TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: INTRUDER (1989)

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INTRUDER (1989)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

 Intruder is a fun and delightfully gory late 80s slasher that perfectly exemplifies the direction the sub-genre took from the more somber and intense early 80s entries. These flicks now had a sense of humor about themselves and were far more ‘self-aware’ than the ones that were inspired by Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. These films were more colorful, focused far more on bloody body count and were made knowing there was a slasher/horror savvy audience watching and openly acknowledged the films that came before them.

This film takes place at the Walnut Lake Market where the night crew is closing up and getting the store ready for when it reopens the following morning. But, the mood is somber as the employees have been informed that the store is being sold and they soon will be out of jobs… that and pretty cashier Jennifer’s (Elizabeth Cox) thug ex-boyfriend Craig (David Byrnes) is out of jail and is harassing her at the store. But, soon the night shift becomes a nightmare as someone is stalking the employees one by one and slaughtering them in the most gruesome ways. Is it the spurned ex-con Craig?… or is there someone else out there with a grudge against the market and demented enough to kill them all. Will any of them escape The Walnut Lake Market alive?

Written and directed by Scott Spiegel from a story by he and producer Lawrence Bender, this flick is a whole lot of slasher flick fun. The proceedings are taken seriously but, the film is written and directed with a wink to the audience that the filmmakers know they are watching and know what to expect and they are going to get it, covered in buckets of blood. The film is not very suspenseful but, does have some nice atmosphere, thanks in part to Fernando Argüelles’ cinematography and a cool score by the great Basil Poledouris. It’s made with the understanding that you know whose getting it and when and now it’s the anticipation as to see which gruesome manner it should be… the ban saw, the butcher knife, the trash compactor… or all of the above? And we get those gruesome kills with some delightfully nostalgic prosthetics and gallons of blood. The film knows the premise that no one notices they are being offed one by one or hears any of the screams is ridiculous but, goes with it, yet, never makes a joke out of it. Spiegel takes a likable bunch of young working stiffs and decimates them effectively in the setting of the empty grocery store and has a good time doing and so do we. The slasher formula is followed well and the film never insults us by assuming we haven’t seen it all before. In fact, the nods and winks to the genre make this ooze with nostalgia all these years later as, it is both slasher and slasher homage all in one.

Getting back to the likable bunch of employees/victims… Elizabeth Cox makes a solid lead. She’s pretty, perky and when she finally realizes what’s going on, she is a resilient heroine as is part of the slasher tradition. Sam and Ted Raimi have small parts as butcher and produce workers respectively and the tools of their trade make the killer’s job a lot easier. Craig Stark is fine as Tim, a potential love interest for Jennifer and pretty much the male lead. David Byrnes is appropriately slimy as Craig who is obviously, as dictated by the formula, being set up as our #1 suspect. The rest of the supporting cast are also lively in their cliche’ roles which includes fun cameos by Spiegel, Bender and horror icon Bruce Campbell.

I had a real blast with this film. I love the 80s era horror and this flick not only is one, but, it’s self-aware tone sets it up as a homage as well, which makes it a fun nostalgic viewing all these years later! In fact, I will go as far too say that it probably works far better now as homage than it did back then, at a point when the slasher genre was burning itself out. It’s got plenty of inventive and very gory kills and while it concentrates more on killing off it’s cast than trying to generate any real tension, it gets away with it by being obvious about it’s intentions and having fun with the fact that it respects that this is not the first horror flick we have all seen. A fun, deviously gory slasher flick that all these years later now works as a nostalgia filled homage, as well as, a fun horror flick. A very underrated and entertaining 80s slasher.

3 and 1/2 butcher knives.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

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JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

“Keep breeding in the same family and something’s bound to snap.”

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

 After revisiting Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm I decided to check out his 1981 slasher Just Before Dawn. I honestly don’t remember if I have ever seen it before and as I watched it, nothing rang a bell, so, this may be the first time watching this flick for me. The film follows the late 70s’ early 80s slasher formula and adds a hint of Chainsaw Massacre, as it tells the story of 5 youths who travel up to some recently inherited property deep in the remote Oregon mountains. Despite the ominous warnings of old park ranger, Mr. McLean (George Kennedy) and the appearance of a drunk and quite frightened hunter (Mike Kellin), they enter the woods to enjoy the great outdoors. Obviously there are some local inhabitants who are not exactly thrilled at the intrusion and have a violent way of showing it… of course had the warnings these kids received been less vague…

Co-written… with Mark Arywitz and Jonas Middleton… and directed by Lieberman, this backwoods slasher is moderately paced much like his Squirm and generally most of the horrors of this era. The body count is fairly small and despite a gruesome opening scene kill, a lot of the carnage occurs offscreen. But the film does have a nice atmosphere and there is something just a little off about the film to make it interesting despite being fairly routine on the surface. I wouldn’t say it’s a strange movie outright, but there is something a bit odd about it that I can’t quite put my finger on and this slightly unsettling aspect did give it some extra points. The film is well shot by Dean and Joel King and the music by Brad Fiedel is creepy and adds some atmosphere to it as well. Throw in some 80s nostalgia and this was a decent enough 80s horror flick to pass the time.

The cast are a bit livelier than Lieberman’s Squirm. George Kennedy is solid as always. Gregg (Slither) Henry is our lead male and he is fine as the cocky Warren who actually surprises us a bit by loosing some of that swagger when things start to go wrong. Cutie Deborah Benson is Warren’s girlfriend Connie who also surprises us when this fish out of water rises to the occasion against the serrated machete wielding mountain folk. Rounding out our young vacationers are Jaime Rose as the promiscuous Megan, Chris Lemmon as Jonathan and Ralph (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) Seymour as Jonathan’s photographer brother, Daniel. They are all suitable in their roles as potential mountain folk fodder and are an attractive cast, as is the custom with these flicks. The rest of the supporting cast are appropriately creepy playing various mountain locals including pretty Katie Powell as Merry and big John Hunsaker as the deranged blade carrying killer. Hunsacker also gives his loony a bit of an off-putting sense of humor to add to his imposing size and inbred looks.

I liked this flick. On the outside it is a routine backwoods slasher, but there was enough atmosphere and odd touches throughout to keep me entertained despite the low body count and lengthy stretches between kills. There wasn’t much suspense, but the film had enough of the traditional elements to keep my attention and a few off-kilter moments, too. Not a bad flick to throw in with the more renown classics especially when watching some 80s slashers during the Halloween season!

3 serrated machetes.

before the dawn rating

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BOOK REVIEW: ON SET WITH JOHN CARPENTER by Kim Gottlieb-Walker

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This is one book review, I definitely need no excuse to post. Not only is it a great chronicle of the making of some of the early classics of the legendary John Carpenter but, an amazing album of behind the scenes shots from some of my favorite films from my favorite filmmaker…

ON SET WITH JOHN CARPENTER by Kim Gottlieb-Walker

John Carpenter is perhaps my all time favorite filmmaker and, as my favorite of his works are those from the 70s and 80s, this book was an amazing trip down memory lane and an incredible glimpse behind the scenes at some of Carpenter’s early classics as told through the talented camera lens of Kim Gottlieb-Walker with some comments and anecdotes from Kim, John Carpenter and some of those involved. The photography is not only breathtaking but, captures a side of the productions of Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, the Carpenter produced Halloween II and Christine that we’ve never seen before. Gottlieb-Walker was hired by Carpenter and Debra Hill as his unit photographer and as such, she captured some wonderful behind the scenes shots of cast and crew from these classic films. Add the commentary and some delightful stories from the photographer, Carpenter himself and others such as Adrienne Barbeau, DOP Dean Cundey and many, many more, and this book becomes a trip back in time to a long-gone era and a side of these productions that we have only barely glimpsed previously. It chronicles the rise of a legendary director and some other now very established filmmakers, as well as, shares tales of some sadly gone talents such as Lee Van Cleef, Issac Hayes, Donald Pleasence and pioneer producer Debra Hill. As a Carpenter fan, or simply a fan of filmmaking, this is a must-have book with some simply amazing photos that will take us back to the days when a group of young filmmakers and actors were making their dreams… and some of our favorite films… a reality. A simply beautiful book and instantly one of the most cherished in my collection… and it doesn’t hurt either that the largest section of the book is dedicated to Escape From New York, my favorite Carpenter flick and one of my all-time favorite films. I. Love. This. Book!

4 stars!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SQUIRM (1976)

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SQUIRM (1976)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Squirm is another of exploitation studio American International Pictures “nature gone amok” films that were popular in the mid 70s along with Frogs and The Food Of The Goods. It’s story begins when a freak storm hits the rural, coastal town of Fly Creek, Georgia and it knocks down electrical power lines sending thousands of volts into the ground, driving the local worm population into a maddened frenzy. And since the local worm population consists mostly of  “pinworms and blood worms”…which explains the gruesome fangs our featured worms have to pick their prey clean, right down to the skeletons. This is not good for the local human population, most of whom make their living selling said worms for bait. Looks like the tide has turned! And if that’s not bad enough, pretty Georgia peach, Geri (Patricia Pearcy) and new boyfriend Mick (Don Scardino) not only have an avalanche of murderous worms to contend with, but the jealous attentions of simpleton, handyman Roger (R.A. Dow) who is also driven crazy by a face full of angry blood worms. This is going to be a very bad day for Geri, Mick and the citizens of Fly Creek.

Written and Directed by Jeff Lieberman, who also made the trippy Blue Sunshine, Squirm is a pedestrian paced horror that takes a really long time to get going, but does provide quite a few creepy moments simply due to the nature of it’s slimy villains. The body count in this low budget thriller is fairly low with most of the deaths happening off-screen, though there are a few gruesome moments courtesy of make-up FX master Rick Baker. Lieberman does gives us a number of skin-crawling moments though, with tidal waves of worms and having the slimy critters come pouring out of shower heads at the least opportune moments. If those scenes won’t get you creeped out, the numerous close-ups of fanged shrieking bloodworms certainly will. Throw in some nice 70s nostalgia and the film does provide some entertainment though, it’s low budget, slow pace and anti-climactic ending keep it from really being the B-Movie treat it’s premise promises.

The acting is fairly wooden across the board with everyone, including pretty lead Pearcy speaking in a slow, monotone, Southern drawl. Actor Peter MacLean overacts a bit as the local jerk of a sheriff, but it’s not enough to score points in the camp department, though some moments from R.A. Dow’s ‘Roger’ do…especially when he’s acting with a face full of worms. And as for the worms, they clearly are the most effective performers and elicit quite a few “Ewwwww’s” when they appear, especially in large flowing numbers.

Overall, Squirm is a moderately creepy and amusing “nature run amok” flick with a few gruesome moments and plenty of slimy worms to get us through it’s slowly paced 90 minutes. It is a cult classic and it’s waves of carnivorous worms do stick with you, but it’s not quite the gross-out treat it could have been with a bit larger budget and a director who could instill a little more life into the proceedings. Certainly worth a nostalgic look and definitely works within an evening of like features, but a little disappointing if you were expecting more. You might find the MST3K version far more entertaining!

2 and 1/2 fanged blood worms… ewwwww!.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES OCT. 24-26

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Complete estimates are in and teen-centric horror scares up the top spot!

1. “Ouija” $20 Million

2. “John Wick” $14.2 Million

3. “Fury” $13 Million

4. “Gone Girl” $11.1 Million

5. “The Book Of Life” $9.8 Million

6. “St. Vincent” $8 Million

7. “Alexander…” $7 Million

8. “The Best Of Me” $4.7 Million

9. “The Judge” $4.34

10. “Dracula Untold” $4.3 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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SATURDAY MATINEE: THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977)

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THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The Rankin/Bass people, along with Japan’s Tsuburaya Productions, co-produced this cheesy, fun, 70s flick about billionaire big game hunter Maston Thrust (Richard Boone), who’s oil drilling team discovers a lost world filled with dinosaurs, including a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex, in a volcano basin at the North Pole. What then ensues is 106 minutes of campy fun as Thrust and his team enter the prehistoric oasis by way of a ‘polar borer’ and encounter dinosaurs played by men in rubber suits on miniature sets and cave people played by Japanese extras as the egomaniacal hunter tries more and more ludicrous ways to bring down the prehistoric predator at any cost. This is one trophy that is not going up on the mantle easily… if at all.

Richard Boone acts as if he played the entire part drunk or hung-over as Maston Thrust… which sounds more like a porn name then a character in a kid’s movie… and extra kudos go to co-star Joan Van Ark’s reporter for wearing mom jeans and a knit hat on a hunting expedition to a lost world. If that’s not enough, the “Last Dinosaur” lounge style theme song (sung by Jazz singer, Nancy Wilson) should have you in tears… of laughter.

Fun, fun fun as this entertainly cheesy flick is co-directed with dead seriousness by Alexander Grasshoff and Shusei Kotani and acted with the same seriousness… sort of… by it’s cast. A rubber monster blast.

Available from Warner Brothers Archive Collection in a bare bones but, nice looking uncut print as the American version was truncated from 106 minutes to 92 minutes for TV airing.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Watch closely in this clip and you can see a member of the film crew in a blue shirt ducking out of the way after pushing a boulder that is supposedly being pulled by the T-Rex.

3 rubber critters.

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Here’s another fun scene…

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RANDOM NONSENSE: AMY FARRAH FOWLER MEETS PUMPKINHEAD???

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MonsterZero NJ had a busy day but, didn’t want to leave you all with nuthin’. So, as I sit down to watch one of my favorite Halloween season flicks, Pumpkinhead, I thought I ‘d share some fun movie trivia… Did you know that one of the little Wallace hillbilly girls in the scene at Ed Harley’s general store is actually none other than Big Bang Theory’s (one of my favorite shows) Amy Farrah Fowler herself, Mayim Bialik??? It’s True!

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source: MonsterZero NJ

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INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 GETS A TRAILER!

 

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OK, maybe not as exciting as yesterday’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron surprise trailer release but, for horror film fans and fans of the Insidious franchise, there is a spooky new trailer for the 3rd chapter. This installment is written and directed by Leigh Whannell and is a prequel chronicling one of the early cases of Lin Shaye’s psychic paranormal investigator. Insidious: Chapter 3 is slated for release 5/29/2015!

source: Youtube

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON TEASER TRAILER GETS AN OFFICIAL RELEASE!!!

 

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After a low res leak blasted across the internet, the Avengers: Age Of Ultron teaser trailer gets an early official release from Marvel! UPDATE: Now there is a teaser poster too!

 

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source: Marvel/Youtube

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