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John’s Horror Corner: The Dead Pit (1989), one of the weaker zombie-ish B-movies of the 80s.

March 28, 2021

MY CALL: For all its effort, this movie remains unimpressive and highly forgettable, even if somewhat entertaining. I just kept expecting it to get better… and it never did. This movie had a lot of untapped potential considering the films that director Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity) helmed in the following years.. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Dead Pit: For more doctors behaving badly, check out Re-Animator (1985) and sequels, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Dr. Giggles (1992), Boxing Helena (1993), or The House on Haunted Hill (1999).

At the State Institution for the Mentally Ill, the twisted Dr. Ramzi has been abducting patients and taking them down into a secret underground crypt beneath the hospital. Deep in these catacombs, he performed experiments on them and piled their cadavers into a foul pit. Upon discovery of these foul crimes against humanity, his superior Dr. Swan (Jeremy Slate; The Lawnmower Man) confronted Ramzi, shot him dead in his own pit, and then sealed the secret entrance from the world for 20 years.

The very day that amnesiac patient Jane Doe (Cheryl Lawson; The Vineyard) is admitted, an earthquake creates a fissure re-opening the cryptly basement and freeing the apparently still alive and now undead Dr. Ramzi to wreak havoc on the hospital once again. Oh, and for whatever reason, Jane has some sort of psychic connection to the hospital. No clue why. But the 80s did love psychic stuff in 80s movies.

When she’s dressed for bed (which is most scenes of this movie, it seems), Jane looks like the star of a softcore Penitentiary Girls movie. I think a producer must have liked her a little too much, because she always looks the instigator of a sex scene that never happens. And in that spirit, this movie features what I can only describe as a “mean-spirited” wet T-shirt contest scene. It is laughably raunchy, but clearly not meant to be funny either.

In the first half of the movie the gore is okay and the death scenes are completely forgettable. Like most 80s horror, the last third of the movie packs most of the punch. In the present case, the evil doctor resurrects his past patients as twitchy zombies with low budget zombie trappings that begin to ravage the hospital staff with weak zombie violence.

The deaths that ensue were very gory, even if on a very tight budget. But really, for all its effort, this movie remains unimpressive and highly forgettable, even if somewhat entertaining. I just kept expecting it to get better… and it never did. After all, evil doctor movies just open themselves up to crazy medical experiments and reanimated mania. I feel this movie had a lot of untapped potential. Especially considering the films that director Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity) helmed in the following years.

John’s Horror Corner: Project Nightmare (1987), a super low budget and completely forgettable Sci-Fi film.

March 28, 2021

MY CALL: For a very low budget movie so hard to find and which I never knew existed, this is decent enough in concept, but completely neutered in execution. I’d never recommend it. But there’s nothing aggravatingly bad either. It’s just boring. Don’t trust the incredibly misleading movie poster art!

After awakening to the destruction of their tents and campsite, Jon and Gus have no idea what happened and cannot seem to navigate to the nearby towns that they know should be there. They also believe that they are being stalked by… something. This something manifests as a visible but incorporeal colorful force in the sky and among the trees. More of a “presence” than a thing really.

As they journey on foot in search of civilization, they encounter a kind reclusive homeowner who takes them in for the night and a stranger with a flat tire. These two characters begin as completely normal, but eventually wander into the abstract. Unfortunately, like the incorporeal presence following them, these abstract concepts never find any satisfying development in the movie. Sure, they’ll be explained. But through expository dialogue we will be “told” not “shown.”

Trippy dream sequences feel like a film student’s psychedelic head trip laced with guilt and hidden meaning. We want to believe this will head somewhere meaningful… it doesn’t. Generally sluggishly paced and with no excitement to be found, eventually an underground facility is discovered where some form of mind control or induced delusion is underway in a government experiment station. Too bad this experiment wasn’t as compelling as Cube (1997), Source Code (2011) or The Belko Experiment (2016).

Director Donald M. Jones (Deadly Sunday, Murderlust) had all of the ideas, but none of the money to see them realized on screen. This has an interesting enough Sci-Fi premise for 1987, but the film is just a boring slog. Not a slowburn, mind you—just painfully boring. This would have been better in the hands of David Cronenberg, who essentially tapped into this notion (but much darker and more perverse) with Videodrome (1983).

