Stuff that is currently on my radar...

Pickt up Chuck Palahniuk's newest, Pygmy, last week + could not put it down. Sure, some nay-sayers claim that his schtick has worn a bit thin, but this book is better than his last coupla novels, + his ability to turn over the rocks of the psyche to expose alla them creepy lil' critters underneath is uncanny. This book is a first-person internal monolog as perspectivized by a sleeper terror-agent from an unnamed totalitarian state. The narrative lookt as if it would quickly become tedious, but instead I found myself trying not to think in the same fuckt-up pidgin as the narrator, "operative me."

The soundtrack to The Venture Brothers, featuring the music of J.G. Thirlwell (aka Foetus, Wiseblood, etc...) is easily lightyears ahead of any recent soundtracks. Thirlwell's wacky production careens from Morricone tribute to Space-Age Lounge, happily bouncing across the highlights of the wildly-broad filmscore genre. And a classy, classic-looking cover, to boot! (A slight aside, the promotional trailer for the upcoming + highly-anticipated Season 4 of VB, can be found here).

Final item: Today Disney announced that it has made an offer for Marvel Comics... As if the Bullpen's editorial staff's decisions weren't already hampered by an overabundance of shareholder-influenced suit-+-tie schmucks who don't read comics but love shitty comics-adaptations' box-office sales, now everyone's gonna be slaving away under the bloated white-gloved thumb (izzit really a thumb?) of the damn Mouse after he already shat on em over Howard the fuckin' Duck... (though honestly, whatever these evil companies are guilty of, they did provide us the opportunities to experience the wonderful works of Jack Kirby + Carl Barks. Almost makes up for alla the sins. Almost...)


Chemical warfare, SAMCRO, and more freakin' movie reviews

Greetings from the land of naturally-occurring chemical burns!

I spent some time this weekend in utter masochistic foolishness, going through the early stages of making hot pepper powder. I picked and sliced up a bunch of habanero and cayenne peppers, put them in a dehydrator, and will later grind them into powder. This sounds like an easy thing to do, right? Oh-no-no-no, my friends, it's anything but! Y'see, these peppers are hotter than Satan's ol' lady in thigh boots, and processing them is more dangerous than refining nitroglycerin. First I had to wrap all of my fingertips in masking tape, then put on surgical gloves. Surgical gloves alone aren't worth much; the pepper juice will eat right through it; this is some serious, serious shit. I forgot to use a face mask so I was soon pouring out snot all over my shirt, and even though I was reeeeeallly careful when I blew my nose a couple of times, I ended up with a bright red, burning nose-area, and the juice ate a hole through one of the thumbs of the glove, and that's the one finger I'd forgotten to masking-tape, so my thumb is STILL constantly burning like somebody's holding a lighter to it, a day later and after washing it about 1000 times in everything from soap and water to milk to alcohol to Noxema. Nothing gets the capsaicin off of you; it has to wear off. I can still put my thumb in my mouth and burn my tongue. And I'm really not looking forward to putting my contact lenses in tomorrow. This stuff is comprable to law-enforcement-grade pepper spray. I sneezed a lot, I vomited once, I roared profanities... but I got them lil' bastards in the dehydrator. And later I get to try to run them through a coffee grinder, which definitely requires a face mask and a well-ventilated area (probably the carport, if the ATF doesn't surround my house). It's like I've got my own meth lab, except legal, more dangerous, and... delicious! The resultant powder is righteous stuff, better than anything you can buy, which is the only reason I'm stupid enough to subject myself to this torment.

But I'd planned to do an entire bucket full, and now I think I'm probably gonna stop at just the one load. I'm gettin' too old for this Steve-O shit.

Anyway, more movie reviews this week. Plus one major TV show recommendation: Sons of Anarchy season 1 just came out on DVD, and you should pick it up. The new season starts on FX September 8, and you should watch that, too... just to see Henry Rollins playing a white supremacist, if nothing else. (Gotta be a hard role for Hank, because he's about the most anti-racist person you could imagine... he's got an anti-racism rant at the end of his You Saw Me Up There DVD that'll make you yell "Hell yeah!" even while it brings tears to your eyes). Anyway, Sons of Anarchy is probably the best thing on TV since The Shield, and if you know how much I love The Shield you'll know how high this praise is going. I got completely addicted to it and wasn't able to do much else for the week after I got the season 1 set. I've been addicted to many TV series -- The Sopranos, The Shield, Oz, Deadwood, The Wire, Lost, etc. -- and Sons of Anarchy ranks up there with the best of 'em, with the potential to be even better. It's based on Shakespeare's Hamlet in a vague way, with the young vice-president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original chapter) coming into conflict with the president of the club (Ron Perlman) when he finds a manuscript his late father left behind, lamenting the criminal direction the club was taking. As the club's gun-dealing activities get them under the scrutiny of the ATF, bodies pile up, brotherhood gets strained, tragic stuff happens, and... fuck, dude, just watch the show, you will not regret it. It's worth buying the DVD set sight-unseen, just trust me on it. Katy Sagal will make you forget that she was ever Peg Bundy, and Charlie Hunnam will make you forget he's British (he's even got that white-trash walk down pat, and I've been seein' that all my life so I'd know if it didn't ring true!).


Birthright (B&W, 1951) Educational hygiene film (with titty!) about the tragedy of a chicken farmer named John and his family. John’s not much better at raising chickens than he is at acting (and at acting he -- and everybody else in this film -- suh-uh-uh-uh-UUUCKS!) so he gets frustrated and goes out drinking one night and has a one-night-stand with a waitress who gives him VD. John raises spirokeets better than chickens and soon infects -- and impregnates -- his wife. She’s not big on doctor check-ups and doesn’t know she’s been be-clapped, so she’s incubating a VD baby! Luckily they get it tended to in time, and we’re treated to some graphic birth-of-a-baby footage, including a normal birth and a really excruciating-looking breech birth. The cast is made up of extremely rural Southerners who definitely aren’t professional actors; their terribleness gives this an almost surreal atmosphere.

Black Room, The (B&W, 1935) aka The Black Room Mystery. In one of his best movies, Boris Karloff plays ill-fated twins. One is kindly but has a paralyzed arm. The other is evil and rules over a village, oppressing the people and murdering local girls. The people have had about enough of his atrocities and are on the verge of revolt, so the evil brother abdicates the rule to the good brother and then murders him and hides his body in a pit in the castle’s Black Room. He then fakes having a bad arm and poses as the good brother, but continues his evil ways, even tricking a girl into marrying him. A family legacy is working against him, however. Excellent acting, good direction, and atmospheric cinematography make this classic Karloff.

Cremators, The (C, 1972) aka Dune Rollers. I’m not sure why I’m so fond of this dull, poorly-done sci-fi/horror schlocker, but I think it must be the narration and dialogue. It tries so hard to sound profound -- and fails so utterly -- that it’s almost like poetry. Edgar A. Guest poetry! A meteor falls, seen only by an Indian and a hammerhead shark (“He snapped greedily at the meteor as it fell. Quite reduced in size now, the fish swam away and, presently, he died. That was 300 years ago.”) Then in present times a hippie spends all his time running up and down the beach like an idiot. The narrator informs us that the sand dunes are “like vast creeping monsters, kept traveling around” and “the word ‘ecology’ became a warning note, as it left dead, lifeless things in its wake. Some, like Ian Thorne, sought the loneliness of the lake country and a last chance to turn the tide against the creeping death.” Even though the narrator makes it sound like Ian’s been killed by ecology, he hasn’t, and as he’s studying bugs and tide pools he finds some funny glowing rocks (“like someone’s drowned jewelry”). He hands a few out, and whoever has them gets chased by giant rolling fireballs which turn them to ash. Repeated footage of the wind blowing away a three-inch smiley-faced stick figure made of cigarette ashes follows each kill, and a couple of rusty fenders and a car frame are used to represent a burned car. Ian keeps studying the rocks and insects (a girl asks him “How come you’re so into bugs?” and he says “It’s what I want!” and then they go on about wanting to be “haunted by personal memories.” And then they discuss how they “curse at the pillow that’s wet, and you beat it out, trying to go back to sleep again.”) He finds some of the rocks inside the beach-hippie’s dead cat. He and a colleague decide this fireball is a mother trying to collect its baby rocks, and they have to find some way of appeasing it. Very low-budget and slow-moving, yet somehow likeable. Used to come on late-night TV, and the story it’s based on (“The Dune Roller” by Julian May) can be found in Alfred Hitchcock’s Stories Not For The Nervous. Oddly, the woman in this film (Maria de Aragon) played Greedo in Star Wars.

