Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Garbage Day: Swamp Women (1955)

A police investigator goes undercover in jail to break free with three diamond thieves and try to find the loot, which they have hidden in a swamp. Nothing happens, then its over. This shouldnt even be considered horror, as there are no horror aspects whatsoever. There are murders, but by criminals, and its not like people get eaten by piranhas or alligators or anything. BUT, to the films credit, there was a rattlesnake, and that was sweet. You literally sit and watch four women complain for a few hours. Id say it had terrible acting, but the actresses realistically portrayed what an hour and a half of complaining would look and sound like. Dont watch it.

Rating: 3/10.

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Stir of Echoes (1999)

Overshadowed by the similarly themed Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes seemed to be a flop initially, but upon revisiting the film, audiences will find it equally if not more frightening. The gripping plot does not lose effectiveness after the first viewing, and uses subtle scares created through the characters interactions with the unseen ghosts and clever editing. This is easily Kevin Bacon's best performance as the ESP-plagued protagonist, haunted by visions of a missing girl stalking his family. The cadences of each of the characters are unique and interesting, with a blue collar appeal that is both believable and relateable. One of the best genre films to come out of the 90s, highly recommended!

Rating: 9/10.



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Witchery (1988)

Disastrous haunted house vehicle starring Linda Blair and The Hoff. The plot is so boring and pointless that you sit in anticipation, thinking at any minute something awesome MUST be coming up soon. By 1hr, it becomes apparent that nothing is coming.. nothing. A witch haunts a deserted isle hotel, while visitors succumb to her crappy overacting slash witchery. A (very) few OK make-up FX for the gore, but nothing worth watching for. The witch is some old, beat former actress that just randomly appears in reflections or in person with no consistency or suspense. The acting isnt unbearable, and there are a few moments of surreal visuals, but this is Eurotrash you can definitely afford to miss.

Rating: 4/10.
Gore: 5/10.



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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bay of Blood (1971)

This is one of the more stylishly shot Slasher flicks, and although it isnt as good as many of Bava's other films, it is undeniably one of the most influential Italian horror movies on American cinema. The death scenes are extremely brutal and bloody, with decapitations, machetes to the face, stabbings, stranglings, everything. The inhabitants of a small bay get caught up in murder and greed with the prospect of a major development and a lot of money. Bava explores many new camera techniques and makes full use of the natural color palette of the lake, but the film doesnt have the same visual impact as his earlier films. The characters and acting are also a bit more generic, but compared to the average slasher Bay of Blood is definitely a stronger entry. Look for scenes that would later be re-created in American Slashers like Friday the 13th Part II. A fun, gory watch, but I prefer Bava's far superior Slasher entry Blood and Black Lace.

Rating: 8/10.
Gore: 9/10.



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ILHM Interviews FX Guru Robert Kurtzman!!

ILHM had the pleasure of meeting one of the genre's leading special make-up FX artists over the three day weekend at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors 2009, Robert Kurtzman. Robert of course was a leading man during the height of KNB's FX work, and has gone on to develop his new company Creature Corps, working out of both Ohio and New Mexico. Robert's newest creations will be on display in the film Hisss, due out late 2009, and in his most recent directorial effort The Rage, now available on DVD. Robert has taken the time to sit down with ILHM and offer some insight into his amazing FX work over the years:



ILHM: Robert, it is a huge privilege to have the chance to catch up on your current projects! Going back to the beginning, what inspired you originally to become a make-up and FX artist?

Robert: I've been a movie fan since I was a little kid and spent all my time watching monster films on late night horror host shows and Sat. afternoon movies while drawing and trying to re-create the creatures. I've always had a fasination for fantastic creatures and special effects and I followed the careers of Rick Baker, Stan Winston and Dick Smith as I read Fangoria, Famous Monsters, and Cinemagic. So eventually I made my way to LA to break into the Biz.


ILHM: Growing up, did you find that your friends and family propelled you in the direction of make-up and design, or did you find some resistance in achieving your goals?

Robert: No resistance at all.... My mother is an artist and she really nurtured the artist in me as I was growing up. I spent a lot of time taking art lessons from her artist friends, and they all had different styles and mediums (oils, watercolor, acrylics, sculpture). Both my mother and father were very supportive. They just wanted me to find a career that mad me happy. I just wanted to do creative things.


ILHM: You have worked with some of the most prolific directors in the horror genre. In your experience, who have you enjoyed working with the most?

Robert: Sam Raimi. I had the best time working on the Evil Dead films and love watching Sam work. He really enjoys the process of making films and his enthusiasm is infectious.


ILHM: What are a few of your fondest memories looking back over the years you have spent on the sets of genre classics like Evil Dead 2, Bride of Re-Animator, up to your own films Wishmaster and The Rage?

Robert: Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness are my two favorite film experiences, and of course I love every torturous moment on my own films. When we were working on the Evil Dead films, we were kind of isolated on location and we pretty much just lived for making the films. It was a close knit family, and we had a great time. Just working on a castle set with armies of the dead attacking was like we were kids again and living in a Harryhausen film. Total Blast!


