Shitty Movie Sundays: Tuareg: The Desert Warrior, or, Let’s Cancel Mark Harmon!

Tuareg: The Desert Warrior movie posterAfter a 3-plus year absence, Shitty Movie Sundays hall of famer Enzo G. Castellari is back! Today’s film showcases Castellari’s most prominent skills. The film takes place in the desert, things blow up, and when they do, it’s filmed in glorious slow motion. Castellari knew what he was good at, and it wasn’t storytelling.

Mark Harmon (that’s right, Mark Harmon) plays a North African Tuareg, one of a nomadic people who span the Sahara. This is the type of role that Harmon couldn’t take, much less be offered, today. It would be considered an egregious case of whitewashing. And, if the project had managed to get made, all those involved would have to spend at least a week apologizing on Twitter before the mob moved on to the next outrage. But, in 1984, this type of casting decision could still be made, especially in Italy and Spain, which were free from Hollywood politics.

In my mind, having a white guy play a Berber tribesman only adds to this flick’s shitty movie creds. It’s icing on the cake that Harmon made only a token effort to disguise his SoCal accent, taking on an inflection reminiscent of stereotypical Native Americans. It’s possible this isn’t his fault. He may have been told his voice would be dubbed in post, or that the film wouldn’t be released in an English-language version at all. Or, he just gave a performance of stunning ineptitude. Or, it’s no different than any other Mark Harmon performance. It’s up to the viewer’s imagination. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Tuareg: The Desert Warrior, or, Let’s Cancel Mark Harmon!”

Shitty Movie Sundays: 2307: Winter’s Dream

I’m glad that filmmakers are still making flicks like this. It’s schlock from the ground up, and the only thing that harms its shitty movie cred is the fact it was filmed in digital HD. Pardon a short rant that is going to make me sound like the old man I am steadily becoming, but shitty movies in the age of celluloid had an extra sheen of cheapness that has been lost. In the past, shitty filmmakers had to rent cheap cameras and lenses, and buy substandard film stock and processing, to get their films made. The difference in visual quality was stark, compared to big time productions. These days, however, a movie can get made with a digital SLR that costs a few thousand bucks, or even a smartphone, and the visual quality is much closer to what one gets from proper, high-end digital cameras. Part of the joy of watching an old shitty movie is bad film stock, and that is gone forever. Too bad. Anyway… Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: 2307: Winter’s Dream”

October Horrorshow: Brain Damage

We horror movie fans, and we shitty movie fans, are blessed whenever a filmmaker like Frank Henenlotter comes along. A man who was practically raised by the grindhouse theaters of Times Square, Henenlotter brought that aesthetic, that sleaze, and, yes, that mystique, to the small number of films he made. His films breathe in the grit of New York City in a way only one of its true freak denizens could capture.

Henenlotter began his feature film career in 1982 with Basket Case, a tale of a parasitic relationship of incredible bizarreness. He followed that up in 1988 with Brain Damage, a tale of a parasitic relationship of incredible bizarreness. It’s almost as if Henelotter took a look at his earlier film one day and said to himself, “I can do weirder.” Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Brain Damage”

October Horrorshow: Hell of the Living Dead

What an absolute pile of trash. I loved every minute of this film. Well, almost every minute of it. I loved the exploding heads and zombies munching on guts. I loved how director Bruno Mattei slipped in some nudity and pretended it wasn’t gratuitous. I loved how wild and unrealistic were the main characters. And I loved how no one in the movie seemed to absorb, for more than a second at a time, that zombies have to be shot in the head to stop them. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Hell of the Living Dead”

October Horrorshow: Spawn of the Slithis

Venice Beach, California, looks like it was a rough place in the late 1970s. Urban decay and homelessness abound, and everything looks brown and grey. Such is the setting for Spawn of the Slithis, the 1978 monster flick from writer/director/producer Stephen Traxler. Part Creature from the Black Lagoon and part Jaws, Slithis follows high school teacher/wannabe journalist Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard), as he investigates a series of brutal mutilations in the Venice Beach area. The first victims were dogs, but it’s not long before there are human victims. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Spawn of the Slithis”

October Horrorshow: Death Warmed Up

There’s not a lot of plot to Death Warmed Up, the 1984 horror flick from writer Michael Heath and director David Blyth. There are hints of plot here and there, but any cohesion or sense is tossed away in service of spectacle. That’s not inherently a bad thing. Story, while necessary for most films, would just have gotten in the way of this flick’s many, many, blood-spurting wounds.

A New Zealand production, Death Warmed Up follows Michael Tucker (Michael Hurst). In the film’s intro, we see Michael come under the influence of the evil Dr. Archer Howell (Gary Day), who is conducting experiments into human resurrection and mind control. After injecting Michael with his serum, Howell sends Michael to kill Michael’s parents. Michael’s father is a professional rival who threatens Howell’s experiments. After the deed is done, Michael spends the next seven years in a psychiatric hospital. The main part of the film picks up after his release. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Death Warmed Up”

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”

October Horrorshow: Terror (1978)

Sometimes when watching a film, a viewer can tell that the whole project barely held together. We viewers tend to hold that film is an artistic struggle carried out by a single individual. The director has a vision and a story they want to share. This is called the auteur theory of film, and is the main reason we heap praise on directors, at the expense of everyone else involved in a production. Less acknowledged is the reality that film is a business. As anyone who ever worked in an office can tell you, folks are just hanging on by their fingernails, hoping against hope that no one notices how much of the job is just faking it until it gets done. Here is director Norman J. Warren on his 1978 film, Terror:

 

[A] search for a story [in Terror] is in vain…There is no real storyline and very little, if any, logic. We had the money for a low-budget film, but no script and no idea of what film we wanted to make…we made a list of all the scenes we’d like to see in a horror film. We handed the list to writer David McGillivray, who incorporated the ideas into a ‘sort of story.’

That’s an excellent description of this film. There is a plot, involving an ancient curse set upon the Garrick family by a witch, but the plot is just a means to get from one death scene to another. It’s those scenes, fleshed out and very atmospheric, where this film truly lives. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Terror (1978)”

October Horrorshow: The Wretched

The Wretched, the 2019 horror film from writing/directing team Brett and Drew T. Pierce (billed as The Pierce Brothers), is something of an aesthetic throwback to the horror films of the late 1990s and early 2000s, with a little Fright Night thrown into the mix. It relies heavily on the “you have to believe me!” trope, but that’s okay. It’s a great trick horror filmmakers use to make an audience root for the main characters. We see the same things the protagonists see, so it’s frustrating to us, as much as the characters, when authority figures in the movie fail to do anything about the scary stuff and save the town. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Wretched”

October Horrorshow: The Furies (2019)

For a country that swings a heavy censorship stick, Australian filmmakers have produced some bloody horror flicks. The country that produced Wolf Creek, Wyrmwood, Boar, and others, also has a sanctimonious ‘classification’ board whose sole purpose is to make sure Aussies never read or see anything that might bother them too much. It’s okay to have rape and drugs and murder in media, but there’s a mysterious line that media must not cross, or it gets banned. That’s not to say that imaginary delineation doesn’t exist here in the US, what with the MPAA and other groups who have taken it upon themselves to censor on the behalf of everyone, but even by America’s puritan standards, Australia’s censorship is a little much. So, I think it’s refreshing when an Aussie horror flick comes along that features a face being peeled off by an axe, or arms yanked from their sockets. Give me liberty and give me death, the bloodier the better. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Furies (2019)”