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.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

R.I.P. Billy Drago 1945-2019

Billy Drago, actor and quintessential villain of the home video era and beyond, passed away this week in Los Angeles. He was 73.

Rest in peace, Billy.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Emmeritus Triple Bill Part Deux

With it being Canada Day weekend, it felt right to do another Emmeritus Triple Bill. 

For those who didn't see my first post, Emmeritus was an Ontario-based film company that made a slew of shot-on-video titles in the eighties that also played on local TV station CHCH. Thanks to a friend, I recently acquired a bunch of their titles and here is the trio I watched this week. Up first, was Peter McCubbin's Assignment KGB aka Ladybear

This was the third of three titles that McCubbin made for Emmeritus and featured a librarian named Anna (Carol Poirier) who begins having flashbacks about being in Russia as a child. Surprise! She'd just forgotten she was actually a trained KGB operative code named Ladybear, which I guess was catchier than just, sow.

Isn't it heartwarming to know that Ontario and Russian winters are indistinguishable on film? It was quite amusing to see how much - contrary to what the cover would have you believe - espionage and spy mongering was going on in Toronto in the eighties. I had no idea there were KGB agents working out of the Russian embassy, or that there was even a Russian embassy here. Perhaps most hilarious was the assertion that “most of the traffic from the CIA and British MI5 goes through Ottawa.” Does it though?

It's super coincidental that I picked this weekend – when another flick about a female secret KGB agent named Anna came out – to watch this movie. Sometimes things just line up like that. And just like any spy “thriller” there were many twists and turns. Ladybear however, has an unironic romantic boat ride.

Ladybear isn't good, but again much like Mark of the Beast, I enjoyed the kitsch of seeing worldly things happen in eighties Ontario.

Now, I bet you are thinking - Hey Jay, if Emmeritus made dozens of titles, there must be an anthology in there somewhere. Well, you would be correct! It's Steve DiMarco's Shock Chamber.

It was subtitled a Trilogy of Terror, but it's more aptly a trilogy of say, mild discomforts that consist of three stories and a wraparound about four ill-fated brothers. Naturally the brothers were quadruplets of course, so they only had to pay one actor (Doug Stone). The stories (namely the first and third) have a Tales From The Crypt quality to them, so apart from their cheapness they were half-palatable.

One-fourth of Doug Stone in Shock Chamber.

In Symbol of Victory, a man buys a love potion to get the woman of his dreams and, well you know things don't turn out the way he planned. Next, in Country Hospitality, a man runs afoul of some shady characters in a small Southern town. This was the first time I'd seen an Emmeritus movie that actively pretended to be in the US even though the cars still had Ontario plates – one truck had it inexplicably (and inadvisably) sticking off the side Horror Hospital style.

At the onset, it felt a little like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre without the Texas, or Chainsaw, or Massacre. I do have to wonder if the production went the route of Rock N' Roll Nightmare and cut a deal with Coca-Cola because it was everywhere in this segment.

The final segment called The Injection could be the most Crypt-y of the bunch and features the old pretend-your-dead-and-buried-and-I'll-dig-you-up-later insurance scam. Always one-hundred per cent fool proof right? 

This one had some choice random characters, like the two hookers in a scene that felt like it was thirty-two years early for Twin Peaks: The Return. Without question though, most bonkers was Sue Morrison's appearance as the landlady. I would really love to know whether that performance choice was that of the director or the actress.

Also, I'm pretty sure they used this apartment in the first segment, as well.

Lastly, Allan Levine's 1812: The King's Regiment was a title I'd heard brought up before when people talked of Emmeritus, as this was the company's ambitious stab at a period piece. 

At first I figured they just shot this at Black Creek Pioneer Village, but it turns out there were actually three other Pioneer Villages in Ontario at the time in Kitchener, Stoney Creek and Rockton. Who knew? With likely the biggest cast of any Emmeritus flick, you can imagine the accents ran the gamut from enthusiastic to laughable. I was legit impressed by this guy's smoke ring game though.

