Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Absurd-1981-movie-3

AKA: Anthropohagus 2; Monster Hunter; Horrible; The Grim Reaper 2

Directed By: Joe D’Amato

Starring: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger, Hanja Kochansky, Charles Borromel, Ian Danby, Ted Russoff

Synopsis: A psychopath with a healing factor escapes and goes on a killing spree.

Thoughts:   Absurd is short on plot, but goes the extra mile with the gore. Although it is often referred to as a sequel to Anthropophagus, there is very little tying the movies together. Both feature George Eastman as a homicidal maniac, both were written by Eastman and both were directed by Joe D’Amato. I’ve read that critics accused Absurd of being nothing more than a Halloween rip-off upon its release. The basic premise is the same, with a silent killer stalking his prey, being near impossible to kill, and both films feature a babysitter. As I was watching Absurd, I didn’t feel like it was a Halloween rip-off, or at least any more so than other slasher films from the 80s.

It’s easy to see why Absurd landed on the BBFC’s radar. It had the pedigree of Anthropophagus and Joe D’Amato and is filled to the brim with gory deaths. Other than that, I find Absurd to be unremarkable. There isn’t an overly notorious scene like one from Anthropophagus, the story is straight forward and the acting isn’t memorable. 88 Films released a good-looking version of the film in their Italian Collection if you want to check it out, and if you are a completest like me, you’ll pick it up because they numbered their releases.

Fans of the Video Nasty list will surely check this one out, as will people exploring the filmography of Joe D’Amato, but frankly, there are better examples of Italian horror and splatter films.

How Nasty is it? The gore starts from the very beginning here as George Eastman eviscerates himself climbing over a fence and his intestines are hanging out and doesn’t relent until the end.

ZombieCreepingFlesh_quad-1

 

Directed By: Bruno Mattei

Starring: Jose Gras, Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garafalo, Selan Karay, Joseph Lluis Fonoll

Synopsis: Government experiments lead to a zombie outbreak.

Thoughts: The success of 1978’s Dawn of the Dead led to many, many zombie movies flooding the market in the 80s. It just so happens that many of those zombie movies came from Italy. Bruno Mattei, already well on his way to becoming a master of Italian genre cinema, set out to make a film similar to Dawn, but lighter in tone. What was delivered was a bit of a mash-up of Italian action movie, cannibal movie and zombies.

The story, although basic in premise, is drawn out for a bit too long. The runtime, at just over an hour and forty minutes would have benefited from some tighter editing. The effects were also all over the place. In some scenes, the zombies and attacks were very well done and realistic. In others, it looks like some amateurs first attempts at creating zombie make-up.

The acting is also laughable, especially that of the team of commandos that are dispatched to deal with the outbreak. Unlike a lot of movies from this era of Italian horror, there aren’t any recognizable names here.

Even with Zombie Creeping Flesh being a bit too long and sloppy at times, and the acting being subpar at best, I had a good time watching this. It embodies the term “so bad it’s good.” If you want to watch the best of zombie cinema, stick with Romero and Fulci. If you want a movie that you can sit back and crack jokes about the acting and camera work, this is a great candidate.

How Nasty Is It?

This has some pretty gory scenes of gut munching nastiness, especially during the portion of the movie where the group encounters the cannibal tribe. It’s something that is seen throughout the zombie and cannibal genres, but you can see how it caught the eye of the BBFC.

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.

How Nasty is It?
As far as gore goes, this is pretty typical zombie fare.  There’s some gut munching and tearing flesh, but nothing we haven’t seen from Romero, Fulci or the rest of the zombie maestros.

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.

lisa-lisa-theatrical-advertisement

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.