Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Chamber of Thrills!

Hi everyone!

Yes, I know that Halloween 2010 has come and gone but for some reason, both facebook and this site would not allow me to upload the run-through of Reedley's haunted attraction, The Chamber of Thrills. After many attempts to do so on both sites, I managed to get it on YouTube and wanted to share it with you all on here. As most of you know, haunted attractions such a these are mostly immersed by darkness, so you will see a good amount of it here. But let the sounds be your guide. I especially love the ending - how it goes from complete chaos to eerie silence. There's nothing like being a horror fan and actually being chased by a guy with a real chainsaw! You have to live it once to appreciate it.

Thank you again to Lore Callahan who let me capture it on video exclusively for LL80'sH, and to the cast and crew for showing us a good time. You guys were awesome - can't wait for next year!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nightmare On 10th Street! - Halloween 2010

Welcome the the 2010 Halloween edition of LL80sH, after a couple of months of silence. I know, it's been awhile, but did you think I would forget the busiest and most-favorite time for horror fans everyone? I think eh-not!

Tonight I'd like to bring to you a glimpse of this year's local Halloween attraction - the Chamber of Thrills, presented by the Greater Reedley Chamber of Commerce located in downtown Reedley, California. So what happens when one of the most beloved and well-known haunts in the area is forced to close down for the season? They ignore adversity and come back in a different venue with a vengeance!

So, being the avid horror fan that I am, I just knew that I had to attend this little psycho-fiesta. I al
ways like to tell people that I meet that are interested in horror that there's nothing quite like the feel of walking through something as visceral as a haunted attraction. Sure, I could see that some would argue that with places like Six Flags and Busch Gardens holding their own version of scare-fests for the October season (with huge production budgets), but it doesn't compare to what the minds of a local group of people passionate about horror (and a low budget) can conjure up.

So the first thing I did when I arrived was walk in without any expectations, just like walking into a horror film that you're about to see for the first time. You know that you've seen films that have scared you half to death, but then again you have seen those that have bored the holy crap out of you that you never want to see again. If you expect too much in this genre, there's that chance that you will be disappointed. So I just sucked it up and got my tickets. I wore my "Ghostbusters" T-shirt in the hopes that someone in the crowd would recognize and appreciate the irony of it, but alas, the irony itself was the fact that the two dragon puppets (which were a fantastic and rather deranged tribute to Statler and Waldorf of "The Muppet Show") that welcomed you to the attraction, got the inside joke and pleaded with me to not call the Ghostbusters on them!

Before even walking into the attraction, I was treated to several choruses of young female screams as one of the actors playing a demon of Lucifer's legion popping out of nowhere and terrorizing the group of said girls. And by "terrorizing" I mean seriously scaring them. This actor was relentless about staying in character and chased the group as their screams echoed through the waiting are of the entrance. And let me tell you, it was pretty convincing. As I looked around, several of the characters made their presence known and it set a great tone for what was waiting inside: A creepy version of Raggedy Ann - along with her severed head in a basket, an actor dressed as a seven-foot rat, A man who adorned his face with barbed wire and blood (carrying a huge axe!), and a person with the body of a human being, and the head of a fox. Don't get me wrong, I know these were people dressed up, but you couldn't help but slowly get sucked into the madness that was about to happen.

The verdict: Amazing! From the moment we walked into the psychedelic and black lit 3-D prologue, I had a feeling this was going to be a memorable ride. Everything from deranged clowns, an insane asylum, to a very spooky walk through a cornfield - that seriously gave me the "Children of the Corn" creeps. What I was struck by the most was that everyone was in character and did what they needed to do to remain so. People popping out from the darkness to grab you and get you to scream out loud, to characters literally following you through the maze - and with (what looked like) real weapons!.

For one brief moment, if you're in the right mindset, of course, you are right in the center of a scene in a horror film. Complete with the rushing adrenalin and that real feeling that someone is after you! For me, though, having been immersed in 70's and 80's horror from such a young age was the attraction's closing point: Walking through the exit, thinking that it's all over only to be confronted by a chainsaw-wielding maniac! And with a real chainsaw! Now if that isn't enough to shit your pants - I don't care how tough you think you might be - then you're a lost cause. The perfect - and completely unexpected - finish to an experience such as this. And forget two two-minute lasting, people--waiting-in-long-lines-behind-you, gotta-move-you-quick-to-get-everyone-through nonsense. How about spending along the line of ten minutes within the annals of a twisted spectacle such as this thrown by people who obviously know what they're doing?

