In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

HMG: Beyond The Door II

The next entry in the Guide was Beyond The Door II, however I didn't realize until I looked closer that this film was actually Mario Bava's last effort Shock retitled for American audiences. I'd seen once or twice before back in the 00's when I dove into his back catalogue, but I figured what the hell, if it's Bava and Daria Nicolodi, it's worth a revisit.

Dora (Nicolodi) returns to her house after a brief stay in the loony bin after her husband's suicide. Being left alone with her son Marco (David Colin Jr.) for long stretches by her new beau (John Steiner), she begins to suspect her husband's spirit is still present.

Shock almost immediately brought a smile to my face because I was reminded that circa 2005 I had a roommate named Mark and I culled a sample from this movie for our answering machine message.

Such good times. Marco is such a little shit, but even with the terrible par-for-the-course dubbing, he still manages to do more than you would expect from a six-year-old. I obviously never realized until now that Marco and that pea soup sucking kid in Beyond The Door were one in the same. Wild, man.

Not unusual for Italian thrillers of this time, the score - by prog rock band Libra - is way out front, to the point I was often confused as to whether the music box and piano music was actually part of the environment. In any case, a solid score that I am currently listening to as I type this. 

Daria Nicolodi in Beyond the Door II aka Shock.

Shock bounces back and forth from psychological to supernatural like a metronome, before finally deciding which one it wants to be. This, with the help of his son Lamberto, was Mario's last film and he still had it way into his sixties. Sure, it's not in the upper echelon of his catalogue, but even lesser Bava is still worth watching. 

I'm not gonna lie, this film does drag in parts, especially when it's just Daria wandering around her house, but he still finds ways to engage with his signature visual flourishes, like the razor blade in the piano keys, that close-up shot of Daria in bed that must have been shot on some sort of rotating set and let's not forget it boasts one of the all-time great jump scares;

Shock was a worthy revisit that I am glad the Guide concurred with. I can't say I agree with their knock on the visuals though. I mean sure, it ain't Blood and Black Lace... but what is?

Friday, March 17, 2023

Spacecore Horizon.

The next VHS off the pile was DJ Webster's 1990 sci-fi flick The Dark Side of the Moon. This was a video store staple in the nineties, but one I never bothered with until now.

In 2022 - shit I should have watched this last year - the vessel Spacecore malfunctions and drifts into the dark side of the moon where it finds a long lost space shuttle with something malevolent onboard.

The Dark Side of the Moon was largely lower-tier sci-fi, but it does have some things going for it. The space sets and models were surprisingly decent, made right before filmmakers started trying to do this shit digitally. I did enjoy seeing a few familiar faces. This was apparently Joe Turkel's last film and I can see him being like, “bitch I pushed Jack Torrance off the wagon and ran fucking Tyrell Corp, I be done with this shit”. I was also chuffed to see Friday 4 alumni Camilla More show up as the “Mother” character.

Even though the set up of this film is largely a redo of Alien and then functions as a dry run of Event Horizon - which wouldn't hit screens for another seven years - I did like the tie-in to the Bermuda Triangle. Christ, remember when that was a thing? In the eighties, it was a tangible threat, like quicksand and Stranger Danger. And I'll give this movie some credit, of all the things I was expecting on that derelict ship, Satan was not one of them.

Webster does a serviceable job with the material - especially since his resume consists almost solely of music videos - but does inevitably fall into the same trap as most of these low budget SF pictures where the crew spends an ungodly amount of time searching the ship. This is where I started nodding off, but I was able to snap back into consciousness to see our lead sacrifice himself for the greater good.

The Dark Side of the Moon is watchable fare, but also almost  indistinguishable from the likeminded fare that populated this early nineties era. I would take Gary J. Tunnicliffe's 1996 flick Within The Rock over this if I'm being honest. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

HMG: Beyond The Door

The next entry in the Guide was Ovidio G. Assonitis' 1974 flick Beyond The Door. I obviously knew the coverbox from way back, but didn't really know what I was in for.

Jessica (Juliet Mills) has a lot on her plate, not only being possessed by a demon, but also apparently carrying the devil's child. Levitation, regurgitation and desecration ensues.

It's funny to me that I just watched Beyond Evil, a film with similar themes to Beyond The Door, but couldn't be more different. Evil attempts to tell a coherent story - it fails, but at least tries - whereas Door has no such allusions. This is textbook Italian replication at work here. Mix together a large helping of The Exorcist (which came out the year previous) with some Rosemary's Baby, add some weirdo badly dubbed children and sprinkle a Euro-funkadelic score on top and voila; you've got Beyond The Door!

