Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Lisa and the Devil

Lisa and the Devil movie posterLisa and the Devil, the 1973 film from Italian auteur Mario Bava, has become one of his more renowned films in the last couple of decades. I first saw it around twenty years ago with a roommate who was watching it for her film class at NYU. Upon release, though, it was a butchered product, with a framing story shot and added after Bava delivered his cut. Of this film, which had been released under the title of La Casa dell’esorcismo (House of Exorcism), Bava said, “La casa dell’esorcismo is not my film, even though it bears my signature. It is the same situation, too long to explain, of a cuckolded father who finds himself with a child that is not his own, and with his name, and cannot do anything about it.”

That’s some pretty strong language. But, he wasn’t referring to the film that was eventually released as Lisa and the Devil. He was referring to a cobbled-together mess insisted upon by the film’s producer, Alfredo Leone, who wanted a whole bunch of exorcism-related material added to an already completed film in order to cash in on William Friedkin’s Exorcist. This year’s Horrorshow is not concerned with that movie.

Lisa and the Devil follows Elke Sommer as Lisa, a tourist who gets lost in the wandering, narrow streets of old Toledo, Spain. She hitches a ride from a rich, married couple, Francis and Sohpia Lehar (Eduardo Fajardo and Sylva Koscina), and their chauffeur, George (Gabriele Tinti). The Lehar’s old limo breaks down in front of a villa, and they are invited in by the Countess (Alida Valli) and her son, Max (Alessio Orano). In a bit of stunt casting, the Countess’s butler, Leandro, is played by Telly Savalas. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Lisa and the Devil”

October Horrorshow: Mindkiller

Before Michael Krueger horrified viewers by writing the execrable Amityville Curse, he wrote (with Dave Sipos and Curtis Hannum) and directed a shitty shot-on-video horror flick called Mindkiller. In the vein of a David Cronenberg film, Mindkiller follows a protagonist whose forays into psychoscience lead to a strange lovelife, followed by horrific consequences.

Warren (Joe McDonald) has a problem. He can’t get laid. He’s a thirty something with a dead end job in the basement of a library, doomed to spending his days filing meaningless reports, and his nights watching in envy as his roommate, Brad (Kevin Hart, not that one), hooks up with every hottie in sight. It’s all a personality problem. Warren is deathly shy and when he does work up the courage to talk to a woman, nothing but gibberish comes out. It’s a tale as old as flirting. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Mindkiller”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Beyond the Darkness, aka Buio Omega

Holy jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! Whatever one’s expectations going into Beyond the Darkness, one of Joe D’Amato’s flicks from 1979, they will be exceeded. I went into this film knowing only so much as what was provided in a small blurb, and was left either speechless or exclaiming in shock, depending on what depravity D’Amato and company were putting on screen. This is that kind of movie, folks. Allow me to spoil some of it for you.

Working from a screenplay by Ottavio Fabbri, D’Amato constructed a film that is light on character development, light on exposition, light on plot, even. The purpose of the film is to shock — visually, sensually, what have you. It does that, but not in a way that is purely exploitative. There is some not-so-shallow stuff going on. That’s impressive for D’Amato, who could usually be depended upon to provide as much depth as linoleum tile. Maybe this was by accident, or maybe I’m reading too much into a film that’s just meant to be experienced, rather than scrutinized. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Beyond the Darkness, aka Buio Omega”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Madhouse, aka There Was a Little Girl

New Orleans has been a popular filming location for horror flicks. Parts of that town have the patina of age and dire history that make it perfect for the genre. Don’t sleep on Savannah, Georgia, though. Its historic district is packed full of edifices built by the southern gentry of ages past, and all the baggage that implies. Just like every other American city in the 1970s and ’80s, decay and deterioration only added to the area’s horror bona fides.

Take Kehoe House, a Queen Anne mansion commissioned in the 1890s by immigrant industrialist William Kehoe. Not quite one of the Gilded Age piles that lined 5th Avenue in New York, it’s still an imposing structure that fronts an entire short block of Columbia Square. It’s a well-rated historic inn these days, but back in the early ’80s, it was rundown — close to being a wreck, and the ideal location for Madhouse, from writer, director, and producer Ovidio G. Assonitis. Writing credits were shared with Stephen Blakely, Roberto Gandus, and Peter Shepherd. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Madhouse, aka There Was a Little Girl”

It Came from the Camcorder: Ozone

By 1993, when Ozone was released, J.R. Bookwalter had already established himself as Akron, Ohio’s finest filmmaker. That’s not a knock on Jim Jarmusch, just an acknowledgment that Bookwalter actually shot his movies in Akron.

