Saturday, February 28

Deadly Intruder (1985)


Directed by John McCauley
86 Minutes / Thorn EMI Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

An escaped schizo stalks a woman's country home after a get-together evening with friends. After days of no communication from being in the clutches of the rather innocuous psycho, her friends begin to worry and plan to head over to see if everything's alright. But who exactly is the demented one here?

A strictly okay slasher that wears its Halloween influence on its sleeve, but manages to break away from the formula somewhat. Danny Bonaduce is in this. He gets his head smashed into a television. Subsequently, he's electrocuted and dies. Fuck yea. That's possibly the sole reason to see this for many. The kills are a little varied, but bloodless. I guess if one must see every slasher out there, it's all yours.

Film: 4/10
VHS Picture: 4/10
VHS Sound: 3/10

Swap Meet Finds: Deluxe Edition

Today's VHS:

Ator: The Fighting Eagle
(Ator l'invincible) (1982)
Masters of the Universe (sealed promotional screener copy)
A Man Called Sarge (1990)
Murder on Flight 502 (1975)
Underground U.S.A.: Music Magazine, Vol. 2 - Hardcore Special (w/ Bl'ast, D.R.I., Hüsker Dü, Meat Puppets, Flesh Eaters, Black Flag, Opal)
Underground U.S.A.: Music Magazine, Vol. 4 (w/ Violent Femmes, Mercy Seat, King's X, Faith No More, Open Arms, The Blasters, The Long Riders)
Underground U.S.A.: Music Magazine, Vol. 6 - Heavy Metal II (w/ Freheley's Comet, Fate's Warning, Jean Bouvier, Testament, Betsy, D.R.I)

Recent acquisitions I forgot since the last Swap Meet entry:

The Annihilators (1985)
Meet The Feebles (Substance VHS)
Brutes and Savages (Gorgon Video)
Blade of the Ripper (Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh) (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh)
Dr. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (Magnum Video clamshell)
The Body Beneath (World Pictures Video clamshell)
It's Alive (Warner clamshell)
Spasms (Thorn EMI Video)
The Asphyx (Magnum Video clamshell)
Willard (1973) (Prism clamshell)
Satan's Blade (Prism clamshell)

Peacemaker (1990)


Directed by Kevin Tenney
90 Minutes / Fries Home Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

An alien spacecraft smashes onto a city beach by night and an imposing man (Lance Edwards) with seemingly super human abilities terrorizes the streets. Finally he's taken down in a hail of bloody cop gunfire. At the morgue the man's wounds suddenly regenerate on the slab and he takes the female coroner (Hilary Shepard) hostage. Robert Forester shows up with a long barrel six-shooter in a failed attempt to save the woman. A cat-and-mouse game between the two men ensue over craft's keys with the woman as a pawn. Both are claiming to be alien cops, but whom can she really trust as they battle for her allegiance.

The director of Witchboard and Night of the Demons delivers a tasty stew of hard sci-fi action. The cast does an admirable job of selling an essentially silly and trite premise with Forester serving up his usual working man's badass shtick. Shepard, who appeared later as the Power Ranger's character Divatox(!?!), carries most of the load and looks great doing it. Robert Davi also shows up for a check as a brash and ultimately inconsequential detective with a phoned-in performance. The action is plentiful with lots of brutal fist fighting, wild chases, and gunplay with some scant gooey effects thrown in. Not exactly original, but I ended up enjoying it much more than expected. Give it a go if you're a fan of such films as They Live or The Hidden.

Film: 6/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Friday, February 27

A Classic in Retro: The Evil Dead (1981)


Directed by Sam Raimi
85 Minutes (uncut) / HBO/CANNON Video / Unmatted Full Frame

This review/retrospective is a bit different in that I'm revisiting Sam Raimi's classic, The Evil Dead, via its first American home video release from HBO/CANNON in 1982.

I first saw the film on the Sci-fi Channel years ago. The network had a week long fest of zombie flicks, aptly entitled "Zombie Week", hosted by Mr. Zombie himself Rob Zombie. I believe this was around the same time his band White Zombie was on the skids nearing the end of their mortal coil. The broadcast of The Evil Dead was dually special; the film was presented fully uncut for the first time on television. I can remember my head spinning from the full-on awesomeness on display and being amazed they were able to show that much gore. Though the film was still hard-to-find on video and I had to borrow a VHS from a friend whose parent's once owned a video store to create my own copy. A short while afterward I received my first DVD player, bought Anchor Bay's 1997 DVD for $30, and the rest is history.

It's amazing how many of us view the genre's luminary gems today. After a seemingly endless cavalcade of DVD reissues, this film seems a bit "newer" than reality tells it. It's undeniable the film still holds a tremondous ability to creep until your skin, but our perception is a bit warped with its now enormous reputation within the community and even Hot Topic store kitsch. I'll admit to engaging in a considerable amount of saber-rattling over the past few years with the film's continual treatment on DVD or what new supplemental material could be beat from the dead horse.

We've seen The Evil Dead treated like Fort Knox gold, a once rough diamond polished lovingly to digital perfection. Any hint of color variation or print damage eradicated. Hiss and crackling in the soundtrack wiped clean or suppressed. It certainly deserves all of it and I'm glad to see the film's popularity is now strong enough to warrant at least one readily available video edition be in-print for the past fifteen years or so.

This ancient VHS is a different story. Despite being released just one year after the film's debut to the world...it looks like crap. Explosions of marks and flecks occur on the tail ends of shot transitions. Cigarette burns hearken the reel changes. Even sprocket fluttering invades the frame composition at times. The sound is muffled as it floats in-and-out of Hi-fi. The fidelity is so poor portions seem on mute until a voice or piano key cracks through the subtle low-level hum. On top of this, the ominous force in the woods might have possessed the tape to lose its vertical control which resulted in a rolling picture a few times.

Yet I loved every minute of it. It put the film's true age back on and I'm even more in awe of it now. The experience is the closest I've gotten to my first viewing detailed above. This is why I've been wanting to pop in the nearly thirty year old tape for awhile now. This has refreshed my viewpoint towards the feature in a way I doubt a brand spankin' new THX HD presentation could have. This blog features a number of little reviews of early '80s horror and cult flicks from the VHS days of yore, and this kept coming to mind while watching the magnetic haze tonight. It's damn near astonishing such lightning-in-a-bottle was captured by the cast and crew in '81. While other horror flicks of the time might have had more cash to burn and a face character actor or two, this little underdog vanquishes them to end-of-the-line status even while viewing such a mangled ol' tape.

Of course, I'm unsure why I'm expounding upon a film that already has an insurmountable heap of both praise and criticism. It was an enjoyable viewing and I hope to revisit more old editions of classics in the future.

Also in the interest of entry value, I noticed a few things concerning this edition's color. In contrast to Elite Entertainment's and Anchor Bay's Laserdisc, VHS, and DVD editions; this tape lacks the warm reddish hue seen in the aforementioned. The color seems "normal" with a touch of blue. Certain scenes (and even single shots) have a more pronounced difference. The scene in the cabin with Cheryl is rightfully freaking out over her foliage rape is bathed in a very golden sepia. Also later on where Ash is lurking around the cabin with the shotgun is quite blue. The film seems to get brighter during the gore sequences as well. Just some tidbits I figured someone might be interested in.

