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A Fabulously Shitty Film!, 29 December 2014

Really, one wonderfully flimsy effort, this film, which in my country was released on DVD under the title 'A Killing Obsession'. And I might add that fans of John Savage and John Saxon will have some terrible fun with it (although I can't guarantee you won't shake your head in shame on several occasions). John Savage plays Albert, a mentally deranged thirty-something who spent most of his adult life in a mental health hospital. Released - as in: proclaimed "cured" - at the beginning of the story, because of the government cutting budgets, John Saxon repeats himself from the start to everyone (not) willing to listen that Albert is not sane after all and will kill again. And again. And again. Saxon is simply so funny, taking his role very serious while going through the motions (often also sporting tremendously over-sized glasses).

But the real star, of course, is John Savage. Within the first ten minutes, he already manages to stab two people to death, steal a whole bunch of cash and a getaway car. And he's clearly not going to stop, because he's got a killing obsession. We know from the get-go that he's determined to find a certain Annie Smith, a girl he once sickly loved when she was a mere nubile teenager. The thought that she's now a fully matured woman in her early thirties, doesn't cross his mind, of course.

What does he do? He picks up a phone book and heads off to pay a visit to every single Annie Smith listed in it. So, this film is pretty much 'Terminator' with John Savage replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, this modus operandi will have Albert encountering many disappointments on his path, so he mostly ends up killing the Annie Smiths that don't fit the bill. I don't think I've ever seen John Savage act so weird in a film before. He pulls off some exquisite berserk grimaces throughout the film and his dialogue mainly consists of repeating the lines "You are not my Annie" and "You're a whore."

While Savage is already on a roll within the first ten minutes of the film, we're also treated to at least two women bearing their breasts in the following twenty minutes (attractive leading lady Kimberly Chase included). And just like Albert, writer/director Paul Leder isn't going to stop repeating this whole cocktail we're treated to in the first act already. Plus, during the last twenty minutes or so, Albert suddenly decides to take the plot of the film into a different direction, leading us towards a laughably underwhelming finale.

Add to that some lousy sound design and incompetent audio recording (the cuts between scenes with phone calls on different locations will have you noticing zooming refrigerators all of the sudden, and other scenes feature annoyingly squeaky stairs or shuffling sofas). The cheap synthesizer score is an entertaining hoot as well and the cinematography and directing, while perhaps not the worst you'll ever encounter, is as bland as it gets. But, surprisingly so, I would be lying if I'd say I didn't have fun watching this ridiculous attempt at a 'psychological thriller' for the various reasons mentioned above.

Bella Mafia (1997) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Women. Can't live with them, can't die without them., 21 August 2013

Apparently, I must have seen the cut-down version of 'Bella Mafia' - running time: 113 minutes - because like every fifteen minutes there was a time leap into the future (sometimes only months, sometimes years). I just didn't have time to get into the story that way. Also, it had this artificial drama feel to it and the same sappy score to go with it. Now, I understand this way of film making, but I don't exactly approve of it. But than, at the 1-hour mark, a lot of people suddenly get killed in two simultaneous scenes and this made-for-TV movie promptly becomes very, very interesting. And during the next 50 minutes, it totally redeems itself from the flaws of the first half. The ending is marvelous, especially when you've come to learn a lot about the characters' background. Nastassja Kinski's role is the pillar of all the drama & intrigues in 'Bella Maffia' and the best part of it all is that nobody knows about it (except for one person at the very end). There seems to be a two-part mini-series of this film (with a lot of extra scenes, I imagine - 2x105 minutes). So if you're interested in seeing 'Bella Mafia', I could advice you to watch the full mini-series. You'll probably get more out of it. Oh, and there's quite a few shocking scenes in this movie, especially considering it was made for TV. Not bad at all. Just be sure to be persistent biting your way through that first hour.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Some chilling moments without much else going on, 21 March 2013

'Satan's School For Girls' really looks like a cool vintage seventies satanic horror-thriller, but regardless its über-cool title, that doesn't necessarily make it a great movie. When Elizabeth Sayer's (Pamela Franklin, delivering a decent performance) sister commits suicide, she works her way into the private school her sister went to. It doesn't take too long for her to discover other girls have been dying too. The concept is nice and it's not a boring watch, but the mystery is a little weak and the denouement is underwhelming. Features a bunch of good-looking seventies beauties, but no skin and no blood. Some ladies do die, and those scenes are pretty much the only shocks this film has to offer.

