Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Horror Flicks Of 2012 Part 1: 10-6

Before I get to the first half of my top 10 list, I’m gonna rant for just a sec.  It’s a rant you’ve heard from me before, but I’m gonna bang this drum as long as my banger still works.  Whenever I tell someone that I write about horror movies, they often say, “They just don’t make any good horror movies any more.”  When someone says that, I ask them how many independent horror movies they’ve seen lately.  Nine times out of ten, their response is “Huh?”  There’s the problem right there. 
One criticism I know I’m gonna hear about my top 10 is “But Nathan, I’ve only seen two or three of these.”  That’s because only two of my top 10 got a major theatrical release.  If you’re relying on your local multiplex for good horror, you’re shortchanging yourself folks.  I implore you, look deeper.  The good stuff isn’t coming out of Hollywood.  If you really want to see the best of what the genre currently has to offer, you’re gonna have to dig.  Not far, mind you.  Of the 8 indie flicks on my top 10, 7 are available at Redbox, on VOD, from Amazon, or are a simple google search away.  I’ve seen way too many top 10 lists this year that include mediocre major studio fare just because they only take big releases into account.  For the sake of the genre and for the sake of your entertainment, SUPPORT INDEPENDENT HORROR!
Look, I'm really not trying to sound like a film snob here, I just want more people to get a chance to see these kick ass movies.  Ok, now that I’m done proselytizing, lets get on with the countdown…

10.  Nazis at the Center of the Earth

I’ve spoken before about my love of The Asylum, the preeminent purveyors of mockbusters and SyFy channel guilty pleasures, but they outdid themselves here.  This gem is, in my opinion, the best movie ever to come out of The Asylum’s hallowed halls.  It has everything.  There’s gore, Nazi flying saucers, human experiments, gratuitous nudity, gunplay, lost worlds, and a perfectly played Dr. Mengele.  Yes, it has the over the top insanity that they are known for, but it’s got a darker, grittier, and nastier undercurrent than their usual output.  It makes for a potent b-movie cocktail.  The essence of this flick can actually be distilled into one scene.   Yes, this is a spoiler, but it’s the kind of spoiler that will only make you want to see it more.  Trust me.  There is a scene where Jake Busey performs a forced abortion on his own baby momma, then throws the stem cells into a machine that immediately gives birth to Robo-Hitler!  If you can read a sentence like that and not immediately add this to your necessary viewing list, there’s something horribly wrong with you.  I saw a lot of movies this year that may have been technically better, but I honestly can’t say that I had more fun watching any movie this year than I did with this one.

9. TIE: The Revenant and A Little Bit Zombie

Yeah, I know, a tie is technically cheating.  It’s my countdown and I’ll cheat if I want to.  In a year that provided us with a whole lot of godawful horror comedies, there was a pair of zomedies that got it right.  They both featured excellent comedic timing, good acting, crisp dialog, and quotable one-liners.  So many horror comedies are purely splatstick or “dumb comedy.”  While there is definitely a place for both of those styles, and both of these films embrace those elements, thankfully they also have brains…and not just the ones being devoured.  Both flicks also feature relatable, well-rounded characters.  The Revenant, in particular, had sequences that left me thinking “that’s EXACTLY what me and my friends would do in that situation."  I think I need new friends.  Anyway, I laughed hysterically at both of these, and I’m picky as hell about my comedy.  It’s the perfect ZomCom double feature.

8. Sinister

Take a bunch of tried and true horror tropes, throw in a couple of original ideas and interesting visual flares, and you’ve got the makings of a nice little creepfest.  I just saw this one last night, and it was a great way to close out my viewing year.  Yes, it’s painfully obvious where it’s going, but getting there is an entertaining ride.  There is some excellent spooky imagery.  Ethan Hawke does a good job in the lead.  There is even come awesome comic relief embedded in the dialog.  The “bedroom argument” scene had me rolling.  Plus, Mr. Boogie is just plain cool looking.  I’ve seen this film compared to Insidious in some reviews, but Sinister is the superior of the two in every way.  What really cemented this flick’s place on the list however, is that – I can’t believe I’m gonna admit this – this was the only movie I saw in a theater this year that actually got me with a jump scare.  In fact, it got me twice.  One of them I even saw coming a mile away and it still worked.  Well played gentlemen, well played.

7. Cell Count

Body horror came back in a big way this year, with Cell Count being one of the films leading the charge.  We can all relate to the fear of our own bodies turning against us and the unease of not really understanding what our doctor is doing to us.  Cell Count plays on these very real fears with a clinical ferocity.  This kind of claustrophobic ensemble piece requires good performances all around to work, and this cast definitely comes through.  I’m a sucker for mad scientists, and Dr. Victor Brandt is the best one since Dr. Heiter.  Director Todd E Freeman mainly sticks with practical effects, and when he does, they’re imaginative and messy.  By never revealing too much at one time, the film creates some real tension while still providing sick jollies for the gorehounds, which is a balance many can’t manage.   This refreshingly “old school” combination of the prison/isolation and disease/infection subgenres really gets under your skin.

6. The Collective Volume 4

Some of the best, most innovative filmmaking going on today can be found in short films.  Unfortunately, they’re criminally underseen because, outside of festivals, they don’t really have a showcase.  JABB Pictures is changing that with their Collective series.  The Concept: ten filmmakers each make a ten-minute film based around a central theme.  It’s basically an indie horror sampler platter.  JABB released volumes 3-5 of the series this year; and Volume 4, with each film tackling a different emotion, proved to be the epitome of what the series is all about.  From the gritty, nihilistic realism of Luke 1:71 to the gross out excesses of Epidemic to the faux grindhouse madness of Bloody Hooker Bang Bang: A Love Story, this one truly has something to scratch everyone’s particular macabre itch.  The Collective series gets my vote as the best horror value for your buck on the indie market right now, and Volume 4 is the best of the bunch…so far.

Come back tomorrow for 5-1.

- Nazis at the Center of the Earth, A Little Bit Zombie, and The Revenant are all available on Netflix or on DVD/Blu Ray.
- Cell Count is available on itunes, Amazon instant, VUDU, Playstation Network, XBox Live, and just about every other VOD service you can think of.
- All 5 Volumes of The Collective are available at  They're just 10 bucks each, or get all 5 (that's over 8 hours) for $40.
- Sinister, well, you shouldn't have a hard time finding that one. 