Film: 9/10
VHS Picture: 5/10
VHS Sound: 4/10

Wednesday, February 25

The Ark of the Sun God (1983)


A.K.A. I sopravvissuti della città morta
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
92 Minutes / Trans World Entertainment / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen

David Warbeck as a master thief/adventurer in Italy's answer to '81's Raiders of the Lost Ark. The sacred Scepter of Gilgamesh is up for grabs as Warbeck, along with a merchant and drunk that are both fat and bearded, raid cavernous temples as Arabs and guys just dressed like Arabs try to foil their plans for a prize that just might rule to world.

Warbeck is really the only thing that keeps the film watchable. He's the same as always, simply the criterion for macho British swagger with perfect hair, his accent in full effect, and please, mind the trusty wristwatch. Rats, snakes, spiders, dusty corpses, and falling stone pillars all constantly menace the team...but of course that's nothing new. There's even a laughable night car chase accomplished in miniature with RC cars and later a real car chase with four Camaros with no explaination why they're all the same brand. Luciano Pigozzi is the haggard drunk, which seems to be the cornerstone role that he was born to play. The score sounds lifted from a vintage radio serial. Yeah, better off watching Raiders again...

Film: 4.5/10
VHS Picture: 3/10 (...and soon the darkness)
VHS Sound: 5/10

Tuesday, February 24

Buried Alive (1990)


Directed by Frank Darabont
93 Minutes / Universal/MCA Video / Unmatted Full Frame

A contractor (Tim Matheson) has recently moved from New York City with his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) back home to the country. Being displeased with his decisions and yearning for a skyjet lifestyle, she along with her on-the-side boyfriend (William Atherton) devise a plan calling for murder by poisoning. Apprehensively, she agrees and carries out the horrid deed. After a quick burial, the woman quickly tries to expunge herself from her thought deceased husband's business and home, but he awakens six feet under and climbs back into existence in search of revenge...

Excellent little made-for-TV chiller that wisely keeps everything focused and concise. The film is comprised of many little twists to the unfolding mystery which keeps the viewer wanting to watch; instead of just one big blowout at the conclusion. The small cast all do a fantastic job, especially Leigh who is a perfect stone-hearted bitch. Matheson is surprising as he gradually switches from a likable everyman to a likeable yet seething-with-rage everyman. Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist) obviously had budgetary and time restrictions to work in, but his verve for perfectly framing an actor's bust is quite evident here. Special note to Jacques Haitkin's cinematography and Michel Colombier's moody score as well. Universal unquestionably needs to release this one onto DVD.

Film: 8/10
VHS Picture: 8/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Monday, February 23

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)


Directed by David DeCoteau
80 Minutes / Urban Classics Video / Unmatted Full Frame

A couple of frat dudes sneak into a sorority to droll over a hazing involving ass paddle spanking and some choice girls in the buff. Once captured they're forced to trespass into a bowling alley at night to steal a coveted trophy with the girls. Upon breaking and entering, they recover their prize, but smash it open in their haste. A little stone imp emerges that jive talks (literally) his way to granting each a wish, but soon the wishes spoil and the imp turns the granted into crazed minions to attack those who resisted temptation. Can they survive the night? Could it be that stupidly simple?!?

Fun trash that goes swimmingly with a few beers featuring titanic '80's scream queens Michelle Bauer (my favorite), Brinke Stevens, and Linnea Quigley. As the film progresses, it makes less-and-less sense (as does the title), but I suppose it was never might to. The three terror goddesses are in their prime here, with Stevens delivering glorious showertime full frontal and Bauer remaining topless for 70% of the runtime. The late and troubled Robin Stille shows up to face Quigley in a catfight that makes no sense before being immolated in hellish fashion with Quigley standing not five feet away. Just be prepared, the big climax amounts to a rudimentary car roll in a parking lot. Also watch for George Flower as an aimless janitor and Dukey Flyswatter as the big pimpin' voice of the Imp. Despite Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers being more "highly regarded" between the two; I think Sorority Babes is where it's at.

Film: 4.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 5/10

Sunday, February 22

Kill Crazy (1990)


"(David Heavener is the) action star of the ninties." -- International Press

Directed by David Heavener
94 Minutes / Media Entertainment / Unmatted Full Frame

David Heavener versus a band of white-supremacist environmentalists (what?!?) headed up by Bruce Glover. I think I'm less intelligent after watching.

This is my first and hopefully last encounter with a Heavener film in any capacity. He acts, directs, and tells a story with all the finesse of a jackhammer hitting all the wrong spots in an echo chamber. It's not even unintentionally funny, just a big heap of boring pictures strung together. Heavener is horrid as an actor with all the wrong facial expressions, line delivery, and a trout's power to emote. Even screamin' mad Reb Brown throughly kicks this guy's ass as an action star.

Only until seventy-four minutes have passed does Heavener decide to stop stumbling around like a pussy and strap up in (incredibly tepid) badass form. On top of that, either the weapons master was a hardass about short bursts or the sound effects guy was drunk, because all of the gun shots sound terrible with everyone doing that stupid ass "jiggling" motion with the machine guns they fire. When a smart rottweiler is the most interesting aspect of the entire film--something is very wrong. We're even treated to several awful dubbed-in songs "sung" by Heavener himself. For a title like "Kill Crazy", I expected something kicked up fifty times over this trash. And to think people thought Stallone's return to Rambo sucked...

Film: 1/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 5/10

It Needs To Catch The Eye

Here's some pretty nifty art from the craptacular "Star Classics" VHS of Romero's seminal Night of the Living Dead. I've seen this tape a lot digging through old swap meet boxes.

The Black Room (1981)


Released in 1984
Directed by Elly Kenner
88 Minutes / Vestron Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A man seeking a little extramarital fun rents the use of a eerie black room at an estate in the Hollywood Hills owned by an youthful and attractive brother and sister. Relating this as just a fantasy to his wife, she becomes suspect after discovering a newspaper ad for the room and keys in the glove box of his car. She sets out to investigate and is crushed by the news of her husband's very real infidelity.

Yet, being convinced by the brother, decides to partake in the forbidden decadence of the black room for herself. Her husband is none too pleased, but unbeknown to him the siblings have been entrapping his sex partners to farm their blood for their continued existence. The married couple find an uneasy balance, but soon find their excesses far too much to handle. The siblings then reveal their true intentions on the end of a syringe and not only are the couple in great danger...but so are their children.

This film does an admirable job of attempting something a bit more methodical than the popular horrors of the time. The nature of trust in relationships is explored, which gives the story unexpected depth, but this also feels a little forced.

The couple seems shocked and dismayed from the mutual failings of their marriage, but not to a very realistic extent. An example is when the wife equates witnessing her husband's raw lust for another woman through a small mirrored window as "just bodies" after stating she died a dozen deaths while watching. I'm unsure if the filmmakers wanted to imply a "supernatural" draw of the black room clouding their judgment or what. Still, neither goes nuclear in the face of the ruined state of their relationship like expected.

There's also some needless padding early in the film, like a long scene of weird tribal "horseback riding" between the husband and sister followed by an impromptu photo shoot by the brother. Your guess is as good as mine on that one. The direction isn't terribly inspired; only standing out when capturing the dark intimacy of the confined black room. A neat dash of bloody Grand Guignol theatrics play out in the climax that are indeed welcome after the queasy sensibility of the rest of the film. Catch a young and slightly "thicker" Linnea Quigley in a small babysitter role.

