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John’s Horror Corner: Dolls (1987), a heavy dose of 80s-nostalgic murderous stop-motion demon dolls from goretastic director Stuart Gordon.

June 23, 2019

MY CALL: This might be the first killer doll movie featuring several stop-motion dolls. And even if it’s not, it’s fun and gory and clearly influenced many of our favorite subsequent evil dolls films. MOVIES LIKE Dolls: Other quality evil doll films include The Boy (2016), Annabelle: Creation (2017), Dead Silence (2007), Demonic Toys (1992), Trilogy of Terror (1975), Tales from the Hood (1995), Dolly Dearest (1991) and Puppet Master 1-5 (1989). Plus there’s Child’s Play (1988), Child’s Play 2 (1990), Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2017).

After finding their car stuck in the mud during a storm (such a classic trope, by the way), David (Ian Patrick Williams; Re-Animator, Bad Channels, Growth), Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon; Re-Animator, From Beyond, The Pit and the Pendulum) and their daughter Judy (Carrie Lorraine; Poltergeist II) seek shelter in a nearby mansion.

The mansion is occupied by elderly dollmaker couple Gabriel (Guy Rolfe; Puppet Master 3-5 & Retro, The Bride) and his hospitable wife Hilary, and as soon as welcoming Judy’s family in from the rain, they give her a jester doll to keep her company: Mister Punch. Then more wayward travelers (an awkward motorist and two young punkettes) join the cast for the sake of a larger body count. Shortly after their arrival, Judy discovers that the dolls seem to be alive… and they tend not to like adults.

The creature effects are quite satisfying for 1987 (and on a budget). This classic gets off to a glorious start with an engaging monster scene when Judy’s teddy bear turns into a big monstrous demon bear. The dolls throughout the mansion have human-like veiny eyes that move about and they smile to bare mangled demonic tiny teeth. Mischievous and menacing little things—clearly inspiration for Charles Band’s (executive producer of Dolls) soon to follow Puppet Master (1989).

Most of the early “action” occurs off-camera but remains feisty as victims are slammed into things or dragged down halls. Later, the stop-motion doll attacks are wonderful and abundantly visualized. They bite and stab and literally saw victims as the victims kick and stomp them away. I feel like the mobs of stop-motion dolls inspired Tales from the Hood (1995), and we often see numerous animated dolls on-screen at a time which, back in the 80s, was a big deal in special effects.

The special effects develop when the dolls start dying en masse. It’s reminiscent of Gremlins (1984) being doused with water—appropriately gross and creature effects-rich. The transformation scene of the man into a doll was pretty spiffy as well—including protruding cheek bones and a developing hunchback. And we come to find that other victims end up as dolls in the likeness of their life, bestowing the film a more haunting menace.

Although I’d consider it among his lesser 1980s works, director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon) manages to create a thriving triumph from an otherwise simple premise for which writer Ed Naha (Troll, CHUD II: Bud the Chud, Dollman) permits those most innocent and purest of heart to triumph.

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Iron Sky (2012), the over-the-top Sci-Fi space-Nazi movie that will put a silly grin on your face.

June 22, 2019

MY CALL: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) and Star Wars (1977) plus a dash of Sucker Punch (2011) form this genre-crossing mash-up of space Nazis invading the Earth. This may sound like a dumb B-movie, but it’s more like a B+ movie… on steroids.. Trust me, it’s fun.

MORE MOVIES with NAZI VILLAINS: Dead Snow (2009), Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014), Overlord (2018), Hellboy (2004), Inglorious Bastards (2009), Green Room (2015), Yoga Hosers (2016), Manborg (2011), Zombie Lake (1981), Oasis of the Zombies (1982), The Keep (1983), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Frankenstein’s Army (2013), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil  (2010), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012) and Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017).

In this zany straight-to-DVD movie important questions are answered like “If we elect Sarah Palin into office will God smite us with space Nazis?” and “Can thousands of Nazis find sufficient resources on the moon to survive for 73 years?” This film also confirms conspiracy theorists’ notions that a cadre of Nazis did, in fact, escape to the moon in 1945, brought a tremendous amount of machinery to mine elemental resources, built space artillery and warships with room-sized computers that rival the 1970s in order to propagate an army to return to Earth and reclaim the world in the name of the Fuhrer.

Well, that’s evidently exactly what Nazis did in this story. They fled, somehow completely unnoticed, to the dark side of the moon where they developed weapons of mass destruction. But things get interesting when a lost—yes, “lost” on the moon—American astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby; Daybreakers, Predestination, The Matrix: Reloaded & Revolutions) is captured in the year 2018. He’s black, which really perturbs the Nazis.

But they get over it when they discover that his cell phone evidently has 1000-times the computing power of all the Nazis’ computers combined. The real catch here, and the writers obviously saw how farcical this was, is that the Nazi “Death Star” wasn’t able to fly until they hooked up their ship’s computer main frame to a SmartPhone—which naturally he had on him… during a space mission… while moonwalking! You know, in case he wants to post a selfie in front of the Earth to Facebook.