ILHM: What are your greatest fears stepping behind the camera as a director?

Robert: I actually am pretty fearless. I've alwasy been a risk taker. My biggest fear is always is getting fired an not being able to complete the film you worked so hard on, which has happened to other directors I know. Luckily, I have not had that happen to me... knock on wood!


ILHM: Do directing and writing come as easy to you as design work for your make-up and special FX?

Robert: After 5 films now I feel more comfortable behind the camera as director, and it really is the most fufilling experience for me. Writing is a torurous process, as there are too many distractions. Its really hard to sit down and get it on paper. Nothing is really easy... even drawing or working on art.... its hard to find inspiration sometimes because its all a business as well. The best art comes from creative freedom, and thats very hard to find in the film industry.


ILHM: Of all the incredible designs you have put your mark on, what piece or pieces do you feel best represent your work, and which pieces would you say are your favorites?

Robert: That one is tough because the work you do for films are collaberative and have influences coming from writers and directors. The most satisfying work can only be created if you have compete freedom. That said, some of my favorite works are the Witch from Army of Darkness and Bride of Re-Animator. I also still dig the Gargoyle from Tales from the Darkside and the Savini Rat Creature From Dusk Till Dawn, but I'm really fond of the design work I just did for the Hisss make-ups and creatures.


ILHM: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects Hisss, To Live and Die, and Roney's Point?

Robert: To Live and Die is now called Deadly Impact and stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Joe Pantoliano, and Carmen Serano. Its an action thriller in the vein of In the Line of Fire. Its about a cop who's life is distroyed by the assassin he's hunting down, who's also an explosives expert. Its a cat and mouse thriller with lots of action.

Hisss is a film we just did in India with Director Jennifer Lynch who was amazing to work with. The film is based on the Nagin Snake Goddess legend. They've made like a hundred movies around the world about the legend but Hisss is the first Hindi horror film to be shot in India with an Amercian director and fx team onboard. It stars Bollywood Superstars Mallika Sherawat and Irrfan Kahn (Slumdog Millionnaire), and the first American villian Jeff Doucette. We shot for 10 weeks in India, all around the country. It was an amazing experience. The film is unlike anything I've worked on, and visually stunning. We are working on post and it should be out later this year or early next.

Roney's Point is a film we've been involved with for a while that has yet to get into production.



ILHM: Wishmaster is one of the rare examples in the horror genre where the amazing practical FX were equally matched with ground-breaking computerized FX. Do you feel that the advances in computerized imagery have helped or hurt the genre as a whole?

Robert: Both! Its an amazing tool to have but it can also be relied on too much, but sometimes there is no other choice, its the only way to do it. Movie schedules have gotten tighter due to the overall economics of making films, and to do things practically and in camera are very coslty orimpossible do to these tight schedules. I still believe the best visual effects incorperatepractical and CGI elements. As a director its a great tool to have in your arsenal.


ILHM: Creature Corps is now up and running out of your recently remodeled bowling alley in Ohio; what are the greatest assets this new setting has provided and what can fans expect to see coming out of Creature Corps in the coming years?

Robert: A connection to the real world outside of LA and a better place to raise a family. Also my studio, which is 13,000 square feet, was more affordable to put together in Ohio keeping our overhead lower. We havent shot a film in LA for 5 years now so it doesnt really matter where you create the fx as we have been shooting all over the world. I've also put togehter a great team of veteran artists who've worked with me for more than 15 years who are also midwesterners. We have a half a dozen projects in the works for this year and we just completed The Dead Matter for director producer Ed Douglas, which we shot in Ohio. Its a independent production about the undead. We just completed the make-up fx work on the Children of the Corn remake directed By Donald Borchers, which he produced for the Sci Fi Channel. As a director, I'm attached to several projects moving forward this year, one of which is Bump, which I'm doing with Fangoria's Scott Licina and Mark Kidwell.


ILHM: What are a few goals you would like to achieve in the coming years, both in make-up and film and personally?

Robert: I'm pushing hard to build the company and our brand name and will continue to pursue interesting projects with creative filmmakers. Personally, I'm very excited about the release of Deadly Impact ( aka To Live and Die), which is myfirst non Horror/SCI FI film, and I will continue to refine my skills as a director.


ILHM: Robert, thanks again for taking the time to give us some insight into your career. Your fans span the world over, and we are all looking forward to your future successes!


Creature Corps' new website is aimed to launch shortly at http://www.creaturecorps.net/, and Robert's production company can be reached at www.p13entertainment.com/. Be sure to grab a copy of The Rage, available now in stores and online, and check out Hisss in the coming months following post-production!

