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.


Trap Them and Kill Them (1977)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

OH – MY – GOD! The European horror gods have truly blessed myself and my collection with this fantastic and enjoyably cheesy entry in the Italian jungle / cannibal sub-genre. And now I’m taking it upon myself to grace the readers of And You Thought It Was Safe with their first excursion into the nasty world of Italian cannibal flicks. Not to mention, the wonderfully sleazy world of infamous Italian horror and sexploitation director Joe D’Amato (real name Aristide Massaccesi).

The jungle /cannibal horror sub-genre first reared it’s gruesome head in Italy in the form of 1973’s Man From Deep River, which was directed by one of the kings of the cannibal films, Umberto Lenzi. The brief history of the sub-genre ranges from 1973 to 1981, but it’s popularity among hardcore gorehounds is just as apparent in the year 2000 as it was in the 70’s and early 80’s. The plot for most of these splatterfests was pretty much the same. A group of travelers would go on an expedition into the Amazon jungles for one reason or another  only to be stalked and graphically mutilated and eaten by a savage cannibal tribe. The majority of these films contained some pretty bad acting and horrible dubbing, but at the same time sickened audiences with their incredibly realistic gore effects. These films are definitely not for the Sunday matinee crowd, and you’re not likely to find them in the possession of those closed minded mainstream morons at Blockbuster.

TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM (1977) is an odd hybrid in the sub-genre. It’s a cross between the cannibal film and the popular softcore sex Emanuelle series from Italy. For those of you who don’t know, the Emanuelle series of films starred extremely sexy European exploitation queen Laura Gemser as the title character, who found herself caught up in many sex-filled adventures. This film, although a cannibal movie, is no exception as it definitely has it’s share of screwing. It’s hard not to drool though the minute you lay your eyes on the Indonesian born goddess Gemser. TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM is not a direct part of the series but is also known as EMANUELLE E GLI ULTIMI CANNIBALI (Italian title) and EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS. Other, more direct movies in the series include: Black Emanuelle (1975), Emanuelle in America (1976), Emanuelle Around the World (1977), and Sister Emanuelle (1978) among several others.

Right away as the movie starts, fans and lovers of European trash cinema will be hooked. The opening credits roll to an extremely groovy piece of disco cheese called “Make Love On the Wing”, sung by Ulla Linder. This song was truly funky and I dug it bigtime. In fact, all of the original music contributed to the film by composer Nico Fidenco was totally cool and added a lot to the cheesy 70’s feel. At the end of the opening credits it says: Based on a true story as reported by Jennifer O’ Sullivan. I don’t have a clue who Jennifer O’ Sullivan is, but with all of the time the people in this film spend having sex, I doubt it’s a true incident of cannibalism. And plus, it’s directed by one of the kings of European exploitation, Aristide Massaccesi (a.k.a. Joe D’Amato).

The opening scene (set in New York I believe) takes us to a mental asylum full of warped wackos and one breathtakingly beautiful babe. The lovely Emanuelle (played by Laura Gemser) is a newspaper journalist posing as one of the patients of the asylum. Suddenly, a screaming nurse runs out into the hall with her right tit chewed off ! Whoa, what a great start ! Asylum attendants rush into a room where a crazed female patient gnaws on the nurse’s nipple. “She was found on the edge of the Natogrosso,” one nurse claims. “she’s a real savage”. They straight jacket the flesh-eating freak before she can finish her snack.

The same night, Emanuelle sneaks into the girl’s room hoping to get a scoop for her paper. She sure has a funny way of getting to the bottom of a story as she lifts up the girl’s gown and starts petting her kitty, if you catch my drift. She discovers an odd Aztec-like symbol above the girl’s pubic area and photograph’s it with a camera hidden in a doll. The camera must magically penetrate through clothing because when she takes the picture the symbol is clearly covered by the gown. Yet for some reason when she shows the photo to her boss Rod, the girl’s gown is pulled above the symbol revealing it. Oh well, this movie is great without being perfect,and there’s plenty of mistakes where that came from.

Rod and Emanuelle inquire to one of the other reporters at the paper about the origin of the symbol. He tells them that it’s the symbol of an extinct tribe of cannibals called the Tupinambas. Rod boasts about what a huge story this is for the paper, even though he just let a guy walk away with a piece of the photographic evidence.