Film: 5.5/10

VHS Picture: 7/10

VHS Sound: 5/10

Saturday, February 21

Nightmare (1981)


Directed by Romano Scavolini
98 Minutes / FleshWoundVideo "Extended Uncut" DVD-R / Unmatted Full Frame

(spoilers ahoy)

A do-gooder New York psychiatrist releases a severely schizophrenic man, George Tatum (Baird Stafford), believing he's been rehabilitated through medication and extensive therapy. Tatum soon stops showing up for sessions and begins traveling South along the east coast. Meanwhile, a Florida woman begins to have silent phone calls and tries to deal with a pain of a young son who constantly cries wolf with terrifying pranks.

Now, just to get this out of the way, Tatum is the father of the boy and the ex-husband of the woman. This is the little twist at the conclusion, but it's not particularly surprising as it's hinted at like a finger to the eye multiple times prior. As Tatum continues to lose grip on his worsening condition, he resorts to murder to quench his bloodlust. The mysterious calls continue as the woman juggles tensions between her children and boyfriend.

The psychiatrist and his colleagues get a track on the missing Tatum and the horrifying reality of his recent murders and past becomes all too apparent. Reaching Florida, Tatum begins to stalk the family from within their home. Psychosis takes its hold as the pills run out and Tatum's deeply disturbed visions bubble to the surface in a night of slaughter both in the present and from the past.

Stafford's performance as Tatum is quite nuanced and stands above all others in the film. The character is given more weight than usual for the material in that he's fully aware of his condition's perils. This self-awareness confuses and disturbs Tatum tremendously as he struggles in vain to gain control. It's a breath of fresh air from an era of ugly, full-bore screaming maniacs.

There's also something to be said for the whole notion of a "passing of the torch" the film suggests between Tatum and his young son. This might be reaching, but Tatum may have reached the conclusion in his murderous schizophrenia the only way to impart something upon his son could only be born from an act of incredible psychological trauma upon the young boy much like he experienced. Tatum wished for his inner turmoil to end by the hands of his own son.

The rest is a bit of a wash with the family dynamics stuff dragging along with the viewer hoping the next scene involves Tatum in some capacity. Scavolini's direction is pretty much point-and-shoot, but is enlivened substantially by Robert Megginson's sharp editing that he supposedly had absolute final say of. Tom Savini's controversial effects work (I'm in the "he did it" camp) is exceedingly gory and might even top his work on Lustig's Maniac. I can't even remember the score.

I can't wait for Code Red to debut their hopefully definitive and official DVD edition later this year. Also check out my thread at Film Talk for a bunch of other stuff pertaining to this film.

Film: 7.5/10
DVD-R Picture: 4-6/10 (a composite of two different VHS editions from Continental Video and Platinum Productions)
DVD-R Sound: 5/10

Bulletproof (1988)


"Your worst nightmare, Butt-horn!"

Directed by Steve Carver
93 Minutes / RCA/Columbia Home Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Gary Busey as Frank McBain, a hard-nosed L.A. cop with a "too-old-for-this-shit" partner, short-fused boss, and an ass-kickin' pad with a jukebox and hot South American girlfriend. McBain ends up roped into saving U.S. military troops and a super secret tank (codename: Thunderblast) that got squeezed down in Mexico. Why McBain? His nickname is "bulletproof", repeat "bulletproof", as said numerous times throughout. A beret sportin' Henry Silva in yet another villainous terrorist leader role with the serpentine Juan Fernández as his righthand man. The rebel's only have one problem standing between them and the destruction of America. The tank's access codes reside in the head of a female officer hostage (Darlanne Fluegel) that resists her captor's (rather soft) demands for them.

McBain arrives, but is quickly captured upon sneaking into the compound and tied to a huge wooden wire spindle. Minutes later in a hilarious scene the female officer drops a live grenade behind the spindle and McBain makes an escape by simply rolling off into the desert. A search convoy is assembled and following a convenient machine gun ambush McBain and the officer finally acquire the tank. A cheeseball hell of Atari-like tank display graphics and smoke explosions descends upon the terrorist compound, but can McBain and Thunderblast survive the sudden presence of a beefy Russian army chopper?

Yep, it's as ridiculously cliched as it all sounds. A perfect slice of Lethal Weapon era action hokum with a presumably coked-up Busey delivering almost nothing but one-liners and a bevy of B-action movie notables. The leathery L.Q. Jones, gruff William Smith, and a young Danny Trejo show up for a paycheck. Trejo even gets blow'ed up real good after machine gunning from the back of a speeding ice cream truck. Gary does get lost a bit in the chaotic conclusion and by the end he even seems above the Fred Olen Ray influenced claptrap that's boiled up around him. Still, it's all in idiotic fun.

Film: 5/10
VHS Picture: 4/10
VHS Sound: 6/10

Slasher Mania 2 (1990)

.
A.K.A. Slashermaniacs 2
30 Minutes / Parade Video / EP Tape Mode

A half-hour compilation of clips from mostly public domain Horror films. Mega obscure tape that's merely a bunch of bad-looking and boring unrelated clips from stuff like Blood Feast and Night of the Living Dead from start to finish. Just in case some slash fanatic is reading this and has been tempted by some insane rip-off artist offering this. It's not worth a dime.

.

Friday, February 20

Crinoline Head (1995)


Directed by Tommy Faircloth
90 Minutes / Horse Creek Productions / Full Frame / EP Tape Mode

A group of teenagers on a weekend trip in the country is stalked by a killer that likes to dispatch each in supposedly "funny" ways.

God awful waste of good tape that eats, breathes, and shits 1995. Incredibly annoying characters you want to strangle yourself a minute after seeing them on-screen. The loud valley girl, the preppy guy, the fat dork, the "all that" bitch you wanna shoot in the face...you understand. It takes a tooth-pullin' fifty-three minutes before the first stupid kill (a dude with a bloody doll head stuck in his mouth, excuse me while I shit myself with laughter). I must admit to fast-forwarding through much of it and not seeing the ending. I think I'm a better person for that. Glad it was only $1, there's a $50 (!?!) used copy on Amazon right now. Any other way to spend fifty bucks is advised. Fangoria deserves to be shut down by force for giving this migraine such a nice pull quote.

Film: 0/5
VHS Picture: 2/10 (EP really is absolute shit)
VHS Sound: 2/10

The Big Alligator River (1979)


A.K.A. Il fiume del grande caimano
Directed by Sergio Martino
86 Minutes / NoShame DVD U.S. / Anamorphic 2.35:1 Widescreen

A wealthy land entrepreneur (Mel Ferrer) invites a photographer (Claudio Cassinelli) to capture the scenery of a tourist hotel on a remote jungle island. The photographer strikes up a relationship with a guide (Barbara Bach) and soon they (and the entire island population) find themselves menaced by an enormous alligator. Though the island's natives are beginning to become agitated as well.

What do you get when you take the spice out of sweaty Italian jungle adventure/exploitation? You get The Big Alligator River. Lacking nearly everything that makes such films a spectacle, this flick is like a long fake travelogue that happens to have a rubber gator killing people in a relatively bloodless fashion. The cast is full of instantly recognizable Italian vets like the aforementioned and even the little red-haired girl from Fulci's House by the Cemetery. Yet this line-up alone simply can't help this from being an exercise in constantly looking at the watch. Even Stelvio Cipriani's usually memorable film score work sounds phoned in.

