TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RETURN TO HORROR HIGH (1987)

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RETURN TO HORROR HIGH (1987)

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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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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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Actually saw this fun little Roger Corman flick in a theater back in 1983. It’s a slight departure for Corman as it was more kid friendly in tone and came with a PG rating. It tells the tale of a young boy named Peter (David Mendenhall), who while playing in the warehouse of his father’s company, gets caught in the middle of a firefight between security and a band of pirates. Peter hides in the very cargo ship the pirates wind up stealing and now is trapped with them as they flee. He slowly endears himself to the band of thieves as he and they are pursued by both bounty hunters and a massive robot warship.

While basically void of the usual blood and boobs that Corman’s flicks were notorious for, this flick does have his thriftiness, as it’s effects are basically recycled from Corman classics like Battle Beyond The Stars, Galaxy Of Terror, Forbidden World and Android. The James Horner score is lifted from Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids From The Deep as well. Written and directed by Howard R. Cohen, the film makes the most of it’s minuscule budget and what it can’t accomplish with modest action and recycled battle scenes, it does with heart. Despite not being big on action and having seen a lot of the space battles before in the film’s mentioned, the film is harmless and fun in spite of it’s economical approach in a time where big budget space adventures were becoming common. It’s loaded with charm, as were most of Corman’s flicks, even if it couldn’t possibly compete with the same year’s Return Of The Jedi.

The cast also give this a bit of spunk, too. Mendenhall is cute and likable as the wide-eyed Peter who is having the time of his life with a crew of pirates. While on the subject, the likable band of rogues is captained by Vince Edwards as Hawk. Edwards, who was doctor Ben Casey on TV from 1961 to 1966, plays the ex-soldier with a heart of gold with the appropriate grit and grizzle. He is joined by soap stars Thom Christopher and Patsy Pease as Flightplan and Amanda respectively, with Drew Snyder and future Ghoulies director Luca Bercovici rounding out the crew. B-Movie icon Dick Miller also appears. Everybody takes the material seriously enough to make it work, but appear to be having fun.

This is not a great movie by any lengths, but it has a charm and heart and that makes it fun despite the low budget limitations. You have to give Corman credit for getting another movie out of SPFX, sets and music from past productions and having his filmmakers show some restraint to deliver a more kid friendly flick. One of the last of Corman’s New World Pictures productions before he sold it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 recycled spaceships from Battle Beyond The Stars.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ANDROID (1982)

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ANDROID (1982)

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This 1982 Roger Corman production tells the story of android Max 404 (Don Opper, who co-wrote with James and Will Reigle). Max’s advanced programing causes him to form human emotions, but not the capability to completely control them. His creator, Dr. Daniels (Klaus Kinski) becomes wary of this and plans to destroy Max once his more advanced replacement, Cassandra (Kendra Kirchner) is activated. When three fugitives, including a woman (Norbert Weisser, Crofton Hardester and Brie Howard) come aboard their isolated space station, it gives Dr, Daniels a female test subject to finish Cassandra and Max an infatuation that may send he and his newfound emotions over the edge…dangerously over the edge.

Android is an entertaining diversion from the typical Corman fair, there is violence and nudity, but it is with restraint and serves the story and not for the usual exploitation purposes. Director Aaron Lipstadt directs this sci-fi Frankenstein tale with a far more sensitive hand then most Corman flicks and gives us a character story driven more by emotion than action. We feel for Max as he tries to cope with his emotions and root for him even when they drive him to do morally questionable things. And since Max is surrounded by people of questionable morals, we don’t totally blame him for his responses to the situations that Dr. Daniels and the fugitives provoke. The low budget production is made with the usual Corman thriftiness, but looks good enough to support it’s story and the FX aren’t bad. There is also a cool and very 80s electronic score by Don Preston to support the atmosphere director Lipstatdt gives the film.