Cruising (C, 1980) Controversial, unjustly-panned neo-noir by William Friedkin following undercover cop Al Pacino into a personal hell as he infiltrates the homosexual leather bar scene, searching for the killer (or killers) who is knifing gay men and leaving dismembered corpses in the river. Pacino’s happily married, not gay, so he has to strike a careful balance of appearing to be part of the scene while not getting too involved in it. The psychological strain gets to be too much for him and he starts fearing that he may be gay, and even may be the killer. He can’t keep track of his own loss of identity and is stuck between worlds, and hunting down a killer has the same mechanics as stalking a victim. The identity of the killer is left unresolved, which dissatisfied some viewers, but that’s kind of the point -- there’s always a killer out there. Gay groups protested this film during production, trying to stop it by making lots of noise to drown out the dialogue and using reflectors to screw up the lighting. Critics also protested that the film made gay life look sleazy, violent, and ritualistic, but I think that’s a politically-correct, reactive criticism, since Friedkin is not dealing with gay life in general (and states this directly) -- he’s dealing with the leather bar SM subculture. I’m no expert, but any scene based on costumes and role play and scenarios is ritualistic (and so what?), clubs based around sex are sleazy (if they’re any good!), and sadomasochism -- gay or straight -- does have a dark, violent side, which is part of the appeal to the participants. I don’t know if Friedkin depicted that world accurately or not, but I don’t think he dealt unfairly with it in the context of a serial killer story, and the film doesn’t make any real statement on gays in general. Not being gay, I can’t say if any of it should be offensive to them or not, but I have gay friends and, from a sympathetic perspective, don’t think it should be. Pacino gives one of his best performances and handles a volatile role with a great degree of skill, and Friedkin’s direction is near masterpiece level, creating a unique, oppressive, threatening atmosphere, which any undercover-cop-seeking-out-a-serial-killer story should have, and leaves implications about Pacino’s character’s psyche open, and therefore universal. The film’s confrontational and likely to make you uncomfortable (especially if there’s any homophobe in you) but don’t movies about killers that don’t make you uncomfortable fail miserably? If this film had been made a few years later, it could look like a metaphor for AIDS -- a faceless, random killer with an identity that can’t definitely be pinned down. Now that the uproar has died down and time has passed, this film deserves critical re-evaluation, because it’s far too well made for the dismissive treatment it’s gotten from some reviewers (Mick Martin & Marsha Porter’s book was especially cowardly -- it’s controversial so they just ducked dealing with it at all -- just a condemnation with no detail.) Friedkin planned to use a lot of music from punk band The Germs, but ended up just using one song even though he became a big fan.

Devils, The (C, 1971) aka The Devils of Loudun. Crazed masterpiece from Ken Russell, adapting Aldous Huxley's novel, was the target of massive controversy and censorship. As a plague ravages the French city of Loudon and Protestants are being persecuted, narcissistic priest Urban Grandier (Oliver Reed) lives like a libertine, indulging his lusts with women and exerting a lot of political power, which puts him in the way of the ambitious Cardinal Richelieu. A hunchbacked and sexually-frustrated nun (Vanessa Redgrave) is so overwhelmed with lust for Grandier that she suffers blasphemous visions of sex with him, in which he assumes the guise of Christ. Richelieu exploits Redgrave's erotomania to make it look like Grandier is some sort of incubus who’s gotten the whole convent possessed by demons. In short order nuns are letting all their repressions go and enacting blasphemous orgies, including the mass sexual assault of a giant crucifix. A fanatical witchhunter/ exorcist drives the whole spectacle, and a pair of demented “medical men” use it as an opportunity to try all sorts of vile experiments to drive out the demons (earlier Grandier had stopped them from torturing plague victims with hornets as a “cure”). Grandier is falsely accused and tortured while Richelieu’s government has its way with the city, no longer under Grandier’s protection. There’s plenty of substance but style is clearly Russell’s preoccupation, setting up an atmosphere of hallucinatory madness right from the start and then seeing how far he can push it, until the movie’s just a circus of debauchery, gore, and blasphemous images. Staunch Catholics won’t be pleased, but lapsed Catholics may be delighted. The film has been notoriously hard to find in uncut form; even the “uncut” bootleg DVD (from EuroCult) is missing a few scenes, supposedly, although I can’t verify that those scenes were ever actually included in any legitimate print. The quality of that DVD is nowhere near as poor as rumors would lead you to believe, although an upgrade would still be welcome; Warner Brothers has had this listed as an upcoming release for almost a decade now, but keeps chickening out in fear of a church backlash. Religion ruins everything.

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (C, 1970) aka Le Foto Proibite di una Signora per Bene. Pretty Dagmar Lassander is almost raped one night by a sadistic jerk, but at the last minute he leaves, saying he’ll be back for her later. She becomes obsessed with him, and eventually he contacts her again, blackmailing her for sex in exchange for an audiotape that implicates her husband in a murder. After that he blackmails her with threats to send her husband photos taken during the first blackmailing session. Rather than falling for that again, she ‘fesses up to her husband... but that results in new kinds of trouble, with the blackmailer still stalking her and her husband thinking she hallucinated it all in the midst of some neurotic breakdown. The ending isn’t any big surprise, and this giallo is more preoccupied with sex than violence (it’s nearly completely bloodless), but it’s stylish enough (thanks to Luciano Ercoli’s direction) and has a decent Ennio Morricone score, so it’s worth watching despite not being A-list giallo material.

Gits, The (C, 2005) aka The Gits Movie. Well done documentary on the great punk/grunge punk band and the tragic murder of their lead singer, Mia Zapata. It’s great seeing footage of Mia and hearing people talk about her, but it’ll also bum you out and make you really angry at the bastard who killed her and robbed the world of her incredible talent. The first half is concerned with the rise of the band, its influence, and its success (they were just about to go to a major label). The second half deals with the murder, its effects (it pretty much destroyed the whole local scene), and the hunt for the killer, who was eventually caught by a lucky DNA match. Very engrossing throughout, with some of the best music you’ll ever hear, but all that coolness will make you feel the real weight of the loss that followed, and it’s a damn heavy one.

God Forgives... I Don’t (C, 1967) aka Dio Perdona... Io No!, He Never Forgives, Blood River, God Forgives... I’m not fond of cream pies in my spaghetti, so I’ve never been all that drawn toward the Terrence Hill/Bud Spencer Westerns. This one, though, isn’t a comedy or a parody, so I was much more inclined to check it out. Unfortunately, the plot is so overly-convoluted and hard to follow that it’s pretty uninvolving. Hill is a gambler and Bud is an agent for an insurance company. They team up to find the gold some bad guys robbed from a train, where all the passengers on board were slaughtered. They find it and hide it, but then the train robber (whom Hill had thought he’d killed) catches them and tries to make them tell where the gold is hidden by repeatedly dropping Hill down a well. They also torture Bud with a red-hot iron. Finally Hill leads one of the bad guys to the gold, but he pulls a trick and kills him, then calls the train robber out for a showdown. Meanwhile, Bud is breaking loose and planning some revenge of his own. Plenty of violence, but not much style, and is a little tedious. The DVD is overpriced, struck full-screen from a mediocre print. Spaghetti Western fanatics only.

Home Room (C, 2002) Excellent, underrated (in fact, almost unnoticed) and very well-written drama set in the aftermath of a school shooting. While the school is closed for mourning, the principal demands that a highly-antisocial goth girl (Busy Philipps from TV’s Dawson’s Creek) go spend time with a lonely student (Erika Christensen) recuperating in the hospital. Christensen is a brain whose intelligence intimidates the other students, so even though she has a sunny personality, she doesn’t have many friends. Philipps is a very smart bookworm, but her contemptuous attitude is causing her to flunk out, and she has no friends and doesn’t want any. In fact, the only person she ever even talked to was the school shooter, and she’s under investigation by the police. This odd couple does manage to bond, somewhat, and the role of Philipps in the shooting becomes clear. They also come to some understanding of what was behind the shooting and what it means, and also what turned Philipps into such a hostile, alienated weirdo. The budget for this indie film was pretty low but the production values are good, and the actors are good and have been given a smart, thoughtful script that examines things but wisely doesn’t try to provide too many answers to things that probably aren’t explainable, anyway. It manages to avoid being trite or superficial, while most movies with this kind of storyline wouldn’t be able to avoid that trap. A perfect example of why it pays to “dumpster-dive” the $3 racks at BigLots.

Watch the whole thing online starting here.

Long Island Cannibal Massacre (C, 1980) No-budget backyard production from teenage gore-monger Nathan Schiff, this rinky-dink bloodfeast involves a cop investigating a series of killings on Long Island. A biker and his buddy with a pillowcase over his head murder people and gives parts to a guy who looks like Jim Croche, because he needs the meat to feed his cannibalistic leper father, who looks like one of the monsters off an old cover of a Terror Tales comic book. Other leprosy is simulated with heavy applications of peanut butter. And that’s about all that passes for a plot, which nobody’s watching this movie for anyway. The gore is very splashy but amateurishly done, Andy Milligan style (Schiff even uses a lot of the same stock music Milligan did, I guess as an acknowledgement), and includes a head run over by a lawnmower, disembowelment, gut-gnawing (including some done by 10-year-old girls!), tongues ripped out, smashed faces, heads squished in car doors, impalement, and a climactic chainsaw fight which looks incredibly dangerous and does include some impressive dismemberment effects (even though the victims lie rigidly still as their parts are sliced off). This never looks like anything but a home movie, shot in 8mm, and it’s not particularly compelling; in fact, it’s pretty dull for the most part and is mainly interesting as an example of what one can accomplish with almost no money but lots of slaughterhouse leftovers and fake blood.

Malibu High (C, 1979) aka Death In Denim, High School Hit Girl, Lovely But Deadly. Some real sleazy nastiness stealthed in under a title that leads you to believe it’s going to be some fun teen comedy. Kim’s boyfriend Kevin dumps her because she’s a chunky, not-particularly-pretty bitch with a gruesome one-piece-bathing-suit tan and a crappy, sullen attitude. She’s also pretty dumb and drinks and smokes pot, so she’s flunking out of school. Also, her mother nags her a lot, and her father hung himself. Deciding to get back at everybody and solve her grade and money problems, Kim decides to become a hooker. She goes to work for a pimp named Tony, a Steve Buscemi-type guy who does his business from a van with flower print upholstery that’ll make you look at blindness as a fringe benefit. She pulls trains of customers and blackmails her teachers for A’s. Every time she does something especially shocking, there’s a burst of music that sounds a lot like the old PBS logo theme. She soon drops Tony for a higher-class pimp, who manages to get her to do assassinations instead of turning tricks! Soon our young sociopath is piling up bodies, even taunting her principal into a heart attack when he starts questioning her grades. Even grindhouse trash has a sense of morality, though, so you know Kim is headed for big, well-deserved trouble. No movie that’s entertaining can really be called “bad” in my book, and this surprising cheapie is highly entertaining and far better than I expected, but the acting is pretty awful (everybody seems to be shouting to compensate for budget sound equipment), and the whole thing is unintentionally hilarious. There’s some blood, nudity, and mile softcore sex to keep the sleaze factor high.

