Samuel Glass Jr

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Three – 10/03/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Three – 10/03/18

10/03 – 1989: PET SEMATARY

It would become a trope that casual and die-hard Stephen King fans would get used to hearing in the years and decades to come: the “unfilmable” story or novel that Hollywood would be hot to splatter onto the big screen.  Novels that King himself said were either “too scary”, “too surreal” ortoo personal”for him to ever consider putting out there as movie fodder. PET SEMATARY was one of those many novels, but not only was it ‘filmable’, but it’s one of

the films that stuck the closest to the source material; maybe even a bit more than CARRIE and CHRISTINE did.

Avant-garde director MARY LAMBERT (SIESTA), working from a script by the Author Himself, (which didn’t hurt the quality one bit), ramped up the dread and the dead in this beloved, spooky tale of a family who moves to a house in Maine that comes with something extra…a backyard to the backyard that contains the local “pet sematary”, where all the furry family members go on their way to the “Rainbow Bridge.” Ah, but it’s what lies beyond that patch of ground, that’s a catalyst for the phantasmaGOREical horrors to come.

The way-too busy highway in front of the house is a guarantee that the ‘sematary’ will have plenty of occupants…but

so will the place where the dead go to…well, to quote the title of another famed King tale, “Sometimes They Come Back.” Only in this particular case, when

they do, they’re not your loved ones anymore, human or animal, and they’re always…hungry.

 

STAR TREK alumni DALE MIDKIFF and DENISE “Tasha Y’ar” CROSBY play parents Louis and Rachel Creed, who move to this picturesque but dangerous part of Maine with their kids, toddler Gage (everyone’s pick for “Best Weird Kid” MIKO HUGHES) and pre-teen Ellie (BLAZE BERDAHL).

A near-tragedy involving Gage (foreshadowing and then some) introduces the Creed family to their kindly old neighbor, Jud Crandall (the late, great FRED GWYNNE), who is the local ‘keeper of secrets’, and is also the link between Louis and the “pet sematary.”

Those who have seen it a thousand times (and at least a few more than that) knows where things are going from here. Those who don’t, and who haven’t read the book? The less you know going in, the better, because the scarier it’s guaranteed to be, if you’re “in the dark” about the finer details.

The cast is perfect; great performances from all concerned parties.  But the greatest nightmare fuel comes from two ‘unknown’ actors who play the apparitions that help give the story it’s scrotum-shriveling chills: BRAD GREENQUIST, who plays a hapless jogger that Louis encounters, and ANDREW HUBATSEK, who goes above and beyond, playing a terrifying figure from Rachel’s past.

As a fiercely sought-after video director who helmed concert and song clips for everyone from Madonna and Janet Jackson to Chris Isaac and Bobby Brown, the strong, at-times ethereal visual sense she has made her a perfect match for King’s script. SEMATARY gave her quite the cinematic ‘sandbox’ to play in, and she clearly took every advantage of it, creating set-pieces so beautifully creepy, that I still get goosebumps just thinking about them.

This is a choice you could never go wrong with for a cloudy, spooky Halloween night. And as the perfect companion piece, may I suggest UNEARTHED AND UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY? It’s one of the most exhaustive and thorough docs about the ‘making of’ a movie that’s out there.

Oh, and “Post-MORTEM-SCRYPT”: Ready or not, asked for or not, a SEMATARY remake is in the works, with JASON CLARKE (WINCHESTER), AMY SEIMETZ (ALIEN: COVENANT) and JOHN LITHGOW (from a list too long to mention) will be taking over the roles of Louis and Rachel Creed and Jud Crandall, respectively…And before you roll your eyes outta your head at the very notion, check this: KEVIN KOLSCH and DENNIS WIDMEYER (STARRY EYES) are directing, from a script by DAVID KAJGANICH (the SUSPIRIA remake).  That certainly makes me want to give it a fighting chance…

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
Movie Review: UPGRADE (2018)

Movie Review: UPGRADE (2018)

Even if you’re not familiar with the name (and as a horror fan, you should be), there’s a reason why LEIGH WHANNELL is on everyone’s radar at the moment. As a director/producer/writer/actor, together with frequent producing partner JAMES WAN (who I know you’ve heard of), Whannell’s had a hand in the creation of some of the most successful horror efforts from the last two decades, including the franchises for SAW, INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING and ANNABELLE, be it in front of or behind the camera. (And in some cases, it’s been both.) So it should come as no surprise whatsoever, that this talented man’s ever-creative brain spat out the concept for the remarkable sci-fi/action/horror thriller, UPGRADE.