Emanuelle is sent to try and arrange an expedition to the Amazon with experienced anthropologist and curator of the Natural History Museum, Professor Mark Lester (played by Laura Gemser’s real life husband, the late Gabriele Tinti). Laura and Gabriele appeared in many exploitation films together. As she heads to the museum to meet Professor Lester, some trippy, suave 70’s music entrances us. They sit down for lunch at a cafe where Emanuelle starts asking Mark questions about cannibalism. He responds by saying, “But the subject is so vast that if you want to know more we should go to my house”. Subtle buddy, real subtle. He might as well have said, “I want to bang you now”.

Anyway, they head to Mark’s place and on the way Emanuelle mentions the expedition- “By the way, I’d like to make you an offer. An expedition to the Amazon. Lead by you and fully subsidized by my paper”. Now how could anyone refuse a temptress like Emanuelle? They get to Professor Lester’s where he shows her documentary footage of a cannibal tribe chopping off a head, severing a penis, and eating their rivals. She shows Mark a picture of the tattooed symbol on the girl from the asylum. He tells her that the Tupinamba tribe thought to be responsible for the symbol are long extinct, but their descendants are the supposedly extinct Yapyakahs. Mark is intrigued and accepts the expedition. Strap yourselves in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

We cut to a scene involving Emanuelle and her boyfriend as they park near the waterfront. She tells him about the trip like it’s no big deal- “Tomorrow I’m leaving for the Amazon, for work. Something very, very interesting. It’s about cannibals”. Then we get some really goofy dialogue. “Emanuelle you’re crazy, you’re really crazy”, he says. Good old Emanuelle, always horny, responds by saying, “Maybe I am, but right now I want to make love”. She ends up screwing him under a bridge…with his jeans still on !!! Now how in the hell does that work? Emanuelle is always thinking about sex. Like when Professor Lester goes to send a telegram to his friend in the Amazon. While he goes in to send the telegram, Emanuelle sits in the taxi and has flashbacks of them having sex. This goes on long enough to play the entire slow version of that awesome opening disco tune “Make Love On the Wing”.

It’s time to set off for the Amazon as Emanuelle and Mark board a plane. And in another funny mistake, one scene has Emanuelle sitting in a window seat looking at stock footage of land and clouds and Mark is sitting next to her. When the camera cuts back to them after the stock footage, Mark is in the window seat and Emanuelle is in the seat next to him. It was like 5 seconds in between shots ! How in the hell did they miss that?

They arrive in the Amazon where they go to the home of a colleague of Professor Lester’s named Wilkes (played by Geoffrey Coplestone). Wilkes was the one who found the girl in the asylum. It is here that we meet two other members of the ill-fated expedition. A soft speaking nun, Sister Angela (played by Annemarie Clementi), and Wilkes’s daughter Isabelle (played by Monica Zanchi). Actress Monica Zanchi appeared in another of the Emanuelle films along side Laura Gemser and Gabriele Tinti the following year in Sister Emanuelle (1978). She also had an uncredited role in Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombie (1979).

Emanuelle and Mark explain to Wilkes that Emanuelle is there to do a story on the Yapyahkahs, but he claims the Yapyahkahs have been extinct for 50 years. Sister Angela tells them that a priest in the area, Father Morales, would know something on the subject. Isabelle and Sister Angela plan on taking supplies to the Father’s mission the next day and invite Mark and Emanuelle to join them. And of course we can’t let a night go by in this film without another hot and heavy sex scene between Emanuelle and Mark. This time though, Isabelle looks on from around the corner while pleasuring herself. It’s no-holds barred all the way with Joe D’Amato directing.

The next day Emanuelle, Mark, Isabelle, and Sister Angela, along with two natives, Phillipe and Manolo, head off to the Amazon wilderness in search of Father Morales’s mission. They go by boat but they must have stopped somewhere because next we see Emanuelle and Isabelle playing near a waterfall and fondling each other. A smoking monkey sits by and watches !? Man I love this movie !