I have so many questions, chief among them, why is the son obsessed with pea soup, to the point he drinks it from the fucking can? Is it some sort of in-joke about Pazuzu vomit? Both these kids talk like they're from outer space. Man, onscreen children that call their parents by their first names always irk me. But I digress. Whatever the deal was with those kids was irrelevant anyway because they are mercifully shuffled away in the third act, save for the nonsensical final freeze frame.

Like, what the fuck dude?

Beyond The Door is just so perplexing. It should be simple, but just can't help going off on these strange tangents, like that extended scene when the husband, Argento regular Gabe Lavia, is accosted by nose-fluting buskers on the sidewalk. Oh, I forgot about this... the movie opens with narration from the Devil himself. I don't know why the Prince of Darkness felt the need to lay everything out for us, but thanks I guess? You know what I'd like to forget? That skeezy goodnight kiss scene. Ick.

This all results in a movie that feels loooong. However, I did appreciate that at some points two scenes were super-imposed over each other to save time. I guess the only real takeaway - apart from the usual bonkers Eurotropes - was Mills' performance as she really gives her all in the possession scenes. I'm sure this wasn't what she was envisioning when she signed onto this project - her last film in Italy was alongside Jack Lemmon - but that's the nature of the biz I guess.

It looks like the Guide had even less tolerance for Beyond The Door than I did, finding the kids equally as boggling.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Jennifer! *whispers* Jenniferrrrr!

I have to admit that my pile was getting on the low side, but fortunately I was able to replenish my VHS stash by visiting a tape market in Hamilton last weekend. I've got some beauties that you'll likely see show up in the next few weeks, starting with today's entry, Jennifer from 1978.

A bullied schoolgirl named Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan) finally puts her God-given ability to control snakes to good use.

First off, let's just digest that coverbox for a second. Putting aside that whichever video store rented this tape put it in the Action section, I feel the need to point out that at no point during this movie does a tiger fight snakes and/or Jennifer. Unreal.

Moving on from that though... Funny thing here. I thought I hadn't seen this, but almost immediately I was hit with a wave of déjà vu. Turns out I watched this not too long ago at one of my Zoom movie nights, but somehow it slipped my mind. There was no denying it though, for if that catchy theme song hadn't jogged my memory, seeing that kitten and recalling its brutal end surely did. Then of course, when Bert Convy showed up, I remembered chatting about the Love Boat.

But anyway, for a Carrie rip-off, Jennifer is serviceable fare. Director Brice Mack (who started out as an animator on some of Disney's greatest hits) made the wise decision that if you're going to tread on familiar ground, you need to up the ante. The Mean Girls here were so diabolical, they made their De Palma counterparts seem like pussycats. For instance, the queen bitch Sandra (Amy Johnston) straight up tries to murder Jennifer in one scene and then, when one of her minions intervenes, she later has her boy toy rape her so-called friend in an elevator. Cold shit.

Aside from placating us with some disco, Mack waits a considerably long time to serve up the serpents. Thankfully, it does payoff in the end. There isn't much explanation as to the how or why of Jennifer's powers - controlling snakes is an easy enough leap, but being able to materialize them out of thin air is a tad perplexing - but is there ever? 

What's important is the bad folks eat shit and Jennifer gets to continue her life unfettered because good news, her religious parent doesn't try to murder her in this one. Redder IS better, amirite?

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

HMG: Beyond Evil

This week's foray into the pages of the Horror Movie Guide was 1980's Beyond Evil. This was a title I was not previously familiar with, but stars John Saxon and Lynda Day “BastaaaaaaardsGeorge so I was more than willing to imbibe.

Larry (Saxon) and his wife Barbara (George) move into a mansion on a tropical island, only to find it is haunted by a demonic spirit.

Our movie opens with a native wedding, after which the bride wanders into the forest and seems shocked to see this huge mansion that stands literally a stone's throw from their village. That's where we get the first glimpse of the house demon. It drops a column on the bride, but fortunately, after some questionable splint work, she survives. Cut to director card and the first of MANY dun-dun-dunnnnnn music cues.

Beyond Evil is one of those titles that is mostly a bore, plodding along in between sensational deaths that are sprinkled in every so often. Speaking of which, why is it that demons have such rampant remote access to all forms of machinery in these movies? 