Film: 4/10
DVD Picture: 6/10 (a bit too bright and a shoddy standards conversion)
DVD Sound (English Mono): 3/10

Fatal Games (1984)


Directed by Michael Elliot
88 Minutes / Media Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A team of young Olympic hopefuls have their dreams speared quite literally by a hooded figure that stalks their gymnasium.

Decent if silly slasher that starts off a bit slow but finishes unexpectedly strong. The athletic cast do a fine job and frequently (at least the girls) get in the buff. Sparse blood and the lack of variety in kills might put off some, but the twists and turns at the climax are worth the wait for the sheer wackiness. I could see this fitting into Code Red's "'80s time capsule" DVD catalog perfectly.

Film: 5.5/10
VHS Picture: 5/10
VHS Sound: 4/10

Thursday, February 19

First Time For Everything...

The first Japanese VHS I've ever bought arrived today!



I have another coming too...but it shall remain a secret for now...

Wednesday, February 18

Rest in Pieces (1987)


A.K.A. Descanse en piezas
Directed by José Ramón Larraz
90 Minutes / I.V.E. / Unmatted Full Frame

A woman inherits the riches and a large estate of her recently deceased Aunt. She along with her husband settle in only for her to start having poltergeist-like encounters with her dead relative and find a group of eccentric house guests living at the manor.

I would include more in the synopsis but let's just cut to the chase--this film is a huge pile of shit. It starts off well enough but quickly dissolves into a series of confusing plot holes. The "big" twist involving the woman's husband near the conclusion invalidates everything prior (I've probably devoted far too much thought trying to get it) and then the film really derails into an absolutely jumbled mess of contrived scenes until mercifully the credits roll. It's fucking awful and deserves to be forgotten. The best parts are the ample breasts of Lorin Vail and the above cover (no zombies here). Not worth your time or effort.

Film: 1/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 6/10

The Dead Hate The Living! (2000)


Directed by Dave Parker
90 Minutes / Full Moon Pictures / Unmatted Full Frame

A group of indie horror filmmakers illegally shooting in a condemned institution open a portal to the vengeful dead after using a corpse and giant stone coffin they've found during filming.

This is one of those that seemed much better from memory; having not seen this film since its millennial DVD debut. The cast does a serviceable job despite being saddled by incessant genre references. These little jabs are fun to use perhaps once or twice, but they're sneaked in even after the "real" zombie resurrection. The make-up is decent with the stand out being the zombo you see above. The ruler of the undead looks a helluva lot like Rob Zombie, which has probably been said in every review of this film so we shouldn't stop the tradition. The late Matthew McGrory also appears as a towering ghoul. The best compliment I can give is that this flick is perfect background fodder for a Halloween party with kids around. Other than that, you can safely leave this in the past or skip it all together unless your 13.

Film: 3.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Tuesday, February 17

Alien from the Deep (1989)


A.K.A. Alien degli abissi
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
90 Minutes / Marketing Film DVD (Germany) / Unmatted Full Frame

Two environmental activists sneak onto a remote island owned by a huge chemical corporation to capture on video the plant's nefarious acts against nature. Getting help from local natives, the tree-huggers infiltrate the plant and witness the dumping of highly radioactive material into a volcanic cavern. Security becomes wise and takes chase; leading to the capture of one of them. The other activist is saved by an American snake wrangler and together they devise a rescue. The head of plant operations (Charles Napier) continues the hazardous dumping despite knowledge radioacitvity is reaching radically unstable levels. Soon an enormous creature begins tunneling towards the plant from the sea and it's every man for himself to escape the monster and the flesh-eating fungi it harbors.

Enjoyable Italian sci-fi actioner that's completely mindless but moves at a brisk enough pace. Charles Napier is just how we like him; terse and stubborn-minded as he screams at subordinates and wrecklessly guides everything towards immient destruction. Not much gore, but
Margheriti does halt the chaos of the climax for a "decontamination" scene that's merely an excuse for the attractive blond protagonist to run around the rest of the film in a wet tanktop and panties. Thank you Antonio! Also the monster is a ridiculous tower of black hose and tires with crab claws...only in an '80s Italian sci-fi flick!

Film: 5/10
DVD Picture (R0/PAL): 8/10
DVD Sound (English Stereo): 7/10

Monday, February 16

Fright Night Part II (1988)


Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
104 Minutes / I.V.E. / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen

The team of Charley (William Ragsdale) and Peter (Roddy McDowall) are back to do battle with a group of rather sexually ambiguous vamps. Charley's attending a university while trying to coup with the turmoil of his past with the help of a psychiatrist. That is until he begins to have dream-like encounters with the new host of bloodsuckers and might even be gradually becoming one of them himself. Eventually the past becomes all too real again, but can Peter and Charley's new girlfriend save him and save themselves from the terror of fright night once more?

A solid, if not overly impressive sequel that throws enough curveballs into the plot and character development (primarily Charley) to not feel like a simple retread. Both Ragsdale and McDowall slip into to their respective roles like old gloves. McDowall is especially quietly great (again) in his soft-spoken and witty depiction of a retired Horror film great. The new vamp baddies are a bit of a mixed bag. Jon Gries as a reluctant, fun-loving were-man just about steals the show and is wisely featured just as much as his seductive leader. Brian Thompson isn't much to do except look badass and have taste for fine insects. I wasn't too taken by the other two vampires; which is odd since they are the focus. The film certainly isn't as great as the original, but at least it's a far cry from being something akin to Ghostbusters II.

Film: 5.5/10
VHS Picture: 4/10 (the cropping is severe, but the DVD is the same way)
VHS Sound: 7/10

Warlock Mold

Yep, again with the damn Warlock Moon.

Anyway, I was just cruising around eBay and ran across another Unicorn Video VHS auction.

The box is cut up, stickers abound, and the price is ludicrous...but that's nothing compared to this:



Unless that's residue from a ripped off sticker (which I doubt), the tape itself is infested with mold. Depending how long it's been growing, the buyer would either face a tedious cleaning job and/or witness segments of the tape being totally unplayable. Despite the seller stating the tape "plays Great", he'd have a ruined VCR if it was actually ran through a player. Bidder beware.

Sunday, February 15

Redneck Zombies - Director's Cut (1987)


Directed by Pericles Lewnes
98 Minutes / Troma DVD / Unmatted Full Frame

Some of Maryland's finest backwoods hillbillies decide brew up a batch of toxic mash from a radioactive still in a barrel that's lost military property. Nearby a group of campers set up for the night. As the sun sets, the hicks are sampling as one of them is sent to make routine, albeit deadly, jar drop-offs to unwitting townsfolk. At dawn, campers begin being ripped asunder by the now ragin' gore-drenched hillbillies. Upon the gruesome discovery, the remaining group must fed off an ever-expanding angry undead horde. Only deodorant can save them now...

This isn't my first viewing and I must say, I still love this grotty slice of stupid. When you aren't laughing at the gags; you're be laughing at how pathetic the attempts are. Lewnes keeps a tight ship and one very seldomly find themselves yawning. The gore is low rent, but wonderfully generous and delivered with aplomb.