Now they’re  all back on the boat and Emanuelle is snapping photos of stock footage Alligators. What would a cannibal movie be without stock footage of wildlife? When the group makes it to an island and tie up their boat, the action picks up almost immediately. As Emanuelle is loading film into her camera, a huge python constricts itself around her neck. As the others struggle to get it off her, a gunshot penetrates the snake’s head. The man who shot it identifies himself as hunter Donald Mackenzie (played by Donald O’ Brien). O’Brien is probably best known for his lead role in another European stomach turner, Dr. Butcher M.D. (1980). Donald breaks the news to the group that Father Morales’s mission was massacred by savages. He brings them back to his campsite where they meet his wife Maggie Mackenzie (played by Nieves Navarro, credited here and in many other films as Susan Scott). They also meet the Mackenzie’s man servant Salvador (played by Percy Hogan).

Both Susan Scott and Percy Hogan have also appeared in several Euro-trash horror and exploitation films. Scott (real name Nieves Navarro) had appeared prior to this in the 1972 Italian Giallo (slasher/mystery) The Slasher is the Sex Maniac. She also starred with Laura Gemser and Gabriele Tinti again the same year as this film in Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle (1977). Percy Hogan appeared in an in-name-only Emanuelle film, Black Emanuelle 2 (1976), which was an indirect sequel. He also appeared in a 1977 sci-fi starring Jack Palance called Anno Zero-Guerra Nello Spazio (a.k.a – War in Space and Battle of the Stars).

The group sits around the Mackenzie’s campsite as Donald talks about his experiences as a hunter. Maggie wonders if they’re sure about the possibility of discovering real life cannibals. Mark assures her, “Yes, the tribe we are to locate are indeed cannibals. They tie up their victims, rip open their bellies, tear out their insides, and eat it.” Almost as soon as those words leave Professor Lester’s mouth, we experience what I thought was one of the scariest parts of the film. We suddenly hear breathing and a heart-beet like sound, with some odd language mumbling hauntingly as the camera gives us a point of view perspective from several different angles of the group being watched. It’s the cannibals stalking their prey ! These scenes are really atmospheric and gave me a real feeling of unease. Of course, there’s more sex, this time between Maggie and Salvador.

The next day one of the native guides, Phillipe, runs up to the others in panic. They go with him and discover the other native guide Manolo, laying on the beach gutted with a snake exiting his chest cavity. They all decide that it’s time to get the hell out of there and begin their trek back through the wilds of the Amazon to some cool distorted flute and drum safari music. You just get the feeling that they ain’t gonna get out alive.

This is where I’m going to stop reviewing TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM scene for scene because I don’t want to give away which members of the expedition get butchered. But believe me, a lot of blood and guts are spilled. One of the girl’s nipple is cut off and eaten in front of her before she is disemboweled. Spears are imbedded in stomachs and backs. One of the guys is cut in half with rope. One of the other women has her vagina stabbed with a knife and ripped open. I thought it was time I lived up to the name Gorelord. Plus, there’s a sub-plot involving diamonds.

Unfortunately, the director Aristide Massaccesi, one of the legends of Eurotrash, passed away last year. I want to thank him for having the balls to direct the kind of movies he wanted to, despite what the “conservative crowd” had to say. His movies have a large following and will continue to forever.

If you could stand the nasty killings in this wicked cannibal caper, check out others in this messed up sub-genre, including: MAN FROM DEEP RIVER (1973), CANNIBAL (1976), SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978), EMERALD JUNGLE (1980), THE MAN HUNTER (1980), WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN (1980), and the two most disgusting CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1978) and CANNIBAL FEROX (1981). Floss your teeth after viewing.



Jessie James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

Often at times in order to discover what different creations of human atrocity lurk in the depths of the barf layered halls of the horror/sci-fi genres, I hit the review books to track down the trash. About seven years ago I happened upon this spaced out grade Z mind eraser. I knew right away when I locked eyes on the title that we were destined to be together forever. I just had to order a mind numbing copy and that’s exactly what I did. When it arrived and I held it in my filthy hands, I shivered with goosebumps as it whispered into my wax caked ear those four magical words: SO BAD IT’S GOOD.

Back in 1965 director of 175 Westerns, William Beaudine, came back for one last hurrah when he cranked out this low-budget ludicrously enjoyable movie madness. This however was not the first time Beaudine directed an insane horror/western mix. The same year he made the first of this daft duo when the notoriously inept BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA (1965) was released. JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER is the lesser known of the two but it does have the esteemed honor of being nominated for a prestigious Golden Turkey Award. It also has acquired a small cult following among hardcore cheese heads (including myself). {More}

Night of the Zombies (1981)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

Before I get going with my review, I want to make something clear to horror fans who are new to the genre. There are two movies in the world of flesh feasting flicks titled NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES. I want to let readers know right now that this is NOT the 1983 Italian made zombie/cannibal gore-a-thon directed by Bruno Mattei.