Director Lipstadt gets good performances from his cast, especially Opper who portrays Max’s naivety and confusion very well and Kinski who makes a perfectly slimy and obsessed scientist. Also, Norbert Weisser’s Keller is a somewhat sympathetic bad guy while Hardester’s Mendez is a cliché bully/douchebag. And as for the ladies, Brie Howard is tough and yet sweet as Maggie and Kirchner does fine as the Bride Of Frankenstein-ish Cassandra, who turns out to be more then anyone bargined for.

Android is an interesting attempt by Corman and Co. at a sci-fi flick with a bit more substance and succeeds far more than it fails. It may be a bit slow paced and somber, but at a tight 80 minutes it’s never boring and does entertain us just fine, as well as, tell it’s story. The film was released as a midnight show in art houses to emphasize that this was something a bit more unique than New World normally produced and I had the pleasure of seeing it at such a show at NYC’s Waverly theater in Greenwich Village when it opened in 1982.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Max 404s.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: AVENGING ANGEL (1985)

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AVENGING ANGEL (1985)

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Sequel to New World’s exploitation hit Angel was rushed into production and released just under a year from the 1984 original…and it shows. The story has Molly/Angel (now Betsy Russell) off the streets and in college for four years, thanks to Lt. Andrews (now Robert F. Lyons). When Andrews is gunned down by a group of mobsters, Molly returns to the streets as Angel to track down his killers. Helping her are her old street ‘family’ Kit (Rory Calhoun), Solly (Susan Tyrrell), Yo-Yo (Steven M. Porter) and witness Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl).

While the creative team of writer/director Robert Vincent O’Neill and co-writer Joseph Michael Cala return, lead actress Donna Wilkes and actor Cliff Gorman did not and it hurts the continuity of the flick. Add to that a new cinematographer, Peter Lyons Collister, giving it a different look and new composer, Christopher Young giving it a new score and you get a film that barely registers as a sequel if not for Calhoun, Tyyell and Porter to give it a familiarity with the first flick. That aside, the exploitation elements are really watered down and it feels like a TV movie. O’Neill gives it none of the style and fun trashiness of the original and the story is very uninspired. There seems to be an effort to clean it up for more mainstream consumption to the point of a baby being added to the proceedings, which is completely unnecessary. It’s got none of the energy the first flick had either, nor the atmosphere of the streets that the first flick used so well. The acting is very wooden, except for the delightfully energetic Calhoun and Tyrrell and despite being quite a fox, we don’t endear to Russell’s Angel as we did with the sympathetic teen street walker of Wilkes’s incarnation. It feels like a totally different film and a totally different kind of film, as it tries to be more action flick than exploitation movie…and being an exploitation movie was part of what made the first film work. A high school hooker being hunted by a serial killer is sleazy fun, some college girl avenging a friend’s death in fishnets and a miniskirt, not so much.

I actually saw this chapter in a theater and it was very disappointing. The original Angel nailed the exploitation tone perfectly for a story about a high school student turning tricks as a Hollywood hooker and this film tries to downplay it’s sleazy roots and go for a more mainstream low budget action flick and fails. None of the style or trashiness that made the first flick so enjoyable is there and one wonders if writer/director O’Neill wanted to do this movie at all and was just accepting a paycheck. If not for a few supporting characters being present and acted by their original performers, this would not feel like a sequel to the 1984 hit. When you throw in the baby and a lot of broad humor, it almost isn’t. Despite under-performing at the box office, there were two more sequels with two more actresses as Angel. Avenging Angel also stars Escape From New York’s Frank Doubleday as a mobster’s arrogant son.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 hot, but yet, not Angels.

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COOL STUFF: ESCAPE FROM N.Y. COLLECTOR’S EDITION on BLU-RAY

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-Ray

Escape From New York is one of my all time favorite films (see full review here). It’s the film that cemented John Carpenter as one of my favorite directors. A starkly original idea featuring one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heroes of all time. There have been a few editions of the film on VHS, DVD and even a feature-only blu-ray, but, now Scream Factory has delivered this classic flick in a special 2-disc edition loaded with extra features that gives this quirky Sci-Fi adventure the treatment and respect it deserves!

