A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This is, apparently, God.
This is, apparently, God.

The 1980s were a watershed time for American movies studios. After the protracted collapse of the old studio system in the 40s and 50s necessitated a major overhaul of Hollywood’s entire production architecture, major studios spent the 60s and 70s establishing financial relationships with independent movie producers. Previously considered the lowest form of life on Earth, a rising generation of creative types proved instead that smaller films staring no one anybody had ever heard of could make major bank. All they needed as an idea, and a group of people who believed in that idea enough to see it put on screen.

The result? Well, we can see the result on any video store shelf: oodles of low-budget, indy films, no longer made so much as distributed by the major studios. Smaller companies, geared toward nothing but selling these pictures to theaters, sprung up like gravestones in the Crystal Lake Woods. One of them, founded in 1967 by distributors Michael Lynne and Robert Shaye, was named New Line. Continue reading A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)

Now that's a knife.
Now that's a knife.

People keep coming back to Crystal Lake, myself included. I saw my first Friday the 13th film at age ten on a requisite dark and stormy night and here I am all these years later still mindlessly prattling on about it.

Except that’s inaccurate: the requisite storm turned our satellite reception to shit so by the time it moved off I only really got to “see” the last fifteen minutes of Part 2. “What?” I said, for I was an inquisitive scamp. “This is it? What’s everyone so hard on about? This is great shit. Hot chicks beating rednecks over the head with chairs? Yes, please!” At the time I thought, The only way they could possibly improve this would be to stage the whole thing in a Wrestlmania ring, surrounded by thousands of cheering assholes and lights.

Imagine my naive joy as I loaded Friday the 13th Part 3 into the VCR and prepared to have my mind blown by ninety minutes of that. Imagine my disappointment. No Amy Steel burdened with all manner of weapon, from chainsaws to machetes to her own highly-attractive knees. No Frugal Ku Klux Klansman since Amy and her douche boyfriend Paul let Jason Voorhees’ malformed head out of the bag at the end of Part 2…and the beginning of Part 3. Still, as with the last picture, director Steve Miner helpfully tacks these last bits of Part 2 onto Part 3, just to make damn sure we’re all caught up.

And this is a deliciously phallic shot.
And this is a deliciously phallic shot. You could get a graduate course on psycho-sexual symbolism out of this frame alone.

I appreciated that at age 10. Now I imagine a voice (the voice of Walt “Crazy Ralph” Gorney, or Bettsie “Mrs. Voorhees” Palmer, perhaps) solomly intoning,¬† “Previously on Friday the 13th,” as if this were some horrible TV series…rather like the one that would eventually bear Friday the 13th‘s name. Jason chases Ginny. Ginny almost kills Jason. Paul comes conveniently back from the dead since Ginny’s obviously running low on Hero’s Battle Death Exemptions. Ginny kills Jason. The end.

Except, of course, it’s not, because Part 2 proved far too popular to leave things hanging like that. Especially in an age that had stopped considering the Cliffhanger Ending one of several potential stinger devices at the disposal of creative storytellers and instead looked upon it as necessary set-up for the inevitable sequel.

So here we are, on the other side of the BIG, JUTTING CREDITS (reminding us this was originally filmed in 3D, as will plenty of other things) and Henry Manfredini’s somewhat-retro score which, no longer content to rip-off John William’s Jaws, now rips-off its percussion track from every shitty disco band who ever debased the 1970s and its eerie theremin sounds from every Universal Monster Picture ever made between the 1930s and the 1960s. So I guess that’s what they call “progress” ’round these parts.

Marty, it's all your fault.
Marty, it's all your fault.

Afterwards, Jason teleports (not shown) to a lakeside bait and tackle shop owned by the redneckiest couple of rednecks we’ve seen since Part 1. No Rosanne-ish air of dignity here. It’s hair-curlers, bad game shows and nagging for the lady, whiskey bottles hidden in the outhouse for sir. Jason puts both out of their misery only after we’ve enjoyed what feels like a glacial age in their presence. I know it was only ten minutes…but I can’t shake the feeling Steve Miner threw those in just for an excuse to wave more things at the camera.

Here’s a fun game you can play. Pause that shot of a rattlesnake lunging out at Sir Redneck’s face (dangit, it misses). Point out the clearly visible string jutting from the snake’s mouth (and possibly wound round its jaw) to your friends. Allow them to reflect upon the fact that 3D is cheap, meaningless gimmick trotted out by desperate movie studios as an excuse to inflate ticket prices and make up for the fact that movie theaters are becoming irrelevant in an age of five hundred channels, an internet full of crap, and TVs the size of walls.

Here stands a man dreaming of a threesome.
Here stands a man fervently hoping for a threesome.

After you’ve driven all your friends away, resume film. Time to meet this week’s episode’s entry’s cast. Thankfully, after¬†Part 2‘s Bland Brigade, these Pretty White Kids seem a colorful bunch, even if their Problems are the same kind of superficial bullshit that now clogs basic cable line-ups. Chris (Dana Kimmell), the obvious Final Girl, we’ll talk about later. Andy (Jeffrey Rogers) and Debbie (Tracie Savage), are our designated Guy and Girl couple, and thus doomed. Shelly (Larry Zerner) is the real wild card. Here the Odious Comic Relief is redesigned as a special effects nerd in larval form, the filmmaker’s projection of their own “core” audience members. Too bad that projection is a socially-inept, insecure jerk, fond of dressing up in masks and fake-stabbing his friends. Vira (Catherine Parks) is Shelly’s “date” for this “weekend in the country,” and thus his Doom in a Blouse. Not that she’ll fuck him. Nor should she. He’s a socially-inept, insecure etc. Chuck (David Katims) and Chilli (Rachel Howard) round things out by being the worst type of movie stoners, having to be asked before they share the wealth…a disgrace to the entire stoner race. And two years out from Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. For shame.

