Saturday, March 28, 2020

THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (aka The Fun House)

The Last House on Dead End Street Movie Review

After being released from prison, Terry Hawkins (Roger Watkins) decides to shoot snuff films--movies that show actual killings. He gathers up a group of fellow lunatics, and the carnage begins. If you have never heard of this film, there's a lot to know about it...and that's before even getting to what you see on the screen! In the spirit of the title of this blog, I will condense the fun facts--Watkins is also the writer, director, producer...basically one-man band of this film, but he used many pseudonyms in the credits. In fact, everybody involved with the movie did, so when you see the credits, the names are all fake. Though shot in 1972, the film was not released until 1977 because Watkins was being sued by one of the actresses in the movie. Having given up on the movie, Watkins himself had no idea it even made it to the screens until 1979 when somebody recognized him. Furthermore, nobody had any idea who anybody in this film really was until 2000, when Watkins finally admitted to being the man behind it. Finally, the movie gained notoriety in the grindhouse circuits upon it's 1977 release, as rumors spread it actually WAS a snuff film. There is more to the story of this film, and I encourage you to check it all out...after spending time on my site, of course.

Don't even ask

Now, back to the movie itself. As I mentioned, this is grindhouse to the bloody bone, and in all honesty, is one that should be approached with caution. If you are not a huge fan of extreme gore, stay away...far away. The movie looks like it was shot on a home video recorder circa 1968, so the presentation may be off-putting to some as well. I personally love the looks, as we see the film scratches and occasional missing frame. There are tons of plot holes, but alas, there's also an explanation for this-- the film runs 78 or 76 minutes (depending on which version you come across) but was original 178 minutes long! The dubbing is awful, and unfortunately, not in an entertaining way--it's actually the thing I dislike most about this movie. The acting is so-so, with nothing being too great or horrible. Watching this movie through a year 2020 lens, you may find it funny to think people believed this was a real snuff film, but if you can imagine being in 1977 and seeing this, it's actually fairly easy to get it--you just didn't see most of this in movies back then. There is some disturbing stuff here, from the severing of one character's limbs to rape to the beating of another character, all being captured on camera by another character. Perhaps most interesting about this movie is the apparent anti-violence message--much like the 1997 film Funny Games, this is a movie that makes a statement about how entertainment, and the movie industry specifically, shamelessly exploits violence, rape, and murder by exploiting all three. Also worth noting is that Watkins was inspired to make this movie after reading a book about The Manson Family murders--it was actually originally intended to be a movie about the family, but that was changed at some point by the writer/director/actor/potential father of Dwight Schrute.

"False"

I love, love, love the gritty visual presentation of this movie--the definition of "grindhouse film" should have a picture of this movie next to it. I also appreciate how ahead of its time the movie is, and everything Watkins tried to do with it. Unfortunately, the lack of comprehension as a result of the heavy editing and the very poor audio dubbing are so bad they're hard to get past. If you're a fan of grindhouse or extreme gore films, this should be on your must-watch list. If you're fascinated with the history of horror, you should consider checking it out as well as, in spite of the title, it's not at all a ripoff of The Last House on the Left and, historically speaking, should be given more consideration than it gets. While I may never watch this movie again in the form it's currently in, I would be more than happy to check out the full 178 minute version should it ever see the light of day.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5



The Last House on Dead End Street Movie Trailer

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

HOWL

Howl Movie Review

When a passenger train breaks down in the middle of nowhere, the people on board must fight off something worse than boredom--a pack of werewolves! This 2015 British film is one that will grab your attention right from the start, even without seeing the werewolves up front. Our lead, Joe (Ed Speleers), is a likable character, and we follow him onto the train, where he has to deal with a whole herd of awful customers. You will absolutely despise these people (tons of credit has to go to the cast for this), which sets up an interesting dichotomy--though the customers are also fighting the werewolves, the true story is that of Joe and his co-worker Ellen (Holly Weston) versus both the monsters and the customers on the train. Weston and especially Speleers do a great job making their characters ones you cheer for, something of a somewhat lost art in modern horror. A bit less impressive are the werewolves.

