October Movie Challenge installment 2

Okay, here's what I got done yesterday.  Probably won't get anything done tonight 'cuz it took me so long to type all this stuff up...

Victims!  (C, 1985) A girl gets an axe in the head, a naked woman gets hacked up with a meat cleaver, and a girl gets stabbed in the skull by a transvestite with a butcher knife... and that's just in the first two minutes!  This no-budget piece of mean-spirited sleaze hangs out the "People Of Good Taste Not Welcome" sign early and then runs with it.  A scrawny, dope-nervous-looking guy and his scumbag buddy escape after a robbery and hole up in the hills, where they find a young couple.  They knock the boyfriend out by smashing him across the mouth with a shotgun and rape the girl, just so we know who we're dealing with here.  Into their wilderness wonderland of depravity come four girls out for a "wild weekend" of rock-hunting.  Every guy in the movie is a leering creep who harasses them, so it's amazing that they'd be willing to leave the house.  And it only gets worse when they return from a skinny-dipping escapade to find their campsite's been ransacked.  They wisely decide to get the hell out of there (earning them the viewer's respect), but someone's disabled their car.  They set out to walk the ten miles back to civilization but unseen people terrorize them and then the two creeps show up to rape and humiliate them.  They make the girls go down on each other, rant a lot about how women are all asking for it by wearing skimpy clothes, threaten to murder them, etc.  These girls are resourceful, though, and they may not be the only ones suffering before it's done.  The film clumsily exploits the victimization of women while trying to promote a stance against male chauvinism, on a budget of zilch.  It's more competent than some although the acting's about on a Hershel Gordon Lewis movie level, and the filmmaking's so skangy that at one point dialogue gets drown out by an offscreen lawnmower.  Soundtrack songs sometimes start at  midpoint.  Nasty little obscurity that was infamous in the tape-trading underground in the 80's but escaped the notice of most video guides. Directed by Jeff Hathcock.

Here's a guy's YouTube review: 

Curse of the Aztec Mummy (B&W, 1959) aka La Maldicion de la Momia Azteca.  Sequel to The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy.  The mad doctor known as The Bat is in police custody but his henchmen are still on the loose and manage to hijack the bus taking him to prison.  Absurdly, a masked wrestler called The Angel shows up out of nowhere to fight them, but with the help of submachine guns (they had no blanks for them so the actors just shake them while a drumroll plays on the soundtrack)  he escapes.  The Angel teams up with some victims of the Aztec curse (explained by flashbacks to previous films), but The Bat kidnaps Flora (who's a reincarnation of the Aztec Mummy's girlfriend) and tries to hypnotize her into telling where a treasure's buried.  The Angel (who wears his mask even while sitting in bed reading) answers his wrist radio to help, but he's no Santo and gets beaten up again and mocked by The Bat ("I don't admire your valor!")  who tries to trap him in a pit of snakes.  The Angel has to be rescued by a child.  Meanwhile The Bat and his men are exploring a destroyed tomb trying to find the treasure.  The mummy doesn't show up at all until the last ten minutes, which is a shame because he's a pretty cool-looking monster.  Then the damn Angel is captured AGAIN and has to be rescued by the mummy!  I see now why the Angel doesn't want to show his face; he's the sorriest hero ever!  I don't admire his valor, either!  You sit through a lot for literally two minutes of mummy footage, which makes me wonder at the acumen of these filmmakers; they've already got the mummy costume, and they should know that people who go to a movie with him in the title want to see more of him.  Go figure.  At least you get some hysterically bad dubbed dialogue, which is more than enough to make this worth watching.

Whole movie: 

Orca (C, 1977)  Jaws variation tries to make America's sweetheart, the killer whale, into an object of terror.    Richard Harris is trying to capture a great white shark for an aquarium, but a killer whale kills his target shark (and rescues a diver in the process).  Charlotte Rampling, in a lecture, explains that killer whales are so intelligent that humans are "retarded" in comparison, and Harris decides to go capture one of those instead, even though she warns him off.  He promptly and incompetently kills a pregnant female killer whale and gains one hell of an enemy in the form of her enraged mate.  Seeking vengeance, the male orca starts attacking the ship and dragging down any low-hanging-fruit dumb enough to dangle over the side (and idiots are plentiful in this film).  He spends awhile in a pitiful struggle to keep his mate alive by pushing her dying body through the water but it's hopeless and leaves him more mad for revenge.  Soon he's gone full-blown terrorist, sinking every boat in Harris's harbor, eating all the fish, blowing up refineries, and knocking down houses with his head-butting.  Everybody's pretty pissed at Harris, and even though he's spooked by the whole thing (and has personal demons because his own pregnant wife was killed by a drunk driver) he finally goes after Orc-sama Bin Ladin when he bites off Bo Derek's leg.  The whale earns his reckoning and Harris takes the boat out again, and things get even more ridiculous when the movie turns into an ocean version of Chato's Land.  I know whales are smart, but come on!  Dino DeLaurentis wasn't  exactly making cerebral films at the time, and this one's pretty goofy and more of an adventure film than horror.  It's not boring, though, if your brain can shrug off the insult.  Ennio Morricone's score will help make that easier, as always.