This merry band is off to Chris’ parent’s place, Higgins Haven…which may be on Crystal Lake, but…shit, how large is the lake, anyway? Never mind. First they meet a crazed local in the Crazy Ralph mode, ignore his Warnings From the Divine, and proceed. They meet Rick (Paul Kratka), a Manly Spice chiseled from the Paul and Steve mode, at Higgins Haven, setting off an extended back and forth between Rick and Chris. This helped me come to terms with a central fact: the writing in this series has actually improved as things have gone along. Sure, Rick has a one track mind and that track leads right between Chris’ legs, but she just ignores him and remains in a better humor about it than I certainly would, were I in her position. Here she is, trying to get over a Past Traumatic Experience, and all Mr. “Dumb Country Boy” can think of is doing the horizontal hoola.

A Crystal Lake biker gang.
"Hey, man, you tell me where else I'm gonna get a speaking role these days?"

Alas, it’s 1982 and Final Girls hadn’t yet learned to respect themselves. (Just look at the useless dicks Alice and Ginny settled for.) I only mean to say “the writing’s improved” in relation to Parts 1 and 2. Characters are now recognizable as characters rather than mere archetypes. The Slasher movie has completed its house in Stereotype Land whence it remains to this day. Sensible plotting remains beyond the series, over the boarder in the lands of “real” movies. Having tossed the “camp” out of their “lakeside summer camp murder” movie franchise last go ’round, they here jettison the “lakeside.” Why did Jason go after that Redneck couple anyway? Why go after the kids at Higgins Haven? Assume he just needs to kill everyone in the Crystal Lake woods. What kept him from doing so in the five years since his Mommy dearest’s death-by-Alice? And I’m sorry, but…suddenly Crystal Lake’s big enough for its own biker gang? The fuck you say?

I suppose anything that gives black actors speaking rolls is better than nothing…but, of course, they play criminals. And they die pointless deaths. But at least they served a narrative purpose, providing a conflict that Shelly must overcome. And does. So the film almost pulls me back from the brink by dangling the chance to watch at least one character develop before me, like a coy stripper dangling that last little bit of fabric.

In that same vein, Chris here is the first Final Girl with a Defining Element of Tragedy in her past. Alice had a thing obviously going on with her boss and “something” to do in California. Ginny had a college career, opinions, her boss wrapped around her fingers, and knees that functioned the way any sensible woman’s should if and when she is chased by a maniac. Ah, but Chris…she has a tragic story to relate to Rick (and thus the audience) once they get tired of hanging out with her dumbass friends. A year ago, after a tiff with her parents, Chris ran away into the woods. She fell asleep while sulking and woke up to the sounds of a hamburger-faced maniac trudging toward her. She ran, he chased her, he caught her, she blacked out…and woke up in her own bed with no memory of what happened.


Here’s a Death Exemption to end all Heroes Battle Death Exemption and yet another shark jumped in the name of adding depth to a series that self-consciously centers itself around the meaningless deaths of fake teenagers. Credit where it’s due: screenwriters Carol Watson and Martin Kitrosser are actually trying. They just don’t do anything with the tools they spread out in front of themselves.

As with Part 2, we spend an entire film watching Jason kill everyone he comes across…and yet here’s Chris telling the laziest kind of survivor story. “I blacked out. I don’t know what happened after that.” Because neither of our screenwriters, nor our director, could figure out a good way to have Chris (a) meet Jason and (b) survive.

Goddamnit, Friday the 13th. Pick a sport and you’re way out of it. Way out from any of your initial premises. Oh, Jason drowned in 1957, cries the first film. Driving his mom co-ed-killing insane. But wait, cries the second film. Jason didn’t really drown. He’s been living in the woods all this time, doing a bit of mom-worship and killing everything he comes across. So what sent Mom so carve-you-up mad? Who cares? this film asks. Here. We’ll kill Jason and then bring him back to life again. Just like you did in the first film? Yeah, man. Only this time, we’ll pit him against this chick he came across in the woods last year. So he found a nubile teenage girl in the Crystal Lake Woods and didn’t kill her? Why not? What stopped him? What’s so special about Chris? Hey, says the film, don’t be so harsh. You ask too many questions. You got this negative vibe going. Smoke some grass. Chill.

Ah, they filmed my dreams...
Ah, they filmed my dreams...

I’d need more grass than Snoop Doggy Dog to “chill” in the face a plot hole like this. Okay, maybe Jason had to work his way up to Part 2‘s “kill-death-destroy” rampage. “Typical” real world killers (I use that adverb lightly, fully acknowledging its pitfalls) often take time to test how their fantasies play out before moving up to acting them out on humans. These often amount to a series of “Oh, shit,” moments, as in, “Oh, shit, my victim didn’t passively submit to being strangled and stabbed. I better refine my technique before I screw up and get my ass jailed.” Only problem with that (from a storyteller’s perspective, at least) being, who said Jason’s a “typical” killer? Seems pretty a-typical to me, what with the coming back from the dead and all…twice now…

Never mind, says the film. Time to cull tonight’s herd. With these deaths, and Debbie’s death in particular, an almost shot-for-shot recreation of Kevin Bacon’s death in Part 1, the series announces it’s officially run out of ideas and started ripping itself off, right down to the violations of basic physical laws.

Debbie climbs into the hammock and starts paging through Fangoria in a perfect example of the co-option that turns entertainment “journalism” into cheerleading for shit. Blood starts dripping onto the (quite well-written) Godzilla article she’s reading. She looks up. Fucknuggets! There’s Andy, sliced in half by Jason’s machete. A hand reaches out from under the hammock and stabs Debbie through the chest.

Awww, man...that issue's worthless now.
Awww, man...that issue's worthless now. No collector wants to touch blood.

So…Jason killed Andy while Debbie was in the shower…stowed the two halves of Andy’s body in the rafters without recourse to a ladder, chair, or any of the other height-increasing pieces of furniture in the room…magically ensured Andy’s guts would defy gravity and stalwartly remain inside his abdominal cavity…and somehow concealed his own bulk behind the various covers thrown over the hammock until Debbie got into position.

Jesus H. Christ. So what if the film has characters in it? Every film should! And the little drips and drabs of characterization can’t distract from the basic, logical problems underlying this whole series.

