October Horrorshow: Squirm

Squirm is an appropriate title for the 1976 horror flick from writer/director Jeff Lieberman. This is the type of horror flick intended to make a viewer’s skin crawl. In that, Lieberman and company succeeded beyond any expectations. After all, this isn’t some mid-budget horror meant for mass theatrical release. This is a low-budget horror flick made for drive-ins and grindhouses. What I mean is, how in the world could the production afford to purchase millions of worms?

That’s right. Worms. The ugliest, slimiest, biggest, fanged (yes, FANGED), worms from the soil of these great United States. All shipped to Port Wentworth, Georgia, for use in a disgusting movie shoot. I fucking love horror flicks. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Squirm”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Stanley

Stanley movie posterI love it when a film’s main character is an eccentric nutjob. I don’t mean a character remembered for an over the top performance by an actor, like a Captain Jack Sparrow or even the Joker. I’m referring to characters who have quirks so wild they defy typical Hollywood tropes. Take the main character in 1972’s Stanley, Tim Ochopee (veteran soap opera actor Chris Robinson).

Tim is a Seminole who was drafted to go off and fight in Vietnam. He harbors massive amounts of resentment, all justified, towards the government of the white man. His response to this, and PTSD, has been to pull back from society, moving to a lonely cabin in the Everglades. But, isolation was not enough for Tim. He has a fascination with snakes. He loves them and considers himself their protector. His two favorites are the titular Stanley and Hazel, a pair of rattlesnakes that he is breeding. He croons to them. He pets them lovingly. He takes Stanley with him everywhere, and gives Stanley orders like he’s a dog and not a reptile. He thinks of Stanley and Hazel as husband and wife. All meaning Tim gets from his life, he derives from his snakes. And, he will kill for them. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Stanley”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Venomous

VenomousWhat a disappointing movie. With a title like Venomous and a poster featuring a giant snake’s head on the attack, I was expecting this direct-to-video cheapie to be a ripoff of Anaconda. Instead, it’s a ripoff of Outbreak. All the epidemiological plot points are there, and every character has an analogue. But, Treat Williams is no Dustin Hoffman, Mary Page Keller is no Rene Russo, Hannes Jaenicke is no Kevin Spacey (are we allowed to like his acting again, yet?), and Geoff Pierson is no frickin’ Morgan Freeman.

From way back in 2001, Venomous is the story of a viral outbreak in the small town of Santa Mira Springs, California, played by the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch. The virus in question is a bio-engineered disease that the US government introduced into rattlesnakes. After a terrorist attack on the lab during an introductory scene, the snakes escape into the wild. That would be that, except that a series of earthquakes in Santa Mira have caused the snakes to flee from their underground hiding places. Townsfolk are bitten, and it is discovered that antivenin isn’t saving their lives. A closer look at the blood of the victims reveals the presence of the virus. That’s when this thing becomes an Outbreak ripoff. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Venomous”

It Came from the ’50s: The Tingler

Gimmicks present unique problems when it comes to film, or art, or anything. Gimmicks may be useful for an initial draw, but people tire of them. Gimmicks are also used to disguise, or make up for, a lack of funds or competence. That is why William Castle, despite throwing some interesting gimmicks into his films, is remembered for being a shitty movie director as much as an innovator.

The Tingler, from 1959, was Castle’s most ambitious foray into gimmickry. Besides producing, Castle directed, from a screenplay by Robb White. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: The Tingler”

October Horrorshow: Slugs

What a putrid mess of a movie. Slugs is one of those shitty movies New World Pictures banged out that had little to no regard for the intelligence or attention spans of its audience. It looks rushed, feels rushed, and even sounds rushed. But, it’s got a lot of blood, so it has that going for it.

From 1988, Slugs is an American/Spanish collaboration. At the time, shitty Spanish cinema was mimicking shitty Italian cinema, making this production feel like an amalgamation of bad American and Italian horror. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Slugs”

October Horrorshow: Frogs

Frogs, the 1972 environmental horror flick from screenwriters Robert Hutchison and Robert Blees, and director George McCowan, has a misleading title. There are indeed frogs in Frogs, and they do indeed pose a menace to the characters in the film, but there are also plenty of toads, snakes, geckos, iguanas, tarantulas, scorpions, and other creepy-crawlies lurking about. The title Frogs gives short shrift to all the other swamp beasties that make an effort to murder the film’s protagonists.

Sam Elliott, in an early role, stars as Pickett Smith, a freelance photographer taking pictures of the effects of pollution and littering in a swampland environment. It’s not pretty, as Smith finds civilizational detritus everywhere he looks. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Frogs”

October Horrorshow: Ticks

Ah, the early 1990s. It was a time of transition. The neon styles of the ’80s were losing their cool, and the plaid drabness that supplanted it was crossing over into movies and television. In the cities, violent crime reached its peak, and gentrification was an idea that had yet to find its execution. The ’90s as a whole were a time when the rough edges still existed, but the polishing was underway.

I bring this up because one would be hard pressed to find a movie that looks more 1990s than Ticks. Released in 1993, Ticks comes to viewers via director Tony Randel and screenwriter Brent V. Friedman. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Ticks”

Giant Monstershow: Empire of the Ants

It’s a melancholy day for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow, for this is the last film of the month from giant monster auteur Bert I. Gordon. His peak days as a filmmaker were in the 1950s, but while Gordon’s pace of work slowed, he never went more than a few years without directing something. In 1977, that something was Empire of the Ants, also written by Gordon, loosely adapting the H.G. Wells story of the same name. Something of a follow-up to Gordon’s Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants tells the story of a Florida real estate pitch gone wrong. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Empire of the Ants”

Giant Monstershow: Earth vs. the Spider, aka The Spider

Earth vs the SpiderThe October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow carries on! Today’s film is the sixth this month featuring b-cinema auteur extraordinaire Bert I. Gordon. The man made giant monster flicks his own cottage industry. That’s not too far off of the mark, considering Gordon would shoot effects in his own garage.

Today’s film is Earth vs. The Spider, also released as just The Spider. Released just a few months after War of the Colossal Beast, Earth vs. The Spider switches up the formula for giant monster flicks. Most of the films featured this past month have featured scientists and doctors as the main protagonists, or maybe a military man or two. This film does have those characters, but they’ve been relegated to supporting roles. In this flick, the heroes are teenagers. That’s right. By 1958, shitty filmmakers recognized that it was teenagers that were pumping large amounts of dollars into their coffers, and someone came up with the bright idea to make movies featuring teenagers in the leads. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Earth vs. the Spider, aka The Spider”

Giant Monstershow: The Deadly Mantis

The October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow returns to the land of giant insects with today’s flick. From 1957, The Deadly Mantis is an early directorial effort from Nathan Juran, who had an Oscar-winning career as an art director before becoming a director. It was written by Martin Berkeley, who also had a screenwriting credit for the execrable Tarantula. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: The Deadly Mantis”