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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
It takes more than a snappy title to make a memorable creature feature., 28 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Isn't 'Big Ass Spider' fun to say? I even cracked a smile telling a friend of mine "I'm about to watch 'Big Ass Spider'!" this evening. Hell, I may even have fun in the future saying "I watched 'Big Ass Spider' last month." Only I won't be doing so with quite the same level of enthusiasm I had before actually seeing the movie. I'll start by saying that I did not dislike this. It's an amiable, simple, good-natured, unpretentious, straightforward comic creature feature clearly made by well-intentioned people who probably had a great time making it. So why didn't I love it? Pretty simple: There's absolutely nothing here that I had not seen elsewhere numerous times before. That goes for the plot, ALL of the characters, the special effects, the cheeky self-aware sense of humor and the presentation of the material. One's overall enjoyment will likely depend on how familiar they are with similar 'giant mutant-monster on the loose' films. If you haven't seen a whole lot of these, you'll likely enjoy the light, goofy tone. However, if you're already well-versed on this stuff, you'll quickly realize this has nothing new to offer.

Hefty every man Greg Grunberg (from the TV series "Lost") plays the lead role as bug / pest exterminator Alex Mathis. After being bitten by a (regular) spider himself, Alex goes to the hospital for treatment. Down in the morgue, another much-larger, scientifically-altered alien spider erupts from the chest of one of the bodies. It bites a coroner, kills a patient, escapes into the sewers and eventually goes on a rampage throughout Los Angeles. With each new victim, the spider grows to a larger size; filling out five different growth stages that will end in the spider laying a bunch of eggs. Naturally, it must be stopped before that can happen and, despite the presence of the military (led by dependable character actor Ray Wise), Alex finds himself front and center in the battle, aided by security guard / "Mexican Robin" sidekick Jose (Lombardo Boyer, giving a very likable performance in a highly stereotyped role). Throw in a pretty love interest / damsel in distress (Clare Kramer) who figures during the KING KONG-inspired finale and that's pretty much all she wrote. This goes right down the monster movie cliché check-list without missing a beat, whilst unfortunately never once going outside the box.

I honestly didn't find the Alex character as endearing as I think the writers intended him to be. He's pushy, annoyingly presumptuous and even downright obnoxious at times. Since he's overweight, the script of course requires him to foolishly risk his life numerous times over in order to prove himself worthy of an attractive woman he doesn't even really know and one who otherwise wouldn't give him the time of day. That's fine and dandy (albeit typical), but that doesn't change the fact that this all falls into predictable TV sitcom-style stereotype casting. You know, a tubby schlub with a heightened sense of his own desirability and zero self-awareness is paired up with a hot woman and we're supposed to automatically find it a charmingly oddball pairing. I assume this is supposed to be empowering to your Average Joe to show that even the hottest of hotties is not outside his reach, but it's this same routine handling of character dynamics that somewhat hamper an already-predictable film and keep it from rising above the norm. And I swear if I have to sit through another "comic" scene of a Mexican going into action accompanied by blaring mariachi music I'm gonna scream.

On the plus side, some of the banter between Alex and Jose is amusing, the CGI fx are pretty decent for a low-budget film (although they *still* look like something that'd be more at home in some video game), there's more gore than one might expect for a PG-13 movie and there are some very fun moments to be had in here, especially when the spider attacks a bunch of people in a park. There are also a few notable cameos as well, including the always-amusing Lin Shaye as one of Alex's neurotic customers, Troma's Lloyd Kaufman (who gets skewered) and directors Adam Gierasch (as a homeless guy who encounters the spider in the sewer) and Kevin Tenney (who can be spotted waiting in line at a hospital). None of the above can help this completely overcome the sheer predictability of the whole thing, but it's enough to keep the film watchable for 80 minutes. I've certainly seen better, but I've also seen a LOT worse.