The print is a new remaster from the original negative and is absolutely gorgeous. The image is crisp and clear and the colors are vibrant without betraying the look and feel intended by the filmmakers. The movie has never looked better and having seen it on screen, on VHS, on DVD and on previous blu-ray, I can say that with the utmost confidence. It’s never looked better. The audio is DTS-HD 5.1 and sounds great. It’s like seeing and hearing the movie again for the first time. It’s a beautiful presentation of this classic movie. Now on to the fun stuff…

We get some nice audio extras… not one but, three commentary tracks. There is a new track featuring actress Adrienne Barbeau and cinematographer Dean Cundey. Also, previously released tracks from Joe Alves and Debra Hill, as well as, the classic John Carpenter and Kurt Russell commentary, which is almost as entertaining as the film. More on-set insight than you could ever hope for. As for video treats and featurettes, the second disc holds a mix of new and previously released material. The first featurette is new and is a really cool look at EFNY’s SFX. It contains behind the scenes stills and interviews with Dennis and Robert Skotak, who worked at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, which did the visual effects for the film. The Return To Escape From New York documentary from the MGM collector’s edition DVD is also included here and is filled with interviews from all the principles. We get the now legendary deleted bank robbery/arrest scene with an added new interview with actor Joe Unger, who played Snake’s partner Taylor in that deleted sequence. There’s a fun new look at scoring the film and the legacy of the soundtrack, with co-composer Alan Howarth. There is a great interview/slide show with on-set photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker, who recently released a book (review here) featuring her work as a photographer on a number of Carpenter’s films. We get an interview with filmmaker David DeCoteau, who was working as a PA with New World Pictures at the time and got to visit the EFNY set. The disc then finishes up it’s extra’s section with theatrical trailers and two photo galleries on top of all the rest of the features. A great selection of extras to compliment the film.

As fan of Escape From New York, you couldn’t ask for a better special edition. The film looks great, sounds great and there is a nice selection of nostalgic and informative features and interviews to bring you back to 1980 when the film was being shot. I personally had the opportunity to see this flick in a theater…my beloved Oritani Theater…back in January of 1981 and it instantly became one of my all time favorites. Now I can enjoy it like never before thanks to this newly remastered, extra-filled, loving tribute from Scream Factory.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ANGEL (1984)

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ANGEL (1984)

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Angel is a fun exploitation flick that is not only very 80s, but the first movie released by New World Pictures after being sold by Roger Corman…and it was their first hit, grossing almost six times it’s original cost back.

The film tells the story of 15 year old Molly Stewart (Donna Wilkes), a scholarly prep school student who supports herself, after being abandoned by her mother and years earlier by her father, turning tricks on the Hollywood strip. Hooking under the name Angel, Molly is working at a dangerous time. There is a serial killer (John Diehl) on the loose targeting the ladies of the night and more than one of Angel’s friends have been slaughtered. Worse still, is that Angel has seen his face and is now a target herself. Will Angel be just another victim or will the resourceful teen turn the hunter into the hunted?

Flick is directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill, who co-wrote with Joseph Michael Cala and despite being an exploitation flick through and through, O’Neil manages to give it some heart. He surrounds Angel with an eccentric group of colorful friends, such as former cowboy star Kit (Rory Calhoun), foul mouthed dyke Solly (Susan Tyrell) and transvestite Mae (Dick Shawn). There is actually a bit of a sweet element to the story, underneath the blood and boobs, as Molly yearns for the day she can get off the street and the sympathetic cop (Cliff Gorman) who would like to see her succeed. Sure the story is cliché and we know the moment it begins, her life as a hooker with a heart of gold will be discovered at school, but O’Neil does have fun with his story without ever making fun of it. He also does provide some suspense and generates some sympathy for the killer’s hooker victims. This because the street people are portrayed as human beings who are a community among themselves and it is only a somewhat bland killer that fails the film a bit. That and his unintentionally funny…or maybe it was intentional?…choice of disguising himself as a Hare Krishna, when on the lam from the cops and on the hunt for Angel. Otherwise the film achieves what it sets out to do in grand exploitation style.

