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

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

Hell Night (1981)

directed by tom de simone
blt productions

Kicking things off with a wild frat-party scene that seems to promise lusty young-adult hijnks, this flick instead transforms into an old-school closed-room gothic mystery of a sort. Focusing on two quasi-couples (with Linda Blair and Vincent Van Patten among them) and a small coterie of pranks-players, this fairly ambitious feature soon treats its audience to secret passageways, mouldering intrigue and some unforeseen developments – and even finds time for the type of hoary scene wherein disdainful local cops refuse to buy the wild story related by the crazy kid begging for their assistance. Along with providing some of its characters with impactful backstories, this film also offers actually suspenseful moments of pulse-pounding pursuit. A few scenes could’ve been trimmed for the sake of pacing, and it wouldn’t have hurt any for the underlying scenario to have been further elucidated – either along the way or by means of synopsis – but these are petty concerns.

why did i watch this movie?

I’m not entirely sure, but I just read Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen, and it’s in there. (Don’t get TOO excited; so’s Beyond the Door.)

should you watch this movie?

On paper, it may not sound like much, but it’s a pretty good time, really. A few goofy (and admittedly often minor) details add some color, and the core group is resourceful in a reasonably realistic manner.

highlight and low point

Well, there’s a scene with a “ghost” that’s straight outta the Scooby-Doo playbook, which never fails to provide bemusement. Before we discover some of the diabolical secrets of the old house, we’re also treated to a couple of legitimately frightening moments. The grounds of the
estate also provide some valuable settings.
Humor’s occasionally implied, not overt.

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+

Biohazard (1985)

written, produced and directed by fred olen ray
viking films international

Oh, hey, look – it’s Aldo Ray again. Taking part in this ridiculous picture for exactly the reasons you’d surmise – he desperately needed some cash – he infuses his lines with all the believability of, say, a parrot. Not that authenticity is an important factor to a movie such as this, which more than anything else calls to mind the SF epics of the Atomic Age, made for as little money as possible, with whatever was lying around. The story revolves around a scientist tapping psychic powers to something something, and now there’s an alien life form. (It’s the director’s child in a costume that isn’t half bad, somehow.) This is the type of flick that features scenes in high desert areas because there’s no need for any sort of permits, the kind where all the various members of the “U.S. Army” sport mismatched “uniforms.” For its concluding statement, this production doesn’t even bother pretending it’s serious at all, leading one to reflect as to whether it ever had been. Pretending, that is.


why did i watch this movie?

My brother sent me a picture of the VHS box.


should you watch this movie?

Allegedly, Fred O. Ray made his first feature on a budget of $298. (And the white mouse will not explode, either.) And he allegedly paid A. Ray a thou for this one.


highlight and low point

I should stress that I’m unsure this movie is deliberately crummy by means of emulating the good ol’ days. I mean, I think the dialogue is as bad as it is without undue pretense, and the acting, too. That it wasn’t aiming any higher is a given, but the nonnegotiable parameters involved
pretty much guaranteed the outcome.

rating from outer space: D+

The Slayer aka Nightmare Island (1982)

directed by j. s. cardone
the international picture show company

For a flick with a ridiculously uninspired setup – two couples go to a remote island, where someone or something is bumping them off one by one – this small-time production winds up delivering a lot more than one would expect. I don’t think I’d go quite so far as to believe the claim that cineastes have long debated the manifold interpretations available to the ambiguous ending – how many people have even heard of this picture? – but although one’s immediate reaction to the final scene might be to feel a bit cheated, further reflection possibly may assuage such a response. It could also exacerbate it, of course, and hey, now I’m merging with those ca(s)hiers du cinéma(rt). Better than it should have been.


why did i watch this movie?

It’s called “The Slayer,” and it’s from 1982. Quod erat demonstrandum.


should you watch this movie?

It’s really more  of a character study than you’d be excused for expecting from a 1982 film called “The Slayer,” and kept reminding me of The Mutilator – which it predates – most likely because of the beachfront property.

highlight and low point

As Kay, Sarah Kendall gives audiences a pretty good indication of why they would never see her in anything ever again, but either her blank stares and flatness of affect eventually begin to seem more suitable or the dramatics of the rest of the movie overpower the urge to keep laughing. Kay’s an artist, which makes for an indefensibly inane analogy: though the plot here is akin to a paint-by-numbers kit, the end result is pleasing to the eye. The relationships between and among the couples are convincingly natural, and the final two minutes of this feature are a veritable tour de force.