So now the Nazis initiate a mission to send their spies to Earth to gather the additional SmartPhones they’ll need to launch a full assault on Earth. Renate (Julia Dietze) is a school teacher molding young space-Nazi minds and the resident expert on all things American and Earthling. She joins her future husband and Fuhrer-to-be Klaus Adler (Götz Otto; Cloud Atlas) on a mission to Earth with the now-Nazified-made-Caucasian Washington who will take them to his leader: President Palin. This is somewhat offensive, very funny and incredibly stupid. But hold on, it’s actually surprisingly well-acted! And, despite the nature of the content, it’s well-written and generally composed on-screen as well!

The physical action is a bit hokey-clumsy and the CGI, which accounts for almost all unearthly sets, spaceships and backgrounds, may be well-shy of theatrical quality but remains quite impressive for direct-to-DVD—it’s more than good-enough and I enjoyed it a lot. I loved the Nazi Moonbase, by the way. So cool!

Director Timo Vuorensola has developed a zany idea into something so much more than its silly premise. Plus we have cult horror icon Udo Kier (Mother of Tears, Halloween, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich) as the Moon Fuhrer.

The lunacy continues to mount as the American President teams up with the Nazis, promotes her leather corseted and cleavage-baring PR girl (Peta Sergeant; The Originals) to space warship commander on a whim, someone gets killed with a high heel, spaceships are modeled after Zeppelins, and Renate actually Zeig Heils someone to death.

If you’re the kind of person who giggles at the idea of a movie about space Nazis attacking present-day Earth, then this movie is clearly for you.

The MFF Podcast #201: Total Recall and Cereal on Mars

June 22, 2019

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall. Released in 1990, the Paul Verhoeven directed movie was surprisingly smart, insanely violent and loaded with some brilliant Schwarzenegger one-liners (See you at the party, Richter!). In this episode, you will hear us talk about Keith David (he isn’t in the movie… but, he is the best), cereal on Mars, practical effects, and reliable henchmen. If you are a fan of Total Recall, you will love this episode.

Gross.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

Bad Movie Tuesday: Blood Beat (1983), a boring Samurai possession B-movie in Wisconsin with a bunch of psychic malarkey.

June 18, 2019

MY CALL: This movie is terrible! I think a film student had a Samurai costume and erected a terrible film round it. MORE MOVIES LIKE Blood Beat: Maybe Ninja III: The Domination (1984). That’s all I’ve got.

When Ted brings his girlfriend home for Christmas, his mother insists that she somehow (cosmically) knows her. Likewise, Sarah feels strangely in the house with her, as if she’s always watching her. After Sarah discovers a chest in the guest bedroom containing samurai armor and a katana sword, weird stuff starts to happen.

What genre is this thing? I’m not playing around. Here is the actual IMDB synopsis: “A woman who lives in deer-hunting country in rural Wisconsin is possessed by the spirit of a Japanese samurai warrior.” This sounds strangely similar to Ninja III: The Domination (1984). But this isn’t really accurate. I’d say a spectral samurai shares a psychic link to a teenage girl who experiences sexual euphoria when the Japanese ghost kills, and for some reason the girl’s boyfriend’s mother also shares a psychic connection to the girl. Very sensible plot.

Writer and director Fabrice A. Zaphiratos simultaneously debuts and ends his filmmaking career along with his cast of largely one-film actors. But, despite the very B-movie nature of this release, the writing is indicative of a genuine desire for the audience to know and understand the characters. It may not be “good” writing, but some effort is there at least.

That said, everything else about this film might just be as bad as you’d expect. Most kills occur entirely off-screen, generally sluggish pacing, naturally there’s some gratuitous nudity, the dumbest erotic night terrors I’ve seen, videogame laser special effects, a horribly glowing rotoscoped Samurai, and a lot of psychic crap that added nothing to the movie… except for giggles.

I giggled a lot at the stupidity of it all.

The best scene in the movie (which still sucks) involves the contents of a kitchen pantry nearly beating a man to death. Of all things, I think a cardboard container of Quaker Oats nearly killed the guy. This ghost samurai needs to improve on his magic. It’s truly terrible.

As for recommendations, those of you who might enjoy something like this… you know who you are. 😉

John’s Horror Corner: Hagazussa (2017), a gorgeously shot German folk horror and a REALLY odd witch movie.

June 17, 2019

MY CALL: Not sure how to describe this one… the film isn’t pretentious, but pretentious cinephiles are gonna’ love it. More arthouse than horror, more style than substance, and more gorgeous photography than dialogue. MOVIES LIKE Hagazussa: For more recent folk horror try The Golem (2018), Apostle (2018; podcast discussion), The Ritual (2017; podcast discussion), The Witch (2016; podcast discussion), The Shrine (2010), The Village (2004), or Salem (2014-2017).

Writer and director Lukas Feigelfeld—in his first feature length horror—brings stark white beauty to the screen with shots of wintery wilderness. The dark trees silhouetted in contrast to the barren snow are illustrative of hardship. But scenes of snow-covered cabins and sunset mountains maintain a soft beauty behind the powerfully fearful superstition of the locals in 15th century Europe.

