COOL STUFF: SPOOKIES on BLU-RAY!

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SPOOKIES on BLU-RAY!

Spookies (full review HERE) is an 80s haunted house horror that has been one of the most sought after titles for a decent release, after only being available back in it’s day in bad quality VHS tapes and for years as a bootleg or on Youtube. Now, thanks to the great folks at Vinegar Syndrome, this guilty pleasure is finally available in a special edition 2 disc Blu-ray set. Spookies is not without controversy, as the extras portray. Originally shot as Twisted Souls, the film was taken over by it’s producer who brought in a new director for extensive re-shoots. Was a great movie destroyed by an overzealous producer?…or an un-releasable mess saved by a new director? Without seeing the original cut of Twisted Souls we may never know.

As for the disc itself….

The transfer of this 80s horror rarity is absolutely beautiful. It’s finally shown in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, possibly for the first time since it’s brief theatrical release in the 80s. It is over three decades old, so there is some grain in the picture, but the colors are bright and vibrant. The sound is in crisp Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0 and considering it was a low budget 35mm production filmed in the 80s and previously only available on VHS, it probably sounds better than it ever has. This Blu-ray release was initially available with a choice of 2 different slipcovers and a reversible case cover, so, either way, you’ll have both versions of the artwork. The presentation alone is worth having this for.

 

Now on to the generous extras….

The first disc extras include some fun stuff and are also where we see there is still, decades later, animosity between the original cast and crew and producer Michael Lee, along with his replacement writer/director, Genie Joseph. We first see it in comments during the two intros from a 2015 Alamo Drafthouse screening by original co-director, the late Thomas Doran and co-writer Frank Farel. Following that is a Q & A from a 2015 Hudson Horror Show screening with actors Anthony Valbiro, the late Peter Iasillo Jr and production assistant Tom Sciacca. This segment certainly illustrates not only the fond memories of making the project, but the bitterness of the post production events. Rounding out these extras is a fun location featurette at The Jay Estate with Iasillo, an outtakes and bloopers reel, a production still gallery and the theatrical trailer.

The second disc is where the real meat of the Spookies controversy lies. There is a lengthy documentary, Twisted Tale: The Unmaking of Spookies, with the original cast and crew, where we are painted a story of some passionate film nerds wanting to make a horror movie, the journey of its production and of a first time producer/financier interfering and eventually, in their opinion, destroying what they set out to do. As producer/financier Michael Lee and writer/director Genie Joseph could not be found, or refused to take part, we only get one side of the story. Unfortunately, it’s a story filled with bitterness and anger, still brewing three decades later, as Twisted Souls was taken away from it’s makers in post production, after rough cuts failed to satisfy Lee, and the film was turned over to Joseph to “fix” and thus became Spookies. There are also deleted scenes included for the documentary, too. Unmaking is followed by Vipco: The Untold Story, Jason Impey’s documentary about British film pirate turned video nasty distributor, Michael Lee, who was Spookies infamous producer. The documentary features extensive interview footage with the elusive Lee, who is surprisingly candid and unapologetic about his nefarious operations as a movie bootlegger. Was he really the bad guy, or just wanting to make money back on something he thought was unreleasable? Watch both documentaries and draw your own conclusions.

Whether you love Spookies as the curiosity it is, or yearn to see Twisted Souls in it’s intended form, is up to you. Either way, Spookies is finally getting the respect and release it deserves…a release that all flicks like this should get.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ONE DARK NIGHT (1983)

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ONE DARK NIGHT (1983)

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One Dark Night is a rare PG rated 80s horror featuring 80s movie icon E. G. Daily (billed as Elizabeth Dailey) and legendary “Batman” Adam West. The story finds pretty high school student Julie (Meg Tilly) wanting to join an elite club and having to spend the night in a mausoleum to do it. “The Sisters” (Daily, Leslie Speights and Robin Evans) plan to scare her, but that is the least of her troubles. The corpse of Raymar, who studied the occult, has recently been laid to rest there, but the man suspected of “psychic vampirism” may not be quite at rest at all.