Grey Trace (potential Tom Hardy stand-in LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN from PROMETHEUS, SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING and DEVIL) isn’t just your everyday, garden-variety Luddite in the not-all-that-distant future. He’s not seeking to ‘destroy the system’ that controls this world, but he sure as hell isn’t going to be a part of it. He listens to gut-bucket blues while he works on restoring ‘analog’-based cars, for very rich people who collect them. But he doesn’t love his cars or his music half as much as his beautiful wife, Asha, (MELANIE VALLEJO), and no, he doesn’t mind at all that she’s the “pants-wearing breadwinner” of the family.  Alas, the ‘happy-life’ set up must end, as they all must for a movie like this to work, and thanks to a malfunction in the cab that’s supposed to be bringing them home, the lovebirds instead end up in a really bad part of Grey’s old ‘hood, where a band of thugs decides to kill Asha, and leave Grey permanently paralyzed instead of dead.

Wouldn’t you know it, though: there’s an app for that. One of the rich people he sold a refurbished car to is a Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-type technological wunderkind named Eron Keen (HARRISON GILBERTSON). Yes, his appearance is foreshadowing that’s about as subtle as a Keith Moon drum solo, and yes, he does turn up again after Grey’s ordeal, to give him a way to walk again, but more than that, a means by which avenging his crippling and his wife’s murder will be a breeze.

That way is a computer chip called ‘STEM,’ but calling it a “computer chip” is like calling Mount Kilimanjaro a molehill. STEM not only helps operate Grey’s damaged central nervous system and thereby his arms, legs and the rest of his body, but it can help him do some pretty incredible things…like, kick the living shit out of bad guys. And then we and Grey soon realize…he’s not the only ‘modified human’ running around out there. And when he’s not looking for them, they are most certainly out to get him!
However, as wondrous technological developments always do in movies like this, STEM is not without its own set of problematic glitches and side effects, and to say anything more than that would reveal some devastating Act Three spoilers, including the most important twist of all in the story, which isn’t ‘early M. Night Shyamalan’-badass, but pretty close.

I don’t know how much training Marshall-Green had in physical conditioning and movement before shooting, but however long and/or grueling it was, the end results were more than worth it.  His performance is incredible, especially the way he defines Grey’s bodily control under STEM’S influence as totally and spell bindingly different than it is under his own steam.  And all without the aid of CG or other special visual effects, save for some dazzling angles that Whannell employs, thanks to the amazing camera work of DP STEFAN DUSCIO, and also in no small part to the stunt team, led by coordinator CHRIS ANDERSON, with stunning fight choreography by CHRIS WEIR.

BENEDICT HARDIE (HACKSAW RIDGE, NEKROTRONIC) makes a great anti-heroic counterpart for Grey as Fisk, the ‘bad guy’ seemingly responsible for everything that happens, though you discover in pretty short order, that his motivations are far beyond those of the kind of average thug-villain who’d usually be playing this role.  I also love the obvious nod to the late Douglas Rain’s voice performance as “HAL 2000” in Kubrick’s “2001”. If there’s any justice in this world, the smooth, even and undeniably creepy tones of SIMON MAIDEN’S “STEM” voice will become just as iconic.

There’s no way to herald anyone on this picture without including the eye-popping work by the makeup FX team here.  The impressive key sequences would have come across so much better if they hadn’t already been ‘spoiled’ in the “Red Band” version of the trailer.  Even having said that, they’re still amazing as hell when you see them in context.

There aren’t a whole lot of complaints I have about this one, but there is one aspect that bears mentioning: I know the previews sell this as a testosterone-fueled, dystopian thrill ride for the ‘dudes’, and yeah, I’ll admit that was part of the allure for me. But that also means the female characters get short shrift…again. The death of Grey’s wife, Asha, pretty much propels the entire plot into motion, although Vallejo gets to do little more than look pretty…even when her character is dying.

I can understand the casting of BETTY GABRIEL as Det. Cortez, the cop who begins to realize there’s more to her ‘crippled’ suspect than meets the eye.  Between her spellbinding performance in Jordan Peele’s GET OUT, plus her growing resume of appearances in other genre movies like UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB and THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR, she’s quickly becoming the next “IT-Girl” for horror and sci-fi fans. But I really wished they’d given her more to do because hers is the kind of character you want to know more about. The antagonistic-yet-empathetic relationship between her and Grey could have been developed much more extensively than it was.

The one place where the minimal development of female characters works comes about, when at a crucial moment in the story, Grey hooks up with a mysterious uber-hacker named “Jamie” (KAI BRADLEY). In their scene together, which probably is all of about three minutes in length, we are completely captivated by her, not just because of the interesting aura she projects, thanks to Bradley’s performance, but because of several things she says to Grey and about him, throwing hints out there about what’s going on – there’s more to this story than we think there is, Jamie warns us. And that has me looking forward to a sequel, which I hope Whannell intended. Which I also hope includes Jamie’s return.

I’m glad that my concerns about Whannell were completely groundless. Though I’ve enjoyed his work as both an actor and a filmmaker, I was wondering if he considered his niche to be splitting time between the writer’s room, producer’s desk, and acting. UPGRADE is only his second film where he took over the director’s chair (his first time was in 2015 with INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3), but if UPGRADE is any indication of where he’s going with his creative knack, I’m looking forward to the UPGRADE sequel…or wherever he decides to go next. Count me in! And please accept four out of five bone-crushing stars of gratitude!

