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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Mar 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 Wednesday's 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 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.

Misery (1990)
Fire in the Sky (1993)
The Fourth Kind (2009)
Army of Darkness (1992) 
Deadly Blessing (1981)

Leprechaun Returns (2018)
Cry of the Banshee (1970)

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970) 
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
Microwave Massacre (1979)
Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)
Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1983) 

The Last House on the Left (1972) 
I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
Happy Birthday To Me (1981)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Bigfoot

The next entry in the Guide was Robert R. Slatzer's 1970 movie Bigfoot. I remember the coverbox from my video store, but it wasn't something I would have ever considered watching. To be honest, Slatzer's other film Hellcats sounds like more my speed. But I said I'd watch every movie in the Horror Movie Guide so here we are.

When a tribe of Sasquatches kidnap a few scantily clad ladies (Joi Lansing & Judith Jordan) a biker gang, some hunters and a swindling salesman (John Carradine) looking to cash in on the legend head into the mountains in pursuit.

So I am assuming this movie was the winner of the race to make a Bigfoot film, that famous “actual” footage only having appeared three years earlier. It shows. Bigfoot might be the biggest dud I've seen in the Guide so far. I mean, I wasn't expecting much, but this movie is pretty threadbare. I'd say it's at least fourty-per cent characters walking through the forest, in amongst women screaming and sasquatch grunting. At least there were some banging guitar tracks courtesy of illustrious musician Richard Podolor over all these montages.

At first I had hope because the cast listed at the hop was like thirty characters. I thought perhaps it might be a bodycount slasher, but with a Bigfoot? I was quickly assuaged of that by remembering that beyond H.G Lewis, that genre was yet to be a thing in 1970. This was more like some anemic drive-in biker movie with some creatures in it. But, it's not even drive-in material because nothing really happens. No one dies, threre's no gore as only as much skin as they thought they could get away with.

Joi & Judith; a few reasons to watch.

I think there was one cool scene where one of the Bigfeet(?) fights a bear. At least I think he did, it was kind of just two brown blobs thrashing around in a sea of night. I bet they spent half their budget on that bear and you can't even see it.

Thankfully, John Carradine does what John Carradine does. He spices up his sub-standard material, actually doing more than the walk-ons I often see him play. And for a dude who was in his sixties, he's pretty spry. I am assuming this show didn't have money for stunt doubles so I wager that was him climbing all those hills. He even gets to deliver the King Kong-esque groaners at the end.

Bigfoot is far from great - and certainly no Yeti: Giant of the 21st Century - and the Guide would seem to agree.

Friday, March 24, 2023

That's One Nasty Sofa Bed!

The next movie on the pile was Doug Curtis' 1989 flick The Sleeping Car.

Mature college student Jason (David Naughton) rents an apartment converted from an old train car only to find it may be haunted by the previous owner.

I did actually see this when it came out, but remembered nothing about it except Naughton was in it and that it was less than great. But, hey I figured thirty-plus years is grounds for reappraisal.

Man, even if I didn't know when this film was made, I would've known when this film was made. I mentioned in my Dr. Giggles post last month about that stretch when film studios were looking for the next Jason or Freddy and The Sleeping Cat is right in that era. It's even on the coverbox for fuck's sake.

Forget Freddy. Forget Jason. Here Comes The Mister.

That aside, this was when, on the backs of recent Nightmare sequels and Evil Dead 2, camp, or at least, wry comedy, was en vogue in horror and The Sleeping Car lapped it up. It is evident early on why they cast Naughton in this, as the filmmakers wanted a David Kessler - his iconic role in American Werewolf - type for this picture. I like to think this movie was an alternate timeline where he took Jack's advice and they went to Italy instead of Northern England and this is where he ended up almost a decade later.

Naughton literally wisecracks his way through the entire movie, well to be fair, EVERY character wisecracks their way through the movie. But him especially. This dialogue, man. It's exhausting to the point you just can't help but crack up eventually. 

And yes, that's Judie Aronson. I had somehow forgot she was in this, which shocks me because she is fire in this. Kevin McCarthy also has a role as Naughton's next door, er, next car neighbour and looked like the one having the most fun in this. If you get past the try-hard air of Curtis and Co. there is some amusement to be had. It wasn't lost on me that the writers were big genre fans, and with Naughton on the payroll you better believe they were gonna do another double nightmare bit.