Last House On Dead End Street (C, 1977) aka The Fun House, The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell.  After being released from a year in jail for selling drugs, Danzig lookalike Terry Hawkins starts getting his sleazy dead-end friends together to make some "new kind of movies."  Mostly Terry's pissed at the world, very sociopathic, and looking for a way to take his rage out on some victims.  His friends are burned out and bored enough to do just about anything (before he even gets ahold of them they're whipping girls in blackface at parties) and the porn films they'd been shooting were getting dull (even when they involved dogs).  Terry is played by director Roger Watkins, who was heavily tweaked on crystal meth and maxed out on misanthropic hate when he made this, so the severe vibe of nihilism that comes from this film is sincere; you are in the hands of a filmmaker who wants to hurt and terrorize you.  Terry, the guy he's playing, wants to hurt people even worse, though.  Setting up shop in a crumbling abandoned house with the drugged-out film crew he's assembled, he lures in his real "stars" - or, victims, since Terry's making snuff films.  Wearing a mask that looks like the head of a Greek god's statue, he murders people who wronged him on film.  Most of it really isn't that gory, just weird (such as one guy who's forced to fellate a deer's hoof sticking out of a girl's pants) and only has one truly gruesome scene -- a surgery sequence where a tied-down woman is slashed, has her legs amputated, and is then disemboweled -- and the effects work isn't very convincing.  You can even clearly see the Saran Wrap the organs were packed in pulled out with them.  What earns this film its notorious reputation is the unrelentingly weird, mean-spirited tone of the whole thing.  It doesn't look like any slick production, and it has a genuinely deranged vibe, and the scary-assed music and constant mocking laughter doesn't help you.  You never think you're watching a real snuff film, but you do get the feeling you're watching something made by people who might make one if they though they could find a way to market it.  Disturbing classic that needs to be brought back into print.  Criterion released the overrated Japanese House, so they should start digging here.

The infamous surgery scene: 

The Messengers (C, 2007)  Your conventional horror movie family (Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller as affectionate-but-worried-about-their-daughter parents, Kristen Stewart as the moody big sister (is there any other kind in horror films?), and a little toddler brother) moves into an old farmhouse to try to raise sunflowers.  The place is apparently haunted by grey people who crawl on the ceiling but only the toddler can see them at first.  Crows plague the place, and then Kristen gets attacked by heavy poltergeist activity and is almost dragged into the basement by the grey people.  Her parents think she may be going crazy, but Kristen struggles to figure out what's going on in the house and convince her parents they need to leave.  But, they're  determined to bring in the harvest, even though she keeps getting attacked.  Can she save her family from this assault of the supernatural?  The production values are nice and some of the images are creepy, but this is a really cheap approach to horror.  The atmosphere is a completely conventional process, with music cues relied upon to do all the heavy lifting; the soundtrack would have you believe that EVERYTHING is a harbinger of the apocalypse.  When impending-doom music played over a close up of a bowl of Froot Loops, I 'bout peed.  You top that off with a cheap jump-scare around every thirty seconds (seriously, what this film lacks as a horror movie it makes up for as a kegel workout video), and add overused clichés like a creature creeping up behind somebody only to have it disappear when they turn around and you’ve got by-the-numbers nothing-new horror at its most formulaic.  This stuff was so weak on atmosphere and reliant upon jump scares that I started thinking Sam Raimi directed it under a  pseudonym... and then I went back and checked the credits and damn if he didn’t produce it!  I know my tired hacks by smell!  It didn’t bore me, though, so I won’t say it’s bad, just standard with no new ideas.  Be willing for plug ‘n’ play and you’ll probably have fun with it.

Don’t Open The Door!  (C, 1975) The S. F. Brownrigg movie everyone forgets about reunites several cast members of Don’t Look In The Basement for a slow-burning Southern gothic psycho killer fest.  Responding to a call that the grandma she hasn’t seen in thirteen years is dying, a young lady named Amanda Post comes back to her grandmother’s house to visit her.  Gene Ross plays another Judge, and he and some other townspeople are squabbling over who gets her grandma’s house, which pisses Amanda off.  Grandma’s house is a huge, spooky old place (which Brownrigg exploits to full effect) and she starts getting creepy phone calls from some whispering pervert, who’s hiding in a closet and peeking at her.  He tries to get her to do phone sex while he fondles a doll.  The film is obviously uncomfortable with sex despite being preoccupied with perversity; the sex call scenes are shot timidly, and the discomfort translates to the viewer.  He also implies that he knows something about how Amanda’s mother was stabbed to death, and all the tension begins to drive her crazy.  I love this movie because I’m a major S. F. Brownrigg fan and into the weird atmosphere he builds, but I have to admit that most people would find this one too slow and lacking much of a payoff.  There’s very little blood and the approach to the subject matter is conspicuously prudish, and there’s not a lot of suspense about the caller because you find out who he is pretty early.  But there is an air of twistedness that you can only find in Brownrigg.  But see Don’t Look In The Basement first.

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