Carrie (2013)
17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Weak carbon copy of the original film., 15 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I noticed that Lawrence D. Cohen, who'd adapted the Stephen King-penned outsider's revenge novel for the Brian De Plama original, is again credited with this adaptation. Did he actually re-write this or did they just re-use his old script? Either way, I was shocked at just how closely this followed the 1976 film. Much of the same dialogue, many of the same camera movements (the pan shot up to show the bucket; the camera beginning to spin around Carrie and Tommy as they dance, etc.) plus weak copycat shots of everything from the fire erupting behind Carrie to the blood falling on her from multiple angles (laughably overdone in this one) are all recycled here once again. They even cloned the silly "getting ready for Prom" montage and if you think the one here is any less corny than the one in the original, you are mistaken. It is one thing to adapt a famous novel that's already been filmed and try to update it for the times, but it is a whole other thing to weakly emulate another director's visual style when you are doing so.

What few "new" things have been added here are sadly not to the overall betterment of the core story. Including cyber-bullying in the mix is - in theory - a good way to update it, but it isn't elaborated upon enough to make it the least bit interesting and is presented almost like an afterthought instead of it being an integral part of the story. Images of Carrie's locker room humiliation being projected in front of everyone at Prom were simply carried over from THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999), where they project embarrassing videos of Rachel at a party. In other words, this movie does absolutely nothing fresh or new with the concept. Nothing.

Moretz's "blossoming" from an outcast to someone who could possibly be accepted by her peer group didn't come off at all. The transformation for Sissy Spacek in the original film was dramatic as she went from awkward, mumbling Plain Jane to a nice-looking, appealing Prom date. Here, Moretz looks exactly the same before and after. Her fresh-faced, squeaky-clean appearance throughout the film makes it's a hard swallow that Tommy (vacantly played by Ansel Elgort) could look at her wearing a dress and then suddenly be like "Wow!" when he barely paid her any mind before. I thought both Spacek and Angela Bettis in the 2002 version pulled this off better. Both actresses also actually modulated their performances; something young Moretz simply does not yet have the gravitas or skill to do.

It's not just Moretz who pales in comparison. Julianne Moore is one of the best actresses working today, but she simply cannot compete with Piper Laurie's go-for-broke, thoroughly unhinged portrayal in the 1976 film. Moore is simply too low-key and restrained to make the part the least bit memorable; the same exact trap Patricia Clarkson fell into in the 2002 version. Whiny-voiced Judy Greer is just plain awful as the gym teacher and is absolutely no match for Betty Buckley's mixture of strength and compassion. A key scene in the original film (Buckley's character discussing her own Prom night disaster with Carrie used as a sort-of 'calm before the storm') has been removed from this one for no good reason. The fate of the character has also been altered; stripping this of an important element of horror and tragedy. None of the young actors portraying the bullies are able to broadly paint their personalities on screen in a memorable or notable way. Portia Doubleday probably comes closest in her portrayal of ringleader Chris Hargensen but she still doesn't seem quite as nasty and vindictive as Nancy Allen.

There was a haunting elegance to the direction, score and photography in the original film and all of that is absent here. This film's ordinary visual presentation, point-and-shoot cinematography, generic music score and CGI effects do absolutely nothing to spruce up the familiar story. In other words, what exactly is the point? Like many other soulless cash-grabs remakes, this will be completely forgotten here in a few years while the original film will forever live on as a genre classic.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
"We conjured up the ghost of Lizzie Borden and now her lesbian ass is haunting our sorority house?!", 14 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892, Lizzie Borden (Jenny Allford) chops up her religious fanatic parents (mom is played by veteran Scream Queen Brinke Stevens in a boring cameo) because they disapprove of her being a lesbian. This first scene alone, with its terrible acting, an exterior shot of a house that looks absolutely nothing like a turn-of-the-century home, barren porn-level "art direction" and hilariously bad CGI blood splatter, pretty much sets the tone for what's to follow. And it's not a pretty picture, folks. Things cut to modern day as seven sorority sisters face "punishment" for being caught (gasp!) drinking. So what does this punishment entail? Well, it involves missing a Spring Break trip to Florida and something about them being locked up inside Lizzie Borden's former house and being forced to have a slumber party dressed only in lingerie.