But, let's talk about what I loved the most: The cast. I don't think I've ever come across a more friendly, more experienced bunch of people. And they all knew why they were there and what their main focus was: to entertain and to scare the hell out of you. Though I have to admit that while I spent most of my time laughing (from all the fun I was having), I did have a moment or two in which the Jack McFarland in me came out and I yelped out like, for lack of a better analogy, a helpless puppy in search of its master. My friend Darlene (Admin for the Chamber) and her eight year-old son Paul accompanied me and needless to say it was a night that we would not soon forget.

I'm hoping that this particular attraction returns to Reedley next year soI can do it all over again (Thanks to Lore Callahan, who put this all together, for letting us experience it not once but twice.) Thank you to all the crew (in particular the two great gents who guided us into the attraction), and cast who took the time out to talk with me, and pose for great pictures: Creepy Raggedy-Ann gal, Axe-wielding man, the character known as "Monster", creepy guy with the machete, 7-foot rat guy, Fox-human (Lore), Hillbilly guy (seen above), Chainsaw guy, Insane Asylum doctor-guy, Hippie guy, and my two favorite characters: "Big Red" who was decked out in fabulous drag, and the guy I call, "Mel-Gibson-as-Braveheart-dude". You guys were wonderful and showed a horror-obsessed guy a really good time.

Happy Halloween 2010 everyone!

If you're the slightest bit of a horror fan, I recommend that you seek out something of this type in your local area. There's nothing like being scared and having a great time at a place like this.
To see all the great photos from my visit to the Chamber of Thrills (and some are pretty great), click here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chopping Mall (1986)

First of all let me say that any film with a title this fun has got to be worth a look at least one. But when you have a film that has both a great title and an even catchier tagline, you've got to go for the gusto. This film is probably the best example of the two from a film coming out of the mid 80's (the exception, of course, being the tag line for The Mutilator).

This is one of those video box covers that stayed with me throughout the course of my young years. Every single mom and pop store and grocery store video section had this, I mean, it was everywhere. There was something about the art that just intrigued me but enough to where I shyed away from it. Maybe it was because it was of its suggestive gruesomeness? Maybe because something that cool was actually that scary? Seriously, when have you ever seen a film's one-sheet look this great? I remember finally picking it up back at the old H-E-B grocery store that was on old Highway 83 in Weslaco, Texas back when I was in my teens and took a good look at the back. Nothing to fear, I told myself. I didn't see anything all too graphic so I was pretty sure I was safe. Little did I know that I wouldn't actually pick this one up until much later on.

I found my Lightning VHS copy at a pawn shop when I was living in Missouri back in 2003. I'm not sure as to why I never sat down to actually watch it but nonetheless, it was in my then-budding horror collection so that was all that mattered. When it was finally released by Lions Gate (though I swear by everything in my that Anchor Bay had released it first), I took a Friday night and sat down to finally sit through this. Let me tell you, I was quite tickled.

First of all, any film that opens up in the annals of an 80's shopping mall, complete with not only cameos by the wonderful Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov but playing reprising their roles as the Blands from Eating know that you're in for something interesting. The plot is actually very simple: Robots are created to replace, rather, enhance, security at the local mall. Some kids find a way to stay trapped inside for the night to party on, have sex, blah blah blah. Little do they know that the robots are in full swing, and ready to kill. Their mission? Break out of the mall without dying in the process. Sounds very run-of-the-mill for that time period, right?

In one sense of the word, it is, but on the other hand, it was pretty original for the time it was made and released. Sure, we had seen a horror film set in a shopping mall before (Dawn of the Dead), but this one was a little different. First of all, it screams 80's and that for me was enough to keep me hooked. Any film that has posters for films like Slumber Party Massacre in their backgrounds gets props from me. It's the whole boys-wanna-make-it-with-the-girls-and-the-jock-guy-has-the-hot-slutty-girl-the-average-guy-has-the-average-girl-and-they-both-want-to-set-their-nerdy-guy-up-with-one-of-their-girlfriends routine that we've seen in other films. But just like Hide and Go Shriek, it works. Hottie Russell Todd (who was so underused in Friday the 13th - part 2, which, surprisingly, Lions Gate incorrectly credits him on the back of the DVD cover as being in the first film) along with two other cuties to make this one a particularly entertaining piece to watch.

