SUGAR HILL (1974)
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70’s Blaxsploitation flick from producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and the legendary American International Pictures isn’t one of the best of that era, but certainly isn’t among the worst. Sugar Hill tells the supernatural story of Diana Hill (Marki Bey) who is known to everyone as Sugar. Sugar’s boyfriend, Langston (Larry D. Johnson) is murdered by gangsters and the distraught woman turns to voodoo to exact revenge. Soon the men of crime boss Morgan (Robert Quarry) start to fall, as Sugar and her army of zombies hunt them down one by one and gruesomely murder them.
Flick is the one directorial effort from prolific producer and writer Paul Maslansky from a script by Tim Kelly. It’s directed a bit by-the-numbers and has a somewhat slow pace even for a 90 minute film. Sugar Hill does benefit now from it’s nostalgic charm, but that doesn’t totally get us past that some of the acting is a bit too bad to enjoy at times and the dialogue a bit too badly written to really laugh at. Don Pedro Colley’s Baron Samedi, for example, is almost comical, despite the film’s dead serious tone. There are some amusingly cheesy SPFX…especially the make-up on the zombies…and a few spooky moments, too, such as when they first rise. If that doesn’t add some entertainment to it, there are always some of gangster Morgan’s outfits to provide nostalgia and chuckles. It is also of interest to see how racist, misogynist and sexist a movie could be in that era without raising a ruckus, as in today’s politically correct times. Not to mention, as well, how much PG rated films got away with before the ratings system became more conservative in the 80s. Lastly, this story of a woman who uses voodoo to avenge her lover’s murder has it’s heroine become so gleeful at slaughtering the mobsters who beat her fiancé to death, that sometimes it’s hard to root for her. Sure the bad guys deserve it, but she is now just as bloodthirsty, or more so, than the men she stalks and kills. It’s a thin line, but sometimes it’s hard to get behind someone who’d work perfectly as the villain in another movie. Then again, Sugar Hill is not a morality play, but simple exploitation entertainment.
Overall, this is an amusing example of a distinct era of filmmaking, but not quite one of the best, though there are those that might argue that. Sugar Hill is certainly worth seeking out by those interested in Blaxsploitation cinema and does have it’s entertainment value. Also stars Richard Lawson, who appeared as “Willis” in Scream Blacula Scream, as Det. Valentine and Zara Cully as voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) sexy, vengeful Sugars.
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…
MELINDA CLARKE as JULIE in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 (1993)!
Return of the Living Dead is an 80s cult classic that spawned a franchise of sequels. It’s second sequel, Return of the Living Dead 3, took some elements of the first film and went in it’s own direction and is now considered a bit of a cult classic in it’s own right. ROTLD3 unfolds with a Romeo and Juliette-esque story of army brat, Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) who uses father’s secret army experiments with the dead, to revive his tragically killed girlfriend, Julie (Melinda Clarke)…and thus a Cult Classic Cutie was born!…as Julie/ Melinda Clarke is renown as one of the sexiest zombies ever committed to film…and her title has yet to be challenged.
After her portrayal as the sexy zombie, Julie, Melinda Clarke (billed in the zombie sequel as Mindy Clarke) went on to have a prolific and ongoing career in both film and television, which started pre-ROTLD3 on the classic TV soap Days Of Our Lives. Since then she has worked steadily, including appearing in such genre related fare as Firefly, Xena, Charmed and more recently on Vampire Diaries and Gotham. As far as horror films go, the closest she’s come to returning to the genre is appearing in the 1997 feature film adaptation of the dark comic book Spawn, as the villainous Jessica Priest. And the horror genre misses her to this day.
(click on the poster for a full review)
Rebel Julie in a more peaceful moment from ROTLD3.
Spying on BF Curt’s military dad, Julie witnesses a horrific experiment go awry!
Beautiful even in death…but for Julie, death is only the beginning.
She’s baaaaack!…and hungry for brains!
Appetite for brains? Piercings made from metal and glass? Yup!…We’d still date her.
Despite being quite the busy actress, the fact that ROTLD3 remains Melinda Clarke’s one true horror film appearance and one in which she made quite an impression, she certainly earns the title Cult Classic Cutie!
Still a beauty over 20 years after taking the horror world by sexy, brain-eating storm!
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!
SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2015)
Completely generic and predictable horror/comedy finds three nerdy boy scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan) teaming up with a stripper (Sarah Dumont) as they search for one’s sister (Halston Sage) during a zombie outbreak (does one town merit an apocalypse?).