Watch the whole thing online starting here.

Severed Arm, The (C, 1973) Some spelunkers exploring an old mine cause a cave-in and are trapped for a couple of weeks with no food and very little water. They finally resort to cannibalism, and rather than killing anyone, they just slice an arm off of one of their friends, Ted. Immediately afterward they hear diggers coming to rescue them. Ted, gone crazy from the ordeal, is sent to an asylum. Years later one of the cavers gets a corpse’s arm in the mail, and soon someone with a hatchet is stalking them all, taking an arm from each of them. One of them is an obnoxious radio personality named “Madman Herman” (played by Marvin Kaplan, the neurotic telephone repairman from TV’s Alice); he tells the unfunniest jokes since the non-legendary “Maddog Bonner,” who you’ve never heard of and for good reason. The potential victims band together to try to stop Ted before he dis-arms them all. They try to get help from Ted’s daughter, but they’re still driven to near panic by Ted’s unstoppable quest for revenge, which leads to a very bleak, morbid-in-its-implications climax. There are rumors that this movie is gory in its uncut form, but all the versions circulating on DVD are fairly tame, which just a few mildly graphic scenes. The old Video Gems videotape is reportedly uncut, but it’s pretty hard to find and supposedly doesn’t have much more gore -- just a shot of Madman Herman’s arm lying in his lap. In any case, it’s very low-budget but has a weird, cheap atmosphere I’ve always liked. You have to give it credit for being different.

Watch the whole thing online here.

Signs (C, 2002) Very entertaining, very well-made, and incredibly, unbelievably stupid alien invasion movie from apparently-only-had-one-really-good-one-in-him auteur M. Night Shyamalan. Ex-pastor Mel Gibson and his family find crop circles in their cornfield and discover they’re not the only ones, because it’s happening all over the world as aliens are linking up landing zones for an invasion. It’s fairly intense and has some scary moments, but it’s also weighted down by so many over-the-top contrivances that really makes its simpleminded message about the importance of believing in God hilarious. Instead of being an effective scary movie, this heavy-handed treat-the-audience-like-idiots attempt at drippy message-sending turns into something resembling a very special Halloween episode of Touched By An Angel or something. It’s realism is also compromised by way too much silliness, with all the tinfoil-hat business and such. Shyamalan is turning out to have the movie-making talent of a Speilberg, but the ideas of an Ed Wood. It’s sub-moronic but it’s entertaining, even if you have to grit your teeth at some of the kill-a-diabetic manipulation (I dare you to get through the “did I ever tell you how you were born” bits without rolling your eyes! I defy you! And no fair stabbing a screwdriver into your cerebral cortex!). Shyamalan’s next, The Village - one of the absolute worst big-budget movies ever made -- makes this look like a masterpiece, though, as it takes his “Hallmark Channel” complex even further down the road to Pussyville.

We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen (C, 2005) Nice, made-with-love documentary on oddball punk band The Minutemen that was a long-planned project by some guys who were big fans. Lots of good vintage live footage that’s kind of surprising; I didn’t know so much of their stuff had been filmed, and luckily there’s also an extensive interview from the D. Boon days. Just about every big name in the 80’s California punk scene appears, giving props to the band. Some (Henry Rollins and other Black Flag members, Jello Biafra, Keith Morris) appear too briefly. Mike Watt gets to talk a lot, driving a van around to historic sites (which are mostly gone now, turned into Pet Smarts or apartment buildings), and drummer George Hurst is interviewed separately. The band’s history, impact, and significance are all well covered. The DVD also includes several live shows, which are worth the price by themselves. Even if the Minutemen aren’t your favorite band (they’re not mine -- I have lots of respect for them and love them lots, but my taste runs toward less-jazzy (and admittedly less musically competent) hardcore), this is a very well-done, compulsively-watchable documentary, not only on an important band but on the DIY ethic, and collaboration in general.

This isn't included in the DVD, but has to be one of the funniest videos, for one of the best songs, ever.


More Fun Than A Ventiloquist In A Morgue!

Actually, it's just more movie reviews, but "more movie reviews" is such a boring title and after doin' so many of these gahdamn't things I gotta trick you into coming in some way or 'nother. I don't know why I'm doin' a twofer this weekend... I guess I just watched Viva Knieval! and wanted to share the magic.


Battle Beyond The Sun (C, 1963) aka Neboy Zovyot, The Heavens Call, The Sky Calls, The Sky Is Calling. Another Roger Corman Russian-sci-fi paste-up. He bought a 1959 Soviet film called Nebo Zavyot and re-wrote the dialogue (which was Cold War propaganda in the original) and -- because the movie is stiffer than last month’s biscuits -- shot some space-monster battle footage to keep the thing from being a total bore. Unfortunately that’s saved for the end, so you have to sit through a lot of non-event tedium to get there, with scientists from a globe that’s been divided into rival hemisphere-nations wanting to get around politics and share technical secrets, via awkward, stilted dubbing. And even the monster-fight payoff wouldn’t be so much, except they look like peepees! yes, it’s a giant penis-monster and a giant vagina-monster, battling for a piece of asteroid! The penis one’s slightly subtle, with a scrotum-like body and penis-like arms, but the vagina beast is right out of Hustler magazine and is the biggest, nastiest cunt seen on TV ‘til Ann Coulter showed up on FOX News. (Yeah, I said it, fuck you!) Their appearance is brief and maybe not reward enough for sitting through the rest, but there ya go.

Cop Killers (C, 1973) aka Copkillers, Sweet Mean and Deadly. A couple of scuzzy long-haired drug dealers pick up a five-key bundle of cocaine in the desert, and while driving away (in a Rolls Royce! Wow, what an inconspicuous choice for crimin’ cars) they run into a roadblock, panic, and gun down about five cops. They head on to town and ditch the Rolls for possibly the only more noticeable getaway vehicle possible: a stolen ice cream truck! They toss the ice cream out the moving truck onto the highway (I guess to leave a trail to follow, the frickin’ geniuses) then blast a motorcycle cop. Then they rob a gas station (37-cent gas! Man, I miss the 70’s!), steal another car, and kidnap a girl. They quarrel over how badly to treat her, and the mayhem continues. Exemplary grindhouse fodder (complete with a near-perfect trailer) with a totally nihilistic attitude and some nasty gore effects (early Rick Baker work), including spurting jugulars, shotgunned faces, and a sizeable chunk stomped out of a guy’s face. If Grindhouse had been a triple feature, they could have stuck this in there and it would be perfect. Delivers everything you’d expect from this kind of movie, and the DVD print is suitably blown-up-grainy and scratched. Stars Jason Williams from Flesh Gordon.

Crime Wave (B&W, 1954) aka The City Is Dark. Double-tough film noir with a toothpick-gnawing Sterling Hayden trying to track down some cop-killing jail-breakers (one of them Charles Bronson) who are loose in L.A. An ex-con named Steve Lacey gets mixed up in it even though he’s gotten married and tried to go straight; his former pals force him into it, mainly because he can fly plaines and help their getaway, after they pull off another big crime with some dangerous friends of theirs (check out crazily-grinning Tim Carey! He’s only got a few minutes of screen time but you’ll remember every second of ‘em!). Very hard-boiled with excellent casting, taught direction, punchy dialogue, realistically-gritty cinematography, and some surprising bursts of violence. The DVD has a great commentary track with James Ellroy and Edie Muller (who get very distracted talking about Timothy Carey). Content is basically average, but form is amazing. Whole thing's on line starting here, definitely worht your time.

Eliza's Horoscope (C, 1975) Weird, annoying, overlong hippie pseudo-art film in which an infuriatingly naive hippie girl with cheesy teeth and the stunned gaze of a freshly-tipped cow goes to the city to find her "love." She strongly believes in astrology and stays in a decrepit boarding house full of oddballs while an old lady does a reading for her. Her roommate is an over-the-hill showgirl who may be turning tricks on the side, and there's a revolting, sluglike, smirking grey man who lurks around, petting a cat, plus obnoxious cowboy Tommy Lee Jones. Tommy is a wanna-be eco-terrorist, planning to blow up a bridge because he thinks that will get him in touch with his Native American roots. Eliza wanders around timidly in antique clothing and various kinds of paint on her face, striking embarrassing poses, meeting lots of strange, morbid-looking people ( a lot of grey people show up who may be some kind of zombies) and going into fits of idiot ecstasy whenever anything related to astrology hoves into her view. Tommy tries to romance her but she's a Piscean and he's a conflicting sign, plus he's too violent for her near-vegetative passivity. There are flashbacks of clowns and lots of pointless dialogue as Eliza rattles on about astrology and Tommy goes on about Native American beliefs, and the old showgirl argues for Jesus. Eliza plays with a dirty pair of baby shoes and longs to have a baby, even though Tommy says it's a bad idea, and his grandmother complains about pollution and civilization. Eliza meets artists -- sculptors and composers -- and joins a cult, which shows her all the zodiac animals and then has a weird orgy where people in zodiac masks wander around while the cult leader whips a girl with a tree branch (too violent for Eliza). Tommy gets shot trying to blow up a bridge and Eliza starts hanging out with mimes as the movie gets more nightmarish and surreal. People who are really into spirituality might really get excited about this pretentious nonsense, but I found it imbecilic and very boring, despite having lots of interesting visuals. All the symbolic stuff may add up to something, but nothing worth figuring out. The casting director must have been a big Fellini fan, because there are lots of creepy, grotesque people in the cast. You're left wondering if Eliza's not just deranged and this is all in her head, or if some Carnival of Souls thing might be going on. But she's just too much of a hapless flake to care about. Available on the "Box Office Gold" 50 movie DVD set.

