Archive for the ‘B-Movies’ Category

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In keeping with the spirit of horror trash started in my previous post concerning Full Moon Entertainment’s cult classic, Demonic Toys, I thought we’d take a look at a film released by another low-budget horror purveyor, the Empire Pictures garbage-fest, Terrorvision.

Before we dissect the film, let us first go back, and study the history of the now defunct Empire International Pictures.

Founded in 1983, by Charles Band as a response to his dissatisfaction with how his films were being distributed while working for major motion picture studios, Empire Pictures gave him the freedom to release a slew of low budget horror, and science fiction titles, most notably the Stuart Gordon cult classics Re-Animator, and From Beyond, Dolls, the infamous Trolls, and of course Terrorvision.

The company would eventually collapse in the fall of 1988, but the following year the garbage Goliath, Full Moon Entertainment would rise from its mostly sawdust, and cheap latex ashes.

Terrorvision tells the story of a ravenous alien creature accidentally beamed to earth via satellite by an extraterrestrial garbage disposal that ends up in a household occupied by three children who must stop it before it escapes, and goes on a rampage.

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The film is surprisingly dark considering it’s generally light-natured, and goofy aesthetic, and it has a delightfully bleak ending.

The film was a critical, and commercial bomb, being sited as one of the reasons for Empire Picture’s bankruptcy, but has since gone on to achieve cult status after it’s release by Scream Factory on bluray.

Fun fact, the legendary voice actor Frank Welker, (one of my idols) responsible for such pop culture icons as Megatron, Doctor Claw, Nibbler, Slimer, and pretty much every popular cartoon character from the eighties, and nineties not voiced by Jim Cummings, provides the voice of the hungry alien beast.

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Look at all them pretty 80’s colours!

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Full Moon Entertainment, a distribution company headed by B-movie maniac, Charles band are responsible for the majority of sleazy, low budget direct-to-video horror titles that over-saturated video-store shelves in the late eighties, and early nineties, the most well known being the Puppet Master, Subspecies, and Trancers series, as well as the subject of today’s post, Demonic Toys.

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Demonic Toys follows two police officers, who after being involved in a shoot out outside a warehouse take refuge inside, and are stalked by a handful of evil toys… and that’s pretty much it. There’s a subplot involving a demon buried beneath the warehouse, who needs to devour an unborn baby’s soul in order to be reborn, but it’s about as entertaining as you’d suspect. The selling point of a film like this needs to be the creatures in the title, and the demonic toys do not disappoint. There’s a ravenous teddy bear, a robot/ tank hybrid that shoots laser beams from its arms, the most phallic Jack-in-the-box ever, and the star of the whole shebang the foul-mouthed, Baby Oopsy Daisy, who walks, and talks, and can even shit her pants.

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Demonic Toys is beautiful garbage. Unlike many of Full Moon’s other features, which are predominantly barely watchable, low-brow turds, Demonic Toys is thoroughly entertaining, despite its ridiculous premise, no doubt thanks in part to then unknown screenwriter/ director David S. Goyer, the man who’d go on to write The Dark Knight trilogy, Dark City,  and Man of Steel.

If you’re hungry for a little cheese, then check out Demonic Toys, if only so baby Oopsy Daisy can have another special friend.

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The eighties in a single picture. 

I’ve touched briefly upon director’s in my previous posts, greats like Romero, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Hitchcock, Jackson, as well as a few lesser known names like Henenlotter, Solet, and Craig.

Today I’d like to introduce you to another relatively unknown name, a man responsible for two of my all time favourite horror films, and a handful of episodes from the groundbreaking HBO anthology series, Tales From the Crypt. The one, and only, Fred Dekker.

Fred Dekker was born in 1959, in San Francisco, California. A comic book fanatic, cinephile, and horror nerd from an early age, Dekker applied at USC, and UCLA for film studies, and was subsequently rejected by both. He attended UCLA,  majoring in English instead, and it was there where he met frequent collaborators Shane Black, Ed Solomon, and Chris Matheson.