During a game of Truth or Dare, nerdy Cindy (Kelly Erin Decker) decides that for her dare they all should hold a séance to call forth the spirit of Lizzie. One of the girls, Leslie (porno actress Veronica Ricci), happens to be a descendant of the Borden clan and immediately becomes possessed. The other girls are Amanda (Marlene Mc'Cohen), whose mentally-disturbed younger sister Vanessa (Krystal Ellsworth) has managed to sneak inside, Dee (Tiffany Mualem), who has severe anger management issues, Janice (Ginny You), who is an uptight tattle-tale, Ashley (Mindy Robinson), a tattooed, silicone-chested slut, and Mallory (Shanalynne Wesner), whose attempt to take naughty birthday pics for her boyfriend results in pervert photographer Bobby (Michael Beardsley) breaking into the house armed with a handycam to shoot material to upload onto his porno website. The above characters talk, and wander down hallways, and talk some more, and run up the stairs, and talk, and sit on the couch and argue and whine and argue some more. It's about as much fun as it sounds. Every once in awhile, Lizzie (in crappy dime store Halloween kit level makeup) pops in to kill someone off.

I'm actually a longtime fan of low-budget horror flicks - including the same director's DEAD GIRLS (1990) - but this sunk too low even for me. The acting is atrocious, the dialogue ("I'm not retarded... I'm mentally imbalanced!") and attempts at character arcs (like the photographer's sudden big 'coming out' moment... don't ask) are cringe-worthy, the makeup and fx are extremely lame, the editing is terrible... Well, actually, *everything* is terrible. Worst of all, it commits the biggest sin for one of these things by being boring. Even several of the actresses getting naked doesn't help matters. The only one able to rise above the material is You, who seems to have a knack for comedy. I wouldn't mind seeing her in something else. Several of the other girls show hints of appeal or talent, as if they could be better in something else, but this sure as hell isn't it.

Sleepstalker (1995) (V)
Below average, typically gimmicky 90s horror., 14 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you asked a sample group of dedicated horror fans, "What has been the worst decade for the genre thus far?," chances are the majority would tell you it was the 1990s. Not that all 90s horror films were bad; there are actually many good ones from this time... "Sleepstalker" just doesn't happen to be one of them. In fact, this is the exact type of gimmicky, one-idea film that ran rampant throughout the decade that gives the 90s horror haters their case in the first place. Slasher films in particular had gone incredibly stale by this point. Jason, Freddy, Michael, Pinhead, Chucky and Leatherface had literally bled the sub-genre dry throughout the 80s and early 90s. By the time the mid 90s hit, desperate filmmakers were coming up with some of the dumbest and most absurd concepts imaginable to try to keep the ball rolling. It wouldn't be until the following year that "Scream" (1996) revitalized things. Only "Scream" ultimately ended up having an even more disastrous effect on these kind of movies when everyone started annoyingly trying to copy the smart-ass characters, constant "clever" film references and self-aware humor. But that is another story for another day... Now back to "Sleepstalker..."

A serial killer known as The Sandman (Michael Harris) has already killed five families. As he's busy slaying mom and pop from Family #6, young Griffin manages to escape. The police, led by Detective Bronson Worth (William Lucking), show up and finally apprehend the psycho. Seventeen years later, The Sandman is on death row awaiting execution. Luckily for him, the man assigned to give him his last rites is a Satanic, white- eyed preacher (Michael D. Roberts) who offers him a chance at revenge. He's given an upside down cross, uses it to cut his hand, bleeds into the sand and then - after his execution in the gas chamber - returns to life. Now a monstrous-looking supernatural entity who has the ability to transform into sand at will (to sneak under doorways, through keyholes, etc.), The Sandman has three days to hunt down and kill a now-grown Griffin (Jay Underwood), who's working in L.A. as a freelance journalist. If The Sandman is able to track down and dispose of Griffin, he will also gain immortality in the process.

