La Dinastia Dracula aka Dracula ’87 aka La dinastía de Dracula aka Dynasty of Dracula aka Dynastie Dracula (1980)

Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna
Co-Director Claudia Becker
Conacite Dos

You would be excused for thinking this flick is a parody, along the lines of 1979’s Love at First Bite, but although that isn’t actually the case, I hereby invite you to go ahead and enjoy it in that light anyway. Heaven knows you may not be able to otherwise enjoy this (copyrighted 1978) telenovela version of the same old Dracula mythos, transplanted here to Mexico. This time, the Count is German, for some reason, which is not reflected in his unaccented Spanish. The FX are repetitious and hilarious, the vampires suspiciously easy to defeat, and the subtitles occasionally provide nothing other than “?????” (Thanks to whoever provided them, though!) This is one case where the remarkably poor quality of the aged, digitized VHS copy only enhances the experience. Two things are unexpectedly, if not exactly surprisingly, missing: a blaring rock soundtrack and gratuitous (or any) nudity.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It sounded interesting enough, and I felt as though I’d been neglecting foreign horror offerings.


Should You Watch This Movie?

If you look for information about this production, you will encounter more than one comparison to monster films featuring Paul Naschy. Make of that what you must.

Highlight and Low Point

When the vampire is in “bat” form, the bat is not only obviously extremely fake but is accompanied by loud squeaking sounds, akin to those of a pet toy. When the vampire appears before a hapless victim, it’s behind a flash of flame. When the vampire bares his fangs, which he does often – and which are also obviously extremely fake – he … growls? hisses? In addition, “holy water” in this picture provides a multitude of results when it is sprinkled on various evil entities.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

The Cave (2005)

Directed by Bruce Hunt
Lakeshore Entertainment/City Productions/Cineblue

Trying to decide how to introduce this silly wannabe-blockbuster action thriller, I realized I should just state the facts: I decided to watch The Cave precisely because I knew what I could expect to get from the experience. See, I was in the mood for a fair-to-middling production with a “Hollywood” feel, by which I mean an affair so divorced from any actual identifiable reality that its viewer can just comfortably settle in with the stock setup and characters, and soak up the stupid. Striving for mediocrity, The Cave did its job admirably – perhaps too much so, as it barely recovered production costs after factoring in global revenues.

Now, when I try to describe what I had been seeking, let me allow Wikipedia to contribute its description of the cast of characters: “thrill seeking professional cave explorers who run a world famous scuba diving team” (sic). Set in Romania, under an ancient church, the Knights Templar … nah, never mind that, the script barely bothers anyway. Concentrate instead on the mysterious “parasite” that transforms its host into some sorta Species. Because ultimately what this flick brought to mind was the 1995 movie with that as its title.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I wasn’t in the mood for Halloween Ends.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Much as I once compared a clumsy example of an ’80s teen-kill picture to comfort food, I’d halfheartedly endorse this vehicle of dunderhead escapism … if it were, say, as good as The Descent.

HIghlight and Low Point

I found the creatures inhabiting THE cave to be prosaic, at least once they were fully visible. I would also quibble with the biological processes allegedly on display, but I’d like to retain a shred of dignity.

Rating From Outer Space: c−

The Burrowers (2007)

Written and Directed by JT Petty
Lionsgate/Blue Star Entertainment

It’s probably a fairly damning indictment of a horror picture – or any similar kind of picture, actually – if it revolves around some horrible creatures doing horrible things and the worst problem the production has is the appearance of those very same creatures. Now, to be fair, I suppose the “burrowers” here are not actually all that bad; they’re effectively creepy and gross, and only occasionally betray their CGI animation. They don’t necessarily stretch the bounds of credulity too terribly, either. So what the hell is my problem?

