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, 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...

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Feb 2023 Horror Trivia Screening List

To all those who came here from the Storm Crow FB page, welcome! I am Jay, one half of the horror trivia quizmasters and this is my humble blog.

If you heard a title while at the February event and thought “oh that movie sounds cool, I should check that out”, here's a comprehensive list of all the films that were mentioned.

For everyone else, maybe there's one or two here you have yet to catch. Horror Trivia Night happens the last Wednesday of every month at Storm Crow Manor in Toronto. If you're in the area, come on down! Register here. If you're not local, we do often stream the event on the @ruemorguemag Insta.

The Invisible Man(2020)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre(1974) 
The Hills Have Eyes(1977) 
The Blair Witch Project(1999)
Let the Right One In(2008) 

My Bloody Valentine(1981) 
My Bloody Valentine 3D(2009) 
Tales from the Crypt(1972) 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Before I Hang

I am beginning to wonder if this Horror Movie Guide should have just been titled The Complete Filmography of Boris Karloff. I'm barely in the B's and I've already seen like four of his movies. I'm not complaining mind you, it's just that watching so many in such a small space of time is a little jarring. If they were all as good as Bedlam, it wouldn't be an issue, but alas they are not. This is my roundabout way of saying that I watched Karloff's 1940 film Before I Hang

A doctor (Boris Karloff) on death row creates a serum that cures aging. However, after testing it on himself, he discovers it comes with some very nefarious side effects.

I'm really starting to see how much modern science, which was surprisingly astute in this for a film made in 1940, played in these silver screen horror movies (and how often Karloff was in them). I mean, the mad scientist is a timeless trope, but I'm seeing that it was never more prevalent than during the atomic age.

The Guide seemed to proclaim that Karloff looked bored in this movie, but I found his presence was still pretty strong in this, even if the subject matter may not been enough to fill a feature. I also maintain there are some interesting angles to Before I Hang. It's curious that the idea of assisted suicide still remains as objectionable some eighty years later and I did notice the DNA of things to come decades later like Rod Serling's Twilight Zone episode Escape Clause and Eric Red's script for Body Parts (I'm sure there are earlier movies featuring killer parts possessing their owners, but that's the one that comes to mind) in this movie, as well. 

Boris Karloff as Dr. Garth in Before I Hang.

This was a short one, clocking in at just over sixty minutes, but it seemed to drag at points. Well, maybe not drag, but it did get rather repetitive as the cycle of Karloff trying to cure someone and then just strangling them instead occurred over and over during the course of the picture. Not much more to say on this one. It wasn't anything special, but my opinion isn't as harsh as that of the Guide.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Dog's Breakfast

This week's VHS was one I've had for a while, but only now just got around to watching. Those familiar with crusty video store horror sections will no doubt remember this coverbox from back in the day.

A widow (Bennie Lee McGowan) and an out-of-towner (Patrick Wayne) investigate a maniacal cult that has been murdering people in the area.

Wow, Revenge stinks. I knew that it was a Z-grade SOV flick going in, but I thought Wayne and John Carradine might have been able to elevate it somewhat. It turns out I didn't know what I was walking into. At the hop, I was almost immediately reminded of Blood Cult and, until a few seconds ago, didn't realize that this movie was actually its sequel. It even has some of the same characters, but Blood Cult was such a fucking bore that I'd completely wiped it from my memory.

I'm bewildered by the fact that Wayne and Carradine signed on to this. Had they not watched director Chris Lewis' previous two movies?? I mean, to be fair, Wayne pretty much one-notes his way through and Carradine, bless him, I don't think he ever turned down a role in his life. I think I may have caught him reading his lines offscreen a time or two. 

The only one with any gusto in this, apart from Peter Hart - who had a German accent which makes for scenery chewing by default - was McGowan as the shotgun-toting farm owner Gracie. After her husband gets offed in one of the most hilarious pre-death moments in history...

...she teams up with Wayne to fight against the evil forces that mean to drive her from her property. As I'm typing this, I'm realizing that although not much happens, it's at least a lot more than its predecessor - if my 2016 post is to be believed. There's that scene where Wayne's “classy” squinty-eyed sister gets roasted by telekinesis, cuz that's a power this cult has, but only uses that one time for some reason. Then, there's that birdwatcher that mercifully gets hacked to death to avoid her friend's embarrassing steak(?) and eggs. Like WTF is that?

The motorcycle rider from Nail Gun Massacre shows up at points to harass McGowan, and also, in an amusing turn, disciples of the cult argue about the expanded recruitment because they are running out of ceremonial robes and dog amulets. You know, for a movie as shitty as it is, I saw a lot of firsts last night.