The cast, even those in very minor roles, get into the spirit of things perfectly...well, except for one. Lisa M. DeHaven defines "far, far too serious given the context" hilariously. The film elevates to a new level hearing her spout off incredibly impassioned lines while everyone's in flannel and hightops trying to avoid corn flake-faced extras. I like to believe the makers gave her top billing just as extra incentive for her to bust out all the stops. Either way, she takes the ball in what's a backyard game of catch and celebrates like she's won the Super Bowl in double overtime. Glorious.

This is what all gooey non-existent budget horror comedies should aspire towards. Grab it and ponder why the hell you're laughing so hard.

Film: 9/10 (you heard me)
DVD Picture: 9/10 (it's like the best VHS transfer you'll ever see)
DVD Sound: 8/10

Offerings (1989)


Directed by Christopher Reynolds
95 Minutes / Southgate Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Simply a blatant rip-off of Carpenter's classic Halloween with one new tiny aspect made a little over a decade later. An outcast boy that killed his domineering mother is institutionalized only to break out years later and return to the neighborhood. Murder begins anew as a young girl starts to receive "offerings"--bloody noses and fingers. The mute psycho fatass finally preys upon the girl in her home as extremely Halloween theme-like music plays (seriously). She escapes and runs to the local sheriff and he promptly shots the guy dead.

FIN.

Just watch Halloween again and tell the makers of this crap to go screw themselves.

Film: 1/10
VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 6/10

Saturday, February 14

Satan's Blade Behind the Scenes Photos

Amazing what you'll run across on YouTube sometimes.

American Commandos (1985)


Directed by Bobby A. Suarez
88 Minutes /Lightning Video / Unmatted Full Frame

Seriously take Death Wish, a pinch of Rambo 2 or 3 (with no hostage), a touch of The Blues Brothers, set it in Singapore, and let boil in a stew of "this friggin' sucks eggs" for ninety minutes.

After a Vietnam vet's family is raped and murdered by a drug gang, he decides to take revenge upon the killers in the form of a Snubnose. The local detective is in on the man's vigilante justice and proposes he travel to Thailand to root out and crush the cause of the town's cocaine problem (yeah I know, what the hell?!?)...or face a long sentence. The vet agrees and after landing goes to each of his ex-squad members to try and convince them to join him. Double crosses, little brown men twirling around from machine gun fire, stupid looking battle vehicles, and smoke pot explosions then smash your sense of excitement's testicles with a swift kick.

...and that's it. Throw it in the damn dumpster why don' cha?

Film: 2/10
VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 2/10

Dead Heat (1988)


Directed by Mark Goldblatt
86 Minutes / Media Entetainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Two cops investigating a rash of robberies by several seemingly impossible-to-kill thugs uncover a plot to re-animate the dead. Fortunately for them, you can't keep a good cop dead.

Well, Piscopo made the first half quite tough for me to get through with his bullshit getting tiresome real quick. The focus shifts away from Mr. Asshole and Williams exhibits why he received the leading marquee. Thankfully, he carries most of the film and one can feel his character's momentum build during the last half hour. Gooey SFX spice things up, especially during an inspired sequence in a Chinese butcher's shop. It was also nice to see fun minor roles from Darren McGavin, Vincent Price, and Toru Tanaka. Overall, it didn't really sway me neither way, despite the obvious originality and creativity. Damn you Piscopo. Would've loved to see all the gore supposedly cut away to garner an R-rating...oh well.

Film: 5.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Swap Meet Finds

VHS:

Terror on the 40th Floor (1974)
The House on Garibaldi Street (1979)
Bad Georgia Road (1977) (Wizard Video)
American Commandos (1985)
Night Watch (1973) (Magnetic Video)
Master Blaster (1987)
Halloween (another second edition)
Horror Express (MEDA edition)
Blood Ties (Il cugino americano) (1986)
The Human Factor (1975) (Dark Sky released this on DVD)
Rambo: First Blood: Part II (sealed)
Howling III
Nomad Riders (1981)
Mind Warp (The Brain Machine) (1977)
Android (1982)
Torment (1986)
Dead Heat (1988) (I'm aware of the great DVD, never got around to picking it up)
A Stranger Is Watching (1982)

Strike Commando (1987)


"Haha..Russian dentists make pretty good dentures."

Directed by Bruno Mattei
104 Minutes / I.V.E. / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Mr. Roll Fizzlebeef himself Reb Brown as an red-blooded "Amerikanski" (Mike Ransom) who finds himself floating along Vietnam's Mekong after a secret mission double cross by his own superiors. Eventually Ransom is meekly captured by a drunk Frenchmen and a gaggle of Vietnamese rebels and forced to lead an armed confrontation with their rival natives. During this stint, he befriends a young boy and discovers filthy Russian forces have their own designs on the proceedings. Following a successful extraction, Brown is returned to the jungle by his commanders to investigate exactly why said Russians are meddling in the battle. Ransom travels back to the rebel's location and finds a massacre--including the boy. Enraged beyond reason, he boldly calls out the Russians and is taken prisoner. Tortured but not beaten, Ransom plots his vengeance against forces both foreign and domestic...

This is great, totally brainless fun. Everything isn't taken seriously in the slightest and it's all the more hilarious for it. Reb Brown's acting skill is amazingly horrendous, yet his performance is quite endearing as he constantly mugs, screams (I mean a lot), and gleefully delivers some of craziest one-liners ever heard in a "war" film. Christopher Connelly and Mike Monty have beef-eatin' names and profusely sweat as Brown's tough-minded commanders. Alex Vitale is perfect as the buffed out Ruskie leader who speaks ridiculously broken English and engages Ransom in what's perhaps the greatest bare knuckle fight in cinema history.

What's especially fantastic is that by the time the credits appear, you truly get the sense everyone, from the makers to the actors, knew how idiotic the whole thing was. Considering Mattei made a career from unabashedly riffing whatever trend was popular at the given time, that realization is surprisingly refreshing.

As a Serious War Film: -8/10
As the Awesome Piece of Crap It Is: 7.5/10
VHS Picture 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Friday, February 13

Satan's Blade (1984)


Directed by L. Scott Castillo Jr.
87 Minutes / Galaxy, Trend Video Concepts / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A group of young adults take an excursion to a snowy retreat and the sight of a grisly double murder from a botched robbery just the day before. Brushing off a whispered legend of a monstrous evil with a knife inhabiting a nearby lake; they proceed to enjoy their long weekend. After a day of partying, fishing, and drinking...a shadow in the twilight approaches their cabins.

A solid little slasher that's nothing we haven't seen before (or since), but welcome all the same. The acting and direction ride the line of so-so to average. The score composed of piano and electronic keyboard doodlings does get in the way. Though we get some colored Karo syrup thrown around and the majority of the female cast members showing off their nubile wears. The initial climatic twist had me mumbling for it not to be the final resolution, but the last tiny bit before the credits redeemed my doubts. Check it out.

Film: 6.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Thursday, February 12

Ghost Town (1988)


Directed by Richard Governor
85 Minutes / Image Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Upon searching for a missing woman, a Texan deputy (Franc Luz) runs afoul of a mysterious mounted gunman and finds himself stranded on foot in the desolate plains. He wanders into a dusty ghost town and begins having hallucinations of various townsfolk. Soon the entire area becomes inhabited once more by the once dead--both the good and the bad. The deputy's presence angers the town's fleshly resurrected most wanted criminal and his gang. But much to the confusion of the deputy, his guns have no affect, and he now must find another way to rid the people of this menace and save his own life.