His big break in the movie industry came after writing the Steve Miner directed, Sean S. Cunningham produced horror-comedy House, and from there he want on the write, and direct the two cult classics I’d like to talk about today, Night of the Creeps, and Monster Squad.

     Night of the Creeps.

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Released in 1986, Fred Dekker’s directorial debut is a loving homage of B-movies that mixes the best bits of zombie, slasher, alien invasion, and creature feature films into a unique, and thoroughly enjoyable picture.

The film follows a couple of loveable university dorks, who unwittingly release a horde of alien slugs after stealing a cadaver in an attempt to join a fraternity. Aided by a haunted detective, the three must fend off an army of zombie-like creatures infected by the slugs before their quaint little own is overrun.

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Night of the Creeps is one of those rare films that makes you smile from start to finish no matter how many times you’ve watched it. The chemistry amongst the cast is wonderful, with a standout performance from the legendary Tom Atkins as Detective Ray Cameron, who chews up every scene he’s given, and the creature effects hold up surprisingly well, thanks in part to Dekker’s reliance on prosthetics, and practical effects.

Although I’ve never seen him admit it out loud, or in an interview, Slither, by James Gunn can be seen as a spiritual successor of sorts to Night of the Creeps, and if you haven’t seen it either, I recommend you watch it immediately, and note the similarities between the two.

Monster Squad

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To put it plainly, Monster Squad is essentially the Goonies meet the Universal Monsters.

The story is every child whom grew up loving horror’s fantasy, and follows the Monster Squad, group of preteen friends who idolize monsters, and get more than they bargain for when Dracula aided by the Wolfman, Mummy, and Gill-man show up in their picturesque town searching for an amulet capable of helping him take over the world.

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Monster Squad is an important film to me. Back when I was fresh out of diapers my grandmother taped it off cable, and I’d watch it for hours while visiting the old farm house where I was born, eventually playing the damned thing into oblivion. It wasn’t until 2007 that I’d get a chance to watch it again after the release of the 20th anniversary DVD, and little has changed since those early days of my youth. Like all of Fred Dekker’s work there’s an inherent playfulness at work, almost as though conceived through the imagination of a child.

Unfortunately Dekker hasn’t written or directed anything like his first two films in quite some time, thanks in part to their lukewarm critical reception, and box office returns, but if the 2010’s have taught me anything it’s that nostalgia is a goldmine, and there’s always the possibility that the long talked about sequel to Monster Squad might be just around the corner, provided his work with Shane Black on the new Predator film is successful.

So I ask of you this Mr. Dekker,

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After yesterday’s post about the Frank Henenlotter sexploitation film, Bad Biology, (and a number of others for that matter) I feel I may have given all you darklings out there the impression that I’m a depraved, gore-crazed lunatic who showers in blood, and eats his liver with fava beans, and a nice chianti while marathoning snuff films. Now, although most of that is true, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a softer side. In fact, I’m actually quite sensitive when you peel back all the layers of murder, monsters, and viscera, and happen to enjoy the occasional bad romantic-comedy as much as the next mildly insane, socially awkward purveyor of fear. One of my favourites being the much maligned 1993 classic, and original Zombiedy, My Boyfriend’s Back.

Directed by sometimes actor, sometimes writer, Bob Balaban, (known for Parents, and Gosford Park) My Boyfriend’s Back follows Johnny Dingle, who, after a foiled attempt to impress his crush, Missy McCloud, is shot and killed during a robbery, only to come back as a zombie. Now a member of the living dead, Johnny must reintegrate with society, struggle with his burgeoning cannibalistic appetite, and anti-zombie discrimination, all while trying to woo his beloved to take her to prom.

My Boyfriend’s Back is a ripe slice of early nineties cheese. The story is cornier than a thanksgiving bowel movement, and the special effects make Plan Nine From Outer Space’s look revolutionary by comparison, but I still love it. Despite its many faults, the film is intoxicatingly charming, held up by surprisingly strong performances from a cast that knew what they were starring in.

