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John’s Horror Corner: Netherworld (1991), Full Moon’s attempt at a serious horror film

November 22, 2013

MY CALL:  Full Moon really goes for a non-campy horror movie with this Cajun voodoo death magic story.  MOVIES LIKE Netherworld:  Another quality Full Moon releases is Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994).  Angel Heart (1987), Lord of Illusions (1995) and Nightbreed (1990) also approach the occult and “the other side” in interesting ways.

This film opens with a completely normal bar scene.  You know, a snake slithering on the dance floor (and no one seems to mind or notice), chickens wandering about, a bar fight resulting in someone being thrown in the bayou, and a young man meets a Madame and wanders downstairs into the bayou bar’s basement sex den where he meets a Marilyn Monroe (Alex Datcher; Body Bags, Passenger 57) lookalike prostitute.  If that wasn’t enough, we have a soul-bartering voodoo witch hooker (Delores) that summons a flying disembodied stone hand.  Our flying hand brings the gore right away with cheap, but totally enjoyable effects as it dispatches some random John looking for a good time.

Yup, David Schmoeller (Director/writer; Puppet Master, Catacombs) and Charles Band (writer/producer; the Puppet Master, Subspecies, Ghoulies and Trancers franchises) have set us up with a ridiculously over elaborate scene to set a standard of reasonable expectations from this film.  The standard being that nothing reasonable will happen.  This may seem normal for the deliberate B-movie fare of Full Moon, but this is already a bit more out there than some animated homicidal puppets, diminutive disfigured demons from Hell or a love affair between a rebellious demoness and a human.

A young man (Corey) arrives at his estranged father’s mansion in Louisiana to discover that his deceased father was a student of necromancy, hoping that Corey would resurrect him from the dead after claiming his inheritance.  His father’s journals reveal his sexual and sorcerous obsession with the witch Delores and a young lady who helps manage the estate warns that black magic is commonly employed by the locals.  This introduction is swift, blunt, and met with surprisingly little disbelief on Corey’s part.  He just buys it like it’s totally plausible.

Corey follows in his father’s footsteps, readily succumbing to his lustful intrigue of Delores and her black magic.  The only problem is that his father’s resurrection comes at an unexpected price.

The acting leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s okay for Full Moon and it gets the job done just fine.  The effects aren’t exactly amazing either.  I mean, when the hand flies you can sometimes see the strings suspending it and its fingerpuppet snakeheads are not so finely crafted.  However, they really go for it with the occasional gore and storytelling, and that more than makes up for the obvious budget constraints.

Sure, Full Moon makes campy B-movies and they know it.  But with this one they aimed higher and I can comfortably call this a B+ movie, somewhere between a campy B-movie and a subpar studio release.

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