"My, what..." No, I'm not doing that

The creatures here looked more like deformed humans than werewolves, and are some odd blend of bad makeup and worse CGI, resulting in monsters that are just sort of awkward looking. This is very much a letdown, as the tension that was built as they were stalking outside the train was strong, and the movie was actually beginning to be scary--this is all lost the moment we see the first hairy-handed gent. The absence of fright from the human-canines is almost made up for by the amount of bloodshed, which is plentiful and very gory at times. There is a bit of dark humour thrown in, but in small doses--certainly not enough to take anything from the film. The ending is bittersweet, but does contain some awesomeness. I want to give Howl a higher score, as it is one of the better werewolf movies to come along in a while, but it just lacks SO MUCH of the one thing you want out of this genre--a scary wolf. That kills the extra point or two this movie could have had (I'll give that point or two to you if you think of Allen Ginsberg when you see this film's title). 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6

Howl Movie Trailer

Monday, March 23, 2020

THE LEVENGER TAPES

The Levenger Tapes Movie Review

After three college kids go missing in a wilderness preserve, police find a tape the trio had recorded. As the police try to piece together the clues about the students, they are also trying to solve the case of a missing child, and as fate would have it, the kid is on the tape as well. These elements add up to a hybrid type movie--it's mostly shot as a found footage film, but there are also many parts that are shot more traditionally--while not completely original, this combination does still stand out. Much of the beginning of the film is spent getting to know the three college students. We have the lead, Amanda (Johanna Braddy, The Grudge 3); her best friend, Kim (Lili Mirojnick of Cloverfield); and Chase (Morgan Krantz), the dude who kind of wants both of them. After arriving at their destination, Chase and the girls end up walking across land that happens to also be a burial site--we all know how that goes.

"We're going where?!"

Indeed, there is a lot to sit through before getting to the action, but this one has a somewhat smarter feel to it than most found footage films. Part of the credit for this has to be given to the writer and director, Mark Edwin Robinson, as he avoided the horror trappings of college-aged characters--he managed to make them more than one-dimensional caricatures of real-life people, which is what we usually get with similar movies, and he didn't make them so obnoxious you can't wait to see them die. On the flip side, this movie does fall victim to one obstacle most found footage movies cannot escape--why, even during the most dire of times, is the person holding the camera still focused on recording everything? This is addressed to a degree, as there are times in the film the characters use the camera for light, but more frequently, we see them focused in on the horrors in front of them instead of trying to escape them. The primary villain, or monster, of the movie is a bit too generic and undefined to leave a lasting impression, though there are a couple scary moments in the film. Unfortunately, the ending will leave you a bit disappointed as well. The Levenger Tapes is a decent horror flick, but ultimately one that does not live up to its potential. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5



The Levenger Tapes Movie Trailer

Saturday, March 21, 2020

TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST

Track of the Moon Beast Movie Review

In a wonderfully awful scene, Paul Carlson (Chase Cordell) takes a shot to the head from a loose piece of a meteorite. The result is the young man turning into a "Moon Beast", a sort of half-man, half-reptile creature that stalks at night. Shot in 1972, this movie was meant to make it to the big screen, but instead got shelved for 4 years before making it's grand debut...on television. Let's get this out of the way right off the bat. If you are wondering what a Moon Beast looks like, here's a glimpse...

He's fantastic!

Yes, our star is a guy in a rubber suit and mask, and it's so bad it's good...as is most of the rest of the movie, for that matter. The acting is hilariously inept--Leigh Drake's portrayal of Kathy is must-see, and Gregorio Sala, the movie's Ahab, Professor Johnny Longbow, reaches out to his inner William Shatner to turn in a performance that is almost as bad. The dialogue is a struggle, but will provide some laughs. Speaking of laughs, you MUST see the special effects in this movie. They are beyond horrible, but so entertaining! 

This scene, in particular, is glorious

The end of the movie is a bit of a letdown, but hey, at least it looked awesome. Having visited Albuquerque, where this movie was shot, it was cool seeing some scenes and being able to say "Hay! I've been there!'. At one point in the movie, Paul tries to off himself by jumping out of the Sandia Peak Tramway He makes this jump at about 15 feet off the ground--as somebody who has made that ride, let me assure you, the Sandia Peak Tramway goes MUCH higher. I vividly recall the employee in the car stating we were almost 10,000 feet above the ground, or "an 8 second fall", so had Paul waited a bit, the Moon Beast would have certainly succumbed to such a plummet. Further note about my trip up that mountain--seconds after the guy made this declaration, and mere feet from the very top landing, our car had to stop for what seemed an eternity, as it was deemed unsafe to land due to the high winds. So instead of resting safely at the top of the mountain, we dangled, swaying, thousands of feet (or 8 seconds) above the ground. In another side note to that trip, I, along with our friend Charlie, teased my girlfriend on the way to this adventure, telling her she would be scared going up and down the tramway--she laughed, as both Charlie and myself trembled in terror, certain our fate had been determined. Back to our movie--Track of the Moon Beast is another entry from my 50 Chilling Classics collection--like most of the rest, it is a poor movie, but this one is so much more fun to watch than most of the rest. I'll certainly watch it again some day.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6



Track of the Moon Beast Movie Trailer

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

WORLD WAR Z

World War Z Movie Review

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) travels the globe in search for a cure to a virus that has caused a worldwide pandemic--no, it's no COVID-19, but that did inspire my girlfriend and I to have a virus outbreak movie marathon Friday, featuring 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, 12 Monkeys (a personal all-time favorite), and this virus-zombie flick we had not watched since catching it in the theater when it was released in 2013. Loosely based on a book of the same name, this one was a big box office hit, and without going through all seven hundred and some movies I have reviewed in the past, may be the one with the largest budget on this site. Much like with the aforementioned "28" movies, this one features zombies of the fast-moving variety, and they vary from impressive and creepy to CGI, which looks awesome at times and much less so other times.