I will say, though, that I was disappointed in the fact that both the title and film's tagline are completely misleading. No one gets "chopped" and nobody loses an "arm and a leg" though it was pretty cool to see that the one of the kills in the film depicts a rather cool head explosion ala Scanners (Thank God, too, Miss First Victim was quite annoying). The rest of the kills aren't all that great, but it didn't seem to bring the rest of the film down. Kinda makes you wonder what it would be like to be really trapped in a mall with all your friends with killer robots after you. Horror fans know that the original title of the film was Killbots and the behind the scenes featurette with the director and original designer of the bots give a little insight about how it all came to pass. It's actually quite good, though it runs a bit short.

The bottom line on this one is that you're going to be disappointed if you're expecting something over the top, especially with the title of the film being as cool as it is. Because the film's negative was in legal limbo during the time the DVD was made, a VHS master was used as the source (I wondered why there was a Lightning Video logo at the end of the presentation). Even with that said, the picture quality and sound aren't bad at all. I didn't even know it was a VHS master until the last moment of the DVD so that should tell you something. The trailer is on there, though, it doesn't leave much to the imagination and in my opinion, gives just a tad too much away. But I love how the trailer ends, with the Blands rolling their eyes at the camera which gives the slight misleading notion that they are in the core of the film rather than the five minutes they actually have screen time. But that I will overlook.

Because this film seriously reeks of 80's, it's worth a look and if you're a completist, this should already be in your collection. Some of the dialogue is ridiculous but the overall tone of the film and the (partial) originality of the script make this one of the better 80's teen horror films not to be set in a campground. And it's one of the better ones to be set in a retail scenario (again, I include Hide and Go Shriek). Just...go get it.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eaten Alive (1977)

If there is one thing that I always like to stress to either a horror newbie or a veteran looking to expand his horror horizons: Always know a film's alternate titles and pseudonyms! I can't tell you how many horror fans I've talked to and who have missed out on some great films solely because they didn't know that the film(s) they were looking for were right under their noses at their local video store! (Listen to me, talking like the American Establishment known as the mom and pop video store (or even rental store chain) still exists!)

This film is a prime example, boasting not one but seven different alternate titles. Let me flash back to the mid 80's. It's a stormy night in the Rio Grande Valley and I'm late watching TV on my mother's portable black and white set. The thunder is looming overhead and suddenly the screen goes black and this announcer starts telling the story about a monster lurking in the outback. I see something in the distance on the screen and as the announcer continues, this figure comes closer and closer to the screen. Soon enough, I see that it's the mouth of a creature coming closer to me and I freeze in total fear. The narrator stops and announces what I derive to be a coming horror film. The image you see to the left is now on the screen and as the announcement ends with the ominous voice stating, "Legend of the Bayou. Pray it isn't true.", a bite is taken out of the word "Bayou" and the screen goes black.

You don't forget something like that when you're nine years old.

I'd been looking for this particular film for a while now but never could locate it. For starters, I was looking for it with it's alternate title on the left (insert Price Is Right loser music here). One day I was researching another film on line and I bumped into a description of this film with its original title Eaten Alive. When I read the list of alternate titles and saw Legend of the Bayou as one of them, I think I squealed out of pure delight! And I'm being serious. So my research went in a different direction. I quickly learned that there was a DVD print available from Elite Entertainment. (sigh) Ah, Elite. How I love each and every one of your releases. Sadly, though, I couldn't find anyone that had a copy for sale. That is, until last week. I finally got my hands on said Elite version at Rasputin's (for a very low price! Um, about $3.95?) and I was on top of the world. Now, getting my hands on it was one thing. Sitting through it was going to be something else. I mean, when you direct something as landmark and as influential as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, can your follow-up film measure up?

The answer to that is a simple 'no', ONLY because this is a completely different type of film. But when your follow-up film's opening is a man unzipping his fly and spouting the unbelievable line, "My name is Buck and I like to fuck", you know you've tapped into something ultra-special. The premise is simple: Young girl flees a brothel and checks into a local seedy motel on a creepy swamp lake. Hotel owner has a huge crocodile (yes, a crocodile) that he feeds unsuspecting victims to. Sounds cheesy? Sure it does. But this film executes the idea well.

