October Horrorshow: Guru, the Mad Monk

There are giants in the history of shitty cinema. Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Lloyd Kaufman, Ray Dennis Steckler, amongst many others. Then there are filmmakers like Andy Milligan. Milligan was a worker, with dozens of films in his oeuvre. But he sure did make some trash. Most shitty filmmakers would make something like Guru, the Mad Monk, and then have to call it quits. Having a film this bad in one’s CV is kryptonite to investors, but Milligan managed to make shitty films for another two decades after Guru’s release. That’s dedication. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Guru, the Mad Monk”

October Horrorshow: Ghosts of War

What a disappointing mess. There are a bunch of solid ideas in Ghosts of War, the new horror flick from writer/director Eric Bress. It’s the execution that is lacking.

The film takes place during World War Two, after the Allies have invaded France. A squad of paratroopers, led by Chris (Brenton Thwaites), is assigned to guard a French chateau that had been used by the Nazis. On the short journey to the chateau, we meet the other members of the squad. They are boilerplate WW2 movie characters. There’s the tough guy, Butchie (Alan Ritchson); the smart guy, Eugene (Skylar Astin), the tough from the city, Kirk (Theo Rossi), and the soft-spoken but lethal southerner, Tappert (Kyle Gallner). Accents and attitudes are used to establish their war flick bona fides, and then viewers see them committing a few war crimes before they arrive at the chateau. War is hell, right? Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Ghosts of War”

October Horrorshow: Invasion from Inner Earth, aka Hell Fire, aka They

Invasion from Inner Earth movie posterOnce upon a time, in the far distant past, AD 1974, filmmaker Bill Rebane asked a simple question. “What if I made an alien invasion movie without the aliens?” I’m joking, but at some point during production, Rebane (who has graced the Horrorshow in the past) had to have noticed that all the action in his film was taking place hundreds of miles away from the plot. What we’re left with are five 20-somethings in an isolated cabin in northern Manitoba, whiling away the time by playing with a ham radio and eating beans. It turns out that it’s important for a filmmaker to place their characters near the action in a film, so that something, anything, happens to ease the pain of the audience. Who knew?

Working from a screenplay by Barbara J. Rebane, Invasion from Inner Earth (also released as Hell Fire and They — titles that make as little sense as Invasion from Inner Earth) starts off slowly, and that’s how the whole thing goes. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Invasion from Inner Earth, aka Hell Fire, aka They”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Cocktail

Here’s another entry from the aborted Tom Cruise month, written back when I still lived in NYC:

What a putrid mess. Cocktail, the 1988 film from director Roger Donaldson, is about a bartender in New York City with big dreams. That’s just about every bartender in this town, at least before reality sinks its teeth in and, all of a sudden, a bartender’s 30s are looming large. I have a feeling that a large number of those involved in this flick have spent time slinging drinks. How in the world they screwed up a movie about a bartender is beyond me. But, Cocktail is only about a bartender in that the main character tends bar. It’s also a romance, and, near the end, takes a very dark dramatic turn that didn’t fit the film at all. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Cocktail”

Shitty Movie Sundays: The Thirsty Dead

The Thirsty Dead movie posterWhat The Thirsty Dead is not: a film about zombies, or vampires, or other undead creatures preying on the innocent and spilling buckets of fake blood. There is no gore, and no more than a few dollops of blood. Despite this being from 1974, the wheelhouse for drive-in movie exploitation, there is no nudity, gratuitous or otherwise, despite four main cast members being young(-ish), buxom(-ish) ladies.

What The Thirsty Dead is: a film with a misleading title. That happens often with shitty movies. It’s a crime compounded by the fact that not only is this movie not about thirsty dead things, it’s not even a horror flick. There are horror elements to the plot, but there just isn’t enough for this film to cross over into that hallowed genre. This is just exploitation schlock, done poorly. Exploitation films are supposed to be downright sleazy — a guilty pleasure that will get one strange looks from the ideological purity police. This film flirts with sleaze, but never commits. Seriously, what kind of exploitation film needs zero edits to be suitable for commercial television? Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: The Thirsty Dead”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Shanghai Fortress

How do I know China is a superpower? Besides the massive economy, the massive military, the massive population, and China’s massive effect on world politics? It’s because the Chinese are now making alien invasion movies where they save the day. That is when a nation truly arrives at the forefront — when they can make jingoistic popcorn cinema of the world-saving variety. And, like most American forays into such material, it stinks.

Shanghai Fortress is an adaptation of the sci-fi novel by Jiang Nan, wherein, in the near future, a new energy source called Xianteng has been brought back to Earth by astronauts. It’s a self-replicating energy source, and clean. A new day has dawned for humanity. Except, some aliens get wind of us having Xianteng, and a gigantic spaceship arrives, Independence Day-style, to rain hell on the earth. After five years of conflict, only one major city remains: Shanghai. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Shanghai Fortress”

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 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”

It Came from the ’50s: Night of the Blood Beast

Night of the Blood Beast is barely a movie. That shouldn’t be any surprise to viewers familiar with its pedigree. It comes to us via American International Pictures, and was produced by not one, but two, members of the Corman clan. Despite there being twice as much Corman as audiences would usually get, this flick looks as if it had half the budget.

From 1958, Blood Beast plays out like an updated version of It Conquered the World, only with all the fat trimmed. That’s quite a feat carried out by screenwriter Martin Varno and director Bernard Kowalski, because that flick didn’t have any fat to trim. It was a test of an audience’s patience, and so is Blood Beast. It amazes me that a film like this could have such a short running time, at 62 minutes, and the filmmakers had trouble filling that up. It’s as if Roger Corman would hire writers to pen a half-hour long episode of The Twilight Zone, and then tell his directors to stretch it out as much as they could. I wouldn’t be surprised if Corman paid his writers by the page, and thin screenplays were his way of pinching ever more pennies. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: Night of the Blood Beast”

October Horrorshow: Derelict

The abandoned South Fremantle Power Station outside of Perth, Western Australia, makes the old urbexer in me salivate. It’s a beautiful location on the outside, although inside it’s hollowed out and covered in sloppy graffiti. It was locations like this that made me get into urbex in the first place. The industrial giants of the past are true brick and stone monuments to the 20th century, and have since been subject to the ruthless cost-cutting of capitalism. It’s a set of architectural styles that will likely never appear again, as buildings and materials keep getting cheaper. Indeed, South Fremantle Power Station was closed in the 1980s, yet there it is, still standing, decades after all maintenance ceased. They built the place thirty years tougher than it needed to be, and counting. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Derelict”