The cast won’t get any awards, but fill their parts well. Cutie Donna Wilkes was 24 when hired to play the 15 year old Molly and she’s fine. She gives us a sweet but very tough young girl who refuses to be a victim. She could have had a bit more range, but for a B-Movie like this, she’s more than adequate. Same can be said of Gorman’s tough cop. His character is a bit of a bland cliché, but works in the context of the film. Again, the silent killer (he only speaks once) played by Diehl is a bit bland, but is creepy enough to make it work. The supporting characters really shine as Calhoun, Tyrell and Shawn all add some life to the proceedings with their eccentric portrayals of some of the lost souls of the Hollywood Strip. They also do well in creating a foster family for Angel and they look out for her and their affection for each other seems genuine. Also worth mentioning is Donna McDaniel who gives her hooker Crystal a very likable personality in her brief screen time.

This is not Shakespeare, but it is fun. It’s an exploitation flick and knows it and never apologizes for it. It gives it’s cliché story a bit of a heart and treats the story with respect even if it is a B-Movie about a teenage hooker and a serial killer. It’s not a great flick by any stretch, but it is entertaining for what it is and gives us some surprisingly sympathetic and likable characters. Add a lot of fun 80s nostalgia and you have a perfectly suitable Saturday Night flick on the couch with some of your favorite poisons. Box office gross of Angel generated 3 sequels, none of which equaled it’s success.

MonsterZero NJ extra trivia: Cinematographer on this flick was Andrew Davis who went on to direct Chuck Norris in Code Of Silence, Steven Seagal in Under Siege and Harrison Ford in The Fugitive!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Angels.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: C.H.U.D. (1984)

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C.H.U.D. (1984)

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C.H.U.D. is another 80s flick that has earned a cult classic reputation and it is one that I actually saw in a theater back in 1984. One of the first films produced by New World Pictures after it was sold by Roger Corman, this monster flick tells the story of radioactive materials that are stored secretly by the government in the New York City sewer system that turns it’s underground homeless population into flesh eating monsters. As first the homeless and then more affluent citizens start to disappear… due to the creatures expanding their hunt for food… photographer Cooper (John Heard), street preacher Shepard (Daniel Stern) and police captain Bosch (Christopher Curry), whose wife is among the missing, are drawn together in an effort to battle the creatures and uncover and expose the conspiracy that created them.

If there is any main problem with this flick directed by Douglas Creek and written by Parnell Hall… from a story by Shepard Abbott… is that there is very little actual C.H.U.D. in a film called C.H.U.D. The filmmakers choose to focus instead on the drama between characters and the government conspiracy and cover-up than on the title creatures which appear very sporadically. Whether it was the restrictions from a fairly low budget or a writer and director trying to make more out of basically what is a simple monster movie, is not clear but, the flick definitely is scarce on delivering the monster goods and/or their carnage. There are lengthy and frankly dull dialogue sequences as the characters argue amongst each other or with slimy government bureaucrat Wilson (George Martin) and when the C.H.U.D. do appear, it’s briefly and most of their carnage happens off camera, such as a frustrating battle between the beasts and a squad of flame-thrower armed police that is seen for a few seconds on a video monitor and that’s it. We see bloody corpses long after the damage is done but, very little of the C.H.U.D. in action. It’s a shame because plot-wise this is a great B-Movie premise ripe for possibilities that chooses instead to focus on blandly written characters and cliche’ conspiracy situations than giving us the monster action the title and scenario promise. Cheek is not a skilled enough director to pull either the dialogue or monster scenes off well enough… though there are a few spooky scenes in the sewers…to make them really memorable and only the creatures’ cool design has helped them endure and earned them their rep. This is a movie that is a considered a classic more by nature of the potential of it’s plot than from it’s actual content. The film is shot well by cinematography Peter Stein and there is a cool electronic score by David A. Hughes, that reminded me of something that might accompany an Italian zombie movie. And, as stated, the monsters are pretty cool when they do appear which isn’t very often and the gore is well executed when seen. But, it’s not enough to make up for the minimal use of it’s title characters.