After establishing its premise, we are then treated to... Well, not a whole lot actually. The Sandman (who is given an utterly predictable childhood trauma back story in brief flashbacks) kills a few people in surprisingly tame ways. Someone's thrown off a balcony. Another is drown in sand. A head is knocked against a wall. There's nothing memorable or clever going on here despite ample opportunity for both, and there's also a curious absence of blood and gore; almost as if they were trying to avoid an R rating (which the film got, anyway). Though the makeup design on the killer is actually really good, the other fx; a mixture of simply reversing the film (for the sand fx) and primitive and dated early CGI; are quite poor.

The absolute worst thing about this one though is its complete lack of logic and how stupid the characters are. Our heroes learn early on that water is an effective means of fighting off the reanimated killer (who is - of course - made of sand and easily dissolved), so what do they do? They run from him, attempt to shoot him, heave a Molotov cocktail at him and fight him in other silly ways. If I were around to help, I'd be yelling something like, "Hey, go stand in the shower!" or "Why not take a relaxing dip in a hot tub until this guy's time runs out?" Speaking of time running out, the killer is given his three days to kill his target and has ample opportunity to do so throughout the film. During one scene, Griffin is even behind bars when The Sandman pays him a visit. Instead, the killer decides to taunt him and waits until the last minute of the last day to really make his move.

I really do have to give some credit to the cast, though, for at least trying. Despite being given some extremely corny dialogue, Harris gives an effective performance as the killer, and Underwood and Kathryn Morris (playing the obligatory love interest) are as appealing as possible under the circumstances. Cult horror star Ken "Dawn of the Dead" Foree, looking atypically dumpy here, gets a few scenes as one of the detectives, but it's a forgettable, throwaway part.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Have you checked the children?, 13 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While out and about, married couple Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and Sol (Laura Caro) and their tween kids Sara (Michele Garcia), who's just had her first period as the film opens, and Adolfo (Alan Martinez) stop at a gas station. The kids wander off up a hill near some caves and don't show up again until the following day. They're not quite the same when they do. Now withdrawn, cold, creepy and emotionless, the children begin to retreat into their own world, form a rather unhealthy (and possibly incestuous) attachment to one another and ditch school to make return trips to the cave. A visit to a shrink reveals that the two appear to have suffered from some kind of vague "traumatic sexual experience," which leads Sol on a quest to find out what really happened the night they vanished.

Ahí va el diablo ("Here Comes the Devil") is neither terrible nor great. I was fairly engrossed in the plot - at least for awhile - but the direction (particularly excessive zoom shots) and editing annoyed me at times and the whole film has this really murky, ugly look to it. Other moments, like a sudden burst of metal music in the car when the kids are spazzing out, made me laugh out loud and I don't think that was the intended effect. I did like the loose nature of the plot and always appreciate it when a filmmaker respects our intelligence enough to allow us to fill in the blanks ourselves, which seems to be what the true intent was. However, it also doesn't capture the same haunting quality of several movies it clearly takes inspiration from like PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK and THE VANISHING. So while I was reasonably entertained, I was never once scared or even mildly creeped out by what goes down here, and I think that's what ultimately disappointed me. Like many other modern genre films, it's more unpleasant and dreary than anything else.

For what it's worth, there's are lot of nudity (including an opening girl-girl number that has nothing to do with the plot) and a few gory moments (including a nasty bit where the parents violently lash out at the neighborhood weirdo / pervert / possible child molester). The score (aside from that awful metal song) is also pretty good.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A female rock band goes to hell., 13 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Tacky, colorful, confusing, mildly-entertaining drivel seems to be the European answer to the short-lived North American 'heavy metal horror' subgenre; films that typically revolved around Lycra-clad, big-haired rock band members being terrorized by supernatural (usually Satanic) forces. Said subgenre included the titles ROCKTOBER BLOOD (1984), HARD ROCK ZOMBIES (1984), MONSTER DOG (1984), TRICK OR TREAT (1986), ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987), SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (1987), BLACK ROSES (1988), HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE (1989), HEAVY METAL MASSACRE (1989; directed by David De Falco and so obscure it's currently not even listed on IMDb), DEAD GIRLS (1990), SHOCK 'EM DEAD (1990) and probably a few others I'm forgetting. This one, from the director of the usually-well-regarded giallo THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN (1975), the silly sci-fi adventure STARCRASH (1979) and the unofficial SUSPIRIA "sequel" THE BLACK CAT (1989) - amongst others - is neither the best nor the worst of the lot, though it's far from what most would consider good.