Fun fact, My Boyfriend’s Back was the first movie role for Matthew Fox, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew McConaughey, and Renee Zellweger, despite Zellweger’s only scene being cut.

 

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I have a new name for you today, and a relatively obscure one at that. Frank Henenlotter. Say it with me now. Henenlotter, Henenlotter. Henenlotter. It’s a doozy right? Practically rolls off the tongue.

Frank Henenlotter is an American screenwriter, and director, responsible for a handful of campy, exploitation films from the eighties, the most popular of which being, Basket Case, Frankenhooker, and Brain Damage.

Shortly after releasing the third instalment of the Basket Case series Henenlotter took a sixteen year hiatus from filmmaking, (citing frustration with studio interference as the reason for his absence) only to return in 2008 with what is probably his most obscenely ridiculous film yet, Bad Biology.

Bad Biology is your typical boy meets girl love story that follows Jennifer, a woman with a hyperactive sex drive, and bizarre reproductive system that either kills her mates, or births monster children, and Batz, a man with a sentient, drug addicted monster penis that he cannot control. Through chance of fate these single, white genetic anomalies meet, and bond almost instantly. The only thing keeping them from enjoying a romantic happily ever after is Batz’s increasingly erratic tallywhacker, and it’s sudden hunger for murder.

I wish the synopsis written above was an exaggeration, but it’s not. Bad Biology is one messed up piece of cinema. Free from the constraints of the typical Hollywood horror movie, Henenlotter was able to let his perverse imagination soar, and created a film that’s equal parts a homage to, and an evolution of his earlier work. The special effects are delightfully low-budget, low-brow, and cringe-worthy, and there’s enough gore to please any splatterhouse junkie.

If you haven’t seen Bad Biology, and chances are pretty high that you haven’t, you should definitely check it out, if for nothing more than to witness the sheer madness on display throughout its 90 minute duration.

I can’t really say anymore than I already have. This is literally a case of, you need to see it to believe it.

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In honour of the 13th day of the month, (despite it not falling on a Friday this year)  I’d like to look at a film that celebrates one of the most well known slashers around, the hulking manifestation of angry abstinence himself, Jason Voorhees.

There are many out there whom think that horror has no heart. I of course mean the metaphorical definition of heart, not the literal, there a hundreds of movies with those if that’s your thing. They assume that because the genre is predominantly packed with blood, and guts, and violence that it’s incapable of evoking any other emotions aside from anger, or fear. To these people I offer a challenge, watch The Changeling, Let the Right One In, The Fly, (1986) Spring, the last segment of the Tales from the Darkside movie, etc, and tell me horror’s incapable of having heart. Hell even Frankenstein is essentially a love story, and The Creature is the Pop culture granddaddy of all monsters.

Another example of horror with heart is 2015’s The Final Girls, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson.

The film follows Max Cartwright, (Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story fame) whose mother, Amanda, (Malin Akerman) star, and scream queen of the 1986 slasher flick, Camp Bloodbath, is killed in accident after a failed audition.

Three years later, on the anniversary of her mother’s death Max is invited to a special double-feature screening of Camp Bloodbath, and its sequel as a special guest by her friend’s brother. A fire breaks out in the theatre during the film, and Max, as well as a handful of others end up trapped inside the movie after slashing through the screen in an attempt to escape. There they must help the cast survive the wrath of Billy, a former camper who was severely burned by fireworks inside an outhouse by councillors.

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At its core The Final Girls is a story about grief, and the difficulty coping with the loss of a loved one. It’s a meta affair, akin to Cabin in the Woods, and Scream, and a heartfelt homage to the slasher genre that inspired it, namely the aforementioned Friday the 13th series. It’s also hilarious, thanks in part to a supporting cast featuring, Adam Devine, (Workaholics) Thomas Middleditch, (Silicon Valley) and Alia Shawkat, (Arrested Development).