See, your old pal SOC made it easy on 'ya. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Five Worst Horror Flicks Of 2012

For the past two years, this is where I've been Mr. Positive and said “I don’t care if everyone else is proclaiming that this was an abysmal year for the horror genre, I thought it was great.”  This year, however, I’m on the “damn, it really was a bad horror year” side.  Don’t get me wrong, 2012 definitely produced some great flicks, but man did it give us a lot of foul film feces too.  I’ll happily take one for the team and sift through it all for you though, Cellmates; because I believe the old adage that without the dark, there is no light.  Without a villain, there can be no hero.  Without nu-metal, there can be no real metal.  In the world of horror flicks, it means that without sifting through a multitude of sucktitude, you wouldn’t find those precious nuggets of badassery.  I’m gonna share said badass nuggets with you starting tomorrow, but first, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try to save you the trouble of watching these five atrocities.  Ladies, gentlemen, and everything in between…I present to you The Five Worst Horror Flicks Of 2012.

5. Detention

This is a very divisive movie.  It’s actually showing up on a lot of top 10 lists, but it lands on my worst flicks list for one main reason…I find most hipsters unbearably annoying.  Therefore, by proxy, I hate hipster humor and hipster movies like Napoleon Dynamite, Juno, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Detention.  If hipsterism ever truly becomes mainstream, then this is what will happen to horror cinema.   That absolutely cannot be allowed to happen.  It’s a film awash in that style of comedy that continually pokes the audience to say “Hey, did ‘ya see that?  Wasn’t it funny?”  If you have to do that, then no, it wasn’t.  Basically, this flick is trying way too hard for snarky coolness.  It’s the cinematic equivalent of that 12 year old sporting a brand new “distressed look” Pink Floyd ’73 tour shirt his parents paid 35 bucks for at Hot Topic.

To be fair, it did have one inspired sequence (the detention room parade of teen eras), but getting to the end of this one became a war of attrition against the movie itself.  If you want to see how it’s possible cram as many references as possible into a flick and actually be funny about it, then watch The FP.  Otherwise, just find a couple of those guys with the skinny jeans and meticulously disheveled hair, get them jacked up on cocaine (note: it might have to be soy-coke) and whatever energy drink the mainstream hasn’t caught onto yet, then listen to them argue for an hour and a half.  That would be roughly the same experience as watching Detention.

4. The Devil Inside

I just went back and looked at my initial review of this flick from January, and I was WAY too generous.  I gave it one severed thumb up.  What the hell was I thinking?  I still stand by my opinion that there is a 20 minute or so stretch of this film that is pretty good.  Unfortunately, it’s preceded by an unoriginal and entirely tepid first hour.  What follows the good portion is what makes it deserving of the vitrol spewed at it by horror fans and its place on this list though; the worst rip-off ending of the year.  Hell, it might be the worst ending in horror history. It just stopped.  No logical conclusion, no closure, no well crafted cliffhanger, nothing.  It just stops.  They actually expected viewers to go to the film’s website for the rest of the story.  As I said in my original review, “Screw that, screw you, screw your ending; and god help us, if that was your way of setting up a sequel, screw The Devil Inside Strikes Back too!”

3. Cold Creepy Feeling

I hate deriding this kind of micro-budget “labor of love” type of flick, but this one was just plain boring.  The problem was that NOTHING happened.  For the first half hour, we watch tedious vacation style “found footage” of a couple driving to their new house.  Then we watch as they explore the grounds and settle in.  Then they start in on a little hanky panky in a haunted house.  Time for the spooky stuff to kick in right?  Not by a long shot.  A spider pulls a little coitus interruptus, and the couple goes to a bar for the next 10 minutes.  When they get home, the girl has a slightly unsettling dream, so we’re treated to them spending 8 more minutes taking turns reading from an online paranormal forum.  Get the picture?  When the film finally gets to the point in the last 10 minutes, it’s too little too late.  The title is the only cold, creepy feeling to be had here.  For the record, this was my first, and to date only, actual two severed thumbs down review.

2. Chernobyl Diaries

You know that third person shaky cam that I always bitch about?  This is the epitome of everything I loathe about that style.  Honestly, after watching the trailer, how many of you thought this was a found footage flick?  Yeah, I did too.  It’s not, but it’s shot like one.  Why would anyone do that you ask?  For the same reason most movies employ this cheap blight on modern cinematography; they’re attempting to create artificial action and tension to cover up for the fact that the filmmakers failed to create any within the actual story.  That alone would be enough to call it one of the worst flicks of the year.  But wait, there’s more.

Leah, my most frequent movie watching companion, is my scare meter.  She’s a pretty easy startle.  After thousands of horror flicks and almost 20 years in the haunt business, I’m too jaded to be a good judge of the effectiveness of jump scares, so I use her for that purpose.  She didn’t jump once.  If you can’t get a rise out of her, you have officially failed in the scare department.  That’s still not the end of the suckage to be had here.

Chernobyl Diaries had one thing, and only one thing, going for it; that great setting.  Chernobyl is creepy as hell.  So what did the filmmakers do?  They set the second half of the flick in a dark underground labyrinth, effectively nullifying the one selling point of the film.  While we were in the ruined city, it was at least kinda cool to look at.  Then again, as spastic as the camera was during all of the “action,” we wouldn’t have been able to get a good look at anything anyway.  Chernobyl is a killer setting for a horror movie.  Hopefully someone makes a decent one there someday.  I saw this one at the discount theater, where tickets are $1.99, and still felt ripped off.

And the winner, er, loser...

1. Area 407

I should have known better.  I told myself that I wasn’t going to subject myself to any more found footage movies outside of the PA series.  I loathe the vast majority of them.  Notice how 3 of my top 5 are found footage flicks and one might as well have been?  Point made.  How did they get me to break my oath and watch a FFF?  They promised me dinosaurs.  It had to be dinosaurs.  You bastards.  Dinosaurs are, like Nazis, bad movie kryptonite to the Son of Celluloid.  I love dinosaurs.  Led by my dino-love, I gave this flick a chance against my better judgment.  Wouldn’t you know it, it turned out to be a bait and switch.  There are less than 10 seconds of dinosaur footage in this movie.  Yes, less than 10 seconds.  To make matters worse, every last shot of the dinosaur(s?) is in the damn trailer!  It’s a dinosaur-less dinosaur movie.  So, if less than .1% - not 1% mind you, but POINT ONE PERCENT - of this flick contains dinosaurs, then what in the green hell could the rest of the movie possibly consist of? 

After the plane crash 15 minutes in, it’s 75 minutes of people pointing into the darkness and screaming “What was that?” and “Did you see that?”  Yes, that’s really all it is.  The whole point of a FFF is realism, right?  Well, let’s just say that you’re in a large, dark area with unknown monsters and someone panics, points into the darkness, and yells “what the hell is that?” What would you do instinctively?  Right, you’d look too.  Not in this flick. The camera never leaves the survivors.  Never.  It’s painfully obvious that the camera operators were instructed to do everything in their power not to catch any of the action, or anything interesting at all for that matter, in the frame.  All of the deaths occur offscreen.  Yup, every last one of ‘em.  Literally all we see is annoying characters yelling at each other, pointing at things we don’t get to see, freaking out, crying, and running in the dark.  It’s as if someone bet the director that he couldn’t make a movie entirely out of reaction shots. 