Impressive

Creepy

CGI

The movie is a strange combination of zombie movie and blockbuster disaster film, leaning a bit more toward the latter. Don't come into this one expecting a lot of gore--this is a PG-13 film, so the bloodshed is minimal, traded for scenes that heavily imply the carnage is happening just outside our view. Unlike most zombie flicks, this is less a battle against the infected and more looking for a cure for the virus--the result of this is actually kind of cool. Pitt, of course, carries the movie, and the characters he comes across as he circles the world are largely forgettable. World War Z is a bit too polished for my taste, but it is still an enjoyable film (especially my viewing at home, where I didn't have to hear morons all around me talk the entire duration of the film--yes, that was my theater experience seven years ago). 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7



World War Z Movie Trailer

Monday, March 16, 2020

SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED

Shriek of the Mutilated Movie Review

A professor takes some of his students on a search for the Yeti. Will they find him? If they do, will they escape? Most importantly...will you care? The answer to all three is no--yes, that may be a spoiler, but in all likelihood, you won't watch this movie anyway. In case you do have interest, fair warning now--there are more spoilers to come. This one comes from 1974, and looks like a few guys working at the local movie theatre donated two weeks of pay for the budget. The gem of this, of course, is the Yeti, who not only looks like a guy in a Yeti costume, but IS a guy in a Yeti costume.

"Boo!...uh, I mean...arghhh!!!!"

When I say it's a guy in a costume, I don't mean the movie is presenting this as a Yeti terrorizing people, and it happens to be a guy in a rubber suit, so don't picture Godzilla here. In the movie, it is a guy in a Yeti costume trying to scare people to death. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. The whole point is to scare people to death instead of, say, shooting them, to keep them more appetizing...yes, Shriek of the Mutilated is not, in fact, a creature feature, but a cannibal movie. So, I give the movie credit for that bit of misdirection, though one has to wonder how any of the characters could be fooled by an old guy who maybe stands five-nine in a Yeti suit when every legend we hear about Yeti, or Bigfoot, or The Bumble, or so on, has them over seven feet tall, but this only adds to the unintentional hilarity in a movie absolutely filled with it. Other than this, the movie is what you expect it to be--awful, and complete with terrible acting, atrocious directing and shooting (the whiteout effects are particularly bad), a slow pace, and rubbish dialogue. The best thing about Shriek of the Mutilated is indeed the title of the film--it has to be one of the greatest movie titles ever. If you read this review, you know about the twist, which leaves no real reason to watch this movie. If you didn't read the review...you're likely not reading this, which is blowing my sleepy mind way more than it should be. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4



Shriek of the Mutilated Movie Trailer

Saturday, March 14, 2020

MIDSOMMAR

Midsommar Movie Review

A few Americans travel to Sweden to study a summertime ritual at a hippieesque commune. What they find there is a series of strange events, hallucinogenic drugs, and...well, nothing else really. This 2019 film starts off just fine--Dani's (Florence Pugh) sister kills herself and her parents. Dani turns to her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) for support, but once they and a couple other friends make it to Sweden, the entire movie goes sideways. They arrive to a field full of people in all white--I personally would have turned the car around and headed back the opposite direction at this point, but these folks decided to join the Swedish meatballs in a shrooms-filled afternoon of doing nothing before arriving at the village, where everybody sings, dances, has supper all together, largely share one large room for sleeping, and perform various odd rituals, including a couple of old people launching themselves off a cliff.

"How sad..how are my flowers?"