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, THRILLER, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Two – 10/02/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Two – 10/02/18

10/02 – 1988: THE VANISHING

It was another banner year for horror aficionados, in which several strong sequels took their bow and launched mainstay franchises, including PHANTASM II and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2. In fact, British director Bernard Rose, who would go on to direct one of the most celebrated movies based on Clive Barker’s work, CANDYMAN, took his bow in the genre with the wildly imaginative and deeply unsettling PAPERHOUSE.


But it was late Dutch director GEORGE SLUIZER, who would deliver the most shattering blow to audience sensibilities, with his unforgettable psychological chiller, THE VANISHING. And he achieved it without spilling a single drop of blood on-screen.

The chilling story begins with a road trip, during which a bickering couple, Rex (GENE BERVOETS) and Saskia (JOHANNA TER STEEGE), take a break from the snarking and sniping to stop at a gas station convenience store, at a point where it seems that their argument might be on the verge of some kind of positive resolution. But then Saskia goes into the store for drinks…and never returns.

Years pass after Saskia’s disappearance, but Rex has managed to do everything except let it go. Then, a mysterious man named Raymond Lemorne (BERNARD-PIERRE DONNADIEU) introduces himself, and intimates to Rex that he knows exactly what happened to her. But if Rex wants to find out what happened to his former lady love, he can’t ask any questions…Raymond insists that he must trust him, and just do whatever he says, in order to finally have the answer he’s been seeking.

Sounds absolutely fucking nuts, doesn’t it? Wait until you see the ending.

THE VANISHING has rightfully gained more stature, respect and a devoted following since its release than most films deemed “arthouse fare.” Sluizer “out-Hitchcocked” Hitchcock with this one. The script does such a brilliant job with its exploration of loss, grief, obsession and the frighteningly banal face that true evil can wear, that you don’t even realize that it’s in a different language (the subtitles are there, but you may be too busy cringing at that notorious ending to notice.) A psychological suspense classic that fans will hopefully continue to discover and re-discover for many, many more years to come.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Intro And Day One – 10/01/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Intro And Day One – 10/01/18

As long as there have been movies, and as long as there have been Halloweens, Hollywood and the independent denizens who scrape and scrounge outside of the system, have been more than happy to exploit the holiday, by presenting crowd-pleasing, creepy creations of the killing kind. The offerings have been as diverse and diabolical as anything the human mind has been capable of whipping up, and for this particular occasion, HOUSE OF TORTURED SOULS – and Yours Cruelly – have devised a diversion of devilish delights just for you, dear readers!

Starting today, and for the days to come, we dug back into the dusty archives, going back THIRTY-ONE YEARS, and will be presenting to you, reviews of films that served as “fright fulfillment” for the spookiest night of each.

Hopefully, no one’s going to feel insulted or that I’m being condescending, but I’m going to talk about each one of these as if none of you readers have ever seen or heard of these before and at thirty-one years and counting, believe it – there are quite a few of you who have not.

I’ve relied on IMDb.com for the suggestions here, but I made each selection in terms of what film I found meant THE MOST to me for that year. That will make it easier, even though some time periods made it a lot harder to choose than others!

10/01 – 1987: HELLRAISER


In a year that was literally ‘an embarrassment of riches’ for die-hard horror fans, which saw the release of EVIL DEAD 2, THE LOST BOYS, THE HIDDEN, ANGEL HEART, NEAR DARK and PREDATOR, choosing the best film would seem like a daunting and impossible task. Filmmakers were transcending boundaries, going deeper into imaginative scenarios. There seemed to be no limit to what could be done to refresh what audiences recognized as the “tried-and-true” stories that were quickly  becoming established horror tropes, but it was writer/actor/artist/poet CLIVE BARKER, who struck out to give fans something totally new: a vision of horror not seen before in any previous effort. But HELLRAISER would certainly become highly influential for many, many years to come.

So here’s the skinny on HELLRAISER in a nutshell…think of it as a more arty, intimate version of THE GATES OF HELL, THE DEVIL’S RAIN or THE BEYOND.  Based on the Barker novella, “The Hellbound Heart,” it’s the heart-freezing story of the Cotton family: stepmonster Julia (CLARE HIGGINS), husband Larry (ANDREW ROBINSON) and daughter Kirsty (ASHLEY LAURENCE) and the house they’ve just moved into.

Nobody knows that Julia was seeing Larry’s brother, Frank (SEAN CHAPMAN) on the side, but that would be the  least of their worries even if they did know. Frank was into some pretty intense, weird occult shit, which included a certain ornate Chinese puzzle box, that once solved, opens the doors to Hell and summons a group of demonic entities known as the Cenobites – devotees of a brand of eternal torture and suffering undreamt of by mortal men…well, most of them.