This is one of the better Empire Pictures' releases I've seen. It's not particularly great, but keeps the focus concentrated and pulls off the things it sets forth successfully. Everyone pulls their weight and there's a few decent make-up effects. It's tough to really delve into a critique of a film like this. It's all quite middle-of-the-road, but worth seeing at least once.

Film: 6/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

The Man from Hell (1980)


Directed by Bo Curtis (according to Pre-Cert Video)
Starring "Krung Seller", "Alana Montri", "Clint Chit"
90 Minutes / Wild West-Ocean Shores Video / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen / English Dubbed

Jumbled Thai mess concerning a retired police officer (and apparently a bunch of other guys) in search of revenge after finding his wife slain by the hands of a gang with a flare for roses.

The most "interesting" portions are a quick bar fight to The Temptations' classic Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch (until a guy lands on the jukebox), the officer sexually advancing upon his resistant yet smitten sister(!?!), the poor man's Schifrin-esqe score, and a fabulously fay gang boss who sounds like Inspector Gadget. The dubbing sounds like a mix of hicks and Englishmen.

The rest is best seen through fast forward. As the tape unspools, you quickly lose track of which actor is which. We have the lead police officer, several of his bosses on the case, a brother of one of them (the bow and arrow guy above), and some slick looking mofo who gets the hero shot at the very end. Plot holes abound to the point of frustration and you might just end up hurting yourself in rage after the completely nonsensical conclusion. Obscure for a reason.

Film 1.5/10
VHS Picture: 5/10
VHS Sound: 4/10

Wednesday, February 11

The Nightmare Never Ends (1980)


Directed by Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Gregg Tallas
94 Minutes / Premiere International / Cropped from 1.85:1(?) to full screen

Cameron Mitchell as a detective investigating the mysterious death of a Nazi hunter. The suspected murderer is a young mogul (Robert Bristol) that appears to have lived for ages participating in world wars without aging a day. Meanwhile, a writer (Richard Moll) of a recently published book entitled God is Dead and his wife (Faith Clift) is stalked by the mogul with a Spanish priest in toe trying to warn the couple of the impeding danger.

Sure, it's a definite cheapjack riff on the satanic horror trend of the era, but you can't help to at least give them kudos for trying...and failing miserably. Mitchell was in full-blown, red-faced, swollen alcoholism at this point. You can tell he was itching to grab the check, but he does get a chuckle after an outburst at a "BITTCCHH!" landlady. Richard Moll isn't terrible and somehow looks noticeably older here with frosted sideburns than he did in Night Court. On the opposite end, Moll's on-screen wife, "acted" by Faith Clift, is astonishingly awful. Each and every word she utters sounds wildly tone deaf. Also important characters die with no one noticing, the editing is exceedingly sloppy, and the score towards the latter half sounds like it's from a Baby Huey cartoon.

Despite the mess, there's a few merits to be mined, including some nice gloomy shots, strange chills (including Indians lurking about a dark house?!?), and a climax reminiscent of Re-Animator without the awesome and coherence.

...still digging the VHS art though.

Film: 3.5/10
VHS Picture: 2/10 (like the Grindhouse filter on crank)
VHS Sound: 2/10 (like a worn needle on dirty vinyl)

Tuesday, February 10

When You're A Slave...

From the days of old, you know you'd just have to rent this...

Commando Squad (1987)


"No, I'm calling you a midget donkey fucker."


Directed Fred Olen Ray
90 Minutes / TransWorld Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Kathy Shower as a member of an elite commando squad (hehe) sent into Mexico alone, by none-other-than Robert Quarry, to save Brian Thompson (crazy axe murderer-cultist from Cobra) from the cocaine druglords imprisoning him. Sketchy plot points of morbidly obese Mexican honcho dealings, bar catfighting set to cheesy generic hair metal, narration that suddenly halts midway into the running time, and Shower sporting a vintage raven-haired rat's nest atop her naturally blond head ensue.

For me, the saving grace in this rather middling relic is the casting of the baddies. William Smith spits out threatening one-liners in his usual gruff tone while sporting the casual tropic look. Sid Haig leisurely saunters about leaving a trail of greaseball slime (his death is also stupidly hilarious, you can hear Shower gasping thinking she had severely hurt him), and a tex-mex dressed Ross Hagen strapped with six-shooter as a character known simply as "Cowboy" just about keep the proceedings from the scrap heap.

Ms. Shower, Playboy's Playmate of the Year '86, proves to be more than competent in her slummy badass role. Her confidence and 'tude shine through as she saves Thompson's bitch ass, despite an odd and total lack of nudity in the film. Thompson isn't given much to do besides attempting two escapes and getting his teeth rocked by his captors. Yes, the action kinda sucks and I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone--yet it's perfectly innocuous '80s action backwash...and that's okay.

Film: 5/10
VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 6/10

Monday, February 9

My Son, My Son, Another Herzog Horror Film

CHUD is reporting Herzog is nailing down the cast for his upcoming feature, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done. I must admit based on that title, I'm at least half expecting something akin to a modern Oscar-grab Cronenberg film. Though the cast has several jewels, chiefly Kier, Dourif, and Cobbs.

Wouldn't this be great to end up as a existential European hypothesizer of yore that's transformed over the years into excuse to create a vacuum of pompous boredom. Though according to the IMDB, it's currently filming in Peru, so we not get the chilly atmosphere of say, Zulawski's Possession. Still, I'm more excited than the initial excitement I felt towards Argento's Three Mothers conclusion. Speaking of Argento, his upcoming Giallo just sounds like he's trying to ape his seemingly lost greatness.

Sunday, February 8

The eBay fairies strike again

Just won my first Japanese pre-record, Columbia's edition of Gianfranco Giangni's 1988 Spider's Labyrinth, from eBay. This has been one I've been pining after for awhile, but the battle for such Japanese VHS is usually very intense and prices after multiple bids of $50+ aren't uncommon. Amazingly, no one else even bid and it came in at $12.99...! Never seen the film, but it's one that seems to garner much praise.

"The best supernatural oriented Italian horror film since Argento's INFERNO, a film whose intriguing stylistic bravura stands with the best of Bava, Avati, Fulci and Freda, in the higher echelon of Italian shock cinema."- EYEBALL MAGAZINE (1990)

Swap Meet Finds

VHS:

Tightrope (1984) (Warner clamshell)
La Garce (1984) (as far as I tell this is a French thriller, on a VHS from France)
The Last Witness (198?) (I can't find any of the actors or makers on the IMDB)
Nightflyers (1987)
NIN: Closure (missing the clear plastic sleeve, but it was $1)
Blood Bride (1980) (gotta love Magnum's oversized clamshells)
Invisible Stranger (1976)
Commando Squad (1987) (horrible yet great craptastic action flick)
Kill Castro (Cuba Crossing) (1980)
Battle Force (Il Grande attacco) (1978)
Ring of Death (Un dectective) (1969)
The Deadly Intruder (1985)
Halloween (second home video release)
Dream No Evil (factory sealed Active Home Video VHS, whoop ass cover)
Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi (1983)
The Final Terror (1983)

Saturday, February 7

Silent Madness (1984)

Directed by Simon Nuchtern
93 Minutes / Media Entertainment / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen.

