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)

La noche de los mil gatos aka The Night of 1,000 Cats aka The Night of a Thousand Cats aka Blood Feast (1972)

directed by rene cardona jr.
avant films, s.a.

This determinedly incomprehensible Mexican disaster will really try your patience, especially with its maddening, repetitive, interminable shots of the main character flying around and hovering over potential paramours in his … helicopter. After a certain point, I couldn’t keep track of which woman was which, a problem compounded by the sudden intrusion of a variety of flashbacks. It may be that some sort of attempted symbolism was intended at some point, but it may just have been a deluded stab at attempting to imply the existence of some sort of deeper meaning. Trying to suss out why anyone’s doing what he or she is doing in this picture is a fool’s errand at best, but I have to admit that the climax of the picture is one of a kind. I dispute that anywhere near 1,000 felines appear in this film, however.

why did i watch this movie?

As though the title “Night of a 1,000 Cats” doesn’t pique your interest.

should you watch this movie?

Unless you want to compare the decaying castle-like structure lived in by Hugo Stiglitz’s character – coincidentally named “Hugo” – with similar edifices that serve similar purposes in flicks such as The night Evelyn came out of the grave or The Blood Spattered Bride or The Devil’s Nightmare, I shouldn’t think so … though maybe I’m giving the evocative character “Dorgo” short shrift.

highlight and low point

Honestly, the best thing about this production for me was finding out that the director is also responsible for a “killer shark” movie (Tintorera), but the ending to which I alluded above merits mention. (It involves cats very obviously being hurled through the air.) Other scenes of animal cruelty abound also, in addition to a pair involving a quasi-burlesque revue.

rating from outer space: D

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+

Villains (2019)

written & directed by dan berk & robert olsen
the realm/star thrower entertainment/creative wealth media

A black comedy that delights in turning the tables on its characters, storyline, viewers – you name it – this twist on the home-invaders-find-more-than-they-bargained-for setup also tosses a couple other variations into the mix, at times feeling not unlike a particularly deranged sitcom. There isn’t much in the way of outright scares here, but enough tension builds up at different times to keep one wondering. Not necessarily what a hack reviewer might term “a gritty slice of life!” it unveils more like a fairy tale, and one rather of the Grimm variety. The emotional tenor of this venture also seesaws as much as its perspective, so it never quite sinks into familiar territory even as it dances all around its edges. And would you believe, at heart it’s a picture about … Love?

why did i watch this movie?

The succinct title piqued my interest; its trailer convinced me it was worth a look.

should you watch this movie?

You know, sometimes I forget that it’s enjoyable to watch flicks in which everything’s done well.

highlight and low point

The excellent script revels in presenting cliché and convention only to coax them into surprisingly fresh characterizations, and even the artifice is adapted nicely into the affair. The protagonists are a surprisingly sweet but inarguably somewhat stupid – were we feeling charitable, we might term them “hopelessly naïve” – set of drug-addled petty criminals, and their foils are apparently an eccentric and oddly endearing – insane and murderous – older couple, and a certain parallelism is probably being suggested, but as this isn’t quite a meaning movie it never fully gels. The ending is by turns poignant, parodic, and perhaps predictable, but avoids making the mistake of explaining too much.

rating From outer space: B+

Graduation Day (1981)

directed by herb freed
ifi/scope iii

Sure, there are hundreds of movies just like this one, but this example manages to be more fun than a lot of them, even if it pushes some of the faults and foibles of its type to the extreme. As an example, the roller-skating scene, with the band “Felony” playing in the center: their song, “Gangster Rock,” goes on and on and on … and on, and on … and on, and we’re treated to the same shots of band members miming and the same closeups  of feet shod in roller skates over and over and over. (Although there are plenty of extras in the scene who don’t even bother with the skates!) And then there’s some of the frankly ridiculous methods of victim dispatch, the belabored attempts to draw attention to the wrong suspects, the fact that absolutely everybody repeatedly has to use the all-too-convenient woods path, and so forth. But for all that, what this flick really did for me was spur thoughts that #MeToo should probably have happened a loooong time ago.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d been contemplating checking this one out for a long time, as it’s from an estimable era for these types of flicks, and also because opinions of it seesaw.

should you watch this movie?