Also, dont forget to check out our older interviews:

Judith O'Dea

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Black Sabbath (1963)

A trio of terrors featuring a murderous Giallo, a family falling prey to their vampirous father, and a vengeful ghost haunting a clever thief. If the second tale, The Wurdalak, had been a complete feature, the film would rival Black Sunday as Bava's crowning achievement, but as it stands it is one of the creepiest, most beautiful, and perfectly executed short stories. Bava goes from stark black and white to a surreal and unnaturalstic color palette coupled with more gorgeous sets and amazing camera work. The third entry is what Bava considers to be his most technically proficient film, with the color, sound, and lighting all playing integrally into the overall mood and terror. As Giallo's go, the first entry is a strong effort, complete with the Italian trademarks of overt sexuality, societal taboos like lesbianism, a black-gloved killer, and a plot for revenge. While the first and third entries are still very good, The Wurdalak tends to be the most memorable and best crafted of the three, but the film is a masterpiece and a must see for any horror fan.

Rating: 10/10.



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Garbage Day: King of the Zombies (1941)

Official Selection: Most Racist Horror Film. Wow. Really didnt see it coming. The dialogue and acting that came out of this schlocky zombie flick feels like it was written by a Confederate in the 1800s. A navy recovery unit crashes on a mysterious island where a whacked out Nazi domesticates black zombie slaves to do his bidding. After doing some research, the film was supposed to have been a biting social commentary, portraying the white men as ignorant and allowing the black lead to take control and solve the mystery while injecting bits of urban influence into the dialogue and acting. Some 70yrs later, it hardly comes through, and appears to have quite the opposite effect, but had I known that was the initial concept going in, I may have interpreted the film differently. Regardless of intent though, as a horror film it is a slapsticky mess, so leave it to those writing theses on African-American influence in early Horror and pass.

Rating: 4/10.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Black Sunday (1960)

Bava's finest cinematic achievement combines beautiful and dark Gothic settings, impressive camera techniques, and unforgettable imagery and visual storytelling. A vampiress vows revenge after being killed by the Inquisition, only to be revived two centuries later to seek revenge! Though Bava would go on to develop even more impressive filming techniques in his later films, none recapture the perfect blend of atmosphere, acting, and set design quite like Black Sunday. Barbara Steele is haunting as the vampire Asia, and equally stunning as the princess Katia, drawing the audience in with her seducing gaze. Easily my favorite Bava film, setting the bar for all genre films to follow and rivaling even Hitchcock in style and design.

Rating: 10/10.



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Haunts (1977)

A devote small town farm woman becomes suspicious and recluse after her family is brutally murdered, only to be confronted with the killer in several more narrow escapes. This one takes extra effort in staying awake and interested, with an extremely slow pace, bits of implied violence, and uninteresting filming. The acting holds up ok, with Britt playing a convincing lead and Cameron Mitchell appearing in an average cameo, but it isnt enough to make the film stand out in any way. The one thing that really keeps the audience watching is the dubious identity of the killer, which keeps you guessing up until the end and successfully plays out several red herrings like in Tenebrae. One would have to go through a long list of films before this would be recommended, but it isnt a total loss.

Rating: 5/10.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

I like Trilogy of Terror, dont get me wrong. It is entertaining, and no one can forget the Zuni fetish doll. It certainly has its place in genre history, and stands above most other made for TV genre efforts. What it isnt, however, is a great movie. The first and second entries are rather generic, and are themes that have been revisited (and done better) many times in the genre. The only thing that sets this anthology effort apart is the third entry, which most fans identify the film with. The Zuni fetish is one of the earlier and most effective killer doll attempts, and it is done considerably well especially taking into account the limitations handed down by a constrained budget and TV censorship. All things considered, the technical aspects of the film are better than most other TV movies, and Karen Black proves herself as a leading genre actress, but the pacing and structure only make for an average film.

Rating: 7/10.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)

Fun little anthology flick with tales of gargoyles, a killer cat, and a vengeful mummy. Adapts stories by King, Doyle, and others with a fresh cinematic style and plenty of familiar cameos. KNB offers up some more amazing FX, particularly in the creature creation in the final entry. Harrison keeps the film visually engaging, with the second story offering a cats POV, explicit use of color, plus unique framing. The film also delivers a clever wrap-around that ties everything together nicely. Unlike the EC Comics films like Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror, the entries are not morality tales, but do have ironic endings. I enjoy it more with each viewing, great early 90s anthology effort.

Rating: 8/10.

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Witchboard (1985)

Somewhere between Boogeyman and Poltergeist Part II lies Witchboard, a possession film that somehow manages to be so boring that the high point of the entire movie is when the lead male punches his possessed girlfriend in the face. Not quite as bad (or gory) as Boogeyman, but pretty close. A woman is obsessed with contacting 'David' in her Ouija board. David lures her into an uneventful possession, then its over. The combination of typical 80s overacting and slow pacing make this a chore to watch, and several scenes feel like forced filler used to meet the feature length. There is some scattered bloodshed, but its extremely sparse and hardly worth the wait. There are many fans of the film, but I give it a big pass.