A slow-building, personality-driven nature horror, with all kinds of subtle societal commentaries, this Western set in the Dakota Territories during the time of the “Indian Wars” doesn’t overwhelm its viewer with visceral assaults, preferring to derive its impact from psychological discomfort. All right, fine, that’s laying it on a bit thick, but there’s a villain here that isn’t the insectile hunters, whose method of preparing their dinner is damned unsettling in its own right.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I had no idea this flick existed until only recently, as it was amongst those discussed in 100 American Horror Films (published, obviously, by the British Film Institute).

Should You Watch This Movie?

If, like me, you’re a sucker for tracking down, once you’ve finally heard of them, underpublicized films described as being of an originalist bent … sure.

Highlight and Low Point

As hinted above, upon further reflection I can accept the titular beasties well enough. While actually watching the proceedings, however, I hated them. (Admittedly, I tend to be hypercritical of modern movie monsters.) And I will employ my usual shtick to aver that the truly disheartening REAL HORROR here is only to be discovered at the bitter end.

Rating From OUter Space: B

Contagion (2011)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Double Feature Films/Gregory Jacobs

Maybe it’s not quite the feat of soothsaying it immediately may appear to be, but watching this picture with the hindsight of having lived through the brunt of the Covid disruption was a pretty amazing experience. And it’s a credit to Soderbergh’s artistry, I think, that I was so absorbed in the story he was telling that I didn’t even think about the REAL HORROR – which is of course that we knew, everybody knew, exactly what was going to happen when a real pandemic arose … and we did all the stupid things anyway, exacerbating a threatening situation until it became the deadliest farce imaginable. (Until the next one.) Too grim? Too pessimistic? Well, I’m typing this with a sore left arm, having gotten my second Covid booster (the new bivalent one) two days ago. And I still wear a mask every day at work. But I’m in the distinct minority there, where we also have some anti-vaxxers on staff. If you really think nothing else like Covid – or the unnamed SARS virus in this movie – will happen again, my question would then concern your level of trust in your fellow humans. You know, just in case.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was included in 100 American Horror Films by Barry Keith Grant, and I’d never seen it.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Because I’m cynical, and have no trust whatsoever in my fellow humans, my answer here is why fucking bother.


Highlight and Low Point

This picture is excellent, but I did have a problem with what I consider an ill-conceived subplot involving the abduction of a WHO epidemiologist in a political maneuver. It struck a discordant note of fiction in the film’s otherwise credible verisimilitude.

Rating From OUter Space: A−

The Bay (2012)

Directed by Barry Levinson
Baltimore Pictures/Haunted Movies

Like most people who prefer to believe they’re rational actors, I hear the descriptions “found footage” and “mockumentary” in the synopsis of a “horror film” and I metaphorically run the other way. Then again, it is also true that nearly every art form, no matter how dubious, contains within it the potential for the sublime, for a performance that can outstrip its lowly genesis.

There are two directions I could be headed here, right? “This is not that movie” or “The Bay is a stellar example.” Well, it’s the latter. Buttressed by some splendid performances amongst its nearly anonymous cast, and paced very effectively in the creeping dread of its reveals, this Barry Levinson production is an exemplary and audacious eco-terror. Something is terribly wrong in Chesapeake Bay, you see. Is chicken farming to blame? Perhaps yes, but it’s much more complicated than that. Even so, between this and Cooties, the poultry industry must have been glad that lower-tier fright flicks don’t generate a lot of societal uproar.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

‘Twas Independence Day, but I couldn’t make it through the blockbuster with that title; the action herein also takes place on said holiday.


Should You Watch This Movie?

As a Radical Leftist® who thinks commercial fishing should be banned, of course I endorse this picture.


Highlight and Low Point

I noted three major detractions from the “documentary” conceit: The American oceanographer constantly carping (sorry) about his French partner’s accent; the fact that the fish the oceanographers examined didn’t quite look freshly caught; and the improbably framed closeups on one character’s face as he drove. Most convincing murder/suicide scene I can imagine, though. And the interactions between the doctor and the CDC were eerily instructive.