A homicidal nutter is mistakenly released from an institution and a resident psychiatrist (Belinda Montgomery) seems to the only one with any concern. The maniac travels north to his old "stomping" ground to resume the young girl flesh terror. On one of her hunches, the psychiatrist fakes being an ex-sorority sister in the hopes the missing patient will re-surface around a college he marked forever decades past. When he inevitably does, the good doctor finds that he isn't the only thing she has to worry about.

A very good slasher in need of rediscovery. Montgomery is a strong female lead and the rest of the cast holds their end up well. Inventive kills including axings, impalements, and head crushing all done by a believable mute psycho. There are a few dull moments, but I must say that I liked this more than My Bloody Valentine. Seek this one out before they remake it...?

A few notes about the VHS. It's terribly cropped. You can tell Nuchtern really used the entire 2.35:1 frame, as there are many instances of half faces and actors speaking to unseen others off screen. Simply awful, but the film is solid enough to endure this, especially if you're a slasher fanatic. Also the film was theatrically exhibited in 3-D and even though the VHS is "normalized" in 2-D, some shots still exibit slight bluish hues around edges of things on-screen.

Film: 7/10 (a good DVD with proper framing will awaken a new appreciation)
VHS Picture: 2/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

More of Cameron Mitchell's Personal Hell

.
The Nightmare Never Ends arrived today, the clamshell case is cracked on the inside, but the cover and cassette are like new. Like most early tapes, the back synopsis is long and full of platitudes, great stuff.

The Demon (1979)


Directed by Percival Rubens
94 Minutes / VCI Home Video / Unmatted Full Frame

This film feels like three nearly independent stories:

a) After a vicious home invasion and kidnapping of a young girl, an older couple enlist the help of a "white collar" mystic (Cameron Mitchell) to aid in the search and recovery of their missing daughter.

b) An absolutely beautiful young woman (Zoli Marki) dates a rich JFK Jr.-esqe playboy.

c) Her friend, a nursery school teacher, is gingerly stalked by the man who kidnapped the young girl Mitchell is seeking....until things get serious.

I should add that we're also treated to quite a number of unexplained shots of the ocean breaking against rocks along the shore. Storyline A isn't connected to the other two, and essentially seems like an excuse to include Mitchell (the "name") in the film. Though B and C are just barely related.

I'm not going to bust on the film too much, since quite honestly what's here isn't bad. The root problem is from what I stated above. Everything pretty much makes sense, but is far too disconnected within itself to make any sense overall. The ending mimics Halloween's dark house stalk, with the exception of the Strode-like character topless in panties doing a sudden MacGyver in a bathroom (after running around the house screaming her perky nipples off for twenty minutes) to finally vanquish the man/demon/demon man wearing a man-mask with stubby bladed gloves and a flare for plastic bag suffocation.

Film: 4/10 (non-existent "makes sense" version: potential 6/10)
VHS Picture: 3/10 (rather smeary)
VHS Sound: 5/10

Swap Meet Finds

VHS:

Premonition (1972) (Active Home Video)
Power Play (1978)
The Swiss Conspiracy (1976)
Offerings (1989)
An Indecent Obsession (1985)
City Limits (1985)
The Demon (1979)
Sudden Death (1985)
Living to Die (1990)
Borderline (1980)
American Nightmare (1983)

Friday, February 6

Vengeance (1980)


Directed by Bob Blizz
92 Minutes / Magnum Entertainment / Unmatted Full Frame

After a botched jewelry robbery, four thugs escape the scene with two hostages. Seeking refuge in a cabin in the woods, they discover the woman they're holding comes from a wealthy family. Eventually she and the other male hostage manage to flee in a truck, but the thugs take chase and force them to abandon the vehicle. The two will now have to find a way through the wilderness while avoiding their encroaching armed predators.

A first and only time director, writer, and actors (well, most of them) decide to make an exploitation flick--and it is good. We get stabbings, shootings, bloody squibs, brutal throat slashings, and uncomfortable girl knife teasing all to a laid back yet gloomy '70s fuzzy guitar moog score. The direction isn't anything special, but it gets the job done. The acting is also surprising, with the viewer rooting for those bastard thugs to meet horrid ends. Awesome, definitely a must-see/have and it's a shame this one languishes on VHS, despite the awesome clamshell case. It would be prime Blue Underground material.

Film: 8/10
VHS Picture: 5/10 (though the night scenes are comprised of only dots of light)
VHS Sound: 3/10 (humming right along)

British Soldier Disembowelment in 1080p

According to High Def Digest, Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers will be debuting on Blu-ray May 5th from First Look. Good to hear since the film seems to have already been kicked around a lot by U.S. DVD distributors, but First Look's glitchy Blu-ray track record is worrisome.

Night of the Scarecrow (1995)


Directed by Jeff Burr
90 Minutes / Republic Pictures VHS / Unmatted Full Frame

Enjoyable yarn about a scarecrow resurrected to find an ancient book to make him flesh once again. The body count rises as his search continues and only a local couple can halt his reign of sickle-induced terror.

Well paced and acted even if a bit formulaic. Of course, this stuff isn't exactly original in the first place. A decent amount of blood, inventive kills, and a not-that-scary-but-good-looking scarecrow hold interest. Stephen Root, Bruce Glover, and John Hawkes show up in minor roles as well. Keep your eye out for this one.

Film 6.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

The Second Prize Is Death!

Fatal Games and Rest in Pieces (Descanse en piezas) acquired for $38 less than Amazon's cheapest prices. Pays to check eBay often...


Thursday, February 5

When the VHS wins...


The Canadian DVD of 1987's Blood Rage (re-titled Nightmare at Shadow Woods) has noticeable cuts to violence compared to the Prism VHS.

The Paragon VHS of Just Before Dawn has bits of violence that are missing from Shriek Show's DVD.

The Gorgon/MPI VHS of Deathdream has a little sequence cut from Blue Underground's DVD due to print damage. Though the scene is included as an extra on the DVD.

The Unicorn Video VHS of Warlock Moon has ten minutes of additional footage not found on the Shriek Show DVD.

The Simitar VHS of Skinner is unrated, their DVD is the cut R-Rated version.

The Media VHS of Sleepaway Camp is uncut, the Anchor Bay DVD is missing bits of footage.

The USA Entertainment VHS of Ms. 45 is uncut, while the Image DVD has edits to the rape scenes.

The various Thorn EMI/HBO VHS editions of Return of the Living Dead retain the original audio mix and soundtrack compared to MGM's DVDs. O'Bannon made quite a number of such alterations to the DVDs.

The Lorimar VHS of Return of the Living Dead Part 2 retains the film's original score compared to Warner's DVD which has a completely replaced score.

The Media and Elite/Anchor Bay VHS editions of A Nightmare on Elm Street feature the uncut version of Tina's death compared to New Line's DVDs. Also the 2-VHS edition has deleted scenes as an extra yet to make it to any DVD as an extra.

The Media VHS of A Nightmare on Elm Street: Part 5 is unrated compared to the R-Rated New Line DVDs.

The Paramount VHS of Friday the 13: The Final Chapter has a few audio queues missing from the Paramount DVDs.

