Monday, April 24, 2017

"You Don't Ask a Genius How He Spends His Money" - Metamorphosis (1990)


It is truly a special thing when a respected actor moves into the director's chair and crafts his or her own uncompromised vision of a film. Such a film is 1990's Metamorphosis, the most recent film directed by Luigi Montefiori, the actor known to English-speaking audiences as George Eastman. After directing an erotic bestiality film called Dog Lay Afternoon (1976) and co-directing the post-apocalyptic thriller 2020 Texas Gladiators (1982) with colleague Joe D'Amato, Mr. Eastman turned to the horror genre--home to his most memorable performances in films such as Anthropophagus (1980) and Absurd (1981)--to direct the body horror classic Metamorphosis.

Of course, this classic is unrecognized as such by the critics of your universe. Reviewer Coventry on IMDB writes, inaccurately, "it's mainly a talkative movie....the movie features loads of bad acting, poor lighting, lousy editing and a completely retarded climax to boot." Also on IMDB, evanston_dad writes, also inaccurately but at least eloquently, "This movie isn't even in the remotest realm of good." Finally, also on IMDB, reviewer Frequency270 writes, "Pacing is a large problem with the movie. After thinking I had been watching for ninety minutes, I realized I'd only been watching an hour." As always, such mistaken opinions beg to be corrected.

Monday, April 17, 2017

"It's a Real, Real Emergency" - Blood Rage (1987)


Slasher films, of course, are a respected staple of world cinema, and no country, perhaps with the exception of Canada, has produced as many high-quality slasher films as the United States. We have covered a few of the finer examples of the form here (A Day of Judgment, The Demon, Haunts), and now it is time to turn our attention to the Florida-set slasher Blood Rage (1987), a recently rediscovered masterwork of the genre.

Despite the recent praise of many of your universe’s more perceptive critics, many reviewers somehow fail to see the charm and sophistication of Blood Rage. For example, Dennis Schwartz writes, “Despite an intriguing premise, the pic falters. It seems played only for laughs. It might work best if viewed as an oddity.” On Rotten Tomatoes, Edward Boxler writes, “Blood Rage is a laughably silly slasher film where the whole premise is void of logic, the acting is horrendous, and the low budget feel poses too many awkward situations…It’s just bad.” On IMDB, reviewer tomgillespie2002 writes that the film is “terribly acted, badly written and features a plodding narrative….the same stretched-out chase scenes and clunky dialogue seen in a thousand films of its ilk.”

I will not contemplate how these misguided reviewers reached such blatantly incorrect conclusions. Rather, I will present the brilliance of Blood Rage, also known as Nightmare at Shadow Woods, to you so you may reach the correct conclusion, that Blood Rage is a masterful 1980s slasher film.

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Peculiar to Men Who Follow the Dangers of the Sea" - The Dungeon of Harrow (1962)


We shall next turn to a classical adventure story set in the nineteenth century: 1964's The Dungeon of Harrow. This tale of derring-do proves that filmmakers do not require huge budgets or big-name performers to entertain; as long as they have a dungeon and some scenes of torture, they can create high art.

Of course, not all critics appreciate this chilling tale. JoeKarlosi on IMDB writes, "Make no mistake - this is a pretty awful film." Reviewer rwagn , also on IMDB, writes, "the most plodding delivery of lines that I can recollect. Even the voice over narration is stupor inducing. Every line is delivered in this irritating plodding demeanor." Reviewer lemon_magic writes, "The plot is a shambles with no continuity to speak of....Most of the dialog is simply ridiculous and stilted."

Such slanders will not stand. Let us prepare to take a voyage through The Dungeon of Harrow.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Movies from Another Universe #2: Capsule Reviews

Here are some capsule reviews of films that do not exist in your universe. However, they do exist in my universe, Universe-Prime. For additional movies from another universe, check out Ed Wood's Bride of Peeping Tom (1960) and Frankenstein's Mobster (1964).


House of Bloody Limbs (1975)

Four British university students and their American exchange student friend take a road trip in a camper from London to Scotland. Once they cross the border, they run afoul of three aggressive men in a pub who object to their socializing with a young local woman. The young woman says her family will protect them he students, but the students misperceived the situation at the pub. The aggressive men were trying to warn them, and the young woman's family turn out to be cannibals squatting in a ruined castle and the tunnels beneath. Only one of the students is destined to escape and reach the closest farm, where the aggressive men from the pub, three brothers who live alone, reside. The film falls to disclose the final fate of the survivor.