What we end up with is a movie that not only epitomizes every overwrought, overdone, and played out weakness of the found footage subgenre; but cheats the viewer out of the promised hook, which was the only reason to watch the movie in the first place.  Congratulations Area 407, you are the worst horror movie of the year.  Think about that for a minute.  You were worse than every remake released in 2012.  You were worse than every neutered PG-13 teen thriller that the major studios vomited forth this year.  In fact, you are the first indie flick that this staunch indie horror supporter has named “Worst Horror Flick of the Year!”  I would much rather slap Hollywood around, so don’t ever make me do that again, please.  Basically, I can sum up my feelings about Area 407 with a quote from a REAL dinosaur movie…”That is one big pile of shit!”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

420 Reviews: V/H/S, Silent Night, and Creep Van

I love the concept here, but it wasn’t executed very well. I’ve always defended shaky-cam if it’s “first person,” but this one takes it a little far. There are a couple of good performances scattered throughout, and there’s plenty of nudity, but most of the stories are average at best. Segment three has some laughs, and segment five is far and away the best one despite the bad CGI effects. Half of a severed thumb up.

Silent Night:
Forget for a second that it’s a remake, this is a cool little slasher flick. The kills are creative, even if they do occasionally feature some obligatory bad CGI. The references to the original are well played. Aside from a couple of weak moments, the cinematography is first rate.  This just might become part of my annual Ghoultide viewing. Did I mention that I love Malcolm McDowell? One and a half severed thumbs up.

Creep Van:
Sometimes a film isn’t all that good, but it’s a lot of fun. Such is the case here. The best part of the flick is the killer practical gore effects. The worst part is what comes in between them. Luckily the mayhem never lets up for too long. The production quality is pretty high; and the acting quality is pretty low.  If you’ve got a taste for cheese, it’s a great “drinking with friends” movie.  One severed thumb up.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

420 Reviews: The Bunny Game, Absentia, Cell Count, and Citadel

The Bunny Game:
A lot of folks seem to think that if a flick is subversive, it’s automatically good. Not the case. This flick is extremely repetitive, and that, not the subject matter, is what made it hard to watch after a while. What did make it watchable was an outstanding performance by lead actress Rodleen Getsic in a very demanding role. For a much better film in a similar thematic vein, see In a Glass Cage. 1 severed thumb up.

Absentia has a slow building, creepy atmosphere that never relents. It also had that rarity of rarities in horror nowadays, a multidimensional heroine that the audience can actually get behind. The “is it real, or is it all in her mind” conceit is handled far better than I’ve seen in a while. It may sound odd, but I do kinda wish they had left the whole thing even more unexplained. One and a half severed thumbs up. 

 Cell Count:
This mix of body horror and prison flick hits the mark. The stark white sets create an effective cold, clinical atmosphere. Plus, they’re a good backdrop for the messy effects. The cast is solid, especially Christopher Tonye as Dr. Victor Brandt, the best evil scientist since Dr. Heiter. The ending went a smidge haywire, but it looks to be setting up for a sequel, so I’ll go with it. One and a half severed thumbs up.

Citadel had a good setup (that needle stabbing was pretty cringe inducing), and the bleak urban landscape is a great setting visually, but it fizzled fast. The problem with this flick is that they made the protagonist, who looks like a strung out Harry Potter, such a whiney bitch that it’s near impossible to root for him. The priest is a fun character though.  It’s well shot, but sadly boring. One severed thumb down.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

420 Reviews: Detention, A Little Bit Zombie, and Excision

Ok Cellmates, here’s the deal.  I have a hell of a lot of movies to get through before the end of the year.  I’m one of those bloggers who feels the need to see everything that I can get my hands on before I make the obligatory “best and worst flicks of 2012” lists.  Otherwise, mediocre movies sneak their way onto the lists, and we can’t have that, now can we?  I’ll write full reviews of some of them, but there’s no way in hell I could do them all.  Therefore, for the duration of my “procrastination penance horror gauntlet,” I’ll be writing a lot of 420 reviews.
If you weren’t here for my previous 420 reviews, I’ll explain.  Back before SOC was born, I wrote mini reviews on Facebook.  At that time, statuses had a 420 character limit.  Summing up my thoughts on a flick in exactly 420 characters became a word game.  Plus, it’s fun confusing the stoners who saw the title and were expecting something completely different.  So, I return to the format from time to time either when I don’t have much to say about a movie (which, as we all know, is a Tales From The Quadead Zone level rarity), it’s already been reviewed to death, or I’m pressed for time, which is the case right now.  So, without further ado…

All “meta” movies have the stink of hipster on them to some degree, but that’s pretty much all Detention is. This high school comedy/horror/sci-fi hybrid mess offers the occasional laugh or good line, but that’s about it.  Constant ironic 90s pop culture references don’t equal funny. Kudos for having the balls to name drop Scream while badly ripping it off though. At least the cast is decent.  1 severed thumb down. 

 A Little Bit Zombie:
A horror comedy with brains. I know, that was bad.  The whole cast is on point, and there’s some choice dialog. I could have gone for a little more gore and focus on the horror elements, but it’s funny enough to overlook that.  Keen eyed viewers will pick up quite a few Evil Dead influences. Plus, we get an appearance from Kurgan. Probably the best horredy I’ve seen so far this year. One and a half severed thumbs up.

If David Lynch and David Cronenberg codirected a high school coming of age movie, this is what would happen. A great supporting cast of genre veterans compliments a powerhouse performance by AnnaLynne McCord. Some of the imagery is deliciously bizarre. It’s part creepy, part funny, and part touching. If Richard Bates Jr. keeps making flicks like this, he has a bright future in cinematic horror. Two severed thumbs up.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Crack Whore