You know, it's been donkey's years since I saw The Ripper, but I recall the gore being pretty decent. Was Tom Savini helping out on that one, because the gore was really lacking here. It's either offscreen, super close-up or clumsily shot. It's frustrating because it would have made a big difference. 555 is a pile of shit, but those kills are impressive.

So yeah terrible movie, but I talked about it twice as much as Blood Cult so that's something, right? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Valentine Reunion, Part Three

It seems like only yesterday, I was at Take One and Take Two of the My Bloody Valentine Reunion. Oh well, I guess technically it was;

Fun was had by all! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Bedlam

I had intended today to post about Charlton Heston's 1980 archeological horror - and next entry in the Guide - The Awakening, but it was unavailable (I was wondering how far I was going to get until YouTube or Tubi couldn't oblige) so I've skipped it for the moment. In its stead, I moved onto the B's and watched the 1946 Boris Karloff vehicle Bedlam

Set in 1761, a young protégée (Anna Lee) seeks to improve the conditions in an infamous London asylum, only to be committed herself by its sadistic head physician Sims (Boris Karloff).

I was pretty impressed with his film. I came into it blind, but should've been put at ease when I saw it was not only an RKO Picture, but a Val Lewton RKO picture. 1942's Cat People is the tits and Bedlam carries on its terrific tradition. This is definitely the only horror film I can think of that was directly inspired by a series of paintings (William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress 1732-1734) and think it's cool that they are kind of regarded as the first storyboards.

Like a lot of RKO Pictures, the dialogue has a particular flow to it, especially this one with its older English dialect. I got a Shakespeare, and later on, Edgar Allen Poe vibe from the proceedings. The camerawork is dope and I can't say I've seen often seen the inside of an asylum shot quite this way. It would be easy to just have a bunch of lunatics climbing the walls, but instead Bedlam is mainly populated with sad or confused people. Lee's interactions with them while she is inside are really compelling.

In truth, there were a lot of people in those times who shouldn't have been there, but the powers that be just didn't know what else to do with them. Although, I'm sure charging admission so the public could come and look at them probably wasn't the best strategy. All I know is that payoff with the missing trowel was really fucking great.

Boris Karloff as Master Sims in Bedlam

I've only seen a handful of Karloff's roles, but I imagine this has to be ranked among his best. He's a real nasty fellow, but still somewhat charming. Lastly, I was pumped that I was going to see a young Jason Robards because he was as old as the hills even when I was young, only to find it was his father that was in the film. I guess that tracks.

There's been a few movies in the Guide so far where I wouldn't have missed not seeing, but I'm super glad I watched Bedlam. Even it heaped praise on this film.

Friday, February 10, 2023

In The Year Two Thousaaaaand...

It occurred to me last week that I inadvertently took the piss out of Full Moon. So this week I decided to pull one of Charlie Band's offerings off the pile, a very cheap looking cassette containing Danny Draven's (I still can't believe that is an actual IRL name) 2001 sci-fi flick Horrorvision.

A screenwriter turned smut dealer named Dez (Len Cordova) discovers a website that incites visitors to commit random acts of violence. After losing his girlfriend, Dez joins up with a mysterious dude named Bradbury (James Black) to track down the source.

First off, I popped in the tape and this was the first time in my entire life that the preview trailer was for the same movie that I was just about to fucking watch! Anyway, much like how Dr. Giggles recalled memories of the nineties, Horrorvision is so fucking 2000's it hurts. Everything from the music and fx to the references to “Quicktime” & “Powerbooks” to cyberpunk tattoos. And I mean, a tattoo that literally says Cyberpunk. To be honest, this movie would be painful, if it wasn't so delightfully cheesy.

Brinke Stevens' brief appearance at the hop has her talking shop with Dez and I was reminded of what internet porn looked like before the 'Hub. Additionally, before the demise of Dez's squeeze, we got a scene inside LA's Dark Delicacies which was a hoot. I'm clutching at things here because a lot of this movie was montages to use the tunes they paid for, and discount bin versions of better stuff. Bradbury is clearly wish Morpheus, sashaying though sprinklings of Brainscan and Hardware. It often left me wondering...

When Dez turns on the TV in a hotel room, we see snips of Arcade and The Dead Next Door, at which point I kind of wished I was watching either of those two. The latter's appearance made sense because Horrorvision was a joint venture between Full Moon & Tempe, of whom Door's director JR Bookwalter was the big cheese. I do have to admit that the fact he and Band collaborated put a smile on my face. But, it could also be that it was this scene that the robots showed up.

Awww... who's this little guy!

I can't really deny that Horrorvision is low rent trash, but I did appreciate it had - apart from said robot effects - one saving grace in the film's final moments when Bradbury explains that it was all the vitriol and hatred being spewed online that caused the Internet to become sentient. How incredibly prophetic! I mean, not the sentient part - that'll come... if we're lucky - but just the idea of social media sowing our downfall. Remember when we were afraid of technology? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: The Attic

The next entry in the Guide was George Edwards' 1980 picture The Attic. I had a vague recollection of the coverbox, mainly because of that monkey with the cymbals that seemed to be everywhere in the eighties, but that's as far as it goes.