But moving onto the antagonist The Mister. He really only bookends the movie, as everything in between is him killing people with furniture, namely the sofa bed in the train car. It sounds absurd, and it is, but watching people being impaled by bedsprings is admittedly kind of badass. 

Also, of note is the Mister is played by none other than John Carl Buechler. Maybe he figured Kane was having so much fun on Friday 7, he thought sure, I'll get in on the action.

In the end, forgiveness plays a huge part in the climax for a reason I guess I missed. To be honest, my VHS copy was a really shitty Vidmark SLP recording so I almost aborted on more than one occasion. All the gore and at least a hundred of the “jokes” were still intact though, don't you worry. So, is The Sleeping Car forgettable? Probably. But, I still give it an A for effort.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

HMG: Beyond The Door II

The next entry in the Guide was Beyond The Door II, however I didn't realize until I looked closer that this film was actually Mario Bava's last effort Shock retitled for American audiences. I'd seen once or twice before back in the 00's when I dove into his back catalogue, but I figured what the hell, if it's Bava and Daria Nicolodi, it's worth a revisit.

Dora (Nicolodi) returns to her house after a brief stay in the loony bin after her husband's suicide. Being left alone with her son Marco (David Colin Jr.) for long stretches by her new beau (John Steiner), she begins to suspect her husband's spirit is still present.

Shock almost immediately brought a smile to my face because I was reminded that circa 2005 I had a roommate named Mark and I culled a sample from this movie for our answering machine message.

Such good times. Marco is such a little shit, but even with the terrible par-for-the-course dubbing, he still manages to do more than you would expect from a six-year-old. I obviously never realized until now that Marco and that pea soup sucking kid in Beyond The Door were one in the same. Wild, man.

Not unusual for Italian thrillers of this time, the score - by prog rock band Libra - is way out front, to the point I was often confused as to whether the music box and piano music was actually part of the environment. In any case, a solid score that I am currently listening to as I type this. 

Daria Nicolodi in Beyond the Door II aka Shock.

Shock bounces back and forth from psychological to supernatural like a metronome, before finally deciding which one it wants to be. This, with the help of his son Lamberto, was Mario's last film and he still had it way into his sixties. Sure, it's not in the upper echelon of his catalogue, but even lesser Bava is still worth watching. 

I'm not gonna lie, this film does drag in parts, especially when it's just Daria wandering around her house, but he still finds ways to engage with his signature visual flourishes, like the razor blade in the piano keys, that close-up shot of Daria in bed that must have been shot on some sort of rotating set and let's not forget it boasts one of the all-time great jump scares;

Shock was a worthy revisit that I am glad the Guide concurred with. I can't say I agree with their knock on the visuals though. I mean sure, it ain't Blood and Black Lace... but what is?

Friday, March 17, 2023

Spacecore Horizon.

The next VHS off the pile was DJ Webster's 1990 sci-fi flick The Dark Side of the Moon. This was a video store staple in the nineties, but one I never bothered with until now.

In 2022 - shit I should have watched this last year - the vessel Spacecore malfunctions and drifts into the dark side of the moon where it finds a long lost space shuttle with something malevolent onboard.

The Dark Side of the Moon was largely lower-tier sci-fi, but it does have some things going for it. The space sets and models were surprisingly decent, made right before filmmakers started trying to do this shit digitally. I did enjoy seeing a few familiar faces. This was apparently Joe Turkel's last film and I can see him being like, “bitch I pushed Jack Torrance off the wagon and ran fucking Tyrell Corp, I be done with this shit”. I was also chuffed to see Friday 4 alumni Camilla More show up as the “Mother” character.

Even though the set up of this film is largely a redo of Alien and then functions as a dry run of Event Horizon - which wouldn't hit screens for another seven years - I did like the tie-in to the Bermuda Triangle. Christ, remember when that was a thing? In the eighties, it was a tangible threat, like quicksand and Stranger Danger. And I'll give this movie some credit, of all the things I was expecting on that derelict ship, Satan was not one of them.