Rating: 5/10.

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Garbage Day: Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

The title says it all: occupants of a small swamp town begin disappearing, because theyre being eaten by giant killer rubber monster suits!! Bland plot, cardboard characters, bad costumes, meets all of the criteria for a cheesy B-movie. Unless terrible monster movies are your thing, I would have to give this two rubber monster thumbs down. Im fairly certain the costumes are just giant black trash bags, not unlike the one that attacked me this morning, so the film does have some credibility. Given the fact that the budget was probably less than I make in a week as well, we'll give Kowalski credit for attempting a plot that no other man had the balls to make at the time.

Rating: 3/10.

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When A Stranger Calls (2006)

I want to preface this by saying the producers made the right move in remaking this film. Outside of genre purists, next generation teens were unlikely to ever reproach the original, and the 'scared babysitter receiving menacing phone calls' theme is universally scary to all teens, making it an instant money maker in theaters with a PG-13 rating. The problem is that the new film extends the fast-paced and thrilling opening of the original into a slow, uneventful hour and a half. There are some clever scares generated by every day household noises put into the right context, but there are way too many red herrings, and the plot never really goes anywhere. The PG-13 crowd may have jumped at a few pre-determined moments, but there is nothing worth reproaching on DVD for the seasoned horror vet. Good settings, good camera work, but the production just isnt enough to salvage the generic, bland plot and minimal dialogue. A babysitter is stalked by an unseen intruder in a secluded mansion.

Rating: 6/10.

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Tamara (2005)

This is a decent little 'Im the weird girl at school so everyone sets me up for embarrassment and kill me by mistake then i come back and kill them ironically using their personal flaws' flick that offers above average acting, good gore, and excellent camera work for an Indie horror release. It isnt entirely original, identifying itself closely with the standard Carrie model, but it sets a strong pace and is very entertaining. The acting becomes a bit corny at times, particularly the nerd character, but overall Dewan handles Tamara's dual personalities well and establishes two strikingly different characters. I am a fan of the film, it stands out from most other small Indie attempts and recalls previous genre efforts while offering its own unique voice. Worth checking out!

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 6/10.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Garbage Day: Doll Graveyard (2005)

Terrible killer dolls movie churned out during the post-awesome Full Moon era. With no memorable characters or dolls, bad puppetry and CG work, a boring plot, and a single filming location, the film perfectly captures the look and feel of a crappy low-budget horror entry. Is it a surprise we havent seen a sequel? Actually, it is, considering theres a Gingerbread Man 2. Fans of Puppet Master that are thinking of giving this a shot thinking "Well, its Full Moon!", save yourself the trouble. Pissed off dolls come back to life to ruin a party after being dug up in the backyard.

Rating: 4/10.

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Naked Massacre (1976)

The title sums it up well, but a more suitable title would have been "A Bunch of Supposed Nudity and Violence Off Camera Massacre." A Vietnam vet goes balls out crazy and enters a communal home for nurses, ties them up, then randomly selects which ones to molest and kill in an orderly fashion. The plot obviously reflects the Speck killings, which are even referenced by one of the characters. The film never transcends typical, bland Exploitation with scattered blood and nudity. It attempts a character study with the villainous lead, but he never manages to gain the audience's support. The only shining moments are the realistic setting in the opening depicting the civil disorder in Ireland over religious warfare, and the denouement on which I cannot comment. This film can easily be missed.

Rating: 4/10.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sleepwalkers (1992)

This King adaptation combines elements of lycanthropy and vampirism in a fast paced and fun story of an incestuous pair of soul-sucking werecats that attempt to lure a high school girl into their clutches. Despite its made-for-TV look and feel, the acting is pretty solid (outside of a few cheesy scenes), and it offers good practical and special FX with plenty of cameos in true Mick Garris style. There is a little scattered gore that catches you off guard, but overall it isnt too bloody. I get more enjoyment out of the film than it probably deserves, but it is something worth checking out that most genre fans should like.

Rating: 7/10.

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Garbage Day: When A Stranger Calls Back (1993)

Unnecessary at best. Made for TV sequel that pits Jill against a new stranger (who one would have to assume never called originally) as she comes to the aid of a young college student that is receiving menacing phone calls. No scares, no suspense, just a bland made for TV bore.

Rating: 5/10.

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When A Stranger Calls (1979)

The first half hour is ever babysitters nightmare, and a classic, terrifying scene in film history. After that, the film loses focus, as well as the female lead, and becomes a mediocre character study and a worse killer on the loose story. Still, the intro and climax offer excellent scares and original camera work. It is interesting to see the typically hilarious Carol Kane take up a serious role, making it one of her more memorable appearances, and Beckley is chilling at times and empathetic at others. Not the best example to come out of the peak Slasher era, but a must see for most horror fans. A babysitter is receiving frightful phone calls, only to find out they are coming from inside the house!

