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.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Ask Evil Home.

In honour of the recent passing of genre icon John Carl Buechler, this week's VHS is his 1988 effort, Cellar Dweller.

Thirty years after a comic artist (Jeffrey Combs) is murdered by his own demonic creation, a new generation of artists convene in the same building only to repeat his misadventure.

I have to admit that I had no idea that Buechler made this picture before this week. I'd heard the title before (though I always get it mixed up with the 1971's Beast in the Cellar), but never gave it more than a cursory glance. My loss because it is actually an entertaining yarn. It's not as batshit and effects heavy as his movie Troll, made two years earlier, but Cellar Dweller has a lot going for it, as well. It actually shared a similar structure to Troll in that it's one location (an art school instead of an apartment complex) and a creature bumped off the residents one by one.

Cellar Dweller had a fairly unique through line in that the character's drawings came to life. I feel like that's an untapped resource that hasn't been explored since the eighties with things like Creepshow, Paperhouse and that bit in Nightmare 5. Bring that shit back! Buechler cleverly padded his running time with these comics, often using it in place of special effects. It could've felt like a cheat, if said comics hadn't been so dang awesome. The work was credited to both John Foster or Frank Brunner, but whoever penned them did a bang-up job!

Buechler was obviously having fun here, whether it be from the thinly veiled digs at some of the “arts” or his in-joke set dressings. I find it hilarious that the main character (played by newcomer Debrah Farentino) had a Re-Animator poster on her wall and didn't once think, “hey, the guy in that movie sure looks at lot like the guy who got me into comics and died in this house thirty years ago”. I guess we can all be blinded by our idols.

Mainly, I was impressed that Buechler kept his sense of humour considering how busy he must have been in 1988. Not only did his installment of the Friday the 13th franchise come out that year, but he also did effects for Nightmare 4 and Charles Band's Pulse Pounders. This guy loved his work. Anyway, Cellar Dweller is definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Short of the Week #58: Videobox

Considering yesterday's sad news, I'm keeping things light with this cute short from 2016. Ben Fullman's short film Videobox not only captures the era, but also nicely executes a pretty neat idea. Enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2019

R.I.P. John Carl Buechler 1952-2019

I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of director and special effects legend John Carl Buechler today. He was 66.

R.I.P. John Carl Buechler

Buechler's name belongs right up against Baker, Bottin and Winston as his fingerprint was on countless horror titles I devoured as a kid, including From Beyond, Dolls, Nightmare 4, Ghoulies and later on, Hatchet. He worked for indie titans Charles Band and Roger Corman, even directing such titles as Troll, Cellar Dweller and Friday the 13th Part VII that introduced us to the best incarnation of Jason Voorhees imho.

Buechler with Kane Hodder.

I was really chuffed to see how the horror community rallied around him when family members set up a GoFundMe to help pay for his medical bills as he battled the cancer that eventually took him from us. R.I.P. Mr. Buechler. You will be missed, but fortunately you left behind a tremendous body of work for us to forever enjoy.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Smell The Glove

This week's VHS is Ross Hagen's 1979 crime noir The Glove.

A bounty hunter (John Saxon) swimming in debt attempts to hook a big payday, a homicidal ex-con (Roosevelt Grier) who uses a riot glove to pummel his victims.

So yeah not a horror film. I obviously ignored the glaring “adventure” sticker on the box when I bought it. I figured it was from the seventies, so it'd likely be at least half-decent no matter what. Good enough to fork over the five bucks at whatever convention or swap meet it would've been anyway. As it turns out I was right - half decent.

The Glove starts out with a cracking tune which unfortunately no film that followed could have lived up to. Check this out--

But I swear I'm hearing “you can't escape from the kiss and rape of The Glove!” Am I crazy? Like WTF! As I said, this was a seventies crime noir so its pace tended to be quite deliberate and meandering, but not necessarily dull. It's not often you get to see Saxon play the lead so it was cool to see him narrate his way through the proceedings. He always had such a natural cadence with dialogue and it's on full display here.

John Saxon in The Glove.

In between keeping up with Saxon's shenanigans, Grier - when not teaching kids to play guitar - walked around town beating white dudes to a pulp with the title appendage. Well, eventually he did. It seemed like he missed a lot at first, just so the filmmakers could show just how powerful this riot glove actually was.

The Glove was watchable, but did pad its run time with a lot of incidental material. I wouldn't say that you should just revel in Everything Is Terrible's three-minute version, but it's out there if you want to skip to the good bits.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Short of the Week #57: The Procedure

We played Calvin Reeder's The Procedure 2 at Little Terrors a few weeks back so I thought I'd post Part One in case you have never had the pleasure. Go on, try not to laugh. I dare you.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Adventures of Jack Crawford Jr.