Zack Snyder’s Justice League: A Thrilling Film That Features Snyder’s Uncompromised Vision

March 28, 2021

Quick thoughts: Zack Snyder’s Justice League is what happens when a director is able to release their fully realized vision. I like it a lot, and will watch it again. 

After years of speculation, wild theories and fans clamoring for “The Snyder Cut,” it’s a relief that Snyder’s four hour film has finally been released on HBO Max. It’s a wildly ambitious movie filled with slow-motion, moody songs, and some wonderfully realized shots that will undoubtedly make some beautiful GIFs. The nice thing is that it doesn’t feel like a four hour film as Snyder fills it to the brim with more character development and visually impressive action scenes that feel much more coherent than anything Joss Whedon included in the 2017 Justice League movie. It’s still incredibly polarizing, and it’s understandable why people wouldn’t be onboard with this super long movie that is 100% earnest in its delivery. Basically, if you like Snyder, or if you appreciate uncompromised visions, you will enjoy this movie. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League focuses on what happens when powerful creatures attempt to take over the world after Superman dies, and leaves behind a vulnerable earth. The attackers are led by Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), an axe-wielding titan who has a chip on his shoulder after he betrayed his bosses (Darkseid), and has become an attack dog who travels around the galaxy and conquers planets. HIs plan is to find three Mother Boxes (AKA MacGuffins), that if united, will give Darkseid enough power to conquer the galaxy with ease. 

In his way are Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). The squad was recruited by Batman and Wonder Woman, as they realize they’ll need a squad to combat what’s to come because they can’t do it on their own. Pretty quickly they realize they’re overmatched, as Steppenwolf and his Parademons are a well-oiled fighting force who hand it to them during their first battle. This leads them to bring back Superman from the dead, so he can put a super-beating on the jerky invading force. What happens next, I won’t spoil because there are some fun surprises and neat moments I don’t want to wreck. 

The best part about The Snyder Cut is that Cyborg, The Flash and Steppenwolf are given much more to do. It’s refreshing to watch Ray Fisher actually play a fleshed-out character after he barely registered in the 2017 film, and Barry Gordon (AKA The Flash) is much more than the plucky comic relief that contributes nothing to the actual story (but gets some jokes). Both characters have a welcome three-dimensions as they deal with working minimum wage jobs, learning their abilities and saving people from car crashes. Also, Steppenwolf is a much better villain this time around as he’s given a backstory and actual motive for murdering so many people. The former titan wants to be on the good side of Darkseid, and he goes about his murderous exploits like a monster determined to be the employee of the month. 
In the end, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an exhilarating experience loaded with copious new footage and characters who are actually characters. It’s easy to understand why it isn’t for everyone, but if you can accept the earnest tone, and slow-motion, you might find yourself enjoying the epic movie.

John’s Horror Corner: Anything for Jackson (2020), a warm and homey sulfuric breath of fresh air that wanders into pure sinful entropy.

March 26, 2021

MY CALL: From a writer and director of an extensive filmography of family-friendly Hallmark channel holiday movies and light feel-good romance, my mind was blown that these two managed to marry their experience in warm home pleasantry with, well, a satanic ritual sacrifice. This movie eventually gets shocking and brutal, and the end wanders in to bonkerstown, but only in ways I find enjoyable. I strongly recommend this film! Its originality a breath of sulfuric air. MORE MOVIES LIKE Anything for Jackson: If you find you need more Satanic influence in your life (or at least in your movies), then I’d recommend Prince of Darkness (1987), Event Horizon (1997), House of the Devil (2009), Deathgasm (2015), Ready or Not (2019) and maaaaaybe Satanic Panic (2019) and We Summon the Darkness (2019).

Henry (Julian Richings; Cube, Wrong Turn, The Colony) and Audrey Walsh (Sheila McCarthy; Still/Born) are a lovely older couple who lovingly bicker over breakfast. They have a lovely home, a seemingly normal life, and… oh… and they’ve just abducted a young pregnant woman.

