Sadistic Intentions (2019)

written & directed by eric pennycoff
midnight treehouse/feast & bourbon films/alexander groupe/79th & Broadway entertainment

Plot twists, or maybe thematic twists, are pretty much this film’s modus operandi, and for the most part, they’re not all that predictable – and even the ones that are receive a little tweak. At about three-quarters of the way through this fable, I thought that what may have been intended to be some sort of dark comedy was about to veer into a disturbing realm that few films ever broach. Such a move would have been disheartening, nay, dispiriting, and it was with a palpable sense of dread that I waited to see if the director had chosen that path. Nope. He didn’t entirely cop out, either, however, so that was refreshing. But – this could have become a really remarkable examination of how things can spiral out of control and seemingly ordinary people can become trapped by circumstances and wind up making absolutely terrible, life-shattering decisions. In one sense, it still is, only the profound lack of empathy at its core finishes much differently. The actual ending is disconcertingly funny in its own special way.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, the trailer was intriguing, though I wavered for quite a while because I had envisioned something more ironic and postmodern.

should you watch this movie?

A guy invites over his bandmate and a prospective drug buyer; they don’t know each other. And where is he, anyway?

highlight and low point

Right, there’s only three people in this picture, and two of them are tremendous. The third, however, basically channels Crispin Glover, which is fairly distracting. This T-shirt, however, was jaw-dropping:

I haven’t been so envious in a long time. Oh, yeah – this movie involves death metal, mostly as a framing device.

rating from outer space: B+

Beware My Brethren aka The Fiend (1972)

produced and directed by robert hartford-davis
world arts media (uk) Ltd.

Allegedly expurgated of at least 10 minutes of footage, this not very convincing religious psychodrama actually gets better as it goes along, which I’ve found is often a rarity in this field. Then again, it couldn’t have gotten much worse without being rejected, so that’s maybe not such a compliment, all told. Often reminiscent of a stage play in its dialogue and blocking and static cinematography, there’s a paradox at work here. Before the script opens up to encompass more than the stultifying world of the religious cult at its center, it’s tiresome, but without focusing more clearly on the dynamics within that cult later in the picture, it wouldn’t have been able to reach any sort of definitive point. Taken altogether – the proof of the pudding, perhaps, as regards the purported excisions – it’s a feature with a few loose ends and not a whole lot to say. Middling, at best.

why did i watch this movie?

I guess the allure of a religious cult leading to madness and death? I seem to recall thinking this flick would be more lurid than it was, though I don’t know where I got that idea.

should you watch this movie?

On websites that cater to low-budget productions that nobody remembers, you may occasionally find testimony to this film’s worthiness. But I don’t know.

highlight and low point

During services, the proceedings occasionally suggest it’s about to turn into a musical, which is definitely a different feel. The Brethren don’t feel all that outrageous to me in their demands, but I myself was raised in a religious cult (the Roman Catholic Church), so my perspective may be skewed. Certainly, ensuing sectarian events would make their actions seem tame.

rating from outer space: C

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

Diabolicamente… Letizia aka Sex, Demons and Death (1975)

directed by salvatore bugnatelli
b.r.c. international films

An incoherent mess, badly restored from scraps and thus chock-full of abrupt transitions and missing moments – and clumsily subtitled to boot – it’s doubtful this picture could have been any better in pristine original condition. Letizia is supposed to be a boarding school student; she clearly isn’t. She exercises some sort of nefarious mind control, mainly to direct others’ sexual urges while someone takes blackmail photos, but also occasionally to create terrifying visions to torment her prey. Not even a hint of why she may be doing any of this is given until the very end, and it seems made up out of whole cloth. Despite the titillating alternate title, no demons seem to be involved, and the deaths are all extremely unconvincing. Sex there’s plenty of, and we could have a healthy debate about the apparent (offscreen) gangbang scene, how it may tie into the leitmotif of Letizia’s methods of control, and whether it’s related to the climactic niteclub dosing … but that would be giving this rubbish way more credit – and thought – than it deserves, by a long chalk. One may as well have a semiotic debate centered on Bert & Ernie.

why did i watch this movie?