Webster does a serviceable job with the material - especially since his resume consists almost solely of music videos - but does inevitably fall into the same trap as most of these low budget SF pictures where the crew spends an ungodly amount of time searching the ship. This is where I started nodding off, but I was able to snap back into consciousness to see our lead sacrifice himself for the greater good.

The Dark Side of the Moon is watchable fare, but also almost  indistinguishable from the likeminded fare that populated this early nineties era. I would take Gary J. Tunnicliffe's 1996 flick Within The Rock over this if I'm being honest. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

HMG: Beyond The Door

The next entry in the Guide was Ovidio G. Assonitis' 1974 flick Beyond The Door. I obviously knew the coverbox from way back, but didn't really know what I was in for.

Jessica (Juliet Mills) has a lot on her plate, not only being possessed by a demon, but also apparently carrying the devil's child. Levitation, regurgitation and desecration ensues.

It's funny to me that I just watched Beyond Evil, a film with similar themes to Beyond The Door, but couldn't be more different. Evil attempts to tell a coherent story - it fails, but at least tries - whereas Door has no such allusions. This is textbook Italian replication at work here. Mix together a large helping of The Exorcist (which came out the year previous) with some Rosemary's Baby, add some weirdo badly dubbed children and sprinkle a Euro-funkadelic score on top and voila; you've got Beyond The Door!

I have so many questions, chief among them, why is the son obsessed with pea soup, to the point he drinks it from the fucking can? Is it some sort of in-joke about Pazuzu vomit? Both these kids talk like they're from outer space. Man, onscreen children that call their parents by their first names always irk me. But I digress. Whatever the deal was with those kids was irrelevant anyway because they are mercifully shuffled away in the third act, save for the nonsensical final freeze frame.

Like, what the fuck dude?

Beyond The Door is just so perplexing. It should be simple, but just can't help going off on these strange tangents, like that extended scene when the husband, Argento regular Gabe Lavia, is accosted by nose-fluting buskers on the sidewalk. Oh, I forgot about this... the movie opens with narration from the Devil himself. I don't know why the Prince of Darkness felt the need to lay everything out for us, but thanks I guess? You know what I'd like to forget? That skeezy goodnight kiss scene. Ick.

This all results in a movie that feels loooong. However, I did appreciate that at some points two scenes were super-imposed over each other to save time. I guess the only real takeaway - apart from the usual bonkers Eurotropes - was Mills' performance as she really gives her all in the possession scenes. I'm sure this wasn't what she was envisioning when she signed onto this project - her last film in Italy was alongside Jack Lemmon - but that's the nature of the biz I guess.

It looks like the Guide had even less tolerance for Beyond The Door than I did, finding the kids equally as boggling.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Jennifer! *whispers* Jenniferrrrr!

I have to admit that my pile was getting on the low side, but fortunately I was able to replenish my VHS stash by visiting a tape market in Hamilton last weekend. I've got some beauties that you'll likely see show up in the next few weeks, starting with today's entry, Jennifer from 1978.

A bullied schoolgirl named Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan) finally puts her God-given ability to control snakes to good use.

First off, let's just digest that coverbox for a second. Putting aside that whichever video store rented this tape put it in the Action section, I feel the need to point out that at no point during this movie does a tiger fight snakes and/or Jennifer. Unreal.

Moving on from that though... Funny thing here. I thought I hadn't seen this, but almost immediately I was hit with a wave of déjà vu. Turns out I watched this not too long ago at one of my Zoom movie nights, but somehow it slipped my mind. There was no denying it though, for if that catchy theme song hadn't jogged my memory, seeing that kitten and recalling its brutal end surely did. Then of course, when Bert Convy showed up, I remembered chatting about the Love Boat.

But anyway, for a Carrie rip-off, Jennifer is serviceable fare. Director Brice Mack (who started out as an animator on some of Disney's greatest hits) made the wise decision that if you're going to tread on familiar ground, you need to up the ante. The Mean Girls here were so diabolical, they made their De Palma counterparts seem like pussycats. For instance, the queen bitch Sandra (Amy Johnston) straight up tries to murder Jennifer in one scene and then, when one of her minions intervenes, she later has her boy toy rape her so-called friend in an elevator. Cold shit.