Audrey has a quaint grandmotherly disposition in hosting their kidnapped guest, and Henry is actually her doctor who will continue to see Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos; Damaged) and her unborn child to term. They explain this in clear detail to Shannon, including that they have no desire to harm her. They even blatantly explain to her (in about the first 5 minutes of the movie) that this is the only way for them to “bring their grandson back.” So who’s the adorable little giggling twerp playing in the corner, you may ask? Well, you’ll have to watch this little film gem to find out.

The entire cast doles out phenomenal performances. Even as we learn their true nature, Henry and Audrey remain a warm and delightful couple you’d only wish to have as in-laws. As their plan begins to unfold, they are overjoyed. Audrey even makes friendly small talk to a mortified Shannon while caring for her… all the way until the ritual.

From the moment the Walshes perform their Satanic ritual on Shannon, their home is haunted by infernal echoes of suffering in the form of disturbing visions and figures. Whereas most of the film feels meticulously crafted, there was a rather “indie” budget moment in the depiction of a supernatural entity. It definitely struck me momentarily, but it didn’t quite take me out of the scene entirely. On the other hand, there was scene that I found positively harrowing! I’ll just refer to it as “the flossing scene,” and it’s an awful visual I feel I have not seen before. Not just that, but even yet more jarringly unexpected shocks lie in store. The visuals are disturbing and abrupt.

This film is expertly tactful at easing our comforts with the Walshes’ pleasantries, and then jackhammering our moral sensibilities with something twisted. All the while brandishing great camera work and lighting. This film is executed with strong proficiency.

Director Justin G. Dyck is not the type of person we’d expect to helm a film like this. He has an extensive history of making family-friendly made-for-TV, Hallmark channel holiday movies and light feel-good romance. And his writer (Keith Cooper) for this film wrote many of those warm and gushy scripts. So, to put it lightly, my mind was blown that these two managed to marry their experience in warm home pleasantry with, well, a satanic ritual sacrifice. The end wanders in to bonkerstown, but only in ways I find enjoyable. I’m a bit uncertain about the conclusion. But perhaps that was point. Either way, I strongly recommend this film! Its originality is like a breath of sulfuric air.

Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast – Episode 38 – JOYSWIM!, Boat Trips, and Yellow Ties

March 26, 2021

You can listen to Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpreakerSpotify, Tunein, Podcast Addict, Amazon, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts. Also, make sure to like our Facebook page!

Please make sure to rate, review, share, and subscribe!

Jay and Mark are joined by Zanandi (@ZaNandi on Twitter) to discuss the second chapter of the Deep Blue Sea 2 DVD. This is a wonderful chapter as we get an all-timer Deep Blue Sea quote, and get to meet the majority of the film’s cast. In this episode, they discussing joy swimming, yellow ties, and Traitor Slent. Enjoy!

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 354 – My Best Friend’s Wedding, Bad Karaoke, and Good Romantic Comedies

March 25, 2021

You can download or stream the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

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

Mark and Erik discuss the 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding. Directed by P.J. Hogan, and starring Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett and Dermot Mulroney, the film focuses on what happens when a food critic attempts to sabotage her best friend’s wedding (lots of cheeky or shenanigans). In this episode, they talk about Julia Roberts huge run in the 1990s, bad karaoke, and good romantic comedies. Enjoy!

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

John’s Horror Corner: Willy’s Wonderland (2021), a Nic Cage horror-comedy… what else did you need to know?

March 24, 2021

MY CALL: This movie is far from amazing and, frankly, ranks well below the likes of Cage’s most recent (and clearly higher budget) horror endeavors (Mandy, The Color Out of Space). But this movie certainly has its place, and it knows exactly what it is. And what it is, is a playful yet mean, brutal yet laughably fun B-movie romp. And it does a great job of that. MORE MOVIES LIKE Willy’s Wonderland: The most similar film on the market would probably be The Banana Splits (2019). If you find you need more Nic Cage horror in your life, then you should turn to Mandy (2018; podcast discussion) and The Color Out of Space (2019).

In case my review leaves you on the fence about this film, please check out Mark’s review of and podcast discussion of Willy’s Wonderland.