Ok, let me stop and say something. And I know I'm probably going to get a lot of slack for this but I'm one of your more outspoken and unique horror bloggers so here goes: What is the deal with Mr. Robert Englund in this film? Geez, I've seen him in everything from 976-EVIL to Slashed Dreams and never in any of the films I've seen with him has he looked so damn hot! I mean, this is Freddy Kreuger we're talking about here, right? Lord, have mercy, the man comes out in a wife beater and tighty whities! I will probably never see him in the same light ever again. (Lets out a large heaved sigh).

Okay, with that said, let's move on to the rest of the film. For being what it is, Tobe Hooper did a great job. Great performances by Mel Ferrer, Neville Brand, and of course, Chainsaw veteran Marilyn Burns, which, IMO was hired for this film just because the girl can scream. And boy can she scream! The story itself is a bit drawn out at times, but you get a feel for the characters and their plight to escape the evils of ol' Judd and his killer croc. The special effects are not bad for being 1977.

Now wait a minute, now I'm confused. If I saw the trailer for "Legend of the Bayou" on television in the mid 80's, was it re-released just with a different title? I'm going to have to look that up. I remember a kid that went to my church during that time got his dad to take him and see it and I can remember the jealousy I felt because he was able to see it. And now that I'm older, I'm even more jealous that he got to see it on the big screen. I'm even wondering as to why Elite wasn't able to get the TV spots for this one with their different titles? It would have been really great to re-live that little piece of my childhood again. To see that black screen with the eerie mouth coming closer...and closer...and closer......

If anyone has that trailer, or knows where I can see it, PLEASE let me know.

Hell Night (1981)

Oh "Hell Night", the memories that you bring back. Well, let me rephrase that: Oh the memories that your one-sheet poster art brings back.

Picture it: Reedley, California, the summer of 1982. A small mom and pop video store on the edge of the downtown area - the one place that started it all for me and my love of horror. There's a huge piece of my heart that's still in that store though it's been dead and gone for over two decades, and I look back on those times very fondly. Though my mother and siblings went in for the latest Tom and Jerry videos, little did they know that I was secretly gawking and absorbing the rest that the little video store offered.

"Hell Night" was probably the very first horror image that was burned in my brain for all eternity. Linda Blair screaming out into a dark night, the eerie moon hovering over a dark and chilling house. The hands that reached up for her, pulling her toward the ground. But what I remember most is the film's tagline: "Pray For Day". It was amazing and just looking at the poster art to the left sends a chill down my spine. It reminds me of the days when my naivety about 80's horror would soon blossom into a curiosity that I wouldn't be able to resist.

Sadly, this particular mom and pop was the only place I'd ever remembered seeing the VHS for this. Not sure as to why I never saw it anywhere else (from what I remember) but I didn't come across this one again until I came across the Anchor Bay double-bill edition with "Fade To Black", so of course, I snagged it and took it home with me. But, I put in on my shelf with the rest of my films and there it stayed for a while. Then, I was lucky enough to find a used copy of the solo AB edition and poof! there it stayed on my shelf for a while, as well.

It wasn't until just last week that I came across it while fiddling with my ever-growing collection and thought to myself, "You know, I need to sit down and finally watch this." So I grabbed my cousin and slipped this into the DVD player not knowing what to expect. I had already seen the lovely Ms. Blair in the atrocities known as "Grotesque" and "Witchery" so I was thinking this film would probably go the same route. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised how a well-known and very-used storyline could end up to be so entertaining:

Four fraternity/sorority pledges have to spend one night in the infamous Garth Manor, scene of a slaughter years earlier. But, as the house heads are the one playing the pranks, little to they (and the pledges) know, that they are being stalked by an unknown person. I won't get into much of what transpires in the film because when the credits rolled, I immediately added this to my "essentials" list and was pissed off at myself for not having watched it sooner. I love that the film begins with a slamming frat party complete with good looking men, lots of goils and beer and music. Then the films takes the minimalist approach, having only a handful of characters remain for the duration of the film. The plot has been used before, yes, but I loved how director Tom De Simone took it and ran with it giving us some genuine suspense and great moments of terror. Linda, fresh off her stints in The Exorcist and Exorcist II, looks great as does Peter Barton (before his role in Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter) and the rest of the cast.