1812's story was surprisingly convoluted and I assume mostly fictional, as I had to wonder why the King of Spain was hanging out in Canada incognito while the Yanks & Brits fought it out. It was pretty dry for the most part, but not as painful as I was expecting. As you can imagine, a lot of it was men in decidedly authentic looking uniforms, running around in forests and fields. And at over ninety-minutes I did find my lids getting a little heavy by the end.

This movie often felt like a Canadian Heritage Minute. You know, now that I think of it, the whole Emmeritus catalogue could be considered Heritage Minutes, as everything from political intrigue to global conspiracies have gone down in our fair country.

So, on that note, have a great Canada Day weekend!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Blank Tape Bazaar Vol. 4

As like my own piles of recordable VHS, when looking through my mom's old stash (which is ninety-five per cent old Days of Our Lives episodes) I noticed some brand trends. Also like me, the older tapes were Embassy Gold & Studio, but when they blinked out of existence, my mother seemed to settle on BASF.

BASF may be the brand that kept its jacket designs the most similar over the years. As you can see, they stuck to the grey with rainbow highlight, only changing up the emphasis on the 6-hour recording length. I wonder if I could call them out on their lifetime guarantee if need be.

On the tail end of my VHS recordings, I found myself recording more television shows than movies and the brand I predominantly used for this was Maxell. During HBO's uncontested years of the 2000's, I found myself taping shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Carnivale for people at work.

They'd supply the tapes which just happened to be those blue Maxells. I'd put two on a tape and they'd get passed around. That was before the age of rampant Internet spoilers so they didn't mind waiting a week or two to see the next episodes. Also, I liked using the sleek black ones below for anime, or as I called it back then - Japanimation.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bouncing... On The Beach!

This week's VHS is David DeCoteau's 1993 alien sex comedy Beach Babes From Beyond.

Three babes from space (Sarah Bellomo, Tamara Landry & Nicole Posey) crash land on Earth and quickly find themselves at a California beach party. Wacky misadventures ensue!

With the Deadly Ten being shot right now, I'd thought I would pull out a Full Moon title I'd never watched, but always wondered about. Beach Babes From Beyond was the first release of Full Moon's off-shoot company Torchlight that specialized in movies of a more erotic nature. It's a little weird to me that Full Moon's other major side project was the kid-friendly Moonbeam. I wonder if they ever mixed up those tapes at the factory. I would have totally switched Prehysteria with Virgin Hunters given the chance.

Anyway, DeCoteau was credited as Ellen Cabot for this movie and I'm sure there is a story behind this. Ten bucks says it's a money thing. I wager that his other job on the movie was way more important.

Beach Babes From Beyond had the distinction (and they let you know this on the poster and the trailer) of featuring four famous relatives in Joe Estevez, Don Swayze, Joey Travolta and Jackie Stallone. You throw in Burt Ward and Linnea Quigley and you've got quite the genre buffet here. Man, without his moustache, it is quite remarkable how much Estevez looks like his brother, Martin.

Space Babes Sarah Bellomo (left) Nicole Posey & Tamara Landry.

As far as movies go, it's your average sex comedy template that gets a LOT of mileage out of its beach party footage. I would guess that half of this movie's seventy-minute running time is musical montages featuring multiple helpings of such hits as “Bouncing on the Beach” and “I've Got a Woody”. I will give it points for having a character named Hymen Hassler though.

Beach Babes delivered on the nudity, but the love scenes are best described as exercises in enthusiastic licking. Overall, it was amusing enough, but even I have to admit it's barely a movie. To be honest, if you want a more entertaining version of this, check out Scott Schrimer's Space Babes From Outer Space. It may not have as many boobs, but it makes up for it in practical creature effects.

Since this was a Full Moon production, you can always count on the Videozone segment, which featured a making of featurette (where the cast talked about doing the aforementioned love scenes on their first day of shooting) and trailers for Trancers 4, Subspecies 3 and Virgin Hunters. Say what you will about Charlie Band's empire, but he basically invented the concept of home video BTS. And he continues to evolve it with the Deadly Ten.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Blank Tape Bazaar Vol. 3

In the inaugural BTB post I mentioned that, much like their rental counterparts, recordable VHS often had colourful covers to catch the eye of the consumer. This week I wanted to showcase some of the louder examples and considering it was the eighties you can imagine they were cranked to eleven.

