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John’s Horror Corner: The Vineyard (1989), bringing Big Trouble in Little China and zombies to wine country.

September 7, 2018

MY CALL: Basically, Big Trouble in Little China part 2: Lo Pan does Napa Valley (and zombies), this film is B-movie GOLD. It’s hardly horror and can’t decide if it favors mysticism over fist fights. It’s exactly the kind of bad that will leave you smiling.  MOVIES LIKE The Vineyard: Hmmm… I really have no idea. So, suggestions would be most welcome in the comments section below.

Doctor Elson Po (James Hong) is among the most famous winemakers… and he has a secret! Using magic potions and rituals, he has lived for centuries. However, like any drug (of sorts), its effects have waned over time, making him fearful for his unnatural longevity. As a means to gather key “ingredients” for his wine, Po invites a group of actors (incl. Karen Lorre/Witter; Popcorn) to his home for a private casting party. At this point you may be questioning the shakiness of the plot… and you’d be right. This is as hokey as it gets! LOL

Co-directed by James Hong (Blade Runner, The Golden Child, Big Trouble in Little China), this film launches its lunacy without a moment to spare. Within the first few minutes we encounter garden-planted zombies, gratuitous nudity, James Hong transforming into something whenever he needs a youth juice fix, and an overly elaborate science set complete with beakers and long twirling titration tubing so we can visibly track blood from its scantily-clad victims straight to the wine glass.

There are some stupid gags (e.g., a woman wakes up in bed with a harmless snake, another basically dies from spiders crawling all over her), some cheap tropes (e.g., needless sex scenes and extra-dumb victims), some totally out-of-place scenes (e.g., a martial arts brawl), and needlessly long party scenes that get a bit awkward. But what moves this movie along are its poorly handled growling vineyard zombies, a surprising amount of fight scenes (between regular people, not zombies), and Hong’s zestful mania. Other random scenes include the acupuncture voodoo doll death, some decapitation, old Chinese lady zombie assault, and the wedding-like “Lo Pan” ritual.

This movie features James Hong as an undying lord who uses magic and kidnapped young women to facilitate his immortality, mystical potions and dungeon lairs, and martial arts-fighting henchman. Moreover, this movie contains notably more action-based violence than horror and crescendos to a wedding scene reminiscent of Lo Pan and Kim Cattrall. This is essentially Big Trouble in Little China part 2: Lo Pan does Napa Valley.

This film is pure nonsense. It’s hardly horror, and can’t decide if it favors mysticism over fist fights. The only thing I can say confidently is that this is B-movie GOLD! It’s exactly the kind of bad that will leave you smiling.

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John’s Horror Corner: Night of the Creeps (1986), bringing you space zombies and infectious brain slugs.

September 3, 2018

MY CALL: Perhaps not a true horror classic, but a cult classic for sure! This is a fun, feisty and energetic 80s horror flick about zombifying space slugs.  MOVIES LIKE Night of the Creeps:
Hmmm… I’d say Slither (2006) and Slugs (1988).

Like The Thing (1982), Lifeforce (1985) and Mosquito (1994), this cult classic posits that our worst maladies would come from intelligent life from outer space when an alien ejects a cannister (for reasons unknown) from his spaceship which finds its way to an unassuming sorority row in 1959 on Earth. The 1950s scenes enjoy a delightfully kitschy black and white pallet complete with timely (if cliché) vernacular and the spaceship scene is a delight.

Our infectious undead outbreak begins when someone finds this cannister (having landed on Earth) and an alien slug-eel-thing launches into his mouth. This creates something of a zombie that serves as a vessel to transport the evil space slugs as they procreate in the brain.

Fast-forward to 1986 when we meet the unpopular Chris (Jason Lively; Brainstorm, National Lampoon’s Vacation) his buddy JC, and Chris’ crush Cynthia (Jill Whitlow; Weird Science). As part of a frat initiation to steal a dead body, Chris and JC stumble across the high-security cadaver of the infected 1950s guy. As we see in The Hidden (1987) and Prince of Darkness (1987), the cadaver awakens and infects its attending scientist (David Paymer; Howard the Duck) with projectile mouth-to-mouth leeches.

Detective Cameron (Tom Atkins; Halloween III, The Fog) handles the case and joins our protagonists, quickly coming to believe their wild story because of his connection to the outbreak when he was a rookie in 1959. Also, watch out for Dick Miller (Gremlins, The Howling, Chopping Mall).