In any case, Frank didn’t just solve the damn thing, but he did it in this very house.  And now, having suffered a fate worse than death, he’s looking for a way – any way – to escape.
Enter Julia. She loves (well, actually more lusts after) the disappeared Frank as much as she loathes mealy-mouthed Larry, but that’s not the point. The point would be that there’s not a lot that she wouldn’t do to have her lover back, as she discovers when a drop of blood on the floor of the room where Frank was taken, begins to bring him back to earthly life (and the special effects are something you’ve got to see to believe, courtesy of a crack English FX team, lead by legends BOB KEEN and GEOFF PORTASS).

Things begin to get really complicated, when Kirsty stumbles over what they’re up to, and she decides to strike her own deal with the satanic emissaries, to stop Julia and hopefully save her father.  The rest of the movie is devoted to revealing whether or not she’s successful.  Not saying this is a spoiler, people, but there are about a half-dozen HELLRAISER sequels now at the very least, so you can pretty much figure out the answer to that one.

Up to that time, no one had seen anything like HELLRAISER, and it would raise the bar for so many horror films to come, not just in the occult sub-category of horror, but horror in general. Barker really let his art school roots show with this one, as the creature designs, the amazing, atmospheric photography by ROBIN VIDGEON, and CHRISTOPHER YOUNG’S dark, chilling score combined to complete a vision that could only belong to him, and was introduced by the cult favorite “Books Of Blood” (also destined to provide some other film adaptations, none of them as much of a hallmark as this.)

The unforgettable roles portrayed by acting vets Robinson, Higgins and Chapman and the then-‘unknown’ Laurence made a lasting impression upon the young minds of blossoming horror fans and seasoned horrorphiles alike, but it was DOUG BRADLEY, BARBIE WILDE, NICHOLAS BURMAN-VINCE and SIMON BAMFORD, once relative unknowns to mainstream moviegoing audiences, who all became household names as the “angels to some, demons to others”, the S&M-by-way-of-Bosch infused Cenobites – a mouth-watering future challenge to cosplayers everywhere.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly) (1981)

MOVIE REVIEW: Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly) (1981)

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Any horror fan worth their weight in shrunken heads, has at least heard of Italian director Ruggero Deodato’s infamous carnival of cannibal carnage, Cannibal Holocaust, and how its notoriety set off a mini-explosion of cannibal knock-offs during that same period. Not to be bested, City of the Living Dead helmer Umberto Lenzi wanted to see if he could equal, if not top Deodato’s, claim to ‘fame’, and the result was a nearly identical ‘homage’ to Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox (retitled under numerous names as most films of the period were but recognized mostly under the alternative Make Them Die Slowly).

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.You’ve got to hand it to the Italians; when it comes to mixing and matching hybrids, they go for broke, which makes for some of the goofiest, most unexpected plot twists and turns you’ve ever seen! Not content to simply settle for Cannibal Holocaust’s scenario of having ‘students’ going into the Amazonian wilds for anthropological reasons, Lenzi begins his screenplay as…wait for it…A CRIME THRILLER.

The story immediately starts off with a bait-and-switch, with a guy who we think will be a major character, until he’s promptly murdered by two goons in a New York apartment. Turns out they’re looking for a guy named Mike, who swindled them out of a lot of money, and unfortunately for him, they didn’t believe he had no idea where Mike was.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Enter the cops, as the murder case is headed up by Lt. Rizzo (Robert Kerman) and Sgt. Ross (Venantino Venantini). If Rizzo looks familiar, he should. Kerman also appeared in Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, underscoring the intentional similarities in the two pictures. But just wait…Lenzi encroaching on Cannibal Holocaust’s turf doesn’t stop there!

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Cut to: somewhere near Bogota, Colombia. (Yeah, the transition is just that abrupt – get used to it!) Gloria Davis (Lorraine De Selle) has come here with her brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei aka Bryan Redford) and her best friend, the model/actress/free-spirit Pat Johnson (Zora Kerova), for something of a dual purpose. It’s for an adventure in the Amazon, sure, but Gloria is also a student of anthropology (shades of Cannibal Holocaust!), who is here to work on a dissertation that will disprove the entire concept of cannibalism and expose it as a myth created by colonialists who wanted to paint indigenous tribes as some kind of evil threat to more “civilized” people and, therefore, justify their extermination.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.It takes a while for the fun to begin— nearly the entire first act — as Gloria, Rudy, and Pat eventually make their way down the Amazon River and begin their trek into the jungle to find the village that is the center of Gloria’s intended research. The usual ‘antics’ take place along the way: a cute little — lemur? Anteater? I’m not sure what the hell it was, but it was given to Pat by a native on the boat trip— is horrifically crushed to death by an anaconda (and probably eaten later, off-camera); the jeep gets stuck; and they wind up having to make their way to the location on foot.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Dying screams of agony lead them to a clearing where they find the slashed and impaled bodies of another native man and woman, and wouldn’t you know it — here’s where our intrepid heroes run into…MIKE! As in the “Mike” everyone’s looking for back in NYC. Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, the iconic star of such Lenzi hits as House on the Edge of the Park and City of the Living Dead, billed here as John Morghen) runs into them with his wounded buddy, Joe Costolani (Walter Lucchini aka Walter Lloyd) in tow.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.When questioned by Rudy about what happened to them and the two dead bodies, Joe recounts a fantastic tale of looking to score some “really good shit” down here, when they ran afoul of a native tribe that enjoys snacking…on humans. He and Joe barely make it out alive, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. Having seen enough of these, it’s not hard for the audience to see from the jump that Mike is more full of shit than a livestock farm. Pat, however, is immediately intrigued. (I guess you know where THAT’S going.)