Man on Fire (C, 2004) Mexico is overrun with kidnappings and in order to get insurance a rich businessman has to hire a bodyguard for his daughter Pita (Dakota Fanning). Denzel Washington is a former military CIA operative who's hunted by past failures and is drinking his life away until his buddy Christopher Walken recommends him for the job. Denzel is a sad guy who doesn't want to get involved in friendships, but despite his best efforts to resist he finds himself growing very fond of Pita, so when she gets kidnapped he takes it very personally. He's wounded and in trouble for killing two cops who were involved in the kidnapping, but works to recover as quickly as he can once the ransom deal goes bad and the kidnappers say they killed Pita. Devoting himself to the total destruction of anyone who was involved in the plot or who profited from it, Denzel hits the warpath hard. He's incredibly ruthless, torturing and killing as many as he needs to to bring the whole criminal network down. Powerful action film with heavy depth, and Denzel is great as always, although the extremes he goes to here are a little surprising; he's so cold-blooded that it's definitely anti-hero stuff instead of the usual Denzel Washington good guy. His targets are more than deserving, though, so sensitive viewers might be able to handle him slicing off fingers and shoving explosives up people's asses. Long -- 2 1/2 hours -- but seems shorter due to the pacing and tightness of the plot. Even though Denzel underplays it, there's a strong character study hidden in all the action. "Forgiveness is between them and God... it's my job to arrange the meeting."

Monster (C, 2003) Charlize Theron, bravely showing herself at her most unglamorous, plays hagged-out prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Perpetually down on her luck, Theron finds sort of a soulmate in lonely, friendless young lesbian Christina Ricci, and tries running away with her and starting a new life. She doesn't have much luck, since she's uneducated and has no skills other than turning tricks. But she learns a new vocation when she kills one of her customers (who totally deserved it, since he was beating, raping, and probably going to kill her). After that traumatic experience she can't stand turning tricks anymore and finds it easier to just kill the guys and take their money instead, and since she's desperate to maintain her relationship with Ricci by being a provider, she starts doing quite a bit of murder. Soon Ricci gets dissatisfied with their outcast bond and starts trying to make new friends, and Theron feels left out and the relationship grows more miserable, causing things to get sloppy. Very well-done, gritty film, with powerhouse performances from both ladies. Similar in some ways to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but a little less cold since the killings aren't as graphic or motivated by thrill-seeking. Theron manages to be repulsive yet somehow sympathetic, despite her deeds; a little pity will probably be mixed with your abhorrence, although a monster she certainly is.

Sleepy Eyes of Death 1: The Chinese Jade (C, 1963) aka Nerumi Kyoshiro 1: Sappochio, Enter Kyoshiro Nemuri the Swordsman, Enter Kyoshiro The Swordsman. First in a samurai series also known as "Son of Black Mass" with wandering laconic cynic Nemuri Kyoshiro (played by the "Japanese James Dean" Ichikawa Raizo) taking on assignments just out of boredom and misanthropy. Some criminals want to get rid of a Chinese kung fu expert (played by Tomisaburo Wakayama from the Lone Wolf and Cub series -- with his head shaved and fighting without weapons!) so they get a girl to tell Nemuri that Wakayama is trying to kill her and she needs his protection, since he and his notorious "Full Moon Cut" sword style are the only hope in defeating Wakayama's kung fu skills. It's all a secret plot by the criminals to get all their enemies out of the way so they can get their hands on a statue with a secret inside of it, which could bring down a lord. Nemuri and Wakayama are perfectly willing to fight each other, but they're not dumb and they know it's a set-up, so first they join forces and slaughter hoards of ninja the criminals have sent after them both. They wait until they have possession of the statue and all the drama surrounding it is settled before they have their duel. If you're looking for buckets of blood ala Lone Wolf and Cub you'll be disappointed, but if you're looking for great samurai drama and some kick-ass fight scenes, you'll do well to seek this out.

The guy disabled embedding, but you can see some footage here.

Viva Knievel! (C, 1977) aka Seconds To Live. If you see only the first five minutes of this heartwarming chunk of narcissistic wank it'll still be a legendary part of your cinematic life, because the film opens with a scene of our egomaniacal stuntman hero (and human toy commercial) sneaking into an orphanage in the middle of the night to hand out toys of himself, and one crippled child is so inspired that he flings aside his crutches and begins to walk! Who needed to jump the Snake River Canyon when you could probably just walk across it? Anyway, the love story continues as Evel charms everyone he meets, even antagonistic feminist photographer Lauren Hutton, who eventually becomes won over by his chauvinistic jackassery (which includes taking her on a ride up and down a set of bleachers, trying to terrorize her into liking him like some fourth-grade kid). Bad guys Leslie Nielsen and Marjoe Gortner plan to get Evel killed in a jump in Mexico so they can smuggle drugs into the States using his truck, reasoning that "nobody'd stop a hero's funeral procession to look for drugs." Just so we know how bad drugs are, Evel gives an anti-drug speech about nitro-burning cars and their relation to drug-crazed 70's teens. Then he has a crash and thinks about quitting, but then decides to do his Mexico jump after all, because people remind him, "You're Evel Knievel!" In the meantime he tries to make his burned-out alcoholic mechanic (played by Gene Kelly, who must've been thinking "what happened to my life?!" during the whole film) be a father to his son, Tommy. Red Buttons and Cameron Mitchell are also on hand to compromise their resumes. Evel's hair changes color from scene to scene, but perhaps that's just another manifestation of his miracles. In Mexico, he has to jump over a flaming pit, not knowing his motorcycle's been rigged to crash. And Leslie Nielsen's betrayed Gortner as well, pus he's taken Hutton and Tommy hostage, too. Luckily it's the kind of situation that can be avenged by crazy motorcycle stunt riding! I saw this in the theater when I was ten and thought it was pretty cheesy even then, but by that time the shine had kind of worn off Evel for me, since he'd failed to clear the Snake River Canyon in a freakin' ROCKET SHIP. Then a while later, Evel used a baseball bat to smash a reporter's hands while one of his friends held him down, and that's when I retired my Evel Knievel lunchbox. Still, this is classic 70's cheeseball junk; from the filmmaking you keep expecting Wonder Woman or The Hulk to show up. And if you have a band, you should cover the "Viva Knieval" theme song -- what a crowd pleaser! *clap!* *clap!*

Here's the opening credits with the theme song and the boy casting aside his crutches.

The Worm Eaters (C, 1977) Amazingly stupid and bizarre supposed-to-be-comedy geek act featuring the eating of real live nightcrawlers. A crazy old German hermit named Ungar (writer-director Herb Robins) lives in a shack by the lake, where he raises experimental earthworms, feeding them meat and DDT. A land developer and his goons (who mostly scream all their lines at the top of their lungs and always seem to be in the middle of a fit) want Ungar's land so they c an build condominiums on it, but Ungar won’t sell. The bad guys put on Klan hoods and trash his house, and he’s pestered by an obnoxious woman who thinks she’s Marlene Dietrich. There’s also an insufferable family of campers nearby. Ungar tricks most of them into eating worms (in close-up) and then they mutate into worm people (basically, they lie around in greasy sleeping bags), whom he then cages up. Other worm people live in the lake and want to mate with the ones Ungar is keeping. After a while they quit even having a pretense of a plot and just have everyone in sight eat worm-laden food; I could live without close-ups of people eating with their mouths open, even without earthworms in the mix. There’s frequent idiotic kazoo music that tries to convince you you’re watching a wacky comedy instead of something that’s just stupid. Producer T.V. Mikels shows up in an arm-wrestling scene, and provides probably the most useless DVD commentary ever recorded: he sits there silently, only saying something every ten minutes or so, and that’s usually just to chuckle and say, “They’re eating worms!”


A Treatise on Moralism, As Often Confused With Morality

I'm kiddin', it's just more movie reviews, typed up at random from some of my older files.


Arlington Road (C, 1999) A conspiracy freak finally finds a real one and gets himself stuck in the middle of it. Jeff Bridges is an intense, uptight professor who teaches a course on terrorism. He seems like his idea of relaxing might be, I dunno, wearing a tee-shirt, maybe. His wife was an FBI agent who was killed in a Ruby Ridge type deal and he's trying to raise his son on his own. One day he finds his neighbor's kid wandering around injured after a fireworks accident and rushes the kid to the hospital. That's how he meets his neighbor Tim Robbins, who he quickly discovers is a right-wing nutcase who's probably got some kind of Timothy McVeigh-type plans in the works. And the bad part is, the crazy neighbor finds out that he's found out... It's a good movie that builds its paranoiac intensity to nightmarish levels, but it's undermined a little by the fact that Bridges gets so unhinged that he becomes ridiculous, yelling and looking crazy and driving like a psycho. I mean, even a vast terrorist conspiracy that could kill your son's not THAT intense! Despite a few unintentional giggles and a little too much contrivance, it’s suspenseful and well-worth watching, with an interesting twist ending. Check it out, and send Jeff Bridges some chill pills before he gnaws any more scenery down to hamster-cage liner.