As far as 80s horror goes, this is among the more sincerely written films. The writing cares about its characters and the actors care about the film—and, most importantly, it all shows. The special effects hold up as well! These hokey leech-things erupt from our 1959 zombie and wriggle at top speeds, they make one Hell of a zombie cat and a cute zombie dog, and they’re actually pretty fun to watch as they stop-motion-scuttle across the ground. We also enjoy a zombie axe-murderer, lots of sluggy leeches spewing forth from ruptured heads, and massively chunky head wounds. It’s every bit as amusing as I recalled from my last viewing (decades ago).

Director and writer Fred Dekker (Monster Squad, RoboCop 3) delivers an unusual alternative zombie movie. This film is playful, entertaining and energetic. I can see how it holds such a cult status, but a true horror classic it is not. The characters are great, the effects are decent, and the premise is fun.

John’s Horror Corner: Rabid Grannies (1988), a fun, low budget, slapstick schlocky film about geriatric demons.

September 3, 2018

MY CALL: This movie isn’t the raunchy trashy film I expected, but rather a cheap-yet-effective effects-driven slapstick schlock flick that was pretty fun for this B-movie fan.  MOVIES LIKE Rabid Grannies: For more ridiculous horror films try Street Trash (1987), Class of Nuke’em High (1986), Mutant Hunt (1987), The Toxic Avenger (1984) and The Granny (1995). Perhaps even Manborg (2011), Turbo Kid (2015), Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991) and Kung Fury (2015) capture the same spirit of lunacy while crossing genres from horror.

The premise is pretty basic. A group of despicably greedy upper-class yuppies gather at their two aunts’ shared birthday party in hopes of garnering their favor for the sake of their inheritance. I’m reminded of The Legacy (1978)… but with utterly deplorable acting.

Written and directed by Emmanuel Kervyn (no other credits), this wonky flick opens with stagnant writing and rigid acting from an unknown cast. As we lumber through the first 30 or so minutes, one may wonder why even bother continuing. Of course, this film is reputed not for its filmmaking, but for its slapstick campy gore. So you should just be patient…

Things eventually get interesting when a creepy arched-eyebrowed lady (who looks like a live-action version of a witch that might offer a Disney Princess a cursed apple) drops off a creepy gift box for the birthday of the madams of the house. After opening the box and being afflicted by this cursed item, the aunts begin to change and, at last, a smile befalls my face!

Their fingernails spew green gooey pus as their nails elongate into demonic talons, cheeks rip agape as toothy maws form, monstrous limbs tear at their greedy guests and they become bald deadites as if Evil Dead (1981) crossed paths with Nosferatu (1922). For all that has thus far been unforgivably terrible in this film, it has found its gory redemption among feistily inspired creature effects.

Considering the meager budget, the claws and latexed heads of these murderous geriatric fiends get ample screen time and, honestly, they’re handled pretty well. This film was every bit as ambitious as possible given financial limitations. I’m happy to have finally seen it, and also that I didn’t set my expectations too high.

The Strangers: Prey at Night: A Very Good Slasher Film

August 31, 2018

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The Strangers: Prey at Night is the rare horror sequel that improves upon the slasher premise of its predecessor in every way and achieves almost-greatness (in horror sequel terms). Director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) should be applauded for the way he molds familiar horror tropes with innovative set pieces that feature inventive camera work, creative music choices, and lots of blood. I can’t think of the last time I enjoyed a horror film so much, and I’m glad it’s starting to get some love with Bloody Disgusting, The Hollywood Reporter, and The A.V. Club writing nice things about it.

I had no urge to watch the sequel because I wasn’t a fan of the smug villains who killed the dour couple in The Strangers. The killers annoyed me with their overly pretentious mannerisms and I almost expected them to go to a coffee shop and pretentiously discuss their kills over several comically large cappuccinos. I know they were meant to be mysterious, but their underwritten mannerisms and “random” acts made them seem less like Michael Myers and more like the people you hate to have at parties because they call everything “cute” or “little.” I know I am projecting personalities onto masked villains who say virtually nothing, however, I’m totally cool saying they are empty vessels who kill unnecessarily sad people.

What I love about The Strangers: Prey at Night is how the villains seem legitimately insane. They aren’t very good at killing, and their games seem practical because they were concocted by crazy people. There is no rhyme-or-reason to their methods which may seem absurd, but I think it’s what they want. They haven’t thought it through and it’s like they are embracing the randomness of their game — which leads to “horror-trope” moments involving jump scares, omnipresent villains and terrible decisions. I didn’t mind the familiar horror elements or omnipresent villains because everything else around these moments are directed, written and performed well.

100% jerk.

The Strangers: Prey at Night tells the story of a nice married couple (Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson) and their two snotty teenagers (Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman) stopping overnight at a trailer park. The family is at the trailer park because they are on their way to a boarding school that the bratty daughter will be attending. Thus, everyone is annoyed with each other, which adds a melodramatic element that isn’t needed (can’t they be a happy family?). Soon after they arrive things go horribly wrong and they have to battle three mask wearing maniacs who really want to kill them.