This movie is called Crack Whore.  There.  I probably don’t even need to write a review now.  That’s one of those titles that, upon hearing it, you already know if you want to see it or not.  If you’re still reading this, you’re probably the type of sicko that would dig this movie.  How do I know?  Because everyone else has already said “Ugh, Crack Whore?  I would never watch a movie with a name like that.”  Therefore, if you’re waiting to hear my thoughts on Crack Whore, you’d probably like it.  In the words of Jabba the Hutt, you’re my kind of scum.  But they don’t pay me the big bucks to not… bahahahaha… sorry, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. Let’s try that again.  But you don’t come here for me to just say “the title says it all,” so let’s break this sucker down, shall we?
Synopsis: The story of a Crack addicted prostitute named Honey. A girl who goes to a party out in the desert where she falls victim to drugs and gang rape. Spoon feeding herself crack, Honey decides to settle the score.
I do believe that this movie has ushered in a whole new subgenre of exploitation cinema; the rape revenge comedy.  Yes, the rape revenge comedy.  Actually, the flick is mainly a comedy about  dirty, drugged out hicks and hookers out in the desert that’s book-ended by a rape revenge story.  As we all know, I’m notoriously picky about my comedy, especially my low brow comedy.  I will admit, when I saw that the flick was from a company called Fart House Cinema, I was a little worried.  My worried were unfounded, however, because Crack Whore definitely made me laugh.  Hard.
My favorite scene has to be the POV rape scene.  It was, hands down, the most hilarious rape scene in movie history.  On the list of sentences I never imagined that I would ever type, that last one is pretty high.  Anyway, the best part of that scene, and for my money the best part of the whole flick, is George Troester’s performance as Cornfed.  From the rape scene on, I don’t think there was a moment he was on screen when I wasn’t laughing.  Most of the dialog in the film has a very improvised feel.  If it was improvised, then the actors deserve a LOT of credit for some of the lines they came up with.  If it wasn’t improvised, then writer/director Lance Polland deserves massive credit for writing some hilarious stuff and the actors get credit for making it seem so natural.  Either way, the actors get major kudos.  Even with the characters that I didn’t find all that funny, like Bubba Ray, the performers, in this case Christopher Raff, are to be commended for their dedication to their roles, because they certainly do play them to the hilt.
The yucks aren’t all the movie has to offer though.  There’s some nice low budget gore once the “revenge” portion kicks in.  I know I focused on the rapists earlier, but leading lady Julianne Tura and supporting redneck David C Hayes both bring a lot to the proceedings.  Director Polland makes the absolute most of the desert location, which looks great.  There are a couple of really cool camera angles used.  I won’t give away the best shot, but I will say that it happens during a disemboweling.  You’ll know the one I’m talking about when you see it.  There are also the tits, which are always a plus, especially in a welcome psychedelic interlude.  The soundtrack is perfectly chosen and used to accentuate the white trash rocker feeling of the film.  Don’t read that as a knock on the music.  I really liked the music.  It’s probably got the best raunch-rock soundtrack since Dear God No.  Here’s how you know a soundtrack is good; I rewound the credits just so I could google the bands.
My only real quibbles with Crack Whore are some pacing issues.  A couple of scenes just go on a little too long.  For instance, I’m cool with Honey having a dance scene on the pool table.  But, if it’s gonna go on for almost three minutes, no matter how hot she is (and make no mistake about it, she is pretty damn hot), nudity is required.  That’s just the law of the exploitation jungle.  She got naked later, so I’m curious as to why she didn’t in that scene.  Not that it wasn’t a - let’s just say - “enjoyable” scene, it just needed a payoff.  The Happy Land scene, however, drug.  It had good music, but it took too long getting where it needed to go and got repetitive.  Aside from that, the only issues are the kind of questionable details that may or may not have been intentional; like why did her bruises wash off in the shower and, if she just got gang raped, why are her panties still on?
Crack Whore is exactly what it sounds like, a sleazy exploitation flick that isn’t meant to be taken even remotely seriously.  It’s more Dumb and Dumber than Ms. 45, but I respect that.  It would have been easy to follow the well-trodden I Spit On Your Grave path, but I’m glad the makers of this film, many of whom were involved in the making of Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (which, after watching this flick, I really need to see), took the road less traveled.  A rape revenge comedy may sound like a far-fetched concept, but I’m glad the makers of this film took a crack at it.  One and a half severed thumbs up.  Nathan says check it out.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Another Visit From The Ghost Of Horror Past: Screaming In High Heels

Either Christmas is fast approaching, or mankind really should have been my business, or Tiny Tim REALLY needs that operation, or something, because The Ghost Of Horror Past has visited me yet again.  This time around the spirit has taken the form of Breaking Glass Pictures.  As I look around, I realize that I have been whisked away to the days of big box VHS, slasher flicks, and scream queens.  Yes folks, we’re headed to the 80’s.  Please spirit, show me more…
Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer.  What do these three women have in common?  If you said that they all participated in my What Halloween Means To Me event…well, you’d be wrong.  Only Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley did that, but hey, two out of three ain’t bad.  Unfortunately, Michelle Bauer never got back to me.  Maybe next year.  Anyway, the answer that I was looking for is that these three women are the lovely subjects of a documentary entitled Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era.  Yes Cellmates, these are the women that defined what it meant to be a scream queen, and they’re finally being given their proper respect.  The flick follows the careers of the gruesome threesome from their beginnings in the film industry, some by design and some by accident, through their glory days in the 80’s, through the “scream queen dark ages” of the late 90’s, and into their resurgence in popularity today.   
If you grew up on 80’s horror cinema, then the three afore mentioned ladies need no introduction.  The flicks they’ve been in read like a “Must See” list from the video store era. Nightmare Sisters and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama may be the only two movies to feature all three of them, but Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Silent Night Deadly Night, Haunting Fear, Return of the Living Dead, Demonwarp, Evil Toons, Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity, Night of the Demons, and literally hundreds more feature at least one of these ladies.  We’ve seen them die, we’ve seen them kill, and for many of us growing up in the days of VHS, we became men watching them undress. 
The documentary is very well done.  The three actresses are, of course, interviewed extensively.  They’re all very candid, not only talking about their glory days, but also holding nothing back on subjects like the effects of aging on their careers and those that  they feel are merely pretenders to the “scream queen” title.  Additional interviews with filmmakers like David DeCoteau and Fred Olen Ray (another What Halloween Means To Me alumni) are very informative, shedding a lot of light on the way these films were made.  There are plenty of clips from the movies themselves (offering up the prerequisite blood and boobs), as well as some cool footage of the ladies at conventions, accepting awards, being on the news, and meeting heads of state.
This isn’t the first time that director Jason Paul Collum has taken on the subject of women in horror.  In 2003 he made another documentary about horror actresses called Something to Scream About, hosted by Brinke Stevens.  While I do like that documentary (aside from one of the worst closing credits songs in the history of closing credits), this one shows a lot of growth from him.  While STSA followed the “Brinke introduces a topic, the talking heads sound off on it, repeat” format, Screaming in High Heels carries a really nice through line.  I don’t know about the current availability of his earlier documentary, but I have it on one of those cheap Brentwood 4 movie collections called Skinned Alive.  Its “disc-mate” is the infamous, hilarious, and only-watchable-when-heavily-intoxicated Midnight Skater.  You know, I need to review that sometime.  It’s Suburban Sasquatch bad.
Just like Something to Scream About, Screaming in High Heels is short, running just over an hour.  I keep debating with myself over whether or not this constitutes a valid gripe with the flick.  When it was over, I was left a little unsatisfied just because I wanted more.  The problem is, the doc is so well paced and constructed, and the subject is so thoroughly covered, that I don’t know what else could have been included that wouldn’t have stuck out as filler.  On the one hand, I think it’s the perfect length to tell this story, but I was disappointed that it was over so soon.  At least there is additional interview footage included as DVD extras to prolong your pleasure.
Some of my favorite horror discs to be released in the last few years has come out of this wave of really good horror documentaries that’s been going on lately.  Screaming in High Heels is a fun trip, albeit a quick one, that definitely deserves a place in the “nonfiction” section of your genre collection.  If you’ve followed Brinke, Linnea, and Michelle’s careers, or 80’s horror in general, there’s not a lot here that you don’t already know, but it’s cool to hear the stories first hand.  In a world where every chick with one z-movie and a headshot to her credit thinks she’s a Scream Queen, Screaming in High Heels reminds us of who really wears the crown.  Long live the true Queens.  One and a half severed thumbs up.  Nathan says check it out.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Visit From The Ghost Of Horror Past: The Complete Bob Wilkins' Creature Features