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.The now-enlarged group of five finally does make it to Gloria’s village, but for the most part, they find it nearly deserted, save for a bunch of elderly indigenous men, some women, and a few kids…none of the young men around whatsoever. And things are just about to get a lot stranger…and dangerously awkward.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.

It takes a good little while to get to the “making them die slowly” part, but remember: it’s not about the destination, but the JOURNEY. Mike turns out to be an even bigger asshole than any of them realized, and it’s his actions that bring about the gruesome retribution from the natives, well-deserved or not. And unlike the jaw-droppingly realistic effects of, say, The Green Inferno, the practical and visual work here may elicit more giggles than screams from viewers since a 21st Century audience can’t help but notice how painfully “primitive” the bloodletting is. (Though it was probably anything but for moviegoers of that time period.)

The same thing that has many overly sensitive horror fans concerned about Cannibal Holocaust is present in Cannibal Ferox: the real-time, on-camera killing of animals. The anteater-thing that was Pat’s pet, as well as a large turtle that the natives dismember and eat ‘au naturel’, will probably be more of a turn-off to some than what happens to the humans. Yes, the anaconda sequence seems especially cruel, as it feels more like something set up intentionally by Lenzi in order to get some exploitative footage.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.But to be completely realistic about it, anyone who’s seen a nature documentary has witnessed everything you’ll see here in the way of animal deaths and worse. The butchering and consumption of the turtle are so matter-of-fact, you can pretty much tell that it wasn’t the first time the tribe had consumed such a meal and probably wouldn’t be the last. Yes, it’s questionable that something so unsettling should have been used as the basis for entertainment, but it’s a bit hypocritical to dwell on this as an issue if you’re going out after the movie for a Wendy’s Triple if you get my drift.

But back to the movie. The NYC/Amazon scenario split keeps you wondering if it’s all going to come together eventually in a way that makes any kind of sense, and I guess it does at the climax.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Whether or not Cannibal Ferox one-ups its Cannibal Holocaust predecessor is up for you, the viewer to decide. For my taste, it’s just way too close to call. The very “Seventies” message that the violent nature of “civilized” man is contagious seems rather quaint now, or way too obvious to take seriously from a film that — let’s face it — hasn’t aged very well. As expected, the scenery chewing and horrendous English dubbing job are present as usual, though no one can ever say the cast wasn’t up to Lenzi’s demands. Everyone gives their best, and Radice is especially hissable as the amoral Mike.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.As for the direction, Lenzi is very similar to his contemporaries — Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, etc.— in the way that nothing ever stands between him and telling the story. Crappy acting, substandard special effects, iffy locations, hiccups in photography and/or editing — none of it matters. You may scream, cry, puke, be repulsed or tickled pink…entertainment is the main objective, and there’s no way that anyone into the human fast-food sub-genre WON’T be completely captivated. And there’s something to admire in that determination and sense of commitment — even if it’s only good enough for grindhouses and drive-ins.

For never being boring and maintaining its promise of off-beat entertainment at the very least, Cannibal Ferox gets two-and-a-half leg-gnawing stars out of five.

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MOVIE REVIEWS, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.Oh, brother. If you love “So Bad It’s Good” movies (or ‘SoBIG’s’, as I usually refer to them), you gotta love the drive-in ‘classic’ and direct-to-video “disasterpieces” from the mid-to-late Seventies, definitely the Eighties, and even some entries from the Nineties and beyond. So, if you’ve never seen 1988’s The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix), set your “phasers” on “to be STUNNED!” This is a SoBIG trash wallow at its very finest; a mishmash of all the best aspects of films that actually have gone on to become classics in their own right.