This week's VHS is James Glickenhaus' 1993 thriller Slaughter of the Innocents.

FBI agent Stephen Broderick (Scott Glenn) is aided in his search for a serial killer by his hyper intelligent son, Jesse. (Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus)

I saw this movie when it came out, but really only remembered two things, this guy getting impaled on deer antlers Quigley-style—

--and that even as a teenager I thought that the Jesse character was wildly implausible.

Slaughter of the Innocents showed up on the “Hot New Singles” wall at Blockbuster one day. This was a rack reserved for one-off releases to make sure they didn’t get buried under the popular titles that took up the bulk of our shelf space. I kept my eye on this singles rack because it often featured the indie & foreign stuff like Man Bites Dog, Happy Birthday Türke, Mindwarp and Gas, Food Lodging just to name a few.

As for this one, it’s not too hard to figure out that Glickenhaus wanted to cash in on the success of The Silence of the Lambs here. Aside from casting Scott Glenn and the similar sounding title, it’s also an FBI-hunt-for-a-serial-killer flick. Just imagine Lambs without Hannibal Lecter and if Clarice Starling was a ten-year-old boy and you’ll get a decent approximation of the subject matter.

Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus as Jesse in Slaughter of the Innocents.

So the bulk of my thoughts on this movie are going to be about Jesse – who was played by the director’s own son and actually does a hell of a job considering all he goes through in this movie – and I’m not sure where to start so I’ll just dive right in. This kid was basically the Encyclopedia Brown of true crime knowledge and, between school and little league, seemed to be able to out-sleuth the FBI. I'm torn between which element was least likely, that a kid would even be capable of this or that his father seemed to be actively encouraging it. Seriously, Broderick and his son had the weirdest relationship…

But I haven’t gotten the best part, as Jesse also happened to be a tech guru, carrying around the nineties equivalent of an iPad and was always connected to his fact-spewing super PC. I mean, the voice recognition on this thing was better than Alexa's today!

“You have a collect call from a Mr. D.E. Machina.”

But it wasn’t just the dynamic between father and son that was confounding, as there were several scenes that just struck me as odd, like when a young girl got kidnapped from a gas station parking lot and the attendant seemed more upset about it than the mother. Or when Broderick and his team (that included Aaron Eckhart in his first role) snuck up on a Neo-Nazi suspect’s cabin and he was just hanging out in full SS garb. On the other hand, the movie did have HerculesKevin Sorbo in his most un-Hercules role ever so…

Lastly, I wasn’t surprised when Imdb told me this premiered on television because this movie contained the most generic nineties score I think I’ve ever heard. Having said all of that, Slaughter of the Innocents was a functional movie, but it lacked the grit-infused energy that Glickenhaus’ action-oriented titles from the eighties like The Soldier and Shakedown possessed. It’s just a shame that the problematic wonder kid element was also the only thing that made this movie at all unique.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

HXFF Awards 2019

No short this week, but I did want to pass along the winners of this year's Hexploitation Film Festival that happened a bit ago. We had a strong line-up this year, but it was the following shorts that came away with the top honours.

For more info about the fest and the feature film winners, click here.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Truckers vs Butchers

This week's VHS is Rainer Erler's 1979 teleplay Spare Parts.

Young newlyweds Monica & Mike (Jutta Speidel & Herbert Hermmann) run afoul of an organ thief ring while on honeymoon in New Mexico.

I had zero expectations for this one, but it actually ended up being pretty solid. Despite being a TV movie, it bore the quality I've come to expect from projects birthed in the seventies. It had a deliberate, yet engaging pace and was populated with naturalistic actors talented enough to perform no matter how outlandish the subject matter. This was a German production shot in the United States with an original title was even simpler than Spare Parts.

I think what really surprised me about this movie was that it constantly went against where I thought it was going to go. The biggest example of this was the character of Bill (Wolf Roth), the trucker that Monica encounters after her hubby gets snatched by dudes posing as paramedics. My first instinct was to think this guy must have an angle because no one is that nice. He almost immediately went all-in on helping her fight this growing conspiracy. This guy seriously needs some sort of Good Samaritanship medal or something. Look at this restraint!

After that oh-so-awkward exchange above, with the help of his network of hauler buddies, they basically take down the fake ambulance. Fifty minutes in and done, easy peasy. And even when Mike & Monica follow the trail and find the person running the show from a hospital in Roswell – I have to admit I was a little disappointed when it wasn't aliens behind the curtain – it was not the hand-rubbing mad scientist you would expect. Quite the opposite in fact. This all led up to a chase sequence with dual ambulances jockeying on an inexplicably empty highway.

I really liked the lead actress in this film. Speidel was (and still is) quite prolific in her native Germany. In this movie, she had a Marilyn Burns-like quality, except instead of being chased around with a chainsaw for half the picture, she would've been more likely to eventually turn around and smack Leatherface in the face with a tire iron.

Jutta Speidel as Monica in Spare Parts.

While director Erler's intent was likely a less flashy version of Michael Crichton's Coma, Spare Parts exists on its own merits and even managed to surprise me once or twice.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Short of the Week #56: A Peculiar Thud

This week's short is a particularly creepy entry from 2017 called A Peculiar Thud from writer/director Ross Morin.

No matter how many times I watch this short, the delivery of that “Can I come in?” line always freaks me out. Morin followed this up with the experimental short documentary In A Landscape, Dreaming.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sci-Fi Stew.

This week's VHS is David DeCoteau's 1987 post apocalyptic creature feature Creepozoids.

A band of deserters take shelter in an abandoned research facility only to discover they may not be alone.

Wrapping up Women In Horror Month, I decided to watch a movie starring one of the genre's favourite daughters, Linnea Quigley. Creepozoids was the first of many of her collaborations with DeCoteau. I thought I had watched this movie as a teen, but I remembered nothing if it so it's possible I was confusing it with Shadowzone, the first Full Moon flick I ever saw. Truth be told, considering how similar the box art is to 1981's Galaxy of Terror, I'm surprised I didn't get my wires crossed there either.

Linnea Quigley as Bianca in Creepozoids.

Even at a lean seventy-two minutes, Creepozoids still seemed like the bulk of it was the characters wandering around looking for stuff. It was clearly made on the cheap, but the money went in all the right places so I can't really complain. When I say “right places” I naturally mean the effects, as they were abundant, ranging from hilarious giant rats to bad-ass mutant babies.

Actually, speaking of rats, Creepozoids reminded me of Bruno Mattei's Rats: Night of Terror as much as it did its obvious influence, Alien. Of course, Rats was much more colourful, sleazy and, what's the word... oh yeah, problematic. As for that dope mutant baby that just shows up at the end like some sort of wonderful bonus level, I was racking my brain trying to remember if it was ever recycled in a later Full Moon production. Maybe Baby Oopsie Daisy from Demonic Toys?

I digress. It was a little hard to get a handle on what the Creepozoids (technically Creepozoid) were actually doing in this movie, as their actions and motives were a little unclear. I mean, sometimes it would kill, sometimes it would drag characters back to its lair for unknown reasons and sometimes it would just throw people around Evil Dead style.

As for Linnea Quigley, she lasted a lot longer than I was expecting. It was even getting to the point that I thought she might mak-- oh wait uh oh, guess not. Lastly, I just want to make note that this movie's apocalypse happened in 1992, just five years after this was made. Geez, bleak outlook, DeCoteau.

Creepozoids is a perfect example of stuff that was getting cranked out for the horror market in the mid-to-late eighties. It's by no means a memorable affair, but it has its moments and was enough to entertain – it certainly made me laugh out loud a few times – for its perfectly unassuming length. It's all just part of the winning formula that made Empire and Full Moon so successful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Short of the Week #55: Undress Me

One of the more memorable shorts that ran the circuit in 2017 was Amelia Moses' Undress Me. It was a really strong year for female voices, as titles like Julia Ducournau's Raw and Coralie Fargeat's Revenge were tearing things up around that time.

This short film has stuck with me not only for its intense depictions of body horror, but also the filmmaker's commitment to rooting things in reality. Moses continues to work in the industry so I'm sure a follow-up cannot be far off.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Rat Burgers!!!

This week's VHS is John Carl Buechler's 1986 urban fantasy Troll.

An evil troll terrorizes a modern day apartment building in an attempt to restore his kingdom to its former glory.

I had never seen Troll before. A few years ago, during all the Best Worst Movie hoopla, I got swept up in all the wonderful badness of Claudio Fragasso's sequel and just assumed that there was nothing particularly special about the film that, if only in title only, proceeded it. Recently, I finally finished my Seinfeld box set re-watch and remembered Troll was Julia Louis-Dreyfus' film debut. Seemed like as good a time as any to cross this one of the list.

And oh my God, this movie! I was not prepared for just how bonkers this movie was. It just kept on giving. Even setting aside the hilarious fact this was a fantasy movie with a main character named Harry Potter Jr, this movie had me grinning pretty much from the get-go.

The Potter Family.

I remember being surprised by how early they showed the Troll. I guess I was expecting something along the lines of Ghoulies or Elves that under-delivered on their antagonists. Not the case here, as this movie was teeming with all manner of fairy creatures. During the fantastic sequence where Sonny Bono transformed into – whatever that thing was – I remember exclaiming “holy shit, this movie has some money behind it!” And the weirdness just kept on coming...

So much to unpack here. Like what was up with the terrible hands-off parenting of Michael Moriarty & Shelly Hack when Evil Wendy was playing up. I can tell you if I ever bit my Dad I would have gotten my fucking teeth knocked out. I also recalled halfway through being bewildered that Moriarty was the least wacky thing about this movie. And then he caught up...

I've seen 1993's Leprechaun several times, but obviously never knew that Troll must have been their template, as the creature designs were similar and the visual effects almost interchangeable. Also not lost on me was the coincidence that two of the most famous sitcom actresses ever both got their starts in these titles. Again, it's crazy to me that seeing Elaine running around a magical forest half-naked seemed completely normal within the zany context of this movie.

I went to this audition & yada-yada-yada I was wearing vines for underwear...

Buechler must have had so many balls in the air on this project and still managed to pull it off. I also really dug that Phil Fondacaro, the guy in the Troll suit, also got to do double duty as Professor Mallory. As wild as this movie was there were some really solid exchanges between adults and children, namely Fondacaro and Jenny Beck (who it took me a while to recall she was the alien hybrid from V) as well as The Neverending Story's Noah Hathaway and June Lockhart. And I haven't even mentioned Richard Band's musical number!

Though the Critters series will always own my heart when it comes to eighties puppet baddies, I really have to applaud Buechler for how many creature effects he was able to cram into eighty-two minutes. I now understand the initial reactions of the people who saw the sequel. Troll 2 has its own merits, unintentional as they may be, but it's worlds away from this gem from Empire Pictures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Short of the Week #54: Your Date Is Here

Just in time for that day that shall not be named, here is one of my fave shorts from 2017 in Todd Spence & Zak White's Your Date Is Here.

I love this one for perfect use of props, timing and pace. It is also rare to see such a wonderfully executed punchline, as well. Spence & White re-teamed last year for another short called Mikus.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Prime Evil.

Continuing Women In Horror Month, it made sense to watch another title from prolific filmmaker Roberta Findlay in 1988's Prime Evil.

A coven of Satan worshipers prowl New York looking for sacrifices for their eternal youth ceremonies.

Finding female-helmed horrors on VHS is a challenge, so I had to cheat this time and watch a rip. You know, I wish Findlay's catalogue was stronger. When I watched Lurkers last year, I commented on how her career seemed to be tailing off by this point and Prime Evil did not contradict that. While larger in scale – they certainly made good use of the NYC locale – Prime Evil was another bore featuring a bloated cast of characters walking through clumsily executed set pieces.

I guess my first uh-oh moment was during the opening scene when a voice-over suddenly cut in over the action to explain what was going on. Doubling up on your exposition is never a good sign. Considering her adult film background, I assumed the reason Findlay was introducing all these superfluous ladies was that most were eventually going to get naked. But they didn't. Presumably they were there to pad the running time... and give bad dating advice.

I don't think I really need to mention the demon puppet thing. However, I will say the scene where the mother gets offed was amusing. While trying to escape her attackers, she picked an even worse hiding spot than the fridge girl in Madman.

Admittedly, I can think of worse ways to go than being drowned in wine. At one point, the story shifted to a nun assigned to infiltrate this evil cult. I'd have been interested in that, but it barely comes back to it to the point that when she popped up to save the day I was like, “oh yeah, her!” What followed was basically a way shittier version of the climax in The Devil's Rain. And let's face it, if that's your ceiling, you got problems.

Christine Moore in Prime Evil

So another dud on Findlay's resume. She has made some winners in her career – Tenement was solid, and The Oracle looks bonkers – but Prime Evil was not one of them. I really should have watched The Oracle instead. Maybe I'll leave that for next February.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Short of the Week #53: The Adder's Bite

Digging back to 2010, here's a short that has always confounded me in Firas Momami's The Adder's Bite.

I haven't a lick of an idea of how the bookends of this piece relate to the nightmarish images of its middle, but maybe I'm not supposed to.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Saturday, February 2, 2019

R.I.P. Dick Miller 1928-2019

I was very sad to hear about the passing of prolific actor Dick Miller a few days ago. He was 90.

R.I.P. Dick Miller 1928-2019.

As someone who grew up watching genre movies, Miller was perhaps one of the most visible actors of my childhood. Along with John Saxon, his appearance would always bring a smile to my face. His longtime moniker as “That Guy” was apt because it was years before I even knew his name. It's fitting that became the title of his eventual biography in 2014.

Whether it was the ill-fated gun store owner in The Terminator, the crusty janitor in Chopping Mall or beleaguered veteran in Gremlins, Miller chalked up countless acting roles. Though most famous for said walk-on parts, he did have a few leading roles while working with Roger Corman in the fifties, in 1957's Rock All Night and A Bucket of Blood two years later. The former title should be sought out, as it's a terrific film and Miller is great in it.

Rest in peace, Mr. Miller. Here's to a wonderful career.