This is the 1981 NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES and fans of hard to find obscure horror films would likely have a more difficult time tracking down this oddity. Previously know as GAMMA 693 and NIGHT OF THE WEHRMACHT ZOMBIES, this low budget Nazi zombie cheapie was directed by notorious small time horror/exploitation director, Joel M. Reed.

Reed became an infamous name in the trashy horror sweepstakes when he was all but executed by women’s protest groups after he made his most sick, nauseating, and perhaps most entertaining film, Bloodsucking Freaks (1978) (originally known as The Incredible Torture Show). He kept a much lower profile with this, his last film to date, from NMD Film Distributing. On a side note, Reed has been quoted as saying that the company that released Bruno Mattei’s 1983 Night of the Zombies stole the ad campaign for his film. I presume he’s referring to Vestron Video.

Filmed in Munich, Germany and upstate New York, NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES was backed by producer Lorin E. Price, who appears in the movie as a priest. Unfortunately, Joel Reed and the actors in the film soon discovered that Price had a habit of not coming up with the money he promised. As a matter of fact, the main star of this zombie romp, Jamie Gillis, claims that Price still owes him money for the movie to this very day! Great way to build a reputation in the film industry. Let’s hire this guy.

As I popped my copy into the old VCR I discovered something kind of strange. My print, courtesy of Interglobal Video, has the title Night of the Zombies 2 in the opening credits. The weird thing about it is, this was made a couple of years before the 1983 Night of the Zombies. The only explanation I can come up with for this is that maybe director Reed and Interglobal Video did this to avoid any confusion between the two films. With the amount of alternate titles floating around in the pool of cinematic scum, you just never know.

Among a group of unknowns, one interesting casting choice rises to the top, literally. Porno film superstar Jamie Gillis was chosen to play the main character in what was one of only a handful of legitimate film Gillis had starred in. He had previously appeared in a horror satire called Dracula Sucks (1979), directed by Philip Marshak. He does a pretty nice acting job in this flick, which may surprise a few people.

During the credits we are subjected to German military music and the psychotic ramblings of Adolph Hitler. Hitler’s ugly rant takes away from the camera shots of the beautiful snow covered Bavarian Alps, which is where a lot of the film takes place. Two grave registration officials are camped out somewhere in the Alps. They are searching for the remains of soldiers killed there during a World War II battle between a Nazi SS unit and an American chemical warfare battalion in 1944. Bavarian Police Captain Fleck (played by Ron Armstrong) insists that a battle never took place there in 1944, but the villagers claim it did take place. The villagers also claim that the Alps are infested with the living dead. The grave registration officials laugh at the rumors of zombies, but they will soon be wishing they hadn’t.

As the two men get ready to call it a night, they hear the sounds of machine guns blasting in the distance. One of them believes it’s bandits firing the weapons, after Police Captain Fleck had warned the men about them. But the other is positive that those are German machine guns that they’re hearing and goes out to investigate. As he ventures off into the hills, you kind of get the idea that he’s about to be written out of Joel M. Reed’s script. Sure enough we hear a creepy laughter and a gray-faced ghoul dressed in a Nazi SS uniform appears, not to eat, but shoot (!?) the unfortunate victim. The other grave registration official comes out of the tent and soon after he too is shot down by the pasty face soldiers. I guess they weren’t looking for a bite to eat at that time of night.

Among the two bodies a letter in a sealed envelope is discovered, which Police Captain Fleck takes and mails to the address on the front.

We are then taken to an office (looks more like an apartment) where CIA Chief Collins (played by supervising editor Ron Dorfman) gives CIA agent Nick Monroe (played by Jamie Gillis) what he calls a “minimum exposure assignment”. With the countless T&A extravaganza’s that porn king Gillis has been in, I’m not sure he knows what a minimum exposure assignment is. Collins tells Monroe that he is sending him to Munich, Germany and the Bavarian Alps. However, it is not to investigate the deaths of the two grave registration officials, but to recover canisters of a special experimental gas. The gas was lost in the Alps when it was in the possession of the American chemical warfare unit (known as Special Unit C) that battled against a Nazi SS unit. It is known as Gamma 693 (which explains one of the alternate titles) and is a lethal gas that the U.S was going to experiment with on the Germans. Collins instructs Monroe to meet with one Dr. Proud; a biochemist who has developed a deactivating foam that will destroy the effects of the gas. Are you confused yet? Well don’t worry, you will be. Surely you didn’t expect to find any logic in a Joel M. Reed film.