I should probably come up with some grand sociological theory as to why these films are so popular, given how deeply and truly they suck…but I can’t get anything past Occam’s razor except “tits + blood = financially successful horror movie.” Except that’s what They Who Live While Sleep want us to think. Really, the equation runs something like, “$1 million dollar film + $40 million dollar box office = successful horror film.” Make um cheap, make um quick, and you’ll make your money back, so long as you sacrifice whatever dreams you might’ve had of making “good” films.

There are good bits here. Shelly’s “boy-who-cried-wolf” death scene is a perfect moment, and the inclusion of the Biker Gang both pads out the body count and provides a good reason for Chris’ Mystery Machine to break down, forcing her into the usual Final Girl confrontation. A battle that’s much more varied and kinetic than Ginny’s…or Alice’s…or Laurie Strode’s, for that matter. One that’s resolved with a brutal finality indicative of the Slasher movie’s overall obsession with humanity’s inhumanity towards itself…

…and then promptly ruined by a tacked-on, bullshit cliffhanger that does nothing but echo Part 1‘s tacked-on, bullshit cliffhanger. Oh, Friday the 13th series, you coy bitch, why don’t you toy with my emotions some more?

Uneven, illogical, contrived, and haphazardly assembled, Part 3 could’ve signaled a move toward more nuanced storytelling and at least the illusion of depth other, better horror movies at least try to paint. The cast is a marked improvement over previous entries, evidence of the greater production value behind the show, but having only one note to play certainly must’ve made things easier.

Given the number of trends this movie set for the rest of the series (Jason’s hockey mask and machete being only the most obvious, along with Chris Defining Element of Tragedy) I’m tempted to call Part 3 required viewing for anyone curious about why horror films suck as much and as often as they do…but I don’t want to subject you to this much obviously horrific 3-D.


Thanks to the internet, terabytes of worth of data and opinion on all three of these films is readily available. Read some of that instead. I’d recommend Liz Kingsley‘s exceptionally well-done write ups of these films, which not only entertained me a great deal more than the film’s they describe, they’re also real value changers.

At least then you’ll be reading. Improving your mind and what-not. And don’t worry…there’s no hockey-mask wearing redneck hiding under your hammock…or is there?



Orgazmo (1997)


Few things are more informative than the obscure early work of now-famous creative types. Key themes emerge and patterns emerge…often so apparent that, even if my Unrated Special Edition tonight’s film weren’t plastered over with little stickers that read “From the Creators of South Park!”; even if I didn’t know what Trey Parker and Matt Stone look like; even if I had never bothered to read their credits on a single South Park episode, it would still be pretty goddamn obvious, and just as enjoyable to boot.

This sophomore effort from Parker, Stone, and (if the various commentary tracks on this disc are any indication) every friend they had in the world at the time, resounds with themes already touched on in the boy’s (and girl’s) first film, Cannibal! The Musical. Here, as there, expect a preference for gross-out humor and overblown Action movie plotting, dramatic music cues, some stuff that refuses to make sense, and a strangely ambivalent relationship with Mormonism. Meant to be a musical for all of five seconds, this saga of a pornographic, Mormon superhero may just be the best superhero film of the late-1990s, the nadir of Superhero Cinima’s Golden Age. It certainly satisfies the criteria laid out in Peter David’s October 2, 1990 But I Digress column in the Comic Buyer’s Guide, when he called a much more serious movie “the perfect super-hero film of all time.” {More}

House on the Edge of the Park (1979)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

There are some films that are good but don’t hold enough shocks or surprises to make them completely memorable. Then there are films that dare to cross boundaries and deliver shocks to the maximum. HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1979) falls into the latter category. It is a prime example of the raw, no-holds barred horror and exploitation films of yesteryear. Films like HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK will never be made again.

At the time this graphic Italian low-budget nasty was being made, Europe was booming with all kind of horror, exploitation, sexploitation and the like. There was a big market for this type of film making. Today, that is far from the case. The flow of unrestrained cinematic brutalities has ceased to exist. The morally conscious critics and protest groups of today would probably eat a film like this alive if it were released in the present time. Sure there are still some film directors such as Quentin Tarentino who like to push the envelope, but there’s nothing like the good old days when they ripped the envelope to shreds.

Director Ruggero Deodato had already cemented his reputation as a master of shocking imagery the year before with his notorious CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1978). He carried the brutal violence from that film right over into this one, and the effect is unsettling. Deodato seems to have a way of looming graciously over the grim scenes before us and very little is left to the imagination. This is exploitation cinema at it’s finest.

Some may say that this is a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) rip-off, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. If Ruggero Deodato intended to make a film that imitates the 1972 cult classic, why would he wait seven years to do so? Besides, director Aldo Lado had already beaten Deodato to the punch in the European Last House rip-off sweepstakes with his film, THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975) (Italian title: L’ULTIMO TRENO DELLA NOTTE). Maybe it’s because classic screen psycho and lead killer Krug in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, David Hess, was cast as the maniacal lunatic on the loose again in this film. There’s nobody that I can think of that’s better than Hess at playing the role though.

The opening pre-credits sequence gives the whole film a grim kick-off and sets the stage for more vile actions. The gritty opening shots of rapist/murderer thug Alex (Hess) driving casually down a highway in New York looking for a victim, paints the sleazy picture of the film nicely. A pretty young twenty-something lady drives down the same stretch of road, unaware of the sadistic fate about to consume her. Alex catches up to her and taunts her a little, before maniacally running her off the road. Quickly, with evil intentions, he scurries over to the car and hops in next to her. Almost drooling and with a cunning grin, Alex says he just wants to say hi. We soon learn his real motives as he forces the struggling female into the back seat, rips her clothes off, and savagely has his way with her. In the process he strangles her to death. This scene is made all the more disturbing by the haunting choir song “Sweetly”, composed by Riz Ortolani and sung by Diana Corsini. The song highlighted the girl’s innocence being ravaged by desensitized inhumanity. A graphic opening to a graphic film. No holding back.