Fortunately, amongst all this boring talk about faith healers and real estate deals, I had Day's long blonde locks and Saxon's hunky physique to hold my attention. Still cut in his mid-forties and badass AF. Respect!

Finally things start motoring in the last act when Saxon tries to stop the demon from possessing his wife. Green Laser Eyes ensue. Then, in the eleventh hour, jewelry and the power of love save the day, and the demon turns to dust.

Beyond Evil is pretty pedestrian and without its two stars I wager this movie would be almost unwatchable. The Guide would seem to agree. 

Friday, March 3, 2023

A Wolf In Creep's Clothing.

This week's VHS was 1995's Project: Metalbeast. I'm nearing the bottom of the pile, as evidenced by this merchant copy complete with hole-punched barcode and intermittent burn-in's of “for screening purposes only”.

An unstable CIA agent (John Marzilli) who injected himself with werewolf blood is cryogenically frozen for 20 years and then thawed out for use in military experiments involving synthesized skin. It doesn't go well.

You know, I was in good shape at the start of this movie because I knew that Project: Metalbeast could not possibly as awful as the trailer that proceeded it for Paul Rodriguez's dramedy(?) A Million To Juan. Man, the shit they put out on tape in the nineties. The eighties I understand, but we should've had the hang of this by '95.

Anyhoops, Metalbeast starts off with musician Conrad Pope doing his best Elfman impression, giving us some overly dramatic music during the opening credits. Then, enter a pretty decent looking - or at least way better than I would have expected - werewolf. Until the aforementioned CIA agent with a haircut you could set your watch to, blows it away with silver bullets. After extracting its blood, he makes the completely rational decision to inject himself with it. goes haywire and is then put on ice by his boss, Barry Bostwick.

-“It shrinks?” -“Like a frightened turtle!”

More than some of this movie is a bore, which is why I actually nodded off in the middle. It's actually unusually quiet in the second act, while science people do science things. And complain several times about having to eat PB&J sandwiches. Hey, fuck you dude. I've literally eaten ten PB&J's a week for decades and still love 'em to death. Thankfully, the eventual screams and death snapped me back into consciousness.

As you might have guessed, the metal skin somehow gets on werewolf dude and viola - METALBEAST. And he looks pretty badass, even though every time he was onscreen I wanted to yell, “Fuck you Honey Badger” like in that Love, Death & Robots episode. What's funny is there's a shot of it walking down a hallway and I thought to myself, “hey that guy walks like Kane Hodder”.

Turns out it was actually Kane Fucking Hodder! Until he gets exploded with a silver rocket. Lastly, Kim Delaney was looking pretty hot in this and I'm glad she booked her role on NYPD Blue shortly after so no one was tempted to make a Metalbeast 2.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

HMG: The Best of Sex and Violence

The next entry in the Horror Movie Guide was a title I was actually shocked I was able to find. It was Ken Dixon's Wizard Video trailer reel entitled The Best of Sex and Violence.

On those two things I can safely say it delivers, showcasing the goriest and sleaziest bits and pieces of Wizard Video's catalogue circa 1981. These were the early days of Charles Band before he moved onto greener(?) pastures with Empire and Full Moon. What's amusing is I think that's Brinke Stevens on the poster and she's not even in this...

As a trailer reel, it serves its purpose, but as a spectator, it doesn't have the prestige of Terror In The Aisles which followed three years later or even the entertainment value of watching dtunk Cameron Mitchell cosplay it up with Michelle Bauer in Continental Video's Terror On Tape the year after that. 

Let's face it, the only thing breaking up the trailers in The Best of Sex and Violence are awkwardly cheesy asides from John Carradine. He's slumming here and considering we're talking about John-fucking-Carradine, THAT is really saying something. Jesus, some of these one-liners were cringe even in the eighties.

On the bright side, my takeaway here is being introduced to some lovely ladies like Dixie Peabody and Phyllis Davis (whom I guess I did see in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). Everything about this is the epitome of thrown together, but hey hope they sold some tapes out of it. The Guide had some understandable disdain for it;.

As for admonishing people for watching ninety minutes of trailers, they obviously didn't foresee the YouTube generation. or the Trailer Trauma or Video Nasties DVD compilations or five-hour long documentaries like In Search of Darkness. Different strokes (stabs?) I guess...