The Retreat (2021)

directed by pat mills
Alyson Richards Productions/Clique Pictures

I don’t wanna sound like a straight normal hetero guy, but if this picture didn’t concern a lesbian couple trying to avoid being killed by gay-hating militaristic dark-web content providers, it wouldn’t warrant much mention as anything other than just another genre exercise. As it is, however, it kinda reminded me of The Hills Run Red, at least for the filmed killings. Anyway, I guess you can’t dismiss the zeitgeist, so despite its fairly hackneyed presentation, it is going to attract some attention for what could be read as its sociopolitical statements. Which may be fair enough, but doesn’t ever go far enough, either. For the record, the most hateful character is a rural married woman.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Media commentary about it made the usual claims about it being some kinda subversion of the paradigm, or a similar combo of buzzwords.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Maybe you’d like to contemplate how tepidly this supposedly brash experiment approaches its homosexual themes. You can start with the fact that it focuses on a lesbian couple, of course, instead of two guys, and move right on into observing how remarkably dispassionate their relationship is. (The PR claims that relationship is “rocky,” but c’mon.)

Highlight and Low Point

Okay, seriously, there’s a scene in this flick – and this would constitute a SPOILER ALERT, were it not for what I’m about to “reveal” – where our intrepid heroine has to escape her dastardly bonds and does so by … can you guess? Huh? Can ya? DING DING DING! Yes! She breaks her own thumb so she can slide her hand free! WOW! Who could possibly have seen that coming!

Attn. directors: Please stop putting this scene in your movies.

Rating From Outer Space: C

‘Salem’s Lot (2004)

Directed by Mikael Salomon
A Mark M. Wolper Production
in Association with Warner Bros. Television

Had I been aware this existed? I didn’t think so, but one scene convinced me I’d at least read about it somewhere before, and I have the sneaking suspicion it must have been a commentary by S. King himself. (I cannot confirm this.) Whatever the case, when I chanced upon it a few days prior to its viewing, a quick scan of its synopsis led me to think it would be nigh unwatchable, but that turned out to be far from the truth. Actually, one could argue the amendments made to the source text actually improve things, since it becomes a little bit less of a blatant rewrite of Dracula in this iteration. Hampered a bit by the need to be palatable enough to serve a basic-cable television audience, and also by the curious handling of the Barlow character, the three-hour runtime felt appropriate. Bringing the story into a more contemporary setting didn’t hurt, either, although I would argue it didn’t resemble “Maine” in the least … were it not for the fact I’ve never been to Maine, so how would I know.

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

As I’ve never posted a review of Tobe Hooper’s CBS-TV version of this story, I had planned to rewatch that, but at a certain point in the proceedings I became aware of this one and switched allegiances.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I’ll say this, it wasn’t the easiest thing to find.


Highlight and Low Point

The casting is sometimes questionable. Rob Lowe’s a pretty good Ben Mears, but Donald Sutherland’s Straker may require a period of adjustment and Rutger Hauer’s Barlow is just odd. The intro and outro present a quandary.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

The Nesting aka Massacre Mansion (1981)

Produced and Directed by Armand Weston

For the most part, this is a straightforward old-haunted-house yarn, but it has a couple peculiarities that are gonna leave you wondering. The basic story is, well, basic: successful novelist rents a country home for rest, relaxation and writing, but wouldn’t ya know, something’s amiss. For one thing, she keeps having these weird dreams. For another, she’s agoraphobic, which isn’t the best trait when your residence starts frightening you. Then there’s the small matter that the house itself was depicted on the cover of one of her previous novels. Throw in a threatening drunken handyman, various oddball locals, and intrusive hallucinations, and you’ve got your hands full. Pretty good overall, but oh, those few production quirks …

why did i watch this movie?

To reiterate: I selected some of these titles quite a while ago, and haven’t the foggiest notion about many. I don’t even know where I came across this one, it turns out.

should you watch this movie?

Though it wears out its welcome here and there – the visions get a bit repetitive, and Robin Groves gets a little too hysterical a little too often – it’s a bit better than you might expect.

highlight and low point

Not only are there a few moments of supernatural activity that more or less just produce giggles – they seem superfluous and silly, even in what is essentially a ghost story – but there’s a car chase featuring fake car-chase sounds! And other ersatz automotive audio effects! I honestly cannot recall ever experiencing such a thing before; it’s extremely obvious, and it’s hilarious. Aside from this mainstream foray, producer/director/co-writer Weston worked almost exclusively in the adult-film world. Despite that, this venture is not particularly sleazy, even with a “house of ill repute” subplot.

Rating From Outer Space: B−

 

Freaky (2020)

directed by CHRISTOPHER LANDON
Blumhouse Productions/Divide/conquer

I will freely admit – I have to – that I’m a sucker for this exact sort of flick, to the extent that I knew I was going to like it as soon as I read a review of it. And I put off watching it for some reason anyway. So, yeah, here’s another Blumhouse comedic horror romp, and boy is it ever of the moment. A body-switching gender-defying mockup slasher spoof of “Freaky Friday” and its ilk, it even manages to worm a little bit more tension out of some of the hoariest of the genre’s tropes. Men’s rights advocates probably won’t like it much, and who the hell knows whether the newly minted Science-trusters will denounce it while busily insisting they’re defending the natural rights of biological women. Why, there could be ammo for the cancel-culture-cancellers, too! Now THAT’s inclusive!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Man, I already done TOLD ya! I’m like a moth around a light bulb for this kinda thing.