With it being Christmas season and all, I guess it’s apropos that none other than The Ghost of Horror Past recently visited me.  He awoke me from my slumber and showed me visions of what horror entertainment was like in the old days in an effort to convince me to change my ways.  “Why Nathan, whatever are you talking about?  What ways of yours could possibly need mending?” you might ask.  Well Cellmates, I have a confession to make.  One area of genre history where my knowledge is frightfully lacking is classic horror hosts.  You know, the regional kind.  I’ve never lived in a market where we had one.  Here in Atlanta we had my hero Joe Bob Briggs in the mid to late 90’s, but that was on TNT, so it was national.  Every now and then I’d see Elvira, but Movie Macabre was syndicated.  Now don’t get me wrong, my idol and my dream woman are the two greatest horror hosts in history, but there’s something about the mystique of the local horror host.  By the time I became a horror fan, the golden age of the horror host had passed.  Atlanta (or North Carolina while I lived there) never had a guy like Ghoulardi in Cleveland, Zacherle in Philly and NYC, or Morgus the Magnificent in New Orleans.  Hell, I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to become one myself.  I always say I’m gonna further my education about the men and women who chilled the late night airwaves, but I will admit to being remiss on that.  I know, I know.  Bad Son of Celluloid.
Well The Ghost of Horror Past, in the guise of November Fire Recordings, bestowed upon me a wondrous gift.  Yes, by the way, that’s the same November Fire of badass t-shirt fame.  Anyway, they sent me a killer DVD entitled The Complete Bob Wilkins Creature Features.  What?  You’re not familiar with Bob Wilkins?  Don’t feel bad, I wasn’t either.  Let me give you a little introduction. 
This is Bob Wilkins.  He was a horror host.  Everybody say “Hi Bob.”  In 1966, he began hosting “Seven Arts Theater” for KCRA in Sacramento.  He became so popular that it was renamed “The Bob Wilkins Show” and ran until 1970.  He showed horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies; along with comedy segments, Outer Limits episodes, and interviews.  He then moved to KTVU out of Oakland, where he hosted “Creature Features” from 1971-1979.  He handed over the reins to John Stanley and went to KTXL, once again in Sacramento, where “The Bob Wilkins Horror Show” ran until 1981.  In the ensuing years, Wilkins would host quite a few one off specials and appear at many conventions.  Horror kids in California, Oregon, and parts of Nevada all grew up on Bob Wilkins.  He is beloved among the west coast horror faithful that were lucky enough to catch his show, and it’s not hard to see why. 
Simply put, this guy is f’n awesome.  Wilkins had a very unique style.  Whereas most horror hosts are over the top characters, he was a normal, soft spoken, unassuming guy in a rocking chair with thick rimmed glasses and an ever present cigar.  I like that unique approach.  He had a dry wit.  A very dry wit.  Bone dry.  Mummy’s desert tomb dry.  Drier than a nun’s…well, you get the idea.  Despite this low-key manner, he had an magnetic charisma and an affable screen presence.  He’s just plain fun to watch.  Creature Features showed a lot of stinkers.  When showing fare like Attack of the Mushroom People, Sampson vs. The Vampire Women, or Vengeance of Fu-Manchu; Wilkins, much like Elvira, would constantly joke about how bad the flicks were.  It’s hilarious listening to him, calmly and matter-of-factly, describing how he decided to retire after having to put you, the viewer, through Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula in the same night. Luckily his family talked him out of it because they didn’t want him to return to their car wash. The flicks weren’t all bad though.  He also showed some of the greats, including a lot of 50s sci-fi gems, Universal monster classics, and Hammer films.  In fact, he presented Night of the Living Dead uncut on Sunday January 1st 1972, just 27 months after its release, making him the first horror host to show it. For what it’s worth, I’ve also heard Count Gore De Vol claim to have been the first.  No matter if the flick was a winner, or if he was telling you not to bother staying up because that week’s movie wasn’t worth it (he knew you were gonna stick around anyway), he always encouraged monster kids with his motto “Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong.”  Also, for the record, he had a bitchin’ theme song.  Here, check this out…

See? Good stuff, huh?  I told you.  If what you just saw made you laugh and say, “Wow, I bet that was a cool show,” then you definitely need to see The Complete Bob Wilkins Creature Features.  This is not a documentary, as I originally thought it was going to be.  Instead, it’s more of a video scrapbook.  It’s an awesome collection of clips from the show, interviews with Bob, Bob’s interviews with the luminaries of horror, vintage horror trailers, and various other images and videos from Wilkins’ entire television run.  While all of this is going on, a list of every episode, its original airdate, and the movies shown is constantly running on the bottom of the screen.  More than once I found myself thinking, “What?  It took me forever to track that flick down, and these lucky bastards got to see it on regular TV?”  It really is a fun watch.   
The interviews are probably my favorite part of the package.  We get to see Bob conduct what might have been Boris Karloff’s final on screen interview.  That particular interview is made even better when Wilkins tells the story behind it.  We also get to see the absolutely dumbfounded look on William Marshall’s face when Bob asks him to reassure people that there are, indeed, some white people in Blacula.  Marshall has absolutely no idea what to make of Wilkins, and it’s gloriously awkward.  I think my favorite interview, though, is from a press junket for Animal House.  Bob interviews John Landis, John Belushi, and Donald Sutherland.  He starts asking Landis about Schlock and Sutherland about Castle of the Living Dead and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.  They both try to steer the conversation back to Animal House repeatedly, but Bob pretty much ignores Belushi (except to tell him that his show is on opposite SNL). As he continues promoting Landis’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman and Sutherland’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you can see Belushi get angrier and more agitated as the interview goes on.  I laughed ‘til it hurt.  It was interesting, though, that when asked where he goes after being in a Spiderman comic book, Belushi prophetically replies ““Nothing. That’s it for me. Death.  A horrible death.”  Um, wow.
For those who grew up with Creature Features, obviously this will be a fun nostalgia trip.  That kinda goes without saying.  I didn’t grow up on Creature Features though.  Hell, I was only one year old when it ended.  My lack of a frame of reference didn’t make it any less entertaining.  In fact, it added a whole new level to the viewing experience; it was a history lesson in the way horror movies were once presented on TV.   Since receiving this DVD from November Fire, I’ve watched it multiple times, and I pick up on something new with every viewing.  This DVD carries the Son of Celluloid’s highest possible recommendation.  Watch The Complete Bob Wilkins Creature Features, and keep America strong.  Two severed thumbs up.  Nathan says check it out.  