For being a slasher, this one was a little bit over the rest of them. Surprisingly, I had a great time watching this one and I loved it's ending even though about a third of the way through, I figured it out. The film's final scene was great and I actually stood up and applauded as the credits rolled. Believe me, it was worth the wait. Now I'm actually thinking of obtaining the one-sheet and displaying it on my beloved horror wall. The version I watched with the AB single version, but I checked AB's double-bill with Fade To Black and it's the same version with the same extras. I just read that the double-bill one is worth some money now that it's extremely out of print. I was lucky enough to find it at a flea market for about 2$! Sadly, I hadn't seen that version beforehand, and I haven't seen it since. I would really like to collect all of AB's double-bills but I've been reading that a good majority of them are already out-of-print. 

A classic slasher from a great era that sadly no longer exists...and never will again. If you see it, pick it up. It's a must see.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Piranha (1978)

Usually when I post up an entry like this into this blog, I like to give a small history of how I came into contact with a particular film for the first time and give a history of the first time I picked up a VHS copy of said film and go from there. For some reason, I can't ever remember seeing this on VHS anywhere in the many places I frequented to gawk at endless videocassette boxes resting on shelf after shelf. I don't remember seeing this anywhere in theaters nor anywhere on cable television.

I learned of this film in my later teenage years and read about it here and there and when I read that it was nothing more than a B-version of Jaws, I immediately dismissed it and that was the end of that. I had already seen that film and frankly, it didn't do anything for me so why was I going to spend time watching something that was blatantly ripping it off?

When I began my quest to become a great horror-collector and future horror-blogger, I began sticking my nose in books and reading website after website to learn more about these films that fascinated me during my youth. My parents raised me very strict, so it was impossible for me at that age to have been the fanatic that I'd always wanted to be. So I told myself then that when I was old enough, I would go back to my horror roots and immerse myself in the splatter goodies that I'd come to familiarize myself with as a kid.

I received the news that Shout! Factory was going to put this out as a part of their Roger Corman Classics banner and immediately, I started my reading. I wasn't too interested at first look, honestly, but once I read that the lovely Barbara Steele was in it (who was fantastic in The Silent Scream, one of my favorites), I couldn't resist. I'm not one to hone directly to B-films though I can appreciate the mere camp and production values these kind of films can offer, but the more I read, the more I was interested in the story of how the character fish, being part of a government military experiment, are accidentally set free by an agent sent to look for two missing hikers. The fish threaten not only a local summer camp, but a water park located at the end of the same river. So when the DVD was released, I went out and purchased it. Let me say right now that I was really impressed with the packaging: Lenticular outer 3-D sleeve, reversible cover boasting both the style A and style B of the poster art. So I pop it into the DVD player and watch.

The film, unfortunately, takes a while to get started, which thankfully is the film's only flaw. SF's transfer is great, with minimal grain and fuzz and for a movie so obscure, it was given a great treatment. The first forty-five minutes are drawn out to tell the story of how the fish originated in the swimming pool at the military facility and were released. We get some good character development and some great f/x. But once the last reel comes in, all hell breaks loose both at the summer camp and at Lost River Lake. The film ends rather ominously and it's a great finale to a surprisingly great story. I shouldn't have dismissed so quickly as a rip-off of that other 70's fish film. This film can actually stand on its own, boasting a character all its own. The great gore f/x weren't so over the top so you actually could believe this could happen to you. The acting wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be, which was a great relief (I mean c'mon! Paul Bartel is in this film! And so is Melody Scott! You know, Nikki from The Young and the Restless??) All in all it's a great piece of horror history that you need to have in your collection.

Now let me go just a little further on SF's release. Wow, what a great jobs. In all the mass of horror DVD's that are in my collection, I have never actually sat through all the special features included in one disc. This one was a first. Everything between a new behind-the-scenes featurette (with great interviews with Joe Dante and Mr. Corman himself), scenes that were included in the television broadcast version (which were actually quite good), bloopers and outtakes and a great gallery of still photos and poster art. This one was lovingly done. I'm sure that whomever put this DVD for Shout! Factory had to have really loved this film. You can tell that it was a labour of love and honestly, it scores major points for Shout! Factory. They are about to release B-film greats such as Humanoids from the Deep, Up From the Depths and the complete Slumber Party Massacre collection this fall. You can bet that I'm going to buying each of them. I do own its sequel Piranha II: The Spawning on VHS but held off in seeing this until I could screen its predecessor. If only more companies gave classic films this kind of treatment. Yowza!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Evilspeak (1981)

Let me be the first to say that I'm not a fan of films that have to do with the subject of satanism, for a million and one reasons, which we won't get into now. I was raised in a Christian home and there were certain things that were considered taboo and forbidden in our household and that particular subject was one of them, point blank.