Aside from placating us with some disco, Mack waits a considerably long time to serve up the serpents. Thankfully, it does payoff in the end. There isn't much explanation as to the how or why of Jennifer's powers - controlling snakes is an easy enough leap, but being able to materialize them out of thin air is a tad perplexing - but is there ever? 

What's important is the bad folks eat shit and Jennifer gets to continue her life unfettered because good news, her religious parent doesn't try to murder her in this one. Redder IS better, amirite?

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

HMG: Beyond Evil

This week's foray into the pages of the Horror Movie Guide was 1980's Beyond Evil. This was a title I was not previously familiar with, but stars John Saxon and Lynda Day “BastaaaaaaardsGeorge so I was more than willing to imbibe.

Larry (Saxon) and his wife Barbara (George) move into a mansion on a tropical island, only to find it is haunted by a demonic spirit.

Our movie opens with a native wedding, after which the bride wanders into the forest and seems shocked to see this huge mansion that stands literally a stone's throw from their village. That's where we get the first glimpse of the house demon. It drops a column on the bride, but fortunately, after some questionable splint work, she survives. Cut to director card and the first of MANY dun-dun-dunnnnnn music cues.

Beyond Evil is one of those titles that is mostly a bore, plodding along in between sensational deaths that are sprinkled in every so often. Speaking of which, why is it that demons have such rampant remote access to all forms of machinery in these movies? 

Fortunately, amongst all this boring talk about faith healers and real estate deals, I had Day's long blonde locks and Saxon's hunky physique to hold my attention. Still cut in his mid-forties and badass AF. Respect!

Finally things start motoring in the last act when Saxon tries to stop the demon from possessing his wife. Green Laser Eyes ensue. Then, in the eleventh hour, jewelry and the power of love save the day, and the demon turns to dust.

Beyond Evil is pretty pedestrian and without its two stars I wager this movie would be almost unwatchable. The Guide would seem to agree. 

Friday, March 3, 2023

A Wolf In Creep's Clothing.

This week's VHS was 1995's Project: Metalbeast. I'm nearing the bottom of the pile, as evidenced by this merchant copy complete with hole-punched barcode and intermittent burn-in's of “for screening purposes only”.

An unstable CIA agent (John Marzilli) who injected himself with werewolf blood is cryogenically frozen for 20 years and then thawed out for use in military experiments involving synthesized skin. It doesn't go well.

You know, I was in good shape at the start of this movie because I knew that Project: Metalbeast could not possibly as awful as the trailer that proceeded it for Paul Rodriguez's dramedy(?) A Million To Juan. Man, the shit they put out on tape in the nineties. The eighties I understand, but we should've had the hang of this by '95.

Anyhoops, Metalbeast starts off with musician Conrad Pope doing his best Elfman impression, giving us some overly dramatic music during the opening credits. Then, enter a pretty decent looking - or at least way better than I would have expected - werewolf. Until the aforementioned CIA agent with a haircut you could set your watch to, blows it away with silver bullets. After extracting its blood, he makes the completely rational decision to inject himself with it. goes haywire and is then put on ice by his boss, Barry Bostwick.

-“It shrinks?” -“Like a frightened turtle!”

More than some of this movie is a bore, which is why I actually nodded off in the middle. It's actually unusually quiet in the second act, while science people do science things. And complain several times about having to eat PB&J sandwiches. Hey, fuck you dude. I've literally eaten ten PB&J's a week for decades and still love 'em to death. Thankfully, the eventual screams and death snapped me back into consciousness.

As you might have guessed, the metal skin somehow gets on werewolf dude and viola - METALBEAST. And he looks pretty badass, even though every time he was onscreen I wanted to yell, “Fuck you Honey Badger” like in that Love, Death & Robots episode. What's funny is there's a shot of it walking down a hallway and I thought to myself, “hey that guy walks like Kane Hodder”.

Turns out it was actually Kane Fucking Hodder! Until he gets exploded with a silver rocket. Lastly, Kim Delaney was looking pretty hot in this and I'm glad she booked her role on NYPD Blue shortly after so no one was tempted to make a Metalbeast 2.