The cast are fairly dull, which doesn’t help. John Heard performs as if this was a paycheck job and it probably was. Stern overacts as the street preacher/soup kitchen manager but, it at least adds some life to the character. Curry is really bland as police Captain Bosch and Martin is a stereotypical government douche. At least Kim Greist adds a little sex appeal as Heard’s model wife but, her part is very small and she’s just there to become a damsel in distress in the last act. At least we get a small part by future star John Goodman as a cop in a diner that is besieged… again, off-camera… by the C.H.U.D.

Overall, despite it’s flaws I still find C.H.U.D. to be watchable but, even now it’s still a big disappointment considering the cool exploitation flick set-up. Had this been made when Corman ran New World Pictures, I’m sure we would have gotten the beasts, blood and gore we came for and probably got some boobs thrown in for good measure. The films’ creatures are cool despite their brief screen time and there are a few atmospheric scenes in the spooky sewers. But, sadly this is a monster film that chooses to focus more on it’s ho-hum drama than it’s cool critters… which makes me wonder why this is considered a classic and yet everyone picked on this year’s Godzilla for the same flaws…

2 and 1/2 CHUDs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: VAMP (1986)

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VAMP (1986)

A full ten years before Robert Rodriguez took us to the ‘Titty Twister’, writer/director Richard Wenk took us to The After Dark Club, a vampire infested strip bar deep in the urban jungle of Los Angeles in this 80s horror/comedy from post-Corman New World Pictures (Corman sold it in 1983). Keith (Chris Makepeace) and A.J. (Robert Rusler) want desperately to get into a fraternity and to do so, make the frat brothers a deal that, if they get them a stripper for one of their parties, they are in. The boys hitch a ride with nerdy but, wealthy Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) into downtown L.A. and choose a place called The After Dark Club to find their stripper. Inside the sleazy club, the haunting and impressive Katrina (Grace Jones) is whom they choose but, unknown to them, Katrina is a centuries old vampire and so are most of the club employees except for new girl and old friend of Keith’s, Amaretto (Dedee Pfeiffer… Michelle’s sister). Soon a quest to join a frat becomes a night of terror and survival for Keith and his friends as they face an ancient and hungry evil that wants them all dead.

Low budget flick is no Lost Boys but, it is fun, though, not as fun as I remembered it when I saw it in 1986. Under Wenk’s direction the film has a slower pace than a flick like this should and he could have used some more intensity and energy in the action sequences, though budgetary restrictions probably were to blame here too as, the action is pretty small scale and low key. His visual style gives it a sleazy neon-bathed look and that works in the film’s favor and Wenk is supported by some nice gore and make-up FX from master Greg Cannom. The script has some definite weak points such as vampires keeping drums of flammable liquid in their lair and an albino youth gang that prowls the neighborhood yet, somehow has never come across their fanged neighbors but, the local coffee shop guy is well aware of them? But, giving the film a boost over it’s flaws is that the flick is very 80s and the nostalgia helps one past some of it’s weaker spots. Wenk also has a cast that gets the material and it’s tone. Makepeace is a suitable hero and it doesn’t hurt that he has a passing resemblance to Mel Gibson. Rusler plays well the part he usually played in the 80s flicks he was in, the cool player. Wantanabe is still milking Long Duk Dong but, with better English here and Pfeiffer gives us a crush-worthy, cute and ditzy heroine in her Allison/Amaretto. Grace Jones doesn’t have as much screen time as you might think as Katrina but, she is formidable and has presence even though she has no dialog and spends a lot of time under Greg Cannom’s make-up artistry. The music by Jonathan Elias suits the mood fine and the cinematography by Elliot David and Douglas F. O’Neons captures the sleazy neon soaked atmosphere of the setting. And to give the film credit, the comedy and horror elements do mix fairly well and that isn’t always easy.