Alex runs a car repair shop out of an underground garage with his simpleton friend Ricky (played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice). The two men are getting ready to go out on the town and “boogie”. The fact that this was made in 1979 is very evident as Hess talks jive while making adjustments to a not so pretty yellow suit and black bell bottom pants. I love the late 70’s atmosphere myself.

Meanwhile, a catchy little disco number called “Much More” grabs our attention as upper class big shots Tom (played by Christian Borromeo) and Lisa (played by the gorgeous Annie Belle) head to a party located in New Jersey. They experience car trouble and wouldn’t you know it, they end up at Alex and Ricky’s garage. Right away as the two pull up, you can tell by that cocky, callous look on Alex’s face that he’s up to no good. He immediately takes notice of Lisa, as he looks her up and down salivating at the thought of what he could do to her. A thought he would later try to make a reality.

At first, Alex tells Tom and Lisa that they can fix it themselves. He and Ricky want to go out and get down. Tom offers triple the price to fix it, but Alex is told about the party that they’re headed to by Lisa and gets other ideas. Meanwhile, dim-witted Ricky takes a crack at the car and gets it going, and then seeks childish approval from Alex. Ricky needs approval from Alex for everything. It’s almost like his security blanket to receive attention from his best buddy. Now that the car’s been repaired, Alex sees this as his opportunity to score an invite to the party. He basically invites himself and insists on going. Tom and Lisa are reluctant at first, but soon agree to let Alex come along. However, Tom really would rather that Ricky didn’t join them, but Alex already promised he could come. Just before they all head off in Tom and Lisa’s car, Alex runs in and gets something that will play a big part in the agony and blood shed to come. He opens up a locker and from it he takes his utensil of torture. An extremely sharp straight razor!

The scene with the four driving to the party is classic Hess. He gets a major kick out of playing the yuppies for complete idiots. His sleazy and sly personality immediately surfaces as he lies to them and hints at his intentions as Tom and Lisa fail to catch on to the underlying message.

When asked about his profession by Lisa he replies, “The only real bread in the automotive industry is if you’re dealin’ hot cars, otherwise you barely make a livin’. But a, I’m not into that kind of shit.” With a cocky grin and a glance over to Ricky, they both know what he’s really into. If only Tom and Lisa knew. Or do they? “Have you got a girlfriend?”, Lisa asks Alex. Alex knows he can make her believe anything. “Oh yeah, we’ve been together for a long time. She’s wonderful! I think I’m gonna marry her!”, he exclaims with a smirk. Alex is proving by now to be the master of cons. Lisa turns to Ricky, “And how about you?” Ricky pipes up, “No me, I don’t have one.” Then Alex sends chills with another big grin at Ricky and says, “You might find one tonight.” Oh yeah, these chicks will be Alex and Ricky’s girlfriends. Whether they like it or not!

They arrive at the title house where three others are awaiting their arrival. Alex and Ricky are introduced to the lovely Gloria (played by Lorraine De Selle), the arrogant prick Howard (played by Gabriele Di Giulio), and the unique and beautiful Glenda (played by Karoline Mardeck), as a groovy disco beat plays in the background. The whole soundtrack is amazing. Almost immediately everyone starts to boogie to that wickedly funky track “Much More”. Oh yeah, I can here it now. “Do it to me much more (love me more and more), do it to me much more (love me more and more)” What a tune!

Gloria and Lisa seem to be getting their amusement from Alex and Ricky. One of the best and funniest scenes in the film comes when Gloria asks, “What else do they do besides fixing cars?” Alex answers, “We can dance” Well good old Ricky, always eager to impress with his little talents, proudly says to his pal, “Hey Alex, tell them how I can dance!” “Why should I tell them?”, Alex proclaims. “Do your number!” Ricky does just that as he grooves and gyrates all over the place. Little does he realize however, that the rich scum are not laughing with him, but laughing at him. In fact, they’re down right making fun of him. Ever observant Alex sees what’s going on and his blood begins to boil. It’s not going to be long before the blood begins to spill.

From here, Tom, Glenda, and Howard invite Ricky to play some poker while Alex follows Lisa up to the shower. I’d do the same. Lisa proves to be a major tease though, as she flirts with Alex and invites him in to scrub her back, and then simply walks away and leaves him hanging (literally). This adds fuel to the raging fire that is Alex’s deranged mind. Pissed off, Alex comes downstairs and takes notice of the shifty game of poker that Ricky’s taking part in. The greedy assholes are robbing him blind and Alex knows a cheat when he sees one. “Be careful Ricky”, he warns him. “They’re takin’ ya for a ride. These bastards wouldn’t know a straight game if they followed one home!” Tom and Howard try to get tough with Alex, but they don’t stand a chance. Alex punches the shit out of both of them and pulls out his trusty razor to show that he’s not playing games.

He forces everyone to sit down at the poker table and sees to it that Ricky wins all the cash as he deals whatever card he pleases. “You’re great Alex! I always said you were great!”, Ricky exclaims with glee. “Well, what now?” Do we blow this shithole?” Alex has other plans. “You must be cartooning, the best is yet to come! Now we’re gonna have some fun with these cunts!” Let the brutal ass kickings begin!

At this point Alex really starts to take over, wielding his razor like a battle sword. He gives Ricky a shot at whatever girl he wants to force down and screw. “Go ahead, pick the one you want.” Ricky’s eyes light up. “I get first choice?!”. Alex tells Ricky what he wants to hear. “I’m your friend ain’t I?” Ricky picks Gloria as his lucky victim, but after he rips off all her clothes he can’t bring himself to do it. This enrages Alex and he decides to show him how it’s done as he mounts Gloria. Before he can do the deed though, Howard grabs Alex from behind as Tom and Glenda fumble the razor. Alex quickly regains control as he flips Howard, grabs Tom and says “Lesson time!”, as he slashes his face. He then punches Howard to a bloody pulp with a psychotic expression on his face, takes him outside, kicks him in the pool, and takes a leak on him. As only Hess can do.