The Thorn EMI/HBO VHS releases of The Evil Dead include a scene where lightning strikes a tree cut from all DVD releases. Also the color temperature of the entire film is more bluish-green compared to the marked reddish look of the DVDs.

Demented (1980)


Directed by Arthur Jeffreys / Alex Rebar
92 Minutes / MEDIA Entertainment / Unmatted Full Frame

Relatively forgotten rape-revenge flick centering around a woman who, after a brutal gang rape, starts to have visions upon returning to the normalcy of her life and ultimately goes...demented!

This one wastes no time as within the first three minutes the initial rape occurs. Afterward we flash forward a bit and learn the rapists are serving time with Linda (the boobie-equipped Sallee Young) traveling home with her husband (porn star Harry Reems?!?). Then the viewer mauling of over fifty minutes of exposition settles in. During that time, Mr. Reems proves to be the best actor in the film and Young sounds like a 12-year-old girl's impersonation of a mouse. Also casual rape jokes are ace, man! The climatic meltdown isn't quite worth the wait, but Young's performance noticeably improves as a cleaver-welding seductress. Wish that would have occurred more towards the halfway point with much more blood. What we end up with is a so-so straddle of reeeeeeaaallll average.

Best off listening to David Hess commanding to "piss your pants" once more.

Film: 4.5/10
VHS Picture: 5/10 (good considering the tape is quite old)
VHS Sound: 3/10 (gotta love thahissssssssssssssssssssssssssssss)

Wednesday, February 4

The Horror Show (1989)


Directed by James Isaac / David Blyth (uncredited)
95 Minutes / MGM Home Video / Unmatted Full Frame

Lance Henrikson as a detective (Lucas) stalked by the ghost(?) of notorious cleaver murderer (Max Jenke played by Brion James) he sent to the chair. The murderer somehow returns to life through electricity (sound familiar?) and sets his aim on his family. Max begins to manifest to Lucas within his own house, leading him to stab a turkey and shoot a television. When his daugther's boyfriend is found hacked up in the basement; Lucas lands in police custody. Lucas now knows what he must do realizing this is the best time for Max to seek his revenge.

This film has some crippling problems. Henrikson and James are dependable as their usual badass personas. The rest of the cast are just standard stereotypes. You can tell the violence suffered significant cuts. One example is when Max "magically" attempts to rip out of Lucas' chest from within. Henrikson is seen obivously standing behind an effects piece of his gashed torso like something crazy is about to happen, but then he suddenly stumbles out of the room. Even some kill shots look zoomed in to avoid witnessing what would undoubtedly scar the minds of little boys and girls everywhere if the MPAA didn't save them. Beyond that, the conclusion is very jumbled. Locations mysteriously shift, characters die and later appear alive with no reason, and the nature of Max's being simply doesn't make sense. It's another for the "watch once" pile, more akin to an mildly interesting failure.

Still one question remains: Max Jenke vs. Horace Pinker?

Film: 4.5/10
VHS Video: 6/10 (noisy, but not bad)
VHS Sound: 7/10 (clean and clear Hi-fi)

The Perils of Rentals of Unknown Origin

Just now halfway through an old tape of 1989's The Horror Show, my VCR made a sudden strange "clipping" noise and the picture immediately turned to rolling snow. Angrily I figured "Oh shit, there goes a video head, it's ruined."

But after cracking the case open and wiping the drum horizontally with a brand new horsehair make-up brush gently--all is well. That's the bitch about old rentals; a fleck of dirt in the wrong place at the right time can throw the tiny defenseless video heads for a loop...or at worst shatter them.

I was enjoying the movie (always good to see
Henriksen in a lead role); however, I'm too frightened to pop it back in.

Friday the 13th: Part Argh - A Misframed Beginning

Reported via HorrorDigitals' review/comparison, it would appear yesterday's new DVD and Blu-ray releases of the uncut version of Friday the 13th feature a zoomed-in transfer compared to the two prior U.S. DVDs. A damn shame and another strike against a film (well, entire series) that Paramount always seems to never get right on home video in one way or another.

I dug up my Thai DVD from Warner which represents the very first uncut release on DVD (in '03) just to compare the framing with two shots from HorrorDigital's review above:



Yep, Paramount's new releases are from Warner's source, you heard it here first. Knowing this, I'm not as upset, sometimes international cuts feature different framing. Still disappointing yes, but not enough for me to grab the Blu-ray eventually.

* "Props" to the Film Talk forum for bringing the misframing to my attention!

Tuesday, February 3

Satan's Blade Sharpened

A few nights back I waded through fifteen bids to come out on top with a copy of Galaxy's VHS of 1984's Satan's Blade on eBay. Surprisingly I wrenched it from the hands of other bidders and spat upon their crying eyes while manically laughing for under $20 shipped. The Galaxy (a branch of Mogul) edition is one of the rarer videos of the film which also saw distribution through Prism and a cheapo EP-speed tape via Starmaker.

Check out Bleeding Skull's review, which sold me on tracking it down in the first place.



* The cover is meant to have that odd white border for some reason.

Contagion (1987)

Directed by Karl Zwicky
90 Minutes / Sony Home Video / Unmatted Full Frame

A man (Mark) traveling home at night tries to help a woman being assaulted on a desolate, tree-lined road. He encounters a band of nomads, but soon after escapes and stumbles upon a mansion in the middle of the woods. Two beautiful women and English Hugh Hefner-like investor inhabit the manor. The group push Mark to become one of them and he gradually becomes obsessed with the allures they present. As Mark's wife desperately attempts to figure out what's happening, he begins to hear disembodied voices and resorts to murder to erase all in his past.

This is a hard film to peg down hailing from Australia with a title that makes no sense. The allusions to Kubrick's The Shining are obvious, even going as far to feature an opening aerial shot of a car traveling a forested road and recreating its own take on the famous axed door scene. It also mixes in elements of a sexual thriller and a bit of the slashfest conventions of the day. There are a few holes in the plot, but the film really tries to construct something interesting from the mish-mash and generally succeeds. Zwicky employs many tricks in his direction, from slo-mo, awkward angles, and Raimi-esqe chase sequences. Worth tracking down cheap, but of course it's no replacement for the classic it looks up to.

Film: 6/10
VHS Video: 4.5/10 (blurry)
VHS Sound: 6/10 (decent, nothing more)

If You Were Young: Rage

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Today I received a VHS of Dennis Donnelly's 1978 ode to the final death nell of Cameron Mitchell's career proper, The Toolbox Murders, from Amazon's Marketplace for $4.98. The seller remarked it was the United Entertainment VHS in "Used - Very Good" condition. This is what I was presented with:



Now, I'm not that hard to please when it comes to the condition of the tapes I buy, but this is total shit. First off, the cover is grossly cut up wantonly shearing off words. It's also ripped and stained. The tape itself is marked up, missing its original spine label (if it had one), and it's not even rewound. To top it off it's not the United Entertainment VHS, it's from VCI being distributed through United Entertainment. The real United VHS:



Despite it being "only" $5, this is the worst tape I've received by mail up to this point. Here's the seller, having already unleashed the fury upon him. It's not worth it to me to seek a refund, but I'm tired of such dishonest sellers. Though that's not to say there aren't plenty of great Marketplace sellers offering exactly what they describe.
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...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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