The Deadly Spawn aka The Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn (1983)

written and directed by douglas mckeown
filmline communications

“A real meteorite! It’s red hot!”
What?”
“I gotta get a picture of this!”
“Don’t forget the flash attachment.”

Now, THIS is how ya do the independent lower-budget horror film thing, people. Cheesy, knowing, and with a surprisingly interesting screenplay, this magnificent homage to space-invader creature features of days of yore is a total winner. From the classic gambit of the opening scenes that set the tone by employing characters unrelated to the action that follows, to the legitimately SHOCKING moment at film’s end, this production flirts with excellence throughout. True, the acting skills on display may not show much polish, the monstrous alien marauders are very obviously puppets and rubber props, and some of the fatal injuries inflicted are unconvincing, but the purity of intent delivers with delightful effect.

why did i watch this movie?

I’m not certain, but I think I came across this fetching title when I was randomly browsing through horror compendia, as I periodically do.

should you watch this movie?

With the stipulation that you need to be in the mood for a picture of this type, I do recommend viewing this inspired presentation.


highlight and low point

Truthfully, I greatly admired the lengthy, lively discussions about the scientific method amongst the college students, and the detailed attention paid to the décor of monster aficionado Charles’s bedroom. Too, the fact that the filmmakers did not shy away from exposing – nay, flaunting – their extraterrestrial creation is to their ultimate credit. The only real gripe I have is that the identity of some of the characters is a bit confusing initially, but that’s quickly resolved. Oh, and the camera lingers a little too long on some shots, particularly of Charles, to no discernible purpose.

rating from outer space: A−

Antisocial (2013)

directed by cody calahan
breakthrough entertainment/black fawn films

So what you have here is a film wherein a handful of millenials have to barricade themselves in a residence as refuge from the ultraviolence burgeoning outside, and as it’s picking up steam, I’m losing interest rapidly. I mean, I’m wondering what’s with this The Purge–meets–28 Days Later–meets–Pulse–meets–every–zombie–flick–ever business, you dig. As the story finally develops, though, it redeems itself to some degree, becoming more insidious – and, actually, a lot more ironically funny – than it seemed it was going to be. Still not exactly the most original concept or execution, but credit must be given to the portrayal of social media manipulation and the ever-growing battle for constant connectivity. (The portrayal of the presumably heroic lead female role could have used a little work, though.) Ooh, hey, look! A sequel that sounds really dismal!

why did i watch this movie?

It was New Year’s Eve, and this movie is set on New Year’s Eve.

should you watch this movie?

Not a whole lot of horror pics have “New Year’s Eve” as a setting or a theme.

highlight and low point

The tensions and relationships between the five twentysomethings hoping to survive whatever the hell it is that’s going on are portrayed rather well, and the gradually encroaching understanding of what exactly is happening, and how, is skillfully handled. Once again, however, here in the world of the horror movie, we have a paucity of original ideas, even with the wicked insinuations of the latter stages of the “viral infection.” Oh, and the black guy dies first. Followed by the party girl.

rating from outer space: C+

Concepts and business entities portrayed in this motion picture are fictional. Any resemblance to actual concepts or business entities is purely coincidental.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

directed by george a. romero
image ten

This being one of the more influential and critically assessed horror flicks of all time, I’m not going to waste a whole lot of words here, though I do find it highly amusing that I’d never seen this picture. (I’ve seen Day of the Dead, the completely irrelevant Return of the Living Dead, and such variants as Zombi3, but never the foundation film.) Having previously watched Romero’s Season of the Witch (“aka Hungry Wives”) and The Crazies, I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with his work, but I wasn’t prepared for the early going of this picture to emulate a silent movie, nor the workaday nature of the living dead themselves. The social commentary can be a bit heavy-handed, but that’s kind of a Romero calling card, at least in his auteur guise. A few quibbles: One, the film lacks for a certain logical consistency in how the zombies – er, I mean “ghouls” – act; two, and this just occurred to me during the latter portions of this film, why in the hell do zombies have to eat? They’re dead!

why did i watch this movie?

Night of the Living Dead is no. four in Johnny Ramone’s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

So much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.

highlight and low point

The very nature of the low-budget presentation aids it immeasurably, lending it an almost documentary feel at times, and the general lack of histrionics on behalf of the risen dead also helps, their implacable multitudes generating an overwhelming sense of dread as the scope of the danger becomes more clear. Romero’s unadorned direction of his actors at times gives the proceedings a distinctly stagy quality, and his statements tend toward the transparent.

rating from outer space: a-

Seizure aka Queen of Evil (1974)

directed by oliver stone
cine films inc./euro-american pictures/intercontinental leisure industries ltd./queen of evil ltd. partnership

This audacious piece of humbuggery is the directorial debut of one Oliver Stone, who you may remember from such critically acclaimed films as Salvador and Platoon, or from creating proto-memes in the ’80s with Wall Street, or for his radical-chic flashback Born on the Fourth of July, or from such widely derided slop as The Doors, or from putting you to sleep with Heaven & Earth, or for his meta provocateur turn in Natural Born Killers, or for the overcooked pastiche of U Turn, and so on and so on and SO on, and no, I haven’t bothered with one of his interpretations or obsessions in a long time. Well, get this – right from the jump Ollie wanted you to know all about the creative process. This is actual dialogue:

Author: You really believe in God.
Distinguished friend: I believe in myself, Edmund. Therefore, I have faith … in Him.