Rating: 7/10.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Garbage Day: Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)

Wow. Terrible. Terrible. The lead character is an annoying, shrill, punk that is not empathetic in the least, whom you actually want to see tortured by the other campers unlike Angela in the original. It makes you wish Ricky was back to help him. But wait! Ricky IS back, which one of several throwbacks to the original that fails miserably due to inept acting and directing. The filming style and plot attempt a closer followup than the previous sequels, but every element in the film is a complete mess. Even Sleepaway Camp 3 somehow offers higher production values.. It is almost better left unseen due to the disappointment factor, but curiosity will inevitably get the best of you and destroy your meager hopes. A new teen is being harassed at summer camp, when bodies begin piling up..

Rating: 4/10. Read The Full Post HERE!

Zombie 3 (1988)

Fulci rightfully signed off halfway through this mess of a zombie film. It just doesnt recapture the tone or graphic violence of the original, and has terrible acting and dialouge even for an Italian schlockfest. The gut munching and zombie effects are adequate and warrant at least a single view for zombie fans, but while it is superior to the many of the other cheap Italian zombie cashins churned out in the late 70s and early 80s, that still only makes it slightly above terrible. An undeadly serum unleashes zombies on deserving victims who go out of their way to investigate deserted towns on an island.

Rating: 4/10.
Gore: 7/10.

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Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (1978)

The movie is about Dracula's dog, who coincidentally is also a vampire. Zoltan is freed from his tomb, and sets out to wreak havoc on the Drake family, the last known descendants of Dracula. Knowing this, honestly, what would you expect? Despite the absurdity, this is a cheesy, stupid, but fun and entertaining 70s 'animal attacks' film. It really is hilarious watching a dog seduce other dogs into his legion of vampire dogs. C'mon, who wouldnt like to see that? Sure, it manages to make an hour and a half seem like three, and they must have picked the actors up off the street, but with glowing eyes and greyed hair, the dogs are sufficiently creepy. Echoes Devil Dog a bit, but makes for a great Killer Animal marathon.

Rating: 5/10.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Critters 2 (1988)

What this sequel lacks in originality and acting, it more than makes up for entertainment! The Crites are back, hatching from the eggs left over from last time, but luckily Brad Brown and the alien bounty hunters have returned to town in time to stop them. With a bigger budget, the creature FX have been vastly improved, allowing expanded physical capabilities that lend much more believability and personality to the creatures. The film also successfully recaptures the feel and humor of the original, with many returning characters and physical comedy instilled in it. Though the original is the better film, the sequel is slightly more enjoyable.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 8/10.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garbage Day: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

If you're into watching so-called archeologists fumble around in the woods looking for Bigfoot for over an hour while not being able to see anything on screen due to the washed out blacks and bad lighting, then this is the film for you! Completely uneventful horror, only producing a few scares when the Bigfoot rattles some tents and roars in true Blair Witch style. Its a 50/50 shot of liking it or being bored to tears and breaking the DVD in a fit of rage and lustful passion.

Rating: 5/10.
Gore: -7/10.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

Sleazy Exploitation flick filmed with a surprising amount of style. David Hess reprises his role as a villainous hoodlum who terrorizes a group of social elitists after he and his buddy are invited to their party for fixing their car. Hess cannot be better suited for the role, and has a natural air of sadism and menace inherent in his acting. The build up to the attacks is perfectly executed in establishing the characters and generating interest in the audience, but once the violence and rape begin, the film becomes tedious and repetitive. It proves to be far better than many of the other Eurotrash entries of the time, but it fails to dethrone Last House on the Left or I Spit On Your Grave in terms of sensationalism or quality. I enjoy it for what it is, so it comes recommended.

Rating: 7/10.

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Ed Gein (2000)

Good docudrama focusing on the true life events of Eddie Gein, the Butcher of Plainfield. The low budget minimalist approach to the sound and gore adds a degree of realism, which is only accentuated by Railsback's excellent performance as the disturbed farmer. Railsback brings something sorrowful and empathetic to the role, in what is easily his best performance since Helter Skelter. It is also the most accurate portrayal of the true events, playing them straight compared to the sometimes campy performances in Deranged. Though there is little on screen violence, the grisly remains scattered throughout the movie are extremely gory and believable. I recommend it, its disturbing and you wont soon forget the dance in the moonlight!

Rating: 8/10.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Critters (1986)

Spiny creatures from space crash land on Earth and make snack foods out of the locals in a rural town. The Chiodo Bros come through with more awesome creature designs on top of impressive low budget / high production value FX. The flick is pure 80s, with an even combination of campy fun and nostalgic SciFi Horror. The off-beat acting never takes itself too seriously, allowing the cast to have fun with the roles. The puppets have obvious limitations in movement, which the FX artists cleverly overcome by making the creatures ball up and roll. With several memorable laugh out loud moments, the film comes recommended, especially to fans of films like Invaders From Mars.

Rating: 8/10.