A mousey librarian named Louise (Carrie Snodgrass) spends her days lamenting her lost love and fantasizing about offing her abusive wheelchair-bound father (Ray Milland).

Well, this movie escalates right out of the gate, with our protagonist slitting her wrists during the opening credits. Her suicide attempt is unsuccessful though, and we spend the next half-hour bearing witness to just how unhappy her existence is. After a few melancholy (and lengthy) montages - like we paid for this song so we're going to use the whole Goddamn thing - we get to the part where Louise's friend buys her a pet monkey from a pet store. Was that even a thing?? Yes, this movie goes literally bananas.
Dafuq am I watching?

When that happened I figured we were in for some sort of reverse Monkey Shines, where the monkey gets even with all those who have wronged her owner. But no, strangely the money serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever, because its death doesn't even end up being the inciting incident that causes Loiuse to FINALLY do away with her father. 

Carrie Snodgrass as Louise in The Attic

I am surprised that Snodgrass' performance isn't talked about more. B-movie enthusiasts sing the praises of manic roles turns Susan Tyrell in Night Warning or Louise Lasser in Blood Rage (and rightly so), but Snodgrass' unhinged wallflower is worth some love, as well. I also dig that this father-daughter team was brought over from the Edwards penned 1973 film The Killing Kind. Milland, seemingly just dusting off his wheelchair and demeanor from his role in Frogs, is deliciously despicable, making every one of Louise's daydreamed patricides entertaining as hell.

Another cool piece of film DNA is that cinematographer Gary Graver - after apparently taking over director duties on this movie - built a relationship with Snodgrass that came in handy when he made his film Trick or Treats - a flawed piece of work I have a soft spot for - two years later.

Oh yes, I completely forgot there was an ATTIC, and that's okay because so did the writers apparently. There is no mention of said room until the very end and the reveal is rather ambiguous - at least to me - on who was responsible for that literal skeleton in the closet. So even though I threw my hands up in WTF a few times during this movie, it is also a pretty engaging character piece. The Guide seemed to agree, as well. 

But I can't fucking believe they didn't mention the monkey!

Friday, February 3, 2023

Insert Medical Pun Here.

This week's VHS is the 1992 ham-fest Dr. Giggles. It wasn't exactly a first watch, but I hadn't seen it since it came out so it might as well have been. I probably snagged this copy from my video store prior to my exit.

A maniac known only as Dr. Giggles (Larry Drake) escapes from an asylum and heads to his hometown to wreak havoc (sound familiar?) on its inhabitants, including nineties cuties Holly Marie Combs and Glenn Quinn. I also don't know why he is shooting green lasers out of his eyes on the cover...

Ah, the early nineties. What a wasteland it was for American horror. With genre meal tickets Jason and Freddy waning after having put out their worst entries, studios were looking for fresh IP's. Meaning they basically threw everything at the wall and saw what stuck. Some did (Leprechaun for instance) and some didn't (Dr. Giggles).

Larry Drake as Dr. Giggles

This time was also when most slashers (again taking Freddy's lead) were camp fests, filled to the brim with one-liners. I think it may have been an attempt to curry favour with the censors - hey, gore can't be bad if it's funny, right? -  because Dr. Giggles has wall-to-wall, drinking-game frequency puns and more sight gags than you can shake a thermometer at. Admittedly, Drake is pretty great and plays his ridiculous role with the same weight he did as Durant in Sam Raimi's Darkman two years earlier.

And speaking of Raimi, I feel director Manny Coto was a big fan. I can see a lot of Darkman-era Raimi in this movie, not only in tone, but also camera style, especially the carnival set piece. Coto also enlisted Raimi cohorts KNB EFX to do the gore. I wager a good deal of it ended up on the censor room floor, but even in their truncated form, the over-the-top kills are the movie's most entertaining attribute.

Dr. Giggles is utterly dumb-as-fuck, but it also has its charms. It always gives me a chuckle to remember this wasn't some fly-by-night Full Moon production; this played theatres! I wasn't kidding when I said “wasteland”. Studios were so starved for horror content, it was just insane the stuff I was seeing at my local multiplex. The Lawnmower Man, for Christ sakes! Trust me, this was the stretch I was working in a video store and I saw it all. What a wonderful time to be alive!

Edit: I found out today that stuntman George P. Wilbur passed away. He was 81. Wilbur was the man who donned the white mask of Michael Myers in the Halloween films of my teenage years. He amassed over a hundred credits during his six decades in the biz, including Dr. Giggles! Rest in peace, George.