The rest of the film continues the same violent way. It’s an orgy of rapes, face smashings, torture, and psychological humiliation. What a swell pair of guys! One really nauseating scene has Alex running his razor up and down the body of visiting virgin neighbor Cindy (played by Brigitte Petronio). He gently sings “Cindy, oh Cindy, don’t let me down”, as he wiggles the blade up and down her torso, before shockingly cutting the hell out of her. Brutally grim scene.

I don’t want to spoil this classic video nasty so I’m not going to say anything about the film’s climax. However, it does take the savage tone of the film to an ultimate high.

Fans of European horror and exploitation will have a field day with the many familiar faces. Of course, there’s the incredible David Hess, who is well known in North America, as well as Europe for his roles in such respected films as HITCH HIKE (1978). Giovanni Lombardo Radice is no stranger either. He’s been in such graphic horrors as the vomit inducing CANNIBAL FEROX (1981), Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) (aka. THE GATES OF HELL), CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980), and the fantastic slasher/gialli STAGE FRIGHT (1987). Lorraine De Selle was also in CANNIBAL FEROX, as well as other unpleasant outings such as the controversial Laura Gemser film EMANUELLE IN AMERICA (1976), Bruno Mattei’s SS EXTERMINATION CAMP (1977), and WILD BEASTS (1982). Annie Belle, who happens to be a total babe, was in Aristide Massaccesi’s ANTHROPOPHAGUS 2 (1981) (aka. MONSTER HUNTER), and Christian Borromeo was in Dario Argento’s TENEBRAE (1982). Lot’s of well know Euro-cult stars in this one.

The only other thing I can say about this take no prisoners, in your face film is that it is incredibly acted by Hess and Radice. They play their parts to the fullest and both give realistic performances worthy of praise.

So, if you want a film that breaks taboos and doesn’t say no, seek out HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. Director Ruggero Deodato may be ashamed of the film, but I’m proud to have this relic of a bygone day of film making in my collection. Memorable stuff.



Blood Legacy (1971)

(courtesy of guest review – GORELORD)

Not too long ago, that maniacal misfit Dr. Psy Chosis asked me, “Where the hell do you find these things anyway?” Of course, he was referring to my wacky horror/sci-fi movie collection of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, I have a variety of sources I like to utilize to help add to the weirdness. Sometimes I hunt around my local flea markets and hock shops. Other times I go out to stores that I know hold some of the stuff I’m looking for. When it comes to an obscure, hard-to-find piece of schlock film making, I contact my good friends at Movies Unlimited, where they have a lot of rare horror and sci-fi. So I usually have no problem finding a fix for my B-movie addiction.

I found this chunk of insane bizarro sleaze in the $5.00 bin at my local hock shop. As they say, one’s man trash is another man’s treasure. Well, whoever trashed this treasure obviously had no taste. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want a hilariously over acted cheesefest featuring brutal bloodbaths and grade Z movie legend John Carradine? Actually, that sentence describes most of Carradine’s films. This one however is a real strange addition to John’s filmography. It’s got a cast full of veteran actors who would probably all consider this one of the weirder movies they’ve appeared in. Of course, if you’ve read some of my past reviews then you’ve probably come to expect this kind of stuff from me. Get used to it! There’s a lot more where this came from.

This one concerns the troubled family of a “dead” millionaire named Christopher Dean (played by John Carradine) who gather at his estate for the reading of a will. In the will (which is a tape recorded message from Christopher Dean), the deceased man states that in order for his four offspring to collect a large inheritance, they must spend a night in his luxurious mansion. If something should happen to them during their stay, the money will be divided among the butler Igor (played by Buck Kartalian), the maid Elga (played by Ivy Bethune), and the chauffeur Frank (played by John Russel). If anything should happen to them, well…

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that most of this fucked up family aren’t gonna be breathing by the end. The Dean family, which consists of Greg Dean (played by Jeff Morrow), his wife Laura (played by Merry Anders), Victoria Dean (played by Faith Domergue), Johnny Dean (played by Richard Davalos), Leslie Dean (played by Brooke Mills), and her husband Carl (played by John Smith), ain’t your average clan. Especially Johnny and Leslie, who have incestuous desires towards one another. Also, the butler Igor is a crazy sadomasochist who likes to be beaten with a wooden stick. Christopher used to bruise his body with it all the time, much to Igor’s enjoyment.

Someone doesn’t seem to be too fond of the eccentric bunch and begins to prove it in various gruesome ways. It first starts with Greg and Laura’s little dog Chin, who gets too close to the unknown killer and ends up floating in a pond. The local law enforcer Sherrif Garcia (played by Rodolpho Acosta) comes up to the house to investigate and ends up getting violently axed in the forehead a couple of times. His head ends up in the fridge. The director Carl Monson used a brief freeze frame in between axings, which along with some decent gore made the scene more effective. I should say, more effective in a cheesy kind of way.

As usual in films of this nature, I don’t like to give away too much about who gets killed. I will say that there are a few mildly inventive kills, such as a head dunking in a piranha tank and a nasty face stinging by a swarm of bees. Look also for a duel electrocution and just a plain old bullet in the forehead. Something for everyone in the kill department.

As fans of this kind of bargain brand cinema, we crave the terrible dialogue that comes with the territory, and this one isn’t lacking in that. I laughed my ass off when Sheriff Garcia’s car breaks down in the driveway of the estate and he pounds the steering wheel and yells, “Damn it Christopher Dean! You and your kooky family. Hippies ain’t weirdos, you are! Even six feet under. You’re a freak, do you know that?” Or how about when Johnny comments on one of the much used cliches in a horror film and says, “Well, the phone’s dead of course. This is getting to be like some kind of horror film.” I suppose you could call it that, Johnny.