The ensuing violence can be frustrating because it features people going into places they shouldn’t, and killers who have no problem hiding in the shadows so they can provide jump scares for the audience. However, I was able to roll with the familiar elements and was pleasantly surprised how the terror builds towards a stellar sequence at a swimming pool that might be one of the my favorite horror moments in years. I won’t give anything else away, but I think you might be pleasantly surprised with the ending and inventive visuals.

If you are looking for a pure slasher film that features creative set pieces and an inspired soundtrack you will love this movie. I’m bummed that critics/audiences disliked it because it seems like it wasn’t given a chance. Hopefully, it will thrive on VOD/Blu-ray and build the audience it deserves.

 

 

The MFF Podcast #143: Resident Evil (Afterlife), giant executioners and evil motives.

August 29, 2018

MFF

Download the pod on iTunes, PodBean, Stitcher or
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SUMMARY: In part 4 of our Resident Evil Franchise Review series we discuss Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) as the franchise samples The Matrix (1999) and Blade II (2002), Milla Jovovich leads an army of leather-clad ninja Jovo-clones in some of the best action of the franchise, our zombies are not just smarter and faster but can read blueprints, and Wesker goes full bullet-dodging Agent Smith in the final battle. As we answer Listener Questions we explore Milla’s acting chops, the staying power of mutant zombie dogs in the series, and the surprisingly deep significance of the titles of the Resident Evil sequels. If you’re joining us late and need to catch up, listen to Episode 139: Resident Evil, zombie infections and evil corporationsEpisode 140: Resident Evil (Apocalypse), monstrous lickers and the Nemesis and Episode 142: Resident Evil (Extinction), evil addresses and Vegas.

For supplemental reading on the subject, check out Resident Evil (2002), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) and Resident Evil vs Underworld.

Download the pod on iTunes, PodBean, Stitcher or
LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.
Please SUBSCRIBE, REVIEWRATE and SHARE.

For more horror podcast discussions, check out…

Episode 142: Resident Evil (Extinction), evil addresses and Vegas!
Episode 140: Resident Evil (Apocalypse), lickers and the Nemesis
Episode 139: Resident Evil, zombie infections and evil corporations
Episode 133: Fright Night (1985 vs 2011)

Episode 129: The Babysitter
Episode 128: A Cure for Wellness
Episode 126: The Shape of Water, del Toro’s gill-man love story
Episode 123: The Ritual, Swedish hiking and the Norse Jötunn
Episode 117: Event Horizon, Hellraiser in space, and wrestling Graboids
Episode 116: Happy Death Day
Episode 115: Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Episode 114: Office Horror, Mayhem & The Belko Experiment
Episode 113: Elise, her Demons and the Insidious Franchise
Episode 108: The Best Horror Films of 2017
Episode 78: Carpenter vs Zombie Halloween Rematch (1981 vs 2009)
Episode 76: The Blair Witch Pod (1999 vs 2016)

Download the pod on iTunes, PodBean, Stitcher or
LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.
Please SUBSCRIBE, REVIEWRATE and SHARE.

John’s Horror Corner: Ice Cream Man (1995), Clint Howard in a B-movie starring role!

August 28, 2018

MY CALL:  There are much better bad movies out there. But if you want to see Clint Howard in a starring role, this is your big chance.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Ice Cream ManFor much better bad movie fare of the era, I’d recommend Dr. Giggles (1992), Jack Frost (1997), Mosquito (1994) and Santa’s Slay (2005).

Disclaimer: I have been trying to get my hands on this movie for years—really, YEARS. Every time I checked Amazon it was for sale used (via third party vendors) for more than I wanted to pay (i.e., over $20 new). Finally, at Tampa Bay Screams convention (August 2018) I got the Blu-ray. I was so excited. I hadn’t seen this since the early 90s on the Sci-Fi Channel (back before it was called SyFy), and it was the edited version. Surely all the best stuff was cut out, right? Well, it turns out the “best stuff” was mostly its cast, which included David Warner (In the Mouth of Madness, The Company of Wolves) and Sandahl Bergman (Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, She, Hell Comes to Frogtown). Sigh.

Director Paul Norman (aka adult film director Norman Apstein) has basically done a bunch of porn… and this movie. So, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked by its quality, but I am actually quite shocked by its complete lack of gratuitous nudity.