Interesting trivia: during the '70s, legendary producer Aaron Spelling ('The Love Boat', 'Dynasty', 'Beverly Hills 90210', 'Melrose Place',...) produced several made-for-TV horror movies, and with having watched at least one more of them (the amusing 'Cruise Into Terror', 1978), I strongly suspect they all might be enjoyable watches. So is 'Satan's School For Girls' to some extent, even if it's a quite forgettable film. Makes me curious to see what the remake from 2000 (also made-for-TV and produced by Spelling) might have turned into.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not much in terms of haunting, 21 March 2013

Not exactly recommendable for die-hard horror fans, since the film offers a tame mixture of drama & thriller, with only the added supernatural element occasionally venturing into horror territory. Little Lisa (Aemilia Robinson) has, just like her mother Ellen Downey (Cheryl Ladd), psychic abilities. We're talking communication with the dead here. Her contacts with the other side will lead the good guys onto the trail of a very bad serial killer. Performances aren't too bad, but the whole film is just unremarkable, boosted by some very cheap special (editing) effects. A by-the-numbers supernatural-tinted affair for bored housewives from the nineties as its target audience.

Deviation (1971)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The Last House In The Woods, 26 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For his early films, José Ramón Larraz moved to England and delivered the sort of psycho-sexually flavored genre efforts many British directors seemed incapable of conceiving (except for people like Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell at the start of their career, with 'Performance' being a fine example). A film like 'Vampyres' (1974), at the time, even earned Larraz a reputation of being a feminist filmmaker, which is a fairly odd side-effect when essentially creating an on-screen lesbian vampire bloodbath. His second feature, 'Deviation' dates back to 1971 and turned out a strange and unsettling little film, very much worthy mentioning as an early entry in thrilling '70s Euro-exploitation cinema. Larraz, directing under his pseudonym J. R. Larrath, manages to concoct a mildly surreal and fairly unnerving atmosphere without either reverting to more typical & meaningless dream-like imagery (like his fellow Euro-colleagues Jess Franco and Jean Rollin often tried their hand at; with what I've seen from him so far, I place Larraz on a higher pedestal as a filmmaker) or blood-soaked stagings (like exploitation movies in general were starting to dictate). 'Deviation' does contain a fair amount of weirdness, nudity and bloodshed, but in a somewhat more subtle manner. Not seldom so would Larraz's visual flair often lean more towards the Italian giallo films from the '70s than it would be in sync with the at the time prevailing British horror cinema. 'Deviation' can easily be placed between movies like Wes Craven's 'Last House On The Left' (1972) and Don Gronquist's 'Unhinged' (1982), coincidentally two American films, yet it still has that tangible European flavor to it (not in the least shaped by Stelvio Cipriani's splendid original soundtrack compositions).

The plot (spoilers): One dark night, Olivia and Paul are driving home when a deviation sign leads them onto a road into the woods. When they have an accident, they are invited by Julian and his sister Rebecca to spend the night in their mansion. Paul is convinced he hit someone on the road, while Olivia doesn't believe him. Julian is a taxidermist in his spare time and he, uhm, doesn't exactly stick to animals. Paul will soon learn he did run someone over, but won't live long enough to tell anybody about it. Meanwhile Olivia is kept drugged & dazed and because of her state willingly participates in psychedelic, nightly orgies organized by Rebecca and Julian. When things go from bad to worse and Olivia finds out they murdered and skinned her lover Paul, she manages to fight back and kill the two siblings.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Delivers the Hammer goods, 11 February 2013

As I watched it, 'Vampire Circus' makes up for a fun double bill with Hammer's 'Lust For A Vampire' (1971). Equally seasoned with a fair amount of nudity and a tad bit gorier than 'Lust For A Vampire', Hammer's 'Vampire Circus' doesn't fail to entertain. A plague-ridden town witnesses the arrival of a circus. Yes, it's the titular circus, so naturally blood will flow. And for a particular reason too: some prominent townsmen managed to slay Count Mitterhaus fifteen years prior to the events about to unfold. The vampire circus folks are descendants of the count and are here to exact revenge and resurrect their master, whose remains are still taking up residence in the caves beneath the hilltop castle. It all adds up to some fun Hammer horror pulp, delivering the goods that fans had grown accustomed to by that time.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not as disappointed as I expected it to be, 11 February 2013

