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, 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.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Potatoes


This week's VHS is Jackie Kong's 1983 monster movie The Being.


A mutated creature born of nuclear waste terrorizes a sleepy Idaho town.

Sadly, there were only a handful of women directing genre films during the eighties, but Jackie Kong made a name for herself starting with this debut. Is it great? Well no, as it suffered from the a lot of the usual pitfalls of low budget cinema.

For instance, the script was all over the place, aimlessly meandering from character to character as they got offed by a shadowy creature. And although that may have escalated the body count, a lot of the kills happened offscreen or were buried in darkness – admittedly some of that could've been my muddy VHS. Then Martin Landau showed up waving his geiger counter around to explain away why the only living thing affected by nuclear waste in the water supply seemed to be a lone missing child. What a missed opportunity!


Perhaps most perplexing was the lead actor (producer Bill Osco, credited as both Rexx Coltrane AND Johnny Commander) who put in a largely wooden performance as Mortimer Lutz. It also didn't help that his internal monologues were inexplicably dropped after the first act. From then on, Osco spent the rest of the running time barely reacting to the numerous things that kept popping out at him. Oh, and he was immune to cyanide gas apparently. Neat.

And speaking of the title character, until you finally get to see it in all its one-eyed glory at the end, it was really hard to get a sense of it because it seemed to change shape and size from scene to scene. Sometimes it was human-sized, sometimes smaller. Sometimes it had tentacles, sometimes it was like The Blob and phased from liquid to solid. At least Kong added a line about an underground tunnel system to rationalize how it seemed to be everywhere in the town at once.


So while not having as much bang for your B-movie buck as say Ed Hunt's The Brain or Greydon Clark's Without Warning, The Being still had its moments. At the end of the day, it's hard not to acknowledge that Kong was just twenty-three when she wrote and directed her debut that sported two award winners in Landau & Dorothy Malone. That's an impressive feat for any gender.