There is literally nothing new or even remotely clever in this routine zombie comedy directed by Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones‘ Christopher B. Landon, who, for some reason, needed three co-writers to crank out a by-the-numbers flick with little or no inventiveness or originality. We get exactly what we’d expect…a lot of gore, even more vulgar toilet humor and the typical ‘nerd wins hot chick by battling evil’ scenario that has been done to death since the 80s. It’s not that the flick is ever really boring or badly made, it’s just that it is completely void of anything that might set it apart or deviate from the same formula, be it zombie comedy or ‘nerd becomes hero’ flick, that has become commonplace by now. Landon did a good job with Marked Ones and gave us a few scares and a second wind with a well worn franchise and formula. So, why he couldn’t do the same here is disappointing. The cast all have fun with the material, at least and feisty Sarah Dumont is notable as eye-candy and ass kicker. Also stars Krampus‘ David Koechner as a Dolly Parton obsessed scout leader.
SINISTER 2 (2015)
Sequel finds Deputy So and So (James Ransone) now having left the force and tracking various murder cases, linked to Bughuul, across the country. His search leads him to a secluded church and farmhouse where a mother, Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twin sons (Dartanian and Robert Daniel Sloan) are hiding out from an abusive spouse. Of course, this is a former crime site and Bughuul and his child minions have their sights set on one of the boys.
This awful sequel makes the big mistake of having the worst character from the first film be the lead here. Of course he’s called Deputy So and So, because Deputy Dewey was already taken. This weak flick is surprisingly written by original flick scribes, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, though this time directed by Irish director Ciaran Foy. The original had it’s moments, but was a bit overrated, but this sequel is just boring, sluggishly paced and gives us nothing new or interesting about the thinly written, generic boogieman Bughuul. Most of the screen time is taken up by his creepy spirit children trying to coax one or the other of the boys to join them in murder and Deputy So and So being just as annoying as last time. It’s a snooze-fest with zero tension, suspense or legitimate scares. A complete waste of time and surely a disappointment for fans of the first flick.
Horror comedy finds a group of summer school teachers under siege from a horde of students turned into flesh eating zombies by some rancid chicken nuggets. Written by Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, this flick gives us nothing fresh or new in the zombie sub-genre, whether it be comedy or straight horror. It’s all been done before. The direction by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion is very by-the-numbers and none of the humor is really all that funny. There is some abundant gore and the cast, including Elijah Wood, Alison Pil and Rainn Wilson seem to be having a fun time, but not much of that really translates to the audience…unless you think simply seeing students kill their parents and teachers, or teachers killing their students, is funny. The film’s attempts to be clever are far too obvious to be successful, like the town being called ‘Fort Chicken’ and Elijah Wood’s Mr. Hadson being compared to a Hobbit by Rain Wilson’s cliché redneck. That’s pretty much the level this flick is on. Overall, it’s kinda dull even at less than 90 minutes. The students-turned-zombies Halloween episode of Community was a lot funnier with a similar plot.
LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974)
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Italian horror is also known as The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue and takes place in England where an experimental machine to rid farms of parasites is also raising the dead with it’s low-level radiation. The film focuses on an antiques dealer traveling through the area on business (Ray Lovelock) and a young women (Cristina Galbó) as they encounter the flesh eating corpses and try to convince local police the recent dead are rising from their graves. No one believes them and as the machine increases it’s range, more corpses begin to return to life…in search of food!
Directed by Jorge Grau, with four writers attached, this is a spooky and atmospheric zombie flick that has a surprising amount of gore for a pre-Dawn Of The Dead zombie film. Grau and cinematographer Francisco Sempere make good use of the settings (Italian countryside standing in for England) especially when visiting it’s graveyards, old churches and even a hospital for it’s climax. Grau’s zombies are a bit smarter and faster than Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead fiends and seem to have a rudimentary thought process in their uses of tools and weapons, while also appearing to be a bit intentionally malicious in their attacks. The gore is very well done and the zombies are suitably chilling. The atmosphere and ghoulish events are also punctuated by a very effective score by Giuliano Sorgini. The flick isn’t perfect. The movie does take quite a while to get going, but is very effective when it does. The acting from the cast is nothing to brag about and our hero George (Lovelock) comes across as real jerk a good portion of the time. The police also seem insufferably stupid…and the inspector (Arthur Kennedy) is an outright thug…especially when it’s obvious something strange is going on, intent on blaming out-of-towner George instead. Not that we should expect scientific accuracy in a film like this either, but an insect killing machine raising the dead does provide a few unintentional chuckles.
I like this movie. It’s not great, but has a lot of atmosphere and does get a jump on the zombie/gore trend a good few years before Romero and Fulci set it in motion with their Dawn of the Dead and Zombie respectively. The acting is pretty bad, as is a lot of the dialogue and it is a bit slow to get started. Once it does, it’s a creepy and blood-spattered zombie flick that does deliver the goods in it’s second half. Worth a look if you haven’t seen it and love everything zombie.