In the realm of horror films, there are many that touch on this particular subject - everything from The Exorcist to John Russo's Midnight. And though I've seen both those films, it's not because I was curious of the particular subject matter in each of those films. With that said, I was going through the DPP video nasty list - yet again - and I saw this one not only had made it to the list, but was actually prosecuted and banned under the Video Recordings Act of 1984 due to violence and the subject of satanism. I read more about this film and for some reason, I became interested in tracking it down and watching it, just to see what it was all about. I could relate to the plot: Nerdy kid gets picked on only to be able to get revenge, so this would be the basis of my reason for watching it.

I found out that Anchor Bay had released this film many years ago and was now out of print. Searching the net, I came across the original AB DVD that was selling for silly amounts of money (only because it was no longer being manufactured) and almost gave up until I found a collector who was willing to send me a DVD-R of said AB version so I could finally screen it. Well, needless to say when the DVD-R arrived, it was unplayable so I took that as a sign and gave up on seeing it altogether. Several months later, I actually did come across the out of print AB version at the local Rasputin's and picked it up used for about $9.95, which was much cheaper that what I'd been seeing it go for on the internet. My cousin and I sat down with popcorn in hand and put it into the DVD player. Was I nervous? Yes. Simply because...well, you know why. He, also, was uncomfortable with viewing the film as well but after an hour or so after talking him though it and promising that the slightest bit of "extremism" will prompt me to turn the movie off, no questions asked, he agreed. So we sat back, and waited for the next hour and a half to pass.

The verdict?

Son-of-a-b!tch I loved this movie! And I bet you're thinking, "what?"

So the movie opens with a bizarre sacrificing ritual about a guy who was banished from the church or something and commends his life to the devil, complete with nudie girl and everything. After this happens, we flash forward to the present day.

Stanley Cooper Smith (brilliantly played by Clint Howard) is attending a military academy and sadly, he isn't the most popular kid in school. He can't play soccer, he's a nerd, and all the guys hate him and pick on him. The superiors know of all this and do nothing to help the poor kid out and right away, you feel for him because the people around him make his life hell (no pun intended). So one day, Stanley finds this strange book which is the book of satan and he discovers that he can call upon the spirit of Estaban (which, in reality, is the name of the guy from the film's prologue) and wreak havoc on his classmates. Sort of like Carrie only with a Commodore 64 as the spirit of a dead guy as his tools. He uses the catacomb under the school to "practice" and soon enough, vengance is his.

There is plenty of gore here to boot and it's all done with such panache that you just can't ignore it. The film itself doesn't really delve into actual "satanism" as the spirit that Stanley calls upon isn't of the devil himself, but of someone who had been a follower. Sure, there are pentagrams at every turn and there are some brief moments of blasphemy that I had to overlook, but once I realized the "big picture", the film was actually surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe it's because I was picked on and tormented in school and deep inside I still harbor some unresolved issues? Maybe I would have liked the chance to "get back" at all those guys who picked on me on the school grounds and the athlectic fields? Maybe that's something I should save for my shrink?

At any rate the film boasts some fantastic and memorable moments. Everything from the pig rampage to the films ultra-gory climax. I enjoyed every minute of it. My cousin, surprisingly, enjoyed it just as much as I did. The gem of this whole production of course, is Clint Howard. He is just amazing in this and shows those bastards when it's time for their come-uppance. He plays the role of the outcast very well and when it's time for him to kick some ass, he KICKS SOME ASS. You can't help but root for the guy, especially when you see all that he's put through.

The ending is left pretty much ambigouous, leaving the viewer to figure out just what happened. Usually the good guys win in pictures like these, but in this case, we get the opposite. And for some reason, I liked that outcome. This one is a good time and I wouldn't say that if I really didn't have fun myself watching this forgotten piece of work. I remember seeing the VHS back in the 80's at Carl's Supermarket in Weslaco, Texas when I was in the seventh or eighth grade and the box art was something I never forgot. I wish that the DVD release put out by AB would have had the U.S. poster art instead of a derivative of the UK version. The picture is great and the soundtrack is just as good. I would say this one is worth seeking out if you can find it. Sadly, it's state of being out of print prevents many gore-hounds from tracking this down. Either AB should re-release it or BU should pick it up and give it's own release, because this one is an overlooked good time just waiting to happen.