Non-dedicated horror fans who aren’t diehard enough may not want to sit through portions of the movie. At times the movie seems like more of a corny soap opera rather than a horror film. A few scenes drag on for a while as members of the family whine about their dysfunctional childhood’s and attempt to renew old love affairs. Director Carl Monson also attempts to focus quite a bit on the psychological problems of the family members, Johnny in particular. Johnny is constantly tormented by flashbacks of his romp in the sack with his sister Leslie. These flashbacks cause Johnny to act like a demented coke freak and actor Richard Davalos gives new meaning to the term “hamming it up”. The director also tries to give the flashback scenes a few odd psychedelic touches (I guess to keep up with the times), but they just come across as cheap. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As is the case in a lot of these movies, some of the cast members have past experience in the horror and sci-fi genres. John Carradine being the most obvious, has appeared in all types of horror and sci-fi, from the greats to the most obscure celluloid nightmares. THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), INVASION OF THE ANIMAL PEOPLE (1960), HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE (1967), BIGFOOT (1970), HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1973), THE BOOGEY MAN (1980), and THE HOWLING (1981) are just a handful of the nearly 100 horror films the legendary Carradine has appeared in.

Others in the film are also veterans of science-fiction and horror, including Jeff Morrow, who has appeared in: THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955), THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956), THE GIANT CLAW (1957), and OCTAMAN (1971) among others. Buck Kartalian has also appeared in OCTAMAN, as well as PLANET OF THE APES (1968) and CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972). He also teamed up with the director Carl Monson prior to this in the drug movie THE ACID EATERS (1968), which Monson wrote. And also after this in Monson’s Little Shop of Horrors softcore sex remake PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER (1971).

So there you have it. This one’s a mixed bag. Some may find it tedious, while others like myself will find this brick of moldy cheese quite tasty. Decent gore and goofy acting galore! This one’s still lingering around on video for those interested. Also known as Legacy of Blood (but not to be confused with the film of the same name).


Zero Effect (1998)

Would you vote for this man? Really?On the surface, Zero Effect appears to be a honest attempt by writer/director Jake Kasdan to bring the classical detective story forward, into the modern world (circa 1998). Obviously, certain conventions of nineteenth century detective fiction had to go away. Others required radical alteration. But take heart: the same dime-store morality that rule the best (and worst) of those nineteenth century tales is still in force here, though good Victorians would hardly recognize it, dressed in its late-twentieth century ambivalence. The film almost succeeds, fumbling only because it feels it must fulfill the expectations of its small-but-vocal audience, rather than fulfilling its own inherent promise.

Depending on how you look at things mysteries have either decayed as a genre or triumphed beyond all expectations. Only Romance enjoys broader social saturation. What’s a story without a Problem for a protagonist to Resolve? And what’s a story without a Love Interest to spice things up and lure women into theaters? So goes the logic of Hollywood marketers and the artists who labor under them, forced to dress even their best ideas in these tried n’ true tropes, the better to “market” them. {More}

Night Warning (1983)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

Poor Billy Lynch. All he wanted was to go to the University of Denver and pursue a scholarship in basketball. Instead, he was caught up in a world of murder and madness which he could not escape. Aunt Cheryl wouldn’t dare allow it!

I hadn’t really heard of this warped little gem before I stumbled across it at my local flea market one summer morning in 1999. I usually like to go through the many horror film books I own, trying to discover some of the forgotten treasures from the genre. For some reason though, this one escaped me. Well thank the lord for small miracles because this film was a wonderfully twisted surprise.

It’s about an unstable, sexually repressed woman named Cheryl (played by Susan Tyrell) who has been caring for her “nephew” Billy (played by Jimmy McNichol) ever since Billy’s parents were killed in a horrific car crash and explosion 14 years ago. It seems that someone tampered with the break lines, causing the accident. Aunt Cheryl wouldn’t know anything about it, now would she? When Billy begins to look ahead to his future in school and with his cute girlfriend Julie (played by Julia Duffy), Aunt Cheryl’s jealous rage begins to build inside her and her incestuous urges begin to come to the surface. A possible basketball scholarship has Billy looking at leaving for the University of Denver, which is where Julie will also attend. But Aunt Cheryl will have none of it! {More}

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

This is my little contribution to the holiday slasher sub-sub-genre. Why am I doing this instead of, say, reviewing something patriotic for the 4th of July? Because.

Besides, I’m obligated to watch The Patriot. I can’t escape it. It is my destiny! Whether I’ll review it is another story, but, well there you are.

So, let’s get into it, shall we? After Gorelord sent in his rant, I got the Urge. I just had to find these movies (well, the one’s I don’t own). I just had to watch them. And I just had to review them. I mean, come on, two out of seventeen? What kind of crappy average is that? While formatting that rant I realize something: much to my dismay, I had to review more slasher movies.

Here’s your plot. Twenty years ago, in the small, cheerfully named town of Valentine’s Bluff (“A Town with Heart”) a big explosion trapped several workers deep in the local coal mine. The town, in the middle of it’s annual Valentine’s Day Dance, didn’t do a damn thing about it. By the time the mine was cleared, only one man remained.

So he, of course, went on a murderous rampage, killing the Town Fathers, and swearing that, should another Valentine’s Day Dance ever be held again, he would soak the town in blood.

So the town, of course, decides to hold . . . (wait for it) . . . a Valentine’s Day Dance. Wow! I would have never seen that coming in a million years! Gee, Shaggy, you think this will prompt someone to copycat the legendary mad man’s killing spree? Do you think the above mentioned copycat will wear some sort of mask to protect his identity? You think his victims will be sexual promiscuous teenagers and people who say “I’ll be right back,”? Boy, do think the inept Town Leaders will panic and blame the infamous mad man, while simultaneously loosing all powers of reason and judgement?

“Well, I don’t know, Scoob, but I could sure use a joint right now.”

I always knew you were a pothead, Shaggy. But, if you said “yes” to any of the above, well, you’d be right . . . with one exception. While most American Slasher movie’s revolve around an isolated group of teenagers (the kind who would sneak off to the mine in order to have a Valentine’s Day Dance after the official one is canceled, say), this is a Canadian slasher movie. Yes, this flick hails from the land of Terrence and Phillip. This means the movie revolves around an isolated group of miners (and their girlfriends). Wow, what a change, huh?

When the movie isn’t ripping out people’s hearts (and putting them in festive heart shaped boxes), the movie focuses on a love triangle between T.J. (Paul Kelman, who looks like Rufus Sewell from Dark City), Axel (Neil Affleck, no relation to Ben), and the girl they love, Sarah (Lori Hallier, who looks like no one in particular, and acts just the same way). T.J. “went away” somewhere “out west” and came back when things didn’t work out to find Sarah (his former love) going out with Axel.