There are certain words that never cross my mind when considering films starring Nic Cage—reasonable, grounded and rational fall firmly in this category. Yet this is as close as I’ve ever seen him come to it. As soon as we meet Cage’s antihero, it becomes abundantly clear that his character’s complete dialogue-less silence was a part of the elevator pitch of this movie.

After blowing out four tires and lacking the cash to pay for the repairs, our quiet drifter (Cage) agrees to spend the night cleaning the Chucky Cheese knock-off Wally’s Wonderland. That very night, a group of twentysomethings intend to burn down the malevolent party venue to end their local town curse.

Director Kevin Lewis lets you know exactly what this film is right away. The locals are bringing a drifter to Wally’s to die, presumably as some sort of sacrifice, to the hands of animatronic characters that start moving on their own almost as soon as we see them. We are informed that these demonic entertainers have claimed many lives over the years. But this drifter won’t be the next!

The violent action would only be passable were it not for Cage’s trademark manic demeanor. That’s the delicious icing on an otherwise plain but serviceable cake. He frenzies like a shark in bloodied water and flails Ozzy the Ostrich like a Tasmanian Devil in a kumite death match, even tearing out its oily dripping robotic spine! And then… he calmly bags it with the rest of the trash, changes his shirt and drinks a soda. Mr. Cage, like your famous movie, sir, you are a national treasure.

The splatter violence includes a prison style curb stomp, but other death scenes are totally phoned in. Put simply, when Cage is doing the killing it’s a lot more fun to watch. And when he’s not… it’s not. But at least they’re all blood-dousing deaths.

This movie is far from amazing and, frankly, ranks well below the likes of Cage’s recent (and clearly higher budget) horror endeavors (Mandy, The Color Out of Space). But this movie certainly has its place, and it knows exactly what it is. And what it is, is a playful yet mean, brutal yet laughable B-movie romp. And it does a great job of that. Really, I’m not sure it would work a fraction as well without Cage.

John’s Horror Corner: Death-scort Service (2015), the ultra-sleazy X-rated horror I accidentally watched.

March 24, 2021

MY CALL: This was… an experience. And it’s an experience not meant for the masses. I often found myself not believing what I was watching! Like, it’s not porn… but it’s porn. MORE MOVIES LIKE Death-scort Service: Not sure. But I’d guess more films by the same director. There are apparently two sequels (2017, 2018).

Co-writer and director Sean Donohue (Die Die Delta Pie, Naked Cannibal Campers) has made a movie that makes sure you are well-aware that it knows exactly what is: gory smutty porny nonsense. Yes, this is an incredibly smutty film. But I’m somehow a tad impressed, even if also a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve watched it—and I am not afraid to admit to owning two Human Centipede films (which are, no joke, like Disney films compared to this). With a budget of $1500, it fairs better than numerous horror films with literally 10-50 times its budget.

Let’s be honest, as an adult I really disfavor smutty horror these days. But this one feels like a puberty time capsule. This is exactly what I was hoping to rent from Blockbuster based on a risqué VHS box in the early 90s. Why? Because back then I really wanted to see boobs or learn more about sex and very few people I knew had a computer. So when this movie opens with an extra-long (extremely Penthouse forum-ish) shower scene, all I can think is “this would mesmerize 12-year-old me.” And what this offers that Playboy does not is naked women doused in blood in a Psycho (1960) death scene homage… if that’s your thing. But if you’ve read this far, it just might be. Or maybe you’re just baffled by what I’m writing right now.

Make no mistake, this movie has loads of shower scenes and full-frontal nudity (including elderly male). But sometimes I also feel like I have a view directly to women’s internal organs! I’m not exaggerating. This should clearly be rated X and not just NC-17… because you see a lot! If you couldn’t get to the all-nude strip club because of COVID, then this movie might be the next best thing. Not sure what to call this… softcore horror porn maybe? I mean, the death scenes even wander into the pornographic zone and basically nothing was this pornographic in any horror section of any video store that I’m aware (unless you were in an Adult Video Store). This is like a porn-LITE parody of a horror movie without the parody.

To this film’s credit, it tries really hard with some of these gory death scenes. One featured the victim pulling on her own guts (that appeared to be gelatinous animal fat and animal livers); another power-drilled a woman in the head; there was a perversely mean death by violent penetration; our killer forms a face from lacerated bits of the victims; and there’s some just plain mean sexual mutilation. I feel I might be seeing some mild influence from Maniac (1980) here.