Look, I try to keep things as high-minded as possible around here, given that all I do is scribble out 300-word capsule reviews of the products of a typically lowbrow art form, but you know I’m not ignoring a title like this one.


should you watch this movie?

I mean, I can’t stop you.


highlight and low point

The delicate interplay between Magda Konopka’s overacting and Franca Gonella’s somnambulant performance is a study in contrasts. Fittingly, that sentence means nothing. Oh, I neglected to mention Letizia’s occultist trainer? That’s too bad.

rating from outer space: f

Mirror Mirror (1990)

directed by marina sargenti
orphan eyes

It’s not too promising that I must point out that this film is all right up to the point the EVIL starts to run amok. After that it spirals downward in a big hurry, and it almost seems as though the filmmakers didn’t really have a plan for handling that portion of the script. That this flick manages to be any good at all is sort of a minor miracle, given that it’s burdened with plot tendrils that don’t go anywhere in particular, and boasts a lead role consisting largely of a Winona Ryder impersonation. Additional performances are supplied by the erstwhile Lily Munster and the guy who at the time was widely known for playing a yokel on Newhart. (The world was smaller then.) Also, a death-by-hot-shower scene reminiscent of that in Island of Blood occurs concurrently with one of the water polo gym classes, so that’s covered. This movie has three sequels, and although maybe you could see the cockamamie ending of this one meriting a follow-up were you to squint your eyes and hit yourself over the head repeatedly, the serials seem to have little in common save the presence of a demonic looking-glass. (Installment 2, “Raven Dance,” at least appears to share stylistic elements.)

why did i watch this movie?

Much as we’ve all personally wondered so many times, the blurb ponders, “Is the mirror a reflection of Megan’s own inner demons … or has she unwittingly opened the doorway of the damned?”


should you watch this movie?

One character informs another, “We have to close the opening.”


highlight and low point

The blue-filtered shots from the mirror’s POV are pretty nifty. The FX invoking an ill wind are the opposite. Most characters are but mere ciphers.

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−

Vultures (1984)

produced, written and directed by paul leder
star world productions inC.

An almost interesting exercise in what I imagine an Agatha Christie novel to be like – I must have read at least one, right? – this forgotten flick mainly suffers from a poorly established cast of thousands and a tendency to drag things out for way too long. This is particularly noticeable as it nears the ending but detours a few times before relenting and taking the exit. If they hadn’t been so damned serious here, they had the grounds for a terrific farce, at least, though I suppose that’s been done to death (sorry) as well. At a certain point, if only for just a bit, the mystery almost takes control, but it gets a little lost in the confusing welter of names and faces. The red herrings and the detective’s shaggy-dog pursuit wear on you after a while as well. But you probably won’t see the twist coming, exactly, even once you’ve noticed that something’s clearly awry.

why did i watch this movie?

Paul Leder directed I Dismember Mama, and that coerced me to try another one. Not sure why THIS one, though. (Neither can I recall where I found it.)


should you watch this movie?

Little information about this production exists. It’s often not unlike a madeforTV affair and it may have had more than one videocassette release. But I’m grasping at straws, really. Scant information is offered here. (Article contains spoilers.)

highlight and low point

Some (sorry to say) washed-up Hollywood also-rans pop in here, and Aldo Ray‘s appearance tops that list, as it’s barely a cameo. Yvonne De Carlo has a more substantial role. And why neglect Kipp Whitman. This film may possibly remind you of 1970s television.

rating from outer space: C+

Come to Daddy (2019)

directed by ant timpson
nowhere/new zealand film commission/scythia/firefly films/blinder films

What seemingly begins as a relationship experiment – with hints vaguely reminiscent of the discomfort underpinning Creep – abandons that tack fairly quickly as it heads into somewhat more traditional territory. In this story of a man uncertainly meeting up with his long-lost father, it shouldn’t take one too long to spot the first plot twist as it approaches, and since the second one is closely allied, its revelation should follow appropriately at its heels. Afterward, the oddball is mingled with the ordinary, but the whole affair remains captivating throughout, never quite succumbing to becoming predictable. Near the end, there’s a chance for it to toss in a devastating conclusion, but this production is content with an enigmatic and cinematic finish. Once the effect wears off, as usual, if you give any of the happenings a second’s thought the whole construct collapses … so, as usual, you shouldn’t do that. This feature’s a font of black humor, indeed, so dark and quirky you may well miss some of it.

why did i watch this movie?