The love triangle might have worked. And Survivor might win an Emmy. Unfortunately, all 3 of these people are gigantic pantywaists. They spend the whole movie moping and sulking, completely unable to let go of the past, accept the present, or even think about the future. Mostly because Sarah can’t decide what the hell she wants. And T.J. can’t get over the fact that, sometimes, things can’t go back to “the way things were”. These, again, are our leads: giant thirteen year-olds with learning disabilities.

And besides them, we know absolutely nothing about anyone in this movie. People die in stupid ways (one idiot gets two rivets in the head, one for each time he says “I’ll be right back”) and I don’t give a crap about any of them.

Acting ranges from bland to cliched. Writing barely gets a blip on the radar. Jeeze, there aren’t even any good jokes in the sucker.

Now the killer (dressed as a coal miner, complete with helmet and oxygen mask) isn’t all that bad. He gets to kill some people in interesting ways that never get to far Out There. Plus his costume is actually kinda threatening, for a change. If it weren’t for the fact that he uses his powers of Offscreen Teleportation way too much, I might actually like the dude.

The gore FX work here is pretty impressive, too. Severed human hearts and other Evil Acts are well staged. But not even that can save this turkey. Crappy actors, crappy writers, characters you know nothing about . . . there’s almost nothing going for this flick.

Except, of course, the fact that you can really MST3K the crap out of it.


Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

A sign of things to come...about four movies in the future.
A sign of things to come...about four movies in the future once we finally get back to the actual camp.

Complaining about formulaic Slasher films is like complaining about historical inaccuracies in Westerns. But since I do that all the time I’m not about to deny myself another intellectual shortcut. I might as well examine the reason why Slashers are so formulaic, and the best way to do that is to examine the film that carved that formula in stone.

Oh, you say, but didn’t Halloween and Friday the 13th Part 1 do that already? Trusting fool. Did you think Hollywood’s run by smart people? It takes more than one or two good films to set a trend…or it used to, back the bad old days of the early 1980s. Sure, Carpenter and Cunningham paved the way for an explosion of half-baked and half-witted imitators and one or two actually-decent serial-killer-centric flicks. But this, a studio-backed sequel which earned back over twenty times its estimated budget, this taught Hollywood (and, by extension, everyone who ever wanted to work there) how to assemble a true-to-life, Grade-F Slasher, altering the face of modern Bad Moviedom in the process by providing a template so soul-crushingly bland it would go on to power the next ten years of increasingly-route, mechanical, and meaningless “horror” movies.

And yes, this is a bad movie by any stretch. So was its prequel, but at least Part 1 had a shred or two of decency. This is just a soulless cash-in – worst than most, better than some – made by money-grubbing hacks who couldn’t even wipe the drool off their chins long enough to hire a decent screenwriter, director, or cast.

Munch would be so proud.
Munch would be so proud, don't you think?

In a surprisingly-still-creepy intro, we catch up to Alice (Adrienne King), sole survivor of 1980’s Friday the 13th massacre at Camp Crystal Lake. In one of the longest pre-credit sequences in movie history, we see Alice attempting to put her life back together by ticking off a list of ways to die in a horror film: she showers, sets the kettle on to boil, freaks out at the Spring Loaded Cat and finds Mrs. Voorhees severed head in her fridge. A flannel-clad hand stabs her through the forehead with an icepick and it’s bye, bye, Alice. Nice to spend all that time kinda, sorta getting to know you.

I understand what everyone was going for here. They meant us to sit up and say, “Awww shit, son, they done killed they main character. Nobody’s safe!” Since that’s patently untrue, Alice’s death just seems like a cruel trick the film plays on her and us. So fucking what if you identified with her? the film says. Here, meet the new batch of post-pubescent semi-tards. Identify with them. I dare you.

Here Steve Miner and screenwriter Ron Kurz inadvertently shoot any chance of coherent continuity in the face. Jason drowned in 1957, right? His mother killed two councilors the next year and Camp Crystal Lake, understandably, shut down. Steve Cristy reopened it in 1980, drawing Mrs. Voorhees’ ire and stabby-stab-stab. Now Part 2 jumps ahead five years. It’s 1985 and “Camp Blood” is once again condemned, so the film spends most of its time at another “camp councilor training center” just down the lakefront. The important thing is: even the movie’s creators couldn’t come up with another believable reason for this many attractive young people to gather by a lake in the summer.

Meet them, then…a racially-diverse cross section of canon fodder. Don’t do what I did and worry about keeping everyone straight: we only need to know about the few characters Kurz’s script lowers itself to name.

There’s Sandra (Marta Kober), our Adventurous Spice for the evening, decked out in the shortest pair of shorts this side of a Japanese primary school. There’s the boy hypnotized by her buns, Jeff (Bill Randolph), our Manly Spice/Kevin Bacon analog. There’s Jeff’s friend Ted (Stu Charno), Odious Comic Relief to you. And Terry (Kirsten Baker), A Girl with A Dog named Muffin. Mark (Tom McBride), being wheelchair bound and “in training” for something, fulfills the film’s ADA requirement, while Vicky (Lauren-Marie Taylor) exists for no other reason than to ply Mark with pot and (potential) access to her nether regions.

And that’s it. That’s all we get, because Ginny (Amy Steel), the girl who arrives late in the red Beetle, is an obvious Final Girl from frame one. Who once again seems to have a thing with Paul (John Furey), the Head Councilor (insert cunnilingus joke here). We know Ginny’s our Final Girl because the script lavishes her with the lion’s share of early character development…by which I mean we learn she’s studying “child psychology”…and nothing else. Christ, at least Alice got to hint at having a life outside these damn, death-cursed woods. Still, this bit of background’s enough to cull Ginny from the New Meat herd as effectively as her long dress and non-form-fitting top.

"Remember...just until the check clears...just until the check clears..."
"C'mon, girl, you can do this...just remember: their check cleared."