Overall, Vamp is still fun, especially with the 80s nostalgia added but, not as good as I remembered it being. Grace Jones made an interesting stripper/vampire queen and with a little more energy and a perkier pace, this could have been a real treat. It’s still considered a cult classic by some and I agree it is a good example of 80s B-Movies, the type that soon went direct to DVD. It might be one of the last films of it’s kind to get a theatrical release before the home video era made it cheaper to go direct with flicks like this. It’s an amusing 80s horror/comedy and while there are certainly better examples of that genre mix, Vamp is still worth a look and a bit unique in it’s own way… and it did pre-date Lost Boys by a year and From Dusk Till Dawn by a decade. Also stars 80s B-Movie bad guy Billy Drago as albino street gang leader Snow.

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE EVIL (1978)

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THE EVIL (1978)

This 1978 haunted house flick, released by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, spooked me quite a bit as a kid. And upon a recent revisit, I still found it to be a fun, nostalgic good time, but obviously for different reasons. It may be tame and kind of silly by today’s standards, but as 70s B-movie horror entertainment, it’s delightfully effective. The film opens with drunk caretaker Sam (Ed Bakey) grumbling about having to clean up the large old house he now enters. He hears children laughing once inside and follows the sounds into the basement to the cold, dead furnace…which promptly blazes to life and sets him on fire. Creepy old house now has our attention! We soon find the large old house is being renovated by psychologist, C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) as a clinic, along with his doctor wife Caroline (Joanna Pettet). They are getting help from volunteers and friends who are going to work and live there over the summer till it is ready to open. Despite some spooky occurrences during the walk-through and local tales that the house and grounds are haunted, they move in anyway and begin work. And as soon as they do, the weirdness begins such as apparitions, strange noises, moving objects and a seemingly friendly pet dog who turns vicious. As a man of science, C.J. refuses to believe there is anything supernatural going on, even when his wife finds a diary that warns of an ancient doorway to evil within the house, that has been sealed and must never be opened. So, of course, when C.J. finds a stone door in the cellar floor sealed by a cross…he removes the cross and opens it. To say all hell breaks loose is far more appropriate than you think, as now the house is sealed by some horrible force and the trapped guests are being tormented and murdered one by one in gruesome ways. Will they find a way to escape with their lives?…and their souls?

Written and directed by Gus Trikonis (Moonshine County Express), The Evil has everything you could want from a 70s B-Movie haunted house flick. There’s cheesy apparitions with dire warnings, levitations, diabolical echoing laughter, an endless thunderstorm, possessions, horrible deaths and even a showdown with Old Scratch (Victor Buono) himself. What more could you want to go along with a six pack of your favorite poison on a Saturday night?  Trikonis’ style is pretty straightforward and he takes his material seriously, but he is definitely having fun with his supernatural story, as it’s elements are presented with just the right touch of theatricality and flair. The cheesy dialog and simple FX work all the better because, it is presented sincerely and not made a joke of. It’s not the intense, visceral horror of today’s standards…though there are some violent moments that are still effective…but the film has it’s devious heart in the right place and I appreciate the daring of having our atheist hero actually come face to face with the Prince Of Darkness himself for a James Bond-ish hero vs. villain Tête-à-Tête at the film’s climax. It works better then you think, especially due to some witty dialog and Buono’s malice drenched performance that goes just over-the-top enough without becoming camp.