Rating From Outer Space: A−

Q aka Q – The Winged Serpent (1982)

Written, Produced and Directed by Larry Cohen
LARCO PRODUCTIONS

Though this would appear to be a straightforward picture about a monstrous winged serpent randomly attacking New Yorkers, it’s actually the tale of an Aztec death cult that has managed to revivify its god Quetzalcoatl to … randomly attack New Yorkers, apparently. With that setup, this bonkers production is patently ridiculous on one level, obviously, but it’s buttressed immensely by the contributions of David Carradine, Richard Roundtree, Michael Moriarty and others. (Moriarty’s Jimmy Quinn alone presents quite the psychological study.) With several of the winged serpent’s attacks being blatantly – and thus amusingly – similar, this green-screened stop-motion monster extravaganza even manages to throw in an undercover cop purporting to be a mime. Larry Cohen, ladies and germs.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

A movie called “Q” about an inexplicable threat to ordinary citizens appealed to my sense of irony, or something. (Coincidentally, Moriarty is an expatriate American holding Canadian citizenship who once claimed he was starting a third party for “serious conservatives,” The Realists.)


Should you Watch This Movie?

Cohen knows how to make an entertaining film.


Highlight and Low Point

POWELL: “What I want to know is, how the hell does this tie in with the murders and the mutilations?”


SHEPARD
: “Well, that’s what brought it back … awakened it from its … centuries of sleep.

This thing has been … prayed … back into existence.”

POWELL: “Right.”

Hmm, maybe it’s not an accident this flick is called “Q” after all. Do your own research, people. Six-time National League All-Star Ron “Penguin” Cey, who played the last of his 12 seasons with the L.A. Dodgers in 1982, has a small role as “Detective Hoberman.” Was this a sly
reference to longtime Village Voice film
critic J. Hoberman? DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

The Crawlers aka Creepers aka Contamination .7 aka Troll 3 (1990)

Directed by “Martin Newlin”
FILMIRAGE

Grotesquely inept in all regards – I cannot think offhand of another film in which so many lines are flubbed – and graced with some of the most overwrought, overacted death scenes imaginable – especially given that in most cases, the victims are clearly flailing the unconvincing props about themselves – this Italian-produced eco-terror is a truly marvelous experience. Listing all the hilarity would take far too long for this allotted space, but suffice it to say this flick stands proudly, incoherently proclaiming its action/adventure “credentials.” (Among these,  “Costumes” are credited to Laura Gemser, who played “Emanuelle” in roughly 213 softcore flicks in the 1970s and early ’80s, and who was a longtime associate of producer/co-director Joe D’Amato.)

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

I was idly browsing the selections at Tubi and this description caught my attention: “The trees are alive with a taste for humans after they soak up toxic runoff from a local nuclear plant, forcing villagers to fight for their lives.” A quick peek promised nearly unparalleled shoddiness, and there you have it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

BRIAN: Listen, maybe we can call the Environmental Protection Agency. Look, they’re the only ones who’re even remotely qualified for this kind of situation.

TAYLOR (“SCIENTIST”): No, no, we don’t have enough time … we get involved with people from Washington, no telling HOW long it’ll take.

MATT’S DAD: He’s right.

BRIAN: Look, it is the only way!

MATT: No – it’s YOUR way, but it’s not the only way.

Highlight and Low Point

The death scene of the hired killers sent by the polluting corporation’s nefarious executive to eliminate no-good busybody Taylor is phenomenal, but the toxic dump cleanup takes the cake, as the townsfolk take no precautions whatsoever for handling any materials.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

Claw (2021)

Directed by Gerald Rascionato
Just ONE More Productions/The Adventurers Club/Exit Strategy Productions

A tough offering to judge, given its brevity (barely over an hour) and its clear, uh … evolution … as a minimally cast mini-feature – by which I mean, normally I’d presume such choices were made to keep costs low, but there’s a lotta FX necessitated by the plot, which I can’t imagine being all that cheap. They don’t look particularly cheap, you dig, and I am ordinarily no fan whatsoever of CGI and its affiliated chintz. Overall, this is a fairly impressive featurette, with the strongest evidence of its “highly independent” …  nature … being the dialogue too often presenting as just exactly that. (A script being performed, that is, rather than the output of naturally occurring conversation.) And as you may have guessed from my lame hints – or if you’ve seen the trailer or any of the promotional materials, such as the poster pictured here – this film is centered around a large, dangerous creature that is not exactly appropriately situated in a modern setting.