A British response to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of Bloody Limbs is more energetic than most British films of the mid 1970s, but its bland color palette and predictability do it no favors. The house of the title, a ruined castle with tunnels filled with body parts, is memorable and the cannibal scenes are more grotesque than expected, with generous shots of the large cannibal family tearing into various body parts, but the overall effect is only mildly interesting. Noteworthy scenes include a chase through the tunnels that ends in a girl falling into a stone well full of lopped off hands, a seduction scene between the American student and the cannibal girl that occurs on a bed under which the bloody corpse of another student is barely hidden, and the atmospheric reveal of the cannibal clan in the fog-shrouded ruins.





Testament of the Living Organ (1959)

A black and white, low-budget ghost story from 1959, Testament of the Living Organ is haunting and almost entirely effective. The organ is a musical instrument haunted by the ghost of a sinister organist named LaGrange who murdered his rival years before falling to his own death from a church bell tower in the rain. When a new minister and his family move into the church, it soon becomes clear the church organ is haunted. The minister’s wife is the only person who can play beautiful music on the organ; everyone else who tries either produces a cacophony or is injured by the keys or pedals. The organ’s pipes begin to spew steam, which scalds a janitor’s face. In a graphic scene for 1959, a teenage boy’s hands are mauled by the organ’s keys when he tries to impress a girl.

After some investigation, the minister and his wife discover the identity of the sinister organist, but they are helpless until they find that the ghost of the man the organist killed is haunting a harp. The finale is a showdown between the haunted organ and the haunted harp, with the minister's wife in danger as the church collapses.

Testament of the Living Organ was unsuccessful not because of the quality of the film but because of its title, considered inappropriate for many newspapers. The filmmakers never realized the double entendre inherent in the title, and the film was doomed to failure.




The Body Had Three Eyes (1976) aka Three Eyes of the Murdered Corpse (Tre Occhi del Cadavere Insanguinato)

Giallo with a murderer who leaves the eyes of his victims on the next corpse

A woman walking a dog discovers a corpse in suburban Rome with another person's eye resting on its forehead. A police detective and his assistant are assigned to investigate not only the corpse but where the additional eyeball came from. The murder victim was the patriarch of a wealthy family that exerts pressure on the detective to cover everything up, including the victim's affair with a burlesque artist. In an extended chase sequence, a second murder is perpetrated by a figure in a white hat and raincoat; the victim, an elderly woman, is killed with a gardening fork and the killer places another eyeball on her forehead.

When the detective finds that the murder victims were members of a secret spiritualist club whose founder died nearly one year earlier, he investigates the other members of the club--a mute old man in a wheelchair, a young up-and-coming soccer player, a fashionable young woman with a sordid past, and a research scientist who lost his left eye in a boating accident. After two more members are murdered, the detective pieces together the story: The club's founder faked his own death but also stole the identity of the wheelchair-bound man. The eyes left at the crime scenes represented a psychic "third eye" that all the victims lacked, in the killer's estimation. In the end, the detective finds the killer in an abandoned mansion. About to apprehend the killer, the detective causes the killer's collection of eyeballs to spill onto the floor, forcing the hero to squish through the swamp of eyeballs to chase the man. The chase spills out onto the streets of Rome, where the killer causes a traffic accident and dies when he is smashed between two cars in a head-on collision.

Although derivative of earlier gialli, The Body Had Three Eyes shows off a colorful, fast-moving style and its eyeball imagery is frequently quite gruesome. The highlight of the film is a centerpiece murder in which the gadgets filling the successful soccer player's apartment are turned against him as he is strangled by electrical cords, slashed with an electric knife, and finally crushed by a huge television set, all accompanied by flashing lights and a pulsing disco score.

Monday, April 3, 2017

"Suck a Greyhound Bus Through a Straw" - Skullduggery (1983)

Our next classic will be Skullduggery, 1983's avant garde slasher comedy/talent show.

While some reviewers might be forgiven for not seeing the brilliance of Skullduggery's mixing of genres and tones, there is no excuse for some of the ridiculous responses to the film. For example, perl writes on IMDB, "plot is incomprehensible and filled to the brim with pompous symbolism no one buts its filmmakers could explain.”  Also on IMDB, evan90 writes, “ Its plot holes had plot holes. The intense amount of useless character who die evoke no emotion.” Again on IMDB, tromafreak writes, “Every review I ever read turned out to be a warning, in one form or another.”

Perhaps tromafreak should read the review that follows, which will not be a warning in any form but a strong endorsement of the ahead-of-its-time Skullduggery.

The film begins with a now-classic theme song, whose words I have transcribed below for the purpose of highlighting such brilliant songwriting.

Monday, March 27, 2017

"You Got Nose Trouble?" - The Game (1984)


The Game (1984), also known as The Cold, is an exhilarating odyssey through the mind of Wisconsin’s Bill Rebane, who cut his directorial teeth on films such as Monster-A-Go-Go and The Giant Spider Invasion before creating the cryptic masterpiece we are considering today.