If Death Becomes Her, Sunset Boulevard and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly were involved in some kind of horrific car crash, the result, pulled from the tangled, mangled mess of wreckage, would be this little gem. A no-name cast, the community theater-level acting, and some surprisingly good practical effects (for this micro-micro budget), make this a good/bad movie lover’s glistening wet dream.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The Rejuvenator begins with your garden-variety, B-movie mad scientist, Dr. Gregory Ashton, (John McKay) is doing some, shall we say, unorthodox work in the field of gerontology and biology. Not that he’s actually studying elderly people, but he IS trying to find a way to retard or even reverse the aging process. And naturally, as the movie begins, he’s not having the best of luck in refining said process, as a deformed lab animal kills other test subjects before meeting its own sticky, gooey demise.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Ashton’s research is being funded mostly by the vain, petulant, grandiose fading Hollywood actress Ruth Warren (Jessica Dublin), whose agenda for supporting his work is – what else? – to make herself younger again, so she can make her ‘huge big-screen comeback,’ and show the rest of the dime-a-dozen starlets and ingenues how it’s done. It’s not helping matters any that Ashton is constantly being spied upon by his sleazy, unctuous colleague, Dr. Germaine (Marcus Powell), superior sneer and upper-crusty accent included.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The good doctor and his benefactress aren’t without their own unrequited admirers, though. Ashton is assisted in his research by Dr. Stella Stone (Katell Pleven), a woman who is actually smart and beautiful…not the usual direction that kind of role takes in this kind of picture. Ruth’s not-so-secret admirer is her manservant, Wilhelm, (James Hogue, obviously filling the Erich von Stroheim role from Sunset Boulevard), a former ‘paramour’ from her halcyon days, who is now content to wait on her, hand-and-foot if that allows him to continue to be close to her. (Yes, I see you rolling your eyes, but it’s that kind of movie!)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Threatened with losing his funding if he doesn’t come across with the goods, and soon, the harried Dr. Ashton has no choice, but to do what just about all ‘mad-doctors’ do in his situation: he complies. He injects Ruth with the serum he has “almost” perfected, and after the required flurry of surprisingly good low-budget makeup effects, (provided by Ed French, Dan Frye, and Bruce S. Fuller), Ruth magically is converted into…ANOTHER ACTRESS!

You heard me. The stunning ‘new edition’ of Ruth has renamed herself “Elizabeth” (Vivian Lanko, who pulls double-duty here as the “improved” Ruth and as The Thing She Turns Into), whose backstory is now “the young niece of Ruth Warren, who is taking care of her estate, while her aunt goes away on a very long retreat.”

If you’ve seen enough of these monstrosities, (yes, that pun IS intended), you know where this is headed. Being an Eighties film, there has to be enough satisfactory sex and violence, so the sex part comes in when Elizabeth shows Dr. Ashton her gratitude for the miracle he’s worked for her. Wait, don’t leave! There’s so much more…

All the while, in the background, Dr. Stone and Wilhelm skulk around, mooning after their respective objects of desire and imagining what it would be like to finally be with them romantically. (There’s a dream sequence involving all the principal characters that includes a ‘dance number’ you have to see to believe!)

But, back to the ‘youth’ serum. You might recall that I mentioned it was “almost perfected”? Well, it has some pretty disgusting side effects, including the desire to murder random people and remove their brains – Oh, didn’t I mention that? Ashton’s serum is synthesized from human brain tissue, and one of the problems is that the more serum is used, larger and larger doses become required as the body builds up a tolerance to it with each application.

What would an Eighties schlockfest like this be without the opportunity to mix even more sex and violence onscreen? When Elizabeth’s sexual appetites increase with her new youthfulness, she ‘graduates’ from Gregory, moving on to random strangers, and eventually going out on her own to prowl the nightlife, going into the most retro-tastic club you can imagine, where the hot, big-haired, heavy-metal all-girl band called The Poison Dolly’s are playing!

The tunes, which sound like the kind of stuff that The Runaways turned down, are sublimely terrible, and of course, the band is dressed so that not too many people are really paying much attention to the “music.” When the serum begins to wear off and Elizabeth resembles a putrid pumpkin more than Cinderella, this is where the aforementioned murder of some posh poseur happens outside the club…in a phone booth, no less! (Remember those?)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.From here, it’s all pretty much by-the-numbers. Greg Ashton struggles, along with Stella, to try and artificially synthesize the formula in the lab successfully, so that brain tissue from cadavers will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, the suspicious and jealous Dr. Germaine is closing in to shut down Ashton and his lab for good, snatching the research results for himself. And all the while, Elizabeth’s transformations grow more and more extreme, as does her need to hold onto her newly-found youth – at any cost.

Am I making this direct-to-video hoot sound better than it actually is? If so, my sincere apologies. But this IS entertaining enough that it wouldn’t surprise me if the MST3K/RiffTrax guys or Elvira have already worked their magic with it.

Brian Thomas Jones’ script (adapted from Simon Nuchtern’s original screenplay) and direction, rises above a first-year film school student’s initial project…but not that far above it. Just about all of the actors walk through this like it’s something to pad their resumes with, but not much else, although as the Dollar Store version of “Norma Desmond”, Lanko and Dublin seem to be having the most fun, playing the venial and selfish “Ruth/Elizabeth”. As funny as it plays when the “switch” occurs, Lanko’s not half-bad keeping the continuity going with the character.

It’s probably not even coincidental, the similarities between The Rejuvenator and another film that came out three years before it, Stuart Gordon’s celebrated Lovecraft adaptation, Re-Animator. For all we know, Re-Animator probably had the same level budget but better actors, a seasoned director at the helm, and the ridiculously gory effects of monster master John Carl Buechler.