rating from outer space: B+

Bit (2019)

written and directed by brad michael elmore
provocator/thirty 06 productions

So, the general premise here – young person seeking definition finds group of vampire peers – may not sound very fresh and exciting, but … the hook is that the young person is transgender, and the vampires are militant feminist lesbians. Hey, you got your polemics in my genre picture! (Men in particular take it on the chin here.) And I almost skipped over it just because that description sounds like a bit of a forced narrative. As I’m a cis male, though, maybe my perspective is skewed. But I AM gonna grumble that it’s set in L.A.. How come no young person can find fulfillment in a coming-of-age tale of self-discovery set in, like, Dubuque? Or Des Moines, perfect example. Ultimately, there’s no real empowerment message here, and in fact I’d wager there’s an anti-defamation group or two out there just stewing, alongside the fundamentalists. Hell, in one reading, the transgender arc can be spun as negative . Either way, the conversation happened, ya dig. This picture did remind me of The Lost Boys, though, which could be a troubling sign since I’ve never even seen it.


why did i watch this movie?

A spot of banter in the trailer.


should you watch this movie?

No fooling, if you like to debate coded messages, you could have a fun time with this one.


highlight and low point

Despite the clunky and perhaps cliché setup, and pointedly misandrist diatribes notwithstanding, the LGBTQIA+ bent didn’t strike me as a contrivance … because it isn’t presented as such. That the embodiment of the central metaphor is allowed to have personality flaws instead of bearing the standard of wishcasting idealism is instructive. Which doesn’t preclude the potential for friendly fire from obstinate axegrinders, unfortunately.

Rating from outer space: B

Mosquito (1994)

directed by gary jones
acme films, ltd./excalibur motion pictures/antibes, inc.

The sort of low-budget affair during which you’re never not acutely aware you’re watching a movie made on a shoestring, this off-brand extravaganza survives on the chutzpah of its gigantic insect puppets and a game cast of people who seem as though they’ve never acted before. At least on film – the irrepressible Mike Hard plays a small role as part of a criminal element, for instance. Meanwhile, as a major character, late-career sometime actor Ron Asheton does a credible job, especially by the standards of the surrounding evidence. The typically absurdist plot – alien spaceship crashes in swamp, mosquito sucks alien blood, mosquito grows humongous, everyone dies – was thankfully pared down by fiscal realities. “That’s some science fiction bullshit,” Asheton’s character Hendricks accuses. “No,” he’s told. “You are living in science FACT.” This picture allegedly has become a cult favorite, and if so, that cult must really be starved for entertainment.

why did i watch this movie?

I had just finished Jim Jarmusch‘s Stooges documentary Gimme Danger, noticed the billing here and thought, “That’s one hell of a coincidence.”


should you watch this movie?

It’s really lousy, but if you’re in the right frame of mind you might not care much.


highlight and low point

Not that it was a concern to begin with, but the closer this production gets to its grand finale the less anyone involved even winks at verisimilitude. Case in point: our heroes jump off the roof of a house to escape the teeming parasitic horde, suffering no ill effects from a conspicuously soft landing. Plus, a certain lack of passion and effort becomes more noticeable as things … progress. Rebuttal: “Just as I expected – those mosquitoes are making these bodies radioactive.”

rating from outer space: D+

C.H.U.D. (1984)

directed by douglas cheek
bonime associates, ltd.

Well, it’s obviously a disgraceful admission on my part that I didn’t see this the way it was clearly meant to be seen, on videocassette rented from the mom ‘n’ pop (actually, it was just “pop”) establishment down the street from where I lived as a kid. Or anytime since. Somebody should’ve told me it was this rewarding. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I never saw it, except that as a young person I didn’t actually watch many horror movies at all, and maybe because the title eliminates any suspense? Whatever the case, this is low-budget, low-grade horror at a peak, a Reagan-era relic of nuclear panic. Shot under the streets of NYC and laden with intransigent officials, it’s the gritty story of one plucky little guy’s quest to find out why everyone’s disappearing and a truly terrible battle plan hatched far too late to eradicate a horde of deadly mutants. And more! (It’s actually several guys.) Just today I had to defend my pronouncement that this flick is “good.” People, man.

why did i watch this movie?

I owed it to myself.

should you watch this movie?

Act now – don’t hesitate!

highlight and low point

Though this picture is ostensibly about hideous freaks coming outta the sewers, having been spawned there due to government negligence, what makes it enjoyable are the various interactions the normal people have. The scene where The Reverend initially spots the C.H.U.D. participating in what appears to be some sort of rite is intriguing, if scant. (More could have been done with it.) And as a former resident of New York City, I swear, when characters first start winding through the subway tunnels, I could conjure the smell. Now that’s olfactory memory.

rating from outer space: B+