You may have noticed that black and grey were the industry standard so I think Polaroid had the right idea in shaking things up. Perhaps taking a cue from Key Video they added in an instantly recognizable rainbow motif.

Now thankfully - for archival's sake anyway - my mother still has totes full of tapes with old Days of our Lives episodes on them so if you're thinking that there would be several one-off brand VHS in them... well you would be correct!

Damn... Towers?! That is going back aways. That's it for now, but I've still got plenty more to post in the future so stay tuned.

Friday, June 14, 2019

In The Year Nineteen Ninety-Two!

This week's VHS is Charles Band's 1982 flick Parasite. I acquired one of those infamous Wizard “big boxes” while working the Full Moon booth last weekend and decided to crack it.

A scientist (Robert Glaudini) infected with his own creation escapes his captors and searches for a cure in the barren wastelands outside futuristic Los Angeles.

I had never seen this movie and almost immediately realized I had no idea what it was about. I watched Prophecy last year and am now pretty sure I may have always thought these two were the same movie. I certainly did not know this one was set in a post-apocalypse where cash was no longer accepted and the only three things on the menu were canned fruit, canned beer and canned soup. And this universe had laser guns by 1992. How progressive!

Parasite was originally released in 3D and much like my childhood watches of Friday the 13th Part III you can tell which parts are made to cash in on that - my fave bit being the guy who gets impaled by a length of pipe... and bleeds oil apparently.

Despite its low budget underpinning, it did possess a good amount of pedigree, as Stan Winston designed the creature, Richard Band did the score and boasted Demi Moore in her second ever role. Former Runaway Cherie Currie also turned up randomly as one of a gang of toughs.

Demi Moore as Pat Welles in Parasite

I appreciated the world building in this movie, even if the exchanges were a little stiff scene to scene, especially the ones between Moore and Glaudini. That's okay though, because once the creature got let out of its container, it became the star anyway. I feel like this giant tadpole with teeth motif got used a lot in the eighties, but like the saying goes - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Parasite concluded with a cool full body burn and our heroes living happily ever after. Well, as happy as one can be in a post apocalyptic world I suppose.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Short of the Week #70: ABE

At E3 this week, Hammerhead Studios announced a VR game called ABE that is based on this 2013 short film of the same name by Rob McLellan.

I'm in. ABE first screened in 2013 so this project has obviously been gestating for some time. In the meantime, McLellan has been keeping himself busy as a visual effects artist as well as making a few more short films (Always the Sun in 2014 and Explorers in 2017). No release date for the game has been set, but this teaser has certainly piqued by interest.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Blank Tape Bazaar Vol. 2

Now as I said before, there are likely millions of blank VHS (if they haven't been melted down) made by dozens of different electronics companies languishing out there. At the end of their run, they cost peanuts, but in the early eighties they were actually quite expensive. When I was a kid, VHS tapes were often used as stocking stuffers at Christmas and oft requested items for birthdays.

I don't remember buying my own in great quantities until I started working at the video store. When it became a Blockbuster in 1992, they had their own brand and I frequently snapped them up using my employee discount. 

I found those orange ones above to be significantly good quality, so I used them for a lot of my important recordings.

I obviously just keep these first ten or so for nostalgic purposes, but I really liked how they looked all lined up on my shelf back in the day. About a decade later, after when the BBV brand stopped being made, I switched over to Memorex because their affordability and durability.

I think by the time VHS was on its way out, I could get a ten-pack of the gold one above for about $12.99 at Wal-Mart and they are definitely the ones I have the most of still. Memorex also gave you many different length options, which I appreciated because I was still recording tons of stuff.

I shudder to think about all the time I wasted re-dubbing televisions shows in order to take out the commercials so I could fit eight episodes per six-hour tape. And the final rub is that now I wish I had those commercials because of their historical value. You really can't win!