Bad Lieutenant (C, 1992) Harvey Keitel is a police inspector who does about every bad thing a human can do. He steals drugs and money from crime scenes, freebases, drinks, watches (and joins in on) private live sex shows, watches crimes being committed and does nothing because he’s busy betting on baseball with his bookie (after trying to steer his co-workers wrong on bets to try to raise the odds), and even masturbates in public while harassing girls in a traffic stop. He doesn’t seem to care about anything, until a gang rapes a nun in a church. This disturbs him and makes him contemplate his own sins, even while he continues to self-destruct, getting himself deeper in debt via bad bets (his breakdowns listening to Dodgers games in his car -- hysterical even to the point of shooting his radio -- are simultaneously hilarious and disturbing). It’s brilliant irony that this failing, junkie cop’s hopes all hinge on Darryl Strawberry, who’s notorious for having big drug problems of his own. Keitel is especially unable to understand how the nun could forgive the rapists; she’s his antithesis, making him feel even more guilty. Keitel’s performance is amazing, and Abel Ferrara’s directing is grimily-effective as always, but the unrelenting sleaze-wallowing will put most viewers off. The sight of a full-frontally nude Keitel weeping is disturbing enough for anyone.

Born Losers (C, 1967) Tom Laughlin’s bizarre cinematic love affair with himself began with this biker movie, which introduced ‘70’s iconoclastic figure Billy Jack, the half-Indian Green Beret hakido expert goodguy. This is the best Billy Jack movie because it’s not laden down with so much mystical hippie shit, or a hypocritical message of peace and love amidst lotsa violence. Billy Jack saves a guy who’s being beaten up by a motorcycle gang and gets in trouble with all of them. And they’re an especially scurvy lot -- Jeremy Slate in weird goggle sunglasses, a tongueless freak named Speechless, and other guys named Crabs and Gangrene. They get really interested in a rather unattractive-but-charmingly-smartassed girl in a white bikini and make life hell for her, until Billy puts a stop to it. Mythic scenes include Billy and the club president playing the tough-guy game of resting a lit cigarette between their arms, and the thing with Jeremy’s sunglasses (usually missing from TV prints), a girl (whose mother is played by Jane Russell) doing a strip tease for a pink stuffed cat named Ferdinand, Billy showing off his magic piggy bank, and other little things that make this one better than most biker flicks.

Chato's Land (C, 1972) Vietnam allegory abounds in this violent Western starring Charles Bronson as a half-breed Apache who guns down a racist sheriff and then flees into the badlands, a posse including Jack Palance, Victor French, Richard Basehart, and other familiar-faces-I-can't-quite-put-names-to in relentless pursuit. Bronson leads them into a hostile environment and kills them off one by one. Bronson doesn't have much screen time (and only says about a half dozen words in English) but his presence is definitely felt throughout, and he puts in a good performance and looks like he's really been hitting the iron. The posse members fight amongst themselves and deliver a lot of semi-poetical dialogue, especially Jack Palance's Civil War vet. The parallels to Vietnam are pretty obvious, with the village-burning Americans lost and abandoned in unfamiliar territories, being whittled down by the patient, seldom-seen Charlie. Plays kind of like a Western, desert version of First Blood or Southern Comfort, and is worth seeking out.

Best I could do was a compilation of Bronson clips. No Chato's Land clips in it (even though it's advertised as such), but ten minutes of higher-quality badass you're not likely to find.

The Executioner (C, 1974) aka Direct Hit! Hell Fist, Chokugeki! Jigoku-ken. When Sonny Chiba is the best-looking guy in the movie, you know you’re in for something. This movie has “brutal” all over it, hilarious brutality: the film-making is brutal, the cast is apparently hand-picked for being brutal-looking (every time you think you’ve seen the ugliest guy possible, somebody worse shows up!), their manners are brutal (one guy makes a big production of arranging his hard-on in his pants because the other guys are teasing him), there’s some female nudity that’s pretty brutal, and the fighting? BRUTAL! There’s some crazy gore in this movie -- people get hit so hard their eyes pop out, skulls are laid open to the bone, and Sonny pulls a rib out of one guy’s chest. The plot involves an ex-cop bringing together the top fighters he can find in order to stop the Yakuza drug trade. The top recruit is Koga (Sonny), who’s been trained from a young age to be a ninja. When he’s not kicking someone’s ass or saying something ugly, he’s usually sticking to the ceiling. This isn’t as polished as The Streetfighter (which is saying something, since that’s one raw film) but it’s as gory and entertaining. Recommended to Chibaphiles.

Frailty (C, 2002) A guy (Matthew McConaughey) walks into a Texas FBI office saying that a serial killer known as the God’s Hand Killer is his brother, carrying on a legacy of insanity started by his father (Bill Paxton, who also did an excellent job directing this). When he and his brother were kids, their father -- who was a nice, mild, religious cornball sorta like Ned Flanders on The Simpsons -- came into their room one night, claiming that an angel had visited him in a vision and told him that the end of the world was nigh and there were demons on the earth. They looked like people, but they were demons, and the angel instructed the father and the sons to destroy the demons with an axe. The older son saw that his dad was a lunatic, but the younger brother thought he was a hero, and even though the older son tried to stop his dad from murdering the people on his list, he couldn’t, and when the father died, the younger son took over. The FBI agent (Powers Boothe, who’s great as always) thinks this is all insane, but has to check into it, and then things get even more twisted. Dark, gothic horror with compelling narrative force and a reliance on mood, atmosphere, and strength-of-story rather than gore (despite being an axe-murder movie there’s almost no blood -- it’s just not needed). One of the best horror movies in years, and a good example of the insanity of fanaticism. Most highly recommended.

Last House On Dead End Street (C, 1977) aka The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell, At The Hour of Our Death, The Fun House. Infamous obscurity about a drug dealer named Terry Hawkins (played by director Roger Watkins) who gets out of jail and thinks about what a mean psychotic asshole like him could do to make his mark on society, and he decides to make a snuff film. He talks to his weird friend who has sex with dead cows at the slaughterhouse where he works, and they set up shop in an abandoned building. Then there’s an obnoxious party where a hunchback whips a girl who’s wearing blackface as entertainment. Then they start making movies, killing people while wearing masks -- weird clear ones and an oversized mask that looks like some Greek god statue. One guy they strangle, but they move on to mutilation, tying one woman down, carving up her face, and then sawing off her legs. Then they grab some guy, make him fellate a deer’s hoof that a girl has sticking out of her pants, then they shove an electric drill into his eye. The special effects are really terrible -- the amputation is done with a sheet over the girl, and the drill is in what looks like a dimestore rubber eyeball that doesn’t even have a face around it. And there’s not really much of a plot or story. But I guess things are so cheap-looking and sleazy that it works for a lot of people, because this film repeatedly pops up on “most disturbing movie” lists. I like it but am not particularly bothered by it; it’s a good low-budget cheapie with a sick idea behind it, and some good no-budget atmosphere and a sick idea behind it, which isn’t executed quite as well as it could be. Watkins is convincingly sleazy as Terry, though (partially because Watkins wasn’t too far removed from Terry in real life, having gone on to making trashy porn films), and the film has a very strange, warped feel to it. The film was almost lost, and even the official DVD (hard to find these days) looks like a bootleg because that’s the best existing print they could find.

Here's a guy's homemade trailer that's better than most fan vids:

Santo In The Vengeance of the Crying Woman (C, 1974) aka La Venganza de la Llorna, The Vengeance of the Crying Woman. Santo the silver-masked wrestling goodguy and his buddy Mantequilla (an amiable boxer who always looks kind of bewildered and is hopeful of seeing ghosts) get mixed up with the legend of LaLlorna in this juvenile monster/action flick from the Santo series. A professor (who looks a lot like Albert Einstein, but Brylcreemed) enlists Santo’s aid in taking a medallion from the mummified corpse of Mexico’s famous Crying Woman, partially because it leads to a treasure that could be used to build a children’s hospital, and partially because the professor’s chubby wrestling fan son in in line to be killed by the Crying Woman’s cures that hangs over his family. The mummy-woman looks decently spooky (but cheap) and shuffles around wailing and trying to strangle children. It wouldn’t be polite for Santo or Mantequilla to duke it out with a woman, though, so they never even see her, and instead have to content themselves with tackling a bunch of gangsters who are also after the treasure. No surprises and no great show of fighting skill, either (a lot of old-style “cowboy punch-outs”) but it’s good clean wholesome dumb fun.

Seance On A Wet Afternoon (C, 1964) A disturbed medium named Myra (Kim Stanley) and her easily-manipulated husband Billy (Richard Attenborough) have a bizarre plan to enhance her reputation by kidnapping a little girl for ransom and then “predicting” accurate details about the case to the police. billy doesn’t really like the idea but Myra says the spirit of their stillborn son Arthur -- who speaks to her -- is insistent. So they kidnap the girl and tell her she’s just visiting the hospital. But the girl develops a fever and Myra’s crazed, domineering guidance begins to lead things down progressively darker paths. Quiet and spooky British horror made doubly effective by great acting and moody, atmospheric photography. A powerful classic that’s gone largely unseen... until now, thanks to a super-sharp DVD release. Haunting portrait of madness and mental decay. You can apparently watch the whole thing online starting here.

Unlawful Entry
(C, 1992) One of Ray Liotta’s most menacing psycho portrays as a lonely cop who insinuates himself into the lives of couple Kurt Russel and Madeline Stowe after their house is broken into. Kurt figures out that their new cop buddy is a psycho when he finds the culprit for the break-in and offers to let Kurt beat him to death. Kurt tells him to stay away, but Ray has decided that he’s a better match for Stowe and uses his law-enforcement authority to frame Kurt and get him out of the way so he can have his wife all to himself. Liotta is brilliantly creepy and even though there are a lot of these kinds of movies, this one remains intense and stands out from the pack. Watch the whole thing online starting here.