Monroe goes to see the respected biochemist, Dr. Proud (played by Ryan Hilliard). But by the time Proud utters his third or fourth sentence you’ll be questioning his intelligence. With a straight face Proud tells Monroe, “Nick, it’s absolutely imperative that we retrieve that gas as soon as possible. The containers could start leaking any day now.” After hearing that I’m almost positive that there are very few traces of logical plot development in this movie. If the containers of Gamma 693 gas are so deadly, why in the hell didn’t they retrieve them when they were first lost back in 1944??! Dr. Proud goes on to tell Monroe that he was the assistant of the man who first created the gas back during the time of World War II. That would have made him about three years old! Monroe shows very little intelligence as well by barely reacting to the statement. The CIA really have themselves a couple of rocket scientists with these two guys. The gas could kill two million people but don’t worry, these guys are on the case.

Before Monroe and Proud leave for Germany, Nick meets up with CIA Chief Collins, who has a chilling surprise for him. Collins now has the letter that Police Captain Fleck had found among the bodies of the two grave registration officials in the Alps. It turns out that it was written by soldier from World War II Special Unit C to his sister. Collins says that the ink in the letter is fresh. Monroe refuses to believe it, even though he believed that Dr. Proud was a biochemist in World War II.

Monroe arrives in Munich and meets with Dr. Proud at a restaurant. Proud has his niece Susan (played by Samantha Grey) with him, who for no apparent reason is going to the Alps with them. Then in another mind number, Dr. Proud spots a young man in his early twenties who he apparently knows. When Nick asks about the guy, Proud tells him that they were in World War II together! Is this guy on some kind of hallucinogenic or what? Again Monroe brushes it off like Dr. Proud is perfectly normal.

Monroe goes out on his own to some of the local bars to see what he can dig up on the soldiers who disappeared in the World War II battle in the Bavarian Alps. After getting nowhere with the locals and being attacked by a guy who laughs when he’s shot in the stomach, Monroe is followed by a mysterious little man. The man turns out to be a neo-Nazi CIA informer (played by none other than director Joel M. Reed) who tells Monroe about a right wing group in the area comprised of both Americans and Germans. Nick gives the informer a list of names to track down. However, when the informer comes back with a lead, he is stabbed in the back by two men on the street. When Monroe follows up on the small bit of information the informer did give him, he hits yet another dead end. When several other informers are murdered by an unseen killer (one of them is eaten in a camera shop), Monroe gives up on questioning the locals and heads for the Alps along with Dr. Proud and Susan.

When they arrive in the snowy Alps they meet up with Police Captain Fleck and are accompanied to their campsite by a border patrol. The first night of their stay Susan walks off into the wooded hills to do her business. She hears an eerie laughter in the darkness. As she looks around, a blue faced rotting corpse wearing Nazi gear comes at her with a dagger! But just as he’s about to plunge the blade into her, some normal looking American dude wearing a winter coat orders the zombie to leave her alone and stay away from the campsite.

The next day Monroe goes searching around the Alps on snow shoes, looking for the containers of Gamma 693. He stumbles upon stock footage of military vehicles and an army base. He makes his way up to the base and peers through a window. He see’s a man dressing in a United States World War II jacket. Back at the camp Dr. Proud starts to become mysteriously ill. The same night, an unseen killer decapitates Police Captain Fleck while he is sleeping and cooks his torso over a campfire. Someone must have felt like a midnight snack.

Monroe starts to believe the rumors of zombies after Dr. Proud runs into a couple of them and remembers their faces from World War II. They have a habit of battling in the hills at night, so in a ludicrous plot twist Monroe disguises himself as one of the living dead and infiltrates the zombie base! Sitting amongst the zombie soldiers Monroe discovers that Gamma 693 is the reason why these World War II soldiers are still the same age as they were in 1944. The gas prevents them from getting older, but without it they must consume human flesh in order to maintain their appearance. Good thing they have stock farms of captured villagers. And in another outrageous twist, it turns out that the American chemical warfare battalion and the Nazi SS unit that supposedly did battle, actually joined forces to perfect the Gamma 693 gas! Has your brain melted yet?