At the end of the day, just like some of its counterparts, The Rejuvenator makes a great, fun, bad time-capsule worthy window into a crazy-ass decade, as well as a throwback to When DTV Low-Budget Movies Ruled The Earth. The makeup effects guys went on to establish some pretty impressive credentials, even if the cast and creative team did not. But for all the work that went into this, good, bad or indifferent, I feel perfectly fine in awarding it two-and-a-half out of five stars.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Oh, and side note: like so many rarities that were only released originally on VHS tapes, I was “lucky” enough to stumble over The Rejuvenator, while surfing YouTube, where it’s one of their free movies. There are other places where you might be able to get it, but I strongly suggest that if you find yourself really jonesing to see this, get to YouTube now while it’s still available.

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, VIDEOS, 0 comments
The MAYHEM FILM FESTIVAL Brings Scares Aplenty To The UK

The MAYHEM FILM FESTIVAL Brings Scares Aplenty To The UK

Are you ready…for absolute MAYHEM? The Mayhem Film Festival descends upon Nottingham, UK, at the Broadway Cinema, October 11 – 14, 2018. Featuring some of the best of horror, sci-fi, and cult classic features and shorts, there’s going to be a wide variety of cinematic genre offerings that should keep everyone happy.

Quite a few of the menu items have been making the rounds at many of the festivals, with some of them even winning awards. You’ll find a few that have been reviewed here and some that are about to be in the very near future, including:

Mayhem Film Festival: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)Anna and the Apocalypse : A Scottish high-school Christmas zombie musical, this one’s been getting a lot of buzz lately, and MAYHEM will also feature a Q&A with Anna and the Apocalypse’s director John McPhail.

Mayhem Film Festival: The Witch in the Window (2018)The Witch in the Window: Canadian filmmaker Andy Mitton’s follow-up to Yellowbrickroad and We Go On, this supernatural chiller is primed to bring a lot of unhappy relationships together. For those families where someone loves horror movies but hates the PG-13 ones and has yet another finicky watcher who loves horror but ONLY if it’s PG-13, The Witch in the Window is that happy medium where everyone gets what they want. With a minimum of reliance on tired horror tropes and no gore whatsoever, The Witch in the Window specializes more in classic creeps, using the slow-burn technique to come to a heart-warming, yet also heart-breaking finish.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich continues to advance the beloved cult Full Moon Features franchise, with both fan favorites Udo Kier and Barbara Crampton on board.

Mayhem Film Festival: One Cut of the Dead (2017)One Cut of the Dead: Asian filmmakers have had their American brethren hanging their heads in shame (or they should be) with the way they’ve been managing to freshen up the tired zombie genre, with Korea’s outstanding Train to Busan and the quirky Chinese gut-muncher Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight. Now it’s Japanese co-writer/director Shin’ichiro Ueda’s turn, and if the other two are any indication of what kind of surprises to expect, you probably want to get your tickets to this one ASAP.

Mayhem Film Festival: What Keeps You Alive (2018)What Keeps You Alive: Even if you’re not familiar with Colin Minihan’s name, you’ve probably seen one or both of the films in the Grave Encounters franchise that he launched, or maybe his zombie-apocalypse-hits-Sin-City thriller It Stains the Sands Red. Based on his past work alone, his latest, a remote, woodsy horror drama sounds like another ‘must-see’ to add to your list.

Mayhem Film Festival: Nightmare Cinema (2018)Besides these films, there are also some debuts and other goodies worth noting. Nightmare Cinema is the much-anticipated horror omnibus from genre icon Mick Garris, who gave us the unforgettable Showtime shock-stravaganza Masters of Horror. Directors on-board this time around include Garris himself, Joe Dante, David Slade, and Ryuhei Kitamura (No One Lives, Versus, Midnight Meat Train).

Mayhem Film Festival: Mandy (2018)Mandy, the plenty-talked-about horror-on-acid freakshow starring – appropriately enough – Nicolas Cage – will infiltrate the Festival as well, and hopefully have tongues wagging just as much about its writer/director Panos Cosmatos, who also created the equally trippy Beyond the Black Rainbow.

And if One Cut of the Dead leaves you ravenous for more Japanese horror-goodness, you’re in luck. Making its UK premiere will be Shinsuke Sato’s live-action adaptation of the popular manga Inuyashiki.

And if this wasn’t mind-blowing enough, there’s also going to be a screening of the Lamberto Bava/Dario Argento collaboration from 1985, the crowd-pleasing Demons, and from Finland, The White Reindeer, a rarely-seen supernatural adaptation of a Finnish folk tale, made in 1952 by director Erik Blomberg.

More information about dates, times, the features and shorts, and where to get tickets, can be found at www.mayhemfilmfestival.com.