The film released to positive reviews, but suffered the fate of bargain-bin burial thanks in part to its PG-13 rating, a red flag for many horror fans. It’s a shame really, because despite the lack of the coveted R rating, The Final Girls still managed to slip in some inventive kills, (I’m looking at you Devine pretzel).

The Final Girls is an easy recommendation, both entertaining, and surprisingly sweet. Do yourself a favour, and check it out. I snagged a copy for five bucks at Walmart, and it was five-hundred pennies well spent.

That’s all for today skiddies, but do come back tomorrow, and as always, stay scared!

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Creature features are a tough sell these days as we’ve seen pretty much all there is to see in terms of monsters gobbling up humans like the earth is an all you can eat buffet. Wolf-men, vampires, creatures from the Black Lagoon, check, check, check. Radioactive dinosaurs, ants, ticks, check, check, check. Flesh-eating plants, intergalactic porcupines, Killer Klowns from Outer Space check, check, check. Sharknados, telekinetic tires, and Ron Jeremy’s penis… sadly another triple check, and so on in infinitum. Do you see a trend? It would appear that as the years progress filmmakers are attempting to make things that aren’t scary, well, scary, (not counting Ron Jeremy’s penis of course. That thing is terrifying). So it’s always a pleasant surprise when a creature feature comes along that brings something unique to the sinner table, without stumbling into the absolutely ludicrous.

Take 2008’s Splinter, for example. On paper it has a fairly simple plot. A couple on route to a romantic camping trip in the forests of Oklahoma, (words I never thought I’d put together) are car-jacked by an escaped convict, and his junkie girlfriend. After suffering a flat tire the four end up seeking shelter in an abandoned gas station, and soon find themselves attacked by a parasitic fungus that reanimates the flesh of the dead in creative, and disturbing ways.

Splinter works because of its simplicity. There’s no complex backstory explaining the origin of the fungus, no end of the world type scenario, there’s just a handful of people in a small environment doing the best they can to survive.

Co-Writer/ director Toby Wilkins, did an excellent job with the relatively small budget he had to work with by focussing more on the characters, and less on the creature itself. Also praise is due for one of the most brutal amputation scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

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The creature itself is splendidly grotesque. It’s essentially a zombie with notes of John Carpenter’s Thing, and a little Cabin Fever flesh-eating disease tossed in for fun, and the mix of practical, and CGI really bring it to life.

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Splinter is definitely worth a watch, and is ranked high on my list of favourite horror films from 2008.

That’s all for today my dearest darklings, and as always stay scared!

chillerama

If you haven’t noticed over the past few days, I’m a huge fan of anthologies. It probably stems from my love of short stories, an adoration born in my Tweens while digesting the work of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov. H.P Lovecraft, and Poe. There’s something special about a short story, like a kiss in the company of darkness or a chilly breeze on a humid summer day. There for a moment, but not easily forgotten,

Anthologies are no different if done right. I could talk endlessly about the classics, titles such as Trilogy of Terror, Dead of Night, Asylum, Creepshow, From a Whisper to a Scream, and Trick’R’Treat to name a few, but despite my love for these films, I’ve never really been one to go the mainstream route. Instead I’d like to take a look at another hidden gem conjured by the twisted minds of Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green, and Joe Lynch, a film like no other, (mainly because it’s too bat shit ridiculous to come from anyone else) Chillerama.

Conceived while Rifkin, and Sullivan were working on Detroit Rock City, after the two discovered they had a mutual love for drive-in B-movies, creature features, and horror, the film was originally entitled, Famous Monsters of Filmland, a nod to a magazine they grew up reading.

Chillerama is split into four segments tied together by a wraparound story about a drunken, theatre employee who digs up his dead wife to commit necrophilia and is subsequently bitten by her on his genitals. Yep, you read that right. Each of the segments, (played out as different movies during a marathon screening at the theatre) pays homage to a different era in film.