 Oh, I almost forgot.  You can order it HERE.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: The Collective Vol. 5

I still love zombies.  I always have, and I always will.  There are a lot of people, however, who would have you believe that everything that can be done in the zombie genre has been done.  The Collective begs to differ.  According to JABB Pictures, there’s life left in the old, shambling, desiccated corpse yet; and they’re out to prove it with The Collective Volume 5.  You Cellmates already know of my love for JABB and these collections.  You also know what the deal is with these by now, but for those new to this Dead Man’s Party (admit it, it’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it?), here’s how this goes.  10 different filmmakers (actually, 8 this time around) are given a central theme. For Vol. 5, it’s zombies. They each produce a 10-minute short film giving their take on the concept. So, did Jason and crew breathe new life into a tired genre, or are they just beating a dead horse?  Let’s see…

Marauders – Jason Hoover

In the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, a group of psychos terrorize the survivors.  Jason Hoover’s are usually among my favorite entries in these Collective collections, but this one was all style over substance.  Visually, it’s got a cool idea, with everything in black and white except certain colorized characters or items.  As usual, Jason shows he knows how to move the camera and compose a shot well.  The problem is that nothing much happens.  There are some really nice touches that make the Marauders creepy and interesting, but we spend way too much of this watching them driving around hoopin’ and hollerin’.  When the mayhem finally does start, it’s of the “out of frame” variety.  I like the look, but a story, or at least a clear concept, would have been nice.  It’s also the least “zombierific” of the bunch, as we never see a zombie., and it actually could have taken place in any post-apocalyptic setting.  There is one line in particular that is REALLY funny though.
Voice Over – Arsonist Pictures

A man is bitten by a zombie, and as the change takes hold, that inner voice just won’t leave him alone.  That’s gonna make his date tonight a little awkward.  I loved this one.  I’m a big fan of animated opening credit sequences, a-la Night of the Demons or Blacula, so I knew when I saw one that this was gonna be good.  While I could do without the occasional  “same shot/jump cut” thing, everything else was perfect.  The verbal interplay between out protagonist and his inner zombie voice was hilarious and played very well by Noah East.  The comic timing is on point.  In fact, the people I watched it with and I imitated that voice for days.  Very well done horror comedy, and definitely the best use of the Zombie theme.  One of the two major highlights of this volume.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this.

They Said They Were Here To Help – Over Analyzed Productions 

When a strange plague begins, a freelance journalist finds himself in the middle of a government cover up.  This is a case study in how to pick a great location and squeeze every last bit production value out of it.  It ends up looking way better than it probably should for the budget.  While his climactic monolog seems somewhat forced, Collective veteran Brad Scaggs does a good job in the lead role.  The atmosphere reminded me a little bit of the original 1973 The Crazies.  By the way, if your goal with the name of your production company was an inside joke on us reviewers, then well played Over Analyzed.  Well played.

Consumption of the Heart – Copp Films 

A couple’s romantic flame has fizzled…until they discover that a mysterious plague is also a potent aphrodisiac.  This is the other big highlight.  I dig this kind of psychosexual stuff a lot, but too often it’s done completely from the crotch and less from the brain or heart.  While it’s certainly the most erotically charged entry in the series to date, it is also an intelligently told “love” story.  It works on a “blood and tits” level, but it also works on an “exploration of how mankind, stripped of their limits, will follow desire to the point of self destruction” level.  Visually, I was impressed by the use of color.  Some scenes have a bit of a middle-period Argento look to them.  Could Italian horror have been an influence?  The Cat in the Brain poster on the bedroom wall says maybe.   The strength of The Collective is that different filmmakers get to show off their unique styles, and this one certainly has a lot of style.    Great stuff.

A(Gore) aphobic - Quattro Venti Scott Productions

During the zombie outbreak, a woman trapped all alone in her apartment does her best not to lose her mind.  With the exception of a couple of scenes of the zombies outside (which are probably the best looking zoms in this collection), we spend the entire time in the apartment watching our heroine slowly lose it.  With a movie of this sort, you have to have a great performance out of your main actress.  Now don’t get me wrong, Athena Prychodko is good, and she would have been fine in a normal role, but one written this introspectively required a little heavier dramatic lifting than she could pull off here.  If she had been given a little more to do, it might have worked a lot better.  Also, those pesky sound level issues rear their ugly heads here. 

Zombie Soup – Liberty or Death Productions

A bunch of people, including some of the Collective filmmakers, answer questions about the zombie phenomenon.  This is where this volume really heads off the rails and careens downhill for me.  In all of the previous editions, there were entries that I loved and entries I hated, but they were all artistic endeavors and felt like the filmmaker actually had something to say.  For the first time, I feel like the Collective has filler.  This ten-minute talking head segment offers up a couple of laughs (certainly NOT the lame political jokes); but – if anything - this should have been a bonus feature on the disc rather than one of the shorts.  It feels like they were short a segment and had to whip one up right quick.  Honestly, as I watched it, I was shocked that this made it in. 

(se)XX _ Z(ombie) – Silence in the Dead of Light 

What’s a group of gals to do for sexual satisfaction in the age of zombies?  Well, they could take care of each other…or they could use the ghoulish dudes locked in the basement as undead sex toys.  This is a pretty cool concept; an old school silent movie with old school silent movie music and old school silent movie title cards.  The whole “zombie sex slave” idea is pretty cool too.  Unfortunately, the possibilities presented by that central conceit are barely explored.  True, the proceedings are livened up by some zombie sex and a hilariously awkward “lesbian scene” (if you can call it that) between two ladies that seem like they’d rather be doing anything else besides said scene, but way too much time goes to watching zombies in their tighty whiteys milling about.  I wish the actual relationship and conflict between all of the girls had taken center stage more.  It does show progression as a filmmaker on the part of Athena Prychodko since her contribution to Vol. 3, so I’m interested to see where she goes from here.

Spooky Stuff: The Zombie File – Liberty or Death Productions

A couple of ghost hunters go to haunted locations looking for zombies.  Um, what?  At first I thought this was just a parody of internet ghost hunting shows.  Later, I found out that these guys do a real internet paranormal investigation show.  I wish I had known this was a joke episode of an actual “reality” series.  I would have understood what was going on better, and I would have seen that godawful ending coming.    Robin is actually a great personality on the web series, but she doesn’t get a chance to shine here.  The last location they visit, the 100 Steps Cemetery in Brazil, Indiana, has a really cool legend that could actually be a great basis for a short, but the “ghost hunt” format and overall jokey tone completely kill it.

