Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

living-dead-at-manchecter-morgue

Directed By: Jorge Grau

Starring: Ray Lovelock, Cristina Galbo, Arthur Kennedy, Jeannine Mestre, Jose Lifante, Giorgio Trestini

Synopsis: An experimental machine designed to kill insects is causing the recently dead to rise.

Thoughts:

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is one of the first movies to follow Romero’s lead with the slow moving cannibalistic “ghouls” first unveiled in Night of the Living Dead. Although the origin of the zombies is unique for its time, the general storyline is familiar; an unknown source is causing the recently deceased to rise and feed on the living.

Even though the story is familiar, this is a damn good zombie movie. The story moves along and the I thought it was a smart move to make the zombies “recently deceased” so there wasn’t a need for excessive makeup.

George, the lead played by Ray Lovelock, was really a jerk, but for some reason, he really worked here. In a lot of ways, he reminded me of Ben from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which was really reinforced by the ending of the movie. Arthur Kennedy was also a standout, chewing through every scene he showed up in. Overall, the cast was really great here, which helped push this past the usual zombie fare.

In recent years, many foreign horror movies that were once considered cult classics have pretty much become mainstream. Most horror fans seem to know Fulci’s work, but this movie is one that flies under the radar. It shouldn’t. It’s one of the best out there. If this has somehow escaped you, make a point to watch it soon.

axe

Directed By: Frederick Friedel 

Starring: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Green, Frederick Friedel, Douglas Powers, Hart Smith, Scott Smith

Synopsis: Three killers are on the run, and stumble upon an isolated farmhouse that is the home of Lisa and her paralyzed grandfather.

Thoughts:
Axe is a pretty typical exploitation story, and something we’ve seen done multiple times, and often done better. Three criminals are on the run and looking for a place to hide. They find an isolated farm with a vulnerable target, in this case, a young girl named Lisa, who is caring for her paralyzed Grandfather. The criminals terrorize and humiliate Lisa, driving her over the edge until she snaps and exacts her revenge.

The film was originally released as Lisa, Lisa in 1974. As you can imagine, the title didn’t do a lot to attract viewers, so it was retitled as Axe, as well as California Axe Massacre, in an obvious attempt to ride the coattails of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The title change eventually attracted the attention of the British Board of Film Classification, which placed Axe on the list of Video Nasties. Why Axe landed on the list is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it was due to the cover, or that it was a young girl enacting revenge, but in reality, the majority of the action occurs off screen. This movie could have been much gorier, and even much darker had the director decided to.

Frederick Friedel filmed another movie at the same time as Axe, The Kidnapped Coed. Years later, Friedel would cut the movies together as The Bloody Brothers, creating a “twisted crime epic” as described by Severin Films. Severin, put out a rather amazingly extensive edition of Axe and The Kidnapped Coed, as well as Bloody Brothers. I’ve yet to watch either The Kidnapped Coed or Bloody Brothers, but for fans of 70s exploitation, it’s a pretty great set.

Overall, I found Axe to be on the boring side. There were some creepy elements to it at times, but it didn’t have much in the way of shock value, especially when comparing it to something along the lines of Last House of the Left or I Spit on Your Grave, which are the benchmarks in the revenge exploitation genre.

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How Nasty Is It?
Not very nasty at all. While it hints at some darker themes, most of the action takes place off the screen. In my opinion, this title landed on the list mostly due to its cover and theme.

slumber-party-massacre-double-feature

 

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

 

Directed By: Deborah Brock

Starring: Crystal Bernard, Kim McArthur, Juliette Cummins, Patrick Lowe, Heidi Kozack, Joel Hoffman, Atanas Illitich, Scott Westmoreland

Synopsis: Courtney and her bandmates rent a condo for the weekend, looking to play music and party, but little do they know that they are being stalked by a drill wielding killer.

Thoughts:

This movie is the perfect example of a sequel being made on premise alone. The first movie, while somewhat iconic, really isn’t that great of a move. I wrote that that movie had a bit of an identity crisis, not knowing whether it should be serious or not, but the sequel goes for the comedy side of things, as well as some musical numbers (yes, you read that right).