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Wizard of Gore (2008)

Ambitious but passable attempt on the HG Lewis original. The camera angles, colors, and editing have a distinct and distracting music-video feel to them and dont aid the plot. Would have been better suited as a shortened anthology entry. The gore is pretty good, and there is plenty of gratuitous nudity, but neither are enough to save the patchy plot work. Even Glover's over the top performance, which is entertaining at times, doesnt feel fully committed. A crazed magician dismembers volunteers then reforms them on stage, but a news writer finds the volunteers are dying in suspiciously similar accidents after the show. Points for the excessive attempt to modernize the plot, I just cant get into the flick.

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 8/10.

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Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko is one of those films that people either love or hate. I find the film to be brilliant, and to be one of the greatest independent accomplishments in the last decade. The film is entirely original from start to finish, drawing more inspiration from philosophy and scientific theory than modern film. Each of the performers bring something sharp, quirky, and uniquely funny to their characters. Gyllenhaal in particular plays what I will always consider his defining role, mixing dark humor and wit with a boyish sense of wonderment and confusion. The plot is deeply immersed in its own bizarre mythology without ever fully explaining any of the symbolism or imagery to the audience, which acts as an amazing strength to the film that begs revisiting. That is, unless you watch the Director's Cut, which assumes the audience is full of surface level dullards and dumbs down the film beyond recognition.

Producer's Cut: 10/10.
Director's Cut: 8/10.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Helter Skelter (2004)

This second made for TV adaptation attempt approaches the film with a much more cinematic style over the documentary approach of the earlier film. It rearranges the events in the novel chronologically as they occurred rather than by the order in which the evidence was discovered by police, as in the original film. Some of the dialogue has been specifically fabricated to promote the Helter Skelter theory prevalent in the novel as well. The film feels much more violent than it really is thanks to creative editing during the scenes of extreme violence and deploying techniques like color negativity to maximize impact but reduce visible gore. Davies plays the most convincing Manson to date, having extensively studied and recreated Manson's speech patterns and mannerisms. Overall, the film is an excellent interpretation of the devastating events of the murders, with solid acting lending credibility to the realism of the Family.

Rating: 8/10.

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The Other (1972)

Effectively subtle horror film, but while it is competently directed, acted, and written, the slow pace / low action Victorian Connecticut setting may not work for all horror fans. Most of the deaths that result from the mischievous twins are either implied or bloodless, leaving most of the scares up to suspense and anticipation. The foreshadowing is so blatantly obvious there is no suspenseful climax, but it still offers an Omen-esque build and a decent finale. A psychic boy and his mischievous twin become suspect when a series of 'accidents' plague a small rural community. Fans of classic horror will probably take more away from this than gorehounds.

Rating: 7/10.

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Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

Picking up immediately where the last left off, a traveling salesman collect the dried blood of Dracula after witnessing his death. The blood is sold to three jaded statesmen under the guidance of an eccentric stranger who plans to hold the ultimate thrill: a black mass. Dracula is revived and seeks out to destroy the men. This is not only my favorite Hammer film, but perhaps even my favorite vampire film. It offers more gorgeous set designs and vivid coloring in true Hammer form, and is incredibly bloody and sexual. The plot is a unique twist on the Dracula theme, and each of the supporting cast members excel in their roles. Lee also returns in full force as the tight-lipped and bestial count, appearing stronger and more menacing than ever. Do not write this sequel off, it is very enjoyable and incredibly well made!

Rating: 8/10.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Hallow's End (2003)

This indie effort makes a decent attempt at an original premise and better than usual effects. While it offers surprisingly good production values for the budget, it suffers from typical indie pitfalls of poor pacing and dry high school drama club acting. The action doesnt get under way until after the hour point, leaving the audience stuck with over a dozen uninteresting characters the majority of the film and pulling it in several aimless directions. It is a good attempt considering the scale, but ultimately wont win many fans. A Halloween haunted house gives its attendees more than they bargained for when the spooks become possessed and set out for blood!

Rating: 5/10.

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Garbage Day: Invitation to Hell (1984)

Wes Craven must have been really hard up in the 80s. This, HHE2, and Deadly Friend are a few terrible examples where he was obviously just working for a paycheck. Not sure whether this was made for TV or not, either way it looked it. Bland acting, uninteresting plot, awful effects.. A science guy takes a new job where everyone gets raises and joins a country club. **SPOILER ALERT** Cut to the chase, the club is hell. In the end, the lead shoots a woman Satan with lasers from his space suit in a Styrofoam version of hell. And yes, the scene is as stupid as it sounds. **END AWESOME SPOILER**

Rating: 4/10.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pumpkinhead 3 (2006)

You have to give director Jake West credit for making every attempt to draw from the original source material and integrate as many sets, characters, and props from the original as possible. With his relative inexperience and limited SciFi Channel budget, he makes a valid effort. Unfortunately, that doesnt make it a good film. The creature FX arent nearly as convincing, and though the CG is forgivable since it is used where physical FX would be impractical, it looks cartoony and cheapens the look of our favorite demon. The acting is better than expected for SciFi, so overall it isnt the complete disaster it should have been. A group of mourning friends conjure the demon of Vengeance to avenge their family members that were killed by organ harvesters.