Still, our Americans decide to stick it out, and are killed off one by one. This movie is quite unusual, but not in any good, or even interesting, way at all. It's a lot like both versions of The Wicker Man, but not as entertaining as either. The directing  and editing of the film are so pompous they're laughable--picture the annoying jock in high school trying to impress a girl by doing push-ups. From the upside down camera shot to the character going from one setting to the next without moving, you are rolling your eyes before even getting a fourth of the way into this journey. Speaking of time, the director's cut of this movie comes in at a staggering and obscenely arrogant 172 minutes, with a total of maybe...MAYBE...ten minutes of anything of any interest at all actually happening...this interest is limited to gore. The final half hour is brutally awful--my girlfriend suggested just turning the movie off, but I argued we made it this far into it, so we may as well see how it ends...I should have gone with her idea. We got this movie from Redbox, using a rent one, get one free promo. I deemed this one the free movie, and still feel ripped off.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 3

Midsommar Movie Trailer

Sunday, March 8, 2020

THE SHADOW PEOPLE

The Shadow People Movie Review

Megan (Kat Steffens) and Andrew (Bug Hall...seriously) are a new couple in a new house. Soon after arriving, Megan begins seeing reflections of people in the windows, triggering a memory of being a child and seeing such people. I'm going to sort of fly through this movie and tell you practically everything that happens...don't worry, it won't take long. Megan and Andrew's car goes off the road as they are on their way to their new house. It's raining a lot. The car gets stuck, so they decide to walk the rest of the way, in the rain. They kiss a lot. It keeps raining a lot. They kiss more. It keeps raining. They keep kissing. It keeps raining. Megan sees ghosts. It keeps raining. C. Thomas Howell of The Outsiders fame shows up as a creepy minister.

Stay dry, Ponyboy

It keeps raining. We get a twist ending. That, my friends, is the entire movie that, at 77 minutes, seems much longer. Unfortunately, Hall and Steffens are not talented enough to carry an entire movie practically themselves--if you're a fan of Howell and see him listed as the star of this film, be ready to be disappointed, as his screen time totals maybe five minutes. The entire movie will frustrate and annoy you to no end--my girlfriend, who was working on her homework and not paying attention to the movie had to put on headphones halfway through, as she could not stand the kissing sounds any longer. All this, however, makes sense when we get to the twist ending that redeems the movie to some extent, though the twist is far from an original idea. The Shadow People is classified as a drama/horror/mystery--it's light on all three, but there is a definite lack of scares of any sort in this movie. While not a terrible film, I really can't find any reason to recommend watching it either.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4

The Shadow People Movie Trailer

Saturday, March 7, 2020

MANIAC

Maniac Movie Review

Serial killer Frank Zito (Joe Spinell, who also wrote the story) terrorizes New York City, murdering women and scalping them, adding his prizes to the heads of mannequins he has strewn about his apartment. Coming out in a time when slasher films were all the rage (1980 for this one), Maniac took the blood and guts and turned it up to eleven. Over forty years after it's release, the extreme gore is still what this movie is most remembered for, and indeed, it is quite memorable--from the scalpings to the exploding head, images will be burnt into your memory, thanks to special effects master Tom Savini.

Heads up Tom

There is an added layer to this movie, however, that we didn't often see in the 70's and 80's slasher flicks. There is an interesting character study with our killer, as we find that Frank had some serious mom issues and, more interesting, he struggles with incredible guilt after killing his victims. It is these elements that make Maniac stand out from most of the pack. The gritty New York City in 1980 setting adds a lot to this film--you can almost smell the surroundings, especially during the subway chase scene, which is incredibly chilling. Spinell makes a decent lead--he certainly has the look that works here, and his acting was enough to make the character convincing. The acting across the rest of the movie is a bit shakier, but there is nothing offensively bad. The ending is a letdown, as we get a series of events that are both incredibly unbelievable and cheesy. Even with this, Maniac is a horror movie that has to be considered a must-see for fans of the slasher sub-genre.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7

Maniac Movie Trailer

Sunday, March 1, 2020

THE COLD (aka The Game)

The Cold (The Game) Movie Review

Millionaires bored with life host a game--they bring in 9 common folk and offer a million dollars to the one who can conquer their greatest fears and last all night in a mansion. A ripoff of House on Haunted Hill? Without question. As good as the Vincent Price classic? Not even close. This very low budget 1984 film lacks originality in the story, sure. It's also a very poor film in almost every way imaginable. The acting is atrocious...that may not even be a strong enough word for it. The directing is laughable. The lighting appears as though a single bulb was used at times, and as if they completely forgot the lighting at other times. Mistakes and errors are around every corner--when the naked woman in the sauna scene takes place, look not at the woman, but at the sauna door--here, you will see a very clear reflection of a man holding a microphone, with the cable running down his arm.

Look above his head, and behind hers

Possibly even worse than all this is the story and the action. Little hints of what may be going on are thrown in here and there, and when you think you have it pegged, something that makes no sense to the story at all will happen, throwing you off the trail. This happens repeatedly throughout the movie, and you may wonder out loud what, in fact, is happening--let me save you a lot of time and recommend you don't even try. The narrator of the story even confesses to having no idea what happened in the movie. Instead of getting hung up on this, enjoy The Cold for all the glorious awfulness it offers, as it's so bad it's...not good, but certainly entertaining.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5