Posted by Samuel Glass in ATTRACTIONS AND DESTINATIONS, EVENTS, HORROR NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Room Laundering (2018)

MOVIE REVIEW: Room Laundering (2018)

Room Laundering (2018) / Fair use doctrine.If you were told you were about to watch a film that is one-part Beetlejuice and one-part The Frighteners but produced by a Japanese filmmaker, would it leave you wondering how something like that could possibly work and what kind of hot mess you’d be left with unspooling before your very cynical eyeballs? The answer, in this case, is co-writer/director Kenji Katagiri’s Room Laundering, a quirky, geeky, unexpectedly charming ‘dramedy’ about grief, loss, coming of age, and finally coming into your own against all of the obstacles that life happens to throw your way…oh, and yeah, it has a few ghosts in it.

Co-written with Tatsuya Umemoto, Room Laundering is the usual story about a very unusual twenty-year-old girl named Mitsuko, “Miko” for short (the winsome Elaiza Ikeda, who could be the Japanese version of Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz.) Seemingly dogged by bad luck, after her father died and her mother disappeared when she was a kid, she grew up with her grandmother, who also promptly kicked the bucket when Miko was eighteen. Being the only family she has left, her uncle, Goro (Joe Odagiri) takes her in, and also puts her to work for him in a rather…strange enterprise.

You see, there’s a regulation that says if any untimely deaths take place inside a residence, any potential tenants who intend to move in must be informed of the event. Nobody said WHEN they have to be told, so in order to avoid the money-losing possibility of having people not move into your place at all, you talk to Goro, who then has Miko move in, live there for a time and then leave, giving the place a new lease on life as a rental (no pun intended.) The process is nicknamed “room laundering,” similar to money laundering, but it’s dealing with properties instead.

Oh, and one other wrinkle, by the way – the tenants can’t see or communicate with the restless spirits of the late tenants in these places…but Miko can. (A silly duck lamp, a gift from Miko’s childhood, serves as the indicator of when spirits are present.) Which has resulted in her having very little communication or relationships with living people – not that she minds all that much. The life of being a nomadic medium of sorts seems to suit her, thank you very much.

Things seem to change radically for Miko, however, with the latest two “hauntings” she’s had to deal with. The first is the spirit of a goofy dead punk-rocker named Kimihiko (Kiyohiko Shibukawa), who slit his wrists in the bathtub of one of the places that Miko is ‘laundering’ (and his injuries make for a gross if hysterically funny Tim Burtonesque sight gag).

The second and more serious case is the next apartment, which finds Miko dealing with something she hasn’t before: a murder victim. The ghost in question here is that of Yuki Chikamoto (Kaoru Mitsumune), an office worker who threw herself into cosplay and social media in her off-hours. It’s her gruesome murder (shown mostly offscreen) that opens the movie and her style of haunting that’s closest to what we’ve come to expect in J-horror films like The Grudge and The Ring. But even that is handled with a lighter-than-expected touch by Katagiri.

Miko’s encounters with the murdered ghost of Yuki also brings Yuki’s next-door neighbor Akito (Kentaro) into her orbit. Guilt-ridden by his lack of concern for his former neighbor, grocery store manager Akito has no plans to make the same mistake twice, and in spite of his awkwardness around her, remains determined to get to know Miko a bit better, even though she herself is sworn not to break the number one commandment of her ‘job’, which is “no fraternization with the neighbors.”

To say that Akito changes everything for Miko is a complete understatement. As he begins to gradually break down her barriers, she starts to emerge from the shell of her ‘weird’ existence, discovering that dealing with the living really isn’t as bad as all that…until, of course, the subplot kicks in, where she finally decides to go above and beyond the call of her usual duties to help out both Kimihiko and Yuki, which brings the movie to a tense-yet-funny, and finally satisfying conclusion.

Neither quite as ‘out-there’ as Beetlejuice nor as intense as Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, Room Laundering takes a more sentimental approach to the like-minded material. Katagiri’s empathy for his characters really shows here, revealing a bit at a time, the layered personalities of each one. Even the supposedly nihilistic Kimihiko and the allegedly self-absorbed Yuki are shown to be a lot more sympathetic than one would think from first impressions.

Especially funny and touching are the interactions that Miko has with the ghost of a dead former classmate and friend, who has the sensibilities of a horny twenty-something man, trapped forever in the form of the grade-schooler he was when he was hit by a car and killed.

The most surprising aspect of the film is how it expresses a belief in the humanity of the living, and yes, even the dead, just when you think that the world is little more than a revolving, never-ending ball of ‘suck.’

The performances are engaging, and the story, though familiar, does a good job of keeping you guessing about characters’ intentions and just exactly how and where Yuki will end up. Katagiri’s direction is sure-footed, as he manages to walk that thin line between pathos and having things become way too maudlin to enjoy.

Room Laundering gets a very solid three-and-a-half out of five stars from me, with a strong recommendation to those who usually avoid J-horror as being too “gross” or “creepy”.

Posted by Samuel Glass in COMING SOON, FAMILY HORROR, HORROR COMEDIES, MOVIE REVIEWS, PARANORMAL, 0 comments