple steps beyond your imagination. That alone doesn’t really make this any better of a film or anything like that, but the gleeful overcompensation is worth an approving nod and a smile, at least.

why did i watch this movie?

Having just reviewed a flick whose alternate title purportedly is “Insane Blood Massacre,” it seemed only natural to make the decision to check this one out, at long last.

should you watch this movie?

On one hand, it’s shot poorly and the dialogue is subpar. On the other, it still might be worth it just for the final two-fifths or so. The escalation is that unexpected.

highlight and low point

“Jimmy” sports a Kim Carnes “Mistaken Identity Summer Tour 81” concert shirt. No, really. Later in the action a character is repeatedly violently knifed while hanging from a tree, and as I laughed in appreciation, I wondered what my enjoyment of such depictions might indicate about my psychological well-being. Maybe the fact that it’s not exactly credibly realistic is a saving grace. Among others, an unforeseen plot development is a sequence that emulates First Blood. Unprecedented scripting: “Doesn’t sound like a cop car, it sounds like a … Chrysler New Yorker.”

rating from outer space: C−

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−

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−

And Soon The Darkness (1970)

directed by robert fuest
associated british productions ltd.

The sort of very British suspense film wherein almost nothing is revealed straightaway until very far along in the programme, where events suggest the audience’s guesswork is the main impetus, the most effective thing this production had going for it was that its tale of English ladies touring the French countryside exhibited no translation. Hence, the viewer was not to be informed of what the natives were saying, rendering that viewer as helpless – and perhaps as clueless – as the protagonist. Unless said viewer were to possess some command of the French language, that is, in which case he or she likely deduced where this case of mysterious identities and shifting suspicions would conclude. Pacing presented the major problem – though establishing a setting and a mood is important, those factors probably didn’t need quite so much development, especially in the interminably plodding final third. I mean, here’s the plot: A girl goes missing.

why did i watch this movie?

A while back I was scanning blurbs for ’70s flicks and saw this one described as an atmospheric something something with a chilling blah blah blah, and I was persuaded.


should you watch this movie?

I did not find it particularly noteworthy.


highlight and low point

I’ll tip my cap to the almost completely pointless diversion in the middle of this muddle, where the lead encounters a deaf war veteran in a farmyard of sorts, to no apparent purpose. It was also intriguing that for a movie contrived around birds on a bicycle trip, neither young lady seemed particularly adept at riding. The ongoing attempts to cast doubt as to the perpetrator’s identity eventually approached crisis proportions. A potent moment: when the whereabouts of the missing companion were revealed.

rating from outer space: C+

Mercy Black (2019)

written and directed by owen egerton
divide/conquer

Oh, for crying out loud … here we go again with this bushwah. I try really hard not to sound like a broken record in these pages, which is sometimes a chore, but I may have no choice this time. What we have here is a spook film with a checklist, making sure it gives audiences exactly what they’ve already gotten so many times before – albeit one that for a brief, barely glimpsed moment has a fleeting chance to offer something different, to head somewhere that might be more than routine. But it doesn’t do that; at right about that same moment, it dives into the usual trough. Then it throws the ol’ SHOCKING reveal at you before copping out completely. Refusing to commit to any of its conceits, this Netflix offering exemplifies the perhaps apocryphal adage “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Dissatisfying at best.

why did i watch this movie?

Uh, yeah … I must have been asleep at the switch, because the description that accompanies this flick really doesn’t sound all that stimulating.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a blatant recasting of the 2014 “Slender Man” stabbing from Wisconsin, and it really isn’t worth your time.


highlight and low point

Maybe the most polite way I could put it is to posit that at no point in this parade of platitudinous pusillanimity do events rise above or plummet beneath a plateau. (That is, it may be tired and unimaginative throughout, but hey, at least it’s consistent.) Everything that could be worthwhile about this experience lies solely within your ability to imagine it, which, mirabile dictu, happens to align with one of this picture’s insufficiently addressed themes. It is also directed clumsily.

rating from outer space: D

Three on a Meathook aka 3 on a Meathook! (1972)

written and directed by william girdler
studio 1 productions

Like, wow, man, what a trip. What a far-out trip, man. A meandering picture about a young man coming of age and finding love, about a young woman trying to find her place in life, and their getting together almost by fate … to barely survive the young man’s homicidal father, who’s turned their farm into a meat-processing smokehouse, you might say. AND THE REASON WHY WILL SHOCK YOU! If it doesn’t make you guffaw, that is, especially once the psychiatrist’s psychobabble “explains” the whole affair. Oh, and if you don’t immediately think “Psycho” at the SURPRISE TWIST climactic scene, you must’ve missed it. Seemingly a precursor to Axe or Shriek of the Mutilated or any other semiprofessional production. Hilariously odd at times.

why did i watch this movie?

Didn’t “Chainsaw” and “Dave” mention this title in Summer School, or am I imagining that? Whatever the case,  I’ve wanted to see it for a very long time – since I found out it was a real film.


should you watch this movie?

You THINK from its moniker that it’s a no-wit, lowbrow exploitation fleshfest shamelessly aping any other chop-’em-up, but it’s just kinda an unremarkable crummy movie with a few hints of tentative gore.

 
highlight and low point

Oh, where to begin … the interminable bar scene where we’re treated to the performance of “American Xpress”? The credits for same, which read “singer: EDWARD DEMPLEY”? The out-of-nowhere, fourth-wall-breaking antiwar speech from “Becky”? The excessive establishing shots? The recorder-laden score, also by producer/director/writer Girdler? The fact that the auteur was also responsible for the same year’s equally inspired Asylum of Satan? The boating-and-skinny-dipping scene that leads to our introduction to “Billy”? And how about that fine name for a lead role?

rating from outer space: C+

Texas Chainsaw 3D aka Texas Chainsaw (2013)

directed by john luessenhop
millennium films/main line pictures

I’ll say this much: before you figure out where this picture is heading – which is about when you might want to stop watching – it’s a fairly worthy successor to the debut, even if its opening completely rips off that of The Devil’s Rejects. Not unlike every other film bearing any relationship to the title “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” – checkered as that past is – it also leaves way too many questions unanswered, questions which needn’t ever have been raised in the first place. Oh! And as it lurches through its climax, it also borrows an extended scene (and attendant manner of grisly demise) from Slaughterhouse. For all that – and I’m including the ludicrous backstory and character development of the newest family member – it’s a gripping watch … at least until our poor heroine gets “helped out” by the police, anyway. After that, it’s just more of the same hot garbage churned out in the name of the TCM franchise by those who won’t leave bad enough alone.

why did i watch this movie?

A clip from it posted somewhere led me to the trailer, which twisted my arm.


should you watch this movie?

Hooper and Henkel’s 1974 success was a serendipitous feat, and nobody seems willing or able to countenance that fact – including them. (They’re two of approximately 137 “executive producers” here.) It’s less perfunctory than the 2003
reboot, for whatever that’s worth.

highlight and low point

This film does not skimp on sickening gore, presented for the most part with exquisite care, so if that happens to be your bag, one indelible scene in particular is calling your name. The resolution of the storyline is a mess, the loopholes and oversights mount alarmingly, and the scattered signifiers of the original seem desperate.

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