Rating: 6/10.

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Pumpkinhead 2 (1993)

Considering the lack of Winston's involvement and the drastically reduced budget, this retread / followup does the most it can with what it was given. KNB's redesign isnt nearly as convincing or spectacular, but it gets the job done through creative framing and forced perspective. A group of teens unwittingly unleash the demon of Vengeance, and must pay for the sins of their fathers. The acting and plot sure arent going to win any awards, but they are both sufficient enough to carry the movie. The biggest hit the film takes is the change in mood, from the dark, brooding, and stylish original to a conventional and bland color pallet and tone. With some added blood and gore, the sequel makes for some guilty fun, but doesnt hold a flame to the original.

Rating: 6/10.

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Pumpkinhead (1988)

Perfectly crafted creature feature with a Southern Gothic flair. A man calls upon the demon of Vengeance to avenge his son, who was killed by irresponsible teens on dirt bikes. Not since Alien and Predator had there been such an awesome creature design, and nothing has topped it since. The film is full of beautiful fog and lighting effects along with deep blues and oranges that all contribute to an eerie and terrifying environment. It also achieves a timeless quality through the rural back country settings. Each of the actors do a superb job with the material, but this may be Lance Henriksen's single most emotive and powerful role, if not most memorable. Stan Winston's incredible work on the creature FX allow the audience to completely suspend disbelief as the 9' beast stalks its prey on its haunches (seemingly) free of wires or braces. Pumpkinhead is a dark, sinister horror film that is a defining entry in the genre.

Rating: 10/10.

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Garbage Day: Vacancy 2 (2009)

Unnecessary. We FINALLY get to see the origins of the killer motel operators in Vacancy and why they started killing.. and of course by finally I mean unfortunately. The first film was boring and generic, this followup takes the same premise and somehow makes it more boring and more generic. This recent rash of direct to garbage sequels needs to end. Three clumsy cons make their first venture into voyeurism and murder for money at a motel off the beaten track.

Rating: 4/10.

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Evil Ed (1997)

Starts off good, but drops off fast. A film editor becomes delusional and goes on a murderous rampage after performing too many censor edits on a ton of horror movies. There are some sweet gore and make-up effects, but they are few and far between. Designs similar to the Lord of Darkness from Legend and a Gremlin creature make it into the flick, which are recreated with amazing craftsmanship. The film also makes some clever stabs at horror censorship, which is ironic since the film was edited in the States. The acting and humor just never sell the film though, feeling very forced and out of place the entire time. It isnt clear how much of that is attributed to the dubbing, but regardless the characters in Ed have a distinct B-movie quality about them. Great concept worthy of remaking, but in the end the film is just ok.

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 6/10.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Deranged (1974)

This first effort to bring the story of Ed Gein to the screen is pretty well made, though it feels aged and cheesy at times. Ezra Cobb is a lonely farmer that takes to grave robbing, corpse mutilation, and murder after the passing of his domineering mother. Ormsby takes many liberties with the actual events, along with adding some strange and out of place humor, but for the most part the events in the film are accurate to the case. The scenes depicting the mummified corpses and Cobb dressed in his suit of human skin are still creepy and disarming. Blossom plays a convincing lead, lending credibility and strength to the character. One thing the definitely film could have done away with is the narrator that randomly interjects his commentary on screen. Its definitely worth checking out though!

Rating: 7/10.

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Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985)

A more appropriate title would have been "Grossly Misleading Jungle Adventure Movie." A group of explorers set off to find long lost relics in a forbidden territory, only to have their plane go down with no chance of rescue. They are left to battle nature, cannibals, thieving miners, and rattlesnakes (?). It serves as an average Italian adventure effort with cheesy acting, bad dubbing, ridiculous effects, and a pointless plot. The over the top action is corny, but enjoyable, with Sopkiw hamming it up as a larger than life hero not unlike Ash of The Evil Dead. Fans of The Last Cannibal World or Mountain of the Cannibal God might enjoy it, but otherwise it is entirely passable.

Rating: 4/10.
Gore: 5/10.

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Garbage Day: Deadly Friend (1986)

There is only one thing that makes this movie worth watching, and if youve seen it you know exactly what Im talking about. Im not going to spoil it, because it will take away the one joy in watching this average sleeper. A girl gets brain surgery from her friend after some sweet domestic violence, turning her into a machine.. A KILLING machine.. Not as good as it sounds, and I didnt talk it up.. Watch it though for the slow build to the most mind-boggling gags I have ever seen. The acting and dialogue are far too typical-80's-horror for their own good, and the plot rarely makes any sense, which is all the more disappointing with Wes Craven directing. If you're in the mood for a corny late night popcorn movie, this might fit the bill, otherwise it is better off forgotten.