Movie Reviews: Dragging You Kicking & Screaming Into The Grindhouse Edition

After poking around YouTube and other places, I've decided we're very near the end of civilization (I mean, how else do you explain this or this? Two events which I feel certain fulfill some Biblical prophecy heralding Armageddon!), so I figured I'd share my joyous mood by concentrating all my movie reviews today on horror, and including some of the most notoriously depraved grindhouse films in the genre (and a couple that aren't). These are films normal people only know about vaguely, if it all. You wouldn't want to watch more than one of these in a week, and luckily I didn't - I pulled them from years of files. Hell, most people wouldn't want to watch most of these at all, ever. Which is why I'm exposing you all to them in review form, so you will have knowledge of the depths of depravity human cinema has reached, and yet I will bear most of the psychic scarring on your behalf. Unless you click the YouTube links, in which case yer on yer own!


Beyond the Darkness (C, 1979) aka Buried Alive, Buio Omega, The Final Darkness, Blue Holocaust, In Quella Casa... Buio Omega) This, along with Make Them Die Slowly, was one of the most notorious sicko nobody-ever-heard-of-it Italian horror films that had us seeking out any horror videotape that came in an oversized box. It's a morbid, perverse, ultra-gory tale of necrophilia that helped cement Joe D'Amato's reputation as a sleazesmith without boundaries. I kind of like viewing it as a sequel to Love Story, in which Oliver loses his damn mind, so there's my recommendation for a double-feature to fuck with your friends. When an unbalanced young man's girlfriend dies, he digs up her body, takes it home, and taxidermies it (in extreme detail, including a scene where he eats her heart) and keeps it in a bed. He also kills a couple of girls so he can keep his secret, including a hitchhiker who gets her fingernails yanked out with pliers before she's killed, dismembered, and dissolved to greasy sludge in an acid bath, and a jogger who has her throat bitten out and is then burned up in a crematorium (the best acting in the whole movie). It's pretty funny that the psycho can handle all of this stuff, but the sight of his housekeeper's disgusting table manners makes him throw up. The psycho's housekeeper practices voodoo (which may have caused the girlfriend's death in the first place) and she helps him cover up his crimes because she's hoping to marry him, but of course that relationship only leads to more horror. The special effects are good, and rumors were spread that real corpses were used for the taxidermy and crematorium scenes, but they weren't -- the close-ups of organ removal were done using a pig carcass, and the crematorium just involved some good twitching and writhing by the actress. Overall it's an orgy of entrail-yanking, acid-bathing, eye-gouging, chunk-biting, brain-sucking, and other unpleasantries... but if you're drawn to movies bragging about how many countries they've been banned in, that's what you're looking for and this one delivers far more than most. Plus it's got a good music score by Goblin.

Beyond the Door (C, 1974) aka The Devil Within Her, Beyond Obsession, Chi Sei?, Behind the Door, Who Are You? This is easily my favorite Exorcist rip-off, even though a lot of people seem to hate it. Even the trailer for this traumatized people when it came on TV, and it scared the shit out of us when CBS used to run it on their Friday night late movie, one of the few Italian horror films to get network airplay. Juliet Mills (traumatizing all her “Nanny and the Professor” fanbase) becomes pregnant with a demonically-possessed fetus, which causes her to do enough Exorcist behavior to let the producers of the original win a lawsuit. There’s creepy levitation, a really nightmarish head-turn with a horrible frozen smile, one eye moving independently of the other, puking, and other possession niceties. There’s also some unique freakiness such as Mills eating a banana peel she finds in the street, dolls walking around the house, and more. All the while her husband is trying to make sense of it all, while an ex-boyfriend named Dmitri is desperately trying to ensure that the baby is born, because those are the terms of a deal he’s made with the devil (who opens the film as our narrator!) Some people find this all too derivative, as well as clumsy and too odd, but it’s the oddness that makes this movie great to me. Everyone in the film is a major weirdo even without the devil getting involved. Mills’ daughter is a slang-spouting smartass who carries a dozen copies of the Love Story novel everywhere she goes (that’s apparently where she learned her cussing). Her little brother drinks pea soup out of a can with a straw, likes wet, nasty dolls, and may be possessed by an invisible friend he hangs out with. Even Mills’ doctor has a neurotic habit of arranging candy in precise patterns on his desk. I like this attention to oddball detail, and the freaky musical score is also great at creating a crazy, absurd atmosphere. Some people react badly to some of the weird dubbed dialogue, but I think it adds to the off-kilter dream-logic feel of the whole thing. Fortunately (after an extremely long wait) this is now on DVD, thanks to Code Red. Juliet Mills has a commentary track and is a really good sport and still likes the film. She should; it’s very underrated if you ask me (and if you read all this, you did ask me, didn’tcha?)

Burial Ground (C, 1980) aka La Notti Del Terrore, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, Nights of Terror, The Zombie Dead, Zombie 3, Zombie Horror. Andrea Bianchi’s low budget, lack of talent, clumsy dubbing, ridiculous plot, and sometimes-lackluster special effects are all excused by the pacing of this zombie gorefest; the pottery-faced undead show up early and stay on the attack for nearly all of the film’s running time, dripping maggots, severing heads, biting out throats, gnawing guts, slicing eyes, and -- in the big crowd-pleasing show-stopper -- biting off a tit. A group of vacationers come to an old villa to see a professor who’s been working on ancient Etruscan ruins, and who has inadvertently raised lots of living dead. These visitors aren’t terribly bright, but they are horny, pairing off and screwing within minutes of their arrival. One “little boy” (played by a very odd-looking short fella named Peter Bark, who’s attracted a cult following even though he didn’t make any other films) even tries to get frisky with his own mom! The zombies look sculpted out of mud, and that look isn’t completely effective but you have to appreciate the effort; it’s a lot more interesting than just smearing some blue paint on a bunch of extras and telling them to walk funny. Most of the gore is pretty extreme and works well. Overall, the film is crippled by some dumbness, but it tries so hard and packs so much action in that you can’t help but forgive its shortcomings. One of my favorite zombie films.

Don’t Answer The Phone (C, 1981) aka The Hollywood Strangler. Infamous horror film is more notorious for its general tone than any kind of gore or graphic violence; it’s actually restrained in what it shows, but there’s a really misanthropic feeling generated here, as if the filmmakers are seething with hatred for everyone and most of all you for being an audience for sleazy shit like this. A husky rapist/strangler (Nicholas Worth in a little too good of a performance) is prowling Los Angeles and brutally killing women, wheezing with laughter at what he’s doing. He makes disturbing calls to a lady who does a psychiatric help line on the radio, faking a Mexican accent and complaining of headaches. He also finds victims by posing as a fashion photographer. He works out with weights, has a religious fixation, and is prone to crying jags. Some very cynical cops are trying to track him down, making inappropriate jokes about the victims they turn up. After several stranglings, the creep sets his sights on the doctor lady. There’s hardly any blood at all, so the killings aren’t gory in the least, but Worth does behave so violently toward the women (and acts so gleeful while he’s doing it) that it’s disturbing to watch... and the film’s cold-blooded approach to the events (sometimes it seems as if the filmmakers don’t realize how wrong this behavior is) makes it even more repellent. This film often lands in the same class as Maniac, in that it delivers what you were looking for in a way that makes you feel like a perverted scumbag for looking for it in the first place. Many copies of this on the market are cut versions, so be careful to find the full-length.

The Flesh and Blood Show (C, 1972) I like most of Pete Walker’s horror movies, but this one’s hard to stay interested in. A troupe of actors are hired to work on a mysterious theatrical project, and are instructed to live in an old ramshackle theatre on a pier, where they’ll rehearse. A killer who sounds like he has emphysema lurks around and murders them in not-terribly-interesting ways (knifing, one girl is guillotined), and eventually a mundane flashback (which had the saving grace of being in 3D when it was in theaters, and uses the process almost as ham-handedly as an SCTV skit) reveals why. There’s a lot of flesh on display, as the girls in the cast are frequently nude, but there’s scant little blood. This was filmed during that period when most of the guys in Britain looked like Herman’s Hermits. If this storyline intrigues you, you’re much better off with Stage Fright from Michele Soavi. This film has a good trailer, but that’s as far as it goes.

The Girl Next Door (C, 2007) aka Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. It’s very seldom that I’m almost afraid to watch a movie, but I had read the book by Jack Ketchum and knew it to be one of the most harrowing and disturbing literary experiences imaginable, and I couldn’t believe anyone had dared to film it. Fortunately, they did it really well, and even though it’s treading in Last House On The Left territory it feels much closer to art than exploitation sleaze... and they manage it without watering it down. Based (tragically) on a true case where a sick-minded sadistic woman named Gertrude Wright Baniszewski tortured a 15-year-old girl to death and involved most of the kids in the neighborhood in the crime. It’s so blackly evil that you’re almost forced into denial about the truth of it. Anyway, in a Stand By Me-like 1950’s, a pretty, sweet young girl and her polio-crippled little sister have to move in with their aunt and cousins when their parents are killed in a car wreck. Their aunt is a bitter, disturbed woman who likes to hang out with the neighborhood boys and give them beer and tell them how slutty and stupid women are and how scummy men are. She takes an instant hatred to the two girls and starts abusing and punishing them, making her sons and their friends watch it. Gradually the abuse gets more insidious and the kids start joining in, making a game of torturing the older girl, and it gets more and more vicious and extreme. The neighbor boy, David, knows this is all wrong and evil, but since he’s a kid he’s scared to stand up to an adult, and also afraid to go against the other kids, who might turn against him if he takes away their “toy.” So these horrors continue under the noses of the neighborhood, a secret-that’s -not-a-secret since the kids in the neighborhood all know about it... and nobody does anything to stop it. While this among the most horrifying films ever, it’s not strictly a horror film. It doesn’t set out to shock you; it just happens, and you’re shocked anyway because of the subject matter. The film doesn’t hold back, while still staying as discreet as possible. Not easy to watch, but an especially strong, heartbreaking film that will make you feel as helpless as neighbor-boy David as you watch it unfold. The same case was the basis for another film, An American Crime.