Flick is directed by Tom (Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives) McLoughlin from a script by he and Michael Hawes. With it’s kid friendly rating this is obviously a fairly tame flick, though PG films did get away with a lot more back in the day. No better example of this than a face melting that comes later in the film. It can be atmospheric and has some spooky moments and the material is played straight, even by West. Legendary FX man Tom Burman made the legion of corpses levitated by our undead villain and filming is said to have taken place in an actual mausoleum which terrified a then 19 year-old Meg Tilly*. On the downside, it is a bit slow moving and takes till it’s last twenty minutes or so for burial chambers to start popping open and Raymar and his army of corpses to make their appearance. The 80s nostalgia helps and watching Adam West pretentiously roll his eyes to the term “psychic vampirism” is worth watching for alone.

Not a great movie, but it is fun at times, especially in a nostalgic sense. It’s very tame, considering most flicks were gore heavy at the time, and there is none of the sex that was also a staple of 80s horror. Meg Tilly makes a fine enough heroine, before The Big Chill and Psycho II got her more mainstream attention later that year, and Raymar is effective even if entirely made of rubber and plastic. It is refreshing that someone made something other than a slasher at this point in the 80s and being suffocated under a pile of corpses is a creepy way to go.

*according to Wikipedia

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Raymars (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MAUSOLEUM (1983)

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MAUSOLEUM (1983)

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Early 80s horror finds young Susan (Julie Christy Murray) running from her mother’s funeral and finding her way to a creepy mausoleum. There she becomes possessed by a demon which remains dormant until she becomes an adult. Years later, with Susan (Bobbie Bresee) now grown up and married, the demon emerges when men get aggressive with her and, as a result, are gruesomely murdered, as is anyone who stands in her way. Can her husband Oliver (a somewhat restrained Marjoe Gortner) and her psychiatrist Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton) free her of the demonic curse which has plagued her family for generations?

Gory flick is directed sadly with a very by-the-numbers style by Michael Dugan from a story and script by Katherine Rosenwink, Robert Barich and Robert Madero. Despite all the supernatural hi-jinx, the flick is very slow paced and doesn’t nearly use it’s B-movie premise to the fullest. It is saved somewhat by some cool monster make-up by John Carl Buechler, some very graphic and abundant gore and some generous nudity from the shapely Ms. Bresee, who was a former Playboy Bunny. There are some wonderfully cheesy visual effects to go with the terrible dialogue and entertainingly bad acting and some always welcome added 80s nostalgia. It’s amusing for all the wrong reasons and there is nothing wrong with that. Hard to hate a movie featuring a female demon equipped with two creature heads as boobs.

Not a great movie by any lengths, but it is a fun one. The acting and dialogue is terrible and the directing is disappointingly pedestrian. The flick needed a director, like Jim Wynorski, who could milk the premise more, but it does have a cool monster, a lot of graphic gore and plentiful nudity from it’s beautiful leading lady. Not a classic, but a cult favorite that mixed with your favorite brews can be part of any cheesy 80s horror night.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 Marjoe Gortners (out of 4) in one of his less restrained moments.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE UNNAMABLE (1988)

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THE UNNAMABLE (1988)

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80s horror is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story and finds some college students relating the tale of an old house and the creature that supposedly is imprisoned inside…a story we are treated to in an opening flashback. As college students in 80s horror movies were wont to do, they find reason to enter the old house only to discover the legend is gruesomely true.

Late 80s horror is directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette from his Lovecraft based script. Lovecraft’s story is used as a starting point to which the flick then turns into a more formula 80s slasher with the creature of the title stalking and killing the coeds within the old house, one by one. There are some bloody kills and it is fun, though it never gets really scary. The creature itself is well rendered in prosthetics and make-up and the gore is also well done and quite abundant. The characters are typical 80s horror types with a few characters from the original story as part of the group, such as Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson). Today the film has a bit of a following and while it could have been better, as we continually wonder why they don’t just simply leave the house, it is still bloody and fun. Add in some 80s nostalgia and that it does deliver on the boobs and blood and it is certainly an entertaining enough watch.

The cast, including leads Stephenson and Charles Klausmeyer, are all suitable enough, though no awards will be given out. Katrin Alexandre performs an imposing creature with Alexandra Durrell and Laura Albert making suitable eye candy as Tanya and Wendy.

Maybe not a great flick, but a fun one with some nice gore and a cool monster. It is just as much a creature flick as it is a routine slasher, though one that’s not particularly scary. It’s based on a classic H.P. Lovecraft story and tries hard to provide some atmosphere. While it has it’s flaws, it succeeds in being a good time, especially if 80s flicks are your thing.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Unnamable’s.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SCARECROWS (1988)

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SCARECROWS (1988)

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80s horror has a group of heavily armed thieves robbing a military base and hijacking a plane to escape. One of their number betrays them and parachutes out with their cash. The group lands in pursuit, along with the hostage pilot (David Campbell) and his daughter (Victoria Christian) and trace the traitor (B.J. Turner) to a deserted farmhouse. Lost money and traitorous partners become the least of their worries as the farm is home to an evil presence and it uses the ominous scarecrows that guard the cornfield to gruesomely slaughter anyone who trespasses.

Flick is a somewhat lesser known 80s slasher, but one that has earned a bit of a following all these years later. It’s directed a bit by-the-numbers by William Wesley from a script by he and Richard Jefferies. It’s not all that scary, but it has some spooky visuals and when the scarecrows begin to hunt crook and captive alike, there is some very effective and abundant gore. Obviously having our thieves carry the latest technology and weaponry was taking a cue from Aliens, but it doesn’t help against something so supernatural and so there is little question that most of this gang isn’t going to make it out to count their money. Wesley doesn’t built much tension or suspense and the acting from the cast isn’t going to win any awards. In it’s favor, the action is plentiful once it gets going and there is some nice 80s nostalgia, too. It could have been a little more atmospheric considering it’s setting, but at least the scarecrows are effective villains.

Overall, Scarecrows is not a great movie, but not a bad one either. The film is never very suspenseful or scary and the acting won’t impress from any of it’s cast. The titular title characters are effective and their carnage is quite gruesome and abundant. A middle grade horror when all is said and done, but one that time has been kind to in terms of fan appreciation. Also stars, as our remaining gang of thieves, Ted Vernon as Corbin, Michael David Simms as Curry, Kristina Sanborn as Roxanne and Robert Vidan as Jack.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 scarecrows.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SILENT MADNESS (1984)

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SILENT MADNESS (1984)

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Part of the 80s 3D revival, Silent Madness has an error at a mental hospital releasing psychopathic killer Howard Johns (actor and stuntman Solly Marx) back onto the streets instead of inmate John Howard. Johns returns to the scene of his original slaughter, a college sorority and begins killing again. Pretty Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery) refuses to be part of the cover-up and heads to the sorority house to stop him. This all occurs conveniently while the girls are leaving on holiday, so no one notices when his victims start to go missing and everyone thinks Gilmore is the crazy one.

Lesser known 80s slasher is directed by Simon Nuchtern from a script by Bob Zimmerman and Bill Milling, who also co-produced with Nuchtern. The result is a very tame slasher with a good deal of it’s kills happening off-screen and those we see, being rather underwhelming. You can count on one hand the times the film throws something at the screen to take advantage of the 3D and one wonders why they even bothered except to take advantage of a current craze. Belinda Montgomery does make for a perky and pretty heroine. She’s both final girl and damsel in distress and, of course, no one believes her that Johns is on the loose, including the lazy town sheriff (Sydney Lassick) and the sorority house mother (Viveca Lindfors). There is little suspense or scares and the ending big reveal isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, as the slasher craze was running out of gas at this point. Even Solly Marx’s silent killer (hence the title?) is kind of dull. Most of the usual 80s slasher tropes are present, so there is that, though not very effectively used by the by-the-numbers direction of Nuchtern. One curiosity is that some of the shots look like they are attempting a Suspiria/Argento look here and there, but even that is handled lamely.

Overall, this was a very pedestrian slasher and one that seemed to be made solely to take advantage of the 3D and slasher crazes of the era. It has the feel of a lazy production and only veterans Belinda Montgomery and Viveca Lindfors put any real effort into their performances. There is very little blood, much less gore and the kills are unimaginative and lame. If you are an 80s completest, it’s worth a look, but definitely a lesser known slasher for good reason. Also stars 80s scream queen Elizabeth Kaitan as a skateboarding babe who winds up one of Johns’ earlier victims.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 mistakenly released psychopaths.

 

 

 

 

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: LEAH AYRES as MICHELLE in THE BURNING!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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LEAH AYRES as MICHELLE in THE BURNING!

This installment of Cult Classic Cuties, goes back to it’s usual format and focuses on an actress who starred in only one horror flick in her two decade long acting career and it is a cult classic for sure! Leah Ayres worked steadily in movies and TV for almost twenty years, between 1979 and 1998, yet starred in only one horror flick, The Burning! In Tony Maylam’s summer camp set slasher, drunken camp caretaker Cropsy is pranked by some teens and when it goes horribly awry, he’s critically burned and disfigured. Five years later, Cropsy returns to the area for revenge and stalks the occupants of Camp Stonewater, where the lovely and feisty Michelle is a counselor!

(You can read my full review for The Burning by clicking the highlighted titles or on the poster below)

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As sexy, camp counselor Michelle…

Campfire stories may prove all too true when Cropsey targets Camp Stonewater.

Maybe the only peaceful sleep Michelle gets after a vengeful killer stalks the camp!

Michelle gets the heads up that a killer is on the loose!

Can the brave and feisty Michelle bring help in time?

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Leah Ayres, now Leah Kalish, still keeps busy with a family and working with Yoga and fitness for kids by creating health oriented videos and programing for children. We will always remember her for her feisty and brave Michelle from her one cult classic horror, The Burning! A Cult Classic Cutie for sure!
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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here for the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988)

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CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988)

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

Sequel to Critters finds the Crite eggs seen at the end of the first film finally starting to hatch two years later at Easter time. This gets bounty hunters Ug (Terrence Mann), Lee (Roxanne Kernohan and Eddie Deezen) and Charlie (Don Opper) summoned back to earth. At the same time, Brad Brown (Scott Grimes), whose family had moved away, is returning to Grover’s Bend to visit his grandma (Herta Ware). Now in greater numbers, The Critters descend on the town and only Scott, Harv (Barry Corbin replacing M. Emmet Walsh) and the bounty hunters are all that stand between feast or famine for the fanged alien fur-balls.

Sequel is the directorial debut of Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand) who wrote the script with David Twohy (Pitch Black and it’s two Riddick follow-ups). As such, it’s somewhat fun, but the material is already running out of gas, as it’s basically the first film all over again just bigger. The FX are still cheesy and the gore and brief nudity do again stretch the boundaries of it’s PG-13 rating, but the sequel, otherwise, plays it safe story-wise. There is a romantic interest for Brad, named Megan (Liane Alexandra Curtis), but otherwise there is little new as The Critters make mincemeat out of anyone that crosses their path. There is still some fun to be had, but the novelty, of something that is technically already a Gremlins clone, is definitely wearing off. The film under-performed at the box office, but still spawned two more direct-to-video sequels…the third being the acting debut of one Leonardo DiCaprio.

The cast seem less enthused than the previous film. Grimes tries hard, but it’s a bit off-putting that he seemed to be playing a much younger kid only two years earlier and now is playing a young man of his real age (17 at the time) with love interest and all. The film literally takes place only two years later and the difference seems odd. Mann and Opper repeat their roles fine with Charlie now being a bounty hunter and it is fun to have Lee zero in on an identity straight out of Playboy magazine, in the form of statuesque beauty Roxanne Kernohan. Barry Corbin is now playing Harv and makes the character his own to the point where it didn’t really need to be Harv, when all is said and done. Liane Alexandra Curtis makes a cute love interest/sidekick for Brad, as teen reporter Megan and Lin Shaye is back hamming it up as Sally.

It’s not as fun as the first film, which in itself was basically a rip-off of another flick, but is far from terrible. There are some laughs and some amusing gore and even a touch of nudity this time, despite a teen friendly rating. The FX are still amusingly cheesy, though the cast seem to be just running through their paces in this one. It’s still worth a look and does make a good double feature with the first flick, but it’s not quite the equal fans would have hoped for.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 critters.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CRITTERS (1986)

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CRITTERS (1986)

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Critters is a 1986 sci-fi/horror/comedy that owes as much to the creature features of the 50s as it does Joe Dante’s Gremlins. The flick opens with alien beings called “Crites”…furry little creatures with LOTS of teeth…escaping from an interplanetary penitentiary with shape-shifting bounty hunters Ug (Terrence Mann) and Lee (various cast members) in hot pursuit. The Crites land on Earth in Grover’s Bend, Kansas near the farm of the Brown family and they are very hungry. Now mom Helen (Dee Wallace), dad Jay (Billy Bush), teen daughter April (Nadine van der Velde), young son Brad (Scott Grimes) and drunken handyman Charlie (Don Opper) come under siege by the carnivorous Critters, who have chosen them as their next course. Will the bounty hunters arrive in time before this quaint family all become alien happy meals?

Despite being derivative this is a fun movie as directed by Stephen Herek from his script with Domonic Muir. Herek gives the flick a bit of a Spielbergian touch and it works well for the material. It has a fairly even mix of horror and humor and the bloodshed does push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, while delivering some laughs. The Critter FX by the Chiodo Brothers (Killer Klowns) are enjoyably rubber prosthetics and the visual FX are delightfully cheesy. The action is limited to in and around the Brown farm with inept police deputies (Ethan Phillips) and visiting boyfriends (Billy Zane) showing up to become Critter fodder. The film is very 80s, no more of an example than a music video featuring star Terrence Mann, whose cheese metal rocker Johnny Steele becomes the face adopted by changeling Ug. It’s a bit overplayed, but is 80s hair metal to the core. The film wisely doesn’t wear out it’s welcome either, cruising in at an economical 85 minutes.

The cast are having a good time. Dee Wallace is the quintessential 80s mom next door, but despite playing a humble Midwestern housewife, she has a quiet sexiness that makes her hot. Billy Bush is the all-American, Midwest father and is the subject of a lot of Critter abuse. Nadine van der Velde doesn’t get much to do but scream and find herself in peril, but she is cute and is a fine damsel. Grimes is the hero of the film and does a good job as the nerdy kid who rises to heroic status. Opper is funny as the drunk, conspiracy theorist handyman, Charlie and Terrence Mann is solid as the terminator-like Ug and MTV idol Johnny Steele. The flick also has small roles with familiar faces, like M. Emmet Walsh as Sheriff Harv, horror icon Lin Shaye as his receptionist, Sally and the before mentioned Billy Zane as April’s ill-fated boyfriend, Steve. The Crites are all puppets and are voiced…complete with subtitles…by voice actor Corey Burton.

Sure, it was most likely inspired by Joe Dante’s classic from two years earlier, but stands up on it’s own thanks to some fun direction by Stephen Herek and a cast that knows how to play the material. The FX on all levels are nostalgically cheesy and the film has the right mix of humor and horror to entertain. It’s also delightfully 80s and shows what kind of movies New Line Cinema churned out before The Lord of the Rings trilogy turned them into a mega-studio. It was a modest hit for New Line and a sequel was paraded out two years later. Fun movie and worth a watch for 80s nostalgia fans.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 critters.

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COOL STUFF: HELL NIGHT SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY!

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HELL NIGHT (1981) Blu-Ray

Hell Night is a fun 1981 slasher that finds a group of college pledges spending the night in a haunted house as part of their initiation (Full Review HERE). It’s a good representation of the type of horror movie made back during that era and now with the added nostalgia, it’s aged very well. Scream Factory has resurrected this long sought after and unavailable flick and given it their star treatment. It comes in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and with a host of extras

As for the feature…

The picture is a 4K remaster from a 35mm print and is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, preserving the film’s theatrical dimensions. There is some grain in the picture and a few lines here and there, but for a low budget film over 35 years-old, this is a great looking disc. The colors are vibrant and the picture has some nice contrast, especially in the shadow filled night scenes. The sound is in DTS-HD mono and it sounds just fine. Again, this low budget flick is from 1981, so don’t expect 7.1 surround sound. The menus are simple, fun and easy to navigate, which is the usual for Scream Factory’s releases. Overall a nice restoration of a cult classic and it brought memories back, having seen it during it’s theatrical run in a theater.

Now on to the extras…

The extras consist of some wonderful new interviews with cast and crew, who are all too happy to talk about this sometimes overlooked movie. We have interviews with star Linda Blair, leading man Peter Barton, producer Bruce Cohn Curtis and writer Randy Feldman. We then get some fun one on one conversations between actors Vince Van Patten and Suki Goodwin and then Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann. We also get a look at the design of the film and an examination of the death scenes with various crew members and a return to the original location. Follow that up with the usual trailers, TV spots, radio spots and photo gallery and you have a really fun and informative disc giving a low budget cult classic the respect it deserves!

As a film that has nostalgic resonance with me, I can’t express how great it is to see this little flick get such royal treatment! The disc arrives from Scream Factory on 1/2/18!

-MonsterZero NJ