The filmmaker behind such trash horror classics as The Dead Next Door and Robot Ninja, Bookwalter began his movie career shooting on film, before making the switch to video for Kingdom of the Vampire in 1991. After a string of shorter movies, Ozone returned Bookwalter to full feature length production. Continue readingIt Came from the Camcorder: Ozone”

October Horrorshow: Truth or Dare?, aka Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness

If one goes poking around the internet looking for an SOV horror flick to watch, one will likely find Truth or Dare?, Tim Ritter’s 1986 feature, on many lists. But, this flick was not shot on video. It was shot on 16mm film, and then transferred to video for release. As such, I’m not including it amongst the SOV horror reviews. However, it is a treat to see Ritter, who was only 18-years-old at the time of filming, work on his storytelling chops.

Ritter wrote and directed Truth or Dare?, but on the initial VHS release back in the 1980s, directing credit went to the film’s producer, Yale Wilson. As best I can gather, this was Ritter’s pseudonym. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Truth or Dare?, aka Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness”

October Horrorshow: Night’s End

It’s tough watching a movie lose it in the final act. Whereas a film that shows little promise at the start, but then builds and builds to something special at the end, is always a pleasant surprise, a film that stumbles to the finish after a strong start can’t help but be a disappointment. Much hard work, good acting, and fine storytelling is, if not wasted by a poor ending, at least squandered somewhat. I can’t say that Jennifer Reeder and company should have just packed it all in if this was the best ending they could come up with, but I would like to see what they could have done given another chance, and maybe a couple extra bucks in the effects budget. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Night’s End”

It Came from the Camcorder: Hallucinations and Lethal Nightmare

Before there was Splatter Farm, there was Hallucinations, a movie the Polonia brothers and Todd Michael Smith shot on video in 1986. It wasn’t released until 2007, as an extra on another Polonia flick. It is very much the product of a trio of teenagers exploring their love of horror and trash cinema, and working out their nascent artistic chops. Offering a detailed critique of this movie makes little sense. It doesn’t exist in the same realm as art films or Hollywood. It’s a movie made by young adults who were too young to vote, yet it also displays a surprising grasp of editing and pace. That’s quite the feat considering the movie has an incomprehensible plot. Like Splatter Farm, it also has scenes many mainstream horror flicks would avoid. Continue readingIt Came from the Camcorder: Hallucinations and Lethal Nightmare”

It Came from the Camcorder: Killing Spree

Welcome to the 14th Annual October Horrorshow here at Missile Test, when the site is dedicated to reviewing horror films for an entire month. This year features a mix of random horror films and themed reviews. The theme this year is It Came from the Camcorder, wherein we dive into the strange world of low-budget horror flicks shot on videotape. These movies were never released theatrically, and represent some of the worst moviemaking one is likely to see. But, these movies represent a true cinematic ideal of perseverance. These auteurs and the other people that worked on these movies let nothing, not Hollywood, not money, not expectations, stand in the way of making their movies. Every finished movie represents an heroic effort, and I’m glad to play a small part in helping to spread awareness that these movies exist, and have not simply gone quietly into that good night. The first camcorder flick is a real doozy. Enjoy.



Going into this year’s Horrorshow, Missile Test was aware of how much of a slog a month’s worth of shot-on-video horror would represent. Lucky us, then, that the first SOV horror flick of the month would be so outrageous, hilarious, and watchable, despite it being a mangy mutt of a movie.

From 1987 comes Killing Spree, the fourth feature from writer/director Tim Ritter. Coming right in the middle of the era of SOV horror, Killing Spree is a fantastic benchmark through which a viewer can judge whether or not they appreciate this wild subgenre of film. It has just about everything one could expect or want from the shittiest of horror films. It has the muddled look of being shot on magnetic tape, the muddled sound of a stock microphone attachment, a script that never would have been approved for a Hollywood shoot, a cast full of amateurs, a synthesized soundtrack that could have been made on a toy Casio keyboard, special effects that are outrageous but the opposite of convincing, and no regard for the way movies are supposed to be made. This is outsider art. It may not be good art, but it’s a gigantic middle finger to big time cinema, and we here at Missile Test love nonconformity. Continue readingIt Came from the Camcorder: Killing Spree”

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Hellraiser: Revelations

Hellraiser: Revelations movie posterOne day back in 2010, someone at Dimension Films, the onetime craphouse subsidiary of Miramax, noticed that the rights they owned to the Hellraiser franchise would expire unless they made and released a new film very soon. In a feat of filmmaking swiftness to rival that of Stewart Raffill, once production began, the film was in the can in three weeks. This speed also meant the screenplay, from Gary J. Tunnicliffe, was reportedly in its first, and final, draft when shooting commenced. This was enough for series icon Doug Bradley to turn down reprising the role of Pinhead. Considering how awful the previous few films in the series were, Bradley must have thought this screenplay was a real dog. And he was right.

The budget was miniscule, meaning not much could go into things like sets or locations, with the majority of the film taking place in the main character’s house. The performances felt unrehearsed and rushed, as if director Victor Garcia was prodding everyone to movie it along. But, the blood and gore effects were pretty decent for such a low-rent production. That’s all the praise I have to offer. Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: Hellraiser: Revelations”