The rest of the cast take their parts seriously, too, with Crenna giving us a man of science who is resisting the notion that the supernatural things he’s disbelieved all his life may be far too real. And to survive, he may have to turn to the God, whose existence he has always denied. Pettet gives us a solid heroine in his wife and as she’s a doctor, too, she is strong-willed and a fighter, though far more receptive to what she is experiencing than her husband. The supporting cast, including 70s mainstays Andrew Prine and Cassie Yates, all do well in creating likable people out of characters who all face possible doom in the grasp of an ancient evil right out of a bedtime story. It’s treating the material with respect and playing it straight by cast and crew that makes this film so much fun. If it were played for laughs, then we as the audience would appreciate it much less. Our entertainment comes from the fact that it’s all being presented to us in a serious manner, whether it be the house’s former tenant possessing Caroline right before C.J.’s eyes, or his arguing there must be a scientific explanation for a house filled with diabolical laughter locking you and your friends inside. Sure doc…it’s the humidity.

It all comes down to a really entertaining 70s B-Movie horror that, while it may not be perfect and may not scare like it did back in it’s day, still thoroughly entertains for much different reasons and that, is still entertainment after all. A flick made unintentionally campy by the passage of time, but still not without some very effective moments. A prime example of fun, nostalgic 70s B-Movie horror!

3 delightfully devilish Buonos.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: PIRANHA AND HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP!

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PIRANHA (1978)

Classic Jaws rip-off from Roger Corman is a lot of fun mostly because it playfully acknowledges it’s inspiration yet, becomes it’s own movie and is all the more entertaining for it. The story revolves around a school of genetically altered piranha in a remote mountain military research station. When they claim the lives of two teens, the investigator searching for them, Maggie (Heather Menzies) and her reluctant, alcoholic mountain guide, Paul (Bradford Dillman) accidentally free the ferocious fish into the local river and are now frantically trying to stop them before they reach a summer camp and a water theme park. Piranha is gory and campy but, not without some tense sequences too as when the carnivorous fish attack the summer camp filled with kids. The cast has fun but, treats their roles just serious enough to make it work and that allows the audience to buy into it just enough to have a good time. Directed with equal parts humor and horror by Joe Dante (who went on to direct The Howling and Gremlins) from a witty script by Howling scribe John Sayles, Piranha transcends it’s rip-off status to become a classic in it’s own right. Also stars Kevin McCarthy as the scientist who created them, Barbara Steele, Keenan Wynn and Corman regulars Paul Bartel, as a grumpy camp counselor and Dick Miller, as a shady theme park owner. Another Corman flick filled with talents who would go on to their own fame and fortune.

If you like this, Alexandre Aja’s 2010 remake is also a real blast too, taking the boobs and blood to new heights!

3 and 1/2 fanged fish!

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HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980)

Yet another camp classic from Roger Corman and his New World Pictures and one I’m proud to say I saw at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. Humanoids has an army of fish creatures, born of genetic experiments on salmon, descending on a quiet coastal fishing village to kill and mate… with human women. As with the best of Corman’s productions, this one is made with just the right mix of seriousness and camp to make the story work. The film is well directed by Barbara Peeters though Corman felt the film lacked the more exploitative elements needed to sell it and brought in James Sbardellati to direct the more graphic scenes of sex, nudity and gore to be added in. Peeters was apparently very unhappy with the changes Corman made, as was star Ann Turkel who plays scientist Dr. Susan Drake, who created the creatures and now seeks to help destroy them. And as for the cast… a cast lead by Doug McClure (as fisherman Jim Hill) and Vic Morrow (as rival fisherman and town douchebag, Hank Slattery)… they treat the material with the respect it deserves and that adds weight despite it’s far fetched story. Despite the artistic differences between Corman and his director, the film is bloody good time and loaded with all the fun characteristics we expect from a Roger Corman movie and that’s what counts. Also characteristic of a Roger Corman film, future talents are present behind the scenes. Here it is makeup FX legend Rob Bottin providing creatures and plentiful gore and, one of today’s top composers, James Horner. A really gory, fun movie of the kind they rarely make anymore.

3 and 1/2 horny hybrid horrors!

humanoids rating

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