After tending her mother through illness and death as a preteen, Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen) now has a baby of her own as she continues to live in the secluded cabin of her youth, just out of reach of the local townsfolk and the priesthood. The peasantry fancy her a witch, and she endures their enmity.

Before watching a film like this, it’s important to know what you’re getting into in terms of tone. Very much like The Witch (2016), this film is heavily atmospheric and slow-paced. There is nothing in the way of action, scares or special effects. It’s truly a visual spectacle and I find it deeply intriguing. But anyone seeking the next Deathgasm (2015) will be sorely disappointed.

In terms of how I felt watching this, if The Witch (2016) and a brutality-stricken Antichrist (2009) had a baby, this would be that film… only with even less dialogue and exposition.

Tonally, this film is such a curiosity—from the well-meaning local priest and the unusual dynamic between Albrun and her dying mother, to a sensual scene involving a goat and some perhaps drugs-induced mania. Was her mother a witch, bewitched herself, or simply superstitious and increasingly delusional with plague? Adding to its mystery is the general paucity of dialogue.

Overall, I find great difficulty recommending this film. It’s not fun or gory or exciting… but it’s clearly inspired and gorgeous and rich. I think films students and aficionados will notice and appreciate much more in this than most viewers.

The MFF Podcast #200: Kurt Russell, Soldier and More Kurt Russell

June 16, 2019

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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The MFF podcast is back for the 200th time! In honor of our 200th episode we’re talking about Soldier, the 1998 Blade Runner-sidequel directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (listen to our Resident Evil podcast episodes now), that featured Kurt Russell beating many people up. What we love about Soldier is how it tells the story of an outdated soldier defeating upgraded soldiers — who don’t realize they are fighting Kurt Russell. In this episode, you will hear us talk about homemade scarves, broken ankles and chain fights. If you are a fan of Soldier, you will love this episode.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

John’s Horror Corner: Splinter (2008), delivering twitchy plant zombies and outstandingly gory practical creature effects.

June 14, 2019

MY CALL: Brutal, gory, well-paced and well-acted, this practical effects-driven monster movie was an absolute pleasure! MORE MOVIES LIKE Splinter: The style of the gore reminds me strongly of Cabin Fever (2002, 2016). For more killer plant movies, try Seed People (1992), The Happening (2008), The Ruins (2008), The Girl with All the Gifts (2016), and for something really bad go for The Crawlers (1993). And for a great twitchy zombie film, you want Train to Busan (2016)!!

Hoping to enjoy a romantic anniversary camping trip together, Polly (Jill Wagner; Blade: The Series, Teen Wolf) and her biologist boyfriend Seth (Paulo Costanzo; The Expanse) are carjacked by on-the-run criminals Dennis (Shea Whigham; Death Note) and Lacey (Rachel Kerbs). In transit a roadkill event causes a flat tire, and a curious splinter sets an interesting tone as they find themselves stranded at a remote gas station.

If you’re gonna’ make a not-so-big budget one-set horror movie, a remote gas station strikes me as a good frugal choice. But how nice is it that gas stations are a classic harbinger check point in so many films? From Wrong Turn (2003) and Tucker and Dale versus Evil (2010) to The Cabin in the Woods (2012), the gas station is usually where victims have the opportunity to heed the harbinger’s warning and avoid the evils ahead. Yet here, it is upon arrival that they are doomed… because the harbinger was already a victim!

Our monster is a botanical parasite that metastasizes in the blood stream to induce twitchy zombiism. The first victim is the gas station attendant (Charles Baker; The Neon Demon), who thrashes and contorts his mangled limbs, a marionetted host to the splinter monster.

Early encounters with the monster are deliciously macabre as a freshly flattened roadkill slug-crawls towards an intended victim. We see the infectious splinters probe about like the prongs of a sea urchin. It’s REALLY cool. Infected zombie-like animated bodies flailing undexterous limbs, and disembodied hands twitch like something out of Bride of Re-Animator (1989). Everything looks great and, given the premise, the delivery is shockingly credible.

Despite the often choppy editing—most likely to disguise any flaws in the practical monster suit—this remained goretastically effective, engaging and exciting. These special effects are nothing to scoff at… actually, I was quite impressed. The blood work is excellent—and the blood splattering is kinda’ chunky! The animated bodies are disturbing, the stop-motion severed hands are a joy, and the brutal limb breaks will catch you off-guard.

When we see the “final monster” it’s only for a second at a time; we see it often, but only in these glimpses. It’s a macabre amalgam of randomly attached bodies/parts similar to the new The Thing (2011), the end of Terrified (2017),the final queen roach monster in The Nest (1988) or Zygote (2017).

When films put all their eggs in the monster basket, we tend not to expect much overall. Perhaps a few obscure creature sightings and a gory death scene in the first hour, followed by a hopefully redeeming monster-rich finale—all surrounded by weak writing and acting. Director Toby Wilkins (The Grudge 3) delivers a very respectable film. His characters are well-written and performed affably yet credibly. I don’t think I have a single negative criticism of this film! I just… loved it!

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