A nearly all-female rock band headed by singer/songstress Kate (Jasmine Maimone) has hit a creative slump, as evidenced by their atrocious "You Give Love a Bad Name" opening rip-off number. To help matters, drummer Daniel (Pascal Persiano) purchases an unreleased composition written by famous Italian violinist Niccolo Paganini from Mr. Pickett (a diabolically dubbed and goofy acting Donald Pleasance). Upon hearing the track and learning of its origins, the band's bitchy, money-hungry producer Lavinia (Maria Cristina Mastrangeli) decides to hire famous horror film director Mark Singer (Pietro Genuardi) to shoot a horror-themed music video in Paganini's former home; the same place where the violinist reputedly sold his soul to Satan to become famous. It isn't long before most of the cast - which includes Daria Nicolodi as the current owner of Paganini's home and sexy guitarists Michel Klippstein and Luana Ravegnini - are facing various supernatural horrors.

For starters, there's a ghostly, echo-voiced, gold masked killer lurking around who uses a gold violin with a retractable blade. There's also an underground tunnel which leads to an alternate dimension (?!), strange shrill noises that incapacitate people and an electric forcefield which surrounds the house (?!) and is able to blow up a car. Some of the death scenes are pretty bizarre. Someone is crushed by an invisible wall; another is mutated by some kind of infectuous tree fungus (!) Oh yeah, and one of the females may be a little girl who toasted her mum in the bathtub with a hair dryer years earlier. The final scene tries to tie all the loose ends together but only succeeds in making things even more confusing than they already were.

There's some mild gore (fx are variable) and no less than three musical numbers, including a pretty funny music video. Everything is drenched in blue, red and green colors because the director is an Argento devotee (and had helped write a couple of Argento's earlier projects).

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Implausible, but moderately entertaining psycho-thriller., 22 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Obnoxious, foul-mouthed teen Summer (Ashley Greene) has a falling out with her drunken mother, runs away from home and hitches her way to a small town looking for the birth father she's never met. After getting caught shoplifting at a gas station, Summer escapes the police with help from a handsome young guy named Tom Hoxey (Peter Mooney). The two go to a bar and then hook up back at his place. The next morning when Summer attempts to leave, she's knocked out and wakes up chained in the basement. Turns out that Tom is a bit on the unhinged side and his favorite pastime is keeping unwilling girls prisoner in his downstairs "garden." Tom is aided by his lonely, miserable mama Gaia (Barbara Niven), who knows all about her son's little hobby but does nothing to help the victims. A little insane herself, Gaia is still a loving mother. Well actually, she's a little too loving if you catch my drift. Meanwhile, Darwin (Peter Michael Dillon) is snooping around town looking for his missing daughter Amber (Danielle Kind), who is also being held prisoner in the Hoxey home. Things take an even stranger turn when Tom's father and Gaia's husband Gant (Stephen McHattie) - a serial killer himself! - returns home for a visit.

Though the premise is pretty ridiculous, it gets off to a rocky start and the whole thing comes off like an R-rated made-for-TV movie, it's fairly entertaining and has some pretty sick content. Most (not all) of the actors do a serviceable job. I was not very familiar with lead actress Greene, since you couldn't force me at gunpoint to sit through a TWILIGHT movie. She was highly abrasive (and thoroughly unlikable) the first half but seemed to do better as her character became more desperate. Mooney did a nice job as the unstable son and Niven and McHattie were both good as the psycho parents. The film is relatively low on gore, though there's some nudity provided by Cinthia Burke, playing a tough biker babe/garage mechanic here.