Anyway, the Queen of Evil – Kali, it’s theorized – shows up at the writer’s house while he’s having a party, with her henchmen Jackal and Spider, the latter of which is played by Hervé Villechaize, and none of whom may exist. OR DO THEY. Chaos, intrigue, etc., ensues. The picture concludes with a threefold twist ending. Maybe fourfold, who can tell.

why did i watch this movie?

I had no idea such phantasmagoria was Mr. Stone’s entry into the world of directing.

should you watch this movie?

It’s ludicrous enough.

highlight and low point

The Queen of Evil is portrayed with a deliciously arch sangfroid and Stone’s latencies amuse, but you can’t top Villechaize being credited with the still photography for this production in addition to his onscreen role. Also hard to top: how very silly this all is.

rating from outer space: C+

Rituals aka The Creeper (1977)

directed by peter carter
astral films limited/coast films/canadian film development corporation

You know, I enjoy listing the multiple titles for some of these pix, mainly because it usually follows that the more different names a film acquires throughout its life of distribution, the more debatable its quality. There are exceptions, of course; every rule has them. This picture could be one of those exceptions. Its sobriquet may have been appended because somebody wisely decided that the original name didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Now, ’tis true that one of the characters in this patently Deliverance-derived flick makes an offhand remark – a barely audible offhand remark, mind you – that the subjects may be the victims of a demonic ritual, but … yeah, that’s not the case. They are, however, being stalked by a deranged backwoods weirdo. In the forests and wilds of Ontario. Including on a river. Despite that derivative handicap, however, the movie’s pretty good. Bonus points awarded because two of the friends here are played by the very same actors who played acquaintances in The Clown Murders, and for the fact that multiple reviewers have compared this affair to 1981’s Just Before Dawn.

why did i watch this movie?

I may have been misled by the title and synopsis into thinking it contained a “ritual” aspect. Crazy, I know.

should you watch this movie?

You probably won’t, but it does manage to link neatly the aforementioned Deliverance (from 1972) to 1982’s First Blood.

highlight and low point

One supremely shocking scene stands out, as it very well might have in any number of other scary movies, mainly because it so starkly emphasizes how hopeless the situation is for our protagonists. Overall, however, this is just too reminiscent of that earlier blockbuster production I do not want to name again.

rating from outer space: c−

Visiting Hours (1982)

directed by jean claude lord
filmplan international/canadian film development corporation

Okay, I imagined this one was gonna be pretty lame, and in fact, I had put off watching it for the past couple years. It kept almost making the cut, but then I’d figure it was gonna be too tame and too much like a soap opera. Instead, it was actually a pretty taut affair, and despite some overly predictable developments, a rewarding choice. (It probably didn’t hurt that none of the other flicks I watched around the same time were much good.) Michael Ironside’s malevolent antihero is an implacable force, ably balancing out the fact that Wm. Shatner kept reminding me of so-called U. S. “president” Don T., through no fault of his own. (Shatner’s, that is.) A few genuinely surprising scenes during the climactic action were a welcome sight. I also found the subject matter, of a female media personality’s taking a stand opposing violence against women and triggering a backlash from a vigilante nutcase, to be very relevant in the current political climate.

why did i watch this movie?

The real question is what took me so long.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a quality choice for a random late-nite viewing when there’s nothing else “on.”

highlight and low point

My choice would probably be one and the same, to be honest: during one scene, the villain, Colt Hawker (!), sports a garment that appears to be leather-look vinyl or something similar. It looks godawful uncomfortable, and is quite apt for the scene, which involves a vicious misogynistic assault. It also precisely contextualizes the film. On a more personal note, I got a kick out of the fact that by coincidence, Lenore Zann plays minor roles in both this and Happy Birthday to Me, as I watched them during the same stretch.

rating from outer space: B

an AMC Gremlin, i believe

F aka The Expelled (2010)

directed by johannes roberts
black robe/capital markets film finance

Only about 75 minutes long, this British production is basically Scream meets The Strangers, minus any meta sensibility or any tinge of humor (or humour, if you will). It does feature the very British touch of having one or more of its characters muttering and whispering his or her dialogue so that it’s virtually impossible to hear, especially if you’re watching it with doors and windows open in a neighborhood like mine. (And a sense of hearing like mine.) Also featured: very little detail. We aren’t told much about motivation, relationships, hierarchies. We do get some brief insights from which inferences may be drawn, but are essentially dropped into the middle of someone else’s story without being given a lot of background. What transpires is effectively unsettling, however – in any number of ways – and the ending is pretty intense. The story REALLY needed some new ideas of its own, though.

why did i watch this movie?

The director helmed The Strangers: Prey at Night, which I’d seen recently, so I thought hey, let’s see what else this guy did.

should you watch this movie?

You have received the caveats. Make of them what you will.

highlight and low point

This film is really well done, especially for a production that obviously didn’t cost a whole lot, so the biggest problem it has remains its lack of originality. Except, again, for the ending, which considers a facet of the human condition not often addressed in these types of pictures. The extremely judicious nature of precisely what is shown and when is exceptional.

rating from outer space: c+