The Dead Things Outside Your Door Parts 1 and 2 – Graphik 13
A grumpy electrician must save his ex from a drug dealer and zombies.  As with last volume, the last two segments are actually a two-part flick.  I was hoping for another fun as hell “Bloody Hooker Bang Bang” style romp to salvage the second half of the collection.  I didn’t get it.    What I got instead was garden-variety splatstick.  The opening title cards and stock footage would have worked much better as a voice over.  I’m sure the style of the humor will be some folk’s cup of guts, but for me it felt flat and was not quite as good as I’ve seen from these guys before.  I did enjoy all of the homages (Romero Realty, O’Bannon Construction), and the callback to Snapcase (Graphik 13’s excellent entry from The Collective Vol. 2) was awesome.  There are a couple of choice bits of zombie mayhem, but the devil was in the details.  You do not bang a foam hammer against a door if you’re not going to insert the appropriate sounds.  Speaking of sound effects, many of them seem to have been chosen for comic effect, which didn’t work.  I love the old “blood splatters onto the camera lens” gag, but it only works with practical blood.  With CGI, it just looks cheap.  Maybe I’m just being picky about my comedy, as I tend to do, but this one really didn’t do it for me.

Man, I hate to say it, but overall this one was a bit of a letdown, especially considering just how great volumes 1-4 were.  The bad news is that Collective veterans Over Analyzed, Jason Hoover, Quatro Venti Scott, and Graphik 13, while not all turning in bad entries per se (They Said They Were Here To Help in particular), each turn in their weakest work of the series.  What makes it worse is that I know from the other Collectives that all of these guys are capable of making some killer shorts.  How did all of you have an off day at once?  Liberty or Death, um, I’m not sure what the hell happened there.  Did you guys just stop trying, or was it a “down to the wire, have to turn in something” situation?  Either way, their two entries were hands down the worst of this bunch, and drug the overall average down with them.  Silence in the Dead of Light is the only production group who shows up better than they did before, as (se)XX _ Z(ombie) is a vast improvement over Jog from vol. 3.  This volume was extremely lopsided, with the four films I really dug being the first four.  After that, it kinda crashed and burned.
The good news is that both newcomers to the series, Arsonist Pictures (Joshua Hull) and Copp Films (Andrew Copp) knock it out of the park.  Voice Over and Consumption of the Heart both actually offer up something rare in the horror market right now, as well as the idea The Collective Volume 5 was based on…a unique twist on the zombie genre.  Voice Over goes for laughs, and it delivers.  Consumption of the Heart is more artsy and transgressive, and it succeeds admirably.  This was my first exposure to both of these filmmakers’ work, and I’m excited to see what else they have to offer.  Hopefully they will take part in future Collectives, because these two shorts are fantastic.
I know I’m being awfully hard on this one.  I remember when I was a kid and my folks used to give me that “If you were a C student, we’d be happy with these grades, but we know you’re capable of A’s, so you’re grounded” bullshit.  That’s kinda how I feel about The Collective Volume 5.   I think the problem here, and I know for a fact that at least one person heavily involved in the production feels the same way, is that it’s a case of burnout.  3 of these have been released in 9 months.  That’s just too much.  Slow down.  Release one every 6 months maybe.  I don’t want to give you the wrong impression though.  It’s still definitely worth checking out.  They just set the bar so high, especially with Vol. 4, that it’s gonna be tough to consistently hit that level of badassery.  Trust me, Voice Over and Consumption of the Heart alone would make this a worthy purchase, especially considering that it’s only 10 bucks.  That’s still one of the best horror entertainment values going.  I guess The Collective is kinda like sex.  When it’s good, it’s great!  When it’s sub par…hell, it’s still pretty  good.  One severed thumb up.   Nathan says check it out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Wild Eye Releasing Fever Dream Marathon Part 2: Gothkill and The Bloody Ape

STOP!!!  If you haven’t read PART 1 of this transcendental journey into the world of modern low budget exploitation cinema, go do so now.  If you don’t how else are you gonna know that I was watching these out of my mind on codeine cough syrup (which might as well be orally administered heroin), tons of cold medicine, and a 104 degree fever.  How would you know that I had already watched Blitzkrieg: Escape From Stalag 69 and The Disco Exorcist?  I mean, if you didn’t read part one, you would have no idea that I was tearing through a stack of flicks sent to me by Wild Eye Releasing.  So you should really go read part one.  On, now that you went and did that, on with the movies!