Should You Watch This Movie?

I will go ahead and presume it will not suit everybody’s taste. Hell, it could even seem like outright trolling in some regards, I suppose. But here’s the thing: Times change. Seasons change. But this movie is bloody entertaining. (Literally, of course.)

Highlight and Low Point

Vince Vaughn is tremendous in this picture. Which may be surprising to you, should you not be aware that Vince Vaughn is still a guy who acts ‘n’ such. Hey, it caught me a little bit unawares. And see above comments about aggressive agenda-pushing. I mean, look, that’s a big part of what’s behind the whole premise here, but … certain people take their cues from certain people they know, if you catch my drift.

Rating From Outer Space: A−

The Majorettes (1987)

Directed by Bill Hinzman
Major Films/Ross & Hinzman

Oh, MAN, there is so, so much wrong in this picture that it’s instantly vaulted into a vaunted echelon of that peculiar cinematic realm endemic to the underfunded independent horror picture. I mean, holy cow, John Russo – whose name I immediately recognized, attached as it was to the splendiferous delights of Midnight – was almost 50 when he wrote this screenplay, but that incidental fact doesn’t come near to excusing how incredibly out-of-touch he was with certain aspects of what he apparently thought was “youth culture.” But let’s ignore that for the nonce. After all, there’s the spurious dialogue to command our focus! Plus, as has been noted elsewhere, a bizarre tonal shift (think “Rambo”!) occurs at a certain point. I might tip my hat to the iconoclastic ending, I suppose – were it not distressingly pedophiliac.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I don’t know – I mean, I almost forgot I watched and wrote a “review” of it – but I was just thinking today about how a certain stripe of ’80s flicks are like comfort food … the lasting effects of which, of course, often range from                                                                              forgettable to unpleasant.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This one’s more akin to eats you decided to pick up at a gas station. They may be bad for you, but at least they don’t taste good!

highlight and low point

The depiction of the “high school” students is beyond compare. The “majorettes” themselves are a spectacle. I don’t think there’s a single character in this movie that isn’t a one-note self-parody, but I’m not about to go back and check. Everything in this absurd spectacle, with the possible exception of the buildings and trees and such, strains credulity to such an extent it astonishes.

rating from outer space: D

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka No profanar el sueño de los muertos aka Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti aka Don’t Open The Window (1974)

directed by jorge grau
star films s.a./flaminia produzioni cinematografiche

So, after multiple examples of movies not living up to whatever (fair or unfair) expectations I had, here we have one that wildly exceeded them. This Spanish-Italian production sets its eldritch tale of the undead – rejuvenated by a newfangled agricultural invention utilizing radiation for pest control – in the British countryside, and boasts some truly intimidating zombies. They can’t be stopped, and they waste no time in disemboweling their prey, to dine with zeal and relish. Of course, no self-respecting story of the unexplainable would be complete without the dismissive lead investigator and obstructionist local gendarmes, and for a special bonus, these immediately pin the blame on those damn longhaired kids and their drugs and free love. Stupendous.

why did i watch this movie?

Not totally certain, but I was looking for 1970s product and the title I found announced this one as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.” So I gave it a whirl.


should you watch this movie?

“Couple of drug-crazy maniacs.”
“Oh, worse than that, sergeant. Have you ever come across any of these Satanists … in your investigations?”

“No, but I’ve heard about them. Here, you don’t think –”
“They vandalize cemeteries. They profane tombs. And, you know, hold black masses … that’s why you’ve got your cross. Looks to me like a pretty typical case.”

highlight and low point

The  plot here takes a while to unfold, which proves to be gratifying. The experimental agronomics are tremendously unconvincing. The doctor is remarkably placid. Nearly everyone hates the youthful on sight. But Arthur Kennedy‘s Inspector can’t be topped. Seriously: “You’re all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes … drugs, sex, every sort of filth. And you hate the police, don’t ya.”

rating from outer space: A−

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+

Hack-O-Lantern aka Halloween Night aka Death Mask (1988)

directed by jag mundhra
spencer films

WHAT to say about this affair, other than that it’s off the charts in terms of unintentional hilarity. Although crammed full of cinematic signifiers – by which I mean events and occurrences happening only because a movie is being filmed – there’s so much more to it than shadings of what a defunct magazine of the philosophical arts once dubbed “fake authenticity.” The haphazard approach to various elements of what might otherwise be termed “set design” is also remarkable. Stage direction, there’s another area that inspires a true sense of wonder, as viewers observe one of the lead actors apparently making up his jive-ass “mystical gestures” on the spot. And this is going to surprise you, but the story doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, either – but you’ll still be able to accurately predict things. Really, this tossed-off tale of a family’s twisted involvement in the black arts (for no discernible purpose) is quite the marvel no matter how you slice it. I guess I shoulda said “hack it,” but if I weren’t trying desperately to avoid quack punnery here, I woulda already described this picture as a “hack job” and been done with it.


why did i watch this movie?

My brother “recommended” it, presumably based on … reputation. But I watched it on HALLOWEEN NIGHT, so it fit the bill.

should you watch this movie?

I did NOT expect this flick to slot in so well following Trick or Treat, but the inexplicable sequence comprising a music video for D.C. Lacroix’s tune “Devil’s Son” was an uncanny match. “Grandpa” also appeared in Nightmare in Blood.


Highlight and low point

The décor of Tommy’s basement room cannot be topped, but the presence in the cast of “Angel Rush” was a delight.

rating from outer space: D

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