You were just saying how you needed to flesh out (sorry) Linnea Quigley‘s incipient scream-queen career. Or perhaps you’re an aficionado of “horror movies with generic rock bands.”

highlight and low point

Seriously, the unnecessary T&A in this picture is kind of … depressing. The depictions of women’s roles in the home and the workplace might be worse. And since the overall feel of the production is kinda skeevy besides, that’s all kinds of unappealing.

rating from outer space: b

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

directed by roy ward baker
hammer film productions/american international productions

This soundstaged costume drama takes a while to build up any steam, but when it eventually does, it rips bodices with the best of ’em. Figuratively, I mean; despite the robust sapphic undertones of this first-of-a-loosely-formed-trilogy of films derived, again, from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, no clothes are torn away in any frenzies of lust. Suitably gothic, and chockablock with little details we all should recognize from the classic Dracula legends, the film shows admirable restraint in not unleashing the deadlier side of Ingrid Pitt’s enigmatic evil paramour until it’s nearing its torrid climax. That may make this picture sound a little more exciting than it is, but it does redeem itself rather nicely.

why did i watch this movie?

This is the picture I intended to see when I instead watched Kiss of the Vampire, which was probably provoked by my experience with Vampire Circus, which I viewed because of its name.

should you watch this movie?

It’s probably more faithful to the novel than The Blood Spattered Bride, should that matter to you. (I cannot confirm or deny that supposition, as I haven’t read the source material … yet.)

highlight and low point

Kate O’Mara’s governess and Madeline Smith’s Emma are delightfully rendered portrayals, and Kirsten “Betts” (Lindholm) gets the magnificent credit of “1st Vampire.” Scenes shift abruptly at times, some lack of communication is both unfortunate and somewhat unlikely, and there’s a mysterious, portentous onlooker whose role doesn’t amount to anything. As before, the revelation of the identity of the vampiress lends itself to mirth (her various names are anagrams, and it only dawns on folks after it’s far too late). The deaths of the familial vampires are remarkably easy to effect.

rating from outer space: B−

Doctor Sleep (2019)

directed by mike flanagan
intrepid pictures/vertigo entertainment

As a no-longer-practicing alcoholic, I found a lot of S. King‘s The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep all too grimly realistic, even if I felt the underlying tale of the “psychic vampires” who sustain themselves by torturing children to death – no, really, that’s the impetus of the plot – to be kinda, you know … dumb. But I guess if you’re going to revisit Danny Torrance and his psychic abilities, you may as well retcon your story to broach lucrative sequel territory. All right, that’s unfair, and I know it; the novel was way better than I expected it to be, even with its jaw-dropping deus ex machina. Flanagan’s adaptation actually handles the ending a lot better, and likewise is much more enjoyable than I thought it would be – as I felt it was going to be kinda, you know … dumb. Never getting particularly scary, this film’s paltry ROI makes it a box-office failure, especially glaring when compared to the likes of the recent Pet Sematary and, especially, IT TOO. Which is kinda … you know.

why did i watch this movie?

After all those 13th flicks and a detour into Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood, what the hell.

should you watch this movie?

It – sorry, this production – would’ve worked just as well as a Television Event.

highlight and low point

The atmospherics are pretty good and the FX aren’t half bad, and a crucial segment contains an effectively startling moment or two … but as usual, condensing the Kingly sprawl into even a lengthy picture (150 minutes, in this case) tends to lessen some of the impact. To wit: the reason grown-up Danny’s abilities contribute the eponym is largely ignored. The use of stand-ins for Nicholson and Shelley Duvall amused me.

rating from outer space: C+