Hard Candy (C, 2005) A genius-level 14-year-old girl (Ellen Page) goes to meet her pedophile online “boyfriend,” and she has a big surprise in store for him, which is... she really, really hates pedophiles. She drugs his drink and ties him to a chair, then interrogates him, finds out where he keeps his porn stash, and eventually castrates him (with guidance from a medical textbook). She thinks he may have killed a local girl who went missing, but she doesn’t want to make it easy for him by just killing him... or does she? Intense film that’s mostly conversation, like My Dinner With Psychotic Andre; this could also work as a stage play, yet it keeps the suspense cranked up pretty high. And it manages to stay pretty intense even though you can’t really work up too much sympathy for the victim, since he is a child-molesting creep who deserves this nightmare and then some. This has a reputation of being really nasty, but it’s actually fairly restrained in terms of what it actually shows, so it must be the confrontational approach to controversial subject matter that had people rattled. Extremely well-acted and well-written, keeps throwing tricks at you. This is one of the most depraved things that sometimes shows up in Wal-Mart's $5 DVD bin.

Header (C, 2006) aka Edward Lee’s Header So-sick-it’s-silly horror based on a novella by gross-out master Edward Lee. A hillbilly gets released from prison and moves in with his legless grandpa up in the mountains and start settling old scores by doing “headers.” The movie’s marketing tries to keep this act a secret, but since I believe a movie should sell itself by filmmaking and storytelling skill and not just to satisfy curiosity about what the title means, I’m going to tell you. So, if you don’t want a spoiler, you should skip to the rest of the review. Okay, a header is essentially fucking someone’s brains out. They drill a hole in the top of the victim’s head, cut a slit between the halves of the brain, and use the wound as a vagina. There ya go. Childish enough for you? Since the victims are dead when this depraved act happens, the movie’s actually less sick and disturbing than a lot of recent horror. In fact, it’s even kind of funny, because the hicks are very cartoonish and the whole thing is so over-the-top preposterous that you can’t take it seriously. Anyway, while the ex-con and his grandpa are killing girls and skull-fucking them, a corrupt ATF agent is making deals with drug dealers are working on the “header” cases. Everything comes together in a pretty ridiculous way, and the film’s fairly artless, but it’s entertaining -- at least, it is if you can handle the gross-out concept with a sense of humor. The film’s definitely not scary, because it’s too ridiculous, but I’m not sure it wasn’t intended to be a comedy, anyway. It’s gory, of course, but the effects actually aren’t that graphic and are pretty simple. The DVD has a very welcome bonus feature including interviews with Edward Lee and also horror author Jack Ketchum, both of whom seem like nice, cool guys. They have cameos near the beginning, playing cops.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (C, 1986) Henry is an uneducated ex-con who moves around a lot doing work like pest control. In the same way that some people are addicted to drugs, Henry’s addicted to murder; every once in a while he just has to kill somebody, usually a woman. He’s figured out it’s really easy to get away with it, if you just move around a lot, vary the methods, don’t set up a pattern, and don’t pick any victims to whom you have a connection. Henry drops in on an old prison buddy, Otis, and his sister. Otis is a stupid degenerate who’s content watching TV and making advances at practically anyone he meets (including young guys and his own sister) until Henry initiates him into killing as a hobby. Otis becomes an enthusiastic but imbecilic partner, videotaping killings and watching them back in slow motion. Eventually, though, Henry’s loner ways get the better of him and he has to move on and can’t leave anyone behind. Based on the crimes of Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole (who was even more of a fuckup than Otis), this film shook everybody up when it came out. I’m not sure why everyone freaked out over it so much, because I’ve never found it all that shocking and other than one dismembering-a-body scene it’s not graphic (there’s almost no gore but the MPAA tried to give it an X rating just for the tone of it and its refusal to condemn its subject -- although it far from glorifies him, either. I don’t find it nearly as disturbing (even when it first came out) as the film’s reputation says, but it’s definitely a well-done and engrossing movie, and I’ve always liked it and had respect for it as a work of art despite that. Michael Rooker’s performance as the emotionally-dead sociopath is perfect. Must-see material, but just don’t expect something as transgressive as you’ve probably been led to believe. It’s a great examination of the banality of evil. Another Henry Lee Lucas-based movie that came out around the same time, Confessions of a Serial Killer, was a bit more disturbing to me, although not as well-made.

I Spit On Your Grave (C, 1978) aka Day of the Woman, I Hate Your Guts, The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill. Buster Keaton’s grandniece Camile Keaton is a writer staying in a summer cottage, and she unfortunately attracts the attention of four total degenerates (one of them retarded) who chase her through the woods and rape her in scenes that are close to unwatchable. They’re some of the nastiest rape scenes on film because they go on for around 20 minutes, and because they happen in waves -- she gets away, gets caught again, gets away, gets caught again -- and because the guys are such scumbags and they egg each other on, semi-horrified by what they’re doing at first, but then getting delighted with it. They leave her for dead (and she almost is) but she recovers and starts plotting revenge. As the poster (one of the greatest in exploitation film history) touted, “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken, and burned five men beyond recognition, but no jury in America would ever convict her!” She doesn’t actually burn anybody -- just some clothes -- but she does hang, emasculate, axe, and motorboat-engine four men in totally-justifiable revenge. There’s not much in the way of gore, and only the castration scene comes close to equaling the rapes for cold-blooded nastiness. That’s one of the film’s drawbacks; the rapes are so hateful and the rapists such total bastards that no amount of revenge will feel like it’s settling the score. It’s a hard movie to watch (I resisted buying the DVD for years until I found it for $7 with two commentary tracks -- one from Joe Bob Briggs and one by director Meir Zarchi) and was an infamous title in the early days of videocassette rental, more as a can-you-take-it/ rite-of-passage thing rather than “entertainment.” Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel maxxed out the box office for this one by expressing great outrage toward it and its audience. That reaction is understandable because this film is about as far from “feel good movie” as it gets; it’s a confrontational assault on the audience, and you’re not really supposed to be entertained. You’re supposed to walk out feeling unclean and depressed. But Siskel and Ebert said it invites people to identify with the rapists, and I don’t think it does that at all. The “sex” in this can’t be mistaken for anything but sick violence, and is -- intentionally -- a turn-off. It’s an anti-rape film, taking any Hollywood sanitization off the act. I think Siskel and Ebert reacted so strongly because they were afraid of anyone thinking they were titillated, and were disgusted at assholes in the audience who tried to show off how “macho” they were by cheering things that likely disturbed them. Anyone would have to be insane to be titillated by this. Hard to watch, but important in exploitation history. The filmmaking is sometimes crude (Zarchi holds shots forever with no concern for pacing) and the special effects are extremely simple and homemade (but effective), and the acting is pretty good -- especially Keaton’s. The film is pro-feminist, but most feminists loathe it. No fun, but misunderstood.

Last House On The Beach (C, 1978) aka La Settima Donna, Terror. A trio of creeps rob a bank and then hide out at a Catholic girls’ school, where they terrorize a nun and her students in this Italian rip-off of Last House on the Left. The leader of the bank robbers tries to act nice while the other two are jerks (and one of them is a weirdo who puts on some of the girls’ makeup), but he’s just as bad as they are. One of them gets stabbed in the leg (or possibly the belly - the wound seems to move around) with a comb while trying to molest one of the girls, and he ends up with a dangerous infection. Most of their terrorizing is merely obnoxious (such as making everybody watch an embarrassingly-stupid naked-disco-dancing show on TV) but eventually they rape the nun and a couple of the girls, including a fatal assault with a walking stick (which is fortunately so non-graphic you can hardly tell what’s happening). Eventually the women get fed up with the bastards and decide to turn the tables. Nowhere near as mean-spirited or intense as the film it’s imitating, and sporting very little blood or nudity, but still unpleasant enough and also a bit tedious. This one’s mostly for Italian horror junkies who’ve already seen everything else a couple of times.

Lucker The Necrophagous (C, 1986) aka Lucker. Supposedly a legend on the underground tape-trading circuit (I was pretty active at the time and never heard of it, so I’m not sure how “legendary” it was), this is a sickie Belgian exploitation flick with more of a concept than a plot. A miserable schizophrenic escapes some pitiful police custody and goes back to stabbing people to death. He manages to pick up a prostitute even though he’s nearly catatonic, then he chains her to the bed, creepily rocks in a rocking chair for a while, stabs her, waits a month, then has sex with her slimy corpse. He licks his hands clean of cadaver-ooze after fondling her, which is pretty much the film’s highlight. Then he goes after a woman he missed the first time, resulting in more unpleasantness. And unpleasant is really the key word here, because the movie’s not really scary or suspenseful, and it’s not even all that gory, limited to just some blood-spitting-out (albeit in large quantities), a what-the-hell-is-that disembowelment (or is it an amputation? The special effects are so crappy and badly-filmed you can’t really tell what it’s supposed to be), and a not-very-convincing rotting corpse dummy. After that you’re just left with a lot of footage of women screaming and looking unhappy, and that’s never much fun to watch unless you’re a total creep. So see this only if you can’t stand to miss something that’s notorious (and you don’t mind being disappointed that it’s overhyped), or if you’re really into boring, nasty stuff. Blah. By the way, “necrophagous” means corpse-eater. What they wanted was “necrophilliac.”