Gregory (Clint Howard; Ticks, Evilspeak, Leprechaun 2, Lords of Salem) the ice cream man is just not right in the head and he pays his landlord/caretaker (Olivia Hussey; Black Christmas, Stephen King’s IT, Psycho IV) in ice cream. But that barely skims his idiosyncrasies. Our homicidal ice cream man’s antics include bladed push-pops, throwing a dog in a meat grinder, eye balls are served as cone toppings and ice cream drums are filled with bloody body parts. And therein lies the bulk of the fun of this flick.

Those who seem ungrateful of their ice cream tend to find themselves among its ingredients. It’s very hokey and probably doesn’t look as cool as you’d prefer. I expected better. But, if I’m being honest, I didn’t exactly hate it. LOL

To call the writing and acting “bad” would be an outstanding compliment to this movie, as such aspects were largely intolerable. The first 50 minutes are highly uneventful and as the plot limped forward I found myself begging for something to happen. Yeah, as someone who enjoys their fair share of bad movies, it’s admittedly entertaining watching Clint Howard stagger through his lines and awkward role. But in terms of effects and gore, the payoff simply isn’t there for most viewers. Even the insane asylum scene was pretty weak. Sigh.

The one scene that stuck in my memory since the 90s was the only scene really worth seeing again. Yes, the poster image of Clint Howard holding a man’s severed head in a giant waffle cone presenting it to the head’s mistress. Likewise, the “severed head puppet show” scene was a pleasant laugh.

All said, this is a rough watch and should only be recommended to those who thrive during the worst of bad movie fare.

John’s Horror Corner: Society (1989), uniting “classy” high society flesh-melding orgies and monstrously gory creature effects.

August 28, 2018

MY CALL: This movie isn’t exactly smutty or exploitative, but I’m tempted to call it Lovecraftian “orgy horror.” Take from that what you and watch at your own risk. Effects gorehounds will love it, grandmothers won’t. MOVIES LIKE Society: For more comfort zone-testing horror, try Basket Case (1982; and sequels), From Beyond (1986), Re-Animator (1985; and sequels), Street Trash (1987), Brain Damage (1988), Frankenhooker (1990) and Slither (2006).

NSFW. This review is all sorts of NSFW.
Just FYI… very NSFW.
NSFW. You’ve been warned. NSFW

Bill (Billy Warlock; Halloween II) is an ordinary wealthy Beverly Hills teenager having a tough time. Neither his therapist nor his mother understand his fear that something horrible is in his future. Probably just puberty, right? Well… maybe there’s more to it than that.

Director Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead 3, Faust) wastes no time revealing obscured montages (during the opening credits) of slithering and writhing gore and/or creatures, and other obvious hints in the first ten minutes include Jenny’s (Bill’s sister) back pulsating something most unnatural and her boyfriend ranting with fear in his eyes of something strange. Yeah, something’s not right here. And it’s happening right as we approach Jenny’s debutante “coming out” party.

“An ordinary teenage boy discovers his family is part of a gruesome orgy cult for the social elite–IMDB.” The IMDB synopsis and some of the movie posters/sleeves out there basically spoil the premise outright.

There’s catty high school clique drama, misunderstanding parents drama, and Bill’s girlfriend Shauna (Heidi Kozak; Slumber Party Massacre II, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) creates some drama when Bill’s other love interest Clarissa (Devin DeVasquez; Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, House II: The Second Story) enters the scene and makes quite the impression at the beach… and in the bedroom. Things get weirder with every minute.

Even at its slowest (minutes 11-65 of the running time), this 80s low budget horror flick manages to entertain rather consistently throughout as we learn more of Bill’s family’s sociopathy. The acting is more than the genre deserved in the 80s and the plot reveals itself accordingly to keep our attention—not that this is a “film” to be revered or anything. But, apparently, there’s a lot of sabotage and subterfuge in Beverly Hill’s high society social life and the plot serves a bit more than simply filling time between death scenes. In short, it manages to be interesting even when no blood is being drawn.

While mostly limited to the last 20 minutes, this flick is loaded with odd imagery. Jenny’s inhumanly contorted shower scene complete with “back boobs”, fingers impaling soft flesh, body parts melding together and subsequently stretching apart, all sorts of perverse body-melding and assaults through bodily orifices, combinations of human heads and private parts and butts, up-the-anus punches leading to gory conclusion, and loads of slurping sound effects to complement the tremendously sloppy finale of slapstick macabre orgy horror.

This movie is a blast for horror hounds and, like the work of Stuart Gordon (From Beyond, Dolls, Re-Animator, Dagon) and Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Brain Damage, Frankenhooker), the writing/storytelling makes as much effort as the special effects. Of course, that statement is to be taken with a grain of salt proportional to the effects quality. But if you like ooey-gooey gory movies with tones smacking of Lovecraftian otherworldly beings living among us, maddening us and changing us—then this is probably for you.

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