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Coming soon to a Uterus near you!

Wadzilla, a spoof of the drive-in monster movies from the 1950’s, follows a man who undergoes a procedure to increase his sperm count, but instead creates a single giant sperm that terrorizes New York City.

The creature effects were provided by the Chiodo Brothers, the boys responsible for creating the Critters, and Killer Klown’s from Outer Space to name a few.

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Fun Times in the locker room.

I Was a Teenage Werebear, is a musical riff of Grease, Twilight, and Rebel Without a Cause, that follows a closeted teen who meets a group of boys who, when aroused turn into Werebears.

The short was later adapted by Sullivan, and Sean Abley as a stage musical.

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Es Lebt!!! Es Lebt!!!

Diary of Anne Frankenstein is pretty much exactly what you expect
it to be, a combination of The Diary of Anne Frank, and Frankenstein. The story follows Hitler during world war II as he attempts to build an army of unstoppable killing machines.

The always amazing Joel David Moore, (from Hatchet, Grandma’s Boy, and Dodgeball fame) hams it up as Hitler, and Jason Vorhees himself, Kane Hodder plays his Jewish monster.

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Zom-B movie is a spoof of 70’s, and 80’s zombie flicks that I’d really rather let you watch for yourselves!

I will say that the soundtrack for the segment was composed by the legendary Bear McCreary, who most will surely recognize as the man behind one of the few consistently amazing aspects of AMC’s The Walking Dead, its soundtrack, and theme song.

Chillerama is the kind of film that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s ludicrous, offensive, never takes itself too seriously, and is a shitload of fun! It’s also a treasure-trove of all things horror for fanatics like myself, featuring several cameos, and neat little winks to the films that inspired it.

Until next time skiddies.

Stay Scared!

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Over the past few days we’ve taken a look at cannibals, aliens, zombies, mindless vidiots, deranged fast food moguls, and even extraterrestrial transvestites. In keeping with the progressively random nature of these posts, the next logical member on our list of horror antagonists would have to be something both exceptionally terrifying, and bizarre. Something so shearly horrifying that the mere thought of counting them as we drift off to slumber is enough to cause insomnia. Something soft, and fluffy, and full of hate.

It’s sheep, mutant, bloodthirsty sheep.

Black Sheep, (not to be confused with the 1996 Chris Farley political, buddy-comedy, remaquel of Tommy Boy) is a 2006 black-comedy horror film from New Zealand, written, and directed by Jonathon King

The story follows Henry Oldfield, the son of a sheep farmer, who, after fleeing home following a traumatic prank played on him by his brother Angus that left him with a phobia of the fluffy fuckers, returns to sell his share of the family estate. Unbeknownst to Henry, Angus has been conducting genetic experiments on the livestock in his absence, and has created a breed of carnivorous sheep whose bite can transform humans into were-sheep.

Meanwhile two environmental activists named Grant, and Experience, (let that simmer on your tongue for a minute) trying to expose the experiments unwittingly release a mutant lamb that escapes into the fields and begins infecting the flocks of sheep.

Let’s do some math skiddies. In 2006, the population of New Zealand was 4.21 million according to census. The population of sheep on the other hand, (one of the country’s major trade commodities) was about 30 million. That’s a roughly seven to one sheep to human ratio.

You see where I’m going with this?

What makes the film so thoroughly enjoyable is the loony B-movie inspired premise is played completely straight, not to mention the outstanding special-effects created by industry legends The WETA Workshop, the creative geniuses behind Bad Taste, Brain Dead, and The Lord of the Rings series.

Black Sheep, is better than it has any right to be, and for you horror-junkies out there who’ve yet to see it, I give it my highest recommendation. Five blood soaked balls of fleece out of five.

That’s a wrap for today’s entry, but please come back tomorrow boils, and ghouls, because things are only going to get bloodier as the days go on.

Stay scared!