Malabimba The Malicious Whore (C, 1979) aka Malabimba, Malicious Whore, Possession of a Teenager. After a séance raises a particularly lusty evil spirit at the family mansion, a girl named Bimba starts behaving like an out-of-control slut, saying obscene things to her grandmother, groping the butler, watching her relatives fuck, and humping her teddy bear. When that’s not enough, she tries to seduce her father and kills her paralyzed uncle by giving him a blow job. Then, in an attempt at some really ludicrous blasphemy, she makes inappropriate use of a stuffed Santa Claus doll, before rubbing up against her reflection in a mirror for a while. Then she tempts a nun into watching her dad have sex with her slutty aunt. Afterward, Bimba seduces the nun. Can Bimba’s possession be exorcised? And... does anyone really want it to be? Bizarre Exorcist variation without any of the usual possession-movie special effects; when you’re dealing with an institution as hung up about equating pleasure with sin as the church, you don’t need spinning heads and projectile pea soup to horrify them when a few intercut bits of hardcore porn footage will take you further for cheaper. As much of demonic repression film as a possession film, and not badly made, really. Vintage combo of Euro horror and porn, effectively handled. The location -- an old isolated castle -- gives the film both creepiness and class, and it does have an atmosphere that seems to elevate it above just being sleaze... even though that’s pretty much what it is. Most surprising is that it’s directed by Andrea Bianchi, who brought us such wonderful trash as Burial Ground.

Maniac (C, 190) I first encountered this notorious grindhouse sickie when I bought my first issue of Fangoria, where it had an uber-disturbing spread full of scalping sequences and torn-off heads. It was enough to make me afraid to buy Fangoria for a while. Charles Manson and Altamont killed off hippiedom, and I think that article in Fango killed Famous Monsters. The plot to this movie is negligible: a crazy guy (Joe Spinell) with a mother-fixation (she apparently abused him pretty badly as a kid) murders women, scalps them, and then nails the scalps onto mannequins that fill his cramped, dirty, lonely bedroom. He talks to them, cries, and wakes up screaming from nightmares. The fact that he seems to be completely horrified by the depraved acts he’s driven to co probably put off more of the audience than the extreme gore did; Spinell is a top-notch actor and seems really sad and terrified throughout. He’s getting no thrill from the killings, just tormenting himself. The killings are numerous and extremely gory (with excellent effects work by Tom Savini, who has a bit part and gets his head blown apart with a shotgun), and photographed in a cold, dead way that makes you feel grotty for even watching them. Even though it’s a collection of cut throats, stabbings, shootings, and scalp-removals, this ain’t no safe, fun, Friday the 13th. It outraged critics, women’s groups, and even was too much for some of the griundhouse crowd who usually thrived on this stuff. Less believable than the killings is the subplot where knockout Caroline Munro gets interested in dating this fat slobby sweaty whiney psycho.

The YouTube guy blocked embedding, but you can click here to see the trailer.

Night Of The Seagulls (C, 1976) aka Night of the Death Cult, Night of the Blood Cult, La Noche De Las Gaviotas, Terror Beach, Blind Dead 4. A doctor and his wife move to an isolated village by the sea to take care of the townsfolk, but they're an odd, unfriendly lot who aren't exactly welcoming. They warn the couple to leave, and not to go out at night, ever. Someone is going out at night, though - a procession of robed figures who leave village girls chained to a rock. The reason for the terror soon becomes clear; a cult of undead, mummified, eyeless Templar knights crawl out of their crypts in a nearby castle at night, mount their rotten zombie horses, and head to the beach to collect those girls who are left as sacrifices to keep the Templars from coming into the village and killing everyone. The skeletal, slow-moving Templars carve the hearts out of the girls as an offering to their batrachian stone idol and they feed on the rest of the flesh. Spirits of the dead girls return as seagulls that scream all night, and the rites draw crabs out to feed on the remains. The doctor, with help from Teddy the village idiot, learns of the sacrifices and sets out to put a stop to them. Fourth and final film in Amando de Ossorio’s great Blind Dead series is basically more of the same, but that’s not a bad thing if you love the Blind Dead, who look really moldy and mildewed here, and who take as much of a beating as they dish out when they’re set on fire and such. There’s not really that much gore in this one, which relies instead on atmosphere and the sight of the eerie Templar mummies. The movie inspired songs from doom metal band Cathedral, and skinhead band The Templars (who, as you might guess, are huge fans of the series). A lot of public domain versions popped up on cheap compilation DVDs under the “Night of the Death Cult” retitle, but you’re better off with the Blue Underground version.

Sister of Ursula (C, 1978) aka Curse of Ursula, La Sorella Di Ursula. Bizarre, sick, sleazy giallo in which a couple of pretty sisters (Barbara Magnolfi from Suspiria and Zombie’s Stefania D’Amario) visit a coastal village, even though Barbara has some psychic precognitions that being there is a really bad idea that will result in death. Nobody heeds her, though, because she also claims their father is coming back... and he’s dead. Regardless, people in the very-sexually-active community do start getting killed. Some psychotic (who’s only shown as a pair of eye, like Bela Lugosi in White Zombie) is paying whores to have sex while he watches, then he slashes the men with some kind of exotic knife and rapes the women to death with a giant phallus. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the psychology going on here, but it’s still a fairly well-done giallo with no fear of causing outrage and a strong emphasis on packing in as much softcore sex as possible. The gore is fairly restrained but you don’t need buckets of blood when you’re working with an idea that disturbing.

Snuff (C, 1976) aka Slaughter, American Cannibale, El Angel De La Muerte. This is a film that's far more infamous to those who haven't seen it than those who have, and the hype surrounding the marketing campaign is a lot more interesting than the crappy movie itself. Masters of sleazy exploitation Michael and Roberta Findlay (who also brought you such classics as Shriek of the Mutilated ) helped finance a terrible Argentinian horror film that was so bad they knew they'd have to come up with a gimmick to sell it... so they tacked on four minutes of extremely fake gore footage that was supposedly the actual murder of one of the actresses by a deranged crew member. Then they marketed it as an actual snuff film ("The film that could only be made in South America... where life is CHEAP!") and hired people to stand in front of theaters protesting it. Outraged critics did the rest of the work in drawing in the rubes, by predictably refusing to see the movie (if they had they'd've easily spotted the fakey gore effects and laughed this sham off), and writing scathing articles condemning the sickness of a society that would allow actual murder as entertainment. Proving that the best way to make something desirable is to declare it taboo, the morbidly curious flocked to the film and the critics achieved the exact opposite of their goal, much like the Catholic church's "banned book list." The DVD release retained this taboo spirit, coming in a brown-paper-bag design with no logos (pssst, it's from Blue Underground) and no features (not even a menu or chapter stops, annoyingly enough). The movie itself is a nonsensical thing intended as a cash-in on the Manson murders. A hippie cult leader named Setan commands a group of druggie killers whom he's told to provide him a baby for a sacrifice. An actress named Terri London flies in to make a movie, and she gets pregnant and becomes a target for the cult. Some members of her film's crew get knifed, and there's a lot of footage of a carnival, as well as a surreal angry conversation about arms dealing with Israel, which is hilariously weird. The cult punishes its own members by cutting between their toes with a knife or with public sex (which sparks a ridiculous flashback involving lost turtles, cow milking, rape, severed hands, and a girl who talks like Mr. Bill). They pull off a few unspectacular mass killings, but none of it makes much sense and there's not even much blood. Then you get the phony snuff footage, which consists of some unconvincing cutting, a finger severed with some dikes wire cutters (you can clearly see the real finger bent under the appliance), a hand cut off with a Skil saw (the real hand is stuck through a hole in the mattress while a too-skinny fake wrist is cut through), and then a way-too-narrow fake torso is clumsily disemboweled while sandwich bags full of blood and pig entrails are pulled out. The film runs out as the killer holds up some intestines and screams (which is a pretty impressive final shot even though it's phony). It's not that sick of a movie in and of itself, but the fact that people showed up hoping to see a real murder is sick enough. Of value more as a curio than a film.

Storm Warning (C, 2007) A rugged Aussie fella and his French girlfriend takes some unwise turns while boating up some inland canals and get lost in a storm. Seeking shelter, they go to a cabin on a remote island, only to discover it’s a marijuana farm run by two mean-spirited degenerates and their even-meaner father. They can’t let the couple go (even if they wanted to, which they don’t) because they know about the greenhouse full of pot plants. They break the guy’s knee and threaten to rape the girl, but she fights back with some overly-complicated and implausible traps. Things get a bit contrived, but when you’re seeing truly sadistic scumbags meet deserving ends, you don’t mind a little contrivance. It’s flirting with the torture-porn genre a bit, but manages to avoid it, and has well-done gore. One of the better entries on the usually-execrable Dimension Extreme label.

Unseen, The (C, 1980) Unfortunately the title of this film proved apt, because hardly anyone saw it. Hopefully the DVD release will give it a second chance, because it’s pretty good. The amazing-bone-structured Barbara Bach is a TV reporter who, with her two-girl film crew, has to stay at the isolated home of Sydney Lassick (the guy who really wanted his cigarettes in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) to cover a Dutch festival in a nearby town. There’s a large, severely retarded abused product of incest living in Lassick’s basement, though, and even though he doesn’t mean to, he can cause serious harm. As a bonus, Lassick is homicidally crazy himself, and is perhaps even more dangerous than his son/brother. There isn’t much in the way of gore, but there’s a very dark, twisted atmosphere that should elevate this above most of its contemporaries. It’s somewhat notorious for a lack of political correctness, but it’s also unique in having a sympathetic treatment of the killer.