Here we see a series that had already jumped its shark. About fifty minutes in, Ginny delivers a monologue that no doubt sprung full-grown, like Athena, from Ron Kurz’s head. Her speech paints a picture of Jason Voorhees (the killer who’s been stalking everyone this whole time) as an isolated, friendless, “child trapped in a man’s body,” a negative-Batman, become vengeance because he misses his mommy sooo badly. Fans of the series love to use this bit of drunken rambling to justify their own sympathies for Jason Voorhees…rather than own up to their misanthropy and start alienating friends and loved ones like all the rest of us who have balls.

Not that I begrudge them their delusion…it’s just that Part 1‘s pointless, literally-tacked-on cliffhanger ending suggested Jason was a waterlogged zombie at best, raised from the lake by his mother’s demise at the hands of Alice Highwaist. Yet here he is! Ecce homo, fully grown and exacting bloody revenge on similarly-sized adults. If he didn’t drown back in 57, what drove Momma Voorhees over the edge? If he did, who’s this thirty-something huffing it around the woods, taking down lawmen with claw hammers and ripping up cute widdle dogs?

Plenty of time to wonder about all this. Collectively, Crystal Lake’s latest harvest has all the screen chemistry of a high school Christmas recital performed by heroin addicts just coming down, so there’s no reason to listen to their nonsense. Thanks to them, the film drags like a bastard. Fifty minutes into Part 1 all but three of the main cast were dead and our Final Girl dance was about to begin. At least Mrs. Voorhees had a sense of pacing to her murders. Sonny Boy just stalks around the woods before he gets his real killing done, providing those of us who’ve given up caring with only four dead humans and one dog to sate our bloodlust through this slow time. Then we still have an hour of one-note characters bleating at each other to get through before the real movie can begin.

First Person Stabber
First Person Stabber

Memo to Ron Kurz: sexual innuendo and skinny-dipping do not substitute for character development. Nor do scatological jokes, no matter how clever you think they are. If I lean on a piano key over and over for an hour my audience will grow bored. Everything here feels assembled from the cheapest off-the-shelf parts you could find. I know you were in a hurry, but did you and Steve Miner have to rip-off The Town that Dreaded Sundown and Twitch of the Death Nerve? Again? Twice in two movies ain’t just coincidence: that’s Group Think, Destroyer of Worlds and good ideas.

This is as good a place as any to mention something I’ve been wanting to bring up for awhile: movie studios do not care about movies. Individuals within those studios might say they do, but as organizations the studio can no more care for the quality of a film than a Terminator could care about why human’s cry. To them, we’re just hands clutching money, flying at them like out-of-control freight trains driven by drunks. They’re nothing but cowards who jump on the first bandwagon they see, and ride it right off the rails every damn time. You think people want to watch stale, whitebread characters die horribly? You think this is horror? No, my friend. Paramount thinks we think this is horror. They thought kids like me would mistake it for horror back in 1981, and you know what? They were right. So they did what all capitalists do and continued to supply a demand they themselves manufactured.

That’s the beauty of what Theodore Adorno called “the culture industry”: grade school economic notions reverse themselves faster than a Federation starship’s deflector shields. Think about it. You grow up watching William Castle flicks, Universal and AIP horror movies, or Roger Corman’s Golden Age. Suddenly you wake up in the 70s. Here’s Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, the Hammer Horror pictures (if you were lucky) and by the 1978 you helped make Halloween the legend it is today.

The Frugal Ku Klux Klansman knows gunny sacks work in a pinch.
Every frugal Ku Klux Klansman knows gunny sacks always work in a pinch.

Suddenly serial killers are everywhere. Horror films unrelated to mass murder become few and far between. No more Amityville Horrors (that were any good). No more cannibal families, except Leatherface’s…and even they traded anything that might actually be scary for a whole lot of fake blood. Rather like this sub-genre as a whole.

It ran away from them is what it did: Sean Cunningham bottled lightning, Paramount bought it up, and this is them selling it back to us. Same Coke, new label. Same shit, different day. Cosmetic differences don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, Elsa. There’s no bullshit mystery surrounding the killer’s identity here, and Steve Miner does not play any real tricks on the audience…unless you count the film itself as one sick April Fool’s joke.

Thanks to this film, and his next one, Miner won a hot-shot director’s reputation for knowing how to bring the Scary. Except he doesn’t. You don’t need flair when you’re directing your entire picture in the “follow victim around room until their death” style. There are, maybe, two shots in the film that actually work on the nerves…and conveniently enough they both come near the end.

For this Friday ends with one of the most memorable Final Girl sequences in history, the only reason I bore fond memories of it, and the only real reason to ever see this flick. We learn more about Ginny in this fifteen minutes of fight-n’-chase than a fist full of expository monologues could’ve possibly taught us.

Hot girl with a chainsaw vs. murderous redneck? Why yes, movie, thank you, I think I will.

Here she proves empathetic, resourceful, and unafraid to knee her opponent in the groin. Steel also endears herself further by playing scared without the all the damned whimpering Adrienne King and Jamie Lee Curtis made so famous. My unground teeth would like to declare Ginny my official Favorite Final Girl, but that would be blasphemy. After all, Heather Langenkamp still exists, and I dare not offend the Goddess.

Ah…but the film can’t let me escape without crushing one last hope. Up until this point, Jason’s killed everyone he’s come into contact with, including Muffin the dog. (And I say unto this film, “Good.”) At the start of Ginny’s run through the Final Girl Olympics, Jason confronts Paul and subdues him off screen. Then, near the end, when it looks like all hope is lost…the film jumps the shark again by having Paul return from the dead, distracting Jason just long enough for…well, if you don’t know, I imagine you can guess. Then they bring the dog back to life…right before the tacked-on and pointless “chair-jumper” ending. Because let’s face it, baby: by 1981, you just had to have a sequel.

If it’s anything, Part 2 is a necessary evil on your way to Part 3 and the much better Friday‘s beyond. It could serve as the litmus test for potential converts. If you like this, expect much, much, much more of the same, some of it better. Most of it much, much worse.


Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss