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)

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

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

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BAD DREAMS (1988)

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BAD DREAMS (1988)

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

1988 horror tells the story of Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin), who has been in a coma for 13 years after being the sole survivor of a mass suicde at the Unity Fields cult compound. She suddenly awakens and immediately begins treatment by her psychiatrist, Dr. Alex Karmen (Bruce Abbott). As her memories slowly return, she finds herself haunted by cult leader Franklin Harris (Richard Lynch) who appears to her in her dreams. As the dreams persist, Cynthia’s fellow patients start dying in horrible ways and Cynthia believes Harris is somehow killing those around her from beyond the grave.

Dull Elm Street retread is directed by The Craft’s Andrew Fleming from a script by he and Steven de Souza. It replaces dream demon Freddy Krueger with cult leader Harris, and is a lot less inventive with it’s dream sequences. The film is neither scary nor suspenseful, though, at least there is some well orchestrated and plentiful gore to amuse us. The pacing is very slow and feels longer than it’s 84 minute running time and we question why patients with emotional problems have such easy access to things such as knives and poison. There is a big reveal in the last act, too, that fizzles, as it is even sillier than a phantom cult leader killing from the great beyond.

The cast is a mixed bag. Jennifer Rubin makes a good heroine and performs some silly scenes very straight, which helps. Lynch is an almost legendary movie bad guy and he gets the most out of the thinly written material, making Harris a creepy specter. Abbott is a dull hero and would have been better served as a second banana like he was in Re-Animator. Dean Cameron is completely annoying as patient, Ralph, though veteran Harris Yulin is fairly solid as a stereotypical doctor with a secret agenda. 80s icon E.G. Daily also appears, with a small role as the first victim of Harris’ supernatural hi-jinx.

This film has a following and thus it’s fans. I am not one of them. I didn’t think much of it when I first watched it on VHS back in the day and the revisit didn’t change things, even with some added 80s nostalgia. It’s dull, slow paced and despite some good gore, is devoid of any thrills, chills or inventiveness. A unsuccessful attempt to clone the success of Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors including stealing actress Rubin.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 scalpels because it takes place in a hospital and that’s all I could think of.

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RETURN TO HORROR HIGH (1987)

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RETURN TO HORROR HIGH (1987)

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

Ho hum horror/comedy is most notable for having future A-lister George Clooney in a small role and being a good example of how silly and self aware a lot of horror flicks got at this point in the decade. (for more on that subject click HERE). Flick tells the story of a film crew filming a movie about a series of murders that occurred a few years earlier at the now abandoned Crippen High School. They are filming at the actual site of the murders, despite that the killer was never found and now someone stalks the cast and crew, killing them off in gruesome ways.

Directed by Bill Froehlich from a script by he and three other writers. It’s understandable that to be a parody of slashers you kind of have to basically be one but this flick fails at both. It’s fractured narrative doesn’t help, going back and forth between the aftermath of the murders and back to the killings as they happen, letting us know right off the bat who survived and who didn’t, eliminating any suspense, if they were even attempting any. The deaths are bloody, yet nothing really special and the comedy mostly falls flat. Even the 80s nostalgia can’t really help other than seeing a very young Clooney and The Brady Bunch’s Maureen McCormick, as a female police officer who seems to love her job a bit too much. The acting overall is deliberately over-the-top and even the big multiple reveals at the end don’t really shock or surprise. It’s hard to tell just how much it was supposed to be horror and how much it was supposed to be a parody as the mix is uneven and it goes back and forth between the stale jibes at traditional slasher film tropes and it’s attempts to actually be one. All that criticism aside, it’s also simply kinda dull and predominately unfunny.

As much as I love 80s slasher/horror/sci-fi flicks, this one did little for me. Clooney doesn’t last long enough to really make it worth sitting through and the jokes fail far more often than not. The attempts at being a real slasher mix unevenly along with the satire and aside from abundant bloodshed and a multiple reveal ending, Return To Horror High is a horror/comedy which one may not feel the need to return to, even with the 80s nostalgia. Also features a small role from 80s flick babe Darcy DeMoss as…no surprise here…a cheerleader.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives

 

 

 

 

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: ELIZABETH COX as JENNIFER in INTRUDER!

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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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ELIZABETH COX as JENNIFER in INTRUDER (1989)!

Intruder is a fun 1989 slasher that has the night crew of the Walnut Lake Market being stalked and killed one by one by a mysterious assailant. One of the employees is adorable cashier, Jennifer, as played by pretty Elizabeth Cox. Jennifer is currently being staked by her delinquent ex-boyfriend (David Byrnes), but does he want her back bad enough to kill all her friends? You’ll have to watch Intruder to find out and if you love 80s slashers, that shouldn’t be a problem, especially with this Cult Classic Cutie as our valiant final girl!
Elizabeth Cox fits the Cult Classic Cuties profile perfectly as she had a relatively short career on camera from 1984 to 1989 before disappearing from movies. The Chicago born actress had her first part as a student in the John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles before performing in small roles in not one but two cult classics in 1986, The Wraith and Night of the Creeps. She had another small role as a student in the Susanna Hoffs headlined comedy The All-Nighter, before her first and sadly last, starring role in this cult classic slasher. Too bad, she made a cute and resourceful final girl that we’d liked to have seen more of!

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(click on the poster for a full review)

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Stalked by her ex, about to lose her job and the target of a killer! Rough night at work!

Soon, collecting shopping carts will be the least of her worries!

Something is very wrong at the Walnut Lake Market!

Trapped between breakfast cereal and a serial killer!

Will help come in time for poor Jennifer?

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Elizabeth Cox may have left movies after only a few flicks, but seems to have kept very busy with wildlife conservation, news anchoring, magazine editing, working for the El Paso Zoo and having a family. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism from USC, so this cutie is no dummy! Whatever Liz is doing now, we will always remember her Jennifer in this fun, supermarket set 80s slasher!

A recent photo reveals she’s still a beauty!

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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

source/ IMDB

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AVCO EMBASSY PICTURES: UNSUNG HEROES OF THE B-MOVIE!

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AVCO EMBASSY PICTURES: UNSUNG HEROES OF THE B-MOVIE!

(Just click on the movie titles to go to our full length reviews!)

Some film fans may remember Avco Embassy Pictures, though there also may be some of you out there who have never heard of them…but if you love movies, you certainly know some of their titles! When talking about Avco Embassy Pictures, it would also be remiss not to mention the name of Robert Rehme…and as a B-Movie fan, you might want to know who this man is, too…

Originally a distributor of foreign films, such as Godzilla: King Of The Monsters and Fellini’s 8 1/2, Avco Embassy was founded by legendary producer Joseph E. Levine in 1942. It wasn’t until the 60s when the studio began to produce it’s own films, including such classic’s as The Graduate, Mad Monster Party and The Producers, to name just a few.

Some classic genre flicks released/produced by Avco Embassy in their early years!

The era that should resonate most with horror, action and sci-fi fans, are the years between 1978 and 1982. During most of this time, a man named Robert Rehme ran the studio. After having been sold and then experiencing some financial trouble that brought production to a halt, Rehme was hired to get the studio producing and profitable again and that he did! Rehme, who got his start working for Roger Corman at New World Pictures, used some of his former employer’s methods and turned to lower budgeted, yet popular B-movies to get the studio back in the black. Avco Embassy started churning out such flicks prolifically for the next few years, producing many inexpensive but successful films. Under his watch, the studio produced and released such classics and cult classics as Phantasm, The Fog, Scanners, The Howling and Escape From New York among many others! This strategy was a success, as studio earnings quadrupled during Rehme’s time at the helm!

Some of the classics and cult favorites the studio churned out under Rehme between 78 and 82!

All good things do, however, come to an end. Robert Rehme moved on to work for Universal in 1981 and Avco Embassy was subsequently sold in 1982. The name was changed to simply Embassy Pictures and the new owners gradually moved away from such B-Movie fair focusing on turning out more mainstream movies such as Eddie And The Cruisers and the classic comedy This Is Spinal Tap. Their last theatrical feature saw it’s release in 1986 and laid to rest the legacy of a studio whose early 80s flourish produced numerous classics and cult favorites. While Avco is now long gone, and Rehme apparently retired after a lengthy career, the movies they turned out, especially during their golden age between 1978 and 1982, will immortalize Avco Embassy Pictures and Robert Rehme with movie buffs for all time!

-MonsterZero NJ

Unsung hero of many a horror and B-Movie classic and cult classic, Robert Rehme!

sources: Wikipedia/IMDB/internet

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BARN (2016)

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THE BARN (2016)

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

Crowd funded horror/homage definitely has it’s heart in the right place and knows it’s 80s influences well, even if it isn’t quite as successful at delivering the goods as the films it’s trying to pay tribute to.

Flick starts out in the small town of Wheary Falls in 1959 where a Halloween set Harvest Hootenany festival goes wrong for one little girl who unwisely challenges a local legend about three demons that inhabit a local barn. The film then jumps 30 years to 1989 where Halloween obsessed teen Sam (Mitchell Musolino) and some friends accidentally awaken this legendary trio of demons while stopping in Weary Falls on the way to a Halloween night rock concert. Now Sam, his best bud Josh (Will Stout) and pretty Michelle (Lexi Dripps) find themselves battling the demonic Scarecrow, Boogeyman and Hollow Jack, that they have awakened from The Barn.

80s homage is written, directed and edited by Justin M. Seaman and the filmmaker’s intentions are certainly noble. The flick does indeed have the feel of one of those 80s horrors and even gives it an old VHS look with scratches and grain and muted colors. For nostalgia purposes, the film knows it’s source material well and we sense Seaman has a genuine love for these films and the horror genre in general. The basic story certainly works for the type of film it’s trying to be and the director does have a good visual eye and achieves a lot on a small budget. Where the film loses ground is in the writing and the editing. The dialogue is simply very stale and the exposition sequences seem to go on and on and are flat and un-involving. Seaman could have cut out a good ten minutes of talkiness from his homage and gotten it in at a much tighter 90 minutes, or less, and the film would have moved much better. It is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. There were sequences of talk that felt like they could have been removed completely without hurting the movie, such as Sam’s talk with his dad and when they meet George Hayward (David Hampton), who was with the little girl in the opening sequence. Drunken George’s dialogue seems to go on forever and basically adds even more exposition to a local legend that was fine as it was. His story only convolutes things and the possible way of sending the demons back he relates, is just weak. Sometimes a bit of ambiguity is good, instead of explaining things in too much detail. As a matter of fact, the whole 1989 Halloween Hootenanny sequence goes on way too long, a prime example of how better writing and editing could have made this tighter. The horror sequences, featuring the three demons, themselves are fine. They are not scary or suspenseful, but they do work and Seaman’s demons are effective enough on the homage level they are intended. The FX are quite good for a low budget flick, especially the gore and they do emulate 80s FX work very well. As nostalgia, the film works very well in many ways, especially with Rocky Gray’s cool 80s style electronic soundtrack to add even more of the 80s feel. But as a movie, it’s a bit tedious and flat at times and lacks any real suspense and scares to make it really special. It needed some life to it’s scenes and performances.

While on the subject of the performances, to be too picky over the acting in a low budget film like this, isn’t really fair. Let’s be honest,  the acting in a lot of the films that this flick is paying homage to, wasn’t exactly award level either. The cast in one sense are fine, though some of the dialogue reciting is a bit flat, but that could also be from the need for stronger guidance from a first time filmmaker. Mitchell Musolino is OK as Sam, as is Will Stout as Josh, though as heroes they are a bit dull. It also doesn’t help that lead Sam’s character is kind of a moody sourpuss and hard to endear to. At least Stout’s Josh is a bit more animated and likable. The one cast member who stands out a bit is cute, girl-next-door Lexi Dripps who is actually endearing as the perky object of Sam’s awkward affection, Michelle. She is one of the few cast members who sounds like she is talking naturally, not reading from a script. Sadly, the character of Michelle disappears for most of the third act action and when she re-emerges, it’s as a bound and gagged damsel in distress only there to be rescued by Sam and Josh. The film might have been better served to have Miss Dripps play final girl, or at least be more involved in the action, as she is the one with the strongest screen presence and most charm. Her character was one of the livelier ones, too, unlike the droll Sam, and is sadly underused. There are also small parts played by legendary Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley and Ari Lehman, who was the first actor to ever play Jason Voorhees (as a boy) in the first Friday The 13th.

I wanted to like this flick a lot more than I did*. It’s heart was in the right place, it knew it’s influences very well and nailed the nostalgia elements pretty much dead on. It had a perfectly fine horror flick story and director Justin M. Seaman has a nice eye for spooky visuals, with the flick looking good for something very low budget. Definitely an “A” for effort. Where the film stumbles, is in it’s writing and editing. The Barn could have been ten minutes shorter, without hurting the story, it’s a little too talky between the action and the dialog itself was very stale and flat. The film wasn’t actually scary and the simple and effective plot gets a little convoluted in it’s second act. Simpler and more streamlined was working earlier on. A very noble effort and we hope filmmaker Justin M. Seaman continues to hone his craft and maybe the next flick will be closer to the home run he was swinging for here. I still recommend horror fans give it a look for the nostalgia of it and simply for the effort put in by some independent filmmakers with a passion…and despite it’s flaws, that passion does show!

*This little flick has grown on me a lot since I first reviewed it. Not sure this statement still applies -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

3 jack-o-lanterns for effort, heart and Halloween spirit.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: CHRISTMAS EVIL and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

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Tis the season!…

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CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

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

Few movies can make the distinction of being both laughably bad yet, remain very disturbing, but Lewis Jackson’s yuletide horror is bizarre and creepy enough to be both. Story opens with young Harry (Gus Salud) seeing Santa coming down the chimney and delivering presents for he and his brother (Wally Moran). His love of Christmas is shattered, though, when he catches that same Santa…actually his dad in a costume…going at it with his mother. Many years later the adult Harry (Brandon Maggart) is a lonely introvert who works at the bargain basement Jolly Dreams toy factory and is obsessed with becoming Santa Claus…an obsession that drives him over the edge and turns Harry into a Santa-suited homicidal maniac.

Written and directed by Lewis Jackson, this is both a hysterically bad flick and one that, somehow, remains really disturbing. Harry is just a very creepy person with his spying on neighborhood children, to see if they are good or bad and his deeply unnerving obsession with Santa Claus and Christmas. The fact that he is so determined to be seen and loved as the real Santa Claus drives him to kill anyone who laughs or makes fun of him, leading to his being hunted by neighborhood citizens actually bearing torches. It’s like Transylvania though, the film takes place in New Jersey. It’s all very funny to watch Harry snap and slaughter three obnoxious yuppies in front of a church and it’s parishioners and his Santa themed apartment brings the appropriate chuckles and chills. But the film is also very creepy in it’s portrayal of a man who psychotically wants to be loved by all as the most famous holiday icon of all-time, enough that he will kill anyone who doesn’t buy into his delusion. Jackson may not be a skilled filmmaker, but there’s no denying this flick entertains in both it’s badness and ability to present you with a truly unnerving main character. Credit has to also be given to Brandon Maggart for giving his Harry some strong creep factor while the rest of the cast are adequate at best. There is a very off-putting quality to this film that works with the camp factor far better than it should and I’ll wager quite by accident. A happy and horrifying accident, as the film does have a ‘made up as it goes along’ quality to it.

So, if this type of flick is your bloody cup of egg nog, enjoy this movie for what it is. It’s a strange and sometimes laughably bad movie that still has the ability to creep you out with it’s disturbed main character and some gory kills all within it’s yuletide setting. There is something unnervingly real about Harry that makes you believe that there might be someone like him out there, yet, the film itself can be almost surreal with it’s torch bearing New Jersey residents and the fact that kids really seem to like Harry’s Santa despite their parents knowing something is really off about this guy. This film has developed a bit of a cult following and I can see why as it is definitely midnight movie material, especially if it’s midnight on December 24th. Recommended for those looking for something weird, unsettling, but very amusing!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 campy and disturbing Christmas trees.

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

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

This Christmas set 80s slasher isn’t very scary, but it is a lot of fun. It has a very devious sense of humor and certainly isn’t afraid to involve little children in it’s holiday horrors and blood soaked Christmas clichés.

The story opens in 1971 with five-year-old Billy (Jonathan Best) not only being frightened out of his wits by Santa horror stories from his demented grandfather on Christmas Eve, but witnesses the brutal murder of his parents by a thief dressed in a Santa suit. Three years later we find Billy (Danny Wagner) in an orphanage where a cruel nun is trying to force his fears of Christmas out of him by forcing Christmas on him. We finally cut to ten years later where a now eighteen, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) gets his first job…at a toy store…at Christmas! And to make matters worse he is chosen by his boss to play Santa and when he catches a co-worker forcing himself on his store crush Pamela (Toni Nero), Billy snaps and a yuletide murder spree gruesomely begins. Will anyone survive the holidays now that a Santa suited Billy is killing anyone he deems naughty…which is pretty much everyone he encounters!

As a horror film, this flick has very little scares or suspense, but as directed by Grizzly Adams creator Charles Sellier…from Michael Hickey’s sadistically clever script…the film is a lot of gruesome fun that definitely isn’t afraid to cross some boundaries, especially when it gleefully involves little kids in it’s horrible holiday hi-jinx. If the things little Billy experiences aren’t enough, the deliriously horrific scene of an orphanage full of little kids witnessing the gunning down of a priest in a Santa suit, by an overzealous cop, will have you giggling out loud. Sure we know who our killer is without question and his victims are fairly random Santa fodder, but the fact that Sellier so happily makes a bloody mess of one of the most beloved holidays, makes up for the fact that their really isn’t much to chill us other than watching the plentiful and well orchestrated blood and gore spatter all over the screen like spilled eggnog. It’s good, gory, campy fun and makes no excuses that it is breaking some taboos and is proud of it.

The cast, including 80s scream queen legend Linnea Quigley as a victim, are all delightfully bad. They are all mostly unknowns, except for TV actress Tara Buckman who has a brief role as Billy’s hot but ill-fated mom. Wilson just basically carries out his villainy with a blank and evil stare, but it’s enough to work even if he is not an overly strong psycho. Actress Lilyan Chauvin is actually a lot scarier as Mother Superior who tries to torment the love of Christmas back into the young, mentally scarred Billy and Gilmer McCormick is sweet and likable as Sister Margret a young nun who takes pity on Billy, even when he turns stone cold killer.

This is a deviously fun slasher though, admit-tingly, as a horror, it is kind of weak. It makes up for a lot of that weakness by delighting in breaking some movie taboos and pouring blood over as many Christmas traditions as possible in gleeful fashion. It’s an entertaining enough slasher though, it is far more campy than creepy and that’s just fine. Obviously recommended during the holidays when endless showings of A Christmas Story drive you to want to kill. Billy will be happy to oblige for you.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: CAROLINE WILLIAMS as STRETCH in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2!

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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, or whose sexy stars shined only briefly not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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CAROLINE WILLIAMS as STRETCH in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986)!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is Tobe Hooper and Cannon Pictures’ 1986 sequel to the 1974 horror masterpiece. It features the Sawyer family continuing their murderous, cannibalistic ways, now peddling their secret ingredient in an award winning chili. When Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and brother Chop Top (Bill Mosley) get recorded on a radio talk show carving up a couple of yuppies, leggy DJ Vanita ‘Stretch’ Brock becomes the family’s next target…and the object of Leatherface’s gruesome affection.
Who better to portray a sexy Texas radio DJ than sexy Texas born actress Caroline Williams!  Williams had appeared in a few film and TV roles before being cast in this slasher sequel, but this was her first lead role and she definitely caught the attention of horror film fans everywhere. Her sassy, spunky and resilient Stretch is quite the capable final girl and despite finding herself in the Sawyer family’s clutches, she proves that you should never mess with a girl from Texas…or wear their friend’s faces. Despite a strong and memorable performance, this was the only time Williams would do final girl duty despite appearing in a few more fright flicks over her long career.

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(click on the poster for a full review)

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Long-legged, Daisy Duke wearing Stretch is a texas girl through and through!

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The sexy DJ attracts the wrong attention when she records a murder over the radio!

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Now she finds herself at the wrong end of Leatherface’s attention…and chainsaw!

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…though maybe the cannibalistic Sawyer family picked the wrong Texas cutie to pick on!

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Never piss-off a girl from Texas!

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The actress has kept busy after her altercation with Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow) and his demented kin. She continues working in movies and TV and has even has done a few more horror flicks, including an appearance in the Sweet Tooth segment in last year’s ghoulishly fun Halloween anthology, Tales Of Halloween. But it is her one final girl film appearance that captured our hearts, kicking cannibal ass with a sexy smile, long legs and a pair of Daisy Dukes and that certainly earns her the title Cult Classic Cutie!

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Still a beauty 30 years after teaching the Sawyers she can handle a chainsaw just as good, or better, than the good ole boys!

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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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