Back at the camp, the reason behind Dr. Proud’s sickness is revealed when his flesh starts to rot off of his hands and face. It turns out that he was around back in 1944 like he had told Monroe. He stole a canister of Gamma 693 when he was an assistant for the creator of the formula. When the creator found out, Proud had no choice but to kill him. Proud was going to steal the formula but it was lost in a fire. Ever since then Dr. Proud has been forced to eat human flesh in order to survive. Makes sense now, right? I didn’t think so. Dr. Proud tries to eat Susan but Nick shows up and Proud is turned into a skeleton after being sprayed with the deactivating foam.

Monroe goes back to the zombie base with the intention of wiping them out with the foam, but they corner him and give him the choice to either join or be killed. Does Monroe join the zombie legion? Fans of cheesy flicks can sit through this and find out themselves. If you’re a dedicated cheddar head then you’ll probably love it.

This is my first Joel M. Reed film and I can proudly say that he has gained a fan in me. As far as zombie films go, this is probably one of the strangest and most bizarre you will ever find. Low on the usual hardcore zombie gore, but it has enough corny elements to please bad horror buffs. For other films in the Nazi zombie subgenre check out Shock Waves (1975), Zombie Lake (1980), and Oasis of the Zombies (1982). I know this was a long review but this movie deserves it. Spit on crap like Titanic and The Matrix and discover the low budget living dead instead.


New Year’s Evil (1980)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

Greetings fellow low-budget trash junkies. I am Gorelord, reviewer and collector of bottom of the barrel cheddar. That crazy king of horrible horror and sci-fi, Dr. Psy Chosis, has granted me the honor of contributing reviews to his wild world of weirdness. And believe me, I intend to litter the halls of “And You Thought It Was Safe” with some great bargain bin sleaze sure to please the mad doctor.

As I write this babble we are now two days into the new year, and more importantly the new millennium. So I thought to myself, what better way to kick off the new year than with a review of the 1980 sadistic slash and hack fest, New Year’s Evil? That’s right, this sleazy low grade slasher flick turns 20 this year, and the celebration is sure to be bigger than the millennium bash. Continue reading New Year’s Evil (1980)

The Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Okay...this is a little...weird...The Transformers: The Movie is no place to begin your journey through the myriad maze of the  Cybertronian Wars. A link between the second and third seasons of its eponymous TV show, The Movie will leave uninitiated peoples confused, annoyed, and potentially hostile to a set of stories that continue to fascinate hardcore fans of this stupid little cartoon. The trauma it caused us and its shinning, brilliant disdain for outsiders makes this the high water mark of 1980s toy commercial animation. Screw you, the film says. This is for the fans. And if you don’t like it, just wait ’til will kill off all the main characters.

The excellent (if muddled) Transformers FAQ provides a good enough primer (pun most certainly intended) for our purposes. For those too lazy to scroll down to the appropriate section of text, we present this origin story: {More}

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

GameraLooking back, Gamera’s rebirth was almost inevitable. History repeats itself and the movie industry eats its dead. Inspired by the success of the modern Godzilla films (beginning with 1984’s Godzilla and ending, on a dower, cliffhanger-note in 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah), Daiei brought their own terrible terrapin out of retirement exactly nine months before Godzilla’s (latest) death. In black and white, as I’ve mentioned, Gamera can be somber, dynamic, dark…creepy in his own, lantern-eyed way. But the advent of cheap color film technology was no friend to the Friend to Children Everywhere.

Like the daikaiju genre as a whole, by the 1970s, Gamera grew down right silly. After all, we are talking about a giant, fire-breathing turtle who flies by projecting jets through his shell’s arm- and leg-holes. (Of what? Don’t ask. My sainted father always assumed it was flatulence. ) Thankfully, the makers of Guardian of the Universe made the informed and, dare I say it (dare, dare), enlightened decision to treat Gamera seriously. Whatever the shortcomings of the Heisei Godzilla series, they were never less than serious films, susceptible to all the snares and pitfalls of the Action/Adventure pictures they emulated. Guardian of the Universe, for the most part, avoids these thanks to its narrower focus. It wants (insomuch as a film can want anything) to be only what it is: the perfect giant monster picture, complete of its kind. {More}

Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss