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, January 29, 2019

Short of the Week #52: Boniato

This week's short film is one of my faves from 2015 in Eric Mainade, Andres & Diego Meza-Valdes' Boniato.

Though its length is a bit cumbersome, I really love the world building in this short, as well as the level of confidence shown by this trio of filmmakers. Since Boniato, Mainade has continued working as a stunt performer and the Valdes Brothers are now in television.

Friday, January 25, 2019

ZZZombie Lake

While having a conversation about Jean Rollin (as one does) last weekend, I realized that I hadn't yet watched my Wizard VHS of his 1981 flick Zombie Lake. This has since been rectified.

A group of murdered Nazis spring up from a local pond to reap revenge on the townsfolk that ambushed them many years before.

During said discussion, I described his filmography as “running the gamut between Hammer art house and soft core porn” for which Zombie Lake feels closer to the latter. It sure doesn't waste any time in that regard, as a young nymph almost immediately strips before going swimming in the titular lake/barely disguised swimming pool before being pulled under by a zombie. I'd have felt bad for her if she hadn't literally pulled down the no swimming sign earlier.

A little history. I first became acquainted with Rollin back when the Scream channel was a thing back in the aughts. They used to play double bills of his films late on Friday nights, but I actually had to start taping them to watch the next morning because though his work is pretty, it is often like cinematic Ny-Quil. Zombie Lake was no different, as the first half was barely a movie and more of a thin construct to get from one nude scene to another and as I'm typing this I'm wondering why this sounds like a complaint... Eventually the essence of a story emerges, but it's more of a sloppy patchwork of better pictures – think 2000 Maniacs without the gore or personality.

Jean Rollin's Shock Wav-- I mean, Zombie Lake!

I read that Rollin was embarrassed by this movie, having been a last minute replacement for Jess Franco so I guess it was doomed from the start. I wager most of the budget went to the Nazi uniforms, vehicles and flamethrowers and everything else was just fly-by-night. Did I mention there were a lot of naked ladies in this? Because there are. If only they had some decent gore to go with it, they'd have really had something to hang their hat on here, but sadly it was of the green and red paint variety.

Only thing missing from this scene is a flower...

Apart from the sky high skin ratio, Zombie Lake was a snooze-fest. However, I came away from this with one burning question about that scene with the frolicking basketball team. In 1981, did Europeans (or at least the people who dubbed this movie) not know what basketball was?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Short of the Week #51: Special Day

This week's short is one of my faves from last year in Teal Greyhavens' Special Day.

I love everything about this piece. Greyhavens cut his teeth in the filmmaking biz with several documentaries, but in 2018 made a trio of narrative shorts with the above being the most recent. I can't wait to see what lies ahead.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Highway Is Mine!

This week's VHS is Bruce R. Cook's 1989 horror Nightwish.

Four undergrads and their professor get more than they bargained for while searching for paranormal activity at an old mansion.

I remember watching this as a teen, but remembered absolutely nothing about it other than it starred Liz Kaitan and Brian Thompson. I realize now my lack of recall was due to the fact that the movie was largely dream logic nonsense. I feel Cook wrote the beginning and the end with the middle being shot on the fly.

It was very hard to get a handle on, as it flowed along untethered for most of the running time with threats varying from spiders, demons, aliens and ectoplasmic tentacles. Throw in a couple of cringe-worthy mentally challenged characters for good measure and you've got yourself a party. A really uneven and confounding party.

Thankfully, Nighwish did offer a few positives. Kaitan's appearance was a welcome one, as she was always one of my favourite SQ's back in the day. Clayton Rohner was on hand, even if this was the least substantial of his eighties horrors. Perhaps most significant was Brian Thompson as Dean. I feel like he was given free reign to do pretty much whatever he wanted here, as I can't imagine his roadkill bloodlust, looping tribal music and unhinged demeanor were all in the script. Dean was a terrible person, but the movie was such that his parts were among the most palatable.

Elizabeth Kaitan as Donna in Nightwish

It should also be mentioned that this was one of KNB's earliest projects, perhaps even before Berger, Nicotero & Kurtzman adopted the moniker. As you would expect, the work was solid, but sadly often underlit so it couldn't be fully enjoyed.

Nightwish was a not a winner. Given the ending, I'm sure the lack of logical sense was intentional, but that also didn't make it particularly engaging either. It may have made a decent Outer Limits episode, but as a feature, not so much. But, then again, eighty-seven minutes of Kaitan, Thompson and KNB is still better than a kick in the jimmies.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hex Fest 2019

This year's edition of the Hexploitation Film Festival announced its lineup yesterday via the Rue Morgue website

This February 21-23, Hamilton's premiere genre festival will be showcasing seven features and fifteen shorts. Having had a hand in curating this year's crop of shorts, I can't wait to unleash them on some eager eyeballs.

For the full schedule and info on tickets, check out the HXFF site here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Short of the Week #50: Human Cattle

This week's short film is some down home exploitation called Human Cattle brought to you by the boys at The Butcher Shop.

Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, The Butcher Shop has been providing top notch makeup effects services for over a decade. And now that they've tasted the filmmaking bug for themselves, God help us all.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Totally Worth it!

This week's VHS is Nick Kazan's 1993 erotic thriller Dream Lover.

After successful architect Ray (James Spader) falls in love with the seemingly perfect Lena (Mädchen Amick), he begins to suspect she may not be who she says she is.

This movie was a blast and wholly indicative of the thrillers that were coming out at this point in the nineties. I won't get into this genre's long sordid history, but I recall 1981's Body Heat really kicking off the whole explicit thriller – Brian De Palma had been dabbling with it, but women rarely played a central part in his narratives – but the flood gates didn't open until Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction in 1987. Then it seemed like a new title hit the shelves every week during my video store tenure.

My main question coming away from this movie is; “has there ever been a more beautiful creature than Mädchen Amick?” She set the screen on fire here and was one of several actresses who spent the mid-nineties erasing their good girl image – in her case built up in her stints on Twin Peaks and Sleepwalkers – and running chest first into some smut. God bless her.

While most of it follows a fairly predictable nineties thriller arc, I must admit that Dream Lover definitely offered up one of the more dour and abrupt conclusions. I was actually shocked to find that writer Kazan was happily married (and still is to this day) with two kids because the script did not strike me as scribbled down by someone who liked, or at least trusted, women. Then again, who knows where this shit comes from? I'm willing to bet the son of Elia Kazan saw some shit growing up.

In addition to seeing a LOT of Amick - it was the “special sexy unrated version” after all - I got to watch James Spader spade it up, so there was really no downside here. Dream Lover was trashy to be sure and maybe not as well put together as say, one of my personal faves, John Dahl's The Last Seduction, but it's hella entertaining and did I mention Mädchen Amick is hot AF?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Short of the Week #49: Mouse

Every so often while screening shorts, I come across a title that makes me say, “I can't wait to watch this with an audience just to watch them squirm.” Logan George & Celine Held's 2017 short Mouse is one such short. Watch if you dare.

George & Held are a formidable team that have made a handful of shorts since Mouse, including the incredibly engaging Valencia Road, also from 2017.  

Friday, January 4, 2019

Lucio's Eyes.

This week, I decided to start out 2019 with some Lucio Fulci and my VHS of his 1977 giallo, The Psychic.

When a vision leads her to a body inside the walls of her husband's former home, Virginia (Jennifer O'Neill) goes about trying to solve the crime.

The Psychic was made right before Fulci's extended foray into the supernatural – for which many consider to have been his best period – with titles that included Zombie, The Beyond, House By The Cemetery and City of the Living Dead. With this one being on the cusp of that era, I actually found myself surprised by how understated this movie was.

With the body count standing at an anemic three – with only one happening onscreen – I would go so far as to say The Psychic was downright restrained. It also didn't help that the aforementioned death scene was an almost shot-for-shot lift from Fulci's earlier film Don't Torture A Duckling.

The Psychic at its heart was a giallo with all the usual misdirects, visual queues and star Jennifer O'Neill put in a solid performance and she wandered from shock zoom to shock zoom. Seriously, there were so many, it would've made Mario Bava blush.

The story owed most of its DNA to Edgar Allan Poe, namely The Black Cat, but with the furry object of its climax switched out for a watch alarm. A pair of things struck me about that, first was how much the final moments mirrored Denis Villeneuve's 2013 film Prisoners and also that Fulci felt the need to revisit this Poe classic less than five years later in 1981, albeit with a better cast and more grandeur.

Though The Psychic may be the weakest of Fulci's giallos, it was still super watchable on the strengths of tried and true formula and a solid score by Fabio Frizzi.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

HNY 2019!

Happy New Year folks! No preview post, but just stopping in to say you can expect the same kind of frequency this year with the usual emphasis on short films and old VHS titles.

I am also expecting to do a lot of archiving this year, mainly old commercials and newscasts from circa 1986-1995. I have a couple of totes worth of that stuff that I'll be digitizing over the next few months. Some of it might make it on here, or maybe I'll just throw it over to Retrontario and see if  they want it.

I have aspirations of making my next short film this year, but early days yet. It will be something fairly simple and manageable so that even I won't be able to fuck it up. 

Anyhoo, as you were!