La Semana del Asesino (Cannibal Man) (1972)

If there's one thing I love, it's a horror film that takes its time in getting into your brain. One that uses plot and imagery to slowly take you deeper and deeper into its arms until it doesn't want to let go. These types of films are more effective in my book. Sure, we all love gore and jump scares, but what about those films that use tension, mood, and atmosphere to create a sense of doom and despair?

I've known about Cannibal Man for a while now, seeing that it was on the DPP list of Video Nasties back in the eighties. Anchor Bay had first released this and then several years later, Blue Underground re-released it with alternate art. A few months ago, I'd seen the BU version at my local Rasputin's but for some reason, I didn't pick it up. I went back the next week to see if it was still there, but alas, someone had swiped it for their own collection. I then found it again - but this time it was lodged in the "Cult" movie section and I was so excited to see that it was AB's first release that I'd come across. Without thinking, I purchased it (for a modest $7.95) and I took it home so that my cousin and I could finally sit through this one.

The story opens with the inner sanctum of a slaughter house, complete with cow carcasses and blood galore. With this, I wasn't sure as to what to expect. We are then introduced to Marcos (the beautiful Vicente Parra), an employee of said slaughter house and the life he lives in 70's Spain, complete with his humble home out in the middle of a deserted area of the city. One night as he and his girlfriend are out on the town, he becomes involved in a scuffle with the taxi driver they are taking home. He accidentally kills the taxi driver and what transposes from there is one of the most amazing downward spirals I've ever seen captured on film. His girlfriend knows of the murder...will she turn him into the police? Instead of taking a chance, he kills her. When she is presumed missing, someone comes to look for her. To hide her murder, her kills the person coming to look for her. And so on...and so on....and one by one, he takes their remains and disposes of them in the slaughter house's incinerator to erase any trace of them. But who is the man who is watching him from far away? What does he know? And will he tell Marcos that he's been witnessing every murder taking place?

This is a great piece of film making. The photography is superb and direction by Eloy de la Iglesia is absolutely remarkable. The Spanish title translated as "The Week of the Assassin" is more true to the film's overall plot, as Marcos kills for seven days in a row. There is absolutely no cannibalism in the film (which was probably why it was placed on the video nasties list to begin with), which though misleading, it redeems itself with a strong storyline. We watch as Marcos kills again and again and the more he kills, the more he begins to lose touch with reality and the life he's used to leading. He slowly begins to fade away, the murders haunting him day after day until he finally reaches his breaking point. His house soon becomes a den of secrets, each one eating away at him more and more. The ending is both sad and disturbing, as Marcos decides to give in to his madness and turn himself in.

If you're looking for gore, there is not much of it here. If you're expecting cannibalism, you might as well stay clear of this one. But if you love a strong storyline and beautiful photography, then I do recommend this. I was expecting something completely different when I put this into the DVD player for the first time, but I was taken away but a great story, some good gore scenes, some great photography, and some really handsome men. I know that this review is short, but seek this one out. The AB version is already out of print so the BU version will be your best bet. Don't be fooled by BU's cover art though as it can be misleading to what the story is all about and was clearly used solely to attract. They don't make them like this anymore.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Island of Death (Devils in Mykonos) (1975)

First of all, let me say that it's great to be back. Apologies for not having posted on this blog for quite some time but due to working two jobs and other life situations, I've been forced to stay away from here. On the bright side of that, my horror collection has exploded and I've been lucky enough to get my hands on some rare finds and other films that I've been waiting to make part of my plethora of 70's and 80's horror films. 

I am one of those horror fans who is fascinated by the UK's DPP list of "video nasties". Secretly, I am in search of every single one of those films, just to say that I have them. Most of them I do own, but there are some on the list that are just so hard to find that I've given up on searching from them. I've researched them all and though some of them seem like just a big waste of time, yet others have gotten my curiosity a-boiling. Just the other day, I was walking through the anals of the local Rasputin's - which still has one of the largest horror selections I've ever come across - and whilst looking through the DVD horror section, something out of the corner of the eye caught my attention. I pulled it out and saw that it was the U.S. version of "Island of Death", one of the most notorious of the "video nasties". I couldn't believe that I'd come accross it. I'd searched for it before on the likes of Ebay and Amazon and just found that it was too expensive to add to my collection. The price here? $3.95. Yes. $3.95. So I took it home, practically jumping up and down, as one of the most elusive entries to my stacks and stacks of fright flicks was finally coming home with me. 