The first time I watched this was after a long day of drinking, and honestly, I had to rewatch it again the next day because all I remembered were nonsensical flashbacks, dream sequences and a very non-threatening killer with a ridiculous guitar singing and prancing around. Much to my surprise, I witnessed the same thing sober!

I can’t say I’m a big fan of this movie. It’s just too silly without actually being funny. The characters can be off-putting at times, especially TJ (Hoffman), who I was just waiting to get the drill. It does star Crystal Bernard, who would go on to star in Wings throughout the 90s, among other things, but other than that, the cast is pretty barren.

Unless you have a desire to be a completist, skip this one and skip right to the third.

Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

 

Directed By: Sally Mattison

Starring: Keely Christian, Brittain Frye, Michael Harris, David Greenlee, Brandi Burkett, Hope Marie Carlton, Maria Claire, Maria Ford, Yan Birch, Ron Smith

Synopsis: A slumber party goes awry as a killer shows up, wielding power tools in inappropriate ways.

Thoughts:

After a sequel that went in a different direction, the third entry goes back to a prototypical slasher formula, a move that I think was very successful. Gone are the crazy dream sequences and, most importantly, the dream sequences.

Although formulaic, I found this to be one of the more enjoyable of the series, even more so than the first movie. There was a plot, although paper thin, and the kills were pretty outrageous. The cast was larger than the last movie, which created more kills, and made the movie move along at a faster pace.

Although not memorable in any sort of way, this is one of those movies that would be fun to watch on a weekend with friends. It’s not going to rival the top slashers of the era, but this is worth a watch.

anthropophagus

 

Directed By: Joe D’Amato

Starring: Tisa Farrow, George Eastman, Saverio Vallone, Serena Grandi, Margaret Mazzantini, Mark Bodin, Bob Larson, Rubina Rey, Zora Kerova

Synopsis: A group of friends plan to tour some islands in the Mediterranean, but run into trouble in the form of a deformed cannibalistic maniac.

Thoughts: If there is one thing I’ve learned from watching Italian horror movies, is that it’s a pretty bad idea to visit islands. You’re guaranteed to run into cannibals, zombies or some sort of bloodthirsty maniacs.

Anthropophagus is no different. We see two German tourists stop off at a beach and immediately meet their demise at the hands of an unseen killer wielding a rather large butcher knife. As the movie progresses, we find that the killer is Klaus Wortman, who was believed to be lost at sea with his wife and son. Klaus survived, but his family did not, and he ate them to survive, which ultimately drove him insane and led to him becoming a cannibal.

The story is pretty solid, although the characters make some very poor decisions that you’ll find in a lot of horror movies. They split up, they venture into areas they shouldn’t and ultimately, most of them die for it. I always find it hard to critique actors when the movie is dubbed, but Anthropophagus never came across as campy, so that says something for the actors, the script and the direction.

Joe D’Amato, mostly known for sexploitation type movies (both hardcore and softcore), ventured into the horror genre in the early 80s and did so with a splash of blood and gore. In addition to Anthropophagus, he directed its sequel Absurd and Beyond the Darkness.

Based on his background, Anthropophagus has surprisingly little sex in it. Instead, he focused on the atmosphere and brutality of the attacks. It worked very well, as Klaus is an extremely memorable and creepy killer.

There are a multitude of very bad movies on the Video Nasty list. Anthropophagus is not just another boring gore fest with bad FX. It has an above average story, some great direction and a great setting. Add that to some pretty nasty gore, and you have yourself one of the better entries on the list.

How Nasty Is It? This one deserves its place on the list, if only for a couple of scenes. There are some pretty long stretches where there isn’t a lot of action, but when there is action, it’s pretty gruesome. This is topped off by Eastman catching up to Maggie and rips her unborn child from her womb and eats it. This scene actually had some prosecutors believing that this was an actual snuff film!

evilspeak

 

Directed By: Eric Weston

Starring: Clint Howard, RG Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Richard Moll, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner

Synopsis: Stanley Coopersmith is often the target of bullies at a military school until he finds an ancient book giving his the ability to exact his revenge.