Okay, fine, it’s a dinosaur.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

The trailer executed its function well, apparently.



Should you Watch This Movie?

You’ve probably got a spare hour or so.


Highlight and Low Point

This film’s biggest drawback was that I found myself thinking, “you know, there’s only three or four people in this to save money for the FX” and so forth. Granted, that didn’t exactly take me out of the moment or anything – it’s not as though reality was at issue. Characters and raptor alike are cleverly envisioned and deftly handled, and the endeavor succeeds without gore, nudity or crudity. That’s pretty remarkable, honestly. What appears to be a very amateurish false ending leads to a slightly predictable conclusion.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Wolfen (1981)

Directed by Michael Wadleigh
A King-Hitzig Production

For years, I managed to remain confused as to whether I’d seen this (werewolf) picture, because in my mind I eternally conflated it with The Howling. (It didn’t help that both were released the same year.) Usually, I managed to clear up my confusion by remembering that “Howling” has Dee Wallace in it, and that’s the one I’d actually seen. Yet I still wondered if I’d ever watched this flick, so I decided to lay that question to rest. Turns out I’d never seen it. Turns out it isn’t even about werewolves! Turns out it’s a bit unclear exactly what kind of movie it is, but I can tell you it involves “Indians,” hotchpotch Native American mythologisms, wolves, some prescient Homeland Security-type apparatus, domestic and international terrorism, an NYPD detective who’s British and pairs up with a heavily armed police psychologist, a weirdo who works at the zoo, and I’m probably forgetting some other stuff. To sum up: if you’re not sure you’ve seen it … you haven’t.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I just “explained” that!



Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you’re looking for werewolves.


H
ighlight and Low Point

The main “Indian” character is played by Edward James Olmos, which is at least somewhat curious given that many Native Americans are employed in bit parts or small supporting roles. The terrorism subplot seems really incidental. The wolves wind up being arbitrarily selective about their victims, and the alpha is pure white, although if that was explained, I missed it. Allegedly, the ruined church was built and destroyed just for this production, which seems insanely wasteful given what’s revealed by the actual footage of the South Bronx environs. The “wolfen,” uh, POV segments are … idiosyncratic.

Rating From Outer Space: C

Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992)

Directed by Mick Garris
Ion Pictures/Victor & Grais

In case you thought the problem with movies made from S. King novels and stories was the difficulty in translating to the silver screen either their length and heft (IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone, etc.) or their sometimes dodgy supernatural motifs (Christine, say), I have bad news to report. This budget B flick was written FOR the cinema, not adapted from a story, and it, too, has some serious issues preventing it from being taken very seriously. I’m not even talking about the $2 FX, either, although those don’t help out a whole lot. And I’m not even talking about the army of darling kittycats that wind up being the main oppositional force to the, um … the quasi-vampire things. (Diehard King aficionados, oops, I mean “Constant Readers,” will recognize the energy-sucking conceit later employed by Doc Sleep.) Hack director Mick Garris – King’s handpicked fave – takes a tale with promise and lets it devolve into gimcrackery over its latter third. Consider (blame) the source, I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Cats and the oeuvre of Stephen King: two things for which I have a soft spot in my heart (if not my head).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Look, I just don’t know what to tell you. I mean, I watched Stephen King’s The Night Flier, too, you know.


Highlight and Low Point

My notes for this picture – yes, really – include that the “deputy sheriff” cruises around happily singing Garry Lee and Showdown’s immortal “The Rodeo Song,” which I first heard about from a friend in, like,  fifth grade, disbelieving such a song could really exist until he proved it. My notes also indicate that apparently one can blow up a cop car by merely shooting it.

Rating From Outer Space: C−