The Canadian-born director also made three (very clever) HARRY KNUCKLES shorts and several other genre pictures I've yet to see: the memorably titled Troma release Jesus Christ VAMPIRE HUNTER (2001) and the H.G. Lewis-inspired horror-comedy SMASH CUT (2008).

Skinned Alive (2008) (V)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Cannibal hookers need love, too., 17 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Depressed, lonely insurance agent Jeffrey (Jack Dillon) lives alone in a huge house he inherited from his late mother. Striking out with every single woman he tries to ask out, Jeffrey becomes desperate enough to start arranging "dates" with women from an escort agency. None of them want anything to do with him once services are rendered, but things change once the mysterious Pandora (Melissa Bacelar) shows up at his doorstep. The two have an immediate emotional connection, but Pandora is harboring a deep, dark secret that will test their blossoming love... she's actually a cannibal who enjoys eating people alive! Will Jeffrey still stand by his new girl once the truth is revealed? Or will their union be cut short by thug brother of one of her victims (Joshua Nelson, also the writer), who's looking for revenge.

I went into this with no knowledge about the plot or any of the people who made it and was surprised to see some genuine promise here. It's entertaining and a much more ambitious film than most micro-budget horror films I've seen. There's plenty of blood and nudity, the acting from the leads is OK, some of the dialogue is well-written and, compared to other films in its budget range, the sound and photography aren't too bad. The main thing I had a problem with was the fluctuation in tone. The film starts out being a dark and serious character study with an almost somber mood, but once Pandora reveals her secret to Jeffrey it becomes a little too camp for my tastes. Some of the humor works, but other times it falls flat or seems out of place.

The filmmakers also toy around with keeping things ambiguous. We're never sure what exactly Pandora is. Is she a non-supernatural cannibal who just happens to crave human flesh, or some kind of monster? A vampire? A zombie? A demon? I liked this aspect of the film because slapping some kind of label on the character isn't even necessary. The film also introduces the idea that Pandora doesn't even exist and Jeffrey is just going mad, but that possibility is pretty much a waste of time since we've already spent part of the film watching "The Stalker" tracking down Pandora. The concept also isn't supported by the ending.

Jeremy Selenfriend's gore fx are pretty good (especially a decapitation at the end) and there's a great Nine Inch Nails-style song over the opening credits, plus small roles for Jeanette Bonner as Jeffrey's concerned sister, Alan Rowe Kelly (I'LL BURY YOU TOMORROW) as a madam, Erika Smith (BITE ME!) as a prostitute and Peter Stickles ("The Lair") as a victim. It's set in New York City and has some decent aerial photography of the city.

Worth a look.

Slaughter Party (2005) (V)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Killer dwarf and mad doctor vs. bikini girls, 4 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Three schmucks wanting to check out a desert cave run into a delirious, nameless mad doctor (Ford Austin) instead. The doctor slaughters two of them, rips out and eats their guts, drinks their blood and then ties down and anally rapes the third guy - a dwarf named Craig (Mighty Mike Murga) - to give him "the gift that keeps on giving." I guess that gift is some kind of virus that causes insanity because Craig then begins sneaking into young women's apartments and murdering them. The sister of one of his victims, Tara (Felissa Rose), is trying to get over both the death of her sister and breakup of her relationship, so her friend Kerri (Sarah Rosenberg) drags her along on a camping trip. They meet up with six or seven other girls, immediately strip down to their bathing suits, go swimming, start partying and are attacked and killed by both the doctor and Craig (who hitches a ride there with a would-be victim). A couple of detective (including porno actor Adam Glasser aka Seymore Butts) are on the case.

According to the trivia section, this Troma release was shot on video for just 1000 dollars. Nearly all of it was filmed in the daytime and most of it outdoors so the filmmakers don't have to worry much about things such as art direction and lighting. It's also very, very stupid in that amateurish we-know-this -is-awful-and-stupid -so-we-aren't-even- really-going-to-try kind of way. The only person who seems to be taking any of this seriously is lead actress Rose, who amusingly goes all out and tries to be as dramatic (and credible) as possible under the circumstance. Dead bodies move. Lines are flubbed. People mug for the camera. Lot of fake blood is flung around. Two girls go topless (and there's a mild lesbian scene that goes nowhere). Total screen time for guest stars Lloyd Kaufman (who seems to appear in every no budget horror made these days), Brinke Stevens and Ron Jeremy amounts to probably about five minutes. The camera-work and editing are frequently awful.