If you watch a lot of indie horror cinema, you’ve undoubtedly run into a few of those “I have a bunch of goth buddies and a camera” movies.  You know, films like Goth, Hollywood Vampyre, and about half of any Pendulum Pictures box set.  I’m always rooting for these pictures, since I love that DIY sensibility and have a weakness for goth chicks.  The problem is, most of the time they’re impossible to get through.  Some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen fit into the “gothsploitation” subgenre.  Luckily, Gothkill was infinitely more entertaining than your garden-variety black lipstick flick.
 Synopsis: When Catholic Priest and Inquisitor Nicholas Dread finds out that innocents are being burned as witches he decides to do something about it. Unfortunately for him, his superiors don’t agree and he’s burned at the stake alongside two women he forced confessions from. While dying, Nick curses god and makes a pact with Satan to reign over his own kingdom someday at any cost. Now, in 21st century New York City, Dread has returned to finish the deal. His end of the bargain with Satan must be fulfilled, and many will die so Dread can take the throne in his kingdom of over one hundred thousand corrupt souls. He just has to find the right bunch of victims…and it just so happens the best Goth Club in the city is ripe for this bloodthirsty butcher bent on revenge! Can a group of Goths and wanna-be vampires hold their own when the real thing arrives?
I’ll probably alienate some of you with this statement, but I find a lot of the people in the goth and fetish scenes absolutely hilarious.  Not in a “oh my god, look at the freak” way, that would be pretty hypocritical of me, but the ones who take themselves deadly serious without any sense of humor or irony kill me.  The pretentiousness is just too much for me to take.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed this flick so much.  Far too often the “gothsploitation flicks” fall into that pretentious category.  Gothkill actually has a sense of humor.  These guys don’t mind poking fun at themselves and the more ridiculous aspects of gothhood.  It’s so refreshing to see the subculture willing to make fun of itself.  Anyone who knows a lot of goths will laugh that “oh my god, that’s just like so and so” laugh repeatedly.  Michael Day as Lord Walechia is especially hilarious.
The main thing that carries the flick is Flambeaux in the lead role.  Yes, his name is Flambeaux.  Freakin’ goths.  Anyway, asinine stage name notwithstanding, this dude has serious screen presence and a lot of charisma.  It’s a trip watching him throw himself into the role and go balls to the wall with it. He spends a good amount of time narrating directly to the camera, and he makes it work.  It may be the fever (or the drugs) talking, but I love this guy.  Why haven’t more filmmakers picked up on him?
The flick doesn’t really work as a horror movie, but it does as a horror comedy.  The problem is, it’s kinda hard to tell how seriously we’re meant to take it.  Flambeaux, the goth-skewering comedy, and a little eye candy are more than enough to gain my favor.  Hell, even if it wasn’t, at 75 minutes, it doesn’t really have time to overstay its welcome.  Punched up with more nudity and some more gore beyond the “throw some Karo around” minimum, this could have been a gem.  That’s not to say it’s not entertaining though.  You’ve most definitely seen a lot worse.  Those with ties to the goth community will enjoy this far more than those just looking for some horror.
By this time, my loopy-ness was reaching its zenith.  I soon realized that this put me in the perfect mindset to watch The Bloody Ape.  How can you not love a flick that advertises itself as “100% Pure Underground Trash?”  Well, it’s pretty easy, as 99% of intentionally bad underground trash isn’t nearly as much fun as this, but that’s a rant for another time.  The movie is shot on Super 8mm (mostly expired according to the bonus features), which normally imbues a flick with a grainy, low-fi, washed out look.  This day, however, it was more of a hallucinatory quality, like a spectral vision shown to me by the Ghost of Regional Exploitation Movies Past. 
Synopsis:  THE BLOODY APE is the most outrageous, drive-in movie take on Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" ever committed to film. A carnival barker foolishly releases his 400 pound gorilla, who then literally goes bananas on a rampage of raw rape and boffo butchery - leaving the low rent population of Long Island either sexually violated, slaughtered - or both! From maverick indy filmmaker Keith J. Crocker (Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69), THE BLOODY APE is a gore-soaked love letter to the sex and violence of the grind house movie era that pulls no punches and offers no apologies for wallowing in a skin-drenched stew of crudeness and camp! Banned from numerous festivals around the world, ignored by critics and loathed by the politically correct....but now there just is no stopping THE BLOODY APE!
I never went more than a couple of minutes without laughing hysterically.  The dialog is insane.  Almost every character is an over the top parody of a racist, and you will never stop being amazed at the things coming out of these people’s mouths.    If you’re one of those whiney, easily offended, politically correct types, stay the hell away from this movie.  The non-racial dialog is just as funny, with characters spouting lines like “My love for you is as deep and as wide as the expanses of your vaginal cavity.”   Just so you know, to get that quote, I decided to play a little game.  You just read that in the Jigsaw voice, didn’t you?  Couldn’t help yourself, could ya? Instead of going back to the flick to get the actual verbiage, I googled “bloody ape vaginal cavity.”  I was either gonna find the quote, or be irreversibly mentally scarred.  Luckily the quote came up first, but I don’t recommend gambling with your sanity like that kids.  That could have been traumatic. 
The acting is just as outlandish as the lines these “actors” deliver.  As far as I can tell, there isn’t an actual actor among the bunch.  Well,  perhaps the guy who plays Duane Jones, the token black guy named after the most beloved token black guy in horror history.  He was pretty good.  If you are the type who gets a kick out of bad acting, this flick just might be the holy grail.  Paul Richichi as Lampini is a study in awkwardness.  The scene where Lampini is running around asking people (who seem to have been recruited on the spot) about the whereabouts of his ape is hysterical.  George Reis, playing Detective LoBianco in a hilarious wig and fake beard, is a caricature of every 70’s New York cop movie cliché.  The moment when a naked woman is attacked by the ape, and shows her terror by looking directly into the camera and laughing just might be the most exquisite example of the fine art of screen acting that I’ve ever seen.  Second take be damned! 
The monkey mayhem is magnificent.  Among his other exploits, our simian friend castrates a hippy, tears a rabbi’s leg off, and rapes the rabbi’s wife (covering her in his seed, which looks suspiciously like whipped cream) before gutting her with his bare hands.  During the scene with the rabbi’s wife, the thought of the monkey intoning “Rape Ape” in the “Grape Ape” voice occurred to me.  At that moment, it was the funniest thing I had ever come up with.  I kept repeating it in my mind and guffawing.  Then I realized I was actually repeating it out loud.  I’m glad no one else was there to see that.  Anyway, this ape doesn’t limit his activities to the usual horny and homicidal stuff you’d expect from an ape.  No, monkey man actually steals a car and goes for a drive.  Yep, a gorilla steals a car.  If that’s not enough to sell you on this one, I don’t know what is.  The nudity perhaps?
The Bloody Ape purports to be a throwback to the days of the drive-in.  It’s notable that this movie was made back in 1997, a full decade before Grindhouse made these homages trendy.  While being shot on film does lend it the aesthetic of an earlier time, it comes across to me as a throwback to the 80’s DIY flicks that came out of the initial explosion of the home video market.  You know, those flicks where you can tell that someone decided to make a movie because they had a camera, an idea, 50 bucks, a bunch of friends and family to be cast and crew, and a weekend off.  I love the homegrown quality of those flicks, and I love the homegrown quality of this one. 
At this point, my brain could take no more input.  As the calliope music of The Bloody Ape’s title screen played, I stared vacantly at the screen trying to make sense of the last 8 hours or so.  It was a heady, almost psychedelic cocktail of naked women with machine guns, gorillas committing grand theft auto, vinyl dresses, Nazis, disco, tits, blood, fire, bad acting, castrations, sex, demons, hilarious dialog, and pure indie horror madness.  Later that night, my fever finally broke.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Brothers and sisters, I was healed by the power of gore and sleaze.  Hallelujah!
Now, before I wrap up with the severed thumb scores, I have to mention that Wild Eye did a bang up job with these releases.  You wouldn’t expect smaller releases like these to have a lot in the way of bonus features, but they all come pretty packed.  Hell, The Disco Exorcist is the sparsest of them all, and it has a commentary track, deleted scene, and all of the flick’s various trailers.  Gothkill has a video commentary (which is cool, but the little box in the corner of the flick gets annoying at times), a Q&A with the director, a featurette on the live experience, and promo materials.  The two Keith Crocker flicks get the full on Special Edition treatment, with commentaries, retrospective featurettes, shorts, test footage, stills, trailers, promo materials, VHS covers, and more.  Kudos to Wild Eye for giving you this much bang for your buck.  Hit them up on facebook HERE to keep up with their releases.
Ok folks, the final verdict is…one severed thumb up for Gothkill and one and a half severed thumbs up for Blitzkrieg, Disco Exorcist, and Bloody Ape if taken separately.  Two severed thumbs way up if you plan on doing the same marathon I did, hopefully without the “sick as hell” part.  Nathan says check ‘em all out. 
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