Thoughts:

Does it ever pay to pick on the outcast in class? You would think we had learned our lesson from Carrie, which has many parallels to Evilspeak. Instead of being psychic, Stanley happens upon a book detailing the powers of a Black Mass.

The movie starts with a flashback to medieval times, where we see Richard Moll as Father Estaban, the leader of a Satanic Church. As I started looking at Moll’s filmography, there are a surprising number of horror and cult titles that he’s been a part of, many of which have had releases lately. Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, The Dungeonmaster and Night Train to Terror, along with House, could make for a pretty kick ass Moll Marathon!

As we flip to the present, we find Clint Howard, who is also no stranger to the horror genre, as Stanley Coopersmith, the orphaned student that seemingly everyone picks on, including the faculty. Evilspeak takes some time getting to the action, but the final scene is pretty insane, with Howard flying around a church (on obvious wires) swinging a monstrous sword decimating his enemies.

Evilspeak isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s not a bad watch. Interestingly enough, Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, is a huge fan of the film. I thought that it took some time to get going, but the finale was worth it.

How Nasty Is It? Evilspeak is included in the infamous Video Recordings Act of 1984, making it a Video Nasty. There’s a good bit of gore in the finale, but it’s not realistic at all. There is also a shower scene, where a secretary meets her demise at the hands (hooves?) of demonic boars. In my opinion, the reason this ended up as a Video Nasty was because of the Satanic themes. Compared to many of the other titles on the list, this is very tame.

krampus

Directed By: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Stefania LaVie Owen,

Synopsis: A family’s Holiday gathering is spoiled by the arrival of Krampus, a spirit that comes during Christmas to punish the wicked.

Thoughts: The legend of Krampus, which comes from German folklore has become quite a popular subject the last couple of years. He’s appeared in a few films and can be found throughout popular culture. From what I’ve seen, this is one of the better movies to depict Krampus, and it also happens to be the long awaited follow up of Michael Dougherty, who brought is 2007’s classic Trick ‘r Treat.

The story here is straight forward, a family gets together to celebrate, but tensions are high, causing everyone to fight and therefore make the whole affair miserable. Max, one of the children, rips up his letter to Santa and throws it out the window, which summons Krampus.

There is a lot to like about Krampus. The cast is well above average with Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner being the most well-known actors involved. The FX are also great, with Krampus and his army of nasty creatures being well thought out and pretty damn creepy. Even with that, there is something… lacking with Krampus. Maybe it is because Trick ‘r Treat is so damn perfect, I was expecting the same here. I’ve watched it twice now, and found it enjoyable, but just not blown away. That being said, I believe time will be kind to Krampus, and I can see it becoming a Christmas horror classic, even if it isn’t as good as Trick ‘r Treat. The story and quality of the movie overall are more than enough to carry it. I’m glad to have it in my collection, and will certainly be watching it again next December.

silent-night-deadly-night-5-the-toy-maker

Directed By: Martin Kitrosser

Starring: William Thorne, Jane Higginson, Van Quattro, Tracy Fraim, Mickey Rooney, Brian Bremmer, Neith Hunter, Clint Howard

Synopsis: Deadly toys lead to a nefarious toymaker and his bizarre son, but not everything is as it seems.

Thoughts: The final installment of the original franchise is, without a doubt, the most bizarre entry. While the first there were slasher films, and the second dealt with the occult, The Toy Maker starts with someone delivering killer toys. It’s not very clear why the toys are being delivered at first, but the story starts to unwind as the movie progresses.

The most interesting casting choice is that of Mickey Rooney as a toy shop owner. Rooney famously campaigned against the first movie. I guess that a paycheck outweighed his morals when it came to The Toy Maker. The rest of the cast is pretty much what you’d expect, but Brian Bremmer turns in a rather bizarre performance as Pino, the son of Rooney’s character Joe Petto.

The Toy Maker is worth checking out just for the bizarre twists in the movie. The ending is pretty unique, and definitely not something you see coming. Sadly, there isn’t a quality release of The Toy Maker (just like part 4), but you can find the triple feature on DVD pretty cheap.