Most of you are likely wondering how I even came to watch this. So my recommendation is that you know who you are and if this is for you. There’s no convincing with a film like this. You’re either titillated that this was even made, or disgusted by existence. Choose your side.

John’s Horror Corner: The Dark and the Wicked (2020), a chilling and unforgiving account of mortals exposed to primordial evil.

March 19, 2021

MY CALL: This most impressive film boasts outstanding writing, filmmaking and performances. Chillingly unforgiving, it begins with an unnerving tension that never loosens its grip. For a film with so little say, it leaves me stunned. This movie doesn’t spare anyone. Not the elderly, the devout, the innocent, or the young. It has no moral, no allegory, no hidden meaning, and no special message. Just raw, unadulterated horror befalling no one who deserved it. Expect to be impressed… and drained. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Dark and the Wicked: Looking for more horrifying family therapy sessions, try Frailty (2001), Goodnight Mommy (2014), The Visit (2015), Get Out (2017), Hereditary (2018), Us (2019), The Lodge (2019) or Midsommar (2019).

This is one of those film’s I’d probably have never were it not for the recommendation of Mark Hofmeyer, who turned me to the likewise unforgiving film The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015; podcast discussion).

From its dawning scenes, this film casts a quietly threatening atmosphere as we observe a day in the life of a farmer’s wife, and one of the final days of the ill farmer (Michael Zagst). The drab palette of the chilly bleak setting complements shots of the ominous night unnerving a barned goat herd. Something is clearly amiss. This is a feeling you’ll find inescapable throughout this film, from very beginning to very end.

Moving to the house as the adult children of the home-hospiced patriarch arrive, there is something wrong with Mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone; Preacher, Blood Suckers from Outer Space). She urges her children to leave, that they don’t understand, that she doesn’t need them… but her claims clearly shroud some dark secret truth. Siblings Louise (Marin Ireland; The Empty Man) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.; Hell House) soon come to learn more about their mother’s strange behavior, and stay to tend to their father on the remote rural farm. There are some truly gorgeous shots in this film. It’s bleak… but the camera certainly found beauty in the sunsets silhouetted by the ranch’s black edges.

The household carries a less in-you-face Paranormal Activity (2007)Poltergeist (1982) meets Insidious(2010) vibe. Their haunting develops from subtly shifting objects to disturbing waking visions. But the discovery of their mother’s journal brings with it dark revelations. As most haunting films tend to wander into over-the-top theatrics with gore or jump scares, this film remains more subdued. This lighter touch makes its presentation more grounded, but more calmly disturbing. And disturbing they are.

I am not easily shocked. But the kitchen scene had me reeling and yelling at my television—just brutal! I’d also warn of the suicide scenes (yes, plural), one of which being notably more graphic than the others. And let’s also issue a general warning about knitting needles. Dastardly things, they are! Considering the obvious supernatural nature of this film, its execution of violence is often rather unsensationalized. But it will disturb you no less for it.

Viewers will find nothing explained in this story. We don’t learn any whys or hows to the maladies that have stricken this family. Essentially this film chronicles an example of a mortal brush with true evil. But primordial evil is not meant to be understood… it is only to be feared.

This was a solid film with outstanding writing, filmmaking and performances across the board. It begins with an unnerving tension that never loosens its grip until the credits. For a film with so little say, it leaves me stunned. Writer and director Bryan Bertino (Mockingbird, The Monster, The Strangers) has birthed something chillingly unforgiving. This movie doesn’t spare anyone. Not the elderly, the devout, the innocent, or the young. It has no moral, no allegory, no hidden meaning, and no message. Just raw, unadulterated horror befalling no one who deserved it.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 353: Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder, and Excellent Remakes

March 19, 2021

You can download or stream the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

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

Mark and Doug discuss the Zack Snyder directed Dawn of the Dead. Released in 2004, this excellent remake was written by James Gunn and features fun performances from Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber and Ty Burrell. In this episode, they discuss fast zombies, Richard Cheese and what makes this remake work. Enjoy!

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

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