October Horrorshow: Willy’s Wonderland

Nicolas Cage is, without reservation or reflection, my favorite living actor. His days of high-brow or blockbuster Hollywood cinema are over, and this seems to be his intention. Well before he aged out of A-list roles he embraced the absurd, the strange, and the underfunded. Best of all, he always gives his all in every role he’s in. Sometimes that doesn’t work, but rarely have I ever enjoyed such consistent overacting. He’s a treasure.

This year saw the release of Willy’s Wonderland, which fits in well with Cage’s embrace of the outlandish. According to the internet, so it must be true, Cage was so enamored with the script that he chose to be one of the film’s producers, so he could have authority to prevent the story from being changed too much. As for that story… Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Willy’s Wonderland”

October Horrorshow: Bloody Pit of Horror, aka Il boia scarlatto

Bloody Pit of Horror movie posterWhat a wonderful pile of cheese. And what a wonderful title. Bloody Pit of Horror. It just rolls off the tongue. Of course, there have been countless bad horror flicks with great titles. What makes this less disappointing than so many others is a certain lightheartedness — a feeling that one is watching a funhouse flick. At no point is any of this film meant to be taken seriously. It’s not a black comedy, but neither is it a downer. Rather, it’s as if everyone’s favorite gang of youths in the neighborhood got together to make a backyard play for all the parents to see, maybe to raise some money for Billy’s operation. Aw, gee whiz, it sure is neat. It’s also Italian, which means it is shameless schlock.

From way back in 1965, Bloody Pit of Horror stars legendary sword-and-sandal actor Mickey Hargitay as Travis Anderson, a former sword-and-sandal actor who has taken up residence in an abandoned castle and surrounded himself with some of the Joker’s henchmen. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Bloody Pit of Horror, aka Il boia scarlatto”

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Seed of Chucky

What a stupid movie. When I wasn’t loving it, I was hating it, but never so much that I ever stopped enjoying myself. Even when the spirit-possessed Chucky doll (Brad Dourif, as ever) runs Britney Spears (Nadia Dina Ariqat) off of the road and her car explodes in a pique pop culture moment, there was but the briefest moment of doubt before buying into this ridiculous flick once more. This isn’t a good movie, but writer/director, and series creator, Don Mancini, along with producer David Kirschner, were right to go all-in on absurdity. Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: Seed of Chucky”

October Horrorshow: The Similars, aka Los Parecidos

It was a dark and stormy night in early October, 1968. Like, really stormy. So stormy that, according to radio broadcasts, the entirety of North America, and possibly the world, was enveloped in cloud and heavy rain. At a bus station a few hours drive from Mexico City, a man, Ulises (Gustavo Sánchez Parra), is frantic as he awaits the delayed bus into the city. He’s anxious because his wife has gone into a difficult labor, and he wants to be by her side. But, the rain has made travel impossible.

Ulises harangues the station agent, Martin (Fernando Becerril), who is set to retire and is uninterested in any of Ulises’s nonsense. Ulises calls the hospital in Mexico City, and the garbled call he has with his father-in-law does nothing to allay his fears. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Similars, aka Los Parecidos”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Death Race 2000

I’ve been cheated! The last, and only, time I saw Death Race 2000 before this latest viewing was in the far distant days of my youth, before the World Wide Web, when all snark had to be shared with those close to us. Friends, family, enemies, casual acquaintances — all near at hand to listen to our bullshit. Now, we are in the merciless grip of the Information Age, and I can share with the world the crime to which many, not just I, were subjected. For, the print I saw on television sometime during the Reagan administration had been ruthlessly cut for television. Gone was all the gratuitous nudity (understandable), but in its place, whoever prepared the film for TV had decided to just repeat footage. A viewer would watch David Carradine or Sly Stallone plow his car through a line of extras only to see the same footage again soon after. This happened many, many times. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Death Race 2000″

October Horrorshow: Terror-Creatures from the Grave

Pacemaker Pictures, the English-language distributors of Terror-Creatures from the Grave, the 1965 Italian gothic horror flick, sure went all in on the title. Perhaps they had a shortlist and couldn’t decide between Terror from the Grave and Creatures from the Grave so, like some parents, decided to burden their charge with a hyphenated name. It’s a mouthful, but has loads of kitsch to it.

Directed by Massimo Pupillo, from a screenplay by Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale, Terror-Creatures is plays like a pageant in honor of horror cinema. Shot in stark black and white by Carlo Di Palma, the film relies heavily on early horror film styles and storytelling, while combining it with contemporary trends in Italian cinema. There’s the dark and stormy night, overlayered with endless theremin music, combined with dramatic closeups and the multinational cast mouthing their lines in different languages. It’s like watching an old Universal horror film, and everyone is poorly dubbed. Unfortunately, that dubbing can be somewhat distracting, but Pupillo and company nevertheless made a decent horror film. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Terror-Creatures from the Grave”

October Horrorshow: The Devil’s Hand

Rick Turner (Robert Alda), is, by all appearances, in a happy relationship with Donna Trent (Ariadne Welter). The two of them are clean-cut, 1950s wholesome, and engaged to be married. But, a mysterious, beautiful woman has been appearing to Rick in his dreams. One day, as he and Donna are walking about, Rick sees a doll in the display window of a dollmaker’s shop that has an uncanny resemblance to the woman in his dreams. He goes inside, and sets in motion a tale of evil and death.

Such is the setup to The Devil’s Hand, a kitschy 1961 horror flick from writer Jo Heims and director William J. Hole, Jr. By kitschy, I mean that this film has the look and feel of Ed Wood. I don’t mean a film directed by Ed Wood. I mean the Tim Burton biopic. I have no idea what exact sources Burton found for inspiration. Perhaps this flick was on the list. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Devil’s Hand”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Policewomen, or, Misogyny: The Movie

Sondra Currie stars as Lacy Bond, and the last name is no coincidence. As much as Policewomen, the 1974 flick from writers Lee Frost and Wes Bishop, and also directed by Frost, is an exploitation buddy cop crime women in prison gangster martial arts LA story, it’s also a James Bond ripoff. And, unlike all the Bond films, the camera keeps rolling during the naughty bits in this shitty gem.

Policewomen opens with a jailbreak. Despite the ass-kicking efforts of Lacy Bond, two inmates, Pam and Janette (Jeannie Bell and Laurie Rose) stage a spectacular escape. They get naked while they’re doing it, too, staking this flick’s gratuitous nudity claims early (this film actually has much less skin than I expected). For her above and beyond efforts, Lacy is recruited to do some plainclothes work. The squad she joins is investigating a gang led by Maude (Elizabeth Stuart, in her only appearance), an aged, foul-mouthed, dried up, wrinkly old prune of a godfather. Before we get to Maude and her gang, though, I need to write about Lacy Bond’s new colleagues. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Policewomen, or, Misogyny: The Movie”

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”

It Came from the ’50s: The Screaming Skull

What a boring, plodding, nonfrightening, trope-filled mess we have with The Screaming Skull, from 1958. There was a promising film in here, somewhere. After all, an uncountable mass of pulp fiction and comic books (especially EC Comics in their heyday) used the exact same plot, with the exact same ending. If they couldn’t be competent, then the least director Alex Nicol and company could have done was be enjoyably shitty, but they couldn’t even manage that.

At the beginning of this film, viewers are treated to an announcement from the film’s producers promising a free coffin should anyone die of fright while watching the movie. It’s not the worst marketing ploy of the time, and the producers could sleep easy about ever paying it out. This is amongst the least-frightening horror movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: The Screaming Skull”