Rating: 5/10.
Gore: 10/10. (Rating only reflects 3s of the film's runtime)

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Manson Family (2003)

VanBebber delivers an LSD-induced nightmare vision of the Manson murders as told by the Family members themselves. He has obviously done his homework, as many of the recreations and dialogue are taken directly from Manson, the documentary that spoke with the real Family members, and he includes audio clips and songs from Manson, himself. The visual stylization and grain added to the film gives it a sense of integrity and realism. The narrative often seems disjointed and non-linear, which I guess accurately reflects the mindset of the group. It is a valid indie effort, but it suffers most from the forced social commentary that is sloppily added with the inclusion of the modern teen followers.

Rating: 7/10.

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May (2002)

May works on every level. Every element of filmmaking contributes to the overall theme, from the quirky performances, to the offbeat humor, to the perfect soundtrack. The film owes much to Bettis and Sisto, who capture the characters and truly become them. May is completely sympathetic despite her obsessive nature, and forms a lasting bond with the audience in her loneliness. My only discrepancy is in the drastic shift in her persona in the harvesting scene. McKee includes subtle homages and implores basic literary elements like foreshadowing and visual metaphors to unveil his plot. May is a lasting film that shows incredible strength and originality, and proves to be an instant classic. A lonely and misunderstood girl decides to build her own friend after old friends betray her.

Rating: 10/10.

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Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

Viewers that can get past the slow exposition and occasionally corny acting will find a lot of fun in this film, even if it does feel made for TV. The last half hour is filled with creepy crawly spider action as the spider hordes overrun the town. The film sells its believability by using what looks like 100% real spiders, or convincing fakes. The plot is basically eight-legged Jaws, where a town must kill off a migration of killer spiders before they ruin the county fair. With William Shatner in the lead, you would expect it to be extremely corny, but outside of a few scenes with girlish skipping and shrieking around the spiders, the acting is pretty good. Overall, this is an above average animal flick worth a view!

Rating: 7/10.

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Garbage Day: Carnosaur 2 (1995)

Very not good sequel to an ok original. In it, killer dinosaurs attack people. The dino design isnt terrible, and the effects at the end with the T-Rex are pretty decent and suspend disbelief temporarily. Considering the budget, you have to give the movie some credit... But then theres the plot and acting. The quality of the film would fall somewhere between an Asylum release and a SciFi Channel release, thereby rendering it a mess. A step down from the original, but how many other killer dinosaur movies do you really have to choose from?

Rating: 5/10.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Deathdream (1974)

A mother's wish brings a Vietnam vet back from the war, but he doesnt come back alive..This dark retelling of the classic "Monkey's Paw" tale proves to be a biting social commentary on the devastating effect the war had on the soldiers returning home and being marginalized by the society they fought to protect. It touches on the psychological damage, drug addiction, and dissociative disorders that many of the soldiers were left with after experiencing the horrors of war, all cleverly told through the zombie metaphor. Though the film is very slow paced, it sets up for several genuinely terrifying sequences through its chilling score and an excellent performance by Richard Backus. I liked the film much, much more on the second viewing, having missed the clear intention of it originally. It is a smart, original zombie effort that transcends the genre, highly recommended!

Rating: 8/10.

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Private Parts (1972)

I dont really know how to classify this flick. A young runaway moves into her aunts seedy hotel full of perverts and crazies, only to have her friends mysteriously disappear and watchful eyes follow her through holes in the walls. The motley assortment of characters are each unique and fascinating in their own ways, and left to mystery since many of them are never fully realized. George, a photographer with a pension for naked ladies, keeps a particularly close eye on Cheryl, and fetishes her with a blowup doll adorned with a picture of her face. The film comes off as a sexually perverse Psycho, with very good performances, strange but effective sets, excellent timing, and a plot that instantly captivates the audience. Recommended as one of the weirdest flicks I have seen in a while!

Rating: 8/10.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

As campy as this flick is, I grow more fond of it with each viewing. A small mining town is overrun by giant mutant spiders. Simple, classic B-movie plot, executed with impressive CG effects that hold up over half a decade later. The characters and acting are surprisingly believable, and though they play into conventional stereotypes, they do so with a realistic small town approach. The spider attack on the city may be one of the better giant mutant animal attack scenes in recent films. Even the physcial effects and sets hold up to be above average. The movie may not be great, but it is enjoyable!

Rating: 7/10.

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Die Screaming, Marianne (1971)

Decent "theres one surviving member of the family that is getting all the inheritence so everyone else is trying to off her" flick by Pete Walker, tangled with competing lovers, betrayal, and murder. The plot isnt entirely original, but it is handled well. With good pacing, competent acting, beautiful settings, and ambitious editing that almost seems out of place, it reminds me of a slightly less interesting 5 Dolls for an August Moon. There is nothing inherently bad about the film, but it is not a film that I plan to reproach much in the future.

Rating: 7/10.

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