October Horrorshow: The Deadly Spawn

At some point around 1980, producer Ted A. Bohus and f/x man John Dods put their heads together and came up with an idea for an alien monster flick. Neither could direct or write a screenplay, so Dods brought in Douglas McKeown, a would-be filmmaker looking for his first break. Bohus somehow found a little bit of money, Dods and his crew built one of the wildest monsters ever to grace horror flicks, and McKeown worked his talents to deliver an amazing experience of low-budget cinema.

Released in 1983, The Deadly Spawn tells the story of a creature that rides a meteorite down to Earth and terrorizes a household in rural New Jersey. Tom DeFranco stars as Pete, and Charles George Hildebrandt stars as Pete’s middle school-aged younger brother, also named Charles. (Charles is the son of fantasy/sci-fi illustrator Tim Hildebrandt. Readers may not know him by name, but they will recognize some of the work he did with his brother, Greg. Tim has a small role in the film, on top of lending his house to the production for filming.) Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Deadly Spawn”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Cosmic Sin

Bruce Willis is having an interesting stretch in this, the latter part of his career. It’s also a familiar one. Like many stars of the past, he is either unwilling, or unable, to take on parts in big budget Hollywood flicks or prestige films. Rather, he has spent the last half-decade or so in b-movie schlock. Sure, he turned up in Glass, and Eli Roth’s underrated remake of Death Wish, but this is overshadowed by his roles in films like Hard Kill, Breach, and today’s subject, Cosmic Sin.

The thing I find most amusing about this turn is that Willis always seems to play the same character in every film — a roguish antihero who joins the cause reluctantly. Watching the first act of these films, one can imagine that it mirrors the process that filmmakers had to go through to convince Willis to be in their movies. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Cosmic Sin”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Attack of the Unknown

At first glance, a viewer might be hard-pressed to find anything worthwhile about Attack of the Unknown, the 2020 alien invasion flick from writer/director Brandon Slagle. It really is bottom of the barrel filmmaking. Everything about this film screams cheapness, while Slagle’s direction showed a somnambulistic lack of urgency in every scene. It’s like the entire film was on valium. But, one must consider the star, Richard Grieco, as SWAT team member Vernon. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Attack of the Unknown”

October Horrorshow: Virus (1999)

Once upon a time, the moviegoing public wasn’t assaulted by an endless stream of comic book movies from Marvel and DC. Back in the dark days of 1999, the Batman cinematic franchise was on life support after Joel Schumacher finished with it, and Marvel’s properties had been farmed out to Sony. The only two movies of any significance based on comics that year was Mystery Men, which was a big budget flop, and Virus, which was an even bigger big budget flop. Both of these titles came from Dark Horse Entertainment, and may have a lot to do with the slow pace of further adaptations from the Dark Horse stable, when compared with what Marvel and DC are doing. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Virus (1999)”

October Horrorshow: Color Out of Space

Filmmaker Richard Stanley has had something of a checkered career. His first feature, Hardware, which he wrote and directed, was a success, but he was successfully sued for plagiarism, the story having too many similarities to a strip published in a Judge Dredd annual. Then, a few years later, Stanley was fired as the director of the doomed Island of Dr. Moreau adaptation less than a week into filming (firing him was never going to save that mess of a film, honestly). That was in 1995. It would be more than two decades before Stanley sat in the director’s chair for a feature film again, and it was for 2019’s Color Out of Space, an adaptation of the short story by H.P. Lovecraft. But, the trials and tribulations don’t end there. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Color Out of Space”

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Critters 4

Critters might be the first horror franchise to take its action off planet. Hellraiser took to space in 1996, Leprechaun followed a year later, and Friday the 13th sent Jason Vorhees into the black in 2001. Incredible as it seems, Critters 4 might be a groundbreaking film.

From 1992, Critters 4 was shot at the same time as Critters 3, but this isn’t a case of breaking a single film into two parts when things began to sprawl. Critters 4 was always a separate film from the third, with a different director in Rupert Harvey. Much of the production crew, including the Chiodo Brothers, remained the same. Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: Critters 4″

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Critters 3

I’m willing to believe claims that screenwriter Dominic Muir wrote Critters before Gremlins was released in 1984, but as the franchise reached this third installment, all pretense is washed away. Critters 3 is a Gremlins ripoff — and also the launching point for one of Hollywood’s most successful actors.

No more theatrical releases for this franchise. By 1991, it was direct-to-video only. Written by David J. Schow and directed by Kristine Peterson, Critters 3 leaves the cozy confines of Grover’s Bend, Kansas, for the big city of Topeka. A family returning from a vacation — father Clifford (John Calvin), daughter Annie (Aimee Brooks), and young son Johnny (played by twins Christian and Joseph Cousins) — unknowingly pick up a critter infestation when they have to stop to change a tire. A couple of eggs are left in a wheel well, and they hatch just as the family returns to their rundown apartment building. Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: Critters 3″

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Critters 2

What month of horror franchise reviews would be complete without visiting the redheaded stepchild of 1980s horror franchises? The first Critters film was released to widespread yawns and accusations of thievery from Gremlins, but I maintain that this series of films is an indelible part of the experience of 1980s horror. All of these films are cheap, bloody, nicely tongue-in-cheek, shitty, and more entertaining than they should be.

Coming to audiences in 1988, Critters 2 picks up two years after the events of Critters, and assumes, quite fancifully, that one has seen the first film. Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: Critters 2″

Shitty Movie Sundays: The Blackout, aka The Blackout: Invasion Earth

Just to prove that the United States and China aren’t the only nations that can produce a jingoistic alien invasion flick, Russia has given us The Blackout, wherein an alien invasion blacks out power over the entire planet, except for a circle centered around Moscow.

From screenwriter Ilya Kulikov and director Egor Baranov, The Blackout follows a small group of Russian soldiers as they try to stave off the invasion and keep Moscow safe. This flick didn’t have much of a budget, but Baranov and company still managed to put together a film with an expansive plot and some decent explosions here and there. Look closely, and one will notice how few real locations there really are, but that’s not worth bothering about, especially with all the other shit thrown a viewer’s way. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: The Blackout, aka The Blackout: Invasion Earth”

October Horrorshow: Nightbeast

Blood, gore, low production values, a little gratuitous nudity, and charm out the wazoo. That’s Nightbeast, the 1982 sci-fi/horror flick from b-movie filmmaker Don Dohler. It’s a simple film with a simple idea: an alien passing by Earth runs into a stray asteroid and crashes in rural Maryland. It’s an angry beast, and it wastes no time slaughtering the locals with its laser gun.

Trying to stop the massacre are the cops and the good citizens of Perry Hall, led by Sheriff Cinder (Tom Griffith). That’s all the plot one really needs to know. There’s very little setup to this flick, and very little character development. That’s a good thing, as Dohler didn’t round up the best talent for his opus. Besides Griffith, there’s Karin Kardian as Deputy Lisa Kent, Jamie Zemarel as local Jamie Lambert, and Don Leifert as local tough guy and murderer Drago (it’s a subplot). None of these performers, or the others listed in the credits, had much work outside of Don Dohler films, and none of them seemed like professionals. But, their lack of acting chops only adds to the appeal. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Nightbeast”