Intriguing trailer and strong buzz.

 
should you watch this movie?

It works for a lot of different reasons, and probes emotions and their attachments on many different levels.

highlight and low point

I don’t recall having seen Elijah Wood act before, though The Faculty is on his CV, so I must’ve, and Timpson was a producer of but otherwise uninvolved in 2015’s rhapsodic Deathgasm, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions about either of them. The direction was splendid and Wood’s performance is almost as profound, after taking a bit to establish itself. Some of the supporting cast tends toward excessively broad caricature at times, or is perhaps a bit too self-consciously outré.

rating from outer space: a−

Skinner (1993)

directed by ivan nagy
cinequanon pictures international/5 kidd productions

Hey, betcha can’t guess the pathology of this movie’s title character …

Get this: he skins people! Like, no way, right!? Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to admit that despite some obvious shortcomings, this is a strangely effective independent horror, with a cast that includes Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake and Traci Lords. Right, it’s very ’90s – that’s one of the shortcomings. But there’s very little of significance to gripe about here, even if some of the picture’s more potentially symbolic fascinations go more or less unexamined. The ending really could’ve used a better (and less derivative) concept, and like execution, but after the title character has finally shown his inner self, so to speak, that’s forgivable. I cannot stress enough, however, that even were you initially unaware, you’d immediately be able to peg the era of release.


why did i watch this movie?

As a longtime scourer of budget bins of all stripes and a onetime video-store regular, I felt as though I’d neglected this title too often. And Ted Raimi, of course.

should you watch this movie?

After some thought, I’d have to classify this picture as being of the sort you’d likely find fairly interesting and enjoyable should you happen across it, but not one worth any arduous journey to experience.

highlight and low point

Ricki Lake is delightful, per usual, and David Warshofsky’s bootleg rendition of post-1987 Anthony Michael Hall amused me for no particular reason, as did the fact that his character is named “Geoff Tate.” (It’s irrelevant whether that was intentional.) The explicit scene where a prostitute is flayed is technically astounding. Traci Lords plays a character who for no
pertinent reason is perpetually underdressed. SHOCKING, I know.

rating from outer space: B

Bits & Pieces (1985)

directed by leland thomas
created and written by michael koby
trans world entertainment/the celluloid conspiracy

We may have discovered a new unintentional comedy champion. For a while, said unintentional comedy is confined mainly to the ridiculous attempt at portraying the schizoid tendencies of our deranged Maniac killer, and oh yes, those responsible for this film obviously saw that one. Then romance blossoms! With a particularly unwarranted and superficially crafted meet cute that sees our unlikely love connection detour on a date to the beach to the jacuzzi to the fireplace in what could be a Time Life infomercial … while a citywide manhunt is going on, mind you, with bodies of nubile bleach-blondes piling up. Patently amateurish in most aspects, that sense of dizzy irresponsibility saves this picture from total ignominity. Credit must be granted for skirting several of many possible cliché endings.

why did i watch this movie?

Maybe it reminded me of this. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did, as it made for a nice mother-themed double feature with our antecedent selection (which, by the way, was often teamed with La novia ensangrentada in a dubious double feature of its own).

should you watch this movie?

An unattributed factoid on this picture’s IMDb page claims it was written in five days and shot in 10, and I’d be inclined to believe those were concurrent spans. Plus, it features naturalistic dialogue:


Rosie
: “Tanya! The psycho! She’s dead! Murdered!”

Rosie’s mom: “Let’s call the police.”

highlight and low point

I would be remiss not to mention the original songs that highlight some key moments here, such as one of the male strip club scenes and the aforementioned romantic interlude. Unfortunately, these incredible numbers receive no attribution in the credits of this production. You should be dismayed.

rating from outer space: D