Unsurprisingly, the critics of your universe are not on board with The Game. On IMDB, Clint Walker, presumably not the Killdeer star, writes, “The Game still has that feel of the producers just making a movie tailored to fit whatever props and settings they had at their disposal.” Reviewer Coventry asserts that this film includes “…retarded plot twists, the dumbest dialogs ever and a total lack of excitement.” Further, reviewer irishjenny96 writes, “What's really strange is that towards the end of the movie it turns into like a 5 minute western, and at the end, the twists, of which their were several, don't make sense with the rest of the movie.” The film does not in fact turn into a western, and I can only assume irishjenny96 is delusional.

In order to counter such libelous reviews, I will describe this twisting masterwork in detail below.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Movie from Another Universe #1: Frankenstein's Mobster (1964)

(Note: The film described below does not exist in your universe. However, it does exist in my universe, Universe-Prime. For another movie from another universe, check out Ed Wood's Bride of Peeping Tom from 1960.)


A low-budget, 70-minute black and white movie from 1964, Frankenstein's Mobster tells the story of a low-level gangster whose luck changes when he finds the body of the titular creature.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"You Couldn't Hold Her Like a Moth" - Death Screams (1982)


Death Screams (1982) is a celebrated example of the slasher film cycle that burned so brightly in the very late 1970s and the very early 1980s. Filmed in North Carolina, Death Screams, also known as House of Death, is a fine regional contribution to that revered subgenre, and has the further advantage of being directed by a former child actor from a 1950s sitcom.

Again, and with great frustration, I must list examples of esteemed critics that fail to see the brilliance of the film we are discussing. Several examples follow from IMDB. Reviewer heosh2494 writes, “It's full of lame actors, a bad script, slack pacing, among other things.” Reviewer Dana Volkmer-Jones: “In addition to the movie having terrible acting, thirty-something teenagers, and a lifted soundtrack, there didn't seem to be much motive or plot.” And RareSlashersReviewed writes,  “The story is also a headache of a conundrum with sub-plots sprouting out but never getting fully resolved.”

Although it is not my fault such short-sighted critics ignore the finer qualities of Death Screams, it is my responsibility to set them straight with a discussion of this powerful slasher film.

Monday, March 13, 2017

"It Walked Across Eons of Time" - Curse of Bigfoot (1976)


We must return to the bigfoot "well," that source of artful, soul-searching cinema, for the 1976 film Curse of Bigfoot.

As usual, we shall begin with some poorly considered reviews from IMDB users. For example, Larry Landolfi writes that the film is “SO HORRIBLY bad that it actually left an impression on you.......like a Mack truck does when it runs over your face….the most boring piece of garbage ever put on film.” Reviewer rlewicke writes that the film has “wooden acting, long long stretches of the "actors" walking through the forest (accompanied by a thrilling music score, as if something interesting is actually happening), a perfectly inane bigfoot costume.” Flixer1957 writes, also on IMDB, “It's almost as if a drunk cut up several different films in a Cuisinart and a dope fiend randomly sewed 87 minutes together afterward.”

Of course, no bigfoot film could be as bad as these reviewers claim. We must correct the record and recount the splendors of 1976's Curse of Bigfoot.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Scary Numbers: Blumhouse's String of Hit Horror Movies


Starting with Paranormal Activity in 2009, Blumhouse Productions has produced a string of remarkably successful horror movies, averaging almost four widely released theatrical horror movies per year between 2011 and 2016. Between 2009 and March, 2017, the company produced 27 horror movies with wide theatrical releases in the U.S. for a combined budget of $139 million dollars (average budget $5.1 million). These movies have grossed a total of $1.34 billion domestically and $2.49 billion worldwide. Looking only at U.S. theatrical grosses, these 27 movies have taken in 9.68x their production budgets. Looking at worldwide grosses, they have taken in 17.9x their budgets.

Monday, March 6, 2017

"We Will Steal a Body and We Will Take It to the Cemetery" - Cemetery of Terror (1985)


Let us now consider a Mexican film from 1985, Cemetery of Terror, aka Cementerio del Terror, a creepy old dark house story, expertly told.

Your universe's uncharitable critics, as ever, fail to recognize the value of Ruben Galindo Jr.'s classic. For example, reviewer insomniac_rod on IMDB writes, ”'Cementerio del Terror' isn't by any means a good Slasher flick. Let's take it for what it is: a cynical rip-off of the Friday the 13th sequels and a rip-off mix of 'Evil Dead' and 'Night Of The Living Dead.'" BA_Harrison on IMDB writes, “extremely dumb and utterly chaotic nonsense from start to finish.” Patrick Van Hauwaert, also on IMBD, writes “Cemetery was a total flop for me. So bad that I had trouble keeping awake.”

What these critics fail to understand, however, is that this is a film about goings-on in a cemetery. Of terror.