Quite amusing latter-day Hammer outing, loosely based on the novella 'Carmilla' by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Featuring an enjoyable amount of lovage, including the female/female kind of affection-sharing. Mark Raven is no Christopher Lee, so fortunately his role as Count Karnstein is limited. Yutte Stensgaard, however, is very pleasing on the eyes, taking on the role of Mircalla/Carmilla, the freshly arrived nubile student of a boarding school for girls. Jimmy Sangster in general might be considered as not being on par with some of his fellow Hammer directors, but he does manage to concoct a couple of fairly atmospheric scenes (like the nightly encounter between Mircalla and teacher-turned-servant-of-the-occult Barton). The amusing goings-on make up for an entertaining intrigue, leading up to a suitably satisfying fiery climax.

The Crap Invader, 30 January 2013

Back in the avid rental days, Dohler's 'Nightbeast' already made it as an abominable cult trash hit. Man, was that horrid piece of alien terror a hoot or not? A truly wonderful bad movie with a capital "B". Virtually a laugh riot all the way through. It's definitely worth it, if you dig a little celluloid craptasticism from time to time. Some time ago I finally got my hands on a copy of 'The Galaxy Invader', which is pretty much, more or less, give or take a little, completely the same movie, in a subgenre I like to dub "clueless aliens loose on earth". At least 'Predator' was here on earth for a good reason, right? Sports! As good as any reason, for most people. But 'The Galaxy Invader'...? Perhaps my mood just wasn't right for this flick. There's some pretty hilarious bad filmmaking at display here (on all levels), but it just doesn't make you laugh as hard as 'Nightbeast' did. 'Night Beast' was tremendously entertaining. 'The Galaxy Invader' not really. At best, you can giggle every now and then with some (very) bad acting. Halfway through I suddenly had the luminous idea to switch on the audio-commentary (because the on-screen madness was starting to turn into a bore-fest, honestly). Instantly the film became much more entertaining, and that's how I managed to sit through it. Those who don't drink alcohol, shouldn't watch this film. I watched it completely sober, so I know. The damned thing doesn't go down well in a sober fashion. Then again, alcohol + this film? Take care of your brain, folks. Might not be that good of an idea either.

A whole lot of gore and a couple of laughs, 29 January 2013

Thankfully, there are now quite a few uncut releases of 'A Cat In The Brain' on DVD. Not surprisingly this film suffered a great deal from the censors back in the days; just watch it for yourself and you'll get the picture. So I re-watched an uncut version recently, and boy, this still is such a 'fun' film. Whatever Mr. Fulci's intentions were at the time - must have been more than one, that's for sure - I'm still strongly convinced (more than ever, actually) that 'A Cat In The Brain' was partly intended to be a comedy. The movie is virtually plot less, or instead of a plot, it basically has only plot holes (think the size of Nebraska) tied together with hints at a plot. There's a hint at a murder mystery here, about a deranged murderer killing random people, though it's merely reduced to a background story. And as you all have probably read by now, it stars Fulci playing himself. It's also one of Fulci's most incoherent films. It also is quite ridiculous. And it all feels like it was meant to be this way. Literally stuffed with gore footage (both new and some lifted from his previous films), it's undoubtedly Fulci's most insane movie. Good stuff!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An equally amusing second outing in the series, 20 January 2013

With 'Eko Eko Azarak II', we're offered a prequel this time, learning us (in a subplot) how Misa got acquainted with witchcraft and developed her powers. The rest of the plot is *very* much inspired by the first 'The Terminator' movie. Only replace Arnold Schwarzenegger by an ancient evil witch, jumping from body to body, constantly chasing the young Misa and her protector. The pace of events is higher this time than was the case with the first film. The occasional blood & splatter is still there. The story is interesting enough. And the effects are about as good as they could get for a 1996 modest-budget Japanese horror effort. It does slow down a bit too much just before the third act, but other than that, it's pretty much a fun ride with a great climax. Worth hunting down a copy of it.

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