Every once in awhile something funny DOES actually happen, but it's hard not to laugh just a little watching a rabid dwarf clutching a knife chasing around bikini-clad girls who have a bad habit of always tripping and falling down. As the killer doctor, Austin is probably the best thing this film has going for it. The credited director is "Buck Jones Jr." NOT Fred Rosenberg as it currently says on IMDb. I think Jones/Rosenberg is an alias for Chris Watson, who's responsible for another terrible Troma release called ZOMBIEGEDDON (2003).

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Inept continuity and infuriatingly stupid characters sink it., 2 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie tries to blend ideas from several cult horror flicks from the 70s and 80s but fails rather miserably at pulling it all off. A grating Italian-American family consisting of husband Frank (Salvatore Paul Piro), wife Donna (Felissa Rose, of SLEEPAWAY CAMP fame), their mentally-retarded son Sean (Danny Lopes), Donna's sister Paula (Ellen Sandweiss) and Paula's infant son Anthony (Marco Rose) are headed somewhere in their station wagon and decide to take a short cut through the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Their car gets stuck in some mud, Frank decides to walk off somewhere to get help and ends up stumbling upon a creepy old house inhabited by an elderly palm reader named Mrs. Leeds (Irma St. Paule). Mrs. Leeds claims to have thirteen children, but only two of them - Boy (Edwin Neal) and Judy (Christie Sanford) - still live with her. All three of them turn out to be psychotic. They kill Frank and then set their sites on the rest of the family; basically killing anyone else who happens to wander into their path. Oh yeah, and there's also some kind of creature ("The Jersey Devil") flying around in the woods killing people that we never actually get to see.

The director has no problem citing his two primary sources; the POV floating-through-the-woods camera-work of THE EVIL DEAD (1981) and the warped backwoods family of THE T EXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), here. Sandweiss naturally co-starred in the former; Neal in the latter. The character of Judy - a childish, deranged adult woman in pigtails who seems obsessed with babies - was copied directly from the so-so A MERICAN Gothic (1987). There are references to other horror films here too, if you want to look for them. What I had a major problem with was how moronic the characters were. Not only are they unlikable, they do one stupid thing after another throughout the movie. Some of the things that occur over the course of this film make absolutely no sense. And no, I'm not stupid enough to buy into the supposed "abstract nightmare logic" some people claim this movie has. Stupid is stupid.

At one point, a policeman shows up at the sinister home to investigate. Ms. Leeds tells him that muffled screams he's hearing from the basement are a cat, so he just leaves (!), goes back to his car and is killed by the invisible flying monster thingy. The next shot reveals that the police car is parked within just a few feet of the stranded family's car... which two of the characters are still sleeping in! So let me get this straight. The policemen sees a car parked in the middle of the road but doesn't even check on it? And the people inside the car don't hear him driving up the road, see his lights or hear him pulling up. And they don't hear him screaming when he's being killed? "Nightmare logic" or pure idiocy? You be the judge.

One of the characters survives the night and ends up in the safety of a hospital to recount the tale to police. So what happens next? Does the policeman do what all other policemen on the planet would do when faced with a potential massacre and organize a heavily-armed posse to raid the home? Nope! He just drags the survivor back to the house of horrors all by himself with no backup whatsoever. And the two examples listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to "Yeah... right" moments.

The locations are decent and the director throws in a couple of nicely-composed shots here and there (though the overdone POV shots get old after awhile). There's also a corker of a gore scene where a guy has throat cut and blood gushes out all over the place. Other than that, I didn't really care for this. The acting isn't very good, the characters are dull and moronic and the plot line is a nonsensical mess. I found myself more annoyed than entertained.

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