My cousin and I got home and got comfortable and popped this into the DVD player. Though I was aware of some of the more notorious scenes in the film, I threw all expectations out the window and awaited one of the most thrilling movie-watching moments of my life. Was this film going to live up to the hype and 25+ year reputation that's kept it famously out of print for so long? 

Within the first few minutes, I was speechless. The film tells the tale of a couple that's fled England due to some run-ins with the law to the Greek island of Mykonos to where they cause chaos to everyone they come into contact with. But what they do while on their little holiday is...well, surprising. I'm really torn between giving you the whole plot and giving away every spoiler in the book and just letting you, the reader, see it for yourself. As long as it took me to get a hold of this one, I'm not sure what to do here. If I don't give it all away, the review here will be really short (which would be ironic as the film pretty much runs about two hours). And those of you reading this (who are aware with what this film is all about) are probably expecting a tell-all, over-the-top review from me, but to be honest, I don't even know where to begin. That should tell you how much of an impact this film had on me. There are those films that you read about witch repuations that have followed them through time and you have certain expectations based on those reputations. Then you sit and actually watch said film and you don't know whether to go along with what everyone else thinks or to just stick with your own opinios about it, whether it be good or bad. This is one of those films that I don't know whether to call the biggest piece of shit I've ever seen or one of the greatest explotation flicks I've ever sat in front of. Because it's not a horror film - despite some brief scenes of gore - it's an all out expoit-fest. And I mean that in every sense of the word. 

There are scenes that are going to shock you. There are scenes that will make you scream out "WTF?!". There are scenes that will make absolutely no sense to you. And there are scenes of beautiful photography that will make you ask if the director was making a film with such extremely contrasting scenes on purpose to throw the viewer off, or to ease some of the more extreme scenes. In any case, let me say that most of what transpires in the film is something that has never been done before and will probably be never done again. The goal of this film was to shock and that it does. Everything from bestiality, homosexuality, homophobia, rape,'s all here...even a totally random scene of watersports! And it's presented in a rather blatent fashion. There's nudity everywhere (We even get to see male nudity, which is always good). The film reeks of sleaze. Especially when you get to see the mentality the main character has toward people on the island. It's confusing at first, but then you realize what is "really going on". The film's twist at the finale will make you sick to your stomach, and when the credits roll at the end, you'll sit there and either throw the remote at the television or revel on what the hell you've just put yourself through. 

Image did a really good job on this one. From what I've read, the reason it was put onto an official DVD release was because the director was tired of seeing shitty bootleg copies go for unheard of amounts on the internet. He supervised an official transfer from the original negatives and to be honest, the film looks great. Colors are bright and vivid and the soundtrack doesn't show its age at all. This particular DVD has sold for silly amounts on line so I'd always shyed away from it. Believe me, $40 vs. $3.95? There isn't much in the realm of special features, we get a trailer and some of the (out of place) songs with accompanying slide shows, but that's about it. 

There is alot I want to say about this film. There are just so many things I want to let out (especially about the unexpected revelation at the end), but I feel that as a reviewer and avid horror fan, this is one you need to look for if you're a completist. Especially those of you who are followers of the UK's DPP list. It's one of those films that, no matter how hard I try, I could never convey to you how much this film is different than anything you've ever seen. To be very honest, I was expecting a bit more - since most of the scenes of extremism are actually implicit rather than explicit - but that was where the film hit me most. You get to revel in what the motive behind the couple's spree of depravity originates - since it's never really stated in the film - and think to yourself, how the hell did this get made in the first place? It's a great piece of expoitation film history so it deserves a watch. 

I do apologize for not giving away the major plot points and over-the-top scenes. I just don't have the heart to reveal everything in a film that still hold it's repuation after so long. The final verdict: seek this out if you're curious. Your jaw will drop, I guarantee it. If you've seen this already, don't be shy and leave a comment. I'd love to hear your opinions on this one.